Friday, November 4, 2016

Papa Don't Preach, or All in the (Berserker) Family, Part II

...........and now for the continuing story of Hervor the Shieldmaiden, of the House of Arngrim.

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If you read my last post, then you'll know all about Hervor, posthumous daughter of Angantyr, who was one of the twelve sons of Arngrim the Berserker. The House of Arngrim was not much mourned after their collective demise, and most folks had hoped that their deeds would be left to molder in the barrow on the small island of Samsø, along with the rotting remains of Angantyr and his brothers. But Hervor had no intention of letting her inheritance rust among her father's bones. She had every intention of carrying on her family's grand tradition of fighting for plunder, and for that, she needed her father's powerful dwarf-forged sword, Tyrfing.

And that's how Hervor found herself on a viking longship, sailing for a small haunted island off of Denmark, in search of her destiny. Her crew willingly followed her to Samsø, but refused to disembark upon that fearful blood-soaked soil. Eager as they were to follow the Berserker's granddaughter into battle, they had no interest in facing the spirits of the restless dead. They left Hervor there to find her father's grave on her own. As the sun sank below the ocean horizon, tiny flames rose from the ground. The flickering ghost lights led her to the barrow she sought, solitary in that abandoned place, with only a simple runestone to marking the final resting spot of the sons of Arngrim.

Nothing daunted, Hervor faced the dark mound and summoned the spirit of Angantyr, demanding the sword which his father had given him, so that she might wield it in turn. The tiny flames along the ground shuddered, but there was no response. Impatient, Hervor called out again, less respectful but with greater urgency. She would not leave without the sword. Again, her voice resounded in silence, with nothing but the moan of the wind to answer her. Enraged and desperate, Hervor shrieked curses upon the dead, wishing eternal torture upon the decaying flesh in the lonely barrow, where her father and uncles lay. That got a response.

Out of the barrow came a weary voice, rusty from lack of use, carrying with it the stench of the grave. Angantyr had heard his daughter, but was reluctant to give up the sword whose curse had brought destruction upon their family. He pleaded with her to leave it there, and to leave the dead in peace. But Hervor would not leave empty-handed. Back and forth they argued and threatened, he reciting the curse, and she implacable in her abuse. Time seemed to slow, with nothing but the dull lights of the dead to keep her company in this spectral colloquy. Until finally, Hervor saw a pale white bone stretch out from the mound, hurling something long and glinting through the air. End over end it turned, before plunging into the dirt by her foot with a vicious thud. It was Tyrfing.

With a shout of triumph, Hervor seized her prize and called out her thanks to her father's spirit. There was no reply, but with the sword in her grip, she left the haunted place filled with excitement, eager to seek her fortune at last. Reclaiming her ship and crew, Hervor picked up where her father and grandfather had left off. True to its nature, Tyrfing could not be unsheathed without taking a life, and Hervor was well-pleased with the terror which she inspired. For years, she led her viking crew from settlement to settlement throughout northern Europe, sowing death and destruction and looting as it pleased her. In time she amassed a considerable fortune in ill-gotten goods; somewhat surprisingly, she found herself tiring of blood sport and decided to settle down.

With her impressive dowry, Hervor had her pick of suitors, and she married a viking prince. She sheathed Tyrfing for the last time, and lived with her husband in peace, bearing him two sons. The elder one she named for her father, Angantyr; against all expectations, he was both handsome and well-liked, making friends easily. But Hervor's younger son, Heidrek, was quarrelsome and given to unprovoked acts of violence. Hervor's husband was fond of Angantyr, but looked with disfavor upon Heidrek. The prince had heard dark rumors of his wife's forebears and their reputation; he knew that something would have to be done about his second son, lest disaster strike the House of Arngrim once more.................. be continued.......

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