Chapter 6 - Weapons, Allies, and Terrible New Enemies
“Have you noticed,” Ivar asked Ketel, “the three falcons that seem to follow us? Are they an omen for good or evil?” “They are better than omens,” said Ketel, “they are friends. They see where Skrogger and Raevi are, and perhaps they have seen Marja and which way her captors are taking her. They also have many friends who inform them.”
At this point, one of the falcons circled low around them and then landed near Ketel. At a signal from Ketel he flew up and perched on Ketel’s outstretched left arm. After some friendly noises from this magnificent great bird, Ketel said, “This is Skyrover, an old and dear friend. With him are his sons, Skywatch and Swiftwing. They now know the way Gort takes and the lay of those parts near the Great Fjord. They and the foxes will guide us there, but we must form a plan of attack and rescue.”
Skyrover then perched on Flicka’s back and made friends with her as he continued his bird noises, which Ketel seemed to understand as if spoken in perfect Troll or Norse. Next the great bird fluttered over to Ivar who offered his hand as a perch and sign of friendship. Ivar was a bit anxious to have such a powerful bird so close but soon overcame his fear and stroked Skyrover on the back of his head.
“Skyrover has seen your hearts and approves of you,” said Ketel. “He and his sons and all his family will be fast friends with you for life.” Then his sons came and showed their trust and friendship by perching in turn on both Flicka and Ivar. “It is good to have such friends,” said Ketel, “for they are wise as well as dedicated, and their talents and abilities are many.” With a bit of celebration, all three falcons, lifted into the air, and rose high in the sky. Skyrover remained overhead, but his sons departed to the southwest.
Flicka whinnied as if eager for battle, but Ivar had an urgent question. “How will we do battle? You have only a knife and a small staff, and I only a dagger that was a gift to my father. I brought my bow, but I have only three arrows.” Ketel did not answer but only reached beneath his cloak, which seemed an inexhaustible supply of tools and provisions, and brought forth a sling. He placed a rounded stone in its pouch, whirled it several times, and let it go. It hit a tree he was aiming at about 50 feet away with a loud whack, leaving a great gash in the tree about the height of a man’s eyes. “Frost Giants have been brought down by a single well-slung stone,” he said.
“We will make you a sling,” said the troll, in what seemed to be the confidence of an experienced warrior. “I will teach you how to use it, and I will help you make more arrows and adjust your bow to its most powerful tension. I have a few pointers on marksmanship with both bow and sling, too. We will also find a staff that can be used as a spear and some method of providing you with a strong shield. And Flicka will make a brave and determined warhorse. We must get busy. We have much to do, and you will have to practice—both you and Flicka. Besides this, another is coming to help us.”
They got very busy indeed, finding the best materials for making weapons and shaping them into veritable works of art. Ketel made Ivar observe and help with everything, though he himself was the main whittler and fashioner of wood. The final touch of accuracy for the arrows was, of course, feathers donated by a group of falcons, kinsmen of Skyrover. Friendly elk and deer donated tips of their antlers to make arrowheads and spear points. Forest animals helped gather stones, and material for slings and bowstrings. Ivar now had a dozen near perfect arrows and a dozen more for practice.
As they continued their journey, they stopped and felled an oak tree, and made two small but thick shields with solid grips—one for Ivar and one for Ketel. Then they fashioned a shield that could be hung on Flicka’s neck to protect her neck and breast. Ivar practiced with sling, bow, and spear. Then riding Flicka, he practiced shooting arrows, slinging stones, and hurling spears from horseback. They practiced from a standstill, a direct charge, moving from left to right, and from right to left. Finally, the rescue team stopped briefly at the inlet southwest of Andalsnes, where Gort’s men had hidden their ship and then departed with Marja as their captive.
Skrogger and Raevi were already waiting there, anxious to report their news. “Gort has twenty men,” they communicated to Ketel, “with swords, shields, helmets, and spears. Five carry bows. There are also four axes. There are perhaps another five men and about twenty women and children at their base camp on the Norddalsfjord, which flows into the Great Fjord. There is another small ship there, too. The place is called Linge and is in a shallow bay with no fortifications except for the large rocks that partially conceal its location. There is one longhouse and six smaller dwellings there in addition to farm buildings with sheep and goats. Some of the women and children are captives.”
Skrogger and Raevi also reported an even more serious consideration. Just beyond Linge rises the Great Troll Mountain, Trollstigen (the Troll ladder), under which dwell the Synkasti, the most sinister and vicious tribe of the wicked trolls, who burn with hatred for all humankind and any allied with them.