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Honour, treachery and family feuds.

War-Journal of Bue Geirsteinson - Part IX

by Jacob Skytte

Vatermont 24th, the year 1000 After Crowning of the First Emperor of the Thyatian Empire, entry added later

The day was still early when we reached the outskirts of Norstedt. My scouts had returned with the news that my father had locked himself away at the mine, where his fort had been erected to protect his most valuable possessions. At least 200 men were there to help him. My own army counted some 300 men, not enough to fight an entrenched enemy. The first battle would be with words then.

I approached the entrance with some of my most trusted men, including Asta and Ingibjorg. Along with us I brought my brother, Lot, as hostage. My father appeared on the wall of the fort, atop the gates, greeting me.

"My son, you have returned. I commend you on getting this far. But hold! That is my loyal son among you! What have you done to him?"

"Nothing that he would not have done to me," I replied. "We fought and he lost. I could have killed him, but I did not. I fight for peace and will not needlessly slay any man. Your treachery will be punished, but those who sur-"

My words were interrupted by my father. "Hold! I know what you will say, that all will be forgiven by Hord, should we lay down arms. It is not so. We have heard of the slaughter your men rewarded our clansmen with just a few days ago. Whether you believe that Hord will spare us or not is irrelevant. I, no we, know Hord better than you. He will not spare those who plotted his downfall, and that includes all of us inside this fortification."

"I will still extend my offer, but just this once." I had to try. "Any man who lays down arms and surrenders to us now will be spared. I will protect him with my own life. I do so swear upon the All-Father. But if you will not yield, then all will give their lives in vain, as you will surely fall."

"Fall?" My father's voice was a harsh laugh. "To this band of fools? You are wounded already, your arm in a sling. We are in a superior position, you cannot harm us."

I had to gamble. "We are but the front. Soon an army of Hord's men will descend upon you and then shall you indeed be slaughtered. Not a single man will be left alive once Hord Dark-Eye, your king, arrives to punish your treachery."

My father was taken by surprise. "The Dark-Eye? Here? So be it." His voice was bitter. "Mayhaps I will still have the fortune to slay him in battle then."

It had not been a good bluff to try with my father, but he was not the one I wished to impress. Word would soon reach all of his men, and their morale would falter and, hopefully, break. There was still something I had to do.

"Father, I implore you to send out the women and the young ones. They should be spared the slaughter that will surely come. Send them to me, I will see that they are spared."

He laughed. "The only women and youngsters in here are those of my own family, and they will face the same destiny that is prepared for me. Such is the way of a loyal family. But then you would know nothing of loyalty, treacherous bastard that you are."

I held up a knife to my brother's throat. "If you are so loyal, then surely you will want to have your oldest son with you. He must mean more to you than mere women. I offer him in exchange for them. If you do not accept then I will instead offer him to Hord once he arrives, and you will witness his fate from inside your precious fort."

His face darkened. "You will not! You fiend! The Gods will punish you for this. You have already hurt him enough. But a hostage for a hostage. I will release your mother in exchange for my loyal son."

"No father," I replied. "I will agree to a fair exchange, but you will release my sister Lis, she is the future of our clan, and the one I choose. This is my final offer. Your loyal son for my loyal sister. I too know of loyalty among family, and she is the one I have sworn to protect."

He spat at me. "I have never understood the bond between you. She is as nothing to me. Very well. If you are so intent on having her, then so be it. I will send out a man with her and we will exchange hostages."

We waited for some time before the gate was cautiously opened and a man hastily exited, pulling my sister behind him, a tight grip on her wrist. I yanked Lot forward, the knife still at his throat. We met on the halfway. Hostages were exchanged, my sister falling into my arms, sobbing. I took hold of her and started walking back, when Ingibjorg yelled a cry of warning. Ten men had taken to the walls of the fort and started firing their bows at us. I pushed my sister in front of me, shielding her body with my own and ran towards my men. As we reached the woods, I released my hold on her and fell to the ground, my back pierced by three arrows. I was enveloped by darkness.