Child Of Destiny
The Great Feast
Not all of the serving maidens had been chosen by Queen Olrun, however. There was a very beautiful maiden who slipped into the great hall unseen to serve the guests at the great hall. Hiding her identity by using the name Mardoll she had joined the servers to get as close as she could to the unsuspecting couple that she needed to use her magic on. Although she tried to make herself look as plain as possible Freyja was still the most beautiful serving maiden at the feast. A fact that pleased her to no end !
King Kjardan did not choose to throw the feast to promote peace amongst his kingdom, and his neighbors. Nor did he wish, as King Swein of Svearike did, for the kings of Hedemark and Romerike to sit down and talk over their differences. King Kjardan of Opplandene was holding this immense, and very costly, feast for one reason and one reason only, and that was to gauge the strengths and weaknesses of all the kingdoms that surrounded his own realm, and which he saw either as his enemies, or as his potential enemies. Throughout his great hall he had in place his best men to extract as much information from the kings of these lands. Mead and ale would be the instrument that he would use to loosen their tongues and to gain access to their most important secrets.
Most of the Kings knew each other personally or by reputation, and there was much laughter and camaraderie throughout the great hall that night. King Kjardan had planned the event right down to the placement of where each king and their family would be seated. Most of the placements were easy to decide because this was a time of great peace in the Northway. There was only one real area of tension and that was between Hedemark and Romerike, and King Kjardan kept those two royal families at opposite ends of his great hall.
King Olaf of Hedemark brought his young son, who was becoming quite a warrior in his own right, to introduce to the other kings as the Prince of Hedemark. Prince Thorvald was a quiet and rather shy young man who was larger than many of the adults in the great hall that night. He was a well built young man with muscles that showed off his great strength. Unlike some warriors, however, it took a lot to anger young Thorvald . The prince would rather listen to a great tale told by a skald by a fire then pick up his sword, and do battle. No one mistook his quiet demeanor for weakness. The few who had challenged him had all been sent to early graves by his great battle skills and his might !
King Runolf and Queen Grima of Romerike had brought their daughter, Princess Astrid, to the feast for a slightly different reason. Where the king and queen of Hedemark wanted to show off their powerful son to the other kings, King Runolf brought Astrid along as way to gain an alliance with one of his neighbors against Hedemark. Arranged marriages were the way that alliances were forged in Northway these days, and Astrid was the bait to catch the fish. Princess Astrid was an absolutely beautiful young woman. She was a petite girl, with a pretty face, and the most beautiful blonde hair, which she wore braided around her head like a crown of gold. As she walked around the hall she turned the heads of the youngest princes, and the eldest of kings. She was the talk of all the women that night, many of whom were extremely jealous of her great beauty.
Princess Astrid was no fool ! She was well aware of why she had been invited to the great feast in Opplandene. She enjoyed the attention, and was not so shy as to look away when a potential suitor caught her attention. She may have been brought here for political reasons, but she was going to choose her future husband, and on her own terms. She had not really seen a man who matched her fantasy prince, but after being served a cup of very special mead by a beautiful serving maiden, she spotted a man over by the serving table.
Mardoll had no trouble in getting her magic brew to Astrid, but she then had to make her way through a dense crowd to the other end of the hall to give Prince Thorvald his cup. Along the way Mardoll had to deal with the groping hands of many an older king as she passed them by. Mardoll swore under her breath that she would cast a spell on the next man who touched her. That unlucky soul was King Thorvinn of Trondelag . Shortly after his indiscretion he became ill, and had to retire to his tent outside the great hall, to the great amusement of the mysterious serving girl named Mardoll. Freyja had done her job well, however, and the die was cast for love.
As Princess Astrid walked over to the serving table she noticed this well muscled young man shyly glancing at her from across the hall. Every time she met his stare he quickly looked away. She was intrigued by this handsomely rugged warrior with hair almost as golden as her own. After having her plate filled by a maiden at the serving table, she took the long way back to her own table, slowly coming up behind the handsome young man. From his rear she cleared her throat to get his attention, and then said quietly, and jokingly. " A warrior needs to have keen eyes. You will strain yours if you keep staring at me from across this great hall. Therefore I felt it best that I come over and introduce myself to you so that the damage would be minimized. " She then smiled wickedly at the young prince and said : " I am Princess Astrid of Romerike. "
Prince Thorvald was taken by surprise as much by her boldness as by her great beauty. Due to his title he was used to women being polite, and rather shy in his presence. But this woman....... this woman was as bold as any warrior. At least in her speech. He turned toward her shyly, and almost dropped his plate on the floor. Astrid smiled at his apparent case of nerves, but pretended not to notice. Thorvald after a moment found his voice and replied : " I am Prince Thorvald of Hedemark. " Princess Astrid smiled at him and said in a flirtatious tone : " Oh my ! What will everyone think if they see us together. The prince of Hedemark conversing with the princess of Romerike ! " Thorvald did not have time to answer. His father, King Olaf, grabbed him by his arm, and personally escorted him back to his seat. As they approached the table King Olaf admonished his son : " A room full of beautiful maidens, and you have to talk to the daughter of our bitterest enemy ?! "
At almost the same time Queen Grima came up behind her daughter, took her arm, and whispered into her ear : " This is very inappropriate Astrid ! Let us just go back to our seats, and enjoy our meal quietly. Princess Astrid was guided back to her seat by her mother, and plopped down all the way across the room from Thorvald. Grima told her daughter to forget any notion she had of Thorvald, but the love that Freyja had set in motion had already begun to blossom. Thorvald and Astrid spent the rest of the evening stealing looks at each other.
End Chapter 3
- Glenn Bergen, Copyright, 2014.
Next : Chapter 4 : A Chance Meeting ?