Voelkheri

The Vision from Armagh, From the Tower of Yarrow

The blood would ripple and swirl, and then follow a path of the labyrinth
The rune for blood would flash gold in the light. He would see, rather than the wall, blood. Like a waterfall of it, or a lake if he were suspended looking down. Then a beautiful boy with hair like fire would start to emerge, floating naked his face and stomach and the tops of his arms and legs visible, like a person floating on their back.
Then red flowers would start blooming around him, no kind of flower you’ve seen, and you would hear the sound of chains rattling , then snapping. Its a loud noise. The boys eyes would snap open, and then the vision would be gone.
A second rune would flash and it would be for gate, and then one for mist. He would then see before him a real gate. It would be gothic stone, with dragon mouth over its apex and angels holding up pillars on either side. Half-church, half-prison looking. Big studded wooden doors would open and a man would stride out. He is in green patina armor, helm under his arm. He would be terrifying somehow, more than the blood or the boy. His beard is grey with white at the jaw on both sides, and his hair is sharp like matsunaga’s swept back without the poofy in the back, just short

He would stalk toward a balcony and stand there, then the view would switch to behind him, and you would see an army. Men in blackish green armor, with bright green banners that have a sigil of two black stakes, or fangs. There would be things not human among them. skeletons in armor, ghostly shapes that wove about them. Everyone looks grim. He would raise his hand, and they would cheer, a desperate sound. Not violent but unbelieving and hopeful, cracked yells.
Then they would turn and march, and he would see them go down a road, disappearing into mist.
The view switches behind him as in, the camera pans so to behind his head, and from his point of view looking down on the army below the balcony

He would feel distinctly “Unbreakable chains have broken. Unpassable gates have opened.”

And he would be released.

He would watch the blood flowing back along the labyrinth, drawn back into the bowl, and then drunk down. Sound would come back from silence, whooshing in.

Warning from Georg Ivanovich, woodcutter’s son

“So I went out to pick kindling one day, and I look up, and there’s this crazy old guy staring at me. Eyes bugging out and his ribs clear as spindles with his whiskers every which way. I thought might be a neighbor’s Domovoi come picking a fight with ours. An I was so startled I forgot what to do about it. But he just groaned and asked he could have some food. So I handed him my flask and loaf. He ate like a wolf, and he shakes the whole time. He says to me “you shouldnt stay here. you’re a good boy. the army is coming. and behind them the green knight and his plague bringers.” Kept saying it all creepy like, grabbed my shirt. I wanted my father real bad, but I stayed till he’d finished. Then he laid his head back against a tree, giving a sigh like it was a good meal and not a crust of bread, and he died. Just like that. I still think he musta been off his rocker, but then this army comes. And it was making me wonder."

Warning from Orel, Ranger of Rsha

“An army. They bear banners, a sickly bright green with two black slashes on them. They ride in companies and they cheer the name Volkher. An army…they should move slow. Should need provisions, camps. Should be so obvious moving over the hills that one would hear of their coming far off. I did hear it. Evil things that should have no fear, like your orcs, are all fleeing the deep mountains. Animals. Ragged insane people. We had our warning. I had it clearly in dreams, night after night. I am on Koliada, standing on the bald, sharp rocks of a mountain top in our forest. The sky is close, the moon close enough to touch. And a black mist rises from the valleys, up and up, until the mountaintops are just islands. And i know it will reach me, and that when it does we will die. It was so terrifying I faced my city, I begged them to let me see the Knyaz. But he would not see me. So I told all who would listen, but they were superstitious peasants with no authority. Everyone said, what good is this dream? So something dark is coming, well we can all see that. I didn’t know until it came true, how literal
the dream was. A mist, rising in the valley. They came without a sound except the soft ring of their armor. They…weren’t alive. Some looked like they could be, handsome in their armor with skin a respectable white. But their breath made no mist in the air. They are cold inside. And
others…flesh hanging from them, veils of gore draped over bone. Some on foot, shuffling, eyes like pearls unseeing, bearing whatever wounds ended their lives. Some were only bone. Skeletons…in armor. But all with some single purpose. They encircled the city before they began.

They killed the ones who ran to warn. I was there, on a mountaintop, looking down on it. Just like in the dream."

“They are no normal undead. They did kill some. The shuffling, rotting ones would eat whoever they came on. But the ones on horses, they took captives. I sent Koliada to the den. She is so visible, and I snuck close to the pen where they had them. A man came….to see…and…and
they did things to them. He enjoyed watching. They aren’t just hungry. They are cruel.”

::I cant tell him of the flaying, the long pikes, of the oil and the burning.:: she would stay steady, her drow blood doing her proud, “Only because we had prepared did they make an escape to
the castle. It is a fine fortress, on a cliff. There is food inside and water. Few enough made it to the castle that the food should last them. The peasants had no chance. The men who rode out to guard the retreat…”

Descriptions from Konstantine…

To His Own Family Before the Fall of Severskii

“I must beg you to listen to the whole of what I have to say, because the two parts wind together…..and its going to all sound very farfetched. Except that you know me, and Dmitri has been in town already. "

Vladya “I asked Laurente about him. He said that he is housed now at the barracks and spent much time with the commander. But he doesn’t know what they speak of.”

“Well, provided the Knyaz doesn’t block him or hold him for personal questioning, Dmitri is from the Mercenary band called the Iron Wolves.”

He gets no looks of recognition from his family for the name of the Iron Wolves. His father would look a bit dour at mercenaries.

“The wolves’ leader, Kiril, sent him along with tokens to open trade. Specifically Kiril noted my dress and guessed I was from severskii. He wants trade for goods, horses, food, leather, clothe….what can be had. I said only I would speak with you both, being merchants of things he wanted. I made no promises of your willingness. The location is remote and dangerous at night.”

Vladya “you want us to feed a mercenary garrison. well, no doubt they can pay, but having mercenaries outside your city is well…like having wolves in the night. unless they hope the knyaz will hire them…” ::against whatever this is, that we know so little of::
::gypsies and mercenaries. they must be escaping like those few crazed folk that wandered through in the summer. escaping what? what are gypsies and mercenaries afraid of?::

“They’re not outside the city. very far from it. The wolves are the third comers. A band of looters, a druid and his friends, some tens of survivors of other Volost’s already destroyed that have wandered their lost and half mad……all at the Crimson Castle. it is abandoned by the greatest of its evils, though other dead walk the forest about it at night. but they survive there and are better off. They expect Severskii will fall like Rsha and Kluj ( was it?) soon, and want to resupply while they are able. It is remote, and ……nigh impregnable. No reason for an army to go there even. "
“Which leads to the second part.”
“There is an army coming.”

Konstantine would have them all staring at him like he was speaking Khublan after he said they were at the Crimson castle.

“The Knyaz knows, and you all feel it. Orel, the hunter girl from Rsha…..rsha is seiged. It will fall to the Green Knight with green banner and two black slashes, his walking dead and the plaguebringers. Then it will come here to severskii.”

The room would be silent and nothing moving but to watch him as he went on Gavrel ::The Crimson Castle is only the first part?::
Except yevi who would shake,and look like he believed him.

“And Dmitri and the Iron Wolves…the survivors there, they all know it already. I saw a girl there so mad with grief of loss that she clawed her own arms because of the memory of rats on bodies in her homeland. Irina was her name. I don’t know if you want to sell supply that would be useful here….or useful to send anyone away.”
“I have thought it out myself…the title, Vladya and Laurente are beholden to the Knyaz. Mishe and Anstice are in the soldier. That leaves Jasha, Gavrel, the women and children and Yevi. The Crimson Castle is safe after its fashion, as I’ve said, but the journey is hard and the people there are Survivors. There is neither pity nor mercy there, except from the druid who is not the leader of the bizarre gathering. But who would want to go, and leave others to possible doom? I cannot say. Suffice that the you know the cards on the table. "

Gavrel is practical and not fettered by too much weight of pride, being a second son and a miners son, he would grapple first with the barrage of dire news that even a mad prophet spitting in the street might not be creative enough to come up with. he would fix on something first. “Kluj has fallen and Rhsa is sieged.” ((provost also has fallen, it was the sister city, favorite rival of Kluj.))

“Provost is fallen, too.”

“Three volosts” he would look at Vladya and Jahsha

“A survivor made it here on Beltane and died in the woods, spouting madness of the Green Knight, and the story was unheeded. The orcs have come on the heels of a hunter from Rsha bearing the same names and news. And the survivors at the Castle are from those places, and their eyes are haunted by the dead.”

Vladya “there were those stragglers in summer but so few. a war leaves hosts of unhoused and fleeing.”

“A war of the living.”
“This is the dead.”

He looks like his brain wont go there yet. Vladya is a lettered knight.
Gavrel “The orcs may have been fleeing. We thought them an army. Imagine, if those are the refugees.”

:::Thank you Gavrel. ::::

He cant speak seriously of the crimson castle and armies of undead yet

:::even if you don’t think it is the dead, you see the numbers to compare.::::

:::Even sending the women and children down on holiday to visit Mama’s old steta in the mining villages would be a good start::::

Jahsha “The Crimson Castle…father said he had seen it once. That no living thing would go near it at night.” ::I never believed him when I grew up.:: he wouldn’t seem to mean Vladya

“They don’t. The animals go to den at night and the place becomes silent.”

Gavrel “and this is the safe haven” he is in damage control mode it would seem, trying to get a fix on just logistics
Vladya would sit down, prop his leg up

“There’s a cliff and the castle itself is in the bowl of a ring of mountain. No army, dead or alive, could siege the walls.”
“And you must scale the mountain to begin with to get that far.”
“Riduk’s absences has been because he has been there helping them hunt. The men there are not skilled at it and the numbers have grown with the refugees. And the game….is more wary then other woods, as you’ve already said.”
“We killed a boar and a wild pig for them to take back when we met Dmitri four mornings ago to set out.”

::but for the orcs and the gypsies I would say they are all mad. The forest makes men mad. my son has always been a bit fey and his mother loves fairtytales. but the crimson castle… am I to believe in the tales of lakes of blood and forests of bodies?:: to himself “only the commoners speak of the Crimson Castle. The learned all know it to be folly, its history in no book. And so many deaths couldn’t go uncounted.”
Jahsha would pour a brandy for him

:::Men forget what they don’t want to think of. how many bodies are counted to sevastyn that never see books or memory of men and the town. Neither medal nor praise.:::: he would close his eyes
“Well, Dmitri may come to speak with you all. I leave it in your judgements what you would like to do with your own accounts. But he did bring a chest with him. I imagine he will talk straightforward of what he wants and in what numbers with you, wherever he and the wolves want it delivered. "

Gavrel “We should speak to Laurente. I know nothing of wars. How long did it take for three Volosts to fall and how long will ours hold? Can we have a siege? I don’t think this city is made for that. And what good are all our winter stores if we must leave them? Gold is easier to carry.”
Jahsha “to spend where?”

“I don’t know if the others made it to siege or not, or if only Rsha had enough time for the nearest to make it with in the castle. Riduk may have heard while he sat among them. But I don’t know if that information he is at liberty to spread. "

“The Knyaz is weighing panic against preparation.”

Gavrel “In Minsk. We cant cross the alps but we could take the road to Hexewald. Or under the mountain. The dwarves take coin.”

Vladya “we cannot just run. Everything is here. Konstantine speaks true, I am sworn to the Knyaz. our name, our history, our land. What are we if we leave?”
Jahsha “alive?”
Vladya would look like they couldn’t understand, not born of his blood
Gavrel “A title doesn’t mean much if the Volost has fallen, but we wouldn’t be beggars.”

“Lord father, while some must stay, if there is any chance of defense and victory, the defensibilty of this place has already been proven ill against a band of orcs, not a trained army. Mishe, at least, will not be healed for some time. He and his branch of the family, and some of the young children, could be sent to relative safety still within the volost with other family on holiday. at no dishonor or strangeness…and no lessening of strength.”

“I killed one that made it to our very door.”

Gavrel “a good door for trade, a bad one for war, by the bridge. this would be a watchtower fortified in a greater castle town. this position.”
Vladya would look Konstantine in the eye. “You truly think an army is coming to sweep us all to our graves? That there is no hope, no chance of mistake? That they are…undead?”
Aquamarine and spinel.
Yevi would press to him like a shaky leaf ::konstantine is our eyes. if he has seen it then they are coming. he sees further than anyone. and he doesn’t lie. he isn’t telling a spooky tale. hes telling us to leave…to give up our house. konstantine thinks were going to die if we stay and father doesn’t believe him.::

“I have seen undead, not of that army, but seen them. One wounded my leg and the druid healed me. The other signs, clear to me in a chain …..linked….I have told you. The man at Beltane Georg found that then died after warning him, the fleeing orcs looking for plunder, the goblins loot bodies and just move on or hide in caves afraid. A hunter of Rsha so desperate that she leaves before she gets an answer because Rsha needs help that badly….a place with a castle. Her stomach wound like something hand tried to scoop it out. The mist….she and dmitri both warned they come from the mist. Did you watch it move? Like a living thing? then the girl. Irina. There was no lie in her when she told me that there were orchards and orchards of apples blooming in her home now that no one will eat because the Dead do. not. eat. appples. She was pretty, if her eyes were not so wide. And I return home …..the mist is here. And strange gypsy-like people who seem to play memory and sadness and have more magic and colour in the dead of winter when no gypsy would be here. "

“I cannot convince you that the Dead are coming, if you will not see the chain. But something is. "
“And if you prefer it, the name of the commander that has been whispered is the Green Knight.”

At “Dead. do. not. eat. apples” yevi faints

“And he has an army, trained, that has destroyed and surprised three volosts and sent mad survivors wandering and dying in the woods where no one counts them except the ‘wood mad’ rangers, elves, and the scavenger crows.” “And even the crows are flying after they eat.”

Jahsha ::he speaks madness but in the sums of sense, if you stack this madness on that madness in that order, as he has done, the answer is very clear.::

“I have nothing to gain by lying. And you have nothing to gain by my saying only, ‘ther eis a man from a mercenary band to trade’ with none of teh rest of the information beside it.” :::and when have I made a habit of lying. My father woudl rather weigh me mad then listen when I have ever been truthful then face the possibility of the walking dead. I was afraid. I was horribly afraid at those first skitters of bone on stone. But….better two or four to watching Laurente and anstuce torn apart and then rise against me as part of the same with their innards drawn out like trains on ladies dresses.:::::

Gavrel “We should think on what will come at great cost. But some things do not. Our brother’s counsel is good lord father. We can send our savings and our children and our wives to be with my father’s relatives, at not cost but that our neighbors will speak of it. the cleft of the mountains bosom is stronger than any castle. And the mines go deep. If nothing comes, then it was but a vacation. If something does then our lines go on. And I think it wise to trade with this man. Gold in our pockets will be our shield and our food if we must flee. We could start again somewhere else.”

Jahsha, “And if we trade with him then he will be our ally. They are an armed force with a castle also. And we may also hear more freely what he knows.” ::even if that castle is…a fairytale::

“If you wish figuring into your trade ahead of time, it is 7 days by the road, 3 by straighter way and down a cliff, to the Wolves’ lodging.”

Vladya would look at the three of them. ::I am admitting to this madness if I send them away.:: “You are men with your own families and your own businesses. I give you my leave to trade with this man, and to take your families to the safety of their other kin. And you may ask Mishe.” ::It is Laurente and I who must decide what happens to the name and house of Vyacheslav::
Gavrel “it is hell to trade goods over cross country. but we should make all haste if we mean to use the road. it is how armies usually come.”
Jahsha “Its wiser to split the routs”
“Do both”

:::He does not believe me. Well. I expected little better. But Jasha and Gavrel are practical. That is two at least that may, even staying, have horses ready and have a chance of escaping with family.::::

To the Minsk Soldiering Family of Victor and Thatch (from the blimp guarding)

Maksim, “knelt? But to what purpose? The dead have no wills of their own. Who would submit to undeath rather than go to the mothers bosom?”

Konstantine: "You do not listen closely enough. These dead are greater, they speak and think. They are knights on dead horses, for few are the living beast that will stay in the mists bravely. "
“The dead add to the army of the dead. You will fight your fellows in this battle, as they are later raised and confused, unused to not breathing but following Voelkher’s orders just the same. Sharing in whatever curse drives these into our lands looking for homes of their own away from the Greater Mist.”

“Many men would rather walk and think and talk then face the black unknown. How many men have true faith…that the mother exists and will give them peace in her belly? Or further….if they should be born again later as some other babe? They want to relinquish no part of themselves to uncertain fear. They kneel. They are raised by Gaspar’s hand, or perhaps blessed by that fat priest Barnabus. I have seen them. Heard them. Fought with them. I know their names and faces, their fell steeds, and their laughs as the ruined our castle and burned the flower-jewel window boxes, cracked the jewel of Severskii and claimed the shards of the pysanki to paste to their foul shields. "

“Underestimate them not. They are warlords, bound in etched and enchanted green plate mail and riding horses with hooves of emerald flame. They have felled more then simple Severskii, however brave her sons and open her fields for running horses. They destroyed Rsha in a few nights, and they had a wall…fewer came south from that city then from ours. Minsk is a fair and strong city, but can her walls treat disease? Hold out a rotting globe of mouth and eyes that makes even the great Riduk cringe and bleed inside as it turns to look at him? We slew many of their force…these things our weapons could not harm. Ansgar’s works will aid you…maybe Minsk will stand for weeks and even months. But the living need sleep and food. The living need clean water. They need hope when the wails of their brothers beat on their ears from below. The dead need only victory.”

GM: there could be deep silence after his words, the panting of the dogs and crackle of fire and “ah!” of Lena at some jest of anstice’s coming too loud. Now Anatoli and Thatch and Maksim have eyes to match Yevi’s and Victor looks tired and thoughtful.

Voelkheri

Vanya and the Green Knight Nalga