Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Normandia - 4

As we approached the last bend in the river, we could make out a small wooden palisade built to watch for our kind, but we were right.  The Franks did not expect us tonight; the Franks ought to know better.  We rounded the bend and found the town alive with fire and smoke.  It looked as though the celebrations had gotten out of control and the wooden huts with their thatched roofs had caught fire.  The blaze was beginning to spread through the town, and the people were running to and fro from the river back to the town slopping leaky wooden buckets full of water.  It must have started long before the rain because even now the soft patter did nothing to abate the voracious appetite of the inferno.  Instead, the wind seemed to inflame it, making it jump from one hut to another.
It was a laughable scenario.  Our captives had told us of proud days in the past where the Merovingian kings came tall and fair into the land.  But now the Franks were small and brutish.  They could barely reach the tops of the houses and their ladders were in danger of catching fire as well.  Their lackluster approach to controlling the blaze was not only appalling but altogether ineffective.  I looked at Aslak, but he just shrugged back.  Sometimes for fun we would light up a couple of their houses with our bows, but we never tried to destroy the whole town.  We were brutal, but the reality of it was we lived off of the Franks.  If the Franks we gone, we would be dead.
I beckoned to Thorax, and the tall, strong, blonde beast walked towards me.  He stopped and stooped next to Aslak.  Two great Vikings, ruthless, but understanding, and their icy blue eyes bore down on me in the darkness.  “What is it Ivar?”  Thorax’s deep voice whispered like the cold current flowing under us.  I paused almost trembling with the burden of what I was about to say.
“They are weak tonight, just as the council predicted.  But they are too weak.”  Thorax’s and Aslak’s eyes disappeared for a moment in the darkness as they both blinked at my response.
“Too weak?  But then it is the burden of the weak to die.”  Thorax responded softly.
“Perhaps, but if they die, then we become weak, and then is it not our burden to die as well?”  Thorax shrugged and looked at Aslak.
“But aren’t there more Franks downriver?”
“Yes, and more danger as well.  More Franks, more soldiers, the river also narrows past that next bend…”  I pointed ahead of me, knowing it was true, but also knowing that there was little that could be changed in any scenario.  Even if we called off the attack, we would still face the danger of the return, and to return in this danger empty-handed, after having risked so much?  Impossible.  We had to go onward.  I sighed and nodded at them.  We had to attack.  It was what we were made to do.

Chapter III       Chapter V

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