|East of Sweden
Author: Nate Davis Volsungassonnr PM
The western Roman Empire has fallen and the world is up for grabs. Three outlaws--a Goth, a Hun and an Irishman--meet in a tavern and join in on a raid deep into the heart of Russia to rob an eastern trade caravan.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Western - Chapters: 2 - Words: 3,864 - Reviews: 4 - Follows: 3 - Updated: 03-29-11 - Published: 03-14-11 - id: 2898853
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
II. North to Denmark, part one
When they were back in the tavern and nursing pitchers of ale, Alek asked, "Have either of you ever been to Sweden?"
Padraig and Eliak shook their heads.
"Neither have I, but I know a man who is a Swede and two weeks ago he came to me with a proposal. He is preparing an expedition for next spring and needs a few extra hands. He wants to row a ship upriver deep into Russia and raid the annual caravan. Eliak, you said you'd rather be doing soldiers' work, didn't you?"
"That I did," said the Hun, "and this sounds like a worthy venture indeed. I'm in."
"We'll need money," grumbled Padraig.
"What was that, friend?"
"We're all three of us skint broke," said the Irishman. "Sweden is a long way away. We'll need food, lodgings, boat fare, and all of that costs silver. Our jobs pay well, but not that well. Where do you suggest we get it?"
"We could rob the tavern," Eliak suggested.
"Ludicrous," the Irishman said. "This place is full of warriors. Almost thirty grim Spear-Saxons against three outlaws? I don't like those odds."
"Bah, I could fight off this entire rabble myself."
"That pride is going to get you killed, princeling."
Without a word, Eliak stood up, reached into the folds of his cloak, and pulled out a long Roman cavalry sword. He walked into the center of the tavern and said in a booming voice, "I am Eliak, son of Kalna, who was the son of Mundz who rode with Attila. I am the greatest swordsman who ever lived, and I am in a killing mood. Does any man here have the courage to cross blades with me, or are you all as cowardly and womanish as you look?"
A big, grim-faced German with a two-handed Lodbrok axe slung over his shoulder rose up from his cups and said, "I'd be more than happy to knock your brains out for you, you scar-faced zipperhead. Let's go outside."
The other Germans hooted and walked out of the tavern to where Eliak and the big German were squaring off. Alek and Padraig followed, and recognition flashed in the Goth's eyes. He shouted, "I put two hundred pieces of silver on the Hun!"
"I'll take that!", answered one of the Germans. "Two hundred fifty on Hengest!"
After the spectators had placed their bets, Hengest lifted up his axe and ran at Eliak with a blood-curdling scream. With seemingly superhuman speed, the Hun dodged the swing and rammed the tip of his sword up into Hengest's stomach. It punched through his thick leather jerkin and exploded out of his back in a fountain of gore. The big German shook like a culled pig, fell to the ground, and died. The fight had lasted less than a minute.
The Germans stared in speechless wonder as Eliak retrieved his sword, cleaned it, and returned it to the folds of his cloak. Grumbling, they handed Alek their money and filed back into the tavern.
"You don't have two hundred denarii," Eliak said.
"I do now."
"Thank you for your confidence, friend."
"I knew you could do it, lad. I recognize a fighter when I see one."
"And now you've got an inkling of how we can raise enough money to make it to Sweden."
"I have, at that."
Eliak extended his right hand, and Alek grabbed his wrist. "I will relish it."
The Hun killed eight more Germans over the next three days before the tavern patrons finally accepted that they were no match for him, and by that time Alek had two feed sacks bulging with denarii, silver bangles, and golden neck-torques, and Eliak had a few rips in his cloak and superficial scratches on his shield-arm.
"It probably wouldn't be a good idea to stay another night," Padraig said as they sat at table.
"Truer words were never spoken," said Eliak. "It's only a matter of time before our former employer comes here demanding wergild, and we'd be very lucky indeed if that happened before someone cut our throats while we slept. Surely we have more than enough cash to pay our way to Sweden by now."
"There's more lead in these coins than silver," said Alek, "so they won't go very far when we get closer to the Baltic. But yes, one more night here and we'll probably wake up dead."
"I'll go get the horses ready. You two come out to the road in a few minutes, and try to be inconspicuous."
Eliak stood up and walked out of the inn and around the side to the stable. The guard, a big Saxon wearing chain mail and a Roman centurion's helmet, nodded to him—the Hun's face was hard to forget—and let him inside. Once inside, Eliak considered his options. He needed to get his friends' horses out to the road as well, but the guard might not believe him, and taking even his own out would tip him off that they planned to make an escape.
Quietly, Eliak pulled a knife from his belt, crept up behind the guard, and cut his throat.
Eliak's own horse was a magnificent black stallion named Hairus, which is Gothic for "Sword." The other two paled in comparison; Alek's looked underfed, and Padraig's was only a pony. As he led the horses out to the road, he thought, They breed spectacularly poor animals here in the west.
He hobbled the horses beside the dirt track that led into the forest and waited for his friends. After a few moments a figure approached out of the darkness; it was too tall to be Padraig, but too slim to be Alek. Eliak unsheathed his sword and kept his eyes fixed on the interloper.
An uncharacteristically slim German stepped into view, saex in hand.
"If you back off now," Eliak said, "I might not put steel in you."
"Where's the silver?"
"Come and get it, if you're man enough."
The German sprang at Eliak, short sword flashing, and the Hun drove his cavalry sword forward. It punched through the attacker's cloak but hit something and turned rather than running him through His cloak fell open to reveal a shirt of Roman legionary's armor, badly rusted with age. Eliak cursed himself for blundering into the trap and slashed at the German's bare sword-arm. The stroke bit deep, and the German howled in pain. Eliak swung for his throat, nearly severing his head. He took the hobbles off of his horse and leaped into the saddle.
Alek and Padraig came running out with a gaggle of curious Germans on their heels. The others stopped to gawk at the body, but the two outlaws freed and mounted their horses. Eliak and his friends took off down the forest track, leaving the sound of angry Germans in their wake.
"Some of them will be riding after us," Alek shouted. "We'd better be halfway to Denmark before sunrise! Time to ride!"
"I was born to ride," scoffed the Hun.