The Lost Viking
Bjorgolf Escapes !
The earl arrived two days later, and was ushered into the king's throne room immediately. The king dispensed with the usual formalities and spoke bluntly to Earl Alfred. " I want you to take your small band of men down to the border with the Danelaw, and find out what you can about these Godless barbarians. I want you to find out how, and where, they are entering my kingdom, so that we may find a way to stop these Danes ! " he commanded. " Yes, my lord ! " the earl replied. As Alfred turned to leave the king added : " Bring the viking Bjorgolf with you. He may be of some use to you, and I am tired of him sitting around here eating my food, drinking my ale, and doing nothing ! " the king exclaimed. " As you wish my lord ! " the earl told him as he left the throne room.
The next morning Earl Alfred, with his warriors, and twenty five of King Edmund's men as well, saddled their horses and readied themselves to head for the Danelaw border. Earl Alfred and his men had to wait while Bjorgolf, whose hands and feet were tied, was brought down from the tower. Earl Alfred wanted to ride fast, so he ordered one of his warriors to cut the viking restraints so he could better control his mount, and not slow them up. Earl Alfred also commanded Bjorgolf to ride next to him so he could better keep an eye on his prisoner. He hated the fact that King Edmund had taken Bjorgolf from the dungeons and spared his life. The earl had already decided that the viking would not be returning alive to Durham with him.
When Bjorgolf was told that they were heading for the border with the lands controlled by the Danes, he decided that if the opportunity arose he would try to escape. He was sick of captivity, and either wanted to be free, or he wanted to die fighting for his freedom. Bjorgolf had made up his mind that he would never spend another day in that awful tower in Durham. His plan was a simple one. Once they reached the border he would ride his horse as fast as he could into the Danes kingdom. He was sure the Englishmen would catch him and kill him, but he no longer cared.
It took several days of cautious riding to reach the border. Bjorgolf was straddled in between Earl Alfred on one side and a rather huge English warrior on the other at all times as they rode. As the Englishmen were looking for a place to camp for the night down by a stream, they heard rustling in some brush by the waters edge. Earl Alfred silently motioned for several of his men to investigate. Before they could even dismount an arrow struck one of the men in the chest. Suddenly the air was full of arrows. Bjorgolf had no shield, nor did he have a weapon. His only defense was to slide down onto the side of his horse that was opposite to the direction of the arrows. He did not feel the impacts of the arrows that hit his horse, but when the horse began to fall Bjorgolf jumped clear of the horse, and stayed as flat to the ground as was possible.
Earl Alfred pointed away from the stream in the direction of the way they had come, and shouted : " Back men ! We must go back ! " These were the last words that the earl ever spoke. An arrow perfectly aimed went through his throat and lodged itself in his neck, knocking him off of his horse. As Earl Alfred lay writhing and gasping for breath on the ground Bjorgolf crawled over to the earl, and withdrew his sword from its scabbard. The viking knelt over Alfred, whose eyes became wide with fear when he realized Bjorgolf had taken his weapon, and thrust the sword over and over again into the earl's belly until Alfred stopped moving.
The Dane, King Amundi, was an expert shot with a bow and arrow. He picked off the Englishmen one by one, including a very regal looking rider wearing a cape, who he stopped from giving orders by placing an arrow into his throat. Then, as the king placed an arrow on his bowstring, he witnessed something very odd. One of the Englishman's own warriors crawled over and stabbed the regal looking one with his own sword, again and again in the abdomen. " How strange ! " the king said to himself.
As his men took care of the rest of the English warriors King Amundi galloped over to this now blood soaked man with his bow drawn, and ready to fire. " Why have you killed your lord ? " the king demanded to know . Realizing that he had an arrow pointed at his heart the warrior dropped his sword, and looked up at the king. " I am not one of these dirty English dogs ! " he told the archer in perfect Norse. The king was astonished that he spoke Norse, and lowered his bow. " Who are you ? ! And where do you come from ? ! " the king asked. The Norseman gave the king a weak smile. " My name is Bjorgolf I am the chieftain of Holtavord in More. I sailed here from Norway several years ago, but was captured by the English king and his earl. " he told the king. King Amundi looked Bjorgolf over carefully. " That man you killed, was he the English king ? " he asked . Bjorgolf smiled. " No ! That was Earl Alfred . A very sadistic bastard ! " he told the king.
" I am King Amundi of Mercia. I would like to take you on your word Norseman, but I have learned over the years how tricky these damned English dogs can be ! " he told Bjorgolf. " Grab one of the English horses, and mount up ! You will ride back to York with us ! " he ordered the Norseman. Bjorgolf looked up at the king. " May I keep the earl's sword ? " he asked. The king laughed . " You killed the earl ! I guess that gives you the right to own his sword ! " the king replied. Bjorgolf also laughed as he picked up the bloody sword, and wiped it off in the grass. " I think your arrow easily did as much damage as this sword my lord ! " The king leaned over the neck of his horse. " That may be Norseman, but I already have a sword ! " the king told him as he tapped a large sword with an ornately carved hilt at his side.
It took several days for them to reach the great hall of King Amundi in York. Unlike many great halls that Bjorgolf had seen, this one looked more like an English castle than a Viking longhouse. Or at least it looked like one from the outside. Once they crossed the moat, and entered the inner grounds through a huge double gate in the outer wall, they rode up to a familiar looking structure. In many respects it looked just like a huge longhouse and great hall, but it differed in that King Amundi used stone to build the entire structure. Only the roof had a similar look to the ones back in Norway.
Although Bjorgolf was for all intent and purposes a prisoner of King Amundi' s, the king, after hearing of Bjorgolf' s long harrowing ordeal, had grown to like the Norwegian viking. After a short formal hearing, the king' s men, highly influenced by Amundi' s fondness for the stranger, found him not guilty of any crime against their kingdom. Bjorgolf, for the first time in two years, was officially a free man. King Amundi liked the Norseman so much that he invited Bjorgolf to stay in York and become a ranking warrior in his Danish army. Bjorgolf respectfully had to decline the king's generous offer, however, telling him that he had a wife in Holtavord who he had not seen since she waved to him as he sailed out of the fjord over two years before . Bjorgolf bent down on one knee, bowed his head to the king, and spoke from the heart : " King Amundi, more than anything in the nine worlds I wish to go home. " The king nodded. " Then home is where I shall send you my friend ! " The king said in a sympathetic, but commanding voice.
The king immediately sent a warrior down to the coast to find out when the next ship was leaving for Norway. The news that the king later received made him extremely happy, but greatly saddened Bjorgolf. It turned out that the next voyage, three merchant ships, would not be leaving for at least a month. To Bjorgolf this seemed like an eternity, but the king consoled his new friend by telling him that he would make his stay in York very enjoyable !
The king was good to his word. Bjorgolf was treated like royalty ! He dined at the king' s table, was given the best food and drink, and slept in a large home that was owned by a rich local Danish merchant named Broddi, whose wife, Thordis, waited on Bjorgolf so much that he politely had to tell her that he was not in need of so much attention. King Amundi took Bjorgolf hunting with him several times, and even allowed Bjorgolf the first shot once, a rare privilege. Bjorgolf dropped the large deer with a single arrow to the neck. The king was delighted by his marksmanship !
The cycle of the moon went by quickly, and King Amundi was sad to see his friend Bjorgolf go. The king personally rode down to the docks to see off the Norseman. Amundi, who had lost his only son in battle against the English, had begun to think of Bjorgolf as his son, and Bjorgolf also saw Amundi as a father figure. As they embraced at the edge of the dock, King Amundi told Bjorgolf forcefully : " You must come back to York with your wife and stay with me for a while ! I assure you that I will show you both the greatest of hospitality ! " Bjorgolf grabbed the king by the shoulders. " And as long as a breath remains in my body, I will come back to see you ! " Bjorgolf told the king.
As the ships slowly rowed away from the shore, and the sail was set, Amundi and Bjorgolf waved to each other one last time. Then Bjorgolf turned around, and thought to himself. " I must stop looking back, and begin once again to look forward. I have a wife and a future back in Holtavord ! "
- End Chapter 8
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravenheart ), © Copyright, 2014.
Next : Chapter 9 : An Untimely Return.