There are three types of Norns: those who spread the tales of others yet have no stories of their own to share, those who spread the tales of themselves, basking in their own accomplishments and tales…
And then there’s me.
Like every Norn, I seek to prove myself; I seek endless fame and glory! My name will be immortalized and the tales of my adventures will be engraved in a stone statue made entirely in my image. All shall gaze upon me with veneration. All shall admire me! All shall toast to my victories.
But sometimes, it isn’t all that simple. Sometimes, a path to glory can have many loose ends and unexplained events.
That is why I keep writing things down.
That is how my legend will be spread.
The best story is a story within a story – Uuvak Warsong
My name is Uuvak Warsong. I am Norn, hunter of the wild, born of the free and rugged Shiverpeak Mountains.
In the far north, my people fought our greatest enemy: Jormag, a dragon of frost and snow.
The dragon broke our pride, but it did not break our spirit. In our last hour, we heard the voices of four of the Spirits of the Wild: Bear, Raven, Snow Leopard, Wolf. They called us south, away from certain annihilation. We founded the Great Lodge of Hoelbrak and claimed new hunting grounds. Some say we should not fight Jormag. I say the greatest risk is to wager nothing at all. One day, a hero will lead us home, and we will break the dragon’s icy grip.
I am a skaald. I tell stories of others, just as others tell stories of me. And yet, being a storyteller doesn’t make me weaker – it makes me stronger, and the wisdom of the Spirits guides me well.
I was born in the fire of combat – my spirit has been forged and tempered like steel. Like my ancestors before me, I seek glory. One day I will take my place among heroes of the Norn. My strength is a gift from spirits of the wild. With it, I can hold back the tide, I can move mountains. I can overcome anything that comes in my way.
I am still untested, but already, my deeds have earned me friendship and great respect. Each year, a Great Hunt is called in Hoelbrak. Only the best among us are invited to participate. I’ll prove my worth with guile, collecting trophies to show my prowess. Then, I will drink and boast of my victories!
The world is a dangerous place, just waiting to be conquered. To be tamed. It waits for a champion worthy of becoming the greatest among the legends. I accept this challenge. I relish it. Come, danger. Come, adventure! In the lodges and halls of my people, my strength will make me immortal!
This is my story.
The Great Hunt. That time of the year when many norns seek to prove their skills by hunting wild and dangerous beasts. The norn pride themselves on their ferocity and the success of their hunts and so each year, young heroes gather to hunt and to boast of their accomplishments. Only the most impressive are chosen to go on that year’s Great Hunt.
I was one of them.
My story starts in the outskirts of Hoelbrak a few days before my final return from my long travels where I had gone to hone my skills and to train before the next Great Hunt.
Fighting off a group of molemen, at least 6 of them, I proved to myself that I’m getting stronger with every fight and every challenge. And yet, there was still a long way to go. A path to glory requires much more experience.
I check their pockets “This little mole has nothing, and was killed because of it. This little mole also had nothing and was also killed because of it. Oh, who am I kidding, they were all killed for nothing else than practice. They weren’t a danger to anyone. This area is hardly ever visited by people; even wanderers don’t wander this far off.”
Standing up, I take one last look at the corpses, and then set off to find food and shelter. “There’s still a long way to go before I reach Hoelbrak. I need to rest.”
I situated myself near a nice, quiet little lake amidst the forest. It was very calming; the air and the surroundings had some kind of weird, soothing effect on me. Everything seemed so peaceful. Plus, it had enough fish to feed a whole village. It was hard not to relax, even for a moment and especially after a battle and such a long walk.
Warm breeze, clear sky, birds singing. The urge to sleep overcame me completely. Pretty soon I was in a coma.
To my amazement when I woke up, I found out that my satchel was missing. “Did I drop it? No, that’s impossible. Even I am not that careless.” I search the surroundings for it. “Nothing…” My heart begins to pound louder. Usually I wouldn’t get so worried about that, but the contents of that satchel were more important to me than my life.
“Someone is gonna pay dearly when I find him!” I mustered to myself, my vision and mind slowly getting blurry, all clouded with rage. “He won’t be walking ever again!”
I was determined to find whoever or whatever stole my satchel, and hoped that my belongings stayed inside, safe and unharmed. Scouting the forest surrounding the lake, I barely contained the anger inside me.
“Stay calm. Focus. Control yourself. Don’t lose it now. Lose it when you find whoever it is you’re looking for.”
All I wanted to do was shout so loud that my lungs died off, but some part of me knew that that wasn’t a clever move; it would only alert my prey that I was coming for him. Or them. Or it. Whatever or whoever they were, they were going to die.
While scouting I noticed some tracks which were not my own. They led towards the lake, but the manner in which the thief moved revealed that he came in, stole the satchel and then went back the same way he came from.
Judging by the freshness and the size of the tracks, the thief was here very recently, and he was probably a Norn. Maybe even a Son of Svanir. He had to be.
“This even may turn out fun. If it’s truly a Son of Svanir, the tracks may even lead me to their camp, or their base. Just focus. You can do it. You will slay them all! Think of the glory, Uuvak, think of the fame! The tales of this day will be told at every moot, songs will be sung and my name will be known by everyone! Uuvak, the norn who single handedly butchered an entire camp of Svanirs!” The thought of such accomplishment was nearly overwhelming.
And then I saw him.
There, right in front of me, crouching amidst the trees- his lower part of the body all covered in dust, his face pointing at the floor.
He wasn’t a Son of Svanir, you could tell by his looks. He was a rather tall fellow, even for a Norn, wearing a dark hood over his face and a black, sleeveless leather jacket. Staring at him, I noticed a leather utility belt buckled around his black leather pants. A single brown casing hanged from it, right next to his front left pocket in which there was a sheathed gun, and another one to the right in which there was an obviously custom made dagger. Most importantly, he had MY satchel in HIS hands.
The fact that he was just a regular Norn made me snap. “How dare you being just a pathetic little thieving bastard!” I shouted furiously, revealing myself behind the bushes.
He raised his head. I wasn’t even close enough to jump him; I had given away my position too soon “I followed your tracks all across the forest, all the way from the lake hoping that you would at least be WORTHY of killing when I find you!”
He grinned. He wasn’t happy. But then again, neither was I. “But no, you had to be just a little pitiful coward who runs away from a true challenge!”
He was slowly reaching for his gun. “And another thing, there’s really no sense of stealth at all if you’re going to be so lousy at it! Now face me, you dwarf, come out and let me show you the true meaning of pain. Let it be known by all that Uuvak Warsong doesn’t take kindly to idiots who steal from him!”
I reached for my greatsword. The gun fired. But it missed. I stared ferociously at my enemy as he prepared his next shot, aiming right for my head. “So… that’s how you want to play, huh?”
No response. “So be it then.” Without any thought, I gave up on the idea of close combat and grabbed the rifle off my back, but by the time I was done the thief had already started running. I couldn’t let him escape.
“I’m warning you, don’t go a step further!” But he did. I fired my rifle, and it missed him by a long shot. I fired again – another miss. And again! The way he moved was unlike anything I’ve ever seen – quick, agile, careful and graceful, his movements’ always one step ahead of me and always looking out for a possible escape point.
I was furious; the rage clouded my vision so badly that I couldn’t even hit the trees around him! “This is way too embarrassing. I’m glad that no one is here to see it”.
By the time I got my thoughts together, I noticed that he was slipping away. I ran after him like a whole herd of doylaks chased me, and shot once again without any results. “I swear it’s like I’m shooting at smoke!”
Blood boiled within me, adrenaline surged through me, but I still couldn’t shake the feeling that the first shot missed on purpose. Why?
I couldn’t stop to think about it.
“Well who would have thought that this chase would be so educational? He is a much bigger challenge than I thought. But he’s still gonna die.”
After a while I was actually closing in on him – he was almost within my grasp. But then suddenly the ground shakes and from it a group of 10 molemen erupts right in front of me. Instead of grabbing my prey, I grab a mole. “By the Spirits, not now!”
I exhaled through my teeth.
“Oh boy…” the dredge wiggled helplessly, his hands and legs flopping through the air. I looked him straight in the eyes as I held him and just grinned, throwing him into a nearby tree. It made a satisfying squeak of pain as it hit. But there were still others in my way.
“There he is!” one of them whimpered. “That’s the one that’s been causing us so much trouble! Get him!”
“Out of my way fool!” I roar as loud as I can, my own voice thundering through the forest, and charge recklessly into them, knocking them all into the side using the butt of my rifle with one strong sweep. Bits of broken teeth and mole blood flew through the air, the stench from of their foul mouths almost burning my eyes.
They all came crashing down on a pile right next to that first one I threw.
Grunting, cursing and holding their bruised heads, they stood up and chased after me. “Cut him! Smash him! Kill him!” were just few of the shouts I heard while the cold wind blew in my face as I chased my prey onward through the forest, followed by the constant sound of earth cracking beneath our feet and the sound of my own heart pounding loudly in my ears.
The thrill of the hunt kept me going “Been running for ages now. How much more can he take? Cause I can do this all day.”
The forest changed its colors every few minutes as we ran deeper and deeper into the forest; its bright and cheerful tone became darker and darker, the sunny sky lost its’ radiant glow, the birds stopped singing.
Or was it just me? Was the rage finally overflowing me, changing my point of view, changing the colors of everything around me? Honestly, that wouldn’t be the first time.
With my prey being way in front of me and the moles savagely chasing me, I knew I’d never catch him, not like that. I notice that there was no other way, so I stop, and aim. “Kneel. Hold the rifle steady; don’t let your grip be too hard. Let the rage overcome you, let it become you. But keep the balance. Let there be blood. Let there be gore! Press to kill. Shoot your prey.”
The world went red. I focused my entire anger into that one, final shot, and the one shot that surely wouldn’t miss and that would end his cowardly escape, maybe even his life. I counted on it.
So as I’m about to fire, my prey turns around and in a quick maneuver reaches out his hand and throws my satchel right into my face. As it hit me, I stumbled back with my rifle firing up in the air. My final shot that shouldn’t have missed under any circumstances, HAS missed! Well, at least I had my prized possessions back.
I grabbed the satchel from the floor , amazed by his choice “Smart decision, you puny coward! I might even let you live now!”
I smiled. “I finally have my satchel back.”
For a brief moment, all the anger, all the rage and the desire to kill had disappeared. I even forgot about the moles chasing me. Everything was in perfect order. The forest got its’ colors back again. The birds sang again. The sky was blue again. The sun shined again.
Then I opened it, and the whole world went grayscale again. In my hands – a satchel. Inside the satchel waiting for me is just a handful of rocks. Rocks. Pitiful ROCKS!
“You… damn…bastard!” he was harder to see. “No matter where you run…”he was getting blurry “…no matter where and no matter how long it takes me…” he was barely in my sight “ I will find you! And when I do I’ll skin you alive!” the thief faded in the distance.
And then it hit me. Right from behind, right in the head, a cold metal hilt. I stumbled forward, my head pounding with pain. “I forgot about the damn dredge!” I couldn’t understand how they reached so high, they were way too short. I looked back.
The way these dredge solved that problem made me burst into laughter, even though my head was cracking. One of the dredges climbed on the other ones back, this way being tall enough to reach my head. “I got him, I got him!” squealed the upper dredge as he was barely struggling to keep his balance while the lower dredge stumbled all over the place.
The other moles were all struggling for air, panting louder with each second. Some were bruised up head to toe. Others only had missing teeth. But they all stank of mole sweat.
My laughter slowly changed from a calm, heartwarming laugh to a bloodthirsty, fast paced maniacal breathing. The moles got scared, all trembling with fear, and the pair of idiots that hit me finally lost their balance and fell to the ground with a loud smash.
The others just took a step back; just one look was enough for their eyes to reveal all but the will to fight. They kept going back further and further, overcome with fear, and had every right to do so because now I wasn’t even thinking about anything else than causing havoc.
The grip around my rifle got stronger with every second, and then at last I charged at them with a terrifying roar “Fear me”! The moles panicked, but surprisingly nevertheless went into a straight formation and held their line, digging their legs nicely into the ground with their shields held tightly right in front of them, convinced that would minimize the damage.
The one in the middle fell quickly, my charge ended with a brutal kick right in his shield which threw the poor bastard back, splitting his head open on nearby rocks. His blood decorated the surrounding floor.
The others took this opportunity and left their formation, holding their swords, maces and whatnot high, ready to strike. I quickly turn around, firing a shot straight through another moles face, leaving him dead on the spot. But this move cost me dearly as I didn’t take my time to dodge – the others crept up on me and one of the bastards actually managed to hit me in the back with his mace, kicking the air out of my lungs.
Recovering from the unexpected attack, I was vulnerable to further punishment – the one with the sword, who introduced his hilt with my head, hopped high and left me with a cut on my face right across my right eye. I actually managed to back away my head just in time to avoid permanent blindness but nevertheless got slashed.
I curse every damn mole I ever encountered and manage to stomp the ground hard enough to knock back the incoming wave of dredge giving me enough time to sheathe my rifle and grab my trusty greatsword.
The sound of metal made a satisfying creak as I pulled it out, the blades tip shining on the afternoon sun. “Now…” I replied calmly “… the real fun begins.” Smile across my face, adrenaline surging through my veins, I charge at them once again, holding the hilt of my sword with a determined grip.
Still on the ground when I charge, getting ready to stand up on his feet, that particular sword dredge screams with terror when he sees me standing right above him. It was already too late. The poor mole got cut up right across his face, just like he cut me.
My cut was much worse as half of his head was missing.
The others, what’s left of them anyways, were back on their feet now, all covered in dust and dirt. “Still plenty of you, I see!” I looked at them, smiling from ear to ear “Good!” I grip my sword even tighter, spinning it around myself, cutting up the two moles behind who thought they snuck up on me, and then finally releasing the sword from my hands, throwing it at the moles in front.
One of them manages to dodge but the other one doesn’t even get a chance to scream as he slipped on the mud and got chopped to pieces by the spinning blade. I thunder a triumphant roar as I run closer to collect my sword.
Then the earth shakes again, only louder this time. A big crack appears right next to where my sword landed. Pieces of earth flying around, dust lifting from the ground. From it, a big, giant like dredge appears, almost as tall as a Norn, all covered in metal armor with a giant hammer in his hands and a rude look on his face.
“Ol’ Grumpy.” That’s what the dredge used to call him. My smile just got wider.
“Is it possible that a challenge worthy of my time stands here, right in front of me? Is it truly possible?”
“Don’t get too cocky little Norn!” the brute grudged. “You shall pay dearly for the lives you wasted here today. You shall suffer for it and your people shall suffer for it! No longer will we live under your shadow, or put up with your savagery! Your time is over! You die here today!”
“They don’t call you Grumpy without a reason I see. Very well, let’s make this quick then. My blade thirsts for your blood and my heart aches for glory! The tale of my victory will be sung on moots all around the Shiverpeaks!”
Furiously determined to end him as soon as possible, I grab a nearby boulder and hurl it at him. It was imperative that he be killed quickly; else he just might dig another hole and vanish as fast as he appeared. Either that or I would end up dead, but that wasn’t likely to happen.
But he just swung his giant hammer and with a thundering strike smashed the boulder to pieces. Grumpy pointed at me “Now, finish that norn!”
Instead of heeding their commander’s order, the surviving moles just packed up and quickly headed towards the crack in the ground.
“No way we’re staying here, not after all of this!” one replied with a squeaky voice. “He’s all yours!” And with that said, the moles disappeared into the ground, leaving behind only good Ol’ Grumpy for me to play with.
Dust still surrounded the area around where the boulder was smashed, little pieces of it lying all over the place. Grumpy was furious at his men’s betrayal.
“Just you wait!” he roared at them “Just wait until I kill this fool! Then I’m coming for all of you!”
I was getting anxious “I don’t mean to interrupt but I get the feeling you’re neglecting me here.”
He continued “I’ll bash every last one of you to pieces! I will break your bones and kill you in the worst possible way imaginable! This norn did nothing compared at what I’ll do when I get you!”
He was ignoring me completely. I found that my perfect opportunity to charge him. And I did. But as soon as I got near him, the brute turned around, headbutting me right in my face with that big metal helm on this head. I fall backwards on the ground. The sound of ringing fills my ears, my forehead swollen up from the hit “Well, isn’t he hardheaded?” My head pounds with pain “Why is everyone aiming for my skull today?”
But the fight isn’t over yet.
As soon as I fell the mole raised his hammer up high. “Perfect…” Just a moment before it hit I manage to roll away to the side, avoiding it’s crushing strength. The ground cracked where the hammer smashed, little pieces of earth flying above my head.
I quickly get up, and punch the mole in the gut with little effectiveness, as my hit got dulled by his thick armor. “Crap” I whisper with utter disappointment and take a strong kick right in the stomach.
Once again I was out of breath, kneeling right before my opponent “He is tougher than I thought. This is even better than I hoped! But enough playing around.” The mole raised his hammer to finish the job.
In s sudden surge of strength and in a quick burst of adrenaline, I grab his hammer and return the favor with a hard, solid punch to his face, giving him a nice, brutal headache even though he had a helm. He roared with pain, lowered his hammer and grabbed his head.
“Now is the time”. I stun him long enough to roll back and get my sword, my head still pounding with pain. Even when I picked it up, he was still standing there, holding his head. I charge back at him.
The world went black. Only he was in my sight.
“You shall die!” Grumpy looked at me with terror in his eyes. He didn’t recover in time.
With one strong swing, I cut his head clean off. The adrenaline still pumps through my veins as he drops lifeless on the floor.
I finally raise my sword up high with my face all covered in blood, roaring as loud as I could. My voice echoed in the forest around me, scaring the birds away.
The battle is over. The glory is mine!
A quiet chill fell upon the forest. The trees, stones and floor were painted red. Mole corpses lay everywhere. Ol’ Grumpy’s lifeless body lay in front of me. With that done, I could continue my journey back to Hoelbrak.
Even hours after the battle, the smile never left my face. I loved it! Every second of it, despite the fact that my head was still pounding and that I almost lost an eye. The thrill of combat, the smell of blood in the air, the adrenaline, the pain, the glory! Sure there wasn’t much glory in killing a handful of moles but this is just what I went on my travels for – to train. And these moles served as perfect training dummies.
Arriving at Hoelbrak, I still couldn’t stop thinking about that glorious moment few days ago – the victory over the dredge commander Grumpy. The battle was hard fought, but all of the effort I put in my training paid off at the end.
But no, I haven’t forgotten about the thief and my precious possession. I was determined to get it back, but for now, I decided to let it go. The Great Hunt was tomorrow, and I needed to prepare.
It’s been years since I was last in Hoelbrak so I took a long, deep breath before finally walking in through the massive gates and I stopped as soon as I got in.
It hasn’t changed one bit.
My fellow Norns were running about their business as usual, some cheerful and full of laughter, others nervous and on the brink of punching me in the face when I looked at them. All perfectly normal.
The buildings stood tall and pride as ever, fully covered with snow which shun brightly on the noon sun and radiated with a diamond–like glow. The sight of the Great Lodge all the way from the entrance was a sight for sore eyes; just being in its presence gave off a strange feeling of unity and sent pleasant chills through a man’s spine. That’s where I was headed.
On my way, I ran into a few lively cubs which were chasing each other all around the place. They put on quite a show with their snowball fights and their impressive snow forts, taunting and targeting anyone who came their way. They even threw some balls at me. I just took a good, long, serious look at them, and they got the message. “Wise of them” I thought. “They know how to pick their battles.”
True little fighters, they were, but some Norn don’t take kindly to that, as one of their unfortunate targets just made a massive snowball as big as an average person and threw it onto the kids, destroying their fort and bursting them into crying.
“Stop your crying, little cubs!” shouted the man at them. “If you can’t bear defeat, don’t go around seeking for it!” He then left in a hurry, cursing and grunting under his breath, thinking that nobody heard him. I continued onward, still amazed by the sights of Hoelbrak and proud to be back after such a long time.
When I finally reached the Great Lodge, I stopped in my tracks. Half the reason was because of the Lodge itself. The sight was glorious – the Lodge was somehow even bigger than I remembered.
Another half was because of the person who was standing there, leisurely leaning on the wall behind him with his arms crossed, looking at me with a sight that would send most others running in terror.
A tall, firm fellow with a serious face and a wolf pelt hanging from his back.
It was Uthgar.
“Uuvak, you messily worm!” he shouted full of excitement, then stood up straight spreading his arms. “Where have you been? What hole have you crawled into for such a long time?” I laugh as I come closer. “I was beginning to think that I should start searching for a new drinking partner!” We shake hands, his grip still as firm as ever “Not until I draw breath, my friend” I responded with a wide smile across my face. “It’s good to see you”.