of the Fifth Mercenary Wars
in Skaldic Verse
as told originally by Ser Maelgrim Crowther in the Red Book of Years
Hear now, high lords, of trove true-hidden,
Thieving thralls skulking, knights high-handed,
Mirth-wood merry in dappled forest dim.
Summers four fell past, war-weary and wise
Since first flew Falcons, since fell murky Mist,
Strode strong, steel-clasping in weald red-rocked.
Ten hard hell-hawks, black birds, battle-bold
Cold iron clutching, bright banners lofting:
A goodly great number arrived well-arrayed.
Sun stern, shadows' sorrow, rays far-reaching
Through sky-sea roving dark and dire.
Ten treading, ready: Falcons' fate foretelling.
Counsel then taken, war-words whispered
Foes' ransoms relished, sun-aged silver,
In far-flung land of sun and snow.
Cold Crowther, Falcon-Captain,
Maelgrim marched his brave band, shields sturdy.
Harrow and havoc in hand they came.
Great Gengulphus, Sun-Marshal
Mirth o'ershadowed, moody and melancholy
Sent Lantz in lieu, duty-driven.
In wild woods of blood-stone,
Long lines wended, wains weighty laden,
Caravan creeping under cover of weald-shade.
Forth flew Falcons, swift sprang the Sun,
Upon merchants unlucky, their warders unwitting,
War-ice wounding, battle-brand smoking.
Guardsmen conquered, both bands battled
High-heaped hoard, alone to hold.
For avarice, aerie emptied, sky unfilled.
Then swift Snorri and Rhyse the Rat
Hard and hasty their burden bore.
Seized sure the treasure and fleet fled the field.
Rage-wrought ruin the Sun Unconquered
Dealt down upon Falcons, dint and death.
Ambition yet undone: the Falcons' prize free.
So told is the tale of the caravan,
Of Rhyse and Snorri, swift and strong
Their wild ride wayward through vale and o'er hill.
Wroth waxed Lantz, of his wyrd worried,
Led his legion, lances sharp, lay in ambush.
There to tarry, shields to shatter.
In darkling dell, shade sylvan within,
Waited the warriors, beneath the boughs.
Waited for Falcons, fate wound in woe.
Hence hurried their prey, harm unsuspecting
Sprang snare and struck spear 'gainst shield
Skirmish joined untimely, joyless.
Falcons fought fierce, swords streaming,
Blazing bright the battle-brands,
Bitter upon splintered spear-shafts.
Back they beat the relentless Sun,
Strove stolidly, sure of success.
Flushed with triumph, proudly prized them.
Marched then back to battlements broad,
Sturdy stone standing, stockade grey-ringed.
Assembled archers, arranged them all.
Skill-wise Cynara, Flynn unfailing,
Dexterous deNetley, bowstring singing,
Bent battle-vipers bitter to the task.
Thence threw themselves 'gainst the wall
Sol Invictus, fell and fierce. Cunning, cold
Wrapped a ruinous ring round the wall.
Blades blinding, postern gate bolstered,
Black Falcons crushed the crawling thralls
Creeping close to western wall.
Death-dealer held high, Lord Lantz cried,
"To me!" Rallied flagging fortunes foundering,
His troops true and tested, their mettle held.
Vipers' venom then him laid low,
Falcons' steel storm stinging
All enemies from afar, Sun stifled.
Leaped lordly Romanus, lively,
Woe-lightning smiting, sure steel shining,
Clove the mouth-bone, murderous.
Sore stricken, stumbling, Lantz labored
Clutched his cloven skull, bright blood flowing
Tooth-riven, root-torn his jaw.
Chiurgeon called, cured that Captain,
Over long hours, held hell at bay,
'Til twilight passed, raging he returned.
Meanwhile, more mustered for mirthful murder.
In field they fought, in woods lay wounded,
Across the acres, both battalions battled.
Fortunate Falcons, forth flying fast,
Found the treasure, grand in gleaming
In the gloom it lay gathered, great.
Slinking thralls, thankless vermin,
Friends of Santiago, slithering serpents
Spiteful seized the Falcons' war-chest.
Stolen silver sure in their fingers,
Away hid them, Andvari's avarice guiding them,
Craven and cunning, crept home silently.
So told is the tale of the thieves,
Hel shall not have them, horrified.
Feasting followed, full trestles trembled.
'Neath branch-beams and sky-roof,
Meade flowed freely, roasted game sizzled.
Adiss staff-swinging and Aaron blade-bearing
Thence tarried, mind-toil undertaking
Wit and will well-used, challenging at chess.
Black brigades commanded cunningly, Adiss assayed,
White warriors went forth, rampaging by Romanus' rule
Until undone the dark defense; victory of the light.
So too strove Sure-shot and Rhyse the Rat,
Thoughts bent on triumph, untiring,
A tale worth telling, their struggle.
Then mirth-wood sang still under starry sky,
Maelgrim sang merry, Flynn's fipple flute keened,
Great viol's voice rang: Kasia kept time.
Black billowed night, broad above the wood,
Sky-lanterns lit, light limning black branches,
Sparkling stars swung in crystal sky.
Banners bright left lone in dark weald,
Companies crept cautious, the flags to filch.
Forth and fro, fast flitting
Watched wanly the pearl eye, wind-borne
While warriors wounded for waving banner's sake.
Dark deeds done, under dim dome of sky,
Eugene swift-striding struck skull 'gainst branch
Fell full upon the forest floor, forehead fulminating.
For fairness' sake, fleet Flynn fought
Beneath black banner, sun-blazoned.
Bright blades bathed in moonbeams, brilliant.
Mirthful Maelgrim, many mad charges ordered,
Faithful Romanus duly dashing, red-wood reverberating,
"Spam! Sausage! Steak!" So shouting, sword swinging.
Long-lost Lantz, unlooked-for, lunging
Returned from rest, rent visage tended,
Falcons' flag fetched, unfaltering: victory snatching.
Falcon-Captain Maelgrim, shamefully swearing,
Temper flaring, rough strokes rendered,
Reason fleeing, disgraceful deeds done in darkness.
Revenge wreaking, callow Saer sought sword untended,
Swathed in shadow, shielded by silence,
Swiftly stole the Falcons' weapons, sneaking.
So told is the tale of the night battle,
By bright-burning starlight, night-gems gleaming
Legend-lore crafted by companies' fell deeds.
Lark-song lilting, day-coin beaming,
Tourneys began: bowstrings stretched, bellies bending
deNetley neatly bested others, notched shafts striking true.
Soon sang the sword-steel song shrilling through weald,
Two tourneys testing mettle with that foe of limbs,
Crowther-Captain claiming championship twice.
Now hearken here, word-hoard heeding
This well-wound yarn of yesteryear
Truly told, now done.
(here endeth the story)