Friday, November 18, 2011

A Prophecy Yet Fulfilled – Part 1

Erik the Viking by: Mitkov



Einmánuður had come and gone, and in its wake left the weight of eight cruel months, testing the guile, strength, and resolve of every man, woman, and child in lower Völangard. What was supposed to be a time of renewal and growth during the spring and summer months was transformed into a time of desperation, feuds, chaos, and war.

Dellingstad, a once prosperous and stable gunnstead has been turned on its ear, its population nearly doubled, swelling to over nine thousand in a matter of months. Its lands flooded with refugees from the southeast. Disease infected flock, depleted crops, a virulent sickness killing the weak, and the added tensions ever rising amongst the other clans had put a great deal of strain on its people, the land, and most notably it's leaders.

A tradition for as long as time had recorded, Chieftains, Raumadurs, Gōdi, Wolf Guards and other invited guests had gathered from across the gunn in Dellingstad's great feast hall, at the table of its leader Hrethel, to celebrate Hafnarfjörður; fall festival. Celebrated on the last day of Haustmánuður to mark the autumn equinox, it was a day normally reserved for the celebration of harvest, and to call upon Wôdan to gain inspiration and wisdom to get through the lean times of the winter months ahead. With Hod's Sons soon to arrive, the day held an even greater significance with the fate of the gunn wavering in the balance given the already lean times that the summer months had provided thus far.

Despite the meager accommodations, Hrethel had decreed that Haustmánuður would be a day of celebration, and that no man, woman, or child under his gunn would go hungry that day. Those not gathered in the great hall, had gathered in other halls within Dellingstad proper and throughout the gunn controlled territories. Even farmsteads out of the reach of Dellingstad proper had envoys sent to each and every home to insure his will be done, determined that none of his flock went to bed  hungry that night. His decree notwithstanding, there was still a feeling of unrest and uncertainty amongst many of those gathered for the great feast. An unsettling feeling of what was yet to come.

With the sun having long since slumbered behind the Ulreg Peaks that nestle Dellingstad proper, the night air had become chill, a reminder that the nights would soon grow longer and the weather colder still. All four hearths were a blaze, filling the feast hall with the aroma of mesquite, adding to the smell of stout ale, mead, pipe smoke and a cornucopia of braised meats.

Seated at the head of the long table was Hrethel, his mood was jovial and his wit was sharp, but his eyes and the furrow of his aging brow told a different story. The seat left of him sat empty, normally occupied by his wife Eruljë, lady of the House, but being the habitual caretaker that she was, she was off making sure matters of the feast were well tended to. To his right sat his eldest son and his Lendmann, Svein. To the right of Svein, his younger brother Hrothgar, who dwarfed his older brother in both stature and girth.

Hrothgar was a young man of few words. It wasn’t for the lack of intelligence to congeal his thoughts properly; no, his eyes affirmed that much. Rather, his mind, ever active, was spent pondering of his future, and that night was no exception. Although of noble blood and outwardly right at home amongst his clansmen, his demeanor betrayed him. Those close to him knew he longed to be freed from his bonds of being an Earl's son. Free of the responsibility to explore and experience the world as his uncle and mentor Ulric had.

Ulric was present for once, enjoying the festivities to the fullest; his booming laughter could be heard loud and clear throughout the great hall without mistake. His Wolf Guard accompanied the brash warrior, and seated next to him was his newly adopted daughter Megru`n. Much like Hrothgar, her mind tended to wander to far off places. Although quite grateful for having been rescued and given a loving and caring father figure to look after her, it wasn’t hard to tell that Meg, too, longed to be elsewhere. Quietly she picked at her food, her sad eyes occasionally sought out those most familiar to her in quest of comfort if only from a distance.

Behind Ulric stood an unlikely guest. Kaizu, a Khasar Khan warrior; a mercenary from the far southeast. His dark skin and lithe frame stood out even more so than normal that night. He was decked in studded leather armor and helm, and his familiar curved blade rested at his side; he was dressed for war.

More than a few times throughout the evening Kaizu bore the brunt of witty derision from the Northmen. On one particular occasion, a rival Chieftain had commented on the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of the Khasar Khan’s single edged blade. Kaizu took a moment's pause from his smoke-pipe and with the speed of a viper, drew his saber and proceeded to lop the turkey leg the Chieftain was holding to the quick. Then with the point of his blade, he skewered the meaty morsel and brought it to his face, smiled, nodded, and took a generous bite. An uncomfortable silence hung in the air, as the Wolf Guard gave pause to gauge their Chieftain’s reaction. Initially surprised by the speed and precision of the Khasar Khan’s bold strike, the Chieftain broke into thunderous fit of laughter, and lifted his flagon in a toast to the audacious foreigner.

Taking every opportunity to avoid sitting with his family, Rugnir worked the room. Moving from one section to next, picking up ale and bits of food as he went, the apprentice skald took time to regale those within earshot of tales gone by. Rugnir and Hrothgar were the best of friends, bothers in heart and in spirit, and it was Rugnir's stories of the exploits and conquests of their forefathers that made Hrothgar's spirit long for adventure. 


As Rugnir made his way towards Ulric's section of the long-table, one of the many inebriated guests requested a tale about Ulric the Red. Without missing a beat, Rugnir indulged the guests, and began a chiding tale about his legendary wolf-uncle…


TO BE CONTINUED...


Michael A. Walker
Defying Procrastination 


Are you a fan of Fantasy? How are your all-time favorite fantasy characters? You're comments are always welcomed and appreciated.




GLOSSARY

Chieftain – Leader of a specific clan.

Dellingstad – The gunnstead controlled by Hrethel, Earl of Clan Dellingstad, House of Hrethel.

Einmánuður - The name for the last month of winter.

Eruljë – Wife to the Gunnlord Hrethel, and Lady of House Hrethel.

Gōdi – Typically they are young priest and spiritual leaders of a clan, with some innate ability to commune with the Gods and wield Jötmagn. They generally serve under a Gōdord if the clan or gunn has one.

Gunnstead – A major settlement in a gunn that is part of a clan-controlled territory, which is usually home to the Karl of the clan.

Gunn – One of nineteen controlled territories led by Gunnlords and Earls. Gunns themselves are divided up again into clan-controlled territories, which number in the hundreds.

Hafnarfjörður – A festival celebrated on the last day of Haustmánuður to give thanks for a good crop and to ask Wôdan for guidance through the harsh winter months ahead.

Haustmánuður – The last summer month and the beginning of autumn.

Hod - The blind god of winter, is the son of Wôdan and twin brother of Baldr. Hod and his brother were responsible for fathering the birth of man as believed by the Völangardians.

Hrethel – The Gunnlord and Earl of Clan Dellingstad, House of Hrethel. Husband to Eruljë, and father to Svein and Hrothgar.

Hrothgar - Second son of Earl Hrethel.

Kaizu – A mercenary warrior from the lands of Khasar Khan.

Khasar Khan – Is a barren region of desert and steppes located deep in the southeast of Morgandor.

Lendmann - The Lendmann is the right hand man of the Earl, second in command. Typically, but not always, this position is held by the Earl’s eldest son.

Megru`n (Meg) – Believed to be of Cruithin descent, Meg is the adopted daughter of Ulric.

Raumadurs – The Lawspeaker of a clan or gunn. The Raumadur’s main responsibility is to settle disputes within the clan or the gunn itself.

Rugnir – A young skald of  Clan Dellingstad.

Svein – Lendmann of House Hrethel, and eldest son of Earl Hrethel.

Ulric – Younger brother of Hrethel, famed for his exploits and adventures abroad.

Völangard – The northern lands of Morgandor (Mögundr) occupied and controlled by the Northmen, believed to be descendants of the Jötun (giants).

Wolf Guards – Wolf Guards are the Chieftain’s retinue, which typically comprises of the most seasoned and trusted warriors of the leader. They are loyal to the Chieftain and fight alongside him when battle calls.



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