King Thorgest : The Life And Death Of A Viking Raider
Unprepared For Battle
The High King of Ireland could not believe what he was seeing ! Hundreds of Vikings were streaming out of the forest as if they were on a pleasant hike in the countryside. At first they seemed completely oblivious to the danger they had walked into, but when they began to run in all directions to form up in battle formation Nialle realized it was time to act. The Irish king raised his hand over his head and shouted over to Bran Mac Faelain to commence the attack.
The much larger Irish army came down upon the unprepared Vikings like a wave crashing upon a shoreline. Raðbarðr and his small division put up a valiant struggle, but they were soon overwhelmed by superior numbers. The commander's last order, before he was struck down, was to a fast rider named Eirik.
" Take my horse and return to King Thorgest as quickly as possible ! Let him know of our dire situation ! Tell him that I will hold off the enemy for as long as I possibly can ! " he shouted above the din of battle.
Eirik did not bother to reply. He simply turned and ran back into the forest, where the horses had been left, like a deer being chased by wolves.
King Thorgest and Albrikt worked feverishly to form up their men into ranks. When this was accomplished the king set his army into motion, and marched his men to the sounds of battle which seemed to echo through the forest as if it were in a canyon. The warriors did not have to be told to keep in formation, or to keep up a quick pace. Each of these Norsemen knew what was at stake, and they all wanted to reach their kinsmen as soon as possible.
Halfway through the forest King Thorgest was met by Eirik who faithfully repeated Raðbarðr's bleak assessment of the situation. While the king and Albrikt listened to what details the messenger could provide the army filed along at a pace that was just under a full run. After completing his duty to Raðbarðr, Eirik bowed to Albrikt and Thorgest, and dismounted before falling into line with the rest of the army.
Nialle Caille, fearing that the small Viking force he had just crushed was part of a much larger army, quickly pulled his warriors back and aligned them at a safe distance from the edge of the forest. To act as lookouts, to warn of another approaching army, the High King of Ireland had several of his warriors climb trees a hundred yards into the woods to keep a sharp eye out for anyone coming their way. It was not long after his army was back in place that the sentinels in the trees heard the cracking of twigs and the rustling of leaves along the forest floor. When they spotted the large force off in the distance they climbed down from their high stations and ran back to inform their king of the approaching enemy.
After King Thorgest and Albrikt rode back to the front of the line they both gave each other a knowing stare. And though they did not speak of it both men could not deny the significance of the dead silence that had replaced the deafening sounds of battle that had previously come from their front. The end of hostilities could only mean one of two things. Either Raðbarðr had defeated the enemy he had engaged, or his army had been wiped out. It was then, and only then, that the king realized that he had failed to ask the messenger if the enemy was the Irish, or his fellow Norsemen.
King Thorgest had his question answered the moment he stepped out into the red hued dusk sky which was exposed the moment he left the woodlands. The King of Dyvlinarskire thought it most appropriate for the sky to be blood red as he looked out over the Plain of Moynith and saw Raðbarðr's division of his army lying dead upon the ground. As Thorgest drew his sword and led his army forward he cursed his wife, and asked Odin, and his son Thor, for their assistance and protection.
Naille Caille could not help but admire the Vikings disregard for their own lives as they rushed forward against an army that extended well past their own flanks. The High King of Ireland waited until the smaller heathen force was fully engaged before giving the order to turn and fold his right and left flanks inward to envelope the enemy. Despite the Vikings who fought like wild animals it was quite clear to Nialle that the setting sun was not merely marking the end of the day, but also the demise of a third Viking army that had dared to invade his lands.
Albrikt was the first to realize that their situation was becoming hopeless. If, and when, the enemy completely encircled their army, and blocked their retreat through the woodlands, they would then have no hope of fleeing and they would all perish here on this their last field of battle. As blood rained down upon the blades of grass on the plain, and formed into thick puddles, Albrikt made a fateful decision. As quickly as he could, while still engaged with the enemy, he slowly worked his way over to King Thorgest and shouted to him what amounted to an order.
" Retreat back to the ships ! I will remain here and keep the enemy from following for as long as I can ! " he instructed the king.
Thorgest, who was covered in the enemy's blood, as well as his own, at first refused to go.
" I will die here with you,..., and we shall together walk through the golden doors of Valhalla ! " he shouted back.
Albrikt gutted an Irishman, and beheaded another to get closer to King Thorgest. Once he reached a point where he was fighting only a few yards from his king he screamed vehemently at him.
" No ! Dyvlinarskire needs its king ! I will not be missed, but without you everything we have fought so hard to attain will be lost ! " he told his stubborn king.
King Thorgest thought on it for only a moment. He saw in his mind's eye his wife Auðr sitting on her high-seat as the sole ruler of Dyvlinarskire, and it sent an angry shiver up his spine. Reluctantly, and with great care, Thorgest began to disengage his division from the rest of the army, and work his way back to the small opening that remained in their rear.
In between doing battle with the Irishmen Albrikt glanced back as the last of Thorgest's men left the plain and disappeared into the woodlands. Moments later he saw the Irish army complete the encirclement of those who remained behind, and he knew that all hope was lost. Instead of being resentful, or angry over the king leaving, a strange calm fell over the Vikings on the Plain of Moynith. Many smiled from ear to ear, while others screamed at the top of their lungs as they attacked with renewed vigor and ferocity.
King Thorgest made his way through the forest as fast as possible. He tried to keep his dignity by making it seem as though they were completing a strategic withdrawal, but in his mind he knew that they were scurrying away like rats from a burning building. With every step they moved further away from the Plain of Moynith the king felt the pangs of shame come over him. He considered turning his army around, and returning to the battle, but he knew it was now much too late to help Albrikt and his warriors. As much as the sounds of clanging swords and the dull thud of steel hitting shields mortified the retreating warriors, it also reassured them that Albrikt was keeping the Irish army occupied on the battlefield and allowing them to escape. When the clatter died in their rear, however, King Thorgest pushed his men faster and faster because he could not be sure whether Albrikt's force had been wiped out or if they were simply too far away to hear the battle any longer.
Albrikt's warriors fought like the demons that the Christians perceived them to be. They made the Irishmen pay for every inch of blood soaked turf that they won. By the time the Norsemen were squeezed from the front and rear, as if they were pinched in the jaws of a vise, the sun had set over the Irish countryside and Mani had risen high into the night sky. With only a few hundred left in his ranks Albrikt and his men gallantly held off the enemy until fatigue slowed their reflexes, and they were finally overwhelmed. After killing three Irishmen in quick succession Albrikt was stabbed in both the back and stomach simultaneously, while a third sword sliced partially through his neck making his head involuntarily tilt to one side. As he fell he tried to cry out to Odin to take him, but only the sound of gurgling blood emanated from his ripped open throat.
" I have died gloriously in battle ! " he thought to himself before his body hit the ground.
Moments later Albrikt's lifeless eyes stared up at Mani's hazy glow. As his mind slowly faded, and before his soul was taken by the Valkyries to the next realm, his last thoughts were of his mother and father, and of his boyhood days back in Møre.
- End Chapter 12
- Next : Chapter 13 : Greed, Sex, And Deceit !
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2018.