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To be a Jarl

June 19, 2017

Initially I groped around for a solid starting point for the project, but there is really only one way for a journey like this one to begin: a story. Without placing too much emphasis on dates, location, or even strict historical accuracy, this is what came to me…


Jarl Einar Sigurdsson, named Stoneheel by those who know him, stood at the prow of his longship and gazed into the horizon. He patted the railing of the ship, his Ocean Song, appreciatively. It was a good ship, as were her sisters, Sea Sword and Shark. His small fleet was bound for the southern tip of England, but Njord was a fickle god and the seas had been rough. None but the gods knew for sure where they would land. At the head of the ship, Einar had given up trying. Instead, he reveled in the wind whipping at his long hair and beard, the spray splashing from the prow, and the coarse rowing songs booming rhythmically from the men on the oar benches.

He was a Jarl, like his father before him, though he had not inherited the title. Becoming a Jarl was something that one had to earn, much like names. Stoneheel. Thinking about the name was like picking at a wound. It had been given to him after he had crushed the coalition of neighbors who had sought to burn his hall and split his lands between them. He had not chosen the name, but had to admit that it suited him. After all, a leader who doesn’t lead the charge is no leader at all. Einar could still hear the weathered voice of his father; a Jarl must be strong.

Einar frowned and spat over the railing into the iron grey sea. Even in victory, his people had lost much. It was hard enough to carve a living out of the rocky Danish soil, and two years of war had bled his people white. That was why he was here, sailing to parts unknown to recoup what was lost. He turned back to look at the sweating faces of the men plying the great oars and knew each had their reasons as well. Most had come for gold and glory. Others came out of wanderlust, fiercely wanting to be anywhere but the villages they were born in. Still others were seemingly pulled by the gods as if drawn across the sea by some phantom music drifting down from Asgard. No matter the reason, it was Einar’s job to make sure those needs were met. Every man had a price, and why would any man follow a lord who couldn’t pay? The timeworn voice tickled his mind; a Jarl must be generous.

Three horn blasts rang out from the Sea Sword, sailing slightly ahead of the Ocean Song. It was an old signal; the shipmaster of the Sword had spotted land on the horizon. Einar turned his attention back to the horizon. He could just make out the barest hint of green in the distance. Einar clapped his hands and laughed, urging his men on with the news. After another few hours of steady rowing, it became apparent that there was a settlement of some sort nestled on the coast. Einar ordered the great beast heads removed from the prows and saw that his other two shipmasters were doing the same. The carved wooden heads, a clear sign of hostile intent, would be stowed under the deck until Einar decided blood was to be spilled. He had decided that they would pose as traders until they had more information. Everyone knew Danes were some of the foremost traders in the world. Always appear to be less than you are no one will suspect your strength until it is too late. Old words scrawled through his memory like spidery script carved into a runestone; a Jarl must be wise.

Einar smiled. He didn’t know where he was or who the people on the shore were. He didn’t know if he would find what he needed here. He didn’t know what fate the Norns had in store for him. However, if there was one thing Einar Sigurdsson knew well it was this; he was a Jarl.


 

There you have it. One vague vignette to set the tone for the more meaty narrative to follow. I consciously kept it light on names and locations, which makes sense considering I want much of the story to come from the models I build and the games I play. It wouldn’t due to step into a project like this with a rigid, immutable story already in place.

Now that I’ve scribbled down the beginnings of my tale its time to secure the material component of all this tomfoolery!

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