When I was a boy, I believed my father was Thor.
He stands six foot six inches tall with shock blond hair and ice blue eyes. He had the kind of build only the Marines can make and he had a temper that could frighten the faces on Mount Rushmore. Our family came from Scandanavia. Norway, to be precise. Our family name, Wick, comes from the Norse family name, "Vik." My paternal great-grandfather changed it when he arrived in America because he thought it would sound more American.
Vik. Like "Viking."
When I found that little fact out, I got a copy of The Twilight of the Gods from the school library and read all about Odin and Loki and Thor. They were so different from the Greek Gods I’d been reading about… and yet, they were so similar. It was my first exposure to the idea of "monomyth."
But that’s getting off point…
So, when I read the next assignment–Linnorm Kings, a warrior prince looking for a linnorm to kill–I took a look through the Pathfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting and found "the Linnorm Kings." The subtitle is "Frigid Viking Homeland."
Apparently, the only way to become a king in the Frigid Viking Homeland (the word "frigid" is a Norse word, as well; the Eskimos have lots of words for "snow," we got lots of words for "fucking cold") is to kill a dragon and bring its head through the city gates.
And I thought, "Okay, it’s going to be like that, is it? You wanna play for keeps? I can play for keeps."
Almost every gamer has seen The Thirteenth Warrior (and if you haven’t… what the fuck are you waiting for?!?!?!), and while it is a deeply flawed film, it is also a powerful film. At least, for me. I felt the same way those Scottish guys did who wore kilts to see (an equally flawed but great movie) Braveheart. Walked right into the theater with them. And when the movie was over, one of them stood up and said, "Those are my people!"
Yeah. I felt like that.
My favorite moment–for many reasons–was near the very end when the Arab "diplomat" Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan and his Viking buddies prepare for death. First, Fahadlan says his prayer, and then, the Vikings say theirs. And when that last line is uttered, even now, I feel electricity through my spine. Both of the prayers are beautiful. One is serene. A moment of pure humility. "I will do what you ask." An Eastern prayer. And the other is… not. A Western prayer. Both are below.
Not the meek. Not the faithful. The brave. Fuck yeah.
So, a Viking Prince seeking to make himself a king with the head of a dragon…
Yeah, I could go someplace very familiar with that. But so far, I’ve been trying to do something unexpected with each of my characters. Maybe this was my opportunity to do something familiar. Or… maybe something like this…
I’m a fated man.
In the end, we’re all fated men. Our paths were drawn for us long ago. The Gods know where our footsteps lead.
The name I carry is not my own, but I did not steal it. The man who owned it before me was not using it anymore. He’s dead now. And with the name, I carry his doom.
He was a Prince. We met at the crossroads. He told me his story. Said his land was barren and ruined from the hates that lurked in the northlands. He was returning from the south where he learned the ways of writing and reading and swordplay. He had not seen his lands in many years. The last time he was there, he was a boy. Nobody would know him. He was a strong man. A courageous man. I followed him. I wanted to be part of his doom.
He said his lands were haunted by a witch. He said she charmed a dragon and kept it by her side. He said we would probably die. I laughed. I told him, "Nobody probably dies." He laughed, too. That was the last day he laughed. The next day, he was dead.
But before he died, he gave me his name. Through bloody lips and words, he gave me his seal and told me I had to free his lands from the witch. He gave me his name. And with his name, he gave me his doom.
I carry that doom now. I am traveling to the lands in the north where the witch and her dragon live. With his sword and his name, I will kill the dragon and then I will kill the witch. And then, I will carry their heads into the city and make myself king.
I am carrying his name. It is not mine. And when I meet him in Valhalla, I must return it to him.
He was a good man. A courageous man. I must return his name with the glory it deserves.