The Queen Of War
Better Late Than Never !
The next morning both armies awoke to a dreary start to the new day. Not even the great Goddess Sunna, with all her strength and power, could penetrate the thick clouds and drizzling rain that fell throughout the region. The gloom of the morning seemed a precursor to the dark horror that was soon to envelope the entire battlefield like a black shroud ready to cover the living. Such was the atmosphere on the field of battle for the second day.
Though hampered by the thick fog and drizzle the battle reignited as soon as there was enough light to see. This day, however, Ragnvaldr could not persuade Queen Birsla to remain in the rear with Vetr, and Nafni's divisions, which were being held in reserve after their poor performance of the day before. The persistent queen of Rogaland proudly rode her horse at the front of her forces with the commander of the army, while being flanked on one side by Ogmundr and his Berserker, and on the other by the shield maidens lead by Eyda. The queen herself was surrounded by the Hirdmen, now led by Vatnarr.
Ragnvaldr was confident that the queen would be safe, but to accomplish this he had to overcompensate for the queen's presence in the center of the army, which left his flanks a little weaker than he would have liked. To rectify this the commander of the army placed Nafni and his Varhaug warriors behind the regular army on the right, and Vetr with his Avaldsnes forces on the left. Ragnvaldr hoped that they, along with his regiments of horsemen, would be enough to keep his flanks from folding under the pressure of the Hordaland army.
Unlike the day before this time only the Rogaland army moved forward in orderly fashion, while the Hordaland forces waited for them in defensive positions. The order of battle lasted only until the attacking Rogalanders crashed into the defenses of the Hordalanders. Then only chaos and confusion ruled the battlefield. Surprisingly the Hordaland army held its ground, and fought back with the tenacity of a people fighting for their homeland.
When King Ljufvini noticed that his left was beginning to push the Rogaland army back, he decided to commit his left flank that was being held in reserve to protect his army from a surprise attack from the east. Once the order was given the reserves swung down like a gate and began to sweep the Rogalanders from the field.
Filled with the thrill of impending victory Ljufvini was about to send in his last reserves, the horsemen, to roll up the entire right flank of his enemy, when he suddenly caught a glimpse of a flag flying on a hill behind his left flank. As the king looked closer he saw what he feared most of all ! In the area he had just emptied of his reserve forces he saw lined up behind this foreign banner an entire army moving into attack position.
" You bastard King Reifnir ! I should have known it would be you who would make an alliance with a woman ! " he screamed.
He had originally expected that it would have been Haddingjadalar who would have made a treaty with Rogaland, but he was not that surprised when it turned out to be Þelamǫrk instead. King Reifnir and Queen Isleif had never liked him, and their son Vignir was a little dragon's ass who was power hungry.
At first King Ljufvini tried to recall his left, but they were now fully engaged with the enemy and could not reform into a shield wall to repel an attack from the east.The Hordaland king sent his horsemen from both flanks to attack this new threat, and keep them occupied, while he tried to pull together enough warriors from other parts of the field to form a shield wall on his left. The Þelamǫrk army, however, brushed them aside as if they were nothing !
Vignir smiled as he ordered his fresh army into battle. Coming to the battlefield late was part of his plan. Why should his people suffer as much as these two warring factions ! Besides, if the queen decided not to honor her part of the agreement he could simply wipe out her forces as well. Everything was going just as he planned !
Not only had Vignir caught the Hordalanders by surprise, but he was in position to attack and destroy them from the rear. Glorious thoughts raced through his mind as he led his army down the hill against the main army of Hordaland. First he would defeat King Ljufvini, then he would marry Queen Birsla, kill his parents and rule over three kingdoms ! His plan was perfect, and his first objective was right there in front of him.
King Ljufvini managed to move some of his warriors over to his exposed left, but it was too thin a line and the Þelamǫrk army quickly overran it. When the king of Hordaland realized that all was lost, he decided that if he could not win a victory for his kingdom this day, he would at least kill the man who had caused his defeat. The king reined his horse around, kicked it several times with his heels, and raced off in the direction where he had seen Vignir, who appeared to be leading the Þelamǫrk army in his father's place.
Queen Birsla also had seen the king of Hordaland heading towards Vignir's position, and fired off a few arrows at him with the hope of taking him down. Unfortunately he was riding too fast, and her skill had not reached a high enough level with regards to moving targets. Realizing the futility of it she returned to firing arrows at targets she could hit. As she did, however, she slowly began to move her horse in the direction of the king and Vignir.
This movement by the queen away from the center was not missed by either Ogmundr or Öndurdís. As his Berserker fought the Hordalanders in his front he slowly began to slide them off to the right in the direction the queen was moving. Öndurdís, who stayed with the queen even after Eyda and her shield maidens attacked the opening on the left of the Hordaland line, constantly scanned the battlefield from horizon to horizon . When she spotted anyone who might be a threat to the queen with bow and arrow, throwing spear, or axe, she put an arrow through them with an accuracy that only a skilled mountain Goddess could achieve.
King Ljufvini and Vignir dismounted almost simultaneously when they came within fighting distance of one another. It was almost impossible at first for them to get at each other because both had Royal Guards protecting them, but eventually they thinned out through attrition, and the two leaders were left alone to decide their fates.
As Queen Birsla watched the two warriors hacking away at each other with their swords she found herself hoping that King Ljufvini emerged as the winner. That would solve her problem of having to enter into a marriage of convenience with a man bent on shoving her aside and ruling alone. When Vignir ran his sword through the king's stomach, however, she suddenly realized that she would have to take matters into her own hands !
Öndurdís watched as the entire scene played out before her. When she realized what the queen was about to do the shield
maiden - Goddess reached down and steadied the queen's horse. She smiled as Queen Birsla took aim, and shouted instructions to the queen before she took the shot.
" It is a long shot ! Pull the string as far back as you can ! Aim carefully ! Compensate for the west wind ! Deep Breath ! Release !! " she shouted above the din of battle.
As King Ljufvini fell dead on the ground Vignir raised his sword over his head in a victory salute. Because of Vignir's change in position the arrow Queen Birsla had aimed at his head hit him square in the chest piercing his heart, and killing him instantly. The queen was absolutely stunned that she had hit the target at all, let alone put the man down. With her mouth wide open she turned to speak to Öndurdís, but she was no longer by her side. The shield maiden who had traveled with her for days to Hordaland had suddenly disappeared. Birsla scanned the battlefield over and over again, but she could not find Öndurdís anywhere !
One part of Birsla was greatly disturbed that she was gone, but another more sensible side was glad that there would not be any witnesses to her killing of the son of King Reifnir, and Queen Isleif of Þelamǫrk.
There was, however, one other witness to what she had done. Ogmundr, who had followed his queen to protect her, had seen her kill the commander of the Þelamǫrk army. The Berserker commander immediately ordered his men forward against the enemy in his front. As they fought their way forward they pushed the Hordalanders back beyond Vignir's body, and right into the clutches of the Þelamǫrk army. After killing a Hordaland warrior by putting his axe through his skull, Ogmundr reached down, and with all his might ripped the arrow out of Vignir's chest before rejoining the battle.
With King Ljufvini dead, and his army caught in a vise between the Rogaland army and the Þelamǫrk forces, the Hordaland army quickly began to either surrender, or run away. The few who did stay and fight were quickly killed by the overwhelming number of warriors who faced them. A division commander in the Þelamǫrk army, named Tandri, who now led their forces, ordered all those who surrendered to be killed, but Queen Birsla, the only royalty left on the battlefield ordered them rounded up, and brought before her. She offered the Hordalanders a choice. If they took an oath to her, and served Rogaland, then they could go home to their wives and children. If they refused they were to be killed immediately and their bodies hung up in the trees for the birds to feast on. The first few were defiant and died for what they believed in, but as more and more bodies were hung in the old oak trees on the edge of the battlefield, many chose to take the oath and live.
Queen Birsla sent out teams of warriors, including the shield maidens, to help the wounded, and comfort the dying, who lay sprawled all over the battlefield. Her hope was that at least some could be saved.
Shortly thereafter a group of glum looking shield maidens brought back Eyda's body to the Sunnfjord on a shield. It broke Queen Birsla's heart to see the heroic commander of the shield maidens being carried off of the field of battle in such a manner, but she no longer cried, for war had hardened her heart.
Queen Birsla ordered Ragnvaldr to secure the battlefield and then to move north to destroy any pockets of resistance that Queen Alfhilda of Hordaland might form to try and keep herself in power. She need not have bothered, however, the queen of Hordaland could not live with the death of her husband, and the defeat of her army, and took poison ending her life. Almost all of the local chieftains did not resist their new masters. They did not care who ruled Hordaland as long as they kept their right of autonomy over their own villages, and willingly took an oath of allegiance to their new queen.
Long after the battle had ended on land, Lodvik, still believing he was under orders from King Ljufvini sailed back to the mouth of the Sunnfjord with his little force of sixteen long ships. Ambi, who still commanded the Rogaland fleet while Ragnvaldr was away, quickly destroyed the brave, but misguided Hordaland attack. Ambi remarked after the battle that Lodvik had redeemed himself for his earlier cowardice by fighting a splendidly fierce battle. Out of respect for his opponent Ambi had the sea commander's body placed on a damaged ship, and the vessel set ablaze.
As the queen walked around the battlefield alone, she remembered most of the fallen not as they now looked, bloated and covered in blood, but as they had been in life. Then Birsla reluctantly headed over to where Vignir's body lay. She did not regret killing him, but she was worried about the ramifications of his death as it pertained to her agreement with King Reifnir and Queen Isleif of Þelamǫrk.
Birsla knelt down over the body of the young commander and thought to herself that it was a shame that he was such an evil person, for he was a handsome man. She was about to get up when she heard footsteps behind her. Towering over her was the shadow of Ogmundr, the commander of the Berserker. He stared down at the queen for a moment, and then reached into his shirt and pulled out a bloodied arrow.
" Nice shot ! " he told the queen as he handed her the arrow.
Ogmundr did not wait for a reply. He smiled, then nodded to the queen before walking away.
The queen took a deep breath as she studied the fateful arrow closely. Then, suddenly, a thought overwhelmed her.
" What ever happened to Öndurdís ! ? " she whispered to herself.
Queen Birsla had all of the bodies of her fallen subjects cleaned and given proper burials. Unnvaldr and Eyda were taken back to Stavanger where they would be placed in honored grave mounds along with everything they would need for the afterlife.
Thanks in great part to leaders like Unnvaldr, Eyda, Ragnvaldr, Vetr, Ambi, Nafni, Vatnarr, and even Vignir, Queen Birsla could claim victory over King Ljufvini and the Hordaland army. Now, however, she knew that she had to win the peace by going to Þelamǫrk and meeting with King Reifnir and Queen Isleif. And this was something that no one could help her with.
- End Chapter 10
- Next : Chapter 11 : An Uneasy Meeting In Þelamǫrk
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2016.