As they approached the edge of the tree line and the clearing of the camp they heard the lick of flames and screams. They halted at the edge to take in the scene before them and it was not a pleasant one. Nearly every stead in the camp was ablaze. Men on horseback barked orders at warriors on foot who were beginning to torch the remaining homesteads.
Others were dragging the tribe’s women and even some of the children out into the open before tearing their clothing off them and raping them like beasts. The other more lucky children were simply hacked to pieces or flung into the fires of the burning steads. All the men of the tribe had been killed, that much was evident. It was no longer a fight or skirmish, it was the complete and utter cleansing of one tribe by another. Such things were not unheard of up here in the Northlands, but they were still not a very common occurrence.
Olaf stepped out of the tree line with little hestation and raised his greatsword in the air before bellowing a loud and rage fuelled curse at the warriors slaughtering his tribe. Vilgrid drew his hunting bow and let loose an arrow toward the camp. It smashed into a warrior’s face dropping him instantly. Vilgrid too let out a hateful war cry. Though it was less loud and thundering than his older brother’s, it still dripped with malice and rage.
The two of them charged out towards the nearest warriors followed closely by Ragnar who charged behind them before he even realised what he was doing. He was still too taken aback by the horrible sight before him to shout in rage, though pure and true barbarian rage coursed through his veins. Vilgrid let loose several more arrows, all of which found their mark, downing five warriors, a testament to his skill with a bow before he drew his own axe.
Ragnar had a short sword and his chopping axe clenched tight in his fists as he followed his brothers into the fight. They were all going to die. Ragnar knew this and accepted it. He was young but he was still brought up a Northman. His only desire now was to make his death cost as much as possible to the people who slaughtered his tribe. Olaf was the first to reach the warriors, somewhere along his charge he had taken an arrow to the shoulder. However, his rage was so gripping he did not even seem to notice it. He smashed into the first warrior with his shoulder knocking him flat onto his back with his momentum and sheer bulk. He swung his greatsword out in a wide arc disembowelling another man to his left.
‘Kord curse you bastards!’ he roared as he slew another man with his massive greatsword, nearly cleaving him completely in two.
By now Vilgrid had also reached the melee. He quickly swung down his axe and neatly decapitated the man who Olaf initially knocked over as he tried to regain his footing. Switftly sidestepping an incoming blow just in time he bashed his assailant’s brains out with his axe.
Olaf had killed two more men in this time but had also taken as many hits too. Another arrow lodged itself in his mid-section and he was now bleeding from a gash on his left leg. Despite this he still fought on like a raging bear, a testament to his namesake but it was clear his injuries were beginning to take their toll.
Ragnar had just now reached the fighting his shorter stride taking longer to cover the distance. While not as skilled as his brothers, he did manage to get his first kill. A large overweight man who sought out an easy kill in Ragnar stood before him taunting him. His mistake was in assuming the boy knew nothing about fighting a larger opponent. But growing up with two older brothers teaches you a few tricks from an early age.
Ragnar charged the man before swinging a high with his axe and the warrior fell for the bait, a lot like Olaf had what seemed like a lifetime ago now. Quickly dropping to one knee Ragnar shoved his sword up into the fools crotch, all the way to the hilt. The round warrior’s legs gave way and he let out a gurgle of pain before slumping over onto his side to bleed out in slient paralysing agony.
Ragnar pulled out his sword with slight difficulty and stared at the warm, slick and dark gore running down the blade, onto his hand and then dripping onto the ground before him. He had felt what it was like to take another man’s life, and he liked it, no, he loved it. He was overcome with a blooddrunkness and desperately sought to spill more.
Vilgrid was locked in a fight with a warrior so pale, it seemed his skin was made of snow and possessed no colour at all. Even his hair was as white as winter snow, with an equally white beard reaching from his chin to his chest. He wielded two hand axes and he opted to forgo wearing any armour, or clothing for that matter from the waist up.
The warrior had several cuts along his arms and chests which Vilgrid assumed he had gotten in the initial fight before the three brothers had arrived. Accompanying these cuts he also had many tattoos along his pale arms and chest which were just seemingly a bunch of random lines making no discernible pattern.
Vilgrid was on the defensive from the beginning. This warrior had come charging out of nowhere striking blow after blow at Vilgrid. Vilgrid had just about managed to dodge most of the attacks, however the last few managed to score glancing hits on his arms causing him to slow down fractionally.
The white warrior swung a wide swing with his left axe for Vilgrid’s head. Vilgrid’s keen senses had seen it coming a mile off. He moved to parry blow and planned to finish off this opponent with a swift kick to the groin and a slash along his throat. He parried the blow and was about to swing his kick when he felt a biting deep pain in his left ribs. He looked down to see the white warrior’s other axe buried deep into side of his chest. The left blow was a feint. He should have known.
He coughed up a mouthful of blood. This was it, he was going to die now. The white warrior then broke out a horribly sadistic smile. Vilgrid tried to muster up the strength to utter a final curse or even spit in his face but only just about found the strength to remain standing. The warrior then pulled the axe out of Vilgrid’s chest and Vilgrid’s legs buckled beneath him and he fell to his knees. The enemy loomed over him and flexed his shoulders. In one last effort, somehow Vilgrid managed to find the strength to spit bloody phlegm into his killer’s face, one last act of defiance. The other man simply smiled, and licked the blood and spit from around his lips. He swiftly raised both of his axes and brought them down into the side of Vilgrid’s neck and they bit deep down to his chest wound, cutting Vilgrid’s upper left quarter clean off.
The white warrior stood over Vilgrid’s split corpse and pulled out a blood crusted, but clearly razor sharp knife from a sheath on his belt. He then sliced a long cut across his chest similar to the other cuts and tattoos and simply whispered ‘Twelve’.
This was the exact number of fresh cuts on his body.
Olaf was thundering his way through the warriors towards the horsemen at the centre of the camp, leaving a bloody trail of severed limbs and broken corpses in his wake. By now he had taken another two arrows to his chest making a total of four arrows embedded in his body yet still he powered on. He swung his greatsword in a wide sweeping arc at several warriors in front of him, cutting clean through two warriors’ sides but getting lodged in a third’s abdomen.
Seeing a man with long red hair charging towards him he gave up his efforts of trying to dislodge the sword from the bleeding corpse in front of him. He pulled out his chopping axe and flung it straight into the onrushing man’s chest, knocking him flat onto his back. A fifth arrow hurdled straight toward him and embedded itself in his kneecap dropping him to one knee. A man tried to take advantage of this and rushed in to kill the absolute bear of a man that was Olaf once and for all, but Olaf had other ideas. He dodged a poorly aimed blow and grabbed the man by the neck in his huge hands before brutally crushing his windpipe and neck. He threw the convulsing warrior to the side and saw at last the damned bowman who had been a thorn in his side since the start of his valiant but ultimately doomed charge.
He was tall, slim and held himself rather elegantly.
Odd for a Northman to be standing with that pose Olaf thought.
The bowman drew another arrow and notched it in his abnormally long bow with a fluid grace as alien to Olaf as the man’s pose. The tribes of the Northlands only ever used short bows if at all. He let loose a sixth arrow straight into Olaf’s other kneecap with perfect precession.
This bastard is an even better shot the Vilgrid! Olaf thought, biting back a scream as pain flared through his leg.
Two blooddrunk warriors ran out from behind the bowman towards Olaf. When the first one reached Olaf he was greeted by a massive rock like fist to the gut which floored him, a little spittle and vomit coming out of his mouth. Olaf leaned over and snapped his neck like a child’s. He expected to feel the bite of a blade from the second man but it never came. He dragged himself back up to see the second man lying face down in the mud with an arrow in the back of his head.
Olaf looked confusedly at the bowman.
Had he just shot his own man? It made no sense to Olaf what had just happened.
The bowman gracefully walked over to Olaf, stopping just short of arm’s reach. He took off his helmet that had until now been hiding his identity. Olaf then realised why he was so odd in his stature, his bow and uncanny accuracy. He was elf-kin. Olaf was shocked. He heard stories of pointy-eared folk who lived for hundreds of years in distant lands from the Dwarves who visited the tribe. He believed they were just stories though. How could such creatures exist?
Olaf also realised that he was not a he, but a she. She was a female elf. She was the most beautiful creature Olaf had ever seen yet he despised the sight of her. She partook in the slaughter of his kin and for that he held nothing but loathing and scorn for her.
She spoke in a beautiful, soft and seductive voice. ‘A creature of such lesser blood I would never allow to steal my kill.’
Olaf bared his teeth in a snarl and spat, ‘You will pay for this you pointy-eared bitch; Kord will have my vengeance in this life or the next!’
The Elven woman laughed an oddly childish giggle before saying, ‘Humans, all the same you are.’
She then drew a seventh and final arrow and loosed point blank into Olaf’s forehead killing the Bear instantly, once and for all.
Ragnar saw the deaths of both his older brothers and the two warriors who slew them. He was filled with such overwhelming rage he carelessly charged the warriors in front of him. He threw his axe at one, burying it deep in his face before reaching the other men. However mighty and invincible Ragnar felt, he was still only a child of twelve winters and the warriors easily disarmed him, struck him on the side of the head and threw him savagely to the ground.
‘What should we do with this one Sven?’ asked one of them.
‘He’s mine’ said the one who was evidently Sven as he licked his lips. ‘Hold him down’ he added as he began to undo his pants.
Ragnar’s world then slowly darkened to oblivion as he slipped unconscious...