Ahhh I have spent some time trying to recover from the past months and while I am now finally clean, well fed, warm and dry, I believe my mind is still suffering from the aftershocks and affects of that difficult time across the river in our Viking camp when so many lives were lost and other lives were unraveling before one’s very eyes. We all know well now exactly what happened out there when Ragnar Lothbrok decided that so many lives were expendable so that his plan to conquer Paris would be the successful one… When he chose to rule with his emotions and not his head- just the opposite of what he advised his son, Bjorn to do in the future.
People can make excuses and try to justify Ragnar’s actions all they want to… many try to excuse him by saying that he is sick and perhaps not thinking so clearly as he otherwise might be, others justify it in that he is King and he has just done what needed doing to ensure that this campaign was successful after all of the failure we endured. Yes, I will admit, he is very sick and could still possibly die from his injuries. He brought his injuries upon himself though, when he as King, allowed his warriors to attempt a siege led by Floki, knowing full well that it would fail and cause Floki such self shame. Ragnar knew from Athelstan that this city was impregnable, and so must be conquered by some other means. He knew this when he allowed Rollo and Lagertha to make another attempt and fail yet again. And, then after those failures, he chose to rub all of their faces in their defeat and say, Now we will do it my way because I am Ragnar Lothbrok, I am King. I believe he had this plan in his head from the beginning, that is why he prayed early on to Athelstan and asked him to forgive what he was about to do.
Well, Ragnar Lothbrok, King… You have achieved your greatness, your fame and your reputation. You have won your great victory and conquered Paris just the way the Seer prophesied. “Not the Living, but the Dead will conquer Paris” I suppose I should congratulate you on this accomplishment, but all I can think of is the other part of that prophecy. “and it will not bode well for you Ragnar Lothbrok!” My thoughts are of how much it has cost you to achieve this feat, and whether it will be worth it for you in your end. I believe that when it comes your time to meet the Gods, all of the Gods- yes, even the Christ God- you will face some judgement for your actions. I also believe that you will have to answer to your beloved Athelstan, one whom you used and mistreated just as much as others who have cared about you. You will pay your price for these events Ragnar Lothbrok, for there is always a price to pay for great reward and favor of the Gods.
Athelstan and the Gods will await your arrival and your judgement based upon your choices, Ragnar Lothbrok… Perhaps you have finally fallen out of favor with them all? What you have forgotten is that while yes, we all are free to make choice, there are always consequences to those choices- even for one once so favored as you, Ragnar.
But, I think you are perhaps beginning to realize this…
There is an old saying that the wheel of fate turns for all of us. Sometimes we are up and other times we are at the bottom… I believe that your turn at the top is now finished, Ragnar and you must ride the wheel on the downward turn. Perhaps the Norns, the spinners of fate will catch you before you fall, perhaps not? You have made the choices that brought you to this point. Personally, I began to doubt you when you dallied with Princess Kwentirith beyond what was called for as allies and presumed to chide Lagertha for her dalliance with Ecbert.
I lost my faith and trust in you when I found out about how you killed that innocent survivor of the massacre in Wessex so that no one else would know of that event and blame you, judge you, or spoil your plans for Paris. You were willing to do this and yet you hold blame against Floki for killing Athelstan- whom he deemed a serious threat to you, your people and your beliefs. In reality, Ragnar, you bear responsibility in the death of your friend Athelstan as well as Floki. Yes, Floki killed him but if you had not been so insistent on having your way and winning in the competition for friendship over Ecbert, Athelstan would have remained in Wessex and I do believe he would have been safer there under Ecbert’s protection! You placed him in the middle of danger when you knew how your people felt about him and about Christians. And, now one day, ironically, your sons will fight to the death against Athelstan’s son Alfred and some of them will lose their lives in that battle! Ecbert tried to tell Athelstan his future lie in Wessex, but he was too swayed by your begging of him to stay with you. Had you such true regard and concern for him as you profess, you would have set aside your desires and advised him to remain in Wessex. Now, do you feel some guilt in his death or do you just blame Floki for all of it.
In a sense, you used Athelstan just you have used and taken for granted all of the others who have cared for you. You have assumed that they will forgive you, that they will remain faithful and loyal to you no matter what… You used them, set them aside, caused them to doubt themselves, and when it was convenient or needful, you take them back and “forgive” them for whatever grievances they have supposedly done against you. If you feel they can be of some use to you in the future, you lead them along, allow them to feel worthy of your “forgiving spirit”. From Lagertha, who loved you, still loves you yet… who’s only fault was that she could not bear you another son, to Rollo your brother who you have taken for granted and treated as less than you until he finally believed it himself. Aslaug, you used to give you more sons and then disregard, and we know how you have treated floki- your oldest and loyal friend. Even traitors whom you should have killed outright, you have held on to for some questionable useful purpose that lies only within your mind and no one else’s…yes, Erlandeur, who you should have put to death along with his Father, you have allowed him to live and to become a part of your group… why is that? Why did you not just put him out of his miserable existence when you should have and been done with it!
All of your choices and your using of these people who called you friend, family, ruler, came to a head in this recent deception of yours. The only two people that you seemed not to have showed your anger,your distrust, and your resentment of were your son, Bjorn and one other person? I watched this person with some interest and now wonder why it is that you did not lash out at him, and why he remained so calm throughout this all? This is one person that I would have assumed that you would find some fault with just for the fact you hold grudges and resentments as well as some jealousy over who your ex-wife, Lagertha chooses to dally with… even though as she has reminded you, you really have no right to pass judgement on her considering your own past behaviors with Aslaug. I find it odd that while you seem to know everything that goes on behind your back and obviously have spies everywhere, you have chosen not to question Kalf or hint at any suspect of his secret doings with Erlandeur, nor have you given any show of disapproval on him desiring your ex-wife. No, you save that show of displeasure just for Lagertha as if it is only her fault… You openly welcomed Kalf into the group because you were in need of his ships and his men, so do you go so far as to throw Lagertha into the deal just in order to receive what you want from Kalf? What else is going on perhaps, between you and Kalf that you are keeping a secret… another game of treachery and deception such as was played with Erlandeur’s Father, King Horick? Is there something else that you want or need from Kalf besides his ships and his men? I only ask because at this point, I have become as distrustful as you, Ragnar Lothbrok!
Despite my knowledge of Kalf’s previous plan for deceit and revenge upon you and your entire family, I can not seem to help myself from liking the man. Since embarking on this raid with us, he has shown himself to be a fine, courageous warrior and has remained calm in the face of everything that has happened. When you were raging at everyone, he stayed steady and unfazed by your tirade. His points made during the discussions have had merit and he has really said nothing against you, but only brought up facts that all would agree upon. Your baptism struck a nerve with all of your people and he is right that they would never follow a Christian King at this point in time. It was Erlandeur who responded with the suggestion that someone needs to kill you. Kalf was only stating the easiest and most convenient way of you no longer being ruler… no bloodshed or death, they would just choose another King, that would make things easier for everyone.
Later after your method of attack was successful and the warriors all walked past you on their way into the city, there were telling looks from them and from you as to their feelings and yours about your deceptive plan. They were much as would be expected, except when it came to Kalf.
The most painful look came from Lagertha, and from Bjorn, who is once more caught in the middle of your differences. I believe this is a final betrayal and act of mistrust on your part, Ragnar for her. Even though she still loves you, I do not think she will be able to forgive this act from you.
The look from Kalf was not of surprise or shock, nor was it of betrayal on your part. It seemed to be one more almost of acceptance or some possible prior knowledge? It was as though he expected you to have pulled off something of this sort… and there was no look of revenge or anything else in your eyes either?
Later when the group met to discuss your deception and decide what to do, Kalf also remained calm. I could be very wrong but it felt like Kalf knew something of this plan when Lagertha was yelling at Bjorn about having kept this secret. It could of course, also have been his concern for Lagertha’s feelings and her future reactions to this event that caused his look because as I have said before, I believe he truly cares about Lagertha. He would understand how all of this will hurt her.
What ever personal agenda or plan that Kalf and Ragnar may be holding together must wait to be seen. My only hope right now is that it does not hurt Lagertha… because you, Ragnar have done more than enough to hurt her. She needs no more pain from you! One thing I find telling is that I think you know how this will affect her. When she passed you going into the city, you could not look at her. Surely you know, you understand that this was the ultimate betrayal in her mind. If you held any thought of maintaining some level of relationship with her, I fear this final act has cost you that possibility. That you did not trust her with this secret, then you allowed her to pour out her deepest emotions for you while thinking you had died… No, I do not think she will forget or forgive this action on your part. My one other fear is that if Kalf was somehow a party to any of this and kept it from her, he will not be forgiven either. I hope too that she does not hold resentment towards Bjorn for having only done what you requested, demanded of him- not as Father, but as King.
Bjorn is not to fault in any of this. He has simply did what he was told by his King, whether he agreed with it or not, because as he put it, Ragnar is still King. Bjorn is a good man, fair and honorable… I wonder how much tension or strain this act will put on him. Did you think of that, Ragnar? No, I am sure you did not because your thoughts have been for yourself, your fame, your reputation, your own personal desires. You admitted to Ecbert that you were corrupt, I just did not realize how corrupt you had become until these recent events.
Your cunning and clever ruse to capture the city worked just as you planned… but, you could have save untold grief, and lives had you chosen to trust us and lead us in this plan to begin with rather than use all of us, prove to all of us how incompetent we were and how much greater you are. And, you did this last act purely to prove to us that you are smarter, better, greater than the rest of us. To prove that you could indeed conquer the city, and what has it gained you? Has it gained you our respect, our continued loyalty to you, our continued trust in you? No, it has not… if anything, you have created an even wider and deeper wedge between yourself and your people with this action. Are we so grateful for the added wealth you have brought us that we will overlook our misgivings and our distrust of you? On the surface, momentarily, the great wealth will only appease us for a short time. After that, our thoughts will turn to how many loved ones we lost in this raid… our thoughts will also turn to the lingering underlying doubts of your true sincerity and belief in the Gods and the old ways. That baptism and your placing Athelstan above your family and your people will always hover in the thoughts of all those who were here to witness all of this.
In his way, floki has been right in his words that you have betrayed him, betrayed your family, your people- those you are supposed to lead with a clear head, and you have betrayed the Gods as well as your friend Athelstan. When Lagertha, Rollo and Floki put forth their truest feelings of you and then saw you alive, they knew that you will one day use those words against them just as you did turn on them with your angry tirade earlier.
That is exactly what you have already done with Floki. In your bitter resentment and anger at him for killing Athelstan, you set him up, used him as a scapegoat and now will not rest until you have seen him completely shamed and punished. Well, I have news for you Ragnar, it not your decision, your choice or your right to punish Floki for his actions. You think that you can usurp the power and the judgement of the Gods in such matters. It is up to the Gods to choose Floki’s fate or punishment for any wrongdoing on his part- it is not for you to decide on your own. Does that remind you of anything?
You would do well to remember what you so bluntly told that Bishop when he vowed you would not see Athelstan because you would be in Hell…”That is not your decision to make!” Of course then you took care of that with yet another personal revenge killing. You could have just taken your hostages and left, but no, you had to extract that bit of personal grudge and revenge in killing the man in the middle of all the citizens of Paris… So, much for your thinking with your head and not your heart and your emotions. There was really no need for that killing and in doing it you just showed the Christians of Paris what vicious and cruel barbarians we could be. If it was your intent to completely destroy any positive thoughts they might have about us as a people, you certainly succeeded with that act! Thank you so much Ragnar Lothbrok for reinforcing their fears and hatred of us. In one move, you managed to destroy any of the teachings and lessons that your valued friend Athelstan had tried so hard to help you understand. In your rage against the man who told you that you would not meet Athelstan again, you basically slaughtered him in cold blood- probably thereby ensuring that if and when you meet Athelstan again, there will be a consequence, a high price to pay for that deliberate, unnecessary killing.
I am not sure what you expected of Rollo.. did you think he would react differently to the news of your supposed death than he did? Did you for some reason think that he would be remorseful and guilt filled in his last words to you? Did you assume that he would grieve and mourn your loss, and beg you final forgiveness of him for any wrongs he might have committed against you in the past? I think that you were not all that surprised with his reaction to your “death” unless of course, you viewed him as you view Floki, you assumed that he had learned his lesson and would be forever in your shadow, remaining loyal to you after his previous attempts to break away and out of your shadow. Did you think that you had managed to quell his deep resentments and your hold over him would remain even after your death? Well, if you believed that, then you were probably taken back at his reaction and his words to you. Rollo made no apologies, he was honest and forthright in his last thoughts towards you, whether you wanted to hear them or not… and when he saw you alive, he still held no guilt or apology in his look towards you. His look was more of disgust and resignation at your latest act!
After the siege when the discussion came of what to do next, you were still too ill to make any decisions so it was left up to Bjorn to lead, with his head and not his heart. When the talk turned of needing a group to remain as they would return in the spring to raid once more, I am sure that Floki volunteered because he did not want to endure a lengthy boat ride with you, Ragnar… could anyone blame him for that? But, Rollo stepped in and volunteered instead. At first, Bjorn questioned why Rollo should have any reason either for staying, but he let the subject drop and agreed with Rollo’s decision. Bjorn made that decision in what he thought were the best interests of the group. Should you want to hold it against him later, and I am sure it will come up… please let me remind you right now ahead of time, there was no malice or misintent in that decision. Bjorn was doing what he thought was right at the time. Realistically, there was no one else he could trust to carry this out. He did not know Kalf well enough to trust him with such endeavor and there was the matter of Kalf’s strange friendship with Erlandeur- that alone was enough cause for some lack of trust! He knew that Floki was not capable of such a mission, and at this point he probably lacked some trust that even Lagertha would carry it through and not do something out of spite in her anger right now towards Ragnar. Besides that fact, it must be someone who the French would take seriously as threat and respect in some way. Rollo fit that requirement.
Later there was great celebration of our victory but Rollo did not participate in it. He stood apart and spent much time in deep thought… I know that he was thinking of the Seer’s earier prophecy to him about Paris. Rollo believes in the seer, in the fates and in the Gods. He accepts that the Norns, those spinners of fate shape and weave our destinies and we must follow where they lead us. Thankfully, he has come to understand that we do have choice about how we conduct ourselves on that journey! He has already become a much different man than Ragnar gives him credit for. Months ago, he would have been passed out under a table or fighting some drunken grudge matched brawl.
But, this night he was serious and putting his thoughts towards an uncertain future. The Seer was certainly on his mind as he thought about those words “The Princess will marry the Bear and you will be there to witness it. If you knew what the Gods have in store for you, you would dance naked on the beach in joy”
Did he perhaps think that night too, of that young woman on the tower wall that he could not get out of his head? At the time, I could give him no explanation for I knew not of her either. That meeting would come later and we would then more clearly understand the Seer’s prophecy!
Within a few days after that celebration, the decision was announced that Rollo and a group of Warriors would remain here on the banks of Paris for the winter while the rest of the group would travel back to Kattegat. I can not say for sure the feelings of all of those who were leaving that day… I am not sure exactly what their sentiments towards Ragnar were, I think they were most of the opinion that he would not even survive the trip home as sick as he still was. And, I believe that many were probably hoping that should be the case…he is still their King, but that does not mean that they are necessarily all loyal to him any longer. Many have mumbled and uttered their doubts about his rule so it would not surprise me to hear in the future of some revolt against him. My personal thought on the matter is this. If it was not your intention or desire to be Earl or King, and it was the fault of everyone else, then perhaps you should do your people and yourself a favor and service by stepping down from this role that you so insist that you never wanted in the first place! Your son Bjorn is proving himself more than capable and worthy of such leadership. Give up this rule to Bjorn and let him lead. People would back him and follow him more willingly than they will continue to follow you now.
Rollo and his group of Warriors stood watching as the ships headed out, leaving all of them to a new future and destiny…
During the next few months, we remained in that camp waiting and not looking forward to spending a winter in this dreadful place. It was cold, damp, dirty and rather disgusting! It was only ever meant to be a temporary camp for the duration of the raid and now with the smaller group of us here- mostly warrior men, and only just a few of us women who remained, we were face with the unenviable task of trying to make this camp habitable for the duration of the winter. The men were and are loyal to Rollo- that is why they chose to stay- but they were frustrated with this down time and they were becoming increasingly bored and thus irritable and unpredictable. I followed well Rollo’s instructions to stay well away from the men for my own safety!
During this time, Rollo spent much of his time training his men, and learning as much as he could from Sinric. Sinric was a great help to all of us with his knowledge of the Franks and the language. Yes, he is a strange man but I have become quite fond of him. He has taught us all a great deal about this culture and how to fit into it in some way. Rollo is determined that the Seer is right and his destiny lies here in Paris. When I question him about Ragnar, he simply replies that he must do what is right for him now. The one thing that pleases me most… he seems quite happy here without interference or judgements from Ragnar every time he turns around. He is in charge here, his men follow him willingly and all seem quite loyal to him.
Of course, the Frankish citizens of Paris were concerned about our continuing presence… We were unaware of it at the time but there seemed to be much disagreement within the upper ranks there on what to do about us. The other puzzle would and will be in the future is who is this man, Roland? What part, what role does he play in our future here? He seems to hold a rather high and well trusted position in their group. We often encounter him on visits to the camp from their soldiers and with Count Odo. He also seems quite close to Gisla…
Now, as to the disagreements within their court… they are naturally concerned about any future raiding we might be planning for the Spring but were unsure as to what to do about this event. Much of the unrest and disagreement was between Charles and his daughter Gisla. At the beginning, he was thrilled with his supposed victory over us and made reference that his Grandfather Charlamagne would be so proud of him now! The Princess Gisla was quite open in her annoyance and irritation with her weak willed Father…
From all accounts that I have now heard, Charles was becoming much annoyed with his daughter’s behavior. He did have other serious matters to attend to besides her complaints and criticisms.
Gisla was also having some altercations and disagreements with Count Odo at the time… he was insisting on holding her to a marriage agreement and she was having none of it!
At some later point, Charles had a family dinner discussion with his daughter where he first brought up the subject of what to about the Vikings. He explained that they could not endure another such raid and must find a way to come to some terms with us. The discussion quickly turned sour when Gisla made disparaging remarks about any such idea and how much more it would cost them.
There was a lengthy discussion, debate and disagreement before Charles finally came forth with his plan of action. His plan was to offer this man, Rollo a vast amount of wealth, land and Gisla’s hand in marriage in return for an agreement to protect the city of Paris from future raids. Needless to say, Gisla was less than happy about this idea and Charles had to remind her that besides being her Father, he was her King and Emperor. “I am your King, your Emperor and you will do as I say!
It was around this same time that the Frankish emissaries sent the proposed agreement to Rollo. Sinric acted as translator in explaining this agreement to Rollo.
Now, Please do not assume or accuse Rollo of taking this matter lightly, for he did not! You, Ragnar Lothbrok, and others may look at this as yet another betrayal from Rollo, but considering all of the things you have done to others lately, you have no right accuse or blame Rollo in this. Rollo has never waivered in his belief in the Gods, or the fates that lead one’s destiny. He has had to weigh this offer over in his head, debate on it with his men and choose which path was best for them to follow as a group. If you think this such an easy decision, you are wrong. But, as I have said, Rollo firmly believes that the Seer was now correct in his prophecy. Rollo has made this choice, and his men have followed him. He did not go to that meeting with Charles and Gisla on his own. He went surrounded by his men, his group of warriors that would stand to reap the benefits and bounty of this agreement along with Rollo! Why do they choose to follow him on this path? Because, I think, like many of the others in their Viking group, they have become disenchanted with Ragnar’s rule, they do not trust Ragnar any longer, and they see the advantage of this path. Rollo will share his land and wealth with them and if this alliance goes as proposed by Charles, Rollo and this group of Warriors will become the founding Noblemen of a new land, a new Kingdom called Normandy… Land of Northmen.
As I have said, this is if all goes well and as set out in this agreement. Their first meeting did not go quite as well as would have been thought. Rollo and his men were dressed in their finest for this initial meeting, having been assisted as always by our Sinric. Sinric accompanied the group to act as mediator and translator.
Charles is cordial and welcoming to the group while Gisla and Odo look on silently…
I was not allowed into the hall to attend this meeting but was able to peer in from the doorway along with so many other curious onlookers. My first thought of Gisla was, “What on earth is she wearing on her head!” It looked like a modern day lampshade to me but I guess, we’re in Paris now- where they are already fashion forward and trend setters. At first, too, she looked rather regal in her bearing and appearance, but that quickly changed.
I was watching her and it was obvious that this young woman was not at all happy. Suddenly she jumped up from her throne and the tantrum began! Whoa… ummmm this was not exactly what we expected? I guess we all sort of assumed that this young woman would be a willing participant in this arrangement, that’s what we get for assuming anything!
What ensued was a long winded tirade and rant from her in which she called Rollo every sort of vile name and vowed that she would never do such thing as give up her virginity and her virtue to such scum and heathen barbarian as him…
It was indeed a full blown temper tantrum and hissy fit if ever I’ve seen one. Charles was uncomfortable and embarrassed by it, and it just went on and on…
Rollo and his men were not sure what was going on at first…and she was rattling on so fast that it was difficult for any of us not fluent in the language to make out everything she was spitting out at him.
During her rant, Rollo did manage to pick out a few words… Rollo is used to young women even of her age already having had some experience with sex… They are after all, much more open minded about sexual activity.
As I did mention, she just kept going on with her speech…
Thank the Gods, Rollo finally had enough and called a halt to her tantrum with one look…
One look, one smile and a simple Hello in French! That was the end of her rant, and the end of the public meeting.
As of right now, the negotiations on this treaty are still being worked out. It’s all about those finer little details such as the asking of more land and wealth considering the recent antics and behaviors of one Princess Gisla. After her public display, Rollo is in a much better position to demand more wealth in this deal… word will quickly spread around France of her behaviors and it might be difficult now for Charles to get another offer for her even if she is a Princess… If she does not change her behaviors, Odo may well be the only other willing taker for her.
As for me, Rollo has insisted that they show me courtesy and treat me as a Noble guest… I will do my best to keep my eyes and ears open here at court for any information that might prove useful to the group. He has chided me for my ongoing outbursts of continuing anger at Ragnar though and advised me to let it go for now. It is not for me to concern myself with this situation of which we can do nothing about anyway. He does assure me that he is taking it all into serious thought and will deal with when the time comes. Until such a time does come, I should enjoy myself here and learn as much as possible about the land and these people so that I may be of use in helping the others to adjust to this their new home and life.
I contain my outbursts to the privacy of my chamber and I can not help but occasionally cry tears of anger and frustration over all of these past events that have led us here. I have found great comfort though in enjoying the luxuries of this place…such as maids to attend me. And, I will never get enough of the glorious hot baths and having my hair washed and done up by these excellent maids, though I do admit to feeling somewhat guilty for them having to haul those buckets of hot water and fill this tub for me on a such a regular basis. I do my best to treat all of them well with great kindness and reward so I seem to have become a favorite for them. Now, my only problem is that Count Odo seems to have taken great interest in me as well…Ummmm no Thank you sir, I do appreciate your flattery but, I have heard those whispered rumors as to your particular tastes and I can not say that I am on the same page or wave length as you regarding such activities…
As long as I am going to spending some time here though, I would not mind knowing more about this mysterious Roland…. He seems friendly enough, and he is one of the better looking men I’ve met here so far? It also helps that he is not a Priest… I swear this place is over run with men of God, and from what I have seen and heard, they are not nearly so Godly as they would have one believe! Just one more look at the mystery man at court!
Ahhhh and one last thought before I go…. besides everything else, I have taken Rollo’s suggestion and done a bit of shopping here in Paris! Of course, in order to shop for new garments, one must have them hand made, custom designed and sewn for you. But, it is such a rare treat to not have to sew it myself and to say, if even just smirking to myself, “Ohhh do you like it? I got it on my last trip to Paris!” I will be making a trip to England in the near future to check on my friend Judith… Perhaps I will bring her some of these styles! Here are but a few samples of what is popular right now.
And, a few varieties of head dress… Judith would much appreciate these, I think considering her recent event involving the loss of her ear!