The Little Shield Maiden
Growing Up Among Strangers
The usual custom at court was that the subject was made to approach the king and queen, and either bow, or kneel before them. To everyone's surprise Gunnhild stood up and walked over to the little girl. As she circled Freydis she marveled at how very pretty she was, and how strong she appeared to be for someone her age. When the queen knelt down, and looked into the little girl's eyes, she was astonished at how clear and blue they were. She could not help but smile at her beauty, and her ability to look much older than she was. " Yes ! My husband has chosen well ! You are a wonderful little thing Freydis of Viken. " she said with great pride. Then the queen decided to make a statement to her court, through a gesture, that they would all surely understand. The queen took Freydis by the hand, and led her over to her husband's high seat. She then lifted little Freydis onto the king' s throne. At first there were a few gasps of surprise, but then everyone in the court began to cheer. After a moment the queen raised her hand to quiet everyone. " I present to all of the people of Agder, and to all of you here today in my court, Princess Freydis Eyvindsdottir ! " she stated as fact to her subjects. Freydis' eyes bulged in disbelief as she stared at the queen with her mouth wide open. She was even more surprised when everyone in the great hall bowed down on one knee to her to honor her new title, and position in the court.
Over the coming days and weeks Queen Gunnhild had her new daughter taught how to be a proper young lady. Freydis was trained how to speak respectfully to elders, how to sew, how to braid hair, and how to greet her new people who came in ever increasing numbers everyday to the great hall just to see her. Freydis appreciated Gunnhild's kindness, patience, and the love she was beginning to show her, but Freydis very much wanted to go home. Here at the king' s hall she was treated with great respect, and was given the best clothes to wear, and the best food to eat. Under any other circumstances she would have been very happy, but here in Agder, among the people who killed her family, she felt like a prisoner held against her will. Deep in her heart she held the memories of her mother, father and brother, and they could make her smile on her worst days. But something else was developing inside of her as well. She was learning for the first time in her life to hate.
The next year, in the autumn, King Eyvind returned home after his successful campaign against Viken. He had won a fairly easy victory against Vestfold and Viken was not much more difficult, but now his warriors stood at the border with Ranrike. He could not risk a war with Ranrike, and possibly Svearike, until his army was replenished with men, weapons, and was given some time to rest from their long campaign. Besides King Eyvind was no fool ! No one would endeavor to start a war just before winter. It just was not done !
King Eyvind was very displeased when he saw what Gunnhild had been teaching Freydis while he was gone. He had decided to adopt Freydis, and had brought her back to Agder to be a shield maiden, not a princess to be paraded around in his great hall for his subjects to gawk at ! King Eyvind did not speak of this matter until he was alone with his wife, and then he exploded his anger at her ! " If I wanted a little flower of a child I could have adopted one of the many little girls of my dead warriors ! I brought her here to be trained as a warrior, and to someday march by my side in battle. Not to be turned into a lady in waiting ! You have disappointed me greatly my wife, I expected better from you ! " Eyvind yelled at her in a long tirade. Gunnhild knew better than to argue with her husband when he became like this. She simply answered him with a " Yes, my husband " after each pause. Listening on the other side of the thin wall was Freydis. She took in every word, and it made her very angry. Freydis smiled and whispered to herself. " Yes my foster - father, I would very much like to learn how to kill ! "
The very next day Freydis was given a shield, a sword, and a coat of mail. She was then sent to the leader of King Eyvind's foot soldiers, Harek Kolbeinson, to be trained as a warrior and a shield maiden. Harek, in turn, passed her along to a promising young warrior named Margad Arngeirson. At first Margad was none to happy about having to teach a young female child the fine art of killing, but once he saw how determined she was to learn, he began to take great pride in the skills she was quickly learning from him. Margad never suspected that Freydis was trying so very hard to become a great shield maiden to avenge the death of her family. He was too busy being amazed everyday by her growing ability to defeat those he placed up against her in single combat. At first it was just older girls she was beating, but over time she was triumphing over boys her age, and some that were even older .
Margad noticed after a while that Freydis was very agile in her footwork, but she would often lose this advantage when she had to swing the heavy swords she was given. One day Margad went to the king's blacksmith, and asked if he could make a sword that was approximately the same size as Freydis was using, but that was much lighter in weight. The smith noticed immediately that the hilt was a large one which added a lot of weight to the sword. He told Margad that he could make the hilt significantly lighter, but the only way to make the sword' s blade lighter, and still retain its strength, was to shorten it by a few inches. Margad agreed, and told the blacksmith to take his time because the sword was for the king's daughter. The smith understood, and promised Margad that he would do his best .
A month later the blacksmith came to the great hall, and presented the sword personally to Freydis in front of the king and queen. The hilt was much smaller and lighter, and yet was still well balanced with the blade. It was also very beautiful ! The blacksmith carved into the hilt beautiful serpent designs, and placed a beautiful sapphire gemstone in the hilt to match the little girls eyes. The sword was shown to the king and queen first, and they both nodded their approval. When the sword was handed to Freydis she inspected it closely, and then began to whip the sword back and forth in front of her. She then held the sword over her head to show the court her new weapon. Everyone cheered, and wished her good luck in reddening its blade against her enemies. She smiled at the blacksmith, nodded to him her approval, and then grinned at King Eyvind as she admired her new weapon.
Before she had her new lightweight sword Freydis was a good warrior, but this weapon turned her into a killing machine. She seldom lost a battle to an older boy, and even held her own against some of the adults. King Eyvind was very proud of his daughter, and enjoyed showing her off to the local chieftains when they came to his hall. Freydis used these meetings as a way to learn about these chieftains, many of whom she knew would someday be her enemies.
End of Chapter 4
- Glenn Bergen, Copyright, 2013.
Next : Chapter 5 : A Leader Of Men