The Lost Viking
An Untimely Return
The voyage took longer than the journey he had made two years earlier to England. These were not dragon long ships, but heavy merchant ships that wallowed through the waves like a rowboat on a lake . The tides, and the winds, also seemed to be against them on their crossing, and the men had to row quite often to make any headway at times. Although King Amundi had told Egil, the ship's captain, not to burden their special passenger with rowing, Bjorgolf insisted doing his fair share. Not only did he feel it was the right thing to do, but it broke up the monotony of the voyage, and allowed him to strengthen his muscles with each oar stroke. Bjorgolf felt he needed to be strong when he reached Holtavord because he did not know what kind of reception he would receive from his people.
As they approached the coast of Norway, the ship he was sailing on, broke away from the others, and headed for More, while the other two sailed for their destination which was in Lade. Bjorgolf became more and more tense the closer they came to the mouth of the fjord that led to his village. The only thing that was holding him together inside was the memories he had of his beautiful wife Signy. If he was not accepted back as a chieftain, he would take Signy, and sail to some other village or town in Norway, and start over. Bjorgolf had heard of many warriors that had been exiled, who were able to rise to powerful positions again. And if worse came to worse he could always take Signy back to York, in England, and live with his friend King Amundi.
Bjorgolf had hoped that the winds would be calm so that they would have to row, but the winds were blowing strongly in from the ocean, and were pushing the merchant vessel swiftly up the fjord. His nerves, much like the winds, were not calm ! He had expected to come back leading his triumphant warriors, in their heavily laden dragons ships filled with silver and gold, to a cheering crowd of villagers. But a single cargo ship brought out only the local merchants, and a few of the more curious villagers. A part of Bjorgolf was glad that there was no welcoming party to greet him. Bjorgolf feared what the villagers would think of him returning home all by himself, while the rest of his warriors lay dead in a foreign land.
When the merchant ship came up alongside the dock two ropes were thrown out to the villagers, who tied them to posts which held the ship in place. Egil, had originally planned on dropping off his special passenger, and then sail back to Lade to join the other two ships. Egil, however, had asked Bjorgolf if he felt that he could sell some of his cargo in Holtavord, and the ex - chieftain told him that his village was a prosperous one with several wealthy merchants who would be more than happy to buy from him. The ship's captain thought it wise to stay a few days, and make some money to compensate for the longer journey.
When they were securely tied Bjorgolf thanked Egil for his kindness, and then jumped off of the ship onto the dock. At first his legs were a little wobbly from being at sea for so long, but by the time he reached the outskirts of the village he felt the ground becoming more solid that he walked on. Bjorgolf stopped before entering the village. He could not decide exactly where he should go to find Signy. She would not be at the great hall because it was not possible that the village waited and did not replace him when he did not return for so long. " If she was not the wife of a chieftain anymore where might she be ? " he asked himself. Then out of the corner of his eye he spotted someone that he would rather have avoided !
Helga had spent most of the day doing chores around her house, and weeding the vegetable garden. As the morning turned into midday she decided it was time to go down to the market square. When she left her house she casually glanced down the road towards the fjord. What she saw stopped her dead in her tracks ! Helga dropped the empty basket she was carrying , and stared at the man at the end of the village as though he were a ghost who had just risen from his grave. Then she placed her hand over her mouth and began to cry.
Bjorgolf and Helga stood frozen for a moment before slowly walking towards one another. Bjorgolf did not know what to say to her, and he dreaded having to recount what had happened to his men in England. Helga, on the other hand, had only one question as she stopped in front of Bjorgolf. As she stood there with tears streaming down her face, she asked through trembling lips : " Is my husband alive or dead ? " Bjorgolf lowered his head. " Hoskuld was killed in battle in England along with all the rest of my warriors. " he told her glumly. Helga raised her hand and slapped Bjorgolf hard across the face. " Then you should have died as well ! " she told him as she walked away. Bjorgolf put his hand on his stinging cheek and yelled back at her: " Where is my wife ? " Helga turned, and with no hint of emotion said : " You will find Signy in Hrutadale. " Helga turned away, picked up her basket, and walked away. Bjorgolf never saw Helga again.
He sensed that Helga' s anger was probably shared by most of the villagers. They had trusted him to lead their sons, brothers, fathers and husbands successfully into battle, and to bring them home. He had failed on both counts miserably. The one time popular chieftain put down his head and slowly walked out of the village on the road to Hrutadale. Bjorgolf knew full well that he would have to gather up his wife and leave this place. It was very apparent to him that he was no longer welcome in the village that he had once ruled.
Bjorgolf decided that once he arrived in Hrutadale, it would be best if he went to see the jarl. Although he and Jarl Thorir had never seen eye to eye on many things, he felt it would be a good idea to speak to him to gauge which way the " winds were now blowing " about his return. He never really liked the jarl. Thorir was a strong, brave man, but he lacked what Bjorgolf liked to call, " the adventurous viking spirit ". When he had asked Jarl Thorir about a joint venture to England, he had refused stating it was a foolish endeavor to go a viking in a land ruled by the English and the Danes. Bjorgolf laughed to himself as he thought : " It turned out that you were right Jarl Thorir ! It was a foolish venture after all ! "
Bjorgolf bought a few pieces of fruit, and some dried herring, from a street merchant in Hrutadale before heading for the jarl's great hall. It had been a long journey, and he was tired, and dirty from his travels. As Bjorgolf took a bite out of an apple he saw a sight that he never thought he would see again. Standing in front of the great hall was his wife Signy. And she looked even prettier than Bjorgolf had remembered her ! Signy had her hair perfectly braided around her head, and she wore a beautiful blue cloak that was attached by a golden pin in the shape of a raven. With his eyes he followed her beautiful form all the way down to her feet, and it was there that he noticed that Signy was holding the hand of a little girl. Then Jarl Thorir came out of his hall picked up the little girl and kissed Signy. Suddenly Jarl Thorir stopped kissing his wife, and placed the child back on the ground, when he saw that they were being watched by a man up the road a bit. The jarl then placed his hand over the hilt of his sword. Signy at first looked at Jarl Thorir with a questioning stare, and then turned and followed his eyes to see what he was looking at. Signy screamed, and stepped backwards, falling into her husband, when she saw who it was ! Jarl Thorir did not recognize the man who was approaching, but saw him as a threat. Thorir drew his sword, and pushed his wife and daughter behind him as a precaution. Bjorgolf quickly drew his sword as well to defend himself. " Is this how I am to be treated ! " Bjorgolf yelled at the jarl. The jarl looked back at Signy, and asked : " Who is this man, and why are you afraid of him !? " Signy had picked up her daughter Gudny, and was holding her tightly against her as she answered : " That is my dead husband ! "
- End Chapter 9
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2014.
Next : Chapter 10 : Honor in Defeat