The Queen Of War
Preparations For War
Queen Birsla was not surprised when she returned to Stavanger to find Ragnvaldr and the army gone. She had commanded him to appropriate, by any means necessary, every sea worthy ship he could find, and sail up to the mouth of the Sunnfjord to destroy the Hordaland fleet that for now controlled the waterway, and obviously he had obeyed her orders.
As she dismounted and looked around the village all she could see were pregnant women, the elderly, and the very young. Everyone else had left with the army. Everyone else that is except Nafni and his Hirdmen, who, judging by their horses grazing in the field next to her hall, had returned during her absence. She also knew they were back because Vatnarr stood guarding the great hall as she approached.
Nafni ran out of the Hirdmen's quarters and caught the queen and Eyda before they entered the great hall. Running with him stride for stride was the warrior Erpr who was holding a bag in his hand. As they stopped in front of Queen Birsla, Nafni bowed slightly before speaking.
" My queen, I am proud to inform you that we have killed that Hordaland emissary named Skirpir ! " he told her with a broad smile.
Then Nafni turned and nodded to Erpr, who opened the bag, reached in, and pulled out the remains of the Hordalander. As he held up the decapitated head by its hair for the queen to see he proudly spoke:
" Justice has been served, my queen ! " Erpr told the queen boldly.
Queen Birsla swallowed hard as she took a quick look at the decaying flesh on the skull of what was once the emissary who had tried to embarrass her and her people at the All - Thing in Gulen.
" I appreciate you wanting to show me this,.... trophy,.... but I trust you Nafni, and would have accepted your word just as easily. " she told the commander of the Hirdmen with a slight involuntary wince.
Nafni bowed again.
" My apologies ma'am ! " he quickly replied.
Then Nafni turned to Erpr, and pointed away from the village.
" Take that vile thing out of here ! " he commanded his underling.
Realizing the enormity of their mistake Erpr quickly returned the severed head to the sack and made for the woods at the edge of the village with all due haste to dispose of it.
" Bury it deep so that we will not be bothered by it again ! " Nafni yelled at the Hirdman.
After Erpr had left Vatnarr bowed to the queen and opened the door to the great hall for the queen, Eyda and Nafni. Once inside they sat around the fire drinking ale and food served to them by the queen's handmaidens Gilla and Metta. While Birsla was was telling Nafni about the alliance she had forged with Þelamǫrk, a loud knock came at the door. The door then swung open and Vatnarr stepped inside.
" Sorry to interrupt, ma'am, but a messenger has arrived from Avaldsnes ! " he informed the queen.
The queen nodded and waved him to come in.
" I will hear what he has to say ! " she exclaimed with a hint of excitement in her voice.
A tall man entered the hall, stood next to Vatnarr, bowed, and then addressed the queen.
" Vetr, Chieftain of Avaldsnes, wishes to inform the Queen of Rogaland, that he has raised a small army and will be leaving for the Sunnfjord in two days from tomorrow ! " he told the queen in an official tone.
Queen Birsla smiled from ear to ear.
" Thank You ! " she told the messenger.
" I knew that I could count on Vetr ! " she told Eyda and Nafni.
Then Birsla waved to Gilla.
" This man has traveled far. Give him food and drink before he returns to Avaldsnes ! " she commanded.
The queen turned back to Eyda and Nafni.
" Excellent ! We can easily reach Avaldsnes before Vetr leaves. We will travel to the Sunnfjord with the chieftain, and his new army ! " she told them happily.
The queen thought for a moment before continuing.
" Nafni ! Search the village and surrounding areas for any and all able bodied warriors who may have ' missed ' the call to arms. Bring them here at once and have them ready to move with us first thing in the morning. " she ordered the commander of the Hirdmen, who immediately got up, bowed and left the great hall .
" And Eyda, .... I believe that it is time for you to give me my first lesson in the art of fighting. " she told the shield maiden.
Eyda emptied the contents of her horn, and quickly stood up.
" Yes, my queen ! " she replied dutifully.
It quickly became apparent that Queen Birsla could not ride at the head of her army. She was much too slow wielding a weapon, and lacked the coordination necessary to defeat a novice, let alone a skilled warrior in single combat. When the queen tried to apologize for her lack of training Eyda dismissed it with a smile.
" Do not worry ! I did not think you would be able to fight effectively with a sword or an axe. I have, however, seen that you have steady hands, and good vision, so I will give you to a new shield maiden named Öndurdís who is very skilled in the use of a bow and arrow. " the commander of the shield maidens explained.
Birsla was sitting on a tree stump watching the shield maidens practice when a large shadow fell over her. The queen frowned as she slowly turned to see what had cast such a huge shadow. When she saw the figure standing above her she involuntarily gasped at the size of the female warrior. The woman,..... this shield maiden, ..... was enormous,.... and yet her proportions were almost perfect !
The queen sat there studying the woman for a moment . Her hair was long, but a wide braid of hair in the front kept it all in place. And the queen noticed that her eyes were clear and sharp and looked as though they could see far beyond what others could fix their sight upon.
" My name is Öndurdís ! " the warrior stated.
" Frey,.... ", she started to say but quickly corrected herself, " .... Eyda has sent me to teach you how to use a bow effectively. " she told the queen.
Queen Birsla sat there for a moment studying her perfect form . She had never considered being with another woman, but this female made her feel rather flustered inside. As she was about to speak she suddenly realized that her mouth had been open all the while !
" Eyda has informed me that you are very proficient with a bow ! " the queen told the warrior nervously.
Öndurdís reached behind her back with her her right hand, pulled an arrow from her quiver, set it on the string, quickly aimed, and let loose the bolt before Birsla could begin her next sentence.
Vatnarr was about to yawn when he felt something tickle his nose. Then almost simultaneously he heard a loud bang. As he looked down his face he saw the feathered end of an arrow just below his nose. As he followed the shaft to the right, and saw the point embedded in the frame of the door, he quickly became aware of just how close the arrow had come to hitting him.
" Öndurdís ! You stupid bitch !! " Vatnarr screamed.
Vatnarr came charging across the courtyard to where the queen sat in stunned silence, and also where Öndurdís stood with a wicked grin upon her face. The guard of the great hall drew his sword, and pointed it at the shield maiden as he approached.
" I ought to teach you a lesson, you reckless bitch ! " Vatnarr exclaimed, scolding the shield maiden for her actions.
Öndurdís placed her bow over her shoulder and drew her sword. She pointed the point of the blade at the angry Hirdman and smiled.
" Then I would strongly suggest that you call the other Hirdmen to help you ! " she told the warrior sarcastically.
As she rose up off of the stump Birsla came to the startling realization that the shield maiden was a full head taller than her male counterpart !
" Vatnarr ! Please calm down ! Öndurdís was simply demostrating for me her skill with a bow and arrow ! " she told the furious warrior.
" And Öndurdís, .... I would appreciate it very much if you would restrict your targets to trees,..... and other non - human objects my dear ! " the queen instructed the shield maiden.
Both the shield maiden and the warrior nodded to the queen and almost simultaneously apologized . As Vatnarr walked back to his post Öndurdís reached down and took a smaller bow off of her belt. She handed it to the queen with a smile.
" Do you see that gnarly oak tree over there on the left in the distance ? " she asked the queen as she handed her an arrow from her quiver.
" Yes ! The one with the roots protruding above ground. " the queen replied.
" Try to hit it at its center near that big knot in its trunk. Remember the arrow will drop slightly in flight, so aim slightly higher. " she instructed her royal student.
Öndurdís was surprised when the arrow hit the edge of the tree not far from the knot. She had expected the queen to miss the tree altogether on her first try.
" You are not Ullr, but that was not bad for your first attempt ! " she told the queen.
As she handed Birsla another arrow Öndurdís stepped behind her, placed one hand on the queens shoulder, and the other on her hip. The shield maiden placed her head just to the side of the queen's head, and helped her to line up the shot.
The queen could feel the shield maiden's breath on her ear as she pulled back the arrow and aimed. Before taking a deep breath of her own she shook slightly, but it was not due to being nervous about missing the target. This shield maiden,...., this woman,.... was very exciting to her. She had never met a woman so strong, and confident,..... and yet so feminine !
" Steady that hand ! A little to the left ! If you cannot pull the string back any further than aim just a little higher ! " Öndurdís instructed the queen.
" Release . " the shield maiden added calmly when she felt that the queen had the aim just right.
The arrow hit the tree dead center, and just at the top of edge of the knot.
" Not bad ! " the shield maiden told the queen as she placed her quiver over the queen's head.
" Now shoot each of these arrows at that knot, adjusting as you go ! " she told the queen.
After the queen had shot all but two of the arrows, but still had not hit the center of the knot, Öndurdís stopped Birsla and walked down to the tree to watch the flight of the arrows as they left the queen's bow. Birsla was extremely nervous with the shield maiden being so close to her target ! The first arrow came close, but missed the knot only by a finger length, but then she became so fearful of hitting the shield maiden that her hands began to shake. And she knew the moment the second arrow left her bowstring that it was headed straight for Öndurdís !
Queen Birsla gasped in horror as the arrow left her bow. Then she saw something impossible ! Öndurdís calmly moved to the side and caught the arrow in mid flight !
Birsla stood their frozen in shock for a moment.
" Warriors no matter how skilled can't do that, .... can they ? ! " the queen whispered to herself.
- End Chapter 6
- Next : Chapter 7 : On To The Sunnfjord
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2016.