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Stefnir is a novice warrior who came to Strand in order to take revenge on Magnus, and helped Eirik in taking down the triumvirate of gangs trying to take over the city shortly before the Third Great War.

Background[]

Stefnir used to live in a village near a river with Runa and worked as a hunter alongside his father. Once while they were younger, he requested Runa to kiss him, after the boys teasing him made it a condition to leave him alone. She agreed, but he soon found out that they were only fooling him when they continued to tease him. Runa playfully chided him for his naivety, but he believed she was mocking him too and never talked to her again.

About eight months before the Third Great War, the slaver gang called the Vak'auga attacked Stefnir's village, with the males getting in their way being slaughtered and the women being enslaved, except for those who violently resisted. While Stefnir and his father survived, due to being away from the village for hunting during the raid, they soon found his mother's corpse after returning, discovering that she had been decapitated after killing two of the slavers.

Stefnir desired to take revenge on the men who raided his village, but his father forbade him and stated that the survivors would need all hands to survive, since the raiders had burnt the fields and the storehouse containing the farmed crops. He finally decided to head out on his own about five months later after an argument, while his father had gone for hunting. Doing odd jobs in the cities to the north of his village, he learnt about the raiders and that their leader was a man called Magnus.

One day, Stefnir was chased by wolves while traveling in the countryside, but was rescued by the varl warrior Olaf. Impressed by him, he requested him to teach him how to become a warrior, to which Olaf agreed. The varl also asked him to accompany him on his travel and helped him craft an improvised shield which was mostly a bundle of uncarved logs strapped together with leather, promising to teach him how to craft a real one later. Olaf also hit him with rocks while they were on their way to Karlshus, so he would learn to quickly block attacks.

Recent events[]

Karlshus[]

About two months before the Third Great War, Olaf and Stefnir reached Karlshus and went to Broddi's Mead Hall in order to acquire a room to sleep for the night. Olaf decided to barter Stefnir's wolf pelt after they found themselves short on money, and gave him a few coins for a drink. The bartender Geir however gave him the bad stock to play a prank on him, knowing he never had alcohol before. This caused Stefnir to nearly spew his brew at a warrior, who after realizing what had happened, bought him a good batch of the mead on him.

While Olaf bartered for the pelt with the owner Broddi, the man Stefnir had met introduced himself as "Arnbjorn", and after being inquired about the warring chieftains he referred to earlier, told him about the feuding criminals and the triumvirate of gangs which was trying to take over Strand. He also admitted that he used to be a member of one of those gangs and Stefnir took the chance to ask him about Magnus as he talked. When Arnbjorn was surprised, Stefnir stated that he had heard the name from others, upun which Arnbjorb told him that Magnus was the leader of the slaver gang called the Vak'auga, which raided the human settlements to the south, but avoided the varls in the north.

As Arnbjorn talked about one of the triumvirate gangs raiding the territory of the varls, Olaf returned and told him that the barter was a success. Olaf stopped Arnbjorn when he noticed that he was trying to flee, as he had overheard about the raid while returning, but soon heard his own name being called out. He soon realized that it was the varl Ulfvalgr, who tried to attack him, but Olaf evaded and Ulfvalgr ended up hitting one of the customers, sparking a bar brawl. As Stefnir jumped behind the counter for safety, he saw Arnbjorn stealing the bar's provisions and was encouraged by him to do the same, since he would be kicked out anyway.

Stefnir barely evaded Geir's club while stealing, and smashed his shield into the bartender's face, knocking him out but resulting in its logs falling out. He then escaped and unsuccessfully tried finding Arnbjorn to learn more about the Vak'auga. Olaf soon came out and stated that they needed to escape, as an unknown armed group had attacked the mead hall. They soon met Ulfvalgr again in a forest, and were told that he was pretending to fight in order to escape those same men. When he asked about the thieves who stole their heirloom, Olaf answered that it was the Mársmidr gang from Strand. Ulfvalgr decided to go alone, but was convinced by them to take them along as it would have been difficult for him to fight the gangsters himself.

Arriving in Strand[]

While walking with his newfound allies near the Red River, Ulfvalgr agreed to build a camp for the night, after being sure that they had lost the men after him and the weather was clearing. Stefnir then got to cutting a tree, but was berated by Ulfvalgr for being slow. As Olaf in response told Ulfvalgr to cut the tree himself if he didn't like his speed, the varl felled the tree quickly by chopping it with his axe. After cutting and whittling down its branches, he told Stefnir and Olaf to start a fire while he fished for food.

Stefnir soon asked Olaf what was going on between him and Ulfvalgr, as well as about the men after the latter. Olaf informed him that Ulfvalgr was his kendr and they had parted ways after deciding to split a heirloom of their mentor Torstein when he died. About six months earlier however, one of the Mársmidr stole his half and he tracked the thief to Karlshus, but he met Stefnir along the way there. After reaching the town, he found out about the gang that stole his half of the relic from Broddi.

Olaf, Stefnir and Ulfvalgr later joined a caravan and arrived in Strand a day later, but unwittingly entered into the territory of the gang called "Kollsvein's Kin", who demanded that they hand over their money. The three however refused and a fight broke out, with Arnbjorn, Eirik and Valgard soon joining in. After Valgard slew the gang's leader Kollsvein, the rest of the gangsters quickly fled. Eirik then introduced his group and claimed that they were bounty hunters, and after learning that they were looking for a particular inn there which offered affordable rooms for varls, told them that it had burnt down around wo years ago.

When Eirik suggested to Olaf and his group that they spend the night in one of the abandoned houses in the area, Olaf asked him and his group to accompany them as it would afford them more protection. Eirik agreed and they soon found an abandoned hall which was suitable for all of them. Stefnir however avoided mentioning that he had met Arnbjorn before. After dinner, Stefnir was made to be the lookout with Arnbjorn since he hadn't drunk any alcohol. Arnbjorn thanked him for not telling the others that they had met before, and Stefnir stated that it wouldn't have been wise to bring up past events, especially as he had saved them. Arnbjorn then asked him what they were doing with Ulfvalgr, but Stefnir decided againat giving an answer.

Learning the truth[]

In the morning, Stefnir went to relieve himself, and soon spotted a girl spying on him. He went after her and found that it was Runa, who confronted him with her spears. Stefnir told her that he had come to take revenge on Magnus for his mother's death after being asked, and then questioned how she ended up there. Runa revealed that she was given by Magnus to his spymaster Leiknir as a slave, but he freed her and took her under his care when she didn't know what to do in Strand. She then agreed to join his service as his bodyguard and messenger out of gratitude.

Stefnir accused Runa of forgetting what Magnus did because of Leiknir, but she chided him, stating that she was still dedicated to killing the Vak'auga leader. She also revealed that the two of the men with him were members of the Governor's Guard, the elite protectors of Strand, and one of them was Eirik, who was their best agent. Before leaving, she told him to not trust him, and to leave Strand for his own good. Stefnir pondered on her words, realizing Eirik had used his real name in front of them, which made him wonder whether he was truly honest, and that the second Guardsman must be Valgard, given how much both him and Eirik disliked Arnbjorn.

Arriving back at the hall where he was staying in with his and Eirik's group, Stefnir found Olaf had gone to Strand's market district to fetch food for them, and told Ulfvalgr that he didn't trust the three men. Ulfvalgr agreed and decided to leave as soon as Olaf returned. After coming back, Olaf told them that he had found an old friend of theirs at the market who may be able to help them. The three then bid goodbye to Eirik's group and headed there, with Ulfvalgr later commending him for making an excuse for leaving the men. Olaf however insisted that he was being truthful and revealed that the friend he had met was Kjallak. Ulfvalgr was furious as Torstein had exiled him in the past, but relented when he was reminded how he himself had once raided on humans.

Kjallak's trap[]

Olaf, Stefnir and Ulfvalgr soon arrived at the beat-up mead hall called The Shattered Shield, where Kjallak welcomed them and gave them his hospitality. He stated that he had heard about the Mársmidr leader Freystein and him wanting Torstein's heirloom. When Ulfvalgr stated that he wanted to kill Freystein, a man behind them laughed. Kjallak introduced him as Skoegir, stating he was in the same business as him and was one of the few who could help find Freystein. Stefnir however realized he wasn't a businessman at all due to his scars, and as Ulfvalgr asked where the man Freystein was, Skoegir stated that he was no man at all.

Stefnir and the varls soon started to realize what Skoegir meant, and Olaf asked Kjallak whether he was working for Freystein. Kjallak then revealed that he was the true leader of the Mársmidr, and had slain the real Freystein to take over his gang a while back, after which he started pretending that he was Freystein. As a bunch of Mársmidr surrounded Stefnir's group and Kjallak prepared to strike the three with his war hammer, Eirik and Valgard soon burst in and prevented him. They helped Stefnir's group in escaping the building, but Valgard was injured while holding off the gangsters. Eirik and Olaf however rescued him and after escaping outside, Eirik soon noticed a line of wagons nearby. He bribed their owner Frode to take them under his protection and transport them to the Great Hall.

While going to the Great Hall, Eirik admitted to Stefnir's group that he and Valgard were part of the Governor's Guard, and used deceptive methods to protect Strand from all threats. He then told them about how Strand came to be crime-ridden and the major gangs operating in the city, including the Vak'auga who liked to spread rumors about their leader Magnus never sleeping, hence their sigil of an always open eye. Stefnir felt fearful, but calmed himself when Olaf asked him why he was twitching and apologized. Asked about why the Guard hadn't brought down the Mársmidr yet, Eirik stated that they had unsuccessfully tried to capture Freystein after he disappeared in the past, with Olaf realizing it was due to Kjallak.

Ulfvalgr soon demanded to know who Arnbjorn was and why he was with them earlier but now. Eirik responded that he was a former Mársmidr member who fled after being caught stealing from his gang, and they found that he had been following the varls and Stefnir in exchange for a pardon. Eirik then asked them who Kjallak was and what he was after, but was only given the answer to his former question. When Eirik offered them hospitality and stated that they should figure out their next move together, Ulfvalgr rejected it and stated that they would go their own separate way. They soon passed a tournament which the City Watch of Strand had organized, and Eirik stated that it was a way to keep the peace, by having the troublesome elements fight each other for prize instead of committing crimes, though Stefnir felt horrified at seeing men slaying each other there.

Narrow escape[]

At the Great Hall, Eirik lodged Stefnir and the varls in a room fit for the giants in the guest wing, but Stefnir realized there was no bed for him. Eirik stated that it was a room only meant for varls and offered to have him shifted to another room, but Stefnir expressed his reluctance, upon which Olaf and Ulfvalgr stated that he would stay with them. When Eirik went to fetch a bed fit for the boy, Ulfvalgr decided to leave quickly as the Guardsman intended to keep the three there, though Olaf refused.

Seeing Olaf and Ulfvalgr get angry at each other after arguing, Stefnir decided to break the tension by asking what they planned to do next, with Olaf stating that they needed time to think. He then decided to ask what Kjallak was after, and Ulfvalgr agreed to tell him since he had earned their trust. The varl informed him that it was a relic called the "Gift of Hadrborg", their creator god Hadrborg's divine shield-like amulet, which the fourth Varl King Throstr had used to rally the varls in beating back the dredge during the Second Great War. He and Olaf however refused to answer anything further when he asked about it, and Stefnir decided to wait for his bed.

Upon noticing the voice of footsteps coming towards their room, Stefnir thought that it was his bed arriving. Ulfvalgr however told him that they wouldn't be sneaking if it were so, upon which Stefnir realized someone was hunting for them. A gang soon attacked the room, but Eirik arrived there in the nick of time. While fighting the leader of the attackers, he hit the hearth of the room and sent cinders flying on the gang as well as in the room, which started fires. He soon used a flaming sheet to make Olaf crash into Stefnir and Ulfvalgr, with their combined weight breaking the window shutters. The three fell onto the snow-covered roof and as they slid across it along with Eirik, Stefnir saw Runa standing on the roof and called out her name, before they fell on a snow pile below the hill where the Great Hall stood.

Meeting Leinkir[]

Eirik hid with Stefnir, Olaf and Ulfvalgr at an abandoned temple in Grárgróf, where he told them that the raid on the Great Hall was led by the Aetla Hilmir and how it came to pass. He then demanded to know what Kjallak was after, since the gang attacked them immediately after they escaped The Shattered Shield. As the varls refused to tell him, he asked Stefnir about Runa, but she showed up there herself before he could answer. She asked that they talk and when they distrusted her, she told them that she could have killed them when the time was right if she was against them.

Eirik refused to believe Runa when she told him that Leiknir had grown tired of his life of crime and wanted to help him in taking down the gangs by meeting him at the Brenna Training Hall. Stefnir and Olaf however asked him to reconsider, and he then asked for the opinion of his allies on whether he should go. After everyone agreed, he told Runa that he would meet Leiknir and sent her back to him. Stefnir called out to Runa as she left, but she didn't respond. Everyone then gazed at him since they knew he recognized her, and he told them that she was a girl from his village captured during a Vak'auga raid. He also revealed that he had joined Olaf while trying to find their leader Magnus in order to take revenge.

Olaf didn't criticize Stefnir for lying, but told him to abandon his vengeance as it was useless. Eirik found wisdom in his words and firmly settled on meeting Leiknir, since it was needed to bring Kjallak down. The Guardsman later sent Olaf and Ulfvalgr to The Caroling Giant, before going with Stefnir to meet Leiknir. They found the spymaster at the Brenna Training Hall as they were told, and learnt from him that the triumvirate of the Mársmidr, the Aetla Hilmir and the Vak'auga was trying to take over Strand. He also agreed to provide information in exchange for immunity and protection, before giving Eirik directions to a Vak'auga warehouse and sending Runa as collateral.

Eirik later told Runa and Stefnir to go get Olaf and Ulfvalgr, so they could get ready for the raid on the Vak'auga warehouse Leiknir told them about, before departing to meet his "tailor". The two found the varls at The Caroling Giant, and went back with them to the abandoned temple in Grárgróf. Eirik later returned with fresh cloths for all of them and a cart with Nautmot yoxen attached and a tall canopy for the varls to hide in, so they could raid the warehouse at the western docks Leiknir had directed them to.

The Vak'auga warehouse[]

After arriving at the Vak'auga warehouse Leiknir told them about, Stefnir and his group slew a guard, but soon heard someone banging on the door of a locker near it from the inside. After opening it, they found the mutilated Arnbjorn, who told them that the back door was guarded by only two men, as well as the password to it before passing out. Stefnir and his group easily made it inside and when Arnbjorn woke up again, Eirik demanded to know if there were more guards there. He told them that several will be arriving there later for a delivery, and what they were looking for was in the basement, which would be lightly guarded.

Eirik took Olaf and Ulfvalgr to the basement, while leaving Stefnir and Runa to guard the exit and keep an eye on Arnbjorn. Arnbjorn later asked for some mead to numb his pain, which he started feeling after finally eating and drinking again. As Stefnir offered him a jug, Runa smashed it to the wall, stating that they would not carry him out while he was drunk. She then asked Stefnir who the man was, and he stated that he claimed that he was Arnbjorn, a former member of one of the gangs. Arnbjorn admitted the last part was true and stated that he formerly belonged to the Mársmidr, but found out that they had killed his brother and he had come there to take revenge on them.

A burly man soon attacked Stefnir with an axe but he dodged it in time. As the two fought, the man grabbed him by the throat and swung him around, using him as a human shield against Runa, who was trying to spear their foe. Arnbjorn, whom the man hadn't noticed, however attacked him and pushed him off the balcony to his death. The three later went to search a chamber after he noted it, but found that it was just a privy.

Arnbjorn soon noticed some men near the warehouse, and told Stefnir and Runa that they needed to hurry since the other gangsters would be arriving there soon. As they went to the basement, they noticed two slain guards, before finding Eirik, Olaf and Ulfvalgr there. Stefnir informed the surprised Olaf that the gang members were coming back to the warehouse and they needed to leave quickly. Realizing that they were unable to find what they needed, Arnbjorn decided to help them and found an item stored in one of the rooms. The group then escaped before the gangsters found them there, but soon realized what they had retrieved was a varl skull.

Preparing a plan[]

Eirik took his allies to an abandoned manor outside Strand he had found for them to stay in, and Stefnir got to work on providing care to Arnbjorn for his wounds as well as threading his gouged eye. The rogue stated that he had been following Olaf and Ulfvalgr in order to keep them alive, and to keep tabs on them until Kjallak sprung a trap for them himself, in order to acquire a shield they were carrying. He added that Kjallak had been smuggling in varl skeletons and he decided to use them to expose him, after he found out that they had killed his brother Johan and were probably going to kill him too, but was caught.

Eirik then hatched a plan to lure one of the lieutenants of the triumvirate out by organizing a tournament match some days later with Olaf and Ulfvalgr out in the open, knowing that the gangs would send one of their trusted men for the job. He also told Runa to have Leiknir tell about it to Magnus very late, so the Mársmidr and the vak'auga would struggle to find anyone for the fight, and had the City Watch arrive there at a scheduled time to prevent any surprise attacks by the Aetla Hilmir. Olaf soon taught Stefnir how to build a proper shield, while Eirik taught him how to write, and Arnbjorn, who revealed that his real name was Hallvard, taught him how to fight along with the two varls.

Stefnir trained with Ulfvalgr on a frozen pond on the fifth day, and was taught about fighting techniques and how fighters were only vulnerable in the reach of a weapon, except for a spear. When Stefnir asked why, Hallvard taught him that a master spearsman could use the weapon's handle for both offense and defense, but he couldn't due to not being experienced enough and his injuries. Hallvard then turned his attention to Runa, who actually was. Remembering how good-natured she used to be and how bitter she was now, Stefnir wondered if his mother was lucky to have died instead of becoming like her. He went back to the mansion as the thought upset him and caused him to hate her, but he kept it to himself.

Eirik soon returned and told everyone that the tournament was in two days. The others felt hesitant, but he stated that they didn't have a choice, since the varls will learn about their dead being defiled eventually anyway, and some had joined the triumvirate after arriving in Strand along with Vilmundr. He then asked Olaf and Ulfvalgr about Vilmundr, and Ulfvalgr stated that he was a warlord with questionable loyalties who served the Varl King Jorundr. Everyone soon agreed to fight, and Eirik showed them the map of the location they would be fighting in, so they could strategize.

The tournament[]

Olaf and Ulfvalgr told Stefnir to rest on the last day before the tournament instead of training, so he would be at full strength during the fight. He accepted it even though he felt it wrong, since they had lived and fought for far longer than him. When they went to the tournament, Stefnir felt a great amount of terror, as he feared he might die and everything he did till now would be in vain. Eirik soon had his group admitted into the tournament, with the triumvirate fighters arriving under the Mársmidr lieutenant Ottar as expected.

When Stefnir felt hesitant, Arnbjorn told him to tap his shoulder if he didn't want to fight any longer. The Watchmen holding the tournaments then told everyone to take their positions. Olaf and Arnbjorn surrounded Stefnir's right and left respectively, while Ulfvalgr covered his rear. Eirik and Runa meanwhile took positions behind Olaf. As the match began, Stefnir rushed towards Ottar's men, but soon found that Eirik and Runa had disappeared, causing him to panic. A varl from the opposing group soon attacked him, but was struck in his calf by a spear from Runa, who was hiding in the woods. Hallvard then took the advantage to kill him.

As Stefnir watched his allies fight the other gang members after the death of the varl who tried to kill him, a man clad with an iron helmet suddenly charged at him. Stefnir succeeded in fatally wounding him by attacking his neck with his father's axe, but the force of the attack broke the haft, and he watched with regret as the man writhed in pain from the deep wound inflicted by him. After kicking him to the ground to prevent any surprise attacks, he grabbed the thug's sword and barely blocked as Ottar attacked him. Eirik however came to his rescue and knocked him out when he was trying to kill him.

Stefnir's group soon succeeded in beating Ottar's men, but Eirik realized that the City Watch hadn't arrived as scheduled. One of Ottar's men who had surrendered was soon killed by shafts from the wood, and they realized it wasn't Runa doing it. The few City Watchmen there were killed too and some of the lumberjacks started killing their own, with Eirik soon realizing it was the Aetla Hilmir. He then had everyone take Ottar back to their hideout, while he held off the attacking gang members alongside Ulfvalgr. Stefnir took the helmet of the man he had slain before fleeing.

The Gift of Hadrborg[]

Olaf, Hallvard, Runa and Stefnir went back to their manor hideout with Ottar. On the way, Stefnir asked Olaf about the other half of the Gift of Hadrborg which Kjallak still didn't have, and the varl stated that although Ulfvalgr would die before revealing its location, he never told him where he had kept it. After arriving, Stefnir opened the doors for Olaf to take Ottar to the basement and lit the fires, before Hallvard, who had been chosen to torture him for extracting information, told them to leave him alone to do his job.

Upon seeing that that Stefnir was sad, Olaf asked him what was wrong, and learnt how he saw the man he killed at the tournament writhing in agony from his fatal attack, making him wonder about what went through his head while he was dying. Olaf believed that he feared such a fate for himself, but when Stefnir stated that he had never thought about it, he told him that he needed to make a decision on when he would give up fighting, in order to avoid it. Learning that his father had said something similar once, Olaf stated that he was wise and told Stefnir that he could live without fighting due to the skills his parents taught him. When Olaf started to leverage the rim of his shield with his sword's pommel to fix it, Stefnir asked if he wanted him to go back home, and the varl affirmed it, stating that he didn't want him to become like Runa or Ulfvalgr, obsessed with killing. Stefnir however responded that it would have to wait until he killed Magnus.

After Eirik and Ulfvalgr returned to the manor, the former asked where Ottar was and after learning that he was being tortured by Hallvard, stated that Nikolas, who led the raid on them, was the son of the Governor's late brother Helvir, which strengthened his claim to Strand's throne. Olaf was however disinterested in the talk and soon went back to work on his shield, but as he succeeded, a half of the Gift of Hadrborg fell out and he realized that Ulfvalgr had kept it there all along. He knocked Ulfvalgr out in anger and berated him for being as deceptive as Kjallak when he regained consciousness. Everyone soon left the room except for Stefnir, who wanted to learn the truth.

Ulfvalgr however told Olaf that above all, he wanted to protect the legacy of the varls even after their race died out, and had left the half of the amulet with him to honor Torstein's dying wish, while also keeping it safe. After stating that he didn't care about Strand and only about finding the stolen half, he went away, and Olaf told Stefnir to take the half he still had in order to hide it. Stefnir felt hesitant, but Olaf stated that it was at risk with him as he had made himself too much of a target for the triumvirate. The boy then agreed and threaded a leather strap through its hole, before placing it on his neck like a necklace.

Waking up after some while, Stefnir went to the basement and saw to his horror that Hallvard had brutally tortured Ottar, inflicting every injury the Mársmidr had inflicted on him. In order to make it stop, Ottar agreed to provide information that could help them capture Magnus or Kjallak, telling them that the Vak'auga were going to smuggle in an important shipment on the Ninth Pier for the Mársmidr. Eirik decided to bring in the City Watch, but the others disagreed given how they failed them in past and knowing someone higher up was assisting the triumvirate. Stefnir also noted how their security at the Great Hall was lax. Ulfvalgr soon asked who wanted to go without the City Watch, and everyone except Eirik raised their hands.

Raid on Magnus[]

Stefnir and his allies went without Eirik and took his Nautmot yoxen cart to the Ninth Pier, reaching there after dusk and sending Runa to scout ahead. After she returned, she informed them that the Vak'auga were there and Magnus was on a ship. Two Vak'auga sentries soon came by and Stefnir's group hid to avoid detection. As they left, Runa suggested they get to the ship he was on by going through a path that led under the docks, though Hallvard suggested rowing to the ship in a boat instead. The Vak'auga soon returned, forcing them to hide again, but Ulfvalgr cut them both down, before telling Runa to take them there through the path she mentioned.

Stefnir's group soon reached a set of stairs to the docks from the path under the cliffs, and after she slew a guard with her spear, she went ahead while being guarded by Olaf and Stefnir's shields. After slaying two more sentries, they boarded Magnus' ship and went to the captain's quarters. Olaf and Ulfvalgr however realized that it would take them too long to get in, and they sent the three humans to capture Magnus instead. Inside the cabin, though they did find a Magnus, another with the same face and features soon showed up outside, with everyone realizing there were two Magnuses.

The distraction allowed the Magnus Stefnir and others had cornered to mount an escape. Stefnir went after him, but the man soon pulled a chain to reveal a ladder outside his cabin's window. The boy attacked him with his sword, but he deflected it with his axe before jumping out the window pane and grabbing the ladder. Hallvard told Stefnir and Runa to go after him, while he went along with Olaf and Ulfvalgr to chase after the other Magnus.

Climbing down to the docks, Stefnir soon caught up with the Magnus he was after, but proved too unskilled. He frantically evaded his attacks, and Runa eventually succeeded in wounding Magnus' left shoulder with a spear, but Stefnir gawked at Runa in awe instead of taking advantage. Magnus took the opportunity to take a swing at him with full force and the boy barely blocked the attack, with the force sending him stumbling backwards and onto the wet rocks, causing him to fall into the sea.

Captured by the triumvirate[]

Stefnir was forced to abandon his shield and helmet to avoid drowning, but was able to avoid losing his sword and the half of the Gift of Hadrborg on him. After swimming to the beach, he soon saw someone floating and realized it was Runa after a closer inspection. Going into the sea to save her, he barely escaped with her before a tide could drown them. She regained consciousness as he warmed her and pushed the water out of her lungs, and a poor fisherman soon found them, offering them shelter as well as a place to warm themselves. Stefnir and Runa agreed to go along, with the former thinking he wouldn't be much trouble even if he turned hostile.

Stefnir was thankful to the fisherman for hosting him and Runa despite not having much, with Runa stating that he was quite trusting to take in strangers he just met. The man responded that it was what he would have done if he wasn't a fisherman. This made Stefnir curious and he decided to ask what he meant. He told them how he loved the stories about the gods and wanted to become a Gothi, but his father berated him stating that he was wasting his life, and told him that the gods were dead. He then wondered if gods were just ideas thought up by people as aspects of their life, but realized that some didn't even look anything at all like them, but like beasts, who simply want to live. He added that it was probably why he ended up the way he is, hoping to understand their mystery.

Stefnir and Runa soon decided to go to sleep, with the former being unable to understand what the fisherman truly meant. They left in the morning after the storm abated, and tried to return to the Ninth Pier. When asked by Runa why the man didn't tell his name to them, Stefnir stated that he might have just been mentally ill due to living so long on his own. She then asked him to promise that he would never become like that and instead settle down, since he wasn't suited to be an avenging warrior. He however felt furious at the suggestion, stating how Olaf had said a similar thing, before asking if she had jumped into the sea to rescue him. She denied it, stating she did it to escape Magnus after losing her javelins, knowing she couldn't beat him.

When Stefnir questioned Runa whether she really believed she couldn't have beaten Magnus, she answered that Leiknir had taught her to see things clearly no matter how bad she wanted something. He then decided to ask whether she loved Leiknir, knowing how much she seemed to be attached to him, and she affirmed it. He soon revealed to her how he had hated her for making him wonder whether his mother was better off dead than becoming like her, and she stated that she had hated him for reminding her of all she lost. As the two joked, the triumvirate members led by Skoegir soon found them and captured them.

Escape[]

Skoegir frisked Stefnir and found the other half of the Gift of Hadrborg on him, but didn't realize what it really was, while Stefnir kept himself calm to avoid suspicion. He was then taken to a warehouse with Runa, and they were tied to chairs. The triumvirate leaders Nikolas, Kjallak and the Magnus twins arrived there as well, and Skoegir suggested torturing them. One of the Magnus brothers however stated there was no need, and had Fiske bring in the captured Leiknir. He suggested to torture the turncoat spymaster first, since he knew Runa loved him, and then her to make Stefnir talk.

As Kjallak demanded the other half of the Gift of Hadrborg and described its appearance, Skoegir realized that it was on Stefnir the entire time. Stefnir unsuccessfully tried escaping and bit Skoegir, who snatched the half away and hit him in retaliation. Kjallak stated it must have been Olaf who had given it to him, since there was too much hatred in Ulfvalgr's heart for men, but Stefnir asked why he was doing it. The varl responded by stating that he wouldn't understand it if he explained it to him, which disturbed Stefnir as he felt that he was sincere. The Magnus twins then executed Leiknir and had Fiske take his corpse elsewhere. As he left with others to meet Vilmundr, Kjallak stated that they would decide the fates of the two afterwards.

After the triumvirate members left, Stefnir untied Runa when she showed him which cord to pull. She then first killed Fiske with his own knife after he returned, and then freed Stefnir, who decided to rapple down the building by tying the ropes to their chairs, and climbing through the window. As they were doing so, he saw some gang members unloading goods on a cart and decided to go to the other side. After landing, he decided to find out where they were going. Runa suggested that she go, but he stated that she needed to fetch Eirik and his allies as she knew Strand better than him. When she asked how they would find him, he took her dagger and punctured a hole in a mead barrel for them to follow.

Temple of Hadrborg[]

The cart arrived at a temple of Hadrborg by dusk, and Stefnir got out while the workers were away. Spying outside the temple, he overheard Kjallak and an old woman, who talked about the components they needed, and stating that they must hurry to prepare for their meeting with Vilmundr. After two of the workers went away to fetch Skoegir, Stefnir went towards the exit and grabbed a sword from one of the carts. Noticing a pillar near a bridge leading to the temple, he scratched Eirik's name on it so he could find it, but a Mársmidr guard soon discovered him. He succeeded in killing him and soon noticed a large horn above the second floor of the temple, deciding to use it as it would bring the City Watch there quicker.

Stefnir hid the body of the Mársmidr guard he slew near the bridge, by burying it in snow, and tossed the red snow into the river under it. He then donned the man's helmet and cloak, cleaning the blood on the latter with snow. As he approached the temple, a worker asked him to take a crate to the kitchen, which he accepted. Going there, he saw workers toiling to prepare meals quickly while two Vak'auga men watched over them, figuring that they were likely slaves. After handing over the crate, he found his way into a hall, but soon heard Kjallak's voice and hid inside an empty chest of a nearby room.

Kjallak entered the room Stefnir was in with an old woman, whom he learnt was called Melkorka. The Mársmidr lord assured her that his men would be able to accomplish their task, as he had been making them practice with weights and stilts for months, before showing her something hidden beneath sheets. Melkorka felt satisfied and stated she hoped he would honor the agreement to help her son Nikolas take over Strand, despite his behavior. He assured her, stating he needed their help to become the king of Varls as well, and hoped she would be able to do what he needed, which she stated was no big deal.

Nikolas soon arrived in the room to inform Kjallak and Melkorka that Vilmundr had arrived, and the Vak'auga slaves would finish preparing the feast shortly. After they left, Stefnir investigated what Kjallak was showing to Melkorka beneath the sheets, and was shocked at finding out that it was a varl skeleton. He then took a look under its shirt, finding belts and straps attached to the bones. Hearing footsteps, he jumped back into the crate, and heard Skoegir ordering his men to take the skeletons to the room behind the altar. After they left, he exited the room and returned to the hall, eventually finding the staircase leading to the second floor.

End of Kjallak[]

While crawling on the catwalk above the prayer hall to reach the horn tower, Stefnir noticed Kjallak, Melkorka and Nikolas entering with Vilmundr, who expressed his marvel at the feast he had prepared for him. Stefnir spied in on the conversation and soon saw Vilmundr demanding the Gift of Hadrborg. Kjallak then uncovered a tower shield in which it was embedded, and Vilmundr confirmed that it was real. As Vilmundr regretted that it didn't have the power to resurrect the dead varls anymore, Kjallak had varl skeletons brought out and started performing a ritual with Melokorka. The shield glowed and the skeletons stood upright, leaving Vilmundr and his guards shocked.

Stefnir however saw a tuft of hair in the shirt of one of the varl skeletons, and realized they were being made to move by men inside them. A Vak'auga guard soon entered the prayer hall and informed everyone that Eirik and his allies had found their way to the temple. As Kjallak decided to escape with Vilmundr and Melkorka, Stefnir decided to expose him and jumped on one of the skeletons. When it shattered, a man tumbled out and exposed Kjallak's ruse. Stefnir then went to grab Kjallak's tower shield and stabbed his wrist when he held onto it as expected. The varl tried to kill him, but stopped cold when he noticed Eirik and his allies entering the hall.

While Kjallak wrestled with Stefnir for the Gift of Hadrborg, Melkorka accidentally started a fire while trying to kill Eirik with a spell, in revenge for him fatally wounding Nikolas. Kjallak told Stefnir, who kept evading his grasp, that he was trying to save everyone from the "darkness" coming from the north. Ulfvalgr soon pulled Stefnir away and jumped over the flames so he wasn't trapped in them with Kjallak. As the flames surrounded Kjallak, Stefnir stated that they must find a way to save the Gift of Hadrborg, though the others stated that they must leave. Ulfvalgr then bid him farewell and jumped across the flames again, before tossing the tower shield to Olaf and wrestling with Kjallak to let his allies escape.

As Eirik told everyone they had to leave, they took the wounded Nikolas and Steward Olvir, who had been killed while fighting alongside Eirik's group, before fleeing. Stefnir however took a final look back before he left, feeling regret at Ulfvalgr's impending death. Outside, the City Watch led by Valgard had arrived and arrested the surviving gangsters. The wounded Nikolas meanwhile chided Eirik and the governor's son Ragnar as weak, stating that only nations with strong leaders survived. Stefnir wondered whether his statement was connected with that of Kjallak, but was told by Runa to let it go.

Since Magnus had escaped, Stefnir decided to go after him with Runa, while Olaf decided to accompany them to keep them safe. The new steward Eirik held funerals for Leiknir and Hallvard, who had died alongside Skoegir while taking revenge for Johan, two weeks after taking down the triumvirate, and the three attended their funerals along with Eirik and Valgard. Stefnir felt great regret at Hallvard's death, and thanked him for everything he taught him, stating he wouldn't be alive if it wasn't for him. He and Runa then left Strand to accompany Olaf in laying Ulfvalgr and Kjallak to rest, by scattering their ashes in the varl territory.

Trivia[]

Stefnir is one of the leading characters of The Banner Saga: The Gift of Hadrborg, and much of the story takes place from his point-of-view.

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