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MISFORTUNE COMES UNINVITED
As his drakkars glided on the gentle tides of Lake Eitrivatnen, Jarl Jafnhar watched the blood sky over the horizon. Weeks of war had churned fires and death, projecting a thick crimson across the firmament. This did not concern the Jarl. He sailed forth with the utmost sense of confidence and pride. In one month, he had led the Vikings to victory in the Battle of Ilkarya’s Barrier, destroyed the Wardens of Lion Wastes, and became the ‘Bone Crusher’, the first Highlander Jarl in Viking history.
Crushing the Knights of Eitrivatnen would be child’s play. Isolated from all, and lacking the supplies to feed everyone, the fortified port was no longer a haven for the Knight legions that had sought refuge there. It was now a death hole that needed a little spark to implode.
Jafnhar knew he had the means to become such a spark, but a loud crash caught him off-guard. Underwater barricades set by Badefol, Knight Commander of Eitrivatnen, had destroyed some of his ships. The Knights would need more than a few wooden pikes to stop the Bone Crusher though. From the harshest winds of Njord to the cruelest tides of the divine Aegir, the Jarl’s trireme had survived much worse.
Jafnhar reached the shoreline and pierced the Knight defenses rapidly. He and his warriors moved to Eitrivatnen’s barracks and clashed with Commander Badefol. After an easy fight against the wounded Knight, Jafnhar tossed Badefol on the ground and brandished his mighty blade Caladbolg. That was when a sinister voice rose from the shadows and whispered, “Mala ultro adsunt.”
The Jarl shivered. Vortiger, here? Impossible! Almost a decade had passed since their last duel, but Jafnhar could still feel the twinge of the Black Prior’s blade gashing his thigh. Invigorated by his thirst for vengeance, the Highlander stepped away from Badefol and faced Vortiger.
Their blades clanged loudly. Their fight lasted what felt like hours until the Black Prior staggered for the first time. This was the opening the Bone Crusher needed to fell his opponent. He slammed his blade to break Vortiger's guard, but the man stood tall behind his massive shield. How could that be? No one had ever resisted the mighty blow of Caladbolg! Out of rage, the Jarl rushed at the Black Prior, but an immense pain suddenly struck his chest. Vortiger's longsword had shattered his clavicle. A thick darkness seeped in and shrouded the Highlander's eyes...
As all fell silent, the Black Prior lifted his kite shield and sent the Bone Crusher to the grand Halls of Valhalla.
A DARKNESS GROWS
Despite Jafnhar's defeat, the Knights did not welcome Vortiger as their new savior. Many legions in Ashfeld were still bearing the scars of the Black Prior’s deeds under Apollyon’s rule, and they wanted to see Vortiger face the Lawbringers’ judgment.
The man was jailed in a dark cell with a young thief named Aguri. A quick glance at Vortiger made the thief pray for the Gods’ aid. She was no warrior but knew all about the Black Priors, the unruly Knights who would draw out the ‘true wolves’ for the Blackstones. Her fear grew as she witnessed a strange hawk fly to their cell window, and the Black Prior spoke to it in Latin.
Then Vortiger girded his bracers, and she noticed something very startling in his eyes. The absolute absence of fear.
Suddenly the walls of their cell started to crumble. As Aguri cowered in a corner, she heard the weakened warriors of Eitrivatnen screaming in terror. Their leader was away on the battlefield, and Daimon, the Samurai Daimyo of Westhold, was attacking the harbor with his vast army. Vortiger gripped his silver blade and shield, then stepped into the red haze as explosions rained from above.
The young thief stared after him. She realized Vortiger feared nothing because he was fear itself.
A myriad of hawks obscured the crimson skies for a brief moment. Then more Black Priors revealed themselves in the crowd, and slaughtered all the Samurai. After more than a decade of silence, the Black Priors of Vortiger won the Battle of Eitrivatnen for the Knights, and blessed the walls of their new home with the blood of their countless victims.
A PATH OF AGONY
Knight Commander Badefol had left Eitrivatnen to the hands of his best lieutenants while he hunted Jafnhar’s followers in Lion Wastes. He had not expected the Samurai to attack his harbor so quickly. He should have known better – after all, was not Daimon ‘the Scavenger’ the one who would always chase easy victories in weakened territories?
He knew in his heart that without the Black Priors, Eitrivatnen would have been lost to the Samurai. No matter how hard Badefol tried to tame Vortiger and his Knights, the Gods had decided otherwise. But he still planned to call the Lawbringers in due time to bring these wolves to justice.
Badefol battled harder in the vast fields of Westhold, hoping for a quick victory against the Samurai. But Daimon had one last ace up his sleeve...a secret alliance with the Vikings. As the Commander watched the Viking warriors charge, he knew the end was near. Even with the Black Priors on their side, they could not last against one large army, let alone two.
For the last time, Badefol underestimated the Black Priors. As a flock of hawks appeared in the dusty horizon, the Knight Commander caught sight of rolling ballistae and trebuchets bearing the Black Prior banners. At first, Badefol was filled with hope, but as the machines drew closer, a fresh horror overwhelmed him.
Nailed onto these rolling structures were hundreds of corpses; Vikings, Samurai...dead bodies from the battlefields, but not just the enemy's dead. Even Knights were trussed up. Badefol's comrades were stretched out and displayed as grotesque, bloody dolls on the war machines.
Both Samurai and Vikings froze in horror. No one in history had desecrated their own dead with such sickening derision. As the true masters of psychological warfare, Vortiger and the Black Priors used the enemy’s shock to their advantage. They charged through the red fog with fierce precision, and triumphed against all.
Yet Badefol was not done with Vortiger, the man who had desecrated their dead. He locked eyes with the demon and drew his sword. Forget the Lawbringers, this beast would be Badefol's. But it was not to be. Vortiger disarmed the Commander, stabbed him through the heart, and whispered in his ear the last words Badefol would ever hear.
Reinforcements from Beaufort Stronghold came too late. The Black Priors had already reconquered all territories around Eitrivatnen. A month's long siege and the Knights had never once lost Eitrivatnen.
Rhoswen the Warden was the first to arrive in the harbor where she witnessed the horror of what it had become. Not only Badefol, but hundreds of Knights, Samurai, and Vikings were impaled, dismembered, or hanged like vulgar scarecrows.
“They shall fear us, and we Knights shall rule,” the Black Prior whispered as he appeared at Rhoswen’s back. The Warden replied nothing. She knew the darkness had already grown too deep in these Knights’ hearts…