Fugitive From Hel
The Road To Holmestrand
" It was nothing personal ma'am. A man has needs you know ! " he told the corpse with a sarcastic laugh.
Serkr looked the woman's body up and down and then added.
" You were not all that pretty anyway ! "
Serkr dressed , packed himself a sack full of food for the journey ahead, and took anything and everything else that the couple had of value. As he opened the front door the morning sun shone in so brightly that he had to shade his eyes. Serkr turned back around and bowed to his dead hosts before he left.
" Goodbye ! ...... and thank you for your kind hospitality ! " he told the dead couple before breaking into a demented hysterical laugh.
Serkr had learned from Valdemar the night before that the next village north of Horten was Holmestrand. Gylla, who was quite the gossip, had also confided to him that a wealthy chieftain lived in Holmestrand. She had told him in a confidential whisper that not only had he a wife, but also several mistresses as well ! Gylla also mentioned that this rich chieftain's name was Lofarr.
" I think I will visit this " Lofarr " in Holmestrand. Hopefully he and his wife will be as friendly as this couple has been ! " he told his horse Kjøtt before mounting him.
The road to Holmestrand was a smooth well worn path, which gave Serkr time to think of his future plans. After he stole Lofarr's wealth he knew that it would not be safe to stay in this region. He thought long and hard about a place where he could just disappear into the wilderness, and not be found. Then, sure of where he would hide out for a while, he patted his horse on the neck.
" Kjøtt ! I think we will go to Finnmark after visiting Holmestrand ! " he told his horse with a broad smile.
As darkness began to once again descend on another day Serkr looked around for a suitable place by the side of the road to camp for the night. It was just then that he spotted the flickering light of a campfire a short way off in the distance. He smiled when he thought of all the possibilities that this encounter might present to him.
Serkr trotted Kjøtt off of the road, and stopped near a fire where three men sat eating. As he always did around strangers Serkr turned up the charm, and asked if he might join them at their warm fire. The men welcomed Serkr, and introduced themselves as Almgeir, Harekr, and Jokull.
Serkr was offered a seat , a plate of food, a horn of ale, and a spot by the fire for the night if he wished to sleep there. Serkr was more than gracious as he accepted their kind generosity. As he began to eat the stew that was given to him Serkr noticed that Almgeir was sitting on a rather large box. When he had finished his meal the ale began to flow freely among the three men, and all became quite drunk. Serkr's horn was filled as many times as was their's, but he spilled his out when they were not looking to keep his mind clear. The men quickly became quite intoxicated, and Serkr figured that their judgement would be impaired at this point, so he decided it was a good time to inquire about the fancy box that Almgeir was sitting on top of.
" That is a rather large trunk to be taking along on horseback. " Serkr said trying to sound only slightly interested.
Almgeir looked over at Harekr and Jokull, and smiled.
" We have a cart hidden behind the bushes. " he explained to Serkr.
Then Almgeir leaned forward and whispered.
" We are the king's tax collectors..... and we are heading back to Oslo with the king's money. " he told Serkr proudly.
Serkr could not help but smile.
" Well isn't that interesting ! " Serkr said under his breath.
Serkr raised his horn high in the air, and toasted the men.
" To the king ! " he shouted with a broad grin.
" To the king ! " all three men replied loudly as they saluted their king with their horns.
After his toast Serkr barely sipped his ale, while the three tax collectors drained horn after horn. He knew that all he had to do was wait for an opportunity to present itself, and then he could pounce on these drunken fools. Serkr did not have long to wait.
Harekr drained his horn and laughed heartily.
" What goes in must eventually come out ! " he announced, then got up from his seat, and began to walk towards the woods.
Jokull was about to pour himself another horn of ale when he suddenly stopped.
" I think I will join you my friend ! " he told Harekr as he stumbled after him.
Almgeir picked up the pitcher, and raised it toward Serkr.
" Another drink my friend ? " he asked.
I would be most grateful ! " he replied with a nod.
As Almgeir bent over to pour the ale Serkr reached into his belt, pulled out his knife, and in one seamless motion plunged it into the throat of the tax collector. Almgeir tried to cry out but all he could manage was a gurgling sound before he drowned in his own blood.
Serkr quickly dragged Almgeir's dead body over to the chest, placed him on the ground, and leaned him up against it, with his head leaning forward. From the direction the other two would be returning from it would look as though he had fallen asleep . Serkr then drew his sword and found a large tree nearby to hide behind.
Moments later Serkr watched as Harekr and Jokull emerged from the shadows. As he suspected they thought that their comrade had simply had to much to drink and had passed out. Jokull walked over to Almgeir, placed his hand on his friends shoulder and shook him gently.
" Come my friend you will regret it in the morning if you sleep on the cold damp ground. " he told his sleeping comrade.
But he did not respond so Jokull shook him a second time. When he still did not stir he lifted Almgeir's head. Jokull's mind was filled with the fog of alcohol, and it took a few moments for him to comprehend that his friend's throat had been cut wide open. When his head cleared Jokull turned back to Harekr to tell him what had happened. He had never had a chance to speak !
Serkr watched intently until he saw Jokull lift Almgeir's head. Then Serkr came running out of the darkness and drove his sword straight through Jokull's stomach before he had a chance to defend himself. Jokull cried out before slumping limply on the sword. Serkr withdrew the blade as quickly as he had plunged into the man, and then ran straight for Harekr screaming as loud as he could.
Everything had happened so quickly that Harekr, in his drunken stupor, barely had time to react. The end of his sword had just cleared the scabbard when he saw Serkr's blade coming at him out of the corner of his eye. Harekr raised his arm in a futile attempt to block the blow, but the sword sliced right through his wrist, and continued on striking the tip of his head.
Serkr had been aiming to decapitate Harekr, but when he ducked slightly to avoid the blow, his blade had sliced through the top of his head exposing his brain and knocking him to the ground. Serkr immediately felt the demons rise up in him when he saw the injured and helpless man lying on the ground . His eyes began to bulge, and he began to scream as he brought his sword down upon the injured man's head again and again.
By the time Serkr emerged from his berserker state what remained of Harekr was unrecognizable. When he calmed down enough to have rational thoughts he sheathed his blood stained sword, and dragged the bodies deep into the woods to hide them. After covering the bodies with leaves, and other debris, Serkr returned to the fire and eyed the tax collector's box .
To Serkr the lock on the chest looked fairly sturdy, and he knew it would not be easy to open. Near the fire he found a large rock, which he weighed in his hand several times before kneeling in front of the box.
" This should do the trick ! " he whispered to himself.
Twenty, thirty, forty hard blows and still the lock would not release its grip on the chest.
Angrily Serkr looked around, and after a moment he found a much larger rock. When he returned to the chest he grabbed the rock with both hands and began to pound the lock with all his might. After several mighty blows the lock finally relented and gave way.
Serkr nervously threw away the rock. His eyes widened with anticipation as he ripped off the shattered lock and grasped hold of both sides of the box. He lifted the lid of the chest very slowly, almost as if there was something in there that might harm him. When he saw all the gold and silver coins glimmering in the moonlight, however, Serkr began to laugh hysterically.
" Thank you gentlemen ! You have been most kind !! " Serkr shouted in the direction where he had left the tax collectors' bodies.
Serkr ran his hands through the coins a few times, and then sat back down by the fire. He poured himself a horn of ale from what was left in the spilled pitcher, and raised it to his lips. With one gulp he drank the entire contents and then wiped his mouth with his sleeve. He then felt that peaceful feeling come over him again, and decided it was time to sleep. Serkr picked up a few logs and placed them in the fire, and then bedded down up against the chest. Within moments of setting his head down on his arm Serkr was fast asleep. For rest comes easily to those who have no conscience.
- End Chapter 2
Next : Chapter 3 : Caught In The Act !
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2016.