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Warriors

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Excerpt

The King of Norway

I

Conn Corbansson had fought for Sweyn Tjugas when Sweyn was just an outlaw rebelling against his father, King Harald Bluetooth, and the prince had promised him a war with En gland when he became King of Den­mark. Now that Sweyn actually wore the crown, he had let the En glish king buy his peace with a ship full of silver. Conn took this very ill.

“England is the greatest prize. You swore this to me.”

Sweyn pulled furiously at his long forked mustaches. His eyes glittered. “I have not forgotten. And the time will come. Meanwhile, there is Hakon the Jarl, up in Norway. I cannot turn my back on him.”

“So you called in the Jomsvikings instead of .ghting him yourself,” Conn said. “I see being King has made you womanish as well as pursefond.”

He turned on his heel before Sweyn could speak, and walked off down the boardwalk toward the Kings great hall. His cousin Raef, who went everywhere with him, followed at his side. Sweyn bellowed after them, but neither of them paid heed.

Conn said, “How can I believe anything he says ever again?”

Raef said, “Who would you rather .ght for?”

“I dont know,” Conn said. “But I will .nd out.”

That night in his great hall at Helsingor, Sweyn had a feasting, and there came many of his own hirdmen, including Conn and Raef, but also the chiefs of the Jomsvikings, Sigvaldi Haraldsson and Bui the Stout. Raef sat down at the low table, since with Conn he was now on the Kings sour side.

Conn sat beside him, his black curly hair and beard a wild mane around his head. His gaze went continually to the Jomsvikings at the table across the way. Raef knew his curiosity; they had heard much of the great company of the Jomsvikings, of their fortress in the east, and their skill at war, which they gave to whoever would pay them enough. They  werent actually sup­posed to have chiefs, but to hold all in common as free men, and Raef won­dered if Sigvaldi  here and the  barrel- shaped Bui  were messengers more than chiefs. They wore no fancy clothes, such as Sweyns red coats of silk and fur, and their beards and hair hung shaggy and long. Sigvaldi was a big man, square shouldered, with curling yellow hair that .owed into his beard.

Beside him, Conn said, “I like their looks. They are hard men, and proud.”

Raef said nothing, being slower to judgment. Across the way, Sigvaldi had seen Conn watching, indeed, and lifted a cup to him, and Conn drank with him. It was the strong beer, thick as bear piss, and the slaves  were car­rying around ewers of it to re.ll any cup that went even  half- empty. Raef reached out and turned his empty cup upside down.

When they  were .nished with the meat and settling in to drink, Sweyn stood up and lifted his cup, and called on Thor and Odin and gave honor to them. The men all shouted and drank, but Sweyn was not .nished.

“In their honor also, its our Danish custom to offer vows, which are most sacred now” He held out his cup to be .lled again. “And  here in the names of those most high, I swear one day to make myself King of En gland!”

The men all through the hall gave up a roar of excitement; across the .eld of waving arms and cheering faces, Raef saw Sweyn turn and glare at Conn. “Who else offers such a vow as this?”

The uproar faded a moment, and Sigvaldi lurched to his feet. “When the war for En gland comes, let it be, but we are  here for the sake of Hakon the Jarl, in Norway, who is an oathbreaker and a turncoat.”

Voices  rose, calling Hakon the Jarl every sort of evil thing, traitor and thief and liar. And the slaves went around and .lled the cups. Steeped in drink, red- faced Sigvaldi held his cup high so that all would look. When the hall was hushed, he shouted, “Therefore I vow  here before the high gods to lead the Jomsvikings against Hakon, wherever he hides! And I will not give up until he is beaten.”

There was a great yell from all there, and they drank. The hall was crowded with men now, those sitting at the tables, many of them Jomsvikings, and many others standing behind them who  were Sweyns house carls and crews.

“A mighty vow,” Sweyn called. “An honor to the gods Hakon has be­trayed. The rest of  youwill you follow your chief in this?” His eyes shot an oblique glance at Conn, down at the lower table. “Which of you will join the Jomsvikings?”

At this, Dane and Jomsviking alike began shouting out oaths and vows against Hakon, while the slaves with the jugs plied their work.

Then Conn rose.

Raef held his breath, alarmed at this, and around the hall, the other men hushed.

Conn held out his cup.

“I swear I will sail with you, Sigvaldi, and call out Hakon  face- to- face, and not come back until I am the King of Norway.” He raised his cup toward Sweyn and tilted it to his mouth.

There was a brief hush at this, as everybody saw it was an insult, or a chal­lenge, but then they erupted again in another great roaring and stamping all through the hall, and more outpourings of vows. Raef, who had touched nothing since the .rst cup, marked that up there at the high seat, Sweyns glinting eyes were .xed on Conn and his mouth wound tight with rage. Raef thought they had all probably gotten more than they wished for in this oath- taking at Helsingor.

The next morning Conn woke, sprawled on his bench in the hall, and went out into the yard to piss. His head pounded and his mouth tasted evil. He could not remember much of the night before. When he turned away from the fence, Sigvaldi the Jomsviking chief was walking up to him, beaming all across his face.

“Well,” he boomed out, “maybe we promised some mighty doings, last night, with those vows, hah? But Im glad youre with us, boy. Well see if youll make a Jomsviking.” He put out his hand to Conn, who shook it, having nothing else to do. Sigvaldi went on, “Meet at the Limsfjord at the full moon, and well go raiding in Norway, and draw Hakon to us. Then well .nd out how well you .ght.”

He tramped away across the yard, where more of the Jomsvikings  were coming out into the sun. Raef stood by the door into the hall.

Conn went over by him.

“What did I swear to?”

His cousins long homely face was expressionless. “You said you would sail with them and challenge Hakon the Jarl  face- to- face, and not return to Denmark until you were King of Norway.”

Conn gave a yelp, amazed, and said, “What a fool I am in beer! Thats something great to do, though, isnt it.”

Raef said, “Id say that.”

“Well, then,” Conn said, “lets get started.”

II

So they sailed north to raid in Norway, around the Vik, where the riches were. Sometimes the  whole .eet raided a village together, and sometimes they went out in parties and attacked farmsteads along the fjord, driving the people out and then ransacking their holdings. What ever anybody found of gold went into a great chest, which Bui the Stout guarded like a dragon. All else they ate or drank, or packed off to the Jomsberg. Several ships went heavy- laden to the Jomsberg, but there was no sign of Hakon the Jarl.

They turned north, following the passageways between the islands and the coast, raiding as they went. Every day the sun stayed longer in the sky, and the nights barely darkened enough to let a man sleep an hour. Around them, above thin green seaside meadows, the land  rose in curtai

Product Details

ISBN:
9780765320483
Author:
George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois
Publisher:
Tor Books
Editor:
Martin, George R. R.
Editor:
Dozois, Gardner
Author:
Martin, George R. R.
Author:
Dozois, Gardner
Subject:
Fantasy - General
Subject:
War stories
Subject:
Soldiers
Subject:
Science Fiction and Fantasy-Fantasy
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Publication Date:
20100331
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
736
Dimensions:
9.25 x 6.125 in

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Science Fiction and Fantasy » A to Z
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Warriors Used Hardcover
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$16.95 In Stock
Product details 736 pages Tor Books - English 9780765320483 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , This major collection of never-before-published tales of war and warriors features some of today's most popular writers of fantasy, including Robin Hobb, James Rollins, and Tad Williams.
"Synopsis" by ,

George R. R. Martin, from his Introduction to Warriors:

“People have been telling stories about warriors for as long as they have been telling stories.  Since Homer first sang the wrath of Achilles and the ancient Sumerians set down their tales of Gilgamesh, warriors, soldiers, and fighters have fascinated us; they are a part of every culture, every literary tradition, every genre.  All Quiet on the Western Front, From Here to Eternity, and The Red Badge of Courage have become part of our literary canon, taught in classrooms all around the country and the world.

“Our contributors make up an all-star lineup of award-winning and bestselling writers, representing a dozen different publishers and as many genres.  We asked each of them for the same thing---a story about a warrior.  Some chose to write in the genre theyre best known for.  Some decided to try something different.  You will find warriors of every shape, size, and color in these pages, warriors from every epoch of human history, from yesterday and today and tomorrow, and from worlds that never were.  Some of the stories will make you sad, some will make you laugh, and many will keep you on the edge of your seat.”

Every story in this volume appears here for the first time. Included are: a long novella from the world of his Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin, a new tale of “Lord John” by Diana Gabaldon, and an epic of humanity at bay by David Weber. Also present are original tales by David Ball, Peter S. Beagle, Lawrence Block, Gardner Dozois, Joe Haldeman, Robin Hobb, Cecelia Holland, Joe R. Lansdale, David Morrell, Naomi Novik, James Rollins, Steven Saylor, Robert Silverberg, S. M. Stirling, Carrie Vaughn, Howard Waldrop, and Tad Williams. Many of these writers are bestsellers.  All of them are storytellers of the highest quality. Together they make a volume of unforgettable reading.

 

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