I stared at it. It stared back at me as if it knew its death lay here. I took a step towards it and pulled out my sword. Still it stood there, unmoving and watchful. It was a beautiful beast, with antlers thick and strong. The thought came to me how vile it would be to kill such a creature. I halted in my walk towards it and felt rather than saw Godwin look at me in surprise.
‘We’ll have to kill it,’ he whispered.
‘I know,’ I said and my heart grew heavy.
At that moment the great stag cried out and lowered its antlers. It pawed the ground and sprang towards me. It had allowed me no time.
I flung my sword to the ground and blindly made a grab for its antlers. I caught firm hold but found myself borne backward by the stag’s onward rush. Its breath was hot upon my neck and I saw its mouth open as if to bite me.
How I clung onto the antlers I do not know, pure terror lent me strength, I guess. Godwin leapt upon the stag’s neck, trying to plunge his knife into it. But the beast was too cunning. With one shake of its head it flung Godwin to the ground and I went careering after him.
I glanced at Godwin. His head had smashed against a rock and blood gushed from his forehead. He tried to get up, fumbling for his knife and pointing out the danger. I looked up and saw the stag begin to paw the ground. It lowered its head again and seemed to be weighing up where best to strike. Then, with a bellow, it leapt towards us.
I scrambled to my feet. A death does lie here, I thought, but it is mine and not the stag’s.
I turned my head, not wishing to see my death face on. As I did so I saw a man leap upon the back of the beast.
The stag reared up, throwing the man from its back and turned, seeking out this fresh adversary. It was Siward Barn.
He regained his feet and faced the stag, crouching low and feinting it as if it were an opponent in a wrestling bout. The stag charged and he grasped its antlers. It bellowed with fury and tried to shake him off but he was a man of dreadful strength and held fast to it. I watched in horror as man and beast grappled, the antlers slashing at his flesh while he sought to bend the neck back on itself and break it.
Dirt and dust flew in the air and blood, sweat and spit drenched man and stag. I could not for the life of me see who would be the victor, so matched were they in strength and skill.
I staggered to my feet and plucked up Godwin’s knife. I dodged round the back of the stag, found the spot where neck joined shoulder and plunged the blade in deep.
I felt the stag tense beneath me. It gave a cry, hoarse and shrill. I stepped away, walking as if in a nightmare.
Weary of the battle the stag turned and looked at me. I stared into its eyes and the life began to ebb from them. I watched it stagger to its knees and all the time it gazed at me, never for a moment taking its eyes from my face. Then, with one last keening wail, it crashed to the ground.
I felt like a traitor who had slain a hero.
‘Blood of Ironside’ is the third novel in The Lost King series. All of the books are available on Kindle for $3.08, £1.97 or €2.68. You can buy by clicking on the links below, by clicking on the covers to the right (for the UK) or through Amazon outlets in your own country.
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- Blood of Ironside. Part 4. #Sample Sunday #HistNov (martinlakewriting.wordpress.com)
- Blood of Ironside Part 3 #SampleSunday #HistNov (martinlakewriting.wordpress.com)
- Blood of Ironside Part 2. #HistNov #Stories (martinlakewriting.wordpress.com)
- Blood of Ironside (martinlakewriting.wordpress.com)