That I came to my duel with Ulfgorr wearing the heraldry of The Kingsguard was not lost on those who came to watch.
The fighting ground at Cassander’s Watch was a deep pit, lined with the same stone blocks that made up the outer wall of the keep. The sides were twice the height of a man with vicious iron stakes pointed downward to discourage climbing out before the fight was over. It was surrounded by five tiers of galleries, none of which contained seats.
Today each of the galleries was full of people standing shoulder to shoulder, Nordan with a smattering of Myrrhnese. Men and women shouted my name, some on praise while others heaped scorn. Wolki, standing amidst a knot of Shadow Wolf Clan all painted for a night attack, merely spat when he met my eye.
Birgir of Clan Sea Wolf offered offered me a warmer greeting. Taking my hand a clasping it.
“I’ve wagered heavily on you, Ragnar, and called on the Gods to see you through this,” he said. “The Sea Wolf Clan would be pleased to host your retinue on the second floor, if it pleases you.”
“You have my thanks, Birgir.”
I was genuinely touched. Birgir was risking a loss of face by showing me so much support. I was just an exile, and likely soon to lose a duel to the death.
“You can thank me by taking the Demon Wolf’s head,” said Birgir, smiling. “And giving my clan the honour of hosting the feast once you have done so.”
“That honour belongs to me, Birgir Hurnsson,” said Thyra. “I have stood by this man since you you were nothing more than a tadpole in your da’s left stone.”
Birgir laughed. “Peace Thyra, I have no wish to feel the wrath of Furis’s favourite daughter! Let us feast him together then.”
“I am honoured that you have such confidence in me. I am honoured by all of this support. Thank you friends. Thank you for coming here.”
“It was a long walk Ragnar,” said Murith. “You had better give Ulfgorr a kick in the arse.”
“I will, Murith, just for you.”
Vethri and Eiskra stepped forward. Vethri, I expected to be calm; she rarely shows emotion during a crisis. I found it odd that Eiskra was relaxed; she is more excitable than a wolverine on ragebloom oil.
“You are ready for this fight, Ragnar,” said Vethri. “It is time for you to regain your honour.”
“We will not let you fall here,” said Eiskra, looking over her shoulder. “We don’t want to lose you.”
“And so your friends called in a favour,” said Carmen, emerging from the throng, looking distinctly like a Nordan shield maiden complete with mail and marks of war. “It seems that the Doxies’s Union has valuable information; knowledge that even the Nightblades are willing to trade dearly for.”
“No one can fight this fight but me, Carmen…”
“Of course, male ego made manifest in law, I understand,” said Carmen. “I do, however, have something that will help you.”
And she handed me a sword.