This is part 1 of the replay for my Call of Cthulhu / Cthulhu Dark Ages scenario, Branches of Bone.

Branches of Bone Replay: Call of Cthulhu Viking Age Survival Horror

This is part 1 of my replay for my own Cthulhu Dark Ages scenario, Branches of Bone. You can read the text version on You can purchase Branches of Bone on DriveThruRPG, and as a thank you for listening, the link will take you to a discounted version.

Branches of Bone Trailer – A Cthulhu Dark Ages Viking Age Scenario

Branches of Bone: A Cthulhu Dark Ages Scenario of Viking Age Survival-Horror Out now on DriveThruRPG:–A-Cthulhu-Dark-Ages-Scenario?affiliate_id=3534349 Beleaguered chieftain Askr Yelloweye leads you and your impoverished clansmen to the rocky isle of Skógrbein, off the coast of Northumbria. Askr chases a vision from Freya, claiming she showed him a relic of Yggrdasil held in the heathens’ stone temple sitting upon Skógrbein.

This narrative replay is for my own Call of Cthulhu / Cthulhu Dark Ages scenario, Branches of Bone. I did most of the playtesting for this scenario on the Good Friends of Jackson Elias podcast’s discord server. If you’re a player, or just don’t want to know everything about the scenario ahead of time, you can read or listen to the first, spoiler-lite section of my overview of Branches of Bone here, and if you want to purchase is, as a thank you for visiting my site, you can get it on 25% discount through this link for $3.95. 

And now, on to Branches of Bone, part 1.





Spoilers Call of Cthulhu





Frigid waves broke against the faering’s short bow, spray lashing the four rowers. Ahead, dull moonlight lit the craggy isle of Skógrbein, the Viking’s goal.

Harald Askerson, child of the chieftain Askr, grit his teeth. His father led the clan’s remaining raiders across the sea chasing a vision. Harald worried his father had lost his mind, so often rambling and barking in his sleep, but at last the island jutted out of the sea before them, right where his father, and the old Saga of Suin, had said it would be. His father may be mad, but at least he could still navigate.

A mad grin breaking his ragged features, Njal pumped harder at the oars, his aching muscles bulging under the tight armour. Rowing for a week taxed his body, but not his mind. For that, he needed combat. Svend the Steersman might say sailing was combat against the seas, but Njal knew only killing men brought meaning to his life.

Revna fought against the wracking shiver. Huddled in the rear of the boat, wrapped in her cloak, she focused on Askr’s faering ahead of them, dipping in and out of sight behind the dark swells. Freya had favoured that old bastard over her, the clan’s next Volur? Madness. But she’d be there. If he found some relic from her negligent god, she’d be the first to truly understand it.

Askr’s faering rounded the island’s steep cliffs, closing in on the narrow cove they knew held a small dock. The boat slipped between jagged rocks and out of sight. Svend the steersman eyed the cove. Two approaches, following Askr through the rocks would keep them out of sight of any watchers, but they’d need to go slow to avoid smashing against the stone. Most of the tide rushed into the cove through open water, and they could ride the current in to catch up with Askr, at risk of being spotted.

Svend grunted at Harald, gestured at the cove with his chin. Harald considered briefly, then chose the open current. Njal bared his teeth in a wild smile and threw everything into the oars. He needed to get up there, now, before Askr and his Vikings took all the glory. Revna didn’t help with rowing, she doubted she had much strength to lend, but she prayed, loud enough for Svend to hear and be bolstered.

With expert precision Svend glided the faering into the cove, and rapidly slowed at a stubby dock before grounding up the rocky beach. Njal jumped onto the dock before coming to stop and without seeing if his companions followed, marched away. Harald and Revna followed once still, leaving Svend to grumble and secure the faering. He noted Askr’s boat up the beach, hull banged up from a quick grounding. Another boat, not in their style, tied up at the dock. No doubt a local ferry.

A steep path wound up the bluff from the cove to the main plateau of the island, and while Harald and Revna cautiously chose their footing, Njal barged up the trail, sure his feet would find a safe path up. Evidently someone heard the rocks sent tumbling in his wake, or they had watching the faering cut into the cove, as an arrow whizzed past Njal’s prominent forehead and skittered off the rocks. He caught site of a man on the bluff, back-lit by the moon, fumbling with an arrow.

With a joyous roar Njal smoothly sprinted up the last of the slick bluff, great axe in his hands. The man, an old man Njal now saw, stared with wide eyes, jabbering something in his foreign tongue. He raised his bow, and the string promptly snapped in half when he drew. He looked at it dumbly, then back up at Njal just in time to catch the axe blade between his eyes.

His companions crested the bluff in time to see Njal stalking away from the scattered remains of the old man. A trail ran into the centre of the small island through sparse copses of ash trees to a stone temple. Its front double-doors had been broken open, the sounds of shouts and screams drifting out with torchlight. Harald, Svend, and Revna hurried after their berserker, passing through the small courtyard at the front of the temple. Harald noted it was the only structure. On past raids there had been houses, sheds, dorms.

They stepped over a body in the doorway, cleaved down by a sword, and entered the high-ceilinged church. While the building was stonework, two internal wooden structures crowded the hall, doorways facing inward. As Harald walked past them, sword and shield in hands, chickens clucked and goats brayed from the right structure. He stopped, cracked the door open. Half the room held stores, barrels and sacks, and on the other side of a partition, chickens and two goats.

Svend peeked in the left room, finding beds and a desks, along with piles of scrolls, books, and various stone and wood artifacts. Harald and Svend shrugged at each other, and continued after Njal. Revna stopped at the doorway, though, looking at a stained glass window depicting an older man standing over a younger man bound to stone altar, stabbing him to death. Beneath the window, inlaid in the wall, or more accurately the wall seemed to be built around it, stood a man-high stone, similar to the rune stones back home. Only a simple carving of drops into a circle marred its smooth surface.

Harald and Svend found Njal roaring at a group of monks at the centre of the cross-shaped hall. A tall, strapping monk and a scrawny monk huddled on the ground by a dead older man, an axe having split his head open, while a portly monk stood between his fellows and Njal. A altar sat behind them, silver goblets and a silver thurible atop it, and beyond that, lining the rear wall, were two doors on either side of another stained glass window. The right door was close, while the left yawned open, another dead monk pinned against it by a spear through the chest.

The portly monk stared up at Njal, defiant but trembling, clearly not understanding a word coming out of the berserker’s spittle-flecked mouth. Njal wanted to find warriors. These men of the cloth had no weapons. He screamed at the monk, demanding to find the warriors. Not getting a response, he head-butted the monk, sending him sprawling, then stomped to the open door. Spiral stairs led down, the faint voices of his clansmen echoing up. No doubt the closed door to the right led up to a belltower. Without a word to his companions, Njal continued on down.

Harald and Svend hurried on down after him, but Revna lingered at the centre of the hall at the centre of the four wings. She turned seeing the four far walls, each with a stained glass window and a standing stone beneath it. To the west, the sacrifice. To the north, a weeping woman tearing her robe, rubbing ash on her face and on rocks at her feet, and the standing stone clearly depicted a fire. To the east, a dozen men eating and drinking, spitting their wine out on the ground, and on the stone, drips falling from a square. And to the south, seeds spilled on the ground becoming a great tree, its roots tangling and snarling an evil looking tree beneath. On that last standing stone, specks.

Revna murmured a prayer to Freya, then approached the corpse of the old man. The monks seemed to consider blocking her, but in the end dragged their still-unconscious fellow to the side and watched. She tore a pendant from the body’s neck. Silver, with four symbols. The same as the standing stones. Putting it in her pouch, she followed her companions.

A scream rang out before Njal reached the bottom of the stairs. Above, Revna heard the slamming of doors and the surprised screeches of the monks. All at once, the Vikings felt something press on them. Just a brief pressure on the head, but all of them had a dream-like vision. For Revna, Harald, and Svend, it was brief, just a sense of looking down on a crowd of people. But for Njal, it was more.

He stood on the island, but without the church. Far below him, crowds of sparsely clothed people dragged large stones to him. The stood them on his roots, dragging down painfully into the earth.

And then it was gone. Njal felt light-headed. And he itched. Rashes broke out on his hands, joints, and his skin felt tight.

Hurrying the last few steps, Njal, Harald and Svend on his heels, entered the crypt. Leaning against one of six pillars, Skarde, one of the other Vikings, clutched a weeping gut wound. Seeing Harald, he pointed, and said ‘You’re damned father stuck me.’

In the centre of the crypt, with weapons abandoned on the floor, Askr and three of his Vikings stood in a circle, facing outward, hands held, looking up to the ceiling. Their mouths gaped open, eyes rolled back in their sockets. Harald saw blood indeed coated his father’s sword. He demanded Skarde explain what happened, but the man‘s head lolled, skin pallid, breathing shallow. Harald knelt down. He knew a bit about fixing people. A bit.

Revna pushed Harald out of the way before he could do any damage. She took out her pouches, readied herbs, and inspected the wound. Deep, a ragged chunk of flesh ripped away revealing slippery innards beneath. She took a deep breath, recalling her master’s teachings, and reached in.

Skarde died instantly.

Shaking blood and viscera off her hand, the volur said there was nothing more she could do.

They all realised they could hear whispers skittering around the edges of their hearing. The echoes in the crypt made it difficult to find the source, but Svend eventually tracked it down to Askr and his frozen Vikings. Whispers slipped out of their mouths, despite still jaws, tongues and throats. Extremely quiet, but Svend could make out brief words. Freedom, hungry, tired, awake, awake, awake!

Only Askr whispered intelligibly. The others spoke in languages unknown to Svend, though he thought one of the voices was in the tongue of the heathens upstairs. Trying to shake Askr or the others out of their fugue state proved fruitless, as did screaming or slapping them. Even bodily yanking at one of the Vikings only managed to break his arm, cracking at obscene angles to maintain its grip on its neighbour.

Shaken and confused, they looked around the crypt, taking in the details they’d ignored thusfar. Murals covered three of the walls, depicting an army of soldiers in unfamiliar uniforms and carrying smoking swords and spears, marching towards the far wall. The wall that stood out by lacking similar murals, and it appeared to bisect the murals, as if it had been built later, blocking off more of the room. The wall was blank, with the exception of a sigil in the centre, cracked, as if it had been struck with a sword or axe. A tree, surrounded by four symbols which Revna recognised as the same as the standing stones in the hall, and around those, a ring of some script she didn’t recognise. Similar in a way to their own people’s runes, but older, much older. Wild, savage.

She shuddered and turned from the blasphemous scrawlings. With a deep breath, she slipped under the arms of Askr and his cripples, and sat in the middle of their circle. She withdrew two pouches, one full of the herbs and plants used to alter her mind, open the door to the real of the gods. From the other, she dragged out a live rabbit. Slaughtering the rabbit and smearing its remains and herbs on the floor, her arms, her face, her tongue, she began humming and chanting. As her eyes rolled into the back of her head, the Augery began.

In her fugue she didn’t feel it, but for the other three, again something pressed on them. And this time, they all saw something, they all felt something worm through their skin and bones.

Njal watched the savage people below him dance about fires set by the northern standing stone. They rubbed ash on the stone, and it grew heavy, pulling his roots into the ground.

To Svend’s east, the tribes-folk drank salt water from the sea, then spat it back up on the stone. It glowed, and its glow tore at his roots.

West of Harald, the wildmen and woman slashed and stabbed, spilling their blood over the stone. He drank deep, thirsty, but the stone grew fat, plunging down, dragging him down, down, into a slumber he could rage against, but not resist.

Back in the crypt, they breathed heavily, scratching at reddening skin. Njal winced at stinging in his joints and fingers. Scabs grew from the rashes, thick, brown, and jagged. He covered them up, but fretted at the raw and bulging tips of his fingers. As if the bone pushed at the skin, trying to break free.

And in Revna’s vision, she saw fire fall from the sky. A great mass, screaming, tumbling down and smashing into a primordial Skógrbein. A thing lost and abandoned, it squirmed and mewled, hugging the earth and digging into the stone. She saw a great tree, rising from Skógrbein, ringed in fire, striking into the sky and burning away the clouds. Its roots wormed through the oceans and continents, choking out the kingdoms of men.

Revna awoke with a choking cough. The others watched, waiting for her wisdom. In the silence, the words of Askr whispered through the crypt. Free, awake, finally, hungry.

Revna shakily stood. They hadn’t found Freya. Not Yggdrasil. Something else. Something worse.



Thank you for reading. If you would like to see how Branches of Bone goes for your group, you can purchase it on DriveThruRPG. And as a thank you for reading all the way through, you can get it for 50% off using this link.
Before you go, though, maybe take a look at some more scenario replays?
Seeds of Terror: The Mummy of Pemberley Grange, Endless Light, One Less Grave.
Chasioum: Amidst the Ancient Trees, The Necropolis
Japonism: Do Gods Dream of Digital Drugs?

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