The Queen Of Pain
Acceptance And Power
Because Sunna did not show her face on the day of Queen Birsla' s arrival, Ragnvaldr had his warriors lined up in full battle armor for inspection early in the morning just in case she came earlier than expected. Despite the drizzling rain every warrior stood with their shield in one hand, and their spear in the other. On either side of this long line, which ran forty rows deep, sat the division commanders on their horses. In the center of the ranks were the Berserkir. Dressed in bearskins, and little else, they stood like statues, each with two axes crossed against their chest.
Ragnvaldr thought it quite a spectacle, though he did feel it to be a total waste of time. He doubted that the queen would show in these dreary conditions. And if she did not come to inspect his army he had made up his mind that he would march his warriors over to the great hall, and take the kingdom of Rogaland for himself.
Queen Birsla awoke late in the morning. The trip back from Sokndal had been a trying one, with the weather conspiring against them each and every day to slow their progress. This morning she took great care in dressing, for this was the first time she had worn a shield warrior's garb. Brettifa tried not to smile too much as she helped the queen on with the belt that held a sword, knife, and a small throwing axe.
Although Brettifa thought it unnecessary Birsla insisted that she wear the chain mail that she had borrowed from a shield maiden named Eyda who lived on the outskirts of Stavanger. The queen was so impressed with the demonstration of fighting skills Eyda gave her that she honored the shield maiden by making her the newest member of the Royal Guard. She explained her reasoning to Vetr by simply telling him that this woman could go places the male warriors could not, and therefore she would be protected no matter where she was, or what she was doing. Vetr could not argue with her logic.
" If Syn can guard Odin's hall, then it is only fitting that I have a shield maiden of your caliber to protect me ! " she had told Eyda.
When the queen was ready, Brettifa opened the door for Vetr, who had been waiting outside while the queen dressed. The commander of the guard stopped dead in his tracks when he saw the once timid queen dressed up as a warrior. Vetr tried to hold back a smile, but failed miserably.
" Your horse and escort are waiting, my lady ! " he told her respectfully.
Birsla followed the commander out, while Brettifa, as the last one to leave shut the door behind her. Veter assisted the heavily weighed down queen onto her horse, and then mounted his own steed as well. Queen Birsla rode in the middle surrounded on one side by Nafni, and on the other by Unnvaldr. Eyda rode in the rear with Brettifa. Vetr, of course, led the way to the assembly field, completing the protective encirclement of the queen.
Ragnvaldr was about to dismiss his men, and put together a small force to attack the great hall, when he spotted riders coming from off in the distance. As they slowly came closer the army commander could see that it was Queen Birsla and her Royal Guards.
" Well ! I'll be cursed to Nastrond ! " he whispered to himself.
As the little entourage stopped in front of Ragnvaldr, Vetr dismounted, nodded his respects to the commander of the army, and then helped Queen Birsla down from her mount. The commander of the Royal Guard, and the queen, then walked side by side over to Ragnvaldr.
" Queen Birsla of Rogaland is here to inspect her army ! " Vetr told the commander of the army in an official tone.
Although Ragnvaldr knew that acknowledging the queen would help legitimize her rule to his warriors the army commander had no choice but to bow to the Queen of Rogaland.
" I Ragnvaldr, overall commander of the army of Rogaland welcome the queen to inspect my,"....., he paused for a moment,
.... her army ! " he finished.
Queen Birsla nodded.
" Then let us begin. " she told the commander of the army.
Despite the weight of her weapons and armor, which was further complicated by her now wet clothes, the queen decided to walk the entire length of the front line to inspect weapons and shields. Ragnvaldr had expected this to be a superficial review of his army, but the queen was out to prove a point. And that was simply that this was her army, and she expected it to be always at its best and ready for war.
A short way down the line she noticed a warrior standing with a shield that was badly chipped on one side.
" Commander ! " the queen shouted.
" Why is this warrior carrying a damaged shield ? ! " she demanded to know.
The warrior, a man named Aleifr, began to speak, but Vetr placed his hand over the warrior's face.
" You will speak only when the queen asks you a question ! " Vetr explained to the warrior as a harsh reprimand.
" I am waiting Ragnvaldr ! " the queen said impatiently.
Ragnvaldr reluctantly bowed before answering.
" It was an oversight on my part, my queen. I will see that it is replaced as soon as possible ! " he replied apologetically.
Queen Birsla looked the army commnader in the eyes.
" I know that you will ! " she said sternly.
Then she added :
" This man will come to my great hall by sunset tomorrow to show me personally that his shield was repaired ! "
Ragnvaldr looked shocked ! King Kaldstein had never shown much interest in the state of the army, and the commander was very much taken aback by the queen's orders.
" Tomorrow ? " he asked with a frown on his face.
Queen Birsla rolled her eyes.
" If that is too difficult a task for you, then perhaps one of your division leaders will take care of this matter for you. " she told him.
Ragnvaldr understood the implications of what she was saying immediately. Obey, or be replaced, was what she was insinuating !
" I will personally bring this man to your great hall to show you the repaired shield, my lady ! " he quickly told her.
Satisfied, the queen went on with her inspection, but did not examine the weapons and shields quite as closely from that moment forward. She had made her point, and judging from the nervous stares she was receiving from the warriors, that point was well taken.
When she reched the center of the line, where the Berserkir stood, the queen turned to Ragnvaldr and asked.
" Who is the leader of the Berserkir ? "
Ragnvaldr nodded and pointed towards a large man at the end of the Berserkir line.
" Ogmundr, my queen, is the leader of the Berserkir ! " he told her proudly.
The queen looked over at the huge man who wore a bearskin like a hat and cloak. She examined him from head to foot before addressing him.
" Ogmundr stepped forward ! " Queen Birsla commanded.
Ogmundr was a man unaccustomed to being ordered around. Ragnvaldr had always treated him with the greatest of respect, and even the king spoke to him as if he were more important than the others.
" Yes ? " he asked the queen slowly, though he remained in line.
The queen walked over to the warrior, who towered over her small frame, and looked up into his eyes.
" If I ordered you to step forward in battle, to protect the army, would you also fail to honor your queen, your people, and your fellow warriors, by refusing ? " she shouted at the giant of a man.
Almost everyone, including Vetr, who gripped the hilt of his sword tightly, thought that Ogmundr would split her head wide open with one of his axes. Instead, the bearskin covered man smiled, and stepped forward.
The queen tried not to seem terrified as she took a slow step backward.
" My mistake Queen Birsla ! What is it that I can do for you ? " he asked politely, with his rough voice.
Birsla swallowed hard before answering.
" I would assume that you would know your fellow comrades fighting skills better than anyone ? " she asked.
" I should ! I have defeated all of them in mock battle my queen ! " he told her with a touch of arrogance.
Queen Birsla nodded in admiration.
" Then you Ogmundr, leader of the Berserkir, will select thirty of the best fighters from the regular army. These men will be brought by you to Veter at the Royal Guard's Hall, where they will become my new personal guards. They will be known in the future as the Hirdmen ! " she told him.
Ogmundr was a simple man, but not unintelligent. He understood that by the queen asking him to pick the warriors for her new personal guard, instead of Ragnvaldr, he was being given a great honor by the queen of Rogaland.
" It would be a great honor to do this for you my lady ! " he told her proudly.
Queen Birsla, to show that she could be motherly as well as tough, placed her hand over his, smiled, and thanked him gracefully.
As Ogmundr went back into line, the queen stepped back a few paces, and without advising either Vetr or Ragnvaldr of what she was about to do, addressed the entire army.
" My late husband it seems did not honor his warriors as well as he should have. He was, in my opinion, stingy to those who protect our kingdom. Every soldier in the ranks will receive ten additional brass coins per month. The division leaders, an additional two silver coins, and the commander of the army an additional gold coin per month. This increase in pay is retroactive to last month, and if you will all be so good as to come to the great hall tonight, you will be given the additional allowance then. " she told the army.
Queen Birsla then drew her sword, and held it high over her head.
" For honor,....., For glory,....., FOR ROGALAND !! " she shouted.
Every warrior in the ranks raised their weapons in the air and shouted joyfully.
" For Rogaland ! For Rogaland ! For Rogaland !
Ogmundr then stepped out of line again and stood next to Queen Birsla, and suddenly there was silence. The leader of the Berserkir raised both of his axes to the heavens.
" Hail Queen Birsla ! " he screamed like an animal.
Immediately the entire army erupted into cheers of " Queen Birsla !.... Queen Birsla !.....
Brettifa sat on her horse with tears streaming down her face as they chanted. Not only had the army as a whole accepted Birsla as their queen, they had fallen in love with her, and more importantly were willing to die for her !
- End Chapter 11
- Next : Chapter 12 : The Queen Of Wisdom
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2016.