Bodies trimmed in blood filled every nook and cranny of the fired village. Remains of homes, barns and livestock still glowed a ruddy blush when he stepped out of the thinning layer of smoke and gave himself a congratulatory nod. Horses with red speckled men thundered by as they left the carnage they created while their leader breathed in the sooty air. He held up the severed head of Menon Allar to his face and broke out in a raucous laugh.
Calbar Mal Aryans was no man to ignite in anger, for his temper and cruelty were already legendary within the Pict clans. This day culminated the argument began by Menon Allar in the last gathering of chiefs. Menon accused him of raping many of his women while they held a truce, and went so far as to strike the elder Calbar in protest and challenge. Seeing the angry glare in the high chiefs eyes however, the other chiefs turned their backs to Menon, removing themselves from the responsibility of decision.
Squatting behind a still burning pile of timbers that once was his home, a red haired boy glared out at the man holding his fathers head. He welled with rage and utter hate in that instant, and spoke an oath to the dread god Belatu. He promised the god of war a soul, a wretched soul he said. The soul of the warrior Calbar.
Five years had passed since the boy spoke the oath, and in the meantime, Calbar had risen from high chief to absolute leader of the Pictish Nation. His craving for battle and murder served him well in removing the other clan chiefs, for the five years after the death of Menon were forever known as the Scarlet Years. Calbar’s name became synonymous with fear, doom, and death.
As Calbar sat atop the clans as supreme chief, a name constantly crossed his ears from the north. A man called Bloody Red was carving his own brutal path through the Pictish world with vicious intent. He was a tall, well-muscled man who was said to come from the mainlands of the east. It was there he honed his dreadful skills with the tribes of the horn and earned his terrible moniker.
At first Calbar thought nothing of the tales, but as the stories came more frequently, he began to take notice. His heart pumped as he thought of the day he would meet the warrior, for no other could match the vile nature of his own mind he thought, and that pleased him greatly. Calbar thought of the destruction he and this Bloody Red would rain down on the world; the thought of kingship entered his head. He would rule with an absolute iron fist, and the man called Bloody Red would be his death angel. Calbar knew that his days of riding into battle and whipping his ax around were slowly coming to an end, and the news of the destructor in the north was a tantalizing way to keep what he murdered for.
Six years after Menon had been decapitated, Calbar and his army met the advancing horde of the Bloody Red on the plain of Dekmar. It was the flattest plot of ground in all the Pict nations and extremely suitable for open combat, for there were no trees or natural fortifications around for miles.
The two leaders met under the banner of talks, as was custom before blood flowed. Calbar was in a jovial mood, because he thought this man was as he was, and would join with him in his plot to rule. He was innately wrong.
As the parties stopped and the spokesman for Calbar began to speak, the red-haired man called Bloody Red brained him to his teeth with a mace. Spattered with brain and bone Calbar was shocked at his attack, and before he moved, the other two men of his entourage were chopped down. For the first time in his life, Calbar Mal Aryans fled from a fight.
Bloody Red watched with a snarl.
“For the life of my clan and of my father, I will shove my fist down your throat and rip out your heart, Calbar! I have come for one thing, your head!” shouted the wild haired man.
Reining in his mount, Calbar instantly knew who the Northerner was. The man was none other than Vogel, son of Menon Allar. Pushing away his nerves, he turned for the youth with a roar and held his ax high. Vogel bolted from his men with a howl, heeling his horse into a fierce gallop. They met with a clang, and Calbar was on the ground with blood streaming down his face.
Vogel was off and running towards the elder Pict instantly. His blue war paint caused even the fierce Calbar to flinch, and he was thrown back from a weighty punch. Wild eyes led the Bloody Red’s attacks; Calbar could barely defend against the strength of the young man. His thrusts were easily swatted away, and his heavy drops of sword missed their mark entirely. Vogel was toying with him.
“I swore to Belatu that I would give him a contemptible soul, Old Man. Today I give it to him!” screamed Vogel.
Calbar had no words. He was so unprepared for the fight that he almost couldn’t think. He dropped to his knees a moment later and tossed his ax away. He removed his helm and threw it aside in defeat.
“Then fulfill your oath!” he growled.
Vogel was lost to rage and revenge, and stepped forward swinging wildly. Ducking in a blink and releasing his sword, Calbar rolled, stood, and removed Bloody Red’s head as he staggered by off balance. Calbar stood wobbly from his many wounds, glaring at the body of Vogel.
He raised the severed head of Vogel Allar to his face and broke out in a raucous laugh.
- - - I have been writing seriously for the last five years after an injury at work gave me the time to get going. I write mostly fantasy and dark fantasy with an occasional stab at Sci-Fi. In my short career, I've written two novels that I hope to publish, and a host of short stories and flash fiction.