The evening before you left
Plans had been laid for many of the members of the House, and most had just finished getting ready for the next day. Almost half of the entire House would be traveling outside the walls of Mecone tomorrow, whether to enact one of Kormak’s plans or to gather as much fur and meat as possible, to increase the wealth of the House in the coming dark days. But before that, a large feast had been quickly thrown together in Akademos’ honor. It was grim and dark, but everyone tried to be festive. The skalds performed many songs and ballads, many of Akademos’ favorites and others of great inspiration and heroes.
The evening was full of mead and stories of strength and glory. Everyone had as good a time as they could, given the circumstances.
Dag’s night: In the hours leading up to the dinner, Kormak left a message with your wife while you were out of your room. As you are packing for your trip, your wife walks up to you and puts her arms around you.
“Dear, Kormak stopped by. He told me he hoped you would have a song to sing in honor of Akademos, something new and beautiful. I… I can’t believe he’s gone. What will we do?” She continues to hold onto you with a sense of fear for the future and a sense of loss.
“Why would anyone do this? What cause could they have?” Your wife is full of questions, full of apprehension, full of everything but hope. You wonder how many others would be like this at House Orpheus today, and how much else would Kormak would plan and scheme. He asks much of his House today.
Harald’s night: Bjornolfr walks up to you at the dinner, off away from the majority of the festivities. In his hand is a large mug of mead, most of it gone, but he does not seem fazed. It takes more than a small amount to get this man drunk. He nods at you and turns to look at the gloom-shrouded participants, laughing without humor and smiling through their forlorn manners.
“You headed off to the mines?” You nod, a gesture barely noticed by Bjornolfr, caught by a sidelong glance. He nods in response.
“I’m off to the Jotun with some of the younger men. Wish you were with me, things would go better. But, our finest need to be every where, not in one place.” Silence grew between you two. It is the way you both prefer it. He turns after a few minutes to shake your hand.
“I might not come back. It’s been a pleasure serving Orpheus with you.” He drains his mug as a toast and goes off to get more.
Jan’s night: “I apologize for asking so many questions about Achaean history and law, but you are one of our most educated individuals here, and you’ll be leaving for almost a week!” said Ljotur, one of the older and wizened Ymirons of House Orpheus. He had explained an hour ago about how he was to research Akademos’ family line for a lost relative and began asking you more questions about Achaeans than you have been asked since your early days at the Ephebeia. He puts down a scroll almost two feet long, now mostly full of notes scratched in faint ink. He keeps forgetting to re-ink his pen, a habit you have pointed out three times now.
“I have more questions for you, esteemed Seidmenn… but, I suppose you might wish to get to the festivities.” With a sigh, Ljotur rolls up his scroll and rubs his eyes. You push a mug of mead towards him and he eyes it with some apprehension.
“Better relax now, that I have the time. To you, master Jan.” He raises his mug in honor of your knowledge and begins to drink the night away.
Anselm’s night: “Somat vexes your munin?” says Minos, the House’s alchemist. He is an odd man, not well-liked, namely because of his open views on Thralls and Thrall culture. Unlike most, Minos speaks a significant amount of time with the Thrall caste, testing new inventions and formulas on them, and has been successful at curing some of the diseases that afflict the impoverished populace. Minos and you sit at the fringe of the dinner, unmolested and unnoticed, and his accent, which often interferes with his association with others, doesn’t bother you at all.
“Haben you somat mead, and wissat, we drink! To Akademos!” Minos always sounds happy and at ease, and even with the loss of his lord, he seems unaffected. You can sense a deep conflict and loss in his mind, and he clearly works hard to avoid his mourning. You clink glasses and Minos drinks deep, hoping to sleep tonight without nightmares of the end of House Orpheus.
Geirulfr’s night: Kormak and you sit near Akademos’ grand chair, both of you staring at the emptiness with untouched mugs of mead in your hands. Kormak looks old and worn, his eyes lacking the fight and promise of his youth and his shoulders carrying the weight of the House, bending down around his back and breaking his spirit.
“I should never have allowed Thralls in our House. Invisible wretches that slink through the halls at night, any one of them could have done this.” Kormak pauses and looks at his drink. Without a moment for breathing, he drinks the entire mug.
“I should never have allowed anyone who didn’t fully prove their loyalty. I should never have let cowards into our house, who might corrupt it with visions of gold and comfort. What else should I never have done, Geirulfr? How many other ways have I failed?” Kormak looks at you with a sense of vengeance and hatred. For a moment, he seems ready to start killing anyone who approaches him, his hand gripping the mug until his knuckles are white. Then he relaxes, and stares back at the empty chair.
“I should never have let Akademos die. Of all the blame we gather, only I may drape it around my shoulders. My cloak of failure and shame. The only hope for me now is to forge a new path through blood and war, but my old and broken body cannot even lift a sword. Swear to me that when this is over, you’ll give me a proper death, Geirulfr. I won’t have one any other way.” Kormak rises and walks over to a barrel of mead.
Ivar’s night: Kormak walks over to you while everyone feasts points to the food table.
“A job well-done, Ivar. My apologies for surprising you with this feast, but…” He pauses and looks down at the ground for a moment. With a shake of his head, he recovers his poise.
“I know you aren’t quite used to traveling outside of Mecone, but now our House needs exceptional men capable of great feats of strength. Ivar, you are strong and have been known to defeat many a foe. We must show the city our rage, not just our culture. You have both.” Kormak grabs your shoulder and raises his mug, drinking deep. He walks off towards Brother Eldjarn, and many others walk over to congratulate you on the meal, grand and perfect considering its short notice.
Ixion’s night: You and Varag sit by the empty chair of Akademos during the dinner, each looking off at the other men and women partying and dancing with a jovial depression that mimics the feast as a whole. Varag, another Huskarl, takes out his shield and places it on the ground between you and he.
“I remember when Akademos was being shot at by six archers, some of the renegade armies left over from some Jarl-based coup attempt in the Hrolfingar province. The arrows pierced my shield at many points, but never did they touch my lord.” Most would consider this a boast, but you know better. Huskarls talk about their stories not to brag or compare, but to announce with pride their devotion.
“Our enemies come at us with arrows, we defend. Our enemies come at us with spears, we defend. But our enemies come at us with poisons, or magic, or whatever in Thor’s name they used? What can we do?” Varag looked down at his shield with anger and hopelessness. He grabbed his mug of mead and looked at the amber drink.
“Despair is our enemy’s weapon. And they wield it masterfully.” He drank deep.
Marc’s night: Kormak walked into the mead hall to join the festivities. You had just arrived as well and had walked over to the dinning table to get some food. Ivar had done an excellent job cooking up the dinner so short notice, and you wonder if he used some of his personal supply of meats for the meal. Kormak walks up to you and hands you a mug already full of mead. It must have been the first thing he got.
“Marc, I know your passion against the Thralls runs deep. So does mine. But now we need patience and temperance, even when action seems most beneficial. Our enemies will capitalize on our mistakes.” He takes you over to a table and sits down, a small plate of food in his hands that he taken as the two of you left the table. Kormak speaks with confidence and honor, but you can tell he suffers greatly. You don’t connect with most humans, but Kormak is different. He has a deep respect for animals and your station, and that makes him better than most.
“Every choice you make is the right one now, Marc. Otherwise our House falls. We will find the trail of our enemies, and when we do, I expect you to hunt them to extinction. Once we have the trail, I will deal with the Thralls, my friend. But not before.”
Kormak walks off to speak with Ivar, looking like a beast lost from its home and fighting against predators, his teeth bared and his hair on end. He never ate his food.