The Bastard Son
Queen Helga nervously walked down the plank and stepped onto the soil of the Norse lands for the first time in a decade. After fleeing Holmgard, with her personal guard, she had traveled west to the coast in the land of the Livonians. From here she paid a Livonian crew in gold to take her, and her warriors to Ranrike.
After sailing out into the Finnish Gulf, they entered the Baltic Sea. With fair winds and clear skies they soon reached the Jutland Sea through the Straits of Danemark. A short sail north from there and they were just off of the coast of Ranrike. The trip had been fairly uneventful, but now that she had arrived she feared how she would be received by her cousin King Alfrekr.
Word spread quickly that the Queen of the Rus had arrived on the shores of Ranrike. Alfrekr ordered his son Gormr, and his top commander Vigmundr, to go out and greet the Rus queen. Gormr hastily put together a military " guard " and together they rushed down to the docks to meet Queen Helga.
Halfway to the coast Gormr and Vigmundr halted their warriors in the middle of the road, and gave each other confused looks. Up ahead of them was a regal woman riding a white horse surrounded by three dozen warriors. Both were asking themselves the same question.
" Why had the queen not waited at the docks for a royal military escort ? "
Gormr rushed ahead, bowed to the queen, and greeted her warmly. Queen Helga, however, brushed off his welcoming rhetoric, and in a harsh tone ordered, more than asked, the king's son to take her at once to see Alfrekr.
The prince of Ranrike instantly became indignant, and asked why her behavior was so cold, and rude. He also reminded her that despite her stature as a queen, she was still a guest in the Ranrike Kingdom.
Helga's eyes burned with anger as she told Gormr about Alfrekr's bastard son Oski, and how, while in their care, he had turned on them and joined with King Oleg the Swede. Then she shocked the young prince of Ranrike further by telling him that Oleg, known as the Seer, had defeated and killed her husband, destroyed his army, and now was ruling over the Western Rus lands. And then she added with a sarcastic smile that Oski was heading to Ranrike, at the head of an army, to kill King Alfrekr, and to assume what he believed to be his right to rule over Ranrike.
Gormr's jaw dropped, and he looked back at Vigmundr as though he had been struck by one of Thor's lightning bolts. His anger faded as quickly as it appeared, however, and he hurriedly escorted Queen Helga to his father's great hall without further discussion or delay.
King Alfrekr and Queen Bekkhildr had hastily changed into their finest clothes after they sent their son to greet the Rus queen. Alfrekr ordered fires to be lit in the great hall, and that food fit for a royal dignitary be prepared for the queen and her entourage. Queen Bekkhildr, to show off her great wealth, sent one of her handmaidens to the goldsmith to see if he had a nice piece of jewelry for her to give to Queen Helga as a gift.
The guards parted, then opened the doors to the great hall as Ranrike's prince, and their commander Vigmundr, walked up to the entrance. The finely dressed woman who passed by with a military escort was unknown to them, but in her honor, and to keep themselves from being punished later for not following protocol, they bowed as she quickly scooted by.
King Alfrekr tried, in much the same manner as his son Gormr had attempted on the road, to greet the Queen of the Rus with dignity and grace. This time, however, it was Gormr who cut his father off abruptly.
" Father ! Queen Helga has come here to share some very disturbing news with us ! " he blurted out.
King Alfrekr and Queen Bekkhildr looked at one another with raised eyebrows. As they forced their gaze back to Queen Helga their pleasant smiles were replaced by tight lipped anticipation.
" That evil boy you had us care for turned out to be a wolf in sheep's clothing ! " she started with a shout.
" He has thrown in with Oleg the Seer, killed my husband, and together they have taken from us our kingdom ! " she told the Ranrike royalty rudely.
Bekkhildr placed her hands over her face in shame, while Alfrekr punched the arm on his high seat and then slowly rose to a standing position. He turned to Helga and pointed a trembling finger at her.
" My son has done what ?! " he shouted.
Queen Helga was in no mood to repeat herself !
" Yes ! You heard me correctly !! And now Oski, that bastard son of yours, is returning to the den where you sired him. He is coming to Ranrike to kill you, and your son, so he can take your kingdom away from you ! " she shouted back angrily at her late husband's cousin.
Queen Bekkhildr lowered her hands from her face.
" Surely he has not a force that can oppose our great Ranrike army ! " she exclaimed hopefully.
Queen Helga laughed bitterly !
" Your husband has spawned quite the sly dragon cousin. His evil offspring left the Rus with a fairly strong army my commander tells me ! " she explained to Queen Bekkhildr.
Alfrekr was greatly bewildered by what he had just heard. He stroked his beard several times as he slowly sat back down.
" How long will it be before that bastard is at my doorstep ?! " Alfrekr asked the Rus queen.
Queen Helga smoothed out her dress with one hand before answering.
" In this you are lucky. Your bastard son did not want to wait for months to build ships. Instead he has traveled the long way back to Norway through the lands of the Finns and the Swedes to confront you. " she explained.
King Alfrekr breathed a sigh of relief, and then turned to Gormr an Vigmundr.
Go at once to the border of my kingdom and secure them by whatever means are necessary ! " he ordered his son and his commander.
Queen Bekkhildr jumped up off of her high seat before they could leave, and shouted to them.
" No ! My son, go to Vestfold and speak to your grandfather King Sigvaldi. Inform him of what has transpired. He will help us in our time of need ! " she told Gormr.
King Alfrekr and Queen Helga both gave Bekkhildr a sharp glance. Alfrekr's was an angry stare, but Helga's face bore a look of amusement over the way she had emphasized " my son ".
Queen Bekkhildr clapped her hands, and two handmaidens stepped forward.
" See that Queen Helga is afforded every comfort. She is now our honored guest, and under the protection of the kingdom of Ranrike ! " she commanded.
As Queen Helga was escorted away by the handmaidens Bekkhildr looked angrily over at her husband, who had become unusually quiet.
" The seed you planted inside that bitch Eydis has grown into quite the thorn bush which now threatens to prick us all ! " she told her husband without trying to hide her sarcasm.
King Alfrekr gave his wife a wicked glance, pounded the arms of his high seat, and then got up and walked away without saying a word.
- End Chapter 9
- Next : Chapter 10 : Allies
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2016.