"Do you know why you're up here?" asked Wulfric, from the doorway. He held a tray with a bowl of porridge on it. From downstairs the sounds of conversation, laughter, music drifted up.

Garm was sitting on his bed, hunched over, hands between his knees. His face was streaked with tears, but his expression betrayed no sadness only surly frustration. Wulfric sighed inwardly. He reminded himself this was a difficult age. Difficult for both of them.

"Because I told uncle Huma to fuck off and shove his Virtues up his arse?"

"Partly that, yes." Wulfric suppressed a smile. Then more soberly he said "But you also pushed your cousin into the lake, and you laughed at him when he couldn't get out, and I'll not have that kind of behaviour in my hall."

"Will it help if I say I'm sorry?" said the boy, not meaning it. He eyed the bowl of porridge with little enthusiasm. "Can I come down to dinner if I apologise?"

Wulfric shook his head sadly. The boy had no idea why his father was so disappointed in him.

"It'd help if you mean it," he said Stepping into the room. "It'd help if you knew why you were saying it."

He pushed the door shut behind him, and put the tray on the end table. Then he sat down next to his son, the bed frame creaking beneath him.

"Garm, you hurt your cousin."

"He's old enough he should be able to swim," retorted the boy, his tone surly. He shifted away from Wulfric along the bed. "I could swim across the lake and back twice in an hour when I was younger than him."

Wulfric's face turned stony.

"That's not for you to judge," he said, his voice flat. "But I'm not just talking about that. You and your friends laughed at him for not being able to get out of the water, and you told him he'd never be a warrior. Like that matters."

Garm was confused. He opened his mouth to say something then shut it again.

"I don't care that you cursed your uncle out, son. He's my brother and I love him but he is a self-righteous prick at the best of times. Paragons know I've told him to do worse than that when we were younger."

Garm sniggered in spite of himself, to hear his father talking about the hall's Stormcrow so bluntly. Then he looked guilty.

"Look, son, I'm going to tell you something and you're not to bandy it about. You could get me into trouble if this got to the wrong ears, you understand."

The young Steinr nodded his head quickly. His expression half apprehension, have anticipation.

"The Virtues don't give a shit about you, any more than the lake or the mountain does. They're just a thing, like a table. Or a sword. Anyone who tells you different is talking out their backsides, your uncle included."

Garm's eyes widened. Young as he was he could recognise heresy when he heard it.

"They matter, but only the way having a good shield or a well-made axe matter. What really matters, son, is not being a virtuous man, but being a heroic one. Do you know what that means?"

"I thought it was the same thing," said Garm slowly. "Uncle says it is."

"Like I said, your uncle is talking out his backside. There's only two virtues that matter in the world. Courage and Pride. Courage to do the right thing, Pride to know what that is. The rest? They're nice enough to have I suppose. But they won't make you a hero. Courage and Pride. And if you had Pride, you'd know that whether your cousin can swim the lake or not doesn't matter. If you had Courage, you'd not mock him just because it made you look big in front of your stupid friends. Do you understand?"

The boy nodded slowly, but it was clear he didn't really understand. Wulfric tried again.

"You're big, and you're strong. People like that. They treat you differently because of it but it doesn't matter. That's just luck, and your blood. It's not who you are. If you start thinking it is, if you start thinking that being strong means you're also right, then you might as well be a... well that's not going to help you hold your head up among your ancestors. You shouldn't be mocking your cousin, you should be helping him. Looking out for him. Not because he's your cousin, not because your uncle's decided you need to be Loyal to family or whatever. But because it's the right thing to do. Virtue will tell you it's alright to clamber over your cousin to get what you want as long as you really want it. It'll tell you to watch him to make sure he isn't having the wrong kind of thoughts. It'll tell you to discard him if you think he's weak or foolish."

He grabbed Garm's shoulders, turned him to face him, stared deep into his eyes.

"Fuck all that," he said in a quiet voice. "Do what's right. Be a hero, not a coward who hides behind virtue to explain why he's a bully."

Wulfric searched Garm's face for a moment, hoping some of this would sink in. Maybe some of it did. He wondered for a moment if he'd said too much, but he decided he didn't care right now. His brother was downstairs being a self-righteous prick about the incident at the lake, and he was more worried about the boy than what the priests thought.

He stood up, stretched. "Anyway, like I said. Not a word, just think about what I said while you eat your porridge."

Garm's face fell. Wulfric chuckled, maybe a little sadly.

"You thought you were coming down to dinner? That our little heart-to-heart was all it'd take and you'd be forgiven? You pushed a small boy into the lake just because you could, and mocked him when he cried. You're lucky the worst that's happened is that you're up here with a bowl of porridge."

He turned to go, and as he left he called back over his shoulder to where Garm sat forlornly on his bed.

"Courage, son. Courage to take the consequences. That's about all that really matters in the world,lad. You'll learn. One way or another."

Overview

The people of Wintermark have always been proud to call themselves heroes. The boast that the "storm can never break us" speaks to the Wintermark spirit, that they can be defeated but never broken. The Mark has decisively rejected the cruel tactics adopted by the Varushkans, believing that it is better to die a hero than live as a monster.

These decisions are not without cost; the growing rift between those armies that have embraced the cruel strategies of the Varushkans and those who have rejected them has noticeably hampered the ability for the nations to fight together. Despite these difficulties, Wintermark has not hesitated to further embrace their own heritage. After the Autumn Equinox, Gunnbrand Ironwill was sent by the Wintermark Assembly to urge the warriors of the Mark to face the Jotun on the battlefield as heroes, to respect the honour of their enemies, and to treat them and their fallen with respect. Wintermark forces would seek victory in battle rather than trying to simply butcher their opponents.

That decision would make it easier for them to claim victory - but means significantly fewer Jotun slain. It was intended to send a clear sign to the Jotun that the people of Wintermark remember their old traditions. As it stood, the effects of that choice might only have lasted for a year. But in Wintermark they believe that a person's skein can only be travelled one way; decisions cannot be undone. So Gunnbrand Ironwill was given a final mandate to ensure that the warriors of Wintermark never compromise their beliefs again. They have committed themselves to their ideals, there is no turning back now.

We do not compromise even with ourselves. The mantle of the hero is not easily shrugged on and off again, it is a quality of the soul that endures beyond life. We send Gunnbrand Ironwill with 50 doses of liao to remind all the people of Wintermark of the path that we all walk.

Wintermark National Assembly, Spring Equinox 382YE, Gunnbrand Ironwill, Upheld 236 - 0

There are signs that this change of strategy is working... recent actions by the Jotun seem to suggest that the choice has not gone unnoticed. But the Jotun are not the reason for the mandate, Gunnbrand's words speak to the soul of the Wintermark people - and given them an opportunity to embrace their heritage.

Three Tears Entwined

When other nations think of the fighting strength of the Wintermark, most imagine ranks of Steinr warriors, clad in leather and mail, holding a shield wall against all odds. It is an easy mistake to make, the doughty and forthright Steinr seem the very embodiment of war. But there are warriors in all the Wintermark traditions, and the Fist of the Mountains has always represented the best that the three tears entwined can achieve when they work together. The captains are regularly advised by clever icewalkers and proud scops.

In recent years however, the army has been without the benefits of many skilled mystics. Now a group of young mystics have emerged from the Kallavesa swamps seeking to join the army. The Rune-bound were a hall that served with the Fist of the Mountains in the time of Emperor Guntherm. Composed of mystics from all three traditions they worked to combine methods favoured by each tradition, runes, oneiromancy, and haruspex, to guide the army. The results were radical if unorthodox, the guidance they gave the armies general allowing them to take strategic decisions that seemed like madness at the time but appeared inspired and brilliant in hindsight. The Rune-bound left the army after Guntherm died, retiring to tend his resting place in the swamps. Now they are seeking to return.

Until the end of the Autumn Equinox, the General of the Fist of the Mountains can choose to embrace the Rune-bound hall. At the cost of 25 wains of mithril and an appropriately worded order, they can permanently change the army's quality from Unyielding to Farsighted.

Farsighted

  • Can issue an order to "Read the Signs" when defending.

By leaning on the wise mystics, cunning icewalkers, and proud rune-smiths who advise the army, the general can employ divination to allow them to find the perfect place to move their army. Such methods are unpredictable and difficult to make sense of, perversely they often mean less fighting rather than more, since the army is almost never where the enemy expects it to be. But the benefits of such surprising strategy cannot be denied, somehow the force always seems to be in the perfect place at the perfect time.

Read the Signs
  • The ability of this army to defend territory is increased by two fifths
  • Casualties inflicted by this army are decreased by a fifth

An army that reads the signs makes inspired strategic choices based on the divinations performed by the mystics who are part of the army. Many of those decisions seem risky and incomprehensible at the time, but may appear brilliant in hindsight and will often take enemy forces by surprise. The army will inflict less casualties on those attacked, for there is no wasted effort, no bloody grind of soldiers lives exchanged for no reason. The wisdom granted does not bring safety - the army may well find itself taking up positions that are exceptionally dangerous - but there are fewer of them. In essence, reading the signs allows the army to take bigger risks - but to strike only at the perfect moment - when a victory can turn a campaign.

Scions of the Storm

The Green Shields are named for the distinctive green shields given to new recruits. Banded with polished steel and emblazoned with a device in silver or gold indicating a recruits regiment, every soldier has the importance of their shield impressed on them. Wintermark warriors are not some fool-hardy knight charging the battlefield in search of glory - heroism is the ability to throw back any force that comes against you. More than just Courage, it relies on the sure knowledge that every soldier of the Mark who fights alongside you will hold their place in the wall. Only then can you stand unbowed before the storm.

Those who are join the Green Shields are drawn by its long history of heroism. According to the Wintermark tradition, heroism is not about how difficult or daring something is - nor even the skill with which it is done - it is about how important it is. The army was formed centuries ago and has never been broken despite fighting in countless campaigns. Countless times over the years they have held the field no matter the losses, when a lesser force would have fallen back. When all else fails the Green Shields are the wall that will not yield, the last line of defence that protects Wintermark from the enemy.

Now, as the Jotun warriors push forwards across Sermersuaq, and the Thule maggots gather in their north, nothing is more important than the need to stand between Wintermark and her enemies. Now more than ever, every warrior in the Shields knows that their actions mark them a hero.

Until the end of the Autumn Equinox, the general of the Green Shields can choose to embrace the army's heroic legacy. At the cost of 25 wains of mithril and an appropriately worded order, they can permanently change the army's quality from Glorious to Heroic.

Heroic

  • Can give the order that none shall pass when defending.
  • Can use the triumphant charge order when attacking
  • Can use the final stand order when defending.

A heroic army is capable of impossible deeds, their spirit is undiminished in the face of any threat. They know that the hero's tale ends with a good death and they are ready to pay with their lives if they must. Their esprit de corps is peerless and their commitment to battle means they are prepared to make any sacrifice to achieve what must be done. This allows their general to issue unique orders, taking enormous risks where necessary.

None Shall Pass
  • Casualties suffered by this army are decreased by one fifth.
  • The army protects an allied force that is taking defensive orders, taking all the casualties that force would take in their place

A general who gives the order that none shall pass may name a single allied force that is taking defensive orders in the campaign. Any casualties that the heroic army would suffer normally are applied less the 20% reduction listed. In addition to the normal casualties suffered, the army will also take all the casualties that would have been suffered by the army they are protecting (these casualties are not diminished in any way, they are transferred one for one).

Triumphant charge
  • The ability of this army to capture territory is increased by two-fifths.
  • Casualties inflicted by this army are increased by one fifth.
  • Casualties suffered by this army are increased by half.

A general who unleashes their troops in a triumphant charge seeks great victory, but pays a great price. The army confronts the strongest enemy troops and the most defended positions, and attempts to rout them. Individual soldiers and companies engage in valiant attacks, employing risky tactics to defeat their opponents. The army will gain much more ground, but does so at the cost of increased casualties.

Final stand
  • Any victory gained by the enemy converts to additional casualties taken by this army, rather than territory gained.
  • Every enemy victory point causes 100 additional casualties to this army until the army disbands.

Sometimes a general needs to hold a position regardless of cost. A final stand trades Imperial lives for every inch of ground that would otherwise be lost. The order is rarely used; even if the army is not wiped out, it will almost certainly be severely weakened. When an attacking force must not be allowed to gain territory or establish a beachhead, it is incredibly effective.

A Hero's Tale

  • Any Wintermark army may now issue the order to fight with honour when attacking

Regardless of whether either general chooses to take advantage of these options, the reawakening of heroism that has spread from the swamps of Kallevesa, through the mountains of Hahnmark to the wide plains of Sermersuaq is now a tide that cannot be stopped. Wintermark traditions are old, much older than the Empire, and they beat in the heart of every member of the Mark. As a result any Wintermark general may henceforth issue the order to fight with honour when attacking the enemy.

The option to choose this order will endure for as long as Wintermark remains committed to the path of the hero.

Fight with honour
  • There are no modifiers associated with this order
  • Any allied force that issues with orders to plunder, cut them down or carry out a merciless assault is changed to a balanced attack
  • The presence of an army fighting with honour in a territory is always obvious to other armies in the same territory

Any Wintermark army instructed to fight with honour will execute a balanced attack against the enemy forces arrayed against them. In addition, they will ensure that any Imperial forces that fight alongside them are prevented from taking orders designed simply to rob, kill or maim the enemy. This will inflame tensions between the two forces, but they will not come into armed conflict, Imperial discipline will be sufficient to prevent one Imperial soldier cutting down another - just.

In addition, the army will actively seek to protect innocent civilians on both sides. Settlements will not be looted and the occupants will be protected from harm by either side.

Fighting with honour does not prevent enemy forces from issuing orders to plunder or kill.

In addition to all this, the temporary change to Wintermark orders when fighting the Jotun is now permanent. Any Wintermark army that fights the Jotun using any order will gain 10% more victory points but inflict 20% less casualties. The change of tactics that ensures this reduction of casualties will be apparent to everyone present in the territory where the campaign takes place. This represents the warriors of Wintermark choosing to fight the Jotun as equals in honour.

Limited Opportunity

The order outlined in A Hero's Tale and the change to orders used when fighting the Jotun, are permanent.

The Three Tears Entwined and Scions of the Storm opportunities are only available until the end of the Autumn Equinox 382YE. A general who wishes to take advantage of one should include appropriate instructions as part of their orders, make sure they have the mithril in their inventories, and send an e-mail to plot@profoundecisions.co.uk after the event.

Resolution

25 wains of mithril were provided by Atte Arrow-Tongue Metsastajason after the Summer Solstice 372YE, to take advantage of the opportunity to improve the Fist of the Mountains. A further 25 wains of mithril were received by Osric after the Summer Solstice to take advantage to improve the Green Shields.