The Bastard Son
The Sea Battle And Stalemate
It took several days for the Viken - Rus army to reach the ocean on the Ranrike coast. Every move they made was mirrored by Alfrekr and Gormr. This time, however, it was Oski who chose the lay of the land for his defensive position, and where to place his encampment. As his father had done before the last battle, the Rus leader chose an elevated plain to use as his base camp. On their left was a marshy swamp, and to his right was the ocean to protect his flanks. His rear was guarded by the lands of the kingdom of Viken, for which he knew the Ranrike army would dare not enter.
Oski desperately wanted his father to attack him in this nearly impenetrable fortress because he had planned a little surprise for his father, and stepbrother. As they sat in place fortifying their position King Thorvald was sailing down the fjord from Viken, with his entire fleet of longships. Oski did not like having to rely on King Thorvald, and his army. He and his warriors had proved most unreliable in the first battle, and he was not sure that they would rise to the occasion here either. The Rus commander had no choice, however, because his men were not skilled in sea warfare, as were the Viken warriors , and many had never sailed in a ship, or could swim for that matter.
The plan Oski, Albrikt, and Kiartan had devised was a simple one. If they executed it well they could catch the Ranrike army totally off guard, and possibly sweep them from the battlefield. King Thorvald would sail down from Viken, destroy any ships the Ranrike army might launch to meet them, and then land behind the Ranrike position, and attack them from the rear. Then, and only then, would Oski, Albrikt and Kiartan risk moving forward out of their fortifications and attack. Once caught in this vise between the Viken and Rus armies, the Ranrike army would be slowly squeezed to death.
King Alfrekr was not fooled, however, by his bastard son's move to the coast, or by his taking defensive positions on a hill overlooking the ocean. And despite the Viken army flags still flying in the encampment, the Ranrike commander was well aware that a large part of the combined enemy's forces were no longer present in the camp. Alfrekr immediately sent his son to the coast with his entire division to launch every dragon longship he could muster into service. Alfrekr knew that he had time because Oski had nowhere to go. He was now too weak to attack, and could not move to his left or right. Alfrekr was also fairly certain that his bastard son would not retreat any time soon. Oski had not marched his men thousands of miles to kill him only to retreat when faced by the forces of the man he hated most in this world.
Two weeks later, as Oski scanned the seas in the early morning, he saw sails coming up over the horizon. His heart sank as he counted the dragon ships one by one. When he reached seventy ships he stopped counting and hurried back to his camp. For the sails on the horizon were not coming down from the north, but were sailing up from the south. Oski cursed King Thorvald for allowing the Ranrike army to mobilize its ships faster than the Viken sea forces. And now they were once again at a disadvantage.
Later that day King Thorvald sailed down the coast. Proudly he stood with one foot on the neck of the great dragon head at the bow. He smiled when he saw the fortified hill that the Rus were positioned on, and he felt confident that they would rule the day this time. His mood changed, and his mouth hung open, when he finally noticed the numerous Ranrike ships floating in the sea just south of the Rus position. Unsure what to do King Thorvald lowered his sails and anchored his ships. The commander of the Viken fleet then entered a small row boat and came ashore to confer with Oski .
Gormr could not believe his incredible luck ! He immediately signaled to all his ships to set their sails, and have all rowers in place to engage the enemy as quickly as possible. Gormr had expected the Viken sailors to pull up their anchors, set their sails, and move to block their attack. But they did nothing ! It was as though they were unable to act or react without King Thorvald to tell them what to do !
Thorvald jumped out of the rowboat and sloshed through the small waves on the shoreline to the beach. King Thorvald at first was perplexed by the Rus commanders who were running down to the beach waving their arms back and forth. At first he could not make out what they were shouting, and then in a moment of stark realization he understood !
" The Ranrike ships are attacking ! " ran through his head like a spear point.
King Thorvald turned around and looked out to sea at the enemy's position that had only moments before been floating anchored to the ocean floor. Now, quicker than the king thought humanly possible, they were prepared for battle and heading straight for his dragon ships !
" Why would they risk a sea battle ?! Our forces are almost equal ! It is sheer madness to risk such madness !! " Thorvald nervously whispered under his breath as he jumped back into the row boat to return to his ship.
As Gormr closed in on the idle Viken ships he had the red raven flag raised to the top of the mast to signal the attack. Every ship in his fleet was underway, and the fastest to set sail were able to keep pace with the strong warriors who rowed his own dragon ship. Ranrike's prince stood on the bow of his ship and drew his sword. He pointed his mighty weapon at the enemy and shouted as loud as he could.
" Attack the evil Viken ! Kill them ! Kill them all ! " he screamed.
Then, as Gormr watched King Thorvald pull up alongside his longship in a rowboat and stumble aboard, he whispered to himself :
" How could any king be that incompetent ! "
As soon as he was back on - board his longship King Thorvald had a green wolf flag raised to signal his ships that they should pull up their anchors and prepare for battle immediately. Like a madman he screamed in all directions for his warriors to hurry and raise their sails before the enemy attacked ! A few of the more competent ship's commanders had already brought up their anchors and were unfurling their sails. Many of the commanders, however, had been programmed to do nothing without orders from the king himself, and therefore did nothing until the green wolf's flag flew from their king's ship. Thinking for oneself in the Viken army was frowned upon by the leader of the Viken people, and on this day it would cost them dearly.
The Viken ships that did act independently, and got underway before the Ranrike ships reached them, were picked off one by one by the swift Ranrike vessels. And by the time the whole fleet was underway they had become outnumbered by the enemy, who they had originally planned to swat aside with little effort. There were no longer thoughts of defeating the Ranrike navy, or landing behind their land army to open up a second front. Now King Thorvald was merely trying to save his ships from being annihilated.
The Viken ships, many of whom had not gotten up any speed, even with the aide of rowers, were at a great disadvantage as the Ranrike ships, sailing at full speed, were able to pick and choose which they attacked and boarded. Gormr was able to isolate a few ships at a time with his greater maneuverability, and board and destroy the Viken ships at will. By the time King Thorvald was able to lash enough ships together to defend themselves their force had become too small to win any longer.
Oski, Kiartan, and Albrikt, watched in horror from the shore as the Ranrike warriors boarded the Viken ships . As the ships on both sides were lashed together they formed a great platform at sea where the warriors fought much as they did on land. It was all hand to hand combat, and it was all very bloody. The Viken warriors recovered from their initial lethargy and fought with great vigor, and honor, but the battle had been lost in the first few moments, when indecision and carelessness had lost the battle for King Thorvald.
As dusk fell over the Northlands, Alfrekr looked out at the burning and sinking Viken ships, and proudly watched as his heroic son Gormr chased the few remaining enemy ships back into the fjord from which they had come. The Ranrike king was quick to point out to Vigmundr, his commander. that leading the retreat was Thorvald's longship, which was still flying the green wolf attack flag. Vigmundr smiled, turned to King Alfrekr and stated proudly :
" Your son has won a great victory for the kingdom of Ranrike today ! "
King Alfrekr shook his head in agreement, but then replied sadly :
" Yes, but now we are left to face an enemy who cannot attack us, and who we do not dare engage without terrible losses ! I am afraid we are now locked in a stalemate with my bastard son. "
Odin smiled from ear to ear as he gazed down upon the scene of great carnage on the Norwegian coast. Bodies had already begun to wash up along the shore, and many more were floating in the surf waiting for their turn to be dumped onto the sand. The wreckage of many Viken ships also littered the coast, while several more still burned as they bobbed up and down unmanned at sea.
All - Father could not help but laugh, and feel a great sense of pride and joy, when he saw Gormr standing in his ship's rigging with his sword held high over his head in a victory salute to his father, and their army, as his ships came ashore one by one. A great cheer rose up to the heavens from the Ranrike army, and Odin, sitting on his high - seat at Hlidskajlf, felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. Odin's eye teared for a moment as he remembered how after the defeat of the Jotuns, in the Great Frost Giant War, Thor had raised his mighty hammer in a salute in much the same manner to him.
It was then that Odin knew what he must now do. Just as he had once sacrificed his eye for wisdom, he was about to sacrifice again for the greater good. This time for his children the Norse peoples. All that Valfather needed was the right moment to act.
- End Chapter 13
- Next : Chapter 14 : The Holmgang !
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2016.