My body hurt, every inch of it. I felt the heaviness of my medium build as I was being thrown onto the boat by two men. The same boat we had arrived in only hours earlier. Only this time, on the way home, I was not in good health. I could hear dozens of men fussing over me, pulling at me and speaking of my fate. I could hear, but my mouth wouldn't match my thoughts. I wanted to tell them that I was okay, but nothing came out.
One year earlier
There were three rules in Västerbotten, home of the Vikings and land of Sweden. My home. The first, praise was given to Odin, in hopes of one day returning to Valhalla, the second, traditions were sacred and to be respected, and the third, home is where you lay your head.
I sat at the edge of our ship, the tip of it barely dipping into the water. I thought of Sage as I threw stones into its shallow depth. We were docked for the night after a raid, and were on our way home. The others were celebrating our win, which I chose to sit out. I tried to avoid those ghastly events as much as I could, but sometimes, couldn’t escape my father's wrath if I skipped out. Sage would get so mad at me everytime I went on a raid because she was never allowed to come. She trained as much as I did and was just as good a fighter, if not better, though when it came down to it, she was a girl, and girls weren't allowed on raids. My father was in ruling and when she cussed him out about his descrimination, he always told her that she just wasn’t ready.
She was like a daughter to him, as much as I was his son and she was a sister to me, through and through. Even though She hated me everytime I left, I made sure to bring her back something magical from each place to try and make it up to her.
I heard loud bellowing cries coming from the cabin behind me. I shuddered thinking of the scenes that were taking place. For this aspect, I was glad Sage didn’t come on these expeditions. I lay back against the wooden deck, resting my long, brown curls onto its eroding surface. I rubbed my calloused hands over my face, pressing in my eyes enough to see a black sky filled with stars.
I didn’t know how the minds of others worked, but in mine, every event that had ever happened in my life, played like an act in my head. I always thought about my deceased mother. How before she went to Valhalla, she named me ‘Berserker’, meaning Bear-shirt, or a warrior who entered into battle, only wearing the skin of an animal. That is how I chose to live. With courage and enthusiasm.
My best friend, Sage, had nicknamed me Bear as a child, which I took on to be my identity. Bears were vicious and brave, though, always took care of their cubs and ensured they were safe. I liked to think that I took on that philosophy and applied it through every aspect of my life. I tugged at my hair. It was dried with a mixture of blood and mud from our last venture. “Bear! Get in here! There is a real beauty in here with your name on her.” A voice travelled from the cabin. I ignored it.
I thought about how my ancestors had taken over the rights to the ground that I lived upon, the county of Västerbotten, Switzerland... Long ago, before even the eldest of my home's residents were born, we invaded from Jämtland, and celebration was born. In Västerbotten, my family had taken over the rights to the land when they had invaded, and since their invasion, celebration had been a common occurrence. No different to today, celebration included capturing people that didn’t escape the invasion, and keeping them locked away in our boats cabins to be treated as slaves and hors; to later be taken back home to be given as gifts. This round of captives were taken from Kapellskär. It was a vicious cycle that had gone on for many hundreds of years.
When I had reached the age of fourteen, I watched my father fall over himself in a drunken state, his arms around two women. I knew exactly what that meant for the duo, and it sickened me to my stomach. Mostly because I would think of what my mother would say if she were alive to see my father's behaviour and how he had changed since she died.
Unlike him and the rest of my kind, I wasn’t interested in their idea of a good time. I just wanted to hunt and invade. I felt so alive getting on that boat with a destination in mind, bounding out of it once we had reached where we were headed and slashing throats. Nothing matched the thrill of finding hidden jewels and claiming land that could be passed down the family line. I often took some pieces in secret, stealing them away in my garments until our safe return home. I would always be the first off the boat, rushing to hide them in a secret place. On occasion, when I would share my findings with Sage, just to see her face light up as she gushed over jewels, trinkets or written words sprawled over the page of an old scroll… It was enough to get me through the sin that was happening behind me.
I flipped over an abandoned Mermaid tool in my hand, its smooth exterior sliding across my palm easily. They often left their tools, which were mostly made of stingray bones. They became common ingredients in Viking tools. A popular choice amongst my coven. We would collect different weapons from lands we had invaded and faction our own from the remains; placing them in sacred drawers, waiting to be drawn when needed. The tools would be taken out and used only in war, unless for training purposes. Just like the treasures, I always kept some tools hidden for my own use.
I continued to flip the tool back and forth in my hand, listening for any surprise attackers overboard the ship. An unusual snarl made its way from the wavering waters beneath me. I ventured toward the boat's edge, letting my curiosity overtake my cautiousness, just for a moment. Without warning, I was slammed against the rough boat edge, the rough wood splintering my chest. I fought against the force that had a hold of me, though it took on the challenge. I peered closer to take a look at my opponent, to see a dark beast. It slathered its writhing fangs, biting my arm into the bone. I recoiled in pain, grasping my wound, which instantly began to ooze a bloody mixture of poison.