The Life And Death Of A Viking Raider
" No March Is Easy ! "
Diarmait, who had been enjoying his rare ride on a horse, grinned at the Norseman.
" If you do not like my land then why do you stay here ? " he asked in return.
Auðr was riding next to her husband when she overheard the conversation between Albrikt and the Irishman. Before the commander could answer their guide the queen interrupted him.
" We did not come here for your lovely weather ! It is the large amounts of gold and silver that has attracted us to your Irish lands ! " she answered Diarmait in a very smug tone.
King Thorgest could not decide whether he was more disgusted with Diarmait, or his wife, for bothering to engage in such useless conversation. At the moment the king was more interested in the route that their guide was using to lead them westward.
" Why are we heading south, instead of west, as we were earlier ? " Thorgest asked as he looked around him to discern his position.
Diarmait slapped the reins against the horse's shoulder and galloped forward. As he pulled up alongside the king he shot him an angry stare.
" You did not seem satisfied with either the number of my people you killed in Langore, or with the amount of riches you were able to loot from their dead bodies. I thought you might like to march south to Cambre to fill both your coffers, and your bellies with ale and good food. " he told the king sarcastically.
Auðr reined her horse around and stopped directly across from their Irish guide.
" And why would you help us to pillage your towns and villages, and kill your kin ? " she asked suspiciously.
Diarmait tried to hide both his shame and disgust at what he was doing to his own people from the king's wife as he answered.
" Everything I am doing, and will do in the future, is for the safety of my wife and child. They mean everything to me ! " he explained bitterly.
King Thorgest nodded.
" And I will hold to the bargain my commander has made with you when, and if, you take us to the Cluain Mhic Nois monastery, and bring us back to Dyvlinarskire safely. " he assured the Irishman.
Auðr smacked her lips loudly to show her displeasure for their sudden change in direction.
" Does he have to lead us through all of this mud to bring us there ?! " the queen asked her husband sharply.
King Thorgest grinned slightly at his wife's discomfort.
" No march is easy ! You did not have to travel with the army, my dear. I think that the Gods know that you would have been much more comfortable back in Dyvlinarskire. " he told her as kindly as he could manage.
Then the king added under his breath :
" It is not as though your presence adds another shield maiden to our ranks. "
Auðr pretended that she could not quite make out what her husband had said as she sarcastically replied.
" Someone had to come along to make sure that every last silver chalice, precious jewel, and nugget of gold was brought back to Dyvlinarskire ! "
Albrikt, unlike Diarmait, who was at the moment caught in between the king and queen, rode ahead for he had been a witness to far too much of this bickering since their arrival in the Irish Isle.
Rauðskeggr marched south along with the army for two days through misty rain and across soggy fields. The skald would gladly have marched another month of days if they never reached this town of Cambre. For he knew that once they arrived at their destination he would once again be a witness to the suffering and death of an innocent people who were simply trying to lead normal lives in a time of strife and constant war. On the third day, however, Raðbarðr, who had been leading a small division of scouts ahead of the main army, came riding back fast and hard. As he reined his horse up hard in front of the king and queen its legs slid slightly in the mud forcing the young warrior to turn in his saddle slightly to face them as he spoke.
" King Thorgest,....., Queen Auðr ,...., I have been to the town that Diarmait calls Cambre, and I am sorry to report that someone has raided the town already ! The stores of grain and other stores of food have been taken, the village looted and burned, and I assume all of the inhabitants have been killed or have fled into the countryside, my lord,...., and lady ! " he explained regretfully.
Queen Auðr could not help but notice the warriors noticeable pause when mentioning her name, and title. She was not about to let this slight pass, and decided to quickly belittle the young warrior.
" Are you going to accept this impudent young warriors word for what has happened, or are you going to ride there yourself to assess the situation ?! " she asked her husband.
King Thorgest trusted Raðbarðr greatly, but he could not take his word over the concerns of his wife, the Queen of Dyvlinarskire. Reluctantly he pointed in the direction that his commander had come and shouted to Albrikt.
" Albrikt ! Come with us to Cambre, and bring that damned Irishman ! " he shouted to his commander.
When they arrived at the town it was exactly as Raðbarðr had described it. The thatched roof huts had been burned to their foundations, and scavenger birds were feasting on the dead corpses which were strewn throughout what was left of Cambre. King Thorgest stood up in his stirrups to better look around before calling Diarmait over to his side.
" Are there other Norsemen raiding here in Southern Ui Neill ? " he asked his Irish guide.
Diarmait shook his head sadly.
" Unfortunately you Vikings are not the only warriors who prey upon my people. More than likely this atrocity was perpetrated by the king of the Laigin. He has been known to occasionally take his army north into our kingdom to pillage and plunder. " he told the king.
Thorgest stared directly into the Irishman's eyes as he asked.
" Is this king's army larger than mine ? "
Diarmait shrugged his shoulders.
" If I had to guess I would say that your armies are of equal strength, my lord. " he told the king.
The king exhaled loudly, as if he was not quite sure how to proceed next. Diarmait understood the king's confusion and shook his head.
" The King of Laigin has probably already returned to Ui Dulainge. We would have to travel many miles out of our way to engage him. A war with the king of Laigin would surely take a toll on your army and delay your attack on the monastery by at least a month. " he informed the king.
King Thorgest reluctantly nodded that he agreed with the Irishman's assessment of the situation.
" Then we will proceed with our march to Cluain Mhic Nois. I shall allow this Irish king to keep his spoils of war for now. But I will come back and deal with him at a later date ! " he stated firmly.
- End Chapter 2
- Next : Chapter 3 : The Lord Of Westmeath
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2018.