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Red Snow
08-04-2015, 03:02,
Red Snow
This is actually not related to the Gloria Victis universe. Its actually a short story I wrote based on a character from a forum role play community I was/am active in. The wait for Gloria Victis coming closer to a finished product has been long, but I am hopeful for the changes and developments that have came through out the course of alpha. As a role player, and someone who enjoys reading, writing, and viewing the stories I've seen others post here, I figured I'd post a story of mine own. Hope you all enjoy. My Gloria Victis character will be very much an extension of the one I wrote for this story.

This far North, the air was cold, even for Lothar. There was a certain unmistakeable chill to it, and when a man breathed, he choked upon the frigid air. Food and game became scarcer in the northern tundra. It was the lake that had made Winterhaven one of the most well off of the Northern cities. Deep beneath the ice were endless amounts of fish and clams. It was enough food that the town would never need grow any crops. It had been how they had survived for so long in the far North.

It suprised Lothar little when the Nordsmen had chosen to make it the target of conquest. Most of the people had abandoned Winterhaven. What remained of it had been inhabited by the Nordsmen invaders. Only streets littered with corpses painted red with blood. When word had finally reached Lornesse and Westhollow it had been too late to save Winterhaven. The Nordsmen had taken their spoils and attacked with unrelenting force. Without any real military presence save for the Watch, Winterhaven had stood little chance against the might of the Nords. In their warpath, what was left had been razed to the ground. The remaining war party laid camp among the icy lake and for now remained within this land. They would have to, Lothar had thought, in order to survive the Winter.

To the west of the lake was the Winter Grove. It was a great forest that stood tall with sentinel trees that towered high above the ground. They were the tallest trees Lothar had ever seen. Their wood was hard and it did not burn easily. The strongest wood in the North. This was the primary source of income for Winterhaven where all other resources were scarce or non-existant. It was also a resource that would not be going away soon. The Forest went on for as far as the eyes could see in the western horizon. The northern horizon was filled with rolling white hills and distant white mountains, much flatter than the landscape to the south where the imposing sight of the Lornessian mountains lay. Standing their upon his steed, Lothar had looked across the edge of the known world. He had gazed up into the Northern Lights that blazed the sky with color, even as the sun had shown in its decent beneath the western landscape.

The camp had mobilized. A barbarian scout had found the Caemire host a night or two before Winterhaven was even in sights. They were prepared for a battle, but from all that Lothar could see it was a mere three hundred or so men. At Lothar's back he had five hundred Lornessian soldiers, a handful of them veteran knights, atleast half was Cavalry. The camp would be razed with ease. Victory was certain. Yet the barbarians had not fled from their camps, nor did they lower their banners as the Unicorn approached. When Lothar's men had made it into the clearing, the throat into the mountains it had been called, the barbarians had been seen in formation at the other side. A meager amount of archers stood at the front of their ranks, and hardly any horsemen at all. They had long spears perhaps made from the trees within the Winter Grove itself. These spears were the greatest of Lothar's worries. In the right hands, they would prove very dangerous against his cavalry.

Not a single man from the enemy side had moved to greet his army when Lothar's formations had came to a halt. It suprised him little. Barbarians were rarely given quarter when it came to fighting civilized cultures. Lotharaine knew it would have to be him to initiate the parlay. There was little for terms to be offered. Merek wanted them dead. However, Lothar had heard the stories of these Nordic warriors. They were a fearsome force that had earned their own songs and tales, and campfire stories meant to scare the young and naive. They also fought for almost any cause that would bring them glory. They were ruthless. They were savage. There would be a place for this kind of savagery against Lothar's enemies if the Nords could be tamed or bought at the proper price.

The young Knight had broken from his ranks then and went out alone to the center of the field. It was not like him to go without his lieutenants. It was important for him to be brave and to show courage in the face of his enemy, when these virtues were things that meant something to the enemy he would face. Lothar had came to the no man's land between both forces. He waited, and he watched. Three hundred men looked on to him, with hatchets, spears, and axes in hand. They shouted and roared obscenely. They only relented when their leader rode forth to meet Lothar. It had not been some lord of fine upbringing. No, it was only another savage. His sword was the only thing about him that stood out. From what Lothar had seen of the craftsmanship, there was no mistaking it as anything other than a Lornessian Sword. It had been looted perhaps from the Lord of Winterhaven himself. The same lord whose head was placed upon a spike outside the razed city.

"Your lands have been claimed, by right of conquest, southron. Turn your armies and go home to Lornesse and forget this place." Lothar wanted to laugh when he heard the man speak to him as if the nords had anything to barter with. He maintained his stoic gaze. "My lands have been claimed by no one save for the Lord who rules over them..." The Unicorn had said sternly, "Any who would take them away without asking is a thief, or an enemy of Lornesse. Surrender, or be put to the sword." Lothar had replied to the man.

"Try as you might, lordling. Your army trembles in the cold, and have not faced the fearsome Ravensworn of the North. You and your men shall feed the crows before the day is done."

"You are outnumbered nearly two to one, Lord Crow." He gestured at the small army at his back, larger still by over half of the Ravensworn's forces. "Yet there is another way."

Lothar had looked onward over the man's shoulder to look upon the Ravensworn and they continued to bash their hatchets, hammers, and clubs against wooden bucklers. They were not scared of Lothar or his men. If they were, they were good at hiding it behind their false courage. For what brains they lacked these nords made up for in bravery. There was no way the Nords could win this battle, but now Lothar had known, that victory would come for him at a high cost.

"I've heard it said that the Nords value strength among their people. That to prove yourselves as leaders of men, is to prove yourself in battle." He turned his attention once more to the man before him with not an ounce of fear within his gaze. "What is your name?"

The man had considered Lotharaine's words, furrowing his brow deeply in light of the uncertainty as to the direction Lothar would take with this discussion. When Lothar had asked Hrald for a name, he would not be seen the coward. He looked Lotharaine Caemire in the eyes and with pride he had replied to him. "Hrald, son of Ragnar."

Lothar nodded with both appreciation and respect for his enemy revealing himself unto him. "Hrald, son of Ragnar... I am..." Before Lothar could finish his sentence, he had been cut off by the barbarian commander.

"Lotharaine Caemire." Hrald had said, "I know that crest..." he gestured to the embroidered unicorn upon Lothar's sircoat. "...and I know that sword." Vigilance. There were few swords so expertly crafted. Vigilance had once been in the hands of Caemire Kings, as a family heirloom that passed down from generation to generation to the rulers of Tnarem. It was Lornessian in style, ornate, and beautiful. It was forged from the finest Lornessian steel and by legendary hands in the societies of craftmanship and art. When King Alaric Caemire had fallen in battle centuries ago, it was said that his younger brother Arion had picked up the sword and warded off the King until he could be taken off the field of battle. Though Alaric would survive his wounds, he had given the sword to his brother and told him. "It is no sword fit for an old King. Leave it in the hands of someone worthy, who will put it to good use." And from then on, rather than passing down to the first born, Vigilance had been given to the greatest Knight baring the Caemire name. Its wielder would carry the title of Champion of Lornesse.

"Then you know me, and now I know you. Let us get on with it then... a test of power, as your people so value... choose your very best champion and I shall choose mine own. They will meet here, and we shall determine once and for all which is strongest; A unicorn, or a raven. If Lornesse wins, you shall surrender yourselves unto me. If you are victorious, I and my army shall turn away, and Lornesse will never think of Winterhaven again. It shall be yours just as this lake, and the forest and the wood it yields, will also be yours."

It was a bargain his brother Merek would not appreciate him making, but it was a chance to keep bloodshed at a minimum. He looked to Hrald who at this point seemed as if he was considering what Lotharaine had requested. "What say you, Hrald, son of Ragnar?"

Hrald had taken a long moment to consider Lothar Caemire's proposal. A trial by combat was a test that their culture would gladly accept, but part of him had looked in disbelief at the Lord Caemire. Could such a bargain even be made without it coming from Merek Caemire's mouth? It mattered little in the end, Hrald had thought to himself then. Hrald had been certain that no man among the Unicorn's banner could match his own. They were the Ravensworn. They had been tempered in blood and war from birth. It had been the only way they had ever known. This was no place for some pompous prince of the South who had so much to learn about what it meant to survive. To see Urson the Rock crush the skull of some Southern Lord's pawn, would be too worthwhile to let the opportunity pass.

Hrald had bowed his head deeply. "I accept your challenge, Lothar Caemire." Hrald would not call him Lord. Lothar was no Lord of his. "Send your very best out. And Urson the Rock shall send him to his gods." Lotharaine had nodded then and he turned on his horse and began riding out at full charge to his ranks. His deep blue caemire eyes watched his men, a stoic and grim expression upon his features. They would watch him then, and they would cast their judgments upon him based on what he chose next. Lotharaine had to set an example. Not to these savage warriors from the Mountains, but also for the men under his banner. Now would be a monumental moment that he would be remembered by. Lotharaine had chosen that no man would die for something, he would not fight for himself. Just before he met his lieutenants at the front of the battle formation, he dismounted his steed. Across the fields he had heard Hrald roar upon the hill across from him. "URSON!!... SEND HIM TO HELL!!"

Lotharaine had placed a gentle hand upon the flank of his grey and white stallion. A gentle hand swept against the beasts' neck before the same hand fell to the saddle strapped upon his horse's back. Vigilance was there, secured within its sheath. Lotharaine had wrapped his fingers around the hilt just as he had closed his eyes in a brief moment of solitude before he met his foe upon the field of battle. "Magnus, I humble myself before you. Bestow upon me your mercy. Armor me with your righteousness, and give me the sword of truth, that my enemies shall confound within me that I am your true Knight. Make me loyal of hands and mouth and grant me courage within the face of my enemy. And should I die, let me die well, and with the dignity of a Knight." Vigilance had hummed an elegy sung upon steel, echoing in the wind as Lothar slowly pulled the long-sword from its' scabbard. When Lotharaine had turned to face his enemy, he lifted the sword up vertically, pointed to the heavens. A gentle kiss was left upon his sword, and then he stepped forward out into the field of snow. When Lothar had saw him, he could see that Urson was a mountain of a man. Urson was a head taller than Lothar himself, with scars that marred his face and body from head to toe. He was a beast that had survived many encounters, and each scar told stories of the many foes he had slain. Urson had stepped forward unto Lothar until both men were only fifteen paces away from each other.

"Do you know who I am, Lordling?" The beast had snarled.

"A dead man." Lotharaine had said as he held his sword high, in a Lornessian style that had been called the Guard of the Falcon. The blade was held with both hands above his head and his sword carried in a high striking position.

If Urson had been intimidated by Lotharaine's swordsman's stance, the beast had not let it been known. He grinned and snickered darkly.

"I'll rip your head from your shoulders... and I'll fuck your corpse while its still warm, 'for I sleep t'night." Urson had growled with a feral glare sent Lotharaine's way. The pair began to side step in a circular motion as one side of the battlefield began to roar with cheers and taunts, "Feed him his entrails!", and "URSON!! URSON THE ROCK!!" while the other side cheered for Lothar. "Kill him! Kill the fucking savage!!" "LOTHAR!" and "CAEMIRE!!"

Long ago Lotharaine's father had told him something that had followed him over the years. It was something Lothar had chanted to himself the first night he couldn't sleep as he restlessly waited for the morning to bring upon him his first battle. "When you are afraid, it is most important to be brave." Urson would find not a single ounce of fear in Lotharaine as they locked gazes. The world around Lothar had not existed in the following moment before the fighting broke out. Even the shouts and cheers had been muted to his ears. There was only focus for Lotharaine. There was only Urson.

"An' such a pretty fuckin' sword. Fit for a fucking King. They shall call me Urson the King once I pry it from your dead fingers, Caemire."

Lotharaine had tilted his head to the side, perhaps for the faintest of moments suprised that the large warrior had known of Vigilance's origin.

"Then it shall be yours."

Finally the words had came to an end between them. Lothar would receive no warning as the giant had came charging through the snow like a wolf charging towards its prey. Urson had growled a feral growl as if he were more beast than man. He brought his right axe hand high above his head and tore it down so hard as he came within reach of Lotharaine, that it might have split the earth in two. Lothar had learned long ago that the art of swordsmanship was not about clashing swords against each other, or swinging them harder or more precisely. A duel was a dance, intimate and complex, and the key to surviving the fight against your enemies was knowing what your opponent's next move would be. As history had taught him, Lothar had matched the strike with his sword, batting Urson's axe away with the full force of Vigilance's mass. The sword danced across the axes and both men moved rigorously against each other as their weapons malleted against each other, sparks igniting the air around them, as one tried to block an the other parry. And rinse and repeat. Steel upon steel, the bells of war rung loudly within the valley, accompanied by a chorus of roaring armies that shouted animalisticly as they watched both champions try to slay the other.

At any chance that Lotharaine would be given to shift the moment of the battle to his favor, he would take it. No quarter would be given, or the chance for a respite. Lotharaine's sword would crash through wind and snow, singing against the vibration of the storm of cold air the passed through the battleground. Vigilance had made its descent to strike a lethal blow but the giant reacted just in time. Both his axes, had caught Lothar's blade within a cross-guard. The giant pushed up towards the sky as he charged forward. As Urson leveraged Lothar's sword away from him, he hurled his head forward, cracking it against Lothar's face. Blood and spit sprayed across Lotharaine's lips, and the sanguine liquid began to drip from his nose and into the snow. Lotharaine breathed, muddled by the liquid that clogged his nostrils. The smell of blood had been the first scent he could truly pick up within the bitter cold. If Lotharaine hesitated, or let himself lose his balance, he would have been killed. Even as pain rang through his face, from the cut, and from his nose, he did not let it best him. He continued matching Urson's strike's, parrying them away, and countering with his own.

The fighter's dance continued to rise in its tempo, as each warrior pushed their bodies to their greatest limits. The pace had been brutally fast, but both Urson and Lotharaine had kept up, well matched against their adversary. The song of steel ensued as blades clashed upon each other, a each man tried to make jabs and kicks against their opponent to try and catch the other off guard. Both armies continued to roar in the background, slamming pommels against shields, shouting and cheering. The valley echoed with thunder, attributed to the clash of the two warriors. Each strike had been well matched until Lotharaine had brought Vigilance down from the Falcon Guard once more. This time the Knight of Lornesse redirected the swing to come in towards his opponent's guard at an angle. When the sword had connected with the wooden shaft of Urson's axe, it ripped through the axe handle like butter. Urson's right handed axe had been rendered useless, as its' head fell to the ground. Urson was in a moment of great disadvantage and Lotharaine knew this. Victory had to be swift and relentless lest Urson found the chance to pick up his momentum once more.

Yet the giant reeled his fisted offhand in towards Lotharaine, and the blow came brutally towards Lothar's brow. More blood ran down the Caemire's face. A second blow furiously came in to the side of his head but this time Lothar darted back from the deadlock his opponent had been in. He twisted with great form, and Vigilance's steel flashed like lightning in the valley as it tore down towards the incoming arm. A precise strike had seen Urson's offhand departed from the rest of his body, blood gushing from where the hand had once been. Urson screamed and reeled back in pain and cried out in agony. The wound had been painful to no end, and yet pain was something that Urson had grown accustomed to. His greatest agony was in the beating flow of blood that exited from the severed artery within his wrist. It was the drum of death, the sound of his heart pounding away. With each beat, he became dangerously closer to his demise.

Urson had been enough the warrior to try and fight to the bitter end and as Lotharaine's next strike came hurling towards him he raised his last axe in a futile attempt to prevent his fate. The strike had came upon the axe's shaft and once again split through, rendering the giant's last weapon ineffective. The only thing left to stop Lothar's sword was his collarbone. A great crunch snapped in Urson's ear and blood sprayed across his face. The sword shattered through flesh and bone, and the blow had sent Urson to his knees. It was over now, he had known. He looked up into Lothar's eyes, as the sword was redirected across Urson's neck. Urson had felt pressure at his throat, a stinging bite that dragged from one ear, underneath his jawline, and over to the other ear. He breathed, and the cold air came not from his nostrils, or his mouth, but stung from an unfamiliar gap in his throat. The pain had felt familiar to sadness at first. Uncontrollable sadness that a child felt in their throat when they fought back tears or a sob. That pain gradually grew sharper into a tearing and searing pain. His second breath had not came so easily. Urson gurgled from his mouth, he choked. Blood had filled his mouth and spouted from his lips and nostrils. He was alive he told himself. The pain was a reminder that he still lived. Breathe, Urson had told himself. Just, breathe. But no air came to Urson's lungs. He wretched and choked with each breath he tried to make as he began to drown within his own blood. He lifted both of his hands and his fingers splayed across the cavity in his neck, this new red smile to try and close the wound.

The thunderous roar that came from both sides of the battlefield had now grown silent. There was no merriment or rejoicing, only peace among the armies. Lotharaine looked up to the Nords and they would not cheer for a dying Urson or taunt the Knight of Lornesse. Within the valley, there was only silence, and an elegy of wind that lulled Urson closer to his eternal rest. For Lotharaine, it had been the wind and the gasps of a dying man.

"It is not over, truly?" Urson had thought to himself. He felt his heart within his chest and he held on to hope from that, as each beat reminded him he was alive. "I am still strong." He had thought. Yet the blood that seeped from each cavity had been a river with a finite source. And Urson looked down to see this river of life had formed a lake of blood beneath his knees.

'Red Snow. Dead Crow. ' It had been a saying that the Ravensworn had adapted when the Lornessians made a great effort to hunt their kind down. When the Ravensworn went out to find missing hunting parties, Red Snow was oft what remained.

Urson had felt a hand come to the back of his head, and he had looked up as he was embraced. He looked into those deep Caemire blues, and for the briefest of moments, he had found comfort in his enemy's arms. Lotharaine had now been knelt before Urson both of them upon their knees. "Your pain will be over soon, brother." Lotharaine had said. They were both north-men, both fought valiantly and honorably. He would not let Urson die a horrible death. Yet Lotharaine's words had seemed but only a haze. Within Urson's mind the voice did not come from the lips of the knight who knelt with him, but from some great and distant hill. The two warriors had looked into each other's eyes and held that gaze for a glimmer of a moment. Lotharaine had saw life within Urson's eyes as his pupils continued to dilate, and Urson's dark orbs searched around his surroundings. Urson himself had been full of pain. And despite this, part of him wanted to protest to Lothar as the Knight of Lornesse had lifted up his sword. Lotharaine had brought Vigilance towards Urson and the tip of the red stained long-sword had rested upon Urson's chest, where his heart had been burried underneath his flesh. Urson used what strength he had left, to place his hand upon Lothar's forearm. Urson spent his life fighting. From the moment he could throw a punch, he had been a warrior. He always knew that he had lived by the sword, and he would also die by it. But now he saw that what awaited was no glorious end. Death was unceremonious. Even the life he had did not flash before his eyes. Instead his thoughts became clouded and hazy. He tried to think of a fond memory, but none could be conjured within his mind. In the end, the only peace Urson could make was that with the man who finished him. He looked to Lotharaine and he closed his eyes and he nodded once very weakly. When the pressure had came into his chest as the sword pierced a gap within his ribcage, there was little pain. It had hurt at first, Urson had told himself. But eventually Vigilance's mercy was relief. The pain subsided. The feeling within his flesh drifted away into numbness. The world around Urson had faded into darkness. His chest rose one final time, and it had been finished.

Lotharaine pulled Urson towards him into the embrace of mercy. When Vigilance pierced Urson's heart, the pain had been over. Lotharaine lingered there for a moment as Urson's head now rested on his shoulder. He lingered long enough to feel Urson's fingers slowly relax, until they were holding onto him no more. Tears had fallen down the side of Lotharaine's face. They were not tears of sorrow for Urson's passing. . It was the exertion. The devotion. The absolute fight for survival that came in battle. Once the adrenaline worn off the emotions had been overwhelming. It had been said to him long ago that you never truly knew a man until you faced them in battle. The mental and physical exhaustion could be seen on Lothar's face. He breathed heavily, trying to regain his breath, before he attempted to stand. His face had been bloodied, but these wounds would heal with time, and perhaps leave some scars. His heart was pounding. Even now, it was pounding. And he would not stand until it subsided. He finally let the man drop to the ground and he looked to see a sea of red beneath his feet. Vigilance's once perfect blade had now been tarnished by Urson's lifeblood. Even the Northern Lights, had changed from the blues he had seen this morning, when the sun finally fell to the horizon. The lights were now red, and crimson as if it was some ceremonious sign that the gods were pleased with the display between the warriors. They say the spirits of the gods were stronger in the North, their presence very much real in that land and their people. Lothar had believed then it must be true.

Lothar pushed himself to his feet and he turned, wearily approaching the defeated Ravensworn. He called out to them, begging another challenger, making sure that his terms would be honored. "IS THERE NO ONE ELSE?!!" He had cried out to them. Alone he walked in front of their ranks, to find one that would contest his victory. But only the silence remained. It had been Hrald then who had approached. He had knelt then before Lotharaine as a sign of surrender. Honor abides that the better warrior would not have his victory tarnished, if even there was a look of sorrow on Hrald's face. There was too much respect for the warrior that Lothar was if even they couldn't give a damn about the Caemire name or the realm of Lornesse. Victory was Lotharaine's.

"Stand." Lothar had then said. Hrald had looked up then, subtle confusion on his features. "Winterhaven is yours... from the Winter Grove, to the Lake, to the fields you see in each direction. Take it, and do with it as you will." Lothar had looked back to his host. "There will come a time when I will have need of fearsome men such as the Ravensworn. When that time comes remember this, and remember me. I expect you will repay this debt."

Lothar had then turned and he walked back down the field, not giving a second look to the dead man who lay there. He returned to his horse, and his host, and the army that had come, turned to the South, and they disappeared before morning came.

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