Good Witch, Bad Witch !
Dragons, Wolves, And Monsters !
As they talked Amvid brewed a tea made from wild roots, while Branmir brought a wooden serving plate filled with delicious berries and mushrooms. And there they sat for a long time discussing Eistla, and all that had transpired in the past. The more that Amvid and Branmir told the queen about their daughter the more convinced Imd was that she could not be the source of the Jotun's problems. And despite her ugly disfigurement Eistla seemed to be a very nice young Jotun girl. Just as Amvid finished telling Queen Imd a funny story about her daughter's first steps, Eistla stood up and said very calmly : " They are almost here. "
Queen Imd jumped off of her stump chair ! " I must leave ! I cannot allow them to see me here ! " she told the trolls very nervously. Eistla smiled. " It is too late. They will see you my friend if you try to leave. But do not worry yourself , I will make them go away. " she told the queen quietly. The queen' s eyes suddenly widened ! " Will you have to kill them ?! " she asked. Eistla placed her hand on the queen' s shoulder, and gently pushed her back down onto the stump chair. " I promise you my friend I will try very hard not to harm anyone. " the little witch said with a comforting smile.
Hrimdung, and his warriors, rode up to the edge of the forest at a full gallop, and then stopped abruptly. The horses became unruly and would not go any further no matter what the Jotuns tried. Once they settled down their horses Hrimdung and his warriors dismounted and drew their swords ready to do battle. The Jotuns hesitated for a moment as they entered the Jarnvid forest. Hrimdung stopped and looked around at the immense size of the forest and realized it would take days, or possibly even weeks, to search all of it to find the evil witch. " We will have to split up into smaller units . There are twenty of us, so we will split into five groups of four Jotuns each, and spread out to search as much of this forest as is possible. " Hrimdung told them. All agreed it was a good idea, and once the units were set, each one set off in a different direction.
The first team, led by Ymsi, did not travel far before they heard rustling sounds all around them. As they watched the leaves covering the ground, on a windless day, they suddenly noticed the colorful autumn leaves begin to change shape. Slowly each of the leaves grew eight legs, and a hairy black head with a multitude of shiny black eyes. Right before the warriors unbelieving eyes these leaves had turned into big nasty looking spiders, and they all were beginning to head in their direction. Each of the Jotuns looked at each other, and then they all looked at Ymsi. Their fearless leader placed his sword back into its scabbard, and ran as fast as he could out of the forest. Shocked by their leader's action they stood for a moment before joining Ymsi in leaving as fast as they could run in the direction they had come. The colorful leaf spiders chased the warriors out of the forest, and then stopped at the edge of the clearing. As the warriors rode away at full gallop, the spiders melted back into the shape of autumn leaves, and once again lay harmlessly on the forest floor.
The second group of Jotuns had just reached a babbling brook when they began to hear hissing sounds coming from overhead. As they searched the trees to find out where the noise was coming from they noticed that some of the branches were beginning to move. Each branch began to wriggle back and forth rhythmically, almost as if they were moving to some unheard beat. Then Svivor, the leader of these Jotuns, screamed as he pointed overhead. " Those branches are turning into serpents ! " He had no sooner spoken when the serpent branches began to slither down onto the ground all around them. Svivor was a very courageous Jotun and decided to show his fellow warriors that he was not afraid. He ran forward swinging his sword back and forth at the slithering serpents that had coiled up in front of them for the attack. To Svivor's surprise his sword stuck in the first snake he struck. It took all of Svivor's strength to pull his sword free, and when he finally retrieved his weapon he realized that the bodies of the snakes were made of wood ! As he looked at his sword, and then at the small cut he made in the serpent's body, the great beast reared up and bit him on the shoulder. Svivor, the fearless warrior, dropped his sword, and ran screaming like a Giantess as fast as he could out of the forest and away from the serpents. He was quickly followed by his comrades !
Vagnhofdi led the third team down a small gully, where they found an opening to a cavern. As they approached a fog began to emanate from the mouth of the great cave. For the sake of safety Vagnhofdi ordered the Jotuns to spread out in front of the opening. Suddenly the ground began to shake beneath them from a great pounding force, that made a loud boom with every tremor. The sound was coming from deep within the cave. And it was coming closer ! Boom ! Boom ! Boom ! The sound grew louder and the tremors became more violent the closer it came to the entrance to the cave. Vagnhofdi stood defiantly in front of the cave with his shield held in front of him in one hand, and his sword in the other. Then something appeared within the mist !
The creature that emerged from the opening had two heads, and six arms ! And in each hand it held a different weapon ! Vagnhofdi and his men took a step backwards as the creature began swinging an axe, a sword, a club, a hone, a spear, and a scythe at the warriors. The Jotuns bravely attacked, but they were quickly beaten back by the monster's heavy blows. Vagnhofdi went into a rage and attacked the creature liked a wild animal, swinging his sword with incredible strength, and blocking the creatures blows with his shield. No matter how fast or hard Vagnhofdi attacked, however, the monster easily blocked his sword strokes. The fearless Jotun finally lost his nerve when the creature broke his sword in half with a powerful blow from his club. Vaghofdi looked down at his broken sword, and then up at the monster, and shouted : " Retreat back to the horses ! " It was every Jotun for himself as they ran for the edge of the forest ! And as they quickly mounted and rode away they could still hear the monster's footsteps shaking the earth behind them!
Thurbord did not like the Jarnvid forest. It was dark and much too quiet. In a normal forest you would hear the sounds of birds chirping, and the wind blowing through the trees, but within the confines of Jarnvid it was perfectly still, and dead silent. Then slowly, off in the distance, Thurbord and his men heard a pounding sound. At first the Jotuns were concerned, but whatever was causing the noise did not seem to be coming their way. The ominous sound, however, took their attention away from the wolf den where a pack of ten ravenous wolves had emerged. The Jotuns first hint of trouble was when they heard the low growling of the alpha male. Slowly Thurbord looked over his shoulder at the huge wolves, and then yelled : " Run ! " The Jotuns ran as fast as they could, but Thurbord tripped over an exposed root and fell. The wolves were on him in a no time. The pack tore at his clothes, and one had a hold of his arm when Thurbord's men returned and attacked the wolves. The Jotuns were able to beat back the wolves, but were unable to kill any of them. As soon as they were able to get their leader up onto his feet they all turned and ran back to their horses. It was a close call, as they barely outran the pack to the edge of the timber line. When they finally reached their horses they turned around and saw the wolves glowing eyes within the dark forest. Their loud growls were a warning not to come back ! Thurbord had had enough ! He ordered his men back to Jotunheim.
Hrimdung and his men heard the screams and yells for help that echoed through the Jarnvid forest. His Giants pleaded with him to turn away from this cursed place, but Hrimdung was a very strong Jotun who did not fear anything. As they approached a small clearing within the thick forest, he did however proceed with a little more caution. When they reached the edge of the clearing Hrimdung put up his hand. " Stop ! Be quiet ! " he said in a hoarse, but loud whisper. Off in the distance they suddenly heard a loud flapping sound. The longer they listened the closer the noise came ! While his warriors looked nervously around, Hrimdung stood tall and proud waiting for whatever was coming . As the sound came closer and closer Hrimdung moved towards the sound, while his Jotuns began to slowly back away from the clearing. Without warning something swooped into the clearing from the sky above. At first Hrimdung, who was now all alone, could not quite comprehend what the creature was, but when it turned to face him he could see the massive tail, then the long snout, and huge mouth came into full view. As the creature opened its mouth to show its long sharp teeth, it finally dawned on Hrimdung that this was a dragon !
Hrimdung was no coward, but this was too much even for a Jotun as brave as himself ! He quickly turned and ran away from the clearing. Suddenly there was a loud screeching sound behind him, and he felt something very hot surrounding him. As he ran ever faster he became aware that he was on fire. He also knew, however, that if he stopped he would die. By the time Hrimdung reached the edge of the Jarnvid forest the fire had burned itself out. His warriors, who had beaten him to their horses, looked at their leader with wide unbelieving eyes. All of his clothes had been burned off of his back, and the exposed skin was burned like a piece of boar meat left on the spit too long. As Hrimdung reached his horse he collapsed in a heap. His men ran over and helped him up off of the ground. It took all of his men to lift him onto his horse. The proud Jotun had a very painful ride back to Jotunheim. A journey which many of his warriors did not think he would survive !
Queen Imd had been watching Eistla very closely. The ugly little witch seemed to be in some kind of trance, as she stood motionless before the queen with her eyes closed. Suddenly, Eistla opened her eyes startling the queen ! Then the witch smiled at her. " There ! I have chased them all away, and I only had to injure a few of them ! " she told the queen pleasantly. Queen Imd gave Eistla a suspicious look. " You did not kill any of the warriors ? " she asked. The witch moved closer and whispered to the queen : " One of your Jotuns has a bite on his shoulder, another has a few teeth marks on his arm, and the last injured Jotun.... well.... lets just say I singed his pride a little . " she replied with a little laugh. Then Eistla placed her hand on the queen's shoulder, and told her in a serious tone : " It is safe for you to leave now ! " Branmir and Amvid nodded in agreement. " Yes, it would be better if you left. " they said almost simultaneously.
- End chapter 4
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2014.
Next : Chapter 5 : Jarnvid Revisited.