To confirm or decry, as to whether she might have lost her way, Skogul did place her father upon the ground with her left hand. Beseeching him to grow to similar size, as herself, so that he might scan both ground and night sky with his well-practiced hunter's eyes. This, he did. Although, with some troubling difficulty.
After a few moments, he grimly nodded.
"We are in the correct position. Yet, I see naught but this...!"
He gestured with his head toward the stone coffin.
"But, we were gone for little more than a day!" exclaimed his giantess daughter: "How could Jomsborg have disappeared, and the forest reclaimed so much open ground, in so little time?"
That is when I became stricken with my most horrible realization, yet.
"Brother Iosef!" I muttered.
"What say you?" Svyatogor inquired, having heard me with his giant ears.
"The head of the Greek monastery, back on Chios," I replied: "He did warn me that the passage of time, in Ovaria's realm, was much slower than that of our world. Such that one day, there, might equal a hundred years, here!"
Skogul gasped: "You mean...?"
Now, it was my turn to nod, most grimly.
"Your mother, and all the rest of your people, might now be a century dead."
"No-no-no-no-NO!" she shouted, shaking her head in denial: "That cannot be!"
As if in response, there was an outcry from Svyatogor that did sound more like a groan of pain and exhaustion. Which did not surprise me, when I espied that he had lifted off the massive lid of the stone coffin. Revealing, in the process, that its top and bottom were covered with runic inscriptions.
Ones that Prince Holgar did readily identify as Danish in origin. So, I did beseech him to translate them for us.
Here is what he read:
"I, Swanhild Ilsingsdottir (named for the daughter of Ragnar of Rok; she who was taken in marriage by Edric Halfdan), do hereby recount in writing the tale that was handed down to me, by word of mouth, from Kara Halfdansdottir and her child's children. A tale of the treacherous doom that came to Jomsborg, following the disappearance of her jarl and their eldest daughter."
Skogul did look at me
"Eldest?" she did echo in bewilderment.
Svyatogor gestured for Prince Holgar to continue.
"The Templars who did escort the Man of Murom to the Bohemian mouth of the secret pass...did not return whence they came. Instead, they merely encamped! Waiting for a much larger force of Templars to arrive. A force compiled from the fortresses of Ljubljana, Vrana, and Klis. And, when they came, at last, they did bring with them a brace of Dalmatian hunting dogs."
"These, with their affinity for horses, did follow the scent trail of Ilya Muromets' saddle mount and pack mule through the Krkonose. And, all the way to the outskirts of Jomsborg!"
"Then, did they commence to lay siege to the city."
"First, they did drive the field hands back to the city gates. Skewering with their lances, and crushing to bloody pulps beneath the hooves of their war horses, all those too slow to make it."
"They did withdraw from their clamoring, at the main gate, only after a few of their number had been fatally un-horsed by the arrows of our yeoman archers. Regrouping safely out of range, the rest of the invading force did encamp. As if waiting for reinforcements."
"They stayed, thus, for two days. At dawn, of the third day, the sentries atop the wall saw that reinforcements were precisely what the Templars had awaited!"
"For the invading force had been joined by a company of Beszormeny turcopoles.* Along with a company of Byzantine evzones. The banners of the latter identifying them as the Athanatoi, from the Mani Peninsula of Sparta."
Turcopoles: medieval horse archers who often worked as soldiers-of-fortune. So named for initially being Turkish mercenaries.
Evzones: Greek name for elite mountain infantry. The traditional uniforms of which are still worn by the Honor Guard of Greece's head of state.
Athanatoi: roughly translates, from the Greek, as "the Deathless Ones."