A small town is transported to an alien world
As Monday and his small team followed Thongar from the building, he led them towards the center of the village where a large crowd of people had gathered which hastily opened as Thongar neared to let him and the party pass. Within the center of the mass of people a large circle had been painted on the ground using red colored sand or dirt. The giant blond headed Viking was standing on the far side of the circle flexing his muscles like a professional wrestler and throwing insults in Monday's direction. Thongar halted and addressed the gathering then turned to Monday and said something in his incomprehensible language.
"Thongar asks if you know the rules of the battle circle," Heinreich interpreted.
"No," Monday replied, "you know this is my first experience fighting according to their rules."
Thongar instructed Heinreich to explain the rules to Monday, waiting patiently and motioning for the mob to quieten down.
"First of all," Heinreich begin, "there are no rules once you step into the circle. Anything goes. If you step out of the circle once you have entered it you will forfeit the fight and be killed by the men backing Bjorn. He will then receive all your possessions including the members of your team as slaves. He has the right to select whatever weapons he wishes to use as he is the challenging party. If you beat him, you must kill him; otherwise you also forfeit your life. If you kill him according to the rules you are given all his possessions and all the warriors who have made alliances with him must recognize you as their new war lord. Any questions?"
"Yeah," Monday stated, "what if I don't want the idiot's possessions?"
"If you do not accept them it will be a major insult to the family of Bjorn and they will each challenge you to the circle. This circle is a major part of their political structure. Any warrior who wishes to improve his lot in life or his rank among the warriors can challenge another warrior of higher rank at any time he chooses. If he wins he automatically inherits both the other warrior’s possessions and rank. Challenges don't come often though because most of them are aware of their abilities and the abilities of their fellow warriors. This Bjorn is just beneath Thongar in rank and possessions I believe."
"Like I said, a catch-22."
Monday nodded his head to Thongar indicating he was ready to enter the circle. "If I don't get out of this one for some reason," he told General Zanik, "trust in Heinreich here, I have a feeling he's an honest man."
"Don't worry Top," General Zanik replied, "ain't no way that overgrown turnip eater can beat you."
Monday watched as the giant slowly strutted into the circle carrying a broadsword and a dagger in a sheath on his belt. He noticed the man was fast for his size but he appeared to be overconfident, a fact which should work in Monday's favor. Monday had a black belt in several of the martial arts and managed to keep himself in excellent physical shape but he knew one slip or mistake could make the difference between life and death. Thongar handed him a broadsword and knife as he entered the circle to match the weapons carried by Bjorn.
He was well acquainted with the broadsword having belonged to a medieval sporting club and, unlike the action portrayed in the movies; he knew his best chance was to keep from making contact with the Viking's sword and to time his swing during the slight pause during return strokes.
He was immediately attacked by Bjorn who pulled a small dagger from behind his back and threw it rapidly at him. He was unable to avoid the quick missile but managed to twist his body enough to deflect it off his rib cage leaving a small bleeding line. Bjorn rushed in at the same time swinging his broadsword like a baseball bat and yelling a fierce battle cry.
Monday rolled out of the way and threw a hand full of dirt in the giant’s eyes showing that he too could play dirty. For the next half hour of so they parried back and forth, seeking an opening in each other’s defense. Once again Monday caught Bjorn off balance and before Bjorn could fully recover Monday slashed down with all his two handed might, catching Bjorn's sword on the flat side and snapping it in half. With a curse, Bjorn threw the remaining two feet of broadsword at Monday, narrowly missing him, then charged in with his dagger slashing back and forth and quickly closing the distance to gain the advantage with the more maneuverable blade.
Monday had no time to swing the broadsword so he threw it from the circle to prevent Bjorn from retrieving and using it and pulled his own dagger. They circled each other, each looking for an opening in the defense of the other. Monday feinted a swing and threw a vicious karate kick at Bjorn's exposed jaw, hearing the teeth crack as he hit home. Taking advantage of the giant's sudden loss of balance he kicked him again and again, finally sending the man sprawling flat on his back on the hard ground his dagger flying from his grasp.
Monday kicked the dagger from his reach and slashed the Viking's left knee tendons as he tried to rise sending the man back to his stomach on the ground screaming in pain. Bjorn rolled over and slowly got to his feet, supporting himself with one leg and hobbling towards Monday. With another vicious round of kicks and chops he sent the giant back to the ground, this time to stay. He looked over to Heinreich with the obvious question on his face. Heinreich nodded his head signaling that Monday had no choice but to finish the job.
Monday walked over, grabbed a handful of hair, pulled Bjorn's head to one side, and quickly sliced through the thick artery in his neck, sending a fountain of blood gushing into the sandy ground. He stood to an ear shattering roar of cheers and screams from the mob. He was barely winded and knew he could have finished the fight sooner had he taken a few chances.
He walked over to Thongar who had a wide grin on his face as he passed a brimming cup of ale to Monday who drank the green brew then threw the mug to a slave for a refill. Thongar yelled at the crowd for quiet then started to talk in his guttural language, Heinreich quickly interpreting.
"You are from this day forth declared number two leader of the Norse landers," Heinreich stated, trying to keep up with Thongar's quick talking, "replacing the brave Bjorn who's property you now own and who's allegiance you now inherit. Among that property are his wife Daria, three sons and seven daughters, twenty three female slaves, nine male slaves, and six child slaves. You also own all his horses, dogs, cattle, goats, hogs, and sheep, falcon, his mighty long ship, The Thunnar, and all lands and houses which belonged to Bjorn. All debts owed to Bjorn are transferred to you and the six hundred warriors who pledged their honor to Bjorn are now in your service Lord Monday."
"One pretty rich critter for these people," whispered General Zanik. "Hell Top, you went from a Sergeant Major to a General of the Armies and now you're a Lord. What're you gonna be next, King Monday or Emperor Monday?"
"What do I do with my new won fortune," Monday asked Heinreich, "I have no desire to stay here and live in this pigsty."
"It's entirely up to you what you do with it," Heinreich replied, "but I'd be especially careful when it comes to the debts and pledges the six hundred warriors owe you. The slightest mistake and you'll be challenged to the circle again. Bjorn may have been their greatest warrior but when it comes to simple honor even the lowest of them will act before they think."
"Is there one of them I can trust to help me in this matter, someone who won't let the riches and power go to his head?"
"I've been spending a lot of time with a man called Ragnar," stated Heinreich, "if I'm any judge of character he's the man you need."
"Tell this to Thongar and the crowd," Monday stated, giving Heinreich time to get their attention.
"I accept all that once belonged to Bjorn," he yelled, "and I promise to give Bjorn a funeral as befitting a great warrior. I would like to retire to Bjorn's house now so that I may think on these important matters."
The crowd greeted him with another round of cheers and yells while Thongar pointed in the direction to Bjorn's long house. Monday followed him with his team close behind. The long house was exactly like the first one he'd been introduced to, including the stench and filthy conditions. He turned to Heinreich before they had fully entered the house and asked, "Where is the family and slaves of Bjorn?"
"They are here," replied a tall heavy set man standing just outside the long house. He spoke remarkably good English which surprised Monday and his party. "I am called Ragnar," the man continued, "and I also belonged to Bjorn."
"This is the man I spoke of," Heinreich stated, "he was sold into slavery to Bjorn because of his debts. He was once a free and respected warrior."
"Do I have the right to free a man," Monday asked Heinreich?
"He is your property, and according to their law you may do with him as you wish."
"From this moment on Ragnar you are free," Monday told the shocked man. "All your debts are forgiven and you will be overseer of my household in my absence. You have seen the condition of Colonel Heinreich's house; I want this place as clean and spotless as that within two hours’ time. Can you handle that?"
Despite Monday's use of slang, Ragnar fully understood what he wanted and set to it with a burst of energy and a renewed spark of life in his eyes. While the house was being cleaned Monday and his party returned to Heinreich's house.
"I believe we were discussing a possible alliance before the interruption," Monday stated, "are you prepared to join us at our new settlement."
"I would be honored if you accepted us as your allies," Heinreich replied. "Some of my men have taken on wives and most of them are fed up with living like unwashed filthy barbarians. The life of a Viking is nothing like the excitement and grandeur the cinemas portrayed it to be, it's mostly boring, full of slovenly drunks, quick tempered fighters, and an occasional foray against an enemy they're sure they can beat."
"You must understand that our government is unlike any you've dealt with before," Dom spoke up. "For one thing we will not tolerate slavery in any way shape or form, nor will we stand for wife or child abuse, and racism based on creed, race or religion is a no-no."
"We have no welfare system," Chief Kendricks cut in, "anyone who can work does work, or they're thrown out on their butts."
"Our laws are simple ones, made up in simple language so all can understand," Gary Brett stated, "and we have no lawyers. If a person breaks the law they are given quick punishment to meet the crime or they can elect to hit the road."
"Education is mandatory," Chris Brett chimed in, "and no one goes hungry or stays ill because medicine and the doctors are free to all."
"And military training and service is mandatory for those who can hack it," General Zanik said, "and for those who can't they're offered other important jobs like farming or mining or hundreds of others."
"Sounds like you're trying to sell our system to Colonel Doenitz," Monday laughed. "I'm sure he's aware that we are not like the government of either his Third Reich nor our old government of the United States. Question is, do you think your men could live under a system like my friends have so quickly outlined?"
"Most of my men were hand-picked by me," Heinreich replied, "they're not the regular storm troopers turned out by the SS factory. If they were I would not have accepted them. They are for the most part simple German farmers or merchants or cooks, clerks, dock workers, mill workers, and so forth, who were caught up in the fanaticism of Hitler's evil government. Most had to join or risk the firing squad. Those who worshipped the Fuhrer are no longer with us."
"Acceptable," Monday stated, "Now what do we do about these Vikings, will they help us against this potential threat you mentioned?"
"As number two man in their system now you have the right to demand their obedience," Heinreich stated, "and the right to kill anyone who refuses to follow you."
"I'm no Hitler," Monday replied, "There’s got to be a better way of persuading them."
"The only way you're going to do that is to become supreme leader," Heinreich stated, "unless their Gods suddenly appear and tell them to follow everything you say on pain of not being admitted to Valhalla."
Monday grinned at Heinreich with a mischievous look in his eyes. "We might be able to persuade Thongar to see things our way."