General Algiz was on her feet with her spear and shield in hand before she knew that she was in danger.
“Spearmen!” They were all blinded by the sudden appearance of the light inside the cave, a magma flow from somewhere further in, but she could make out the shadows of large men with spears. She raised her shield and shouted, “Eiwaz!”
The archer roused himself at her call. He nocked an arrow, aimed, and loosed it, all in one fluid motion. Before that arrow even flew over the bow of the ship, he had nocked another and begun to aim.
More spears thunked into the deck of the ship, but none had hit anyone yet. Whoever their attackers were, at least they were poor shots.
Algiz looked for Thurisaz, the other warrior on the ship, and saw him shouting at Sowilo. “Thurisaz!” the general demanded. “Leave your sister alone and put up your shield!”
Instead of his shield, Thurisaz drew his sword. Algiz sighed and looked around at the other crew of the ship. Laguz and Raidho were hiding under the tiller. They would be as safe as one can be. But Kenaz and Uruz were leaning over the front of the ship. What were those two idiots doing? A spear thudded against her shield as she moved forward toward the pair of easy targets.
Algiz’s gaze darted back to Thurisaz at the sound of a cry from Sowilo. She was now almost bald on one side of her head, and it took her a moment to realize that the golden hair from that side of her head was now clutched in Thurisaz’s left hand. “THURISAZ!” Algiz shouted at him again. “Shield! NOW!” She would need to discipline him when they got off the ship.
The rhythm of the spears pattering against the hull slowed as they came closer to the bank where the spearmen were standing. The spearmen must be seeking cover now that Eiwaz was shooting back. Algiz readied her own spear and threw it at one of the spearmen. A seeming eternity later, as she grabbed a spear off the deck to throw back, Algiz heard the satisfying sound of a spear digging into a shoulder.
When she looked up, she saw a penant of golden hair fluttering over the edge of the ship. “Sowilo!” Not again!
“What?” came Sowilo’s timid voice from behind her. She looked back to see Sowilo, safely hiding under a bench on the deck, and then looked forward again at the spot where she had seen the hair. There she saw that Thurisaz had landed on the shore of the river among the spearmen. Sowilo’s blond hair trailed behind his shield.
Thurisaz turned his palm upward and hewed through a spearman’s armpit with his sword, punching his shield into another’s face while he did so. The red beard on his chin rippled as he let out a laugh of triumph, knocking the pommel of his sword through a third opponent’s teeth.
There were at least a dozen spearmen still standing, all hiding behind stalactites for cover. One jumped backward to dodge Thurisaz’s sword. He was about to counter-thrust with his own spear when an arrow sprouted from his throat, and he fell limply to the ground.
The spears had stopped flying, so Algiz took stock of the ship. Eiwaz was aiming another arrow, waiting for Thurisaz to scare another spearman out into his sight. Uruz and Kenaz had miraculously avoided getting hit, and were now stashing two strings of lanterns under the deck of the ship. Sowilo, Laguz, and Raidho were hiding under benches.
Since everyone was safe, Algiz decided to follow Thurisaz. She got a running start, placed her right foot on the side of the boat, and propelled herself forward with a gazelle’s grace. She flew across the water, her cape flapping behind her like a pair of wings.
She descended like a valkyrie from above, driving her spear into the shoulder of one of her attackers. She lost her grip as her opponent fell backwards in shock, pulling her spear with him, so she drew her sword, raising it immediately into the haft of a spear which was being thrust at her. She turned her sword in her hand, using the extra leverage to thrust into this new foe’s face.
Freya’s tits these men were ugly, she thought, raising her shield to deflect another spear thrust. The creatures before her had eyes of different sizes, hunched backs, warts, arms of different lengths, and all manner of other deformities. The straightest-standing of them could never have been called handsome. She feigned an attack to one monster’s ear, then cut through the opposite shoulder, hewing his arm clean off. This one would no longer be a threat.
The battle lasted only a few more moments, until all the misshapen things had been either killed or wounded to the point at which they could no longer fight.
The prisoners were bound and placed in the ship. Eiwaz helped Algiz bury the dead. When it was done, they resumed sailing. The lava illuminated their way.