© Photo: A Mixed Bag
The seven men heaved as one and the prow pulled free of the sucking mud. Progress was slow, the air unnervingly still. The lapping waves seemed determined to thwart the efforts of the two young women pulling desperately at the centremost oars, the remainder lying useless beside the still, fur-swaddled form of their brave lord.
The seven reached the place where the wounded and dying littered the slope and waited, thankful for the warmth of the nearby pyres. For many, this would be their final sunset; no spoils or glory, no tribute walk, nor welcome feast. This defeat had cost them their home, left them stranded with too few to man the oars, forsaken by their gods.
“It is time,” said the tallest, his gaze pinned to the two, now distant, figures who had abandoned their arduous task and stood poised by the dragon headed bow.
The oil soaked cloths were bound tightly to the seven shafts. The boy could barely walk, his calf rent and weeping, yet without complaint, he touched each of the waiting arrows with burning brand.
As one they raised bows, pulled flaming shafts quickly towards their cheeks then, loosed.
Mercy saw the daughters fall, the oil catch, the fire quickly race from arrow to timber and flesh.
For the rest, lay Valhalla and the sweetness of vengeance.
By Sally-Ann Hodgekiss