Tiny Vessels

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  • Publiceret: 13 okt. 2017
  • Opdateret: 6 mar. 2018
  • Status: Igang
Short stories set in the universe of my novel Vessel.

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2. Maldon

It was raining on that day, the 10th of August, 991 AD.

The grass blew in the ocean wind, the sand on the edge of the lands whirling with the continuous sea-wind. A brook almost the size of a river lay close to the bay and a small bridge connected the two pieces of land.

It was this peaceful silence that the sounds of Scandinavian Viking ships disturbed. In the masts of the powerful long ships, the Raven Banner was proudly displayed, roaring its battle-cry.

The Vikings rowed against the waves that were delaying their arrival, yet they still moved at incredible speeds despite the harsh tides, coming closer and closer to the beach with every passing minute.

In the Anglo-Saxon territory, only few men stuck out their heads, armor rustling and with furrowed brows, some already sweating as they marched out into the open marshes.

The only thing separating them was the bridge, and a pair of feet tapped against the stone, making its way over the river-bridge. The Viking messenger came to a halt when they reached the Anglo-Saxon army,  raising his voice and speaking boastfully about his fellow Vikings:

"They sent me to thee, those bold seamen and bade me to say that thou must send swiftly ring-money for pledges. For you were it better that you buy off this spear-rush with your tax, than that we should have so hard a battle."

The Anglo-Saxon leader let a tsk through his lips, the horse he rode on snorting, raising its front hoof and aggressively putting it down into the mud once again, letting the liquified dirt splash onto its muzzle and chest.

"Hearest thou, what this people say? For tribute they're ready to give you their spears, without a blow struck - now that ye have thus far made your incoming into our land, shall ye nor so softly carry off our riches. Back with thy message, grim war-play indeed - before we give tribute."

It was clear to all that this dispute was not going to be solved by paying tribute, of what was going to be known as the dreaded Dane-geld many years later.

The mere message-man turned his back to the enemy soldiers, scurrying back to his leader with the message of absolute denial and refusal. The tides only rose higher and the rain fell from the skies in greater and heavier numbers, further delaying the Vikings arrival.

When the Vikings finally set a-foot on the shores of the English lands, they raised their blades dipped in poison, their Dane axes and their long-swords, spitting provocative remarks and roaring their lungs empty of air.

The Anglo-Saxons sent forward their mightiest warriors to guard and protect the stone-bridge, preventing the Vikings from crossing the river. This though, did not frighten nor worry the Vikings in the slightest, it only aggravated them further.

When the first Viking arrow was shot, it hit a peasant at the front of the inferior numbered Anglo-Saxon army, breaking the tension and letting animal instinct take over.

In the crowd of English soldiers, a heavily-armored man sat on-top a black horse with a broadsword decorating his back, a dagger in belt and a bow in hand.

He fired arrows in twos and threes at the Viking beasts, his eyes following every important aspect of the battle, his hands working at speeds only a trained soldier were capable of.

His reflexes worked on routine, but under the helmet the pores on his forehead oozed sweat, running down his face and under his helmet, continuing down his veined neck.

He dug the back of his heels into the horse's sides, the animal's nostrils heaving steam, its hind-legs shifting into a gallop.

Arrows flew past him as he gradually advanced to the front-lines, the peasants on the marshy ground trying their hardest to get near him with their pikes and axes.

He tugged at the reins, taking the bow over his head and changing to his broadsword. With precision, he sliced through the peasants, dodging their sharpened spears and ducking when they let loose their flails. 

This was until higher ranked warriors approached his struggle, holding long-swords and poison blades close to their chests, some wearing helmets and others even chest plates. Blood decorated his breast and shoulder plates, his helmet soon covered too.

He became lost in the endless waves of Vikings, their long curly hair flowing with the winds, axes hacking into the shoulders of his fellow soldiers, the screams of overpowered warriors as they fell to the mud in defeat, hands, legs, or whole arms chopped off.

Others lay dying in the shallow waters from poison, it would take them hours to get back home, and by then they'd already be lost to the poison.

It wasn't long before their leader also joined the battle, his war cries motivating the remaining soldiers to keep fighting.

After their leader had invited the Vikings to cross the bridge, he'd told the savage sea-robbers that this fight lay in the hands of the Gods and that the last man standing would be declared owner of the battlefield.

The Vikings had graciously accepted this, and they'd stormed the bridge, some even crossing over the river, their shields bathed in fresh-water, their leather pants muddy and wet.

It was after that invite, that this mounted soldier had begun to shoot his arrows.

Now, he were surrounded by Vikings warriors, their weapons raised and their shields ready to defend their drenched bodies, their shoes and feet covered in slimy rainwater as they made a circle around the man, not allowing him escape.

It was a spear-man who started the attack, throwing the spear with clear skill. The soldier dodged the flying spears, and in the mean time, blocked off any warriors when they attacked him at close-range with swords and flails.

Without his knowledge, a Viking had crept up behind him and just when he were about to turn around, they smashed the armor on his back with a mace, the bits falling to the ground and with no time to react, the Viking slid their 12-inch blade into his back, blood pouring out and forever staining the marsh as it splattered onto the Viking's helmet and hands.

This gave the other warriors enough time to overwhelm the Anglo-Saxon soldier. Flipping their daggers out from their belts, they smashed through the soldier's armor, tearing his leather clothes and piercing his organs with such rage one would think they were insane.

The soldier fell to his knees, his severely damaged helmet falling off of his head, revealing his face to the Vikings, and in triumph they roared at the sight of the high-ranked soldier's dead body, his dark, messy hair glistening with sweat, his body turning cold and his face covered in wet mud.

His blue eyes stood wide open in horror, and his hands twitched for one last time, before his whole body went completely limp, like a newly caught fish who'd just accepted death.

The Scandinavian pirates left his body to rot, the sight of the Viking whom had killed him getting blurrier and blurrier, and just then he realized that his friend had just taken his life.

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