In Odin's Name
Warning Rated V for graphic violence.
"Every (villain) is the hero of his own story." John Barth
Kanwulf threw back his head and bellowed to his god as he completed the final slash of his offering. "Odin!" he cried, letting the echo of his prayer sound again and again against the rocky hillsides of this harsh land of the Scots.
Before him were displayed the dying bodies of the farmer and his son… their quivering lungs, while still connected to them, had been turned and displayed outside their bodies… the blood eagle. In this way, their souls were food for the gods as their bodies were food for the ravens. Even here, the power of the gods was potent.
He lifted a jug of their amber uisge to his lips and swallowed it down, wiping his blood-splattered face with his bloody hands. He could taste the blood on his lips along with the fiery brew and together, the tastes reminded him of his other captives… the farmer's wife and the prepubescent daughter with hair as gold as a Viking maid.
After polishing off the bottle he pulled the girl from where she'd lain bound and gagged and ripped off her clothes, ignoring the barbarian screams of her mother. To his surprise, the girl was untouched. That fact alone made him redouble his rape of her. He lustily bit the small developing breasts, suckling them until blood flowed, and then he spread her small legs and rammed into her. She screamed in terror as his thrusts ripped her maidenhead and filled him with lustful delight. By the time he was finally finished with her, she lay whimpering and bleeding, her face swollen with tears and from where he'd backhanded her. He pulled away at the feel of Hubba… his teacher. After all… one of the first things Hubba had taught him was never to turn his back on another of their undying kind… else he would lose his head.
Hubba smirked at his Norse student. He, himself, was from one of the Saxon tribes whose people generally raided along the southern borders of the island of the Britons and Celts. But his people had long ago grown wary of him. He did not die in battle and his body showed no scars or wounds beyond those he'd garnered in childhood and as a young warrior. He did not age. The old women made the sign of Odin's eye when he was about… and so he'd traveled further afield, raiding other lands and taking many heads as he learned what he was. He'd found a student in the Norse warrior who awoke on the shores of this northern clime. At that time, Hubba had not seen another immortal for many years, but he'd had felt the voices of the gods murmuring on the wind, as he'd found this golden-haired young god… bloody but unbeaten on the rocky shoals with the dead members of his raiding party. Their bodies had been left for the ravens and their boat had been burned. But the young one had risen… and Hubba had taken a student and a companion for a time. He'd taught him… but not everything. He was no fool.
"Have you ruined her then?" he asked with a raucous laugh. "What about the mother?"
"Take the old crone. She's too old for child bearing anyway," Kanwulf laughed and slapped the bare rump of the semi-conscious girl. She shuddered and whimpered at his touch. "I shall get a good price for you," he taunted her, "or maybe I shall keep you for my pleasure for a while."
Meanwhile, Hubba ripped the old woman's rough dress off and grimaced when he held her gap-toothed face in one hand. "She's an ugly one!"
She gave no sign that she understood his words, but she understood his actions and spit at him, screaming curses in her gods-infernal tongue. He backhanded her across the mouth, and then leaned forward to bite one sagging dug. He drew blood in both places. When he was ready, he took her standing, holding her to him and bucking into her. When he was finished, he cast her to one side. She lay there a moment and then crawled to her still-whimpering daughter. Not far away, the wheezing of her man reached a ragged climax as he expired. The boy was still wheezing.
"Why do you do that?" Hubba asked. "Rape I understand… but that? Why torture them that way?"
"To honor Odin!" Kanwulf replied as he sat up laughing. "Their dying breath feeds the gods and is the sweetest of all immortal food. The longer it lasts… the more potent they are." He was drunk on spirits, sex, and bloodshed. It had been a successful raid along this backwater hamlet on the northwest coast of the island. The two of them, leading a small but effective force had taken the villagers by surprise and had looted, burned, and murdered with ease. "I wish to give Odin thanks for our victory. We did not lose a single warrior. All are enjoying the spoils of battle this night." He snorted as he could hear his men in the distance, rutting with the female captives, and drinking and carousing with their fellows. All around him, the fires of the burning village licked at the dark sky and the screams of the living rent the silence of night.
Hubba nodded… but still grimaced at the painful breathing of the boy. "Why this method?"
"Do you know nothing Saxon?" Kanwulf spit derisively. "I have met Odin in the flesh. He bid me go forth and slaughter in his name."
Hubba gave no reply; arguing with Kanwulf about religion was usually fruitless. Hubba had lost his religion when he'd become immortal. He saw no need for it. Kanwulf had been the opposite though. Evidently his youthful experience with meeting "Odin" still meant something to the young immortal.
"Odin wanders the northern lands… one-eyed and leaning on a great staff. Frigga his wife is seen with him sometimes, as is the sacred raven." Kanwulf's voice described the god reverently. "I was a boy when I saw him and gave him obeisance. His eye glittered as he stared at me… it pulsed as if throbbing from the force of his vision. 'You will be a pillager of lands,' he told me. 'Generations will know your name!' I knelt before him, dropping my load of firewood. 'I have no weapon.' He laughed and told me to go back to the edge of the great woods where the woodcutter dwelt and that I would find a weapon." Kanwulf laughed at the memory and held up the great double-bladed axe. "Forged by the gods it was and will be ever at my side."
Hubba wanted to tell him it was likely just a woodcutter's axe… but maybe it was more than that. It looked a great deal like the war axes of his people. Had one of them found his way into northern lands and died… leaving behind the axe? "Ja… forged by the gods… Thor's great hammer… a war-axe made of marvelous metal… Ragnor… the blood-stealer." He spit to one side derisively and lifted the jug of uisge to his lips. "And I bear the sword of Arturus Rex… scourge of the Saxons… dead by the hand of one of his own people."
Kanwulf's lip curled in a sneer. "You belittle the gods?"
Hubba shook his head. "I belittle that you still insist on believing this foolishness. We are immortal Kanwulf. We are real. The gods are stories told to children to explain who and what we are."
The larger warrior rose to his feet, his face lit by the firelight of the burning hovel. He screamed as if to the heavens. "Odin!"
Surprisingly, the storm that had been rumbling in the distance broke over them with a great crash of lightning. Hubba flinched. There were times when he half-believed Kanwulf's claims. Perhaps there was still a bit of superstition left in Hubba's aged soul.
Kanwulf turned with his arms outspread as the thunder rolled about him. He was Odin's child. He'd known it that day in the woods. He'd spoken of it to the war-chief when he'd come dragging that axe back to the village. Old Wuffa and the others in the war-band had laughed at the stripling boy trying to handle the huge axe, but when Kanwulf had swung the axe in a powerful arc and split Wuffa's head, the others had ceased laughing. They'd added him to the war-band the following season. He'd served his people and his king well since then. He'd moved from warrior to war-band leader until the day they'd run across Celts already waiting for them in ambush. And even then he'd come back. Was there any other doubt that he was Odin's son? Even the elements crashed around him as it to support his claims!
He grinned dangerously at Hubba. "The time has come, I think, for you to worship me as the god's son… or die."
Hubba lowered the jug and grimaced. "It is a good day to die young one. Are you so ready for it?"
Kanwulf lifted the war-axe and stepped closer to his teacher and friend. "I am. You once told me I'd know the day I was ready. I know it now!"
Hubba rose, pulling out the Roman gladius he'd taken from his teacher and with which he'd taken his teacher's power as well as that of several immortals like himself. The boy's power was pitiful… he was as yet untested in immortal combat… but if he thought he was ready… then so be it. Hubba tossed the jug to one side and kicked at the old woman to get her out of his way. In the darkness… her son breathed his last with a gurgle. As far as Hubba was concerned… it was past time for this pretense that they were just raiders was over with. It was time for them to move on and to face other immortals in combat… not the mewling mortals of this god-cursed island.
Blade met axe with a mighty clang. The strong steel of the old gladius held up well to the power of that broad-bladed axe. On his other arm Hubba wore his round oaken shield. He slammed the shield into Kanwulf's face, snapping his student's head back. Blood and teeth went flying. He backed up a moment. "Still think it's a good day to die?"
Kanwulf spit the blood out, his tongue felt the hole in his mouth where the tooth had been and he wondered if it would grow back. After all… any other wounds he'd had since that day he'd died had vanished… leaving him still fair-haired and beautiful to behold… as was the right of a god's son. Hubba was an old fool. Kanwulf had known from the start that he would kill him… that his father Odin had sent Hubba to initiate him into the fellowship of the gods, and that would be accomplished when Kanwulf killed the Saxon and assumed his place.
With both hands on the shaft of his axe, he swung with all his might, glorying as Hubba's shield shattered in the force of the blow. Kanwulf let out a roar as Hubba leaped to one side and sliced downward with the skill of an experienced warrior. In turn Kanwulf pivoted about, swinging the axe like Thor would have swung his mighty hammer. Axe and sword clanged again and then the two jumped back to reset themselves.
Hubba had encouraged his student to learn to use a sword… but Kanwulf had determined that only Odin's great axe was suitable for him. This he would carry in all of his fights… and if one day it failed him, he would journey to Valhalla and kneel before his father. His deeds would be read aloud in the hall of heroes and his life weighed in the balance. Until that day… he would slaughter in Odin's name and sacrifice to his glory.
He roared again as the two immortals attacked, their blows strong enough to break the bones of mere mortals. But for them… those touched by the gods with immortal life and strength… they did no permanent damage. Again and again their weapons clashed until both breathed as harshly as the blood eagle sacrifices ever had. Sweat dripped from their brows and still they fought… their weapons almost too heavy to lift.
Hubba managed a sudden kick of Kanwulf's feet and the younger man went down. His teacher laughed and raised the gladius for the final blow. At that moment, the old woman roared to life… rising like some naked fury or Celtic bean sidhe, she leaped on Hubba and clawed at him… bit his neck… beat at his arm. Distracted, he made short work of her, impaling her without a second thought. He was pulling the gladius out to return to the fight when Kanwulf's axe connected solidly with his chest.
He oomphed out air and tottered for a moment before falling over.
Kanwulf raised his axe to finish off his teacher and then paused. He grinned widely as another thought came to mind. Perhaps what Hubba needed was lesson in the power of religion. Perhaps Kanwulf's father needed another sacrifice. Perhaps Kanwulf just wanted to see what would happen. Swiftly he lifted Hubba and strung him securely to the trees as he'd earlier strung the farmer and his son. Then he crouched behind him and waited. It would do no good to do what he needed to do while Hubba was dead. Where was the glory and sacrifice in that?
The moon had risen to its zenith by the time Hubba's head rose and sucked in a harsh breath. Angrily he tried to twist free.
"What is the ultimate sacrifice to Odin?" Kanwulf whispered in his teacher's ear as he lightly ran his knife along Hubba's back "One that will last the night," Kanwulf cackled… or maybe even through the day."
"No!" Hubba screamed. "Take my head in combat. I yield to you. You must take my head for the quickening."
"I do not do this for my glory… but for Odin's," Kanwulf said in a stern voice. His mouth by this time was a thin white and thoroughly mirthless line in his bloodied face. He sliced away Hubba's garments and leather armor. He then focused on the precise incisions he needed to make… cackling as Hubba screamed just as a mortal screamed when so cut, and shrieked as one by one Kanwulf broke and pulled his ribs out of his friend's back, spreading them so that they resembled an eagle's wings. Eagerly he dipped his hands into his teacher's open back and flayed the lungs free to spread them. Hubba ceased to scream and began to wheeze harshly. His face was pale in the moonlight… his eyes wide in pain, but he had no air for screaming any longer.
Kanwulf grabbed another jug of uisge and settled by the fire to watch what happened. Hubba's back healed… with the lungs still outside. While Kanwulf watched and listened to his teacher's tortured breathing, he took the girl again to pass the time. In the end… he broke her neck from his enthusiastic taking of her… but he was greatly excited. It mattered little. There were more girls in the god-cursed land… maybe even one with flaxen hair.
Hubba was still breathing when dawn came. Kanwulf's men were ready to move on. They had finished loading the livestock and slaves onto the ship. They murmured amongst themselves as they watched Hubba's protracted torture. Finally Kanwulf knew it was time to go. He raised the axe. "When you get to Valhalla my friend, tell my father that I, Kanwulf, have sent you there."
"What makes you think there is a Valhalla," wheezed Hubba as he lifted his head and managed to spit at his student.
Kanwulf shrieked Odin's name once more as his axe swung and Hubba's head fell. What happened next he was unprepared for. The lightning returned to the dawn sky, crackling forcefully through the glen. Trees burst into flame; thunder boomed so loudly that Kanwulf flinched at the noise. Then it struck him, sending wave after wave of power through his limbs and scenes of carnage through his mind. Again and again as Hubba's memories flowed into him, he fought battles in far off lands, met other immortals in ritual combat, and felt the power of the quickening back to when time itself began. Kanwulf writhed in the glory as the fire raged over and around him. He was at the center of it and his eyes were opened to a tapestry of history.
In the midst of it, Odin appeared as he had appeared that day when Kanwulf had been a mere stripling. He raised his head, peering out from beneath his wide-brimmed hat with his single eye. He crooked one aged and ageless finger at Kanwulf and called him the butcher of the north. "Long will you pillage and plunder. Long will your name be that which mothers use to chastise their children. Be warned… one comes who will deal you death twice over."
As the fire and lightning died away, so too did Odin's voice. Kanwulf was on his knees, drawing in great gulps of air that smelled of sulfur. Around him, nervous and uncertain were the members of his war-band. He rose to his full stature once more and growled at them. They jumped back… but in their eyes was a fear born of respect.
"Truly," Ovgorod said, "you are as you have often said… Odin's son."
"Is all loaded?" Kanwulf asked brusquely, turning his back on the now headless body of his teacher and friend.
Ovgorod nodded with a bow. "We have much to take home to enrich the king. We will have legends aplenty of our deeds and many toasts will be lifted in our names. Our battles will be added to the sagas told round the hearth fires. The Saxon was not truly one of us. His sacrifice will insure our safe return."
Kanwulf gave him a curt nod and gestured them all to finish their preparations to leave. Only when they were gone did he turn to stare at Hubba's bloodied corpse. "You were wrong my old friend. Glory does not lie in hiding what we are and moving from place to place. It lies in the words of Odin. Here will I remain… coming each season to rape, pillage, and murder the people of this land… to pay them back for daring to kill me… until no man, woman or child will remain. No man will live long enough to kill me twice. With Ragnor 'blood-stealer'…" he gestured with the great axe. "… ever in my right hand I will terrorize this land until my name is a curse and blood flows freely in the rivers and streams. All this I will do in Odin's name until the time I am allowed into his company in Valhalla. There will I sit at his right hand and drink the honeyed mead until Ragnarok… the final battle… the Gathering you spoke of comes… when all our kind shall slaughter one another in glorious combat, and the world will run with blood. The stars themselves will burn out and darkness will cover the world in endless night. All this I will do… in Odin's name!"
He shouted the last to the sky, a serene blue now… strangely calm after so stormy a night and early dawn. The gods were evidently pleased with his sacrifice. There would be fair winds and calm seas for their journey. Satisfied, Kanwulf turned to leap onto his ship and ordered his men to cast off for the waters of home.
NOTE: The Blood Eagle was reportedly a method of torture and execution that is sometimes mentioned in Norse saga literature. It was performed by cutting the ribs of the victim by the spine, breaking the ribs so they resembled blood-stained wings, and pulling the lungs out. Salt was sometimes poured into the wounds. Wikipedia
In 1995, Kanwulf was still performing the blood eagle sacrifice on his victims in the episode Homeland. He had absolutely no sympathy for his victims, nor respect for any culture but his own. It was further mentioned that for nearly twelve hundred years, he'd pillaged Scotland and England. -elle
Kanwulf: aka Kanwulf Odinson
..born: 802 Halfas Fjord, Norway
..cultural affiliation: Viking
..first death: 834
..Circumstances: while raiding an English village
..first teacher: Hubba (no profile or other information available on him)
..1624 chronicle: killed but not beheaded by newly immortal Duncan MacLeod after raiding Glenfinnan and killing the village clan-leader, Ian MacLeod. Duncan buried Kanwulf's weapon in his father's grave.
..death: 1995 Glenfinnan, Scotland
..quickening to: Duncan MacLeod
..weapon: "blood-stealer" Ragnor, an axe supposedly given to Kanwulf by Odin