While Roger at Woebegone but Hopeful (https://heroicallybadwriters.com/2016/09/05/a-true-history-of-the-isles-part-12-the-vikings-arrive-a-aaa-a-ha-a-eeya-a-ha/#respond)
is entertaining us with his hilarious history of the British Isles, his 12th part with the arrival of the Vikings reminded me of this story I wrote some time back, based on a past life remembrance. Unlike Roger’s stories however, this one is not humorous.
Thanya of Norda
a short story – by Sha’Tara
My name is Thanya. I live on the coast of Norda, in a poorly fortified village. My people are woodsmen, fisherfolk and farmers. We constitute one of the main centers on the coast and my father and mother are considered to be the Chiefs. I have an older brother who is a great hunter and whom I admire.
This part of my story begins when I am fourteen years, according to the Christian calendar. In the late Summer the feared and hated Norsemen raid our village. Our men are overwhelmed and put to the sword. I see by father and brother die. I pick up a sword to defend myself but I cannot handle the weight of it. I’m quickly disarmed and brought to the leader of the raiders. I can hear the cries of the women and the children, some being raped and killed, others rounded up, tied and put aboard the boats to be sold as slaves down the coast. I can see and smell the smoke as our homes are systematically destroyed and burned.
A tall, red-haired and red-faced man stands in front of me. He tears my clothes off and has me put to my knees, my wrists pulled back and tied to my ankles. He straddles me and lifts his sword. Laughing, he brings it down as if to cut me in half but swings it aside. I curse him for letting me live. He rapes me. I scream a “prophecy” at him: “I will have your son and when you return here he will kill you!” He laughs again, has me untied and held away from him. He says to me: “For that I will let you live and go free. If indeed you have my son and if indeed he lives to defeat me in battle, I shall freely confer my title and properties to him. I am King Garthul. If you survive, remember that name, wench.”
They rowed off the shore, then sailed away with their spoils. I found some rags to cover myself and tried to cover the bodies of the dead. I covered my father and brother. I found no trace of my mother so assumed she had been taken prisoner. I did not have the strength to drag them onto a pyre and burn them, so I left and entered the forest. I found shelter in a cave made from a hollow windfall and survived my first winter on nuts, roots and dried husks of fruit hanging from branches or lying in clumps of grass. I gave birth to a healthy son in the Spring and took him deep into the forest, not knowing what to do. I found other survivors and eventually convinced most of them to return to the coast, to my village. We gathered the bones of the dead and burned them, then performed the ritual of cleansing for the land. Then began the task of re-building.
Throughout the years I directed the re-construction based on villages and strongholds I studied during inland wanderings. First an inner fort made of stone, not of material that could burn. Then an outer palisade made of strong timbers and deadly stakes. Finally, near the beach another fence made of non-burnable materials, whatever we could find. I trained the people, young and old, male and female, to bear and use arms of all kinds. I designed new weapons, especially for the females. Shoes were basic wooden sandals equipped with a sharp spearhead at the front and sometimes at the back. Armbands made of wood were equipped with a deadly dagger that could be flipped and locked in a forward position, the tip of the blade extending past the hand. We made bows that were longer than hunting bows and much more accurate, using longer arrows. I made them leave crenellations in the walls, and holes that looked natural but through which arrows could be shot. And I trained the tallest men to use long spears that could be thrust through cracks deliberately left in the walls but concealed from anyone looking from the outside.
As more and more survivors and disgruntled serfs from other parts joined us our village grew and surpassed the numbers and strength of the past. My son became a fearsome warrior, I made sure of that. He was tall and had red hair. There was no doubt who his father was.
Among those who joined us came two Christian monks. They claimed they had special knowledge they wished to impart to certain chosen people among the village. I asked them to share their knowledge with all of us, offered to give them a special place at our regular meeting day, but they insisted their knowledge was only for the chosen. They also insisted that we give up worshipping our gods and learned of their one god and accept him as our only god. This I refused to do. I gave them a hut and made the people aware of their offer. Anyone who chose the Christian god over the land’s gods was free to do so. Some did but it did not matter. Christians made good warriors too, there was no conflict among us.
In time my prophecy was fulfilled. The raiders returned and an older Garthul still led them. As soon as the alarm was given all the people who could not fight and all the younger children with as many goats and fowl as could be taken, were sent deep into the woods in preselected hiding places. Then we waited. My son was then eighteen years of the Christian calendar, and eager to fight this Garthul. I had not told him this was his father, just what he had done to his family.
Yelling their taunts, the raiders rushed our first slender defenses. We killed several of them before we retreated to the next defensive position. The raiders crashed through our first wall only to encounter a much more effective defense. They had no place to hide and we defeated them there. Garthul gave the signal for surrender and my son jumped forward to put a sword to his throat. I ran behind him and stopped him: “Well Garthul, we meet again. Remember the prophecy of the young girl whose parents and brother you killed. Remember her taunt, “I will have your son and he will kill you!” Well here I am, and here is he, your son, Garth.”
He remembered, and believing he was about to die, he called his second and swore that his title and lands were now the property of his son, this son, my son, Garth of Norda.
And this is where my life turned. For Garth said, “He is my father, and I cannot kill him. Therefore, since he has so grievously harmed you, mother, here is my sword. You must avenge your parents and your village. This is not for me to do.”
I took the sword and held it aloft unflinchingly. I could have easily cut his head off, but instead I laid the sword on his shoulder and said, “Life has taught me this, Garthul: That there comes a point where it becomes necessary to let go of the past and to forgive. For as heavy as the burden of loss is, the burden of vengeance is twice as heavy. I have reached that point. Today I have redeemed what was lost. I have defeated you and I am your master, I, a mere woman. Furthermore, I have something of yours that I know is more precious to you than your own life: your son. So here’s my proposal – listen to me well. I wish that you should take Garth with you. Make him into a sailor and take him back to your own land and train him in the arts of being a King there, as you are. When the time comes, I wish for you to pass your power on to him. Further, I wish that your country should enter into a permanent peace with us. We have much to trade with you, especially of hardwoods.
And it came to pass. Garth became ruler of both Norda and his father’s land. There were no more raids on our coasts. We remained at peace until a new trouble began to brew from the hinterlands. But that is a story attached to a future that is not mine nor Garth’s.