The Queen Of Pain
The Queen Of Wisdom
Queen Birsla ruled Rogaland with a loving heart and a gentle hand, but everyone knew that in that hand she held an iron sword. The Royal Guard, now the Hirdmen, grew from the original thirty men chosen by Ogmundr to over fifty in less than a year. Everyday, much like Odin in Valhalla, Birsla had the Hirdmen practice right out in her courtyard for all to see.
Many of the villagers, and some of the warriors from the regular army came to the queen's hall to watch the spectacle. This " show " had two purposes. First, it gave the young boys and girls in the village something to strive for. The Hirdmen were better trained, better housed, better fed, and better paid than the regular army ranks, and only the Berserkir had greater fighting skills. Second, and more importantly, it showed everyone, including those in the army, that the queen was well protected, and that anyone considering a coup should think twice before going ahead with such a rash decision.
Queen Birsla, however, did not need to rely on her Hirdmen to remain in power. Birsla's generosity, and kindness, made her one of the most beloved rulers in all of Southern Norway. The queen did not horde money, or waste it on silly things the way her husband had, and she was actually quite lenient in her collection of tax money. Although she kept the army stong, and their ships well maintained, the queen was able to cut the amount of taxes she collected from her subjects almost in half.
As the year wheel turned, and it became time for the Gulaþing again, Queen Birsla decided that she would stop in Sokndal to see if Nesbjorn had finished the three new dragon long ships that she had commissioned him to make. The queen, however, had bigger things on her mind than the three sailing ships.
The queen of Rogaland had a rather large surprise for Ragnvaldr when she went to visit him at the training field. In her mind she was devising a plan to avenge past wrongs, but she had need of the army to back her up. Flanked by a dozen Hirdmen, and with Vetr in the lead, she watched the warriors as they practiced for a moment before addressing Ragnvaldr.
" I want half of the army, including all the Berserkir, ready to march to Gulen, by way of Sokndal, in two days ! " she commanded Ragnvaldr.
A year earlier Ragnvaldr would have asked why, but now he no longer questioned his queen's decisions, or her authority. He simply bowed and replied respectfully.
" They will be ready, my Lady ! "
From the practice field Queen Birsla traveled over to the longhouse of a man named Silfast, who had once been a Lagmann at the Gulaþing. He was now retired, and living with his family here in Stavanger. When they reached the Lagmann's home Vetr helped the queen to dismount, and then walked with her to the front door of the longhouse.
Before knocking Birsla turned to Vetr.
" I will speak to this man alone ! " she told the commander of the Hirdmen.
Vetr nodded, then pounded on the door, and waited. A few moments later the latched clicked, and the door slowly opened. As Vetr and Queen Birsla looked for the occupant at eye level, a little girl with curly blonde hair peaked around the lower corner of the door.
" The queen wishes to speak to Silfast ! " Vetr told the little girl very officially.
" Vetr ! " the queen exclaimed.
Queen Birsla knelt down, and stroked the cheek of the little child.
" My aren't you a pretty little thing ?! " she told the child.
The little girl blushed.
" I don't know . " the little girl replied shyly.
" And what is your name child ? " Birsla asked.
The little girl stood on her toes and giggled.
" My name is Marta ! " she told the queen as she opened the door wider.
Queen Birsla kissed the child on the cheek.
" Marta ! My that is a pretty name ! " the queen replied.
" I am Queen Birsla, and I have come to see your grandfather. Is he home ? " she asked with a big smile.
Marta turned and pointed to the center of the longhouse.
" Grandfather is sitting by the fire. " she replied with a child's innocence.
Birsla stood up and pointed to the door.
" Vetr ! No one comes into this house until I am done speaking to the old Lagmann ! " she commanded.
" Yes, my Lady ! " he immediately answered.
As the hours passed, and the queen did not emerge from the longhouse, Vetr became worried. His orders were clear. No one was to enter the longhouse until the queen was done speaking to the man named Silfast. However, as the commander of the Hirdmen, his first duty was the queen's safety. Just as he felt he had waited long enough he heard the latch mechanism disengage, and the door slowly opened.
The queen emerged from the longhouse with a smile upon her face.
" The Lagmann, Silfast, will be coming with us to Gulen ! " she told Vetr without explanation.
Vetr was not quite sure why the retired Lagmann would be joining them as they traveled to Gulen, but he had learned that it was not worth his time to question the queen. For surely she had a plan. Queen Birsla always had a plan !
They left for Sokndal on a typical sunny warm summer's day for southeastern Norway. The roads were dry, but not too dusty, and the ride to Nesbjorn's great hall was tiring, but uneventful. Ragnvaldr rode up front with the queen, and her Hirdmen, hoping to find out why Queen Birsla had brought the army along, but she did not reveal her intentions to the disappointment of the commander of the army.
Nesbjorn was terrified ! King Kaldstein had cut off his fingers the last time Rogaland royalty had visited, and he had only a few guards with him. But as the chieftain could clearly see Queen Birsla had brought the whole damned army with her !
The chieftain ran out of the door of his great hall shouting :
" The ships are ready ! The ships are ready !! "
The Hirdmen became so alarmed by Nesbjorn's hyperactivity that they surrounded him with their horses , and would not let the chieftain come near the queen. This only served to heighten his anxiety !
The queen, however, knew why the shipbuilding chieftain was in such fear for his life. Birsla kicked her horse past the guards, and reined in her mount directly in front of Nesbjorn.
" Vetr ! " she commanded.
" Yes, my Lady ! " came the immediate answer.
" Take two men and inspect the ships ! Tell me if they are truly, " ready" , as Nesbjorn has told us.
It took a little while for Vetr, Nafni, and Unnvaldr to inspect all of the ships. In the meantime the only thing that Nesbjorn could do was stand there nervously sweating while being encircled by Rogaland warriors.
After what seemed like an eternity to Nesbjorn, Vetr rode back with his men in tow, and stopped in front of Queen Birsla.
" My queen ! All three ships are ready to launch ! " he told her.
Then he added with a little smile :
" Right down to the last stitches on the sails. "
" Nesbjorn ! " the queen shouted.
" Yes, ......, my Lady ? " the chieftain asked timidly.
" You have earned your money this time ! " she told Nesbjorn.
Then she continued in an official tone, but with a pleasant smile as well :
" All orders in the future will be made under the same conditions. I will pay a bonus for the ships being done early; full price if they are on time, and only half if they are late ! " she explained.
Vetr and Ragnvaldr looked at each other, and both were thinking the same thing. This once shy, and sheltered woman had become the Queen of Wisdom. Not only did she have her ships ahead of schedule, but but she had accomplished it with an incentive instead of threats and violence. Apparently money was more important to a Viking chieftain than his fingers.
Nesbjorn finally allowed himself to relax and smile.
" Thank you, Queen Birsla ! " he replied now that he realized that he would not be injured.
" Will you be staying for a grand supper ? " Nesbjorn then asked.
Queen Birsla shook her head in the negative.
" I am afraid that we are on our way to Gulen, for the All - Thing. " she informed the chieftain.
Then she leaned over her horse, and asked with a pleasant smile :
" Will you hold a feast for us when we return in several days ? "
Nesbjorn smiled from ear to ear
" It would be my honor great queen ! " he replied eagerly.
" Then I am afraid that we must be going ! " she added with a hint of regret.
" Ragnvaldr ! Move out the army ! " the queen shouted.
Ragnvaldr smiled proudly.
" Yes, my lady ! "
- End Chapter 12
- Next : Same Old ( All - )Thing..... Different Result !
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2016.