Myths, legends of the ancient world

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The Battle

Retold by Jenny Bennett

Princess Sigrun stood at the ramparts of King Granmar’s castle, looking out at the battle that was raging below. The field was already littered with the bodies of dead and dying men and the sound of clashing steel filled the air. The invaders had attacked shortly after daybreak, just as the wedding ceremony was about to begin. Sigrun recalled how the alarm had sounded as she was being led into the throne room, where her groom awaited her. 

She remembered the despair that had filled her as she was walking towards the prince who looked at her with a triumphant smile and a cold glint in his eyes. This was the man with whom she would spend the rest of her life; this was the man who would be her master until the end of her days; this man whose very presence filled her with revulsion. She had fought back tears and swallowed the sob that had risen to her throat, lowering her eyes to avoid the sight of Prince Hodbrod. He knew she was marrying him against her will. She had told him so when she was first brought to the castle, hoping that he would take pity on her and cancel the wedding. But the prince had laughed instead, taking her face roughly in his hands. 

“Whether you like it or not, my pretty,” he had hissed. “You are going to be mine; mine to do with as I please. And there is nothing you can do about it.”

She felt his eyes upon her as she walked slowly up the aisle; his cruel, cold gaze that burnt into her flesh and withered her soul. Just as she reached the Prince’s side, the alarm sounded.

“We are under attack!” came the cry. Her heart had leapt within her. Was it possible? Was there a chance that she could be saved from this marriage?

The prince had left the throne room to prepare his men for battle but before he left he had turned to her with narrowed eyes.

“Don’t move from this place, Princess,” he had ordered. “I swear before the gods that before the sun sets today you will be mine. I’ll have these invaders fleeing our land and my men before long. Sigrun had made her way out of the throne room quickly, to climb up the ramparts. She had to see who these invaders were. Up on the great wall, she stood, shading her eyes against the sun’s glare. 

There was the invading army assembled before the castle and there at the head of it was a young warrior on horseback; a man tall and powerfully built with the bearing of a king. A cry of amazement escaped her lips. There was no doubt about it. This was Prince Helgi of Hunland, the young man she had met on her way to the ships. She had told him of her plight and had been touched by the sorrow that had filled his eyes. Sigrun recalled how he had gently lifted her fingers to his lips and wished her well and how he had stood, watching her as she rode away. She had not forgotten his face or his touch. In fact, she had never stopped thinking of the man and had seen him often since, in her dreams.

Now the castle gate opened and Prince Hodbrod and his men marched out to meet the invaders.

“Who are you and how dare you set foot upon my land?” she heard Prince Hodbrod shout. 

“I have come for the Princess Sigrun,” Prince Helgi replied. “Give her to me and my army will leave your land in peace.”

“Princess Sigrun?!” Hodbrod exclaimed. “How dare you come here uninvited and demand to take my wife on our wedding day?”

“I am not your wife!” the words had come out of their own accord and the men looked up in surprise at the young woman upon the wall. Prince Helgi, seeing her, smiled and bowed. 

“What are you doing there?!” Hodbrod barked. “How dare you disobey me and leave the throne room against my orders? Get back to it at once and wait for me there. When I have killed this insolent fool and his men, I will deal with you.” Then with a cry of rage, the prince attacked, swinging his sword wildly. 

The battle had been raging now for many hours, but still Sigrun stood at the ramparts watching. Prince Hodbrod and his soldiers were strong and skilled in battle but Helgi and his men were even better and the bodies that littered the fields before the castle were those of Hodbrod’s men. At last the two princes stood facing each other. 

“Sigrun is mine!” Hodbrod said through gritted teeth. “I don’t care how strong your army is; you cannot and will not have her!”

Helgi merely smiled.

With a yell, Hodbrod lunged at his enemy, and their battle began.

Would Hodbrod prove to be too strong for Sigmund’s son? Would Helgi be able to defeat the man and save Princess Sigrun from her fate? We will find out next time...


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