Thorgest : The Life And Death Of A Viking Raider
The Catholic Monastery
King Thorgest ordered Raðbarðr to pick fifty of his best warriors to accompany him up to the monastery just in case these Christian monks were not as docile as Melaghlin had made them out to be. It took a few moments for his commander to gather up his men, and form them up into marching formation. When this was finally accomplished Thorgest noticed that the warriors had drawn their swords, and carried their axes as if ready for battle. The king dismounted from his horse and walked over to Raðbarðr shaking his head.
" Have the warriors put away their weapons ! I do not believe these holy men will try to cause us any harm ! " he commanded his subordinate.
Raðbarðr gave his king a look of incredulity, but obeyed at once.
" Sheath your weapons ! " he shouted to his warriors.
As King Thorgest led Raðbarðr, and his fifty warriors, up to the top of the hill he noticed that a third man had joined Melaghlin and Rory there. This stranger was a chubby little man, with an oddly shaved head, who wore a cream colored robe tied at the waist with what appeared to be a rope. When Thorgest came within hailing distance the three men bowed to show their subservience to their new king. The Lord of Westmeath, and Rory, who apparently was not a messenger, but Melaghlin's second in command. both drew their swords, and held them out, while kneeling on one knee for their king to accept.
King Thorgest stopped a few feet away from the prostrated warriors. He gazed over at the strangely robed man, who was not kneeling, before looking back at Melaghlin and Rory.
" Get up and return your swords to their scabbards. " he told the Irish warriors.
Once Melaghlin had done what he was ordered to do he bowed his head slightly and addressed the King of Dyvlinarskire with the utmost respect.
" Welcome to the monastery of Cluain Mhic Nois ! " he stated warmly.
King Thorgest nodded.
" And who is this person dressed in his night clothes ? " he asked suspiciously.
Melaghlin remained calm but Rory could not contain his anger over such a demeaning remark.
" He is a man of the cloth ! A disciple of God ! A teacher of monks ! " he began to say before he realized that he had overstepped his authority.
Melaghlin tried to hide his annoyance over his subordinate's rude outburst as he cut off and finished what Rory had begun.
" My lord ! He is the Abbot of Cluain Mhic Nois. His name is Ceteadach, and he is wearing the garments of his faith, King Thorgest. " he stated calmly as he gestured at the robed man.
Ceteadach bowed slightly to the Heathen Norseman before addressing him.
" I too speak your language, though I do not welcome you quite as heartily as the Lord of Westmeath. " he quietly, but defiantly told the king.
King Thorgest grinned.
" Watch your tongue Abbot, or I will cut it out of your disrespectful mouth ! " he warned.
Ceteadach remained defiant as he posed a question to the king.
" You are going to kill all of us, and take our religious icons,...., and our gold and silver, are you not ? What good is my tongue to me if my body is dead ? " he asked.
Thorgest glared at the holy man who stood in front of him with his hands oddly pushed into the opposite sleeves of his garment.
" That was my intention ! But your Lord of Westmeath seems to think that it would be better if I allow you to keep some of your possessions in exchange for a yearly payment of Danegeld. " he shot back at the Abbot.
Melaghlin decided the time had come to quiet the king's anger, and quickly intervened in the conversation to keep the peace.
" Yes, Ceteadach ! I have been telling the king that this monastery is a rich enterprise, and that the artisans and craftsmen who work within these walls could quickly fill his coffers with gold and silver. But only if they are allowed to live of course ! " he told the Abbot through angrily clenched teeth.
Ceteadach shot the Lord of Westmeath a startled glance before turning his attention back to the king.
" If that is the case then let me show you about the monastery, King Thorgest." he said in a much more congenial tone.
With his eyes narrowed Thorgest pointed up at the monastery.
" After you ! " he replied coldly.
As they walked towards the only stone structure on the hill the king noticed a number of crosses that had been placed on pedestals around the hill.
" What is the meaning of these crosses ? " he asked.
The Abbot gave the king a pitiful stare.
They represent the great sacrifice that our Lord and savior gave to the world. " he explained.
King Thorgest frowned deeply.
" Did he die in a great battle ? " the king asked.
Ceteadach rolled his eyes at the Heathen before he responded.
" He died, crucified on a cross by the Romans, to atone for the sins of all mankind. " he informed the king.
King Thorgest laughed.
" It would have been better if he had died in battle. There is no honor in being executed ! " he replied.
Suddenly, Thorgest noticed an image on the shaft of the cross, and pointed to it.
" Is this your Jesus ? " he asked.
The Abbot rolled his eyes once again, only this time out of embarrassment.
" No ! That is the oldest cross here at the monastery. It was created long ago, well before I arrived. It is a Pagan image of Cernunnos, the Celtic God of hunting and fertility. " he responded reluctantly.
" Now that is more to my liking ! " the king replied happily.
The king walked through the Abbey, where the nervous monks were learning, praying, or meditating. From here the Abbot took the Heathens to an older wooden structure where scribes were writing the spoken word onto parchment, and drawing elaborate pictures to ordain the pages. Thorgest thought it all to be very boring, and saw no way to make money from these books that only the monks could read in a language called Latin.
The king's demeanor changed greatly, however, when they walked a short distance from the monastery. The hill was surrounded by small huts, and roads, that appeared to be separate from the religious site. The Lord of Westmeath brought the king to each home, but it was the workshops that interested Thorgest the most. He watched intensely as great artisans chiseled images into beautiful limestone, and marble. He marveled as blacksmiths worked metal into ornate hinges, and poured liquid metal into molds to form religious symbols. But what most interested King Thorgest was the skilled craftsmen who worked their magic with silver and gold.
The king's sudden interest was not lost on Melaghlin. The Lord of Westmeath, and his commander Rory, shared discreet smiles as King Thorgest's eyes widened at the prospect of the great riches that this monastery could provide for him.
" Destroy the monastery and you will loot maybe two hundred pounds of precious metals and jewels. Let it remain as it is, under my protection, and you can take half of that now, and be paid one hundred pounds of gold and silver every year as Danegeld. " he told to the king.
King Thorgest laughed.
" I accept your proposal,...., with two additions. First you will bring one hundred pounds of gold and silver to my encampment first thing tomorrow morning, and,...., I will leave a contingent of my army here to help you protect my investment, and the monastery. " the king explained.
Lord Melaghlin bowed.
" As you wish, my lord ! " he replied happily.
After King Thorgest had left the monastery, and gone back to his camp in the meadow below the hill, Melaghlin turned to Rory with an angry scowl upon his face and gave his second in command an order.
" There is no moon tonight. Send a messenger to Armagh and inform King Niall Caille that I have held off the Viking raiders for the time being, but need assistance in ridding his lands of these Heathen Norsemen ! "
- End Chapter 4
- Next : Chapter 5 : " Let Us Build Fortifications ! "
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart), © Copyright, 2018.