Viking Blood 3: Revenge (E-book)
Publishing House MARI’
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Hauge aim at the animal’s shoulder holds his breath – and releases the arrow. But just then the scared animal jumps off, the arrow stuck in a hind leg.
Four years have passed and Hauge’s mother Aasa has married Sven, hoping to help him become a better chieftain.
The dumb thrall girl, Astrid, gives birth in secrecy to a stillborn child. Hauge is shaken when he learns who the father of the child is.
The men travel to the winter markets in Skiringssal where many a good deal is done.
Once again Hauge meets his friend Hannibal. But on their way home they are brutally attacked and many die; among them, Sven.
Hauge is made chieftain and can finally avenge his father.
But who is the young beautiful girl, Edwina, who was enslaved on a raid in England?
The book has an appealing, colour illustrated cover. Can be read from about 10 years.”
“… It is a very dramatic tale with rather a lot of mortality but the reader gets plenty of information about the era into the bargain.”
So Odin sent for his two ravens, Hugin and Munin. He bade them keep a proper lookout in Styrbjorn’s village.
The ravens then flew close to the roofs. They rested in the trees or dived for cover amid the cliffs above the village. All the while, they listened and watched.
When they finally returned to Odin, they reported about life in the small village:
The humans now lived peacefully, and most of them had almost forgotten the gruesome raid on their village seven years ago. Back then, when the chieftain Styrbjorn and so many others were killed. But now Styrbjorn’s brother, Sven, controls the village with an iron fist. In summertime many of the men now travels to foreign coasts, and return with many a good tale and traded goods; all to the delight of everyone in the village.
“Is that all?” Odin asked grumpily. “It sounds as if everything is as it should be. Then why are they sending me these strange offerings?”
The ravens looked at each other, and stared at the ground abashed. They weren’t quite sure. But here and there strange talk was heard at night in Styrbjorn’s village: Whispered, secretive words; Hard to hear, hard to grasp.
“You must have heard something!” Odin exclaimed angrily, his patience nearly worn out.
“Revenge-talk, we heard! Revenge whispered, revenge spoken!” The ravens cawed in unison and shaking their wings.
“Ahaa! I see, I see,” Odin exclaimed. “That’s how it is! Well! About time, isn’t it?”
After pondering lengthily he asked how Styrbjorn’s son, young Hauge was faring.
And Hugin and Munin told him that Hauge was now a grown man. Nineteen summers. Strong and good at many tasks. Wooed and chased by the girls, too, and envied by the men.
“Hunted? And a hunter! A real hunter, Hauge is,” Odin mumbled to himself. “Let’s see what he can hunt…”
1. The Game
Hauge draws his bow and aim at the big moose. The ice cold air makes his breath come out like clouds. This beast may better not escape! At last they are going to have some proper meat. Even at the recent Yule sacrifice they’d had nothing to offer the Gods but a goat. Their winter supplies had run out much too soon. But then there hadn’t been a great deal of order at the slaughter this last fall, either.
Hauge aims at the animal’s shoulder; holds his breath – and releases the arrow.
But just then the scared animal jumps off, the arrow stuck in a hind leg.
“He’s hit! Get him!” Hauge yells at the others.
The wounded moose sprints through the trees, followed by a tail of hunters and dogs. Tracing its tracks in the deep, soft snow is easy.
Hauge stops. There’s something familiar about this place. The tall trees – the uneven, steep cliffs, and the way the yells of the hunting men is thrown back and forth between them.
He’s been here before. But when? It must have been a long time ago.
The men’s yells fade away into the thicket. Then, another sound catches his attention: a strange, moaning grunt. As if it comes from a wounded animal. But it can’t be the moose! It ran the otherway.
Carefully he follows the sound, and suddenly finds himself in a long, narrow ravine, running deep into the mountain.
The ravine! Someone humming…
This was where he’d found his mother back then. That time – seven years ago, when his father was killed fighting Haakon. Right after it she wasn’t herself. But, luckily she soon recovered; thanks to Hannibal – and his herbs.
It’s been four years since he last saw Hannibal. When, disguised as a trader, he left the village on one of the foreign ships. Otherwise Sven would have killed him. After all, he’d been convinced that Hannibal had betrayed them, although it was the other monk, Peter, who’d revealed their plan to Haakon. Hauge smiles at the thought of how Haakon had chopped Peter’s head off. He would have liked to have done it himself! But then his own worst enemy had taken care of that for him!
And shortly after this his mother had married Sven. She needed a husband, people said.
About a month after the big wedding party, Hauge experienced something weird. He had gone up to Lauge Longsight at his watch. From up there he saw his mother walk up to the burial mound. She was on her own. Not even accompanied by a thrall-girl. Hauge went down to talk to her. But she didn’t see him. She was sitting, bent over Styrbjorn’s grave.
Hauge couldn’t avoid hearing what she was saying.
“We had a good life together, Styrbjorn. You were a good chieftain, and a good father to Hauge. I’m sure you would have trained him to follow in your footsteps if Haakon hadn’t killed you.” Aasa drew in her breath heavily. Then she continued: “I hope you understand that I had to marry your brother. Sven has been a great help. Especially in the rebuild of the village, and it was natural that he became Chieftain after you, since Hauge was so young. Sven is a good trader, they say, and a good navigator, who can find his way across the sea. But he’s a hard master, and not very good at managing things at home.”
Aasa straightened herself a bit, looked at the mound, then back at the great memorial stone with the runes. The runes Lauge had burned, and which meant: “Hauge set this stone for Styrbjorn his father.”
Aasa continued in a low tone: “I have learned a lot from you, Styrbjorn. That’s why I might be able to help Sven turn into a great Chieftain; which is why I married him. Now you know, Styrbjorn.”
She placed both her hands on the burial mound, and then whispered something. Hauge was very surprised when she turned and looked at him directly. Then she said: “Now you know it too, Hauge!” Then she turned around and walked away.
3. Sounds in the Mountain
Everything is very quiet now. The moans and grunts have stopped. Maybe he was imagining things? Hauge doesn’t want to go any further into the dark ravine, why he turns around to walk back in search of the other hunters.
Right then he hears something anew. Not a moan, nor a grunt, but someone who is breathing, slowly and exhausted. It doesn’t sound like an animal.
“Who’s there?” he asks into the darkness. But no one answers. He then approaches, slowly, clutching his knife, just in case…
In the darkness a pair of wide open,terrified eyes stare at him.
“Astrid!” he exclaims surprised, when he recognises the mute thrall-girl. “What are you doing out here?” Then he sees the tiny, lifeless body next to the girl.
4. Secret Birth
“What have you done, Astrid?”
He hasn’t seen her for a while. It’s been so long, apparently, that he had no idea she was with child. And now she’s given birth to a baby. In secret! And then killed it! The thralls do that quite often, he knows, especially, if the father is a free married man. Then the child has very little chance of surviving, anyway, and none at all, if it’s a girl.
But Astrid just stares at him in astrange way, shaking from the cold.
“Did you kill the child?” He now sees that she’s had a boy.
Astrid shakes her head. Then she shows him with her hands, how she gave birth to him, and tried to make him breathe. But he had just been there, stillborn, between her legs.
“Come!” Hauge says, lifting the tiny, limp body into his arms. “We need to bury the child in the burial place. Then you can go home to Sigrid and recover.”
But Astrid struggles back up on her feet, clearly in pain, and takes the dead child from him. She shakes her head anxiously.
“You don’t want him buried in the burial place – with all the others?”
She points out between the trees, trying to explain to him that they simply need to bury the boy, somewhere in the forest.
Hauge looks at her searchingly. So, nobody needs to know she gave birth to that child. It has to disappear. Apparently, that seems to be her wish.
Without further ado he helps her out of there, and together they find a place where the child can lie in peace; with no one else knowing of it.
Just as they have covered the tiny grave with stones, they hear a group of noisy men approaching. It’s the hunters on their way back. They sound happy and excited. They must have caught the wounded animal then.
“Come Astrid! We have to get out of here!” Hauge says, as he pulls the exhausted girl away.
5. The Spirits
After they have avoided the noisy hunters Astrid suddenly freezes. Straight ahead is the big burial mound, Styrbjorn’s grave, which is formed like the ship he has sailed to Valhalla in. And, high above the mound, Lauge and Torleif are sitting on the ledge. Lauge is teaching his brother how to become a lookout.
“Hey Hauge!” Torleif yells down at him. “Good hunt, huh?”
Hauge just waves at them, and then looks for Astrid. But she has dragged herself back behind the trees. Hopefully they haven’t seen her.
“I have to go help the others with the animal,” he yells, and hurries away from the burial mound.
Astrid is so weak that she has collapsed in the snow beneath some bushes.
“Why were you so scared back there?” he asks, squatting next to her.
She makes some curious movements with her arms. Floating, ghost-like – then points to the burial mound.
“Are there – spirits?” he asks hesitantly.
She nods; points towards the mound again, then at him.
“Does it have something to do with me?”
She nods again.
“Is it something with my father – Styrbjorn? Is he the spirit?”
She nods, frightened.
Hauge has heard some whispering about strange noises around the mound at night. But he hasn’t paid much attention. His father has left the burial mound a long time ago. Now he is well entertained sitting amongst the Aesir Gods in Valhalla; where the brave warriors tell mighty tales of their heroics to each other, and, to the Gods.
Why would Styrbjorn return? The dead only haunt you if they’re unsatisfied with something, or if they haven’t been buried properly. True enough, they hadn’t been able to give him as many burial gifts as they ought to. He was buried like a Chieftain should be, though.
Unsatisfied? What is he supposed to be unsatisfied about? If it had something to do with him, his son – then, surely, Styrbjorn himself would have given him a sign?
Apparently, the mute thrall-girl knows more, why he keeps asking her, until he finally grasps what she means.
Hearsay has it that Styrbjorn is unhappy with the way Sven rules. He lends too much ear to Vagn. And he’s too harsh on the peasants. That’s why there’s unrest around the burial mound at night.
“Is he angry with my mother because she has married Sven, too?”
Astrid shakes her head. Styrbjorn isn’t angry with that. She looks at him thoughtfully. As if she’s considering something. Then she points at herself,at her stomach.
“What does that have to do with this?” he asks, wondering.
Once more she points at her stomach, looking pointedly at him again. Then she pretends to cuddle a small baby in her arms, tears running down her cheeks, and Hauge suddenly understands what she’s trying to tell him.
“Is… ? Is Sven the father of your dead child?”
6. Meeting with the Spirits
Feeling someone touching him, Hauge wakes up in the middle of the night. He reaches for his knife, which is always by his side. But then his wrists are held down by a pair of strong arms. He can’t move!
“Hauge, dammit! It’s me!” a voice whispers in the darkness. When he stops resisting, the grip is loosened. And the voice continues: “Grab your fur coat and warm boots, and then follow me!”
Then Hauge recognises the voice. It’s Lauge.
“You’re living life dangerously, Lauge Longsight,” Hauge whispers once they’re outside. “I could have killed you!”
“Oh, you could, could you? You’re wielding a knife with your toes?” Lauge laughs quietly and starts walking. “But I had to do it this way, you see. We wouldn’t want to wake up the wrong people, would we?”
“What do you mean? Why?” Hauge asks confused.
“Someone wants to talk to you!” Lauge says and wanders through the snow drifts towards the mountain.
Hauge stops at the big burial mound. Behind the snow-covered hill there’s a strange, eerie glow. And low mumbling voices! So, it was right – what Astrid had said. And now it seems Styrbjorn has sent Lauge for him. He follows Lauge, hesitantly, to the other side of the mound.
But Lauge continues past the mound – and into the bushes behind it, the snow crackling beneath their boots. A little later, in the dim glow of a very small fire, he recognizes the ‘spirits’! They are some of the village’s men, sitting around the fire.
Once Hauge is seated in the circle – next to Lauge, one of the men speaks up. It’s Erik, the most respected of the peasants.
“We have summoned you, Hauge, because we want to discuss something with you. As you know, we were very satisfied with your father as our Chieftain. But when your uncle took over, it took a wrong turn. Not to begin with, of course, while we were busy rebuilding. He’s good at organizing things like that. And so is Vagn. They’re both skilled when at sea, too, and when there’s trading to be done. This is probably why we have endured them this long. However, we don’t find Sven a good Chieftain when it comes to running the village. For one thing, it’s his fault that we don’t have enough food this winter. He didn’t make sure that enough animals were slaughtered in the fall. He thought they would manage during the winter. But now a lot of them have perished in the cold. And he hasn’t even realised that we need more farm land because of our growing numbers. We should have cleared more land in time. Then we would be able to cultivate it in the spring.”
Erik pauses, looking around in the circle. There is an approving mumble from the gathered men.
Then he continues: “we don’t understand why Sven isn’t doing anything about Haakon. Apparently, he’s more into mead drinking – with Vagn. Well – we wanted to tell it to you straight out: We want you as our Chieftain instead of Sven.”
Silence falls around the fire. All eyes rest expectantly on Hauge. Lauge jabs him with his elbow and chuckles.
Finally Hauge says: “Uhm… Well I’m happy for your support, of course. And I want you to know that if you hadn’t asked me, I would have acted on it myself, too. For the exact same reasons you have given me. And I agree with you. It is time to do something about Haakon. I’ve said as much to both Sven and Vagn. But they don’t think we are ready and have equipment enough for it yet.” He looks at the men and continues: “Still, I need some time to think of how best to act. After all, my mother is married to him!”
The men seem somewhat dissatisfied. Apparently they want something to be done now. But Hauge knows them well enough to know what it takes: Something has to happen. Why he says: “But we are short of all kinds of food. I suggest that we gather all the skins and whetstones we have left. We might even be able to find some soapstone bowls. And then we’ll go to the winter market in Skiringssal.”
7. The Journey to Skiringssal
They have camped by the river. That way, both men and horses can get something to eat, drink, and have a rest, before they continue along the snow-covered riverbank. The sleds are heavily loaded. So, even though the horses are newly shoed, with spiked shoes to help them keep their balance, they have to work hard to make their way. In many places the snow is piled high, in huge, deep heaps, which are hard to get through, especially with the heavy wagon.
“Come, come, quick now!” Sven yells to the men. “We’d better come a good while further ahead before darkness falls.”
Hauge is looking forward to be back in Skiringssal – in a couple of days. It’s been more than a year since he has been there. Then the great marketplace had been a lively place to visit.
Sven insisted on heading the journey, even though Aasa had wanted him to stay at home taking care of the daily work. However, this she could easily be in charge of, according to Sven. Besides, they wouldn’t be gone for long. So that is how it was settled.
Hauge too, would rather have been without Sven. He knows from earlier travels that Sven is easily roused and gets into trouble. Besides, on several occasions he and Vagn has gambled and, in just one night, lost all their profits.
On the other hand, Sven is probably the best when it comes to negotiate the best price for their goods. He is a tough trader, and is especially skilled at making good money on thralls. And, since they don’t have a lot to sell, otherwise, they’ve brought five young, strong thralls along.
“Move on!” Sven yells, and soon the caravan of horses, sleds, wagons, and skiing men moves slowly along the riverbed. The sun is low in the sky and it won’t be long before it disappears behind the mountains. Then it will grow very, very cold.
The river winds its way through the valley in broad, soft curves. At some point the group takes a shortcut through the bushes. As they approach the river again, Sven signals them to stop.
“Why do we stop here?” Hauge asks, confused. It’s a bit early to make camp, But Sven hushes him – and points ahead. Through the branches and bushes Hauge catches sight of movements. He can hear talking, too. One has to be careful in a wild, unfamiliar landscape. There might be both woodland creatures and lawless men wandering about.
Sven sends Lauge ahead to see who it is. He is not away for long.
“It is some other travellers who are camping by the river,” he says. “I would think they’d like some company by their fire.”
A little later they’re sitting together with the strangers around the fire. They’ve erected their tents, and had a solid meal consisting of bread and dried meat. Afterwards they exchange news from their homesteads, and tell stories from their travels.
The strangers come from further up north. They carry a lot of reindeer furs and antlers which they want to sell in Skiringssal.
“We’d like to travel with you,” one of the strangers say, his name is Eigil. “In the last couple of years several merchants have been attacked in these parts. So we would really appreciate your company.”
Since they’re all heading the same way, they quickly agree to accompany each other. There is safety in numbers should anything happen.
“Do you know Haakon Gilmarsson?” one of the strangers, named Tormod, asks.
Hauge jerks his head around to look at him. Oh, does he know Haakon – the slayer of his father. He’s just about to say something when Sven intervenes: “Well,” he says calmly. “We’ve heard about him. What of him?”
“Well, you see,” Tormod begins, “Haakon gets around, or so we’ve heard. During the last couple of years he’s journeyed to England a lot. Not to trade like you’d normally expect him to do, at least not in the common way. It’s said that he has brought a little of this and that back home.” Tormod smirks, and then continues: “last year I believe he was in Orkney and Scotland. But I’m not so sure they’ll welcome him back in those parts again anymore; the way he, uhm – grabs what he wants.”
“He’s got some sons, right?” Sven asks.
“Yes, he has, for sure, quite a few, as far as I know. He’s usually followed by three of them, leaving the two youngest at home to take care of business there. As a kind of punishment, I believe.”
“Punishment?” Hauge asks. “What have they done?”
“Well, I’m not sure, but they say they’ve hardly ever done a day’s work! That it’s because they’re such lazy dogs! And laziness is one thing which Haakon doesn’t stand! There’s a lot to be said about him. But lazy – that’s not one of them!”
8. The marketplace
On the third day they arrive at the marketplace as night falls. A lot of people have already gathered there and trade is commencing around the houses. A few stalls have been set up as well, but not nearly as many as in summertime.
While the men erect tents and unpack some of their goods, Hauge walks around and takes it all in.
“Hey, you!” a woman yells at him from her house. “You just got here?”
“Yes, I did.”
“Don’t you want to stay in one of the huts?” She points to some low huts with roofs so close to the ground that they look as if they grow out of it.
They bargain a bit, and then Hauge, and some of the others, move into a couple of the huts. There’s nothing in there apart from a small fireplace and some benches. But at least it’s warmer than the tents.
After all, they have managed to bring quite a lot of goods for the trade: a few ox and lamb hides, as well as some really nice white fox furs. They have a couple of small furs from squirrels, some nice soapstone bowls, and several whetstones. And then there are the five thralls, who ought to bring in good money… So, all in all, if the trade works out well, they should be able to return with everything they need back home.
Lauge hasn’t been to Skiringssal before.
“Why aren’t there more houses here?” he asks surprised.
“Not many live in Skiringssal all year long,” Hauge says. “Most of all, it’s a marketplace.”
“Who lives in those houses, then?” Lauge asks, as they pass a few wooden houses.
“Craftsmen, mostly wood-carvers, and leather-smiths, but also a couple of shepherds live in those all year round. They choose to live here because there are several markets a year, and they can make a living out of selling food and other goods to people like us.”
They check out some of the other traders. Here, during winter, it’s mostly wool, and different kinds of fur that’s for sale. Still, salt, seeds, axe-heads, and barrels of train oil are for sale, too.
“We can even get a bath!” Lauge laughs, as they pass the bathhouse. It’s steaming out of every crack in the small house.
“Hey, you! Here’s something you’ve never seen before!” someone suddenly yells after them. “Come on in, have a look!”
They head over to the man, standing outside his house, and he lets them in.
And, right enough! Hauge has never seen anything like it: small, fine rolls of beautiful, shiny cloth – in different colours.
“Look here,” the man says, taking out one of the rolls. The cloth has the colour of the sea on a warm, clear summer day. “It’s silk. Silk from the Far East, and it comes in red and yellow, too,” he says, pointing at the various colourful rolls of silk. “It doesn’t come any better.”
Deep down Hauge has to agree with the man. So fine, so soft – and such strong, clear colours!
“We colour the yarn ourselves, back home, with different kinds of plants.” Lauge says, “but the cloth never gets anywhere near these bright colours.”
“No, this is unsurpassed! With silk like this you most certainly will win the heart of your chosen one!” the man flatters. “Do I have your interest?”
“I just got here,” Hauge says, then adds: “I might return, though, if you’re up to a bit of haggling.”
9. Meeting with the past
The largest of the houses is used as a beer and eating house during the winter market. When Hauge enters, it’s already filled to the brim.
“Hey, Hauge! Over here!” someone yells. It is Tormod and Eigil. They’re benched at one of the long tables, along with Sven, Vagn, and the rest from back home. Their mood is high, so they’ve probably already dug well into the good mead.
Hauge joins them at the table, and a young girl brings him a big horn of mead.
“Well, have you checked out the goods?” Sven asks, winking at Hauge, while he stares lustily at the young girl.
It is a pretty girl, Hauge thinks. But he’s not in a mood to answer Sven. He just nods, and talks with Tormod, instead. Meanwhile, the bard sings his melancholic songs of great heroics and unhappy love.
Suddenly, loud sounds of fighting come from the entrance. Some wardens have come for two of the guests.
“Oh, so you think you can just walk away from your fees?” one of them yells, while they haul away the twoculprits.
At the door another of the wardens yells: “has anyone else ‘forgotten’ to pay their fee? We don’t want news like that to reach the magnate, do we? You don’t want him to think you’re unappreciative of his efforts to protect this marketplace!”
No one reacts; they take a firm hold of their two culprits, and drag them out of the house. In the opening, they run into a man in a long, brown robe, entering.
“Oh my,” he says calmly. “Is it really necessary to be thatrough, hmm?”
That’s all Hauge hears. It’s as if all sounds disappear. He stares at the stranger. That voice! That calm, friendly way of talking! That robe – and the warm, smiling eyes!
Hauge gets up slowly, and walks towards the man. His legs can hardly carry him, and it’s not because of the mead! They meet in the middle of the house.
10. Together Again
While everyone else is busy entertaining themselves, Hauge and Hannibal sit in the hut Hannibal has rented. Warming by the fireplace, they tell of the four years since they last saw each other.
Hauge tells of the wedding between Aasa and Sven. Of Torleif becoming a lookout. And of Astrid and the baby she gave birth to.
“But where did you end up, Hannibal? When you sailed off with the strangers?”
“Well, first we sailed eastwards. I stayed in one of the major towns for the winter, but when spring arrived I went with a ship to Daneland. There, I travelled around. A lot of people received me very well there, and quite a few converted to the new faith, too. But the most exciting place I visited was Haithabu.”
“I’ve heard about that place!” Hauge exclaims. “Tell me about it!”
“It’s very big, and well protected in a fiord. However, the land itself is pretty flat, why they have built great ramparts, so no one can surprise them from the landside. A lot of people live there all year round. Their houses look like yours, except that each has their own fresh water well. This is because the water in the stream is very dirty. They even have a church!”
“That is what the House of God is called. There are quite a few Christians in Haithabu, people who believe in my God. A lot of travellers come to the town as well, traders and craftsmen.”
“More than you see here?”
“Oh, yes, a lot more! They come from many different countries, too, especially from countries to the south and east of Haithabu. Besides, a lot of people come from Friesland and England, as well. They sail in from westward, by river, transporting their wares by land the last bit of way to Haithabu.”
“So you’ve been in Daneland all these years?”
“No. After a year there, I was offered the opportunity to go home to England on a ship.”
Hannibal hesitates. Then he says quietly: “but it wasn’t nice being there.”
“Why not?” Hauge has heard a lot of exciting stories about England and Ireland, both of which Sven has visited on many occasions.
“You might think it strange, Hauge, but… It’s actually people from here who are doing it. People from here and from Daneland.”
“Raiding and looting. There are a lot of attacks on villages over there. They sneak up by the rivers, or sail the ships up onto the beaches. And then they just attack. Not even the churches are spared. The raiders have soon found that there are a lot of gold in those.”
They sit in silence for a while, each in their own deep thoughts on voyages and raids. The stories Hauge has heard of England were told in quite a different way.
“Why is there so much gold in those – churches? Is your God very rich?”
Hannibal smiles. “No, the church has got it from people, as a sort of payment. Besides, some rich people keep their valuables stocked there, too. They believed it a safe place.”
A little later, Hannibal says: “I must leave tomorrow, Hauge. Because of your uncle.”
“I don’t think he recognised you, but if he did…“ Hauge hesitates. Sven did swear to kill Hannibal if he ever saw him again.
“Sven may be our chieftain – for now. But I’m pretty sure I can convince the others that you weren’t a part of the betrayal back then.”
And then Hauge tells Hannibal all about the secret meeting with the men, and their plans to make him their chieftain.
The dim morning light has turned off the stars, and a few, scattered clouds in the sky glows brightly when the two friends go their separate ways to catch some sleep, before the trading begins again.
On his way out, Hauge can’t help asking: “how is it now, Hannibal? With, well, you know – with the girls?”
He still remembers how the young Hannibal had had a hard time staying away from the girls. Even though his God had told him he wasn’t allowed to have anything to do with them. At least not that way.
Hannibal laughs, and then says: “God, the Lord, created heaven and earth, Hauge – and the cute girls too! So, at times – I have to speak to God – on my own. But he always forgives me.”
After a small pause, he continues: “But I have met a really nice girl in England. And, yes, we’re just good friends. That is to say, we were good friends! She was married to a magnate’s son at the age of fifteen. It was when I was staying in their town. I was at the wedding, and oh, what a party! And the girl – her name is Edwina – she needed someone to talk to. So we spent a lot of time together. But a short while after I left town, I heard rumours that it had been raided; Edwina’s husband was one of the killed. And Edwina had disappeared. I believe she was captured – as a thrall. So, that is one of the reasons I’ve come back here; I promised her father I would try to find out if she’s still alive.”
12. For the sake of Friendship
Sven is furious! His mouth quivers in anger. The spots on his neck glows red! Vagn stands next to him. He’s very drunk, though; red-eyed and staggering.
“That traitor! That coward!” Sven hisses. “I’ll get him, just you wait! And you dare come here and tell me he wasn’t a part of it! Whose side are you on, Hauge?”
Sven walks towards Hauge menacingly. But, a few of the men grab him.
“Maybe you ought to listen to Hauge, Sven,” one of them says.
Vagn staggers, trying to come to his aid.
“Have you all forgotten what happened?” Sven yells, shaking them off. “Weren’t we attacked? How did Haakon know we were coming? If it weren’t for those two traitors?”
“Yeah! How did he – erh – know! Yeah, how did he know it, hmm?” Vagn grunts.
“Monks, is that what they call themselves?” Sven rages on. “Men of God! What kind of God do they have, I wonder? Little better than Loki! A coward God!”
Hauge boils with rage. Still, he tries to sound as controlled as possible: “I’ve already told you, it was the other one. The one named Peter. He’s the one who betrayed us to Haakon.”
“Well, weren’t those two bandits together?” Sven yells.
“No they weren’t,” someone says from behind them. It’s Lauge, paving his way among the enraged men.
“Lauge! What do you know about that?” Sven asks.
“Quite a bit, Saw it me-self, didn’t I?”
“What did you see?” Sven growls.
“I saw it. Saw Hannibal leave Peter! And that was way before Haakon learned anything!”
“What do you mean?” Sven has clearly become a bit uncertain at this point.
So, Lauge tells: “I followed them with my eyes, I did. Back then, when you had thrown them out of the village. They didn’t make it very far before they started arguing. They were yelling pretty loud, they were! Why, they nearly got into a fight! In the end, Hannibal left. Towards south! And the other one, that Peter, he continued northward; towards Haakon’s village.”
Now Sven is speechless. He stares weird at Lauge. Everyone knows that Lauge has those special eyes.
Hauge waits until everyone else has left. Then he says: “You told a lie, Lauge! It’s not true! You didn’t see them fight. They didn’t separate until days later; that part, about their fight, I mean, wasn’t that stretching it a bit?”
Lauge shrugs and smiles awry. “Oh yeah, so what?”
“Why did you do it, Lauge?”
Lauge laughs. “For the sake of friendship, you see!”
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