It is April in the year 500 AD. Your Dryhten Aldhun has called a Þing in honor of the coming of spring. He has summoned all the Thegns in his Dryht to his hall at Bremen to enjoy a feast, make the required sacrifices and discuss plans for a new year of raiding. The messengers all arrived at your homes already and you've made the long journey to Bremen. You will arrive in posting order
It was a dismal winter, and the last vestiges of it still grip the land this morning. Traveling the path along the bank of the Weser river, it is foggy and a light drizzling rain has slowly soaked you to the bone. The low rolling hills and wet forested moors of Saxon country fill your sight, and you can hear the river lapping at its banks beside you. Finally, the settlement of Bremen comes into view and with it the smell of woodsmoke. Tucked onto a hill, which is surrounded by the river on three sides, its fires glow like a dim beacon through the fog. The wooden palisade around it is several feet taller than a man, and only the conical tops of the thatched roofs can be seen over it, most of them leaking smoke to blend with the fog.
For many of you this is your first trip to Bremen, and the sight of it is impressive. You count over a dozen roofs on your approach, not including the by far largest and tallest roof of the great hall in the center. As you get closer, you see the tents of other lesser Thegns set up surrounding the settlement. Including the buildings inside, there must be space for several hundred men here. You know that these are only the personal soldiers of Aldhun, and that if they were to call in their people as well, the number would be nigh uncountable. Adding to the grandeur, the masts of three longboats can be seen swaying over the other side of the hill. Passing the men camped next to the road, they peer out from under cloaks and tents huddled around small smoky fires. Their expressions are unreadable, but it is clear that they aren't exactly comfortable in the rain.
As you come up the isthmus towards the main gate of the settlement there are two large guards waiting there. They are well equipped, wearing chain armor, and bearing large shields. Their belts hold both longswords and seax and they hold long spears in their other hands. Their soaked hair is tied up in suebian knots. Not only is their armament high quality, but their fingers glitter in the torchlight with golden rings, and their belt buckles are set with semi-precious gems in intricate patterns. Despite the cold and damp they seem alert and relaxed. They asses you with hard blue eyes before the one on the left, a redhead, says "Who comes? Name yourself."
If you have a gedryht they are with you, otherwise you're alone. This is the place to describe yourselves. Have fun with it.
Odalric did not mind the fog so much. Having grown from lad to man in the woods cradling the river, he was no stranger to vernal mists. The rain had grown tiresome, though, even he had to admit. He had not felt dry in days, truly, nor the three lads of his gedryht, though they knew better than to admit such. Still, they huddled together a bit more closely than they would have if the days had been warm and sunny. The thegn stole glances at them every now and again, but not only to test their composure. He looked on the three fondly, as sons even, if he were to speak true, for he had none of his own. Odalric was wont to look at all of his people as his children though, so in some ways he was quite blessed. Irminric was the eldest, though all were men by rite of blood. He wore the beginnings of whiskers proudly, and no doubt he was grateful for them now with the last gasping of winter’s wind. Osric was the tallest, but Eadbald had the strongest arm. All three were battle-tried, however, each of them having shed the blood of a Frankish dog. The three lads had somewhat of a similar look to Odalric himself, the lucky strokes and patterns of family. Odalric was bearded as well, though his had filled out with the years, though he trimmed it so it did not hang so far. Both it and his tied hair were a mix of blond and brown, the beard a darker hue. He stood half a head taller than Osric and shared his firm and lithe build.
The foursome stepped over a runnel that trickled into the river, the lads using their spears as walking sticks. They were made of ash and had served them well. Odalric himself carried his old battleaxe, Feller. Its haft was made of ash as well. It had been his father’s tool which he had used to cut down trees and hew and chop them, but Odalric had turned it more to a weapon of war where it had felled equally many Franks. The axe hung at his left side, the seax at his right. He carried a shield on his back, as did the other three.
”I think we are near,” said Osric suddenly, breaking the silence that had encroached upon the party. Odalric lifted his gaze to the sky where Osric’s spear was pointed. There was smoke.
”I think you are right, lad,” Odalric replied. ”Let us quicken our pace. Aldhun awaits, and none will say that Odalric saw to his dryhten late.” The three young warriors moved to obey, stamping through the mud as they talked lowly amongst themselves, anxious to lay their gazes upon Bremen and the king. Odalric smiled at that.
The rest of their journey was quick. Bremen loomed over them on its hill, its shielding palisade commanding respect. The smoke that Osric had seen before billowed out from behind the walls into the air, lending the fresh scent of rain its earthy tinge. Odalric had let the excitable youths gain a few feet on him through the last push of their trek, but he regained the lead now, and tugged on his vestments a bit, straightening them out. His dull grey mail hung over his brown and grey tunic and leggings but beneath the heavy wolf hide jerkin, made all the heavier by the rain.
”You will soon be in the presence of the Dryhten. Remember your honors - the gods are watching,” Odalric told his gedryht. They nodded and stood straighter, trying to cast off their youth like one might a coat.
The two guards stopped them, demanding a name. Odalric gave it.
”Odalric, son of Fensric, my friends. A thegn of Aldhun from down the river, come to report to the dryhten himself. The boys are Irminric, Osric, and Eadbald, mine own gedryht.”
The redheaded man nods, and says "Well met Thegn Odalric. Come, get your lads in out of Thunor's piss. This góp (slave) will show you where to stow your gear and then Aldhun sit feasting his Thegns in the great hall." As he is talking he motions you through the gate, and at the mention of a slave points to a young woman in a plain shapeless brown woolen dress. She bows her head and leads you to a small timber hut. It's empty at the moment, but there looks to be room for six men comfortably. The thatched roof is sound, and the floor is freshly cut lumber, smooth and fragrant. There is an iron brazier full of burning peat bricks in the center of the room, and it's warm and toasty.
|Berengar of Bernhild|
Watching Ealdfric’s body burn, Berengar says a prayer for the mighty warrior. Though they had quarrelled and been forced to fight to the death, there was no doubt Ealdfric had been brave and true. ”You will be remembered. I will help both of our peoples. I will lead them to glory.” he says to the flames. Afterward, Berengar stumbles away from the pyre, his body still a bloody mess. Immediately, Alric was there as he always swore to be. Berengar leans on him, but his strength was returning. ”Come, cousin. We must do one thing before attending to the Dryhten. We must stand as one.”
Together, they gather the two clans, Ealdfric’s and the Bernhilds. Seeing the two sibbs stand together for the first time in years brings strength back to Berengar and he stands proudly because speaking to them. ”Our blood feud is finished. The gods have chosen me to lead, and I shall honor their decision. I will meet with the Dryhten and determine the future of our people. But before I go, I shall see our sibbs united.” He looks to Ealdulf, Ealdfric’s younger brother, a lean warrior but quick with the axe. ”Ealdulf, I call you as gedryht, alongside my cousin Alric. You will attend to the Dryhten with us and lend your strength to mine.” A murmur quickly goes through the crowd, but Ealdulf steps forward and clasps Berengar’s arm. Then the crowd erupts into a roar of approval.
Taking the two gedryht with him, Berengar quickly departs. Together, the three make the walk toward Aldhun’s hall. They pass the impressive longboats sitting in the mist. Before they reach the gate, Berengar stops them. ”We approach as one. I am Thegn to Aldhun. I shall speak for the sibb. I’ll not repeat myself again.” He looks at his two gedryht. His cousin Alric, a strong warrior from his father’s side, had a ruddy complexion with dark hair bound with leather. His spear was set sharply against the ground. His new gedryht, Ealdulf, was a tall, lithe man, but he knew the man’s arm held strength as well. Nodding to both of them, Berengar continues up to the gate to announce them.
”Berengar, son of Berndric of the Bernhilds. I am Thegn to Aldhun. These are Gedryht to me, Alric and Ealdulf. We come to answer the Dryhten’s call.”
Odalric nods in greeting to the guard and thanks him for the hospitality. When he spots the slave he makes to follow her, gesturing for his three warriors to follow. He gives her a friendly smile despite her standing, and takes a good look around as they walk. When he reaches the hut he lets his lads enter first and says to the slave "we will be but a moment."
Once inside, he accepts the warmth gladly, breathing it into his lungs, trying to quickly work the dull ache of cold and damp out of his flesh and bones. He notices the lads looking around with a bit of awe.
"A fine lodging, this." The thegn moves to the wall and hits it a few times with his hand. "Solid. Fresh, too. A great honor, this is. Drop your packs, lads. It will be warm in the hall as well, and there will be a meal waiting for us, as well." Shedding off his own pack, he stows it in the corner and stretches his arms, thankful to be relieved of the burden. Wodan's wisdom, it is good to be here at last.". After stretching out his shoulders, he goes back to the entrance of the hut and nods to the slave. "To the Dryhten, then."
The winter had been harsh. Several foals had not survived their first winter and his sister had lost some sheep as well. Still, it was looking good. Spring was coming and there were more pregnant mares than dead foals.
First there were his obligations to deal with. Ruhas never understood how his grandfather actually enjoyed these things, this was only his second one as a Thegn and he hated it already. Even in the year he passed away, when his bones were little more than dust kept in place by his old hide, his grandfather went here. The man had become a legend by surviving 58 winters. Ruhas could only hope he'd be able to pull that off. His father had reached the noble age of 32 winters. Their lands were a good and bountiful place and war rarely reached them.
He soon arrived at the settlement where the Dryhten lived. His cousins Tuma and Tegze accompanied him. He'd rather have brought his nephews as they were better riders than these two would ever be, but their mothers would not let them swear fealty to their uncle, not yet at least. Ruhas dismounted and continued walking next to Karab.
As he approached the guards he gave the reins to Tegze, who despite his dismal riding skills was great with horses. "My name is Ruhas, grandson of Ogar the Old. I am a Thegn to Adhun like my grandfather before me. These are my cousins Tuma and Tegze, sworn to me like they were to him."
Ordric took a deep breath as he approached the gate. Today was a good day. Not only would it be his first Þing as thegn, but it would be a chance to show some of the other clans how successful Ordric's sibb had been of late. He briefly ran his shield hand along the side of his chain shirt. Yes, it was good a good day. The sibb was camped safely in the forest, led by Oderd in Ordric’s absence, and he, Ordric Ormaring, was to meet with the Dryhtan. This would help quash any remaining discontent at Ordric’s leadership—as if the raids on Frankish travelers in recent years was not enough. Ordric allowed himself a slight smile as he remembered the last one, but it quickly faded as he approached the great gate.
Ordric ran his fingers along the engravings in the haft his longspear, Tiwstingan, and squinted slightly as he approached the gate, taking note of those who were just arriving. A bear-worshipper, clear from the hides and fetishes, and a horseman, flanked by two others. Ordric looked appreciatively at the horses as he approached the guard, just in time to hear the others introduce themselves. Horses… his sibb had none, not since Ormar the Soft’s own stallion, taken from Aethelstan Old-Blood’s village in a daring raid, had been slain five years previously. The wealth that this “Ruhas” must have to maintain his own and two for his gedryht was impressive. Ordric ran scratched his chin thoughtfully for a moment. Perhaps he should look into getting some horses. It was said that some of the Frankish clans just south of his usual raiding territory had them. A quick, bloody raid deeper into Frankish lands than expected… he filed the plan away for future action. First, he must see what the Dryhtan desired.
Checking that his shield was ready for any trouble and holding his spear against his shoulder, Ordric walked between the two other groups. ”I am Ordric Ormaring, here as called by Dryhten Aldhun. Son of Ormar the Soft, and thegn since his passing.” He let the words stand on their own and nods briefly to the other thegns, tightening his grip on Tiwstingan slightly as he did so. A Þing. There had best not be blood here… but one should always be ready for it.
Water dripped from Isegrimm's face as he gazed down from the hillside at the distant settlement. His had pulled his hood back to let the rain fall about his head, its chilling bite keeping his weariness from fogging his mind. It was easy to succumb to the weaknesses of the body if one wasn't careful - but Isegrimm was always careful. Discomfort was a small thing, and simple enough to push aside when important work was at hand. And there was no more important matter than the Þing called by Aldhun in Bremen.
It had been many winters since his last visit -- still a boy at his father's side -- but the sight was every bit as grand now as it had been then. The difference lay in how he responded to it; as a child, he thought this the most exciting place he had ever seen. As a man - no, as a thegn - it was a place of duty and danger... a place of destiny.
Isegrimm was no longer the boy who clutched his father's hand so tightly many years ago. He was grown now, with long black hair that framed an unusually bare face, shaved in defiance of his erstwhile Frankish captors. His gedryht also traveled with naked cheeks, though Isegrimm had not asked it of them. He never asked anyone for anything unless it was necessary.
Isegrimm whistled, and his faithful hound Degenwulf came bounding from the bushes, tail wagging and tongue hanging out of his shaggy head. The thegn scratched him behind the ears, then nodded to his companions and began the slow descent to Bremen. It was time to face destiny.
The walk was quiet. Isegrimm was not overfond of words; fools would raise a great noise announcing things that any eye could see or any mind discern. Far better to be silent and to listen. At any rate, Isegrimm preferred the soft sound of the rain to any conversation he could have with Aldalger and Bertman.
So it was that Isegrimm presented himself before the gates of Bremen, flanked by two bare-faced warriors in Frankish dress, with Degenwulf at his heel.
"I am Isegrimm, son of Cwichelm," he announced in answer to the guard's challenge. "Loyal thegn, I come at the call of the dryhten."
The red haired guard nods to the newly arrived Thegns. "Welcome good Thegns. Soon as the góp gets back she'll show you to your lodgings." After a couple minutes the slave girl returns. She leads Ordric to the same hut as Odalric and his men. Ruhas, Isegrimm and Berengar she leads to another larger hut of similar construction. She takes Ruhas' horse and leads it to a nearby stable. The stable is not a proper building, but rather a dozen or so stalls with a roof over them.
After you've put down your stuff and made your introductions you can head to the mead hall.
When the slave takes Kodar's rains Ruhas pulls her a little closer in order to speak to her, "Be gentle to him. You'll have a friend for life if you treat him nicely, but he'll bite your fingers off if you don't." He smiled, but there was no doubt that he was serious. As for whether the friend was the horse itself or the owner wasn't entirely clear.
Once Ruhas and his cousins arrived at the hut they put down their belongings in one corner of the building, claiming it as theirs. While his cousins put their spears and shield down Ruhas held on to his weapon. The only time he set his father's bow aside was when he slept and the only time he'd set his grandfather's saex aside was when he was dead.
When that was settled he turned towards his the other thegn, "My name is Ruhas, grandson of Ogar the Old, the only one to ever serve three different dryhten in his life. These are Tuma and Tegze, my cousins and sworn to me like they were to our grandfather." And either of them would be the new thegn if something would happen to him before his son came of age. The little man was only 7 winters old now, though already quite a shot with the bow and a knack for horsemanship. Hopefully it would be a long time before he'd become a thegn.
|Berengar of Bernhild|
Berengar and his Gedryht walk into the large hut. He sees Ruhas and he recognizes man with the horse he had seen coming into Bremen. Berengar gives his longspear to Alric, and he and Ealdulf stake out a position on the far side of the hut, dropping their provisions and leaning their weapons against the wall.
Berengar strides over to meet the horse-thegn. "Hail, horseman. I am called Berenger, son of Berndric of the Bernhilds. Gedryht to me are Alric and Ealdulf." He nods at Ruhas' greeting. "Ogar was known to my father. He was said to have the life of two men, and the courage of five."
Ordric nods in greeting to Odalric and his gedryht before looking appreciatively around the room. He claims an empty corner, and begins setting down his gear, making sure that his saex is secure in his belt. He moves to join Odalric near the entrance. "Yes, let us be to the Dryhten."
Before waiting for the slave's reply, he turns to Odalric's group. "Greetings, I am Ordric, son of Ormar the Soft. Who among you is thegn?"
By the time Isegrimm and his men arrived at the hut, Berengar and Ruhas were already making their introductions. Isegrimm gave a quiet nod to Bertman and Aldalger, and the three of them began relieving themselves of their weapons and other gear.
Isegrimm, son of Cwichelm," he broke in tersely.
Ordric's eyes gleam at the mention of killing Franks, and he takes Odalric's forearm into a tight grip. "And we shall kill many." Releasing Odalric's arm, he turns to the góp and waves him forward. "Go on then, take us to the Dryhten."
He speaks with Odalric as they move to the mead hall. "Where does your clan hail from? The name of Fensric sounds familiar, but I cannot place it..."
Hope you don't mind my assumption that they're headed to the mead hall, seemed fair given that they both have told the slave to take them there.
There's no need for anyone to guide you to the hall. It's the biggest building amongst the dozen or so inside the walls, and it's right in the center. The entire settlement could be walked across in less than 5 minutes. The fact that it's so impressive should tell you something about the scale of production at that time. You can just walk to the hall whenever you're ready.
The great hall stands in the center of Bremen on the crest of the hill, easily seen from all angles. It is about eighty feet long and forty wide. It's one of the largest buildings many of you have ever seen. The walls are timber shingle, and the eaves are carved and painted in the bright swirling animalistic designs common to your world. You see wolves, deer, bears, cows and the other creatures that make up your existence. The thatch on the roof is almost a meter thick, and would have required an immense amount of work. The great hall's double doors stand open, a hide flap hanging down to keep out the rain and damp. Firelight glows along the edges of the hide from inside the hall, and the sound of feasting and drinking can be heard spilling out into the mists. There is the music of lyre and flute accompanying the excitement. It beckons to you all after your long journey.
"Oh, another Osning tribesman? Aye, different parts, must be, though perhaps I have crossed paths with your kin and clansmen in the past. Might have even settled some dispute or two, as I am known to do. Some call me Odalric Silver-tongue, but I simply speak the gods' reason that their people must needs stand against these foreign foes." When they near the great hall, Odalric tries his best to mute his awe before the grand structure, though the three lads tailing him are not so composed as they nudge each other and whisper of its size. "A hall fit for a Dryhten, surely. Nearly as great as Woden's hall, I would think."
|Berengar of Bernhild|
"Isegrimm. I have heard tales of an Isegrimm who feasted in the halls of the Franks. A Saxon warrior versed in the Frankish speech and customs. Is this your legend?" Berengar asks Isegrimm. He looks at the shaved man with a strong dose of skeptism, as if weighing him and uncertain if the count is right.
A word from Alric turns the thegn and he sees his gedryht prepared for the hall. He frowns when he sees the Seax at their side and shakes his head. "No, leave them." He draws his own Seax, Berenoc, and tosses it on top of his gear. "I'll not have it said the Bernhilds drew blades at the Þing. We have had enough killing among us. I hope Aldhun sees this." Ealdulf and Alric both drop their blades. Berengar looks to Ruhas and Isegrimm, and then leads his gedryht out towards the Hall.
Ordric blinks at the sight of the great hall, and nods in agreement. Greater still than I could have imagined... He turns back to Odalric after gazing at the hall for a short time. "Yes, Wotan's hall must truly be fit for a god to surpass this. And one must have a god's tongue to stop some feuds." He laughs suddenly and sharply, "Why, perhaps with that tongue of silver, one could almost cover the weregild I owe the Franks--although I have my own way of paying." With that, he briefly touches his hand to the hilt of his saex, and his eyes show satisfaction at the thought of Aldhun's thegns marching on the Franks. "With warriors enough to fit this hall, surely your tongue would not be needed, though."
|Berengar of Bernhild|
Berengar enters the great hall a few steps behind Ordric and Odalric. Woden's stars. How had Aldhun built such a place? He looks at the two Thegns, taking longer to look at Ordric. Then he speaks.
"I am Berengar, son of Berndric of the Bernhilds. Ordric, I see you. You know me not, but you have the same look as your brother, Oderd, who aided my father once when set upon by Franks. My father told tales of his prowess and might for years. We heard of your father's passing, but not who had taken his place."
Isegrimm gave Berengar a long, cold look before answering with a sinister grin:
"Is that indeed how men tell it? Were I a lesser man, I would be wroth to know that my tale had no embroidery to adorn the telling. Yes, I am he: Isegrimm the Frank-fostered, the foreign-tongued."
The barefaced thegn was quiet a moment as Berengar tossed the last of his weapons aside.
"I know you, Berengar, son of Berndric - Ealdfric's bane, you are called. A warrior who fights as the beasts of the earth, forsaking man-wrought iron. I had not thought to meet such as you here, at the summons of the dryhten."
Isegrimm raised an eyebrow at Ruhas, taking in his bow and seax, as yet unrelinquished.
"Do you intend to draw blood in the presence of the dryhten? You must be surpassing brave, or else a fool beyond others. Come, lay aside your weapons of war. It is not meet that we should bear iron into a gathering of men."
With that, Isegrimm followed Berengar out of the hut to the great hall, his Frankish-dressed companions following in his wake. He gave no sign of his reaction, whether impressed or disappointed. Nonetheless, he gave nods of respect to the other thegns gathered there, albeit with a touch of disdain in his eyes as he notices Ordric's weapon.
"Has the dryhten given offense, that you bear iron into his hall? I had thought the courtesy of thegns greater than this."
As you enter the great mead hall a gust of warmth washes over you and your nostrils are filled with the scent of roasting meat, smoke, mead and sweating men. There are four long tables arranged in two rows of two tables each. At the right hand end as you walk in is Aldhun's table. It sits perpendicular to the other tables and is on a slightly raised platform. The great hearth lies in the center of the room, between the two rows of common tables. It is a pit about ten feet long and five feet wide, filled with burning logs. Over it are roasting three whole pigs on spits, each one being slowly carved up to keep the platters on the tables full. There are lesser hearths to either side of the main one where slaves prepare other food. Bread, potatoes, cabbage and stew. Pheasants, venison and fish. The music is cheery and festive, inviting you to come and celebrate.
The tables are about half full of feasting warriors. They vary widely in appearance but they are all well dressed, clearly more than common fréomenn (freemen). They heft horns overflowing with mead as their jewelry glints in the firelight. Those closer to Aldhun's table are older and have more treasure on display. Most are armored and bear at least a dagger, some also have swords to hand. No spears or shields are in evidence though. Aldhun himself sits at the head table, on an ornate wooden throne. He is dressed as both warrior and king. On his brow rests a heavy looking iron crown, a simple unornamented circlet. His armor is partially covered by a cloak made from the skins of wolves, and one of the longest swords you have ever seen rests against the arm of his throne within easy reach. His forearms are adorned with beautiful armbands made in some far off southern land. Even his belt buckle and cloak brooch are ornamented gold. He looks up as you enter the hall, smiling but continues to drink and joke with the other men at the high table.
It's customary to present yourselves to the Dryhten to renew your vows of loyalty, and then you find your own seat and dig in.
Ordric nods in thanks and recognition to Berengar. "And I see you, Berengar son of Berndric. My brother has spoken of both your and your father's prowess and battle. We shall share drink and stories later!"
As Isegrimm comments on Ordric's weapon, Ordric snorts. "Go back to your mother's teat, bare-faced boy, and take it as a mercy that I do not slay your Frankish slaves where they stand."
With that, he turns his attention to Aldhun, standing tall and drawing his saex as he does so. As he stands before the Dryhten, he slashes a shallow cut into his palm, and tightens his hand into a fist to let the blood well up. "Dryhten Aldhun, I am Ordric Ormaring, son of Ormar the Soft, grandson of Osric Spearfury. I have slain many Franks within the Osning, and shall slay an army before two winter’s pass! By my blood and my saex, I swear my loyalty as thegn to you, my iron to your service, and my blood to avenge you.” With that, he slams his saex back into its sheath, and presses his bloody palm over his heart, completing his oath.
After Aldhun’s response, Ordric seeks out a place far from the head table, reflecting his sibb’s low standing.
"Why would I put away the very weapons that have served him so well before?" He frowns at Isegrimm while his men put away their spears but hold on to their daggers. "We don't ask Berengar to leave his hands here, now do we? They have slain more men than this bow has done in my hands. These are weapons of peace as much as they are weapons of war. How will I cut my meat without my saex?" Ruhas stepped out of the building, followed closely by his men.
When Ordric insulted the Frankish boy Ruhas frowned. There was no point in this. The boy would declare his loyalty soon enough and then they'd know where he stands.
Once before Aldhun Ruhas waits for Odric to finish. More insults towards the Franks, the point of further offending Isegrimm was beyond him. "Great Aldhun. I am Ruhas the Horselord, son of Roua the Hun, grandson of Ogar the Old." He drew an arrows from his quiver and pricked himself in his right hand before putting the arrow back into the quiver and clenching his fist. He than brings his fist to his heart, "I swear loyalty to you as thegn as my grandfather has before me. I offer you both my arrows and my horses so that they may lay low your enemies." "But hopefully that wouldn't be needed", was what followed the oath in his mind. He'd rather return home soon and continue working there, supplying the dryhten with horses but staying out of it beyond that.
Once his oath was accepted Ruhas sought out a place near the middle of the table. Had he been his grandfather they would have made place for him near the dryhten, but he wasn't.
To avoid me saying the same thing over and over I'll wait until everyone has posted their oaths for Aldhun to respond. You can wrap up your convos first though, don't feel rushed.
"Why, perhaps with that tongue of silver, one could almost cover the weregild I owe the Franks--although I have my own way of paying."
Odalric grins at that, and then opens his mouth and clicks his tongue. "Mere flesh, I am afraid, no different than any man's, though Wotan may have granted me the wisdom to use it differently than some men. But for Franks, it is as you say. They are granted naught but blood and iron."
As the other thegns form up at the entrance, Odalric tenses slightly at the rough exchange of words, though he is no more pleased to see the Frankish entourage than the others. "Come now, friends, let us save our wroth for the Franks. We all fight for Aldun, do we not? We have heard whispers of you even in my corners of the Osning. Berengar of Bernhild is said to fight with Thunor's own fury. If this is Isegrimm who turned his back on the Frankish to ready a blade against them, I say we are fortunate to have one who can tell us more of our enemy. Let us not quarrel, I say. We are already set upon by enemies all around. It does us no good to fight with worry that we need to watch our flanks for one another." As they leave to address Aldhun, Odalric only hopes that they will be able to set aside their differences.
When it is his turn to greet the dryhten, Odalric draws his seax and plants it in the floor as straight as can be and kneels as if in prayer in a sacred oak-grove. "By the will of the gods, Dryhten Aldhun, I add my swords, spears, and axes to yours. I am Odalric of the Osning, son of Fensric who bore no great deeds. By Woden and Frigg, Teiwaz and Thunor, and father Seaxneat all, my flesh and iron are yours." He runs two fingers down the sharp edge of the seax from hilt to floor, and when his hand is red with blood, he grips the haft of his axe. "By ash and oak, this I vow."
Odalric will take his lads to a side bench that will fit the four of them, so he may watch the room.
|Berengar of Bernhild|
At the welcome Isegrimm gets from the others, Berengar grins at him. "Oh there are embellishments to the story, as you can see. I just did not know what was true and what was a witch's fancy. I, myself, doubted you even existed."
Berengar nods as he is acknowledged by the others and then takes his place in greeting Aldhun. When it is his turn, he stands straight and tall. He roars out a great growl, extending his arms out wide. Muscles ripple in his arms and under his bear's hide. The others have seen this gesture before, but only in the great brown bears which roam the land. Slowly, his arms return to his side and he says, "Dryhten, you have Berengar, son of Berndric of the Bernhilds before you. My father swore to follow you, and I am here to honor that pledge. Tooth and claw shall be yours until you are no longer worthy of it." One hand clenches tightly and comes away bloodied by his own nails. He extends the arm and when Aldhun grasps it, he grunts and nods. Berengar moves away and sits with Odalric.
Isegrimm gave a resigned shrug as Ruhas insised on bearing his bow into the great hall. He had spoken his mind; he would waste no more words on the matter. Ordric, however, bore responding to.
"As you say, son of Ormar, I am barefaced... For Isegrimm's honor will not let him hide, even behind so much as a beard. But peace! I will not dishonor the dryhten's hall with quarreling. We shall measure our honor another time."
Isegrimm nodded politely at Odalric's welcome, and turned to answer Berengar.
"You are wise to doubt what your eyes have not seen, especially when the tales of men are concerned. Often they cover a man's weakness as a beard covers a soft chin. I myself think it no shame to let the world see me without artifice- so much the greater shall be my legend if it needs not the singer's skill to polish it."
With that, Isegrimm went before Aldhun to proclaim his allegiance. He whistled for Degenwulf, and both dog and master made obeisance together, heads deeply bowed. Raising his face, Isegrimm spoke clearly but softly.
"Great dryhten, what good is iron without a hand to wield it? What value is there in mail, if one has not the courage to take a blow? A thegn's first gift is not his spears nor his blood, but his will."
With that, Isegrimm barked a short command to Degenwulf. The dog snarled at its master, and sank its teeth deep into Isegrimm's forearm. As blood ran down his wrist, Isegrimm continued:
"Dryhten, as my hound obeys me, so shall Isegrimm, son of Cwichelm obey you. You have but to speak, and I will shed blood, be it your enemy's, or my own."
With that, Isegrimm uttered another brief command, and Degenwulf released his grip on his master's arm. Isegrimm saluted Aldhun With his bloody limb, then went to take his place at table, far from Ordric but near Ruhas. As he and his men sat, he tossed a half-stripped bone to Degenwulf, who began to gnaw on it happily.
As you all come and kneel before him Aldhun rises to his feet, he listens to each vow. When everyone is finished he says, "Ordric, Ruhas, Odalric, Berengar, Isegrimm. While it pains me to learn of your fathers' passing, I am glad to see I still command the loyalty of your sibba. I accept your oaths, and here is mine. I shall lead you as the blood of Seaxneat flowing in my veins demands, to honor and glory. Together we will conquer the lands of lesser men, and soon all will fear the name Saxon. You will be richly rewarded, and if you die it will be with honor. You will feast forever in the halls of Wodan. Now sit, and be merry. The winter was long, and tomorrow we usher in the spring. It is a time for celebration!"
With that he slaps a closed fist to his chest and sits back down to continue eating.
Feel free to roleplay out some feasting and then with my next post I'll move us on to the next day.
Oath accepted, Ordric nods in thanks to Aldhun before claiming a place far from the Dryhten. He tears into the food, taking no heed of his slashed hand, and shares boasts with the men around him, while glancing from time to time toward Isegrimm. Beardless boy has great bronze ones, that's for sure. A dog bite--that's new. Appropriate for an arrogant pup. He feels a familiar coldness drop over him as he thinks of Isegrimm's attendants. But one with Frankish connections. Perhaps we will have words again, away from the Dryhten's peace. For now though wait, watch, and listen--Aldhun has a reason for calling us here, and the more Frankish blood split for it, the better.
|Berengar of Bernhild|
Berengar sits at the long table and he gives a toothy grin to each as they join him. "Aldhun knows how to throw as feast! And I for one am glad Winter is passed. It was a harsh one on us this year. We lost many animals and there are still hungry mouths. But tonight we feast to strengthen our bodies so we may lead our sibb into the spring!" He laughs and claps his cousin on the shoulder. Then he grabs a piece of roasted pork with one hand, a whole pheasant in the other, and proceeds to tear off chunks with his teeth.
Isegrimm sat quietly, eating heartily of stew and potatoes, but tossing most of his meat to Degenwulf, who gobbled it down greedily. Mild disquiet floated through his thoughts; this was truly a great hall, but he had seen greater amongst the Franks. They were a powerful people, learned in the ways of once-mighty Rome. Aldhun had great power and ambition, to be sure, but this beginning was not so auspicious as might be hoped.
Peering into his drinking-horn, Isegrimm hardened his resolve. Mighty or not, his people knew how to choose victory as other men did not. They had an ancient tradition that celebrated such pledges, and it would do them well to practice it now.
Standing, Isegrimm held aloft his drinking horn and raised his voice over the hall.
"I am Isegrimm son of Cwichelm, the one-armed, the death-denier. Long was he stalked by his fate before he slaked the crow-thrist. I slew Fredegar, son of Drogo before I had seen my fifteenth winter; with my blood-ember I fed the eagles, and loud was the death-song of his woman. I took the battle-brand from Gunther, son of Hagen in open battle- stole the iron-blade from his grasp, though he bore it against me. I bore the bitter cold of winter without hearth or hut for winter; I wore the ice-lace as a blanket, and did not shiver beneath it.
I will bring the dryhten the rings of a Frankish chief, and lay them before him in victory - sure tokens of my loyalty, and pride of his hall!"
When Isegrimm finished, he drained his drinking-horn and slammed his fist on the table, giving Ordric a challenging look before retaking his seat.
Odalric listens to Berengar, nodding in agreement. "True and well said, Berengar!" he says, lifting his goblet to the rager. "May your belly be as full as your bed!"
After hearing Isegrimm's speech, Odalric slams his own goblet on the table twice, and then raises it to the slayer of Drogo. He gives the man a respectful nod and downs the rest of his cup, intending to show that he holds for him no ill will.
As the evening wears on into the night more men straggle in from the wet. They all stoop to swear their oaths to Aldhun before sitting down to feast. By the time the benches are full your heads are swimming with alcohol and your bellies full to bursting. The boasting of warriors fills your ears and it is as hot as a midsummer day. The night wears on in a blur of revelry and music until the lesser men begin to pass out at the table, some of them stumbling outside to vomit. Sometime many hours after you sat down, Aldhun rises and addresses the hall, red-faced. "I go now to my rest noble warriors. Feast, feast until you can bear no more. The morrow brings the Þing and the sacrifice to Ostara. Goodnight!" With that he makes his way from the hall. At this point the music stops, but a few men continue to feast. Some remained passed out on the benches, others stumble off to their huts.
You can roleplay more feasting if you like, but everyone's had enough of that we can move on to the next day.
|Berengar of Bernhild|
Hours later, Berengar of Bernhild, the mighty Bear of the Saxons, who ripped out the throat of Auberon the Frank with his teeth and tore the arm off Drogon the Frank, who killed Ealdfric the Mighty in single combat to claim sole control over the sibbs of the western hills, who has sworn to lead his sibb out from the threat of Frankish domination...
...is passed out behind the table with a mix of ale, shredded pork and fowl, and spittle stuck in his beard. His eyes are glassy from pints and pints of ale, and his belly is full of meat, mead, and stew.
Ruhas watched in amusement as the others gorged themselves on beer and meat. That was the life his father lived, feasting and fighting, and that was what he wanted Ruhas to become. He grinned, because while he learned the fighting from his father the rest all came from his grandfather. That man become old and wise due to moderation and no alcohol, so Ruhas followed his example. While his cousins got drunk he drank nothing but the weakest mead or beer he could get his hands on and ate only till he was full, not stuffed.
At the end of the evening, when the others were rolling around in their own vomit, Ruhas got Karab from the stables and went for a nightly ride through town.
So yes, Ogar the Old was one of the first diet gurus
After Isegrimm's challenge, Ordric frowns, and feels the coldness come upon him again. So it's like that then? Very well... Not to be outdone, he fills his horn before standing to speak.
"I am Ordric, son of Ormar the Soft--Frank slayer and town raider. Upon his death by untold numbers, I tracked his slayers and slew them all--I know not their names, for even renowned warriors among the Franks are not worth remembering by the sons of Saex. I gave he who performed the killing blow to the blood eagle, and burnt their corpses as warning to others. Countless are the Franks I have slain--numerous the rings and swords I have taken.
In the summer, I have kept the Osning free of foes, in winter, I have chased them to their dens. Two are the villages I have put to torch and axe, and five are the boars I have slain with my own hand! Saefric the Bructeri--giant and hammer-wielder--I slew with my saex; and Leofric Fiendless, destroyer of camps, I held off when I was but twelve winters old!
This I swear to the Dryhten: Three halls shall I put to the torch in his name, three chief's blood shall I dedicate to him, and three thegn's rings shall I bring to him!"
With that, he drains his horn, slams it down on the table, and sits once more, resuming eating and pointedly not looking at Isegrimm.
Odalric raises his cup to Ordric in response to his boasts as well, not wanting to play favorites. As the feasts goes on, he samples a bit of this and that and drinks a few cups of mead, but does neither to bursting. He spends most of the feast watching and listening to the attendees, puzzling out mentally the specific cautions he would need to take with certain thegns, what flatteries would be useful where and what men had grudges or friendships with others. He raises a cup to any boast and treats warmly with any man who engages him, and makes sure to exchange words with the ones seated near him as well.
The pre-dawn hours find Bremen already bustling with the work of slaves and the smells of morning cook fires. A great pyre is being built in the 'village green' area of the settlement, in front of the great hall. Off to one side opposite the large pyre, a small stone altar has been erected, and there is another smaller pyre set up beside it.
A ram's horn is sounded as soft grey light fills the sky. All the men of the Dryht emerge bleary eyed from their huts, some stagger out directly from the hall. The local people also emerge, men, women and children. As everyone assembles, the horn sounds again and Aldhun rides out onto the green. He is naked, save for his crown. His flesh is riddled with tattoos of animals (mostly wolves) and knotwork designs. Over them he is crisscrossed with scars. Sitting behind him on the chestnut mare is a young woman, also naked save for a wreath of blossoms in her hair, and a belt around her waist. She is golden haired and beautiful, her pale flesh lightly dappled with freckles. The horse is unshod and unsaddled, in effect also naked. They dismount near the altar and stand facing the east, ignoring the men around them. Several men sit to the side with drums, waiting.
Basically the whole settlement is gathered by this point, they form a ring around the king and priestess at a respectable distance. Just as the sun is about crest the horizon Aldhun raises his arms and says in a loud voice. "Ostara, come forth in your full glory. Bathe us in your light, and fill these vessels with your holy renewal." Just then the first rays of dawn pierce the morning. The slaves begin a low plodding beat on their drums and the girl's hips begin to sway. There is a large polished brass disc on her belt, right over where her womb would be. It catches the sunlight, reflecting it in bright gyrating flashes as the music speeds its tempo. She twists and twirls in the dawn, the beat growing ever more feverish. Soon she is leaping into the air, in a beautiful dance of praise to the sun. Aldhun begins to circle her like a hungry predator. His manhood rising to the task at hand. As the beat reaches a rolling crescendo she lays herself down on the altar and the king is upon her. They consummate the ceremony with the cheers of the onlooking crowd egging them on. It is over quickly. They rise from the altar and face the crowd, sweat dripping down their bodies, the essence of their lovemaking remains on the altar. Aldhun again raises his voice and calls "And now for the sacrifice. The life of this noble horse will provide a medium for the blessings of a new year. Raise now your voices in praise of new life!" The crowd lets off a thunderous roar as two slaves come forward. One bears a large wooden bowl which he places at the foot of the altar. The other bears the king's own Seax. Aldhun walks over to the mare, and leads it to stand behind the altar. The young woman walks over to the other side of the creature and puts her hand on it's neck whispering softly to keep it calm. The king takes a long look directly at the sun, which has just finished cresting the horizon, before slashing across the horse's throat with a single swift motion. The beast snorts, and it's eyes roll up as a fountain of red washes over man, woman and altar. The animal quickly wobbles, and there are slaves to help ease it to the ground. The king lays its head over the altar and watches as the horse breathes its last breath. The bowl is soon full of blood. The priestess turns to the crowd and raising her voice for the first time says "Come and receive your blessing." she takes a small bundle of twigs from behind the altar, and picks up the bowl. In the meantime, the slaves drag away the horse and begin to butcher it. The priestess sets the bowl on the altar and one by one people begin to line up to be sprinkled with it.
"What a waste. Couldn't they just offer a big ram or something. That mare could have brought forth new life." Ruhas had never understood horse sacrifice, perhaps because he was so close to the animals it almost equated human sacrifice to him. It were these moment when he started to doubt his decision to deliver horses to the Aldhun.
Still he got in line to accept the blessing.
I think Ruhas would have shot someone if it had been his horse.
Yeah from the modern perspective it's ridiculous, but it's what people did back then. They also sacrificed humans if the need was great. Or sometimes built giant ships, filled them with treasure and then burned them and sank them into a bog. The reason the horse is a good sacrifice is because it's so valuable. At least from their way of thinking.
|Berengar of Bernhild|
Berengar emerges from the hall, stumbling a bit as he still feels the affects of the long night of drinking. He stands wordlessly watching the ceremony. As it reaches its peak, Berengar can feel his own excitement rising and he lets out a mighty roar with the crowd. Watching the sacrifice of the horse, Berengar also takes in the rapt attention around him. Aldhun is strong and commands a good following. But strength has only gotten us so far. Is he wise and clever as well? We shall need a Dryhten who is all things before another Spring is to come.
He takes his place in line to receive the blessing.
Isegrimm rose early, head pounding from mead. Rousing his companions, he found a water trough and immersed his head in it, letting the cold water refresh his senses and soothe his aching brow. In a few moments, he was totally awake, though his hangover remained. Withdrawing his head, he shook the water from his hair and drew his seax, testing its edge with his thumb. Finding it still sharp, he laid the edge against his cheek and began scraping at the small growth of whiskers.
Isegrimm had intended to grow a full beard, but Ordric's challenge had forced him to respond by proclaiming pride in his naked face. To grow a beard now would be to give him the victory in the contest, and Isegrimm was not prepared to do that. Not yet. And at any rate, he was pleased with his own retort; so much the better for his legend that he stand apart from others of his kind, for truly, he was not like them in many ways.
Finishing his grooming, Isegrimm joined Aldalgar and Bertman as the rest of the settlement began to gather for the ceremony. Isegrimm watched impassively, Feeling strangely alienated from this ritual, so important to the Saxons.
I have been away from my people too long, he thought to himself, cursing the marks, visible and invisible, that the Franks had left upon him. He was free of them now, however, and soon enough he would have a chance to repay his captors for his stolen years.
The priestess was a comely woman, and Isegrimm admired her with a detached lust. He had denied himself marriage until he could find an advantageous alliance for his tribe, but there were moments when his blood rose, clouding his judgment. It was those moments that had lead him to his morning ritual of dousing his head in cold water, in fact.
At the completion of the ceremony, Isegrimm strode quickly to the front so that he might be the first to receive the sacred blessing.
Ordric groans as he awakens from the revels of the night before. It had been a good night, despite the beardless boy's arrogance. Bah, plenty of time to show that one up later. For now, best to prepare for the þing. Ignoring Odalric and his gedryht, Ordric hunts down a bucket of water and dumps it over his head. Shaking the water off, he returns to the hut to strap on his armor and saex.
As the ram's horn sounds, Ordric joins the crowd on the green, cheering as the ritual commences. It should be a good year, especially once the þing is underway... the Franks will suffer dearly!
He notices Isegrimm moving quickly to the front, and snorts derisively. No reason for him to rush. Not likely to do him any good... All shall receive the blessing in good time. Arrogant child. He frowns as he moves near the back of the crowd, thinking on what he learned of Isegrimm the night before. Not many have been Frankish captives--this does not bode well though. That one who has been among them is a thegn... Bah! His thoughts continue in this vein as he moves closer to the priestess.
Those who come forward are sprinkled with blood from the wooden bowl. The priestess dips a bundle of budding Alder twigs into the liquid before shaking it over each person and smearing it lightly across their forehead. She mutters "May you be filled with new life and vigor. Let the upgoduo (gods above) bless your steps this year."
The king stands next to the priestess, and clasps forearms with each man as he passes by. The women bow to him, and he returns the bow in kind.
When the time came to honor the gods, Odalric showed his devotion fervently. He had fallen asleep with his mind swimming in thought; dissections and analyses of his fellow thegns. Light came quickly to the Osning chief, perhaps a bit too quickly, but knowing that the holy ceremony was to take place, he did not falter in rising. Dressing and arming himself, he took particular care in his appearance this day, pulling the mud from his hair and debris from his beard. He roused his lads as well, for under his guidance they were on the path of honor before the gods and he would not have them miss a moment of the ritual.
Outside, pushed past as many men as he could to get as close to the front of the gathered throng as possible, his gedryht on his heels. When Aldhun arrives, his flesh covered equally in sacred imagery and scars, Odalric feels a strong sense of reassurance in his vows to the Dryhten. He smiles weakly when the priestess emerges as well, for her golden hair reminded him of his wife's who had joined the gods some years before. He felt a sudden pang of sadness but buried it immediately as Aldhun spoke. As the ritual began, Odalric's breaths became deep and his eyes would flutter closed or up towards the sky frequently, as if trying to imbibe the might of the gods. He felt more pride than arousal, his mind more on Ostara than the act before him.
When Aldun prompted the gathering to raise their voices, Odalric's was among the loudest and most fervent. As the horse is killed and the blood washes over the two, the priestess again causes him to think of his wife and the blood that had covered her in childbed. He does not let his voice waver, however, and his roars and cheers still rang out. When invited to come forward and receive the blessing, he notices Isegrimm pushing forward, even past him, and gives the Frank-fostered thegn a reassuring nod as he shoulders by, granting him passage and follows quickly on his heels.