Sven-Osric of Clyster

Written By: Stephen Dove

Madoc_clanSven of the Harbingers

Sven of Ashmore was the son of a verderer, Jacob and lived with his six siblings in a log cabin in the Helfax woods until he was eight years old in 928 AS. About that time, his Father was accused of murder and hanged and he and his Mother and his siblings were forced to leave Ashmore and head for Candleford, where their aunt lived. His mother Avice’s sister Greta was a hard woman, and made it clear she considered Avice and her children as burdens and disgraces both. She kept them all hidden and forced Sven and his siblings to work, sending them out to help the fishermen on their boats; two of Sven’s brothers were dead within a year, killed by the unrelenting sea.

Yet Greta did not care and continued hounding his Mother for money, until she eventually died of shame; though it was said to be a ‘summer fever’ that finally did for Avice of Ashmore. Sven might have forgiven that but Greta decided to sell his three sisters to a brothel in Clyster and that was the last straw. Shaking with rage, Sven murdered his aunt, gutting her like a fish and wallowing in her blood. He stole her husband’s horse and with his remaining brother Eomund, rode like the wind for the border; the Hue and Cry on his trail the whole way, though they were both only still boys.

As they rode north through Ashmore and into the Pagan Hills, the boys threw off their pursuers, for few men would dare those hills where ancient things were said to lie unquietly.

The boys crossed into Ereworn knowing that no writ of law ran there. They wandered in the hills for a while, growing weak from hunger, until some hard eyed men found them and took them back to their mountain village. It was a strange place; for the men seemed to do no work by day, leaving at night and returning with money and livestock. At first the boys thought they had fallen in with reivers, and it was true that the men of Clan Madoc were not above stealing cattle from Cornumbrians and Erewornians alike, but that was not their true business.

For they were Harbingers; a secretive family of assassins, and death was their real trade. The matriarch of the clan, Magwen, listened to the boys’ stories and was impressed by Sven’s tale of murder. She put Sven and Eomund ‘to the testing’ and found that both boys were quick to learn and could keep their mouths shut.

For months the boys were trained in the mountains; left miles from home to fend for themselves, and taught how to make poisons from roots and herbs. The clan trained them in the killing arts and both boys became first look-outs and then killers themselves; and always there was the fear that they would be next.

Other boys came soon after; poor orphans stolen from Thuland or Ereworn or even Albion. All had no -where else to go, and some had seen terrible things and were cruel and wicked, attempting to kill or hurt the other boys. Far from being frowned upon, this was encouraged and soon every day was a game of life or death where one slip and a boy would fall. Sven’s hardest day was when his brother died; poisoned by a brute of a boy called Hrothgar from Thuland. Sven did not end his brother’s killer the Harbinger way, but man to man and he was whipped for it after he’d slain his enemy, by the ‘taskmaster’ Cadarn.

For the Harbingers fed on fear and Clan Madoc would not just kill; they would leave their sign where their quarry would see it and so know that they had been marked for death. Indeed a thistle was a thing of fear in Ereworn in those years; left on a doorstep or nailed to a bedpost.

But Sven did not forget or forgive what had been done to his brother and in his heart a secret hatred festered. He also longed for the sights and sounds of home and vowed to find his three sisters and to deal with his ‘uncle’ who was a chandler in Candleford and was complicit in his mother’s fate.

It was a long time before he was trusted enough to be sent out on his own; the job was to slay a priest, Eadric of Osterlin, travelling from Ereworn back to Albion after trying to convert the locals. Sven did the job but then skipped off, taking the money; slowly making his way to Clyster, where his sisters had last been heard of.

There he set up as ‘Osric of Clyster’ using the skills he’d learned making disguises in Ereworn, to dye coarse cloth to sell, whilst keeping a low profile. He was looking for his sisters but found it hard to penetrate the cruel underworld of Clyster without attracting the attention of those who might know some of his ‘brethren’ in the far north.

That was when he saw the boy being chased by a mob and made a fickle but momentous decision to save him, smuggling the lad out before the jeering crowd could kill him. It was not just the need for a disguise; for by now he’d seen at least one Harbinger from his clan in Clyster. The boy reminded Sven of himself at the same age and the tiny part of Sven that could feel compassion was somehow moved by the boy’s plight. And besides, he told himself, the Sorcerors of Jewelspider Wood would pay handsomely for the boy and at least the lad would be safe with them. It was a decision he would later rue…………..

Session 1     

Session 2      

Session 3     

Session 4





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