Thundershield

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Chapter 6

Ragnar was out running with the branch and sacks of rocks again. It seemed to be one of the only things Gorn got Ragnar to do these days. This particular morning it was especially bad as Ragnar made the mistake of getting into an argument with Gorn about the fact that this was all he was doing. He even went as far as to claim that Gorn did not know what he was doing. The sudden change in Gorn’s stance told Ragnar right away that he had gone too far and for a moment he thought Gorn was about to lunge himself at him. Gorn had “rewarded” Ragnar’s outburst by piling the rocks into the sacks until they were practically about to explode, also he greatly unbalanced the sacks for extra punishment.

Ragnar cursed himself as well as Gorn as he struggled to keep the branch at least somewhat balanced on his shoulders and to not fall over as he ran through the forest. If he dropped even a single rock and didn’t return with it Gorn would send him back out to get it. Somehow the dwarf could always tell between a random rock Ragnar found and one he had put into the sack despite to Ragnar them all looking the same and randomly shaped. Despite the extra weight Ragnar had to admit that it was becoming easier to bear with each passing quarter moon. It did not take long for Ragnar to approach finishing his third lap of five of the trail he had to run. When he first had to run with the rocks it took him half of the day to finish a single lap but by now it had only taken him until a little after noon to complete three.

As he came running by Gorn’s stead he saw that Gorn was standing outside waiting for him. He held up a hand indicating for Ragnar to slow down and stop. Ragnar stopped in front of him but did not throw down his burden as the last time he done that Gorn had him pick it back up and run an extra two laps on top of what he was supposed to do that day.

‘I see ye’ve at least learnt something lad, ya can drop it.’ Gorn said.

Ragnar let the branch fall from his shoulders and it hit the ground with a heavy thud. Sweat glistened on Ragnar’s face as he tried in vain to rub out the throbbing pain in his shoulders. He felt so light though that if he had the energy he believed he could fly away like a bird by simply flapping his arms.

‘And I hope each and every one of those rocks are still in the sacks, I need’em ya know?’

For what Ragnar had no idea, probably only to torment him. Ragnar only nodded in answer as he began to regain control over his breathing.

‘I’ll take yer word for it, this time. So, ya think yer ready to begin yer real training eh?’

Ragnar’s eyes lit up at Gorn’s words, his exhaustion quickly forgotten.

‘Yes Gorn, I am ready. I’ve been ready for some time now’

‘Yeah yeah, ain’t nothing I haven’t heard before. We’ll see just how ready ye are, just wait here a moment.’ Gorn said as he ambled off into his stead.

Ragnar stood outside with his hands clasped behind his head and taking long slow breaths in through his nose and out through his mouth, a technique Gorn taught him for slowing down his heartbeat after training. Gorn came walking back outside carrying a large double headed axe. It looked comical in the dwarf’s hands as it was pretty much the same height as him. It didn’t look especially ornate though its craftsmanship was obvious even to Ragnar. The head was large and stretched down almost a quarter of the hafts length. As it was double headed whoever wielded it would need to have considerable upper body strength to use it effectively in order to compensate for the additional bladed head. The haft was made of a dark wood and it had a dark red stained leather grip along the bottom end. The length of the grip indicating that it was to be wielded two handed though from the size of it Ragnar could tell that already. Only a troll or giant could hope to wield something like this one handed.

‘Here ya go, take hold of this.’ Gorn said holding the axe out to Ragnar.

He did as he was told and almost dropped it as soon as Gorn let go. Gorn had made the thing seem like it weighed nothing more than a splitting axe but the weight of it threatened to tear Ragnar’s tired arms from their sockets.

‘Hmm,’ Gorn mused as he watched Ragnar while rubbing his beard.

‘Hold it up above yer head there laddie.’

Ragnar struggled to lift the greataxe up above his head, his arms trembling with the effort.

‘Now hold it there for as long as ya can.’

Ragnar tried to hold it there for as long as possible but after what must have only been a few heartbeats, despite feeling like an eternity he was forced to lower it. Gorn simply grunted in response.

‘Give it here laddie.’

Ragnar was crestfallen, his one chance to move on in his training and he could not hold a simple axe above his head for more than a handful of heartbeats. Kord only knew how long it would be until Gorn gave him another chance. It was going to be more endless days of running around the forest with sacks full of rocks.

‘Get round the back and begin chopping wood, I take it ya’ll be able to at least hold that axe for longer than you did this one. Then take the rest of the day to gather yer strength.’

Ragnar was puzzled by this last statement, his brows furrowed in confusion.

‘Yer gonna need it, tomorrow we begin training with this.’ Gorn said with a slight smirk as he noticed Ragnar’s eyes once again light up.

***

So it was, and the next day, and the one after that and so on for eight winters. Gorn thought Ragnar everything he needed to know, from how to wield a greataxe and greatsword to how to fine tune his senses to notice the not so obvious. Gorn’s regime was ruthless. He had Ragnar up at dawn to hunt breakfast, This greatly reminded him of his days hunting small game around his camp. He had even managed to hit birds more regularly with stones he found on the icy ground. Gorn would also still have him running through the forest with bags of rocks to weigh him down. He even thought him how to better hone and control the beast within him that was his Rage as all northern warriors do. Ragnar would train from dawn till dusk with little respite. He would be drilled constantly in different styles of axe fighting, in particular with the great axe Gorn had given him. He was told of the customs of the various Northern tribes that Gorn had frequented in his travels, and of local creatures and legends. He listened to Gorn’s tales of glory and his lessons on how best to kill a man. However, whenever Ragnar asked Gorn about when he was supposedly a captain for a Dwarven king, Gorn would grow uncharacteristically quiet and force Ragnar to do tougher training. Ragnar quickly learned not to ask Gorn any questions about his past. He grew strong quickly and was an avid learner when it came to using a great axe.

Gorn would say ‘ah lad, yer as much a natural at it as Grotek Silver-tongued!’

Who Gorn had told Ragnar was a dwarf from old legends who once wielded a mighty battle axe to slay a great Orc chieftain threatening to consume the Dwarven realms with his hordes of Orcs and Grets. Ragnar did not know whether to believe Gorn or not as he loved to tell stories, however secretly Ragnar much liked this comparison between him and a mighty warrior of legend. On occasion Ragnar would ask about his tribe, his family and the tribe that slaughtered them. Gorn would only ever reply by telling him to try not think about it much and to focus on his training. He promised Ragnar that one day he would be strong enough to avenge his tribe, as the customs of his people demanded, but told him that until that day came he should put it from his mind. Ragnar eager to obey his new mentor and also not to be punished with extra training did as he was told, for the most part. Though some nights, while Gorn lay on his bed snoring, Ragnar would lie awake replaying the scenes of his tribes slaughter and his brothers’ deaths in his mind, and his thoughts of sorrow and despair were soon replaced with thoughts of anger and revenge.

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