Swords v. Cthulhu is our newest genre-blending anthology of original fiction, and as it shambles toward its summertime publication we’re going to be posting excerpts from each of the stories. Our next teaser is from John Hornor Jacobs’ “The Children of Yig.” It’s a bloody vision of the Viking age, where a young woman with nothing to lose and everything to prove must hold her own against perils as extreme as any in the sagas…
Grislae bent her back to the sea.
The face of ocean was dead and still. Mist hung about the longship Reinen and drizzle fell in gauzy streamers. No breath of wind stirred the sails. It was warmer here in the south, and what land they could see, flatter, the barest inkstroke on the horizon.
Oars creaked as Heingistr’s company strained. Hoensa, Rill, Svebder, Uvigg, Snurri – the blooded men who did not row – watched the shore as it slowly passed.
“The shape of the land is familiar,” said Hoensa, squinting his eyes against the gloom. “We raided what farms we could find, five winters past, but the ones near here we spared for future plucking.” He slapped the bulkhead. “Our shields were wet from plunder and we could let these pass.”
Grislae sank her oar into the water and pulled. She had found her rhythm among the men from Heingistrhold. At first her hands had blistered, but only a little, since they were accustomed to plow and rope and the labors of the farm.
At the covered stern of the Reinen, over a small touchwood brazier, huddled Urtha and Wen–wives to Hoensa and Rill. The women would not let their husbands raid without their company. Their cooking. Their guidance. And because Heingistr did not meddle in the affairs of husbands and wives, he allowed this as his father had before him. Indeed, it spared him from eating what his men might cook.
Urtha scowled at Grislae’s garb when she boarded the Reinen, noting her helm, her boiled leather tunic. Her sword.
“You are Ordbeg the Boy-Lover’s daughter, are you not?” Urtha said as Grislae hung her shield over the gunwale. The shield had been her father’s, but she’d repainted it.
Svebder and Snurri chuckled. Grislae looked at the women. They called her father “Boy-Lover” in derision because he would not kill children. Last Imbolc he was coughing blood, and by the Festival of Eostre, he was dead , his incessant retching so odious the end came as a relief. She didn’t weep. She swore she’d never pick up another hoe or scythe another hayfield. She dug his grave, placed him in it, and built a cairn. It was her last spring sowing. Her father’s sword and shield and wealth she kept, and placed nothing in the grave with him. Then, back aching, she drank as much mead as her belly would hold, sitting in the dim silence of their farmhouse—leagues away from Heingistrhold and any other soul—and drew Ordbeg’s sword from its scabbard and watched the firelight flicker down its length…
For the rest, get Swords v. Cthulhu from Stone Skin Press
John Hornor Jacobs is the author of Southern Gods, This Dark Earth, The Twelve-Fingered Boy, The Shibboleth, The Conformity, The Incorruptibles, and Foreign Devils. He makes his home in the South of America. You can learn more of him at JohnHornorJacobs.com or on Twitter at @johnhornor.