By: Shawn Shipp

Gorm stood over the young man bleeding in the snow. His left knee was severed from behind, caught by Gorm’s axe. Still he held his sword up in a guard.

Blood flowed readily from Gorm’s broken nose painting his moustache red. His axe and shield hovered in front of him in his own guard.

The boy could have been no older than eighteen. Fear gripped his eyes. His breath puffed out in clouds quickly as if he were trying to make a seat for God to watch over him. The side of his mail coif darkened with blood.

Gorm stood tall over the boy. He was part of a peasant conscript unit from Germany.

Gorm stood tall over the boy.

Did he have a farm back home? A girl from his village he left? Was he the apprentice of a smith? Did he replace a father who’d worked to get him into the craft? Before the battle did he go to confession just like he?

His shoulders slumped forward. He took a deep breath.

What right did he have to kill this boy? Did God want him to slay a scared child in the snow? They’d never offered a chance for their opponents to surrender, the boy never got a chance to run or negotiate with his enemies.

He let his arms drop to his side, the boy lowered his sword. Gorm looked to the sky. Bright golden clouds rimmed the sun that peaked through a break in them. ‘Bout half a mile east the wind sang through pine tree branches, it reminded him of the church choir back home.

He was tired. He looked back down, the boy's sword was lowered. Why did he have to die? Was it in the law to kill the righteous and the innocent? Gorm's heart turned in defiance against his mercenary captain and lordly employer, deep down a voice urged him to defend the boy.

A look of betrayal and pleading gripped the boy's face again as Gorm raised his axe. His pleas to God for mercy were drowned out by the beastly delight of a warhorn as his axe broke through the boy's skull. The snow was so cold.