“You smell like a hog, Vannius. Get up!” The words hung in the air, along with the smoke. “I said: Get up!” Again, firmer in tone but with the same little effect on the comatose figure sprawled on the furs, his snores wafting little gusts of ash and smoke over onto the embers of a dying fire. A woman stood over the man, stretching her long limbs, her neck, shaking the early morning out of her head, apparently nursing a hangover of her own. Her husband continued on, surrounded by furs, upturned wooden drinking vessels, a shield under his head, a long iron sword, still sheathed, across his chest.
She unsheathed the sword, paused briefly to admire the craftsman ship of the blade, noting a nick above the hilt and making a mental note to borrow the smith’s whetstone later and then with barely any effort at all brought it down in one scything arc down on the man before her.
She allowed a smile to wander across her face: the flat of the sword struck home on the bare arse before her.
The roar that followed more than matched the raw, blade shaped weal breaking across the naked buttock. “In the name of the gods, woman!” bellowed the now roused giant of a man. Six foot six of brawny leather tunic leapt to its feet, furs flying, braided blonde tresses swirling in the gloom of the hut, the glow of the fire pit slipping off the blade into the giant’s blue eyes.
“Do I have to wake you like this every morning, husband of mine?” came the unrepentant reply. “Must I rouse you always with a sword?” she added, with mischief.
“Now that my sword is unsheathed, I’d better put it to good use,’ laughed Vannius wickedly, as he made a grab for his wife.
“Oh, my chieftain!” screamed Priska, in mock outrage. They tumbled in the furs laughing, before tumbling back on their backs, breathing heavily. It was like this every morning, and had been since the pair were betrothed more than 30 years ago. Priska looked at him in the half-gloom. The Bructeri chieftain yawned, his gaze following the smoke through the roof of their hut. His frame was still strong, his arms thick, his barrel of a chest rose and fell slowly. His lungs were like the bellows of the blacksmith’s forge. Rising, falling, rising, falling. She wondered how many more of the mountainous heaves would be left in that chest. Scar tissue rose and fell too as he drank the frosty air greedily before standing to stretch, scratching, subconsciously reaching for old wounds, aching in remembrance of past battles. Sword and spear and arrow had written their history on his skin; and on his back, welts and weals wrote their own archive – the torn flesh of the slaver’s whip.
‘C’mon, my love, Ricburgis will be back with water. Heat the stones, will you?’ urged Priska. ‘I’m dying for a bath’
Categories: The Last Seanachie