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The True Hero
“Tell us the story of you and our father Ur, uncle Woof. Please?” Wulfe was used to this request, he was asked of it several times a week. And every time his story grew a little taller. His closest friend was legend and it made him proud each and every time he had the opportunity to share his tale with anyone willing to listen.
“Of course, sit here around me children. Your father Ur, my brother, is a man of many things. He builds ships, chops down enormous trees and carves them out with his bare fingernails. He rows twenty miles in them every night. He is a fierce hunter, there is not a single animal in the vast forest that does not love or fear him. Your father Ur is a noble leader, a dear friend and above all else, a loving husband and father. All of these things are squished into one man you see, so that explains why your father is a very large man. And one day your father came across the most gorgeous thing he had ever laid eyes on, it was love at first sight.
Your mother Brea was beautiful beyond imagine back in the day…and she still is. Anyways, it is said that even the Gods envied her perfection. Her eyes are spheres of glacier ice, her skin the smoothest and of fallow, her teeth outshine the snow and her hair hangs gently down her back, as rich and bright as golden straw when the sun beats down upon it. Now children, you can see why everyman of the North wanted to make your mother his wife, even the Thokk King Sindaro himself, our Rorik peoples’ greatest enemy.
Well one cold night, just a month or so after you had been born, as the village slept heavenly, the wind whirled and howled like wolves and beat against our houses, Sindaro and some of his assassins silently crept along our streets. A few of them, including Sindaro invaded your house and kidnapped your mother. With her they sailed the frigid waters back to their land, the Bloodscalp Islands…and so our story begins…
Ur was frantic; he had not been in such a dire situation since your grandfather was slain by Sindaro when Ur was fourteen years old. Emotions poured over his mind like a glass too full of water, he was a wreck. “Wulfe! Fedorian!” he shouted, anxiously bursting down the village streets. “Brea is gone, captured! Wulfe!”
I tore from my dream and jumped out of bed, too excited to be sick from the quickness of my waking. Throwing on my bear skin coat and boots I left the warmth of my home and ventured out into the freezing bleak night. Snow carried by the wind swirled and latched onto my face, chilling and numbing it to the bone. The wind pushed and screamed fiercely at us. Squinting through the snow that was being hurled at me by the Gods; I brought my eyes upon your father. I had never seen such distress in his eyes as then. He looked as if his heart had been ripped right from his chest. He was a soulless creature of the night. “Wulfe” he gasped “Brea has been taken by Sindaro. We must leave immediately for Bloodscalp. Ready me twenty eight men, I’ll prepare the ships.”
He put his hands on my shoulders then and his eyes beamed right through mine, touching my soul. “Wulfe, brother, Brea is my life, my children’s life. I must keep her safe. Please help me.” I kept on staring into those misfortuned eyes and tried to lift them with a smile. “We’ll have her back brother, before the first suns’ ray hits the peak of the tallest mountain.”
It was then that I ran to Fedorian’s house and began beating my fists upon his home and shouting his name. When he emerged, his eyes had not yet adapted, he looked confused and partially asleep. Fedorian was the leader of our strongest warriors, they were known as The Lions. I ordered him to round up twenty seven men and meet with Ur and I at the docks. We needed thirty men total, ten per ship. Now, realize that thirty Rorik warriors were more than ever embarked on a single attack. One Lion amounted to over fifteen soldiers in any army in the world. They were gifted, chosen by the Gods to kill, and more importantly to protect. Within the half hour all of the men had assembled and began boarding the war ships. Rorik war ships were more menacing than the great sharks that swam below them. People around the world had nightmares of seeing their sails on the horizon.
“Begin rowing men, we aim for Bloodscalp” ordered Ur. And with that we Lions lifted our great oars and beat the water. Working the vast sea like an instrument we pushed ourselves closer to our destination. The icy air burned our nostrils and our breath burst from our chests in great billows as big as clouds. Even with the pounding from the oars and the exhales from the men, we moved in almost complete silence. Piercing the night like the fierce fangs of a spider, causing damage without knowing until it was too late. “They can’t be very far now, no human can compete with the Rorik warships and their Lions!”
Within an hour of rowing the Thokk sails were in view and we were gaining on them. The Lions had spotted the calf and were ready for attack. Our minds were frenzied with the hunt, and the oars rowed faster than ever before. They slammed deep into the freezing waters, were pulled back by the strong arms that held them and lifted out, dripping water from their edges like venom.
The enemy sounded their plea for help, a hollowed out ox horn. It ripped through the air and vibrated off the sea’s waves alerting any nearby ships that they were in danger. Our ships split the waters, headed straight for the Thokk. Splinters of wood flew through air as the great masses collided; our Rorik ships were not scratched. Releasing the oars into their holsters we unsheathed our great swords and war axes. The first ship encountered was sinking delicately through the icy waters within seconds. It drifted below its former masters who now floated, open bellied and empty eyed on the surface. Surging towards the next ship Ur caught glimpse of Brea, in the farthest one from his. She called to him and then was silenced by Sindaro.
“Ur you fool! You’ve come to Bloodscalp with thirty men!? Surely you know you will not live long enough to see the sun, and soon Brea will be my own.” Ur jumped from our ship and plunged deep below the surface, engulfed in darkness. I slung my bow from my shoulder and whipped an arrow from my quiver taking aim on the commander of the second Thokk ship. His adam’s apple in the cross hairs, I forced a great tension upon my bow as I pulled the arrow nearest to my heart as possible. I could feel the soft feathers on the end of the arrow in my fingers and could hear them begging me to set them free so that once again they may take flight and soar through the air. I granted them their wish and with that they sprung from my grip and flew to their target. The commander didn’t have a second to think before it hit him. His brain forfeited, giving up control of the body it once owned as it stumbled out of the ship and fell into the sea. Food for the sharks.
Sharks! Where was Ur? I searched the depths for any sign of him but to no avail. It was the great shark that caught my eye, menacingly swaying through the water. His dorsal fin would raise and dip below the surface. He was much larger than the other sharks, at least double their size. His terrible jaws could swallow a man whole and his teeth could pierce the strongest armor. The whip from his great tail created whirlpools in its wake and his sense of smell was keener than the best of hunting hounds. Other sharks fled from his presence and it was in this scattering of his peers that I spotted your father. He was swimming directly for Sindaro’s ship, and swimming directly behind him was the shark. I fired arrow after arrow at the beast but they broke upon his back, I don’t think he felt a single one. Ur’s feet were a body’s length from the shark’s mouth as it opened, gaping and hungry for man flesh. Your father felt the pull from water seeping into its mouth and turned just in time to catch the shark’s jaws with his feet. Breaking the waves rose Ur standing on the shark’s nose and wielding his great hammer. With a blow that could shatter mountains he smashed the beast’s head below him. A feeding frenzy began amidst the great shark. Bits and pieces were torn and made away with by his fellows. This was a poor funeral for the honorable hunter of the seas. Ur swam on for Sindaro.
I gazed upon Sindaro’s face; there wasn’t an expression visible on it besides fear. The very man who had destroyed his battle ships, swam faster than fish, and destroyed the greatest of sharks was less than a few feet away from him. The ships were now beached on the snowy Bloodscalp shores and Sindaro ran, holding on to your mother with a dagger at her back. Ur was so close; Sindaro could smell vengeance behind him.
“I’ve made it Ur; your efforts were nothing but a waste of our time. Brea is now my Queen and you shall be the first to die under our rule.” Spat Sindaro.
“Release her now. You will not be alive for much longer if you act otherwise.”
Sindaro laughed and pressed the knife against the small of Brea’s back. She leaned forward and kicked her leg up behind her, digging far into his groin. Sindaro gasped and fell backwards, releasing Brea. She sprinted into Ur’s welcoming arms, safe at last. But the moment of bliss could only last seconds. Ur walked towards the squirming Sindaro, carrying his massive hammer. “I warned you Sindaro. You took my father from my life when I was a child, and now you tried to take my children’s mother from theirs. I’m afraid that you will never learn.” And with that he raised the hammer into the air and brought it down upon his enemy, making Sindaro and the earth one.
“It’s over Brea; you will never be taken from me again. I promise you this.” And since the invention of the kiss there have been five kisses that were rated the most passionate, the most pure. And one that left those all behind. This one left that one behind.
The Lions had suffered zero casualties and were prepared to leave Bloodscalp on the cheeriest of notes. So we put Brea on Ur’s ship and I hopped onto Fedorian’s. The sun was up now, seabirds were calling, and the water rolled in and out. All was well on our way home until we spotted our coastline. “Sindaro! Thokk fools! We are the Lions! I am Fedorian, champion of the sea! Nothing can compare to me!” A few of the men cheered and laughed at our dear friend, some of them grew nervous. They grew nervous children, because they knew of Jormungdar the sea serpent. Jormungdar is the ruler of the seas and was made so by the great God Odin. Jormungdar was born the smallest sea snake; you could have caught him in your hands and placed him on a hook for fishing bait he was that small.
Well one day Jormungdar prayed for strength and size to Odin. He begged him for these things and in return, he would serve Odin. He would guard the seas from corruption and defiance to the Gods. With his size and strength he would protect the righteous, and punish the vain. Legend has it that Jormungdar is so big he could stretch his entire length end to end and touch around the whole world. And I’m here to tell you that this is almost true. Fierce warriors and giants have tried to kill him, fishermen have tried to catch him but not only does he have the God’s watching over him but he is so strong that nothing can harm him. He is so old that he is wiser than any person and he is so big that nothing frightens him. Jormungdar was the champion of the sea, not our dear Fedorian.
“Hold your tongue Fedorian; it is not smart to mock the Gods. They rule these seas.” But your father’s words were not enough to save our friend. The water stirred not far from our ships and when I squinted hard enough I could see the scales of Jormungdar. They slid through the water as if swimming through air. However, Jormungdar was so big we had no idea if that was his tail or his neck. The most important question was, where is his mouth?
“Now you’ve done it Fedorian!” shouted one of our men. “You’ve called Jormungdar King of the Sea upon us! We’re all dead men.” Panic infected the Lions, something that never happened.
“We’re going to be alright, we’re Rorik Lions!” But all of us could see the truth behind his hollow words. He was indeed a dead man, and he knew it. His pride has cost him and maybe all of us our lives.
Jormungdar’s great head emerged from the sea. Eyes open and his face was dripping the salty water from its scales. Jormungdar’s back was a pale brown, like the bark of the trees in spring. His wet scales glistened in the sun. Along his spine were jagged spikes, some were cracked and broken off while others were like spears. His belly was a jade green, and here the scales were larger. Spreading from side to side of his body like giant slabs of stone. His eyes were beige with lemon yellow iris’s that burned with the fury of the sun. Slashed down the middles were his serpent pupils, pitch black and glowing with mystery. His great nostrils flared and shot trapped water like a whale blowing air from its blowhole. Hanging from his upper lip were two long tufts of white hair, signifying his age and his wisdom. “Fedorian, Master of the Sea” Jormungdar mocked in a low and rugged voice that was somehow calming but made your hair stand on end. “I have come here before you to bow in your presence oh great master.”
“Forgive me Jormungdar; surely I know you are the master of the sea. I was foolish to say otherwise. You see I was just…”
“Wrong! I am not the master of the sea! Odin, our creator rules the sea! I merely try to keep it clean from filth like you. I know your journey I’ve been closer than you think. Do not be ignorant enough to think I deliver blind punishment human. You and your men are indeed great soldiers but you do not come before the Gods. Now…let us see this master in action.” Jormungdar bent his neck and lowered his head until his face was inches from Fedorian’s. He exhaled deeply and water shot onto Fedorian. Not a soul breathed. Jormungdar’s lips curled and pulled up towards his eyes in a wicked grin revealing his swords called teeth. They were each at least three feet in length and sharper than I’d like to imagine. Some were white and some were stained. His putrid breath leaked out upon us. It crept into and stung our noses. With the slightest of nods, he sent Fedorian soaring into the ocean.
Fedorian thrashed and screamed as he treaded water, waiting to be swallowed by the giant serpent. Seconds passed and then with an eruption not far from Fedorian Jormungdar shot from the depths, soaring far into the sky. His body had not even made it all the way out of the water when his head came crashing down. He was still grinning that wicked grin before he extended his jaw past its regular size. I was only able to take one breath before Fedorian and Jormungdar had disappeared, forever from my life.
“We shall all miss Fedorian dearly but let us learn from his mistake. We have witnessed with our own eyes the power of the Gods, and never again shall we defy them. Let us row on to our families.” Ur said this while clasping Brea’s hand, not letting it go for a second’s pass.
So we sailed home attempting to comprehend just what had happened over the course of a single day…
“What’s this Wulfe? Stuffing my children with our stories again?” Ur asked grinning, while walking into the middle of our story telling session.
I could only smile. “You know it’s their favorite, the part with Jormungdar…”
“And Sindaro! And the shark!” the children chimed and they were off, running around escaping into their imaginary worlds. They loved re-living our stories, pretending to be us in our battles against evil.
“You know Ur, I let you play the hero most of the time in that story. When we both know it was really all me who straightened everything out” I joked with my brother.
“I agree old friend, you claim far less credit than you deserve. And that is the truest hero of them all, the one who goes through life living unselfishly, living humbly and always putting others before them self. The one we must all strive to be. Wulfe, friend, that is the story that I tell the children, when you are out.”