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Thread: Of Giants and Men (A short story)

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    Of Giants and Men (A short story)

    Of Giants and Men

    Reifr looked across the fire, absentmindedly, his eyes out of focus. He was tired…it had been a fierce battle just before nightfall. Seated on a log, the head of his axe at his feet, his hands and arms resting on the tip of the handle, he seemed mesmerized by the spit and crackle of the flame. Just outside where the fire seemed it could no longer chase away the shadow, a motionless hulk lay. He gazed over at it, so still and massive it seemed that it could have been carved out of rock. But the dried blood and torn leather gave it away. It was a giant, a Varl.

    He heaved a sigh as the cold brought his senses once more to him, it hung in the air for a moment, like a puff of smoke in the dry frigid night before it faded and joined the cold air. The torn and worn mantle he wore afforded him little of its original protection. Lifting the axe’s head to the fire light, and they laying it on his lap, he stroked his beard as he carefully inspected the blade. It too was worn and worse, had chipped. He thought it would last him one more exchange at the very least, a final blow on a dreaded adversary.

    Rummaging through the small hunter’s pack beside him, he took out a piece of cloth and a stone, and began to polish his axe. Before long, though, the flames seemed to call him again, its orange patterns playing on the surface of his axe, and he looked forward to see the flames, the faint smoke rising from the fire into the moonlit sky, and he remembered a much earlier time – a time when he was but a boy.

    ***

    It was during his 16th year.

    It was late in the year, when the twilight hours wore long, seemingly perpetual, and dawn never seemed to come, yet the nights were eerily bright. A bow was set on his back, his face still clean, with barely the hint of stubble starting to grow. He had caught two hares while hunting in the tundra beside Barham, the mountain village he called home. Before turning to walk back to the village, he looked up to survey the vast expanse the mountain afforded him. Far off to the West, from somewhere hidden by the mountain range’s ridges, a faint trail of smoke rose. He had seen such a smoke trail from different places on the ridge every few days now. He hurried back.

    In the last two fortnights, the village had seen many visitors and refugees, they came with bad tidings. The Dredge had returned.

    A sizable number had breached the Varl and human borders and were wreaking havoc as they advanced. The human capital had sent an expedition to repel them. Further news, however, was scant, save that the army of men that came from the capital was boorish and brutal, and helped themselves to the food and women of the villages they passed through as they made their way to face the Dredge.

    As he entered through the village gate, past the houses whose roofs weighed heavy with snow, and the townsfolk who he greeted along the way, he happened to notice the village elder speaking to two men near the village center. He paused within earshot, pretending to re-tie the ropes which he had been using to carry the hares.

    “Aye, the Dredge have awoken the bloodlust in the Varl.” One mad said. Both wore iron helms and were wrapped in long dull brown mantles, but their swords hilts glinted at their waists through the side where the mantle opened. “…Nothing but hulking beasts in the shape of giant men.” He continued.

    “They have been driven mad and are on the rampage.” The other man continued. “How many villages do you think have they raised to the ground? It should be visible from here!” He exclaimed. “…The smoke that rises in the distance...the mark of villages set ablaze, the trail of their destruction.” He pointed off in one direction.

    “And you say they are headed this way?” The village elder asked. He was an old man, feeble, bent and wrinkled with the worries and burdens that a long life had weighed upon him. “What--” He stammered. “What can we do?”

    “The king has sent us to keep the Varl in check. Your village is not far from the border between our lands.” The first man replied. “We’ve a detachment not far from here, ready to send them back past our border, but are short of able men and arms. A militia from your village would do well to bolster our ranks.”

    The second man then continued, “Varl are no easy foe, only together and in numbers, would we be able to overwhelm them.” He clenched his fist as he let out the words.

    At this point, the men finally took notice, stealing a furtive glance at Reifr, and he had done all the tying he could. So he got up, and hurried home before the men noticed anything more.

    ***

    Reifr’s home was far on the other side of the village and almost at the outskirts. There he lived with his father. His mother had passed away when he was young during a particularly long and harsh winter.

    “Father!” Reifr shouted as he neared his home. He ran, albeit unsuccessfully through a foot and half of snow. He trudged through, leaving holes in the otherwise immaculate blanket of ice. “Father!” He continued to exclaim as he closed in on the homestead.

    His father, Rodulfr, was in front of the house cutting firewood. It was a wooden lodge built with large old logs, and a thatch roof, though now snow ridden. With a strange sense of grace, and a steady tempo, he would set each log and then split the wood in a single stroke.

    Rodulf was not a young man, though he was fit and able. Both his beard and his arms were thick, and his shoulders were broad. He was a man of forty and five. He had married late, and his wife, Reifr’s mother, had been younger than him by a decade. Alas, she died young.

    “Father! Soldiers have come to the village.” Reifr let out as he caught his breath, finally arriving in front of the house where his father had been working.

    “Soldiers?” Rodulfr asked, as he put down the axe, curious by the news Reifr had.

    “I saw the hilts of their swords, the king’s insignia…they must be part of the expedition from the capital…” Reifr replied. “They’re asking for the village militia to help them get rid of the Varl!”

    Rodulfr’s brow furrowed, and before the two could say anything more, the village bell sounded. They looked back, away from their home toward the center of the village. The bonfire was lit. The militia had been called.

    They stood there for a moment while the bell rang, as if letting the reality of the situation sink in. Everything, save the sounding of the bell, was still.

    “Reifr,” Rodulfr said, his tone bearing all seriousness. “Lay the hares aside quickly. You’re old enough to fend for yourself now. Come along with me.”

    ***

    When they reached the village center, the rest of the village men and even some women had already gathered. A platform had been raised to the side of the bonfire, where the two men and the village elder were standing, in counsel, readying to address the villagers they had called together.

    As the three men broke counsel, the elder approached the front of the stage and the crowd settled down. And thus he spoke, “These are messengers from the capital.” He said, in a resounding voice, his stammer seemingly gone, much to Reifr’s surprise. “They bear news that a band of rampaging Varl have crossed this kingdom’s border and threaten to raise the village to the ground, like many others, if not kept in check.”

    The crowd began to murmur and became unsettled upon hearing this.

    One of the soldiers stepped forward, beside the elder, and exclaimed, “Who here will aid the king’s men?! We seek the aid of Barham’s militia!”

    The people of Barham were not warriors, at least not anymore. They were hunters and farmers. Some were men of craft, and a few were men of trade. Many had not carried arms since the second war with the Dredge had erupted many years ago. Rodulfr, Reifr’s father, had been in that war as a young man. In fact, he had been younger than Reifr by a year, when he first marched into battle.

    The crowd went silent. But steadily, first one by one, and then more, stepped forward and others raised their hands.

    And following this, the first soldier asked in a loud voice, “Who among you shall lead the militia?! The village elder is old and feeble, he cannot be fit for such a task!”

    At this, Rodulfr said in measured tone, just loud enough to be heard, “I shall lead the militia. It may have been some time ago, but I have fought with these Varl before.”

    “Very well, said the soldier. Our detachment is waiting northwest of here. Make haste, we depart at the time the bonfire quells . We move to catch the Varl at that time!”

    The assembly dispersed and one of the soldiers left immediately to contact the detachment of the king’s expedition and make preparations. Reifr watched from the village gate, as the soldier’s figure disappeared into the distance and blended into the white of the mountainside.

    It was a day before the bonfire went out and Rodulfr, Reifr, the militia and one of the soldiers departed from the village.
    Last edited by raven2134; 04-25-2013 at 02:11 AM.

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    ***

    They made their way northwest some distance from Barham, Rodulfr had brought with him a steel shield and sharpened axe, Reifr with his hunting bow at his back, a dagger tucked away and a horn hanging from his neck. Around sixty comprised the militia, most able bodied men, and some women, headed Norwest into the forested side of the mountain.

    At the head of the party the soldier and Rodulfr led, behind them Reifr followed. Rodulfr and his son were huntsmen, and were familiar with the terrain. And while the soldier pointed out the way, Rodulfr led and set down the path while Reifr signaled to the party following behind.

    Leaving the sea of white behind them, they entered the forest on the mountainside and made their way. Old were the trees in these parts, so old, large and sturdy that they loomed even greater than either Varl or Dredge. Only the strongest of either colossus would have been able to fell these trees. Undoubtedly, these had lived so long and seen much more than the folly of Varl, Dredge, and men during their wars.

    The trees loomed on both sides, and the forest grew denser as they dove deeper into its depths. Like an encroaching and ominous cage it seemed to wrap around them, and worse…cast shadows from which even a giant could hide in.

    Their pace slowed steadily, and it was not long until the stillness and silence in the forest had caught hold of Rodulfr as being odd. He raised his hand giving the signal to halt and be at the ready. The party lowered themselves, knees to the ground. Tension gripped them all. Men steadied their shields; others checked the grip on their axes. A woman silently and carefully drew an arrow from her quiver to ready her bow.

    They could not see or hear what it was, but they could feel something was soon to be upon them, and the warmth of their breaths seemed to hang in the cold, frigid air…

    And like a rope wound to the breaking point suddenly snapping, their assailants burst forth!

    From the shadows they emerged, charging like nightmares and phantoms from the beyond. At first glance there were too many to count, some but a few meters away, and countless more rapidly approaching. Eighty meters, no, a horde was rushing upon them from not more than fifty meters from where they stood. There must have been a hundred at least, probably more. They were surrounded.

    …Their assailants were neither Varl, nor Dredge…they were men.

    ***

    “SOUND THE HORN!!!” Rodulfr shouted at Reifr, as the soldier beside him drew his blade and deftly swung where Rodulfr’s head should have been. Rodulfr had ducked down. And rising up smashed the soldiers jaw with his shield, and the solider crumpled before him.

    “BWOOOOOOOOOOO BWOOOOOOOOOOO” Reifr’s horn resounded, echoing through the forest. He signaled the militia to close in, tight, until they formed a circle while his father continued shouting.

    ”CLOSE RANKS! HOLD FAST! ”

    “BWOOOOOOOOOOO” And on the third call from Reifr’s horn, as the main mass of soldiers was about to come upon them, suddenly the forest seemed to quake. The ground shook and not just, even the air and trees seemed to reverberate.

    As Rodulfr, Reifr, and the militia looked on, and defended themselves from those assailants close by, they saw the giant trees that had surrounded them toppling over. Down they came, swift and with uncanny precision, upon the soldiers charging at them. Ranks of men were crushed underneath. The screams and shrieks from the warriors that had sought to ambush and overwhelm them filled the air, echoing out as if something terrible and sinister in the forest had awoken, and consumed them.

    And where the trees did not fall, they finally begun to see, giants were rushing onto the soldiers and sweeping them away , like branches being swept away and under by rapids. No, even that perhaps did not compare; these soldiers from the capital were nothing before the raw might of a Varl…

    When the dust had settled and the forest returned to its proper calm, one of the giants walked slowly toward the militia, his face still partially hidden in the shadows by the trees. The battle was over, the militia had not lost any man (or woman), but there were some injured. The remnants of their attackers, those who called themselves “the king’s men, soldiers from the capital” had been captured and restrained in a clearing which the Varl were keeping watch over.

    The single giant who approached now stood before the militia, looming over. His axe, if it could have even been called that, for it was so large Reifr had not seen any axe like it, rested menacingly over the giant’s shoulder. The Varl had hair almost like mane of a ginger red, his beard as well. From near the center of his forehead horns of a dark smooth auburn protruded, twisting slighly, they bore a majestic sheen. He lifted the axe off his shoulder slowly but without wasted movement, and rested its head on the ground before him, without making a sound. Rodulfr’s shield was resting on the ground, his axe kept as well.

    “Rodulfr.” The giant’s voice seemed to echo, a deep and gruff bass that almost seemed to reverberate, as he gave a nod.

    “Tryggr.” Rodulfr replied, bowing his head slightly.

    “About 200 men.” The Varl, Tryggr began. “They had set-up an ambush to try and get rid of any resistance your village could pose. They had planned to create disorder by killing you first as well, the militia’s leader.“

    He turned to face the clearing where some thirty of the prisoners were sitting down, restrained. They were all that was left of the contingent, the ones who were near the militia when the Varl had sprung their own trap.

    “We had been tracking them for some time. They were originally part of an expedition sent to thwart the Dredge’s advance into your kingdom.” The Varl continued. “Their detachment came down in this direction after having been dispersed by the Dredge. The stupid lot resorted to pillaging outskirt villages for spoils thereafter. In much the same way they tried to deal with you.“

    Rodulfr looked at the same clearing, disdain clearly showing on his face. “So, the Dredge too are on the march then? And not even these men could stand before them?” Rodulfr asked.

    Tryggr raised a thick eyebrow. “These men were nothing but brash brigands. Given plate and blade by your king and his coffers, with a taste for violence, but with none of the mettle you or your village’s people possessed when you fought with us against the Dredge, many moons ago.”

    At this Rodulfr smiled and replied, “That was many moons ago my friend, we are warriors no longer.”

    Tryggr, “HAH!” he bellowed, clearly amused. “Not warriors you say, but with enough daring and gall to walk knowingly into an ambush against more than double your numbers! And keep your heads on, on top of it!”

    “If it helps, we knew we were ambushing them at least, with your aid.” Rodulfr replied.

    The Varl raised his eyebrow again, something had caught his eye, namely Reifr. “Is this your boy Rodulfr? That lass gave you a fine son it seems.” Tryggr said, the enthusiasm raising the volume of his voice, again.

    Rodulfr gestured toward his son, who had been pre-occupied checking the wounded. The boy was both distracted and amazed by the giants now walking around them and keeping watch, as he stumbled toward his father. Around 30 giants, there must have been. “Tryggr, meet my son, Reifr.”

    Reifr bowed his head slightly, as his father had done earlier. And the Varl gave him what should have been a tap to his side, which ended up sending him off balance and falling to the opposite side.

    “HAH! A bit scrawny, but he’s got mettle, if he’s watching your back and sounding that horn!” Tryggr said, amused.

    Before they could exchange any further pleasantries, however, the sound of a horn echoed once more through the forest. It was some distance of. The sound caught Tryggr and Rodulfr’s attention immediately. Splitting their party, so that a small group of giants would go with them to find the horn’s source, Tryggr, Rodulfr and Reifr headed deeper into the forest.

    ***

    One of the other giants who scouted ahead found a Varl, the horn’s blower, slumped beside a tree. The Varl was grievously hurt. The wound was gruesome. The Varl’s side was broken and mangled…he was dying. It would not be long before he breathed his last.

    “Alvir” Tryggr said to the scout who had found their dying kin, so softly it would have seemed impossible for beings their size.

    “Tryggr” The scout replied. “This is Refkell, he bears a message and a mission.”

    Tryggr rested on a knee beside the dying Refkell, and asked, softly once more. “Refkell, my kinsman, what message and what mission was entrusted to you?”

    Refkell, looked up, his breathing labored and eyes already hazy, “Do you lead this warband, kinsman?” He coughed.

    “Aye, I am Warmaster Tryggr, I and this band of my kinsmen move together.” Tryggr answered.

    Refkell nodded weakly. “Warmaster Tryggr, the Dredge march on the pass due west of Barham, approaching the foot of the mountain. “ He paused to catch a few breaths. “A detachment has followed the path laid by the band of brigands you were pursuing…” Refkell grimaced in pain. “…They were hoping to scout further past the border while avoiding detection… “ He coughed again, some blood reaching his lips.

    “Myself and two of my companions had been tracking their movements, but were discovered as we tried to break from their trail to warn you.”

    He had ceased to look at Tryggr’s face by now and stared blankly in front of him. “…overwhelmed, my companions made just enough time for me to escape, but not unscathed. The Dredge will be here in but half a day...”

    Tryggr asked, “What were the names of your companions, brave Refkell…?”

    “They were…my good kinsmen… Gulfr…and Brodi…” and with that, Refkell breathed his last.

    By then the other varl from the Tryggr’s small escort arrived. Tryggr covered the eyes of his kinsman, and standing upright, they looked down at Refkell’s tattered body in silence for but a moment. So solemn, though, was the air in that brief moment that to Reifr it seemed to have stretched for hours.

    Reifr heard his father whisper, almost under his breath, “May their fates rejoin the tapestry of life…and their tale remembered in the History of All.”
    Last edited by raven2134; 04-25-2013 at 02:25 AM.

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    ***

    “There is no time to waste” Tryggr said, now loudly commanding. “We will hold the Dredge off at the pass, and attempt to repel them there. Get the villagers to the other side of the mountain. Cross the border and look for refuge from the Varl settled near there.”

    Rodulfr turned to Reifr, “Reifr, go quickly and head to Barham. Tell the village elder what has transpired. Get the villagers across the border. Those willing and able from the militia will stand with Tryggr’s warband. The injured will follow soon behind you.”

    Reifr protested. “Let me fight and stand together with you father. I’m no longer a boy. I can fend for myself. And I am not afraid if it is my time to die, here, defending our home against the Dredge as you have done before and will do again.”

    Rodulfr put his hands on Reifr’s shoulders. “Son, it is also because you are no longer a boy that I ask you to do this.” He paused, and looked straight into Reifr’s eyes. “I am entrusting the village to you; not our homes or our possessions or even our land…but our lives. Keep them safe, and guard them well.” Reifr could feel his father’s grip tighten firmly on his shoulders.

    Tryggr, already facing in the direction where the rest of his warband was waiting, turned around and said from some distance over Rodulfr’s shoulder. “Any fool can die a meaningless and pitiful death on the battlefield. Just look at the warriors your king had sent to deal with the Dredge. Not every being, man or Varl has the strength to fight for lives, or to protect what is dear to him. “

    Looking straight at Reifr, Tryggr’s voice seemed to echo. Its bellowing shook Reifr to his core, and he felt his bones tremble. “Heed this lesson well, only the foolish and brash fight without fear of death, those who are wise take care not to die before accomplishing what they set out to do. Your father is not ready to die, but he will fight if it means saving you and the villagers.”

    Reifr was taken aback. For some reason he already knew, despite his father’s strength and skill, he would not make it back alive.

    It was fear that struck Reifr, that even the monstrously powerful Varl could be broken so badly by something even more menacing. His father would really fight those abominations? Could mortal men really stand against the Dredge? The thoughts flooded his mind in that instance.

    And at the same time, he understood what his father said and was trying to do. For Reifr too wished to join the battle to keep his father, and the village safe –even if that meant he would not come back alive.

    Reifr choked back the emotion that was threatening to overwhelm him. He closed his eyes and swallowed, as if steeling himself. And upon opening his eyes he had found some resolve, even if on closer inspection, the soul within his eyes told a different story.

    Before parting ways, Rodulfr gripped his son’s hand, and pulled him close, placing the other hand over the boy’s shoulder. And Reifr did the same to his father.

    Rodulfr could not say anything more, but Reifr could feel from the embrace the strong emotion his farther was also trying to keep back.

    Tryggr watched on. He knew not what the battle would result in for him or Rodulfr. But he knew he would be fighting not as if his life depended on it…but as if Rodulfr, Reifr, the village, and his kin’s lives depended on it.

    Reifr hurried back from the forest depths toward Barham. He glided through the shadows, past the trees and over the brush with an almost bestial sense and ease. He needed to hurry where he could, for the snow on the open mountainside would slow him down. He would accomplish what his father tasked him to do, at all cost. He could not afford to fail.

    That was the farewell, Reifr bade to his father. And Rodulfr bade to his son.

    ***

    It was on Guin’s Pass, West of Barham, near the mountain’s foot that the battle ensued. The pass was narrow, and the elevation favored the defenders, but Tryggr’s band still found themselves outnumbered, and in some ways outmatched. The Dredge were lumbering colossi of plated armor, that could fight almost tirelessly unless destroyed or dismembered, and the largest of these loomed larger than a Varl.

    Tryggr had sent 5 giants along with the prisoners and the injured militia back to Barham. They were to help with the evacuation, escort the villagers, and make sure the prisoners were kept in check. About half of the militia stayed with Tryggr and Rodulfr. So between Tryggr’s warband, and the Barham Miliitia there were around 25 giants and 30 men to defend the pass, as 100 dredge, 10 of which were the lumbering hulks, marched toward them.

    The fighting lasted a full day and night. As when battling with the Dredge, there were only two options, destroy them all, or retreat. If they were not destroyed, they would assail their foes endlessly, without need for food or rest. And the defenders on Guin’s pass could not retreat. So fight on they did until every last one had been repelled.

    Reifr got the villagers to safety across the border, guiding them skillfully across the mountain paths and through the forest until they found refuge. Their departure was timely, for it was not long until the defenders were pushed back from Guin’s pass up to Barham itself. And seasons later, the village was eventually overtaken by a larger force of Dredge, which the 100 or so advanced guard belonged to, and was scouting for.

    A day after the battle had concluded a messenger from the Varl and human defenders caught up and reached Reifr, they were midway making for the Varl settlement. He left the villagers in the care of the Varl escorting them, and made back for Barham. The battle had been won, but the news was grim.

    Half the village lay in ruins, and of the defenders that repelled the Dredge, they lost more than half their number. 18 varl and 19 of the militia defenders had lost their lives. However, compared to many, many other encounters with the Dredge, with the odds stacked so high against them, this victory was one of the most extraordinary so far, even across the 1st and 2nd Great Wars.

    ***

    Even from a fair ways off, Reifr could see a faint trail of smoke rising from where he knew Barham to be. It dawned on him, he would soon see what lay at the source of the smoke trails he had not long ago seen across the ridges.

    Soon he arrived at what remained of Barham…”Bear Village” the land man and Varl had fought with the Dredge over, and won. Up until then, it was one of the few villages that still had friendly relations with the Varl nation and its giants...a benefit of having been far on the outskirts, and closer to the truth of the world, far from the manipulative reach of the capital and its oft mad kings...

    He made this way through the village gate and toward the village center. The gate and low walls circling the village were in pieces. The houses too, had either burned or been ruined, as massive pieces of armor lay strewn upon or beside broken down walls and roofs. It was no longer the village he once knew.

    At the village center, he saw the survivors, some gravely injured and barely hanging on. The less injured tending to them, and a number who had managed to come out of the battle mostly intact but very worn.

    Upon some rubble that had scattered in the village center, Reifr saw Tryggr, seated down and grim, his face looking down, and hands resting on his axe. He looked up just as Reifr approached.

    “So boy…seems like you made it back and saw the villagers through. Good lad.” Tryggr said, his expression lightening somewhat and his voice even, but somehow pained. “Though, I must bear some bad news…,” and his expression again became serious, almost dark. Tryggr stood up, put his large hand on the boys shoulder, and walked as he guided Reifr.

    They came to one of the houses still intact, near the village center. It was the grocer’s house, near the market. As they stepped inside (Tryggr had to stoop and stay on a knee), Reifr noticed his father’s shield on the ground leaning on a wall to one side. The steel had been scratched and dented in many places, and in at least one, had practically bent inward. They went further inside, to where the living quarters were, and on the bed Reifr saw his father, motionless. Rodulfr had passed away.

    Reifr’s fears had come to pass, and the emotions he had been keeping in check seemed to burst from within his chest. Step by trembling step he approached his father’s body, until he fell on his knees at the bedside. It was all he could do, to only let the tears stream down his face silently, without bawling.

    His father’s hand was cold, and where those once broad shoulders and thick arms seemed indomitable, now they seemed small and fragile. His father’s body was mostly intact, he had not been scathed by a weapon directly, but Reifr noticed his father’s shoulder and arms were broken…

    Reifr motioned his head back toward Tryggr, but could not face him. He did not want the giant to see his tears. But he could also not get the words out of his throat.

    “He saved us all.” Tryggr said, his voice calm. “We would not be alive here today, were it not for him. He stood fast against blow after blow, holding his ground.”

    “ Where Varl or man failed, he held the line, his shield up, even as his arms tired and bones broke…he weathered the blows so that we could continue to strike back.”

    “How did he…” Reifr began to ask.

    “As the battle drew to a close, and we faced the final hulk of the Dredge, his strength finally gave way. His legs gave out from under him, his arms could not keep his shield level, and he failed to deflect the blow.” Tryggr answered knowing what Reifr wanted to ask. “I’m sorry…” he said, almost biting his lip. “Had he been ten years younger…”

    Reifr held his father’s hand one last time, as he knelt by the bedside and said a silent prayer…to what gods he knew not…and behind him he also heard Tryggr whisper together, “May his fate rejoin the tapestry of life, and his tale be remembered in the History of All.”

    And for some reason, Reifr thought he could hear the name “Rodulfr the Stonewall” echo in his ears.

    Standing up from his father’s bedside, he picked up the battered shield, looking at it closely, before strapping it to his back. He stepped outside, as Tryggr watched, and taking his horn from his neck. Let out its call once more. And this time, it echoed through the mountainside, as if many calls were made to mourn for the proud and heroic defenders that gave their lives.

    That night, they held the funeral pyres for those that fell in the battle of Guin’s Pass and Barham

    ***

    Reifr stood in front of the lodge that was his home in Barham. The funeral pyre for his father had already been lit, and he watched on, now blank, his emotions tired out. The flames spit and crackled, almost hungrily, he thought, as it engulfed and slowly consumed his father’s figure. The orange glow seemed to mesmerize him, and even with his eyes out of focus, he could still notice the trail of smoking rising into the dark shadowy sky. In other places, the other deceased also burned.

    Tryggr had been watching from some distance behind the boy, and slowly walked up to stand beside him.

    “My father told me stories of you, you know” Reifr said to the giant.

    “Oh did he now.” Tryggr replied, his voice like a low hum.

    “I sometimes thought they were tall tales – legends, giants and armored colossus and men at war…” Reifr continued.

    “Now you know…they are all very real.” The giant answered.

    “He also told me, that Varl bear no children. There are no Varl womenfolk.”

    There was a brief moment of silence, before Tryggr replied.

    “Aye…that is the sad truth as well. We Varl were hand molded by the gods themselves…I fear it shall not be long, before we are no more.” Tryggr replied, in a tone that seemed to express his acceptance of the fact.

    “My father, you know, he never knew his father.” Reifr explained. “He was orphaned by that war many years ago. He would tell me that he was raised by a giant. A giant had taught him how to swing an axe. How to fight. And how to live.”

    “Hah!” Tryggr let out, as he too was mesmerized by Rodulfr’s pyre burning before him.

    “My father thought of you as a father Tryggr...” said the boy to the giant.

    Tryggr did not reply and just looked on, in silence. And then he finally said, “We Varl live much longer than mortal men…it is sometimes… something I curse.” A flare of anger or some strong emotion showed for a moment in his eyes.

    “Where do you head for next?” Reifr asked the Varl.

    “The Dredge will continue their rampage. I will go to stop them, as we Varl always have.” Tryggr replied.

    At this, Reifr looked up to the giant, his face illuminated by the flame, the soul within his eyes resolute showing ironclad determination, and he said. “Let me go with you.”

    Tryggr thought for a moment as he looked down at Reifr. He looked at the boy’s scrawny figure illuminated by the fire, and the grave, serious face the boy showed the giant with all earnestness. “Why boy?…Do you seek vengeance?” Tryggr asked, his eyes narrowed, his voice almost growling, showing the severity of the boy’s request and the seriousness of the matter.

    “No.” Reifr answered, looking the giant right in the eyes. And then turning back toward the flames, he continued, “The last thing my father taught me…was how I should live.” He paused. And the giant looked on, for a moment stuck by awe of the boy. “If you are going to stop the Dredge, then I shall go with you, to save as many as I can.” Reifr finished.

    They continued to stand watch over Rodulfr, until the pyre burned to its last.
    Last edited by raven2134; 04-24-2013 at 11:29 PM.

  4. #4
    Developer raven2134's Avatar
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    ***

    The sounds of a nearby boar that had strayed from the forest snapped Reifr back to reality, back to his own present time. It had been ten years since he watched his father’s pyre. First light (albeit what there was during those short days and long nights) was approaching, and the forest and wildlife near his camp begun to buzz with activity.

    Holding his axe in one hand, Reifr stood from where he sat. He walked to the other side of the fire, and cautiously approached the motionless hulk laying there. He put a hand on its shoulder for a moment, as if to check, and after having appraised the situation, decided to strike.

    He kicked it, with all his might, using the flat of his foot. And as if a boulder were unsettling and beginning to roll, the hulk began to shake. And as it rose up, it let out a loud deep bass roar which seemed to make the air shake.

    “By the gods Reifr, can’t you wake a Varl up some other way? And why are you carrying that axe?” The Varl grumbled.

    “As if any other way works when you slumber like that, Tryggr.” Reifr replied. “And the axe was for shaving your beard clean, to teach you a lesson, should that kick not have sufficed.”

    It had been 10 years since Rodulfr had fallen during the battle for Guin’s Pass. And over the years, Reifr had followed Tryggr every step of the way. The night before, they had fought with and destroyed a small pack of Dredge scouts, heading for another remote village. The remnants of their mysterious plate armor still lay scattered around the camp.

    “Will we reach the next village in time?”Reifr asked, now looking North toward a mountain.

    “We will if you can keep up,” said the giant, as he readied for the trek. Varl lived long, but the years of battles saw them taking a toll on even the mighty Tryggr. His deep red mane had faded to a degree, as well as the sheen of his horns, and one had been cut short -scarred from battle. No longer could he heftily swing one-handed the huge axe he bore, either.

    Reifr looked on as the giant began to walk toward the mountain, and he followed behind. He knew not why this Varl, Tryggr, persisted on this almost maddening quest, with seemingly no end in sight to the Dredge – only that there must be some ancient or unfathomable wisdom the Varl knew. He knew it was this same wisdom which this giant taught his father and now him.

    After the years of having fought and traveled together, Reifr wondered if Tryggyr had ever thought of his father and himself as sons. “The heirless Varl”, had always been the one legend of the giants he hated.

    As they trekked through the wilderness and up the mountain, Reifr looked once more into the distance. There were no trails of smoke rising into the sky, and if he could help it, there would be none also come next morn.

    With all haste, they marched on.

    -END-
    Last edited by raven2134; 04-25-2013 at 03:02 AM.

  5. #5
    Very atmospheric, Raven. Almost makes me want to start writing something. I particularly liked the way you integrated the Stonewall ability into the narrative, the way the father takes blow after blow until his strength finally fails.

    “Where Varl or man failed, he held the line, his shield up, even as his arms tired and bones broke…he weathered the blows so that we could continue to strike back.”
    I could see that as the flavour text for the ability. Great stuff.
    Crest by StandSure, many thanks!

  6. #6
    Factions veteran stoicmom's Avatar
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    Incredible writing and story telling, Sir. I am most proud that you are my friend, a friend of Stoic, and have so completely given of yourself to this community. Skal, raven the strange_carrots Administrator

  7. #7
    Backer Rymdkejsaren's Avatar
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    I had to hurry through this because I am leaving for my trek in about 20 minutes. It is always with dreadful anticipation that I read fan fiction, especially if it's by a friend. So many times it turns out bad. This was well written and engaging however, good job!

    I will read through it again when I get back, and if you will let me I would love to post some comments for you. Like I told you earlier I am unforgiving, but I promise it will help you improve!
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  8. #8
    Developer raven2134's Avatar
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    Sure RK, and thanks . At least you gave me a good initial reception

  9. #9
    Developer raven2134's Avatar
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    Comments are in from RK . Gonna work on the revisions, expect the writing to be much improved by next week. I'd really appreciate thoughts on the plot, characters, and themes though!

  10. #10
    Skald Aleonymous's Avatar
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    Hey Raven. I read your story (as well as "What Is Told", that I've skipped reading so far!) during my mountain trip at the Tzoumerka; and it fit right in!

    I loved the way you slipped-in all those pieces of game-lore: human/varl/dredge, warmaster, stone-walling, burned-villages, being always-on-the-move, factions-in-battle, sacrifice-in-combat etc. The story was touching (father/son, commitment to duty etc), and the device of initially presenting varl as enemies of man, only to be reversed later (just as in "What Is Told") also added to the depth. Finally, when Reifr is honing his axe in the opening scene, we get the feeling that the varl is dead/killed, which is fortunately proven wrong at the end!

    Some questions/remarks, also concerning the game-lore:

    (1) Is the main-story gonna have this "triangle" of human/varl/dredge? Or, will it be mostly human-vs-dredge, with the varl helping the humans and adding to the story-depth?

    (2) What kinda hit me as "weird" (both in your story and in WIT) is that the varls' attitudes resemble a lot to those of men. They are easily angered, they mock, they attach themselves to foreigners etc. Nevertheless, you use/mention the "facts" that they cannot be born (male-only) and that they live much longer than men. In view of this, I would have expected them to have a much more somber & alien attitude, much like the Elves or the Ents of Tolkien's world.
    Last edited by Aleonymous; 04-30-2013 at 05:19 AM.

  11. #11
    Developer raven2134's Avatar
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    Good points. I need to work on the writing form quite a bit. I'm very happy that the twists and mechanism I put into the story came through for you.

    I am not sure myself about #1, we will only know once Saga is out. If you check the posts/updates though, somewhere far back you'll see that theres something about there being an early choice in the game where the Varl guide a convoy of humans to a Varl city that's being attacked, and that the Varl is presented with a choice when meeting with the "King" Varl (-obey, question, and another question). *Doesn't this ring a bell on What is Told, and that Varl who spoke to the mender about "just another Varl - not his king" who was hired to guide the human prince. Who knows if this made the final story cut, but we can only imagine

    2. That's an interesting point you make. I think I didn't want to distance the Varl too far from men/the audience and make them these hard to relate to characters. I wanted to give them that larger than life and majestic figure though. I did write that time had made them wiser, so I suppose there's some contradiction. I think the point is though is that they're not a stereotype or near perfect characters. They have those boorish and crude facets, but are also noble. Think of it more like old men I suppose, they've seen more and have more experience, but they can still crack you up or do something stupid. They aren't ancient like elves or ents.
    Last edited by raven2134; 04-30-2013 at 09:58 AM.

  12. #12
    Skald Aleonymous's Avatar
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    About (1): Yeah, I see your point, as I also see how WIS works as a teaser/preview, just like in the movies I guess, we'll just have to wait and see.

    About (2): So, actually varls' demeanor resembles more to over-sized dwarves, if we use the analogy with Tolkien's world! Now that I've back-traced this "connection", I should reconsider these two stories.

  13. #13
    Developer raven2134's Avatar
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    Yea, that's a pretty apt comparison. My Varl at least, are more like Tolkien dwarves, but not gold greedy..and of course BIG (Very BIG).

  14. #14
    Skald Aleonymous's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by raven2134 View Post
    Yea, that's a pretty apt comparison. My Varl at least, are more like Tolkien dwarves, but not gold greedy..and of course BIG (Very BIG).
    And HORNED, though not in a Balrog-esque fashion!

  15. #15
    Backer Rymdkejsaren's Avatar
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    Less talking more revising!
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  16. #16
    Developer raven2134's Avatar
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    I'm strapped for time, between 2 systems at work, 2 tourneys here, and other stuff . I'm looking to do it over the weekend.

  17. #17
    Backer Rymdkejsaren's Avatar
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    Hey I've been gone for months and no revision! I'd be upset with you only I have not finished my story either so... heh.
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  18. #18
    Developer raven2134's Avatar
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    hehehe...maybe if you did I'd be moving along too? Joke. I'll get to it eventually!

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