COULD YOU RUN A LAP FOR ME? — PART 3

Praying Hands by  Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640)
Praying Hands by
Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640)

Here we continue the telling of the story of Petrus and Rona.

AS TOLD BY THE KING’S CHIEF GUARD TO HIS GRANDSON

As Petrus walked to his home, he became more and more distraught. He had thought his prayers answered.  It had cost him some of his health and strength. Nevertheless, he still had his precious Rona.

Now he remembered the king’s final words.

You will share your strength with me. Tomorrow you will strengthen me, or I will have your head and your woman’s head sitting up on poles. Now begone!

What was he to do? It had been his secret, known only to himself and his Creator. Now the king, his two drinking buddies, and the captain knew. Who else? Soon someone would tell Rona, and she would not accept his sacrifice. He would make it anyway, but what about the king?

What had he told the guard captain, Aage? He would pray, and so driven by desperation he did, but he did not know what to pray. He did not know what to do. He did not know what to ask for.

Petrus walked slowly on the path between the castle and his village. Surrounded by a darkening forest of tall, dark pines, he silently sent his plea to the Almighty, hoping for words from his God.

The forest ended at the edge of the cropland that surround his village. Petrus stopped. He pulled his eyes up from the ground to look. This village was home. His people lived here. Rona lived here with him. These were the people he knew and cared about. Like himself, they too were God’s Creations, and the king abused them all. He suffered, but he was not the only one. The king lacked any restraint. If he saw something — or a woman he wanted — he took what wanted. “God help us! God help us all!”

Did God answer prayers? Petrus thought He did, but he did not know how God would answer this prayer. He just felt less lonely and lost as he walked the rest of the way to his home. He would tell Rona the truth. He would depend upon and act upon the truth. He would depend upon God answering his prayers.

Rona sat outside the home where she and Petrus lived looking up the trail from the king’s castle. When he returned home, Rona’s father, one of the shipyard workers, told her that the king’s guard had taken Petrus to the castle, but no one knew why. Then Rona’s sister, Freja, who supplied the castle with eggs returned with a strange story. One of the kitchen staff had heard Adolf the goði say Petrus’ God had allowed him to share his strength with Rona.

Was that Petrus? She saw him stop and gaze at the village. When he resumed his walk, she was sure, and she ran to meet him.

Once home, Petrus and Rona hugged and talked, talked and hugged.

Rona reacted to Petrus’ confession that he had lent her his strength with horror. “You had no right to do to that without telling me,” she said.

Petrus replied, “you would have done the same for me.”

Then Petrus told Rona what the king had demanded. Rona said nothing. She hugged Petrus and wept quietly. They could not run. The king would have his vengeance. When someone ran, his henchmen tracked down the nearest family members and had two of them killed. Thus, instead of two heads on poles, the king would be pleased to have four.

While Rona sobbed, Petrus remembered when he had become of age. His father had presented him with a fine old sword, a razor sharp, dangerous weapon. But the old king had banned such weapons. Too many drunken brawls, too many angry family disputes, too many robbers demanding your gold or your life….. When the old king promised an end to such violence, many had cheered. The old king had seized all the swords and weapons he could find and put them all in public armories under the control of the throne and local militias. That was supposed to end the violence, but it had not. The violence had subsided only for a brief time.

When the old king died, King Adalbert took the throne. Within a few years King Adalbert and his cronies, men who owed their positions to him alone, had taken control of both the armories and the local militias. Robberies had increased; local bandit gangs now raided and cockily robbed — raping with great malice and glee — their unarmed victims. Sensing weakness, Danish raiders had seized Kalmor, a small coastal town to the south. The raiders had easily killed any who resisted, striped the place bare, and sold half the population off to southern slave traders.

When the raiders had discovered Kalmor”s armory, brimming with weapons, they had laughed. Those weapons were starting to rust, but still lethal. Of course, the raiders took them. They promised better care for these forgotten arms, and they promised to put them to good use.

Teetering Rock, too close to the throne, had not been able hide from such troubles. Whenever the king saw a desirable lass, he demanded the opportunity to relieve her of her virginity. So it is that when the king had seen beautiful Sefa, he had demanded she attend to him at the castle that very night. Sefa’s betrothed, Thord, chose to escape with her across the sea. So it is that perhaps that Thord and Sefa still did not know what had followed their escape. King Adalbert had had their parent’s heads publicly displayed on poles paraded throughout the village. His royal execution team, as the king proudly named it, had then left those four poles staked in the ground at the entrance to the village. And there they remained.

Rona sobbing ended, and Petrus and Rona quietly prepared and ate their dinner. Finally, before they went to sleep, they sat together and prayed. Each spoke in turn.

Petrus spoke of the king, and he begged God to give that man wisdom and self-restraint. He asked for the strength and the skill he needed in the shipyard, and he spoke of few fellow shipyard workers who needed help, Latham with a broken finger and Ralph whose daughter the king had eyed without concealing his lust. Finally, he asked for good weather for the sailors, fishermen, and the farmers who lived in his village.

Rona also spoke of the king. She asked God to soften his stony heart.  Then she offered up a prayer for each of their neighbors: Ake’s aching back, Alva’s sick baby, Helga chickens that would not lay, a new fishing net for Knud, and so forth.

Then both prayed silently. Petrus prayed for Rona, and Rona prayed for Petrus. Afterwards, they went to bed, and they held each, hoping it would not be for the last time.

Having done what they could to make peace with God and each other, they slept.

To Be Continued

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