Based on actual events.
Following a devastating attack by a tribe of monstrous giants that leaves twenty dead, Agnar Vray and his band of berserker warriors wage battle against the, “Beasts that walk like man.” Here, in the primordial forests of North America, blood will be spilled, bone will be broken, and death in battle is the greatest glory man can achieve.
This is the thousand-year-old story of the fall of one of the New World’s first colonies.
The horse fight was the first of the afternoon’s celebratory activities.
Two Beothuk slaves led a mare heavy in estrous into the log walled arena and tied her to the center pole. The mare shook in frenzy at the noise from the crowd and her agitation in turn rallied the gathering of warriors and artisans, workers, farmers, and slaves to even more energetic yells and chaos. A young warrior named Thrain led a pitch colored stallion into the arena and the horse frothed and chomped at the bit from the smell of the mare and from the fervor of the crowd. Opposite, Rognvald and his son Kotkell led a stallion of rust color into the arena. It too bucked at the smell of a potential mate and at the crowd and at the other stallion. The men did their best to restrain the horses then looked to the decking above the arena for instruction. Beigarth sat heavy with wine and hubris at the day’s proceedings. It had been four years since he and his brother Angar had made their way to Vinland at the urging of their cousin Leif and today was the beginning of a week of celebration of the colony’s success. Despite finding a land thick with timber and fur, an abundance of fertile soil, and a sea weighed with fish and seal, the first two years had been difficult. Nothing came easy. It took more than a month to secure labor in the form of ninety-eight Beothuk slaves. Once captured, though, they proved easy to break.
Almost too easy.
A dozen died from disease within a week of their capture. Two of the women killed themselves through sheer will after being repeatedly rutted and another three killed their infants at birth. They were a weak people, small and scrawny. They were good at fishing and sealing, however, and that first year was paid for with the meat, fur, and bone of those commodities. After a year of servitude, the Beothuk seemed to understand the reason for their existence as a people and their work efforts improved greatly. The second year they helped fell and trim into lumber over two hundred trees. A great longhouse was built as were boats to carry this third source of income back to Iceland. Angar led that trip and he returned the following year with more seed plants, livestock, and a dozen more colonists. The third year saw crops and animals flourish. Vineyards took to the newly deforested hills like weeds and Beigarth and his men filled vat after vat with wine.
Beigarth drained his horn of such and motioned to his wife Asta seated at his side for more. She raised her hand and a young Beothuk girl named Oubee rushed to fill Beigarth’s horn. Folkmar pushed his horn forward and she filled his as well.
“Why have they all painted themselves this way?” Beigarth asked running his eyes over Oubee’s half clothed body. “They look to be covered from head to toe in blood.”
“You allowed it, Beigarth,” Asta reminded. “It’s some sort of spring celebration.”
Folkmar drank and said, “They do it with red ochre. Damned if it doesn’t set to the body like paint.”
Folkmar stood and pulled his shirt up and his pants down to show the color covering the area circling his sex. “Took one from behind this morning. Tried washing it off twice – nothing. My cock will look like a bullseye for some time!”
Beigarth bent over in laughter and Asta rolled her eyes and told her husband she’d rather watch the horses fight than see the visual proof of Folkmar’s coupling. Beigarth laughed through his amusement then stood. He raised his hand and dropped it sharply and the stallions were released. The horses charged one another and the arena was filled with the sound of thundering hooves followed by the impact of 1,500 pounds of muscle colliding. The black came up under the rust colored challenger and pushed him back and over. The black reared and brought his hooves down making splinters of the rust’s teeth.
The rust lunged upwards and caught the black’s forward haunch with broken teeth and came away with a mouth full of blood and cut flesh. The black withdrew in pain and the rust stood in challenge. The stallions launched at one another and their legs intertwined in midair, becoming one in combat. The black bit into the rust’s neck and the rust swung his head into the black and grounded it. The rust brought its hooves down hard and the black’s eye socket crunched beneath the weight. The rust reared back and the second drive of its hooves turned the black’s eye to pulp. The black fought to stand but the rust came down again with shattered teeth and this time took away the black’s ear.
“Should you pay me now?” Beigarth chided Folkmar.
Folkmar raised his voice over the screaming of the crowd and offered, “Double or nothing!”
The black fought to stand but the rust pushed it against the wall and pummeled it with thrashing hooves. One of the downward cuts sent the rust’s hooves through the black’s muzzle and part of its nose and lip were severed. The rust raised once more and came down against the black’s skull with the sound of collapsing bone so loud that even over the fervor of the crowd, all knew the fight was over. The two Beothuk slaves returned to the arena and quickly led the mare from the ring and the rust colored stallion followed.
Beigarth stood to applaud the fight and when he sat Folkmar was stewing at having lost the bet and motioning for more wine. Asta watched as the fallen stallion was dragged from the arena by ox and painted Beothuk. “I do like horseflesh,” she reminded her husband. “Have them save the ribs for me.”
Beigarth grunted in the affirmative and held his hand to Folkmar and said, “Now? Or shall we keep the wager going for the duration of the week’s events?”
Folkmar drained his newly filled horn and replied, “Doubt we’ll remember anything past this evening!”
The men laughed and slapped each other’s back again and again until Asta questioned, “What in the name of the Gods is that?”
Four strong farmers carried a wooden cage to the center of the arena. One of the men attached a rope to the gate and inside a barely visible beast howled and scrambled about with such force that the cage appeared ready to give. Beigarth yelled to the man handling the rope, “Havard! What surprise do you have for us?”
“A surprise indeed my Lord,” Havard yelled in return. He stepped to the edge of the arena and pulled the rope. The gate opened and the beast charged forward. It stood in the form of a man six feet tall, carved of sinew and covered in coarse pelage the color of midnight. It dropped to four legs then stood and roared through a muzzle of yellow canines. The colonists in the crowd exploded in cheer, questions, and wild musings. The Beothuk in attendance moaned in fright, waved their hands in warning and others shook in fear.
“What the Nidhoggr is that?!” Beigarth cursed.
Folkmar replied, “It look like the man son of a bear.”
Oubee dropped the wine vessel and trembled in fear.
“Oubee!” Asta barked. “What’s the matter child?”
“It’s not a man. Or bear!” The Beothuk frantically stammered. “It’s Aich-mud-yim!” Aich-mud-yim.”
“Aich-muk?” Beigarth tried repeating. “Thought that was a bird.”
“That’s the auk!” Folkmar laughed.
Beigarth was embarrassed and retaliated against the young girl. “Speak Norse woman!”
“Oubee. Child,” Asta tried. “What’s Aich-mud-yim?”
“Aich-mud-yim. The Black Man.” Oubee fumbled with the words. She tried again. “The Black Devil. The Black Devil.”
“Black Devil?” Beigarth clarified.
“Yes. The Black Devil Bird,” Folkmar guffawed. “The Aich-auk!”
“Black Devil. That’s what all the reds call it,” Rognvald declared. He and Kotkell entered the covered decking and sat. “We caught it in a bear trap just yesterday. The reds are scared shitless of it.”
“You should to be scared,” Oubee promised. “This is not a good thing.”
“Shut your mouth!” Kotkell commanded. “And fetch me some wine.”
Oubee did as she was told and returned with wine and horns for Rognvald and Kotkell.
“Names aside,” Beigarth began anew. “What is that thing?”
“Some sort of animal,” Rognvald answered. “One that wants to be a man. Shape wise anyway.”
“Then let’s watch it fight like one,” Kotkell said pouring wine down his throat as fast as possible. “I’ve been waiting for this.”
Rognvald looked for approval from Beigarth and once granted waved to Havard on the arena floor. Havard waved back and two elkhounds were released into the arena. The two dogs converged towards the beast in blurs of gray and silver. Their barks echoed from the arena and the colonists cheered them on with wild screams and the setting of bets. The beast lunged atop its cage and tried its best to climb the center pole but its claws could find no purchase. It dropped to all fours on the cage and screamed and swiped wildly at the baying dogs.
The dogs snapped their scissored jaws and jumped at the cornered animal. The beast lunged over the dogs and ran to the arena wall. It tried to climb the huge vertical logs but again its claws found no handhold. It turned as the dogs bore down on it. The beast dropped the lead with a downward blow to the head. The second dog jumped over the body of the first and sank its teeth into the beast’s chest. The beast screamed and ripped the dog from its chest by its back leg and swung its head against the arena wall with the clap of skull against wood. It reared back and swung the dog into the wall again and this time blood and brain matter exploded onto the logs. The beast hurled the smashed animal into the crowd with such force that it knocked the old lady it hit from her bench and over.
The colonists in the crowd were overcome with blood lust. They howled in joyous appreciation. The beast pulled the first dog from the arena floor and dragged it to the middle and swung its head against the center post repeatedly and with such force that its head came from its body and it flew across the arena. The beast climbed atop its cage and beat its chest and roared in triumph over the cheering of the crowd.
“What the Gods is that thing?” Beigarth pondered in disbelief. “Smashed the dogs to pulp.”
Folkmar stood and killed his wine and pulled the shirt from his body.
“What’s all that red skīta on your waist?” Kotkell asked.
Folkmar ignored him and offered Beigarth, “Double or nothing?”
Beigarth replied, “You’re on, you crazy bastard. You’re on.”
“Seriously,” Kotkell interrupted. “What is that red about your waist?”
Folkmar took wooden shield in hand and dropped from the decking into the arena. The crowd exploded in cheers and the chanting of, “Folkmar! Folkmar! Folkmar!”
The beast watched as Folkmar charged forward his shield held before him and screaming in challenge. The beast dropped to the ground and took the headless dog into his hands. He swung the cadaver into the shield. Blood splattered the shield and over Folkmar’s head. The impact of the blow knocked him through the air ten feet and onto his back. Folkmar rattled his head and tried to stand but the beast was on him. It swung the dead canine like a club and Folkmar barely got his shield up in time. The dog exploded with blood and intestines against the shield. Folkmar rolled over once more and tried to stand. The beast grabbed his leg and flipped him up and over onto the hard floor of the arena. Folkmar spun around and strafed his shield against the beast’s shins. The animal yowled and drove its fist into and through Folkmar’s shield. Folkmar rolled away and jumped to his feet. The beast drove forward and Folkmar jumped for a half piece of his shield and raised it but the beast made splinters of it as well. Folkmar ran towards the decking screaming, “The bets off! The bets off!”
Beigarth exploded into laughter and doubled over in an attempt to catch his breath. Rognvald pulled the axe from his side and threw it into the arena. Folkmar jumped up and caught it by the handle. He hit the ground, turned and swung. The iron blade caught the beast in the neck and its head was severed and the body fell in a cloud of arterial spray. Folkmar took the monster’s head into his hands and held it high above his own.
The crowd went wild and the noise of its cheers carried far above the arena and into the woods high above it.
If you mixed Ernest Hemingway, Robert Ruark, Hunter S. Thompson, and four shots of tequila in a blender, a “Gayne Young” is what you’d call the drink!
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