The Swordsman Kavlar in...
A COMPLETE 6-Chapter Sword and Sorcerous Saga!
by "Long" John Outram
About the author
Episode 6 (Conclusion): Kavlar's Fate
"That word comes easily to your lips, and no wonder," replied Kavlar. "You lied about fighting Thorvald the Helming, and you lied about stealing his daughter. You lied to her, saying she would be your queen, and you lied to the elders, saying she was fit to join the Havmar Waren when she is the daughter of our enemies. You lie like a snake, and I spurn you like a snake."
The dogs were barking now as chaos enveloped the Havmar Waren. The shouting of the warriors by the lake was echoed by the shrill cries of the women among the huts, and above all Shannara's triumphant shrieks could be heard. Skallar took a step towards the village, but Kavlar thrust him back and there was death in his eyes.
"You killed Gulo," he said, "who was of our blood, and for that I will kill you."
Grechan's knife whistled from its sheath, but the magic of the leopard was still strong. Before the knife fell, Kavlar swung his right fist, armed with the leopard's claws, and Grechan fell back with blood pouring from his neck. A kick sent Skallar sprawling, and Kavlar readied himself to spring upon his enemy, while the men formed a circle around them.
Normally that was enough for the Waren, for two men to fight over whatever dispute lay between them, to the death or to the submission, whichever came first. But others had too much bound up in the fate of these young warriors. Rannva came at Kavlar, his axe whirling. But Kavlar's hound was watching too. Two hundred pounds or more of canine ferocity bore Rannva down, and vice-like jaws closed on his forearm. He shrieked as the bones twisted and broke. A spear flew across the throng of men, but Kavlar knocked it aside with reflexes honed since boyhood to such games.
Given a moment's respite, Skallar regained his feet and drew his knife. Kavlar faced him in a boxing stance, jabbing with the left-hand claws, ready to rip with the right hand claws at the first opening.
Strong arms gripped him from behind. Kavlar back-butted, twisting desperately, but his arms were pinned. Ischak, a strong and wily fighter, held him firmly as his son readied the knife. Kavlar lashed out with savage force, but Skallar avoided his kick.
"Strike now, my son!" cried Ischak.
Avvar hauled himself up with his left hand on his staff. His long Waren dagger glistened in the light of the rising moon, even as the light gleamed on Skallar's knife as he prepared to strike. And even as Skallar raised the deadly blade, Avvar the Lame hurled himself forward and thrust at his old rival. The blade glanced off Ischak's ribs but left a deep, red wound. Avvar stumbled, but wrapped his arms around Ischak's neck. Kavlar was flung aside as the two chieftains grappled.
"Lame dog!" sneered Ischak. "You lost your chance of glory years ago. You will not deny me mine, you cripple!"
"Cripple, is it?" grinned Avvar, teeth clenched with effort. "When a man has lost the strength of his legs, look to his arms. Ischak, your doom is upon you!"
"Your doom, old fool!" cried Skallar as he drove his knife into Avvar's back. The blade went deep and snapped off as Avvar tried to twist away. Avvar laughed, and then coughed bloodily. His grip on Ischak's neck only tightened. Slowly he drew back the chieftain's head, until with a crack like a green branch breaking Ischak's spine gave way. The two chieftains fell, locked together in death.
Kavlar had narrowly avoided sprawling into the fire, and now lay dazed and winded at the feet of the shamans. Somehow, he knew he must find the strength to rise. He saw Hakku sitting cross-legged before him, the fateful runesword across his lap. He saw Ronik clubbing the dog that still savaged his younger son. He saw Ballan offering an axe to Skallar. He saw Grechan on his knees, trying vainly to stem the flow of blood from his torn neck, falling forward on his face even as Kavlar watched. He saw Ischak and his father, lying in each other's deadly embrace.
"You should have died under Harrier's Swoop," growled Skallar through gritted teeth.
"Maybe so," replied Kavlar, suddenly calm. "But such was not my fate."
He closed his fingers around the hilt of the sword in Hakku's lap. As he stood he drew Lodhi's rune-carved blade from the scabbard and struck without war-cry or challenge. Skallar parried with the axe. The blue-steel clove the axe-haft through, clove Skallar's shoulder, clove his ribs and spine. Kavlar whipped the blade free, and as Skallar toppled he swept the head from his shoulders.
A few men remained: Ronik with his club, Ballan with his knife, Rannak and a few others empty-handed. All at once they might have rushed him and borne him down. But they saw the blade in his hand and the blood lust in his eyes, and one by one they drew back.
"Kavlar," said Hakku quietly. He alone had stood his ground.
Kavlar turned to face him. The leopard trance had left him, but his face was bloody and grim still.
From the village, Guldran and the women came running. Shannara was at their head, waving a gory trophy above her head - a long shank of golden hair and a flap of dripping scalp. So much for Thora, Thorvald's daughter. But the whoops and laughter ceased when they saw the scene of carnage around Kavlar.
"Kavlar," repeated Hakku. "By what right have you taken the sword of Lodhi?"
"By your own pledge," replied Kavlar. "You pledged the sword to the young man who exceeded the deeds of his fellows. Well, whose deeds have exceeded mine? My boast is fulfilled. My enemies are slain. My friend is avenged. The honour of my father's house is restored. The sword is mine to take, and I took it. If anyone cares to take it from me, let them come on!"
Hakku hissed through his teeth: "You broke my geas. You have defied the fathers of your clan, and you have spilled blood during a sacred rite. You have invited blood-feud within your own clan. You have called a hundred deaths upon yourself. You cannot live among us."
Kavlar smiled. The dog slunk to his side, and he ran his fingers through its thick fur, and rested the runesword casually on his shoulder.
Hakku lifted his hands to the heavens: "I cannot deny that you have spoken truly, Kavlar, son of Avvar. In three fights you have proved your mettle, against the Valemen, against the Helmings, and against your own kin. None shall say now whether Grechan or Skallar cheated as you say, or whether Skallar indeed killed the son of Guldran. All we know is that the gods have decreed that they shall die and you shall live, for good or evil.
"But never have I seen the leopard dance as it was danced tonight. The leopard lived in you. It danced with your feet. When you struck down your foes tonight, was that Kavlar-man or Kavlar-leopard? The spirit of the leopard was strong.
"Yet the people cannot suffer you to live on the shores of Lake Nikku while the blood of your kinsmen stains the sand. It will take the rains and snows of five winters to wash the land clean, and I pass a geas on you, that you shall not return here until this is done. I pass geas on the Havmar warriors, too, that if they find you within sight of Lake Nikku before five winters have passed, they shall slay you. So be it."
Kavlar bowed to the shaman, and turned to face the waiting clansmen.
"So be it," he consented. "But let my name-rune be carved on the war-post of the Havmar Waren, and on my father's house. Let a cairn be built high for my father, as befits a brave chieftain of the tribe."
"Shall you make demands?" puffed Ronik furiously.
"I shall," said Kavlar. "I do. After five winters I shall return, and if what I find does not please me there shall be a reckoning. I am Kavlar. I have spoken."
"Hearken well, people of the Havmar Waren," added the aged shaman. "Today, you lose the finest of your warriors. If it is the will of the gods that he return to you, it shall be as a chieftain of the Havmar, maybe their highest chieftain.
"As five years pass, the gods will judge Kavlar son of Avvar. And you will see how the gods judge you, Kavlar, and some will show you cruelty and malice. Yet they shall not determine your fate - for that power is given to the mighty spirit within you. I, Hakku have spoken."
The Havmar Waren murmured their assent. One by one they returned to the village.
Kavlar wiped clean the runesword and made to re-sheath it, but captured by its beauty he paused a moment and let the moonlight play along its length as he stood, one last time, by the shores of Lake Nikku.
Back to Episode 5 :Skallar's Victory
Kavlar's Boast is copyright by John Outram. It may not be copied without permission of the author except for purposes of reviews. (Though you can print it out to read it, natch.)