The Truth Be Told
Arnulf had performed several blood - eagles as leader of the Viborg people, and the thought of having to do another did not concern him at all. What did eat away at his confidence was the fact that he would be torturing to death someone who looked exactly like himself.
" How could someone,... no,.... anyone, look that much like me !? " he kept asking himself over and over.
As dusk, the hour of execution approached, Arnulf could not hold back his curiosity any longer. With Lofarr in tow he went over to the hut where the prisoners were being held. The guards bowed as they opened the door for the king of Viborg, and bowed again as they closed it after he was in.
King Arnulf had barely entered the room when Eymundr began to plead for his life.
" Lofarr ! Gag that fool ! " he commanded.
Lofarr backhanded the former king of Vestfold, then wrapped a cloth around his mouth, and tied it very tightly.
" I think he will be quieter now, my Lord ! " he announced when he was done.
King Arnulf walked over to the corner of the room where Vargr was sitting up against the wall. As he stood over him he looked down into what appeared to be his own face.
" I have come for answers before you are executed. And I want the truth ! " he commanded.
Vargr looked up and laughed.
" And why would I lie ? My life has been forfeited . " he replied.
Arnulf knelt down and looked the warrior named Vargr in the eyes. In them he did not see fear, only the weariness of a man condemned to die.
" Why did you kill Ofaeti ? " Arnulf asked, expecting a reaction.
Vargr did not give him the satisfaction, and remained perfectly calm.
" I killed the commander of the Berserkers because he was planning to kill you. " he told Arnulf.
Arnulf took a deep breath.
" And why would the Berserker commander want to kill me ? " Arnulf asked.
Vargr looked up at Arnulf with a smile of admiration.
" Because you, King Arnulf of Viborg, are a more competent commander, and better warrior than the fierce Berserker could ever be,... and he knew it ! You had become a source of embarrassment to him every time King Guthrum sought your help, and your advice, instead of his. " he explained.
Arnulf looked around the room in deep thought . Suddenly, something crossed his mind that he could not explain.
" If this is true, why would a Norwegian care if I lived or died ? " Arnulf asked.
Vargr laughed bitterly.
" How could I let Ofaeti, or anyone, kill my own brother if I could prevent it ! " he yelled back.
Arnulf was so shocked by what Vargr told him that he fell over while trying to stand up.
" Brother ! How could you be my brother ! ? " he demanded to know as he righted himself.
Vargr took a deep breath before explaining.
" My " mother " was Mabil the servant maiden of our real mother Hildigunnr. She conspired with an old midwife, .... I cannot remember her name,... to steal me from our mother. Mabil, and the midwife, lied to our mother that I had died. She even made a grave for me, then filled it with rocks of course, to convince our mother I really was dead. Then she ran away with my " father" Otkell, who was also a slave on the farmstead, and returned to Vestfold. My " mother ", Mabil, told me all of this on her death bed. " he explained to Arnulf.
King Arnulf nearly jumped when he heard a knock at the door.
" It is time for the execution ! The sun has fallen behind the mountains, my Lord, it is time ! " came the voice from the other side of the door.
Arnulf stepped backward until he hit the wall. It was all far too much for him to process at once. Finally after a very long moment he regained enough of his senses to respond.
" We will be there in a moment ! " he replied.
Then Arnulf turned to Lofarr.
" Place a sack over his head and bring him ! " the king commanded as he pointed to the prisoner.
Lofarr could not hide his shock as he replied :
" Yes,..... my Lord ! "
The Danelaw king had decided not to attend the execution. This was Arnulf's judgement, and Arnulf's revenge. After what he had put the king of Viborg through, by first accusing, and then almost punishing him, it made him realize that Arnulf had earned this right. Besides, the king of the Danelaw would not be a popular figure in the Viborg camp !
King Guthrum smiled as the shrieking cries of a man being tortured with the blood - eagle echoed throughout his camp. With every blood curdling shriek Guthrum felt that Ofaeti's murder had been avenged a little more. The silence that followed told a story all it's own. In this silence Guthrum saluted his old commander with a long drink of ale, and a " skal " as a final tribute.
The next morning King Guthrum awoke to a camp that was in motion. To his dismay the Viborg army had already packed up, and was beginning the long march to the coast. He had hoped that the Jutlanders would stay a little longer, and help with his fight against the Britains in Wessex under King Alfred, but he could not really blame the king of Viborg for leaving so abruptly. Arnulf was a great king, and a skillful commander, and he had been treated miserably here in the Danelaw.
Guthrum quickly dressed and reached the Jutlanders camp just as King Arnulf had mounted his horse.
" Ah, King Guthrum ! I was about to come to your hall to say farewell ! " Arnulf said with a smile when he saw the Danelaw king approaching.
King Guthrum reached up and shook Arnulf's hand.
" Is there nothing I can say or do to make you stay ? " he asked hopefully.
King Arnulf shook his head.
" I am afraid not. I have been away far too long as it is from my kingdom. It is now time for me to return. " he explained.
King Guthrum nodded his head in agreement.
" Then I will miss you my friend ! " he offered.
Arnulf nodded and then waved as he trotted away.
" As will I you King Guthrum ! "
It was then that King Guthrum noticed the body hanging in the trees. As he examined the corpse he thought it strange that Arnulf had decapitated it.
" Why did you take off the Norwegian's head ? " he shouted after the king of Viborg.
Arnulf pulled up his horse and pointed to his own face.
" I did not want my face hanging from a tree like a common criminal ! " he replied with a laugh.
" Indeed ! And what about Eymundr ? " he asked.
Arnulf grinned from ear to ear as he responded :
" He has a grave waiting for him in Viborg ! " he shouted back before waving one last time.
- End Chapter 14
- Next : Chapter 15 : Buried No More !
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2017.