Mjollnir breathed heavily and twisted the spike of his axe one final time. He spat, grunted, and lifted the axe off of the ground, resting in on his heavily padded shoulder again. The fight was over but he had the feeling it would be proceeded very soon. He and his men had been careless. In their joy at finding the island, and the river by which they would traverse it, they had been loud and obtrusive. As soon as they landed to make their first camp they had attracted the attention of a large group of woodsmen, foresters of some sort who were setting off for their days work.
What loud, carousing strangers were these, setting foot on their forbidden land? What barbarous fiends had interloped on their forest?
The woodsmen were not warriors, seemingly, but they fought with the berserker\’s rage, or so thought Mjollnir. The foresters had caught the Variags unaware and in their surprise one of them, a craftsman named Ulf, had been cut down by the woodsman who attacked with only their forestry axes. His screams filled the small camp before the Variags sprung up to action, donning helm and shield, sword and axe, howling like the fiends the small woodsmen believed them to be.
It was good to feel battle again; the Variags felt this deeply if they did not think it consciously. Many months on the frozen sea was not good for a fighting man, even one so disciplined and seaworthy as a Variag. They had made North and then East from the Finnmark after many weeks travel from the southern fjords. There they stopped and gathered what supplies could be found and shoved off, their longships laden with skins and water and mead and meats. \”There is no land left unspoiled to the South,\” Tuude had said. \”Christendom has taken our balls and our pride. It is time we found sweeter fruits to pluck!\” And so they left in search of these fruits and now, two months later, they had found a fat land full of strange looking and hostile men.
\”On me!\” Mjollnir had shouted, and a score of his men fell in beside him. Their line hastily reformed, they charged in against the woodsmen who weaved in between the few Variags who had no heeded Mjollnir\’s call. Nevertheless the heathens strode in with long-legged gallops like warhorses and caught the remaining woodsmen in an open V formation. The slaughter was great.
By the time Mjollnir had gathered himself he knew that at least one or two of the woodsmen had made it out alive, judging only by the number of dead laying on the ground. The sound of groaning reached his ears. He turned and saw one of the woodsmen, wounded grievously in the side and missing part of his left leg, slowly reaching for a stray sword on the ground. Despite his deepest instincts to go and send the wounded man to be with his Fathers he waited, and watched. The woodsman, slowly and with great pain, took the Viking sword, planted its hilt on the ground as best he could and held it. There, he fell on that sword and slid through with naught but a soft grunt. Shortly thereafter he stopped moving.
\”What curious, slant-eyed men are these Mjollnir?\” one of the warriors asked. It was Heri with the long braided beard.
Mjollnir only shook his head. The move had unnerved him; was it bravery or cowardice that had moved the man to slay himself? A desire for death? Shame too great in defeat to live?
\”I do not know,\” he said. \”But if we are to stay in these lands and make our fortune we had better be prepared to kill them all, for if their laborers fight like this…Odin help us when we meet their warriors.\”