Mark Maker # 10

Posted: February 3, 2013 in Viking novel
Tags: ,

Ragi brings Valdr into the hut. He is alive but unconscious. When I touch his face it’s hot and clammy. His face is very pale. I feel an overwhelming darkness come into my soul. Ragi, though exhausted from dragging my brother here, busies himself with stoking up the fire and replenishing the broth pot with meat. He gives Valdr a drink, careful to lift up his face so he doesn’t choke. Most of the water runs out anyway.
“I’ll do it,” I argue with him, “you must rest for a while now.”
He grunts and drops down on the bed platform and is asleep as soon as his head is sideways.
I talk to Valdr of our childhood, of our parents, both dead now, of the dogs we raised, the mad races to the bay, the fishing trips we went on, the trapping and fur getting, the island one day where we collected amber which lay like drops of sun on the beach. I talk to distract myself. I think my brother is dying. I bathe his face and wounds with fresh water. The broken leg is knitting despite his condition but the wounded one smells like bad meat. I know there is one chance to stop the flesh rotting more and I glance around the hut for some iron. I get up on the crutch and poke around the stacked barrels and sacks, in the chests. Under the stacked skins Ragi has brought from our home, I find the sword wrapped in a cloth. The enemy’s sword. Hammer forged and sharp, its edges clotted with my brother’s blood. I get water and clean it and as I do so the runes are revealed. Finely etched into the surface is the swords’ naming, its guardian runes: the runes that will purpose its destruction of enemies; that will ensure its owner’s protection. That will tell me its owner’s name. That will tell me my brother’s killer. That will tell me where to go to find him….
The sword has two rune lines unlike the normal three lines and there are only two words on them: ‘alu’ and ‘laukaR.’ Neither of these are names. One means ‘the state between life and death’ and the other is ‘garlic’, a protection against evil. I have seen both before. I’ve carved both and more into the swords when I finished forging them and in the past, there has always been a name too so the sword can go to the rightful owner or as in many cases to the owner’s family or kept as war loot. I take a cloth and clean the sword better but I can find no name at all. More urgent matters stop me investigating the sword inscriptions further. My brother is dying and I must heat up the sword to staunch the bad flesh and encourage healing.
As I heat the sword in the fire, I wonder how I’ll stop him screaming. My head is aching so badly, I fear I might smother him myself if his screams split my skull in half with pain again. Instead I put a piece of wood in his mouth and tie it around with a rag. He doesn’t even stir. When the sword is white-hot, I cover the handle to stop me being burnt and lower the hot, flat edge onto the open wound. As I do so, I call on Thor to bless this forging of flesh, this hammering of blood and ooze. I lower the sword to his leg and touch it to the foul parts of the wound. Soon the stink of burnt flesh hangs sickly in the air but Valdr does not stir at all. I cauterise all the wound I can without burning too much good flesh. I grit my teeth so hard it sets massive fire lines of pain into my skull anyway. Ragi stirs and asks what I’ve cooked. I point at Valdr’s leg because I can’t even answer.

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