by Max Barry

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by The Free Land of Hardholm. . 64 reads.

Leader: Sigurd Loftstrom

Sigurd Loftstrom
Sigurd Lofstrom

Ataman of Hardholm

Statue of Sigurd in his holmtown







The Faith
Romuva (formerly)


Norfjord, Varagia


Coldhearth, Hardholm

Grand Marshal of the Great Host

Sigurd leading the Varagian Guard in a charge against a Southron Legion



Service Branch

Varagian Guard
Host Ursine Cavalry
Holmsman Mountaineers


Grand Marshal


Sigurd Loftstrom is the Ataman, the leader, of the Great Host of Hardholm. Elected by the General Council, a seven-member executive group that is itself elected by the Senate. As Ataman, Loftstrom has maintained traditional policies of focusing on a self-sustaining economy concentrated on local agriculture, fishing, and mining, a foreign policy of national sovereignty and skepticism towards foreign government influence, and granting political favor, though not state adoption, of The Faith. He has also continued the policy of official oppression of the spread of other cultures and some religions, especially the Basilican faith practiced by Southrons. As Ataman, he has led successful campaign to establish non-aggression pacts with the Southern Kings and Saracen Emirs, though the Varagian hordes from the north still participate in near yearly raids refusing any and all binding diplomatic pacts.

In interacting with other heads-of-state and foreign dignitaries, Sigurd presents himself as he is: a man of conviction, great contemplation, and introspection who values self-reliance, integrity, and loyalty above all else. He prefers to listen and observe rather than to speak, practicing a policy of not speaking unless to improve upon silence, but when he does speak, it is typically straight-to-the-point. Sigurd is an ascetic and is renowned for his altruistic practices with his citizens. He refuses to reside in the Ataman's keep, and prefers instead to spend his time in the fields behind oxen and plow or on the Frozen Coast fishing. Ataman Loftstrom is also notable for his Faithfulness and makes annual pilgrimages to Faithful temples around the country, often leaving portions of his own personal wealth behind in village alms boxes. Modest but stern, stoic but passionate about his convictions, and a foreigner by birth who has embraced the character of the Faithful Holmsman, Sigurd is a legendary leader among the citizens of Hardholm. He is much beloved by his the citizenry, and well-respected by his peers, many of whom owe their lives to his actions on the battlefield.

Early Life

Sigurd Loftstrom was born near Norfjord, Varagia, one of Varagia's only permanent settlements and only official trading post, though even this port city-state sees its regular share of brutality. His father brought him to Hardholm for the first time when he was twelve, the typical age a Varagian boy begins raiding, and then three more times over the next four years. It was at this time that Sigurd showed himself as a martial prodigy and encapsulated the Varagian ideals of fearlessness and bloodthirst. During the last raid, a severe cold front froze the Varagian longboats in the water and the Holmsmen destroyed most of the raiding party in a counterattack. Sigurd was incapacitated during the initial stages of the battle by a slinger, and awoke in the care of the Holmsmen. Initially retaining his hostilities towards the enemy, Sigurd's faced a challenging decision after finding out that the longboats had been destroyed and another party would not be here until at least next year. The Holmsmen gave him a choice, to face execution by hanging or to swear fealty to the Ataman. Since there is no glory in being executed in the Varagian faith (Romuva), and one of the major tenants is survival, Sigurd took up the offer to swear fealty to the Ataman, invoking another major tenant of the Romuvan faith, appreciation of the strong.

The young Loftstrom was taken to the Citadel, Hardholm's one and only military school, where he had his natural warrior skillset honed into that of a soldier. Specifically, as part of the Varagian Guard, one the Host's most elite shock units and a typical point-of-the-spear vanguard attacker. It was among his Varagian kin that Sigurd was introduced to The Faith. He was intrigued by a theology that balanced long-suffering with righteous self-defense and forgoing of wealth and material gain for garnering of spiritual gifts. More than that, the young Varagian was taken in by the might of a god that overcome even death, since Romuvan's gods were all mortal and so too was the human spirit. Though not converted, Sigurd began practicing patience, temperance, and altruism and found it satisfying.

Because of his natural talent, coolness under pressure, and his knack for winning fights he took part in, Sigurd Loftstrom was promoted through the ranks of the Varagian Guard, eventually being given his own division and, with it, citizenship. Now a true Holmsman, Sigurd went on to prove himself with renewed vigor against all enemies, to include the menace that was the Southern Kingdoms, a confederated empire whose singular ideology was expansionism. One fall, when the Southrons had advanced deep into the Host's territory, in hopes of finally annexing its most stubborn target, indeed within striking distance of the Holmsman capital of Coldhearth. The Holmsman armies scattered and routed, Sigurd led a band Ursine Cavalry and Varagian Guards in a series of devastating ambushes against the logistical supplies of the Southrons and delayed their march beyond the last mountain pass that separated the legions and Coldhearth. The first snows sealed the fates of many a legionnaire. With no way to march on Coldhearth, no chance to get to a harbor, and no supplies to survive the winter, the four-hundred thousand man legion army, half the entire population of Hardholm, began a slow and treacherous march back out of the occupied territories. What had been an easy two week march a few short months ago turned into a frigid deathmarch. Everyday more snow and ice fell, more men did not wake up from their sleeps, and they suffered withering fire and ambushes at nearly every mountain saddle and narrow canyon. In total, only sixty-thousand or so Southrons made it home, losing nearly nine out of every ten men, it was many summers before the Southern Kingdoms returned.

After helping prevent the annexation of the Holmland, Sigurd was appointed Grand Marshal of the Varagian Guard and given a position in the cabinet of the Ataman as a military adviser. Under his council, Hardholm tripled its defensive spending, doubled its standing army size, and saw the addition of a Mammoth Corp. Future endeavors against the Varagians and Saracens were so decisive, due to this new overwhelming martial power, that the Varagians began taking multiple years in between raids and opened to more trading and the Saracens ceased incursions altogether, opting to sign a non-aggression pact for fear of retaliation.

By the time that the previous Ataman died in his sleep at the age of 80, Sigurd Loftstrom had been serving on the General Council for seven years, into his second reelection to the councilship of the upper echelon of military leadership. At the beginning of his third term, his six peers decided to give him the Atamanship, which no non-native Holmsman had ever held.


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