He could only speak in whispers,
His journey had been long and hard;
His horse was taken down by wolves,
In the forest of Thorlaard.
The snow cut deep into his clothes,
And the frost had chewed his skin;
How he made it here, was a wonder,
A true mark and courage of his kin.
He told us of the treachery,
How Hákon had rebelled;
And now proclaimed that he was Konungr,*
Over all the Northern lands.
He demanded subjugation –
From the Jarls,** and all their wards,
And those that would defy him,
He had put to the sword.
His timing had been perfect,
The sea ice still blocked the fjords,
And the longships had been pulled ashore;
Unprepared for winter war.
But Thórolf, our Jarl,** decided
That we would stand and fight;
All crops and stock were gathered in,
All sentries doubled in the night.
The western mound – our weakest place,
Was reinforced by new felled logs,
Their large branches cut and pointed,
To deter their horse and dogs;
The forge continued day and night,
Hammering out more spears and swords,
While our women streched hard leather,
For body armour, and shield boards.
Their emissary was first to arrive,
And offered life for our parole.
With a swift blow, Orm took his head,
And mounted it high upon a pole.
Then they sent out their slaves,
A ploy to count our bowmen’s place;
But as we killed the bravest runners,
The rest scattered back in place.
Their first attack was fast and mighty,
They came like demons out of Hel,
Even the women had to stand beside us;
In our effort to repel.
Once they breached our eastern side,
But Halfur, filled the space,
Those that died in that deadly tide;
Went to the Gods with no disgrace.
The days rolled into weeks,
The weeks themselves into an abyss,
I lost many friends that winter time,
But Hákon lost more of his.
Our food piles had diminished,
But we still could eat one time a day;
Three mares were sacrificed to Thor,
Then we cut their flesh away.
As the snows began to falter,
Hákon, himself appeared,
Carrying the branch of peace;
I thought, looking older then his years.
He relinquished all his previous claims,
Even gave our Jarl more lands to roam;
And when the treaty feast was over –
He turned and took his army home.
Of course there was a reason,
The sea ice was melting fast;
And he had plans to sail, for slaves and gold,
To be found in the Christian west.
But fate marked, he would not return,
Killed in the savage Celtic lands,
And the winter war, was was long forgotten,
Until written by my hand.
* Konungr / King
** Jarl / Earl
© Fingleton (Mai 2016) (Löst Viking)