The chieftain of Hagafoss knew that he had to make absolutely sure that everything was perfect, now matter how small and insignificant it might seem, because even the most minute detail, if missed, might compromise his plan and destroy his chance of defeating King Siggautr, and ruling the kingdom of Haddingjadalr. And to this end he went to see the old seer one last time before he left.
Lefvini ignored the respectful bow Nippingr gave him, and threw open the door of his great hall. It took his eyes a moment to adjust to the dim light, but when they did he spotted Grottintanna sitting in a dark corner of the room facing the wall. The chieftain quickly walked over to the old witch, grabbed her by the shoulders, and spun her around to face him as he picked her up.
" Have you seen any changes in the future you foretold me ? ! " he asked in a booming voice.
With cold unfeeling eyes Grottintanna stared up at the chieftain whose hands she could feel pressing down hard upon her bony arms.
" There is nothing more to tell. What will be is what is meant to be, and nothing in the nine worlds can change these events. " she told the chieftain.
Lefvini pushed the seer back down onto the chair.
" Then when I return I will either be the king of Haddingjadalr, or I will have come back to kill you ! " he said sarcastically before storming out.
The chieftain of Hagafoss led his army in a long half circle march that brought them around to the region just south of the Hestrskor gil. From behind the hills here he could both monitor the canyon below, and watch for Siggautr's army, which would surely be coming from the north. His warriors, who were now patrolling the area had strict orders to kill anyone who spotted them. For he could not risk a farmer's wife, or a traveler, warning those already in the canyon of their presence.
Before he arrived at the Hestrskor gil Lefvini sent a small contingent of men to Hårteigen to find out if Orrusti had taken Kjallandi yet. When they returned he was informed that neither Orrusti or Ottar was at the cave.
" Good ! Then they must be on their way back to Hagafoss as we speak. " he told his warriors.
When Wodan's day ended, and night began, the chieftain of Hagafoss was once again busy checking every last detail. Throughout the night Lefvini went to see each division leader of his army to make absolutely certain that they knew exactly what their role was in the upcoming battle. He made them repeat his orders over and over until he was completely satisfied that they would be carried out to the letter.
Many of his hirdmen asked how he could be so sure that King Siggautr would be coming in the morning, and also how he knew that the king of Haddingjadalr would be commanding only half of his army. Lefvini simply grinned and told them " I just know ! " and left it at that.
Lefvini, despite not sleeping much the night before, was up as soon as the birds began to sing at daybreak on Thor's Day. He immediately went to the top of the highest hill in the area and watched the horizon to the north. It was now, as he waited, that he regretted not asking the old witch what time of day Siggautr's army would be arriving.
Just before the great Sun Goddess Sunna reached her highest point in the sky a dull noise rose up from north of his position on the hill. As Lefvini strained his eyes he saw something moving south towards the Hestrskor gil.
" Siggautr ! " he whispered to himself with a grin.
Lefvini watched impatiently as the king led his army up to the opening in the ravine. Once the first of the Haddingjadalr warriors marched into the canyon Lefvini ordered his men to form up and prepare to march to block off Siggautr's escape.
When the last of King Siggautr's warriors entered the Hestrskor gil, one of Chieftain Lefvini's lookouts signaled that it was time to begin the attack. One by one each division of his army moved out and marched down the hill towards the ravine below. Leading them proudly into battle was Lefvini, who sat upon his horse as if he had already won the battle, and the kingdom of Haddingjadalr.
The chieftain ordered his commanders to be as quiet as possible as they approached the Hestrskor gil, but when Lefvini turned his horse into the opening to the ravine he waved his warriors forward at a run, and ordered them to yell as loud as they could ! Lefvini grinned from ear to ear as he led his valiant men into battle. His expression changed somewhat, however, when he looked ahead of him into the canyon.
Lefvini had expected to see Siggautr's warriors resting after a long march. He was so sure that he would catch them completely off guard that he had sent his men rushing into the ravine instead of forming them up into shield walls and marching them ahead in an orderly mass. What the chieftain of Hagafoss saw in his front, instead of an unprepared and shocked enemy, was an army formed up into clearly defined defensive lines, and with King Siggautr at its head ready to lead them in battle.
Even if Lefvini had wanted to call off the attack it was far too late. The front ranks of his army had already engaged the Haddingjadalr defensive positions, and to try and disengage them would surely lead to their deaths, and his ruin. As Lefvini approached the king's position he was resigned to the fact that the battle had already begun, and that there was no turning back now.
" Besides, " Lefvini assured himself, " We are evenly matched in numbers, and unlike my enemy my back is not up against a wall of rock ! "
All that changed when he looked behind him to urge the rest of his men forward. There, like a great wave ready to crash upon a sandy beach, and flying the Haddingjadalr banner, was another army ready to cut off their retreat. Almost as disconcerting as seeing another army in his rear was the sight of Kjallandi, on horseback, next to the commander of this new force.
Chieftain Lefvini had always lived with fear. Fear of failure, fear of not living up to his famous father Ragnbjorn's expectations, and of course the fear of dying as a coward or a traitor, had followed him throughout his life. Now, in the midst of what was about to become a catastrophe, all of his fears manifested themselves into one and the chieftain of Hagafoss panicked from sheer terror.
As the battle quickly began to turn against Lefvini's smaller force, the chieftain gathered around him as many mounted warriors as he could muster. In between frantically slashing and stabbing at the enemy with his sword, he looked around for a way out of his predicament. And as he pulled his weapon out of the ribs of an opponent he saw a slight opening along the south wall of the canyon where the fighting seemed to have moved on. Lefvini pointed his sword toward the small hole that had formed between the armies, and yelled as loud as he could so that all those around him would hear.
" Follow me warriors. I will lead you to freedom ! "
Thirty warriors followed him to the clearing, which seemed to be getting smaller by the moment as they approached. And by the time they finally reached the area the opening had all but closed on them. Lefvini, and his small band of warriors, were quickly attacked by twice their number, and had to fight furiously to escape the closing trap that had enfolded all around them. After bitter fighting the chieftain of Hagafoss led only eight men out of the canyon.
As Lefvini rode away he looked behind him, and there witnessed his men being slaughtered by the Haddingjadalr army. He could not help himself from shaking uncontrollably as he watched his men falling like autumn leaves upon the battlefield. The sweet taste of victory, which had only a short time ago seemed so certain, had soured into a total and inglorious disaster. And there was only one person to blame for all of this.
" Grottintanna ! " The chieftain screamed above the din of battle in his rear. " I am coming to kill you !! "
- End Chapter 13
- Next : Chapter 14 : The Dying Flames
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2018.