King Of Destiny
The Death Of A KIng
After receiving the ominous news that King Eirik, and his Christian fleet had been destroyed by the jarls' Pagan fleet, King Harald mounted his horse, and rode the short distance to King Olaf's camp, where he delivered the bad news personally. King Olaf's reaction was angry and immediate ! He blamed their predicament on King Sigtrygg and Bishop Callistus for starting this impulsive conflict ! Instead of rushing into a risky war they should have tried to peacefully convert the people of the Northlands . They had been making good progress over the past few years, and Olaf felt that this war was an unnecessary evil. All of this was a mute point now ! The war was upon them, and it was not going very well for the Christian Alliance.
King Harald and King Olaf both agreed that they should cancel their attack on the Pagan army that lay before them. Instead they would fall back to their own kingdoms, and defend their lands against the attacks that they were sure were coming. To give them time to reach their homelands, Harald and Olaf each contributed a small force of warriors to slow down the Pagan army. This force was placed under the command of King Harald's bastard son, Prince Ivar. Ivar was a competent leader, and a fierce warrior in his own right. He was also no fool ! He knew that his duty was to delay the movements of the Pagan army at all costs. The prince was being sent on a suicide mission. He and his warriors were now expendable !
King Thorvald was alerted by his scouts the moment the force in front of him was spotted. As he rode to the front he saw for himself, partially hidden in a treeline, a small force of warriors that were blocking his way into the Christian kingdoms. Thorvald sent a messenger, with Onund and a small band of warriors, to the woods with his demand that they throw down their weapons, or be wiped out. Onund did not have to wait long for his answer. Prince Ivar drew his sword, and looked Onund in the eyes : " We may have converted to Christianity my friend, but we are still Norse and would rather die in battle than live with the shame of surrendering to the likes of you ! " he told Onund boldly. Onund spun his horse around, and shouted over his shoulder as he rode away : " Then prepare to die my friend ! "
Prince Ivar led his men out of the protection of the thick forest, and assembled them in a clearing just beyond. Across from him stood the entire Pagan Northland army ! King Thorvald sat on his horse surrounded by his personal guards and marveled at the bravery of such a man. Next to him, the flag bearer sat on a grey horse holding the Raven banner, which proudly flapped in the midday breeze. Thorvald turned to Onund, who was on the other side of him, and said sadly : " What a shame to kill such a man of great honor ! " Onund nodded his approval, and then added : " It is a pity that such a man will not sit in the halls of Valhalla and feast with Odin tonight ! " The king looked back over at his opponent, and took a deep breath. " Yes ! A damn shame ! " he said regretfully.
King Thorvald was taken a little by surprise by the formation that the little force that confronted him formed up in. He had expected his opponent to form a shield wall, and fight a defensive battle. But Thorvald was no fool ! He understood perfectly well that these warriors were there only to slow down his advance, and allow the Christian armies to fall back and form a new defensive position within their kingdoms. Thorvald was very impressed that his opponent was not going to hide behind a shield wall, but instead was ready to fight in the open. And then Prince Ivar did something that even the King of the Northlands would never have expected. He attacked !
Prince Ivar, and his small band of warriors fought very hard, and did their duties to their king, and folk very well. It was well into the evening before the battle was over, and the Christian warriors were defeated . To the dismay of King Thorvald the Pagan army lost more men than he could have ever anticipated. Two Pagans died for every one Christian in the battle. After the battle was over King Thorvald and Onund walked silently among the slain that lay all over the now hallowed field. When they came to the body of Prince Ivar the king stopped and knelt down next to him. Thorvald saw the prince's ornate sword on the ground a few feet away, and laid it over the chest of the great warrior. Thorvald looked up at Onund, and shook his head. " Yes ! It is a shame to lose such a brave warrior ! " he told his guard shaking his head. " Maybe Odin will make an exception for him and let him into Valhalla. " Onund told his king. " What shall I do with the few who surrendered my lord ? Kill them ? " Onund asked. Thorvald thought for a long moment. " No ! I will not kill the few who survived such a brave fight as this ! Keep them prisoner, and we will let them go home when the war has ended. " he told his personal guard.
King Thorvald directed his army against the Kingdom of More first. Jarl Thorkel was already pushing inland fast, which made King Harald split his forces, and fight on two fronts. Thorvald wanted to move quickly and decisively against More so he could then turn south and begin his final push through Sogn and Hordaland to his final prize Rogaland. King Harald's army had a full days head start thanks to the heroics of Prince Ivar, and his warriors, but King Thorvald sent ahead some of his fastest cavalry men to harass the rear of the retreating More army. These attacks did little damage to the Christian forces, but it made them wary, and kept them always looking over their shoulders for fear of another attack.
Then one evening King Harald's army stopped and took up a defensive position on a grassy hill, which looked down on a small gully. King Thorvald halted his men by a small stream, and went ahead to survey the situation. What he saw when he arrived at a forward position, was King Harald's army carefully placed behind some hastily made defenses. The More army did not have time to dig ditches, but had instead opted for rows of sharpened stakes to defend themselves. Thorvald knew that this would slow down his men, but it would never stop his warriors, who greatly outnumbered the split More army. King Harald knew this to be true as well, but he was not going to run any longer.
The next morning King Thorvald had his men in place and ready for the attack. The Northland king sent Onund with a detachment of warriors to deliver a final ultimatum to King Harald. The Christian king listened as Onund slowly read the order to surrender. When Onund finished King Harald replied : " Respectfully I must decline your king's generous offer to surrender. Today I will stand with my warriors on this ground, and die if necessary to defend my kingdom and my people from the likes of you ! " Onund nodded to the King Harald that he understood. " Then you will die ! " he shouted at the king as he mounted his horse, and rode back to his lines.
As soon as Onund returned with King Harald's answer, Thorvald sent his massive shield wall forward. As the wall moved in unison, up the hill towards the barricade of stakes, the Northland warriors beat their swords against their shields in time to each step. The sound was horrific, and echoed through the entire battlefield like rolling thunder. When they reached the halfway point, the More archers began to pelt them with barrage after barrage of arrows. The Northland warriors formed into a box formation and covered themselves with their shields before moving slowly forward again. The shields protected them from most of the arrows, though occasionally a few arrows did make their way through to hit exposed arms and legs. Only a few in the shield wall were actually killed on the march up the hill. To counter the More archers King Thorvald sent his own archers forward. Their shots kept the More archers from firing as often, or as accurately as before.
As Thorvald had expected once the Northland warriors reached the More defenses they quickly through aside the sharpened stake walls, and poured into the outer perimeter of the Christian defenses. It was then that King Thorvald moved forward with the rest of his army. After Thorvald passed through the stake wall he dismounted and joined in the massive battle, as did all of his personal guards who stayed close to their king. While he was still mounted Thorvald had seen where King Harald was on the battlefield, and he slowly began to fight his way through a mass of warriors all of whom were locked in a desperate fight to the death. Harald had seen King Thorvald as he made his way onto the battlefield, and at once began to work his way over to his enemy as well.
The battle was brutal, as are most when one side is fighting for their very existence. Many brave warriors fell dead in the battle frenzy, and many more lay on the field wounded and dying. As King Thorvald, and his personal guard, came closer to King Harald, and his elite guard, the battle became even more intense. Now the best warriors from both armies were matched up against one another, and none of these elite fighters went down easily. Then, out of the corner of his eye, King Thorvald caught a glimpse of his counterpart through a brief opening in the fighting, and headed through it to where King Harald was battling with several Northland warriors. The lane closed as fast as it opened, and Onund and his guards lost sight of their king. King Thorvald had only taken a few steps toward Harald when he was attacked on all sides !
Thorvald fought like a madman against four of Harald's elite warriors. He managed to kill two of them with only a slight cut to his shoulder. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, he felt a sharp pain across his belly. For a brief moment he raised his sword to strike back, but when he looked down he knew the battle was over for him. His opponent had cut open his abdomen and his innards had spilled out. When the pain caught up to the realization that he would soon die, he fell to his knees, and then over on his back. Onund, in a furious rage, fought his way over to his king, along with several other guards, and surrounded their now dying king to protect him. After cutting off the leg of a Christian warrior he was battling, Onund bent down next to King Thorvald, and in a futile action tried to push the king's intestines back into his body. Thorvald grabbed Onund by his mail coat, and pulled him down so he could be heard over the din of battle. " Tell Astrid I am sorry....... " he spit out before his eyes rolled back in his head and he was gone.
Onund ordered two of his warriors to carry King Thorvald's body to the rear. As they were leaving Onund shouted back to them : " Send a messenger to Jarl Magnus at once ! Inform him of his father's death, and tell him that he must come to More and take charge of the army ! .........For he is now our king ! " Onund lingered for a moment, and recalled the time, now so long ago, when the Princess Astrid, who he was protecting, tricked him into going back for her cloak so that she could have a " Chance meeting " with Prince Thorvald. He smiled as he remembered catching the two of them naked in the cave where they had sought shelter from the rain. A tear welled up in his eyes as he recalled those happier times. Then in an instant his sorrow turned into an uncontrollable rage. Onund ran back into the battle with all the fury of a berserker. He slowly cut a path of death directly to King Harald by killing his guards one by one. As he stood face to face with the king of More he raised his sword, and pointed it at him. " Prepare to die Christian king ! " Onund shouted at him.
King Harald fought desperately against Onund, but revenge is a hard thing to deny a determined man ! Harald's elite guards tried to intervene, and help their king, but by now there were simply too many Northland warriors, and they could not get away from their own personal battles to help. Onund hacked, and slashed, and stabbed at the king, like a man who had gone mad, until finally the king began to weaken. Then Onund was able to get a thrust past his defenses, and stabbed him deeply in the shoulder. King Harald lost feeling in his sword hand, and dropped his weapon on the ground. As the king reached for his seax knife that was in his belt, with his other hand, Onund summoned all of his remaining strength and swung his sword at the king's head. The blow caught the king at the base of his neck, and sliced clear through to the other side. King Harald did not even have time to scream as his head rolled to the ground.
Onund, the man whose duty it was to protect his king, stood at the top of the hill, and proudly held up King Harald' s head for all to see. He could not prevent his lord's death, but he had avenged his king ! Many in the More army, who could, turned and ran away from the battle. Some continued to fight on, but most dropped their weapons when they realized that their king was dead, and surrendered. The hard fought battle was over, and once again only the raven banner was still fluttering in the evening breeze .
- End Chapter 8
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2014.
Next Chapter 9 : King Magnus