Mya followed me as I strode out into the streets of Ragnar. I walked proudly with my head high and I strode purposefully toward the Noble Quarter for my meeting with the King of the Nordic Kingdom. The paved path up the side of the hill started behind he custom-house and made a complete circle around the hill the longhouse stood on slowly rising until you came back around to the custom-house but you were then right in front of the main gate to the longhouse but now at least seventy feet above where you had started. The path was walled in stone about three feet high and as you walked up it you rose above the nobles’ manors. Most of them were three stories tall but by the end of the trip you were above them all and then you got to stand in front of the main gates of the largest building in the Nordic Kingdom – The King’s Longhouse.
The Longhouse was easily one hundred feet wide. It stretched along top of the hill for about five hundred feet long and it towered over Mya and me probably at about seventy feet at the peak and fifty feet at the sides. It was made of wood beams and trunks of oak trees for pillars. The whole thing was covered in the black pitch like substance but that was both for water proofing but the sap it was made from was also flame repellent. It none the less was intricately carved with Nordic symbols and animal characters at various point and along both sides of the gate were the blue banner with the black raven that was the Banner of the King. It was the Banner of House Raven-Rock but that was the house that the King had originally belonged to so it was now also the Banner of the King as well.
King Bjorn Raven-Rock had acquired the throne when his predecessor had died in battle some years ago. He had held onto the throne ever since and that was twenty years. It was one of the longest rules in the history of the Nordic Kingdom and he had taken the throne at age thirty. The Council of Jarl’s at first was ecstatic to have him as king as he seemed to be as warlike as his predecessor but far more successful. However, he not only survived several close battles with so much as a scratch, he had defeated his neighbors to the point that for the last ten years they had relative peace. The other Jarls knew with a long reign their chance to be King was diminished and that had led to some cutthroat politics as the other Jarls maneuvered for position of being second to the King or plotted against him if they were out of favor.
I was not at this time interested in any of this because my status as a minor noble meant I would have a long way to go before I would even be thought of for even a fief of land. I simply had to be mindful that I didn’t step in a dung pile. King Bjorn was said to be generous to his friends and vengeful to his enemies, I was going to work hard to be his friend. There were Five Jarldoms each with its own major castle or city, one of which was the City of Ragnar and the Oak Throne of the King. Each Jarl was entitled to Three Thanes that each had a castle or villages of some sort and each Thane had minor nobles under them called Housecarls to execute his will. I was actually below even this because I was an untitled noble and I didn’t even have a warband to lead yet so there was little hope I could even act as a mercenary band yet. I needed the king’s permission and support to do that and I was not sure how I could do that being a woman noble. My main hope was not to be brushed off as merely bride material. My ambitions were higher than that, much higher.
The two guards on each side of the main gate hailed us and I told them my name and that I was expected. They nodded respectfully and then one of them opened one of the great doors in an almost effortless fashion. The gate was definitely well-balanced and oiled. Entering any palace is awe-inspiring and that is by design. The King or Emperor wants to make you feel small and they certainly don’t need the lofty heights to live in. The idea is awe. I know this as a noble but even so it never ceases to impress me. The entry way to the Kings Longhouse was impressive although it clearly wasn’t as wide as the total width of the longhouse. Double doors of great height were in each wall. One was a guard post and the other servant’s stations – right and left doors respectfully. The doors to the throne room were fifty feet straight ahead and were just as massive and the main gate and flanked by guards.
We were greeted by two men. One was dressed in robes and introduced himself as the King’s Steward Markus and he was clearly not of Nordic decent being much shorted and dark-haired. He introduced the second man who clearly was Nordic standing well a head over me an brandishing the black chain mail armor of the King’s Guards. This was Karic True-Blade and I had to admit he was the most hansom man so far in this land I had seen but it was also clear he was a weathered warrior s his temples were grey which accented his long red hair. Both of them bowed their heads to us and we returned the salute. The Steward then instructed us on the proper protocol for seeing the King. We were informed that the King was in council at present and that he would be available shortly. We were to enter and kneel before his throne and wait with head bowed. When he entered he would ask us to rise and then would address us. I felt this was odd but I had learned to follow instructions when dealing with strange protocol that way you could always come back to the instructor if they steered you wrong. In any case I had little time for questions as they opened the doors to the throne room and ushered us in.
The King’s Throne room was basically a one hundred foot square with a quarter of it taken up with the Oak Throne in the center on a raised dais that had only two steps. A Huge tapestry of great Nordic King battling some sort of invasion was behind the throne that covered the whole wall other than the lower part which had doors to the far right and left that lead to the banquet hall which I would see at a later time. The throne itself was indeed made of oak and carved with intricate symbols of animals and axes. It was large, easily ten feet tall and five feet wide. It really looked like it had been carved out of a single piece of an oak tree trunk. Pillars went from ceiling to floor every twenty feet or so in the room and they too were carved with Nordic symbols and animals as well. A blue carpet with silver trim ran from the large double doors where we had entered to the foot of the dais where the throne was. Mya and I followed it until we were near the throne and then knelt down and bowed our heads as instructed.
We did not actually have to wait long. Maybe a minute then the door to the right of the throne came open. I could only tell this by the sound of the door opening as I was busy keeping my head down and my eyes to the floor. I heard a shuffling of feet as people were apparently taking their places. Once the sound of feet moving stopped a voice with a loud commanding tone addressed us.
“Well, It is good to see you again Lady Rosenhall. Arise, we have much to discuss.”
I looked up and the man sitting on the Oak Throne was the same straw-colored haired man I had met in the bathhouse just a few hours before. That man who I had been naked in front of and he in front of me a mere five feet apart in the bathhouse was now only ten feet away and was the King Bjorn Raven-Rock himself and I felt my heart fall into my shoes.