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Age of Vengeance Part 4

Updated on October 18, 2013

Previously

Rodin was the leader of a Viking raiding party, targeting a religious trading port. His men were slaughtered by Templars and Rodin himself was taken captive. The elders of the Knights Templar performed a rite that stripped Rodin of his magic, the fire of the gods, and left him bloody and broken. A voice called out to him and offered him the strength to escape and return to his family. Using this power, Rodin battles his way out of the Templar stronghold. In the process of his escape, Rodin kills the mentor of Nathaniel, the Templar leader that captured him. After stealing a boat from his captors, Rodin sails for home.

Part 4

The midday sun shines overhead as the closest port to Rodin's home in the Danes comes into view. A smile stretches across his face as he relishes the idea of home. He draws in a deep breath, hoping to catch a familiar smell, and instead is met with the thick scent of smoke on the salty air. As his ship draws near to the docks he can see their charred edges. The remains of several buildings lie in ashes on the ground near where Rodin abandons his stolen craft. He sweeps his eyes over the devastation, catching sight of injured men and women being bandaged while others put out the last of the fires scarring the few buildings left standing. He steps over the ruined produce and fish of a nearby merchant as he begins to walk into town.


The red haired merchant hastily gathers up the remains of his stock, trying to find something salvageable. He raises his head to acknowledge Rodin as he approaches and in his first glance, Rodin wonders if he can trust this man. Aside from his unusually sharp and angular features and his shifty, brilliant green eyes, he exuded the aura of a man who spent his life telling half-truths.


“You sure picked a good time to visit our humble little town, stranger.” The merchant says as he continues to sift through his ruined stock.


“What has happened here? You look as if you had invoked the wrath of the gods themselves.” Rodin gestures to the general destruction around them.


“Aye, maybe we have.” The old merchant sighs. “Damned Templars arrived not five hours ago and tore through us with a vengeance.”


“Templars?” Rodin exclaims. “Why have they come here? Where did they go?”


“I know not of their true purpose. They sailed into town, no different than you. A few of us were even excited to trade with the strangers.” He hangs his head low as he recalls the events. “Their white mantles and scarlet crosses could be seen for a mile out. When they docked, they began marching through the town, setting our homes aflame and cutting us down in the street.”


Rodin's fists and jaw clench with his barely contained fury. This was a port of the Danes, the home of his people. He was a Viking warrior and he would not stand for his people to be slaughtered in the streets like animals. Did they have no honor?


“Once the damage was done, they took most of our horses and rode off into the countryside. Their leader,” The old man shudders at his recollection. “He was a terrifying sort. His eyes were cold as a Jotun's breath. The gray of his beard and the gait of his walk spoke of years of violence and hate. His men, they wore the Templar mantels, but not this one. He was armor-clad, with their cross emblazoned on his chest plate. Never saw such a thing.”


As the old man rambled it occurred to Rodin, that he also had never heard of fully armor-clad Templars. He recognized the description of their white mantels from the normal tales that traveled the land. He only knew of one tale that held such an abnormality as an armor-clad Templar. His own. Piecing the merchant's description together in his mind, he had no doubt who it was that lead these men. Nathaniel was here.


“The Templars go too far.” Rodin whispers too low for the merchant to hear. He motions for Rodin to speak up. “Do not fear, my friend. I will not allow these men to further desecrate our lands. Point me to their path and they shall fall before me.” The old merchant points to a trail leading north east of the port and Rodin's heart sinks. That was the path he would take to return home.


“They rode off down that path.” He puts his hand on Rodin's shoulder. “Odin's blessing, young warrior. I fear you'll need it.”


Rodin trades his ship for a horse and with the haste of Sleipnir itself, rides towards his home. His heart grows heavier with every hoof beat as he imagines the Templars at his door. The path he rides leads to a neighboring village, a spiritual haven for the countryside. It was built on the edge of an ancient and sacred grove where the rites of his people were practiced. At the center of this grove stood an enormous ash tree that could be seen from miles away and was easily twice the age of the village itself. It was at the foot of that ash tree that he first received the blessing of the gods and became the first mage to the Aesir. A blessing that had been taken from him. As he approaches the final hill in his way, he can see smoke rising in the sky beyond it and he knows his fear is justified.


He rides over the crest of the hill to see the ashen remains of the sacred grove. The canopy of the ancient ash is still aflame, but otherwise shows no actual signs of damage. In the village he sees a small group of Templars with torches setting fire to whatever they come in contact with. In the old days, it would be a fire burning in his eyes and heart as he looked upon the horror before him. Now it was only icy resolution that rose up inside of him.


Without a word he rides down into the village with his hand held high. The air near his open palm crystallizes into his favored great ax, as he leaps from his horse. His weapon bites down into the back of a Templar helmet sending streaks of crimson gushing out around it. Using the momentum of the blow, Rodin rolls over the top of his fallen foe and drives his fist into the earth as he lands in a crouch next to the two other nearby Templars. As the earth gives way to the force of his blow, pillars of ice rise from the ground and impale the stunned warriors.


In the distance, Rodin can see the four remaining Templars as they cut down a man in front of his wife and two children. He recognizes that family. The man was a blacksmith and a friend. He crafted Rodin's war ax when he became first mage. Their children and his son played together. Now he was dead. Rodin's blood boiled with his barely contained fury. Prying his frozen ax from the dead Templar, he flung it with all his might at the Templar closest to the woman and her children. The Templar raises his sword arm high to strike and in so doing loses it to Rodin's attack. Shocked at the sudden loss of his limb, he turns just in time to see Rodin barreling towards them.


The other Templars form a defensive line around their comrade and raise their swords to defend him. Rodin lowers each of his fists to his sides as he manifests a sword in each hand. The ground between them frosts over as Rodin gets closer and locks their legs in place. Rodin drops to his knees and slides between them, cutting their legs out from under them with his swords as he does so, and rises in front of the one armed Templar. His eyes grow wide with paralyzing fear as he stares into the hate filled eyes of Rodin. The Viking reaches towards the bleeding stump of the Templar and freezes his dripping blood into a dagger, which he uses to slit the Templar's throat.


After repeating the process with the blood dagger on the remaining Templars on the ground, Rodin turns his gaze towards the family he rescued. The mother holds her children close, shushing them as they weep in her arms. She offers Rodin her thanks, but it does nothing to ease his rage or his sorrow.


“Is that the last of them?” Rodin asks. “Where is their leader?”


She swallows hard as she looks up at Rodin. “The one in armor rode off past the grove.” Her barely contained tears begin to flow freely. “Gods help them; he's headed for the lodge of the mage.”


Wasting no time, Rodin finds his horse and begins riding towards the remains of the grove. On its other side he'll find the home that is given to the protector of his village. The lodge belongs to the most worthy warrior selected in a rite that takes place only once every nine years. That rite bestows the blessing of the gods and names the first mage to the Aesir. Rodin rides through the rows of naked black trees towards his home. He prays he is not too late.


As he rides past the ancient ash, he knows that it is his prayers that are too late. His home, like so many others, is ablaze. His village is destroyed. The sacred grove, a center of worship for his people, is destroyed. The ancient ash that represented the strength and protection of the gods is aflame. And his home, the lodge bestowed upon his villages most skilled and valued protector, is no more. None of those things even registers in his mind as he sees the only untouched tree left and the two charred bodies that hang from its branches.


“No.” Rodin whispers in his disbelief. “NO!”


He rides around the house, looking for any sign of where Nathaniel might be. He finds no tracks or any sign of him in the distance. Sullenly, he uses his powers to cut the bodies down. He holds the remains of his family in his arms as the memories of their last encounters play out in his mind. He remembers his wife being angry with him for leaving the village to go raiding. He told her that he could not stand idle while Charlemagne ordered the deaths of his people for nothing more than staying true to the old ways. He promised that he would come back to her soon. He remembers kneeling next to his son as he placed a Mjolnir pendent in his little hand.


“Wear this, my son, and you will have not only my protection, but the favor of the gods themselves.” He told him.


Rodin's tears turn to ice as they fall from his face and shatter on the ground around him. He howls to the sky with his rage and his sorrow, for they are all he has left. He curses the gods who abandoned him and his family. He curses Charlemagne and his Templars. Most of all, he curses Nathaniel, the Templar who took everything away from him. Rodin can feel the remnants of his soul dying inside of him, being replaced with a sole purpose; Vengeance.


And you shall have it.” A voice calls from nowhere.


“Loki.” Rodin replies, his voice thick with grief. “What do you want of me?”


I want the same as you. I can tell you where he is.”

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