Ejnar - Reclaimer's Log 4: The Pact Of Ravens

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Description: "When a man takes an oath... he's holding his own self in his own hands. Like water. And if he opens his fingers then - he needn't hope to find himself again." - Robert Bolt

It was a long journey to the Podiebrad Manor.

Going out of Japan was tough. There was a time where Ejnar may have been in a box. Taking a ship to transfer to an island, to then get on a plane, to then get on ANOTHER plan, to get on the way to Hungary was an endless chain of trips. And the entire time, at least one Raven Guardsman was at Ejnar's side. He at least had the chance for a shower; and a change of clothes into plain green military surplus BDUs, Warsaw Pact. They let him change the shirt.

At least it wasn't poofy with lace.

Ejnar was parked in the back of the transport truck, 3 by 3. It was an old Warsaw Pact surplus truck, that picked them up at the airport. IT was covered, and functional. It was... relatively easy not to be stuck with the entire crew generally. But with the commander up with the driver, Ejnar had the privilege to finally have the rest of the Raven Guardsmen around him, without any good means of avoiding them. Now, they were talking. And talking. ANd talking. And talking. At least, they had the mouth-covers of their outfits pulled away, exposing the pale skin and purple... lips? THey had been in and out of their strange raven-shaped face guards and armored body suits the whole way; they made a point of getting -back- into them before getting on the truck. Why was the mouth-covers off? So they could power through a case of wine, each of the five having their own bottle. Ejnar was left out, of course, with his straight milkbottles of Czech Pilsner, acquired for Ejnar's sake. It made the long drive from the airport bearable.

Well, almost bearable.

"What kind of rube drinks beer, when you have perfectly good wine." The guardsman sitting by Ejnar finally babbles out, after taking a sip right out of his wine bottle. That was Alajos. Alajos had not stopped talking, in one way or another, for the entire 2 hour drive. And all the time, he had spent every opportunity to needle the Swede. "What, it is like -piss!- He has come from the gods, and he drinks horse urine over the house wine!" The man on Alajos's other side interjects. "Last time you are going to have wine, after what you did to that policeman. The commander is pissed, Alajos." The talkative guardsman scoffs. "Oh, what, you think you are gonna get out of it, Lukacs, after that crack about sourpuss here?" A nasally interjection comes out from the guy by the back. Treven. He wasn't as bad as Alajos, but he wouldn't stop whining. "You all need to stop talking! He'll hear you, and we'll get more demerits!" Lukacs shakes his head. "Eh, big brother can't hear anything here, the truck engine is too loud. You don't think I know how trucks work?" The man on Ejnar's other side speaks softly, shaking his head. "Sorry about Alajos. He's just mad because his sister's the loosest slut in all the Manor; you get 12 stamps, and the 13th's free." Alajos shakes his bottle at the man.

"Hey, fuck you Moricz, you were the one who wanted to get like a Bastard with the cop!"

The truck finally comes to a halt; the rise of voices in the front out as the commander speaks. Looks like they finally reached some kind of checkpoint. "Not like sourpuss here." Alajos snarks. "He's as bad as Gyuri here." He gestures at the last of the mercs, sitting across from Treven. The only person respectable, who had rivaled Ejnar for taciturn conversation. He had not said a single word since the Swede's arrival. The one who has, coincidentally, found himself guarding Ejnar most of the time coming here. Alajos gets a nasty smirk on his violet lips, as he makes one last chance to try and get a rise out of Ejnar. "Come on. Let me ask you, that girl, the teenage girl you were found, where you were arrested. You were naked? So come on, I got to ask." ANd he leans in -real- close to Ejnar, a sneer underneath his faceguard. "Was her pussy tight before, or after you fucked her?"

Lukacs spits out his wine.

For a near immortal member of one of the fiercest cultures to ever pillage the planet, Ejnar is not a difficult man to travel with. Often quiet and self contained, eyes sharp and mindful of his surroundings, it is not uncommon for him to go several days without the need to speak. This quiet nature, combined with a stubborn disposition and general dislike for people, means that he hasn't said much aside from insults since meeting the Birds. That lack of conversation could be why they still think he is Swedish. That, or they're just stupid.
Suited up in dark green fatigue pants and a loose green jacket, black boots on his feet and a grey T-shirt beneath, he is a much more suitable figure for the rear of the transport truck he finds himself in. Surrounded by unmasked Bird Men, with Alajos to his right and Moricz to his left, their purple lips flapping on and on in the sort of ceaseless chatter more befitting of a group of Starlings than the Ravens they purport to be. Talking and talking and talking, needling and prodding, drinking their stinking wine, the fumes of which cloud the air beneath their canvas covering. Two hours of this scraping away at the Viking's patience, scouring his tolerance like sandpaper on flesh. Even the vast number of empty beer bottles that now clank and rattle against the metal floor have done nothing to abate his steadily darkening mood.
What had started as a neutral stare aimed across the truck bed first transitioned into a slight frown of annoyance, furrow appearing between his dark brows. Long minutes and one beer later, that frown had settled into a glower of grumpy discontent. Thirty minutes and three beers after that, the Viking was staring a hole through the far canvas willing the entire truck to spontaneously combust. Two more beers down the road of heartbreak and alcoholism found the craftsman sitting with his eyes clinched tightly shut, lips pulled back from his teeth in the beginnings of a snarl just barely kept inside of him. And now, with no beers remaining and Alajos's words buffeting him over, and over, and over...Now he sits with an unreadable look on his dark, handsome face, eyes gazing fixedly ahead with the blank deadness of someone far beyond the reasonable stage of anger. The spark of irritation within him has been fanned beyond frustration and into a low smoldering rage, hot and furious but banked, controlled.
'Was her pussy tight before, or after you fucked her?'
The flash of a young girl's face passes before the man's eyes, and the dam holding back his rage breaks, flooding through him on a tide of indignation and raw, white hot hatred. His left hand clinches into a fist where it dangles between his knees, and that is the only warning Alajos gets that his day is about to become very, very unpleasant.
Sitting up slightly straighter, face set in a stony mask, he turns his head slightly to glance over at the leering Birdman, eyes cold and grey as the winter that birthed him. His right hand lifts, and all at once he strikes, hooking his right arm behind the ninja's neck and dragging him down into a headlock for the one, two, three, four, FIVE vicious punches from his left hand square into the blabbering moron's unprotected mouth.
Lips pulling back from his teeth, Ejnar lets loose the snarl that had been building inside of him over hours of torment, dragging his target out of his seat and down to the ground amidst the sea of discarded bottles. Struggling with him, punching and kneeing and furious as a caged wolf, he rolls on top of the ninja and pins his arms with his knees, looming up over him as he reaches over to pick up one of the large glass vessels. Taking it in both hands, he leans over the unfortunate Raven, long black braids dangling down around his face, and holds the bottle suspended two feet above his face.
And then the heat comes.
The vast majority of the energy channeled inward and contained between his palms, Ejnar funnels enough raw, flaming heat into the bottle that it begins to slump and deform in his hands, drooping between his fingers as if it were glimmering orange slime rather than molten glass. Reducing the heat, the Viking squishes the bottle down into a semi-liquid mass, scooping up the dangling bits so that no drips splash down upon his prey, but the entire mass quivers and bubbles above him, threatening to slip free at any moment. Grim face lit from below by the haunting orange of the melting glass, Ejnar stares down into Alajos face with heartless eyes, his tolerance of the man well and truly at an end.
"I am Ejnar Valgrimsson, craftsman of the gods. I do not fuck little girls." the craftsman states in a tone as flat as the look in his eyes, the snarling beast of his temper straining against its temporary leash. "Perhaps I make you something to prove my skill? A mask is sounding nice. The forgetting of breathing holes will help you finally to be silent."

Well, he got the reaction.

Alajos actually notices the fist, and starts to bring the bottle of for a smug swig. There is a bump, as the truck moves forward over something... and that's opening. The headlocks comes, and the rest of the guards look on as Alajos gets 2 hours worth of this shit blown right up in his face. Well, all but one: Gyuri just stares ahead, not watching the show. When Alajos is finally dropped, smashing into the bottles, teeth and blood boil out from his mouth, as he just -spits- in agony. As the glass holds over his face, terror spreads over his eyes. He- was he going to die? What about his brothers? The response of the other guardsmen, at the raw injury of their fellow soldier?

Cackling laughter.

"I warned you, Alajos! I warned you!" Was the breathless response from Lukacs. "You idiot, gwa ha ha, you idiot, you won, you bastard!" And he takes a.... a card? Lukacs takes a card from a slot between his armor and his bodysuit, and tosses it on the whimpering form of the Raven Guard. Treven looks gobstruck, as he fumbles in his seat, trying to get his seat belt off. "That's- we gotta do something- we're fighting him right?" Moricz actually doesn't even -try- to touch Ejnar, but in the drunken haze, even he realizes that, there might be some problems. "Hey, uh, Ejnar, you need to sit down; you are going to make the poor guy piss himself, and the dry cleaning here, it's not so good."

The laughter stops dead, the moment the white-haired commander comes around the corner.

"By the flaming hells, what is happening here?" Snarls the silver-haired man, eyes burning as he glares at Ejnar, Alajos, and the men, all in frozen balance. Alajos tries to say something, between the moans and gasps, but can't. Eyes dart around. Back to Ejnar. And then, the quiet guardsman clears his throat. "Ejnar is showing Alajos a trick he can do with the glass, Commander Szabolc, and Alajos, he bit his lip going over the bump. " Gyuri states flatly.

All the guards nod their heads.

"... Out of the truck. -Now-." The steel-eyed commander snarls, as he almost -pulls- Treven out from his seat, seat belt getting ripped free. "Treven, get Alajos to the infirmary. Moricz and Lukacs, assist Treven, and then prepare yourselves for debriefing and discipline. Gyuri, come with me, and Ejnar..." He stares at the artisan, the whole purpose of this mission, as Moricz and Lukacs carries Alajos out, the whimpering soldier clutching his card(?) in his hand, weakly. "I was expecting that you would have a moment to recover from your trip. But I have been informed from that the Patriarch wants to meet you immediately at the Arena, instead of a formal, detailed debrief. Let us go." The words were terse, but the eyes, the steel-eyed stare was locked on him. He wasn't sharing what he thought about the 'trick' and the accident.

Not in his words, at least.

Knelt astride Alajos with a double hand full of molten glass glowing in his hands, Ejnar has eyes only for the man that he fully intends to punish in one form or another. Knocked out teeth can be capped, but perhaps a new glass eye...
The commanders snarling demands cut through the Viking's rage in a way the laughter and panic of the flock had not. While the eyes of his victim dart around in search of a story, Ejnar pushes to his feet, climbing off of the downed man and casting an idle glance down toward the card that he had ignored up till now. He only half hears the excuse that this is some sort of game, idly squishing the glass together and rolling it into a sphere between his palms.
"Yes. Game."
Tone as flatly unconvincing as the lie deserves, Ejnar drives home how he feels with a final, rough kick to Alajos ribs. Justice served, he turns his back on the birds as they gather around their downed ally, dropping out of the back of the truck with a crunch of turf to join Treven and the commander. Now on even footing with the men, he returns the leader's look with a flat, unhappy stare, work-roughened hands rolling the sphere out into a rough cylinder and beginning to pinch and divide the edges, molding the glass with absentminded ease.
Now free of the wine-fumed interior of the truck, and having had the opportunity to exorcize a small fraction of the aggression that had been building within him, the grumpy artisan has reverted to his usual dower mood. Unlikely to lose his shit and start strangling people, but less than pleasant to be around.
"Take me to Bird King. Sooner we talk, sooner I see truth behind lie of broken artifact."


The manor grounds are walled off with refurbished 16th century masonry; they were old walls, they were thin walls. Wooden look-out posts were attached to them, acting as the ramparts; the razor wire and fencing on the exterior made it look like an old prison camp than a manor. With the clearing, the manor itself looks as an aging manor, large enough to be a house of commons for some countries smaller than Hungary. The grounds was populated with a decent number of people; the rest of the Raven Guard perhaps. Few were dressed in the birdman suits of armor, thankfully, fewer were in outlandish costumes. Most were dressed in conservative military garb, not unlike the kind Ejnar was in. Many were in peacoats with the weather being chilly, though with the arrival of the truck and the commander, many eyes were on Ejnar and his escorts.

Men and women alike.

The walk to the arena reveals how the manor grounds are set up. The grounds are spread out as a campus within the boundaries set by the wall, with a massive tower looming towards the stark mountains. An ancient roman aqueduct leads within the manor grounds from the Carpathian mountains. Near it? What is a clear chapel, a garden stretching far past it. A vineyard, a hedge maze, all stretching in the boundary. It comes back around to where the barracks and armory sit outside the walls and the gate, which was where they had started. Not far from the barracks and armory?

The raised arena.

The arena was more Byzantine than Roman, though arenas are ultimately arenas. As they pass through the Romanesque archways, Commander Szabolc and Ejnar go through the archways, coming to a single stairway within the labyrinthine interior between the exterior of the arena, and the interior. A stairway bearing two standing birdmen. Gyuri approaches, salutes, and one of the men leaves upstairs. Commander Szabolc stands fast, and when the guard returns... Gyuri remains at guard, allowing Szabolc and Ejnar climb to the top. The top is a well-decorated lounge of sorts, looking high over the arena interior. Which... seemed to be running a series of training exercises? That was hardly the focus, amongst the ferns, the flowers, the easels, the golden thr-.... oh no.

The man was seated in his throne of gold, with his legs over one armrest.

He is a man with white hair, his face is cut sharp, long and stony with a distant, aloof facade. He wears a headdress of black feathers around his hair, and has hazel eyes that almost seem to change color in the light. His hair is stylized in bangs in the front, with a long ponytail behind him over his cloak. He is deathly pale, and is on the shorter and skinnier side. With his little legs, a pair of stiletto heeled gold-plated purple boots dangle over the edge. He is garbed in ornate robes of purple and rose. His raised collar meets with purple and red striped pauldrons sit upon his shoulders, setting a mantle for his flowing purple cloak. A ornamental plate of gold-pressed leaf is set over his robes, setting against his legs, arms, and abdomen. Each section is embossed with the feathered scale pattern, common in the lower ranked soldiers of the Raven Guard. Silver earrings, bracelets, bangles, and a ring for each finger adorn him, with not a single gemstone amongst his jewelry. A silver circlet sits upon his forehead, above his eyes. His hands are exposed, and his long fingernails are painted beetle shell gold and silver, shining with every movement.

In his right hand is a golden scepter. Measuring 2 cubits long (about 3 feet), it is crafted out of solid gold. The head of the scepter is the sculpted likeness of a raven in repose, with its wings wrapped around its sides. Golden feathers are stylized across the shaft of the scepter, with the handle being slightly thicker than the shaft. The base is flanged, with a flat disk with vague feathering at the bottom. There are hollow inserts in the eyes, beak, and base of the scepter, which long ago held jewels since lost to time. It was... incomplete. At his side, is a short, red haired young lady, with all too pale skin. Freckles pepper her gaunt cheeks, a little nose above thin bloodless lips as she looks with pale eyes of no iris, just black and white. The woman is garbed in a dark crimson maid's outfit with black apron, she wears brown boots and a red headdress with black lace. A thin red scarf of silk is wrapped around her waist in a neat bow. Her dress is poofy, spread out concealing her legs below the knees. Up to the knees, the brown boots rise up. She is on her knees, holding a single golden bowl with both hands, filled with peeled grapes. The man was staring lazily out at the arena, not even reacting to the arrival of the men. Commander Szabolc steps forward to his side, coming to attention.

"Hail! By the-"

"Szabolc, brother." The creature sighs, plucking grapes from a golden bowl. "In a moment. The thrill of these grapes, have yet to pass. The succulent fruit, of a seedless vine; it's juices flow within with pleasure... yet the waste upon my chin, a pity?" The servant dabs the man's chin, as he swings his legs around, smooth and swift, rising up. Standing up, he was... wearing what must be six inch heels. He looked lazily at the duo, his violet lips pursed in aloof disdain. There was a metric that Commander Szabolc had, with his steel-cold stares. When Ejnar attacked him. When Ejnar attacked his men.

None compared to the steel-cold glare of the purest hatred that he was manifesting now at that throne.

The commander brings a fist to his chest, bowing his head as he keeps his hand to his scabbard. "By the Patriarch. I have retrieved the prisoner. I have not had time to prepared a detailed debrief, but the status of the mission was-" "My god, look at this specimen." The so-called Patriarch interrupts. The man strides out past Szabolc, clutching his golden scepter in one hand, looking upon Ejnar. "The fools; they had said you were Swedish, but I knew better. I've read your stories of your kind, they have no knowledge of what you truly are. Incredibly handsome, a swarthy, rugged appearance beyond what those buffoons could muster with their limited imaginations. Sami? No, Greenlandic, something far more unique from the far north. Just incredible, you truly are an artisan from heaven; I'd expected no less." He flutters his long eyelashes, looking up and down Ejnar. "And they put you in those rags. Well, if I have to critique, I had somehow imagined you... shorter." He chortles mirthlessly in his throat a bit, while Szabolc -stares- at the master of the House. He steps back, a smirk hidden on his painted lips. "Well, is your tongue tied?"

"What have you to say for yourself?"

Striding along at Szabolc's side, Ejnar pays no mind to the militant staff as they go about their daily duties. The mercenary history of this clan of Ravens is no secret to the craftsmen, their dealings and struggles one of countless others woven into the tapestry of legends his people sing . They may carry modernized weapons, and their tabards may have been replaced by olive fatigues, but these are merely trappings. The souls of warriors never change.
Circling around the sprawling manner grounds, the Viking follows his guide through the towering arch and into the dim interior, cool eyes passing over statues and stonework with only the mildest of interest. Made to wait, he uses the time to send another flow of heat into the hardening glass between his hands, keeping the material soft and pliable beneath his stroking fingers. It is difficult at this point to tell what he might be crafting, if anything. larger at one end than the other, squashed and knobby but with rounded edges, the glass folds and stretches at his touch, guided into a shape only he can guess at.
They are cleared to ascend, and the guest follows the silver-haired commander up the steps into the lush surrounds of the overlook, stepping out onto the idyllic platform fit more for a king than a mercenary lord. There, amidst the colorful flora and scattered trappings of pomp, doted on by a kneeling woman in a very Japanese inspired costume, lounges the man who had the gall to summon Ejnar before him like some common servant.
Grey eyes take in first the staff itself. Sockets without jewels and a clear raven motif. An artifact for certain. One glance is all it takes for his mind to begin unfolding the device, the sense of the thing laid bare by his innate understanding of the mechanics behind all constructions. But there is more than just a rod to hold his attention. The man holding the rod is short, wears ostentatious jewelry and yet no gems. Is sat upon a golden throne that, if his clothes did not give hint enough, screams his lack of taste. There is none of the subtle understated dignity of conditioned nobility, but the blatant garishness of a clown. An act?
Finally, the artisan's eyes slide down to take in the woman kneeling at the Patriarch's side, neutral expression tilting down at the corners into the slightest of frowns. His gut instinct is to dislike her, but such is his instinct with most people. This, however, is stronger.
Bela's words draw the Viking's attention back to him as he stands, revealing himself to be just as short as expected. Even with his ridiculous shoes the nobleman is two or so inches shorter than his visitor, slightly more so given the borrowed combat boots. Like his birds the foppish creature likes to talk, jabbering on and on while Ejnar quietly molds the glass between his hands, refining his latest project one gentle twitch of his fingers at a time. Unlike the flock, most of the words spoken seem to be designed to flatter, but all they earn the leader is a wolfish stare from those arctic cold eyes, and a long stretch of silence that is broken only when he is finally prompted to speak.
"Did not imagine one called Patriarch to dress like woman. Is raven stick reason you call me here?"

Szabolc's steel gaze melts away to fear.

He steps back at Ejnar's comment. Even the servant seemed to.. tense up. Not out of fear through. A sense of predatory rage. The air in the balcony shifted. But for Bela, his expression was not so dramatic. The Patriarch's expression becomes a faint pout, the corners of his painted lips into a delicate, disappointed frown. He turns around, shaking his hair, and releases a sigh, tapping the head of the scepter into the palm of the opposite hand.

<[{A WOMAN, GWA HA HA, A WOMAN! Poor child, won't anyone take you seriously?}]>

"No, no, the scepter is fine." Bela states, nonplussed at the artisan's crude tongue. "I am surprised your eyes would be drawn to such... mortal creations. How worldly." The smirk does not return, as he strides away, walking back towards the lowered servant. He pats her hair gently, earning a barely contained grin from the maid as the aggression fades. She raises the bowl. Bela plucks another grape from it, popping it into his mouth. "It is merely the symbol of my rulership to the House of Podiebrad. Oh, it is quite a special artifact, yes. But not why I have wanted a craftsmen of your caliber to come. Well, rumored reputation." He walks around the throne, bringing his leg up to rest his foot on the armrest, placing it right between the space of his sole and heel.

"Honestly, I am not certain we have the right man, brother."

Szabolc's expression darkens, as he lowers his head. "We have acquired the man you specifically, requested, Patriarch. We have completed the mission to the the letter." Bela smiles coyly, the light returning. "But not to my sanctification." He dismounts his foot off the throne, heels clicking as he strides back towards Ejnar, his hips swaying with every step. "I know the rules, Szabolc. But our blacksmith... oh, hm mm mm, is that rude? Our artisan here lacks the... eye of quality I was expected of someone of such legendary talent. To be dazzled by mere gold is what I would expect from a pretender, from an... amateur. And yet." His arrogant smirk disappears, as he lowers himself, crouching, to gaze at the mans fingers.

Specifically, the craftsmanship at his fingertips.

"Of course, his situation may be difficult, as it often is." His voice was softening. "What are you making?" The tone shifts ever so slightly, he lifting his eyes up to Ejnar from his submissive stance. Footsteps could be heard behind, down the stairs now. But the Patriarch didn't seem to be staging for Ejnar to be thrown into a prison. He didn't have the words for it. Not the bemused air of a lackadaisical tyrant treating the works of his servants like an aloof father to his children. But the sudden focus, attention to form, the sharp air from his tongue. The reality of his tone comes, as he lowers himself more, knees spread, almost... bowing to Ejnar?

"Please, I would like to see?"

The reactions that Ejnar's words provoke ripple out through the room, a complicated mish mash of fear and hostility that comes when someone spits in the face of the local power. But despite the looming danger he seems completely unconcerned. His hands flex, fingers twitch, and the faint frown of grumpy disinterest clouds his otherwise noble, attractive features. He has no care for the fragile feelings of soft men.
Calling his expertise into question, however...
The Viking's response is as roughly dismissive toward the lord of the house as it has been toward his servants, a harsh noise that conveys perfectly the unique lack of patience and doubt in other people's intelligence that characterizes Ejnar. Though he appears to be in his early twenties, he has the towering confidence and lack of shits given that is usually reserved for tenured professors in their late fifties.
"If not evil bird stick, then what?" His light eyes track the slow walk of Bela toward his throne, noting the dog-like reaction of the kneeling girl. Noting also the doubt in his abilities, as if any other would have the experience and power to form glass into art while casually dismissing a king. The grumpy cast to his features deepens into a faint glower, words grunted on the heels of Szabolc's, "Unlike yours, reputation of clan is beyond question."
The approach of the nobleman is met with another near hostile stare, ears pricked to the sound of yet more feet approaching up the steps behind. The gentling of the smaller man's tone does not soften the Viking's countenance, nor does the submissive posture before him. But when asked to see what he is working on, he opens his hands for the kneeling fop, cupping the soft glass from beneath. A slight shimmering glow halos the furnace hot surface of the material, most of which had been contained by the position of his hands up to now. Colored a rich amber, it has been molded into the sleek shape of a man lying prone on his back, the slight folds of cloth and hard edges of armor familiar to anyone who has seen one of the Raven Guard. It is yet unfinished, the face a featureless blob and the outermost textures unrefined, but one pauldron is already etched with a distinctive feather pattern, scored and smoothed by tiny scrapes of a thumbnail, and the outline of a rectangular card is visible against the curve of the chest plate.
"Am keeping hands busy while time is wasted. Do not care what you say, Bird King. Smith, Craftsman, talk talk talk. Am here to fix artifact that should not be broken. If you do not have, say so and I leave."

"The reputation of your clan is very well established."

That's the response, as Bela stares into the glowing glass figure. The shape of it. The delicate craftsmanship. He was impressed. Critical, of course, but it was acceptable even in little pieces. A flawless likeness of his soldiers. He rises back up. "We had talked with the NOL about this artifact. They... are always very interested in artifacts, you understand. No matter how broken. But they let it slip, about your little fall. That changed everything. Oh yes, you may be -very- relevant to what we so seek. As much as I like to entertain the NOL, the truth of the matter is that they have no love of true craftsmanship, for it's own sake. They seek tools, not art. They seek weapons, not legends. I'd prefer to return it to the very people who created it... for a number of reasons." Sly words, but were they truthful. The dandy gives a huff.

"But you have refused to show if you, yourself, is worthy of your clan."

The footsteps arrive. Four men, all bald, hulking, and dressed in simple robes. With them, two bound chests. The first was rattling. But the second... that had a warmth of the divine hearth. Bela, continues to stride around, walking past Ejnar to the chests, hips swaying in time. "We in the house of Podiebrad are more than well aware of what it means when a member is cast out. Parasites, we call them. Unworthy of the family name, leeching off our noblity while they waste their time on frivilous efforts. Their... tiny glass figurines, suited to sit on the shelves of grandmas. An entertainment of kitsch." A sneer of bemusement, from the Patriarch. "You could very well be incapable of what it takes to fix it."

"Fortunately, I have made the arrangements for a little test."

The first chest is opened. And within... broken blades. Armlets. Golden armor pieces, shattered. Each one bearing the same soul imprint of the scepter, and yet, incomplete. And from the sight of the hideous misshaped repairwork attempted, incomplete from the pure ignorance of the craftsmen within the halls. "Lesser artifacts. Brick a brack. If you can demonstrate your ability in fixing them, well, I hardly think you would. You said yourself. You have come for the broken artifact. But if you can fix them."

"And then we can see if your reputation can be worthy in the presence of Dvalinn's and Durinn's"

The second chest is kicked open by Bela. And there, the energy of the scepter pales, in the invisible radiance of divine light. Perfection, even as both scabbard and blade lay shattered within. Broken in three places, each one. Evil, great evil pours out in tandem, a curse that can only be born from the tongue of Ejnar's greatest. There is only one name for this, what was it, and where it came from. And in a moment, Bela shuts the chest under his heel, a smirk on his lips. "The Saga of Hervor and Heidrek. LEgends upon legends. But you know very well, what treasure I've brought before you, in but one word."


The painted lips of the Patriarch strech into a thin smile, as he nods his head at the first chest. "Well." He states. "Do you need a workshop? Or is it true that even you are unworthy of such an artifact..."

Wintry eyes track the feminine nobleman with fixed intensity as he leans forward to inspect the glass statue displayed across Ejnar's palms. The radiant warmth of the softened glass fills the space around the pair, pressing against Bela's exposed skin and threatening to severely scorch anything that might come into contact with it. If the grumpy Norseman had a mind to he could teach this man respect the hard way. One step forward, a thrust of his hands toward those peering eyes...
In truth, the thought hadn't even crossed the young Viking's mind.
Bela rises and Ejnar closes his fingers once more around the glasswork, heat and light rolling through the gaps as he hits it with another blast of heat and continues the slow, careful motions of his fingers that have shaped it thus far. All the while he watches his foppish host like a hawk, slight frown remaining on his otherwise impassive features. The talk of NOL seems to interest him not at all, though the memory of a 'fall' does cause one of his dark brows to twitch with remembered displeasure. Again, it is the doubt in his skill that finally convinces the Viking to respond, half turning in order to keep both Bela and his pet Maid in sight at all times.
"NOL? Fegh. Do not care what Death Fools do. They are on list for later. You wish true demonstration of skill? Show artifact."
It is at about that time that the two chests are carried into view. For the first time in minutes, the traveler's grey eyes abandon their watch of the lord to focus instead on the second of the two chests. Sensing the call of the forge even through the reinforced metal, he pays no mind to the taunting words of honor and outcasts, staring fixedly at it while the first chest is opened to reveal the miscellaneous trash within. With growing impatience he waits, fingers twitching against the slowly forming statuette, until the second chest is kicked open.
Ejnar's fingers come to a halt, body very still as he stares into the open container. The energy signature coming from the blade is unmistakable, the dark curves and lines of the curse woven into it fiendishly familiar. The crease between Ejnar's brows deepens as he takes it all in, continuing to stare off thoughtfully long after the chest has been stomped closed.
"Is real artifact."
These are all the words that Ejnar is willing to offer in response to Bela's grandiose claims, the smith's face giving no further clues into the depths of his thoughts. Whether he is worthy to repair such a weapon is left unsaid, as are the particular details of his status with the Forge of Creation. Instead, he shifts his cold gaze onto the first chest and turns his back to the kneeling maid, wandering a couple of steps closer to the pile of worthless artifice.
"This work is bad. Has crude connection to Bird Stick, but mangled. Pitiful." Without looking at Bela he resumes the gentle sculpting of his statue, frowning down at the contents of the chest. "Craftsmanship is so bad I can not tell what was intent of connection, but was obviously too sloppy to work. I can fix these, but two things we must discuss."
The wolfish glare of the craftsman returns to the lord, all other distractions seemingly forgotten. The hulking bald men, the commander who brought him here, and the ominous maid all fade away as he fixes Bela with the full, blunt weight of his intent gaze.
"If you truly know story of Tyrfing, you know fate of those who take what is not offered. Price of treachery will be not so kind as Dvalinn or Durinn."
A beat of silence passes, Ejnar allowing the lord a moment to absorb the threat he has delivered.
"Other thing is purpose of relics. Do not know what you wish them to be, so can not tell you what is needed to make."

He was on the hook.

Bela's reaction was aloof, distant. He would allow his underlings react for him. Szabolc was still embarassed, ashamed, and averting his anger from being revealed. The servant was watching Ejnar now, waiting for him to make another mistake. But when the craftsman responds frankly on the craftsmenship, the bald men do not look offended. No, they look ashamed as Szabolc. Bela does not state what he can feel around him. But the feeling comes out within, as a pulsation of emotional force.


"I am well aware of the story of Tyrfing;" Bela responds, rubbing the tip of his scepter with his index finger. "At least, what is recorded in the The Saga of Hervor and Heidrek. The final battle took place not too far from this place, we believe. But we are not thieves, no, if it was, this would be much more -simple- of a problem." Bela turns his back to Ejnar, walking towards Szabolc.

He looks up at his brother, peering up with a coy smile.

"The House of Podiebrad's relationship with the sword is incidental." He continues, trying to see his brother's reaction. He stares proudly ahead. "We inherited these lands after our house disposed of the Countess Elizabeth Bathory de Ecsed. I will keep the legends short, but our first glorious campaign nearly eradicated the threat of vampires from Central Europe; but our expedition into the Translyvanian mountains was cut short by betrayal, and war. We found our lands here in Hungary, at the ancient Roman ruins, having purged it of Bathory's foul brood."

"We have crypts here, long before our arrival."

Bela turns around, shaking his scepter towards the chapelish wearabouts. "Beneath the chapel is the catacombs, and within it is the countless burials of hundreds of heroes. Podiebrad and other alike. Within there, while scrouging it for relics, and disturbing those tombs... There was an incident, where the tomb of the General Balazs Magyar was broken into. Not by us, but another. The General's body remains at large, but within, well.

Within was a story.

"We were able to translate the script and runes within, and it was that very saga. The broken sword, we were convinced it was Tyrfing. Which is a problem, as you are well aware. For whoever unsheaths the blade, must sheath it again wet with blood, with a fresh kill. Otherwise, they will be doomed to die. A cursed blade of incredible power. That enough would be enough to stay us away, but when we found it, it was shattered and unseathed. Our craftsmen would not touch it. No man would touch it. Whoever touches it, may bear the curse." Bela strides to the servant girl; her eyes were shut, she was breathing in slowly, deeply, holding the bowl of grapes. Bela reaches down, to pull a single fruit. "But we had a legendary artifact. We were to going to leave it with the NOL for safe keeping. And then you, appeared, and..."


Bela gives the servent girl a short kick. The young lady gasps awake. Not ashamed, no, not in the least. But with her blushing, she could barely hide a smile. Bela lowers down, painted lips pursed as he lectures the girl. "This is history, sweet Zsa Zsa. History and legend, interwoven into our rich house's legacy. Please pay attention." Bela turns away, looking back at Ejnar. "Our history lies in our relics, Ejnar." And he gestures at the chest of junk.

"And hence, our embarassment"

Bela shakes his head, walking towards the opened chest, looking down with disgust. "Our house, in the wake of our last Patriarch, had become creatively sterile. Something that becomes more and more apparent by the day. Our craftsmen, our smiths, our engineers are unable to replicate and repair our relics that break in the line of battle. These are not all of them, Ejnar. These are only a chestful. The scope of broken artifacts and family relics is tenfold. This is only a sample. Is it not clear, now?" Bela shakes his scepter at Ejnar, straddling the chest between his legs. He gestures it down, at the contents within. "We are losing more than people now; our most talented house members are being drawn away to the NOL, the very NOL we had once come together to found, simply because we lack the artifacts to support them. There is no sense to disguise the truth."

"We are dying, Ejnar."

Szabolc opens his mouth, about to interject with something. His body was tense. But no words come out. Bela, for his part, ignores it, sweeping his free hand down into the chest. "We are not thieves, Ejnar. We are mercenaries. And if I have the choice of paying a professional to give us even a piece of our former glory, or giving away any opportunity of glory for comforts, I would pay the professional. The NOL will keep us safe. Clean. Sterile, if I give them this blade. As to the nature of the relics, well." Bela lifts up a broken armlet, raising it high to his eye level. "You are sufficiently enticed that I think I can share with you the nature you are specifically working with, hm.~" The click of his heels comes, as he approaches the craftsman. One hand, holding the poorly fused anklet. The other, with outstretched arm?

The scepter itself.

"I had read that those of the Heavenly Forge can understand the craftsmanship. Hold these." Bela smirks, a wily look hiding in his painted eyes. "Feel their energy, their connection. Learn, and understand. I will let you feel whatever you need to feel, whatever you need to glimpse into the craftsmanship. Don't worry, you won't come to any harm." A sparkle comes over his eye, a glint, as he gestures both for Ejnar to take.

"I have made sure of that."

Often times, conversations with Ejnar can be summed up in simple terms. Frustrating. Infuriating. One sided. His inability to work alongside others was the entire reason he was given the title of Reclaimer in the first place. To be so blunt and dismissive that even a culture of Vikings wants nothing to do with you says everything that need be said about his lack of people skills.
A beat passes in which the young Viking continues to stare, insuring that Bela does indeed comprehend just what might happen if this were to become a hostage situation. Only once the nobleman confirms his understanding does the warrior drop his gaze, glancing down toward the glass figurine in his hands.
Bela talks. He speaks of the ancient stories that the craftsman knows by heart. Of the tragic end of the weapon, and the historical role played by the Podiebrad family. Further, he speaks of an ancient tomb opened, and the translated story within. A tale that he will have to send back to his clan, as no lore can be left unsung. He speaks of the cursed blade and their fear of it. Bela talks, but all the while the Norseman is working, shaping the glass in his hands with flat indifference.
Glancing up at the sound of foot striking maid, Ejnar flicks his gaze from Bela, down to the blushing girl, then back again. There is a faint air of impatience about the Norseman, an expectance of things yet to come. That abates slightly when the shorter man gestures back toward the crate in question, finally getting back to the matter at hand.
Or so Ejnar thought.
A slight sigh escapes the muscular craftsman as story time continues. The House is dying. The smiths are garbage. And the Reclaimer is losing the last of his patience, expression darkening as the issue is danced around and around until, eventually, the relentless flow of words trails off, leaving him staring bluntly down into the face of the patriarch as he approaches to offer both scepter and trash.
Cool eyes shift from the Rod in one hand, to the armlet in the other. Both receive only the briefest of glances before the full weight of that stare returns to the nobleman's face, eye contact steady and unrelenting. There is no move taken to touch either item, only the gentle twitches of fingers at work and the stone-faced impassivity of one who can't be bothered enough to care.
"You are bad at giving correct information," Ejnar informs the smaller man bluntly. "Do not need to hold for understanding. Have been able to see gees since walking in, as well as soul network, and function of sword worn by Szabolc."
Letting out another exasperated sigh, he palms his still glowing statuette in one hand and reaches out to pluck the armlet from Bela's fingers with open distaste, stepping around the nobleman to stride toward the chest with impatient steps. Tossing the busted artifact in, he stoops down to thrust his hand into the mess, stirring it about while his eyes bore into the mess, dragging some of the bottom-most items to the top. Only once he has gotten a good look at the contents throughout does he straighten, the bulk of his attention returning to his statue.
"Have been thinking of way to fix shattered soul tethers while you talk and talk. These are not creations of my clan. We do not use such methods as Bird Stick, is crude tool that encourages evil. But, is possible for one of my clan to synthesize soul energy through use of Seithr. Is also possible to connect to pre-existing gees, though this will take some practice. Controlling opposite energy through Seithr is complicated technique. With this, and unbroken relics for template, I fix more than two in three items within chest."
The entirety of the report is delivered offhandedly, an engineer reporting on the status of road repairs, or a census man giving statistics. Perhaps it is an act, and the challenge set before Ejnar will be some epic struggle and breakthrough of wits, a thing of legend. But if so, his tone does not suggest it. If anything he seems resentful of the entire process, more interested in the work of his hands in the moment. That is, until he glances away from the glowing glass and toward the second chest, adding flatly.
"I will fix, but for all shards of sword. Is not whole, and I am not fool, Bird Man."
One chest, for a centuries old sword still sung about to this day.

THere was no hiding the imperial majesty around the Patriarch.

The subtle defiance was like an open handed slap in the face. Bela's lips are tight, as he draws back his scepter. The comment of the soul sword with Szabolc makes the commander touch the handle of his blade on instinct; not to draw it, but to highlight the connection that the smith could see. But when he explains, in plain detail, what was needed, and how much to expect, that outrage fades... only to resurge with the price of it.


"Unacceptable." Comes Szabolc, finally breaking forward and stepping. "Apologies, Patriarch, for speaking out of order, but this is unacceptable. Those artifacts are a legacy of our House. Sacrificing 1 for 2 others would not be acceptable in our Raven Guard, and it would not be acceptable for our relics." Szabolc -glares- at Bela. And the Patriarch... shakes his head, hair tossing as he chooses to ignore his commander. "You misunderstand, respectfully, heavenly craftsman." Honeyed words, silver tongue, as he slips past Szabolc, focused on Ejnar. "This is only the surface of how many artifacts we'd want you to fix for us." The man's brow furrows, as his grip tightens on his scepter.


}]> Then what should I do? If he forces my hand, I must imprison him <[{



}]>Yes, I know what he wants, the sword, I'm not a fool <]{





Bela resumes, after the briefest of pauses. "But, give and take, give and take. Szabolc." The man turns on his heels, as the servant stares daggers at the mustached man. "My trusted, honored brother. We have broken junk. Chests and chests of broken junk. Our legacy has become junk. And if we continue to rot away our potential, we will only have junk... and whatever the NOL graciously lets us have, in exchange for our best and brightest. This man... this heavenly craftsman will help us. We have Seithr. We have this chest."

"But we have tenfold more."

Bela's eyes narrow. The bald men steps back. There is a feeling... a feeling of apprehension. Szabolc... seems to relax. Cold steel, cold eyes. All on Ejnar. Bela continues, approaching Ejnar... and stopping. A good distance away. "No, no, you've explained. Too many words. I will be clear. What you ask for is fine. What you offer is too little. For the sword to be your payment of services, we would need -all- the relics repaired. Not simply these." He gestures the scepter at the chest, shaking it. "Legendary blades are rather hard to come by. But know this, your services are not squandered, or dismissed. They demand a high price... and I think you would find it becoming, as a counter offer. We would normally have you stay here within our grounds, until the total completion of the project. With supplies, and materials, and time consideration... imagine, being trapped here for weeks. Months, even. And an exotic specimen like yourself would loath to be kept within our manor walls"

"As a guest, not a prisoner." Bela emphasizes, with a smirk.

"But the Raven Guard has fallen less professional in the decades, and you'd almost certainly find yourself in our hot springs at the personal urging of our men and women. The soldiers, they like their entertainment." A passing gaze to Zsa Zsa, who gets... uncomfortably serene. Blank. Bela shakes his head. "No, no, a free spirit like yours should be allowed to flourish. Be unconfined. To come and go as he pleases. Thus, my counter-offer." He holds up a palm. "In exchange for repairing the relics in first chest, to our specifications, I will allow you to take the shards of the broken blade within this chest..." Szabolc audibly chokes, as Bela pauses for effect.

A wayward glimpse at him almost certainly shows the intention of the pause.

"All but one. A single piece will stay with us. The blade is missing pieces, as you state. Splinters, lost to history... or -thieves.-" A hiss of disgust slips from the lips of the Patriarch. "You come as you wish, you leave as you wish. You work as you wish. We work together to find the missing remains of the blade, or separately. After all, until the last of the blades come together, there is a bill I still must pay. You keep your Freedom, Ejnar. You keep most of the blade. And your safety and security becomes as important to us, as it is to you." A wry smirk. "Just start with the first chest, and it'll be set." The palm was extended. A shake?

"Do we have a deal?"

Szabolc's abrupt outburst draws a derisive snort from the dark-haired craftsman, though rather than give the commander any amount of his attention he returns it to the statue before him, allowing the words of both he, and the nobleman to part around him like water. Whether bitter or honeyed, words are simply words. There has been no misunderstanding, and there is no further reason to barter. Enough air has been wasted on this conversation as it is. As the Fop King says, the relics in the chest are junk, and will remain junk until repaired. And yet...
The sudden tension in the room draws Ejnar's frowning attention up from his work just in time to witness the fixed glare of the kneeling maid upon the commander, as well as the narrowed stare of the lord. He is still watching when Bela turns back to face him, grey eyes cool and alert.
A forced guest? More time spent with those jabbering birds? And again the odd behavior of the maid. All of it is enough to shift the Viking's faint frown back into an open glower that subsides only a touch as the Noble continues, outlying the true deal between them.
"This work will demand much Seithr. Energy in rawest form must be refined, molded. Each piece will have its cost. You provide, and what you ask is possible."
Glancing back down at the statuette between his hands, the tone of his frown changes. A wave of heat rolls out from the cage of his fingers, brilliant orange light radiating up to light his face from below. However, as he stares fixedly down into the conflagration, face set in a mask of concentration, the light begins to pale. From orange to yellow, yellow to blue. Even from a distance away the heat is intense, doubling and redoubling as a miniature sun begins to take shape in his grasp. Hotter and hotter, until the shading passes through blue and into white.
A final wash of heat blasts through the room, followed soon after by a soothing warmth, the fingers of which reach out to brush gently across their surroundings. Though the pure white radiance is blinding in its intensity, the touch of the light is calm and nurturing, the fresh sensation of sun on skin without the scorching heat.
Little more than a shadow who's fingers now cage the head-sized ball of light, Ejnar's voice cuts through the room with unnatural strength, words etching themselves onto reality, intent given form through the power of creation. There is no blunted speech, no crudity of meaning, the Viking's words as plane and clear as mountain bells.
"I, Ejnar Valgrimsson, barer of the flames of creation, swear upon the King of the gods, the Ruler of Ravens, to restore what relics I can to the house of Podiebrad. I will work until this job is complete, or a year and a day have passed, whichever comes first. I do this for the shards of the sword Tyrfing, which have been promised me in return. If this job is completed, let them be bound to return all missing shards to the Forge of Creation. This is the deal that I offer."
The last word hangs in the air, resounding and firm, as the white light gradually bleeds away to a faint, glowing pulse visible between the frowning man's fingers. Standing there in his drab fatigues and combat boots, face set in its usual unhappy frown and wolfish eyes cold, it is difficult to reconcile the ill-tempered man with one who could call upon such sudden and intense divinity. A second look, however, would reveal the sleeves of his jacket to be heavily singed around the cuffs, and the line of his shoulders to be slumped, dark lines having appeared beneath his eyes.
Stepping forward, Ejnar offers the statue out to Bela on one work-roughened hand. Free from its cage, the true scope of what has been created is clear to see. Lying across his palm is a perfect likeness of a Raven Guard, mask on and claws out. If it were upright it would be in a stalking posture, everything about the figure hunched low and predatory. Everything about the statuette is perfect, from the straps and buckles of the armor to the way the cloth bunches in wrinkles around the joints, armor plating etched with feathers. The only thing that does not match is the coloring, the glass having gone completely clear, radiating a soft white light that gently warms all who look upon it.
"Swear oath, Bird King, then I work. You keep this. If word is broken, we will know."
Whatever clarity had smoothed Ejnar's rough voice is gone now, the man back to being as coarse and blunt as he ever was, cold eyes hard and impatient.

Bela would do it.

The Patriarch would exhaust every reserve of Seithr he held, to bring such raw power to the house. Let Szabolc greive. Let them all tsk and tut. The NOL would be furious. Let them. Let everyone gnash their teeth. And if they run out of Seithr? They would just get more. Everything will be sacrificed before Bela, except the benefit of the house.

But even that resolve pales before the dawning majesty of the oath.

Szabolc instictively recoils. The bald men, fall into prayer. And the servant stares, in a hungry awe. Bela, the Patriarch watches and listens, matching the majesty in tandem. Staring into the beautiful work, the words of the oath rattle into his very soul. Oaths. Oaths were the most dangerous magic in all of time. He was calling upon the oaths. Brash confidence wanes, if only a moment, as the Patriarch grips his scepter in both hands, rubbing it as he stares into the infinite light, the craftsmenship flawless.



>]}And yet you do nothing to stop it {[<


The hand extended, he takes the statuette. "Agreed."

And upon the glass statue, a deep rift tears across it's eye.

The pact was made.

Log created on 11:00:37 02/07/2020 by Ejnar, and last modified on 23:09:32 02/22/2020.