The Spirit Tamer
A Decision Too Hard To Make
Nokkvi had a blank stare in his eyes as he slowly undressed and immersed himself in the stream. As he symbolically
washed the nightmare of the Draugr out of him, he was joined by Naddoður. This time, however, it was Nokkvi who initiated the conversation.
King Vigsterkr had us looking for you most of yesterday. " he told the Shaman.
Naddoður grinned as he splashed some cold water over his face.
" Yes ! I know ! I hid from his warriors so I could to speak to the Draugr. " he explained.
Nokkvi stopped bathing for a moment and gave the Shaman a stern look.
" It was strange. The king almost acted as if he were as afraid of you speaking to the Draugr, as the Draugr themselves. I tried to explain that you simply wanted to help us by contacting them, but he would have none of it. " he told Naddoður.
Then, as if he had just remembered something of great importance Nokkvi asked :
" Did you learn anything useful from the Draugr ? "
" Yes ! It appears that your king sent them off to die in a useless attack, so that he could make a cowardly retreat. The Draugr want King Vigsterkr to walk to the land of the dead with them. It sounds like poetic justice to me " he explained.
" And I suppose they wish to drag the rest of our warriors to Helheim as well ? " the warrior asked dejectedly.
Naddoður shook his head.
Incredibly,... no ! They only want the soul of the one who condemned them to death. " he assured Nokkvi.
Nokkvi laughed bitterly.
" And you believe those wretched decaying pieces of meat ! How can you be sure that they will not turn their vengeance on all of us ? " he asked.
Naddoður shrugged his shoulders as he answered.
" There are no guarantees, my friend. But understand this. The Draugr have lost everything, and therefore no longer have any reason to lie. " he explained to the worried warrior.
Nokkvi walked out of the stream and slowly began to dry himself off. Naddoður quickly joined the warrior on the bank. It was then that the Shaman heard a familiar buzzing in his ear.
" Do you think that Nokkvi believes you ? " Alva asked with a hopeful grin as her eyes slowly made their way up and down the Shaman's naked body.
Naddoður quickly covered himself with a large drying cloth, and gave the fairy, that only he could see, a cross look.
" Not now ! " he whispered.
Nokkvi gave the Shaman a strange look when he realized that Naddoður had covered himself.
" What ! ? " he asked before adding. " Why are you so shy this morning ? "
Naddoður thought quickly before answering.
" I said nothing, ..... I am just a little cold this morning. " he lied.
As Alva giggled at his modesty Naddoður asked the warrior a most important question.
" Can you get me back into the Great Hall tonight ? "
Nokkvi thought for a moment before responding.
" I believe that I can,... but you must tell the king that you did not speak to the Draugr ! " he told the Shaman in no uncertain terms.
" Agreed ! " he told the warrior happily.
The king was not happy to see the Shaman return to his great hall, but he was satisfied when Naddoður explained that the Draugr would not speak to him.
" How can you hope to speak to those who moan and wail in the mist. " he told the Shaman.
Naddoður was more than happy to agree with the king to alleviate any doubts he had about him.
" That is why I will be leaving your kingdom tomorrow morning. For I can do nothing to help you. " he informed the king .
As the day wore on, and the prospect of night loomed on the horizon like the Black Plague, the mood in the Great Hall changed from one of nervous laughter, to silent fear. Those who did speak, spoke in a low whisper as if talking loudly might somehow offend the dead spirits. And as dusk fell upon Numadalr the doors were barred, and everyone moved away from the locked entrance that protected the hall. Everyone that is except Naddoður and Nokkvi who sat on the last two seats nearest the doors whispering back and forth.
" I do not know if I can open the doors for the Draugr. I wish that I could be certain that these walking corpses only wanted to carry the soul of King Vigsterkr back to the land of the dead. " Nokkvi told the Shaman.
Naddoður nibbled on a piece of bread as he studied the face of the warrior, who seemed to be losing his nerve as darkness fell over Numadalr.
" Thorvin has assured me that only King Vigsterkr's soul is necessary to break the curse that keeps them locked between the world of the living and the world of the dead. " the Shaman replied calmly.
Nokkvi pounded his fist lightly on the table, which in the silence sounded quite loud and drew the attention of many in the hall.
" He is dead ! The Draugr have nothing to lose, and everything to gain by tricking us into opening the door. " he replied as quietly as possible.
Naddoður ignored the outburst.
" The Draugr want to leave this land as much as you want them to go. Understand, my friend, they are the ones who are cursed and not you ! " he shot back.
Nokkvi shook his head violently from side to side.
" I just don't know. If only there was a way to be sure. If I open the doors and you are wrong hundreds of deaths will be on my head ! " he reiterated.
Naddoður pointed to the wisp of mist that was coming up from the narrow crack under the door.
" You will simply have to go on faith this time, my friend. " he replied with a small grin.
The moaning and the shrieking began almost immediately after Naddoður's last word, and the pounding of fists upon the iron doors came moments later. Naddoður glanced over at the king, who was sitting on his high - seat balled up like a little baby, with his hands covering his ears, before turning back to Nokkvi.
" It is time my friend. " Naddoður said calmly as he pointed to the door.
At first Nokkvi did not move, but after a moment longer to reflect, he stood up on shaky legs. He was about to walk toward the doors when he heard a lone voice among the angry shrieks outside begin to repeat over and over :
" Shaman,.... Shaman,.... help us Shaman ! " it screamed in agony.
As Nokkvi sat back down Naddoður heard a muffled voice say :
" He has lost his nerve ! He will not free the Draugr ! " the little voice told him.
Naddoður looked down, and nodded to the little fairy, who had poked her head out of his pocket.
" I am afraid that you are right. " he whispered.
Naddoður rose up off of his bench, grabbed his staff, and began to walk over to the secured doors. He had only taken several steps when he heard a sword being removed from it's scabbard, and a bench being kicked over.
" Stay away from that door Shaman ! " Nokkvi screamed loudly.
His words reverberated through the hall like an earthquake alerting everyone to what was about to happen. Even the king, who had been immersed in his own private misery, awoke from his nightmare and pointed to the doors.
" Stop Him ! " Don't let him open the doors !! " the king screamed.
Nokkvi swung his sword at the Shaman, but because he did not want to kill him his effort was half hearted, and easily blocked by Naddoður's staff. A split second later he felt the full force of the Shaman's staff upon his forehead, which knocked him to the floor.
Now there was no one close enough to stop Naddoður, and most of the warriors recoiled in horror as the Shaman grabbed hold of the iron bar. Naddoður quickly lifted the heavy piece of iron that ran across both doors and secured them to the main structure of the hall. As the bar rose above it's slot the doors flew open from the great weight of the Draugr pushing against them. Naddoður, pushed sideways by the force, turned and threw the bar at those warriors who would have tried to stop him if they had been given more time.
As the Draugr streamed by him Naddoður saw that their leader Thorvin had not deceived him. For they pushed past the warriors, despite being attacked by them, and made their way up to the far end of the hall, where the king could be heard even above all the chaos screaming in a high - pitched tone.
After the Draugr had entered the hall and passed him, Naddoður put his head down, and left the great stone structure that no longer served it's purpose. He did not look back to see what was transpiring because he knew all too well that justice was often harsh. A few steps from the hall he saw a shadow in the mist coming towards him. It stopped a few feet in front of him.
" Thank you for freeing us ! " Thorvin told the Shaman gratefully.
" I did only that which was right. " he replied.
Alva shot out of Naddoður's pocket and flew over to Thorvin, who was not afraid of her this time.
" What will you do now ? " she asked.
As he answered Thovin began to transform from a decaying corpse into the proud warrior he had been before he was cursed by the cowardly act of King Vigsterkr.
" We are now free to leave the world of the living, and can journey to the land of the dead. " he told her.
Alva smiled at the man for a moment before pointing toward the sky.
" That is not where proud warriors who die in battle reside my friend. " Alva told Thorvin.
Naddoður was the next to see them, and his jaw hung open in awe at the sight. Thorvin, who had to turn to see what the others had already seen, stood transfixed by what seemed impossible.
The Valkyries landed their horses one by one and pulled the warriors up onto their saddles. It took a while for every warrior to be carried away to Valhalla, but Naddoður and Alva watched and waved to each as they left, while the Numadalr warriors cowered in their hall.
Only one dead warrior who left the hall was ignored by the Valkyries, and as Naddoður and Alva left the courtyard they caught sight of King Vigsterkr as he trudged upon the long road to Niflheim. As they watched the king disappear into the distance Alva buzzed around Naddoður's head.
" Do you feel sorry for the king ? " she asked.
Naddoður shook his head.
" No ! It is better to die in battle with pride and courage, than to live a life of fear and regret as a coward ! " he told her.
- End Chapter 11
- Next : Chapter 12 : The Nightmare
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2017.