The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’s War 3.55

This is my weekly serial, written raw and uncut!

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

<>

Kingshall was unfamiliar to me now. I kept recognizing bits of the place, but twenty years of prosperity and peace between the clans had shifted much of what I once remembered. The mountains, the hall, and the ocean remained the same at least.

I spent much of the next week drinking with Thyra, telling tales to fellow Nordan, and exploring the city. At some point the realization that I was just a visitor settled on me. The North would always be my homeland, but even if my exile was ended, it was no still not my home.

I longed for Myrrhn, for the people I knew, and for my life there. What was there for me here? My kin were dead or strangers to me, while my clan still resented me because of Wolki,

Once my mind was made up to return to Myrrhn, I began to enjoy my time in Kingshall, experiencing everything that I could, and savouring the tastes and sights without reservation. The rest of the time passed quickly.

<>

The ceremony was better attended than I was expecting. Thyra and the remaining handful of old Siggurd’s Kingsguard stood at the fore. They were heroes one and all and their presence signaled that they supported my return to their number.

Thyra looked bright and proud at their head, the most loyal guardian of a favoured king. Her heroism was true in my mind, even if that of the man she once served was tarnished.

Jarls, Karls, and others of the nobility of Nordan lands were present, along with those warriors of note and priests to the gods who were willing to attend. They lined the sides of the hall, watching as I passed. Wolki glared at me, but since the cancellation of my exile restored some lost honour to our clan, he could not forgo attendance. I smiled at him. The gesture was not lost on those present and a ripple of laughter passed through the Sea Wolf contingent, with the sons of Harald Magnisson standing proud behind their clan lord. I recognized a few other faces, most of them much older than when I last saw them.

Berkhilda was there, standing proud among the contingent from Clan Furis. I stopped and nodded to the fierce, fiery haired warrior, earning a small smile. No doubt she would want to hear how our battle with Cinder led to the recovery of Garmsbita.

I carried the old High King’s blade in my arms, the burnished decorations of the massive scabbard glinting in the sun. As I approached Athelbjorn on his dais, Svana at his side, I knelt and held out the blade.

“I, Ragnar Skyggesson, called Grimfang, Exile and Twiceborn have returned carrying a lost treasure of the king whom I failed to protect. I present to you, King Athelbjorn, Garmsbita, your father’s sword, lost when he fell at the battle of Drajinskyg, on the Spearmarch, twenty years ago.”

Athelbjorn looked at the blade for a moment, then descended and drew the weapon, leaving the scabbard in my hands. As he held up the blade, shining in the sun, the people gave a great cheer. I remained kneeling until it died down, thinking of the old days and what I knew now.

When the cheering died down, Athlebjorn spoke. “Ragnar Skyggesson fell on the field at Drajinskyg and later clawed his way out of the grave. He was branded a coward, cursed by the gods for failing to protect my father. But today he has proven those accusations wrong. He has, after twenty years of exile, long after lesser men would give themselves over to bitterness, returned to Kingshall in triumph, having recovered the lost sword of his king. In doing so he has proved that the yoke of exile was placed upon his shoulders wrongly, for no coward could have faced what he faced to recover this blade. Rise Ragnar Skyggesson, your exile is over. Your name will once more be honoured among those who served my father and also among those who have served me. There will be other honours paid to you, but now is a time for celebration. For now let us feast, drink, and tell tales in your honour!”

I rose, clasped hands with the king, and the merriment began.

 

 

Advertisements

The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’s War 3.54

This is my weekly serial, written raw and uncut!

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

<>

Athelbjorn stared at me in disbelief, as did his sister and his Kingsguard. The Nordan are an honour culture, and vengeance looms large in our minds. My words would seem strange to them.

“You would let this pass?” asked Svana. She seemed almost offended.

“You did.”

Svana’s eyes widened and her nostrils flared, I could see much of Siggurd in her then, though she had better control, if less humour,

“I was only his bodyguard, not his daughter. If you have given up your claim to vengeance, what right do I have to pursue my lesser claim and the strife that would follow?”

Some of the Kingsguard nodded. The shadows in the hall seemed to lessen, as if the eyes of the Gods were satisfied and passed on to other matters, We stood for a moment in silence, until High King Athelbjorn collected himself.

“Forgive me Ragnar Grimfang,” he said, looking at me. “I loved my father, but i could never forgive him for what he did, I challenged him to a duel to the death, you know.”

“You were barely more than a pup. Siggurd was the greatest warrior-king the North has seen for many years. It was a brave challenge, but it would be akin to a man fighting Furis the day after he finishes shield training.”

“Aye. Father said there would be no honour in it, after he knocked me down. I’ve never been much of a fighter.”

“The North has plenty of warriors. You are a good king Athelbjorn, I can see that in all of your deeds since The Spearmarch. If you believe that I was sent by the Gods to judge you, then take that to heart. As long as you are a good king, no one will seek to uncover your secrets. Even Wolki was more interested in protecting his own than finding some way of attacking you.”

“What do you mean, Ragnar?”

“The mystery of of how the Skaelings and Wights ambushed us on the Spearmarch involves a secret route used for smuggling. Wolki sought to kill me to protect that information. Instead, Ulfgorr met his fate.”

“That is good to know. I must say that you are not at all what I expected, Twiceborn.”

“Twenty years in Myrrhn have given me a different perspective, King Athelbjorn. Honour is not everything, especially to a man whose responsibilities extend further than his own sword arm. I have also seen the violence that some do to those closest to them, and learned to admire those who take what path they can to seek redress, even if it is a knife in the back. I will always admire your father for his deeds, and love him for the honour he showed me, but now that I know what he did to his family I will despise him for that. People are complicated and many of those you meet have a touch of the unexpected.”

“Well said. I will lift your exile, Ragnar Skyggesson. There will be a formal event later, but for now let me have the honour of welcoming you home.”

<>

 

 

The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’s War 3.53

This week’s Shadow Wolf is a bit late because I was at Fan Expo in Toronto. Since I was unable to make Gencon 50, this was our big con getaway this year. I have some pictures from the con at the end of this post.

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

<>

Athelbjorn came to his decision. His was the blade that betrayed his father, the face so long hidden from me, until I held old Siggurd’s blade before facing Ulfgorr. Perhaps his actions were the reason that I escaped death’s clutches and rose as a Twiceborn.

Svana reached the same conclusion as I did and she beat her brother to action.

“Guards, kill the exile!” she said.

The shadows in the hall deepened, and a low growl escaped the dark. The men heeded her orders and began to move. I did not draw my weapons.

“STOP!” roared Athelbjorn, his face twisting. Only when angry did he resemble his father.

The Kingsguard froze. Svana drew her blade, glaring at me and taking a step before her brother placed his hand on her shoulder to restrain her.

“I will not have good men sully these halls in my name,” said Athelbjorn. “Heed this Kingsguard: The gods have sent Ragnar Skyggesson here to judge me for my patricide. No matter what happens here you are not to defend me, that is an order. If my sister tries to kill him, restrain her.”

“This isn’t right, brother,” said Svana.

“You and I are not to be the judges of that, Svana,” said Athelbjorn. “Let Ragnar hear my explanation.”

Svana remained quiet, though she glared at me as if trying to murder me through sheer force of will.

“Do you remember my mother, Ragnar?”

Queen Freylorn had been a sturdy woman, much loved by Kingsguard. She had died a year before the battle on the Spearmarch, a terrible accident.

“Yes.”

“My mother and my father had an argument. He pushed her and she fell. That was the cause of her death,” said Athelbjorn. “The greatest hero in the North felled his own wife over a stupid argument. Then, when his back was turned in the battle his own son stabbed him in the back like a coward. I hoped to die that day, but the last of my father’s men saved me. It is only fitting that you have come to collect upon that blood debt, Ragnar Skyggesson, you were one of his Kingsguard and have suffered greatly for my actions. Let my last act be to revoke your exile.”

“No.”

Athelbjorn paused. Svana and the Kingsguard remained poised on the edge of action.

“If the gods wanted you dead Athelbjorn, Skygge would have given this secret to Thyra Hurnsdottir. She would have torn this hall down to get to you and stained the place with your blood. I have been exiled for twenty years, but my mind has not been idle. The ways of the North sometimes seem to demand unthinking vengeance. As Siggurd killed your mother, you killed him, and I should kill you as the final act of vengeance. But my time in Myrrhn has tempered my views. Blind vengeance at all costs is a kind of madness. I have seen how Kingshall has grown under your direction and how loyal your sister and your own Kingsguard are. That speaks well of you. That they did not rebuke of show surprise at your story makes me inclined to believe it to be true. Siggurd was a wrathful man, and sometimes such men have a harder time at peace than they do at war. So no, it will not be your last act as King, I think, at least not on my account.”

“You would forgive me?”

“Forgiveness is not the issue, really. If I struck you down, the North would be plunged into Chaos. Svana is next in line for the throne, but there are those who would question her fitness since she knew of your deed. It would also tarnish the image of your father as a hero of the wars against The Devout. Some would condemn him, others would defend him blindly. It would divide the realm, and our enemies would take advantage.”

“What will you do then?”

“I will return to Myrrhn, hopefully no longer an Exile…”

<>

Here are the Fan Expo 2017 pics:

20170902_115839[1]

The lineup for photos and autographs in the smaller hall on Saturday.

20170902_122512[1]

Ronan playing Mecard. The demo people for this game/toy were kind enough to entertain people’s kids… which I am grateful for.

20170903_111926[1]

A clay dragon sculpted by one of the talented people at the con.

20170902_112333[2]

There was a lot of cosplay at the con, better variety this year. My photos do not do the details justice at all.

 

The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whore’s War 3.52

This is my weekly serial, written raw as a writing exercise.

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

<>

Athelbjorn awaited me in the Great Hall, looking pensive on this throne.  We were alone, save for a dozen heavily armed guards, at least two of which were ascended of some kind, and our bootfalls echoed in the vastness of the place.

Unlike the outside of King’s Hall, the Great Hall held to the traditions of old, being mostly made of wood. Intricate carvings lined the walls and pillars, depicting scenes of history and legend. The pillars nearest the throne, in plain view of the High King and anyone who addressed him, depicted the deeds of his father, Siggurd, the king whom I had served and died for, whom I might die for again.

The wood was fresh and fragrant; the carvings were replaced yearly. The scents of pine, oak, and ironwood mixing with smoke and the hints of a recent revel. It was a joyous smell, much at odds with the heavy occasion.

Svana stepped up to stand beside Athelbjorn. She was good at concealing her feelings, but her hand trembled as she turned to face me.

Athelbjorn stood as I knelt before him. It is not required for a Nordan to take the knee before the High King, but I was of the Kingsguard once… It took him a moment to speak.

“Ragnar Skyggesson, I thank you for returning my father’s sword. You have done us a great service, but this is a delicate matter. What else have you learned?”

“Or remembered,” added Svana.

As she spoke, the shadows seemed to deepen in the hall. Some of the Kingsguard gripped their weapons, muttering oaths to the gods under their breath, ready for battle. Athelbjorn and Svana watched me closely.

“I know who killed your father…”

Athelbjorn’s brow furrowed. A torch spluttered in the shadows of the hall. Svana’s eyes were wide. The Gods were watching us.

“… but it is the why of it that interests me now.”

Athelbjorn’s mouth tightened for a moment, but then he closed his eyes and nodded.

<>

 

A Teaser for Tuesday… er Wednesday.

This week’s teaser is from my newest book, Bloodlust: The Sum of Hate (Domains of the Chosen #7). I had trouble with the title for #7 for various, but I already know that I want to name #8: Bloodlust: Iron Faction. Here is the scene where they are introduced.

Vintia backed away, looking toward Teven. “Is that true?”

“They see it that way. The people leading the inquiry are asking pointed questions of members of the Legion. While some of us are capable of avoiding rhetorical traps, most Legionnaires are fighters, not talkers, and some of them get led into saying things that can be turned against Hephus. It is one of the reasons I am forbidden from talking to my own men while they wait to testify.”

The idea of Hephus being subjected to such treatment spurred Vintia forward once again. Just as she was considering shouldering into the line of artificers, a big, bearded man stepped forth.

“Greetings. I am Publius, leader of the Iron Faction.”

Vintia stood, her mouth working.

“Iron Faction?” asked Teven.

“We believe that it is time for artificers to have proper representation,” said Publius. “So, we formed our own faction.”

“I suppose that makes sense,” said Teven. “Now–”

“Iron Faction, gather and listen!” rumbled Publius, interrupting Teven. Immediately the raucous gathering of artificers shuffled into a semblance of silence and watchfulness as Publius’s fiery voice washed over them. “For too long have the Chosen and the High Assembly conspired to limit our power. You all know it; you have felt that oppressive hand, and you have seen that we are denied our own Chosen. Now these people persecute one of ours who has become a hero to the people, Centurion Hephus Krassius, just to make sure that we remain under heel. His Ungifted brethren have abandoned him to the tender mercies of Assemblyman Skavetz and the Arena Post. Well, I say enough is enough.”

Publius paused and was met with shouts of support.

“This inquiry is a grave injustice, but it is only the tip of the Kraken. For centuries, our talents have served the Chosen and the free citizens of Krass, and yet we are denied entry into either group. Our magic has built the steam waggons that carry goods across The Domains. Our hands have fashioned the pipes and conduits that provide newer, better power and water to The Empire. Our minds have created countless inventions from link crystals, to clockwork soldiers, to the great steam-powered Ironclads that keep this city safe!”

The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whore’s War 3.51

<>

The Nordan are not revered as great builders, like The Archaeans or The Dwarves of Old Mithras. Our architecture is mostly wooden and quite functional. The one structure that people take interest in outside of The North is the Great Hall, our equivalent of palace, barracks, and forum all rolled into one.

This is my weekly serial, written raw as a writing exercise.

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

<>

King’s Hall was the Great Hall of the first High King of The Nordan, built when our gods still walked our lands, under the direction of Garm and Helma. At first it was merely a grandiose version of other Great Halls, built to house the representatives of all the clans and decorated with carvings and runes telling the history of our people.

Over time wood was replaced by stone and metal. Walls and towers were added in layers over time, after wars with enemies who could not be turned back by simple fortifications. Scars of particularly impressive sieges became trophies of their own, like the skull of the Dragon Racknir or the fortified camp of King Orlos of Dragmaar.

And as the Great Hall had grown, so had the little town in the bay that it overlooked. unity under the High King brought power and prosperity, which in turn brought trade and the needs of diplomacy, learning, and specialized craftsmen.

King’s Hall was not nearly as large as Myrrhn, and certainly not as cosmopolitan, but it was clean and it seemed to hum with purpose and vigour, and it’s markets were filled with goods from around the world.

It was a fine sight for eyes that had not seen Nordan lands in two decades. It was glorious, all of it, though I found myself looking to the statue of King Siggurd, my king, again. I frowned, once again thinking of that day on The Spearmarch, how he fell, and how I would soon have to confront his killer.

Sadly, I did not think that it was fated to be a glorious confrontation.

<>

A score of Brighthelms, the guardians of King’s Hall, met us at the docks. The mists were now dissapating and their polished armour glittered in the sun. A golden haired woman stood in front of them, dressed in familiar heraldry, the arms and armour of the King’s Guard but with the iconography of the royal lineage in place of clan markings.

“A hero’s welcome, Ragnar!” said Thyra. “The King’s Sister herself has come to meet you.”

In spite of myself, I smiled. I remembered Svana as a young woman, awkward and shy, always trying to stay out of the way. She had grown tall and strong and regarded me with no hint of shyness.

The people of the north do not bow to their kings and queens, but I inclined my head to Svana as an old gesture of respect. I hoped that she did not harbour me any bitterness. Her expression did not shift.

“Ragnar Skyggesson,” said Svana. “\I have been commanded to escort you to King;s Hall for an immediate audience. High King Athelbjorn wishes to speak to you about matters of import and will not tolerate any delays.”

<>

A few thoughts on Charlottesville

[This is not related to my writing, but I have to say something about it, if only to set it in my mind for later… Shadow Wolf Sagas will resume on Sunday, hopefully.]

A couple of days ago, I watched with horror and disgust as the most powerful man in the world lied to defend racists and traitors.

That President Donald J Trump lies is nothing new or surprising. At this point in his career only a fool would stand up for his honesty. But in a presidency defined by its lows, lying in the defence of the KKK and American Nazis marks a new low and a dangerous one at that.

During his remarks yesterday President Trump doubled down on his original comments that both the left and the right were equally responsible for the grim actions in Charlottesville that left Heather Heyer dead, and dozens wounded as a white supremacist rammed a car into a line of merchers.

His most brazen lie, that the Left-wing protesters did not have a permit to protest, went unchallenged, mostly unnoticed in a stream of ugly half truths. The Anti-Nazis actually had two permits to protest, making their presence just as legal. And yet the President’s lie was picked up and spread by his surrogates and supporters and used to give the KKK and the Nazis greater legitimacy by creating the narrative that they were there legally, while the Anti-Nazi protesters were not. He lied to defend ideologies that Americans have gone to war to defeat. He lied to defend groups who spread hate and murdered a woman this weekend. He lied to defend his allies and in doing so condoned their actions and fanned the flames of further violence.

Perhaps even uglier than the lies he told in defence of the KKK and the Nazis, was his equivocation on their behalf. The stated term for their gathering was to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, the most celebrated general of the Confederacy. President Trump said that taking down Lee’s statue would open the way for the left to take down statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson since all three men were guilty of owning slaves. This argument enrages me. Comparing the first two Presidents of the United States to the leader of the Confederate army that sought to tear it apart during the Civil War is simply beyond the pale. Yes, all three men owned slaves and should be condemned for that, but two of them are proud figures in early American history, flaws and all, while Lee is a General of a hostile secessionist force, a traitor to the republic who sought to bring it down to preserve slavery.

One need only to glance at the founding documents of the Confederacy to know that slavery was the reason they broke away from the Republic, in spite of the popular fiction of state’s rights. President Trump does not care though; he needs allies and the Nazis and KKK are his most willing and ardent supporters at this point.

The further we get away from the weekend, the uglier the forces behind Charlottesville look. One need only read the words and look at the posters that were created to advertise the event to see that these were white supremacists. Richard Spencer, a Nazi by his own words and admission, was a headline guest. The protesters chanted “Jews will not replace us” and “Blood and soil”, lines which resonate with racist and fascist movements of the past. And yet, President Trump has dug in his heels and refuses to back off his equivocations and lies. While this has earned him a heap of criticism from most people, the Nazis and the KKK have praised him for his support; thus far he has not tweeted that he does not want their kudos. He has been far swifter and less equivocal in his criticism of everything under the sun (Except Russia), one need only look at his twitter feed to see the truth of that. He does not condemn them fully because he does not want to. It is sad and ugly, and it leaves me angry and deeply troubled.

Heather Hayer was killed at Charlottesville when a white supremacist rammed a car into a crowd of protestors. Nineteen more were injured. I have watched that terrible video and it will remain with me, as will the words and images of the vicious white supremacists who descended upon Charlottesville. As far as I am concerned the BLM/Antifa/Church Groups and others who showed up to confront them are heroes. I do not condone violence, but history has shown us what happens when you don’t stand up to Nazis.