Sagas of the Gautrian Kings #53 – Battle of Hellgate Pass

King Kvig led his army to victory over the Varak orcs who had appropriated the mines of Hellgate from Kvig’s vassal Vestar Vastar. (Sagas of the Gautrian Kings #52- The Battle for Hellgate Mines). Kvig now had to decide who to install as jarl over the newly-recovered mines.

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The Kildarian knight Baron Vulmar was outspoken, “We Kildarians have won many battles for you, King Kvig. Vestar has wasted the lives of many warriors and many more miners. Give me the mines and let Kildarian expertise get you rich! I will have these mines spilling forth silver the Vastars’ couldn’t even imagine.”

Vestar Vastar was enraged. “Generations of Vastar blood have paid for Hellgate silver! My clan has fought the Varak orcs time and again. These are my lands by right!”

Kvig surveyed Vestar and his many injured and poorly-armored bonders. Then King Kvig looked to Baron Vulmar and the Kilarians. The elite knights stood tall in their bloodied chainmail. It seemed an easy decision.

“Baron Vulmar shall have Hellgate mines and the keep at Sigivald Hold,” announced Kvig. “Any of Clan Vastar who wish to stay will be given positions defending the lands, or working the mines.”

“Odin curse you, Kvig Melgarson!” exclaimed Vestar. “You and your witch-queen have brought my son to death’s door and cheated my clan. I will have repayment for all your wrongs.” Vestar Vastar gathered a few loyal men and left Sigivald Hold.

Sigivald Hold, ruled by Vestar Vastar.

As the rest of the warriors of Clan Vastar prepared for battle, Bleddyn’s ulfhednar scouts brought a respected adversary to him. Bjorn the Mighty (Sagas of the Gautrian Kings #50- Sword and Sorcery) had come to fight against the orcs. Bjorn looked to show his gratitude for the mercy Kvig and Bleddyn showed him (Sagas of the Gautrian Kings #51- The Warbringer).

“The orcs gather at Hellgate Pass. I have brought my men and those of my kin who would join you and push the orcs back into the mountains,” said Bjorn. “Bleddyn, take my brothers among your ulfhednar.”

Bjorn introduced his cousin Karlsefni. Karlsefni had been a slave to the Varak orcs in the west.

“The Varak orcs look to reclaim these lands on the lake,” said Karlsefni. “We have tracked a new group through Hellgate Pass. They scream for blood, King Kvig, and they are coming with a War-God.”

“War-God?” asked Kvig.

“You will see on the battlefield,” answered Karlsefni.

 

King Kvig, Bleddyn and Wynston marched their troops to Hellgate Pass, and saw the orcs there ready for battle.

Several wild orcs with javelins populated the jagged cliffsides.

Scores more orcs assembled in tight formations, blocking the road through the pass.

King Kvig’s men responded in kind, spreading their forces in a long line across the pass.

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The War-God stood before the orcs and bellowed to his troops.

The heavy infantry of the Gautrian army trudged into the pass.

The speedy ulfhednar and mounted knights sprinted across the gap.

The War-God held his ranks in check.

King Kvig, Wynston, and Bleddyn charged the two-headed War-God with uncanny speed.

Wynston’s picked men ran up the hill in pursuit of the wild orcs and shaman.

The shielded orcs lined up against the human cavalry on one flank, and the heavy infantry on the other.

The War-God held fast in the center against King Kvig, Wynston, and Bleddyn.

The Gautrians’ left flank was pushed hard by the armored orcs.

But it was not enough to threaten the integrity of Kvig’s line.

The unarmored orcs fell to the ulfhednar on the human’s right flank.

The wild orcs all routed, or were slain. The last kill was up to Wynston, Kvig and Bleddyn.

Soon, all that remained of the War-God were two severed heads waiting to be tied to Kvig’s saddle.

“They will return from their side of the mountains, King Kvig,” said Karlsefni. “You cut through their War-God in this battle, but the Varaks will send more fighters. On the other side of Hellgate pass lies their fortress of Langar. They have many of my people enslaved in that compound. Lead us there King Kvig, Orc-Slayer, and we will destroy their stronghold and keep the Varak orcs from returning to Gautria!”

Kvig thought for the briefest of moments before turning to his champion Bleddyn and minister Wynston. “There is only one way to push the orcs out of our lands. We must take the fight to them! To Langar!”

What will King Kvig find through Hellgate Pass? Will the Varak orcs fall before the advancing North Gautrian army? The adventures continue…

Sagas of the Gautrian Kings #52- The Battle for Hellgate Mines

The orc fortress of Dakagog was hard-fought for, and King Kvig the Orc-Slayer was the victor (Sagas of the Gautrian Kings #51- The Warbringer). The orc shaman Tiazig retreated into the stone walls of Dakagog with a handful of fervent followers. King Kvig had his men break down the door but once inside they could find no sign of the shaman.

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The King was furious at the strapping young hero Thrand Vestarson that his father Vestar Vastar had let the orcs establish such a firm base this close to Kvig’s silver mines at Hellgate. Kvig refused to leave needed troops to secure Dakagog until the mines were reclaimed from the orcs. Instead, Kvig demanded they take to the boats and sail to Vestar’s wooden keep at Sigivald Hold before night fall.

Sigivald Hold, ruled by Vester Vastar.

Sigivald Hold, ruled by Vestar Vastar.

Kvig, Wynston and Bleddyn each led a fast ship away from the orc fortress of Dakakog. Dark strings of clouds spun unnaturally over the waters. A mist covered the 3 boats.

“This is evil sorcery I’ve not seen before,” spoke Thrand to Wynston.

“Storms from the Shaman Tiazig?” asked Wynston.

“It could be him,” replied Thrand, “or it could be Queen Svala instead.”

The tall hero straightened over the steerboard. “Since crossing Lake Tagova, I’ve felt a mist lifting from my mind. I no longer have such…devotion for the Queen and I fear she knows it. She has sent this fog to keep me from aiding my father.”

“Kvig is come now to Sigivald to kill the orcs,” Wynston assured Thrand. “He will see your father’s keep defended.”

“The Queen dominates Kvig’s mind, as she once ruled mine.” Thrand was resolute. “Through him, she will claim all our family lands.” Thrand scanned what little he could of the lake’s surface through the fog. “She will swallow our boat with this mist and my father will never know of my end.”

The warriors grew more uneasy as they heard Thrand and the mist turned their fellow ships to shadows.

SGK52_Picks_106.jpgFrom the dank fog, several canoes full of orcs appeared and rammed Wynston’s longboat. Another larger boat of shielded orcs drew alongside Bleddyn’s boat and engaged his ulfhednar.

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Several javelins arced from the canoes into Wynston’s boat, all aimed at the helmsman, Thrand. He fell to the deck, skewered by orc spears. Wynston’s picked men were able to quickly bring the unarmored orcs to heel, but the mood was somber.

Bleddyn’s men fought the attackers on board their ship. The shielded orcs fell to the savage wolf-skinned warriors.

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Bleddyn ordered the attack onto the orcs’ boat. His ulfhednar slew the orcs, threw their bodies in the lake and took their ship.

As the orcs were defeated, the fog dissipated and Kvig’s boat was seen untouched nearby. Poor Thrand was unconscious, bloody and pale in Wynston’s boat. King Kvig ordered all 4 boats to make haste to land near Sigivald.

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The troops arrived without further incident and disembarked. When they came through the forest, the ulfhednar reported orcs ahead in the hills.

SGK52_Picks_114.jpgShaman Tiazag was surrounded by his orc followers on the cliffside.

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From the heights, he hurled magic fires at the wooden fort.

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Kvig’s forces broke through the treeline and marched for the hills. The orcs rained javelins down on the fighters. Sigivald’s gate burned brightly, but Kvig was firmly in control of the field.

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The slow-moving fighters closed the distance to the hills and scattered the orcs into the forest.

Vestar Vastar commanded the people of Sigivald to escort King Kvig and his close advisors inside. When Vestar saw his gravely injured son, his thanks to Kvig died on his lips.

“Kvig Melgarson Orc-Slayer! This is how you return my son to me?” Vestar cried. “I send him to your Queen seeking aid seasons ago, and you finally answer with his soon-to-be-corpse?”

“If you held the mines, your son would have been by your side ruling over Sigivald,” said Kvig. “Thrand was wounded fighting honorably and valiantly for his king. Send him back over the water and my Queen’s personal physicians in Mosveld will see him standing again.

“But you, Vestar, have not so nobly acquitted yourself,” continued Kvig. “Have my men fed and sheltered inside your gates. Assemble what warriors clan Vastar has remaining. We take back Hellgate Mines in two days.”

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While King Kvig received scouting reports from the ulfhednar, Wynston listened to the rumblings of the clansmen unhappy with Vestar and the state of the orcs around Sigivald. The loyal Vastars left in Sigivald bid a tearful farewell to an unconscious Thrand.

The next day when Kvig called for the troops to assemble, a unit of Vastar bonders pledged their service to the King.

Vestar himself showed ready for battle. “Clan Vastar honors its Land and King! I will defeat the orcs in your name!” Vestar shouted at Kvig.

Kvig took the hero Vestar into his retinue, and marched to Hellgate mines with a unit of heavy Kildarian infantry, a unit of ulfhednar, Wynston’s picked men, and the bonders from Sigivald. They found the orcs encamped outside the mines, but the orcs saw them and had time to form up in response.

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The ulfhednar and picked men sprinted to occupy the right flank.

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But how long could the lightly-armored right flank hold against the heavier orcs?

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The Kildarians assessed the orc units.

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The disgraced Vestar fought heartily in an attempt to win King Kvig’s favor back.

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The Kildarians led by Vulmar slew many orcs and held firm the left flank. Our heroes fought in the center, challenging the urogs.

 

Humans and orcs fell to swords and axes until only Kvig, Wynston and Bleddyn remained.

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Hellgate Mines once again belonged to the kingdom of Gautria. Would King Kvig show his magnanimity and allow Vestar Vastar to work the mines? Or would Kvig give the holdings to a more reliable vassal? Will the orcs let this defeat go unanswered? Find out in Sagas of the Gautrian Kings #53.

Birthday Battle

What a Saturday Night Wargame! Ten of us gathered around the gaming tables to celebrate my birthday with a 5 on 4 battle. All our players from 3 storylines, plus Bleddyn’s wife, came for the fun.

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This battle was for control of the Hedemark, the penninsula to the east of Gautria. The Free Jarls, who swear to no king, call these lands theirs but the League of Nil-ith Horn orcs looked to firmly entrench themselves on this side of Lake Kisilev. King Magnus of South Gautria had camped the previous winter here with intent to crush the orcs early in the campaign season.

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My husband set up the troops ahead of time. He assigned units and/or heroes, and primary and secondary objectives to each player. There were 3 points of intrinsic value: the circle of stones (nearest to the camera), the ford, (which is behind the ridge where the flags are) and the slave wagons (on the hill furthest away from the camera).

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None of our player characters were actually present, but we played pieces with similar interests to our own.  Bleddyn’s wife debuted in her first wargame with several urog heroes on the hill guarding the slave wagons. The League of Nil-ith Horn Chronicles fellows played the orcs. Two players held the ford, one with units of Great Northern Orc mercenaries, and the other with League troops. Eskander had a mage with 2 units of valdgrafs, and a large unit of smerdi to hold the stone circle.

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The humans had Bleddyn playing as ulfhednar who were tasked with freeing the slaves from the urogs. Aedelfrid played as Queen Inga and her cavalry unit, and 2 units of footmen. Melkor represented the Kildarians. Their cavalry and sargents had pledged to support the Queen as she took the ford. Kvig played his brother Hegg, commanding Hegg’s cavalry, a unit of bonders, and Kvig’s own heroic unit of thanes (left behind in SGK #43). And I played as Jevenkah, who is currently lording over the northern-most village on the Hedemark and brought with her a unit of berserks and a handful of heroes. Her primary objective was to gain the stone circle.

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The units quickly moved to contact. The ulfhednar raced up the hill to engage the urogs.

The ulfhednar raced up the hill to engage the urogs.

The ulfhednar raced up the hill to engage the urogs.

Inga’s troops plus one unit of Kildarian knights crashed into the shield wall of the spear-wielding smerdi holding the ford.

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But the other Kildarians were swayed by Hegg to lend their troops to the fight for the stone circle. The Kildarian knights galloped to get behind the enemy line.

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Hegg lined his forces up against the orcs and attacked while Jevenkah sprinted up the left flank for the stone circle.

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There was heard then a great clash of hard plastic in polished wood boxes as battle was joined.

BirthdayBattle_030.jpgThere were fights up and down the table, and figures came off the board rapidly.

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The League of Nil-ith Horn at the stone circle were whittled down first by Hegg’s infantry, then by Jevenkah’s acid arrows.

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Finally her berserk warriors came upon the rear of the smerdi and eliminated them.

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The League mage with his valdgraf guards lasted a little longer, before being stamped out in the same manner by Hegg’s men and the Kildarian knights.

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The urogs on the hill took few losses and dealt out major damage, but were overcome by the numbers of attacking ulfhednar.

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The battle for the ford swung back and forth.

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Once the left flank was won, Jevenkah, Hegg and the Kildarian Baron brought their units to the ford. They joined Inga and sent the remaining orc forces sprinting for the trees.

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It was a great game and super birthday party!

Sagas of the Gautrian Kings #51- The Warbringer

King Kvig won a sound victory over King Magnus as Kvig defended Mosveld against Magnus’ treacherous attacks. Two of Magnus’ units abandoned him during the battle and declared loyalty to King Kvig. Kvig demanded oaths from the men and their leaders: Kvig’s cousin the mighty soldier Bolverk Skallason, and Baron Vulmar Voclain, the Kildarian knight, pledged themselves and their elite units to King Kvig. King Kvig also showed mercy to Bjorn and his berserk warriors when he allowed Bleddyn to heal and release Bjorn from the city.

Kvig gathered his forces the next day and set on a march to chase Magnus from North Gautria. King Kvig pursued Magnus to the river dividing North from South.

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There the two kings were met by the third most powerful man in Gautria, Kvig’s uncle Skalla Grimson. Jarl Grimson had crossed the river from his home of Jarlin with troops to rival either of the kings’ forces.

Tense negotiations ensued.

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Skalla wanted the warring kings to understand their fight would cripple Gautria and leave her open to orc invasion. At last, Kvig and Magnus made peace and agreed to each keep to his own side of the river. Kvig went North, while Skalla Grimson escorted Magnus south.

Kvig and his army returned to his capital city of Mosveld. The tall, handsome Thrand Vesterson was waiting for Kvig in the Queen’s keep there.

“My father is in desperate need against the orcs,” Thrand said to Kvig. “The foul creatures have inhabited the old stone fortress of Dakagog and from that place of strength they threaten Sigivald and all your lands west over Lake Tagova. Sail with me, King Kvig, Orc-Slayer, and I will land your boats at Dakagog and join your men in the slaughter of those wretched orcs!”

“Agreed, young Thrand,” replied Kvig heartily. “We will take you from here and do what your father can not!”

King Kvig assembled a small force made up of his own veteran shield bearers, a unit of unarmored but highly mobile picked men commanded by Wynston, and a unit of ulfhednar loyal to Bleddyn. Kvig also chose the newly-sworn unit of elite Kildarian knights to accompany them.

Thrand Vesterson confidently steered the boats across Lake Tagova, and brought them without event to the shores of the orc fortress of Dakagog.

Thrand put in at the landing. Kvig led the charge up the hill, with Thrand and Baron Vulmar at his side.

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Bleddyn and Wynston brought their men scrambling up the rocks on the flank.

The wild orcs put up a vicious defense. Wynston’s picked men were whittled down as they tried to climb the hill. Bleddyn and his ulfhednar slowly pushed the orcs back.

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The orcs held strong at the top of the stone staircase against Kvig’s well-armored forces. The narrow steps left no room for Kvig to bring his numbers to bear.

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Kvig and his heroes hewed down orc after orc, slowly opening the space to gain a foothold on the crest of the hill.

Bleddyn’s unit broke the orcs on the flank and manuevered behind the orcs pinning Kvig and the heavy infantry on the hillltop.

Halvdan the hero smashed throught the line to attack one of the two urogs threatening Kvig. Wynston left her dwindling unit and ran across the cliffs to join the melee. She picked out the other urog attacking Kvig and hacked into its back. The three heroes quickly finished the two urogs.

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Bleddyn and the ulfhednar engaged the remaining orcs.

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Outnumbered, the orcs were soon slaughtered by the human invaders.

King Kvig called to the orcs that had barricaded themselves in the fortress to offer terms, but there was only silence from the stones. The humans set to opening the gates with force. Even unopposed, it was several hours before the humans cracked the fortress and Kvig stood inside the empty hall of Dakagog.

King Kvig had removed a good-size orc force from his western lands, but Thrand Vesterson said many large groups of wild orcs still populated these hills. Can Kvig and his forces reclaim the lands from the orcs? And how would Kvig deal with his vassal, Vester Vaster, and his inability to defend the King’s holdings?

Sagas of the Gautrian Kings #50- Sword and Sorcery

After the united human army destroyed the League of Nil-ith Horn orc force at Larbro, King Magnus took possession of that lakeside fortification.

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Jarl Kvig Melgarson marched his own troops west, headed for Queen Svala’s capital city of Mosveld.

On the way there, Kvig stopped at his ancestral home of Helvik.

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He gathered all the troops loyal to himself into his retinue, left a skeleton crew in control of the wooden fort, and announced they were going to a wedding.

Three days later, Kvig Melgarson and his army arrived at Mosveld to the sight of sparsely manned walls and wary citizens.

Kvig and his companions Bleddyn and Wynston were immediately ushered into the Queen’s keep by the lawgiver, Rig Steinarson. They were met by two huge scowling men, one a beardless young warrior in fine clothes and the other a bearskin clad berserker who towered over Kvig and Bleddyn.

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“This is to be our King?” spoke the barbarian angrily. “He is not half the man I am!”

“If our Queen wills it, we will abide her choice, Bjorn,” said the young man. He met Kvig’s gaze. “I am Thrand, son of Vester Vastarson who now holds Sigivald for Queen Svala. I have long heard the tales of your victories over the orcs, Kvig.”

With a dismissive grunt, the giant Bjorn shoved through Kvig and Thrand and left the castle.

“I hope you will bring your fight against the orcs to our holding,” Thrand pressed Kvig. “My father has been harassed by wild orcs from the western mountains. These orcs have taken up residence in the ancient stone fortress of Dakagog, and he has been unable to drive them out.”

“Plenty of time to discuss that at my wedding feast!” said Kvig. “Take us to the Queen!”

“The Queen waits within,” Steinarson the lawgiver said to Kvig. “She will have audience with you only.”

Wynston was nervous to leave Kvig alone with a woman of such power, and Queen Svala had a reputation for witchcraft. But it would be Kvig who took the wedding oaths with her, so into her chambers he went.

Bleddyn shrugged. “No point in staying here. We should see the troops.”

Wynston followed Bleddyn to the gate tower. From there she could make out less than a dozen of Queen Svala’s red-clad guards strung along the stone walls.

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Wynston saw Mosveld’s heavy cavalry in the stables, and Bjorn the Mighty with his unit of warrior berserkers.

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Kvig’s army would more than double the forces garrisoned now in Mosveld.

“They better have this wedding soon. We need to get our guards up here,” said Bleddyn.

Wynston nodded. “The lakeside gate is undermanned, too.” She looked to the castle. “King Magnus will know what we’re doing soon enough.”

“Let him come!” scoffed Bleddyn. “We’ll have the walls, and the numbers. He won’t be able to challenge us.”

Wynston was unconvinced.

When Wynston and Bleddyn returned to the castle, Steinarson informed them the wedding would be five nights hence. A bleary-eyed Kvig came out from the audience chamber and gave his approval. “Start the feasting tonight!”

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Rig Steinarson put the chamberlain in motion and had the tower set for a feast. The castle staff hurried to make the keep seem festive. More food and drink were brought in. Even Bjorn returned and joined glumly in the nightly meals Queen Svala hosted.

By the time the ceremonies were to begin on the fifth night, Kvig had eyes only for his Queen. In fact, Wynston and Bleddyn were concerned at the doting stares Kvig fixed on his wife-to-be. He seemed a bit smitten for a warlord whose eastern borders were occupied by a rival king.

However distracted, Kvig spoke his oaths true, and Queen Svala said the same, and the Lawgiver announced them man and wife. Wynston and Bleddyn were overjoyed.

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They feasted long into the night. Impatiently, Wynston and Bleddyn got the couple off to the marriage bed, and began to bring Kvig’s men into the city in support of the Mosveld troops.

Their timing was fortuitous, as the next day before King Kvig was out of the marriage bed, riders brought news that King Magnus had taken control of Helvik, and would be at Mosveld within three days.

Kvig ordered his entire camp, followers and all, into the city. King Kvig Melgarson’s loyal soldiers took to the walls and streets.

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The city gates were closed. Two tense days passed. Then Magnus’ force was spotted.

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King Magnus had an impressive army, but surely not grand enough to siege Mosveld? Bleddyn was highly suspicious.

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King Magnus arrayed his professional army for battle. Units of blue-and-yellow Kildarian elite heavy cavalry, including those led by Kvig’s ally Baron Vulmar, bolstered the Gautrian heavy fighting forces. Also under Magnus’ banner was Kvig’s cousin Bolverk Skalason, and the elite warriors which had earned him much fame at the Battle of Skarken River.

King Magnus called for Kvig to come out and surrender Mosveld. Kvig laughed. Magnus ordered his troops forward.

Kvig and Bleddyn responded. Bleddyn deployed his ulfhednar in the courtyard. Kvig readied the heavy cavalry.

Then from the gatehouse, Bjorn the Mighty bellowed:

“Now men! Death to the witch-queen of Mosveld!” And the bear-skin warriors threw open the gate.

The Kildarian cavalry thundered through the tunnel.

A stunned Kvig was mounted there to meet them.

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Bleddyn dropped inside and challenged Bjorn. Wynston ran for the winch but was attacked by two of Bjorn’s men guarding the lever. Thrand Vesterson jumped from the battlement and engaged the traitorous berserkers to get Wynston clear. There was mayhem within the walls.

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A huge explosion rocked the walls of Mosveld. The lakeside gate was breached! Bolverk Skalason led his crushing infantry through the hole.

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Mosveld’s cavalry broke off to meet the axe-wielding warriors.

Bleddyn and Bjorn battled fiercely in the gatehouse. They exchanged several blows until the mighty Bjorn lay mortally wounded on the wooden floor.

Wynston secured the winch and slammed close the gate, trapping the dwindling numbers of Kildarian horseman inside the walls. Bolverk’s heavy infantry unit was in the courtyard confronted with Mosveld’s cavalry in front, and javelins from men on the ramparts above.

The cavalry of King Magnus, led by his warrior wife Inga Storolfdottir, reigned in and wheeled back to the King’s lines.

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The Kildarian foot soldiers fell in behind the cavalry and left the gates unchallenged.

King Kvig stood tall in his saddle and called to the commanders Vulmar and Bolverk.

“Your King Magnus has abandoned you! Vulmar, you pledged to be my vassal when I held sway in the south. And cousin, you have never done wrong by me. Both of you, take oaths to me, be my steadfast swordarms, and you will be well rewarded.”

Vulmar quickly brought his knights to a halt. “King Kvig!” Vulmar shouted.

The Mosveld cavalry fell back and allowed Bolverk’s unit to approach Kvig.

“I am with you, cousin!” shouted Bolverk. “King Kvig!”

The warriors surrounding Kvig picked up the chant. “King Kvig!” was shouted from rampart and horseback.

It was a might victory roar that poured from the city and echoed in King Magnus’ helm as he retreated from the field of battle.

 

King Kvig had won and defended his stone city. How would King Magnus react to his defeat at Mosveld? And what of the new orc threat to Gautria’s western borders? Can King Kvig build his forces and kingdom to stand the tests of time?

 

 

Sagas of the Gautrian Kings #49- Siege on Larbro

With the threat of a large force of League of Nil-ith Horn orcs looming from their fort at Larbro, Jarl Kvig Melgarson reluctantly accepted the presence of King Magnus and his South Gautrian army. King Magnus however called a Thing to have the people of Gautria agree for his army to lead the attack on Larbro, vanquish the orcs, and declare him King of all Gautria. Kvig hoped enough of the bonders who had named him King Kvig last year remained to gather at the Thing in his support.

Jarl Kvig sent word to his ally, King Ragnar Redblade of the Vell, the foster father of Bleddyn, champion of Kvig, asking him to come add his voice to the Thing.

Gautrian bonders began to arrive the next day. On the eve of the second night, King Ragnar showed with three units of his savage Vell warriors.

“I will be honored to battle by your side against the orcs, Kvig,” Ragnar spoke. “But I will not aid you in your conflict with Magnus.”

“Of course,” said Kvig. “Just lend your men to my spy Wynston for this. She’s our expert.”

“Oh yes?” asked Ragnar. “I’ve heard the tales of your taking of the fort at Sigivald! My folk would gladly fight for her.”

Ragnar withdrew and left Kvig, Bleddyn and Wynston alone. “You have a good plan, right?” Kvig asked.

“Have faith, Kvig,” said Wynston.

“Gods help us,” muttered Kvig.

The sacred fires were lit at dusk by three priests: the Bone Woman Helga from Ragnar’s people in the Vell Mountains, Gunvor Rolfson the leader of Bleddyn’s ulfhednar, and a young beautiful seer named Kaisa who traveled with Magnus. The three watched silently as Magnus addressed the assembled men and women.

“People of Gautria! The orcs are on your shore and have slain your kin. I come North to rid Gautria of these monsters. I, and the brave warriors who march with me, will protect you from this threat!

“This bandit king Kvig Melgarson has no claim to a throne! Melgarson is nothing but lies! He calls himself Valden Slayer but the true heroes of Skarken River fight for me. The man who struck down Valden the Ruthless himself, Bolverk Skallason, commands his elite sword thanes under my banner, and his men have been richly rewarded! So too does Baron Vulmar ride for me. His elite knights hewed through the orc ranks at the Battle of Skarken River! It was they who won the field there, not Melgarson and his meager units.

“Kvig is a liar and oath-breaker! He takes glory on his name from those who earned it! Gautrians, do not trust this man! He will lead you to doom!”

There were scattered mutterings and nods when King Magnus was finished. When Kvig strode in front of the crowd, he heard a few cheers.

“Brothers, I have fought with many of you. We raised arms against the orcs when the boy-King would lead from the rear. We took action while he planned and gathered men at his keep. Together we fought Valden the Ruthless while Magnus would have left the lands of Timlin to be overrun by Vangen orcs.

“Now Magnus marches his well-paid soldiers into our homeland and professes to be our only hope. Yes, he has great men fighting with him, and they performed great deeds at Skarken River. As did you all!”

Several voices roared approval at that.

“We routed the orcs while Magnus wanted our troops to withdraw! He doesn’t know how strong you Gautrians are!”

Boos and hisses joined the commotion.

“Magnus doesn’t understand what it takes to rule Gautria. You people do! You, who named me your king of one Gautria!”

Cries of “King Kvig! King Kvig! King Kvig!” burst from the gathering.

Kvig stood tall on the hillside. Magnus fumed next to Kvig. The priest Gunvor Rolfson raised his arms over the crowd. “Enough!” he shouted. “We will speak to the leaders.”

Kvig, Magnus, and Ragnar followed the priest out of sight of the bonders and to the fire where the two priestesses waited. The old bone woman spoke, “The orcs will slay our warriors and make slaves of the rest if man cannot help man! Magnus, Kvig, put your feud aside.”

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Before Kvig or Magnus could respond, Gunvor spoke again, “You three will take a sacred oath. There shall be no quarrel between you until all the greenskins are gone! Let the gods decide each man’s fate but if any of you breaks this oath he shall be called blasphemer and cast out from this country.”

Ragnar stepped forward and drew his blade across his palm, “Agreed!”

Kvig and Magnus stared coldly at each other. “Agreed,” said Kvig at last.

“Yes,” nodded Magnus. “I will aid you. We will take Larbro from the orcs, Melgarson. And after that, the gods will shine their favor on the one true King of Gautria.”

Kvig and the two kings left the sacred circle and joined their commanders in the war tent.

Wynston had been with the scouts gathering information on Larbro. The village of Larbro was located on the shore of Lake Kisilev. The League of Nil-ith Horn landed their first forces there in the spring, then slaved the inhabitants and razed the village.

On the ruins the soldiers constructed a fortified camp and docks surrounded by 15-feet-high palisade fence. It was well-built, manned by disciplined troops. Guarding the gate was a wooden tower, undoubtedly where the orc priest Graf Shalmenasar and his acolyte would be.

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Wynston knew the only way to take Larbro was by getting the Gautrian heavy infantry inside the palisade to battle the well-armored League forces. Someone would have to open the gate.

King Magnus turned to Kvig. “How are you and your army of bonders intending to drive out these orcs? Are your people ready for a siege?”

“We shall put our fate in the hands of my master infiltrator,” Kvig said fixedly. “Wynston can get us the fort in one night. You want your troops in that gate? Let her lead the raid.”

“Ever the shifty one, Melgarson. You preach to the bonders how you lead from the front, yet it’s your spy who’ll do the hard work for you,” scoffed Magnus. “Fine, woman, what’s your plan?”

“We will use cunning and surprise to take the tower quickly,” stated Wynston, “then throw open the gates for our army.

“I will slip inside Larbro and gain entrance to the tower. Once there, I’ll slay the priests.”

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“While the tower is in confusion, Magnus will have the heavy infantry rush the gate.”

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“Bleddyn, you and your ulfhednar will swim through the lake and take the docks. Burn the boats if you have to, and let none escape.”

“Ragnar and his followers will climb the fence at the tower base and engage the priest’s elite guard there.”

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“And Kvig himself will lead the picked men over the wall on the left and open the gate.”

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“We will show them how true Gautrians fight. The League of Nil-ith Horn will face warriors now at Larbro instead of women and children!”

A mighty roar engulfed the tent. All were ready to march on Larbro.

The Gautrian army arrived outside the village shortly before dark a few days later. Wynston entered Larbro unseen and made her way to the tower. Disguised as a kitchen girl, she was permitted up into the chamber of Graf Shalmenasar just as she planned. A Gautrian warhorn blast startled the priest and he turned his back to Wynston. She sprang behind him, threw her arms about his throat and snapped his neck. Before the dead priest’s acolyte could respond, Wynston grappled him and broke his neck as well. A guard in the room tried to cry for help, but the soldiers were scrambling to secure the gate against Magnus’s infantry.

Kvig and his picked men moved up the ladders and over the palisade. The orc troops held strong though and kept Kvig’s group from reaching the gate.

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Ragnar Redblade and his Vell warriors swarmed the tower walls and fought off the priest’s guard.

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But at the docks, the League of Nil-ith Horn unit kept Bleddyn and the ulfhednar pinned in place.

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From her vantage in the tower Wynston could see the closed gate and no other option. She hooked a grapple around a plank, shimmied through the window and slid down the rope to land behind a large banner at the foot of the tower. The guards on the wall never saw her as she struck them down from behind. Wynston worked the winch for the gate and Kvig’s cousin Bolverk Skalason led the Gautrian infantry into the courtyard.

The final battle was quick and bloody. Kvig and the picked men slew all the gate guards. Bleddyn and the ulfhednar kept control of the docks and the boats. Wynston kept the gate clear. The heavy infantry surged through the village and killed every orc they found.

When Magnus finally rode into the village, he kept to his saddle while the foot soldiers around him put the orcs to the sword. Kvig, Wynston, Bleddyn and Ragnar celebrated the retaking of Larbro by participating in the carnage.

The League of Nil-ith Horn had lost their foothold in North Gautria and a large expeditionary force in a single stroke. The Gautrians were free of the dark cloud of the raiding orcs. Would the cloud of human conflict disperse so neatly for Kvig and Magnus now that the orc enemy was gone? Could one of these men rule all of Gautria?

Sagas of the Gautrian Kings #48- Right to Rule

Kvig Melgarson campaigned against orcs for many years (Sagas of the Gautrian Kings #37-48) to protect the humans of Gautria. Nominally under the banner of King Magnus in South Gautria, he vanquished the mighty urog King Valden the Ruthless at the Battle of Skarken River (sgk 40). Kvig was held in high esteem for his willingness to take the field against that massive orc army when King Magnus had argued they had little chance of victory (sgk 39). After that decisive battle, the bonders held a Thing (sgk 41) and declared Jarl Kvig should be their king. King Magnus heard about the Thing and declared Kvig an outlaw (sgk 42).

Kvig eventually fled South Gautria (sgk 45) with some loyal men, and brought his orc-slaying followers north. The League of Nil-ith Horn had sent invading forces of orcs and men (day-long wargaming event, “Kingdom Under Siege”) across Kisilev Lake to ravage Kvig’s homeland. Kvig returned to his ancestral home fort of Helvik (sgk 46) to find his brother Olaf unwilling to commit any of his troops to an offensive maneuver without the support of King Magnus and his armies. When the ill (and rumored to be bewitched) Olaf died in Kvig’s arms, Kvig pronounced himself Jarl of Helvik.

Once news of Kvig’s action reached the recently widowed (“Battle of Turlin”) Queen Svala of North Gautria, she sent a token unit of men to Kvig, in the hopes of an alliance. With the League of Nil-ith Horn troops to his east, King Magnus to his south, and Queen Svala on his west, Kvig’s chance to unite Gautria under one ruler was upon him.

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When scouts returned to Helvik with reports of several units of League of Nil-ith Horn infantry coming from Larbro, Kvig and his champion Bleddyn readied their men for a siege.

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The inhabitants of Helvik were inspired by their new Jarl’s confidence. The soldiers and bonders steeled themselves at their posts when the League of Nil-ith Horn army arrived. Unit after unit lined up for battle.

The League forces were led by Graf Shalmenasar, a black-robed priest. He dispatched a messenger to the Gautrians. Instead of listening to his terms, Kvig challenged their 3 largest urogs to fight Bleddyn, Wynston and himself.

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Graf Shalmanesar agreed at first, but as the trio fought, he decried Wynston’s slippery tactics as trickery. He responded in kind with a blast from his mage’s staff. The humans retreated inside the pallisade, flames and lightning bolts slamming into the wooden gate behind them.

Kvig’s people were prepared and quick to react to the flaming front gate. Graf Shalmanesar then flung his fire magicks at the bridge leading to the great hall where the women and children were sheltered. Wynston jumped across the gap to defend the hall side while men worked to put out the fire.

The League of Nil-ith Horn forces waited patiently, satisfied to let their priest and leader burn a way into the fort. The men inside the wooden palisade felt their situation grow more desperate. It seemed a matter of time until the orcs destroyed the front gate.

Just then, a horn sounded in the distance. It was a Gautrian horn! King Magnus had arrived from South Gautria with his professional army. The hearts of Helvik were buoyed as Graf Shalmanesar ordered his forces to retreat.

The League of Nil-ith Horn army withdrew east, and King Magnus arrayed his troops outside Helvik. Kvig rode out to parlay with Bleddyn by his side, and his heavy cavalry and the ulfhednar behind him.

King Magnus had his new bride Inga Storolfdottir with him. Inga’s father Storolf was one of Kvig’s most powerful allies. Inga herself had taken a liking to the handsome champion Bleddyn when she first saw him in her father’s village, and heard the tales of his prowess in battle. Now a married sword sister, she still gave Bleddyn a lingering look as the pairs came together.

Magnus addressed Bleddyn, “I demand the surrender of this bandit Kvig Melgarson who calls himself lies like king and Valden-slayer! I bring the men for a united Gautria. I bring the true heroes of Skarken River, Bolverk Skalason, who struck down Valden, and Baron Vulmar, whose cavalry carried that day. With men like these fighting under me, I will go to Larbro, destroy the orc threat to the people of one Gautria!”

Kvig answered forcefully, “I have led our men into battle with the orcs while you sought to stay safe and protected. The people of Gautria need a king of action and strength. Go back to your stone keep and hide boy, I will take these warriors to Larbro and crush the orcs on our shore!”

“It will take both our forces,” spoke Inga. “We must unite in this, or the whole of Gautria will fall! Save your anger towards each other for when the orcs are gone.”

King Magnus looked shrewdly at his wife, then at his units of men behind her. “I will call a Thing, two nights hence. We will hear what these people of Gautria think. They will proclaim me rightful King, then I will lead the attack on Larbro. You and I will settle after, Melgarson.”

Magnus wheeled his horse away and returned to his forces. Inga sent a last smoldering glance to Bleddyn and followed her husband.

The South Gautrian army set up camp just within sight of the palisade of Helvik. Kvig took counsel with Bleddyn and Wynston. “Send some of your men to your father, Ragnar Red-Blade. Ask for his aid against these orcs,” Kvig said to Bleddyn. “And stay out of Inga’s tent.”

Kvig hoped his ally the King of the Vell savages to their north would come swiftly. Ragnar’s presence would give Kvig’s claim to kingship more weight. Any additional fighters would be welcomed against the well-armored and highly disciplined League of Nil-ith Horn troops. But it was the common bonders who had first declared Kvig as their King. Would they come to this Thing, with King Magnus and his professional army poised to tip the balance of power? Would the bonders make their voices heard again for the man who kept the lands free from the orc terror?

Two days time would tell.

Sagas of the Gautrian Kings #47- Orc Slayers

Following the death of his brother Olaf, Kvig Melgarson took possession of his ancestral home of Helvik. Olaf’s widow Ragna fled with a few women, leaving the fighting men to grumble their suspicions of witchcraft. Jarl Kvig had ordered all the casks smashed, which added further to the grumbling.

However, spirits were lightened when Herigar Kolson, the huscarl of Helvik, and his cavalry patrol arrived at the fort. They led a column of men and supplies from Queen Svala at Mosveld, the recently widowed ruler of North Gautria. Also escorting the men from Mosveld was Baron Valliard and his elite cavalry unit.

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Baron Valliard offered the veteran bonder unit as a gift of goodwill from Queen Svala to Kvig Melgarson, rightful Jarl of Helvik. The Queen was anxious to provide Kvig with more supplies and reinforcements, in return she asked only for an oath of cooperation, and potential alliance. Kvig accepted, and demanded the bonders swear their oaths to him. Herigar Kolson and all the thanes of Helvik swore to serve Jarl Kvig as well. Baron Valliard took his leave, with promise to return shortly.

The goods from Mosveld fortunately included mead, and Kvig was generous with these casks. The warriors celebrated into the night. Kvig, Bleddyn and Wynston left the mead hall and gathered to discuss Queen Svala’s terms.

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“There’s only one thing for you to do Kvig,” said Wynston.

“I know. I have to marry her,” said Kvig.

The stunned silence surrounding the group made it easy for Wynston to hear something out of place. She looked towards the sound and saw orc valgrafs from the League of Nil-ith Horn scaling the palisade fence.

Wynston pointed the orcs out to Kvig and Bleddyn, then ran across the bridge, climbed the fence and a roof and gained the high ground on an unsuspecting orc.

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Kvig used the ladder and challenged an orc at the gate.

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Bleddyn spotted an orc with a large phial at the base of the wooden tower and charged him.

Wynston disposed of her orc, then moved to protect Kvig’s flank.

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Kvig, Bleddyn and Wynston slew the orcs inside the palisade. Down below in the village, two urogs sliced through bonders.

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Kvig’s mounted thanes responded to the urogs and defeated them easily from horseback.

The wounded were tended to and had barely healed up when Baron Valliard returned a few days later. His elite cavalry unit had tracked an unnaturally swift group of urogs.

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The frenzied urogs were near by, within striking distance of the cavalry. Kvig had Herigar Kolson and the Helvik cavalry ready, and Bleddyn took command of the highly mobile ulfhednar. Wynston rode along with the Helvik men, and Baron Valliard’s knights led the way.

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Bleddyn and the ulfhednar easily scouted the fast-moving urogs and deployed on their flank. Kvig drove the two cavalry units straight at the horde of urogs. A few urogs spotted the ulfhednar and broke off to meet them. Bleddyn and the priest Gunvor Rolfson fought well, but wolfpelt-clad warriors fell to the huge urogs.

Wynston rode at them and dismounted at Bleddyn’s side. The ulfhendar took heavy losses.

The cavalry slowly whittled the rest of the urogs down, and took many casualties themselves.

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Fighting on horseback proved the advantage for the humans, as Kvig Melgarson and his company slaughtered the crazed group of urogs.

Sagas of the Gautrian Kings #46- Dark Days in Helvik

Kvig Melgarson, his champion Bleddyn Yorath, and his master spy Wynston Black marched with Kvig’s few infantry units to his ancestral home of Helvik. When Kvig arrived at that wooden keep, he found his brother Olaf, the jarl of Helvik, had the gates open in welcome. Kvig brought his troops inside the wooden palisade walls.

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Kvig could see the fortification was woefully undermanned. The fighting men from Helvik looked hopefully to Kvig. They had marshalled in the fort against the League of Nil-ith Horn orc invasion, but Jarl Olaf was too ill to ride out and fight. Kvig promised them he would drive the hated orcs from the shores of North Gautria, just as he had done in the lands to the south. Many men of Helvik cheered and Kvig’s retinue began to chant “King Kvig! King Kvig! King Kvig!”

“Where is my brother, your Jarl? I should pay my regards to him and his wife,” Kvig asked. He was directed to the great hall on the hill, where the men told him Olaf sat and drank each day as his wife Ragna ran the holdings. There were dark looks exchanged when Ragna’s name was spoken.

Kvig strode through the warriors to the hill. Wynston and Bleddyn followed behind Kvig as he entered his brother’s hall. Olaf Melgarson sat slumped in a large wooden chair, drink in hand. His beautiful wife Ragna sat in a matched chair by his side. Casks and barrels lined the side of the hall between Kvig and Olaf.

“So, brother,” said Kvig, “This is how you keep our father’s lands safe? Our people are slaughtered by orcs while you drink in the mead hall? Take your sword and ride out with me!”

“You would like that, Kvig Melgarson, I am sure,” said Ragna. “To see your brother slain on the battlefield so you can lay claim to Helvik.”

“Enough!” roared Olaf as he rose unsteadily from his chair. “I’m not dead yet, woman! I rule Helvik, and I fear neither this bandit-king brother of mine, nor the orcs from the League of Nil-ith Horn.” Olaf drained his cup.

“Then lend your sword arm and your men to our cause and together we will defeat the orcs!” replied Kvig.

“Bah! Do all your men even own shields?” asked Olaf. “You ran from our brother Hegg in Timlin and his liege King Magnus, and come here to Helvik with thirty men boasting to slay the orcs? I will wait for Magnus, I think.”

Kvig turned a hard stare on his brother. “Is that you speaking, Olaf? Or is it the words of your witch-wife speaking to you through your drink?”

Olaf threw his empty cup at Kvig and drew his sword. Ragna jumped to her feet between the brothers.

“Bleddyn,” Kvig said behind him. “The casks.”

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With just a slight hesitation, Bleddyn hacked into a barrel. The floor grew dark as Bleddyn slashed cask after cask.

Olaf only shuddered and let his sword drop. Ragna shrieked and ran from the hall.

“Now you can be free, brother, as we will make the North free!” proclaimed Kvig.

“You will see what you have done, brother,” said Olaf hopelessly.

Kvig, Bleddyn and Wynston returned to their men in the yard. Once it was dark, Wynston convinced the two to sneak to the sacred grove where Ragna was surely calling on the old powers. Kvig and Bleddyn hid farther off, but Wynston was able to get close enough to prove her hunch. Ragna was communing with her sister Svala, the Queen of North Gautria since her husband Gorm was killed at the Battle of Turlin.

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Svala promised men to aid Ragna in holding Helvik. Hidden among them would be professional assassins to target Kvig. Wynston moved closer to hear the details and was spotted by Ragna’s fanatic followers. Wynston slew one, and led the other to her hidden comrades. By the time she, Kvig and Bleddyn had dealt with the fanatics, Ragna had disappeared.

The trio ran back to the tower of Helvik, where they were stopped by more of Ragna’s men.

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Kvig demanded they step aside. Kvig’s forces were rousing in answer to the combat outside, and the sudden commotion in the gates. Ragna’s three thanes in red threw down their swords and declared for Kvig.

Wynston was about to enter the tower when most of the few remaining women in Helvik appeared in the yard. They begged for Kvig to hurry to his brother. Kvig ran to the great hall.

Olaf lay at the foot of his chair. His skin was grey, and his breath shaky.

“See, little brother? See what you have brought on me?” asked Olaf. “You may know war, but you do not know women.” Olaf lifted his shirt. A black stain marred his chest. “This should have killed me long ago. It was Ragna kept me alive. You bring death with you, Kvig.”

Kvig grasped his brother to him as Olaf breathed his last.

Wynston turned from the Melgarsons and sprinted back to the tower. It was empty, and no one had seen Ragna.

Kvig Melgarson burned Olaf’s body with honors. Kvig stood tall in the light of the funeral pyre and declared himself Jarl of Helvik. The inhabitants of Helvik cheered their approval. Kvig’s men from the south began a different chant:

“King Kvig! King Kvig! King Kvig!”

Sagas of the Gautrian Kings #45- The Outlaws

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Spring arrived early, and brought with it hope for Kvig Melgarson to continue his quest to unite Gautria. Two ships were secretly constructed over the winter for him. They were outfitted with a unit of loyal bonders each and waited at the village of Alnar to cross the lake and repel the League of Nil-ith Horn forces from North Gautria.
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Wynston, Bleddyn and Kvig were en route to that village when one of the ulfhednar intercepted them with a warning. Two units of heavy cavalry under Sir Reinhard had taken over Alnar. They terrorized the population and brought hostages with them from the nearby village of Strek: Kvig’s village-wife and her father. It was the perfect trap for Jarl Kvig and his companions.
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When the trio got to Alnar, master spy Wynston climbed onto the house where Reinhard and his hostages were. As she waited for Kvig and Bleddyn to get positioned, she peered inside. There were a few other women-folk about, as well as a second armored knight. Once Kvig was on the roof, Wynston dropped through the smoke hole and sprang behind Reinhard. She had her mithril long knife to his throat before anyone realized she was in the room.
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Wynston was hesitant to slay Reinhard out-of-hand. He was the second of Kvig’s brother Jarl Hegg, and commanded the Gautrian cavalry in the lands of Timlin. However, Reinhard had challenged Kvig on several occasions, arrested him, kidnapped his village-wife, and was currently in possession of Bleddyn’s sword, the third-best warsword Wynston had ever laid her blacksmith’s hands on. While Wynston wavered, Kvig was spotted on the roof and left the smoke hole.
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Reinhard sensed the delay and tried to elude Wynston’s grasp. Both the armored knight and the well-dressed woman in the corner drew swords. Wynston and Reinhard struggled. Bleddyn stormed through the front door and joined the melee. The combat turned deadly and Bleddyn and Wynston slew Reinhard.

Kvig was faced with one of Reinhard’s knights, and Kvig’s own man Arnsten. Arnsten was true to Kvig and threatened the knight. Others were drawn to the commotion in the house. When a bloodied Wynston came out with the keen Thuringian warsword, the men quieted. She delivered the sword to Kvig. Kvig raised it aloft and offered terms to the leaderless knights. Any who wished could swear oaths to him, the rest could ride back to Hegg and Timlin Town. A handful of men swore oaths and joined the bonder units re-forming in the center of the village. The other knights took the riderless horses with them and rode away. Kvig gifted the sword back to Bleddyn. The ulfhednar arrived and added their numbers to Kvig’s retinue.
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Kvig and his followers set sail over Lake Sund, and landed near ruins that had been the village of Turlin. Their scouts were reading the signs of battle when they were met by Herigar Kolson and the cavalry from Helvik. Herigar was the Huscarl of Helvik, respected by Kvig and Kvig’s father before him. Herigar gave Kvig foul news that his other brother Olaf, the jarl of Helvik, had sent no troops to fight the League of Nil-ith Horn forces at the Battle of Turlin. King Gorm himself had been slain defending the lands here, while Olaf was too weak to fight. Instead, Olaf took much drink in his hall, and only the council of his woman Ragna.

Kvig vowed to be the one who would push the League of Nil-ith Horn from the lands of Gautria. Herigar told him of an orc camp nearby, and they marched together on it. The orcs stood little chance against the enraged Kvig Melgarson and his fighters.

The orcs were slaughtered and Kvig made ready to return to his ancestral home of Helvik. What kind of welcome could the warlord Kvig expect from his brother, rightful jarl of Helvik?