-To my good friend Eliz
Brokk the Skald they called him,
A stout man with a bristled brow to catch the snow,
And a beard of ashen hue. In the land of the Swedes
He lived, strumming his harp by the hearth to
Patrons reeking to mead, to bulge his purse with coin.
He sang of Geats, of far off lands passed down in rumor,
Of Danish kings, and bloodied blades. It was a life of
Modest comfort, but Brokk longed for more,
A station to keep him fed with new songs and wealth.
By the hearth he yet remained, plucking strings the
Drunkards knew by heart.
One day, a stranger called Donar the Northman
Spoke of the icy reaches from whence he came,
Of warriors soaked in gore, arms full of spoils, and
Fame eternal. So proud was he the speech went into
The night until the hall was put to sleep. Only
Brokk remained awake, enthralled by the stranger’s
Story and begged for direction to this land.
‘With Daneland on the side of the setting sun,’
He began, ‘follow the water till it is most frigid.
And with ice on a distant horizon, you
Will have reached the land from which I come.’
Brokk thanked Donar and set off with harp in hand.
For a week he travelled western and secured passage
On a trade ship. With only his harp and a
Sack of provisions Brokk set sail with the merchants’
Goods. In the day the sea was kind, the ship
Swaying across the waves. Come night,
Brokk held tight as the craft was tossed and
Rocked by the sea’s protest. When a man went
Overboard the merchants called for aid and with a rope
Brokk swam to fetch him. Fighting the current
He searched, but found no trace and took his place at the sails.
Past Daneland the sea was barren and the sky grey,
Weeping with snow every hour. When the fall was
Thick and the waves fierce, the trade ship was struck
By a craft bearing pirates. The boats latched together,
Fear stole Brokk’s heart as he fled from the ensuing melee.
One pirate chased after him, swinging an axe that
Found no purchase. When he drew closer, Brokk blocked a blow
With his harp and the instrument gave out a twang
Before it shattered. Brokk prepared for the final
Blow before a wave crashed upon the ships.
With a gasp Brokk awoke in a shiver. He crawled from the
Shade of a broken hull and onto a beach with
Snow covered trees up the shore. Waves broke against the gathered
Remains of the ships and the crews’ corpses. Brokk
Said a prayer to the merchants and cursed the pirates
As he dragged them clear and replaced his tattered garments.
From one marauder he claimed an axe and shield and
Set out into the wood. The strain in his knees
Grew strong as he climbed a steep hill,
His toes numb from the snow. Trees gave way to
Stone the higher he ascended and the air was
Thin when he reached the top. From the spine of a ridge he
Spied a fjord dotted with ice moving with the current.
Further off was a town with long ships in harbor.
All was quiet when Brokk entered the town.
A sparse few inhabitants lingered in the snow
While the rest remained indoors. At the center stood a hall of
Official decoration, topped with banners above an ornate gate.
Brokk was drawn to the doors and on the other side the
Hall was full of warriors seated before a man
Upon a throne. ‘From where do you come stranger?’
He shouted. ‘I am the jarl of this land and you wear a face I
Know not of. Do you come with good intent?’
Brokk stood tall. ‘I am Brokk the Skald from the south and
I long for adventure beyond the hearth and riches
Heavier than the coin of drunken strangers.’
The jarl laughed. ‘A poet with a hunger for glory.
Do you envy the legends in song and want
To make your own?’ ‘Nay, my lord, for I am a
Simple man unfulfilled by my life of old.
Legends belong in the past and I am of the now.’
The jarl gave a nod with a stiff smile.
‘Then I welcome you to the fold, former skald. The
Raiding season has passed, but before the next, we
Shall make you fit for combat. Do you
Accept these terms?’ Brokk smiled back.
‘With gratitude, I accept.’ And the hall
Replied with raised cups and cheers that shook the rafters.
A small group brought him to the benches among
Hearty company. In the years to follow he
Would sail to far away lands plump with treasure and blood.
The harp long gone, the humble skald would
Become known as Brokk the Swede.