A Call For War
Alrekr also brought with him the horrible news that Domaldi had been killed by a cowardly archer, who had been hiding in the woods. The king surprised Alrekr by not showing any emotion when he was told that Domaldi, with his dying command, had chosen him to become the new leader of the Úlfhéðnar. The king merely nodded before stating :
" Domaldi was a wise and skilled warrior who never let me down in battle. I respect that he gave his life in battle for our people, and I will of course abide by his final decision to appoint you , Alrekr, as his replacement as the commander of the Wolf - hides. "
The king and queen of Vingulmork thanked Alrekr for defending the border with Vestfold against their enemy, and bringing those who had harmed their people to justice. They then invited him to stay while they convened a council of war with the army commanders. It did not take long for those who held the responsibility for the safety of the Vingulmork people, and the defense of their kingdom, to decide that they had been patient for far too long, and that now there was only one course of action left to take. It was unanimously agreed to call for an all - out war against those who had trespassed on their territory, and raped, tortured, and killed their folk.
Alrekr was very pleased by the decision to go to war with their long time enemy Vestfold, but he, and his fellow Wolf-hides had a much more pressing matter to attend to. For it was now time to send Domaldi off to Valhalla !
Near the great wolf totem pole a platform was built of logs lashed together with rope. Beneath the structure a great multitude of logs, dry brush, and other types of kindling, were stacked right up to the bottom of the platform. Two ladders were made and placed on either end of the funeral platform to reach the top, and a bed was brought up to the top for their fallen commander's body to lay upon.
Domaldi's body was carefully washed, along with his hair and beard, which were also braided. His fingernails and toenails were also cleaned and then clipped as far back as possible. This was done because it was believed that the uncut fingernails and toenails of the dead were used by evil doers to construct the ship Naglfar, which it is said will transport the forces of chaos at the time of Ragnarok.
Alrekr, by himself, carried the cleaned and purified body of his leader up the ladder to the funeral platform. This was quite a difficult task, for even in death Domaldi was still a formidable size and weight. With tired arms, and an aching heart, Alrekr placed the body on top of the bed of dried leaves and flowers that had been soaked in whale oil to assist the fire in eliminating Domaldi's earthly remains, and allow his spirit to be taken by the Valkyries to Valhalla.
Domaldi's body was completely covered in wolf hides by Hildeborg, the old serving maiden, so that no part of his skin was showing. Before covering his face, however, she gave the former commander of the Úlfhéðnar one last kiss on the cheek. As she did so she remembered back to the night long ago when " she made him a man " and smiled. Hildeborg tried to be brave and hold back her tears, but they came anyway as she made her way down the ladder.
Yngvarr and Lofarr then brought two muzzled young wolves to the top of the platform where Alrekr sacrificed them so that they might join Domaldi in Valhalla.
" Just as great Odin has Geri and Freki, you my old friend, will have two companions to take with you to the golden realm ! " he exclaimed as he slit their throats one by one, while his warriors held them.
After placing the wolves on either side of their fallen commander, Alrekr and his comrades climbed back down the ladders. They, along with the rest of the Wolf - hides then painted themselves up for war, dressed in their wolf skins, and waited for the howling hour to begin.
As Mani rose up high in the sky and looked down upon their fallen leader, the Úlfhéðnar stood around the base of the platform drinking a mixture of the Fly Agaric and mead. It was not long before a feeling of euphoria and invincibility took hold of the warriors, and they became restless.
When Mani settled in high overhead the Úlfhéðnar, after a signal from Alrekr, began to dance at the base of the platform to the rhythm of beating drums. Soon they began to howl at the moon as they went round and round the funeral platform. It was almost as though it was their prey and they were trying to keep it contained within their circle.
Then, as if the Gods themselves had given some silent signal, the Úlfhéðnar stopped dancing and howling. Each grabbed a torch, lit it, and solemnly walked around the platform chanting. Alrekr was the first to stop and throw his torch into the kindling beneath the funeral platform.
" I honor you, my great teacher, with this torch to light your way to Valhalla. May you feast with Odin, and serve him along with the other Einherjar until chaos reigns, and the great ending known as Ragnarok takes hold of the nine worlds ! " he shouted up to his former commander and friend.
Each of the Úlfhéðnar in turn threw their torches onto the funeral pyre. A few praised their commander for his kindness and tenacity, but most , mainly those who had fought by his side for years, recounted a heroic deed performed by Domaldi while in battle.
When the fire reached the commander's body the whale oil ignited, and the platform exploded into a ball of flame. The drums once again began to beat out a slow rhythm, and the Úlfhéðnar danced back and forth between the funeral pyre and the wolf totem. No one stopped until exhaustion and the first light of dawn appeared on the horizon. When nothing was left to see but ashes they were now assured that Domaldi's earthly body was gone, and that the Valkyries had taken his spirit to Valhalla. Having done their final duty to Domaldi, they retired to their beds for some well earned rest.
Bjarnlaugr was furious when he heard from one of the returning warriors, named Aldi, who had barely escaped the clutches of the Vingulmork warriors, that their marauding scouts had been all but wiped out. The new leader of the Berserker listened intently to each and every word Aldi had to say. When he was done telling his side of the story, Bjarnlaugr grabbed the warrior by the back of his head, and ran him through with his sword. As Aldi began to go limp in his arms Bjarnlaugr looked him in the eyes.
" An honorable warrior would have stayed behind and died with his comrades. You have dishonored them by running away, and therefore have forfeited your right to live ! " he told the coward before removing his sword, and allowing him to fall dead on the ground.
Bjarnlaugr then turned to Kolskeggr and pointed in the direction of the village.
" I am going to see the king ! " he told the old warrior.
" Get the Bear - skins ready for war ! " he added with an angry look.
If anyone other than Bjarnlaugr had burst into King Sigmarr's great hall unannounced they would have been thrown out on their ear. But not only was Bjarnlaugr one of the most feared of the Berserker, he commanded the Bear - skins, and had a reputation for a quick temper, and a no nonsense attitude. Few if any dared to confront this dangerous and unpredictable young man !
Bjarnlaugr pushed aside the king's guard with little effort, and then yelled to the king who sat upon his high - seat at the far end of the hall.
" I have killed the coward who ran from the Vingulmork warriors like a scared little rabbit ! ! " Bjarnlaugr announced to everyone in the hall.
The king, and his army commanders Gandolfr, Nesbjorn, and Ufeigr turned and stared angrily at the warrior who had interrupted their conversation.
Bjarnlaugr pointed a finger in their direction.
" I believe he was one of your cowards Nesbjorn ! " Bjarnlaugr stated boldly.
Nesbjorn drew his sword, and began to strut towards the door where the commander of the Berserker defiantly stood.
" You have dishonored me for the last time Bjarnlaugr ! " Nesbjorn shouted back at the Berserker.
" STOP !! " King Sigmarr bellowed loudly.
Bjarnlaugr stepped forward.
" Then when shall we spill blood ! These piecemeal attacks on Vingulmork are a waste of time, and are gaining us nothing ! " Bjarnlaugr shouted back at the king.
Nesbjorn halted at his king's command, and put his sword back into its scabbard.
" That is why the king has decided to attack Vingulmork with the entire army ! " Nesbjorn replied, speaking for the king.
" Good ! I have already begun to mobilize my warriors. It will be convenient to have the army along with us ! " Bjarnlaugr remarked sarcastically before turning and leaving the hall.
" What a son of a bitch ! " Ufeigr said after Bjarnlaugr had left.
Gandalfr chuckled .
" Yes ! But his warriors will be the first to engage the enemy, and the first to die for Vestfold ! " Gandolfr announced with a tone of pride in his voice.
The king nodded in agreement.
" The Berserkers are somewhat of a pain in the ass, but there are no better fighters in my realm ! " the king added.
King Sigmarr took a deep breath, and then pointed to his commanders.
" Get your divisions ready ! We move at first light ! " he told them trying to sound confident.
- End Chapter 10
- Next : Chapter 11 : A Battle For The Ages
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2016.