Seeing Is Believing
So great in fact was King Siggautr's fame that some of the women in the villages he passed through, on the way back to his hall, ran to his side, while he was on horseback, to kiss his hand, give him flowers, or at the very least to touch his leg as he rode by. Some younger women, who were not sure if he was married or single, offered themselves to him while shouting, " I will give you many male heirs ! ", to convince the king of their worth as his queen.
The king's heroic feats spread across Haddingjadalr like a wild fire in a dry season. No one was spared from hearing of his great exploits, from the lowest of serving maidens, to the highest of chieftains, and jarls. People all across his kingdom quickly began to refer to their king as Siggautr the Wise.
One chieftain in particular was intently interested in the outcome of the war between the Hordafylki and Numadalr, and the Haddingjadalr and Sygnafylki. Chieftain Lefvini, upon hearing of King Siggautr's great victory, immediately had Orrusti brought to his great hall. This time, however, he did not wish to demean, or mock, the man who had come to offer his assistance. He still did not completely trust Siggautr's disgraced leader of the guard, but he was willing to give him a chance this time.
" You will take me to Hårteigen mountain to meet this old seer ! " was all Lefvini said to Orrusti before readying himself for the journey.
After a long hard ride Orrusti and Chieftain Lefvini reached the base of the great rock that seemed to float above the plain below like a ship upon an ocean. Lefvini, who had insisted that no one else accompany them, dismounted and pointed to a well worn path between the rocks that appeared to be the way to the top.
" Because you have been here before, I insist that you lead ! " he told Orrusti.
The former leader of the king's guard found it much easier to make his way up the mountain in daylight than he had weeks before under the cloak of darkness. Orrusti, who had left his sword on his saddle below, found it much quicker to climb the steeper sections than did Chieftain Lefvini, who not only carried his sword on his belt, but also a heavy axe as well on the other side of his hip.
Orrusti could hear Lefvini huffing and puffing as they made their way to the top of the mountain. Occasionally he would yell back encouragement to the much larger man who seemed to be struggling with the ascent.
" Not much further now ! " he would shout out or, " We are almost there ! " were two of his favorite ways to make the chieftain feel that they had almost reached the cave.
As Orrusti reached up with his hands to pull himself up onto the final ledge, where the mouth of they cave sat, he noticed a woman wearing a typical Norse dress waiting for him. The garment was a dull wheat color, and looked as though it had been washed far too many times. The woman wearing the dress, who stared down at him, however, had pretty clean hair, and a wonderfully welcoming smile upon her face.
" Welcome ! I am Kjallandi ! " the woman greeted him warmly.
Orrusti pulled himself over the ledge and nodded to the woman standing before him who possessed a great natural beauty.
" Hello ! And I am Orrusti ! You seem almost as though you were expecting us . " he told her in a kind tone as he became lost in her blue eyes.
The pleasant moment was broken when Chieftain Lefvini shouted from just below the ledge.
" If you are quite done there, I could use a hand getting up to you ! " he said in a sarcastic tone.
Orrusti smiled at Kjallandi before turning and bending down to help the much bigger, and older, warrior over the edge of the cliff. After the the chieftain struggled to get up onto the ledge, he brushed himself off as he carefully studied the woman without saying a word.
Kjallandi broke the silence as she welcomed the newcomer.
" Greetings ! I am Kjallandi, and my mother, the seer Grottintanna, has been expecting you. " she told the large man who towered over her.
As the blonde-haired beauty guided them into the cave Chieftain Lefvini turned to Orrusti and whispered in a hoarse voice.
" Well, you were right about there being people living in a cave on this rock, but this does not prove that this woman can predict the future ! " he said skeptically.
Orrusti turned to Lefvini and whispered back.
" I tell you this old crone, the one you are about to meet, told King Siggautr how to conduct the war against King Raggi of Hordafylki. And you know how that turned out ! " he assured the chieftain.
Lefvini was about to dispute this statement when a gravelly voice spoke.
" Welcome to my humble abode my good friends. " it told them.
When the chieftain's eyes finally became acclimated to the low light of the flickering torches, he saw before him a wrinkly old hag who looked much older than any woman he had ever seen before.
" I take it that you are the great seer who can predict the future ? " he asked in a tone that befitted his confusion.
Grottintanna's lips angrily clamped together for a moment before she allowed them to answer.
" Many have come here their first time with doubts, but none have ever returned with anything but praise for my abilities. " she assured the warrior.
The chieftain laughed.
" Then,...., tell me who I am ? " he asked.
Without any show of emotion the seer answered him.
" You are Lefvini, the chieftain of Hagafoss. The purpose of your visit is to become as good a raider as was your father Ragnbjorn. " she replied.
The chieftain narrowed his eyes as a frown furrowed his brow.
" Well,..., that is common knowledge. How do I know that Orrusti did not tell you that days ago ?! " he asked skeptically.
Orrusti peered over at Kjallandi with an embarrassed look on his face. He was about to defend the witch when the seer moved to confront Lefvini.
Grottintanna took several steps forward, stopping just a few feet from the warrior. She raised her head to look up into the larger man's eyes, and then she responded with a cackling laugh. When the seer had gained control of herself again she replied bitterly to the warrior's accusations.
" This man who came with you was here but once before. And he was not a guest at that time, but was in truth spying on King Siggautr and never entered my abode. He and I have never spoken to one another. " she told the chieftain.
The chieftain was tempted to leave the cave and forget all about this craziness, but something deep inside the old hag's eyes made him stay and ask another question.
" If you are this great witch, who can see the future, then tell me where I can go to raid where there is gold and silver in plentiful amounts ? " he asked.
Grottintanna turned her back to the chieftain.
" That will cost you ten gold coins. " she demanded.
Lefvini tapped his finger angrily on his money pouch many times before replying.
" That is a lot of gold for the mere hope of success ! " he blurted out angrily.
Grottintanna quickly spun around and pointed a crooked arthritic finger at the warrior.
" The gold you will plunder when, and if, I tell you where to go a viking, will fill many chests and make you a wealthy, and powerful man. " she told him bluntly in return.
Orrusti finally found the courage to confront the chieftain and weighed in with his opinion.
" Is that not worth ten gold coins ? " he asked in a loud whisper.
Chieftain Lefvini exhaled and with a grimace carved upon his face responded.
" Very well ! I will pay your price,...., but I tell you now Orrusti, your life hangs in the balance ! " he warned.
Lefvini walked over to the table, opened up his pouch, and slowly took out ten coins, which he then threw onto the table.
" There ! The price is paid ! " he said angrily.
Grottintanna walked over to the fire and looked deep into the flames. She studied them closely for a moment before going into a trance.
" You, Lefvini of Hagafoss, have for years been raiding here in the Northlands. Attacking farming villages, and an occasional small town. Here you have had to face the local chieftains, with their powerful armies, for little gain and much bloodshed. But there are places outside of the Northlands where the gold is plentiful and guarded lightly. " she told him.
Chieftain Lefvini walked over to the fire and placed his large hands upon Grottintanna's frail shoulders.
" And where might this great land of wealth be ? " he inquired.
The spell now broken by his touch, Grottintanna looked away from the fire, turned and gazed up into the chieftain's eyes.
" A few years ago a group of raiders went to the Isle of Britain and raided a Christian monastery at a place called Lindisfarne. There they found little resistance and much to plunder. Build ships and go to this land of gold, and you will make your fortune at their expense. " she assured him.
Lefvini placed a finger under her chin and lifted it higher.
" Give me a name for the place I should plunder ! " he demanded.
Grottintanna diverted her eyes as she replied.
" It is called the Iona Abbey, and it is on the far side of Britain. " she told him reluctantly.
Chieftain Lefvini patted the old woman on the head as if she were a dog.
" Then I will take my leave of you . For I have much to plan . " he told her.
Before leaving he nodded a goodbye to Kjallandi, and shouted to Orrusti .
" Come Orrusti ! Show me how to get down off of this damn rock ! "
Kjallandi walked slowly over to her distraught mother, and placed her arms around her.
" What vexes you so mother ? " she asked.
Grottintanna held her daughter tight.
" Sixty - eight souls will die next year because of me ! " she replied sadly.
Kjallandi kissed her mother on the cheek to console her.
" It would have happened if you had told him or not. Those monks were fated for death. Only the names of the raiders would have been different. " she assured her mother.
- End Chapter 5
- Next : Chapter 6 : The Navigator
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2018.