We advanced through the valley in perfect formation. I was proud as I glanced side to side. As I looked ahead, the valley sloped slightly downward with the walls of the valley growing higher slowly as we descended. I knew from our scouts that they had not left any sentries and that meant we might still get some element of surprise. I looked ahead and could see the sickly spiral of smoke that indicated a campfire and soon we saw the leaning shelters and tents of a bandit camp. There were no bandits that were standing however so we continued to approach with caution.
The battle began when we had closed the distance to maybe thirty feet to the edge of the camp when a bandit dressed in leather stumbled out of his tent and saw us. He shouted the alarm and we charged as one. The first part of the battle was more of a slaughter as we charged in among the tents killing anything that moved. I went for the bandit that had shouted the alarm and he had pulled his axe. I dodged to the left and he drove his axe toward my head. I slipped my blade edge across the side of his neck and he went down holding back the blood. I kept going.
“For the Rose!” I shouted and soon the chorus of men behind me joined the shout and we ran further into the valley. The first camp had been simply a guard camp. The second camp was further in and was centered around a hunter’s cabin. The alarm had been heard by now and the bandit chieftain had organized a defense of about twenty men. Some of the seemed groggy and all we not in their full armor, many had no armor at all. Their weapons were an assorted mix of axes, swords and clubs. They were in two lines like us but they were not shoulder to shoulder yet. I ran forward hearing the footsteps of my people behind me.
I actually clashed into their line several moments before the rest of my men arrived. I sent two of them to Valhalla before they even had a chance to raise their swords. Then I heard the sound of men smashing into men, the cries of the wounded as they went down and the cursing of the gods that often comes in such battles. I did however reach my objective which was the chieftain himself who was dressed in leather armor from the waist down with axe and shield. He snarled at me and I smiled. I didn’t wait for him I feinted at his shield and then reversed my blade and barely blocked my thrust with his axe. The sounds of battle were dying in my ears. The chieftain brought his axe down but I was not their when it arrived and the maneuver I had now used several times had the same result of his throat being lined with crimson red blood. He collapsed to the ground and my men cheered.
The next hour or so was us mopping up and finding about three stragglers. We also found two girls in the hunter’s cabin. The look on their faces and the torn dresses indicated they were not willing participants in the night’s festivities. I felt no remorse about killing the three prisoners we had taken and slit their throats. Bandits are scum. We took the two girls who couldn’t have been more than sixteen each and sent them back with a couple of men to retrieve the camp followers and the wagon.
We then began to collect the plunder. There were axes, swords and clubs. We also found lots of leather armor in various forms as well as several shields. In the hunter’s cabin we also found a chest. Inside were many pieces of jewelry and lots of gold coins. I also found the few items the merchant had been looking for. Each bandit also had about ten gold pieces like they had been paid their share. I was all to happy to take it from them and give it to my men.
When my two camp followers arrived with the wagon, we had plenty of loot. They bandaged the few superficial cuts that some of the men had received but there had been no casualties. We loaded the wagon but we also equipped some of the stuff we found. My men found pieces of leather armor so that all of them now in leather from head to toe including leather helmets. For myself I had been looking for a suitable shield and found one that must have been the chieftain’s. It was a large round shield made of wood but it was covered with hammered steel. It well done and I felt thought I could cover it with something and maybe painting it with a rose.
All in all it had been good fight with a good haul of loot. The trip back to the village was uneventful and when we arrived we turned over the two girls to the local authorities. I felt bad for them but there was nothing to be done on my end. We went to find the merchant and discovered him in the local tavern. I handed over the items he had mentioned and he seemed genuinely surprised to see them and us again. He was more than generous in his thanks and told me if I ever needed his help to just ask. I smiled and thanked him for his payment and then went out and after selling the remaining armor and weapons no one wanted I divided the spoils with my men.
Over the next month we travelled within tem miles of the village looking for bandits. We were not disappointed and found three more camps but none of them as big as the first one. We killed the bad guys and took their stuff. I didn’t lose a man either and the men and I began to bond together. Oluf’s men quickly came to respect me and my own men near the end started to look and be dressed more like them. My wagon was filled with two chests full of gold. It was at that point I decided to head back to Ragnar. I had debts to pay and needed to get reconnected with my family and the court intrigue. We marched out and after only a day a King’s messenger ran into us.