Tales of the Thunderdog  – The Shield Maiden

Come on – I know you’re in there. TIme to tune into ME again and forget about all those funny smelling demigods you’ve been cosying up to. 

Come ON. 

That’s it – there you are. 

Where have you BEEN? 

And what’s that smell? I’m not sure I can stay here for too  long, it’s too complicated out there and far too many cows and dead things and some really, really, smelly humans.

 But there are things you need to know; the world is changing, a tiny piece at a time, and things that should have gone for ever are starting to come back. 

I can hear WULF some nights even when the moon isn’t full and I don’t know  if he’s close or if it’s just a touch of the old night terrors. 

You know the sort of thing, you’re being chased through a forest, the moon is silver through the trees. There’s a ground mist that dampens your own footsteps and somehow magnifiies the sounds behind you. 

You try to pick up speed and you can hear the sound of  breathing just behind your ear. 

And teeth snapping together. 

Then you wake up, all four paws scrabbling. 

Yes OK. 

Two. 

You’re going to have a part in all this, I just don’t know if you’re a narrator, a hero or somebody that gets killed really quickly. Sorry.

Odin knows of course, but he’s got a habit of telling you everything, including things you don’t ever want to know.

Plus he thinks the whole thing end in death for us all anyway.

Here’s the thing, for you to play a part, you’re going to have to learn some things – and quickly.

I don’t know why the Norse lot are so tied up in this, but that’s the way it is, so we need to talk about Valhalla, dying in battle and the skjald-borg – the Shield Wall. 

The wall was everything to the old Vikings – it was how they dominated larger forces, that and being lunatic bastards that thought dying in battle as a brave warrior would get them to Valhalla. 

Where they’d fight again. 

Anyway, they were right about that, so who can blame them really. 

Still they were hard work to be around sometimes. 

There’s always been a Thunderdog, ever since the first dawnings of the Aesir, I took different forms, sometimes a huge fierce beast, sometimes like this. 

I like this version of me, if you look really closely at the shadows behind, you can see what I could be, but to be honest I get less bacon when I look like that and dancing dogs make everybody smile. 

And it’s best to be what you want to be. 

Take the tale of the first Shield Maiden. 

A girl was born to a gentle family, the father was a ship-builder and her mother was a local healer. 

She was not the first born and her elder brother was already training with the sword when she was born, for even gentle families must learn to defend the village. 

Unusually for the area, the girl had green eyes and so she was named Álfr or Elf and everybody was sure that she would grow to be a good wife, mother and provider. 

Maybe she was part-elf, from the time that she could focus her bright green eyes, she was drawn to the gleaming axe and sword that hung on the wall. 

When she was five, she had a dream that showed her village covered in a mist that came in from the sea and the mist was blood-red. 

In the dream, she wandered through the mist and saw people, dogs and horses all lying still, staring at the sky, with the mist dripping from their bodies in bright red streams. 

Her parents found her in the morning sitting by the door with her father’s sword clutched defiantly in her hands while her emerald eyes stared at the sea beyond. 

From that point, she refused to be unarmed at any time and would steal knives from her mother, even the fiercest beatings meant nothing to her. 

Her father, being a wise and good man knew that he wouldn’t be able to change the mind of his strange and determined daughter and had the blacksmith make her a quarter length sword, a thing of rare beauty as the smith was amused with the fierce little girl and admired her warrior spirit. 

Secretly, her father hoped that the sword would help her to grow out of the idea that she would be a warrior, but she practiced her cuts and slashes, parries and blocks on the beach every day. 

And every night, she watched the sea before she slept, sword cradled in her arms. 

Time passed and  Álfr’s brother was given his test of manhood and allowed to join the Shield-Wall, he elected to be apprenticed to the blacksmith though, he was big and strong but didn’t have the heart for raiding or battle. 

When she was twelve, her brother made her a three-quarter length sword, emblazoned with runes and a splash of green at the pommel to match her eyes. 

Which brightened to such a degree, matching her smile , that her brother, big and gruff as her was, let a solitary tear fall to see his sister so happy. 

For she seldom smiled, her dream still haunted her and she could see that people were starting to resemble those in the mist – and one was her brother. 

At the age of sixteen, she rejected the man that her parents wanted her to marry, even though he was tall and pretty and smiled at her when other boys and men seemed nervous.  The village of her dreams was now so similar to reality that she sometimes had walking dreams where the mist covered people. 

There. 

And There, 

And There. 

Sometimes she cried, for all her pleas to join the warriors in the shield-wall had been rejected with laughter and taunting from the King and his men . 

And she withdrew. 

She practiced with the sword and shield every day, dancing and piroutting with the blade, which flashed slver and gold in the sunlight.

She spoke less and less, caught up in the horrors in her mind and terrified for her friends and family. 

One day she found a small dog on the beach. 

Or it found her. 

At first she thought it was  a puppy, it was smaller than the local hunting dogs, but as it ambled towards her, she saw the age and wisdom in the dog’s eyes as it stared at her. 

Confused, she stopped her practicing, at which point the dog danced on its hind legs, moving around her excitedly, grinning as it danced. 

Backing off five paces, she danced with the dog, her blade quicksilver-bright in the sun, a smile at her lips and fire in her eyes. 

In the evening, the dog followed her back home and she slept for the first time in many years without a blade in her hand, the small dog’s breathing and heartbeat lulling her to sleep. 

The next day, she and the dog were back on the beach, dancing,  moving and making a game of the whole chore of practice 

Months passed and the girl and dog became something for the villagers to watch in amused amazement,from a  discreet distance  – as the dog seemed to know exactly where people were and wasn’t averse to sneaking up on them and pissing on them while they lay in hiding. 

And the girl slept peacefully, somehow knowing that it wasn’t time for the mist just yet; feeling the dog’s warmth through her thin blanket, giving her a strange sense of tranquility. 

Then one night, when the moon was just a fingernail sliver in the sky, a silver mist floated in from the sea and the girl was woken by a gentle nip from the dog who angled his head towards the sea and she could hear. 

Muffled oars and timbers creaking, moving towards the village inlet. 

Quietly, she picked up her sword and she and the dog slipped into the night to follow the sounds coming from the sea. 

And was close when the first sounds of the war-horn from the ship sounded and the berserker horde landed at the docks. 

Fire-arrows flew and flames grew from half a dozen houses by the dock. 

The first villagers to respond died, cut down in their sleepy confusion by men who had lain off the shore for days, just waiting for the chance to attack. 

Whistles and gongs sounded, calling the able men of the village to battle and Álfr was terrified to see her brother among those arming to go into the shield wall. 

The sound of the invaders’ swords and axes as they hacked at the terrified villagers was awful, hisses and thuds, cracks and screams and Álfr could see their leader, a huge man, invulnerable to the attacks he faced, hacking down men at will. 

And the shield walls met with a crash and the clang of steel against wood and bronze. 

The villagers were losing, being pushed back inch by inch, their faltering steps heralding their imminent death. 

Álfr looked at the sky and saw two ravens circling, she looked at the dog who now had a very quizzical look on his face and she SCREAMED. 

She screamed hatred and defiance, love and fear and a knowledge that the scream was important. 
And she screamed. 

Until she caught the eye of the enemy king, who grinned at the apparition before him, a small girl with a small dog and the eyes of an outlander. 

Adjusting his armour, he walked slowly over to the girl, the ravens circled overhead and the dog looked at him without fear. 

Undecided whether he should kill her or take her for his own, the king swung his great sword with the flat towards the girl’s head, if she lived, he’d take her. 

He grinned as his sword hissed through the air, bracing his arm for an impact that. 

Didn’t come. 

Álfr had danced underneath the blow, spinning inwards towards the king and her sword sliced through the tendons of his wrist. 

He wasn’t grinning as his sword fell to the floor from nerveless fingers  and the girl sliced at his unprotected thigh, opening it from knee to pelvis. 

She danced away as he swung his great axe with his other hand, bellowing a challenge, struggling to stay upright on his torn leg. 

The axe missed her by inches and she rolled forward, taking the hamstring on his other leg. 

The huge king toppled forward, still swinging his axe wildly as he hit the ground, blood spilling from his legs and wrist. 

Álfr SCREAMED again and the battle stilled, all eyes on the small girl and the fallen king. 

Who smiled and walked away from the still living but crippled warrior and walked towards the battle. 

Two ravens flew at her shoulder and the dog danced on its hind legs as they walked, grinning at the invaders. 

Who broke and ran. 

Álfr walked to her brother, kissed him gently on the cheek and continued walking, the ravens at her shoulder and the dog at her heels. 

And they vanished into the mist. 

What do you mean ‘then what’ ? 

Find out for yourself. 

That was the point. Your part in this is still unclear. 

And WULF is coming, believe me. 

That smell is getting to me now, I’m off for bacon and maybe a sausage if I can look sweet enough.. 

2 thoughts on “Tales of the Thunderdog  – The Shield Maiden

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