Authors: Asta Idonea
Wayward Ink Publishing
Unit 1, No. 8 Union Street
Tighes Hill NSW 2297
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the authors' imagination or are
used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely
The Raider Copyright Â©2014 by Asta Idonea
Cover Art by: Lily Velden in collaboration with Jay's Cover Designs
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or
mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the written
permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law. To request permission and all other enquiries, contact Wayward
Ink Publishing at: Unit 1, No. 8 Union Street, Tighes Hill, NSW, 2297, Australia.
Published in Australia
THORSTEIN DUCKED down, raised his shield, and braced against the impact as the volley of arrows descended. One punctured the wood, its point stopping just short of his eye. The groans that filled the air told him others had not been so lucky. Hefting the broken shield away, he adjusted his grip on his axe and rose to meet the enemy.
The native warriors extended their swords and charged en masse. Instinct took over as Thorstein swung his weapon, crushing the skull of one opponent and slashing into the neck of another. The smell of blood filled the air now as men fell on both sides.
The blow to his leg caught Thorstein by surprise and he sank to his knees. As he fell, he twisted his torso, embedding his blade into the side of his attacker just before the other man could strike again. He tried to stand, leaning heavily on his axe, but then he was struck on the back of his head and everything went black.
HE BECAME aware of the distant calls. Voices of his countrymen uttering words of celebration and talk of home. Then the scent of burning flesh hit him, and he struggled to open his eyes.
On the beach his friends had built a funeral pyre. The flames, fueled by flesh, cloth, and wood, rose high, ending in a plume of smoke. It had been a fierce battle and he had no doubt his fallen companions were now feasting in Valhalla. He wondered why no one had fetched him, but then he realized that the tall grass into which he had fallen must be concealing him from their view.
He struggled to sit up and was rewarded with a jolt of pain from the wound in his leg. The ground around him was soaked with his blood, and even now more bubbled forth from the gaping hole in his thigh. He would not be leaving here without assistance.
He called out to his friends for aid, but no one answered, and he watched with growing panic as they made their way down the beach, toward the sea and their waiting boat. Some carried weapons and shields, others the spoils they had acquired from their raid on the village. All chatted amongst themselves. None looked in his direction.
He kept his gaze fixed on them as they boarded the boat, watching helplessly as the men took up the oars and the boat began to slip away, cutting through the waves and heading out to sea.
Thorstein stared at the horizon long after the vessel had disappeared from view, willing them to realize their mistake and come back for him. Had no one noticed he was missing? Had no one thought to look?
His leg throbbed and his vision began to blur, shifting back and forth like the waves that had brought him to this cursed shore. How had he offended the gods? Why would they leave him stranded here?
He wished that Odin had granted him the honor of dying in the battle. If only he had died, axe in hand, and gone to Valhalla. Instead, here he lay, his life slowly slipping awayâan ignoble and pathetic end that he doubted would give him entry to Odin's halls.
It was then he heard it. Movement in the grass. Someone was approaching. He fumbled for his axe. He had little chance of defeating anyone in battle, but if he went out fighting, perhaps he could still die well.
He raised the weapon, thankful his arm at least still obeyed his commands, and waited as the stranger drew nearer. When the grass parted and he saw his adversary, Thorstein nearly lowered the axe in surprise.
This was no warrior. The young man did not even look strong enough to wield a sword, and he was dressed in a simple tunic that offered no protection from a blade. When he saw Thorstein, he jumped back and half turned, ready to flee, but then appeared to change his mind. He looked Thorstein up and down, his gaze finally settling on the wound in Thorstein's leg.
He started to speak quickly. The voice was soft, and had an attractive lilt, but Thorstein couldn't make out what he was saying. The man suddenly seemed to realize this, breaking off mid-word and biting his lower lip.
For a moment, the two men just looked at each other in silence. Then the younger inched forward, raising his hands in supplication and gesturing at Thorstein's leg with a nod of his head.
Thorstein lowered the axe and placed it on the ground. He was not going to regain his honor by killing an unarmed and beardless youth, and any remaining hope he'd had of reaching Valhalla now fizzled away to nothing. Let the boy approach. Thorstein knew he was dead anyway. Nothing mattered anymore.
The young man knelt beside him, casting a final glance at the bloodied axe before concentrating on Thorstein's leg. He prodded around the wound, shrinking back slightly as Thorstein growled. When Thorstein made no move to grab the axe, the man seemed to relax, and produced a small knife from the belt around his waist.
Thorstein waited for the first blow, bracing himself for more pain. There was no way this boy could kill him with one stroke, certainly not with such a puny weapon, and he expected death would not come swiftly.
To his surprise, rather than attacking him, the young man began to cut away the leg of his trousers from the level of the wound. He worked silently and quickly, and soon had a length of material in his hand. This he eased below Thorstein's leg, and then tied tightly around the wound.
Thorstein hissed as the cloth pressed into his flesh, but he realized the other man was trying to help him, so he kept his hand in his lap, away from the axe, not wanting to scare the stranger away.
The man was speaking again and, from the pointing and hand signals, Thorstein worked out that they needed to leave. There was no way he could walk on his own, but the young man was already lifting Thorstein's arm over his shoulder to help heave him up. With their mismatched sizes, and his rescuer's lack of upper body strength, it took three excruciating attempts, but finally Thorstein was standing, his weight on one leg as they hobbled through the grass.
Every few steps they had to pause to give Thorstein a moment to recover from the onslaught of pain, but at last Thorstein saw a dwelling in the distance, and his companion managed to convey the fact that this was their destination.
The house was small, made of wooden timbers and a roof of grasses and reeds. It looked solid enough but was uneven, the roof slightly lower on one side than the other, and that more than anything else told Thorstein his host was not a wealthy man.
The young man helped Thorstein to a bench covered with a thin mattress, and he lay down, grateful to take the weight off his leg. He closed his eyes and slowed his breathing. For a while, he was aware of his host moving around nearby, but soon exhaustion overtook him and he fell into a deep sleep.
WHEN THORSTEIN woke, it took him a moment to get his bearings. When the battle and the events afterward finally came back to him, he became aware of a heat in his leg, and the smell of herbs and flowers. He looked down the length of his body and saw his wound had been packed with some kind of remedy, and then rebound with a clean strip of cloth, tied tightly and neatly at the side. The leg ached when he shifted it, but the previous sharp pain had been subdued to a dull throbbing. He'd expected to die from the cut, but it seemed his timely rescue and this aid might still save his life.
Remembering his rescuer, he looked for the young man, but found himself alone. He gazed around, taking in his surroundings. It didn't take long to catalogue the small space. The bench he lay on seemed to double as a seat and a bed. Close by was a table, upon which he saw a bowl, cup, and jug, and across the room sat a small wooden chest. In the centre of the dwelling a fire was burning, and a pot was positioned over it, steam rising gently from its depths and disappearing through the hole in the roof.
Just then the door opened and the young man hurried in. He carried a simple bow over his shoulder, and a bag in his hand. Thorstein watched as he placed the bow down against the wall and laid the bag upon the table. He started when he turned and saw Thorstein awake and looking at him, but he quickly recovered and offered a smile. The gesture made him look even younger, but Thorstein guessed he must be in his early twentiesâalready a man despite his deceptively lithe frame.
,” Thorstein said, his voice cracking a little as he offered the greeting.
Gods, I am thirsty
. “Thorstein,” he added, tapping his chest. “
“Godwin,” the youth replied, catching on quickly.
, Godwin.” Thorstein started to cough and tried to sit up, pulling himself backward in the pallet.
When Godwin offered him a cup, he skulled it in a single swallow. The ale was weak but refreshing, and it eased his parched throat. He made short work of a second cupful, and then a third, before handing the beaker back.
Godwin opened his bag and pulled out a loaf of bread. Breaking off a large handful, he approached Thorstein again and offered it to him. “
?” He pointed at the bread. “
Thorstein took it. He weighed it in his hand a moment, and then, seeing Godwin watching him, pointed to it and said, “