I know I promised you all pictures today. I lied. (FRIDAY, I SWEAR) But I have something better for you! The following is a very rough draft excerpt from my Viking novella WIP. I wanted to share because I liked the imagery.
Hagen, Lord of the Reach, battle-hardened and strong, approached the burial mound with caution. He held his sword before him to ward off the dark king he was about to confront.
The burial mound reeked of decay, the cairn stones crumbling among the dirt. Putrid fungus and glimmers of gold dotted the dead earth, warning and tempting travelers at the same time.
“Lord Ragnar,” Hagen called. He waited, adjusting the grip on his sword. The night was quiet—he could hear no animals rustling the trees, no insects humming in the dark. Hagen glanced over his shoulder to make sure no one had followed him. When he looked back at the mound, it was glowing. He swallowed.
The earth quivered. Stones tumbled away from the top of the mound and a yellow fog swirled to life. Hagen gripped the sword tighter as he watched the king take shape.
Bones leapt from the earth and locked together: first the feet, then the legs, upward in cacophony of hollow clanks and rattles until all that was missing was the cracked skull. The fog swirled around the skeleton and gave it flesh—corpse grey skin pulled tight over creaking muscle. Dead hands reached into the dirt and pulled out a skull and crown. For a moment, fog obscured the dark king’s shoulders. He had a head when it lifted, the tarnished crown slouched over his forehead.
Ragnar spoke in an echoing rasp: “Why do you raise me, usurper?”
Hagen advanced, brandishing his sword. The draugar spread his hands and smiled.
“She escaped,” Hagen said simply. Ragnar plucked a gold coin from the dirt and rolled it over his knuckles.
“You were not watching her,” the dark man accused, closing his fingers over the coin. Hagen heard bone grinding together. Golden dust filtered through Ragnar’s fingers. “Where is she now?”
“We lost her trail in the stream,” Hagen admitted. “Can’t you see her?”
“Not unless she tries to use her power,” Ragnar said. He drifted away from the mound to examine the tree line.
“Stay on your mound,” Hagen snapped. Ragnar came back to the edge of the stone pile. “ I can’t bring her back unless you find her.”
“Do not trouble yourself, Hagen,” Ragnar said, “I cannot see her, but I know where she is–I have other eyes.”
“Then tell me.” The draugar began to drift again, searching the underbrush. “Stay on your mound!” Hagen ordered.
Ragnar rushed Hagen, doubling in size in the blink of an eye. He stopped just a hair’s breath away from the edge of the sword and loomed over the lord of the Reach.
“The mountain king,” his hissed. “You can find her there.”
“Good.” Hagen breathed through his mouth and waited from the draugar to calm. When the dark king had shrunk to a manageable size and slithered back to his mound, Hagen turned away.
“Oh, great king,” Ragnar called. Hagen turned back to see what the creature wanted. “I hunger,” he said, eyes glowing green.
Hagen nodded and went a little ways into the woods. He dragged a terror-mad slave from where he had hidden her in the shadows and brought her to the foot of the burial mound. The woman babbled, clutching at Hagen’s ankles and invoking the gods. He kicked the woman away.
“Eat hearty,” he said to the old king, and left.
He could hear the woman’s screams halfway back to the village.