Thor’s Day Alert #17: SOTN Excerpt — the end of the battle
Happy Thor’s Day, everybody! Today I’m happy to present the conclusion of an excerpt from my novel, STORM OF THE NORTH. You can read the beginning of this chapter by following this link.
“Easy now!” Captain Soren shouted with his approach. “Slow it down!”
Though difficult, Onund shortened his stride. Ahead, he could see the left end of their line far outstripping the pace where he marched in the middle. But his slowed gait didn’t last long. Suddenly, the line developed a left-flowing current, in which Onund found himself more sidestepping than advancing. The current flowed faster, whipping him past Captain Soren.
“Break!” Onund heard him yell, and again a moment later, “and here! Go help the archer!”
Onund looked over his shoulder and found himself barely 10 men away from the right end of a distinct new line. He saw a couple dozen Nordmen running toward the shore and Keldan. Of the original Nordheim line, less than a third — perhaps only a quarter — remained in place, these locked in bitter battle and faring ever worse with the Juts pressing and spreading from both front and rear.
Captain Soren sounded his horn, its blast as bright and strong as the sun’s rays now lancing over the mountains at the fjord’s eastern end. At this signal, the left and leading end of his new line slowed to a halt, their action filtering quickly down to the right end and Onund.
The line snapped taught and still. So too the ynkrygg chant.
Onund took a breath.
Captain Soren’s horn rang out again.
Onund charged, one with the line, as their battle cry sounded atop the hill — just as the Juts’ had at the outset of the battle. The echo of their great, fjord-filling yell quickly succumbed to the resounding crash of arms.
The Juts hadn’t turned loose of the surviving Nordheim warriors in time to form any kind of solid shield wall. Onund, shield edges tight between two others, hit a man hard enough to throw him backward through the air. Shield and sword a-flail, the Jut landed, impaled on a spear thrust from an isle of Nordmen who had probably become all too familiar with his face. And this wasn’t the only enemy who met his fate ignobly flung so like a sackcloth doll against a briar.
Thus Onund and the line overran that of the original Jutviks. Too exhausted to cheer or even smile in happy relief, the Nordmen with whom they came face to face dropped and crawled to safety behind their liberators’ wall.
With half of the wide circle remaining and on the verge of collapse, Onund, again as one with his line, yelled and veritably swam over the backs of tired Nordmen to reach their enemy.
Leaping, Onund brought his axe down with all his might. He smashed through upraised shield and arm en route to planting a sharp, steely kiss square on the chin of a frightened Jut. Onund hit the ground in a shower of his vanquished’s broken teeth and blood. Finding safe footing between the warrior brethren he had come to save, he wasted no time in clubbing, cutting, and mauling as many men as he could. If a curious strength had carried him and his line-men to this point, a vengeful thirst fueled them now.
They fought in a crimson rain and, soon enough, the screams of the dying were nothing compared to howling pleas for merciful surrender. None was granted.
Finally, the soaking red ran only on the ground, it glistening fresh and new under the morning sun as if nothing more than puddles after a squall.
Onund administered a deathblow to a cringing Jut who, blue-eyed and fair-haired, looked more like a Nordman than an enemy. Turning away from this, his last kill, Onund spied Keldan at the shore. He slogged toward him through deep grass now bent with blood. His leggings clung to him, sticky with gore and sweat and feeling as suddenly heavy as his head. He could hardly grip his great-axe for the blood draining out of the links of his mail sleeves; he let go of the weapon, and by its leather thong about his wrist dragged it across the gravel. From his other arm he shook loose his battered shield and left it behind. He removed his helmet and, reaching the sparkling water at the fjord’s edge, dropped it, too.
He fell to his knees and leaned against them for a moment.
Keldan approached, his byrnie yet shiny and new, his single-braided hair as gold as the sun at his back. He asked, “Are you alright?”
“Ja,” Onund said and pulled up his bloody sleeves.
“So, this is war.”
Onund put his hands in the water and scrubbed them. After splashing clean his face, he lifted his head and answered his friend. “Ja. This is war.”
Thanks for stopping by! I hope you enjoyed the excerpts over the past few weeks. Next week: a return to regular programming, including a new Tuesday Althing.