The Wolf Sea (The Oathsworn Series, Book 2) by Low Robert

The Wolf Sea (The Oathsworn Series, Book 2) by Low Robert

Author:Low, Robert [Low, Robert]
Language: eng
Format: azw3
ISBN: 9780007380558
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Published: 2011-02-16T16:00:00+00:00


NINE

The heat of the day was leaching out of the dusty scrub, but the sky was dying in flame to the west where the hills rolled, grey-blue. Olive trees were pale purple in the twilight, their leaves black, while the air was arid with a dusty, woody smell, the ash-bite of fires springing up like a field of red blossoms.

Cloaked over it all was the great, crushing stink of an army, a throat-catcher made of leather, iron, horses, an acrid pinch of sweat and the thin, high smell of fear.

I had never seen anything like this, nor ever would again. I had thought Red Boots was bringing up a few more hundreds of men, no more, but this was Miklagard, the Great City, and the army around Antioch was a knarr on the ocean of men who came up from Tarsus.

We saw them first as a cloud to the north, rising up like a pale brown cloak over Antioch, and Brother John started to order us to lash down the wadmal tents, for he had seen such sweeping sandstorms further south, in the desert around the Sea of the Dead. But I had seen one, too, out on the steppe, and knew it was no sandstorm. It was the dust kicked up by the army of the Strategos John the Armenian, favourite of the Basileus and nicknamed Tzimisces – Red Boots.

As with Sarkel’s siege, the scholars of the Great City sought me out later, when I was a trader of note. One was Leo, who was close to my own age, but while I stood in the ranks at Antioch, he hunkered on his knees back in Constantinople learning the ways of the Christ religion. In later days, as he scratched out his saga tales – as monks do – they knew him as Leo the Deacon.

By then, all that we had done had been lost and John Tzimisces’ battle at Aleppo was a hero-tale to the Romans of the Great City. Leo, sleekit as a fox though he was, once went with Basil the second of that name and the army when it was cut to pieces by the Bulgars years after these events and barely escaped with his life, so he knew a thing or two about armies.

He wanted me to tell what I knew of the fight at Aleppo, to add to the accounts he had from others, and I did so, as far as I was able. I liked Leo, so I did not tell him he had no understanding of us Norsemen at all – he called us ‘Tauroskythians’, as if we’d all come from the steppes north of the Dark Sea.

I told him what I knew, which was little enough and shrouded in a golden haze of dust, but he didn’t want to hear that. In the end, he told me more than I gave him and we agreed it was the confusion between the Miklagard Handshake and how Norsemen fight bear that had cost us the victory.



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