King Alfred's Viking

King Alfred's Viking

by Charles W. Whistler
     
 

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Chapter I. The Seeking of Sword Helmbiter.


Men call me "King Alfred's Viking," and I think that I may be proud
of that name; for surely to be trusted by such a king is honour
enough for any man, whether freeman or thrall, noble or churl.
Maybe I had rather be called by that name than by that which was
mine when I came to England, though

Overview

Chapter I. The Seeking of Sword Helmbiter.


Men call me "King Alfred's Viking," and I think that I may be proud
of that name; for surely to be trusted by such a king is honour
enough for any man, whether freeman or thrall, noble or churl.
Maybe I had rather be called by that name than by that which was
mine when I came to England, though it was a good title enough that
men gave me, if it meant less than it seemed. For being the son of
Vemund, king of Southmereland in Norway, I was hailed as king when
first I took command of a ship of my own. Sea king, therefore, was
I, Ranald Vemundsson, but my kingdom was but over ship and men, the
circle of wide sea round me was nought that I could rule over, if I
might seem to conquer the waves by the kingship of good seaman's
craft.

One may ask how I came to lose my father's kingdom, which should
have been mine, and at last to be content with a simple English
earldom; or how it was that a viking could be useful to Alfred, the
wise king. So I will tell the first at once, and the rest may be
learned from what comes after.

If one speaks to me of Norway, straightway into my mind comes the
remembrance of the glare of a burning hall, of the shouts of savage
warriors, and of the cries of the womenfolk, among whom I, a
ten-year-old boy, was when Harald Fairhair sent the great Jarl
Rognvald and his men to make an end of Vemund, my father. For
Harald had sworn a great oath to subdue all the lesser kings in the
land and rule there alone, like Gorm in Denmark and Eirik in
Sweden. So my father's turn came, and as he feasted with his ninety
stout courtmen, the jarl landed under cover of the dark and fell on
him, surrounding the house and firing it. Then was fierce fighting
as my father and his men sallied again and again from the doors and
were driven back, until the high roof fell in and there was a
sudden silence, and an end.

Then in the silence came my mother's voice from where she stood on
the balcony of the living house across the garth {i}. I mind
that she neither wept nor shrieked as did the women round her, and
her voice was clear and strong over the roaring of the flames. I
mind, too, the flash of helms and armour as every man turned to
look on her who spoke.

"Coward and nidring art thou, Rognvald, who dared not meet Vemund,
my husband, in open field, but must slay him thus. Ill may all
things go with thee, till thou knowest what a burning hall is like
for thyself. I rede thee to the open hillside ever, rather than
come beneath a roof; for as thou hast wrought this night, so shall
others do to thee."

Then rose a growl of wrath from Rognvald's men, but the great Jarl
bade them cease, and harm none in all the place. So he went down to
his ships with no more words and men said that he was ill at ease
and little content, for he had lost as many men as he had slain, so
stoutly fought my father and our courtmen, and had earned a curse,
moreover, which would make his nights uneasy for long enough.

Then as he went my mother bade me look well at him, that in days to
come I might know on whom to avenge my father's death. After that
she went to her own lands in the south, for she was a jarl's
daughter, and very rich.

Not long thereafter Harald Fairhair won all the land, and then
began the trouble of ruling it; and men began to leave Norway
because of the new laws, which seemed hard on them, though they
were good enough.

Now two of Jarl Rognvald's sons had been good friends of my father
before these troubles began, and one, Sigurd, had been lord over
the Orkney Islands, and had died there. The other, Jarl Einar, fell
out with Rognvald, his father, and we heard that he would take to
the viking path, and go to the Orkneys, to win back the jarldom
that Sigurd's death had left as a prey to masterless men and
pirates of all sorts. So my mother took me to him, and asked him
for the sake of old friendship to give me a place in his ship; for
I was fourteen now, and well able to handle weapons, being strong
and tall for my age, as were many of the sons of the old kingly
stocks.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
2940013787889
Publisher:
SAP
Publication date:
12/06/2011
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
185 KB

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