King Of Destiny
The Christian Alliance
Slowly King Eirik looked up from the sword and realized that his court priest Bersi was staring at him waiting for an answer to the question that he had asked moments before. Bersi had been sent by King Eirik to the Northlands, and to Romerike in particular, to begin converting those who worshiped the old Gods. King Eirik had hoped that he could avoid the bloodshed and turmoil that his father had to endure all those years ago, but after listening to Father Bersi describe the rough treatment that he and the other missionaries had received in the eastern territories, Eirik was now sure that a peaceful conversion was all but impossible. King Eirik, however, did not want to be pushed into a war with the Northland Kingdom, when he was not sure if his kingdom was fully prepared for such an endeavor.
King Eirik took a deep breath before answering his priests ' call for war '. " War is not a subject that should be talked about lightly Father Bersi ! My kingdom, on its own, would be hard pressed to defeat the united Jarldoms of the Northland Kingdom. They were strong before, but now... now I have been informed that Romerike has agreed to join the Northland Kingdom after the death of King Runolf. The new king of the Northlands, King Thorvald Olafsson, is unknown to me, though I have heard that he is a mighty warrior. His father, King Olaf, always preferred to use treaties and alliances to enlarge his kingdom, but his son....., well he may not be as easy to bargain with. " the king told the priest. " Then what will you do about the atrocities that were perpetrated against our holy men ?! " Father Bersi asked. King Eirik thought for a moment before answering. " I will invite all the Eastern Christian Kingdoms to Hordaland, and here in my great hall we will hold a council of war. Together we will decide whether to try talking to these Pagans, or if we will exterminate them ! " King Eirik shouted pointing the end of his father's sharp sword at the priest's throat.
As the first buds formed on the forest trees, the Christian kings began to arrive in Hordaland for the Christian War Council. As was due their royal position, they were all greeted with great pomp as they entered King Eirik's great hall. As they walked through the huge doors to the hall each of the royal visitors received a blessing, not only from Father Bersi, but also from Bishop Callistus, who had been sent by the Pope himself to make the Vatican' s position very clear to the Christian kings. Although the War Council would not convene for three days, amid the drinking, feasting, and merriment, there was much debating going on between the "war mongers", as they were called, and the kings who wanted to try and find a peaceful settlement to the Pagan problem. King Olaf of Sogn spoke of moderation, and a peaceful solution, while King Sigtrygg of Rogaland pushed his agenda of annihilating the unclean peoples of the east. King Harald of More, and King Eirik himself were the ones that the others were trying to sway to their point of view. Bishop Callistus, on the other hand, simply wanted the Pagan religion eradicated. He clearly stated that the Pope did not care what means were used.
The Christian War Council was convened on a cool rainy afternoon. It was closed to the public, and even the local chieftains were not allowed to attend. The serving maidens were sent away after they had placed great quantities of ale and food on the table. For King Eirik knew full well that if only one serving maiden gossiped what was talked about at the meeting it would spread through the realm faster than they could send messengers to announce their decision. The few who were invited included King Harald of More, King Olaf of Sogn, King Sigtrygg of Rogaland, Bishop Callistus, Father Bersi, and of course King Eirik.
Right from the start King Eirik could sense the way the council was leaning. Only King Sigtrygg and Bishop Callistus were pushing for all out war. It was obvious that Sigtrygg had not swayed King Harald or King Olaf to his thinking. King Eirik himself was not opposed to forcing the Pagan kingdom of the Northlands into converting. He simply did not feel that this was the right time , and at the moment it appeared that the vote would be three against two in favor of a peaceful solution, if it were taken at the beginning of the deliberations. The only ally that King Sigtrygg had was Bishop Callistus of Rome, and all he was bringing to the table were a few hundred foreign Christian mercenaries to fight next to the Christian Alliance. Yes, King Eirik felt confident, at least at this juncture, that war could be avoided.
King Sigtrygg gave his speech first. He ranted on and on about how King Olaf of Hedemark had, over the years, gobbled up almost all of the kingdoms of the Northlands, either through alliances, or annexation. " The wolf is now at our door my friends, and allies ! " he told the council. " And they are growling at us with sharp Pagan teeth ! " he added. " We must bind this Pagan monster the way the Old Gods bound Fenrir ! " Sigtrygg shouted as he pounded his fist on the table.
Bishop Callistus was greatly offended by the king's remarks ! The bishop stood up and pointed a finger at King Sigtrygg. " How dare you bring up the Pagan Gods at our Christian War Council ! " he screamed at the king. With a look that betrayed his annoyance King Sigtrygg apologized. " Forgive me Bishop Callistus ! I was simply making a point using an old tale from our past. I assure you I meant no harm or disrespect. " he told the bishop. The bishop glared at King Sigtrygg one last time, then nodded, before sitting back down . He then motioned for the king to continue.
" Now, as I was saying, we must stop the Pagan Kingdom of the Northland before it gobbles up the rest of our righteous Christian kingdoms ! " he shouted getting back into rhythm. " And now is the perfect time to attack ! King Runolf is dead ! King Olaf is dead ! And as we speak a young and very inexperienced king sits on the throne of the Northland Kingdom. We must hit him hard, and do it as soon as we can ! We must do to his kingdom what he did to others for years ! We must take over the lands of his kingdom, one Jarldom at a time, until there are no Pagan territories left. We must fight for our religious beliefs my fellow Christians, or die in the effort ! " he shouted as he finished.
King Olaf of Sogn, and King Harald of More, gave speeches that were very similar in tone and content. If there was no choice then they would support a war against the Pagan Northland Kingdom. But at the moment they saw no need to jump into a war against their Pagan Viking brothers. The Northlands did not have armies at their borders waiting to attack. And they were not trying to force the Christian kingdoms to revert back to the old religion ! The kings also spoke of how none of the kingdoms, now Jarldoms, had been annexed by force, but had joined the Pagan Northland Kingdom of their own free will. King Olaf and King Harald were in agreement . War was not called for at this time ! But both kings agreed to abide by whatever decision was voted on by the War Council.
King Eirik, as the host of the Christian War Council, was the last king to speak. Eirik agreed with King Sigtrygg that eventually something had to be done about the growing power of the Northland Kingdom. What Eirik questioned was the timing. The populations of the coastal Christian kingdoms had been devastated by a plague that they were certain came from the Frankish kingdom. And since they had ceased their Viking ways, their kingdoms did not have the revenues that they once had to fund what might be a long and protracted war. He told the members of the council that although their warships greatly outnumbered those of the Northland Kingdom, he feared that a land battle between the Christian Alliance and the Pagan Northlands would be disastrous at this time. " and like my brother Christian kings from Sogn and More, I think that we should try to negotiate with the Pagans, and bide our time until we are better prepared for war. " he told the council. " I will add, however, that if the Christian Alliance votes for war we will be ready ! " he said forcefully as he sat back down.
The final speaker was Bishop Callistus, and he was not in a good humor after listening to the kings. Instead of standing in front of his seat he came out from behind the great table and walked back and forth around the kings. In his hand he held a golden scepter with a large red jewel at its top. For what seemed like an eternity to King Eirik, the bishop paced back and forth pounding the scepter into his hand . Then suddenly the bishop stopped pacing and cried out : " I came north here to your lands expecting to find lions ! Instead all I see are a flock of scared sheep, that not even a war dog like King Sigtrygg can herd together. Once you proudly painted the cross of our Christ on your shields to stop the pagans and their damnable ways ! But now..... now.... it seems as though you are cowering like little girls behind these same shields afraid to come out and fight like men ! I have been told by Emperor Basil of Byzantine of how warriors from these Northern lands have gone to his kingdom to fight for him as mercenaries. Emperor Basil has made them into an elite fighting force that he calls the Varangian Guard. I had no idea, however, that these six or seven thousand warriors were the only men in these Scandinavian lands, and that when they left there would be only women here to fight for our lord and our God ! " he shouted as he slammed the scepter down on the table as hard as he could.
The impact broke the jewel out of its setting, and it rolled on the table over to King Harald, who picked up the huge stone. " If you were not a bishop I would kill you right here and now ! " Harald screamed. " My people are not cowards ! The warriors of More will fight for the glory of our Gods and our Savior ! " he told the bishop angrily. King Harald then threw the jewel to King Olaf of Sogn. The king looked at it for a moment before speaking. " The Kingdom of Sogn will not be counted among cowards either, Bishop Callistus ! I will lead my army into battle against the Pagans ! " he told the council members. King Olaf then reached over the table, and handed the jewel to King Eirik. Reluctantly he stood up and nodded. " I have agreed to abide by the will of this council, and it seems clear now that we are all in agreement. It will be war ! " he shouted as he tossed the stone to King Sigtrygg. The king of Rogaland looked over at the bishop and smiled. " Then it is war ! " Sigtrygg proclaimed as he handed the jewel back to the bishop. The bishop grinned from ear to ear as he in turn handed the broken scepter, and jewel to Father Bersi. " Yes, for the glory of our God there will be war ! " he told the priest quietly.
End Chapter 3
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2014.
Next : Chapter 4 : King Thorvald Summons The Jarls