Cold grey eyes squinted to make out shapes around the firelight. The air was cold and frigid and left the mouths of the observers in small puffs of frozen breath.
Yet the four observers showed no discomfort or recognition of the biting cold, nor the chilling wind which sometimes would blow from the mountain tops.
The four men were Cimmerians, bred for war and bloodshed. Crom, the god of these men, sat high in his mountain and despised weakness. Now, Crom’s followers were preparing, in silence, to show their god their strength.
Below a rocky outcropping there lied a small camp of Vanir forward lookouts. The Vanir were a red haired race of barbarians that neighbored Cimmeria. The Vanir were constantly warring with the Cimmerians and had recently increased their efforts to destroy or enslave Cimmeria’s clans.
Now the Vanir had struck into Cimmerian territory, and had set their invading forces at the base of Mount Crom, the seat of Crom’s throne.
Among the Cimmerians, interclan warfare was apart of their lives the same as drawing their next breath, but to deal with this incursion the Clans had called for a pact of peace. They would strike together as one against the Vanir, who dared to set foot at the base of the holy mountain.
The Clan shaman’s had cried out in outrage, as if in one voice. Stirring the hearts and fighting frenzies of the warriors with words proclaiming that this was their chance to prove themselves to their harsh god. This was their chance, at the base of Crom’s mountain, to prove their worth to the grim deity and show their strength.
The warriors listened, sharpened their blades and axes and covered their flesh with coal and wolf pets.
No, they would not allow the cowardly Vanir to make fools of them in front of Crom. They would not allow this incursion into their lands. They could not allow one Vanir to leave the base of that mountain alive.
Crom himself would smile upon their victory and the base of his throne would be covered in the blood of those who sought to defy his people.
So the bones were cast and chieftains talked war plans and sent their warriors into the wilderness.
There would be not grand scheme to battle. No formations like the soft southern lands would arrange their armies for warfare. The Cimmerians would simply send out hunting parties to slaughter the Vanir lookouts and burn their camps. In the chaos, the Vanir would send out more men in retaliation. Only to be met by ambush of blood-crazied warriors that would give no quarter. Then, the clans would send their warriors in a frenzied attack against the Vanir’s main camp at the base of Mount Crom where Vanir blood would be shed until they were no more.
So the four Cimmerians looked down upon the camp from the snow covered top of the rocky outcropping. The blood that stained their blades indicated the gruesome fate of the four sentries that were on lookout for the camp.
Like shadows they crept slowly down the outcropping towards the firelight. To a civilized man, the footing would have been treacherous, but to a warrior of Cimmeria the path was one a child could have navigated.
Slowly the four crept down the rock embankment, finding handholds where none seemed to exist. The slow pace was in dire contrast to the battle lust that showed in their eyes.
At the last moment, a Vanir stirred from his slumber and the warriors dropped down with cries that would strike terror in a civilized man.
To their credit, the Vanir woke quickly with weapons in hand, but it was for naught. There was nothing that would stop the death dealt by the Cimmerians.
Blades flashed in the firelight and blood flew high into the air. There were sex Vanir in the camp, but even double the number would have been hard pressed.
Soon, silence reigned once again in the cold night. Only the slight gurgle of blood from the throat of the dieing could be heard over the popping and hissing of the fire.
The Cimmerians looked over their carnage. Six dead Vanir lay in an ever widening pool of blood. The victorious warriors suffered minor cuts and wounds, but not even the slightest sign of pain would be acknowledged. Not so close to their god’s throne.
One warrior grasped a timber from the fire and lit the hide tents afire.
From their higher vantage point the warriors waited until they saw similar fires lighting up in the night from across the wilderness.
Like winter wolves they melted into the forest.
The fight had just begun and there were still many Vanir at the foot of Crom’s mountain. No Cimmerian would rest that night until each and every Vanir had been slain.
That was the way of Cimmeria.