The Murder of Ravens

The Murder of Ravens

A Story by Confidential
"

Haraldur, a troubled young man in 16th-century Iceland, attempts to avenge the murder of the only one with whom he was ever emotionally attached -his mother- by killing the one responsible.

"

The Murder of Ravens

            When Olga Berserkrgangr gave birth to her first and only son on June 13th, 1512, she held him with such care and looked at him with such adoration that no one would have ever suspected that she had just given birth to the most dangerous person in the world. He would be one day, at least. Olga lay back, exhausted, and asked for only one thing after having given birth- to see her husband, Hranduíl. But as fate would have it, the boy's father died on the day of his birth. The only possession Hranduíl left behind for his son, Haraldur, was his own hunting knife. The craftsmanship was exceptional, and the blade was still sharp even after so many years of being used.

            Not two years after Haraldur's birth, and Hranduíl's  death, Olga was no longer able to support herself and her son, having sold away the many treasures Hranduíl had accumulated from years of going on raids. She met a young, powerful warrior, Hrafn. Hrafn was immediately taken by her and she accepted his marriage offer for the sake of her son, but at a dear cost. Although Hrafn was able to provide for Olga and Haraldur, he loved, more than anything else, to drink. And drink. And drink. And when he drank, he became hostile, and frequently attacked Olga. Soon he started to beat her even while sober, and Olga came to resent him. But she had no choice but to endure, for Haraldur's sake. For she knew that without Hrafn, they would soon die. But she feared that because of him, they might die at any moment anyway. And so she lived out her life in fear. Meanwhile, Haraldur grew older. He started walking around with his real father's knife wherever he went from the time he COULD walk. But he always kept it hidden from Hrafn, knowing that his jealousy of Hranduíl would lead him to take the knife away from him, and perhaps even destroy it.

            When he turned five years old, he started exhibiting strange behavior. He stopped talking, and in fact never spoke at all unless spoken to directly, and even then one was lucky to get a single sentence in response. He began to favor being alone, and the only person he really connected with was Olga, and even then something was off. He had a darkness in his heart, he did. Perhaps he was born with it, perhaps not. He developed, very early on, a tendency to want to hurt things, and kill them. Even after they were dead sometimes he would further destroy their bodies-that is, the bodies of small animals, not people.

            But as Haraldur grew older, rats and field mice no longer satisfied his bloodlust. He craved larger prey. One year he went berserk and massacred a whole pen of pigs in the night, sneaking up on them one by one and cutting their throats so they wouldn't squeal and wake up the villagers.  After they were all dead, he proceeded to cut open and fully disembowel the two largest ones. When he was finally satisfied, he went home, cleaned his knife, washed the blood off his clothes and body in the stream, and went to bed, where he had a long, peaceful sleep.

            The other children of the village sensed there was something different about Haraldur, something they didn't like at all. And they feared him, as even some of their parents did. He had a normal enough appearance at first glance, but let your gaze linger on him a moment longer and one could see the striking depth his eyes seemed to have. They were electric blue, and the color almost seemed to swim about in his eyes, as if trying to escape. He had a full head of snow- white hair from birth, and paler skin than normal (normal around Haraldur's home being quite pale already, as it was located in Iceland, far from the equator and anywhere warm).

             The years went on and one day, Hrafn began to physically abuse Haraldur in addition to his mother. And Haraldur had a growing feeling of hatred for his stepfather that swelled inside of him every day. Sometimes it got so bad it almost felt like there was something, some unknown presence in his chest, weighing him down. The only way to relieve it, he found, was to kill. But every time the feeling came back, it came back a little stronger. One winter day, Hrafn awoke with one thing on his mind: kill them. Kill them both. He had no need of Haraldur, as he was getting close to becoming a man, and would therefore serve as competition, and Olga was of no more use to him in her old age.

            And so he planned their murders, and he drank. And he planned and drank. And drank a little more. Then he went to Haraldur. "Boy," he said, drunk as a dog, "go to town today, to Orlock's house. Get us building supplies to fix the storage shed."

"We have enough materials here already, and going to town will take half of the day! By the time I return, the day will be over!" protested Haraldur. Hrafn grunted and slapped Haraldur hard with the back of his hand. "Are you questioning me, boy!?"

            "No." said Haraldur, rubbing his cheek tenderly, resisting the ever growing urge to fight back.

            "No, what?" said Hrafn, raising his hand again.

            "No, father." said Haraldur through gritted teeth.

            "That's right. Now go!"

            No sooner had Haraldur reached the blacksmith, Orlock's house than Hrafn slaughtered Olga like a diseased animal and left her body on the ground, right outside the entrance to  the small but lavish home in which she had lived for 14 years. As the sun made its way across the sky, Hrafn grew tired and impatient of waiting for Haraldur's return, and had only his drink for company. And once all the drink was gone, and Haraldur still had yet to come back, Hrafn, in his state of anger and frustration, left the house and entered the woods, making his way towards the outskirts of the village, where Orlock lived.

            Neither of them knew that they were heading directly to each other, and neither of them knew that only one of them would be alive before the day was out. On his long walk through the woods to town and back, Haraldur had been thinking. Thinking of all the bad times he and his mother had been through. He decided it was best to take her with him and leave. Where, he did not know, nor did he care. Anywhere away from Hrafn was a suitable place to live. He decided he would go that very evening. He would finish the journey home and deliver the building supplies, which he carried in a wool sack slung over his shoulder, now aching from the weight, and once that was done he would take Olga and leave.

            Not long after this decision was made, Haraldur marched through the snow, and met none other than his stepfather, Hrafn himself. He was drunk, that much Haraldur knew right away. Hrafn looked at Haraldur and chuckled stupidly.

            "Hello, boy." he said. "It certainly has been a long time since you left home. What's been taking you all this time, eh?"

            "Did you leave mother by herself, Hrafn? The sun shall be setting shortly; you know that raiders come out after dark," said Haraldur.

Hrafn laughed, almost hysterically. "Do they really? I did not know that!"

            "Hrafn! Did you leave her alone?" said Haraldur sternly.

            "Don't get short with me, boy! I most definitely did leave her alone."

            "What if something happens to her?"

            "What if something already has?"

Haraldur became worried at hearing this, "Of what are you speaking, Hrafn?"

            "Your little w***e mother is dead, boy! I've just come from having done the deed myself!" Hrafn laughed all while saying this.

            For the first time in his life, Haraldur saw his stepfather, drunk, evil, and grinning at him the way he always did right before a beating, and was not afraid. For the first time in his life, he did not run away. Instead, he dropped his sack full of supplies and sprinted towards him, gripped by an uncontrollable feeling of anguish mixed with rage. Haraldur need not stop to think about whether Hrafn's words were true or not, for he knew that they were, and that his mother truly was dead.

            Running forward, Haraldur jumped on Hrafn with such force that he knocked him to the ground. Hrafn let out a loud "Oof!" and simply lay in the snow for a moment while Haraldur hit him repeatedly. Trained warrior as he was though, Hrafn quickly regained his composure, and grabbed Haraldur by the hair, before slamming his forehead viciously against Haraldur's. Shoving his knee into his gut, Hrafn threw Haraldur off of him and stood up. Haraldur, still dazed by the force of the blow he had taken, began to stand up, but lost his balance and toppled over.

            Hrafn approached Haraldur and pulled him up by his tunic, just so that he needn't bend down to strike him again. He cocked back his arm and was about to punch when he felt a sharp pain in his back; Haraldur had stabbed him in the back with his real father's knife- the wound was barely half an inch deep, but it was enough. Hrafn released Haraldur, who fell in a heap into the snow, the knife still in his hand, the tip now covered in Hrafn's blood. Hrafn bent down and rolled Haraldur over so that he lay face-up. He lifted his enormous foot and brought it down with all his might on to Haraldur's nose. Crunch. It broke like a twig, and Hrafn saw a spray of red as it gave way beneath his boot.

            Haraldur did not wait for the next blow, but instead made a fist and punched up as hard as he could in to Hrafn's groin. Hrafn yelled in pain and fell over, and Haraldur crawled to where he had dropped the woolen sack, full of building materials. He grabbed it and stood, walking back over to Hrafn, still writhing around and not even noticing Haraldur coming. Haraldur savored the enjoyment he got out of what he did next. He swung the sack around twice and hit Hrafn in the side of the head with it. The sound of iron files, hammers, and other tools colliding with Hrafn's skull was fantastic. Haraldur started to swing the sack around again to hit Hrafn, now lying on his side, but was not fast enough. The battle-hardened Viking swung his arm around and heel-swept Haraldur. Keeping a hold of Haraldur's leg, Hrafn stood up. Haraldur remembered his knife and quickly recovered it, swinging wildly in front of him, his target barely out of reach.

             Hrafn suddenly reached out and grabbed Haraldur's arm, catching it as he slashed at him. Sliding his grip from Haraldur's forearm to his wrist, Hrafn began to squeeze tremendously hard and Haraldur had no choice but to drop the knife, which Hrafn picked up. Haraldur saw Hrafn examining the knife; even warmongers could apparently appreciate quality craftsmanship.

            "This is a pretty thing," said Hrafn, turning the knife over in his hands. "I think I may just keep it."  Haraldur felt even more rage building inside of him as he watched Hrafn handle the knife, his most prized possession and only connection to his real father. He had no right to touch it. And in addition to just holding it he was talking about keeping it! The thought of this disgusted Haraldur enormously, so much so that he actually grimaced.

            Hrafn went on, "'Tis truly a shame I did not have this but an hour ago. The blade is sharp, thin, and the metal is strong. It would have made killing her many times easier."

"Stop it," said Haraldur, his voice trembling. He winced as he said this; blood continued to pour out of his broken nose profusely. Hrafn kept speaking, "Yes. One good, clean cut to the throat and it would be done. But the knife I used, it was old and dull. I had to slice back and forth, again and again, just to make sure the job was-"

            "SHUT UP!" yelled Haraldur, who promptly got up and ran at Hrafn. Hrafn simply stood in place, and shoved Haraldur to the ground as soon as he was within reach.

            "I never understood what everyone always saw in you," said Hrafn, "ever since you were a child, people would say that you were...different. That there was a darkness in you unlike any they had seen. Grown men and women would be weary around you, become afraid of what you might do. And perhaps they were right, in a way. You always had an unmatched ability to catch anything you wanted to, just so you could kill it. You don't think I remember all the things you used to do to the livestock? The year a dozen hogs were found terribly mutilated? I know that was you. You may not like it, Haraldur, but you're more like me than you know. We both love to kill things. But unlike me, I don't think you'd ever be brave enough to kill another man. You're weak." He spat on Haraldur.

            "So much for the dark, dangerous Haraldur. I do not fear a mere boy like you, no matter what things you've done to different beasts in the past! You'll never be a real man yourself unless you can find the courage to take the life of another. And then another. And another. And people actually believed you to be mad; a madman would have killed me by now. But you? You aren't even putting up as much of a fight as she did!"

                Hrafn laughed heartily at this as if it were a clever joke, and Haraldur lunged forward, this time targeting  Hrafn's leg. Before another word was said, Haraldur  wrapped his hands around the exposed part of Hrafn's calf and sank his teeth into it. And then he bit down, hard. Blood pulsed out, ran down his throat and oozed out the sides of his mouth, trickling down his chin. He removed his teeth and bit down again, harder, on a different spot. Hrafn fell to one knee, whimpering rather than screaming from the pain. Haraldur saw that he had dropped the knife and he began to reach for it. Hrafn grabbed his arm with one hand, and swung his other arm around, hitting Haraldur's jawbone. Haraldur fell over in to the snow. He would not be able to hold up for much longer; a fully trained and battle tested Viking was too great a challenge for him.

                Haraldur's hearing was muffled and distorted, as if he were underwater. His vision was growing steadily worse, dark spots began popping up like lights, first a few, then many. Soon they all joined and became one big black spot which continued to grow and enveloped him in darkness as he blacked out. He came around mere minutes later-but Hrafn was nowhere to be found.  As he became aware of his surroundings and his hearing returned, he heard something in the distance; whimpering. It was definitely coming from a human, too. From him. Haraldur felt the familiar heaviness in his chest that only went away when he was able to satisfy his bloodlust. As a child it was always various animals-rats, mice, livestock. Birds when he could catch them. But he had always wanted to kill a person, though until this moment he never had the courage to do it, no matter how badly his addiction to killing urged him to do so. He saw a set of large tracks leading off somewhere deeper in the woods. The tracks were definitely made by Hrafn's boots. Even if Haraldur didn't know that, he could have easily found who he was looking for by following the trail of blood.

                At last he came within sight of Hrafn, who seemed to be just sitting down on a tree stump in the distance. Haraldur could still hear him whimpering. He crept forward and noticed a brown handle sticking out from beneath a thin layer of snow. Haraldur recognized it as the hilt of his knife. He picked it up and advanced on Hrafn, who, as far as Haraldur could tell, was unaware of his presence. He came ever closer to him, his heart beat slowly getting faster. Hrafn still took no notice of his impending death, even as it snuck up behind him.

                Now within ten feet of his stepfather, Haraldur, more excited now than he had ever been, slowly drew in as much air as his lungs would hold, and, with one last step forward, pounced onto Hrafn's back. Hrafn barely had time to react before Haraldur cut his throat, from one side all the way to the other. One good, clean cut. He felt the warm liquid gushing out over his hands. Hrafn moaned and choked on his blood, "Shh," whispered Haraldur calmly, "You are not the first man I have killed for you are no man. A real man does not steal a dead man's family and terrorize them. You shall defile this land with your presence no longer!"

                The blood kept gushing out rhythmically with Hrafn's slowly declining heartbeat.

Thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump.

Blood poured out steadily.

Thump-thump, thump-thump.

After a moment it began to gush out in inconsistent spurts.

Thump-thump, thump-...

And then, finally, the blood stopped rushing out; Hrafn was dead.

            Haraldur remained kneeling in the pink snow, motionless, and exhaled. Loosening his tight grip on the handle of the knife, he wiped the blade clean on the back of his tunic, and wiped his mouth with his sleeve. He noticed a brand new red streak which quickly faded to dark purple against the brown fabric of his tunic. Feeling around the inside of his mouth with his tongue, he found the place where two of his teeth had been knocked out. He spat, not because he disliked the taste of blood (of which there was plenty) in general, but because he didn't like the way his own blood tasted. Too sweet. He wedged the knife into the front folds of his tunic, as the sheath was now lost. The cold iron felt pleasant against his skin.  Haraldur jumped as a large raven landed a few feet away on a tree branch. It kaw'd several times. Almost immediately, a second raven appeared and landed on a different tree branch. Haraldur looked at Hrafn's dead body with hate, and as one final act of revenge, ripped open the front of his tunic, took out his father's knife, and stabbed Hrafn's corpse in the chest. He sliced and sawed his way down his front, until an 18 inch opening adorned Hrafn's chest. He looked at the pair of ravens. "Enjoy it," he said, looking back at the dead body, "I did."

            By that evening, he had reached home to find a grisly sight. His mother lay dead outside their home, throat cut open. Blood surrounded the front of the house where it all must have happened. Haraldur was unable to control his tears. He stayed long enough to dig a small grave not far from the tiny cottage, in which he carefully laid Olga's body. After saying his final goodbyes and telling her that she had been avenged, Haraldur took all the dried up firewood from storage and piled it inside his lifelong home before setting it ablaze. He left home with his father's knife and a necklace he took from his mother as a way of remembering her. Besides these things, he carried nothing with him but his pride and his bloodied tunic.

             As he walked away from the house, which he could still smell several miles away, he noticed an entire murder of ravens nearby the spot he had left Hrafn. Some circled overhead, many were perched on tree branches, and as Haraldur got closer, he could see at least a dozen more covering the corpse, feeding off of it.     The sound of the raven's crying could be heard for miles around, Haraldur was certain of that. Although it was an unfortunate way to go, Hrafn had gotten better than what he deserved, and Haraldur hadn't the slightest feeling of remorse. He felt better than he ever had in fact, that painful, heavy feeling in his chest had been cut loose-for now. He knew that now he had finally killed another human being and he knew how much more satisfying it was than any animal, he would have to kill another one, the next time the heavy feeling returned.

            He trudged through the snow, straight past the assembly of ravens and never looked back. Haraldur thought about all the times Hrafn had beaten him and his mother, and he thought about how it would never happen again. And he smiled. And as the sun set, and the day came to an end, so too did Hrafn's reign of terror.

 

And so began Haraldur's.


© 2010 Confidential



Author's Note

Confidential
In a novella of mine, the main antagonist is a man who goes by the name of Haraldur, and is the older version of the character of the same name featured in this short story, which is the first few pages of a shorter collection of pieces which shed some light on the events that shape him in to the man he is by the time the events of the novella in which he appears as the main villain take place. Be as harsh as possible in your critiques.


Gratitude,
-Confidential

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Well, very intense descriptions on the fighting scene. I don't know how to pronounce the names that started with an H, but the unique names add to the originality of this piece. I'm really not that much of a reviewer of short stories; I don't write them myself lol. I do know that this story was well written and entertaining! Thanks, and keep up the writing!! :DD

Posted 7 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

Oh my gawdd!
That was great! The plot was so entertaining(: I wish I could write like that! The names was unqiue, which I love! I do wish I could say it.

I truely love it! I might read it again!

--Fallyn

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

I really enjoyed reading this story! Your fight sequence was intense and your descriptions of your characters are simple and flawless. I only noticed a few little grammar mistakes here and there. Your piece read smoothly and it certainly hooks the reader immediately. Great work!

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Dang, this was really really really good. Reminded me of several books/stories i've read in the past combined into one. I liked the detailed descriptions and the names were defeinetly unique. I took german and i couldnt even pronounce them hardly. Fully enjoyed this piece.

Posted 7 Years Ago


Well, very intense descriptions on the fighting scene. I don't know how to pronounce the names that started with an H, but the unique names add to the originality of this piece. I'm really not that much of a reviewer of short stories; I don't write them myself lol. I do know that this story was well written and entertaining! Thanks, and keep up the writing!! :DD

Posted 7 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Added on July 30, 2010
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Confidential
Confidential

Maumelle, AR



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