‘No little brother. Ya don’t hold an axe like that’ Olaf said to his little brother Ragnar. ‘Ya have to hold it wit a stiff wrist. Look.’
Olaf took the hand axe from his little brother and showed him exactly how to hold an axe, adding in a downward swing deep into the old fence post next to them.
‘See? Now if I ain’t of been holding the axe tight I coulda damn near broke me wrist so ya see Ragnar?’ Olaf said looking down at Ragnar with a huge grin on his face.
Olaf was a bear of a man even though he was only eighteen winters old. He chose to have his head shaven bald even though it was custom to have at least shoulder length hair by the time of entering manhood.
Though Olaf often retorted to this saying ‘Kord’s balls to it! I’ve more hair on my face than any of the tribe!’
This was in reference to his massive, blond and braided beard which was rare for someone so young to be able to grow. Though everything was usually larger than average when it came to Olaf, were one to believe the rumours. He was Ragnar’s eldest brother. Born youngest in a family of three boys didn’t make life easy. However, like any Northern family they were utterly loyal to each other above all else. When he wasn’t busy, Olaf would regularly teach Ragnar the ways to becoming a warrior. He was a rough teacher in the way an older brother only could be, yet even as young as Ragnar was he knew it was better this way and appreciated it as it made him stronger.
‘Yeah yeah I see how it done. Now gimme it, I wanna try!’ Ragnar answered hopping from foot to foot with the impatience of a child.
‘Ha ha, Kord’s blood really does flow in your veins little brother’ Olaf laughed. ‘But that is enough for the day. The sun draws near the horizon and you Ragnar must go help mother with the supper.’
Ragnar frowned and crossed his arms, ‘Why do I always have to help mother? That is not the job of a warrior!’
Olaf grinned and replied, ‘Cause LITTLE brother, while you may now know how to hold an axe properly you is still away off from being a warrior.’
‘And’ Olaf added with an even broader grin ‘shit rolls down hill now get going before I kick you in the arse.’
Ragnar puffed out his chest challengingly and said, ‘Pfft! Like to see you try ya big ogre!’
Olaf took a sudden step towards Ragnar. The younger boy startled, turned and then ran towards the family stead.
Olaf shouted after him laughing, ‘Seems ya are smarter than ya look!’
Laughing to himself for a moment he stood watching his baby brother running up towards their mother who was outside their stead already preparing the evening’s meal. He took a deep breath before pulling out the axe from the fence pole and following in his brother’s wake towards their stead.
Several months had past and Ragnar was out collecting firewood with his other brother Vilgrid. Vilgrid was the middle child and it seemed Olaf got all the mass and muscle of Ragnar’s two older siblings.
Vilgrid was fourteen winters old yet was tall for his age. However, he was quite scrawny when compared to his fellow Northmen. This meant he had to rely more on speed, technique and skill when it came to the petty fights and spars a boy had to endure growing up among the northern tribes. He had long black hair which he always wore down and unkempt. This made him not so popular with the young maidens of the tribe, but this did not seem to bother Vilgrid, too much.
Due also to his lack of bulk he had decided to train more with a bow rather than the traditional option of a sword or an axe. The bow was seen as a lesser weapon among the Northern tribes so Vilgrid took to his training with such zeal the he was, even at the young age of fourteen winters one of the tribe’s greatest shots.
While they were picking up fallen branches to put onto the sleigh they used to haul a larger load babk to camp, Vilgrid noticed Ragnar wince as he leaned over to pick up a stick.
‘What is wrong wit ya little brother? Surely the sticks aren’t too heavy for you.’ He asked with a sly grin.
‘Olaf said he was gonna kick my arse but instead of running like usual, I decided to take him on. So he kicked me in the arse and it still hurts.’ Ragnar admitted.
Vilgrid broke out in hysterical laughter before regaining his composure.
‘I see you’re getting brave little brother. Heh, but foolish to try take on that big oaf without a few tricks.’
Ragnar looked at Vilgrid confused and said, ‘Tricks eh?’ What do you mean? Magic?’
Vilgrid’s face slightly paled at the word magic.
‘Kord’s blood no! Not magic Ragnar, just a move or two ya know? Just to give ya the advantage.’
Ragnar’s brows lifted and he asked, ‘And do you know any? Can you teach me Vilgrid?’
Eager to learn how to fight better Ragnar would do anything for Vilgrid to teach him more, even take on his share of chores for a week.
Vilgrid nodded then said, ‘Yeah I know a few. I could teach you one right now but first you have to swear never to use it against me ok?’
‘Yeah, yeah ok’ Ragnar replied hastily.
Vilgrid frowned and repeated, ‘Swear to me!’
Ragnar then swore to his brother that he would never use the move against him.
‘Good, cause if you do I’ll beat the crap outta ya ok? Now watch.’
Vilgrid proceeded to show Ragnar the move until he knew it nearly as good as Vilgrid which took several hours. By the time they were finished it was almost dark.
‘Damn, the Sun is nearly gone. Hurry up Ragnar before any Trolls come.’ Vilgrid insisted shaking his arms with urgency.
Intending to just scare Ragnar, Vilgrid unintentionally scared himself too and so the two brothers quickly loaded up the sleigh before running home to the warmth and light of the fire.
Several quarter moons passed since Vilgrid had taught Ragnar his little trick to even the odds when fighting Olaf. Every chance he had gotten since then to practice it, Ragnar did.
Though of course he had to make sure he was alone before doing so, as he thought it was best to train in secret, to give him a certain element of surprise.
‘What are you doing behind Gyda’s stead Ragnar?’ Olaf asked puzzled startling Ragnar as he was practising his new move.
‘Trying to get a look in on her perhaps eh?’
Ragnar blushed in embarrassment.
‘No! I was chasing after a forest rat.’ Ragnar lied without hesitation.
It being the excuse he decided he would use if ever being caught from the beginning.
‘Hmm, well you seem to of scared it off,’ Olaf remarked scanning the surroundings.
‘Anyway, come along, it is bad luck for a man to see something not meant for his eyes, besides, I’ve been looking for you young pup,’ Olaf continued as they walked by the few steads that made up their small tribe.
‘I’ve finished all I need to do today and figure it has been a few days since I’ve tried teaching you a thing or two.’
They stopped by their own stead to pick up the blunted weapons before continuing on to their regular practise area.
‘Ah little brother, I see ya have at long last learnt how to hold a weapon.’ Olaf said.
‘But wipe that smug look off your face, ya still got a lot more to learn pup.’ He added.
Olaf had taken to referring to Ragnar as a “pup” these past few weeks which greatly annoyed Ragnar. Blushing red with insult and slight embarrassment if he were being honest, Ragnar turned to his older brother and said, ‘I could beat you in a fight any day I wanted ya big ogre!’
There was a slight quiver to his voice that Olaf noticed but decided to ignore, he was glad his baby brother was growing up and becoming a true Northman. Still, it did not do for Ragnar to be forgetting his place within the family hierarchy.
Olaf grinned in response and added, ‘Well then little brother, What are ya waiting for eh?’
Ragnar, slightly enraged by his brother’s casual brushing off of his threat dropped the sword and charged towards his brother fists raised. Olaf effortlessly sidestepped the onrush before sticking his foot out and tripping Ragnar who landed face first in the mud.
Olaf let out a thunderous laugh ’Ha! See little brother? You’ll never be able to beat Olaf the Bear!’
Many of the tribesmen had begun to refer to Olaf as “The Bear” this winter due to his enormous bulk and strength. Olaf was only too happy to refer to himself as it. With rumours being that he even started it himself, as many nicknames he gave to people in the tribe had a habit of sticking for some reason or another. Self naming was also a very common practice among the Northern Tribes so this was far from a one off occurance.
The mockery in Olaf’s tone as he boasted enraged Ragnar further who decided enough was enough. This was it. He stood up and faced his brother again.
‘Once not enough for you Ragnar? Ha ha, well, do continue.’ Olaf taunted holding his arms out wide.
Ragnar smiled with a feral glint which slightly unnerved Olaf as he had never seen his brother smile like that before. Ragnar charged his brother again but this time he stopped in front of him and threw a wide swing with his left fist aimed for Olaf’s face. Olaf saw the blow coming from a mile off and went to block it.
He realised his mistake too late however, it was a feint. Ragnar then dropped to one knee before upper cutting his bigger brother straight in the crotch with all his force. Olaf crumpled to his knees, nearly landing on top of Ragnar who had to jump out of The Bear’s way, before rolling onto his side moaning loudly.
It worked! It actually worked! Ragnar was ecstatic.
He’d finally taken down his eldest brother! However, looking down at his older brother Ragnar’s expression suddenly darkened from glee to dread. Olaf was going to be very angry when he recovered and Ragnar did not want to be anywhere near him when that happened. He turned on his heel and began to run back to the centre of the camp with much haste.
He passed by Vilgrid on his way who shouted something at him though Ragnar did not hear what it was, he was all too consumed with his flight and imaginings of his brother’s revenge.
Vilgrid was confused by his brother’s sudden rush past him and ignoring his jest so he decided to walk up the way Ragnar had come running from to see what was going on. When he got to the outskirts of the camp he saw Olaf lying on the ground moaning.
Slightly worried now, he jogged over to his brother and asked ‘What happened here?’
Olaf replied with a swift kick to his brother’s shin.
‘Ah! What in Kord’s name was that for you fat ogre!?’ Vilgrid shouted as he hopped on one leg.
Olaf grimaced, or grinned Vilgrid couldn’t tell.
‘You showed Ragnar my old move you bastard.’
‘Kord’s blood Olaf, that hurt’ Vilgrid moaned.
‘Not nearly as much as an uppercut to the balls Vilgrid, now help me up.’
As Vilgrid strained to help his bear of a brother up, Olaf added, ‘And I tell ya one thing, Ragnar has got one hell of a punch for a young pup!’
Vilgrid couldn’t help but smile at that to which Olaf smiled in return, their baby brother was growing up.