King Alfred's Viking eBook

Charles Whistler
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 283 pages of information about King Alfred's Viking.

So I took his hand, and more than friends have he and I been from that day forward.

Now, when I looked at Harald’s strangely-given gifts, I had reason to say that he was open handed.  The chest held two mail shirts, one of steel rings, gold ornamented and fastened, and the other of scales on deerskin, both fit for a king.  There were two helms also, one to match either byrnie {iv}, and a seax that was fit to hang with Sigurd’s sword.  As for the bale, that held furs of the best, and blue cloth and scarlet.  If Harald banished me, it was for no ill will; and it was handsomely done, as though he would fit me out for the viking’s path in all honour, that men might not deem me outlawed for wrongdoing.  So I have no ill word to say against him.  Five years later he would have troubled about me and my kingship not at all; now he must be careful, for his power was not at its full.

As for young Eric, I suppose that he boasted ever after that he had put me to flight; but I do not know that it matters if he did.

So I came back to Durness, where I was to meet with Einar; and peace was made between him and the king, and he thought it well to go and speak with him.  Then he and I must part, and that was hard.

“Now must you go your own way, son Ranald, for Harald is too strong for us.  Maybe that is best for you, for here shall I bide in peace in Orkney; and that is not a life for a king’s son—­to sit at a jarl’s table in idleness, or fight petty fights for scatt withholden and the like.  Better for you the wide seas and the lands where you may make a name, and maybe a kingdom, for yourself.  Yet I shall miss you sorely.”

So he said, and I knew that he was right.  Maybe the spirit of the sword I had won got hold of me, as they say will happen; for I had waxed restless of late, and I had tried to keep it from Einar.  Now I hated myself for it, seeing at hand what I had longed for.

So he went north to meet Harald, and of our parting I will not say more.  I could not then tell that I should not see him again, and that was well:  but I know that when I saw the last flicker of his sails against the sky, I felt more lonely even than at the graveside in Southmere.

Yet I was in no worse case than were many nobly-born men at that time; for whosoever would not bow to Harald and his new laws must leave Norway, and her bravest were seeking new homes everywhere.  Some had gone to far-off Iceland, and some to East Anglia; some to the Greek emperor, or Gardariki, and more yet to Ireland.  But the greatest viking of all, Rolf, the son of Rognvald, Einar’s young brother, had gone to France or England, with a mighty following; for Harald had outlawed him among the first who broke his law by plundering on the Norway coasts.  A good law it was, but it was new, and so went against the grain at first.  Rolf had sworn to make a new kingdom for himself, and why should not I do the same?

So when I was in the open sea again, with all the world before me, as the long sea-miles passed I grew lighthearted, and many were the thoughts of great deeds to come that filled my mind.

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King Alfred's Viking from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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