William H. Russeth
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Eoan, Son of Athair, Clan Aurith joins a horde of Celtic warriors ravaging the Etruscan countryside. Finding he has no
Bryn sat by the hearth with his father staring at the fire. Athair broke the silence.
“How could you have shamed our family this way? Does honor mean nothing to you?”
“Father, I am no coward, but if I am going to die, it had better count for something.”
Athair closed his eyes, and drank deeply from his wineskin. He passed the wine to Bryn.
“When your uncle Cei and I were young, honor was worth something.”
“Father, am I to die for Alicia after her infidelity? For all I know she and Dugan planned my demise all along.”
“Bryn, you know Alicia better than that. Dugan may have turned her head, but she has always been loyal to you and the family. She would never have jeopardized her own father, her family, or you intentionally.”
Bryn turned away and placed a new log on the hearth. A swarm of sparks raced towards the rafters.
Athair continued, “It is a serious thing to defy an order from the Ard Ri and even a more serious thing to defy an edict from a Grand Maighstor Druid. Most likely, they have banished you from Ambarri lands. Set foot in Lugdunum and your head will welcome visitors at the gate. If your heart is set on traveling south, you best be on your way. A man banished, is a man with no protection under the law. I have something…a gift that will help you on your journey.”
Athair rose from his grass mat stiffly and walked to the far corner of the room. Taking the dagger from his waist, he pried up a floorboard and reached deeply into the void. His hand explored the space, feeling around until he smiled and withdrew a small leather purse. He tossed it to Bryn. While Bryn opened the pouch, he dipped into the recess again. This time he dug deeper and strained with exertion as he threaded a long object, wrapped in leather, through the opening. After the brief struggle, Athair used the bundle for leverage as he stood up.
Bryn dumped the contents of the purse in his hand.
“Thank you, father,” he said. “Twenty silver coins will be more than enough for a fresh start.”
Athair said, “With silver coins in your purse, you will need a good weapon to ward off thieves,” and handed the large bundle to Bryn.
Bryn unrolled a sword from its leather wrapping. The scabbard was bronze, exquisitely carved with forest creatures, entwined with acorns and leaves. The horn was large and plain, a simple iron bar crossing the base of the sword. He grasped the scabbard and brought the pommel up close to his eyes to see three large red garnets inlayed into an iron disk at the end of the handle. He exhaled a small gasp as he slipped the blade out of the scabbard. It shone like chrome and reflected the flickering glow of the hearth fire across his face. “Father,” he gasped, “it cannot be.”
“No son, it is not the great sword, Clach na Adhar, but I used a small piece of the same skystone to forge this one. Years ago, when I created the great sword, I saved a small piece of the heaven’s gift and created this blade. Look closely at the swirls in the blade where earth’s iron and heaven’s stone were pounded together. See the auras of many colors. It is a special weapon, sharper and stronger than any other sword I have made, save the great sword. Take it and start your new life.”
“Father, my sword is good enough. It is strong and sharp. We forged it together last summer. I am afraid one so rare will just cause me trouble.”
Bryn unfastened the sword at his waist and hung it on the wall near the hearth, alongside an array of weapons and tools. He took the new sword and fastened the bronze chain of the scabbard over his shoulder and around his waist.
Barking dogs and horses hooves sounded from the yard in front of the house.
Bryn did not have to look. He knew it was Dugan and his retinue. He stepped out into the moonlight, with his father close behind. The moon was full and illuminated Dugan and his retinue of armed horsemen with ghostly white highlights. They sat on their mounts patiently waiting for their leader to speak.
Bryn spoke, “If it is hospitality you are seeking, a dry bed or a hot meal, keep going.”
“We ask no hospitality. I seek the coward who failed to meet me at the appointed time. I believe you know him well.”
Bryn’s stomach tightened. There was no escape. He answered strongly trying to cover the quiver in his voice, “I assumed I would be banished and that would be the end of it. Do the Maighstor Druids know you are here?”
“Aye, banished you are, seven years and a day. It may be the end of it, between you and the Druids, between you and Alicia, and between you and Cingetorix, but not the end of it between you and me.” Dugan laughed out loud. “Your property is mine, given to me as compensation. The settlement included your sweet Alicia. However, now that I have enjoyed her company, I am afraid her lot in life will fall. Cingetorix forced me to take her and her family under my protection, and I will. I need good women for entertaining visitors. Your son will be of some use. Perhaps I can foster him out for a little gold or young wife. If not, we can always use another boy to carry piss pots and gather dung.”
The warrior dismounted and unsheathed his sword. Bryn drew his new blade. It caught the moonlight and a brief beam flashed over Dugan’s face. Dugan paused for a moment but proceeded.
Bryn asked, “When I take you down, will your retinue retreat?”
Dugan shook his head. “If I go down, which I doubt, they will be on you like a pack of wolves.”
“Will you, at least, spare my father?”
Dugan did not answer and took another step forward.
Bryn brought his arm back and took a wild swing down on Dugan. Caught off guard, Dugan instinctively raised his blade and parried the blow. The sound rang like a bell.
Bryn’s sword sheared away Dugan’s sword at the hilt and smashed into the chain mail epaulet covering his shoulder. A subtle crack sounded as the keen edge sank into flesh and cracked bone. Dugan dropped his sword and clutched at his wound shrieking like a banshee, “Kill them! Kill them!”
His retinue dismounted and rushed towards Bryn and Athair. Seeing their leader fall, they approached warily backing them into the doorway of the house.
“You fools,” Dugan bellowed, “they can easily fend you off in the doorway.”
Dugan made his way back to his horse and watched with disdain at his retinue held at bay by an old man, and a weaver.
Only one man could face Bryn at a time. His fear dissipated as anger and blood lust engulfed him. Years of dormant skill reclaimed his sword arm. The first attacker jumped in front of the doorway. Bryn simply beat the man’s sword to the side and lunged forward. A second warrior jumped in his place. This time Athair skewered him with a spear he had pulled off the wall. A third warrior jumped in his place and faced off with Bryn. A spear flew through the doorway and caught Athair in the side. Bryn watched his father fall as he sliced away an anonymous arm. Athair pulled out the spear, regained his feet, and returned to the doorway, jabbing the spear into the attackers. Together they managed to slam the door shut and slip the sturdy log through brackets that secured it tightly.
Dugan called out, “Enough of this. Torch the house; burn them alive, burn everything!”
Bryn heard a firebrand land on the roof and threads of smoke sifted through the thatch.
William Russeth was born and raised in Minnesota. After earning Liberal Arts degrees in Painting, History, and Journalism, he embarked on a thirty year career in advertising, marketing and business development with a Fortune 500 company. William took early retirement in 2004 and settled in Georgetown, Texas. He has always loved myths and legends. William completed his first novel “The Fires of Belenus,” in 2007. He is active in the San Gabriel Writer’s League and continues to bring myth and history to life in his historical adventures.
Book Publisher: Wings ePress
No. of Pages: 392
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