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.

Sagas of The Gautrian Kings #51

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.

Legend of the Volsung #3- Wolves and Warriors

The reunited people of Rathus thanked Aedelfrid and Melkor for defeating the bandits who were plaguing their village. There were a few healers among the villagers and they found woundwort and hemus in the bandits’ loot. Aedelfrid helped them treat the wounded warriors and prisoners. Her betrothed, Ottar, son of Jarl Gudmar, was most grievously injured. They bound his wounds, but wanted to get him to a bed in Rathus quickly.

When the bedraggled company arrived in Rathus, they were unexpectedly confronted by Jarl Hegg Melgarson of Timlin Town. He had an impressive contingent under his command.

Jarl Hegg rode at the front of his mounted elite Gautrian thanes, and was followed by his brother Kvig's former legendary thanes and a unit of bondi from Timlin.

Jarl Hegg rode at the front of his mounted elite Gautrian thanes, and was followed by his brother Kvig’s former legendary thanes and a unit of bondi from Timlin.

Hegg was angered that Ottar was fighting in these lands at all, so far south of Gudmar’s holdings.

“These people came to us for aid, Jarl Hegg,” spoke Melkor Voclain. “We meant no disrespect to you, or to my father, lord of this village.”

“You do not need to remind me who should be protecting this hamlet,” said Hegg. “Vulmar Voclain has thrown in with my traitorous brother Kvig and absconded north. That doesn’t give your Jarl the right to be here. And,” Hegg sneered, “Vulmar has no legitimate son I’ve heard him speak of.”

“Men,” said Sverting, the bondi leader of Rathus. “Let us share the joy of the return of our kinsfolk, and feast together on the recovered bounty.”

Sverting sought to sooth Jarl Hegg.

Sverting sought to sooth Jarl Hegg.

“Take care of our horses, bonder, and bring me my portion inside,” Hegg demanded. “We march in a few days to join King Magnus. Have food ready for my troops to travel with.”

Hegg snapped at one of the foot soldiers, “Arnsten! Secure the prisoners.”

The captured bandits were taken behind the stable to be interrogated.

The captured bandits were taken behind the stable to be interrogated.

Hegg swung down from his horse and strode into the wooden hall.

Hegg and his thanes claimed the longhouse, while the infantry were encamped by the animal pens.

Hegg and his thanes claimed the longhouse, while the infantry were encamped by the animal pens.

As Hegg climbed the hill to the house, Aedelfrid got a long look at the hilt of his sword. It was just as her brother Thorgils had described their father’s heirloom sword, when Thorgils saw it on the belt of Hegg’s brother Kvig Melgarson a few years ago.

The exquisite sword was stolen from her father Ardgar, shortly before his death. Thorgils had told her Father’s replacement sword broke in battle with the orcs, then the orcs struck him down. Thorgils had blamed the Melgarsons for Father’s death ever since he saw the sword on Kvig’s hip. He would be intrigued to hear it was Jarl Hegg, and not King Kvig who wore Father’s warsword now (SGK #42).

Aedelfrid was nearly overcome with the desire to steal back her family's heirloom sword from Jarl Hegg.

Aedelfrid was nearly overcome with the desire to steal back her family’s heirloom sword from Jarl Hegg.

After she saw Ottar Gudmarson and the other wounded to beds, Aedelfrid sent her followers to enjoy the celebrations.

Aedelfrid decided to join the warriors from Timlin feasting around their bonfire.

Aedelfrid decided to join the warriors from Timlin feasting around their bonfire.

A strapping man from the group welcomed her to their circle. He introduced himself as Henrik Modrak, longtime fighter for the Melgarsons.

The Melgarsons' legendary infantry boasted of their many victories.

The Melgarsons’ legendary infantry boasted of their many victories.

The storytelling was interrupted by a drunken, shouting Hegg. The Jarl wanted all present to hear what the prisoners had revealed. A beaten captive was dragged up the longhouse hill. There he told of an agreement between Jarl Gudmar and their leader, the robber Baron Harolf of Aigist Hold. Hegg was furious Gudmar would encourage the bandits in Hegg’s lands, and called for Ottar to come forth and fight for his father’s honor.

Melkor stepped before the powerful figure of Jarl Hegg. “Jarl Hegg, we came in good faith, and had no knowledge of this secret pact. This is no matter for single combat to decide. Take these prisoners before the king, and let King Magnus listen to their words.”

Hegg swayed on his feet and tried to look Melkor in the eye. “Bah! There wouldn’t be any honor in smashing your upstart Gudmarson, hurt as he is. Magnus will hear of this deception by his father. The prisoners will march with me tomorrow.”

“But Jarl Hegg,” pleaded Sverting, “the bandits’ brothers are sure to retaliate! We need your protection!”

“You have the mighty Ottar Gudmarson to fight for you!” replied Hegg. “I leave tomorrow.” Hegg stormed back into the longhouse.

True to his word, the next morning Jarl Hegg took the prisoners and his troops and went on his way to join King Magnus.

And as predicted by Sverting, the next night, wolf-skin clad warriors attacked the village of Rathus with a vengeance.

Aedelfrid, Melkor and the cavalry were prepared.

Aedelfrid stood guard over Ottar while his shield-brothers fought the bandits.

Aedelfrid stood guard over Ottar while his shield-brothers fought the bandits.

It was a vicious battle in the near-dark.

Aedelfrid found her shortsword perfect for fighting in the cramped cabin.

Aedelfrid found her shortsword perfect for fighting in the cramped cabin.

However, she couldn’t flank these wild men.

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Melkor and his shield-brothers had more success and were able to slay the ulfhednar inside and win through the door into the night.

The fight raged outside the door, leaving Aedelfrid stuck in the cabin.

The fight raged outside the door, leaving Aedelfrid stuck in the cabin.

A horn blast sounded from the village.

The men of Var began to charge out of their quarters.

The men of Var began to charge out of their quarters.

With her men of Var on the way, and Melkor in control of the door, Aedelfrid felt Ottar would be secure in their cabin. Her sneaky impulses served her well as she spied a cracked bar in the back window.

Aedelfrid slipped out the window and crept behind the engaged ulfhednar.

Aedelfrid slipped out the window and crept behind the ulfhednar.

Melkor downed another wolf bandit, leaving only one in front of him. The men of Var were engaged with the other ulfhednar.

A fierce backstab from Aedelfrid helped to slay the ulfhednar fighting Melkor.

A fierce backstab from Aedelfrid helped to slay the ulfhednar fighting Melkor.

When Melkor and Aedelfrid brought down that bandit, the rest of the ulfhednar howled and retreated.

Melkor and Aedelfrid charged the other warriors to check the village, while they remained on guard over Ottar for the night.

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Would the bandits return for more mayhem? Would Jarl Hegg’s petition to the King bring trouble for Melkor and Aedelfrid? Time will tell…

Legend of the Volsung #2- Wolves in the Hills

The days before the Allthing were a blur for Aedelfrid Volsung in her betrothed’s home of South Hold. Her husband-to-be Ottar and the other cavalry were busy on patrol. The servants and bonders in the village gathered provisions for the imminent campaign against the Varak orcs. Aedelfrid’s brother Jarl Thorgils kept a close eye on her and on the young rider Melkor who had shown such interest in Aedelfrid.

Aedelfrid was relieved when at last they left South Hold and traveled to the Allthing.

The Gautrians made their camps by the ancient temple.

The Gautrians made their camps by the ancient temple.

As soon as Jarl Gudmar’s people set up his tent, an angry Jarl Gunnkel demanded audience with Gudmar. Jarl Gunnkel was furious, and ranted that his daughter had long ago been pledged to Gudmar’s son Ottar.

Aedelfrid and Melkor listen to the slighted Jarl Gunnkel protest Ottar's engagement.

Aedelfrid and Melkor listen to the slighted Jarl Gunnkel protest Ottar’s engagement.

“There is a forest full of orcs ready to descend on our homes and holdings,” answered Jarl Gudmar. “That concerns me much more than your daughter’s wounded pride.”

“My men are here to fight the orcs,” said Jarl Gunnkel. “But I will not forget this slight against my family.” Gunnkel stormed out of the tent.

Later that night the Gautrian priests summoned the people to the foot of the ancient stone temple. The jarls who called the Allthing, Gudmar and Thorgils, climbed the hill and presented Ottar and Aedelfrid to the holy ones.

Ottar and Aedelfrid are brought before the priests to seek blessings for their marriage.

Ottar and Aedelfrid are brought before the priests to seek blessings for their marriage.

The old man gave consent and there were muted cheers in the crowd.

Later that night during the drinking, Melkor was approached by Frodi and Gudlaug, two bondi from the village of Rathus.

South Gautria and Lands of Timlin

South Gautria and Lands of Timlin

Rathus was the holding of Melkor’s father, Baron Vulmar Voclain, but Baron Vulmar had sent no men to the village for a year.

“There are bandits in the mountain stronghold of Aigist that raid us. Our women are being taken, our livestock and crops stolen! Help us deal with these men, young Voclain.”

Melkor pondered the troubles of the bonders from his father's village of Rathus.

Melkor pondered the troubles of the bonders from his father’s village of Rathus.

“I ride together with my shield-brothers from South Hold, but I will see that you have aid,” Melkor quickly decided.

Melkor found Ottar drinking by a huge fire, and told him of the bandits plaguing Rathus.

“Father has ordered our cavalry to return home,” said Ottar sourly. “We are to guard South Hold. Father and the other Jarls are headed to battle with the orcs in Sudskog Forest and he expects me to cower in the palisade!”

“Rathus is almost in your father’s lands,” said Melkor. “A threat to that village could be a threat to us…”

“It’s our duty!” shouted Ottar.

When Aedelfrid heard the plight of the people of Rathus, she was in full support of the plan. “My fighters from Var will join your cavalry to aid these villagers.”

Aedelfrid and Melkor followed the bondi from Rathus to the foothills of Aigist Mountain.

Aedelfrid and Melkor followed the bondi from Rathus to the foothills of Aigist Mountain.

Frodi and Gudlaug led them to a cave the bandits were occupying.

The cavalry from South Hold, bonders from Var, and militia from Rathus surrounded the entrance to the bandit's lair.

The cavalry from South Hold, bonders from Var, and militia from Rathus surrounded the entrance to the bandit’s lair.

Aedelfrid, Melkor, Ottar and their shield-brother Skefil dismounted. They lit torches and boldly walked into the dark cave. A howl cut through the darkness and a shaggy shape crashed through the circle of torchlight and struck Ottar a heavy blow. Melkor swung back, and felt his sword sink into a man. Aedelfrid heard more howls from outside the cave.

Several ulfhednar appeared on the cliffside and rained spears on the surprised militia men.

Several ulfhednar appeared on the cliffside and rained spears on the surprised militia men.

Aedelfrid and Melkor watched as the half-naked militia from Rathus took heavy losses from the ulfhednars' missiles.

Aedelfrid and Melkor watched as the half-naked militia from Rathus took heavy losses from the ulfhednars’ missiles.

More howls echoed from the hills and a unit of berserks showed themselves in the rocks. They jumped down and ran at the cavalry. The cavalry charged to meet them with disastrous results.

The berserk unit destroyed the cavalry while the men of Var stood strong against the ulfhednar.

The berserk unit destroyed the cavalry while the men of Var stood strong against the ulfhednar.

Inside the cave, another fur-cloaked figure rushed at Ottar. Ottar fell to the bandits’ wild axe-blows.

Melkor and Aedlefrid fought the bandits over the wounded Ottar.

Melkor and Aedlefrid fought the bandits over the wounded Ottar.

One bandit was slain, but the other wounded Skefil.

Melkor warded off the axe-blows and Aedelfrid stabbed the last bandit.

Melkor warded off the axe-blows and Aedelfrid stabbed the last bandit.

Melkor and Aedelfrid helped their injured companions to the mouth of the cave. They were able to get Skefil battle-ready, but Ottar was badly hurt.

Melkor and Skefil slipped out of the cave and mounted their horses.

Melkor and Skefil slipped out of the cave and mounted their horses.

The riders charged at the berserks.

Melkor rode straight for the biggest man.

Melkor rode straight for the biggest man.

Aedelfrid crept behind the line of ulfhednar and swiftly eliminated two of the shaggy men.

Melkor thundered past the large bandit and cleaved through his head. As the big man fell, Melkor swung at the next man.

Melkor and Skefil slice through the remaining berserks.

Melkor and Skefil slice through the remaining berserks.

Skefil slew the man with the warhorn, but fell to his injuries.

Melkor turned and looked to fight the last of the ulfhednar.

Melkor turned and looked to fight the last of the ulfhednar.

The ulfhednar chopped Melkor’s horse from under him.

One ulfhednar remained.

One ulfhednar remained.

Aedelfrid stabbed at the ulfhednar from the flank. Melkor chopped at him from the front. The ulfhednar had no chance against Melkor’s swings and Aedelfrid’s precise strikes. He fell to the muddy ground.

The battlefield was bloody. Ottar was barely alive. Several of the bandits were dead, the rest were bound and taken prisoner.

The men of Rathus quickly searched the bandit lair and brought out their missing kin. The bandits had a huge cache of supplies, and livestock as well. It was decided to take the loot back to Rathus, there to heal and feast.

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.

Sagas of The Gautrian Kings #51

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.

Sagas of The Gautrian Kings #51

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.

Sagas of The Gautrian Kings #51

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.

Sagas of The Gautrian Kings #51

Bleddyn and the ulfhednar engaged the remaining orcs.

Sagas of The Gautrian Kings #51

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?

Legend of the Volsung #1- Once Upon a Time

The boy stood before the throne, overshadowed by the great folk that argued around him. His father was there- the dashing Kildarian knight Vulmar Voclain, and his mother. The king was there, of course, and an angry man in rich dress the king called “Brother”.

The man shouted, “He took my daughter from my hold, without blessing or leave, and set up house with her in Timlin Town. They defied my rule!”

“I was of age! I had every right to pick my own man!” the boy’s mother said directly to the king.

“Your man didn’t offer me a bride-price for you,” the angry man said to her. “He didn’t swear any oaths to me in my hall. He didn’t marry you proper. That’s theft, by the old customs.”

“Your Highness, please,” said his mother. “We swore to each other in Timlin. We had a feast. We had a son.” She put her hands on the boy. “We’re not living in secret.”

“Our son is seven years old. Why does Jarl Gudmar bring this suit now, Your Highness?” questioned the boy’s father. “Why does he still seek retribution for his daughter choosing me all those years ago?”

“Not retribution, Vulmar,” the man said menacingly. “Restitution.”

“Ahh, it’s silver you’re looking for,” exclaimed Vulmar.

“No more,” said the king, “I’ve heard the arguments.” The king then addressed the boy’s mother. “Is it true there was no gift for your father, and there were no oaths spoken in his own square?”

She hesitated, then nodded, “Yes, Your Highness.”

The king scoffed. “You bring to mind the rich girls that flock in my court around my son. The world is not poetry and love songs. A warrior lives and dies by his word, and by the oaths of those to either side of him!

“It’s very simple, girl. Gudmar is not only your father, but your Jarl. If you don’t have your father’s permission, and this man didn’t marry you in your Jarl’s square, your Jarl has a claim on you. Go back with your father to South Hold.”

“I don’t want her,” said Gudmar, “and I don’t want any of this Kildarian’s silver.” Gudmar paused and stared at the boy. “I want my blood. I’ll foster the bastard.”

His parents both began to shout now, and two guards from the shadows took up position in front of the king.

“Enough!” bellowed the king. “Come forward boy!” His parents fell silent and his mother’s hands tightened on his shoulders. She squeezed one last time and gently pushed him on.

“I’ve already given my judgement, so no arguing,” said the king, “and no crying either. This is your grandfather. He holds many lands in South Gautria. Under his watch, you will learn how to be a Gautrian. He’ll teach you the meaning of honor, and sacrifice for your shield-brothers. Jarl Gudmar will bring you up to be a fine warrior.

“But all men should know their lineage, and remember their parents’ names. I put it to you, boy, how will you be known? Take the Kildarian’s name, or embrace your Volsung blood?”

The boy looked to his father, then to the king. He spoke surely in the great hall with a voice larger than his seven years, so all present could hear him.

“I am Melkor Voclain, Your Highness. And I will keep my father’s name.”

————————————————–

Aedelfrid Volsung traveled in the wagon with the other women as her brother Thorgils had insisted. Thorgils had surprised her by allowing her to go to the spring Thing this year. He then resumed his commanding ways and refused to let her ride her horse.

Father would have let her ride, she thought. Father also would have brought her to the Thing long before she was almost twenty! But Father had been slain by the orcs ten years ago, and her brother Thorgils made Jarl of Affek, and much of her life changed. Thorgils expected her to act like a proper lady. Father had encouraged her mischievous nature, taught her swordplay,  and turned her reckless sneaky attacks at the boys into finely honed strikes that once sent even Thorgils to the ground.

Aedelfrid was still smiling at the memory when their wagon rolled to a stop. She stood up and saw a group of riders in red livery approach.

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“Hail, Ottar Gudmarson!” shouted Thorgils to the lead rider.

“Thorgils, good to see you at last!” said Ottar as the cavalry surrounded the wagon.

“May I present my sister, Aedelfrid Volsung? Aedelfrid, this is Ottar, son of Gudmar Volsung.”

“We thank you for your escort,” said Aedelfrid.

Ottar flashed a bright smile. “You are most welcome, fine lady.” Aedelfrid smiled politely in return, and turned her attention to Ottar’s retinue. There her gaze was held by a handsome young warrior riding behind Ottar. He sat tall and proud in his saddle, and his eyes shone over his blonde beard. Aedelfrid was so lost staring at his visage that she barely heard the shouts of alarm.

“Orcs! Orcs!”

Ottar spun his horse away and led his cavalry for a group of orcs emerging from the trees.

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Thorgils ordered his infantry to surround the wagon.

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As her infantry started to take losses, Aedelfrid decided she and her ladies would be safer in the hills, so she led them from the wagon.

A huge urog burst from the woods behind them and was stopped by Thorgils’ brave men.

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Aedelfrid and the women had almost reached the cover of the treeline when an orc shaman appeared in front of them.

The orc chanted in a savage language, and two of Aedelfrid’s ladies wailed and dropped to the ground. Aedelfrid grinned and drew the short sword she’d been hiding in the wagon since they left their home. She ran straight at the orc shaman.

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As Aedelfrid defended her ladies against the orc shaman, the cavalry under Ottar’s command engaged a cluster of nearly naked orcs.

There was one rider amongst Ottar’s thanes who distinguished himself in the melee. The blonde rider who had stared so at Aedelfrid fought valiantly. He hewed down the biggest orc, and protected his wounded comrades as the fight grew bloody.

The cavalry at last overcame the orcs and rode to the women in time to witness Aedelfrid slay the shaman. The handsome young rider was most impressed with Aedelfrid’s mettle.

Adelefrid’s brother Thorgils was less complimentary, and ordered her back in the wagon until they reached the safety of South Hold.

The group took to the road and traveled only a few hours more before they arrived at South Hold.Sigivald_LotV_01_006

South Hold was held by Ottar’s father, Jarl Gudmar Volsung. The wooden fortification stood guard over the crossing of the Lugnan River on the road to Timlin Town. Jarl Gudmar kept safe the south-western corner of South Gautria, defending the lands from the marauding wild orcs.

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Many folk were gathered inside the palisade to meet Aedelfrid’s entourage. The handsome young warrior dismounted and quickly extended his hand to help Aedelfrid from the wagon. As their fingers met, a long glance passed between them.

“At your service, My Lady,” the young man said. “I am Melkor Voclain.”

Aedelfrid was about to reply when Melkor’s thane brothers crowded around him.

“Help the horses instead, bastard,” one chided Melkor. “This lady is your better!”

A line of servants drew up to care for Aedelfrid’s belongings.

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More servants offered to escort Aedelfrid to the great hall.

Jarl Gudmar was prepared for their arrival. Tables were laden with food, and many well-dressed folks filled the hall.

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Gudmar wanted to start the feast right away.

“But where is my son Ottar?” Gudmar demanded. “He should be here attending!”

Melkor slipped out of the hall and ran down the stone steps to a small cottage. His fellow rider Skefil was sitting against the shuttered house.

“The Jarl wants Ottar now,” Melkor told Skefil.

“I don’t think Ottar is ready to see his father yet,” said Skefil, looking over his shoulder.

Melkor knocked on the door anyway. “Ottar! Your father is waiting!”

A moment later Ottar opened the cottage door. Behind him, a beautiful young woman sat on a bed. Ottar kissed the top of her head and left.

“Come,” Ottar grunted to his thane-brothers. “Let’s go appease my father.”

The young warriors strode up to the hall. Ottar threw open the wooden doors.

“Father!” he cried.

“Ah, here at last is my son…returned from another of his many battles with the orcs,” said Gudmar.

“Indeed…” said Ottar. “You summoned me, Father?”

Gudmar stared hard at his son. “Yes, Ottar. Jarl Thorgils will be traveling with us to the Thing. There at the stones, he and I will seek the blessings of the priests. But first, Jarl Thorgils has come here to our hall to formally accept our proposal.”

“‘Our’ proposal, Father?” asked Ottar suspiciously.

“Jarl Thorgils has agreed to let you marry his sister, the Lady Aedelfrid.”

“What?” stammered Ottar. “You…he…but…I don’t want a wife!”

“Ottar,” said Gudmar. “She is beautiful, and of the Volsung blood. Your children will be born to rule!”

“But Father!” Ottar gave up. His father Gudmar was one of the most powerful men in South Gautria. There was no compromise with him. Ottar grabbed a bottle from a near-by table and stormed out of the hall.

The crowded hall was silent as the door slammed shut.

“Grandfather!” Melkor spoke out. “I would be honored to marry Aedlefrid. If you need someone in the family-”

“You Kildarian bastard,” said Gudmar, “you are not made of the stuff to have a true Volsung lady. You’re only half Gautrian, let no-one here forget that!”

Gudmar turned to Thorgils and Aedelfrid. “Ottar is still hot from battle. He will treat you better in the morning. For tonight, feast!”

The servants filled cups and plates, and the guests enjoyed the engagement celebration.

 

Ottar went through the dark back to the little cottage, there to console himself and his lover.

“I was to be your wife, Ottar,” Asrid moaned. “You promised me your father would warm up to me!”

“I’m sorry, Asrid,” said Ottar. “It’s good politics for my father to have me marry Aedelfrid. They are a noble family-”

“Oh ‘noble’ Aedelfrid?” said Asrid. “It would have been better if you had let the orcs kill her on the road today!”

“Shhh, don’t speak so,” said Ottar. “You’ll always have me, even if I have to marry another first.”

“If you think I’ll be happy as your second wife…” started Asrid.

“You’ll be happy with me, I know.” Ottar silenced Asrid’s protests with another kiss.

 

Aedelfrid was not much happier with her brother after the feast.

“You could have asked me!” she said to Thorgils. “I’m a grown woman, even though you don’t treat me like one. You shouldn’t have surprised me like that in front of my father-to-be.”

“Does that mean you’ll marry Ottar?” asked Thorgils.

“Of course! I know what duty is. Ottar’s got a good name, and he fights well too. I’ll make my promise at the Thing to marry him,” said Aedelfrid.

“Fine. Then speak your words right, and by the gods, stay clear of that horse-boy with eyes for you!” said Thorgils.

“Melkor?” Aedelfrid asked. “I can’t help what he does. I thought it was very noble.”

Thorgils scoffed. “Impetuous and brash is what I’d call it. Stay away from him.”

Aedelfrid sighed and snuffed her light in answer to her brother.

“Tomorrow should prove an interesting day in South Hold,” Aedelfrid thought.