The Yule Promise
Left For Dead
As Valdarr drifted in between the blissful, and painless state of being unconscious, to the shock and horror of awakening to excruciating pain, he suddenly remembered his wife Eydis. Like a beacon in the darkness she called out to him, begging him not to leave her. And as her beautiful face appeared to him, almost as if in a dream, Valdarr decided that he would not die, without at the very least trying to save his life. For it was in that moment that he recalled the promise he made to his wife :
" I promise you that I will return to you by the Yule time,... " echoed through his mind louder than the intense pounding in his head that made his eyes hurt with each pulsation.
Valdarr knew the first thing he would have to do, if he were going to live, is get up off of the freezing cold ground he was lying on. Using his good arm Valdarr tried to roll himself over. He barely moved at all, however, despite his best effort. It was then that he realized that something heavy was lying on top of him, pressing him down into the soft mud. Whatever it was that had him pinned to the ground, it was blocking his vision as well, and was warmer then what lay beneath him. He had to try to move the object again, but first he needed to rest for a moment. For the last attempt to move had exhausted him.
Valdarr worked his good arm under the thing that was on top of him and then turned his palm so that it faced upward. Using all of his might he pushed as hard as he could on the object. The dead weight that pressed down on him moved slightly, and then, with a grunt that echoed around the hill, he pushed it away to arm's length. Valdarr expected to be able to see what he had moved, but there was only darkness, and the sound of something dripping on a metal surface that reverberated through his head.
" Am I blind ?! " was his first thought.
" Is it raining ? " came next.
After pushing the object completely off of him Valdarr reached up and touched something metallic that covered his face. As he felt around the edges he slowly realized that the same blow that had caused the injury on his head had turned his helmet completely around. Valdarr reached behind his head, found the eye-holes that should have been in the front, and flipped the helmet off.
A warm sense of relief fell over Valdarr as he looked up at the night sky, saw the moon and the twinkling of stars, and realized that he was not blind. Despite the intense pain that seemed to rack his entire body, Valdarr could not help but laugh a little as he lay there on the cold ground. His laughter, however, did not last for very long.
With a slight turn of his head Valdarr's joy turned to horror and sorrow. For there lying next to him was the object that had pinned him tightly to the ground. And although he could barely recognize the dead warrior, who lay there with his head split wide open, and his face caved in, he screamed when he came to the conclusion that this gruesome sight was what was left of his good friend Berlingr. He screamed a second time when he realized that it was not rain he had heard dripping on his helmet, but the blood of his long time friend that had drizzled down upon him. When he finally stopped screaming he saw that he was covered in his friend's blood, brains, and innards. It was all too much for Valdarr ! He rolled over, raised himself up on his good arm, and vomited.
When the urge passed, and his stomach had emptied, Valdarr managed to get up off of the ground on unsteady legs. The Hordaland warrior from Saeheim was then met with a sight just as gruesome. As Valdarr stared out at the human carnage, that littered the ground like leaves on an autumn day, he did not know quite what to do. With shock numbing his mind, and horror filling his soul, he looked around at the broken and mutilated bodies of friends and neighbors he had known most of his life.
Valdarr staggered forward, taking in the faces of each of the fallen as he passed. His foggy mind remembered moments in time that he had spent with each of them. When he saw Oddbjorn his memory flashed back to the time they were hunting in the Ash Woods. Oddbjorn was so proud that the arrow he had shot at the huge deer had hit its mark. Valdarr smiled, despite his sorrow, as he recalled how the deer managed to keep going for two whole days before it finally fell from its wounds. And that was just the beginning of their troubles. Despite placing the heavy deer on a makeshift sled it took three days to drag it back to Saeheim.
The huge body of Vargr was unmistakable despite the fact that his head was missing. His wife, a petite little woman named Lifa, was a good friend to Eydis. Valdarr recalled the time, before they were married, when Vargr invited them to their farmhouse to celebrate Lifa becoming pregnant. An odder couple he had never seen. Vargr was a head and a half taller than she was, and he must have outweighed her by at least a hundred pounds. However, it was not just their size that was so different. Vargr was loud and outgoing, while Lifa was shy and fairly quiet for most of the evening. Despite having little to say, he remembered that when Lifa did speak she made you feel special with the things that she said.
After stumbling forward a few more feet Valdarr came upon the body of Skeggi. Not long ago he had hated his chieftain for making them march all day, and most of the night. Now, however, he could not help but feel pity for Skeggi who lay on the ground with his innards spilled out all over him. By the way he was positioned it looked to Valdarr as though the chieftain of Saeheim had been trying to push his entrails back into his body just before he died.
When Valdarr spotted Oddbjorn's head mounted on a stake at the edge of the hill, along with those of half a dozen other Saeheim warriors, he decided that he had seen enough ! Remembering that they had crossed a small stream before they reached the hill, the dazed and confused warrior turned around and headed back down the hill. This time, however, Valdarr kept his head held high, and his eyes facing straight ahead. For he no longer was interested in seeing anything on this hill of death.
The sound of the trickling water gave Valdarr added strength, and his legs became steadier underneath him as he quickened his pace. When he reached the stream he followed it down a ways to where a deep pool had formed near the edge. Putting his good arm out in front of him to brace the fall, Valdarr allowed his knees to buckle, sending him to the ground. With his left hand he reached into the pool of cool water and scooped up some in his palm. Before it drained away through his fingers he splashed it on his face. It felt wonderful ! With a second handful of water Valdarr began to wash away the blood, dirt, and other things that he no longer wished to think about, from his face. When his hand hit the wound on his head, Valdarr's world began to spin, and he barely manged to fall sideways onto the bank of the stream, instead of into the water, before he passed out.
- End Chapter 4
- Next : Chapter 5 : Starting For Home
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2018.