Berserk Revenge by Mark Coakley - HTML preview

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There was a man called Halfdan the Black, who lived and died long ago, when the folk of Norway were still ruled by many small kingdoms, and folk still followed the old customs, believing in Odin, Tor, Freya and other old gods. Halfdan grew up in the small farming-town of Os, in the kingdom of Fjordane. He was fathered by Gødrød the Toothy and mothered by an outlander woman called Aasa.


As a young man, Gødrød had killed a few other local young men, for no reason other than boredom; as punishment for these wrongs, the Fjordane Assembly had sentenced Gødrød to three years as an outlaw. Forced into exile, Gødrød rode east across the mountains. After twelve years in the east -- when nobody in Os knew if he was still alive, and few even thought about him much anymore -- Gødrød had returned home with a surprising woman.


Aasa had very dark skin. Nobody in Os could remember ever seeing a person like her before. Aasa's hair was completely black, tightly curled, and formed a soft ball around her head. She said that she was from Nubia, a place far to the south that nobody here had ever heard of. All of the gossip-loving folk in Os wanted to know their story. How had they met? Briefly, this is what happened. Aasa's first husband had travelled with Aasa from Nubia to Constantinople, where he was a diplomat to the Roman Empress. Gødrød had also lived in Constantinople then. He had learned to speak Greek and to pretend to worship Christ; these qualities, and his skill with spear and ax, had earned him a job in Constantinople as a bodyguard for the Empress Irene. Gødrød and Aasa were often at the palace at the same time. Aasa's odd-looking and darkly beautiful face -- so different from Roman women, and from the pale and pointy-nosed girls he remembered from Os -- appealed to him. He spied on her, learning that Aasa was lonely and that her husband preferred boys. When Gødrød approached her, Aasa agreed.


They kept their love secret from everybody in Constantinople.


Until, long later, she became pregnant. Gødrød and Aasa knew that it would be impossible to hide her unfaithfulness when her belly started to bulge, as Aasa's first husband had not touched her in a long time. So Gødrød and Aasa stole as many treasures from the Empress and from Aasa's first husband as they could quickly get their hands on, fleeing Constantinople on horseback by night, to the west. Gødrød had spent the early years of his exile in Russia, and was able arrange a wedding in a Russian Christian church. The fugitives continued west on horseback, her belly growing bigger and bigger. After many adventures, including losing their horses and treasure to bandits in Lithuania, Gødrød guided his huge-bellied wife over Norway's eastern mountains and into the kingdom of Fjordane and to his home-town of Os.


There was born the hero of this saga.


Aasa became very sick in the long, dark winter of Halfdan's second year. She coughed and coughed. When her coughing finally ended, she was placed in the communal grave near Os.


Gødrød, able to bear his sadness only with strong mead, drank and drank. When his drinking finally ended, he was held in chains for manslaughter, and could not remember why he had axed two of his friends to shreds during a drinking-fest in a mountainside shepherd's hut. As Gødrød was too poor to afford to pay compensation to the families of the victims, the Fjordane Assembly outlawed him again, this time for seven years.


Before his second exile, Gødrød placed his son in the foster-care of Gødrød's sister and brother-in-law.


Gødrød rode again to the east, across the mountains, never to return. He plays no more part in this saga. Nobody knows what happened to him.