A Place for Heroes
by Myke Cole
The sky is black with feathered shafts. I feel a thousand trembling bowstrings stirring the air
long before I hear them.
" 'Ware arrows!"
My shield goes up out of instinct, not that it can protect much. There is little left of it after all
this time; a few scraps of worm eaten wood, a battered and rusted metal center.
Three or four of the darts pierce my arm, one my shoulder. Only one remains lodged this time.
The pain has become second nature by now. It is the same tale told yet again to long-suffering
nerves. Hearing nothing new in the bard's voice, they listen only with the least of their attention.
Illugi rushes past me, axe held high. The notches in the axe-head are so deep that I wonder when
it will break in two. But there is no shortage of weapons littering the battlefiled. "At them,
Einarr!" he cries. Illugi charges into the fray as befits a hero.
I should follow. I am a hero as well. We are all heroes here.
This place is the final reward for heroism.
My father would be ecstatic. I thought I saw him once in the throng, his cracked teeth grinning
over a dirty beard, overjoyed at his good fortune. His voice still echoes in my mind: With your
sword in hand, boy! With your sword in hand or not at all!
Yes, papa. The arrow has lodged behind my collarbone, making it hard to move.
I stop Ofeigr as he passes. Half his face is gone. What remains peers at me from beneath a
leather cap so rotten that it is hard to distinguish from his own moldering scalp. "Pull this out,
will you?" I ask, pointing to the arrow. He pauses only to snap off the shaft, and hurries on.
There is a battle to be fought.