King Of Destiny
King Thorvald Summons The Jarls
As darkness fell over Hedemark the torches were lit throughout the great hall. Flowers had been hastily hung around the overhead beams , and around the high seats to give a sense of the importance of the event that was about to take place. Just outside the great hall three pits had been dug, and cooking fires lit in them. Over these crackling red embers were hung a huge reindeer, and a large boar on spits . In the third pit two huge cauldrons were suspended over the fire. In one a fish stew was simmering nicely, and in the other mutton stew was being slowly prepared. Mutton tended to be a tough meat to chew, but if you very slowly simmered the meat, then it tended to make it more tender and palatable to eat. As the guests began to arrive the meat was sliced, and the stew placed in large serving bowls. Every guest who entered the great hall was handed a large horn which was filled with either mead, or ale depending on the guest's wishes.
Normally the passing of a king's sword to his son would have been a long event, bordering on a lavish spectacle, but Queen Gudrun wanted her son to sit upon her husband' s high seat as the rightful king of the Northlands as soon as possible. As she sat quietly on her high seat flanked on one side by her son, and on the other by her daughter - in - law, she raised her hands in front of her. Everyone in the hall understood at once and immediately stood up. From behind the high seats a local chieftain, who was acting as the Godi for the ceremony, stepped forward with King Olaf's sword, and stood before Queen Gudrun. The Queen nodded to the Godi and then motioned for her son to kneel before her. " As my husband's father's sword was passed onto my husband, King Olaf, so too now King Olaf's sword will be passed onto his son, Jarl Thorvald, along with his kingdom. " she said speaking more to the audience than to her son. Queen Gudrun then nodded to the Godi. " Stand Jarl Thorvald, and receive that which is rightfully yours ! " the Godi shouted boldly. " Place your hand upon this, your father's sword, and repeat the oath that seals the bond. " he continued. Thorvald nodded and placed his right hand over the blade of the sword. " I Jarl Thorvald, on the sword of my father, and my grandfather, swear a blood oath to my ancestors, my people, and to the War Gods, to protect and defend my kingdom from all those who would do it harm. " the Godi said slowly. After repeating the Godi' s words, the Jarl braced himself for what he knew was coming. The Godi slowly, and carefully drew the sword through the jarl' s gripping hand. Not deep enough to scar, but deep enough to leave blood on the blade for all to see. The Godi then raised the dripping blade over his head to show the guests that the blood oath had been fulfilled. " With Var as the witness, and holder of this sacred blood oath, I now pronounce to all in the Northland Kingdom that you are king ! " he proclaimed loudly. The Godi then stepped over to Princess Astrid and held out the sword before her. Astrid dipped her finger in the blood, and held it up for the audience to see. He then raised the sword again. " And by the blood of Thorvald, and with the blessing of their royal ancestors, I proclaim to all here in the Northlands that Princess Astrid is now Queen of The Northland Kingdom by marriage and blood. " he told the crowd. From under his cloak the Godi pulled out an oath ring and asked that Magnus come before the king and queen. Magnus, who had been seated at the back of the great hall, took his time walking up to the high seats. When Magnus stood before the Godi he was commanded to take hold of the oath ring. As he grabbed the ring the Godi spoke : " Magnus, son of King Thorvald and Queen Astrid, you are the sole blood heir to the kingdom of the Northlands, and now Jarl of Romerike. On this ring do you pledge to the good people of Romerike to protect and defend them without regard to your own life ? " Magnus silent as ever, nodded his acceptance. " You must reply son for all to hear ! " the Godi whispered. " I Magnus Thorvaldsson pledge on my life to defend and protect the people of Romerike ! " he replied in a loud voice. The Godi tapped the boy on each shoulder with the bloody sword before proclaiming : " Magnus, you are now, before this court, and the whole world, Jarl of Romerike ! " he told the audience. The Godi wiped off the blade and then handed the sword over to King Thorvald who placed it in his empty scabbard. King Thorvald then stood and clapped his hands loudly together. " Let the feast begin ! " he proclaimed.
The next morning the hall was a mess ! Queen Gudrun shook her head as she passed by half eaten food laying everywhere in the hall. Spilled drinks had pooled on the tables, and were dripping onto the floor making a sticky mess. Lying in one of these puddles on the floor was a local chieftain, who had not been able to make it home the night before. And there were others sleeping throughout the hall as well. The smell of sweat, urine, and vomit was everywhere ! Queen Gudrun, with Queen Astrid at her side, summoned every able bodied servant, and chamber maid, to the hall to clean up this mess at once ! When King Thorvald saw the sorry state of the great hall he sent for his personal guards who were ordered to " help " the drunken warriors leave the building . Queen Gudrun had forbidden the royal family to drink any alcohol during the feast, and made very sure that her personal servant only served them juices. She wanted, no, she needed, the new king and queen to be at their very best as they met the jarls when they arrived today.
King Thorvald was annoyed that it took some of the jarls longer to arrive than others, but it was hard to blame the jarls of Namdalen and Halogaland for being late because they had a much longer distance to travel from their kingdoms in the far north, than the other jarls who resided much closer. As they sat around a long rectangular table that had been placed in front of the high seats they were given a drink of mead while they waited for the king and queens to arrive. Queen Gudrun told her son that making the jarls wait added a sense of authority to his new position, and made these lesser men know their place. The jarls were not seated by age, or by a system of ranking, but instead they were arranged by how close their kingdoms were to Hedemark, the center of the Northland Kingdom. On one side sat Jarl Thorstein of Opplandene, closest to the king, and then Jarl Thorkel of Namdalen. On the other side sat Jarl Bjorn of Trondelag, with Jarl Thord of Halogaland behind him. At the front of the table, and just below the king's high seat, sat Jarl Magnus of Romerike. Surrounding the high seats, and as a show of strength, stood Onund and his personal guards.
When Gudrun saw that the jarls were getting restless she motioned for them to take their places on their high seats. The jarls rose, and the personal guards knelt, as soon as they heard Onund announce the arrival of the king and both queens. When the royal family was seated the jarls seated themselves as well. The first to speak was Queen Gudrun. " Are there any amongst you who do not accept my son as the rightful heir to the throne of the Northland Kingdom ? " she asked with piercing eyes. Almost in unison the Jarls answered : " No, my queen ! " Gudrun then looked over at her son and said : " Then we will proceed. " To show that her son was now in power she remained quiet for the rest of the meeting.
King Thorvald stood up and paced back and forth as he began to speak. " As you know King Eirik Roriksson of Hordaland has been sending out Christian holy men with armed escorts throughout the jarldoms of our kingdom trying to convert our folk to their ways. I managed to push these priests and bishops back to their Christian lands with a show of force. The ones who would not leave peacefully became food for the ravens ! " he told his jarls. The jarls roared their approval ! Then Jarl Thorstein of Opplandene stood up and toasted King Thorvald for ridding their lands of these holy men who wore what he called " women's dresses " ! The king accepted the toast, but quickly quieted the jarls down. " In so doing I seem to have upset our Christian neighbors, who as we speak, are holding a council of war in Hordaland ! " he told them with a smile. " If they want war, then they shall have war ! " Jarl Bjorn stood up and shouted. The other jarls pounded their fists upon the table , and shouted their agreement. Jarl Magnus then turned and said to his father : " Then I believe that we are all in agreement father. It will be war ! " he shouted.
King Thorvald stood up from his high seat, walked down the stairs to the table, and stopped by his son' s side. " I need to know how many men each of your jarldoms can contribute for the coming war ? But most of all I want an accounting of exactly how many longships the coastal territories of Namdalen and Halogaland will be able to put to sea to defend our coast ? the king asked. " I am confident that our land army is strong enough, but I fear that our fleet of longships is lacking compared to our Christian neighbors. " he told them. " So tell me truthfully my jarls what is the strength of our forces ? " Thorvald asked them.
As he suspected, the jarls told the king that he an adequate land force, but the jarls of Namdalen and Halogaland informed him that they were outnumbered almost two to one by the Christian Kingdoms when it came to the total amount of longships they could launch for battle. This greatly disturbed King Thorvald ! If his fleet was defeated at sea the Christian Alliance could then attack the Northlands anywhere along his coast at will. From Halogaland in the north, to Agder and Ranrike in the south his kingdom would be very vulnerable to attack. King Thorvald had been told of how, in his grandfather's time, great Viking fleets had sailed to Britain, and raided up and down their coast. It was all but impossible to stop these hit and run raids because they could land almost anywhere at anytime. King Thorvald was certain he did not have enough warriors to guard the hundreds and hundreds of miles of coast that made up his kingdom.
After discussing the matter further, King Thorvald told the jarls to assemble their armies at key points along the Christian border. The jarls of Trondelag, and Opplandene would be responsible for securing the central border, while the jarls of Namdalen and Halogaland would guard the narrow northern coastal border. Jarl Magnus would place his Romerike army at the southern border of the Christian Kingdoms near the old kingdom of Agder, while King Thorvald would place the main army across from Hordaland . It was also decided to send every available carpenter and ship builder to Namdalen to build as many ships as quickly as possible. King Thorvald knew it was futile to try and make his fleet as large as the Christian's in such a short time, but he had to try. As the jarls left to gather up their armies, King Thorvald was sure it was only a matter of time before the war would begin !
- End Chapter 4
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2014.
Next Chapter 5 : Preparations For War