The First Line Of Defense
Sigvaldi watched carefully as the Jotuns halted at the base of the hill below his position. One of the Giants, he assumed their leader, began to bark out orders to the others in a language he did not understand. Suddenly the Jotuns began to spread out in a single line across the valley floor.
" So these Jotuns are not as stupid as we have been led to believe ! " Sigvaldi told Eindridi, who was waiting to light the first hay roll with his torch.
For a long moment there was an awkward pause as both the Jotuns and the humans stood staring at one another. Then, the leader of the Giants pointed a stone weapon at the top of the hill, and shouted a command to his warriors. Sigvaldi did not have to speak the Jotun' s language to know that the Giant had just given the order to attack !
A roar rose up from the Jotuns as they ran up the hill with surprising speed and an evil look in their eyes. Sigvaldi looked to his left and his right and saw the fear on the faces of his warriors and shield maidens. Sigvaldi took a deep breath, drew his sword, pointed it at the approaching Giants in a manner that mimicked the Jotun leader's own gesture and shouted bravely :
" Steady men ! Hold steady shield maidens ! "
Sigvaldi waited until the Jotuns, who he numbered at nineteen, were in full stride before signalling to Eindridi to light the rolls of hay. Once Eindridi had done his duty each of the shield maiden torchbearers in turn lit the oil soaked hay that they were assigned to as well.
Atla was amused when he saw the fires begin to burn on top of the hill.
" Do these puny humans think that we Jotuns cannot run through a few flames ?! " he shouted clearly for his men to hear.
The Jotun leader laughed as he urged his men forward up the hill. Atla did not laugh for long, however, because as he stared at the flaming wall ahead of him it suddenly seemed to be moving. And it was heading straight for them ! Atla was so surprised by this sudden turn of events that he stopped, and in the short moment he had before the flame wall reached their position he shouted :
" Back ! GO BACK !! "
Many of the Jotuns did not have time to change direction, but were able to dive safely out of the way of the fire balls that were streaming down the hill. The one's who obeyed Atla' s order to retreat were not so lucky. With their backs turned away from the fire balls they could not track them as easily and two of the Jotuns were felled by the rolling flames. As the hay rolls passed over them the Giants bodies burst into flames !
Atla stopped when he realized that he had outrun the flames that had chased him. As he turned he heard something he had never experienced before in their invasion of Midgard. The Jotun leader heard his warriors screaming ! What he saw shocked him even more. Two of his warriors were writhing on the ground, and were screaming in high pitched tones as they tried in vain to put out the flames that engulfed them. As Atla watched the horrible scene unfolding before him he could barely make out who they were. As their bodies sizzled to a crisp he realized that the fallen warriors were Ofoti, and Kaldgrani who were screaming helplessly on the ground. They did not scream for long !
Atla looked around at his remaining warriors and saw fear and confusion in their eyes. Their expressions angered the Jotun leader, and he decided to act immediately.
" Up the hill ! Kill every human in your way !! " Atla screamed furiously at his dazed warriors.
After rolling the burning hay down the hill Eindridi, his men, and the shield maidens ran over to help Arngeir's and Gudmund's warriors roll the boulders down upon the Jotuns. This time Sigvaldi did not hesitate in giving the order to start them rolling. Sigvaldi knew that the further the boulders rolled the faster they would be traveling when they struck the Jotuns position.
This time, however, the Jotuns were not caught off guard. Most were easily able to avoid the tumbling rocks before they could harm them. Only the Jotun Dofri was unfortunate enough to be hit by a boulder, and this only occurred because two of the boulders collided, and one careened into his path crushing him.
Sigvaldi was very disappointed when he saw that the attacks did not stop the Jotuns. In reality their feeble efforts had barely slowed them down. Geirny, who had helped Gudmund's warriors leverage the boulders off the hill crest quickly ran over to the preoccupied Sigvaldi and shook his arm violently.
" We need to leave now ! " she shouted.
Sigvaldi gave her an angry look, and then stared at the ground for a moment before giving the order.
" Everyone back to the inner defenses ! " he shouted.
There was no hesitation shown by any of the human warriors as they dropped their pry timbers and ran back to their horses. For they were now in a race for their very lives. Every moment lost might mean the difference between saving their village or losing everything. As they galloped back to their second line of defenses each warrior and shield maiden knew exactly what his or her duty was. How they performed that duty would determine the outcome of the battle.
Hidden in the thick forest just beyond the outpost towers Magni and Modi watched the valiant, but futile efforts of the humans to stop their Jotun enemy. They had been told to observe and wait for further instructions from Odin, but both very much wanted to join in the fight. Neither, however, dared to disobey their grandfather's orders. Magni calmly leaned up against a tall oak and watched the battle with little or no emotion. Modi, on the other hand, angrily paced back and forth between two trees muttering to himself that Odin should allow them the honor of joining the fight.
Magni turned and smiled at his brother's restlessness.
" Patience brother ! Patience ! " Magni told his brother.
Odin watched it all from Hlidskjalf, but did nothing.
- End Chapter 8
- Next : Chapter 9 : The Inner Defenses
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2016.