Aujaq woke up in his small cottage outside Vendig and felt compelled to travel between the worlds to ask the spirits for guidance. He brewed up magical herbs and under the watching eyes of his spirit companion Koda (currently in form of a huge snow badger), he took a deep sip of the steaming, dark-brown liquid. He resisted the urge to twist his face as the bitter taste reached his tongue and leaned back when the familiar feeling of losing control swept over him. In the following vision, he saw three humans, one woman and two men, who were about to board a ship taking them up the coast to another town, which looked dark and threatening in Aujaq’s mental picture.
As he returned to the realms of reality, he knew he needed to join those adventurers on their quest. He just did not know – as usual – why… When he got up and packed his scarce belongings (his trusted hunting spear, a ritual drum and rattle, some medicinal and hypnotic herbs), Koda was already waiting outside. They left before sunrise.
From his vision Aujaq knew exactly which ship he was looking for and so he waited at the “Crouching Tiger” until the other adventurers and the crew arrived. He was eyed carefully by all of them as he stood there, his arms crossed in firm determination: A tall and grim looking Icewalker, dressed in the traditional leather outfit of his tribe, with a snarling snow badger at his side. A man called Vlad approached him and demanded to know about Aujaq’s intentions for this journey; he looked a little intimidated by the stranger, but he also seemed to not mind an extra pair of strong hands.
“It is my destiny”, Aujaq told him briefly in a tone that left no room for contradiction.
“Ok then, welcome aboard!”, Vlad answered.
The crew and captain seemed able enough to Aujaq’s untrained eyes, but he never trusted ships, so he wanted to please the spirits before embarking on the sea with a traditional ritual for safe travels. Apparently impressed, the rich lady, Laima, offered an expensive Simhata-hide for this purpose and although Aujaq preferred alive sacrifices, he performed the sacred ritual anyway. As he burned the hide, played on his drum and did the ritual dance of his tribe, the water around the boat rippled, wind blew up the sails and the adventurers looked around in astonishment. Unfortunately, Aujaq knew better than to be impressed by that and he could feel the spirits were not pleased with the sacrifice – he should have hunted down a deer, after all.
To Aujaq’s surprise, they arrived in the small town of Siegsdorf nevertheless, safe and sound. It was a small place compared to the bustling city of Vendig, but still way too crowded and narrow for a free man like Aujaq. They were met by some charm oozing merchant, but Aujaq had no interest whatsoever in the customs and courtesies of the white people – they could bow, kiss hands and trade silly trinkets as often as they wished, he was here for a bigger purpose…
As the group moved to the local temple, Aujaq tagged along – it was the best clue he had to stick to these adventurers. Apparently they were looking for some book, but within the damp and dark library, Aujaq was more interested in the strong presence he could feel within this new built walls. With experienced gestures he drew a summoning circle on the ground, using the ritual charcoal he brought from home, lit several small bowls with incense which quickly fill the room with a heavy, yet somehow enlightening smell and started chanting in old Icewalker tongue. Not long after he started the ritual, a tall figure materialized in the underground library, inspecting the area like the man of the house. The figure seemed vaguely human and presented itself in shining armour with two giant white wings hanging from each side. Its face was covered by a helmet, but Aujaq could feel cold, divine eyes resting on him as he bowed to show his respect.
“Why did you call me?”, the figure demanded to know. As Aujaq explained, – humbly bowing and paying his respects – the god did not seem impressed at all. “I have no need not answer to wild folk like yours. This is my house and my people who worship me. Your spirit companion is welcome”, he stated while nodding to Koda, “but please make sure you and your… lot” (he pointed at the adventurers, who eyed Aujaq uneasily, talking to thin air in a tongue they did not understand) “clean up after you.” With that he vanished again and left Aujaq to the duty of cleaning charcoal and burned leaves from the library ground.
After that the others left to spend the night at what the city people call an “inn”: A small house where different people get crammed into tiny rooms and stumble upon each other in the “tavern” every time they want to leave the building – not the place where Aujaq would like to spend even one minute, let alone the night. So he headed for the ship again, got comfortable on some furs and blankets and prepared his night-meditation. Just as he was about to lit the first incense, he noticed some splashing noises in the water and headed on deck just in time to see some indefinable shapes darting throughout the shallow sea towards the city. Aujaq turned to his trusted fellow Koda for support, but the spirit in badger form just grunted and turned lazily in his sleep. Looks like he was on his own then…
Determined, Aujaq leaped over the railing and started to chase the black shadows which were now getting out of the water and raced over the shore, almost too fast for him to follow. Upon entering the city, he got a glimpse at one of them: They were small, barely human anymore, more like misshaped dwarfs, but wore some sort of leather clothing and armor and Aujaq could see sharp knives glittering in the moonlight. He instantly recognized them as “Wichtel”, little troublemakers who usually haunt farms and small villages – but seeing as many of them in such a big city struck Aujaq as rather alarming. He had to find out what this was about and so he sped up chasing them.
They ran in sharp zigzag curves along the narrow streets of Siegsdorf, around corners and up walls and moved so fast that Aujaq had to try hard to keep up with them. Right, left, up, down, right again – and suddenly one of the little troublemakers was right in front of him! Aujaq grabbed the chance and the little guy and held him at arm’s length as the devious creature tried to snap at him with a mouth full of sharp little teeth and swung at him with his knife. “Graaaaaaargh!” Aujaq was unprepared and so the little devil managed to cut his arm; surprised and in pain he dropped the creature, which immediately vanished into the shadows of the night, untraceable even for Aujaq’s trained eyes…
The next morning Aujaq told the others about his nightly adventures, but they all seemed rather unimpressed and busy with city affairs to see the severity of this unusual encounter. “Ignorant white men!”, Aujaq muttered under his breath. He had no choice but to stick with them as they went to the festivities held in the city today. The city square was crowded beyond sight and Aujaq became more and more uncomfortable by the minute. The others were arguing with some flashy rich man, who was somehow related to the man called Vlad, but Aujaq was already to anxious by the people and noise around him to care.
When they finally moved on to the blessing ceremony, Aujaq could breathe easily again and was eager to witness the rituals of the city people. The whole city was heavily decorated and glittering, the city folk dressed up in their most expensive garment and merchants were giving away free food and trinkets to celebrate the homecoming of their City Father. As he made an appearance, Aujaq recognized the angel-like figure that appeared before him in the library, parading up and down in front of the masses and apparently pleased with this amount of worship. The crowd was cheering, the priest performing foreign rituals and everyone was overly excited and cheerful.
Chaos started only an instant later.
First they heard screams of panic and horror all over the city, then people started running in all directions and smoke rose from the far end of the buildings. Out of the corner of his eye Aujaq could see some of the Wichtels jumping from roof to roof, wreaking havoc all over the city and attacking the poor townspeople. Screams and smoke filled the air as the adventurers covered behind the hired mercenaries; Aujaq threw his trusted spear at one of the creatures, but it missed, so he had no choice but to retreat inside the ring of shields and swords, too. Although he would have rather been outside, heroically helping the townsfolk, the Wichtels’ aggressive behaviour forced him to stay behind the human barrier for now. He called Koda to his side, who was growling and snapping the air viciously. Far above he could see the City Father, slashing and swiping at the disturbance and putting out fires, visibly furious – if he was anything like the spirits and gods Aujaq met on his journeys, the Wichtels truly ruined his “special day”.
Amidst the chaos and running crowd of people, a demon dog suddenly appeared, a Wichtel clinging to its back. As it attacked a nobleman, the man called Vlad started to recite strange words Aujaq had never heard before, but from his gestures and the visible discomfort they caused the infernal creature, he was sure it was an exorcism of some sort. Unfortunately, rituals like those take some time to affect demons; Aujaq and the rogue called Mal reacted swiftly as the hound from hell charged in Vlads direction, baring it’s teeth, the Wichtel on its back screaming like a madman. “Koda, attack!”, Aujaq bellowed to his spirit companion and the badger charged without hesitation. He sunk his sharp teeth deep into the dog’s flank, once, twice, until the beast finally collapsed. In a fashion Aujaq had observed many times before, Koda absorbed the demon’s energy, “sucking” him in through his mouth – or at least, the smokey shape that remained of the dog. He could not resist licking his mouth after that and looked more like a badger than the divine creature he actually was. Koda looked around, ready for more action – and he should not be disappointed: Two other demon dogs appeared with their strange riders on top, but with Mal’s help and Vlad’s chanting, Koda (more beast than spirit now) was able to kill them with almost no effort.
Following their intuition, they headed to the church after that, just to find the library in flames. It was only now that Aujaq realized the woman, Laima, was missing while the fighting took place – very suspicious, he thought. But as they confronted here later in the inn, she only vaguely mentioned a strange woman she encountered in the library, but tried to hide any specifics about her. What was Laima up to? Was she protecting her? Aujaq could not figure out the white noblewoman yet, but he would sure keep an eye on her in the future – from a nice distance…