“English Shepherd,” Wikipedia.

Part 1: Encroaching Clans

Three sharp barks we heard, Ristá through
Dense fiord forests, arrows set, bow strings
Tightened, instinctively I, Brithe, stepped
Back, Norse warriors at ready, no sound or
Movement, except Ritsa returning, hackles
Up. “They are here,” I whispered, as we
Advanced, pungent smell tree-wafting,
Akin to hard-ridden horse, fresh animal
Hides, from winter hovels beasts emerging,
Silent-moving shadows, evening lurking.

Swords poised, we cautious-crept, Ritsá
At my side, nose high-sniffing, growling,
Dangers perceived. Few weeks they began,
Flocks night-startled, eyes reflecting by
Night fire flames, dogs barking, Norsemen
Ready with  sharp-pikes, swords and bows,
Women daggers drawn, children protecting,
Accounts thingmen told, encroaching clans,
Neither man nor beast, upright walking,
Large footprints, forest disappearing.

“Hair, we found hair,” Kollstein whispered,
Long brown strands, matted mange, lifted
By sword point from tree bark, ground
Thrown, spat upon, Norsemen turn-taking,
Tree-root urinating, territory marked, broad-
Firth protecting. Again rotted smell, Ritsá
Growling, seated at my feet, danger lurking,
“If one, more are forest-lurking,” I surmised,
“Numbers too large to fight,” wives, mothers
To widowhood foretold this day.

“Portrait of a Girl,” Albert Anker, 1885, WikiArt.

“What then?” Kollstein asked, fearing neither
Hand-fight nor swordplay. Girl wandering
Forest perceived, Unna of our broadfirth, us
Following, flower gathering, sweet voice to
Gods soul-singing, adjacent dark movements
Made. Swords drawn, single file, fates tempted,
We moved ourselves tween child, advancing
Blood-dangers,  single arrow tree-struck. “It
Cannot see,” said Kollstein. “Or warning shot,”
I offered. “Our lives for child Unna traded.”

Girl child, Unna, shall soul-singing be your undoing?
Beast attracting, shadows listening from afar, tantalized,
approaching for breeze-stirring sweet refrains.
Thanks for reading. 

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