A Game Of War
The Gathering Storm
Sigvaldr had not intended to kill his chieftain, but after hearing how Lifsteinn had burned his villages to the ground, and killed the men, women, and children who lived there, while Billingr watched powerless to stop him, he could not contain his fury. The king gained no satisfaction from driving his sword through Billingr's heart, but such a failure could not be allowed to stand without some sort of punishment being served out. If his people saw him as a weak king, and indecisive in his actions, others would rise up to challenge him. This current insurrection had gone on for far too long as it was, and King Sigvaldr could not risk fighting on two fronts at once.
Víðarr had been silent while his father berated Billingr, and he had barely reacted when he had thrust his sword into the chieftain, but the killing of one chieftain did not solve the problems that another rebellious chieftain was causing.
" What shall we do father ? How should we make King Lifsteinn pay for his treacherous acts ? ! " he asked calmly, but firmly.
King Sigvaldr walked over to the table and picked up a cloth that lay next to a bowl. As he wiped Billingr's blood off of his sword, he addressed his son's questions in an angry tone.
" King ! What right has he to call himself a king ! My father, your grandfather, fought long and hard to become King of Heinafylki. Lifsteinn burns down a few villages, murders innocent women and children, and you think he has the right to call himself a king ! " he shouted at his son.
Víðarr gave his father a bewildered stare, almost as if he did not understand the argument his father was making.
" Forgive me father,...., but is that not what grandfather did to intimidate his enemies and consolidate his power all those years ago ? " he asked with a bit of a grin.
Sigvaldr pointed his finger at his son as his eyes widened with fury.
" Silence boy ! Have you no respect for my father King Heinrekr ?!! " he asked angrily.
Víðarr shrugged his shoulders.
" Those who are strongest have always ruled over the weak. Lifsteinn has proven himself a worthy opponent and must be dealt with as such. Which is why I must once again ask you father, how we will meet such a dire threat from a leader who appears to fear very little if anything ? " he inquired.
The king threw the bloody rag on top of Billingr's dead body, and carefully placed his sword back into its scabbard. With a look of determination etched deeply upon his face he walked over to his son and roughly grabbed him by the shoulders. As he stared into Víðarr's eyes he shook him as if to awaken him from a bad dream.
" We will gather our forces and head south to meet him. I will attack Lifsteinn from the north, while you circle around him, through the mountains, and hit him from the rear. Together we will crush this rebellious bastard and return Heidmork to my kingdom. " he told his son in no uncertain terms.
Víðarr was not afraid of his father, but he knew better than to push him when he was angry. To diffuse his father's fury, he allowed a smile to slowly form on his face as he nodded his approval.
" Then I will ride at once to gather up our warriors for the coming fight. If every chieftain in Heinafylki gives us a decent contingent of men we will easily crush the one who dares to usurp your power and call himself king over your lands. " he told his father boldly.
" If ! IF ?!! Should any of the chieftains not provide their fair share of warriors for the army,...., then I want you to bring them to me ! " the king explained harshly.
" Yes father ! One way or another they will add to our army ! " he agreed.
The king nodded before pointing to Billingr's body.
" Please remove that before you leave ! " he demanded.
King Lifsteinn stood on the edge of a forest near Skaun surrounded by the local chieftains who had decided either willingly, or by force, to join his growing army against King Sigvaldr. Many of these chieftains were urging him to move quickly, and take up as much land as possible, before the king of Heinafylki gathered up his forces and attacked. One chieftain, however, a man named Hjalmberi, cautioned against overextending their meager forces. His words, which some were taking for cowardice, seemed surprisingly wise to Lifsteinn, and he decided, over the objections of the other chieftains, to hear him out.
Hjalmberi rolled out a map made of parchment before he began to speak.
" The king of Heinafylki has but two choices if he is to attack us where we are now. He can sail down the river and attack us, or he could march south through Hringanes to engage our army. As we all know King Sigvaldr is not a patient man. He will not wait for his ship's carpenters to build enough vessels to carry his entire army south down the river. I believe that he will march right through the marshes that lay to our north. It is there, around that marshland, that we should set up our defenses. " he explained to Lifsteinn as he pointed to the roughly drawn map that was laid out in front of them.
Lifsteinn agreed with Hjalmberi that Sigvaldr would not wait to attack, but he did not see the significance of fortifying their position around the Hringanes.
" There is no high ground around these marshlands. Why do you wish to engage them here where there is no advantage for our smaller army ? " he asked sternly.
Hjalmberi looked up at Lifsteinn with his one good eye and grinned. He then tapped his index finger on the section of the map that showed the marshland and laughed.
" Soon the spring warmth will bring the snow melt down here to this area. As it does, the rivers and streams that crisscross these marshes will swell, flooding the entire area, and turning it into a quagmire of mud. If we ring these marshes with archers, and hold our arrows until they are deep into this muck and mire, we will kill many of them before they can extricate themselves, and attack us on firm ground. " he informed the new king.
Lifsteinn raised an eyebrow as he patted the chieftain on the shoulder.
" I like the way you think Hjalmberi ! You are wise, and almost as bold as I am ! We will use your strategy to trap our enemy in the marshes, and we will kill all those who escape ! " he told the old chieftain with a hearty laugh.
Hjalmberi looked deep into Lifsteinn's eyes as he rolled up the map parchment.
" We must hurry, however, for the storm is gathering in the north, and it will soon rain down hard upon us if we are not fully prepared ! " he warned the king.
- End Chapter 2
- Next : Chapter 3 : Odin Asks For A Favor
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2018.