Monday, March 9, 2009

The Morning Service

The sun rises over the eastern horizon, bathing the ramshackle waddle buildings and wooden tenements of eastern Kharschum in a soft golden light. From atop the tower of Ogodie, his new home, Hrolff surveys the scene spread out beneath him. Far below, the city comes to life, and Hrolff’s ears catch the sound of early morning traffic and commerce. The beggars are taking up their stations by favored corners. Merchants and vendors open their stalls and lay out their wares. To the north, a slave ship rides the early tide from the harbor to the delta, its sails shining in the sunrise like the wings of some mighty seabird.

Hrolff has come up here to pray, to make his morning homage to Thor.

As his habit when performing this morning ritual, he completely removes his clothes, neatly folds them, and stands naked in the morning air, still tinged as it is with night’s chill. He flexes his muscles and stretches, wincing a bit. Though it has been several days since he was laid low by Ogodei’s horrid ice magic, he can still feel its lingering after-effects deep in his bones and joints. The cold had been awful, even to one such as him in whose veins thrums the blood of Frost Giants. It was like being seized in a fist of knives that squeezed and squeezed and squeezed. He winces remembering the terror of it, the sickening weakness of his body slumping, the crackling sound as ice rimed across his flesh, the desperation of his lungs filling with hoarfrost, the side of his face striking and freezing to the stone floor. Blackness had rolled over him, a wave of black ice.

The next thing he remembers is waking to see Erth kneeling over him, making gestures of healing magic in the air. His companions told him that he had been unconscious for more than a day. Hrolff knew nothing of what had happened in the empty space, though he woke with vague, half-formed memories, dreams of Thor’s Great Hall, Bilskimir. A great roaring fire blazed, flanked by dozens of warriors clad in bright ring mail and polished byrnies that gleamed in the reddish light. They had turned and hailed him, raising spear, axe, and flagon. Hrolff had grinned, knowing he had fallen in battle, trying to aid his comrades. There is no better way to die.

One enormous warrior stepped apart from the rest. His helm bore rams horns that curved backward in a majestic sweep. His gleaming ring mail coat hung to his knees. In one hand he carried a greatsword of black steel, it edges faintly flickering and warping the air with unseen power. In the other, he held an axe that bore sacred runes of authority. At his feet knelt a blonde serving wench, large breasted, achingly curvaceous, and naked but for a wisp of silk twisted about her hips. The warrior’s face was mostly shadow beneath his helm, but his eyes blazed darkly in the ruddy light. The figure had raised his weapons overhead and spoke in a voice, deep and cold as the roots of mountains:

“Hail Hrolff born in the folk-lands of Northgaard
Hail with dagger, longsword and byrnie long
Hail with ring-decked helmet and sharp hewing sword
Hail with horses well broken in this hallowed land.
Welcome Hrolff. Welcome home.”

Inakai, the daughter of the deep, had pulled him back, or so he had been told. He has no idea what art she used to unthaw him, but Hrolff is grateful. He is glad to be back. To join ranks of the valorous is an honor to be sure, but he feels there is still much to be done in this current reality. Aye, he owes a deep debt of gratitude to the sea elf. She is a good comrade to have at ones side. He knew that for certain the night that the two of them had done battle alone with the renegade Frost Giant in the ruins of the Cathedral on Tigalda Island. She had stood her ground even as their foe had hurled boulders about her skull. The brute had laughed, thinking her an easy foe, but her twanging bow had sung songs of death that night, while the snow fell softly around them.

Hrolff breaths deeply of the morning air, pleasantly fresh at this early hour and, at this height, pleasantly free of the stink of the street. It was a good idea to take possession of this tower and use it as a base. Great evil has been committed here, but Hrolff is not overly superstitious. As long as no witching charms or death magicks remain in effect, they should have little to fear.

He stands naked in the morning sun, the honey colored light flowing across his muscles and the network of scars that lace his body. He spreads his arms wide, closes his eyes, and tilts his head back, savoring the moment. It is not a bad morning to pray, though stormy weather is better. The breeze stirs his hair. Its coolness feels good on his body and genitals, and the sensation turns his thoughts toward carnal matters. Thus Hrolff stands naked at the precipice, high above the street far below, reveling in the deliciousness of his growing tumescence.

His mighty erection stands rampant, rising above the city like a new tower taking its rightful place among the handy-works of man, like the sword of some fierce and avenging angel, like an exclamation point to future deeds yet to be accomplished.

Ah yes, he is glad to still be alive. Perhaps when the sun is higher, he will head into the red light district and buy the services of a whore. Maybe two. But first he has the morning prayers to attend to.


Erth said...

Har! Well told, Ironbeard.

Aeschere said...

Really excellent post, as usual. What I love most about Hrolff is his ferocious love of life, which is no less fierce than the most powerful blow from his war-hammer. He savors everything the world has to offer, from the gore of combat to a joint of well-prepared mutton to a cool breeze on his genitals, yet he is not hedonistic; on the contrary, the joy he takes in visceral pleasure somehow lends him an aura of virtue. Really good work.

The final image is one that will not fade, and may in fact recur over and over in my mind with disturbing clarity. Perhaps this is because it evokes a memory of one of our group members in a similar pose on the summit of a mountain that was aptly named Dix. Rather than praying like Hrolff, this person, who plays a dwarf whose name rhymes with Wulfgar, was instead trying to rid himself of pine needles that had accumulated in his shorts. He was standing naked in a high place at the edge of a cliff, however, so the association was easy to make.

300 XP for our buoyant Northman. Will that put him at 9th level?

Inakai said...

THAT was an image I didn't need in my head. Thanks a lot, DM.

Another grand post, Ironbeard. I enjoy your storytelling. You seem to generate such well-crafted imagery with ease.

post festum said...

Yeah Ironbeard!! You've really outdone yourself this time.

I agree with inakai - Very vivid and...what's the word? Visceral? If visceral means makes you feel like scratching yourself and grunting a bit then visceral is the word.

I find it really interesting to follow the development of a character so thoroughly primal and yet free from superstitions and irrationality. Kinda like Rousseau's Noble Savage, although with full-frontal nudity.

Cheers and thanks!

ps - Hrolff Phallus Count: 2

Ironbeard said...

Thanks for the comments everyone.

DM - You're right about the conflation of virtue and physicality. I'm trying to endow Hrolff's hedonism and physicality with a sort of quasi-spirituality. I think that this is in keeping with the pagan nature of his religion that does not eschew matters of the body or materialism in favor of the spirit. This appeals to me as it suggests a kind of inversion of Judeo-Christian beliefs.

For the Norse (at least as they are described in Deities and Demigods, not necessarily as they actually were), feasting, fornicating, and kicking the crap out of people are all ways of showing devotion to the gods.

Post Festum: You're right. I have deliberately included a great deal of phallic imagery (and energy) in these Hrolff posts. I think I'm kind of trying to both literalize and ironize the latent phallocentricism that lies at the heart of our modern fascination with Vikings. It's not exactly an outright rejection of this blatant male centered-ness as much as it is an attempt to install and celebrate the idea, while simultaneously using hyperbole to undercut and laugh at it. You know, the whole postmodern thing.

Thanks for the feedback everyone