The History of Realmgard in 30 Days: November 25

“Northgate’s governing council ceded authority in all matters during the siege to the Grandmaster of the Order, Jehan Septentrion. Despite being 70 years old at the time, Septentrion led an energetic defence of the city, making the Haakon’s fleet pay bitterly for every inch of gained ground, and even defeating several of Haakon’s captains in single combat.”

The Great Siege of Northgate

Relatively small and spanning a resource-poor island chain, the Free City of Northgate has nevertheless prospered economically due to its position linking the southern Free Cities, the Kingdoms of the Sea, the peninsula of Little Hrimfax, and the Kingdom of Aurora.

Historically, the city has been the target of embargoes and trade wars from its rival Free Cities, as well as raids by vikings and pirates. Most famously, the city endured the so-called Great Siege of Northgate.

An ambitious Hrimfaxi pirate named Haakon Sterkenn eager to live up to the legacy of his viking ancestors broken away from the Brotherhood of the Coasts, gave himself the lofty title of “Navarch of All the North”, assembled a fleet of like-minded renegades to break away from the Brotherhood and unaffiliated mercenaries and adventurers from as far away as the Wandering Coast and set his eyes on Northgate as the first step of a planned conquest of much of the northern coast of Realmgard.

With a force of at least 150 ships and 30,000 soldiers Haakon made landfall before the walls of Northgate and set to besieging the city.

Northgate has historically had a small population and contemporary accounts list the city’s defenders as numbering 2,500 professional soldiers and another 3,000 or so militia and conscripts.

However, among the city’s defenders were the knights of the Order of the Tern, a previously itinerant order of knights errant granted territory in Northgate in exchange for contributing to defending the city against pirates.

A tern in flight.

Photo by Kapu Ravindranath on Pexels.com

Northgate’s governing council ceded authority in all matters during the siege to the Grandmaster of the Order, Jehan Septentrion. Despite being 70 years old at the time, Septentrion led an energetic defence of the city, making the Haakon’s fleet pay bitterly for every inch of gained ground, and even defeating several of Haakon’s captains in single combat.

Jehan Septentrion: a knight in full armour.
A portrait of Jehan Septentrion.

Famously, Septentrion personally led the rearguard action when the pirates finally breached Northgate’s harbour — thanks to the valiant efforts of the defenders, it took the pirates 45 days to even take the outer harbour. After breaking his sword on the helmet of one the pirate leaders, he grabbed said pirate captain and used him as an improvised weapon, beating several additional pirates into submission before withdrawing to safety.

Haakon’s pirates slowly advance through the city, though the defenders counted to make them pay as they advanced. The city’s defenders were ultimately driven back to Northgate’s citadel, though the pirates would never manage to breach the citadel’s impressive defences.

A depiction of the Great Siege of Northgate.
A stylised depiction of the Great Siege of Northgate. Haakon Sterkenn is before the gates of the citadel, while the female knight Créuse von Ivanhoe-Hauteburg readies to drop a rock on him.

The beginning of the end of the siege came when Haakon himself was struck in the head by a rock thrown from the battlements by a junior member of the Order of the Tern, a female knight named Créuse von Ivanhoe-Hauteburg. Though grievously wounded and incapacitated for the duration of the siege, Haakon would survive his injuries, though he would be plagued by headaches for the rest of his life, especially when exposed to the colour purple.

The siege was ultimately broken by a relief force led by the members of the Brotherhood of the Coasts, setting forth to punish Haakon and his renegade fleet for his numerous violations of the Lex Antiqua Piratica. Upon the arrival of his relief force, Haakon’s forces were routed in short order and forced into retreat.


FYI: my inspiration here is the Great Siege of Malta, one of my favourite historical events.

Haakon getting a rock dropped on his head is a composite of the deaths of the Turkish admiral Dragut at Malta (took shrapnel to the head) and Hellenistic king Pyrrhus of Epirus at Argos (had the mother of the guy he was fighting drop a roof tile on him), but I felt kinda bad for the dude, so I let him survive…

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