The White Sea

The ravens spiraled above, then perched on the longship's mast. Ocean spray battered Bjørn's grizzled and scarred face, misting in his long gray beard. He unblinkingly gazed out from the bow, staring into the distant unending white sea. Crest after crest tumultuously broke. Ceaselessly they bore the ship further out to sea.

Years of conquest and butchery left him numb to the simple lifestyle of village life. He had passed through many places like his home - each left aflame and devoid of life. Many of the men returned from pillaging had lived in these villages, but their blades were dull, their wits reduced to that of a lame horse. Fools, all of them, fell victim to sword and bribes - lured from the safety of villages and torn apart out of sight. The old, simple, and unaware were easily dispatched, and the first to go.

Bjørn could hear the whipping of the single sail in the maelstrom. The ship's boards creaked as each part of the ship was twisted and tried by the pulverizing power of the roiling sea. The loud grumbles and grunts of his steadfast crew floated over all noise, ringing out, rattling Bjørn's jaw. The ship rode hard, headlong flying into each coming wave, daring it to be the last it saw. It vanquished each wave, climbing its heights and crushing down, onward to the next.

Still, the raging water battered the bow, pulsing up Bjørn's arm like the vibrating clang of hammer on shield. The rain and wind pelted his furs, but could not penetrate the thick hides he had gathered from mountain passes and dank wolf dens. He recalled the last village, how the fire danced in the shadows as the thunderhead moved in overhead.

They had waited for the night, when their target was at its most vulnerable. By now the warriors had not come back and the moon was masked by clouds; thunder echoed across the land. The village was an easy target, ripe for pillaging. The brood gathered their weapons, sharpened their blades and hoisted their shield: ready for the coming mayhem. They drank heavily and ate their herbs until their eyes darted. Bjørn had long since lost the taste for the carnal pleasures of raiding; the grog and herbs no longer tempted him.

Some cut themselves with their axes, spreading blood across their face. They were a bloodthirsty wolf pack descending on a helpless town and Leif, their pack leader, lusted for blood. Leif let out a low growl, smashing his sword against his shield. The banging rose, ringing in Bjørn's ears as more and more men mimicked Leif. Above the cacophony was the animalistic grunts and growls of a savage wolf pack, licking it's chops.

Like banshees they flew to the town, raven-feathered cloaks and mottled bear fur capes dragged across the muddy field until their feet met gravel. His men pillaged with alacrity, soaking dirt paths and wooden floorboards with the blood of men first. The women and children would come next after a grim night of thunderstorms, screams and drunken ravages. The rain washed what it could away, but a village of corpses bled more than the gods could clean. It was a dirty business that they cleansed with flames.

Anything that stopped them would be put to the sword. Anything that stood in the way of the next conquest was dragged, kicking and screaming from it's home. Battered and beaten by the relentless fists of natural unadulterated rage and power. It couldn't be defended against. It was only expected. 

As the blood slipped down the blade wedged halfway through Bjørn's shoulder, he did not buckle. He only grunted as he had always done. He gazed, longingly out to sea. Lief let out a grunt as he kicked Bjørn's knees in and Bjørn looked upward. His vision was fleeting, but before the withdrawn sword would take his head, Bjørn saw the ravens spiraling above.