Norallen Tales is an Official GemStone IV Document, and it is protected from editing.
The Norallen Tales
A human storyteller, known as Norallen, has traveled extensively collecting tales; he has spent the last several years documenting tales and stories of the kindred in the north, staying in their forts, drinking in their gatherhalls, and learning from their skalds and scholars. At some point, he met the legendary giantman skald, Hrondejar, and he tells this tale to any who will share a pint and listen.
As told by Eldrianne Thystledowne at the Kindred Games in 2023.
A giantkin skald has arrived at the Fastness. He was greeted with familiarity by every one of the Folk whom I saw him encounter, and though they spoke to him in their own tongue and by a name in that language, they introduced him to me as Gustwyr of the Harp. The very evening after his arrival, he was mid-performance when I chanced to enter the gatherhall, and I was hard put to draw quill and parchment quickly enough to take down its ending.
"...and in the wilds of Asharikan,
Where wondrous creatures roam,
Where broken towers claw the sky,
And dead make their wretched home.
'Tis often there, near Johlku's Birth,
Right close by Horngel's Heart,
Yarili danced 'round ebon flames
And laud the waxing dark.
And nestled safe 'hind runic ward,
The Ravager basks sublime,
Upon his mounds of gore-drenched loot
Unscathed by blade and time."
The ending of his song seemed abrupt to me, yet the entire audience at once broke out in a chorus of praise and a great thumping of steins on tables. And so, it was not long before he began another tale, this one at too quick a tempo for my inexpert talents to record apace, and so I made notes from which I have reconstructed the following summary.
He sang of the Wyvern's Tower and of its naming as Khazamdul-kutolk - Geldehaar's Tomb - for she had never returned from that place. And he sang also of Zohrin's journey to that place before her, of how the talons in the Hand of Vengeance had drawn him, for they were cut from the edge of the Well of Souls, and how Zohrin had returned and passed on to meet his fate in the City of Gems, but he had left Kledmondrym, the Belt of Forging, to await his return in the Wyvern's Tower.
He spoke of Geldehaar's resolve to retrieve Kledmondrym from the tower, and to deliver it to the City of Gems to place it at Zohrin's side, so it would be at hand when he returned. But Morgat frowned upon her enterprise, and took her unawares, and she never returned from that place.
Then up started the Khuzdulym, the Revered among the Folk, and she broke in upon the skald's song for the Sight had taken her, and she spoke these words...
"Fear the red metal gem! Fear the black sapphire band! Fear it as the Well of Souls!
Blessed Gift of the Ancients, take not what you were meant to keep...!"
And with that, she fainted, and in her collapse was her goblet overturned, and the wine spread as blood across the table even to the skald. And a dour mood took him and he would speak no more.
Fifteen days have passed since the skald's interrupted performance of the Wyvern's Tower, and the mood that has settled upon the Folk in the Fastness is so morose that my only recourse has been to seek the company of the giantkin himself.
Not surprisingly, his mood has not lasted as long as that weighing upon the Fastness's inhabitants, and after three days he ceased scowling into his stein and began drinking as avidly as he had before. Indeed, he is an amiable fellow, as one might expect of a practitioner of the bardic arts, whatever the race, and he says his name is Hrondejar, which means "Walks on Clouds" in his clan's language.
In the warmth of the gatherhall's blaze we have passed the hours trading tales of our homelands, although his recountings are undeniably more artful and a pleasure to witness. With very little coaxing, he launched into songs about Yunnag-sihr, the "Stormthrower" of the T'Kirem and of Yintorath, the enchanted case from which he drew his javelins of lightning. The tale was not new, but he performed it with an energy that brought it to life as I had never heard it before. He also sang of Muryn-na, Yunnag's wife and Priestess of Uhlgheer, the She-bear. Evidently, Uhlgheer gifted Muryn-na with Her shed bearskin, claws intact, and when worn by the priestess, her attacks with the oversized claws clove through bones like butter and rent her foes into pieces more quickly than could a mountain troll.
I confess to never having had a great interest in the Giantkin culture, although I have trained and fought beside several in Honneland's defense. So my understanding of their beliefs is greatly increased by the content of Hrondejar's tales and our conversations over the uncounted tankards of brew which we drank, bathed in the warmth of the gatherhall's hearth.
So it is that I was surprised to learn that the T'Kirem men revere a deity they call "Mountain Father" above all others, a being that sounds like a mixture of Koar and Eonak of the Arkati. In contrast, the women of the T'Kirem hold Uhlgheer, "Bear Mother," in the highest regard, because she embodies motherhood, nurturing, and a Giantkin virtue which Hrondejar called "harethgraad." He explained that his understanding of Common would render it as "protective ferocity," but that its employment always embodied a familial connotation, whether literally or figuratively. Among the Arkati it seems to me that Uhlgheer most closely embodies Imaeran qualities, however, I was unable to comfortably reconcile Uhlgheer's "harethgraad" aspect with any particular deity.
He also spoke of his older sister, a renowned skald in her own right, whose footsteps he chose to follow. Among his own people he is most often called Hrondejar Yomnisbrudar, such is her fame, and her abilities are as well-known as her beauty. When I commented that the life of such a skald as Yomni must be filled with the incessant harrying of unwanted "suitors," to my surprise, his reply was that to the contrary, since she wore an uhl-claw ring she rarely had to do more than flash it at an uninvited admirer and the problem was solved.
Seeing my puzzlement and obvious ignorance, he smiled and explained that among the T'kirem men and women who wish to deter unwanted admirers, they will wear either a ring, pin, or pendant fashioned in the likeness of a bear's claw. Crafted of silver, and purportedly resembling Uhlgheer's own paw, the surface of the piece just above the claws is polished to a fine sheen and endowed with a small enchantment. Adorned with a tiny crimson droplet aligned with each claw, when tilted in the direction of an uninvited fancier the argent piece will precisely reflect the image of the fancier's own face suitably decorated with parallel gashes, each ending at a drop of blood. He assured me that the message is unfailingly received in every instance and the problem is solved before it can begin.
He told me the uhl-claw jewelry is worn not only by members of his clan but is commonly employed to similar effect by any and all Giantkin and is even worn by those of other races who desire the same efficacity. Considering the extent of my travels and the number of giantkin I have encountered, the fact that I was totally ignorant of the effect which an uhl-claw ring or pendant might produce seemed to impress the skald. I think that from then on when I chanced to speak of my striving to honor any and all of the fairer sex, it no longer drew that knowing smile with the touch of smugness from him that it had prior.
Rhamlytur and the Lyturhuurn
Towards the end of Hrondejar's stay at The Fastness, our discussions tended more towards the topic of an afterlife and whether in fact there is such a thing. As it turns out, the T'Kirem believe that a goodly number of their ancestors' spirits can and have chosen either not to travel on from this world or to return with some frequency, the better to aid their descendants and help ensure the success of their clan. Out of the need to be able to communicate with those spirits, an interesting custom has come into being.
Among the Wsalamir, a tradition arose ages ago that has since spread throughout the Giantkin clans to varied degrees. This is the use of a ram's horn headdress, known as a "lyturhuurn", to aid the seers in hearing the voices of the spirits who have gone on before. While the surface of the skullcap may be covered by whatever skin, scales, or feathers the particular practitioner or tribe favors, the attachment of a pair of curled ram's horns is considered crucial to the effectiveness of the headgear, and the more extensive the spirals the better. Because of this, a seer's standing can often be recognized simply by the magnificence of the horns upon his or her headdress, although in general both the quality of the skullcap's covering and the length of the headdress's trailer also provide an indication of the medium's relative station.
The explanation for the horns' effectiveness as an aid to communing with spirits is based upon two qualities.
First, as the horns are hollow and the voices of the spirits are ethereal and wisp-like in nature, the horns work to trap the voices and direct them toward the seer's mind. The spiral form of the horns is believed to be important because the spirits' voices tend to take on a spiral form themselves, which is in large part what makes them so hard for the living to hear in the first place.
Second, the belief that the number of creatures that could provide similar spiral structures with the residual imprints of fewer thoughts would be hard to find. Imprints caused by a being's thoughts are believed to work as impurities or hindrances to hearing the voices of the spirits, so any natural object incorporated into a seer's or shaman's headgear benefits from as great a lack of imprints as possible. This quality could also be attributed to the number and potential interference of the seer's own thoughts and by extension the benefit of a relative lack thereof, but Hrondejar merely mentioned the possibility and chose to end that line of speculation with a wink.
Once he had provided me with this foundational information, he launched into a rather fanciful, singsong recounting of a renowned seer named "Rahmlytur" who had served Aemarlantea's grandson, Gurnfyr the Vast. While I could attempt to recount the ballad word-for-word, it would lose a great deal due to the lack of Hrondejar's remarkable voice, and a predominantly fanciful rhyme is all that would remain. Hence my prose version which follows:
One midwinter's evening, towards the end of a particularly long banquet within Gurnfyr's longhouse, an aspiring seer named Fhusmund sat dozing somewhat fitfully at the bottom of the leper's pit; a rather deep hole, customarily maintained within the hall of any clan chieftain who was easily offended by the comments of entertainers, visitors, or aspiring seers; when a loud SLAM!... SLAM!... SLAM!... set the hall's paired door panels to shivering!
The chieftain's doorguard lifted the oaken bar from its brackets and swung the door open, just enough to peer outside, then leapt aside as a huge, curly-horned mountain sheep plowed into the hall! The self-invited guest dug in its hooves and skidded to a halt just short of the longhall's firepit. A heartbeat later the second doorguard stepped up and ran his spear through the ram's neck, dropping him like a stone. Shouts of consternation mixed with amazement and outrage filled the hall, and Gurnfyr heaved himself to his feet long enough to shout, "Toss him in the pit with the other idiot!" before settling his bulk once more onto its throne.
No sooner was it said than it was done, and Fhusmund found himself sharing the pit with a dead ram of extraordinary dimensions. Now the seer was by no means sober, but even his besotted brain could not deny the presence of the ram's spirit, which paced round and round the walls of the pit almost as soon as its corpse had hit the ground.
"Stop that!" implored Fhusmund, "You're making my head ache worse."
"I will not!" replied the ram's spirit, its tone laden with indignation and outrage, "I did as they told me to do, and I was killed for it and thrown down here. It's not right!"
The seer blinked.
"Who told you to do what?" he asked.
"I was standing in my pen, munching my own hay, minding my own business, when they started shouting at me! They are shouting at me still! Can't you hear them?"
"Can't I hear who?" Fhusmund couldn't help but ask.
"The voices!" replied the ram's spirit, obviously amazed at the seer's ignorance.
"The voices of the chieftain's sire and grandsire, they ordered me to enter this hall and warn him!"
"But the chieftain's sire and grandsire are dead, they have been for years," replied Fhusmund.
"Of course they are," replied the ram, "But their spirits have returned to warn the chieftain, and since there is no seer around to hear them, they ordered me to charge in here and warn him myself."
"But I'm a seer," stated Fhusmund indignantly, "and I have been here all evening. Why didn't they just talk to me?"
"Well, obviously you can't hear them, can you," stated the ram slowly and clearly, as if instructing a halfwit on how to chew his food.
"How can you hear them when I can't?" asked the seer, "You're just a sheep!"
"What do you mean...?" began the ram, then paused. "Wait a moment. I will tell you why I can hear them and you can't, but first, you need to let me inhabit your body so I can warn the chieftain. At least that way my spirit will be allowed to rest."
Now Fhusmund was no fool, even while drunk, and he knew if he once gave over his body to the ram's spirit he would have no chance of ever getting it back. And so his mind set to work, intent upon outwitting the clever sheep.
"I propose a contest instead," suggested the seer, "We will each pose a riddle, and the winner gets what they want."
Realizing that he had the sheep's attention, Fhusmund continued on before the ram could interrupt.
"Now, if we both fail to answer the riddles, then the second one to fail loses, and if we both answer correctly, then the first to answer correctly wins. If I fail to answer yours but you answer mine, then I will let you inhabit my body long enough to warn the chieftain, but if you fail to answer mine and I answer yours, then you must tell me the secret of how you can hear the spirits better than I."
The seer smiled as slyly as he could and concluded, "Now, I will tell you my riddle first and you must answer it, then you will tell me yours."
"Wait a moment!" said the ram. "Why do you get to go first?"
"Because I came up with the idea and the rules," answered Fhusmund. "It's only fair."
"This will never do," countered the ram. "I won't agree to the contest unless I get to tell mine first."
The seer frowned and cast sidelong glances at the ram for several long moments.
"You had best hurry," said the ram, "if I do not warn the chieftain quickly enough I may have no reason to agree to anything with you."
Fhusmund sighed, plainly giving in against his better judgement, "Alright, you tell me your riddle first."
The ram's spirit cleared its ethereal throat and recited:
"Ivory curls, thick and soft,
Mounted slopes, quickly conquered.
Fhusmund decided the answer was really quite simple, although it was a bit embarrassing that the sheep had gotten a couple of the phrases wrong. "It's, uh, you," he muttered, deciding against suggesting any particular corrections.
The ram's spirit blinked, then snorted in frustration.
"You fooled me," accused the ram, "you don't look like a ram or a shepherd."
The seer frowned for a moment, then shrugged.
"Alright, I guessed yours, now here's my riddle:
Why do you fear me so?
What have I done to warrant such aversion?
Why does the common numerator, the common ruminator frighten so?
Why is the seat of fear a source of fear?
Bastion of precious thoughts from dawn 'til death, what have I done to deserve such dread?
Cradle of vision, hinge pin of discourse.
Were I lacking, mirrors would be counted as a curse.
A calcified casement for your consciousness.
Why do you loathe my nakedness, and play at appending crossbones?"
The ram's spirit paced slowly around the pit three times before saying a word.
"That really is a rather long riddle," he said accusingly. "Perhaps you are counting on a mere sheep not being able to remember it all...?"
Fhusmund thought it best to not say a word.
"I was never good with fractions," the dead ram admitted, "Is the numerator the number on top or the one on the bottom?"
"It's the one on the top," replied the seer, feeling generous.
"And when you say 'common ruminator' do you consider my kind to be common, or do you consider roltons or cattle to be common?"
"Ruminator doesn't mean 'one who chews things' in this case," corrected Fhusmund, beginning to feel a bit exasperated, "it means 'one who reflects upon things.'"
"And you don't think sheep, roltons, or cattle reflect upon things?" asked the ram, sounding mildly offended.
"That's not what I meant," said the seer.
"Fine," replied the ram's spirit, "and what is a mirror?"
"It is a piece of metal that is polished so you can see your reflection, like looking into a puddle or a pond," answered Fhusmund. "Do you know what crossbones are?"
"Don't you," countered the ram.
"Do you give up?"
"Give up?" asked the sheep, "We're standing in a pit with my corpse lying here staring up at us, and you think I can't solve this riddle? I am hovering here close enough to touch my own skull!"
The seer blinked and cleared his throat.
"Uh, well, since you put it that way, fine." conceded Fhusmund. "So we both guessed right. Now, according to the rules, because my correct guess happened before yours, you need to tell me why you can hear the spirits more easily than I can."
Now it was the ram's turn to blink, and if spirits could blush he would have.
"It is the horns," he admitted with a sigh. "My magnificent horns not only help me to win the most ewes, but they also trap the spirits' voices and gather them to my mind so I can hear them. In fact, it works so well that sometimes it is almost maddening! Like tonight!"
"So, if I take your horns and wear them on my head I will be able to hear the spirit of the chieftain's sire?" asked the seer.
"And his grandsire's," amended the ram.
Anxious to test the ram's claim, Fhusmund drew out his knife and began sawing through the dead ram's neck.
"Do you mind!?" the ram's spirit demanded.
"What?" replied the seer, not pausing from his task, "It's not like you can feel it. And you have no more use for it, but I do."
"You are barbaric," admonished the ram, "I am no longer surprised that you were able to answer my riddle."
Within a matter of minutes, Fhusmund had managed to sever the ram's head and crush all of the poor beast's skull except for the piece that spanned between the two massive horns. Cutting everything else away he settled the bloody, makeshift headdress onto his head and jammed the horns down until they were both seated snugly against his own skull.
He had barely cleared his own mind of thoughts and assumed his best "listen to the spirits" posture, when a pair of voices seemed to rush at him out of the distance, demanding action and shouting of Gurnfyr's imminent death! He was forced to wrench the horns from his head just so he could hear his own thoughts.
"See," said the ram. "Now, let me inhabit your body long enough to warn the chieftain. You know I am telling the truth about the threat, and we have an agreement. I have kept my part of it."
"Not so fast," replied the seer. "I know what will happen once you have my body. You might warn the chieftain just fine, but you won't give it back to me when you're done, and I will spend the rest of my days running up and down the mountainside, butting heads and chasing ewes. Everyone will think I've gone mad! And I would have to be mad to even think of giving you control."
The ram's spirit positively glared at Fhusmund.
"If you don't keep your end of the bargain, I shall haunt you until the day you die!" proclaimed the ram.
"Better that than a lifetime of madness and chasing ewes!" replied the seer, and he began shouting to Gurnfyr and his guards.
In short order, Fhusmund managed to convince the chieftain of the impending danger, and after donning his makeshift headgear a couple more times to obtain details from the two dead chieftains' spirits he was able to identify the would-be assassins. Within minutes Fhusmund was transformed from an occupant of the leper's pit to an honored seer seated at Gurnfyr's right hand.
The only drawback was that the dead ram's spirit appeared to be as good as his word. From the moment Fhusmund warned the chieftain, the ram never left the seer's side and repeatedly shouted a rather short list of derogatory names. Even without wearing the ramshorns, Fhusmund had to make an effort to carry on a conversation over the spirit's constant tirade. In fact, before the evening's end, the seer's ever-present distraction led Gurnfyr to re-christen him "He Who Listens to a Rutting Sheep", and so Rahmlytur became his name from that day onward.
- Created by GM Mikos with GM Scribes' review and input
- Reviewed and released by APM Thandiwe, 2023
- Shared in-game by the NPC Eldrianne Thystledowne