Sklaldnüggl (Day 57)

Sklaldnüggl rose out of the raging surf, shaking the sea water from his long yellow hair. The flying drops of water glittered like hurled diamonds in the morning sun. Light shimmered, too, on the rivulets that coursed down his pale, chiseled torso. He held his sheathed sword high over his head to keep it out of the waves’ reach, keeping the forged metal dry, ready to bite into the bleeding flesh of the foes he knew awaited him in the green land ahead.

But that keen blade would never taste the blood he had promised it. The first arrow tore into Sklaldnüggl’s right side as he stepped up onto the beach, the cruel head plowing a ghastly furrow just below his last rib. He flinched yet did not stumble. He made to unsling his mighty shield from where it hung upon his back, his eyes sweeping over the empty expanse of white sand and black rocks that stretched to the crumbling cliffs, and the rolling treeless hills beyond. No sign of his unseen foe, yet two more arrows whirred past him into the water, then a third buried itself in his right leg, above the knee.

With a deep shout of pain tearing itself from his throat, Sklaldnüggl charged haltingly up the scrim, ignoring the burning of his wounds, striving to close the gap, to find the archer and to end him in close combat. He had not come all this way, alone, across the empty sea to be shot down like a stag. Yet he was only halfway to the base of the cliffs when a storm of arrows caught him in arms, thighs, belly, and throat. He skidded in the sand and fell back, blood gurgling in his mouth, his dying eyes fixing on the cloudless sky, wondering, as his last searing breath left him, why his gods had led him here.

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