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  1. Bk 1, Ch 1: Lands Uncharted
  2. Bk 1, Ch 2: First Harvest
  3. Bk 1, Ch 3: Destruction
  4. Bk 1, Ch 4: The Beach
  5. Bk 1, Ch 5: A Dirty Business
  6. Bk 1, Ch 6: War and Peace
  7. Bk 1, Ch 7: The Carrot and The Sword
  8. Bk 1, Ch 8: Cleaning House
  9. Bk 1, Ch 9: The Final Tally

Bk 1, Ch 7: The Carrot and The Sword

Categories Dark Fantasy, Death, Murder, Slavery

Author: Jonesy_Dangerfield

Published: 18 April 2017

  • Font:

Sigurd cleared his throat loudly a short distance away. Gently, I laid the girl’s head on the wooden planks and stood. Sigrid’s back was turned as he busied himself rifling through a basket of goods.

“What is it, Sigurd?”

“My Lord,” he responded, turning towards me. He must surely have seen and heard what had just transpired, but he made no mention of it. He and I often disagreed on things, but I could not have asked for a better subordinate.

“My Lord, we are clearing the last few houses now. Torstein reports success on the beach, and nobody made it past our archers. What are your orders?”

“Finish clearing the houses, but don’t worry about looting the place just yet. We’re here to stay so it can wait. Get our dead and wounded in the manor house; make sure you tell Sigrid where they are. Lock all the captured villagers in the barracks—but in the name of Thor, please make sure it’s clear of weapons first.”

“Standard disposal orders, my Lord?” asked Sigurd.

I paused to think for a second. “No. Leave the old and lame alone for now. Kill any of the wounded who have been obviously maimed though.”

“After that, we’ll deal with this,” I said, indicating the piles of bodies. “Signal the archers to stay in place; I don’t want anyone sneaking out of town.”

Sigurd saluted and hurried to work. I spared a quick glance at the young sacrifice, then walked towards the south side of town to find Torstein. I found him on the edge of town as he was cuffing a captured fisherman over the head.

“Torstein, make your report!” I shouted.

“Yes, my Lord,” he replied. Torstein backhanded the fisherman one more time, knocking him to the dirt. One of his subordinates dragged the man away.

“My Lord, none escaped by sea. Twenty townsfolk are dead or dying. The rest were captured by my men or ran back into town.”

“Any casualties?” I asked.

“Aarik Olufson, my Lord. He took a spear in the belly—I do not think he will survive,” Torstein responded woodenly.

“Get him to the manor house in the square as soon as you can—that’s where we’re gathering our wounded. Instruct Sigrid to do what she can for him; I owe Aarik’s father that much at least. Stay on the beach with Inger, her hunters, and two of your men who have bows. Send the rest to help clear the town. Don’t let anyone escape. If you spot any boats on the river, eliminate them. Any questions?”

“Just one my Lord,” he said. Then he hesitated.

“Well, what is it Torstein? Spit it out.”

“My Lord, I have a favor to ask of you. There is a young warrior that I wish to claim as my thrall. She is wounded though, and I would like Sigrid to treat her wounds. In exchange, I will forfeit the rest of my share in this raid.”

I raised an eyebrow at Torstein, confused and more than a little concerned. “This isn’t like you, my friend.”

“My Lord, she is blessed by Thor with the blood of the berserker. It was she who stabbed Aarik, and she would have killed me too had I not shied away from her challenge like a coward. Please my Lord, my honor demands that I prevent her death in exchange for having so selfishly preserved my own.”

His words gave me pause. No ordinary warrior could break the will of Torstein Ironbones. This warrioress of which he spoke must be truly special. Yet Torstein had admitted to cowardice, and such deeds were not to be rewarded. Still, Torstein was a good and loyal friend and I knew he would not make such a request superfluously.

“Very well, bring her to the manor house. Sigrid will treat her, but only after all my other warriors are cared for. Your share of the loot will go to Aarik or to his father, Oluf, if he should perish. You will also forfeit ten pounds of gold, ten heads of sheep, and ten heads of cattle as our laws demand to settle your debt of honor. Now, carry out my orders.”

“Understood, my Lord, thank you.” Torstein bowed and hurried back towards the beach, calling for two of his archers.

Business concluded, I wound my way slowly through town to get a feel for my prize and to check up on my warriors. I explored several houses, but found little of real value. My warriors were busy and moved with a purpose. Some escorted terrified townsfolk towards the square. Most went quietly, but a few Zavalans required disciplining. Other warriors tended to our wounded. Torfi and Vali rushed past carrying Tait. He had been stabbed in the chest and judging by the way blood vomited from his mouth, one of his lungs had been pierced.

There were four squat warehouses on the edge of town by the river. Since they now belonged to me, I took the liberty of checking out their contents. The first was nearly empty, though judging from the hay and golden stalks scattered on the ground, it would normally be full of the wheat. The second was a third full with foodstuffs, dried meats and assorted vegetables mostly. The third warehouse held a variety of trade goods—timbers, thread, pots, pans, tools, and even a few spears. The last held stables of some kind, although all were empty save for a single horse and two sheep. The ones at the rear held shackles meant for humans. Clearly, Zavala was no stranger to slavery.

The contents of the warehouse were a cause of great concern. First and foremost, there was no gold! I needed gold to fulfill my ambition of creating a base of operations here. Second, the warehouses meant that Zavala traded actively with its neighbors—the town did not have the fields or the forges to fill these warehouses, at least that I’d seen. Lots of trade meant there were rich communities nearby that might discover and contest my foothold on the river. At the same time, those communities would present good targets for future raids. I smiled, relishing the chance for more enrichment.

A muffled hiccup at the back of the warehouse startled me and brought me back to the present. Slowly, I drew my sword and cautiously moved towards the source of the noise. A small, slim foot protruded from a stack of hay. Sheathing my sword, I pulled it. Its owner revealed itself with a squeal—a girl of maybe sixteen or seventeen wearing a dirty white skirt.

Her doe eyes stared up at me, wide with fear. She was curvaceous for her age, her skirt hiding medium-sized breasts. There was nobody around and it was very tempting to… but no, it wouldn’t be fair to my warriors. What kind of leader would I be if I availed myself of the spoils of victory while the men and women under my command toiled to collect them? There would be plenty of time to taste the fruits of victory.

I stepped towards the door and beckoned her to follow. She was smart enough to realize that it was in her best interest to obey without protest. Once outside, I spotted Harald and shouted at him to take the girl. He raised an eyebrow when he saw her emerge from the warehouse after me, but was smart enough not to ask any questions. With that out of the way, I headed back to the square.

The smell of death was thick in the square. A few of my soldiers shoved the last of the terrified villagers into what had once been the enemy warriors’ barracks. The rest milled about waiting for further orders.

Here and there, a villager would spot a fallen loved one among the carpet of bodies. A distraught mother cried out in anguish at the sight of her dead son. She tried to run to him, to cradle his caved-in head in her arms. Aslak dragged the woman back by her hair, kicking and screaming. A sandy-haired, buxom girl of maybe eighteen or nineteen broke free of a line of captured villagers and ran to her wounded younger sister, who had taken an arrow below the ribs and been trampled in the rush to escape the square. Svend chased after her and tried to pull the two apart. The older girl sobbed, holding the broken body of her sister. Sightless eyes stared skyward as her shattered chest rose and fell, a trickle of blood hiccupping from her lolling mouth.

“Get up, bitch!” shouted Svend, tugging at sandy-blonde hair.

The older girl cried out but refused to let go, hugging her dying sister to her breasts. Out of frustration, Svend unclipped the axe from his belt and split the younger one’s skull. Stunned, her older sister released her grip and Svend threw her back in line.

Sigurd was talking to some of my war chiefs, giving orders and getting accountability of all my warriors over by the manor house. I called him over, and together we walked up towards the barracks.

“What’s your plan to clear these bodies?” I asked.

“My Lord, we do not have enough men to clear them. We are going to have to use the locals. But even then, I’m not sure we have enough. Fewer than seventy townsfolk were captured uninjured, of which maybe forty are able to carry bodies. Then of course there’s getting them to cooperate and—”

“I have an idea about that part. Come.”

Together, we walked up the steps to the barracks. Trygve and Turid stood guard at the double-doors. They pushed them open for me then followed me inside.

The barracks was a single large, open room with a fire pit in the center and beds and chairs along the sides. The captured Zavalans huddled in small groups on the floor or on the beds. Many of the women cried softly, others quieted young children and toddlers. A hush fell over the crowd as all heads turned towards us.

“People of Zavala,” I stated in a commanding voice. I had picked up the trade language while on the coast, and I hoped these people would understand it. “We need your help to clear the square and the streets of the dead and wounded. You will have the opportunity to find your loved ones and treat your wounded. All that we ask is—”

“The hell with that!” A redheaded warrioress with striking features stood in the middle of the floor. “We wouldn’t have to do that shit if you bastards hadn’t murdered everybody! Nobody’s going to help you fuckers.” She spat at my feet and glared her hatred at me.

Trygve walked forward towards the defiant warrioress. In one swift motion, he drew his knife and slashed it across her throat. Her eyes went wide as blood spilled over her exposed full breasts. Shakily, she touched her hands to her throat, then stared in horror at her blood-stained palms. She collapsed on the ground, choking and twitched violently on the floor. Trygve sheathed his knife and calmly walked back to his spot behind me. He hadn’t understood what the warrioress was saying, but it didn’t take a genius to realize that she was disrespecting his lord.

I quickly nodded my approval to him, then turned back to the crowd. “IS THERE ANYONE ELSE?” I roared, daring another Zavalan to talk back or resist. The silence was complete, save for some strange croaking noises as the redhead’s struggles ceased.

I cleared my throat and continued, “All we ask is that you do not attempt to flee. What say you?”

There was silence for a brief moment. Then a middle-aged man slowly got to his feet. “Why should we help you? What is going to happen to us?” he asked carefully.

They were valid questions and I decided to answer truthfully. “Many of your sons and daughters, your mothers and fathers, will die if their wounds go untreated. I do not have the men nor the patience to treat them myself. That should be reason enough for you. Depending on your conduct, some of you may be allowed to stay in your homes. The rest of you will be sold as slaves.”

I thought of the young sacrifice lying disemboweled outside. Now that I thought about it, she was probably a slave girl, not a member of the town.

“Do not worry, we treat our slaves better than you treat yours.”

There were murmurs as the Zavalans conferred quietly amongst themselves. Some whispered to the middle-aged man, who appeared to have become the de-facto spokesman for the group.

“You would trust us not to run or resist, to so willingly become your slaves?” he said.

“No, I do not,” I responded calmly, “That is why I will keep the young ones here as hostages. If you run or resist, they will be executed. And if you have no family here with you,” I shrugged, “then we’ll just have to settle for killing you.”

I could tell I was winning no adherents with this plan. The townsfolk clearly needed a little more coaxing before they would cooperate. I’d already shown them the stick. Now I needed to show them the carrot.

“I do not know how slaves are treated in your culture, but ours are treated relatively well and with respect and dignity. Slaves are given the opportunity to earn their freedom either through work or battle. In fact, Turid here was once a slave.” I gestured to Turid behind me on my left. She continued to scan the Zavalans, her hand on her hilt, looking for any sign of resistance. “She earned her freedom in battle and now fights as an equal member of my host.”

There was more murmuring, but it looked as if they might agree to help. I was glad they hadn’t noticed that I was only telling a half-truth. The part about Turid was true of course, but our slaves were not always treated as well as I claimed. And I didn’t really care if any of the townspeople made a run for it either; none of them would make it past my archers anyway. I didn’t plan on killing any family in retaliation either—killing an additional healthy young slave would just be wasteful. Still, better to be safe than sorry.

I leaned over to Sigurd and whispered, “Make a careful note of the family members of each person, just in case.”

He nodded then stepped forward.

“All who wish to volunteer, please step forward,” he commanded.

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