The Life And Death Of A Viking Raider
The Army Moves Out
It seemed as if it were only yesterday that they had left the Northlands to raid here in Ireland. Thorgest, then the Chieftain of Møre, led a fleet of almost one hundred and twenty ships across the North Sea, to reach these wretched lands. Despite thick fog, and rough waters, managed to reach his destination with little, or no problems. Here he split up his forces, sending half, under his second in command Albrikt, sailing east to the River Boyne, while he sailed to the River Liffey. Neither had met much resistance from the locals along the way, and when they met up at Dyvlinarskire they attacked the hilltop fortress that overlooked the settlement, killing almost everyone, and enslaving those who survived.
And now with the fortress rebuilt to Norse specifications, with the help of the Irish slaves of course, Thorgest felt confident enough to move inland to conquer new lands, and add to his growing little Irish kingdom. The only thing that remained in doubt, was where the self proclaimed King of Dyvlinarskire would boldly strike next. Rauðskeggr had the distinct feeling that the king would rather have consolidated his power before moving on, by conquering local territories one by one, and fortifying them as he went along. His new wife Auðr, however, had other ideas. For the Queen of Dyvlinarskire felt that wealth was power, and convinced her husband to find and raid one of the many rich religious sites in this land, known as monasteries, to fill their coffers with riches.
Only days before Rauðskeggr had to look away as King Thorgest, who was known to the local people as Turgeis, slowly tortured men, women, and even children, to force them to tell him where the richest holy places were in this misty land, that reminded all the Norsemen of Niflheim. The tormentors, at the direction of Thorgest, would usually begin by ripping out a fingernail or two, and if they still did not tell him all he wanted to know his warriors would begin to break bones, gouge out eyes, or in some instances begin to skin the victim alive. No matter how honest, or dishonest they were, in the end their dead bodies were thrown onto the ever growing heap with all the other unfortunate local people who had been "questioned" before them.
After forty or fifty had been interrogated to death there seemed to be a consensus among their testimony that a monastery called Cluain Mhic Nois, which sat on the eastern bank of the River Shannon, just south of Loch Ribh, was the richest in all of Leinster and Munster. The king immediately called together a war council to decide when to leave. The first topic brought up at the war council, by Albrikt, his second in command, was the need for a guide who knew his way through what to the Norsemen was foreign ground. King Thorgest grinned from ear to ear when he thought of a clever way to choose their guide.
" Have each of these Irish dogs describe the lay of the land between here and the River Shannon. The one who seems to know the greatest detail will come with us,...., the rest you can kill ! " he explained to Albrikt.
Before he was able to leave Rauðskeggr had watched as King Thorgest stopped his second in command and he overheard him give one more order.
" And have Raðbarðr gather up some men to make a bonfire to burn the Irish dead. The smell is becoming a bit much even for me. " he told Albrikt.
Albrikt followed his king's command fully, despite having reservations about the methods Thorgest wished him to employ.
" How will I know which of these inferiors is the one who lead us best ? What if the one I choose is simply a better liar that the others,...., a man who is simply trying to save his own skin ? " he asked himself as he began the process.
Albrikt ignored the women and children who remained alive and questioned only the twelve men who had not been a part of previous interrogations. Of these men, one man stood apart from all the others. He was a stocky little Irishman with red hair and muscles that showed him to be either a diligent farmer or a warrior. When questioned about his past Albrikt was further impressed by the manner in which the man, who gave his name as Diarmait, answered.
" I fought with Niall Caille a few years back against the King of Munster, Feidlimid mac Crimthainn. At Mag n' Ochtair we defeated the King of Munster, and he never ventured north against us again ! " he explained.
Albrikt nodded his approval.
" Then you must know the region between here and the monastery at Cluain Mhic Nois well ? " he asked.
Diarmait pounded his chest with his right hand.
" I marched with the High King of Ireland from Northern Ui Neill to Munster. " he proudly told the Viking.
" Then you should be able to guide us to the monastery without much difficulty. " he stated coldly.
Diarmait gave the Norseman a defiant stare.
" And if I don't ! ? " he asked.
Albrikt laughed and pointed to the heap of dead bodies that Raðbarðr and his men had just finished re-stacking over a huge pile of timbers.
Then you, and your family, will be added to the pyre ! " he replied.
As if on cue Raðbarðr had his men light the wood with torches. Diarmait tried not to show any emotions as the fire grew, and the flesh of the dead began to sizzle and pop under the intense heat, but he could not help trembling a bit as people he had known, and worked with, disappeared among the flickering flames.
" My family ! If I take you to Cluain Mhic Nois, will you let my family live ? " he asked with a hint of terror in his shaky voice.
Albrikt placed his hand on Diarmait's shoulder.
" You have my word that no harm will come to you, or your family,...., if you lead us to the monastery and back without incident. " he assured the Irishman.
Diarmait took a deep breath before reluctantly agreeing.
" May I see my family before we leave. ? " he asked.
" Raðbarðr ! Take a small detail of warriors and escort this man down to the village. But make sure he is returned before tomorrow morning. For we will be marching west well before noon ! " he shouted to his subordinate.
Rauðskeggr , although only a king's skald, and and outsider as well, was a witness to it all. The next morning he cringed in the chilly mist as he recalled the screams of the tortured souls, and the tearful begging of the local people, as they were about to be executed. The stench of the decaying bodies, and the odor of burning flesh, was now a memory that his senses, no matter how hard he tried, could no longer deny. And what terrified Rauðskeggr the most was that this was just the beginning of Thorgest's reign of terror !
When the skald heard the call for the warriors to form up he realized that he could not dawdle any longer, or he would be left behind. Quickly he rolled up all of his belongings into his blanket, and tied it at both ends. Then, with great trepidation and reluctance, he ran over and formed up behind the king's personal guard. As he stood there a part of Rauðskeggr wished that Magsefni had killed him, for he had grown weary of telling the King of Dyvlinarskire stories to keep him entertained.
- End Chapter 1
- Next : Chapter 2 : " No March Is Easy ! "
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart), © Copyright, 2018.