Martel Baldardun (c.315 HC to 371 HC)

Martel Baldurdun was the first of the Baldardun Kings of Baldardunn, and also the most legendary. Stories of King Martel’s exploits abound, and it is hard to separate myth from history, however probably the best known and most famous is that of how Martel received his sword Daundugar. The arms of the Kingdom of Highdunn, even today bears the image of a sword, an odd choice for a symbol since men on the Isle consider the sword a siele weapon, and a somewhat effete one at that. Similarly at state occasions the King always bears with him a ceremonial sword as a symbol of his office, though only a fraction of the Kings of Highdunn have ever had any education in the weapon. These and many other stories trafficked by the minstrels of Highdunn make up the 'Chronicles of Martel'. The version that follows is that of Bol, a retired soldier who had served in the Kingsown under Richard Baldurin. He is credited with chronicling the definitive versions of many of Martel’s exploits.

Early Years, c. 315 HC onwards

Bol writes very little about the King's early years despite these being formatively vital to any history of Highdunn. He concerns himself primarily with the King's days of heroics, and given that Bol is a poet rather than a historian this is in keeping with many epics penned around the time. What can be gathered is that Martel was raised in Ennis, the second son of a minor noble family, and without the prospect of inheritance Martel joined the royal navy and was given a command out of the recently settled territory of David's Isle, from which his task was primarily to ferry troops around behind goblyn lines. Eventually Martel was given command of an entire fleet by David II of Sigard, however with it Martel became "lost" thanks to the death of his navigator and sailed the entire fleet across the Forest Bay, then seized a large portion of land around Baldur's Bay where Southaven now sits. Fortifying the area, Martel sent word back to King David, who saw strategic advantage, but did not want the responsibility of supplying or garrisoning a colony. So David promised Martel the first fleet that he had with him for ten years and total sovereignty over whatever he could hold. Had David known quite what Martel Baldurdun would achieve he might not have been so generous.

The Rescue of the Damsel-Divhi, c. 354 HC

In the early days when Martel was young and fair of beard and manly in bearing the kingdom too was young, and in dire need, for war was abroad and there was great suffering and wailing. In those days King Martel rode out from the land that bore the name of his forefathers, for it was his ambition that his kingdom would stretch as far as he could see from the mast of his ship. And so Martel rode forth about the countryside with his warriors seeking only to do good, and bring those hard by his dominion to gather beneath his banner.

Now it came to pass that upon one of these journeys forth into the countryside that King Martel came upon a wooded vale where the ground was littered deep in broken bones of men, gnawed and sucked clean. And at the heart of that vale the King saw a plume of smoke was rising, and without a moment of respite the King rode forth to the vale and down into the tress for the smoke. There he found a cooking pot of enormous size sitting upon a great raging fire, and nearby a young damsel was tied by the wrists and ankles to a stake of wood. And standing over her was a giant of truly imposing stature and visage, and the King hesitated not to ride forth and casting aside his hunting bow did he cry out a challenge unto the giant.

Raging the giant turned from the damsel, whom it had readied to eat there and then, and charged towards the King, who righted his helm and leveled his spear of the heart of the beast. And he rode, with neither fear nor hesitation, toward the beast. And the spear of the King did strike true and pierce the breast of the giant full through until it's gore clad shaft stood out through the creature's back, and the giant fell. And taking his noble spear free the King did go to the damsel and break her bonds upon his dirk.

And when she was free the damsel entreated King Martel, asking why he should risk himself for her freedom when he knew her not, nor knew her father or brothers, and the Kings spake unto her with surety and without guile, and said that the king is like unto a father to those who live in his realm, and that to claim this land he must claim its people as his own kin also. And the damsel smiled, and in that instant she was transformed and all present knew that the divhi Aliel was amongst them, and King Martel fell upon his knees before her, but she bade hims stand and kissed both of his bearded cheeks, and gave her blessing, for she was well pleased with this King. And the King and divhi left that place, she one way and he the other, knowing that he had earned a great boon upon his reign and his land.

The Taming of the Gnashing Beast, c. 357 HC

Noble King Martel spent many long seasons in battle with the foul goblyns, and forced them further and further back from his fortress, acts of heroism and victory abounded in that time, and all of the Kings followers ranged far and took much. And it happened that the King rode far into the east and at a mighty river did the build a new fortress and called it Thair Fort and then from this place he rode east again into a place of barren hills where the goblyns were many indeed. And here he and his warriors made war with a savage tribe who marked their children's faces with jagged scars.

And it came to pass that King Martel came upon the encampment of these creatures and raised his mighty horn and blew it in challenge, and in that encampment the king fought a bloody battle until he met in single combat with the leader of the goblyns, and the two did exchange mighty blows, and the leader smote the King's shield, and in return the king dashed the creature's weapon to pieces with his spear, and the goblyn chieftain's mount drove its teeth deep into the King's mount's throat and it fell, but Martel sprang from the saddle, striking with his spear under his foe's shield and slew him. And the day was won, but the King had to go on on foot. His warriors offered to bear him upon their shields and he refused and walked at their head as he ever had upon his steed.

And it came to pass that the King and his men came upon a village, and there the folk ran out to meet the warriors, entreating their aid. The folk of the village were sore in fear of a creature they knew as the great gnashing beast that came to their lands when the sun was highest and killed their herds and fed upon their flesh. And the king was much wroth that a mere beast should so threaten the lives of men, and anon he marched forth upon the creature's trail towards the rising sun. And by and by he and his warriors came upon a cave, and outside this cave upon a broad rock was a a great beast, and it roared and gnashed its teeth savagely at the King.

But the King knew no fear, and even without a mount, despite the entreaties of his warriors to not try such large game unmounted, the King took his spear and went to slay the beast. The monster snapped at the King and there was much gnashing of its teeth, but it could not trap him in its jaws, but in turn though the king's shining spear found the creature's hide again and again it was merely turned aside, and the King cursed for he knew that had he a steed he could surely pierce the thing's heart in noble charge.

And so the King retreated, and the great gnashing beast followed snapping and slavering at his heels, until he had his back to the cliff in which the cave was wrought, and a great cry of despair came up from the King's warriors Dol and Sed, but they would not stain his honour by going to his aid against a mere beast. And there King Martel braced his spear against the rock, and he taunted and goaded the beast until it was so enraged that it charged him blindly like a bull, and the king lowered his spear and it ran true through the heart of the creature as it came.

And King Martel pulled his spear free, and threw the creature aside, but from within the cave came a creature like unto the gnashing beast, but a mere child, and it cried out a challenge in its small voice. But the King too pity, for he had one honour by slaying the gnashing beast, but there was no honour to be had in slaying its pup or letting it starve, and so he took the creature in his strong arms and bore it away and fed it himself as he travelled, and within mere seasons the creature grew great and strong like the great gnashing beast, and would bear the king upon its broad back into battle in thanks for his honour and mercy.

The Reforging of Daundugar, c. 358 HC

King Martel travelled anon through the hills and crags of the east for many years giving service to those subjects he found, and by and by he came upon a hamlet sheltered behind a low barrow, and the hamlet was in sore ruin, and only a single elder remained in the places remnants. And Martel came unto the elder and asked him what had befallen his home, to which the elder replied “Lord, some four hours past a giant come from out o’ the hills, and he do battle with all of the men, and sore was our plight but he was driven back, but sir no sooner had the beast parted than I saw that he had taken my daughter and her two sons with him, and the men have gone off to hunt him down, but I fear the sun is setting and few are likely to return.” And at this the King was sore ful of wroth, and he did swear to the elder to find the giant, and so he set out away from the setting sun.

Hard by Martel came upon the Giant sitting in a clearing, and Martel saw that the giant’s hands and chin were red with blood, and that he chomped and slavered even still over some unimaginable meal, and wrath was the King, and he fell upon the Giant, and joined in battle with it. The Giant swung its great club, and knocked the King’s helm clear off his head, but still Martel fought on, until the Giant abandoned its weapon, and came at Martel, and seized the King’s spear and smote it to pieces upon a stone, then it took him in its great arms and commenced to squeeze the very life from him, but Martel slashed at it with his dirk, and rent many mighty wounds about the creature’s flank and neck. As night fell the King felt the Giant’s arms stiffen in death about him, and when his two guards Dol and Sed came upon the King some hours later he was still locked firm in the arms of the dead Giant, somewhat faint and bloodied, and they pried him free, and the King ordered that the head of the Giant be struck off, and set upon the Truncheon of his ruined spear and carried before him wheresoever he should go, and with just his shield the King returned to the Hamlet where his soldiers were gathered.

That night while his camp rested the King was awoken from slumber, and perceived from where he lay, a shaft of light cast down upon a vale hard by, and went he to trove the meaning of this light. As King Martel mounted the mouth of the vale he perceived that the light laid upon a ruin of Siele make, but so peaceful seemed the scene that Martel went unto the ruin, and at the heart of the light sat a little girl, and she hailed Martel by name and bade him sit. And so the King sat on a fallen stone close by the little girl’s feet, where the light waxed most, and there at his feet the King perceived the remains of a Siele sword, the blade broken in five pieces. And the girl spoke, saying “Your spear is broken good King, and you are in sore need of arms. Take ye this sword and reforge it that it might be the first such formed by the hands of men, and it shall have the blessing of I and my brother upon it, and the King was awed for he realized that he again sat in the presence of the Divhi Aliel, and the King perceived also that a broad warrior stood unmoving at the light’s edge who must be Koroth. Then the Divhi spoke again, saying “Like my brother you did battle with a Giant, and like him you did away with it. You are a good and true King Martel of Baldardun, let all know that this weapon shall be a symbol of our favour.” then she bade Martel go and he went from that place and returned to his camp, and upon the morrow he spoke with Dol and Sed of his visit, and showed them the sword, but when he bade them come see the ruin and the vale they were gone.

And so Martel reforged the broken blade with his own hands, and named it Daundugar. The weapon proved to be mighty indeed and magical beyond measure with the blessings of Aliel and Koroth, and it aided Martel in being both a mighty warrior and a noble King, and he would go on to perform many more acts of legendary heroism with Daundugar, the first sword forged by men, in his hands.

The Quest for the Wyrm King, c. 361 HC

By and by King Martel went to the north, and passed out of the hills and into a land of great fens where the goblyns were few and men had begun to settle, and here he found a lord had build a stout keep upon a low cairn, and here King Martel entreated that the lord welcome him as King and give hospitality to he and his warriors Dol and Sed, and the lord opened his gates to his new King and fell on his knee before noble Martel.

There was a great feast held that very night in the King's honour, and King Martel ate and drank until his belly was full and his heart content, and then he went to the great chamber where there was a down-filled bed and he rested. And while he rested a vision came to him, and a white eagle begged that he follow it, and it led him from that keep to a place in the fens and showed to him a monster that was king over other monsters, and bade him slay this pretender-king lest it challenge him with its own kingdom of foul monsters, and it told him the place again and again, where two standing stones stood aside a still pool, and the King awoke with the coming of morning.

And the King went on foot, for his mount was young yet, and unaccustomed to the swamps, and he led his warriors Dol and Sed into the fens on the path of his vision, and as day passed into night the King despaired, for he saw no sign of the place of his vision, but as he threw up his hands he came upon a great mass of twigs and sticks, and within it sat three eagles all covered in white down, and a white eagle settled upon the nest and cried to the sky, and King Martel was given heart, and pressed on and by and by he came upon a monastery at the edge of a pool, with two standing stones of polished stone flanking its doors. And he beat upon the doors and entreated entry to that holy place. But the monks cried out from within and refused. And told the King that they must protect the holy shrine from the wyrm without.

But the King cast around and saw no wyrm, and was sore wroth that he be denied entry to a place of prayer, and smote upon the door with the pommel of his sword, but still the monks refused. And as Martel raged a great head rose from out the pond and reared up over him, and the a mighty wyrm, its head crowned with a wreath of thorns, reared up and struck at the king with its fierce jaws. But the King was fast and wise in the ways of slaying monsters, and fought the beast. The fight raged on, but eventually Martel grew wroth with the creature, and crying out he ran to the thing and climbed upon its back and sinking his sword into its flesh for purchase he climbed the length of the wyrm king and seized its false crown from its head, and as he did his sword for purchase smote the thing's brain and it crashed, dead, to the ground. And the monks came forth and welcomed the King and blessed him, and hung the body of the wyrm king upon the standing stones that the dioune might see what good Martel had wrought in their name, there to lie forever more.

The Affair of the Four Kings, c. 366 HC

Some years hence from the quest for the Wyrm King the King had returned tsend home the ships of David of Sigard, but so great had his kingdom become that it was scarce even noticed, and to a man the sailors were sorry to go and leave their true and noble King behind in this new land, but Martel bade them go, saying that he had made a promise to another noble king and his honour would not be stained by the breaking of his word. Now his capitol had been built upon the banks of the Thair where the river ran deepest and strongest, and here King Martel made a fine home, but he lived there alone, and with his years advancing Martel knew that soon he must take a woman to wife to be a true King to his people.

But before the King could search for a fine and loyal woman he received word from the north of his kingdom at the source of the Thair, where the land was still wild and bowed to no man, that a village there sought his help, for their peril was dire. Three siele kings ruled in this place, and their reign was a cruel and unmanful one. And at once the King called for his shining sword, and his great gnashing steed, and girded on his shield and rode out with his warriors, and the King rode north with the head of the giant borne high before him, in full march of war. And by and by the army came upon a village, and all was in ruin about the place, and the bodies of the men of the village were strewn about in bloody ruin. And the King was sore wroth that siele should treat men in such manner, and he cast down his shield and swore revenge. And hearing him from the shadows emerged a warrior, tall and dark of eye and pale of caste, who bade the King follow to a place where he might parlay with the siele Kings, and Martel followed this warrior in good faith.

And they came to a place where the siele were gathered watching the women and elders and children of the village toil before them, and drank their fey wine and laughed their cruel fey laughs. And King Martel stepped forward, for he knew of the prowess of such a party of siele, and while his mean were ready to make war he feared that too many lives would be lost in overcoming such a foe, and instead he spake unto the Kings amongst the siele, who were three in number, and said that they would surely lose a battle to his numbers, but that he would fight their greatest in single combat for the freedom of the slaves, and the siele laughed and asked what they had to gain by defeating him, and the king drew his sword Daundugar, and the siele were silenced, and he said that he would put up his sword in the fight, and in silent rage the tallest of the Kings stepped forward and told Martel to meet him atop a far hill alone, and with that the siele Kings were gone.

And so in good faith King Martel went unto that designated place, but once there all three siele kings showed themselves and all attacked at once, and the noble King was sore pressed by their attack, and their swords scored marks about his flank and chest, but could not penetrate deeply for fear of King Martel's fierce riposte. And as Martel was forced back by these traitorous siele he called out to Koroth to lend him strength to overcome such creatures of guile, and as he did the gnashing beast burst from the forest, knowing its master to be in peril, and took one of the kings in its jaws and dashed him again and again against the ground, and so shocked were the other siele that the King drove Daundugar through the heart of one and then the next, and then fell into the saddle of his steed, who bore him back to his men.

When the siele saw the King return alive, they knew that their kings were slain, and with much wailing and cursing the cowardly fey fled into the forests and were gone. And King Martel went forth into the people of the village and bade them show him to their elder, and when he met with the village elder the elder entreated what King Martel might ask as reward for freeing them, and Martel asked only that they bow before him as King, and the elder pressed, saying surely Martel must desire reward, and he offered his daughter to Martel, and when the girl stepped forward so fine was her countenance, and so manful did she find the King's broad back and fine beard that both fell in love in that instant, and Martel announced that he would take the girl to wife there and then before Aliel and Koroth in that place. And the divh did show themselves upon the place of Martel's victory, in blessing of this union, and that very night the two conceived a son.

The Battle on the Mountain, 369 HC

For a time, after the Kiing took a wife, there was peace in the Kingdom of Baldardunn, and King Martel sons to bear his legacy and a wife to be sure his sons grew strong and noble with fine beards and broad backs like their father. And these years saw the folk of the kingdom rejoice at their freedom and their strength and the nobility of their King, but this time would not last, for upon the day when his eldest son spake his first words Martel heard news that giants had banded together and marched for his capitol to drive men from land they still claimed as their own. And Martel again girded on his shield and sword, and mounted his steed, and called Dol and Sed to his side and marshalled his armies, then with a loving farewell the King rode out to meet the giants.

The two forces met upon the slopes of a great mountain, where stones made the ground uneven and a narrow pass ment that the numbers of the Kings men could not be fully brought to bear upon the foul giants, but so dire did the King believe their threat to be that he marched forth upon them regardless. Long was the battle, and many men gave their lives. And at the heart of the battle King Martel swung his sword all about him, opening the throat of foe after foe.

And at the height of the battle the giants parted and a creature of mighty stature even amongst his own kin came forward and cried a challenge to the King, and before Martel could even turn, the beast was upon him. Battered again and again by the creature's club, the King's shield was broken, and his helm split, and he was vast from his saddle, but as the beast raised its weapon to strike the final blow Sed threw his body over that of his King, and the club struck him, rending his body apart in doing so, and striking a savage wound against the King also. And Martel let forth a cry of grief and rage, and raising Daundugar he threw the sword clean through the throat of the giant and it fell, and a great gasp rose up from the ranks of the giants, followed by a cheer from the men, for all had stopped to watch the melee, and the cowardly giants seeing their champion fall turned and ran off never to band together again for fear of the King's wrath.

King Martel was ful sorrowful for the loss of Sed, and he entombed the noble warrior in a place of honour, and to further honour the man and show his great love Martel laid his own sword on the warrior's breast before the tomb was sealed.

The Passing of Martel Baldurdun, 371 HC

When the King returned home from the battle on the mountain it was thought that his wound would heal, and the priests ministered him day and night, but while the King remained strong his wound never closed, and he left the fastness of his home seldom, leaving Dol to command in his stead. And the King cared for his sons, and his fair wife, and looked to the sea, and sent word to King David of his victories and his Kingdom, and sent many exotic gifts, and for a time all was well. But one night the King awoke to find the white hawk again upon the lintle of his window, and he followed the creature when it bade him, and came to the tomb of Sed, and here he found the divh Koroth. And Koroth spake unto the King, telling him that the siele lived yet, and were vengeful creatures who would remember his victory for generations, and that the last of these creatures must be slain, and he showed the King where to find the foul creatures. And the King nodded his noble head in agreement, but as he returned to his bed the hawk came again, and led him instead to his great hall, where Aliel waited, and she bade the King not go, saying that to fight to defend the weak is noble, but to take vengeance would only be his doom, and the King nodded his sage head, for he saw the wisdom in her words, and he returned to his bed. And when the King awoke he was sure that war was behind him, but his eyes opened to see his fair wife had been the victim of a siele blade as he slept, and the King was of only wroth, blinded to all else, and he took his army and he made ready to march after the siele.

The King rode forth, and found Koroth's words to be true, for he came upon the siele unawares in a hidden vale at the heart of his kingdom, and fell upon them without mercy. And in the fury of the battle the King cried out a challenge to the creature that slew his wife, and a tall siele with script marked upon his body stepped forward to fight the King. Sword and spear flashed and wounds were struck on either side, and the two warriors seemed evenly matched, but just as the siele mistepped and the King raised his spear for the killing blow he was overcome by pain from his wound, and in that instant the sword of the siele struck out and pierced noble King Martel's manful heart, cutting it asunder, and Martel fell in death.

The day was won, and the few remaining siele driven to the west, but not before he who had slain the King proclaimed his name to be Geil Vadrain that it might not be forgotten by men. And despite their victory it was sadly that Dol and his men lifted the King onto their shields and bore him home. So ended the life of the noble King Martel, but his kingly legacy will live unto the death of the stars themselves.

Thus ends Bol's account of the King's life.