Microfiction #writephoto: Long ships

This is a short story for Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt. The subject matter is very much in my mind at the moment, so get ready for a book plug.


The sentinel watched the last light reflected on the water and tried to see beyond the sand banks and tidal pools to the receding tide line. He could hear, but only just, the gentle sound of waves breaking. There was no wind, the winter night would be cold, and though the gathering cloud announced rain, there would be no storm, more’s the pity.

In the shelter of the rocks, a beacon fire was waiting. He had checked the wood was dry enough to burn, checked his tinder was dry and his steel sharp. But he knew he would see nothing if cloud obscured the moon and the rain began to fall. They were there, in their dragon ships; there could be no doubt. The raiders had been driven off further down the coast. They would not return over the bitter sea empty handed.

There was nowhere to run to in the empty winter landscape, no haven, no stone fortress to hide within. He had a bow and a quiver full of new arrows. He would defend his home until there were none left. His throat tightened as he thought of Halla still in childbed and the new bairn.

He could see nothing beyond the sands, and would see nothing later when the tide turned and the sea flowed back into the firth. He would see nothing and hear nothing unless the cloud broke, until the long ships were in the bay. Then he would light the beacon, and as soon as he saw an answering light on the next hill, he would run for home to be with Halla when the wolves came.

If you like this kind of thing, there are more Tales from the Northlands here: