The Hope of Every Young Man
With their eyes wide open, but their mind's oblivious to their surroundings, their youthful thoughts were lost in their vivid imaginations, as they became great heroes admired by everyone in their village. For it was the hope of every young man to someday be skilled enough, and tough enough, to become a Berserker.
As Sunna rode off across the mountains, and her radiant glow set below the horizon, the Berserker slowly began to wind down their practice. With nothing left to watch, and no fantasies left to inspire them, the two boys headed home to the reality of responsibility and chores.
Alrekr and Bjarnlaugr had known each other for as long as they could remember. Their parents' farms were adjacent to each other, and they had become good friends, as well as trustworthy neighbors, over the many years despite Alrekr's father's bad temper. The boys played together often in their childhood, and became inseparable as the years went by. When they both reached the age of eleven, in what they considered the beginning of manhood, they took a blood oath to each other on a hogr they had erected in the forest. They pledged to the Gods never to leave the other's side, and to defend each other's honor even if meant the ultimate cost of their lives.
When their chores were done, or more importantly when their parents felt their chores were done, they would go out into the woods adjacent to where the Berserker practice field was located and hone their fighting skills against one another using wooden axes and swords to emulate their heroes, all of which were members of the Bear - Skins. They worked on their fighting techniques, and built up their strength each day, so that once the time came they could compete against the other boys in the annual tryout to become a Berserker. Both were confident that they could win the competition, and earn a place in the Berserker inner circle. And not even their parents could stop them once they were chosen. For the Berserker answered only to the king himself, and what they wanted they almost always received from their king.
Valdarr, the leader of the Berserker, watched the boys practicing their skills almost as intently as he observed his own warriors. The Berserker commander smiled when he saw the boys in mock combat trying to mimic every move his warriors made on the practice field. Although they lacked experience they performed many of the adult skills almost as well as his own warriors. And he felt that these two boys were much better than the last group of recruits that had won a place in their ranks !
" With boys like these," Valdarr told himself, " The Berserker will remain a strong and powerful force in our army for many years to come ! "
But alas, somethings are simply not woven into the fabric of time, and are not meant to be. A year later, and four months before the Berserker tryouts were to begin, Vestmundr, Alrekr's father, became embroiled in a land dispute with a neighbor over the land rights of a spring. Ogmundr, one of his neighbors, claimed that the spring was on his land, while Vestmundr stated that it clearly was on his ! Neither, however, had the temperament to wait until the next All - Thing to resolve the issue properly.
Then one day Vestmundr was removing a few boards, that held back the waterat the small dam near the spring, when Ogmundr rode up on his horse to fill a few water containers for a short trip to the coast. Vestmundr in a fit of rage drew his sword before Ogmundr could even dismount, and told him to, " leave his land ", immediately. Unfortunately, Ogmundr was as stubborn and pigheaded as Vestmundr, and after dismounting on the opposite side of his horse the two were quickly engaged in battle.
Although Vestmundr was older than Ogmundr he had once been a Hirdman, and was an experienced warrior. The one - sided fight did not last long, and Ogmundr soon lay dead at the side of the spring that he had claimed as his own. Although Vestmundr had won the battle, he would lose the war, and in the end neither would own the rights to the spring.
Gislaug, the wife of Ogmundr, took the case of her husband's murder straight to King Sigmarr. The king listened to both sides of the spring dispute, but he had only the testimony of Vestmundr to tell of the battle that took place there. Ogmundr's wife asked for revenge, and demanded that Vestmundr be put to death, and his lands be forfeited to her and her son. Vestmundr, of course, wanted the charges dismissed, and the rights to the spring to be once and forever awarded to him, and his family. Neither got what they wanted !
King Sigmarr thought long and hard before passing judgement on what he saw as a difficult case. On a cold snowy day in the middle of December the king finally called those involved to his hall and announced his decision. He did not condemn his former Hirdman to death because of the lack of evidence showing that he killed Ogmundr unjustly. The king, however, found that by killing Ogmundr he had left the deceased's family destitute and thereby awarded Vestmundr's land to Gislaug as compensation for his loss. King Sigmarr, to remove any chance of Vestmundr coming after Gislaug, and her son, outlawed Vestmundr, and forbade him from ever setting foot in Vestfold again !
The next morning, Vestmundr, his wife Gauthildr, and Alrekr were " escorted " to Vestfold's border with Vingulmork by the king's guards, and Vestmundr was told that if he ever returned to Vestfold soil he would be put to death !
- End Chapter 1
- Next : Chapter 2 : Alone, But Unafraid !
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2016.