The Spirit Tamer
Halldorr was greeted by King Herjolfr of Halogaland, who immediately escorted the Kvenlanders to waiting horses.
" Go quickly ! " the king told Halldorr. " My friend and ally King Faravid sent his warriors into the Evil Woods to try and kill the Ajatar, and all who looked upon the female serpent became deathly ill. In retaliation the Ajatar has let loose a pestilence upon all of Kvenland that is spreading disease among all of your people ! "
Halldorr wasted no time in taking the rein of a great white horse from King Herjolfr. After mounting the steed he looked over at Naddoður, who was given a brown mare to ride, but had not yet put his foot in the stirrup, and pleaded with him :
" Naddoður ! We must hurry !! Plague and pestilence hang like a dark cloud over my people ! Mount your horse and let us be on our way ! " he implored the reluctant rider.
Naddoður nodded and placed his left foot in the stirrup. Using the saddle he pulled himself up, and swung his other leg over until his foot was firmly in the other stirrup. Once he was safely in place he reined his horse around, and followed Halldorr as he headed east for Kvenland. With every up and down motion the Shaman knew that his inner thighs were once again being chaffed raw. As the burning sensation built he remembered those Kvenlanders who sacrificed their lives during the journey north, and it made the pain much easier to tolerate.
Their journey across Halogaland was a hard one. The weather at this latitude was much colder than in Numadalr, or Sygnafylki, and the terrain here was much more rugged and mountainous. The further inland they went the more harsh the conditions became, and Naddoður, when it began to snow in the mountain pass they were traveling through, wondered why anyone would want to live in such a region as this. But then the Shaman remembered that he had met, many years before, the people called the Saami, who thrived in much harsher conditions in the far north, which made him conclude that a people, given enough time could adapt to any climate.
Naddoður was amazed by the enormous size of King Faravid's Great Hall. As he reined in his horse he studied the great structure from end to end. The hall was easily twice as big as the Great Stone Hall in Numadalr. The sides of the Great Hall appeared to be constructed of mighty timbers, which were encased in turf, presumably to insulate the hall from the elements. The roof appeared to be made of wood as well with a layer of turf upon it for insulation. Great logs, equally spaced around the structure were butted up against the roofing to help brace it. Only where the front doors were located were there less of these bracing logs to allow the doors to swing open. The most amazing sight for Naddoður was not the the great size of the hall, but the fact that there were not one or two, but three seperate puffs of smoke billowing from the great structure.
" Three fire pits ! Very impressive ! " he whispered to himself as two guards opened the doors to the hall for them to enter.
The interior of the Great Hall was, at least not at this very moment, as spectacular as the exterior. All around the hall warriors lay moaning in feverish delirium as the village women tried to make them feel more comfortable by wiping their brows and giving them water, and broth. As Naddoður, led by Halldorr, walked up the center of the Great Hall, the Shaman could not help but hear the sick as they coughed, gagged and vomited. The most unsettling sight for the Shaman, however, was when they neared the middle fire pit. Here he saw a large warrior, who looked as if he might be a Berserker, weeping as if he knew that Valhalla was now out of his reach, and that soon he would be walking the road to Niflheim.
The king sat on his high - seat with his head buried in his hands. To Naddoður it looked as though the king did not want to see the misery all around him anymore, and was trying to hide from it. It was not until Halldorr cleared his throat loudly, and began to speak to King Faravid, that the leader of the Kven people unmasked his face.
" My Lord ! I have brought to you the great Warrior Shaman Naddoður. He has agreed to help us rid our kingdom of this pestilence causing Ajatar. " he told his king.
The king looked at Naddoður with eyes that lacked both sleep and hope. Without so much as a greeting, or word of thanks for coming, King Faravid pointed around the room.
" If you were the most powerful Shaman in all the nine worlds I doubt that you could do anything to stop such evil as this. I sent my warriors to destroy this creature, and not only did they not kill the Ajatar, they returned cursed by the stare of the great serpent ! " he explained in a weary voice.
Naddoður bowed slightly as he asked the king about the creature.
" When did the creature first appear ? "
The king looked beyond the Shaman as though he were trying to see visions of the past.
" For years we had heard stories of a great female spirit that could take the form of a serpent, or a dragon. The Christians, of which there are only a few in my kingdom, say that it is the mother of the devil himself. " the king said before pausing.
" Last year I sent a warrior out to the " Evil Forest ", as it is now known, to see why my village was being plagued by a multitude of snakes. The warrior returned blind and shivering with fever to inform me that before the Ajatar spit poison into his eyes, but before he was blinded he had seen the great serpent suckling hundreds of snakes all at once as if it were their mother. " he told the Shaman.
Naddoður replied to the king in a soft calm voice.
" To look at an Ajatar is not fatal, but if the creature locks it's eyes upon it's victim then all is lost. Whatever disease that exists in the evil spirit of the Ajatar is then transferred to the one who dared look at the great serpent. " he explained.
King Faravid shook his head from side to side out of sheer disgust.
" Then how do we fight a creature that we cannot look at ! " he shouted angrily as he pounded his fist against the high - seat.
Naddoður remained as calm as ever.
" The Greeks had a similar creature. It was called Medusa, and was considered to be the most famous of the Gorgons. To get close to that female serpent like creature, that had snakes for hair, Perseus used his shield as a mirror to get close enough to chop off it's head with his sword. Much like with the Ajatar, death was the result of looking at the Medusa, though not from disease. " he told the king.
The king raised his head.
" How did they die ? " he asked with a morbid curiosity.
Naddoður rolled his eyes.
" Well,.... they were turned to stone, my Lord. " he replied.
The king shook his head again.
" Can you kill the Ajatar the same way,.... this Perseus warrior killed the Medusa ? " Faravid asked with a glimmer of hope in his voice.
Naddoður thought for a moment.
" No ! The Ajatar can spit poison as well as cause disease with a stare. I doubt that we can get close enough to the creature to kill it with a sword or even a spear. " he informed the king.
King Faravid, who seemed exhausted, looked at the Shaman angrily.
" Then what is the answer ? ! " he asked loudly.
Naddoður answered the king's question with one of his own.
" Do you have a mirror I could borrow my Lord ? "
The king pointed to Halldorr.
" My commander of the army will find you whatever you need ! " he replied.
Naddoður nudged Halldorr with his elbow and bowed.
" Then we will leave at once for the " Evil Forest ". he informed the king, before turning to leave the hall.
Halldorr, once they were outside, ran over to his hut and emerged moments later with a fine looking mirror.
As he handed it to Naddoður the Shaman looked it over carefully.
" Very nice ! " he told the warrior after he had examined the ornate silver mirror.
" Only the best for my wife Astrid ! " he replied.
Naddoður was relieved that the forest was close enough to walk to, for he did not wish to ride another horse at the moment. Actually, the Shaman was shocked at just how close the " Evil Forest " was to the village.
" It is no wonder that they were plagued by these snakes ! " he whispered to himself.
A tiny voice replied.
" Unfortunately the snakes are the least of our problems. The Ajatar in it's den will be very hard to flush out and kill. " Alva told the Shaman.
As they were about to enter the forest Naddoður asked Halldorr to wait for him at the edge of the treeline.
" There is no sense in both of us dying today. " was the reasoning given by the Shaman.
As Naddoður proceeded into the forest he quickly became aware of a smell wafting towards him from off to his right.
" Do you smell that ? " he asked the fairy.
Alva quickly buzzed in front of him.
" Yes ! It is the smell of death and decay. From this point on I would suggest that we both look only in the mirror, as we walk backward towards it's lair. " she informed the Shaman.
Naddoður pulled the silver mirror out of his belt, and turned around. Then, with Alva sitting on his shoulder looking into the mirror, he began to slowly walk backward. As he carefully studied the images reflected in the mirror he counted how many steps he took. When he reached seventy - eight he stopped. What he and his fairy friend saw in the mirror terrified them both. The warrior who had been blinded by the creature had been off when he told the king there were hundreds of snakes that were suckling on the teats of the Ajatar. It was not hundreds, that they saw in the reflection of the mirror, but thousands which were being nursed by the Mother Serpent.
" How can we hope to kill a creature such as this ? The serpents will surely attack anyone long before they reach the Ajatar. And with those high rocks on three sides there is only one way to approach the creature, and that is from the front. " Alva told the Shaman.
Naddoður saw the same image that Alva was looking at, but his assessment of the situation was slightly different.
" We will not attack the creature head on. Instead the creature will be made to come to us ! " he told Alva.
Alva grinned slightly as she asked.
" And how will we manage that " ?
Naddoður chuckled a little before answering.
" I have a plan ! " he told her as he began to walk away from the creature before it spotted them.
- End Chapter 15
- Next : Chapter 16 : " Burn, You Bastards, Burn ! "
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2017.