The vikings march through the forest on the island that it said to contain a weapon left behind by the Gods, a weapon of powerful magic. They soon reach a clearing in the forest, where the treeline wraps around an open dirt field in the shape of a perfect circle. At the other end of this clearing sits a small hut. Outside the hut stands an old man with his right hand behind his back and the other holding a simple wooden staff to his left. The old man appears unassuming and frail in his crudely fashioned fur garments, hunched forward with an unkempt grey beard that reaches down to his belly. The king commands a few of his men to go fetch him so as to see if he can tell them where the weapon is. The men make their way to the old man; but just as they come within several feet of him, he twists the staff into the dirt and the ground beneath their feet turns into a bog that swallows them whole. Everyone else watches as they struggle to climb out onto solid ground and all but one fails, as he manges to reach it with his left hand gripping the soil as everything else has been submerged. Before he has a chance to pull himself out though, the old man then twists the staff the other way; and turns the bog back into solid ground, burying them alive. That left hand, that is still sticking out of the ground, is the only thing left to show that this ever happened. The king calls for archers to fire a volley at the old man, that has not moved from where he is standing. The archers move up and the volley is launched, sending dozens of arrows at the area where the old man is standing. The old man does not move to cover, he stares down the arrows as he takes in a deep breath that lasts until the arrows begin to come down from the sky. He releases a strong gust of wind as he exhales all the air that he has taken in. The force of the wind diverts the arrows in its path off to the side; and all of them miss the old man, landing everywhere else around him. The king, in his frustration, divides his army and sends both halves around the clearing, just within the forest so as to avoid being swallowed by the earth by staying near the trees. The plan seems to work as the king watches the army make their way around the clearing while he stays where he is, placing them right behind the old man once they meet on the other side. Once both halves are about half way there, as far from each other as possible, the old man raises the staff and flips it to knock the top of it into the ground. The knock seems soft but emits a thunderous boom. A rumbling can soon be heard getting louder from all around, as both halves of the army behold what seems like every animal on this island descending upon them. The animals all move as one, those that are predators ignoring those that would otherwise be their prey, as they charge into the army. Stags break through whatever shield walls the men manage to form, with wolves lunging to strike high for the men’s throats as boars ram their tusks into whatever they can reach as they push their way through. Bears tear through one man after another, while snakes and insects strike everyone else to keep them busy until something larger can finish them. Some men try to run away, out of the forest and into the clearing; but the old man has twisted the staff into the ground once more, turning the ground just outside the forest into another bog that swallows those who flee. The king watches as his army is destroyed before his very eyes. When the last of the army perishes, the king’s fear over what he has witnessed turns into blind rage; and he charges at the old man on his own, his shield in front with his sword raised to strike. The old man does nothing to stop the king from advancing, letting him come within striking distance as he brings his sword down towards the old man’s head. The old man knocks the sword with the top of the staff, shattering the blade; and slams the open palm of his right hand into the wooden shield, shattering it into splinters while also knocking the king back several yards before crashing into the ground. The king fails to get to his feet, with the pain from several fractured and broken ribs making it hard to move. The king looks up to see that the old man has finally left where he was standing, as he now towers over the king that is pinned on his back. The old man speaks for the first time, asking a question. “Those who died today, are they meant to be an offense or are they an offering?” The king is confused until the old man speaks again while holding out the staff where the king can grab it. “If they are tribute in exchange for this, then declare them to me and it shall be yours.” The king grabs the staff without hesitation. “I offer the lives of those who followed and died for me today as my tribute to you.” The old man smiles as he releases his grasp on the staff, allowing the king to take possession of it. The king no longer feels the pain anymore and gets to his feet. He feels his face, not finding any scars from the wood or iron of the shattered sword and shield. He sees the old man is making his way slowly towards the treeline; and he twists the staff into the ground to bury the old man in a bog, but nothing happens when he does it. The king twists the staff back and forth into the ground until he hears a laugh from the old man. “That staff is magical indeed. In the hands of a God it will augment their power; but at a cost of being cursed to never leave this clearing, a curse that only a profound sacrifice of life can break. In the hands of a common man, there is no power to augment and the curse is all it has to offer. I thank you for the sacrifice you and your men have made here today, for freeing me from Odin’s deception. I shall remember you all fondly and songs will be sung in your honor.” The old man disappears past the treeline as the king charges after him, but as soon as he reaches the edge of the forest he is propelled back to the center of the clearing. He tries again and again to break through but it ends the same way each time. The king soon realizes he is going to die here and falls into despair as he does nothing for days, only waits for starvation to take him; but it never comes, nor does he ever feel the pain of hunger. He picks up a shard of iron from his broken sword and tries to end it out of desperation, but no matter where he drags the sharp edge across his body it will not cut him. The king can no longer deny that this curse defies even death, as he crawls into the hut to wait for the day when another fool can come to take the place of this one.