Ospak The Mighty
As Hogni rounded a bend in the road he spotted a robust middle aged man splitting logs on the side of his small longhouse. Although the man' s hair had turned slightly gray, and thinned on top, he was still quite the physical specimen. The axe he swung had a long handle and with almost every stroke he split the logs he placed on the tree stump cleanly in half. The few that would not seperate in a single blow, were split by the muscular figure who turned the log over and gently tapped it against the stump.
Hogni could feel the pride swell in his chest as he remembered back to the day when a scrawny little orphan boy was brought to him to be trained as a warrior for the king's army. He smiled as the scared little boy, in his mind' s eye, shyly introduced himself as Ospak, son of Harald. In the early days as he trained the boy their relationship was one of student and teacher, but over time they became close friends. At first Hogni shadowed the young man in battle, and several times in those early fights the teacher had to come to his student's aid. Over many years, and many battles, the boy grew into a strong confident man, and a great warrior. Ospak, in later years, repaid his teacher many times over by coming to his aid when he was in trouble during a tough fight.
" If you had a wife my old friend, you would not be out here on a cold morning splitting logs . " Hogni shouted. " You would be curled up with your mate, while your son was out here cutting wood for the fire, and doing the daily chores . " the old warrior shouted with a laugh. Ospak turned around and threw the axe at Hogni ! Hogni instinctively dove for the ground, but the axe struck a tree next to where he was standing. It was Ospak' s turn to laugh. " Yes, but who would have someone as ugly as me ?! " he shouted back.
Hogni brushed himself off and walked over to his former student. Ospak was right about his looks. His nose had been broken so many times it no longer sat straight on his face. He also wore a patch over his left eye, which had been punctured by a spear point, and he had several deep scars that marked his face like deep paths through a meadow. A woman may not see this huge man as handsome, but every warrior who met Ospak understood and respected that each scar was a great badge of honor.
Hogni extended his hand to Ospak to greet him, but his old friend pushed it to the side, and wrapped his arms around the old warrior lifting him off of the ground, as if he were nothing more than a sack of grain. " Ah... it is so good to see you again my old friend ! " Ospak shouted with a laugh. Ospak held his old mentor in the air for a few moments, the way a boy would be held by his father, and then as the surprise and joy of seeing his friend wore off he remembered that Hogni was not as young as he once was, and set him carefully down. " How is Hogni the " old " these days ? " Ospak asked with a smirk on his face. Hogni patted his student on the shoulder, and looked his friend in the eye. " That, my old friend, is why I am here. " Hogni told him. Sensing something was not quite right, Ospak reached down, grabbed up an armful of firewood, and then pointed to the longhouse. " Let us go inside where it is warm, and we will talk by the fire. " Ospak replied.
Ospak dropped the wood by the fireplace, and then threw a few of the logs onto the fire. The huge warrior then pointed to the bench closest to the fire . " Sit my old friend, and tell me why you have come. " he told Hogni in a more serious tone. Hogni spotted a pitcher of mead on the small table behind them. " May I have a drink Ospak ? " he asked. Ospak got up, grabbed two goblets, and filled them. " As you can see my manners have not improved over the years, my friend. I should have offered you a drink as soon as you came in. " Ospak said apologetically. Hogni took the goblet from his former student, and nodded his thanks. " It is of little matter old friend . " Hogni replied.
Hogni took a long draft from the cup , and then wiped his mouth on his sleeve. " I am dying Ospak, and I fear I do not have much time left. " Hogni explained. Ospak fell onto the bench across from his old mentor as if he had been stabbed through the heart. Ospak sat silently for a moment before asking : " Are you sure ? " Hogni took another drink of the mead before answering. " I have been to see the healer Hildigunnr, and she tells me there is no hope. " Ospak slammed his hands down hard on the table almost spilling the contents of his goblet. " No ! Odin cannot have you yet ! " Ospak proclaimed loudly.
Hogni reached over and placed his hand over one of Ospak' s clenched fists. " Unfortunately, my friend, Odin will not want me if I die in bed, a pitiful old man who is only a shadow of his former self. And that is why I have come to see you my once young student." he told Ospak. Ospak placed his other hand over Hogni' s. " Yes ! The valkyries will not take you to Valhalla in such a wretched state ! " he said shaking his head. Ospak then looked up and smiled. " What is it that you have in mind my old friend ? " he asked.
Hogni withdrew his hand and stood up. " I demand to die with dignity ! I want to fall in battle surrounded by my brothers in arms. And I want death as a warrior to be my final glory ! " he shouted at his former student. Ospak smiled from ear to ear. " And I will help you ! " he shouted back at his mentor. Then Ospak thought for a moment. " But how can I help you my old friend ? " he asked.
Hogni picked up his goblet, and drained the rest of its contents. " I have heard that you will soon be leaving on a Viking raid to the Land of the Franks. I want to go with you ! " he told Ospak in a demanding tone. Ospak stroked his chin a few times. " It might be difficult for me to convince the jarl that you would be worth bringing along, but I will introduce you to him, and I promise to do my best to get you a seat on one of his ships. " he told Hogni. The old warrior placed his empty goblet next to the pitcher of mead to be refilled. " When can we leave ? " Hogni asked. Ospak lifted the pitcher, and refilled his friends horn. " I am leaving in two days to join Jarl Steinthor's army. " Ospak replied. " Can you stay until then ? " he asked .
Hogni picked up the goblet and took a sip. " Unlike you my friend I have a family to think of . I have no choice but to go home and explain this to them. " Hogni told him. Ospak nodded that he understood. " Then I will come to see you on the morning of the second day ! " Ospak said firmly. Hogni drained his goblet with one great gulp, and placed it gently back on the table. " Thank you my friend ! " Hogni told him with a huge smile.
- End Chapter 3
Next : Chapter 4 : Jarl Steinthor and his Vikings
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2015.