Wednesday 20 – Thursday 21 March 2013
No amount of labour by one man was going to move the large pile of rocks and debris that covered the entrance to the mountain cave. Behind it was the entirety of Bastian’s clan, Queen Elizabetha included, and it would take days to clear it by himself. He pulled another rock from the pile and dumped it away from the entrance. Each rock, each piece of debris that he moved seemed to get progressively heavier, and the constant rain and cold wind impeded his ability to move steadily. More terrifying than the thought of dying from the cold however, were the unpredictable lightning strikes hitting the mountain and showering Bastian with more rock and debris.
The only hope Bastian had of saving his clan was to seek help from King Osgood. Perhaps the king would put aside the differences he had with Queen Elizabetha and the mountain clans long enough to save some lives. He made the decision to risk the weather, and to risk leaving his people trapped behind the rocks, in order to seek help from the king. Bastian began to cautiously make his way down the mountain; once at the base, he would run as fast as he could to Osgood’s castle and plead for help.
* * * * *
Ingrid Fredriksson wept quietly in King Osgood’s bedchamber, the body of her father still laying on the floor and still warm. Osgood stood watch over her while Dagmar and Bengt questioned the surviving perpetrator.
‘WHO SENT YOU?’ Dagmar tightened his grip on the man’s throat as he asked the question. A choking sound was the only answer he received. Bengt held his older brother’s forearm.
‘He can’t answer, Dagmar. You’re choking him.’
‘He has to know that I’ll kill him as soon as look at him unless he tells me the truth,’ Dagmar replied.
‘And that’s the point I’m trying to make, brother. He can’t answer you if he’s dead. You won’t get any truth from him if you continue squeezing his neck.’
Dagmar released his grip enough for the man to breathe.
‘Let’s start with this,’ said Bengt, ‘what’s your name?’
‘Lars Kristofsen. Son of Morten, and younger brother to Hakon . . . WHO YOU KILLED.’ Lars struggled to break free of Dagmar’s grip, but was instantaneously stopped by the squeezing of his throat again.
‘Funny that your sensitivities are so offended by the death of your brother given that the two of you attempted to kill King Osgood,’ Dagmar snarled. Lars choked again, before losing consciousness. Dagmar threw him to the ground and wiped his hands on his clothing.
‘Now we must wait for him to wake before we can get any information from him. Dagmar, you’re not so smart.’
‘And your petty squabbling,’ Osgood snapped, ‘is unbecoming of my knights, particularly in light of the fact that this young woman is grieving the loss of her father. Cease and desist immediately, and show some respect for the lady.’
Bengt and Dagmar simultaneously lowered their heads in shame.
‘I apologise for our behaviour, miss. My brother and I –’
‘Ingrid, what can we do to help you?’ Bengt interrupted his older brother. Clearly the more caring of the two brothers, Bengt knelt down beside the sobbing Ingrid. She wiped her face on the sleeves of her dress and did her best to inhale deeply between sobs. She only had one demand.
‘I need help to bury my father.’
‘Of course. Dagmar and I will assist you,’ Bengt replied.
‘When the storm ends, I would appreciate if you could spare the time to help me take my father back to our farm and lay him to rest . . . if that is acceptable to you, my lord?’ She looked at Osgood through the welling tears in her eyes.
‘No, it’s not acceptable at all,’ he responded. ‘Your father died in my place. The very least that I can do is give him a proper burial.’
‘I’m sure, my lord, that he would not want a fancy burial. He was a simple man who loved his farm. A simple burial would be best.’
Osgood pondered Ingrid’s wish. He was not a man who was used to giving in, but he recognised that it was not his place to impose his will on a man’s burial.
‘You shall have whatever type of burial you wish for your father, but the treasury will see to it that the expenses are covered . . . and I will be in attendance to honour your father. But that doesn’t seem to be enough. How will you survive alone? Who will work the land? Feed whatever beasts you have?’
‘I’m sure, my lord, that I will be able to look after myself. I worked alongside my father and I can continue to work the land myself,’ Ingrid replied.
* * * * *
It was a long and difficult journey down the mountain, to the plains and Osgood’s castle through the pounding rain and freezing wind. Bastian, barely able to catch breathe, stumbled through the muddied courtyard, and collapsed at the castle entrance. With the little strength he had left, Bastian thumped on the great doors with the handle of his sword. It seemed an eternity before one of the doors swung open and he found himself staring at the feet of one of King Osgood’s knights.
‘What kind of fool are you, out in this storm?’ the knight asked.
Bastian pointed in the direction of the mountain and mumbled, ‘Elizabetha. Queen Elizabetha. The entrance is blocked and they’re stuck inside the cave. Help.’
A second man joined the knight at the door, aghast at the shivering, drenched, and breathless Bastian on hands and knees at the entrance.
‘Give me a hand,’ ordered the knight, and the two men dragged Bastian into the shelter of the castle. Several people had come to gather around the three men.
‘Get blankets and water,’ shouted one to the crowd, and waited for the items to be brought forward.
‘Watch him,’ ordered the knight. ‘I’ll inform the king.’
. . . To be continued . . .