NOTE: I have changed Chapter Two with a complete overhaul. All of Kelithor's scenes and other scenes relating to his story line have been taken out. Please, go back to the top of page two and read the beginning of the chapter, it's not too much, I don't think, and it will catch you up. Gods' Hall is now following a new plot line :D.
The drawbridge that made the moat of Castle Saarland crossable collapsed with a creeping hesitancy as if reluctant to allow several dozen leaders of the Warriors of Chaos onto its wooden surface. Yet the bridge came down. The archers and musket men upon the fortress’ formidable battlements raised their weapons as the generals of Prince Tibalt Von Saarland rode hard up the mountain trail and across the drawbridge. Bjorn admired the monument created by towers built upon towers, surrounded by battlements and enough fortifications to turn an army back. Silver and ebony standards emblazoned with the burnished lily wavered on the castle walls. Alas, an army of the Empire that could be worthy of fighting.
Bjorn pulled on the reigns of his war horse as he crossed through the portcullises and into a vast courtyard that teemed with rank upon rank of Empire troops arrayed in their respective units. The men of Sigmar kept their swords at their hilts, except a regiment of men whom stood nearest the entrance into the castle proper. Their uniforms were more rich and pompous than the usual state troop regiment, vibrant silver and ebony patterns marked their clothes beneath their breastplates. They carried expensive gear, from their helms to the glistening great swords that were held pointed to the floor.
Lord Tibalt’s troops twisted and turned, stepped back and forward again with timed precision as they made a path for the Northmen to approach the Castle. A simple servant rushed and took Bjorn’s mount by the reigns and allowed him to leap off. His massive greaves thundered against the granite pavement of the courtyard. He heard several hawking sounds as he tore his helmet away with an unclenched fist. Then the other leaders of the Northmen raid were by his side.
Amongst the champions of the men beyond the wastes were several prominent figures: Dag Frost—Eye, Ymir the Implacable, and Floki Ironside himself. While Dag Frost—Eye was merely a humble sorcerer, robed in ornamental and priestly attire, the latter individuals were truly giants amongst men. Armored in thickened steel from head to toe, their gait lent them the appearance of demi-gods, capable of slaying a hundred men on their own before becoming overwhelmed. Their aura of intimidation was only made more lucid by the vile blessings of the Gods. Demonic weapons quietly wheezed and screamed in their scabbards, their armor echoed with the souls of the dead, and their eyes held the looks of men not of this world.
Floki’s shadow cast a permanent darkness over Bjorn as he strode to stand beside him. Through the grill in his rounded helm decorated with Ram’s horns, his voice dripped with a demonic strain both brutal and terrifying. He chose not to look at Bjorn as he spoke.
Floki tore away his helm and revealed a grizzled, scarred, and weather beaten face plastered in intricate black war paint. Veins within his eyes appeared bloated and made his eyes slightly red. Short and uncombed raven hair clung in clusters across the pallid skin of his face. “The champion of the Alle’? It has been too long to excuse us not speaking to one another. I have trusted your tribe with many privileges, asked much of them… and they have always prevailed. Yet as I search around for the slave driver that I deemed your commander, I can only find you amongst us? Where is that fool they call Lief?”
Bjorn nodded curtly, careful not to share stares with his temperamental commander. “Fallen in battle against the Dark Elves. Like a true warrior should.”
“An untimely death,” Floki grinned savagely. “May the Gods skin his hide in the afterlife. I suppose we must become more familiar with one another, you and I. For I must know my commanders if they are to lead in this army. Come, there is talk to be had. Shameful, despicable discussion, with outsiders! Weaklings of the faith of Sigmar! How low we have been brought down!”
A trio of trumpet blasts thundered from the higher bastions of the castle and the gateway into the main hall buckled backwards with a peel of thunder. Several of the Northmen quietly laughed as several mere mortals, dressed in flamboyant clothes, emerged into the courtyard. At the head of them was an older gentlemen, clasped in a silver breastplate and clothed in ebony and silver silk clothes. Thick arm bands made his shirt around the shoulders puff outward. Pulled over his breeches was a ebony tabard emblazoned with a burnished lily. His face was ruggedly handsome and clean shaven, his skin a roasted chestnut color and features angular and sharp. He was surprisingly tall too and built like a bear, the rest of his attendants were dwarfed by his presence.
A herald waved his hand about dramatically, calling to the assembled Northmen.“May I present Lord Tibalt Von Saarland!”
Tibalt wasted no time on ceremony, he gracefully moved down the steps and into the courtyard. He wore a weak smirk, tense but not timid. There was no fear in him, Bjorn could not blame him with so many troops at his disposal. He flaunted around the gathered Knights of Chaos, appraising them with a furious eye. He grunted several times, once in disapproval and twice in satisfaction. “Greetings, those from the northern wastes! Forgive my curiosity, you barbarians are so transformed by remote life in those wastelands. You will also forgive me if I do not shake hands…”
Ymir growled from beneath his helmet, a gesture that had mortal men scurrying to draw their blades. Tibalt stayed their weapons with one raised hand. “We have come because your forces raised white flags as they revealed themselves. You have strategic advantage, why stay your men from crushing your rivals – no, your nemesis?”
Tibalt placed a hand on the hilt of his blade and nodded once in acknowledgement to the giant in his midst. “Straight to business, eh? Yes, it is true that I sought to discuss terms with you when I was first notified of your arrival in the area. As you no doubt witnessed in the fields outside of Brubach, I am currently fighting a war against another enemy. When fighting such a war so close to my stronghold, I can ill afford to waste good soldiers trying to expel your army as well.”
Floki wheezed in hysterical laughter and made several men flinch with a shrug of his shoulders. “You hear that, boys? The noble lord admits that he cannot repel us, so he asks us away instead. Did you think we would simply leave in peace because you offered the hand of understanding over the axe like a weakling!?”
“You are only a handful of men, perhaps imbued with unholy powers, but normal in the scheme of things. As you can see, I have a few hundred more men in this castle than you do. I already know of you and your exploits through Nordland, commander Floki. I know that you were repulsed at Erenburg and won a victory at Pale Pass. I also know that you are stranded here, your ships burned by pirates. I wonder what will become of your heathen army, demoralized and pitiful as they are, if they were to fight on without their more famous commanders?”
Floki rolled his eyes, but Bjorn could tell that he considered his next words carefully. “So what shall the good lord request in exchange for the safety of my army? What makes him think he needs to discuss anything at all, if he is so confident in victory?”
“Simple.” Tibalt quipped. “Shall we talk inside my hall? Away from all of these prying eyes?”
Floki grunted in approval. “Lead on.”
Tibalt threw back another cup of wine, the war table reverberated as he slammed the chalice back onto the heavy oak. “Fight for me, for my country, and alongside my people against the villains that advance upon my land.”
Bjorn huffed in disbelief, then scoffed. “As mercenaries? Are you mad? We’ve been adventuring and pillaging your people for months now! Why would you trust ‘barbarians’ like us?”
Tibalt smiled knowingly. “Northmen live for plunder and riches, right? I understand why most of Nordland would have grievance with you, but it is worth noting that your armies have never caused trouble in my lands. My enemies, a league of Barons from Brettonnia, have been raiding my and a number of other Lords’ lands for the better part of a year now. It is an invasion! I always knew this day would come, when a border stronghold would fall and allow those cheese—eating scum to march further into the Empire.
“Many settlements and more powerful lands have fallen to their depredations and now my lands are next. What you saw today in those fields is but a taste of the blood those barons and I have shed from each other. So far I have manage to maintain an advantage by winning key struggles throughout the region. Unfortunately, your abrupt presence has robbed me of any chance to capitalize upon my fortunes. A siege is now likely. A siege concerning this fortress, Saarland, if you weren’t aware.”
Ymir chuckled, swallowed the last dregs of his ale, and belched loudly. “How much are you willing to pay?”
Dag interjected. “What is the enemy’s strength?”
Bjorn spoke up. “Who are these Brettonians? Another faction within the Empire?”
Tibalt addressed each question in turn. “Firstly, I shall pay you with an entire fleet of ships in one of the towns that have yet to be ransacked. And a third of them will be laden with enough silver and gold that they can carry. Secondly, the League of Barons have a superior numerical advantage over us, but only by a slim margin. If your armies decide to fight alongside ours, I am confident we can achieve victory. Thirdly, these Brets are an archaic society, still shackled to the ideas of feudalism. They are of their own Kingdom and are longtime rivals of the Empire.”
Bjorn leaned over the table to exchange glances with a silent Floki. “These ‘Brets’ sound like a challenge. Plus, a fleet of ships…”
Floki grumbled quietly to himself, then drowned out every other present voice. “And what’s to hold you to your word, Tibalt Von Saarland? What is to keep you from cutting all of our heads off once you have achieved victory against the Brettonians?”
Tibalt pointed to his noggin with a sly grin. “You must think long term, Floki Ironside. I do not desire to hire you just to repel these savages from our walls. I want them out of Nordland! I would be crazy to try and betray you in my own halls, where any of your men could break free and dash my brains against my fine granite floors. I won’t risk destroying my army trying to betray you when there are Brettonians on my doorstep, constantly threatening to swoop down like the vultures they are! If your warriors could fight alongside mine until reinforcements can be mustered form the neighboring proinces-“
Floki bristled with anger. “You would have us stay and fight until another army from the Empire can come in and surround us? Do you think us fools?”
“Now, now,” Tibalt raised a hand in the air, vainly attempting to quiet the murmurs of discontent in the hall. “Let me finish! Let me finish! … Now, arrangements can be made for an exchange of a fleet for your army, Floki, before Empire forces arrive to help us drive the Brets back into their own lands.”
Floki nodded hesitantly, considering his options. “That deal better happen before any agreements are made. Understand? I want nothing left to chance!”
Tibalt agreed swiftly. “Of course, of course. Let us discuss the details.”