Palni and Tindr glanced at each other from time to time to roll their eyes, or shake their heads in disgust. Many times in the past the king's generals had been left standing there before his high-seat waiting for a decision, only to be told to come back later for the answer to their question, and this time appeared to be no different. If not for the fact that their king always seemed to make the right decision, despite being long in coming, the generals would have excused themselves, and come back another time.
The only one in the hall who knew the exact reason why the king was taking so long to ponder the generals' questions was Bera, the king's wife, and queen of Haddingjadalr. And she was not about to divulge the secret to anyone. The queen, much like the generals who stood impatiently waiting for an answer, was quite sure that her husband would not decide on this vital issue today.
King Siggautr sat upon his high-seat like a statue. With his hands folded in front of him, and eyes that stared straight ahead as if in a trance, he was lost in deep thought and totally oblivious to his surroundings. His generals had presented him with very disturbing information, and as he sat there contemplating what he had heard he could feel their eyes burning into him while they waited for him to respond. Once again, however, the king would have to disappoint his generals, and those in the court as well who wished to know what the king would do so they could spread gossip throughout the fylki.
" Palni,...., and Tindr,...., I appreciate the fact that you have brought this dire situation to my attention so quickly, and so clearly. However a grave matter, such as going to war, takes time to weigh all of the options available to me. I agree that King Raggi of Hordafylki, our constant nemesis, is once again encroaching on our borders, and provoking all out war with us, but it worries me that King Ogmundr is so eager to help us. He is not one who has allied himself with us before, and I am concerned about his motives now. I will think on this further, and get back to you as soon as possible. " he explained to his generals in a slow monotone cadence.
Tindr began to protest, but Palni quickly restrained him by placing a firm hand on his shoulder.
" We will await your decision on this matter, my lord. " Palni told his king with a bow.
Tindr gave Palni an angry look, but he quickly followed his friend out of the hall without uttering another word. Once outside, however, he grabbed Palni by the arm, spun him around and exploded with rage.
" You know as well as I do that we need to attack King Raggi before his army becomes too entrenched in our kingdom. And if King Ogmundr is willing to help us to this end then why shouldn't we accept his generous offer of an alliance ! ? " he blurted out.
" Because the king is the one to decide such matters,...., and he ha always been right in the past ! " he told his friend before walking away.
Queen Bera leaned over and whispered to her husband in a quiet tone.
" I suppose that you will be leaving with your personal guards at first light ? " she asked with a grin, already knowing the answer.
King Siggautr glanced around the room to make sure that no one was listening before he responded.
" To decide a matter as tremendously dangerous as this, do you not think it appropriate ? " he asked in return, also in a whisper.
Bera smiled and kissed her husband on the cheek.
" I think it is important that my husband does what is best for his people. " she responded in an official tone.
" Then it is decided. I will leave for Hårteigen mountain tomorrow. " he affirmed.
King Siggautr left his great hall long before the sun rose over the mountains in the east. The king pushed his men hard, and their horses even harder, to reach the mountain as quickly as possible. Only when their mounts looked as though they might collapse from sheer exhaustion did the king allow them to rest. And when he felt that they had recovered sufficiently, and eaten enough to continue, he had his men mount up again and pushed them even harder.
The next day the pace became even more severe once the mountain known as Hårteigen appeared on the distant horizon. Like a mighty magnet it seemed to attract Siggautr, and its power over the king grew with every gallop of his swift horse. The warriors who followed the king were some of the best fighting men in the Haddingjadalr army, but they soon became hard pressed to keep pace with the king they were sworn to protect. By the time the shadow of the ' great gray rock ' as some called it, loomed high above them the king had outdistanced his guards by almost half a mile.
King Siggautr quickly dismounted when he reached the base of the mountain, and there waited impatiently for his warriors to arrive. When the leader of his personal guard, a man named Orrusti, came within hailing distance he shouted out instructions.
" You will make camp here ! " he commanded.
" I will climb to the top of Hårteigen and speak to the Gods as to what course of action I should take regarding a possible war with King Raggi ! And NO ONE must follow me ! " he told the commander of his guard.
As darkness descended over the region King Siggautr began to make his way up the steep path that led to the top of the mountain. Orrusti, as ordered, showed his men where to set up their camp for the night. As he supervised the tying up of the horses, and the building of campfires, the commander of the guard kept glancing up at the mountain that towered high above him.
Orrusti was a man of great curiosity. He had accompanied the king to this unusual mountain, which seemed to rise out of nowhere, many times before, and he wanted very much to know what his king did once he reached the summit. Some in camp speculated that King Siggautr actually spoke to Gods like Odin, Thor and Freyja, while others believed that there was an oracle at the top of Hårteigen which guided the king in his decisions. Whatever the true reason, the truth ate away at Orrusti's resolve a little more each time they came.
Finally, the force of temptation grabbed a hold of Orrusti and would not let go. When the other warriors sat down around a large bonfire, they had built to eat and drink, Orrusti quietly slipped away and began to follow the same path that had led his king up the mountain. Although he knew that he was disobeying his king, this time he was determined to find out the truth !
- End Chapter 2
- Next : Chapter 3 : " Waiting, I Am Always Waiting ."
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2018.