Sunday, December 5, 2010

Duke Sir Bjornsson and the Ring

By Colyne Stewart, Dec. AS XXXVI (2001)

For Thorfinna gra’felder, Christmas AS XXXVI (2001)

In days of old a great hero walked our land, the knight-errant Duke Sir Hefni Bjornsson. Bjornsson was a huge man, standing ten feet tall, with a shock of blond hair and the strength of four men. His armour had been made especially for him by the Dwarf smith Verundel, who lived in the middle of a remote forest. His steed, Falfinor, had been a gift from the King of Drachenwald, and was the colour of a raging fire.

Bjornsson had been born in the far north, in the land now known as Flaming Sky, and has spent his youth in the court of the Prince of Septentria, which was then a Principality of the Middle Kingdom. He had advanced through the ranks quickly and had been made a knight on his nineteenth birthday. In times of war he served the Prince as his personal guardian and adviser, while in times of peace he wandered the land enforcing the Prince’s law.

During the course of one of his forays, Bjornsson met a knight called Vertigen. Vertigen came from a land far to the south. He had travelled north, he said, in search of one who could beat him in a contest of arms.

Upon hearing this, Bjornsson challenged Vertigen to appear before the Prince of Septentria at the coming Yule and he himself would meet him in the Lists.

To this Vertigen consented, and the two knights parted company.

Bjornsson then continued on his way until he met a Scotsman, dressed in white and blue plaid, who was sitting on a snowy hillock, juggling boulders.

Much impressed, Bjornsson stopped to converse with the Scot. The man, whose name was Macfee, said he juggled boulders as he could find no one brave enough to test his strength.

Bjornsson then challenged Macfee to a contest of strength at Yule in the palace of the Prince. Both men then went happily on their ways.

Still later, Bjornsson pulled Falfinor to a stop at the edge of a frozen river. There he met Aileen O’Donohue, an Irish lass descended, so she said, from the Fair race. She was wrestling with a great tygre because she could find no man brave enough to fight her.

At this Bjornsson challenged her to a match to be had in front of the Prince at Yule. To this Aileen merrily agreed and Bjornsson continued on his way.

Before long his guardian, the Dwarf smith Verundel, appeared at his side and admonished him. In his eagerness to engage in manly contests and prove his skill he had just accepted three separate challenges, al to be met on the same day.

At the Dwarf’s words Bjornsson felt ashamed. In his haste he had doomed himself to certain failure; for while he felt sure he could defeat any one of his opponents he knew that he stood no chance against all three.

There was only one option, said Verundel. If Bjornsson sought out the great white bear of Septentria and defeated him, he would be granted a magic ring that would ensure his victory at Yule.

So Bjornsson rode Falfinor to the great bear’s cave and challenged it to battle. Though Bjornsson was a giant, the bear stood twice his height. Still, the hero showed no fear and met the lance-like claws and sword-like teeth in combat. For two days and nights they fought, until finally they both fell to the ground exhausted. Bjornsson slept, and when he awoke he found the bear waiting for him. Again they fought for two days until exhaustion claimed them again. For two weeks they battled thus, until the bear finally bowed its head to Bjornsson and honoured his courage and strength by awarding him the magic ring.

Bjornsson rode triumphantly back to the court of his liege, just in time for the Yule celebrations. He found Vertigen, Macfee and Aileen awaiting him and they made ready to meet him on the morrow.

The battle that began the next morn lasted for a fortnight. For though the power of the ring made Bjornsson unbeatable, his opponents were so formidable he found himself hard pressed to defeat them.

When finally he had beaten them, he removed the ring and exposed the scheme to all. The ring he gave to the Prince, and to his opponents he gave gifts of gold, silver and jewels.

The three, pleased with the gifts, and eager to meet Bjornsson in the Lists again, stayed at court and eventually all became knights of Septentria.

As for the ring, it is still in the hands of our Royal family. As the Kingdom of Ealdormere grew up around and out of Septentria, the ring passed to the King and Queen, and they hold it to this day, making the armies of Ealdormere unbeatable in battle.

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