Campaign of the Month: February 2022
Dresden Files Accelerated: Emerald City: Requiem
Book 10: Chapter 03
Over the Mountains
Transcribed by: Bradford
Date: October 23, 2022
In Game date: September 2012
Episode: 53 (127)
Part 01: Fergus Mac Cormaic
Between a rocky entry through the Nevernever, a snowy mountain trying to kill us, and dodging a pack of mold giants courtesy of the fucking blackthorn tree of Sebassis, our jaunt into Jotenheim was going just great.
I had gone skiing once or twice as a kid and in college, but I had never been that cold. Jotunheim was all mountains, clouds and…bigness. We collectively didn’t have words to describe how indescribably big Jotunheim was. The smallest tree was the size of a telephone pole. Snow banks the size of sand dunes in the Sahara.
Endless snow. Plenty of places to hide and stalk. Plenty of game to be had out here.
But we had no choice, our quarry was here. Somewhere. I could sense it. He was out there. It was out there.
Erik Laufey the used car salesman had smuggled a blackthorn tree into Seattle and started a whole mold demon saga. Now that saga had taken him to Jotunheim and we had been tasked with finding that little slive and destroying that tree once and for all.
As we took in the mountains after evading the mold giants, I found myself searching the horizon for tracks and trails. Meanwhile, my seconds were yakking amongst themselves.
“In the movies, Frost Giants don’t have black mold on them.” Hiroko said, stating the obvious with some trepidation,
Are they supposed to look like that?” Virgil asked.
“That is the work of the Blackthorn Tree. Of Sebassis.” David said confidently.
“They didn’t look like Romero zombies.” Virgil said, “Is that good or bad?”
“Bad.” David confirmed, “Sebassis’ mold makes them more violent and hostile, but these seem different. They seem to retain more of their intelligence.”
“So, they aren’t stupid?” Hiroko asked.
“Very dangerous. Sebassis, or Straife, is the etymological origin of the word English word, ‘strife.’”
They continued on like that, reviewing the situation. I focused on our prey. I sniffed the wind. I took in the smell of the mold, savored it. Those giants and their kin would bleed well on this snow…
My breathe grew slower and deeper. How I relished this feeling. I wanted to hunt. To see my prey flee before me. To sense its terror right before I ripped its beating heart out of its chest. I could almost taste its blood….
“Shhh…” Virgil said, “I sense something…Shit.”
My mouth watered. My sinuses cleared. I felt ready for a hunt. I was ready for the Kill.
“That is a new look for you, Fergus.” Hiroko said cautiously.
“What do you mean?” David asked.
“Buddy, you all right?” Virgil asked, “You’re glowing green.”
“What? I have never felt better,” I snapped…and immediately knew something was wrong.
The voice that came from my lips wasn’t my own. It was deeper. It was a growl.
I looked down and found my tattoos were glowing in a flickering green light.
“Oh no…” I said.
Part 02: Hiroko Noshimuri
My friend Fergus no longer looked or sounded like my friend Fergus. His tattoos glowed green. His features were elongated, leaner and he crouched and started scenting the air like a wild animal.
His skin had become the texture of hide or maybe fur. His hands though bound by ski gloves, looked more pointed like they were now claws.
My senses told me that Fergus had changed. He was now a predator.
The voice didn’t help.
“Oh no…” Fergus growled a few octaves lower than normal, “This is not right.”
“Stay back.” I said.
On instinct, I changed stance and readied Zanpakutou for a batoujutsu draw. Fergus tensed immediately. He sensed the implied threat of my stance. I could barely hear the low, deep growl that rumbled from his chest.
Virgil looked from me to Fergus, assessing the situation.
“What’s going on? I feel hunger from him.” Virgil said.
“It must be the wyld power in this place.” David bellowed, “It has affected him somehow.”
I looked at my friend and saw that he was had grown more bestial. He had grown more feral.
“It is nothing,” The Fergus Thing growled, “When I used the power to take us here, I called in the power from this place. This is a place of nature. Of hunters. I can sense it flooding my veins! I am so alive here. At home!”
I didn’t change my stance. If Fergus was a threat, I would strike him down to save others and himself. I could cry later.
I was stopped when David Clay stepped in front of me. His form had changed too to that of a seven-foot-tall goliath that only vaguely resembled a human being. David Clay was a golem in his natural shape.
“There is no need for that, Hiroko.” David said.
“So much…Power…” Fergus bellowed.
David stood as a mountain. He put out a hand before me the size of my head.
“Fergus, think about the Wedding Planners.” David said.
The idea seemed to catch his attention.
“Wedding planners…” Fergus asked more than growled.
“Think about talking with your accountant and planning your quarterly report for your investors.”
“My accountant…?” Fergus asked, his voice more humanlike, “Baseball stats?”
“Baseball stats. Yes…”
Fergus clapped his hands together and took a deep breath I recognized a meditation. Drawing his attention to his breath in and out to center his thoughts to a single point. The same kind of meditation I did every day.
I looked around myself, considering my surroundings. The golem would be a problem, but my blade would cut him just the same. Virgil was the weakest and would fall easily. The only unknown quantity was Kerouac. Though he was now a snow bunny, I could sense his gaze upon me. The pooka was preparing some kind of glamour.
But then, Fergus continued to breathe.
As he did, Fergus’ glow diminished, and his feral look grew more subtle.
Virgil looked to Fergus with concern but without a weapon drawn.
“We good, Ferg?”
“We’re good.” Fergus said in a human-sounding voice. This one was only slightly deeper than normal.
“We have no time to waste.” David said.
I reassessed the situation and sheathed my sword. I went out of my ready stance.
Crisis averted…for now.
Part 03: Virgil Gugasian
Fergus’ wyld side scared the bejesus out of us, but all seemed well for now. If his fey stuff made him a liability, we would do what we could to help him. But after seeing what Fergus can do with his fists, I would rather try a safer option of running through freeway traffic on I-90.
We spent a few minutes afterword dusting ourselves off and reading our cold-weather gear for a long hike. Snow shows, ski poles, ropes. The works.
When we gathered ourselves, I turned to the mountain that David and shuttered.
“I am never going to used to that.” I said.
Five-foot lawyers should not turn into Ben Grimm with more attitude, but this one did.
“It is natural to fear what one does not understand.” David said.
“I understand, and it still freaks me out.” I said, “Which way is our car salesman?”
David pulled out the tracking rune from a pocket and consulted it. He pointed in a direction that looked like more mountain, but whatever.
Hiroko readied herself and looked to the massive golem lawyer.
“David should lead.” She said, “He knows the way and can act as a snow plow.”
“That is wise.” David replied.
“Onward!” I said and started our hike over the vastness that was the land of Giants.
None of us had the right reference for the scale of the place let alone its weather. With the Nevernever being timey-wimey as it was, the storms here could last for years for all we knew. Our path to Erik could take hours or days. Hopefully, the former of the two.
As we continued our trek over snowshoe and ski pole, the cold assaulted us through snow, wind and uncertainty.
Fergus and Hiroko had power of their own, so they could have cared less about the cold. Fergus’ new fur seemed to insolate him like Chewie on Hoth, so he seemed fine.
Kerouac wisely found a spot to nap inside David’s coat pocket. A bonus for his small cute form.
David in his golem form led us forward and took the brunt of it. The suggestion he play snow plow though funny was also apt. As we walked, I could see stiffness in his gait and his limbs as the cold bit at him.
That left me. As the member of our group closest to a vanilla mortal, I was barely keeping it together. I didn’t have training at a monastery, the Army Rangers, or the Knights of the Round Table to help me with the cold. Most of my experience came from dropping out of college, on-the-job training, and a few minor schools I took for illicit purposes using false identities.
But, I had the fire that Sally the Salamander gave me.
I gathered the power into my palm and used the opportunity to both concentrate on it and stabilize it so I wouldn’t lose it before we got to the tree. It was exhausting, but it saved my life.
The salamander’s fire melted the frost from me, unfogged the goggles that protected my eyes, and kept me warm through the arctic blizzard of Jotunheim.
After maintaining it for close to an hour, our trek turned into a much more manageable hike.
Kerouac popped his bunny head out of the pocket to smile at me.
“Seems like Sally’s fire was a worthy exchange,” Kero said with a smile on his muzzle.
I said to Kerouac, “Sally is my favorite person right now.”
“I’ll let her know. She’ll be thrilled.”
As the snow increased and the wind continued, we all collectively realized that the storm wasn’t going anywhere.
“We need shelter from this storm!” Hiroko shouted over the wind.
I looked around the supertundra and found my first choice.
“Looks like there’s a cave over there.” I said, pointing to the distance.
I was countered by David who pointed in another direction.
“There is a hollow there. We can set up camp here!”
I didn’t feel like arguing with the golem, so I differed to him.
Hiroko had had the sense to bring a thermal tent and set it up in record time.
“Get in.” Fergus said, holding the flap for us.
Hiroko, David and I went into the tent as Fergus waited outside. Kerouac used the opportunity to get out of the pocket and burrowed into the snow beside the tent.
“This will be sufficient.” Kerouac said. The little guy seemed roasty-toasty under there, so I left him to his devices.
I looked up to Fergus quizzically. “Come on in Ferg.”
“No.” Ferg said in a deeper voice than before, “I need some time to myself.”
“Let us know if you need help.” I said and closed the flap.
We took a while to enjoy the shelter as the storm passed over us.
David successfully thawed out, and Hiroko shivered for the first time. I helped our cause by continuing to hold out Sally’s fire, which thawed us out as well as the tent itself did.
As I stared at the Salamander’s fire I held in one hand, I used the other to pull out one of my specially treated playing cards and started marking it up with sigils so I could remember this small spell. I would need power to replicate it later fully, but this spell was worth remembering.
“When we get back, “I said, “I am taking Super Sally to a landfill. Plenty of stuff for her to burn all night long.”
Part 04: Kerouac
The storm born of Jotunheim’s rage blew all night. I say rage as an educated guess as to why it storms in some places in the Nevernever and not others. The Nevernever is linked to very nature.
Places in the Nevernever exist because they must exist. Their nature is their nature. So the wind blows not because of temperature, pressure systems, humours, or whatever nonsense the mortals peddle these days to explain it. The wind blows in Jotunehim because it must. When a storm rages here, it means the land is angry.
My allies were safe from the storm in their ferromantic tent. And although I was mising the enticing smell of hot chocolate, my own place was outside in the snow.
I stayed outside because Fergus stayed outside. I was bound to Fergus. I was both his guardian and the guardian of the mortal world from him.
This place was particularly dangerous for him as he had never taken in the wyld of a place like this before. There were several places in the Ways that could drive Fergus to take another form. Some of them could make him quite fun, but Jotuneheim was making him a very real threat.
So, no hot chocolate in the ferromantic tent for me. Instead, I dug a place for myself in the snow and was toasty warm the whole night.
Daylight came, and the storm calmed.
I took it upon myself to scout for predators of Jotunheim that may have found the tent and was waiting for the storm’s soothing.
The spiritual winter made it so that my snow bunny senses were dulled. I could not smell threats, so I had to make do with my others.
I found the cave Virgil indicated and decided to investigate. It turned out to be a good thing that we hadn’t gone there for shelter.
The cave was home to a family of bears native to Jotunheim. We needn’t trouble them with our presence, and we needn’t panic, given their size.
Like so many things, the bears in Jotunheim were far larger than the ones in the mortal world in terms of scale.
Fortunately for us, though, the storm had covered our tracks. It would make it nearly impossible for the Mold Giants on our tail to find us again.
The revelation brought us comfort as we ate our morning rations, struck our camp and moved onward into Jotunheim to find our prey.
Part 05: David Clay
With warmth returned, I was able to calm my mind and regain shape to my golem form. The cold-weather gear continued to prove itself a worthy investment.
“What direction is our subject?” Virgil asked in his professional voice.
I produced the tracking rune and consulted its continued pulsing.
“North,” I said, “up the hill.”
Hiroko slapped her hands together in a shiver as she got into her meditative mindset to battle the Jotun cold, “David should lead. Play snow ploy.”
“That’s not a bad idea.” I said.
“Onward!” Virgil said and we began our trek.
As we approached the mountain, my mind worked and adjusted our route. I decided to take us around the mountain in such a way that we could avoid a hazardous climb that none of us were trained or equipped for.
Fergus lagged behind us playing the role of the rearguard. But I could also sense unease in him. The wyldness of this place made his power unpredictable.
Kerouac had assured me that he would protect us from Fergus and ensure his safety, but one trickster could only do so much. Especially then as he spent our trek napping in my coat pocket.
The path I had found took us over the mountain and into the harshest terrain ever seen on Earth. Had we all been mere mortals, we would not have survived. Luckily for the universe, we were not normal anymore.
Virgil had it the hardest. Without the power of a true practitioner, he was forced to use the Salamander’s fire to warm himself and light his way. As it turned out, the fire only expended power if it burned something and gave off no smoke as long as it didn’t touch anything but open air. The snow that came near melted and turned to steam around the orange flame.
Virgil came in behind me and kept his free hand on me. I looked and saw his goggles fogged and frozen over. He could not see more than a few feet in front of him.
Eventually, we took a chance to stop to catch our breath. The rune continued to give us a direction. On the edges of my sight, I could see what might be a village in the distance. But then I checked to the south of us and my eyes narrowed.
I raised my hand and pointed.
Hiroko walked up next to me and narrowed her eyes.
“I see them too, “ She said, “Two forms being pursued down the hill.”
Fergus seethed like a hound who had found a scent, “A hunt is on! The prey will be found and killed in time.”
Fergus apologized as he realized his voice was not his own. It was the voice of the wyld hound he now embodied.
Virgil produced a set of binoculars to help us identify the shapes. His normal preparation proved faulty as the binoculars almost immediately began to fog and ice over.
Hiroko and I had just enough time with the device to confirm our suspicions.
“It looks like a woman and a child.” I said, “Pursued by three giants. No mold.”
Kerouac popped his head out of the pocket. I could not see him, but his voice was clear,”We cannot let this pass. A child is an innocent.”
The trickster spoke the truth.
I found a tree and struck it to try to get the giants’ attention. The sound echoed down the mountain, but the giants seemed to ignore us in favor of the other prey.
“Can you veil them?” I asked the pooka.
“Too far away. They will be caught unless we act.”
“Alright then.” Virgil said. Not being spurned immediately to action like the rest of us, he took up his shotgun and readied it for battle.
My righteous heartbeat and my golem form moved forward to its purpose. We all took off down the hill towards the forms.
Part 06: Hiroko Noshimuri
I set off across the snow. My training allowed me to glide over the snow like piles of leaves, but the child in me took the opportunity to revisit a New York winter past-time.
I slid down the side of the mountain at great speed. If only I had had a sled.
I was the fastest as Fergus somehow faceplanted in the snow, and David dragged half the snow on the mountain in his seven-foot wake.
Our interception point put a small patch of forest between the three giants and us. As the child and the woman giant passed us, I pointed to the forest for them to hide without even thinking. They were both frost giants of Jotunheim, dressed in finely woven furs and leather. The woman looked to be some kind of shaman or holy person.
Was the boy her son or someone else? It mattered not. An innocent was an innocent.
The two took our cue and took cover in the forest.
I chose my ground, putting my back to a massive tree, and drew my sword for the battle to come.
Virgil came up behind me with his shotgun loaded and ready.
Kerouac had apparently jumped out of David’s coat as a flying squirrel and then tumbled back into his snow bunny form ahead of us.
“I can use veils to hinder their approach.” The Pooka said.
“Do it.” I replied and focused on my blade.
Zanpakutou replied with power, attuning itself to the Frost Giants as they finally arrived.
They were fifteen feet tall at the shortest. Blue-skinned with biceps the size of my whole body. If I had any sense, the fear would have driven me away a long time ago.
But a shinigami has no fear in the face of evil.
The Giants saw our drawn weapons and conjured their own of ice. Shields, spears, and axes formed from the snow, and battle cries came as they charged.
The first Giant overextended his reach and gave me an opening almost immediately. Kerouac’s glamour must have worked.
I ducked as the giant’s ice axe embedded itself in the tree I was standing in front of. My plan complete, he strained to pull the axe free as I stepped forward and went to work.
The power of my sword made the thick skin of the giant into rice paper. Easy to cut and tear open.
I took up Zanpakutou and slashed across his thigh. Blood spurt from the wound as I got under his shield and slashed across his stomach as I ran past. As his weight came down where I was, I stabbed behind me, right into his now exposed flank.
The giant cried and bled as I heard a gunshot ring out, followed by a scream and the sound of footsteps.
I ignored him and ran to the second giant. He was ready for me.
The giant deflected my sword with his ice shield and met it with his axe. Our blades met and his foul breath washed over me as I began to idle away his defenses. This combat would not be as easy as I hoped.
Part 07: Kerouac
A mortal fictional character once maintained that illusion has a strong effect on the weak-minded. Though the Frost Giants were inherently resistant to my power, their weak minds proved to be the vulnerability I needed.
I used my glamor on the third giant, the farthest from us. Using a glamour on him would buy us time to fend off the others, dividing their numbers. It was also a chance for me to practice my combat illusions. I feared that playing the part of a house cat was making me rusty.
There is an art to trickery. Layers to it. Applications that normal minds would never consider, and skills that most would never imagine. Confidence artists use lies and body language to earn trust. Masters of legerdemain use a subject’s limited attention against them. Fraudsters copy things that should, otherwise, be trustworthy and Cold Readers turn what should be obvious into a secret that nobody should know. As a trickster of the Summer Court I was, of course, a master of all of them and then some. Given the disposition of the giants, I took a guess at their fears.
I was right.
I used my faerie power to create an illusion over the Third Frost Giant. From our perspective, we saw nothing. The Third Giant saw the black mold we had seen on the others, subtle at first but I used a slight seeming to add a twinge of itch here and the subtle smell of rot there to get his attention.
I am not sure what he screamed, but it was quite entertaining.
The Third Giant scratched at the nonexistent mold, and I made it multiply and spread to his fingernails. He scratched more and dropped his weapons.
I intensified the glamour, making the mold fuzzier and thicker and added a cataract that started blotting out the Giant’s vision for funzies.
The poor dear descended into a full-blown panic attack as he tried to rid himself of the mold only to open his own skin as it continued to spread.
Sensing him close to the breaking point, I pushed it further and he ended up breaking his own arm on a tree as he tried to rid himself of the mold, which effectively took him out of the combat. I dropped my illusion as he ran, but he didn’t stop. It would probably take him a while to figure out it was fake, and a while more before his mind recovered from my assault.
Part 08: Virgil Gugasian
I had come to Jotunheim because an angry Japanese man said I had to. If I had known just how hazardous this place would be, I would have taken a few months to get cold weather training and persuaded a Wizard to teach me actual evocations.
Instead, I went to Jotunheim with the only weapons and gear I could muster.
Other people in my old business had ways to get military-style weapons, armor, and such. I was even still in touch with some of those people.
The problem was that my deal with the Conclave included a provision that I would be as upstanding a citizen as I could and would be as above board as possible.
I don’t know who wrote that provision, but whoever did was an asshole.
To follow through on the provision, I had given up most of my illegal goods in favor of getting licenses and permits and actually buying things under my own name. I could only hope they were enough to fight giants.
The first Frost Giant ran towards Hiroko with his blade. The blade ended up in a big tree, and Hiroko did some samurai movie bullshit, opening him up for me. Even stabbed him backward like in the movies.
Gotta admit it was pretty cool.
The Giant wasn’t pleased, so he conjured a club out of the ice and swung it at the only other target he could see: me.
I predicted the swing and side-stepped it, letting the giant expose himself again. Then, I readied my weapon.
As a mortal bounty hunter in four states and an armed private investigator, I had the right to use guns for my job. But bounty hunters have no reason to carry automatic weapons in the state of Washington. Same with long-range hunting rifles or sniper rifles, even though I was personally no good at shooting at anything beyond a few feet.
So instead, I carried a military-grade shotgun I bought from an old cop’s gun store. The old man was even nice enough to include a deal for some range time and showed me the rounds that would be handy for my chosen profession.
Several shotgun rounds are used for breaching locked doors, and one is very simple. Instead of buckshot which uses dozens of small pellets, a slug is one big one. It had no range at all, but with as large of a target as a Frost Giant, I didn’t need any range.
I aimed my shotgun at the giant’s knee opposite his now open thigh and fired the slug. I must have picked just the right spot, because the knee crumpled, and the giant came with it.
Frost started to gather around the giant’s wounds and started patching him up like a bandaid. This ended when an angry Fergus pounced on him with the gnarliest-looking knife I had ever seen.
I decided to let the hunter do his hunter things and checked my surroundings.
That left the third giant. Now, I had worked with Keroac before. He was handy on a job even if his nature did almost get me killed a few times. He was good at the one thing I was so awful with it was the only thing my kleptomancy couldn’t steal. I thought that even with that shortcoming, I understood illusions, glamours, and seemings. I figured that even if I was missing the fine details, I at least understood the rules of the game and could figure out the score.
We often described Kerouac’s illusions as “military grade” and I thought I had a grasp of what that meant.
I was wrong.
I turned just in time to see whatever Kero was doing cause the giant to break his own forearm against the trunk of a tree. The 20-foot tall giant was bleeding from two dozen open wounds all over his arms, his hands, his thighs, and even his face opened by his own scratching, and by this point he was missing most of his fingernails. He was mindlessly screaming something I couldn’t understand, and Kerouac the snow bunny was in the snow a few meters away from the weeping, screaming, retreating giant, rolling around and laughing his ass off.
I figured Kero had that one well in hand, so I moved towards the second giant.
The second Giant locking blades with Hiroko was a hell of a thing to see. I mean, watching a five-foot Japanese lady hold off a fifteen-foot blue man is not something you see every day.
The giant swung at Hiroko, but she was so blindingly fast that the superior strength was successfully countered.
That meant Frost Giant two was distracted, so I moved in.
I fired at the giant just like I had the first, but this guy was ready for me. The second giant tensed and a layer of ice crusted over his side where I targeted. The slug left a bruise but didn’t break skin.
Part 09: Fergus Mac Cormaic
The faceplant was not my finest hour. Stupid snow. Stupid ice and shit.
Then my nostrils perked up.
The hunt was on. Blood was in the air. My mouth watered with anticipation.
I growled and ran on all fours like a hound.
I found the first Giant when Hiroko and Virgil finished with him. He still lived, but we was mine.
I summoned my weapon in the form of a sharp knife and leaped onto his face. I stabbed down with feral intensity. His life would be mine.
He tried to heal his wounds, but I went for the kill.
I was only stopped when my friend David grabbed my hand and stopped me.
David haymakered the Frost Giant, knocking him out cold. I looked around for new prey.
Gunshots rang as the second Frost Giant’s shield was pummeled by Virgil’s shotgun and Hiroko’s slashes.
I think it was when the Third Giant broke his own arm for no reason that the second and third giants decided this was not their fight and ran. Or it might have been when he looked at the laughing Kerouac only to find Hiroko, who replied with a riposte to the gut.
Whatever the reason, the two giants ran.
I seethed and ran for them.
David tried to grab for me, and I escaped into a nearby tree.
But as I crouched for a leap, the branch I was on collapsed beneath me. Hiroko had cut it out, causing me to fall.
Once back in the snow David grabbed me with impossible strength.
“Enough.” David said.
I resisted, but the strength remained. Stupid man-shaped thing!
“Fergus, we are here to hunt Eric Laufey. Eric. Laufey…”
He looked me in the eye and I realized what I was doing. I was hunting. I had gone too far. I breathed and brought my calm back to me.
I wanted to chase them down, but David held me back. He held me until I calmed down again. David let me go and I sat in the snow. I breathed hard and remembered our mission. I also remembered the blood of the giant we had just felled.
“I’m sorry.” I said in that unnatural deep growl that was now my own, “..it’s this place. I can’t control it.”
“One step at a time.” David said as he held out a Twinkie for me. I took it.
Part 10: Virgil Gugasian
Fergus sat and regained his calm over a twinkie. Good thing I had brought some myself, we’d need them.
“Leprechaun thing?” I asked him.
“Something like that.” Fergus said in that Balrog voice of his.
“He will adapt to it in time.” David said.
I looked over while he spoke and saw the seven-foot golem looming over me.
“I am never going to get used to that.” I said.
Kerouac looked at the two giants running into the distance.
“I wonder how long it will take him to figure out he doesn’t have mold. That should last a while.” The pooka said with a laugh. He had way too much fun during that battle.
We looked to those we had saved, the woman and the child. The woman was covered in furs and leathers, but carried a walking stick made from a branch of a tree. Or rather, it was a branch that had grown into the shape of a staff. Or something like that.
David stepped forward and bowed to the two giants. He said something in a few languages. The two obviously didn’t speak English.
The Woman said something to us, but none of us understood a word. I held up a finger for “one second”
“What language is that?” I asked.
“It is not a mortal language.” Kerouac confirmed, “It is unique to this place.”
“Can you translate?” David asked.
“Let me try a few dialects.” The faerie said.
Kero rattled off some phrases with the woman for about a minute. Eventually they seemed to understand each other. The bunny nodded and turned to us.
“Seems Arnbjorg here speaks some Old Norse. Not the best for a lingua franca, but it will serve our needs.”
“Who are they?” I asked, “Why were they being chased?”
Kero made some talk with them and Arnbjorg the woman started speaking passionately. Kerouac responded in far too few words to possibly translate everything she said. Pookas…
“Arnbjorg is a local shaman. She was protecting Prince Ulfur here from her people.”
“A shaman makes sense. Tell her we come in peace. We are friends.”
Kero spoke to her and she seemed to understand.
Prince Ulfur approached us and I did a small bow. I pulled out my own Twinkie and offered it to him as royal gift. The kid grabbed it and ate the whole thing without taking it out of the wrapping. He spit it out, looking at me like I was mad.
I took another one out, removed the wrapping, and took a bite, showing him the proper way before handing him another.
Prince Ulfur took my second offering, removed the plastic like I showed him, and ate the snack. They must not have had white sugar on this end of the nevernever because he gave me the same look ex-Mormons gave me when they discovered alcohol for the first time.
I held him off with a flurry of hands, “Help us my lord and I shall get you a box….or perhaps a crate when we can get back.”
They seemed to accept the arrangement and ate the last of my snacks before they sat down with us and started talking.
Without a more efficient way to translate, we had Kerouac paraphrase what Arnbjorg told us.
“Some chap named Fulvragg was a shaman and a powerful wizard. He was very bad in bed. And it’s all his fault.”
“What is all his fault?” David asked, “The tree?”
More Old Norse. More bunny nods.
“Yes. The blackthorn tree is in here somewhere in Jotunheim. Fulvragg found Erik Laufey and brought the tree there to destroy it and failed. You can guess what happened.”
“Shit.” I said.
“It is Sebassis.” Fergus said with a new anger, “Her village was corrupted?”
“Yes. Fulvragg planted the tree in a secret place and convinced the king’s brother to kill him and take over. Then he killed the brother and sought to kill the Prince. What an asshole.”
“Laufey brought it here?” I asked.
“Yeah. He had been cleansed of the taint of Sebassis through Arnbjorg’s magics. Erik helped the prince to escape and was not infected. He wanted to destroy the tree. The outbreak was not entirely his fault”
“Where is he now?”
“Captured by them covering the prince’s escape. They are keeping the corrupted separate from the uncorrupted for now as Fulvragg slowly takes over.”
“What are they planning to do?” David asked, “Fullvragg obviously doesn’t want to destroy the tree now.”
“She does not know. She knows he is ambitious and very powerful. That he wants to start Ragnarock and destroy the Asgardians.”
Then that crazy pooka said something that made my stomach drop out.
“She suspects that Fulvragg wants to graft the Blackthorn seedling onto Yggdrasil. Corrupt all of the Nine Realms.”
The thought brought silence. Things had just gotten very complicated.
“That,” I said, “Would be ten kinds of bad.”
I thought about this and realized that we would be risking all our lives against impossible odds, but the reward was saving countless lives. A risk beyond worth taking.
“Ask her if she can show us where it is.” I said with resolve, “Tell her we’ll burn the damned Blackthorn Tree to the ground.”