The Queen Of War
" For The Good Of My People ! "
When Queen Birsla returned to Rogaland she immediately convened a council of war in her great hall. Vatnarr was commanded not to allow anyone to enter, or disturb them in any way, while they discussed how to move forward from peace into a state of war against Hordaland. Ragnvaldr, the commander of the army, Ogmundr the leader of the Berserker, and the chieftains Unnvaldr, and Vetr, were all in attendance. Only Nafni was absent, and it was presumed that he was still following the queen's order to capture or kill the Hordaland emissary Skirpir in or near Gulen.
The queen and her commanders discussed in great detail how a war with Hordaland would play out. Unfortunately none of the scenarios that were explored looked very promising. They all agreed that a conflict with their northern neighbor could be a long tough war, and even if they won, it would more than likely drain the treasury, and leave Rogaland vulnerable to attacks by their other neighbors.
Ragnvaldr was the first to bring up the subject of alliances. He clearly stated that if Hordaland allied itself with one or more of its neighbors it would be a disaster for Rogaland.
" My army is strong, and my warriors are ready, but to fight an enemy on multiple fronts would be sheer madness ! " he told the war council in no uncertain terms.
Vetr, having been at the table at the great hall in Gulen when she was asked about a possible alliance with Þelamǫrk, asked the queen if there might yet be some way to create a war pact with King Reifnir and Queen Isleif. Birsla looked around the room and then nervously cleared her throat.
" I do know of one way to secure an alliance with Þelamǫrk, and although it is not something I wish to contemplate, I will make the sacrifice for the good of my people ! " she told the council with a long face.
Then as though she had been startled awake, the queen looked at Ragnvaldr and pointed to the crude map that was laid out before them.
" Commander, if our army is to strike first show me where on this map we would attack our enemy. " Birsla asked.
Ragnvaldr glanced at the map for only a moment before running his finger all along the Hordaland border.
" We would have to clear the Sunnfjord of all enemy ships if we are to have a safe crossing of that waterway into Hordaland ! " he explained to his queen.
Queen Birsla rose up off of her seat and leaned over the map to better see where the commander of the army was pointing.
" Then Ragnvaldr I order you to get your hands on every available ship and have them ready to sail ! I want you to be in a position to attack by the time I return ! " she told the commander.
" Return ?! " Ragnvaldr asked.
Queen Birsla nodded.
" Yes ! I will be going to Þelamǫrk to make the alliance that you and Vetr say we need so badly ! " she replied.
Birsla then turned her attention to Vetr and Unnvaldr.
" Because the former chieftains of Avaldsnes, and Varhaug, did not raise warriors for the army, I need the both of you to go back to your villages and raise as many warriors as you can. Tell them the fate of Rogaland rests in their hands. Your warriors will be raw untried recruits and therefore will not be integrated into the general army. Your divisions will be kept separate, and probably used as reserves. When you have both enlisted as many as you can meet me at the mouth of the Sunnfjord. " the queen commanded.
Then the queen thought for a moment, and added :
" Oh, and Vetr, would you be a dear and bring Eyda and her shield maidens here. Without Nafni and my Hirdmen I will need her to escort me to Þelamǫrk. "
" And Ogmundr I have not forgotten about you either ! I would like you, and your Berserker, to meet Vetr and Unnvaldr at the mouth of the Sunnfjord. I will need your strong experienced warriors to help support the chieftain's inexperienced fighters. " she told the Berserker commander.
Eyda proudly escorted the queen of Rogaland through the valleys and over the rolling hills of Þelamǫrk. Queen Birsla had in the past twice honored her. First, the queen had given her the position of a Royal Guard in the Hirdmen, and later she was made the commander of the shield maidens. And now her shield maidens had been chosen to protect the queen on her journey to Þelamǫrk. Yes ! Eyda was very happy and proud indeed !
Queen Birsla had kept to herself for most of the way to Þelamǫrk, but as they neared King Reifnir's great hall in Drangadalr she rode up alongside Eyda and kept pace with her .
" Is there something I can do for you my queen ? " Eyda finally asked.
Queen Birsla looked away from Eyda as though what she was about to say embarrassed her.
" As you know Eyda we will soon be entering into a war with Hordaland. " the queen started to say, and then paused.
Eyda frowned, uncertain what she would say next.
" Yes, ma'am.... " Eyda replied.
Birsla took a deep breath before revealing her problem to Eyda.
" How can I lead an army when I am not skilled in the ways of a warrior !? " the queen finally blurted out.
Eyda smiled at the queen.
" Queen Birsla,..... no one expects you to fight ! " Eyda said with a hint of incredulity.
Queen Birsla gave Eyda a weak smile in return, but ignored what she had just said.
" I cannot do battle with a sword, or an axe, but I have a steady hand, and if you show me how to shoot a bow I believe that I could manage quite well. " the queen told the commander of the shield maidens.
Eyda gave the queen a look of concern, but nodded.
" I would be honored to teach you, my queen ! " she replied.
King Reifnir and Queen Isleif came out of their great hall to greet the queen of Rogaland. Standing by their side was Vignir their loyal son.
" Queen Birsla ! What a pleasant surprise ! " King Reifnir shouted as the queen stopped her horse in front of the hall.
Queen Isleif grinned as she added :
" Yes ! We did not expect to see you again so soon ! "
Eyda dismounted first and helped her queen down off of her mount. As Birsla's feet hit the ground she saw that Vignir had a wicked grin on his face . Queen Birsla was sure that they already knew why she had come to Þelamǫrk. She tried to hide her suspicion as she greeted the Þelamǫrk royalty, but she did not have the type of personality that could act in such a devious way. It did not matter for moments later Queen Isleif opened up the discussion of war, and alliance.
" My dear we were so surprised when you declared war on Hordaland at the All - Thing ! Have you come here to seek our help ? " she asked with a sly little grin.
King Reifnir placed his arm on his son's shoulder and pushed him in front of Birsla.
" Our offer is still the same. Agree to marry our son Vignir, and he will lead my army against Hordaland. " the king told her.
Queen Birsla swallowed hard as though she were literally swallowing her pride.
" I will agree to this marriage, but there is not time for a wedding ritual to be performed now ! We must move against Hordaland before they are able to reinforce their positions. " she told the Þelamǫrk royal couple.
Queen Isleif narrowed her eyes, and pouted her lips before replying.
" Will you at least take a blood oath to marry our son once we have defeated King Ljufvini ? " she asked.
Queen Birsla tried not to appear annoyed as she replied, but she failed miserably.
" Yes ! But we must hurry ! I have already set my army in motion ! " she explained.
King Reifnir pulled out his knife and grabbed his son's hand. With the point he pricked his thumb. The king then gave Birsla a nod, and she held out her hand as well. Reifnir carefully punctured her thumb as well. Then Vignir and Queen Birsla grasped each other's hands, and touched their thumbs together mixing their blood.
" With the mingling of blood you agree to marry my son, and join our two peoples together forever ! " King Reifnir announced.
Queen Birsla nodded.
" Yes ! Now we must speak of the strategy we will use against Hordaland, our common enemy ! " Birsla told the Þelamǫrk royalty.
Vignir grinned from ear to ear as he opened the door to the great hall.
" After you my dear. We will discuss our war plans over a horn of ale . " he told her.
As Queen Birsla emerged from the great hall she was greeted immediately by Eyda who had a concerned look upon her face.
" I must speak to you privately, my queen ! " Eyda whispered with a sense of urgency.
" I have secured Þelamǫrk as our ally so we must leave at once for Stavanger. We will speak on the way. " she told the leader of the shield maidens.
After being helped up onto her horse Queen Birsla turned to Vignir, King Reifnir, and Queen Isleif, who were standing just outside of the great hall's door. She drew her sword, and pointed it to the heavens.
" May be victory be ours ! " she shouted.
Out of honor, and respect, King Reifnir and Vignir also drew their swords and pointed them towards the sky.
" Victory ! " they both shouted in unison.
Birsla quickly sheathed her sword, reined her horse around, and trotted off, followed closely by her guard of shield maidens. Once they left the village, and were in the open country, Eyda pulled up alongside Queen Birsla.
" Forgive me my queen, but I overheard something very disturbing while I was watering my horse. " she began.
Queen Birsla slowed her horse down to a fast walk.
" What is it that you heard my dear ? " Birsla asked.
Eyda kept her horse in step with the queen's mount , and took a long breath before answering.
" I believe that Vignir is a very evil man, my queen. " she replied.
The queen nodded knowing that there must be more to come.
" And what has made you come to that conclusion ? " the queen asked.
" I overheard two warriors speaking of Vignir's plan of defeating Hordaland, killing his parents, marrying you my queen, and then merging all three kingdoms into one under his rule. And most disturbing to me ma'am was that when one of the warriors asked the other about your place as ruler, he just laughed and replied that Vignir will rule with, or without you ! " she explained.
Queen Birsla felt her chest tightening the way it often had when Kaldstein was about to beat her, and for the first time in a while she felt fear again. Outwardly, however, the queen remained calm as she replied.
" Thank you for telling me this my dear ! " she told the commander of the shield maidens.
- End Chapter 5
- Next : Chapter 6 : Preparing For War
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2016.