IN THE SHADOW OF THE SPIRE
CHARACTER BACKGROUND: AGNARR
You are a member of the Tribe of the Red Elk (an animal mythical to your people). Three seasons ago, after long years of hardship, you became a Leader of the Hunt. Only a few short weeks ago, you and your hunting band left the village of your clan for the most important hunt: The Hunt of the Mammoth. Successfully bringing down one of the wild mammoths beyond the Barrier Mountains can provide enough food to feed an entire village for a season.
The hunt went well. After only a few days beyond the mountains, your hunting band found and slew a mammoth. You spent three days preparing the carcass and salting the meat so that it could be transported back across the mountains and none would be lost.
But, on your return journey, catastrophe struck: Your band stumbled upon a crevasse covered by false ice. Your weight caused the ice to shatter and all of you fell to what you were certain would be an icy doom…
… but instead you awoke at the bottom of the crevasse. Your hunting companions were nowhere to be found. You climbed out of the crevasse and attempted to make your way back across the mountains. But you found your way stymied. The paths you knew no longer seemed to exist. After what seemed like endless days, even the directions of the sun and the moon and the stars had become strange and fey.
It was then that you first saw the snow leopard – a terrible beast much larger than any you had ever seen before. Its shoulders stood as tall as your own and every inch of it lean with hard muscle.
And it was hunting you.
You fended off its attacks, managing many narrow escapes. But, after a time, you realized that the leopard was winning – you were injured and weary. In the end, you lured it into a trap and slew it with the only weapon you had: Your bare hands.
Then, as your breath steamed into the thin air high atop the mountains and blood oozed from the deep and terrible wounds in your thighs and arms and chest, the Red Elk appeared, prancing lightly upon the snow-covered rocks. Time seemed to stretch unnaturally. You saw that it had a marking upon its left side with the appearance of a lidded eye. Upon its right side were markings in the form of nine symbols. About its neck hung a bell. It came close enough that you could reach out and touch it, and as you did so you felt a warmth rush through your body and a bright light seemed to rise up all about you…
… and you awoke back in the icy crevasse. The dead and frozen bodies of your friends lay all around you in gruesome spectacle.
With the last of your strength you dragged yourself out of the crevasse. There you found the frost-rimed sledge with your hard-won mammoth meat upon it. You fell upon it like a feast and ate your full. Then you slept for a long while.
When you awoke, you returned across the mountains and took the paths you knew well back to your village, heavy in your heart.
But when you returned to your village, you found it gone. On the plateau where it should stand, only a barren strip of land remained. There was no sign of devastation. No sign of battle. No sign of any catastrophe. Simply… nothing.
You journeyed from there to the next nearest village of your tribe. There you told your tale and were eventually taken before the witch doctors. They listened as the others had before them, but when you came to describe your encounter with the Red Elk they fell to whispering and questioned you endlessly for the particulars.
They told you that, in the bottom of that crevasse, your spirit had endured a dream quest and received a vision from the spirits of your tribe. They told you that the nine symbols you had seen on the flank of the Red Elk were the symbols of Nine Old Gods who were worshipped in the empires of the south. They told you that the bell and other symbols they divined said that your tale lay along a southern road.
As for the lidded eye upon the Red Elk’s left side, this puzzled them for they knew not what it meant.
But as for you, this is what they said: Journey south. You will come to a village in need. And in that need the path of your future shall be laid clear. Perhaps you shall discover the fate of your village. Perhaps not. But that is the road the Red Elk has set for you.
And so for many nights and days you have journeyed south. If the wisdom of your youth speaks true, you must be drawing near the northern border of the land known as Hyrtan.
But now you stand upon a hill looking down upon a walled village. A great hole has been opened in that wall, and several of the buildings in the village still smoke in recent ruin…
Perhaps this is the village you were meant to seek.