The Tale Of Hati Shaky Sword
The Battle Begins
Then there were the warriors who simply would not shut up ! Whether they were talking non stop because they were afraid, or because they were extremely calm and confident, Hati could not tell. These warriors, as they walked along, bragged about how many enemy warriors they would kill, and they boasted that someday soon the skalds would sing their praises for years to come. Many joked that in a few days they would be sipping mead with Odin in the halls of Valhalla, while still others tried to frighten the warriors who had never been in battle before by describing in great detail how the unfortunate, and unlucky would die on the battlefield. They made quite sure that they were very loud as they spoke about limbs being hacked off, or men being disemboweled, or how eyes would be gouged out, and men's heads lopped off. Bjarni was of course among these warriors, and along the way their gory tales made several warriors stop along the side of the road to be sick.
The border between the kingdom of Viken and Ranrike ran right down the center of a valley between two great mountain ranges. The dividing mark was a stream that ran the entire length of the valley. At the eastern edge of this valley King Aki stopped his army for the night. Across from them on the western edge of the valley were camped the West Agder army under King Einar , and the East Agder army commanded by King Valgard. Though not blood relations, they had taken a blood oath to be brothers at a very young age, and were actually much closer than most real brothers. If they were not blood brothres King Einar would not have agreed to this war of conquest, for he did not believe that they could unite all the kingdoms of Norway by defeating them one by one. He knew that their combined armies were strong, but he did not think they were strong enough for war after war.
As the sun went down over the Agder armies the silhouette of a rider could be seen coming towards the Ranrike encampment. When the rider felt he had come close enough he pushed something off of his horse, which landed hard onto the ground, and then he turned his horse around and rode back to the Agder army's camp. King Aki along with Ivar and Bjarni, who was now the leader of the king's personal guard, rode out to see what the Agder horseman had left in the middle of the valley. As they approached the object it was plain to all involved that the warrior had dropped a body on the ground. As they came upon the corpse they could see that it was covered in blood, and had been mutilated. The head which had been cut off had rolled a few feet away from the body when it hit the ground, and was facing away from the riders.
King Aki was the first to dismount, and he ran over to where the head lay. The king knelt down, gently picked up the head and turned it towards him so he could see the face. As he rotated the head, and looked into its dead eyes, he saw that it was his old friend King Helgi of Viken. " What have they done to you ? " he muttered to the dead king. Ivar stood silently behind the king and allowed him a few moments with his childhood friend King Helgi. After what seemed to be an eternity to Bjarni, King Aki stood up and showed the head to his personal guards. " This is a clear warning from the kings of East and West Agder . The upcoming fight will be to the death ! There will be no surrendering, or prisoners taken ! " he told them. King Aki then handed the head to Bjarni. " Please make sure my old friend is properly buried and sent off to the Gods ! " He commanded. Bjarni, a man who was afraid of almost nothing, held the head at arms length, and had to look away to stop himself from vomiting. " Yes, my lord ! " Bjarni replied with a tone of revulsion in his voice.
That night Hati sought out Rannveig. When he came to where she was lying he found her awake just staring at the stars. Rannveig smiled when she saw Hati standing over her. " I thought you might come to see me ! " she told him. Hati sat down on the ground next to her, and took a deep breath. " I am going to die tomorrow. " he told her matter of factly. Rannveig laughed. " You don' t know that for certain Hati ! " she reassured him. " No ! I am absolutely sure that I will die tomorrow ! " he told her again. Rannveig reached out and grabbed his arm. " I will watch over you, and try and protect you tomorrow ! I promise ! " she told him with a smile. Hati shook his head. " That is not why I came to visit you shield maiden. After the battle I want you to go to my farmstead and tell my wife that I was killed. Do not lie ! Tell her exactly how I died, whether it be as a warrior, or as a coward ! " he said forcefully. Rannveig squeezed his arm again. " I promise ! If I live, and you should die, I will go and tell your wife how you died. You have my word ! " she told him. Satisfied, Hati picked himself up off of the ground, and went back to his camp. As he left, Rannveig said under her breath : " But you cannot die little farmer ! You have too much to live for ! " Hati tried to sleep that night, but the Agder warriors celebrated loudly, across the valley, deep into the night.
The Agder kings had been blinded by their success against the Viken army. That war had been a brutal conflict lasting many days. Only on the final day of battle did the combined Agder armies gain the upper hand, and defeat the Viken king. Many warriors lay dead and injured on both sides, and all the Viken warriors who surrendered, or were wounded, including the injured KIng Helgi were executed. King Valgard of East Agder was supremely confident, and wanted to keep fighting until they reached the border of Svearike. His blood brother, KIng Einar of West Agder, however, was more cautious, and asked for more time before moving against Ranrike. A war council was held after the Viken army was defeated to decide the issue, and King Valgard won the day. They would attack Ranrike immediately and conquer that kingdom as well while their warriors were still willing and confident of victory.
As King Valgard stood across from the Ranrike army he told his commanders to have their men ready to attack as soon as there was enough light to see the enemy. The commanders knew full well that most of their men had not yet gone to bed, and they could clearly hear the warriors celebrating throughout the camp. It was obvious to some of the commanders that many of their men would not be in a fit condition at daybreak. A few of the commanders tried to persuade King Valgard to postpone the attack until at least noon, but the king refused such a suggestion as a show of cowardice, and refused to hear any more from them. Before dismissing them he again made it clear that they must have their men ready for a dawn attack !
King Einar was apprehensive as he maneuvered his men into position the next morning to launch his attack. He had ordered his men to stop celebrating when the moon had crossed half of the sky, which his men obeyed to the man. But although better rested than King Valgard's men they were still battle weary from days of continuous fighting . Einar worried also about the size of the Ranrike army. The Viken army was barely half the size of the combined Agder armies, but Ranrike's army was of equal size to their own, and they of course were much better rested.
As ordered by King Valgard, his shield walls moved forward the moment the edge of the sun began to rise over the mountains behind the Ranrike army. This soon became another disadvantage for the Agder warriors. Within moments of their movement the sun rose fully over the mountain, and restricted their vision with its glare. Many of the warriors had to hold their shields up to block the sun, and never saw the first wave of arrows as they came streaming across the valley at them. Their first indication something was wrong was when they heard the arrows impacting with a " thud " against their shields, and when they heard the screams of their comrades who were hit and had gone down.
King Einar's men fell in behind King Valgard' s men as they pushed across the valley towards the waiting Ranrike army. King Einar ordered a barrage of arrows fired at the Ranrike army as they crossed the valley floor. With the sun at their backs the Ranrike warriors could clearly see when the Agder archers fired their arrows and were better prepared when they hit. A few arrows, as might be expected, made it through the shield wall injuring and killing some, but nothing like the devastation that was taking place in the Agder lines as they moved forward. To lessen his losses King Valgard ordered his men to break into a run and reach the Ranrike defensive line as quickly as possible. The quicker they reached the enemy' s shield wall the quicker the rain of arrows would end.
King Aki may not have been considered a great warrior by many, but he was a fairly good tactician. He had heard the Agder warriors celebrating deep into the night, and he knew that they would be less than at full strength this early in the morning. To take advantage of this, he did not send his men out to meet the Agder armies halfway across the valley, but instead made them march the entire distance across the valley to reach his lines. This also gave his archers more time to shoot into the ranks before the two armies became intertwined, and they became useless.
Hati was not in the first shield wall line, but was positioned in a second wall about 20 yards behind the first, and just to the right of King Aki and his personal guards led by Bjarni. Hati had resigned himself to the fact that he was going to die, and no longer felt fear. All he felt was a great emptiness. He was sorry that he would never again be able to help his wife and child, and wondered what would become of them. He hoped that she would meet another man, a better man, and that Geirny would have a happier life than he could ever give her. Hati slowly looked up and down the line. At the end of the shield wall to his right he spotted Rannveig. Unlike himself, she was staring straight ahead concentrating intently on the Agder warriors as they came closer and closer. Then suddenly the Agder warriors began to scream like animals as they ran the last one hundred yards to the Ranrike shield wall. As Hati stood there watching the Agder army approaching a great calmness fell over him.
- End Chapter 5
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2014.
Next : Chapter 6 : " Tell My Wife I Am Sorry "