The Priest had just finished telling his story. The Viking and The Moor sat still. They all stared at the fire, briefly lost inside the moment.
“You probably have questions,” said The Priest, breaking the silence.
“I will answer them as best I can.”
“So, this sickness,” said The Viking. “What was it, exactly?”
“I don’t know”, said The Priest. “Something extremely powerful. Something that spread far and wide very quickly.”
The Moor stoked the fire.
“I’ve heard of The Man In The Red Cloak, of course,” she said. “The Wild One takes his orders from him. And I’ve heard of this plague. But what I’ve heard has been fragmented at best: whispers and rumors. How do you know so much about it? Wasn’t it long ago?”
The Priest nodded.
He stared into the fire. His companions waited patiently for him to respond.
“The Man In The Red Cloak is my brother,” he said.
The Priest wept. His hands trembled. The Moor took them gently into hers and patted them softly.
“You’ve said enough for tonight. We can continue this tomorrow. Why don’t we all get some sleep?”
The two men nodded.
The Moor stoked the fire again.
That night, they slept like the dead.
They packed clothing and provisions inside bedrolls that were strapped to Helga. The Viking loaded his pack with dried meat and berries, nuts, and seeds.
They talked very little as they prepared.
Their plan was to catch up to the scouts and stop them from alerting The Wild One and The Man In The Red Cloak. They needed to avoid detection for as long as possible.
As they finished loading up, The Priest took a brief respite to puff on his pipe. The Moor approached him and motioned for it.
“The Viking and I were talking a bit earlier. You needn’t unburden yourself anymore before we leave. We may have a long journey ahead of us. Take your time with your story. It will keep us occupied when we need it.”
She inhaled from the pipe and passed it back.
“Thank you for that kindness. I promise, there is nothing that I will keep from you.”
“I know. I believe you,” she said.
“Does he?” The Priest motioned to The Viking.
“Of course, he does,” she said. “The Viking will take his lead from you. It seems that he knows very little of this world.”
The Priest nodded.
“The Man In The Red Cloak did that by design?”, she said.
He nodded again.
“Then you can decide what to tell us and when.”
She smiled and took his pipe again, inhaling deeply. She winked at him then blew a smoke ring that billowed about his head.
The Priest coughed and laughed.
“A girl after my own heart.”
The Moor winked and handed the pipe back.
“Come,” she said. “Let’s help this hulking blonde brute finish packing his mare.”
They both laughed.
And though it was at his expense, The Viking welcomed the sound.
It was time to leave the mountain.
The Moor had spotted a campfire not far in the distance. The scouts hadn’t traveled much, no more than a few miles.
Helga whinnied impatiently. The Moor mounted her. They had agreed to take turns atop the mare.
The Priest and The Viking emerged from The Viking’s home. They held weapons. Between the three of them, they had a bow and quiver, two axes, several swords, countless daggers, and The Viking’s massive warhammer.
“Do you really think all of this is necessary? It’s just a few scouts,” said The Moor.
The Viking shrugged.
“I don’t know,” he said. “So, yes.”
The Moor laughed.
“How heavy is that thing,” she said, pointing at the Warhammer.
“Two hundred pounds,” he said. “A little on the light side if you ask me, but I can swing it quite swiftly.”
“You don’t lack for gusto, do you?”
“Of course, he doesn’t,” said The Priest. “Just look at the size of him. He’s bursting at the seams with gusto.”
The Moor eyed The Viking.
“Yes. He is rather large, isn’t he? Can you be quiet in the forest?”, she said.
“Yes, indeed. Quiet like a bear.”
“Bears aren’t quiet,” said The Moor.
“Exactly,” said The Viking.
SOUNDTRACK 09: “Gosh”, Jamie xx
CONTINUE TO CHAPTER NINE (Coming Soon)
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