Rift: Travels Through Telara Part 14 - Valnir Ekkehard

Join Guardian scribe, Padraic, and his trusty, yet slow-witted lackey Bran, as they travel the length and breadth of Telara documenting the people, places, history, and folklore of the world. Before it’s all gone.

Travels Through Telara

The Story So Far: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14

By Padraic

Greetings, dear reader.  Today we have a special treat for you. Bran and I are still ensconced in the small village of Potter’s Field where I am acting as temporary teacher. But instead of carrying on with my lectures on the different Planes that surround Telara, (we will continue that soon), today we will be talking about one of the wonderful characters and heroes from the frozen north of Telara.

You see, yesterday, a cart and horse entered the village. This in itself caused much excitement, as visitors to Potter’s Field are, to put it mildly, few and far between. In fact, I think non-existent would be a more fitting description. I mean, when Bran and I turned up at the rusted-open gates, the villagers stared at us with their mouths hanging open as if we were the ghosts of Regulos come to steal their very souls.

But two visitors in a matter of two weeks is simply unheard of.

The village elder was hiding in his hut so I took it upon myself to greet our new visitors, who turned out to be a young family and their elderly grandparent who were traveling south in search of warmer climes.

But it is because of the grandfather that I am so excited. He is a wealth of stories and legends, and I plan on getting him to talk as much as possible before they move on.

This isn’t going to be difficult. One only has to nod politely in his general direction to set him off on a long spiel about his childhood, about the heroes of Iron Pike mountains, about who fought in the war, who died in the war. He is most… enthusiastic.

His first lecture to me was on about a man called Valnir Ekkehard.

Valnir was a huge bear of a man with a white shaggy beard and eyes as grey as the northern winter skies. He was a shaman, one of those who bind the power of the elements to their very being, wreathing himself in pure elemental force that he then uses in battle.

He wasn’t a warrior, a leader, or anyone special. He was just a man who stood up for his people when the Storm Legion swept through the village of Iron Pine Peak. When the first of Crucia’s servants marched through their log gate, he took up his weapon and laid about him, felling row upon row with his vicious maul. Heads were separated from bodies. Limbs were cut in half. Lives were ended in a mist of blood and pain.

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Valnir kept on fighting, even as his fellow villagers fell around him, their blood staining the snow red. He roared his defiance, even as arrows pierced his body. Gradually, the Storm Legion closed in around him, tightening the circle until there was only a small gap of white snow before the rows upon rows of Storm Legion warriors. Valnir was eventually overwhelmed by the weight of numbers and disarmed. And as the survivors looked on, the Storm Legion commander stoked up a fierce fire and laid an arrow in the coals, waiting for the metal to glow white hot.

Then he took this arrow, the cold air hissing against the glowing metal, and he pierced Valnir’s eyes. Eyes that had seen his village grow from a small hamlet to a bustling village, seen his children born, grow to adulthood, then start families of their own. Eyes that had seen his wife pass through the veil, seen the horrors of the Blood Storm wars.

They were plucked from his skull and left to sink into the snow.

Valnir spoke not a word, didn’t even cry out in pain. He took his torture silently, and was then chained with the rest of the captives and marched toward Crucia’s chambers for whatever fate awaited him.

Despite his blindness and pain, Ekkehard spent the long march to his death preaching faith in Thedeor, the god of storms and justice. Never once did his faith in his god waver. He would taunt the commander constantly, jeering at his pathetic worship of Crucia, railing against the Storm Queen’s manipulation of her subjects. One night, the commander had simply had enough. He dragged Ekkehard out of the chained line, stripped him of all clothes except for a few pieces of fur, and the let his soldiers do what they wanted with him. He was kicked, beaten with hammers, whipped with chains, and eventually left for dead in a snow drift by the side of the road, abandoned to the elements while the Storm Legion moved on.

But miraculously, Valnir survived. His faith kept him alive. After two days of exposure, he managed to push himself to his feet and limp slowly along the road, following the ruts left by the Legion’s wagons. As his body began to fail, limbs turning solid with the cold, he cried out, “Thedeor! Avenge my people! Grant me your strength, and I will crush the mindless hordes of Crucia!”

The cold in his limbs deepened, as if the very ice that had been a constant companion during his whole life replaced the air he needed to breathe. He suddenly felt at peace. All his pain vanished. He turned his face up and sensed  the dark skies and saw lowering clouds, could somehow see the trailing curtains of snow draping across the distant mountains. He felt part of the oncoming storm. It became him, defined him, and it guided him to where the slave train had made camp for the night.

Like the mountain lion he had hunted as a child, Valnir stalked through the camp, sneaking around guards and campfires as he searched for the wagon that held the weapons confiscated from his people. He reached beneath the leather covering and the first thing his fingers touched was the familiar worn covering that was wrapped around the shaft of his maul.

As he lifted it from the wagon, bright white lightning exploded from his hand and poured into the weapon, filling the maul with Thedeor’s wrath.

Valnir let his instincts take over. He crept toward the prisoners and fell upon the Storm Legion guards like the wrath of the Vigil themselves. Skulls were smashed to pieces, ribs and chests crushed beneath his heavy weapon. With every touch, lightning exploded from the metal, wrapping around his enemies and boiling their blood in their veins, burning them so quickly their eyes burst in their heads.

Finally, Valnir stood among the fallen guards, hoisted the maul high and cried out, “Praise Thedeor!”

He freed his fellow villagers, and they swept through the camp like the vengeful spirits of the mountain gods until only the commander was left. He fell to his knees, tears freezing on his bloody cheeks.

“Have mercy!” he sobbed.

“There is no mercy here,” said Valnir, “Only vengeance.” Lightning erupted from his weapon, shooting directly into the commander’s eyes. A moment later his head burst like an overripe melon.

Ever since then, the Shamans of the northern tribes have driven back the Blood Storm with bitter cold and the fury of the sky.

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 “I am the vengeance of the north. Mine is the fury of the storm, the bite of the icy peaks, and I will rain retribution on those who threaten our way of life.”

This is their motto. This is their promise

The Story So Far: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14

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