The Battle of Dread Valley
By: Adam Janus
Something about the surety of Alrik’s tone, and the gleam in his narrowed eyes sent an icy chill up the hardened soldier's spine.
Skorri Grimnr’s son sat atop his mount, massaging his lame knee and cursing the coming storm that promised to make the old wound ache and swell. His outriding light cavalry had secured the perimeter of the valley; they now sat at a crossroads, allowing Talorg’s scouts to search for tracks, and await Commander Macdrust and further orders.
The big Northman’s mind wandered as he dismounted. Skorri hated horses; he would just as soon eat one as ride one. But since his injury, sustained in battle on the western seas, his right leg could no longer stand up in sustained foot fighting. Cast out by his sea faring people, the Dgaro-Flotnar, as a burdensome cripple, he wandered the southern kingdoms of Brynhalla and Reban, selling his sword as a caravan escort and body guard, until a drunken fight in a tavern on Rebans north eastern border. He remembered little of the incident, other than waking up in a prison cell, bruised and bloody, his head pounding, again, from excess dwarven spirits.
Skorri chuckled inwardly as he recalled what a sorry sight he was, dragged in front of the fat Rebanian magistrate in shackles; dirty, bloody, and naked except for boots and dirty leathern kilt. The wool that seemed packed into his brain cleared quickly though, when he found out he was being tried for murder. A young Rebanian soldier had died in the brawl--dead from a broken neck--the result of a single mighty right hook from the huge Northman.
It was Commander Macdrust who saved Skorri from the gallows that day, almost two decades ago, by putting his own neck on the line, testifying that the Rebanian soldier instigated the fight and Skorri was merely defending himself. Skorri was released in Macdrust’s care; his sentence was to serve in the winter patrol for a period of five years. That was eighteen years ago.
While serving his sentence, Skorri learned how to handle a war charger, discovering that while mounted, his leg was no longer a detriment. His long reach and strong sword arm made him a natural for fighting from horseback. By the time his five year sentence was served, Skorri Grimnr’s son, a son of pirates and sea reavers, had become a sergeant, in charge of Macdrust’s light cavalry.
He scratched under his braided yellow beard, gazing at the autumn trees. Naked boughs rattled and scraped together in the breeze, having already shed most of their leaves, which covered the forest floor with a yellow and red carpet. In his homeland, far to the north and west, his people had already moored their dragon and raptor prowed ships, retiring to their longhouses. There, the Jarl and Karls alike would wait out the long winter, feasting and drinking, telling tales of their conquests around the fires, before rolling into the furs with a warm and willing serving wench.
Rarely did a day go by when Skorri did not long for the open seas and longhouses of his people, and for the nineteenth year in a row, Skorri Grimnr’s son vowed this would be his last winter in the patrols. In spring, he would ride north, through Brynhalla, the Kingdom of the Riddari clans, before turning west, skirting the great Furia forest to the coast of the western sea. There he would use his earnings from the patrols and purchase a good, clinker built craft and sail out to sea, into the setting sun.
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