Doc, Mark, and Thunderhorse bury the Jeep beneath a saddle blanket, some timbers, and straw.

"Now remember," Doc says, "we didn't come looking for trouble, so let's try and be a little subtle about this. We don't want to arouse too much suspicion because we are going to have to leave the Jeep here and I don't want anything to happen to our only ride. We'll get some grub and a long nights rest so we can climb the fucking Matterhorn in the morning. Brother Broderick, do you know these people? Can you make our introductions?"

"[No, I do not. Our supply caravans never stopped here. In fact, we were told to make all haste across the bridge, for the locals are savage brutes who do not yet accept Christ as their savior. We were told they would kill any man of the cloth. I do not think we should stay here.]"

"We probably shouldn't tell them about our holy mission, then. The Duke here speaks their language, maybe he can introduce us."

"[But what of his madness?]"

"In this place, it can only help."

"[But what about me?]" Brother Broderick is very nervous and genuinely frightened. "[They'll kill me if they find me out!]"

"He is right," Thunderhorse says. "They will kill him. I would."

He does stand out as a stereotypical monk. There's no getting around it.

"Thunderhorse, give him your helmet," Doc orders.

Thunderhorse is reluctant to hand it over, but does. Doc grabs the spare axe from the back of the Jeep. He gives them to Broderick.

The brother equips them, pulling the goatskull helmet over his face. Now he looks a bit like the grim reaper. For an added touch, Doc smears some black grease from under the Jeep on his robes in a vaguely intimidating manner.

"That'll do, I think," Doc looks him over, admiring his own handywork. "If anyone asks, you are a druid."

"[What is a druid?]"

"A pagan forest spirit. A defender of nature."

"[What do I say?]"

Doc thinks about this. "Y'know what? Nothing. You've taken a vow of silence. You're here to lead us up the mountain and protect us from the mountain spirits, got it?"

"[...I think so.]"

"Good. Let's chow."

Thunderhorse leads the way through the village. The place is barren and falling apart. Gardens are overrun with weeds. Fish rot over cold fires. Stones stand where houses once did, encircling their ashen remains like a giant fire ring. There's a dead cow swarmed with black birds in the middle of the street.

"It is like I was just here yesterday," Thunderhorse says nostalgically.

The Great Hall is still standing, a large circle of stones with a thick wooden roof. Its exterior is choked with ivy and surrounded by weeds. Thunderhorse pounds on the iron-reinforced wooden door.

There is no answer.

He pounds again.


He kicks it open. It's not locked. The heavy wooden door swings open. There is warmth here, and the dim light of a small fire in the large hearth at the center of the room. Long tables and benches made of split logs line a path to the back, where a throne of wood and stag horn overlooks everything.

On the tables sleep two men and a twelve-year-old boy. A half eaten roast boar lies among them. The place reaks of grain alchohol and urine.

Thunderhorse goes up to one of the men and kicks him off the table. The man wakes up as he hits the bench before falling to the ground.

"WHAT?! Fucking son of a troll! Who the... Thunderhorse?!"

"Yes, Skullfucker."

Skullfucker climbs to his feet. "Where have you been? You've been gone a week! Just disappeared!" He kicks the other man awake. "Hey! Fairhairson! Thunderhorse has returned!"

The man awakes with a start. The boy wakes up suddenly as well, and promply pukes.

"Aye, Thunderhorse!" yawns Fairhairson. "What happened to you? "

"It is a long story, difficult to tell."

"We thought a wizard had banished you to the pit of their fire demons," explains Skullfucker.

Fairharson continues. "We burned down the tavern to kill him, but he had vanished as well."

"No, he is not a wizard, but a dwarf. He has constructed a boat that sails the skies and travels time."

"[He truly is mad!]" Brother Broderick whispers to Doc.

"I have been to the sky," Thunderhorse continues. "I have ridden the Sleipnirs and sailed beyond the stars. I fought great steel fortresses that float above the ground and spit fire and metal. I have wielded weapons that kill with thunder and lightning. And now I return with these weapons and powers, so that we may destroy Venis, kill the Pickled, and save our women!"

The two men and boy look at each other. They break out laughing, a deep, roaring harmony of guffaw.

"That's quite a tale, Thunderhorse! Did you fuck a valkerie as well?" Skullfucker laughs.

"He probably ate some bad rye and spent the last week wandering the woods in a stupor!" Fairhairson replies.

Thunderhorse is pissed off. He swings his assault rifle around and blasts the wooden throne. The blue bolt flashes instantanously across the room. The chair disintegrates into a million burning splinters. A small part of the stone wall behind it is blown out.

The vikings shut up quickly. Brother Broderick clasps his chest.

"Thor's balls!" the kid says. "You weren't bullshitting!"

Thunderhorse stows his weapon again. "This is Doc. He is a medicine man, and a fellow time traveller. None has more guile and wit." He turns to Mark. "This is Daniels. He is the bastard son of a troll and a dog's asshole, but he weilds these weapons like none other."

Fairhairson points out the boy. "This is Aerikson. We found him four days ago."

"Found him where?" Doc asks.

"The river," Skullfucker explains. "Near death on a raft."

"I've run off," says Aerikson.

"Why's that?" Doc asks.

"My father, step-father I mean, is a cooper and he wants me to be a cooper. I want to be a Viking, like me real father. He died fighting the Saxons. Like a real man."

"He's lucky he floated up this way." Fairharison says. "We're glad to show him how to fight. Plus he knows how to cook and clean. Come and share some of this boar, if you're hungry."

The party sits down for dinner. Aerikson fetches them all cups of the nastiest whiskey Doc has ever choked down, but it's the only way to stomach the gamey, dry, half-burned boar meat. Brother Broderick takes his share and eats it at a distance.

"Are you the last in town?" Thunderhorse asks.

"Seems so," says Skullfucker.

"What happened to Groth the Blacksmith?"

"He's gone to Bridgeton. He took all the armor we sold him and went off to sell it back to the fuckers. Haven't heard from him since," replies Fairhairson.


"He ran off when we burnt down his tavern. Took Helga with him."

"What about Leif?"

"Followed Dogmeat. The tavern was the only reason he was staying here, anyway."

"We thought about going too," says Skullfucker. "But then we arrested a caravan hauling this whiskey up to Bridgeton." He gestures towards the barrels in the back. "So we thought we'd stay a while longer."

"Yeh, Leif'd right pissed if he found out what we got!" Fairhairson laughs.

Dinner wraps up, thankfully. Thunderhorse continues to chew on some fat. Mark helps himself to more whiskey.

"So how did you come by the name Skullfucker?" Doc asks.

Fairhairson answers. "It was on our first raid, when we came of age. We sailed across the sea to the land of the Scotts to a village by a river. We were stripped to our bare asses, and given bear skins and woad."

"I had set fire to a hut," Skullfucker continues, "and this woman came running out with her plow, yelling and screaming. I didn't understand her. It was a warm spring day, and the woad was crawling beneath my skin. I was prepared to ravage her, but she would not shut up and continued swinging at me with her plow. So I took her head off and mounted her mouth upon my groin. That shut her up."

"He ran around like that for the rest of the battle. It was hilarious," Thunderhorse finishes.

Brother Broderick almost pukes.

"Who is that, anyway?" Fairhairson asks suspiciously.

"He is a Druid." Doc replies. "He's our guide up the mountain."

"Oy, where are you from?" asks Skullfucker.

"The isles to the west," Doc replies. "He's a guardian of mountains."

"Why don't he answer?" Skullfucker asks.

"He is a druid. He's got to keep quiet to be able to hear the nature spirits."

Skullfucker stares hard at him. "Hmp," he snorts. "He looks a bit odd to me. But so do the rest of you. Fuck it. Lets get some sleep. We've got a mountain to climb tomorrow."


ERR said...

Doc Bluff Check 11(2+9) vs. Skullfucker sense motive 4, Success. XP+4

Doc said...

Great! Let's get going!