Ouroboros - A Dragon Eating it's Tail
Bram saw it was coming, and so he took a step away and raised his shield to turn the blow away. It would have hit him on the shoulder, but now Bram had a chance of taking the initiative from Ragnar the Red. Ragnar had been his opponent for most of the morning. The young warrior was eager and fast, but he wasn’t that fast. Ragnar was two or three years younger than Bram, but he was also bigger and a bit taller than Bram. He could put some weight behind the blade and hit you good into your head, but then again, he was too eager at times. He wasn’t patient enough to watch for the small things.
They were in Serpentstone, the very centre of Harkland. Trade and money of the region flowed through the city, and only Beornhall, the kingdom’s capital was richer or bigger of size. Inside the city, a might castle called the Jormundgard was located. Bram and Ragnar, along with many other warriors, both old and new, recruit and veteran, were changing blows and training on the courtyard. There were half a dozens practice circles erected on the courtyard, and those who weren’t fighting in the circles, were watching with keen eyes.
Bram had deflected the blow and now was at an arm’s length from Ragnar, and without much hesitation, Bram gave him a good smack with a longsword. The redheaded warrior gave out a grunt of pain, but continued with more wariness. He had been reminded of keeping a distance and watching for his opponent.
”Come on, you milk-drinker”, Bram taunted Ragnar. ”Such a big man, and cannot take a small hit.” Bram had been a thane for Earl Hjalmar for three years now, and he had the responsibility of training new recruits of his household. They would become thanes for the Earl of Harkland, if they had enough skills and potential, but the training weeded most of the bad or the ill-prepared. They were commonfolk; sons and daughters of carpenters, farmers, blacksmiths, tanners, weavers and other such folk, who hoped a taste of another life. Thanes would live, drink and fight together.
It was rumoured that Earl Hjalmar was preparing for a war with Earl Alarik, and thus needed as many capable warriors as he could. The King of Borrland was old and out of his mind, and would sooner depart this world than later. Alarik, the king’s grandson and Earl Hjalmar weren’t at the best of terms, Bram had heard in the many taverns of Serpentstone. When the king would die, a war for the crown would erupt with the two men, and Bram Halvorson, the firstborn son of a blacksmith didn’t know much more about it. He knew the way of the sword and spear, of bow and shield, and he liked the way it was.
The fight went on for a while. Ragnar had grown more cautious and wary of Bram… for a few moments. He took into himself again to attack more recklessly and with more frustration, as Bram blocked, parried and evaded his blows. After few minutes, both of them were breathing deeply and getting more and more tired. Time to end this play, thought Bram, and started his attack. He closed on Ragnar, exchanging a few fast blows and then grappled him. It was like a bear hug, but Bram had acquired momentum and speed, putting his weight on Ragnar, toppling him and forcing him to the ground. It wasn’t over, as an wrestling match started, and at that, speed and agility played a crucial role, or so Bram had been taught in the streets of Serpentstone. He took the initiative from the tired Ragnar, who had been surprised by the grapple by a couple seconds.
He resisted bravely a moment or two, but Bram countered his moves and flailing arms with quick movements. ”I yield”, the big man said to Bram. ”I yield”, he repeated, whimpering.
Good, Bram thought. He rose to stand, and said to the small crowd of few recruits watching their fight. ”Never overlook an opponent. He might be smaller or slower than you, so surprise your opponents and enemies. Be realistic, and keep your wits with you and eyes open, and you all might become thanes sooner or later for Earl Hjalmar.”
Bram took a look at them. All of them were younger than him, looked a bit malnourished or as green as grass. He had eight recruits under him, and Ragnar the Red had the most potential of them. A son of a tanner, he wanted to become a thane so he could bring honour and fame to his parents. Like all of them want to do, Bram thought.
”Next pair. Riordan and Halvdar, you’re next. Ragnar, take a small break and then go to practice javelin throwing. I need to take a piss.”
Later that day, Bram found him himself in the tavern of the Howling Wolf near the Weavers’ Gate. It was a nice little tavern for fifty or so people. There was a smell of fire and smoke in the air, and the tavernkeep was cooking a meaty soup on the fire of the common hall. Bram was sitting the evening with Aubry the Hammer, Gorlund the Unicorn and Harlan the Younger, some other thanes of Earl Hjalmar. The tavern was their other home besides Jormundgard, and they had spent many an evening there playing cards, dice and board games. Today’s business, however, was politics.
”The whole thing stinks, boys”, Harlan the Younger talked. He was called the Younger, but was clearly the eldest of the four. He was pushing forty, but was still board shouldered and thick haired and bearded. He took a sip of his beer and continued. ”We have rarely taken in so many recruits and green boys to be trained as thanes, and now we’ve gotten nearly fifty people in the past two months. Something is up, let it be known.”
”Well, reports have said that goblin raids have increased in the fringe villages. Some villages have been burned, and some other have been ravaged by pissed-off giants. You shouldn’t interrupt them for their mammoths, I’ve heard” Gorlund answered. He was often the realist of the group, often saying what he thought in his mind.
”Goblins have never been hard to kill, and some villages have become quite proficient on that regard. Even our dear Bram has killed a few”, Aubry pointed out.
“I don’t know about that”, Bram said. The other thanes were older than him, and he wasn’t as keen on politics as them. “Perhaps a civil war is coming, but we’ll see it when it happens. Until then, we’ll train the recruits and prepare them the best we can. But now, let’s order more beer and enjoy the peace we have.”
“I’ll drink to that, Bram. Toast today, and suffer tomorrow”, Harlan said. “Enjoy the moment, as we don’t know we will see the end of the week.”
Drinking continued, until the late of night. They laughed and played dice and cards and joked. As the night went, only Odin knew what would come of tomorrow. It was late summer season, and the nights grew darker and longer. Day by day, the winter was approaching.