You'll go to Mere. Collect my son's bride. Take Elvina with you. - Why? - She knows their ways. My mother wants to drive us apart. That's why she is sending you. I've seen you look at Elvina and her at you. It's not the way she looks at my son. - Sand wryms! - Run! - You're alive. - Abrecan is impatient to know if you'll help him become Jarl of the Shieldlands. She'll not give you what you want. I can. The Warig. Their war bands are coming together. This time, they mean to destroy us. All of us. I have a daughter to bury. You will release me, so I can be Slean's bride. - Does your support for Rheda stand? - It does. Aaah! Aaah! Aaah-ah! Aaah! Aaah! Look at you now! Pig filth, scut for brains! You should have learned to climb! Aaah! Aaah! Aaah! Fixed you, didn't I? Eh? That'll show you. You and all your kind. War is coming. Says who? Gorrik, Thane of the Mere. He thinks the Warig are rising up again. If they do, we go to Mere, stand with them and fight. It's not just Mere. We were attacked by Warig in the Edgelands. They haven't attacked farmers there for 20 summers. If war comes to the Shieldlands, they'll want to take Herot. We're not prepared for an attack. There used to be a stake wall, guard towers every 40 paces. Now there's a handful of spars by the main gate and a few Huskarla standing. Then fix it! And bring my new daughter to me. I agreed to this marriage to strengthen the tribes. If war lies ahead, then we'll all be thankful for it. Even Slean. So, tell me, this Mara, what's she like? She died. Sea fever. Elvina did everything she could. What? - This is all for nothing? - No. Not for nothing. We have a bride. Just not Mara. Her name is Kela, Gorrik's second daughter. Are you so impatient to see your bride? I'm impatient to see you. This marriage, it changes nothing of how I feel for you. It changes everything. In form only. It doesn't change who I love or who I take to my bed. She looks after me. You don't have to be afraid. Everyone here is your friend. What does it matter where I was? I'm back and I've work to do. - With that arm? - I told you, it's nothing. - How will you work like that? - I'll manage. - It's just a scratch. - That 'scratch' came from an arrow! She was with you, wasn't she? - You let her get hurt! - It wasn't my fault. - She's just a child! - I'm not a child! So just leave him alone. Breca couldn't have done anything! People died and it was my fault. Is that what you want to hear? Step forward in peace. I am Kela of the Mere. From my father and my tribe, I bring you greetings of good faith. I am Rheda of Herot. You are most welcome in my home. I'm sorry also for your loss. Thank you. Come. This is your betrothed. My son Slean. This marriage will strengthen both our peoples. But, more than that, I hope you will be happy together. Tell us about your home. It must be very different for you here. You certainly have more gold than we do. We also have iron. Herot makes the best weapons in the land, as your father knows. He was pleased with the dowry you sent. Mere is well armed now. I hear that the Warig have been causing your father some concern, that he fears they may be rising again. They killed my mother, slaughtered our people and no-one came to our aid. For years, they've kept their distance. Now they're back. They have a leader, 'a prophet' they call him. And he tells them the time has come to wash the Shieldlands clean with red blood. Not whilst Herot rules. You're safe here. Slean, ride for Bregan. Tell Abrecan of this Warig prophet. If they are turning, we'll need our allies. Come. Stood there. Abrecan, there's something you should see. Alone. - So, where does Slean's loyalties lie? - With your sister. The marriage she arranged to the girl from the Mere. He'll honour it. He seems determined to be a loyal son. And yet he let you go. Why kill the messenger? He knows you were behind it all, killing Bayen, Scorann's death. Scorann was never meant to die, was he? Do you think Rheda will care? If I were you, I'd watch your back. This has got away from me. You realise that all Slean has to do is tell Rheda of your deeds and you lose everything. If Slean wanted to destroy me, he would have done so at the Gathering. Instead, he pinned the blame on the Varni. He's a man whose ambition is at war with his conscience. And that's useful to me. For now. He knows Herot and its ways and I can use that. I know that look. - You do? - What happened before, we should try to leave it. Why? I know you're not in love with Slean. Slean has nothing to do with you - and me. - So there is a you and me? I knew it. - Stop this, both of you. - I turn my back and you take my woman! Please! Shall we go back inside? Have you lost your minds? - What's going on? - Nothing's going on. I'm riding to Bregan as you instructed. We need our allies, remember? It's done. It's over. Which is what you wanted. - What does that mean? - Beowulf and Elvina together. Is that why you sent them off to the Mere without me? Not exactly, no. Just a happy coincidence for you, then? But I don't believe that. Whatever I have, you find a way to take it! Slean, wait! Do you even understand the meaning of the word 'discretion'? It's taken weeks for him to come around. All of it undone. All of it worthless. Is it my fault your son finds offence wherever he looks? A troll! Attacked me. Tried to kill me. Where? In the forest, right on the edge of our claim, by the old workings. We need protection. It's not safe out there. You're supposed to be looking after us. That's the deal. - Where is the troll now? - It's dead. - I killed it. - You killed it? I didn't exactly mean to. When they find out that a man has killed one of their own, they'll slaughter every miner they can find. And then they'll come for us. But why did it attack you? How should I know? Normally, they just leave us be. We mind our business, they mind theirs. You must have done something. I'm telling you, it just It came at me like it was mad or something. Hey. Hey. He doesn't look like he's after vengeance for his dead friend. I know. He's happy. What's that? Salt. We put it out. It keeps 'em placid. Trolls are mountainborn. If they can't get salt from the rock, they'll get it from red blood. Yeah? Right. Are you sure you put yours out? Of course I did. I'm not an idiot. This way. I'll show you the one I killed. I don't think you killed it enough. It It was there. It was dead. It was a figment of your imagination, more likely. - Had you been drinking? - No. Well, yeah, yeah, but I swear, right, it tried to climb the tree. - But then I I got - You killed it. Right. Drinking what, exactly? We can't have come all this way for nothing. - I'm thirsty. - Yes! Follow me. Should I feel sorry for the post or for you? They let you out of the hall? I'm surprised. They were distracted. And I was curious to see what happens round here. They smelt iron. What did you think of Slean? I hardly saw him before he left for Bregan. I can't think of anything worse than being married, being in love. Who said anything about love? This is about power, that's all. Everybody's doing some job or another. - What's mine? - I don't know. Marry Slean. Be a good wife. That's not a job. I think you can do what you want. Vishka! I heard you got on the wrong end of a Warig. - Good news travels fast. - Look at you! I let you out of my sight just once and you go get in a proper fight. Are you all right, though? It wasn't too bad? - Elvina fixed it up. - So, how many did you take down? Or did they just run at the sight of you? Brinni, this is Kela of the Mere. So you're a warrior. Anything that comes through that gate has to answer to me. Really? You must be good. Well He's not that good. Vorhelm! Vorhelm, you lazy drunk! Hey-hey! Where the hell have you been? This is Vorhelm, my brother. This is Beowulf, the Reeve. - And I'm Breca. - Hello. - Did you sort the troll? - What troll? You saw it, too? No, but - It's gone. - Gone? If it was ever there. You don't imagine something like that! Look! Look! My axe, Beowulf found it. It's proof! You might, if you're drinking this stuff. We brew it ourselves. - Really? - Want to try some? It's good stuff. Rider approaches! Open the gates! Slean! Well, well. This is an unexpected pleasure. There are matters we need to discuss. Oh. Er This is my Saray. Come inside. Warm yourself. You have no enemies here, Slean. I think I should judge that, don't you? I thought the miners slept in the trees. Yeah, most folks do. It's a good way to stay safe. But, er, you can't brew this up there. So Vorhelm and me, we risk it. - What's it made from? - A kind of root that looks like a horse's tackle. Right. You're sure it's not gonna make us all see invisible trolls? Eh, eh! It was real. All right? It It was real and it was big. All right, say it was real. There hasn't been a troll attack around here in years. Why now? Sometimes, they go rogue. Old bulls, mainly. Did it look old? How should I know? It looked like a troll. Yeah, yeah, yeah. You thought it looked dead. And then it wasn't. Are you sure it was a troll? You weren't attacked by a bush or a giant rabbit? Have there been any other attacks? - Is something stirring them up? - Not that we've heard of. Why? I'm seeing the bottom of this. The thing about trolls is you rub along with them all right. You keep to your mine, they keep to their woods. You put the salt out for 'em. You stay off their trails. And you start to think - they're all right. - Yeah. That they're safe. That they're not beasts. But they are. A toast. Good health. What brings you to Bregan, Slean? My mother sends a warning. The Warig are gathering under a seer who advocates war. They're already pressing the Mere and they've attacked in the Edgelands. If they keep coming, Herot or Bregan could be next. And we both know that Herot is not ready for war. Which is why my mother sends me to her most trusted brother. If the Alliance stands together, it stands strong. Which of us will tell her she's mistaken? Saray. I think Slean would like to speak with me alone. Of course. Well? They're talking. Alone. If you ask me, we should kill Slean, while we have the chance. Make it look like an accident. And why would anyone ask you? Two simple tasks. Keep Scorann from the Gathering and get Slean on our side. You? You failed at both. With it, you've forfeited your right to an opinion. Sometimes, I think you forget you're just a healer. You preserve life. I take it and, when I do, I don't hesitate. So then the big one comes at me. Fast! Like a bear! And the other one gets me by the legs and down I go. Crash! And, straight away, the big one is on me, pinning me down. I swear, I could feel the life being crushed out of me. So what did you do? I thought it was all over. And then the big one's husband comes in. - Oh ho ho! - He starts kicking me and she starts shrieking and lets go. So I seized my chance and I ran and I didn't stop until I made it into the forest. And I never got my clothes back. What about you? Any narrow escapes in your past? My whole past has been a narrow escape! Please! Aaah! Vorhelm! It's real! It's real! Urgh! Beowulf? Greff? Help! Greff! Climb! Scorann is dead because of you. If you were not my uncle, I would take your life. Or die trying. I know your men stand ready to kill me. Is that what you think? Slean, I do not want you dead. I want you to be Thane. Why? You already run Herot. The miners know you. The smelters know you. The Huskarla answer to you. You are Thane already in all but name. I think your plan is to use me to kill my mother. And, once you've done that, you'll have no use for me any more. I love my sister. And I would never harm her. But she is not the leader our tribes need. You know it. Herot needs a real Thane. And the Shieldlands need a true Jarl to lead its tribes. Both need to be warriors. Men who know how to protect their people. You could be one. And I the other. If we do this my mother must come to no harm. I promise you. But you know, in your heart, she cannot lead us to victory. You would think that a simple marriage would be the easiest thing in the world to manage. Instead, we have a replacement bride and a bridegroom brawling in the street with his own reeve. Who knows how long it'll be before he cools down and comes back? Is it strictly necessary for the groom to be present at a wedding? I can imagine things would be a lot simpler without him! When you were with the Varni, you trained with weapons? Every day. - Every warrior? - Every warrior. Every woman. Every child big enough to hold a sword. The warriors may be the teeth of the wolf. Sometimes, a beast needs its claws, as well. That's what Beowulf thinks. If war is coming we need to prepare. When he returns, give him what he needs. Breca! Where's the troll? I dealt with it. So it didn't just attack once. It came back. That's not usual. Something drove it to this. Over here! The salt I left out for 'em. A fresh batch. It's light. What is that? Sand. An inch of salt to cover it up and the rest is just sand. These old ones are good, but they're nearly used up. So when they get to the new ones, all they're going to get is a mouthful of grit. They're gonna go mad. They'll kill everyone! We need more salt. You two have talked the day away. Yeah, well, there was a lot to say. - He's a good man. - What? Did he tell you to say that? It's the truth. Tell me this. If Abrecan had been a poor fisherman and not a Thane, his hands all covered in fish scales and cut by the lines would you still love him? You may not believe it, but I've known good and bad. I've looked them in the face. And I've done bad things, with bad men, for the worst of reasons. Abrecan is a good man. Yaaah! Attack the village! Kill them all! Raiders! Come on! Go! Yaaah! Yaaah! Yaaah! Yaaah-aaah-aaah! - Wulfing raiders! - Get inside. Hold them back! Defend the walls! Get those gates closed! Are you at my side? Or would you rather ride home to Herot? Away! Go! Go! Leave the girl. Take the gate! Go on! Go on! Whaaah! Burn it all! Stop them! Urgh. To the boat! To the boats! Yaaa-aaah! Yaaah! Uhh! Uhh - Aah! - Do you feel that? That's defeat. Come on! Come on! After them! No. No, no, no. They've gone. They've gone. But they have paid. Not as hard as we have. But they won't return. They know we'll be waiting. We should light the tower, warn the other tribes. No. No. Leave the signal fire unlit. Let's see how Beowulf fares if the raiders attack when Herot's not ready. It will weaken my mother in the eyes of her people and of the Alliance. I knew I was right about you. What is it? Help me! Help me! Aaah. - Get him inside now. - Put your arm round me. Open the gates! The gates! Quickly! They're all worthless. Someone did this to harm us. - You think it's the Warig prophet? - No. This is not a mudborn threat. Whoever's behind this is a man and a traitor. A traitor in Herot? I don't think so. Scrape together all the salt we have in Herot. It should be enough to pacify the trolls until we can get more. The salt came from Bregan. Someone there did this to us. Or someone wanted it to look that way. The Varni wanted the miners to sell them their ore. This could be their idea of retribution. Maybe. I'll go to Bregan, see what I can find. My brother will help you root out this traitor. Aaah. It's a clean wound, not too deep. We can bind and poultice it. My arse, it's clean. Those Wulfing blades are thick with filth! - Aaah! Urgh! - Steady. Send Vlade to see if they are headed for Herot. - Aaah! - Stay still. We lost Rennick and we lost Tove for such little gold. Then we strike again! We've already wounded their Thane. He could be dead by now, Jogan. They are a hundred to our dozen! - They are weak! - No! We lost this battle. Then we go home, then? With our tails between our legs, with nothing to show our clan or your brother, our war father? Or perhaps we leave these fishermen to their fish guts and go for a different target, a bigger target. Bregan have not lit their warning fires. And Herot does not know we are coming. And it is there we have to surprise and it is there we find gold and iron. We strike them deep in their heart. And, this time, we don't leave the dog to guard the boat. Get the dog! It comes with us. Do whatever you have to to protect Herot. Our enemies are coming. Ready? We will go to Herot and tear out its throat. I followed the Wulfings as far as the Draca Bridge. Good. So they are bound for Herot. Wulfing raiders killed my husband. If we don't strike back, they'll - think we're weak. - We are weak! - Where's Kela? - She's pretty. She'll fetch a price. I don't care how you do it, but you get her back. Vishka, throw me the axe. Throw it! [1]


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