Drunor Frostheart raised his ice cold blue gaze to the heavens and offered up a curse to Ymir as the point of a blade slashed passed his face narrowly missing an eye, growling his challenge he lowered his head and charged, smashing his heavy bronze warhelm into the unprotected face of the blades owner. Bones grating against bronze and a sudden hot shower of blood across his face let Drunor know that his aim had been true, the Vanir before him staggered backwards sword falling from his now flaccid grip. Drunor did not allow his opponent a moment to recover and wasted no time in running him through with his own thick war blade. Dropping to his knees the Vanir before him spat a mouthful of iron tasting scarlet fluid defiantly into his face, cursing and hollering his hatred as his life was spent. Drunor grimaced as the sharp tang of blood found his lips and he ended the defiance of his enemy with a brutal blow to the head, delivered by his hefty iron bound mace, his opponents’ skull disappeared in a red mist. The burly Warchief had little time to relish his victory, a bestial snarling was the only warning he was given, Drunor threw himself forwards as a blaze of pain tore across his exposed arm, he landed with a hard thump on the half buried rough paving slab turning his dive into a tucked roll which saw him returned to his balance in the form of a defensive squat, facing off against an animalistic abomination from the depths of his worst nightmares. A jolt of fear skittered across the battle frenzy the enraged Vanir found himself in, the beast that stood before him on misshapen legs, with the Warchief’s own good blood dripping from it viscous talons, was a monstrous mix of wolf and man, dark rank fur covered it’s malformed musculature and a set of all too human golden eyes reflected Mother Moons light above a set of wickedly curved fangs. Fangs that longed to feel the rip and tear of human flesh, it was not so long ago that Drunor had felt that same lust rise within himself and the thought that this grotesque was once of his Clan shamed Drunor, for in killing the beast he would be dispatching one of his own brothers to Ymir’s Great Feasting Tables. The foul, cursed Werewolf moved with an inhuman speed and grace, roaring and snarling as it sought to sink its fangs into its prey and Drunor thought it well that Ymir, Frost Lord, God of Giants, Bringer of Storms and War had seen fit to remove all emotions but rage from his most faithful servant, for although he was vaguely aware of that distant thrill of fear he did not hesitate in taking the creatures head from its shoulders with a terrific blow delivered from his rough blade when offered the chance by the wildly flailing viscous monster.
A full turning of Mother Moon since the Goatloving Aesir cavalry had destroyed his band had passed and she now shone her brilliant radiance down across the hills, cairns and barrows of the Pissblood Cimmerians gravelands, illuminating all below, both those she blessed and those she cursed. Seven days since he’d found Breirn on the threshold of death, poisoned and delirious, ten days since that persistent Crom kissing Ymir who had dogged his small bands journey northwards had sought to spring his trap. That ambush had split the remaining Iceclaw from one another, the Vanir invasion forces were keeping a tight watch on the northern mouth of the Valley and that had made the task of reuniting all but impossible as the companions made their way down into the lowlands. They had been forced to move at night to avoid detection by the Snowaxe Clan who seemed to be in control of this area, there was bad blood between the Iceclaw and the Snowaxe, and Drunor knew that he would find no allies amongst them. Drunor had found signs, a bent twig pointing downwards here, a pile of stones with a leaf captured beneath one pebble there. Kragnon had managed to stick with Draygor and the female offering, they were perhaps a day or two ahead of him at that point and the signs Kragnon left had helped Drunor to avoid scouting parties and had allowed him to follow in his friends wake.
Two nights ago as the fiery Vanir stomped along the bank of a fast flowing river, using the sound of the swiftly passing water to mask his movements, Drunor had finally caught up with Kragnon and Draygor. His massive lieutenant had the Cimmerian wench they had captured back down south thrown over his shoulder, her once dark hair now seemed to have an almost golden glow to it and Drunor wondered if perhaps she was of Aesir seed instead. She no longer offered any resistance as she once had, the loss of her tongue had taken the fight from within her, Drunor had seen it happen before, often with women the loss of speech came along with a loss of emotion and besides if she had no voice she could raise no alarm. Drunor thought it well that his friends had managed to keep the sacrifice alive, for he knew not where he would have found another female of innocent blood between then and Mother Moons rise. There had been a palpable tension in the air as the three Vanir conferred quietly on that darkened riverbank, they were so close to completing their goal and both Kragnon and Draygor could not help but shift about with a nervous energy as they regarded the foreboding forest edge on the opposite bank. Under that gloomy canopy lay their goal, the ruined temple and shattered altar where their Clan had fallen beneath the influence of that demonic curse, their ruin bought about by the scheming and plotting of their jealous rivals. Drunor did not share that same nervous tension his companions felt, he had always suited the name Frostheart and he was indeed well named, for amongst the Vanir he was known as the Littlewolf whose heart was formed of ice. He was known to be merciless, unrelenting in his pursuit of war and incapable of showing mercy, an unfeeling brutal reaver, he knew of course how to submit to rage, how to let his anger consume him, but he rarely let any other emotion win through to any extent. Drunor knew it was important to keep a tight rein on feelings and to maintain control over his emotions lest they in turn begin to master him.
Drunors’ mind snapped back to the hear and now, as Father Sun sank below the horizon leaving the shattered temple in a perpetual shadow, the moons radiance still concealed by the thick foliage overhead. He stepped over the inert figure of the werewolf whose features were slowly reverting to their original Vanir form now that it had lost its head, and continued to stalk down the ruined darkened hallway. Tumbledown walls that had collapsed an age ago leaving the interior open to the elements had formed piles of rubble which had in turn been displaced by the roots of the surrounding trees as the encroaching forest wormed its way into the ruins. A dark shadow detached itself from the larger body of shadow that swallowed the murky intersection ahead and resolved into the form of Kragnons’ silhouette. As the massive Vanir approached, an evil looking battle axe clutched in each fist, Drunor could not help but notice a tightness about the eyes of his closest friend, a slight sagging of the statuesque shoulders, and who could blame him thought Drunor, for the road behind had been long and hard, what little road lay ahead seemingly led to only yet more danger and death. With no more than a nodded greeting to one another the two Vanir continued on together making their way further into the ramshackle ruins, they were not alone. From ahead Draygors’ deep, rolling, baritone chant could be heard, his rough voice had taken on a fel aspect as he prepared the altar for the Ceremony of Cleansing, his safety was in Drunors and Kragnons hands for the Rite demanded utter concentration, should he waver or falter for the briefest of moments the whole endeavor may go awry, leaving the three Vanir waiting for Mother Moon to complete a full turn once more. Almost drowning out the chanting dirge of the mammoth Shaman could be heard the howls, grunts and snarls of their hunters, the forest fairly bulged with the Ymir cursed half wolf monstrosities.
The two Iceclaw halted by a rupture in the thick corridor wall, Drunor stuck his head through the gap and peered into the chamber beyond as Kragnon kept a sharp eye out. The sanctum which Drunor peered into was illuminated at evenly spaced intervals, by the burning rush torches that Draygor had set out in a circle centered on the onyx and obsidian altar which dominated the vaulted chamber, the roof in this section of the ruined temple had faired better than the rest and still served to protect the shrine from the degradations of the elements. The Iceclaw Shaman stood over that altar of pitch midnight surrounded by an eerie golden light that engulfed both him and the female offering, his voice boomed in a rhythmic cadence as his hand plunged downwards, the feral fang that Drunor had worked so hard to retrieve clutched as a dagger in his mighty fist. The southern wench raised herself up in a silent scream of pain before wilting once more prone onto that ceremonial slab of death. Drunor felt an incessant tugging on his arm and Kragnon whispered urgently, “We may have a problem here Drunor.” Pulling himself back into the corridor, the small chieftain whistled softly, at either end of the stretch of corridor they found themselves in, large packs of the wolf-men gathered, jaws snapping at each other, muzzles testing the dank fetid air for the scent of their prey. This was it then, they were running out of room to flee. Snarling almost like a wolf himself, Drunor threw himself into the sanctum through the break in the masonry, calling for Kragnon to follow. Drunor felt a brief flash of despair but still he held his emotions in close check, for he knew that the smaller, baser emotions such as fear and apprehension were like the Great Warchiefs of life and that men often found that they obeyed their unspoken orders without ever realising.
Drunor moved back, careful to keep his eyes on the gap from whence their hunters would appear. Placing each foot with precision and gentle care, the Littlewolf backed all the way up to the altar, this is where he would make his stand, his last defiant act in the service of his Clan. Kragnon had landed heavily and was slow in making his way towards his Warchief, Drunor cried out with dismay as first one and then another of the monstrous beasts leapt through the rift in the stonework, the fist landed on the huge Vanir berserkers back, wickedly curved fangs sinking deep into the reavers armoured shoulder. Kragnon tossed the wolf thing off with a mighty heave and a blood curdling roar, but the second howled in triumph as its cruel talons swept open the powerful Vanirs throat. His friend was lost beneath a surging pack, as figures of hatred began to pour into the shrine, numbers beyond counting, the majority joining their packmates in feasting upon the corpse of Kragnon as though he were nought but carrion.
Drunor determined to sell his life as dear as possible, buying as much time as he might for Draygor, but the odds were staggering, one beast alone was a daunting fight, but the whole pack? Drunor heard a soft whisper, from behind,
“Draygor begs. Come closer Drunor.” In sharp contrast to the chanting he had been about earlier, these words were almost a caress, as if the words had not bothered to travel through his ears at all. Drunor spared the monolithic Shaman a quick glance, before returning his gaze to the slowly approaching pack, why do they hold back, by Ymir lets have this done with, keeping his eyes on those beasts nearest him he sidled about the obsidian plinth to Draygors side.
“Draygor, if you’re going to finish this thing it needs to be now, I can’t hold them any longer.” One of the beasts howled almost plaintively and his pack joined him in his mournful chorus. “Are you almost done Shaman?”
“Draygor mourns. Aye Drunor I have, almost. I have chanted those words Ymir must hear and I have offered innocent woman blood harvested by the Fang Fenris,” An odd tone entered the Shamans voice, “Draygor tells you this. Only one more condition must I meet. All I now need is life of their life, breath of their breath, blood of their blood.” Drunor turned to face Draygor, but was stopped as something akin to an iron bar wrapped itself about his neck, Drunor sunk his teeth into the arm of his erstwhile companion but to no effect, he slumped forward, unreleased, the large Fang of Fenris protruding from his jugular like an obscene dart. Falling onto the slab of darkness, a mist began to draw before his eyes, he could feel his life slipping from his grasp as blood pumped from him freely, his last sight that of a golden brilliant light, as bright as the noon day sun engulfing the pack of wolves before him, his last sound heard that of a thousand howls raised in pain and anguish.
As Drunor tore a haunch of meat from the carcass before him and quaffed from his ivory Stein, sharing a raucous laugh with Kragnon and Breirn he thought it well that he had been deemed fit to dine eternally at Ymir’s feasting table. And Drunor thought it well that with his blood and the blood of his band, the lives of his Clan had been restored, free of that curse the Iceclaw would live once again to ravage, pillage and burn. And Drunor thought it very well that the name of Drunor Frostheart, Littlewolf, Warchief of the Iceclaw, Feeder of Crows would live on in the epics and sagas of the bards told and sung throughout the ages as a Tale of the Dead.
(OOC) This was the last chapter of Drunors story, I'll miss the gruff, little bugger and no mistake! I'd like to thank the folk who have been following his tale and remaining interested even though I've tended to ramble on at times! Thanks for the encouraging comments and for Leoric's help (who is probably sick of me saying thank you by now!) , without him an ending would not have been possible. If you have any comments or questions regarding any of these stories, leave 'em here and i'll try find someway of answering.
It was a privelege and honour to help you post, mate.