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War-Journal of Bue Geirsteinson - Part XV

by Jacob Skytte

Vatermont 27th, the year 1000 After Crowning of the First Emperor of the Thyatian Empire

Around midday we reached what would be our final destination. Sleep had done me little good; I was still brooding and pensive when we reached the village of Skovstad. Seeing my force of armed men, the warriors of Skovstad gathered quickly, ready to repulse any attempt at invasion. We were clearly outnumbered, but then I hadn't come to fight.

"Hold your weapons," I yelled out. "I am Bue Geirsteinson, come on behalf of the king, seeking my treacherous family, whose trail we have followed here. They have conspired against the king, and I am to bring them before him."

"Am I part of that treacherous family?" a familiar voice called out. My sister Oda stepped out from among the men, sword in hand. I was caught by surprise, not expecting to see her again so soon, not expecting to find her here.

"Oda, you are not a part of the conspiracy, no. I seek my brother Lot and our mother only," I replied. "Deliver them to me, and I will see that word reaches the king, so you can gain the favour you crave."

She smiled. "Clever brother. But I know not of what you speak. I saw my mother and brothers. Where Lot and mother went from here, I cannot say, but they left our young brother Hjort in my care. Will you bring him before Hord? If so, he is yours to take."

I shook my head. "He is too young and not to blame for anything. Surely you have an idea of where Lot and mother went. I must find them."

Oda bared her teeth, in a smile or grimace, I couldn't tell. "Your band of warriors is not welcome in Vithesford. You will not be allowed to pass. I was sent to talk to you, because you are my brother, but if you do not turn back, my jarl and husband, Ragnar, will slay you for trespassing."

"Husband?" I asked. "Have you already married him? Never mind, let me speak to him, I will convince him that I must find the ones I seek."

"Very well, brother," she replied. "I will take you to him, but you must leave your band of men and your weapons here."

Though I feared a trap, I knew I had no choice if I wished to go on. If I were taken hostage this might be the end, but it was a chance I had to take. Nodding my assent, I left my hammer in the care of my force of men and instructed them to wait for me. I was escorted into Skovstad by Oda and a small guard. In the village I was taken to a large hall and led inside, where I found the aging jarl at his table enjoying a midday feast.

"So, the young Geirsteinson graces us with his presence," he greeted me. "Since you are here, you will be my guest. Come Oda, sit with me and bring your brother."

My sister nodded and we were both seated with Ragnar. I was surprised to see that she was subservient to Ragnar; I had thought that this was exactly what she trying to get away from. But she must have had her reasons, I figured.

"Have you come to bring us wedding gifts, now that your sister has joined me in marriage?" Ragnar asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Alas," I replied. "My sister did not see fit to inform us, when the wedding was to take place. I can only offer you my congratulations and best wishes to your health and the health of your future children."

In reality I found the idea of this old man marrying a girl still in her teens distasteful, but I knew that etiquette was paramount at this moment. Besides, my sister was not just any girl, and I figured that I should probably feel sorry for Ragnar; this was no ordinary young bride he had brought home.

"The reason for my being here," I continued, "is to find my mother and older brother, who have conspired against our king. I must bring them before him, to face his justice."

"Is that so?" Ragnar asked. "Are you sure that you do not simply wish to remove them, so you have no contenders to your claim of rulership over the domain of Noslosford?"

I shook my head. "I have no such aspirations. I merely seek to clear our clan of the charges of betrayal. If I fail at this, my life and those of my kinsmen will be forfeit. Please, if you know where my family can be found, tell me, and you will be doing the will of the king."

Ragnar seemed to ponder this. "I have heard of you, Bue, and I find you to be a man who uses words to get what he wants. My wife is right, you are ambitious and clever, and if you can get what you want without having to work for it, you will."

I looked hard at my sister. That she would slander me like this actually came as small surprise, but I still couldn't help but feel hurt that she would actually do it. "I would not speak ill of your bride or of my sister, but she may not see the whole picture here." I tried to stay respectful while hopefully opening Ragnar's eyes.

"No," Ragnar replied. "My decision is final. You may share this meal, then you and your men will be off to your own domain. You cannot simply invoke the king's name and expect me to yield."

"A pity, really," a strong voice came from the doorway. In the faint light, a large figure approached, one that I recognised as none other than the king, Hord Dark-Eye. I rose then fell to my knee before him, greeting him properly. Ragnar paled and quickly followed my example, seconds after Oda.