The next morning yielded overcast clouds, but they weren’t dark enough to warn of snow or rain. The countryside, and the surrounding foothills, kept the snow from the few nights prior, so the earth offered its own warmth to the sixteen men riding out north of Lord Rothgard’s castle. The provisions had been placed between most of the horses, and little was kept in terms of weapons and armor, spare for what every man would carry day-to-day. The horses walked at an easy pace while scaling the mountain. If things became hairy at any point later on, they wanted their horses in prime condition to leave as quickly as possible. The Goron didn’t relent, and they moved faster than man. But they would not get to the tribelands for a few days time at this pace.
Between the paths in the woods and the open fields they crossed, Sigi could be seen riding in different spots at different times. He was watching and conversing with a few of them. They weren’t intent on fighting. Many of them weren’t fighters. As the ride continued, Sigi couldn’t discern why Rothgard would send fifteen with him instead of five.
As they crossed a treeline, one of the horses snapped a large twig, scaring some ravens out of a tree.
Thom looked back at Sigi, who was in the middle of the file. “Seems your father’s watching us.” He motioned to the trees, where the ravens were departing. Sigi’s black eyes looked skyward as they flew off, and then back to Thom.
“I suppose you didn’t think that he was watching you before at the keep, before I arrived,” Sigi called ahead to Thom. “There were plenty there when I arrived.”
Another man, Hergar, interjected. “They were probably entertained by Thom’s lady beating up on him for drinking again.” Several of the men laughed.
“Possibly,” Relman continued, at the back of the line. “I’d imagine that dent in the breastplate he had wasn’t from Sigi. It was probably from his wife. How hard did she hit you, Thom?”
“Hard enough to send you back to the keep, Twig,” Thom retorted, laughing. Relman chuckled as well. “Twig” seemed to be the affectionate name for him.
“I’m a lot more agile than you Thom. I’d probably be smart and quick enough to actually dodge her swings.” A few more chuckles from the line of men fanning out over a new field, moving forward at a steady pace.
Hergar looked at Sigi for a moment, his brown hair kept short and scraggly. But it was clear his jaw was made for smiling and fighting. “What about you, Sigi? Ever found any love interests?” As the file spread out a bit into a general meandering pack, the wind picked up over the opening that showed no forest line for at least a few miles as they trod a bit more north.
Sigi looked around a bit. “Sure,” he deflected. “She’s strapped to my back right now,” he indicated to his two-hander.
“Hah, your sword Sigi?” called back Relman. “Never figured you for long and hard objects.” Another round of laughter.
“I’m unsure what you talk about,” said Sigi. “She’s slim, sturdy and tall, doesn’t talk back, and sings beautifully when she’s doing her job. She doesn’t mind me touching and holding her, and when I put her away, she’s dressed in leather and always willing to come back out to play.”
The men continued looking at Sigi for a moment, a bit perplexed that he drew up such words. Thom was the first to try and hide a chuckle, and the laughter grew in him and soon spread to the other men. Even Telmar tried stifling laughter and was soon caught up in it. Sigi smirked a little, having won over the men a little bit more.
They meandered north a bit more before settling down to camp when the sun was beginning to set a little later. The men knew that, as they proceeded further north, the days grew longer but the bitter cold increased. It was said that the days lasted as long as a month in some spots further north. Sigi had never seen it, but had heard enough of it to detest it. It was pinned in the back of his mind as he came to the campfire that was keeping the travelers warm that night.
“…and she was clearly stumbling back into her chair,” Sigi first heard Hergar. “She had been drinking because she thought I didn’t come back from the vanguard. She thought I was a ghost that had come to say goodbye.” He grinned a bit. “So I said, ‘Yes, I am. Where’s the mead?’ And she shrugged and said, ‘It’s all gone.’ I thought about it for a moment and said, ‘That was the mead that he was to be buried with.’ And I swear, she looked right at me and she glared. She said, ‘Good. The lout doesn’t deserve that mead. If he came back from that battle, I would have drank it because he returned.'”
The men around the campfire erupted with laughter, as Sigi sat down to grab a roll of bread.
“There’s no pleasing them,” Thom remarked.
“You’re the one that wears that damn breastplate all the time, Thom!” Hergar replied.
“She hits you about the head. Wear a helm.”
More gentle laughter from the fire, and they dug back into their meals. The silence gave way to thought, and eventually Relman looked at Sigi.
“So Sigi, what are we going to be looking for, exactly?” Relman asked. The men around the campfire looked at Sigi as Relman continued. “I mean, if the Goron are actually around, how will we know it’s them?”
“Yeah, and how will we know if the places we find were actually raided by them?” Telmar added with skepticism. Sigi ate a bit more of his roll before reaching out for some water, looking up at the men as he did. The darkness attempted to conceal his features again, but the fire won out, ensuring his face stayed visible.
Telmar continued, “You’re obviously not a man. Your eyes betray that much, and no demon should be wearing those symbols on their skin like you are. How do we know you can be trusted to lead us into what may actually be our deaths? How do we know that you’re not here to lead us to our deaths, and come back with our blood-stained clothes and say they exist, just to gain wealth?”
The uneasy question settled itself, searing the thought into the minds of the men accompanying Sigi. He then looked directly at Telmar, Sigi’s black eyes locking gaze.
Sigi waited as the men became uneasy before continuing.
“None of you do. But your Lord, Rothgard, seems to trust me enough to allow fifteen of his men to ride alongside me and gain proof that this exists.” He paused for a moment. “If I don’t come back with at least some of you, I’ll likely be executed. So it’s in my best interest to keep as many of you alive and with me, to prove my point. I don’t get my funds until I come back with you all.” He looked at each of the men as he said this.
Telmar persisted. “Rothgard told me of you much earlier on, before I ever saw you. He called you ‘Sigi the Wicked.'” He hissed the word “wicked” as it came out. “He told me that when victory was surely in your hands, you made a point to let loose and devastate those who were retreating, who had already lost their honor. I was told that Rothgard saw you slaying those who had lay down their weapons.”
Sigi glared icily at Telmar as he continued. “It seems your rage doesn’t differ between those who have acknowledged defeat and those who continue to fight. That is not very… honorable.”
Sigi drank a bit more water before looking back at the men, whose composure had become a bit more aggressive towards Sigi. A few were eying the sword he had strapped to his back.
Thom spoke up. “I didn’t think you were like that, Sigi. None of us did. Is it true?”
Sigi sat down his flask. “Yes, in that story Rothgard spoke of, it was true.” He eyed the men for a few more moments, before turning back to Telmar.
“What else did Rothgard tell you about that battle, Telmar?” Sigi posed.
“It seems that he told me everything I needed to know about it.” Telmar sat stoic.
Sigi sat down his water, and laced his gloved fingers in front of himself. “House Welfvar, yes?” He looked at Telmar, who was peering at Sigi. Telmar nodded.
“House Welfvar, the house of shame as it became later known, had been leading a campaign against the council, when it was still fledgling. The council had only been in existence for a matter of years; it was the culmination of many houses attempting to establish order for the first time in centuries. House Welfvar saw it as an upset to the power they held in the lower peninsulas, and as such, had a formidable militia at their command. They began taking foothold into other lands that the new council had formed, in an attempt to show its power and break the council, and perhaps rule as the head figure.
“House Welfvar, led by Korros Welfvar, showed no mercy as they gained these footholds. They wanted to ensure they showed the council that they had no qualms doing what it took to restore their grip on the region.”
Sigi tensed a bit as he continued. “This would mean slaying women and children after the men had been beat in combat, forcing them to watch their families die as recompense for fighting against them, before they too were killed.”
The men around the campfire changed in their disposition as they listened. “You want to tell me about control and honor? These menpigs that I slaughtered when they lay their weapons down were the same that killed mothers holding their children tightly, asking for mercy. I had no hesitation in repaying the debts they had made themselves a part of with each swing of my blade.”
The men sat silent, some of them turning their attention to Telmar, who sat like a man whose line of defense crumbled before him. He mustered himself again, throwing another desperate statement at Sigi.
“Rothgard told me you tore men in half with your bare hands.” At this, the other men looked towards Sigi in some disbelief. Sigi sat for a moment, contemplating it.
“If you could have, wouldn’t you?” he posed as he finished his bit of bread, his appetite clearly gone. He stood up, his hair blown about slightly as the darkness filled into his features again. Some of the men went back to eating quietly, while others did the same.
“Thom?” Sigi called.
“Sigi?” he replied.
“Get three men on watch over the camp. Make sure Telmar takes second watch,” he concluded, walking away from the fire. Telmar glared slightly, but knew he had earned it. The air lended to the overall feeling of neutral melancholy that had washed over the camp as it swept through, whipping the warmth of the fire a bit as it billowed every few moments. Another storm was potentially brewing.
As Sigi walked towards his horse to set it for the night, he heard another behind him. He turned to see Relman looking at him, a question hanging on his lips.
“What can I do for you, Relman?”
“Sigi, I have a question about that battle.”
“…when did it happen? Our Lord Rothgard was not in a battle against that house.”
Sigi narrowed his eyes at Relman. He noted how Relman was sharp with his history too.
“It was Rothgard’s father that was in that battle. His father, Treyvyik, had become embroiled with me in a contest to win the land that your Lord now sits on. The story of my brother reached the council’s ears by way of Treyvyik, and there was some tension between us afterward. Your Lord, Rothgard, carried some of that tension in his blood, it would seem. The only reason I am on as good of terms with him now is because I helped him defend his keep, despite his misgivings about me. I earned trust.”
“But that was forty years ago,” Relman remarked. “The war with House Welfvar was over one hundred.”
Sigi didn’t acknowledge the comment. “Go get some rest, Relman. We have another day ahead of us, and if the snow returns, you’ll want all the rest you can muster tonight.”
Relman looked at Sigi for a moment, before turning to walk away. His face showed disbelief. He looked back once more to see Sigi tending to his horse before walking back towards his own camp, gathering some sticks along the way to light his own fire. As he reached his portion of the camp, and set his fire, he bundled up warmly against a thick bush. Relman drifted in and out, the thoughts of what Sigi really was pulling him back to consciousness, before the wind finally lulled him to sleep.
A loud explosion shot Relman up, wide awake. In a scamper, he reached under the bush where he had his short sword, and stood up. As he looked around, the only familiar piece to the entire landscape was the bush that he tried sleeping beside.
To the east was a fortress that was adorned with spires and trebuchets that lined walls, as well as archers. It was much further off. As he turned around, facing west, he saw a large contingent of men being led by cavalry. They wore the colors of something he was unaware of. Eyes wide, he turned to see what they were charging at. And as he looked back east, there were men wearing red and gold charging on foot. They were about to clash with those opposite of them, and they seemed to run right around him as he twirled about in confusion.
Then, as he was trying to back out of it, a deep warhorn sounded. The wind picked up a bit more and the clouded skies above stirred as winged beings came down… valkyries. They were fighting for those coming from the west, and they plummeted to the earth like a boulder hurled directly at the ground. His eyes widened as those wearing the red and gold transformed into something grotesque, growing calloused and bleeding skin, capable of absorbing hits from almost anything, much less being sheilded by ungodly plate armor that had a presence that hurt the eyes.
Relman looked away from them, and saw the winged beings plummeting towards the earth in droves, and as they did, each hit with a huge THUD! as each impacted the earth, sending up dirt and rocks. He looked at one in particular, who was using their two-hander to bat the flung rocks towards the oncoming red and gold with haste and accuracy unknown to humans.
The roar of combat grew as the sides were charging one another, still moving around Relman as if he were a tree or some other object. He looked around to try and see where he was, but all that yielded were rolling hills that gave way to a forest line. Despite the clouds and the dark of night, everything glowed perfectly, allowing him to see everything with detail as if it were day. A few more of the beasts wearing red and gold roared past, making inhuman noises as they did so.
The two warring factions were closing ground faster and faster, and the chaos that chimed into the air seemed to continually explode in all senses. Relman heard loud booms and saw blue, incandescent rocks being flung from the trebuchets that lined the distant keep’s walls. They seemed to hang in the air as they gained altitude, before starting to streak as they plummeted back down fiercely towards the earth. As if he had hawk eyes, Relman was able to look at one clearly. It was a container, and had what appeared to be ghosts inside the spheres that were screaming and pounding against a glass that contained them. The ghosts were packed into them, and the panic in their faces was apparent. There were several of these being hurled at the human and Valkyrie side.
Relman found himself in the melee where the two sides would clash. Uneasily, he began to clench his sword, unsure of what side to swing at, and screaming incoherent words. The sides came together with a loud roar, and everything stopped. Everything, except for Relman.
The raining rock and dirt from the impacts, the calloused beings, all were frozen in time, allowing Relman to walk past them. Each of the winged beings bore marks of a Valkyrie. The wind picked up a bit more as he walked among them, examining the men behind the Valkyries that were in mid-collision with the calloused beasts that stood nearly two men tall.
The wind picked up behind him moreso, and it felt cold and damp. It continued picking up, and as he mustered the courage to look behind him, he saw Sigi rushing towards him, plowing everything in his wake as he made his way through the humans, his hair pulled back and clean shaven. The wind roared around Relman as Sigi ran at him, faster than the speed of ten horses, and just before impact, Relman shuddered awake beneath the bush.
Settling himself back into reality, Relman took a few deep breaths, his senses alerting him that he was back out of the dream, slowly. He looked around to see Sigi standing further off, just beyond his horse, looking north and seemingly unaware of the startling dream Relman just had. The clouds were revealing a bit of moisture that was attempting to fall to the ground, slightly dampening Relman’s face. Relman attempted to settle himself, covering himself once more, combating the desire to stay awake.