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War-Journal of Bue Geirsteinson - Part XI

by Jacob Skytte

Vatermont 25th continued, the year 1000 After Crowning of the First Emperor of the Thyatian Empire

Ahead of my small army I approached the fort at Norstedt, the blessed spear of Odin in my hand. Lis was at the back of the army, in the company of Ralf Silk-Tongue. Ingibjorg and Asta were at my side, their faces shining in expectation of the coming conflict. It would be easy to similarly get caught up in the moment, thoughts of glory and battle lust upon me, but I could not let that come to pass. My duty was to save as many men as possible, to let my clan come through this war of blood against blood unscathed.

I called a halt 50 feet from the heavy gates of the fort. Again my father took to the walls, an imposing figure clad in chain mail, holding his enchanted shield and well-crafted sword at the ready. But it seemed to me that he had shrunk since yesterday, worried lines showing in his face that I had not noticed before.

"So, treacherous son," his voice bellowed, "you have returned and apparently in better health. What foul sorceries have you unleashed to regain your health so quickly?"

"No sorcery, father. Merely the power of the Gods, the Gods that I have on my side. The All-Father, who sits above in shadow and judges mankind, has seen fit to return me to full strength. See," I held the spear high. "Odin, King of the Gods, Ruler of Asgard and of all Northlanders, has blessed this spear with his power. Once the spear has been thrown, the final battle will be upon us. It will be a sign to Odin that he shall send his Valkyries to claim the lives of those the spear has been aimed at."

A muttering broke out among the men gathered on the walls of the fort. They knew well that such blessed spears did indeed exist, they had all heard of armies claimed by the All-Father after such a spear was thrown. Seeing this I continued.

"But the spear need not leave my hand. I implore you again to surrender, though this will be your last chance. Every man who will swear renewed fealty to Hord Dark-Eye will be spared or I will die protecting him. Every man except you, father, and my brother Lot too, I fear. You I will be forced to hand over to Hord's judgement, you are behind this conspiracy and will be judged by your king."

The sounds of fighting erupted from within the fort. "No, you fools!" my father cried out. "He is tricking you into your own deaths. Hold the gate, men!"

My father disappeared from the walls along with most of the men stationed there. The remainder seemed unsure of what to do. I gave the order to advance. My army started moving towards the fort, unhindered by the men within. As I stood before the gates I heard the sounds of battle within. I ordered the battering ram be brought forth. It was a large tree from the nearby forest that the men had felled and stripped of branches the day before. Twelve warriors carried the ram to the gates and in perfect unison started pounding at them.

The sounds of activity from within seemed to increase, men were shouting in anger and pain. My father's voice cut through the noise. "Secure the gates! They will break through. Away from there, you treacherous curs! You will seal our fate! Archers! To the walls."

I gave another order and a line of spearmen and archers formed behind the ram, their weapons ready to shower the walls. A few archers appeared on the walls, some of them firing at us. In return my men unleashed their weapons at the walls, bringing down the defenders, who retreated from the wall. One of the men at the ram had fallen, and I stepped in to take his place. I quickly found the rhythm and added my strength to the others'. The spear I had passed to Ingibjorg.

In another few moments the gates started giving in, the bars holding them breaking apart under the force of our blows. As one gate swung open I gave the order to drop the ram. I retrieved the shield from my back and drew my war hammer. Knowing the effect on morale I stayed in the front lines as we poured forth into the fort. I ordered the men to hold their attack, while I took in the situation.

Before us stood a group of men, apparently frozen in their tracks. They were arrayed against each other. Behind them stood my father and a force of men that must have been loyal to him still, trying to break through the men fighting before them. Around the fort were others similarly arrayed against each other. Every pair of eyes were aimed at the gates, waiting to see what happened next.

"Surrender now!" I yelled. "We are among you and your own forces are split. Surrender and live or fight and be subdued to receive judgement from King Hord."

Several men threw down their weapons, intent on surrender. My father however shouted his own commands. "Death will claim us all, Hord will see to that. I will die fighting rather than submit to humiliation and an ignoble death." The men closest to him cheered, but in the rest of the fort the fighting had died out, men standing with weapons at their feet.

Hatred rose, unbidden, within me. Hatred for this fool of a father, who could not see, or did not care, that his ambitions would mean the ruin of his clan, the unnecessary death of men, the spilling of blood among clansmen. "Then fight and die, Geirstein Thorgelson. You are an evil and selfish man. Any respect I held for you has been killed by your careless actions and your lack of respect for others."

With these bitter words I charged him and his remaining band of men, an army of experienced warriors close behind me.