The Bastard Son
For years King Thorvald had been pinned in between King Sigvaldi of Vestfold, and King Alfrekr of Ranrike, who were allies. Unable to attack on two fronts at once he was incapable of expanding his kingdom, or defeating his enemies. He had tried to make alliances of his own with Varmland, Romerike, and even Agder, but the kings of these lands were more interested in raiding foreign kingdoms than attacking their neighbors here in the Northlands.
But now, .... now, .... an entire army led by a young warrior who hated the king of Ranrike as much, if not more, than he did himself, was marching to his very doorstep. Surely this was a sign from the Gods themselves ! Finally, after all these long years of frustration, Thorvald would be able to move against one of his most hated rivals.
King Thorvald sent riders out in all directions to make contact with the Rus commander. The king wanted very much to be the first leader to meet with Oski. He was sure that the Rus commander would be more than happy to join with his great army, for they both wanted the same thing. They both wanted King Alfrekr's head on a stick !
On a cold misty morning one of Thorvald's scouts, a man named Porsi, caught sight of Oski just as he and his army were crossing a small mountain range in Varmland. Porsi smiled as he kicked his horse into a fast gallop to catch up to the foreign army that was marching off in the distance. The scout was so happy because the king had promised 10 gold coins to the warrior who found the Rus army, and brought them back to his camp.
Porsi dismounted when he came to the head of the long column of Rus warriors led by Oski. The scout bowed respectfully to the Rus commander as though he were already a king before addressing him.
" My lord ! I bring greetings from King Thorvald of Viken. My king has sent me to invite you and your warriors to meet with him at an encampment not far from here. I believe, my lord, that King Thorvald is interested in forming an alliance with you against King Alfrekr of Ranrike ! " he told Oski with a slight grin.
Oski was surprised by the invitation to meet with the king of Viken. Many of the kings and village chieftains from the territories his men had traveled through wanted little or nothing to do with the Rus, and were usually very glad to see them leave. Although Oski was a little suspicious by such a gracious invitation, he was more than happy to meet with the Viken king.
As the Rus army changed direction slightly and began to march south, they followed the Viken scout who lead the way to the encampment of King Thorvald at the Varmland border. As his columns headed off towards Viken, Oski quickly rode back to his mother's carriage to gauge what she thought of the king's generous offer.
" Do you think King Thorvald is honest in his intentions, or do you think that this could possibly be a trap " he asked his mother as he rode alongside her carriage.
Eydis bobbed up and down with every rock and hole the carriage wheels hit. Despite the discomfort she grinned from ear to ear when she heard the question.
" King Thorvald hates your father ! He would never pass up an opportunity to exact revenge on King Alfrekr for all the years of bitter wars that he fought with him that he could not win. I believe that he will be very kind and generous to us my son ! " she told him.
Gormr, Vigmundr, and a small contingent of Ranrike warriors stepped off their ships and onto the shores of Vestfold. After dragging their longships well above the tide line they began the long march to King Sigvaldi's great hall. Gormr had come to Vestfold many times over the years and knew well the way to the village that was his grandfather's home.
They did not travel far before they were spotted by a small force of Vestfold warriors who were patrolling the coast. The commander of the patrol, a man named Lodvig, immediately recognized Gormr and Vigmundr, who he had fought with in several battles against King Thorvald of Viken.
After greetings were exchanged Gormr explained to Lodvig that Oski, his father's bastard son, was fast approaching Ranrike with a Rus army. Greatly alarmed by such news, Lodvig agreed to escort the Ranrike warriors to Sigvaldi's great hall.
King Sigvaldi was happy to see his grandson and greeted him warmly. He then proceeded to scold him for not sending word ahead that he was coming. Gormr apologized for his unannounced visit, and then immediately explained the reason why.
Sigvaldi shook his head from side to side.
" This is a dangerous situation ! " the king blurted out.
" I am sure that with your help grandfather we can easily defeat this small Rus army . " Gormr reassured the king.
Sigvaldi raised his eyebrows as he pointed his finger at his grandson.
" Gormr, are you sure that Oski has only a small army ? " he asked.
Vigmundr, who had held his tongue, now stepped forward and spoke.
" I doubt that King Oleg would have allowed Oski to leave the Land of the Rus with too many of his warriors ! " the commander offered.
King Sigvaldi would normally have been insulted to be addressed directly by a commander without asking for his opinion, but Vigmundr had fought well in the wars against the Viken kingdom, and had once even saved his life when he became separated from his warriors in an especially brutal battle, so he allowed the interruption.
" That may well be Vigmundr, but it is not Oski and his Rus band of warriors that worries me. It is those who may decide to throw in with the Rus who may prove to be our biggest worry. " he replied.
Gormr and Vigmundr turned and looked at each other. Both came to the same conclusion simultaneously.
" King Thorvald ! " they both shouted .
Sigvaldi nodded, and then shouted to Skagi, the commander of his army.
" Commander ! Send scouts up to the border with Viken. Have them watch carefully for any build up of enemy forces in the area around our border. Then mobilize the army ! I want every available warrior ready to move at a moments notice ! " the king ordered.
" Yes, my lord ! " Skagi replied.
The Vestfold commander bowed before his king, and to Gormr, before leaving the hall to fulfill Sigvaldi's commands. As his commander left Sigvaldi turned to Gormr, and with fire in his eyes spoke stern words.
" Gormr you must return to Ranrike immediately ! Warn your father, and then bring your army up to the border with Viken. Keep a close watch on our old enemy grandson, for I am as sure that King Thorvald will attack, as I am that the sun will rise tomorrow ! " he told Gormr.
Vigmundr was perplexed by King Sigvaldi's absolute certainty of how this would all play out.
" Are you sure that King Thorvald will throw in with the invading Rus army to attack us ? " he asked with a deep frown upon his face.
King Sigvaldi barely allowed Vigmundr to question his word.
" Is it worth betting your lives on ? Or your kingdom ?! " he asked with a hint of anger in his voice.
Vigmundr realized that he had been put in his place by the king.
No, my lord ! Your advice appears quite sound ! " he quickly replied.
King Thorvald decided not to meet with the Rus while sitting on his high seat at the camp, nor did he want to stand on pomp and circumstance to make a first impression on the Rus leader. As soon as he found out that Porsi was leading the Rus leader to his camp, Thorvald, with a small honor guard, rode out to greet Oski and his tired band of warriors just over the Varmland border.
Porsi was surprised to see King Thorvald coming toward him across a field near the Viken border. The scout was even more shocked when Thorvald stopped his detail, and rode up to Oski alone. The king treated Oski like a returning hero, and to impress the Rus commander, he spoke to both Eydis and Oski as though they were already royalty.
Oski thanked the king for coming out to greet him, and explained that his men had traveled a great distance and were exhausted. He then asked the king if he could set up a camp on the Viken side of the border. With a huge grin King Thorvald graciously agreed.
The Viken king had his warriors move their camp and set it up right alongside the Rus camp as a show of both friendship and solidarity in their common goal of defeating Ranrike. Once both had settled in, Thorvald sent a messenger over to the Rus leader inviting Oski and Eydis to a feast he was holding in their honor. He also extended the invitation to Oski's military commanders Albrikt, and Kiartan, in the hopes they could begin to talk about the strategy that they would use in the war that was sure to soon begin.
King Thorvald had his handmaidens make a small feast for the Rus leaders, and he did not forget about the common Rus warrior either. He sent over to the Rus camp a generous amount of food and drink to make them feel at home in his kingdom. And a few pretty handmaidens to serve them as well !
After his guests had eaten a hearty meal Thorvald wasted little time in getting right to the point of the meeting. As they sat drinking his finest ale the king proposed an alliance between the Rus army and his Viken forces.
" Together we can defeat King Alfrekr of Ranrike, and take back for you the kingdom that rightfully belongs in your hands ! " the king told Oski.
" And once Alfrekr is out of the way maybe you will help me deal with my nemesis King Sigvaldi of Vestfold ! " he added with a confident smile.
Eydis looked over at her son and grinned. She removed the smile from her face, however, when she turned and spoke to King Thorvald, because she did not want him to think they were too eager to throw in with the king.
" And afterwards ? Will you respect our right to rule over Ranrike as the ultimate power in that kingdom? " she asked .
King Thorvald put down his horn, and pointed at Oski.
" You have a wise mother ! " he told the young leader.
Then Thorvald returned his gaze back upon Eydis and grinned,
" Our alliance will not end with the removal of King Alfrekr, and the destruction of King Sigvaldi of Vestfold. Oh, no my dear ! After a short period of time, to recover and rebuild our armies, we can move together against the weak peaceful kingdoms of Romerike, and Varmland. " he explained.
Oski took a sip of his ale, and after a moment's pause asked a daring, but pertinent, question.
" And how will we divide up these conquered lands ? " he asked suspiciously.
King Thorvald grinned again.
" I do like you Oski ! You ask all the right questions ! " he told him.
I will take Romerike, and you can have Varmland ! " the king explained.
Then Thorvald reached out and grabbed Oski's arm.
" But all the lands to the west of Vestfold are mine ! " he told the young warrior sharply.
Albrikt and Kiartan had been listening intently, but up until now they had remained very quiet. Albrikt was the first to speak.
" And when would you like to begin this war against Ranrike ? " Albrikt asked.
Before the king could answer, Kiartan broke in and gave his thoughts.
" I think it would be best to move as soon as possible. The spring is almost gone, and the summer will go by fast. The Autumnal Equinox may seem quite distant, but in these parts the first snow will quickly follow the last harvest. " he stated as fact.
King Thorvald picked up his horn, and laughed.
" You have bold commanders Oski ! " he told the Rus leader before taking a sip of ale.
When he finished he wiped off his mouth on his sleeve, and answered the question.
" As soon as your men are rested and well fed we will move against Ranrike ! " he told the Rus commanders.
Oski nodded his approval.
" And what of Alfrekr's ally, King Sigvaldi of Vestfold ? " Oski asked.
King Thorvald slammed his horn back down on the table hard !
" I will have to leave a force on Vestfold's border large enough to keep that son of a bitch busy. Later I will have time to deal with him. But first we must destroy Ranrike ! " he shouted.
- End Chapter 10
- Next : Chapter 11 : The War Begins !
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ) © Copyright, 2016.