Copyright © 2017 - Christopher Brosnan (Pen name: C. D. Brosnan)
Date (Earth Calendar): 20 December c. 750AD
In the mead hall of Thorshold in Jutland, the Jarl held a festival of storytelling through music, drama and spoken word to celebrate the Jule. The hall was brimming with the joyous chatter of the citizens of Thorshold that took place between the tales, plays and songs being told, played and sung in the centre of the hall as the other villagers would watch and listen to their tales of any themes imaginable.
Randolfr, a rotund and red-faced, heavily-bearded man, choked down gallons of ale throughout the evening. When he told his tale of lecherous frivolity, often interrupted by his slinging of mouthfuls of ale from the drinking horn down his gullet, the audience in the hall was in a frenzy of cringe-soaked laughter. As Randolfr finished, he flung the drinking horn without an aim across the hall. ‘And that was the tale of the blacksmith’s wife and the fisherman’s apprentice.’
‘Thank you, Randolfr, son of Lambert,’ Jarl Girbert said with awkwardness to the drunken rambler.
‘And I have another too,’ Randolfr replied, interrupting the Jarl. ‘The whore of Jutland.’
The citizens in the mead hall were hurled into a joint bout of laughter.
‘No, no, Randolfr. It is now time for us to give another a chance to tell a tale. One tale, song or play per person or group, that is our rule.’
Randolfr laughed. ‘I doubt anybody can match my tales – prudes all of you are. Slaying of the Draugrs, Sigurd the Serpent-slayer, Loki’s Vengeance. All old tales of boredom and prudery.’ He gestured to the mass of barrels in the corner. ‘More ale! Get me more ale!’
‘I have a tale,’ said an elderly male voice from the entrance of the mead hall. All eyes in the hall turned to the entrance and they stared in silent awe. Ludolf, one of the village elders, entered the mead hall. As the villagers all looked on at him in a silent awe, the only sound that could be heard was that of his cane tapping the floor as he hobbled to the centre of the hall. He wore a dark navy, raggedy, hooded robe and a black patch over his left eye, or where his left eye should have been. He also had a faint scar on the right side of his face that was faded from many years of ageing. His fellow citizens in Thorshold presumed that the patch covered a battle wound, much like the wound which left the scar on the right side of his face. But from what battles, they did not know. His arrival in Thorshold was as much a mystery as the man himself, who lived his life as a hermit, avoiding prolonged contact with his fellow villagers whenever possible. Despite this, he was held in the highest regard by those who remembered his arrival. This was because he had single-handedly slain the troll who preyed on the village up until his arrival, despite his lack of a left eye. Although the feat gained him a place among the great heroes of the tales of the Jutes, he decided afterwards to live in moderate isolation from the citizens of Thorshold. He did not attend festivals, village gatherings or the Jarl’s feasts to which he was always invited. This is why his arrival at the Jarl’s festival on this particular Jule night was a great shock to all the villagers who were in attendance. Ludolf plodded slowly to the centre of the mead hall as all the villagers inside followed him with their eyes in a silent and mesmerised look of worship and awe. The elder spoke again with his characteristically raspy voice when he was in the centre of the mead hall. ‘I have a tale to match any that have been told or performed tonight in this mead hall.’
‘And what is this tale you wish to tell us, Elder Ludolf?’ the Jarl asked in a courteous and reverential manner.
‘A tale from a land in a world very far away,’ he paused and laboriously lifted one hand up to point his index finder towards the ceiling. ‘From a world beyond the stars.’
Everybody present in the hall now listened even more attentively to what he was saying. They craned their faces towards him. It was as though they felt he was going to divulge a life-changing piece of knowledge that would make their very existence change its meaning.
‘And what is this world that you speak of?’
‘That knowledge will come to you too, in good time.’ He sighed and spoke again. ‘My tale is about a young lady, a maiden turned warrior-‘
‘Only one kind of young lady I want to hear of,’ Randolfr replied in disrespect and lechery of a jocular tone. Ludolf looked on him with a look of hurt and well-suppressed anger through his one working eye. Unlike Randolfr’s previous jibes that were met by the festival attendees with laughter, his current manner of speaking to Elder Ludolf was not met with any such laughter. They were silently furious at his behaviour towards the local hero and elder.
‘I ask that you respect this tale, and my right to tell it. This tale is legend in the land I come from.’
‘Where are you from, Elder Ludolf?’ the Jarl asked in a manner of one who is trying to ask a personal question without offending.
‘I am from a land not near here. In my old age, I only barely remember its name, songs, and tales, and my youthful memories – good and terrible. After my tale, I will divulge my origins to you all, the members of the community who have, despite my introverted and solitary life, become something of a family to me over my many years here.’
‘Yes, that’s most admirable, my dear grand-father,’ Randolfr said in sarcastic jest, ‘now let us get this ageing, mad hermit back to bed in his cottage and we can go back to harlotry and whoring tales.’
‘Hwaet! That is enough!’ The Jarl sharply stood up as he snapped. ‘You, Randolfr, son of Lambert shall respectfully listen to Elder Ludolf’s tale with all of us, or you will be forbidden from attending all future mead hall gatherings under my remaining reign as Jarl.’
‘No need,’ he replied with a foolishly drunken grin. ‘I’ll let the old man speak.’ Randolfr drunkenly swayed back into the crowds at the walls of the mead hall with his drinking horn swaying back and forth, spilling droplets of ale as a trail of his path without his knowledge of doing so. There were some dispersed and hardly suppressed giggles among the attendants in the mead hall.
‘Please, Elder Ludolf, continue.’
‘Very well….’ Elder Ludolf began to tell his tale.
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Copyright © 2017 - Christopher Brosnan (Pen name: C. D. Brosnan)
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