Last Man Standing

 

He doesn't look nearly tired enough for this story.

 

Last Man Standing

By Ken St. Andre

The shouting had all died away.  Now all Narrli could hear was the heavy pounding of his own heartbeat in his ears, and the labored gasping of his own lungs, and the wheezing of his foe.  Through a haze of red he saw the blue glint of an axe blade descending toward his own head in what would be the killing stroke.  With a desperate effort he pulled his shield up to block, and got it there just in time.  The axe blade crashed through the leather and wood of the shield, forced his tired arm back, and crashed against his steel cap, but not hard enough to penetrate or even knock Narrli down.  In the next second Narrli brought his own battered sword around in mighty cut that severed the Viking’s wrist and jarred the bretwalda from his grip.  Reversing his stroke, Narrli swung his sword up through the Northman’s bushy beard and knotted neck tendons, half severing the head.  The big man toppled sideways and went down, spraying Narrli with a blood shower—perhaps his tenth for the day.

Narrli looked around for his next foe, didn’t see one immediately, let his sword tip drop to the earth and leaned on it, gasping, trying to catch his breath.  His shield hung down on his overtired arm beside his leg—the big war axe still embedded in it.  The three point stance helped considerably with the wobblyness in his knees.  If a foe had approached him then, he couldn’t have lifted his arms to save his life.

However, there didn’t seem to be any foes.  As he stood there, getting his breath, waiting for the ringing to fade out of his ears, enduring the dull bruised pain in his head from being hit a few times too often, his vision began to clear.  The battlefield was littered with bodies, islanders and raiders mixed in a maelstrom of death.  Narrli had heard of such battles, but never expected to be in one where he was the last man standing (the sole survivor).  At the moment, and considering how much his battered body ached from what seemed like hours of fighting, he wasn’t sure whether he was glad or not.

Then to Narrli’s dismay, one of the fallen pulled himself to his feet only fifty feet away from where the islander stood.  Judging by the horns on the man’s helmet, it was one of the Vikings.  

The two men stood glaring at each other across the battlefield.  “Just us, then?” said the Viking in a dialect close enough to his own for Narrli to understand him.  “Hey, islander, let us see who the gods truly favor today?”  The raider, armed with shield and seax started plodding toward him.

If Narrli had to swing his sword one more time today, he thought his arm might just fall off.  “Viking, all this killing has made me terribly thirsty.  Why don’t we just call it a draw and go get a drink somewhere?”

“I wish you had not mentioned drinking,” said the Viking as he stopped about ten feet away.  “I could really use one.  But who won the battle?”

“The way I see it, I’m the last man standing,” said Narrli, “so we islanders won the battle.”

The Viking scowled.  “On the other hand,” said Narrli.  “You are the last man standing on your side, and I wouldn’t contradict you if you said that your side won the battle.  If we fight, one or both of us might get killed, and that would ruin the storytelling.”

The raider thought about it for a minute.  “You must be a child of Loki the Cunning,” he said at last in admiration.  “I guess the longship is mine now, and there’s plenty to drink there.  Let’s go get that drink!”

The End

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Not much actual fantasy in this story, but since it is set in Viking times the possibility of fantasy exists.

Questions for discussion:

1.  Do you think the two men became friends after the battle?

2.  One man can’t sail a longship by himself?  What became of the wounded Viking after the battle?

3.  Did one of the men kill the other in his sleep?  If so, which one?

4.  Since the Vikings were raiding an island settlement somewhere in the North Sea around the Orkneys perhaps, and most of the men came out to fight, could Narli or the Viking or both of them go back to the village and live the life of Riley as the only grown men on the island?

5.  Does that island settlement become easy pickings for the next Viking ship to come along, or would they manage to get reinforcements from some other nearby settlement in time?

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You see?  Flash fiction can make you think.  Or if it’s not real thinking, at least it is speculation.  🙂

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My plan is to run at least one of my own flash fictions here every day for the forseeable future.  I had this little story standing by, and it’s kinda long for flash fiction, but not too long.

I want to feature your fantastic flash fiction also.  Come on, all my talented friends.  Send me your shortest stories, and let’s put them up here.  So far I’m getting about 20 hits per day.  That’s not much, but think about it.  That’s 20 more people who read your story and see your name than there would have been if you didn’t participate.  If you can send a picture to go along with your story, that would be great, but if not, I can probably “borrow” something from the internet.

I have set up a special email account to receive your fiction, and I try to check it every day.  So far no one has sent me anything there, but I live in hope.  You can send your story to:  Atrrroll@gmail.com.  Jump in!  The water is fine.

–Atroll

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2 Comments

  1. Posted January 28, 2011 at 6:26 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Love the concept of the flash fiction, as well as the third installment! I’m dreaming up an idea for my own submission–probably will be set in the New Nevada Wasteland. 🙂 As for borrowing art, yikes that’s a two-word disaster! Probably ought to cite your sources for non-original art.

  2. Zyder'Ed
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 7:28 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Atroll, enjoyed first few flashfiction stories so far. Will keep dropping by.

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