Hammersfall: Saga of Verbjorn, Part 7 Svartalfar Problems
They retired to new quarters, with a room for each man and fresh clothes and a spring fed bathing area. They washed and changed into the clothing, quietly debating what problems the trolls could be causing that the Svartalfar could not handle themselves. Osun cautioned that they may be beyond their ken, while Condul pointed out that the dwarves had saved their lives not once, but twice and they owed some sort of were-gilt for the sailors who died to secure their escape and those in the city that might die due to their part in those events. Verbjorn agreed with Condul, and advised Osun that the debt was his as well. There was a knock at the door, and the dwarven woman announced herself as Gildhund before entering. The face was familiar, as she had been the dwarf attending the men when they were recovering. She stated that she was assigned to help them find their way around the sprawling stronghold and assist them with the household customs. Verbjorn thanked her for her kindness and for the help, for they had never been seen as anything more than slaves and they would not want to violate their host’s hospitality. She made sure that they were comfortable and offered to lead them to Dodur’s dining rooms.
The men followed her through the labyrinthine halls, relaying a short bit of history about the Island Stead and that the lands had been wrested from the savage trolls long ago and the dwarves had been able to settle much of the archipelago over the intervening cycles. She stated that the return of the trolls had been a surprise as most had believed that they were legends to frighten small children and the subject of tall tales. The group arrived at a large pair of doors, which swung inward to reveal a large room filled with a large table piled high with delicacies. Dodur rose when they entered, welcoming them and encouraging the men to help themselves to the food and libations.
The men settled in and Dodur began explaining that the trolls had been driven from the islands around the time of the founding of the High Forge and that they had disappeared from knowledge until recently, arriving in force and driving many of the Svartalfar from their settlements. The armies had ben able to secure a solid line, but could make no progress against the invasion. For many months, skirmishes and stalemate occurred but no great gain or loss was achieved. A parley was requested, but the troll chieftain, Blodgrypr slew the emissaries and continued to harass the lines. Several attempts to kill this chieftain were made, but he was either too well protected or when caught alone fought with a ferocity that overcame any of the warriors sent against him. He had recently taken to taunting the Svartalfar, offering a duel to first blood to resolve the matter, but frequently first blood was the champion’s last breath. Tomorrow, he would be expected to make the challenge again, and there were few who were willing to accept and none of those had the skill to defeat the troll. Dodur cut Verbjorn off before he could commit to accepting the challenge, saying he should think carefully through the night and render a decision in the morning. Condul agreed, and Verbjorn reluctantly accepted this advice. They finished their meal and Gildhund returned the men to their quarters, advising them that she was across the hall if they required anything.
The men quietly debated the merits and faults of accepting the challenge, including the fact that none of them had actually had combat training. Still undecided, the men retired, falling into an uneasy sleep. Verbjorn woke in the night, the moon shining through the windows, casting the room in pale colors and unsure shapes. He lay staring at the ceiling, pondering his course of action and debating what answer to give in the morning. If he died performing the task, his quest would likely end, as he was unsure if Condul could keep Osun from persuading him to abandon their path after his death. However, failing to resolve the fight here meant that the Svartalfar in the High Forge and his family would certainly come to harm and nothing would change. He drifted back to sleep and his dreams were filled with wild things running free in the forests and over the plains of some far off land.
The men woke shortly after dawn, and Verborn declared he would go through with the contest, as it was the only way to get the help they needed, despite not being absolutely certain. Condul agreed with this reasoning and Osun was forced to agree despite having reservations. Verbjorn asked Condul and Osun to watch for anything that might indicate trickery or a trap while he was fighting, something did not make sense if the troll champion could defeat so many skilled warriors alone. A knock came at the door and Gildhund stepped inside and announced Dodur, who entered behind her. He managed to look only slightly rested, and he was in slight disarray, as though he rushed to dress and meet with the men. He was followed by several servants bearing a hearty breakfast and encouraged the men to eat. While they ate, they made small talk. Verbjorn asked of news from the Aelfar Capital, but Dodur had none to share, despite being anxious for the same.
As the meal wound down, Verbjorn stated his intention to fight for the dwarves if he could be assured that helping the High Forge could be at least considered again amongst the Karls, if that was where the decision was being held. Dodur surprised by the generosity of his guest, agreed and offered Verbjorn his choice of any equipment he would require for the fight. Verbjorn accepted the offer and asked Gildhund to take them to an armory to select what they would need. Dodur directed her to the armory of his personal guard and then excused himself to make preparations of his own. He looked relieved as he departed, stating he would see Verbjorn again before the fight.
The challenge came, and was accepted shortly before midmorning. Verbjorn strode toward the gates of the stronghold, dressed in slick looking leather armor. He had the option of a heavier but opted for mobility against a certainly larger opponent. He bore a thick oaken buckler, painted with a boar motif, and a short sword of Svartalf make. Dodur met them at the gate, with his personal guards flanking him. He looked over Verbjorn and nodded in approval. He commented that the sword Verbjorn had chosen was a fine one, but said that there was a better choice and produced the seax from the captain of the ship. He explained that the captain was a close relative and the seax had been in the family for generations. Dodur felt it was only right that Verbjorn carry it into battle to honor the former owner and as gratitude for making sure his remains were respectfully dealt with. Verbjorn accepted it and handed the other sword off to his brother. The group moved toward the gates and the duel.