The Tale Of Hati Shaky Sword
A Tribute Fit For A King
It was not until mid- morning of the next day that the king and Ivar returned triumphantly to the valley. The West Agder army had lost its will to fight when they saw their king, Einar, killed by Ivar. The West Agder army was no longer on the offensive, but instead fought a defensive battle back to the mountains in the hope of escaping back to Viken. They did not make it ! King Valgard and his East Agder army fought as hard as they could in the valley. Many refused to give an inch, and now lay dead on the valley floor.
King Valgard, and his personal guard made a last stand where their encampment had been the night before. They were, however, surrounded, and too few in numbers to hold off the determined Ranrike army. They were killed to the last man. King Valgard, fearing capture and torture, decided to end his life the way the Roman emperors did in ancient times, and fell upon his sword killing him instantly. As the sun came up the next morning the remnants of the West Agder army were given an ultimatum by King Aki : " Lay down your arms and be sold into slavery, or die to the last man. The last one hundred warriors chose to surrender.
As King Aki rode up on his great white horse he greeted Rannveig, and thanked her for guarding Hati' s body. He then turned to Ivar and commanded him to take a detail of men and escort Hati' s body back to the great hall for burial. As the warriors gently placed Hati' s body on a cart the king dismounted and walked over to the warriors. He handed his horses' reins to Rannveig to hold, and then slowly removed his cape from Hati' s head so he could see his face. The king was silent for a moment and then slid the gold arm ring from his right arm, and reached under the cape and placed it on Hati' s arm . Then the king placed the cape back over Hati. With tears in his eyes King Aki turned and spoke to Ivar and Rannveig. " This man....... this great warrior saved my life, and quite possibly my kingdom. Just as King Einar's men lost hope, and retreated when he was killed, so too could this have been my fate, and the fate of my army if not for this man. That man, that great warrior saved us all ! " he said proudly holding back tears. Then the king grabbed Ivar by the shoulders, and looked him in the eyes. " I want Hati to be buried in my royal tomb mound ! We will bury him with the full honors due a great warrior ! Prepare the mound with many gifts for the afterlife, for he will need them when he journeys to the God's realm. " he explained to Ivar. " I will be back in two days, and I will expect everything to be ready ! " he commanded. He then turned to Rannveig. " I want you to bring his wife to the great hall for the funeral ! " he ordered.
As the king watched the cart with Hati' s body make its slow journey back to his hall, three members of his elite guard walked up with a prisoner. " King Aki ", the lead guard said with a slight bow, " We captured this coward hiding in the woods ! " King Aki looked at the man for only a moment before realizing it was Bjarni, who was charged with his protection in the battle, and who had run away. The king in a fit of rage backhanded Bjarni so hard that he knocked down not only Bjarni, but also one of the guards who was holding him. " I want this cowardly traitor executed immediately ! " the king ordered angrily, as Bjarni lay on the ground. " And leave his body for the birds, and the insects ! " he commanded. " Yes, my lord ! " the guards said as one.
King Aki mounted his horse, and rode back to the mountains where his men were still rounding up prisoners who were hiding in the hills. He did not see Bjarni as they tied him to a tree. Nor did the king witness the archers take careful aim, and shoot arrow after arrow into the traitor who had abandoned his king. But King Aki did hear Bjarni' s pleas for forgiveness, and his shrieks of agony as the arrows hit home. King Aki did not feel joy over Bjarni' s death, just the satisfaction of knowing that a coward had been removed from his ranks.
Back at the great hall Ivar and Rannveig placed Hati' s body in the capable hands of the village women, who washed the body, and made it ready for burial. Rannveig excused herself, and left Ivar to bring Geirny and her son Stein to the great hall for the funeral. With every step her horse took towards Hati' s farm, Rannveig felt the great weight of responsibility that sat on her shoulders. She dreaded the moment when she would see Hati's wife for the first time, and she feared that she would not be able to find the right words to console her grief.
As Rannveig approached the dilapidated hut that was Hati' s home, a woman emerged carrying a small child. Rannveig dismounted, and slowly walked up the short path to the door with her head lowered. Before she could say a word Geirny began to gently sob. Then, as if on cue, the child began to cry as well. Rannveig said nothing. She simply put her arms around the woman and consoled her as best she could.
When the tears ran dry, Geirny invited Rannveig inside, and placed her child on the bed. As Geirny poured Rannveig a horn of mead she asked : " How did my husband die ? " Rannveig nodded her thanks for the mead before answering. " Hati fought off a number of the enemy warriors allowing time for others to come to the king's aid. He saved the king' s life Geirny ! " she said softly. Geirny began to cry again. " I appreciate that you are trying to spare my feelings shield maiden, but my husband was no warrior. " she told Rannveig. The shield maiden stood up and looked Geirny straight in the eyes. " Do not belittle your husband ma'am ! He held off the enemy, including West Agder's king, from reaching King Aki, and saved his life ! Our king, out of his sincere gratitude, is having Hati buried in his royal grave mound, and is holding a funeral fit for the hero that he is !" she told the woman sternly.
As soon as the words left her mouth Rannveig regretted saying them. Geirny broke down in tears again, and sat down in a chair next to the bed . Rannveig took a moment to compose herself before speaking again. " I am here to take you and your son to the great hall for the funeral. Gather your things. We must leave at once ! " she told Geirny.
The ride back to King Aki' s great hall was a difficult one. Geirny did not own a horse, and had to ride double on Rannveig's mount. While Geirny held on to her son Stein, Rannveig held onto both Geirny and the horses' reins. From time to time they had to dismount to allow Geirny to feed her infant. Geirny cried at every feeding, and Rannveig was sure it was because her son reminded her of Hati. Rannveig had been a warrior for too long. She no longer knew how to console a woman as grief stricken as Geirny. All she could do for Geirny, and Hati, was be kind to her and make certain that she did not miss her husband's funeral.
They arrived at the king's hall a little earlier than expected. As Rannveig pulled up in front of the hall Ivar ran over and held her horse as both women dismounted. " The king wants to see you at once ! " he told Geirny. Geirny's eyes widened. " The king ! ? " she asked. Ivar handed Rannveig's horse off to a warrior who lead it to the stable, and then escorted Geirny into the great hall. As they walked inside Geirny saw that there were warriors at every table, and serving maidens pouring ale, and dishing out great quantities of food that smelled wonderful. Then she slowly looked around the hall . Geirny had never seen such a lavish setting ! The gold and silver especially caught her eye as she followed Ivar to the end of the hall where the king waited. King Aki stood up from his high seat as the woman approached . Then he smiled with anticipation. " Are you the wife of the great warrior Hati ? " the king asked. Geirny, who was scared to death, and beginning to cry, answered meekly : " Yes, my lord . " KIng Aki then stepped down from the raised platform, and stood before Geirny. He wiped away her tear before it left her cheek, and kissed her on the forehead, which stopped the warriors from their feasting. The king then turned Geirny around to face his guests. " I pronounce that from this day forward, Geirny, wife of the hero Hati, is my adopted daughter, and her son is now my grandson. After a moment of total silence, Ivar, from the back of the room, raised a horn in Geirny's honor. " I raise my horn to honor Geirny ,the daughter of King Aki, and I drink a toast to Ranrike' s great warrior Hati ! " he yelled out. The room erupted into cheers and whistles. " To Hati ! " one warrior cried out. " I praise Geirny, daughter of King Aki ! " another yelled.
King Aki then called over two serving maidens. " I would like my daughter to be cleaned up from her journey. And when I see her again she had better be wearing a dress befitting her standing in my court ! " the king told them in no uncertain terms. " Do you understand ! " he added as a warning. " Yes, my lord ! At once, my lord ! " they answered in unison. Geirny was whisked away, bathed, her hair washed and braided, and she was placed in a beautiful dress with a frilly bodice. Geirny had never seen such beautiful clothes, let alone worn them ! Her son Stein, was also bathed, fed by a nursemaid, and wrapped in a decorative purple blanket before being returned to her. To Geirny this was all happening too fast ! It was as though she was in a dream from which she would wake up from at any moment.
As the midday sun gave way to the early evening dusk Geirny was escorted back into the great hall, and seated on the raised platform next to the king. To the sounds of beating drums Hati' s body was brought into the great hall, and placed on a table in the middle of the room. Women filed past Hati and placed flowers of every kind upon the table around his body. After the women had filed past Ranrike's hero it was the turn of the warriors. Every warrior walked up to the table, with a full horn of mead or ale, and toasted their fallen comrade. Some honored him with a silent tribute, while others made sure that everyone, especially the king, heard their praise ! When all had honored their greatest hero, King Aki rose and escorted Geirnir, and her child to where Hati lay. The king said his goodbyes, and thanked Hati once again for saving his life, and then stepped away to allow his adopted daughter to be alone with her husband one last time.
Geirny did not cry. She was so proud of her husband that she held back her tears to honor him as a warrior. She talked to Hati for a few moments, as if he were still alive, thanking him for all he had done for her. Then when she had no more to say, she kissed him on the forehead, showed their son to him one last time, and then walked back to the king's side. Four huge warriors, one of which was Ivar, then grabbed hold of the casket, and carried it slowly out of the hall to the beat of the drums. As they proceeded to the grave mound an old witch woman walked in front of the procession blessing the ground as they went. Behind her was a skald who was telling the tale of the great warrior Hati of Ranrike, in great detail. When they reached the entrance to the grave mound only the warriors carrying the honored dead, the witch, and Geirnir and her son, were allowed to enter.
The king stood at the entrance to the mound and spoke : " Today we gladly give to Odin another warrior to sit on his golden benches in Valhalla ! I am proud to say that I fought side by side with a great warrior like Hati ! " he told his people. " I have heard Hati called by another name. This will cease immediately ! " he demanded. " From this day forward this, our greatest warrior, will be known as Hati Howling Wolf ! " the king shouted. The crowd roared its approval when they heard the announcement ! So loud that almost no one heard King Aki say : " May he reside with Odin forever ! "
That night while King Aki held a great feast in the hero Hati Howling Wolf's honor, a horse with a rider flew down from out of the heavens and landed gracefully on top of the grave mound. The Valkyrie, known as Hlokk, dismounted, Knelt upon the mound, and reached down into the ground with her hands. Slowly, and carefully, she pulled the essence that was Hati from his tomb, and seated him on her winged horse. Hlokk then mounted herself behind Hati and waited.
Geirnir, who did not feel much like celebrating, was led out of the hall by an older warrior who wore a patch over one eye. He told her that there was something that he wanted to show her. Geirnir was suspicious, but for some odd reason trusted this man. She was then taken over to the grave mound and allowed to see what other Midgardians are forbidden to witness. Geirnir, with Stein in her arms, was allowed to see her husband off as he left for Valhalla. As Hati rose in the air, he waved to Geirnir, who with tears in her eyes waved a final goodbye. In her arms, Stein, who would one day be the king of Ranrike, raised his arm, and waved a farewell to his father as well. As Geirny turned to thank the one- eyed warrior she realized that he was gone !
- The End
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2014.
Next : My new short story : Buri : The Beginning Of The Golden Age