Topic: Hartwig, the Wolf Slayer

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  • #3505
    Alesch
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    The Order of the Lion was a mercenary company that roamed the area surrounding the city of Karstein for several weeks during the Great Bandit Uprising, during which time they made a name for themselves protecting villages and caravans from the bandits that roamed the land. Their ranks swelled from a paltry band of five to a full dozen men, all attracted by the wealth that the Order had confiscated from the bandits, or been awarded by greatful townsfolk.

    Young Hartwig, a particularly nondescript daytaler, was one of these new recruits. He was given a padded surcoat, a round shield, an aketon helmet, and a short sword. The Order of the Lion had grown wealthy, but the equipment to be found in the beleagered region of Karstein was of poor quality regardless of how much gold an individual might possess. This was how the Order began its practice of outfitting its recruits with only the most basic of equipment, and only outfitting those who have proven themselves worthy in battle with the carefully hoarded and maintained mail recovered from the bandits.

    So it was with little protection that young Hartwig was thrust into the crucible of battle. The Order had taken on a contract in the great fortress that guarded the approach to Karstein, but the veterans were reluctant to tell the newer brothers the details of the job. Hartwig had heard rumors that they were travelling to a place called “The Black Fort”, which certainly sounded ominous. There was plenty of time for rumors about this Black Fort to circulate amongst the new recruits on the long trek westward, through the forest that surrounded Karstein.

    The rumors became fact when the Order broke through the treeline on the other side of the forest, and in the distance the parapets of distant towers were clearly visible. The Order of the Lion was not on its usual business of protecting caravans, or routing small camps of bandits. The Order had accepted the daunting task of killing a Raubritter. The veterans, especially the founders of the Order, seemed confident, and this confidence proved contagious. None of the men deserted after learning of the true task the order had undertaken. It certainly didn’t hurt when Ulrecht Ironsides, one of the founding members of the Order, announced that the contract was awarding a full five thousand crowns for the Raubritter’s head. Gold does wonders for the morale of young mercenaries, and the new members of the Order seemed eager for the coming battle.

    Hartwig’s first battle was not against the Raubritter himself however, as the area surrounding the keep was awash with patrolling bands of outlaws. The Order of the Lion made short work of these, with Ulrecht slaying several men with heavy hammer blows to the head. By the time the Order reached the gates of the Black Fort the new recruits were armed and armoured with the spoils of battle. Hartwig himself had taken a slightly dented nasal helmet, a leather surcoat, and traded his short sword for a military cleaver.

    The Order of the Lion laid seige to the Black Fort for three days, as the leaders had decided that well-rested, well-equipped soldiers would fare better in an assault than a motley band of ragged men weary from days of fighting would fare even with the element of surprise. This gave Hartwig time to patch the holes in his armour, and beat out the dent in his helmet. By the time the horn sounded to signal the assault, Hartwig had honed his new cleaver to a fine edge. The Order of the Lion rose as one, and with a great cry they charged the bandit stronghold.

    Strangely, the Order met no resistance from the walls. The gates had not been barred, and as the band of mercenaries entered the courtyard they expected an ambush. The Raubritter’s men did not disappoint. The Black Fort’s bailey had been woefully neglected, and the inside of the walls was no better than the forest outside. Trees sprung up all around, and the brave men of the Order could not see their enemies at first, though they could hear them moving amongst the trees. As Ulrecht pushed aside a small stand of saplings, the mercenaries finally caught their first glimpse of the enemy. A group of five armoured raiders had assembled into a small shield wall, while a pair of archers provided support from their rear. The Order charged, and with a mighty clash of weapons the two groups began to hack at one another. The superior numbers of the mercenaries looked to make the battle a short one, but the Raubritter’s soldiers were not truly so few.

    In the midst of the melee a trio of arrows came flying at the Order’s men from the rear. In an instant, one of the new recruits was laid low. At the same time, a second group of raiders emerged from the trees to the north, with them was a bear of a man in heavy mail armour who hefted a great two-handed sword as though it were a child’s toy. The Raubritter himself, a terrible man known as The Wolf, had appeared to defend his territory. Ulrecht, and the other veterans broke off from the skirmish to intercept this new enemy, while a pair of the new recruits, Tostig and Hakon, tore off into the trees after the hidden archers. Hartwig, and the remaining men stood fast against the remaining raiders in the initial shield wall. Both groups were tired, their armour damaged, and some bled from a myriad of small wounds. The raiders though, were in worse shape, and it was not long before Hartwig and his compatriots had overwhelmed them.

    It was long enough though, for The Wolf to have cut down two of the veterans. The Raubritter’s entourage had suffered for it, to be sure, but the Raubritter himself was bringing his massive sword to bear against Ulrecht and his companions. The shouts from the treeline gave the three unengaged mercenaries reason to believe the battle with the unseen archers was not going in their favour either. So it was, with an unspoken understanding and a quick exchange of nods, that Hartwig ran off into the trees to fight the unseen foe, while the other pair fell in line with the veterans against The Wolf.

    Pushing through the trees brave Hartwig found Hakon, alone, against three men. Tostig was dead, his head caved in my a metal bludgeon whose owner lay bleeding beside him. The three men that Hakon faced were undoubtedly the mysterious archers, the bows slung across their shoulders attested to that. They did not seem unused to using the wicked knives that they harried Hakon with, however, and the mercenary’s armour was in shambles. He desperately shifted to keep his shield between himself and his assailants, but with three knives to worry about it was a difficult prospect. Hartwig wasted no time in rushing to his companion’s aid. With a mighty bellow, Hartwig took off two of the archers’ heads within moments. The third was not long for the world after that.

    The pair rested for a moment, catching their breath and quietly celebrating Hakon’s unlikely survival. Their relief was shortlived though, for soon The Wolf, along with a single crony, stepped through the trees. Hartwig and Hakon lifted their shields to the ready as their enemies approached. The Wolf had not escaped Ulrecht and the rest of the Order unscathed: many of the links in his mail had been shattered, and his helmet had been torn from his head. Several wounds bled through his torn gambeson as well. The Wolf’s companion was in even more dire shape. Despite their injuries, however, The Wolf and his companion seemed confident as they approached the two surviving members of the Order. Hakon and Hartwig steeled themselves, and found confidence to match their opponents’.

    The fighters circled one another. The Raubritter and the bandit’s experience allowed them to separate the two mercenaries, leaving Hartwig to face the Raubritter alone. The Wolf lunged, and Hartwig desperately lifted his shield to defend himself. The wooden shield split, but its loss saved Hartwig’s life, and he slung the ruined shield to the ground. As the Raubritter brought his sword to the ready once more, Hartwig grasped his cleaver in both hands and launched a desperate attack. Surprised by Hartwig’s ferocity, perhaps, The Wolf did not manage to defend himself in time, and Hartwig’s cleaver bit deep into the robber baron’s neck. Hartwig struck with such force, that The Wolf’s head was severed neatly from his body, and the massive man collapsed into a clanking headless heap.

    The final bandit’s death was a blur in the aftermath of the desperate battle at the Black Fort. Hartwig and Hakon, the last of the Order of the Lion, took The Wolf’s head with them after they set fire to the ruined keep. A dozen men had set out from the fortress to end the bandit attacks on Karstein, but only two brave men survived to collect the five thousand crown reward. In the life of a mercenary, risk and reward travel hand in hand. Hartwig and Hakon continued to travel together, and rebuilt the mercenary order, driving nearly every bandit in the region to look for less bloody territories. Eventually a new threat appeared in the county, the Orcs. Hartwig and Hakon’s new Order of the Lion fought against the new threat as well, for Lions will fight wherever there is gold to be had, until a fateful confrontation with a mighty orcish warlord nearly destroyed the Order for a second time.

    That, however, is a story for another time.

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