Larger, stronger men barreled toward the teenager and death came to seize his soul. Hours upon hours, the two armies clanked metal against metal and slashed bone and flesh with jagged instruments. Asgrim and his father cut down numerous adversaries. One after another, they came. The young boy and his father skirmished side-by-side and back-to-back, parrying attacks and moving in sync as two parts of a whole. Years spent training with his father prepared him for the moment. They lasted so long Asgrim’s arm shook from fatigue, but he still held his sword upright. As the sun slid behind the horizon, the two hosts retreated to their camps.
Alone in their tent, Asgrim and his father removed their breastplates and helms.
“You did well son,” his father said.
“I had a good teacher,” said Asgrim, smiling at his father. “Will we fight again tomorrow?”
“Yes, the enemy has many more men. The battle is far from over. We have traveled the first leg in a long journey.”
“Father, I have not been told why we are fighting.”
“Nor have I.”
“Then why are we?” asked Asgrim. His father did not reply. “Father?” After moments of silence and a time to form certain words, he answered.
“We fight because we must. Those barbarians to our west would like nothing more than to pillage our land and take what is ours. We fight to prevent that. We are here to keep your mother and sisters safe. It is our duty as men.”
“Why do they want our land? They have their own,” said Asgrim. His father laughed.
“Asgrim, you are young and think of the world in simple terms as a child, but the ways of men are complicated and complex. Land is power, and once a man tastes power, he only hungers for more. Enough talk. It is time for rest. War waits at sunrise.”
Asgrim and his father slept on bundles of furs. The coarse wolf hair tickled Asgrim’s bare chin as he nestled into it for warmth. His father fell asleep almost the instance his head laid upon the cold ground, but sleep eluded Asgrim. His mind raced, filled with thoughts of death and blood. The coming morning terrified him. He longed to be home, resting by a fire surrounded by his mother and sisters. Oh, how his younger sisters annoyed him, but in that moment, he ached to see their smiling faces.
When Asgrim left the waking world, visions of slaughter plagued his dreams. A nightmare raved inside his head. He and his father dueled an insurmountable force, facing what seemed an endless horde. Until Asgrim witnessed his father falling with a spear plunged through his chest. The sight pained him and startled him from his slumber. He looked at his side to find his father sleeping soundly and sighed in relief. He eased back attempting to nap, but before he could drift back asleep, the sound of the horn bellowed in his ears. His father was on his feet in seconds.
“Hurry son. The enemy attacks.”
Asgrim and his father donned their equipment and were outside their small tent in the middle of battle. All around them, fires began to burn. Yellow and orange flames lit the night sky, accompanied by the melody of screams. During the commotion, Asgrim lost his father. He searched frantically.
“Son, here,” said his father.
Asgrim ran to kneel at his side and saw the crimson puddles pooling beneath him.
“Father tell me what to do,” said Asgrim.
“There’s nothing to be done,” he said.
Asgrim clutched his father’s hand, pulling it to his face and began to weep. In a few moments, he felt his father’s grip loosen, and he looked up to see the man’s lifeless eyes staring up into the abyss.
Asgrim sat in his own world as bloodshed and carnage swirled about him. Until a sound, unlike any he ever heard, crackled overhead. He raised his head to see an enormous object burning white-hot, streaking across the sky. It traveled at a speed he never witnessed. If he had not looked up when he did, he would have surely missed it. Less than a mile away, the white light extinguished within the sea. The sound of rushing water echoed across the land. Soldiers on both sides stopped their combat and looked to the south. Many attempted to flee at the sight of the mile high wall of water, but Asgrim sat unmoving, grasping his father’s hand.
“I will see you shortly, father.”
Photo by Ron Whitaker on Unsplash