The warriors followed their Warchief, some on foot, others on horseback.
Dag joined them.
Entering the woods, the white daylight completely vanished and the vegetation became denser.
Everyone walked in silence, ready to spot the few remaining enemies.
The only sound they could hear was the song of the owls that populated the tall trees.
The atmosphere was chilling.
Suddenly, Brann raised his arm, ordering everyone to stop.
Spirit voices whispered incomprehensible words, echoing in the woods.
They seemed to come from all directions, even from underground.
"What the fuck is going on?!"
"Do you hear that too?!"
Said two Shieldmaidens near Dag.
He perceived a strange presence, but not material, ethereal.
The whole wood was as if immersed in a dark aura.
Brann got off his horse and grabbed the axe.
All the warriors took up their weapons.
After a few seconds, the constant sound of those voices stopped.
"Aaaagh! They're here! Run!" someone yelled.
Dag turned to some warriors behind him.
Next to each of them appeared a hooded man armed with a dagger.
The newly spawned enemies were all identical. Under the hood the face was not visible, covered by darkness.
Their daggers were pointed at the necks of the allied warriors, who remained unmoving.
Brann yelled: "There's no need to use your two-bit tricks! Step out and end this story as a true honorable warrior!"
Suddenly, other hooded figures appeared next to other warriors, pointing daggers at their necks and disarming them.
Brann began to get angry.
Asa and Egill were on the lookout, trying to study their opponent's next move.
The Lies Of Loki Clan was playing cunningly: they knew those woods by heart and used the poor light and dense vegetation to catch their opponents by surprise.
Dag slowly stepped back to Egill and Asa, trying not to make any noise.
Brann dashed towards the first hooded man who had appeared, loading an axe blow.
Before he could get close, a dozen of them slit the hostages' throats and then disappeared into thin air, releasing a black powder.
All the warriors who had just been slaughtered fell to the ground, gurgling in pain and slowly dying with convulsions.
"Nooo!" yelled Brann, watching the scene.
"Show yourself and face my wrath!" he continued, as the blade of his axe began to emit a red glow.
Dag focused on looking at the details: the power of that weapon seemed to come from the crystal shards embedded in it.
The ground close to Brann's feet began to vibrate.
Egill and Asa were still motionless, paralyzed by the deaths of some of their companions.
... "Go away, Brann from Earth"...
The ethereal voice began to speak again, this time uttering real understandable words.
"Who's out there?! Come here! I'm not going anywhere!" said Brann, looking around frantically.
No one could understand where the voice came from.
... "The battle is over. Why did you follow us up here, fool?!" ...
"I know of the emblem that Hakon owns! It's mine, I'm entitled to it! Don't you dare twist a single hair on the rest of my warriors, otherwise you will suffer the fury of the future King of all Vikings!" said Brann, walking through the woods, searching for enemy soldiers.
..."You just don't understand, don't you? You can't find us in this forest… because we are the forest itself!" ...
Brann paused and looked toward the other warriors taken as hostages, beginning to walk toward them.
... "You better stop if you care about your men's lives"...
Brann continued to walk, breathing hard from his nose. He seemed to have a very developed sense of smell.
He stopped suddenly and threw his axe at one of his warriors.
The huge weapon rotated several times in the air before hitting the target in the center of the chest.
"Brann! Are you crazy?!" yelled Asa, when she noticed that Brann had targeted one of her Shieldmaidens.
As soon as she was hit, the woman was surrounded by black smoke, which revealed her true appearance.
All the hooded men disappeared simultaneously: the false Shieldmaiden was the real copy of the hooded warrior.
Dag was astonished.
"How did he understand that the impostor was hiding among his allies? Was it just because of his smell? Or maybe he was able to feel his aura? I hadn't felt anything strange about that woman..." he thought.
Brann grabbed the man's hood to the ground and took it off, grabbing him by the hair.
He lifted him to his feet.
He was dead, blood was slowly pouring from his mouth.
He lifted him even more, raising him off the ground.
"So what?! Hakon! Show yourself, I said! You managed to escape my eyes on the battlefield, now get out!" yelled Brann, showing off his new trophy.
Brann laid the man's body on the ground, putting him on his knees and with a sharp blow, severed his head.
His warriors were all still, terrified of their own Warchief.
With his enemy's head in his hand, Brann continued: "So?! Don't you want to honor this valiant warrior of a worthy burial? What kind of commander are you?! You're a warrior without honor!"
He threw his head to the ground and put his foot on it, to keep it still.
He moved his foot.
He untied his belt and the first laces of his pants and urinated on the head of the Lies Of Loki assassin.
"You made your choice, Hakon. Stay hidden. I thought you were a more valiant warrior than that" Brann said as he settled his belt.
Allied warriors looked at him in disgust.
Dag was petrified.
Brann was not a worthy warrior as in the tales of Asa and Gridd. He was a cruel, unscrupulous man.
He was ready to sacrifice his warriors, to put at risk the life of the woman he loved only to achieve his goals.
As Brann was turned from behind, an arrow flew at great speed towards him.
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