Jarl Steinthor And His Vikings
Hogni was saddling his horse when Ospak rode up. " Are you ready my old friend ? " Ospak asked. Hogni turned, and with a smile replied : " Yes ! I am all set to ride to the coast. " Hogni was about to mount his horse when little Bera, who simply adored her grandfather ran out of the longhouse and wrapped her arms around her grandfather's legs. " Do you have to go grandfather ? " she asked in an innocent little voice. Hogni reached down and lifted his granddaughter up, hugged her, and gave her a little kiss before setting her back down. " Yes, I have to go my little valkyrie, but I promise you I will come to see you before I leave for foreign shores. " he told her. Bera looked up at her grandfather with a little pout upon her face. " Do you really promise ? " she asked. Hogni laughed . " I give you my sacred oath that I will see you before I leave ! " he said emphatically.
Hogni placed his left foot in the stirrup, and lifted himself up onto the big brown horse. As he spun his mount around he spotted Asdis standing in the doorway holding little Yngvar. Hogni nodded as he rode up to his daughter - in - law . Asdis glared at her father - in - law, and then stepped in front of his horse before he could ride away. " I will hold you to the promise you just made to my daughter ! " she told Hogni with a cross look upon her face. Hogni leaned over his horse and looked Asdis directly in the eyes. " I will keep my promise to my granddaughter ! " he told her without blinking an eye. Ospak, who did not know what was going on remained silent as he brought his horse up alongside Hogni's steed . The huge warrior simply raised an eyebrow as he kicked his mount into a trot.
It took little less than a day to reach Jarl Steinthor's camp on the southern coast of Norway. Along the way Hogni told Ospak what had transpired over the past few days. Ospak listened quietly as he heard that Hogni had not told his family that he was sick, and would soon die. It was only then that Ospak spoke up. " Not that it is any of my business, but it might have been better to tell them the truth. " he advised his former teacher. Hogni kicked his horse into a faster trot. " I will tell them when I see them for the last time ! " Hogni said as he rode by his friend.
Jarl Steinthor's encampment was in a forest at the edge of an inlet that was protected from the wind on two sides by rocky cliffs. As Hogni and Ospak rode up to the Jarl' s hastily built longhouse , they could not help but notice that the camp was a hot bed of activity and noise. On the beach, ship's carpenters were making all the necessary repairs to the dragon ships to ready them for their voyage. To the right of the longhouse was a blacksmith whose hammer clanged incessantly against his anvil as he repaired a sword. To the left, in a large clearing, several warriors were practicing single combat, while still others were sharpening their skills on making a shield wall. As Hogni and Ospak dismounted, and walked up to the longhouse, they heard a warrior bellow loudly : " No ! No ! You have to form up quicker, and the wall must be much tighter ! "
The make shift great hall was dimly lit as they entered , and it took Hogni a few moments to catch a glimpse of the huge man sitting on a high seat at the other end . He was a muscular man of middle age, whose eyes had a hard angry look to them. Before they could take another step, however, two warriors stopped them with swords drawn, and asked what their business was here at the Jarls' hall. Ospak reached up, lowered the warrior's sword who was across from him, and then told him with a tone of authority : " I am Ospak the Mighty and I wish to speak to Jarl Steinthor ! " The warrior put his sword back in its scabbard, turned and walked over to the Jarl , and after bowing, whispered in the jarl's ear as he pointed to the two visitors.
Jarl Steinthor stood up and shouted : " Ospak ! Old friend, come here ! " The other warrior who had stayed to watch the visitors placed his sword back into its scabbard, nodded, and then moved to the side to let them pass. When they came close enough Ospak and Jarl Steinthor grabbed hold of each other's forearms before embracing. After a long moment the jarl pushed Ospak away to arms length. " It is good to see you again my old friend ! The dragon ship you will command is almost ready to sail Ospak. We need but a few more warriors to man the oars, and then we will leave for he Kingdom of the Franks. ! " the jarl told him with a huge smile.
Ospak placed his hand on Steinthor's shoulder, and turned to face Hogni. " That is why I have brought with me an old friend ! Let me introduce to you a great warrior, and my good friend, Hogni the Bold ! " Ospak enthusiastically informed the jarl. Steinthor stepped forward, and with a frown upon his face, addressed his old friend : " I am sure that this warrior is more than willing, but he looks to me to be a little long in the tooth for battle. " As the jarl walked around Hogni he placed a hand on his hip. " He appears to be a large enough man, but does he still have the endurance and the skills necessary to survive a long battle ? " he asked with a disbelieving frown.
Ospak stepped over to Hogni, and placed his arm around him. " Not only can he still fight, my old friend, but he is an experienced warrior who can train your younger fighters ! " he told the jarl in a confident tone. Hogni nodded to Jarl Steinthor. " I am certain that I can be of great assistance to you and your army, my lord. " Hogni told the jarl with a slight respectful nod of his head.
The jarl laughed sarcastically. " Well let us see shall we ? " he told Hogni in a slightly mocking tone. " Ketil, disarm this bold warrior ! " the jarl commanded. The warrior who had been holding them at the front entrance suddenly drew his sword, and approached Hogni with a violent look in his eyes. Hogni, realizing what was about to happen, pulled out his sword to defend himself.
With a loud grunting sound Ketil swung his sword violently at Hogni. The old warrior ducked under the sword stroke, swung around and kicked the jarl' s guard in the knee sending him crumbling to the ground. Hogni stood over the guard, and placed the point of his sword against the throat of the stunned young warrior. Jarl Steinthor laughed heartily ! " You may kill him if you wish ! " he told the old warrior. Hogni turned to the jarl and placed his sword back in its scabbard. " If he is dead he will be of no use to us. However, if you let me train this warrior he can become a valuable weapon in your army ! " Hogni replied.
Jarl Steinthor walked back to his high seat, and sat down. He turned to Ospak, and with a sly grin spoke : " Not only have you brought me an experienced warrior, but he is a very wise man as well. His actions have earned him a seat on your ship my old friend ! " Ospak nodded and gave the jarl a smile. " Thank you, my lord ! " he replied. Steinthor then turned to Hogni, and pointed at Ketil who still remained on the floor. " I want you to train my personal guards first ! They are of no use to me if they cannot even protect me from an old warrior such as yourself ! " he shouted angrily. Hogni nodded. Yes, my lord. I promise to do my utmost to make them skilled warriors ! " he told the jarl.
Over the next few weeks the jarl came down everyday to the practice field to watch as Hogni trained the younger warriors. He marveled at how such an old man could defeat his warriors one by one. Steinthor could not help notice that Hogni, unlike the eager, but very inexperienced warriors, did not waste energy on violent, tiring sword strokes and tactics. Every move the old fighter used had purpose, and was compact, allowing him to conserve his energy, and yet still dispatch his opponents quickly. The jarl was very glad that Ospak had brought Hogni to him, and as the days passed he gained a great respect for the old warrior, who now had earned the nickname " the bold " in the jarl' s eyes ! "
A week before they were to sail, Hogni went to see the jarl and asked for permission to go and see his family. The jarl, though reluctant, agreed to let the old warrior visit his family. He also gave Hogni a friendly warning : " If you do not return by the time we are ready to sail I will send my warriors to find you ! " he told him sternly. As Hogni left the longhouse Ospak gave the jarl a questioning look. Steinthor in return gave his old friend a smirk. " What ! I cannot afford to lose such a great warrior ! " he told his friend. Ospak just smiled and nodded that he understood his outburst.
- End Chapter 4
Next : Chapter 5 : A Bittersweet Farewell
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2015.