Featured Review on this writing by Oleg Roschin

The Bloody Quarrel

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
A bloody siege. A mysterious woman. An arduous Journey. Brandon and his companions are balls first into the bloody action again with yet another instalment of "The Bloody Saga."

*WARNING* Graphic content and Explicit language. Please read at your own discretion. x

Submitted: April 19, 2016

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Submitted: April 19, 2016

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The Bloody Quarrel

 

Tattered flags lay strewn about the grassy hillside decorated in the blood of the fallen. Brandon returned his sword to his hilt and attempted to wipe the still wet blood from his brow. Crimson smeared face, he gestured to his comrades toward the enemies that lay about - some already being picked apart by ravenous black birds – and let out a gaudy laugh. A few crows were ripping apart a Kalmarsan soldier’s eyeball nearby; an opaque substance oozed out of the gelatinous ball as it popped open under the pressure of the largest bird’s beak. The others cawed jealously as the triumphant bird flew to a neighbouring deadwood tree.

“Victory is ours, men!” He bellowed. His words echoed throughout the mountains and valleys surrounding Kalmarsa.

Unanimous cheers erupted as they thrust their weapons toward the sky, so that their gods might look down upon their bravery with pride. They firmly believed that a well fought battle would one day allow them safe passage into Tyrsgard where they could spend their eternity feasting at the great table and drinking copious amounts of ale.

The group of brave men barely suffered a scratch between them; the ones left standing anyway. Two had lost their lives, Calder and Brant, but that was a small price to pay. They had successfully ambushed the entire Kalmarsan army and slain two dozen of their finest men before they could even unsheathe their weapons. Their homes and buildings were set to the torch; beacons in the darkness as Brandon and his men moved swiftly door to door, ransacking every room and laying waste to every defenceless villager that lingered.

They deftly swept through the village decimating everything in sight; looting and pillaging until every saddlebag was bursting with gold, silver and jewels. Utgar bit down hard on one of the gold coins he looted from the body of a lifeless villager nearby and tossed it into his pouch. They came across him near a little village just South of Deltaire after they had won the battle there. He and a few of his ragged, Wilderfolk men saw opportunity – where there was none – and attempted to slaughter Brandon and his men. After we slaughtered his companions in cold blood, Utgar surrendered; he was thrown into the dungeons below the castle of Duskfield for a good many years before Lord Ulrik gave him the opportunity to fight alongside his army. Utgar had redeemed himself through many battles and became Brandon’s greatest friend, ally and a true asset to Ulrik.

“We came to the right place, Brandon.” He said, chuckling as he admired the fiery and bloody landscape before him. He let out a contented sigh and added, “I just love the smell of bloodshed in the evening.”

Brandon glanced at him, grinned and said, “You can take the Wilderfolk out of the wild –“

“But you can’t take the wild out of the Wilderfolk!” He exclaimed with robust laughter, grabbing Brandon spiritedly by the shoulder.

“As long as you are adding the song of your steel to our band of men, that’s all that matters Utgar.” He replied. Brandon grabbed his shiny blade and wiped the sticky, crimson liquid onto his cured leather pants as he added, “But we Wilderfolk sure know how to make our steel dance and sing!”

“Aye!” Utgar bellowed, in agreement.

Suddenly, two short undernourished young lads rounded the corner; they faltered when they caught sight of Brandon and Utgar, standing directly in front of them, their white fangs peeking out from behind blood-smeared faces as they grinned wildly. One young man held a steel hammer in his right hand, the other wielded a pitchfork.

Utgar stepped forward and bellowed, “What are you gonna do with that wee hammer, lad? Build yourself a casket?” He laughed maniacally as the young man rushed at him with his tiny hammer raised.

Side stepping him dexterously, he thrust his sword hard into the belly of the boy as he announced pragmatically, “That’s the thing with weapons, lad! You need one with a little more reach on it!” With the emphasis of the word reach, he yanked his sword upwards jubilantly, opening him from naval to nose. The other boy – barely older than his fifteenth name day – dropped his pitchfork and shakily put his hands up in surrender.

“Please don’t ‘urt me.” The boy whimpered.

“Aw lad, you spoil all my fun.” Utgar replied, pouting. He glanced at Brandon with one bushy, blood-stained eyebrow raised, “Should we take him back to Castle Duskfield? He could be of use to us.”

“Not like you to leave anyone vertical, Utgar! - The men and ladies alike.” Brandon commented, winking while performing a rude gesture.

“Aw hell,” Utgar responded. Without warning he raised his two handed sword and decapitated the young fellow with one deft swing. The poor young lad had no time to react at all – not that it would have done him any good. His head slid off his neck as if in slow motion; the permanently horrified face of the young boy fixed as the head rolled around in the dirt.

A few of Brandon’s men suddenly exited a nearby house, dragging a wildly protesting woman between them. She screamed and swore as she struggled against the collective strength of two of the men. The boy’s head stopped rolling around and rested with his gaping mouth and wide set eyes looking directly at Utgar and Brandon.

“Let me go!” The woman screamed, fighting with all her might against her captors.

“We found this bitch hiding under a bed, Brandon!” One of the men said. “Practically pissing in her night clothes, she was.” The other men laughed.

“Unhand me!” The woman yelled and bit the man to her left hard on the fleshy part of his right hand. The man growled in anger and backhanded the woman with such force that it left an open wound on her left cheek; the smallest amount of blood trickled out. She glared at him fiercely, spitting blood onto the dirt. “The only one who will be pissing in his bedclothes is you!”

Utgar stepped forward and licked the blood off her cheek as she continued to struggle against her restraints.

Her bust was spilling out of her partially opened corset and threatened to fall out completely as she leaned forward. The laces hung loosely drenched in someone’s blood – not hers. Her skin had a golden glow which was unusual for those parts and the current season. She had a slightly crooked nose, emerald green, almond shaped eyes under remarkably lengthy lashes and long, luxurious red hair that tumbled freely down to the top of her backside. Utgar admired her hungrily, smacking his bloodied lips in appreciation.

“Let me go, you fucking bastard!” She screamed, blood stained her otherwise white teeth.

“I like this one!” Utgar said, grinning and rubbing his large hands together. “Mind if I keep her?”

The man wrapping his injured hand in a bloody rag, known as Birger said, “Do what you want with her. Just take the bitch away from me before I open her sweet little throat.” She spat a mouthful of the man’s crimson liquid at the ground in front of him before snarling through bloodied teeth, “And I would gladly do it again!”

“She’s a keeper.” Brandon said, nodding at Utgar and laughing vehemently.

The men threw the woman at Utgar’s feet. Before she could utter a word in protest he scooped her up and tossed her over his broad shoulder. She was a long way from the ground as Utgar was not a short man - nor slender for that matter. He was barely an inch under seven foot and carried the weight of about three well fed villagers. Rumour had it when he was a Wilderfolk he used to eat them. Brandon grinned as he watched the exchange between Utgar and the mysterious woman.

“We should head back to the castle, Brandon.” One of the soldiers said.

“Yes. It will be dawn soon and there is nothing left here to raid after all.” Birger said.

“Except for this one’s panties!” Utgar roared as he cupped the red haired woman’s backside, giving it a firm squeeze. She swung her arms out in dissent but it was all for nought.

“Put me down!” She yelled, thrashing and flailing about in an effort to make him relinquish his colossal grip on her.

“Mmm!” Utgar hummed. “Feisty little one aren’t ya? Don’t worry lass. I like it rough!”

“Fuck off!” She snarled in response. “You better tie me up real tight - because that is the only way you will be getting anywhere near me without your little cock being cut off!”

“Aww, lass.” Another Duskfield soldier said, smirking. “Don’t give him any ideas!”

Utgar laughed and transferred the buxom, fiery haired woman to his other shoulder. “Oh I love a woman who knows how to talk dirty!” He scoffed, visibly amused.

“A - Another Villager!” cried Jannik suddenly. He was a young lad of about twenty five who was sent there under Lord Ulrik’s orders to ensure that Brandon didn’t fail his mission. No one liked him very much, least of all Utgar. Jannik was well known for poking his proboscis in Ulrik’s posterior. He was a short, tubby man with dark brown hair; beady, brown eyes that looked a little too close together and a small mouth that never stopped moving. He was also as craven as the days were long.

As the villager bounded towards them they all side stepped him and watched him rush directly at Jannik, sending him hurling backwards and hitting the ground with a loud thud. Utgar watched eagerly as the tubby little brown-noser struggled against the villager.

“You know, we could just let him die.” He said.

“H – Help me!” Cried Jannik.

“No one would miss him.” Utgar added, nonchalantly while chewing on a bloody fingernail.

“Help me you fools!” Jannik grunted as he continued to struggle.

“Oh pipe down, Jannik!” Brandon bellowed, motioning for Utgar to go to Jannik’s aid.

 “Fucking weakling.” Utgar mumbled as he grabbed a fistful of the villagers shoulder length hair and yanked him to his feet effortlessly. Pulling out his dagger – kept in his belt for situations such as these – he ran the sharp blade over the villager’s neck and opened him up from ear to ear. Blood spewed out of the nasty gash and all over Jannik. The men laughed and pointed as Jannik coughed and sputtered. Soaked head to toe in the man’s lifeblood, Jannik slipped over while trying to clamber to his feet and fell hard on his rotund rump again.

“I could have your heads for this!” He cried, slipping over again and again in the sticky fluid.

“Try it Jannik.” Snarled Utgar as he reached for his two handed sword with his free hand. “See what happens if you do.”

“Lord Ulrik will know about this!” He hissed, as he finally managed to return to his feet.

“Not if you are dead, he won’t!” Utgar retorted.

“You wouldn’t dare!” Jannik said indignantly.

The men cringed at his famous last words. Anyone who challenged Utgar most certainly never lived to talk about it. He did not take kindly to being mocked and it was also no secret that he was waiting for an opportunity to shut Jannik up permanently. He raised his sword and swung it at Jannik’s head. The familiar sound of sharp steel rending flesh and severing bone echoed through the darkness. Jannik tried to put his arms up to defend himself – little good that did. The blade cut through his forearms and neck like they were made of soft cheese. They too slid off his body as if in slow motion and landed with a sickening thud against the ground. His features twisted and warped forever by utter fear and surprise as his head rolled before coming to a stop in the dirt. His lifeless body fell slowly to the floor and landed on top of his amputated arms. Utgar picked up the decapitated head, kissed it on the lips and sent it sailing over the thatched rooftops to the East. They left the rest of Jannik’s body on the dirt and headed west out of Kalmarsa.

They trundled along the road that would take them through the Eydris Mountains, along the Troels River and toward home, Duskfield. They would see five consecutive setting suns before they reached the Castle. Their journey home was gruelling as it was lengthy; it involved trudging across rugged terrain and wading waist deep through churning waters. Brandon knew the lands well as he had spent almost half of their lives in the South. Utgar had too, but he was in a different Wilderfolk tribe to the one Brandon had grown up in. Brandon often thought about the people he had to leave behind. He missed Magda and Deidra the most; their countless old wives tales and stories about several dozen generations of notorious Wilderfolk men and women. He only wished he knew who his parents were. Being a bastard son of unknown origins haunted him every day and invaded his dreams at night. His mother may have been a whore and his father a drifter but that didn’t stop him from wanting to find out the truth about them – about him.

Utgar interrupted Brandon’s thoughts with his booming voice, “Are you reminiscing again, Brandon?”

Brandon looked at him for a moment then turned his gaze toward the river.

“It will do you no good to reflect on such things.” He continued as he bit off a chunk of hard cheese. “You are in a good place now in any case. You can’t tell me that you lived better as a Wilderfolk than you do at Castle Duskfield. You are a gnat’s cock away from having Lady Eira as your bride and then you will become Lord of Duskfield. Lord Ulrik will not refuse you once we return successful.”

“And loaded with riches,” Birger added, grabbing an apple from his saddlebag and taking a huge bite.

The red headed woman who hadn’t spoken in many hours suddenly said, “The way you speak of women is disgusting. Anyone who would willingly give herself to you should have her head examined.”

“Good thing I don’t want you for your head.” Utgar said, grinning while eyeing off her bust.

She rolled her eyes and became silent again. She sat poised atop Utgar’s horse; her hands were tied behind her back with hemp rope. She let out a sigh of frustration and cast her eyes towards the mountains. Utgar slid his hand up her skirts and attempted to cop a feel of her quim. She kicked out at him and he laughed, reluctantly pulling back his hand. The fact that she fought him at every turn was only turning him on more. Utgar loved a challenge.

“Two more days until we arrive at the Castle.” Birger said, tossing his apple core to the roadside. “Might be rain though. Possibly a storm.”

“Aye,” added Felman. “The clouds coming in from the East look like they might have some thunder in them…”

“We could always stop at a nearby town. Grab some supplies, some women and some beds for the night?” Birger suggested.

“I got my woman right here.” Utgar growled, huskily while winking at his newfound lady friend.

“I am not your woman, sir.” She spat through perfectly straight, white teeth. “Nor am I your play thing. And I can assure you, that should you happen to untie me you will not have the opportunity at bedding another female in your lifetime.”

“You will warm to me.” Utgar responded, smiling; a twinkle in his piercing blue eyes. His beard was still covered in blood and slightly matted. Brandon had never seen Utgar quite so infatuated with a woman before. Usually he bedded them and tossed them out like the contents of a pauper’s excrement bucket. Perhaps it was largely due to the fact that most women fell at his knees; he was not used to such rejection. The mysterious woman was a challenge for him. Intriguing as she was beautiful but Brandon was wary of her and the effects she may have on his long-time companion and friend.

They trudged up the dirt road for another hour before coming to a small wooden building. After fixing their horses to a wooden structure outside they headed indoors and out of the downpour. Utgar plucked his scarlet woman off his horse and carried her over the threshold. She had stopped fighting at this point. Perhaps tired. Perhaps conserving her energy should the opportunity for escape present itself to her.

They ordered two rounds of ale and sat down at a nearby table. A waitress appeared with a slab of roasted deer, some fresh cheese, a large chunk of bread and various platters of fresh vegetables. Two more waitresses appeared carrying several jugs of ale which they placed on the table before the group of dampened, rugged-looking men. Utgar offered some of the roast deer to his woman and she chewed at it hungrily. The men were all starving and dug in with their bare hands – half-dried, half moist blood and all. Within twenty minutes the table was bare and the jugs of ale emptied.

A young boy arrived and ushered them upstairs towards the ready-made rooms. Each of the men took a bed and slept contentedly with bellies full. They had not eaten nor slept in more than three days so they welcomed some rest whole-heartedly.

The following morning Brandon woke suddenly to the sound of Utgar’s booming voice. “Back here, wench!”

“I will not let you take me, you bastard!”

Brandon ran out into the hall and saw the woman dancing around Utgar wielding his dagger. Utgar stood in front of her blocking her exit. “Woman, you cannot best me.” He growled.

“I managed to get this far, didn’t I?” She exclaimed, triumphantly.

“And you shall get no further!” He roared.

She leapt at him ferociously, extended her right arm out and as she came down toward the ground she struck the left side of his face, opening a nice little gash from his forehead to chin, narrowly missing his eye. She landed skilfully and spun on her heels, slashing out again this time at his belly. He dodged the blade the second time around and grabbed her by the throat, lifting her a good two foot off the floor as he pried the dagger out of her hand.

Birger appeared in the doorway of his room, taking in the exchange while he devoured another apple. “Who the fuck is this bitch?”

“Yes, just how did she best you, Utgar?” Felman added.

Utgar deposited the dagger back into his belt and smeared the blood from his latest wound onto his leather wrist guard. His fresh bloodied appearance mixed with the dried blood from the siege of Kalmarsa made him look positively maniacal. He ignored Felman and dropped the lady to the floor whereby he tied her wrists and ankles together and as a last measure bound her to a nearby wooden beam. When he was satisfied she would not be able to move an inch he turned to Brandon. “Make sure she doesn’t move. I need to bathe,” he said through gritted teeth.

Utgar headed off to the wash house while Brandon stood staring at the tethered lady. “You would do well to learn that no one challenges Utgar and lives…”

“And yet here I am. Still very much alive, Brandon.”

“So you know of my name, but I do not yet know of yours.”

“It is of little importance to you and your men who I am or what my name is,” she responded, fidgeting against the ropes.

“Maybe so, but I feel like we should at least be acquainted, since you are to return to Castle Duskfield with us.”

“I don’t plan on returning anywhere with any of you.” She retorted. “My name is Lady Nairi of the Southern Islands. My people will be awaiting my return and when I don’t arrive they will send for me.”

“I am not worried about people. I have bested plenty of them in my lifetime – inexperienced and skilled alike – it makes no difference to me. They still wind up dead.”

“Oh but you see,” she hissed, her eyes narrowing at me, “We have something your people do not, Brandon.”

“And what is that, Lady Nairi?”

“All in good time.” She said slyly, cocking her head at him. “Ladies do not reveal their secrets all at once. You should be satisfied with my name…for now.”

Utgar stepped out into hallway. He took one look at Brandon and muttered, “What?” Pausing for a moment, Utgar scanned Brandon’s face before he resumed towel drying his facial hair.

“She is all yours…” Brandon said shaking his head as he headed towards his room to retrieve his belongings. Brandon didn’t pay heed to her words. If she had something up her sleeve she would have escaped Utgar and been long gone by now. The fact that she still remained with them suggested that she was merely bluffing.

 “You ought to put that bitch on a tighter leash!” Birger said, snickering. Lady Nairi scowled at him.

“Alright,” Brandon said, picking up his rucksack. “We best be off. We have at least another two days journey ahead of us.”

“Aye!” exclaimed Utgar, untying Nairi from the pole and pitching her over his shoulder.

Utgar tossed a pouch of gold coins on the counter and the group headed outside. Brandon tied his rucksack to his horse and they all headed north. The storm had turned the river into a tumultuous stretch of raging water. They had no way around it that wouldn’t add extra at least a couple of extra days to their journey.

“Can we go around it?” Birger called over the sound of the burbling brook.

“That would add another two days to our trip at least.” Felman responded.

“We could just wade through it.” Utgar said.

“Easy for you to say, Utgar. You’re part giant.”

“Felman,” Brandon yelled. “Grab me that rope over there!” Felman unhooked the large rope from a steed close to him and tossed it over. “We will attach ourselves to it and pass through the water single file. Our steeds will walk beside us and give us extra support against the current.”

One by one they joined themselves to the rope with a simple knot around their waists and began moving steadily through the river. The horses whinnied in complaint but with a little coaxing were led through the churning waters. The current was strong but they made it to the other side relatively unscathed; soaked to the bone from the waist down and hungry but nevertheless they pushed forward. On and on they went through the mud, over rocky hills following the river north towards Duskfield.

After several hours they came upon a rather secluded area surrounded by hills on either side somewhat hidden under a canopy of Willow trees. As they rounded the first hill the area opened up to reveal a small stream that surged over smooth stones down a small waterfall and into a deep waterhole. The water was entirely translucent, little silver fish were darting this way and that underneath scarce waterlilies and colourful stones. Brandon crouched in front of the stream, scooped cool water into his cupped hands and gulped enthusiastically.

Weary and exhausted from the day’s journey they unpacked the horses and set up camp for the night.

“Birger, gather some firewood. Felman, take Holger and forage for some food. There are plenty of wild boar and stag in these parts.”

“Aye!” They said in unison and darted off towards the forest.

The sun had disappeared before the men finally returned. Birger arrived first with an armload of firewood and kindling. Felman and Holger appeared about an hour later with two rabbits, a wild boar and a large stag between them. Utgar put the meat on a makeshift spit roast while everyone else sat around the fire, drying their clothes and boasting about individual feats of combat and prowess.

Finally the sun disappeared behind the horizon to reveal an evening sky adorned with scattered stars that gleamed like diamonds. They rested their fatigued bodies until morning light.

The fire had died down leaving only ash and embers. Brandon roused the men loudly. “Time to wake up, lads!” His commanding voice echoed off the surrounding hills. “We have another day of travel left and I am eager to get home as I am sure you all are.”

“If you need to piss now is the time!” Yelled Utgar, as he flopped his cock out and extinguished the remaining embers with a steady stream of urine. Steam rose up from the dying cinders with a hiss.

“How vulgar!” Said Nairi, shaking her head in disgust. Utgar turned his body ninety degrees and continued to urinate right at her feet. “Ew!!” She squealed as she tried to move her rope-bound feet out of the line of fire.

“Quiet woman!” He grumbled as he shook his large, flaccid member and put it back in his pants.

The rest of the journey went on with relative ease until they happened upon a small group of bandits approaching the fork in the road ahead from the North West. Their already unsheathed weapons glistened in the sunlight.

“Brandon,” Felman whispered. “It’s unusual for bandits to attack during the day. What could they possibly want with us?”

Utgar stepped closer and said, “What manner of desperation would overcome their fear of impending death? We have twice their numbers.”

“I suppose we should find out.” Brandon responded. The bandits continued to walk toward Brandon and his men until they were less than two sword lengths from Utgar’s blade. All of them were dressed in tight cured leathers complete with cuffs and laced boots. Each one held a dagger and carried a stave on their back. The one in the middle who appeared to be their leader, spoke first. “That’s a fine companion you got there.” He announced, motioning with his head in Utgar’s direction.

Utgar put a hand on his chest and raised an eyebrow at the man. The man replied, “No. Not you. Her.”

“What do you want with the girl?” Brandon enquired.

“That is none of your concern.” He said, picking the dirt out from under his fingernails with the tip of his dagger. “You best give her to us and you can be on your merry way.”

Brandon turned to the scarlet haired woman and interrogated her. “What do these men want with you?”

“I did nothing to them that they didn’t deserve.” She retorted.

“You killed half my men!!” The head bandit spat furiously.

“Your MEN tried to rape me. They got off lightly.” She said, unemotionally.

“I don’t give a fuck what they did to you. You killed my men. I deserve to be compensated.”

“Wait…” Utgar said, evidently gobsmacked. “She killed HALF your men…on her own?”

“She managed to get out of her shackles and took out half of our men while they lay sleeping in their tents, stole a horse and rode off into the night…” Another bandit muttered.

“Not all of them were sleeping.” She said, glancing at him. “Some were too busy trying to enter me. They were the first to die. The first one had his cock cut off with his own dagger while he was trying to force his way into me. The second one I strangled with my chains. It was fun watching him turn from red to purple as he struggled to fill his lungs. The third one having watched his companions die was somewhat of a challenge but not out of the realm of possibility. I swept his legs out from under him with a swift kick, grabbed his dual swords that lay resting nearby and pinned him against a nearby wooden beam, one through his left eye socket and one through his balls. He was a bleeder, that one.”

“You little bitch!” The bandit yelled, stepping forward; his companions following closely behind him. “She is ours! Now hand her over!”

“That won’t be happening,” growled Utgar. “The girl belongs to me!”

With that the bandits charged at them weapons raised. The one to the far left rushed straight at Brandon screaming obscenities and slashing outwards with his tiny dagger. He deflected his attack effortlessly. The sound of steel on steel reverberated throughout the land as each of them took up arms against the bandits. The man tried to strike at Brandon again; Brandon side stepped him dextrously, grabbed his arm, twisted it and came down hard on his elbow with his free hand. He let out a blood-curdling scream as the bone snapped and the tendons ripped. The bandit dropped to the floor cradling his broken arm and writhing in agony.

Utgar had two men to himself as they went directly for the red head. He pushed one over in the mud by his face and in the time it took the bandit to get to his feet, Utgar’s large sword was already in the belly of the second man. Heaving his body off the ground by the swords handle, he roared in his victim’s face as the man coughed and choked on his own blood. The other bandit slashed a hole in Utgar’s leather vest barely scratching the skin beneath. He retrieved his two handed sword, letting the skewered fellow fall lifelessly to the dirt and, with one fluent motion he opened up a horizontal incision in the other lad’s abdomen. The bandit screamed shrilly, hysterically trying to catch his slippery intestines and stuff them back in.

Felman came from behind out of nowhere and sliced his throat open to put an abrupt end to the bandits suffering. The blood spewed out of the gaping hole turning the dirt below into reddish brown mud.

Holger put a quick end to another bandit nearby with a crossbow; the bolt soared through the air from about ten feet away, impaling his eyeball and embedding itself in a deadwood tree another five feet behind him. The bandit dropped to the floor limply as he fingered his eye socket in shock.  

A bandit had managed to flank them and was attempting to pull Nairi off Utgar’s steed. Nairi, being defenceless as she was still trussed, screamed out for help and tried to shimmy further onto the horses back as the bandit yanked her by the legs.

“What part of ‘SHE IS MINE’ don’t you get?!” Utgar roared, as he grabbed Nairi from the other side of the horse and slashed at her ropes, freeing her. “Don’t make me regret this, wench!” He added.

She winked at him, produced a rather large dagger from somewhere under her skirts and pole-vaulted over the horses back landing deftly on the bandit’s shoulders. Quick as a flash she raised the dagger with both hands, driving it through his skull with such force that it exited his chin. She let out a guttural war cry of pure adulterated blood lust as she rode his lifeless body to the ground. Bandit’s bodies dropped like flies all around them.

The man with the broken arm was trying desperately to drag his sorry carcass out of harm’s way to a nearby field. Holger loaded another bolt into his crossbow and fired it at the escapee hitting him directly in the back of his head. He ceased to move after that.

Only the leader of the group remained. After seeing all his companions succumb to a permanent slumber he raised his hands in surrender. Brandon toward the remaining bandit; the defeated man kneeled before him and hung his head. Brandon reefed his arms behind his back and lashed his wrists together with a leather strap. His hair was wet and matted with sweat and hung limply just above his shoulders.

“Haha!” Utgar bellowed, amused. “I told you we wouldn’t be handing her over.”

“I surrender!” He whimpered, his body covered in various cuts and scrapes. “Please don’t hurt me. I’m begging you. Have mercy!”

Nairi sauntered toward him while wiping the fresh blood from her dagger onto her skirt. “Mercy? I don’t recall you or your people giving me any mercy when you forced me to beg for it.”

“I – I’m sorry…” said the cowardly bandit.

“Not so tough now, are you?” Utgar added. “What should we do with him, Brandon?”

Brandon looked at Nairi scanning her beautiful, battle hardened face. “I think Nairi should have the final say given the circumstances. Don’t you?” Nairi returned Brandon a genuine smile for the first time since they came upon her in Kalmarsa. Utgar turned his sword point down and leaned on the pommel with both hands watching curiously. She stepped forward, crouching in front of the bandit. “Dagmar, is it?”

“Y – Yes ma’am.” He stammered.

“Ma’am, huh?” She turned toward Utgar and said, “It’s rather uncanny how men can be so polite when their very lives hang in the balance, don’t you think?” She didn’t wait for an answer from anyone. “If they had just been polite from the beginning they would not end up in this mess, now would they, Dagmar?” She returned her fierce eyes toward the bruised bandit.

“N – No ma’am…” He stuttered, through bloody lips and yellow teeth.

“See this dagger here, Dagmar?” She said, turning it around in her delicate, sun kissed hands.

“Y- Yes ma’am?” Sweat rolled down the sides of his face and made salty little pools in the folds of his leather vest.

“Well, her name is Yvette. She has been by my side since I was six years old and she doesn’t appreciate what you and your men did to me.”

“I – I’m sorry.”

“Oh I am sure you are, Dagmar.” Nairi said as she tapped her dagger against her other hand. “But you see, Yvette wants to return the favour.”

Nobody moved as Nairi pulled Dagmar’s head back by a handful of his hair and said, “Now what was it you said to me? Ah! That’s right! Open wide, bitch!”

He pursed his lips together in an effort to keep her out but she cut through them, forcing the dagger in and out of his mouth. Faster and deeper Yvette penetrated him. He tried to scream but couldn’t as the dagger entirely filled his mouth. She slashed and cut in an abstractly macabre fashion as his butchered mouth became Yvette’s bitch. Blood spurted and spewed out of his shredded face hole soaking him in his own bodily fluids. “Mmm, that’s it. The wetter the better, right?!”

Utgar mumbled something to Brandon; it fell on deaf ears as Brandon stood glued to the exchange between Nairi and Dagmar.

“You like the way that feels, Dagmar?” She continued, blade fucking his face hole until it was no longer recognisable. No one moved. Suddenly it was all over. She stood and wiped her blade clean, housing it back under her skirts. Without saying a word she returned to Utgar’s steed and climbed upon its back.

Utgar looked at Brandon utterly astonished as Nairi struck her heels against the horse’s side spurring the horse to move forward with a click of her tongue.

“I guess we are moving again.” Brandon said as they continued north in mutual silence. It was at least half an hour before anyone spoke.

“That was uh…impressive…back there.” Utgar said to Nairi.

“They got what was coming to them.” She responded, glancing sideways at Utgar. One corner of her mouth crept upwards revealing half a smile.

“What is your deal, anyways?” Birger asked her.

“Not referring to me as bitch anymore, Birger?” She quizzed him, eyebrow raised. She smiled through pursed red lips and stifled a laugh.

“Well, it’s just that…” Birger struggled to find the words. “Y – You’re a mad woman. I mean, we’re mad too, but you…you’re a different kind of mad. I have never seen anything like that before. Not even from these two…” He said gesturing towards Utgar and Brandon. “…and they were born Wilderfolk.”

“She has you filling your leathers, Birger!” Utgar scoffed; most of the men bellowed with laughter. Birger looked around rather sheepishly.

“Well I am no Wilderfolk.” She said, smoothing her skirts down while she sat regally upon the steed. “What I am is a Lady of the South – The Summer Islands. We are born with fire and courage in our blood.”

“So the stories are true then…?” Holger asked.

“Stories?” She retorted. “Oh yes. My people live to fight. It is what we were born to do. We consider it a great honour to die on the battlefield. We share that thing in common, your people and my people, no?”

Brandon nodded. Nairi continued, “On our thirteenth name day we are required to perform several trials in front of all the Summer Island residents; nobles, servants and peasants alike. Trial by unarmed combat, trial by combat with various weapons and a trial of magic against an experienced Summer Island Sorcerer. Those that succeed, live. Those that don’t either die during a trial if they are lucky, or are fed to the lions, alive.”

“So you were required to undergo these trials on your thirteenth name day also? As a young girl?” Holger asked, stunned.

“I don’t think what she has between her legs and hanging off her chest has anything to do with it.” Said Birger. “You’ve all seen what she can do!”

“No.” She responded simply, smiling smugly at Birger. “I am of noble descent. I am required to do nothing I do not wish to do. I volunteered. My mother protested fervently but my father who had been secretly training me to fight since I was old enough to walk allowed me to partake. And as you can see…” She said, gesturing to herself.

“You’re still here.” Brandon said.

“Indeed, Brandon.” She replied, grinning.

“Why are you still here…” Utgar suddenly said. “With us I mean?”

“What can I say, Utgar.” She said, flashing her pearly whites at him. “I have warmed to you.”

Brandon had never in all his years having known Utgar, seen a woman make him blush before. She laughed throatily as his cheeks flushed with colour and said, “Besides, I do love a good challenge.”

“The two of you are a match made in Tyrsgard.” Said Felman, chuckling.

“The faith of my people does not involve Tyrsgard.” Nairi said, matter-of-factly. “Our gods are born of stars and after our passing we arrive at the gates of Nevaeh to ask for safe passage. If we have lived a good life; a humble life, we are allowed to move beyond the gates and spend our hereafter in the kingdom of Nevaeh.

“And the ones that don’t get accepted?” Brandon asked.

“They either become trapped in purgatory or cast down to Lleh where they are sodomised and tortured relentlessly.” She shrugged.

“Sounds savage.” Holger stated.

“It is what it is.” Nairi replied, indifferently.

Several more hours passed before they reached the gates of Duskfield. People stopped what they were doing as the bloodied entourage tramped along leaving dozens of fresh imprints in the mud. Their horses whinnied and nickered as they led them toward the stables. The stable master ran to fetch some more hay and fill the trough with buckets of fresh water. After the horses were lashed to their hitching posts the men and Nairi headed to the Castle.

Lord Ulrik was sitting on his throne at the far centre of the great hall holding council as they entered through the large double doors. A young woman dressed in fine clothes stood in front of him with an offering of plump chickens freshly slaughtered and plucked. As he gracefully accepted the chickens he looked up and noticed that his men – most of them - had returned from battle. He clapped his hands together eagerly.

“Council is now over. Thank you all for coming.” He exclaimed.

He signalled for two of his guards to lead the remaining queue of people out of the great hall. When the last person had exited, the guards shut the doors with a loud bang.

“So I see you have returned, Brandon.”

“Yes, my Lord.” He said, stepping forward. “And we have brought you many riches.”

Brandon motioned for the men to place the bulging bags in front of Ulrik; at least a dozen bags bursting with gold, silver, jewels and various other riches. He picked up a gold coin that had fallen out of one of the bags and bit down hard.

“Haha! My boy!” He announced jovially, his words echoing around the room. “Hasn’t he done well, Eira?” He added, as Eira skipped into view; her long brown curls dancing about as she moved. Eira looked at Brandon and smiled that cherry lipped smile of hers while swaying side to side.

Ulrik looked around at the men standing to Brandon’s left and right, his eyebrows furrowed.

“But where is Jannik?” He asked.

“Jannik had the unfortunate displeasure of greeting a villager’s dagger, pointy end first.” Utgar announced, coolly.

“Oh that IS most unfortunate.” Responded Ulrik, tisking.

“Calder and Brant also lost their lives during the siege, my Lord.”

“Calder and Brant, you say?” He asked. “I don’t suppose you managed to bring their bodies back?”

“No sir.” Holger chimed in. “We didn’t.”

“Yes, yes I suppose not.” Ulrik responded, giving it some thought. “Given the distance you had to travel, I expect they would have been too decomposed by the time you returned home…”

Brandon nodded and cast a sideways glance at Utgar. It appeared to go completely unnoticed by Ulrik.

“No matter!” Lord Ulrik called suddenly. “We will still carry out a funeral pyre at nightfall in their honour.”

Ulrik rose to his feet and walked toward Brandon, his heavy, black cloak dragging along the stone floor behind him. Placing his hands on Brandon’s shoulders he stared at him for some time before his lips curled up into a smile. “My boy!” He said. “As your mission was a success…”

“Father?” Eira questioned, arriving at her father’s side. He looked at her for a moment, smiled and returned his eyes to Brandon.

“…And a promise is a promise…”

As if reading her father’s mind Eira ran toward Brandon and threw her arms around his shoulders, almost bowling over her father who stood in the way. She squealed excitedly, thanking her father repeatedly.

He chuckled, adding, “Well it seems she isn’t unhappy about it at all.”

“Thank you, father.” She said, releasing her grip on Brandon momentarily to hug her father tightly.

Lord Ulrik seemed to suddenly notice the new female companion, Nairi. “And who is this beautiful creature?”

“I am Lady Nairi, of the Summer Islands.” She introduced herself, curtsying.

“The pleasure is all mine,” Lord Ulrik replied fondly as he kissed her hand. “Is she another of my treasures?” He added, optimistically.

“As flattered as I am,” Nairi responded, politely. “I belong to no one.”

“Spirited young lass.” He said humming. “You will fit in here. You are welcome to stay with us for as long as you like.”

“I thank you for your hospitality.” She said, curtsying again before returning to Utgar’s side. Utgar smiled, blushing.

“Now, you men must be tired and hungry, no?” Ulrik announced.

They nodded enthusiastically. “Yes. I imagine you are.” He called several servants in and gave them separate orders. “Take these men to the wash house and make sure the water is clean and hot.”

“Thanks, my Lord.” Brandon said, as he kissed Lady Eira on the cheek.

“And when you return there shall be a tremendous feast!” He added loudly, clapping his hands together as the remaining servants disappeared into the kitchen to prepare some nourishment.

Several hours had passed. When they had their fill of food they all headed out into the warm, dusk air with their jugs of ale. Several able bodied men constructed the funeral pyre as the sun set to the west. Holger dipped a hickory bark torch in oil and set it alight. He walked full circle, touching the base of the pyre with the lit torch. The flames began to lick the wooden structure with eager tongues, popping and crackling as it devoured the combustible material. Sparks rose up into the sky as the fire consumed the pyre sending it crashing toward the ground in a mess of flaming branches and glowing embers.

The night was done. The men were spent. Brandon downed the last of his ale and headed to his room. Sleep greeted him with open arms as he rested his weary head on his feather down pillow. He slept peacefully for the first time in almost two weeks, greeted by dreams of his beautiful Eira.

 

 


© Copyright 2017 H D Cooper. All rights reserved.

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