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Ironsworn: Last Rites- Ubba's Tale

I am called Ubba. As a child, I lived in a small but thriving village on the edge of the Hinterlands. My father was a farmer and my mother the best smith for leagues. Most of my memory of that time is hazy, obscured by the images of my home set ablaze, may parent's bodies lying in the mud, screams, and the hulking figure of Ivar the Oathbreaker.

On my tenth Midsummer, he came, a storm of blood and fire in the middle of the night. Ivar's warband spread out, burning everything and putting the entire village to the sword. It was so fierce, so sudden, that the village could not mount any defense. Ivar himself came to my home. My parents fought him, but he cut them down like weeds in a field with that black blade.

In a rage, I took up my mother's dagger and cut Ivar across the face. He just stood there staring at me for a moment, almost in disbelief that a child had wounded him. Then he smiled, teeth bared like a forest cat about to pounce. The dagger fell from my hand and a chill gripped my spine as he raised his sword. I closed my eyes, waiting for the strike that would reunite me with my parents and the other villagers. It never came.

When I opened my eyes, there was a figure standing between Ivar and myself, his cloak, the blue-grey of a Winter sky. The figure had intercepted the death blow with a black blade of his own. They fought, blades singing as they cut through the air, ringing like bells when they clashed. My parents practiced swordplay on occasion, but the battle unfolding before me made them look absolutely clumsy. The stranger's blade moved like a serpent. Ivar's men closed on where we stood, dripping blades eager for more blood.

"No!" Ivar screamed. "This one is mine!" He gripped his blade with both hands, slicing my rescuer across the eyes. The stranger retaliated with a quick slash that severed Ivar's left hand. Ivar backed away and barked to his men. "We're done here! Grab what you can carry and return to camp!"

The stranger stood, sword ready, until it seemed he was certain that Ivar and his men were gone. He then turned to me, ragged lumps of flesh where his eyes should have been. I grabbed the dagger at my feet and held it out. My hands shook. The stranger only smiled. Unlike Ivar's, the stranger's smile was warm and friendly despite the pain of his injury.

"I am sorry that I was too late to save your village." He said, voice quavering with sadness. "I am called Jihan. I will take you to safety."

We walked in silence for a long time. As dawn broke, I turned to face the plume of smoke that marked where my home once stood. I pulled my mother's dagger from my belt and, on the iron of her blade, swore to find those responsible and deliver justice.

I heard Jihan draw his sword. I turned, expecting the blind man to strike me down. Instead, he knelt before me, gripping the black blade in his hands. "And I, Jihan, swear to train you in the skills you require to seek that justice for the benefit of all in the Ironlands. You will be Ferron's fist. You will be a hearthfire for the distressed. You will be a Warden-Errant."

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