The Lost Viking
Signy' s Sorrow
In the meantime life continued, as it always does. As it must. The goats had to be milked, the wheat ground into flour, wool spun into thread, and the children tended to. Hoskuld' s wife Helga, at first, was a pillar of strength for Signy, and the other women to lean upon. As time went on, however, her strength waned, and her resolve slowly crumbled. Signy often found her crying as she hugged her children, or went about her chores. Signy felt sorry for Helga, but at least she had her children to comfort her. They were both a constant reminder, and an extension of her husband' s memory, that she could wrap her sorrows in. Signy, however, was all alone, and after Helga fell apart she had no one to turn to for comfort, or to ease her growing pain. By the time of the anniversary of their leaving Helga did not want to even discuss what might have happened to their warriors. Signy was left feeling lost and abandoned.
Every day became a struggle for Signy. Even something as simple as getting out of bed in the morning became more and more difficult for her. Signy' s only release was to work harder and harder. For she knew that if she exhausted herself she would be too tired to lie in bed, and agonize over her situation. Only in sleep did she escape the daily horror that had become her very existence. But even here her fears followed her in the form of nightmares. Often, too often, Signy would wake up screaming in a cold sweat. She would then lie in bed crying until she again escaped to the world of dreams.
Every morning at dawn Signy would take her false hope down to the fjord to see if her husband had returned. And every day, as the Goddess Sunna burned off the morning mist, she would walk dejectedly back to the village to immerse herself once again in her chores. In the evenings she would return to the fjord. This time to pour out a libation in honor of Aegir and Ran, and to ask for her husband' s safe return. Several times she emptied out more than one horn of mead for herself. The spirits deadened the pain a little, but nothing could ease the heartache she felt for the man she loved.
At the beginning of the next planting season a contingent of the village women went to see Jarl Thorir, at Hrutadale, to ask him to lead an expedition to England to try and ascertain what had happened to their loved ones. To the women' s surprise the Jarl was cool to the idea of sending out what he called a " Rescue Party ". Jarl Thorir was a practical man, and did not like the thought of sending out more men who might never return. The jarl patiently listened to what they had to say, but he refused to act at this time. Thorir told the women that if their men did not come back by this year's harvest he would reconsider, and possibly send a few ships to see what became of them.
Helga, who had once been the epitome of a warriors strong wife, fell apart on the way home, and was practically inconsolable. It was then and there, as she watched Helga break down, that Signy realized that there was a very good chance that her husband, the man she had only spent one night with, would never return to her. From that moment on Signy no longer had in her mind the thought : " When Bjorgolf returns ", but instead her thinking changed to : " What do I do now that he will not return ! " The ride back to Holtavord was a long one, and also a very quiet one.
More months passed, and after the women of the village struggled for a second year to bring in the harvestwithout their men, Helga, now extremely bitter, decided that the women should go over Jarl Thorir's head, and argue their case in the court of King Hallfred of More. This journey was much longer than the ride to Hrutadale, and the women who were already exhausted from the fall harvest, struggled with this additional hardship. When they finally arrived at the king' s great hall, however, they were rewarded for their arduous effort with an immediate audience with the king. Helga had been to a king' s hall once before, and was not surprised by its lavish style, but Signy, and many of the other women in the group, were awed to see so much silver and gold in a hall filled with fine furnishings. Signy tried not to be nervous as they approached the king's high seat, but she was trembling noticeably as she knelt before King Hallfred.
King Hallfred was as kind and friendly to his subjects as he was ruthless to his enemies. When he noticed that Signy was trembling he stepped down from his high seat, and helped her to rise. " You need not fear me child ! " he bellowed with a chuckle. Signy looked the king in the eyes and began to cry. As the king wiped the tears off of her cheek he lead her to one of the great tables that lined is hall, and sat her down on its bench. He then motioned for the other ladies to sit down as well. Then King Hallfred looked over at a serving maiden, and signaled for her to come over. " Bring us five goblets of ale, some herring, and bread my dear. " he told the maiden in a cordial tone.
Helga began to speak, but the king cut her off. " I would like to hear from this young maiden. " he said firmly. " Why have you come to my court seeking an audience with me ? " he asked Signy. She tried not to act nervous, but Signy still felt a little uncomfortable sitting so close to a king. " Early last year, my lord, the men of our village, including all of our husbands, went on a raid to England, and we have not heard from them since. We traveled to see Jarl Thorir on this matter last spring, but he did not seem anxious to help us find out what has become of our loved ones. " Signy told him. King Hallfred took her hand in his and smiled kindly at her. " Well, then we must see what we can do about this situation ! " he told her.
King Hallfred looked up at the warriors who stood guard at either side of his high seat, and barked out an order : " Send a fast rider to Jarl Thorir in Hrutadale. Tell him that I wish to see him at once ! " As the warrior left the hall the serving maiden brought ale, and tray after tray of food out to them. Signy had never seen such a feast for such an early time of the day. The women were very hungry from their long journey, and were grateful for the king' s hospitality. After they had eaten their fill they spoke again with the king. This time Helga was allowed to speak, and she filled King Hallfred in on many of the details that Signy had failed to mention. The king was especially interested in the fact that the total number who went to England were six hundred in all.
The women were each taken to a local villager' s home for lodging. Normally the villagers would have been cordial, but seen this as a burden. The fact that the king had asked them to put up his guests made it a special privilege for them, and they went out of their way to make sure that the women were not only well treated, but well fed, and given anything that they could possibly want. Signy was not used to being treated in such a fashion, and was constantly asking what she could do to help. The residents, however, refused to allow the women to lift a finger to help them.
Two days later Jarl Thorir rode up with his personal guard. The women were disappointed that they were not allowed to be a part of the first meeting, but the king explained that he did not want the women to hear what he had to say to the Jarl. When Jarl Thorir emerged from the great hall he was as white as a ghost. He and his warriors then quickly mounted their horses and sped off in the direction they had come. One of the king's warriors then asked the women to come into the hall where the king once again invited them to sit down and partake of a multitude of food and drink while they spoke.
The king took a long draft of his ale before addressing the women. " I have had a long meeting with Jarl Thorir, and he has agreed with me that we should send an expedition to England to determine what happened to the six hundred of my subjects who have gone missing. " he told the women with a big smile, and a little wink. " Oh, and the jarl has graciously agreed to leave as soon as possible ! " he added with a chuckle. The women stood up and cheered with excitement . Signy and Helga who sat at the head of the table on either side of the king gave him a kiss on the cheek almost simultaneously. When they realized what they had done in the excitement of the moment they stepped back and waited for the king's reaction. The king threw his hands up in the air and laughed. " Well, I cannot remember when I have been so well honored ! " he told them.
Jarl Thorir was not happy being assigned the duty of finding these lost warriors. For all he knew he might be going to England to look for ghosts. It was even possible that a storm had killed these vikings long before they made it onto the English shoreline. But Jarl Thorir had no choice ! He had been ordered by the king to bring back word of what had happened to these viking warriors, and he had to obey. King Hallfred did, however, leave the details of the voyage up to the Jarl, and he planned it they way he wanted. Thorir decided that he would travel light and fast in the land of Britain. He would sail with only three ships, and would bring horses along on the journey to make his men more mobile.
Jarl Thorir left the fjord and set sail on a cold and windy morning. Hraesvelg's winds filled their sails, and favored them all the way across to England. As fate might sometimes have it, Thorir's ships landed very near where Bjorgolf had beached his dragon ships. As they disembarked their horses a warrior spotted a shepherd minding his sheep on a hill just above them. The Englishman seemed to be oblivious to their presence. Jarl Thorir sent three men on horseback to seize the Englishman, and bring him to the beach. It took only a short time for the viking horsemen to gallop up the gradual plain that lead to the small hill. Thorir laughed when the shepherd saw his men, and began to run. The poor bastard never had a chance !
Edward could not believe his bad luck. To be captured once by vikings was bad enough, but twice ! As he ran for his life, he was sure he would not survive a second time. He ran as fast as he could, and as far as his legs would take him before he was exhausted. The three vikings, all on horseback, quickly surrounded him with their swords drawn. " Please don' t kill me ! " Edward told them as he gasped for breath. One of the vikings dismounted, walked over to Edward, and punched him in the head with a hard blow. Edward' s world went black, and he hit the ground like a felled tree.
When Edward awoke he found himself lying on the beach surrounded by warriors. One of the vikings shouted something, and a big man wearing a red cape walked over. Edward looked around as he asked : " Do any of you speak our language ? " The big man who now hovered over him gave him a mean look. " Talk to me little man. I am Jarl Thorir ! " he said in a commanding English voice. Edward was surprised that the man could speak in his tongue, and although he did not know much about these heathens, he knew that a Jarl was the equivalent of an English earl. " My name is Edward, my lord. I have a wife and children. Please do not kill me ! " he pleaded. Jarl Thorir lifted the man by his cloak, and placed his nose right up against the Englishman' s nose. " First you will answer my questions, and then I will decide if I will kill you or not ! " the jarl said angrily. Edward nodded that he understood. Jarl Thorir then threw the Englishman back onto the ground.
" Did an army of raiding Norsemen come through here about a year and a half ago ? " Thorir asked. Edward rubbed his head where he had been hit earlier before answering. " Yes ! They landed very close to here, and attacked the town of Bamburgh. " Edward told the angry looking viking. Thorir knelt down next to the man. " Did this viking have a name Englishman ? " he asked in a half whisper. Edward smiled. " Yes ! His name was Bjorgolf ! " Edward exclaimed. Then Edward thought fast and added : " I was hired as a guide, and an interpreter by him my lord. " Jarl Thorir was surprised by the answer, and stood back up . " Does Bjorgolf now rule these lands ? " the jarl asked. Edward shook his head. " No, my lord. The Chieftain Bjorgolf tried to attack the town of Durham, and was defeated by King Edmund's army. " Edward said in a sad tone. The jarl grabbed the man and lifted him again. " Were many captured ? " Thorir asked. " Only Bjorgolf was captured. All the rest of his warriors were killed . " Edward told him. Thorir lifted Edward off of the ground. " And where is he being held !?" he demanded. Terrified, Edward thought for a moment before answering. I am certain that Earl Alfred tortured and killed him my lord. You see Bamburgh was the earl' s town, and he was not very happy about the vikings burning it. " he told the jarl warily.
The Jarl threw Edward back onto the ground again, and walked back to his men to discuss what he had just heard. The Jarl told his men that the Englishman had just given them all the information that they needed . " At first light tomorrow we will attack this town of Bamburgh, steal anything of any value, and then burn it to the ground before sailing back home. The warrior who was closest to Edward yelled over to the jarl : " Shall I kill this English dog ? ! " he asked as he drew his sword. Jarl Thorir thought for a moment. " No ! We will bring him back to More with us. I want there to be no doubt in the king's mind that Bjorgolf, and all of his men are dead ! " he shouted back.
Jarl Thorir waited until the sun peeked over the horizon before attacking the town of Bamburgh. Unfortunately there was not much to steal or burn, as the town had not yet fully recovered from Bjorgolf's raid. When Earl Alfred returned with his army two days later the only signs of Bamburgh were the still smoldering ashes, and a few bodies of the citizens of the town. The vikings were long gone.
- End chapter 5
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2014.
Next : Chapter 6 : Captivity and Torture