The Queen Of Pain
By the time Vetr and Nafni reached the guest hall Unnvaldr had resumed his position as sentry outside of its door.
" Brettifa is inside attending to the queen, per your orders commander ! " he told Vetr dutifully.
Vetr patted Unnvaldr on the shoulder.
" Thank You ! " he told the guard gratefully.
" Do not let anyone into this hall unless I have personally summoned them ! " Vetr ordered.
Unnvaldr nodded .
" Yes commander ! " Unnvaldr replied.
As Vetr and Nafni entered the guest hall they saw an odd sight. Queen Birsla, who had just killed her husband, was standing there calmly with a smile upon her face, while Brettifa was shaking like a leaf in the wind as she cleaned the blood off of the queen.
" How is she ? " Vetr asked.
" I think Brettifa is a little frightened, but I am sure that she will be just fine. " the queen replied.
Vetr almost laughed at the ridiculousness of the situation. He had been asking Brettifa about the queen, not the other way round. With a smile he could not hide, Vetr replied.
" Yes ! I think your handmaiden will make it through this. "
Queen Birsla returned his kindly smile with a weak one of her own.
" If you have come to imprison me, I will be ready shortly to go with you. " she told the commander calmly.
Vetr looked down at the mutilated body of the king, and then stepped over it to Queen Birsla. The commander knelt down in front of the queen and motioned for Nafni to do the same. When they were both down on one knee Vetr looked up at the queen and spoke.
" I regret to inform my queen that King Kaldstein has been involved in a tragic accident. It seems, my Lady, that your husband has managed to fall on his sword, and has died from the resulting injuries ! " he told the queen .
Brettifa gasped in shock, and stopped wiping the blood from the queen's arms, when she heard Vetr's words. Queen Birsla merely smiled at Vetr.
" It is kind of you to want to help me, but I must pay for what I have done. " she explained to Vetr.
Brettifa's expression changed from shock to anger instantly !
" It was not wrong to defend yourself ! Every person, man, woman, or child, has the right to defend themselves from harm ! " she yelled angrily.
Queen Birsla kissed Brettifa on the cheek.
" I do not think that the commander of the army will see things as you do my dear. And without the army I cannot rule Rogaland ! " she explained to her handmaiden.
Vetr realized at once that the queen was right ! Without the army to back her claim to the throne, she could never rule as queen.
" Nafni ! Go and wake Ragnvaldr and bring him here. Tell him that the king has fallen, and that Queen Birsla now rules Rogaland. " Vetr ordered.
" Yes, commander ! " Nafni replied and then quickly left.
Vetr walked over to Brettifa, and cupped her face gently in his hand.
" I need you to finish cleaning up the queen by the time Ragnvaldr arrives. " he told her.
" And dress the queen in her finest gown, " he added as he headed for the door, " I will wait for Ragnvaldr outside ! "
Unnvaldr turned to Vetr, as he exited the guest hall, and shook his head .
" What a mess this all is ! " he told his commander.
Vetr took a deep breath of the cold air before replying .
" If Ragnvaldr will back the queen with the army then everything will be fine ! " he explained.
Unnvaldr raised his eyebrows.
" And if he refuses ? " the guard asked.
Vetr kicked a small stone that lay by his feet next to the doorway.
" Then there will be chaos here in Rogaland as the strongest warriors battle each other for the kingdom ! " he told his subordinate sadly.
Moments later two figures came running towards the guest hall. Vetr did not have to see the faces of these shadowy men to know that they were Nafni and Ragnvaldr because the rest of the village was asleep. Unnvaldr and Vetr gave each other one last nervous stare before Ragnvaldr came stomping up to them.
" What is this that I hear ! ? The king has accidently fallen on his sword and is dead,....... and now the queen wishes to rule in his stead ? ! " Ragnvaldr bellowed loudly.
Vetr kept a stern look on his face as he replied.
" Until we sort this all out, I would suggest that we keep our voices down. We do not want to wake the whole village ! " he told the army commander.
" Fine ! Is it true that King Kaldstein is dead ? " Ragnvaldr asked in a half whisper.
" Yes ! His blood soaked body lies on the floor of the guest hall as we speak. " Vetr replied.
Ragnvaldr paced back and forth.
" This is not good. Not good at all ! The queen is a weak woman who could never rule successfully over our people. This might very well lead to a power struggle that will tear apart our kingdom, and leave us open to attack from our neighbors. " he told Vetr in a loud whisper.
Vetr knew that Ragnvaldr was right. Everyone saw the queen as quiet, weak, and fragile. An abused woman who never fought back. If she could not defend herself, then how could anyone expect her to defend her kingdom against their enemies.
For a moment Vetr was confused as to what do . Torn between his love for Brettifa, who wanted him to help the queen, and his duty to protect and defend Rogaland, he was thoroughly perplexed by the whole confusing situation.
Then Vetr thought to himself :
" What if everyone saw the queen as a strong savage woman. One who had waited for years in the shadows for the right moment to strike down her incompetent husband and seize power ! " the thought made him smile.
" Ragnvaldr ! What if I told you that the king did not " fall " on his sword, but was in truth stabbed to death by Queen Birsla, who wished to wrest the kingdom away from a reckless, and weak leader. " Vetr told the commander of the army.
Ragnvaldr frowned, and was about to make fun of the idea, when he realized that Vetr was dead serious.
" I would like to see the king's body. Now ! " Ragnvaldr demanded.
Vetr opened the door for Ragnvaldr, then as they entered the room he grabbed a candle off of the table, and knelt down over King Kaldstein's body, holding it near the mutilated torso. Ragnvaldr, fell to his knees and examined the horrific wounds several times before looking up. First he turned and stared at the queen, and then at Vetr.
" That must have been one angry woman ! " Ragnvaldr whispered with a grin.
To everyone's surprise Queen Birsla stepped forward and stood over the commander of the army.
" Yes ! I am an angry woman. And I will make for a much better ruler than my husband ever was ! " she told the commander with great authority.
Then the queen knelt down and placed a finger up under Ragnvaldr's chin and looked him square in the eyes.
" At noon, three days from this day, I will inspect my army back at Stavanger, and it had better be in a condition ready for war ! My late husband has allowed things to become much too relaxed here in Rogaland.... but that will change now....and if I find the army lacking..... well ..... we will hold two funerals this week ! " she explained to Ragnvaldr.
The commander of the army stood up and angrily grabbed the hilt of his sword. The queen rose up just as fast. The moment he did Vetr stepped in front of the queen to protect her, and Nafni followed his commander's lead and moved to the queen's side.
" You may be the commander of Rogaland's army, but I am the commander of the Royal Guard. If you draw your weapon you will die ! " he told Ragnvaldr angrily.
In the background Brettifa held her breath in fear, but the queen strode confidently around Vetr and placed her hand on top of the hand Ragnvaldr was holding on the hilt of his sword .
" Now commander Ragnvaldr ! Is this what you really want ? To be killed by Vetr and Nafni, and then disgraced as the power hungry man who killed my husband in the middle of the night ? " she asked him with a little grin.
Ragnvaldr at first looked down at the queen's hand, and then allowed his gaze to slowly rise up to meet her cold stare. What the commander of the army saw in her bright blue eyes was not what he expected. He did not see the fear of a woman abused, nor did he sense that she was in any way shaken by having just killed her husband. What Ragnvaldr realized in that moment was that this was a strong woman, a determined leader, and quite possibly a better ruler than King Kaldstein had ever been.
" I will accept the situation for the moment, and see how this all plays out. " he told the queen warily.
Queen Birsla narrowed her eyes, before asking angrily :
" Is that what you think I am doing ? Playing ?! "
Ragnvaldr looked down at the king's mutilated body.
" No ! I can see that this is not a game. " he told her.
Ragnvaldr nodded respectfully to the queen and then walked to the door. He opened it slowly, but before leaving he turned and smiled at the queen.
" My army will be ready for your inspection three days from today, when our great sun Goddess has reached halfway across our sky ! " he told her before stepping out.
Unnvaldr stood in the doorway shocked at what he had just heard from the commander of the army. After Ragnvaldr left he looked through the open door into the hall. He glanced at Vetr first, and then at the queen. Vetr, Nafni and Brettifa were all staring at Queen Birsla as though they were seeing her for the very first time.
Queen Birsla looked at each of them in turn and then grinned.
" I believe that went quite well ! " she exclaimed.
Then she added :
" If I am to travel back to Stavanger to inspect our army I will need to get some rest. If you will help me to change Brettifa I would very much appreciate your assistance. " she told her handmaiden.
" Oh ! And gentlemen, I would like you to remove that from my hall. " she told her Royal Guards as she pointed to her dead husband's body.
- End Chapter 10
- Next : Chapter 11 : Acceptance And Power
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2016.