The War Begins
As Thorkel looked down from the high ground, that he had wisely chosen, into the valley below, his mind drifted to memories of his father . He remembered how his father had taken him along on many of his battles when he was a child, and how even after a day full of blood and death, his father still found time to sit him on his lap, and describe the tactics he used in such vivid detail. Thorkel had learned much from his father, but he still had doubts about his own abilities. When he was younger his older brother had always been able to beat him in fights. Now he wondered if he would be as great a warrior as his father, or would this be his final battle. He then thought of Ingigerd, and wondered if he would ever see her again ? They had been trying for a child, and he wanted to have a son of his own to love, and teach the art of war, and how to become a good king someday. In a few hours those dreams might all be over. Thorkel was brought back to the reality of the moment when he spotted his brother at the front of his warriors on an adjacent hill.
King Hrolf stopped at the edge of a small hill directly across from the high ground that his brother now occupied. King Hrolf was extremely confident, and scared to death at the same time. Riding with his regular warriors were one hundred of the worst men ever to have lived, and died, on the face of the earth. They were highly skilled at the art of killing, and of course they had the advantage of already being dead. Which Hrolf knew would easily tip the balance of the battle in his favor. King Hrolf was disgusted by these walking dead soldiers from Nastrond. When they first joined his army they were fairly well behaved, but as the days wore on these dead warriors had become more and more unruly, and unpredictable. Especially as they began to decay in the early Norwegian spring sunshine. His regular troops stayed away from Loki' s, "Legion of Death " , as they were called, out of fear, and to avoid the quickly growing stench.
Queen Busla had gone mad ! Entering into an evil pact with Loki had unhinged her already fragile mind. She went from moments of euphoria, to bouts of uncontrollable depression, and tears. In one instant she was as bold as any of her son' s warriors, and in the next she was literally afraid of her own shadow . She was afraid because she knew that in those shadows, and in the dark recesses of her mind, she had opened herself up to unspeakable evil. With that realization she lost whatever sanity she had left.
King Hrolf had his men escort his mother to the rear . He had enough problems and stress without having to listen to the rantings of a deranged person. He simply wanted this whole ordeal to be over with as soon as possible. He was confident that his " Army of the Dead ", could not be stopped, and that was because he knew they could not be killed. He laughed as he thought to himself : " You cannot kill what is already dead ! " He quickly caught himself, and took a deep breath when he realized that thoughts like that could drive him over the edge as well. All Hrolf had to do was defeat Thorkel, kill the Godi Odd, and then all this insanity would be over. Loki would be satisfied, the dead warriors would go back to live with Hel in Niflheim, and he could unite the two kingdoms, and rule all of Hordaland unopposed.
In a grove of trees, hidden from both armies, Thor and Tyr watched the armies on both sides gather in strength, and prepare for the coming battle. Tyr, and expert on war, was pleased with the disposition of King Thorkel' s warriors. He held the high ground, he had scouts probing ahead, and he had both of his flanks protected by fast cavalry and archers. Tyr felt very confident in King Thorkel' s chances in the upcoming battle, and told Thor as much. Thor agreed and added that he liked the variety of weapons that Thorkel had his troops using. Thorkel's men were well equipped with spears, axes, swords, shields, and bow and arrows. Thor liked the look in Thorkel' s men's eyes. They were unafraid, and seemed eager for the battle to begin.
From across the small valley, that lay between the high ground and the small hill, the Gods heard the screams of men who were on the attack. King Hrolf had launched his men on a massive scale. He held nothing back, and the first to feel the cold steel of his warriors were the scouts that Thorkel had sent forward. Not one survived Droge' s living dead ! As Hrolf' s men, led by Loki' s Legion, reached the crest of Thorkel' s position, Thor and Tyr noticed something that was not quite right. The men leading the way had been pelted with arrows, but were not falling. They were led by a man who was berserk, and who ran ahead of the rest of his men swinging his sword wildly. He looked like a rabid porcupine with all the arrows sticking from his chest ! No matter how many times Throkel' s men slashed, or stabbed, these men, they did not fall ! They just kept moving forward cutting all those down in their front. Thorkel threw more of his men into the center to try and stem the tide which had turned against him, but to no avail. They just kept pushing Thorkel's warriors back, cutting them down like wheat before a giant scythe. Thorkel had no choice he had to pull his men back before all was lost !
Thor and Tyr knew at once that either the Jotuns, or Hel herself had released the dead from Nastrond ! Thor pulled Mjollnir out of his belt, but before he could move even one step forward Tyr stopped him. " We must not interfere ! That was Odin's decree ! " Tyr shouted at Thor. Tyr watched as Thorkel' s men died in heaps, then turned to Thor and said : " Thorkel will need a miracle to survive this attack ! " Thor screamed in anger : " I do not believe in miracles my old friend ! " Thor thought for a moment, calmed down and then added : " But I do know of one who deals in magic ! " Thor raised Mjollnir to the sky and commanded the presence of the Queen of Seidr.
Freyja walked toward the Gods as if she had just walked through a doorway. On a battlefield filled with the screams of the dying and literally running with the blood of the combatants, Freyja was an odd sight indeed. Dressed all in white she smiled as if she had not a care in the world. Tyr looked over at Thor and frowned : " And what can she do Thor ? We are not allowed to directly interfere in any way ! " Thor ignored Tyr's question, and asked Freyja a question of his own instead : " Can you stop the walking dead without us getting involved directly ? " Freyja looked over at the decaying army of the dead, and then glanced back at Thor with a sly little smile. " Look ! " Freyja said pointing at the sky. At first Thor and Tyr saw only a clear blue sky. Then suddenly they saw a buzzard. Then two, and four, and soon the whole sky was filled with the circling birds. Freyja looked over at the Gods and asked with a laugh : " What is it that enjoys the dead as much as Nidhogg ? " Tyr and Thor looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders in response. Freyja shook her head in disgust and answered for them : " Scavenger birds ! " Freyja then waved her hand in the direction of the army of the dead, and the circling carrion eaters swarmed out of the sky and attacked Loki's army of the dead.
Freyja smiled, and then disappeared as mysteriously as she had arrived. As Tyr watched Droge and his warriors being literally torn to pieces by thousands of birds, he turned toThor and said : " You know, she really scares me ! " Thor laughed as he replied : " Yes, Her magic is powerful my old friend ! " Thor then added , " Odin was wise in making peace with the Vanir. " Tyr pointed to the battlefield and said : " The tide is turning Thunder God ! "
- Glenn Bergen, Copyright, 2013
End Part 9
Next : The Final Battle