The Valkyrie's Daughter
The Long Journey North
Frantically he looked first to the left, and then to the right ! Eirik ran along the lake shore with a sense of desperation hoping to get a better a view of the entire lake. But no matter where he stood, or how hard he looked across the lake, Eirik could not see the pure white shape of a swan. The warrior suddenly came to a depressing conclusion. Svanhvit had left without saying goodbye.
Eirik's head hung low, and although he had not shed a tear since he was a child, those long denied feelings began to well up inside of him. As he had all of his life Eirik suppressed his sorrow, and covered it over with anger. The recovered warrior took one long last look at the lake, threw his shield over his shoulder, and turned to begin walking north to Trondelag.
He had only taken a few steps when he heard the hoof beats of a horse coming towards him at a fast gallop. Eirik's instincts kicked in immediately, and like the great warrior he was trained to be, he drew his sword and firmly gripped his shield out in front of him. As he peered over the top of his shield the rider came into view. It was not a hated Bagler as he feared, returning to Bjorgyn to occupy Sverresborg, but merely Svanhvit who was riding toward him. Relieved, Eirik put away his sword, threw his shield over his shoulder once again, and relaxed.
" I am glad you returned ! I would not have wanted to leave without thanking you for all that you have done for me. " he told her happily.
Hlaðguðr Svanhvít jumped off of the horse, and quickly handed the reins to Eirik.
" You must leave now ! The Baglers are only a few miles to the east and will be here shortly ! " she explained to him hurriedly.
Eirik had so much to say to the woman he had fallen in love with, but now he had no time with which to say it.
" Then I will thank you one last time before I leave ! " he told her.
Eirik was about to place his left foot in the stirrup when Svanhvit, with firm strong hands, spun him around. The Valkyrie looked him in the eyes before turning her head slightly and kissing him gently on the lips. Surprised for only a moment, Eirik placed his free hand around Svanhvit and held her tightly.
" I will never forget you. And I will always love you ! " he whispered to her after their lips had parted.
Svanhvit kissed him one last time before gently pushing him away.
" You must leave now ! " she repeated sternly.
Whether it was his imagination, or reality, Eirik could not decide, but he thought he heard the pounding hoof beats of the Bagler army returning. Eirik turned, and in one motion, placed his foot back in the stirrup, grabbed hold of the saddle, and pulled himself up onto the horse. As he reined the horse around he shouted back to Hlaðguðr Svanhvít.
" Till we meet again ! "
Hlaðguðr Svanhvít put her head down as she walked quickly to the lake. Unlike Eirik, she was certain that the Baglers had returned, and she could not let them see her in Valkyrie form. She also wanted to change back into swan form for another reason. Svanhvit was hurting so very badly, and swans cannot cry.
Frigga moved in front of her husband and blocked his view of the events that were taking place on Midgard. She gently placed her hand under Odin's chin and lifted his head until their eyes met.
" The problem is growing ! Have you decided what you will do yet ? " she asked.
Odin gave his wife a weak smile as he looked up at her.
" I will make this right ! That much I promise you ! " he assured his wife.
Frigga let go of Odin's chin.
" You had better, my love, for there is a life at stake here. " she warned her husband.
Eirik laughed as he rejoiced in the fact that Hlaðguðr Svanhvít had chosen for him a very fast horse. He quickly outdistanced the Baglers, who saw no need to waste their time chasing after one Birkebeiner, and made his way through Norhtern Hordaland into Southern Sygnafylki. Here, Eirik kept to the woods and stayed off of the worn paths as much as possible. By day he navigated using the sun, while at night he used the Northern Star to show him the way.
Not knowing who was loyal to the Baglers, and who was with King Sverre and the Birkebeiners, Eirik did not seek the hospitality of those he met along the way. Instead he found for himself natural shelters, such as caves, and hunted for his meals. When, and if, he met someone along the way he would nod his head as a greeting, but would not engage the strangers in conversation. Eirik felt it was always better to be safe now, than sorry later.
He remained in the shadows as he traveled through Sygnafylki, Firdafylki, and Sunnmaerafylki. When Eirik reached Raumsdolafylki, however, he began to sense that the local people were friendlier towards King Sverre Sigurdsson. Hungry, and tired from his long journey, Eirik risked asking a few farmers along the way for their hospitality. The first words out of their mouths were always :
" You are not one of those bastard Baglers who burned the town of Bjorgyn, and it's church to the ground, are you ? Which king do you serve ! ? " they asked suspiciously.
With great relief Eirik answered the same each time :
" King Sverre of course ! " he told them proudly.
It appeared that here, along the border with Trondalag, these people had switched their allegiances over the brutality the Baglers had shown the local people of Bjorgyn. From then on, as he traveled north, he was treated to good food and a warm place near a fire to sleep.
Once Eirik was inside the friendly territory of Trondalag he was directed by the local folk to a chieftain who they said might know where King Sverre and his army was camped. With a renewed sense of urgency Eirik rode out to where the Tronders had told him the chieftain's great hall was located.
Eirik was rather disappointed by the size and condition of Chieftain Amundr's Great Hall. It was obvious to Eirik that this local leader was as poor as were most of the Birkebeiners in King Sverre's army. As he dismounted and approached the door of the great hall he was stopped by two angry looking guards, one of whom placed his hand on Eirik's shoulder.
" Where do you think you are going ?! " the biggest warrior asked.
Eirik flung the man's hand off of his shoulder with one hand, while he drew his sword with the other. As he placed the tip of his blade up against the guard's stomach he smiled at him.
" My name is Eirik Ospaksson, and I have come from Bjorgyn,... after almost being killed by the Baglers. I wish to see Chieftain Amundr to ask if he knows where the Birkebeiner army is camped at the moment ! " he told the startled guard.
The nervous watchman, with the blade in his gut, looked over at his friend and nodded.
" Vigvaldr,.... why don't you take this warrior into the hall, and introduce him to our chieftain. " he said with a shaky voice.
Vigvaldr could not help but grin at his friend's predicament.
" Yes ! Perhaps that would be best ! " he agreed with a little chuckle.
After opening the door to the hall Vigvaldr motioned for the stranger to follow him. Eirik gave the guard one last angry stare before removing the blade from his stomach, sheathing his sword, and entering the hall.
" Do not mind Lydik. He is a a sheep in dragon's guise. " he told Eirik with a laugh.
As they approached the high-seat Vigvaldr bowed slightly before announcing :
" Eirik Ospaksson,.... a Birkebeiner from Bjorgyn,... has come to see you my Lord ! " he told the chieftain.
Amundr looked at the Birkebeiner suspiciously.
" That is impossible ! King Sverre told me himself that all those who fought at Bjorgyn were killed by the Baglers ! " he yelled angrily at the one he saw as an imposter.
Eirik took off his shield, and laid it on the floor. He then removed his shirt and showed his huge ugly battle scars to the chieftain.
" One survived to return to King Sverre ! " he told Amundr proudly.
The chieftain raised his eyebrows, astonished by what he was seeing.
" I see ! And what does the hero of Bjorgyn want from me ? " he asked in a much friendlier tone.
Eirik put his shirt back on, and flung his shield over his shoulder, before answering his question.
" I was hoping you could help me to find where the Birkebeiner army is currently located. " he explained.
Chieftain Amundr pointed to Vigvaldr.
" This man will take you to King Sverre's encampment first thing in the morning. Tonight, however, I would like you to feast with me, and tell my warriors of your brave exploits outside the walls of Sverresborg against the dreaded Baglers ! " he told Eirik.
- End Chapter 6
- Next : Chapter 7 : King Sverre's Fleet
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2017.