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Berserk Revenge: A Norse Saga

Berserk Revenge: A Norse Saga

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Published by Mark Coakley
Free, full-length Norse Saga in modern English. Based on the earliest-known history of Norway. Thoroughly researched (the author is half Norwegian and has lived in the places here described), and with a fast moving, violent and unpredictable plot, Berserk Revenge is the best Viking-themed story written since 1399 A.D.
Free, full-length Norse Saga in modern English. Based on the earliest-known history of Norway. Thoroughly researched (the author is half Norwegian and has lived in the places here described), and with a fast moving, violent and unpredictable plot, Berserk Revenge is the best Viking-themed story written since 1399 A.D.

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Published by: Mark Coakley on Aug 17, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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04/12/2014

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In the darkness of the morning, Halfdan's army (now over a hundred well-trained
fighters) and an equal number of men called in from around Fjordane (much less trained,
and on temporary military service) gathered in a snowy field outside the rebuilt town
wall.

These unpaid recruits had been training for days in using spears and bows to support the
army's core of professionals, in expectation of a spring-time war against Sogn. It was
well-known that the war-ships now being built would be used in the spring for an
invasion of Sogn.

To the recruits, Halfdan and his veterans were heroes. Young men from little farm-towns,
some of them in the kingdom's capital-town for the first time, listened with awe to
exaggerated stories of Halfdan's escape from the hall, and the fight at the waterfall, and
the now-famous battle of the beacon.

Halfdan stood on a little stage in front of the armed men. Gem-covered silver rings
glittered on his hands. Standing beside the war-chief were Atli, the second-in-command,
and Haki the Berserk.

Halfdan shouted, "Today we are going to do something called 'wet training'. If you
recruits do well at it, there will be a big outdoors party afterwards, with lots of beer for
all!"

The army cheered so loudly that startled birds flew from a nearby tree.

Halfdan shouted, "Wet training is not about the right way to use your weapons. By now,
you should all know proper spear-use: never swing it side-to-side, always stab forward.
Today's training will not take long, but it will involve something that some of you might
find hard -- learning how to kill. Most folk do not want to kill. Until I got used to it,
neither did I. It can feel strange to use a weapon on somebody who seems just like you.
That feeling can freeze your arm, putting yourself and all of your blood-brothers at risk.
Today we are here to learn how to ignore the feeling that says not to kill. Because if you
can't kill the foe, then you are the foe. My officers will chop down any coward who hangs
back in battle."

The recruits were taken to the other side of the town, where the snowy field had been set
up for wet training. There were dozens of man-shaped, man-sized dolls -- like those little
girls played with, but much bigger -- tied to wood posts. The dolls had realistic faces
painted on the front of their heads. Clumps of horse-fur, looking like human hair, were
glued to the tops of the doll-heads. The dolls had been dressed in shoes, pants and shirts.
From a distance, the big dolls looked like folk.

91

Each recruit was told to stand on the snow in front of a doll, spear in hand.

Halfdan shouted, "Imagine that this is a foe!"

The impressionable recruits did as their war-chief ordered.

"Now stab him in the guts!"

Most of the recruits, without hesitation, lunged forward and shoved their iron spear-tip
into the doll. Inside each of the dolls was a pig-bladder filled with pig-blood. At each
recruit's stab, the bladder in the doll burst and the pig-blood sprayed out and ran down the
oak spear-shafts and dribbled to the snow.

"Good! But what about you? and you? and you?" -- pointing at recruits with clean spear-
tips.

The young men who had hesitated, feeling pressured by their war-chief and the gaze of
the others, all now did as they were ordered, poking into their dolls and spilling the
hidden pig-blood inside.

All except one. This young farmer from Stryn held his unbloodied spear in trembling
hands, as he stared with a ridiculous expression at the doll before him.

Halfdan went to him and said, "What's your name?"

"Torvald, my lord."

"Why are you not stabbing this foe in front of you?"

"I can't."

"Why?"

"It doesn't feel right."

"Don't you think that a fighter should be able to kill?"

"I'm a farmer, not a fighter."

"I rule this kingdom, and I say that you are a fighter -- my fighter. You will kill for me."

"It is wrong to kill men."

"What?"

"It is wrong to kill men."

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The fighters who heard that started laughing, some mocking Torvald with girlish voices.

"Don't hurt his very favourite dolly!" one mocked.

"He just wants to kiss it!"

"Mommy, mommy!"

Halfdan said, "Wrong to kill men? That's crazy-talk. The gods want you to kill. I want
you to kill. And girls, especially the cute ones, all want a man with enough balls to do his
duty. Why do you think you were put on this world? You are going to stab this doll! Or
be very sorry. Now!"

Torvald moved his shaking spear-tip towards the doll's belly, touching it, but not hard
enough to pierce its shirt.

Halfdan said, "Stab it, don't tickle it."

Torvald was blushing in shame and emotion, but could not stab the doll.

Somebody said, "What's the problem? It's not even a real man."

"I can't," Torvald gasped.

"Then there is only way that you can serve me and the kingdom," Halfdan said.

"How?"

Halfdan turned away from Torvald and said loudly to the others, "The first man to stab
this coward will get a silver piece and a job in my bodyguard!"

After a shocked moment, almost a dozen recruits rushed towards Torvald, raising spears
dripping with pig-blood. They all tried to be the first to stab Torvald. As Torvald
crumpled without a complaint to the snow, other recruits ran at him -- he was stabbed
again and again.

The strange young farmer from Stryn lay dead in a parch of red snow, staring blankly up
at the grey sky.

Halfdan congratulated Beren, whose spear-tip had been the first to pierce Torvald.

One of the other recruits, also from Stryn, was weeping into his hands.

Halfdan shouted, "Wet training is over. Time to celebrate! The party is at Baldur's Field.
Most of you know the way to get there, and those who don't, follow me!"

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The army cheered and banged their weapons onto their shields.

They walked away from the field to a trail into the forest, leaving Torvald's snow-
sprawled body behind.

A single crow flapped down to it.

At Baldur's Field -- a flat place near the bend of the river running into Eid -- there was a
surprise.

No beer.

Instead, the fighters found a huge pile of supplies: knapsacks, skis, bagged tents, iron
pots, bags of food, barrels of food and salt-milk and water, weapons, bundles of arrows
and more. Most of it was piled onto sleds small enough for a single man to pull.

Halfdan stood on a barrel of salt-milk and shouted, "Sorry for the disappointment! No
party!"

Groans from his fighters.

"The most important part of war is tricking the foe," Halfdan continued. "We've made
King Njal think that we are going to wait until spring to sail on the new war-ships to
attack him. But we're not waiting for spring, not waiting for war-ships. We're going to ski
to Sogn, across the glacier. Now!"

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