The Queen Of War
Clearing The Way
Ragnvaldr was not surprised when the small scout ship returned to inform him that King Ljufvini's dragon ships were blocking the entrance to the fjord. When the commander of the small vessel, a skilled and trusted seaman named Ambi, told him that he was sure that the Hordaland ships had not spotted his craft, Ragnvaldr immediately formulated a plan in his mind to outwit his opponent.
" Good ! Then I believe that we will outflank our enemy ! " Ragnvaldr told Ambi.
Ambi frowned and then repeated what he had already told his commander.
" Sir, the entire mouth of the Sunnfjord is blocked ! "
" How will you outflank the Hordaland ships when they control the entrance to the Sunnfjord ? " Ambi asked.
Ragnvaldr smiled and pointed to the shore.
" We will simply portage over land until we are behind their position and then attack them from the rear. " Ragnvaldr related with a confidence that made Ambi believe what he said.
Ragnvaldr then ordered all ships to the beach. As they landed, one by one, the smaller boats were carried by their crews, while the larger dragon ships were put to the side while carpenters made a type of sled for each of them that would easily roll over logs as they were pulled with the ropes from their own rigging through the countryside.
The key to their success was to stay far enough inland from the fjord so as not to be seen, but not too far away for it to take longer than necessary to put their ships back in the water before they were spotted. As Ragnvaldr surveyed the geography before him he considered himself to be lucky. The land along the Rogaland side of the Sunnfjord was fairly flat, and had little or no obstacles to impede their progress. And still better yet the land sloped down the closer they got to the fjord which would make it easy to pull the ships back down to the bank. With these factors in their favor it did not take long for the Rogaland army to pull even the largest of the dragon ships behind their enemy's position, and re - launch them ready for battle.
King Ljufvini's sea commander, Lodvik, was becoming very nervous. He had roughly calculated in his mind how long it would take for the Rogaland fleet to assemble and sail to the mouth of the Sunnfjord, but after weeks of waiting there was still no sign of Hordaland's enemy ! Every day he sent out scout ships to look for the enemy's vessels. At first he sent only one or two ships, but as time went by Lodvik sent out six or seven ships per day to scour the ocean for the enemy he knew had to be out there. Although this weakened his overall force, he was not worried. He had instructed the scouts not to engage the enemy, and to return as quickly as possible. In his mind that meant that they would return and strengthen his force long before the enemy came close enough to attack. What Lodvik did not know, and what had not entered his thinking was that the Rogaland ships might already be in their rear.
Ragnvaldr had one more trick up his sleeve as he floated the last of his ships at dusk. To gain complete surprise his forces needed to get as close to the Hordaland fleet before being spotted. In order to do this, he could either wait for a moonless night, or attack early in the morning when Sunna was just coming up behind his ships in the east. As he watched Sunna ride over the horizon in the west the sky turned a bright orange - red color. Ragnvaldr grinned from ear to ear as he patted Ambi on the shoulder.
" I have heard it said that a red sky at night is a sailors delight ! " he told his trusted seaman.
Ambi smiled as his eyes gazed up at the orange Norwegian sky.
" Sailors have been saying that for generations my old friend ! " he told Ragnvaldr.
" Well how about this one my friend . "
" Clear skies out of the east in the morning,
allows us to attack without warning ! "
Ambi laughed !
" If it turns out to be true it is one that I will always remember. And one that I will pass down to my children and grandchildren ! " Ambi replied.
When morning finally came, the old saying once again did prove to be true. The skies were perfectly clear, with no clouds to obstruct the blazing glare of Sunna's glow. And once again Ragnvaldr's luck held, as his ships were hidden behind the glare of the great yellow disk Goddess in the east !
Lodvik had woken early. This morning he was determined to find the Rogaland ships at any cost. He could almost feel that the enemy was close, so the Hordaland commander decided to send out twelve ships instead of just two or three, and he sent them south, west, and even north to search for the enemy. Yes ! Lodvik could feel their presence and he was certain that today he would finally engage the Rogaland fleet.
As Lodvik watched the sails of his scout ships disappear over the horizon he heard shouts coming from one of his ships in the rear. He could not make out exactly what they were saying, but when he heard, " Rogaland ships ! " , he ran to the bow of his dragon ship, and scoured the sea for the enemy. But he saw nothing out in front of them ! How could there be ! ? His scouts would have seen them first and returned with the news.
Moments later he heard more shouting from his rear and this time it sounded much more desperate in tone ! As he looked behind him, past the stern of his ship, he saw blurred images of what seemed like a hundred sails silhouetted against the morning sun. They stretched from the right bank all the way to the left bank, and seemed to fill the fjord for as far as his eyes could see !
It was then that Lodvik realized that the tables had turned ! It was his force that would have the daunting task of fighting its way into the fjord. And he would now have to do it with twelve less ships. One - fifth of his entire fleet had sailed out to all points of the compass searching for an enemy that was here all the time ! The irony of it all made Lodvik laugh. It also made the commander of the Hordaland fleet angry and reckless !
Ragnvaldr smiled when he observed how totally they had caught the Hordalander's off guard. There was no time for them to set sail, and even if they did they had no room to maneuver anyway. The Rogaland army commander watched as they put out their oars and clumsily tried to form into some kind of battle formation. The enemy ships closest to Ragnvaldr's force never had a chance to move at all !
Ragnvaldr's largest ships lead the way and aimed their bows right at the oars of the enemy ships as they splashed frantically in the water to gain speed and maneuverability. Most were sheared off instantly, while a few of the oarsmen managed to pull their oars in just in time. Ragnvaldr's smaller secondary ships then came up alongside, and with their warriors armed and ready for battle, they jumped onto the Hordaland ships' decks stabbing first their enemy with their long spears, and then slashing at them with swords and axes.
The decks ran red with Hordaland blood as many of the warriors had to fight without their shields that either still hung on the ships' sides, or were ripped off when the larger dragon ships passed through their oars. To compound their problems some of the Hordaland rowers gripped their oars for too long, and were severely injured when they had them ripped out of their hands by the passing Rogaland ships. Barely able to fight with dislocated shoulders, and broken arms, they became easy prey for the Rogaland warriors.
By noon over half of Lodvik's fleet had been destroyed or captured. Ragnvaldr took over any and all of the enemy's ships that were still seaworthy after the fight, and then in turn used them against the remaining Hordaland ships. The vessels that were not in salvageable condition were burned immediately ! Lodvik spent most of the morning making his way through the tangled web of destruction that lay before him. He had placed himself at the head of his fleet for an attack from the sea, but when the enemy came from the fjord instead he found it almost impossible to lead from the rear. His blunder cost his fleet dearly !
As Sunna began her slow descent across the evening sky Lodvik sent most of his last twenty ships ahead on what he knew was a suicide mission. One ship, however, he sent back to Hordaland to inform King Ljufvini, who was with the main army, that his forces had been defeated, and that Rogaland now ruled the waters of the Sunnfjord, and would be able to cross at will into their kingdom.
Then Lodvik made a fateful decision that branded him as a coward forever in the eyes of his fellow Hordalanders. He took his last four ships, including his own dragon ship, and sailed after the twelve ships he had sent to find the Rogaland fleet. In his mind he was saving at least a portion of his fleet to fight another day, but to those still fighting on both sides who watched as he sailed off, it was simply an act of cowardice.
The last desperate attack by the Hordalanders did not take Ragnvaldr by surprise. By this time he had more than enough of his ships tied together, in what looked to be a floating island in the middle of the fjord, to repel any attack. The Hordalanders ships first tried to ram the Rogaland ships with little success, and then they attempted to board the floating island which turned out to be a total disaster !
Lined up four and five deep, with spears pointing over and between the shields of their comrades in front of them, the Rogalanders formed an impenetrable wall that was reminiscent of the famous Macedonian phalanx's of ages past. Many of the Hordalanders tried, but none were able to get through the solid Rogaland shield wall. In the end it was simply too little too late !
Using skillful tactics, and ingenuity, Ragnvaldr had defeated an enemy that was ready and waiting for him. He had done what the enemy had least expected, and caught them by total surprise. The scale of the slaughter, and one - sidedness of the battle, was a testament to the Rogaland commander's brilliance.
As dusk fell, the gathering darkness was illuminated by the burning hulks of ships, whose light cast horrific shadows onto the water revealing the many dead bodies that floated throughout the fjord. To Ragnvaldr it reminded him of an incident that happened in a bay near his boyhood home. After an unusually hot spell that lasted for days, thousands of fish died and floated up to the surface of the bay. As he looked out over the fjord he hoped that this carnage would not leave a similar stench in the air !
- End Chapter 8
- Next : Chapter 9 : A Determined Enemy !
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2016.