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[Crowslayer's Vow] A Dream of Peace

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Steam Workshop::Vinland Saga OP 60fps/1080p




Bralt the Boar squinted through the sunlight.


The golden summer sun beamed down from a deep blue sky, and the sea of amber grain around Bralt seemed to drink in that brilliant light to appear more golden than amber. Countless fields of wheat, just like the one Bralt stood in, dappled the rolling green countryside, broken by the occasional farmhouse, barn or pasture, where livestock idly grazed, bathing in the summer heat. A slow-moving river cut through the valley of farms like a glassy streak, flanked by fruit trees along its banks. Atop the hill from where the river flowed stood a keep, the Scyfling banners flying from its tower. Scyflings did not build castles, but for some reason, Bralt did not think to question. Instead, he just closed his eyes, and soaked everything in; the sun, the sounds of distant chatter and laughter from the farms, the dulcet rustle of the plentiful grain in the soft wind …


“Bralt,” came Yva’s voice behind him. “Bralt!”


Bralt kept his eyes closed for a moment longer. He could imagine Yva, his right-hand woman and best warchief, standing behind him in the grain field, wearing a woollen dress instead of metal armour, her hair hanging loose instead of thickly braided over her shoulder so that it did not get in the way during combat. He imagined her smiling, her eyes gleaming, instead of a stony, frozen expression.


He could imagine it, just as he could imagine the summer sun, the farms, the peace.


Slowly, he opened his eyes, and felt the rain dribble down his face as he stared up into a dark, stormy sky of Arcas, lit periodically by bursts of sheet lightning heralded by distant thunderclaps.


“Bralt!” came Yva’s urgent call from behind him.


Bralt looked back down to the burnt, bloodied ground of the forest clearing, where bodies of Scyflings and Haeseni alike lay dead or dying. His warband, when trying to cross the hills into western Haense while the Crows busied themselves with the fortress of Vasiland, had ran into unexpected resistance in the form of local farmers who had banded into a militia. Normally, that wouldn’t have been of any threat, but there seemed to be some veteran soldiers among the Crows, coordinating their defense. Whether they were soldiers sent by the Crow King, anticipating the Scyflings might move west, or veterans who had hung up their swords to farm this land, Bralt did not know, but nor did he care. They had chosen this hilltop to make their final stand against Bralt’s advance, and so they had chosen this hilltop to die.


“Bralt!” Yva roared again behind him. “What are you standing there for, you dunce?! Pull back, reform the line!” As she yelled, a handful of Scyflings straggled past Bralt at Yva’s command, clutching wounds they had sustained on the hilltop. Just two dozen feet ahead of Bralt stood the Haeseni resistance, farmers and housewives peeling impaled Scyflings from their pitchforks and pikes. In their centre stood a man in a black-and-yellow gambeson, a longsword in hand. His dark hair, tied back in a ponytail, had long since grayed, and his face was lined with age. But Bralt could tell from the fellow’s cold, unfaltering eyes that he was a soldier, and a good one at that.


“Turn back, pagans,” the grey-haired soldier called. He didn’t shout; his mild tone was far more chilling. “You will not pass here.” He brandished his sword, spraying Scyfling blood on its blade to the ground. Beside him, his line of farmers wore eager, hopeful smiles on their blood-splattered faces. They thought this soldier would win them the day.


It took Bralt a moment to realize he alone stood halfway between the line of his reforming Scyflings further down the hill with Yva, and this old Haeseni soldier and his militia. Yva kept calling out for Bralt to retreat, to join the Scyflings lines to push again at the Haeseni militia. Bralt didn’t move, though. Did I really start dreaming during a battle? He asked himself idly as he stared up the hill at the Haeseni soldier. I shouldn’t be surprised. Just like how Yva drank her way through a keg of mead everyday to make herself keep fighting, Bralt supposed he had succumbed to a similar fantasy to convince himself to keep killing, to keep destroying. No, not a fantasy – he would make sure of that. It might only be a dream of peace now, but every fibre of his being was committed to making that dream a reality. He would fulfill Crowslayer’s Vow, the ancient Scyfling prophecy that promised peace and unity to the Scyflings if they killed their ancient enemy, the Crow King of Haense.


The Haeseni soldier raised his longsword. “With me,” he said, his voice calm. “We’ll kill their leader.” His militia let out a cry, one that the soldier did not join, as they rushed down the hill towards Bralt.


Bralt heard Yva call out desperately once more, but it was too late now. Tightening his grip on his two long axes, he fell into a different kind of trance. He bat aside the first pitchfork with one of his axes, before he slammed the second into the farmer’s skull. He spun, carrying his momentum to drill the spike of his first axe into the neck of the next farmer who was raising a mace to swing. Bralt kicked the second farmer, sending his corpse crashing into two women charging behind him and sending all three stumbling down the steep hill, towards the Scyflings. A pike was thrust at him from behind the fallen women, which Bralt deflected along the head of his left axe with a shrill rasp as the metals scraped together. Once the pikehead had passed, he dropped his axe and grabbed the shaft of the pike, before pulling it, and the farmer holding it, towards him. His right axe blurred into the face of the surprised pikeman, who’s head left his shoulders in a shower of blood that sprayed into the Haeseni behind him. Bralt deftly scooped his other axe back up, and charged through the curtain of blood into the remaining Haeseni, who wore looks of horror as their comrade’s head landed at their feet. A swing of each axe produced two more corpses that stumbled down the hill. Bralt parried another pikehead, and threw himself along the edge of the deflected shaft before cleaving through the pikewoman’s head. He skirted around her body, and kicked her into the shield of a farmer who had been trying to flank him, sending the farmer crashing down towards Yva’s line of spears and shields.


Bralt spun around, axes ready, only to find that one Haeseni remained standing.


The grey-haired soldier’s icy expression changed not a whit as they scanned the dying bodies of his militia. “You are a heathen beast,” he said, his jaw clenched as he raised his sword towards Bralt.


“I am,” Bralt growled, before he surged forwards towards the soldier, both axes blurring into motion.


Bralt had guessed right; this veteran soldier was good. Not like some fancy knight in a suit of metal armor, who got his skill from years of training with sparring swords behind the safety of stone walls. No, this fellow was lowborn, and an infantryman; he had earned his skull in life-and-death struggles on the battlefield. Bralt could tell all that immediately from the way that the man lightly bat at Bralt’s first swing, using the axe’s weight to cause the swing to miss. Yes, he did not duel like some of the Haeseni knights Bralt had cut down. This was no honorable exchange; this man was fighting to kill as quickly as possible. He ducked low, and Bralt narrowly avoided the swift thrust towards his midsection. He kicked out at the soldier’s legs, but he nimbly danced aside, recomposing himself as he shifted sword-forms. Bralt kept the pressure on, throwing himself at the man, one axe swinging for his throat while he held the other defensively. Again, his axe was deflected, and the Haeseni moved for a swift riposte at Bralt’s head. He brought his other axe up to defend, only for the man to suddenly drop low. It had been a feint!


Bralt grunted as the man channeled his momentum to slam the pommel of his sword into Bralt’s midsection, knocking the wind out of him. He stumbled back, and tripped on the bodies of one of the farmers he had killed. As he back crashed to the bloody ground, he knew this was it. His own foolish notions had sealed his fate, to die at the hand of some nameless soldier. Had a younger Bralt known this would be how he died, he would raged, protested with every ounce of strength to endure, to fight on to fulfill the Crowslayer’s Vow, to realize his dream of peace. But now, as the soldier raised his sword blade to thrust down and execute Bralt, he just felt weary, and … oddly relieved. Relieved that this, at least, would be the end to the fighting, one way or another.


Lightning flashed again; when Bralt’s eyes readjusted, he found a spear impaled through the soldier’s collar. His blade trembled in his hands as blood spluttered from his mouth, and he slowly fell. Disappointment replaced Bralt’s resigned relief. Regaining his breath, he slowly staggered to his feet on the wet, bloody ground, and turned to find Yva standing in front of the other Scyflings. It was she who had thrown the spear like a javelin.


“YOU! ROTTING! IDIOT!” she howled over the distant roar of thunder. “You could have been killed!” Uncertain ripples broke out from the Scyflings behind her. The fighting was over, but they weren’t celebrating like they once would have. When Bralt didn’t answer, Yva stomped towards her. His vision blurred as she drilled a fist into his face. He staggered backwards, but he barely felt the pain, and was hardly aware of the blood that began to stream from his nose. “Luvir. Segn. Hari. Morsa. Ygr. Tyran. Veiko. Orril, Hansa, Grimryn, Morgyn, Ago, and everyone else who has died!” she spat at him. “Everyone else who followed you here almost gave their lives for nothing because you decided to fight all these Crows yourself!”


Bralt said nothing again, and just breathed in heavily. Yva cursed, and stormed away back to the Scyfling line. They did not even loot the Haeseni bodies as they tiredly marched after Yva towards the top of the hill. In a way, it was a good sign; after this intense war, even the Scyflings were losing their stomach for killing.


Bralt closed his eyes again, and felt the rain beat down at him. Their work was not done – not yet, but he was glad at Yva’s outburst. He was glad that the Scyflings were losing faith in him.


Though he had not breathed a word of it to anyone, he was no longer convinced he could kill the Crow King, and fulfill the Crowslayer’s Vow. But that did not mean he was going to give up on his dream of peace; no, he was going to realize that even if it killed him, and it very well might. For, of course, he had a secondary plan to secure the peace of the Scyflings. It was one he had hoped was not necessary when he came to Arcas, but had come gradually convinced it would be.


“Rest with the moon, Crow,” he muttered down to the corpse of the Haeseni soldier, before he climbed to the top of the hill with the rest of the Scyflings. He glanced down into the dark valley, where lights glowed in the castle of Metterden.


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Alexandria Barbanov was in her greenhouse.  It was the late evening; it had been another day of dreary weather, which the young princess didn’t seem to mind anymore.  Gentle rainfall pattered against the glass roofing above her as she sat at her little worktable, counting up little jars that she had gathered before her.  Within them were various herbal remedies.  She was storing them in a leather knapsack, alongside packages of dried moss and rolls of linen.  A distant peal of thunder was heard in the distance, followed by the flickering of lightning in the far north.


A quiet breath slipped out from Alexandria as she strapped up her bag.  She felt like there was a pit in her stomach.  Alex would be trekking into the northern forests again soon enough, the last time she had done so she had nearly lost her own life; however, she was unprepared that time.  Despite that, though, she had still managed to return home in safety and had even found a new ally.  This time, she may have more to barter for her life in case another ambush were to befall her... Such was the reason why she was packing so much medicine, and why she had refreshed herself on the common medicinal herbs of Haense.  She hoped it would be enough.

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Lauritz stood on the rooftops of Ekaterinburg, allowing the rain to fall on his face. The long war had tired him, the endless bloodshed continued to bother his almost sleepless nights. And yet he was no better himself, he had not granted mercy to the Scyflings he had met throughout the war. He looked up at Alexandria’s greenhouse, she had spent yet another night working there. He admired her dedication to peace, he thought it lacking amongst others, she truly desired peace for all.


He sighed and glancing to the coin in his hand: “Death or dishonor.” He mused, then threw the coin into in the air, letting it land on the palm of his hand. He nodded his head at the conclusion, and headed up to the greenhouse.

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Stefan Ludovar stared at the smoke rising from the north from his coz’s manor. He would be bandaged from the right side of his face, down to his armless shoulder. Pure hatred could be seen in the young Sergeants eyes, Pure rage no light could be seen, He’d only whisper “ I’ll bath in their blood I swear it”

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