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War-Journal of Bue Geirsteinson - Part VI

by Jacob Skytte

Vatermont 22nd, the year 1000 After Crowning of the First Emperor of the Thyatian Empire

This has been a day of dread, but also a day of victory. We arrived at the lands of Leirbotn, the clan hall, early in the afternoon, not having met any further resistance on our way. The free karls farming the land were gone, into hiding I presume. As we neared the clan hall itself a force of men took up position before us. At the head of them was my older brother Lot, my father's chosen heir.

He called out. "So, you have come at last. We have been waiting to give you the burial you deserve. But I see that you have gathered an army of the king's men, ambitious warriors waiting to partake in the plunder of our ancestral lands."

"They will not," I replied. "These loyal subjects of the king have come with me to punish those who would conspire against his rule. It is only those of you, who take up arms against us that will need fight us. As long as we get what we wish, those who plan to usurp the throne of Ostland, the jarl and his immediate family, you need not fear us. You will all be spared."

"Do not listen to him!" Lot yelled. "King Hord would not spare any man he suspected of treachery. Once you lay down arms, you will be slaughtered! That is the way of the king's 'loyal' subjects. We must attack them now!"

Lot took a step towards me, drawing his sword. Ingibjorg stepped forward, sword in hand, but I held her back. "Do not listen to this traitor," I said. "If he has it his way, you will all die this day. Our forces are superior to you. If we wanted to kill you, we would do so now. But if you hold true to the king of Ostland, you will let us take those we want and I promise that no harm will come to you."

An aging retainer of our house guard came forward and addressed me. "Your word has always held truth, Bue. If you will swear upon the All-Father that no harm will come to us, we will let you mete out judgement against your own family unmolested."

"I do so swear," I replied.

"No!" Lot screamed. "You are all traitors, traitors to my family and to the true king of Ostland. It will not end thus! Brother, I challenge you to a duel! A duel of honour. This you cannot turn down, unless you are a coward, unfit to lead these men. I will not surrender my arms to you. And should you refuse, our family will take their lives in shame. All of them!" he added significantly.

"Do not listen to him, Bue" Ingibjorg pressed me. "He has lost and yet he seeks a way to turn that defeat into victory. Do not fight him, those are empty threats."

"You have been challenged upon your honour, Bue Geirsteinson," the retainer called out. "How answer you this challenge?"

I knew that the day was not yet won, that any doubts about my honour could still turn this into a bloodbath. "I accept you challenge, brother. Let the cloth be staked to the ground. We will go holmgang."

There was cheering, both from my clansmen and from my own army. The traditional 15x15 feet cloth was brought forth and staked to the ground by the corners. Rope was tied around this area. "As the challenged I will choose the weapons," I called out. "Fighting clubs. Unarmoured."

Lot laughed. "You hope to save your life choosing such a weak weapon. You delude yourself. Even the clubs can kill. And I will kill you. Let this be a fight to the death."

The retainer spoke. "That is not the way of things. You will fight until one cannot continue. If that means death, then so be it. But neither one of you will strike at a defenceless opponent."

My brother scowled. "We will see how the fight goes. Death may yet claim you, brother dear. I will crush your skull."

We both stripped to the waist, then each were handed the two traditional short fighting clubs. I had trained hard at the Court of Cnute, mostly to work off frustration, and I was probably at the peak of my strength. But my brother was far from a weakling either. In the past he had often won our practice matches, but that I had to put out of my mind. I had evolved and learned much since that time. Whether it was enough remained to be seen.