Hold your breath, Look around and see, Take a moment to catch a thought… See the world with the eyes of the scars, Not like it is told but how it is supposed to be… Gather yourself and wonder… Hope has yet to leave this world…
Getting through the huge cracks in the external barrier made Hellnar think even more about what could had caused that kind of damage. Was the Bone Crusher right all along? Did the gods punish them, exiling them from Midgard? The walls were huge, it would make one think only giants could manage to build such monstrosities. But whoever did put them there, what happened to them? Where are they now? Did someone kill them all? Perhaps whoever could brake these fortifications proved to be more then a match. Whatever dwells here now might be their reckoning.
The land beyond the wall was different. Even if it was mostly covered in snow, it reeked of death. The chilling embrace was not caused by the falling temperatures, but rather by the dreary feeling that enveloped these lands. It was filled with questions that they did not know how to answer. The high snow fell on most of the structures that were beyond the wall, burying them down, creating a graveyard of a once great nation. What little that was left, stuck out from the white dust, soaring into the air. It seemed no matter how harsh were the elements in their effort to erase this place, it still fought back, as some structures were intact from the snow, still accessible from land. The group looked in awe to the sunken city of ice. Beyond the wall, as far as the eye could reach, a clear view that this was no mere city, but a proud and advance nation that held this area. Strange pillars with spikes and cords struck out of the ground, soaring high into the air. Surrounding the group as they followed their curiosity inland, were these massive rubbles of steel and all sorts of unknown metal. Feki, allowing his curiosity to get the better of him, broke off from them, running away towards the few buildings that they could get in. “Where does this fool go now?”, Orm said getting the attentionof the party as everyone turned towards Feki who got lost beyond the metal pillars that stood in front of a giant building that was half sunk into the snow, but still revealing its door to all. “We shouldn’t split up. Not now. Aldur! Stay with your idiot of a brother and make sure he doesn’t get himself killed. Yet… Rest of you lets move on forward, perhaps we will find some luck and some supplies. Night is bound to find this place as well. No matter how much this land is lost. Shelter would be nice too. And don’t touch anything, for Odin’s sake!” Hellnar shouted at the Bone Crusher, who laid his hand on a metal chunk that fell to the ground, but as soon as Hellnar raised his voice, the mountain of a man pulled his hand back to himself, as if he wasn’t twice the size of his leader, rather feeling like a small child scolded as if his mother caught him eating her fresh apple pie.
While others were bickering about what to do next, Feki marveled in the architecture of this place, daydreaming what wonders lived here, how this place was in its prime. He strayed far enough, finding a perfectly preserved ruin. With half of it missing, the other half was in pristine condition, allowing the young warrior to enter. He found it strange, as there was no furniture, the half building that was missing resembled a sword cut, as if a humongous blade cut it in half. As Feki dwelled further in, all he could find was a big white boulder just sitting in the middle of one room. The stone was strange, as it was cold on touch, feeling more like a cold metal than if you would put your hand in snow. On it just a small black curricular mirror in which Feki saw his reflection. It amused the young pup, as he watched himself in it. As he touched it, the black mirror suddenly turned bright red, the boulder released a dreadful sound, as if someone blew the war horn and it moved. The stone was alive, it stretched and four legs came out of it and before Feki a metal beast with legs and a mouth appeared.
It was hard to explain, a wolf in metal armor was the closest thought that went to his mind, as firstly it moved its head, observing him. Feki pulled his sword forth ready to defend himself, but the iron wolf just stood there, moving only his head back and forth. Feki’s heart punted so fast, as calm left him, being replaced by panic and fear. His left foot fumbled, making him almost fall on his back as he wanted to gain distance from the beast. As his leg suddenly went down, the wolf moved with astonishing speed.
A loud cry could be heard through, filling the chilling air. “What was that?”, Orm asked as he looked around for the source of the cry. “Where is Feki?” As soon as Helnar asked, Aldur rushed sprinting. The rest followed closely behind and as they made just few yards from where they originally were, a gruesome shight greeted them. The metal beast, with a glowing red eye, bright as the sun itself, slowly stepped forth, holding the top of Feki’s mutilated body. The blood was still fresh, dripping on the cold snow below. Aldur’s eyes filled with rage and tears, seeing his brother’s body desecrated. He released a piercing battle cry and without thought, with his axe held high, charged the beast.
As he lunged forward, the beast without too much effort evaded him, quickly moving to the side. It dropped its trophy, as the torso rolled down its mouth, now with all focus on Aldur, it circled around him. The rest just watched in shock, not understanding what has happened. The beast was something from stories, but no moment was wasted as they all went to aid their comrade. Aldur went forth once again, now successfully hitting the beast. But as his axe touched its cold skin, it just broke in pieces. The iron of the wolf was much harder then their steel, rendering their weapons unless. The beast tried to bite Aldur, but before it could even reach him, the others engaged, just to be greeted by the same outcome. Their blades cracked and broke as the wolf pushed Orm away, sending him flying into the air. Its sole focus was on Aldur, as it slowly stepped forward to his pray. But the giant of a man he was, the Bone Crusher clenched the beast, grabbing its jaw. But it knocked Olaf down to the ground and bit off his hand. As it came to finish the job, it bit the stump of the bleeding arm, holding it and while it was in the wolf’s jaws, Olaf with all his might punched the red eye, embedding his fist into it, pulling the strings that were inside.
As he retracted his fist, the wolf released again the sound of a horn, tumbling to the side and withering away, becoming lifeless and motionless. Olaf held his bleeding wound, where once his arm was, as the others came. Helnar quickly made a fire, commanding his men to hold the Bone Crusher as he burned the stump, stopping the bleeding. Olaf didn’t even flinch as his breath was deep.
Aldur mourned and cried over his dead brothers body, or what was left of it. Orm grabbed him, trying to pull him away. “NO! Let me be with him! Let me be with my brother!”, he shouted, fighting the old man se he tried to escape his grasp. “It’s all right lad… He is gone… Your brother is gone..” Orm tried to condole the young warrior. But he just knleeded on the bloodied snow, crying. Fear filled Helnar’s heart, as he was now sure… This is not Midgard, only death awaits him and his men here.
As the men gathered around, lifting Olaf and Aldur, through the land a sorrowful sound pierced the air. Same as the wolf’s, as if someone blew a horn, but now louder and bigger. One after the other it continued to blow, shaking the ground, vibrating it, moving the very snow beneath the Vikings feet. As the fearful sound came closer with every other horn, there, in the distance, a big shape could be seen, a shadow beneath the fog.
The ship couldn’t last much longer. The last punch that the ice made almost broke the hull, making the weary and tired men dump the excess of water out. Hellnar knew the old bucket won’t float for much longer, and that land should be imminent. If not they will meet their fate at the cold grip of the sea and by Odin, that was no good death. Many moons had passed since they set out to find the rich lands of the west, but instead they found a storm that destroyed four ships that were with them, and what was left of his men, the cold took already. 40 they were when they had set sail, now only mere 5 remain. The brothers, Feki and Aldur, the old man Orm and Olaf the Bone Crusher. And him. Son of a great warrior, wanting to fill the shoes his old man left, desperately needing to escape his shadow, he accepted to lead them to glory, towards new lands, new riches, new glory. But look how it all turned out. He lost most of his army, and what’s left of his ship is barely hanging by a threat. “Land!” Someone yelled. Finally they will get rid of this snowy terrain, escape this ice, and seek glory among the green pastures of the western lands.
All of the remaining men came to the bow, standing in excitement, as they broke through the thick mist. The land of the green shall be theirs, shortly after so much loss and suffering, their blades shall bask in the blood of the enemy, taking the riches of the unknown land, shortly the long journey shall be over. But as the bow of the ship had cut through the mist, another cloud would appear, then again another. As if the uncovered vail was infinite, never ending. But they didn’t despair. They were certain of their destination, as the dark smudge of the land was still on the horizon, even if they couldn’t see it clearly. Their patience prevailed, but still after so long on the open sea, some of them were eager to embrace the hard solid soil. “Come on, come on…”, young Feki nervously tapped his feet on the wooden floor, wanting the ship to sail faster then it already was. But Feki spoke what everyone was thinking. They were all anxious, nervous and eager to get off this wooden coffin, knowing it was by sheer luck and by the choice of Odin, that they were picked to live while watching their comrades drown and die from starvation and winter. Even if they wanted to shout and scream, they were warriors, leaving the nervousness to the younger pups. As the ship finally broke from the thick mist, to their dreadful surprise, they were greeted by something completely different then the promised green lands they were told about. A land of ice and snow, stretching far as the eye could see, with hills steep and unforgiving, making them fall to their knees. “No…”, Feki sighted under his breath. Another struggle after the already hard fought journey. There was nothing left but to pull the ship on the uninviting shores.
The wind blew chunks of the ice from the surface, carrying it to the sea. As the ship gave its last efforts , the crew jumped out, knowing there was no going back. Hellnar, leader of now what was left, stepped first on the frozen ground of the new shores they would suppose to call home. Knowing that they would only find their end here, no riches or glory, he got down on his knee, holding his blade to the ground. “Allfather, the one who shapes worlds and holds our destiny, please hear my voice. My men had suffered great loss and pain, only to be greeted by a land even harsher then our own. Even if the gold and silver we were promised elude us, don’t let these men die in vain like their brothers. I beg you. If all fails, don’t take the destiny from these people, my people, to earn a chance to sit by your side…” As Hellnar prayed to the Allfather, his men strolled around these strange land, looking around in hopes of finding life. But to no avail. It was an uninhabitable land, only filled with ice, snow and rock. Most of it was flat to the side, so they easily saw in the distance the nothingness that it had to offer. All except few hard rocky hills that stood before them, only ice was their companion. Ice and the death it brought with it. Orm stood by his leader, waiting for him to finish his prays so he could advise with Hellnar about their next step. Aldur, the more mature and calmer individual out of the two brothers, tried his best to calm his hot headed brother who out of sheer rage took his sword and swung it around hitting the snow. “In the name of the Aesir, what are you doing?”, he asked his younger brother. But Feki, with steaming blood in his eyes continued to hit the ground in sheer rage. “Would you stop it? Stop!”, Aldur held his brother, hugging him, preventing the young warrior to continue his fight. “We will die here…”, Feki said, “After that fucking storm, eating the maggots that infested our food and watching our friends die out of the unbearable cold, we will meet the same fate. For what did we endure? What did we do to earn this… this cruel joke? Shouldn’t we fight the westerners by now? Being bothered by the hot sun on our face, the smell of fresh grass? Not shivering by this fucking cold!” As he finished he broke form his brothers grip, looking at the ground for a few seconds, then like from the dream, he quickly broke concentration, focusing on Hellnar, who was still kneeling, holding his sword. “You…”, Feki pointed at Hellnar as he walked to him. “This… all of this is your fault. You were suppose to lead us to the new lands. But you disrespected the Gods and now we are all being punished for it!” He came close to Hellnar, when Orm pulled out his sword, ready to fight the much younger man. “Watch your tongue little boy… one more word out of you and I will make you mute!” Feki just laughed at the sight of the elder, not seeing him as a threat. “Really now old man? What are you going to do about it? You are the one who should watch it! I am not sure your hips can handle a proper sword fight!” But Orm just laughed at the boy, being amused by his words. “Aye. I might be old. But if you do not fear a man who watched young fools just like you die all his life and most I had cut down myself, then you will indulge me by teaching you that even an old wolf still has teeth sharp.” Feki was furious, allowing his anger get the better of him, as he pulled his sword high, ready to strike Orm down where he stood. But even before Orm could act, Feki’s sword was blocked by Hellnar, who in two swoop moves disarmed Feki in such speed and strength, that the boy was left stunned and shocked. Knocking his blade to the ground, Hellnar looked at the shocked expression of the kid who just couldn’t believe what had happened, as he met Hellnar’a fist, putting him on his behind into the thick snow. “Get up.” Hellnar extended his hand to the kid who held his nose bleeding, being angry and humiliated. “Yes this is unexpected. Yes we endured much of the pain that was put in our shoulders. But at the end of the day we are warriors. Fighters! And we won’t squander and argue like bunch of children! Do you understand? DO YOU UNDERSTAND?” Hellnar shouted as all of them nodded in silence, as Hellnar told Aldur to help his brother. “SETTLEMENT!” A thunderous voice came crackling from above the hill. The Bone Crusher made it on the top of the steep and sharp stones, managing to climb above while they were all fighting. As soon as they heard, all of them ran up the steep hill.
The Bone Crusher stood up tall, being built like a mountain, tough as steel, he was the strongest of them all. A man of few words he was, but the few he spoke they all listened. Hellnar stood side by side with all of them, looking at the horizon. “What do your eyes see, old friend?”, Hellanar asked the warrior. Silence was his manner, even in battle, so it wasn’t surprising when his leader asked him, that he firstly let no words disturb his gaze. “Walls, there, few yards ahead. Look down, behind the snow and wind, you can see the interrupted line. Walls, definitely, most likely destroyed. Perhaps the inhabitants are long gone, nothing to steal, no one to fight. But at least it will provide good shelter from the storm.” Hellnar looked down the never ending snow planes, seeing the image his big comrade spoke off. It would be a one way trip, as the wind that carried the heavy flakes grew stronger by the minute. Either they camp here, risk that the wind won’t make graves of ice for them, or they take a walk across the white planes to the unknown dangers that laid ahead, behind those walls. Hellnar knew his men, he knew the sheer amount of their collective strength. He knew what they were capable off, being raised in harsh and unforgiving land, he knew they would probably make it through the night if they camped on the shore. But unworthy death of the elements that they saw take their friends during this journey made them on edge. Nerves were thin, hands twitchy, eager to grab swords. He feared of the heavy toll that it would take. So in his mind there was no way but forward. He looked around at them, seeing his men all looking down the icy planes. “We move. If we stay here the snow will bury us. Perhaps behind the wall we will find cover. So, steel on the ready, if there is anyone left living, be ready to send him to the land of the dead.” The rest just nodded, looking back and forth to each other. They were all that was left of the great raid and now with the same fear they had looking at their friends die on the ships, they walked down the hill, towards the distance, not intending to make their deaths in vain.
The elements tested them. Walking on the planes of snow proved to be more difficult then they imagined. The uneven terrain was unforgiving, as with one step they would fall through the ice, the other would hide spikes of sharp stones. But holding together, picking up their brothers and going against the blowing wind, they managed to carry one another to the large walls that with every step they took towards them, grew larger and larger. No one really expected it to be so big, as the horizon hid the lie of their size when they looked ahead from that hill. But now standing below them, they could see the sheer size of it. It was bigger then anything they came against, as the walls stood higher then any building they made. Twice as big then the tallest house in any of their city, build with a strange material, they looked in awe to the colossal walls. But something broke them, as when they came to it, they clearly saw a big hole that was carved in the walls, interrupting their perfection. “What people build this kind of thing?, Feki asked shocked. Orm took his glove off, feeling the strange material. “Steel? No…”, he said. The rest followed his example, except Aldur, the smartest of the bunch, who took his axe and gently hit a part of the wall. As he did, the axe vibrated from the impact, shaking his entire hand. It took a second for him to realize his braking though. As the second he needed to gather his thoughts passed, he took his axe and swung it with all of the strength he had in his body, striking the wall. The axe just chipped the wall, sliding, easily braking the weapon in half. They all stood speechless, witnessing Aldur’s actions. “No… not steel. Something much stronger.”, said Aldur looking at what was left of his axe. Hellnar touched the wall, looking at the top of it that was caught in frost and snow, asking in what land did they found themselves in. “What matter of men could build such things?”, Feki asked. Orm looked around, not being sure at what to make of it. “I was in France, England, I saw the settlements of the westerners. This is no work of the unbelievers. They had stone walls, but steel or whatever this is, no…” They all basked, looking at the unknown, with a certain dose of fear being present among them. “Men? No, men did not build this…” From behind them, the Bone Crusher spoke, keeping his distance, looking down at the snow. “What are you speaking of you fool? If men did not build this then who did?”, Feki’s arrogance spoke. “Who said we are still in Midgard? The storm spun us around the sea for so long, months went by without seeing any land. And the first land after that while we see, is this?” As the Bone Crusher spoke, he got the attention of everyone, as they all collectively turned around to him. “What bothers you old friend?”, Hellnar asked his comrade. Something spooked the big man, making him nervous all of the sudden, as he turned around, looking back and forth, expecting danger. “This land, filled with nothing but snow and ice, it reeks of death. After this long, perhaps we are further from home then we think. And seeing this walls, bigger then anything we ever saw. Makes me wonder, if we left Midgard in those treacherous waters.” All of them respected what the Bone Crusher told, except Feki, who just laughed at him, provoking him further. “Are we seriously going to listen to the ramblings of this dim wit? Fine, I’ll indulge you. If not he westerners, then who build this massive walls?” The Bone Crusher looked at the boy with rage behind his eyes, not really wanting to say it. “Giants…” It all just make Feki laugh even harder, almost falling to the ground. But he was the only one who did that, as the rest took the Bone Crusher seriously. Feki realized he was the only one who found it amusing, looking at them asking if they were serious. “What makes you think of that old friend? Giants are things of old, things of legends. Things that belong to Jotunheim , not here in Midgard.” Hellnar came close this his friend, showing his support. “The land of snow, ice and death we find ourselves in, sounds like the folk tales our parents told us. The land of the Frost Giants. And the wall that stretches so far in the air, only one could build. Ymir and his children…” Fear was present among them, as the theory the Bone Crusher had sounded very plausible. But perhaps seeing the biggest of them all shake of fear was the tipping point that made them scared. Hellnar looked at them, trying to figure a way to keep his men straight, as straying away, being consumed by fear would be the end of them. The wind grew stronger exponentially, blowing snow in their faces. “Right now it is still uncertain where we are or who was here. But what is certain is that a storm is brewing. Shaking form fear in the open is the last thing we can do right now. We continue with our intent. All of you! Gather your steel and your strength, sheath your fear away, as Lord Odin does not welcome any cowards at his table. Move!” Hellnar’s words provided the required nudge they needed as they all got in the huge hole in the wall, proceeding further in the unknown. As they went in, he stood a bit behind, taking a final look at the wall. “Do you really believe that? That we are in Jotunheim?”, asked Orm who waited for his leader. Hellnar looked with eyes of dread, not really sure what to make of it all. “I do not know brother. Right now it is not my concern who built the thing, rather what did make the giant hole in the impenetrable wall.” As they both looked at the giant hole that broke the wall, they gathered their belongings and marched on, catching up with the rest.
The Word Den reached 500 views! Thank you all for it! Just recently I have been taking this blog more seriously and I promise the best is yet to come! My book “The Lonesome Road” is coming next year, and while I slowly (but surely) work on the next, I am also working hard on the blog.
I will try to post at least three times a week here. Posts will be published on Monday, Thursday and Saturday (I hope, maybe sometimes not on those days, but definitely three a week at least!). I will try to maintain the schedule and you can expect poetry (once or twice a week), perhaps something new (I will try, have few “good ideas” I wanna give a shot) and something I want to announce today. One of the posts will be my project that I named “Live, die, repeat”, something I was working on for a while but had put on hold due certain circumstances (my inconclusive mind started 5 damn WIP so I disregarded everything else)
In the upcoming weeks I’ll be releasing “Live, die, repeat” A culmination of several short stories. Starting with this Saturday, 15th of May, first part of the first story will be out.
First story, called Ymir’s legacy will follow a band of Vikings, who on a path to the new western lands, are whipped away from course, getting in a massive storm that destroyed all of their ships and let only the five of them alive. As they arrive in a barren land of ice and snow, they will have to move forward, investigate an unknown and strange city, discovering the dreadful and dreary secrets it holds.
It is a new approach, but I feel confident i can manage few projects at the same time. So stay tuned for Saturday and get into a new journey. Follow the Word Den and all of my socials! ( links are on the main site, just click the icons!)