Ch. 3 THE PROPHECY

Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert

(Circa 852 AD)

“And his shield was called Hrae’s Ship’s Round,

                             And his followers were called the Hraes’.”

                        Eyvinder Skald-Despoiler;  Skaldskaparmal.

Over the years Oddi would progress from forging arrow heads to spear tips to seax knives and axes, then on to the famed Jaederen swords that Hraegunarstead was famous for.  By the time he was twelve, Oddi could hammer together a Jaederen tri-steel blade with trident guard as fast as any man.  Brak even taught Oddi how to make Indian steel, and how to hammer out the alloyed blooms into helmets and breastplates, ring-mail corselets and Roman plate-mail byrnies as well as chain mail coifs.  Brak was primarily a weapons steel smith, but he also dabbled in defensive gear and was known for his shield bosses and perimeter rings.

There was a witch named Heid who knew how to predict the future.  She was often invited to banquets to tell people their destinies.  She had a troupe of fifteen boys and fifteen girls that would chant up spirits for her, and she was at a banquet not far away from Ingjald’s farm.  One morning Ingjald got up early and went to where Oddi and Asmund rested and said, “I will send you two on an errand today.”

“Where will we go?” asked Oddi.

“You shall invite Heid, the seeress, over for your birthday naming feast,” answered Ingjald.

“I will not invite that old witch,” said Oddi, “and I will not like it if she comes here.”

“You must go then, Asmund,” said Ingjald, “and I expect you to do as you’re told.”

“Prince Hraerik is coming to the naming,” said Oddi, “and he hates witchcraft more than I do.”

But Asmund went and invited the seeress to the banquet anyway, and she promised to come.  Ingjald went to meet her and invited her into his longhall.  They had prepared preliminary auguries to be carried out the night before the naming feast and when some people started showing up early, the seeress went right to her night-time rituals with her followers chanting songs and spells to attract spirits.  Ingjald went up to her and asked what the results of the auguries were. “I think,” she said, “that I have already learned all that you wish to know.”

Prince Hraerik Bragi and Grim Hairy-Cheek were late coming down from Hrafnista, but King Hraelauger was in early from the Vik.  As he sat down at the guest high seat opposite Ingjald he saw Heid and had the feeling that he had seen this before.

“Everyone shall go to their seats,” said Ingjald, “and hear your words, Heid.”  And Ingjald was the first man to go to her.

“It is good, Ingjald,” she said as she sat  on a highchair between the high seats, “that you have come here before me.  I can tell you that you shall live here until you are old and with great dignity and respect,” and this prophesy was applauded by all.

Then Ingjald went off, and Asmund came. “It is well,” said Heid, “that you have come here, Asmund, for your honour and dignity will go around the world. You will not wrestle with old age, but you will be thought a good fellow and a great warrior wherever you are.”  Asmund went to his seat, and others went before the witch and she told each of them their fortunes, and they were all well satisfied with the prophesies.  Then she predicted the weather for the farmers and many other things as well.  Ingjald thanked her for her predictions.

“Has everyone come before me that are to have their fortunes told?” Heid asked.

“I think now almost everyone,” said Ingjald.

“What about Oddi, the subject of this naming feast?  What lies on that bench over there?” she asked.  “A fur cloak is lying there, but I think it stirs sometimes when I look at it.”

Oddi threw off the fur and sat up on the bench.  “That’s right,” said Oddi, “you thought that a sleeping man might be stirring under the fur, and it is a man trying to sleep, and what he would like is for you to be quiet and not talk about my future, because I do not believe in what you say.”  Oddi had a rod in his hand and said: “I will hit you on the nose with this, if you prophesize about my future.”

“You are yet a child,” Heid said.  “You will be a man on the morrow, but now you are still a child.  I will speak, and you will listen.”  Then all ears perked up as poetry came to her lips:

“Awe me not,             Odd of Jaederen,

With that rod,             although we row.

This story will hold true,      as said by the seeress.

She knows beforehand      all men’s fate.

You will not swim     wide firths,

Nor go a long way    over lands and bays,

Though the water will well       and wash over you,

You will burn             here, at Berurjod.

Venom-filled snake             shall sting you

From below the        skull of Faxi.

The adder will bite               from below your foot,

When you are terribly              old, my lord.”

Heid saw that Oddi was angry and she ended her poesy and switched to prose.  “This is to say, Odd,” she started, “that you are destined to live much longer than others.  You shall live to be three hundred years old, and go from land to land, and always seem the greatest wherever you go.  Your reputation will go around the world but, travel as far as you try, you’ll die here, in Berurjod.”

“You make the worst prophecies of any old woman I have ever known,” said Oddi.  He jumped up as she was about to speak and he brought the rod down on her nose and blood soon flowed.

“Pack up my belongings,” said the witch, “as I wish leave this place.  I have never been treated, beaten like this before.”

“Do not leave,” pleaded Ingjald, “for there’s recompense for every ill, and you will stay here for three nights more and get good gifts.”  Heid took the gifts but left anyway.

King Hraelauger got up and stood beside Oddi in front of the highchair where Heid had been seated.  “I’ve heard this poesy before,” he told Oddi.  “Heid foretold it to my brother, Prince Hraerik, many years ago.”  Oddi looked up at his king.  “Hraerik wanted to punch her in the nose back then.  The stick might have been a bit much.”

“Will Prince Hraerik be here tomorrow?” Oddi asked.

“He will,” Hraelauger answered.  “He and Grim will be bringing your naming gift and shall be here tomorrow some time.”

Later that night, Oddi and Asmund went to the barn and they took Ingjald’s favorite horse, Faxi, and put a bridle on him and led him off towards the bay.  There they dug a deep pit and Oddi killed Faxi and they dropped him into the hole.  Oddi and Asmund brought the largest stones they could find and piled them over him, and then they poured sand between every stone.  Then they smoothed the grave over and, when they had finished their work, Oddi said, “I suppose witches shall have a hand in it if Faxi gets up out of this.  I think I’ve thwarted the fey that he will be the death of me.”

The next day, Hraerik, Grim and Loefthana arrived at Berurjod and they had Oddi’s gift with them.  “What do you think of your gift?” Prince Hraerik asked Oddi from the bow of the ship as it nudged gently into the sand and he swept his hand back to present him the ship.

“It’s Fair Faxi!” Oddi shouted.  “And she is beautiful!”  Oddi jumped into the freshly painted ship.  “I shall sail her across the Nor’Way!”

“She’s a little old for that trip,” Hraerik laughed.  “But she is fine for coastal waters and just right for young men to train in.”

That evening, at the naming feast, Prince Hraerik Bragi Hraegunarson gave Oddi his full name: Helgi ‘Spear Odd’ Hraegoryson and he told the people a few stories from the east about Brother Gregory, Oddi’s father.  When Brother Gregory had lost his life bringing baby Oddi from the east, Prince Hraerik gave the brother the name Hraegory, meaning he was considered a member of the Hraes’ family and his son, Oddi, was provided for by the Prince and the Hraes’ Trading Company.  

Prince Hraerik and the people of Berurjod and Hraegunarstead feasted and drank late into the evening and he recited many great poems while folk line danced through Ingjald’s high seat hall.  Next day, the prince returned to Gardariki, the king returned to the Vik, Ingjald looked for Faxi and Oddi and Asmund learned how to sail his new ship.