Short story 3: Unfair revenge

Mardin couldn’t sleep that night. His conversation with Sir Anthubas was repeated in his mind;
“It’s not a big favor I ask of you. I only ask that you verify my story as I tell it to the City Warden. And for your courage in such an event, you will be richly rewarded.”
But Mardin would not risk being part of a plot with illegitimate or immoral intentions. He sensed that Sir Anthubas was not being quite honest with him. Why would he be offered money for telling the truth?
“I am sorry, My lord,” he had replied, “but this I cannot do. If you were asking me to defend you for noble deeds, for dealing justice to criminals or for aiding the poor or less fortunate, I would gladly do so without any form of payment. But I will not twist the truth for you, no matter what you offer.”
“I am sorry to hear that,” Sir Anthubas replied. “I was hoping we could keep our good relation. Good day to you.”
Then he turned and left.

Mardin was uncertain what to expect from Sir Anthubas. He didn’t know him very well, but he knew enough to know that his intentions weren’t always true. He had gained some honor in a fight with some bandits that had ravaged the area some years ago, and for this he had been dubbed “Sir” Anthubas. He clearly was an ambitious man, and Mardin deemed that ambition combined with low integrity was a dangerous combination. Mardin was sweating. What would come of this? Sir Anthubas clearly hadn’t been satisfied with his answer, and he had even ended the conversation with a poorly concealed threat.

A couple of days later, Mardin was summoned to the City Warden’s office. He didn’t know why, but he feared the worst. Could it be something Sir Anthubas had set into motion?
“Come in and sit down,” the city warden said as Mardin entered the room. He didn’t look up from his papers.
“It gives me no pleasure to do what I am about to do, because you have a good record in His Grace’s service. But the latest events leaves me with no alternative, I’m afraid.”
Mardin had been in his Grace the Duke of Bargens’ service for many years. He had begun his career as a soldier at the age of sixteen, being the youngest of five brothers with little hope of inheritance. Four years ago he had been appointed sergeant and he did now command a troop of twenty three men in a regiment designated to guard and protect the walls of the city. But what could this be about?
“There have been reports of you breaking in and stealing from people in the city, and then abusing your position as a sergeant of the city guard, intimidating people to be silent about the matter. Normally I would dismiss such allegations as evil tongues wanting to smear your reputation, but it has been confirmed by several eye witnesses and not least by a nobleman.”
Mardin was lost for words. So this was what Sir Anthubas meant by “I’m sorry to hear that”. Of course! Since Anthubas had misjudged Mardin’s willingness to participate in his schemes, he had now become a liability because he knew about Anthubas’ plan. The City Warden continued:
“Sergeant Mardin, son of Hundin, you are hereby discharged from your station, starting immediately. Please deliver your weapons, shield, armor and uniforms to the weaponmaster tomorrow morning. You will no longer be allowed to enter the military buildings here in Bargens, and you will be considered a civilian in all respects. In addition, you will have ten days to leave Bargens, not to return while I am still warden here. Should you be seen in the city after ten days, you will be charged and prosecuted for your actions.”
Mardin knew his punishment was mild for this kind of transgression. He suspected it to be because of his unblemished service record through many years. Yet, the punishment still was harsh to him as he was not guilty. But there was no point in arguing with the City Warden, he was only doing his duty. The fault rested with Sir Anthubas and his intrigues, he had no doubt.

Five days later, he was riding his horse northwards. The summer was young and the grass was bright green. Birds were singing and the air was warm and fresh after a nightly shower. But the sadness in Mardins heart overshadowed all the beauty of the land, and he hardly noticed any of it. He was angry and sad because of a cold-hearted man that had now made him loose his home, his job and his friends. Never again would he set foot in the city of Bargens. All the people that he knew and loved there would now be lost to him. Although some of his closest soldier friends had stated their conviction in his innocence, he wasn’t sure if he would ever see them again.

He had decided to travel north to unknown lands and to settle down and build a farm somewhere. Maybe he’d find a wife and live peacefully and quietly for the rest of his life, far from the intrigues of noblemen and city life. Little did Mardin know at the time that his wife was already waiting for him a bit further north, and that the village Burno would be his home for the rest of his life. But many years later, two young boys fleeing from their hometown’s demise could thank Sir Anthubas for his actions. As the Elder of Burno, Mardin would save their lives because of his well-organized defense of the village.

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Landscape of inspiration

There are many things that inspire me to write my stories. One of them are the breathtaking landscape and nature in Vesterålen, Norway. Every time I come there, the mountains, the ocean, the forests, marshes and not least the midnight sun makes me bring out my computer and start typing. And even when I don’t have my computer handy, my mind starts spinning around ideas and plots.

To make it easier for you to understand how this beautiful landscape affects me, I have put together this video sequence for you. My brother-in-law, Kai Freddy Evensen, has made some great footage from one of the mountains in Øksnes with his drone, and he has given me permission to use it here. The video clips are captured in the middle of the night, so the sun here is the midnight sun (and even a midnight rainbow a the end of the video).

The music in this video is a piece I made for Emergence. It is called “Thilonar”, and when you are able to read part two of the book you will understand why. Enjoy!

Short story 2: Unusual visitors

It was a hot day, and I was sweating in my armor. Urtin and I was on duty, guarding the gate. The day was getting old, and I was blessing each passing minute in my mind as the temperature slowly fell towards a more acceptable level. It was never fun guarding the city warden’s gate, but in warm days of burning sun it was almost unbearable. Urtin was feeling it too, I was sure of it. But we rarely spoke of such matters, we were His Grace’s soldiers and we would endure all kinds of weather in his service, be it rain or shine.

There was some commotion down at the market place, it look as if some travelers with horses were in a hurry to cross the crowd. It is never easy to hurry across a crowd in Barsas, and a stranger should be careful to upset the local traders and dealers, they had short tempers and long knives. I looked at the strangers trying to figure out what kind of people they may be. It looked to be a man and two boys with horses and a pony, and they seemed to be headed this way. One of the boys was about the same age as my son. What could be the meaning of this?

I thought back to this morning, at breakfast. My wife and I had been arguing about our son’s future. I told her that he is old enough to start aspiring as a soldier. It has been a good life for me and I can teach him the ways and help him become a good fighter. But my wife didn’t want any of it, she claims it’s too dangerous and that he’s too young. I think it’s clear that she is simply afraid. But at the age of fifteen, he is clearly old enough to start his training. What will the other men say about me if I don’t bring my son into a vocation at his age? They will all think me a coward and a useless father. And what about my son’s friends? They will think him to be weak and lazy unless he starts doing something really useful besides helping out at home. My wife don’t understand such matters, unfortunately. She only thinks of the day when I was gravely wounded some years ago and fears that such a thing could happen to our son as well. But I’d rather die in the service than being a coward, doing some useless work. A soldier’s life was honorable, if dangerous.

The strangers had reached the bottom of the steps, and the stable boy lead their horses to the stables. They were ascending towards us, looking determined. They were clad in traveling garments, and in a fashion that was clearly not from this city. As they came closer, I noticed that the oldest of them was young, although he was clearly a grown man. The others were boys, but one of them leaving his childhood days, the other more of a child still. As if we were commanded, Urtin and I lowered our halberds and blocked their way.
“What is your business with the warden?” I asked.
The man replied:
“I have an urgent message from Burno.”
Burno? That tiny village some distance to the south? What would they want with the city warden?
“And these two? What is their business?”
It seemed unlikely that the warden would have time for a man and two young boys.
“They are with me,” he replied.
“You must wait here,” I commanded, before I shouted to the sergeant inside the gate. The sergeant vanished for a while and then he came back.
“It’s all right,” he said, “they are welcome.”
Urtin and I withdrew our halberds and allowed the unusual visitors to enter.

I made up my mind. I would not allow my son to become a rootless vagabond like these three. He would start his training as a soldier next week.

Short story 1: Perfect wood

The light breeze were moving the branches in the trees and the sound of waving leaves was making Feorn feel young again and very much alive. He was strolling casually down a familiar path. He knew these parts well, he had been hunting here on countless occasions. This was were he had felled his first boar by himself, and he had also spent many days here, waiting in the thickets for the hour of twilight when his prey came out of their holes and hiding places. This time, however, he was not hunting for game, but for material for two wooden bows. He approached all straight tree trunks that looked promising in a distance and carefully examined their potential. Mainly, he looked for yew or oak, since he had always preferred bows made of those kinds of wood. They were flexible and easy to handle, yet strong enough to make a powerful bow. Feorn made all of his own bows and arrows. He didn’t trust those made by people outside the village, and nobody in the village could match his skills.

Feorn was excited. He was going to make bows for two children in the village, a boy of thirteen and a boy of nine. These boys had always been interested in archery and hunting, and he wanted to reward their curiosity and interest by giving them some proper bows with which they could actually hit targets from a distance. He would give them some basic training and instruct them how to practice their aim. He was convinced that if they were dedicated enough, they would become good archers or hunters some day. Of course he knew that it would take a long time to become a marksman, he had spent many years before his archery and hunting skills were good enough for him to survive by his trade.

The sun was setting and it was gradually getting colder. But just before the sun disappeared below the horizon, it sent out a few last beams of light towards him. They shot out like they were directed to avoid most the trees and hit some places in particular, and he could see a single yew that now bathed in golden light. He approached it and found that this was just the tree he had been looking for. It was a fairly young tree compared to the others around here, and its trunk was straight. He produced his axe and chopped it down in a few minutes. Then he removed branches and leaves, put it on his shoulder and headed home.

It was already dark as he reached the outskirts of the village. People was inside their houses and nobody noticed him, but he was used to that. The life of a hunter was a life of solitude. And he was content. He wasn’t very sociable and he felt mostly at home under the trees accompanied by the sounds of birds and beasts.  Still, he was longing for his home right now. Age had caught up with him and the comfort of his bed was too tempting to ignore. But tomorrow, he would start working on the bows.

At first light, Feorn broke his fast and made ready to start working. He collected his tools and the bow staff. The staff was large enough for both of the bows he planned on making, and he began by cutting it into two pieces. He took one of them in his hand and said:
“I will give you to the oldest one, I think. I wonder what you will hit in his hands.”

Short stories of Ardalaar

I have decided to write some short stories from the universe of Ardalaar and publish some of them here. This may give interesting insights, side views and sometimes funny perspectives on Ardalaar and on the main story in Emergence. Some of the short stories may touch upon the main story, and some may not.

Please stay tuned to read my short stories, and feel free to comment.