Tis very late, but I cannot sleep without appeasing the wolf.
Shadow Wolf is my weekly serial, here is the first post.
Here is last week’s post if you missed it.
“He may not believe you Ragnar Grimfang, but I do,” said Thyra Hurnsdottir.
I turned, feeling a chill run down my spine. Thyra Hurnsdottir had not changed very much since we’d last met. She was tall, well-built, and eagle-eyed. Her hair was hidden by her helm, but I knew there was no grey in those red-blonde locks, even though nearly four decades had passed. I could almost picture her covered in mud and gore like that day on the Spearmarch, the day when I died my first death.
For a moment I was there on the field again. I could feel the ground shaking as the enemy charged. So many. Who could have though that a small forest could have disgorged such a blood-feast? The king, the High King of all the North, refused to run. Weather old Sigurd decided to hold his ground out of stubborn pride or to buy time for his family to escape I could not say. I was sworn to hold at his side. I saw my death coming in that screaming horde, Skraelings and murder wights, and muttered a quick prayer to Skygge and Garm.
We met them head on, charging into the onrushing horde. Thyra was beside me. At first we made great headway. Sigurd and his Carls clove into the screaming, frenzied Skraelings, seemingly unstoppable. Bright blades rose and fell, red with blood. The air was thick with the war-shouts of the North and muttered oaths to the gods of my people. It watched a murder wight, fearsome and fell-handed come upon the High King in battle, swinging a dread blade. Old Sigurd caught that terrible sword on his own and struck the wight’s head from its shoulders in a single blow. It was glorious. For that one moment we felt as if we could do anything. I howled and I heard Thyra screaming next to me. Our weapons were light as air, our armour was unbreakable. We pushed on, full of red joy.
And then the tip of our wedge broke. I saw a shadow behind the High King and then he was gone. The tip of our spear was blunted. We began to falter. The remaining murder wights rallied the Skraelings driving them into. The pushed into our lines like blizzard winds through an old barn. The line disintegrated. Men went down. For every Skraeling we killed two more took its place. We fought in knots, then pairs, then finally alone. The tide of bodies drew me away from Thyra and I watched hopelessly as a murder wight came upon her, brandishing a black sword in one hand and the heads of the fallen in the other. I tried to push my way to her, hacking, spitting, cursing. I went berserk, lost myself in the battle-rage and that is all that I remember.
Thyra made her name on the field that day. Where most were killed or cursed, she stood her ground and became a legend. The saga of Thyra Hurnsdottir and the band of ten and how they held the High Kings body until reinforcements came is well known. They were they only survivors of the Kingslaying at Spearmarch not executed or exiled. Such were their deeds.
“Thyra,” I said, looking down.
“Let us not be maudlin, old wolf,” said Thyra. “I have followed rumours of the Devout to this port. I take it as a good sign that you are here to lead me to them. Come now, my spear thirsts!”