Arnulf Joins The Heathen Army
The hardest part of leaving for Britain was not the gathering of men, ships, horses, or provisions. It was telling his invalid mother that once again he would be going off to war. This time, however, he was able to assure his mother that Viborg would be better prepared if it were attacked again. Arnulf made certain he had enough warriors in place, led by Jafnharr of course, to defend his kingdom. He had also set up a ring of sentries around his kingdom to warn the main army against any and all intruders to their shores. Finally, the king had made an alliance with the king of Alborg. Each would come to the defense of the other if they were attacked.
Hildibrunnr, however, did not care about her own safety. Nor did she show much concern for the borders of their kingdom. What Hildibrunnr feared most was her only son being killed in a far off land. If her son did not return she knew that she would not be able to bear the grief, and she was not afraid to tell Arnulf how she felt either.
" If you do not return I will kill myself ! " she told her son bluntly.
Arnulf of course did not take her seriously, and explained his many reasons for leaving to fight in Britain.
" ..... and when I come home I promise to bring with me the best gift you have ever seen ! " he told her, referring to how happy she would be with all the wealth he would return with.
The seas were rough, but the winds were favorable, as the Viborg army sailed to Britain, led by Sialfi. King Arnulf felt it was as if the Gods themselves had watched over his longships when he sighted land off in the distance without the loss of even one sailing vessel. After beaching their ships Sialfi led the Jutlanders the forty miles to Witham, where the armies of King Guthrum were camped. They arrived on a misty mid - morning to find the king of the Danelaw seated around a blazing fire holding a council of war with two other warriors.
" King Guthrum ! I have returned with King Arnulf, and his army, my Lord ! " he informed the king of the Danelaw.
Guthrum did not rise up to greet the newest addition to, what his enemies in Britain referred to as ' The Great Heathen Army ', but instead leaned back in his seat eyeing the huge warrior king who had just been introduced to him. The king took a drink of his ale and nodded before speaking.
" You look like a fine warrior King Arnulf, which is what I expected after hearing of your great accomplishments against the Norwegians and the Swedes. " Guthrum told the newcomer.
Before replying Arnulf looked over at the man seated next to Guthrum. The King of Viborg could not help but notice that this warrior was looking him over very suspiciously.
" I am very honored that you have invited me to join your army in it's fight against these, ... Mercians,.... I believe Sialfi called them. " he told Guthrum trying to sound humble.
The man who had been eyeing him then spoke up.
" Yes ! These ' Mercians ', under their leader Burgred have been giving us quite a bit of trouble. " he told Arnulf.
The man's tone and demeanor gave Arnulf the impression that this man was of equal status to King Guthrum, but Arnulf was not quite sure who the warrior was. Seeing Arnulf's confusion King Guthrum introduced the two men who were seated around the fire with him.
" The angry one seated to my left is Halfdan Ragnarrson, and to my right, .... this is Ofaeti the leader of the Beserkers. " he told Arnulf, and then waited for the reaction he was sure would come.
Arnulf's eyebrows popped up onto his forehead, and he could not hide his admiration for the man seated next to King Guthrum.
" Halfdan Ragnarrsson ? The son of Ragnar Lodbrok ! ? " he asked in an unbelieving tone.
Halfdan rolled his eyes.
" I suppose you have heard of my father. " he said more than asked.
Arnulf rushed up to the warrior and reached out and grabbed his wrist. Halfdan, surprised, but not shocked, grabbed Arnulf's wrist in a strong lock as well, and both slapped each other on the shoulders.
" Your father is a legend ! His attack on Paris was one of my favorite stories when I was growing up ! " Arnulf exclaimed.
Halfdan could not help but grin.
" Yes ! My father was quite the warrior ! " he shot back.
King Guthrum cleared his throat to interrupt the two men.
" King Arnulf you can place your men next to mine over by the forest road. Then we will fill you in on our plans,... for you see, my new friend, we are leaving tomorrow and heading west to attack Hertford in Mercia. " he explained.
Arnulf's smile disappeared. He released Halfdan's arm and spun around shouting to his second in command as he did.
" Lofarr ! "
Lofarr quickly strode forward.
" Yes, my Lord ! " he shouted obediently.
" Take my warriors and camp them by the road that leads through the forest. Inform them to eat heartily, for tomorrow we will be leaving at first light ! " he commanded.
King Guthrum raised his eyebrows as his eyes met Halfdan's eyes. As they watched Lofarr lead the Viborg army into camp both hardened veterans of war were impressed with the military discipline of this new addition to their army. Neither man, however, was willing to compliment King Arnulf. They would wait to see how these Jutlanders held up in battle before passing judgement.
Arnulf sat down with the warriors of the war council, and as they began to talk of their plans, they were joined by a Norwegian King named Eymundr of Vestfold, who sat down beside Arnulf . When Eymundr heard who the young king sitting next to him was he got up and threatened to leave. Halfdan quickly grabbed hold of the Norwegian and forcibly sat him back down.
" What has happened before this day shall not influence what takes place tomorrow ! " Halfdan told the king of Vestfold sternly.
Eymundr looked hard and deep into the eyes of Ragnar Lodbrok's son .
" I do not think that you understand what this,... Danish pig,... has done to my people, and my lands ! " he shot back.
" If you were a stronger king, with a better army, you would not have been,... disturbed by my army. " Arnulf told the Norwegian with a laugh.
King Eymundr tried to get up again, but Halfdan, this time with the help of Ofaeti, restrained him.
" Enough !! " King Guthrum shouted.
" King Eymundr you will stay and honor your oath to fight with us, ..... and King Arnulf,... I would very much appreciate it if you would not gloat over your past successes ! " he advised.
Eymundr remained silent, while Arnulf respectfully bowed to Guthrum.
" As you wish commander ! " Arnulf replied with a smile.
King Guthrum stared back at Arnulf with a little grin upon his face.
" Beginning tomorrow the Viborg army will sit on my right flank, while Halfdan, you will sit on my left as always. King Eymundr, you and your Norwegians are relegated to guard my rear ! " he informed the stunned king of Vestfold.
- End Chapter 9
- Next : Chapter 10 : The Defeat Of Mercia
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2017.