An Angry King
King Arnulf wasted no time in disengaging his forces from their siege of Ordost, and within less than a month the new king of Viborg was sailing along Jutland's coast looking for where the Swedes had landed their ships. Lofarr questioned his commander as to why he did not simply sail directly to Viborg and destroy the enemy there.
Arnulf's eyes narrowed angrily as he replied :
" They might not want to fight if they think they can escape back to the safety of their homeland. But if we destroy their ships,... well,... then these Swedes will have no choice but to make a stand ! " he explained to his old friend.
Lofarr laughed !
" That is a good plan, my Lord ! For I doubt that the Swedes can swim all the way home ! " he bellowed with a chuckle.
Arnulf frowned at what Lofarr had said.
" My Lord ? " he asked.
Lofarr slapped Arnulf on the shoulder with some force and grinned.
" Well,... you are my king now ! " he replied.
The Jutlanders did not find the Swede ships on the coast, but by following the waterway inland they spotted their camp fires that night near Struer. Knowing well the lay of the land here, Arnulf split his forces between himself and Lofarr and they carefully and quietly surrounded those who guarded the ships. Like a fist crumpling a leaf they quickly crushed the small contingent of men that Prince Bjorn had left behind, making sure that none escaped to warn their fellow Swedes. Then, in an even bolder move, instead of sailing around to Skive, and joining forces with Jafnharr, Arnulf and Lofarr proceeded along the same route to Viborg that the Swedes had followed.
" We will trap them between us and the fortified town, and then crush them as if they were a piece of steel hammered against an anvil ! " he told Lofarr.
Prince Bjorn awoke to another chilly Jutland morning. As he left his hut he saw that the raven flag still flew over the defiant town of Viborg, but the prince still had no intentions of attacking it. Actually he had grown rather comfortable here in the land of the Danes. While his Swedes were enjoying the great bounty of food, drink, and wealth taken from the countryside, the Danes were suffering from hunger and thirst behind their walls. While the confident Prince Bjorn watched the raven flag fluttering in the distance he sat back in his chair and relaxed.
" I will stay her another month enjoying the hospitality of these people, and then I will head back to Sweden. " he whispered to himself before taking a long drink of mead.
The prince was about to put down his empty horn when a messenger came running up to him completely out of breath.
" My Lord ! My Lord !! On the hill behind us ! There is a small band of warriors flying the raven flag in our rear, my Lord. " he blurted out, and then doubled over.
Prince Bjorn jumped up out of his chair, knocking it to the ground, and peered off into the distance. As he squinted his eyes to block the glare of the rising sun the prince spotted on the hill behind his position a small army led by a warrior on horseback carrying a blood red flag with a black raven on it.
" How did these Jutlanders raise a second army so quickly ? " the prince asked to no one in particular.
Without ever considering the possibility that this might be King Arnulf having returned from Norway with his army, Prince Bjorn quickly gathered his forces into battle formation, and moved them down into the valley to attack what he saw as a small insignificant army.
" Forward men ! We will rout these Jutland farmers, and merchants, and make them pay for opposing a real army ! " the prince boldly shouted to his warriors as they marched.
A confident roar echoed from the Swedes as they reached the center of the valley. With axes and swords held high the prince's army began to run across the valley floor. Long before they reached the base of the hill on the other side their shouts of joy faded, and many stopped dead in their tracks. For what they saw coming down upon them was not a hastily put together force of local folk, but a professional army with many horsemen, led by a king ! And they had what appeared to be twice as many warriors as they did !!
King Arnulf could not believe how bold, and how foolish Prince Bjorn was. To attack an unknown force head on was sheer folly ! The Swedish prince had not even sent out scouts to see what was on his right and left flanks. If he had he would surely not have attacked straight on with his entire force, because he would have seen that part of the Viborg army, led by Lofarr was almost in his rear !
Jafnharr watched from one of the fortress town's towers as the battle played out below him. He marveled at the brilliance of King Arnulf's plan. By keeping most of his forces on the far slopes, where the Swedes could not see them, his king had fooled the prince into thinking that the force he faced was much smaller than it actually was. It was only when the Swedes had committed themselves to battle that King Arnulf allowed the rest of his warriors to come over the crest of the hill.
Prince Bjorn's mind raced from thoughts of confident victory to confusion and paralyzing fear in a matter of moments. The prince's orders became more and more disjointed as the Jutlanders came down upon them and began to overwhelm his Swedes. And then Bjorn lost all reason when word reached him that the enemy was attacking not only from the west, but the north and south as well !
Seeing that their leader could no longer deal with the situation before him Sweyn, the second in command, quickly decided that the only way to save Prince Bjorn was to retreat back to the town of Viborg, and then head north east to the fjord at Hobro, to try and escape back to Sweden. This of course meant that they would have to pass perilously close to the town, and the angry inhabitants who they had laid siege to for the past month.
King Arnulf was at first surprised to see the main part of the Swedish army form into a shield circle as he raced down the hill to meet the enemy, but when he saw a smaller contingent racing off toward Viborg he knew at once what was happening. The great Prince Bjorn of Sweden was sacrificing most of his army so that he, along with the other high ranking Swedes, could make good their escape. The king of Viborg was more than happy to let them go and destroy most of the Swedish army today, for he knew that he could hunt down the rest as they made their way north through the unfamiliar and hostile territory of Jutland.
King Arnulf was an angry king ! As the shield circle became smaller and smaller before his unrelenting attacks many of the Swedes tried to surrender. Arnulf, however, would have none of it ! One by one the Swedes were struck down, many by arrows, as the king did not wish to sacrifice any more of his own men. If King Arnulf had known the horrors that awaited him in Viborg he would have captured and tortured many of the Swedes instead of killing them to the last man.
Jafnharr smiled broadly from ear to ear as he, along with his many archers, loaded their bows time and time again, and let loose a hail of arrows that rained down upon the hastily retreating Swedes. And although he could not be absolutely sure, the defender of Viborg imagined that it was his arrow that struck the Prince of Sweden in the shoulder before they managed to get out of their range.
- End Chapter 6
- Next : King Guthrum Sends For Help
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2017.