Thorgest : The Life And Death Of A Viking Raider
Thorgest's Triumphant Return
King Thorgest's return celebration was only dampened when he saw his wife Auðr ride up to the shore on her white horse, surrounded by her loyal bodyguards. As his ship neared the shore he could see a little twinkle in her eyes, and he was certain that the fond look upon her face was not for him. Auðr loved only one thing in this world, and it was presently being stored in the bottom of his ships.
The king and queen greeted each other more as strangers than husband and wife. The marriage had never been about anything more than a union between two powerful families in Møre. And here in Dyvlinarskire even that pretense had evaporated like the morning mist before the Irish sun.
" Greetings husband. Your wife welcomes you home with open arms, and a loving heart. " she stated with little or no real emotion.
It took all of Thorgest's inner fortitude not to recoil when his "loving" wife kissed him on both cheeks. As he looked to his right and left he saw his warriors being embraced warmly by their wives and loved ones in a manner he had never known with Auðr. Despite his feelings he tried not to sound bitter as he replied to his wife's gracious greeting.
" The raid was a great success, but it is good to be home. " was all he could think to say.
Auðr raised an eyebrow to show she wanted to know more.
" And,....." she finally felt compelled to say.
This time the king could not hide his disgust.
" I think you will find more than enough gold and silver in my ships to satisfy your insatiable taste for wealth ! " he replied in a nasty tone.
Auðr grinned from ear to ear.
" Really ?! You see, that is why I love you soo much ! " she told him happily.
Raðbarðr was given the duty of supervising the unloading and sorting of the looted treasure. To accomplish this feat all of the residents of Dubh Linn, as the local folk still called the town, were forced to help in the endeavor. Closely watched, of course, by their Norse overseers. By nightfall the exhausted townsfolk had extricated the last pieces of gold and silver from the longships. The weary Irish men and women then went home to their tiny huts and farms while their Viking rulers celebrated with a great and lavish feast.
Auðr did little or nothing to bring wealth into her kingdom, but she was very accomplished at spending what was in the Dvlinarskire coffers. Cattle were slaughtered, pigs roasted, chickens, grouse, and pheasant cooked, and kegs of ale procured for a grand feast that was held for over a thousand Norse men and women.
The recently finished great hall was quickly decorated for the celebration. On the walls Auðr had the shields of the commanders mounted to both honor their deeds, and to add a little color to the drab brown woodwork. The tables, which would seat about two hundred of the king's most able, and loyal warriors, were set with gold plates, silver cups, and jewel encrusted flatware. The queen had the beams, and supports of the hall, decorated with flowers intertwined in ivy. Auðr considered placing flowers on the tables as well, but she knew that the warriors would merely see them as simply impediments that would hamper them from reaching the food and pitchers of ale.
Rauðskeggr had not been forgotten by Auðr either. A small platform had been erected near their high-seats for him to recount the exploits of their recent raid on Tyddewi. Despite the great honor of being the king's skald Rauðskeggr was to be relegated afterwards to sitting at the maiden's table to eat his meal.
Because of his advancing years the skald had not gone to Wales with the Viking army, and therefore had no first hand knowledge of the raid. Despite being extremely weary, due to an illness of congestion, Rauðskeggr had to spend the entire day speaking with King Thorgest, Albrikt, Raðbarðr, and many of the bolder warriors, to learn of how well the raid had been executed. When the picture was complete in the skald's mind, he began to embellish each facet of the tale to make it more pleasurable for the warriors to hear.
Only one Irishman was invited to the feast. Laeg, to his great surprise, and consternation, was seated at the head of the king's table, right behind Albrikt and Raðbarðr. As the night went by, and more and more ale was consumed, he began to feel completely out of place. Almost as if Thorgest sensed his discomfort, the king rose up and lifted his golden cup high in the air, which quieted everyone in the hall.
" To Laeg, the greatest navigator in all of Ireland ! Skål !! " the king shouted.
Two hundred Viking warriors, who under any other circumstances would have killed the Irishman without giving it a second thought, rose up and shouted " Skål " in response to their king's great honor.
King Thorgest remained standing, and with a nod added :
" I have decided that Laeg should be given an equal share of our plunder from Tyddewi ! " the king explained to a now quiet room.
Thorgest glared suspiciously around the hall.
" Does anyone here deny that his contributions aided us during our successful attack on the monastery in Wales ? ! " he demanded to know.
Although not all of the warriors fully agreed that the navigator deserved a full share of the gold and silver no one dared speak up against their king, who up to this point had made them all very wealthy with little loss to their numbers. A loud and very clear " NO " quickly rose up throughout the hall.
Overcome with emotion Laeg stood up and bowed to the king.
" My Lord, I am humbled and greatly honored by your words and actions ! " he stated with a great sense of humility.
King Thorgest grinned.
" Sit down and eat Laeg ! You are one of us now ! " he explained to the Irishman.
The feast lasted until early into the next morning. When the king finally announced that he was going to bed it signaled to those still remaining in the hall that the feast had ended, and that it was now time for them to leave. As he pulled back the bearskin covers he saw that Auðr had already fallen asleep. Not wanting to wake his wife, Thorgest lay next to her as quietly as he could. The moment his full weight fell upon the bed, however, the creaking of the wood awoke his wife, and she began to speak.
" Much has happened since you left. " she informed her husband.
Thorgest rolled his eyes.
" Can this not wait until morning ? ! " he asked.
Auðr rolled over onto an elbow and looked down at her prostrated husband with an annoyed stare.
" You would not speak to me during the feast ! " she replied with a hint of anger in her voice.
Thorgest let out a deep breath.
" What is it that is so important that it cannot wait until morning ? ! " he asked impatiently.
Now that she had gained her husband's full attention Auðr smiled contently.
" Egil came her last week from the ring fort at Lough Ribh. " she began.
" And what did Egil have to say ? " he asked.
" Well,..., it seems that Nialle Caille is planning to march his army west to Northern Ui Neill. " she informed her husband.
The king's interest suddenly rose above the fog of ale that clouded his mind.
" And why would the High King of Ireland travel to the Northwest of this island ? " he inquired suspiciously.
Because, my dear, there are not one, but two Viking armies that have landed there. According to Egil, who has been a great wealth of information for me, one army has invaded via the Lough Neagh, and the other has sailed into the Lough Swilly. " she told her husband.
" And if I do nothing I will miss out on a good chance to add to my kingdom in the north. " he whispered to himself while in deep thought.
Auðr agreed with a nod.
" And you will have more armies on the border of our kingdom than just the Irish. " she added.
Thorgest rolled over and faced away from his wife's stare.
" Tomorrow I will speak to Albrikt and Laeg ! We will devise a plan to go to Northern Ui Neill as soon as possible. " he told his wife.
Auðr fell back onto the bed and faced the wall before she quietly added one more tidbit.
" I have decided to become the High Priestess at Cluain Mhic Nois. Their altar will make a good platform for our ritual sacrifices. I will leave for the monastery shortly after you take the army north. " she told her husband softly.
Thorgest did not hear her last words for he had already fallen fast asleep.
- End Chapter 10
- Next : Chapter 11 : The Plain Of Moynith
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2018.