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Lord Durham

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The Humbling of Westmoreland


December 867 - April 868

With the brothers torn asunder, and seeing Ivar and Sigurd marcheth north, Halfdan, Ubbe and Bjorn did remain to siege the fortified town of Appleby. And on the thirty-first of December, in the year of our Lord 867, the town succumbed, being alone and with no chance of succour.




The Taking of Appleby


And as is want to happen, a Mercian army under the leadership of Mayor Ældraed slipped into Durham, now Dunholm, and set siege to the town of the same name. Halfdan, upon receiveth the news, did send word to son Ragnar in Jorvik to marcheth north and raise the siege. This he did, and upon reaching the town on the thriteenth of January, in the year of our Lord 868, did find the Mercians fled north to Northumberland.




The Sack of Lowther


During that time did the city of Lowther fall to Halfdan, who then proceedeth to Cartmel, a village granted Saint Cuthbert by King Egfrith of Northumbria in 677. But in February, as Gudfrid marched on Paris, the Mercian army under Mayor Ældraed did slip past Ragnar and into Jorvik where he set siege to the capital. Ragnar waxed incense, and did marcheth south where in April he did defeat Ældraed at the Battle of Richmond.




The Battle of Richmond, Where Ragnar Halfdansson Did Defeat Mayor Ældraed of Mercia


When Cartmel fell to Halfdan on April the Eighth, he did split his army and taketh half south from Westmoreland and into Lancaster, leaving Ubbe in Westmoreland to awatch over these lands and neighbouring Dunholm, for the enemy was ever vigilant.




The Fall of Cartmel



And as it happened, when word reached Halfdan of a great coalition arrayed against him, of several Kings and many Earls, he did send requests to King Bagsecg of Jylland, whose sister had married Ragnar Halfdansson, and, with great reluctance, to Sigurd, now called Snake-In-The-Eye, King of Sjælland...


From 'Being the Secret History of Geoffrey Monmouth'





...where Snake-In-The-Eye waited on a throne of skulls...


April, 868 - In the Court of King Sigurd

Snorri Einarsson strode along the dirt path flanked by armed, grimfaced guards, his mood sombre, yet simmering with an undercurrent of rage. Since arriving from the court of King Bagsecg of Jylland, Snorri had been led unceremoniously to a fish hut and bade wait several days on King Sigurd's sufferance. Wasted days of vital importance to his liege, King Halfdan, and the growing threat of the recently formed Anglish coalition.

And then word finally came that Sigurd would see him, and he was led along the winding dirt path to the summit of a knoll and into the log and pitch longhouse where Snake-In-The-Eye waited on a throne of skulls.

The mead hall was dimly lit from a scattering of braziers, the staid air pungent with the odor of sweat, ale and vestiges of an earlier meal. Two long oak tables ran half the length of the interior, one on each side, where were seated several dozen warriors staring silently with smouldering eyes.

Snorri paid them little heed,fixed as he was on the figure of Sigurd watching from the far end of the hall. A sudden hissing brought Snorri to a stop, and he looked down. A snake, some three feet in length, lay coiled before him. Dropping pretense of confidence, Snorri jumped back and stifled a curse. His face grew red as the men in the hall burst into laughter and insults.

Gathering himself, and throwing his shoulders back, Snorri stepped around the viper and continued his approach. Twice more he dodged snakes before halting before a bemused Sigurd.

The young King, his yellow, slitted eyes fixed on Snorri, said, "Do my pets vex you?"

Snorri turned and spit at one such creature coiled near by. The viper slithered back, jaw wide and fangs bared. "These are vile creatures, Sigurd. Need I remind you of your exalted father, thrown into a pit of these things to die a most dishonourable death?"

Sigurd clenched his fists as his eyes grew dark. "What do you want?"

"King Halfdan of Jorvik requests your aid against a--"

The young King's laughter was sharp and loud, echoed by the men in the hall. Knife pommels struck the table, and a general cry went up for mead.

Snorri crossed his arms and fumed. He had told Halfdan this would be a waste, and as the laughter continued, made to turn and leave, eager to be home. But movement in the darkest recesses of the hall behind Sigurd caught his eye. A man stepped from the shadows, and Snorri stifled a gasp. Dressed in a long cloth robe, with pasty white skin and eyes overlarge to the point of protruding from his fleshy face, the man, if that is what he was, slipped up to Sigurd and whispered in the King's ear.

Sigurd's laugh trailed off, and he looked over his shoulder to confer for several moments. When the robed man stepped back to disappear into the shadows once more, Sigurd said, "My dear brother desires my aid, does he? What does he offer?"

Snorri spread his hands. "Nothing but glory and an honourable death, as is the way of our kind. Know you I have recently come from the court of King Bagsecg of Jylland. I presented him the same terms, and he eagerly agreed to join my King."

"I see." Sigurd stroked his chin. "Very well. I forgive my brother and would make my peace with him, but on one condition."

Forgive? Snorri almost snorted at the thought. Still, he suspected what was coming. "And that is?"

"All spoils and prisoners will be divided equally, and I will have free reign to do with my Saxon captives what I will. Nothing more will I ask, and nothing less."

Snorri sighed, and nodded. "My King expected this, and has agreed."

Sigurd smiled, "Then let it be done. Now, enjoy our food and mead while we prepare for war." Leaning forward, Sigurd motioned Snorri to approach. Quietly he asked, "And what of Ivar?"

Snorri said, "Your brother campaigns in Scotland and has refused to treat with my lord Halfdan."

"I see. So, Halfdan comes to me. He must indeed be in dire need of aid if he deigns treat with Sigurd Ragnarsson."

Snorri considered the young, yellow-eyed man on his throne of skulls, and didn't answer...
 
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c0d5579

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Looks like Sigurd's corruption is either more subtle or not as deep as Ivar's, or perhaps he simply has a more practical bent in his service to the Old Ones. Ivar's refusal to deal with Halfdan is probably for the best for all the inhabitants of the British Isles, including the Danes, since that means the two halves of the Norse host act perpendicular to each other. I kind of look forward to the inevitable moment (at least in my games) where Bacsecg and Sigurd turn on each other for control of Denmark. For whatever reason, it seems like it'd play out like a larger-scale version of the cleansing of Innsmouth.
 

unmerged(174159)

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You're making me wish I hadn't decided to stick more fastly to reality (in terms of the characters at least). Great piece. Sigurdr is a truely vexing character for me, I do like it though. I wonder if Ragnar was aware of the old ones or corrupted like his sons are. The subtlety of the mutations here is pleasing for me, it reminds me of Lovecraft (obviously) but also of the 'Chaos' strain in Warhammer. The Northmen, mutated by forces beyond human ken...
 

VILenin

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Although the Saxon coalition is strong enough to force Halfdan to look to his brothers for aid, I fear that Albion stands little chance with the dark forces arrayed against it. Sigurd seems just as evil as Ivar, if less obvious about it. He doesn't seem to have Ivar's zeal, but that just makes him the more insidious for it. With any luck, he'll meet a Saxon's axe in the coming fight, though I doubt the Old Ones' influence will be purged that easily.
 

Seelmeister

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The image of Snake-Eye reminds me of illustrations of the Crimson King from the Dark Tower series. Another great update, looking forward to seeing how the impending war will play out.
 

Stuyvesant

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I was hoping Ivar was the only one corrupted, but honestly, with an epithet like 'Snake-In-The-Eye'... Hard times for Halfdan if he needs to make nice with another Old Ones worshiper. Harder times still for all the Saxons who will shortly be sacrificed. I hope Halfdan knows what he's doing, that he is not merely grasping desperately for whatever (tentacled) straw he can reach. And I wonder how much the Old Ones are growing in power, with the countless sacrifices being made to them.

The picture of the skull throne is not my favorite, to be honest (but I imagine there's not a whole lot of variety when it comes to picking 'Viking-themed thrones adorned with skulls' images ;)). It does convey that Sigurd is akin to Ivar, more a monster than a man. What I do really like, on the other hand, was the description of Sigurd's longhouse - the attention to smells as much as sights - and especially the snakes slithering over the floor. Those snakes really drive home how much Sigurd is not your 'average' viking, how alien he is. That was my personal highlight of the update.
 

J. Passepartout

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You know, there's a lot of talk about corruption here, but who doesn't want to worship the totally awesome Cthulhu? If you do, he will eat other people first. Save the best for last and all.
 

Lord Durham

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Sounds to be a bad time to be a Saxon ...
You may be on to something, Surt... ;)

Indeed. Do they even have any glorious or inglorious allies to call in, I wonder?
They've called in quite a few allies. Whether they are glorious, inglorious or just plain axe-fodder remains to be seen...

Looks like Sigurd's corruption is either more subtle or not as deep as Ivar's, or perhaps he simply has a more practical bent in his service to the Old Ones. Ivar's refusal to deal with Halfdan is probably for the best for all the inhabitants of the British Isles, including the Danes, since that means the two halves of the Norse host act perpendicular to each other. I kind of look forward to the inevitable moment (at least in my games) where Bacsecg and Sigurd turn on each other for control of Denmark. For whatever reason, it seems like it'd play out like a larger-scale version of the cleansing of Innsmouth.
Sigurd is taking his own path now. Ivar is somewhere in northern Scotland causing havoc. For now. I'm not sure if Sigurd and Bacsecg will be exchanging X-Mas gifts anytime soon.

You're making me wish I hadn't decided to stick more fastly to reality (in terms of the characters at least). Great piece. Sigurdr is a truely vexing character for me, I do like it though. I wonder if Ragnar was aware of the old ones or corrupted like his sons are. The subtlety of the mutations here is pleasing for me, it reminds me of Lovecraft (obviously) but also of the 'Chaos' strain in Warhammer. The Northmen, mutated by forces beyond human ken...
Taking a note from c0d, the corruption came from the mother's side. Ragnar may have been aware, but powerless to do anything about it. Or not. That actually gives me an idea. Thanks...

You know, I suspect you're going to play some Scandinavian heavy metal when you go to war...
Like ABBA? :)

Although the Saxon coalition is strong enough to force Halfdan to look to his brothers for aid, I fear that Albion stands little chance with the dark forces arrayed against it. Sigurd seems just as evil as Ivar, if less obvious about it. He doesn't seem to have Ivar's zeal, but that just makes him the more insidious for it. With any luck, he'll meet a Saxon's axe in the coming fight, though I doubt the Old Ones' influence will be purged that easily.
Great analysis VILenin. Sigurd originally followed the path of his older brother, but has decidedly taken a different route now that he's away from Ivar's direct influence. The Saxon coalition was pretty strong, forcing Halfdan to call for support. Sorry to say, no axe for Sigurd...

The image of Snake-Eye reminds me of illustrations of the Crimson King from the Dark Tower series. Another great update, looking forward to seeing how the impending war will play out.
Thanks! It will be a bloody affair :).

I was hoping Ivar was the only one corrupted, but honestly, with an epithet like 'Snake-In-The-Eye'... Hard times for Halfdan if he needs to make nice with another Old Ones worshiper. Harder times still for all the Saxons who will shortly be sacrificed. I hope Halfdan knows what he's doing, that he is not merely grasping desperately for whatever (tentacled) straw he can reach. And I wonder how much the Old Ones are growing in power, with the countless sacrifices being made to them.

The picture of the skull throne is not my favorite, to be honest (but I imagine there's not a whole lot of variety when it comes to picking 'Viking-themed thrones adorned with skulls' images ;)). It does convey that Sigurd is akin to Ivar, more a monster than a man. What I do really like, on the other hand, was the description of Sigurd's longhouse - the attention to smells as much as sights - and especially the snakes slithering over the floor. Those snakes really drive home how much Sigurd is not your 'average' viking, how alien he is. That was my personal highlight of the update.
Halfdan will treat Sigurd with some trepidation, but at the end of the day they are brothers. All of the sacrifices could just be the price required for success... or not... ;)

That picture wasn't my favourite, either, but it was the best I could find. And I searched for quite some time using a variety of key words. If I had the time I'd draw up some of my own. But alas. Thanks for the comments on the longhouse description. I try to use all of the senses when I write, where possible.

It seems you haven't run out of colourful characters of the wouldn't-share-my-mead-with kind... I imagine his throne of skulls is bespoke, lovingly crafted one head at a time, not IKEA pre-fab :eek:
Yes, with the name of each victim chiseled into each skull :). I'll see if I can keep those colorful characters coming.

You know, there's a lot of talk about corruption here, but who doesn't want to worship the totally awesome Cthulhu? If you do, he will eat other people first. Save the best for last and all.
That's right. Now that you've spoiled the ending... ;) (just kidding). Reminds me of the conclusion of the Elric of Melnibone series when Stormbringer turns on the albino. Never saw that coming...


Thanks again for the feedback. I hope to have an update ready in a couple of days. If there are any lurkers reading, I'd love to hear from you.

LD
 

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Just read through this, I have to say I've not enjoyed a narrative AAR so much since Rome ARRisen! Loving the way you portray the Viking scenes, as well as the modern Miss York and Carlos. A great read!
 

Lord Durham

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Just read through this, I have to say I've not enjoyed a narrative AAR so much since Rome ARRisen! Loving the way you portray the Viking scenes, as well as the modern Miss York and Carlos. A great read!
Why thanks. I really appreciate the kind words. I see more Viking mayhem in the runes as well as more York & Carlos. Their story is just getting started.
 

Revan86

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Still more in the wind-up, looks like! Between the Vikings we know and love and the Vikings who've gone over to the Great Old Ones, I agree that England's future does indeed look pretty bleak, grand anti-Hvitserk coalition or no grand anti-Hvitserk coalition. Brilliant update, Lord Durham, and very much look forward to more!
 

Lord Durham

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Still more in the wind-up, looks like! Between the Vikings we know and love and the Vikings who've gone over to the Great Old Ones, I agree that England's future does indeed look pretty bleak, grand anti-Hvitserk coalition or no grand anti-Hvitserk coalition. Brilliant update, Lord Durham, and very much look forward to more!
Thanks. The war is protracted, and I'm trying to balance between battles and character interaction with my posts.

My next update is 90% written. I'll have it ready for tomorrow. Note that I'm going to lay off posting most of my gaming screenshots for the next few updates. These were taken before I bought the 2 Vikings DLC, and they just don't look right. So bear with me for the nonce...
 

Lord Durham

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The Siege of Lancaster


May 868 - November 868

As King Bagsecg of Jylland and King Sigurd Ragnarsson of Sjælland did depart their countries leading mighty hosts, Halfdan laid siege to Lancaster, surrounded as it was by old stone fortifications builded by the Romans. And, finding no opposition from the peoples of Westmoreland and Dunholm, Ubbe and Bjorn did marcheth north into Cumberland. Here they sieged the fort at Burgh-by-Sands, which did layeth at the end of Hadrian's Wall. It is known the fort was builded by the Romans, who called it Aballava. Some professed Aballava was home to King Arturus, slayer of Saxons and possessor of Caliburn, though it is wide disputed. Indeed, I have wrote the true account of King Arturus in my Historia Regum Britanniae.




The Siege of Burgh-by-Sands


Cometh June, King Rodhri of Gwynned, who had freshly joined the war, entered Dunholm with intent to lay siege to Durham, but fled as it hence became known that Ragnar had marceth from Jorvik to confront him. And elsewhere, as the brothers Ragnarsson remained in Lancaster and Cumberland, did a combined Saxon-led host from Kildare, Northumberland and Wessex enter Westmoreland and set siege to the smallish garrison at Appleby.

In truth, Halfdan was loathe to break his siege of Lancaster, as he had performed much progress against the stone walls, and Bjorn and Ubbe were of same intent at Burgh-by-Sands. And when August cometh, the garrison at Appleby yet held, giving Halfdan resolve. Now, Earl Mugdon of Connacht, having saileth from Ériu, did with much boasting invade Dunholm, yearning for glory. But it was not so ordained, and on August the First did Ragnar, son of Halfdan, defeat the Earl at the Battle of Hartlepool, acquiring Mugdon as prisoner.

And so it happened that in September, in the Year of our Lord 868, that Ragnar did add to his fame by besting a second army in Dunholm, then did marcheth into Jorvik and defeat yet another.

Then came October the Fourteenth, with the fortifications at Lancaster being breached, and the town then belonging to Halfdan. Herewith, he divided sufficient men to lay siege to Preston and did marcheth with the remainder into Westmoreland, where he did meet with the armies of Sigurd and Bagsecg.




...young Gudfrid did return from raiding the Franks...


During which time, in Jorvik, young Gudfrid did return from raiding the Franks, bringing much spoils and prestige, while Halfdan, Sigurd and Bagsecg did meet the Saxon army on the Twenty-Sixth of November at Cartmel...


From 'Being the Secret History of Geoffrey Monmouth'





The Battle of Cartmel


November 26, 868 - The Battle of Cartmel

The clash of arms proved deafening when the Viking shield-wall collided with the Saxon host on the hills near Cartmel, under the ancient watch of the vast snow-draped fells standing strong in the distance.

In the front ranks of battle, standing foremost among the Vikings and anchoring a time-honoured position, Halfdan's axe rose and fell with near rhythmic poetry, shattering shields, cutting deep into helmeted skulls and cleaving leather-clad chests. Saxon blood sprayed in great gouts from each mighty stroke, coating body and face until Halfdan resembled a demon from Muspelheim, so that men soon gave ground in fear of his brutal visage.

And as the battle raged about him, and some distance to his left, Bagsecg of Jylland thrust at the enemy with a heavy oak spear, punching through shield, armour and body alike, shaking off limp corpses with a twist and pull of the deadly weapon while urging his men forward with cries of honour and glory.

Not to be outdone, Sigurd Ragnarsson, called Snake-in-the-Eye, wielded his blade with ruthless efficiency, slicing bellies so that ropy entrails slid to the ground through grasping fingers, or slashing exposed throats, laughing at the startled looks when his Saxon opponent would clutch the spurting wound while dying a slow death. And it is said that vipers coiled by his feet, striking unprotected calves and slithering along legs in search of exposed flesh.

The battle itself proved little more than a chaotic shoving match, lasting late noon to early evening, before the Saxon finally gave up the field to flee north and east to Northumberland, leaving their dead and wounded to litter the blood drenched hills.

Grimly satisfied at the victory, Halfdan sent his cavalry to chase down survivors, and then settled himself on a great rock with a horn of honey mead, a post battle ritual he favoured. Deep in thought, he was oblivious of the minor wounds crisscrossing his arms and breast, and the dried blood that painted him red. Here he watched his men and those of Sigurd and Bagsecg work through the field, plundering the Saxon dead while gathering their own wounded to nurse injuries and praise their deeds. He frowned deeply as he observed Sigurd's men collecting those Saxon wounded and leading them from the field, aware of his concession to his brother and conscious of the Saxon's fate.

Snarling, he looked away to spy a rider approaching with haste. One of Einar's horsemen. Comfortable on his rock, he took a long draught of mead and waited for the man to dismount and approach.

The rider strode up, envy written across his face at the sight of the battlefield and the ravens circling above. He dipped his head, grinning at the sight of Halfdan covered in blood. "My Lord."

"Aye?"

"The Saxon dogs have invaded Lancaster and march on Appleby."

"They do? And what of the men I left siegeing Preston?"

"Greatly outnumbered, my Lord. They follow me by a day's march."

Halfdan scowled. "I see. So, the Saxons seek to draw me into battle, then attack where I am not. Sly, even for them." He stood and drained the rest of the mead horn. "Very well. Ride back and tell those men to wait. I shall gather the army and join them on the morrow."

The man smiled through his thick black beard, his eyes darting to the carnage-covered battlefield.

Halfdan nodded. "Yes, you will have your chance to spill Saxon blood. Now ride!"
 

Tommy4ever

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I enjoyed the graphic description of Snake-in-the-eye's fighting, and the image of Halfdan looking over the aftermath of the battle. You're writing really is very emersive!
 
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