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Uggla ran his thumb across the edge of his axe. With satisfaction, he looked at the trail of dark red that it left on his gloved finger; it recalled the battle-revel, the joy of war: things that made him a man of the Skølle, a free son of the Goddess of the Sea.

Around him lay the corpses of Trow and Pyske alike, each one brought down with savage cuts of the axe and sword as Uggla’s shield wall had advanced. Their blood stained the earth, the trees, and seemed even to linger in the air and mix with the thick mists of Adelfán’s western shores. Already the scent of it drifted upwards to bring news of their victory in battle to the gods.

‘Glory to your name, warlord Uggla.’ The voice was unmistakably that of Snygg, who--despite his nickname meaning ‘the Fair’--had lost a considerable part of his lips and nose to the spears of Hulderfolk in battles past. Due to his wounds, he spoke with great difficulty.

‘And to yours, Snygg,’ Uggla replied. ‘How did we fare?’

‘Yngkliga and Hallick fell; young Linkar lies dying.’ Snygg jerked his head in the direction of where a man sat against a tree. Two other men stood over him and softly spoke to him. ‘He asks for the axe,’ Snygg said. There was not a trace of emotion on the scarred face.

Uggla nodded. He crouched down next to the dead Pyske before him and reached for the rags it had worn. Uggla looked at the Pyske’s strong horns, its long ears, and the goat-like face; it had been painted with a thick, clay-like substance that hung in clumps in the matted, blood-stained fur.

‘How alike the Gettefolk they are,’ Uggla said.

Snygg spat. ‘Hulderfolk, all,’ he said. ‘Good for the axe and nothing else.’

Uggla had known a Gettefolk once, when he was younger and had no ships of his own and no men that followed him. He had called that Gettefolk a friend and brother, and they had laughed, fought, and killed together, united by their hatred of the Hulderfolk. When his time had come, the Gettefolk, too, had asked for the axe; a favor from brother to brother in the shield wall. But that had been different: the Gettefolk had drunk deeply from the cup of life: he had had wives, sired sons and daughters, feasted and reveled, cried and grieved, and his fur was gray with age when the day of his deliverance finally came.

 ‘Linkar, warlord?’ Snygg’s voice roused Uggla from his thoughts. He nodded, wiped his axe clean on the Pyske’s rags, and rose to meet Snygg’s eyes.

‘Let’s deliver him,’ he said.


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