It is my heart song, my being, my blood.
Exile 1614 was written to introduce new players to the Far Place. The story consists of a series of images that typify life at Lagerwater stead, written through the eyes of an Tovtaros exile. It also typifies a storytelling game that I use quite frequently in my campaign.
When introducing a new element to our story, we will play “I Remember…” at the beginning of our session. If, for example, I am about to introduce the earthy, manipulative and recently widowed Ernya Barnasdotter to play, I would begin, “I remember Ernya’s wedding….” After providing a few pithy storytelling anecdotes to set the scene and introduce some key aspects of Ernya’s character and family, I hand over to players. In the same storytelling style they improvise and share their own ‘memories’ of the day, adding colour, background and plot seeds through their evocation of giftings, drunken oaths, secret pleadings, fights and jealousies. As the story below hopefully illustrates, even a sentence or two can evoke strong images that themselves lead to insight and further stories.
Exile 1614 was first published in Questlines.
This I remember. I remember the turning of the year, the deer grazing on leafgift, the blood-and-sap song of Ernalda’s awakening, the dry dust smell of harvest, the first trembling steps of a newborn calf.
I remember the swallows skimming over the roof of the stead, the joy leap of the salmon, the green of corn shoots, the soft humming of the bee tribe.
I remember the time I saw a Herald of the Covenant on the high fells north of Lagerwater stead; a great white bear. I remember the way it looked at me, and how I trembled with the power of its blessing.
I remember hunting deer and speckled grouse with the bow, spearing silvered salmon in the icy cataracts, stalking the goddess birds in the high gallt. I remember the squealing of the horned boar as it turned to face my spear.
I remember the first time my power animal came to me in dream. I remember the hot blood of the horse sacrifice, wind-dancing in the twisted oak grove at Sacred Time, the tongue drums and holy masks of the Lightbringers.
I can remember the chill of the spirit wind against my skin as we summoned animal ancestors to the dark flame on Twin Day.
I remember the women of my stead, beautiful in their tattoos and pelts, radiant in jewellery of amber and bronze. I remember their skin pale as snow, hair dark as raven’s wing, lips red as blood. I remember the whisper of their voices, the magic of their laughter, and the gentle healing of their touch.
This I remember.
I remember watching greenleaf spirit-daughters combing their hair on Hard Edge Mountain. I can still hear their voices; rejoicing that the Bolt of Orlanth and the Spear of Elmal had driven harsh winter from our land.
I remember counting my herds at gifting time. I remember the gallt alive with purpose, the animal powers guiding me to meaning and to destiny.
I remember standing entranced with mystery as the gamlak sang above trees older than time. Something long-dead awoke within me with that song, and afterwards the world was different.
I remember ice streams flinging themselves over the western escarpment, tumbling headstrong and eager to the sink holes beneath Jaskors Hold. I remember the death-chill of black snow piled high about the stead in the bitterness of Canis Tame.
I remember watching a storm from the snowy heights of Three Breast. I remember black faces in the storm clouds, and wind horses eager and wild.
All this I remember.
I remember the spear music of the weapontake, the laughter of the thanes and the gentle chiding of the women. I remember the shining of cuk feathers by firelight as our mightiest champions prepared to fight with beak and spur.
I remember Odayla’s Bow stretched across the skydome, its great promise there for all to see. I remember seeing fiery lances in the night sky over Alda Chur, and that no one could say what they meant.
I remember the rich and rancid joys of sticklepick and gimli, the smell of meat roasted over an open fire, the rich tang of cloudberry mashed with fish.
I remember the fallen stone steads of the Youf, green with moss and rank with ancient treachery. I remember the twisted towers of the dragonewts, and the shining white-glass walls of Alda Chur. Towering above them all, I remember Kero Fin, the Goddess Mountain, our ancient mother.
I remember long hours in the sweat lodges, the old men telling stories as the ancestors pressed close, whipping ourselves with birch whisks before rolling naked in the snow. I remember the laughter of my sister’s children, the sweet scent of peat smoke drawn roofwards by the stead sylph, the wisdom of women shared around a roaring hearthfire. I remember the silence that honoured a skald as he remade the past.
All this I remember. This I can never forget. It is my heart song, my being, my blood. I had never ventured from my homeland till Ironfist’s fury forced me to this strange place. There is no rain here; only the wind and sun are familiar. This treeless waste frightens me; I cannot hear its spirits, I cannot listen to its animals. To me it is a dead place. I am part of no land here, I am nothing. My clan is sundered, my marns are broken, and the tattoos of my belonging are broken and bloodied.
Orngarin Broken Bow, a Righteous Wind exile of the Tovtaros, before his death in the salt mines of Pavis, 1614.