Heort's Path

The myth for this quest is given in "King of Sartar". This is now back in print, and can be purchased from Wizard's Attic, among other places. I have no intention of breaching copyright by repeating the whole myth here until KoS is once more unobtainable: then I'll ask permission.

Since in fact I only use a very small part of the full myth for this quest, let's quote the little bit that's relevant. It may not make much sense on its own, of course.

"Hengall was the second son of King Vingkot. .....

When all the world was gone, and every man was alone, Heort went out upon the world. There, at the edge of the world, he met with Second Son, who told him of his great and terrible battle. He showed Heort his wounds, and the secret of the Star Heart, and told him the secrets of the I Fought We Won Battle.

Heort remembered that fight, and went on past the Second Son, and to the edge of the world. There he met the evil of his world, and won.


Whenever one of us is made a man, we all travel upon Heort's path. This is the path of Orlanth."

I omit Heort's later deeds, founding forts and acquiring the Law Staff. The players are presented with the full myth for discussion before they embark on their quest, so they know exactly who the Second Son is and why he's out at the edge of the world.

The start

We go through the standard business of getting the PCs onto the HeroPlane, as explained in the main Initiation section. Since they are not yet adults, they do not yet have real weapons, but they have been supplied with the practise weapons they have been using in training. These become "real" once on the HeroPlane. They leave the hut they have used for their preparations, and find themselves outside the village palisades. Only things look different.

They are, of course, on the HeroPlane, and this is a good time to tell them what the HeroPlane looks like, as explained elsewhere. In this case, they are in fact outside Heort's Stead (which is itself a shadow of Oralnth's Stead), in the Darkness. The Stead looks a lot like their own home, since that is probably what they expect it to look like. But it looks battered, as if it has been under attack for a very long time. Parts of the walls look as if they've been eaten.

The light is odd. That's because there's no Sun (Yelm is dead, remember?). The Sky Dome still gives some light (Elmal/Yelmalio is still here), and their home stead also seems to be a source of light (because that's where Elmal lives!).

There is a path leading west. The geography they can see, incidentally, should be that of the area they live, but as it was then. So for my Marshedgers, they're at the western edge of the Quivin Hills, with a river to cross before they reach the higher mountains to the west. The Upland Marsh does not yet exist.

One would hope that they follow the path.

The Journey

The journey west is designed to test their ability to work as a team. The challenges are simple enough, but they may not realise to start with that to a very minor extent they can call on Orlanth or Ernalda's powers (gender dependant, of course!). So the boys will find the wind helping them up slopes, the girls will find rocks forming footholds for them. All minor stuff, but it adds atmosphere.

They have a river to cross. There was once a bridge here, but all that's left is a bit of rope attached at each side. It's possible to swim it, but the current is strong and it's too deep to wade. Provided the party includes at least one strong swimmer and some rope, they should manage this.

They have a mountain range to ascend. Climb rolls, please. Again, this shouldn't be difficult.

In both cases, make a note of who helps who, and any criticals or dramatic moments. They may end up attracting the attention of any surviving gods, or acquiring spirit magic spells. And pay special attention if anyone tries praying. They're not initiates yet, so they wouldn't expect much effect in the first place, but some of the gods they might normally pray to are currently dead or at least in the underworld, and hence unavailable.

As they continue west, it gets darker. This is not due to the day drawing to a close, as they are before Time here. This is them getting closer to Chaos and the Edge of the World. Far away to the west, at the edge of what they can see, is a light. As they get closer, they can see that it's coming from a stead. They shoud reach it just as it gets completely dark.

The Greeting

This is, of course, the home of the Second Son. He will come to the entrance of his palisade and challenge them with the Orlanthi Greeting. One would hope that at least some of the players will recognise it and make the right responses: if not, their characters should.

"Halt, Strangers! Who comes this way, to a place which is not allowed to everyone? Do you come in friendship, or as foes?"

And we hope the players say: "Greetings, guardian. We come as friends."

"Greetings, then Strangers. You speak to the Lord of this place. I am Hengall Vingotsson. Tell me your names if you are friends."

And they do, we hope. Claiming to be his kin would be a little premature: that's what they're here to prove.

"You are welcome here, <insert names of all PCs>. I offer you hospitality here, in my house, and promise my protection to you and yours while inside. I offer you water, to quench your thirst."

"I accept this, with gratitude. I will not rob you, or bare arms, and I will speak ever of your generosity."

"Then you are welcome, guest. And I offer you more: a blanket to sleep under while you are my guest. This is a thing we offer only to friends, or those we would have as friends."

"I accept this, with gratitude, and I will speak ever of your generosity." (That's the standard response for the rest of this Greeting: they should be chanting in unison by the end)

"Then you are welcome, guest. And I offer you more: meat, to fill your belly. This is a thing we offer only to kinsmen, and those as good as them."
(So he's accepted them as kin)

"Then you are welcome, guest. And I offer you more: salt, as token of your honour. This is a thing which we give only to those who are great, or who show promise of it."
(Well, they're PCs! Of course they're marked for greatness!)

"Then you are welcome, guest. And I offer you more: duty, which is offered only those who would sit close to me, in my family."
(So he's accepted them as family. They're Vingotlings. Don't forget that bit about duty, though)

The Second Son

So, having promised all these good things, Hengall leads them into his stead. There's a hut in the middle, and a palisade round the outside. And if they thought the stead they started from was in bad shape, this is worse. Not only has it very obviously been under attack, it's suffering from a bad case of bachelor house-keeping. Hengall will go to prepare food and drink for his guests, leaving them to their own devices. One would hope that at least some of them would offer to help with chores. Cleaning, cooking, repairing: there's a lot to do. And, although they won't know this until much later, anything they do to improve Hengall's stead will be reflected at home. Mending his palisade will strengthen their defences: cleaning will strengthen the stead spirits. By the time the last of the light has gone, the meal is ready. There are still some gaps in the palisade, but things are better than they were.

As they eat, Hengall will ask his guests about themselves. What are their aims in life? In what way do they think their world will be changed by their actions? This should help any players who have not yet sorted out their characters' goals, since Hengall gives good advice. He will try to lead them to the idea that not only can they change the world, they should. The only question is how.

He will ask them about their journey, and approve of their attempts to help each other. And then he will ask them who they would have called on for help if they had been alone, as everyone is, at the end. They may suggest praying to the gods, and he will point out the unlikelihood of the gods answering while dead. The answer, and the secret of the Star Heart, is that they should look for strength and light within themselves. The last air will be that within their own lungs: the last earth will be their own bones.

No doubt they will ask Hengall about his battles. He will tell them that the stead is attacked by chaos every night. So far he has been able to defend it.

The Fight

So they've been fed, they've got their blankets. And they know the stead is going to be attacked tonight. With a bit of luck they might think of setting watches: if they don't, Hengall will. Partway through the night, the attack comes. Once the alarm is given, they will have time to grab their weapons, go outside, and find a gap in the palisade to defend. One gap each. Isn't that convenient? As they take up their stations, they will notice that they cannot see as far as the next gap in the wall: each combat will be solo. They can all see the hut in the centre, complete with its nice sturdy door, but everything else fades out into Darkness. Or is it Nothingness? Sound seems to be fading out, too...

The stead is under attack by wave after wave of low-level chaos. (Make up your own to suit each player: chaos-mutated trollkin, low-level undead, low-level broo, random squishy things, whatever silly figures fall out of the cupboard). Each individual opponent should be reasonably easy for the PCs to defeat, and the palisade means they only have to fight one at a time. But the sheer numbers mean that eventually they are going to get injured. (Just injured. If they get actually killed too fast, let Hengall rescue them, or they'll miss out on the plot!). When this happens, take the player aside and point out to them the chances of their surviving this fight, and the nice sturdy door in the hut, which they could shut behind them. Possibly point out that running for the door would let Chaos inside the palisade, and their friends would then be getting attacked from behind. We hope that they will make the right decision: to fight on. If they do in fact run for the hut, no-one else will ever know, and they will be safe there. Forever. With the rest of the universe vanished. Time to roll up a new character...

Back at the fight. By now everyone should have faced up to the possibility of running away. The stead behind them fades into Nothingness. Everything but the latest opponent and the ground around them fades into Nothingness. And they're going to lose the fight. Carry it through, right up to the point of declaring them dying, describe the pain, their senses fading as they fall to the ground. For the entire party. Yes, really.

The Aftermath

OK, I'm not really trying to wipe out all the PCs. Delay the next bit of description until they're all "dead". What happens, as they fall dying, is that the Light returns. They held out against the enemy for just long enough. Their wounds vanish, and instead of darkness and mud, they're lying on grass and flowers, in full sunlight. Real sun, not just the sky dome. Yelm is back. It's Sea Season: Spring. And they're back in front of their own stead, back in the mundane world. Time for a feast to celebrate!


The main reward from this quest is being accepted as an adult Vingkotling. That was the object of the exercise, after all. The characters, if not the players, should have learnt something about themselves, too.

But the RQ Rules say that PCs get 1D3 spirit magic spells at the time of initiation. So they should have a chance of getting a spell from this quest. Quite what that will be depends on what they've done. Critical successes at any skill, or wildly heroic (if unsuccessful) attempts during the quest should give a chance of a spell that improves that skill, with the focus being any scars they gained in the process. If you can't think of a relevant spell, choose one from the appropriate deity. So a critical Climb might result in Strength from Ernalda, with the focus being a pebble from the mountains. An all-out attack on the Chaotics, when the PC has one hit point left and is bleeding heavily, might give them Fanaticism: with the scar in their chest from the spear-thrust that killed them being the focus.

If they helped mend Hengall's stead, the results will be reflected in the magical strength of their own home: they won't be able to see this directly, but the clan elders will.

Copyright © 1998,1999 Jane Williams