The Queen Of War
A Determined Enemy
Ogmundr and his Berserker were already waiting on the Rogaland side of the Sunnfjord when Queen Birsla rode up at the head of what looked to be an entire army. The commander of the Berserker had been told that the queen would be arriving with the divisions raised by Unnvaldr and Vetr, but Ogmundr never thought that they would be able to enlist so many warriors in such a short time . He was very impressed !
As Queen Birsla dismounted Ogmundr motioned for her to come down to the bank. The queen, followed closely by Nafni and Eydis, stopped halfway down the slope. Queen Birsla put her hand to her mouth and gasped ! The entire Sunnfjord was covered in ships ! Rogaland ships, each and every one !
When the queen regained her composure she smiled at Ogmundr.
" I see that Ragnvaldr was quite successful in defeating our enemy. " she told the Berserker commander calmly.
Ogmundr laughed !
" Indeed he was ! It was an honor,... and a great pleasure, to watch the commander of our army in battle. " he replied.
Ogmundr then turned and pointed a finger to the many ships that lined the shore.
" Shall we cross the Sunnfjord, my lady, and show this King Ljufvini of Hordaland how well we can fight on dry land as well ? " the Berserker commander asked with a wicked grin on his face.
The queen could not help but giggle a little before responding to his question.
" I believe that to be a very good recommendation Ogmundr ! " she told him.
Just then Unnvaldr and Vetr walked to the edge of the bank. Seeing them approach, the queen turned and smiled.
" Load your men onto the ships, for it is we, the proud strong people of Rogaland who rule the sea this day ! " she ordered.
The chieftains looked at one another for only a moment before turning and shouting to their men to come up and begin boarding the waiting ships. Nafni took the queen by the hand and escorted her to a large dragon ship that awaited her. When the commander of the Hirdmen tried to seat the queen, however, she politely refused and told Nafni that she wished to stand at the bow as they crossed. He of course granted her wish ! The Hirdmen then pushed the ship into the fjord before boarding it themselves.
Before Unnvaldr and Vetr boarded their ships Ogmundr grabbed them both and gave them a message from Ragnvaldr.
" The queen must be the first Rogalander to set foot on Hordaland soil. The commander of the army feels it will be a great boost to morale if they see the queen standing on our enemy's territory ! " he informed them both.
Both agreed and told their rowers to keep well back of the queen's ship. After they launched their vessels Ragnvaldr, who was watching closely from out in the fjord, could not help but laugh at how slow the Avaldsnes and Varhaug rowers were pulling at their oars. It made him proud to see how much these men respected their queen !
When the queen's ship reached the midway point in the fjord it was joined by Ragnvaldr's huge dragon ship. As the commander of the army stood on the bow of his vessel he called out to the queen.
" The Sunnfjord is once again yours, my lady ! " he told her proudly.
The queen waved to Ragnvaldr before shouting back.
" Thanks in great part to your great skills commander it is once again free of the enemy occupiers ! "
Then she added with a smile.
" You have earned for yourself another gold arm ring commander, and you have honored us all with you glory ! "
Ragnvaldr merely nodded his appreciation for her kindness, but his men stopped rowing for a moment to give their commander a hearty cheer !
As instructed Queen Birsla was allowed to be the first Rogalander to set foot in Hordaland. When she stood upon the enemy's homeland a roar rose up from every ship in the fjord. The queen was surprised that so many could see her from across the fjord, but she was honored just the same by their cheers. What she did not know, and would never be told, was that Ragnvaldr had told the other ship's commanders to keep their eyes on his mast. When a red raven flag flew above his ship everyone was to cheer mightily for the queen. Ragnvaldr proved this day that not only was he a wise commander, and a fierce warrior, but also that he was a man who knew how to be diplomatic and kind.
One by one the ships brought the Rogaland warriors over to Hordaland. Here they formed up in marching order by divisions before moving out. Horses, food, carts, and tents were also unloaded. The carts were then reassembled, filled with their supplies, and the horses hitched up to them. Each joined the ever growing column of Rogalanders heading north as soon as they were ready.
Ragnvaldr was very satisfied that the crossings had gone so well, and he was surprised that they actually took much less time than he expected. When they were ready to move inland the commander of the army left twenty manned ships, under Ambi's able leadership, behind to guard the Sunnfjord in case the enemy decided to return and try their luck again. He also left a small contingent of men along both sides of the fjord just in case the Hordaland sea commander had any ideas of trying to portage behind his forces. Ragnvaldr was determined not to make the same mistake that his counterpart had made.
King Ljufvini was furious when the courier rode up with the message that Lodvik's forces had been defeated, and that Rogaland was in complete control of the Sunnfjord. When the king of Hordaland was told that only fourteen or fifteen ships survived the battle he grabbed the messenger by the shirt, and threw him onto the ground.
" Find Lodvik, and have him attack the Sunnfjord again ! After the Rogalanders have crossed I am sure that they will leave only a token force behind to protect the fjord. I want that rear guard destroyed ! Do you understand ! " the king screamed at the terrified man.
" Yes, my lord ! " he replied before racing back to his horse to return to his ship.
King Ljufvini had wanted to position his land forces along the Sunnfjord, but he could not do this because he had heard rumors that Queen Birsla had entered into an alliance with one of her neighbors. Whether it was Haddingjadalar, Numadalr, or Þelamǫrk was unimportant. All three had common borders with Hordaland, and because of this he had to keep his forces away from the Sunnfjord, and angle his left flank back to protect against an attack from an unseen enemy coming from the east. His western flank was protected by a river and the great ocean, and his back was safe because his northern neighbor Sygnaland, though strong, was a peaceful kingdom that seldom bothered anyone. As he waited for Rogaland to attack from the south, the king of Hordaland kept a close watch on his eastern flank.
King Ljufvini did not have to wait long ! He had barely finished positioning his army when the scouts came running in to tell him that the entire Rogaland army was just over the next ridge. The king of Hordaland immediately had his men form up in a shield wall. The archers were placed just behind them, and the horsemen were mounted and waiting at the ends of his line, ready to strike when called upon.
Ragnvaldr made a fateful decision to send the fresh warriors that Vetr and Unnvaldr had recruited in first to spare his warriors who were still weary from their fierce sea battle the day before. This proved to be Ragnvaldr's first and only mistake . These raw untrained warriors proved to be no match for the skilled fighters who fought for Hordaland. If not for Ogmundr and his Berserker, with a little help from the shield maidens, the day would have been lost. As it was the best the day's battle could be considered by either side was a draw. At least the commander of the Rogaland army had the good sense to tell the queen to remain behind. Ragnvaldr had used the excuse that this was only a preliminary attack to convince her to stay away from the fighting.
As the bloody first day ended at dusk the armies pulled back to their original positions and assessed their situations. The stalemate left both armies reeling from their losses of dead and wounded who lay all around the battlefield, and it also influenced the strategy that they both would use when the battle resumed tomorrow. Ragnvaldr decided that he would be agressive and hit the middle of the Hordaland line first thing in the morning. King Ljufvini, however, saw how poorly the Rogaland warriors fought and decided to let the enemy come to him again for another beating.
It was shortly after dark when Nafni came to Queen Birsla. The queen was meeting with Ragnvaldr as the commander of the Hirdmen rode up with a sad face. Instead of bowing as he usually did out of respect for the queen, Nafni knelt down on one knee, looked up at Birsla, and spoke to her slowly and with little or no emotion in his voice.
" My queen. It is my sad duty to inform you that Unnvaldr, the chieftain of Varhaug, has been killed in battle. His body has been retrieved, and cleaned. It now awaits burial back in Rogaland. " he informed her.
Ragnvaldr hung his head low.
" This is my fault, my queen ! I should have sent in my warriors despite their weariness, and injuries. I take full responsibility for his death ! " he told the queen.
Queen Birsla stood there in stunned silence for a long moment. Finally, as though someone had just awakened her from a sleep, she spoke :
" Nonsense. This is war . " she told him in a barely audible tone.
" Nafni. You will take command of Unnvaldr's warriors. " she commanded in a shaky voice.
" Yes, my lady ! " Nafni quickly replied.
Before he left she added :
" Oh ! And tell Vatnarr that he now commands the Hirdmen . "
When Nafni left, the queen turned to Ragnvaldr and asked him to leave. The commander of the army once again apologized for his " mistake ", but the queen brushed it off the unfortunate situation as being unavoidable. After Ragnvaldr went back to the army, and only after she was alone did Birsla weep for the kind Royal Guard who had once done so much for her.
Her sorrow did not last long and was quickly replaced by a fury she had only known once before.
" Where was Vignir with the Þelamǫrk army ! Why did she, and her army, have to begin the battle without her ally being here as he had promised ! " she asked herself over and over.
As Mani's dim light began to illuminate the camp Birsla grabbed her bow and quiver and sought out Öndurdís. Under the watchful eye of the archer - shield maiden the queen practiced most of the night. She retired to bed only after Öndurdís insisted that she get some sleep before Sunna chased Mani from the sky and the second day's battle began.
- End Chapter 9
- Next : Chapter 10 : Better Late Than Never !
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2016.