Vol.2, Ch.5, P.4


The Fiefguard were as a flood breaking through the west gate. The fólkheimr’s belatedly-formed defences had failed; more speed was mustered by the Men than any other mind could have conceived. And now the hatchetmen were come, ready to hew and havock the waking Hensenites.

Rolf knew this day would darken Hensen. But today? Nay.

With lightning haste did he head westward to meet with Volker’s regiment and stop the Fiefguard from gaining Hensen’s centre. The war-chief and his champions were well-whetted; if there stood a force apt to fence the Fiefguard in at the gates, his would certainly be it.

But more certain again was the lack of numbers and nimbleness at this nightly hour. Volker’s command had no hope of accounting for every Man with a mind to foray further in. And so it was that Berta herself stood upon a battlefield-to-be.

The destitute district’s evacuation had scant time to start. Yet with Death at its doorstep, time was precious. The folk must be made to flee.

“With calm, everyone! Calm! Hie to the plaza! Help is on the way!” Berta’s voice vaulted as she guided the paupers in their panick. “Have heart! For Hammerweib Berta shelters you all!”

As she corralled the chaos, there stood about her the little orphans of five and their afflicted brother, Theo, each with uneased eyes looking up at their Auntie’s own. For her part, the war-chief felt every second a full minute. There was no telling when and where the Men might assail the civilians. Any moment, and there might have arisen from the masses a swelling of screams and the slashing of swords.

It was in that wearying wait that there appeared forces of a different affiliation.

“Berta!” called an alighting Lise. “I come bearing braves!”

The jarl-daughter had done her duty: in tow were ranks of reinforcements, every soul of which then saluted their superior.



Though, they all numbered no more than forty. Meagre, but a matter ill-helped; Hensen had more pressing need of spears at the war-like west end.

“My fighters! Oh, how I’ve waited!” Berta sighed with relief. “The Men come as we speak! The smallfolk must flee; Lise, I leave the exodus to you and yours!”

“I’ll have it done!”

Lise tarried not. At once, she went to the forgathered folk to soothe their worries and set the course for the evacuation to come.

The girl, though young, was yet very much of Alban’s blood. Echoes of his acumen rang clarion in her character, and to Berta’s ears, it was a song of great solace, indeed—enough to task the jarl-daughter with escorting the defenceless droves to safety. A charge most challenging, but unchallenged was Berta’s trust in Lise.

Content, the war-chief faced her fighters. “To me, my braves! Here we stay! Here we fight! Steel your hearts! Ready your blades!”

“Ooouuh!” roared the roused ranks, their morale unmarred.

Lise was not a step behind, delegating the braves under her own command and beginning the evacuation in speedy earnest. The masses were moving at last. But ten little feet did not venture forth, for ten little eyes were still locked upon their Auntie.

“My dears. Listen well to Lise, you hear? And stray not from the others,” Berta told them. “Go on, now. To safety!”

Though Theo, their elder, found little consolation. “A-Auntie…”

“Mm? What matter, my little champion?”

“I-I heard many west-end folk were killed,” the boy broached. “W… will the same happen here? Our home?”

“Not at all, Theo,” Berta buoyed his spirits. “It is safe. Your home is safe. For your Auntie is here.”

These words the children’s ears well-heard, yet haunting their eyes still was worry. Of course, their confidence in Berta was uncut. But the lots of these little ones were forever changed by the trampling chariot of war. The return of its wicked wheeling, then, was, to them, a phantom of infinite fright.

The burden on their hearts was hardly lost to Berta. And so did she sustain the smile upon her face to frighten away their fears with her familiar warmth.

“Be not so blue, my dears! I’ll let the baddies lay not a finger on any of you!” the war-chief soothed them, before setting a hand upon the weapon slung at her waist. “See Auntie’s hammer? With it, I’ll swing and spank! And send the scary ones on their way!”

“Auntie, Auntie…” came a tug at Berta’s hem, “…will you be safe, too?”

The unease of a little girl, her large eyes wet with worry for the war-chief, and a cherished plush bear borne tight in her tiny arm.

“Oh, Alma dearest,” comforted Berta, her beam unbroken. “I might take a scratch or two. But no matter! Scratches do nothing but tickle your Auntie! And I’ve taken many a tickle from you before, haven’t I?”

Though her words meant to mitigate the children’s unease, they were met with only more tugs upon her hems.

“Auntie… Auntie, come with us!”

“Yea, Auntie! Come! Let’s run away!”

“Uu… hic… Auntie…”

“Oh, Romy! Kurt! Nora! You all! Have heart and worry not! I’ll stay here only for a bit, to give the naughty ones a nice lesson! And then I’ll be with you all soon enough! Soon!”

Next from their Auntie came pats upon their pates, all around, lively and with love. Their eyes squinted with ticklish comfort, and seeing this, Berta then looked to the jarl-daughter as she returned anew.

“Lise, dear. They’re in your hands now.”

“I’ll have them awayed to safety, each and every one,” vowed Lise. “Fair winds find you, Berta.”

Words shared, Lise then ushered the children from their Auntie, and at last they left with the fleeing flock of Hensenfolk.

Berta broke her gaze from them, winding it west to find the fires and their many fingers reaching and writhing ever nearer. Beneath their heated hum rumbled hoofbeats. The fires, then, came not alone.

She turned shoulder back to the evacuating crowd, catching sight of the little ones looking back to her over and over again. Berta sent them off with a smile till they vanished from view. Then did her beaming lips bend down at last, her newly knife-edge eyes narrowing at the road whence the Fiefguard might gain.

The war-chief filled her lungs.

“Enemies draw nigh! Defensive line, now!” she thundered. “Look alive, my braves! Let not a toe of theirs touch any further ground!”

“Yes, Chief!”

And what braves they were, seasoned by battles beyond count. Swift perfection possessed their feet as they formed a phalanx; not a few minutes more, and Fiefguard faces finally reared from the flaming mirk. The pieces were placed. On that gameboard of a fray, the long-fought foes clashed at last.




Affrighting the air were Berta’s braves with their bellows, whilst their spears spun and struck with all sharpness. Theirs was a prowess of much prestige: such strength shot into their shafts that a single swing held heft enough to wholly unhorse a mounted Man.


“Fear not the fiends! Charge, men! Cha—rge!”

The Nafílim fighters were certainly more war-worthy than the Men before them, but where the latter lacked in quality, they made up for in formidable numbers. This was no small advantage: from horse-height, the Fiefguardsmen crashed and ebbed in tides of swords and spears, testing the fire of their Nafílim foes.

“Shog off, realmers! Your way be shut!”


The braves were as a bulwark, yielding not a step as time and again they smote back the Mennish ranks. A single sight of them, and one could glean clearly the long years of service that gave mettle to their mien. Indeed, what boldness that brimmed from every facet of their bodies. And from their hearts: a determination to dam the massacre that so craved their meeker counterparts.

“Stop flinchin’, ye windfuckers! Break through here, and naught more bars the way!” riled a Mennish captain. “These devils deserve cleansin’! The filth ‘fore us, the fleein’ ones yonder—in the name o’ Yoná, hand ‘em all Her holy retribution!”

Yoná’s hounds fancied themselves hunters. Exacting extinction was their aim. Their mark: who else but the Nafílim. Meek or militant, fleeing or fighting—they cared not. Mercy was a candle snuffed. All was game. And so did their hands itch and twitch for the spearing of Nafílim spines in their fevered flight.

This was justice itself.

But staying the sentence were the soldiers of Berta.

“No more than thirty o’ them, there are!” the Mennish captain cried again. “Harry ‘em in waves! Give ‘em not a moment’s breath!”

Finding full solace in their numbers, the Fiefguard gained on the Nafílim ranks. Their captain grasped well this game: wear out the devils and the day would be theirs. The Nafílim were too firmly fixed upon the fray, however, and failed not in keeping their file as they fought back the Fiefguard.

But the holy banner of justice brought such joy of battle to the Men that their might knew no mitigation. It was then that the burden of numbers began to weigh sharply on the shoulders of the braves.



A crack at last: through the deltoid of a brave pierced a length of lancing steel. Berta broke forth, smiting away the Mennish spearman with a heave of her hammer.

“Just a flesh-wound, Chief! I can fight yet!” gnashed the bloodied Tobias.

“Then fight you shall!” the war-chief nodded. “Come, switch with Utz! Heino! Cover his left!”

“Right away!”

Berta’s orders, obeyed with unbroken speed. And they proved the remedy, for whatever faults that might have tempted frailty were fast faded. The clash continued on unabated, but in the fever of the fight, the war-chief chanced upon a strangeness in the struggle.

The Fiefguard were thinned.

Too thinned—more were missing than did fall fey to Nafílim fauchards.

“Ach!” Berta bit her lip. “The cowards! They’ve split!”

This was the sole path apt to host the Fiefguard horde, yet barring their march were braves of baleful fastness. Thus many of the Mennish number went on the move, forsaking their steeds to sneak afoot. Theirs was a mind to slither and slide through the alleyways, that they might skirt the braves and gain on the unsuspecting evacuees. Such was their bloodlust: rabid and all too hungry to hew the innocents.

“My braves!” Berta roared. “Stragglers hunt afoot! Go! Find them, all of you!”

“Then who holds the line!?”

“I hold it!”

“Wh—! But, Chief!”

Little was left of the Mennish marauders before them: a captain and his smattering of soldiers. Easy pickings for a lone war-chief, was Berta’s thought. But more of her mind was on the Fiefguard gadflies now gone. Without a full pursuit by her braves, to the butcher’s block would go the fleeing folk. Lise escorted them, certainly, but she and her own braves totaled not even ten.

The evacuation proceeded assuming a rear safeguarded by the war-chief. Were spears to spring upon it, no doubt death would be dealt to the evacuees. And amongst them: the Auntie’s cherished children.

Indeed, each of their little faces was flashing quick in her conscience.

“Hie now! Have not one of them near our innocents!” she goaded. “Find them whence they hide! Hew them all down! Let none live another day!”

“Yes, Chief!”

“Fair winds find you, Chief!”

Wits of gust-wind speed and legs that lagged by not a stride: the braves broke from Berta and made immediate haste to the heart of the district, where the buildings bristled like a labyrinth. Thus began their hunt for the hunters.

“You’re deserted, devil!” screeched a Londosian scoundrel. “Think you the dam that stays the deluge!?”

With his sword held high and a seeming wound in his pride, the partisan giddyupped his horse and howled forth. But fright was not in Berta: with a bend of her legs, she bound straight at the soldier.


A gaping gasp. A misaimed sword, attacking naught but air. Perhaps its wielder foreknew not that Berta would be so bold so to meet his head-on charge with one of her own. But before a reversal could be ventured, the war-chief’s hammer was already a blur, its head a bull’s horn blasting into the soldier’s bosom.

“Ghhah!!” Off his horse he flew, his cuirass cratered, his breastbones broken. And when he landed at last, it was his nape that bore the brunt of his fall. “…hck…!”

He laid there, limp, limbs in all directions. A look at him, and his remnant fellows flew into a rage, rearing their steeds and stampeding towards the Hammerweib.

“Why, yo—u!!”

“Death ‘pon ye, demon!”

Screams, met with uncut calm from Berta as she brandished her battlehammer. Swords were repelled, spears were rent, horses were thrown down, heads were blown up.



His comrades all were now but corpses, a reeling realisation upon the captain’s conscience. When he at last collected himself, in his view was a whirlwind of steel.


The last muffled cry of a careless captain.

“Hah… hahh… hhah…” breathed Berta, triumphant, but starved of stamina. Such a toll could not be paid lightly, not even from a war-chief’s bulging purse of prowess. And so to a knee she bent down. “Haa… ha… I’ve made… quite the mess.”

Not a graze marked her person, but her might was brought near its brink. Her odyl, too, teetered on empty. Little wonder there—her hammer-swings were many-score, with each enchanted generously with magicked judgement.

Would that generosity were yet a flicker in the eyes of the fates, for in Berta’s own was reflected the rank and file of fresh foes.

“Hahh…” she shook her head. “What’s this…? More roaches… for my hammer?”

Before her now: a different detachment, but composed of lions from the same Londosian den. A score of them, to wit. But worn upon their persons were plates and arms of silver. Berta knew it then: they were of a sort superior to the routed rabble.

“Master Ebbe,” said one of the soldiers. “Just one o’ them, there is.”

Upon the visage of the so-named skeleton of a rapscallion, this “Ebbe”, grew a grin most grim.


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(Language: German) Berta’s title of “Hammer-Wife”, owing to her fierceness in battle. The w consonant is pronounced as a v, as in “very” or “vast”.


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