King Of Destiny
Preparations For War
King Thorvald remembered all too well how difficult it was to pull together armies and move them in effective and coordinated attacks against the enemy. As a prince of Hedemark he marveled at how well his father, and King Runolf of Romerike, had worked together in defeating King Kjardan of Opplandene, and his massive army. If King Runolf had not drawn the Opplandene army deep enough into Romerike, or if his father, King Olaf, had been late in his surprise attack on the unsuspecting and unprotected rear of their enemy, it could have been a complete disaster for the armies of Hedemark, and Romerike. Both kings, however, had worked together perfectly to make sure that their warriors were in exactly the right place, at exactly the right time to make their attacks, and King Kjardan was easily defeated, and his kingdom of Opplandene was integrated into the newly formed Northland Kingdom that was now ruled over by Jarl Thorstein.
King Thorvald learned his lesson well in that conflict, and now seemed to be everywhere personally guiding his huge army in a long arch around the coastal kingdoms of the Christian Alliance. Thorvald sent his son Magnus, with a part of his army, and Herjan of course, to the southern most part of the Northlands which at one time had been the Kingdom of Agder before being added peacefully to the Northland Kingdom. This happened as part of a treaty after the death of their ruler, King Brynjolf. Jarl Magnus was told by the king to build earthen forts along the coast, and to also extend them into the interior to the mountains. King Thorvald did not want the Christian Coalition to get around his flank, and wind up in his rear. He had seen what fighting a battle on two fronts was like in their war with Opplandene, and he was not about to let himself get caught between the forces of two armies. Thorvald had seen for himself how brave a warrior his son was, but he was still unsure of his son's abilities as a commander. He did, however, have a lot of confidence and respect in Herjan which were the main reasons why he sent Herjan to accompany his son to Agder. The other reason of course was to make sure that nothing happened to his only son, and heir to the throne of the Northland Kingdom. King Thorvald would tell anyone who asked why he trusted the old warrior simply this : " He may have only one eye, but he is twice as brave, and much wiser than any other man I have ever met ! "
King Eirik was selected by the Christian Alliance to lead the long ships against his old coastal enemies, the Jarldoms of Namdalen, and Halogaland. He hated Jarl Thorkel, and Jarl Thord, and felt that they were cowards who hid beneath the protective robes of the king of the Northlands. The northern Jarldoms did not have nearly as many long ships as the Christian Coalition. And more importantly they did not have as many of the new sixty oar dragon ships as the Christian Alliance could put to sea. In a large sea battle King Eirik knew that it was the huge dragon ships, which were like a floating battlefield in and of themselves, that would tip the fortunes of war in their favor. As a platform for archers they were a force to be reckoned with, and these dragon ships had much higher sides than regular long ships, and were much harder for the enemy to board.
The Christian armies were led independently by King Harald of More, and King Olaf of Sogn in the north, and by King Sigtrygg in the south. King Sigtrygg also commanded King Eirik's warriors from Hordaland which were integrated into his army. The king of Rogaland smiled when he discovered that it was Jarl Magnus who was in command of the army that opposed him. The young Jarl had been sent to Agder with only local chieftains to support him, and an old man to advise him. King Sigtrygg was certain that as long as King Harald and King Olaf could hold off King Thorvald in the north, and King Eirik destroyed the Pagan fleet, that he could punch a hole through the defenses set up by Jarl Magnus, destroy that army, and harass King Thorvald from the rear. And once in behind the Pagan army they would crush the Northland army as though it were in a vise. Once he, the great King Sigtrygg, had defeated the Pagan army, he would then turn his attention to his northern Christian neighbors, and destroy them one by one. He smiled as he saw his plan coming together in his mind's eye. King Sigtrygg would then unite the entire country under his rule. He already had a name in mind for his new unified kingdom. It would be called Norway, and it would fly a flag with a Christian cross emblazoned on it !
Jarl Magnus had his warriors build conventional earth forts with sharpened spiked fences around the perimeter. Rows of longhouses were built in the center of the fortifications to house the hundreds of warriors. About 50 paces from the spiked fences Magnus ordered a trench to be built around the fort to impede an attacking force. He felt that this trench, and the spiked fence would be enough to stop the enemy warriors from entering the fort itself. The Jarl was satisfied with the progress of the series of forts that were being constructed throughout coastal Agder, and up into the higher elevations of the interior. They stopped at the natural mountain boundary of the Norfjall range. It was believed that no one would dare try to cross these high, and very dangerous mountains, so they were left unprotected. Magnus thanked the warriors who were constructing these forts for their fine efforts, but the Jarl noticed that every time he approved of one of these fortifications Herjan gave him a cold stare. Finally, when they came back to the first fort, built at the coast of Agder, he turned to his mentor and asked : " Do you not agree that the forts are being constructed correctly ? " Herjan thought carefully for a moment before answering. " Jarl Magnus you are building these earthen forts exactly the way they have been built for generations. " Then Herjan paused . Magnus did not say anything during the pause because he knew his teacher had more to say. " But they will not stop the Christians from overrunning your defenses. " Herjan told the young man calmly. " We do not have much time my old friend ! What more can we do ? " the Jarl asked. Herjan's eye lit up like a candle ! " Dig a second trench fifty paces further out from the first one. Fill it in with as much dried wood as you can find in the surrounding forest. Then cover the wood with as much leaf litter and flammable debris as you can find. Now in the original ditch, that you have dug, place as many sharpened wooden spikes as you can possibly make, and cover this ditch with the exact same type of leaf litter and debris as the outer one. On the interior wall of the earthen fort build three towers. One on each end, and one in the middle. Make them large enough for two dozen archers each. When the enemy comes to the first ditch they will be suspicious, and feel around in the debris to see what is there. When they realize it is filled with only dead branches, they will jump into it and wade through the debris with nothing more than a few bumps and scratches. Then when they reach the second covered ditch they will not be so careful, and will jump into what they think is only mostly harmless impediments. They will of course become impaled on the sharpened stakes. This will slow down the others who did not jump into the second ditch, and make them look for a safe way to cross. When enough have crossed the outer ditch the archers will fire flaming arrows into the debris lighting it on fire. This will slow down the reinforcing of those who have already entered, and it will frighten those already in the ditch area and make them wonder if they can escape. Now you have their warriors trapped, and can have your archers pick them off one by one ! " the old warrior told him. " Oh, and if you put some pitch in the outer trench it will burn much faster, and much hotter ! " he added. Jarl Magnus was stunned ! It was quite simple, and yet it was brilliant. Magnus grabbed the old man, and squeezed his shoulders. " Yes ! Yes, we must do this at once ! " he shouted. " Then you must ride as fast as you can to each fort all the way to Norfjall, and make sure that each of the local chieftains understands exactly how these new defenses must be built ! " I will see to this fort, and check on the progress of the others as I ride behind you ." Herjan told the young Jarl. Magnus looked around and then shouted : " My horse ! I need my horse ! "
Herjan did not need to send Jarl Magnus personally to each fort outpost, but he needed the Jarl out of the way for a while. For what he was about to do no human was allowed to see. The old warrior traveled down to the shore along the coast, and walked out onto the beach. He stopped just short of where the waves were breaking, and pushed his three bladed spear into the sand. As each wave struck the blade it gave off a high pitch sound that traveled through the water even faster than it did through the air. Then the one - eyed God ran his hand over the blade drawing blood, which dripped into the water. Herjan pressed on the wound and the blood dripped faster into the surf, and was taken further out to sea with each wave. Then the old one - eyed warrior wrapped his hand with a cloth, and sat further up the beach. He waited there quietly and patiently as
the tide slowly went out.
Sunna did not travel far across the sky before the ocean began to turn violent, and foam though the skies were blue, and the winds were calm. Then Herjan heard gentle whispering in every wave that broke on the shore and he smiled. " Odin, Odin, Odin ", they whispered. The wise one carefully listened until he counted nine distinct voices in the crashing waves. Then suddenly the sea began to boil just off of the beach , and a fountain of water appeared. Next to this form another water fountain image appeared next to the first. As they both came closer Herjan could see that one was in the shape of a man, and the other a woman. The giant of a man carried a trident, and the woman had a net draped over her shoulder. As they came up onto the sand nine beautiful young maidens swam along the shore, but remained in the water. " Why have you summoned me All - Father ? " the God asked. " I need a favor Aegir. " Herjan replied. " And what is it that the great Odin wants of us ? " Ran asked. Come and walk with me, and I will tell you my friends ! "
End Chapter 5
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2014.
Next : Chapter 6 : The Great Sea Battle !