Myths, legends of ancient world

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Queen Hjordis

Retold by Jenny Bennett

“It’s beautiful isn’t it?” the Queen said laying her head upon Sigmund’s shoulder. They were standing inches away from the edge of the cliff overlooking the vast expanse of water and the waves which washed rhythmically over the shore below. “It was here, listening to the ocean’s roar, that I made the decision to marry you .”

The king wrapped his arm around her shoulder.

“Then it is the most beautiful place on earth,” he said quietly.

The Queen turned to meet his gaze and smiled. It had been many months since she had made that decision and not once had she regretted it. She reached up to run her fingers through Sigmund’s silver beard.  He was a wonderful husband who treated her with kindness and respect and everyday she had learnt to love him more and more. Now, her heart belonged to him entirely and she could not imagine life without him.

“I brought you here for a reason my Lord,” she said, letting her hand rest upon his cheek. Her eyes glistened as she spoke and seeing this, Sigmund’s heart rose to his throat.  

“Has something happened?” he asked quickly. “Is something wrong?”

 Queen Hjordis shook her head, then taking one of his large calloused hands in both of her own she guided it towards her belly, and gently pressed it there allowing her tears to spill over. 

Sigmund gasped and stared at his wife wide eyed.

“’re...” he stammered.

“Yes!” she laughed. “I am with child!” 

The king’s face lit up and grasping his wife he pressed her tightly to his chest.

“Odin be praised!” he whispered hoarsely as tears made their way down his cheeks. 

Lowering his face into the woman’s hair, he breathed in her scent deeply. 

“My wife,” he said. “My precious, precious wife.”

Sigmund had not thought such happiness possible. After the death of his son, Sinfjolti, at the hands of his first wife, the world had grown dark and grey. A cloud of despair had fallen upon him and he had believed that he would never know joy again. He was certain that his heart, bruised and broken, could never again feel the happiness of love and that he would spend his old age alone and miserable. But that was before he had met Princess Hjordis. Wise, kind and beautiful, she had captured his heart. Gently, she had mended it and healed it, guiding him towards the light. And he had married her.

Now, here he was, clasping in his arms the woman he loved. And in her womb his child was growing! The gods were good.

“I have suspected for three months now,” Hjordis said. “But I wanted to be absolutely certain before I told you. I did not want you to suffer any disappointment, my love. But last night I felt the child moving for the first time.”

Sigmund laughed and shook his head. 

“You are a wonder, my dear,” he said. “And if I had been rough with you and hurt the child unknowingly in the last few months...”

“Now you are speaking nonsense!” laughed the Queen.  “You are never rough, my Lord, only gentle and sweet and kind...”

Hand in hand the pair left the cliff and the roaring sea below a long time later and made their way to King Eylimi’s home.

“Are you strong enough for a journey, Hjordis?” Sigmund asked when they had come within view of the longhouse. “I want my child to be born in Hunland if that pleases you.”

“I want that too,” the woman replied, then stopping, she raised her face to his. “Thank you for staying so long with my father.” She said. “I know you have been longing to see your own kingdom, but have never let it show.”

“I have not been discontented my love,” was the reply. “For surely you know that I am at home wherever you are. But the people of Hunland would be happy to have the heir to their throne born upon their own soil.  I know they never really accepted Sinfjotli as a true heir of Volsung for the mere fact that he was born in Gothland...”

He stopped speaking and his eyes clouded at the memory of his firstborn.

“He is in Valhalla,” Hjordis said squeezing her husband’s hand. “And his name will never be forgotten.”

They continued walking towards the house in silence but before the door Sigmund kissed his wife gently.

“You decide when we should go, my dear,” he said. “I trust your judgement in everything.”

“Then we will prepare for the journey tonight,” she replied. “And set off tomorrow for Hunland.”

The door opened and old King Eylimi, pale and tense, greeted them.

“I’m glad you’ve come,” he said. “A messenger has just arrived with some bad news.”

“What is it, Father?” the girl asked taking Eylimi’s hand. “What has happened.”

“An army marches upon us, my dear,” the old king replied. “King Lygni, the suitor you rejected, is coming to seek vengeance against us with forces like none we have seen before.”

“Let him come.” Sigmund said, placing a hand on the Queen’s shoulder. “If it is a war he wants then he will get one.”

“How far away is the army, Father?” Hjordis asked. 

“About a day’s march away.”

“Then we must gather our men,” Sigmund said quickly. Turning to his young wife he smiled sadly.

“I am glad we stayed, now. Hunland can wait for us a little while longer.”  Then lowering his eyes to her belly, he knitted his brow.

“I will not let any harm come to you Hjordis,” he vowed. “I will guard you and our child with my life.”

And Hjordis nodded, fighting back the tears that were stinging her eyes as the last words King Lygni had spoken to her echoed in her mind.

“Mark my words Princess,” the young man had said through gritted teeth. “I’ll be back, and when I have laid waste to this pathetic kingdom, I will make you mine. And when you are mine I will teach you to pay me the respect I am due and you will rue the day you rejected me.”

What would become of the Queen of Hunland? Would Sigmund be able to fight off King Lygni’s army with his handful of men? Or would Sigmund be defeated? We will find out next time...

Based on the Volsunga Saga

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