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[Crowslayer's Vow] An Oath and an End

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Are you sure about this, Yva?


Yva Stoneguard, the shieldmaiden who had once been the right-hand warrior of Bralt the Boar, leader of the Scyfling invasion into northern Haense, sighed as she watched the last of the Haenseni army vanish into the blanket of evergreens that cloaked this northern country. She closed her eyes for a moment as the bitter autumn wind rolled off the tumultuous see just a few dozen feet to her left, with her hastily-built camp of Scyfling renegades having set up north of the charred walls of Vasiland. Despite the drinking and singing that had filled the air not too long ago, her camp was silent now. As she stood on a small rise in the camp’s centre, Scyflings all around her watched expectantly, their faces a battleground of skepticism and hope.


It was only mere minutes ago that the bargain had been struck; Yva and these Scyflings, who had abandoned Bralt the Boar and the main Scyfling army, would fight for the Haense King, in exchange for fertile lands and peace. The decision for most of these renegades who followed her had not been an easy one – they had abandoned their loyalty to Bralt the Boar for the events of the Moonfire festival. In Scyfling culture, Moonfire was the chief festival – it was a day where bloodshed was forbidden, where blood feuds were forgotten and enemies drank and sang together. It was, in a twisted way, a sliver of the dream of peace that Yva knew Bralt cherished above all else. It was a sliver of the dream that had drove him to uniting the Scyfling tribes, that drove him to leading them across oceans to Arcas, that drove him to invade Haense and kill the King Crow.


And yet it was Bralt who had broken the sacred customs of Moonfire; when a party of Haeseni had come scouting north during the festival, he had attacked. Not only that, but when some Scyflings rallied to defend the Crows per the traditions of Moonfire, Bralt had fired carelessly on them too, killing dozens of his own people. That act had spread through the Scyfling army like wildfire, and Bralt’s once god-like reverance had began to crumble nearly overnight. Scyflings had trickled away from Bralt, unable to support the man who they thought would lead them to divine victory over the Crows and into an age of prophecised prosperity. But it was only when Yva herself, Bralt’s most esteemed captain, had deserted him that Scyflings followed her in droves.


Those Scyflings were the ones around her now, watching with those tantalizing expressions that straddled the fence between uncertainty and hope, who had joined her in agreeing to fight with the Crows – fight against Bralt for what he had done to his own people. In return, Haense would give them a piece of fertile land, on which they could grow enough food to feed themselves. There would be no further need to raid and pillage. There would be peace.


Peace at a price, naturally. And that price would be fighting against Bralt and those who remained with them.


All according to plan, Yva thought wistfully. That didn’t make her feel a whit better.


“So … what now?” asked a lone Scyfling voice amidst the crowd watching Yva.


She inhaled sharply once more, and glanced across the tree tops as stars began to faintly dapple the darkening sky. She glanced in the direction she knew Bralt was camping.


“Now,” she called slowly, trying to keep her expression schooled to stillness, to quash her doubts about this crackpot plan, “we prepare for battle.”



Ori Halfmoon, eldest of the Volik clan, watched from atop the western walls of New Reza as his surviving clansmen drilled their formations in the field below. The Voliks had been the one tribe to defend Haense when they had come to Athera on their expedition and become embroiled with Bralt and the Scyflings, but that had cost the Voliks everything. Most of their clan had been slaughtered by Bralt for their defense of the-then boy King of Haense, all because of some rotting oath their ancestors had sworn to the infant lords of Siegrad, many, many years ago. Honour and oath-keeping was integral to the Voliks, but the cost of that particular oath …. the countless dead loved ones, the shattered families, the lost homeland … It had almost been too much to bear. They had been forced to retreat with Haense across the seas, and cower in the shadow of their stone walls for protection.


But now, to see the Voliks that had been mere frightened children when they fled Athera become warriors, with a cold fire of vengeance in their eyes, certainly felt good. This time, they had made a new oath to Haense; they would fight for the King Crow once again, as they had on Athera, but this time they would be given lands to farm and rebuild what was lost.


Or try, at least, Ori thought wistfully. He had come to doubt the Voliks would ever recover from the losses they suffered on Athera, but this oath to Haense at least meant the Voliks could live out their days in well-earned peace. Moon rotting knows it’s well earned.


Ori sighed as the echo of Volik war cries, of their boots thundered against the trodden dirt and their shields clattering together resonated through the air over the din of war preparations in New Reza. Unlike the past few years, though, this sigh was one of relief. Even if they lost to Bralt, even if the Scyflings rolled over Haense and razed every last building to the ground and slaughtered every last Volik, Ori would be happy.


For now, at least, they fought for a something worthwhile – for a dream of a future.


And that was a dream worth dying for.



From this solitary hilltop in the forests of northern Haense, Bralt could just about make out the glimmer of firelight that marked the city of New Reza, far in the distance.


His reined his gaze in, scanning the dark expanse of tree-tops that stretched between him and the city, shadowed by the cloudy night. All that lay between him and Reza now was this northern country. As he eyed it now, it was so calm, and quiet. An owl hooted occassionally, and a pack of wolves howled periodically, but it was all so … natural. Pristine. Untainted. In a few days, though, it would become a bloody battlefield as Bralt and his remaining forces carved a path to Reza, using bodies as their stepping-stones. That idea did not shake his resolve, though; not anymore.


Though it had only been a few weeks, it felt like a lifetime ago that he had stood on the clifftops of Valwyck, mourning Ako beneath the northern lights and wondering what the point of all this, all this war and fighting and the illusion of peace, was all for. He had roared at the moon, then, at any god who was listening and at any god who had existed for an answer. Now, though, he only smiled at the waning crescent moon as he stood alone on the hilltop. So long as there was a dream of peace, so long as there was a chance of breaking the cycle of violence …. so long as there was breath to keep marching onwards towards a better life for his people, he would march without pause.


Only now, he did not just march for his people alone. To break that cycle, he knew what he must do, and no amount of violence, death of bloodshed would dissuade him now.


He glanced east, towards the sea, where Yva and her renegade Scyflings were camped. By now, their plan was well in motion.


He had screamed at the moon once, but now he laughed openly at it. He needed no gods to tell him what he should do; he had known it all along, even if it hadn’t been obvious to him. When his ships had first landed off the coast of Valwyck, the King Crow, a grown man now, had met to negotiate. Bralt had compelled him to sacrifice himself to save his people, to end this war with only a single life lost. The King Crow had refused, of course, and now hundreds, both Scyfling and Haeseni, had lost their lives in this struggle.


But Bralt hadn’t been entirely wrong. A king – be it one that wore a crown or led warriors into battle – had a duty to fulfill above all else in securing peace and prosperity for their people.


And so Bralt was going to do just that.


He laughed at the moon until his lungs hurt. For soon, he knew, it would all be over.


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Posted (edited)

Osvald Barclay held a grim face as he watched the footing of the Brotherhood initiates that he had been drilling in the courtyard, the man's expression remaining stoic and thoughtful. Even now, too much Haeseni blood had been drawn for this war, and this new batch of green boys, barely in their seventeens had a high chance of meeting their grisly end. The moon was bright, and the air chilly. He ordered the men to pack up and head for the barracks. 


When they left, Osvald remained the only person within the late night courtyard. He looked up, as if he had been aiming to gaze into the Seven Skies, to see his lost daughter, Karolina. Her name lingered in the Knight's mind for countless days and hours, providing a constant ember in his heart that vied for bittersweet revenge.


But at what cost?


Osvald knew that Reza would hold. No matter what Bralt threw against the walls, the lads he trained and the men he looked up to would persist.


For they would perish without persistance.

Edited by MadOne

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