King Of Destiny
Chapter 1 : The Early Years
Prince Thorvald was concerned however that the women in his life were babying him much too much. First, of course, there was his wife Astrid, who kept Magnus close to her, and was constantly making sure that he was safe. The prince knew that this stemmed from the difficulties that arose from the birth, which left her unable to bear children again. Astrid knew that if anything happened to Magnus there would be no heir to the throne. A fact that disturbed the prince greatly as well ! Then there were the child's grandmothers, Queen Grima of Romerike, and Queen Gudrun of Hedemark. They were constantly holding and kissing the child as he grew up, and always wanted Magnus to play around them as they sewed, or prepared meals. In the coastal Christian territories mothering a child into his teens may have been acceptable, but here in the Pagan Northlands it was considered to be against the will of the War Gods. One day, when Magnus was eleven, he cut his hand on his sword. The cut, though not very deep, brought a strong reaction from the grandmothers, and his mother, which turned Thorvald's stomach. As Astrid was bandaging the wound, Queen Gudrun was holding the boys hand, while Queen Grima was stroking his hair, and kissing him on the forehead, as if he were a little girl ! Thorvald had seen enough, and vowed that this had to end !
Prince Thorvald immediately summoned his personal guard Onund, and asked him if he knew of a fierce warrior who could train his son in the art of combat. Onund thought for a moment, and then remembered an odd old man who had joined the army from out of the north. At first the warriors made fun of the old one - eyed warrior who wielded a strange spear type weapon. His name was Herjan, and he was much older than most of the other warriors already in camp. No one took him seriously, and most left one - eye alone. Then one day a cocky warrior, named Thorleik, decided to see what the old man was made of. Herjan was not easily baited into a fight . That is until Thorleik placed the point of his sword against the old warrior's throat and threatened him. One - Eye calmly grabbed his strange triple bladed spear, and made ready to do battle. As the warriors gathered around they cheered on their friend Thorleik against the old stranger. Thinking the old man to be slow, Thorleik lunged at the aged warriors belly with his sword to stick him like a wild boar, and end the fight quickly. Herjan, with hands much faster than his opponents, blocked the sword point, and turned his spear locking the sword in place between the blades. Thorleik, surprised by the old man's agility, tried to pull his sword out from the spear blades, but Herjan was quicker, and spun the spear breaking off the sword's point. Old One - Eye then spun the spear around, and hit the stunned warrior square in the face with the butt end of his spear knocking him to the ground. Before Thorleik could react, Herjan had the spear turned around again, and had the point pressed up against his opponent's windpipe. The mob that had gathered began to shout, " Kill him ! Kill him ! " , but Herjan raised his spear to his shoulder, and offered the man his hand instead, quieting the warriors. Onund still remembered vividly in his mind the wise words of the old warrior : " I will not kill him ! There is strength in numbers ! If you cut off a finger the hand is not as strong ! " he yelled to the crowd. Thorleik took Herjan's hand, and from that moment on the old one - eyed warrior became a respected member in their ranks. Onund felt confident in recommending the old warrior, and told Prince Thorvald as much. The prince wasted no time in summoning Herjan to his great hall.
Princess Astrid was not upset that her son was to be taught a warrior's ways, but she demanded that Magnus also be taught how to read and write runes, learn poetry, and learn the new language, Latin, which was being taught by the monks and bishops who had baptized and converted the coastal kingdoms of More, Sogn, Hordaland, and Rogaland, to the new religion of the " White Christ ". Herjan was in the great hall's court when Princess Astrid made this demand of her husband, and respectfully suggested a Skald, and teacher, known as Snorri. " It is said princess that this man Brag.... I mean Snorri.... has the rune of poetry emblazoned upon his tongue. " Herjan told her with a sly grin. The princess, who did not like the looks of the old warrior, reluctantly agreed to meet with Snorri the Skald. Princess Astrid spent an entire afternoon testing the Skald to make sure he was as well versed as the old warrior had told her. The princess was very impressed ! His knowledge, storytelling, and his inventive Skaldic poetry, were at such a high level that she agreed at once to allow him to teach her son.
As Magnus reached his teen years Herjan trained his young student relentlessly. The old warrior taught him the skills of hand to hand combat, and wrestled with the boy often to test his strength. Herjan taught Magnus proper sword techniques, and even offered the young lad some of his own tricks to incorporate into his newly learned fighting skills. The old master showed the youngster how to use a shield for defense, and how if used properly it could be used to kill an opponent as well. Herjan had the local blacksmith make an exact copy of his three bladed spear for Magnus, and sparred with him for many hours to instruct the boy on its proper use. The old teacher spent weeks with various types of axes showing his student how to use an axe in single combat, and also that the axe, when properly handled, made a wonderful throwing weapon. Magnus learned quickly, and soon became a very skilled young warrior. Magnus, at the young age of fourteen, could defeat any of the boys his own age, and almost any adult warrior brought in to challenge him.
Herjan tried to teach Magnus how to fight from horseback as well, but there did not seem to be a horse that was big, or strong enough, to carry his weight over great distances. The old warrior at first went to Prince Thorvald with his concerns about finding a horse for his son, but when the prince could not find a horse strong enough in all of the Northland Kingdom Herjan took matters into his own hands. Herjan sent Snorri back to their homeland for a very special horse. He returned a few days later with another man who Herjan introduced as his son Hermod. The horse that Hermod was riding was a huge beast with very strong muscles. When Magnus asked the name of the beautiful horse, Hermod replied that it was called " Jarnhofi ". " Iron Hoof ? Does that mean it is strong, but slow ? " Magnus asked. " No son, " Hermod answered. " Its grandfather, Svadilfari, could move huge boulders that no other animal could possibly move..... and its father..... well..... it could run as fast as a horse with eight legs ! " Hermod tried not to laugh as he told the boy about the horse, but he could not hold back a small chuckle. When Hermod saw that his father was not amused by his unnecessary display of emotions he stopped at once, and became much more serious. " Will you let me practice my fighting skills on Jarnhofi teacher ? " Magni asked Herjan. The old warrior smiled. " My boy, this magnificent horse is a gift to you from myself, and all of my people ! " he told the boy. Magnus was stunned by the generosity of his mentor. " Thank You Herjan ! Thank You so much !! " he shouted as he stroked the horses neck. Magnus rode the horse all day, and found that not only was it strong and very fast, but it had great endurance as well. It suited the boy perfectly. That night Hermod left for his homeland on Snorri's horse. Magnus liked Hermod, who was not much older than himself, and felt somehow as though Herjan' s son had much more to tell him.
One day when Magnus came to Herjan for his daily lesson, the old man was with a woman who was dressed in animal skins trimmed with fur. Herjan introduced her as Skjalfi, and told the young boy that she was a shield maiden from the mountains of Finnmark. " I have asked her to show you how to properly become a skilled archer my boy . " he told his student. Magnus stared at his teacher with a puzzled look upon his face. " Why do you not teach me how to use a bow Herjan ? " he asked. " Boy use your head ! " I have but one eye. I can shoot an arrow fairly well, but I have a lack of depth perception, and my aim is often a bit off the mark. " he answered in an annoyed tone. " Skjalfi here is the best marksman I know ! " he added. Magnus gave the woman a skeptical frown, and a small smirk, as he looked her up and down. Seeing this Skjalfi reached into her quiver set an arrow on the string, and in one fluid motion pulled back the string, aimed and fired. The arrow flew straight and true hitting an old pine tree dead center quite a distance away. So far away in fact that Magnus had to squint to see the arrow. When he looked back at Skjalfi his smirk had been replaced by a look of respect and awe.
At first, Magnus, as strong as he was, could not get enough pull on the bow that Skjalfi had given him to train with. On the longer targets the arrows fell short, and the archer maiden felt that the velocity on his shorter shots may not be enough to pierce armor. To build up his shoulder, and back muscles, Skjalfi had a special bow made up with twice the tension as the bow he was currently training with. Magnus laughed when he first tried to pull the string back. " How can I shoot an arrow with this bow when I can barely pull the string halfway back ? " he asked his teacher. " You will not be using this bow for target practice boy ! " she told him sternly. " You will pull the string back as far as you can get it 100 times each, four times a day to build up your muscles ! " she added with a hint of sarcasm. " I am more than strong enough woman ! " Magnus shouted back at her . Skjalfi did not reply, but instead walked over to a dead tree, and placed her elbow on the stump. Magnus laughed. " You want to arm wrestle me ?! " he asked her. Skjalfi simply nodded. Magnus looked over at Herjan for help, but the old warrior just smiled, and walked away. Reluctantly the young man walked over and knelt on the other side of the stump. As he intertwined his fingers with Skjalfi' s, she glared viciously at him. At first the contest was fairly even, but then Magnus started to sweat as she exerted more and more pressure on his wrist. Then Skjalfi looked the boy in the eyes and smiled. Magnus was worried by her confidence, and knew he was in trouble. With a final flick of her wrist she wrestled the boys arm down with such force that he rolled over onto the ground. As Magnus looked up at his teacher he said apologetically. " A hundred times, four times a day, would probably be a worth while thing to do. " He never questioned Skjalfi again.
The results came slowly, but over the weeks and months that passed his shots began to fly further, and with a velocity that could easily pierce armor. Skjalfi was a hard teacher, and demanded perfection from almost every shot he took. Whereas the archer maiden consistently hit the center of the targets, which amazed Magnus, he would hit the targeted object further towards the edges, or high, or low. Herjan from time to time had to step in and remind Skjalfi that, " He was only human " ! After months of intense training with the archer maiden from Finnmark, one day Magnus saw her packing to leave. The young prince ran to ask Herjan why she was leaving, and if he had done something wrong ? Herjan placed his hand on the boys shoulder and told him : " She is leaving because your lessons are over. Skjalfi is going home now. " Magnus sadly watched as she placed her pack on her back and started off. As he was about to say goodbye his eyes suddenly widened in astonishment with what he saw . His teacher, the archer maiden, was heading into the forest accompanied by a pack of wolves, and a small furry bear !
End Chapter 1
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2014.
Next Chapter 2 : Heir To The Throne.