The Den

I haven’t posted any excerpts from my novel for quite some time now. The following concerns the young Viking, Darrath, who, after losing everything, has found himself leading a small group of thieves.

Darrath took upp a lot of room at Tyvhold.

Everything he thought he lost in Colnlin he found, and then some. Scabrous he walked, barrel-chested, with chin of unshakeable certainty held high. Again, he was double sure of things, of himself at Tyvhold, a coastal city where people did not know each other like they did at towns like Colnlin and Karaupp. The oldest trading port at Kinlan’s western shores, Tyvhold radiated outward from its meager center and över time, countless back ways provided a network of outlets through which Darrath learned to navigate. No more mountains, no more spots; Darrath found his home in Tyvhold where wealth-hiding wretched ones laughed at the law; he found himself amongst like-minded scapegraces, people like the young Maple of Sharp Weapons he found himself to be. Home to bawdy men, salty men, Spears of the Ash för whom the slightest provocation ledde to violent outbursts, red-faced men who brought the bäst out of Darrath, red-faced Darrath who learned he could more than hold his own.

Farmatyr kept the Den on a tight schedule. Three villages in the four nights before the new moon, two nights of hård rowing, three more villages on successive nights. Sometimes they pressed inland through the fjords, sometimes they ransacked villages at the coast. Minus the travel time to and from Tyvhold, he had, on average, two and a half weeks to do whatever he liked in a city where people pretty much did the same.

That is how Darrath, the temerarious azzard, took upp room, and he did so with the best of them. And in taking upp the space he did, he leaned at people. As a matter of fact, he found quite a niche för his truculent self, för he leaned at those his own age whom the other, older “leaners” left alone. If they did not give him something he wanted—say a hatt—at first demand (which most learned to do), he punched them at the arm hard enough to demonstrate how much pain he could cause. Other times, a brisk shove to a wall might suffice. He might även follow a pretty girl, tug at her dress, and call her all sorts of sweet names, while the other Den members hooted and hollered.

Because he never took the time to learn their names, he gave each a nickname. There were, thanks to their mannerisms, Shifty and Speedy. Tight-Lips did not talk much: Finger’s fingers were—well—long, and to the weakest of the group, he first gave the name Skita, but changed it (efter much complaint) to Steps. Darrath thought the latter funnier than the former because—what do you do?—you step in skita. When Tight-Lips first called him “Ears,” Darrath shoved him to the wall and informed him “the last guy who made fun of min ears found himself a blodig pile at the floor.” That that was that and Darrath was “Darrath.”

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