Blenda : Sweden's Greatest Heroine
An Army On The Move
As Prince Olof approached Silver Lake, with his army marching dutifully behind him, the prince stopped for a moment, stood up in his stirrups, and looked all around him. Olof was greatly disappointed with what he saw, or to be more precise, the prince was angered by what he did not see. And what was missing from the landscape around the lake were the five hundred or so warriors from Chieftain Guthbrand of Gything's army !
Prince Olof sighed in disbelief.
" In less than the cycle of the moon I have raised an army of two thousand warriors, armed them, and brought them here to the border with Smaland ! But that incompetent Guthbrand has failed me once again. Where in God's name is he ! " the prince shouted loud enough for his voice to echo around the lake.
Skakke, the senior commander of Olof's army, rode up alongside the prince, and looked around for himself.
" What are your orders my Lord ? Shall we proceed across the border into Smaland, or do you wish to wait for Guthbrand ? " he asked.
Olof sat back down in his saddle and sighed again.
" If Guthbrand were not my cousin I would have him hung in the trees for the birds to feast on ! " he told his subordinate.
When the prince saw the look on Skakke's face he realized that he had not answered his commander's question.
" We will camp along the lakeside and wait for my tardy cousin, Skakke ! " he told his subordinate dejectedly.
Skakke bit his lip out of frustration before replying.
" Yes, my Lord ! "
Skakke immediately rode back to his warriors and began to direct each division to a different section of the lakeside where they could set up their camps. Within a short time the sounds of many axes could be heard resounding across the lake as the warriors began to cut down trees for firewood to protect themselves from the cold night of an early spring.
As dusk fell over this northernmost region of Scania laughter and drinking songs could be heard wafting across the lake. In a time of war men more times than not relieved their anxieties and boredom with a gut full of ale and mindless frivolity. For a soldier never knew what the morrow held in store for him.
Prince Olof sat outside of his tent looking up at the stars listening to the variety of melodies, and dirty songs being sung, and wondered how long he would have to wait for Guthbrand to arrive. Time is only the friend of a good commander when it is used wisely, and to waste it here on his own soil was pure folly. But what could he do ? He needed the hundreds of warriors that Guthbrand was bringing to protect his flanks should they unexpectedly meet a Geat army once they crossed over the border. No ! It would be a greater mistake to move forward without the Chieftain of Gything.
The prince was startled back into the moment by the cracking of a twig behind him. Olof reached down for the hilt of his sword, but a quick turn of his head revealed that it was only Skakke who approached , and not any sort of danger.
" Skulking in the shadows is a good way to get yourself killed my old friend ! " the prince said with a smile.
Skakke held up a large container in one hand, and two drinking horns in the other.
" Would you kill the person who brings you the finest of mead ! ? " Skakke asked with a grin.
Prince Olof laughed.
" You are without a doubt the ugliest serving maiden I have ever seen ! "
Skakke turned to leave.
" Then maybe I should go before you kill me ! " he said in a comical female tone.
Prince Olof laughed louder.
" I will kill you only if you do not hurry and pour me a drink ! " he said in mock anger.
Skakke poured the mead into one of the horns and handed it to Olof. He then poured himself a drink and sat down beside the prince.
" How long will we wait for Guthbrand ? " Skakke asked as his friend, and not as his subordinate.
The prince seldom allowed anyone to be this informal with him, but Skakke was truly an old friend. It was Skakke who many years ago taught him the fighting skills of a warrior, and it was this old warrior who had stuck with him through the many battles for succession which took place over the years. Each time a brother, cousin, or one of the local chieftains tried to replace him on Vatland's high - seat, it was his old friend Skakke who was there to protect his back.
Olof patted the old warrior on the shoulder before replying.
" I will wait three days, and if he does not show by then, we will cross the border without my idiot cousin ! " he told Skakke.
The old warrior took a long drink and then pointed a finger in the direction of Smaland.
" Do you really think that King Alle took every able bodied warrior with him when he invaded Norway ? " Skakke asked after a moment of reflection.
Olof took a sip of mead and let it roll around in his mouth before swallowing.
" If it were anyone other than Rikulf who had given this information to me I would have doubted its accuracy. But Rikulf is a fine scout and an experienced warrior. He has a great eye for detail and is not prone to exaggeration. My feeling is that we will meet minimal resistance once we cross the border. " he explained.
Skakke nodded in agreement.
" I too think that Rikulf is a fine warrior, but it all just seems too good to be true. " Skakke replied.
Olof laughed !
" No matter how implausible it may appear to be, we will attack each and every village, kill all the able bodied males, keep the pretty women for ourselves, and round up the children and undesirable women to be sold into slavery. We will conquer Smaland then stop at the border with Ostergotland and Vastergotland. There we will set up defensive perimeters, and await the return of King Alle. " he told his old friend.
Skakke smiled proudly and held his horn high over his head.
" To victory ! " he shouted.
Olof laughed again aa he tapped his horn against Skakke's.
" Onward to victory ! " Skal my old friend !! " the prince shouted happily.
Two days later, as the sun reached it's highest point in the sky, Guthbrand and his raggedy army came lumbering up the path to the lake. Guthbrand received a cold greeting from his cousin the prince, and the chieftain became rather angry when Olof told him that he wanted to break camp and march into Smaland the next day. He tried to persuade his cousin, the prince, that his men were tired and needed at least one full day of rest before moving forward, but the prince would here none of it.
" If you wanted to rest then you should have arrived two days earlier as we did. As things stand we will all be moving out tomorrow ! " he told his cousin in no uncertain terms.
And the next day they did break camp and begin to march across the border into Smaland.
The first village they came to barely resisted at all. When the inhabitants finally realized what was happening they sent out a small detachement of old men, young boys, and a few of the braver women to hold of the Danes. It was a futile act by these Southern Geats and they did nothing more than get themselves killed in quick order.
As word began to spread of the Danish invasion many of the women who had infants fled into the surrounding countryside to escape the onslaught, but most were captured by Danish scouting parties. The prettiest of the women were made to be the camp whores and allowed to ride on carts up with the army while the rest of the captives were tied together and made to walk behind the army. For the moment the would all serve the Danish army, but eventually they would be sold into slavery.
One man who saw the futility of doing battle with the Danes was an old skald named Eirik. Realizing the dire predicament the entire lands of Smaland were in he rode a fast horse to the Konga Harad hoping to see the noblewoman Blenda, who lived in the village of Varnslanda. As he rode north he warned every village and town he passed through along his route in the hope of saving as many of his folk as was humanly possible. Most heeded his warning and burned their crops and destroyed their villages so that they would not fall into the hands of the Danes.
Prince Olof was neither disappointed is discouraged by the empty and burned out villages that he came upon on his way north. He knew that eventually these Geats would run out of places to hide, and with every village the Danes passed through they enlarged the territory that they now occupied, and the Geats were pushed further and further north with less and less land to set up a defense upon. And if it were this easy to conquer these Southern Geats, then possibly, with the help of King Sweyn, they could defeat King Alle and add Ostergotland and Vastergotland as well to their Danish empire !
The rider rode up to Blenda's hall and dismounted from his badly lathered horse as though it were on fire. Panting almost as badly as the horse, he ran to the door of the hall and pounded on it like he was a carpenter hammering in nails.
Blenda put down the wool she had been spinning and quickly moved to the door. When she opened it she saw a haggered looking old man who was clutching his chest. It took her a moment to realize who it was, but when she finally recognized her old friend she shouted in horror :
" Oh, my God ! Eirik, what is wrong !! "
- End Chapter 6
- Next : Chapter 7 : Blenda Rallies The Womenfolk
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ) , © Copyright, 2016.