Month: March 2015

A Kingdom Divided

The ship sliced through the dense, white fog and deep, black night like a child picking its way through a minefield. Raul stood stern faced at the helm, his lion’s gaze piercing the foggy veil, in spite of the extinguished lanterns. He checked his compass to ensure he was still heading West. He did not imagine his twilight years would be spent running guns to the Americas, but life often takes strange paths. At any minute an ironclad monster could appear out of the fog and smash his little ship to pieces with those terrible exploding shells.

Fear held dominion over the ship today. The only sounds were the soft lapping of the waves against the hull and the gentle wooden creak of the ship. His first mate appeared stoic, for the crews sake, but his hands were clenched white knuckled behind him. Miguel Vargas had sailed with Raul for over two decades, ever since he was the ships boy and had served loyally. They were the last remnants of a Great navy that but ever since the French had beaten them, the navy was becoming worthless. It was fitting then he called this ship ‘La Última Esperanza’

‘God is with us, this fog is surely a blessing.’ Miguel whispered, his voice shook a little.

‘We aren’t through yet.’ Raul said, his eyes set sternly into the mist. His first mate moved closer and whispered to him, to be sure no one else could hear.

‘Is it true those ironclads cannons can hit at 3000 yards?’

‘Further.’

He looked to his first mate, he seemed unshaken by this information, only frustrated. A new flash of guilt flushed over Raul, he was full of guilt of late.

‘You did not need to join me, Miguel. You owe me nothing.’

‘You owe Agustina nothing, Kapitán.’ Raul was going to speak but he was interrupted. ‘We both lost a lot against the French, this an opportunity to get back at them.’

Raul thanked God almighty for sending him a man as loyal as Miguel. The man knew all his sins and still stood at his side. Raul wouldn’t blame him for turning his back, especially knowing about Agustina and how he defiled her marriage. When she had asked him did he know anyone who could smuggle weapons to the new world, he had volunteered right away. He told her that every Spaniard owed her a debt for her actions in Zaragoza but he knew he was just trying to ease his guilt. She was a hero now, as she should be, and happily married but his transgression still haunted him. This was his penance

‘Is this truly the best crew we can muster?’ Miguel said looking at the terrified faces sneaking around the deck.

‘The days of our great Navy has gone and I am too old to do anything about it.’ Raul said, with a deep sigh. He looked around at the sorry excuse for a crew, they had joined because the Navy was safe and easy in peacetime. There was no one left from the wars, he wanted the Navy to stay great but what could he do? He took off his captain’s hat and smiled at it. He reminded how proud he was when he first put it on. He looked over to his first mate who had silenced a pair of crewmen with a vicious stare. He stared at the hat again for a moment and remembered all the blood, sweat and tears associated with it, all the pride and shame. Then he put it on Miguel’s head.

‘Kapitán?’ He spoke almost fearfully when he realised what had happened. He looked up at the hat as if it were a holy relic from God himself.

‘I won’t come back from this, Miguel. The ship is yours now.’ He smiled down at him with a fatherly pride.

‘I’m honoured I-‘ He was interrupted by a Panicked crewman.

‘SHIP TO STARBOARD!’

The fog had cleared, only momentarily, to reveal the cold iron hide of one of the Union beasts. They were at its rear but even still they wouldn’t have the fire power to even dent it. It was so close they could nearly leap across. Voices could be heard calling from its insides.

‘What do we do?’ One of the younger crew cried to Raul and he honestly didn’t know. Miguel fixed his hat, his face in to a frown and his voice to a gruff commanding growl.

‘Board her!’

Everyone turned to him shocked, even Raul.

‘This ship won’t survive a single broadside, and we can’t damage it from out here.’ He explained. Raul agreed. He picked up his sabre and colt in the other hand. The ironclad beast began a slow lumbering turn but ‘la última Esperanza’  was headed straight for it. Their little ship hit the goliath and the men screamed their battle cries and leapt across. The deck was empty and they charged to a porthole leading down.

The Union soldiers were in a panic running for their weapons. There was a plume of smoke from the Spaniards heralding several union deaths. They descended down below decks it was too cramped for rifles in here so they were forced to switch to blades. The first Spaniard below decks roared like a lion and cut a man from collarbone to navel. He took a blade in the ribs. A slash to his right took of the arm that had wounded him but and he still managed to stand. His comrades moved in front of him now fighting like wolves defending their injured pack mate.  Raul aimed his revolver and fired into the American uniforms. Six shots, each one a man’s death.

Miguel stepped into the fray, untouchable as his namesake the archangel. He dispatched the Yankees like Mik’hael dispatched the devil. The battle was over as suddenly as it began, the Yankee toy sailors lay broken and Miguel stood surrounded by bloodied blue uniforms. He kicked open the door to the engine room where a nervous looking man with too many medals shook and raised his hands.

‘I surrender!’

‘Coward, should we kill him?’ Miguel asked with a disgusted sneer.

‘No, I could use him.’

‘The laws of Chivalry dictate that I must be taken hostage and ransomed back to my family. The Jackson family have a lot of money sirs, I assure you.’

‘Silence Yankee.’ Miguel growled in broken English raising his sword threateningly.

Raul took a moment to gauge the man in front of him. He was young, unexperienced and he trembled visibly. Clearly he was a knight under the American monarchy but hiding in the engine room he had shown his true colours. Raul knew exactly how to deal with this man.

‘I piss on your Chivalry.’ Raul theatrically cocked the hammer back on his gun and pointed it at the man. ‘If you want to live you will do what I say.’ The man nodded, he had gone very pale now and seemed too afraid to talk.

‘How many crew to sail?’ Raul put the barrel of his gun against the man’s sweaty temple.

‘Fifty.’

‘Can you pilot the ship to a destination of my choosing?’

‘Yes…of…of course.’ The man’s mind was beginning to whir, he was planning something. Raul would need to put a stop to that.

He fired beside the man’s ear.

He was so terrified he looked paler the corpses outside.

‘Do not lie.’

‘Honestly sir I can. I can!’ The young man answered trembling uncontrollably. Raul believed him, but he watched him for a few moments in silence, letting the fear really sink in.

‘Good. Do as I say and I will let you go. If you do as you are told, there is no reason we should be… unchivalrous.’

The young man breathed a little easier at that. Raul turned back to Miguel who was looking at him sorrowfully, as if Raul was in front of the firing squad.

‘You can still walk away Kapitán. You don’t owe Agustina your life.’

‘It’s God I need to payback, my friend.’ Raul said, his mind filling up with that beautiful, terrible moment where he lay with Agustina, the treasured, shameful memory. He was truly the devil’s creature. Miguel couldn’t think of anything else to say. He seized his friends hand and shook it for the last time.

*

Gettysburg stood defiantly against the confederate forces, a dark oil stain on the land and the confederates were the flame. Emile Page stood equally defiant in front of Leuitenant General Richard Ewell. Her Eagle eyes were yellow in this light and were fixed on the sad twitchy little bird of a man. His head stooped to one side as he talked revealing the bald top of his head, coughing weekly.

‘You cannot be this close to the line widow Page.’ The little man said in his shrill lisp. He tried to retreat back to his men but the Emilie stepped in his way.

‘You need soldiers Ewell, we can fight.’

‘Now why do you suppose President Davis made me a major general anyway?’ He added meaninglessly, it was an odd verbal tick of his. ‘Madam, I have campaigned for the Negro to be added to our ranks. They said, and I quote ‘This was impossible.” How do you think they would react to women?’

‘Clearly victory isn’t important to them,’ She said with a withering frown.

A messenger came and gave Ewell the excuse he needed to leave. She stormed off towards, her face reminiscent of warlike Athena, to another woman that followed the army. Anna saw her coming with a face like a thunder. She was checking her supplies, she had lost count of how many times, the last battle had taken a toll on them, and on her.

‘Well at least you got to speak this time.’ Anna said, trying to console Emilie.

‘Damned stubborn old fools will lose this war.’

‘“Of all creatures that breathe and move upon the earth, nothing is bred that is weaker than man.” Anna quoted with a smile. Emilie lifted her skirts and sat on the ground staring at Gettysburg. Why could no one else see how important this city was? They should be using every advantage they could get. Her late husband had said the strength of the South was its people, yet they wouldn’t let all their people fight.

‘There are other ways to help the war effort Emilie.’ She said taking a pair of scissors from her personal effects and adding it to her medical supplies. She admired what the nurse did for the soldiers, but she had married into the Page family, her husband had died fighting this war and now there was no one representing her family, she had to do it. More importantly she wanted to.

‘I don’t want to help the war effort Anna. I want to win the war.’ She said with a smirk.

‘Far be it from me to shatter your dreams but I fear you will not beat the confederates armed with harsh language.’

‘I should use your wit as a sabre.’

‘Tis most reliable.’

Emilie smiled and stared off into the distance. Prehaps she should head home to Rosewell, try to make the place a home again. It surely couldn’t be any more difficult than dealing with these thick headed military fools. The hills of the countryside rolled into the infinite, from here she couldn’t see brothers killing brothers or fat headed Royalists calling for Loyality to a Monarch deserving of none. The lush green was interrupted by sporadic builldings and if Emilie concentrated she could pretend the buildings were not burned out and not full of bodies.

She saw a lone man in the distance coming towards the city and somehow she knew who it was. The chance she took that a distant relative in Spain would sympathise with her struggle had paid off.

‘What would you do if I could find us weapons?’ She asked Anna excitedly. The nurse raised her hand in mock defiance.

‘I would single handedly take Gettysburg,’

‘I’m serious.’

‘Seriously?’ The nurse thought for a moment, her eyes going to a distant and dark place. Her face as grim as the reaper. ‘I’ve watched boys I grow up with in screaming agony with bullets in their guts. I’ve spent hours tending to someone just to watch them expire. I just wanna make a difference, if your guns can do that, so be it.’

Emilie nodded. Pleased at the answer, she pointed to a nearby hill.

‘Come with me and we can really make a difference.’

*

The fighting had been raging all day, the left flank was still pressing the attack with cannon fire and small arms lighting up the fast encroaching night. Raul had provided more weapons and ammo than they had expected and presented them with regards from Agustina de Aragon. Together the two women had recruited other women, all eager to fight. They made their way to the right flank, Emilie had watched the battle and saw that this is where the vital Hills were. These had to be taken and she feared that Ewell was too timid to take it.

The ragtag battalion hid from the sight of both armies and waited for someone to move. The hours crawled past as she expected the cannons to roar and shake the earth with their fury but the fighting seemed concentrated on the left side. She was getting anxious now, doubting her decision. Prehaps she would be more useful on the other flank, maybe there would be no attack on this flank. She had learned much from her husband and her father in law about military strategy but as she skulked in the darkness all she could feel were doubts. Maybe they were right, maybe a battlefield was no place for a woman.

Cemetery Hill erupted in fire. Cannonfire ripped down into the confederate lines as they advanced. Riflefire could be heard from this distance, barely more than a pop but they all knew well that each one could herald a man’s death. Emilie steeled herself ready to advance but took another quick glance at the confederate lines. Ewell’s division hadn’t moved. The timid fool didn’t realise how important this Hill was.

She signalled the advance. No one had any illusions as to what was going to happen to them, but at least they would draw fire from the confederate army. It was almost as if they were invisible, they advanced towards the hill completely unimpeded. The gunfire grew louder and louder as they approached and each cannon seemed to shake their very bones as they got close.

They aimed rifles, hearts pumping louder than the cannons and fired. The Union line swivelled to meet them, and fired into their ragged bunch. Anna died quick and clean in the first volley. Emilie turned and saw Ewell’s division had still not moved. Turning the rest of the woman she saw them trying to reload. They were all terrified but not one of them broke. It filled her with pride and Ewell, more than the enemy, filled her with Fury.

‘Charge you cowards!’ She screamed at them then turned her Eagle’s gaze to the enemy.

‘Bayonets!’ She called to her volunteers. They did as ordered.

The charge didn’t last long. Emilie did make it to the top but she was shot down in a hail of gunfire. Ewell’s division however obeyed the woman’s command. They advanced and by the end of the day they had taken Cementary Hill. By the Third day they had taken Gettysburg.

Aftermath

The Cementary was destroyed in the fighting, the decision to rebuild it was disputed given the state of the rest of the city however the naming of it was unanimous, to this day the Emilie Page Memorial Cementary houses the most patriotic dead in all of America. Even as a mark of respect to the Old Ways the last King of the Americas was interred here, King Albert Washington the third.

Southern Dream

He sank, deep into the darkness. Above him was the waking world, the world he controlled. Beneath him was the swirling vortex of his subconscious. It was spinning so fast it would tear him apart. The moment his feet touched the edge of the vortex he found himself standing on filthy tiles.

It was a filthy room with no doors and the windows high beyond reach. The tiles were once white but had been aged yellow and there was a thick, indistinguishable slime caked onto them. There were beds lining the walls, sheets brown with squalor. From under the sheets spindly arms with too many joints jutted out. They flailed around madly with sharp talons grasping at nothing. The bed he was facing had no such monster. It had a normal human head, looking terribly sick and it stared at him through sunken eyes.

Looking down at it he saw long grey hair, so familiar. Even more familiar was the face. It was his.

‘I’m not ready!’ It screamed.

He shut his eyes tight.

He slammed his hands over his ears.

When he opened his eyes he was standing on a rotten metal frame in the shape of a star. Standing on a distant plateau in the shape of an N was his family, his children ran around playing and his wife beckoned for him to come to her, smiling as radiantly as ever. He tried to walk forward but his feet wouldn’t move. He strained against the mysterious power that was dragging him away from them. He looked over his shoulder and saw an embalmed corpse reaching out for him with venom spilling over its lips and empty sockets staring accusingly at him. It sped towards him. Appeared in front of him. It put its mouth to his forehead. The venom burned his skin.

In a flash he was sitting in an endless corridor. Cheap stud walls went infinitely, punctuated by cheap wooden doors, paint peeling and a sign underneath written in gibberish. He could only see out of one eye. He was wearing a torn white shirt, bloodstains down the front. His knuckles were skinned. He looked up to see a glowing white light. It was radiating from a human figure but he couldn’t see it. The figure touched him on the arm and he couldn’t feel the pain anymore.

Platba? Two voices asked in unison.

The light increased until it was all he could see. It blinded him. It then disappeared in an instant and his surroundings changed.

He was sitting again, in of a table. At the foot of the table was his family and at the head of the table sat a monster. It was thin, bald and eyeless. Its skin was as black as tar. It hissed. His family retreated away from it. The eyeless sockets scanned over the food on the table, as its gaze moved onto the food it began to rot, turn black and shrivelled. He looked to his family, trying desperately to get away but unable to move from their seats. They looked at him in wide eyed panic. He tried to move. He was stuck too. The creatures gaze moved onto his plate and he saw the food decay in front of his very eyes. He began to shake the chair with all his strength. It was pointless. His son’s food melted into a brown mush in front of him. His son screamed, he tried to call out to the boy but all he could manage was a whisper. The plate in front of his wife cracked in half, spilling putrefied food all over the table. The creature gaze was turning to his wife. He tried to fight but he couldn’t. His muscles wouldn’t obey him. The creature stared at his wife. She began to shrink in front of his eyes. She looked thinner, her eyes sunken. She turned to him, with eyes full of despair. Then everything disappeared.

Finally he found himself standing in a black void. In front of him there was a bed with his face staring back with that familiar grey hair. Both his hands were inside his doppelganger’s chest cavity, squeezing rhythmically. He looked at the still body for a long time, his hands pumping. Then he slowly and deliberately pulled his hands out. He looked down and clenched in each of his hands was a heart. The one in his left hand was spilling out flame. The one in his right was spilling out icewater.

The Rake and the Red

The pendant smashed in the in the field. Then the grass died a perfect circle in front of them, the colour went from green, to dry yellow and finally to a scorched black. After this, the blackened ground fell away and left in its place only an endless gaping hole, a Hell Pit. A young man and his valet stared down into the infinite blackness. Then it appeared.

It shot out of the hole faster than a bullet landing on the opposite side of the gaping maw. Its skin had been flayed and exposed muscles flexed crimson and angry. Two black bulbous eyes sat in a horned skull. A snake made of flame twisted around its forearm. The young master turned to his valet, as the monster’s breath threw his sleek black ponytail to and fro, and said in a mildly surprised manner.

‘I daresay. That something may have gone wrong.’ The ever faithful valet deigned to comment. The monstrosity roared with deafening ferocity and the snake of fire sprang out at them. The valet expertly and effortlessly leapt out of the way and the young master rolled pulling out his rapier in the same movement. He dashed towards the monster and leapt between its legs. The snake swept around and launched for the young man, an expert lunge however pierced the monsters hamstring and sent him to his knees. The snake smashed into the demon’s chest leaving it burnt out and hollow.

The valet moved to his master and spoke in a business like unamused tone.

‘While I certainly don’t mean to criticise…’ The valet said, opening the case he held and displaying two duelling flintlock pistols. ‘…I do feel that this could have been avoided if you had only married Miss LIguori.’ He dutifully continued to hold open the case when his master had picked one. Firing a shot into now teeming mass of monsters, similarly skinned and scratching their way up the sides of the hole, the master rolled his eyes.

‘Must we always go back to that same point?’ The young lord put down his now empty pistol on the case and picked up the other. ‘Lady Pugh may not have a family as old or well respected as the Linguori’s she, however, is much finer a vintage’ The valet put the case down, reloaded it quickly and handed it back to his master in the time it took him to line up another shot.

‘Be that as it may, it was a wonderful evening before having to deal with these rotters.’ The valet said with an almost inaudible sigh. The young lord shot another who was just reaching the mouth of the pit right between its eyes.
‘While I don’t disagree with your assessment.’ He said piercing another clambering monstrosity with lightning speed. ‘I would certainly debate your timing.’ He said as he danced back from the hole, now over spilling with the demons. The valet stepped back in line with his master.

‘I shall shelve the issue for you to return to, at your convenience.’ The valet said, preparing to reload, the hole was now like the top of an anthill and the entire colony was coming at them.


While not the most fashionable ball in all of Brusdon all the major players in the city could be found at the Floyd family mansion. It was a less prestigious ball than the Grand Council’s ball in the White Palace but this was where innovation took place. From musicians to artists and dresses to food every new trend adopted by the Grand Council was birthed right here. It was why Lord Anthony LeHunt was so attracted to it.

It was a source of constant irritation to the Floyd family that this ponytailed Rake of a man always procured an invitation. They couldn’t simply refuse him entry, such rudeness was barbaric. It was not always so, indeed in past months they enjoyed having him nearby, when the scandal of him refusing to marry the much more respected Emma Linguori generated more hype about their ball. However the man was becoming a nuisance.

He strode up their path with his ever Loyal Valet Dean Sifford in tow, that valet was lusted after by the entirety of polite society but no matter the price or prospects he would never leave his current master. He presented his invitation to the doorman with a flourish, it was a +1 from a recent conquest of his, the invitation was still valid without his conquest. The doorman frowned but he opened the door for Anthony and so his hunt began.

The room was topped with a magnificent glass dome displaying the stars shining down on the lacquered wooden dancefloor and the couples spinning atop it. Lord Anthony took very little time to find his prize standing at the side of the floor looking radiant in her black dress. Her auburn curls fell down her back and pale skin was lightly dusted with freckles. The dress may not have been as fashionable or as eye catching as the other ladies, but the woman herself was peerless. He moved towards her, interrupted every step of the way.

‘Lord Anthony I heard of your exploits perhaps we could discuss them more privately?’ A lady said suggestively. Anthony didn’t even glance in her direction he knew her type instantly, tall, blonde typically pretty and utterly boring. He had used her type before but now he hungered for something different.

‘Perhaps later, madam.’ No need to burn that bridge entirely. The next lady that came up to him was a heavily painted vessel, personality as repulsive as her appearance.

‘Our saviour, you defended us from the Hell Pit. You must let me come and thank you sometime.’ She made it more of a demand than a question.

‘No.’ Anthony replied. Some bridges needed burned.
He moved to the Lady Pugh’s side grinning towards her. She turned to him making every impression of indifference but there was a sparkle in her eyes, matched by the hunger in Lord Anthony’s.

‘Lord LeHunt,’ She said, knowing full well how it irked him to be addressed as such. ‘I had no idea you were here.’ She said dismissively.

‘Surely you weren’t dressed so ravishingly for someone other than me?’ Lord Anthony asked with a devilish grin. She looked over her shoulder at him.

‘I look this way for me. Why would you be so important to me?’ She said playfully.

‘There was the small matter of the cursed pendent I took care of.’ Anthony jibbed.

‘In doing so however you did open the Hell Pit.’ She retorted with a little smile. He put his hand on her shoulder, leaving it to linger a little too long, but neither party complained.

‘In doing so I also defended you from a Hell Pit.’ He replied and she in turn relented this point. She turned to look at him properly this time. Her expression serious, grateful even.

‘In truth, I must thank you. I owe you a great debt.’ She said with a beautiful smile that made the whole matter worthwhile. He waved his hand to brush away the debt.

‘You owe me nothing, I did not do it to indebt you.’ He said, graciously and honestly. She looked up at him, almost trembling.

‘Why then?’ She squeaked. He opened his mouth to answer and was interrupted by Mr Sifford.

‘A thousand apolagies, sir. I must direct your attention to staircase.’ The valet whispered into his ear. Although outwardly calm, Anthony was so angry he was on the verge of drawing his rapier on his valet. However he did as the valet said and felt so grateful he could kiss the man’s feet.

Coming down the stairs making an overly grand entrance, as their position demanded, was Duke and Duchess Ligouri. There was a polite round of applause as they descended, but Miss Pugh went quiet and bashful seeing them, feeling responsible for Anthony spurning his Fiancé. He noticed this change.

‘What a boorish family. I would rather eat a flintlock than be related to them.’ He said, offhandedly. Miss Pugh looked grateful. However the Duke had spotted Anthony from across the room and he immediately went red under his great moustache. The Duchess, effortlessly beautiful, more so than her daughter, slipped a leg out from the spilt in her dress. With other women it would make them a harlot but somehow, Duchess Ligouri could manage it with grace. She whispered into her husband’s ear and he called out.

‘Blackguard! Vagabond! Oath Breaker!’ He shouted, moving towards Lord Anthony as his wife watched approving through brown eyes, eyes that somehow, in this light, seemed to glint red. ‘I challenge you to a duel.’ He declared causing a sharp intake of breath from the surrounding le bon ton and some excited murmuring. Just as Anthony was about to accept, he noticed that Mr Sifford was staring intently at both husband and wife in turn. He was right in Anthony’s view which was most unusual; the man was invisible when he wasn’t called. He had noticed something important.

The valet leaned over and whispered something into the furious duke’s ear that sent the man to collapse heavily. There was another scandalous intake of breath. Dean Sifford, the greatest of the valets, then did something unthinkable. He reached down and pried the man’s wedding ring off his finger, in plain view. There would have been another reaction except it was silenced by the wife’s scream as she contorted and lifted into the air. Her flesh peeled back and fell to the ground and from her skull sprouted two monstrous horns. There was screaming, there was panic but above all, for Anthony, there was fatigue mixed with mild annoyance.

‘Just once I would like to go into a gala without being attacked by a skinless demon woman whose husband is trying to kill me!’ He shouted, charging towards it with his rapier in his hand.

‘Gah’Ak’Gule will have your soul Anthony LeHunt! The Demon King will drown this world and you will-.’ The monster paused as Anthony had skewered it through the heart. It crumpled into a heap and with the greatest finesse Mr Sifford had arranged a group of servants to grab the body and move it out.

Within moments the panic had stopped, the music had resumed and the Ball was continuing.

‘Dreadful people.’ Anthony said brushing off his waistcoat.

‘Their recent behaviour, certainly.’ Miss Pugh said, looking at the still unconscious Duke, whom had been purposefully left unattended by Mr Sifford.

‘I quite agree, how dare they interrupt our conversation.’ He said looking down his nose at the Duke. ‘Where were we?’ He asked turning his attention back to her.

‘I believe I said I was indebted to you and you graciously told me you didn’t want me to feel indebted.’ Miss Pugh said with another blast of her smile.

‘Ah, indeed I did.’ He said, raising a single finger to pause himself. ‘I wonder however if you would do me a favour and join me in a carriage ride tomorrow night if you are not otherwise engaged?’ He asked rather charmingly.

‘It would be my singular pleasure.’ She answered rather charmed.

The Daily Business of Destruction

They can summon nameless horrors from the darkest corners of unspeakable dimensions but can’t delete emails, Richard thought to himself. Rolling his eyes with an audible sigh he scanned back over the email

Hi guys I am not getting emails through this morning and we have a global catastrophe
planned for later can you take a look?

Death Will Soon Consume us all.
Mark Murray – Acquisitions

He was on the verge of sending an email when he realised he would have to speak with the man because the fool wasn’t getting emails. He picked up the phone and dialled the extension. The dialtone was a child weeping, calling for its mother. Richard waited gazing out the window with his head in his hands.

He was a few floors up, from here he could see the pentagram in the middle of the car park, and the few scattered cars parked recklessly. This car park was cornered off from the street, there was a building facing them, It was an old red brick building, charming in it’s own way except for the graffiti scrawled all over it. It formed an L shape hiding the carpark from two sides. The other building, next door to him, was a huge glass building, for a H and M plastics, they manufactured bottle tops, of all things. It was easily three times the size of their building and Richard loved how it looked, so sleek so high tech.

He hung up as the child was beginning to hurt his ears with its horrified screams. It looked like it would rain soon, that would wash away the salt in the pentagram. He bet the facilities team would rope him into helping them redo it. He wondered did anyone consider his feelings in here. A man had been laid in the middle of the pentagram. There was a powerful chanting from the robed men surrounding it. The leader of the assembly held a knife and it began to glow with a crackling red light. As the chanting reached a crescendo the leader plunged a knife deep into the victims chest and in an explosion of gore a misshapen monstrosity, with skin that drooped low, an eye detached from its socket and a wicked forked tongue appeared from the pooling blood. Its mere presence sent several of the chanters to vomiting. One began laughing uncontrollably and twisted his own head around until his neck snapped. The monster walked inside Richard’s building with a slight nod of its
caved in skull up towards him.

‘I didn’t know Terry was in town.’ Richard mused out loud.

‘I am here but nowhere. I live in the darkest recesses of your mind and feed off the monstrous thoughts that you repress. Looking into my eyes is looking into your darkest secrets.’ Terry whispered into his mind. ‘Also can I have the wifi password?’

‘DeathL1v35InU5! And don’t tell anyone, it slows the connection and it means I have to change the password.’ Richard grumbled, he didn’t need to speak but he just thought it felt too strange not talking out loud to someone.

‘Have no fear. The people of the Shinati call me the Keeper of Secrets. I will be in the HR Office if you need me. One of the girls has seen me and shot herself.’

Great, more blood on laptops. He would have to clean that out before it congealed. Richard glanced back to the email. Mark was in the HR Office so he could at least kill two birds with one stone. He walked through the Operations floor, full of agents at this time of the day. Some serial killers, some cult leaders and even Cold Callers, a collection of the worst scum they could find. Their motto was hung above the desks in a banner ‘Be the Best at Being the Worst!’ Glancing at the employee of the week he saw a bald man with eyes bulging to the point of bursting and a jaw clamped so tight it looked as if he would smash his teeth at any moment.

Jack – Outstanding performance 102 points this week for 5 rippings.

Typical, they always favour the serial killers. He glanced at last month’s winner. It was a dour faced woman in her forties, with a bowl haircut doing her best impersonation of a smile.

Ann-Marie- 87 points with 16 family dinners interrupted and 1 romantic dinner. Well at least someone was getting credit other than the killers.

He looked up and saw Alicia. It brought a smile to his weary face. She was short and blonde with a side of her head shaved which Richard always found unusual but quite attractive. She caught his eye and smiled back.

‘Hi Richard.’ She said, turning her attention back to the puddle of pus she was moping up.

‘Are you leaving us yet Alica?’ He said, with a false smile covering his concern. She shook her head with and turned up her lip.

‘You’d think a business management Degree would mean something but nothing yet. You know what is like out there.’

‘Tell me about it. You will get one, you’re smarter and prettier than me that’s for sure.’ He said, then added nervously. I don’t even have a degree.’ He added. She looked at him waryily but he was sure he saw a twinkle in her eyes.

‘Yeah get a move on flatterer.’ He stopped. Ask her to lunch he told himself. Just ask. I’m going to ask, all she can say is no. There’s no harm in it.

‘See you later.’ He said cursing his cowardice.

He swiped his pass at the door and strolled to the door of the HR office finding it blocked by Gavin and his chums all nattering pointlessly and dressed in their best approximation of business casual. He thought they looked, and acted, like drooling fools.

‘Match was great mate, see that goal by Sentez, epic man.’ Gavin said, enthusiastically. A footballer doing the job they are paid to do, although that probably was an alien concept to Gavin.

‘There goes IT watch yourselves lads, hard man coming through.’ Said a crony, whose name Richard had long since expunged from his brain.

He opened his mouth to speak when a robed figure all dressed in black beckoned them forward. The inside of its hood was pitch black, there was no face but the longer you looked into it, the more your imagination thought it saw something horrible and demonic in the darkness. They said a man could go mad seeing what lay under that hood, but Richard always found Ted to be quite pleasant.

‘Quality want to speak with you about your chanting.’ The figure rasped from under its hood. The men reluctantly left but Gavin lingered longer than the others just to frustrate Richard. When he had finally gone, Richard walked into the office, doors swinging open with a swipe of his card and thus he began deleting emails for Mark and the countless other tasks that required his presence.


Finally sitting down for lunch, an hour late because Mark muttered the dreaded words ‘My laptop is running slow’, Richard began browsing the internet. He had to scroll past the usual self-promotion tweets and inevitable slew of ‘THE END IS NIGH’ before he got the really interesting things. A hilarious video of a dancing hamster, news about the new World of Warcraft 2 expansion Rise of the Tuskarr, a video of the new raids, The Tyranny of Gamon and some others and an interesting article about the new Bard class. Just as he was getting into the article he heard some gunshots from down the corridor. What were those people doing now? He would never get peace in this place. He went to the beta forums and read some feedback on the class.

Kalthazor: The new bard class is the best thing to ever happen to the game. They are so flexible easily switching between giving good DPS and good heals I think having one in the party will be amazing so excited for the expansion!!!!!!!!!!!!

MeGaNeGaSh4mmy: max lvl noobs jumping in as healerz not knowin hwo to play. Omfg bliz stop doing this shit

Trollman8548562244:Wow2 sux EQ5 ftw

His concentration was broken by some more gunshots followed by shouting. He got up and treaded carefully to his door. He raised his hand to it touching the cold wood. He took a deep, steadying breath. He thumped on it and shouted

‘Keep it down will you!’

Then he dropped back into the chair and looked at some movie news. Apparently Captain America 7 was coming out next year and was going to Feature Armless Tiger Man, rumours were he was being played by Tom Hanks.

Someone opened his door and just as he was about to turn around and give them a piece of his mind, when he decided to stay quiet instead. The woman’s demeanour didn’t give much room for argument, the assault rifle pointed at his head reinforced this.

‘Give me one good reason not to pull this trigger.’ She said with a sneer. Her voice was far more world weary than her age would indicate. Normally, Richard could think of numerous reasons to live, many well structured arguments about how he didn’t really serve evil he was just support staff however a loaded gun to his head had impeached his thought process somewhat.

‘I haven’t even finished my lunch yet.’ He said dumbstruck. The woman looked around, she had short blonde hair, lightly tanned skin and she was actually very pretty. Although the pale white fatigues she was wearing was hardly flattering.

‘Are you IT?’ She asked.

‘Yes, but I’m not a nerd.’ He said, managing to confuse himself.

‘Can you get me access to the head office?’

‘Yeah, my card can get into anywhere.’ His arms were beginning to tire from being stuck in the air and he hoped desperately she wouldn’t just shoot him and take the card. She looked at him and considered what to do for a moment. Her finger hovered over the trigger and Richard stared at it understandably nervous. She thought for a long time, and as she did so Richard was calling in his head for Terry but there was no answer. Was he dead? Could he be killed? His legs quivered the surging adrenaline desperate to make him run but the woman was blocking his only exit.

The barrel moved, indicating for him to lead the way. He stood, his legs suddenly like jelly. He moved out into the operations floor. The ground was littered with bodies, blood seeping into the dull grey carpet and bullet holes in the walls, desks and dividers. Men in identical white uniforms were grabbing the surviving operations staff and leading them out in handcuffs. He spied Gavin begging for his life and he smiled. The woman noticed this.

‘Even your kind finds him detestable. Seven kidnappings, all victims found dismembered.’ She said, she looked ready to throw him a kick.

‘Oh yes, I hope you make him suffer.’ Richard made sure he was loud enough for Gavin to hear.
‘I’ll make sure of it personally.’ She said, with a terrifying satisfaction, Richard found this disturbingly attractive. They moved on stepping around bodies until he saw Alicia. She was face down, hole in the side of her shaved head, his heart sank. She didn’t deserve this, she deserved better.

‘Caught in the crossfire.’ The woman said curtly

‘Why would you do this?’ He asked, staring down at the corpse as broken as he felt. He would have asked her, eventually. It was too late now. He would never have that chance.

‘We are the White Rose.’ She answered plainly.

‘Never heard of you.’

‘You were never supposed to.’ She shoved him with the barrel and he moved on, shoulders slumped dejectedly and his mind full of the image of that beautiful woman with a bullet hole on the side of her head. He felt angry at these people but what could he do them? Change their passwords? He swiped the door and tried to move away but the woman jabbed him in the ribs and forced him through first.

This was the head office, he had never been in here, despite his access. It was pitch black and deadly cold. The floor under his feet seemed to squelch like rotting flesh and his nostrils filled with the repugnant scent of brimstone.

‘Your kind should not be here.’ Voices whispered in unison, it seemed like the voices surrounded them somehow.

‘Show yourself, Czathlak.’ The woman called into the darkness, every inch as fearless as when she held the gun to Richard’s head.

‘There is a reason they call me the unseen horror.’ The voices were getting closer now they seemed to be increasing in number.

‘I do not fear you monster!’ The woman yanked a pendant off her neck.

‘Little Alexa, I know your fears more than you do. To live on the streets again, to be so desperate for money-‘ There was a bright explosion that the darkness retreated into a unassuming man in a charcoal grey suit with an ear piercing scream.

‘The light of Andenia. I had thought it lost.’ The man said sounding almost impressed. Alexa pressed the shotgun to his temple. This man was his CEO, Sanji Aveer, he was completely bald, his face covered in unspeakable symbols, his eye lids had been peeled off and left bulging brown eyes staring from bloody sockets.

‘You were supposed to.’ She said, kicking the man on his back and pointing the gun at his forehead.

‘I’m surprised it worked after you executed that innocent cleaner’ The suited man stared directly at Richard those unsettling lidless eyes unmoving seeming to stare directly into his soul.

‘Collateral damage.’ Alexa said callously. The hot rage began to burn again in his chest. His heart thumped uncontrollably. Images appeared in his mind of Alexa shooting the poor, pleading Alicia. It seemed so real as if it he were reliving it. The brutality, the careless way Alexa pulled the trigger it sent his guts reeling. It started as a small ache and then grew to something much larger and much worse. The pain doubled him over and the lidless man smiled revealing his filed and pointed teeth.
Alexa stared at him with narrowed eyes.

‘What the hell is wrong with you?’ She hissed, as Richard cried out in pain. The pain was increasing it was becoming unbearable, as if the liquid in his stomach was somehow boiling. It forced him to his knees. He began gagging.

‘If this is a trick of yours…’ She said, sounding increasingly worried. Then something came out of Richard’s mouth.

He didn’t vomit, a black liquid somehow crawled out of his mouth. It rolled down his chin and touched the ground then it began to pool. It was seemingly endless and the pool began to grow until it surrounded Richard. He sank into it.

He should have felt fear.

He didn’t.

He felt elated. A flood of knowledge poured into his brain. Secrets that were far beyond the reach of ordinary men were open to him and the knowledge made him practically giddy. He could feel the building, and the White Rose invaders were an annoying itch. He scratched and watched as the invaders fell apart at his touch. He crushed Gavin beneath his palm and laughed.

Then he saw Alexa. He suddenly felt ill looking at her vile light. He clenched her in his fist, being careful not to kill her but he did make her scream in a mix of terror and agony. He smiled at the pleasure it gave him. Her pain filled him with a buzzing, orgasmic joy. Then he returned promptly to the head office.

He rose out of the black liquid, not a drop of it on his clothing and he looked Mister Aveer. His face was wide in a manic smile, his tongue licking his fangs. He knelt before Richard. Alexa was to his left trapped in a cocoon of pulsing blackened flesh. She was fully conscious and screaming in impotent dread.

‘Welcome Lord Tcherzek.’ Mister Aveer said reverentially.

‘That is Terry’s name.’ Richard said looking down at the man. He was shocked to find the word Terry came out as Tcherzek.

‘This must be terribly confusing for you, my lord. The original Lord died in this assault passing his powers onto you, his heir.’ The man explained.

He didn’t to deny it. He wanted to think he was normal but it all made sense to him and how could he resist this intoxicating power?

‘You must have noticed your psychic connection with him.’ He stated. Richard had assumed that was how Terry communicated with everyone. ‘My lord I am at your service in everyway. I hope together we can forge a new area of chaos. Richard Johnson, you will be the new Managing Director.’
Richard grinned at this.


Life had certainly taken a turn. He was partly bewildered by all the changes but another deeper part of him revelled in it. His new office occupied the entire upper floor and was luxurious in every sense of the word. He leant back in his chair listening to the pleasing creak of the fresh leather and smiled to himself. On his desk he saw a sign saying ‘Richard Johnson, Managing Director’. He had never dreamed of such a thing and so he gave a satisfied sigh and decided it was time for some business.
He pressed the intercom to his secretary. He smiled at that thought, HIS secretary.

‘Ms Simmons, can you please send in Mister Aveer?’ He ordered and then added ‘and thank him for his patience.’

The door buzzed and the charcoal suited man walked in, minor annoyance on his face at being kept waiting but overtly he showed only servitude. This caused Richard’s smile to widen.

‘I hope the Office is to your liking, my lord.’ He said with a slight incline of his head.

‘It is quite something.’ Richard stood and shook the man’s hand and motioning for him to sit. The man sat and his grin turned nasty.

‘That secretary of yours.’ He said with a wink.

‘I know.’ Richard said with a lusty laugh. There was a moment of silence and then he spoke, sounding almost regretful.

‘I am sorry to bring you in like this but I am afraid I am going to have to let you go.’ He said gravely. The man looked at him and laughed disbelieving. ‘I am quite serious.’

‘But…I outrank you.’ He said with a raised eyebrow and a sympathetic grin. Richard’s face turned dark and he looked at him under a commanding frown.

‘Do you?’ A voice from the depths of Richard’s belly said. A series of thin fleshy tentacles exploded from the chair and held the man tight to it.

‘I… helped… awaken…your power.’ He squeezed out as the tentacles began to choke him. Richard walked over looking apologetic.

‘Don’t think for a second I don’t appreciate that.’ He rested a comforting hand on the man’s shoulder as blood dripped down his neck. ‘You did however orchestrate the event leading to my father’s death.’ The man’s eyes widened in disbelief.

‘There is a reason they call me keeper of the secrets.’ That familiar voice from inside said. The tentacles twisted off the man’s head and threw it aside.

Richard sat down and grunted happily. There was a knock at the door and his secretary came in. Her hair was now shaved on one side and she was a little paler than before but no less pretty for it.

‘Ah, Alexa do come in.’ Richard beckoned for her. She moved to his side and he put his hand on her cheek. He nudged her head gently to the side so he could examine the scar on the shaved side of her skull. It has still red but beginning to fade, remarkable considering what they had done.

‘It is healing nicely.’ He commented. ‘Does it hurt much anymore?’ He asked her.

‘Every moment is agony.’ She said emotionlessly. ‘It will not interfere with my duties.’ He smiled at her.

‘That is very good.’ He strolled over to the window and looked down at the car park again. The rain had indeed washed away the pentagram and the bodies from earlier bled into puddles of rain and salt. He glanced back to Alexa who was dutifully removing her blouse.

‘No need just yet. I want to talk to the CEO of M and H plastics. Would you send him Mister Aveer’s head and tell him I have a proposition for him?’ Richard ordered. Alexa nodded and walked outside to her desk to make the call, lifting up the severed head as if it was a piece of discarded paper. Richard lifted his scotch on the table and smiled.

It was going to be a good day.

In the Name of the Father

He crunched though knee high snow kept warm by thoughts of old injustices. Steam raised from his body from recent exertion and his sword from recent slaughter. Skarbjorn would not be stopped. His eyes were fixed on the wooden palisade nestled on this white hill in front of him. He licked his lips seeing it and smiled a wicked smile. He strode up to the gates bare chested yet he was not at all reduced by the cold. A sleepy guard sprung awake and stared at Skarbjorn as he moved towards the entrance. He trembled seeing his bloody sword and whimpered at the sight of his heavy axe.

Skarbjorn stopped before the gate, far enough from the guard to not be a threat but close enough to be heard. He took in a deep breath and then called out.

‘SIGURD!’ He called. His voice as deep as a bear. The entire valley around him echoed the name. There was no movement, except for the guard who had now started to back away.

‘SIGURD! SHOW YOUR FACE!’ He bellowed again. There was movement behind the walls but no one had appeared yet.

‘SIGURD! DO NOT HIDE FROM ME! I CALL YOU NIÐINGR!’ He roared. The sound almost shaking the palisades, the guard winced at the last word and shook his head in horror. Skarbjorn smiled over gritted teeth and through bulging eyes.

‘SIGURD! YOUR CITY HEARS YOU DISGRACED! YOU MUST ANSWER!’ He screamed. The gate opened and an entourage exited. They were surrounded on all sides by hulking shield bearers, but Skarbjorn could already see the objects of his hatred. First came the heavily jewelled, dyed blonde trophy wife, then the richly garbed, smug and spoilt little son, in the back of the crowd was the detestable, drab robed priest of Christendom and finally the Jarl himself. Greying and richly furred he finally responded.

‘God would have me forgive you for such vulgarity.’ He walked out hand on his carved wooden cross, this caused Skarbjorn to spit. ‘However I cannot. I must pray his forgiveness and seek vengeance. Are you satisfied now?’ He answered with a turn of his lip.

‘A wet blade will be my satisfaction.’ Skarbjorn replied spraying spittle.

The priest stepped forward with his arms raised, Skarbjorn growled at the sight of him.

‘My child, can we not avoid bloodshed? Must you go down this path? The Lord Jesus Christ has a different path in mind for you.’ He said softly. Skarbjorn replied with a barking laugh and raised his sword to the sky.

‘I do not belong to your dead God! I belong to Odin! My arm swings with Thor’s fury, my blades bite like Fenrir and my passions are same as Tyr!’ He called back. The priest shook his head and withdrew, mumbling something in his God’s language.

A Cold wind blew between the two men as they stared at each other sizing their opponent up, it was the Jarl who broke the silence.

‘I challenge you to a duel, hólmgang rules.’ Jarl Sigurd, announcing to the, ever increasing, curious crowd now gathering behind him. The larger the crowd the clearer the Jarl spoke, the taller he stood and the higher he held his head. Skarbjorn noticed this with a wet toothy smile.

‘Coward! Hiding behind rules! Fight me proper! Hide behind your sheildbearer if you must but I will still claim victory.’ Skarbjorn called. There was a muttering behind the Jarl, he couldn’t possibly let this stand, his brow furrowed and he fixed Skarbjorn with a stare.

‘I am innocent of this man’s blood, it is on his own hands.’ He announced to the crowd but his eyes were focussed on his priest. He nodded his head forward and a great brute of a man stepped forward, his shield dwarfed on his arm.

‘This is my sheildbearer. Are there any that will stand for this beast?’ The Jarl asked the crowd. Silence was his answer and the Jarl approved. ‘It seems you stand alone, child.’ Sigurd said smirking. Skarbjorn only mirrored it. They held each other’s gaze for a long time neither wanting to back down. Neither did, they were interrupted before either could look away.

‘I will stand for him!’ The voice from so far back in the crowd, Skarbjorn strained to hear it. The crowd parted and a small teenage girl stepped forward, brunette hair hanging loose with a defiant look in her eyes at the Jarl. For a moment there was a stunned, silent disbelief then there was a ripple of laughter.

‘What a pair of heroes! A berserker, to rival Grendel in hideousness, and a baby girl!’ The Jarl said, with a forced laugh. She crunched down towards Skarbjorn who stared at her with a burning hot anger. She shrunk the closer she got to him and had to avoid his murderous gaze when she stood beside him.

‘What do you think you are doing?’ Skarbjorn hissed. The girl frowned at the ground.

‘Doing what is right.’ She said. Skarbjorn just looked even angrier.

‘I did not save your life to have you throw it away.’ He said with clenched fist. She stared
him in the eye this time.

‘My life is not yours to give away!’ She stated and then turned to face her opponents


One step. That is what Skarbjorn had to focus on. One step at a time. Not the snow, not the ice and definitely not the shirt he had lost escaping the Jarl’s men. He wrapped his arms around himself to try and keep out the cold but he was turning blue. The town was so far way, each time he glanced up he was convinced he would never make it there without freezing to death. So he focused on his steps. One at a time.

One step.

Crunch.

One more.

Crunch.

One step closer

Laughter. That wasn’t right.

He checked himself to make sure he hadn’t flew into another fit and lost control but he heard it again and was sure it wasn’t him. He looked around and couldn’t see anyone, was he hearing things?

Again. It was deep, booming and familiar laughter. Looking around he saw a small cabin nested in some trees. There was a fire inside and that was reason enough to head towards it. Just as he reached the door he heard the laughter again. Now that he was closer he recognised it, it belonged to one of his berserker brothers. He hated all of his berserker brothers.

‘She’s got fire, wonder how long that’ll last?’ A voice squeaked. It was Erik speaking. He was a beast in a fight but a subservient little weasel outside of a battle which made Skarbjorn wonder who was in charge.

‘I don’t think it’ll be long Erik.’ That was the fat bastard, Olaf. Skarbjorn had been aching for a reason to gut him for some time. This seemed as good as any. ‘I think she doesn’t understand the situation.’ He was walking around as he spoke. The floorboards creaked under his weight.

‘You don’t understand do you girl?’ Erik said, adding precisely nothing to the situation.

‘Your father is a traitor. No one is going to miss you and no one is searching for you.’ Skarbjorn could picture the horrible smile on Olaf’s face as he spoke.

‘That Jarl is a traitor. He betrayed the gods!’ The girl chirped up.

‘You got a big mouth girl. Makes me wonder what will fit in it.’ Olaf said.

Skarbjorn had no more patience. He kicked the door in and swung his axe at the first figure he saw. It spilt Erik’s skull with a click. Olaf, never known for being defensive swung his sword, immediately. It hacked a piece out of the already dead Erik who was falling to the ground.

‘How did you-’ Olaf started but Skarbjorn was already furious, eye’s bulging and blades itching for the kill.

A real berserker can’t be stopped fat boy!’ Skarbjorn said with a manic laugh and a swing of his axe. It caught his belly and opened a gash that spilled with blood. Olaf still stared at Skarbjorn terrified.

‘Don’t kill me we can share her-‘ He tried but Skarbjorn’s next blow bent the sword and sent its blade into his fat chest.

‘I am no animal! I am the chosen of Odin!’ Skarbjorn said, raining multiple blows onto the fat man’s chest reducing it to a bloody cavity.

When he was done, he calmed himself so he didn’t go into a draining full berserker fit. Taking in deep breaths he turned to the girl, she frowned up at him defiantly.

‘Are you going to kill me too?’ She asked strongly but her eyes betrayed a fear lingering underneath. He brought down his axe. Her bonds fell to the floor.

‘This doesn’t make us even.’ She said, massaging her wrists as she stood.

‘I know, Birger.’ Skarbjorn said moving to the inviting cackle of the fire. The girl did not join him despite the cold. Reflecting for a moment Skarbjorn recalled the last time he was in a house like this, it wasn’t a pleasant memory. The girl began to shiver in increasing intensity.

‘Come to the fire, you will catch cold.’ Skarbjorn said gently, more gently that he had spoken in years.

‘People around you tend to catch death.’ Birger snapped. Skarbjorn just shrugged in agreement and shuffled closer to the fire.

‘I won’t kill you.’ Skarbjorn said emotionlessly. It was clear that Birger wanted to stand her ground but she was shaking violently now and so she moved slowly towards it. She sat almost right beside him and for a few moments there was a pleasant silence in the house.

‘You killed my mother.’ She said. She was taken aback by the sadness that washed over him. Tears flowed down his face as he regarded her and he didn’t fight them or even move to wipe them away.

‘Aye, I did.’ He said, painfully. The girl moved closer, confused and looking almost concerned about the man now.

‘I thought you hated her?’ The girl said quizzically, moving closer to him.

‘I loved her dearly.’ He said with a smile that conveyed all the tumultuous sadness in his heart. Birger embraced the big blood-spattered man suddenly.

‘It’ll be okay Daddy.’ She said, her voice cracking a little. ‘Grandad said he would look after us. He kept visiting Ma when you were gone.’ She added trying to comfort him. Skarbjorn’s face got hard again.

I know.’ He muttered in a dark and threatening growl. They sat in silence for a while, it had been years since they had spent any time together so they just enjoyed each other’s company, no one even commented on the dead bodies. Skarbjorn tried to convince himself that he was just sitting in the cabin for the heat, but he didn’t even really believe it. He spent a few minutes just enjoying the peace and then he turned to her and tried to speak. It took him a few more minutes to gather the courage.

‘Go home. I will be fine.’ He said, voice cracking a little.

‘I am staying with you.’ She demanded. Skarbjorn smiled, for the first time in so long it made his face feel strange.

‘I have to do something, go home and I will meet you there.’ He said, his voice desperate. Birger nodded and stood. She moved to the door and looked back at him sadly. She kicked a sword to him.

‘Don’t try to run or I will find you.’ She said, he smiled back at her and nodded. She left and he got up to the window and watched her walk back until she was completely out of sight. Then it was time for the grim business of revenge. He picked up the sword and began to
trudge up the hill.


Skarbjorn crouched low and prepared for an attack, Birger was at his side ready to deflect any blows. The Jarl stood behind his sheildbearer making it difficult for Skarbjorn to get through. The sheildbearer struck first disorientating Skarbjorn with his shield. His axe reflexively swung at the shield as it was withdrawing and shattered it. The shieldbearer had underestimated his speed and wouldn’t make the same mistake again.

Skarbjorn was forced to leap back to avoid a sudden swung from the Jarl. The older man was swinging like a maniac using the sword blade to keep Skarbjorn away. Birger stepped in with expert timing catching the Jarls blade and bending it. The Jarl looked at it in horror. Before Skarbjorn could launch his assault he got hit by the shield bearer again. He lashed out with his axe but the man was no longer there. The Jarl was straightening his sword. Skarbjorn lunged at the, seemingly defenceless, Jarl but the sheildbearer was there to bat the blow away. Taking another angry swipe with his axe he missed the sheildbearer again.

Skarbjorn heard a swing and turned to find the jarl’s sword moving towards him. Birger managed to just get in the way of it with her shield but it spilt and she scurried to get a new one. He stared at Sigurd. He let the hatred fill him. He like the angery build and at last he let the fury take him. He swung a brutal overhead swipe with his axe at the Jarl. The sheildbearer moved, predictably, to take the blow. At the same time Skarbjorn slashed horizontally with the sword. His axe shattered the shield and his sword bit into the sheildbearers side. The shieldbearer scrambled away grasping the wound and Skarbjorn was left staring at the
worried looking Jarl.

He advanced on Sigurd, slow and menacing. Skarbjorn smiled down at his bloody sword and licked his fangs. Then he heard Birger cry out. He spun and turned to see the priest pulling her back to stop her from returning to the brawl.

‘LET HER GO FREAK!’ He roared at the timid looking priest. Who grabbed onto the girl even tighter in fear. Then Skarbjorn felt a hot pain in his chest. He turned to the Jarl who was backing away looking frightened. He saw the blood on the Jarl’s sword. Then he looked down at his bare chest and saw a jagged red gash. His blood fell out of it frighteningly fast dying the crisp white snow beneath him red.

He fell to his knees. He felt cold again.

The Jarl moved towards him to check if he was still alive and in one final act of defiance he swung his axe with the last of his strength. It missed the Jarl but it severed the chain holding his cross and it fell into the snow. Skarbjorn fell beside it.

‘No!’ Birger cried out, looking tearful. The Jarl looked at her coldly and motioned for one of the sheildbearers to hold her back.

‘I will handle the burial.’ The Jarl said, to the assembly. The priest moved over to him approvingly and bowed his head a little.

‘That is a very Christian attitude.’ He said, conveniently forgetting who killed the man. The Jarl simply shrugged as he sheathed his sword and turned to move back to the town.

‘Not really.’ He said, with his back to the body. ‘A man should bury his own son.’