The Old Warrior
The old warrior smiled when he saw his granddaughter Bera looking up at him with a sad pout on her face. Hogni understood what she wanted and knelt down on one knee. With his free hand he pushed back the blanket a little so his little granddaughter could see her new brother. Bera giggled, and clapped her hands with great joy when she saw the baby's tiny face. Thorir and Hogni laughed at the sight, but Asdis had given in to her exhaustion and was already fast asleep. Thorir told his father in a quiet voice that they had decided to name the child, if it were a boy, Yngvar, after Hogni' s father. Hogni nodded to his son with great pride at such an honor.
Thorir released a deep breath. " Father I am afraid that I must get some sleep as well. " he told his father with a yawn. Seeing his son's bloodshot eyes, Hogni nodded. " Yes, my son ! You and your family need to sleep after such an ordeal. I will stay up and watch my grandson until you are better rested. " he explained to his son. Thorir raised his eyebrows in surprise. " I could ask one of the village children to care for the child . " Thorir replied. Hogni shook his head from side to side . " No, I will watch little Yngvar. " he told his son in a soothing, but firm tone. As Thorir lay down he watched his father walk over to a fir covered chair by the fire. He was amazed at how such a big man could be so gentle. The last image he saw before his exhaustion closed his eyes was his father kissing the newborn on the forehead.
Hogni could not help but notice as he cradled his grandson the stark difference between the soft new flesh of the child, and his own wrinkled and leathery skin. " Where have the years gone ? " he said out loud with a sigh. The old warrior looked deep into the dancing flames, and saw images from his past. Suddenly, he was no longer the old man that he had become, but was once again Hogni the Bold, whom many compared to berserkers of legend. The flickering flames transported him back to a time when he, and his good friend Ospak, fought for King Asmund of Vestfold against the kings of Agder and Viken. Through an alliance these two kings had tried to squeeze Vestfold into submission, but in two mighty battles King Asmund defeated both of his enemies decisively. Hogni and Ospak, who were instrumental in both victories, were allowed to stand with the Vestfold king as he accepted the surrender of the defeated kings as they submitted to Vestfold's authority. The kings of Agder and Viken were forced to pay a huge tribute of gold, and silver to Asmund. Hogni, for his part, was given the first of many gold arm rings to honor him for his bravery and prowess in battle. The king also gave Hogni and Ospak small parcels of land to their families.
Hogni reached down with his free hand and threw another log onto the fire, which made sparks fly in all directions. As he watched the flying burning embers he flashed back to his raiding days in Britain and Ireland. He recalled how, after landing on the Isle, they marched inland and defeated every force that rose up before them. Each village they came to was looted, and burned to the ground. The straw roofs of the villager's huts gave off burning embers much like the ones that now floated in the fire pit before him.
The old warrior pushed the blanket off of his grandson's head, and in his pink little face he saw the image of his son Thorir as a child. Hogni had missed quite a few years of his son's childhood while he was away fighting as a hired warrior for King Ottar of Romerike. Despite his long absence Hogni was very proud that his son had grown into such a great warrior in his own right. Thorir was both feared and respected throughout Vestfold, and had risen through the ranks to become one of the king's most trusted leader. Hogni smiled as he thought : " And now my son has had a son of his own to make him proud ! "
Hogni heard a moan behind him, and turned to see his daughter- in - law shifting her position in bed. Asdis reminded the old warrior of his own wife Saeunn. She had been a strong intelligent woman, full of life and with a wonderful sense of humor. Thorir, he hoped, realized how lucky he was to have such a fine wife. Many believed that Asdis had Celtic blood in her ancestry due to her red hair, and her green eyes, but as far as anyone knew her parents and her grandparents were of Scandinavian birth. Asdis was such a wonderful person that Hogni did not care what her bloodline was. He was just happy that his son had chosen her as his lifetime mate, and mixed her blood with his.
The old warrior suddenly had a flash of sadness. He saw his beautiful wife Saeunn in his mind' s eye. He remembered vividly how, as a young woman, she slipped and fell while carrying two buckets of water home. He winced a little as he recalled how hard she cried, and how afraid she was that her awful father Geirmund would beat her for not being more careful. Saeunn's tears were so great that he had grabbed the wooden pails himself and run down to the spring to refill them for her. He smiled when he thought of the little kiss she gave him on the cheek for his good deed.
A year later he asked her father for her hand in marriage. Geirmund absolutely refused ! Then that same night, in a drunken rage, her father attacked Hogni with his axe. But Geirmund had underestimated Hogni' s strength and skills as a warrior. Hogni easily blocked his feeble attempts to kill him and than ran him through with his sword. As he sat there mesmerized by the flickering flames his mind looked back upon that awful moment when he had to tell Saeunn that he had killed her father. He expected that she would never want to see him again. Saeunn, however, placed her arms around him, and hugged him tight. Hogni realized at that moment just how awful her father had been to her. Saeunn, for her part, and for the first time in her life, had found someone to protect her. More importantly she had found someone to love. But now she was gone . He cherished every moment he spent with her, but memories cannot make the ache of her passing go away.
" Father ! Did you stay awake all night ? ! " Asdis asked. Hogni, who was nodding off, looked up at his daughter - in - law. " Is it morning already ? " he asked in return. Thorir placed his hand on his father's shoulder. " Yes, father. You were up all night with little Yngvar . You should lay down and get some rest now. " Thorir told him. Asdis reached out for the child. " Thank you so much for watching Yngvar and allowing us to get some sleep, but now it is time for you to rest yourself father. " Asdis chimed in. Hogni nodded in agreement, and carefully handed his grandchild to his daughter - in - law.
Hogni stood for a moment and looked at his family. Three generations stood all together in their small longhouse. Thorir and Asdis were in their prime, Hogni thought to himself. And Bera and Yngvar had their whole lives ahead of them. Then Hogni looked down at his wrinkled hands again, and for the first time realized that he had become a relic of the past. He was like an old dog who sleeps the day away. As Asdis cradled her child in her arms she noticed her father - in - law studying his hands. " Are you alright father ? " she asked. With a weak smile Hogni replied. " I am just a tired old man ! "
- End Chapter 1
Next : Chapter 2 : The Village Healer
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2015.