The Spirit Tamer
The Last Stand
Henry the Fowler led what remained of his bloodied and battered band of warriors into Minden. Many of his men had lost their horses in the desperate fight with the Nachtkrapp, and were tired and in poor shape as they crossed the moat into the relative safety of their home town. They, however, despite their wounds and hardships, were the lucky ones. Many of their comrades lay ripped apart on the ridge of Die Weiß Berge, or down in the valley below where they had fallen to their deaths.
Duke Otto ran up to his son and demanded to know what had happened. Henry, noting that the sun was about to disappear behind the distant hills, put his hand in his father's face to quiet his barrage of questions.
" We have no time ! The Nachtkrapp defeated us in Die Weiß Berge, and they will soon be here to kill us all and steal our children. " he explained to his father.
Despite his son's objections Otto continued to press his son for an explanation of how the battle was lost, but once more Henry cut his father off in mid-sentence.
" I said we have no time !! We must gather all of our army together here in the town and arm them with spears. We will have to lock all of the children, including the children of the peasants from the village, in the Burg and try our best to fight off these evil creatures. " he told his father angrily.
Otto's face reflected his shock and horror as he looked over at the Shaman for answers.
" Can we defeat these Nachtkrapp ? " he asked nervously.
Naddoður looked over at Ossurr before turning his gaze back to the Duke.
" I have a friend who is working on a solution to our problem. However, she may not arrive in time to stop the attack, and therefore I agree with your son. We must hide the children in the Burg, organize your warriors, and fight the Nachtkrapp as best we can. " he informed Duke Otto.
The Duke's expression quickly went from one of stunned confusion to anger.
" You promised to kill these creatures ! And now all we have left are the Bishop's prayers ! " he screamed at Naddoður.
Henry looked over at his father and felt pity for him. He had grown old, and soft sitting on his comfortable throne, granted to him, and protected by King Louis of West Francia.
" The Shaman and the Kvenlanders saved my life, and fought just as hard as our Saxons,.... and prayers are a poor substitute for a warrior with a weapon and a shield ! " he told his father before kicking his horse forward.
After the children were safely within the protective stone walls of the Burg the Saxons formed around it's outer perimeter in ranks that numbered thirty or more deep. Henry instructed his warriors to kneel, and firmly hold their spears straight up. The last two rows of warriors were told to hold their weapons at a slight forward slant to protect themselves from a frontal attack. All were told to keep their heads low, and their arms down and tight against their bodies.
" Give them nothing to grab hold of either with their beaks or talons. Let them feel nothing but the hard steel of your weapons, men ! " Henry shouted.
While Henry the Fowler was preparing to battle the Nachtkrapp, Duke Otto ran to the cathedral to bring Bishop Theoderich out to the courtyard of the Burg to lead his warriors in a prayer. As Naddoður listened to the priest invoke their God, his son, and the Holy Spirit in their defense, his only thought was that words alone served no purpose in destroying these awful creatures. Just as the Bishop was finishing, and while he was crossing himself, a cry came up from one of the Saxon warriors.
" They are coming ! " resounded through the courtyard.
All eyes immediately focused on the darkening skies. The image they saw was so horrible that many of the warriors began to tremble, and a few peed themselves at the disturbing sight. What terrified everyone who surrounded the Burg so much was not that the Nactkrapp had come back, but the numbers in which they had come back. Dozens upon dozens of black shadows crossed in front of the face of the moon, and then disappeared into the darkness beyond.
Duke Otto, out of shape as he was, dropped his spear and ran for the safety of the Burg. When he reached the doors he banged on them and demanded that they be opened to him. Bishop Theoderich, who did not see the images at first, stood frozen where he had given the sermon. While the warriors readied themselves for the attack Naddoður's chin sank down to his chest when he realized that Alva would not make it in time to save him, or the people of Minden, this time.
Like hunting falcons the Nachtkrapp, one by one, folded their wings and dove for the ground. Their descent was as silent as their victim who stood in the courtyard alone, trembling, and unprotected. Naddoður did not understand the man's complacency, but he admired him for not running away as the duke had only moments before. As the first Nachtkrapp reached out it's talons to grab the Christian, Naddoður stood up, aimed his spear carefully, and let it fly with all his might.
Theoderich closed his eyes and said a final prayer as the monster swooped down upon him. He never saw the spear hit the Night Raven in the chest, or the creature flapping it's wings helplessly on the ground next to him as it died. The Bishop did, however, feel something grab hold of him, and it was then that he found his voice and screamed.
Sometimes men do brave things for glory, or for monetary rewards, and still other times they do it because it is ingrained in their souls to do so. A thousand warriors surrounded the Burg. Possibly as many as four hundred witnessed the attack on the bishop, and yet only one man reacted to save him. Naddoður, a Pagan Shaman, pushed his way through the Saxon line, ran to the bishop, grabbed hold of him, and with all his might dragged the screaming Catholic back into the safety of the spear line.
Naddoður, who had just missed being scooped up by one of the Nachtkrapp, was shaking as he lay on top of the bishop. As the Catholic, and the Shaman. stared into each other's eyes a voice from above shouted above the shrieking of the Night Ravens.
" You are one crazy fool ! " the voice that Naddoður recognized as Halldorr told him.
The Bishop also heard the Kvenlanders words, and with tears in his eyes asked :
" As a Christian I would have had you put to death for your beliefs. Why then did you save me ? " he asked.
Naddoður, still trying to collect his thoughts, quickly answered.
" We Pagans live and die for honor,.... and there is no honor in dishonoring others ! " he shouted before rolling off of the bishop and drawing his sword to help defend against the creatures.
Henry the Fowler had made one miscalculation. He had evenly placed his warriors around the Burg to defend the children within. The Nachkrapp, however, could sense, or smell, that the children could only be gotten to through the vulnerable wooden doors at the front of the structure. It was here, at the front of the Burg, that the battle became one of fury and death !
The ranks quickly disappeared from the front of the Burg as dozens upon dozens of Nachtkrapp carried away warriors, or ripped limbs and heads off of their victims to gain access to the doors. Though the warriors were better prepared this time, and killed a number of the black beasts, It was not long before these evil creatures reached the doors of the Burg.
Henry directed his men to re-deploy to the front of the great stone structure, but their movement was hampered by dozens of Nachtkrapp who kept them away, while their determined comrades pecked at the wooden doors of the Burg. A few warriors lowered their spears and made desperate runs at the Nachtkrapp trying to make them flee, but they were easily grabbed by the monstrous birds and ripped apart. One warrior managed to get his spear into the hind quarters of a bird, but it took to flight so quickly he was unable to let go, and was carried away up over the town. Ossurr watched as the man finally lost his grip and plummeted to his death.
Naddoður could see that the doors would not hold up for long against the relentless sharp beaks of the Night Ravens. The Shaman ran over to the duke's son and suggested that all of the warriors rush the front of the Burg at once. Just then a Nachtkrapp poked it's beak into a gap in the spear line, and ripped a huge chunk of flesh off of Halldorr's chest and shoulder. When he fell Ossurr was the first to react. He stuck his spear into the creature's belly, and then as it turned to peck at him he drew his sword and swung it with all his might at the creatures neck separating it's head from it's body. As Naddoður knelt down to attend to his wounded friend, Ossurr in a fit of rage pointed his spear at the sky and screamed as only a Berserker can. The angry Kvenlander stopped in mid-scream, and shouted in horror :
" What in the nine worlds is that ! ? "
- End Chapter 24
- Next : Chapter 25 : Good Versus Evil
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2017.