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 Ingeborg - A Nordic Tale

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SaturnCeleste

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PostSubject: Ingeborg - A Nordic Tale   Sat May 30, 2015 11:16 am

This is a story I wrote for a contest.  These were the rules: 

For this contest, we ask you write a fantasy short story of no more than 2000 words with a Nordic angle. These are some examples of ideas or concepts you could include:

  • Midnight sun/all-day-darkness
  • Nordic trolls
  • Vikings
  • Mead
  • The Nordic mythology Gods


About This Work
In this Nordic fantasy, a witch princess helps a band of Swedish mercenaries fight the Huns with her shaman rune magic. Ingeborg was written for the Nordic fantasy contest with a 2000 word limit.


Ingeborg

Crackling flames licked the belly of the hog that slowly spun over the spit.  The succulent smells of meat and heady mead permeated the Gotland Meadhall.  Men laughed and cursed and belched, rough-cut as the planks of the tables they sat before.  Fighting men with barrel chests clad in fur roared out tales of their brave heroics from their bearded faces.

Stout spruce logs stacked high to a lofty ceiling that trapped smoke and guttural growls from below.  Wall torches were not enough to keep the dark shadows in the corners of the room at bay.  A crew of Swedes occupied several tables along the side of the long room and clinked mugs of mead together that spilled syrupy liquid over rough skin and hard knuckles.  Most men had a wench on his lap or mug in his hand.  Bits of conversation were heard above the din of throaty voices swabbed in sea salt.

“Yeah, we’re Swedes from Uppsala bought and paid for by the kings.”

“Here, here!  A toast to the kings!”

“Sluggards, right, we’re meeting up with them to fight the Huns.  Yeah, Huns. They ride horses like us Swedes.  Come on wench, let’s you and me...”

“Captain Alwin said we’re headin’ for Gothiscandza, no stopping, we sleep on the boat.”

“Skuld!  Sing for us!”

A lanky-legged man clad in a short, fur-lined tunic with tight wool pants and cowhide shoes rose and bowed.  “Thank you friends but I must leave this fine company and go to fair Ingeborg’s side.  Have one more round on me, boys.”  He flipped a coin to a nearby serving maid as he left the hall.

It didn’t take long for Skuld to find Ingeborg. She was a powerful witch commissioned to protect the crew, so he knew he’d find her shopping for herbs.  A princess of the House of Yng, she was a descendant of Freyr.  Her skin was tan like the men she fought with side-by-side; her eyes were blue like the peak of a snow-covered mountain.  Strong yet supple leather tightly clung to her body and provided warmth and protection in battle; her long legs were wrapped with the same.  Even though her knee high boots were made of a thick rawhide, the inside was lined with fur and cuffed at the top.  She wore a fox stole, the head of the animal clasped onto its backlegs and the full bushy tail hung over her shoulder.  Her long blonde hair was covered by a wide tooled leather glove that fit over her forehead.  Ermine pelts were sewn at the top of the headdress and cascaded down her back.

Her white lamb, Dagh, played about her ankles and kicked his back legs up in glee.  Skuld smiled at them both.  He had worked with Ingeborg for several seasons because she practiced Seidr, a form of sorcery wielded to either protect or destroy. He’d only heard tales of such witches but when he saw her for the first time with Dagh, the bard knew he had to meet her.  Both he and the lamb were now her assistants.  When he was not needed by the princess, he performed and often sang songs of Ingeborg’s adventures.

“Thank you, Honored Crone.  You’ve always served me well.”  Gently she pressed a gold coin into the palm of the old woman’s hand.  She glanced to the side and noticed Skuld petting Dagh.  She gathered her satchels of provisions and joined the two.  “Did you have fun with the men?”  She poked Skuld in the side.

“I had a fabulous time with the men, darling.  You better believe it!  But the captain wasn’t among them; he must be at the beach already.  Oh what I’d give for a roll in the waves with that man.”

“Keep that to your dreams or between you and me, friend.”  She put her arm around Skuld’s waist and they continued towards the ship.  The raucous crew spilled out from the meadhall behind them and followed Ingeborg to the longboat pulled ashore.

###

Heavy rain fell on the wooden dragon head at the prow of the Swedish longboat.  Lightning and thunder pealed through the sky and illuminated the graceful curves of the hull to the men rowing her.  There was no sleeping in a storm, everyone rowed and everyone got wet.

“Stay steady...stay strong men!  Thor favors us tonight!”  Captain Alwin bellowed as he rallied his crew.  Karl the navigator struggled against the mountain of water to the starboard and Alwin staggered over to help him support the steering oar.

In a tent made of polar-bear skins at the back of the ship huddled Ingeborg, Skuld and Dagh.

“May Thor hallow these runes!  Protect us from the storm!”  Ingeborg commanded and cast the stones on a small table in front of her.  Her strong and clear voice was heard by the men rowing and lifted their spirits.

The runes were read and the candle Skuld had been holding flickered.  He set it on the table and looked outside the tent to watch the men row for a moment.  He pulled his head back inside and held his nose, “Damn, it smells like wet oxen out there!”

“You should feel lucky to be in here, dry and warm with me.”  Ingeborg held her lamb in her lap and twirled her fingers in his coat.  “Aside from the captain, who else has your eye, bard?”

“I can tell you it’s not the one you like, Inge.”  Skuld glanced slyly at the princess noticing how fast her face turned beet red.

Letting out a breath, Inge looked away from her close friend who knew her so well, “What do you mean?  I have no one, just you and little Dagh.”  She squeezed the lamb.

“Oh I know the one princess.  I know.”

“Lady Ingeborg.”  A voice outside the tent caused the laughter inside to cease.

“You may enter, Hjalmar.  What do you need of me?”  She felt her face redden again.

“Lady Ingeborg, storm’s almost over an' Cap’n needs your help lifting the sail mast.”

“Of course,” She rose and followed him on deck.

###

Obscene sucking sounds of mud pierced the early morning mist that lay heavy over the thirty men as they pulled the longship onto land.  Once the ship was secured, the crew grabbed their weapons and gear, then gathered around the captain on shore.  All eyes focused on the tall brown haired, blue eyed Swede whose majestic sword with a gilded hilt hung by his side.

“Men, we are to meet the Sluggards at these woods.  I have never been to this location before but no matter.  We’re the Dragon-Eaters and we do NOT know fear!  Stay together unless I command otherwise.  Remember!  We always keep sight of the timbers of the Wistlawood...ALWAYS!  We are clearly the best outfitted!  We have the best equipment the kings could buy...”

While Alwin rallied the men, Ingeborg walked through the fighters and touched each one.  Whether her fingertips met arm or shoulder, it was imperative the witch touch every man.

As she approached Hjalmar she took a breath and allowed her palm to rest on his arm.  She moved her lips to his ear and whispered, “I will cast an extra rune for you, Hjalmar.”  She dared not look into his eyes for fear she would not be able to look away.

Next she stood by the navigator and smiled at him, then clasped his hand.  “When you are at the oar, Karl, you are the ship."

“Thank you Lady Ingeborg, that means a lot.”

By the time Alwin was finished rallying the men, Ingeborg had touched the entire crew and stood by his side.

The captain spoke quietly to her, “I’m in your debt for sailing with us Seidr.  I know you have many duties as a princess but my crew need your sorcery to stay alive for this mission.”

“I serve my kings and I serve you, Alwin.  The men will be protected.  I have touched each one of them and now I must lay my hands on you.”  She placed her fingertips on his forearm and looked into his eyes.  “You are an honest man, you walk with Thor.”

“Now we all must do so,” Alwin told Ingeborg to the side.  “Men!  It’s time to move out!”

It was the third day of briskly marching along the timberline when Ole and Mule returned to Alwin from scouting.  Ole spoke, “Captain, there are Hun outriders nearby.  Keep going in this direction and you’ll run right into ‘em.”

“Good work men, I want to meet this captain.”  He turned to the crew, “Let’s march!”

Just as Ole had said, the Huns were on the move and headed towards them.  Alwin took the lead and walked toward their captain.  The Swede stood his ground in front of the mounted Hun and spoke first.  “Hail riders in Hunaland!  Who do you fight for?”

The Hun captain threw Alwin’s question back at him.  “Who do you fight for?  You look like smelly beasts!  Look at our fine horses; can you not see we fight for Attila's princes?”

“You call yourselves riders?  There is none better than us Swedes!”

The Hun tossed his head back and laughed, “But you have no horses!”

Alwin spit on the ground and yelled loud to his men, “Kill the riders and capture the horses!”  And with one fell toss, he nailed the Hun captain between the eyes with his axe.  In a second the Dragon-Eaters were at his side.  The captain reined in the Hun horse and mounted him.  He yelled “Hail Thor!” as he struck down another man.

Hjalmar threw his axe and yelled “For the kings!”, and with deft precision sliced into the neck of a Hun.

Ingeborg tossed Skuld’s shield to the ground as they watched the battle escalate with every passing moment.  “Skuld, do you remember what to say?”

“Of course darling.”

“Good, I’m ready to begin.”  She placed runes onto the shield and slowly moved her hands over each stone and repeated, “May Thor hallow these runes.”  She continued to chant and led Dagh to the shield.  The lamb knew to stand perfectly still over the stones.  She held her hands on the lamb’s back and weaved her spell.  “May Thor hallow these runes, Alwin, Hjalmar, Karl, Ole, Mule, Biorn, Hoghne, Lek, Trygge, Uffe...”  The witch slipped into a trance and repeated all the names of the men in the crew, never letting go of the lamb.

Skuld began his part of the spell by singing a rally.

“Gather round, hear my tale
tip the mug and drink the ale!
To Thor the conquering hero we hail!

He judges by might
with Mjolnir he fights;
seething blood, breaking bones and curse of blight.

Fire flames from Thor’s red hair,
dread Teeth-Grinder and Teeth-Barer
to Jotun’s lair then Valhalla so fair.

Arrows, axes and shields
witch’s spells do yield
the power we will wield!

Rungnir, Geirrod, Aegir brutish Jotuns; hail the hero, our fates be sealed.”  

Axes and arrows flew around her, men shouted, and horses screamed in fear; the battle raged as Ingeborg cast her magic.  After she uttered the last name, the witch held Dagh high and Skuld picked up his shield.  She watched Hjalmar brandish his sword, and with a mighty blow he killed a raider on Alwin’s tail.  He mounted the horse then glanced to Ingeborg.

The battle wound down and the Dragon-Eaters stood victorious.  Alwin looked at his troops, “Good fight men!  Remember, this is the first of many but Thor fights by our side!  Almost everyone has a horse, this is good.  And now, salvage all weapons and tackle we can.  We ride to meet the Sluggards and fight dead King Atli’s princes!  Hail Thor!”

Ingeborg put her stones in her pack and thought, With so many battles ahead, every day we will live like the heroes of Valhalla.  For us, our lives are now a heaven on earth. 
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PostSubject: Re: Ingeborg - A Nordic Tale   Mon Jun 08, 2015 3:21 pm

It took me a bit to go through it but oh my! this is fantastic literature, Celeste

the "witch princess" seemed like opposite traits to a character, but it turned out quite well
also, the lamb was a nice addition Very Happy
"Ingeborg had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb" Dancey lol

the dialogue felt natural and fluid
the descriptions were fantastic
the phrasing wasn't difficult or lengthy, but not in short quips either

and the song at the end was an absolute delight Very Happy

I did notice "cap'n" as a much better lingo for pirates, not vikings,
but other than that, it's been an absolute treat!

thank you for sharing and I hope more people give it a shot Wink
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PostSubject: Re: Ingeborg - A Nordic Tale   Mon Jun 08, 2015 3:42 pm

Loving it! You had me hooked at the first mention of SWEDISH mercenaries Very Happy Great story!

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PostSubject: Re: Ingeborg - A Nordic Tale   Wed Jun 10, 2015 10:14 am

Thank you so much guys!  I really appreciate the replies!  It was not easy researching this story because it takes place before the actual Vikings so the Poetic Edda was one of my main sources for research.  Hjalmar is an actual warrior with a really cool love story so we'll be seeing more of him as well as his heroics on the battlefield.  I have a plan for this trilogy and Ingebog will be reworked and expanded then used as a free story to join my mailing list once I have the trilogy started. Very Happy

Poetic Edda: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poetic_Edda

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