It's December 31, 800 AD, the eve of a new year, marking the end of the Nordic Iron Age and the beginning of a new age; the Viking Age. Seven years earlier, Norwegian Vikings sacked the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, off the northeast coast of Northumbria. Savage and pagan, the Vikings slew the Christian monks within the monastery, plundering thralls, gold and silver.
In the years since, Viking parties from Denmark, Norway and Sweden routinely ravage the coastal villages and monasteries across Northumbria, the Celtic Islands of Scotland and Ireland, the Orkney Islands, the western coast of the Slavic lands, and even Francia. Across Western Europe, the Viking battle-cries unleash terrible tributes to their Norse Gods as they celebrate each new opportunity to pass through the Gates of Valhalla.
You too are celebrating. But not for the new year. Nor the beginning of the Viking age. You are celebrating the seventh anniversary of your Covenant.
Unseen by mortal eyes thanks to a spell of illusion, you stand on an immense wooden platform hundreds of feet above the dense forest canopy, anchored within the mighty branches of the Oinn Tre, an immense evergreen of unknown origin. Oinn Tre, (also referred to as "Odinstaff") stands over 400 feet tall, with a diameter of more than 50 feet, and a circumference of nearly 200 feet. In modern times, it can only be described as a cross between a giant Sequoia and an ancient Cyprus, its wide branching canopy stretching nearly 300 feet in circumference at its largest point. It's unknown how long this tree has lived, but its roots may tell the tales of lands far beyond the knowledge of mortal men. The Oinn Tre is home to your Covenant, Odin's Call.
Your fellow Covenant magi, along with their loyal companions, are gathered with you on the great platform. Draped in warm cloaks and fur skins to ward off the biting winter cold, the members of the Covenant engage in small talk as they survey the region from their majestic viewpoint.
Straight ahead to the south, the Oslofjord inlet snakes through surrounding cliffs on its way to the North Sea. Norse longships can be seen rowing up the fjord, likely returning from their Viking plunders.
To the west, the forest extends densely through the foothills at the feet of the Scandinavian Alps, their peaks piercing the heavens. To the south, east and west, the fjord coastline is sparsely interrupted by the farms and turf houses of the Nordic residents. Nordic rule is formed under petty kingdoms, constantly warring for control of one another. In the west is Eirikslag, the longhall of Eirik Sigtrygsson, Jarl of Vestfold. Eirik battles with Gudrod the Hunter, Jarl of Oppland to the northwest. The kingdom of Oppland spans widely across the mountainous northern country and is home to Norway's two highest mountains, Glittertind and Galdopiggen. But, Oppland is landlocked and Gudrod seeks to extend his kingdom to the coast.
To the south and closest to Odin's Call sits the kingdom of Vingulmark, ruled by Gandalf Alfgeirsson from his longhouse, Ostfold. Neighboring Vingulmark to the east is the kingdom of Alfheim, ruled by Alfarin, father of Alfhild (daughter) and father-in-law to Gudrod the Hunter.
"It's time," a soft voice interrupts your reflections, "to choose this year's Protector." You turn to see the slender figure of fellow mage, Dornoll Drywren. Bright red hair reveals her Celtic origin, as do her garments, a draping green cloak adorned with golden celtic cross stitch patterns. She motions the group to gather in a broad circle. As you and the other magi take their place, the companions stand farther back, behind their respective magus.
"As is customary tradition," Donroll continues, "our newest members have the first opportunity to prove themselves worthy in a Wizard's Duel. The winner may then challenge me for my position," she adds with a dry smirk.