Fugitive From Hel
For days Lofarr tracked the hoof prints of the heavily burdened horse northward. He and his men barely slept, and often ate their meals in the saddle. The only time they left their horse's backs was to grab a few hours of sleep, or to relieve themselves. They were determined that nothing and no one would stop them from apprehending the murderer of women and children. At one point the trail went cold momentarily, but Lofarr, whose eyes were as sharp as an eagles, grinned as he spotted more of the villains tracks as they crossed a small gully.
" My heavy gold will be your downfall you foul creature ! " Lofarr whispered to himself.
Over hills, small mountains, and through thick forests and fertile valleys the warriors of Holmestrand rode forward. Rain and sleet pelted them in the lower altitudes, while snow hampered their progress through the higher mountains. But still they moved ever forward.
On the fifth day they came upon the remains of a small fire by the mouth of a shallow cave. When Palni placed his hand into the ashes he quickly removed it !
" The embers are still hot, my lord ! We should be able to catch this murdering bastard by tomorrow night ! " he told Lofarr.
Despite being weighed down by all the coins he had stolen from the chieftain, and the tax collectors, Serkr was not concerned that his horse could not gallop very fast with the great burden it carried. He knew that the villagers would come looking for him, but he was also sure that no one had seen him leaving Holmestrand, and therefore they would not know in which direction he had gone.
" Besides ", he told himself, " They may think it was just an accident and not come looking at all ! "
To be sure that he would not be followed he walked his horse Kjøtt in the middle of every stream he came upon for quite a distance before finally crossing and heading back north.
As dusk began to fall over the northern lands Serkr found himself a small shelter on the side of a hill. A rock shelf protruding from the hill side provided just enough protection for him in case it should rain. And he had watched with dismay as dark clouds moved into the area much of the day.
Serkr settled into his rock shelter and began to count his money as he ate a meal of dried fish, and smoked meat. The night was pleasantly warm, helped by the higher than usual humidity, and even as it began to drizzle Serkr felt comfortable in his little den. Serkr filled his horn with mead and took a deep sip. It was in moments such as this, when he was alone, and away from people, that his anger left him, and he felt at peace with the world.
Lofarr and his warriors lost the trail a second time when they crossed a large brook. The chieftain, however, had tracked many deer and other game in the wilderness, and knew that sometimes the animals would walk in the water for a short distance eating plants along its edge before crossing the brook. For this reason the chieftain sent Geirbjorn, Dofri, Alfrekr, and Aldi up stream to find where the killer exited the water, and he took Onarr, Palni, and Vafri downstream to pick up the trail.
Lofarr guessed that the murderer had gone upstream, because it headed northeast, and the killer had been traveling in a northerly direction ever since he left Holmestrand. Therefore he was not surprised when he heard one of his warriors call for him upstream.
When he reached his men, a short distance away, Aldi was standing on the edge of the brook examining muddy hoof prints that led up the bank and back into the forest. Aldi looked up at Lofarr as his splashed up next to him in the water.
" My lord, these tracks are fresh, possibly only a few hours old ! " he told his chieftain with a determined grin.
As it was getting to be dusk Lofarr ordered his men to walk their horses, and to be as quiet as possible as they followed the deep hoof prints. When darkness came crashing down upon them, and the drizzling rain began to fall, Lofarr had his men tie their horses to the surrounding trees at the bottom of a small hill and go forward without them.
Leading the way as their point man Onarr was the first to see the campfire off in the distance. He knelt down on one knee, stuck his hand up in the air, and made a fist. Everyone stopped dead in their tracks. Lofarr, who had not seen what his warrior had spotted yet, quietly walked over to him in a crouched position. His warrior did not speak, but instead pointed in the direction of the faint glow of the distant fire. Lofarr followed Onarr's arm to his finger, and as his eyes focused on the distant object he nodded and patted his warrior on the shoulder.
Lofarr motioned for his warriors to come up and then he silently pointed out the distant campfire until everyone saw its position. Then he pointed to each warrior in turn, and through hand signals, gave each a different direction to go in to surround the killer. Before they split up Lofarr pulled out his knife and made a stabbing motion in the air. He then pointed to himself . All of his warriors immediately understood that no one was to kill this man but Lofarr himself.
Serkr did not want to leave the shelter of the overhanging rock to go out and pee, but he had consumed several horns of mead, and the urge now was more powerful than the discomfort of getting wet would be from the rain that was now falling harder.
After he crawled out from under the protection of his shelter Serkr walked over to a tall tree nearby and pulled down his trousers. Just as he was beginning to relieve himself he felt a sharp pain in his right knee, which then buckled and dropped him on the ground. A moment later, and before he could realize what was happening, Serkr felt another sharp pain in his left shoulder. As he reached behind him he felt the shaft of the arrow sticking out just below his shoulder blade. Serkr suddenly became dizzy and lost his balance, falling backward on his ass. As he looked around he saw warriors coming at him from all directions.
Lofarr had his third arrow aimed at the killers heart as he reminded his warriors :
" No one kills him but me ! "
- End Chapter 5
- Next : Chapter 6 : Human And Divine Justice !
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2016.