The Death Of A Legend
Bjarnlaugr returned to the Berserker camp proudly wearing his hard earned bearskin. He was eager to show off his trophy, and his many scars, to his comrades and most especially Valdarr. When he walked into the camp Bjarnlaugr sensed that something was not quite right. It seemed different. He thought for a moment and then realized that it was much too quiet for a Berserker camp !
As Bjarnlaugr slowly, and cautiously, made his way through the camp the old Berserker Kolskeggr rushed over to him and pulled him to the side. Bjarnlaugr became concerned immediately because the usually pleasant white bearded warrior met him with a long face.
" Valdarr is dead ! Rugga has assumed command of the Berserker, and we have reason to believe that their is evil at play here in the Berserker camp. Some of us think that Rugga poisoned our commander by giving him the untreated elixir from the mushroom that allows us to reach out with our minds to grab hold of our animal strength. " Kolskeggr told the stunned young man.
Bjarnlaugr stood frozen for a few moments trying to comprehend what he had just been told. His first thought was of a story that Valdarr had once told him about a Macedonian leader known as Alexander, who after conquering most of the known world, was poisoned, and his kingdom split up between his underlings. Valdarr had told him never to trust anybody, and now it seemed that he had been right.
His second thought was one of frustration and anger !
" Why has no one confronted Rugga and made him pay for his evil deed ?! " Bjarnlaugr asked forcefully.
Kolskeggr shook his head.
" Rugga is strong, and Heimkell is always by his side ! " Kolskeggr explained in a whisper.
Bjarnlaugr let his bearskin fall to the ground, for it now seemed to have little meaning to him. He then placed his face right up against Kolskeggr's nose.
" Are we Berserker, or are we cowards ! " he shouted at the older warrior.
Bjarnlaugr turned away from Kolskeggr and began to move toward the great hall. His face was distorted into an angry mask that reflected the fury in his soul !
" Rugga ! Rugga, you lying bastard !! " Bjarnlaugr cried out.
Rugga heard the shouting and quickly came out of the hall.
" Well ! Look who has returned. Look everybody, Valdarr's honored student has come back to us ! " Rugga shouted with a laugh.
Some of the Berserker laughed along with Rugga, but many more stood with Kolskeggr behind Bjarnlaugr. Rugga sensed something was wrong, and suddenly stopped laughing.
" What is it boy ?! " What do you want ?! " he asked angrily.
Bjarnlaugr drew his sword, and then turned and pulled one of Kolskeggr's axes out of the old warrior's belt.
" Revenge !! " he screamed like a madman.
Rugga barely had time to draw his sword and duck before the first blow rained down upon him. Despite being surprised by the " boy " the self appointed commander of the Berserker began to strike back almost immediately with a ferocity that he had learned from years of fighting with the Bear - skins. At first Bjarnlaugr had the advantage of having two weapons to Rugga's one, but then Heimkell suddenly appeared and threw an axe to his friend.
" Now the fight is fair ! " Heimkell laughed.
The elder Berserker, in the beginning of the fight, was confident that he could easily defeat this angry boy, but it quickly became apparent to him that Valdarr had been working very closely with Bjarnlaugr. Many of the youngster's moves mirrored the fighting skills of the great Valdarr, and the youth seemed to have gained in strength three fold since that first day they met in mock battle. This time, however, Rugga was worried that Bjarnlaugr would break more than his shield !
Both combatants landed a few glancing blows that left the other in pain and weakened, but the youth had an endurance that the older Rugga could not keep up with. Bjarnlaugr also had the advantage of not caring whether he lived or died, for he had lost the only person who meant anything to him. Rugga, on the other hand, wanted to be careful not to lose what he had gained in his quest for power.
When the battle seemed to be turning in Bjarnlaugr's favor Heimkell drew his sword, and was about to attack the youth, when Kolskeggr ripped his axe out of his belt and flung it at him with all his might. The sharp edge of the blade made a sickening " thud " when it buried itself deep into Heimkell's skull. Rugga's only friend took one more step forward, dropped his sword, and then fell dead on the ground.
" Let's keep this fair, shall we ? " Kolskeggr asked Heimkell's corpse sarcastically.
As both Bjarnlaugr and Rugga tired they stood toe to toe, hammering blow after blow upon each other, almost all of which were blocked by the other. Then, after stopping one of Bjarnlaugr's sword strokes, Rugga was slow in getting back into a defensive position. The young man took advantage of this brief opportunity by landing a glancing blow to Rugga's head with his axe.
Rugga stumbled backwards, and then stopped himself. His eyes revealed his disbelief and confusion, as the blood poured down his face. Bjarnlaugr's axe had sliced off Rugga's hair and skin, and cracked his skull open, exposing his brain to the air. Rugga stared at Bjarnlaugr in shock. He dropped his sword and reached up to touch the gaping wound. When he pulled his hand away and looked at it , his fingers dripped with blood, and brain tissue, intermixed with skull fragments.
The warrior knew he was going to die, and from that knowledge came the heightened anger and strength of hopelessness. With nothing left to lose Rugga switched his axe to his right hand, and went on the offensive. With a level of ferocity that few are ever able to reach Rugga attacked !
Valdarr had trained Bjarnlaugr well. The youth did not panic, nor did he retreat. The two warriors stood toe to toe again slashing and stabbing at each other for several moments. Despite being severely slashed several times Bjarnlaugr had the advantage of having multiple weapons. Rugga tried to block both Bjarnlaugr's sword and his axe blows, but with his strength waning it became an impossible task. A jab at Rugga's upper chest got through, and tore into the joint of his shoulder, immobilizing his arm. Before Rugga could switch his axe to the other hand Bjarnlaugr cut his arm off at the elbow with his sword. With nothing left to grab it with the axe fell to the ground, and stuck in the mud.
Barely able to stand, and bleeding profusely from multiple wounds, Rugga gave out one last defiant yell before Bjarnlaugr ran him through with his sword.
" You have killed me boy ! " were the last words Rugga spoke before he collapsed dead upon the ground.
Bjarnlaugr fell to his knees and cried out to the heavens :
" Odin ! Do not take this treacherous bastard ! Though brave Valdarr did not die in battle take him to Valhalla instead ! " he screamed.
He need not have asked. Odin's Valkyries had taken Valdarr to the great golden hall the night that he died.
Bjarnlaugr was still shaking with rage when he felt a hand upon his shoulder. The young man looked up angrily at the one who dared to touch him. The moment and the anger quickly passed, however, when he saw the blue eyes, and smiling face of Kolskeggr.
The old warrior nodded, and helped the injured young man to his feet.
" Valdarr would have been very proud of you Bjarnlaugr. You have honored us all this day ! " he told the youth.
Kolskeggr then turned and yelled to the other Berserker :
" Bring a maiden here ! For one of our brave Berserker has been injured in battle ! " he ordered .
- End Chapter 6
- Next : Chapter 7 : Ascending To The Top
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2016.