The Spirit Tamer
The Nachtkrapp's Lair
The mountain paths were not very steep at first, and the horses easily managed the terrain. The further up they went, however, the grade became much more pronounced and the horses began to have difficulty with their footing. In several instances the horses could not bear their rider and threw him. After several warriors came close to going over the edge of the mountain, many of the riders decided to dismount and walk their horses up the ever steepening incline.
Naddoður's horse was not having any problems, but the Shaman, who was willing to use any excuse to walk instead of ride to rest his badly chaffed legs, joined his Saxon comrades and slid off of his horse. Halldorr and Ossurr quickly followed his lead. By the time they reached the halfway point between the valley below, and the snow line above, almost all of the warriors were walking their horses because the path was becoming narrower, and the drop much longer to the valley floor. The last to dismount was Henry the Fowler, and Naddoður could not decide whether he stayed on the longest because he was the Saxon's leader and felt he had something to prove, or if he simply did not want to walk up the steep rocky trail.
When they came near the snow line the temperature suddenly dipped, and a cold wind began to blow furiously in their faces. They higher they went the louder the winds began to howl in their ears, And it was this incessant sound of the screaming winds that kept their heads down, and deafened their ears to the approaching danger.
The first indication that something was wrong was when a horse suddenly seemed to be blown off of the mountainside. As the odd spectacle was spotted by more and more of the warriors they quickly saw that it was not the wind that had carried the horse away. What they soon realized was that the horse was held firmly in the grip of the sharp talons of a huge black bird - like monster with holes in it's wings. The Saxons watched in horror, as the creature they knew as a Nachtkrapp, flew to the middle of the valley and released the horse. A few watched as the helpless horse, which tumbled end over end, hit the valley floor, but most of the warriors looked away.
Halldorr was the first to see the flock of Nachtkrapp coming their way.
" Shields and spears !!! " he yelled at the top of his lungs, forgetting that the Saxons did not speak Norse.
Naddoður was about to repeat the warning to his Saxon comrades, but Henry was quicker.
" Defend yourselves men ! " was all he managed before the creatures attacked.
What took place next was nothing short of war. A battle of epic proportions between creatures, that most had thought were nothing more than a myth, and human beings erupted on the side of Die Weiß Berge. But from this day forward these " White Mountains " would be forever known as Der Rote Berge, ( The Red Mountains ), for all the blood that was spilled there.
The battle was chaotic and swift moving. The warriors stabbed at the Nachtkrapp with their spears, while the winged creatures, that looked more like monsters than ravens, used their great claws to pull away shields, spears, and occasionally to rip a warrior off the side of the mountain to their deaths. As bad as their talons could be, their beaks were a hundred times worse. If they sank their beaks into a human they were certain to loose an arm, a leg, or possibly their head.
Above the high pitched shrieking of the Nachtkrapp Henry the Fowler ordered his men to slowly retreat down the mountain. It took a while for his command to make it all the way to the end of the line, and unfortunately because of the narrowness of the path they could not move until the last man in line began to head back down. In the meantime some of the fiercest fighting took place in the rear of the line. The Nachtkrapp, sensing that these intruders to their roosting lair were trying to make their escape, renewed their attacks with great fury.
Some of the larger birds, however, became engaged at the front of the line where Henry, Halldorr, Naddoður, and Ossurr placed their backs up against the mountain and braced themselves as best they could against their vicious attacks. Whether this was because the Night Ravens knew that this was where the leaders of the intruders were positioned, or if they were simply defending their nests against those who were closest could not be determined, but they bore a good portion of the fury of the great monsters.
While the Kvenlanders were poking at the creatures with their spears to keep them away, Henry and Naddoður, who had both lost their spears to the strong talons of the Nachtkrapp, were slashing violently back and forth with their swords while defending themselves against the creature's beaks with their shields. When Henry decided to step forward to stab the Night Raven closest to him in the neck he was grabbed by the great black claws of the creature. As Henry was slowly pulled to the edge of the cliff he looked over at Naddoður with pleading eyes.
Ossurr was the first to react. He balanced his spear in the middle and threw it with all his might at the Nachtkrapp that had a hold of the Saxon leader. The spear point missed what he was aiming at , but it caught the creature in the neck causing it to look angrily at Ossurr. Before the creature could fly away with Henry, Naddoður swung his sword as hard as he could at the talon that held the Saxon leader by the leg and sliced it cleanly off the Night Raven's body, freeing him. Halldorr, angry that the creature was getting away, carefully threw his spear, hitting the Nachtkrapp in the belly and knocking it into a death spin.
Alva had been trying to free herself from Naddoður's pocket since the battle had begun, but his frantic movements had not allowed her to get her balance to escape. When Naddoður bent over the pocket opened, and she finally saw the opportunity to fly out. As she looked around what she saw horrified her ! An entire flock of Nachtkrapp were attacking the Saxon column, and the warriors seemed to be in a very bad way !
Alva quickly did what she often did in such situations. She shaped changed into a creature of equal size and strength. As she morphed into a Nachtkrapp she studied them to find their leader. It was not hard to spot ! It looked to be the largest and the strongest of the creatures, and it was fighting slightly below her position.
Unseen by any humans, except Naddoður and Ossurr, Alva flung herself off of the mountain, and flapped her wings furiously to gain a height advantage over the large Night Raven. When she felt she was high enough she folded her wings and dove down upon the unsuspecting creature that was preoccupied with ripping the arm off of a Saxon. With her talons outstretched, and balled up into fists, she hit the large monster square in the chest, knocking it away from the unfortunate warrior who lost his arm, and sending it tumbling down the side of the mountain end over end through the air.
The attack of one of their own upon their leader seemed to startle and confuse the other creatures, which quickly flew away from the mountainside, and began to circle high above. As Alva looked down she was disappointed to see that the leader of the Nachtkrapp had righted itself, and was slowly returning to it's flock. To the warriors' great relief the creatures dove away from the cliffs and disappeared into the distance.
Henry quickly recovered from nearly being dragged over the cliff, and shouted out orders to move down the mountain as quickly as they could. As they moved carefully down the rock strewn path they had to walk over warriors who had been killed by the creatures. Arms, legs, pieces of skin, and blood covered the rocks. Black feathers, ripped out by stabbing spears, had fallen into the congealing mass, and added to the horrifying sight. One of the most hideous sights was near a small boulder, where a Saxon had his stomach ripped open and his entrails spilled all over the path. There was no way around it, and the squishing sound of walking through the mess made several warriors wretch.
When they finally reached the valley Henry took a count, and found that twenty- six of his warriors were missing, and seventeen more had been injured in various ways. Nearly half of his force had become casualties in an attack that lasted only a fairly short period of time. With a look of hopelessness, and desperation, etched upon his face Henry grabbed hold of the Shaman's shirt !
" How will we be able to defend our children when they come again ? And they will come soon ! For we have angered them and killed several of their flock ! " he cried out from his anguish.
Naddoður grabbed Henry's hands and removed them from his clothes.
" I do not know if we can kill these creatures my friend, but we must try for the children's sake. " he told the Duke's son in a calm voice.
As Henry walked away Alva buzzed around Naddoður's head to get his attention.
" I will be leaving you now, for there is someplace I need to go. You see, I learned something very interesting about the Nachtkrapp when I became one of them. " she told the Shaman with a grin.
Naddoður could not hide his shock !
" How can you leave now ! If not for you we would all have been killed on those cliffs ! " he told her.
Alva waggled her finger at Naddoður.
" Bring these people back to their town, and prepare to defend them against another attack by the Nachtkrapp. I am going to seek help for you. " she explained.
Naddoður looked the tiny fairy in the eyes.
" What have you learned about them ? " he asked.
" I know what the Nachtkrapp fear ! " she told him.
- End Chapter 23
- Next : Chapter 24 : The Last Stand
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2017.