This story is contiued from The Silver Sword's 1st Hero: Swan Warrior Part 1.
For the Silver Sword's background and the earlier parts of the saga please refer to the posts titled, Forging and The Frist Unworthy.
Swan Warrior Part 2
Let the praise of God be on their lips and a two-edged sword in their hand, to deal out vengeance to the nations and punishment on all the peoples.
Psalm 149: 6-7
Norin rode through the forest toward the burning village faster than was truly safe. He reached the camp in a few short minutes, slowing his horse a little to take in the chaotic scene. Most of the huts were on fire; the distinct odor of smoke filled his nostrils and clogged the air. Even as he watched, a Rovinien soldier tossed a torch onto the roof of a previously undamaged structure. Members of the clan ran in every direction, screaming and trying to avoid the soldiers’ blades and arrows. Raising the Silver Sword with a look of determination, Norin charged the nearest group of soldiers. The sword flashed like a spark of white fire. Soldiers fell to the ground stained with blood, or scattered, fleeing Norin’s wrath. Seeing the fear Norin inspired in their enemies, many of Oathswine’s disheartened warriors rallied around him and together they pushed the soldiers toward the edge of camp.
A high pitched scream drew Norin’s attention. He raced in the direction of the sound with the warriors struggling to keep up. Near the charred center of the campsite, he spotted a soldier dragging Elena as she struggled to free herself. Norin spurred his horse forward. The soldier turned and had only enough time to push Elena aside and raise his sword before Norin beheaded him. Elena gasped and covered her mouth as the body fell. Norin pulled to a stop beside her and asked, “Are you hurt?”
She shook her head.
Norin leaned down and held out his left hand. Elena took it and Norin swung her onto the horse behind him.
“We have to find my father!” said Elena. “Roviniens were closing in on him near our hut last I saw.”
“We must protect the chieftain.” panted one of the warriors as he caught up with Norin once more.
Norin nodded and spurred his horse toward the chieftain’s hut, from which flames leapt. Through the billowing smoke a group of warriors was visible, ringed in by Rovinien soldiers. With an ecstatic battle cry the warriors following Norin surged forward. Norin paused a moment to let Elena slip to the ground, then joined the fray. The sight of Norin and his warriors charging to their rescue gave the warriors protecting Oathswine the strength they needed to break free of encircling enemies. Soon the Roviniens were overwhelmed and forced to retreat.
When the last of the soldiers were gone, Norin dismounted and ran to Oathswine’s side. The chieftain was bleeding from several wounds but none looked serious enough to be life threatening. As Norin stopped in front of him, Oathswine’s eyes lit up with recognition.
“Who are you, my appointed savior?” he asked. “You rescue first my daughter and now my clan.” His eyes clouded suddenly and he cried, “Elena! They took her!”
“No, Father, I’m here!” yelled Elena running to his side. She gestured at Norin. “He saved me again.”
Oathswine’s eyes widened and he turned back to Norin.
“It seems I owe the safety of everything I hold dear to you,” he said. “From now on you will always be welcomed in my clan.”
“Thank you, my lord,” said Norin.
“All hail Norin, savior of our clan!” cried a warrior.
The warriors broke into cheers. Norin stared at them with a mixture of gratitude and embarrassment.
Once the cheering stopped, Oathswine commanded, “Put out those fires and salvage what supplies you can. We will move our camp before more soldiers come.”
Later, as sunset cast its colors like magic across the world, Norin was sure he saw the fairy queen watching him from beneath the tangled branches. She caught his eye, gave a satisfied smile and bowed her head to him. He had proven himself worthy of the Silver Sword.
One frosty fall day, Elena sought out Norin where he camped on the edge of Oathswine’s village. Norin heard her calling and met her outside his hut.
“Norin, I have terrible news,” Elena said. “My father’s scouts reported that Rovinien soldiers are raiding the herds of Chieftains Keth and Erik. My father refuses to help them saying that the misfortunes of other clans are none of his business. I know you care about what happens to the clans. You could put an end to the soldiers’ raids.”
“Where are they camped?” Norin asked with the familiar battle gleam in his eyes.
“They are on the plains east of my clan. You should not have any trouble finding them.”
Norin squeezed Elena’s hand then moved inside his hut to gather his gear.
As Elena predicted, it was easy to find the camps of Erik and Keth’s people, whose tents sprawled across the hills. Cows, sheep and horses dotted the fields. In a tiny hollow nestled between the two clans, Norin dismounted and removed the equipment from his horse’s back. He grabbed a bow off the saddle, strung it and took a short while to make preparations should raiders come.
Just before sunset, a group of Rovinien riders crested a nearby hill and scattered to charge the herd from several directions. Norin heard them coming and moved out of the hollow, carrying a roughly carved shield covered in grass to camouflage it. As the soldiers approached the animals, Norin propped up the shield in front of him and shot from its cover. The Roviniens slowed their horses and scanned the landscape wildly, attempting to see the archer. Norin crawled through the tall grass until he was several feet from his last position, set up the shield again and fired. As he repeated this maneuver a few of Chieftain Keth’s warriors appeared on the hill behind him. Once they took in the scene below they stopped to watch in amusement.
Norin moved to the center of the herd and stirred up the animals. He whistled and his own horse moved toward him. He dropped the shield, slung his bow over his shoulder, leapt onto his horse’s back, and drew the Silver Sword. Bending low over the horse’s neck, Norin moved in with the rest of the herd. He swung at the frightened soldiers as he passed them, leaving a gash on one man’s arm. When the solider turned to retaliate, Norin ducked and moved into the middle of the herd. Just then the warriors on the hill gave a loud battle cry and charged down the hillside. The terrified Roviniens turned and fled. The warriors crowded around Norin praising him for the feats they had witnessed and insisting he meet their chieftain.
At a large fire pit the group approached a broad shouldered man with a sandy beard and twinkling eyes who the warriors hailed as Chieftain Keth. They related the scene they had witnessed and introduced Norin.
“That is the most heroic tale I’ve heard, especially since you were defending the livestock of another clan,” said Keth. “With that kind of courage I’m sure you have a story or two to tell.”
“I’m sure they are nothing compared to your stories,” Norin replied.
Norin remained with Keth’s clan that night, talking and laughing before finally drifting off to sleep beside the fire.
The next morning Norin breakfasted with Keth’s warriors before riding through the hollow and onto the hills beyond it with the chieftain. As they came out of the hollow they saw Rovinien soldiers moving in on Chieftain Erik’s herds. Even as Norin slowed his horse to get a better look, a group of clansmen rode out from the camp to face them.
“It seems Chieftain Erik has chosen to oppose the Roviniens,” Keth observed.
“I don’t like the looks of this,” said Norin. He drew the Silver Sword and announced, “I’m going to help him.”
Keth’s eyebrows shot up in surprise.
“I cannot stand by and let Rovinien wipe out the clans of this territory,” Norin explained. “I have to help those I can.”
“Perhaps you are right,” said Keth. “I will gather my warriors and we will go to Chieftain Erik’s aid.”
“Your warriors will no doubt be welcome,” Norin replied, “but with all due respect I cannot wait for them while clansmen are being killed.”
Keth sighed and nodded. “Do as you must. I will return once I muster my forces. I pray I will meet you again in battle.”
Norin raised his sword and saluted as Keth galloped in the direction of his camp.
With the battle cry of, “Hail Chieftain Erik!” Norin charged into the midst of the Rovinien soldiers, temporarily halting their advance as they wheeled to face him.
The dark haired chieftain commanding the clansmen looked shocked as Norin joined his warriors. As his enemies fell back in fright, however, Erik saluted Norin to show his acceptance of the hero. Norin returned the gesture just as the Roviniens moved to attack again.
Norin called to the warriors, “Help me protect the chieftain!”
The men fanned out, circling Erik defensively. The soldiers charged forward only to be stopped and held in place by Norin and the warriors newly inspired by his passion. The armies struggled for several long minutes until a cry rang out on the hills and Chieftain Keth rode forward followed by his warriors. Norin gave a joyful shout and thrust his sword into the air. A ray of sunlight lit it up like a beacon. Before Keth could reach Erik, a few Roviniens rode out to intercept him and hold his warriors in place. The remainder of the Rovinien force split, half to circle behind Erik while the rest surged forward from the front.
“Cut them off!” Erik cried gesturing at the Roviniens with his sword.
Several warriors moved to follow his command. Norin moved back and forth in front of the chieftain, the ferocity of his attack making it impossible for any of the soldiers to reach Erik. The twang of a string releasing an arrow rang over the sounds of battle. Norin gave a terrified shout and jerked his horse around as he realized where the Rovinien archer had been aiming. The shaft pierced Chieftain Erik through his throat. The warriors watched in horror as he toppled backward off his horse.
The Roviniens pressed their attack, pushing the warriors back. With an enraged howl, Norin leapt from his horse’s back and positioned himself protectively over the fallen chieftain. The Roviniens gained ground until only a small group of warriors remained, forming a ring around Erik’s body. Keth and his warriors slowly fought their way past the Roviniens toward the stranded warriors. Norin was able to fend off most of the blows to himself but with each swing of his sword he felt a little more energy slip from his body. It was only a matter of time before the soldiers wore him down. He wondered if he would last until Keth’s warriors reached him.
Norin’s opponent gave him a long cut below his cheekbone and down his neck and Norin cried out in pain. As he stabbed the soldier in return, a mighty war cry rang over the other sounds of battle. Norin craned his neck until he could just make out riders approaching from the west, the sun reflecting off their weapons. Silently he prayed they weren’t reinforcements for Rovinien. He thanked the Lord of Light when the new warriors charged the Roviniens and he recognized Chieftain Oathswine at their head.
At the sound of Oathswine’s cry, the warriors with Norin found a last reserve of strength, pushing forward to reach the newcomers. Keth renewed his attack, finally gaining ground as chaos broke the Rovinien ranks.
As the soldiers scattered, Norin called to Oathswine, “Chieftain Erik is dead! They’re slaughtering us!”
Oathswine scowled as he replied, “We should retreat before the Roviniens regroup and make a second attack.”
“Help me lift Erik’s body,” Norin instructed. “I won’t leave him here to be desecrated.”
Oathswine nodded and a group of his warriors dismounted and moved to help Norin.
Oathswine and Keth barked orders and their warriors surrounded the group carrying Erik. Once they reached the perimeter of the tents Keth rode ahead crying, “Your chieftain has fallen! Break camp before the soldiers return! My warriors and those of Chieftain Oathswine will escort you to safety.”
There was a flurry of activity as clan members grabbed their possessions. Some mounted horses and all moved to join Oathswine and Keth’s warriors. When Norin and the others baring Erik’s body reached the campsite, several people broke away from the main group to gather around the chieftain. A large woman pushed past the others and let out a piercing wail at the sight of Erik’s bloody corpse. She continued wailing as her fellow clan members lifted Erik and rested his body in a wagon. A man put his arm around her and ushered her away saying, “We have to move, Lady Utaria. The time will come to morn your husband, but right now you have to get your clan to safety.”
Norin’s face tightened with pain at the sight of Erik’s wife. He found his horse and forced himself onto its back. With a weary twitch of the reins he moved his animal his into step with the horses of the other warriors and followed Chieftains Oathswine and Keth across the plains.
Several hours later and many miles to the south, a camp formed comprised of Keth, Oathswine, and Utaria’s people. At Oathswine and Keth’s orders, warriors guarded the perimeter of this large campsite. Those wounded from the battle were escorted into tents where the women tended to them. Elena rushed Norin’s to side as soon as he stumbled off his horse’s back and hurried him into a nearby tent.
Beneath the canvas Norin lay on a cot while Elena bent over him, cleaning the cut on his neck. Norin squeezed his eyes shut, trying to block out a terrible images.
“I failed him,” he whispered.
“Who?” asked Elena sounding distracted.
“Chieftain Erik,” Norin replied opening his eyes. “I fought so hard for him but in the end it didn’t matter. The moment he needed me the most I wasn’t fast enough and it cost a clan their leader. I failed them.”
Elena paused in her work and said, “No one blames you for Chieftain Erik’s death. You did everything you could for him. Don’t be so hard on yourself.”
“How can I call myself the hero of the clans if I let their chieftains die?
Elena leaned over and pressing a wet rag to his wound.
Norin hissed in pain.
Elena’s touch lightened as she replied, “Just before I met you I thought I saw a black swan fly into the forest. I’ve heard that a black swan is a sign of a great change which upsets the usual order of things. You are that great change, Norin. You’ve united three warring clans, making them allies against Rovinien. I’ve never hear of another warrior who’s done anything like you.”
As Elena fastened a bandage around his neck, Norin said, “Yet despite all of that I couldn’t save Chieftain Erik.”
He closed his eyes again and tears slipped out of their corners. Elena ran a gentle finger over his cheek, brushing the tears off it.
“As hard as it is,” she said, “you have to accept that there was nothing you could do. Try to sleep.”
Norin gave a slight nod.
At dawn the three clans formed a procession and carried Chieftain Erik’s body to a place on the edge of camp. The procession was led by Utaria and a small boy who looked about five years old. The boy resembled Erik. It was clear he was his son. Erik’s body was placed in a shallow hole and his wife and son arranged his weapons around him. Several people stepped forward and placed gifts beside him as a sign of respect. As Erik’s warriors formed a mound around him, clan members sang songs of his exploits and chanted prayers for his soul to the Lord of Light.
Norin stood at a distance in silence, his expression pained. Elena glanced over her shoulder at him then moved beside him and took his hand. Norin bowed his head and took a ragged breath before moving closer to Elena. They stood like that until the funeral was over and most the clan members had given Utaria their condolences. As a group of people stepped aside, Norin released Elena’s hand and approached Utaria.
“I’m so sorry,” he said.
Utaria lifted her reddened eyes to meet his and replied, “I heard how nobly you fought for my husband. For that I thank you. I know if anyone can bring justice upon those murdering Roviniens it is you.”
“What will become of your clan?” Norin asked.
“I will lead them until my son is old enough to take his father’s place,” Utaria answered. “Both Oathswine and Keth have offered me protection. Our clans will camp together. We will be much safer that way.”
“That is good.”
“Will you join me at the feast in my husband’s honor?”
“Of course,” said Norin. He beckoned to Elena who came forward and walked beside him into camp.
The feast was ended and the night well on its way to midnight when a disturbance woke Norin. Quickly pulling on his clothes and strapping the Silver Sword to his belt, he ran to the edge of camp to investigate. Beyond the line of tents the moonlight fell on a small, unshaven, ragged man struggling and pleading with two of the guards.
“Are you trying to wake the camp?” Norin demanded. “What’s the meaning of this?”
“We found him slinking around trying to steal our food,” said one of the guards tugging on the man’s shirt.
“I meant no harm!” cried the man.
“Explain yourself,” Norin commanded the stranger, crossing his arms as he spoke.
“First tell me whose camp this is,” pleaded the man.
“It is the joint camp of chieftains Oathswine, Keth and the Lady Utaria.”
“Clansmen. Good,” the man muttered. Then meeting Norin’s eyes he said, “Sardi slavers captured my chieftain and most of my clan. The few of us who escaped are living in hiding. I only wished to bring them some food. I am one of four runners sent in each direction to seek the help and protection of Chieftain Tayad.”
Story continued in Swan Warrior Part 3.