The Queen Of War
An Uneasy Meeting
Tandri wanted the honor of bringing Vignir's body back to Þelamǫrk , but Queen Birsla convinced him that it was his duty to stay in Hordaland, with the Þelamǫrk army, and work with Ragnvaldr to put out any, " fires of resistance " as she called them, that might flare up in the towns and villages. And she told the Þelamǫrk commander in no uncertain terms that as the betrothed of Vignir it was her responsibility and honor to accompany his remains back home.
What she told Tandri, and why she really wanted the commander of the Þelamǫrk army to stay in Hordaland were two very different things. The queen of Rogaland did not want Tandri, or any Þelamǫrk warrior, to return and contradict her version of the events leading up to the death of Vignir. At least not until she had a blood oath from the Þelamǫrk monarchs that they would remain her ally, despite her being unable to marry their son.
Before leaving, Queen Birsla met with her commanders. She told Ragnvaldr to work with Tandri to sweep the countryside of any and all resistance. She also warned her army commander to be wary of the Þelamǫrk commander because she was unsure what the death of Vignir meant to the relations between their two kingdoms.
Ambi was promoted on the field to commander of the sea guard, and ordered to protect the Sunnfjord, and the coast of Rogaland from all threats. Ambi was so honored that he bowed and then kissed the queen's hand. The queen reached down, put a finger under Ambi's chin, looked him directly in the eyes, and spoke honestly to him.
" You should not be so grateful Ambi ! You have earned this honor with your great deeds my friend ! " she explained to the new sea commander.
Then the queen looked over at Nafni and Vetr, and pointed to both of them in turn as she spoke.
" I will need you both to accompany me to Þelamǫrk . I learned from my first meeting with King Ljufvini, at the All- Thing in Gulen, that having an army with me gives additional weight to my words. " she told them.
" Vatnarr ! You are now permanently assigned the post of commander of the Hirdmen, and I expect you to have your men ready to escort me to Þelamǫrk at first light. " she ordered.
Vatnarr could not help but smile at such an honor.
" They will be ready, my queen ! " he replied proudly.
Queen Birsla then turned her attention to a warrior woman who stood with the male commanders. She was obviously a shield maiden, but Birsla could not put a name to her face.
" And you are ? " the queen asked.
The shield maiden bowed slightly before answering :
" I am Adisa ma'am ! The shield maidens have placed me temporarily in charge of our force. " she explained to the queen.
Queen Birsla looked the woman over from head to foot.
" Do you not believe that you should lead the shield maidens ? " the queen asked.
Adisa held her chin up high as she replied :
" I am not sure that anyone can ever replace Eyda, my queen ! " she stated sadly.
Queen Birsla nodded.
" Eyda fought with great ferocity in this battle. Did you also ? " Birsla asked.
Thinking that her honor was being questioned the shield maiden fired back her answer quickly !
" I fought with every ounce of strength in my body ! " she told the queen with a hint of anger.
Queen Birsla nodded again.
" And yet she died and you survived to stand here before me ! In my eyes that makes you the better warrior. You will lead the shield maidens, and you will have them ready to move at first light tomorrow ! " she commanded the shocked shield maiden.
Realizing that the queen had been trying to honor her, instead of dishonoring her, Adisa simply nodded in stunned silence. Finally, a moment later, she found her voice and replied almost in a whisper.
" They will be ready. " was all she could think to say.
As Adisa was about to leave Queen Birsla asked her one last question.
" Has anyone found the body of Öndurdís ? "
" Öndurdís ? " she questioned.
" Yes ! The shield maiden who trained me in the use of a bow and arrow ! " the queen explained impatiently.
Adisa shook her head.
" I am sorry, my queen. We have no shield maiden named Öndurdís, and as far as I know we never have had anyone by that name in our ranks. " Adisa replied apologetically.
Queen Birsla stood staring in disbelief at the new commander of the shield maidens for a moment before dismissing her, and the other commanders. As she stood there all alone she began to doubt that Öndurdís ever existed, and her own sanity. But every time she closed her eyes she could see the large shield maiden in her mind.
" I know she was real ! " she told herself.
Queen Birsla and her small army looked more like invaders than guests as they entered the village of Drangadalr, which was where the great hall of King Reifnir, and Queen Isleif stood in Þelamǫrk. As they stopped in front of the great hall Queen Birsla had the carriage that contained Vignir's body brought forward.
King Reifnir emerged from the great hall first, with his wife timidly hiding behind the door before coming out. The king walked up to Queen Birsla and pointed his finger at the queen.
" Is this how you repay your ally ! By coming here to conquer my kingdom while my army is away fighting with Rogaland in your war against Hordaland ! ? " he shouted at the queen.
Vetr was the first to jump off of his horse and confront the king of Þelamǫrk.
" How dare you speak so to a woman who is grieving for the man she was about to marry ! " he screamed at King Reifnir.
" Vetr ! " Queen Birsla yelled back at the chieftain of Avaldsnes.
Then she turned her attention to a stunned King Reifnir, and a bewildered Queen Isleif.
" I have brought your son home to you. He fought hard and died bravely in our combined victory over Hordaland. If my military escort startled and angered you, I am sorry, but I felt that a warrior who died so gloriously in battle deserved a full military escort . " she told the royal couple.
When the realization of why the queen of Rogaland had come to Þelamǫrk finally struck her Queen Isleif ran over to the carriage sobbing. As she threw her arms around her dead son she repeated over and over again.
" No ! No ! No ! Not my son !! "
Birsla had made certain that Vignir's body was well cleaned and dressed, and that his body was kept as fresh as possible during the journey. She wanted to give the king and queen of Þelamǫrk no reason to doubt her intentions.
" Oh, you look so beautiful in your armor ! Thank you for coming home to me ! " Isleif told her dead son.
King Reifnir did not allow himself the privilege of tears as he reached out his hand to Queen Birsla.
" My apologies ! We had not received word that my son was killed in battle. " he told her sadly.
Queen Birsla took his hand and dismounted from her horse. As they walked over to the carriage, and the grieving Isleif, Birsla spoke to the king in a soft tone.
" Allow my men to bring Vignir into the great hall. We should not do this in the middle of the road for all to see. " she told him.
King Reifnir nodded.
" Yes ! Thank You ! " he replied almost in a whisper.
" Vetr ! Please have some of your men bring Vignir into the great hall. " she commanded quietly as not to disturb the queen of Þelamǫrk.
Vetr nearly smiled when he realized how sly the queen of Rogaland was. Not only was she a queen of war, but she was also a master of diplomacy !
" Yes, my queen ! " he replied immediately.
Once Vignir's body was laid out in the great hall everyone left except King Reifnir, Queen Isleif, and Queen Birsla. They spent the rest of the day, and most of the night, speaking of Vignir and his life and death. Birsla told them greatly embellished stories of their son's exploits during the great battle. She ended by telling them :
" It would have been a great honor to have been the wife of such a great warrior such as Vignir ! "
The next morning Queen Birsla was summoned to the great hall by the king and queen of Þelamǫrk. The king especially had something to tell the queen of Rogaland. The queen did not come to their court alone. She arrived flanked by Vetr, Nafni, Vatnarr and Adisa .
The king greeted them all warmly before speaking.
" My wife and I will always see you as our daughter, and we of course will honor our alliance with Rogaland despite my son's unfortunate death. " he told Birsla.
" Have you thought of what to do with Hordaland yet ? " the king then asked.
Queen Birsla grinned a little as she answered.
" I have decided to install Vetr as the Jarl of Hordaland, and feel it would be only right and proper to back up his right to rule with the might of the allied armies of both Rogaland and Þelamǫrk. " she explained to King Reifnir.
The king of Þelamǫrk was a little shocked by her proposal, but without a significant military presence to back him he agreed to the Rogaland queen's suggestion. Besides, Vetr's authority would be backed by both kingdoms, and therfore it seemed like a legitimate plan.
When their meeting ended Queen Birsla told Vetr she would stay for the funeral, but that he should leave immediately for Avaldsnes with the shield maidens.
" Pick up your wife and take her with you to Hordaland, Jarl Vetr ! " she told him with a smile.
Vetr was about to mount his horse and leave when he turned to face the queen to ask a question.
" My queen ! Why did you choose me and not Ragnvaldr as Jarl of Hordaland ? " Vetr asked.
Queen Birsla smiled at her former Hirdman.
" Because my old friend, you are more efficient as an administrator, and work better with people than Ragnvaldr ever would. But do not think too highly of yourself Vetr. Ragnvaldr is the best military commander in all of southern Norway, and in that position he is indispensable to me ! " she told him.
" You are an amazing person Queen Birsla ! Strong, wise and independent ! I am honored to serve you in whatever capacity you need from me ! " he told her proudly.
Queen Birsla laughed.
" And I am honored that you think that I am an amazing person, and not just an amazing woman ! " she replied gratefully.
Then she added with a hint of urgency :
" Now you must leave and stabilize Hordaland. Under your fair rule I know that I will always have a friend on my northern border. " she told him.
Then she laughed.
" You and Brettifa had better visit often .... and that is an order ! "
Once they reached Rogaland Adisa sent a shield maiden ahead on a fast horse to tell Brettifa that Jarl Vetr of Hordaland was on his way, and would soon be there. The courier arrived with the message long before Vetr and his army reached the great hall. Brettifa was overwhelmed by such wonderful news and despite Gulla trying to quiet her mistress she could not stop her from continuously crying tears of joy.
The next morning, after a sleepless night, Brettifa went and stood outside of the great hall to wait for her husband's return . She stood patiently for hours in the cold air refusing food, and only drinking some water from time to time at Gulla's urging. And she was still there even as darkness began to fall over Avaldsnes.
When Mani peeked over the trees Brettifa heard a rumble coming from the east. She could tell by the sound that it was a great number of horses. She did not allow herself to run in that direction, but she found herself walking toward the rumble of the hoof beats as if they were calling to her.
Brettifa broke down and cried as soon as she saw Vetr proudly riding at the head of a column of warriors . In the dim light of Mani's glow Vetr could just make out what appeared to be his wife coming towards him. The moment he was sure it was Brettifa he sank his spurs into his horse's belly, and galloped ahead of the column. When he felt he had come close enough he jumped off of his horse and ran into her arms. He picked up his wife and twirled her around as they looked into each other's eyes. Then they hugged each other as if they would never let go !
" I have missed you so much ! " he whispered into her ear.
Brettifa smiled despite her red tearful eyes.
" We have missed you also, Jarl Vetr of Hordaland. " she replied as she stepped back, and rubbed her belly.
Vetr looked confused as she smiled from ear to ear back at him.
" We ? " Vetr asked with a deep frown on his face.
" Brettifa took her husband's hand and placed it on her belly.
" I am with child ! " she told her husband .
Vetr, who had seen nothing but horrible things over the past week, dropped to his knees and placed his cheek up against his wife's stomach. After all of the death he had been a part of on the battlefield in Hordaland, it was comforting to know that he had also created life as well !
" I have never been happier in all my life than I am at this moment ! " he shouted joyously to his wife.
- The End
- Next : Gullveig : Friend Of Wicked Women
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2016.