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[Crowslayer's Vow] Epilogue

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maybe a little too depressing and paint-drippy...but masculine!






“Four-hundred sixty four, four-hundred sixty five ...”


Bralt stopped listening as Yva counted out the month’s casualties while the two of them sat in Bralt’s solitary command tent, with the sea wind tugging at the walls and distant voices echoing from the camp outside. It had been two days since he had led the attack on the wedding in the castle of Valwyck. Two days since he drowned what was meant to be the happiest day of someones life in blood. Two days since he captured some clueless Baruch boy who was completely innocent.


Two days since he realized he could not do this anymore.


He could not keep leading his Scyflings into battle after battle until all that was left was a mountain of Haeseni and Scyfling bodies to rule over and a river of blood beneath them. This has long since become a war of attrition, and every encounter was costing hundreds of lives. Hundreds of Scyfling lives, who had followed Bralt here in belief that he was sent by some god or other to learn the Scyfling people to greatness and peace; and hundreds of Haeseni lives, of men and women who had died defending their country from Bralt’s attempts to save his own people from their doomed homeland and doomed culture. He had known that, when he led the Scyflings here to fulfill the fabled Crowslayer’s Vow, it would mean thousands of Haeseni deaths. He had agreed to pay that price happily – he had to put his own people first, after all.


But now that he was faced with the violence firsthand …. with the countless dead, the countless families shattered, the countless hearts broken … He dared not dream of how many widows and widowers slept in empty beds because of him, or how many children had been told that their parents would not be home that night to tuck them in, or any night thereafter.


It didn’t matter if it was Scyfling nor Crow who bore that heartbreak; there were plenty of both, and both had become unbearable to Bralt.


“We cannot win like this,” Bralt murmured as he squeezed his eyes shut.


“Four-hundred eighty-nine, four-hundred …. Eh?” Yva stopped her counting with an unimpressed grunt. “What’s that? You’re going to make me lose count.”


“We cannot win like this,” Bralt repeated, though it was to himself as much it as it was to Yva.


“Eh? What are you on about?” Bralt opened his eyes to find Yva staring at him with a stoney stare. “’course we can win. We just have to thin them out a little more, draw the King Crow out, and ...”


“That’s not what I mean,” Bralt interjected. “We can kill them all we like. Even kill their King Crow.” Bralt stood, his stool creaking as it was relieved of his hulking weight, and he trudged over to the brazier burning in the middle of the night. “But that won’t be winning,” he said distantly as he stared into the glowing embers. “Not really.”


“That’s not winning?” Yva scowled, and approached him by the brazier with crossed arms. I’ve lost count, and you’ve lost me. What do you rotting mean?”


Bralt wasn’t quite sure himself; the words had simply come out in that brief revelation as Yva listed this month’s number of dead Scyflings, but he knew what he had said to be true. “Even if we kill half of them and their King … even if we steal their land and grow fat here … the Crows will fight us to take back what we stole for decades to come. They’ll remember their slain, and they’ll remember who did the slaying.” He barked a mirthless laugh. “I was a fool to think that a war like this could be won by just fulfilling some ******* rotten prophecy. All we’d win is nothing more than a temporary ceasefire. The hatred and anger … Pah.” The flames in the brazier cackled softly. “It would never die.”


“Bralt,” Yva said, suddenly very cautious. “What are you saying?”


“I already said it,” he told her gruffly. “We cannot win like this.”


“Wonderful.” Yva threw up her arms and stomped away. “You choose now to have some rotting apiphany about the war you started! Pray tell, then, Crowslayer, how can we win?” she spat. “How can you possibly hope to bring peace to our people without devastating these Crows? Without uniting them against us for generations? Bralt, this war cannot be won without either us or them getting destroyed! You know this!”


“Then we won’t unite them in hatred of us. That … that won’t be the world we build.” He wasn’t really sure what he was saying as he stared absently into the fire. He wasn’t really looking at the brazier, though; in the flames, he saw rolling fields of amber grain and fertile farms in the sun. He saw children playing in the grass and Scyfling parents working bountiful fields. He saw folk being able to do about their daily lives without having to wear armour or keep a weapon close at hand in case starving raiders came looking for food. He saw what his dream of peace – his real vow to the Scyfling people.


“You have completely lost it,” Yva hissed. “Do you hear yourself? How can you possibly hope to unite us and the Crows in a way that means a peaceful feature? After all this? Really, Bralt, have you lost it? How are you ever going to do something like that?”


Slowly, Bralt raised one of his scarred hands above the fire, and studied it. “I can think of one way to unite them,” he said softly.






Bralt cracked a smile as he thought back on that conversation with Yva – back when he had decided how to end this war, and achieve his dream of peace.


Around him, the throneroom of the Haeseni palace burned. He and a band of High Shamen had hidden in here while the battle raged outside, and the remainder of his forces dashed themselves against the walls of Reza until they had been forced to surrender, to lay down their weapons, and to swear to the Crows in exchange for peace and fertile land. Then the Crows had come to fight him and his last few warriors here, in the throne room, where Bralt had once dreamed of beheading the King Crow and fulfilling the Crowslayer’s Vow a very long time ago.


“So long ago,” he murmured to himself. A fire had been started during the fight, and now it had spread to consume the whole throne room. Bodies littered the floor, and smoke clogged the air. The Haeseni had abandoned the hall and instead barricaded the doors, letting Bralt succumb to the fire and the smoke. That suited him well enough – he hardly deserved a glorious death after all this. Any death was plenty good enough. Any end to this. He was tired, after all. So very, very tired.


Despite the moaning and grunts of pain all around him as the fire cackled and spread further through the hall, Bralt smiled, even as the last of his Shamen dropped to the floor from smoke inhalation. He himself was starting to feel his strength fade, but he did not really care. Smiling, he dropped his axe, and staggered towards the throne at the top of the hall before the fire consumed it. It took him three attempts to climb the dais, but when he finally did, he stood there and stared down at the burning throne room.


He had thought this would be the hardest part – the dying.


It was odd. He had killed so many people in his life, from Athera to Arcas. Many deserved it, and many didn’t. He had always been sure in his capabilities of a warrior, sure that he would never be beaten in combat, that he would live to a ripe old age so long as he always held his axe close. But this ... this was different. This was letting go of his axe. This was surrendering himself to fate, now that his part in this tale had been played. This was his destined death.


It was not as hard as he thought it would be. For a time, leading up to this moment, he had worried he might succumb to fear and fail to see this through to the end. But it was not like that at all; he felt no fear, even as the intense heat of the fire in the throne room began to cook him inside his armour.


No, instead, he felt … relieved. Like a great weight had been lifted from him. Really, in a way, that was very true; he had played the last of his part in realizing his dream of peace. He sighed happily, and collapsed into the throne as it began to smoulder from the heat.


He had done it. He had turned himself into a monster, from the Moonfire Massacre to this very battle, and driven most of his own Scyflings away from him and forced them to ally with the Haeseni to defeat them. Ally with the Haeseni, in return for protection and fertile lands, and a promise of a peaceful, united future with no anger. No hatred. No war.


“Hahahah!” he began to laugh aloud, his voice hoarse from the heavy smoke. He had done it. And all it cost was his own measly life.


“Hahaaaaa! Hahahahahaha!” His own laughter echoed in his head like a chasm, drowning out the sound of the flames cackling as they spread to the dais, enveloping the hall, creeping closer to the throne.


“I … did it … haaa ...” He had always known Crowslayer’s Vow was a rotting load of nonsense. He did not need to kill a king to save his people, but his people HAD needed a king to see them down this road.


As the fire caught onto the throne, Bralt remembered when he had first confronted the King Crow off the coast of Valwyck, where he had compelled him to give his own life to end this war without any blood being shed but his own. Bralt had thought the King Crow to be a coward unworthy of his crown when he refused; he had always thought the duty of a king was to protect his people, no matter the cost.


It had taken Bralt a very long time to realize that duty fell on him too.


As the fire spread to the throne and Bralt’s own body, he stared down the hall one last time. He thought he saw shapes in the flames. People? He squinted through the haze, and abruptly their faces became crystal clear. He knew it was just his imagination, but he could very clearly see Yva’s face, standing alongside Segn, and Luvir, and Ako, and Taro, and Qeun, and Kori, and Harn, and Vanno, and Ago, and Tsir, and Hallen, and Korin, and every other Scyfling he had taken up arms for. Every Scyfling he had dreamed of a better future for. Nevermind the Crowslayer’s Vow – to secure peace for his people in fertile lands …


… That was his real vow. It always had been.


As the fire continued to consume him, Bralt smiled one last time.


He raised a shaky arm, and saluted the imaginary faces of his Scyflings, before he closed his eyes, and let the smoke carry him into darkness as he burned.





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*Marcus would awake in the hospital, raising his arms above his head he’d notice something, his left, was missing, lost somewhere on the countless ramparts of New Reza he’d smirk, he was not able to avenge his fallen Knightly brothers, but, what if he did? Every Scyfling that fell to Marcus’s blade, every single one that succumbed to his wrath, that was all in the name of his brethren.* ”One hell of a ride, comrades, brothers and sisters, may your memories live on in history and in our hearts...” *He’d sign the lorranian cross above himself, then changing thoughts to something more humorous*  “Heh, no arm ey? I guess it may be time to retire...” *He’d relish the thought, thinking back, to his mightiful career in the servitude of his motherland with a soft smile and pleasant memories*

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It was finally over.

Alexandria Barbanov could hardly believe her ears when the clangor of battle ceased in New Reza and she heard the distant calls of victory emanate from the palace’s courtyard.  The war was ended; Bralt had fallen.  Alex didn’t know what to feel, or really how to feel about the events of the siege; she almost felt numb or stupefied.  Ten or so years of her life had been dedicated to dealing with the invasion of the Scyflings; ten or so years of her life in war had made her into an entirely different woman.


When the invasion started, Alexandria had been so naive and fearful.  She was frustrated about the Scyflings, and thought Bralt to be a man of greed who held some bitter grudge against her brother.  A hatred burned within her for him, for bringing this war to her Kingdom that would end the lives of thousands.  She was certainly not one for battle and cursed herself for her uselessness; however, a sense of hope had formed within her after one fateful day in the forests of Graiswald north of New Reza.  Alexandria had come into contact with Segn, the Scyfling Warchief known as The Vile Tooter; because of him, she had hoped to be able to find peace for Crows and Scyflings.


Her pursuit in peace, to her, felt as if it were in vain for the most part... War could not be avoided; battles had to be fought and death came for both Scyflings and Crows.  Alexandria often believed herself to be a fool for clinging to such a hope, there had been many late nights where she considered giving up with her dreams.  Though, she always chose to remain steadfast.  She had grown to greatly admire and respect the culture of the Scyflings, thanks to her many talks with Segn, who she had begun to now view as a father figure in her life.  She could not stand idly by and allow for their numbers to be annihilated in battle, and the same went for her own people.


“There is an art to losing.”


The words of Qeun the Quiet rang in her head as the princess gazed solemnly over New Reza, distant plumes of smoke still rose up where the city’s gates were.  The stench of war was carried in the cold winds today.  The hatred Alexandria had once felt for Bralt, many years ago, was long gone.  She had realized his intentions with this siege now, with how he had chosen to end it all.  He had looked through the wreckage his desires had wrought, he had seen the pain it brought to his people what other toils would follow; no salvation would be had.  And so, he took the steps to save what he could in sacrifice of himself.  For that, she respected Bralt.  Perhaps now, peace may be found with those few that remain.



[[Crazy fun eventline!]]

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Father Goren awakes with a start, gasping for breath and covered in sweat, his nightmares still filled with the screams of the Shamans that had been burned alive before him after they had spared his life and surrendered.

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Aleksandra Ludovar smiled from the Seven Skies, glad that she had died for such an honorable cause.


Anastasia Kazirov entered the Seven Skies, beaming widely as she was reunited with her deceased family.

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