At some point, most writers realize everything they wrote in high school was crap.
What follows is a short story I wrote when I was 13 years old. Presented, presumably, for your amusement and edification. It never fails to give me a fit of giggles, and it says a lot about the person I was (and still am).
I offer no other excuses.
by Michal Wojcik
Bjorn pushed the oar forward with all his might in unison with the other warriors. The longboat surged into motion, the water parting before its hull in a rush of white foam. The remaining warriors jumped aboard with their swords and battle-axes flailing to fight off the enemy. Bjorn flinched as an arrow flew past his head, harmlessly embedding itself in the mast. Another flight of arrows made their way towards them. Two men saturated with wooden shafts were plucked off the deck as they tried to make their way aboard.
Bjorn was considered a large man, even by Viking standards. He was not tall, but his shoulders were broad and his muscles thick. He had long blond hair and a long beard which he braided. His eyes were a fierce deep green, highlighting his rugged facial features.
“Full speed ahead!” shouted Eric, standing at the bow of the ship. He pointed to the horizon in the opposite direction from the fjord.
Bjorn put new vigour into his rowing skills. A few arrows buried themselves into the gunwales and the sides of the ship before they had left the mouth of the fjord behind. Soon they were out of bowshot. The enemy warriors stood atop the highest points of land beside the fjord, shouting curses and challenges.
“That should make Hralf think twice about raiding our territories again,” Eric said, addressing the crew. “How much spoil do you suppose we captured?”
“Nigh twice as much as they captured from us,” Bjorn said. The other Vikings cheered at his observation. “Our decks are laden with wealth. This ship must weigh three times as much as it did before our raid.”
“That is the good spirits I wished to hear. Our chief will be pleased. Our families will be well fed when we return home.”
Bjorn smiled at the thought of returning to his wives and children; but more than that he looked forward to the great feast that would be prepared for them on their return. Wild boar roasting on a spit, malt beer…
His thoughts were interrupted by what felt like water splashing upon his leather boots. He looked down. An ever-growing puddle of water was forming at his feet. It went down the breadth of the vessel, coming from between the planking.
“Eric?” Bjorn said, still looking at the water.
“I think you should see this.”
Eric strode over to where Bjorn sat. His beard swayed as he moved and his weaponry made clinking noises. He frowned.
“One of the men who got shot by arrows must have made one last stroke with his battle-axe,” he inspected the planking closely. “This is definitely axe work. He must have smashed through the hull with his last dying thrash.”
“Can we fix it?” Bjorn asked.
“Yes, but we’ll have to bring it ashore. We’ll make short work of it.”
“It had better be very short work, because we’re close to Hralf’s territories.”
“Trust me; it will be fixed within a few heartbeats.”
They ran aground their longboat on a narrow beach bordered by a small cliff near the fjord they had just left. The Viking mariners skilled in fixing ships worked on the damaged hull.
Bjorn sat on a nearby rock facing the sea, sharpening his axe and dagger. It was quiet except for the grunting of the men working on the boat and the screeching noise of blades being brought to cunning edges.
Eric stood surveying the work with a disinterested look. The sky above them was only slightly shrouded with cloud and the other warriors were basking in the sun.
A man stood up from the hull, clapping his hands together. “We’re done,” he said.
“Everyone back onboard,” Eric said, already preparing to hop up into the longboat.
The sound of war cries erupted from behind Bjorn. He sheathed his dagger and spun around, his hands already firmly planted around the shaft of his axe. A host of warriors stood on the small cliff, seeming to materialize from the air. They shook their axes, swords and war-hammers violently. Two of them carried torches although it was broad daylight.
“Hralf’s men,” Bjorn heard Eric say between his teeth. “There’s no time to escape. We must stand and fight,” Eric ordered the men. They brandished their various assortments of weapons.
The enemy war band was small, but Bjorn suddenly saw his mistake in thinking that was to their advantage. The enemy force of ten men were clothed in nothing save bearskins and howled like wounded bears, high on their Fly Agaric, the mushroom of Viking berserkers.
They charged with little worry to themselves, jumping down the cliff and running down the beach unscathed, swinging their weapons high above their heads.
Bjorn hastily tried to form with his fellow warriors into a shield wall, but the enemy was coming too rapidly for them to do so. The first berserker leapt towards them and cleaved the torso of the warrior standing beside Bjorn in half with an immensely large battle-axe.
Bjorn swung his shield up before the remainder of the stroke would do the same to him. The blow bit into his shield so deep that it would not come out. Bjorn looked down at the shield and threw it contemptuously to the ground. It was useless now.
He swung his axe around and caught the berserker in the chest. He hastily pulled it out. The berserker merely smiled and lunged at Bjorn, landing a blow in Bjorn’s stomach. The wind was knocked out of Bjorn and he toppled backwards, his axe flying out of his hands.
The berserker prepared to throw himself down and crush Bjorn. He spun wildly around to gain momentum and flew through the air.
Bjorn caught his breath and noticed the colossal berserker charging towards him. Bjorn instinctively unsheathed his dagger and raised it above him at arms’ length. The berserker noticed the danger, but he could not stop, he was already sailing through the air.
He came down with a sickening squelch upon the dagger which pierced him through the gut. Bjorn rolled away before the body fell.
The berserker lay moaning on the ground, still alive though the entire dagger, blade and hilt, had fatally punctured him. He began to get up.
Bjorn scrambled for his axe and got to his feet. He felt the grip back in his hands and swung down on the berserker, who had already risen to his knees. The axe sliced through the berserker’s back and severed his spinal cord. The berserker had finally died.
He rolled the corpse over and retrieved his dagger from the body, reaching into the wound. The entire weapon was covered in red slime.
Bjorn cleaned off the blade and rose to his feet. The beach was littered with the bodies of his comrades. Black smoke arose from the ship being let off by the flames that consumed it. Only three of the berserkers had died. Bjorn glimpsed the rest of them running off with the treasure they had reclaimed for their war chief: Hralf.
Bjorn walked over to the bodies and saw the body of Eric, but without a head. The berserkers’ had obviously cut it off as a trophy.
He looked up from Eric’s corpse and saw five berserkers walking forward towards him. Bjorn firmly gripped his axe. He spread his feet apart to prepare to swing.
The berserkers surrounded him. Two had swords, one had a war- hammer, and three had battle-axes. All were tools that Bjorn thought would bring his death.
“Halt!” someone said in a commanding voice from atop the small cliff. The berserkers’ turned around.
Bjorn raised his head to see who spoke. He swallowed hard. A man twice the size of him stood on top of the cliff in a jerkin of leather armor studded with iron. A vast array of weapons adorned his body, some hanging from his belt, others hanging from straps on his back. It was obviously their chief: Hralf. Following him were a mob of lesser warriors.
“Do not you kill the last survivor,” he ordered. “He is our prisoner. Bind him, take his weapons and we shall go back to the village.”
Like all Viking villages, the nearest village in Hralf’s domain was by the sea and stunk mostly of fish. It had obviously grown overpopulated and outgrown the original palisade, now protected by breastworks of dirt instead of solid wood.
Great horns announced the coming of their Chief and the only gate opened wide to accept him and his war band. Bjorn followed them in ropes with his head low. Crowds of other people cheered their hero and his fighters wholeheartedly.
They went to the largest longhouse of them all and Bjorn guessed there would be a great feast after their victory. The timbers were set skillfully and the hall stretched down far. A great table went down its center length with many seats and at the back were sunken fire-pits as well as other cooking materials. At the opposite end of the longhouse were another fireplace and an elevated platform reached by two ladders bare of anything.
The warriors already began setting the fires and the others left to fetch their wives, children or all the food and drink they could spare.
Bjorn was dragged to the platform and tied down in front of it to the ladders by two of the larger berserkers.
“We told the Chief to make you a thrall, but he has better plans for you. You shall be the main entertainment,” the uglier of the two berserkers snarled. The two of them laughed and left him there.
Amid the roaring and the laughter Bjorn saw Hralf stand. The hall hushed at the sight of their Chief.
“My Dear fellowmen,” he said. “After my trusted warrior Canute swam under the enemy ship and smashed a hole in its hull, there are some of you who searched the coasts to find where the enemy ship could be found, but missed the right spot and didn’t have a chance to see a fight to the death. I myself only came at the last moments and missed a chance at the joy of battle.
“But I came soon enough to salvage one man to sate the desire to kill for all to see,” the war chief pointed to Bjorn. “This man actually survived an attack of ten berserkers on his war band; he was the only one left alive!
“Even the leader of his war band is dead!” Hralf produced a head and held it up for all to see. “Their greatest warrior didn’t survive, but this wretch did. Now he will prove himself further,” he threw the head away. Hralf took a deep drink of ale from his horn before gently placing it back on the table.
He walked up to Bjorn. “You shall be my victim for a duel― a duel to the death! My terms are that if you should lose, your tribe will die with you. What are your terms?”
Bjorn slowly looked up at Hralf. “That I should safely return to my village.”
Hralf smiled sardonically. “Then it is set, let us make get ready. Unbind him! Set out the weapons upon the pedestal!”
The others were quick to respond. The same two men who had bound Bjorn cut the ropes that held him to the ladders. Warriors committed their weaponry to the area in front of where Bjorn had been tied.
The two warriors held Bjorn by the arms as Hralf took off his own shirt, leaving him bare from the waist up. Then they released him and tore off Bjorn’s shirt.
Hralf looked at the array of weapons and chose a massive broadsword. He flicked it around in his hands for awhile before nodding. “Choose your weapon.”
Bjorn looked down at the pile of deadly devices on the floor. A one-handed battle-axe caught his eye. He reached down and took it from the pile. After testing it with a twist of the wrist, Bjorn said, “I have chosen.”
Hralf nodded and climbed up the ladder on his side. The two warriors heaved Bjorn up the other ladder.
“Let us begin,” Hralf said. His biceps flexed as they stood on opposite sides of the arena. “If one of us should fall off, than he shall be put back onto the fighting area.”
Hralf swung the broadsword over his head slowly at first, but with ever-increasing speed until it whistled above him. He charged forward with his whirling length of iron and swung it upwards.
Bjorn jumped back and the sword point grazed his beard. He took his axe and swung it over his head to block Hralf’s subsequent downward swing. The head of the axe collided with the Sword’s blade with a tremendous clang and sparks flew in all directions.
Bjorn staggered back with the force of the blow. He brought the axe back behind him and swung it around himself horizontally at Hralf’s stomach.
Hralf saw the edge coming towards him and blocked it with his sword. Bjorn withdrew his axe and swung it again with the same result.
His opponent leapt back and swung his weapon to Bjorn’s neck. Bjorn immediately ducked; the blade cut harmlessly through the air.
His axe came up; Bjorn aimed for Hralf’s chin.
Hralf leaned back before Bjorn could strike the blow and the axe went up towards the ceiling before it was stopped by the length of Bjorn’s arms. At this moment Hralf swung his sword to cleave Bjorn’s head off his body.
Bjorn felt the presence of danger as he stood precariously off balance from the force he had swung with. He heard the dull whistling of the sword.
Bjorn left his balance to the gods and fell to the ground. The sword grazed his braids. He hit the ground hard, but sprung to his feet with swiftness supplemented with necessity.
The two opponents circled each other again, one looking into the other’s eyes. Hralf’s face was blank from expression, as far as Bjorn could see. The rest of the people in the hall watched intently at the unfolding action, cheering their champion: Hralf the Strong.
Bjorn swung his axe at Hralf’s chest. Hralf jumped back, but the axe blade still tore through the surface flesh. Hralf looked down at the wound. Bjorn swung the axe back for another blow.
The axe whistled forward as he threw it, and Hralf smashed the axe aside with his sword. There was a tremendous clang as it glanced off the blade and towards Bjorn in two halves. Bjorn ducked before the spinning, out of control axe-head came towards him. It flew over him and hit the wall.
Bjorn could, though, only avoid one thing at once. The haft of the axe flew in the same direction and hit Bjorn square in the ribs. Bjorn looked down in surprise at the swelling red mark it had produced.
Hralf smiled. “Now you shall die,” he said, walking up to Bjorn with his sword raised high.
Bjorn stepped back, looking candidly at his empty hands, then at Hralf. Hralf seemed to grow larger before his eyes.
Bjorn ducked down, his left arm thrown upwards in the process. The sword clove through his wrist. Bjorn’s hand flew off to the people in the hall and landed on the table with blood spurting from the severed end.
Bjorn cried out in pain, and then regained himself. He swung the stump of his arm forward and the blood it sprayed went into Hralf’s eyes.
Ignoring the pain from his wrist, Bjorn kicked Hralf in the stomach. Hralf crashed onto the wooden floor.
The crowd was silent now, unable to fathom what was happening.
Bjorn wrenched the sword from Hralf’s hands with his right and using all his strength raised the incredible heavy sword. “Now, you shall die, and Eric be avenged” Bjorn heard himself saying.
He swung down the sword with all his might at Hralf’s neck. The blade went where commanded. The iron edge slashed through Hralf’s jugular and throat before coming out the other side. Hralf’s face was molded in a look of surprise as his head was severed from his body. Red and black liquid sprayed from Hralf’s neck.
The sword had been swung so hard that it bit into the wooden floorboards. Bjorn took his hand shakily from the hilt of the weapon. His face turned pale as he stood, his left wrist bleeding profusely on the ground.
He looked at the spectators. They were gaping at him. Not one said a word. Their Chief had died.
Bjorn heaved a deep breath. “I only wish to go home,” he said. “Will someone show me the way?”
The triple dagger story breaks were included in the original manuscript, naturally. Would you have expected any less?
I’m tempted to try and illustrate that final scene one day. A comic version of the whole thing might be even more amusing, and slightly less embarrassing. And the sheer ludicrousness of the above still doesn’t hold a candle to what happened in that novel I wrote when I was 12/13.
Which no one will ever see.