Sklaldnüggl

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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