A New Determination
The angry youth soon left home wanting to prove that he did not need anyone, and that he was better than everyone else. He picked fights with the other boys just to test his strength, and in several instances nearly killed the youths. Naturally this brought their fathers after him, and he once again proved his worth as a fighter by defeating most of them as well ! With each new victory his infamous status grew, and he was admired by most of the youths in the village. However, none of the other boys wanted anything to do with him, and this led to Bjarnlaugr becoming more isolated and paranoid.
The adults, on the other hand, perceived Bjarnlaugr in a different light. What they saw was an angry young man with destructive tendencies, who was quickly becoming uncontrollable. A psychotic loner who took his frustrations out on anyone and everyone he came in contact with . And they wanted him stopped immediately !
Many took their grievances straight to Rekkr, the local chieftain. Rekkr was a likable older man, who had once been a fine warrior. Now, many years later, and a hundred pounds heavier, he no longer cared for fighting. The chieftain lived for feasts, and to drink the nights away. He cared only for the good life, and the old chieftain absolutely hated trouble !
At first, when the villagers came to his great hall, Rekkr dismissed their complaints as merely the exuberance of a youth, or several times with a " boys will be boys " attitude. But when the parents began bringing their severely beaten boys to his hall for him to see, the chieftain realized that he had to act quickly before someone was killed. When he tried to speak to Bjarnlaugr's parents they told the chieftain that they no longer had any control over their son, and refused to help at all.
With no other options Rekkr had the youth arrested and brought to his hall. The first time the chieftain spoke to him he lectured the boy on getting along with others, and he told the boy that soon he would be old enough to join the army where he could put his fighting skills to good use killing the enemy, instead of harassing the villagers. Bjarnlaugr in turn told the chieftain exactly what he wanted to hear. Thinking that this was the end of the situation, and that the boy had learned his lesson, he was released by Rekkr. It was not however the end, but the beginning of a problem that continued to grow bigger every day.
Bjarnlaugr became a regular " visitor " to Rekkr's great hall, and it was not to attend a feast or a drinking party. He was arrested multiple times for stealing, brawling, and once for " taking liberties with an older woman " , as the charge read. After an especially vicious attack on a young man, who was nearly killed, Rekkr had Bjarlaugr brought to him in chains. This time, however, he called upon his good friend Valdarr, the commander of the Berserker, to attend the hearing of charges.
Rekkr once again listened to Bjarnlaugr place the blame squarely on his accuser. Rekkr, of course, no longer believed a word that the youth said . While Bjarnlaugr was callously telling his lies to the chieftain Valdarr paid close attention to what the youth was saying. What he quickly saw was what he had often had seen in young men his age. Anger, aggression, and an uncaring attitude towards others. With his feelings unharnessed he would grow into a man who would menace the village and probably become a killer. But Valdarr knew that if he were highly trained, and given a purpose worthy of his talents, he could become an outstanding Berserker.
Rekkr shook his head after hearing Bjarnlaugr's many excuses for his most recent deviant behavior.
" If it were up to me I would have you strung up in a tree for your growing list of crimes ! " he shouted angrily at the youth.
" Yes ! A blood - eagle,.... and then stringing your dead body in a tree for the crows to feast on should be your ultimate fate ! " Rekkr continued.
" However, I am a fair man, and I believe in giving young men such as yourself one last chance to redeem themselves. Therefore, I decree that you are from this moment forward remanded to the care of Valdarr, the commander of the Berserker ! With the bear - skins you will learn discipline, ..... or you will die. The Berserker have their own creed, and their own brand of justice, which I am sure you will quickly discover ! " he added with a sly grin.
Valdarr stepped forward, smiled, and grabbed the boy by the back of his neck.
" Your little games are over boy. Real life begins today ! " Valdarr told the boy with a little laugh.
Valdarr escorted Bjarnlaugr outside where he handed him over to his warriors Heimkell and Rugga, who picked him up and threw him onto a waiting horse. Before mounting his horse Rugga looked over at Heimkell and grinned.
" Fresh meat ! " he told his friend.
" Well ! Let us see just how long this little boy lasts among us ! Heimkell replied.
When they reached the Berserker camp, at the edge of a thick forest, Bjarnlaugr was told to dismount. Heimkell and Rugga also dismounted as Valdarr watched from his horse. Heimkell walked over to a rack and pulled out three shields and three wooden practice swords. The warrior then turned and threw one shield and sword to Rugga, and one of each to Bjarnlaugr.
" Come on boy ! Let us see what fighting skills you have learned beating up little children and old men ! " Rugga bellowed with a laugh.
" Yes ! We know that you can attack defenseless folk, but can you face up to warriors with our skills ? " Heimkell asked .
Bjarnlaugr answered Heimkell's question with a loud scream. Then the " boy " swung his wooden practice sword with such great ferocity that he pushed the warriors several feet back before they had time to react. The young lad quickly became frustrated, however, when his wild blows hit nothing but air, or were blocked by the Berserker's shields. In a maddened frenzy Bjarnlaugr began to swing his sword at the warriors faster and faster, with each stroke harder than the last. One especially hard blow managed to break off a section of Heimkell's shield, but when he tried to finish him off he found that brute strength was not enough against the skills of these warriors.
Heimkell was the first to go on the attack. Although he found Bjarnlaugr to be more formidable than he expected, he was able to get a few jabs into the boys ribs with his wooden sword, any of which in a real battle would have been debilitating if not fatal to the young lad.
Rugga, unlike his friend Heimkell, was tired of playing with the insolent youth, and when Bjarnlaugr damaged his practice shield as well, he went berserk and began to pummel the boy with blow after blow, which began to draw blood. Even so the brash young man would not yield.
Valdarr had seen enough !
" Stop ! " the Berserker commander ordered as he slid off of his saddle onto the ground.
Heimkell obeyed the order immediately, but Rugga had worked himself up into such a state that he was no longer listening. After two more blows sliced open Bjarnlaugr's forehead, Valdarr pulled out his sword, and with hardened steel, cut Rugga's practice sword off at the hilt, before he could truly hurt the boy.
" I believe I said stop ! " Valdarr screamed at the disobedient warrior.
Rugga looked down at his broken practice sword, and then up at Valdarr's angry face.
" That son of a bitch broke my damned shield !! " Rugga screamed at his commander.
Valdarr place the point of his sword against Rugga's neck.
" Yes ! He did rather well for an inexperienced youth fighting against two of my better Berserker ! " he told his warrior with a grin.
" And that is why I do not want him injured ! He is here to be trained, not tortured and killed ! " Valdarr screamed at Rugga.
Rugga did not respond. He dropped the wooden hilt on the ground, and began to angrily stomp away. When he reached a large oak tree Valdarr pulled out his throwing axe and flung it at his warrior. End over end it flew through the air until the blade sliced off the end of Rugga's nose, and buried itself into the tree.
" Dishonor me, and I will kill you ! " Valdarr screamed angrily at Rugga.
Rugga covered his nose immediately to stop the bleeding, and then turned to face Valdarr.
" Sorry commander ! " he replied as he shook with anger.
Bjarnlaugr tried not to show his emotions, but he was visibly shaken. He had watched the Berserker for years as they practiced, but the sheer brutality of these special warriors was not understood by him until today.
" Go get my axe boy, and we will sit down and talk ! " Valdarr commanded the boy.
" Leave us ! " Valdarr ordered Heimkell.
Heimkell, reeling from what he had just witnessed, simply nodded and replied :
" Yes, commander ! "
Bjarnlaugr had to pump the handle of the axe several times to loosen it from the tree. When he finally was able to extract the blade Bjarnlaugr was impressed at how well the weapon was balanced for its size and weight.
As Bjarnlaugr brought the axe back with him, he felt like a little boy bringing his father a tool that he had requested. Out in the civilized world he realized that he was a person to be feared, but here among these special warriors he was nothing. He would have to work harder than ever before just to gain their respect, and if he failed he knew it would probably cost him his life.
Valdarr pointed to the fallen tree that lay next to the rock he was siting on.
" Sit Bjarnlaugr ! " Valdarr commanded.
" Today you learned that you are still a boy among men. Tomorrow you will discover that anger without focus is like a river that flows in the wrong direction. It will not take you to where you need to go ! " he told the boy in a very serious tone.
Bjarnlaugr frowned at the commander of the Berserker, but said nothing.
Valdarr laughed !
" I never was any good at that wisdom crap ! " he told the boy.
Then with a grin he looked down at the youth.
" Tomorrow you will begin to learn how to focus your anger into a force that will allow you to fight like a dozen regular warriors. We will teach you to kill without mercy, and how to ignore pain and personal suffering. To become a Beserker you have to think like a skilled warrior, but fight with the tenacity of a wild animal . " he explained to Bjarnlaugr.
Then he added with a smile.
" Your life no longer belongs to you. It is ours to do with as we please. If you wish to become a Berserker you must push away the outside world, and become one of us ! " he told the youth.
" And when do I get my bear skin ? " he asked.
Valdarr laughed again.
" When you hunt a bear down and kill it boy ! "
Bjarnlaugr stood up and smiled at Valdarr with a new look of determination on his face.
" I believe I will like it here ! " he told his commander.
- End Chapter 3
Next : Chapter 4 : An Offer Too Good To Refuse
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2016.