Oathbreaker Maddox Hero Skin

Once the great cold of the Frozen Shores settled over, the Highlander Maddox ventured beyond the known regions in search of his home. Ancient alliances and pacts had brought his people to Heathmoor, but amid the truce talks, he thought it a good time to try and return to his homestead. Alas, he never found his home – perhaps it had been swallowed by the floods and frozen over, perhaps it had been razed by unknown foes. Whatever the reason was, Maddox felt, now more than ever, all alone. It was on his journey back to Heathmoor, as the cold grew worse, that Maddox came across a fabled sabertoothed tiger.

The animal attacked him viciously, and he fought back and killed the beast. He carved its carcass and wore its pellet, not just to keep warm in the agonizing cold, but to identify himself as what he was: a survivor. In the tiger, he saw himself. The last of his kind. A fighter with no home. But all of that changed when he returned to Valkenheim. The people of Moldar welcomed him as one of their own. The chieftain came to call him brother. And for a moment, all seemed right. Until the Order of Horkos came knocking…

A Tale from the World of Heathmoor

Part I.

The sabertoothed tiger skin on his back was covered in ice and snow, and it was only getting heavier. But that didn’t hinder him in the slightest. The pelt meant something to him – and to those who knew him. It was part of him. He had a beast within. And he would make sure his opponents knew it.

Maddox’s heavy blade cleaved right through his adversary, and a spurt of warm blood covered his face. Maddox bellowed loudly, sleeving his jaw clean and moving on to his next opponent. Around him was chaos: his fellow Vikings trekked through snow, retreating towards the safety of their village while warriors from the Order of Horkos caught up to them.

The battle hadn’t gone the way Maddox had expected. When Astrea’s forces had marched on Valkenheim, they hadn’t predicted such a vast host. One by one, clans were annihilated, and villages fell. Skarde, Maddox’s chosen brother and chieftain of Moldar village, had ordered the Highlander to take a small contingent of Vikings out to the frozen river to cut off Horkos. But the enemy proved relentless. Soon there had been no choice but to retreat.

Now, they were rushing home—and Horkos was right at their heel.

Maddox saw Vikings he had known and fought besides for years fall, never to rise again. He rushed towards a brave Raider to help him beat back a Warmonger, but he was too late. The Warmonger buried her sword through the Raider’s gullet. Screaming, Maddox unleashed his rage on the killer. He couldn’t mourn the Raider. Or any of them. All he could do was keep fighting and keep moving towards the gates of Moldar.

Through it all, Maddox refused to let fear take root inside him. He planted his feet firmly in the snow, trudging through the howling winter winds to take down as many enemy warriors as he could. He cut off limbs. Sent heads rolling. He covered the rear of the pack so his fellow Vikings might stand a fighting chance. He was a leader, and now that meant staying behind. It meant doing whatever it took for the survival of his own.

Finally, as he felled a trio of Black Priors, Maddox noticed the Horkos reinforcements had stopped chasing them. His fellow Vikings finally reached the threshold of Moldar, finding dearly won solace—if only a fleeting one. Before he crossed the gates, Maddox took one last look behind him. A trail of blood-soaked bodies stretched out into the snowy vista, flanked by banks of pine trees. The sun was hidden in the haze, the day in its death throes.

The wind eased, and a solitary figure appeared on the horizon. Sword held straight, clad head to toe in Horkos armor. A Warmonger.
They stopped several feet from Maddox.

“Submit or die,” they said. “You have until nightfall to decide.”

The Warmonger turned to leave. Maddox wanted to rush the messenger. He wanted to take out the final dregs of his bloodlust on them. But he did nothing.

The enemy wasn’t beaten. They had simply stopped to issue this ultimatum. There was no victory to be had here, merely a reprieve before what would come next: all-out slaughter.

His back resting against the heavy wood of Moldar’s gate, Maddox stared silently. Defiantly. But he knew it was no use. Death was at their doorstep.

He sheathed his sword, spat on the ground and marched decidedly into the village. Chieftain Skarde was awaiting report of the battle.
First, Maddox would have a word with his men.

Part II.

“We are all going to die!”

The words echoed throughout the empty hall.

Skarde, a once mighty Warlord turned aging chieftain, sat silent. So silent Maddox could hear the flickering flames in the hearth. An apt symbol for the rage burning inside of him.

“Skarde,” Maddox continued, a touch lighter, “I beg you see reason. Come nightfall, they will be here—and this time they will offer small choice. Think of your people. The women and children. The men all ready to die for you. Spare them this senseless atrocity. For what comes next, there will be no forgiveness, brother.”

“You forget your place, brother,” said Skarde. “I will not treat with Horkos! These craven words dirty the sanctity of my halls. We are Vikings. We do not surrender. We fight to the last.”

“Think of your daughter. What would she—”

“—my daughter is standing her post, waiting for the enemy!” the chieftain shouted, springing to his feet. “And here you are wailing like a suckling babe!”

The Highlander didn’t take kindly to the reproach. “Our people will be dead by morn.”

“If that is our fate…”

“Have you so little regard for your own clan?”

“Our covenant is to Chimera. Our allegiance is to Cross,” Skarde barked, walking swiftly towards Maddox.

“And where is Cross? Hiding behind his walls in Ashfeld! We need to do what we must to survive.”

“I swore an oath! Promises are not only kept when convenient. Or have you forgotten the one you made to serve me?”

The Highlander wrapped his fingers around the hilt of sword tightly. With his head half-cocked, he asked: “I swore to serve our people.”

Before Skarde could answer, loud drumming noises rang out, and the people outside started shouting.

“They’re here,” Maddox said.

The chieftain rushed through the hall and opened the door to find his village burning. Villagers ran for cover from the burning projectiles sent flying by catapults as Horkos warriors rushed through the gates.

“Submit or die!” they shouted.

Maddox looked beyond the outline of his chieftain at the coming death outside. As he turned his attention downward, he caught his own shadow. The outline of the pelt on his back was unmistakable. He thought back to his encounter with the sabertoothed tiger in the frozen wilderness. The might of the beast. It had subsisted for untold years despite being the last of its kind. He had regretted killing the animal. But he had needed its skin to survive the freezing cold. He had done what he must to survive.

The chieftain drew his blade. “We will not yield!”

Before Skarde could join the battlefield, he was tackled from behind and sent tumbling into the hard-packed snow. Adjusting his helmet, the chieftain gaped up at his attacker.

“Maddox?!” Skarde said.

The Highlander gave the signal then—three commanding whistles. Exactly as he’d agreed on with his men. Until the last, Maddox had nursed a desperate hope this last resort would not be necessary, but Skarde left him with no other option.

The screams outside abruptly grew louder. Each was high and horrible, and worst of all, astonished. The sounds of Viking turning on Viking.
“What are you doing?!” the chieftain shouted.

Brandishing his claymore, Maddox moved towards his chieftain with purpose.


Part III.

The treachery spread quick through the ranks. Without ceremony, Maddox’s followers cut down any Viking loyal to Skarde. Most were given a chance to denounce Chimera. Some leapt at the opportunity. Many did not. Neighbors who’d been reared together, who had broken bread at fall harvests and had warred side by side for generations, opened each other’s throats in seconds. The Horkos battalion needed only let it happen.

As a red dawn blooded the horizon, chieftain and the Highlander were locked in a duel. Sword and shield clashed with claymore amidst the carnage.

“I never should have welcomed you into my halls!” Skarde shouted.

“And I never should have saved your life!” Maddox shot back.

While the chieftain was getting old, he didn’t let his age show. He was as swift as he had been in his prime, and his ferocity surprised even Maddox. They fought not with skill, but with hatred. With years of fraternity and the pain of broken trust. Their hits were heavy, each delivered with the intent to maim or kill. They threw punches, cleaved, hacked and slashed, and shoved each other back across the red-slick slush.

As the duel fevered, Maddox's followers and Horkos warriors—nigh indistinguishable from one another—formed a circle around them. The battle had been decided. All that was left was to see when their chieftain knew it.

The sound of blade on shield rang louder, and the two men’s grunts grew hoarse. Maddox delivered merciless slashes of his sword and the chieftain blocked as well as he might. But each raise of his shield came slower. Not Maddox. No. Like the tiger skin on his back,

Maddox had tapped into something primordial. Something savage.

“You were never one of us!” Skarde shouted, making a last desperate lunge. But Maddox was ready. He impaled his sword right into his chieftain’s chest, flipped his body in the air, and smacked him down in the snow.

“Maddox…” Skarde mumbled, eyes bugging wide. Blood-flecked spittle trailed from the corner of his mouth. “S… Stop… this…”

“We are Vikings,” Maddox whispered. “We do not stop.”

When he dug his claymore out of Skarde, the chieftain was already gone. Drenched in blood, the Oathbreaker placed a foot on the body of his brother and stood victorious in the center of the village. With arms stretched wide, he exclaimed: “Moldar no longer abides by its oath to Chimera! As of this moment – WE! ARE! HORKOS!”

He roared. And all who followed him raised their weapons.

All hailed Maddox.

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