The allied camp in Clan Squallborn territory was bustling with activity. A combined forces camp of adventurers, mercenaries, volunteers, Clan Stormjarl warriors and New Aldorian soldiers all made up the people coming and going with different tasks in the camp. Wagons moved goods to and from locations in the camp and the nearby location. The combined conquest of the New Aldoria and Clan Stormjarl had been a success. The initial landings on the beach saw very little resistance; a few of the settlements and villages put up a fight but were terribly outnumbered. Stormjarl warriors along with the elite Viknar carved a path through these coastal locations and sent the Squallborn villagers fleeing further north. This momentum continued throughout the entire previous month, as pockets of defenders were battered and defeated or sent reeling further and further north. Unfortunately, without additional military units and more soldiers, the momentum could not be maintained. The Squallborn defenders became more numerous, more organized, more well-armed. Simple skirmishes to defeat some farmers and send them running away eventually evolved into full scale fights between dozens of armed and armored warriors. Attrition had begun to take its toll and without more soldiers to push, the Chieftains of Stormjarl and the Officers of New Aldoria had given the orders to return to the main camp and be reassigned. Recently, ships began to arrive with building and construction materials instead of weapons and supplies to wage war. There was no doubt now to the rest of the world; Clan Stormjarl and New Aldoria intended not only to fight Clan Squallborn but to conquer and take their lands. It is still unknown how the other Clans will react to this but construction had already begun on new settlements. The goal now was to hold key locations and settlements and control what was taken and not to push further. The campaign was a success as a huge swath of land was now controlled by New Aldoria and Clan Stormjarl.
Unfortunately, other concerns had begun to rise or returned now that the push was over.
Thrand Stormjarl walked with a brisk pace back to his tent, his leather armor creaking a bit as he went. He had his helm and arming cap tucked under his left arm and held his long axe with the other. His shoulder hurt and he tested it out, rotating it, and he could feel the sting of the healing wound and he left it alone. A Squallborn arrow had punched through his leather pauldron and stuck deep. He took it out after the recent fight and tended to the wound properly, but it was still raw and sore. He pushed the door of the canvas tent aside and stepped in. An oil lantern was lit and cast light in the tent, detailing out equipment, weapons, and furs used for bedding. Sitting in the tent in her armor, Fritha Stormjarl looked up and greeted him with a smile. He couldn’t help but smile back at his mate. He noticed the letter in her hand; he must have interrupted her reading.
“Another letter from Reyna? It’s nice you still keep in contact, how is she? And the pack?”
“Not good, not good at all.” Fritha looked at him, the concern was written on her face.
“What is happening?” Thrand put his long axe down against the edge of the tent.
“The corruption is still there, Stanrick and Selena left for Serai a little over a month ago to talk to others about the corruption and have not returned. A hunter found a site with a lot of blood and one of the Longfang’s belt flags was there. They fear the worst has happened to them. And now it seems the Mordok are attacking with coordination and longer than they ever have before. This letter does not have any good news for our friends.”
“So the rumors I overheard were true. Some of the warriors of the Phoenix were talking about the mordok corruption. I saw one of them, the man named Aimerick. There was a terrible affliction in him and there was nothing I could do. It is terrifying to think the mordok can corrupt others like that and there seems to be no cure. Although that matters a great deal, the organized way of the mordok now is foreboding. We lived on the edge of the swamp; we’ve fought plenty of mordok…but to hear of them acting this way? I don’t like it.” said Thrand as he took a seat on a stool in the tent. “We are here, pledged to this contract for the Clan and their New Aldorian ally. I wish we could do something to help but I think the Longfangs will have to fight this one on their own for a while.”
“That is the problem, they have been. Supplies are running short, the Mordok are not leaving like the usually do. Everyone who could help are all here. The Mordok picked one hell of a time to attack.” She turned her back to Thrand, exposing the buckles to her pauldrons to him.
“What am I, your thrall?” Thrand smiles and gets up and steps closer to Fritha. He begins to unbuckle her pauldrons and then turns back to the more serious conversation at hand. “If the Longfangs can hold out long enough, perhaps some allies from this fight can go there and help. You heard the commanding officer of our allied camp; we are being reassigned to patrols or defensive duties of the territory we have taken. I think the fighting is going to die down… for now… but I don’t think the Warleader or the Prince intends to let Clan Squallborn take their lands back too easily. We are stuck here for now. If you want to then we can plan to travel to Onsallas to help as soon as we are done here. We may not be of Pack Longfang anymore, but we still have friends there and they need help. Especially now that the Chieftain has gone missing.”
“So what are we to do? Go on patrols and sit around as our friends need help!?” Her voice was rising due to the emotions. “The bulk of the fighting is done; Squallborn has seen the size of the army we have brought. I don’t think they will be running back to us for a fight. We did what the prince had asked of us, we were the front of the line to help him in his conquest and to also help Stormjarl.“ Fritha’s shoulders squared and her voice evened out. “Look, the Longfangs are our allies and they need help. Stormjarl and Longfangs have been allies for generations. Our people helped Onsallas get started; we have sent warriors there to be trained. They have kept the Northern border protected from Mordok. They have sent their best warriors to us in our time of need and they died in the battle of Black Wolf Creek. As friends and allies we have a duty to help protect them.” Her eyes softened as she looked at her mate. “They need help Thrand, I can’t stay here for a conquest of land while friends die.” She slipped out of her pauldrons and turned around to help Thrand from his leather chest piece.
Thrand’s brow creased in confusion and concern, but he turned and lifted his arm to allow her access to the buckles he couldn’t quite reach. “Hold on, I didn’t say we do nothing. I agree with you; what you say is true. Our Clan has a longstanding history with Pack Longfang. You and I both know this. But it doesn’t change the fact that our place is here. Unless…” Thrand’s voice trailed for a moment and paused as he thought about it.
“And?” said Fritha as she worked on the buckles.
“Sorry, I was collecting my thoughts. Unless we proved to either the Prince or the Chieftains, maybe even the Warleader, that something like this is important enough to send warriors to. Perhaps if the interests of the Clan, if the defense of our allies, is important enough to them they would listen. You have a meeting with the Chieftains later, right?” said Thrand.
Frithas eyes lit up. “I do.” She turned her attention to her greaves, her movements picked up pace as she now had a goal in mind. “Do you think they will agree to it?”
Thrand paused to think for a moment. “That depends. From what I have heard about the Prince, he is not one to take lightly to us leaving the contract we signed with him. You read it, I read it… we are bound by paper to the Prince just as much as we could be bound by honor. So if we take leave early, I think it will cause a lot of trouble, and at the very least we would have to forfeit any of our earnings from this campaign. It isn’t fair, but it was what we agreed to. If you can convince the Chieftains to approach the Warleader about this, that is our best shot. Convince him not to let us go on our own way, but instead to see the importance in moving warriors to help this cause. The more leverage you have within the Clan, the better our odds at being able to leave and not have it create a problem. We may only be able to take volunteers or a small warpack and ship.” said Thrand.
“Ok, I will go and talk to any Stormjarl Chieftain I can find to explain the situation. If we can get a couple Chieftains to agree with us then we can go to Bolverk and hopefully he will hear us out with an open ear. He understands honor and a contract, but the situation has changed. If the Mordok are not stopped at Onsallas, then how far will they go until they are? They have to see the logic in that. As far as the Prince goes, he can keep his precious silver. I came here with you to strike back for Stormjarl and to help our Clan secure land if we could. At the very least hit one of Grimward’s allies. That was done, we have lost the push and we have probably secured all the land we can get without losing a lot more warriors. There are a lot of capable people here who can defend what we have taken. I am not downplaying the fact that we are leaving and hopefully with a few fighters. We should talk to Throm about this, I think he might be agreeable to it. He said he would join us in the campaign to repay us for rescuing him from Grimward captors; I think he would be willing to volunteer and go with us as well.” By now Fritha had stripped off her sweat soaked clothing to quickly wipe off and put on more presentable clothing before talking to the chieftains. “This will not be easy to convince them of the importance of this. I know they will not be happy to lose any more warriors than they already have to death and wounds. To lose such a good healer as you are, but I feel it needs to be done. The Mordok have been changing, the tactics they are doing is not normal for them. Something is going on. The corruption sites are growing in number and the corruption itself seems to be getting stronger… you saw Aimerick.” Her eyes cast downward at the memory. “This needs to be stopped, above all else. This is more important than revenge or conquering new land. Our people need help, Selena and Reyna were working hard to fight it. Now with Selena missing or worse… “
Thrand eyed Fritha intently, listening to her words. “I know, my love, and I agree with you. I think this is a sound plan and worth a try. Start with one of the Chieftains and if that doesn’t work, go to one of the Jarls. The subtle difference in their stations could matter quite a bit. I’ll try to assess the plan as well and see what I can do to prepare for it. I think the more we do to make this easy to agree with and show that this is well thought out the better.” Thrand spent a few moments thinking and removing his armor while Fritha was changing. He had the urge to cast his runes to see what they said, but in this instance he decided not to. While Thrand was a believer in the runes, he was also an advocate of free will. Sometimes you had to trust yourself and not an outside influence. “Go for it. Bend some ears. And you’re right; the Prince can keep his silver. Clan Stormjarl did the heavy lifting for his ambitious contract. We’ve done our job, now we have friends in need. I’ll tend to our armor and weapons and meet up with you later. While you are at it, try to convince them that sending us off with a small wagon or travois and some supplies would also be a good way to help.”
“Supplies are greatly needed, I will see if I can acquire some. The worth of the Longfangs are not lost on any of the Stormjarl.” Fritha walked over to her mate and leaned her forehead onto his. “The last few years have been more chaotic than I have ever imagined. But they have been bearable because I have had my best friend and mate with me through it all.” She kissed his forehead and stood back.
“OK, let’s go see about saving our friends.” she said as she made her way to the tent’s door.
– THE END