King Blot - Sweyn :
The Last Royal Sacrificer
A Slow Death
Anund could not believe how much noise fifty warriors could make ! Every step rustled a leaf, and every footfall seemed to snap a twig as they slowly made their way to the large hut at the edge of the black forest. Luckily for Anund, who lead the way, the moon was full, and the sky was cloudless, which lighted their way in the darkness.
The skald did not dare take the same route which led to the front door of King Sweyn' s hut that he had taken early when he was alone. Due to the excess noise, made by the band of warriors, Anund led them in a more circuitous route to the back of the king's hut. This way was much longer in distance, and they did not reach the structure until the early hours of the morning.
Once his men were in place King Inge ordered Halsten, and two archers, to follow Anund to the front of the hut. As King Inge had expected two Heathen warriors guarded the entrance to King Blot - Sweyn' s abode. Anund, not being a military man, only saw this as an inconvenience, but to Halsten it meant that the Heathen king and his commanders were still inside. More importantly, at this early of an hour in the morning they were more than likely asleep !
Halsten told his archers to make sure that their bows were aimed at the hearts of the warriors who were guarding the hut. The commander of the Christians did not want them to cry out a warning before they died . Halsten was sure that with fifty men behind them they could easily overpower the ten or twelve men who were inside, but he did not want to risk any of them escaping.
Both archers aimed carefully, and waited for their targets to remain still before letting loose their arrows. The first caught the left guard squarely in the upper chest, killing him instantly, and knocking him off of his feet. The second warrior, on the right, had just begun to turn to see why his comrade had fallen when an arrow pierced his heart. Neither was able to do more than let out a low murmur of pain before the died.
Halsten then went back and told King Inge that they had been successful. King Ingequickly brought up the rest of the warriors, and began to position them around the building . As they slowly circled the hut the three warriors who held the lighted torches, lit the other warriors torches as they came into position. When everyone was ready Halsten and King Inge personally lit the entrance first, and then Halsten gave the signal for the right side to be set on fire, while King Inge signaled to his warriors on the left. The timbers on the sides of the building took longer to burn then did the thatch on the roof, but the wood was old and dry, and soon the entire structure was ablaze.
King Blot - Sweyn had taken a long time to fall asleep. He had tried to relax, but the events of the previous day's battle kept running through his troubled mind. The king was worried that his son would not reach Steinkell in time, or that the other half of his army might be too late in arriving at Uppsala to join in the battle, which would start of course at first light.
Sweyn had finally begun to doze off when he suddenly began to cough. In his sleep - daze he was not fully able to understand why he was having trouble breathing. Then, as if struck by lightning he bolted up in bed, and tried to focus his eyes on the room where he and his commanders were sleeping. Within moments, however, he had to close them again because they were stinging and watering so badly that he could not stand it. Then the king felt the intense heat !
" Fire ! Fire !! We must get out of here now ! " Sweyn shouted to his commanders as he grabbed for his sword.
Sweyn knew the layout of his house very well and began to head for the exit by feeling his way along the wall. His commanders, many of whom had never been to his home, were confused by their surroundings, and with thick smoke blocking out anything that might be recognizable, stumbled around blindly trying to find something familiar that would show them the way out of this fiery death trap.
King Sweyn was a warrior who could think wisely even under the most stressful of circumstances. He realized almost immediately that his men would not be able to find their way to the front of the hut to escape, and began to call out to them.
" Follow my voice ! " he told them as he began to recite a tale about Volund that he had been told by Anund.
The warriors in the back of the room never made it to where King Sweyn was standing near the door of the hut. As the flames intensified the entire back half of the roof collapsed inward trapping them, and quickly burning them alive. Sweyn lowered his head as he heard their desperate screams for help. A moment later all that could be heard was the crackling of the flames as they burned through anything that would ignite.
King Sweyn could sense that there were several warriors with him as he reached the exit to the hut. as he placed his hand on the metal bolt, that locked the doors in place, he screamed out in pain ! In the haze of the smoke filled room Sweyn could not see that the latch was glowing red hot, nor could he know that the flames had almost burned all the way through the door from the outside. It was then that the rest of the roof caved in, and the room exploded from the infusion of oxygen which blew out the front door.
King Sweyn and a half dozen of his warriors were thrown by the blast clear of the burning hut. Two lay on the ground dead, while Sweyn and the other four tried desperately to put out the flames that were consuming their clothes and their hair. As they were trying to put themselves out the five Heathens also noticed that they were surrounded by a great number of the enemy's warriors. Even with his eyes being blurred and irritated by the smoke King Sweyn could make out that the man who stood in front of him was none other than his brother- in - law King Inge.
Despite the severe burns he received on his right hand when he tried to lift the latch on the door, King Sweyn gripped his sword hard in his hand and prepared to do battle with his sister's husband. The Heathen king winced as the blister that had formed on the palm of his hand broke as he raised his sword. With a scream of anger, mixed with extreme pain, he attacked the foggy image of King Inge who stood before him.
Two of the commanders who had made it out with Sweyn had no swords, and were killed immediately. The king and his two remaining comrades fought with such fury that they were able to push the Christian warriors from in front of the burning hut, all the way to the edge of the forest. Weakened by the inhalation of smoke, however, the Heathens could not fight for long before their damaged lungs failed them and they were overtaken by exhaustion. His two comrades fell first, as King Sweyn fought on against multiple opponents.
The Heathen king managed to kill one Christian and injure several others before he was stabbed, and cut by his enemy's swords multiple times. Finally a Christian sword penetrated his stomach and King Sweyn fell to his knees. Another blade cut deeply into his shoulder, and the Heathen king could not longer hold onto the hilt of his blade.
With King Inge standing above him , King Blot - Sweyn spit out his own blood at King Inge.
" You have killed me, and the old religion of our ancestors is now destined to die a slow death ..... but if it takes a hundred years, .....or a thousand, .....the Old Gods will rise again, and we Heathens will once again freely honor the Gods of our ancestors through ritual and sacrifice ! " Blot - Sweyn screamed at his most bitter of enemies.
These were the last words King Blot - Sweyn would ever speak. King Inge thrust the point of his blade through Sweyn' s throat ripping out his windpipe. Because all eyes were focused on the dying king, as he gurgled out his last breaths, the Christians did not notice Olof, the only remaining Heathen commander alive, quietly leaving the burning house. Olof ran for the cover of the forest despite being burned over most of his body. Olof ignored the intense pain from his burned skin as it fell off of his arms and face. The dying commander only had one more mission in life, and that was to make it back to the Heathen camp to warn them of what had happened.
Olof hid in the forest and watched as the Christians carried off King Sweyn' s body. When he was sure that all of the Christians had left Olof slowly, and very painfully, made his way back to the Heathen camp. With the last of his strength he called out to his warriors to help him. Three guards came running to his aide, and helped him into camp. With his dying breath Olof ordered the warriors to send a messenger at once to warn Steinkell, and Eirik, that King Sweyn, and all of his commanders were now dead.
As the camp awakened, the messenger left on a fast horse to find Steinkell. Meanwhile, the Heathen army at Uppsala was left leaderless, and without direction, to face a determined enemy !
- End Chapter 9
- Next : Chapter 10 : A Thousand Years To Wait
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ) , © Copyright, 2015.