Hammersfall: Saga of Verbjorn, Part 9 Boon and Betrayal.
With Gildhund leading the way, the brothers made their way to the throne room, the various dwarves they encountered thanking them along the way. The doors were open and as they entered, the Karls rose and applauded. Dodur on his throne, beckoned them closer. He announced the gratitude of the Svartalfar and presented them with three gifts. The first was a small leather sack that could capture a sound to be released later, the second was a small stone that would capture the truth from a liar, and the last was a small glass vial that would keep a liquid in it fresh indefinitely. Verbjorn thanked the Karls and Lord, placing them in a pouch for safe keeping. Dodur then announced that the Island Steading would send troops and ships to support the High Forge and retrieve the families of the men. A feast would be held in honor of Sindiri, slain leader of the High Forge that evening. Dodur motioned to four seats near his throne, and asked the brothers and Gildhund to honor him by staying for the remainder of the afternoon, to advise him if necessary. Verbjorn, humbled agreed and they seated themselves, feeling more than a little out of place.
They spent a few hours listening to various Svartalfar petition for help rebuilding after the invasion as well some delivering resources to help those less fortunate. Most of the issues were easily solved, though there were a few property squabbles that would have to be addressed after rebuilding was further along. Verbjorn found it interesting, but it became tedious as the afternoon wore on. He wondered where Osun was at, hoping his cousin did not encounter trouble or get lost.
There was a disturbance in the hallways outside of the throne room, intensifying as a harried advisor entered the room, quickly announcing a delegation from the Aelfar Empire. Directly on his heels, an armed escort appeared, surrounding Susk-Il-Findis and Osun. Osun walked just behind the Alefar Justicar, his head down. Susk, head held high, greeted the Lord of the Svartalfar Island Kingdom and requested an audience. Dodur’s eyes narrowed and he granted it. Susk bowed with a flourish and thanked him. The aelfar brought greetings from the Aelfar Emperor and regret over the slaying of the Lord of the High Forge. He assured Dodur that it was the act of a rogue agent and the Empire had taken steps to punish those responsible. He turned toward Verbjorn, and announced that he was visiting to retrieve a fugitive who had committed a high crime against the Empire and while there were those who collaborated with him, they would not be held responsible if they returned immediately and remanded the traitor to the Empire’s custody, they would be allowed to live and return to their masters. If they did not come peacefully, Susk had already given the order to round up their families and put them to death within a fortnight of this meeting. He indicated Osun and stated that this one had already agreed to the terms as presented.
Dodur’s fingers had gripped the throne so tightly that his knuckles had popped audibly, and he shook with rage. He told the Aelfar that it was a mercy that they were not killed on sight for the slaying of the Lord of the High Forge. In either case, the men were under his hospitality, and he was no inclined to turn them out. The decision would be theirs alone. He turned and looked at Verbjorn and Condul, who were clearly conflicted. Osun hung his head low, avoiding everyone’s gaze. Condul, stood telling Susk-Il-Findis that while he respected the decision of Osun, he and his brother would have to decline the offer. Susk brely concealed his contempt and made a slight motion. Lightning quick, one of the guards lashed out and ran Osun through, surprising the man, and causing every Svartalfar guard to draw weapons on the small Aelfar contingent. The room grew silent and tense, the Svartalfar were waiting for their lord to command them to attack. The command never came. Dodur rose, his voice exploding in the room, commanding the Alefar out and to return to their ship, before they were put to death on the spot. He ordered Susk to take a message back to the Aelfar Emperor that the Island Kingdom was coming for payment for the blood spilled and then some. The Aelfar backed out of the Throne Room and Dodur’s men followed them, presumably to their ship.
Verbjorn and Condul rushed to the dying Osun. They asked him why he would agree to such a thing, why he would fall for the lies of the Aelfar, who had only ever caused him pain and misery. He struggled to answer, but could not, his last breath an apology for breaking their Oath. He expired and his cousins closed his eyes, uttering a prayer for him. Dodur looked on silently, barely containing his anger.
The next several days were a blur to Verbjorn, a grand funeral was prepared for Osun, followed by preparations for the brothers and Gildhund to voyage to the Svartalf Emperor’s court. Dodur spent much of the time directing various Karls and their generals in preparation to go to war with the Aelfar Empire. Gildhund spent the time preparing the materials she thought she would need as well as procuring proper traveling clothes and equipment for the men. The night before they were to depart, a final feast was held, both to thank Verbjorn and Condul one final time but also as a boon to the Karls and their men who would depart for the Aelfar Empire in the morning. While the overt mood is festive, the underlying feeling is one of grim determination. Condul and Verbjorn eventually retire, wanting one more night of rest in real beds before getting back on a ship.
Verbjorn slipped easily into sleep, the day’s activities were exhausting and the thought of his family being slaughtered by the Aelfar for his crimes wore heavily on everything he did. His dreams took him many places that were familiar as though cataloging his travels. His dreams eventually found him on a misty battlefield, he was alone and many of his foes lay slain all around him. In the distance, he could hear his wife and children, as though they were going about their day. Out of the mists walked a warrior. She wore armor of elaborate make, fashioned from metal chain links and a few protective metal plates, all scarred as if she had been in heavy fighting. She held a sword in one hand and a battered metal shield in the other. She called him by name, telling he must continue with his quest, regardless of what the consequences he perceived were. He argued that his family would be killed if he did not return to punishment. She countered that his family would die regardless, for the Aelfar would not allow a vengeful family member to exist and cause more trouble. He riposted with his love for his wife, and that he would rather die with her than leave her to die alone and helpless. The woman disarmed him by telling him that she would not die alone, nor helpless. If he continued his quest, the woman promised that she would teach his wife to fight and she would die as honorably as any soldier or king. He started to protest, but he was assaulted with a vision of his wife, standing tall in armor of Svartalfar make, standing at the head of a group of women, issuing orders. He saw them slaying Aelfar in the High Forge and driving them back. The vision faded and Verbjorn felt slightly comforted. The woman drew close and told him that this went far beyond just him and his family, but for the good of all his people. His persistence was the catalyst of a chain of events that would bring Man to freedom and standing as equals in the world. He finally relented, and awoke filled with resolve. The sun was beginning to rise through the window of the room he was in, and for the first time it felt as though it was rising on his quest as well.