"You just want power... you're insatiable"
"You want to be like me, but you don't know it yet"
"The dark power that runs through your veins is no longer enough"
"You will sacrifice the people you care about the most... like I did. You have no other choice!"
"No, nooo!" cried Dag, waking up with a start.
Asa ran into the bedroom to check what happened.
"Dag, my son! Calm down, it was just a nightmare!" she said, sitting next to him and stroking his sweaty forehead.
Dag took his breath away. That nightmare seemed real.
"I dreamed about Brann... he thought to know what I want, he was trying to get inside my head" he said.
"Shhh, it's all over. It wasn't real. Brann will never stand between you and your destiny. I couldn't sleep tonight, thinking back to our speech. I'm sure you'll know more about your powers and become a strong and valiant warrior, more than you already are" Asa said, consoling Dag.
He got out of bed and together they went to the dining-room.
"Did you find anything interesting in Stein's book?" she continued, as she hung an iron pot on the chimney fire to heat water.
"Yes. I studied the geography of the surrounding regions in Jordstäl. It was like you said, the only way to get from here to Tyven by crossing the FossilWood Forest. But I didn't find much information about that place" Dag said, sitting by the fireplace.
"It's a huge forest. To get there you have to pass the Grey Mountains Chain, of which Mount Torden is a part. From the top of those mountains, the spectacle is supernatural: thousands of towering stone trees almost touch the sky. It is said that the Jotunn transformed those trees, to prevent Thor from hunting them when they kidnapped Freya" Asa said.
Dag listened intently, drawn to the tale.
"It's a dangerous place. Fossil trees are steeped in magic and the forest, it seems, doesn't like humans very much. It seems that it has its own soul, linked to that of the animals that live there. You don't have to stop at that place by accident, once you get into the forest, you must go out the other side, without wasting time" she continued.
"Is it really that dangerous? If it is uninhabited, I don't understand what the dangers are. What kind of animals live in there?" asked Dag.
"The animals that populate the forests are normale ones, but... the magic of the mineralized tree trunks often turns the animals into huge mutant beasts. I've never been there personally, but I remember Brann's tales: he once showed me the head of a wild boar with four eyes and six tusks, saying it walked on two legs, like a minotaur. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes!"
"What?!" replied Dag, bewildered by Asa's response.
"How can a place with such strong magical powers not arouse the curiosity of the most experienced Viking explorers? What if that magic could be used by us humans?" he continued.
"It's unlikely. Years ago, some warriors, on king Einarr's orders, visited the FossilWood Forest... but they never returned to Jernhest" Asa said.
Dag kept thinking there was something hidden in that place. That unresolved question smelled of trouble.
As Asa dipped wild herb leaves into the freshly heated water, Dag walked out the door to see if Karl had arrived.
He took a few steps forward, looking towards the descent that led to the city.
Karl was on his way: he had a shield behind his back and a tomahawk in his hand.
"Wow! You almost look like a real warrior!" chuckled Dag toward him.
"You're not funny" Karl replied, jokingly.
The two went to the back of the farm, the place where Dag used to train with Gridd when he was not yet part of his Clan.
"What weapon will you fight with? I'm just curious" Karl said, trying to guess.
"With these two" Dag replied, raising his hands and clenching his fists.
"Hahaha! Don't be ridiculous! You're going to get hurt!"
"Then you'll be worthy to come with me!"
"Come with you? What are you talking about?" continued Karl, in amazement.
"I'll explain it to you later. First I need to test your fighting skills, then I'll give you my proposal. Maybe" Dag said, winking.
"Then I won't hold back. Be careful, brother".
Dag took a combat position and nodded to Karl, inviting him to fight.
Karl didn't think twice, and after taking out the shield, he charged to Dag.
He faked a tomahawk shot, directed at Dag's neck and kicked him in the legs.
Dag stepped back slightly, dodging the blow in amazement.
Once again, Karl advanced, raising his shield to his opponent and resting the tomahawk on his top.
Dag smiled and tried to attack Karl, faking a kick.
When Karl stepped back, supposing to dodge him, Dag jumped, trying to punch him from above.
Karl promptly managed to raise the shield, which parried Dag's shot.
The fist was so strong that despite the parry, Karl's shield hit his face, causing him to stagger.
Dag stood still, again signaling Karl to attack.
Karl screamed, charging at great speed towards him.
He tried again to attack him with the tomahawk, but this time with a low shot.
Dag moved nimbly to the side, convinced that he could dodge the blow, but it turned out to be another fake move.
Karl lowered the tomahawk, concentrating all the strength of his shoulder on the shield and hitting Dag in the face.
A loud metallic sound echoed through the trees of the woods when the surface of Karl's iron shield hit Dag's cheekbone.
Dag turned sorely and Karl kicked him away.
Soon after, he returned to the same position as before, with the shield raised and the tomahawk resting on it.
"Hahaha! It's amazing! Your progress in just one month is astounding! Your fighting style has improved a lot, my friend" Dag exclaimed, laughing and touching the cut on his face.
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