Bk 2, Ch 6: After Party

Post time7-02-2021, 21:13

The problem, I reflected, was always bodies.

Sub-Commander Bernette had quickly explained the situation to her warriors. Subdued but nonetheless motivated by the desire to help their fallen comrades, the surviving Arkadians quickly surrendered their weapons and formed teams to assist the wounded. None moved to escape.

But motivation was not enough. So few survivors were forced to sort, move, and care for so many wounded. About three hundred fifty Arkadians surrendered, including two dozen oarsmen that had jumped ship and now bobbed in the water or splashed ashore. Many of those captured were injured themselves, able to run and retreat but unable to help lift bodies. Across the battlefield in the span of an hour, the blood of over seven hundred of their comrades had been spilt. The wounded were innumerable. The dead lay as they'd fallen, neglected for the moment.

Adding to this daunting task, Sigrid cautioned that the sand prevented healing and declared that none but the most critically injured be treated on the beach. Stretchers were in short supply and were reserved for my own men and women. We’d tried using carts, but the wheels always got stuck in the sand. Thus, the wounded had to be carried hundreds of paces into the town for treatment.

The waters of the fjord ran red with blood—figuratively of course. But on the beach, literal rivers of blood stained the sand. Over two hundred Arkadian bodies were spread out across the beach itself between the water and the trench. They lay alone and in small groups, felled by great volleys of arrows or run down during the flanking assault. A beautiful Blade with wide hips and a narrow waist coughed blood over her plump breasts, her fingers brushing the arrow stuck in one round orb. An Arkadian spearman bobbed face-down in the shallows. A lissome blonde lay on her side, plucking at the shaft through her belly. A teenage youngster, her cheap, cotton bra hanging loose, cried bitter tears as blood flowed around the broken spear shaft in her bare belly. Twenty-five Arkadian archers lay in a row like fallen dominoes, the pattern of Clan arrows noticeably denser in the sand and in their bodies.

In contrast, the mixed Arkadian and Clan dead at the top of the beach lay tangled together in a mountain of death and gore. The dead and wounded there were too numerous to be counted, but it couldn’t be less than four hundred. A small teen, blood covering one side of her face, wriggling weakly under the crushing weight of a barrel-chested Viking. Her back against the still corpse of an Arkadian spearman, a tall Wildcat used her hands to try and plug the hole in her belly. She moaned in pain, piss dribbling from her bare crotch. A gutted redhead stared upward sightlessly, her hands still tangled in the intestines spilling from her belly. Across her legs, another girl lay face-down in the guts and excrement. The dainty feet of a fourteen-summer-old trainee dug shallow furrows in the sand as she screamed in anguish and hugged the gash across her belly. Facedown on the ground, sand clung to her blood-stained belly and crotch, the flaps of torn flesh, and the intestines which hung out of the rent.

Maybe Sigrid was onto something about that sand.

The real shocker though were the Arkadian ships floating in the fjord. As soon as the surrender of the Arkadian forces was finalized, I sent boarding parties out to secure the drifting ships. They used the same canoes that the Arkadian warriors had rowed onto the beach. Jari was the first warrior to clamber up the side of the closest akatus. He took one look over the lip of the ship then vomited noisily into the water. Six dozen bodies—nearly every oarsman and warrior on the ship—bled onto one another in a great heap of flesh. They writhed together in a sickening cesspool of gore and voided fluids. Volleys of arrows had turned the ship into a massive archery butt, massacring the occupants, striking breasts and throats, and skulls. Directly in front of Jari’s face was a young oarsman slumped forward on his bench. An arrow had pierced the back of his skull, exiting out of his eye socket. The eye itself was impaled on the tip, separated from the face and leaking fluid like a runny egg.

Sigurd looked a little peeved as we stood supervising the cleanup efforts. Fifty archers formed a perimeter around the beach, half facing inwards, half facing out. Teams of captured Arkadians carried bleeding comrades up the beach, each supervised by a bored-looking Viking. In the bay, canoes lashed themselves to the ships that still floated, slowly hauling their prizes towards the shore. At the battle line, the bodies of the dead were tossed aside in piles to allow healers to get at the (barely) living.

Sigurd finally spoke. "I thought the plan was to kill them all, my Lord."

"It was, yes," I replied, my eyes still looking out over the beach.

“So why the change?” he asked.

I let out a sigh. “We’d already lost too many warriors in the shield wall. Wiping out the survivors would have cost dozens more.”

"The healthy ones aren't the problem," he replied, "Why are we allowing the wounded to live?”

“I needed something to coerce the survivors so that they would surrender and stay in line. Besides, it’s not like we lose anything by letting them live.”

"My Lord, now we're going to have to guard, house, and feed hundreds and hundreds of wounded and sick captives," Sigurd pointed out.

"The gold, Sigurd, think of the gold."

“We can pack the live ones into the buildings easily-enough, but there's no space for as many as five hundred wounded!"

"You’re exaggerating. Half of those will be dead by morning. Make the live ones sleep outside in pens," I instructed, "Pack the wounded into the houses so the flies don't eat them alive. The Zavalan houses are spacious; there should be more than enough room while will have our new slaves expand the town."

"Then there's the disease, my Lord," Sigurd continued, "With so many injured, the risk of sickness ravaging the town is high."

I hadn't thought of that. Plagues were common in the Clan homelands, where starvation and cold sapped the strength of men, women, and children alike. The warmer climes in this land seemed to boost health, but cramped spaces and spilt bodily fluids were a recipe for widespread sickness. Still, there were solutions.

"Then we maintain strict cleanliness, especially with the wounded. Any house where the wounded show signs of plague will be burned immediately—with their inhabitants. See what else Sigrid recommends on that subject," I answered.

Sigurd had more to say. "My Lord, then there's the food situation. We originally had enough provisions for another two months. But now that we have to feed some five or six hundred additional mouths, it will barely last two weeks. And you’ve already raided the surrounding farms.”

“So farm the grain that’s sitting in the fields and send some of the slaves or warriors fishing,”

“The grain may buy us another two weeks. And you know your warriors won’t eat anything from the fjord; those fish will have been feeding off of human flesh,” he said.

Clan warriors were notoriously superstitious. Eating human flesh, or by extension anything that had been fed on human flesh, was one of the big ones. Eating human flesh was said to turn one into a horrible, hairy monster—a creature of darkness that came and slit people’s throats in the night.

“So feed the fish to the prisoners!” I cried in exasperation.

“My Lord, we destroyed most of the fishing boats to build obstacles on the beach,” Sigurd replied patiently.

“Bah! Fine, we’ll just go raid some coastal village and take their food! Now go find Sigrid and see if she needs any help with the wounded!”

Sigurd saluted and left. He knew better than to argue any further. He had gotten the better of me this time, but I would never admit defeat. Shaking my head in disgust, I walked down towards a knot of my men grouped at the shore.

As was my custom, I preferred to exercise leadership by walking around. I spent time consulting with my warchiefs, inspecting the sentries, chatting with the men, and occasionally helping with the heavy lifting. I even helped drag one of the two captured galeas onto the shore.

One of my tasks—and by far the least pleasant one—was helping with the dead and wounded. The defense of Zavala had been costly. Some ninety of my warriors, dead or injured, had fallen. The majority were already dead. I had no word on how many of the wounded would soon follow, but I did know though that Froki would be one of them.

“Tell my children… I am in Valhalla,” he coughed wetly. Blood bubbled up sickeningly from the hole in his chest. I swore to him that I would. Gently, I held him steady as I drew my knife and slid it under his armpit and into his heart. Blood bubbled in his throat as he exhaled for the last time.

The Zavalan slaves had spent the fight locked in the old warrior barracks under the guard of a few of those warriors lightly-injured in Zavala’s capture. Now, I made good use of them to collect and carry my wounded and dead while most of my warriors accomplished other tasks. With their assistance, the process of bringing the wounded up to Zavala as quickened, if only slightly.

I patted Birte on her good shoulder as she was carried away, then stood and looked around. Nearby, Emmy stood awkwardly alone, lost in thought and staring out over the beach. She noticed as I approached, but did not turn to greet me. Blood splattered her front, from her bare chest to the bandages around her midriff to her hide shorts. It didn’t seem like her blood though.

“You fought well today,” I said, “Are you hurt?”

She shook her head glumly and stared back over the water. Together, we stared out over the beach in silence. After a while, she spoke up.

“I killed seven people today, seven of my own people.” She spoke quietly, her voice threatening to break. “I killed seven people and I enjoyed it. It was like a game, a contest—just like our duel. I was having so much fun, smiling and laughing as I took their lives.”

Emmy paused and sniffed, her eyes far away. “The last one I killed was a Pup a little younger than me. I remember her so vividly—her doe eyes, pink bra, the white flower pinned in her blonde hair. I remember the fear in her eyes as she realized I was going to kill her. That look gave me such a rush. I screamed triumphantly in her face as I rammed my spear through her gut. She collapsed onto me crying and just asked, ‘Why?’”

Silent tears ran down her cheeks. “She was just a little girl like me. She didn’t want to fight me, but I didn’t care and cut her down without a moment’s hesitation. I’m… what kind of monster am I?” she cried, putting her face in her hands.

I moved close to her and wrapped one arm around her, pulling her into my shoulder. Emmy sobbed quietly as I stroked her hair.

“You saved my life today,” I said soothingly, “You fought to protect me, and for that I am grateful. When we fight, we do so to protect ourselves and those we care about. When you find something you care about, fight as hard as you can to protect it and don’t stop fighting until that thing is safe. You’re a strong, gifted young woman; there’s a lot you can protect with your strength. Never forget that.”

Emmy sniffled again and shook her head. After a few long seconds, she shuffled her feet and stood up straight as I released her arm. Wiping her face and nose on her arm, she nodded her thanks and sat heavily in the sand, staring once again out over the beach. Sensing her need to be alone, I patted her twice on the head and walked off. I didn’t know whether or not my words made her feel any better, but I hoped that they would.

Killing exacts a heavy psychological toll on the mind. No matter how many battles you fight, no matter how many people are slain by your hand, it is impossible to get used to killing. Every warrior eventually has a moment like Emmy’s, a moment where the gruesome reality of taking another human being’s life bursts through the dams that we all erect to block out that torment. For some, like Emmy, that moment comes after the first or second battle. For others, it comes after a lifetime of killing. There was no shame in crying over the crimes you’ve committed, no matter how justified those crimes were. Crying is a sign you’re still human. I could not trust any warrior that did not cry every once in a while.

I spotted Sub-Commander Bernette as she helped carry a bleeding spearman to one of the two collection area on the beach. There, the wounded were sorted by severity. Those with minor wounds were helped up the beach into Zavala for healing. Those with survivable wounds were carried up first. The wounded whose survival was questionable were given whatever treatment was available as they waited to be brought up to the town. Those with fatal wounds were comforted and then left to suffer and die. Some of my soldiers filtered through the wounded, singling out the most courageous or skillful for nomination as thrallsvar or even villein.

Since my own injured were already being cared for, I decided it was a good time to have a chat with the enemy leader.

I stood over the struggling figure of a young archer. On her back, she pawed weakly at the arrow to the right of her bellybutton, her hands stained red. Blood flowed in rivulets up and down her naked body, up her breastbone between her small breasts and down over her shaved pussy. I beckoned Bernette over. She dropped off an injured spearman and picked her way over to me.

“Help me with her,” I said, stooping down to take one of the girl’s arms. The girl whimpered in fear and pain, confused about what was going on.

“What?” asked Sub-Commander Bernette, confused and more than a little suspicious.

“I said, ‘Help me with her,’” I reiterated impatiently.

She grabbed the girl’s other arm and together, we used a two-person drag to carry the whimpering towards the collection area.

“Your lordship is wasting his valuable time helping a mere slave,” she said, her voice dripping with sarcasm.

“Oh please, spare me,” I said, rolling my eyes.

“I talked back to my master; that should be more than enough of an excuse for you to kill me,” she said, her sarcasm undiminished. I sensed something more behind her mockery though, a plea almost. After what had happened, she wanted to die.

“You are my glorious and exalted master now, right?” she continued with feigned, resigned derision.

“What would be glorious is some peace and quiet,” I grumbled in the Viking language. Switching to the Arkadian tongue I spoke up. “Yes, as the enemy commander, you belong to me. But you are thrallsvar, not slave.”

That statement confused her enough that she dropped her sarcasm. “What do you mean by thrallsvar? What is thrallsvar?”

Once again, I struggled to explain the concept in the Arkadian language. “Thrallsvar is a slave but higher than a slave. You serve me and must do as I command, but you are otherwise generally free to do as you like. You may even own slaves and earn your freedom through payment or by fighting with us in battle.”

“And my warriors, are they thrallsvar as well?” she asked.

“No, the vast majority will be slaves. Only a few will become thrallsvar,” I replied.

“I see,” she said without emotion, “Is that status based on the enemy’s rank then?”

“A good guess, but no,” I answered matter-of-factly, “It’s based on a number of things, mostly skill in combat, level of courage, and the number of Clan warriors a person has slain.”

“You actually elevate enemies based on the number of your people they’ve killed? And then you let them fight for you?” she asked incredulously.

“We elevate enemies we respect,” I emphasized. “You are thrallsvar because I respect you as a warrior and leader, not just because you command troops. Had I captured Commander Radu, I would have made the cowardly swine the lowest of curs.”

“Strange law,” she mumbled, a little embarrassed by my compliment.

She wasn’t wrong, and many in the Clans had questioned the wisdom and application of that tradition in this new land. I was one of the few Lords to actively apply it to those captured in this new land.

“Look, the law dates back to a time when Clan fought Clan. It made sense back then. We are still new at applying the concept to other peoples.”

We reached the casualty collection area and laid the sniveling archer down. The girl’s wound was painful, but she would survive if given proper care. Two Arkadian captives came and placed her on a stretcher, then started carrying her up towards the town. Sub-Commander Bernette and I moved off to find another casualty.

Most of the bodies close by lay with a stillness that only comes with death; the wounded close to the collection area had already been moved. About forty paces away though I spotted a pair of quivering feet. They belonged to a Blade in her low twenties lying on her back. Blood bubbled from her mouth and she grunted in pain, grim determination in her eyes as she watched us approach. There was an ugly, gaping stab wound between her well-shaped breasts, too large to be from anything but a Clan greatsword. It was bad. White bone poked out of the wound from her shattered breastbone and her snapped ribs. Air bubbled up from the hole along with dark red blood. Only through sheer force of will had this courageous woman survived this long.

But her struggle was soon brought to an end. In one fluid motion, I drew my sword and stepped forward. Before the Sub-Commander could protest, I drew the blade across the wounded girl’s throat. Blood sheeted her breasts and her eyes rolled up, a final breath wheezing from her ruined lungs as she finally found peace.

“What the fuck!” shouted Bernette furiously, “How dare you break our agreement you lying, traitorous—”


“Don’t call me that!” she yelled back, “I’m not a Sub-Commander anymore!”

“That wound was fatal and you know it,” I continued, furious at being interrupted, “If you gave two shits about your warriors, you would put them out of their misery! But instead you want them to suffer ‘til their last breath?”

Her mouth was open, ready to fire back a response, but the words caught in her throat. She knew I was right. Worse, she realized that she should have thought of ending the suffering of her fatally injured warriors. Still heated, I marched off in search of another injured warrior. She stood by as I began digging through another knot of bodies.

“Kill me, please,” she pleaded, “I did this to them. I can’t bear to see them like this.”

I checked a man with a blood-splattered back for any signs of life. There was none and I moved on. Looking around, I spotted movement—an amber-haired teen beneath the still corpses of two of her comrades. Her eyes were closed, unconscious, but she was alive for the moment. I tugged experimentally at the dead man on top of the pile, but he was snagged on something.

“Stop whining. Shut up and help me,” I snapped.

She did. Together, we lifted the first corpse away, then the second. The girl underneath had the broken shaft an arrow low in her belly, just above the soft swell of her pubic mound. The arrow made it impossible for me to just pick her up in my arms, so together Kiersten and I dragged her towards the collection area. Kiersten’s head was drooped in sadness as we walked.

“Don’t blame yourself,” I said, “You could not have known my force was an army, not a band of criminals. Your warriors fought well and came close victory. If you must blame someone, blame the hubris of Commander Radu. Oh, and let my warriors make the call on who’s fatally wounded or not. Our knowledge of healing is superior to yours.”

Kiersten turned her head and regarded me with curiosity. Between us, the wounded girl moaned quietly as her head lolled about.

“You’re a strange one,” she said simply. I didn’t respond. We reached the casualty collection area and gently laid the arrowed warrior in a line with some of the other less-severely injured.

The former Sub-Commander took a look around at the remains of what had once been a mighty force. A sniveling Wildcat twisted weakly in the sand, a long, broken spear stuck through her gut. The large breasts of a tall Blade jiggled enticingly as she thrashed about in her death throes. A young teen coughed blood over her own budding breasts, hands pawing at the gaping hole below her ribs. Next to her, another young girl sobbed wretchedly, hands kneading ropey entrails spilled from the gash in her belly.

“Please, ease their suffering,” Kiersten said woodenly.

I nodded in acknowledgement to her, then signaled Byrn, one of my warchiefs. He nodded and began shouting instructions to his men. Swords rasped from sheaths and for a moment, the volume and pitch of the cries of the wounded increased. After a few minutes, the beach was noticeably quieter. Along with the fatally wounded, I had instructed Byrn to kill any of the maimed. Too distracted with the guilt of ordering the deaths of dozens of her warriors, Kiersten failed to notice that I had somewhat overstepped her intent. Sigurd may have accused me of being soft-hearted, but there was no profit in maimed slaves.

Eventually, Kiersten shook herself out of her misery. “I’d like to talk to that slave girl of yours,” she said.

“My slave girl?” I asked, confused. They were all “my” slaves in a sense, but I hadn’t yet claimed any of them as my personal property.

“That one over there,” she said, indicating Emmy. The girl was a way’s away, still sitting sullenly and gazing out over the beach. “Or are you allowing all of my warriors to carry weapons now?”

“Ask her yourself, she’s not my slave.”

“What?” Kiersten asked, confused.

“She’s a free person. We captured her when we took this town, but my warriors respected her skill enough to name her villein and let her go free.”

“So you even let some of your enemies go free if they kill enough of your own?”

I shrugged in response. When put like that, the tradition did sound ridiculous. “Honorable combat only though, so don’t get any crazy ideas,” I replied.

“Must be some warrior,” Kiersten said sarcastically.

“You have no idea,” I responded, quite serious, “Anyway, go talk to her if you wish. I have other things to attend to.”


Dwindling sunlight shone through suddenly into Camille’s eyes, easing the suffocating darkness. Cool, fresh air blew across her face as the akatus rocked gently back and forth. The light was quickly replaced as a shadowy figure interposed itself between her eyes and the sun.

“Another dead one!” called Riita as she gazed into Camille’s sightless eyes and glanced at the broken shaft of an arrow above her left collarbone. Riita shoved another body aside, searching out the buried source of a pitiful mewling sound. Behind her, Sindre and Yngvar casually tossed a lifeless corpse into the water and stooped to pick up another. There were still dozens more left on the pin-cushioned death ship.

As the sun sank low in the sky, the chirps and buzzing of the night creatures drowned out the cries and moans of the wounded still lying on the beach. Efforts to recover the wounded would continue thru the night, albeit at a significantly reduced pace. The limiting factor in this case was the number of Clan guards. I sent half my warriors to sleep, and more than half of the remainder were tied up in healing duties or other tasks. That left only about forty warriors available to guard the Arkadian workforce. I authorized only two Arkadians per guard in order to minimize the chance of any captives escaping.

As a result, most of the activity shifted into Zavala itself as light slowly gave way to dark. The heathy Arkadian captives were corralled into the square and placed under guard for the night. The injured were jammed into Zavalan houses, many of which still held villagers wounded in the battle to capture the town. Most of the healthy Zavalans worked on, but the children and a few others were once again locked in the old warrior hall for the night.

Mindful of what Sigurd had said about the possibility of a plague, I spent much of the evening inspecting the houses of healing.

Houses of healing? Houses of death? Warehouses of wounded? What should they be called anyway? I mused.

I went first to the old Zavalan manor house. Many of the soldiers injured during the attack on Zavala were still there. They’d been joined by a half dozen Clan fighters injured in Zavala’s defense. Solvi was busy sawing off Haldor’s shattered arm as two others held the screaming man still. Sigrid was busy sewing up the belly of Trond, who was mercifully unconscious. The old crone looked up and pointed towards Frea’s prone form. I held the shieldmaiden’s hand as her shattered body gave one last violent shudder. Her bowels voided noisily as she finally expired. In the bard’s tales, death was always glorious. In real life, it was messy and humiliating.

There were three more houses just like the first, each packed full of screeching, writhing Clan warriors. Here, a shieldmaiden cursed as a red-hot knife seared shut a stab wound. There, a broad Chosen man wept, innumerable holes in his belly and chest. A younger me had once been blood-sickened by the sight of such proud warriors lying broken on my orders. Over time, I had learned that death in battle was inevitable. My warriors always fought on, confident in the knowledge that I would not wantonly waste their lives.

Still, seeing my warriors like that was always emotionally and physically exhausting. But there were still several dozen more buildings to inspect. The first four structures contained injured Arkadians being treated diligently by my own warriors. These were the enemy warriors my warchiefs had identified as thrallsvar and villein. I hadn’t had a chance to talk over each case with my warchiefs, so I wasn’t familiar with most of them just yet. Still, there were a few I recognized from the heat of battle. I recognized a young trainee with fiery shoulder-length hair who’d stood her ground as her comrades fled around her. She lay on her good side, bandages stained red from her bleeding flank, blood leaking from between lips clenched tight against the pain. Gjord’s killer was there as well. He had been caught fatally off-guard by the nimble teenager’s reckless moves. My guess was that she had been trapped in the salient as the rest of the Arkadian army had fled. Now she lay twitching in the dirt, her arm hugging the gash below her ribs. The cut was serious; the blade had sliced through the skin, muscle, and organs of her midriff. Black blood flowed steady from the open wound. If she survived long enough for Sigrid to get to her the wound might have been survivable. But that possibility was looking slimmer and slimmer by the minute.

The dying teen’s wound was generally representative of the severity of the injuries that I saw amongst the future thrallsvar and villein. These warriors had fought better, harder, and longer than any of their comrades. An encounter with any of them was guaranteed to end in bloodshed—their enemy’s or their own. Of course, the downside of that was that relatively few such warriors survived to be named. But the ones that were too tough to let little things like potentially-mortal injuries get in their way would certainly be deserving of their new titles.

Such grievous injuries also meant that bodily fluids from bleeding bodies and voided bowels proliferated alongside the growing number of corpses. The straw on the floor was filthy; covered in shit, barf, bits of flesh, and every other bodily fluid known to man. The dirt underneath had grown muddy with the piss and blood of a dozen victims. Dead bodies were left amongst the wounded. The last straw was the warm sausage of shit that squelched beneath my boot as I tried to navigate around one of the healers.

“Get some of the slaves to clean this place up,” I shouted at a young Clan warrior. He saluted and hurried to fetch a work party. A half-dozen captive Arkadian warriors shuffled in a few minutes later as I departed.

I took a break, such as it was, by checking in on the houses that held the injured Zavalan villagers captured what seemed like an eternity ago. Most of them were resting fitfully. After two weeks, few of their lives were in doubt; the ones that would die off had already passed, while the survivors were already over the hill on the path to recovery. A few looked up as I entered but quickly averted their eyes when they recognized me.

After that, it was back into the fire. Thirty buildings were filled with Arkadian wounded and that number was growing by the minute. The evening passed by in a haze of blood and shattered bodies. Here, a sniveling Wildcat tried feebly to plug the stab wound in the right side of her belly. There, a striking Blade tugged weakly at the arrow in her shapely bosom. In one building, an uninjured Arkadian teenager cradled her dying younger sister in her arms. Blood seeped from the young girl’s mouth to stain her chin, her neck, and her small, high breasts. Lots more should have flowed from the horrible entrance wound low in her belly and the splayed flesh of an exit wound in the small of her back, but the girl’s lifeblood was about to run dry. In another building, a blossoming woman pawed desperately at the broken shaft of a spear below her ribs as her struggles reached a grisly climax. Her arms fell limply to the ground as her soul finally fled.

Few of the Arkadian warriors knew anything at all about healing beyond how to bandage a wound, making them essentially bystanders as their brothers- and sisters-in-arms bled into the dirt. The few Clan healers I had were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of patients. Bandages were in desperately short supply. Arkadians ran around, digging through houses to find anything made of cloth. Many removed their own clothing; shirts and skirts were torn into bandages while bras and even panties were used to stuff wounds. Others removed clothing and bandages from the dead to be cleaned and re-used on the living.

Emmy was in one of the buildings. She looked just like any of the dozens of other Arkadian trainees around the town and I almost didn’t notice her. She was busy stitching up a pretty Arkadian who looked to be in her late teens. The point of a sword or an axe, I couldn’t tell which, had swiped the girl across the belly, slicing through skin and flesh, but not cutting deeply enough to reach her organs. Semi-conscious, she moaned as Emmy worked a small bone needle in and around the sliced flesh.

“Where’d you learn to sew up wounds like that?” I asked Emmy. Her needlework couldn’t hold a candle to Sigrid’s mastery, but there were few healers that could perform such a complex procedure.

“I watched Sigrid sew up my innards,” she answered without looking up from her work.

I blinked a few times, stunned into silence. That was morbid, even by Clan standards.

“I’m joking,” she said with a wry smile, “I asked Sigrid to explain it to me while she was sewing up my innards. Then I watched as she sewed up my belly.”

“Of all the things to be thinking about with your guts hanging out,” I breathed incredulously.

“Better than thinking about your guts hanging out,” she deadpanned. She still hadn’t looked up from her work.

A particularly load moan from Emmy’s patient interrupted our banter. Emmy stopped for a second until the girl lay still.

“I spoke to the enemy commander,” Emmy said unbidden, “I like her; you and her have a lot in common.”

“What did you guys talk about?” I asked.

“None of your business,” she replied.

“Such an insolent girl,” I scolded.

Emmy grinned broadly as she continued to work the needle. Threaded through the needle was a thread made from the sinew of a sheep’s gut. The thread was one of the secrets behind Clan medical technology; the thread eventually dissolved in the body, allowing internal injuries to be sewn up without the need to re-open the wound later in order to remove the stitching. The thread was strong and rarely became infected. Better still, it was relatively easy to make and transport. Whole rollers of the stuff were currently sitting in one of the warehouses, carted in from the coast. I’d have appreciated more food or some strong mead instead, but for what it was worth, at least we wouldn’t run out of stitching.

The belly-slashed teen was suddenly hit by a spell of violent coughing. Her whole body bucked as she worked to clear some fluid in her lungs. I quickly secured her shoulders to prevent her thrashing from further damaging her torn gut. After her coughing had stopped, Emmy spoke up once more.

“Kiersten said that I shouldn’t worry about the lives I take in battle. She said, ‘In war, you and your enemy are both trying your best to kill each other. If you show them mercy, they will kill you and your comrades. As a warrior, you cannot allow that to happen.’ She told me that if she’d met me on the battlefield, she would have tried her hardest to kill me. As her opponent, she would have expected nothing less from me.”

“Wise words,” I said in reply.

Emmy paused for a second, her eyes suddenly going far away. “I understand what she said, but I don’t think I’m ready to accept it just yet. That last girl I killed wasn’t trying to kill me; she was trying to run away. I killed her in cold blood. It’s going to take some time for me to forgive myself for that.”

With that, she went back to carefully stitching up her patient’s belly. Sensing that she needed to be alone with her thoughts, I got up stiffly and left to go continue my rounds.

As I’d suspected, several of the houses of healing had been on the verge of becoming cesspools of filth. Harsh words and slave manpower ensured that the problem was quickly rectified. It was close to midnight by the time I was finished inspecting all the houses. Exhausted, I left to get a bit of shut-eye.

I spotted Eberhard, the leader of the new warriors, as I headed back to the Zavalan house I had claimed as my residence. He saluted as I approached. His men and women had taken very few casualties during the battle, so they were doing much of the heavy lifting in the post-battle cleanup. Currently, they were on night guard duty, which allowed my more exhausted warriors to get some rest.

“How may I serve, my Lord?” he asked.

“Eberhard, my friend,” I said as we clasped arms in greeting, “This victory would not have been possible without you.”

“You are too kind, Lord Aurkyn. My warriors and I are more than happy to have a chance to fight for you. The rest of the nobles are too busy sucking each other’s cocks and congratulating themselves over conquering a few measly fishing villages on the coast. You are the only one eager for more, eager for blood—like a real Viking!”

“A man after my own heart,” I said, grinning. “So, what do you think?” I gestured out over my new holdings—both land and flesh.

“I think you’re about to make a big splash in the slave markets,” he replied enthusiastically, “They’re all full of fat fishermen and their equally fat wives right now. You’re going to be quite the sensation when you bring hundreds of prime, captured warriors to market. Many more Clans are going to want to join you.”

“They will be nothing more than fair-weather friends. You and your warriors joined while the going was still rough, and for that I will be forever grateful. Name your price and you shall have it.”

“Very generous of you, Lord Aurkyn. I have my eye on a few choice slaves; I may choose to avail myself of them,” he said.

“By all means,” I replied. His forces had allowed me to capture hundreds of slaves—“a few” was nothing by comparison.

“What is your next move?” he asked. Eberhard was not sworn to me; he was a blood-thirsty battle-seeker and went wherever there was battle. He and his companions were well-known for this.

I thought for a second about whether or not I wanted to tell Eberhard about my plans. He could steal the idea and challenge me for control of Zavala after all. But I swiftly put that thought out of mind.

“After selling the slaves, I plan to raid up and down the banks. This town will become my staging ground. The captured villagers tell me that the fjord-land is heavily-populated; from small villages to large towns and even a large city. Sooner or later, it will all be mine!”

“Then it sounds like I’m in the right place for some action!” Eberhard guffawed. “My warriors and I will stay and fight with you. We shall raid and plunder as you command so that we might take part in more pitched battles!”

“Nothing would please me more,” I said, grateful for their help. I had lost many warriors during the last battle. Eberhard’s support, no matter how temporary, would go a long way towards replacing those losses.

I would need all the warriors I could get for what I had planned next.

Related publications
I waited until Wednesday of the next week for Byron to call me and at the end of class I fought the urge to go to his apartment. I tried calling Byron but he did not answer; I left him a voicemail and finally I decided that I should go to his apartment
“Now son me and your mom are going to visiting papa Bo-Bo for the weekend. He is not doing well. His intestinal and rectal swollen has developed into cancer. You and your sister are not to leave the house. We have stocked groceries, checked the mail, and you should be set
This is part two of Indoctrination. Comments are appreciated. By the time he got back to his dorm, Ryan’s stomach was in such a knot that he wondered if he would even be able to swim
Add a comment
Add a comment:
Your Name:
Your E-Mail:
Enter the two words shown in the image: *