Of Family and Spirits

A part of The Viking’s Bride frieze by Walter Crane, 1883

Hello friends! Happy holidays!

It was probably ambitious on my part to try to do an interactive project over the holidays. Since I haven’t heard from anyone regarding the Robber’s Bridge submissions I posted last week, I’m going to hold off one more week before moving forward with work on the adventure.

If you’re interested in the project, click on the link above and tell me which options you like and which you don’t! Feel free to riff on the ones you like! If you want to see more interactive projects like this in the future, please contribute. Otherwise I’ll assume the interest isn’t there.

Spiritual Matters

In the meantime, let’s delve a little bit into the Ættir, a type of spirit described in the Of Trolls and Men chapter in Middarmark1Page 91. An ættir is a clan’s ancestral spirit. For all intents and purposes, it is the clan. As it fares, so does the clan, and as the clan fares, so does its ættir. Think of the ættir as a minor deity with her family serving as her worshippers. She serves as the conduit between the living members of the clan and the deceased ancestors.

Great! What does that mean and how can you use it in play? Let’s take a look at one clan’s ættir to get a better grasp of it.

Those of you familiar with the Middarmark know that the power of the Jarls of Sudstrond was smashed by Scefings in the disastrous Battle of Sølvfjord nine years ago2See Sudstrond, Middarmark, page 22.

The jarl’s 10-year-old son Stigand, left in his family’s hall with a handful of loyal retainers during the battle, was one of the clan’s only survivors that terrible day. At 19, Jarl Stigand has established himself at Valborg, a castle at the western mouth of the Gull Pass3See Stigand, Jarl of Sudstrond, Middarmark, page 22.

Stigand is the last scion of the once-powerful Ageiring clan, founded by Ageir the Raven, companion to Sigrun Shieldbreaker and first Jarl of Sudstrond.

Ageir may have won the jarldom for deeds of valor at Sigrun’s side, but it was his wife, Ran Deepmind, who shouldered the burden of administering the vast holding and its wealth. She, too, was responsible for maneuvering to keep the conquered Græling peoples of Sudstrond in check, forging alliances with some powerful clans while carefully setting the rest against each other.

In life, her leadership made the Ageirings one of the wealthiest and most powerful clans in the Middarmark. In death, she apotheosized as the ættir of the Ageirings. In the two-and-a-half centuries since, she has continued to protect and guide her descendants as the clan’s ancestral mother.

Ran is much diminished since the disastrous Battle of Sølvfjord 10 years ago: The entire clan, save only Stigand and his great aunt, Solveig, were lost. Most of the clan’s regalia sank or burned with the Ageiring fleet, and Ran’s shrine was despoiled when Ravnhallen, the Ageiring seat in Stortmarke, was overrun and given to the flames.

Half mad with grief and rage, she plots to guide her clan back to greatness.

Ran Deepmind, Ættir of the Ageirings

The Ageiring Regalia

Once the Ageiring clan regalia was expansive: Ageir’s bow and cloak of raven feathers, the Raven Banner, a corselet of bright mail gifted by Sigrun herself, and more. Most of it was seized by the Scefings or was lost to the deeps of the Sølvfjord. Only a few pieces remain, a pewter-sheathed drinking horn, a fine bone comb and Ran’s samite shawl. They adorn Ran’s shrine in Valborg and are the clan’s last surviving connection to its ancestral spirit.

Any member of the Ageiring clan—whether by birth, marriage or adoption—may use a piece of regalia in a ritual (Ritualist, Ob 3) to connect with Ran. When so connected, Ran can speak through that character’s mouth in furtherance of her belief or instinct. Likewise, she can provide help to characters that have performed the ritual, so long as they remain in contact with the regalia. She can only help within the context of her nature descriptors and if her belief or instinct apply.

This, by the way, is one of the reasons family is so important in the Middarmark. Having a family means having an ættir, and having an ættir means having Otherworldly protection and guidance. Without family, you are at the mercy of any malicious spirit that chances upon you.

With her nature reduced to 3, Ran isn’t that powerful currently, but she’s canny and driven. You can bring her into play with Stigand’s aunt Solveig acting as her priestess. If the players want to take up Stigand’s cause, their characters must prove themselves to her. Their characters might swear to serve Stigand and join the clan that way. A character might marry Stigand or convince him to adopt them. If the characters join the clan, Ran becomes their ættir. One of them might even be entrusted with a piece of clan regalia.

Of course, Ran has an agenda. She plans to make the Ageirings the most powerful clan in the Middarmark. But first the clan needs to grow in numbers, wealth and influence, and she will see the characters as useful tools to that end. Ran’s first order of business is to move against the Tualing clan and its ættir, Tua the Unruly. We might explore the Tualings and their ættir in a future post.

3 thoughts on “Of Family and Spirits

  1. This makes a great campaign seed, and something to really help PCs more engage with the setting. Trying to grow the clan to strengthen the ættir can definitely be an ongoing focus, but also trying to recover the lost regalia can help provide a lot of reasons for the party to keep delving. Excellent stuff.

  2. Pingback: Adventure Design: Robber’s Bridge (Part III) | Torchbearer

Comments are closed.