The Great Game: The Power and the Pride

Music : Gettysburg.

Image : The North Sea. Grey waves, topped by small white caps. The wind blows to the east. A ship heaves into view. The red-on-white flag of England flutters in the breeze. A row of cannon stands along each railing, and armed men stand on the forecastle : A warship of the Royal Navy.

The camera pulls away, and the ship becomes one of dozens, then scores, then hundreds. The red and white flies from every foretop; metal glints on hundreds of hulls. They sail to the east. Towards Norway.

Image : A mountain peak on the coast of Norway. Wood lies piled for a fire; men look west, out to sea. One shouts; he has seen the fleet approaching. The others are ready for it. The beacon fire is lit. From peak to peak the message flies, north and south, summoning men for war.

Image : Men, dressed in the drab grey of strils, pull at a dragon-headed ship. Others, in the black of Yngling Guards and bearing the firearms that only the ruling class is allowed, watch impassively. The scene is repeated up and down the fjord; overhead, the mountaintops blaze with beacon fires. In the distance a church bell is ringing.

Image : Oars dip and pull with near-mechanical regularity; the galley surges forward, the bright blazon of its banner a defiance against the black mountains. From every outlet others join it, until the fjord is filled with the low-slung dragons; the power and the pride of Norway sailing out to war.

Image : A close-up of the men manning the oars. Yngling and hird alike, their faces are set against fear; they bear the fixed expression of men who know themselves outnumbered by two to one, yet have no choice but to fight in defense of their homes.

Image : “Run out your guns!”, and the cannon rumble forth from the gunports. Another command, and they fire; foul-smelling yellow smoke belches forth, and a malignant wasp-buzz overwhelms the crash of detonation, intense enough to hurt the ears : Hundreds of wicked iron balls hurtling towards frail humans. They impact on wood and flesh in equal proportion; fortunately, the sound of shattering wood covers the soggier noise of strong young bodies meeting the iron. The screams of pain seem deadened to ears still ringing from the cannonade; nonetheless, the camera swiftly pulls away, declining to show the proud dragon-ship turned into an abattoir.

Image : A dragon has pulled alongside an English cog; its single fore-mounted cannon is still smoking from the discharge that has punched a vast hole in the cog’s starboard side. Now the grappling hooks come out, and Ynglings leap across the railing in a terrible black tide. Trained for war since birth, bristling with shaggy beards and long hair, they remind one of nothing so much as lions running for the kill – lions with the minds of men. The English soldiers are soon overwhelmed, and unceremoniously dumped overboard – some of them still struggling. Then the view shifts, and we see another two ships bearing down on the captured cog. Both fly the cross of St. George.

Image : A rocky beach at sunset; the tide is coming in. The seagulls gather around a shapeless lump in the sand. Their plaintive call fills the air as they squabble and push. Only when the camera zooms in on a gull whose beak holds a human eye do we realise what they are squabbling about. Then the view shifts out to sea, where hundreds of corpses drift slowly towards home. The caws cease as the gulls realise there will be enough for all, for a long time to come.

Image : English marines storm ashore. A few muskets flash, and men fall; but only the oldest Ynglings have been left behind, those who would not survive a winter without food. The resistance is brief; the marines torch the buildings and fields, then leave. The camera pulls out, and we see the entire fjord. Twenty black columns of smoke mark where prosperous hamlets stood.

Image : The Englishmen have left, and the people return to their burnt-out homes. They pick aimlessly through the debris of their lives for a while, then gather down at the pier. An elder spits towards the west; as though it were a signal, the people break into song.

And they thought, that a heart’s-bond could be sundered?
And they thought, that forgot could be our right?

It is the final image : The people of Norway, standing in their shattered homes, singing their defiance to the west.

Ja – det haver så nyligen regnet,
og de træer de drypper endnu,
mangen eg er for uvejret segnet,
men endda er vi frejdige i hu;
viger ej ud af spor,
ti vi kender det ord:
Det har slet ingen hast for dem, som tror,
– viger ej ud af spor,
ti vi kender det ord:
Det har slet ingen hast for dem, som tror.

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