Helgi the Brave
by Holly Stacey
Helgi wiped the drool from his chin and frowned. He’d not been told “no” by his father before, and it made him mad. So mad, in fact, his jaw dropped for so long a long drip of drool had dangled down from it.
“What do you mean, ‘NO?’” He hadn’t meant to stamp his feet. He REALLY hadn’t meant to stamp his feet on a sharp bit of stone. Still, he kept his pain to himself. A Viking didn’t show pain. Or mercy. Or hunger, despite the rumbling that was going on in his tummy.
“I mean NO!” his father roared so loud that his left temple throbbed and his helmet rattled.
Helgi was sure his father hadn’t meant to roar out the word NO. Maybe he’d stepped on a sharp stone, too.
“But I want to go with the rest of the Viking warriors.” He pulled out his wooden sword and swished it three times. His father did not look impressed.
“You are too young, and that is that.”
Helgi watched his father go. His huge bulk of hairy muscle, animal skins, and steel slowly got smaller the closer he got to the longboat anchored in the bay.
It was a glorious day for pillaging villages and raiding monasteries. The other Viking children got to go. Sure, they had a bit of stubble on their chin, but Helgi was just a late bloomer. He was sure in the heat of battle, the stubble would sprout up and he’d be a real warrior like his older brothers.
The blue sky and salty air was too much temptation. Helgi looked back at his longhouse, waved a silent goodbye to his mother and baby sister, and crept onto the wooden longboat when his father’s back was turned. He silently smuggled himself in the crook of the ship’s guardian dragon at the bow and pulled a shield over his body.
Before long, the ship began to move. He tipped up and down, bobbing and moving to the side. He wanted to be sick, but he knew REAL Vikings didn’t get sick.
His tummy rumbled, but he ignored that too. Even when he smelt the leftover roast hog his mother had made for his father’s voyage. Real Vikings didn’t get hungry. He’d show his father how brave he really was. Helgi checked his chin for stubble. He frowned and scratched his head. He was sure staving off starvation would have made him more like a stubbly warrior.
Now Helgi was beginning to get thirsty too. His lips felt like they were made of dried calfskin and his tongue was rough and swollen. He was about to tell himself REAL Vikings could handle a bit of thirst, when someone lifted his shield.
“Hey, look everyone, Helgi’s here!” It was his brother Thirsk, looking stubblier than he ought to.
Helgi tried to wave his brother away, but it just brought more Vikings over to investigate. Then his father saw him. Helgi tried to look brave, but his knees were quaking together so loudly, he sounded like rattling chains. But his father didn’t look angry. He looked amused.
“Stowed away, eh, lad? Ah well, we all start like that!” He slapped Helgi on the back of the shoulder whose knees gave way like mush.
The rest of the day Helgi’s brothers showed him how to hold a real sword, how to balance a shield, and how to shoot firebolts from a bow. With the tossing of the sea, it was amazing he didn’t fall overboard. The sword was taller than he was, and the shield was twice as heavy.
“Then you’ve got to wear your helmet and your heavy leather armour.” Thirsk plonked something heavy and dark on Helgi’s head and something smelly over his shoulders.
The longboat heaved upward on a wave, and Helgi toppled over into a fish pie. He was beginning to think being a Viking warrior wasn’t any fun at all.
“C’mon, Helgi, now it’s time to practice with your sword,” his brother said.
Helgi lifted his sword – or he tried to. But as the boat bobbed on the waves, he couldn’t find his balance. His tummy rumbled. The fish pie he’d landed in smelt wonderful before he’d squashed it. He was beginning to miss home.
Someone shouted they were near land, and Helgi dropped his sword and looked over the side of the boat. His heart jumped like a fish – it was home! He could hear his father and brothers laughing, but he didn’t care. He could see his mother standing on the shore, waiting for him. And in her hands was… a steaming pork pie!
As they neared the shore, Helgi took off his heavy helmet, pulled off the stiff leather armour, and almost threw himself over the side. When his feet touched the sharp sand, he smiled and ran to his mother.
“Hello, Helgi, are you hungry after your first Viking adventure?” she asked.
Helgi nodded vigorously and looked hungrily at the pie.
“That’s good,” she said, “because REAL Viking warriors get REALLY HUNGRY.”
But Helgi didn’t care much about what made a real Viking warrior.All he wanted was that tasty pie and to never have to lift a heavy sword for years. He checked his chin for stubble. Thankfully, there was only smooth skin.
1. Why was Helgi mad?
2. What did Helgi ask his father?
3. Was Helgi’s father mad when Thirsk found him on the ship? How did he react?
4. What did Helgi do on the longboat with his brother? Did he think it was fun? Would you?