A Glibertarians Exclusive:  Season of Ice I

Beretan, summer

Hengist crouched in the brush, overlooking the small farm.  A young man was working in the field, digging yams.  As Hengist watched, a young woman left the small farmhouse, bringing the young man something.  They smiled at each other, shared an embrace, after which the young woman went back into the house.

She’s a beauty, Hengist, thought, suddenly feeling the lack of a woman in his own life.

Hengist was, like most of the Northmen of the nation of Ikslund, tall, fair, with a broad, ruddy face, a nose that had obviously been broken several times, and ice-chip eyes.  His long blonde hair was braided into three queues and his dangling mustaches were likewise braided.  He was a big man even for an Ikslunder, broad-shouldered, with a barrel chest and fists like hammers.  Hengist also had a head for tactics and a knack for leadership, making him an ideal leader of the summer raiding parties for which Ikslund was notorious; every summer the longboats of the northern nation would fan out, to Beretan, to Ashlands, to Howa’s Bane and Tiramon, raiding, taking slaves, raping, and looting.

And that was Hengist’s purpose today, on a typical warm, sunny, late-summer Beretanian afternoon.  To the right and left, the twelve men of Hengist’s raiding party were spread out in the line of brush, hidden, waiting for his orders.  After a season of raiding in Beretan, his group of hardened Northmen were a well-oiled team; it had been a good summer season, and they were making their way back to the coast where their longboat was hidden.  The men were laden with heavy bundles of loot, a few slaves, and a shortage of foodstuffs for the journey back to Ikslund.  Thus, the decision to raid the small farm, which looked prosperous.  Now the loot was hidden in the brush, the slaves bound and gagged so as not to warn the farmers.

Hengist’s second in command, Jorgunn, crouch-walked over next to him.  “Everyone is in position,” he whispered.

“Good.  Have Egmund take out the farmer first, then we all go in.  I’ll take the house.  The rest of you fan out through the outbuildings, kill anyone you find, gather grain, fruits, goats, anything good for forage on the ship home.”

“Nobody but that girl in the house,” Jorgunn grinned.

“That’s as may be,” Hengist replied sharply.  “Which is why I’m content to be going in alone.”

“As you wish, Chief,” Jorgunn agreed cheerfully.  He moved off to give the archer his order.

A moment later, an arrow shot across the short distance from the tree line to the field, to take the young farmer in the throat.  He dropped silently into the field, kicked a few times, and lay still.  The raiders moved swiftly and quietly in.

Hengist sprinted ahead of his men, covering the mostly harvested yam patch at a sprint, drawing his short sword as he went.  He reached the door and, without pause, put his shoulder to the wood panels and smashed through.

Inside, it was dark, dusty, crowded.  Hengist’s practice gaze took in all the details at a moment.  The house was small.  Rashers of pork hung from the rafters, and casks of vegetables crowded the space.  A small table and two chairs stood in the center of the room, and a ladder led to a loft overhead, presumably the sleeping quarters.

And the girl.  Hengist spotted her as she spun away from a small window, where she had obviously witnessed the killing of the farmer – her husband?

She was prettier than Hengist had thought from the brief look he had gotten earlier; tall, long-legged, with a substantial bosom and long brown hair.  Her eyes flashed as she spun to face the door as Hengist crashed in; brown eyes that flashed for the moment in a luminous blue.

Magic user, Hengist thought.  He held his sword in front of him, the flat facing the girl, his off hand on the end of the blade.  The blade had a mild, cheap enchantment to deflect magic attacks; he hoped it would be enough.

She crouched.  Her eyes flashed again, and her hands fluttered.  Hengist braced as a bolt of ice shot across the room.  He blocked it easily, sending the bolt into the rafters, and moved in.

The girl’s hands fluttered a second time, sending a stream of horrendous cold at Hengist.  He took the blast on the flat of his sword, which quickly turned almost too cold to grip…

…but just as quickly, the seasoned raider stepped forward, into the blast, and slammed the pommel of the sword into the girl’s jaw.

She staggered away, stunned.  Hengist dropped his sword, grabbed her up by the waist.  His hand shot into a jacket pocket, came out bearing an iron choker with a catch bearing a round agate; he placed it around the girl’s neck, snapped the catch closed and sealed it by snapping three catches in just a certain order and then placing his thumbprint on the stone.

The girl’s eyes fluttered open.  She raised a hand, fingers arched in a spell configuration, but nothing happened.

“A binding collar,” Hengist explained to her.  “I got it from a mage in my own land.  We carry them on raiding parties, for dealing with magic users.”

The girl didn’t reply, but that mattered little; Hengist had other intentions for her now. He dragged her to the table, threw her stunned form on the square surface.  She resisted, but feebly, still dazed; to the hardened raider it was as though a child was trying to push his hands away.  He threw up her knee-length skirts.  She started thrashing her legs; Hengist pulled her legs straight and tore off her underdrawers.  She kicked at him once, only to receive the iron-hard flat of his hand to the side of her head.  Hengist unfastened his trousers, let them drop to the floor, spat on himself.  Grabbing her legs, he raised them over his shoulders and, standing at the edge of the table, forced himself into her.

The girl cried out once, twice, but Hengist ignored her.  He thrust hard, reaching to fondle her soft breasts through the woven hemp cloth of her dress.  Hengist had been without a woman for long and long, and so took only a few moments to finish.

When he was spent, he pulled up his trousers, refastened them, and was just re-sheathing his sword when Jorgunn entered the farmhouse.  The girl lay on the table, crying softly, her legs hanging from the table’s edge, arms over her head.

“Only the girl in here, then?” Jorgunn was grinning widely.  “She is a pretty one, eh?”  He took a step towards the table, only to be halted by Hengist’s sharp command:

“No.  Mine.”

“As you wish,” Jorgunn replied easily.  He had taken a female slave himself on this summer’s excursion, and so was not terribly put out.  His captive more closely resembled a Beretanian yam than the long-legged, generously figured beauty Hengist had just taken, but she was still a girl…  and when Jorgunn was home, she would fetch a decent price in the markets of Ikslund.

Jorgunn turned to his chief.  “The men have gathered a few goats, a few sacks of grain, some yams, some dried fruits.  Should see us home all right.  We found a donkey and cart, with that to move our loot and foodstuff we should be able to march quickly, get to the ship by nightfall and be under way.”

“Good.  Pack everything up.  Take some of the pork hanging in here, it’s cured, and we can eat it even at sea without a cooking fire.”

“As you say, Chief.”

“I should expect the Beretanian provincial guards are no more than a day or two behind us now, so the sooner we’re at sea with the rest of the raiding fleet, the better off we’ll be.  Where is this cart?” Hengist demanded.

“Lugann and his idiot brother should be pulling it up in front of the house in a moment.”

“Well done.  Let’s be on our way, then.”  Hengist looked around, quickly spotting what he was looking for, a spool of woven cord.  He walked to the table, swiftly bound his captive’s wrists and ankles.  That done, he gathered up the sobbing girl, slung her over his shoulder and went outside.