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.