Gjæving Asbjornsson

High King of the Vestenmannavnjar


Every day, his hair and beard become greyer, as does his remaining eye. He hides his still-handsome face under a tattered hood, making sure that no one recognizes the features of the High King. A tiny number of Vestenmannavnjar know who he is, but they have enough loyalty to keep silent when he tells them. He knows that he will soon have to reveal himself, but he certainly isn’t in any hurry to do so. He has no idea what will happen.


Gjæving Asbjornsson was born into the jarl class, the last of eight children. When it came time to name him, his parents had run out of ideas. So, his father began calling him Gjæving (“friend” or “brother”), hoping that the estimable title would instil a great purpose in the boy. Perhaps it did, though it appeared to be nothing more than simple irony for the majority of his life.

While his brothers and sisters learned to be great leaders, Gjæving honed his talent for fast-talking his way out of trouble. While his siblings practiced their martial skills, he discovered how to pick locks. As he grew older, the more of a disgrace he became in his father’s eyes. After an embarrassing scandal with a neighbouring jarl’s only daughter, Gjæving was banished from his home. His father declared him a disgrace to his name and ordered him never to return.

Gjæving wandered from one isolated community to the next. Though he had few skills to trade for food and shelter, he had a gift for convincing others that he was useful. Time and again he would be taken into a stranger’s home, only to leave under cover of darkness a few days later with a couple of pilfered items to trade. He bounced from island to island, carefree and detached from the world around him.

At last he came to Västeras, home to some of the richest men and women in Théah. He had heard rumours of the luxuries to be found among the Vendel, but seeing was truly believing. His mouth almost watered with the opulence around him and he concocted scheme after scheme to liberate valuables from those who clearly had too much for their own good. His plans worked every time, and soon he could buy into the extravagance of this new world, if only to get close to its key members and rob them when he needed more funds.

His time among the Vendel taught him many things, the most important being that they were really no different from the Vestenmannavnjar. They worked just as hard in their pursuits, but certainly had more to show for it. The more they had, they more they wanted. He had seen the same behaviour among the leaders of Vestenmannavnjar raiding parties and even exhibited it in his own burglaries. Wealth, no matter what its form, was addicting, and his people seemed to have a weakness for its siren call.

After three years away from Vestenmannavnjar lands, Gjæving decided that he should return home and try to make amends. His journey was cut short, however, when a village he had defrauded recognized him. He soon found himself chased by a dozen angry Vestenmannavnjar with very sharp weapons, and Gjæving thought his lucky days had finally come to an end. He ran past the point of exhaustion and, just as it looked as if his pursuers would overtake him, a freak blizzard blocked their progress. The blinding snow and wind dazed him, and he plunged headfirst into a deep cave before he realized what had happened.

When he could at last see again, he discovered a well of pure, sparkling water that illuminated the cave’s smooth walls. The roots of a blooming, giant tree surrounded the well like a protective lover, but Gjæving gave the strange sight little thought. A thirst like he had never experienced drew him to the water, and he drank handful after handful. When he was at last sated, he rested against the tree, pleased and somewhat bewildered at his escape.

Just as he was about to drift to sleep, he began to hear voices — indistinct at first, but rapidly becoming more and more clear. They told him they were the spirits of his ancestors and that he was at last ready to fulfil his destiny. The pieces came together and Gjæving felt ill. As a child, he had heard skalds tell this story around the family hearth. He had always taken it as a tale of whimsy, something to amuse the young and the gullible. Now it was happening to him.

He tried to resist, struggling to clear his mind, but something unseen overtook him. Trapped in his own body, he watched in disbelief as his hands freed a dagger from his boot and plucked out his left eye. Amazingly, it didn’t hurt. In fact, it felt… right. With a quick flick of his wrist, he cast the liberated orb into the water. It floated for a moment and then disappeared into the impossible blue depths. As it sank, words formed on Gjæving’s lips, a promise to keep and honour his people and their ways.

The voices of his ancestors became excited and loud: they were so proud of him, and of the great things to which he would lead his people. Then they fell silent, replaced by the low tones of a single speaker — Grumfather, the world’s creator. It was time for Grumfather to renew his promise to the Vestenmannavnjar and again have a presence among them. Gjæving would be that presence. He was the new High King.

When Gjæving regained his senses, the pain of his actions hit him full force. Not only was his eye missing, but he had a raging nosebleed and a searing headache. He knew it all had to be a mistake. He wanted to rest, to simply lie down and perhaps die. But the spirits materialized before him, got him to his feet, and led him from the cave. They urged him onward and forward, into the waiting arms of destiny and his people.

He has been wandering for six months now, fighting the things he sees and the voices he hears every step of the way. He has known no peace, always moving and observing the world around him with new sight. He knows the Vestenmannavnjar need a new leader. He just wishes it weren’t him.

Gjæving Asbjornsson

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