The Dying Flames
To shorten the battle, and stem the growing loss of life, the king began to shout to the rebel warriors of Hagafoss that he would give them amnesty if they laid down their weapons and surrendered. It took some time, but many of Lefvini's warriors, seeing the futility of fighting on, either dropped their weapons, or handed them to Siggautr's men. The few who did not accept the king's clemency were quickly overwhelmed and slaughtered despite their brave but hopeless efforts.
When the situation was under control Siggautr, Lyngvi, and two dozen of the king's personal guards raced after the fleeing Hagafoss warriors, who were being led away from the battlefield by Lefvini. The king was certain that Grottintanna's life would be in great jeopardy if he and his men could not catch up to the chieftain before they reached Hagafoss. Kjallandi had already seen the future, but despite this knowledge, and the fact that she could not ride as fast as the warriors, she was doing her very best to keep pace with them, and not let them out of her sight.
Lefvini tried to keep focused on the terrain ahead of him, but what lay behind him scared him much more than a rock or a hole that might trip up his horse, and therefore he threw caution to the wind and rode like a madman back to his great hall. At first when he looked behind him there was nothing there, but after a several miles the chieftain saw black specks in the distance, which seemed to be getting larger each time he peered behind him. When the tiny dots became recognizable figures riding hard to catch up with him he ordered ten of his warriors to fall back and attack the Haddingjadalr riders to try and slow them down.
King Siggautr ordered his warriors to form into an attack formation the moment he saw the chieftain's warriors turn towards them. Almost immediately the Haddingjadalr men spread out into a ' V ' formation to better absorb and deflect the blow from the oncoming warriors. By the time they came into hailing distance the Hagafoss warriors had drawn their swords and were holding them by their blades to show that they had no stomach for a fight and were surrendering. The king ordered them to hand over their weapons, and to dismount from their horses.
" Lyngvi ! Pick four of your men and escort these prisoners back to the Hestrskor gil. And make them walk their horses back ! " he commanded as he spurred his horse forward to resume the chase, followed by the rest of his warriors.
Lefvini was enraged when he caught sight of his cowardly warriors surrendering to Siggautr. It seemed that the whole world had turned on him this day and that nothing was going right. The only thing he had to be thankful for was that his mutinous warriors had held up the king's men for a little bit allowing him to stretch out his lead over them.
Kjallandi too was grateful for the surrendering Hagafoss warriors because, although she was not able to catch up to Siggautr and his men, the delay made it much easier for her to see them in the distance, and therefore to follow them. As she approached Lyngvi he shouted for her to turn around and go back with his men, but she ignored his plea and pushed her horse onward.
Lefvini knew that he was killing his horse, but he pushed it harder and harder as the hours passed. When he finally reached the farmland that surrounded the village of Hagafoss his horse reared up and threw him to the ground before collapsing in a wheat field by the side of the road. The chieftain got up and quickly ran over to one of his warriors, who had stopped to see if he were hurt, and roughly pulled him off of the horse. In a split second he had mounted the beast and was kicking it furiously forward. The chieftain never bothered to look back at the injured warrior who lay on the ground shaking his fist at him.
" Look Out ! Get out of the way ! " Lefvini shouted as he and his warriors galloped down the main road that led to the front doors of his hall.
Women, children, and the old, ran for cover as the horses flew by the villagers who were out and about taking care of their daily chores, or going to the market. One older man, hobbled by a leg stricken with arthritis, could not limp fast enough to avoid the fast riders and paid for his infirmity with his life. Two women ran over to help the poor old man, but their was nothing they could do. The fall had broken his neck.
As Lefvini reined the borrowed horse up in front of his great hall he turned to his warriors and yelled back to them.
" No one enters this hall ! Do you understand ?! "
Almost to a man the response was unanimous and immediate.
Yes, Chieftain ! " they replied automatically.
Lefvini walked by Nippingr and threw open the doors to his hall. Before he entered he shot the guard a cold stare.
" Well,...., help them ! " he yelled pointing towards the other warriors who had formed a small shield wall in front of the hall.
Nippingr nodded, and moved to join his comrades, but he said nothing.
Grottintanna did not turn to see who had entered the great hall. Instead she stared deeply into the flames in the fire pit, and refused to divert her eyes. And yet when the visitor stomped forward she knew without a doubt that it was Lefvini.
" I have been sitting here for hours watching my own death. " she explained as though it were a happy experience.
Lefvini stopped a few feet from the old woman and drew his bloody sword from its scabbard.
" You lied to me ! You old bitch, you lied to me !! " he screamed as loud as he could.
" I had no choice. You are too wicked to rule these lands, and I am far too old to live with the weight of having aided you on my conscious. " she told him in an emotionless tone.
Lefvini let out a loud grunt, and thrust his sword through the witch's back.
" Die you lying bitch !! " he cried out as he heard the unmistakable sound of his weapon tearing through flesh and breaking bones.
Grottintanna did not make a sound. She stared down at the point of Lefvini's sword, which now protruded out of her chest, for a moment, but she did not moan or cry out.
" It is exactly as I foresaw my end. " was all she said.
Lefvini quickly pulled his sword out of the old woman, who slowly fell sideways onto the floor of the hall. The chieftain, knowing that his end would soon come as well, placed his sword back in its scabbard, walked to the back of the great hall, and sat in his high-seat to await the inevitable.
Despite Nippingr having more warriors than Siggautr, when the king rode up he told the chieftain's men not to be fools, and to drop their weapons. Only one of the warriors, a berserker, held onto his sword, but he too was eventually convinced to surrender his weapon to the true ruler of Haddingjadalr by Nippingr.
Nippingr opened the doors of the chieftain's hall for the king and his men, then stepped aside to allow them to enter.
" It should not have come to this. " Nippingr told the king.
Siggautr nodded in agreement.
" Greed leads men to do terrible things. " the king replied as he stepped into the dimly lit hall, followed closely by his guards.
The king squinted his eyes to see better in the flickering light of the torches. When he spotted Lefvini seated at the end of the hall he drew his sword from its scabbard and moved forward cautiously. His men drew their weapons as well, and waited for their king's command before killing the treacherous chieftain.
" You are too late the old witch is dead ! " Lefvini informed the king in a cold unfeeling voice.
Siggautr stopped where Grottintanna had fallen and looked down at her with great pity.
" Why did you have to kill the old woman ? " he asked.
Before the chieftain could answer the doors of the great hall flew open once again and Kjallandi rushed into the hall. First she spotted Siggautr standing by the fire, and was relieved to see that he was still alive. A moment later, however, she saw her mother laying crumpled upon the floor.
" Mother ! No ! No ! Mother !! " she cried out hysterically.
It was then that Lefvini answered the king's question.
" I killed her because she was an old lying bitch ! " he screamed.
Kjallandi, who had never known anger in her entire life, snapped inside. With a strength she did know she possessed Kjallandi reached out and grabbed an axe from the belt of the nearest warrior and with the skill of a seasoned fighter she threw it as hard as she could at the chieftain.
Lefvini was so furious at Siggautr and the witch that he had not paid any attention to the young woman. By the time he narrowed his eyes to see better, and his mind figured out what she had done, it was too late for the chieftain to react. The sharp blade of the axe hit him square in the forehead, with a sickening thud, long before he was able to raise a hand to try and deflect it.
While the stunned warriors warily walked up to the high-seat to make certain that the injury was fatal, Siggautr and Kjallandi kneeled by Grottintanna and tried to comfort what appeared to be her last moments. Siggautr watched with sad eyes as Kjallandi, who was crying uncontrollably placed her mother's head on her lap.
" Please don't leave me ! Please don't go ! " she whispered through trembling lips.
Grottintanna looked up at her daughter and smiled.
" Do not weep for me my child. It is time for me to leave,...., and this is your moment to take my place. " she explained to her daughter.
Kjallandi gently rocked her mother in her lap as she continued to weep.
" I don't want to be alone ! " she somehow managed in between bouts of wailing.
Grottintanna reached up and placed a finger over her daughter's lips.
" Hush child. You will not be alone. Siggautr will be your father, and Bera your mother soon. " she told her daughter.
The old seer turned her head slightly and looked up at the king.
" You see, my friend Siggautr, as I told you one of your children will one day be the king of Haddingjadalr, while the other, the one I said would leave you, will become my daughter's husband,..., and their daughter,...., well she will one day be the future seer of Hårteigen. " she explained to the king.
Then, as Siggautr was about to reply, Grottintanna became quiet, and her eyes fluttered several times before they closed. The king and Kjallandi watched as the fire in the pit behind them began to die with each of her last heartbeats, until both the flickering flames, and the old seer were gone.
- End Chapter 14
- Next : Epilogue : The New Seer Of Hårteigen
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2018.