At the request of the Viking Queen Kristina, Svein returns with his entire tour group to attend a royal coronation. The Queen Mother, Drottning Kristina, although she looks middle aged, is reported to be a phenomenonal number of years old. Despina is sure she has mis-heard. Methuselah has NOTHING on her! She has picked a date for retirement, is handing the country over to her designated heir, a secret kept under wraps with NO normal, customary leaks to the press, much to their chagrin, and has chosen her daughter Kristina for one of her subjects, who will be elevated to Royal Consort. Speculation is running rampant. He will be a commoner who will rule the country in her stead. She will be married off, then be set aside in favor of someone of the old Viking blood, for the first time in 1000 years. Another foreign royal from somewhere else (Denmark and England are the favorite places, including the British Prince's younger brother, who is quite YOUNG to ascend, but that doesn't stop the talk,) will ascend the throne instead of allowing a Queen with an illegimate child to rule. The royal pomp and splendor is awe-inspiring. The commoners are back against the walls of the great hall, behind 2" fat rolled red velvet barriers with gold tips, held on gold pylons.
I've seen the brass-coated, velveteen swadled imitations of these at the various theaters, guiding people in line to the ticket window, separating them from those who've already paid, but they are pale imitations, indeed, thinks Despina as she gently reaches forward and touches one. Instantly, she can understand the ancient Norse before Svein gets around to a decidedly rough translation. At one point, the teacher in her pops out, and she corrects him. The look on his face is priceless, but he's not the only one who has heard!
At that exact instant, Ragnar, definitely NOT in "stable hand" array, is passing, and at the sound of her voice speaking the ancient language, he darts his head sharply in her direction. Their eyes meet. Giving him a sickly smile and a nod, she prays she has not broken some horrid taboo. NOBODY in the entire official crowd is speaking at all, only various interpreters, as most modern day Norwegians not part of the royal court also are not entirely familiar with ancient Norse, although they can recognize some words along the way.
Despina squeezes the roping for all she's worth, strangles it in a death grip. Ragnar's step falters. The queen continues the ceremony, but her eyes are spitting fire at Ragnar, perhaps sensing his potential betrayal. For she is offering HIM the kingship! Despina's eyes widen and her mouth forms an O of horror. Surely, he doesn't want to rule! He doesn't strike me as being ambitious for power, and someone who is not will never be able to hold it, much less rule well. She pastes a pale smile on her lips, but Ragnar sees at once that it does not reach her eyes.
Dropping on one knee and nearly touching his head to the floor, Ragnar's voice rolls out over the crowd without need of artificial enhancement. "Your Magesty has honored me beyond my wildest imaginings. I am nearly speechless at the magnanimousness of your offer. But, I find I must pass this honor on to a more closely related, rightful heir: Your royal daughter, Kristina. I would never dream of coming between her and the throne. By your leave, your majesty... I would withdraw.
"We are quite vexed with you, my boy, a position in which we have found ourselves in more often than not. Yet, forsooth, ye hath spoken rightly. Mine own flesh and blood shall become my heir."
Ragnar arises, head still inclined respectfully toward his ruler. He can feel her fury beat upon him. He realizes that he will not escape unscathed from this battle of wills.
"And what of thy royal bride?"
Despina's head snaps from contemplating Ragnar's incredible face, so serene in its treachery to his monarch, to hers. Bride? I've seen no evidence of a bride prospect around. Or is this another thing like the way to recognize a royal master bedroom that I'm just too plebian to notice?
Raising his head proudly, Ragnar announces in a clear voice, "I've made other plans. I would be released, your majesty. Fully released."
The crowd gasps. Nobody needs to translate his words, for they are not in Norse, but in one of the two modern languages all Norwegian school children learn.
Her temper finally flares past her decorum. "Go, then. Ye hath gained our eternal disfavor!" Her imperial finger points to the open end doors through which he has just entered.
His face is impassive as he executes a sharp military reversal of direction. Again he is directly across from Despina. Without moving his head one iota, not even swiveling his eyes toward her, he holds out a hand and pauses. Dropping both her purse and the velvet rope, she walks toward him, slipping her hand inside his. Tore and Svein drop opposite ends of the barrier and she passes onto the red velvet carpet running arrow straight down the center of the huge hall.
"Despina, what are you doing?" shouts Evelyn. Svein moves quickly to her, picks up Despina's purse and talks quietly with her, explaining what has just happened in hushed tones. The students, once they realize Despina and Ragnar will marry, begin to clap. Soon it spreads to the entire commoners area of the hall.
(Later on, have her rule BADLY, and Ragnar, who has rejected her hand in favor of Despina, has to return to provide his input into the reign to prevent active rebellion at her audacity, lack of restraint, and even cruelty. The modern day Norwegians are just not about to go along with the ancient doctrine "divine right of kings". Her excesses soon have her constituents comparing her to Marie la Frances of "Let them eat cake" fame.)
Last updated 11/17/04.
Word Count: 1004
Reading Level: 7.7