Only Odin Wins At War
( Odin's Ending )
When the two opposing armies met in the middle of the valley it was as though two avalanches had crashed head long into one another. The warriors ferocious shouts of glory quickly turned into grunts of desperation, and screams of horror and pain. In some cases the strongest ran away out of fear, while the timid stood and fought with a fervor no one could have expected. Such is the reality of war !
The ground soon ran red with the slick sacrificial blood of the battle's dead and dying. This made the already treacherous footing in ankle deep grass even more hazardous. With smashed skulls, opened bellies, and missing limbs, warriors fell like leaves from an autumn tree. All too soon the orderly straight shield walls became disorganized, bent back, and then broken on both sides of the line. It was as though a great madness had taken over the battlefield. Neither army seemed to be in control, and chaos ruled the moment.
The fiercest fighting took place in the middle of the valley where the Berserker and the Úlfhéðnar went at each other like wild animals. And neither side was willing to gave the other an inch of their position. Here, in this small section of the battlefield, an epic struggle was taking place between the best warriors in all of Southern Norway. This was a battle for pride ! This was a struggle for honor !! This was a fight to the death !!!
Most individual battles in war take but a few short moments to reach their conclusion. But these were not normal warriors ! Their skills were such that each trick they used was blocked, or countered, by an equal ability of their opponent. They were so well matched as fighters that it almost seemed as if it were a dance that had been perfectly choreographed. This, however, was a dance of death !
It is said that Odin knew that this epic battle would take place, and that he invited his Asgardian children to Hlidskjalf to watch as it played out on the green fields of Midgard. The Gods were so intrigued by the fighting skills, and tenacity, of the Berserker, and Úlfhéðnar warriors, that bets were placed on individual battles, and on which of these two forces would still be standing when it was finally over. Only Odin refused to wager on the matches playing out below them.
Alrekr and Bjarnlaugr led their warriors into battle with a ferocity that out - shined all the other warriors on this now hallowed field. Bjarnlaugr was especially maniacal in his fighting style. If he could not stab, he sliced. If he could not slice, then he bashed his opponent to death. One opposing warrior angered the commander of the Berserker so much that he hit him in the mouth with the boss of his shield, and when his dazed opponent dropped his weapon Bjarnlaugr picked him up, and broke his back over his knee.
Alrekr was not quite as strong as his counterpart, but he more than made up for it with his great skill, and speed. The commander of the Úlfhéðnar had learned much from the wolves over the years. Although he maintained an acute focus on the warrior he was fighting against at the moment, he constantly used his peripheral vision to scan his surroundings, and if an opportunity arose he would slash of jab an enemy to his left or right to help a comrade against his opponent. This is the fighting technique that Alrekr had taught his Wolf - hides and it seemed to be a worthy strategy in this battle.
At first Alrekr and Bjarnlaugr were pushed apart by the ebb and flow of the battle, but as warriors fell, and the ranks thinned, it became inevitable that these two great warriors should meet head to head in single combat. Bjarnlaugr had just beheaded a warrior when he saw out of the corner of his eye a blurry figure coming at him at a rapid pace. The Berserker commander turned just in time to raise his shield to block a vicious sword stroke from this new opponent. Then he used his shield to push the warrior away to gain some fighting room. For a moment Bjarnlaugr stood staring at his foe. Then a grin slowly rose up on one corner of his mouth.
" Hello, old friend ! It is time for you to die ! " he said without any emotion.
Alrekr smiled .
" I am ready ! Are you ? " Alrekr asked.
Back in Asgard the Gods immediately began to place their bets. Tyr, Balder, Syn and Gna, all put their money on Bjarnlaugr. Thor of course, bet against Odin's favorite son Balder, and put his gold coins on Alrekr. Ullr, Skadhi, and Heimdall also joined the God of Thunder and placed their bets in support of Alrekr.
Bjarnlaugr did not answer his old friend with words. Instead he immediately went on the offensive. The angry Berserkr swung his sword back and forth like a scythe cutting grass with great force and accuracy. He also used his shield as a secondary weapon, pushing and jabbing at Alrekr with its pointed metal boss. To his surprise his childhood friend blocked every strike with little difficulty, and he soon realized that this was not the boy he had once practiced with in the woods back in Vestfold all those years ago. His friend, now his enemy, had become a skilled warrior. Bjarnlaugr also realized that killing Alrekr would be a great honor, and he began to fight with even more tenacity than before.
Alrekr was using every trick he had learned over the years, but he could not seem to penetrate Bjarnlaugr's defenses. One of the reasons was that the commander of the Berserker, because of his great size, was using a much larger shield than most warriors carried into battle. So large in fact it was almost impossible to get his weapon passed it. It was then that Alrekr remembered the reindeer that was attacked by the wolves in the valley below his cave dwelling all those years ago. The reindeer had a large multi - pointed rack, which much like Bjarnlaugr's shield, prevented an attack from the front. But the great beast could not defend both its front and rear at the same time. Alrekr decided that he would wait for an opportunity to nip at the heels of his opponent the way the wolves had bitten at the reindeer's rear legs that day.
When Bjarnlaugr tried to push him away with his shield again, Alrekr pretended to fall forward, but instead did a complete roll on the ground, and quickly popped up behind the large Berserker. He had only time for one quick stroke before Bjarnlaugr moved to defend, but it was enough to change the course of the battle. Alrekr's carefully aimed stroke sliced through Bjarnlaugr's calf all the way to the bone.
Bjarnlaugr screamed like a wild animal, but ignored the pain, and though hobbled, he turned and moved forward to attack once again. With a maniacal look in his eyes the commander of the Berserker slashed at Alrekr with his sword with such force that Alrekr was forced to retreat from the blows that fell like large hail upon his shield. Both combatants were focused so intently on one another in their death struggle that neither Alrekr, nor Bjarnlaugr saw the danger that lay just behind Alrekr on the ground. As the leader of the Úlfhéðnar stepped back to avoid an especially vicious attack, Alfrekr stepped on the leg of a dead warrior, and quickly felt himself losing his balance.
Bjarnlaugr had him ! The commander of the Berserker hobbled forward for the kill, and jabbed his sword at his falling opponent. As he did his good leg hit the arm of another dead warrior, and he too began to fall. Bjarnlaugr tried to compensate with his injured leg, but it would not respond, and he fell forward as well. Both Alrekr and Bjarnlaugr could see what was about to happen, but neither could move quickly enough to avoid each other's swords.
Bjarnlaugr's blade penetrated Alrekr's stomach and severed his spine before burying itself in the ground beyond. Alrekr's sword went through the middle of Bjarnlaugr's chest, and pierced his heart killing him instantly. Because of Bjarnlaugr's great size and weight, Alrekr's sword continued through his body, and exited his back as he fell on top of Alrekr. The reddened point sticking upward like a beacon to the heavens.
Despite being paralyzed, and feeling little or no pain, Alrekr knew full well that he was dying. As the slaughter continued all around him he looked up at his boyhood friend, who know lay draped over him, and whispered with a smile.
" If we could not fight together, at least we were allowed to die together ! " Alrekr told his already dead friend with his last breath.
The battle raged on for hours until dusk began to fall over the battlefield like a black funeral cloth, and it slowly became apparent that Vestfold's army was beginning to falter under the pressure that the Vingulmork warriors were asserting on them. King Sigmarr, after the last of his Berserker fell, tried one last desperate cavalry charge. When that failed, and King Agmund counterattacked with his horsemen against the ends of the his line, the Vestfold army folded, and exposed King Sigmarr's rear to the enemy. Sigmarr immediately ordered a retreat, and his warriors, who had clearly had enough, backed off their fighting and began to run for the rear. The battle was soon over, and all that was left for the living to do was observe the remnants of the slaughter, and count the dead.
King Agmund rode around the battlefield with his royal guard staying closely behind. Everywhere he looked he saw the broken bodies of warriors, both his, and those of the enemy. He swallowed hard when he thought how he would soon see his wife Halldis, but that none of these brave warriors would ever meet with their loved ones again. With tears welling up in his eyes he whispered bitterly :
" Only Odin wins in war ! "
Odin rose up off of his high - seat at Hlidskjalf and faced his fellow Asgardians, all of whom had become totally silent.
" All bets are off ! Take your money and leave ! I will not have this glorious moment dishonored by your greed ! " Odin told them angrily.
Feeling the sting of Odin's anger each God and Goddess in turn picked up the gold coins that they had bet, and slowly and silently filed out of the great hall. Thor, who was the last to leave, turned to Odin and with a smile spoke to his father :
" It was wonderful wasn't it ! " he told his father boldly.
Odin reluctantly nodded.
" That it was my son ! That it was !! " he replied.
After Thor left, Odin summoned Brynhildr and her Valkyries to the Valhalla courtyard.
" Let us ride to Vestfold. For there is much for us to do there ! " he told Brynhildr.
" Us ? " Brynhildr asked.
" Are you coming to Midgard with us as well, my Lord ? " Brynhildr asked fairly surprised.
" Yes ! " was all that Valfather said as he mounted Sleipnir.
Over the Rainbow Bridge, and through the skies of Midgard, Odin led his Valkyries to the now hallowed battlefield in Vestfold. They arrived just as Sunna's chariot was coming up over the horizon, and with her light Valfather saw the ravens and other scavenger birds flying high overhead. To Odin it seemed that they formed a rotating monument to the brave fallen warriors who lay below. As they too circled over the valley of death Odin smiled. The honor and glory of all those dead warriors was a testament to how great his children had become. And as he landed Odin was never prouder of anyone or anything in his entire life !
Odin dismounted and walked over to the center of the battlefield where the dead were piled two or three deep in places. He stood there contemplating the honorable deeds that each warrior had earned for himself. Then suddenly Odin was interrupted from his deep thoughts by Brynhildr.
" Forgive me my Lord, but which warriors have you chosen for us to take back to Valhalla ? " she asked.
Odin's eye sparkled as he proudly looked out at the honored dead who lay all over the blood soaked and hallowed ground.
Odin slowly turned to Brynhildr, nodded, and with a grin replied :
" Why .... all of them of course ! They have earned a place in my hall with their glorious deeds ! "
Odin himself placed the souls of Alrekr and Bjarnlaugr on Sleipnir, and flew them back to Valhalla.
It is said that the feast that night in Valhalla was one of the greatest ever held in the Golden Hall. Alrekr and Bjarnlaugr, toasted each other that night as they drank their fill on the golden benches across from one another. But no one had a better time that night than Domaldi and Valdarr who sat proudly next to their students !
- The End
Next : Chapter 12 ( Alternate Ending ) My Friend, My Honored Enemy !
Next Month : Queen Birsla returns in ........ ' The Queen Of War ! ' © 2016.
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2016.