The Tale Of Hati Shaky Sword
The Army Assembles
The other thought that competed for his time was the terror that he felt building inside of him. Soon he would be in a battle for his life against other warriors. Most of these fighters would almost certainly be much bigger and stronger than himself. He was not afraid to die . In fact death would be a welcome release from the daily struggles to survive in this earthly world. A world in which he did not quite seem to belong. From the time he took his first baby steps, until his present day journey to the king's hall, he had continuously been forced to endure the ridicule and laughter of those around him. And what made it intolerable was the fact that he was not strong enough to fight back against his tormentors. These memories hung over Hati like a black cloud that followed him wherever he went.
When Hati reached the halfway point to the king' s hall , other avenues, and smaller paths began to intersect with the main road. They came in from the east and the west, and were better traveled than the main road from the north. Suddenly Hati was no longer alone ! Instead of feeling good about having traveling companions Hati began to get that confined feeling that came over him whenever he was around others. Yes, out on a road that ran through sparse forests, and open valleys, Hati could actually feel as though the world was closing in around him.
Hati would never have admitted it to anyone, but the warriors who now walked the road to the great hall with him scared him. They were bold, loud, obnoxious, and they each told stories of personal battles that they had fought in. Hati was terrified by the gory tales that these men were telling. And horrible they were ! They spoke of chopping off the limbs of their enemies in battle, and blood spurting out everywhere. They laughed and joked about a man who had his stomach sliced open, and how he just stood there trying to push his entrails back into his body as he quickly bled to death. Most of all, and what made Hati feel sick to his stomach, was when they spoke of how wonderful it felt to kill an enemy warrior. When Hati could take it no more he began to slow down his pace to allow these great men of war to advance ahead of him so he would no longer have to listen to their horrendous tales.
Several times Hati wanted to turn around and go back home. Two things stopped the frail farmer. First, everyone was heading south to the king's hall. He had not passed one single person heading north on this road. To turn around now would almost certainly brand him as a coward and a traitor. Second, and most of all, he knew that if he did not make it to the king's hall King Aki's warriors would hunt him down and kill him. Then his wife and child would either be exiled, or sold into slavery. The warriors heading south wanted to fight and die in battle so they could feast with Odin in Valhalla. Hati simply knew it was better for him to die in battle for the sake of his family.
The closer that Hati came to the king's hall the more activity there was along the way. Ox drawn carts ran south along the road carrying food and other provisions for the army. And no sooner had one full cart passed him going south than another empty wagon would pass him heading north to pick up more supplies. It was obvious to Hati that the camp outside of the king's great hall was enormous !
From time to time riders would gallop north along the road to encourage the warriors to move faster. " We need everyone in camp as soon as possible ! " the horsemen would yell as they went by. One rider in particular was especially rude. " The enemy will not wait for you ! Pick up the pace or we will lose the kingdom ! " he screamed when he rode by. To Hati everything had become surreal. It was as though he was in someone else's dream. And it was quickly becoming a dark and horrible nightmare !
Then, as Hati walked around a bend in the road, he was jolted back to the reality of his situation. Up ahead, and on both sides of the road in front of the great hall, was the huge encampment of King Aki's army. This was where the Ranrike army had gathered, and was in the process of organizing itself, and training its warriors. As Hati stumbled along he noticed that the warriors on both sides of the road were honing their skills. Some were wrestling, while others were practicing with spears, swords, and axes. Out near the woods, on the east side of the road, Hati saw men practicing their archery skills. Being a simple dirt farmer he was amazed at how accurate these warriors were with their bows and arrows. Only very rarely did Hati observe an arrow miss the target, and wind up in the woods.
In the midst of all this organized chaos was King Aki' s great hall. The ornately decorated doors were propped open, and a line had formed at the entrance that extended down the road for a short distance. Following the lead of the other men ahead of him Hati stood in line, and moved forward step by step as it slowly progressed into the hall. As Hati passed through the great double doors he was called forward. Behind a huge table sat one of the men who had come to his farm . As the warriors came before him he asked them each four questions : Their name; If they had any battle experience; did they bring a horse; and what was their weapon of choice. Hati was horrified and embarrassed that most of the men in front of him had been in battles before. He felt very out of place !
When it was Hati's turn the man on the other side of the table introduced himself. " My name is Ivar. I will be leading one of the king' s shield walls. What is your name ? " he asked. " Hati, sir. " Hati nervously answered. " Have you ever been in battle ? " Ivar asked. Hati looked down at the floor. " No, sir ! I am just a simple farmer. " Hati replied in an embarrassed tone. Ivar looked up at the farmer. " I take it you do not have a horse then ? " he asked, already knowing the answer. " No, sir ! " Hati told him without making eye contact. " And what is your weapon of choice ? " Ivar asked. " I have my father's sword...... but I am afraid I am not very good with it. " Hati told him. Ivar exhaled loudly. " Hmm.... I see. You will go to the camp on the west side of the road, and report to my commander Bjarni for training. " Ivar told him. Hati nodded that he understood, and walked back out of the hall. He crossed over the road , and into the west camp. Not sure exactly where to go, or who he was to report to, Hati asked the first warrior he saw for directions. " The commander is over there ! " the warrior told him. As Hati followed the warrior's pointing finger his heart fell into his stomach. His commander, the man named Bjarni, was the huge man who had made fun of him at his farm !
End Chapter 2
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2014.
Next : Chapter 3 : The Tormentor !