David A. Hardy
Sorcerous Signals and its sister publication The Lorelei Signal are a pair of online publications I’d not encountered before. I’m going to check them out after reading “The Last Rune” by David A. Hardy.
This one was a little different than the short fiction I’ve looked at in the last month or so. Most of the stories this series has focused on lately have been fairly straightforward with relatively few named characters. “The Last Rune” is by far the most complex. While having a central viewpoint character, there are a number of named secondary characters and a multi-layered plot. This is not a bad thing. Quite the contrary, although it means you shouldn’t read it if you’re tired or sleepy; you need to pay attention. But do read it. It’s a good blend of fantasy and vikings.
The story starts out with an attack by vikings on the feast hall of King Hugleik of Upsalla. Among those defending the hall is Ulf Bloodeye, the protagonist. Set against him among the attackers is Starkad Stovikson. These two have a history which is recounted in another story, “Vikar’s Doom” not available online. It is available in Mystic Signals 9, but I don’t have a copy yet or I would have reviewed it as well.
Where the story really picks up is in the aftermath of the battle. It seems King Hugliek possesses a powerful rune. Starkad takes off with it, and Ulf (who barely manages to survive the battle) tracks him down. That’s a vast simplification, of course. I’m not sure I can summarize everything without giving some stuff away. Hardy kept me on my toes with this one, and I was never certain where he would go next. There are some figures (human and animal) I presume to be from Norse myths, although I’m not certain. My knowledge of Norse mythology isn’t as extensive as my knowledge of Greek and Roman.
There’s plenty of combat and action in this one, and the pace is relentless. One of the things I liked most about this story was the attention Hardy paid to detail. The storyline was a well-woven tapestry where small things that didn’t seem to be such a big deal at the time, such as when one of the warriors has a private word with teh skald before the battle. Turns out this little exchange, which the reader isn’t privy to, is a major plot point.
“The Last Rune” was fun, and I’m looking forward to more adventures of Ulf Bloodeye.