The Tale Of Hati Shaky Sword
The Honorable Commander
Ivar watched these men closely, and felt that considering the circumstances they were doing as well as could be expected. All that is except one. The farmer Hati, the one everyone now called "shaky sword" did not seem to be making much progress at all. Although Ivar did not much care for the demeaning nickname he had to admit that "shaky sword" fit the man' s fighting style perfectly. As Ivar watched Hati being defeated in single combat time and time again, he noticed that Hati did not shake at the beginning of the match. The shakes came later, and became much more pronounced towards the end. With a small laugh of recognition Ivar realized that Hati was not shaking because he was scared, his hand shook because the sword was too long, and too heavy for a man of his stature. On the way back to his tent Ivar passed his sister Rannveig , a shield maiden, who was training women for combat. He watched as his sister gracefully moved from foot to foot, and he was amazed at how she could acrobatically dive, and roll out of the way of her opponent's sword strokes. Rannveig was able to do this with such ease because the women carried shorter and lighter swords than their male counterparts. Their shields were also slightly smaller and lighter as well. As Ivar watched his sister win another match he suddenly had an idea.
The next day Ivar brought Rannveig to the farmer's camp, and had his sister watch Hati as he was pummeled by his opponent. When the match was over, Rannveig was greatly disturbed to see Bjarni screaming and kicking the beaten farmer while he lay helplessly on the ground. Before Ivar could stop the abuse Rannveig stepped forward. " Bjarni ! I challenge you to a match ! " she yelled angrily. Bjarni stopped kicking Hati and laughed at the woman. " I think you should go back to your shield maidens ma'am ! " he replied with a chuckle. " And I think you should draw your weapon sir ! " she screamed back at him.
The match drew quite a crowd even before the first sword was swung in anger. The match was quite a curiosity ! Bjarni stood well over six feet tall, while Rannveig was only five and a half feet tall. Bjarni also by far outweighed her, and had a much greater reach than his female opponent. This match was shaping up to be the event of the day, and everyone in camp wanted to watch. This included King Aki who stood on the steps of the great hall, and watched with a cool horn of mead in one hand.
Bjarni gave Rannveig the courtesy of the first blow, which he deflected with his shield quite easily. The force of his deflection spun Rannveig around. Instead of being shaken by this the shield maiden used this momentum to spin around and swing her sword twice as fast back at him, as she completed a full spinning circle. Bjarni was not taken completely by surprise, but he was late in getting his shield up, allowing her sword to glance off the metal band that ran around its edge, and the point grazed his cheek cutting him. Bjarni took two steps back, and then ran his sword hand over his face and felt the wound which burned like fire. When he looked at his hand it was covered in blood !
Bjarni went Berserk ! The huge warrior threw away his shield, and with both hands began to swing his sword at Rannveig with a manic determination to kill her. Rannveig blocked most of the blows, and was able to roll out of the way of several others, but it was obvious to her, and to all who watched that this had now become a fight to the death. Ivar drew his sword and pushed the crowd away trying to reach his sister. Before he could enter the circle where they fought a booming voice rang out. " ENOUGH ! " Bjarni and Rannveig both glanced out of the corner of their eye to see who had commanded them to stop, while keeping the other eye on their opponent. When they saw it was KIng Aki they reluctantly put their swords away.
King Aki was no fool ! He knew that the fight had turned deadly, and he could not afford to lose either one of his prize warriors. The king decided to turn the situation to his advantage. As he walked slowly towards the two combatants the circle opened up for the king. When he came before the two warriors he began to clap. " Well done ! Well Done ! " he shouted for all to hear. It is nice to see two very different fighting styles being demonstrated with such skill and determination. " the king said with praise. The crowd, not wanting to seem insulting to the king, clapped and cheered as well. When the noise had quieted the king shook both of their hands, and thanked them for such a wonderful display. As the king walked back to his great hall Bjarni looked down at Rannveig. " This is not over bitch ! " he whispered coarsely. Rannveig looked up at the big warrior with a smile. " I look forward to our next meeting ! " she told him. Bjarni just shook his head and slowly walked away. Ivar grabbed his sister's arm. " What in the nine worlds are you trying to do ?! " he asked angrily. Rannveig grinned. " I don' t like bullies ! " she told her brother. Ivar gave her a stern look, and then pointed at Hati. " You will come with me Hati ! " he commanded. Hati looked at Ivar with fear in his eyes. " Me, sir ? " he asked. Ivar pointed again at Hati. " Yes ! You ! " he said louder.
Hati had no idea what was in store for him as he followed Ivar and Rannveig. He became even more confused when they stopped at the blacksmith' s shop. The blacksmith was an older man with huge forearms and black soot covering much of his body. Ivar spoke first : " Gizur, my old friend, how are you today ? " he asked. " I am just fine you young upstart ! " the blacksmith replied with a laugh. Then Gizur looked at Ivar with suspicion in his eyes. " And why does the king' s number one commander pay a humble blacksmith a visit today ? " he asked. Ivar smiled from ear to ear. " I have a man here, slight of build, as you can clearly see, who needs a sword that fits his frame. " Ivar told him. Gizur slowly looked over Hati from head to toe. " Not much to him is there ? " the blacksmith said with a grin. Ivar did not reply but instead gave his old friend an impatient look. Gizur looked over Hati a second time. " Yes, well, I need this man to try swinging each one of these blanks . " the blacksmith told Ivar, as he pointed at some weighted iron rods. " Let me know which one you are most comfortable with. " he told Hati. The little farmer picked up several of the blanks and swung them before handing the blacksmith the one that felt easiest to swing. " I think this one would be best ! " Hati told the blacksmith.
Rannveig looked over at her brother with a questioning stare. " That is one weight lighter than the sword I swing brother ! " she told Ivar. Ivar nodded and then asked the blacksmith : " When can you have the sword ready ? " Gizur looked up at the sky as he calculated. " At least a week commander ! " he finally answered. Ivar thought for a moment before replying. " May we borrow that blank until the sword is ready ? " Ivar asked the blacksmith. "Yes, I suppose so . I know its weight, and do not need it to make his sword. " he replied. Ivar looked over at his sister. " Then Rannveig this man is all yours ! Train him to be the best fighter he can be ! " he told her. Rannveig raised her eyebrows in surprise, but said nothing.
Rannveig wasted no time in bringing Hati to the shield maiden camp. A few of the female warriors made fun of Hati for having to learn their methods of fighting, but most seemed to understand that with his small frame there really was no other way to teach him to be a warrior. The first thing that Rannveig asked Hati to do was do a series of tumbles and shoulder rolls. The shield maiden commander was pleasantly surprised at how well the little farmer could tumble. She then showed Hati how to use his opponents energy to his advantage. " Use the force of their blows to turn quickly. " If you can get inside of their reach plunge your sword into their stomach. If you are too far away try to take a slice out of their arms or legs. " she instructed him. At first Hati was an awful student, and could not seem to do anything that Rannveig wanted him to do correctly. Unlike Bjarni, however, the shield maiden was patient, and allowed him to try again and again until it slowly became second nature to block, spin, and strike back . " By the end of the week, when he received his new sword, he was sparring effectively with the shield maidens. The women began to like Hati, although even they could not help but laugh at the howling noise he made whenever he swung his sword, or blocked and opponents strike. Although Hati was embarrassed by his " howling " Rannveig actually encouraged him to howl louder to confuse his opponents. " In battle any advantage you have could save your life ! " she told him.
Rannveig liked the little farmer she was given to train. He was not bold and outspoken like most of the other warriors, but was friendly, and very easy to talk to. She could see why his wife had chosen to marry him despite his obvious shortcomings. As they spent more and more time together they became friends. Rannveig began to show the little farmer every trick she knew to help him survive the coming battle. It became her mission to make sure he could survive the battle and go home to his wife and child. Over time she began to feel as though she knew Geirny, and his son Stein, and Rannveig hoped very much that someday she could meet them.
One day when Rannveig and Hati went to the great hall to get some refreshments they passed the camp where Bjarni was training his warriors. As they walked by, Bjarni stuck out his foot and tripped Hati, knocking him to the ground. " Oh, I hope that you did not tear your dress their ma' am ! " Bjarni shouted in a mocking tone. As the men all around laughed, Hati rolled over, jumped to his feet and drew his sword. Bjarni laughed even louder ! " If you want to fight "shaky sword", I would suggest that you go back to your shield maidens, little one ! " he told Hati. " Shaky sword " , tired of his insults placed the point of his sword against Bjarni' s stomach. " That was a mistake little man ! " Bjarni screamed at Hati as he pushed the sword away.
To Bjarni's surprise and dismay, Hati held his own for a short while, but he could not get in close enough to land a decisive blow. Bjarni, however, had much more endurance, and soon Hati was on the defensive. One particularly vicious sword stroke from Bjarni knocked the sword out of his hands, and left the farmer on his knees. Bjarni shook with rage as he lifted his sword for a final blow. A short distance away from Hati' s head Bjarni's sword stopped in mid-flight, intercepted by a huge shining blade that made a clanging sound when the two struck. " You bitch ! " Bjarni screamed expecting it to be Rannveig who had interfered. Instead Bjarni saw a very angry Ivar standing menacingly before him. Using his sword Ivar forced Bjarni' s sword back up to his face in a show of great strength. As they stood looking at each other angrily Ivar spoke : " I would kill you right here and now, but the Agder armies, having defeated the Viken army, are now at our border, and we need to move immediately if we are to stop them from invading our lands. "
Ivar pushed Bjarni away, and then spoke to all the warriors under his command. " Gather up your gear the king has ordered us to leave for the Viken border at once ! Soon many will be residing with Odin in the halls of Valhalla ! " Ivar shouted. Everyone in the camp ran to get their things, and then they all met back on the road for the long trip to meet the enemy ! As Hati gathered up his few belongings for the march, he felt as though both his stomach, and his head were going to explode. The battle that he feared so much was almost upon him !
End Chapter 4
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart), © Copyright, 2014.
Next : Chapter 5 : The Battle Begins !