Viking storm, p.1

Viking Storm, page 1

 part  #18 of  Dragonheart Series

 

Viking Storm


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Viking Storm


  Viking Storm

  Book 18 in the

  Dragon Heart Series

  By

  Griff Hosker

  Published by Sword Books Ltd 2017

  Copyright © Griff Hosker First Edition

  The author has asserted their moral right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.

  All Rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, copied, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written consent of the copyright holder, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

  A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.

  Cover by Design for Writers

  Book List

  Ancient History

  The Sword of Cartimandua Series (Germania and Britannia 50A.D. – 128 A.D.)

  Ulpius Felix- Roman Warrior (prequel)

  Book 1 The Sword of Cartimandua

  Book 2 The Horse Warriors

  Book 3 Invasion Caledonia

  Book 4 Roman Retreat

  Book 5 Revolt of the Red Witch

  Book 6 Druid’s Gold

  Book 7 Trajan’s Hunters

  Book 8 The Last Frontier

  Book 9 Hero of Rome

  Book 10 Roman Hawk

  Book 11 Roman Treachery

  Book 12 Roman Wall

  The Wolf Warrior series (Britain in the late 6th Century)

  Book 1 Saxon Dawn

  Book 2 Saxon Revenge

  Book 3 Saxon England

  Book 4 Saxon Blood

  Book 5 Saxon Slayer

  Book 6 Saxon Slaughter

  Book 7 Saxon Bane

  Book 8 Saxon Fall: Rise of the Warlord

  Book 9 Saxon Throne

  The Dragon Heart Series

  Book 1 Viking Slave

  Book 2 Viking Warrior

  Book 3 Viking Jarl

  Book 4 Viking Kingdom

  Book 5 Viking Wolf

  Book 6 Viking War

  Book 7 Viking Sword

  Book 8 Viking Wrath

  Book 9 Viking Raid

  Book 10 Viking Legend

  Book 11 Viking Vengeance

  Book 12 Viking Dragon

  Book 13 Viking Treasure

  Book 14 Viking Enemy

  Book 15 Viking Witch

  Book 16 Viking Blood

  Book 17 Viking Weregeld

  Book 18 Viking Storm

  Book 19 Viking Warband

  Norman Genesis Series (820-1020 A.D.)

  Hrolf the Viking

  Horseman

  The Battle for a Home

  Revenge of the Franks

  The Land of the Northmen

  Ragnvald Hrolfsson

  The Aelfraed Series (Britain and Byzantium 1050 A.D. - 1085 A.D.)

  Book 1 Housecarl

  Book 2 Outlaw

  Book 3 Varangian

  The Anarchy Series (England and Palestine 1120-1180)

  English Knight

  Knight of the Empress

  Northern Knight

  Baron of the North

  Earl

  King Henry's Champion

  The King is Dead

  Warlord of the North

  Enemy at the Gates

  Warlord's War

  Kingmaker

  Henry II

  Crusader

  The Welsh Marches

  Irish War

  Modern History

  The Napoleonic Horseman Series

  Chasseur à Cheval

  Napoleon’s Guard

  British Light Dragoon

  Soldier Spy

  1808: The Road to Corunna

  Waterloo

  The Lucky Jack American Civil War series

  Rebel Raiders

  Confederate Rangers

  The Road to Gettysburg

  The British Ace Series

  1914

  1915 Fokker Scourge

  1916 Angels over the Somme

  1917 Eagles Fall

  1918 We will remember them

  From Arctic Snow to Desert Sand

  Wings over Persia

  Combined Operations 1940-1945

  Commando

  Raider

  Behind Enemy Lines

  Dieppe

  Toehold in Europe

  Sword Beach

  Breakout

  The Battle for Antwerp

  King Tiger

  Beyond the Rhine

  Other Books

  Great Granny’s Ghost (Aimed at 9-14-year-old young people)

  Adventure at 63-Backpacking to Istanbul

  Prologue

  I was ready to die. I did not want to die but I was becoming old. I had yet to lose a battle and men still feared to face me sword to sword but time was not on my side. One day I would meet a warrior who was not afraid of the sword which was touched by the gods and on that day I would die. I hoped that I would go to Valhalla. My son and grandson had become men who could both lead the clan. With great grandchildren now what more was there for me to do? When the Norns had brought the king of Om Walum into our lives they completed a circle. My sign was the dragon and that was the sign of Om Walum. Now that my son had married the king’s daughter, Ebrel, it seemed that I was being told that I was no longer needed. What I needed was reassurance that, when I was gone, my family would be cared for. I lived in the Land of the Wolf and what better place to go than Wolf Mountain, Úlfarrberg.

  I had left my hall early. It was the day before the summer solstice. Only Uhtric my servant knew I was about. He would tell my wife where I had gone but not until she rose. I would normally have climbed Old Olaf but in the dream I had been visited the spirit of my mother who had come to me and told me to ride north to Úlfarrberg. I took my wolf cloak and my sword. They were both part of me. When I wore them then I was Jarl Dragonheart the Wolf Warrior! I did not take mail. As dawn was breaking I looked east, beyond Skelwith, and saw the distant outline of the mountain I would ascend. Even as I rode my horse north I did not know why I was riding towards the mountain. What would be there that would reassure me about my family, my people and my land. I could have asked Aiden, my galdramenn or my daughter Kara but some small voice, deep inside, told me to go alone. The small voice that sounded like my mother’s but as it was over fifty years since I had heard her voice perhaps I was making it up. That small voice had been nagging at me ever since we had examined the chests which the king had given me. Inside had been a piece of stone. I had recognised it as being from the mountain range of which Úlfarrberg was part. More than that there had been, carved upon it, the distinctive mountain and on the reverse, a wolf. Ebrel had told me, after her father had died, that the wolf was not a symbol of her family nor of her people. There was nothing else, save the dragon, which connected our people. I was determined to discover, before I died, what the carved stone meant. There had to be a reason why I had found it. Many others would have discarded it as a piece of stone and nothing more.

  I could have travelled the Rye Dale but that would have meant meeting people and I wished to be alone. I chose the quiet way. I chose the way which travelled up over high ground and struggled through bog and swamp. It was the shortest way but it was not the one I would normally have taken. I would pass farms but they would not be on the old path which had been there since before the Romans had come. My mother’s people had been in these lands when the paths had first been formed. I found solace and comfort in them. Knowing that ancestors had walked upon them gave me a link back to them.

  Since the birth of my grandchildren and great grandchildren I had become more in
terested in my family than the clan. At one time, I would have thought that a bad thing. The clan had been formed by me. When I had saved old Ragnar from the wolf in the forests of Norway I had set in motion events which now led me on the path to Úlfarrberg. I had journeyed with Prince Buthar to Man and we had slowly evolved the clan. When I had brought them to the Land of the Wolf it seemed it was the end of the journey. It was not. I paused at the stream to let Ubba, my horse, drink. I looked up at the mountain which lay just four miles ahead. A breeze shivered over my head and hair.

  “I am sorry Skuld, it was not I who set these events in motion but you and your sisters.”

  The Norns were no longer friends of my clan. Since I had rescued my daughter, Ylva, from their clutches they had tried, many times to blight our lives. Odin had saved us each time. The Weird Sisters were not our friends but that did not mean that we were not aware of their power. Their threads could not be seen. They linked and they joined but they also trapped. Was this a trap? It made no difference. The clan did not need me any longer. Ragnar would lead them now. He was a great warrior. I knew that his father had been a good one but Ragnar was, well he was more like me. Like me he had the blood of a Saxon in his veins; his mother Elfrida had been the wife of King Egbert. It had been King Egbert who had drawn us to Om Walum. Wyrd .

  I dropped down into the valley of Thirl. I had decided not to walk the long ridge which went almost from Nab’s Scar to the viciously sharp ridges which led to the summit. Instead I would ascend the steep path which went straight to the peak from the north west. I would not take my horse. When I reached Thirl’s Waite I stopped. Thirl was of an age with me. He had fought alongside me when first we had come to this land. Wounded by the Danes he could no longer fight in the shield wall. He farmed alone for his family had been taken by a combination of war, disease and, in his wife’s case, a broken heart. Like me he was ready to die. I could see it in his rheumy eyes as I spoke with him. I took the water skin, my staff and wolf cloak from my saddle.

  “You are up and about early, Jarl Dragonheart.”

  “I climb Úlfarrberg.”

  He nodded, “It is a good day but it will be hot. You will not need your cloak.”

  “True but I shall take it with me. Watch Ubba for me. I will be down before dusk and if not…”

  He nodded, “Then it will be wyrd . Aye I know. You have been a good jarl. You made life good in this land.”

  “We have all played a part in that. I was just lucky enough to wield the sword that was touched by the gods. I was chosen just as this path was chosen for me.”

  “I will tend your horse. May the Allfather be with you.”

  I nodded and took the first steps up the steep path which led past Piketoe Knott and the Brown Crags. I had come north to travel south on this road. The sun was now on my left. My age began to tell. I forced each foot before the other. I resisted the urge to drink from my skin. I would need that later. This was not like walking up the Old Man. That was almost gentle. You felt as though Olaf himself was helping you. This was Úlfarrberg. The mountain demanded that you treat him with respect. When you reached the top then you knew that you had made a journey. I had seen more than sixty summers yet I was not like some I had known whose bellies made them look as though they were with child. The battles I had fought kept me lean.

  I stopped a thousand paces from the narrow ridge which rose along one side of the mountain. I looked down at Thirl’s valley. His was the only farm. Further south were the better, more fertile lands of the Grassy Mere and the Rye Dale. The narrow valley did not receive as much sun. Old Thirl had sheep and a couple of goats. That was his diet: cheese and mutton. With fish from the stream it was a simple existence. Sometimes that was all that a man needed. I drank a little water and then took a piece of dried venison from my pouch. Chewing would help to ease the thirst pangs.

  I counted each of the one thousand steps to the top. When I saw the tarn below me then I knew the hardest part was over. The peak lay just two hundred paces from me. The two ridges swept to the north and south of the tarn. They were like arms folding around the tarn. The wind was cooler closer to the top. Thirl had been wrong. The day was not as hot as he had predicted. Looking at the sky I saw, to the south, dark clouds which threatened a storm later on. It was as though one of the gods themselves was blowing into your face. It was not hard. It was gentle and it refreshed.

  I reached the peak and I drew my sword. I raised it. “Odin, I have come and I have brought the sword which has been touched by your son, Thor. Tell me what you will of me. Speak, Allfather, that I might know why I am here.”

  The wind blew and the clouds in the distance scudded but other than that there was silence. I sheathed my sword. Sitting on a pile of stones I drank some more. I took out the carved stone. The stone was the size of a large golden coin. We had seen coins that size before. The Romans had used them and we had some from Miklagård. If the stone had been gold then it would be valuable. I knew that the stone had a message and, as such, was even more valuable than gold but I could not discern it. As I turned it over the light caught it. I saw that the carving of the mountain was accurate. I saw the crags I had passed on the way up. I was about to turn it over when I saw what, in my hall, I had taken to be a piece of poor carving. With the bright sun of midsummer’s eve, I saw that it was a wolf’s head. It was a smaller one than that one on the obverse of the stone. I turned the stone and saw that the two wolves, although different sizes, were the same wolf. Was this wolf the one that had made the mountain?

  I stood. If the stone had been carved accurately then the wolf had been placed on the side of the mountain for a purpose. Holding the stone to match the real mountain I looked to where the wolf had been carved. It was not a wolf shaped stone as I had thought, it was a dell in the mountainside. Falling rocks from winter avalanches had made a small fort. At first it looked as though it was inaccessible and then I saw a track. It had not been made by man but by animals. I spied sheep droppings and, just fifty paces from me the bleached white skull of a dead animal.

  The staff would be the only thing to keep me on the mountain side. As I descended I held it in my right hand. The mountain side fell away sharply. This might be where I met my death. One misplaced step would see me tumble down the mountain. I would bring down rocks and they would bury me. No one would ever find my grave. Some farmer, many generations from now, would seek a sheep and see the rusted remains of my sword protruding from the ground. He would wonder who I was but he would never know. He would speculate. He might remember the legend of the jarl who walked the mountain and was eaten by it.

  The path levelled out as I closed with the stones. I was sheltered here from the wind. As I took steps closer I caught the whiff of something dead and then, when I was twenty paces from the rocks, I heard a growl. I stopped and held my staff in two hands. There was a wolf nearby. I could smell, even above the smell of the dead animal, the smell of wolf. Another man my age and alone on the mountain would have turned and descended but I was Jarl Dragonheart. I was ready to die. If my fate was to be killed by a wolf then so be it. I had spoken with the Allfather. Was this his answer? Had I served my purpose and now I could leave the clan in Ragnar’s hands?

  There was a small flat space to the western side of the rocks and I stepped there. I saw a dead she-wolf. Baring his teeth before the corpse, was an emaciated whelp. It did not have the strength to stand but his eyes were bright. No more than four months old, he was barely weaned. My eyes were drawn to something behind both wolves. There was a rusted piece of metal. It looked for all the world like a sword. Wyrd . I was meant to come here and I was meant to find the two animals and the sword.

  I laid down my staff and took off my wolf cloak. As I did so the piece of stone tumbled to the ground and then fell down the mountain side- it was gone. It had brought me here and now it had disappeared. Wyrd .

  Taking a piece of venison from my pouch I held it out and spoke gently as I approached. “Úlfarr, I am Jarl Dragonh
eart and I protect all who live in this land. Your mother is dead. You wish to protect her but her spirit is with the Mother now. She would want you to live.” The whelp growled. “I will not hurt you. If you bite me I will not fight you for you are young. I could no more hurt you than I could hurt Sámr or Einar Moonchild.”

  My hand was almost at the mouth of the young cub. It sniffed the venison. Hunger overcame the desire to protect the dead she-wolf and it snatched the venison from my hand. Despite the fact that it snatched it did not bite me. As it ate I took the opportunity to sit next to it. I took out my water skin and poured a little into the palm of my hand. The cub had eaten the venison and it began to lap the water. I refilled my palm three times. Taking another piece of venison, I gave it to the cub and, as it ate, I risked stroking its head. It allowed me to do so. This, in itself, was a miracle. I had never known a wolf allow a man to do that. As I stroked I felt the ribs. It was almost at death’s door. I knew now why I had been summoned. I had been sent here to save the wolf but I knew not the reason.

  I stood and the wolf growled. “Úlfarr, I just go to see who else is buried here.” I climbed to the back of the den. I noticed that nothing had tried to eat the dead wolf. The cub had been protective. The bones of dead sheep littered the well in the centre of the stones. When I reached the back, I began to remove stones from around the sword. I saw that it was a shorter sword than mine and the guard looked like the one we had found in the cave of the dead where Myrddyn lay. Wyrd .

  I found human bones. When I uncovered the body, I saw that he had been a warrior. There was a rusted helmet and pieces of metal which could have been armour. Around his neck was a green and corroded piece of metal. I took it and turned it over. Time had weathered it but I could see that it was in the shape of a wolf. I had seen it before. It was the token worn by the warriors of the Warlord. I held it in my hand. It felt warm. After slipping it into my pouch I took out my sword. “Whoever you were, warrior, I salute you. I may never know your story but I will take this and my wizard will look at it. Perhaps there is a story here but I can see that your spirit drew me here and that I was meant to find this whelp.”

  I turned. The wolf looked at me still. It was no longer a look of fear. It was still young. I took the warrior’s helmet. It would hold more water. I poured some in and the wolf lapped it dry. I refilled it twice and then realised that I needed the rest for the journey down.

 
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