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Ottilie A. Liljencrantz’s ‘The Viking Adventures’: Volume 1

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Ottilie A. Liljencrantz’s ‘The Viking Adventures’: Volume 1
Leonaur Original
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Author(s): Ottilie A. Liljencrantz
Date Published: 2014/12
Page Count: 420
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-78282-384-1
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-78282-383-4

High adventure among the Norsemen in a special two volume set

Historical adventure fiction is so popular today that only readers of a certain vintage can remember the time (not so long past) that it had all but disappeared from the catalogues of publishers. Tales of Romans, knights, warriors and soldiers of every nation and period now abound, but the current trend is but a return to a literary genre that has been always had its enthusiasts and indeed its specialist authors. The author of this two volume collection of Viking adventures, Ottilie Liljencrantz, was an American but—as her name suggests—of Scandinavian origins, who had an authentic feel for her subject by both sensibility and an intimate knowledge of the period in which her stories are set. While that vision might not always square with that of contemporary authors on the Viking age, in her time Liljencrantz’s books were very keenly anticipated. Indeed, one of them was filmed during the 1930s. These fabulous tales of the Norsemen at the time when they braved the wide Atlantic to discover a new continent have been collected into two substantial Leonaur volumes for readers to own and enjoy.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.

It would have been a dull soul that would not have been stirred by a sight of Danish camp. The host was like a forest of mighty trees tossing and swaying before the approach of a storm. Lines of moving shot lightning flashes through the dusk of the shady grove; while the hundreds of jubilant voices blended into rumbling thunder. Through the tumult, the blaring horns thrilled like pulse-beats.
Flaring crimson under her brown skin, Randalin’s Viking blood leaped to answer the call. For Rothgar’s shout she gave another, and laughed out of sheer delight when he tossed her upon the back of a pawing horse. Away with woman’s fears! The world was a grand brave place, and men a race of heroes. To ride by their sides, and share their mighty deeds, and see their glory,—what keener joy had life to offer? Away with fear, with foreboding! The present was all-glorious, and there would be no tomorrow.
Shrill and clear from the opposite hill came the notes of the English horns, as down the green slope moved the ranks of English bowmen. The hum of Danish voices sank in a breathless hush; through the stillness, Tovi, the royal bannerman, galloped to his post. A rustle, a boom, and the great standard was unfurled, giving to the breeze the dread Raven of Denmark. Anxious eyes scanned its mien; should it hang motionless, drooping—but no, it soared like a living bird! Exultation burst from a thousand throats.
Down the line came the young king upon his white war-horse, clad for the battle as for a feast. The sun at noonday is not more fiercely bright than was his face. His long locks flowed behind him on the wind like tongues of yellow flame; and like northern lights in a blue northern sky, the leader’s fire flashed in his eyes. So Balder the Beautiful might have come among the Jotuns. So the brawny sweating hard-breathing giants might have jostled and crowded toward him, expectant, adoring.
As he came, he was calling out terrible reminders: words that were to the ears of his champing host what the smell of blood is to the nostrils of wolves.
“Free men, true men, remember that ye face oath-breakers! Remember how they have spoken fine words to us of plighted faith...and when we have believed them and laid down our arms...they have stolen upon us in our sleep..and murdered our comrades! And our kinswomen whom they had taken to be their wives! Remember Saint Brice’s day! Remember our murdered kin!
On he went down the line; and like a trail in his wake, rose an answering chorus of growls and clashing steel. Down some of the battered old faces tears of excitement began to flow, like the water out of the riven rock; while the delirium of others took the form of mirth, so that they sent forth wild terrible laughter to swell the uproar.
Above the tumult his voice rang like a bell: “Heroes and sons of heroes, remember you fight cowards! Remember that, since the days of our fathers, they have made gold do the work of steel. To get gold to buy peace, they will sell their children into slavery. Sooner than look our swords in the face, they will yield us their daughters to be our thralls! Oath-breakers, nithings! Will you be beaten by such? Vikings, Odinmen, forward!”
His answer was the bursting roar of the Danish battle-cry. Like an avalanche loosed from its moorings, they swept down the hillside upon the English bow-men. From that moment, Randalin rode in a dream.
At first it was a glorious dream. On, on, over the green plain, with the wind fresh in her face and the music of the horns in her ears. The son of Lodbrok was beside her, singing as he went, and tossing his great battle-axe in the air to catch it again by the handle. In front of them rode Canute the king; in his hand his gleaming blade, whose thin edge he tried now and again on a lock of his floating hair, while he laughed with boyish delight. Once he turned his bright face back over his shoulder to call gayly to the Jotun:
“Brother, you were right in despising craft. When the battle-madness fills a man, he becomes a god!” On, till the bowmen’s faces were plain before them; then suddenly it began to hail,—“the hail of the string.” Arrows! One hissed by the girl’s ear, and one bit her cloak, to hang there quivering with impotent fury. The man on her right made a terrible gurgling sound and put up his hand to tear a shaft from his throat. Would they be slain before—Canute rose in his stirrups with a great shout. The horns echoed it; the trot became a gallop, and the gallop a run. On, on, into the very heart of the hail-cloud. How the stones rattled on the armour! And hissed! There! a man was death- doomed; he was falling.
Her cry was cut short by the flashing of a blade before her. They had passed through the hail and reached the lightning! Throwing up her sword, she swerved to one side and escaped the bolt. Another faced her in this direction. The air was shot with bright flashes. Swish—clash! they sounded behind her; then a sickening jar, as Rothgar’s terrible axe fell. A yell of agony rent the air. Swish—clash! the blows came faster; her ear could no longer separate them. The thud of the falling axes became one continuous pound. Faster and faster, heavier and heavier,—they blended into a discordant roar that closed around her like a wall. Here and there and to and fro, Rothgar’s great charger followed the king; and here and there and to and fro, on her foam-flecked horse, Randalin followed the son of Lodbrok, staring, dazed, stunned.
Her wits were like a flock of birds loosed from the cage of her will, alighting here, upstarting there, without let or hindrance. Sometimes they stooped to so foolish a thing as a notch on her horse’s ear, and spent whole minutes questioning dully whether the teeth of another horse had made the wound or whether a sword had nicked it in battle. Sometimes they followed the notes of the horns, as the ringing tones passed the order along. From the blaring blast at her ear, the sound was drawn out on either side of her as fine as silver wire, far, far away toward the hills. It gave her no conscious impression of the vastness of the hosts, but it brought a vague sense of wandering, of helplessness, that caused her fluttering wits to turn back, startled, and set to watching the pictures that showed through rifts in the swirling dust clouds,—an Englishman falling from his saddle, his fingers widespread upon the air; a Danish bowman wiping blood from his eyes that he might see to aim his shaft; yonder, the figure of Leofwinesson himself, leaping forward with swift-stabbing sword. But whether they were English who fell or Danes who stood, she had no thought, no care; they meant no more to her than rune figures carved in wood.
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