The Bastard Son
The Battle For Holmgard
In the north of the narrow valley Oleg the Seer spread out his shield wall across the valley floor. His forces stretched from the base of the east mountains all the way across to the base of the west mountains. At the southern end of the valley King Ingvar matched his opponent by spreading his shield wall across the valley floor as well. It became all too clear to both kings that this would be a straight out brawl. In this thin valley there was no room for maneuvering, and neither side could outflank the other's forces. In a moment this would truly become a valley of death !
The battle began slowly. Both armies moved cautiously forward, banging their weapons on their shields as they carefully marched across the long narrow valley. Once they reached a point about one hundred yards from each other both armies stopped almost as if they had been given a secret cue. Slowly a low mumble rose up and grew into a great roar from both sides, as they shouted and banged their weapons to intimidate their opponents. Then, with the raising of each king's sword, the Rus and Swede armies began to move forward again.
Slowly they marched at first, but when they came close enough to see the angry faces of the warriors across from them, both armies broke into a fast run. Like two fierce boars, running headlong at each other, the armies crashed together. Bodies flew through the air, axes cut into skulls, and swords penetrated chainmail, as the carnage got underway. One by one the bodies fell screaming onto the blood soaked ground. Desperate warriors, locked in single combat, slipped in the pooling blood , fell over a dismembered limb, or a severed head, and were quickly added to the growing list of casualties at the point of a sword, or the edge of an axe. . The carnage was awful, and as the day wore on the battle settled into a stalemate with neither side being able to make any progress against the other.
When the sun was at its peak Oleg decided to take a gamble on Oski and his Rus warriors. The Swedish commander called Oski aside and told him to add his men to his own personal guard. Then he ordered Oski to take command, attack the middle of the Rus line, and split King Ingvar's army in two. Oleg half expected Oski, Albrikt, and Kiartan to complain that this was a suicide attack, but Oski, and his division leaders only nodded their approval and then ran back to their men. The young commander gathered his warriors around him and explained to his men what he expected of them. He told them that they would not be attacking on a broad front, but instead would be moving forward in a long thin line to penetrate the enemy's position. Once they penetrated the enemy's shield wall the Swedes would move to the left while their Rus force would push the enemy to the right opening up a huge gap in King Ingvar's line.
Not one commander complained about the unorthodox formation, nor did any warrior comment on what they were being asked to do. They had faith in their commanders, and confidence enough in themselves, to try what would have seemed to most impossible. When Oski finished his short speech the Rus warriors went back into their positions, and waited for their leader to give the command to move forward. Oski strode over and positioned himself in the middle of his Rus warriors, and his allies the Swedes that he had been given to command. Then he moved out about ten paces past their shield wall line, and pulled out his sword.
" If we are to die here on this battlefield today, then let our deaths bring honor and glory to ourselves and our ancestors ! On to Valhalla brothers !! " Oski shouted as he began to run forward.
When the front of the combined Rus / Swede division hit Ingvar's line it penetrated only a few yards in before it was stopped. But slowly, as the weight of hundreds of warriors pushing against the front ranks grew, they began to slice through the enemy's line like an arrow through the heart of Ingvar's position. Once they had penetrated far enough they split, and began to move east and west, pushing the Rus king's army apart. And as the midday slowly turned into early evening the Swedes and their Rus allies began to slowly destroy the Rus army. One by one Ingvar's warriors fell before the combined forces of Oleg and Oski.
By dusk King Ingvar was desperately fighting for his life by a small grove of trees in the center of the valley. Surrounded on all sides Ingvar knew that he had little chance of escape, and no chance of winning this battle. To leave the battlefield had actually never crossed his mind. Here he would continue to fight, and here, in this valley of death, he would die !
Oski spotted the Rus king , who was in the middle of a fierce fight, and along with several of his best warriors fought their way slowly over to his position. Oski's blood was up, and he wanted revenge for all the years of being held captive in a land that was not his own.
King Ingvar saw Oski, and his little band of warriors coming towards him. For a moment he felt torn between his duty to his kingdom and his people, and the oath he had sworn to his cousin Alfrekr to protect Eydis and Oski. The moment passed quickly, however, when Oski's sword came crashing down upon his damaged shield ! This was no longer about the past, or even the future, the only thing that mattered at this point was what was about to happen in this moment. The delicate balance between life and death was now held precariously on the edge of two bloodied swords.
Oski became filled with rage as each of his blows was blocked by either Ingvars shield, or his sword. Ingvar was smaller, weaker, and much older than Oski, but he was also a skilled warrior who had learned his craft as a fighter over many years. It looked as though the fight might go on indefinitely. Both men countered each others movements with skill and accuracy, and neither could get in a death blow. Then, suddenly, a spear point was jabbed into Ingvar's side by one of the Swede warriors who had joined the fight. The king quickly dropped to his knees. As he fell to the ground Ingvar dropped his shield and grabbed hold of the spear shaft that protruded out of his ribs. It was at that moment that Oski's sword came crashing down upon the king's head, ripping through his helmet, and splitting his skull wide open. The lifeless king fell sideways on the battlefield as the fighting raged on all around him.
Oski turned and looked at the Swede, who still hovered over the king with a pleased look on his face. Oski had been denied a fair fight with the king, and could not hold back his temper any longer. He raised his bloodied sword over his head and swung it with all his might at the horrified warrior. The Swede's head was rolling on the ground before he realized what exactly had happened ! Oski felt no joy in killing the warrior. He simply turned back to the battle and engaged another of their enemy.
The death of King Ingvar robbed the Rus army of their fighting spirit. A few warriors were able to disengage themselves from the battle, and flee into the surrounding hills. They were the lucky ones ! Those who stayed and fought were killed to the last man.
A rider came barreling into the town of Holmgard on a horse that was exhausted and much lathered. He pulled his mount up at the great hall, and dismounted in a hurry. As he threw open the doors to the great hall he shouted :
" The king is dead ! Ingvar is dead ! " he exclaimed fearfully.
" And the Swede Oleg is quickly approaching with his army ! " he added nervously.
Queen Helga had feared that this moment might someday come. But there was no time to mourn ! She quickly put aside her grief for her beloved husband, and began to issue orders to her guards and handmaidens.
" Bring a cart to the great hall ! " she ordered the closest warrior.
Then she turned to her handmaiden Svetlana.
" Gather up all my jewelry and clothes. Place them in chests, and have them brought to the front of the hall ! " she commanded.
When the handmaiden did not move fast enough to suit her taste she screamed.
" HURRY ! "
Helga looked for, and found, the commander of her personal guard.
" Ketil ! Gather up your warriors !! We are going to ride to the coast, and from there we will find passage to Norway. I am sure that my cousin King Alfrekr of Ranrike will protect us ! " she told him.
They left in the middle of the night, heading west as fast as the horses would pull the heavily laden carts safely. Queen Helga had ordered that the town be burned to the ground, and for miles they could see the flames on the distant horizon. It was then, and only then, that Helga allowed herself to cry over the death of her husband.
The next morning the Swedish army, along with their Rus allies, marched triumphantly into Holmgard. All that was left, however, were the still smoking ashes of what had once been the largest town in the Land of the Rus.
- End Chapter 6
- Next : Chapter 7 : " You Are Free To Leave ! "
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2016.