Sveinn's father's story
Sveinn’s father, Azad, was born in Persia and just like his own father he became a blacksmith there. He had a beautiful wife and two sons and was respected for his fine work and good nature. But one day the Arabs came, seeking to conquer their town just as they have already conquered most of the country. The local people were brave and they loved their land. They stood up all together and fought the conquerors. But the Arabs were too many. Like an unstoppable gigantic tide coming from all sides at the same time, they swallowed the town, mercilessly slaying everyone on their way.
The fate was cruel to Azad – his beloved sons and his wife fell to the hand of the conquerors while his own wounds were not bad enough as to let him follow them in death. The enemies caught him. They would have had him killed if not for his talent for smithery. Having heard of Azad’s skill, the Arab chieftain ordered to heal him and to keep him captive.
Fury and hatred boiled in his heart, and Azad thought to refuse working for the Arabs, so that they would have to kill him. But later, as he was laying in the care of a servant who was looking after his wounds, Azad had a lot of time to mull it over. In his nightmares he was seeing the warriors who had killed his sons and his wife; he was living those horrible moments again and again, pain and helplessness weighing over his soul. And he craved revenge.
And as his body healed, a new plan started forming in his sorrow-stricken mind – a plan that would allow him to avenge not only his own family, but also more innocent people who fell under the swords of the evil conquerors.
Thus, he learned to hide his feelings and thoughts, acting calm, obedient and detached. He returned to his smithy and worked days and nights, crafting a new way of making swords. The Arab chieftain was pleased with Azad’s eagerness and devotion to work; he couldn’t even suspect that the new swords made by the talented blacksmith had a hidden default – the blade that seemed so sharp and resistant, was designed to shatter into pieces if it was to be wielded for longer than half an hour.
In but a couple of weeks, Azad was able to make such swords for half the Arab warriors who were about to start a conquest of yet another town. The chieftain himself was pleased by his zeal.
The night before the planned conquest, Azad decided that his time had finally come. He opened his chains with a key that he managed to make when no one was watching, and sneaked into the darkness. He had neither doubt nor fear, only the burning flame of revenge that strangely cleared his senses and guided him forward. He found the warriors who killed his family and quickly slew one of them. The other one saw him and started fighting back, but Azad’s anger was so powerful, that he overpowered this man too, drawing his sword through the warrior’s heart. That was when he saw the guards coming for him. He turned and ran, the bloody sword in his hand.
He felt as if he was watching somebody else from afar, and his own lack of panic and fear surprised him. It was as if some sort of divine force was guiding him – through a house, he mounted to the rooftop, ran across several roofs and then climbed over the town wall and fell from the other side. He got up and ran farther, away from the town where he had lived all of his life, but where nothing was left for him any longer, away from the dear place that suddenly became hostile and dangerous.
From the top of the town wall the guards screamed and fired arrows at him, and still he ran. One arrow stroke him in the back, but he got up and kept running. He no longer cared where he was going, he was simply running, using all the strength remaining in his body, until finally his legs gave way and he collapsed on the rough dusty ground.
The next thing Azad knew was a horrible, iron-hot pain in his back. He groaned and fell into painful reality. He was not dead, and as he found later, he was no longer prisoner. Travelling merchants found him half-dead near the road and took him with them. They removed the arrow from his back and cleaned the wound with spirits and hot iron, pain from which woke him up.
The merchants were nice folk. They allowed Azad to stay and travel with them, and in exchange, he helped them as much as he could. Of course, he did not reveal them who he really was, but they were not asking too many questions either. His arrow wound did not get infected and little by little turned into an ugly white scar that was occasionally sending jolts of pain through his body, momentarily freezing him in place, as if reminding him of its presence, but otherwise remained dormant.
Several months later, when Azad recovered, he finally learned of the impact his last invention caused: just as the conquerors almost won, their swords unexpectedly started breaking, and the inhabitants of the neighboring town managed to draw them back. Only this small victory was short lived – the Arabs brought even more warriors and seized the control of all the southern territories, including the poor neighboring town.
For two long years Azad traveled with the merchants, until they got far north, to the land of long winters and fjords.
The local people greeted them nicely and invited them to stay for several days.
Azad was tired of traveling, and the ways of life of these northern people were most curious to him. So, when their king told them his people were free to live as they liked as long as they didn’t disturb or harm others, he asked whether he could stay. The king (Torgeir’s father) simply accepted and welcomed him.
So Azad stayed. With some help from the local people whom he paid with money he earned as a merchant, he built himself a house and a smithy at the outskirts of the village. There he settled and worked, making tools for everyday life. People were nice and friendly to him. Little by little, he made a couple of friends and even found a woman to whom his heart somewhat responded. It was not like his love for his first wife, but the woman was kind, calm and balanced, and in addition to her good looks, she was a good cook and she loved working.
They married by the local tradition, and several months later, his wife got pregnant.
It made Azad very happy – he wanted a son more than anything in life. A son, who would be a nice and honorable person, who would make him proud and whose life would mean that his, Azad’s, life was not vain.
The son he wanted so much was born. They called the boy Sveinn. He was fair looking, strong and smart, and the three of them lived as a happy family.
But two years later, Azad’s wife fell ill and died.
Azad was stricken with grief so deep that for several days he couldn’t eat nor drink. Yet the king and Azad’s friends were here for him – the king took Azad and little Sveinn to his own house and his family took care of them as if they were their own, while neighbors and friends organized the funeral and provided them with food, warmth and company for the rest of the winter.
Azad had never forgotten the kindness that the king and the neighbors had showed them, so some years later, when the king’s son Torgeir was proclaimed king, he made him a sword, thing that he hadn’t done for many years then and was not intending to ever repeat.
Sveinn was growing up and his father started teaching him the art of smithery. The boy was smart and talented, and by the time he was twelve-winter-old, he knew almost everything his father knew.
So they lived happily together, working at their smithy.
But the tragedy came unexpected, shattering their simple happiness into pieces. One fine winter evening, the father and the son were working at the smithy as usual. Spring was coming and they wanted to try and make a new plow. After Azad had shown him the Damascus steel of Torgeir’s sword and explained its properties, Sveinn suggested trying this tough and resistant still in farming. They had discussed the idea over and over and decided to make a steel plow with multiple furrows. The steel was melting in the furnace, in the large cauldron they had made for this purpose. Meanwhile, they were getting everything ready for the next step of the process. Excitement and curiosity shimmered in the hot air around them, as they were ready to deliver the world a new invention.
When the steel was ready, together they pulled the cauldron out and seized it by the handles, Sveinn from the right and Azad from the left, to carry it to the form. But just as they lifted the hot heavy cauldron, a very strong and unexpected jolt of pain from his scar shot through Azad’s whole body. With a helpless groan, his hands let go of the handle. The scorching cauldron fell and bumped against the ground, burning Sveinn’s knees. And the angrily shining molten steel rose in a wave and rolled over the edge of the cauldron, splashing on the ground and swallowing in its blazing-hot embrace Azad’s legs form the knee and down. Sveinn reacted quickly, lowering his edge of the cauldron to the ground, but it was too late. The drops of hot steel splashed on his hands, burning them, but he didn’t even notice. All his attention was on his father, whose wild, painful scream pierced the air as he slowly fell down, into the shimmering pool of the unbearably hot molten steel.
His burns were too much to survive. Azad died the next evening on his son’s arms.
Sveinn took his father’s death stoically. Quiet and discrete as he was, he silently cried at night, when no one was there to see, but once the funeral ceremony was over, he locked his now empty house and went to see Torgeir. He asked the young king to join his sailing crew, and despite his young age, Torgeir accepted.
Sveinn became a good sailor and a wise and reliable warrior whose skill with the sword remained unmatched until Hrafn, Torgeir’s son, reached his manhood and learned from Sveinn enough to make them even.
Since that horrible evening, Sveinn has never worked in the smithy again. He avoided all questions and conversations about it, and little by little, people stopped asking, seeing in Sveinn only the warrior that he had become.