The Yule War
( The Greatest Gift )
The Lone Rider
Ingiborg woke up early and started cooking her husband's breakfast. While the oatmeal was heating up over the fire she left for a moment and went next door to check on Geirdis. After knocking on the door several times, without arousing her friend, Ingiborg found the key that Geirdis had given her in case of an emergency and opened the door. When she peered inside she was shocked by what she saw ! There, huddled by the fire, was Geirdis lying up against the wall of the fire pit fast asleep. Ingiborg's eyes widened as she looked down at the blanket which covered her friend, the edge of which had caught on fire, and was quickly burning it's way toward the young woman's face !
Ingiborg looked around the room for something with which to extinguish the flames ! On the nearby table she spotted a water bucket that she hoped was still at least partially filled. As quickly as she could Ingiborg ran over to the table, grabbed the bucket, and returned to her friend. Because the bucket was only half full Ingiborg took careful aim before throwing the water over her friend's head and shoulder. The contents of the bucket were enough to put out the flames, but Ingiborg was not about to take any chances. She ripped the blanket off of Geirdis, ran to the door, opened it, and threw it outside just to be sure it could cause no more harm.
Geirdis, who had only moments before finally fallen asleep, woke up thinking she was being attacked . Still caught up in the fog of half - sleep she raised her sword up and was about to plunge it into her attacker, who was returning, when she heard a familiar voice.
" Geirdis ! No !! " the voice screamed.
Suddenly, the formless figure who had attacked her came into focus and Geirdis realized it was her good friend Ingiborg. In a moment that only lasted as long as a blink of an eye, Geirdis lost her anger, dropped the sword, and began to cry.
" I am so sorry Ingiborg ! I thought they were raping me again ! I am so scared of them !! " Geirdis screamed through trembling lips.
Ingiborg quickly got up and tightly grabbed hold of her terrified and shaking friend.
" It is alright my dear ! I am a little scared right now as well Geirdis ! " she told her friend.
Borr, who had lost an arm in the last war, came lumbering over to Geirdis' hut in a foul mood. He had awoken to find his breakfast burning over the fire, and with his wife nowhere to be found. When he came to the partially opened front door, and saw the burned blanket lying in the snow near the entrance, his anger faded and he drew his sword. Borr kicked the door fully open and rushed inside. He expected to find an intruder, or at the very least some emergency that needed to be attended to. What he did not expect to see, however, was his wife and Geirdis crying and hugging each other.
" What is wrong ?! What has happened ? ! " Borr demanded to know.
Ingiborg looked at her husband with red swollen eyes.
" Geirdis has had another bad dream. " she told him.
Borr shook his head in disbelief.
" Despite my injury I should have gone off to war with the others. It would have been less dangerous to my health than staying here where you women are going to scare me to death with your antics ! " he blurted out.
Geirdis began to cry even harder when she realized that she had become a burden to a warrior who had distinguished himself so magnificently in battle. Knutr told her that Borr had once held off twenty enemy warriors, which allowed time for reinforcements to plug a gap in their shield wall before it was penetrated. His incredible bravery, however, had cost him his left arm. In comparison, Geirdis was ashamed that she could not help but whimper like a child over her fear of a recurring nightmare.
Ingiborg gave her husband a look that cut through him like a sharp sword. Then came the bulging angry eyes, and a slight turn of the head that told Borr that this was woman's business and that he should leave now. Borr was no fool ! He placed his sword back in its scabbard and beat a quick retreat home.
Ingiborg stayed with Geirdis until the sun was directly overhead before heading home to fix Borr some lunch. To her dismay when she opened the door she saw that her husband was already sitting at the table eating some bread and dried herring.
" That is not a proper meal for a warrior who is trying to heal from an injury as severe as yours ! " she chastised her husband.
Borr barely looked up from his meal.
" It is enough ! " he replied angrily.
Ingiborg placed her hands on her hips while her husband continued to ignore her. For several moments there was only an uneasy silence between the two of them. This awkward moment was broken when suddenly they heard shouting coming from the direction of the village market. Borr could tell just by the tone of the yelling that something was very wrong. After first giving his wife a short glance, Borr dropped the piece of bread he was holding, and ran out of the door. Seeing the concerned look on her husband's face made Ingiborg quickly run after him.
As they rounded the corner into the square Borr and Ingiborg caught the last words of the frantic rider. And they sounded quite ominous !
" ..... and the king is dead ! The Upplanders have defeated the king's army !! " he screamed in an almost maniacal tone.
It was at that moment that Geirdis came running into the market square to see what all the commotion was about. She heard every word the rider had shouted. With a look of shock and horror etched upon her face she raised up her hand to try and cover her mouth to stop herself from screaming. Geirdis collapsed before she could do either.
While Ingiborg ran over to attend to her fallen friend, Borr, despite having only one arm, grabbed the man, lifted him off of his saddle, and threw him on the ground. Then Borr pulled out his sword and pointed it at the man's throat.
"Repeat what you said again, ....., slowly,.... and from the beginning ! " Borr told the man angrily.
The startled rider looked up at Borr with scared wide eyes. He thought for a moment about drawing his own sword, but after noticing the gold arm ring he wore, he quickly thought better of the idea.
" My name is Jafnharr. I am, .... was, .... a warrior in the king's guard. The army was riding through a deep valley, with high white capped mountains on either side, when we were suddenly, and unexpectedly, attacked by King Ottar and his Upplanders. We tried to regiment ourselves by rank, and form shield walls, but it all happened too fast ! The enemy seemed to come from everywhere ! We never had a chance ! When King Nagli fell our defenses disintegrated and what was left of our army either fled or died on the field of battle ! " he explained.
It was not that Borr did not believe what the man was saying so much as his nervous demeanor that made the old warrior suspicious.
" Are you certain that King Nagli is dead and our army destroyed ? ! " Borr asked.
Jafnharr shook his head up and down furiously.
" Yes ! Yes !! I was no more than a hundred paces away from the king when he was knocked from his horse and run through multiple times with spears and swords. " the lone rider confirmed.
" And yet you survived the onslaught ? " Borr questioned.
" I barely escaped with my life ! " the warrior shot back.
Borr stepped forward and thrust his sword into the younger man's chest. As the warrior gasped his last breath, Borr spit in the man's face.
" Our brave king died honorably ! Why should a coward like you be allowed to live ?! " he asked the man before pulling his sword out of the man's body.
Borr wiped the blade of the bloody sword on the man's clothes, and then walked over to Ingiborg. His wife was consoling Geirdis who was crying hysterically over the loss of her husband. Borr tapped his wife on the shoulder, and pointed his sword in the direction of their hut.
" Bring Geirdis to our house . She should not be alone at a time like this . " he told his wife.
Borr then added.
" The Upplanders will be coming soon. I will prepare a defensive perimeter around the village to try and stop them ! "
Ingiborg looked up at her husband.
" All that are left here in the village are young children, women, and old men. How can we defend ourselves against an entire army ? " she asked nervously.
Borr looked to the north as he replied.
" We have no choice. We must do our best to stop the Upplanders ! "
- End Chapter 3
- Next : Chapter 4 : To Defend Our People
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2017.