A God Am I
Northern Barbarian on a Vision Quest
A tall blond man. He wears a bear’s head as a hood, a silver torc adorned with bear’s heads, and a disturbing mask. He is clad in furs, hides, and thick wool, protecting him from attack, and he carries a heavy axe at his belt along with assorted pouches and supplies.
When he takes off his mask, one sees that he is young, with a slight beard. He wears blue war paint and a fierce expression. He is followed by a stocky dog with a distinctive brown, black, and white coat and a mischievous expression; he can sometimes be seen leading his pony, a sturdy gray mare carrying very basic camping gear.
As a child, Aki hoped to become a hero out of the sagas – a maverick warrior who single-handedly saved entire armies and clans. As he grew older, he chose to join the ranks of the berserker cult of his native War Flame clan, to pursue his dream, but as he advanced through the berserker cult he became gradually disillusioned. He realized that the berserker cult offered no chance at becoming the sort of hero he wanted to be, and by joining he had limited his opportunities severely.
He has since hoped to find a way to leave the War Flame, and now he’s found one – the dream quest to Nubereg has given him the chance he’s hoped for all his life. He is perennially hopeful, but no longer exactly optimistic – he is well aware that the rules of society can and will hinder him. His goal is to accomplish great things going forward, however he can.
Aki is not well-liked. Berserkers rarely are, because although they are invaluable to any chieftain they also cause trouble. They are dangerous. In their state of animal madness they threaten not just their own kin, but any neighboring clans.
And yet, they are respected. They know spirit ways that lend them great strength. With the hide of a bear on their back they are invincible, like the bear themselves. They know the legends of the bear-men, the urskans, who taught the first icemen to call on the essence of urskan and fight like starving animals. So Aki and the others of the berserker cult of the War Flame clan of the icemen of the north are used like infected corpses or flaming arrows in war: kept safe and inert until the time has come to unleash them on the enemy.
Aki hates this. He wants to accomplish great things, like a warrior out of legend. He wants to be everything a berserker is supposed to be. No danger will he be, no rabid bear, no marauder in the night; but he who turns the tide of battle.
The fathers of berserkers do not often associate much with their sons. Not so Aki’s father. He understands the need for an outlet that is not sheer destruction. Aki’s mother, who died birthing him, taught him that. So he braves the bear-fury and spars with his son, for both their happiness. It was a trick and a half to get anyone in the tribe to let a berserker boy have a dog – he would kill it, they all assumed, in a fit of fury – but the dog persisted, in part because few in the tribe were aware of his existence and so nobody tried to take him away from his young master. In this way the dog earned his name, Runi – “secret.”
Twelve weeks ago (and twelve is an important number in the War Flame), Aki woke from a dream that he thought might let him out. He dreamed of strange creatures like those out of sagas, and he dreamed they walked the streets of a town that he thought he had been to before. So he went to the witch-priestess who was said to learn the future from the spirits of wind and bone, and he said to her, “I have dreamed something strange.”
He told her about the things he saw in his dream, and she listened. Then she went out into the cold wind, and noted which way it was blowing. It blew south. Then she took out her carven bones and let them clatter on the ice, and she spend much time pondering them. Then she told Aki, “The name of that town is Nubereg. The wind is pointing to it. Go.” And because it took Aki far away from the icelands where he could hurt anyone the chieftain of the War Flame cared about, Aki was allowed to go, dropped off by a trade ship and given a pony for hauling back whatever riches he found on his travels. Everywhere he went he asked for Nubereg, until he came far enough east that someone had heard of it.
The spirits of wind and bone spoke truly to the witch-priestess (she cast a /divination/ spell;) Aki’s fate does lie in Nubereg. Aki’s own dream may indeed have been a prophecy, sent by the gods; or maybe it was only his feverish imagination desperately seeking escape. Yet here he is now in Nubereg, and he will be a hero whatever comes.