Debt of Dishonor

The Story of Denmark before the events of Medieval 2 Total War

Marcus "Matt" Green


1078 AD, November 17th

The year is 1045, in the late fall. The polished-silver sky over Denmark reflected the austere beauty of the north, while the wind brought the characteristic cold. King Valdemar and some of his attendants waited at the port in Copenhagen amid the sounds of birds flying south, merchants and horses for the return of the king's prized general.

It hadn't really been that long since Denmark was merely a feared home base for the dreaded Vikings, known for their treachery. This land had become a kingdom over the past two centuries, or at least was one in name. Some people still held treachery, when it was to their advantage. Some, such as King Valdemar, would receive their long-awaited payback.

"I wish he would hurry it up and get back.", King Valdemar complained, despite the good occasion. "If he were his usual standard, he would have conquered those damn Prus and been back long before now!"

"Mayhap a watched port would produce no ships? We can return to your longhouse and he should be there as well before long.", one of his attendants offered.

"You know what today is!", the king yelled back. "This would be General Sverne's best victory, which is saying something. Our lands east of Gotland would still be raided by the Prus if it weren't for Sverne's ruthless command. More than I can say for some of my other men."

"You're performing the adoption ceremony today?"

"It is best. I don't have a son fit for my place when I die. Sverne can be the worthy prince I never had."

It was true that King Valdemar had a Queen, his second wife, and had two sons with her. However, these sons were sickly, and Valdemar despised them. Valdemar himself was a large man, even by Viking standards, and desired the same of his progeny. The first one had died early in childhood, and the second couldn't stand on his own. Not fit to inherit leadership over the Viking people. Valdemar planned to simply send this embarrassment to the prison on the island of Gotland, as he had done with his first Queen.

1043 AD

Many years before, in 1043, Valdemar had spent the night with this first Queen, but quickly decided that marrying her was a mistake. She was only a common peasant, and there was an unmarried daughter of a minor king from Oslo, in Norway. Marrying her would have meant more power once her worthless father was out of the way. Valdemar announced the "disappearance" of his first wife, noting that she probably had a secret lover, and married the more desirable woman soon after.

After the birth of his first son by his new queen, which appeared puny, King Valdemar was concerned about the future of his reign. He now possessed lands in Norway as well as Denmark, but this "prince" would be a poor fighter, if he even lived, and uninspiring to the nobles. He consulted his seer, Enstrom, who still followed the old religion, on his reign's future.

"Enstrom, I've called you here because I need to know what will happen with my kingdom. If I can't produce a worthy prince, one of these mongrel nobles of mine will be a serious threat. A man of no virility can't inspire warriors!"

"You feel they will put their own son in line after you?"

"Assuredly. In that event they certainly would plan my death so their son would be king and bring power to them."

"Ironic that you should have gained the throne in the same way."

"I don't call you to berate me! Pray that Thor will give me strength and secure my throne."

The seer Enstrom, being one of the remaining godar, or old priests, conducted a ritual under a guardian tree where he sacrificed a goat and waited for a vision. Valdemar paced inside his hall for a moment while Enstrom seemingly only sat with his eyes closed. Then, Enstrom came back with what he had seen.

"Thor was upset with you, though it looks like he is promising you what you desire. He struck the sea with his hammer, and the waves crashed onto Gotland. From there, a Norse man of great strength and cunning emerges from the ice of winter. He will be in your loyal service and defeat many of your enemies. However, this man would then wear your crown, and you would be dead."

King Valdemar was confused by this. If Thor was angry, why was he giving him exactly what he wanted? Why was the vision so clear? But, most importantly, how would he die? "Enstrom, you said I would be dead?"

"I only saw you lying on your bedchamber floor, with no obvious injury."

"Ha, we all have to die eventually. So this Norse man from Gotland, he can be an heir, once I find him. It pleases me that Thor should see fit to reward such a brave man as myself. You may leave."

Enstrom left, but even he didn't know exactly what Thor's vision meant. Some months before this vision, shortly after King Valdemar banished his first Queen to the prison on Gotland, the discarded and disgraced Queen was facing the prospect of giving birth in the bitter January frost. The head jailer didn't usually handle women prisoners, or know anything about the birthing process. He decided to send for some local women from the village of Väskinde to handle it. When they arrived, the Queen seemed she could give birth at any moment.

"You women have experience with this sort of thing?"

"More than yourself I'm sure.", one of them answered.

"Then how long would it take?"

"It could be anything, within the day or tomorrow." She looked around the meager jail. "If her cell's not big enough we might need to lay her in the hall-"

"Hold it there, you can take her out there."

"It is snowing outside. At least in here the wind won't tear at us."

"I don't want to listen to the racket! Take this prisoner outside or I'll throw her out!" As they left, another jailer asked "how do you know they won't run away with her as soon as she's out?"

"Did you hear them, a day or two. I doubt she could run very fast right after that. You can check on them every so often if you're worried about it."

Outside, the Queen wasn't naïve about what would happen to a potential royal heir and certain enemy to King Valdemar. For what seemed like an eternity, the Queen was in labor with only the snow to lay on. She learned that it was a son, technically a prince, though not born like one. She knew that if she came back to the jail with her infant, he would surely be killed on the king's order. One of the women took the infant, and the other two helped the Queen get onto a wagon they had brought their clothes and other supplies on, anticipating that they may be staying for a few days. They all then went to Väskinde.

Back inside the jail, their game of Hnefatafl (Viking game similar to chess) was progressing well, and it appeared the younger jailer, playing white, was about to win.

"Raichi.", the younger jailer said smoothly. This meant his King piece had an escape route to a corner square through the black pieces. If his King could get there, he would win.

"Hm, beginner's luck young man. It doesn't really matter that much. You see these walls?" The elder jailer gestured around the area. "In reality, no one would ever escape from my eye, King or otherwise."

"That reminds me, shouldn't we check on that woman prisoner?"

"We? You can if you want, and if she's done bring her back in here. I'm going home."

"Should I send the newborn back with the women when she is finished?"

"If it's a girl, you can. But you know the prisoner is a Queen. A boy might cause problems for our King, and our necks, if he lives." The elder jailer went home, and the remaining jailer went outside.

Though the younger jailer could tell where they had been, they had all vanished! He had no idea what had happened, and knew that the elder jailer wouldn't hesitate to blame the escape on him. When he saw the elder jailer the next morning, he could only tell him that it was a girl, and the Queen had died, so the women took her to bury her. Luckily, the elder jailer seemed relieved that he no longer had to worry about it.

After spending her entire pregnancy in her jail cell, life for the former Queen in Väskinde was much better. She had been born a peasant, after all. She, and her son as he got older, earned their keep by fishing and weaving.

They needed to keep a low profile, not even to contact the Queen's family, to avoid capture. However, she didn't neglect to tell her son, Sverne, about his true origin. Sverne's hatred of King Valdemar was held in check by that fact that, at least for now, there was nothing he could do. Someday he hoped there would be a chance to avenge his mother's disgrace.

As Sverne grew, he was stricken with the typical over-sized hands and feet that boys who would become monstrous men would have. But even when he was younger, a thirst for vengeance and redemption grew within him. He needed a way to get closer to the King and exact his revenge. One obvious way was to join the King's army. True, young teens could be mercenaries and perform simple duties, but before one could sail out on the longboats and gain prestige they would need to grow a beard.

As Sverne approached this point he practiced with whatever weapons he could get his hands on, and wrestled with other boys who were willing (not many were for long.) He also believed that hunting wolves would sharpen his skills and reduce fear.

Sverne finally had the beard, or at least his mother thought he had the beard, to apply for the King's army.

"It is the time for you to seek the revenge you've wanted. I just hope this will end the way you desire."

"Even if I die trying, it is better than to live knowing what has happened."

He approached the army barracks in Visby after a day on horseback, the main settlement in Gotland, and wanted to find the commander. He tied his horse to a post in front and was about to enter when he heard an agitated voice. "Stop there! You can't just walk in like that."

Sverne turned and saw a soldier. "Who are you? Where's the commander of this place?"

"I'm the commander, boy. What do you want?"

Sverne told him in a voice which reflected eagerness and his suppressed anger, "My name is Sverne, and I want to join the king's army. It's been a desire as long as I've been alive."

The commander looked him over and then grinned a bit. "We don't usually take boys your age. If your 'beard' were any slighter it could be a woman's!"

Sverne wasn't sure whether he couldn't join, or if he were being tested. "It's enough. A dead enemy won't care how much hair there is."

The commander smiled a bit; it wasn't clear whether he agreed or thought it was funny. "That is true. You do have a good body and you seem confident enough. Can you use an axe?"

"Better than you I bet!"

The commander smile changed to a thinking expression. "Okay.", he said. "Let's see what you have." He put on his shield, raised his arm, and handed Sverne a handaxe. "Smack the shield as hard as you can." Hehe, thought the commander. This young child from the village wanted to prove himself? There was no harm in doing that if he might someday-

THWACK! The brutal smash forced the commander's arm down as it flew behind him and he lost his balance. He was stunned from disbelief while a few soldiers from the barracks came out to see the commotion. Sverne meanwhile showed no signs of surprise as the other soldiers looked on. It apparently wasn't an attack "Who is this?", one of the soldiers asked the commander.

"He, uh, wants to join the king's army. He's awfully strong for his age."

The soldier then said "That's a good start. With training you can practice dodging enemy blows, and fighting with other weapons."

Sverne took a step toward him and said, with a slight smirk, "I've been using many types of weapons long before I had this beard. I've also hunted wolves with my axe and spear. They can only claw you a few times before you're quick enough to dodge them."

The other soldier who came out offered, "Be this skill and strength a gift from Odin himself?"

Sverne replied, "It be fierce berserker determination. I was born in the Norse ice, and have lived a humble life. No unworthy skræling could have resulted from what I have experienced."

"It looks like you're in.", the commander said. "My name is Odneske. And these two are Leofric and Uldin."

Sverne greeted them, and the other soldiers in this garrison. He was anxious to prove himself in real battle. And this time came, repeatedly, with Sverne appearing invincible. As the first three years passed and Sverne's body began to fill out, it seemed that the Vikings had brought an inhuman giant to battle.

Some of these engagements were during patrols on their trade routes to Northumbria or Finland. Others were to pursue bandits or enemy warlords threatening King Valdemar's holdings in distant lands. The most decisive event for Sven came in a war against a rival Viking lord in Norway, Theolgur, threatening to capture the city of Olso.

1064 AD

Though it was known that Theolgur had more men, Sverne didn't believe they were worrisome. While Odneske gave the usual pre-battle speech before their ships landed, the men knew that Sverne was the real core of their attack. The men landed, and soon after were spotted by Theolgur's scouts. Theolgur ordered his men to drive them back to the sea. The men charged at each other, but Theolgur's numbers would not matter.

Like the wolves he had fought when he was younger, the enemy soldiers couldn't hit Sverne before he swung his axe. The fighting between the enemy and the other soldiers became a surreal panic as Sverne approached Theolgur.

Theolgur ordered all of his men to attack Sverne, and while they did score a few hits, it wasn't enough to stop him. It was like they were striking a tree. Theolgur tried to escape on horseback, but Uldin and some from his group mounted the supply horses and gave chase. They killed him, and brought his body back. Theolgur's head was sent back to Copenhagen as proof of the victory.

Uldin and Leofric congratulated Sverne on his role. "Even rival Vikings are like rabbits against you! I wasn't sure how long it would take for you to get out when they surrounded you."

Sverne arrogantly replied, "I prefer it like that, when they all come after me. That way, I can kill their entire army with one swing, and be able to relax with some mead."

"Ha ha! It's believable you'd only think that."

"By the way, where's Odneske? I haven't seen him since the battle began."

"He was struck in the leg, he's lost much of his blood."

"I'll speak with him to see how he's doing. We should be getting back to the ships."

"Do you think the King will notice this victory? That was the most intense fighting I think we've seen."

"I hope he does…"

While on their ships on their way back to Gotland, Odneske's wound had turned septic and he died from the infection. He had lived a fairly long life for a fighter. While Sverne was disappointed to lose such a friend, he was now the commander of the garrison. He may have already been the commander, but now it was official.

After Sverne had arrived back in Gotland, the King did notice this victory, and was impressed that his army defeated a larger force. Such challenges by others should always be put down this way.

The King asked one of military advisers, "Who is this brave captain who I've heard such great things about?"

"His name is Sverne. He comes from Gotland, and has a reputation for skill and bravery in battle."

The King, remembering Enstrom's vision, was intrigued. "What kind of build does this warrior have?"

"He is as strong and brave as ten men, and his axe can crack Fenrir's fangs. Some say his father is Thor."

The King knew this was the man he had heard about. "I want to meet him. He may fulfill some of his most important duties, in a higher post."

Sverne was wondering when whether the King had noticed the victory, and if this would give him a chance to get closer to his ultimate goal. It had scarcely been a month since his victory over Theolgur when a ship carrying one of the king's military advisers arrived. Leofric greeted him and, learning who he was, informed Sverne. "Hey, it's one of the nobles from the King's court wanting to see you. Maybe the King has sent you a great reward, or a promotion."

Sverne realized what a promotion could mean. "I am Sverne, the commander here. What do you bring?"

"Captain Sverne, the King has recognized your service and wishes you to be a general in his army." This much Sverne expected. "The King would like to meet such a man in person before your next assignment."

Sverne felt a rush of adrenaline, joy and rage at the same moment. He could finally see, face to face, this honorless snake. "Yes, I will see him. My only request, as a general, is that I keep my same staff that I have here. Uldin and Leofric are equally brave, though not as celebrated."

"'Equally brave', eh? If that's your opinion, the King should have no problem keeping you together. Are you ready to depart?"

"I've been ready for a long time." Sverne took a few of his things, and boarded. This boat ride was shorter than many he'd been on, but this one seemed like it took forever. He hadn't visited the capital of Copenhagen much, and once he arrived he left the ship and went to King Valdemar's hall.

The inside held King Valdemar's personal guard and advisers, and behind the table in the banquet area Sverne saw an older, though large man. He wore a rather simple gold crown above his graying black beard. Valdemar was excited to see this great man, who could be a worthy heir. Sverne did not share his good mood.

"Ca- GENERAL Sverne. It's so good to see you here. Have a seat, we'll discuss your place in the army."

Sverne wondered whether he could simply kill him here. No, there were too many bodyguards and others in the way. Whether or not Sverne died, he wanted to make sure he completed his task. He slowly took a seat opposite of King Valdemar.

"You look tense, or maybe that's the rage just under your skin.", Valdemar observed.

"More than you know."

"I've heard about your great feats. We can keep your old unit together if you wish. It's good to depend on people such as yourself."

"I think you'll see only my rage for the rest of your life."

"That's what I like to hear. Myself, and for my enemies to hear it."

Sverne pondered his chances. "My King, perhaps we can discuss my duties to you in a more private setting, perhaps your private chambers?"

"That won't be necessary. For the time being, I will send you your tasks, though these may be as dangerous as your battle with Theolgur. No minor skirmishes or patrols."

Sverne then asked, "Will my command office be in the capitol? It is fitting."

King Valdemar replied, "You will keep your command post in Visby, Gotland. It is closer to what I have in mind for you. If your quarters concern you, I will commission a more suitable residence to be built."

Sverne was disappointed, but couldn't let his rage take over, and make him risk losing his chance. There would surely be more chances. Before he left to board the ship back to Gotland, he asked, "Sire, what is the process for being a member of your bodyguard?"

The King chuckled a bit while the bodyguards were confused. "Sverne", the King said, "you humble yourself. The Bodyguard isn't a very… glamorous position. You are too valuable to sit in here."

"Uhm, just curious, for some of my staff, who have served me well."

"We can talk about that later. For now, head back to your post, and I will tell you what your next task will be."

Sverne was somewhat disappointed, but had no choice but to leave. His ship was still visible on the horizon when a confused Enstrom questioned the King as they left to return to the hall. "Sire, you said that you wanted to make him your heir?"

"Yes, he is the best."

"Then why not keep him in Copenhagen? You can adopt him today."

King Valdemar wore a thoughtful expression and gave his reply. "I've been thinking about how you saw me dead, and he was King. That's been troubling me a bit."

"You don't trust him?"

"Maybe I shouldn't so much. He has that same rage and ambition that I see in myself. If he were the heir to my throne right now, he could be dangerous. I want to… 'test' him in this higher position."

"Test?"

"Yes, to make sure he is loyal as well as brave. I want to make sure Thor wasn't promising me an assassin."

Sverne's post as a general saw many more intense engagements with rival Viking lords, rebellions in England and even raids deep into the Volga river against King Valdemar's Slavic enemies. It was also at this time that Vikings settled in parts of Sicily. Sverne didn't personally go, but provided veterans from his forces to help keep peace with the locals.

Years had passed since Sverne became a general, a respectable and comfortable post by any measure. If things had turned out differently, Sverne may be content to live this life. But he always remembered the events which put him here, why he wanted this position.

Meanwhile in Copenhagen, King Valdemar was increasingly fond and impressed with this powerful (and loyal) man under his command. Further, even though King Valdemar was strong, he was nearly 70 years old. Having such beloved people under his command such as Sverne helped to hold off possible coups from his nobles, but he needed an heir before long. Sverne was the only real choice, but there was one last pressing mission he needed Sverne for.

1078 AD, November 13th

A messenger arrived at Sverne's hall in Visby, and said he had an important message for the general. He went inside, seeing Sverne's trophies from distant conquests. Sicilian pottery, Byzantine mosaics and even carpets from distant Serkland. It may as well have been a royal palace. "General, King Valdemar needs you to defeat the Prus forces. They have an army directly south of Gotland, and we don't know how many ships."

"Is that all?"

"They've been attacking King Valdemar's lands in Livonia and Kurland. They may even be a threat to Gotland."

"I was starting to get bored. I'm sure the King will appreciate it."

"Yes. He's ordered that after this mission you report to Copenhagen. He says it can't wait."

"Another chance", though Sverne. "Maybe I will be receiving a post as an adviser. I have earned it."

"Surely you have. That's the message, I will be leaving."

After so many years of waiting for a perfect chance, Sverne seemed poised to have another chance to be alone with the King. He tried going through what might happen in Copenhagen, thinking of how he could arrange his opportunity while he was boarding his longboats with his men.

His mother, now 52, also realized what might happen in Copenhagen. Her own parents had died believing she was an adulterer and deserter; she couldn't tell them the truth or she would endanger herself and Sverne. She hoped she could lend her own rage and bitterness to her son as he departed on this mission.

The battle with the Rus went as anyone under Sverne's command would expect. There weren't many Prus ships ready to fight when Sverne arrived; the Prus chief Udrict was expecting a land attack. Shortly after Sverne's army landed, Udrict learned of their presence and sent his army forward. Sverne and Uldin commanded heavy cavalry units, with Leofrik in Sverne's unit, while the rest of the army were axe-wielding huscarls. Sverne ordered the charge against the oncoming Prus.

The Prus outnumbered Sverne's forces over two-to-one, consisting of spearmen and crossbows, with Chief Udrict on horseback with his bodyguard. The Prus crossbows killed some Vikings from a distance, though when the Vikings did close they forced the crossbowmen to fall back and fought with the Prus spearmen. Uldin's cavalry unit flanked the Prus and killed fleeing crossbowmen. Other Prus, including Chief Udrict's unit, chased Sverne but found themselves drawn too far out.

While some Vikings died, it seemed a thousand Rus died for every Viking. In reality, it was three-to-one losses in favor of the Vikings. Chief Udrict himself made a desperate lunge for Sverne, but his horse was cut out from under him, and he was slain.

Sverne showed no cowardice, and during the battle rescued Leofrik after he had been dragged off his horse. If Sverne had not rescued him, Leofrik would likely have been executed and his head would be placed on a pike to serve as a warning.

The Prus couldn't compete against Sverne and his veterans, and had to run in a full retreat. After the battle when the Danish messenger came back from the Prus leaders, the Prus agreed not to attack Danish lands as a condition of their own city not being burnt to the ground.

"If I didn't need to save you, the battle would have been over in half the time.", Sverne teased Leofrik.

"That's probably true.", Leofrik admitted. "So the King wants to see you? What do you think you'll get from him?"

"I don't know, but I'm looking forward to it. I suppose I'll send you men back, then I will go in my ship to Copenhagen." There was a moment of silence. "I'll let you know how it turns out."

Sverne once again boarded his ship, and how headed back to Copenhagen.

1078 AD, November 17th

A day after Sverne left the Prus region, King Valdemar and his attendants noticed his ship approaching the port in Copenhagen. "See? I knew we should wait.", King Valdemar gloated.

Sverne left the ship and approached the King. "So you wanted to see me?"

"Yes, that battle was your best contribution to my reign so far. Now, I just have one more task to ask of you."

"Odin knows I've given you much."

As they went to the hall, King Valdemar coddled his favorite to succeed him. "You really are something that this kingdom needed. Many years ago my seer had a vision that a great man would come from Gotland."

"Is that right?", Sverne asked. "And you think it's me?"

"Yes, a strong and ruthless man, much like myself. You even have my piercing eyes, the rich beard and broad chest that I have. Truly, I believe Thor himself crafted you as a gift."

"Are you sure Thor is the reason I look the way I do?"

"It was he in the vision. And fitting you should come from Gotland, from the ice." King Valdemar said. They entered the hall, and the King continued. "After all, I have done so much for the people of Gotland, I have been such a generous king, they must surely love me there."

"Some may not." Sverne pointed out. They went back into the banquet area they had been years before, but Sverne still hoped this time would be different.

King Valdemar replied, "It is unfortunate. Of course if that is the case, you can 'take care' of that for me."

"My enemies don't last for long."

"And that passion is one reason why I called you here."

"You want me to be an advisor?"

"No." King Valdemar's voice lowered. "You must be my heir to the throne."

Sverne was taken back by this statement. "You want me to be the king?"

"Yes." King Valdemar said. Sverne's head was still reeling with this; as the heir, he could have easy access to the king, but it was also a realization of his rightful birthright. King Valdemar continued, "You are everything I want. Like the Prince I never had."

"Are you sure I'm a Prince you never had?"

"I can tell you're overwhelmed, Sverne. You see, I have a son, but he isn't capable of being king."

Sverne struggled to control his emotion. "How do you feel about that? That your 'own' son can't be king?"

"I know you respect tradition, Sverne. However, even though I love my son, he isn't the same kind of warrior you are." King Valdemar's mention of "love" and his nearly fatherly attitude toward Sverne was so fake it would be laughable if it weren't so enraging. Sverne's emotions of betrayal were sharp; he was nearly ready to jump across the table and strangle the old man, regardless of who else was there.

King Valdemar noted Sverne's shaken mood. "I can sense your hesitation. It's not everyday that a man born as a peasant would become a king. You're the most capable man I know, and the most loyal."

"Loyal, eh?", Sverne thought to himself. To think that this lowly argr would trust him this much. This would be his moment. "After we complete the adoption, my king, I want to speak with you privately."

"Privately? Yes, we can do that. I'm sure you have many questions."

They conducted the adoption ritual, with a large amount of mead. "If you'd like, you may move your residence to Copenhagen." King Valdemar said.

"I'm sure to do that. But now my King, I would like to speak with you."

"You may call me 'father' now."

Sverne and the King headed back into the hall, this time they headed for the king's bed chamber for the discussion Sverne had requested. He was carrying his axe when one of the bodyguard tried to remove it.

Sverne told him, "Guard, this is my axe I've used in battle. It has brought me luck, and this is a special occasion.", he said as he glanced at King Valdemar. This was enough, and the King motioned for Sverne to go in with his axe. It was a celebration, so the bodyguards usually outside the door went to join the music and what was left of the mead.

Sverne locked the door behind him. Nothing unusual to the King or anyone else, just a privacy measure. He laid his "lucky" axe on a chair next to the door. It was almost unreal; after all the fighting, waiting, and hatred, there was this old man and Sverne.

"You may ask anything.", King Valdemar said.

"My mother was badly shamed, years ago. Forced to flee her home and living with no family, other than me."

"Must have been difficult. Where is she from."

"Here, in Copenhagen."

"Ah, you can bring her here then. I'm sure she'll be happy."

"That's one thing she'll like. I was also badly shamed."

"How?"

"You said in your vision I came from the ice. I was born in the snow, as my mother tells me. Not even the straw mattress of a jail cell for me." Sverne was becoming more upset.

"Jail cell? Yes, eh, that would be preferable." While King Valdemar was a large man, he was 70 years old, and was becoming nervous at Sverne's mood. He glanced at the locked door and tried to reassure himself with a nervous smile. "I can sense your raw energy which has brought you where you are. But now, we, ah…"

Sverne punched the King in the face, breaking his nose. The King staggered back and tried to hold Sverne's hands and call for his bodyguard, though no one could hear him. King Valdemar lost his balance when Sverne swept his leg out from under him.

King Valdemar was in a daze and stared at the ceiling. He could hear Sverne walk back toward the door and then return a moment later. Sverne stood over him, mostly silhouetted with the candles behind him, holding his axe with both arms.

King Valdemar started to laugh, as if he knew why this was happening. "Yes, you would be like that."

"Why do you laugh now?", Sverne said with disgust.

"You knew your victories would gain power, and they did. You knew you might have a chance at this throne, if you got close to me, or if I made you my heir." He laughed a bit more. "And now, you will kill me, and gain the crown you've desired so badly-"

"TO HELL WITH YOUR DAMN CROWN, YOU SANSORðINN!"

King Valdemar was confused. While he was attempting to ask questions to clarify what Sverne meant, Sverne stopped his questions by sending the "business end" of his axe into King Valdemar's chest. This finished him, and now Sverne was king. This reality wasn't quite apparent. He stood there for a moment, though it seemed like hours, when he heard a clamor at the locked door. One of the bodyguard had heard the commotion and worried what was happening.

"Whatever happens", Sverne thought, "I've done it." He looked back at the lifeless King Valdemar. He set his axe back in the chair and opened the door. The bodyguard asked what happened, and Sverne could only direct him to King Valdemar.

The bodyguard was stunned, and couldn't believe that Sverne, such a famous and well-liked general, would be a simple assassin. Sverne sensed his bewilderment. Sverne told him that he was truly a prince, and what had happened to his mother. True or not, the bodyguard didn't want to fight Sverne, or risk being on the losing side if this scandal caused a civil war. Besides, who would even be a general against Sverne?

"My… king, what should I tell the others out there?"

Sverne thought for a moment, then came up with the best story he could think of. "You tell them that King Valdemar attempted to kill me when we were alone, so I wouldn't be a threat to him. That's why he summoned me to Copenhagen, after his last major enemy was defeated." Sverne didn't like asking the guard to lie, but it was the only option.

The story was bought, and now Sverne was King. A few days later after the mood had settled, Sverne issued an important order. "Advisor.", Sverne said, "I need you to go to Gotland, and bring my mother here. She's in Väskinde, butshe's from here and should return. Also, my friends Leofric and Uldin. They're my old lieutenants, in the garrison at Visby."

"Yes sire. It is appropriate your mother should live in the capitol. She is rightfully a queen now."

Sverne said, reflectively, "Yes, rightfully."

King Sverne knew it was a tradition for kings to sometimes change their name upon becoming king. Sverne was his "real" name, but he saw the occasion as fitting to choose a kingly moniker. "What name will you choose?", one of the advisors asked, about to enter it in the city's records.

"King Knud.", Sverne replied. "Knud" meant "kind", and it was as distant from his fearful and bitter past as he could have.

Sverne, or King Knud, had repaid this debt of dishonor after so many years. Born a prince, he was now king. After first picking up an axe when he was 8, King Knud hung his "lucky" axe on the wall.