Good Witch, Bad Witch !
Hastigi walked over to Vagnhofdi, grabbed him by the shoulder, and spun him around. " Report ! " he ordered. The warrior looked at the king with a blank stare, but said nothing. King Hastigi, who was by now very angry and impatient, shook the warrior back to reality. " I said report ! I want you to tell me what happened, warrior ! " he demanded. Vagnhofdi suddenly realized where he was, much like someone waking from a dream who needs a moment to compose themselves. " My lord ! We rode to the Jarnvid forest, and then split up to look for this evil witch that you spoke of. And there..... there !..... We were attacked by all sorts of creatures and monsters ! " he shouted in a frightened tone. " We barely got out with out lives, my lord ! " he added as he showed the king his broken sword.
" What kind of monsters ?! " the king asked angrily as he grabbed Vagnhofdi by the shirt. The warrior was in no mood to be handled in such a manner, and pushed the king away. " There were spiders, and serpents everywhere ! And they appeared out of thin air ! " he screamed at the king. " There was a monster with two heads, and six arms ! And a dragon my lord ! A damned fire breathing dragon ! " he added becoming very excited . The king shook his head in disgust. " Illusions brought on by witchcraft ! Nothing more ! " he shouted back at the warrior. Vagnhofdi threw his sword at the king's feet. " Illusions do not break swords, or burn the backs of Jotuns, or bite them ! " he yelled back at the king as he pointed at the injured warriors. " These were real threats ! Not some stupid imagined illusion ! " he screamed as loud as he could. Vagnhofdi was to angry to say anymore, and decided it was best to just walk away.
The king spoke to each and every warrior in turn, and was told almost the exact same story as Vagnhofdi had described. Each had a slightly different perspective, but they all agreed that what had happened in the Jarnvid forest was real, and not merely illusions brought about by a witch's magic. When the king was done speaking to every warrior he returned to his high seat, and reflected on all that he had been told. It was there that Queen Imd found him when she returned .
The queen sat down beside her husband, and held his hand. " What vexes Jotunheim's king so ? " she asked. The king took a deep breath, and told her all that had transpired. Although she knew a great deal about what had happened Imd tried to look surprised as he repeated the story. When the king finished he told his wife that he was going back to Jarnvid with his whole army to kill that evil witch, and anything else that got in his way. It was then that Queen Imd decided that she needed to tell her husband the truth. Not to protect the witch Eistla from her husband, but to save her husband, and his army, from the powerful witch of Jarnvid !
" My dear, do not ask how I know this, but I believe that the witch who lives in the Jarnvid forest is not evil. The curses that have been cast upon our world do not emanate from her, but from another source. One I am afraid which I fear is much closer to us than you realize ! " she told her husband. Hastigi gave his wife a startled look. " And who, or what, is this ' other source' ! " her husband asked. Imd took a deep breath before she answered : " I believe that it is Ulfrun who is the cause of all our woes ! " King Hastigi stood up with an angry look in his eyes ! " I do not believe it ! I will not believe it !! " he shouted at her.
Unseen in a dark corner of the hall, crouched Ulfrun behind a column, listening intently. " That bitch ! " she whispered to herself. " I cannot kill her now, but as soon as my sister is dead I will take care of the queen first, and the king next ! And then.... then.... the kingdom will be mine ! " she told herself with a wicked smile. " In the meantime, however, I will stay where I have always kept myself, out of trouble, and lost in the shadows. I will remain my father' s pretty little girl right up until the time I rip his still beating heart out of his chest ! " she thought to herself.
King Hastigi had never had his orders disobeyed before ! Not one of his warriors would travel to the Jarnvid forest with him. They had all heard the horrific tales of what happened to the first expedition that went to find the evil witch, and now they all flatly refused to go. Even when the king threatened them all with death they still refused. Most told the king they would rather be executed than to die a much more horrible death in the Jarnvid forest at the hands of an evil witch.
The king, however, could not be dissuaded from going himself. Hastigi admonished his warriors, at a special meeting that he held in his great hall, telling them that if none of them were brave enough to go with him then he would have to go to Jarnvid alone ! The king did not mention any executions again however. The king knew all too well that he could not kill every warrior in his army, so he let the subject drop.
The king ordered that his horse be saddled at once ! Then the king went to his bed chamber, where his wife helped him to dress in full armor. She pleaded with him not to go, but the king's mind was made up, and she knew that nothing she could say would stop him. When he emerged back into the great hall he was informed that his horse was ready and waiting in the courtyard for him. As the king mounted his horse, Hrimdung hobbled over to him, and tried to talk him out of going, but the king kicked the injured warrior to the ground, and called him a coward. As he rode away King Hastigi yelled back : " When I come back I will name a new warrior to lead my army ! "
The king could not help but notice that the closer he came to the Jarnvid forest the darker and drearier it became. Thick heavy clouds completely covered the sky that was sunny and blue when he left his hall. He slowed his horse down to a walk when the forest came within sight, and when they were only about a hundred yards from the edge of the forest his horse suddenly became skittish, and the king decided that it was time to dismount before he was thrown. " It is all just an illusion to intimidate me . I do not fear this evil witch and her magic ! " he told himself out loud. The king spoke bold words, but his actions did not back them up. Instead of rushing headlong into the dark forest, Hastigi drew his sword, and walked along the edge of the forest cautiously peering in to see what he could. Slowly, one step at time, he entered the forest.
King Hastigi walked for the entire day all around the forest, but he could not find any sign of an evil witch anywhere. He also, to his great relief, did not see any monsters either. As evening began to fall, the gloom of the forest made it too dark to see. The king carefully backtracked out of the forest, and returned to his horse. As he stood by his mount deciding whether to stay the night and try searching again in the morning, or returning to his great hall, he heard a rustling of leaves a short distance away. The king silently drew his sword, and slowly circled around where he heard the noises. When king Hastigi spotted the creature, whatever it was, he was relieved that it was not a two headed monster or a dragon. Carefully, and as quietly as was possible, he came up from behind the creature, who was picking something up off of the forest floor. " Do not move, or I will kill you ! " the king told the little being as he placed the point of his sword against the back of its neck.
Amvid, the little troll woman, could feel the sharp steel point against the back of her neck. " Why would you kill me ? " she asked. " I have done you no harm. " she added. The stranger walked around her, and came face to face with her. " I will ask the questions here ! " he told her as he pressed his sword up against her throat. Amvid tilted her head, and with a bewildered look replied : " I will answer your questions. You do not have to threaten me. " The large Jotun looked her right in the eyes, and then lowered his weapon when he realized that she was not a danger.
" What are you ? " the king asked. Amvid gave the Jotun an angry look. " My name in Amvid, and I am a troll woman of course ! " she told him . King Hastigi gave her a puzzled look. " Troll woman ? " he said under his breath. " My name in King Hastigi . " he told her. Do you live in this forest ? " the king then asked. Amvid laughed ! " Of course I live here, King Hastigi ! " she replied. " My kind have lived here in the Jarnvid forest since the beginning of time ! " she told the king proudly. Then the king decided to ask the question that he most needed the answer to . " Do you know where an ugly witch lives here in this forest ? " The little troll woman gave Hastigi a suspicious look. " And why are you looking for this witch ? " she asked . The king raised his sword again . " Because that bitch has been plaguing Jotunheim with evil curses ! " he shouted angrily at the little troll woman. Amvid, despite the sharp sword that was now pointed at her, became very angry herself. " Eistla would never hurt anyone ! She is a good witch who helps all those who are in need of her magic ! " she shouted back at the king. Hastigi recoiled as if he had been punched in the stomach, when he heard the name of the evil witch. " How could that child still be alive ! " he said to himself. It took the king a few moments to compose himself, and when he did he he gave the troll woman an evil grin. " You will take me to Eistla right now ! " the king demanded. Amvid puffed out her chest as she asked : " And what if I refuse ? " The king laughed. " Then I will kill you, and every other troll I come across until I find this evil witch ! " he told her.
Amvid did not want to assist the king, but she felt she had little choice. " Then I guess I will have to take you to her. " she told him. " Come this way . " she added as she began to walk deeper into the forest. King Hastigi grabbed a hold of the back of her dress with one hand, and kept his sword pointed at the small of her back with the other. If she was leading him into a trap she would be the first to die, the king would make very sure of that.
As they approached the underground dwelling of the trolls, Amvid could sense that Eistla was very near. Her daughter's magic was so powerful that it made the hairs stand up on the back of her mother's neck. Then suddenly a loud cracking sound came from their right. Before either Amvid or Hastigi could run a huge tree began falling directly above them ! Hastigi jumped one way, and Amvid dove the other as the tree fell with a loud crash between them. As they lay on the ground they both saw red glowing eyes hovering above them against the dark sky ! King Hastigi quickly jumped to his feet to defend himself against this new danger. The king waved his sword menacingly back and forth in a threatening manner to show the beast that he was not afraid of it. It was then that the creature stepped forward into the faint moonlight, and the king saw exactly what was confronting him.
The creature was huge ! Green, scaly, and almost as tall as the trees, the dragon towered over the king like a mountain over a valley. As King Hastigi began to slowly back away from the creature he noticed that Amvid did not fear the dragon. The troll woman stood defiantly across from the king, and pointed a finger at him. " And now who will die, great king of Jotunheim !? " she asked in a mocking tone. Hastigi did not have time to reply. Suddenly, the dragon opened his huge mouth, and out of its gaping jaws a long flame spewed forth just missing the king. The blast of heat was strong enough to knock him to the ground however. As the king slowly got back up on his feet he noticed that Amvid was no longer alone !
" If I was as evil as you say I am I would let my little pet here burn you to death. But I am not what you think I am, and therefore I will let you leave with your life. " she told him. The king stood for a moment unsure of what he should do. Then a second blast of flames above his head made up his mind for him. " That means NOW, king of Jotunheim ! " Eistla told him more forcefully. The king turned and ran as fast as he could back to his horse. He was so terrified that he mounted his steed in a single jump. King Hastigi kicked his horse and rode away from Jarnvid as fast as he could ! And he never once looked back.
Amvid laughed as the king ran away. When he disappeared out of view she looked over at Eistla. " Thank You ! " she said gratefully to her daughter. Eistla smiled . " I do not think that the king, or any of his warriors, will come back anytime soon ! " Eistla told her mother. Amvid held her daughter's hand as they walked back to their cave home. " Do you think the king will change his mind about you after this ? " she asked. Eistla stopped and looked her mother in the eyes. " Soon everything will change mother ! " the witch said almost matter of factly.
- End Chapter 5
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2014.
- Next : Chapter 6 : The King' s Plan