Once everyone was settled Drazhgrund began. “The reasons for going to the Empire can be laid at the feet of a chain of events that started 2500 years ago. Reasons that seem very clear to the Imperial Dawi of Karaz Ankor who lived those times, not we of Norsca who were isolated from kin for over 6,500 years. It was not until after the final Battle of Grovod Woods that we were united with our kin and we learned of the events that transpired during our isolation. Fifteen years before the founding of the Empire the High King Kurgan of Karaz Ankor was captured by Orcs.” When Drazhgrund mentioned this, the class let out a collective moan, a few look upset and young Finni rose and asked if the King Hammers became a Slayers. Drazhgrund shook his head and motioned for him to sit back down and he continued. “King Kurgan was later rescued by a Umgi, a human, Prince Sigmar of Unberogens. King Kurgan repays Prince Sigmar by giving him a runic hammer. The two of them form an alliance that joins the armies of Sigmar with the armies of King Kurgan and together after fifteen years they defeat and drive the Orcs and Goblins out of what would eventually become the Empire back into the Dark Lands. It was then that the Empire was founded with Sigmar as the first Emperor. After the Battle of Black Fire Pass to celebrate their great victory over the Grub King Kurgan orders Alaric, his great Master Runesmith to forge great weapons with runes of power placed upon them. These Swords, these Runefangs took over 100 years to forge and then they were given to each of the Empire’s Elector Counts according to Sigmar’s wishes.”
“But Lord Drazhgrund what does Runesmith Alaric’s Runefangs have to do with the Dawi of Norsca?” Finni asked trying to fathom why the King had called for volunteers and very much concerned about his uncle a King’s Drak Ranger who had answered the Kings call.
“Finni, you have the patience of a Halfling of Moot.” Drazhgrund said smiling. “Many seemed to think that the Master Runesmith had lost his mind during the forging of those weapons.” The class and their guards shook their heads and a few let out low moans of fear. “Because afterwards he began forging a Crown and in his insanity he used warpstone to make his Master Rune of Ages.” It was here that the class uttered their contempt and calling anyone who would use warpstone utterly insane and a pawn of Chaos. Norsca Dawi knew, for living so close to the Chaos Wastes where warpstone dust mutates and changes all it touches so insidiously they could not believe anyone could be so stupid not to know the dangers. It took a while for the class and the guards to calm down. Many were still upset some outright angry at what Alaric had forged. “The reason we go to the Empire is that after 2,500 years the Crown has been found, Dawi have lost their lives, and it is believed that the Grobi, Night Goblins are in possession of the Crown and that every nation in the Old World has sent their own armies into the Empire in hopes to claim the Crown as their own. He who controls the Crown could very well take over the entire world and the world would dissolve into Chaos for the Crown distills evil and malice to the wearer of the crown. Every Dawi Hold is sending Throngs to the Old World, the Empire in search for the Crown to keep it safe, unused, and hopefully a means can be found to destroy it. We can only hope and pray tht the Ancestor Gods aide us.” Drazhgrund said flatly. Kari sitting next to him murmured something to him and he turned as she handed him a packet which he took and removed some thick parchment and began to read. It was a letter from a close friend who happened to be Finni Rognison’s uncle. With a chuckle he spoke. “Well Finni it looks like your uncle, who you were named after is still in King’s Service. I will read you what he has to say.”
My good friend Lord Drashgrund,
…Of all the Doh!!! I just had to start bragging to a bunch of Varr Rangers about how great a Ranger I am able to spot and drop a Beastman at maximum Quarrel range. I had to be drunk. Then I had to tell them that term of enlistment was up with King’s Drak Rangers and that I was at loose ends. Now, now I am a Varr Ranger of all things. What do I know about the Varr? Absolutely nothing! What am I going to tell my Thane when and if I return? More importantly what will my clan’s Throngrink, Derna Morgadottier do I shudder to think. At least I did not give my word that I would sign back up only that I would think about it that I was not about to hang up my hammer and join the family business. It had to be that old Varr Ranger last night, the one I had been bragging too. No not brag just the truth that I was the best shot of the entire King’s Drak Rangers and then Sven Thunderklad Borinson puts a Dar before me and what was I to do what with everyone in the Rusty Harpoon listening in. So we and a few of the patrons who had bets on the outcome walked down to the docks. Just what kind of Dar you might ask. Easy. Fire five quarrels into the target. The only trouble was the target would be moving, not a problem I had shot plenty of moving targets before. But I also would be moving; now that would be difficult but not impossible. But then I saw that the target was in a small boat floating in the harbor and that I was to be in another small boat. Both boats would have mooring lines attached to either end and both would be attached to a pulley that would pull each boat across the harbor at different speeds. Still possible I thought to myself. But then Sven has four massive rocks the size of an Empire Steam Tank attached to chains that are attached to additional pulleys that are attached to large ship yard cranes. The cranes drop the rocks into the harbor creating waves that rock the target boat and the boat that I will be on at the same time they are being pulled across the harbor from one pier to the next. If I could put all five shots into the target then I win the Dar, if not I, I had to take back that I was the best shot of all the King’s Drak Rangers. What was I to do?
Well I climbed into the boat and drew my crossbow from across my back and just as I started to load it the boats began to move then one of those huge rocks gets dropped from the crane and creates a huge wave that nearly swamps my boat then the portions of the water between me and the target begins to burn. Some Dar! I get the crossbow loaded and try to spot the target through the burning flames and smoke and I fire just as another rock hit’s the water astern of me almost upending the boat but I hold onto the rail, load another bolt and fire just as both boats crest the top of the next series of waves. The boat has about two hands deep worth of water sloshing around my feet and it makes the boat lower in the water and it rides a little better so I try to take no notice as I load the third bolt. I sight immediately spot the target boat and it has drawn ahead of me since it is not so full of water and is riding higher. I notice that my last two bolts are in the target and I fired a third time just as another batch of flaming oil explodes in front of the target. As I load the fourth bolt I see that some of the oil has gotten into my own boat but mostly near the stern and it has started burning the transom. Up until this time I had forgotten that I am not the best dam swimmer in the King’s Drak Rangers only the best shot. I fire the fourth shot through a gap in the flames and then another of those rocks come plunging down nearly hitting the boat and now the boat is nearly full of water and with every wave that hits the side of the boat more flows in. Well at least it is not burning. I manage to load my fifth bolt and I am literally kneeling waste deep in water, it is cold, I am shivering because if it was any colder it would be snowing. The target boat was nearly directly under the top of the volcano and the moon light shined directly down upon it gives me a perfect sight target and despite the smoke and flame the rocking and rolling and the fact that the boat I was in was sinking I fired, then grabbed the mooring line that was pulling the boat toward the pier and as I did I kept my other hand high above water so as not to damage my crossbow. Dam I thought to my self this is almost worse the Deb training for the King’s Drak Rangers. Almost I said to myself at least I was on land but still cold, shivering, and surrounded by snow, wind, and dangerous Thanes who was in charge of training.
Sven and a couple of his shipmates pulled the boat to the pier and one grabbed my crossbow and Sven and another grabbed me and pulled me up onto the pier while three others pulled the boat up onto the pier but not before draining the water out and leaving it upside down to dry out. Sven stood there looking at me shaking his head as he handed me a small unopened keg of Norsca Drak Ale that I immediately opened and nearly drank dry before handing it back to him to finish as we walked to the end of the pier where most of the betting patrons were. There was plenty of silver and gold changing hands and most of it seemed to go into Florin’s the owner of the Rusty Harpoon pouch. The Varr Rangers had pulled the other boat up onto the pier as well and everyone was looking at the silhouette target that looked a little like Chaos Marauder. I smiled to myself when I saw the target, all five of my bolts hit. One in the head which was my last shot, two in the chest, one in the midsection and the last which must have been my third was in the knee. Four of the five would have killed any Marauder and one would have put one down out of the fight. Florin gives me a well done and tells me that I can dry myself in front of the fire when I get back and that there will be another keg waiting for me as he, his patrons and the Varr Rangers head back to the inn.
Sven Thunderklad Brokkson and myself stood their staring at the target and as I looked at Sven he shrugs his shoulders and gets this look in his eye and then he grabs me around the shoulder and we head back to the Rusty Harpoon. I should have run back to the clan house, but how was I to know that I had just been Cathaied. As we walked back he drew another small keg out of his Varrbag that he had slung over his shoulder and we drink it as we walk. Him talking about the first time he sailed before the mast. He talked of far away places where the Norsca merchants sailed some escorted some not, but all with Varr Rangers aboard. Then he told me about the King’s ships. That the crews were not just any Varr Rangers but the King’s Drak Varr Rangers part of the King’s Thong but assigned to Kraka Draka naval ships. He said that the Drak Varr Rangers serve the King not some merchant clan or consortium of merchants owning trading vessels that need protection. As Drak Varr Rangers we serve aboard warships sometimes it is boring but other times it is exciting and almost as dangerous as your recent Dar. We are usually the vanguard of any Throng going ashore and ensuring the beachhead is secure for any Throng landing. We had nearly finished this second keg when we arrived at the Rusty Harpoon and I went inside Sven followed and we sat before the roaring hot fire and broached a third keg that Florin provided. That was when he made his pitch.
“Lad, you were the best shot in the King’s Drak Rangers but like you said earlier your enlistment is up and you have not decided to sign up again. You are not even the best shot in the King’s Drak Varr Rangers.” I started to protest then I saw his point. I belonged to neither unit at the moment and the more I thought about it I saw that he had a point and it was not a pleasant thought. I had told my Drak Ranger Thane that I would think about it but the more I thought about it the more that I decided not too go back. No I was not hanging up my hammer there was still a King to serve, Dawi to protect, and I had a bit of wanderlust still in me so I took a long hard pull on that third keg and made up my mind.
“Well Sven just how do I become the best shot of the King’s Drak Varr Rangers?” I had no sooner said that when another Drak Varr Ranger sat down beside us. I looked him over as I drank some more ale. He wore a thick, dark blue clothing trimmed in thick dark black fur and looked like a rich shipping merchant and then I noticed the gold buttons and buckles all had the same nautical theme, a rampant Drak being held down by and anchor, chain, and rope. His long white beard was braided into two intricate Grindal weaves and he had golden Varr Drak tokens, rings, miniature gold hammers woven throughout his beard a beard that hung to the floor. He wore and equal amount of gold rings on his hands each of some nautical design and his left ear bore a gold ring from which hung a miniature gold hammer. His hair was pulled back into another long Grindal weave that reminded me of waves upon the varr. His hair was held in place by what looked like a ornate golden Drak’s claw that was closed around the braid He carried a brace of pistols in his belt and carried an ornate war-hammer that hung over his shoulder that he had to remove as he sat down at our table. As I took all this in I decided he was not some merchant but obliviously another Drak Varr Ranger of some standing. He set the hammer beside the chair and pulled out a long stem pipe, filled it with tobacco, lit it from a brand from the fire and then he pushed an enlistment contract across the table that stopped right before me followed by a bottle of ink and a quill. Then Sven introduced the Drak Varr Ranger and called for another round of small kegs of ale that were placed in front of the three of them.
“Lad, this is Lord Hergar Sharpblade Rorekson, the Gormtrommi of the King’s Drak Varr Ranger’s.” Sven stated as he opened the keg and nearly drained it in one long pull. “We are looking to fill that last few Drak Varr Ranger billets aboard the King’s latest warship.”
Now he had my interest I had seen that ship being built and it was huge and it was deadly looking, and from what I had heard from listening the workers who were regular patrons of the Rusty Harpoon well armed. I looked at both of them and said respectfully that my previous question still applied and was not answered.
Then Lord Hergar spoke. “First you would have to sign up and second you would have to be a better shot than Sven and so far no one is better than Sven except maybe me and that depends on how much we have both had to drink” He stated as he pointed his pipe at Sven and blew a smoke ring towards the ceiling. Sven smiled as he drank his ale.
I picked up and began reading the contract as I slowly filled my own pipe, lit it and began smoking as I read. It was a standard enlistment contract, minimum service of five years with extensions due to time of war, promotions, benefits in event of being wounded, family survival benefits in event of death, and of course prize money in event the ship captures any enemy vessel. When I finished reading I looked up at my two table companions but they were locked into a discussion about the new ship and when it would be provisioned and launched. I looked around the inn taking in the familiar smells and sounds as well as the Dawi who filled room. I caught Florin’s eye, he who I knew was at one time a King’s Drak Ranger for over fifty years and he gave me a nod. I knew he had been listening and more than likely saw plenty of contracts signed in his inn and his affirmative nod was an admission that he thought it was a good deal and since his clan and mine were bond together by more than just commercial contracts but by blood as well he was also kin but very distantly related. With that nod I reached over opened the ink bottle dipped in the varr-hawk quill and wrote my name and dated it.
As I finished signing my name with a flourish both Lord Hergar and Sven looked over at me. Sven picked up the contract and spoke; “Well done. Well done Finn Harokson of Clan Oakenstave. Welcome back into the King’s service.”
With a smile Lord Hergar reached over and patted me on my damp shoulder that was not quiet dry even from the hot fire. Then in an almost whisper he spoke to the two of us but more towards me. “Lad you have made a wise choice. We Norsca Dawi will be mustering a Throng to head south into the Empire. You will not regret your decision, our High King and the Imperial High King of Karaz-a-Karak will need every loyal Dawi that we can muster to prevent the destruction of the world as we know it by the forces of evil.” I looked them both in the eye almost like a soul gaze and knew that what he said was true. Then he reached into his clothing and removed a pouch and slid it across the table to me. When it hit the table and slid I knew it was gold for gold makes a sound that is hard not to recognize or ever to forget especially for a Dawi. “This is for signing up. Thane Sven, who is in charge of the Drak Varr Rangers aboard your ship, will direct you to the chandlery to be outfitted for service as a King’s Drak Varr Ranger. What is in the pouch will more than pay for your new outfit, be sure to bring any personal belongings as well as your bear cloak, we have more than one former Drak Ranger aboard and those cloaks will come in handy when you stand your watch and at night when you are asleep.” Then he stood, drank the rest of his keg and left the inn.
I pocketed the pouch and looked to Sven and asked one “What ship?
All Sven said was Dunderkarak. I knew all about the Dunderkarak, which means thundering mountain from listening to the patrons of the Rusty Harpoon.
I dredged up all I could remember abut Dunderkarak from all the conversations I had overheard. She is heavily armed with four cannon in the forward and aft casemate not counting the six cannon per side. We can fire a broadside of ten cannon. As for the hull, the Dunderkarak is built of iron-wood with iron plates bolted onto an iron-wood frame. The sides of the casemate and hull have a thickness of iron-wood backing of seven feet. The deck and hull is then plated over with four inches of armor plate. The hull has a double bottom, collision bulkheads, watertight bulkheads, and armored gratings in the funnel to prevent debris from entering. It has a very prominent ram, a solid fifty foot piece of oak sheathed in iron. The engineering guild has equipped the Dunderkarak with two engines, which drive a single iron shaft which is designed for a maximum speed of fifteen knots. Six steam boilers feed steam into the two engines. In addition to her two engines, she also has a light brigantine sail rig with two small masts. Up on the mast is where some of our Drak Varr Rangers stand their watches as they search the seas for vessels. I could not wait to step aboard.
It was here that Drazhgrund stopped reading. There was more to read but if he continued then he and the class would be here until after dark and not even his assurances would set aside the concern of Dawi parents. He told the class that he would finish the letter at a later date but it was now time to head back down the long winding stairs into the heart of Kraka Draka within Mount Sjoktraken. Later that night after they were all in the common room the Rusty Harpoon and after the dinner plates were cleared away Kari finished reading Finn Harokson’s letter.
Edited by Skull Krusher, 22 June 2007 - 05:39 AM.