By: Shannon Magowan
The large shadow of a dragon blankets the earth beneath us as we walk towards an open field. It swoops down just above our heads close enough to touch, creating a strong blast of wind that sends us forward a few feet before it retreats into the low hanging clouds once more. I grip my sword handle nervously and pull it out a few inches, but Ulf's strong grip pushes it back down.
"Not here. Not now. You're trying to gain the dragon's trust, not kill it."
"I never wanted to be a Viking," I say irritably. Just because I'm a Grevidian, people think I want to storm beaches and pillage cities and other ships.
"Finn, we were born in Grevidia, that's what we do. We steal. Why can't you accept that?"
"You have it easy. You like dragons and sword fighting and you don't care about killing. You're the warrior of the family, not me."
"I'm your twin. We're practically the same person."
I look at Ulf with questioning eyes. Though our facial features are identical- thin, extremely blond hair, pale blue eyes, pale skin (just like every single person in Grevidia)- Ulf is the athlete. He's built strong enough to fight with a war ax, he's tall, and he's pretty much good at everything. And me? Wiry and terrible at everything. I can barely handle a sword.
We take one more step and look out from the top of the grassy hill. Below us stretches a valley with buildings and arenas scattered here and there to form the shape of a dragon claw, the sign of Grevidian Vikings. And there's dragons. Everywhere. Forget the fact they can incinerate you in the blink of an eye, their mere size is enough to scare the living daylights out of you. Unless you're Ulf.
Ulf just looks up dumbly at the beasts. "Cool," he says as a dragon unexpectedly charges another one, knocking both of their riders off. The terrified students are dangling by their waists from a thin cord that keeps them from falling to their deaths.
"Stop yelling and climb back on you idiots!" Their instructor shouts from the back of a long, serpent like dragon with silver scales.
Ulf nudges me. "C'mon, it'll be fun!" He starts walking down the hill with excitement as I lag behind. Yeah, I'd love to get charged by a dragon and almost die. Sounds way better than learning how to sail. I asked Pappa if I could learn navigation instead of participating in Viking Training, but he just laughed. He didn't even take my request seriously. 'My boy? A sailor?' He had laughed at that like I had just made a joke. 'My sons will grow up to be even greater warriors than their Pappa could be.' Then he gave me a sword and told me it was a gift I was to use in training. He had taught me the basics, and I still can't use it well. I had no way out of it, and it's too late now. I'm stuck for good.
At the bottom of the hill we're greeted by a teenager who looks no older than eighteen. His eyes are a tealish color, and his hair just as blond as everyone else. It's tied back in a short, thin braid, a few stray pieces hanging in his eyes. He smiles. "Stig's boys, aren't ya? Been waiting for you two to turn fourteen. Now I get the honor to train one of the best warrior's sons. I'm Odin, Son of Anker."
"I'm Ulf and this is my twin, Finn." Ulf extends his hand, and suddenly I realize that this kid has already lost a hand. A silver hook replaces it.
Odin shakes Ulf with his one hand and leads us towards the building closest to us. It stands tall with carved stone pillars framing the small double doors. Odin grabs one of the door's handles with his hook and shoves the door open; its creaking echoes across the great hall inside with its domed roof. Small holes are splashed across the ceiling in no particular pattern. Then I look down at the black marble floor and notice that all the different sized holes in the roof create dozens of constellations when the sun shines through them. It has to be the design of a true architect.
We stop at the end of the dome where a man sits, sharpening a long, curved knife on a stone. He looks up and wipes his knife with a stained white cloth before putting it down next to the other five on the table. He stands up.
He towers above us, even Odin. He has a stone cold face marked with a long red scar that stretches from the corner of his right eye to his lip. His beard is stubby- barely noticeable with its blond color- and he has flaxen hair that reaches to his elbows. Braids appear here and there inside it, bound by brass clasps with designs engraved on them. He wears a fur vest like most Vikings, and the ivory horns on his helmet stretch far out in each direction.
His lips curl in a cold smile. "Stig has told me a lot about you, Ulf."
Sure, don't even notice me. Even my Dad couldn't find anything about me he could be proud of. "I'm Jarl Dag. I am the leader of the Grevidian Vikings. You will begin your training today. You'll start with learning how to ride a dragon, and work from there. Odin, take them to Draken Stables. Let them get acquainted with their steeds. With any luck, ah... they won't eat you."
The sound of fire being spewed and the crackle of flames comes from the field, then the loud, panicked voice of a girl shouts a curse in the old Grevidian tongue. Another voice belonging to a man yells out some muffled words before I hear him say, "Let go of Mina! No! Drop the girl! Don't you dare bight down. WindHowl, drop the Viking! Drop it," then a thump onto the ground. "We need a doctor! Let's go, hurry up!"
I stare at the door, then back at Dag. He only smirks. "They're harmless," he reassures.
Odin leads us out into the field again, and the smell of smoke hangs low in the air. A section of long grass behind the Draken Stables is still smoldering as we stand in front of the entrance.
"You ready?" Ulf asks.
I don't answer. All I can think of right now is just how dead I'm going to be in two minutes.
To Be Continued...
Note: Though the names seem weird, I'm trying to keep to true Scandinavian style (names and titles really) for anyone who will continue my story. And Jarl is just the Scandinavian title for lord.