A scary Viking story told in Grimm Fairy Tale mode
Once upon a dark time, a kingdom prospered. Yet, common folk whispered of a creature watching from the woods.
Fall came. The king’s daughters worked the harvest before winter painted land with snow and ice. While laboring, a huge creature burst from the forest, his skin cracked and gray. He grabbed them with hulking paws and disappeared.
The giant took them to the Land Beyond Land. The mountains of giants and dwarves.
Seasons changed. Courageous men stopped trying to save them. The king lost all hope.
Leaves turned gold and brown again. Tides brought a Viking ship. Asmund teamed with Egil the One-eyed, vowing safe return of the maids.
Before they left, the Vikings met a seer. The old man cast magic rune stones and gave strange advice:
Meet a giant to slay one.
She’ll be old and want your gold,
But, trust her stew when she asks you to be a goat.
They laughed at the rhyme. Surely the old man hit his head! They journeyed on and their stomachs rumbled. Nearby black goats munched green grass.
They killed one when a shrill voice blasted.
“You killed my favorite goat!”
Giants love their goats, but they love shiny things more.
Her black nails curved like talons, closing over it. “Mine.”
The men recalled the seer’s words. Asmund worked his charm on the giantess, and she sat with them, sharing her story.
Giant King Sidon banished her for insulting him. The gates of Land Beyond Land would open tonight for the Eve of the Dark Festival, a time when Shades roamed, stealing souls for the Underworld.
They asked about the royal maids.
The giantess whispered she wanted to cook Sidon in her cauldron.
“Get us inside. We’ll help you kill Sidon. Hide Asmund in your cauldron,” Egil said and pointed to the dead goat. “Sew me into your goat’s skin. Tell the guard you’ve come to cook goat stew for Sidon.”
The dark deal was struck, and night cloaked land.
Shades roamed freely this one fall night each year, stirring terror everywhere. Bonfires lit the land to ward off evil. But, Oga honored her word and carried them on her back through the gates, Asmund curled inside her hulking cauldron and Egil sewn into the dead goat’s skin.
Oga set her cauldron in the shadows. Egil pulled a small pouch and handed it to the giantess.
“Pour this poison in Sidon’s drink.”
She cackled her glee as the Vikings made their way up stone stairs. No torches burned. Asmund and Egil moved by stealth, but screeches and cries filled the air. Shades sunk their claws into their victims. Bones crunched, echoing in the castle.
The warriors found the maids frantically braiding a rope. Shabby dresses hung on thin bodies. Candles burned everywhere, shining on a rope stretched like a serpent across the room. The taller one beckoned them over.
“Don’t just stand there, Vikings. Come help.” She pointed to a beam. “Tie the end there.”
Asmund and Egil did as she bade.
The smaller one said, “They come for us at midnight.” Her glassy gaze darted to the door.
“We’ve worked all year…our gift for Sidon.” The taller one smirked and gave her name as Brynnhild. “His gift will set us free.”
“We must take candles with us…the Shades,” the smaller one whispered.
“The Shades!” Bekkhild jumped up from her stool. “Brynn, we must leave. NOW!”
All four climbed out a square opening cut in stone. They bit down on tapered candles, their hands and feet holding the silken rope. Wind blew cold fingers on their necks.
Or did a Shade test their flesh?
Thick clouds caused Asmund’s candle to fizzle. Egil’s soon followed. They inched down the rope into empty darkness.
When would this rope end and all could put their feet on the ground?
Bekkhild’s candle sputtered when a thick cloud circled around her. She opened her mouth. The candle dropped. No one heard the comforting sound of an object hitting earth.
“Brynn? Can you see the ground?”
“No. I’m, I’m at the end of the rope.” Brynnhild held the knot with one hand, the candle in the other.
The earth made a black hole, its maw ready to swallow them. None had the strength to crawl back up the rope.
“We can’t go back,” Egil said.
“Should we let go and hope for ground?” Brynnhild asked, her voice shaking as she began to cry.
The Viking warriors sweated despite the cold. This was not the same as facing an enemy in battle. What lurked below?
“Are we all going to do this?” Asmund’s breath billowed a small cloud.
“I’m scared,” Brynnhild wailed.
Wind shrieked. An creepy chorus of howls sounded in the distance, moving closer.
“The Shades…they’re coming.”
“Our only chance…let go and hope the earth’s near.”
The rope jolted. More silk threads ripped. The women screamed. The Shade’s keening screeched closer…closer.
Asmund yelled, “On the count of three, let go at the same time.”
All nodded their assent.
“One,” he shouted over the wind.
“Two,” Egil yelled.
“Three!” They cried out as one body and dropped to the yawning black below.
To this day, visitors to Iceland’s famed volcano hear human voices in fall. Some drop candles into darkness below.
Did you enjoy this? Please share, Click to tweet
*A loose adaptation of Asmund & Egil’s Saga
***993 words and your comments & critiques are welcomed. Thanks, Gina.***