Fan Fiction

Grievous Pursuit by Jonathan Goss

Part I: Egil's Charge6 June 2004, 10:46 AM

Egil knelt to the cold, wet earth, his keen eyes tracing the shallow dents in the snow. At the raising of his hand the entire troupe of eighty berserks halted their march and fell in behind him. Tyrfing, his lieutenant, drew up beside him, kneeling in the snow to add his sapphire eyes to Egil's scrutiny. For a moment the two were silent, examining the tracks that they had been following for two hours. It was mid morning, and as the distant sun began to melt the tops of the snow the tracks became weaker and weaker. But this was the Stair of Grief, there was sure to be more snow, and more tracks.

"They were joined by Ghol." Egil said darkly. "Maybe twenty."

Tyrfing traced the tracks. They seemed to be bunched together, as if the Ghol had milled about for a while before heading further east. He shook his hairy head. "Twenty'll be nothing unless they're carrying bits o' Wight with 'em."

"Aye," Egil replied. "But they've covered a lot of ground. I'm sure the Ghol have outpaced the Soulless. We'll have to split our forces to catch them both."

Tyrfing ran his fingers through his thick auburn beard. "I can take just as many with me, we can cut them off if we hurry." He looked at Egil with hesitation. Would the veteran take the chance with Tyrfing as their leader?

Egil thought for a moment. Tyrfing was invaluable. He couldn't afford to lose him. Finally, he nodded. "Take Gwyon and his kin, and whoever else has experience with the Ghol. Leave the rest for me."

Tyrfing nodded with a smile hidden under a thick beard. "Aye," with that he rose from his leader and strode back towards the throng of tireless Northmen. Egil watched him as he was eventually lost from sight amidst the snow drifts and howling winds. Things just got more complicated.

Of course, that was no new thing for Egil, or the rest of the armies of the West. For five years now they had been fighting the Fallen Lords, Balor's relentless push over the mountains resulting in more than one blood-soaked peak. And now it seemed there would be another added to the list.

It was not of Egil's choosing, however, that had him here with his brave warriors. No, it was a mandate of the Nine. The Avatara, in all of their infinite wisdom, decided that a picked force of eighty or so berserks be sent to retake the Stair of Grief from the throng of enemies passing through it. No one had survived the last attempt, but that was nearly a year ago and led by Ajax, a captain in the Armies of the Province. At least he was, until a Wight blew up, scattering him across the mountain passes. Needless to say all the others met a similarly gruesome fate that day.

But Egil was determined not to let that happen again. His eighty berserks were the hand picked men of his own clan, all with as many notches on their belts as hairs on their heads. They knew how to fight, and they knew how to win. Unlike his weaker, scrawnier comrades in the West and the South, Egil had taught his brethren how to fight and kill, not fight and survive. Survival was a concern for the foolish, and the weak. Egil only cared about victory, no matter the cost.

And now was the perfect time. He rose from his crouch and turned to address his men. By now two groups had formed, a small one of eighteen or so with Tyrfing at their helm, and a larger one with all eyes on Egil. He grinned toothily at them, like a jackal.

"The Soulless are not far." He shouted over the howling winds and snowstorms. "Whoever is leading them has sent Ghol to intercept us. But we're not going to buy it. I'm sending Tyrfing to catch the scythe-wielding runts before they can encircle us. They'll watch our backs while we take care of the Hollow Men." Numerous nods confirmed his observations. By now Tyrfing had the full contingent of twenty Northmen. He stood twenty meters down the slope, listening to his leader's orders. "Now I know some of you are worried you won't get to kill much, but don't worry, there'll be enough for everyone. I promise." He looked downward, at Tyrfing. "Now go, before the cold freezes our prey!"

With that the groups parted, bare, scarred forms disappearing in the raging snows. Tyrfing and his group sprinted with haste across the slippery, icy slopes between the passes, trying to take whatever shortcuts they could find, no matter how dangerous. Egil and his large force of sixty raced further along the pass, following the fragile, purplish haze left by the floating Undead. Long years of harsh wars and harsher winters had given Egil a keen set of senses. His beady grey eyes could pierce the densest fog and his hooked, broken nose could smell the scent of decay and wormrot. The past five years it had come in handy. The war had not gone well for the Armies of the Province, and the berserks had been all but begged to pick up the slack.

Glory drove them south.

To the aid of the West.

And now, ironically, it was glory that had driven Egil and his men north, towards their homelands. And here, today, there would be a chance for much glory. He would soil the snow with the bones of the Soulless. Today was going to be magnificent.

Egil raced as fast as his legs could plow through the shin-high snow. He was almost fifty, and covered in scars and grey hair. The color of his beard did not change much with the snowfalls, nor did the braided locks of hair that fluttered behind him as he ran. Of course, many of the men he commanded were younger. Much younger. But out here, in the miserable ice and snow, one could hardly tell the difference. Not to mention the fact that Egil was steadily outpacing his own men in their race. Even with the wind pushing against his front and the snows numbing his bare skin Egil was slowly distancing himself from the sixty berserks following him. His fisted arms pumped in front of him, his large claymore secured tightly to his back. It had been nearly half an hour since he could feel his feet, and he was pretty sure frostbite was somewhere in his future. Not that it mattered, only victory mattered. Only glory.

Egil reached the end of their mountain pass, and was met by the craggy, snow covered slopes and rock faces of the Stair's indomitable terrain. High into the mountains as they were, Egil was cautious to set foot upon the cresting tops: a wrong step could send one to a most undignified end. But he had no choice, the sent was getting stronger. He was gaining on them. They were gaining on them.

Quickly Egil leapt onto the icy ledge and began sprinting across its broken length. The others followed suit without hesitation. To their right lay the inlet of the upward sloping terrain, to their left was the descending mountain side, a sheer rock wall covered in ice. Egil pumped his legs harder and harder, fighting against the wind. Then something else happened, something he did not expect. Another scent was now present though, one that did not seem to follow the Soulless necessarily, but came from their direction no doubt. It was fainter, subtler, as if it had drifted from the southern side of the mountains. It was the strong scent of death, and rotting corpses.

Egil knew the scent well.

He had smelt it many times before.


The Soulless had backup. With a grimace Egil began scanning the terrain for signs of tracks, while trying to to take his eyes off of the dangerous precipices. He saw none, and the lack of excited shouts from his comrades confirmed that there were none there. Unless of course the precarious terrain kept them from looking all together. Egil peered into the hazy snows, the wind blowing flakes across his eyelashes. For an instant he thought he saw something. A thin black line standing upright and moving to the left. It disappeared beneath a crest of white dust and powder.

Suddenly Egil stopped. He knew what it was. Without thinking twice he threw himself down onto the inlet at his right, burying himself in the snow. His men did the same, looking like a long line of fleshy dominos tumbling into the wet cold. Egil gazed down the line for a scout, someone he knew was experienced enough.

"Tyrgeis!" Egil shouted. "Tyrgeis!" A moment later a hairy blonde head poked out from the line of crouching men. Egil motioned for him to come over. The berserk rose to his feet quietly, feet sinking into the snow. He was short for a berserk, a mere five feet seven inches, and covered in war paint. Tyrgeis Of The Iron Gale. That's what they called him. His spirit was unstoppable, his tenacity on the field like a rushing wind. He was fearless. He was dire. He was perfect for the job.

"Tyrgeis," Egil repeated when the subordinate was closer. "The Hollow Men are not far; just below that crest." He pointed to his right, the crest a mere thirty meters beyond. Tyrgeis followed his leader's direction with his eyes, his head jerking towards the crest with an excited fury.

"Then we can catch them!" He said hurriedly. "Quickly, Kahn Egil, let me meet them! I want to be the first to-"

"No!" Egil refused. "I need you to spy their number, then come back to us. Do not let them see you, and save the Hollow Men your wrath for a moment or two."

"Aye," Tyrgeis replied. A moment later he was sprinting, half crouched, towards the crest. As Egil watched him go the other men slowly began to draw around their leader, clustering together in the cold.

"What's going on?" Asked Hervard Of The Bloody Stump. His face was contorted mass of wounds, ugly beyond repair. And his left arm was severed at the forearm, a wound inflicted long ago and earning him the title he now held.

"We're right on their backsides." Egil replied, his eyes never leaving the crest. "But they've got Thrall with them. I just hope we're in time to catch them before the Thrall move in between."

"Our luck has held so far, if we move quickly, we might be able to get in between them." Said Hervard. The burly hulk then proceeded to blow snot out of his nose, freezing instantly in the snow at his feet. "Damned Stair." He complained.

"If our luck holds." Egil repeated softly to himself. Suddenly Egil saw Tyrgeis approaching. The young berserk was racing with all abandon back to the line of comrades. In a swooping rush he flung himself into the snow where Egil and the others lay crouched. His eyes bulged and his chest heaved. "What is it? What did you see?"

"The Hollow Men!" Tyrgeis panted dramatically. "The Hollow Men, there are so many."

"How many?" Egil asked warily.

"So many that their spears would hide the sun!"

To that Hervard chuckled, his hideous grin exposing rotted and missing teeth. "Good!" He laughed. Egil turned to him with confusion and slight annoyance. Hervard saw it and subsided his laughter a bit to explain the source of his joy. "Then we shall fight them in the shade."

Egil smiled at his haggard comrade. What a demented fool.

"What about the Thrall?" He asked Tyrgeis. "How many of them did you see?"

"Myriads." Tyrgeis responded. "But they're all standing still, like they've got nowhere to go."

"Good, then we can still hit the Hollow Men." Egil decided. "Are they still moving?"

Tyrgeis shook his head. "No, they've stopped in the pass, now they're just milling around, maybe moving into formation. Almost as if they're resting."

"No need to rest when you're undead." Hervard remarked.

"Then lets not waste any time." Egil said suddenly. He rose to his feet to face his now shivering men. "We've caught our prey! They're just below this crest. But they've got Thrall down there so lets be careful and quick. In and out! We're here for the Hollow Men, not for those blade-blunting Thrall." A chorus of "Aye!"'s went up from the line of men. A moment later they had drawn their swords and were forming a vanguard behind the crest.

Egil looked behind him down the two lines of the vanguard. They were ready. Each sword drawn, each berserk hopping and anxious for some killing. Like a storm of pure rage the sixty berserks erupted from the crest, descending the slopes and filing into the gorge where their prey waited. The snow seemed to melt into rain from the hot-breathed shouting and bellowing of the charging Northmen.

But as they came into the gorge the vanguard was met by a wall of poisoned barbs. The javelins hurtled through the air as numerous as rain from the sky. Egil could not tell how many there were, only an endless sea of Soulless, with a throng of Thrall standing to their right a hundred meters away. The Hollow Men were not that far, luckily, but still the barbs were coming, like a wall of anguish and death. Egil ordered his men to break formation and instantly the bare skinned warriors began dodging the javelins. They ducked and weaved as and endless barrage of missiles coursed through the air towards the troupe. But they were too close, too tightly packed. The gorge did not have enough room for the berserks to space out, and within minutes the poisonous attacks had found their marks. The shouting of men's battle cries quickly turned into the screams of dying anguish. Blood spilled onto the snow, and more than one berserk fell face down, sinking into the earth as his blood melted the ice.

Egil found himself stuck in the shoulder, a javelin shooting straight through and out his back. In an instant another landed in his left thigh. The pain was intense, excruciating. It burned his whole limb, and drained it of strength. They had misjudged the distance of their enemy, and now they were paying for it. But they were Northmen. They continued. The desire for glory, for victory spurned them on. It didn't matter that the poisonous barbs left unhealable wounds, or that they were outnumbered four to one. Egil and his men would slay the Soulless. No matter what.

The barbs, for some unholy reason, seemed to only further enrage the berserks, and they quickly found themselves rushing up underneath the range of the Soulless. In an instant Egil and his men had sprinted, bristling with poisoned spears, up to the Soulless' lines and immediately began hacking away at them with their claymores. The first two ranks turned around to get some distance but were quickly turned to purple powder and piles of bones. The third line of Hollow Men began chucking barbs at the berserks with manic fury. Yet they continued. Suddenly it was as if a wall of flesh and iron had slammed into the ethereal line of bones and barbs. In no time the snow was thick with skulls and quivers and for a moment the berserks were the masters of the field, the remaining Soulless trying to regroup, backed against a cliff face.

During the momentary pause Egil turned to catch a glimpse of the Thrall's position to see if they were about to be outflanked. To his surprise, he saw them standing exactly as they were when his men had entered the gorge. They seemed to be terrified, frozen stiff and wholly incapable of advancing into the fray. Hervard saw it too, and a second later could be heard laughing maniacally, pointing at them with his powdered claymore. He bristled with javelins, one even sticking directly into the stump where his wrist used to be. Egil could only imagine the pain that awaited him if he survived.

Ten minutes later it was over, and the Soulless were nothing more than powdered remains in the snow. Not a single one had escaped. But it had cost Egil dearly. Nearly half of his force was now doubled over on the ground or lying in the cold wet earth, their wounds too painful to withstand. More than one was not moving. He found Tyrgeis lying on his back, staring blankly at the sky as his guts spilled out of his stomach. Three blood soaked barbs lay beside him. Obviously the young man had the strength to remove the things before he died. Egil found Hervard as well. He was pacing back and forth along the front of their lines, jumping up and down and shouting at the Thrall.

The Thrall.

They were coming.

Egil saw them begin to advance, bound by sorcery to their master's will. He was sure that even in their decayed and rotted minds the Thrall were hesitant to obey.

"Rally!" Egil shouted across the gorge. "Form the line!" He screamed as the Thrall drew closer. Egil's heart sank as he watched no more than thirty-five berserks moved into position between the Thrall and the acre of wounded men. "Fan out! Fan out!" He shouted. The Northmen spaced themselves out into three groups, one in the center and two flanking wedges. Eight men in each flank and nineteen in the center. Egil hobbled over to the front, trying to tie a bandage around his bleeding thigh.

"Here they come, Kahn!" Hervard shouted gleefully, blindly unaware of the dire situation before them. "Here they come! Come and get it worm food!"

Egil gritted his teeth. He barely had the strength to stand. His eyes were already growing dim from the poison. It wouldn't be long before he was convulsing and vomiting all over himself. Delirium would set in, and then the true nightmare would begin. He made it a point not to let that happen. He would sooner die than suffer that disgusting fate. Salvation awaited him across the icy tundra amidst the horde of Thrall. Glory was already achieved, victory secured. Now it was time to release himself from the prison of poisonous death that had trapped him and the others. It was time to die with honor.

Egil raised his sword. "Charge!"

Part II: The Fall of Gwyon7 June 2004, 5:34 AM

The contingent of twenty Ghols raced through the thick snow drifts, their sinewy forms pulsing as they loped through the mountain passes. At their helm was Strangler, the pack leader of the Ghol. He was long and white, with a black "X" across his brow. He was the fiercest Ghol of the pack, and the sack that hung around his neck was testament to that fact. It was filled with as many Ghol skulls as human and fir'Bolg. Which is why he and his pack were perfect for the task ahead. None of them looked back, only forward, towards their goal: The Sickled Foot, the lowest point of the Stair of Grief. There they would set up a picket and wait for the scattered Armies of the Province to try and retake it. The Ghols would sit and wait for however long it would take, and then the second some hapless warrior or berserk came traipsing near they would send back a scout to warn the Hollow Men who were amassing in a gorge. It was the first of several groups Balor was sending over the Stair in three years. And Strangler had been chosen to lead the way. It was late morning, and already the snow storms were letting off a bit, opening up the visibility of the Ghols.

But another force lingered in the icy mountain passes. A force of men, matched in number and valor. Berserks. Twenty of them. Led by Tyrfing, Egil's lieutenant. They had been tracking the Ghol pack for nearly an hour now, tracking them on a steadily south-westerly course. If only the Ghols had turned their heads to look behind them they would see the moving shapes of twenty stealthy berserks following not far away, hidden in the craggy icy cliffs and slopes.

But they didn't, and because of it Tyrfing was getting ready to pounce upon his prey. Like a pack of timber wolves the berserks stalked their prey hungrily. All of them had been chosen for their experience with Ghols, all with enough kills to warrant them the title of veteran. There would be more today.

Eventually they came to a small alcove in the pass, where two other passes converged. Ten meters up resided the track that Tyrfing and his men were following. Below, in the oval shaped alcove of roughly forty meters, the twenty Ghol paused for a moment, their loping arms and feet kicking up waves of snow, some slipping on the ice. It looked as though they were trying to determine which path to take.

As they sprinted and ducked between snowy cover Tyrfing searched for Gwyon and his kin. Egil had ordered them to go with Tyrfing, and for good reason; they were experts at dismantling Ghol attacks. No other group of berserks could dodge a rain of puss packets like Gwyon and his five brethren. They were well seasoned at the art.

"Gwyon!" Tyrfing called with a hushed tone. "Gwyon!" In a moment the young berserk was racing at a crouch towards Tyrfing's position. "Move 'round to the southern pass, we'll push 'em into it and you trap 'em."

"Aye," Gwyon replied, nodding. In a moment he was sprinting towards his brothers who sat huddled together not far off. Seconds later Gwyon was giving the plan to them, and without hesitation they began the trek south, towards the southern pass.

When he was gone Tyrfing turned to the rest of his men. There they waited.

"Alright, lads, Gwyon's goin' to wait for 'em down at the mouth o' that southern narrow. We're goin' to attack those dog-strokers from the rear, an' push 'em right into Gwyon's blades." A chorus of "aye"'s erupted from the sixteen berserks in the upper pass. Tyrfing smiled at them. This was going to be a slaughter.

Gwyon and his brothers leapt down from the upper ledge to the lower pass in a series of sloppy thuds. Within minutes they were shooting to either side of the pass, the Ghol pack lumbering about in the alcove a good ways off.

"Warm the snow, brothers." Gwyon ordered as he dove into the wet cold. His brethren did the same, burying themselves in the caked snow and ice along the walls of the pass. In seconds they were lost from sight. Now all they had to do was wait. Slowly Gwyon drew his claymore out from the baldric slung at his back, the sharp singing of iron scarping against itself. His brothers followed suit.

There they would wait, Gwyon Whose Sword Sings of Carnage and his brothers:

Eirik Who Jams the Gates of the Underworld

Luh of the Long Arm,

Tyrolf Flame of Battle,

Bran of the Iron Skin,

and Thrend Atop the Piled Dead.

Strangler knew now that it was time to wait a bit. Hopefully, if all went according to plan, there would be a force of equal or larger number of Ghols that would meet him here, or close to here, and direct him to the quickest route to the Sickled Foot. But he couldn't wait long. The Ghols were sill trying to decide which path would be the quickest when suddenly Strangler snarled at them to be silent. All barking and growling ceased as they obeyed their pack leader. Strangler flung a sinewy arm out towards them, scythe slicing through the air for silence. Immediately he began sniffing the snowy air. Something was not right. There was a warmth in the air, a scent of heat and hunger that was not his own. Suddenly the snow storms started to pick up again, driving wave after wave of wet cold into the alcove. Visibility would not remain for long. Strangler sniffed furiously, jabbing his pink colored snout into the air as far as it would reach. He couldn't place the stench, only that it was fresh. Was it men? Had they been followed? Surely not. His beady black eyes scanned the terrain. Ahead of them lay the eastern path, leading to the Sickled Foot. To their south lay the other pass, leading to warmer weather and an auxiliary route. They could not linger much longer, every moment wasted was one spent on freezing death and borrowed time. It was possible that the Light was already sending forces north to retake the Stair of Grief, and if that was the case Strangler would have to hurry.

Then it happened. Out of nowhere one of the Ghols in the rear screeched maniacally and started jabbing its wicked scythe into the air behind them. Strangler turned in a rage to see what all the noise was about. Snarling, the white Ghol wheeled around to see Biter, one of the older, more senile Ghols, barking and snapping at the pass they had just exited. It looked back at Strangler with a hating, fearful expression. It was the kind of look that he gave whenever he saw the enemy. But Strangler knew there wasn't anyone behind them. How could there be?

In a fury Strangler loped back down the line of his pack to where Biter was still raging. Strangler took one look at the rear passes and saw nothing. Biter was wasting their time. As punishment Strangler swatted the old Ghol's long neck with his fist, causing the thing to yelp. He left it at that, and quickly raced back to the front of the line. As Biter rubbed his vertebrae he squinted painfully towards the icy past. Fifteen berserks were racing towards him with swords drawn.

Tyrfing crossed the wintery alcove, his numb legs slinging snow everywhere as he raced to the Ghols. Behind him were sixteen other Northmen waving their giant claymores in the snowing sky and howling through frost covered beards. In an instant he ordered his men to fan out in an effort to block the eastern pass. Six berserks raced off to the right side of the alcove, ignoring the howls and barking shouts of angered Ghols. Angtyr the Sword Lover led them. In moments they had successfully cut off access to the eastern pass, filling its open gap with ten sweaty, scarred, bare forms and hungry claymores dancing in their hands.

Strangler saw the cut off and immediately ordered his pack forward into the southern pass. Closer and closer they drew, slowly outpacing Tyrfing and his men. If they could reach the southern pass then they could create a bottleneck and start hurling puss packets at the enemy. But they would have to hurry. Trying it now would be useless with all of the open terrain; the berserks would just dodge them. But in the narrow southern pass they would have no where to go, and Strangler would butcher them.

Gwyon threw a glance back at his brothers. Half of them he couldn't even see, they were so well hidden. The others had their eyes fixed anxiously on the approaching Ghols. Gwyon saw Eirik, by far the tallest of his kin, practically doubled over with his knees in his beard behind a snow drift. Thrend waited not two paces behind, his body pressed against the pass' wall, snow showering over him. Gwyon smiled. This was their turf, their playing field. They knew how to survive and thrive in this kind of terrain. What was more was that it was totally alien to the Ghol. They thrived in the dusty, craggy landscape near the Great Devoid and the Dwarven cities. They couldn't maneuver as well in the slick ice and sludge. And the winter climate was known to have claimed more than one pack of the dog-beasts. It was going to be perfect.

By now Gwyon could make out the racing forms of Tyrfing and the others, albeit hazily through the torrent of snow. He could only see nine of his fellow Northmen chasing the Ghols, who were running more out of determination than fear. He traced a finger along the flat of his claymore. Once again it would be time to descend upon the Ghols and gorge his weapon on the flesh of the enemy. Like the great swords of so many of his kin, Gwyon's claymore was simple and rustic. There was no fancy filigree on its handle nor any engravings on its hilt. And certainly no precious stones were set in its pommel. It was a sword, a weapon, meant to cut, chop, maim and kill. Nothing more, nothing less. About five feet tall and weighing a good ten pounds, the claymore was heavy enough to chop anything in two, especially with the first fourth of its blade wrapped in thick leather. allowing Gwyon to grip it higher for better leverage.

It would all be used today.


Gwyon met the eyes of Eirik, and raised his left hand. Three fingers rose, and then fell, one at a time. It would be the signal to spring the trap. Eirik nodded his understanding and began passing the message down to his brothers. Five up turned thumbs raised slightly above their respective covers, alerting their leader that the plan was a good one. Gwyon nodded and turned back around to the Ghols. They were a good forty meters away now.

Thirty-five meters.

Thirty meters.

Gwyon's heart pounded in his chest. It never got old. He never got over it. The few moments before a battle always gave him butterflies, always made him nervous. He could never tell the others, it would be considered a sign of weakness. The culture of the Northmen demanded the showing of strength even when no strength could be found. He chewed his tongue a bit. Just a few meters closer. Closer. He slowly raised his left hand. Three fingers. Two fingers. One finger.


Without a word Gwyon and his brothers leapt from their respective covers amidst the snow and rocks. In a blaze of terrible fury they erupted from their positions, snow and water showering everywhere as they burst forth. The Ghol froze in their tracks. For a moment. Gwyon then caught sight of him. There was a Ghol of particularly enormous size, about waist high, and weighing as much as any man. He was covered in white with a peculiar black "X" mark across his brow. The thing had to be the pack leader. Gwyon immediately sprinted for it. His brothers were not far behind.

In a tremendous thundering clash the six berserks met the twenty Ghols. A chorus of yelps, screams, and ringing metal. Scythes met claymores in a furious cacophony. And without hesitation Gwyon and his brothers started wheeling their swords around, limbing everything that got in their way. Eirik flanked out to the right with Thrend, the two fighting back to back and turning circles together as they fought. They looked like some spinning top of carnage. At least four Ghol were hacked to pieces by the two lanky brothers. Luh of the Long Arm wasn't too far away, spreading his arms wide and laughing maniacally at the pair of approaching Ghol. When the two beasts were in range Luh swathed through one with a single stroke, its legs crumpling to the ground and its torso flying over Luh's head. Right after that the long limbed berserk buried his equally lengthy claymore through the ribcage of the second Ghol, its arms flinging madly at its side. A shower of blood erupted from the thing's body, covering Luh and melting the snow around him.

Behind Gwyon Bran of the Iron Skin and Tyrolf Flame of Battle each had skewered a couple of Ghols. But no sooner had they retracted their blades then another pair of the beasts lunged at the brothers. One Ghol fell right on top of Bran's broad shoulders, its scythe slicing through the air and its jaw clamping madly into the berserk's crown. Tyrolf was attacked by the other, the Ghol launching itself through the air towards him. He caught the thing with his hands and dropped to the ground, wrestling with it. A moment later he had pinned the thing down and lopped its head off. Tyrolf could still hear the thing whimpering as he severed the spinal chord.

Gwyon had found the leader of the Ghol pack. The thing was larger up close than he had expected. And sufficiently meaner. Its scythe was almost the size of Gwyon's claymore, and it swung the thing with such quick ferocity that it took all the berserk had to duck out of its way. He dove to the earth, snow clumping into his mouth as he fell. in an instant he was off his belly and onto his feet, crouched and searching for the leader of the pack. He was easy to spot.

In a blinding fury the Ghol swung its blade downward to Gwyon. He leapt again to the left, barely dodging the wicked, curved scythe. It landed with a sloshing thud into the snow and rock at his feet. Gwyon wheeled about and brought his claymore across in a horizontal sweep. The Ghol, despite its enormous size, deftly hopped over the claymore, its scythe torqued at its back left for another strike. Gwyon saw the muscles contract on the sinewy Ghol and knew what was coming. Without warning Gwyon jerked his body upwards and away, winding his sword around to the sky to get out of the way. The Ghol's right leg shot forward in a kick, but met only air. Gwyon dropped to the ground and wheeled his sword up. It caught the beast squarely in the right hip. Blood spilled out onto the snow, followed quickly by the wounded form of the Ghol. But the thing did not die.

Gwyon jerked his blade out from underneath his prey and held it ready over his right shoulder for a thrust. But the Ghol was ready. It slung its scythe around with a shadowless velocity. Gwyon felt his legs give out, and promptly found himself landing in the red snow. For a moment he was woozy and couldn't feel a thing. His vision went dark a little and the sounds of combat raging around him subsided. He lost control, and fell over onto his side. Time then seemed to slow. He saw Eirik and Thrend, surrounded by Ghols. Thrend didn't have a sword, and was clawing madly and punching anything that got close enough. A Ghol leapt for him, and the brave warrior tackled the thing, wrestling it to the ground and beating it senseless. Above him, Eirik's sword was broken, and he was fighting with his shattered hilt in one hand and the broken blade in the other. Their faces were fearless, blood-stained teeth bared in unison snarls. Moments later they were lost from sight, engulfed by Ghol.

Gwyon saw his brother Luh as well, and it broke his heart. Luh's right arm was gone, torn at the shoulder. Red sinew and glistening white bone jutted out of the torn socket. But it did not slow Luh down, not until a Ghol knocked his sword out of his hand and buried its scythe into the berserk's stomach. He dropped to the ground, dead. A few meters away Tyrolf was trying to stand up, his legs filleted with wounds. He was trying to carry Bran on his back, who didn't have any arms. His left leg was gone too, severed at the knee. Gwyon thought he could see Bran's mouth moving as Tyrolf tried to carry him. A Ghol raced for the two, but Tyrolf still had his sword in his right hand, and slung it end over end at the monster. It landed straight through the thing's body: entering through the mouth and exiting out the back. Gwyon watched helplessly as his two beloved kin were cut down seconds later.

The last thing he saw was the enormous white Ghol, with the black "X" across it's brow, crouching over him, drooling and grinning devilishly. Gwyon tried to swing at it, but he could no longer feel his arms.

Tyrfing and his men raced onto the slope where Gwyon and the others had met the Ghol. The brave Northmen could not take a step without tripping over a Ghol head or a piece of tissue. Limbs were scattered everywhere, and the ground had been turned to a sloshing, red mud. More than one berserk slipped on entrails, and those Ghol that survived the first attack were met with killing blows from Tyrfing's contingent. He raced as fast as he could to the sight where Gwyon was fighting. But he wasn't fast enough. None of them were, they couldn't keep up with the loping Ghol, and by the time they arrived to aid in the attack he could see no signs of his fellow Northmen.

Then he saw the pack leader, standing over a fleshy heap. The thing was huge, bigger than any Ghol Tyrfing had ever fought, that was for sure. It was all white, with a black "X" across its brow. In its hand had to have been the largest scythe Tyrfing had ever seen. But the thing was bleeding, obviously wounded. As Tyrfing drew closer he saw the remaining half dozen Ghol begin to form up for a defense.

The berserks descended on the pack in a blitz.

Within seconds the Ghol were embroiled again in fighting. The berserks fought with a vengeance for their fallen comrades, who they now could spy amidst the carnage. Tyrfing even saw the body of Gwyon himself, his legs chopped off above the knees, his head decapitated. It was time to return the favor. Tyrfing knew that it was this pack leader that had slain brave Gwyon. It would certainly pay. He lunged at the beast in a fury, at the same moment that the beast lunged at him. The two met blades first, a sharp "clang!" erupting from their weapons. But their ferocity got the best of them, and the two slammed body to body into one another. Moments later they were both dizzily shaking their heads and picking themselves up off of the ground. The Ghol lurched a bit, stunned and still reeling from its wound. It was all the time Tyrfing needed. He swept his claymore up towards the air, arching its tip into the chin of the Ghol. Its pink face split in two, and the thing fell backwards. Tyrfing leapt onto it but was met by the thing's massive feet, which caught the berserk and launched him into the air. Tyrfing flew back into the red snow, the breath knocked out of him.

As Strangler picked himself up he grabbed his scythe and lunged for the berserk. Reaching into his sack he produced a puss packet. It wouldn't do that much good in the snow, but it was better than nothing. Clasping it with his left hand he reared back to throw it.

Tyrfing shook the snow out of his eyes to see the Ghol bearing down on him. Its left hand held something he could not discern, but obviously a projectile. The Ghol were notorious for throwing all manner of battle field detritus at their opponents, most feared of which were the puss packets. If that's what that was then Tyrfing was in trouble. Not wasting any time the bulky berserk rolled onto his knees and flung himself to the right, just as the projectile landed in the ground where he lay not moments before. It promptly exploded into a sulfurous, diseased jelly, spilling sickly residue everywhere. Tyrfing narrowly avoided it.

Strangler snarled at the agility of his opponent. He landed on the lick ground with a harsh thud, his legs nearly giving out from the wound at his hip. To compensate the dog-beast flung its weapon around to the berserk at its left. But the man caught the blade with his own, and seconds later Strangler was dead on the ground, a claymore buried in its brow.

"Ex marks the spot you bastard." Tyrfing grunted as the beast toppled to the ground with a whining whimper. Exhausted, Tyrfing observed the field. Six berserks remained stranding, covered in blood and bandaging their wounds. Two others were knelt or lying on the ground in pain. One was not moving at all. It was a victory. They had won. But at a dear price.

Tyrfing walked over to the corpse of Gwyon and looked down. The man was practically torn to pieces, as was most of his brothers. Tyrfing felt a pang strike his heart, if it were not for Gwyon's brave charge and the sacrifice of his noble brothers then the Ghol would have escaped, and Tyrfing's mission would have failed. But the brothers had managed to all but stop the Ghol in their tracks, and though Gwyon and his kin were all dead, they had bought enough time for Tyrfing and the others to reach their prey.

And now it was over. The day was won. He only hoped Egil's men had succeeded as well, or the sacrifice of everyone would have been in vain.

"Tyrfing!" Shouted a berserk from far off. Tyrfing searched with bleary eyes through the heavy snowfalls for the source of the call. "Tyrfing!" It came again. He saw who it was: Gymir Battle Seeker. He was calling from the mouth of the eastern pass, about fifty meters away. Tyrfing moved towards him.

"Wha' is it, Gymir?" Tyrfing asked, shouting over the howling winds.

Gymir cupped his mouth with his left hand, and with his right jabbed a finger into the unseen direction of the eastern pass.

"Ghol from the eastern pass! They're comin' this way!"

The other shouted. Were they up for another battle? Would Egil and his men return in time to aid? Were they even alive? "How many?" Tyrfing asked.

"So far," Gymir said with a dire tone. "Hundreds!"

The End.

~ You have reached your journey's end ~