His large hand casually resting against the hilt of his great sword Gram, winds whipping the tails of his fur-trimmed coat and the wavy red-gold locks of his hair back, Sigurd looks beyond the dragon’s head bow of his God-blessed ship Grani to the shimmering horizon of the Atlantic. The ocean is his world, a place of endless possibilities and wonders. Across its gleaming swells Sigurd sails in search of honor and glory. His crew is small, for Grani is an extension of Sigurd’s will and needs no hands to control it. At a mere thought of Sigurd’s, the ship’s oars move of their own accord and the sails fill with wind. Grani gravitates to adventure, propelled by the subconscious need in Sigurd for an immortal legacy. All men are fated to die, they know, but a life lived honorably, a life tested by the rigors of combat and arduous adventure, ushers in a fame that can outlast even death. Sigurd the Volsung, son of Sigmund and descendant of Odin himself, seeks such everlasting fame.

The shapeshifting blacksmith Regin numbers among Sigurd’s humble crew. As Sigurd’s guide and tutor, he points the adventurer toward the north, toward the forger’s ancestral home of Greenland, a place of sparse forests and dry tundra wastes, a mysterious land of ancient and forgotten magic. It is also the dwelling place of Regin’s brother Fafnir, a man who favors taking the form of a fierce dragon in order to guard his golden horde. Sigurd aims to slay the beast, but does not yet fully comprehend the manner of foe he has set himself against.

Nor does he know that his battle with Fafnir is but a prelude to the adventures that await him. The words of Sigurd’s uncle still echo in his head: That the tapestry that will form his life will be woven in threads of friendship, betrayal, and love, but he does not yet fully know what such words entail. He does not see in his future the isle surrounded by a wall of fire that no ship dares cross without being wreathed in flames and swallowed up by the infernal waters beneath. He does not yet know of the woman who lies behind those flames: Prideful and wise Brynhild, whose fate is inextricably bound up with Sigurd’s own. So too is he ignorant of the kingdom of the northern reaches that will becomes his home, with its great king to whom he will bow his knee, and the monarch’s worthy daughter Gudrun, who will love the adventurer above all men.

Sigurd knows only one thing for certain: That life is short, and that life’s meaning is defined not by other men, nor by the gods themselves, but by the choices each individual makes for him or herself. To have lived an honorable life, to have the stories of his life forever told from generation to generation, is to have carved out his own worthy meaning.

And so by the time he meets his end, the sailor’s fervent hope is that people would remember Sigurd the Volsung as the greatest of men.

Image Information: Both images are from Pixabay