Chapter 8:

The man in dark hood

Elyon - Gods among us

985 AD. Aarhus, Kingdom of Denmark. One year before the events of the main story.

—No situation is worse for a kingdom than having a weak and inept king—

—Since King Harald Bluetooth ascended the throne of Denmark, he has focused on his foreign campaigns, which he has repeatedly lost. His only victory, in Norway, turned out to be a loss as he was forced to relinquish those territories to the Roman Empire in the south—

—And speaking of the Roman Empire, after its emperor, Otto I, humiliatingly defeated him, one of the conditions for his victory was the Christianization of Denmark. King Harald, in an attempt to divert attention from his defeat, lied to his people, claiming that he had been baptized and converted to the religion of the Magical Carpenter by a saintly prophet. This has resulted in the current persecution of the ancestral religions of the Danish people—

—So, in addition to living in extreme poverty, burdened by the king's wasteful expenses on his military ventures against Sweden and Norway in an attempt to 'spread' Christianity, his people also suffer persecution and the destruction of sacred places. Families are killed simply for having a simple Yule tree in their homes. Our lord Odin hung from the branches of the Yggdrasil tree for nine days, and for his people to be unable to honor his sacrifice is an act of blasphemy!—

These words were spoken by a hooded man in a grayish habit, who was kneeling before a blond man seated on a rustic wooden throne.

—That is why, Prince Sweyn, I have been assigned by the wisdom of our lord Odin and the light of our lord Freyr to grant you the necessary power to stop your father— the man in robes continued.

The prince Sweyn was the son of Harald and heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Denmark. His hall was spacious, albeit quite rustic and made of wood. He had a carving of the Yggdrasil tree behind his throne as a clear challenge to his father's Christian practices. The hall was adorned with an exquisite red carpet and illuminated by a set of torches.

Beside the prince, two soldiers stood guard. They wore silver helmets that covered even their eyes, long brown capes with silver chainmails, and furry boots. Their swords, adorned with golden embellishments on their hilts, were sheathed by their sides.

As for the prince, he was young with blonde hair, a slight beard on his face, and beautiful purple eyes. He wore a crimson cloak and brown clothing. Around his neck hung a pendant with the symbol of Mjolnir, Thor's hammer, which served for good luck and warding off evil spirits.

The young prince sat on his throne, displaying an air of defiance and boredom. The idea of rebelling against his father and seizing power had begun to circulate in his mind. After all, he was the commander of the most powerful Viking army, the Jomsvikings. However, when he encountered this man in the streets of the city of Aarhus speaking about the end times or Ragnarok, he became intrigued by his prophecies. Could he really be an envoy of Odin and Freyr as he claimed?

The prince fixed his beautiful violet eyes on the man who knelt before him, while the guards by his side grew nervous at the stranger's challenging words to the king.

—Do you know that I could flay you alive for daring to challenge my father's kingdom with such insults?— the prince retorted, as an attendant poured some wine into his golden chalice.

—I have seen within your heart, your majety— the mysterious man responded.

—You are a brave warrior and the supreme commander of the Jomsvikings, an order established by our lord Odin himself. Within your heart, your love and devotion to the gods in Asgard are true and pure— the man concluded.

The guards, who had been prepared to draw their swords against the stranger, were then dismissed by the prince.

—Leave me alone with this man— he said, gesturing with his left hand for them and the servants to go.

The guards and servants bowed and left the prince's throne room.

—And even if that were true, why should I believe you? What proof do you have of being blessed by our lord Odin and our lord Freyr?— the prince asked.

—My lord Sweyn— the hooded man said, —one of your guards is a devout Christian, and at this moment, he is planning to inform your father about this. But I have stopped his heart. If you examine him, you will see that he carries a crucifix with the naked carpenter that that filth worships—

Suddenly, shouts were heard outside. The prince stood up, throwing his wine cup to the ground, and rushed to the door. When he opened it, one of his guards was lying on the ground while the other soldiers examined him, and the servants screamed in terror.

The prince shouted, —Quick! Let me see the man!—

The men and women stepped aside, and the prince examined the soldier. Indeed, he was dead. Beneath his chainmail, there was a crucifix just as the mysterious man had said.

—He is dead— the prince said brusquely. —Take him to the infirmary immediately to determine the cause of his death—

—Yes, sir!— the guards responded and carried the body away.

The prince ordered the others to return to their duties and not to interrupt him. He returned to his chamber and closed the doors. The hooded man remained on one knee, waiting for him.

—Now, can you see the extent of my powers, my lord?— the man commented.

—How can I trust that you won't do the same to me?— the prince asked, his face showing concern.

—I am a servant of the great lord Odin, as I mentioned— the mysterious man said. —I would never do anything against my master—

—Very well, I want to see you again, but not here— the prince said. —I have a place for that. There is a cottage outside the walls of Aarhus, near the great cedar forest to the east. Go there tomorrow evening—

—Yes, my lord— the mysterious man said as he stood up. He then bowed and withdrew.

As he left, Sweyn sat back on his throne and smiled with a malevolent grin.

—Soon, I will be the king of Denmark— he thought.

The following night, Prince Sweyn arrived at the designated meeting place, disguised with a brown cloak to avoid recognition. He pretended to be a simple merchant in the village.

The hooded man was waiting for him, but standing beside him was another figure, one who was incredibly tall, too tall to be considered human. Sweyn had never seen someone of such size.

—Could it be two meters tall or even more?— he wondered with a terrified look as he observed the man.

—You have nothing to fear, my lord. As I told you, I am a servant of the great Odin, and this man is a jotun— the hooded man said.

—A jotun? One of those giants who live in the other realms of the Yggdrasil tree? Are you serious?— the prince nervously asked.

—The mere presence of him in this place, Midgard, the land of humans, is proof of my words and that I have the favor of the gods— the hooded man calmly replied.

—Alright, I believe you— Sweyn replied as he approached the cottage and opened the door, avoiding direct eye contact with the man as he feared for his life.

The prophet and the giant entered the cottage as well. The so-called jotun had to bend down to fit through the door, which ended up slightly breaking the lintel.

Inside the cottage, everything was dark and disordered. The smell of dampness and mold was strong, and the sound of mice squeaking could be heard throughout the house. There was a table and a few chairs, barely visible in the moonlight. The prince had chosen not to light the fireplace to avoid drawing any curious eyes.

—No problem— the hooded man said.

It was dreadfully cold. The prince shivered from the cold and was increasingly tempted to light that stupid fireplace, but he resisted the urge. However, he noticed that neither the hooded man nor the giant seemed affected by the cold.

—And tell me, what plans do you have to give me the throne, prophet?— Sweyn asked bluntly.

—We? None— the hooded man replied.

—Are you telling me that you're just wasting my time? Are you seeking my life, then?— the prince nervously responded.

—No, my lord. Please do not misunderstand me. We are servants of the great father Odin, and we will only ask for something in return for his victory— the hooded man replied calmly.

—What exactly?— the prince asked.

—We want you to hang every Christian and traitor you encounter along your path, even if you choose to execute them with the serpent pits they so love; we need their nearly lifeless bodies to be hanged and presented to the great Odin— the man answered.

—Why would the execution hold any significance?— Sweyn asked.

—These are our conditions. If you do it, we will grant you supernatural power in the war against your father. That's why I said we have no plans. You will need to convince the Jomsvikings to join you against your father. I don't think you'll have any trouble, as Your Majesty is quite strong, skilled, and charismatic; a better candidate for the throne than your savage father— the hooded man said.

—Just executions then? It all sounds very suspicious— the prince pondered further.

The same concern had made him stop feeling the cold; although now he felt a nervousness that permeated his entire body, like a trapped fly seeing a spider approaching to devour it.

—Because human sacrifices please our father Odin. Don't you know, Prince Sweyn? Ragnarok is approaching, and if you don't want him to die at the jaws of the wolf Fenrir, you must grant him more and more power for him to emerge victorious. Your father, King Harald, is trying to prevent more warriors from reaching Asgard to fight alongside our father Odin. Do you want the cosmos to be destroyed because of your inept father?— the hooded man spoke with a voice that seemed irritated.

Sweyn finally saw the prophet's eyes—they were violet but almost red, filled with anger and terror.

—I'm sorry, I didn't know any of this— the prince nervously replied.

—Don't worry, Your Majesty— the hooded man responded with a calmer voice. —You must then see yourself not just as a mere king of Denmark but as a key figure in the victory of our father Odin against the forces of evil— he continued to explain.

—I understand. I will not only save Denmark from my father's tyranny but also assist our great lord Odin— the prince replied excitedly.

In that moment, the prince began to envision himself feasting in the banquet hall in Asgard alongside Odin and fighting by his side as an Einherjar, human warriors who would be resurrected and join the gods in Ragnarok.

—That's right, Your Majesty. Father Odin will grant you the throne of Denmark, while you help him defeat your enemies and prevent the forces of Asgard from falling into enemy hands— the hooded man replied, a malicious smile forming on his face.

—Alright, starting tomorrow, I will begin executing every Christian I can find. By hanging them, is that acceptable?— the prince asked, filled with excitement.

—We have a deal then, Your Majesty, King of Denmark and savior of our father Odin— the hooded man said and bowed.

The giant did not bow, so the hooded man discreetly kicked his leg, causing the over two-meter-tall man to also incline.

The men left the cabin, leaving Prince Sweyn alone, enveloped in darkness and cold. Something crossed the prince's mind, and he rushed to the door, opening it to catch up with the two men, but they were gone. They had completely vanished.

—Did I dream it all? Could it be because of the intense cold here?— the young prince wondered, feeling puzzled as the excitement diminished and the cold returned to his body.

—Regardless, I will do what that man asked of me. After all, whether it helps our god Odin or not, eliminating Christians and eradicating their filthy religion from our lands is an unquestionable goal that I also desire— the prince thought as he tried to warm himself by crossing his arms.

Prince Sweyn left the rustic hut and made his way back to his palace in Aarhus.