He watched the two guards standing idly at the front of his cell, Jorek, the old one, was half way to the dream world, his large axe leaning on the wall next to him instead of in his grip. Erier still cast back nervous glances at the “witch-man” even at this hour, likely too frightened to sleep. His clothes ripped, tattered and covered in dirt, his hair matted down with sweat and caked in mud, Davrou hung limply from his arms, held up by the rusted Iron shackles steadily scraping off layers of skins. His mind playfully pictured the whole village burning, forcing them to use their precious water to put it out. The rest would have to be rationed carefully but with every sip they would fall deeper into disease, thanks to one of his many concoctions, maybe even the venom that usually decorated his neck. Yes, that would be fitting, what they deserve. Davrou had heard the whispers, the son of the Chief’s witch whore. It was never said directly, whether it was from fear of Davrou’s poisons of his Father’s blade he was unsure, However if that was what they desired, Why not give it to them. He fought back a small fit of giggles at the thought. Maybe they truly had a good reason to be afraid.
“No…” he muttered to himself.
If he let his fantasies guide him he’d end up back here or laying in his own blood. He would escape now and take his revenge later.
The light breeze flowing through the window was his cue. Coughing as deeply as possible Davrou expanded his throat as he struggled against his chains for the first time since he was restrained. Jorek was riled from his drowse, groping for the handle of his weapon with grubby fingers. Erier just turned to watch the prisoner, still inexperienced and unsure of what to do. The coughs became heaves, churning his stomach and at last, spilling his partially digested food onto the floor. Davrou’s body shuddered and slumped, dangling lifelessly while his captors watched the jarring sight with wild bewilderment.
“The argr bastard, killed himself.” Jorek observed, watching the motionless husk.
Erier nodded slowly in agreement helplessly.
“Why weren’t you watching?” The senior guard bellowed. “There’s a reason, there two of us.” He chastised.
“Bu-But he used witchcraft t-to will his death, that the only explanation, right? Right? we can’t stop spiritwork.” The young man pleaded.
“He still hadn’t said a bloody word what are we supposed to tell Gidderak?” Jorek argued back, ignoring the boy’s superstition, knowing Gidderak wouldn’t hear the excuse.
Erier began to buckle under his superior’s words desperately darting his eyes back and forth between the corpse and Jorek. The sly old man continued to shift the blame entirely onto his younger.
“You will, tell the Chief it was due to your lack of vigilance that this happened, it was your turn to keep him inline as we agreed,”
Erier didn’t remember that “What agree-“
But it didn’t matter, Jorek cut him off. “You weren’t even paying attention to my words! How did to expect to do this job properly. This is a role built of concentration and obedience, your pathetic attitude will not….”
Under the mounting tirade Erier caught an almost insignificant spasm of Davrou’s leg.
“Wait! Wait! H-He moved, he might still be alive.” He shouted, eagerly pointing.
Jorek quieted for the moment looking over and seeing only the still form of the dead. “Check, please.” Erier begged. The old guard scoffed after a moment and unlocked the door.
“Go on lad, check for yourself, if you’re so sure.” He told him with a kick toward the door.
Erier gave a terrified stare. It could have just been a death tremor, if he was wrong he didn’t want to touch a body killed by spirits, they may plague him for the trespass. If he didn’t, though, he would prove himself a shame to his family, a failure at his first task. Jorek would make sure. Hesitantly he stepped into the tiny barren room straining his eyesight for any sign of life. A soft poke of his sword left a fresh cut on the prisoner’s skin but gave no response.
Davrou kept his breathes short and shallow, as still as a corpse, his mouth holding a small sealed ball carefully in one cheek, turned away from the guards. He watched the floor seeing Erier’s shadow approach cautiously. He held back a small grimace from the boys probing cut. Closer, He thought, smothering his impatience. Erier’s boot finally came into view and Davrou could hear his frantic breathing at being so close. The guard took another step, coming into perfect range. Davrou kicked the floor while throwing his head up bashing into Erier’s chin. His legs shot out, sweeping Erier from his feet as the guard clutched his jaw, and swung back just as fast, pinning him against the floor by his neck. He shifted the ball in his mouth, taking a deep breath as he crushed it and coughed again sending the liquid into the air in a fine mist letting it carry into the breeze across the cell. Davrou continued to cough, spitting out anything left of the fluid on Erier’s back before finding his words.
“Set me free or I Break his neck, Jorek.” He promised, placing more pressure on the spine.
Jorek watched in anger, knowing the boys, death would be blamed on him. “Look at you boy, you won”t make it out, let the boy out before ya cause more shame for our clan, for your father.”
Davrou answer with a small pop from the guard’s neck making him spasm and let out an attempt at a scream. “I care nothing for either old man, toss me the –“Another fit of coughs escaped him.
Jorek smiled as he took in the situation, walking into the room. “And what then Argr, you’ve not the strength, I’d be on you axe first. Whether you killed the useless whelp or not.”
Davrou pushed down even harder. “You decrepit sansorðinn, release me!” he cursed.
Jorek’s smile disappeared at the insult, replaces with a growing snarl, his breathing heavy with his face reddening and veins pulsing in anger. The useless guard no longer cared about his orders, raising his axe to cleave Davrou in half. The Axe grew heavy in Jorek’s fumbling hands, almost falling atop his own head when he brought it up, forcing it back down. Then his arms refused to bear the weight any longer the weapon hit the floor. Jorek’s legs gave out right after, following the axe to the ground. His body refused to listen so any of his commanded. A loud fit of giggles sent small chill up his frozen spine.
“You’re so predictable Jorek, so self-indulging, you have my gratitude.” Davrou told him as he used his feet and legs to drag Jorek closer.
“If you were so glutinous it was have been a little better, though.” He added, a bit out of breath from the exertion.
He kicked off a boot using his toes to grab the key ring, tossing them up to catch. After the sixth try it actually worked. It only took a couple minute more to remove the shackles. Blood scabbed around Davrou’s aching wrists but at least they were free. He relieved Erier of his sword and cloak immediately, wondering what it was like to be in so much pain but unable to scream, a thought for another time. Jorek on the other hand a different matter, he slit the old man’s throat, Davrou may have baited him but he did not appreciate an axe looming over his head, even for a second.
He hurried out of the empty little jail at the edge of the village with little trouble. There weren’t any other guard around, a testament to the fact that the Iron Blood Clan very rarely takes prisoners. The way out of the village that has forsaken him was wide open ahead of him, beckoning. Instead he ran the opposite direction back to his former home, there was something he couldn’t leave behind. There were about a hundred homes in all; spaced out similarly, relatively humble in size and spanning in a circle around, the Arena. The pride of the villages, where the young trained and honed their skills against one another, it floor stood covered in fine sand mixed with blood and surrounded by rows of stone seating . And next to the arena, the Sanctum, the second largest building, made entirely of ironwood. It depicted the legends and gods of the clan, was where the clan elders convened when necessary and was the home of the chief.
Only a handful of clansmen stood watch along the two buildings so circumventing them proved simple, especially with all the practice Davrou had. Yet when he entered The Sanctum He felt the tension of his body build, he became acutely aware of the small delay in his movement. He was highly tolerant to the paralytic, but not completely immune. Davrou walked quietly passed the first hall and down the second corridor. Ignoring the desire to set it all on fire. It had not truly a home for many years but never as foreboding as tonight. He turned another corner and arrived. The Large door was covered in carvings of venomous creature and rare flowers. His room stood alone at the very back of the sanctum, where he would not be a bother to anyone and they would not be a bother to him. He opened the door slowly. He just needed to grab his satchel and vials quietly, then he’d vanish, at least until he found the chance to take his revenge.
The plan changed once the door open. The smell of strong mead wafted out and the sound of an old chair in the corner creaking as someone adjusted their weight severed the silence. Davrou’s blade sprung into his hand instantly as he crouched ready to counter a charge. The attack didn’t come, replaced by a question.
“Did you kill them?” the man’s voice came, full of quiet, restrained anger.
Davrou didn’t need to see him to know who it was. He was the only person who truly lived here, now.
“Erier will be unfit for anything for a few months. Jorek wasn’t worth much alive either way.” Davrou answered his father with disgust in each word.
The Massive warrior kicked a large empty jug of the fermented drink, sending it fly at the wall next to his son. Then took a swig of a similar one in his hand.
“Is that what you thought of your brother as well?” Gidderak accused, fingering the great sword, Render, resting in his lap beneath the jug.
Davrou fought down the urge to strike him, knowing well they were likely so both die.
“You’re a drunken puppet, who knows nothing of me or Thaelon.” He spat at the Viking chief.
That got him to stand, easily holding the large blade in one hand. “Never speak his name again. His killer has no right to call his name” Gidderak commanded in a hissing whisper.
Davrou leveled his gaze. “….I yearned for the day my younger brother kicked your useless existence off your seat and lead as a true chief.”
The second jar shot toward his head but Davrou intercepted it with the flat of his blade sending the contents everywhere as it shattered. His father held the blade in both s now, his footing settled into an odd stance.
“Your poisons took him away, you cannot hide that.” He state with cold finality
It was true, Davrou grip strained on the handle of the long sword whitening his knuckles. No other among the clan could make such an efficient toxin. They were too superstitious and condescending of the art. Some to the point of allowing themselves to be amputated the allowing Davrou to aide them.
“Aye, your right, and I’ll make them pay, his killers and your worthless yellow bellied clan, that let him escape because of their fear of me.”
Gidderak could hear no more. “Enough!” he roared, rushing at his son thrusting his blade forward.
Davrou dove to the side letting his sword slice along his father’s leg but the chief twisted his hips back avoiding anything more than a surface wound. He continued with and upward slash and met the steel of Render. Gidderak’s speed, with that beast of a weapon, was almost incomprehensible. Davrou switched angles continuously, unrelenting his assault as he fought for an opening. He could not give his father a chance to counter.
Gidderak met every blow with effort, following the annoying dance of his son stabbing and slashing as he darted to either side, they had sparred like this many times before but in the few years since they stopped Davrou’s skill had continued to grow. But he was still inexperienced compared to Gidderak. He found the timing of his son’s blows and shoved back and he parried the small blade, tossing him off balance. Render cut the airwith a whistle, cleaving at Davrou’s midsection.
Sheer luck is what saved Davrou, his foot slipped on a piece of the broken container causing him to fall as the sword swung passed just over his nose and blowing his hiar back with the air pressure. He couldn’t waste the chance, he foot kicked forward as his back hit the floor, connecting with Gidderak’s knees, and using it to roll away as he gasped for breathe. Pushing himself to his feet he face his father once more. The Iron Blood chief’s knee looked like It was beginning to swell but he stood unfazed and as long as they were in the room Gidderak had the reach advantage. Davrou shook his head, he was uninjured but it took everything to stay that way. Gidderak raged forward once more with more abandoned, beginning his swing before Davrou could intercept him, He felt the strength of every swing as he dodged by the skin of his teeth, at times surprised he wasn’t beheaded or slice to ribbons’ but the gaps began to show, his father was forgetting himself in rage. They weren’t big enough to exploit yet, he need to press him. His sword feinted in and out getting small victories but the warrior chief refused to relent, tearing ragged gashes into the walls of dense wood. As another chopping blow descended He lunged back to the door way and countered by spitting in his father’s face. The look of surprise and his son’s new level on insolence was consumed just as fast as it appeared by utter fury. Davrou used all his strength to knock the blade up exposing his opponent’s chest then brought the blade back in to lunge for the chest.
Gidderak’s arms instinctively flowed with the Impact rising with his sword as he’d done countless times and hammered it down as it reached the peak of its arch. He saw Davrou’s blade retracting, preparing to leap at him. It was too slow, Render would cut first. Vengeance on one son for the murder of the other.
His Father’s vengeance vanished as the great sword bit deep into the iron wood of the door frame. Stopping its descent. The cold steel of Davrou’s blade ripped through his father’s shoulder, severing muscle and bone and cascading blood. Gidderak groans loudly but clenched his teeth to suppress his scream. Davrou never slowed, ripping the steel out and pressing it against his father’s throat. The man glared without fear, hatred and sadness tinting his eyes as he readied to take the final blow.
“I never wanted this, I never desired your authority, not over these people... I wanted nothing from any of you. But hear this whether you believe it or not, I am no longer Iron Blood, However after today my revenge for my brother’s death will fall on all who are.” Davrou told him as he caught his breath. With a hard turn of his waist he slammed the pummel of his sword across the Iron Blood Chief’s head before he could argue and watched him crumble to the floor.
“Thank Thaelon for your life…” He muttered bringing his arm to his side to feel a warm stain spreading. He hadn’t felt the wound till then. The duel was violent but it wouldn’t have echoed out of the hall. Davrou hoped, prying up a few planks of wood along the back of the room revealing his satchel.
2 Months later
Night was slipping away, light winds quietly blowing around the small rocky outcropping he was using for shelter. Davrou watched the dying flames slowly dwindle to embers through the dark green liquid filling one of the vials hanging around his neck. The bottle of red liquid hung from another finger next to it. The light shining through them partially illuminated his face in a discolored glow, highlighting a small scar along the corner of his mouth and another long one angled above his eye. The vials wear a gift from his mother before she passed, ones He treasured greatly. The scars, a couple of the many gifts his father had given him. He had to admit he was grateful for them as well, they were a symbol of the training that was carved into his body. For better or worse, Davrou spent almost as much time with a blade in hind as a mortar and pestle, if not more. They were both part of the reason he was still alive.
As the last of the embers glow faded he released the vial tucking them both carefully under his shirt. He rose, tying on his sword belt; now with a different blade than the one he took from Erier, packed the skin he used for sleeping and quickly shoveled the last of the strange lizard meat he caught the night before into his mouth. His big apothecary satchel made of fine reddened leather laid atop a small boulder he had used as a make shift table. It was filled with dozens or herbs and containers, including one that contained the recent venom sample Davrou extracted from the lizard. The mark of his clan, once displayed proudly on the opening flap of the pack, was now scratched and torn into an undecipherable mess. Closing the bag carefully, Davrou slung it over his shoulder walking to west, if his directions were right he was only as days walk from the closest city.