The Yule Promise
The March To Sogn
Skeggi, the chieftain of Saeheim, was impatient to leave, and for good reason. It was important that his small force meet up with the main army of King Eirikr of Hordaland before they entered Sogn. For he knew that the king would not wait for anyone, and if they were late it would be hazardous to have to search for the Hordaland army in enemy territory. As he looked around, however, it was hard for Skeggi to not allow the mothers a few more hugs, and the wives a few more kisses before they left.
Berlingr was jealous of his friend Valdarr, though he tried not to show it. He was grateful that his mother and sister had come out to see him off, but their affectionate embraces did not nearly reach the intense passion that Berlingr couldn't help but witness between Valdarr and his beautiful new wife Eydis. When he returned to Saeheim, Berlingr convinced himself he would find himself a woman as perfect as Valdarr had found for himself.
When the shouts of, " form up ! ", came down the line each mother and wife vied for the final hug and kiss. Despite the tug of maternal love between a mother and son, the wives won this battle almost every time. A few proud warrior fathers, who were unfit for battle, however, saved their final show of affection for their sons until after they had formed up. A quick hug, or in many cases, a strong pat on the back, or shoulder, sufficed to show how proud they were of their sons.
As the line of warriors slowly moved down the road the women all pulled out their handkerchiefs and waved them at their brave warriors. For some, like Eydis, it was the first time they had been left alone by their men. Others, however, were used to their loved ones going off to war, and although they did not show their fear and sorrow outwardly, as did their friends and neighbors, they felt the pain of their departure within their hearts just as powerfully.
Despite Valdarr wanting the last image of his leaving Saeheim to be of his beautiful wife he could not help but be touched by a little blonde-haired girl who stood next to Eydis mimicking her actions by waving her doll in the same fashion that his wife was waving her handkerchief. Valdarr pumped out his chest in a burst of pride, and grinned from ear to ear. As they walked together Valdarr tapped Berlingr on the shoulder and pointed the little girl out to his friend.
" When I return to Saeheim I want to have a little girl just like her ! " he told his friend.
Berlingr winced slightly when he thought of his friend having a child when he had yet to meet a sweetheart. His expression of self disappointment was not lost on Valdarr who quickly pointed to the woman standing on the other side of his wife.
" And when we return I will formally introduce you to Ragnhilda. " he assured Berlingr.
Berlingr smacked his lips and smirked before replying.
" Well ! She is not as pretty as Eydis, but she does have a nice body. " he told his friend as though he were only half interested.
Valdarr laughed !
" My wife tells me she aches for a man,...., and she has the hips to easily bear you many children ! " he remarked to his old friend.
Berlingr could not help but laugh with Valdarr.
" Wide hips she does have my friend,..., and I will hold you to that promise when we come back victoriously to Saeheim. " he replied jovially.
Despite it being less than a month since Valdarr had struggled home in the ice storm to inform his wife he would be leaving, the sun's warmth had returned during the day raising temperatures above the freezing point. This made the marching more tolerable. At night, however, the temperatures rapidly dropped, and whatever had melted during the daylight hours quickly froze again, making their camps not only very cold, but dangerously slippery as well.
As they sat around their campfires the men of Saeheim segregated themselves into distinct groups. First there were the boastful warriors who had seen battle many times. With great flare they told their stories to all those who were new to army life, and the glory, and horror of war. The timid novice warriors sat in the glow of the fires hanging on every word these veterans of many campaigns spewed forth, whether the stories were true or pure fantasy.
Apart from the loud boastful warriors sat the Berserkers. Only eight in number, they sat quietly around their fire drinking an alcoholic mixture of mead and roots. When the potion had done its work these elite warriors rose up and did a strange dance around the fire that was based on the movements of bears. Some came over to watch the spectacle, but most knew better than to bother the Berserkers when they were in such a state of mind.
Valdarr, unlike the loud glory hungry warriors, who exaggerated their exploits only yards away from him, sat quietly staring into the flames that rose up off of the crackling logs and did a dance for him. Instead of looking back at past conflicts in the hypnotic flickering flames he saw images of the future, and all these apparitions included the face of his wife. He remembered the way her soft breasts felt in his hands, and how she gently moaned when they made love. And despite having been with her only a few days before, it felt like a lifetime since he had felt the soft touch of her lips against his.
Berlingr, who could almost see what Valdarr was thinking, rose up off of the log he was sitting on and patted his friend on the shoulder.
" Well ! I believe I will go to sleep now and leave you and your wife alone ! " he told Valdarr with a knowing grin.
Valdarr laughed at how well his friend knew him.
" Someday,...., soon,.... you to will know what it is to have a fine woman. " he assured Berlingr.
Skeggi was disappointed that it had already taken nearly two weeks and they still had not reached the border between Hordaland and Sogn. The journey had been made all the more difficult by melting snow which turned the paths north into muddy quagmires of sticky brown gook that would almost always pull the boots off of his warriors if they were not tied tightly enough. Even those lucky enough to ride horses had great difficulty navigating through the thick muck, and several horses had to be put down after they broke their legs.
When they finally reached the border they were further disheartened when they found the camp set up by King Eirikr to be deserted. Judging by the state of the camp it appeared to Skeggi that the king of Hordaland had marched with his army into Sogn several days before. The chieftain's fears had been realized. Now with his tiny force he had to track King Eirik's army into enemy territory and join him there. And of course he had to find him before King Halfdan the Black found King Eirikr, or worse yet found his little army !
- End Chapter 2
- Next : Chapter 3 : A Vicious Battle !
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2018.