Murder / Overwheming Evidence
King Guthrum was so impressed by King Arnulf and his Jutlanders that he allowed the king of Viborg the honor of conquering the rest of Mercia, while he, Halfdan, and to a much lesser extent King Eymundr began to make plans to head south against Wessex. After Guthrum had placed the puppet leader Ceowulf II upon the throne in Mercia, and with the capture of the fortress towns of Wareham and Exeter, the king of the Danelaw decided to rest his army, and make peace with King Alfred.
King Arnulf grew weary of the monotony of daily camp life, and began to long for his homeland. He had promised to come and help King Guthrum subdue the Mercian kingdom, and with that accomplished, he decided that it was time to leave. This decision was made easier when King Eymundr of Vestfold also announced that he was returning to Norway. With the arrival of reinforcements in the form of what was called ' The Summer Army ' led by Bagsecg, Arnulf decided that the very next morning he would inform King Guthrum of his departure.
King Arnulf awoke to the sounds of drizzle hitting the roof of the hut he used as his headquarters. As he lay contemplating the words he would use to tell King Guthrum, a man he both admired, and saw as a father figure, he suddenly became aware of a commotion on the other side of the camp.
Arnulf quickly dressed, strapped on his sword, and ran out to the courtyard. In the distance, near the longhouse in which King Guthrum held court, there were many warriors gathered around in a circle. And they all seemed to be looking at something, or someone, who was lying on the ground.
King Arnulf arrived just as King Guthrum emerged from his longhouse. Both kings quickly and forcefully pushed their way into the center of the circle to see what all the fuss was about. When they reached the open area at the center both men stopped for a moment and stared down at the ground in stunned silence. Neither could believe their eyes ! Lying on the ground was the bloodied and lifeless body of Ofaeti, the commander of the Berserkers.
King Guthrum fell to his knees and placed his hand over the Berserker's heart hoping, beyond hope, that there still might be a spark of life left in his commander. There was, of course, none. Guthrum's eyes lit up like a torch as he pointed at those gathered around in the circle.
" Did anyone see how this happened ! " he shouted.
When no one answered, the king jumped up and pointed slowly to each and every one of them in turn.
" Surely one of you saw who killed my commander ! ? " he screamed angrily.
After a moment of dead silence a man weaved his way through the crowd and stood before the king of the Danelaw.
" I saw what happened my Lord ! But you must promise to protect me once I tell you the truth ! " he told the king.
King Guthrum grabbed the man around the collar and lifted him off of the ground.
" I will kill you myself if you do not tell me ! " Guthrum shouted in the man's face before dropping him back on the ground .
Terrified, the man stepped back and pointed at Arnulf.
" Just before dawn I had to pee. As I came around the corner I saw King Arnulf stabbing Ofaeti over and over again ! " he told Guthrum timidly.
King Guthrum drew his knife and placed it up against the warrior's throat.
" Before I kill you for lying tell me your name ? " the king demanded.
The warrior gulped and took a long breath before answering.
" My name is Romundr, my Lord ! And I swear,... by Odin's beard I swear, ... it was King Arnulf who I saw killing Ofaeti ! " he replied.
Sigbjorn, one of King Guthrum's guards who had just entered the circle, heard the charge levied against the King of Viborg, and quickly grabbed hold of him. Guthrum removed his knife from Romundr's throat, and slowly walked over to King Arnulf.
" Why would the man who has fought beside me for two years,... and who saved my life at Hertford, now turn on me and kill my commander ? ! " he asked as much to the accused as to the accuser.
Stunned by the allegation, Arnulf stopped struggling with Sigbjorn for a moment, and answered Guthrum's question.
" I swear to you King Guthrum that I had nothing to do with his murder ! I had no reason to kill Ofaeti, nor would I ever do anything to offend you ! " he assured the Danelaw king.
King Guthrum placed his knife back into his belt and nodded to Sigbjorn.
" Bring him into my hall. We will sort this all out at my court ! " he commanded of his guard.
Romundr tried to scamper away, but King Guthrum grabbed him by the collar, and threw him up against the door to the great hall.
" And if you are lying I will cut out your tongue before I perform the blood - eagle upon you ! " he told the terrified warrior angrily.
- End Chapter 11
- Next : Chapter 12 : Mirror Image
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2017.