In the swamps around Hamingjen, the dragonborn settlement of Salsgard is home to the Valkyr, a sect of holy knights secretly tasked with the liberation of their people from slavery under Bangog, the Serpent Queen.
It came to pass that one day the warriors were sold to the warlord Siegmund to fight against Himinborg. Bangog saw that she was ridding herself of a potential threat, and Siegmund gained the service of fearsome, if reluctant, warriors.
On the shores of the Kindersee, far from home, the Valkyr plotted to overthrow their captors and destroy Siegmund, before returning home to Salsgard to do away with the tyrant Bangog once and for all.
However, the knights were betrayed at the last hour. Most were killed but two survived, one of whom was Aldis. The other survivor was a warrior known as Aldar. Once a great and respected knight, Aldar is now known as the Traitor of Salsgard.
While Aldar went into the service of Siegmund to become one of his chief lieutenants, Aldis was imprisoned in the tower of Glorium, which Siegmund was using as a base. Had Aldis not been rescued by a band of Auslanders she would surely have perished at the hands of the undead Kings of Glorium.
Later, Aldis confronted Aldar after the battle of Thruthgelmir, when Prince Kindrbode was slain in a most gruesome fashion. They left the dead Prince’s hall to talk face to face in the snowy woods.
The Crown of Bifrost
On this morning, a mist had blown in from the edge of the world, making ghosts of the fir trees around the clearing in which the two Dragonborn warriors stood.
“You deserve to die for what you have done Aldar.” spoke the first, a female knight sheathed in full plate but for her long, angular face, sword drawn, fire burning in her eyes.
“Yes Aldis, I have betrayed our brothers and sisters and I deserve to die,” replied the second Dragonborn, another female, slightly taller and dressed in mail made from the scales of Wyrms, “but before you kill me listen first to what I have to say.”
The two warriors stood face to face, knee-deep in the snow that blanketed the woods around Thruthgelmir. On a hilltop in the distance, the lofty peak of the giants hall rose above the trees, its dark form cloaked in mist.
“Our warriors were sold to Siegmund, to fight his war against Himinborg, but before we left Saalsgard for the Kindersee I was met by an old woman in the marsh. I could see in her eyes that she was not from this world, the power that she possessed surrounded her, as real to me as lightning or rain.
She told me of her dream, that Ragnarok would soon be upon us. She said the Primordials, those who made the worlds in the first creation, would return to claim what once belonged to them. Neither gods nor mortals would defy them, and all would be destroyed.
She said that our people would be free at the world’s ending, when Surtur and Thrymm return, and that when all of creation is consumed in fire and frost it would come to pass that the one who holds the Crown shall lead her people to salvation.”
Although Aldis was filled with rage, hot breath rising in clouds into the chill morning air, she considered this for a moment.
“You speak of the Crown of the Kings, the Crown of Bifrost?” she asked, at length.
“Indeed,” responded Aldar, “That which the kings of men sought to possess so many centuries ago. That which their armies fought each other to near extinction to obtain. They did so because they knew that salvation lay in the power of it’s wielder.”
“But it was lost in the Crown Wars, over five hundred years ago. Do you claim to know where it is?”
“I do not, but I believe that the old woman spoke the truth when she said that it would once again be found. It is the Crown that Siegmund seeks. He covets it more than any power imaginable. For this, his war with Himinborg. For this, he searches the Swordlands far and wide. And one day soon it will be his, for he is the mightiest of all the warlords of this realm. If he should fail, surely no other can triumph. If he should fail, we are all lost.
“Don’t you see, Aldis? This is why Siegmund must be allowed to succeed. We cannot stop him until he has the Crown in his hands. Then, and only then, can we make our move. He trusts me, Aldis, I am close to him. With your blessing, and with the will of the Valkyr, I will take the Crown while he is blinded in victory. I will give it to you, and the Valkyr shall lead our people to freedom, and into the next Age.”
“You speak of betrayal as if it were a means to an end, rather than the end in itself.” snarled Aldis, “You would turn on those you serve with each change of the wind, never thinking even once to stand your ground and fight for what you truly believe in. You are optimistic indeed if you think that you shall see the fourth age of the Swordlands!”
“Not the fourth age Aldis, not the fourth…. the first! When the land is reborn, one people alone shall stand to claim it. Will it be Siegmund? Himinborg? Or the Valkyr? For without the will of the Valkyr the people of Saalsgard are doomed, and I would rather die a quick death at your sword than a lingering dread as the end of time approaches. So if you do not believe me, Aldis, then strike me down, else I must return to Siegmund and report that Kindrbode is dead.”
Aldis hefted her greatsword and prepared to decapitate the Dragonborn traitor. Aldar lowered her head in readiness.
When Aldis left the clearing she did not return to the dead Prince’s hall. Instead she wandered into the woods without a word of where she was going.
Illustration taken from Nemesis the Warlock, 2000AD