Among all the northern folk, the feast halls and the long halls are a gathering place for entire jarldoms, families, and clans. The enormous shield-hung rafters, the roaring fire pits, and the long benches and tables are unlike the more genteel dining and drinking halls of Dornig or the south. Beyond their warmth and sense of community, they are places of boasting, song, and gossip—and quite frequently of challenges, table dances, and wild winter carousing when the snows are thick and there is little hope of travel until Freyr and Freya bring the spring.
Now then, a review of four famous halls: the Golden Sky Hall of the fire giants, the Great Moss Hall of the trollkin, Järnhall of the dwarves, and the Ekollonhalle of the ratatosk on the branches of Yggdrasil itself. While many claim to have drunk in the halls of Asgard with the valkyries, that is a tale for those whose travels have taken them beyond death to the glories of the afterlife and a struggle among the gods—that greatest hall deserves discussion another day.
Golden Sky Hall of the Fire Giants
Jotunheim and Thursrike are filled with many giantish settlements, from modest steadings to enormous cities built of stone and ancient timber. But sacred and beloved among them is the Golden Sky Hall, a mountaintop hall that humans would never have thought to build and that dwarves would mock as indefensible by anyone other than giants. It stands on a mountaintop, built of a perfectly carved foundation of cyclopean stones in a white and pink granite, topped with beams of ironwood, ancient pine, and a roof of slate.
Within the hall, the fire giant jarl, Isen Brekssen, issues decrees and appoints his jarls and underlings to gather and strengthen the giant kingdoms. Loki is said to be a frequent visitor as is the fire giant wizard Auvindrias and many rune mages (including, perhaps surprisingly, some dwarves who are on good terms with the giants). The fire in the hearth is a peculiar one, called the First Flame and said to have been kept burning from the days when the blood and bones of Aurgelmir first made the world. This fire grants a powerful tempering to those who bathe in it, sometimes hardening their skin, sometimes granting visions or power over the runes, sometimes merely restoring health and a clear mind to the sick and the demented.
Naturally, the fire giants prefer to keep this fire to themselves, but often they pretend that the central bonfire is the First Flame and laugh uproariously when foolish visitors singe their hair and cloak by climbing into it. For the especially gullible, they then offer a quaff of a fiery drink, a brandywine infused with flecks of gold to give it a fiery glitter; this, likewise, provides no magical benefit, but those who attempt to swallow the burning concoction do entertain the giants.
The First Flame is guarded at all times by a pack of hell hounds and is often protected by an incinis elemental as well (see Creature Codex), and only Jarl Isen the Proud grants his favored guards and close friends a fire bath. Non-giants who approach it are attacked; the giants enjoy showing their bit of primordial fire, but rarely do they allow any non-giant to touch it. Those who bathe in it for more than a minute grow reddish hair and beards and increase by a size category—in the most extreme cases, a humanoid who bathes in the First Flame is polymorphed into a fire giant of roughly similar features.
Great Moss Hall of the Trollkin
From the outside, the Great Moss Hall resembles an enormous boulder along the shore of a great fjord, covered with mosses, ferns, and a few scattered pines. However, it is also clearly a long hall in its overall shape, for it has three great pine doors bound with green copper and embellished with runes of remarkable power; all those who enter are profoundly moved to peace and goodwill, and any dueling, berserker rages, or even cutting insults are extremely rare within the hall (a DC 18 Wisdom save is required to attempt violence or insult within the hall). As a result, the moss hall is a popular gathering place among the trollkin, even those who carry on ancient feuds or who have robbed, cheated, and lied their way into positions of power, for within the hall, they feel safe.
Originally built by trollkin shamans of Freyr and Freya, the Great Moss Hall is still a place of occasional ritual summonings, bindings, and great magical workings. The many shamans of the tribes and clans gather at summer solstice and at the spring and winter equinoxes to share their lore and to induct new members into their mysteries. On these rare nights, the Moss Hall also shows its remarkable acoustics; chants, songs, and invocations spoken within its stone walls echo and re-echo, gathering strength and (for those who know its secret workings) making permanent enchantments that might otherwise fade with the dawn.
As dawn approaches, a narrow bridge to the afterlife opens for ghosts, the walls of reality being somewhat thinned by the echoing chants. In the course of a night, several ghosts of famous trollkin may appear if their names are invoked and echoed by their descendants. More frequently, a banquet is laid out for one or more recently departed trollkin. Sometimes these spirits come to bid a final farewell to their clan, children, or spouse; sometimes, the offering remains undisturbed, and no spirit answers the call.
Rumor has it that a fourth entrance to the Great Moss Hall exists, either in the rafters and out through a hollow tree or down below the pebbled floor, through some trick of light and illusion into the nearby forests or to a narrow slip where a small ship can easily be moored for a quick escape. This is a place of ritual and yearly feasts led by trollkin shaman…
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