There were three rules in Västerbotten, home of the Vikings, land of Sweden and Bear's home country… 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 by the water, throwing stones into its shallow depths and watching the current ripple. We were docked for the night after a raid, and were on our way home. The others were celebrating our win, though I chose to sit out. 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.
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 shoulder length hair; I had cut it the night before in preparation for an invasion on this day; It was dried with a mixture or blood and mud from our venture.
I thought about how my ancestors had taken over the rights to the ground that I live upon, the village of Västerbotten... Long ago, before even the eldest of my home's residents were born, we invaded from Jämtland, and celebration was born. In the village of Västerbotten, my family had taken over the rights to the land when they had invaded from Jämtland. Since their invasion, celebration had been a common occurrence. No different to today, part of this celebration was to pick up slaves and captives, captured while invading lands such as our latest invasion, Kapellskär; and get them drunk in order to take advantage of them in whatever way they saw fit; A vicious cycle that had gone on for many hundreds of years. Once 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 trio, 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.
Unlike him and the rest of my kind, I wasn’t interested in drinking or taking anyone for my slave. I just wanted to hunt, and invade; thriving on the battles and excitement that I felt when my father would take me on adventures. I was filled with joy whenever we would find new pieces of land and the treasures that were found on them. I often took some pieces in secret, stealing them away in my shirt until our safe return home. I would always be the first off the boat, rushing to hide them in a secret place. I would often think of the joy on my future children's faces when I got to pass down these precious artifacts. Sometimes, I would gift one to Sage, if I was feeling generous, just to see her face light up as she gushed over jewels, trinkets or written words sprawled over the page of an old scroll. Her enthralment at the rare treasures was worth enough to give up the items.
Sage would tell me that I had a heart of gold and to never show that to our people, because they wouldn’t understand. She told me to put a brave face forward and to act accordingly in battle, or I would be cast aside. Taking her advice, I had learnt to hunt and kill, how to take slaves and treat them as such, when people were looking... At times she would help me tend to slaves in secret, caring for their wounds and making sure they were fed. Other times I would do it alone.
Once upon a time, our country, and our tribe, in particular, was at war with the other kingdoms that existed in our realm of the world. It was the way it had always been. The Faery kingdom had killed many of our men and always attacked at night when the blood moon would rise in combination with the black moon, which would come around once a year each. The dark Faery’s were situated in the skies of our homeland, which was all over Islanda; yet they would stalk their prey anywhere over the world and would follow us on our raids, attacking at the most vulnerable and weakest of our men.
I tried to research them and would ask many questions to my father as a child, though he was always resistant to answer. I did find out, however, thanks to Sage’s research, that the Dark fairies kingdom spanned much larger than that of my home town, and reached all the way over Sugarland - a place that was always forbidden. We tried to find out why, but could never get an answer.
As for the sea monsters, this consisted of giant squids, mermaids, both dark and pure, and occasional sightings of more unidentifiable creatures that appeared to be relatives of the dark mermaids and would appear from the deepest depths of the sea. I had only known sea creatures to be bad, as that was what we were always told, and therefore, everyone was an enemy to us. One particular breed of mermaid, as well as most of the deep-sea inhabitants, stalked their prey at night, by luring them in their drunken state, calling out a siren song to draw men over their boats. When this tactic worked to plan, as it usually did, they would drown their ships, killing a mass amount of people in one go. It was a sad, harsh history that my father and the other elders would never talk about. It was forbidden.
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 tale bones… which became common ingredients in Viking tools. A popular choice amongst my coven. We would collect different weapons from lands we 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.