Dance of the Berserkers by Lee D. Olson

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Lee D. Olson
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Book review

It is May 28, 1453 and Constantinople has reached the last day of its existence. Within 24 hours, the 21 year old Ottoman Turk, Sultan Mehmet II will blast through the walls of the city and the Byzantine Empire will cease to exist. Inside the palace, Leif Redbjorn, Captain of a small group of Northmen known as the Varangian Guard prepares his warriors for a final battle. The Varangian Guard has been the Empire’s elite mercenary unit for over 500 years; fiercely loyal to the Emperor even unto death. These remaining few are the last of their kind. The warriors of the Varangian Guard are Northmen; mostly Vikings. Some of these Vikings are known as ‘Berserkers’. In Viking battles, Berserkers were used as shock troops by the Scandinavian Kings to strike terror in the hearts of their enemies. They would consume wine or ale and work themselves into a blood lust rage or ‘Odin Fury’ while dancing around a bonfire. Emperor Constantine VII, The Purple Born, called it a ‘Gothic Dance’. Captain Redbjorn calls his 14 year old son, Erik to his side and gives him an overwhelming task; “I have a great thing I must ask of you. Go to my chamber. Under the chest at the foot of my bed is a stone with a wolf carved into it. Pry it up and you will find a book that has been passed down through the centuries. It holds the secret of the Varangian Guard; one that was carelessly lost by our ancestors and we have been searching in vain to find it again. You must follow my instructions left within.” Soon, Erik Redbjorn will find out for himself what it means to be a Varangian Guard. He will learn why hardened warriors tremble in fear when the drums begin to beat, the bonfire rages into the sky and word spreads that Berserkers are dancing…


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