Dawn was only moments away and upon the shores of Denmark a solitary figure was standing, looking out across the crashing waves to the distant horizon. At first glance, it appeared to be a man, great in stature and powerfully formed, but as the sky turned gold and the light of the rising sun fell upon the stranger’s face, it became obvious that he was just a boy: a child standing at the threshold of manhood.
One glance at the proud brow, the strong chin and the blue eyes which seemed to burn with such intensity, would have instantly called to mind the great warrior Volsung, famous far and wide for his courage and strength. So strong was the resemblance to Volsung that one might have been forgiven for believing the youth to be a ghostly apparition of his celebrated ancestor. This boy was the last of the Volsungs; the son of King Sigmund of Hunland and now as the sun crept slowly above the restless waters he lifted his hands heavenward and offered up his prayers to Odin and the gods of Asgard. Later as he made his way towards the city, he stopped at the edge of the forest to breathe in deeply the smell of life and dew.
At a longhouse on the edge of the settlement, the boy stopped and called out a greeting.
“Sigurd! Back from your walk, I see!”
A man, slightly bent, with a weather beaten face and a touch of grey at his temples had opened the door. This was Sigurd’s teacher, Regin.
“Yes, I have Sir,” the boy replied, bowing.
“Well come on in then.”
That day while Sigurd sat at his work, the man watched him with narrowed eyes as though a dangerous thought was forming in his mind that he dared not yet give voice to.
At last he brought his fist down upon the rough wooden table, making the runes and the boy jump slightly.
“Tell me, boy,” he said, watching Sigurd’s face carefully. “Do you know anything about your father’s wealth?”
The boy’s eyes widened in surprise.
“Yes Sigmund, the Volsung, you real father,” Regin said impatiently. “Do you know anything about his wealth?”
“I know that it is vast and that my mother brought it with her to Denmark,” the boy replied.
“And where is it now?”
“The king guards it,” was the reply.
“You say it so happily,” Regin snorted, shaking his head. “Do you trust the king so completely that you let him have guardianship of your father’s wealth?”
“And why shouldn’t I, Sir?” Sigurd asked with a frown. “Until I come of age and can guard it myself, the king is better equipped to protect my father’s wealth than I am!”
“Aren’t you ashamed, Sigurd?” the man asked with clenched fists. “That you, the son of Great Sigmund and grandson of Volsung himself, are a servant to the Danish king?”
Sigurd studied his teacher’s face for a moment in bewilderment as though trying to make sense of these strange questions. Had the man gone mad overnight? Or had he been drinking too much mead?
“Well, aren’t you angry about it? I would be!” the man persisted.
“I do not see myself as a servant, Regin,” the boy replied calmly. “For I have my will in everything and whatever I ask for the king gives to me gladly.”
“Is that so? Then why don’t you have a horse of your own?!”
“I have never had a need for one as all the horses in the king’s stables are at my disposal!” retorted the youth. “But I would certainly get one if I asked for it!”
“Then go ask him for a horse. Boy!”
At sundown, when the boy had left his teacher’s house, he made his way to the longhouse of King Alf. His mind was troubled for never before had he thought of the things his teacher had spoken of. Could it be true after all that he was nothing but a servant in the king’s home? He had always considered himself a son, not a servant! But why would the man to whom his education had been entrusted; the man he respected and loved, say such things if they weren’t true?
“I am not a servant!” he said aloud, kicking at a stone on the road with unwarranted violence. “And I will prove it to Old Regin by getting from the king the best of all his horses!”
During the evening meal as the household sat around the hearth, Sigurd rose to stand before the king.
“Yes my boy!” King Alf said with a smile. “You look as though you have something very important on your mind.”
“No, your majesty,” he replied. “I merely which to ask you for something.”
“This is a rare event!” the king laughed, turning to take the hand of his wife. “Our boy is always so quiet and never asks for anything!”
Turning back to Sigurd, he nodded and placed a hand upon the boy’s shoulder.
“Ask for anything, my son,” King Alf said. “If I possess it or can secure it for you it is yours!”
The boy smiled, his fears and doubts dissolving beneath the king’s gentle gaze.
“If it pleases your majesty,” he began. “I would like a horse of my own.”
The king patted the youth’s shoulder and laughed.
“Is that all then? Well if a horse is what you want, then you shall have it. Choose any horse you want in my stables or in my kingdom. And anything else you desire from my wealth is yours.”
“I only want a horse, Sire,” the boy replied. “Thank you.”
Would Sigurd find a horse that he liked? Would he choose one from the king’s stables or would he find the animal he wanted somewhere else? And what of Regin, Sigurd’s teacher? Would this prove to him that Sigurd was not a servant in King Alf’s home? We will find out next time…