Myths and Legends - Ancient world

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Queen Hjordis stood over the open trunk, her hand upon her chest. There, wrapped in her shawl, now grey with age, was the precious bundle she had carried away from the battle field so long ago; the battle field upon which had seen her first husband, the Great Sigmund of Hunland, fall. She had knelt at his side, trying to tend to his wounds in the dim light of the rising moon but he had stopped her.

“There is no use, my love,” he had whispered, taking her hand in his own and bringing it with much effort, to his dry, blood-caked lips.

“You cannot leave me Sigmund!” she had heard herself cry out, burying her face in his beard.

“Be strong Hjordis,” his voice was firm. She lifted her head and looked into his eyes. 

His hand had released hers and now reached out towards her rounded belly.

“You must be. For our son.”

“A son?” “Yes. The gods have shown me his future.”

She placed her hand over his and together, they caressed the hidden child.

“Promise me, Hjordis,” Sigmund gasped. “Promise me that you will raise him to be a good man. To fulfil his destiny.” “I will,” she whispered, trying in vain to hold back her tears.

“Find the broken shards of my sword Gram,” he said. “And make from them a new sword. For our son.”

Unable to speak, she nodded. And she watched, helpless, as Sigmund the Volsung took his last breath. She had done as he had bidden and gathered the shards of the sword that had been his gift from the god Odin. Wrapping them in her shawl, she had returned to the forest where she would remain hidden until King Alf of Denmark arrived.

The bundle had accompanied her everywhere and she had clung to it desperately. These broken pieces and the child within her womb were all she had left of her husband. And now, after all these years, she was about to part with it. The broken shards of Sigmund’s sword.

Wiping the tears from her cheeks, she reached down to pick it up and straightening, she held it close.

“Sigmund,” she whispered. “Our son has come of age. Your wish will be fulfilled.”

Back in the great hall, the young prince was waiting. He had come to his mother that evening with one request. To be given the shards of his father’s sword. He was going to have them melted and forged into a new sword: one strong enough to fulfil his destiny.

The Queen entered and smiled to see the young man who paced the floor before her. He was not yet aware of her presence and had stopped before the fire to gaze intently into it. How like Sigmund he was! He had the same height, the same powerful, well-toned form, the same strong chin. But his eyes were hers, as was his gently curling auburn hair. Just seeing him filled her chest with warmth and her heart with pride. This was their boy. Their child. Destined to be the greatest of the Volsungs.

“What do you see in it?” she heard her voice break the silence. “In the fire.”

The youth turned with a slightly embarrassed smile and shook his head.

“You would laugh if I told you Mother,” he said.

“I wouldn’t. I used to spend hours gazing into the fire as a young girl. It showed me so many things.”

The boy turned back to the dancing flames and took a deep breath. “I fancy I see father in it,” he said quietly. “I see him as you have spoken of him to me; tall and strong and proud. But then, I also see him, upon the field of battle, his life’s blood colouring the earth red. And I feel my soul spurned on to vengeance.”

She was beside him now and leaned her head upon his shoulder. This tall man whom she had held at her breast, only yesterday it seemed.

“I have brought what you asked for.”

His eyes lit up and he looked at the parcel in her arms in silence.

She carefully unwrapped the shawl and the metal pieces gleamed in the firelight.

“Take them, my son, and forge for yourself a sword from them. It was your father’s dying wish.”

He nodded and gathered the bundle gently from her arms. Still not speaking, he looked down at it and Queen Hjordis saw that he was fighting to hold back tears.

“He would have been so proud of you, if he were alive,” she whispered.

“I have done nothing to earn his pride, Mother, or yours,’ his voice was hoarse. “But I swear by the shards of this sword that I will dedicate my life to earning it.”

She reached up to caress his cheek which had only recently begun to grow a beard.

“You are still very young. You must not be over-hasty.”

“I am a man Mother,” was his reply. “And the blood of my father and grandfather cry out to me from the earth. It demands revenge. I will not rest until I have answered it.”

Queen Hjordis lowered her head. She could not stop him. She would not. It was his destiny.

“May Odin Alfather guide you, Sigurd,” she said, embracing him. “As he guided your father.”

And in Asgard, the home of the gods, Odin heard her words.

Would young Sigurd fulfil his destiny of avenging his father’s death? And would he, as Sigmund had predicted, become the greatest of all the Volsungs? We will find out next time...

 

*Based on the Volsunga Saga

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