Aphelion Issue 245, Volume 23
November 2019
 
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Schlaine's Saga

Or: a Celtic Rescue

by Fred Harvey


What heroes bold of legend ever had their story told
Lacking worthy enemy to thwart?
Hence first into my tale strides mighty Halfdan, son of Odin
Viking raider, cunning veteran, he, of many battles fought.
Beware his awesome presence; see he stands upon yon hill
Watching tide of battle to his favour turn.
He has forced Earl William's Saxons into circle round their banner
Thetford's last defence he'll crush and then he shall their village burn.
As he watches, valiant Thetford, girt in armour, head to foot
Sends reeling from him bold Norse raiders three,
With one crushing thrust of shield arm, shouldering Saxon oval great
Saxons but six left beside him, still no easy victory.
Two great longships brought he with him, having been repelled before
From these rich lands by Thetford's Saxons strong.
Forty Viking heroes wagered he against Earl William's score
Thirty now their number, Thetford's doomed defence has held out long.
Halfdan the Magnificent, 'ware he stands and raises cry
Bluff half dozen, his elite, he calls to hand.
Strides he down to meet Earl William's wall, his rabble sent to flank
When valiant Thetford falls to him, then will they call it victory grand.
On opposing hill from Halfdan's watch, a ragged figure sits,
Girt in ragged armour, weapons thick with rust.
Hidden well among the bushes, he and sixteen others like him
Lo the hero of this saga, Schlaine Mackeelter, fit to bust.
They also call him Rabid Ron, they who dare call him at all.
T'is a name fit mighty magiks to invoke.
Whence this title doth derive from, it might cost your lives to know
But 'pon this mere appellation foemen have been known to choke.
He had sailed, he and his crew, south along the Scottish coast
Then the English coast and length of river grand,
Up the length of mighty Waveney, alliances to form
With the legendary Thetford 'gainst Norse held Northumberland.
Muttered curses run from Celtic tongues, regretting late arrival,
But two hours afore and Schlaine did have no doubt,
That his war-band, fierce Celts, joined with Thetford's Saxon score
Would have easily put these Norse raiders to a rout.
Wary Schlaine might well consider all the strategy he knows
Cunning warrior and master of surprise.
But upon his right bursts forth a roar, two voices tenfold strong
Leaps down the hill the Hound and Egil, vicious warrior 'spite his size.
Ancient Aelfred, called the Hound, within his veins flows Saxon blood.
Long fought he in Thetford's service e'er he roamed.
Seeking out his mother's bloodline, found employ in Schlaine's command
Thetford's honour voiced he loudly and must now defend first home.
Ragged dwarf, his visage covered behind helmet, steel and chain
Never could resist a fight what e'er the cause.
Egil Skallagrimmson, Norse upon his fathers part but loyal,
To whoever pays his wages, his mere presence, foeman's pause.
Schlaine arises from his cover and the scowl upon his face
Foretells death, for Vikings or two of his own?
But the battle call that rips the air asunder tells his band
"By the Morrigan, death or glory, Thetford shall not stand alone."
With a howl falls Hound upon the foe, grim Egil at his side,
Behind them comes the pride of Celtic clans.
All a scatter 'long the Viking line runs Schlaine's maniac band
Blood tressed Jason on the right flank, sword and axe clenched in his hands.
Next in line to be their chieftain, calculating, cool and calm,
This bloody, vicious man runs lean and strong.
No blow struck without reason, no decision made in haste
Yet today he'll slay his quota, if he lives to fight so long.
Halfdan's flankers turn to meet the Celts, but slow for they are stunned
By this rag-tag interference to their day.
Expectation of great victory had burgeoned in their hearts
But they know Walhalla waits all if this victory slips away.
Halfdan's men are Viking raiders, fell in battle, fierce and strong,
But the first line falls apart as'f thunder struck.
Hamish, Angus and Pneumatix, harry one side in a wedge,
While Criagg, Callum and Cassandra barrel in and trust to luck.
Young Michael, simmering anger in his eyes, has joined the fray
Hair as black as raven's wing he runs behind.
Sword and dagger raining shallow cuts 'pon open back and side
'Till a staggering blow from Halfdan's sword knocks glory from his mind.
Kurt and Duncan are both Saxon born but long since joined with Schlaine
For the gold and the adventure, guaranteed.
Kurt is felled by Viking axe as blow lays ope' his chest, but lo'
This Viking falls to Duncan's blade as ever swift in brother's need.
As ocean waves upon the cliffs, so Thetford's men do force their cause.
Might Halfdan, else wise distracted, easily fall?
As the cliffs reverse the oceans force so Halfdan's men do stand
Having numbers still, still dares he to risk all.

II

The Satch is swinging long-sword, young Kirkpatrick, Pride of the Gaels
He has much to prove to's Clan and his new bride.
But as long-sword cleaves through Viking shield and Viking helm behind
His proud people know he'll face the foe and take all in his stride.
Schlaine himself has met resistance, faced disaster, broken axe
Haft asunder as the blade smashed Viking shield.
Shattered long-sword, riven short-sword, rusted hilts all that remains
Still he fights on, with twin daggers; madmen ne'er know when to yield.
Yet the Norsemen still outnumber desperate Saxons, valiant Celts.
Criagg falls to Viking sword, Hamish to axe.
The Hound and Egil and young Shane are in dire straits on right
Surrounded now by twice their number, hold or fall they'll ne'er cry pax.
'Pon the hill stands dour Kerrick, no part yet in battle played
Now swings he a six-foot blade above his head.
Weese and Daniel keep good distance, his support crew, young but brave
They've no wish to die by mishap, 'neath Claidhaemorrh in Viking stead.
Mighty scythe hits Viking army, spinning wild 'bove Kerrick's head
Bearing all of the momentum of his run.
Down the hill full tilt he charges, scatters Norsemen left and right,
Breaking through to Halfdan's elite just as his momentum's done.
Crying oaths by Dale, the war god, Kerrick clutches Claidhaemorrh blade
Weese and Daniel in defence on either side.
Thrusts this great blade like a spear at Halfdan's unprotected back,
Piercing mail and padded armour, ichor pours from puncture wide.
Halfdan's Viking round is shattered by a blow from Thetford's sword
But within the wreckage that bright blade is locked.
Leaving William's neck wide open to the Norseman's tempered blade
Thetford surely will need chieftain new if this fell blow's not blocked.
Halfdan knows his wound's not mortal, he's had scars enough in's time
And he sees brash Kerrick forced back from the fray.
If his sword takes Thetford's life the Saxon wall will fall apart
Then he'll surely thrash these Celtic scum and finally win this day.
Schlaine, much gratified by chaos caused by Kerrick's fearless charge
Takes advantage, dagger skewering Viking heart.
Tumbles underneath the next attack, leg-sweeping Viking foe
Leaps and grabs for Halfdan's sword arm, keeping neck and sword apart.
Halfdan's awesome strength shrugs Schlaine off, near as easy as a child
But the time has proved enough for Thetford's lord.
As the boss on William's oval shield connects with Halfdan's chin
He is stretched upon the ground as flat as any board.

III

"Lo your mighty Captain's fallen," cries Earl William to the Norse
Will you yet fight on or will you now disperse?"
"March on back now to your long-ships, leave your weapons on the ground
Tell your folk this time five hundred gold is Halfdan's ransom purse."
"Nay a thousand," Schlaine pronounces, "For the Celts have use for gold
Such a captain of the sword must be worth that."
"'Tis a pact," swears honest Thetford, "Let our swords be joined here hence."
Viking swords fall to the ground as Viking morale is crushed flat.
Four weeks later, celebrations, Viking lord has sailed for home
Schlaine and all his Celts feast well on Saxon stores.
Viking gold in Celtic purses, Viking steel in Celtic hands
Saxon ale falls by the barrel full, Celtic drunkards cover floors.
In his long-hall mighty Halfdan ponders strategies anew
As he hosts rich Eastern traders newly in.
Might these Saracens be allies to defeat this new-formed pact?
Or should he ally him with Thetford and raid his own Northumbrian kin?


© 2002 Fred Harvey

Most people call Martin Harvey "Fred" so he tends to write under the name Fred Harvey. He lives in Perth, Western Australia, is happily married with two daughters and writes mostly for the amusement of his immediate circle of friends.

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