There Will Be War: Orphan I

The first of two orphaned posts that had to be retconned out when There Will Be War was rebooted. So, this is not canon, but I include it for completeness.

Ynglinga Saga

1. Olav ruled Norway alone after the death of his brother Magnus. Olav was a tall and well-shaped man; all say that none has seen any man with a more beautiful or a nobler aspect. He had golden hair which fell handsomely to his shoulders, sharp eyes and powerful limbs; he was for the most part quiet, and no speechmaker at Ting. But at feast he was merry, glad of drink, talkative and kind-spoken.

The saga in OTL goes on to say that he was a peaceful man as long as he ruled Norway. Well, we can’t be having with that!

2. At this time Geir Jonsson comes into the saga. There are many tales told of him, but there is little said about his family or birth. Some say that he was stolen by trolls as a youth, and fostered on their milk; for all the tellers agree that he was uncommonly large and strong, and swift as a wind in all sport and battle. A week after Yule in the year after King Harald had met his bane in England, Geir came to King Olav’s court, which was wintering in Bergen. There he asked to join the King’s hird; but King Olav answered “As you are a large man, you would surely eat for two. Can you also fight for two?” Then Geir replied, “Sire King, choose three men of your hird, and let them wrestle; and we shall see who is standing at the end.” But the King said it would be unfair to take three men, when he had only asked for two; and he chose the two best wrestlers in his court, Ketil Amundsson and Torvald Store, and bade them try the newcomer’s worth. This he quickly showed; for he threw both men to the ground in such a short space that it seemed to all present that he had used magic. Then the King took him into his guard, and gave him a golden ring; but this he later gave to Torvald Store, so that there would be no feud between them.

This bit we’ve already seen from Geir’s perspective. Now for some news.

3. Now there is to tell of Geir that he soon showed himself to be the most skilled weapon-bearer in the court; neither at sword-play, archery or spear-casting was there any to compare with him. Nor was there any great mystery to this; for every day, from prime to sext, he could be found practicing his weapon-craft. Some laughed at this, and said it was foolish to spend so much time on a single skill; but most admired his dedication, and he soon became name-strong. After a while some of the younger men of the hird began joining Geir for weapons practice; and although he showed himself a stern taskmaster, he was not loathe to teach them all his tricks and feints. “For,” he said, “in battle all may depend on the man to your side, and it is well if he is a strong warrior; it is foolish for any man to withhold his teaching from his own comrades, even though he may thus remain the foremost man in their band.” Thus their skills grew rapidly, although there were still none who could match Geir for simple strength and size, and he therefore remained the foremost man of his hands in the court.

That’ll teach ’em to sit about drinking all day!

4. Of King Olav it was said that he was a peace-willing man, little given to quarreling with his neighbours; and also there had fallen at Stamford Bridge so many of Norway’s best men that there were few who thought it good to arm for further war. But Geir Jonsson was not of this mind; often he spoke to the King of the need to restore Norway’s glory by some great feat of arms. At last the King tired of his badgering, and said, “Very well; if you are so minded for war, I shall give you ten ships, and you may take them where it pleases you.” To this Geir responded : “That is well spoken, and worthy of a son of Harald. I shall take the ships to Brittany, and join the King of Scots in his campaign there; and I think much good for Norway will come of this.”

Thus Geir outfitted ten ships; and Magnus, the king’s brother, also sent five ships, and another five came from various parts of the land, outfitted by young men who wanted a part of the booty; for at this time it was still the custom in Norway to go in west-Viking. They sailed for Brittany in the spring, and had good winds all the way. Upon landing, they found that the war-arrow had passed through the country, and most of the men were fighting the King of Scots further to the west; therefore they were able to take a rich tribute from the towns in that land. Now there were some in the host who said that they had done well, and wished to go home and enjoy their wealth; but Geir said, “I’ll not have it said of me that I sailed in Viking, and came home with my sword still dry. I will go west, and try my luck there; but those of you who wish to leave, may do so.” At this there was some muttering in the host, but no man wanted to look a coward in front of his fellows; and so the end of it was that they marched west as Geir had said.

Now after they had marched for some days, they came upon an army going east. The chief of that band was Hoel Jarl, who in that time was ruler in Brittany. When he saw Geir’s host, he sent to inquire who was its leader. Geir named himself, and they held parley; there Joel said “Now I see there are three times as many Bretons as Norse on this field; so I think it is right that I should judge the case between us, so we may have peace. Now these are the terms I will give you: You shall pay me all the treasure you have taken from my lands, but you shall have surety of your lives and limbs, providing only that you go back to Norway and give oath never to return.” Then Geir said, “Those are hard terms; I do not think we are so few men here that we need to take up such an offer.” But Hoel held to his terms, and the end of it was that they parted with no peace between them, and each prepared his men for battle.

Now Geir gathered his chief men around him, and spoke thus: “It is true that the Bretons have more men than we do, but that is not all the tale. For I see that many of their men are wounded, and many others are not well armed; I think that the Scots have given good account of themselves, even if they were perhaps driven from the field. Here is what we will do: We will array ourselves in swine-fylking; I shall take the point, and you Torvald and Harald Unge follow me. When we advance, be all silent until I give the signal; but then set to the worst war-cries you know; I see many youths in the Breton host, and it may be they will not be too eager to advance against the Norse. We will aim for Hoel’s banner, and break his shield-wall there. Once we have defeated his best men, the rest will flee. Those of you on the outside of the fylking must hold up your shields and run towards his line as hard as you can; it’s not swords but shields will win this day for us.”

Now when it came to the battle, it went as Geir had said: The Norse host advanced in silence, but when they were only a dozen paces from the Breton line they gave a terrible cry, and those at the front said they could see a great shock run through the Bretons. Then they ran at the shield-wall, and pushed the front men aside with their own shields, breaking into the line; Geir fought at the front with a huge axe, so heavy that no other man could wield it, and wherever he struck a man fell. After this the axe gained the name Man-biter. So he came to Hoel’s banner-man, and slew him; and when the Breton banner fell the whole host ran, and many were killed.

After this Hoel was brought before Geir, who spoke thus: “Now I think it is I who shall be judge of the dispute between us. Will you take mercy from my hands, and let me decide; or would you rather go to your death still at feud?” And Hoel agreed to peace on these terms. So Geir said, “Here is my judgment. You, Hoel, shall take your lands and hold them as a fief of my master King Olaf, and each year you shall send him a tithe of the land-tax; but in exchange, I shall give you back half of the booty I took from your towns.” And this was agreed, and sworn on iron.

Now when Geir returned to Norway from this faring, King Olaf asked him how it had gone; and when he heard the tale, he was greatly pleased, and gave Geir a rich farm for his own, and also the stewardship of Viken. And after this he was much inclined to listen when Geir counseled war; for he was eager to emulate his father Harald, and become a renowned warrior and king. Of this we shall hear more later.

Oh yes, we most certainly will! Just for one thing, I’m currently campaigning to remind comrade Hoel of what he agreed to. Somehow vassals who are forced in this manner to swear on iron have a tendency to unswear by the same iron a little later. But, as the saying goes, are we not Ynglings? We know how to deal with that. 😀

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