In the morning light the thin fog hung low over the inlet, meeting the steam rising from the water and swirling in air like weightless broth… no wind in the chill of this dawn. The twilight ghosts of mist skated on the canal, glassy like a sheet of ice. I stepped out from my humble log home, the fur pelt window coverings backdrafted slightly from the door and settle against the wood shutters. I stand shirtless, only covered by my kilt around my waste, feet protected by fur covered boots, breathing in the morning air, observing the docks that stretched out from the rock beach over the fjord.
Something isn’t right… It’s too quiet… No birds, no crackling fires… My stomach turns as the voices in my head tell me to peer deeper into the channel. I shift my gaze and through the mist I see what subliminally disturbed my conscience… A wooden dragon head breaches the fog… A Viking longship cutting through the glass splitting it as easily and silently as blade carving flesh. Fear courses through me sending a chill across my brow like a hood being pulled from my head, it slides along my neck and down my spine… the bony finger of death itself touching me as only a lover should. My fear quickly turns to fortitude. I lower my brow and exhale with a grimace, my muscles across my chest harden. Shoulders bulge and cut in with defined sinew, as my fists clench.
I move. Quickly… I reach back through my doorway and grab my longsword. A two handed Claymore with open scabbard allowing the blade to extend free in the air. Wrapped around this weapon a vest of leather armor. I let the blade fall to the planks of the front porch of my homestead, I quickly throw the vest over my shoulders, and fasten the aged brass eyehooks. I slip my leather gauntlets up my arms and hastily observe the ship approach as I tie the leather laces with my teeth… They will not be fully secure today, there is no time. I grab my sword in hand by the scabbard, and I vault the railing and drop a half meter to the damp grass landing in a fast run.
She, the Viking queen, stood in her gold inlaid armor… Her winged helmet tucked into the crux of her armpit, with her other hand on the wooden dragon’s head at the bow of her boat. Her 7 man scouting party at her back. As her ship cut through the fog off to her left she calmly observed a dwarf wood cabin beyond a small grey pebbled beach. Her gaze shifted across a green moss covered field. To her surprise a man in a skirt was sprinting towards the docks carrying a sword that seemed almost comically large. She inquisitively raised an eyebrow and laughed to herself. She turned her head slightly while smiling… She spoke confidently without shifting her gaze; “land the ship”… With this calm order the men behind her sprang into action.
The ship turned to port. She watched the Scotsman hit the beach at a sprint and as his feet hit the stones she observed that he abruptly slowed to the walk. He unsheathed his behemoth blade with a quick pull of the scabbard and confidently tossed the heap of leather and buckles to the ground. He breathed steady, not even slightly winded by his run… Somehow holding this large sword in one hand, he approached… What started as humor at this lone fool running to meet his destiny too young, suddenly turned in her mind to curiosity… His confidence disturbed her slightly and her smile faded just as much. She squinted to take a better look at this man…
His short hair was red as blood, with small curls. His freckled skin almost as white as milk. With her ship approaching the beach she watched him stop walking and stand squared to her ship, feet slightly apart holding his blade out to the side revealing the full length of it without allowing it to touch the rocks an inch below the tip… He stood locking eyes with her, and in a small gesture of the wrist spun the blade in hand, a glimmer of light flashed down it’s mirrored edge and for the first time in as many years as she could remember she felt something odd… fear… Her gaze caught by the glimmer of the sword, walked up the blood groove to the cross shape hilt and fell upon his strong muscular hand… She traced the lines of sinew like a map up his arm, following the grooves of him with her eyes… He looked like a warrior statue cut from marble standing perfectly still.
The ship ran aground and she lowered her knees and maintained her balance and her gaze… The man met her gaze directly, and lowered his head like a growling wolf with bared teeth about to lunge…
I stood… the familiar leather wrapped grip of the hilt of my claymore in my hands. My eyes met the first of the Viking scum… and then my heart stopped… An angel, or perhaps a goddess stood at the bow of the ship. I held my breath and traced her shape. Her hair pulled back and braided, I observed the perfect chiseled lines of her stern yet elegant face. Her full lips parted in a genuine smile as she approached me, as a combatant… The calm confidence amazed me. Her long thin neck sloped downward to muscular yet elegant shoulders. My vision met her fur lined armor plated leather corset covering large breasts, shimmering with swirling gold adornments. A light helmet under her elbow with golden wings extending out behind her arm… A skirt of leather straps revealing naked thighs, a single protective platemale flap dangling down in front, protecting what my mind instantly believed must be the gates of heaven. I wondered if I could even make love to something that strong, without somehow robbing her of her grace that I immediately respected and adored.
I floated to the surface of my consciousness like a bubble rising from depths, and then arrived back in the moment… I realized that I am standing here, sword in hand, possibly about to be murdered and my kilt was about to be lifted in front of me. I composed myself and brushed the thought of making love to this woman from my mind. I breathed out, and drew long breath to calm the adrenaline coursing through me and channel it to focus. Secured my grip and flipped my blade in my hand, and lowered my head as the ship approached it’s landing. I subconsciously bared my teeth locking eyes with her… and watched her smile fade. The ship moved from parting water to parting stones on the beach and ground to a full stop.
Two of her men jumped from the ship on either side, a small one wielding sword and shield and a large one with double sided battle ax… I think to myself “the large one first”. As he approached I found he towered over me by nearly a foot in height. He lunged at me and swung ax across in front testing my distance and reaction, and then carried it around until overhead to bring the blade down upon me. I stepped to the left and raising blade above my shoulder deflected the axed downward to the right, sending his full weight off balance to his left. In that action the size of his ax and strength of his fool hearted and overly committed attack set my blade edge flat and gave my sword force downward that I used to effortlessly move around the fulcrum and spin the sword, carrying the spiral upward an ending with a diagonal slash with full its full weight behind it, at his exposed back. My blade found its mark parting his left clavicle and his ribs easily, cleaved his heart, and eventually stopped at his spine… The man was dead before he felt the blade enter his body. In the same motion I pivoted on my front foot stepping back with my right to release my blade, and freed it from him before he collapsed in a pile of meat… Just as the smaller man came upon me swinging his sword in a high arc with blade close to the ground. I stepped to his shield side, drifting right with my sword leading, and low in my stance. Then ducked back lower to left in single action as he swing. I moved under the edge of his traveling blade. The need to wind back my claymore unnecessary, I relied on the metals edge. Sliding below his shield I slid the edge of my sword across his shin and front calf. His leg buckled, and as it did he fell forward to kneeling on his shied, his arm trapped and right side of his neck open and exposed… I spun my wrist turning my blade vertical stepped around the weight of the sword without the blade moving in air and turning like a dancer around a partner I stepped between him and my saber with my back to him. I used the full weight and torque of my body to hoist the blade up, vertically over my head, and turned striking down without pause… the blade buried into his exposed neck… crunching like a washboard through clavicle and all of his ribs and cleaving him in two until the blade struck his pelvis.
As he fell away my blade easily slid out of the man… I looked up to the ship and caught the gaze of the goddess once more… smile now completely faded from her lips, I could see fear in her wide eyes, as 5 other men jumped from the ship.
Her ship landed and this funny man in a skirt peered at her with a confidence that worried her. She called on her two most cunning warriors “Destin, Eriek… kill him… quickly”. Her men leaped from the ship, warriors who she had seen easily slay a hundred men over their lives… They separated to surround the man, and then moved on him… In less time than she would need to exhale the breath she held in her lungs she watched him suddenly move with the agility of a cat… He sidestepped Destin and she heard the clang of steel… before she could even follow the glimmering path at the trail of his blade the Scotsman had somehow cleaved him nearly in two. Then like a graceful dancer all she saw was Eriek fall to a knee and suddenly the left half of him peeled away from his center… The white man stood again in front of her, calm… With blade clean… The feeling in her was one of awe… Not rage, not anger… just awe…
“kill him!” She shouted… the remainder of her scouting party leapt from the ship… the man lifted his blade with both hands and parting his legs he slowly shifted it back behind his right side almost resting it flat against his right leg tip facing away from the group of men approaching. He secured his footing, dug his left foot into the stones, stepped back with his right and lowered his stance farther… Her men surrounded him. Once again this Scotsman was attacked. An overhead strike from Frey quickly sidestepped and suddenly Frey’s leg was cleaved from his body, and before he could even scream the man spun with a flash of metal and his head was parted from his shoulders… The Scot didn’t wait for Bard to finish his overhead strike he simply continued the slice that severed Frey’s neck and carried the blade on, burring it deeply in Bard’s side as he stood to swing his ax… In one motion, the Scot kicked the body off his blade and leaned back in an arch narrowly dodging the swing of a Fiske’s sword aimed at taking his head… Now only 3 of her 7 men remained… They stopped to regroup… As Fiske overcame his pause, and began to move in for another attack she realized she would lose them all and shouted “STOP!”
The 5 men approached me… I adjusted to horseman’s stance as they were clearly attempting to surround, and if these men had any notion of how a claymor was wielded, they would know that horizontal attacks could easily clear a few of them with one strike… This strategy would keep 4 at bay while one was dealt with at a time… unless they were stupid enough to attack together, and my day would go a bit easier. The first oaf attacked with obvious leading leg and I swung and removed it for him with all my weight driving the blade in a horizontal downward strike driven by a lunge to the left. Allowing the pendulum weight of the low swing to spiral my blade up into the air I effortlessly spun the blade level, and carved his head from his body with a continuous motion… I then realized these men had never encountered someone wielding a Scottish claymore before, as my blade found it’s way into the ribs of the man to his right quite accidentally, who just happened to be standing with his ax over his head like an idiot.
Shit… My blade was now clumsily stuck in the man as a third came in for swing at my head… I had to almost chuckle at the luck, because a swing anywhere else probably would have done me in. I leaned back and dodged as I put a foot on the hairy ape man’s still gargling chest and pulled my blade free.
The men seemed to understand they were not fairly matched at this point… because the 3 left alive backed away… One of them seemed to gain a bit of courage and stepped… and as he did I heard a siren voice yell “STOP!”
She jumped from the ship. Walking confidently forward she placed her helmet on her head and shouted “HE’S MINE”… she sneered and drew a long thin 2 handed blade from her back. Her sword was almost three fourths her height. She lunged in and swung at him. He stepped and parried the blade with a loud clang… The metal threw sparks into his face. This stunned him, and she made swift use of opportunity… She spun in a front figure eight and slashed opposite her first strike, stepped gracefully, and landed a blow across his chest.
His leather armor split as the blade sliced through. The armor served its purpose however, as her sword inflicted a narrow and shallow flesh wound. He reeled surprised… but like a trained warrior ignored the blow and stepped into her immediately without even looking at his bleeding chest… swinging his blade up and around his back, he slashed at her head. With instant reaction, she dropped her stance and brought her blade up horizontally above her… as the two swords touched edges sparks flew again and she guided his heavy sword in the direction of his swing up and over her head and then followed it with force, directing it downward to her right as it slid down her metal…
Him off balance, his blade struck the earth with hers over top of it and she slid her sword up the length of his toward him, throwing more flecks of lighted embers at him, she lunged with blade trailing and stepped past him, dragging her sword edge along her path as she lunged to the opposite side of his two handed sword cut deeply into the meat of his exposed right shoulder. She passed his line of sight, stepped in front of and to the other side of her sword at his back, and before he could react she slashed hard and true horizontally across his thoracic spine, splitting his armor and parting a deep wound… The fight was over. He fell to bended knee supported by his sword… She raised her sword again, and swung once more at the right side of his exposed neck… and he closed his eyes and prepared to meet his god.
I saw her jump from the bow and walk towards me with the grace and confidence of a lioness. She lowered her head and slid the helmet over it and shouted “he’s mine!”, and the only thought that went through my mind as her walk pushed her skirt away from her mid-section revealingly was “oh how I wish I was”. She reached behind her shoulder and drew an ulfberht blade from her back as she approached…
This sword would be a challenging match for mine, as it was nearly the same length, but far faster. If she was at all skilled with it, most of the advantages of my claymore would be useless to me, and I would be far slower than her in one on one combat. I thought to myself, “I would have taken a small buckler and one handed sword for this match up without question… this fight might already be over”.
I watched her feet as she moved, and noticed her walk, as she subtly rolled her feet on the outer edges as she walked… This woman was definitely trained… and as she drew her blade easily, I watched her grip and sword position, and I realized she was quite possibly not only trained, but well seasoned. She feinted to her left but I caught in her skillful footwork that she would not commit, and I matched the opposite angle of her feint as she swung her blade where I expected… Although I had anticipated this strike she moved far faster than I had imagined and the blow was not redirected merely met and clashing by my sword… As our blades touched, to my surprise sparks flew from the impact… While I had heard that these masters of metalcraft would flint their blades to confuse and distract an opponent, I had never encountered it in person. The hot sparks flicked at my eyes and for a moment I lost my focus. Just as I realized what was happening she scored a clean blow across my chest with no time for me to react.
Pain flared up like fire… and coursed through me. My breath went from my lungs and I stumbled back a step from the impact. I regained my footing and dug into the beach… realizing this would not be a vital blow I held my defenses up. I used the backward weight to turn on my leading heel and swung with an attempt at her neck… But even as I committed to the swing, I realized I had made yet another error… As she effortlessly and elegantly lowered one knee and stepped forward toward my attack, I felt fear wash over me… I was out of position, and my heavy sword was following it’s path, I could anticipate her Quarte parry and knew the strength of the strike I was attempting would carry my blade wherever she wanted it to go… and hoped for a direction that would allow a recovery… More sparks flew as I heard the grind of her blade over the top of my own and then she drove my sword over her head downward in the direction my momentum was already carrying me, taking my footing to my back side. As quickly as I could blink she continued her lunge towards me… Suddenly, intense hot pain in my right shoulder, as she sliced the full length of her sword along it to my blind side opening muscle and cutting deep… As I reeled from the cut, I felt all the wind leave my lungs with a shock… as if I had been kicked by a horse in the back. I felt my legs give, and drop out from under me. Perhaps not a vital blow, but the fight was over… Surely another blow following from behind would be on its way, and end me. I fell to my knees and closed my eyes. ready.
But I felt nothing but a pause as my breath returned and I inhaled to feel hot blood running down freely from an open wound on my back… a subtle cold wind made the warmth more noticeable… and then… I felt a gentle kiss of a steel blade, resting on my bare neck. I heard soft spoken words whispered in my ear “surrender to me noble warrior… you have fought very well today… I am Freyja, and I am your Queen.”
My life ended in that second… For even though she spared me… I was reborn in her mercy. I wanted nothing from my life but to heal, and then serve this woman who brought me to my knees… for the rest of my days.
A Scotsman who became a Viking, who loved a goddess, and found a home where he fit and would never feel alone again.