His left arm hung from its socket, the blood running from deep gashes down its length, dripping off his fingers in a steady stream and collecting in a pool on the ground next to his foot. Hunched over, tired, with labored breathing, he still held his axe tightly in his right hand. Blonde hair, caked in dirt, sweat and blood, hung in front of his hardened face covering blue eyes that had yet to concede defeat.
With a Viking’s defiance, Anders Randalson looked into the eyes of his opponent.
Wolf like and taller than the average man, the creature was made in the very image of Fenrir.
The beast was not without its own battle scars. A deep cut ran from its right ear down the face, narrowly missing its right eye and ending at the snout; its torso decorated with lacerations and contusions.
“You have fought bravely, Norseman,” the beast hissed, foam dripping from its parched and thirsty lips. “It is over, though. Accept your fate and I will make it quick.” It swallowed hard before continuing. “The Valkyries are here to take you to Valhalla.”
Anders let his eyes depart from the beast to take in his surroundings. Bodies littered the coastal plains, with the earth itself a crimson brown thanks to the liters of spilled blood. The trees that sporadically grew from the ground were bare and void of any vegetation, almost serving as markers of the fallen.
A caw caught Anders’ attention and he looked up to see two ravens land on top of one of the dead trees.
“They aren’t here,” Anders said, returning his gaze to the Son of Fenrir. “Not yet.” He grinned as he readied his axe, preparing for another clash.
The beast hesitated briefly, sighed, and quickly regained its composure. It smiled, baring dozens of razor sharp teeth. A guttural sound rumbled from deep inside its throat, erupting into an ear-splitting howl of rage as the two combatants charged towards one another with death on the line.
Anders raised his axe and swung it towards the beast’s head but his opponent was quicker. It dodged the axe’s blade and raked its claws along the side of Anders’ chain mail, slicing his skin underneath. The beast snapped at Anders’ face with its enormous mouth, its breath hot and foul on Anders’ skin, just missing him by inches.
Seizing an opportunity, Anders head butted the beast between its eyes and managed to strike it in the jaw with the blunt edge of his axe.
The Son of Fenrir roared in pain and anger, jumping out of the way at the last second as Anders tried to split its skull.
Wincing as the fresh cuts on his side burned, Anders could feel his strength draining with each labored breath.
“Look around you, Norseman,” the Son of Fenrir taunted, slowly circling him. “I can bring the end about quick and painless. You have earned your spot in the Great Hall.”
The ravens flapped their wings and cawed again.
“Almost,” Anders replied.
In a sudden burst of power and quickness that caught Anders off guard, the beast charged, throwing its shoulder into Anders’ chest. The blow sent the wounded Viking sprawling onto his back. Before he could push himself up, the beast was upon him. It tore through his chainmail, driving its claws deep into his gut. Anders screamed as the beast maneuvered its hand around until it was able to grip the bottom of his ribcage.
“I gave you two chances for a quick death,” the Son of Fenrir snarled. In a motion that sent agony rippling through Anders’ body, the beast lifted the Viking into the air. “Now I will make you beg for death in such a manner that the All Father himself will be ashamed of you.” It lifted him higher and Anders rolled his head back as he screamed.
In one final surge of strength, Anders swung the axe with all he had, surprising the beast. It tried to dodge it but was too slow as the blade cut into the skull, lodging itself inside the beast’s head.
Howling, it ripped its hand, along with shreds of entrails, out from Anders’ stomach, dropping the Viking onto the ground.
The Son of Fenrir tried to grab the axe’s handle and pull it out, but the blade had been buried too deep. It staggered a few steps to the left then limped to the right. The beast’s breathing became shallow as it dropped to its knees. It turned its head and looked into Anders’ eyes one last time, then fell forward.
It did not move again.
Anders turned his attention to the grey sky and saw the ravens flying overhead. With a final caw, they acknowledged the fallen warrior as the Valkyries flew down to carry Anders home to Valhalla.
~ Jon Olson
© Copyright 2015 Jon Olson. All Rights Reserved