Of old there dwelt along the Great Bight a race of men fair and high, known as the Folk of Ing. In snow-white horses they rejoiced, celebrating Hwíting and Blanca, the twin steeds of their oldest lays, whose likeness was borne by their banners of war. The wild sea with skill they sailed undaunted, ever defying its perilous waves and the furtive tide along its shores. Theirs was a green country of great plains and vast woodlands and rolling hills, made safe from spears abroad by courage and wisdom. For the men of Ing’s Folk were bold in battle and caring for kin.
Yet ever some sought lordship over frith, power over good, threatening to bring ruin to their race. And so once a great kinstrife came to pass, in which the sons of Stréona, that treacherous brood, slew their own with help of foreign hands as they lusted for might and murder, worshipping the spirits that would grant them such. But they were stayed by Fréawine the Golden, who was true to his kinsmen and true to Allfather, the Heavenly Lord of Justice, who was also named Fyrna, the Ancient One. Beloved Fréawine banished his people’s foes and restored peace in the lands. His was henceforth called the House of Fyrna, which ruled for many lives of men, lending its name, so that all of Ing’s Folk became known as the Fyrningas, the Folk of Fyrna. This was a long time of great fortune, in spite of hours of need, when many great deeds were done.
Strife came again nonetheless. And the folk sundered into many: in the North dwelt the Éote on their great peninsula, in the West lived the Fríse and the Héage, and between them the Engle, the people of that land called Angel, and the Seaxe, the people of the blade. Grim were those days. Above all the Seaxe became warlike and desiring of other lands, and they took unto themselves the Héage and lesser kindreds. And outside the old realm a great stirring began. From the North the Danes came forth, usurping lands, from the East savage men came, warring with lustful eyes, and in the South and West the Romans sought to vanquish all, those dragon-like men.
The Romans diminished and forsook the Western isle called Britain, leaving its people. And a great many of the old folk, of which the greater part were Engle and Seaxe, crossed the sea to dwell there. Battles they fought, kingdoms they founded, while they sundered in speech and customs from their kin across the sea. It was there that most of the House of Fyrna came, for they had been led by Éadwine the Old himself.
Ever and always there was Allfather, who in the oldest lays is called Tíw, the Shining One. From his thought sprang the Ése, greatest of beings, second only to Allfather himself. To each of them he unveiled in part his design. And they hearkened in awe and followed in mirth, for them was shown great beauty and truth.
Thus Allfather made be the heavens and therein the realm that is known as Middle-Earth, which many of the Ése entered unto and took part in. To them was unfolded once more the design of Allfather, for he conceived to dwell there with them many living things. Brightest were the Elves, beings with minds like unto his own, each of whom were destined to remain in Middle-Earth until its end. Fair and wise, they ever sought to learn and create in the manner and honour of Allfather. Most industrious were the Dwarves, master craftsmen, secretive and wont to keep to themselves in deep places. And then Allfather brought into Middle-Earth the race of Men, who sembled the Elves, yet for whom he had laid a destiny unlike that of Elves or Dwarves or indeed any beast.
The Ése, who were manifold, took unto themselves shapes of living things, as if bearing raiments, to be known to all those dwelling in Middle-Earth. And they were honoured duly. Mighty among them were Wéden, Þuner and Frí, and also Fréa and Éostre. But one among them was mightier still, and he conceived himself to be even greater than Allfather had intended, and defied Allfather, and led away many of the lesser Ése to strive for a design of his own. Allfather yet forbade it and banished them from his hall, had them bound to Middle-Earth. And there this mightiest of creatures, who in later days became known as Loca, made it his cause to lure the hearts of Men and bend their wills for his own glory and might. With promise of power he deceived them; cast his shadow over their minds to turn away from Allfather. As his fellow Ése he guised himself, Wéden the most, to have them honour aught and all save Allfather. And so the race of Men fell into ruin.
Yet in different places some of them remained true to Allfather. And along the Great Bight in the North of Middle-Earth the House of Fréawine the Golden would not fall for the trickery of Loca. Allfather they called Tíw as they were wont to, but also Fyrna, the Ancient One. And they themselves became known as the Fyrningas, the people of Fyrna, their name extending to those they governed. Peace and justice they kept, as they ruled in accordance with the design of Allfather. Yet the might and cunning of Loca proved great and thus that prosperous age ended, and the Fyrningas dwindled among their own, true though they remained to Allfather.
Thriving and free of care were the lands of Ingwinaríce when Tírmund son of Tungolmód was king. He was to his folk a good friend, being wise and full learned in lore and arts of all kinds. So beloved was he by all men and beasts, that far and wide men called him Táta, though he would to his heirs be known as Tírmund Follostar. For as he counted his winters, his mind would wander more and more to the night sky. Upon green Regencol, the high hill north of his hall, a stone tower he had reared, whither he would withdraw on many an eve to watch the starlit heaven and mark tokens of the Ése. And every morning before dawn he would greet in the sky Éarendel the Bright, who as men knew had once been a mortal among his own forefathers.
Daga and Dealla were his eldest sons, borne by Ymme his queen. Like their mother and father they were fair to behold and good of heart. But a kind father though he was, the king became more and more lost in thought and upward gaze, and he trusted much of the care of his children to others. By this the two brothers grew willful and restless, and already when they were very young they would slip from their guardians and find for themselves adventure in the wild lands beyond the dwellings of their folk.
And so it happened that one night when they were children still the two sons of Tírmund snuck away to set out on a journey they had long devised. For Ðéostordan they made, the great old beech forest west beyond the Evenwolds, to hunt and fell as they may a boar of great might as was said to roam there. But those woods lay many days away on horseback, while the brothers had chosen to fare on foot to better hide their tracks. Indeed the young princes were much skilled already in stealth and had been so careful in their dealings, that neither the king nor the rangers or anyone in all the lands knew whither they had gone.
Treacherous was the weather and unforgiving upon the wolds that Daga and Dealla crossed, so that when after many days they reached the far woods they were very weary, having spent most of their provisions already, knowing not what to expect in sullen Ðéostordan. For a long while they roamed among the strong trunks and roots of numberless trees, seeking tracks worthy of pursuit, as they would not brook the felling of anything less than a king of boars. At last they caught a trail of promise and this followed deep into the dark and old forest, caring more for glory than good sense. The tales of the beasts of Ðéostordan had not been fanciful, for when they caught that boar in sight, they were taken aback by its size and splendour.
But the sons of Tírmund knew no bounds and would not face their father without proof of their strength and courage, and so they beset the wild beast: the spear that Daga threw found its mark and a great cry was sent through the wide forest. Yet it was not enough, and as Dealla sought his moment the boar leaped away and hid himself from their keen eyes, while the wind cloaked any sound they might heed. Then suddenly with full might the beast stormed from a thicket and smote Daga, wounding him terribly in his leg, before vanishing from bowshot, never to return.
Dealla rushed to his brother’s aid and found him harshly crippled, bawling in anguish. The bleeding he ended and a splint he fashioned as best he could, though neither he nor Daga himself knew many secrets of healing. But the sun was westering and time was costly, and thus Dealla took it upon himself to bear his brother back home. They fared on grimly, as sounds strange and threatening grew in the gloom beyond them, to their greater worry. Shunning the many hills of the woodland to ease their tread they shifted their path until they became unsure of which direction they had come at all. Neither could they turn to the sun for counsel, for a thick mist had begun to sweep along the tall and shadowy trees. The sons of Tírmund were utterly lost in dank and mighty Ðéostordan. They pressed on aimlessly, till weary and filled with despair they sat down against a broad bole and huddled together, awaiting doom.
It was then that Daga could faintly hear a noble sound from afar, though he did not trust his wits as he withered. But when Dealla hearkened too it became plain that yonder was the soft neighing of horses. So sweet and near singing it was, that the brothers did not fear mounted outlaws, and gathered all their strength yet in them to find the place whence it came. Between two hills they trudged with great pain till they came upon a glade so fair and clear in light, it was like a blessed bower amid the mist, they could not believe their eyes. And in its lush green grass stood two snow white horses, gallant and kingly, shining with a soft light. The brothers stepped into the glade and set themselves down on the soft ground as the two horses, bearing neither bridle nor saddle, drew near and lay beside them. And with their warmth they nestled the young brothers, who felt their care leave their mind and body and soon fell asleep.
When they awoke in the soft grass they felt quickened, as if they had rested for days or more, without a sign of their ordeal but what lingered in their memory. Most of all they were astonished to find that the wound in Daga’s leg had been healed fully, without leaving so much as a scar. Gone had the mist and gently did the sun shine straight into the glade. And to their great joy the brothers found the two white horses were still with them, grazing peacefully. It is said that they were able to speak with them, though if so, they would forever henceforth keep the words a secret. But known it is that Daga and Dealla befriended the horses and named them Hwíting and Blanca and rode them back to their father the king from that fair glade that was thereafter known as Fenglarest, the repose of princes.
When Tírmund King received his sons, his anger over their offense quickly gave way to thankfulness for their health and wonder over their horses. What tokens he sought among the stars his sons had found within the bounds of Middle-Earth, though he would yet withdraw to his tower on Regencol many times. After his death his sons Daga and Dealla became Brother-Kings of the Folk of Ing, riding to battles on their twin white steeds, who would sire all their noble horses. And it is believed that Hwíting and Blanca did not die of old age, but one day departed again for Ðéostordan, and that they were and are ever deathless.
For many lives of men the war-kings of the Folk of Ing had fought battles against grim outlanders from the eastern plains, suffering much hardship and many defeats. Few of the noble folk still dwelt in the eastern mark, a once green land now marred and ashen. When Heorumund King was slain in the Battle of Greyfire, his son Heremód cast aside the caution of his forebears and rode south to seek out Árbæd, the whispered smith who dwelt in those caverns known as the Barrowhalls.
Heremód bade the smith lend him his skill in weapon making and fashion him victory-swords so that he might drive the foes from his lands and find peace for his people. But Árbæd refused, though he offered his guest to stay in his stone fastness. The king was dismayed and pressed by great need, loathe to return empty-handed. Again he asked and again he was denied. Heremód yet agreed to abide with Árbæd, though he had grown impatient. And so during one night he had his men take hostage the smith’s daughter and so force him to make the blades he yearned for.
Árbæd yielded and for the king forged three swords, stronger than he or any of his men had ever held before. The first sword was called Dréma, for it resounded joyously as it swung. The other was called Angmǽl, as it was marked most by slender design. And third, plainest to ear and eye, was the sword known as Réonung. But the smith warned Heremód that whichever army should use all three swords in one battle would meet a fate most ill. The king mocked him, though fear was in his heart, and said to him he would keep his daughter until he had won victory once and for all over the Easterlings. The Barrowhalls and their lord he left as he hasted back north to his hall.
Dréma he gifted to his oldest son Éanréd and Angmǽl to his second son Heaðulác, while for himself he took Réonung. His sons marvelled at the craft before them and thanked their father, assuring him they would at last prevail. The smith’s daughter, who was called Ælfhild and who was fair as her father’s blades, uttered again the warning as the king locked her in the highest tower of his stronghold, that a great doom would befall him and his kin if all three blades be wielded at once, if indeed he would ride out to battle with both his oldest sons. For his taking of the maiden, the king was admonished by Cynemód, his third and youngest son. Greatly angered was the king by this and he sent him away to lead the rangers of the northern forests.
As the struggle with the Easterlings grew ever more savage, Heremód and his son Éanréd with the arms of Árbæd met their foes near the Ironhills, where long ago the great king Hárra had crushed the hosts of the Réodígan, strewing the wold with weapons and armour. Heremód his heir was less fortunate, for with his army twice outnumbered he bought victory at high a price – great were his losses in the slaughter. Upon returning to his hall, tidings he received of new hosts of Easterlings encroaching still, and despair had begun to grow in his heart. Árbæd he cursed and his words he called idle – threats of a powerless man gone mad under the mountains.
And so Heremód chose to forget what had been forewarned. Together with his sons Éanréd and Heaðulác, each of them bearing what Árbæd wrought, a great and noble army he mustered and led eastward to Earndale – shields blazoned with green crosses and white steeds, coats of mail shimmering as far as the eye could see, hardy men under high banners. The Folk of Ing rode out in splendour and clashed with the might of numberless foes. Heremód King son of Heorumund was there slain, his army overborne and utterly destroyed, and his sons taken captive and led away to savage lands. So many men died that day that the hazy vale was hued with blood. It was known after as the Battle of the Red Mist.
Though the Easterlings mocked the vanquished and looted their arms, they did not take the body of the noble lord and left the three swords on the battlefield, as perhaps they knew their perilous power. Cynemód son of Heremód returned to bury his father and king in the mounds of their forefathers, vowing vengeance and to find and free his brothers whatever the cost. Ælfhild he let loose, the fair maiden. He treasured the swords, for wielded asunder they were a boon to his folk – Dréma he kept for himself, while Angmǽl he locked in a chamber deep under his hall. But he bade taken away and hidden the third sword, for of all three blades it looked of least account, and in his mind would be sought less than the others. This he entrusted to his bold and greyhaired thain Cúffa, who rode forth at once, not returning for many months, and who died an aged man soon after. That Cúffa took with him the secret of Réonung, of which none dared speak, save in whispering.
Cynemód King himself travelled south to seek out Árbæd, so that he might return to him his daughter and ask for his aid for the sake of his brothers. But he could not find the Barrowhalls, was unable to find the entrance, and neither was Ælfhild, who was taken by forgetfulness. Her he wedded thereafter and she bore him sons. The outlanders he was yet able to drive away, and for thirty winters he searched for his beloved brothers. Thus he died looking, though it was rumoured he found them at long last in a high keep, still alive, but ruined in torment, Heaðulác and Éanréd.
Tells the tale of that towering man,
highborn Gármund of the House of Fyrna,
who met with Grama the great dragon
by the southern eaves of Silverbeam Forest.
The son of Heardgár heard the rumours
from ill-fated men in the eastern dales
of the grievous work the worm had done
in that fair land. That foe had burned
many dwellings, marred the earth,
stolen stores of star-bright metal,
had left but few alive to warn
the folk abroad of his furious deeds.
Mighty Gármund mustered kinsmen,
steel-clad thains, strong-willed men,
fellow Fyrnings and famed others,
to rid the folk in that ruined land
of that dark dweller. Doughty Heregeorn,
Regnhere’s son, swore him an oath,
as did Ingulf, who urged for haste,
and Lýding the Tall, trusted war-friend.
Hauberks were donned, horses mounted;
Gármund rode Gléam, the gallant one
of the blood of Blanca, brightest of steeds
in ancient days when Earth was young.
The horn sounded as the host set out
and made for the mark that men had fled
from the evil breath. The anger of Grama
filled the hearts of the helpless with terror.
The fearless Fyrnings followed keenly
the baleful beast as it burned its way
through green meadows and murky woods.
The Fiendberg they sought, that foul mountain
where the cruel snake had his cavernous abode,
hid his treasure. Harried were the lands
around that rock, ravaged by the fire
that Grama spewed by greed and wrath.
But the worm was away, the wicked foe
had left guardless the gate of his dwelling
and the hall within, where a hoard lay
of jewels and weapons of worth untold,
in numbers countless. Nethermost they found
bright Tungolláf, the blade once forged
from the white star bestowed by the One,
last wielded by Ésgár of the ancient kings.
Scouts gave news of the screams of Grama
south and beyond Silverbeam Forest,
and the lordly host of hard-minded Gármund
sharpened their haste in sheen ire,
to find the fiend as fast as they might.
On woodland’s end they watched it fly,
the wretched writher, as it wrecked all
and cast a shadow by cold design.
The Lord of the Fyrnings had lingered not,
and taunted that terrible killer of men,
led his household to hazardous meeting.
The enemy eagerly answered the call,
threw himself down with deathly might.
But keen Gármund cast up his spear
and struck the beast. Strong was his arm
for Grama came crashing, crying in throe.
Yet still he smote, staring with rage
and gaping maw, maiming and killing
the thains of Fyrna, till the First of them
unsheathed his sword and slew at last
the fearsome fiend with the flame of Ésgár.
Thus Gármund Grambana, that great king,
made safe the land for lives to come,
had gained victory for the glory of Fyrna.
Hark! Back to those days dire and sullen
when errands told of an evil shadow
growing ever greater, grim beyond reckoning,
along the lands which the Lords of the Fyrnings
had watched keenly for countless years.
Vast was the forest that fenced that mark,
hindered any host hazarding to lay claws
on hills of mirth and meadows green.
And yet it was marked that beyond the border,
in those ancient woods, axes had been ringing
for many a year, in the malice and design
of a thrawn lord of thralls and wights
strange-like and strong, that struck terror
in the hearts of any who beheld them nigh.
Black were the blades that bit those trees,
felling with hatred and foul meaning.
Then Mæþelbrand king, mindful of peril,
the son of Ósbrand, sent out a host
of war-bound thains to thwart as they might
the force that defiled that forest so greatly.
Bent on banishing these baleful wretches,
who had hitherto slain heralds and woodsmen,
the men of Mæþelbrand made for their dwelling,
grim deeds abiding, and grief to come.
So many were the foes they found lurking,
so cruel the warrows that waylaid them there,
that whole the host hasting thither
was slaughtered that day, slain among trees.
There fell Ecgmund, with honour and courage,
and fair brothers Folcweard and Þéodweard.
Last of all stood Eofor, ever be he sung –
hundreds he had hewn ere the horde speared him down.
Great was the mourning of Mæþelbrand king,
his rage the fiercer. That Fyrning took an oath
to avenge his people, punish the evil-doers.
A thousand men he could muster no longer.
The ruing ring-giver rallied yet again;
in the corners of the kingdom he called war-friends,
reminded men of the many glory-deeds
of their fathers before them, in fellest of times.
Many answered, aid they would give –
tied to their land, true to their king.
In scores they rode under skies grey
to meet in Hammerdene, that hoary dale
before Mainwood, the mighty forest
where the dark host dwelt in malice,
ever eyeing with ill desire
in day and night the noble kingdom.
With bright banners, in blinding armour,
the Fyrnings went forth to face that menace.
Loud was the thunder of thousands of men
as they claimed in full those fearsome woods,
where doom and death in darkness waited.
Ill-boding sounds issued from afar,
deep in the heart of that dour stead –
the creeping brood encroached the host.
Like to a sudden flame the fighting began,
for stern Mæþelbrand was struck by an arrow,
the unlucky leader left Middle-Earth.
Great was the clamour as the clash hardened.
Heardréd took lead, leapt to the front,
the son of Heorulf on his horse Andfara
unbound a battle-rown, bloodied his sword.
A good thain that was in that gory hour.
The wave of war-guests waxed the more,
greater in number than the noble host,
seemed to overbear and burst through ranks.
The far-come fiends would falter not
in their ruinous wrath; wretched was their shape,
beast-like their bearing. The beams of Mainwood
reddened in the rush of rending metal
as the day grew dark and the din grew louder.
Countless men were killed in the cold of night
by the black hands of horrid strangers.
Nóðgrim the axeman would not go home;
that roaring giant was riddled with arrows.
Ælfgár the Sheen they shot down as well,
as he bought time for trusted friends.
And never again would gallant Wynfriþ
return to tell tales of battle.
And hope seemed lost, till the light of dawn
shone with clearness upon shield and blade.
Heart was rekindled, for recalled was now
the Secret Fire, the Flame Imperishable,
bringer of life, burner of evil.
The singing swords of the sons of Fyrna
at last ended the onslaught of darkness
and drove away the dreadful wights.
His right hand hewn, Heardréd the brave,
that fearless leader beloved by many,
was henceforth hight Heardréd Flame-hand,
for him was lent the Light of Fyrna
in the hour of need. And naught was heard
ever again of the evil lord
who dared threaten the dales and hills
of that green kingdom of glory and mirth.
Gúðláf the Woodsman was a great hunter,
a famed Fyrning and feller of boars
many and mighty. His match were none,
his foes the fewer, a friend in need
to kith and kin that kind man was.
His spear whistled with the speed of the hawk,
biting grimly as the greyhame’s fang.
He knew no malice, merry were his days.
Wulfrún he wedded, a woman striking
and of good blood. She guarded secrets
of the woods and dales, dancing and singing,
beloved child of the land of her fathers.
Two she bore him, both of them keen.
Eldest was Ealdgýþ, oak-strong daughter,
Youngest was Gúðmund, yielding never.
He went away, that wandering son.
The maiden was taught by mother and father
the ways of the wild, the wonts of the beasts.
Her eye saw farthest, ever was it sharp
as she roamed the realm of the red-blooded,
where in fell forests she found her mark,
never burdened. The north was her home,
fettered by frost, full-bound and crushed
by wearing winters. Yet she withered not.
She heeded the call of kinsmen in peril
when the raiders came, rowing and sailing
over the cold sea to kill and steal
their way to wealth. War they would get,
for Gúðláf’s daughter granted naught less.
The sheen shieldmaiden shone with glory,
met the murderers with mind and blade,
staying the stealers that steered for loot.
Yet more would come to mar the land,
lashing from waves, wayward and cruel,
the brood of demons. Brothers led them,
Golpa and Gífring, greedy wretches.
Their hearts unnoble, they harried and robbed,
overbearing the men mustered to face them,
shamelessly shunning shield-walls and hosts,
seeking their gains by greater numbers.
The huntress with few fought them bravely,
shielding her folk from sharp meeting.
The thieves killed the thains beside her,
the bloodthirsty banes with baleful mind
showed no honour, shot her like dastards,
struck with arrows the strong-willed maiden,
laughed with mockery, left her for dead
on the green banks of grey Ashlode.
But the foul foes were fey in pride,
For the war-maiden awoke, warded off death,
swore to settle this, the sword of her land.
Golpa and his troop she tracked down quickly,
with a single hew his head she took,
felling that foe in front of his men,
slew them as well, slaughtered with axe.
Their journey had ended at Ealdgýþ’s feet.
Gífring remained, murdering and burning
his way to shore. His ships were ready
to bear the booty and the brood that took it.
The warrior waylaid those wanton fiends,
blood-stained and brave, black-clad fury,
she killed them all, save their craven leader.
He sought to shoot her, safe from afar,
but caught her spear in his cowardly eye.
A friend to her folk that fearless woman was,
she frightened foes, fought them grimly.
Abroad she went, her brother seeking,
that beloved maiden was missed sorely.
A great many winters ago young Æþelbeorht King ruled over the Folk of Fyrna in a time of peace and calm. His House Guard were few but blooded like all who wished to protect the kings and athelings of the Fyrnings. Tall and bold was their captain Cynebeald, who had served and fought beside the young king’s father. Often he would spend time teaching his son Cénréd the duties of a captain of the House Guard as one day he hoped for him to rise and take his place once his own time had been spent.
The king’s most trusted thain, Randulf, was known to fight among the House Guard when the time came. He was a tall, slender man with many scars on his face, famed for his great sword work and skill in battle. He was of great account and feared by many. It was this Randulf who would teach young Cénréd the way of the blade, whilst his father Cynebeald showed him how to use the strength of his mind to win victory. Years passed as Cénréd began to show worth, growing into an able warrior and leader of men in his own right. The captain, becoming deeply proud of his son, would often take him along on minor duties to serve the king.
The summer month was a pleasant one and so the young man joined his father in escorting the king, for Æþelbeorht had a mind to hunt in the wilder parts of his kingdom. The road was narrow and the trees so thick there, it is said even Déormód the Hunter would struggle to find his bearings among them. As they rode Cénréd would watch the birds among the trees and listen to what songs they might sing. The morning air was crisp and the sun still rising when a flurry of axes and stones came hurling through the wall of trees. Cynebeald and his valiant men turned to face their foe but were soon drowning in a raging sea of steel and bodies. Battle had begun, and the guardsmen fought with great hardiness as men were falling to the dirt at all angles. The old captain, knowing his inevitable fate was soon at hand, threw down as many as he could and fought his way to his horse.
Blood and mud began to fill the boots of foe and friend alike, but the battle was turning sour for the Fyrnings. It was then that from the red hued trees a man stepped forth in glistening mail, his face hidden behind a helm. As he stood on a mound watching over the slaughter it was plain he was of some account among the enemy. That figure clad in armour drew his sword and made for the fray, taking lives once he got there, until an arrow landed firmly in his thigh and knocked him back. He turned to find more arrows whistling in from the trees and landing on his men – shadows grew bolder from the trees until at last a small number of hooded men with axes, swords and bows leapt into the fight. The king’s rangers had arrived.
Æþelbeorht King had his sword drawn yet his guardsmen did not give him the chance to swing it. Cénréd protecting his young lord saw his father ride towards him amidst the great bloodshed, before climbing off his raven black steed. In that moment the fair faced son of the captain knew where his duty lay, and so he mounted the horse with Æþelbeorht and rode off down the narrow road with a storm’s haste. A distance away it stopped and turned, so that the young warrior could look upon his beloved father’s face; but by duty to his king he spurred the horse and rode off.
As soon as they could the king and Cénréd mustered a chosen few of the Order of Déormód and returned to the blood stained ground under cover of darkness, only to find the bodies of many of their loyal men, looted of their mail and swords. Among them was mighty Cynebeald, lying over the armoured body and carven face of Randulf. Though it was uncertain who had slain whom, it was plain to all that the House of Fyrna had been betrayed. The new captain of the House Guard, unable to mask his grief, mourned over his lifeless father who lay with only his splintered shield beside him.
As Cénréd lived through many more winters his skills in warfare became all the greater, surpassing that of his father and of Randulf, as he served his king in due manner. But so did his grief within him grow, tormented as he was by nightmares. Although no weapon had wounded him on that fateful day in the forest, he bore a scar which could not been seen. Some say he would talk to his father in his sleep as though he were right there in the room with him and that sometimes he would scream as though he was in terrible pain. There was even rumour that Cénréd rued the choice he had made. At the very end, when Cénréd fought in the wars against the Northern hordes, he was seen halting in the midst of battle, wide eyed as if taken by a vision, right before he was slain. It is guessed by many that he saw his father, then and there, and that he found his peace at last.
When Heardréd Flame-hand, sister-son of Mæþelbrand king, had won his people victory in the Battle of Mainwood, he resolved to keep a keen watch among the great trees that marked his realm. And so he formed anew the Order of Déormód: the ancient brotherhood of woodland rangers named after their first founder Déormód the Hunter, the far-famed bowman who was said to be of Elvish blood through his mother. Dark and green were their hooded raiments, and as Wudurúnan they were commonly known, for more than any other mortals they knew the secrets of the forests and the hills and the beasts.
As their leaders he appointed Gísla and Dunhere, the sons of his fallen oath-brother Ælfgár the Sheen. Like their father they had chestnut brown hair and were fair of face. Under their great watchfulness no foe dared pass the woodland mark, save by the most wary stealth, and even then none would ever come far. Yet Mainwood and its bordering forests remained perilous never the less, for evil shadows would not sleep there, and stern Gísla was made witness to the slow and harrowing death of his dear brother, ill-fated Dunhere who was struck by a snake-like arrow of breaching fiends.
The Wudurúnan, noble vanguard of the Folk of Fyrna, endured and became once again of great account. And though it was never practice for a Lord, it is said even Éadwine the Old was of their Order, roaming in his youth the wild lands with his sure-footed brethren. Solemn were the whiles when he would sing of their high deeds and his men would hearken. Clear and proud was his voice, though often it seemed filled with sorrow.
Many lives of men passed, until from beyond the sea wanton Wícingas came, bringing great woe to the isle of Britain and the ancient homeland of the Fyrnings and their kinsmen. By the skill and mastery of the Wudurúnan their people were spared many an assault and needed not their full muster, as the hateful hosts were oft driven out or destroyed before taking their spoil. Yet the Wícingas were great in greed and numbers, ever arriving in new ships, and at last won for themselves with great mockery a foothold in the land of the Angelfolk.
It was then that the Men of Déormód were faced with a heathen host so large that their noble captain Ælfweald, greatly shocked by this untold number, gathered every ranger he might, and by ambush essayed to bring his foes into great disarray. Long and ruthless was the hail of arrows loosed upon those sea-farers, and though many found their mark, the rangers were utterly overborne in the clash that followed. Never will it be forgotten how brave Ælfweald, in his final effort like unto a mighty bear, fought his way to their leader and slew him and countless of his men. “Light of Fyrna!” he thrice cried before at last he himself was hewn down. That was the Battle of the Arrowmarsh, for so blood-run and strewn with arrow-riddled dead was the ground that it was much like a red field of reeds.
Although the Wudurúnan had been all but destroyed, they had made the host headless and quarreling for leadership. Enough time they had bought for their fellow Fyrnings and countrymen to muster an army and master their foes. And so that old and noble Order numbered but few in later days, though its flame would yet be rekindled by Ælfweald’s youngest pupil, Gúðláf’s child.