Monday, March 5, 2012

Chapter 5


Chapter 5

                 Owen was in a ruined castle, full of rubble and holes where catapult balls had crashed through.  He seemed to be alone, until he noticed a lone soldier walking through the debris.  His chainmail hauberk was torn and bloody, and although his face was hidden by his helmet, Owen could see blood coming down from a cut on his face.  Suddenly the man bent over reaching under a fallen beam.  He pulled out a bundle of cloth, which began to cry.  The man pulled off his helmet, exposing his scarred face.   He had a single tear trailing down his face which seemed out of place on the tough warrior.  He shuddered, and then placed his fist on his heart in silent salute.

The scene was blown away in a swirl of snow. Owen watched himself crawling toward a lone pine from a spur of rock high above.  He heard a loud grunt, and looked the other direction. A large bear was running through the woods, straight toward the clearing.  It roared, and the deer Owen was stalking fled.  He watched the scene unfold as it should, and the two boys begin to walk back. 

Then he heard a low growl behind him. Three stocky huge men stood nearby, holding bows, with black fletched arrows in the quivers at their sides.  They were ragged and worn, with long dirty beards and hair, and animal skin tunics.   They spoke quietly.  One of them walked to the top of the rock spur, and let loose a blood chilling cry.  Owen cowered in fear, even though he knew the men of the mountain could not see him, hear him, or smell him in his dream state. Owen screamed in fear, turning and running, trying to get away from that evil sound.    The beastly man turned, bounding downhill toward the village, the other men following behind.  One of them yelled another vicious war cry, and then Owen woke up.

                A face was above him. He stopped yelling, and squinted, trying to adjust to the dim light.  “Where? Where am I?” He rasped.  He tried to sit up, but lay back down on the hard floor quickly, his side burning with pain. Kaylee stood above him.

                “You were screaming, and you fell out of bed.” She explained, as he realized that he was lying in the hall next to a cot.  Several men stood around him, along with the women and girls.  “Lift him back into bed.” Kaylee said, and Baird and Rory gladly obliged. He winced as his broken ribs scraped together.  He looked over. All the men except Keegan sat around the fire. Stephan looked over.

                “I know you are in a bad condition right now, Owen, but you need to tell us exactly what happened up there.”  Owen looked at him. He opened his mouth to speak, but instead of words, a rasping sound came out.

“He needs water!” Angela came up with a tumbler of fresh water. He slowly drank it down, careful not to spill any. Then he looked back over at Stephan. He told him everything that Kallan had, and then repeated the last part of his dream.

                “They are coming, and they are going to kill us if we don’t fight back!” He said, lifting himself off the cot. The exertion was too much, and he fell back on his pillow.  Stephan looked down, pondering.  “Dreams that prophecy and the wild clans returning?  If this is true, legends are coming to life.”  Suddenly a long, low howl echoed through the gullies, and everyone in the village heard it. Stephan stood up quickly, upsetting his chair.

                “Ready your weapons.”



                Kallan jerked up from where he sat by the fire in his cabin as he heard the eerie cry.   He slipped his boots and cloak back on and ran outside.   People rushed around, grabbing weapons and getting all the women and children into the hall.   Stephan directed men as they chopped down trees and pulled them across the several large entrances to the village.   Rory poured water onto the roofs of the houses.  

                Kallan, forgetting his weariness in the fear of the moment, ran down and began to help heave the logs across the gap in the ring of houses. They got a waist high barrier in place, and began to sharpen branches.   They squinted in the growing darkness, when another howl pierced the darkness, and specks of torchlight appeared through the pines.  Stephan pulled out his sword, and stood right behind the waist length barrier.

                “Ready your bows.” All the men with bows nocked their arrows.  Some of them were behind the barrier, and some were perched on top of the houses.  Men stood guarding every gap between houses, holding weapons ready.  The torches glinted brighter as the enemy came nearer, and several loud grunts and growls were heard.

                “Ready.”  Stephan held his sword up.  The torches came closer.

                “Aim.”   The archers tensed as they raised their bows and drew back the strings. A roaring battle cry shot from the darkness.   It barely sounded human.  Then another howl came.  Some of the men dropped to the ground, covering their ears.  

                “Fire!”  Arrows shot through the air, each one aimed at one of the points of light.  Several arrows found their marks, and cries echoed as the torches fell to the ground and went out in the snow.  The enemy charged, as another wave of arrows met them. Kallan glanced to the side, and notice Marcus, a cold glint in his eye, launching arrows with deadly accuracy.  The warriors came into sight now, right into the moonlit clearing. They slowed at the sight of the armed villagers, and then with a harsh cry, they charged.

                With Stephan at the head, the villagers desperately held the small wall against the enemy. Wooden javelins and arrows flew from behind, killing some of the barbarians, but they began to jump the wall. Several men, including Kallan, pushed forward, clearing the enemy from behind the wall, and pushing them back, when they suddenly heard a scream from behind them.

                Turning, they saw Morden lying on the ground at a gap in the cabins, screaming in terror as a massive man in a bear skin ripped him apart with long metal claws on his hands. He made one last convulsion, and then screamed once more before he breathed his last.  The archers turned, launching a flight of arrows into the beastly man, and he growled with pain. He raised its head to howl again, but an arrow caught it in the mouth, and it fell to the ground.  Marcus ran forward, bow still in hand, and slit the creatures’ throat with his dagger.  He had a look of sheer determination and fury on his face as he turned around, wiping his bloody hand and knife on his tunic.  He could not slay an animal for food, but when his family was in danger, Marcus was a ruthless warrior.  Suddenly, Kallan yelled a warning as another berserker leapt out of the gap.

                Warned by Kallan, Marcus rolled out of the way, throwing his dagger into the beasts’ chest.  He roared, and then turned towards him, growling. Marcus strung an arrow to his bow, but before he could shoot, a flight of arrows slammed into the giant growling body, and it fell, silenced. 

                It was only then that the full onslaught struck.   Wild men poured out of the trees on all sides.  They had expressions of evil jubilation as they tossed torches on top of the houses, lighting a torrential blaze that began to spread across the village.  The men of the village fought hard; desperate to save their families, but they could not hold the enemy for much longer.  Marcus knelt on the steps of the hall launching arrows into the fray, killing with every shot.  Kallan swung his sword into the neck of a large barbarian warrior, almost decapitating him, and spun to block a club coming toward his head.  He slipped around the sneering mans club and stabbed him in the neck. He fell to the ground gurgling.

                Kallan was a good swordsman, but he was fighting for his life.  He was wounded, not mortally, but in bad places.  A club almost smashed his foot, but instead just broke one of his toes.  A short sword cut his arm, and blood went down his arm, making his hand slippery. The most serious injury was in his leg, where a spear had caught him, almost slashing his hamstring. It made it hard to walk.  Stephan killed a giant man, and then yelled above the fray.

                “Go Kallan!  Take them to the caves.” He blocked a blow from a spiked club and slew the bearer.   “Get them away from here, where they won’t be found!” Kallan turned and ran toward the door.

 Behind him men fell.  Baird was clubbed in the head, and then stepped on by heavy boots.  To his side he glimpsed Rory, a grimace on his face, swinging a large hammer at the enemy.  They were backed up almost to the front of the hall, and there were almost none of them left. Marcus still knelt on the steps, but he had only a few arrows left in his quiver.  Stephan still swung his giant sword back and forth, slaying many with every blow. 

Kallan glanced back one more time to see Marcus spend his last arrow. He drew his knives, and then lunged at the barbarians, fighting like a crazed wolf. Kallan ran as if in slow motion, and he saw the torch as it arced through the air, flying onto the roof of the hall. It caught, and began to burn. Kallan dove toward the door, and found it barred shut. He slammed his weight against it, yelling. It slipped open, and he fell in.



Owen had lain on his bed for a while, listening to the battle outside and wishing there was something he could do to help. He could hear it getting closer to the hall, and realized that it was going badly.  He had then gotten his bow and arrows out, and although it was painful, strung the bow and prepared to fight back. The women were all in the center of the hall, looking around in fear, but also with the toughness and determination to defend their children to the last breath.  A small child cried on Kaylee’s lap, as she struggled to keep him quiet. 

Then the roof caught fire. Owen looked up to see flames begin to catch the thatch insulation on the inside of the wood. It began to burn hot, and caught some of the main beams on fire. He rolled out of bed as one of them crashed on top of it, almost smashing it. The women crowded against the back wall as sparks flew through the air, lighting a pile of grain stalks that they used for hay.

They all looked to the door as it crashed, then watched as it slipped open and Kallan fell in panting. 

“Go! Go to the caves! Hurry!” He yelled, and the women obeyed. With what weapons they could grab, they fled out the back door, just as another vast beam fell in front of the main door. There was still the noise of steel on steel, so the battle was not lost yet, but it would not take long for the massive number of the enemy to overwhelm the paltry force that defended the hall.
                Owen lurched to his feet, holding his bow. He quickly strapped on his belt over his tunic and threw his quiver over his shoulder. The two boys began to run out, Kallan supporting Owen. Suddenly, a scream echoed through their ears.

Owen realized what it meant before Kallan did. He began to run, in his fear and anger forgetting the pain in his chest. He ran out the door, Kallan behind him, as the hall started to collapse.  A giant man in a wolf skin lunged out of the darkness and knocked down one of the women.  With a curse, Owen launched an arrow at the wolf like man, and by sheer luck hit him in the eye, felling it.  Everyone began to run down hill, to where they could cross the stream and get to the vast network of caves that were there. With a quick glance, Owen made sure that Nai was with them, then turned bow in hand.

                He was well prepared, for two more men lunged out. One jumped at Kallan, who stabbed his throat with his sword as it came atop him. His sword came out its neck in the back as it landed on top of him. He slipped out from under it, pulling his sword out, ready to fight the next.  He had a look of burning rage on his face that Owen could not fathom.  The other man had an arrow in his chest, but it had grabbed Owens foot and begun to claw him.  Kallan ran toward it, plunging his sword into it. He stopped shaking Owen, and it fell. 

                They looked back at the village.  All was in flames. Stephan looked around at the two boys, and then with one final salute, he fell to the ground. In shock, Owen began to run. He heeded not the howls and cries that followed him. He just ran on and on, until finally he collapsed. He remembered only Kallan dragging him into a cave before he fell into a deep sleep.


© Aidan Moon 2012


1 comment:

  1. Looking forward to the next exciting chapter.

    Get those bad guys! Yaaah.