I’m taking a creative writing course this semester and for the current writing assignment I decided that I would write a Swords and Sorcery short story.
Aside: I was motivated to write this because my professor stated that he didn’t like fantasy and would “put up with reading it” if that is what a student chose to write. That attitude angered me because it’s a creative writing class, not historical fiction or a non-fiction creative class.
I also just didn’t like the way he was treating fantasy stories with slight contempt and derisive comments.
I’m not one for letting people tell me what I can or can’t do.
So here’s my story- Whether it’s good or not, that’s for you to decide. Just hope someone out there enjoys it!
“There is something to be said about watching a man bleed to death wouldn’t you say? The knowledge that they are about to be embraced by Death’s cold arms can be seen in their eyes.” Baldur knelt down in front of the dying man and watched him closely with a small bemused smile upon his face. The dying man’s eyes were wide and his breaths came shallow and fast as blood spread on the floor for a large wound in his side. Baldur lifted his sword and pressed its point into the ground to steady his weight, “He worries about all the things he’s left undone in this world. He’s worried about those he leaves behind.” There was a scuffle and a pitiful whine from behind. Baldur ignored it. “Don’t worry I’ll take care of it.” He said patting the man’s cheek as the last bit of life left his eyes.
Baldur got to his feet and turned to the two women behind him who both stared fixedly at his powerful frame. Baldur was a tall man with highly sculpted cheek bones, brown hair that fell to his shoulders, a strong jawline, and deep chestnut eyes. Where one woman looked on the man with adoration and longing, the other looked with fear and hatred. The one who held lust in her eyes held the other firmly against her, a dagger at her throat. “Now what Baldur?” She said breathlessly. Baldur pursed his lips and walked slowly to the women, his boots echoing in the small wooden cabin.
He reached up and touched the face of the prisoner, poking the bruised area of her cheek. She flinched away. “Your father stole from me. Not wise or good for those looking to live a long life. Justice had to be meted out.” He brought his fist backhanded across the girl’s face hard enough to crumple her to the floor. His next movement was as tender as his previous was vicious. He drew a finger down the check of other woman. She was pale and her black hair was done in thick braids. Her lips were flushed and she bit at his hand lovingly. “We’ll take her, Hermina. We might be able to fetch a price for her inUlster. Those vile bastards are always looking for new slaves. Or whores.” He looked once more at the unconscious girl, picked her up, and then walked from the cabin.
The air was still crisp even though the sun had reached mid-morning. Two men sat upon their horses and watched as Hermina and Baldur placed the captive girl across the back of Baldur’s horse and mounted. “What shall we do with this place?” croaked the filthier of the two men. He had wiry hair and was missing most of his front teeth.
Baldur and Hermina brought their horses around, “Burn it, Alfvin. Nothing in there worth a pittance.” Baldur said as he gazed at the cabin. Hermina inhaled excitedly as the filthy man began attempting to light a torch. She lifted her hand and held it as if she were going to throw a rock at the cabin, a twisted excited smile played across her face, but before she could move her hand any further Baldur clasped his around her wrist. “This,” he indicated the cabin, “is not worth the risk. Save your strength.” She attempted to jerk her hand out of his, but he tightened his grip until she winced, “I mean it Hermina. I will not have an incident here.” He let her go as a torch soared over their heads and landed on the cabin’s thatched roof setting it ablaze.
Alfvin turned to Baldur, “Where are we headed with the girl, Baldur?”
Baldur gave Hermina one last stern look before turning his attention to his filthy cohort, “We shall ride to Ulster by way of Ormur’s Fall Pass through the mountains.” The two men stiffened and looked at one another then at Baldur, “Problems?”
“They say that Ormur’s Fall is a death trap. Strange creatures are there! Men corrupted by death and madness!” Alfvin said, his voice rising.
“That may be the case, but it is quicker, by several weeks, to go through the pass than around the mountains.”
“Why do we even need to go toUlster? Just for the girl? We can trade her somewhere else.”
“Yes, but I have business inUlster.” Baldur said calmly.
“What business could that be?”
“None of yours.” Baldur’s tone was still calm, but his words held an edge, “I pay you for your sword, not your mouth or guidance. If you wish to mewl like a child then get out of my sight, but if you’re a man and wish to get paid you will shut your mouth and ride with me through the pass.”
Alfvin’s gaze darted quickly from Baldur, defeated, “Fine.”
The four riders turned and began to move away from the fiery cabin completely unaware and uncaring there was one person upset at the cabins destruction. The girl stayed completely motionless, tied over the horse’s rump, as silent tears fell as she watched her home and father burn.
That night the girl was tied to a tree as the group made camp in Ormur’sFallPass. Her face was bruised and swollen from Baldur’s fist, her right eye almost a slit. Her mouth ached from the cloth gagging her. She looked around as Baldur and Hermina sat next to the fire drinking, laughing, and eating. Rage and hatred surged through her. It had only been half a day’s time since they cut down her father and stole her life from her and they had the audacity to sit casually by the fire as though the world was right. She looked away from the pair before her disgust turned to complete despair. Alfvin was patting his horse and seemed to be talking to it. The horse shook its head gently and nuzzled against Alfvin’s hand while eating an apple from his other. She couldn’t find the fourth man. He made her uneasy and she didn’t like that she couldn’t see him. He had stared at her the whole time while she was carried on Baldur’s horse, and again while they tied her up. He was a heavier man with flabby cheeks and beady watery eyes. His furs were tattered and worn and he reeked of sweat and something worse. She turned her head to look back at Alfvin, but her view was filled of the strange man. She hadn’t heard him coming at all. She started and let out a small muffled cry.
He shushed her, “It’s ok pretty. Brimir isn’t going to hurt you. He just wants to talk to you. Lay with you.” He reached a pudgy filthy hand towards her and she tired to struggle against him. His finger touched the bruise on her cheek and she winced, “So delicate of a flower. I will enjoy all of you.” Brimir went stiff and began to make a gurgling noise and his eyes popped in surprise. He was lifted up and his head was brought against the tree next to the girl’s head. Brimir let out a high pitched yelp as he was tossed to the ground, rolling several feet away. Standing over her was Baldur, anger etched on his face.
“I’ve warned you about your appetites in the past Brimir. I’ve warned you what I would do should you try again.” Baldur spoke quietly, almost a whisper, but everyone could hear him. He walked slowly toward the pudgy man as he scrambled to his feet and ran to the edge of the camp. He put his back towards the tall dry grass and the dark wilderness.
“I meant no harm by it, Baldur! She’s just so pretty! I just wanted a taste.” Brimir screeched pleadingly.
Baldur drew his large sword from his back, “It’s too late for that Brimir. You–“ A strange screech rent the chilly night air causing the hairs on Baldur’s neck to stand on end. He scanned the darkness around the camp backing slowly towards the girl and the tree. Another screech echoed through the night, this time from behind Baldur. He whirled around, his blade ready, “Alfvin move away from the perimeter! Get towards the fire!” A sharp bloodcurdling cry, the sound of something heavy hitting the ground, and the rustling of the thick tall brush came at his back. He turned to see a large splatter of blood on the ground where Brimir had been standing. A third screech, vicious and eager, and more terrifying and intimate came from just beyond the perimeter. “Make ready! They are coming!” Baldur bellowed.
Spilling out of the darkness came something that was man, if mans visage was twisted by his own cruelty, savagery, and madness. Its blood soaked mouth held a maw of blackened jagged teeth and its skin was cracked with deep crevices filled with black puss. The creature ran straight at Baldur with its arms raised showing dirty gore soaked claws as it bellowed a terrifying scream that so strange and raw it was as if it was not meant for human ears. Baldur waited till it closed the distance and brought his sword down, leading with his elbow to give more strength to his swing. Blood sprayed across Baldur and the girl as the blade hit the creature between the shoulder and neck, cleaving through to its midsection and dropping it to the ground. A gurgle issued from its mouth and then went silent.
Several more screams came from the darkness. Baldur turned towards the girl, “Can you fight?” He screamed. She shook her head. Baldur brought his blade against the ropes, cutting her binding.
She quickly pulled the gag out of her mouth and spat, “You think I’m going to aid you, you savage mongrel?”
Baldur pulled a short sword from the sheath at the small of his back, “It’s either that or die at the hands of these mongrels.” He tossed the blade on the ground by her hands, “Your choice. I care not.” He turned without another word and looked around the camp. Three creatures came out of the darkness each looked as twisted as the first, covered in blood, most likely Brimir’s, and rushed at Baldur.
A high scream came from Alfvin, “Gods! There are more here!” Baldur spared a glance behind him and saw three more creatures charging at his filthy companion. He watched as Alfvin pulled his dagger and hacked one of them down before being overrun by the other two. The beasts collided with Alfvin and knocked him to the ground. The force of the impact caused his blade to spin away into the darkness. Alfvin thrashed and screamed as the creatures clawed and bit him. Alfvin’s cries became high and shrill and then turned to wet gurgling noises before ceasing completely. Baldur heard the creatures and brought his sword around and separated the first ones head from its neck. He swung his blade in an arc and reversed his grip and moved in a graceful pirouette and brought his blade through the belly of the creature as it slammed against his back. He wrenched the blade up and felt its blood splash against him. He twisted around and kicked the creature from his blade with his boot.
The third monstrosity lunged at him from his right side, he wasn’t aware that it had moved that close to him. He brought up his sword to attempt to block the creatures attack but it didn’t come. The creature let out a shriek of pain, its bloodshot eyes bulging as it began to spasm. The tip of a sword was protruding out of its abdomen. The girl was on the other side, hunched over with all her weight put into the thrust that ended the creature. She jerked heavily and pulled the blade from its body. She looked from the body to Baldur confusion and frustration at her actions etched on her face. “Thank you,” Baldur said quietly.
“Don’t thank me!” She spat, “I shouldn’t have saved you. I didn’t mean to save you!” She wiped a tear from her open eye.
The two creatures had finished feasting on poor Alfvin’s remains and had been joined by two more while Balder and the girl had dealt with their foes. They had spotted Hermina standing by the fire and let out a howl of fury and hunger. “Hermina, that discussion we had earlier about not having an incident; now’s a good time for one!” Baldur shouted.
Hermina’s eyes shone with a chaotic energy as her lips split apart with a vicious smile. She put her hands together for a brief second and then drew her arms wide, a thick ribbon of swirling flame danced between her hands. Her laugh echoed through the night and overrode the howls of the beasts.
The girl stood there transfixed; her eyes wide. “By the gods! She’s a witch!”
Baldur clasped the girl by the upper arm and began to lead her towards a large boulder, “Yes yes she’s a witch.” He said monotonously, “You can run in fear and pray to your church later. Right now we have a more pressing matter.”
“Like what?” She screamed over the din of the rushing flame that had formed into a giant sphere in front of Hermina.
Baldur swung himself and the girl behind the rock. A second later everything went quiet and still followed by a blast and wave of intense heat that shook the very earth. The large boulder rocked from the impact of the blast and cracked near the top that caused little pebbles and dust to rain down on them. Baldur spit, “Cover.”
The girl pushed away from him. Baldur walked around the boulder with his sword ready. He wrinkled his nose at the smell. The ground smoked, all the underbrush smoldered, and the tree that the girl had been tied burned with small crackles and pops as the sap heated. The beasts were charred husks on the ground. So were the horses. Baldur slapped his hand against his leg, “Guess we’re walking toUlster.” He said in a resigned tone. He walked quickly to the campfire and found Hermina on the ground her arms flopped out at different angles. Baldur reached down and gently touched her face, “Hermina? Are you alright?”
Hermina’s eyes fluttered and then opened slowly. She took in a deep breath and stretched, “I killed them all Baldur.” She said with relish.
“I know you did.” He said smiling.
“I think I killed the horses too.” She frowned.
“We’ll make due. It’s alright.”
“And I burnt the supplies.”
“That’s a bit more troubling, but as I said we’ll make due.”
Hermina looked over his shoulder and saw the girl. “Oh she lived. Are we still going to take her toUlster?” she said sleepily.
Baldur looked to the girl then back at Hermina. He grabbed her under her arms and hefted her to her feet. “We are still going toUlster, but not to sell her. She saved my life, I owe her that much.”
“You owe me more than that! You killed my father and burnt down my home!” She said savagely.
Baldur walked to her; he towered over her, “Your father was a bad man, just like me. He stole, killed, drank, and paid coin to sleep with loose women. He was no saint. Unfortunately he stole from the wrong man. Me. You don’t survive in this cursed land by being kind to those who stab you in the back. You run them through.”
Anger played across her face at Baldur’s words, “What should I do? I have nothing left thanks to you!”
“Come with us toUlster. You may find something there.”
“You expect me to travel with you after what you’ve done?” She shouted.
“Then don’t and die here when those things come back. Your choice. I care not.”
“I want to kill you.” She said fiercely, tears welling in her eyes.
“Kill me in my sleep then, but right now you’re boring me to death and that’s not how I intend to die.” Baldur turned and walked back to Hermina, “Are you alright to walk? It should be dawn soon.”
Hermina nodded and then looked at the girl, “What is your name girl?”
The girl looked at the witch in surprise, “You care?”
Hermina laughed, “No. Just being polite.”
“Halla. My name is Halla.”
Hermina arched an eyebrow, “Pretty.”
“Enough talking. Let us be on our way, we have a long way to go.” Baldur said as he turned and began walking down the path of Ormur’sFallPass.
Hermina gave Halla that unsettling and eerie smile that lit up her intense eyes, then turned and walked down the path. Halla looked into the night towards the path leading back to her home. What home though? There was nothing left but ash and bones. She knew, especially now, that she wouldn’t survive the journey back. She hated Baldur for what he had done. She knew her father was far from virtuous but no one deserved to die as he did, mewling on the ground and being taunted. However Baldur’s words rang true; this was a crazy world and one didn’t survive in it by being kind and generous. You fought tooth and nail every day just to etch out a meager life. You died by the sword, disease, or at the claw and fang of some vicious beast. She watched the duos backs as they began to fade in the darkness. She shook her head. Either she’d kill Baldur or not. Either she’d live or die. Right now getting to Ulster alive was her goal. She could just make out the line of dawn on the horizon. What sort of troubles will the new day bring? She thought. She didn’t have any idea, but she knew she would face them. She gripped her sword and without any further hesitation set off after the two to face the new day.