Posted in Unit 13 (Final Major Project)

Unit 13 (Final Major Project) – The Fall Of Jarl Baardsen Full Narrative

Chapter One

Lindisfarne, England, 793 A.D

Eyes stared at the cold sullen sea, a sigh leaving the young priests lips. The ocean was so calm, yet it held so much vigor. Without remorse, it will take your life, even if you beg for mercy. It was similar to that of man: you could make a small mistake, but that small mistake could cost your life, even if you beg with everything you got.

Elmer brushed a hand through his locks, noticing how long they have got. He will need to go to brother Horik for another haircut – if he isn’t too busy chanting about how a heathen army is going to attack, apparently words from God. Horik has made himself secluded from his brothers, only ever leaving his quarters to say a prayer in the monastery. In all honesty, Elmer has begun to worry about him.

“Elmer, may I speak to you?” Fredric spoke with a soft tone, his normally bubbly smile being replaced with a nervous tilt, fingers playing with the edge of his robe. “Fredric, are you alright? You look worried? Has something happened?” Elmer pat the grass next to himself as an invitation for the younger male to sit down next to him, which he did with reluctance.

“E-elder Horik has gone mad, he keeps chanting the lord prayer. I tried to speak to him, encourage him to leave his quarters but he outright refused, saying ‘I need to save Lindisfarne from the heathen army – only I can save us from the Devil’s wrath’ I-I think he has eaten something wrong, or maybe there is an army ready to attack us!” Fredric eyes almost bulged out his skull as his hands tighten in his robes. Elmer, though he does believe in the way of God, he believes there is more to life than praying to the lord.

“Horik is old, he is simply losing his mind as Elder Alex did. We shall not worry” Elmer tried to comfort, but he knew there was a possibility an army could be attacking them. There were tales from Northumbria talking about 7ft men raiding their towns, kidnapping their peoples, slaughtering their livestock – we do live in rough times. Elmer simply assumes these people exaggerate their stories.

“Elmer, how are you sure! W-we could die soon! I d-do not wish to die on this island” Fredric seemed panicked now, the hands that were on his robe now rubbing furiously at his eyes as if to prevent tears flowing down his face. Elmer, as the last tactic, began to brush his fingers through Fredric’s hair, humming a song he used to recite to Fredric when he was a boy. Fredric moved closer to Elmer, resting his head on his shoulder, eyes closing in content.

Elmer and Fredric were not brothers, but Elmer treated him as such. When Elmer was 16, Fredric was around 14 – still new, still fresh faced. His father wanted his son to be a priest as he thought it would bring him good luck, though Elmer thinks it was strictly for money. Fredric was terrified, as Elmer was, so instantly Elmer took Fredric under his wing. Fredric couldn’t sleep on his first night, sobbing loudly into his linen pillow as he talks about missing his mother, sister, and father. It was a painful sight, so Elmer sat with him the whole night, brushing his fingers through his thick, blonde mane, whispering a soft song his late mother used to sing for him. It took 10 minutes before the boy slumped off to sleep, fingers gripping into Elmer’s robe as if he was terrified of him leaving his side. Something in Elmer didn’t want to leave him either, swearing to himself that he will protect this boy, no matter what.

The soft snores began to leave Fredric, indicating that he is now in his slumber. Elmer continued moving his fingers through his hair, halting when he hears a loud screech coming from the monastery. Oh no… “Fredric” Elmer shakes the younger male, dragging him out of his slumber. “Elmer, what-” His head snaps towards the monastery in the direction of the scream, now being followed by hearty laughter. “Wait here, okay? Please stay here. I will come back when I see what is happening, okay? Look at me Fredric” Elmer’s hands cup Fredric’s face so he has no choice but to look at him – brown eyes threatening to overflow with tears. “P-please don’t die” Were Fredric’s words before Elmer jumps up off the ground, sprinting towards the commotion at the monastery.

“Father, listen to our pleas! Save us from these heathens! Is this a test? Did you send these monsters as a test of our will to you?” Horik shouts out to the sky, men clad in layers of armor staring at him with mild amusement. Horik was right, the heathen army has finally arrived.

Suddenly one of the men,  slammed his metal axe into the top of Horik’s skull, the sickening crack echoing across the small courtyard of the monastery. Something lurched in Elmer, gut twisting in disgust of watching his mentor get slaughtered before him and also in fear of the possibility of that act happening to him. Suddenly someone taps on his arm, causing him to jump and spin around upon impulse, seeing Fredric with tears streaming down his face.

“E-Elmer, Horik was right! H-horik was right” Fredric says as he whimpers loudly. Elmer doesn’t know if the barbarians can hear him, but he slams a hand over his mouth to halt the noise. “Fredric, you better listen to every word I am saying: we need to be quiet and try to get past these men and off the island. They mostly got here on a boat so we will rob on of their boats. When we are free we will go to King Horik about the incident? Do you understand?” Fredric nods his head as he lets the tears continue to cascade down his ruby cheeks. Elmer made a promise to protect him so that he shall.

Elmer moved the handoff of Fredric’s mouth, glancing around the corner of the wall they are currently hunched. He saw no-one – not a good sign. Suddenly a hand tangled into his hair, yanking him up from his spot on the ground. Elmer scrambled for the hand in his hair with panic, nails trying to pierce the skin – it got him a laugh.

Elmer has then spun around, facing the man who was currently holding his hair in a death grip, shocked by the sight. He looked completely different to that of the brutes, almost looking as if he was English native. Brown locks cascade down the length of his shoulders, halting at the start of his hip. One of his eyes were frosted white, an indication that the man is blind in that eye, while the working eye is a mixture of brown and blue. Freckles adorn his cheekbones, giving him that childlike innocence which he knew was false. A thick mane of hair takes over the bottom half of his face, lips barely visible under the mass amount of hair.

“You’d make a fine slave, along with that friend of yours” The man growls out in English, sending pure terror into Elmer’s gut. His voice was rough and deep, a voice you would associate with murderers or criminals; something which he was. “You have a lot of treasures here – unguarded and easily accessible. We’ll be coming back here again.” The man gave a sickening grin, making his blind eye even more terrifying. “How about you have a little nap, hm? It is going to be a long ride” Was all the man said before slamming a fist with accuracy into the side of Elmer’s skull, knocking him out effectively.

Chapter Two

Copenhagen, Denmark, 844 A.D

Elmer took a sip of his honeyed mead, savoring the sweet taste on his tongue before swallowing it down. Ragnar was quietly mumbling something to Gunnar as his finger points on the map, most likely telling him of his plan of attack, which had Gunnar snorting in amusement, probably an insult to Ragnar’s plan. “Elmer, do you have input on how we will get into Paris? Ragnar, our dear Ragnar, thinks we should just charge in – are you trying to get us killed, Lodbrok? I know you hate the English but please have respect for us” Gunnar jokes as he lets a small, but dashing smile spread across his lips.

Even though Gunnar was in his 50’s, he still had that same energy from when he was younger, except now his once thick black mane now had dots of white streaking through. Elmer set his cup down, dramatically wiping his mouth with the back of his hand before he pulls his mantle closer to his body.

“It does not matter how we approach Paris, Charles will get the signal that we are there as soon as he sees the boats. We do what we do best: run in and cause mayhem. Worry not, Gunnar – here I thought you were the reckless one” Elmer teased, wiping invisible lint off his shoulder. “Besides, I could go for a fight. It has been too long since Sweden”

Ragnar lets a rumble of laughter vibrate in his throat, picking up his abandoned mead to take a big gulp, nose turned up in disgust. “What use is a wife if she cannot give you a decent cup of mead” The older male mumbled, still sipping from the cup even with his complaints. “Aslaug is not much of a wife. What does she do? I have not seen her move off that chair since I came here 20 years ago” Gunnar teased as he sipped his own cup of mead, face following suit of Ragnar’s “You are right, what use is a wife if she cannot even give a good cup of mead.” The cup gets slammed down onto the table, some droplets landing on the crudely drawn map.

The three men sat in comfortable silence for awhile, Elmer eyes shutting due to the alcohol thrumming through his system and the warm atmosphere. Elmer never thought in his life he would find a place where he belongs – where people genuinely care about him. Sometimes Elmer does have flashbacks to Lindisfarne, mostly that of Fredric. Gunnar never told Elmer what happened to Fredric and he never pryed, though he wished he did. But this life was much better than it was on that island, though maybe not at the start of his life in Denmark, eventually, he started to feel free – he was finally able to be himself.

“Elmer, I never got to say this and this will probably be the only time I will say it – maybe when you are dying, but I just wanted to say I respect you. Even though when I first met you I grimaced at the ground you walked on, I now see you are a good man – someone willing to help our country grow and become stronger. I want you and Gunnar to be beside me in battle – as my right-hand men.” Ragnar said with sentiment, blue eyes staring at Elmer as if to prove that what he was saying was with pure sincerity. This was the first time Ragnar has praised him without it being about his spear skills. Elmer sent Ragnar a small nod with a soft smile.

Though Ragnar was ferocious on the field, outside he was a kind-hearted man who was very passionate about those around him and his country. Elmer did have doubts at the start, assuming Ragnar was a brute who wanted nothing more than to dominate England and bleed her for everything she’s got; not true at all. Yes, Ragnar did want to take over England but he didn’t want to force the kings out of power, he wanted those men to willingly give their crowns over to him. Ragnar has talked about building a settlement in a small town called York, a small place in England which a group of his men found when they went out on an expedition on England.

Suddenly a shout from Aslaug came from outside, asking about a trade deal or something, which got Ragnar to roll his eyes and mumble something under his breath in Norse. He gave an apologetic glance to Elmer and Gunnar before leaving the room, leaving the two men alone.

Gunnar stood up from his place at the table, the sound of his leather boots clipping against the stone floor. It was very unlike them to be in silence, normally Gunnar making a crude joke about Elmer or even his wife, so Elmer knew Gunnar was thinking about something serious. Elmer moved his head to the side to look at Gunnar who looked mostly unsure, hand brushing through his salt and pepper locks with unease. He then continued his slow journey to Elmer, making home on the chair directly next to him.

With a cough, Gunnar placed his hands on top of Elmer’s on the table, eyes staring intently at the vacant cup of mead. “I never told you how much I appreciate you, how much I treasure our friendship. When I first took you from Lindisfarne I only had one thing on my mind; revenge. I wanted to hurt you lot as England hurt me. But after these thirty years of getting to know you, having the opportunity to gain your friendship, I realize it is not all England’s fault.” With a soft sigh, he tightens his hold on Elmer’s hand. “You already know what happened to me when I lived in England, so you understand the hatred I hold, but I shouldn’t have taken it out on you. You gave me nothing but respect but all I wanted was to hurt you. Do you forgive me?” Gunnar moved his eyes to look at Elmer’s face, the wrinkles on his forehead becoming more prominent.

“Gunnar, I forgave you back then. I understood what my life was going to be and accepted it. My life has been better now than it ever would be at Lindisfarne. Though at the start I was scared, confused, frightened of my new situation, I came to accept it. Even when I was a simple thrall, your family gave me nothing but respect, treated me as if I was their family. I never got to experience that. The only time I did was with Fredric; he was a brother to me, a son.” It felt too hard talking about Fredric, not knowing his fate – if he died terribly or if he was allowed to live. His heart clenched as tears begin to well up in his eyes.

“I love you, Elmer. Thank you for forgiving me. That is all I ever wanted”

Chapter Three

Køge, Denmark, 812 A.D

A shivered a breath left his throat as he tried to pull the worn linen close to his body, wanting to chase the little warmth he had. Elmer didn’t know what time of year it was, even being here for years. It was constantly cold – the bite of the wind hurting his sensitive skin whenever he was out herding the cattle to their pens at night. He hated doing this – he hates being forced to go out into the night to herd sheep when there were beasts roaming around, trying to find their next feast. Elmer hated that he was forced to risk his life because these brutes enjoy the taste of mutton with a cup of mead.

It was like a force hit that back of his knees, falling into the frosted grass. Elmer felt too weak to stand back up, hands struggling against the grass to try and lift up his body…no results. He wanted to scream down to Gunnar to help him, but he doubts he would leave the comfort of his home just for a piece of worthless property.

What Elmer didn’t expect was two hands sliding under his armpits, lifting up from the ground with ease.

“Now, now Elmer – I knew my father was working you too hard.” The voice belonged to Hakon, the oldest twin of him and Asbjorn. It was very unexpected that Hakon would save him, the teenager normally being as cold to him as his father was; this was a new side of him he was seeing. He could hear the panic edging in his voice as he holds the weak boy off the ground, holding all his weight as if it was nothing.

Hakon looked much like Gunnar: brown locks twisted in a flurry of curls, reaching his breastbone. His eyes were inherited from his mother, Eerika, a bright blue that could compete with the sea itself. A light dusting of stubble was forming at his chin, showing the signs that he has hit puberty. His jaw was angular, almost boxed, giving him that same sense of power his father has; he was definitely Gunnar’s son.

“Hakon, take Elmer back to the house, I will finish off his task” The voice belonged to Asbjorn, the youngest twin of the two.

“N-no- Gunnar is not going to be happy-” Elmer spoke weakly, trying to push out of Hakon’s arms, without success. Hakon just simply tightened his grip and turned them around, coming face to face with Gunnar.

The look in his eyes was feral, the only light coming into them from the luminous moon, stretching across the mountains. But that little light made him look sickeningly sinister, causing Elmer to push back further into Hakon’s arms, in an attempt to get further away from Gunnar.

“Why are you not doing your task, slave. Why is my son herding the sheep and not you?” Gunnar shouted at the smaller male, almost towering over him.

“They were help-” Was all he could get out before a pair of knuckles connected with his cheek, causing him to fall to the ground and out of Hakon’s arms. He was dazed, the world suddenly becoming hazy and a blur, but he could still hear the commotion.

Shouts in both old Norse and English were thrown by both Gunnar and Hakon, another voice soon joining in, which he suspects was Asbjorn. They were becoming much louder in volume, probably altering the rest of the village to the ordeal. Elmer tilted his head to look up at the three men arguing, their forms looking nothing more than a blur but he could individually point out each man.

“I helped him because he was suffering! You work him too hard – he struggles to move because you give him to task after task with no break. Father, you need to let go of this grudge you have against England.” It was a sudden movement, Gunnar throwing his fist at Hakon as if to say ‘who do you think you’re speaking too, I am your leader and your father’ but it only made Hakon stagger – both in surprise and the force of the punch. Elmer has never seen Gunnar hit his children, maybe when he was teaching the boys how to use a sword, but never in a confrontational purpose.

It was comedic in a sense when Eerika sneaked up behind Gunnar, slamming the hilt of her shield into his temple as if she has had to do this many times. The older man collapsed to the floor, breathing now soft and labored, opposite to what it was a couple of seconds ago. Eerika glanced down at Elmer with soft, almost mothering eyes, stepping over her husband to bend down in front of Elmer. A soft palm cupped his cheek, inspecting the damage Gunnar has done, the palm then moving up to press against his head.

Eerika was the most beautiful woman he has seen, she was as if she was a goddess herself. Her hair was intricately plaited, no stray hair falling out her perfectly made hairstyle. Cheekbones were high on her face, with a permanent hue of rose pink staining them. Lips were thin, yet beautiful and match the rest of her features. Eyebrows were arched, making her sea eyes look even more beautiful. Elmer would admit, he found himself attracted to Eerika, but he knew his boundaries.

“Elmer, you are heating up. Asbjorn, take Gunnar to my quarters – get your sisters to try and calm down his fever” Her soft voice said before she glanced over her shoulder at Gunnar, a grimace forming on her face. “I and Hakon will take your father into the barn.” She then stood up, pulling off her rich, silk cloak to drape over Elmer’s cold body.

Elmer let his eyes close

—– 3 hours later —–

The rich smell of freshly cooked stew hit his nose, an aroma he has come to love. A gentle hand moved his hair out of his eyes, the back of the palm touching his forehead once again. Another hand rocks Elmer, stirring him from his fevered sleep.

“Elmer, you need to eat. It will calm down your fever. Father was out of order, he hadn’t the right to punch you” That voice belonged to Siv, thumb brushing against his sore cheek with reluctance.

Elmer opened his eyes slowly, looking over at the soft burning fire. This was Gunnar and Eerika’s room, why was he in here? Compared to his quarters, this seemed much more expensive. He almost felt jealous. The man then looked over at Siv, noticing her sisters were singing a prayer, probably to help with the recovery of Elmer.

“Please understand that father still holds a grudge against England. He is harsh because you came from England” Siv spoke, trying to make Elmer understand that her father is not as bad as he appears…but that’s all Elmer has seen.

“What happened to him in England?” Elmer’s own voice sounded foreign to his ears, sounding cracked and broken.

Northumbria, England, 789 A.D

“For the assassination of King Aelfwald I of Northumbria, I, therefore, sentence Barron, of murder” It was a false accusation, John’s throat constricting as he see’s his father being dragged out onto the stand, eyes looking cold, as if he has lost everything in the world. Men dragged Barron towards a totem, surrounded by wooden planks which instantly determined his fate; death by the burning stake.

John felt tears well in his eyes as he stares up at his father, Barron’s eyes closing shut. He was preparing himself for the pain of the fire: hands tighten against the ropes in which his hands are bound; head rests back against the wooden pole; eyes tightened as he waits for his fate.

Another man, with a torch in hand, walks towards Barron, waiting for the other men to be done with trying Barron down so he could not escape. John wanted to shout out that his father was innocent, but no one would listen to him. No-one knew who killed Aelfwald, it was a mysterious until someone came forward in the village, accusing Barron of this crime. It was a setup, without a doubt, but as they had no evidence, they took their word for it.

Damn England and its people, hurting those who have not committed a crime! Bullying the peasants because they have no money while the rich gorge themselves with food as if they were pigs. Treating us as if we are not worth anything in this world; may they be damned. John will find a way to make England pay for her crimes. He will make them understand…He will come back with an army and show her how much she will regret crossing him.

John turned away from the scene, not wanting to bear witness to his father’s death as he runs back to their village. He is going to use a boat and travel to another land, try to get support before he comes back. Oh, England will be damned when he comes back.

Chapter Four

Copenhagen, Denmark 845 A.D

Elmer swirls the red contents in the bowl, slipping the tip of his index finger into the liquid. The scent permeating it was that of iron, it assaulted Elmer’s nostrils, to which Elmer had to suppress a grimace. It felt warm against his fingertip, maybe that was because this blood belonged to a living creature. With a soft noise, he brings the finger up to his face, saying Odin’s prayer:

“Odin One-Eye may you guide us,
May you lead us to your well.
Give us the wisdom you acquired,
Let us get a taste of the knowledge you have”

Slowly, the finger paints a trail across his forehead, the blood seeming almost foreign against his skin. It was thick, too thick and does not run off his skin as water would; the blood stayed on his cheek as if it was permanent. This time three fingers dip into the bowl, turning towards the participants who awaited the next step of the ritual. Elmer step towards one of the men, flicking his fingers so the blood paints small dots across his tanned skin. It made him look even more sinister; blond beard now containing soft speckles of red. He looked animalistic.

Elmer glanced over to Ragnar, who was eagerly awaiting the same treatment. With slow steps towards Ragnar, three slim fingers dip into the bowl once again, painting three stripes from his temple, down to his bearded jaw. If Ragnar didn’t look like a ruler now, he did, but not the ruler of Denmark – the ruler of Hel. The contrast of red to his blue eyes was staggering. Next to Ragnar was Gunnar, the second in command.

Elmer’s bare thumb dipped into the liquid, brushing a stripe down the length of his handsome nose. It looked as if the blood was meant to be there, fitting in with the trail of green ink etched onto his skin.

Paris, France, 845 A.D

A command was shouted, Elmer looking to the location of the noise to see Ragnar, hanging at the edge of the boat, commanding the men to follow down the river. It was a weird sight for Elmer, normally seeing Ragnar’s starlet smile, eyes crinkling at the corner. This image of Ragnar was anything but smiling, eyes as hard as the rock beneath their feet; lips pulled back to reveal sharpened teeth; wrinkles becoming prominent from concentration and anger.

Then Charles men came into sight, his army split onto each side of the riverbank. Charles may think it was a clever tactic, hoping it would scare the Vikings into submission but he underestimates Ragnar. Charles watched warily at the Vikings, commanding his horse to move back slightly so his army was in front of him; the coward.

“We attack the smaller army first. If it goes according to plan and they are as cowardly as Charles, then they will flee” Ragnar spoke in a whisper so the armies could not listen, but Elmer knew it was fruitless as they could not understand their language. The boats began their journey towards the smaller army on the right back – Charles archer’s waiting on their approach. But when Elmer turned his gaze towards Charles, he could sense the fear running off his body; it wasn’t going the way he thought.

Some of Ragnar’s men, who were under the influence of hallucigenic mushrooms jumped off their boats, making a quick journey through the water to reach the bank. It was as if they were possessed, growling like feral wolves chasing their prey; it certainly scared their opponents. They shot arrows at the men, not a shot hitting the feral man as they finally reached the bank. By this time, Ragnar and the rest of the armies hit the bank, Elmer gripping his spear tightly within his grasp as he jumped over the edge of the boat.

Gunnar soon joins him, pulling the sword from his belt as he charges into the French army, just as the berserkers did. It made him wonder if he was also under the influence – eyes wide open and crazy, searching for a next victim for his sword. Ragnar was similar to him, eyes pinched in bloodlust and anger, plunging his sword viciously into any French body that was close. It was a true massacre.

One of Charles’ men angled his arrow at Gunnar, but before he could fire the shot, Elmer had already thrown his spear, perfectly piercing the man’s chest. He fell forward, the spear still embedded into his body.

Metal clanked against metal as if it was a rhythm, mixing in with the symphonies of screams. Some screams were that of a battle cry, some of the men shouting “May Odin guide you” while the other screams were that of pain. Between each of the screams, Elmer could hear Gunnar screaming commands at the Viking soldiers, along with Ragnar.

“Capture the remaining soldiers” Ragnar screamed as he thrust his sword into the French soldier he has a grip on, letting his body for lifelessly onto the grass with a thud. Elmer looked towards the river, seeing the other army still watching, helpless to save their brothers. But Elmer could not care about their emotions, wiping a bloodied hand across his face.

The remaining soldiers were captured, facing the other side of the bank as each one had a sword or an axe at their throat. This tactic was to make the other side flee back to Paris, make them fear the Vikings – it was very effective. Though Elmer could not see Charles’ face, he knew it was stricken in fear, probably trying to think of another plan. But from the display he was just witnessed too, he most likely wouldn’t want to fight the heathen army.

Gunnar stared at the soldier he held in his grip, holding his sword close to his throat. It was already stained in a mixture of blood, making it seem that more dangerous. It was cruel punishment, Gunnar teasing to slit the solider’s throat, pushing the sharp sword into his flesh before pulling away, the man gulping rapidly in an attempt to calm his nerves. But he knew this situation was the end game. Before Elmer knew it, Gunnar gave a swift swish of his sword, cutting open his throat and pushing the body onto the blood stained grass.

It was that action that caused the army to flee, rushing from the scene so they do not end up like their fallen brothers – cowards. You always fight, for your brothers and for your country. Elmer couldn’t help and look at the graveyard of bodies, most belonging to Charles, but some belonged to Ragnar. Slowly the former priest walked to each body that belonged to them, wishing them a safe passage to Valhalla.

Ragnar placed a comforting hand of Elmer’s soldier, giving him a soft reassuring smile. It never got easier, the fighting, losing people you were close too in just a space of minutes. Gunnar also came over to comfort Elmer, brushing a bloodied hand through his blonde locks, but he couldn’t seem to care. Freger was one of the fallen soldiers and became a close friend to Elmer. He didn’t care that Elmer was English, unlike the other soldiers who were iffy about his presence. They were close – almost as close as he as Gunnar are, so this was definitely a lost that will affect him.

A shaky breath left him he walked towards the soldier that had his spear embedded into his body, foot resting on his back as he forced the metal out of his back. Blood poured profusely from the wound, but Elmer couldn’t even bare it a wince – he felt too cold right now.

“Let’s go, Elmer. Let us take revenge on that French scum.” Ragnar spoke with a vicious bite in his tone, Elmer nodding his head at his words. He spares a glance towards Freger’s body, making a promise in his head: he will make them pay for what they have done.

The remaining Viking soldiers slid into their boats, waiting for the command of Ragnar, hands gripping onto their paddles with such anticipation; it was as if they were waiting for more death, destruction – typical brute behavior

“Continue down the river. We will arrive in Paris soon”

– —– In Paris ——

A feral growl was sounded next to him, the man banging against his chest with his shield in an attempt to scare the civilians – it succeeded. Women made a quick notion of picking up their small children, holding their small innocent bodies against their chest as they make an attempt to run away from the Vikings. The scene was similar to that on the river Rouen, blood making the once grey street now a deep crimson.

Gunnar looked simply more terrifying than he did at Rouen, his sharpened teeth pulled out into a snarl, as he did, without question, thrust his sword into anybody that came within feet of him. Blood coated his pale hands, specs of the crimson landing on his silver chain mail. For this battle, Gunnar decided not to use a helmet, wanting Charles to remember his face when he returned to Paris – he wanted Charles and Paris to fear him. With the mixture of blood, along with the intricate green tattoos that resemble that of Yggdrasil, he looked like a creature that has crawled his way from Hel.

The villagers tried everything in their power to defend themselves from the Heathen army, using any appliance that was within their grasp, but it proved futile. They were no match to their iron swords and axes, But at least they were attempting to save their town, unlike the cowardly soldiers.

“Towards the monastery” Ragnar belted out to the soldiers, causing an uproar as they ran, the clink of their armor sounding amongst the screams.

It didn’t take no effort for the door to be busted open, 30+ men throwing their weight against the flimsy wooden planks, eventually, the door swinging open, revealing Charles, cowering behind the altar. How did someone like Charles become ruler of Paris? He was but a sniveling cretin, hiding behind his army. It was evident that he didn’t know what to do in this situation, trying to move his body across the ground, attempting to put distance between Gunnar and himself; it was a weak attempt.

Gunnar threw his sword to the floor, the metal viciously echoing in monastery and begins to make quick steps towards Charles. Just from looking at the back of him, Elmer knew the exact gesture he held on his face: mouth pulled back into a snarl to send fear into Charles, eyebrows knitted together in a sense of anger of the situation, most likely from the decite Charles has caused for his city. He let his people get slaughtered while he cowered in the house of the lord? It was sickening.

Gunnar tangled his hands into Charles cape, dragging the man almost effortlessly off the ground pulling him so he and Charles were almost nose to nose. The whimper that left Charles made Ragnar snort, eyes pulled down as dangerously as Gunnar’s.

“P-please! P-please don’t kill me” The French man begged, speaking in broken Norse. Others must have been in contact with him before. Gunnar just glanced towards Ragnar who shrugged his shoulder, making it up to Gunnar to decide what to do.

“You betrayed your country. You hid in here while your people got slaughtered? Have you no shame. I should slay you where you stand” And with that Gunnar threw Charles to the floor, sliding the dagger that was hooked on his belt, pointing it towards Charles dangerously – which got him another whimper.

“I will give you 7000 silver, b-but you promise not to return” Charles pleaded as he was now on his knees, hands together as if he was praying. But it was a fair offer, and definitely, more than they anticipated so they accepted, letting the sniveling leader get their promised silver.

It was a successful raid: with the 7000 silver, along with the additional treasures (the gold crosses found in the monastery, people who will be sold to the middle-eastern slave trade, jewels which were going to be used for rings) they were rich. When they get home, they are going to celebrate with a feast.

Chapter Five

Køge, Denmark, 815 A.D

“Frigg, give use your blessing on this day of Asbjorn and Astrid coming together. Though it took a lot of convincing – on Asbjorn’s part – we managed to bring these two people together. May they both have a wonderful life together; to Odin” Gunnar raises his horn filled with honey mead to the ceiling, some spilling on onto the oak table below. It was evident that Gunnar was on the edge of being drunk, his speech becoming slurred. However, the men still managed to understand him, throwing their own cups up into the air, copying the words for Odin.

It seemed everyone was here today, celebrating the successful courting of Asbjorn and Astrid. Two dwarves accompanied the party, stocky bodies and thick beards, with hair reaching the middle of their backs. He remembers Siv talking about these dwarves, they were royalty, owning the mountain outside of Køge. She also mentioned that they crafted her father’s sword, adding a rare gem at the hilt, which was good luck in their culture.

One dwarf had rich ginger hair, the most vibrant ginger Elmer has ever witnessed. He had small, blue beady eyes with thick eyebrows to accompany them. A thick crooked nose lay upon a thick mane of facial hair, lips almost hidden behind the mass. He looked much friendlier than his counterpart. Hair as black as coal – eyes to match. Unlike the ginger dwarf, his beard was not left messy, but instead was pulled into a neat dual plait, hanging from his lips like whiskers. But his hair was still an array of mess, looking knotty, even to the visible eye.

Light elves accompanied Gunnar’s left side, their skin fairer than the sun itself. Long blonde hair cascaded down down their backs, reaching their waist. It looked silky and would feel soft against your fingertips. Their eyes were a vibrant blue, the brightest blue he has ever seen – they looked unnatural. But opposite them were the dark elves, it was as if they were negative to the light elves.

They were found mostly underground, their skin as dark as pitch. In contrast, their hair was a crystal white, but it somehow looked stunning. Just like the light elves, their features looking almost feminine, you could easily mistake them as being female.

“So, Gunnar, it has been awhile. Will see you at Alfheim soon? I know father has been asking for you” One of the light elves said, sipping at the cup of wine which Elmer gave him a few minutes ago. A small jeweled crown sat on his blonde locks, indicating that he related to royalty, most likely a prince. When did Gunnar get close to royalty?

“I was thinking about going in Midsummer after I visit Ragnar and Aslaug about a raid in Sweden” Gunnar bites into a piece of mutton, chewing noisily which causes the Elven prince to grimace in disgust. “I would rather you chew with your mouth closed, Gunnar” He spoke, dabbing the corner of his mouth with his felt green cloak. But his disgust only made Gunnar smile at him, meat still stick between his teeth.

“Bard, play us a song” Was commanded towards the male who was plucking idly at the strings, only looking up when Gunnar gave him the order. Bard cleared his throat, running a hand through his black locks before he begins a tune:

“We are an ancient tree
With fresh blossoms
Towards the sun we stretch
Forward to grow
Listen!
Far down in the root and in the cycles of years
Chant the old
Listen!”

It always amazed Elmer when Bard sang, his voice always filled with such passion as he fingers each string beautifully. His eyes close as he becomes immersed in his music, feeling each word and beat that leaves his fingers and throat; Elmer was envious. He only wishes he could taste that passion, that freedom.

“Elmer, get some water for Fili, he seems to have drunken too much. Always knew he was a soft one” Gunnar cackled as he slams his palm into the ginger dwarf’s back, who was currently slumping out of his chair and making a journey towards the ground. It was an amusing sight. Elmer reached over for a cup, making his way to the town well.

The night cascaded down onto the town, the moon teasing behind dark clouds, only specs becoming visible. Cold air bites at his skin as he makes a slow journey towards the well, wanting to spend as much time away from the feast as possible. Elmer glanced up towards the sky with a soft wistful sigh. He wishes he could be free from this life, he couldn’t spend another minute being a slave who was just looked down upon.

But when Elmer lowered his gaze a man was stood before him, a sinister smirk stretching across his lips. Elmer couldn’t see the other’s eyes due to the darkness, only imagining what they looked like. Fear struck down Elmer’s spine as he holds the cup towards him, handing gripping the cup in and iron grip.

“Don’t be afraid, little one. I will not hurt you” The man tried to sound caring, trying to manipulate Elmer into thinking he was good but the way he was continuously walking towards him, smirk seeming more dangerous, his life felt threatened. Elmer took a step back, holding the cup up as and indication if he comes any closer he will hit him with it – it was not enough to scare the other.

“Come on, now” The man spoke with a gruff tone moving forward to grip Elmer’s think linen tunic, dragging him forward so he was pressed against his chest. “I never understood why that English scum was allowed to be the leader. He probably kept you around because you were English – unless…are you ergi? It would make sense” He spoke with a mocking tone, specs of his saliva landing on his face with no remorse. The scent of alcohol was thick on his breath. At least Elmer knew why this guy was confronting him, he was drunk out of his mind.

“I do not like the lot of you. The ground you walk on, preaching your false God.” He threw Elmer to the ground, raising his fist as if he was about to punch the male on the floor but in a flash he was also on the ground. Gunnar was leaning over the other guy, fist connecting with his jaw repeatedly until a sickening crack was sounded; Elmer turned his nose up at the noise.

Gunnar continued to punch the guy until he was satisfied, wiping the sweat off his brown before moving towards Elmer holding his hand out towards the man; he accepted, to which he got dragged up off the floor in one smooth motion.

“Are you well?” This was the first time Gunnar has defended him from his bigots, normally letting Elmer be ridiculed by those who hate the English. Elmer gave a small nod and brushed his dirtied hands from the grass onto his tunic, sighing softly to himself.

“Thanks, Gunnar. I didn’t think you would save me” Elmer spoke with reluctance, gaze not moving to look at the towering man.

Elmer, I know it doesn’t seem like I care, but I do care. Why I treat you so bad is because of what happened to me in England. I damn everything that comes out of that country; you are different.” Elmer was not used to Gunnar’s compassion, a part of him thinking this is some ploy to make him more of a loyal servant to his family.

“Don’t say those words just to make me stay as a slave. I am miserable! You took me from my home, Gunnar. It hurts even more that you will not tell me of Fredric’s fate. Gunnar, you won’t even let me grief the person who was like a brother to me.” Elmer couldn’t hold back the tears; these emotions have been locked inside for 15 years. The dam has finally broken. The broken noise that left Elmer sounded like that of a wounded animal, his hands moving to hold his leaking eyes. God – why did they have to keep him alive! Why couldn’t they kill him with Horik.

Arms wrap around him, a hand stroking through his dirtied brown locks as a way to comfort him – it did work. This was the first human interaction that was truly intimate, and not just a quick hug or a soft pat on his shoulder. Elmer buried his face into Gunnar’s mantle, fingers moving up to tangle into the wolf’s fur as a ploy to calm his emotions, but the tears continued to flow.

“Elmer, I am going to make you a free man. I will give you a piece of land so you can build a home, or you can continuing staying in my house – our house. I will get Freger to make you a new bed” Gunnar whispered into his ear holding the man close to his body as he says those words.

“I will stay in the house”

Was his last words as a thrall

Chapter Six

Northumbria, England, 855 A.D

The sea was roaring, waves crashing erratically into the side of the boats with vigor. Elmer gripped tightly onto the wood to stable himself, but it was useless as the force of the water jostles the boat, causing him to fall forward onto his knees. Claps of thunder rattled in the pitch sky, flashes of light becoming evident behind the thick clouds.

“Thor has been angered! It is that damn English scum! He does not want him here!” One of the men on Elmer’s boat accused, hands gripping tightly onto the edge of the boat as Elmer did before. Obviously one of the men would accuse Elmer of causing such actions – more men probably agreed with him but kept their mouths shut to prevent angering Gunnar or Ragnar.

The waters continue their rough assault on the wooden longboats, one of the boats eventually tipping over from the furious force. Elmer stared helplessly as men were swept away, screaming in anguish at their upcoming death. “We need to get to land, now” Elmer screamed towards Ragnar, who was stood at the top of the boat, gripping onto the wooden etch of a dragon.

“There is land up ahead; EVERYONE, STEER TOWARDS LAND” Ragnar vocalised towards the other Vikings, fingers pointing in the direction in which lands was present.

The journey was difficult, the waves seeming more powerful than the men trying to steer the boats. It seemed as if Thor didn’t want them to go there, but they managed to push through. Their boats continued a rocky journey to the land: water sweeping swiftly into their boats, men taking with the pull of the water. It came closer and closer-

The boats crashed abruptly into the land, causing Elmer to jolt further across the wooden knees. He was pretty sure his knees were bleeding through his leather shins, but he couldn’t find it in himself to care as he leaps over the side of the boat, letting the soft sand morph beneath his palm. Droplets from his blonde locks fall with no remorse onto the beige sand, making it turn a dirty brown. A hand touched the back of his neck, Elmer glancing up to see Gunnar, clad in thick armor; it has been some time since he has seen him in that getup. Bearly eyes peer at him from behind his helmet, eyes the only thing visible from the helmet.

“Are you okay, brother?” Gunnar spoke with a rough tinge to his tone, indicating that he might have swallowed some of the sea water. From looking at his armor, he could tell it was much heavier than normal. The water must have collected in the deer hide under his armor, how he is managing to stand up still proves his strength.

“I am fine, Gunnar. Is Ragnar okay?” Elmer pushed himself off the ground, wiping the lingering sand off his hands and knees. With a quick glance around, he sees Ragnar, blonde mane flowing in his face as he makes sure the rest of the soldiers are okay. Elmer tugs on Gunnar’s arm to lead them over to Ragnar, who was now sliding an iron helmet onto his skull, most likely to prevent his hair disturbing his view.
“Do you know where we might be Gunnar? The storm was so abrupt, it took us by surprise, we have run off course” Ragnar sounded as if he was out of breath, eyes scouring the land they are currently on, maybe to try and determine where they are: France, England, Sweden and unknown land?

Gunnar glanced around the beach before making his way towards the sloped hill, body becoming stiff as he reaches the top; this isn’t good. Elmer broke into a run to catch up to Gunnar, Ragnar close on his heels as he stands next to Gunnar, breath catching in his throat.

What stood before them was an army – a very large army bows aimed directly at them; they were expecting them. Before the army was a man, perched on a white steed clad in an array of thick, metal armor. No helmet lay on his head, but instead, a golden crown encrusted with different types of jewels; he must be the king of this place…or country. Elmer turned his gaze to Gunnar who’s eyes lowered behind his helmet, Elmer almost picturing the snarl he must be holding on his lips.

“Gunnar-” but it was cut off as Gunnar slid the sword from his halter, Ragnar the following suit, probably trusting Gunnar’s judgment of the man in front of them.

“Drop your weapons or you will be slain where you stand” The king spoke with a thick English accent, Elmer clicking where they could possibly be, the place Gunnar despised the most; Northumbria. But Gunnar only gave a snort behind the chainlink, turning around to talk to the other soldiers.

“Today we fight for our lives – today we fight for our right! For Odin!” Gunnar screamed in norse, throwing his sword up into the air, the other soldiers following as Gunnar spins back round, charging towards the larger army.

Elmer could see this was going to be a losing battle: the opposing army was twice the size of theirs, their weapons were of a higher standard also. Their armor was thick, Elmer noticing the layers upon layers of iron, good prevention of sword wounds. Definitely not going to end well.

Before Elmer could join Gunnar in battle, an arrow pierces through the meat of his thigh, causing him to collapse to the ground with a thud. An ear-piercing screech left his throat as he grabs onto the wooden arrow, debating if he should leave the foreign object in his leg, to stop the blood flow, or pull it out, risking infection. Elmer heaved a pained breath as he looks back down to the fight.

Gunnar was swinging his sword erratically from left to right, placing each hit perfectly against his victim. It looked fluid, almost smooth the way Gunnar wield his sword, probably from years of battle, but this battle seemed different. It was definitely revenge filled, so even though his movements were smooth in delivery, it was too careless, giving his enemy an opening to attack. Elmer moved his eyes away from Gunnar to watch Ragnar, sharpened teeth snarling out to the English soldiers in an attempt to scare them, with succession. Two axes were in each hand, being swung around as if they were nothing, slicing through anyone who stood with 2ft.

Elmer wraps his hand around the arrow lodged in his leg, taking several shaky deep breaths before yanking it out, another scream gurgling in Elmer’s throat. God, it hurt so much! Blood poured profusely out of the wound, quickly staining his black linen pants without remorse. He needed to stop the bleeding somehow because at this rate he is going to lose too much blood. Elmer let his eyes look frantically around him, eyes narrowing down to his mantle. If he could just rip a strip off it off then maybe-

His thoughts were cut off when he heard the familiar deep scream coming from the battlefield; Elmer’s heart was beating rapidly against his chest. Elmer almost snapped his neck with how quick he turned his head, his worse nightmare comes true. Gunnar was holding at his chest where currently a blade was, blood trickling from the new wound. One of Gunnar’s hands held onto the metal, his grip tightening on the blade to cut open his hand. A gurgled laugh left his throat:

“Here I am on the end of a sword
A place I fear I would be
But maybe thy
time has come
The beacons of Odin calls from Asgard
Asking me to join him at his throne
But who will decide my fate?
For I English-born
Do you still accept me, father?
Or am I to settle in Hel?
Rot for not being pure bloodied
Send thy ravens to me,
Let them choose my fate
For I let you decide”

Gunnar collapses forward with the sword still lodged in his chest; taking his last breath. Ragnar looked as broken as Elmer felt, the evidence of tears filling his blue eyes. Ragnar dropped his two axes, and falls to his knees, staring at Gunnar’s cold body as he did so. It was as if the Viking king gave up, giving himself up to the English king. He must be truly broken.

Elmer’s gaze began to become hazy, his vision now becoming a single dot. The last thing he sees is Ragnar getting surrounded by the English soldiers before his vision becomes black

Køge, Denmark, 855 A.D

“He killed him! Alle killed him, right before my eyes. They kidnapped Ragnar; I don’t know if he is still alive” Elmer panted, sweat dripping down his back as Eerika begins to saw the open wound caused by the arrow in England. He knew Eerika didn’t blame him for Gunnar’s death, but he knew part of her questioned why Elmer came back but not her husband.

The journey to Køge was a treacherous one. Not only was his leg continuously bleeding throughout the boat ride, but he lost two of his closest friends. Elmer promised himself not to cry about Gunnar and Ragnar, but deep down he wanted to let his tears flow. The boat ride was around 5 days, his leg somehow not getting infected, but when he dragged himself to Køge he dreaded telling Eerika of what happened to Gunnar.

Next to Elmer sat Snorri, opposite him were Hakon and Asbjorn, leaning against the table was Brandr, Ari stood next to him. All of Gunnar’s sons were here listening to the news of their father’s death, their still facial expression not changing. It unsettled Elmer a little – a lot. They were normally very open with showing their feelings, not fear of being called ‘ergi’ by their peers. But this, they completely shut themselves in, eyes hard and staring down at the floor.

“I am going to Copenhagen” Asbjorn piped up, standing up from his spot as he slides on his mantle. It was very similar to that of his father’s, instead of being a black wolf pelt, it was a snow wolf, similar to Elmer’s mantle.

“I am coming with you. We need to tell Bjorn, Ivar, Sigurd and Ubba. They need to know what that coward has done” Hakon hissed out, bright blue eyes darkening to a dark blue.

Eerika lets a soft sigh pass her lips as she dabs the freshly stitched wound with a damp piece of linen. She looked completely tired with the situation, not opting to put a word in as she knew the boys would not listen to her. Stubborn, just like their father. But she looked up at Elmer, almost begging him with her eyes to go with them. After everything that Gunnar has done for him, he owes it to him for Elmer to come with them when they take revenge on Northumbria. Elmer was waiting for the day.

Chapter Seven

Northumbria, England, 855

The boat ride to England was a calm one, unlike when Elmer, Ragnar and Gunnar arrived at the treacherous country, but the boat ride seemed quiet – too quiet. Elmer glanced to his left, seeing Ivar with an expression that unsettled him: he looked murderous. Ivar has always made Elmer uncomfortable from his raging temper to the cold facial expressions he always holds; it seems much worse today. Apart from his mother and brothers, Ragnar was the only person he cared for, probably even more.

Elmer averted his eyes from Ivar to his older brother, Bjorn. The man was the spitting image of Ragnar: blonde hair flowing down his shoulders, halting at his breastbone; piercing blue eyes that would send fear into any man who looked into them; a strong jaw that made him look regal – no powerful; hint of wrinkles was forming at the corner of his eyes, showing that he is reaching the peak of age, but somehow, he still looks young – youthful. It reminds Elmer of the time when he visited Ragnar with Gunnar, seeing a young teenage Bjorn perched on a chair as he stared at Elmer with mild curiosity. Elmer let a private smile form on his lips as he recalls the past memory.

Compared to the boys, Elmer was simply aged; hair that was once a rich chocolate brown in his youth was now streaked with a mixture of artificial blonde and grey. Suddenly Asbjorn lay a hand on Elmer’s shoulder, squeezing in a comforting notion. In all honesty, Elmer should be the one comforting him, but it seems Elmer is still taking Gunnar’s and Ragnar’s death hard, unlike the boys who seemed to accepted fate, knowing that their fathers are in Valhalla, celebrating with Odin in the halls with as much mead and mutton as they can consume. “Worry not Elmer, we will get revenge on that pig. I bet he won’t even suspect us coming, that means we can get him by surprise and give him what he deserves.” Asbjorn spoke, eyes hardening as he spoke, showing the distaste he had for Alle, the same as all the boys on the boat. Ivar still held his grimace, scratching the tip of his freshly sharpened sword into the boat’s floor, but to be careful not to the pierce the exterior so water will flood the ship. “I know you will. I just want to tell you all that your fathers’ were proud of you. They always talked about you, sometimes arguing about whose son will be the better warrior” Elmer clasped one of Bjorn’s hands in one of his hands, the other grabbing for Ari’s, a small smile spreading across his face.

“We are here” Hakon spoke, already making way to grab his axe, which lay vacant against one of the benches. Elmer stood up from his spot, steadying his stance by leaning against the wooden pole, eyes recalling the scene in which the battle commenced. Blood still soaked the hills, now turning a burnt copper against the vibrant greenery. “This is where the battle happened – and where Gunnar fell” Elmer said, finger pointed out towards the blood-stained grass. The boat crashed onto the beach with an abrupt thud, sending Elmer flying forward slightly at the force.

Elmer hoped over the side of the boat, followed by the other boys. The sand gave way under his weight, leaving footprints towards the bloodied hill – the hill in which he was left to witness the death of his friend – best friend. He was dreading looking at the dead body of his friend, it will only remind him of that day, that dreaded day that accompanies his mind every day and night. Elmer let out a sigh, hands tightening around his spear as he glances over the edge, throat becoming constricted in his throat. He struck the hilt of his spear into the dry mud, eyes becoming misty at the sight of his friend’s decomposing corpse. It must be worse for his children, seeing their father surrounded by the dried blood and corpses of those they were close too. Asbjorn was the first one to move towards his father, with slow steps as if he didn’t want to disturb him.

“He doesn’t look like him” Asbjorn said in a soft tone, bending down at his father’s side. The other boys soon followed, Hakon laying his hand on Asbjorn’s shoulder in a comforting motion for them both. “We will get our revenge, do not worry” Ivar growled from his chariot, eyes narrowed almost as dangerously as they were on the boat. Bjorn nodded his head in agreement to Ivar; knuckles turning white from the vicious grip on his axe. “We will make him suffer” Ubba’s deep voice rumbled from behind his brother, resting his blade on his shoulder. “And we will, worry not my children” Elmer peaked up, turning to face the young boys. “Go to the castle, I will give Gunnar a funeral he deserves”

The boys nodded and began a quick journey towards the castle, but Asbjorn stayed behind, staring at Elmer with almost concern. “I worry – about you” From the way the sentence was spoken, he could tell. Asbjorn looked genuinely concerned for the peaking sixty-five male, wrinkles deepening on his forehead. “What happened to father, it has destroyed who you are.” Asbjorn took a step forward and rested his hand on the crook of his shoulder, where it meets his neck. “Your father was a great man, Asbjorn. He was my greatest friend, I am going to be upset. Damn Odin if I do not grief as easily as you do” It wasn’t spat out with malice, but it was close too. Just because they got over Gunnar and Ragnar, doesn’t mean it was so simple for him. “It is not just that. It seems as if you are heartbroken – a lost soul” Words perfectly chosen and rehearsed. “What are you implying?”

Asbjorn just shook his head with a sigh, as if he had given up and ran to catch up with the other boys. But what was he implying to him? Elmer was heartbroken over Gunnar – he was, all of them were. The way he said it…he was implying something more than that. Elmer eyes narrowed, trying to piece the words together before he looked down at Gunnar’s corpse. It was a sight he never thought he would see with his own eyes, maybe getting told about his death by one of his men. But he was witness to it, it was even worse. Every day it would play in his head, and every day he would fight the tears.

The mantle that rested on his shoulders was then laid on top of Gunnar body, the thick fur hiding his face. Then he moved to sit down next to Gunnar, resting his chin on top of his legs.

The sea was silent, gently rocking the boats on small waves. It reminded him of Lindisfarne, when was he used to spend his youth staring out into the sea, wishing he could see more. Slowly he way back onto the grass, staring up at the rich, blue sky as he let a soft sigh pass his lips. But that didn’t stop him glancing to his left at the man, the tears choking up in his throat.

“Why did you have to leave me? Why can’t I move on from your death? Everyday I lay awake, aching for you. I wish I died – on this island, with you and Ragnar. You two are the only people who did not judge me.” Elmer, shakingly moves a hand towards Gunnar before pulling back, letting a tear begin a wet trail down his cheek. His whole body hurt.

“Sir!” An unknown voice called, Elmer instantly snapping his head up to see a soldier of unknown kind pointing a spear at Elmer. The young male glanced around at the scene, hand instantly becoming shaky, but he continued to point the spear at Elmer’s throat. But then came over a guy who screamed royalty: hair was a flurry of white, almost like a regal crown; jaw was boxed, almost the same as Gunnar’s showing a sense of power over the other men; his eyes were wide and a mixture of cold and warm – a weird combination. He trotted over to Elmer on his pearly white steed, eyes narrowing in curiosity of the male sat next to a corpse; it must seem very confusing to him.

“State your business? Why did you come to our land? Do you wish to kill and rob us?” The regal man spoke with a thick accent, making a quick move to jump off his horse in a practiced step. But Elmer just shook his head, standing up to brush the lint off his thick tunic.

“I am simply an old man, what business would I have to rob? For I would simply be slain where I stand even if I tried” Elmer spoke with an equally thick accent, showing that he is also from England and hoping it would give him a free pass to survival. But that did not stop the man coming closer to him, his eyes turning from curiosity to anger within a split second.

“You speak our language clearly, as if you are native, but you wear attire that belongs to these slain men. King Alle invited us to Northumbria to discuss the events that happened, talking about how-” He paused to glance at the corpses of the slain Vikings around him before turning back to Elmer with a snarl “Norsemen attacked Northumbria. I have heard stories of the Norsemen – the events that happened at Lindisfarne. They are but brutes, only thinking of one thing: murder and destruction” Then he moved closer to Elmer, an intimidation tactic which didn’t work. Elmer stood his ground, even puffing his chest out to make himself look bigger than he actually was. The regal man only had two inches on him, but he still looked bigger due to the way he was holding his head above Elmer.

“So you speak our language, yes? But what I don’t understand is why you are wearing their clothing. Did you rob these men, or are you part of their sick group.” He was in front of Elmer now, eyes, if they weren’t as cold as ice before, they certainly were now. What should Elmer even say? He glanced down towards Gunnar who was hidden under his mantle. He needed to respect Gunnar’s death, he doesn’t need to be scared of the consequences anymore.

“I was on the island of Lindisfarne when the raid happened, I was a priest. They kidnapped me and made me a thrall before I was set free by my master. My master was Gunnar Baardsen: the greatest man I have ever met.” Elmer pointed his finger towards Gunnar’s covered corpse. “This man saved me from that treacherous island and taught me that I am my own human being, not to be dominated by God.” Elmer felt powerful saying those words, seeing the anger deepen behind his brown eyes. Lips were pulled back to reveal his teeth; another failed fear tactic.

“So you will risk your life for a heathen who is no longer breathing? Does that not seem stupid? Or maybe you are stupid, dominated by pride only. Very well, guards, get this ‘heathen’ and bring him to Wessex. I will decide his punishment for treason-” His sentence was cut off as a man, wearing attire that belonged to Alle’s soldiers, running towards him. “King Alfred, Alle has been slain! The Norsemen have returned for revenge! You must escape before they capture you too” He heaved out, falling to his knees from exhaustion from the long distance run.

The boys finally killed Alle. Elmer couldn’t help the sinister smile that was stretching across his lips as he thought about the ways in which they made him suffer. “You will definitely be next. When they find out you have killed me you better prepare an army” Elmer taunted, full of confidence due to the message of Alle’s death. But Alfred just stared at the messenger with an expression that cannot be read, head then snapping towards Elmer after he comprehends what was just said to him.

“You’ll be dead before they know where you are. Capture him, we are taking him to Wessex and putting him on the trail” Alfred commanded to his guards, who only gave a nod and grabbed each of his arms.

This is the end of Elmer, suffering the same fate as Ragnar and Gunnar.

—-In Wessex—-

“For his crimes against England, choosing to side with the heathens instead of his own, killing his own and betraying his king, I, therefore, sentence Elmer to death by burning at the stake”

A roar erupted from the crowd along with a mixture of boos as Alfred waved his arms towards Elmer. Elmer was currently bound to a wooden pole, metal chains restricting his arms and legs. It felt too tight as if his lungs were going to burst out of his chest. Breathing was labored as he glanced down into the crowd; his eyes were emotionless. He didn’t want to give them the gratification of his fear.

Alfred’s voice continued to drone on as Elmer began to close his eyes, letting himself think about the past; Gunnar, Ragnar and his family.

Køge, Denmark 805 A.D

The first time he connected with Hakon

A 10-year-old Hakon came bounding up to Elmer with a shy smile, tugging on his ratty tunic. It was the first time any of Gunnar’s kids came up to him without Gunnar or Eerika being there. Hakon glanced up at Elmer with wonderment, as if he was God who laid the stars and the moon before him.

“Elmer, may I help you with herding” Hakon spoke almost shyly, Elmer wanting more than to squeeze his chubby cheeks and cuddle the small boy.

He bent down eye level to the boy, a soft smile gracing his lips. “I don’t think your father would be okay with that, Hakon. But maybe another time” A small whine left his lips as he moved to tangle his small hands into Elmer’s locks, tugging in defiance. “I won’t tell him, I promise! I just want to spend time with you. Mama and Father won’t let me speak to you alone. I know you aren’t bad! They’re just mean” He whined again, burying his face into Elmer’s neck, a ploy to hide away from the world. He never knew Hakon felt this way about him, assuming he had the same feelings towards him as Gunnar.

He cupped the back of Hakon’s head, pressing a kiss to his hair. “I will let you help me, but do not tell your Mama or father.” Hakon pulled away with a wide smile, eyes now dry. The boy certainly knew how to get his way, he knew that.

Copenhagen, Denmark 817 A.D

The first time he met Ragnar Lodbrok and his family.

Ragnar started at Elmer with curiosity and confusion. Why did Gunnar decide to bring someone with him? Was it to prove something? Or was it just an introduction? Elmer felt nervous under his gaze as he plucked at his mantle, never making eye contact with the Viking king. He heard tales, mostly from Gunnar, about how Ragnar was the most bloodthirsty person he has ever met. If he does not like you, he will not hesitate to kill you.

Elmer glanced down at Ragnar’s legs, seeing them adorned in thick fur and as dark as pitch. He felt his eyes widen as he recalls a tale that Gunnar told him about Ragnar and how he boiled his hirsute armor in pitch to protect himself against ring salmon-of-the-heath. It must be true.

Next to Ragnar sat Bjorn, who was around 13 at this time who had the same expression as his father. It seems a similar bloodlust runs in their genes. Aslaug, Ragnar’s current wife was staring at Elmer with narrowed eyes, wearing her emotion on her sleeve. She definitely did not care for Elmer and wish he would leave their residence, opting not to say something as Gunnar was currently there. Ivar was sat in his mother’s lap, playing with one of her neat braids until she had to pull his hand away when he was getting too rough.

Though they had dangerous looks in their eyes, they were still a close family. It made Elmer’s heart clench.

Køge, Denmark 808 A.D

The first time he fell in love…and broke his heart

Eerika gave a small smile in Elmer’s direction, blue eyes becoming slit. Just that small smile made Elmer’s heart rock rapidly against his ribs, cheeks becoming flushed in embarrassment. It was a private smile she was directing towards Elmer, the blush someone darkening.

It was the first time he felt so strongly towards anyone. Eerika was the most beautiful woman Elmer has seen as if she was a Goddess in the Norse tales Hakon sometimes tell Elmer.

Elmer wanted to take his feelings further, but then reality hits him: she is married to Gunnar, who she loves with everything she has – has children with the man she loves. Even if Eerika returned his feelings, he does not want to break their family up. He could only imagine the rage Gunnar would put onto him

Copenhagen, Denmark 820 A.D

The first time Gunnar, Ragnar and Elmer plan their first raid

This was all new to Elmer, being treated as if he was an equal and not a peasant, given a chance to actually be part of their group. Ragnar was asking Elmer for his input on how they should raid Sweden, saying that he needed a “new perspective”. Maybe this was the start of a close friendship with the Viking king.

But his last memory was of Gunnar and everything they accomplished together. Gunnar was his best friend, and everything he has achieved was because of that man. Elmer closed his eyes tightly and braced himself for the pain he knew was coming. Elmer didn’t know where he would end up going, hoping his soul will guide him to where he belongs.

The fall of Jarl Baardsen and Elmer.

 

 

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