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So I started Book Three this weekend.  I didn’t write as much as I thought I might, but I think this will be the prologue.  Let me know what you think.  Intriguing?  Revealing?

Prologue

 Thousands of years ago…

Ulfgeirr was weary in mind and body.  He and his men had spent the spring and summer searching for any signs of the vergrinn and eliminating any they found.  The previous year they had finally found the village that had first fallen victim to these cursed creatures.

In that village they had found a true prize – a blood red blade unlike any they had ever seen.  Ulfgeirr recognized it – he alone knew the full story of this village and understood the atrocities whose evidence they had beheld.  When he had last seen the blade, though, it had been plain grey steel.  It was as if the blade had been bathed in blood and absorbed it.  As Ulfgeirr thought back on this he shuddered.

Ulfgeirr and his men were now headed back to their enclave where their families awaited them along with the fifteen men who had stayed behind to guard the village and work the fields.  A feast would be held tonight, and tomorrow the lottery would be held to determine which men would be left behind during next year’s hunt.

They had reached the river at mid-morning, and their hearts rose as one of the men with him burst into song:

Tarry not along the shore

Find your hearth and home once more

Knock at last upon your door

We’re go-ing home!

 

The men around him laughed and joined in for the next verse, and Ulfgeirr smiled.  They had followed him willingly down the path he walked, and it was good to see that they still appreciated the things that truly mattered.

***

They were almost home.  The point in the river where they would signal to their fellow villagers on the island was just ahead.

They reached the signal point and two of the men stood forth near the water’s edge.  One of the men cupped his hands around his mouth and let out a distinctive bird call.  The other waved his hands in subtle gestures indicating that everything was all right.

Within a few minutes, two boats appeared from behind some trees.  They quickly crossed the distance to the shore and the men rowing them rose and embraced their comrades.

Ulfgeirr watched as his men clambered into the small boats and were ferried across the stream to the island.  He was the first to leave the island on this trip and he would be the last to return.  That was the custom he had picked up from his father when he went off to war.

Soon all the men were gone save Ulfgeirr and one of his captains.  The boat was almost to the island when a voice spoke from the woods behind Ulfgeirr.

“You’re not an easy man to find.”

***

Ulfgeirr spun around, recognizing the voice at once.  “Brother!” He clasped the man’s hand and drew him into an embrace.  “When I left, I thought we would never meet again.”

Hlifsteinn smiled.  “I thought we would never meet again as well, but father repented in his last days.”

A look of wonder crossed Ulfgeirr’s face.  “He has?  Did he come with you?”

Hlifsteinn’s smile turned into a grimace.  “Father has died.  Because you were gone, he made our brother his heir.  You will find no warm welcome should you return home now.”

Ulfgeirr sighed.  “I would not return home now even were I welcome.  We have done part of what we set out to do, but the brutes are still out there, I know it.”  He looked at his younger brother.  “I am curious why you have sought me out if our brother will not welcome me and our father is dead.”

Hlifsteinn’s smile returned.  “I have come because when our father repented of his choices, he set before me a task.  With you gone and our brother otherwise occupied, I was the only one who could accomplish this task.”  He fixed Ulfgeirr with a hard stare.  “Of course, to do it right I’ll have to have help from you.”

Ulfgeirr smiled.  “Tell me about your task…”

***

Today, one year after the <last major event of book two – don’t want to spoil anything>…

The sun slowly sank beneath the trees in the west.  The air cooled, and the sounds of the woods at night returned.

A dark figure rose slowly out of the water.  He had lain beneath the current longer than he thought possible and his limbs felt unnatural to him.  He looked around cautiously, regaining his bearings.

He set out slowly at first, but as his strength returned he moved faster.  He had a mission to complete.  He would go to Gudmund.  He would not fail.  He could not fail.  His success or failure might alter the course of the war, and neither side even realized it yet.

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