[SotE] The Wing-Taker

After finishing designing the Hrafvite, the Norse who can beat the magic out of other people with their bare fists, I felt an urge to write a short story. Which is here for those who want to read a tale that’s a bit grim.

It was a strange company that had gathered in the small snowy glen. They were not speaking and they dared not to light a fire, because their quarry might see it. The stars glittered overhead and the night was cold. 

The Schoolman wrapped his blanket tighter around himself and in his mind cursed this frostbitten endless waste, where only giants and trolls lived. The Norse must be crazy to live here. However, there was a job that needed doing here. Mikkel of Ribe had been spotted here, so Gotland had sent the Schoolman here to make sure Mikkel would be put into the ground. 

Mikkel’s crime was not of the greatest magnitude: he had signed up as a scout for a Novgorodian trade ship. He hadn’t even served the Novgordian prince, but a breach of his contract it was. So, Mikkel would die. 

The Schoolman had arrived to Hålogaland two weeks ago and quickly found out that Mikkel was now running with a group of outlaws, because someone had tipped him off. Said group of outlaws was nowhere to be found, until a Jarl’s son had been kidnapped by said outlaws. The Norse talked about seeing a winged man carrying him away so the Schoolman stepped forth and promised the Jarl to kill the outlaws, if the Jarl would provide him with some blades. The Jarl certainly made good on her promise. 

There was two blades from the Jarl’s household, Sigurd and Halldor. Both competent enough. Then there was the Hessian mercenary, clad head to toe in black gold armor, calling herself Corinna, though the Schoolman suspected that she was operating under a false name. There was the elf Sechmar who the Schoolman hired himself because he needed a bowman. And finally, the only one in the group who genuinely frightened the Schoolman.

Clad in Norse-style chain and furs, Rúna the Thief-Bane was a famous mage-slayer, one of the Hrafnvite or Ravens, standing almost as tall as the eight-foot Hessian. She did not care much for the Schoolman, probably because of his association to Gotland. However, since the Schoolman himself was no wizard, she didn’t kill him, either. For now, their interests aligned well enough. 

Finally, the Schoolman drifted off into a slumber. Once or twice he woke to the far-off howling off owlbears or giants but went back to sleep. 

Sometime before dawn he awoke. The Hessian handed him a cup of wine without saying a word. No one else spoke, either. The elf had been off scouting, apparently, and it was time to go. Their quarry was close, so they packed up what little camp they had made and walked on, towards the eastern mountains. 

In the bleak half-light the elf finally spotted a fire in a valley below them. They kept their approach quiet and walked closer. Sure enough, there was a camp there. As far as the elf could tell them, the outlaws seemed worn out and tired. They had posted no guards and the Jarl’s son lay bound in a tent close to the fire. And the elf had spotted a fair-haired man with wings on his back. 

No greater discussion was needed. The Schoolman handed the elf what was needed: a Bauble. Rare enough on the best of days, a Bauble would hurt or even kill a wizard simply by touching.

They charged, with the elf and the Schoolman hanging back. Three outlaws lay dead before any of them even cried out. The Norse and the Hessian were doing quite alright for themselves. 

Then Mikkel the Mage took to the air, almost instantly spotting the Schoolman, and with a shout, unleashed the sound of thunder. A quick muttered counterspell dissipated that, and while Mikkel was still surprised over his spell failing, the elf bow sang. With an audible thud, the Bauble-tipped arrow took Mikkel in the leg and he fell down from the sky, screaming. 

More outlaws lay dead. Suddenly a woman in tattered red robes rushed out from the woods, chanting something that made the Schoolman’s blood run cold. No one had even mentioned that the outlaws had a Dragonspeaker. Now they would all die. Already the words were turning into fire and a tongue of flame shot out from the Dragonspeaker’s mouth and hit Halldor. He screamed as he burned. Sigurd cried out in anger. 

Then Rúna dropped her rapier and stepped forth. Another tongue of flame shot out from the Dragonspeaker’s mouth. To the woman’s surprise, it dissipated as it hit Rúna. And then Rúna was already on her, beating the wizard with her bare fists. After the first blow, the Schoolman felt something rip in the back of his mind. Rúna’s blow had torn the magic out of the Dragonspeaker, who now was nothing more than a frightened outlaw. She tried to get away but to no avail. The Raven Rúna beat the Dragonspeaker until she no longer moved. With a last grim blow, she broke the woman’s neck.

Now all was quiet except for the moans from the winged man. The Schoolman stepped forward, drawing his pistol. The Bauble had gouged a deep salt-lined wound into Mikkel’s leg and the fall had broken several bones, that now jutted out of the poor wretch’s flesh. The Schoolman couldn’t help feeling pity for the man: after all, his crime was not of the greatest magnitude. For a moment, the Schoolman froze and held his hand. The Raven approached. To spare poor Mikkel of what was to be, the Schoolman stuck his pistol under the winged man’s chin and shot him. Rúna pulled her knife. 

They buried the dead. No one wanted to speak to Sigurd who had lost her brother. The elf returned the Bauble to the Schoolman. Finally they left the valley. It would be five days before they’d reach their horses. Five long days of looking at the wings of Mikkel that were now decorating Rúna the Raven’s pack.

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One Response to [SotE] The Wing-Taker

  1. Pingback: The Royal Commission of Sorcery and the Baubles | Lions of the North

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