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Failure is their Salvation

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  • Failure is their Salvation

    The Tribe Searches for a New Home

    His ear hurt. As Goran slowly emerged from the unconscious sleeping state, he felt an uncomfortable sensation emanating from his ear. Goran slowly sat up and realized he had rolled off his bearskin during the night and awoke – with his head resting on a small rock.

    “By the Grace of Loki, please let this be a better day!” Goran mumbled to himself.

    Goran ran out from his tent, the sunlight blinded him temporarily as his eyes adjusted to a beautiful, sunny Norse day. Standing in the sun Goran kept blinking trying to shake the soreness out of his body. Almost five thousand people had started this journey when their farms were destroyed by continuing eruptions from Mount Rattka. Many people were killed or injured during the initial eruptions and fled their homes. During the journey away from Mount Rattka, many people had died due to disease, barbarians and accidents. There was not one person in the tribe who had not lost someone close to them and morale was very low.

    The previous night the tribe had traveled over a large hill. “Well, a ‘hill’ is what Erick called it,” Goran thought to himself. “That hill last night was a mountain!” Goran said to no one in particular. “Aye, it was that my friend!” Goran spun around in surprise. Instantly he recognized his friend Lars! Lars was a tall man, over six feet tall, but his large stature could not hide his pleasant demeanor. “Lars could climb over a mountain and land in a pile of sh*t and he would still be ready for the world, Goran thought. “I wish I could be more like him.” Goran thought to himself.

    Goran had become very friendly with Lars during their journey. Shortly after meeting Lars, Goran found himself in a fistfight with three other travelers. These three men had pressured Goran to give up his rations after a hard day of forging a river. Out of nowhere, Lars had grabbed one man by his archer quiver and yanked him to the ground. The other two men seeing such a display of strength slowly backed away from Goran and Lars. In a move of intimidation, Lars took two quick steps at the remaining men with his fists clenched. In a desperate move to get away, one man tripped over his own feet, scrambled to his feet, fell down again and finally scampered off. The other man turned the other way and in his first step he ran flush into a large tree branch knocking him out cold to the ground. Lars put his hands on his hips, tossed back his head and let out a tremendous laugh. Actually more like a belly laugh which belied Lars true personality. He would not have hurt those men, but he wasn’t going to let them gang up and abuse a good man like Goran.

    “Lars, my friend!” cried Goran. “Does this day find you well,” asked Lars. Goran didn’t answer. He glanced back at the “hill” they climbed the previous night. Slowly he turned back to Lars and pointed at the hill. “Do you see that?” Goran asked rhetorically. “Sure, what about it, Goran?” Lars replied. “I can’t do that again, NO, I WON’T do that again!” Goran stammered in a desperate attempt to keep his composure. Goran felt the blood rushing to his face. He was tired and worn out. He had no food on this bright, sunny day and his body was expressing its displeasure. Lars looked at his friend with an expressionless face. The contrast in composure between Goran and Lars was instant recognizable to anyone looking at the two. Goran, with his face contorted, pointed at the next hill. “I understand we are going to climb this hill north of us, well I won’t do it” “In fact, that smug, know-it-all Erick won’t make me go, I won’t.” Goran speaking more rapidly as people started to gather around them.

    “THEN YOU STAY HERE AND ROT LIKE A BEATEN DOG!” came a booming voice. Both Lars and Goran spun around. It was Erick, a tribe leader. Erick’s blond hair glistened in the morning sun. “Had he taken a bath?” Goran wondered to himself. Erick strode confidently up to the two men, and as he walked up, the gathering crowd backed away from him. Erick was not a person most wanted to challenge. Erick stopped two feet in front of Lars and Goran and stared at them unflinchingly. Lars and Goran exchanged nervous glances as the silence grew in duration. Slowly a smile crept across Erick’s face. “Lars, are you willing to continue?” asked Erick. “Yes.” stated Lars. “Good Erick replied. “Our new city site is on the other side of this hill to the north!” exclaimed Erick. Goran rolled his eyes. Erick leveled his gaze at Goran. “Do you have a problem with this Goran?” Goran lowered his eyes, and transfixed his gaze on Erick’s leather wrist protector. “How did he stud that leather with those bits of metal” Goran wondered. As he continued to study Erick’s protective gear, obviously obtained over several years. Only a wealthy man could afford the workmanship Erick wore. Finally Goran couldn’t take it anymore; he slowly raised his eyes to meet Erick’s. “I’m…I’m…I’m sorry Erick, I’m just so hungry and I’m tired and I don’t…” Erick cut him off, “I understand Goran, but you must have faith! The gods will deliver us to a suitable settlement location so you and everyone else can setup your farms.” “In fact, two of my scouts found shortcut around this hill to the north of us. You can view this settlement location in one hour if you follow me!”

    A loud cheer rose up from the crowd. Goran was relived. People started singing and dancing and for a few moments forgot about their hunger and soreness. Goran ran with Lars back to where they pitched their tents and started gathering their meager possessions.
    Haven't been here for ages....

  • #2
    Erick names their new city after Guerin Trondheim

    Goran heard birds singing what seemed to be inches from his ear. Well, since he couldn’t sleep he decided to get up anyway. His comfortable, familiar bearskin fell to the floor as Goran stood up. The bed Goran had constructed was sturdy, but he built the edge around the entire bed sat an inch too tall – well there was no fixing that now. However, it annoyed Goran as he always caught his knee on the edge getting out of bed.

    He had to get to work – it was already late. Goran pulled on his trousers while he looked around for his boots. He found a shirt and pulled that on. Goran paced back and forth his one room house looking for his shoes. Then like a revelation from the heavens, the memory of his wet boots for yesterday’s rain and drying them out in front of the fire hit him. He briskly walked over to the fireplace. In the air he smelled the faint scent of soot and smoke. He reached down and grabbed his boots. As his fingers grasped the pig skin, he gave it a great tug to pull it over his foot. He needed new boots - that much was obvious. Either the rain or something else had caused these boots to shrink. It was becoming increasingly painful to put these boots on.

    Goran stood up and pushed the fabric covering of his front door to the side. “Another beautiful Norse day!” he exclaimed to himself. Three months have passed since the tribe had completed their journey and built this settlement. Everyone was eager to rebuild their lives for themselves and their families. Goran had no family. Due to the cruel hand of fate, his father, mother, two brothers and three sisters had all perished in the volcanic explosion. If he had not been at Hans’ blacksmith shop, he surely would have perished as well. The sadness welled up in him as he walked down the dirt road, a short walk towards Hans’ new shop in Trondheim. He thought about his brothers and the fun they used to have playing in the sugarcane fields. A tear started to form in his right eye, Goran blinked it back, but the hole in his heart could not be so easily ignored. The walk seemed longer on this day. He noticed a group of men approaching from the opposite direction…and the tallest among them, his good friend Lars!

    “Top of the morning to ya’ Lars!” called out Goran. “And all the best be with you, my good friend!” shouted back Lars. “A lot of traffic heading out of town today Lars.” “What’s going on?” Goran inquired. “We are building a road to the river and there are a lot of trees which stand in our way!” shouted Lars. “Not for long!” laughed another man in the party. LONG LIVE SCANDAVIA cried the group of men. Such spirit made Goran feel good. Everyone had a purpose and goals. The loggers had been providing wood for anyone who needed it for their homes, barns and stores. It was one of Erick’s initiatives and it was working! As the Goran got within whispering distance of Lars he asked “Where is this road being built?” “To the river, as I said!” Lars exclaimed a little louder than Goran was comfortable with. “I heard of strange things happening in the forest” Goran suggested. Lars pretended not to hear Goran. Goran asked, “What about the men found hanging in the trees –without their heads?” “Or the man found dead without any skin?” Goran continued. Another man in the party glared at Goran “What are saying these things for, smith?” the man snapped at Goran. “Get back to your job and build us better axes and saws so we can level this forest quickly!” Lars nodded his head ever so gently…his eyes were saying “enough questions old friend”. Goran wished the logging team well and turned back to head south down the dirt road. The stories continued to haunt him as he walked down the road.
    Haven't been here for ages....


    • #3
      Hans’ Blacksmith Shop

      After walking fifteen minutes, Goran finally reached Hans’ Blacksmith Shop. Several important city leaders were talking with Hans. Hans had a worried look on his face. Goran stopped by the baker’s building to watch the scene. Erick was one of the city leaders gesturing to Hans. Whatever Erick was saying was not pleasing Hans at all. Hans repeatedly pointed at his shop, then the woods nearby, then the shop. He had a look of displeasure. Goran wondered what the disagreement could be about as his thoughts were interrupted by Olaf Palme, the town baker. “When will my new knives be ready Goran?” asked Olaf. “I don’t know, ask Hans…and be quiet!” Goran hissed. “What are you doing Goran?” “Who are you watching?” asked Olaf. “Olaf, PLEASE be quiet” Goran pleaded. Olaf looked in the direction of Hans’ blacksmith and exclaimed, “Great! There’s Hans’ I’ll go ask him myself!” Olaf marched across the street with Goran following ten steps behind. As Goran got closer and closer he could start to hear more of the conversation.

      “I can’t, it’s not possible…” Hans stated. “You will. The one year anniversary of our town is scheduled and it will not be cancelled” Erick replied. “I need more help” Hans pleaded.

      Instead of answering Hans, Erick’s attention shifted to the approaching Olaf. Olaf was a plump man with a warm face. Today he had a determined look on his plump face. Erick thought Olaf’s cheeks were a bit more rosy than normal. After looking at Olaf for a few moments, Erick’s attention shifted to Goran. “There’s your problem Hans, your employees are late risers!” Erick exclaimed. Erick furrowed his brow at Goran. Hans winced. Seemingly oblivious to the emotionally charged discussed, Olaf interrupted and asked Hans, “When will my new baker knives be ready?” “I’m sorry Olaf, I have too many orders, they won’t be ready for sixty cycles of the sun and moon.” stated Hans. “SIXTY!?!?” cried out Olaf. You said they would be ready before the celebration! I have to cook 300 hundred loaves of bread in two days!” Olaf cried in dismay.

      Erick lost his temper and screamed “You make due with your baker knives and get back to work!” as he pointed at Olaf. “You,” as he pointed at Goran, “better start showing up for work on time!” “And you…” as he grabbed the shoulder fabric of Hans’ overalls and pulled him very close, “If you don’t start producing more arrowheads and swords, we will all be doomed!” Erick finished off his confrontational outburst by pushing two of his fingers into Hans’ chest, shoving Hans back several feet. Erick spun on one foot and stormed off, with three aides in tow. Olaf, Hans and Goran stood in disbelief as Erick walked away briskly. They had never seen Erick behave in this manner. “Something must be wrong,” Olaf concluded. “No sh*t.” Hans retorted. “Goran get in the shop, we have a lot of planning to do” Hans commanded. Olaf stood alone in the middle of the street in disbelief and dismay.

      Goran entered the shop. The wide front opening had no door and Goran was getting used to the new blacksmith shop. It was smaller than Hans’ older shop, but more functional as Hans and Goran were able to implement new changes. Many of these changes were discussed as the tribe traveled from their old home to the new town. Goran looked around the shop. A large fire pit, ringed with bricks, dominated the room. A heavily oiled deerskin was positioned above the fire pit designed to carry the smoke out of the room. A table with the top surface covered with anuke uno, the oil from bones of deer, made the table relatively fireproof. That was good considering how many times a day Hans would toss his metal tongs on the desk after dropping a piece of hot bronze in the water.

      Despite that attention to detail, the room still got pretty smoky when Hans stomped on the wood pedal blowing more air into the fire. In the back, five large troughs filled with water sat ready to accept the blazing hot bronze metal. Another large stitched deerskin cloth covering reached from the roof out to two poles in the back of the shop. This covered the firewood from rain. Goran noticed the firewood pile was rather small. “That’s about right,” he thought to himself, “We have been working our butts off and that Erick just critiques our work ethic.”

      At that moment Hans strides into the shop. Hans looked tired. Hans is a middle-aged man with a big pot belly. His overalls had small holes where cinders popped out of the wet wood, burning small holes in the fabric. Goran had offered to soak his overalls in anuke uno, but Hans had steadfastly refused claiming that he hated the smell. Hans crossed his arms and stood silently for a few moments. Goran looked at Hans. Hans had a rugged face with a shock of black and white hair. A Goran looked at the man he admired and trusted he became uneasy with the silence. Goran, feeling a bit apprehensive, asked, “So where’s Frederik? “Erick reassigned him to the logger team,” Hans responded. “What about the other apprentices? Who is going to gather and cut the wood?” asked Goran. Hans’ silent gaze told him everything he needed to know.

      Goran started getting mad. He hadn’t worked as an apprentice for so long just to cut firewood. Goran wanted to be a great master like Hans. Hans had been good to Goran and Goran realized it wasn’t Hans’ fault. After several seconds of silence between the two men Goran spoke up. “Hans, I will cut all the firewood you need.” Goran finally responded. “Goran, you are a good man. Trust me, soon you will be a great master!” Hans stated. Goran’s face lit up. Hans was a man of few words. Goran had learned to trust Hans implicitly. As Goran walked to the back and picked up the bronze axe Hans called Goran’s name, “Goran, come here. Let me show you something.”

      Hans walked out the back of the shop, past the small piles of firewood and stopped at a small shed. Goran’s curiosity increased. “What was so important that Hans would delay his copper smelting?” Goran wondered. Hans pulled out a cloth with something heavy in it. “Look at this, Goran.” Hans commanded. Goran untied the string and opened the top of the fabric. He saw black, metallic rock. “What about it, Hans? We’ve tried to melt this rock into metal before and failed. Only the greenish rock can be melted into metal,” stated Goran. Hans smiled. “Oh yeah?” asked Hans, “Then what is this?” Hans handed a crude metal blade, without a hilt to Goran. “What is this?” asked Goran in shock while Goran noticed its heavy weight. “Its so silvery, unlike your golden bronze blades!” exclaimed Goran. Hans said, “Remember that ‘new wood’ the logging team brought back?” “Sure, the broadleaf trees?” replied Goran not understanding the significance. “Well, that wood burns hotter than any wood I’ve worked with before – like the needle-leaf trees we remember from our old home.” “And combined with the improvements in our fire pit I built a fire hotter than any other fire before!” Hans exclaimed. “I had to melt this piece five times to get it to this shape, but the extra effort is worth it. Observe.”

      Hans walked over a picked up a bronze blade setting it across two large pieces of wood. Next Hans walked over to a table and picked up a small cow leather, wrapping in around the end of the crude, silver blade. Hans turned his back to the bronze blade and in one motion, Hans lifted the heavy blade over his head and placed a blow in the center of the bronze blade. In a jarring sound of metal striking metal, Goran watched in disbelief when he saw the bronze blade broken in two. Goran rushed up to examine the silvery blade. “The silvery blade is hardly damaged!” exclaimed Goran. “A bronze blade would have bent at such a blow!” Goran went on. “Precisely, my trusted student!” smiled Hans. “I call my discovery JERN!” “Have you told Erick?” asked Goran breathlessly. “I tried, my good friend, but he doesn’t listen,” responded Hans. “He has instructed me to build 25 more bronze swords and 300 more bronze arrowheads in seven passages of the sun and moon.” Goran’s excitement was building, he could hardly contain himself. “We need to try again, we need to start with this new metal….” “NO!” exclaimed Hans. “Erick has refused to listen, we will produce the materials he has asked and return to our science afterwards.” Hans stated firmly. Goran reached for the axe as Hans returned inside the shop to return to his craft. “I guess Olaf won’t be getting his knives anytime soon!” Goran thought to himself. Goran started swinging the axe breaking the wood into small pieces.
      Last edited by Shogun Gunner; December 30, 2003, 18:11.
      Haven't been here for ages....


      • #4
        The Attack from the Wilderness

        Ten hours had passed. Goran was still splitting and breaking wood for Hans’ fire. Goran couldn’t believe Hans could take the heat from the fire pit for so long. He had offered to give Hans a break, but Hans had refused. Goran swung the axe, duller from a busy day of splitting wood, and stuck it deep into a large tree. Goran sat down and pulled some dry fruit and dry meat from his pocket. He was hungry. As he chewed the dried deer meat, he heard the huffing and puffing of the air blower as Hans pushed his foot up and down on the pedal. That was the noise Goran heard as he fell asleep sitting with his back against the wood pile.

        The sun broke over the mountain top and shined right into Goran’s face. It’s as if, he never slept. Goran stood up, drank a big swig of water and reached for the bronze axe. He swung the axe into the large tree trunk he was cutting the night before. The axe sunk deep into the tree, Goran put his foot on the tree trunk and used all his strength to pull the stuck blade from the wood. Goran noticed how sharp the blade was. “Despite working over 10 hours yesterday, my master Hans, still took the time to sharpen my axe blade when I slept.” Goran thought. Goran’s admiration and respect for Hans grew. He really loved this man that had stood by his side when he had lost everything. He heard Hans’ hammer slam down over and over again on a piece of bronze. Goran returned to cutting wood. His hands were sore, and blisters were forming on his hands. He wished he could afford a pair of deerskin hand protectors he had seen other workers wearing. Goran continued cutting wood as the daytime sun rose high overhead. Goran lifted a piece of wood to the top of the wood pile, when he turned around he saw Hans standing there. “Goran, you have cut much wood. You work selflessly; please join me for the daytime meal inside. This afternoon you will help me create the arrowheads.” Goran sat down with Hans at a table. Hans used a spoon to turn the stew which had been simmering on the fire for several hours. As he stirred the stew and scooped it into two bowls, Hans thought about his late wife. Oh how Hans had missed his wife. She made great elk steaks. He remembered her red hair and fair skin. She was a strong woman, able to handle anything in life…except for the sickness which caught her during their journey.

        Hans became lost in thought as he recalled the days of caring for his wife during the journey. Goran had been there to help. The two men cut down branches and fashioned a simple gurney to carry Hans’ wife as she fought the sickness. Goran was by Hans’ side when she died. “Oh Maria, why did you leave me alone” Hans cried out in his thoughts. Goran noticed the sadness in his master’s face. He learned long ago to not talk so much around Hans. Goran ate his stew in silence. The silence was shattered by a huge commotion in the streets. Goran and Hans heard people shouting, women crying. Hans and Goran stood up at the same moment and rushed to the front of the blacksmith shop. In the distance, Goran sighted a number of men walking back to the town. Several of town residents rushed down the street…for a reason that neither Hans nor Goran could understand. Goran spotted his tall friend Lars carrying a man on his back. “Why would Lars be carrying a man on his back?” Goran wondered out loud. Then the realization hit both men that these men must have survived a terrible accident. Goran and Hans bolted out the front of the shop and ran down the road to help the fellow townspeople.

        As Goran ran, he thought of the conversation with the logging party on the dirt road, two sun/moon cycles ago. “Why had that man responded so angrily to his questions about the forest?” Goran wondered. “Those stories must be true…I thought they were scary stories for children” Goran thought to himself. When finally reached the struggling men, Goran noticed some of the men were part of the defensive militia. Many had deep wounds in their body. Some of the men still had arrows protruding from their bodies. One man had an arrow stuck in his eye socket. He was calling out for help, crying and sobbing in pain. Goran felt himself getting ill. He stood in shock looking at Lars carrying a motionless man. Lars didn’t have his usual smile and looked scared and defeated. Goran and Lars looked at each other for a few moments as Lars continued to struggle carrying his wounded comrade down the dirt road. Goran felt himself getting sick and in a moment he fell down expelling the deer stew he had just finished minutes before. Goran felt too weak to move as he sat next to spot he had just vomited on. As he sat there, the slow, sad parade of defeated men continued moving by. Goran sat and watched the back of his friend Lars as he continued towards the town. Goran’s mind started to spin as he watched dozens upon dozens of injured people walk by. “Something terrible had happened, but what? Goran wondered. Where had Hans gone?” A wounded man fell down right in front of Goran. Goran stood up, feeling a bit uneasy in his stance. His stomach was still in pain and his mind was numb. He walked over the fallen worker and carried him to the side of the road. The main gasped “wa-wa-water…” Goran cried out “This man needs water! Help!” Goran held the man’s head in his arms. Goran observed the man had been wounded in several places. His shirt was caked with dry blood. There was an awful stench that Goran didn’t recognize. “HELP!” Goran screamed out again. “WATER!” A militia man walked up to a seated Goran and dropped a waterproof deerskin canteen in Goran’s lap. Goran looked up to say thank you, but the unusual look in the man’s eyes made him feel apprehensive. The man had a blank expression, stared for a few seconds and then continued to walk slowly down the dirt road. Goran struggled to open the container, finally freeing the top from the base. Goran gently lifted the man’s head, but his eyes just stared blankly to the sky…Goran poured some water into the man’s mouth which startled him back to consciousness. “What happened, man, WHAT HAPPENED?” Goran demanded. “Th-Th-They came out of the woods and attacked…I tried to run, They attacked…..why? why?” the man stammered. Then he was silent.
        Haven't been here for ages....


        • #5
          Meeting in Trondheim

          A full sun/moon cycle had passed since the attack in woods. The town’s leaders were meeting in the Rosenbad behind closed doors. Goran walked by the Rosenbad building as he headed from his house to Hans’ shop, down the same dirt road. Goran noticed many uniformed men surrounding the building. Several of them glared at Goran as he walked by. The stares and glares only hastened Goran’s steps away from the Rosenbad. The Rosenbad was the biggest building in the town – enough to hold 500 people. It was an advanced construction with three stories. It was the first building constructed and was first used to provide shelter to families as they built their own houses. Since most families had completed their shelters, the building was the seat of power for the fledgling Vikings. The town leaders and important citizens would meet on important issues. There could be no more important issue than the one that confronted them today. Goran hoped there would be some news – any news.

          Goran walked into Hans’ blacksmith shop and immediately saw Hans standing at a table sharpening a blade. “What are we working on today, those arrowheads?” Goran offered. Hans turned holding his “Jern sword”. “I talked to one of the spiritual priestess about this” Hans said matter-of-factly. “And?” Goran asked. “Well, she said my “iron sword” will change the course of our civilization. “Iron?” Goran spat. What a dumb word he thought to himself. “So, the priestess likes your sword, what are we going to do today?” Goran pressed. “We…” Hans stopped for dramatic effect, “have been invited to the Rosenbad for a little demonstration!” Hans handed the iron sword to Goran. Goran examined the blade carefully. It was of the same quality as the bronze swords they had been producing. Goran ran his fingers across the soft hilt tied tightly with leather strips. The workmanship is incredible Goran thought to himself. His thoughts were interrupted by Hans standing at the door. “LET’S go!” Hans commanded, “and don’t forget that IRON sword!” Goran smiled, maybe he didn’t mind that name after all. He grabbed a sheath, inserted the sword, tied the string of the sheath to the hilt and handed it to Hans.

          Goran and Hans walked up to Rosenbad, but were stopped by one of the spearmen. “What is your business?” the spearman demanded. Hans replied, “We are here at the request of Erick.” “Knock at that door over there!” instructed the spearman. Hans walked first towards the door, as Goran stole an additional look at the troops guarding the building. “Why do you think there are so many soldiers here, Hans?” Hans didn’t answer. Both men stood outside the doors to the Rosenbad. Hans reached up and swung the green metal knocker. “I think I made this copper knocker.” Hans stated. “I told them not to use this metal outside. Look how green it is.” Goran smiled. Hans knew a lot of metals and elements from the earth. Goran secretly wondered if he would ever be as smart as Hans. At eye level on the door, someone from the inside slid open the wooden peep hole. “State your business” snarled the guard. “Hans and Goran here on Erick’s request. The guard slid the wooden peep hole shut. After a few moments the door creaked open. Goran could hear a man with a booming voice talking to a group of people. Goran took a few steps inside the vestibule. Goran was too curious and took a few steps closer to the main entrance of the hall. As he looked inside the main hall, he was shocked to see a full house with people sitting in every seat – even in both the second and third floor balconies. “Hans” hissed Goran, “why are all these people here.” Hans looked around, shrugged and didn’t answer. “Stay here until you are called,” the guard commanded in hushed tones. “Wait,” said Goran, “Who is that man speaking?” “That is King Ragnar Lodbrok” the guard answered. “Stand back and shut up” the guard added, not so politely.

          Hans and Goran exchanged nervous glances. They heard much about the King, but they had never seen him before. King Lodbrok was speaking to the assembled people and talking about places called Stockholm, Oslo and Helsinki. Goran asked Hans, “What are these places?” “I heard of some settlements with these names, but I thought they were destroyed in the war!” answered Hans. The King went on to discuss the “Greater Scandinavia.” As the King continued talking, Hans and Goran didn’t understand many of the topics. After all, they were simple people just trying to survive. Another door to vestibule opened and Erick motioned to the guard to bring Hans and Goran along. Goran was feeling nervous, but intensely curious about the meeting. Goran and Hans walked through the door into a small side room. In this room, a table was located in the middle of the room with two men sitting at the table. “Thank you Governor Erick” said one of the men. “Gentlemen, I am an advisor to King Lodbrok. I am Raju.” Raju was a tall man with long grey hair in a ponytail behind his head. Raju had a full set of leather and metal armor which made this imposing man even more imposing. “This man” as Raju gestured to his right, “is Stephen. He is also an advisor to the King.” “Please, sit down” Raju requested “pointing to two empty chairs. “May I see it?” asked Raju wasting no time as to the purpose of the visit. Hans stood up and removed the sword from his belt, throwing it on the table with a large thud. Lowering his gaze at Raju, he slid it across the table. “Will I see this back?” asked Hans. Raju let out a laugh, “If your claims to Governor Erick are true, you are about to be handsomely rewarded. Hans and Goran exchanged shocked looks. Hans glanced over to Erick standing in the doorway. Erick returned his gaze with a smile and nodded his head. Hans returned his attention to Raju who had been carefully examining the blade with Stephen. Hans and Goran sat watching the two advisors to the King examine the weapon, which seemed to go on for a very long time. “We have seen these in battle!” Raju finally announced. Goran, forgetting his place, asked, “Where?” Raju’s smile left his face and answered “Oslo.” Both Stephen and Raju had concerned looks on their faces. “May I ask a question?” asked Hans. Raju nodded. “What is the King talking about these places for? Did they survive? Raju answered, “Yes, these towns are still homes for many people, but the war against the French has been devastating. Many Vikings have lost their lives against the French scourge.” Stephen added, “We have fought them off, but they possess weapons such as these.” “Where did you get this weapon?” Stephen demanded to know. Stephen glowered at Hans. Hans returned the gaze. “I built it.” Hans responded proudly. Goran had trouble suppressing the smile that was growing across his face. It didn’t seem like they believed him, but he knew Hans could prove it. “Well tomorrow then, you will show us how to make this iron sword.” Raju stated matter-of-factly.
          Haven't been here for ages....


          • #6
            Preparing for Visitors

            Goran and Hans were rushing around cleaning up the shop. They could not sleep all night since the big meeting at the Rosenbad. They talked all night about King Lodbrok and the hope that was communicated to the town leaders last night. It was an hour past sunrise and Hans was ready to deposit the iron ore into the fire pit. As if on cue, Raju walked into Hans’ shop. Goran and Hans stood up straight and waited for Raju to speak. “You will show us how you make this iron sword now?” asked Raju. “YES.” said Hans confidently. Raju turned his head to the door, “Alright then, your highness, we are ready!” Hans and Goran were shocked to see King Lodbrok enter the shop. He was an imposing man, even bigger than Advisor Raju. He had long, red hair, untamed. His eyes were hardened and unflinching. A hint of smile was detectable in his mouth, but the man was all business. Goran felt his knees weaken. He had never been in such circumstances and did not know how to behave. In a moment of inspiration, Goran took two quick steps towards the King with his hand outstretched in friendship. The King almost smiled, but maintained an impassive face as Goran approached him. Out of the corner of his eye, Goran detected movement from behind the King. A man emerged, grabbed Goran’s wrist, turned his arm which turned his body away from the King. Goran cried out in pain. His arm was on fire. Goran lost his footing and hit the floor face first. The man placed his knee directly into Goran’s back causing an intense amount of pain. A hand was placed on his head forcing his face into the floor. Goran cried out for mercy. Goran saw the King’s feet from the corner of his eye. He saw the King take one step, then another step. After a few moments, he felt the man release the grip on his head. Next he felt the pressure from his back removed. As he struggled to get to his feet, Goran turned as saw King Lodbrok standing face to face with him. Goran’s eyes got large and he felt paralyzed. King Lodbrok was a foot taller than him and he was staring right at him at a distance of less than two feet. Goran noticed a scar on King Lodbrok‘s right cheek. Finally, Goran stammered out, “I’mmmmm sorry, your King, I mean my King, sorry, so sorry” as he bowed his head. The King reached and grasped Goran’s right hand with his right hand. “Son, don’t worry about it.” the King reassured Goran as he shook Goran’s hand. I understand you gentlemen have something to show me. Goran looked to his left at the King’s personal guard, the man who effortlessly controlled him. The man was scary. He had a hardened stare, his gaze centered directly on Goran. Goran was totally intimidated. He turned and looked at the King. Goran finally nodded to the King and hung his head slightly. King Lodbrok smiled. “That is my trusted protector and friend, Garth.” flipping his head towards Garth. King Lodbrok put his arm around Goran and whispered, “Scary, isn’t he?” Goran nodded. The King laughed a hearty laugh….and exclaimed, “LET’S SEE THE IRON!!!”

            Over the next hour, Hans and Goran showed the King how they took iron ore, smelted it in the fire pit, banged the iron into shape, and cooling it in the vats of water. After several cycles, the iron began to take the shape of a sword. King Lodbrok was visibly pleased. Hans drew a map to the location of the iron ore, just fifteen kilometers from the town center. Hans started to explain to the King other ideas he had for this iron besides just weapons. “Enough” cried out the King. I am very pleased to witness this successful demonstration. Gentleman, you have proven your concept to me. I just hope there’s a lot more iron ore where you got that from.” “We need to make plans!” stated the King. “Raju!” called the King. “Yes, my highness” answered Raju. “Pay these men for both swords!” demanded the King. Raju turned to Hans and asked, “How much for each sword?” Hans thought carefully. “Usually a bronze sword earns 60 copper pieces.” Hans thought to himself. “Do I dare ask for gold pieces,” Hans wondered. Finally Hans answered, “85 copper pieces each.” “Give these gentleman 200 copper pieces and 2 gold pieces” boomed the King. Goran and Hans couldn’t believe their ears. “I have another offer!” the King exclaimed. “I need 500 of these swords immediately.” Hans tried to remain cool and relaxed, but this was all very overwhelming. “I can’t believe I’m transacting business with King Lodbrok!” Hans thought to himself. “If only Maria could see me now!” Hans became lost in his own thoughts – looking at no one in particular. Then Hans snapped back to reality. There’s no way so many swords could be produced, Hans thought to himself. “Sire, I only have enough iron ore for one, maybe two more swords!” answered Hans. The King responded, “You tell me what you need to produce these swords and perhaps some iron armor and I’ll make it available” “And I have got another job for you Mr. Hans, if you can turn over the operation to your friend Goran for awhile….”
            Haven't been here for ages....


            • #7
              Production expands

              Many weeks passed since the biggest day of his life. Goran missed his old friend Hans. Hans was joining the King and his advisors, for what he didn’t know.

              Much had changed in the old shop. A workforce of 150 people had been made available to Goran. Many of them assigned to extract more iron ore and transport it back to the shop. The shop itself had undergone many changes. A detail of men, sent directly by Raju, arrived at the shop, several days after the meeting with the King. After conferring with Goran regarding the steps needed to make these new iron swords, the team designed a plan to expand the shop and increase the number of fire pits. As of today, six additional fire pits were created, with three more expected. At full capacity, ten smiths would be able to work simultaneously! Tremendous amounts of wood were supplied by loggers working all daylight hours. A huge pile of iron ore was kept in several wooden bins. Today, Goran would train several apprentices as Hans had trained him. “Master Goran, what should I do now? asked a new apprentice interrupting Goran’s daydreaming. It occurred to him that Hans was right, he was to become a master. Goran felt incredible pride. His family would have been proud of him Goran thought to himself.

              It was almost dusk and Goran was planning to meet his friend Lars at the pub. Goran walked over to the pub and sat down. As he drank a pint, he thought of the incredible journey his life had taken. He couldn’t wait to see his friend Lars, who was running late.

              Lars walked briskly into the pub. “My good friend Goran!” Lars exclaimed. “I’ve got great news!” I am joining a new military unit being formed here at Trondheim! Goran jumped up and embraced his friend! “You are a brave man, my old friend! Tell me all about it!” Goran and Lars sat down and discussed the future in great detail over many drinks. Goran was truly happy and enjoying life.
              Haven't been here for ages....


              • #8
                Scandinavia's First Swordsmen Unit

                “Announcing Scandinavia’s Greatest General, General Argus!” yelled the town crier as he ran through the town square. It had been thirty cycles of sun and moon since the attack in the forest. Since that time, massive military preparations had consumed the town. The citizens needed a victory after multiple setbacks in the past year. General Argus, flanked by his advisors and honor guard, strode to the center of the square. Surrounding the center of the square on all four sides, were the best, fittest 500 men, Trondheim and the surrounding farmlands could supply. As General Argus walked to the center of the square, a great cheer went up. Everyone had heard of General Argus. Rumors had circulated that General Argus overcame great odds to defeat the French at Oslo. The clapping, shouting and cheering continued for several minutes until General Argus put his hand in the air.

                “My fellow Vikings! I have a great mission in need of great men! You are the best men Trondheim has to fulfill a dangerous, but necessary mission. As you know, our worker teams in the area of Trondheim have come under attacks at an alarming rate!” “I PROPOSE TO FIND THESE BARBARIANS AND DESTROY THEM!” With that, the 500 men broke into even louder cheers. Many people wanted revenge on these despicable animals who attacked the peaceful Viking farms and workers. General Argus raised his hand again for quiet. “I have additional information that will make you very pleased. Hans and Goran, ENTER!”

                Goran walked behind Hans into the public square, carrying five swords. They were unbelievably heavy. Goran looked over at General Argus. Hans had told him much about the General in the shop during the day as they prepared the iron swords for delivery to the General. As they approached the General, the crowd started whispering. A voice cried out, “French weapons!” The dull rumble changed into cries of anger…many of these warriors heard stories of the silver French weapons. General Argus cried out, “NO, my brothers, NO!!!! We have harnessed the power of the earth to produce these VIKING weapons. These are better than the French weapons and we will destroy the French and the barbarians and anyone else who challenges the Viking power! WE WILL BE VICTOROUS!” Again a huge cry rose from the crowd. Grown men were jumping up and down in anticipation, eager to revenge the losses suffered both by nature and by rival civilizations. The square was delirious, drunk with expectancy of revenge. Goran and Hans placed the weapons on the table next to General Argus, turned and walked back to the wagon where the weapons were stacked. Hans smirked and shouted over to Goran as they walked back, “Okay we just dropped off ten, 490 more to go! Goran smiled as they walked back to the square entrance.
                Last edited by Shogun Gunner; December 30, 2003, 18:19.
                Haven't been here for ages....


                • #9
                  The Trondheim Swordsmen Depart

                  Goran could hardly sleep. It was still dark and he laid on the floor of Hans’ smith shop thinking about the previous day’s events. He felt proud of his town. The warriors in the square were strong men, eager to defend the town. With their new swords, they would be unstoppable. When daylight broke, Hans and Goran were planning to go to the square to see the men off. Hans thought back to the party last night in the newly christened smith. Hans renamed his smith shop to “The Iron Works” which kicked off a hell of a celebration. As daylight broke, the whole town was abuzz with the anticipation of the military parade.

                  As the men employed at Hans’ Iron Works showed up for work, the anticipation in the shop grew. At first, there were twenty or thirty men talking about iron working, the military threat, town politics. More and more employees showed up for work, and the crowd extended out the back of the shop, past the new fire pits and through the wood cutting area in the back. It got very crowded as the excitement grew. Everyone was excited to see the men off. Everyone working at Hans’ Iron Works felt a great pride of workmanship and contribution to the greater good. These weapons were to make the difference! The apprentices and wood cutters were all shaking hands and slapping backs talking about their place in history. Finally, Hans raised his hands and called for everyone’s attention.

                  “Every man working at this shop should be proud today,” Hans started. “We have contributed to an important advancement in Viking history.” “Today, our fellow townsmen, armed with the weapons made in this shop, will defeat our enemies!” The 200 men gathered in Hans’ shop yelled in excitement. Goran raised his hands, interrupting Hans. “My friends, let us acknowledge the brilliant mind of Hans! This man discovered the jern iron which allows us to build these awesome weapons! Let’s give three cheers to Hans!” The Iron Works erupted with three cheers praising Hans. Hans’ face beamed with pride. “To the square, my friends!” Hans shouted.

                  The men poured out of Hans’ Iron Works heading to the square. As they approached the square, they saw many people already crowding around the square. It was hard to see anything. Hans leaned over to Goran and said, “My friend, shall we journey down the road a bit, so we can stand in the front?” Goran nodded. As they walked down the road, Hans put his arm on Goran’s shoulder. “You’ve been like a son to me Hans. Thank you for your support through all these years.” Goran’s heart filled with pride. Trumpeting sounded from the square. Both Hans and Goran wheeled around in surprise. That’s not a sound they heard every day in their town. As they stretched their heads into the road, to get a look at the upcoming military procession, they heard the trumpets blare again. A small figure on a horse became recognizable after several minutes. Goran asked Hans, “Who is that on the horse?” Hans nodded his head and smiled, “Its General Argus!” People where reaching up to touch the general and pat his horse. The General kept a steely composure, acknowledging the townspeople, but not smiling. Behind the General, one hundred men on horseback armed with spears, trotted past, five abreast the road. Goran asked Hans, “I don’t recognize those men, who are they?” A stranger standing next to Goran answered, “I heard they are from Oslo.” Hans and Goran arched an eyebrow. Goran turned back to Hans, “I had no idea our military had fighters like this!” Hans smiled. He knew. King Lodbrok’s military advisor Raju had told him a great many things. Hans was tempted to tell his friend Goran, but remembered his vow of secrecy. He would keep his word. Hans answered Goran, “Yes, our military appears strong.” After the men on horseback, two hundred men with bows and arrows marched by. The cloud of dust was just settling from the horses marching in front of the archers. Some archers covered their mouth and nose with cloths or their hands. One of the archers recognized Goran and cried out, “Thank you Goran for these iron tipped arrows!” as he shook his quiver and bow with excitement! Goran waved back and cried out, “Good luck my friend!” As the archers continued by, Goran heard a great cheer cascades towards the spot that Goran and Hans stood. Hans and Goran realized why. In wonderful military precision, the next group of soldiers were the men from the square - armed with their new iron swords. As they marched, the sergeant shouted out military cadence signaling the 500 men to move their swords up, to the right, to the left, sheathed in complete precision. It was a quite a sight. In the group of men, Goran spied his friend Lars. Lars was marching proudly with his new weapon. Goran cried out to Lars, “Godspeed my friend Lars!” Either Lars was concentrating on his sergeant or the noise from the procession drowned out Goran’s shout. Lars did not see his friend. Following the Trondheim Iron Swordsmen, were several hundred men armed with the older bronze spears and swords. Finally, the military procession passed off into the distance. Goran and Hans stood longer than the other townspeople watching the military men walk into the horizon. Goran whispered a silent prayer to Loki to keep his friend Lars safe.
                  Last edited by Shogun Gunner; December 30, 2003, 18:21.
                  Haven't been here for ages....


                  • #10
                    Olaf’s Bakery

                    As Goran and Hans walked back into the town, Hans suggested they get something to eat at Olaf the baker’s store. As Hans pushed the leather skin tapestry back to enter the fellow proprietor’s establishment, he laughed out loud at what he saw. There was Olaf the Baker using a partially completed iron military sword to cut the bread. “Where did you get that Olaf?” asked Hans. Olaf looked up, and smirked, “From your Iron Works old friend. By the way, not having a handle on this piece of metal really makes it hard to use!” Goran steps forward, “One question…why?” The pause hung in the air while Goran and Olaf’s eyes met. There was no anger, just an empty expression in Olaf’s eyes. Eventually Olaf waved his hands dismissing the question, “You never delivered my baker’s knives, or sharpened my existing knives, what was I to do?” Goran arched an eyebrow. This caught Olaf’s eye. He put the sword down on the table with a resounding thud. He leaned into to Goran, a little too close for Goran’s comfort. Then with a voice louder than needed for Goran to hear him, Olaf announced, “I had so many bread deliveries to make to our army, so I borrowed this jern sword until you give me my swords!” Olaf smiled. Hans glanced at Goran with a twinkle in his eye. Finally Goran appreciated the absurdity of the situation and threw his head back and Goran laughed. “Okay Olaf, you will get your baker’s knives today!” Both Goran and Hans enjoyed a great laugh as Olaf shook his head and returned to his work.

                    “Come Goran,” as Hans to a table in Olaf’s bakery, “Let us talk of many things.” Goran and Hans talked for several hours about the plans for the newly christened “Iron Works” and Hans’ plans for the town. Goran listened intently to Hans as Hans told him the great plans for Trondheim, information that Erick, the town governor, had sworn Hans to secrecy. Goran was surprised to hear of an effort to settle the north lands with three new towns. “Was this the area of the barbarians?” Goran thought to himself…. As Hans continued to talk, Goran started thinking of his friend Lars, marching off to battle in the north lands. Goran snapped back to Hans discussion of metal bridges and metal wheels. However, Goran was concerned for his friend Lars. “He could not have received that much training,” Goran mused. “Would he be okay?” Goran thought to himself. He continued to watch Hans’ lips move, but did not hear the words as he thought of his good friend Lars.
                    Haven't been here for ages....


                    • #11
                      Swordsmen on the March

                      The sun beat down unmercifully on his head. He felt his blond hair must be on fire. Three straight days of marching in the hot sun was taking it’s toll. The mounted horseman had long ago moved ahead of the swordsmen. It had been two days since they had seen any sign of those mounted troops. The bronze spearman and bronze swordsman had gone East from the stream, as Trondheim swordsmen had continued North, following the planned path of the horsemen.

                      Lars thought about the stream. It was the last place anyone had seen water. He was thirsty. Marching was so tiring that instead of looking to the right or the left, Lars transfixed his gaze on the back of the man in front of him. He reached down to his belt for his deerskin canteen. “Damn, no water!” Lars cursed in his mind. Lars licked his lips and looked up ahead. His heart leapt for joy as he saw the column of troops approaching a wooded area. “At least it will be cool in there!” Lars sighed. “If we are lucky, maybe a small stream” Lars thought to himself.

                      Lars looked for the Sergeant and spotted him in the front row, six men ahead. Lars picked up his pace, pushing past the man he had followed for so many miles. “In a hurry there Lars?” the soldier sarcastically asked. Lars paid him no heed. He pushed past the next row of men keeping his eye on the Sergeant. “Whoa! Look at the marathoner!” someone cried from the back. A small rumble of laughter spread throughout the ranks. Lars attempted to get through the next line, but the men were marching too close together. “Let me pass!” Lars called. Several moments of silence and no reaction from the men made Lars angry. The two soldiers in front of him continued shoulder to shoulder ignoring Lars. Lars swung around the right side of the two men, as the man put out his foot to trip Lars. As he passed on the right, his left foot caught the top of the soldier’s boot…in a moment of panic, Lars spun counterclockwise on his right foot to keep his balance bumping into the soldiers in front of him. Curses rang out from the men Lars ran into, however Lars didn’t care, bumping into those men kept his balance. Lars glared at the man who tried to trip him. The man smirked back, his comrade laughing.

                      Lars recovered his footing, fell into step behind the men that he had bumped into. He glanced up, the forest was even closer! Lars looked over and saw the Sergeant discussing something with one of the officers. If only he could get a bit closer, he could ask the Sergeant for a break to look for water. After walking for a minute thinking about how to move forward, Lars gripped his hilt of the sword and attempted to push through the two men. Being bumped by Lars a second time angered the soldier. Lars saw the man’s left elbow moving quickly towards his eye. Lars grabbed the man’s arm, locked the position and hissed into his ear “Let me pass and I won’t break your arm!” The man grimaced as he tried to continue walking in an awkward manner. After a few steps he rapidly nodded his head in acquiescence. Lars scooted past him with a quick thank you.

                      “Two rows of men to get through,” Lars thought. Lars began to wonder if fighting to the front was worth it. He was even more tired than marching mindlessly back in his original position. Lars’ nostrils flared as he tried to get more and more oxygen into his lungs.

                      Just as Lars took a big breadth to rally himself for another push through the soldiers Hans heard a swooshing sound go right by his ear, followed by several similar sounds. A split second later, cries from men, hit by arrows filled the air. The two men walking in front of Lars fell to the ground, arrows protruding from their bodies. The column of men came to a stand-still. Lars looked around the ground as he saw several men writhing in pain on the ground. Lars lifted his eyes to the woods, something was there!

                      “Sergeant, in the trees!” Lars cried out. A horn blew from the back as another volley of arrows descended upon the swordsmen from the forested area. A few seconds later a volley of arrows from Viking archers positioned behind the swordsmen was launched towards the woods. Lars looked up at the sky as he saw the missiles in the rising high in the sky before their deadly downward descent!

                      The Sergeant’s cry snapped Lars out of inaction, “CHARGE THE FOREST, MEN!” Without thinking Lars took two giant steps and was right behind the Sergeant as the Sergeant charged the woods himself. Lars’ world became surreal as he ran behind his Sergeant. Colors swirled, deafening noise all around him sounded like it was miles away. Lars was right behind his Sergeant step for step in a bizarre synchronization of running while holding the hilt of his sword. Time seemed to slow down to an impossible degree as Lars saw an arrow sailing by him - a mere five feet to his right. He thought to himself that if he was a bit closer he could have grabbed that arrow. He noticed these arrows had red feathers.

                      As he glanced away from the arrow, everything continued in slow motion, Lars looked up, just a bit ahead of his Sergeant and was surprised to see the face of his enemy, standing behind a tree. The reality of the situation returned with a whoosh and snapped Lars’ perceptions back to full speed. The noise of the battle pounded his ear drums. Lars loosened the string holding the sword in his sheath and continued running full speed. Lars veered off to the left from his Sergeant and ran towards the archer behind the tree. The pounding of one foot hitting the ground after the other seemed to raise Lars’ adrenaline to an even higher level. Lars pulled his sword from the sheath as he ran. Each giant step brought him closer to enemy archer. Lars was ten feet away when he noticed the fear in the archer’s face, the archer had an arrow on the bow and was beginning to pull the string back. While continuing to run at the archer, Lars raised his sword above his head and swung the sword down with tremendous force. The sword first made contact with the archer’s shoulder. A disturbing crunch was very audible as the sword cut through the leather vest of the archer, breaking the bones with a loud snapping. As the archer reeled from the blow, the bow and arrow fell from the archer’s hands, which was spotted by Lars out of the corner of his left eye. The archer collapsed in a heap screaming in immense pain. In one motion, Lars spun clockwise, swinging his sword at an enemy. But the enemy soldier jumped out of the way of the massive iron sword. Another enemy solder ran up to fight Lars. Lars stared at the two enemy soldiers for one second and raised his sword with a scream, swinging it at both men. Both men jumped out of the way and as the sword passed, they moved forward with knives to attack Lars. As the man on the right approached, Lars kicked his right leg at the man knocking him on his back. Lars lifted his sword and in a straight jab landed the sword in the other soldier’s stomach. Lars put his foot on the man, and pulled the sword from his body as he lay dying on the ground. The enemy Lars had kicked to the ground stood up, turned and started running. Lars stood in disbelief – himself not believing what he had just done. As he stood there three Viking swordsmen swept past him on a dead run chasing the archer. One of Lars’ comrades shoved his sword deep into the archer’s back causing him to cry out in great pain.

                      The sound of Metal banging against metal off to his right caused Lars to focus his attention to another skirmish. Several Vikings and enemy swordsmen were in a massive melee. Lars ran up a slight incline, past several trees, sizing up the situation as he approached. Just as he picked his target and moved to engage the soldier, he spotted a man with a great headdress behind the enemy soldiers. It appeared to be a leader of some kind.

                      Lars decided to attack the leader. The leader was a tall man, with large arms. He wore a massive headdress with feathers and flowers. The leader wore war paint on his body. Lars circled around the fight to the left as he studied the leader. As Lars slid behind one tree to the next, he kept his eyes focused on the enemy leader barking out orders. He spoke a language Lars didn’t understand. It sounded very strange. As he approached from the rear, one of the enemy swordsmen saw Lars approaching from the rear and ran towards him with his sword upraised. Lars moved behind a tree as the swordsmen swung his blade. The blade banging a chunk out of the tree Lars was standing behind. With the sword just a few inches from his head, momentarily stuck in the tree. Lars shifted the position of his own sword from his right hand into his left hand and swung upwards from Lars’ lower left upwards while falling to his right knee. Lars banged his left wrist on the tree as his blade cut upwards into the enemy soldier’s groin. The man collapsed onto the ground. Lars dropped his sword in pain and grabbed his wrist.

                      The enemy leader saw this and ran up and kicked Lars under the chin as Lars was still in a kneeling position. Lars shook the cobwebs from his head just in time to see the leader standing over him with a bronze sword in two hands read to shove the sword into Lars’ body. Lars rolled to the right as the blade descended in an accelerating movement. Lying on the ground, Lars kicked the left foot of the enemy leader causing the leader to lose balance. Lars leapt to his feet and ran over to the enemy leader who was lying on his back. The man sat up and swung his sword at Lars. Lars raised his left arm and stepped inside of the attack catching the right wrist of the leader in his armpit and avoiding the blade. He punched the leader in the face with his right hand. The enemy leader punched Lars with his left hand into Lars’ face. With the enemy’s right arm trapped under Lars’ arm, the enemy leader reached for a knife with his left hand. Lars spotted that and grabbed his hand before he could pull the knife out of its sheath. Lars started to stand up pulling the enemy leader up with him, still keeping the enemy leader’s sword hand pinned under his left arm. Lars pulled his own head back and then forward with incredible speed and strength headbutting and knocking the enemy leader with a resounding thud. The headdress of the enemy leader came toppling off. The leader was stunned, his eyes crossing slightly. Using his remaining strength, Lars grabbed the neck of the enemy leader in his strong right hand squeezing his throat. The sword fell from the enemy leader’s hand. The free left hand of the enemy leader again tried to reach for the knife on his belt, but Lars quickly let go of the enemy’s throat with his right hand again grabbing the knife with his right hand.

                      Lars quickly used his now free left hand to grab the throat of the enemy leader. As the enemy’s right hand tried frantically to pull Lars’ left hand off of his throat, Lars back him into a tree. With a smooth motion, Lars lifted his knee and connected into the abdomen of the enemy leader, expelling any remaining air from his lungs. Lars kneed him again in the stomach. In a final coup de grace, Lars grabbed the head of the enemy leader, pulling his head down fast – right into Lars’ uplifting knee. Lars felt the man’s head go completely limp in his hands. The enemy leader fell down to the ground completely knocked out. Lars collapsed to the ground after such an intense fight.

                      After a few moments, Lars looked up and saw his comrades still fighting a few meters away. He glanced around on the ground for his sword. To his left, he spotted his sword under some leaves. He stood up, grabbed the sword, ran up to the back of the enemy and stabbed one enemy swordsmen right in the back. Resistance of the remaining dozen enemy swordsmen ended as they met their death one stabbing motion at a time.
                      Haven't been here for ages....


                      • #12
                        Battle Aftermath

                        General Argus leaned over the man. The man had his hands tied behind his back and his head hung. He was not speaking. General Argus slapped the man across the head, provoking no reaction. “What a barbarian!” the General spat. This caused the man to lift his head and look at the General before returning his gaze back to the ground. “General, the casualty figures!” announced an aide. The General looked at the aide. Several uncomfortable moments passed before the General finally said, “Proceed.” “72 of our men killed, 78 wounded, sir” the aide stated. “And the enemy?” the General growled looking down at his captured prisoner. “267 dead, 84 wounded prisoners, 30 prisoners in good health” the aide replied.

                        The General thought about the battle which had just concluded. His mind traveled back to the reports of innocent townspeople being killed by these barbarians. Finally the General stood at attention and looked at no one in particular. “No, that report is incorrect.” The General stated matter-of-factly. The aide looked confused. He looked at the General, but no additional information seemed forthcoming from the General. The aide looked back to another of the General’s aides, but the man merely shrugged looking perplexed. Finally, the aide gathered his courage. “Sire, I will go count again to make sure, but I believe these figures are accurate.” “No, they are not, there will be no wounded or prisoners if this vermin does not talk and tell me where I can find the other barbarians. Go bring me all the captured soldiers!”

                        “Please do not kill my men,” the captured leader pleaded in perfect Norse. The Viking soldiers all looked at the captured leader with surprise. “Where did you learn our language?” asked the General. “I will tell you everything you want to know, please don’t harm my men,” pleaded the captured leader again. “I learned your language from the French military advisors sent here to teach us.” “They said you are barbarians!” the captured leader grimaced. He wished he could pull that comment back as soon as it was uttered. But it was too late. General Argus stared at his prisoner as the uncomfortable silence hung in the air. In a quick motion, the general unhooked his sword, pulled it from his sheath and swung a roundhouse swing separating the leader’s head from his body. A spray of blood landed on several Viking soldiers as the head of the captured leader rolled to a stop at the feet of the men sprayed with blood. “Kill the remaining prisoners.” General Argus commanded as he stomped off.
                        Haven't been here for ages....


                        • #13
                          Return to the Trondheim

                          From the Iron Works, Hans and Goran heard a growing shout. They quickly looked at each other. It had been several weeks since any word from the departing troops had reached the town. Both men dropped their tools and ran towards the door of the Iron Works. As one of the apprentices ran to the door, Goran shouted, “You men continue working. We will bring word back!” The apprentice had a crest fallen look on his face as he stood motionless watching Goran and Hans run through the door towards to the town center. As Goran and Hans ran towards the city square, the noise grew increasing loud. Some were cries of sadness, some were cheers. Goran and Hans glanced at each other – neither saying anything fearing the worse. As they increased their speed and turned a corner, they bumped into Governor Erick. Hans grabbed Erick by the arm and asked, “What has happened? Tell me! What has happened?”

                          Erick motioned him to be quiet as he turned his head and continued a conversation with his aide. “Yes, you will inform the families. Return to me once this has been completed.”

                          Erick turned to Hans and Goran who were waiting impatiently for the news. Erick smiled. “Gentlemen, you are to be commended. We have won a great victory over a proxy French force. Our weapons dispatched the heathens with ease!” Goran blurted out, “What were our causalities?” thinking of his friend Lars. Erick looked at Goran. Goran returned the gaze with a steely resolve. Erick lowered his eyes, “We did lose many brave souls. I believe it was close to a hundred, our prayers to the gods for their souls.” “My friend Lars????” Goran’s question hung in the air. Erick smiled, your friend is a hero.

                          Erick turned on his heel and walked down the town street as people called out to him. Some were pleading for information – others singing the praises of the Viking military and leadership. Hans and Goran stood in the street – neither man sure whether to be happy or sad.
                          Haven't been here for ages....


                          • #14
                            History Relived

                            A women’s voice emerges from the story. “Yes, this was the beginning of the great Viking Empire.” Kristy continued speaking, “Two great men, Hans Black and Goran Smith, who had no idea of the scope of their contributions both past and future. Indeed, these two men went on to create many more engineering and military inventions that benefited the great Viking people.” Kristy looks up from the storybook and sees her son Karl has fallen asleep. She shuts the book, leans forward and kisses him on the forehead. Kristy stands up and walks out of the room, down the steps and into the study. Kristy smiled to herself. Paul would buy a book of Viking science for a children’s nighttime book. He was so consumed with his work and dreamed of his son to follow his footsteps.

                            Kristy looked around the house. She had already cleaned the house and put away all the digital media neatly into the cases onto the shelves. Kristy has been terribly concerned for her husband Paul’s safety. He worked at a high security facility. His work was top secret and there was always a concern about espionage or assassination. “That was the world we live in now,” Kristy thought to herself. Keeping the house organized kept her from thinking about the current events.

                            Kristy turns on the TV and a VNN (Viking News Network) breaking news story appears on the screen. Chinese military forces attacked and occupied another French city - Lyons. Kristy is transfixed as her mind spins back to the past recalling the several vacations to Lyons she and Paul took before they were married. The nights of dancing at Le Femme, staying at Boudariex Hotel, climbing Mount Swiss – those were wonderful times. It occurs to Kristy how many years had passed. Kristy lowers herself into the study’s easy chair…how many nights has she fallen asleep reading a book or watching the TV praying for Paul’s safe return. The anchorman continued talking about the repercussions of the latest war between France and China. Kristy’s body relaxes; the drone of the anchorman lulls her into a place between wakefulness and sleep. She closes her eyes…as she drifts off to sleep; her last waking thoughts are on her husband…her precious Paul.

                            Paul Smith walks down a windowless, fluorescent-lit hallway. It’s a bland building, sparsely decorated, but very functional for work. Paul likes it. Nothing to distract him from his job and accomplishing the mission for his country! Paul works for Viking Space Program. VSP has provided a good life for Paul and his family, but the news is not good. Commander Nielson is very angry about the Chinese advantage in the space race and has called an emergency meeting in conference room 1201B. “Why did he have to hold the meeting in the conference room in the south building, so far from my office and lab?” Paul wondered. Paul started reviewing what he would say to Commander Nielson. “Every option remaining to us is bound to provoke anger in the Commander,” Paul concludes. Paul’s doubts build each day regarding the project timeline. “We will never beat the Chinese to Alpha Centauri he mumbles.” “Those German booster rockets won’t get here in time….if only we had Chinese fusion drive…” Paul wistfully contemplates.

                            Paul enters the conference room, a few minutes late, he grabs a seat as all eyes are on him. Commander Nielson is staring at him. “Well?” Commander Nielson barks. Paul draws in a breath, looks at the tall, intimidating Commandant and offers, “It’s not good Commander …this is what I know…” As Paul details the project timelines, the latest results from the test lab, the Commander sits down, then puts his hands on his face….its not a good meeting.

                            Three hours later, Paul returns to his home, depressed. He sees his beautiful wife asleep in front of VNN. He switches the TV off. The lack of background noise prompts Kristy awake - at least somewhat awake - as she rubs her eyes. Kristy sees Paul sitting passively on the couch. “What’s wrong honey? Kristy inquires. “The Chinese are going to beat us to Alpha Centauri,” Paul states. Kristy sits up. Paul doesn’t continue. Kristy stands up and sits down on the couch next to Paul. She hugs Paul with all her strength. She knows the difficulty he is going through. Space exploration was always his biggest goal in life. She feels his pain as he realizes his dream is slipping away. As Paul hugs Kristy, a tear runs down his face.
                            Haven't been here for ages....


                            • #15
                              Chinese Space Launch

                              Paul, Commander Nelson, and the entire staff of the Viking Space Program are crowded in the cafeteria to watch the launch of the Chinese space mission. The Chinese leader, Mao, is being interviewed minutes before the launch. There is no joy in the room regarding the Chinese launch and certainly a healthy dose of disrespect for the Chinese leader is verbalized in the room.

                              The countdown approaches one minute, Paul and Commander Nielson exchange glances. Each knowingly realizes that both wish for a problem to emerge stopping the countdown. There will be no such luck from Loki today. As the countdown approaches zero, the TV broadcast communicates the launch noises and smoke billowing out from under the Chinese rocket. Slowly the rocket raises up off the ground and into the sky. The Chinese Space Mission blastoff broadcasted on the screen in the Viking Space Program Headquarters gets no applause. People shuffle off back to their desks. Commander Nielson wonders, “Will it be this week, or next week before our program is cancelled.”
                              Haven't been here for ages....