The Adventurer's Guild
An axe-ident waiting to happen
Name: Hakon Ostberg
Society: The Adventurer’s Guild
Arcana: Herje (Hubris)
Background: True identity (3) Haunted (3)
Advantages: Adaptive Brawn (House Rule) / Large / Left-handed / Tough / Rune Weapon (permanent rune) / Legendary Trait: Brawn / Pain Tolerance / R&W Vesten
Ability: Ignore Pain: You may, once per Act, ignore any penalties that you are suffering from as a result of being crippled.
Favour – Saved the life of Allen Trel
+1 Fear Rating vs. Criminals
Double Attack: 5
Throw (Axe): 5
Exploit Weakness (Sigg): 4
Ruin Monster 1
Attack (Improvised): 1
Parry (Improvised): 1
Throw Harpoon: 1
Vestenmannavnjar Folk Lore: 1
2 mundane hand-axes
Rache rune weapon hand-axe (inscribed with Krieg +1K0 on attacks)
Krieg Rune Armlet +1k0 on all attacks, cannot be removed.
+15 Slaying the Siren Eater (Posen, Eisen).
This bio is really just an outline. Someday in boredom I might go back and give it The Treatment but I think the time I’ve spent on it is probably more than what it deserves anyway.
Rache: Hakon’s rune-weapon.
Halstrom’s grand hall bore men of worth and women of spirit. The old, smooth beams would seemingly stand forever, eternity’s trial plain upon them, burdened; worn but unyielding. Brown, red and grey furs of deer and elk afforded comfort from the proud hearth, heavy with trophy and tale, across the thick wooden floor to the imposing ebony seat of the Jarl. Firelight turned all to gold below the gloom of the rafters. Hakon breathed in the heady, musky smells of the place. Woodsmoke. Oiled leather. The boys’ mind was filled with storied promise quicker than the empty mugs with sloshing mead, and he took his place where he belonged within the embrace of his ancient kin, amongst the ghosts of their legends.
Hakon and his sisters wanted for little. Accepted into Jarls’ family, the boy was taught their mens’ ways. Seasons stretched out forever before them, their contentment a mere fact of life as true and dependable as the sunrise. A wan woman with gentle, bright eyes brought her son for the winter, she was introduced to the youngsters as aunt Erle. Hakon was anxious of her, the coin she rubbed idly told the boy that she was of the new ways. The Jarl and his men spoke often with her, hushed and sombre, long into the depth of many long nights.
Her son, Gunvald, a cousin of the family, joined the children. As boys will, he and Hakon found themselves both friends and rivals. Gunvald was a year younger but tall for his age. Their tutorship often placed them at odds; wargames and weapon practice put boy against boy but this did not remain only in the classroom or yard. For the most part, they were a team, partners in typical boisterous mischief.
Colour returned to the bleak hills, the pale jaws of winter receded, revealing tundra of grass and weeds around in all directions, from ragged coast to proud mountains. The men took up their tools and set to work, constructing homes and buildings all according to the methods of their forefathers. They went to the coast and offered their blood to the old, black, boney finger-like standing stones and their strange markings. Only their towering claws of jagged, uneven rock disrupted the Calrid coast’s stark edges. Veins of frigid water cascaded down the craggy, etched fjords, scouring and shaping the cold stone beneath steely skies. They buried Erle by the first flowers of spring, Gunvald’s dirt-stained face set firm against the tears.
No Vesten would wear a uniform. Each knew his own, instinctually recognising a thousand reflections of himself in the men by his side. Hakon stared at the rune mounted within the captain’s quarters, taking in again the powerful straight edges of it, the deliberate acute angles, the brown of dried blood against the grey slate. Would it be enough? Sighing, he heaved himself up and strode out onto the deck of The Thunder Child and swore. What was once wave and sky, salt and horizon, was now replaced. The black rock spires of his home stood in bold relief against the swollen, fierce clouds. He hoped their haste would deliver his hope. If not, the Vendel would be there, and so would Gunvald.
The boy nimbly leapt between puddles, kicking mud further up his streaked legs, running where he could (and near climbing where he could not) upon the soaked and rain saturated path to the Sentinel’s head. The path, normally a narrow trail besieged by weeds, rarely felt feet upon it these years. He wanted to turn his face upwards to let the rain at the mucky sweat on his cheeks but weariness meant he could only keep his eyes on the path before him, grimly planting foot in front of foot.
Gunvald’s family had at last sent for him, but no-one could find him, despite those who had seen him remembering him in Calrid proper minutes before the strange, fancy men from Vendel dirtied their shining boots slogging up from the bay. Hakon wanted to warn him, despite their bickering they were friends, but he expected Gunvald had seen them. He’d thought to find Gunvald with this sister, Gudrun, his secret affections for her clear to Hakon. Three days ago, a skittish horse had kicked her in the side of the head, almost killing her. She lay asleep, her skin less grey than yesterday, her head still bandaged tightly. Mother sat at her side and had not seen Gunvald.
Gratefully, he came upon the mossy cairn that sign posted the Sentinel and came to clumsy stop, arms swinging loosely and legs wobbling. He bent over double, breathing hard, sniffing back snot as he drew a forearm across his mouth.
He walked on once his breath regained a semblance of its usual rhythm. Pushing back a branch that shed water from its laden leaves, Hakon came upon the clearing by the granite head of the sentinel. The stern countenance continued its perpetual vigil, its unseeing eyes staring across the foamy, crashing waves and glacial waters far below. Sitting against it was Gunvald and sitting upon him was Lussi, his sister, her skirts drawn up, her bare cheeks bobbing. Gunvald saw Hakon over Lussi’s shoulder and laughed as their eyes locked. The sound of it hit Hakon in the gut as though struck but that pain would only be registered later, on reflection, for all Hakon felt in that moment was a perfect, vicious, primal anger that seared the memory onto his mind forever.
It had taken some creative tactical manipulation but Hakon had contrived the route that was, to the fleet, without merit nor, even with a charitable mind, without consolation. Still, his quick wit and implaccable stance, and the ingenuity of his fraud, assured the Jarl of his course’s legitimacy. It was a shame to lie. To Hakon, the route was mandatory. His first mate raised eyebrows when he gave the order and their new bearings, but carried it out without hesitation. The men glanced at one another and Hakon caught the the look in their eyes. Able sailors to a man; they understood that this new course would take them back by their own coast, delaying (and jeapordising) the raid.
The Thunder Child passed the rest of the raiding fleet, one at a time over two days, the vessels shrinking away across the sea. The men glumly watched them slide by but Hakon kept his eyes on the horizon, urging the ship onwards, his heart thudding out its own beat like a private bosun’s drum. Finally, the coast he’d been picturing in his mind lay before his eyes. The ship sided up with the cliffs. As cannons were readied, he walked along the boards behind the gunners, calling out corrective degree changes and inspecting the teams as they worked. Satisfied at last, he allowed the moment to hang, then he spoke the word and the cannons fired, their staccato roars belching iron and smoke.
Long moments passed. The wind carried the smoke away with its invisible fingers, some diffusing up into the sky, more swirling in the currents of air, twisting along within the eddies. When it had cleared enough to re-sight his target, Hakon nodded approvingly. The head of the Sentinel of Calrid had been utterly destroyed.
Hakon rubbed at his temple with one hand, the other swirled a goblet half-full of amber liquid, the motion enhancing its warm, coarse aroma even as some still slid down his throat. His eyes fell upon the slate rune and down to the map and scribbled pages that cluttered the desk and then down to the floor of his quarters. Lussi’s words stung. The letter lay atop the piles of documents and map, its’ curled ends slowly overlapping once more, every word upon it echoed his heart’s own. Again his eyes traced the familiar lines of the map, glanced over the memorised scrawls on the parchments.
It was too soon. Gunvald had taken Halstrom Hall, pulling the rug from under them all. The raids had been a success, the Vendel “league” learning many lessons these last few weeks. Their deceits and cowardly use of poison had to be answered. The Jarl’s son was his father’s image. The Vesten were not a snake with but one head. They were a wolf pack. Could their brethren forget so much? They are dogs to our wolves, thought Hakon.
Gunvald’s vessel had surprised them at sea, the only one not to be sunk that day. His wild gambit had seen them break for distant shores but before they could escape they were forced in behind the Vesten ships front line. With nowhere to go, Gunvald struck back into Vesten waters. And to Calrid.
The hall’s position was too strong to overwhelm quickly, the tundra too open to yield a surprise assault. Gunvald and every Vendel under his command would die for their position. It was totally and insurmountably cut off. They had nowhere to go, except onto the next life.
The bastard held Gudrun. The threat on her life alone kept the wolves at bay, prevented the Vesten from reclaiming their hall. He would not give the order with Gudrun’s life in such peril. Hakon had finally settled on a plan, the only plan that could conceivably see Gudrun alive. Only in spring did she stand a chance, for it was the earliest opportunity. The ice had to have begun thawing, the streams that fed the falls upon the fjords would be her salvation. Lussi’s letter implored him to strike now. Every passing day risked her anyway. His instincts agreed, urgency rose within him each morning and night. No. He’d gone over it hundreds, perhaps thousands of times. Come the spring, he could save her.
His officers marched out from his quarters with renewed purpose, his order given at last. The time for action was finally upon them. Hakon paced with nervous energy. He buttoned his coat and buckled his belt, the ornate gilded pistol (a trophy from the battle last month; it had belonged to a tall Vendel officer who died well enough) that bumped against his leg from the hanging holster was a better decoration than a weapon. Too small, too unreliable.
Hakon lowered himself to his chair and wrote his orders into the captain’s log. Before sunrise he would see Gunvald dead, and with his oversight and just a pinch of luck, Gudrun’s smile.
Perhaps the nightmares would stop. They filled his nights with cruel stone heads and he’d awaken with the ring of laughter in his ears. He knew Gunvald was wily, perhaps gifted with a raw, instinctual mind for tactics. His manoeuvre at sea was, in hindsight, a stroke of the utmost cunning. Hakon hated admitting that to himself, but the truth of it was undeniable. His rival had always excelled, the two forever edging in front of one another, a competition that encapsulated his adolescence. Capturing the hall was audacious and Hakon doubted that, if their roles had been reversed, that he would have had the wit to think of it. This next victory would be his. Gunvald had to know this.
Hakon also understood that none of the Jarls nor their keenest thralls could have contained Gunvald. Hakon predicted their intended plans even before they spoke them, perhaps before they thought them, and knew Gunvald would likewise have guessed them. It was fortunate that they had been delayed (by their own captain, admittedly) and so arrived to the battle late and out of formation. The ship would likely have sustained heavy damage, unable to return to its shore so swiftly after combat and Gunvald would have slipped between the fingers of the Vesten fist, disappearing across the waves.
Hakon heard the commotion between the men outside, noted the edge in their voices. He openned the door to his quarters and found his first mate questioning a scout who should be watching the hall. He noticed the pale porcelain pot half-covered by rags that the scout held. A riderless horse had been released from the stables and the scout had intercepted the emaciated beast. The vase had been carefully packed in its bag, its lid sealed with wax like a letter.
Captain Hakon Ostberg licked his lips. This was unexpected. He stepped towards the man and accepted the vase; it was heavy. Turning it around once, feeling the cool smooth contours of it. He twisted the lid, breaking the crimson seal and lifted it clear. He reached in and carefully drew forth a polished human skull, its curves and tone not so dissimalar to its vessel. His eyes widened. The skull’s temple had an old, curved fracture in the recognisable shape of a horse shoe. Neatly etched into the forehead was the symbol of the exile, an accursed mark, one that damned a soul forever. Gudrun’s soul.
In a daze, Hakon wearily handed the skull to his first mate and staggered back into his quarters, shutting the door and slumping against it as he slid to his knees. His mouth was too dry to make whatever sound he tried to make. He drew the pistol from its holster, put its elegantly engraved barrel into his mouth, wished he had a bigger gun, then squeezed the trigger.
Hakon drifted between the fishing villages and whaling vessels, the privateer vessels and the mercenary companies, forgetting and remembering. He toiled and drunk and whored and fought and sailed and marched and let the days blur into one another as they in turn stretched into years. He used other names, at times, whenever his reputation grew. It was cruel of fate. He’d invite death time and again, betting it all on absolute success or certain shirking of his mortal coil. He told himself that he was ready to die. Hakon denied himself the introspection required to know if he really was risking as much as he thought. Despite himself, he tried to do no wrong. Despite himself, he lived on.
Hakon Ostberg approached Halstrom hall, the place where they knew him, the rusted hues of autumn mirroring the orange and red ceremony of sunset. He did not recognise the thrall who had demanded to know his name. The man left to fetch her. He’d been told to wait. She was coming to see him. This time she’d see him! He shivered with nerves, his heart hammering fast. Perhaps she was finally going to forgive him. The doors of the hall groaned as they swung open, the Jarl and the men alongside him mere shadows in her presence. Lussi stood before him. She had aged. The thrall introduced him to her, unaware of the weight of the words he spoke.
The ice in her voice would shame the great northern glaciers, its edge cut into him in a thousand places. He endured as her words lashed him, carved their way through his being like the glacial waters and their work upon the fjords, he stood the whole while, sustained their old wounds with fresh pain. Lussi explained to the guards that Hakon Ostberg died by his own hand years ago before the siege of the hall. The exile before them was Gunvald. They sent him away. Under a sickle moon he worked the oars of his dilapidated boat, angling away from the skeletal fingers of rock that stood over Calrid, and out into the night and its abyssal waters.