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Literature / The Oathsworn

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"Not yet but soon".

"We swear to be brothers to each other, bone, blood and steel, on Gungnir, Odin's spear we swear, may he curse us to the Nine Realms and beyond if we break this faith, one to another.'"
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A series of books by the Scottish author Robert Low, the saga tales of Orm "Bearslayer" Rurikson, rescued from certain death by his adoptive father and taken along his ragged band of Viking raiders known as The Oathsworn - Vikings or "Varangians" note  on the eastern trail. They are hard men bound to each other both by friendship and the fear of One Eye's fury should they break their oath. A gritty and realistic yet funny and exciting depiction of the viking lifestyle, set mostly in Eastern Europe and beyond. Throughout five books, Orm brings back the known world of the 10th century as the group searches for fortune and fame.

The Norse religion is dying as the White Christ cult spreads throughout Europe. The Oathsworn is hired for a task by the wealthy Swedish merchant Brondolf Lambisson and his companion, the German monk Martin. The Oathsworn soon find themselves on an adventure involving both a chase for the buried silver of Atilla the Hun and The Spear of Destiny. But what are Lambissons true intentions? And Martin would sure like that spear all for himself... What follows is a series of events that will lead the characters across Europe and Asia on quests full of bone, blood and steel.

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Spiritually related to the Conqueror and The Saxon Stories series of novels.

The books in the series are:

  • The Whale Road (2007): Tells the story of how the young Norwegian man Orm Ruriksson came to be a part of the Oathsworn and their adventures on the Eastern Trail in search of Attila the Huns buried treasure.
  • The Wolf Sea (2008): Orm and his comrades are residing in Miklagard where they are all employed as Mercenaries in the fight against the encroaching Arab armies. Orm is also on the lookout for his lost Runesword, currently in the grasp of the sinister Starkad, who does not yet know what a true treasure he has come across: In the hilt of the sword lies the map back to Attils grave and all of it's riches.
  • The White Raven (2009): After having been granted a homestead as thanks for aiding Jarl Brand in the civil wars in Sweden, it is once more time for the Oathsworn to head back out on the oceans. Their journey takes them to Novgorod where they make a new acquaintance: the half-pint prince Crowbone.
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  • The Prow Beast (2010): Set in Sweden, where the Oathsworn find themselves tasked by king Eirik with protecting the pregnant queen Sigrith against attacks from his newphew Styrbjörn, next in line to the throne of Sweden if the current heir is eliminated. Also joining with Stybjörn is Randr Sterki, an old enemy with a personal reason to hate the Oathsworn.
  • Crowbone (2012): Tells the tale of the now grown up prince Crowbone and his ultimate destiny. To gain the crown of Norway under his real name: Olaf Tryggvasson.

The series as a whole provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Sharp Sword: The twin sabers made from The Spear of Destiny's spearhead. They could cut through an anvil.
  • An Axe to Grind: A lot of characters fight with bearded axes, great axes, throwing axes, and when nothing more is available, blunt wood axes.
  • Anyone Can Die: And how.
  • Bishie Sparkle: Jarl Brand and his entourage when they arrive in Miklagard.
  • Badass Creed: The titular Oath, quoted at the top of this page.
  • Badass Crew: The Oathsworn.
  • The Berserker: Pinleg. Also the bearcoats from the 4th book. Orm himself has glimpses of it.
  • Been There, Shaped History: Lot's of this going on. Did you know for example, that the Rök Stone, one of the longest and most mysterious Runic inscriptions in the world was raised in honour of the Oathsworn?
  • Break the Badass: Orm still shudders when he thinks back on his fight with Hild.
  • Break Them by Talking: Crowbone has turned this into an art form. He likes to tell long sagas, starring thinly disguised versions of his current opponents and why they suck at life. However, sometimes he puts a positive spin on it.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Skapti and Finn certainly qualify.
  • Black Comedy: A recurrent one: "This is a magic knife... it can tell lie from truth and everytime it finds a lie it will remove a finger until all are gone..."
  • Blood Knight: Many characters especially Finn and Pinleg. Averted with Orm. Although he is certainly badass and a fearsome fighter, he doesn't enjoy fighting as much as the next Oathsworn and more often than not tries to solve the Oathsworns problems diplomatically.
  • Cowardly Lion: Orm.
  • Cutlass Between the Teeth: Orm sticks his Seax in his mouth and jumps from a scaffolding when chasing a culprit through the streets of Miklagard.
  • The Determinator: Martin. He WILL claim the spear even if he dies doing it. In fact he would probably welcome the latter.
  • The Dreaded: "Einar the black and his oathsworn are coming".
  • The Dung Ages: Both averted and played straight - although the overall world didn't care much for sissy things like basic hygiene, norse characters are shown to be "more vain than women" with all the combing their hairs and taking regular showers.
  • Enemy Mine: Happens a few times on every book.
  • Five-Man Band: Every book seems to have a variation of this.
  • The Greatest History Never Told: Averted. Not only does the books take place mostly in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, the Byzantine Empire and other places were the Vikings were frequent visitors but still never get the same recognition as the Anglo Saxon invasions, they also portray many very obscure tribes and people who really exsisted under the Dark Ages.
  • Genre Shift: The first two books were very much in the style of classic Swashbucklers, with their exotic locations and hunt for buried treasure. Beginning with "The White Raven" the action became a bit more down to earth.
  • Gold Fever: Brondolf Lambisson, full stop.
  • Historical-Domain Character: Vladimir The Great, Eric The Victorious, Styrbjorn The Strong, "Crowbone", Svein Forkbeard and many others.
  • Heroic Bastard: Orm.
  • Human Sacrifice: As part of the norse religion, Odin sometimes require sacrifices. Sometimes horses, sometimes thralls, sometimes Oathsworn.
  • I Own This Town. Brondolf Lambisson IS Birka. It's evident that he has more power over it than the King Of Sweden. He also carries himself like a typical Mafia Don.
  • Instructional Dialogue: A lot of dialogue is clearly just there so Robert Low can show off his (very impressive) knowledge of the Dark Ages and old Nordic and Slavic culture.
  • In the Name of the Moon: "Finn Bardisson from Skani, whom they call Horsehead, is ready for you. Are there any takers?"
  • Karma Houdini: Martin.
  • Kid Samurai: Crowbone, although he Took a Level in Badass very quickly.
  • Malicious Misnaming: Finn should probably have chosen a nickname wich sounded a little less like "Horsearse".
  • Karmic Death: Brondolf Lambisson. Dies in Attilas grave chamber among the silver he loved so much.
  • Pet the Dog: Hild on the first book, Goatboy on the second, Crowbone on the third and Koll on the fourth one.
    • The Dog Bites Back: Hild on the first book and on a lesser scale Goatboy/Jon Asanes on the third one
  • Poirot Speak: A lot of old Norse and Slavic words are tossed around witch great abandon. This usually leads to a character having to explain to someone else what it means (see Instructional Dialogue above.)
  • Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter!: Orm has this attitude towards Odin.
  • Shown Their Work: YES! Not only does the Oathsworn books avert The Greatest History Never Told, it averts it with a Vengeance!
  • Shrouded in Myth: Orm. He didn't actually kill the Polar Bear it was more along the lines of a freak accident and he notes that he was "pissing himself" during the entire altercation. Fortunately the only person alive who knows this is him.
  • The Thunderdome: Holmgang!
  • Tragic Villain: Randr Sterki. The Oathsworn attacked him homestead, plundered it and burnt it to the ground. Finn raped Randrs wife and when she wouldn't stop struggling, cut her throat and continued raping her corpse. When Randrs son ran out to help his mother, Orm cut his head off with one blow of his axe. If anything Randr took his loss extremely well. Even Orm says that Randr has earned the right to kill him.
  • Treasure Room: Attilas hov.
  • Young Future Famous People: Crowbone.
  • War Is Hell: It doesn't matter how many times Orm faces a battle, he notes how it makes his bowels turn to water every single time.

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