Chapter 7 - In the Shadow of War
The two foxes, Skrogger and Raevi, repeated the report of the falcons. Marja and several other captives were being held at Linge. They also reported an even more serious consideration completely unknown to her captors:
Ketel translated from Fox to Norse: “Just beyond Linge rises the Great Troll Mountain under which dwell the Synkasti, the most sinister and vicious tribe of the wicked trolls. It is the mountain over which the Troll Road goes, which some call the “Troll Ladder,” as dangerous a journey as any man has ever made. We dare not alert such a wicked tribe of trolls that we are in the area, and no help can come from Andalsnes or Romsdal if needed. It would mean almost certain death to a small band of men. We cannot ask them to risk it. We can only attack from the fjord or the south shore across the narrow water that separates Eidsdal from Linge. On the other hand, Odd and Sten, your (Ketel’s) are gathering a small force of trolls north of the Geirangerfjord, which leads into the Sunnylyvfjord and then into the Great Fjord. They will be on the march by tomorrow.”
Ketel translated all this communication from the foxes to Ivar in as calm a tone as possible, but Ivar quickly realized the terrible increase in danger to Marja and the rescue team because of Linge’s location—near the foot of the Great Troll Mountain.
First Ivar asked, “How many trolls will Odd and Sten bring?” “At least thirty or forty,” said Ketel, “but if the Elders agree, perhaps 400.” “And how many evil trolls can be brought against Linge,” asked Ivar, who though trying his best to be brave, could not quite hide the uneasiness in his voice. “Thousands,” said, Ketel. “Perhaps as many as ten thousand, if they choose.”
“But Anskar’s warship will meet us at Brattvik, and he has much experience in battle. If we need them, your grandfather Ragnar is already preparing three warships to follow Anskar into the Great Fjord.
Anskar Valdarsson was an old and close friend of Ivar’s grandfather, Ragnar, and had also known Ivar’s father and mother since they were children. “Anskar is close to his god, and Anskar’s god and the Creator are one. Do not despair. The Creator is all-powerful, and he is perfect in goodness and all-wise. Nothing can harm us without his knowing. Nothing ever happens that he does not permit, and whatever he permits, must in the final time only work for our good.”
It was still a long march along the shore of the Romsdalfjord to Brattvik, so there was plenty of time for practicing warfare against men, and if necessary, evil trolls.
Ivar was still a boy not yet fourteen, but like his father before him, he was becoming tall and lanky, slender in face and body, but well muscled and quick. He might make a formidable looking warrior someday, but his test in war would come sooner than his maturity. Yet the boy was already courageous, resourceful, quick-thinking, and had good judgment far beyond his years. And the little horse, Flicka, was all heart, bravery, and loyalty.
Presently, Ivar asked something that had been bothering him lately and for months before he ever met Ketel Flatnose. “Ketel Flatnose,” he asked, “ my father was a good man, but he died at the hands of an evil man.” “My mother and my family have suffered. My grandparents have never ceased grieving. How can the Creator be perfectly good and all-powerful and permit such evil? How can men like Gort Blacktooth prosper if the Creator is both good and all-powerful? Why doesn’t he just put an end to evil and evil people?”
“The Creator knows the way we go, but we do not know his,” responded Ketel. “The Creator is perfectly good and all-powerful, but didn’t I also tell you that he is all-wise. He knows all things past, present, and future, and his reasoning and judgment are perfect wisdom. The reason of men and trolls is not comparable in degree or goodness with the wisdom of the Creator. And you must also know this. It is very important. The reason of men and trolls is twisted by their selfishness and pride. They cannot see truth clearly. They are especially blind to it if it interferes with their selfish desires and distorted sense of pride. Some are so blinded that they come to hate truth and the Creator. Such men and trolls are apt to make perverse gods that are like themselves. Then they can no longer distinguish good and evil.”
“My father believed this, too, and my mother teaches it still,” replied Ivar. “I believe the Creator is good, and all-powerful, and perfectly wise, too, but sometimes it is so hard. Sometimes I am not brave or wise or good. I need a god that cares about me and about my mother and sisters. I need a god who will help me to see truth and do what is right and brave even when I am afraid and terribly sad.”
Ketel replied with only a few sympathetic words: “He is the Truth and the giver of truth, courage, and strength. He cares about you and your family, more than humankind can know, and he will help you. He has called you, and now he wants you to call on him. He is a caring father to all who know him and call on him. There is much more to learn of him, but that is enough for you now.” Ketel also knew now that if he should have sons, he would want them to be like Ivar in mind and spirit.
Ivar had one more urgent question, which he did not delay: “What name shall I address him by? Surely our Creator has a name!”
The Viking ship image for this article is the coat of arms of Saare, an island county in southern Estonia, where two Viking ships were unearthed near the small town of Salme in 2008 and 2010, containing the bodies of 41 Vikings killed in battle. The ships were dated at approximately 750 AD, early in the Viking age. DNA and other evidence indicate the ship, its goods, weapons, and crew came from the Lake Malaren area of Sweden about 20-30 miles west of the present city of Stockholm. The crews were evidently high-status, and many were closely related. The goods and highly decorated weapons on board indicated, they may have been on a diplomatic or important trading mission. Their opponents and the cause of this battle are still a mystery. These Swedish Vikings may have been ambushed in the narrow strait between the island and the mainland. There is a Viking museum in Salme.