Thorgest : The Life And Death Of A Viking Raider
Across The Irish Sea
Queen Auðr also came down to the shore almost daily to check on the progress of the preparations. She, however, was not nearly as interested in the planning, or any of the other minor details as were the others. The queen's only concern was they they left as early as possible and returned quickly with their ships filled with gold and silver. Her impatience began to grate upon the nerves of everyone from the king down to the lowest of warriors. Her constant nagging did have one positive effect, however, in that everyone worked as fast possible to leave Dyvlinarskire to avoid having to listen to the queen for one more day.
Unlike his journey to Ireland from Møre, Norway, this time he had only 100 ships available to him to make the raid on Wales. The other twenty vessels were either out performing various tasks such as mapping the inland waterways of Ireland, to find locations to build ring forts in places such as Lyndwachill on Lough Neagh, or in the Lough Lene, or were deemed unseaworthy for the journey. The king, however, was satisfied that he had more than enough warriors to put down anyone who dared oppose him in Wales.
The morning they left the skies were clear, with a strong wind blowing out of the west, which filled their sails and quickly sped them along their way. Laeg navigated the Vikings due south for nine days along the coast of Ireland before turning the fleet southeast out into the Irish Sea. On the eleventh day a sever storm hit the fleet which forced them to take down their sails for a full day. Pulling oars, and baling out their ships, was the order of that terrifying day and night, and the severe weather cost the fleet two ships, and over sixty men.
When the skies cleared their sails were once again hoisted. The winds from the west made them billow outward under their powerful force, and the fleet soon came within sight of the Welsh coastline. Though few of these proud, and very brave warriors, would have admitted to it, all felt the great relief that all seamen succumb to when land looms up on the horizon of what can seem like an endless sea.
King Thorgest became suspicious when Laeg began steering them south instead of heading for the cliffs that rose up out of the ocean to the east, but the Irish seaman assured his Norse king that he knew of a way to bring the Viking raiders very close to the monastery so that they would not have to travel a great distance inland or be far away from the safety of their ships. The king was skeptical, but he had little knowledge of this area and was forced to accept his navigators advice.
When the sun broke over the horizon the following morning the Vikings found themselves sailing just outside of a great harbor. King Thorgest could not believe his eyes when he spotted several beaches, at the edge of what he estimated was a two hundred foot cliff, where he could easily and safely beach his vessels. Once again Laeg asked the king to wait and be patient. Several miles further on the Irishman steered the fleet into what he called Porthclais Harbor, to the king's great delight. Thorgest was even more impressed when his skilled navigator brought them into the outlet of a river which ran north.
" What river is this ? " the king asked.
" The Welsh call it the Alun River,...., and it flows very near the Tyddewi monastery, my king ! " he explained happily.
The king laughed heartily and patted the Irishman on the back.
" Not even Njordr could have taken us to a safer harbor than you have my friend ! " the king commended his navigator.
Laeg had no idea who this Norse navigator Njordr was, but he was pleased that he might survive this voyage, and return to his family, where Diarmait had failed.
" Thank you, my king ! " Laeg replied humbly.
It took a day and a half of hard rowing to reach the point where Laeg told King Thorgest to beach his vessels. Once the ships were securely on land the king left one hundred warriors behind to guard them, and then headed inland to the east to where Laeg assured the king the monastery stood.
" How far is the monastery from here ? " the king asked.
Laeg shrugged his shoulders.
" I am sorry, my king, but I have never walked to the monastery. Maybe three or four miles. " he replied uncertainly.
Thorgest, who still feared the possibility of treachery, made Laeg travel with him as they marched east. As the sun was setting a large structure slowly began to loom up ahead on the horizon making the king's eyes almost bulge out of his head. The king stared at the buildings for a moment, and then glanced over at Laeg, who bowed slightly.
"Forgive me my king ! I was mistaken ! It is only one or two miles. " he replied apologetically.
Thorgest could not believe the great navigational skills that this little Irishman had displayed during this voyage. He had sailed them across the Irish Sea, to a safe harbor, in which lay the entrance to a river that ran almost up to the monastery. And yet he was still apologizing for miscalculating the distance from the river to the Tyddewi monastery. The king placed his arm around the little Irishman and squeezed him like a child.
" You did just fine Laeg ! Just fine !! " he assured the navigator. .
King Thorgest ordered his warriors to encamp where they were for the night.
" No fires ! And no noise !! " he commanded.
The next morning, after an uncomfortable drizzly cold night, King Thorgest led a third of his army up the hill toward the monastery, followed by Albrikt and Raðbarðr who each commanded a division. To the few Welsh defenders, and the monks themselves, it must have seemed as if the gates of Hell had opened up and all of the Devil's minions had come to devour them. Some monks ran, some tried to hide, while a few attempted to whisk away the valuables to keep them out of the greedy hands of the Norsemen. To their honorable credit the armed Welshmen tried desperately to set up a defensive wall at the entrance to the monastery.
King Thorgest's warriors burst through the narrow defensive position of Welsh warriors like water bursting through a breached dam. Though these defenders lacked resolve, and the numbers to stop his warriors, they did have a weapon that fired an arrow at such a velocity that it could penetrate their wooden shields, and of course their armor. The king was not happy about the number of men he lost to this " crossbow " and he took out his fury on the enemy by cutting off the hands of every captured archer before they were killed.
Once inside the monastery the Norsemen found a great abundance of wealth to loot. They discovered even more once they tortured the monks, and Welsh warriors, and made them confess where they had hidden their valuables within the walls of the monastery. The king could not believe how many gold and silver coins, and the other valuables, such as candlesticks, drinking vessels, and gold and silver crosses, many of which were inlaid with precious jewels, that they discovered throughout the grounds. There was so much plunder that the king joked that his ships might sink on the way home. Laeg, of course, knew that the treasure would simply replace the stone ballast that kept their ships on an even keel.
Laeg warned the king, however, that the Welsh king was not one to let such an indiscretion go unpunished. He advised the Norse king to either build a fort to defend his position, or leave with the spoils he had already plundered. The king saw great wisdom in the Irishman's words, and saw fear in his eyes, which told the king that the Welsh would come to avenge his raid. King Thorgest did not see the wisdom of staying. Besides, he had more than enough riches to bring back to Dyvlinarskire. Enough he believed to silence even his greedy wife !
He had come to Tyddewi to raid the monastery, and with that successfully accomplished he returned to his ships the following morning, filled his vessels with their loot, and rowed back to the Porthclais Harbor, where his ships set their sails for home. With Laeg as his navigator Thorgest felt absolutely confident that he would have a safe journey back to Dyvlinarskire despite the west winds now being against them.
- End Chapter 9
- Next : Chapter 10 : Thorgest's Triumphant Return
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2018.