Outlaws and Outcasts in the Middarmark

By D. Koch

Crime is common throughout the Middarmark, and Rimholm is no exception. For the most part, the townsfolk abide by the law, discourage illicit activities, seek to maintain order, honor their ancestors, and uphold the will of the Immortal Lords. However, from small steadings to larger towns, some exploit, murder, manipulate, and steal to survive in this harsh environment.


There are two degrees of outlawry. Lesser criminals, or “outcasts,” are expelled from the clan for a short period, and the penalty is temporary. As a declaration to the tribe, the family ostracizes the offending family member to rectify a wrong so that the kinfolk cannot be forced to indemnify the offense. Outcasts might join a raiding party to sail away for a year or more and then return home to make amends with the acquired silver. It is a crime to shelter or aid the outcast during this period, but some families still take the risk to ensure the outcast’s survival.


On the other hand, clans view the “outlaw” as a lasting status for a special group of bottom-feeding parasites. Murder, arson, and other serious transgressions can lead to being branded as an outlaw, and such a label is thought to be a fate worse than death. The clan severs the ties of kinship to the outlaw to prevent a blood feud between the two clans. During a specified period of time, the outlaw is outside the protection of the law.

Clan Status

Outlaws pose a unique threat to the clan, and the mere presence of a nearby outlaw is a source of insecurity among the neighboring homesteads. Outlaws are stripped of all clan affiliations and shunned by ancestors—now no longer under the auspices of the clan’s ættir. Outlaws are no longer a civilized person but a being of the wilds—a transformed and twisted animal sometimes referred to as a skogarmadr, or "man of the forest." Because these clanless beasts of the woods no longer adhere to the law, outlaws often become the scapegoat for any ill-fortune or are accused of witchcraft or malevolent sorcery.

Legal Status

Outlaws are regarded as legally deceased and a “stranger” to their kin. No longer having any rights, outlaws can't swear oaths because the ætt does not reaffirm their vows. In exchange, the clan is not held responsible for the outlaw’s actions. With the family no longer considering the outlaw the same person, the children become orphans, and the widowed spouse can remarry. An outlaw's fortune and belongings are either taken by their kin, seized by their enemies, or destroyed.


Outlaws yield the enmity of all humanity. However, at a Thing, the outlaw's kin can make a case to call off the vigilantes, remove any bounties, and return the outlaw to good standing. The legal assembly sets the agreed upon payment, or gjald, based upon the victim’s station. If the Thing agrees that the offered recompense is sufficient, the clan can pay an exorbitant fee to the aggrieved party, but only wealthy clans can afford a blood price—paid as restitution for physical harm or death. In some cases, through the negotiation, the outlaw could become the thrall of the victim’s clan instead of or in addition to making amends with silver.

Job Offers

Vigilantes go to every extent to hunt down outlaws in the vicinity with impunity. The aggrieved clan can inflict any retaliation upon the criminal, and no law of mortals holds the enactor responsible. Indeed, it is every family's duty to capture or slay an outlaw should the opportunity arise.

Vengeance without repercussions can be profitable. Clans might contract vagrants or sellswords to capture or kill the outlaw. Also, nervous settlements don’t tolerate those outside the law and offer generous bounties or favors to drive off outlaws or eliminate bandit camps before the winter.

In a vicious cycle, an outlaw’s only recourse is plundering and looting, and soon, robbing and stealing defines them as bandits. When bloodied adventurers return to town with bags of gold and stolen goods they are often presumed to be outlaws for this very reason.

Hakon Blood-Axe

One of the most notorious outlaws from Rimholm was Hakon Blood-Axe. Skalds are forbidden to speak his ancestor’s names, but what is known is that Hakon’s family lived in a Græling steading on the Rik Bay during the time of the Bjorning conquest. Hakon’s parents were reasonable and patient, and they had a knack for settling disputes among the fisherfolk. As the godi, Hakon’s father stood against the Bjornings instead of submitting and relinquishing their farms.

The Bjornings confiscated Hakon’s family as thralls, but he alone escaped. At the Thing, Hakon tried to pay tribute for the release of his parents, but his request was denied on the grounds that his father’s insurrection had cost the lives of too many valuable huskarls. Hakon was taken prisoner and branded with the rune of chaos upon his brow. During the night, he managed to escape thanks to several thralls—most likely his kin—that sacrificed their lives for his flight.

As redress, Hakon then murdered the huskarl Asmund Magnusson’s son Eirik while he slept at his farm and slew all his thralls. Once more, Hakon offered to pay a hefty compensation as weregild to settle the matter from his perspective of the law. He sent a messenger to deliver the terms, but this time, the Thing branded Hakon an outlaw and sacrificed the messenger in an offering to the Lords of Law.

Hakon fled and joined with the Græling rebels hiding in the Midterstebjerg. The brigands robbed caravans on the Dalveien, and Hakon ambushed vigilantes seeking to claim the bounty on his head and used traps to tarry scouts. Hakon gave no quarter, and the townsfolk called him a coward for his dastardly tactics. After two profitable winters on the run, he attracted a large group of followers.

That third year, during Jolblot, Hakon launched his most daring raid. While Rimholm’s pious and timorous gathered at the temple, his band swam through Rimholm’s harbor to steal four longships. It was a fierce battle, and Hakon killed thirteen men on one ship alone.

Hakon sailed to the wild islands of Vestreyjar with his group and established a small village for exiled Græling—a new home for those unwilling to submit to the rule of another. The following year, on the day of Jol, one of his ancestors rose as an undead to bring a plague upon his people. Hakon, the defender of his home, struck the revenant down. Hakon gave proper rites to the corpse, buried his sword with the remains, and sued his ættir for peace. Hakon gave generous offerings, but he is said to have lost his mind to madness. Devoid of all reason, Hakon took a small ship and sailed forever west. Each Jolblot, the villagers send a crewless ship of supplies off into the horizon before retreating to wait out the Wild Hunt—a tradition that continues to this day.

Original article: Outside the Law, May 21, 2020