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The Legend of Vigdis

Short story By: Wotan
Action and adventure



The second part of Calradian Tales.


Submitted:Oct 23, 2012    Reads: 34    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   


Calradian adventures

The legend of Vigdis

A Mount & Blade Warband game

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Part Two

September 9th 1257, while Vigdis mercenaries are laying siege to Caraf Castle a messenger from Lady Isolla of Suno arrives. "I was most pleased to hear of your valiant efforts in the capture of Shariz. Your victory has gladdened all our hearts. You also requested me to give you ownership of the castle, but that is a favor which I fear I cannot grant, as you already hold significant estates in my realm. Instead I have sent you 900 denars to cover the expenses of your campaign, but Shariz I give to Count Khavel." Vigdis crumbles the letter and tosses it in the sand. She expected this moment would come sooner or later. She gives the order to immediately abandon the siege and ride to Sahiz. Renouncing her oath is a grave act. Her lord may condemn Vigdis and confiscate her land and holdings. However, if Vigdis returns them of her free will, she may let the betrayal go without a fight. But this is not Vigdis' idea. She renounces her oath and decides to rule over her lands, including Shariz, in her own name. Vigdis now possesses land in her name, without being tied to any kingdom. This makes her a monarch in her own right, with her court temporarily located at Praven. However, the other kings in Calradia will at first consider her a threat, for if any upstart warlord can grab a throne, then their own legitimacy is called into question. At any rate, Vigdis first step should be to appoint a chief minister from among her companions, to handle the affairs of state. Vigdis decides to appoint Artimenner. She also decides to immediately send Baheshtur as an emissary to the Khergit Khanate, to express her goodwill. She also sends Alayen on a similar mission to the Kingdom of Vaegirs. With those things behind her, Vigdis can concentrate on the next big task -- to quickly locate Lady Isolla of Suno. It is only mere hours before she finds her former liege... "Good to see you again, Vigdis... I heard that you saved my vassal Count Beranz from likely defeat," Lady Isolla says. "I wish to make peace with the Kingdom of Swadia," Vigdis says. "Yes... I am weary of fighting you. I could offer you a truce of forty days. If you keep your word and do not molest my lands and subjects, we may talk again..." Lady Isolla says. "I accept. Let us stop making war upon each other, for the time being anyway," Vigdis says.

With the truce in place, Vigdis can now concentrate on recruiting lords to her cause. "Captain -- Deshavi has set off on some sort of expedition, which she says that you countenanced. She says that she will go about the villages of this land, telling the poor villagers that once you are queen, you intend to hanf all thieves and bandits. Madame, I am a merchant's daughter, and know well the scourge of banditry. I also know that Deshavi has suffered great wrongs. But surely you do not intend to hang men indiscriminately. There must be some place for mercy in this kingdom," Ymira says. Vigdis' party soon encounter Lord Clais' party. After a brief conversation he says: "So be it -- I pledge allegience to you as your faithful vassal. I shall stand at your side to fight your enemies should you need my sword, and uphold your claims and those of your legitimate heirs. I expect in turn that you will protect me and recognize my rights as your vassal. Now... it is a momentous step I have taken. I will take my leave, as I may need some time to prepare myself for what comes next." It is not long before Lord Regas also swears allegiance to Vigdis, the queen of Midgaard. After hearing that her husband has heard the news and joined his wife, Vigdis decides to confer the village of Emirin on Lord Plais and the village of Amere on Lord Clais.

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The town of Shariz

On September 10th a messenger from Lord Clais arrives. "Lord Clais wishes to inform you that the lords of Midgaard will be gathering for a feast at his great hall in Ergellon Castle, and invites you to be part of this august assembly." Vigdis has other plans though. She is headed for the town of Suno. As her party is travelling, Alayen catches up to them. "Well, my good lady, at last I've found you. I have returned from my mission to Kingdom of Vaegirs. In general, I would say, King Yaroglek wishes to be at peace with Midgaard so as to pursue the war against the Kingdom of Nords... In his letter, King Yaroglek merely refers to you as Vigdis, omitting any title. This does not constitute recognition of your right to rule," he says. In Suno Vigdis and a couple of her companions enter the tournament. As always, Vigdis places a 100 denar bet on herself before entering the fight. The first tier is a fight between two teams with three fighters in each. Armed with sword and shield and fighting on horseback, Vigdis is in her true element. She knocks down two of the opposing teams fighters. The third fighter is knocked out by Lord Clais. The second tier is a total mayhem -- four teams with seven fighters in each battle it out. Vigdis fights with horse and lance. She knocks down three other fighters before being knocked down herself. In tier three Vigdis and Alayen are fighting against Baheshtur and Dranton. Alayen quickly knocks out Baheshtur, But Dranton knocks him out, in turn. Vigdis and Dranton circle each other and cross swords. Both land hits on the other, but in the end, it is Vigdis who remains standing. Vigdis easily advances through tier four and five. The final is fought against Kradus. He is armed with sword and shield and fights from horseback, while Vigdis fights on foot, but with a two-hander. Kradus spurs the horse on and charges Vigdis. She times her swing perfectly and knocks him off his horse. Shaken, the experience old gladiator gets back on his feet to face his opponent. Vigis attacks with an overhead chop, but Kradus blockes with the shield and counters with a slash to Vigdis' leg. The practice sword stuns her and she falls to the ground, but she is not yet defeated. Kradus goes for the finishing blow with a vertical chop. Vigdis rolls out of the way and, cheered on by the audience, she gets back on her feet. Kradus tries to thrust his sword at Vigdis who executes a classic combat move -- taking advantage of her weapon's greater reach, Vigdis delivers a powerful swing at head height. There is a loud clang as the practice sword makes contact with Kradus' helmet. The old gladiator drops like a rock. -- Vigdis has won another tournament.

In the castle, Vigdis speaks to Count Ryis. "Good to see you again, Vigdis... I heard that you got Count Branz out of a tight spot. That was a noble deed," he says. "There is something I would like to discuss with you in private," Vigdis says. "I do not like to conduct my business in the shadows, but sometimes it must be done. What do you have to say?" the count wonders. "How do you feel about Lady Isolla of Suno?" she asks. "I am disturbed about my lord Lady Isolla of Suno's choice of companions. Sometimes, I do worry about the state of the realm," he says. Vigdis smiles. "Well, I have something to tell you. I ask for your support for the throne of Calradia," she says. "Why would I support you?" Count Ryis wonders. "If I were queen, I would deal with all men fairly and uphold the rights of the commons. I ask you to pledge your allegiance to me," Vigdis says. "Let me think..." Count Ryis says. "Militarily, I might be safer if I joined you. I am more comfortable with you and your companions than with my current liege. You speak of protecting the commons. I would be pleased to serve a king who respected the rights of his subjects, although I worry that a king who took a throne without proper cause would not rule with justice. Finally, one should always think carefully about retracting one's allegiance, even if there is good reason, as it is not good to get a name as one who changes lieges easily. In this case, the cost to my reputation would be very high... Very well -- I am ready to pledge myself to you as my queen. So be it -- I pledge allegiance to you as your faithful vassal. I shall stand at your side to fight your enemies should you need my sword, and uphold your claims and those of your legitimate heirs. I expect you will protect me in turn and recognize my rights as your vassal," he says. Vigdis quickly decides to confer Grunwalder Castle on her newest vassal.

The next day Baheshtur returns. "Well, Vigdis Bahadur, at last I've found you. I have returned from my mission to Khergit Khanate. In general, I would say, Sanjar Khan seems to be willing to improve relations with Vigdis... In his letter, Sanjar Khan merely refers to you as Vigdis, omitting any title. This does not constitute recognition of your right to rule," he says. "Welcome back, friend!" Vigdis says, then turns to Jeremus... "Yes, captain?" "I suppose you know that I aspire to be queen of this land?" she says. "I am sure that you would make a fine queen, captain. I flatter myself that I am a good jusge of character, and you have demonstrated a capacity for compassion that far exceeds that of those others who call themselves monarchs," he says. "This means you support my cause?" Vigdis wonders. "Of course, captain. But if I have learned anything in my travels in this land, it is that Calradians are sticklers for precedent. Everything must be done as it was done in the days of the old Empire -- even though not more than one in a hundred of them can read enough Old Calradic to understand the chronicles! Veluca merchants marry their daughters according to the 'imperial' rite. Rivacheg cattle herders churn 'imperial' butter. And of course, every king must be crowned according to 'imperial' law," Jeremus says. "Interesting. Please, go on..." "But you know what? There was no 'imperial' law when it came to the crown. Sometimes one emperor handed the empire to his son. Sometimes he split it between his generals. Sometimes one emperor murdered the last. There's no right 'Calradic' way to crown a king or queen, and thus it makes sense that the crown should go to the one most fit to govern -- which would be you, naturally. Give me a couple of weeks, and I'll write a tract which proves it and find a copyist to post a version in every town tavern in the land. What do you say to that idea, captain?" he wonders. "Exellent. You do that," Vigdis encourages. Before the end of the day, this September 11th 1257, Count Stamar has defected from Kingdom of Swadia and joined the lords of Midgaard. Vigdis decides to confer the village of Pagundur on Lord Stamar and decides to take ownership of the village of Chide for herself.

September 12th 1257: By order of King Yaroglek, Lord Doru of the Kingdom of Vaegirs has been indicted for treason. The lord has been stripped of all his properties, and has fled for his life. He is rumored to have gone into exile in Midgaard. The following day, on September 13th, Vigdis is visiting the village of Azgad. She speaks with the village elder... "My lady, you honor our humble village with your presence," he says. "Do you have any tasks I can help with?" Vigdis wonders. "We are suffering greatly at the hands of a group of bandits. They take our food and livestock, and kill anyone who doesn't obey them immediately. Our men are angry that we cannot defend ourselves, but we are only simple farmers... However, with some help, I think that some of the people here could be more than that. We just need an experienced warrior to teach us how to fight," the village elder says. "I can teach you how to defend yourselves," Vigdis says. "You will? Oh, splendid! We would be deeply indebted to you, madam. I'll instruct the village folk to assemble here and receive your training. If you can teach us to defend ourselves, I promise you'll receive everything we can give you in return for your efforts," he says. News arrive that the Sarranid Sultanate have taken Unuzdaq Castle from Kingdom of Swadia. Vigdis spends several hours training the villagers, until nightfall. In the early morning, as she gets ready to continue the training, a sentry from the village runs up to her, shouting alarums. The bandits have been spotted on the horizon, riding hard for Azgad. The elder begs Vigdis to organize her newly-trained militia and face them. Vigdis sends a messenger to her men to prepare for a fight. They stay hidden until it's too late for the bandits to become suspiscous. At first it appears as only the villagers are mobbing up against the bandits. They laugh and attack, but then Vigdis' troops attack their rear and flanks. The bandits are surrounded and have to desperately fight for their lives. 1 of Vigdis toops is killed and 1 is wounded. The farmers lose 5 men and 4 of them are wounded. 34 bandits are killed and 3 are wounded. The bandits are broken! Those few who remain run off with their tails between their legs, terrified of the peasants and their new champion. The villagers have little left in the way of wealth after their ordeal, but they offer Vigdis all they can find to show their gratitude. Vigdis kindly refuses the gift, stating that the villagers need those items more than she does.

After their victory in Azgad, Vigdis speaks to Borcha. "Yes, boss?" "I suppose you know that I aspire to be queen of this land?" she tells him. "That's a great idea, Boss. All these kings and khans and landed nobles who rule now, with their prisons and gibbets and scaffolds, the whippings and brandings and hangings for any man who might to be driven by the crying of his children to steal a loaf of bread, or maybe a horse -- Calradia deserves something better," he says. "I have your support?" Vigdis wonders. "Sure would, Boss. But let me tell you what might bring others to your cause -- particularly us poor folk. They tell us that in the old days, each new Emperor who took the throne would issue a great amnesty for all but the worst prisoners in his dungeons, give people a second chance to make something of themselves -- like you gave me a second chance, Boss," Borcha says. "Please, go on..." "If I could go about this land for a few weeks, telling the common folk that you were going to amnesty their kinfolk like the emperors of old -- well they would start talking of you as the Emperor, and that would pave your way to the throne. Shall I do that, Boss?" he wonders. "Very good. You do that." "Farewell then, boss, for a little while." The journey from Azgad to Praven is short. Visiting her court in the castle, Vigdis meets the lord who has taken refuge in her kingdom. "Greetings, my lady. You may have heard of my ill treatment at the hands of King Yaroglek. You have a reputation as one who treats her vassals well, and if you will have me, I would be honored to pledge myself as your vassal," Lord Doru says. "And I would be honored to accept your pledge," Vigdis says. She quickly confers the village of Yalibe on her newest vassal.

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Training villagers to defend themselves against bandits

"Well, captain, at last I've found you," Deshavis says when she returns on September 17th. "I've been out spreading the word about your claim, and am now ready to rejoin the company." "Welcome back, friend!" Vigdis takes some some to relax in the tavern while she is visiting the town of Dhirim. "What do you want?" a woman asks. "Merely to pass the time of day, madam, if you're not otherwise engaged," Vigdis says. "Ah. Well, of you must know, I shall tell you. I am from an old family in the nothern lands, the daughter of a thane and also wife to one. I fought by my husband's side, his partner both in war and peace. But my husband died of the plague, when I was still childless. My husband had decreed that I should inherit his lands, in the absence of an heir. My brother-in-law, cursed be his name, said that it was not our custom that women could inherit a thanedom. That was nonsense, but his gold bought the loyaltis of enough of my husband's faithless servants for him to install himself in my hall. So I fled, something I was raised never to do, and something I hope never to do again. When I have enough gold to raise an army I shall go back and take what is mine," she says. "I can offer you opportunities to make money through honest fighting and pillaging," Vigdis says. "Can you? I shall accept your offer. I shall be pleased to fight in your shield wall. But I warn you -- if you ask me to gather firewood, or cook a meal, you will not like the consequences," she says. "No fear, madam. You're the widow and daughter of a thane, and you'll be treated as sush," Vigdis says. "Then I will fight your enemies for you. But first I want a bounty of 500 denars. If you are a worthy captain who can lead her company to riches and plunder, you should have no trouble paying. I cannot afford to follow a pauper," the woman says."Oh, I am no pauper, madame. Here's 500 denars for you," Vigdis says and hands Matheld the money.

News arrive on September 18th that Khergit Khanate has declared war on Kingdom of Vaegirs. The next day, Vigdis speaks to her newest companion. "Yes, Vigdis?" "I suppose you know that I aspire to be queen of this land?" she says. "The saga of Bjernstad tells us that a man who does great deeds, beyond those of the other men of his time, may claim the throne. I'd say you could make that claim," Matheld says. "Would you support my claim?" Vigdis wonders. "I would -- on one condition. You'd be queen in Praven or Sargoth or wherever you want to rule, but I'd rule my own hall. And if I had a dispute with any other of your thegns, be it over land, livestock, or blood, you'd let us settle it sword to sword, according to the old ways, and let the heavens decide who is in the right," Matheld says. "Fair enough." "Good! Then give me a few weeks and I'll go about the courts of the land, letting it be known that you're a ruler who respects the thegns and their ancient rights. You won't go sticking your royal nose where it doesn't belong, and Calradia will be the better for it," she says. "Good. You do that," Vigdis says. "Farewell then, Vigdis, for a little while." As the day passes, a messenger from the Kingdom of Rhodoks arrives with an offer of 1700 denars ransom for Count Tarchias. Vigdis takes the money and sends word that the prisoner is to be released.

On September 20th Jeremus returns from his mission. The next day Marnid voices his concerns. "Um, captain. Matheld has ridden off to tell the lords of this land that you'll let them settle their quarrels by force and violence. You know they rarely actually fight each other, right? Most of the time, it's the traders and travellers on the roads between their castles that get clobbered in their petty disputes. Any excuse to shake down a caravan, they'll take. I really hope she misunderstood you, my lady," he says. The day after, on September 22nd, Vigdis sends Deshavi as an emissary to the Kingdom of Nords, to show her goodwill. At the same time, she sends Baheshtur on a similar mission to the Sarranid Sultanate. Borcha returns from his mission. Deshavi returns the next day. "I have returned from my mission to Kingdom of Nords. In general, I would say, King Ragnar wishes to be at peace with Midgaard as to pursue the war against the Kingdom of Vaegirs. In his letter, King Ragnar merely refers to you as Vigdis, omitting any title. This does not constitute recognition of your right to rule," she says. Baheshtur returns the next day, with similar results. September 24th is also the day when Kingdom of Rhodoks take Knudarr Castle from Kingdom of Swadia. They make peace two days later, and on September 27th, Matheld returns. Vigdis' party encounters Count Beranz' party. Vigdis sees an opportunity... "Good to see you again, Vigdis..." "There is something which I would like to discuss with you in private," she tells the young count. "I'm a simple man, not one for intrigue, but I guess that you have something worthwhile to say. What is it?" he wonders. "How do you feel about Lady Isolla of Suno?" Vigdis probes. "Well, I'll be honest. I feel that sometimes Lady Isolla of Suno overlooks my rights, and extends her protection to the unworthy. Sometimes, I do worry about the state of the realm," he says. "Well, I have something to tell you. I ask for your support for the throne of Calradia," she says. "Why would I support you?" Count Beranz wonders. "According to the ancient law and custom of the Calradians, I should be queen. I ask you to pledge allegiance to me," Vigdis says, knowing she'll make Lady Isolla of Suno's position weaker. "Let me think... Militarily, I might be safer if I joined you. I am more comfortable with you and your companions than with my current liege. You speak of claims to the throne. Good. There is nothing I'd rather do than fight for a good cause. Finally, one should always think carefully about retracting one's allegiance. It is not good to get a name as one who changes lieges easily. In this case, however, many men would understand. -- I am ready to pledge myself to you as my queen," he says. Vigdis is pleased and confers Jelbegi Castle on her new vassal.

On September 28th, war officially breaks out between Midgaard and the Sarranid Sultanate. Vigdis's troops are in the vicinity of Unuzdag Castle and quickly lay siege to the enemy stronghold. The fighting is over quickly once it has started. The numerous Midgaard troops storming the walls are too much for the ill-equipped defenders. All 107 of them are killed, whereas Vigdis has lost 5 men and 5 troops have been wounded. After the battle, she calls Matheld to her side. "Yes, Vigdis?" "Would you be interested in holding a fief?" Vigdis asks. "Which fief did you have in mind?" Matheld wonders. "Unuzdaq Castle." "You'd make me a thegn? Well, I suppose that I can postpone reclaiming my inheritance for a little while longer, and make my great hall at Unuzdaq Castle. Some day, I may travel over the seas to take back what is mine, but until then, I would be pleased to raise a band of battle-hardened Nords to fight under your banner," she says. A Sarranid raid on the village of Ayn Assuadi is repelled on September 29th, by Midgaard forces. Emir Ghanawa lays siege to Unuzdaq Castle. He is caught in a trap when Vigdis' troops suddenly appear from out of the woods. The enemy has a group of veteran retainers with him. The battle is fierce and bloody. A few men escape, but most of them are mercelessly cut down. "I give up! I give up! Call back your dogs!" the wounded emir cries. "You have fought well. You are free to go," Vigdis says. "Am I? So refined is your cruelty, that you would rather see me free and humiliated, than in chains. Enjoy your truimph!" he says.

On the last day of September, Vigdis lays siege to Weyyah Castle. The siege is costly for both sides. The Sarranid archers placed on the walls and in the courtyard pelt the attacking Midgaard troops with arrows, with devastating effect. It is only through the legendary bravery, and fearless assault of Vigdis that the losses suffered by Midgaard were not higher. She jumps from the wall, swooping down upon the archers like a dragon an eyewitness describes it. Vigdis' war cry rang out like the enthralling voice of a siren, mesmerizing the archers who just stood there and were cut down. Truth be told, there was nothing magical about Vigdis, even though the enemy may have thought so. Superstitious minds have called Vigdis a witch, but she had, in reality, only revived an ancient northern battle style -- that of the legendary berserker. Fearless warriors who fought in a frenzy, their name derived from the bear skins they wore in battle. -- The Sarranid archers could not believe what they were seeing, a woman who fought as if daemon-possessed. Fear is a strange thing. You would think that fear would have made the archers run away, but instead they froze in time, unable to respond. -- A natural reaction to fear that is lethal in combat. The rest is legend. But had it not been for Vigdis' brave act to slay all the archers in the courtyard single handedly, then Midgaard would have lost many more than the 20 troops who died. 47 Midgaard troops were wounded. The 132 Sarranid defenders were all killed, except one sole survivor taken prisoner. After the battle Vigdis speaks to Alayen. "Yes, my lady?" "Would you be interested in holding a fief?" she asks. "Which fief did you have in mind?" "Weyyah Castle and Hawaha," Vigdis says. "My lady, I was cheated of my inheritance -- but now, with this offer of this estate, you make right what was wrong. It would give me the greatest honor to serve you, to fight for you, and to hold this land in fief to you," he says. The same day, the Sarranid Sultanate takes Rindyar Castle from Kingdom of Swadia.

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Taking the enemy castle

October 1st the Sarranid Sultanate lost Caraf Castle to the queen of Midgaard. The siege had begun the evening before and when day broke, the battle began. The defenders were not only outskilled -- they were also outnumbered. Vigdis had brought more than 160 troops against their 122. It was a massacre as the Swadia and Vaegir knights under Vigdis' command stormed the walls. Only 4 Sarranid troops survived to be taken prisoner. Midgaard had lost 3 troops and 17 of Vigdis' men had been wounded. The young queen already knew what she wanted to do when she talked to her companion. "Would you be interested in holding a fief?" she asks. "Which fief did you have in mind?" Ymira wonders. "Caraf Castle." "My lady, it is most generous of you to offer me Caraf Castle. I would be pleased to hold it, and dedicate myself to the moral and material uplift of its inhabitants," Ymira says. Furthermore, Vigdis makes Mardid her minister and asks Artimenner to return to her company. "Yes, captain?" "I suppose you know that I aspire to be queen of this land?" she asks him. "Well, you pay your men on time, when you can, generally speaking. That's the best qualification for kingship there is, in my book. You show some respect for the rights of others," he says. "Would you support my cause?" Vigdis asks. "I would. People might say that you don't have royal blood in your veins. But as far as I've seen, royal blood makes you skinflint. Kings and nobles will take out loans or comission building projects without half a thought to how they're ever going to pay back all those commoners who expect to eat after an honest day's work. If you ask me, an honest tongue makes a woman a quen, not a fancy pedigree," Artimenner says. "Well-spoken, my good man," Vigdis says. "I'm glad you think so. Here's what I suggest. I know men in the guilds here, men like me, who've been shafted and shaken down until they can take no more. Here's what I'll tell them -- you're honest. You respect the burghers. You'll pay your debts. You won't beggar your subjects," he says. "Very good. You do that," Vigdis encourages. "Farewell then, captain, for a little while."

By the end of the day, October 1st, the Sarranid Sultanate and Kingdom of Swadia have made peace. The nezt day Sultan Hakim is laying siege to Unuzdaq Castle. He is unaware of Vigdis' presence in the woods. It is a total surprise when her cavalry bears down upon his forces. Vigdis' Midgaard troops only suffer 3 wounded. That compared to the 145 Sarranid troops they have killed, 2 troops they have wounded, and 17 troops they have routed. But Sultan hakim still has his elite Mamlukes and support troops. The two sides clash again, this time much more intensly, with much blood spilled on the ground. Sultan Hakim is wounded in the battle, but he still manages to escape in the chaos. 12 of Vigdis' troops are killed and 36 are wounded. Of the 143 troops Sultan Hakim had left, only 10 have survived to run away. On October 3rd Emir Raddoun lays siege to Caraf Castle. The castle is only a short ride away from Shariz where Vigdis' troops have spent the night. When Vigdis arrives, Count Etrosq of the Kingdom of Rhodoks has already engaged the enemy. Vigdis' arrival swings the battle in the allies' favor. Vigdis still loses 6 men to the Sarranid archers and their elite mamlukes. 9 of Vigdis' troops are wounded. Count Etrosq has lost 11 men and 6 of his troops have been wounded. Emir Raddoun escapes at the expense of 74 of his troops being slaughtered and 2 troops captured. A tournament is being held in the town of Shariz and Vigdis is eager to return before it ends. There is still time and before the day ends she has won the tournament. Meanwhile, Emir Tilimsan has laid siege to Unuzdaq Castle. It is late in the evening when Vigdis arrives with her troops. She signals the castle, and Lady Matheld sallies out with her troops. They engage the enemy and are soon reinforced by Vigdis' troops. One of Vigdis' men and one of the Nords under Lady Matheld's command are wounded. Emit Tilimsan escapes with 4 of his troops, leaving 78 dead and 8 wounded behind. "Good to see you here, Vigdis. There is no greater fortune than the chance to show one's valor on the field of arms!" she says.

Vigdis spends the night in Unuzdaq Castle. By the morning she has heard the rumors of a dispute between her vassals Lady Matheld and Lady Ymira. Vigdis walks into the great hall. "Yes, my lady? What is your bidding?" Lady Matheld wonders. "I wish to address your quarrel with Lady Ymira," Vigdis says. "Lady Ymiira, I have heard, has been encouraging seditious ideas among the peasantry -- a foolish move which endangers us all," Matheld says. "Whatever your differences, I want you to settle them," Vigdis asserts. "For the sake of our friendship, I defer to your judgement. I will try to make amends with Lady Ymira. I suppose you should speak to Lady Ymira, and see if she will do the same for me." Vigdis quickly sets out from Unuzdaq Castle to Caraf Castle. It is late in the afternoon when she arrives. "Yes, my lady? What is your bidding?" Lady Ymira wonders. "I wish to address your quarrel with Lady Matheld," Vigdis says. "Lady Matheld has called me out for the way I deal with my tenants. Well, so be it. If I teach them that they are equal of anyone with so-called 'gentle' blood, what is it to her?" Ymira says. "Whatever your differences, I want you to settle them," Vigdis says. "For the sake of our friendship, I defer to your judgement. I will try to make amends with Lady Matheld. Let it be as though our quarrel never occurred," Lady Ymira says.

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Resolving the dispute between friends

On October 5th Vigdis is passing through the forest on her journey by Unuzdaq Castle. The young queen's party stumbles upon the battle between Lady Matheld and Emir Hiwan. The arrival of Vigdis' party swings the balance in the favor of the Midgaard forces. 3 of Vigdis' men are killed in the cavalry charge, and 3 are wounded. 2 of Lady Matheld's Nords are wounded. The emir loses 74 men, 4 men are wunded and 4 men routed. The enemy emir makes a miraculous escape. Taking some time to rest at Unuzdaq Castle, Vigdis decides to confer the village of Ushkuru on Lady Ymira, the village of Amashe on her husband Lord Plais, and the village of Tshibitin on Lord Regas. News arrive that the kingdom of Vaegirs have taken the town of Wercheg from Kingdom of Nords. A messenger from Vigdis' husband arrives. He wishes Vigdis to join his new military campaign. During the night, one of Vigdis' Sarranid mamlukes deserts. On the 6th of October Caraf Castle is laid under siege. Vigdis' party rides out to break the siege. It is an easy battle for the Midgaard queen's troops. Only one man is wounded. Emir Uqais loses 68 men, 2 wounded and 3 routed troops. The next day Vigdis rejoins the army. "Vigdis, I need a volunteer to scout the area. I want you to go to Uhhun, Teramma Castle and Uhhun Castle and report back whatever you find," Lord Plais says.

Vigdis sets out on the mission. They are already prety close to Uhhun Castle and the village of Uhhun. They then set course for Teramma Castle. Passing the castle they pick up the tracks of a large war party. It's when they near Caraf Castle they see the vast number of Sarranid emirs and their troops laying siege to Lady Ymira's home. Though seemingly hopelessly outnumbered, Vigdis orders the attack. Her bold cavalry charge has the intended effect of striking fear into the enemy. The poorly disciplined Sarranid troops quickly break and run. It is in combat with the veteran mamlukes that Vigdis loses 8 men and 24 Midgaard troops are wounded. After the initial cavalry charge 134 Sarranid troops have been killed, 11 wounded and 74 have been routed. The enemy is still strong in numbers and regroups. During the second cavalry charge 6 of Vigdis' troops are killed and 7 are wounded. The enemy loses another 156 men, 2 wounded and 32 routed troops. Again the two sides regroup and clash anew. Vigis loses 2 more men and 9 wounded troops. The emirs lose another total of 154 men, 4 wounded and 24 routed troops. As the battle rages on, the Sarranid troops fall before the Midgaard warriors as wheat before a scythe. 132 more dead, 1 wounded and another 31 troops who deserted the battle -- that compared to Vigdis' losses of another 2 soldiers and 8 wounded. In the final clash between the two sides Vigdis loses another 3 men and 1 troop is wounded. The Sarranid emirs lose 129 men, 1 wounded and 15 routed troops. Most of the enemy emirs escaped, except for two -- Emir Azadun and Emir Atis are taken prisoner by Vigdis' party. The prisoners are taken to the dungeon in Shariz. During the night, another of Vigdis' Sarranid mamlukes deserts. The next day Vigdis receives an invitation to the feast that is going to be held at Ergellon Castle, organized by Lord Clais. Vigdis decides to try to negotiate a peace treaty with Sultan Hakim and sends Borcha as her emissary.

In the taver a man dressed in nomad robes turns to Vigdis. "Greetings, traveller. I am Nizar. No doubt you will have heard of me," he says. "Um... I don't think so," Vigdis says. "You have not? Then perhaps you have heard of my steed, who cuts across the Calradian plains like a beam of moonlight? Or of my sword, a connoisseur of the blood of the highest-born princes of the land? I am a warrior by profession. But perhaps you may also have heard of my prowess as a poet, who can move the iciest maidens to swoon. Or of my prowess in the art of the bedchamber, in which I must confess a modest degree of skill. I confess a modest affection for Calradia, and for the past several years have visited its towns, castles, and villages, making the most of my talents. Which reminds me -- somewhere out there in the city is a rather irate husband. I don't suppose you might consider helping me leave town?" he says. "I migt be able to use an extra sword in my company," Vigdis says. "Indeed? You would do well to enlist me. Sword, lance, the bow -- my skill in all such martial pursuits is the stuff of epic verse. Together we will perform such feats as will be recounted in festivals and campfires, in filthy taverns and in the halls of kings, for many generations to come," Nizar says. "Good. Make yourself ready, and we'll be on our way," Vigdis tells him. "Before I sign up, there is a small matter of some expenses I have incurred while staying here -- 300 denars. Do you think you could cover those for me, as a gesture of friendship?" Without hesitation, Vigdis settls Nizar's debts and the warrior joins the company. As they leave town, Vigdis takes some time to speak some more with Nizar. "Yes, oh valorus one?" "Do you have any connections that we could use to our advantage?" she wonders. "Oh valiant one! With your permission, I was thinking that I might pay visit to the dales of Suno. I try not to revisit old pastures, but I must confess a certain curiosity as to how a comely shepherdess of my former acquaintance is getting along. On the way, I may attempt to stop in at the castle. I suspect that it would not be terribly difficult for me to charm my way into the lord's hall, and I may be able to provide you with the latest news from Kingdom of Swadia," he says. "Splendid idea -- you do that," Vigdis tells him. "Good. I should be ready to report in about five days. Farewell then, oh valorous one, for a little while," Nizar says. Returning to her party, Vigdis notices another of her Sarranid mamlukes has deserted.

"Well, boss, at last I've found you. I have returned from my mission to Sarranid Sultanate. In general, I would say, even though he is fighting on two fronts, Sultan hakim is inclined to continue the was against Midgaard for a little while longer, for the sake of honor. Sultan Hakim says that he is unwilling to conclude a peace," Borcha says when he returns. News tell that Kingdom of Nords has taken the town of Wercheg from Kingdom of Vaegirs -- it is back in Nord hands. -- By order of Lady Isolla of Suno, Lord Delinard of the Kingdom of Swadia has been indicted for treason. The lord has been stripped of all his properties, and has fled for his life. He ir rumored to have gone into exile in Midgaard. Another of Vigdis' Sarranid mamlukes deserts. On October 11th Artimenner returns from his mission. The next day nizar is back. "Well, oh valorous one, at last I've found you. The Kingdom of Swadia is a labyrinth of rivalries and grudges. Lords ignore their liege's summons, and many are ripe to defect... The rest of my report I submit to you in writing," he says. After a scrap with some outlaws on October the 13th, Artimenner voices his concerns. "Excuse me. I hope you don't mind me telling you that in my opinion, that girl Klethi is a danger to the party. She's a feral brat, disrespectful of authority and the basic principles of the military art. What's more, I suspect she's a thief. I found her going through my baggage and pawing some of my schematics, and she pulled a knife on me when I thought fit to object. A wise captain would not allow her in his company," he says. Vigdis has other things on her mind. "I don't have time for your petty dispute. We've got a siege tower to build. Do not bother me with this again," she says. Some time later Nizar approaches her. "Oh valiant one -- I hear that you have given leave to Jeremus to produce some testily-worded dissertation that undermines everything the people of this land hold dear, and accuses the old emperors of murder and usurpation. Captain -- I know as a poet that people must have heroes to emulate, and a golden age to restore. Will you create a kingdom in which cynics and scholars tell us what we must believe? I can think of nothing more dull," he says.

Teramma Castle is laid under siege, by Vigdis, on October 14th. As soon as the siege ladders are prepared the assualt begins. The defenders are lining the battlements on the wall with archers and skirmishers. Vigdis approaches them with her shield wall followed by her own archers, skilled with bows and crossbows. The exchange of fire results is a few casualties, but the real fighting begins when Vigdis' troops scale the wall. Storming the wall, the veteran Midgaard troops overwhelm the inexperienced Sarranid defenders. The battle ends with Vigdis having lost 4 men and 13 wounded. 4 of the 128 defenders survived to be taken as prisoners. Vigdis sticks around the castle until the next day, and thus she is close by when the castle is besieged by Emir Ghanawa. Vigdis' sudden appearance through the haze in the sun takes the enemy by surprise. One of Vigdis' men is killed and two are wounded in the cavalry charge, falling victims to the arrows from the Sarranid archers. The cavalry quickly break through the enemy line and the emir's troops start to run in all directions. Vigdis spots the emir on his horse and gives chase. Her trusty courser soon catches up with the emir's desert horse. As she passes on his left side, she delivers a heavy blow to his backside. Seriously injured, the emir falls off his horse. Vigdis dismounts and walks over to him as he lies in the sand. She bandages his wounds and brings him along as a prisoner. Later, the same day, Kingdom of Nords and Kingdom of Vaegirs make peace.

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Vigdis, Lady Isolla of Suno, and Lord Plais

It is on October 16th that Lord Delinard swears his oath of fealty to Vigdis. Once he officially has become a vassal to the queen of Midgaard, she decides to confer Ismirala Castle on him. By evening Vigdis' party runs into Emir Raddoun's smaller party. Vigdis' cavalry charges the Sarranid troops. One Midgaard troop is killed in the battle. Emir Raddoun loses 65 men and 3 wounded. He escapes, despite his wounds, thanks to his horse. On the 17th of October Sarranid troops try to raid the village of Ushkuru, but they are repelled by Midgaard troops and the villagers. The day after, as Vigdis had expected, a larger force made up by a number of emirs lay siege to Teramma Castle. The enemy rlies on their numbers, vut the majority of the troops are raw recruits and poorly equipped footsoldiers. Vigdis' cavalry bears down on the first enemy formation. They are met with arrows, but the cavalry quickly closes with the Sarranid battle line and wreaks merry hell on the men. Vigdis' horse is hit and she has to continue the fighting on foot. In the chaos 2 Midgaard troops are killed and 11 wounded. They kill 151 enemies and wound 13, routing 18 troops. Both sides take a moment to regroup. Vigdis picks a fresh horse for the second charge. 3 of her troops are wounded in battle. The enemy emirs lose 131 troops, 3 wounded and 11 routed men. Without much delay, Vigdis' cavalry swings around for a third charge. Midgaard suffers no casualties, but they inflict heavy losses on the enemy. 120 Sarranid troops are killed, 3 are wounded and 14 desert. Vigdis brings her cavalry around for the final blow against the Sarranid troops. The remaining troops are mostly trained veterans and a few mamlukes. It is an intense battle with much blood spilled. Vigdis loses 3 men and 4 of her troops are wounded. The emirs lose 82 men, 4 wounded and 4 troops are routed. The emirs themselves have suffered, too. Emir Quryas and Emir Hamezan are both taken prisoner. Though both Emir Mundhalir and Emir Lakhem also yielded, they are both allowed to go free. After the battle, Vigdis decides to try to negotiate a truce. She sends Baheshtur as an emissary. It is primarily because the truce between Kingdom of Swadia and Midgaard has just expired.

Vigdis intends to deal with the Kingdom of Swadia once and for all. On October 19th, her party and that of Lord Mirchaud meet. "We meet again, Vigdis..." "There is something I would like to discuss with you in private," Vigdis says. "I'm a simple man, not one for intrigue, but I guess you have something worthwhile yo say. What is it?" Lord Mirchaud wonders. "How do you feel about Lady Isolla of Suno?" Vigdis asks. "Well, I'll be jonest. I feel sometimes Lady Isolla of Suno overlooks my rights, and extends her protection to the unworthy. Sometimes, I do worry about the state of the realm," he says. "I ask for your support for the throne of Calradia," she says. "Why should I support you?" he wonders. "Because I can unify Calradia and end this discord," Vigdis says. "Do you perhaps tell each person what you think they most want to hear? You speak of bringing peace by force, yet to others you make legal claims. Indeed. Please continue," Lord Mirchaud says. "I ask you to pledge your allegiance to me." "Let me think... Militarily, I might be safer if I joined you. I am more comfortable with you and your companions than with my current liege. You speak of unifying Calradia. Well, I believe that we'll always be fighting -- it's important that we fight for a rightful cause. Finally, one should always think carefully about retracting one's allefiance, as it is not good to get a bad reputation. In this case, however, many men would understand. I am sorry. I am pledged to defend Lady Isolla of Suno. Though we may meet on the battlefield, I hope that we will still be friends," he says. Vigdis is disappointed that she has been unable to talk the lord into supporting her, but she takes no hostile stance and the two parties part ways. Lord Devlian, on the other hand, decides to defect and joins Midgaard.

On October 20th, Baheshtur returns from his mission. The negotions have been successful and a truce of 40 days has been signed. Vigdis is pleased as this gives her freedom to pursue a war against the kingdom of Swadia. She just needs to anger them a little first, something she intends to do by extorting money from their caravans. Simply looting them would upset some of her companions, and Vigdis has too much respect for the traders to simply kill them. Demanding a toll fee is the best way -- no one gets hurt, except the merchant's purse and the relation between the kingdoms -- which is exactly what Vigdis wants. By order of King Ragnar, Lord Dundush of the Kingdom of Nords has been indicted for treason. The lord has been stripped of all his properties, and has fled for his life. He is rumored to have gone into exile in Midgaard. Lord Rochabarth defects and joins Midgaard on October 21st. He is soon followed by Lord Rafard, lord of Haringoth Castle and Nemeja. Vigdis is pleased that so many of Lady Isolla of Suno's vassals switch sides and join her. A messenger from Lord Delinard arrives, with an invitation to a feats at his great hall in Ismirala Castle, on October 22nd. The lord's castle is too far off, though, and Vigdis has received reports that a sizeable Swadian force has been spotted near Praven.

Vigdis' party catches Lady Isolla's troops in the hills between Praven and the village of Azgad. Though Lady Isolla of Suno has a sound mind for tactics, she lacks the trained troops that Vigdis has at her disposal. The Swadians are caught in a valley, with enemy archers on the high ground. The battle is a humiliating defeat for the Swadian ruler, who is among the first to fall. Vigdis spots her former liege on the battlefield and attacks. Lady Isolla of Suno cannot match the skill of the queen of Midgaard. She is knocked unconscious by Vigdis, who quickly moves on to the next enemy. But before the battle ends, the Swadian queen regains consciousness and makes an escape. But 181 or her troops have been killed, 6 wounded and only 5 have manage to flee. Vigdis' Midgaard troops have only suffered 2 wounded. To make things even worse for Lady Isolla of Suno, King Ragnar of Kingdom of Nords declare war on Kingdom of Swadia. And her vassal, Lord Mirchaud, is defeated by Midgaard troops at the village of Ruluns. Vigdis decides to confer Teramma Castle on Lord Delinard, on October 23rd. She also confers the village of Shibar Zumr on Lord Devlian. Vigdis' kingdom continues to conquer land. On October 24th, they lay siege to Vyincourd Castle. The defenders are numerous, but most of them are raw recruits and skirmishers with very little training. Their sheer numbers result in that Vigdis loses 14 men and 34 of her troops are wounded in the siege battle. Only one of the 296 defenders is alive, to be taken prisoner, when the fighting is over. During the day, Jarl Reamald of Kingdom of Nords has defected and joined Vigdis as her latest vassal. She rewards him with Vyincourd Castle, displeasing many of her other vassals. Expecting a counter attack from the Kingdom of Swadia, Vigdis' troops stick near Vyincourd Castle. And as the young queen expected, one of Lady Isolla of Suno's vassals shows up the next day. Lord Klargus' troops are caught in a devastating pincer move, with Vigdis' troops attacking from the front as well as on both their flanks. Lord Klargus' troops are quickly defeated, the lord making a timely escape. Vigdis' troops have suffered 4 wounded. 141 of Lord Klargus' men are left on the battlefield, 3 are wounded and only 3 have escaped. As October 25th turns into evening, Jarl Marayirr defects and joins Midgaard. Vigdis decides to dispatch Deshavi as an emissary to the Kingdom of Vaegirs, seeking recognition of her right to rule.

A sizeable Swadian force lay siege to Vyincourd Castle on October 26th. Vigdis' party quickly rides from Uxkhal to break the siege. With devastating impact, the Midgaard queen's cavalry smashes the first battle line of the Swadians. The raw recruits and their skirmishers are the first to break and run, numerous enemy cavalry mercilessly hunting them down. The little cavalry that the Swadian lords have available are quickly defeated by Vigdis' elite knights and mercenaries, as well as her skilled horse archers. In the confrontation, 5 Midgaard troops are killed and 7 are wounded. The Swadians have lost 124 men and 15 wounded, whereas 35 of their troops have successfully fled the field. The bloody fighting continues with the charge on the second Swadian battle line. The battle results are similar, with 4 Midgaard troops being killed and 4 wounded. Kingdom of Swadia has lost another 124 men, 2 wounded and 19 routed troops. Vigdis' troops are exstatic, the Swadians demoralized. As the two sides clash a third time the Swadians only wound one of Vigdis' knights, themselves losing 117 men, 2 wounded and 18 routed troops. The remaining Swadian troops are mercilessly hunted down. 3 of Vigdis' cavalrymen are wounded in the fighting, but 77 of the remaining 81 Swadian troops are killed, leaving only 4 to escape with their lords. After the battle Vigdis returns to uxkhal where Deshavi catches up with the party. Vigdis is a bit disappointed that there has been no recognition of her right to rule. In the morning, October 27th, Vigdis notices that one of her Swadian knights has deserted. Before the end of the day, Kingdom of Nords have taken Ryibelet Castle from Kingdom of Swadia. By order of King Graveth, Count Tellrog of the Kingdom of Rhodoks has been indicted for treason. The lord has been stripped of all his properties, and has fled for his life. He is rumored to have gone into exile in Midgaard.

A day later, Vigdis' troops lay siege to Tevarin Castle and captures it in the afternoon. The queen of Midgaard decides to confer the castle and the accompanying village of Balanli on Lord Rochabarth. Midgaard troops capture Dechios Castle on October 29th. On October 30th, Vigdis' troops lay siege to Suno. After the successful siege, Vigdis takes control of the town. She confers the village of Yaragar on Lord Tellrog. On October 31st, by order of King Ragnar, Lord Surdun of the Kingdom of Nords has been indicted for treason. The lord has been stripped of all his properties, and has fled for his life. He is rumored to have gone into exile in Midgaard. Vigdis visits her husband at Senuzgda Castle. "I was thinking that perhaps we could host a feast," she says. "A splendid idea, my wife. However, not to insult our guests, we must make sure that we can provide a large and varied repast, for the lords, their families, and their retainers. All told, we should count on a couple of hundred mouths to feed, over several days. Let us take an inventory of our household possessions... Of food, which must come before anything else, the amount is magnificent and the variety is bountiful. Of drink, which guests will expect in great abundance, the amount is magnificent and the variety is magnificent. Of oil, which we shall require to light the lamps, the amount is maginificent. Overall, our table will be considered sufficient," he says. "Let us dispatch the invitations," Vigdis says. "I shall send word, then, that we will host a feast as soon as conditions in the realm permit. You perhaps should continue to stock our larder, so that we may do justice to our reputation for hospitality," Lord Plais says. On November 2nd, Vigdis' troops lay siege to the last remaining Swadian stronghold, Tilbaut Castle. The layout of the castle is an advantage to the defending archers. But in the end, they cannot stand against the determined attackers. 15 Midgaard troops are killed and 19 are wounded. 132 Swadian troops are killed and 6 are wounded. After the battle, Vigdis confers Derchios Castle on Lord Dundush.

A couple of days later, Vigdis is herding cattle from Uxkhal to Veluca. When they are about halfway, Nizar becomes all emotional. "Ah, Castle Ergellon! Such a lovely spot, at the foot of the Rhodok highlands. Such happy days I spent here, the summer before last. I had come up here with a small Swadian force, but they were caught by the Rhodoks in the woods and their horsemen cut down amid the trees. I fled and sound shelter up in the high valleys, in the arms of the comeliest cowherd you ever saw. She took me to a cave near the high pastures, and would bring me cheese and berries, and tell me the tales from the hills -- of playful goat-men who guide lost animals back to their flocks, or of ghostly hunstsmen who ride the winds, chasing stormclouds. Such rustics they are! Eventually I had to leave, and sometimes I wonder if there is a little herdsboy swaddled on her back, as she takes the cows up to pasture each morning -- but no, no, one should never look back," he says. Once the cattle has been delivered, Vigdis small party sets course for Shariz. "Greetings there, Sister! Here's to the doom and downfall of all high-born lord and ladies!" "Why do you say that?" Vigdis asks the tavern patron. "It's a long story, but if you get yourself a drink, I'll be glad to tell it. A sergeant I was, in the garrison here at Shariz. Twenty years I stodd guard for the city, taking many a hard knock in many a tough fight, until they appointed a snot-nosed, downy-lipped princeling, barely out of his mother's cradle, as commander of the garrison. He came upon me standing watch atop the tower, with my crossbow unstrung -- on account of the rain, you see... Can't have the cord losen... But little Prince Snot-Nose tells me that an unstrung bow is deriliction of duty. Says he'll have me horsewhipped. And something in me snapped. So I walked off my post. Now I'm here getting drunk, and the Devil take tomorrow," he says. "If you're looking for work, I can use experienced fighters," Vigdis says. "Are you, now? Well, that's a sight better than swinging from a gibbet for desertion. You won't regret taking me on, Sister. I'm a deay eye with a crossbow -- a beautiful weapon, it can punch right through a nobleman's armour and spill his blue blood upon the ground. And I've trained more raw recruits than you've had hot dinners, begging your pardon. I don't toadie to the high-born," he says. "Good man. We'll treat you with the respect you deserve," Vigdis says. "That's good news. But I'll ask for one last thing, captain. I have a woman here in Shariz, a tavern wench, and she says she has my child in her belly. I want to give her some money before I leave... for the child, you know. Do you think you can spare 200 denars?" Vigdis gladly presents him with the 200 denars and Bunduk joins the company.

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Meeting Nizar and Bunduk

"Yes, Sister?" "Do you have any connections that we can use to our advantage?" Vigdis asks Bunduk. "Captain -- I was thinking that some of my old mates in the garrison at Jelkala would be glad to help me. They're good lads, and would never betray the city, but like me they have no particular affection for the bluebloods that command them, and may be willing to slip a little political gossip our way. The gentry are always falling out over one little thing or the other, but the lads might be able to know if there's real dissent brewing," he says. "Splendid idea -- you do that," Vigdis says. "Good. I should be ready to report in about five days. Farewell then, Sister, for a little while." Vigdis and her party spend the time doing some quests for the guild masters and hunt bandits and outlaws. Three days later Bunduk returns. "Well, Sister, at last I've found you. The Kingdom of Rhodoks is shaky. Many lords do not cooperate with each other, and some might be tempted to defect to a liege that they consider more worthy. The rest of my report I submit to you in writing," he says. "I have another task for you -- I suppose you know that I aspire to be queen of this land?" Vigdis says. "Well, Sister, I suppose there must be kings and queens, and if there must be kings and queens, then you would be as good a queen as any..." "Would you support my cause?" Vigdis wonders. "Certainly, Sister. But I'd ask that you consider a thought of mine. If you become queen, then I'd ask you open your court to the common folks, and not just to the lords and blue-bloods. I'd ask you let it be known that should any man be judged and sentenced, that he have the right to appeal to you directly. Right now, the lords have the right -- I say every man in Calradia should have it, too," Bunduk says. "Of course - I would give my subjects that right," Vigdis says. "Well ten, Sister, give me leave for a few weeks and I can go about this land, letting the common folk know that you will rule justly and equitably, and that lord and common alike should be one before your law. Men will speak of you as queen, and that is a good start to becoming one..." he says. "Very good. You do that," Vigdis tells him. Two days pass, then Deshavi voices her concern. "I have heard what you told Bunduk, about giving every common criminal the right to appeal to the ruler. I do not approve. Bandits should be hanged when caught. Give them a trial or an appeal, and they will talk their way out of the noose. Bunduk is a good man, but no man can fully understand what these wolves in human form do to women," she says. Lord Ryis sends an invitation to a feat in his great hall at Grunwalder Castle. Vigdis decides to confer the village of Tosdhar on Lord Marayirr.

"Hello there, lassie. Have a drink on me," an elderly woman says, in the tavern in Shariz. "What's the occation?" Vigdis wonders. "Why, I managed to sell my wagon and pots, lass. For once I've got money to spend and I intend to make the best of it. For 30 years I followed the armies of this land, selling them victuals and drink, wantching their games of dice and finding them girls, and nary a denar was left in my purse at the end. It's no kind of life, victualling armies. You earn a bit here and there as the soldiers spend their money, and then along comes one defeat and you have to start over endebting yourself to buy a new wagon and new oxen. So I've decided to get out of the business, but army life is all I know," she says. "What will you do now?" Vigdis wonders. "Why, I'll be a soldier myself! Help my old hands to a bit of loot to comfort me in my retirement. Two boys I bore, both soldiers' brats, and they became soldiers themselves. One had his head split by a Khergit war club, the other died of the pox, but at least they didn't die hungry. I know how to swing a blade, staunch a wound, and feed an army on the march. It would be a foolish captain who passed up the opportunity to hire an experienced campaigner like me! Say, lassie, don't you command a war party of your own now?" the old woman says. "It sounds like you'll be useful. You are hired," Vigdis says. "Hey thank you captain. But before joining up with you, I would ask for a payment of 100 denars. I know that in war parties soldiers can go on for weeks without seeing any wages. I am wise enough not to sign anywhere without having myself covered." Vigdis presents the 100 denars and Katrin joins the party.

"Lassie -- I was thinking that it's been a while since I visited my kinfolk in Praven. They've been kind enough to me over the years, helping me out during the lean times, so I feel I'd like to share some of my newfound fortune with them. I've also brought wholesale enough times from the Praven grain merchants for them to trust me. I'd reckon they migt be persuaded to spill a few tidbits about events in Midgaard, if that would interest you," Katrin says. Vigdis sees a chance to gain some information about the relationship between the lords and ladies in her realm. "A fine idea," she says. "Give me about five days, Lassie, and I will have a report for you -- I mean, Captain." On November 15th, Katrin returns. "Well, lassie -- I mean Captain, at last I've found you. Midgaard is a labyrinth of rivalries and grudges. Lord ignore their liege's summons, and many are ripe to defect... The rest of my report I submit to you in writing," she says. Vigdis already knew her relation with some of the lords was very bad. Perhaps a war could unite them under a common cause. A Nord caravan sees like a suitable target. They are stopped and Vigdis extorts a toll from them before they are allowed to continue on their way. Meanwhile, at Reindi Castle, Lord Plais, Vigdis' husband, is gathering the lords to form an army. The latest news of the Nord army Vigdis has heard is that they are laying siege to Knudarr Castle, currently held by the Sarranid Sultanate.

Two days later, on November 17th, a hostile force made up by a couple of Nord lords is caught in the valleys around Praven. "I see the mountains, she says. We must be getting near home. I'm from Praven. You know the saying, madame -- 'Barley grown in Uxkhal is made into ale in Praven, and we're all the better for it.' Not sure what that means, madame, but it's true about the barley. And wheat, and oats. We grow more grain here in the Vale of Uxkhal than all the rest of Calradia put together, and our ale is the best, too. Y





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