Myths, legends of ancient world

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The Homecoming

Retold by Jenny Bennett

Sinfjotli, the son of Sigmund was approaching the shores of his homeland when we last saw him, his mind upon the girl he had loved; the girl who had rejected him: Princess Lljod.

The Prince had met many women in his time and in the many coastal towns and cities he had raided and pillaged he had won countless girls: peasants, temple maids, daughters of farmers, daughters of chieftains and even a few daughters of kings. But none of these women had captivated him as much as the enigmatic and fascinating Princess Lljod.

Perhaps it was because she was unlike any woman he had ever met, with her quiet beauty and fierce independence. Or perhaps it was because she was impossible to win.

But whatever the reason, so enthralled by the princess was he that to improve his chances of winning her heart and hand, Sinfjotli had even killed his own kinsman: the brother of his stepmother, who had been a rival for the maiden’s affection. Unfortunately, the deed had not achieved what he had intended. Instead, it had sealed his fate.

Kneeling in the courtyard with the flaxen head of the dying man upon her lap, the princess had fixed her beautiful eyes upon the victor. But there was no love in them:  only sorrow.

“I tried to stop you,” she said sadly. “But both of you were so absorbed in your fight that you refused to listen. I know why you fought him. I know you wish to make me your wife. But let me tell you now, Prince Sinfjotli, I will not marry you; I will never marry you or any man for that matter. I have no intention of ever being anybody’s wife.”

Looking down at the still form she clutched, the young woman shook her head, tears coursing silently down her ashen face.

“He was your kinsman,” she whispered. “I fear no good can come of this.”

With the image of her sad face haunting him, Sinfjotli had set sail, hoping that a pillaging spree would cure his broken heart. The prince and his men spent countless months upon the ocean, raiding every city and town they could find with such ferocity that the name Sinfjotli became feared far and wide. But although he gained notoriety and amassed great wealth from his exploits, Sinfjotli could not forget the Princess Lljod. It soon became obvious that all the gold and all the fame in the world could not mend the young man’s heart.

Now, with a heavy heart and a mind still haunted by the Princess Lljod, Sigmund’s firstborn son returned home.

In the home of the king of Hunland, Queen Borghild sat before the hearth staring into the dancing flames. As the red tongues of fire leapt and swayed, they painted images which she alone could see. The first was of a boy with hair the colour of ripened wheat, running through the fields laughing happily while the toddler upon his shoulders clapped her hands and squealed in delight. The image faded to be replaced by one of a tall, golden haired youth gently lifting a little girl onto his horse; his warm smile and twinkling eyes reflected in the child’s face. As the logs crackled and the flames rose higher, another image rose up before the queen’s eyes. The youth with the flaxen hair was a man now; a warrior, large and powerfully built, watching his little sister with a proud smile as she walked up the aisle in her bridal gown to become Sigmund’s Queen. The young bride turned to smile at the man who was her best friend; her dearest brother.

A cold wind howled over mountains and through the castle, scattering the flames in the hearth and shattering the image of the man and his sister. But in the red embers a new image emerged, surrounded by darkness: a flaxen-haired man, injured and dying in a distant land, while towering above him was a youth whose sword dripped blood upon the flagstones and upon whose face was a gloating grin. Sinfjotli!

The Queen gasped, turning her face away from the fire, her eyes filled with tears. Hogni was dead. Her brother was dead. Sinfjotli had taken him from her.

She remembered hearing the words from the messenger many months ago, but still the pain of losing her brother bit deep.

“Your son killed my brother!” she had cried to the king. “He dishonoured him and then killed him! He is a beast; an animal! I never want to see him again.”

“Dearest!,” Sigmund had said in an attempt to comfort her. “Let me...”

“Banish him!” she had shouted, cutting him off. “Banish Sinfjotli! Never let him set foot in Hunland again.”

“Darling!” the king had said gently. “Sinfjotli is my son; my firstborn. Please do not ask me to do this for I cannot banish him, no matter what he has done.”

“He killed my brother!” the queen had shrieked, tearing at her hair in fury. 

“And I shall pay you weregild for his death,” the king said, reaching out to restrain her. “I will give you enough gold for ten men, my Love, to pay for your brother’s life, but I will not banish my boy.”

And the King had done as he had promised, laying out before the queen such a quantity of gold that even she could not refuse it.

But even though she had accepted weregild, she could not forgive Sinfjotli. She would never forgive him. Looking into the flames of the hearth, the queen knew that she could not rest until she had avenged her brother.

“Darling!” the king had entered the room and now placed a hand upon her shoulder. “I have news for you, my Love.”

Queen Borghild looked up and forced a smile.

“What is it Sigmund?”

“A ship has docked in the harbour,” the king replied, watching her face closely. “It is Sinfjotli. He has returned.”

The Queen stiffened momentarily but quickly shook it off and gave the king her sweetest smile. It would not do to show him how she really felt.

“What good news!” she said, reaching up to take the king’s hand. “I shall prepare a feast at once! We must welcome our dear son properly.”

And so the Queen set about preparing a feast to welcome home the man who had killed her brother. But in her heart a cruel plan was being formed: a plan to take revenge on Sinfjotli, the son of Sigmund.

“Rest, brother,” she whispered to herself as she prepared the feast. “Soon, very soon, your murderer will pay for your life, with his.”

What was the Queen’s plan? And would it work? We will find out next time...


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