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´╗┐Title: Day of the Druid
Author: Enferd, Knut
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Day of the Druid" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

                         Transcriber's Note:

    This etext was produced from Amazing Stories November 1948. Extensive
    research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this
    publication was renewed.

    [Illustration: He had to strike at the source of their power ... they
                   leaped to prevent him]

                           DAY OF THE DRUID

                            by Knut Enferd

     Be'al, all-powerful god, drank the blood of his victims.
     Would Gaar be able to save Marna, whom Be'al kept in eternal
     sleep, and avenge her people?

       *       *       *       *       *

Fog lay heavy on the North Sea, fog wreathed the land, fog crept into
a man's very bones. Meanwhile the ships were locked in the harbor.
Gaar lay stretched on the skin before the fire and cursed the fog.

How much longer was this infernal whiteness going to last? A man was
thirty years old, in the prime of his life, with the blood running hot
through the seven foot length of him. How much longer was he going to
have to lie here in the great hall, eating and drinking and waiting
for the roll of fat to show around his middle? A man wanted action and
instead he was forced to loll around listening to stories.

Niffleheim and Hotunheim were all right, Gaar thought. A man didn't
want to offend the Gods. On the other hand, Wodin forgive the thought,
a man could tire of listening to the same old tales.

But wait. The voice that was speaking had stopped. This was a new
voice. Elgen was finished with his tale and Vornung had started one.
And this one wasn't about the Gods. Gaar twisted around and got up on
one elbow.

"Who?" he demanded. "What did you say they called themselves?"

"Picts," Vornung said. In his day Vornung had sailed with the best of
them, but now he was old. "It was many years ago. After a storm we
found ourselves washed up on this strange shore."

"What sort of people are they?"

"An unlovely bunch, hairy, dressed in skins."

"Could they fight?"

"Ptuh." Vornung spat into the fire. "One touch of our swords and
they'd had enough. Only one thing they could do well. They could tell

He leaned back and took a draught of mead and wiped his mouth

"But what stories! We were stuck there for months and I learned enough
of their tongue to understand them. They told tales that could curdle
a man's blood, tales of a land that lies to the south of them, of
treasure, of a beautiful woman locked in eternal sleep by the priests
of her people."

Treasure and a beautiful woman. This was something to make a man sit
up. Gaar's big hands were locked about his knees as he rocked back and
forth thoughtfully.

"How far?" he asked.

"That they would not say. When they spoke of this they spoke
fearfully. We might have pressed them, but we were in a hurry to get

Gaar was on his feet now. He went to the door and looked out. There
was a hint of breeze, from landward for a change. Maybe the fog would
lift soon.

"Tell us more," he said over his shoulder....

       *       *       *       *       *

Vornung had been wrong about these Picts. They weren't afraid to
fight, and they weren't waiting for the fight to come to them. Under
cover of darkness they swarmed in over the gunwales of the ship.

Unlovely they were, and unwashed. Gaar had the scent of one in his
nostrils as the dark fellow came at him. Gaar struck out and the Pict
went overboard.

Luckily, the surprise had not been complete. And these Norsemen were
used to fighting in close and rocky quarters. They sailed in with a
will. Gaar was not too busy to do a bit of wondering.

A man was crazy to trust an old fool like Vornung, crazy to follow a
dream of white skin and red lips and incredible beauty.

Of course, these men of the North would have admitted that they were
all a little mad to begin with. Who else but madmen would take such a
tiny craft across hundreds of leagues of stormy sea?

Gaar laughed aloud. With ten men like his he'd sail anywhere, fight
anyone. Elgen, up in the bow, had a Pict in each hand and was cracking
their heads together. In the stern, Asgar was making short work of
three Picts.

This fight wasn't going to last long. And a good thing. The way the
Picts swung their clubs they might just happen to knock a few holes in
the hull. Gaar breathed easier when the last of them went down.

"Now," he said. "Maybe we can talk some sense to them."

Vornung had taught him as much as he could recall of the language of
the Picts. With a silent prayer that Vornung's memory had been good in
at least this one respect, Gaar hauled a swarthy, bowlegged fellow to
his feet.

"Look here. Can you understand me?"

Then the sun came up and the Pict got a look at the man who held him.

"I understand you." His words came through chattering teeth.

"Good. Don't be afraid. We mean no harm."

So Vornung hadn't been completely wrong. Gaar talked, keeping his eyes
glued on the man before him. The fellow knew what he was talking
about. Mention of the girl who slept brought a secret gleam to his
eye. What about all the others? What about the priests?

"_The Druids._" It was a whisper.

"Is that how they are called? How far to this land?"

Gaar saw there wasn't going to be any answer to that. The Pict was
scared. He was shaking his head. Some of his friends were coming
around and they'd heard too. They were all turning pale around the

"Tell him we'll hold his head under water until he speaks up," Asgar

Gaar hesitated. Fighting was one thing, torture another. It was all
right to cut a man to pieces as long as he had a chance to do the same
to you.

Maybe threats would do the trick. He told the Pict what Asgar had
suggested and the man licked his lips. The rest of the Picts were in a
panic, babbling among themselves.

Gaar understood enough of what they were saying. They were pointing at
the sun. What the devil? Was this going to turn into one of those
things? Were the Druids some sort of gods who lived in the sun?

No, that wasn't it either. The Druids were real enough. But they had
some power that came from the sun, that could turn a man to cinders.
To speak too much about them would mean death.

"No more certain a death than awaits you if you don't talk," Gaar

He narrowed his eyes, made them as cruel as he could. He drew the
sword from his scabbard, ran his finger along the edge.

The blood was hammering at his temples. That dream wasn't so crazy
now. He could see her as though she were before him. Black hair hung
about alabaster shoulders. Lips as red as ripe berries, lips that had
waited a thousand years for his kiss.

"Wait," Gaar whispered. "Not much longer now." His sword glinted in
the sunlight, hovered at the man's throat.

"I will tell you all I know," the Pict said.

       *       *       *       *       *

The inlet was a perfect hiding place for the ship. There were enough
branches about to screen it from distant eyes. And yet Gaar had the
feeling that they were being watched.

He swung around suddenly. Nothing to be seen except the gently waving
branches. A harmless scene, the dancing waters of the inlet and the
serenity of the woods, and yet terror lurked there.

Considering the fact that their knowledge was only from hearsay, the
Picts had directed him well. Down the coast of this great island, they
had said, and then through a long channel. And then you sailed around
the southern end and to the westward. There was a smaller island and a
smaller channel.

And now it would be overland travel. Not far, the Picts had said, and
they had wondered at these men who had the daring to sail through
strange waters to certain death. There was a plain rising from the
coast. Somewhere on that plain Gaar would find what he sought.

"I have a feeling," Asgar muttered. He was as blond as the rest, but a
foot shorter than Gaar and with a chest that threatened to burst
through his breastplate.

"So have I," Gaar admitted. "In my bones." And out of the plain to the
north came a scent like an opened grave.

They walked through the forest with their hands on their swords, these
men of the North. A long twilight here, a twilight that brought
shadows that could deceive a man. A strange land this, where Spring
came early and where the air was soft.

Swords were worthless here, the Picts had said. A man's strength meant

A voice whispered to Gaar's mind that the Picts were right. But there
was another voice, a voice that had grown stronger night by night as
he sailed southward. This was a voice that came from long dead lips,
but lips that retained their freshness.

"I hear something," Asgar whispered. "I hear something inside my

The others had heard it too. They stared at each other in the
gathering dusk. There was magic here. But Gaar knew that there was
magic to fight this magic.

And then suddenly it was night. On a far off peak a fire spurted
upward. Was it a beacon or a device to lure them to doom? Gaar
wondered. They paused in a grove, in a circle of stones. It was time
to rest. A lassitude crept over them.

He knew then how strong the dark forces were. His inner voice warned
him of the death that lurked in a circle of stones. But the power in
this grove was strong. Gaar felt the torpor take hold of him. He saw
the men stagger. Then, with his last ounce of strength, he had his
foot against one of the stones and was kicking out.

The circle was broken and with it the spell. Gaar shook himself. He
had learned one thing, to stay outside stone circles.

       *       *       *       *       *

Overhead the stars wheeled. There was the Bear, and there was the
Bull. If you could read them rightly the ocean was not trackless. The
seasons were there if you could read them.

Tomorrow would be Spring. And tonight men in long black robes walked
the great circle, related each of the stones to its constellation in
the heavens, canted their hymns to the dark powers that had spawned

Tomorrow would be Spring. Tomorrow the sun would slant down between
the two tallest stones and fall blood-red upon the Cromlech, upon the
altar. Tonight they would burn brighter.

And Be'al would be appeased. Be'al the All-Powerful would taste the
blood of the victims, would smell their flesh, and Be'al would know
that his sons had not forgotten him.

He was all they had not forgotten. Too long for them to remember, too
long since they had crossed the void from their parent planet. The
sciences they had brought were gone. Only this residue of blood-lust

"The girl stirs," Cyngled said. His beard was black and thick, his
skin white, and whiter still the circular scar on his forehead.

In the sepulchre the air was damp as the high-priest looked down upon
the girl. In the light of the flickering yew-torches her eyelids
seemed to move. Cyngled's fingers hovered at the hilt of the
sacrificial knife.

"Marna stirs," Glendyn whispered. "Tomorrow she will awaken. Let it be
for the last time. As long as she lives we are in danger."

"She can do nothing alone."

"But she is never alone. How many times has her beauty brought men to
her aid?"

"Their bones would make a tall pile," Cyngled agreed. His eyes were
bright beneath hooded lids. "What about those who landed today?"

"They are somewhere in the forest. Once we thought we had them, but
they broke away."

Footsteps sounded in the corridor and a hooded priest came hurrying
over the worn stones of the floor. His fingers traced the sacred
symbols in the damp air of the crypt.

"Well?" Cyngled demanded.

"We are having trouble following them. Their thoughts are shrouded.
Something comes between us and them."

Cyngled's eyes darted back to Marna. He knew what it was that
protected these strangers. Even in her sleep the girl had power.
Glendyn was right.

"Tomorrow, then," Cyngled murmured. "In the meantime, watch her. You
here, Glendyn, and you above, Twyn."

       *       *       *       *       *

Gaar moved swiftly. Behind him came the others. They had covered miles
but they were not tired. Not much farther, Gaar knew. The growth was

"We'll come at them straight ahead," Elgen said, moving up to Gaar's
side. "They'll never know what hit them."

In the starlight Gaar could see his outline. Asgar's bulk loomed close
behind. Maybe the usual method of attack was best. Maybe Elgen was
right. Yet there was this knowledge that swords would not be enough.

Then he caught the sound of voices. Out of the darkness ahead came a
deep-throated, monotonous chant. With startling abruptness the forest
ended and they were at the edge of a vast clearing.

Huge stones, too great for a man to move, formed a perfect circle.
Towering thirty feet above the others were two monoliths standing a
few feet apart. And directly before them was an altar, a great slab of
rock supported by four stone legs.

About the altar hooded shadows moved slowly, murmuring their endless
chants. Gaar was tempted. The surprise should be complete. But this
thing held him.

He waited, and was glad that he had. There was the faint and
flickering light of a torch. It seemed to come out of the very ground
beyond the circle of stones. It _did_ come out of the ground.

There was an opening of some sort, the mouth of a cave. Two figures
emerged and he saw them clearly before the torch was extinguished.
Then, even in the dim starlight, Gaar saw one of the figures move

"One of them is guarding the cave," Asgar whispered.

"In that case there must be something to guard." He thought he knew
what it was. He was certain he knew.

"Listen," Gaar whispered. "I'm going to try to get inside."


"One is better than a dozen for this job. That fellow seems to have
pulled back into the mouth of the cave. If I can get him quickly his
friends may never notice he's gone."

"What about us?"

"You wait here. It's almost dawn. By then I should be back."

"And if you're not back by then?"

"Turn around and get to the ship as fast as you can. There's no use
trying if I can't get through. Don't ask me how I know that. I just
do. That's an order. Understand?"

       *       *       *       *       *

They understood. Gaar unbuckled his sword, handed his shield to Elgen.
Next to come off was the breastplate. When a man's greatest need was
stealth, he didn't want any metal on him.

A moment later he was off through the thin screen of trees, moving
silently around the great circle of stones. At every step he felt it
stronger, this voice inside himself. He had to keep out of the circle.
He knew that.

Then he was behind the slight rise in the earth that was the opening
of the cave. Very slowly now, Gaar moved, feeling his way. He felt the
rock beneath his fingers. A few steps more and there was no rock. He
turned inward.

Hugging the wall he inched forward. There was a shadow, darker then
the rest. Lips moved in the darkness, forming soundless words. Gaar's
hands reach out, found a throat. The lips stopped moving.

Gaar lifted the body, carried it back away from the mouth of the cave.
He almost fell down the stone staircase that yawned suddenly at his
feet. When Gaar had recovered his poise he went on, taking each step

He was going down into a darkness that smelled of the dungeon and even
worse. Walls grew damp and clammy where he touched them. Slimy things
scurried across the floor. The path Gaar was following twisted and

Then there was a door. Gaar fumbled in the darkness. The door opened
soundlessly. Beyond it was a faint and fitful light that led him
onward toward its source. It led him into the room.

Gaar knew it was the end of the search. Its bareness told him what he
had already suspected. There was no treasure. This was a people that
did not believe in jewelled trappings. But the girl was here, in this
very room. That was the only thing that mattered.

A black-robed figure hid the sarcophagus from Gaar's view. A broad
back, wearing the folds of the dark priesthood. The back shifted
uneasily, as though feeling eyes upon it, and Gaar caught a glimpse of
something white beyond.

He stepped forward, light as a giant cat. He took another step and his
foot scraped earth. The sound was minute, almost inaudible, but
Glendyn heard. He whirled, his hand flashing toward his girdle. Gaar
closed the gap between them in a single leap. His left hand caught
Glendyn's wrist, forced the knife back. But Glendyn was a tricky one,
hard to hold. He shifted, kicked out, and Gaar stumbled.

The knife was at his throat now. He knocked it aside, drove his fist
upward into a soft belly. Glendyn doubled and his jaw met Gaar's other
fist as it came up. There was the splintering of bone.

       *       *       *       *       *

Beneath a white, filmy covering she lay, beneath a flimsy veil that
pressed gently upon her rounded form. Her limbs were whiter than the
veil that covered them. Her hair was black as night. Her lips were
redder than in his vision.

A thousand sleeps she had slept, and more. Older than the land from
which Gaar had come, and yet she was younger than he. He bent forward
and pressed his lips to hers. They were warm and yielding.

"Wake up," Gaar whispered. Then, louder, "Wake up!"

Was she dead? It seemed to him that she stirred, and yet it might have
been the flickering light which created an illusion. Now he ran his
hand through her hair. His big hands slapped at her cheeks, gently at
first and then harder. His voice was insistent, commanding.

Very slowly, then, her eyes opened. Blank and staring, they were, as
she hovered on the brink. Gaar's will pulled her to life. The
blankness went out of her eyes and was replaced by a sudden gladness.

"You came. I knew you would come."

She struggled to sit up and saw that only the veil covered her nudity.
She blushed. Gaar turned his back, bent and removed the black robe
from the crumpled figure on the floor. Over his shoulder he handed the
robe to the girl. When he turned to her again she was sitting up, a
trace of color still in her cheeks.

"Where are they?" Marna asked fearfully. There was loathing in the
glance she threw at Glendyn's body. "There are many more. Where are

"Up above," Gaar told her. "This one and another were left to watch

"Good. They won't be coming back for a long time. Now they are busy
preparing the sacrifices to Be'al." Marna shuddered. "It is the feast
of Beltane."

Gaar spoke quickly. "What sort of men are they?"

"They are not men. They are devils. A long time ago they came out of
the sky in strange ships. They brought strange powers and a strange
god who demanded human sacrifices. My people were driven out, killed.
I am the only one left."

"But why did they save you?"

"As a hostage, at first. And later because it pleased them to keep me
as a symbol of the race they had vanquished. Every year I have
awakened and they have used me as a mock sacrifice. And then they have
put me to sleep again for another year."

"And today again?"

"For the last time. They have lost their power to act at a distance.
And they grow afraid that I may call someone they cannot defeat. Their
power is great now on only this one day when the sun comes directly
between the two stones they brought with them from their mother

She started suddenly and Gaar stared at her. "What is it?" he

"I feel something. I feel danger."

       *       *       *       *       *

There was no time to ask questions. Gaar knew she would not be wrong.
This daughter of a lost people had a knowledge he could not fathom. He
lifted her out of the sarcophagus and set her on her feet.

"We've got to get out of here. Once we reach my men and set back for
the coast they'll never stop us."

They were running now, back along the corridor down which Gaar had
come. Half way they went, and then they heard the voices and the feet
that came toward them from above.

Gaar listened intently. There were too many. One or two he would have
fought, maybe even a half-dozen. But this was the tramp of many feet.
They must have found the body at the head of the Stairs. Gaar cursed
his luck.

"We'll have to go back. Is there another way out?"

"No none. It was the burial place for the kings of my people before
the Druids came."

And it looked like it would be his burial place as well, Gaar thought.
But he had to go back anyway. He couldn't take a chance on the girl
being hurt in a fight in the dark. Besides, that fellow he had killed
had a knife. It would be better than no weapon at all.

The feet were close behind them as they ran. The girl was too slow.
Gaar scooped her up and ran with her under his arm. But still not
swiftly enough. They had been overheard.

He had barely time to swing Marna behind the sarcophagus and out of
immediate danger. He bent and tore the knife from Glendyn's loose
grasp. And then they were on him, a flood of black-robed figures.

Blood spurted as the knife in Gaar's hand flashed. A man screamed, and
then another as Gaar's fist made pulp of flesh and bone. His hands
struck blows like Thor's hammer. He made them pay dearly for every
backward step he took. But they came on still.

They were too many for him. They forced him back until a cold wall
stopped him. Then, by the sheer force of numbers they overwhelmed him.
He went down under a torrent of blows that drove everything from his
mind but the thought that he had failed Marna.

       *       *       *       *       *

Daylight, and Gaar's head ached as consciousness returned. He seemed
to be a single aching bruise from head to foot. After a while he
realized that Marna lay beside him at the bottom of the stairs that
led to the cavern mouth.

Light came down strongly, too strongly. It was long after dawn. A
stray thought flashed across Gaar's mind: his men would be well on
their way to the ship: Yet there was no use castigating himself. Marna
would have died before they could have reached her if they had come in
a body.

"I'm sorry," Gaar said, and tried to turn toward Marna. Leather thongs
bound him tightly but he rocked back and forth until he tipped onto
his side.

"Not as sorry as I," she said, her eyes soft on his face. "If I had
not called you would never have come."

"The only thing a Norseman fears is that he should die in bed," Gaar
told her.

But he wasn't ready to die yet. If he could only get a little play
into these thongs! His muscles bulged with the strain as he threw his
strength into the effort. Then a scream filtered down and sent a
shiver along his spine.

"The sacrifices have started," Marna said. "It will not be long now.
They will be coming for us soon."

"Can't _you_ do anything?" Gaar asked. "Can't you fight them with
their own weapons?"

"Not while I am awake. When I sleep my soul is in communion with my
people who have gone and I draw strength from them. But this is the
feast of Beltane. While the sun comes directly between the two great
stones the magic of the Druids is at its most potent. And mine is

As her voice faded there came again the scream of a soul in mortal
fear. The scream died quickly, merging into a rising paean from the
Druids. Then there was a patter of sandal-clad feet and the light from
above was blocked by the figure of Cyngled, the high priest.

In Cyngled's hand the great sacrificial knife dripped blood. Be'al
would drink well this day, Be'al would be appeased. Behind Cyngled
came other priests, lesser ones whose faces revealed unholy joy as
they came down the stairs.

Two of them lifted Marna but it took four to carry Gaar. Strong light
made him blink as they emerged from the mouth of the cave. Shock
forced his eyes to remain open as they entered the charmed circle.

Blood-red came the sun between the two monoliths to fall upon the
great Cromlech that was redder still with human gore. A wave of nausea
swept up from Gaar's stomach. He fought it down.

Then the strength filtered out of him as he was carried into the
circle. Now he was a child in their hands. He felt himself being
lifted, felt his back touch the slippery stone. Beside him Marna was
laid, the black robe she had worn ripped from her body.

Cyngled's chant rose above them, the knife came up and hovered at
Gaar's throat. The knife was coming down. And then it stopped! It
stopped as the air was split by the battle cry of the Norsemen!

       *       *       *       *       *

Gaar twisted his head and saw them come out of the woods beyond the
circle. Like madmen they raged across the clearing. But nobody rushed
to oppose them! Instead, the Druid priests drew back, gathered about
Cyngled. As the Norsemen came into the circle the high priest's hands
drew the magic symbols in the air.

And the Norsemen stopped! Like men of stone they were, a tableau of
arrested motion.

There was no hope. The bitterness of gall was in Gaar's mouth as he
turned his head from the scene. He looked at Marna. Her eyes were
bright, burning into his own. No hopelessness there. Her eyes were
speaking to him.

They were willing him, willing him to strength! Gaar felt it come back
to him. Her magic was stronger than she knew. He felt the strength
come back in a surge that would not be denied.

This was only leather that held him. The leather could bite into his
flesh as he strained. But it could not hurt him. His great chest
filled with air and the thongs gave, stretched. And burst!

In a single leap he was off the altar. He wanted to rage into the
Druid priests, to tear them apart with his bare hands. But there were
too many. And Marna's will was telling him that there was something
else he must do.

He knew what it was. He had to strike at the source of their power.
They were turning to meet his charge, setting themselves solidly.

Gaar wheeled, spurted around them and then around the Cromlech. They
guessed his purpose and leaped to stop him. They had to prevent him
from reaching the two great stones. Gaar battered them aside and went
through them.

His back was against one of the monoliths, his feet against the other.
He climbed that way, ignoring the knives that slashed at his back.
Then he was above the reach of their arms. The sun was full in his
face. His shadow blocked the altar. His back was on stone, his feet
were on stone. Two great pillars, rooted in the earth, and against
them the strength of one man.

       *       *       *       *       *

But that man was Gaar. Slowly his legs straightened, his shoulders
went back. All the power that was in his mighty frame went into the
thrust. It was a power that would not be denied.

A pillar swayed, tottered, and was ripped out of the earth. Gaar felt
himself falling and twisted catlike in the air to land on his feet.

He whirled to meet the charge of the Druids. Cyngled's hands still
traced the air but his power was gone. The Norsemen exploded into life
again, their swords whirring a song of death. Only Cyngled did not
lose his head. Defeated the Druids were, and defeated forever, but he
could snatch some measure of victory from the defeat. He was at
Marna's side when Gaar reached him.

One great hand on Cyngled's throat, another at his waist. Gaar lifted
him high and hurled him earthward. Cyngled twitched once and was
still. The stone knife was in his hand but it would never be used
again. The day of the Druids was over.

Marna was smiling at Gaar as he cut the thongs that bound her. This
time her lips came up to meet his. For Elgen and Asgar and the rest
there was no treasure. But they had no complaints. It had been a good
fight. For Gaar there was the greatest treasure of all.

The hint of sorrow was out of Marna's eyes. The past was gone, and
there was nothing here for her now. She was the daughter of a once
great people. She would be the mother of a greater one. Her arm was
linked with Gaar's as they took the first steps back toward the ship
which would take them northward.


       *       *       *       *       *

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ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.