Chapter 1: chapter 1

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 58

Chapter 1 The Barrow

 

The fire did little to protect Skad from the wind and even less from the rain. Shivering, he waited for the water to boil in the cast iron pot he had placed upon the flickering coals. As the bubbles begun to form, Skad placed what was left of the Elk he killed the previous night into the water to cook. Absently he wished for the comfort of the fire pits in the warm and welcoming expanse of the long house back home in Varangia. His wounds caused him some pain but he judged the dressings would hold, at least until he could find a village to have them properly seen to. Glancing once again into the dark maw of the Barrow entrance he contemplated his situation. He had not seen another survivor of the Akkeri in the past two days, and was sure he was on his own. Secondly, without his brothers he doubted he would survive the trip down to meet the Hobgoblin chief just north of the Dark Wood. And why should he even try? His tribe had been forced into this damn war by the King of Varangia. The Ulfendein had no interest in this war, the only reason they agreed to support the invasion, was due to the unusually harsh winter that had swept through the birch and oak forests of Varangia's southern foothills. His clan had lost many of its men folk to the Jotunar when they came rampaging through his home in the shadow of the frost. Weakened and without the resources left to survive the coming winter, The Ulfendein had submitted to the Kings wishes to join the war effort. “Damn it all”, he cursed. He couldn’t simply return home; the Sea of Souls could not be conquered by a single warrior alone. Nor did he feel he owed the King anything. These Hobgoblin wretches started a war they could not finish without Varangia, hadn’t his people sacrificed enough already? The Ulfendein had always raided south, but invasion? He craved combat as much as the next warrior but his people were known for their lightning raids on coastal settlements, not full scale war.

 

A harsh cracking noise from the Barrow pulls him from his thoughts. His hand flies to the haft of a bearded axe at his waist and he spins to his feet. Crouching low, with the fire light at his back he closes his eyes and listens. The pop and crackle of fire and the low moan of wind is all that can be heard. Keeping eyes closed for a moment longer, to rid himself of the flare of fire light, he takes a deep breath. The smell of cooking elk, and the damp earth at his feet is all his nose affords.

 

 Slowly, opening eyes, he stares into the gloom of the Barrow, vision now adjusted to the dark depths on the entryway. Nothing but rubble and dirt meets his eyes in the dim light. Suddenly swift movement off to his left, just out of view resolves itself in the flash of steel. Bringing his axe haft up to deflect the overhead blow, Skad stumbles back, surprise on his face as he barely counters the attack on instinct alone. A keening screech follows the second downward strike as a figure dissolves out of the shadows. Dodging backwards Skad easily avoids the second strike as he realises what ambushed him. Walking towards him, menace shining in its fell eyes the Orc brings its sword up into a guard position, stinking breath fogging the night air in front of it. The two circle each other with weapons raised, eagerly looking for a moment to strike. Bellowing, the Orc charges forward. The slight telegraph of the hip was all Skad needed. Pivoting on his front foot, Skad narrowly avoids the third overhead strike at the very last second. Bringing is axe up and over in the same fluid motion, as he dodges to the side and catches to Orc in the side of the neck, just as its downward blow slices through the air of the space he stood just moments before. The orc stubbornly continues forward two more steps before slumping wetly to the ground, the fatal axe wound pumping warm vitae onto the damp ground beneath it.

 

Pacing back and forth, Skad cursed himself a fool. That was close. He knew he should have checked the outer sanctum of the Barrow when he arrived. Fatigue and hunger had made him careless. The words of his Skorungr echoed in his mind, “Always be aware of your surroundings welp, complacency can lead to death just as quickly as any sword strike”.

Skori was right. His stupidity had almost severed his thread. He began looking about himself for something to fashion into a workable torch. After a moment of rifling through a small wood pile next to the slowly weakening fire, he found a suitable branch. Tearing some cloth from his battered trousers, and covering it in animal fat from the remains of the nearby elk carcass, he fashioned himself a light source. Leaning down he emptied the water from his food pot containing the now over cooked elk and quickly consumed the dry fare before lighting the torch in the billowing coals. Armed with his axe and torch, with is hunger barely sated, Skad turned and slowly walked into the beckoning gloom of the outer sanctum.

 


Submitted: June 17, 2022

© Copyright 2022 Wade.A.Green. All rights reserved.

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