I didn't want to go fight the pagans, but Heinrich and Wilhelm said we had to. Pope Celestine guaranteed us our freedom if we fought in the Northern Crusades. His Holiness granted us the same indulgences as those who went to fight for the Holy Land. Absolution for all the sins we would commit during the crusade and for all our sins if we die. There would be loot for all. Legate Anselm said that their land is rich in meat, honey, grain, and birds. Our Duke even promised to grant land to the bravest hundred. This was our chance to become free and be landowners with slaves of our own.
That was before I woke up buried in Heinrich's entrails. I threw up, sobbing. He had been cleaved like a pig by one of their barbarian swords. The horrible stench of gore was all around me. My head felt like it was bursting, and blood was flowing down my face. When I tried to move, I saw bright stars and became dizzy. I looked around, making sure that the enemy wasn't near. Fortunately, the pagans were running after the retreating remnant of Christ's soldiers.
My helmet was so hot in the Summer heat. I took it off to examine it and saw the massive dent left by a heathen war hammer. What was the point of wearing it? I tossed it aside, and my padded armor followed.
I was so confused that all I could do was lie back down. By the time I felt I could move, the savages were plundering our dead. Blood had turned the ground into sticky mud, and the entrails made it slick. Those who still lived were run through with spears first. The remnants of our Army fled towards the setting sun, the direction back home. Heathens chased them with their savage cries and the whistle of their sling bullets. To the East lay a forest. Death at the hands of some looting infidel had no appeal for me. I turned my back to my fellow soldiers in Christ and went to hide.
The forest shade was cool relief. Then I began to hear voices. "Hermann," cried one. "Come this way. Come quickly." I thought it was Wilhelm, but the accursed ringing in my ears made it hard to recognize my own brother. When I tried to follow his voice through the trees, it always seemed to come from a different direction. Soon, I was lost. Then Wilhelm's voice stopped.
By now, I was hungry, tired, and parched. Acorns filled my stomach, bitter or not. They didn't quench my thirst. Amid the howls and growls of wild beasts, I heard singing and splashing.
The forest grew around me as I followed the sounds. When I reached the river, I spied around carefully. All I saw a basket of laundry and clothes spread out on tree branches to dry. I scanned the water, and my eyes met those of a woman trying to hide behind a bunch of reeds. "Come out, silly," I laughed.
She moved away from the reeds and stood in the middle of the river. "Please, my Lord. Don't hurt me."
I had no interest in hurting her. Truth be told, I was so exhausted and injured from the battle that I was afraid of her killing me. "Show me your hands," I said, clutching my ax.
When she stood up in the water. I saw that her hands were empty, and her wet clothes revealed far more. This was no hooked nosed, yellow skin, bale of hay tied in the middle Slav woman. Her features and skin were fair, with eyes of cornflower blue and hair like pure gold. A heathen cross sat between the most marvelously sculpted bosoms. "Stay back."
"I only want to drink and to bathe," I said, bending over and drinking before disrobing and entering the water. That was God's truth. Even if the urge had come to us both, I would not have been able. Though I must admit that I had never seen a woman more beautiful than her. It was as if she had been crafted by God's perfect hand.
Tossing my clothes and ax in a pile, I entered the water. It was like a magic healing potion. All the tension and pain gently faded as the shining water washed it away. I felt more alive than I ever had been in my life. Colors were deeper. I could feel every vibration and notice every look or touch.
"What is your name," she called.
"Hermann," I said, drifting blissfully. Little bubbles tingled through every part of me. All my pain and problems had ceased to exist. "What is your name?"
"After the Mother of God. The name suits your beauty and grace." It was a befitting name, for no woman save the Mother of God could be as lovely. She swam closer, looking at me. "Are you Varangian," she asked in her strange Kievan Rus words.
"What is a Varangian?"
I shook my head as I lazily floated and scrubbed my sweat and stink away. "Poland."
She swam closer, tracing her finger down one of my scars. "Do you fight Danes?" All my nerves were on fire, and her touch on my skin felt delicious. The muscles throughout my entire body relaxed. My soul had risen from my body and was being cradled to sleep by God, shielded from all worldly fear, anger, and pain.
"I fight all enemies of the one True Church and our Holy Father in Rome." Once, I had meant every word of that. Now, the solace I drew from this place was all that mattered.
She looked at me with complete confusion. Some of her words I knew, but many I didn't. Could she understand me? "Danes do evil," she finally said. "They steal Christians and kill for fun."
I was in a cocoon of pure bliss and contentment. "That was a long time ago. The Danes and Swedes are now good Christian folk. They fight beside us in this Holy Crusade."
"Long for you. Not long for me."
Everything felt soft and light, and all was right with the world. No longer was I shy and frightened Hermann, too afraid to talk to a maiden. Her presence made me feel unstoppable like I could do anything. Part of me knew that being here with her wasn't a good idea, but that part seemed silly and distant. Her presence felt better than any beer or mead I ever had. I couldn't think straight, which was actually quite pleasant.
She kissed me delicately before stepping back. This was true love, and it was Heaven on earth. I had never felt more alive and right in my life. It was if a piece of me that was missing my entire life was finally returned, and I was whole again. My entire being focused on the one primal urge. I smiled. "You are such a beauty, like a perfect flower."
She took off her bodice and flung it onto the river bank. Her rosebuds were perfect pink jewels. I had seen many women and had some, but none could compare to her perfection. She led me by one finger into the cool deep. I felt myself being taken, and then she took off her dress and tossed it by her bodice.
When I held her, she was warm and lovely. Our mouths met. If I could have created the perfect woman and perfect moment, this is what it would be. Soon my thundering loins met hers as her long hair wrapped about me. As I neared paradise, I could feel that her hair was now about my neck and choking me. When I tried to pull myself away, my loins held fast inside her as if by the bite of a mighty dog. What had been joy turned into pain and then to torture.
She pulled me down under the water. With both of us at the bottom of the river, the very breath of life escaped me. Worms crawled in and out of her once lovely cheeks. She was now gaunt and gray, and her velvet skin now felt hard as boot leather and slimy as spoiled hagfish. Those locks of gold tarnished to moldy green and her sky blue eyes were now nightmare black. When she opened her mouth to speak, her teeth were blackened and rotting. Yet the witch still spoke. "Do you not recognize me, Varangian?"
Horrified, I shook my head, I tried to struggle, but I was too weak to break free. All my pain and exhaustion had returned, my body and joints now ached. Despair swept over me and drowned me even faster than the water. I silently prayed for deliverance from Satan's spawn.
"You did this to me. I was washing clothes. You beasts took me and used me, but that wasn't enough for you. Just for fun, you held me under the water until I drowned, but I can't die."
"Not me, not me, Poland." I mouthed. Against all my will, I could no longer hold my breath. My mouth and chest heaved and flooded my lungs with water. I was already at the very gates of Hell.
"You fight with Danes. You are Dane. I will kill you all until I have vengeance on everyone who did this to me."
As I sat in a hollow behind bushes, I pulled out my field glasses and scanned everything around me. I saw kilometer after kilometer of swamp, marsh, and forest. Blood and soil. With our superior technology, we would clear this land. Once the area had been cleaned of impure blood, it would become a breadbasket for the Reich.
When I heard the sound of singing and water splashing, I followed it. A woman was washing clothes in the river. No washboard, no washing powder. These barbaric Asians hadn't changed in centuries. I crawled on my belly to get closer and saw that she was no ordinary Bolshevik sow. This was a fine Aryan. Her blonde hair, sapphire eyes, and fine figure would have been the envy of the League of German Girls. I definitely wanted to plow her garden.
She slipped into the water, trying to hide behind the reeds, but those eyes shined like stars.
I filled my canteen, watching her. Finally, I asked, "What's your name?"
Written by DrBobSmith