The Bite of Frost takes flesh to the bone, and while a Wolf’s pelt is welcome in the bitter cold - why bother? There are fertile farms waiting, a land of gold and glory that should be ours! Come with me! There are kingdoms for a Karl, a House for all men - across the sea there is a better life, just come with me!
Hoist the sails, stow the oars, where we head there is food for all. And warmth and comfort. And women! Across the sea, they wear gold like garments, eat boars as thick as trees - they don’t die of hunger, they choke on food. There are no wolves and there are no crows.
So come with me! We’ll set sail at dawn, we’ll take their lands and create a new Empire for the Crow - no longer beholden to the Wolf. Come with me! Be Free! Our Empire lies across the Sea!
The Wisemen say, one does not escape wolves by becoming them. A Crow has no business howling any more than a Wolf has no business flying. How soon until our pelts are worn.
Fat men are complacent, feed them bread and butter and wine - they will die happy as you lead them into their death. Wine is not what dulls the senses most, it is thirst that drives a man to drink, but water is plentiful.
Give a man the promise of food, he will serve you. Give a man the promise of meat and he will fight for you. Give him fish and fowl, he will die for the taste. Keep him fed, let him fatten, and he will sail with you to the ends of the world to find you a kingdom.
But fed men become hard to persuade once that becomes the norm. They fight you when you starve them. They fight you when you take away their wine. Once they have a taste, they’ll assume they’ll always have the taste - even if they no longer desire it.
Give a man gold, he cannot eat it - but he can imagine using it to buy food, buy other comforts. Gold, women, land, titles - a man can be bought in a thousand ways. The more you offer the more they’ll do to ensure the promise is kept.
Across a sea, against an Empire with nothing but an axe and a boat. Crows are only fit to pick at bones, but Wolves are the ones that taste the blood. How soon until our pelts are worn?
Sand beneath my feet, crushes until I sink ankle deep into the soft beach. After months at sea, never could I imagine a more beautiful sight than coast. It took all the God’s will to keep me on my boat and not to simply jump off and swim to shore. Our ships are dragged up onto the sand before the men can finally take in the wonder of a new land. I almost fall to my knees and kiss the earth, to thank the Gods for this moment. Men around me do just that as I examine this wild new world. An entire world to explore, the cragged cliffs and strange trees, the oppressive heat beneath my pelts and leather.
It is a home to something, even now I feel eyes watching us from up beyond the cliffs. We make camp at their feet, hoping the fires don’t attract the natives. My legs begin to stiffen, my body regains its balance. I practice my axe-work against my squire, he carries my shield which blunts my blade and so I must sharpen it as the boy sleeps.
The sounds of hooves and horns wakes me in the early morning. The sun is just rising when my squire shakes me from my sleep. He hands me my axe and hoists up my shield. I see why the moment I sit up, dragging myself to my feet with help from my axe.
I had not been correct, but I had not been lying. Before us stood a circling mass of men on horseback, their silver armour finely polished. One of their number dismounts and I venture forth from the ranks of men forming up as a defensive wall.
The man speaks with an effeminate voice, soft men who speak in strange tongues. No amount of silver armour will protect them. I speak to my men, that destiny is ours for the taking. Here we will build our kingdom.
Cities of Stone, Cities of Wood, burn just as well. Cities of Gold, Cities of Silver, exist just the same. Farmlands plundered may as well be salted, they offer the same amount of food. Stale bread and rancid butter are just as palatable as being eaten by the Winter. Ashes cannot be eaten, pebbles can not be spent, ruins offer no walls from retribution.
The Thane who sailed to sea, did not imagine the sea was full of salt, nor that all glittering objects are not precious. Sand and rock are not the same and building a kingdom upon one will only lead to strife.
His axe bloodied on men and women, who fought him all the same. A Rash man makes a poor Thane, and a poor Thane makes for a lot of poor men. A pit of vipers is more than a match for a Wolf, even if that wolf cuts a thousand of them in twain.
His axe blunt, his men dying - the Thane from across the sea makes haste to flee home but a burning ship leaves no way to escape. His small bout of freedom is coming to a close as the jaws of a viper shut around his neck - this one large enough to swallow him whole.
The land he carved destiny from, was not an island but an Empire, and it seems destiny had a wicked sense of humour.
Blood slickens the haft of my axe, the blade is heavy with the dead. Will they sing of me, will I be remembered by my people or my enemies? I, Erik of Hell, my blood pure toxin.
The Soft Men are Hard Women, their breasts iron and their blades sharp. An Empire for a Week, falls to the Weak. The Beach is red with death, their cities burn in black flames. Gold is no comfort to dead men, their bodies can not be bought. Standing amongst twelve of my remaining banner, surrounded by the bodies of their fallen. It is no shame to admit defeat - but to face the consequences must now seem glorious.
I raise my axe, heavy with souls. To die as Erik the Reaper, Erik the Wolf. My body gone to the crows.
His Empire Of a Week, crumbles with his body, disappearing into the sand as an arrow strikes his neck. The black feathers of its fletching more lively than his men, who came for gold and found only ash. Even a Wolf has it’s predators, amongst them are Man. But how rare it is for men to hunt crows. Whoever heard of a crow-feather coat?