Monday, 5 February 2018
Brunnar the Mighty: Chapter II
When Brunnar opened his eyes he twisted and violently coughed up water onto the snow. He heard a familiar voice and felt a hand on his shoulder. Standing over him the blurry vision of Jotun came into view, who smiled, kissed the hammer-shaped talisman around his neck and thanked the gods. "It looks like the gods have seen fit to spare you, old friend," boomed Jotun, grinning. Brunnar sat up wearily and grasped his friend on the shoulder, laughing shakily.
"I thought you had gone to the underworld," croaked Brunnar, his eyes gleaming at the sight of his comrade. "Should have known the underworld couldn't hold the likes of you." The two of them laughed, but the bitter wind wasn't letting up, so Jotun advised they find shelter for the night. It soon became clear that despite the experience the two broad-shouldered men had in the icy wilds, they couldn't be sure how far away their village was and how long it would take them to get there.
Several hours had past in the blackest night Brunnar had experienced. The shivering wing hummed over the grey mountains which loomed to the west, a place that Brunnar knew to be the home of dread spirits in waiting for flesh. He prayed to Kaleetha, goddess of good fortune, that both he and his companion return safely to the village where his beautiful wife Freja would be waiting with open arms and soft lips. A nerve-shattering howl rang out in the dark and Jotun stopped dead in his tracks. "Wolves are abroad this night," he said in a hushed voice. Brunnar felt his back and realised with relief that his axe was still firmly strapped on. Through the cold and aching he had not noticed the weight of Northwind but he was glad to have it.
"Then we shall have furs to keep us warm," said Brunnar with a grin. They continued their journey, though they knew not where they were going save for Jotun occasionally pointing out the brightest star in the sky. Soon the oppressive mountains were at their backs as Jotun guided the two of them further into the wasteland.
A roar echoed in the darkness. Three hulking wolves crept out of the shadows, their backs hunched menacingly and rows of jagged teeth on full display. They were gargantuan beasts, twice the size of a normal wolf. "Doomwolves," whispered Jotun. He drew his blade though he feared that he could see little in the darkness. Brunner unlatched Northwind from his back and grasped the hand tightly. The wolves snapped their jaws and rumbled, closing ever in on the warriors. One leaped at Brunnar like a lightening flash, but his axe connected with its skull, throwing viscera onto the crisp snow. The wolf went limp, half of its head missing. "Come on then you dogs," cried Brunnar, "Come and greet the mighty Northwind." In the space of a heartbeat a second wolf pounced at Jotun, knocking the blade from his hand and pinning him with its mighty paws. The beast gnashed at him in a fiery rage while Jotun struggled to keep its mouth away from his throat. Brunnar swung Northwind in a brutal arc, catching the wolf on its flank and wounding it severely. Before he could land the killing blow he felt himself being forced to the ground, turning to see the ferocious muzzle of the third monstrous wolf. He thrust his axe hilt into the creature's maw to prevent it from biting and looked back at Jotun, who, despite the wounds Brunnar had inflicted, was still being assaulted. Suddenly, Brunnar heard a loud yelp and craned his neck to see a massive pile of bloodied fur beside his friend. The wolf who was frantically trying to rend Brunnar's face was then tossed to the side in a cloud of blood. Something had killed them. Then Brunnar realised who their unlikely saviour was. A white bear towered over the dead wolf, its giant paws caked in blood. It turned to face the men, who gathered themselves in preparation for what was to come. The bear roared loud enough to bring down the mountains and reared up, eyes fixed on its prey.