From Warrior To King
Arnulf was proud and very honored to be held in such high regard by King Horik II. He was often seen by his peers walking and talking with the king as they discussed strategy, and tactics. Using Arnulf's new way to fight battles the Danes would no longer line up in a shield wall formation and crash head long into their enemies. Now they feinted one way with a part of the army while they outflanked their opponents with the another. With each new victory, and the plunder that often followed, the warriors trusted their new commander more and more. For in Arnulf they had a leader who could bring them riches, while at the same time minimizing their losses.
As time went by King Horik II allowed Arnulf to exert greater and greater control over the army. Many times the king ordered his young commander to lead his warriors into battles that he normally would not have wished to fight because he knew that under Arnulf's direction his army had a very good chance to achieve complete victory, despite difficult circumstances, or long odds. And every time he threw Arnulf into battle, the king emerged victorious, where others surely would have failed.
Those closest to King Horik II became worried over Arnulf's stature in the army and began to warn him that his commander was becoming too powerful, and had too much influence and control over the army.
" My Lord, with such power Arnulf could turn the army against you, usurp your power, and steal the throne from you ! " they often whispered discreetly in his ear.
King Horik II, who was quickly becoming an old man, without a wife or heir to replace him on the high- seat of Viborg, adamantly disagreed with these ambitious warriors who wished to advise him. The king of Viborg refused to see Arnulf as a threat. Instead, he slowly began to see his commander as the next king of Viborg.
" The future of Viborg and Arnulf are inexorably joined, and no one, not even myself, can change the destiny that the Norns have weaved ! " he told those who warned him.
Those who continued to speak out against Arnulf were removed by the king from his court, and in some cases they were also thrown out of the army. In time all opposition disappeared and Arnulf was accepted, albeit reluctantly by some, for what he truly was. Because for all intent and purposes he was Viborg's prince.
To keep Arnulf tied to the king's hall, Arnulf's mother Hildigunnr was offered a yearly stipend to help her with her expenses, and to compensate her for the loss of her husband. Arnulf himself was made to stand next to the king's high seat when he held court over his people so that all could see the importance of his status in the kingdom. Eventually King Horik II had a second high - seat made, which was only slightly lower than his own, to press home the point that Arnulf was his successor.
Arnulf, was a kind and wise man, and not the ruthless killer that his mother thought him to be by the look in his eyes. He did not seek out war, nor did he revel in the glory of battle. To Arnulf war was a necessary evil, whether they were the aggressors, or the defenders. Gold and silver were the fuel that helped to keep the kingdom safe and it's people wealthy, and happy. Through trade they could achieve some of these noble goals, but only by raiding their neighbors in the Frankish, Norwegian, and English Kingdoms, would they ever be able to span the gap that existed between a strong rich kingdom, and a realm that was poor and weak.
When the treasury was low Arnulf assembled the army, launched Viborg's longships, and went seeking plunder on foreign shores. King Horik II, who now considered himself too old for such far reaching endeavors, gave Arnulf his blessing, and allowed his subordinate to take as many men and ships as he felt was necessary to achieve his goals.
Arnulf soon became quite the scourge throughout Southern Norway, as he moved over it's countryside ravaging it like a plague. Everywhere he went the towns and villages, fearing total destruction, began to pay him tribute instead of risking annihilation by opposing the infamous Dane. Arnulf, for his part, was more than happy to take geld from the Norwegians, rather than risk his army in pitched battles. As he swiftly moved from west to east across the tip of Norway he sent back to Viborg many ships heavily weighed down with silver and gold.
The closer Arnulf and his army came to the Swedish lands, however, the more nervous the Swedes became. King Eirik Anundsson, who was watching the situation closely, finally decided that something had to be done about these Danish intruders from Jutland. The Swedish king wanted to send his forces against Arnulf, and expel him from Norway, but his son Prince Bjorn had a better idea.
" Father ! Allow me to take a portion of our army to Jutland. With the greater part of their army raiding in Norway, it will be a simple matter for me to defeat these Danes in Viborg, and teach them a lesson that they shall not soon forget. And once this ' Arnulf ' hears of what we have done he will have to leave Norway and stay at home to protect Viborg from the threat of further attacks. " he told his father with a wicked grin.
King Eirik liked the idea of attacking a weakened enemy whose warriors were away fighting in a foreign land. He also had heard many stories about Arnulf, and his strange ways of attacking in battle, and wanted nothing to do with facing him head on in a long war.
" Yes ! That is a splendid idea ! Destroy their kingdom, steal their wealth, and make them go home to defend their lands ! When they see the devastation that our army has caused upon their kingdom they will think twice about leaving to attack other lands in the future ! " he told his son.
Two months later, while Arnulf was laying siege to the town of Ordost in Ranrike, Prince Bjorn landed fifty ships, and almost two thousand Swedish warriors onto the shores of Jutland. After leaving a contingent of men to guard his ships, the prince marched his men toward Viborg destroying everything in their path.
King Horik II was caught completely off guard. As quickly as he could the king pulled together what remained of his army and marched out to meet the Swedish invaders. The two armies met just five miles outside of Viborg on a level meadow. If Arnulf had been there to advise the king he would have told him to move his smaller army back to more favorable and defensible ground. But the commander of the army was many miles away, and the king, lacking such advice, reverted back to his old form decided to line up and attack the Swedes head on.
The outcome of the battle was never in doubt. King Horik II could not rally his warriors after several initial setbacks, and while trying to retreat to regroup his scattered warriors, he was shot in the neck by an arrow. While slowly drowning in his own blood he gave his final orders to Jafnharr his second in command.
" Retreat ! Save the army ! Then send for Arnulf. He is now your king ! " King Horik II told him before he gasped his last breath.
Jafnharr honored his king's last wishes and pulled back the army into the fortress town of Viborg. He then sent three small bands of his best seamen to sail to Norway to find Arnulf and tell him what had happened to their king, and that he, by the order of King Horik II, was now the ruler of Viborg. He also warned Arnulf that if he did not hurry back his new king would have no kingdom to come back to.
Prince Bjorn had not considered the possibility of a long siege when he planned his attack on Viborg. His plan, from the beginning, was merely to force these Danes out of Eastern Norway, and back to Jutland to defend their homeland. Bjorn reluctantly surrounded the heavily defended city, but he had no desire to waste his valuable warriors in a lost cause. Even if they could force the Danes to surrender the Swedes had no plans to stay and occupy this territory. After long deliberation Bjorn decided that he would lay siege to the town for three months. Should they surrender he would take their gold and silver, and if they held out he would simply take his army back home with what plunder his warriors could obtain from the countryside. The prince felt secure in the knowledge that the Jutlanders could not possibly return in ninety days. Prince Bjorn, however, as with many before him, had underestimated the skill and sheer determination of his opponent King Arnulf.
- End Chapter 5
- Next : Chapter 6 : An Angry King
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2017.