Once there were two cousins who lived in a village outside of Trelleborg, named Olof Thorsson and Trigve Haraldsson. Olof was a handsome and popular young man, and he made friends with all of his father's shield-brothers who bragged of their deeds in the mead hall. Olof's father was the Jarl of the settlement, and although he was growing too old to go raiding he was very rich in his slaves and his land. He had been named after the god of thunder, and he had been famous by his deeds in days past. His younger brother had died in a raid on the Slavs to the east some years before, leaving his wife and his son - Trigve - to survive as best they could, with little wealth.
The Jarl adopted Trigve, and insisted that he take the same name, so that Olof and Trigve were both called Thorsson. Trigve and Olof were friends, but Trigve did not have other friends like his cousin did, because he was poor, and not a real son of the Jarl. Both grew to be powerful warriors, however, and the Jarl said he loved them both, but he did not give Trigve gold the way he did Olof. One season the two young men decided to go to Francia, where they heard there was much gold to be taken from the Franks.
Olof bought a very expensive ship, with a beautiful prow and many decorated shields along its sides. He had many followers, including four berserkergang - one a woman - and two of the best-known warriors in the village, shield-brothers and followers of his father's, who promised to take care of Olof on his first voyage across the seas. Many warriors joined Olof, because he had such a fine ship and so many famous men in his band.
Trigve was not able to buy a beautiful ship, so he made one with the help of a ship-builder in the settlement. He had no well-known followers, and had to make his band up from those who were willing. A shield-maiden named Brunhilde joined his band, claiming to be the widow of a Jarl from further north. She was a stranger to the village, and the people did not trust her. With her was a truly massive berserker - an Ulfhednar who rarely spoke but whose eyes were filled with the rage of the gods. With them came a band of poor spearmen and archers - the sort of men who would fight as bondi, but not ones who would usually go raiding. It was said that they had lost their lands, and were forced to join Trigve's band out of desperation.
They set sail for Francia, but the weather was terrible, and both ships were damaged in the heavy seas. They came in sight of the coast, and Trigve asked Olof if they should land, but Olof - whose fine ship looked like it would more easily weather the storm, advised against it. The coast could be empty, or filled with enemies, and they had no way of knowing which it would be. That night, the storm returned with great intensity, sinking both their ships and casting them ashore. Some men were lost to Ran - one of Olof's berserkers drowned - and others were injured, but most made it ashore.
They pulled themselves together and scouted along the coast. Not far from them was a holding were there were some ships drawn up on the beach, but there were also guards standing watch around the walled settlement. Approaching unseen through a wood, they launched a savage attack on the town, lead by Olof's berserkergang. Their main goal was to get some ships, but there still were townsfolk to be taken as slaves, and livestock which could be killed and eaten, and houses to be looted.
Soon, many of the villagers had retreated onto a headland by the sea, where some of them used slings to throw stones down among the raiders, wounding some of them. Trigve lead his men up onto the height, where they slew all of the slingers, and captured most of the villagers, although some chose to throw themselves into the sea instead of becoming thralls of the northmen.
Olof's men formed a line of shields and stormed into the village, but they faced stronger opponents - the local lord, mounted on his warhorse, and two of his knights, accompanied by several of their spearmen, all dressed in armor. There was a fierce battle around the village wall, with many men killed on both sides. Olof faced off against the lord, wounding him severely, but he was in turn slain by the Frankish leader, who killed him with a sword-stroke of unbelievable force, cutting his shield in half and driving the blade deep into his chest through his mail. He was quickly avenged, however, as one of the shield-brothers turned and killed the lord, first cutting of the head of the man's horse with a single axe blow, and then doing the same to the lord. Olof's death filled his companions with grief, but they knew they would meet him again on the fields of Valhalla.
With their lord's death, the Franks fled in terror, and Trigve and the remnants of Olof's band were able to collect all the treasure in the houses and burn them, and to round up the livestock and make slaves of the villagers. They had ships, now, and provisions, but they were not rich - it had not been a wealthy village. They built a pyre and burned Olof's body with his weapons around him. After that, they set sail and travelled down the coast, where they soon captured a local peasant. He told them about a larger, wealthier town, and promised to lead them there. He even claimed he could show them a way to get inside where they could surprise the townsfolk, but Trigve did not trust the man, and they threw him into the sea and sailed on.
A few days later, they came to a small village on the coast. It was empty of people, but the smoke from cooking fires could still be seen. Some of Olof's men thought that it might be a trap, but Trigve and the others were not so sure. They decided to part ways - Trigve would land, and sack the houses, while Olof's remaining band went further along the coast.
Trigve found the village to be empty of people, but the inhabitants were lurking in a nearby wood. They pelted Trigve's band with stones from their slings, and killed some of his men. Their filthy hovels held few riches, and it was not long before the peasants had been slain and their huts had been looted and put to the torch. They set out to sea again, heading up the coast to meet with Olof's band, but a dense fog descended, and they lost their way. As they slowly rowed forward, they found themselves in a bay, and soon realized that they had not followed the coast, but encountered an island they had only ever heard of in tales - the sacred isle of Forseti, the God of Judgement. They landed, and made their way to the sacred grove, where they gave offerings to the god and were blessed with great good fortune.
Trigve and his men rowed off and the fog cleared, but they were nowhere on the coast they recognized. As they debated whether to sail north or south along it, a storm blew in. They were fortunate, and survived the storm with no loss, but their ships were leaking. They landed, so they could repair their boats before going further. A group of local warriors, patrolling the shore, found them, and a desperate fight ensued. Trigve and his band triumphed, but only after more men had been slain. They looted the bodies of the dead, and found some treasure, but were now too few to continue. Although it was late in the year to cross the northern seas, they headed for home. Their luck held, and they arrived safely, with many tales and much wealth. It was a good raid, if not the most successful one of all time. They were happy to be safe in their halls, telling tales of the sacred isle, instead of dying on some foreign shore.
Meanwhile Olof's crew, lead by his most-trusted huskarl, met up with another band of raiders, whose leader was named Rune Loersson. They sailed together only for a day before finding a monastery near to the coast. They landed and found little opposition, although Rune's band lost some men to enemy archers. They had soon looted the huts in the village, and captured two of the monks, to learn the hidden locations of the monastery's wealth. Gathering up a rich treasure in religious objects, and making off with the settlement's livestock, they were then attacked by a strong band of the local spearmen and knights. Three of Rune's huskarls bravely fought off the wave of attackers while the rest fled back to their ships with the loot, although some of it was lost when the raiders who were carrying it died under a hail of arrows and sling stones. One of the huskarls died in a spectacular way, being rendered into a cloud of bloody scraps by blows from a ring of mailed warriors. Never was there a surer passage to the fields of Valhalla!
As the ships made off to sea, they were wracked by a terrible storm, and driven onto the coast. Almost all survived, although some were wounded, but the treasure was now at the bottom of the sea with the ships. Soon, they found a village on the coast, which looked like it was defended, but which had a harbour full of boats to be taken. They approached cautiously, and found that the villlage was guarded by both armored soldiers and regular Frankish spearmen, but that it was near to a small wood. They crept up through the trees, unseen by the guards, with Olof's men - lead now by his most-trusted huskarl - going through the village and fields, and Rune's band going north around the village to the harbour.
They were on both sides of the villlage before the sleepy guards realized that they were there, but the defenders were quick to form a shield wall protecting the harbour. Rune's men assaulted this, and two of his archers snuck around the end of the enemy line by breaking through the thatched roof of a hut full of fishing nets. This was guarded by a single Frankish archer who they shot with an arrow. With the meat of a cow they had found and slaughtered, and with some treasure they found hidden in the hut, they had soon seized one of the boats in the harbour, and had food for a journey.
In the village, Olof's men had come to blows with the Frankish leader and his followers, heavily armed knights both on foot and horseback. The fight was a confused melee, but some of Olof's hirdmen managed to break free and join Rune's band as they finished off the Frankish shieldwall near the harbour. The leader of Olof's men since his death - his most trusted huskarl - died a hero's death, surrounded by the Frankish knights, singing as he traded blows with his enemy for the last time. Although he died, he saved the life of the last of Olof Thorsson's band.
They set sail, but soon found that the ships they had stolen were barely seaworthy. Rather than risk a landing, however, they made for home, back to Trelleborg, where they arrived safely. It had been a hard journey, but it had been full of fighting, although all but a little of the treasure had been lost. Rune welcomed Olof's remaining hirdman into his own warband, giving each a share of the small treasure they had won. Soon, it was gone, drunk away as they sat in their halls boasting of their prowess in battle and planning the next season's raids.
Such is the tale of Trigve and Olof Thorsson, and of Rune Loersson, who risked (and sometimes lost) their lives that they might fill the mead hall with tales of their bold deeds, but for very little else.
An account of a Vikingar campaign, based on the Ravenfeast rules by Little Wars TV. Photo courtesy of Wargames Tonight. Written by Arofan Gregory. Copyright (c) 2022. All rights reserved.