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Vol.3, Ch.5, P.8


The main gate laid in ruin. Deep had our flood of braves poured into the concentration camp. The violence had spilt thence unto the open baileys, whereupon did we continue to this moment our bitter vie with the Fiefguard and their Zaharte brothers.

“Fräulein!” called one of my braves to me. “We’ve secured the wounded!”

“Good!” I answered above the din of combat. “We rally now! All of you, together with Staffel Seven!”

Amidst my hest-giving, the air yonder cracked from an irruption of laughter, wild and bloodthirsted. Stamping next through the warring crush was its source: a bull of a Man, clenching fast in his gauntlets a halberd, long and thrice-bladed.

“I founds ye, me dainty dark-sow!” he taunted, eyes hooked to me. “Come! Us dance’s not done yet!”

“Who’s a sow…!?” I muttered. Unimaginative be Men with their insults for my folk. Yet “dark-sow” was a first to these ears of mine, and young frau that I was, the slight pricked too deep into the nerves. An answer was in order, one to remind him who’s the swine for true—mayhaps with a kick to his snout!

“Ye’ll be squealin’ soon ‘nough! When I skins that there ‘ide o’ yers!” he croaked on, gaining upon me with hulking strides.

“Tch!” Biting my lip, I readied my two longdaggers once more.

A sore to admit, but though I craved much his downfall, this Man was proving too hard a boulder to crack. And not only he—by all accounts, our number ought hold the advantage, but ‘twas in grappling with these coin-Men of Zaharte that our momentum had begun to flag.

This halberdier in particular; his might I reckoned two—nay, fourfold more daunting than his comrades’. With but a swing of his three-faced weapon could he mow in twain many bodies at once, armoured or no. And should those bodies be ours…

I shudder to think. And thus had I challenged the Mennish fiend himself, to leash his eyes away from the braves.

“Yyah!!” I shouted, as ill-awaiting his arrival, I bolted forth with my longdaggers, both blades speeding to his neck. But right before they gained their mark, I was forestalled, as up swept next the head of the halberd.

“Rrryaah!” the Man howled, unshrunken by my evasion, for why I found out soon enough—the halberd’s shaft-butt followed, whipping up and striking me square under the chin.

“Aegh!” I reeled back, my vision trembling wild. Yet my body recouped at once, leaping back by its own will and escaping bare the second stroke of the halberd. Earth was axed. Dust blasted. Behind the fuming air cackled the halberdier.

“Tricky trotters you’ve got there, eh mirk-swine!? A nigh shame t’shear ‘em off!”

“Gh…!” I scowled back. No doubt was in me now. Smirking mad afore me was none other than “Ulrik”, high member of Zaharte and Sigmund’s former battle-brother.

With excitement had our witnessing braves recounted it: yesternight’s deadly dance anear the gates of Arbel. Of how, against evil odds, Rolf had left both Sigmund sundered of blade and Ulrik slashed of bosom. If not for their friends’ swift rescue, ‘twas most certain that the duo were half-eaten carrion by this hour. Such was our braves’ unanimous conclusion, but in my ears, it sounded more a fancy.

For how had Rolf done it? How had he kept at bay the two dreadnaughts? And not least cornered them to the verge of defeat? Try as I might, I could not guess; vying with but one of them was proving a fey struggle in itself, for this Ulrik had thus far bared no vulnerability that my eyes could scry. Indeed, yet again was I reminded in full what mountainous prowess there lived in Rolf.

Yet I dared not drowse in his shadow forever. And neither could I dare falter against an enemy whom he’d handled with divided mettle. No. I could not fail here. I could not. Too much weighed upon these shoulders. Too much expectation. Too much hope.

Child to a jarl though I was, never was I certain to someday sit upon the high seat. Still, in me my people felt much the same fire as my father’s. Burning fiercest was my arm and mind for battle, a talent apparent since my earliest springs and praised for just as long.

But as a blossoming frau, never could I receive such war-like words with any real gladness. They instead reminded me of my place, my duty, my solemn honour as daughter to the jarl of the Vílungen.

Faces, on one day aglow with expectation and pride; on another, dead-tense in the heat of battle. The faces of Berta, Volker, and many more—all whom I held dear, all who’d long minded me and kept me on the rightwise path… each and every one of them were embroiled in this eternal war that I might thrive in safety, that the meeker of our folk might know some relief from the daily threats at our door.

Their struggles, their sacrifices—none could I baulk.

Our home, our dear ones—none I wished to lose.

Thus had I chosen to put my talents to use and fight alongside my battle-brethren. From skirmishes to campaigns, wheresoever my blades were needed, I went. To the banks of the Erbelde, too, had I marched, but ‘twas there that lightning had struck upon me.

A thunderbolt of a Man, wielding a sword no less swift… to outspeed my own daggers, the fleetness whereof I’d long thought was unanswerable. To my eyes, that flashing blade of his was more than some threat: ‘twas a shot of sunlight, a spark for my awakening, most true.

Many other Men in that campaign could’ve boasted of more decorations and storied mettle, not least Londosius’ paragon herself, the sword-maiden Estelle Tiselius, to whom droves of our number had we lost. But all my mind was paid instead to this one Man. For though he was sullied and bruised, cut-up and ablood all over; for though his bones were fain to buckle and his sinews begged for respite… he yet stood, baring his steel and handing me my defeat.

Harsh was this enlightenment. To the shallowness of my resolve. To the heights I had yet to endeavour. To the cruelness of this world, where one could scarce protect aught without mastering such depths and summits of discipline.

And so I gave myself to it. All of it.

For three years on, I relented not in honing my skill, tempering myself with such focus of mind that before long was I deemed fit to lead a Gewölbe of my own. Yet, ‘twas not enough. For those same three years saw that Man whetted to a keenness far beyond my imagining. The gap of capability, gaping wider now than even before. Such I’d on the night of our reunion. Such I’d felt as Rolf risked life and limb to deliver my people.

Envy was alive in me. Yet in envy I could not dwell; too little time there was for it in the five days since our re-meeting.

…A mere five days.

The defeat of the hundred-score sackers at Hensen.

The bloodless capture of Balasthea.

The deception and culling of Arbel’s defenders.

The breaching of the fief-burgh.

And now, this fatal battle, waged against the remnant Fiefguard after the unexpected death of their lord.

All in only five days.

Ström, verging on tearing away from the weave of Londosius: a watershed victory, once but a dream teased by centuries of struggle, now nigh-attained by a week’s end. Indeed none amongst us could’ve thought any of this possible, not as we were before these fateful five days. But upon Rolf joining our cause, so asudden were the wheels set into motion.

Against this war was he set. To end it. To defeat Londosius itself. More than aught, I wished not to be left from his great endeavour. No, I wanted to join my hands with his, to help deal the realm-felling stroke, to usher in the long-awaited dawn for my long-shadowed people.

I had Berta’s memory, too, to consider. When that second mother of mine lost herself in sacrifice, when the last moment of her life was nearing its end, in her fading eyes did I see some great task meant for me. Knowing Berta, ‘twas this, no doubt: her little children—she’d bade me save them.

Then saved they shall be.

Their futures, assured. This war, ended.

But to cut the new path, I must be more than I am.

I must be resolute…

I must be steeled!

Ready to see all my promises to their ends!

Ready to lead the charge! To fight till my last breath!

Filled with the fires of determination, I flourished my blades, and with a mighty swing, thrust and threw them straight at my foe.

Ulrik’s eyes flashed wide. “Nm!?”

But to my annoyance, his mettle remained unmarred: heaving the haft of his long halberd, he thwarted my thrown blades—kha-khakhnn!—and sent them flying clear up into the air.

“Hah!” he snorted in triumph. But his eyes had scried not the third blade thrown.

A blade—

—by the name of Lise!

I lunged and leapt forth to the level of his eyes, seeing them flashing again with surprise at the sight of this “dark-sow” in flight. Instinct ignited him as he thrust his halberd at once, but by then had I already flown past its many-bladed head. Snatching swift the haft, I pulled myself further forth—


—to bring these “tricky trotters” crashing into his countenance.

A dropkick, reckless beyond all reason.

In that instant, I felt upon my heels the crunching collapse of Ulrik’s nose. Back he bent, crashing down unto the dirt as blood blew from his nostrils. I mounted him straightway, and snatching one of my blades out of its fall—“Haa──h!!”—drave its keen point through Ulrik’s heart.


Deep it delved, down through the Man’s body, nailing him to the earth as an effigy to the altar.

“Ghukkhh…!” he gagged, spewing blood and staining my cheeks. “…Ngh… hhaa…”

One final effort from his lungs, and at last all strength left his hands. With a thump, his long-trusty halberd fell out of his grip to rest upon the dirt. His eyes twitched in their sockets as they stared on and on at mine, whilst his jaws quivered, as though in attempt to give air to his last words. But failing, he choked on his blood… and gave his spirit to the winds.

Witnessing his end, I drew myself up to my feet and wiped the wet red from my cheeks. A moment, and there next swelled roaring cheer.

“He’s slain! The hireling’s slain! A feat by our Fräulein!”

“Praise be to her prowess!”

“She flew like a butterfly! Stung like a buffalo!”

That last line, I should remember. And the face besides that dared it.

Looking all along the battle about me, I sighted more of the Zaharte hirelings. But what a gladness, that our braves had held fast to wiser tactics, engaging the sellswords with many against one. And by my reckoning, no more foes of Ulrik’s equal ought yet remain here—this battle, then, was on its last throes. What was left were the captives’ extraction… and the enemy commanders sitting in their perch: the siblings Viola and Theodor, themselves the greatest threat on this battlefield.

Not by my present mettle could I fell those two. No, just Ulrik had me close enough to Death’s door. But I fretted little. For hunting them down now was an ally of ours, whose own mettle was skies above my own.

We shall win this, then.

Win, and on this day, see new-changed the course of history.

But tarrying now will bring it no closer. Driven by the thought, I turned back to the battle at hand, ready to show my dawned resolve.


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(Language: German) “Vault” or “arched ceiling”. In Soot-Steeped Knight, a division of a Nafílim army, larger than a Staffel. The Gewölbe is also the equivalent of the Londosian battalion. Pronounced and spelt the same in both singular and plural forms.



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