The ship couldn’t last much longer. The last punch that the ice made almost broke the hull, making the weary and tired men dump the excess of water out. Hellnar knew the old bucket won’t float for much longer, and that land should be imminent. If not they will meet their fate at the cold grip of the sea and by Odin, that was no good death. Many moons had passed since they set out to find the rich lands of the west, but instead they found a storm that destroyed four ships that were with them, and what was left of his men, the cold took already. 40 they were when they had set sail, now only mere 5 remain. The brothers, Feki and Aldur, the old man Orm and Olaf the Bone Crusher. And him. Son of a great warrior, wanting to fill the shoes his old man left, desperately needing to escape his shadow, he accepted to lead them to glory, towards new lands, new riches, new glory. But look how it all turned out. He lost most of his army, and what’s left of his ship is barely hanging by a threat. “Land!” Someone yelled. Finally they will get rid of this snowy terrain, escape this ice, and seek glory among the green pastures of the western lands.
All of the remaining men came to the bow, standing in excitement, as they broke through the thick mist. The land of the green shall be theirs, shortly after so much loss and suffering, their blades shall bask in the blood of the enemy, taking the riches of the unknown land, shortly the long journey shall be over. But as the bow of the ship had cut through the mist, another cloud would appear, then again another. As if the uncovered vail was infinite, never ending. But they didn’t despair. They were certain of their destination, as the dark smudge of the land was still on the horizon, even if they couldn’t see it clearly. Their patience prevailed, but still after so long on the open sea, some of them were eager to embrace the hard solid soil. “Come on, come on…”, young Feki nervously tapped his feet on the wooden floor, wanting the ship to sail faster then it already was. But Feki spoke what everyone was thinking. They were all anxious, nervous and eager to get off this wooden coffin, knowing it was by sheer luck and by the choice of Odin, that they were picked to live while watching their comrades drown and die from starvation and winter. Even if they wanted to shout and scream, they were warriors, leaving the nervousness to the younger pups. As the ship finally broke from the thick mist, to their dreadful surprise, they were greeted by something completely different then the promised green lands they were told about. A land of ice and snow, stretching far as the eye could see, with hills steep and unforgiving, making them fall to their knees. “No…”, Feki sighted under his breath. Another struggle after the already hard fought journey. There was nothing left but to pull the ship on the uninviting shores.
The wind blew chunks of the ice from the surface, carrying it to the sea. As the ship gave its last efforts , the crew jumped out, knowing there was no going back. Hellnar, leader of now what was left, stepped first on the frozen ground of the new shores they would suppose to call home. Knowing that they would only find their end here, no riches or glory, he got down on his knee, holding his blade to the ground. “Allfather, the one who shapes worlds and holds our destiny, please hear my voice. My men had suffered great loss and pain, only to be greeted by a land even harsher then our own. Even if the gold and silver we were promised elude us, don’t let these men die in vain like their brothers. I beg you. If all fails, don’t take the destiny from these people, my people, to earn a chance to sit by your side…” As Hellnar prayed to the Allfather, his men strolled around these strange land, looking around in hopes of finding life. But to no avail. It was an uninhabitable land, only filled with ice, snow and rock. Most of it was flat to the side, so they easily saw in the distance the nothingness that it had to offer. All except few hard rocky hills that stood before them, only ice was their companion. Ice and the death it brought with it. Orm stood by his leader, waiting for him to finish his prays so he could advise with Hellnar about their next step. Aldur, the more mature and calmer individual out of the two brothers, tried his best to calm his hot headed brother who out of sheer rage took his sword and swung it around hitting the snow. “In the name of the Aesir, what are you doing?”, he asked his younger brother. But Feki, with steaming blood in his eyes continued to hit the ground in sheer rage. “Would you stop it? Stop!”, Aldur held his brother, hugging him, preventing the young warrior to continue his fight. “We will die here…”, Feki said, “After that fucking storm, eating the maggots that infested our food and watching our friends die out of the unbearable cold, we will meet the same fate. For what did we endure? What did we do to earn this… this cruel joke? Shouldn’t we fight the westerners by now? Being bothered by the hot sun on our face, the smell of fresh grass? Not shivering by this fucking cold!” As he finished he broke form his brothers grip, looking at the ground for a few seconds, then like from the dream, he quickly broke concentration, focusing on Hellnar, who was still kneeling, holding his sword. “You…”, Feki pointed at Hellnar as he walked to him. “This… all of this is your fault. You were suppose to lead us to the new lands. But you disrespected the Gods and now we are all being punished for it!” He came close to Hellnar, when Orm pulled out his sword, ready to fight the much younger man. “Watch your tongue little boy… one more word out of you and I will make you mute!” Feki just laughed at the sight of the elder, not seeing him as a threat. “Really now old man? What are you going to do about it? You are the one who should watch it! I am not sure your hips can handle a proper sword fight!” But Orm just laughed at the boy, being amused by his words. “Aye. I might be old. But if you do not fear a man who watched young fools just like you die all his life and most I had cut down myself, then you will indulge me by teaching you that even an old wolf still has teeth sharp.” Feki was furious, allowing his anger get the better of him, as he pulled his sword high, ready to strike Orm down where he stood. But even before Orm could act, Feki’s sword was blocked by Hellnar, who in two swoop moves disarmed Feki in such speed and strength, that the boy was left stunned and shocked. Knocking his blade to the ground, Hellnar looked at the shocked expression of the kid who just couldn’t believe what had happened, as he met Hellnar’a fist, putting him on his behind into the thick snow. “Get up.” Hellnar extended his hand to the kid who held his nose bleeding, being angry and humiliated. “Yes this is unexpected. Yes we endured much of the pain that was put in our shoulders. But at the end of the day we are warriors. Fighters! And we won’t squander and argue like bunch of children! Do you understand? DO YOU UNDERSTAND?” Hellnar shouted as all of them nodded in silence, as Hellnar told Aldur to help his brother. “SETTLEMENT!” A thunderous voice came crackling from above the hill. The Bone Crusher made it on the top of the steep and sharp stones, managing to climb above while they were all fighting. As soon as they heard, all of them ran up the steep hill.
The Bone Crusher stood up tall, being built like a mountain, tough as steel, he was the strongest of them all. A man of few words he was, but the few he spoke they all listened. Hellnar stood side by side with all of them, looking at the horizon. “What do your eyes see, old friend?”, Hellanar asked the warrior. Silence was his manner, even in battle, so it wasn’t surprising when his leader asked him, that he firstly let no words disturb his gaze. “Walls, there, few yards ahead. Look down, behind the snow and wind, you can see the interrupted line. Walls, definitely, most likely destroyed. Perhaps the inhabitants are long gone, nothing to steal, no one to fight. But at least it will provide good shelter from the storm.” Hellnar looked down the never ending snow planes, seeing the image his big comrade spoke off. It would be a one way trip, as the wind that carried the heavy flakes grew stronger by the minute. Either they camp here, risk that the wind won’t make graves of ice for them, or they take a walk across the white planes to the unknown dangers that laid ahead, behind those walls. Hellnar knew his men, he knew the sheer amount of their collective strength. He knew what they were capable off, being raised in harsh and unforgiving land, he knew they would probably make it through the night if they camped on the shore. But unworthy death of the elements that they saw take their friends during this journey made them on edge. Nerves were thin, hands twitchy, eager to grab swords. He feared of the heavy toll that it would take. So in his mind there was no way but forward. He looked around at them, seeing his men all looking down the icy planes. “We move. If we stay here the snow will bury us. Perhaps behind the wall we will find cover. So, steel on the ready, if there is anyone left living, be ready to send him to the land of the dead.” The rest just nodded, looking back and forth to each other. They were all that was left of the great raid and now with the same fear they had looking at their friends die on the ships, they walked down the hill, towards the distance, not intending to make their deaths in vain.
The elements tested them. Walking on the planes of snow proved to be more difficult then they imagined. The uneven terrain was unforgiving, as with one step they would fall through the ice, the other would hide spikes of sharp stones. But holding together, picking up their brothers and going against the blowing wind, they managed to carry one another to the large walls that with every step they took towards them, grew larger and larger. No one really expected it to be so big, as the horizon hid the lie of their size when they looked ahead from that hill. But now standing below them, they could see the sheer size of it. It was bigger then anything they came against, as the walls stood higher then any building they made. Twice as big then the tallest house in any of their city, build with a strange material, they looked in awe to the colossal walls. But something broke them, as when they came to it, they clearly saw a big hole that was carved in the walls, interrupting their perfection. “What people build this kind of thing?, Feki asked shocked. Orm took his glove off, feeling the strange material. “Steel? No…”, he said. The rest followed his example, except Aldur, the smartest of the bunch, who took his axe and gently hit a part of the wall. As he did, the axe vibrated from the impact, shaking his entire hand. It took a second for him to realize his braking though. As the second he needed to gather his thoughts passed, he took his axe and swung it with all of the strength he had in his body, striking the wall. The axe just chipped the wall, sliding, easily braking the weapon in half. They all stood speechless, witnessing Aldur’s actions. “No… not steel. Something much stronger.”, said Aldur looking at what was left of his axe. Hellnar touched the wall, looking at the top of it that was caught in frost and snow, asking in what land did they found themselves in. “What matter of men could build such things?”, Feki asked. Orm looked around, not being sure at what to make of it. “I was in France, England, I saw the settlements of the westerners. This is no work of the unbelievers. They had stone walls, but steel or whatever this is, no…” They all basked, looking at the unknown, with a certain dose of fear being present among them. “Men? No, men did not build this…” From behind them, the Bone Crusher spoke, keeping his distance, looking down at the snow. “What are you speaking of you fool? If men did not build this then who did?”, Feki’s arrogance spoke. “Who said we are still in Midgard? The storm spun us around the sea for so long, months went by without seeing any land. And the first land after that while we see, is this?” As the Bone Crusher spoke, he got the attention of everyone, as they all collectively turned around to him. “What bothers you old friend?”, Hellnar asked his comrade. Something spooked the big man, making him nervous all of the sudden, as he turned around, looking back and forth, expecting danger. “This land, filled with nothing but snow and ice, it reeks of death. After this long, perhaps we are further from home then we think. And seeing this walls, bigger then anything we ever saw. Makes me wonder, if we left Midgard in those treacherous waters.” All of them respected what the Bone Crusher told, except Feki, who just laughed at him, provoking him further. “Are we seriously going to listen to the ramblings of this dim wit? Fine, I’ll indulge you. If not he westerners, then who build this massive walls?” The Bone Crusher looked at the boy with rage behind his eyes, not really wanting to say it. “Giants…” It all just make Feki laugh even harder, almost falling to the ground. But he was the only one who did that, as the rest took the Bone Crusher seriously. Feki realized he was the only one who found it amusing, looking at them asking if they were serious. “What makes you think of that old friend? Giants are things of old, things of legends. Things that belong to Jotunheim , not here in Midgard.” Hellnar came close this his friend, showing his support. “The land of snow, ice and death we find ourselves in, sounds like the folk tales our parents told us. The land of the Frost Giants. And the wall that stretches so far in the air, only one could build. Ymir and his children…” Fear was present among them, as the theory the Bone Crusher had sounded very plausible. But perhaps seeing the biggest of them all shake of fear was the tipping point that made them scared. Hellnar looked at them, trying to figure a way to keep his men straight, as straying away, being consumed by fear would be the end of them. The wind grew stronger exponentially, blowing snow in their faces. “Right now it is still uncertain where we are or who was here. But what is certain is that a storm is brewing. Shaking form fear in the open is the last thing we can do right now. We continue with our intent. All of you! Gather your steel and your strength, sheath your fear away, as Lord Odin does not welcome any cowards at his table. Move!” Hellnar’s words provided the required nudge they needed as they all got in the huge hole in the wall, proceeding further in the unknown. As they went in, he stood a bit behind, taking a final look at the wall. “Do you really believe that? That we are in Jotunheim?”, asked Orm who waited for his leader. Hellnar looked with eyes of dread, not really sure what to make of it all. “I do not know brother. Right now it is not my concern who built the thing, rather what did make the giant hole in the impenetrable wall.” As they both looked at the giant hole that broke the wall, they gathered their belongings and marched on, catching up with the rest.