This weekend, I realized that I needed a myth, an ancient legend, as backstory for a fairly important plot point, and sat down to write one, in the style of all great ancient tales.
It probably needs tweaking, so let me know your thoughts.
The Sorrow of Thrain Stronghand
Even from a young age, the boy called Thrain was strong and courageous, and when he was only ten, he killed a boar which had ravaged his father’s holding and killed two thralls. He went on his first raid the next year, and did well, and the Jarl of his country took him to foster, and so he grew up with the Jarl’s daughter, and was foster-brother to her, and swore himself to her most willingly when she became Jarla after her father died.
Not long after this, a kind of monstrous being, huge and hairy and cunning like a wild beast, which the people called a troll, came into the land and killed many of the folk.
No one could slay the beast, though many had tried, and they lived in desperate fear now, even the Jarla, for she had witnessed this troll and its might, and was unable to best it. But Thrain was not dismayed, and he knew that the thing must be killed. He took up his father’s spear, which was called Bright Spark, and he went out into the country where the troll had last been seen, and there a great contest of arms took place wherein Thrain was indeed nearly bested by this powerful thing, and the shaft of Bright Spark was broken.
But as the shaft broke, he managed to move out a little ways and then pretended to drop to the ground as if dead.
The troll, thinking he had slain another warrior, rushed upon him, intent on devouring him. But Thrain rose up then and stabbed him with the iron spearhead of Bright Spark, punching up right through the troll’s eye, and he slew him.
And so they called him Thrain Stronghand, because to those who saw this mighty deed, it seemed as if Thrain had hit the troll only with his fist, and killed him thus with one blow of his hand.
No one could match Thrain, not on the field for skill and courage, not in a Council for wisdom, and not in a meadhall for comradeship or hall joys.
But the Jarla began to see that all her people looked to Thrain first for guidance and for leadership in many things, and although Thrain served her most loyally, she became jealous, and fretful that she was not first in the hearts of her people.
Now the Jarla was betrothed to another great Jarl, and the time was coming that preparations for the marriage should be made, and she sent for Thrain to carry the marriage gifts to her husband-to-be’s hall and make certain everything was ready for the day to come. But secretly she went to four men who were visiting her hall from another country, and taking them aside she gave them rings, with promises of more riches if they would lie in wait for Thrain in a wooded place, as he was returning to her hall, and they agreed to set upon him there and kill him.
She had not properly reckoned what a fine warrior Thrain was, or perhaps she chose the men ill, for although Thrain was wounded in the battle that befell, he killed them all. And he saw on the hand of one of them a ring he knew, for he had seen it often on his Jarla’s hand for many years, and he knew he had been betrayed most cruelly by one he had loved as a sister and foster-kin.
He strode therefore into her hall and spoke of what he knew, and although she said not a word in response, her face told all there that she was not innocent of this thing. Then Thrain said the words that any warrior may say, if their chieftain betrays them, and he broke with his Jarla, then, and many were the warriors who were angry on his behalf, and they followed Thrain, when he went away into his own country, and made fast the walls around his hall.
For two years, then, the war-band of the Jarla and the war-band of Thrain were in conflict whenever they met, and there was a great blood-feud between them. This grieved the land, for the crops went unharvested one year, and they went unsown the next, and the people suffered.
Then one day the Jarla, knowing Thrain was away, visiting his kin to the south, sent a message to Thrain’s wife, saying “This war between us does none of us good. Come, let us two make a peace: I will give you recompense for the wrong I did your husband, and the people will be contented.”
Thrain’s wife did not trust the Jarla, but she allowed herself to be persuaded, because she was concerned for the people, who were starving.
And so the Jarla came and was welcomed into the hall. She said all that was right and proper, and the gifts she brought were marvellous and fine, and it seemed to everyone that all would now be well.
But in the night, the Jarla and her warriors set upon the folk as they lay sleeping and began a great slaughter, and they killed Thrain’s wife, and his little son, who was only one year old.
And when Thrain received the news, it was as if a great cloud descended on him, and indeed Skeid of the Battles sent a great madness on him and lent him even more strength and Thrain led his war-band out and they slew everyone in the Jarla’s country, sparing no one, no farmer nor smith nor lowly thrall, in their anger.
And when they came to the Jarla’s own hall, the hall where once Thrain had been the chiefest warrior and had given counsel wise and fair, they threw themselves against the great doors and smashed them, and they took and slew everyone there, and the Jarla last of all, and they burnt the buildings down to the ground, and the crops in the fields, and they slew every cow and any other animals they could find.
The warriors were exhausted and spent when this was done, and they were in some measure contented, for they felt they had avenged the wrongs done to them, and they laid down to rest.
But in the morning, they found their leader gone. There was no trace of Thrain to be found, nor was there ever any word of him again.
It is said that Skeid, seeing that not even the mighty slaughter had assuaged Thrain’s rage and sorrow, took pity on him, and gathered him up in a godly cloak, and rested him in a sleep of forgetfulness, but that he did not die, because the god said he might have need of such a one some time again.