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Eadwulf 'the Rich'

"If we run out of stones, I volunteer the monks for ammunition."

0 · 219 views · located in Historical Saxon England, mid-800s AD.

a character in “Of Shield Walls and Old Gods”, as played by Nekriist

Description

Name: Eadwulf 'the Rich'

Age: 33

Height: 5'9''

Build: Wiry

Eyes: Light grey

Hair: Dark brown

Race: Anglo-Saxon

Nationality: Mercia(n)

Allegiance: None

Religion:
Non-specific

Occupation: Wanderer, masterless man, mercenary, information broker, 'trader' (cover)

Possessions of note: Battered Vendel helm with full mail aventail, battered mail tunic, splint armor boots, danish war-ax, Langsax Grimwulf, wooden shield, a silver Mjolnir pendant, and a silver crucifix

Story: Eadwulf was born the son of Beornoth, a huscarl in service to a young Mercian Earl named Leofric. At birth, it was decided that Eadwulf would learn the ways of the sword and shield, and serve as his father did in Leofric's household.

From the time he could walk, he was trained. Axe-craft, sword-craft, spear-craft and the art of the shield wall. All of these things were imparted to him over the course of his childhood. It was a happy time in his life. Until the raid of a Northumbrian hall bordering the wild lands of the Scots.

Leofric was a hard man to like. He was prone to violence, held a grudge, and had an insatiable appetite for women--whether they were spoken for or not. And it was over the wife of a Northumbrian Earl, the Beornoth's master ordered an attack on the man's hall. He would steal the woman, and kill the war. Should anyone ask, the blame would be placed squarely upon the Scots. No one would know the wiser, and Leofric would have a new plaything to warm his bed. On the eve of the raid, Beornoth back out. Honor overrode his oath of service. He was a kindly man, and would not commit murder to slake his lord's lust.

When his huscarl returned empty-handed, Leofric flew into a rage. He physically assaulted his servant, and threw his family out of the town. Yet the Earl kept Beornoth in his service, inflicting upon the warrior insults at every chance. For his part, the huscarl remained stoic, and continued to train his son in the arts of war. His hope was that having his son pledge loyalty to Leofric might mend the rift between both families.

Eadwulf was ignorant of all of this, as he finally reached manhood, and knelt to swear loyalty to Leofric. In the beginning, the Earl treated the young man well, maintaining a pretense that allowed Beornoth to believe that things were shaping up. But it was a ploy, one to regain the old warrior's trust.

A little over a year later, and Beornoth was ordered to ride to a nearby village on Leofric's lands. The small collection of huts was said to have been raided by a roving band of Welsh. The old man arrived with his loyal companions to find the place burnt to the ground. There he was ambushed, and killed with his men. Later, the body was discovered by Eadwulf himself, who had ridden out to find his father days later. As he wept over his father's corpse, he was imbued with an all consuming hatred for the Welsh. The circumstances of Beornoth's death was suspect to other men in the Earl's household, but Eadwulf himself had no cause to think of foul play. Why would he? He was the only man in Leofric's household who knew nothing of the hate between his father and his lord.

The death of Beornoth heralded a change in Leofric's demeanor towards Eadwulf. It seems the son had inherited the father's feud. Years passed, filled with insults and wounds to his pride. Riches gained would be equally allotted to all men, save Eadwulf, who only ever received a pittance. He was forbidden to live on the grounds of the Earl's hall, forced to live alone with his mother in a hut miles from his Lord. Place in the front rank of the Shield wall was always denied to him, despite proving his mettle in numerous skirmishes and battles.

But the loyalty beat into him by his father drove him to endure it all, to the frustration of the Earl. Yet every man has his breaking point. It was a cold winter night when Eadwulf had gone looking for a local girl he'd grown very fond of. Yet he could find her nowhere. All of his inquiries were met with shrugs or confused looks, until the priest who tended the town church took pity on him. She was, as the man put it gently, warming the Earl's bed.

So Eadwulf decided to get drunk. The young man likely would have gone home afterward, had he not stumbled past the hall, where he heard the coupling through the walls. It was the final straw. Years of insults, punishments, and starving due to being underpaid coalesced into a blinding rage. He came to standing over the disemboweled body of Leofric, with the girl staring in abject terror from the corner of the hall. Realizing what he'd done, he fled into the night.

Ever since, Eadwulf has been fleeing across England. To feed himself, he sells information to anyone in need of it, or offers his services as a mercenary. To him, honor is meaningless, discarded with his oath. This makes him a dangerous man, as the trappings of honesty no longer apply. And he's desperate. There are many who want him dead, and month by month, year by year, day by day they draw nearer to him...

So begins...

Eadwulf 'the Rich''s Story

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Character Portrait: Gisa Character Portrait: Eadwulf 'the Rich'
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Eddingbrook was under siege. A small island in a sea of an insatiable enemy, its flame was close to being snuffed out. In better times, it was the seat of Earl Hereweald, the owner of a small but respectable track of land in northern Mercia. But Earl Hereweald was gone, gone to fight the invaders with other Saxon Earls. With him, he took most of his household troops, and most of the fyrd--the peasant levies. What manned the wooden palisade walls were just under one hundred and fifty men, mostly peasants with farming implements.

However, fifteen oath-bound warriors remained behind under the command of Hereweald's Reeve, Cerdic. For poor Cerdic, he could neither yield the town nor hope to mount an effective defense without additional help. Yielding the town would break his oath to the Earl, and would likely mean rape for the women and death for the Christian clergy in the town. Defending the town at this point would only prolong it.

But Cerdic was a desperate man, and would scrape whatever resources he could from the influx of refugees and those traveling through. And most of those people had no choice. They were stuck in the town just like the inhabitants, surrounded by a force almost twice the size of the defenders. So many accepted a petty offer of silver for their lives simply because they had choice. Only one so far had refused to fight, and for Cerdic, that was a problem. One traveler of the kind he had been recruiting for days he could spare, but not the man who refused him.

"I implore you, please lend us your blade!" Cerdic pleaded. He was visiting the difficult man for the second time, in the sole tavern the town possessed. The place was called The Winged Pig, and it stunk like a pig pen. The place was loud with the voices of the patrons and the moans of whores rendering their services in the back rooms, though their spot in a secluded corner of the establishment made conversation possible.

The man before him had an expression of faint amusement on his face, as if this were a game to him. "That depends which blade you want to borrow. You can have my spear and axe, those are easy enough to find. But after the Danes kill you, I don't think i'll have much luck asking them for my sword back."

Cerdic wanted to backhand him that very moment. The reeve had only gotten one sentence out, and already it was going in the same direction their first talk had gone. Instead of lashing out, he shook his head, exasperated.

"But if you made your oath, my lord would gladly take it! He would grant you protection--lands even, should we triumph!" Whether or not that was true, Cerdic did not know. But he needed a trained warrior, especially one who had commanded others, and he would appeal to the man's sense of honor...if he still had any. "Eadwulf, please! Think of the folk that live here! You know what'll happen to them of the Danes take the town!"

Eadwulf, the man before him only shook his head, though the amusement written on his features disappeared. "I told you the first time, Cerdic, I don't swear oaths." He paused for a moment, and Cerdic thought he had gained some ground. Instead, Eadwulf gestured towards the other patrons in the tavern. "You'd be better off killing the women and priests now. There's no holding this town and the Danes have little patience for these standoffs. They'll likely bring terms to you later today, and if you refuse, they'll break down the gates and start killing. If you surrender, they'll probably do it anyways. I hear the man who leads them isn't known for his honesty."

Cerdic could only shake his head and growl as he walked away. "The blood that runs here is on your hands as much as the Danes if you don't stand with us."

Eadwulf seemed not to hear, as he'd already turned his attention back to scouring the insignia from his battered shield.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Gisa Character Portrait: Eadwulf 'the Rich'
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Gisa



Brown eyes stared into the dull and faded eyes of a woman who had long passed her hour, the man whom she committed adultery with lied next to her. Gisa watched her carefully, moving the woman’s face with the edge of her sword to examine the woman’s soft features further. Her head slightly tilted to the right as she focused on the dark marks that scattered the woman’s neck. A soft tap from the dull side of a blade brought her attention to a man that stood next to her, watching her with blue eyes. Gisa watched him from the corner of her eyes before they narrowed slightly.

With a silent grace, Gisa stood from the wooden chair she had sat so comfortably in and followed the blue eyed man out from the house to be met with a group of silent men who dressed similarly to Gisa and the man with crystal eyes. Typically, there wouldn’t be so many but due to the barking of the enemy that lingered close by, the Clan had decided to send more than the usual assassins to ensure that at least one of them made it back. Normally, she’d only travel with the blue eyed man but only on certain missions as he was a rank above her. He was a Frankish man who possessed the name of Sebastiane and had been a former Apprentice to Alfred before her therefore, the two got along quite well in silence.

Their reasoning for being in the town of Eddingbrook was simply due to an unusually high paying job that merely required regular-ranked assassins such as Gisa herself to perform the act of killing a cheating wife and her partner. However, due to the constant threat that so tightly guarded the walls around them, the pay was raised high and thus causing Gisa and Sebastiane to be sent with extra company. Although the extra members were proven a bit useless with the actual mission, it had not gone to vain in the overall reason since the group was now stuck behind the walls of Eddingbrook. The moment they entered, they were trapped within this town. It was apparent that it wouldn’t take long for the town to be seized over to the enemy which now loomed over it like a pending storm.

Even the Earl’s Reeve had instantly contacted them personally once he discovered that the small group had entered the town, promising high pay if they stayed and fought however it was all in vein as the group, even they wanted to, were not allowed to act outside of the Clan. Instead, the man was met with silence. After following them around for hours and being met with the sharp end of Sebastiane’s sword, he finally ceased his pestering and flew off in a different direction to buzz around another. The Vidar Clan’s rules were definite in their world and those who betrayed them where looked at as traitors and cast aside if not killed.

It was also the Clan that saved Gisa from a life such as the cheating wife’s or such as the whores who populated the nearby brothels or taverns. If it weren’t for her discovery of the Clan and its God, Gisa would be nothing but a concubine that had no value within this life other than the pleasing of men against her will. With this knowledge, Gisa regarded the Clan and its God, Vidar as her savior whom gave her a second chance at life and gave her free will that was often not permitted among women; impossible for women with such a background like Gisa’s. To this, she owed them her life and never once strayed from the path of Vidar as he was her only God and her only passage.

She had even gone so far as to disregard her gender completely and mutilate the lower half of her face to show her faith. Because of her loyalty, Gisa was next in line to perform the Grand Placement which included the fight to the death with a beastly wolf, sicken with illness and hate. Once she had completed that, Gisa would be welcomed within the higher ranks of the Clan and bestowed the greatest honor of all: the removal of her own tongue. Those who completed such an honorable sacrifice would be within the same ranks as Generals which are a selected few who could freely take on war tasks and higher status jobs.

The Generals were also the class underneath the Elders, which are the highest rank one could have within the Vidar Clan. While they no longer partake within missions, the Elders are quite powerful and the most loyal out of all of the members. They have not only passed the Grand Placement and removed their tongues but the Elders have also survived the wolf’s den. The wolf’s den is horrid place of which one must participate in to be able to qualify for an Elders’ position. A man, stripped of nothing but the clothing on his back, must fight to survive the Eastern Forest that boarders the Vidar Clan’s lands. These forests are said to be filled with treacherous monsters spawned from Fenrir himself. Many of the men sent there do not make it back.

A man in black clothing suddenly raised his hand up high, signaling that everything was safe for the group to enter the streets without being noticed. Because they were unable to leave at the moment, the group would have to suffice with staying in Eddingbrook until they could slip out underneath the chaos of the invasion and head back to their headquarters. For now, it would be considered a sin if they did not stop to enjoy themselves even a little, and treat themselves before they could escape. The group easily evaded the men who did their best in ‘protecting’ the small town and they made their way down the rocky, cobblestoned path.

Because of the group’s clothing, it wasn’t rare for locals to stop and gawk at them with curiosity and fear of the intimidation the majority of the group set off. While Gisa was not one that normally sets off any sort of intimidation thanks to her less noticeable height and smaller built (which surfaces even more when she is next to Sebastiane and the rest of the men in their group), her fighting abilities are quite skilled and may even be on par with that of Sebastiane who is her senior of seven years. Gisa’s major skill was her ability to become agile and quick, able to use full advantage of her small and lean but stocky stature. Whatever she lacked in force, she often made up in speed and whenever she needed to strike to kill, Gisa did not hesitate to put her entire body weight in her attacks.

While this method had made her quite the opponent, it often dulled her blade quickly which always made Gisa a frequent visitor to the Clan’s blacksmith. However, it was a technique that worked best for Gisa so she continued her way of fighting and killing- even if Sebastiane had irked her to switch methods during their various spars. Gisa’s brown eyes flickered over towards Sebastiane who was keeping an eye out for any suspicious figures that may suddenly threaten them. He was a man who was always cautious which made Gisa suspect that he possibly lost someone dear to him before he joined the Clan.

Perhaps the silence that the Clan members were subjected to endure were the easiest of tasks that the members could perform. One was able to get to know a person without words, able to recognize their body language and read their emotions that lied within their hearts lacking the hindering words that often betrayed the heart and mind. Gisa had made strong bonds with the men inside the Clan, many of them like Sebastiane knowing her true sex yet they completely ignored her and treated her like an equal. While she would never admit it to even herself, Gisa knew deep down that she wouldn’t hesitate to protect those like Sebastiane with her life.

A sudden hand gently touched her shoulder, pulling Gisa back to a stop and caused her head to snap towards the direction of Sebastiane who craned his head over in the direction of a small tavern. It had seemed that the group had settled on a place to enjoy their momentary peace. However, upon their arrival inside the tavern which was alive with chattering and distant moaning of the prostitutes that vacated the back, it seemed that Sabastiane had spotted something- or someone- unusual. Without the help of Sabastiane, Gisa was unable to see who he had spotted as Sabastiane was notorious for how sharp his eyes were, something that Gisa could never compete with. Though, with his help in positioning her elusively, Gisa was able to catch the Earl’s Reeve begging towards a man whose face Gisa and the rest of their group seemed to know all too well.

Eadwulf the Rich was man whose head was famous among the Vidar Clan as his bounty was about as abundant as the flyers that often littered the floors of the Clan’s job request room. He was so popular that various skilled men had all gone after him, each one of them coming back either empty handed or missing a limb. From what Gisa had heard, he was a man of remarkable swordsmen ship who mastered in war. Due to the Clan’s past experiences with this man, Gisa was prohibited to go after such a man unless she was accompanied by someone of a higher status than she. Coincidentally, Sabastiane along with the others were of a slightly higher rank than Gisa although Sabastiane, personally, has never showed such interest in one like Eadwulf. Perhaps it was because it involved him constantly searching after a man which was something Sabastiane rarely did as he generally picked easier jobs to perform for a quick pay.

Their group sat down at a nearby table that sat close to the entrance, deciding to rest a bit before roaming the streets once more. Because it was prohibited within the Clan to drink, the group only requested for water which was proven difficult since the bar tender had no clue what the man said. In the end, the member ended up writing whatever their order was on the wooden bar with a piece of chalk, aggravating the bar tender. Still, even while irritated with such a manner, he served them their drinks and wiped down the bar as he silently cursed them underneath his breath. Perhaps he wouldn’t have been so kind if the group themselves weren’t so intimidating or if the group didn’t pay him a bit more than what was needed too.

While the rest of the group gulp down their water while they rest, Gisa silently kept her brown eyes close to the man named Eadwulf while being cautious enough to not draw any attention to herself albeit a bit hard considering that her entire group brought attention to them but since Gisa was less noticeable out of the daunting bunch, she assumed that she’d be the last to be noted when one looked over. Even with her blood red mask on, she was still somehow less visible than the others.

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Character Portrait: Gisa Character Portrait: Eadwulf 'the Rich'
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Eadwulf spent the next half hour scouring the remaining paint from the leather cover of his shield. Crosses and saints were scoured away with handfuls of rough sand taken from a pouch on his hip.

His shaven face marked him out as Saxon, but his hair was verging on long in length, more in keeping with the Danes. This had been intentional, and he'd been growing the brown locks out ever since word of the invasion had reached his ears. Currently, it was tied back tight upon his scalp, and bound at the nape of his neck with a strip of leather.

Task finished, the man scrutinized the room with impenetrable grey eyes, framed by sharp cheekbones and a pointed chin. Eadwulf was a man who was quick to humor, but almost perpetually displayed a grim disposition. Thin lips twisted downward, in apparent apathy as he looked at the inhabitants of the bar.

As he scanned the patrons, his mind mulled over the conversation with Cerdic. The Reeve was a good man, and Eadwulf held nothing against him, but he wasn't about to sell his life for a town that looked impossible to save. Perhaps his lord would grant him protection, but it would matter little against the weapons his enemies could bring to bear against him. Already, he'd killed dozens of men who had come to take his life for the bounty that hung around his neck like lead weights. None had been successful, and if he were honest with himself, very few had been reasonably skilled enough to try.

Those failed attempts had only made him more dangerous, as he had learned what to look for, and who to look for. How to run, how to hide, and how to blend in. Still though, he would be found out on occasion, and his attacker would pay in limb or life.

Caught in thought, he almost failed to notice the new arrivals. But notice them he did. Outwardly, there was little to raise suspicion. But the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. Something faint tugged at the edges of his mind, and he fervently hoped that he was wrong. Eadwulf had hoped to reach the coast and sail to the mainland--perhaps Frankia--and find peace there. But if his gut was right, he might have been found out again.

A serving girl walked by him, and with a sudden motion, he grabbed the woman and puller her into his lap. "Evening darlin'! I haven't see you here before, perhaps you'd like to keep me company?"

With a grin, he slipped a scrap of gold into the hands of the wench and whispered to her. "Deliver a round to the table with the new folks after I leave. Tell them it's courtesy of 'the Vagabond'."

The woman looked at him for a long moment, not quite understanding the huscarl. The pause was beginning to unsettle him, so he gave her behind a good squeeze, and chuckled. "Just for a few minutes my dear? Perhaps you're in need of a good ride?"

Eadwulf was all charm as he beamed at the serving girl, who--face turned from the new arrivals--gave the Saxon a smile of her own. She understood, good. "Perhaps i'll have silver for you later my dear. Now, slap me before you walk off."

She did with gusto, leaving a livid red mark across Eadwulf's pale cheek. "Oh come now, I look better than most of the filth in this shack!" He called after her.

Satisfied, he stood up, and checked his gear. A torn mail coat, run through with rust, covered a threadbare tunic, and worn leather boots encased his feet. Splint-mail gauntlets were stuffed through his sword belt, where a short sword and battered helmet here strapped. A simple spear and a massive war-axe lay against the wall near him. Eadwulf strapped his shield across his back and picked up the two weapons, looking at the strange group from the corner of his eye as he strode out of the tavern.

Escape by nightfall seemed like the only course of action. Danes on the outside were bad enough. Possible killers on the inside made it all the worse.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Gisa Character Portrait: Eadwulf 'the Rich'
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Gisa



Gisa sat in her chair, her arms crossed over her flattened chest while her ankle propped itself on her knee as she watched the man from the corners of her eyes. Because of such grotesque scars that imbed themselves deep within her skin, Gisa rarely ate or drank in public. She refused to do so as the scar generally attracted a large number of unwanted attention as well as it made those around her nauseous. She assumed that the two whom accompanied her and Sebastiane had no knowledge that she had such scars.

Even Sebastiane had trouble eating around Gisa when her mask was removed although it was rare for Gisa to be around others when she had her meals or took the time to drink her fill. There was an invisible law between the Elders and she that Gisa was not allowed to remove her mask even in the corridors of the Vidar Clan. Of course if such things happened, she would not be penalized but the deadly stares she would receive were best avoided. It was only when she could retreat to her personal living quarters within the Clan’s territory that she could truly be herself in regards of clothing. Gisa seldom wore her mask or tied herself down when she was in her own house although she continued dressed like a man (this was particularly due to comfort more than anything as wearing a dress or other feminine clothing was so foreign to Gisa that it was troublesome).

A sudden movement caused Gisa’s eyes to shoot towards the man, acknowledging him pulling a wench upon his lap. She figured it was to crudely flirt with her as the rest of them around here do so and while she made a mental note of it, Gisa thought nothing significant of the casual act. However, this proved differed for Sebastiane as he began to watch the man and woman with his intense, icy eyes. Gisa lowered her head a little as if to release a silent sigh, keeping a sharp eye on both the man and Sebastiane who had seemed to notice something off. Gisa’s hand reached out towards her drink, grabbing hold of the lukewarm cup and began to tap her thumb against it. Momentarily, her brown eyes would shoot forward to watch the other two members who were now engaged in a quiet coin game as she was a bit interested in whoever the winner may be amongst the two.

It was how tense Sebastiane became that pulled her full attention away from the game and up towards the man who had made it apparent that he had been rejected by the tavern’s wench. If it hadn’t been Sebastiane’s odd body language, Gisa may have even been amused by how the man was openly slapped by the woman. Eadwulf stood and checked himself before exiting the tavern, causing Gisa to also tense as she wanted to stalk after him. However, Sebastiane’s stern hand that was placed on her shoulder prevented Gisa from moving any further. Before the group could even decide on what to do, the bar wench strode over towards their table and placed a scrap of gold down on their table, her dainty fingers tapping against it.
“Courtesy from that vagabond who just left,” She gave the group a wry smile that made Sebastiane narrow his eyes at her and Gisa’s brows furrow. The wench swayed away just as quick as she approached the group of wanderers, not even looking back when Sebastiane stood from the table so abruptly that it shook the cups.

The man turned towards the group and eyed them carefully, signaling that their rest time was over. Gisa, already knowing what may go on, stood immediately after and followed the tall, mud-blonde man out while the rest of their little party took their time exiting the tavern. Gisa knew that Sebastiane would do one out of the two options that was confronting them. One would be to silently tail the man and figure out his next stop while the other was to confront Eadwulf and challenge him openly.

Gisa felt that even while Sebastiane was a man who preferred an easier route such as tailing Eadwulf, she knew that no one could resist fighting a man with such odds against him. If he were to escape, then he’d have the Danes to face yet if he were to stay then he’d have to face four skilled assassins. It all seemed too good to pass up. However, midway through their stride to close the gap between the two and Eadwulf, Sebastiane came to a sudden stop and merely watched the man from a distance with only his blue eyes following behind Eadwulf. Gisa watched him with a confused look, her brown eyes flicking from Sebastiane’s crystal ones to Eadwulf’s back in obvious wonder as to why he ceased advancing towards the wanted man.

However, it was apparent that the two had followed him out of the tavern. Gisa watched him in silence before stepping out in front of Sebastiane, gripping her hand on her sword slightly and readied herself to either defend or attack although this action was halted by Sebastiane’s strength pulling Gisa back, preventing her from taking another step. This also told her that Sebastiane had no intentions of attacking Eadwulf nor did he seem to have any intent of furthering his pursuit after the wanted man. It wasn’t long before the two members of their party caught up to Gisa and Sebastiane, now realizing that the man the two followed out was the notorious Eadwulf. Even then, Sebastiane's hand rose up to prevent any thoughts from even circulating of attacking in then belated twos' heads.

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Character Portrait: Gisa Character Portrait: Eadwulf 'the Rich'
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Eadwulf grunted to himself as he left the tavern. He had noticed the group of newcomers following him out of the tavern. So his gut was right, they were after him--or at least knew him. However, he kept walking. Outside the bar, the atmosphere was downright miserable. Here and there people trudged through the dirt streets, heads down, and a look of terror or resignation in their eyes. On corners, wild-eyed priests and monks raved about the Danes.

"THE NORTHMEN ARE A PLAGUE SENT BY GOD TO PUNISH US! WE HAVE BEEN LAX IN OUR FAITH, AND GOD HAS SEEN FIT TO PUNISH US WITH THE HEATHEN SCOURGE."
One apoplectic cleric screamed.

"GOD COMMANDS YOU ALL TO TAKE UP ARMS AND FIGHT THE HEATHEN! GOD BLESSES THOSE WHO KILL UNBELIEVERS IN HIS NAME! FOR CHRIST WE SHALL BATHE IN THE BLOOD OF THE DANES, AND HE SHALL GRANT US VICTORY!"
Shouted another.

The huscarl ignored them, noting with amusement how few people actually bothered to listen. They had heard the rumors, the stories. Many survivors of other raids had passed through Eddingbrook and spread their terror like a virus. Men not manning the walls stood around, sharpening whatever weapons or farming tools they possessed. Women and children dug in the dirt near their homes, preparing to bury their valuables. They seemed to think they would live to recover them--and that the Danes were inexperienced enough to miss the obvious hiding spots.

As he walked, he thought of how to handle his trailers. Escape was still his plan, but should something be done in the meantime? Glancing quickly over his shoulder, he noticed that he was still being pursued. Of the four, he only took stock of two. What he presumed was the leader seemed cautious, but very capable. Next to him was the shortest of the group. Eadwulf assumed it was a young man--possibly a boy--by the short stature, and tended to stay close to the leader. Yet like that leader, the boy looked dangerous. The other two looked like they knew the killing business, but the saxon suspected he could take them easily.

Perhaps he should send them a message. So Eadwulf decided to take a gamble. To his immediate left was a dead-end alleyway between a smithy and the town church, and he abruptly turned and walked down it. Once he could go no further, he set his shield, axe, and spear against the wall. Those weapons and shield would be useless in the tight confines of the alley. This would be a fluid fight, not the grind of a shield wall, so a shield would do him little in a fight against the men following him.

A helmet, though, would be useful. So he put on the vendel-helm he carried with him.

There he stood in the alley, facing the opening. The helmet had a veil of chainmail that covered the entire lower half of his head, face and neck. The spectacled nose guard cast impenetrable shadows over his eyes, looking like pits of blackness in the dimmer light of the alley. Splint-mail gloves covered his hands and wrists. In one hand he had his prized possession. Grimulfr was a short sword--a langsax. It was a single-edged weapon with a thick spine, that dropped severely towards a wicked point with the sharpened edge. Above the fuller were inscribed runes that proclaimed the weapon's name. In the opposite hand was a dagger-length saxe of a similar style to his short sword, but bereft of ornamentation or inscription.

If they wanted his head, they would have to take it, and Eadwulf had no intention of handing it over.

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Gisa



Gisa’s brown eyes held the man’s as he glanced over his shoulder, almost glaring at him as he examined her and Sebastiane. The other two men who stood by them seemed anxious as they began to silently recall the stories they’ve heard of Eadwulf, realizing just how dangerous he was and suddenly became thankful that Sebastiane had stopped them from blindly heading into battle. His hand was still raised in the position, matching Eadwulf’s eyes before narrowing down into a small scowl when the wanted man took a turn down the alleyway.

Gisa could tell the wanted man was irking them for a fight and while she knew there was a possibility that she would be unable to match his strength completely, Gisa could not deny the hidden bloodlust that crept into her heart and beckoning her to follow him. She wanted to test her skills, to see how strong she had truly become. What not a better opponent than the man who sent countless of Clan members back to the territory with their tales between their legs? Gisa gripped her sword, knowing that violence would only lead to bloodshed. She closed her eyes to try and calm her racing heart, carefully listening to the pathetic townspeople speaks of their God.

It was quite pitiful to Gisa as their God seemed useless in this kind of situation. Their God was punishing them because their faith was not strong? It seemed like a ludicrous idea as religion should not be pushed onto another but rather an idea or path that should be chosen and a path that should be followed. One should not be punished because they are not faithful to their God; they should be obliged to serve their god regardless of whatever tragedies life throws at them as it is their God that had saved them from even worse fate. Gisa’s brown eyes peered over at a priest who continued to protest the punishment that their god had bestowed on them. He quickly grew quieter when he met her eyes, seeing her growing malice towards his words as well as the bloodlust that seemed to cultivate within her despite her attempts to suppress such a feeling.

Sebastiane quickly caught onto Gisa’s feeling as his hand quickly lowered and he advanced forward towards the man who had disappeared into the alleyway. Gisa followed him, now glaring at the two men who hesitated to come forth with them. She couldn’t help but internally scuff at their cowardice. It simply amazed her at how some men could be looked up at a higher class than women as they were as spineless as the children who became Apprentices to the Generals. Here Gisa was, readying herself for a battle yet the men behind her wavered when possibly faced with death. Those who faltered at death’s door did not deserve the title of being known as a member who was a part of the Vidar Clan and if it were not for Sebastiane, she’d cut them down right there.

The two behind her must’ve caught a glimpse of her thoughts as they quickly charged forth, stopping hastily once they where shoulder by shoulder with Sebastiane. The contagious bloodlust that was now coarsing through Gisa’s veins seemed to float in the air, contaminating the two men, giving them sudden courage to rush into battle. Gisa gripped her sword as they entered the alley way, readying herself for the fight. If she hadn’t the mask on, one would see a joyful smile that truly pictured her femininity. However, before she could even take a step further, following the two men who charged after Eadwulf who was now welcoming them with open arms, Sebastiane roughly grabbed her should and yanked her backwards.

He held her there for a few moments until she was able to understand that he wanted her to wait. Gisa knew very well why he did such a thing as Sebastiane was quite the cunning fox in battle. Never did he rush in like Gisa or others do but instead set up pawns that did the battling for him. He’d watch the opponent’s skill in silence and pinpoint their weak points as well as their strong points, therefore when it was his turn to fight, he’d have the superior knowledge of his opponent in battle. This type of style was truly frightening as no one could be certain what Sebastiane may be thinking or who his next pawn would be. Gisa knew his style all too well as she had been by his side countless times when they fought others. She had been a pawn once before but was much too persistent and skilled in her speed to be killed, thus creating his favoritism towards Gisa which ultimately started off their friendlier relationship.

Now, Sebastiane never allows Gisa to charge into battle first but instead, permits others to do so. However, in this case Sebastiane was more concerned that he may have to send Gisa in as a pawn in order to see the man’s real power as it was apparent that the two men together may not seem like a match to Eadwulf. Sebastiane’s blue eyes narrowed down in concentration, quickly flicking over towards Gisa who silently watched the fight as it began. He read her anxious excitement and budding bloodlust. Even Gisa knew she may not be a match for Eadwulf but as stated before, she did not care. Perhaps that was the difference between them and Gisa- she never hesitated. It was what made her deadly in battles other than her combat skills.

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Eadwulf's face twisted into a brutal grin, though it was hidden beneath the veil of metal the obscured his face. His eyes, hidden in shadow were lit with a savage hate at these upstarts. He had fought countless men, killed a majority of them, and yet these fools would dare to raise a hand towards him? No, no, that would not do. There would be blood today, much blood.

Two of the four advanced down the alleyway, towards him, and he hefted his weapons. There was enough space in the alley way for both to confront him--just barely. Both had mail, which he could see jutting from beneath their tunics. Perfect work for the wickedly pointed blades in his hands. They came forward, murder their intention, but Eadwulf met their gaze with the black pits of his pitiless helmet.

What he did notice as he advanced was that both of these men moved with a severe economy of motion. They were graceful, like dancers, a result of years and years of training. Men like this were rare for a breed like Eadwulf, and he switched the grip of the dagger in his offhand to reverse, the blade held downward. What they had in speed and cunning he matched with an insatiable fury. Brutality was his companion, and he would tear these men to pieces. Assassins were cowards, and they would die like cowards.

When they reached a distance of only four paces apart, both men moved to the left and right, and Eadwulf kept walking. Both men struck at once. The first went for a stab towards his left kidney, the other with a thrust towards his right eye. Both strikes were lightning fast. This was the moment the blunt force of a warrior met the grace of a trained assassin. The huscarl batted the upper thrust aside with his dagger, and planted his foot into that attacker's chest. While that man was staggering back, he chopped with his short sword at the arm that struck at his side. In a gush of crimson, he severed the man's arm below the elbow. With one assassin kicked onto his back, Eadwulf slammed the other against the wall, and roared as he slammed his dagger into the attacker's liver over and over, the point spearing straight through mail. Blood flowed out of the numerous wounds and spattered the front of his mail shirt, and he dropped the screaming man just as the other had regained his feet.

One man was down, screaming and bleeding and clutching in vain at his torn side. The other had gotten to his feet and advanced more cautiously this time. Eadwulf simply glared through the eye holes of his helmet. The remaining opponent took a test swing at the huscarl, who backed up a step. Another test swing, and this time, Eadwulf stepped inside the arc of the blow, grabbing the assassin's collar and pulling him into a brutal headbutt. Not once, not twice, but three times he brought the brow of his steel helmet into the unprotected face of his assailant, turning the man's face into a pulp of lacerated flesh, broken teeth and cartilage.

As the assassin staggered back, he straightened his short sword and stabbed the man through the throat so hard, he pinned him to the wall of the smithy that made up one side of the smithy. Eadwulf left that man gagging and vomiting blood through a ruined neck as he went back to the other attacker, who was still in the process of bleeding out on the ground. He paused, fixing the two who had not attacked with a pointed glare, before snarling and stamping his foot down on the dying man's neck over and over until he was dead.

In the process, the other had died, still pinned to the wall of the smithy, the heavy body finally pulling the sword out of the wood. Eadwulf grunted and pulled his sword out of the body before retrieving his dagger. Two more were left, and the warrior stared at them, standing in a mire of blood, much of it dripping from his soaked armor.

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Gisa



Her brown eyes locked into place with the man as he mindlessly butchered the two men who had gone after him. She couldn’t help but to shake from the growing excitement, wishing it would be her turn to fight. Sebastiane stayed in complete silence as his face became stone with only icy eyes that would every so often shoot over towards Gisa before being drawn back to the man who was no longer a man but beast. He could see the bloodlust radiating off of her body like sweat in a summer’s day and Sebastiane couldn’t help himself but to let out a small scuff which caused an ever so small smile to tug at his lips. Gisa wouldn’t be killed so easily like those men nor would she allow herself to be murdered by the hands of some criminal.

Eadwulf began to stomp on the man’s head, crushing it like a pumpkin while the other one who was now pinned to the smithy gave his last choke and coughed out whatever blood had seeped into his lungs. He dangled there in silence. Gisa’s smile was now apparent through her mask and gave her an odd look, as if she was merely a charming woman who had just been proposed to by the man she loved. Sebastiane’s eyes widen slightly at this sudden change within Gisa; no matter how many time he fought with her, he could never get over the shock of how maidenly she could look whenever she sees an opponent she knows she cannot defeat. It all seemed like a mere game to Gisa whenever she fought, her odd palate perhaps forming when she gains knowledge that there may be a possibility of death.

Without even a signal from Sebastiane, Gisa charged as soon as he looked up to glare at them. She did not hesitate nor did she move gracefully as the assassins before her did. Her quicker movements where completely different from those before her as they were much more erratic and crude, not even pulling her sword from its sheath until she was mere inches away from him. She didn’t even bother to strike to kill him but instead took the blunt end of her sword and slammed it hard against his head, knocking the helmet clear off of his head with as much force as she could muster while running at full speed. As soon as she passed him, Gisa counted her steps backwards and swung her sword, giving Eadwulf a deep wound that began at his nose and stretched out towards his ear.

All the while, Gisa still had the same loving smile on her face that was now becoming more apparent with closer inspection. She no longer looked like a young man as she had before, not even resembling a male. Without another second to spare, Gisa stepped forward once more, trying to gain momentum to swing at him once more with a greater power behind her. To help her with this, Gisa dragged her sword on the dirt ground, causing Sebastiane to nervously bite his tongue as he detested the mistreatment of her sword. It wasn’t until she was closer to Eadwulf that she raised her sword and lurched it forward right against his arm although the attack wasn’t at full force due to her miscalculation of space available. To prevent herself from coming close enough to him where he could easily strike her with his dagger, Gisa ended up driving her knees into the ground to just barely avoid him, sending her into a rather large puddle of blood that soaked her clothes.

Sebastiane continued to stay silent although it was apparent that he too was growing quite restless. Gisa was becoming reckless with her fighting and not taking in account of her surroundings. If she hadn’t stopped herself sooner, Eadwulf would’ve been able to slice her right there. Gisa stood and jerked her sword to clean it of loose dirt and blood, her brown eyes intently staring at Eadwulf before she leaned forward and advanced with another attack, this time aiming for his covered hands to try and dispel whatever armory he had on him, her sword raising up to take defense if she needed to.

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Eadwulf snarled, sending flecks of blood outwards with his breath. "Whelp!"

He slapped the blow aimed for his wrist away, and followed it up with a backhanded fist to wipe the expression off his--no, her--face. That most of all shocked him. Over the years, he'd faced opponents who had wounded him, and that was something he'd expected. But from a woman! The thought left him speechless. It wasn't so much that he detested it, but in a society in which women were considered practically second class, the idea had never occurred to him.

As his opponent reeled, he dropped the dagger in his off hand. "You dare attack me?!" He screamed, incredulous. "I've faced the shield wall, fought duels, and made widows--orphans!"

As he advanced, he deflected another blow with a swipe from his short sword. Implacably, he moved forward, the fury in his eyes an almost physical incandescent. Tangles of brown hair had fallen loose from the leather tie at the back of his head, matting and tangling in the sheet of blood that ran down his face, making him look even wilder. "I've killed men better than you before they reached manhood."

At this point, his sword was simply a tool of deflection. Humiliation was his objective. Another attack was swiped aside, and he drove his fist into the woman's face again, driving her back. "You're no better than the others," At this point, Eadwulf's voice was a quiet hiss, loaded with as much hate as his psyche could muster. "you linger in shadows and stab at the back! You have less honor than I!"

Eadwulf spat on the ground in derision, the blood running from his face mixing with the saliva. The two dead bodies behind him were nothing. If they wanted his life, it the price would be more dear than that. Were his anger and hate a physical thing, it would have melted the earth beneath him, and set fire to the town. As furious as he was, his focus narrowed to a state close to tunnel vision, almost entirely focused on the woman before him. He hefted Grimulfr, and then changed his footing before tossing the blade unexpectedly to his opposite hand.

He shuddered with fury, as if his iron will was straining to contain the volatile emotion within. A deep breath calmed him, but the near-depthless rage--built up over years of running--still burned in his flint-grey eyes.

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Gisa



The man snarled violently at Gisa, practically taking her in surprise by how he so easily blew off her attack which sent her back a few steps. Gisa held her sword slightly as she watched him carefully, just avoiding the physical attack that was meant to wipe her grin off of her own face. It had seemed that Gisa’s gender was quickly figured out which didn’t shock her that much as she was a woman after all but it did make her subtly cautious. She knew very well that an opponent’s strength could easily change drastically after discovering that a mere woman who only stood above one’s shoulder could have so simply cause an injury to him. Women, after all, were expected to serve a man and his wishes whether that would be of sexual desires or marital, not to fight in battle beside or against him.

"You dare attack me?! I've faced the shield wall, fought duels, and made widows--orphans! I've killed men better than you before they reached manhood.” Gisa didn’t wait for his little speech to finish as she was already lunging at him, her sword sparking with his as he deflected her attack. Gisa slid her sword down his and pressed her weight into the weapon to try and make him retract however, she was unexpectedly met with a hard fist that sent Gisa backwards. She struggled for her footing, initially shocked that he would punch her. Gisa, while remained in perfect silence, couldn’t help but to shoot her hand up to her now broken nose as it gushed out blood. It blended perfectly well with her velvet red mask despite the darker wet spots that now pooled around the end of her nose and mouth.

"You're no better than the others, you linger in shadows and stab at the back! You have less honor than I!" Gisa’s eyes narrowed at Eadwulf, suddenly matching his potent and demonic glare he sent towards her. If this man knew the way of war and battle, he would realize that there was no such thing as honor or rules. To fight dirty to survive was by all means something everyone had did. Gisa’s brown eyes caught the glimpse of the sun that poured down from the building which made them seemingly glow as she watched him spit to the ground. Gisa positioned herself, leaning forward before taking off at full speed once more. This time, she calculated the space available to her and knew that this would be a definite hit. She’d strike the arm wielding sword to render him one arm useless.

She raised her sword to strike when he suddenly switched arms. It wasn’t the fact that Eadwulf had switched hands as she’d still continue to strike his arm however the fact that she’d have to either continue through with her blow or deflect his sword was. The choices she had at the moment were to either both strike and be stabbed or to deflect and risk the chances of being hit. Gisa gritted her teeth, readying herself for the wound she would have to suffer in order to get a decent blow into him. Her sword came down with such force it dug deep into his arm. She dragged her sword out, suddenly feeling the dagger-like sword entering her side. The pain, while not the worse she’s experienced, quickly made her falter. While her armor beneath her clothing had prevented the small sword from damaging organs, it was broken through and caused a wave of pain to shimmy through Gisa’s body.

She quickly retreated with an obvious satisfied look on her face that she was able to still strike down on his arm even while Gisa’s blood began to deepen the red on her clothing. Gisa glared hard at the man, a cynical smirk on her face as if to mock him. Sebastiane took a small step forward but quickly stopped himself. If he entered now, Eadwulf would not be the only worry he would have to deal with as Gisa was quite the murderous woman when one interfered with her fight. He had witness countless time when she’d taken an arm or bed ridden a man because they figured that she needed their help. The entire Clan learned quickly to never interfere. Sebastiane’s hand cradled his rugged chin as he restlessly looked on at the fight, hoping that if Gisa did not become the victor, she’d at least survive the fight.

The pain that throbbed from her side reminded Gisa of a similar pain that once engulfed her body and she quickly remembered the pain of being sliced from her lower face all the way down to her chest. Gisa quickly deemed this as nothing more than an abrasion- not matter how deep it seemed. As long as her vital organs were not hit, Gisa would fight. The blood leaking from the wound she received from the dagger-like sword dripped down, dropping small droplets to the ground as she stood there. Gisa’s cynical smile still sprawled on her face through her mask as she watched him begin to spill blood on his arm as well, as if she was challenging him to attack once more.

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Eadwulf snarled and spat on the ground, saliva flecked with the blood that flowed down his face. He was beat up, but alive, but he was tiring, and had to end this game. The woman was damn good, he'd give her that. But the shock of her gender and the wounds he'd suffered had faded, and now the game was over. His message lay in the two broken, brutalized corpses behind him in the alley, twitching in a growing lake of blood. The message was 'leave me the hell alone, you know now what happens to those that don't'.

When the woman made another move, he flicked the wrist of his good hand, which managed to cut the shoulder straps of one side her armor. It would have gone further, had her lightning reflexes not deflected blade. Which left her open for another solid fist. His arm throbbed with pain, and while it wouldn't hold a sword steady, he could still make a solid fist. It connected with the side of her head. A return swing from the woman scraped across his mail armor before catching on the tear in the metal shirt, opening flesh there. Eadwulf growled and stalked forward through the pain. She struck again, and the huscarl slapped the blade aside with his own, and grabbed the would-be assassin by the collar of her armor. As he tore at the remaining straps that held her armor to her body, she struck at him again. So he slammed his knee into stomach. Reeling, Eadwulf savaged the armor off of her before kicking her back into the man who had thus far done nothing to intervene.

"Your woman is good, but good isn't good enough." he said, inspecting the armor in his hands. It was fine armor, and rare in England. It would make a good addition to his mail armor. As he stared at the chest piece, he noticed the woman moving to stand up. Eadwulf managed a grin through the pain wracking his body. "I suggest," he began, fixing the man with flinty grey eyes.

"That you put the leash on your bitch, unless you want her to end up like the other two." Eadwulf jerked his head back towards the two bodies behind him. "That is my message to you. I've killed many before you, and I have no reason to believe you'll be the last. But take your chance now, and leave me be. This," He held up the lamellar coat. "Is the price of your failure. and a small price at that. Tell whoever hired you that they'll go bankrupt before they kill me. Are we good?" Again, the woman struggled to her feet, and the huscarl quirked his brow at the man. "Are. We. Good?"

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Gisa



She stood, glaring at the man who held her armor up in place of her life with such malice that one may even feel it resonating off of her. Gisa breathed heavily, her body now covered in blood as her unkempt shoulder length hair fell from its masculine bun. Her shirt was torn, hanging desperately onto her iron belt that once kept her armor in place on her body. The fabric that tightly tied her breasts down flat was now ripping, weakened and bloody from the battle enough to show cleavage from the pressure that was applied on her breasts; her heavy breathing only emphasized the amount that showed.

Sebastiane narrowed his icy eyes at the man who continued to speak, Gisa completely ignoring the two as she charged forward, stumbling on her own feet as she tried to desperately get back the armor. However, a tight and threatening hand loomed over her bare shoulder which jerked Gisa back, causing her stumble back towards Sebastiane. "Are. We. Good?" The man before her spoke, causing Gisa to look up over her shoulder towards Sebastiane, her eyes filled with hate and confusion. The man behind her with simply closed his eyes to avoid Gisa’s angry gaze, promising her that he’d take any sort of beating she had for him later.

He merely pulled her behind him with such force that Gisa practically tumbled into the dirt. She sat back and watched the two men silently with furious brown eyes, not believing that Sebastiane would not only stop her but humiliate her upon the wanted man’s wishes. Sebastiane stepped forward towards the man but stopped watching him carefully. The man’s blue eyes merely shot towards the two dead bodies that lied besides Eadwulf as his hands slowly went up, trying to portray that he was of no threat. Sebastiane even bent down on his knees and placed his sword in front of him before walking towards the dead bodies with caution, leaving Gisa only to glare at Eadwulf with such hatred it practically resonated off of every pore in her body.

Sebastiane picked up the bloody mangled bodies and tossed them over his shoulder, cautiously walking back towards Gisa. He picked up his sword before taking one last look at Eadwulf then grabbing Gisa roughly by the arm, ushering her out while she resisted. Gisa was worst than dead- she was humiliated beyond belief. So much so that Eadwulf did not see her as a worthy enough opponent to even bother with killing her. Her fists became white as she was practically dragged from the scene by Sebastiane, the mangled bodies over his shoulder causing gasping and screams as he entered the streets. As soon as Gisa entered the streets wish him, she turned around and hit him with such force it caused him to buckle over slightly, struggling to keep the bodies up on his shoulders.

Gisa was beyond pissed but her pride was too damaged to even stride back into the alleyway in her condition. She looked at Sebastiane with anger contorting her face as she silently protested against him. Sebastiane’s blue eyes placed themselves on her for several moments before he pulled a bloody torn shirt off of the mangled bodies and throwing it over her head, causing Gisa to become even more agitated with the entire situation. She was an assassin, not some woman others can protect. Gisa pushed him hard enough for the bodies to fall off of his shoulder as she shuffled on the blood soaked fabric, walking ahead of the man who slowly bent down to pick up the body and walked behind her.

For now, she'd leave Eadwulf alone. One thing he was right about was the fact that she was still too weak to win in a fight against him. Her only decision left other than death was to become stronger and cast her revenge onto him. This mere thought made her knuckles go completely white as she fisted her hands. Not only had he cut down her pride and injured her enough to render her practically useless in battle but he also took the only memento that Alfred had left her before his death. In Gisa's eyes, that deserved punishment worse than death.