King Guthrum was confused as to what he should do. How could he take the word of a common warrior over his ally, the King of Viborg, who had fought so well and faithfully these past two years by his side. And yet everyone gathered around Ofaeti's body had heard the charges leveled against King Arnulf, and they would expect him to act upon them. Guthrum was certain that by now the entire army was aware of what had happened. News, especially something as shocking as this, made it's way through an army faster than a deadly disease !
The king of the Danes in Britain asked, then threatened Romundr, each time he questioned him about Ofaeti's murder, but he received the same answer every time. And damned if he didn't seem to be telling the truth !
" My Lord, I am certain it was King Arnulf . Everyone knows him my Lord ! " he repeated over and over.
Then there was the problem of the Viborg army which he knew had also heard of theses charges by now. Lofarr, Arnulf's commander, had come to the hall immediately upon finding out that his king was being held for the murder of Ofaeti. After forcing his way through the guards, Viborg's acting commander demanded that King Arnulf be let go at once,.." or there will be dire consequences for your actions ! " he had threatened.
King Guthrum assured Lofarr that King Arnulf was not to be held against his will, but was merely here as part of the investigation into the death of his commander. When Lofarr refused to leave Guthrum allowed him to stay despite protests from his own commander of the guard, Sigbjorn.
King Arnulf, in his own defense, could offer no sane reason why this man Romundr was accusing him of murder. And he had no alibi.
" King Guthrum, I was asleep in my bed when this murder took place. I woke up only moments before I heard the disturbance in the courtyard. " he told the king of the Danes.
King Guthrum thought long and hard on what he had heard from both Romundr and Arnulf, before rendering a decision. No matter which way he judged the situation it was a tragic disaster for him personally. If he did nothing he would appear to be weak in the eyes of his warriors, and there was the possibility that he could be overthrown as king. At the very least the berserkers might revolt, and attack the Jutlanders, leading to a battle that would damage both armies greatly. After a long, almost painful silence, King Guthrum announced his judgement.
" King Arnulf of Viborg ! You were seen by an eye witness as you killed my commander Ofaeti. The sentence should be death,... but I will, because of your great service to my army, reduce your punishment to twenty lashes of the whip. And then you and your army will be escorted out of my kingdom so that I may be rid of you ! " he commanded.
Lofarr upon hearing the verdict immediately drew his sword to fight for his king, but Arnulf ordered him to put it back in its scabbard.
" Twenty lashes will save countless lives. If I can bear it, than so can you ! " he told his old friend.
Guthrum had Sigbjorn bring Arnulf back to his hut, where the commander of the guards placed two sentries outside to make sure that the king stayed inside, and that his people stayed away. Lofarr did what he was told. He went back to their army, and made them ready to leave in the morning.
The next day dawned with cloudy skies and a light mist falling, as most days seemed to begin in this wretched Isle of Britain. Arnulf was beginning to wonder if it wasn't the weather that chased the Romans out of Britain instead of the Anglo Saxons. As he emerged from his hut, escorted by Sigbjorn and two guards, he thought to himself that this foul weather was actually the perfect backdrop to the sad events that had taken place over the past two days.
King Guthrum had his high - seat brought out into the courtyard, and it was there that he waited nervously for King Arnulf to be escorted to the courtyard. Many of the Danes, and it seemed like all the Norwegians, turned out to watch the flogging. Many of the Norwegians felt that a mere whipping was not a severe enough punishment for the king who had invaded their lands, and killed or captured so many of their folk. They would much rather have seen him tortured to death.
Sigbjorn had Arnulf tied to a cart with his back to the whipper, but with his face towards the king.
" I do not wish to see this warrior suffer, but Ofaeti's spirit demands that I look into his eyes with every strike of the lash. " he had told Sigbjorn.
As everything was made ready King Guthrum was becoming annoyed by how close some of the Norwegians were crowding around his high - seat, and he ordered his guards to push them away. As they did Arnulf looked up at King Guthrum as if to say " Let's get this over with ! " It was then that one of the Norwegians commented how King Arnulf looked exactly like a warrior in their ranks named Vargr .
Just as the instrument of punishment was snapped in the air ready to strike the king of Viborg, King Guthrum jumped up off of his high - seat as though he had sat on a nail !
" STOP !! " he commanded loudly .
King Guthrum stepped down off of his high - seat walked over to the Norwegian and grabbed him by the collar, nearly knocking him to the ground.
" There is someone in your army who looks like the King of Viborg ! " he asked in a state of shock.
The Norwegian looked at the king through terrified eyes.
" Yes, my Lord ! His name is Vargr ! " he answered nervously.
' Sigbjorn ! " the king shouted.
" Yes, my Lord ! " the commander of the guard replied faithfully.
" Gather your guards, and take this man back to the Norwegian camp. With his help bring this man called Vargr, who apparently looks very much like the king of Viborg, to stand before me ! " he commanded.
King Guthrum did not quite know what to do while they waited for Sigbjorn to return. So he did nothing. The king left Arnulf tied to the cart, and sat quietly on his throne while the throng of onlookers murmured quietly among themselves. The consensus among those gathered around the king seemed to be that that this would amount to nothing and that the flogging would begin soon.
A short while later Sigbjorn came back with not one, but two people kicking and screaming in tow. One was apparently the look - a like, but the second warrior was none other than King Eymundr of Vestfold himself.
King Guthrum rose up off of his high - seat and pointed at King Eymundr.
" What is the meaning of this Sigbjorn ? ! " the king demanded to know.
" Sigbjorn, who was holding the king, replied with a little grin on his face.
" It seems, my Lord, that King Eymundr not only knew of this murder, but he was hiding the killer in his own hut as well ! " he explained.
" WHAT !!! " Guthrum shouted.
It was at that moment that the other prisoner raised his head for all to see. A gasp rose up from those gathered around as they all looked upon the face of the mysterious warrior. It was almost too much for them to believe ! For he was the mirror image of King Arnulf !!
- End Chapter 12
- Next : Chapter 13 : Final Judgement
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2017.