What manner of men or beast are these soldiers,
Be they supernatural warriors in a mad rage?
We stood near the edge of a cliff,
Somewhere in the north, a far distance
We had travelled across unknown lands,
Our cloaks billowed out from the winds,
Then would flap and slap our legs.
My blood ran cold as I saw a mighty army,
Their boots stomping in rhythm,
Their swords and shields clashing together
As they approached seven huge warriors
Who kept a great distance between each other.
Stance of The Seven was courageous,
Daring and taunting the army to come closer,
Each of them had an enormous barbed club
In one hand, deadly battle axe in the other,
The Seven wore thick furs shoulder to toe,
Fur boots wrapped in leather thongs,
Helmets with horns on massive heads.
The Seven, be they men or beastly bears,
Gnashed their teeth, ready for the battle,
Their maniacal growling carried on the wind,
Reached our ears in blood-curdling sound,
Surely The Seven would die in minutes.
On the bluff across the gorge
Sat a hundred or more warriors,
On their steeds, behind The Seven,
Calmly waiting, their King in front,
His banner carrier aside him.
They be Viking berserkers,
My traveling companion quietly said.
Why does their army not come down
To protect and fight with them?
No need to, my companion replied.
I could not comprehend why
A King and his warriors sent out
The Seven alone,
Just then the berserkers stepped forward,
Raising their clubs as the army attacked.
We watched in awe as the battle raged below,
Each of the Viking berserkers cut off a section
Of soldiers and clubbed them down,
Wildly each berserker fought with fury,
My sight lay on one huge berserker,
My spirit merged with his for an instant.
In a trance-like state of fury he was powerful,
A fierce warrior with grotesque features,
He charged through the enemy lines, cut them down,
All before him fell, all behind him lay dead,
Adrenaline rushed through his boiling blood,
Pain had no affect on him, like a grizzly bear
On full alert he was possessed with animal instincts,
And had no fear of death.
I was on the battle field but a minute,
Feeling the surge of fury in the berserker,
Seeing the fear in his enemies eyes,
I smelled and tasted the flying blood ….
Then I jerked as my spirit returned,
I saw the battle was over,
And The Seven stood victorious,
The field littered with a dead army.
It was then the King ordered his army
To go down and tend to the berserkers,
The Viking berserkers knew not their own army,
They rushed forward to kill more,
The King kept his army backing up,
Till the berserkers regained their senses,
And coming out of their induced fury,
The bloodied Seven fell to the ground.
They were once again mortal men,
Wounded, dazed, near death,
And in serious need of healing
From the sorcerer.
My companion and I hailed the King,
He lifted an arm to acknowledge us.
We were time travelers,
My companion and I,
And he had more history lessons
For me to learn.
We turned and walked into another era.
“I’ll ask of the berserks, you tasters of blood,
Those intrepid heroes, how are they treated,
Those who wade out into battle?
Wolf-skinned they are called. In battle
They bear bloody shields.
Red with blood are their spears when they come to fight.
They form a closed group.
The prince in his wisdom puts trust in such men
Who hack through enemy shields.”
– The poet Thorbiorn described berserkers in his skaldic saga poem in honor of King Harrald
Fairhair who had berserker warriors.
© 2017 Phyllis Doyle Burns