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Chapter 3

An eerie silence engulfed the clearing before Olaf released a breath he had not realised he was holding. He quickly ran over to Vilgrid to check on him.

‘Brother, are you okay?’ he asked desperately searching for any sign of injury.

‘Aye Olaf, nothing a few nights rest won’t fix.’

Olaf held out his hand and helped his brother up. They both heard Ragnar’s sobs from behind the boar, the memory of what happened to him refilling their mind’s eye. However foolhardy Ragnar’s charge into the boar was, in doing so he most likely saved his older brother’s life. They hurried over to him and both flinched, grimacing at the awful sight before them. The entirety of Ragnar’s left cheek was practically gone and in its place was a blood gushing mess of raw flesh.

He will not survive the trip back to camp, was Vilgrid’s first thought as he desperately fought the urge to turn away.

Olaf quickly knelt down beside the Ragnar, who was bawling out loud now. With slow and deliberate movements he removed Ragnar’s blood covered hands from his face. Vilgrid did not know what Olaf was doing and so stood there watching with his brows furrowed in confusion. Olaf reached into one if his pockets and pulled out a small unassuming pouch. He carefully tipped and emptied the contents out into the palm of his hand. It was a fine yellowy dust.

At this point Vilgrid took an involuntary step back and started asking ‘Wh- what is that yellow stuff Olaf? What is it?’

Olaf frowned but ignored his younger sibling’s questions and began to gently pour the powder onto Ragnar’s wound. Ragnar twitched expecting more pain but in fact, the pain began to fade. Then to Vilgrid’s terror the blood that had spilt from Ragnar’s wound started to be soaked up by the powder and not just the blood the powder touched but all of the blood, including that which already fallen to the ground. It all slowly retreated back up from the holes it melted into the snow and return to the wound. Vilgrid jumped back in shock with a nauseating knot twisting in his stomach and he drew his skinning knife without realising.

‘Kord’s blood! Is that magic Olaf!? Where did you get that!?’ he shouted wide eyed with a trembling voice.

Olaf stood up, turned to him and said through gritted teeth ’Put your blade away little brother. I got it from that sorcerer that passed through our camp a few moons ago. He said it could cure any wound, cept if a limp is lost.′

Vilgrid still uneasy but slightly intimidated by his brother slowly backed away from Olaf holding his palms out in submission and reluctantly slid his knife back into its sheath

‘W...we must hurry, Th...They say Trolls are attracted to magic’ Vilgrid stuttered an unsteady voice.

Olaf turned round to Ragnar who was still lying down on his back.

He held out his hand and helped him up while saying ‘By Kord Ragnar that was a brave and foolish thing to do, father will be most impressed.’ He barked a laugh before adding with a sarcastic grin ‘and it seems Kord has gifted you with even more good looks little pup.’

Ragnar grunted and pushed his brother but he knew that his older brother was only trying to defuse the tension that had built up over the magic powder.

‘Least I’m still not as ugly as you Olaf!’ Ragnar retorted, the words coming out slightly slurred due to his wound and the swelling.

Vilgrid could not help but snort at that comment.

‘Ha!’ thundered Olaf again. ‘Ragnar the Scarred is what they’ll call ya from now on little pup. Now, help me with this bastard of a boar will ya? Seeing as Vilgrid here is too weak to be of any use.’

Ragnar smiled lob sided and began to help his older brother with the heavy boar.

‘Ha bloody ha! You didn’t just have a beast of a boar tackle and trample you to ground eh? Oh mighty Olaf the Bear did you?’ Vilgrid protested punctuating his words with finger pointing.

Olaf simply responded to his brother’s tantrum with his booming laughter as the three brothers headed back in the direction of home.

‘Ah, this bastard boar is a heavy’un eh little Ragnar?’ Olaf gasped between heavy breaths.

Ragnar could only grunt in agreement. His face was beginning to sting. Nothing compared to the world of pain he was in before Olaf had applied the magic powder, however, it was still painful enough to draw a portion of his strength to ignore it. Vilgrid, who was walking ahead of the two came to a halt suddenly.

‘Olaf? Come here a moment’ he called back over his shoulder.

‘What is it now little brother? Ya sting your hand and want Olaf to rub it better for ya eh? Maybe some more magic powder?’ Olaf replied mockingly with a smile on his brutish face as he approached his brother.

The ominous look on his kin’s face coupled with Vilgrid’s lack of a retort to his jest was enough to wipe the cheeky smile from his face.

‘Vilgrid? What is it?’ Olaf asked in a hushed and more serious tone lest Ragnar overhear and get alarmed unnecessarily.

‘That smoke on the horizon, above the tree top.’ Vilgrid whispered nodding towards a rising column of dark smoke in the distance. ‘It’s coming from the direction of home. It’s a lot of smoke Olaf, more smoke than even on the feast days.’

‘Olaf...’ Vilgrid said as he turned to face his brother ‘something is awry.’

‘Aye little brother, aye.’ Olaf rubbed his brow with a sigh and shouted back to Ragnar to come join them. Ragnar groggily ran over to them from the side of the boar.

‘What is it Olaf?’ he asked.

‘Something is wrong at home, black smoke rises like a grim omen. We must leave the boar here and make haste to camp. I fear something maybe wrong...our home maybe under attack.’

Ragnar swallowed hard. If it was then surely they would charge in to defend their kin as was expected of them. Even Ragnar, though he was only twelve winters old, and this was only his first time ever out hunting. He never had to seriously fight another person in combat, let alone have to kill one but he would fight valiantly alongside his brothers if it came to it all the same, he hoped. The three brothers took off in haste towards the ever growing column of smoke. A gnawing feeling bit into Ragnar’s stomach as he ran. A feeling he only felt during bad dreams, fear. They did not waste any time to cover or hide the boar from forest scavengers such was their haste.

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