This world could be a paradise.
If not for the wretched influence of the demons worshipped as the Old Gods.
They offer up to us, and we protect them. United under the light of Benalus.
Much weighted on his mind. The North was an unforgiving place. For every boon it granted, it took something away. It was the way of things here. For the last fifteen years, he had yearned to found an Imperial Order dedicated to the pacification of the North. His home had a stark beauty, but it was fractured. Corrupted. Perverted by the worship of these demonic things.
Solace had had a theory. Prove their false gods powerless and they will turn away.
Ingvar had a different theory. Kill them. They weren’t God. They could die.
Sven liked the knight’s approach better.
Before him lay the corpse of a horned figure. It had been a man once. The muscled bulged grotesquely. One eye was red, the other yellow. Sigils and runes were carved into its flesh. Even dead it seemed fearsome.
One hundred of the Sons had repelled four-hundred of his men in Spring. He had returned with seven hundred this time. There had been no quarter.
“My Lord,” Troels said, rousing the highborn from his gazing. “We have received word the Saenger fort is about to be raided.”
Sven nods. “Right on time.”
“Shall we engage?” his right hand asked.
“They are too far,” the knight replied absently. “We evacuated as much of the populous as we were able. The Saengers are aware of the hopelessness of their remaining position.”
Troels clears his throat and nods, waiting for orders.
“Crucify the survivors,” he said after a long moment. “String these twisted remains up for the world to see. Cut off each one of these fucking runes.”
“That will take time, my Lord,” he answered.
“Have the bulk of our Force erect the palisades and set a parameter,” the knight continued, wondering if the unnatural rage that had infected his soldiers from the Hollow Song had lingered in him. Even crucifixion felt… too kind. “I want to see this done properly. In a few weeks we will ride South and engage the Doghearts. Cowards that they are.”
Troels gave a confused look, “Not the Stormhammers? Won’t they fortify through the winter? And in striking distance of the settlement?”
Sven shrugged. “Can’t be helped. We might be able to push them out. But not before the first winter snow.”
The knight looked up once again, “These Southerners are good at killing, but soft as cheese. How many would we lose to the ice of the mountains?”
Realization dawned on Troels, who struck a sharp salute and nodded before turning and going to issue orders. Lord Sven álfrblóð Brynjar turned and strode towards the men collecting the carving knives and rope. The long nails forged for a single purpose and the long handled hammers to swing them properly. Standing stock still, cloak flapping slightly in the wind, he watched as the men started collecting the brand of the Ulfrandr. As a small collection started to pool at his feet, the rest of the last market filtered through his mind.
A letter from the King saying the very thing Sven had dedicated his life to was about to come to fruition.
A very dear friend called away forever.
A charming walk with pleasant company.
One of the most trustworthy warriors tossed dead at their feet.
Stealing something back from under the nose of the Sons.
An unfortunate series of murders.
This glorious slaughter of the Sons of Ulfrandr.
It was enough to give a person motion sickness. The hammering of vulgar iron through flesh, bone and bark sounded in its oddly muted way through the trees in flapping fading echoes. Further south, he could hear the phantom cracks of cannon, and a part of him wondered how Markus Fafnir was faring against the dwarves on their third front.
“My Lord,” Troels said, holding up a note. “Word from the East. Ragnar Stoneskin’s forces were decimated.”
“Does Stoneskin live?” Sven asked.
“No word, sire.”