This is not an extract from a larger story; it is the basic nucleus of a larger idea I have – in short story form, so it does not have a proper ending as it is not a self-contained story.
Katie had noticed that the rocking of the boat on the sea had changed from a gentle undulation to a choppy intensity, as she glanced upwards out of the window her suspicions were confirmed by the presence of advancing black clouds. She withdrew her head and closed the porthole, “I don’t think we should stay here much longer; it looks like a storm is approaching” Katie said to Dr Grant – the leading archaeologist on the expedition. He turned away from the map he had been studying on the table to look at her “I don’t doubt that you’re right Katie, the swell has been getting strong; fortunately all the divers are up and the artefacts are all boxed up for the return journey, so as soon as the captain’s ready we’ll be off.” Just as Dr Grant finished his sentence one of the young divers, now out of gear and dressed warmly, strode into the room holding a cloth bag; “Doctor, I think you should see this before we return; it’s a rather unusual find – though I have not seen it very well myself, it is pretty silty down there.” He placed the bag carefully upon the table and withdrew a dirty, cracked human skull which was missing the lower jaw. When he had placed it on the table it became apparent that there was a large flint knife lodged quite deeply into the right side of it, once he had laid that down he stepped back dramatically and asked them what they thought. Dr Grant was the first to speak, taking a close look at the skull as he did so; “Well this is quite a remarkable find! This is the first human remain to be found in the Doggerland area, and I can scarcely believe that it is so well preserved – a near-complete skull – with a murder weapon present as well!” Katie nodded in agreement, picking the skull up herself and examining the flint knife, “It really is a great find, it looks like it might be a male and for this dagger to go so far into his skull the assailant must have had great strength.” She held it up to light and turned it over in her hands, “I wonder what the story is behind this; who was he? Why was he killed and who killed him? This really is fascinating, also I don’t believe that this particular type of flint knife has been seen before – it is such a shame that Doggerland is lost beneath the sea, if it was on dry land it would be an archaeologists dream!”
A herd of around twenty Elk wade across a marsh, scattering birds from the rushes as the huge animals push through the vegetation and up onto a small hill that rises from the centre of the marshland. From this viewpoint a great vista is revealed; stretching east to the horizon are countless marshes, lakes and streams that glimmer in the sunlight, these are broken up by thick woodlands and isolated hills upon which a few flimsy wooden dwellings can be seen. To the north, standing proud above the lowlands is a long chain of hills, varying in height but rocky and covered in large forests; a great river begins its journey to the distant sea from those peaks. The Elk have good eyes, constantly alert for danger, they can see through a gap in the hill chain and despite the haze in the distant air a thin white line is visible on the northern horizon. The Elk do not know it, but the distant line is shrinking and as it does so it will bring an end to this land of plenty they live in – for it is the arctic ice cap.
Kell looked behind him; his village atop the small hill glowed bright orange against the darkening sky; the flames so high they seemed to lick the stars. The wooden plank walkway that threaded its way across the mire stretched before him, Kell took one last look back then set off at a run; slipping now and then on the muddy boards. It was a muggy evening so Kell was soon sweating in his thick deerskin top, but fear and purpose drove him onwards, never slowing his pace. As he approached the dense willow stand through which the pathway winded onwards he heard a twig crack in the darkness, his instincts reacted before he could take it in and he fell to the ground with his head raised, he saw that he was holding his flint knife. He waited for thirty breaths then noiselessly got to his feet, peering in all directions to make sure then he carried on into the willows, resuming his fast pace.
The deep-rooted human fear of darkness began to creep into Kell’s thoughts as he made his way through the willow shrubs that even in daylight had made him feel nervous. He had good reason to be afraid for this land was alive with wolves, bears, boar, even a few lion and he had heard tales of creatures far worse than any of them, but as Kell ran onwards his thoughts were not on animals but on his fellow man. He clutched at the precious item that hung around his neck to reassure himself that it was still there, ‘I must not fail’ Kell thought to himself; ‘I must make it to the village of the Elk-herders, then I will be safe’. He thought back to his father’s last words; his final act as he had lain dying in his burning tent, “Go to my brother, son, take it far from here and protect it with your life” he had passed Kell a golden medallion, stained with blood, pressing it into his hand – “the future of this land is on your shoulders now, you must be strong my son and do what I never could, now run! And don’t stop for they will hunt you until they get it, go my son.” Hot tears ran down Kell’s face as the full horror of the situation he was in overwhelmed him, he was alone now, his father was gone forever and the responsibility weighed heavily upon him.
Without warning a guttural yell came from Kell’s left and before he had time to react something large and heavy ploughed into him – sending him sprawling off the path and into the waterlogged trees. Because of the recent storms the water level was higher than usual and Kell was momentarily submerged beneath the muddy water. The man who had attacked him had misjudged the water depth and had to let go of Kell to pull himself up and out of the mire, Kell was no green boy however and he used the moment of freedom to strike upwards with his foot, he felt it connect with something soft. Kell then rose to his feet and struck his assailant a blow on the jaw; as he did so though he noticed that the man was much taller than him and thickly built with arms wider than Kell’s legs. The blow had little effect and the huge man lunged back at him; grappling Kell with both arms and trying to push him back into the water, Kell was no match for the man’s strength but he did have speed and lightning reactions. He twisted in the man’s grasp and struck him a kick in the stomach – the man fell back winded, clutching his belly and gasping for breath, Kell gave no quarter and instantly flew at the man with his flint knife in hand. The brute was ready though and grasped Kell’s knife arm before he had a chance to strike, the blade dropped into the water and the man threw Kell into a tree trunk – stunning him badly.
The man grabbed Kell’s throat and pinned him to the tree, he put his scarred face up close to Kell’s and yelled at him “I am Haldrun; warrior of the hills, I have been sent to kill you and retrieve the Vedor-myn which I know you carry, but you are feisty so I have half a mind to take the stone and leave you alive – just without your hands, or perhaps your ears.” Kell replied with a head-butt to the face, Haldrun staggered backwards and fell over, Kell was still dazed but he managed leap onto the fallen man and relieve him of his flint knife. He held it against Haldrun’s throat but he hesitated, in his head he questioned himself; ‘I don’t want this man’s blood on my hands, but he will kill me if I don’t kill him; perhaps I should do what he threatened to do to me?’ But Haldrun was not out of action yet, he gave Kell’s arm a savage blow and then reared upwards; pushing him backwards and under the water – he held Kell’s head between his hands and forced it beneath the surface. Kell thrashed and kicked but to no avail; silty water filled his mouth and nostrils, his lungs began to ache then burn as the carbon dioxide built up in his body. He put both arms against the ground and tried to push himself up above the water, but Haldrun was too strong, it was then that Kell’s left hand felt something hard and smooth beneath the water and he felt a last flutter of hope. As the last traces of oxygen in his lungs dried up Kell swooped his left arm upwards with all his might; with more luck than skill the flint blade shattered into Haldrun’s skull – killing him instantly.
As Kell staggered out of the willow thicket he saw the first golden tones of colour in the eastern sky, and with the dawning sun he could make out vast dry pastures before him; huge Elk wandering across the grazed grass. In the middle-distance he could just see the familiar shapes of tents in a large group – it was the Elk-herders, where he would find his uncle – and hopefully safety. He paused for a moment and reaching up to his chest he drew out a golden medallion from his deerskin; it was formed of an outer ring surrounding the well moulded figures of a great, winged serpent and a tusked mammoth. The body of the serpent was formed of a large oval stone, smooth as glass and a deep red colour – the stone was also opaque; as though it had been made from a swirling red cloud, frozen into a jewel. “I will not let you down father, I will keep the Vedor-myn safe, I will use it to unite the folk of this land to fight back and vanquish the men from the northern hills – and they shall be sorry that they ever desecrated this sacred kingdom, may the good god Löger protect me.”