The Journeys of Iain Baird

Russell Figgins

In the warm summer sunlight Iain watched as the village of Maypole burned. The flames licked at the small houses and sheds, while the smell of hot roasting meat filled the air. Black smoke rose higher and higher into the clear sky. Amid the carnage, a high-pitched wail of fear came to his ears, the cry of a child. Charging down the hill to the burning village his keen ears picked up the child's cries easier. Passing the death and destruction, he came out to a large lake.

Lying at the edge of the water was a little girl. Her left arm was red and peeling and the fingers on her tiny hand were black and lifeless. Standing over her was truly horrific sight. A rotting skeleton dressed in the battered and beaten armor and helmet of a Viking. In its boney hands, it carried a large, rusty battle-axe and a rotted wooden shield in the other. The shambling bones raised the axe over its head and before the Hillman could free his sword, the axe came down and split the tiny skull down the middle. The grey and red mush that oozed out of the girl's head was sickening to see.

With a shout of rage, he drew his long sword and charged. The shout drew the Viking's attention; the skeletal invader raised his shield and blocked the sword stroke, before swinging the axe down toward the Scotsman's head. Raising his shield Iain staggered back by the weight behind the blow. A follow up axe stroke sent the Hillman falling to the ground. Kicking at the skeletal knee, he watched it give with a loud snap, and quickly rolled to avoid the falling body.

Climbing to his feet the Hillman watched as the undead invader tried futilely to regain his feet; the broken limb lolled lifelessly preventing this. Raising his sword Iain brought the blade crashing down on the back of the unprotected neck of his opponent, severing the helmeted skull. It hit the ground and rolled away from the body a short distance away. The body collapsed into a pile of old bones draped in old armor.

Far in the distance, a ship lay anchored in the deep waters. The whole of the body covered by seaweed and large clumps of barnacles covered whole parts of the ship. The sail was torn and dirty. The dragonhead was almost gone. From the deck came an awful din of inhuman roars and howls. Iain sheathed his sword and tossed his shield away, before diving into the cold dark water and swimming out toward the long boat.

His great strength carried him swiftly though the water, closer and closer to his target. As he neared, Iain could see the helmeted heads of the dead warriors as they sang in dark and evil voices. Taking a deep breath, the Scotsman swam down into the murky darkness of the lake, not once stopping to go back for air or faltering in his mission. Deeper and deeper until his feet touched bottom, seizing the anchor chain in his hands Iain started to pull with all his strength.

The unholy revelers were unprepared as their dark vessel started to raise and sink, before finally capsizing backwards. The undead warriors sank like stones with their armor on their rotting bodies. Into the recesses, they sank until their rotting boots touched the silt of the lakebed, and where the long sword of Iain cut them down as they came one by one, and two by two. Soon all but one warrior lay dead. The last was a massive thing, the remnants of a beard clung to his rotting skull. One eye glared at the Scotsman hatefully, and the other lay dead in the socket.

"I am Grim, called Glower-Eye." he said, his voice was as cold and dead as the Viking himself. "I went a-Viking in this land many years ago. I survived the battle of Stamford Bridge and went into the service of Loki. I fought many grueling battles in his name. But I was tricked, when death finally claimed me I did not find the feasting halls of Valhalla, nothing but the cold of the grave."

With a roar of rage, the skeleton charged. Hacking and slashing the two fought, neither giving any ground to the other. As the battle raged on in the dark depths Iain found his lungs burning for air, and his great strength weakening the Hillman found him pushed back. At the same time, the Viking seemed to grow stronger wit each passing second. Spying a spear out of the corner of his eye, the Hillman dove for it at the last second, narrowly dodging an axe blow from Grim. Taking up the spear, he charged forward, driving it into the undead warrior's chest. Taken by surprise at the attack the Viking dropped his great sword. Pushing him back, he drove the spear deep into a boulder, pinning his opponent to the rock.

Quickly taking up the nearby anchor chain, he wrapped it around the Viking several times, and pinned the end with Grim's own sword. As he swam, back to the surface Iain heard the rage filled ravings of the trapped Viking champion, and did not pay them any mind. Breaking the surface, he took great gulps of air, and swam for shore. Dragging himself out of the water, he lied at the waterside and fell into an exhausted sleep. No dreams came to him.