The Bastard Son
King Alfrekr was no fool. He kept the archers intact as a unit, and even allowed Trausti to remain as their commander. The foot soldiers, however, were divided up between Vigmundr's and Dyggvi's divisions. He also decided that as a king it was beneath him to lead a division, and therefore he elevated a capable leader named Roki to lead the center of his army.
Before returning to Ostfold, where he would rule the whole of Ranrike from, the new king visited each town and village to proclaim his new title, and to take an oath of allegiance from each of the local chieftains. Many, who were all too familiar with King Palni's tyranny, expected arrests, tortures and murders to follow. Instead what they received were promises of protection, from the king's new army, and peace to all who chose to follow him. Not one of the local chieftains refused to accept Alfrekr as their new leader.
One of Alfrekr's first official acts as king of Ranrike was to look at the treasury to see how much was being collected in taxes, and how much was being spent. What Alfrekr discovered shocked and dismayed him. Palni had been heavily burdening his people with excessive taxes, and then had squandered that money on great feasts, and military raids into foreign lands that seldom, if ever, returned with any wealth to show for their trouble. To make matters worse many of the raiders were never heard from again, leaving many women and children abandoned and destitute.
King Alfrekr immediately cut the taxes in half and suspended all Viking raids until such time as the treasury had reached an acceptable level. He restricted the feasts to the ritual days, and when foreign dignitaries came to his kingdom. Alfrekr also forgave all back taxes, and set in place of torture, for those who could not afford the reduced taxes, a way to work off what they owed. Alfrekr used these delinquent farmers and craftsmen to help build new ships to replace the many vessels that sailed off during Palni's reign, and never returned.
The women of Ranrike were busy as well. They organized themselves into sewing groups to make clothing for the poorest of people, and collected food to alleviate the hunger of the unfortunate. They also sat on committees that saw to the welfare of the children who lost their parents either from disease, war, or King Palni's many years of tyranny. These women became very influential and were even able to convince King Alfrekr to lessen the taxes on those families who adopted an orphan child.
King Alfrekr became immensely popular with the folk of Ranrike, and the nobility from neighboring kingdoms. Wealthy merchants, and foreign kings, were constantly trying to marry their daughters, young and old, to the new king of Ranrike. At first King Alfrekr politely declined all offers of marriage, but several years into his reign he was visited by Sigvaldi, the king of Vestfold. Sigvaldi came to Ranrike seeking an alliance with Alfrekr against the young King Thorvald of Viken, who had been raiding into both kingdoms . With Ranrike to the east, and Vestfold to the west, they could box in King Thorvald of Viken. King Sigvaldi argued that they together would neutralize his incursions into both lands.
King Alfrekr agreed that an alliance was in the best interest of both kingdoms, and when King Sigvaldi offered his beautiful thirty year old daughter Bekkhildr to seal the agreement Alfrekr found it impossible to refuse.
The wedding was a huge affair that was attended by the leaders of almost all the surrounding kingdoms. Only King Thorvald of Viken refused to come. The feast, and games after the wedding, also helped to seal the friendships of the other kings, and further isolated the rogue king of Viken.
A little more than a year after the marriage was consummated, Bekkhildr became pregnant, and nine months later gave King Alfrekr, and his people, an heir to the throne of Ranrike. They named their son Gormr.
During her pregnancy, and during the early years of Gormr's childhood, Bekkhildr became cold and distant towards her husband, and was seldom intimate with him. Alfrekr tried to be faithful to his wife, but sometimes his needs outweighed his fidelity, and from time to time he would have an affair with one of the local women. These infidelities were kept secret of course, with only his personal guards knowing of them.
Then one day a beautiful young woman was introduced into his life. Her name was Eydis, and she was barely eighteen years old when they met. Despite her young age she had the curvaceous body of a much more mature woman. The final enticement, if one were needed at all, was that she was still a virgin when they met.
Alfrekr could not control his carnal urges and began to sleep with Eydis often. Unlike his previous trysts he did not try to hide his affair with the young woman. Everyone in Ranrike, who was anybody, knew that Eydis was Alfrekr's mistress. It became the gossip that everyone spoke of behind closed doors in whispers, but the subject no one would bring up in public.
Bekkhildr, although very much embarrassed by her husband's infidelity, knew that she could not expect Alfrekr to remain faithful if she did not meet his needs in bed. And so she turned a blind eye to the scandalous affair. That is until one day when Eydis became pregnant with Alfrekr's child !
The queen was incensed by her husbands carelessness, and demanded that Eydis be killed to prevent the birth of a possible rival to her own son's rightful claim to the throne of Ranrike ! Bekkhildr also worried about her own hold upon royal power. She feared that Eydis might convince Alfrekr to kill her, and install her instead as his new queen !
King Alfrekr, however, was a sensible man. He loved Eydis, but he never considered her anything more that his mistress. He also did not want a bastard son to sit upon his throne when he was gone. Alfrekr told his wife that he would handle the situation, but he flatly refused to kill Eydis, and their unborn baby.
King Alfrekr thought long and hard on what to do . His wife was correct in saying that Eydis and her child must never be seen in Ranrike , but murdering her would simply not do. After visiting Ranrike's sacred temple to Odin, King Alfrekr, using Valfather's wisdom to help him decide, came up with a compromise that he felt would satisfy everyone involved.
Alfrekr had a distant cousin, a Swede, who had taken an army into the Baltic region and conquered a small territory for himself. Here he set up a kingdom, among many other kingdoms, in the land known as the Rus. His name was Ingvar, but he was referred to by his new people as Igor. Alfrekr decided that he would send Eydis into permanent exile to live with Ingvar, and his wife Queen Helga, who was now known by the name of Olga by the Rus.
Eydis protested vehemently, but Alfrekr told her of his wife's demands for her death, and she finally acquiesced under one condition. Alfrekr must come to the Land of the Rus to visit her and their child often. The king was willing to say almost anything to get Eydis to leave, and told her that he would come to see her at least twice a year.
Alfrekr, however, never wanted to see Eydis or their child . The king sent Vigmundr to escort Eydis by ship to King Ingvar's kingdom. Vigmundr, in private, told the Rus king that King Alfrekr wanted her kept away from Norway, and that he would not ever be coming to see her, or the child. Vigmundr, however, also passed along the message to King Ingvar, and Queen Helga, that Alfrekr wished for Eydis and her child to be treated well .
- End Chapter 4
- Next : Chapter 5 : Exile !
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2016.