King Blot - Sweyn :
The Last Royal Sacrificer
The Final Battle
King - Blot - Sweyn was nervous as he rode through his line to gain a better view of his opponent. Across from him, on a small mound, Inge sat on a large white horse. The former king was positioned in the middle of his line, with his mounted warriors stretching across the mound, and curled back on both ends to protect his flanks. Although Sweyn could not see any infantry, he assumed that they were hidden behind the cavalry. The Heathen king was worried that he did not enough mounted warriors to match his opponents numbers.
Although the two armies were actually very similar in size, with only a slight edge going to the Heathens, King Sweyn, who was not a true military man, saw only that Inge held the heights, and that his opponent was already in position while he was still moving his mounted warriors to better protect his flanks. Late in arriving to the battlefield, he now lamented the fact that he had sent half of his army to Gastrikland to fight the Christian Chieftain Rut .
" If only I had Steinkell here with the rest of my army ! " Sweyn said out loud as he inspected his lines.
Out of the corner of his eye the Heathen king caught sight of a horseman making his way through his line of warriors. When the baron' s brown stallion pulled up along side of his own mount, Sweyn nodded to the rider, but he did not take his eyes off the job at hand, which was re-positioning his troops.
" I owe you a great debt of gratitude for warning me about this intrusion upon our land by these Christians ! " he told Thjof the baron.
Thjof smiled proudly as he turned to take a look at their enemy up on the hill.
" I was more than happy to be of assistance to my king ! " Thjof replied humbly.
Then Thjof cleared his throat and continued.
" If I may, I would like to ask for the honor, and privilege, to fight alongside you my lord ? " the baron asked.
King Blot - Sweyn placed his hand on Thjof's shoulder and patted it twice.
" You do not have to ask for what you have already earned with your deeds ! " the king told Thjof with a smile. " Come with me as I position my cavalry on the flanks ! " the king added as he kicked his horse into a gallop.
King Inge did not waste any time, and quickly formed his men into battle formation. Then he sat on his horse for a moment looking over the enemy' s position. Across from him, and looking directly at him was his brother - in - law Sweyn. Inge knew that Sweyn was not a skilled military leader. He had tried on several occasions to educate his wife' s brother on the art of war, but Sweyn never seemed quite interested in the finer details of the lessons. It was for this reason that Inge had decided to let his brother - in - law make the first move. The Christian king was certain that once the battle began the novice commander would become lost in the fog of war, and he would be easy to defeat.
King Inge did not have to wait long to witness Sweyn' s first blunder. Inge could not believe his eyes when he saw the Heathen king move his infantry forward, and begin to move his small cavalry force on both flanks to the rear, almost directly behind the foot soldiers. King Inge changed his mind immediately ! If he attacked now he could not only catch Sweyn' s cavalry out of position, and in an unorganized state, but he could attack the infantry on three sides !
King Inge quickly sent Halsten up and down the lines to tell their warriors to move forward with all speed on his signal. When his second in command returned King Inge unsheathed his sword and held it high in the air. The king then brought his weapon down to his side, and they all began to move forward at a fast gallop.
" For God, Kingdom, and Rome ! " he shouted as he kicked his great white horse forward.
King Blot - Sweyn was reorganizing his left flank when he heard the shouts coming from the hill in the distance. As he reined his horse around he saw the entire Christian army riding down off of the mound straight for them. Sweyn gave Thjof a quick glance, and then nervously stared back at the enemy bearing down on them.
" Thjof ! I order you to finish positioning my mounted warriors ! " he yelled to the baron. I am going forward to meet the attack ! " he added as he sank his spurs into his horse's sides.
The Christian cavalry hit the Heathen shield wall head on. The Heathen foot soldiers, who carried spears, had been ordered to the front by their line commanders with just enough time to meet the charge. The swordsmen had stepped back to let them pass while the axe men took up a position in the rear of the line. Most of the Christian horses would not jump into the shield wall because of the porcupine like defense the Heathens were using. With their spears jutting out through the shield wall some of the horses reared up and threw their riders to the ground. The fighting was fierce but their was little or no penetration.
The left flank, however, was wide open despite Thjof' s efforts to re-position the Heathen cavalry in that section. And therefore it was the left of the line that was being attacked on both its front and side. Thof had no battle experience and his confusion was leading to a collapse on that end of the line. Halsten who was leading the attack by the Christians was slowly beginning to roll up the left flank of the Heathen line.
The right flank of Sweyn' s cavalry was led by an experienced commander named Ragnvald. He had protested when he was re-positioned by King Sweyn, but now he realized that he should have demanded to stay in his original position near the front of the line. As he feared the Christians had seen the flanks opening up, and were heading straight for the gaps in the lines.
Ragnvald did not hesitate, however, the moment that he saw the enemy barreling down on the right flank he lead his men forward at a full gallop. The Heathen right flank was saved as Ragnvald's men literally crashed into the Christian horsemen head - on, and denied them access to the rear of the foot soldier's line. Ragnvald was one of the first Heathens to die, but his quick action, and sacrifice, saved Sweyn' s army from certain defeat.
With the right flank holding, and the center remaining stable, Sweyn took a contingent of his warriors and fought his way back to the left flank. With Thjof, keeping the Christians busy and doing his best to contain the damage already caused on the left of the line, Sweyn attacked the Christians from behind. King Blot - Sweyn was not a great tactician, but he was a brave warrior who did not fear death. Leading from the front he was able to stabilize his left flank despite the early losses.
King Inge was surprised when his attack stalled. His initial moves had severely weakened the Heathens, and with these losses the two armies were now of equal size. The Christian king could not believe how quickly the Heathen cavalry had reacted on the right flank, and he was stunned that the attack on the left, led by his second in command Halsten, had bogged down into a stalemate after Sweyn counterattacked. As the two armies desperately fought each other under an unusually warm fall sky, the battle slowly degenerated into individual conflicts, with neither side being able to gain an advantage.
The former king of Sweden had figured out his opponents tactics, but he could not see into their hearts. The Heathens were not simply fighting for King Blot - Sweyn, but were also defending their Gods, and struggling to save the customs of their ancestors from being destroyed. Many of the Heathen warriors thought it symbolic that the Christians had begun their attack from atop one of the sacred grave mounds that surround Uppsala, because for years now the Heathens had watched the Christians trample on their ancient traditions and religious practices that were once strictly adhered to by the kings buried in these mounds.
As darkness began to fall over the battlefield King Inge and King Blot - Sweyn could take comfort in the fact that they both had achieved certain goals. King Inge had severely weakened the Heathen army, and pushed it back almost to the temple. Meanwhile, King Blot - Sweyn had stopped the Christians, and saved the temple and its grounds. By the time the moon rose over the battlefield the two armies had separated for the night. The cries of the wounded and dying who lay in between the two forces, however, was a reminder of what was still to come.
- End Chapter 7
- Next : Chapter 8 : The Beginning of the End !
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2015.