The Nornians

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The Nornians

Post by Falkirk on Mon Jun 08, 2015 3:49 pm

King Dorn stood atop the tallest tower in Indar, staring out at the horde outside his city.  They had approached and sent an emissary, but such dealings are beneath a king, so Dorn stayed here.  A slave girl came to his side with a basket of apples and he brushed her off.  He was awaiting word from his own emissary and a king's mind should should not be taxed with more than one major thought at a time.

Minutes later Airik marched through the door on the other side of the tower and up to his king.  He bowed, despite the king not seeming amused by it, and then stood to speak to him.  "I count only a few thousand, my lord.  They are starving and exhausted and in need of shelter."

"Which I'm supposed to provide," Dorn asked, bemused.

"They say they are great fighters and will fight our enemies for us," Airik continued.  "Many of them were armed, even the women, but not the slaves."

"They have slaves?"

"Yes, my king, and they're willing to sell them as well."

The king stood still for some time.  When a king thinks it is good for him to not move too much, or disrupt his thoughts with motion of his body.  Finally he sighed, indicating his silence was coming to a close.  Airik stood waiting.

"Who are they, Airik?"

"Their leader is called Falkirk, my king.  They call themselves the Nornians."

"Nor-ni-ans," King Dorn sounded out, slightly disgusted.  "What a silly name."

"Yes, my lord."

"Airik?  If they are but a few thousand then we outnumber them by, what, five to one?"

Airik bowed.  The king didn't know numbers as well as he did, but he had to figure out how to word it correctly.  "Perhaps even six to one, if their numbers aren't as great as I'd guessed, my lord."

"Then tell them to leave my city, their stink bothers me."

"Yes, my lord."

Minutes later King Dorn, still atop the tallest tower, could see Airik and his honor guard approaching that leader of theirs, a Fenrik or something.  Who knew?  Kings couldn't be expected to remember everything.  He watched as Airik faced the man and they stood there a time.  The man even looked ready to beg.  And then, to King Dorn's surprise, they started dancing.

Yes, Pemlark, or whatever, and Airik were spinning about each other.  Pelmark's men and the Honor Guard were doing the same.  It wasn't until the small horde started spilling through the gates that King Dorn realized they weren't dancing, they were fighting.  He looked down in terror at the leader, who looked up and gestured towards him.

How rude, the king thought, that he would dare gesture to me.  Then he realized it wasn't a gesture, but the throw of a spear, which struck the king in the center of the chest.  As he toppled forward and off of the tower King Dorn was amazed at the accuracy of such a throw at that great a distance.


***

Falkirk, leader of the Nornians and the "Sword of Braton," stood atop the highest tower of the keep, overlooking the currently burning city of Indar.  He could see small looking men and women fighting to put out the flames, while equally small men and women cut them down or captured them in the name of the Nornians.  Blood covered and sweaty, Braton could only smile as he looked down.

"Today was a good day," he said quietly to himself, a smirk on his lips.

Behind him a door opened slowly and the tip of a spear emerged.  Slowly it moved towards Braton, who sat on the peripat looking down and admiring the view.  From the door we could see the carnage of moments before.  Dozens of men donned in light blues were cut down, with less than a handful of men in red capes, such as Falkirk's, also dead.  The Red Cloaks were severely outnumbered, and likely had been through the thick of the combat before getting to the tower, but they took it.  The battle had been won.

As the spear drew slowly closer, Falkirk barely turned his head and shouted out.  "Is that you, Vakarian?  I'd recognize that attempt at stealth anywhere, old man."

Though beyond his years, Vakarian still had a strong body and steely gaze.  His white cape was drenched in blood and, to him, was a far more fitting color than that worn by the politicians.  He frowned as he set his spear.  "Your senses are keen, Falkirk.  Far too keen for my liking, sometimes."

"Did you give the order?"

"To not raze the city completely?  Yes.  Though your men were in a fervor when it was given."  The older warrior walked to the edge of the tower and looked down with his young ally.  In his hand was a basket of apples taken from a nearby noble's quarters.  Falkirk took one, inspected it, and took a bite.

Vakarian scanned the top of the tower, and the view of the city, and his demeanor grew grim.  "Lost a lot of Nornians today."

"Had no choice," Falkirk said, eating the apple slowly.  "We were starving and desperate, a position I will never again let my people fall to.  It was either death by hunger, or the glorious death we all strive for.  I chose the latter."

"Indeed, and the same choice I would have made," Vakarian said.  He put down the basket and sat next to the Sword of Braton.  "What veterans we have left are either mamed or too few to make a regimen.  Our largest force is also our youngest, unless you count the slaves."

"I don't," Falkirk grunted.

"We could always train them," Vakarian suggested.

"No," Falkirk replied, cutting down the idea.  "They are not Nornians, it is not their place."

According to the teachings of Braton, no slave was allowed in the military.  This rule was two-fold.  First, the Nornians were the best of the best, and if any of them were capable of service it was their duty to fulfill that role.  They were the ones trained from birth, the ones deemed worthy of a glorious death.  None would take that honor from them.

Second, being the best meant training since youth.  The slaves had not gone through the trainging and, though certainly allowed to defend themselves in a seige, taking them out in a battle would just be slaughtering them.  The Nornians, the people of their new city, would need skilled workers instead of corpses.

"There are enough able bodies within our own ranks, Vakarian.  The Nornians will fight on."

Vakarian could see the far away look in the eye of the leader of his people.  "You plan on leaving, don't you?"

"Is there a choice," Falkirk asked.  "We have no idea where we are, or who our neighbors are, if any.  Some of the Indarins got away, and I'm guessing they will want revenge.  I will take some forces to find them, or whatever else is in our path."

"Don't you think you should stay here and lead your people?"

"That's your job now, Primarch."  Falkirk looked out of the corner of his eye with a smirk.  "Congratulations on your promotion."

"You little, no good, whelp of a-"

"Careful," Falkirk teased, "this is the 'Sword of Braton' you're talking to, Primarch."

Vakarian sighed.  "Primarch.  I'll have to get used to that."

Falkirk hopped to his feet and extended a hand.  Vakarian thought of swatting it away and proving he could stand on his own two feet, but he'd been in many battles and his body betrayed him sometimes in his old age.  A young warrior was offering him a hand, and he'd survived enough battles to have earned that help.  He took it and the two stood together, overlooking the city.

"Let's call it Arnin," Falkirk said.

"A good a name as any.  When do you leave?"

"After the burial ceremonies.  Then as soon as I can muster the troops."

"You are Falkirk.  They are Nornians.  I doubt that will be difficult."  Primarch Vakarian turned towards the door and started walking.  It was time he found the rest of the politicians and put together a council.

Falkirk stared out beyond the walls of the city, into the vast unknown that had almost killed his people, and to the seas behind him.  With all the dead Nornians from the days battle, the future of his people is not guaranteed.  It would be a hard struggle, a difficult fight, but that's what the Nornians are bred for.  If anyone was up for the challenge of this new world, it was Falkirk and the Nornians.
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Re: The Nornians

Post by Falkirk on Wed Jun 10, 2015 11:35 am

"You are not Nornians!"

A stern, bearded man with a scar down the left side of his face marched back and forth across the ranks of the trainees in front of him. Armed with thick cloth and wooden practice weapons, the men were lined up and ready to learn the intricacies of combat. From various walks of life, these free men, and slaves searching for freedom, stood as straight as possible, eager for instruction. There was, of course, one problem.

"You are not Nornians," the gruff man repeated, seemingly disgusted. Pelias Trakas was a Nornian who'd lived through many battles. His knowledge was vast and his body was strong, unlike many of the men in front of him. He served shoulder to shoulder with some of the greatest warriors in existence. Now he was teaching farmers and fisherman and smiths and builders. They already had trades, and their knowledge of combat would never match that of a true Nornian. He would have considered the assignment an insult if it had not come from the Sword of Braton himself.

"Nornians can hold their shield up all day and night without their arm ever fatiguing," Pelias continued as he smacked the wooden practice shield of one of the recruits. Immediately the recruit dropped the shield, arm already tired. When he bent over to pick it up Pelias kicked it away. "You are not a Nornian," he told him and the man stood without his shield.

"You are not Nornians," he bellowed again. "Nornians do not have fat bellies, nor are they frail of body. Nornians do not shake in fear as their instructor yells at them!" Pelias very quickly approached one of the recruits, almost as an attack, and the recruit jumped instinctively. "You are not a Nornian."

"Nornians are taught from an early age to fight in tight formations with spear and shield." Pelias Trakas continued pacing in front of the few hundred men, his voice loud enough to carry so they could all hear. "You will notice, that you have all been given green cloaks. Green is the color that young boys between seven and twelve wear. In fact, I have a few here with me now."

With a wave of his hand a group of five young Nornians, all dressed as their older brethren, just with different colored cloaks, walk out in tight formation. With various commands they show off their impressive skill, and indeed they look like miniature professional fighters already. They are given their leave, and Pelias addresses the crowd again.

"Those boys are your superiors," Pelias barks. "I could send a score of you against them and they would cut you down in seconds. They are Nornians!" After a moment of silence he added, "Green Cloaks, thrust!"

More than half of the men were confused, the others were certain he wasn't talking to them, and a select few managed to do a spear thrust. After they did, the rest of the men followed suit. It was likely the worst group spear thrust in history, and Pelias Trakas let them all know it. By the time he was done barking all of the men were sure he would personally teach each of them what a proper spear thrust looked like, and that would be the last thing they saw.

"You are not Nornians!" Pelias voice was starting to strain, but that just seemed to make him angrier at them. "If we were to line the lot of you up and send you against an opposing force they would tear you all to shreds. Do you understand? They would butcher you all. This is why you are not being trained to be soldiers."

The men looked around confused as a slight chatter started in the crowd. Pelias and some of the Nornians who were to help him drill stood at attention and barked for them all to calm down. Many of these men were slaves hoping to earn their freedom, and others were peasants with dreams of fighting alongside the great Nornians. All of them were offered a change in their lifestyle if they were to join and fight for Falkirk and for Braton. And now they were being told they would not be trained?

"You are not being trained as soldiers," Pelias continued, "because you are not Nornians. You are, however, free fighters. You will be trained to fight, you will be taught formations and tactics and be trained in a number of weapons. Those of you with no knowledge of seamanship will also be taught that. You are not Nornians, but you are now citizens of Arnin and have volunteered to fight for this city. The skills we teach you will be unique to how we plan on using you, and for those of you who succeed through training, you may even get the privilege of fighting alongside Falkirk himself."

Another murmer across the crowd, however this one was more uplifting. This is what they'd signed up for.

"Quiet, dogs!" Pelias yelled and they hushed. "I said you must succeed, and it is my job to make sure that those of you who are not worthy go home crying, and that the rest of you want to quit. Now! Pick up those weapons and line up in two's!"


***

Primarch Vakarian walked along the wall to meet with Falkirk, who was watching the training from a distance. He was far enough away that the recruits would not see him so as not to distract them, but close enough he could hear Pelias barking orders at them. All in all, he was entertained by what he saw.

"One of the districts was salvaged, sir," Primarch Vakarian said when he was within range. He stood next to his leader and looked out at the training area as well. "Plenty of fishing boats left to us by the Indarins. It's a good start."

Vakarian noticed that Falkirk seemed far more interested in the training. Instead of continuing he turned to watch alongside his young friend, and the leader of his people. "I know you didn't want to do this. Slaves are not soldiers."

"And they still won't be," Falkirk said quickly. "All free men are allowed to fight, but only Nornians are soldiers. These men are being trained, but they won't be seeing any battles."

"I don't understand, I thought you were turning them into a fighting force."

"I am." Falkirk paused as the group stopped being yelled at and started actual drills. From here he could see how raw they were, how terrible they would be against true Nornians. However, that didn't mean they couldn't do their part. "They will be taught the bow and the sword, primarily, and will be used to harass a fighting force. They will have to do until our young soldiers are able to graduate to the ranks."

"Some of them are nearly old enough," the Primarch reminded him.

"No," Falkirk said bluntly, "not until they are ready. For now these volunteers will do."

Both leaders of the Nornians watched on as the new recruits continued to train. Falkirk knew that Braton would be pleased, even if the men being trained would not be true Nornians. Braton was never that particular about who died in battle, just that battle had been done for him.
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Re: The Nornians

Post by Falkirk on Mon Jun 15, 2015 4:22 pm

From the top of what was left of one of the walls Falkirk, leader of the Nornians stood with a bow in hand. The knocked arrow was different. Instead of being sharp it was round and not made out of metal. Surely a blow from this arrow would feel like a stiff punch, but before it was fired Falkirk dipped it in a yellow paint and fired it.

The arrow sailed through the air and landed on a skirmisher who was surprised and disappointed that he could be seen at all. He'd been on his belly, slowly crawling towards the wall with only some tall grass here and there as cover. He grabbed the arrow and stood up, as he'd been instructed, indicating that he had lost.

This had been going on for over an hour and now only the stealthiest of Arnin's newest troops were left. Falkirk and a number of other Nornians had picked off the majority of the unit thus far, but for the last few minutes only Falkirk had been firing. Only the keen eye of the "Sword of Braton" could make out such subtle movements.

As he trotted back to behind the wall, Vasileios Contos fumed more and more. He was certain he hadn't moved in the seconds before he'd been hit with the arrow. Even then, this seemed to be less of stealth training and more target practice for the Nornians. Vasileios was a green cloak, a recruit who'd been suffering at the hands of these Nornian tormenters, all in the name of training.

Well he'd had enough. It was bad enough that he and his comrades were humiliated and beaten on a regular basis. The instructors would yell at them for their failures and remind them over that they are "not Nornians." Whatever that means. He was volunteering to help, dammit, that should be good enough.

He didn't need the constant badgering, or to be flogged on a semi-regular basis to "get used to pain." Only true psychotics would suffer through such torture, and with his newfound knowledge of what the Nornians were he wasn't sure he wanted to be a part of them. Vasileios was sure they were harder on him because he wasn't one of them. Harder on all of them. Keeping them awake in the middle of the night and starving and thirsty for days. It was madness.

Yet here he was, going through it all. He'd survived it and certainly felt stronger, but this treatment had to stop. Using former slaves as target practice had to stop, and Vasileios Contos would confront the "Sword of Braton" and give him a piece of his mind if it was the last thing he did.

And knowing the Nornians reputation, it just might be.

However when he didn't get back into formation immediately none of the Nornians spoke to him. They watched as he made his way up the stairs and next to their beloved leader. Falkirk loosed another arrow and struck yet another of Vasileios' compatriots. However at this point Vasileios was more confused than angered.

"I think that's the last of them," one of the Nornians nearby said as he peered over the field.

"No," Falkirk said, "there are two more."

The Nornians seemed completely unconcerned that Vasileios was even there. "Am I invisible," he whispered.

"If you were you wouldn't have a yellow blot on your armor." Falkirk kept his arrow knocked as he vigilantly scanned the field for any movement. After a certain range there were rocks that could be thrown up at the Nornians, indicating one of them succeeded. So far none had been thrown.

"Then why do your men let me up here next to you," Vasileios asked confused. "What if I intended to kill you? To push you off this wall?"

"Then you're far better at subterfuge then the rest of us," Falkirk said without looking at him. He then loosed the arrow and it struck another recruit. He got out one final arrow, dipped it in paint, and knocked it.

"The thing you don't understand," Falkirk explained as he scanned the field, "is that these men are Nornians. They have been trained since they were seven years old to read a person's body language, to detect whether a man carried himself for an attack, or was trying to hide something on his person. Nornians are ever vigilant, and had any of them suspected that you were trying to kill me, they would have cut you down in a second."

"You put a lot of faith in them," Vasileios said.

"I do, but I should. I would do the same for them." Falkirk kept on scanning, but didn't see any movement yet. He had actually been pleasantly surprised that some of the men had made it as far as they had, but this last one must be someone quite special. He would find him and shoot him, but then would certainly use him on any stealth missions.

"Besides," Falkirk continued, "if you can get the drop on me, maybe I deserve to be killed. I have been training all my life to kill before I am killed, to be the best of the best. You've been training for a short time. You are not a Nornian."

"You all keep saying that," Vasileios said, remembering why he'd come up here in the first place. "So we were not trained since childhood, that does not mean we are lesser people than the rest of you. Yes, you are greater warriors, but are we all not humans? We don't deserve to be treated the way we have been."

Falkirk stopped to think for a moment. "Vasileios Contos, right?"

For a second Vasileios forgot that he was even upset. He was shocked and touched that Falkirk knew his name. "Yes," he finaly said.

"You moved to our old country before the sundering, correct? You weren't born in our culture?"

"No," he admitted, "I've only heard of the Nornians by reputation before then."

"Exactly." Falkirk said that as if it meant everything. He continued only because who he was talking with wouldn't get his meaning. "The fact that you are here complaining and not with your men means far more than you know. Everything we put you through we have all gone through, at a younger age. You do not know this because you are not one of us. That is all we mean when we say you are not Nornians."

Vasileios stood thinking, watching Falkirk as he scanned the field. "Why tell me this? Why not just yell at me and send me back into formation?"

"You may not be a Nornian," Falkirk said still watching, "but amongst your unit some of you have stood out." He turned and looked at Vasileios for the first time. "Were you born in one of our old cities you may very well be a brother in arms. You weren't, but still you fight better than most of those men down there. You've impressed us, and--"

He cut himself off and turned with bow ready, immediately eyed down his target, and let his arrow fly. It did not, however, hit a person. Instead it hit the mid-air stone it had been aimed at. The soldier at the base of the wall was shocked as the stone flew away, and then was pelted with an arrow from another Nornian.

Minutes later the recruit was atop the wall. "Impressive," Falkirk admitted. He saw that the recruit seemed shorter and thin. He saw he had small hands and his body didn't seem to fit in his armor correctly.

"Who are you?"

"A soldier," the recruit said. His voice seemed different as well, almost forced.

"Take off your helmet and look me in the eye," Falkirk demanded.

For a split second the recruit took a nervous posture, but then it faded. He reached up and pulled his helmet off, revealing himself. His features didn't seem right either. He looked Falkirk straight in the eye, as if trying to burn a hole through his head. He just smiled back.

"Cassia Sarris," he said, knowing full well who she was. "You cut your hair."

"Easier to blend in," she said, still forcing her voice to sound male at first.

"You always were a good sneak," Falkirk said, "but what are you doing wearing a green cloak?"

"This is the only fighting force you're putting together," Cassia said, dropping all pretense. "When you said I couldn't join I decided I had to disguise myself."

"This unit is not for Nornians to join," Falkirk said.

"You aren't putting together any other Nornian forces," Cassia told him forcefully, "and you are taking other Nornians with you with this force, which means you plan to fight. These men are being trained in the bow, and there is not a Nornian who is a better shot than I am."

Some of the men laughed when she said this. She put her foot down as she took a step straight into Falkirk, still staring him in the eye. "Not even you."

Falkirk smiled. "You're very confident. Good. If you can best me in an archery contest, I'll let you join."

Cassia Sarris smiled back and agreed to the bet.

Days later, as the forces Falkirk had been training were becoming larger and ready for combat, Cassia and Vasileios were at his side ready to fight in the name of Braton.

-----

Nornian forces are drilling stealth and observational skills.
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