Ivar awoke by the first sunlight of dawn. The white rays were watery and cold, like the temperature in the dungeon. Frost had slowly allowed itself to enter the castle’s walls and inched inside, ridding Ivar’s prison cell of the last bits of warmth.
Ivar did not recall if he slept or lost consciousness due to the cold. He guessed the latter, as the bitter cold had chilled his fingers into useless numbness and crept further down into his body. It spread painfully from his toes into his feet robbing his skin of all color.
“Maybe”, he thought, “this is not the worst day to die”; he honestly didn’t believe he’d survive the winter.
The cold of night had robbed him of strength, but not of spirit. He would not fight his death but he’d do everything in his power to keep his jaws locked and mouth shut. He’d undergo whatever punishment those Christians thought proper for his crime and die with dignity.
A gust of frigid wind wrapped around him like a shawl woven by ice itself. His teeth chattered as he tried to warm his body by rocking back and forth.
Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. He began to lose his sense of time. Back and forth, back and forth. Hunger gnawed a hole in his stomach. Back and forth, back and forth.
The dead rat slowly but steadily became a reasonable meal. Back and forth, back and forth.
Ivar glanced up to the barred window. It was Piglet; in order for her to peek into Ivar’s prison cell she had to lay her head on the ground.
“Piglet?” Ivar crawled underneath the window and stared up, squinting his eyes. The young woman above reached back for a moment and managed to shove her arm through the bars.
A polished, red apple dropped into Ivar’s lap.
“Ivar…” her voice was brittle and soft; she reached further down into the cell as a desperate attempt for a last connection.
It was impossible. Even if Ivar had been able to stand, the walls were too high.
“I guess this is it then Piglet, we had a good run,” Ivar spoke toneless, watching her hand reach and wave, “we were a proper match you and I. It’s a shame you believe in a false God…” and that was where he stopped himself from becoming sentimental. Because both of them were aware they would never see each other again, there was no reason to voice the truth.
“A shame,” he ended and shut out all of her weeping. For a while, her arm remained reaching and waving, but as Ivar remained silent, Piglet eventually gave up and left.
He’d never know if she’d spoken any last words of goodbye for him, because he blocked everything out, all while eating her apple. Even the core, because he did not want her to get in trouble and he could use all the strength given.
Overnight the lessers of the castle had placed a beech wooden pole in the centre near the well. It wouldn’t be the only silent witness of Ivar’s punishment. The rest of the bystanders were already buzzing and whispering about what was to come.
The Giant hadn’t been pleased with Ivar’s forehead statement and had wiped off the Runen R with spit and his sleeve.
The cobblestones bruised his knees as Ivar was shoved, poked, and kicked in order to get into the centre.
The three rulers and the fair maiden had taken place nearest the pole, seated on wooden chairs. Their place had the best view for the spectacle, although Lambertus and his wife, Haedwien, did not look pleased with being present. The fair maiden had her hand pressed against her mouth, cheeks pale and on the verge of getting sick.
And Ludolf, sat sunken on his seat, bored and maybe even a bit embarrassed. For it was due to his “wound” that the slave had to suffer and be an example for the rest. The bystanders were on foot, nudging and pulling to get to the front row.
For some reason Ivar was pleased to see the Christians fight for the best spot, at least those soulless bastards had some sense of bloodlust. Maybe they were more Viking then they’d like to admit.
Ivar was forced on his knees, facing the pole. His arms were stretched far above his head and tied to the beech wood. A knife was dragged jaggedly through his humble tunic, tearing the fabric open, baring his back, shoulders and neck completely.
“Will they Bloodeagle me?” Ivar wondered stunned, as he pressed his cheek against the wood in an attempt to pick up everything that was happening behind him. But his arms were tied too high, leaving his face and most of his upper body pressed against the pole, minimizing his mobility.
The Giant spoke some biblical nonsense; Ivar concluded from the Giant’s tone. Ivar’s assumption was completely confirmed when he heard the book slam shut.
The first lash came completely unexpected and Ivar broke his solemn rule—to keep his mouth shut. A pain plagued hiss managed to escape through his teeth. The second lash managed to hit the exact same position as the first and cut through Ivar’s skin. A tortuously slow pattern emerged, one of two lashes and then a moment of ease. Ivar later learned that moment of pause wasn’t for him, no, it was for the Giant, so his arm would not tire.
The lashes seemed to rip Ivar open to the marrow, like rigged daggers the leather dug deeper and deeper into his skin. Time did not matter anymore; all that remained was the rhythm of the lashes.
A scream from deep within forced its way from Ivar’s mouth, it was not one of fright, but one formed entirely of anger that unleashed itself like a demon. It took two more lashes to silence him, fists clenching and teeth locking up all of his remaining sound. Now that his anger escaped him, there was only despair.
Ivar lost count after fifteen, his ears were ringing and he could no longer see clearly. His mind seemed afloat; his body a vacant, aching shell. There was a low indistinct sound, almost animalistic. It took him a moment to realize those where his own hoarse moans.
The cobblestones wore more and more spatters of Ivar’s blood. It did not take many more lashes for his battered skin to peel loose, falling down at his knees like bloody autumn leaves.
A deep, raspy caw called down to him. Ivar’s eyes were able to focus enough on the top of the pole to see the black silhouette of a raven, contrasting against the milky white sky.
“Father—“ Ivar watched the bird as his front teeth scraped over the beech wood.
The raven cawed again, its beady eyes mercilessly taking in the scene beneath it. With wings black as tar, it gracefully landed near Ivar’s knees. Ravens were known for their curiosity, but even they knew their limits. It wasn’t common for birds to come so near such a large crowd of humans. But the raven did not show any hesitation and pecked at the remains of Ivar’s skin. It peeked up again, taking a piece of Ivar before lifting off, heading off into the milky white sky.
Ivar inhaled a sharp breath as the leather tore at his skin again, but this time he felt elevated.
“You can beat every inch of my body,” he whispered hoarsely, “but you cannot kill me. Not today, because I am Ivar the Boneless, son of Ragnar Lothbrok, and I have my father’s blessings.”
His eyes rolled back as his body was close to giving in to the immense pain scorching his entire back. The crowd had grown silent; most faces contorted with plagued expressions. The fair maiden had fled the scene. Ludolf’s lips were twisted into a satisfied, lopsided and sadistic smile.
Pain prevails over every emotion. It conquers lust, hunger, envy, hatred. Pain can divide brothers by blood; it can drive wise men mad.
To triumph over pain, you need to be extraordinary—near Godly.
In between the last few lashes, Ivar had an epiphany: he could not die before he’d fulfilled his destiny. And, although he did not know what lay in his future, he wholeheartedly believed the Gods had laid out an exceptional path for him. It became quite clear; he had beat death too many times to simply die by the hands of a Christian commoner.
Maybe he deserved this punishment, for he’d questioned the Gods too many times and cursed them for turning him from a cripple prince into a slave. His mother had been a Vülva, able to see the past, present and future. But interpreting the will of the Gods was hard, maybe she’d seen his death wrong and had it merely been a rebirth.
He’d been resurrected from death, by his father, time after time. So for today, Hellheim and Valhalla had to wait for his arrival, for he had his destiny to fulfill.
In the bible Moses’ Law referred to flagellation; the law itself meant forty lashes less one; thirty-nine lashes. The term was meant as a biblical one, in that 40 lashes were determined enough to kill a man, according to the Old Testament and thus 39 lashes was the most you give a man without declaring a penalty of death.
Today the crippled slave of de Haar survived forty.
A/N: I’m not going to lie, I’ve been so impatient to write this chapter. At the start, I only had a few guidelines: hurt, massive hurt and excruciating hurt. But then I figured I had to keep Ivar’s spirit intact in order for him to survive. So yes, once again Ragnar in the form of a Raven reappeared. As I’ve mentioned before, you can see this every way you like, spiritual, emotional. Is it just a young man in desperate need of comfort, or is there truly a link between Midgard and Valhalla? Pick whatever you please. And in case you wonder, I’ve made up Ivar’s entire path towards his destiny like the moment I started writing this story. In my head, it’s all written out, wrapped into a trilogy. Now just the time to drabble it all out.
The 40 minus 1 is a true thing btw, I’ve done some (too much) research, it’s believed that Jesus received 39 whippings and since I’ve thrown Christianity into the mix I figured I might as well add some information as well.
So that was it for today, I hope you enjoyed this chapter, or sat there cringing in your chair, either way I’ve done my job well.
The kickass beta: @Sarahh-Jane
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