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I love the smell of napalm in the morning...



The answer came fast. A cry of anger. A crunching and rending sound. And a noise of something heavy and large running through the undergrowth without much consideration for the shrubbery. The three men steadied themselves and set their weapons for the upcoming fight. The sweat on their faces gleamed in the watchfires light. Three against Jace were still uneven odds in Jace's favour. Any betting person would have not accepted odds in their favour. 


Jace came into the camp firelight swinging a 3m tree he had uprooted judging by the earth still falling from its roots. It seemed to Egil that Jace had just materialised out of the darkness and he shuddered thinking this was his death day. Egil spat to his left to avert ill-luck. Death traditionally carried a scythe, not a 3m tree, so he smiled grimly and stepped forward a pace. Best to meet an enemy on the front foot.


Jace paused momentarily, almost for dramatic effect, but actually to orient himself and attempt to overcome the momentary dazzle of sudden light after darkness. Egil was the first to meet the charging Giant. Jace had tucked the tree under his arm and used it like a lance. There was a tremendous bang as the tree-lance hit the boss of Egil’s shield. To his great surprise, Egil stopped moving forward and was lifted off his feet and propelled backwards faster than he had ever moved in his life. To his two startled companions, Egil appeared to take off, fly backwards through the air and was only stopped by one of the wagons that had been set up to form a defensive circle around the camp. It was impossible for them to see if Egil was still alive and most likely every bone in his body had been broken in the flight-ending collision with the wagon. 


Graphen was next in line, Darkon having moved slightly back and to the left to tighten his helmet strap that had chosen to become loose at a very inopportune moment. Jace was now using the tree like a great sword, advancing on Graphen swinging it in the classical offensive stance of a figure of eight. Graphen was looking for an opening to try and get his spear into something vital that would incapacitate the giant man. Sweat was streaming down his face and into his eyes making the lights of the watchfires sparkle and dance. As he stepped forward he tripped over a tree root and sprawled face first on the ground. The trip probably saved his life. At least for now. The tree trunk would likely have hit him full on the body if he had not fallen and it only grazed the side of his head. Still it split open his hard leather helmet but the damage was mostly absorbed by the padding underneath. It did however impact hard enough to render him unconscious. If Graphen had taken the full force of the hit it is likely that his head would have been to a squishy pulpy mess. Graphen was fortunately unconscious and couldn’t have this thought which would have caused him some level of distress, being rather proud of his dashing good looks. 


Jace lifted his face to the moon and howled. Even in the subdued firelight Dark on could see flecks of spittle and blood fly out of his mouth.

"Shit" Ranken said to no-one in particular ,"he's a berserker."

Darkon rolled to one side as the tree propelled by almost superhuman force hit the ground where he had been standing moments before. He continued rolling until he was under one of the wagons. He lay still and waited. There was a grunt, a wild shout of joy and the wagon under which he'd hidden was plucked into the air and tossed aside. Darkon scrambled up and backwards before Jace could recover his balance and steady himself after lifting and throwing aside the wagon. Darkon spun aside again and hid behind three barrels expecting at any moment to be pulverised by the large tree wielded by the berserk. He closed his eyes so he wouldn't see the blow falling and wondered if dying this way would be painful. There was a squishing sound and Darkon thought he might be hearing the sound his body made as it was pulverised by a tree but thankfully he seemed completely detached from any physical pain. 


Darkon decided he was still alive. He was sure that there would be some discomfort crossing the threshold to the Place of the Dead and he had felt no pain so he managed to force his eyes open. Immediately, his attention was drawn to a body cartwheeling through the air. He thought he recognised Xanc, one of the drivers, except he was sure that Xanc’s spine didn’t have that crazy bend in it last time he had seen him. There were more shouts, both of fear and anger. Peeping around the barrel, he could see the guards and two remaining drivers trying to subdue Jace.

Darkon reckoned that the men had managed to free themselves at the wrong moment only to encounter Jace while berserk. As everyone knows Berserkers make formidable foes and they fight on despite suffering horrible wounds. However, what a lot of people have never learned is that Berserkers are quite as dangerous to their friends as to their foes. 


Darkon peered round the barrels again and watched horrified. One of the guards was holding Jace round the thigh but it was impossible to tell if he was trying to restrain him or just holding on for dear life. Scarface and Skelton were grappling with Jace over the tree trunk, and both were struggling to contain his strength. Another guard was lying in a pool of blood and the remaining guard was battering Jace's head with the butt end of a spear to little effect. There was no sign of two of the drivers and the Boss.

Darkon couldn't see either Graphen or Egil and shifted his position to get a better vantage point. One of the wagons had caught fire and was blazing fiercely fed by its cargo of barrels of bandy, so the area was pretty well illuminated. In shifting position, Darkon knocked over a small barrel which rolled down the gentle slope and came to rest against the burning wagon. He continued carefully moving to his left towards the last position where Egil had been, trying to keep some objects between himself and the combatants. He definitely did not want to catch the attention of any of his erstwhile comrades or at least not until this fight was resolved to his advantage. He ducked behind one of the standing wagons and that probably saved his life but not his left eye. A huge explosion rocked the camp sending debris and objects somersaulting over a wide area. A jagged bit of metal caught Darkon in the face and there was a searing pain in his left eye.

It was the quiet that was most disturbing thought Graphen. Moments ago, there was shouting, screaming, sobbing, then an explosion that rained objects, body parts and clouds of dust. The air itself tasted of sulphur, steam and a hint of urine. And then there was silence. A sudden noise made him start and he realised it was the ringing in his ears. It was like someone just turned the volume up and all sound came flooding back. Graphen felt completely overwhelmed. What seemed like just moments ago, he had rolled behind one of the tents after he had tripped on a tree root. Now the whole world was changed. The tent had been shredded and little fires were burning in what was left of it. He got to his feet and went to look to see if anyone was still alive.


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