The hot sun beat down from the clear, blue sky. He'd stripped off most of his leather armour and was watching the tower intently from the small grove of scrub and trees that was the only shade on the entire plain.
'Tror du han kan se os?' Asked Algot, the leader of his guard; Alfrun had made sure that he took reinforcements with him this time. Since their marriage two months before, they had become inseparable, she wasn't going to lose him to some stupid quest.
'Yes, I'm sure he can see us, if nothing else, these damn helmets reflect the sun like signal fires!'
The helmets that they were forced to wear had no substance, their thin metal wouldn't stop an arrow, never mind an axe, but they did stop you losing control of your own mind and slaughtering your own men if the Magus turned his attention to you.
'Ewald, Algot, you two circle around to the right, stay as low as you can, Jarne and Razmus, to the left, follow the line of the rocks, Runar...' He shook his head, not agreeing with the tactics that he was being forced to use, 'Prepare the pigs.'
They had 'liberated' the pigs two days earlier from a village baron who had too many and refused to sell his surplus. Though he would have been even less inclined if he had any idea what their fate was to be. Runar tried to calm the pigs, they were not enjoying the heat and there would be no respite for them in the few minutes of life they had left. He tied large bundles of straw to each of them and then delicately attached the vials of græsk-ild, being careful not to break the fragile class vials.
'Ready?' Mal Ak'Hai looked at Runar questioningly, almost hoping that he would say no, and that the pigs would get a reprieve.
'Ja herre, de er klar til at brænde.' The plan had been Runar's idea, and he was sure it would work.
'Very well, light them up...'
Runar nodded and applied a burning torch to the straw bundle nearest the rump of the pigs. As they realised what was happening, they started to squeal and panic, trying desperately to get away from the heat. A leather clad boot kicked them in the direction of the tower and the pigs ran. Palls of black smoke plumed from them as they crossed the scalding sand to the tower.
As they got within a hundred yards, the rain of arrows started from the top of the tower.
'Go... Go...!' Yelled the hunter, 'Stay in the smoke, but keep away from the pigs until they've done their job!'
The six men ran into the thick smoke and made their way towards the castle, eyes streaming as their lungs filled with the smell of burning pork. Despite the reduced visibility, they could still see arrow after arrow hitting the pigs, a gout of flame signalled a lucky hit on a vial of græsk-ild, which only made them run faster and created more covering smoke. They finally reached the cavernous rock that served as the foundations of the tower.
The mix of græsk-ild and rendering pig fat detonated with a deafening roar that shook loose stonework from above.
'Into the cave, now!' His five guards followed him into the burning darkness, the smell of roasting pork causing his mouth to water against his better judgement, 'Find the entrance, it must be closeby somewhere, but be carefull, I think they know we're here..'
The Norsemen grinned at each other and split into two teams, searching the twisting caverns for a way into the stronghold. It was only minutes until the sound of fighting alerted the hunter to the fact that the other team had found the entrance. They ran towards the noise and got there in time to see Rasmus swinging his battleaxe around in circles and cleaving defenders in two at the waist. Jarne picked up two more, stoved their skulls together, and threw them to the ground.
Mal drew Lyssvaerd, extended her blade and plunged it into the chest of the nearest enemy - bringing the sword up so that its burning tip exited the top of his head in a fountain of blood. His guard roared as they saw this, finally sure that their new Lord was a fighter.
'Push them back, we need to get to the tower!'
To busy to reply, the small force responded by action, redoubling their efforts and cutting down anyone that stood between them and the door. It took an age to make it to the armoured door, and as they cleared the last few guards, it started to swing closed.
'Runar! Don't let them close the door!'
Runar reached into his pocket and pulled out the last vial of græsk-ild, he hefted it to gauge its weight and then threw it through the rapidly narrowing gap. It sailed through the air, hit the doorframe and smashed. The sticky liquid spraying through the opening and finding its way to one of the wall torches.
The explosion blew the door closed and the screams of pain from behind it echoed through the cavern. As the noise died down, they tried to open it but the hinges had been bent by the force of the blast, and it took the combined strength of all of them to force it open. The scene that confronted them was a glimpse into the mouth of hell, burning, shattered bodies lined the walls and unidentifiable chunks littered the floor.
'ved Grabthar's kølle...' whispered Ewald, as he surveyed the scene.
'Up... We need to go up!' Mal rallied his troops and started to climb the stairs into the tower.
They were halfway to the top when an etherial voice echoed around the stairwell.'INVADERS... LEAVE NOW, STAY AND YOU WILL DIE HORRIBLY.'
'Yes, he definately knows that we're here.'
They encountered light resistance for the rest of their journey, the Magus having commited the majority of his forces to the defence of the cavern. At the top of the stairs there was a small anteroom, decorated with occult symbols that seemed to creep slowly across the walls and change shape as they went. Skulls of various animals languished on shelves and tables and stacks of parchment, decorated with unknowable sigils littered the floor.
'Magus! We have come for you!' Mal Ak'Hai declared, 'You will pay for your crimes...'
A low growl came from the stairs behind them, Rasmus swung his axe without turning and seperated the owners head from it's shoulders. The rest of the half dog-half lizard thing slid to the ground and bubbled into a toxic slime.
'Du bliver nødt til at gøre det bedre end det.' called Rasmus.
'I've a feeling that he can do better than that my friend,' replied the hunter, 'Else there wouldn't be such a price on his head.'
With the violence of a hurricane, the ornate door at the other side of the room flew open and a gust of wind threw them to the floor. They were held there until the gale subsided, as they rose, they saw their target silhouetted in the doorway.
'YOU WERE GIVEN A CHANCE!' The Magus bellowed, 'NOW DIE!'
He closed his eyes and made a complicated gesture with his hands.
'I'm afraid that your tricks won't work on us, we're protected,' The hunter indicated their flimsy metal helmets.
'ALL OF YOU?'
Rasmus yelled, raised his gargoyle blood caked weapon and charged at his clanmates.
'Jeg kan ikke hjælpe mig selv!' He screamed, unable to control his own actions, his helmet had been blown from his head by the wind.
Ewald ducked under the blade and brought his sword up to block it, 'Uanset hvad du vil gøre, gør det nu!' The sinews on his arms tightened as he fought to keep the dripping axe blade away from his face.
The sweat poured for the Magus' brow as the force of trying to control Rasmus started to tell on him. Mal sprung, holding the hilt of Lyssvaerd in his fist, as the Magus sensed his approach he opened his eyes and screamed. in a split second, Ewald rolled to one side, the now dazed Rasmus fell to the ground and the hunter pressed the button that released the blade.
It extended through the Magus' temple, through his skull and out of the other side; and as the light slowly faded from his eyes, he smiled. 'Run...' he whispered.
The heroes looked at each other and smiled. 'See what you can find to suppliment the bounty, we'll need to...'
The room started to shake, dust and skulls, parchment and elixirs started to fall to the ground... One by one, the stones of the tower were winking out of existence...
'Run!' Yelled Mal Ak'Hai, 'Run as if your life depended on it!'
Which, in hindsight, it did.
I wrote this as, at the weekend, my son asked me to make him, without a trace of irony, a tinfoil hat... So I did, and this is the adventure that he could have had, in another place.