King Blot - Sweyn :
The Last Royal Sacrificer
The Beginning Of The End
As the sun's light began to fade from the sky Anund peeked out of the doors of the hall, much the way a nervous ground hog peeks out of its hole before emerging. The skald was surprised at how quiet it was, and he was relieved that the fighting had ended for the day. Anund was surveying the awful carnage when he spotted King Blot - Sweyn talking to several of his commanders. The little skald stayed in the shadows of the forest as he slowly worked his way around to them. When he was close enough to hear what was being said he hid behind a large oak tree and listened intently to their conversation. What he heard dismayed Anund greatly.
King Blot - Sweyn told his young son to ride to Gastrikland, and bring back Steinkel, and the rest of his army. He also told Eirik to take his mother with him and keep her out of harms way. Then Anund heard the Heathen king call over another warrior, a man named Thjof, and he overheard them speaking of going to Sweyn' s house, with the rest of the commanders, to discuss the strategy for the battle that was sure to begin again tomorrow at first light. As Eirik mounted his horse and rode away he heard King Blot - Sweyn shout to his guards to keep up a diligent watch for any of the enemy who might try to infiltrate their camp.
Anund was surprised that the king would go to his house which was away from the battlefield, instead of holding their meeting at the great feasting hall near the temple. When the skald saw the wounded being carried into the great hall, however, he understood why the king would not want to meet there, among the injured and dying.
The little skald - spy, keeping himself hidden in the deepening shadows, followed the Heathens to make certain that they were actually going to Sweyn' s home. When Anund witnessed for himself all of the commanders entering the king' s house, he quickly went back to the battlefield.
Using a very circuitous route the little spy came up behind the Christians camp. He knew that what he was about to do was extremely risky, but he felt he had no choice. He had to warn King Inge that a messenger had been sent to Gastrikland to bring back the rest of the Heathen army. When Anund spotted a sentry off in the distance he swallowed hard, then rose up and called to the guard.
Ansgar hated guard duty, but he was glad that he was given the first watch. Everything seemed so quiet after the very loud, and extremely bloody fighting that had taken place earlier that day. In the camp there was only the low murmuring of conversation, competing with the constant chirping of crickets. If not for the occasional outcry from a warrior who had been left on the battlefield in between the two lines, it would have been very peaceful indeed.
Ansgar froze when he heard rustling sounds off to his left. At first he simply dismissed it as a small animal moving through the underbrush. The warrior quickly drew his sword, however, when a branch cracked about twenty steps in front of him at the edge of a stand of trees. With eyes straining, and nerves on edge, Ansgar thought he saw something large move in the brush.
Suddenly, a man jumped up like a rabbit hopping in a field ! It took the tired sentry a moment to compose himself before he reacted. In one quick motion the warrior pulled his shield off of his back and called out.
" Come out into the moonlight little man ! " he shouted to the intruder.
The man outstretched his hands to show that he was unarmed, and then nodded a greeting.
" I am Anund, and I need to speak to King Inge at once ! " he told the nervous guard.
Ansgar slowly walked over to the man and placed the point of his sword up against his throat.
" Do you think me a complete fool you wretched little creature ! " he shouted at the intruder. " Why would I take a complete stranger to see the King of Sweden ? ! " he then asked.
Before Anund could reply he saw a familiar face coming toward them from the camp. The little skald smiled as the warrior spun around to see who else dared to invade his post on this night. As Ansgar turned he pointed his sword in the direction of the approaching man and made ready to attack.
" Sheath that weapon warrior ! " Halsten commanded the guard.
Ansgar immediately placed his sword back into its scabbard, and bowed his head.
" I am sorry my lord, but I have captured an intruder, and I thought you to be another. " he told King Inge's second in command.
Halsten gave the warrior a sour look and pushed him out of the way. He walked over to Anund, and placed his hand on the little skald's shoulder.
" You must have important information to risk coming to our camp at this time of the night. " he told the little spy.
Anund gave the commander a sly grin.
" What I know could place King Inge back on the throne of Sweden ! But we must act fast ! " he replied urgently.
Halsten nodded, and then turned quickly back towards the camp.
" Follow me ! I will take you to King Inge at once ! " Halsten told the skald.
As Ansgar watched them enter the camp he placed his shield on the ground, and wiped his brow.
" Why do these things always happen on my watch ? ! " he asked himself.
Halsten threw open the flap to the king's tent, and entered unannounced.
" I am sorry for the intrusion my lord, but Anund is here with what he deems as very important information for you." he explained.
King Inge was sitting, sipping ale with his shirt off, and his feet were resting on a barrel, when Halsten burst in.
" I will be the judge of that ! " King Inge told his subordinate as Halsten walked over by his side.
Anund bowed his head out of respect before speaking.
" King Blot - Sweyn, and all of his commanders, are at the king's house, not far from here, and I believe that they will be spending the night there. " Anund told the king.
King Inge smiled. " And you would have me burn King Sweyn alive in his house instead of defeating him on the field of battle honorably ? " King Inge asked.
Anund did not respond to the king's sarcastic question.
" KIng Blot - Sweyn's son Eirik has gone to Gastrikland to bring back Steinkell with the rest of the Heathen army. I estimate that Steinkell will arrive here around noon tomorrow, and I believe that they will overwhelm your small force and destroy your army ! " he told the king with an edge of bitterness.
King Inge nodded and then looked over at Halsten.
" I want fifty of our best warriors out in front of my tent as quickly as possible. Have all of them carry torches, but only light a few of them ! " he told his second in command.
Halsten ran out of the tent and began to bark out orders in all directions. Within moments the camp became a mass of activity. Anund and the king stared at each other for a moment as they listened to the sound outside the tent growing in intensity.
The king then rose up from his comfortable seat and quietly dressed in his battle armor. After he strapped on his sword he walked over to Anund, and patted him on the shoulder.
" Because of you my little friend tonight is the beginning of the end of the reign of these evil Heathens ! " he told Anund with a grateful smile.
- End of chapter 8
- Next Chapter 9 : A Slow Death
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2015.