Edrich of Haluken

Chapter Eleven

The next day we mounted our horses and rode to the palace for our appointment with the horse master and the sword master. They often worked together. Olaf, Kiva and Rilla were provided with sabres like my own. It was their first experience with an actual sword. Up to that time we had always used wooden practice sabres. But we quickly learned we would not be wearing the padded jackets we usually sparred in. Instead we would attack static targets from horseback. Melons of various types along with pumpkins and gourds were placed on spikes or suspended from ropes.

We did well with that and our instructors were pleased. I spent an hour coaching my brothers on bow shooting from the saddle. I had become skilled in the Mongolian method where the archer shoots from under the horse’s neck. You just had to have a solid grip on the saddle or you could end up on the ground. The standing shot was tricky too. With your feet in the stirrups all you have to keep you mounted is the strength of your own thighs while you stand and shoot.  After we had done all the military practice that was needed for the day we used the sandy arena to practice our horseback gymnastics. We rode four abreast holding hands while standing on the saddle. I demonstrated my back flip dismount and the two instructors applauded us loudly.

Our next class would be on the specific merits of the sabre in combat. We were released to sauna and bathe.

“You boys will be officers someday,” one of the guardsmen in the sauna told us. “I see the way you ride and fight as if you’ve done it all before.”

“Officer! I’m barely in charge of me,” I laughed and he joined me.

“I will need the help of a good sergeant just to survive my first real battle. I think the training comes easy to me because it’s fun. It’s so much different than schoolwork,” I shared.

“You have a good attitude also, you know that you are young and don’t know everything. Many boys your age get the idea they don’t need to listen to older men. It costs them dearly in the guard. They are always the first to fall,”

I thrashed myself with my birch viht and relaxed.

The next day it was time to take my brothers back to the tailor for a final fitting.

They were quite busy but welcomed us warmly.

My brothers uniforms were given one last check for fit and appearance. Then they were wrapped in brown paper and we moved on to collect their hats.

With Kiva, Olaf, Bolly and Rilla all kitted out, Father and I worked with them to get the sabre salute correct. Father explained to them that if they were mounted, the fist over heart salute would suffice or a modified sabre salute which consisted of drawing the saber and placing it directly into the final position.

I spent the evening with my brothers teaching them how to brush out their uniforms and hat.

In the morning I went to the workshop and designed something special for my saddle. It was a leather cup with a wooden plug in the bottom that attached to the stirrup strap on the right side. Then I saddled my horse and tried it out. I removed my unstrung bow from its scabbard and placed the bottom end in the cup. By pressing down from above I was able to string my bow without dismounting first.

I showed it to Father and he called my brothers out to see.

“That’s ingenious, why hasn’t anyone thought of it before?” Rilla asked.

“They probably have but they lacked our skills at making things,” I replied.

“Can you show us how you did it?” Olaf asked.

I had already made one modification to each of our saddles. I had added a loop to put the left boot in when leaning out to the right to shoot from under the horses head.

I unsaddled the horse and carried my saddle to the workshop. It wasn’t a complex design. Beveling the wooden plug was the part that took time. Soon all my brothers had cups mounted and were anxious to try them.

Our lives remained routine. Swimming in the river and taking instruction from the horse and sword masters. Bolly was finally big enough to begin lessons on horseback. I had been letting him hold the reins quite a bit on our rides together. I and the others spent time with him in the paddock so he could ride solo. Once he and the new pony were acquainted he took his first solo ride on the street to the river and back. Now it was up to the horse master to teach him the finer points and how to ride a strange horse. He would have falls but that’s why the arena was so sandy.

Now all that work was paying off. The five of us rode to the palace together in our work clothes for training. Father came along to watch Bolly’s first official riding lesson. He had been spending time with Bolly as well.

We put our mounts through their paces while Vigo worked with Bolly. Father stayed in the shadows and observed. While we rode and practiced, ten of the Royal Guard rode up to the arena and watched Vigo and his assistant put us through our paces.

I became aware of their presence and of one in particular who seemed to be ridiculing our abilities.

I rode over to the fence after completing a run with my sabre.

“Do you find us amusing?” I asked the older boy. He was somewhere around seventeen but I wasn’t sure.

“Well yes, to be honest I do,” He replied.

“What is your name soldier, I am Edrich,” I inquired.

“I am Gehrt, and you would do well to remember it. I will probably command you in battle someday,” He replied.

“I would salute you but I’m not in uniform when we train. Would you like to get a fresh mount and join us? Perhaps you can share some of your great knowledge with us,” I tantalized him.

“Yes, go on Gehrt, show these boys how it’s done!” some of the other men chimed.

“I will,” he agreed boastfully. Let me visit the stables and select a mount,” Gehrt told them.

“Bring your bow, we have plenty of practice arrows,” I suggested as he rode off. I tipped my box cap at the others and rode back to my brothers.

Vigo had us attacking straw infantry and we slashed at them as we rode past at speed. I lopped one nearly in half and Rilla took a leg off one. Olaf and Kiva both issued grave wounds.

I paused to watch Bolly doing his exercises. He ran the poles and then made a fast lap around the arena and then back to the poles whipping between them with good skill.

“I hope you don’t mind Vigo, I’ve invited a member of the royal guard to show us some of his expertise. I thought it would be good to see if their training methods measure up to ours,” I said.

“You mean he was winding you up and you’d like him to show us if he’s really any good eh?” Vigo grinned.

“Does that sound like the sort of thing I’d do Horse Master?” I smiled.

Vigo shook his head, grinned and rode back to check on Bolly.

Gehrt returned even cockier than before. He rode through the gate and gave the mount a workout to warm her up. He took a couple of jumps on the circuit and seemed pleased with the horse.

“I see you have straw men, follow me and watch,” Gehrt said.

He did quite well with the first three but he misjudged the fourth one’s lance and was almost dismounted. The sabre fell from his hand and struck the horse’s right hock.

I dismounted and retrieved the sabre and walked to Gehrt. I passed him the sabre and checked the mare’s leg. There was no cut.

“Is your arm hurt?” I asked. “Striking the lance can be quite jarring.”


“No, I’m fine!” Gehrt replied tersely. Let’s see how you do with those dummies.”

“As you wish sir,” I smiled graciously.

I ran the course and made a point of decapitating each of the straw infantry. I came in over the top of the lance and took the head of the fourth dummy and did the same with the other three. I wheeled my horse and had her rear. Then I rode back to Gehrt to get his opinion.

“Very good,” he acknowledged as though it pained him.

He pulled his bow and dismounted to string it. I waited and did the same, except I used my cup, bent the bow and slid the string up to its nock, then I did a practice draw.

“How did you do that?!” Gehrt demanded.

“Oh that, I made a cup and attached it to the stirrup leather,” I explained. “I just thought of it the other day.”

“This should be on every archer’s saddle,” Gehrt grumbled.

“I’ll show it to the saddler. The horse master said the same thing,” I told him.

“Well, let’s see how you shoot from the saddle,” Gehrt said in his now familiar sneer.

“Plain or fancy?” I asked.

“What do you mean?”

“Just sitting in the saddle, or standing and other positions?”

“Other positions, what are you talking about?” The exasperated Gehrt piped.

“Ride along and I’ll show you,” I enticed and then just took off. I put three arrows in each of the straw dummies and then swung around the wall and engaged the archery targets standing and then under the neck of the horse going the other way.

I retrieved my arrows and told Gehrt it was his turn but he was busy with the horses right foreleg.

“She seems to be favoring this leg, I’ll walk her back to the stables and retrieve my own mount,” Gehrt said meekly.

I rode to my brothers who were watching with the rest of the royal guardsmen.

The men all smiled at me and offered their hands.

“I am Greis and the commander of this detachment. You have just managed to teach Gehrt what I have labored a year to teach him. He needed a bit of humility.”

“I didn’t set out to humiliate him. I just wanted him to know that these aren’t children’s games we are playing. I hope he won’t bear it against me,” I sighed.

“Not to worry, his wounded ego will mend quickly. He really is quite good for his age and level of training. He just needs to realize there is always someone better out there, it is best to hope they are a friend and not an enemy,” Greis told me.

“It is the nature of young men to be cocky. I know it was with me and Greis was just as bad,” Father said as he approached.

“Karl of Ikast!” How good it is to see you again!” Greis laughed. He embraced father and they slapped each other’s backs in greeting.

“Did you enjoy my son’s performance?” Father asked.

“Your son?! Are these the boys we are here about?” Greis.

“The very ones,” Father grinned.

“They are fine boys and well skilled. Edrich, by what means were you stringing your bow from the mounted position?” Greis asked.

I wheeled my mount and drew my bow. I demonstrated the use of the cup and then unstrung the bow the same way.

“That’s such a simple and clever way of solving a problem. May we use your invention?” Greis asked.

“Of course sir. I plan to share it with the saddler and the palace guard as well. It just seemed like something useful. I used a wooden plug in all of our cups. It gives me something hard to push against,” I explained.

“Where did you learn to shoot under the horses neck and how do you stay on?” Asked a man named Franz.

I turned my mount the other way and showed him the boot loop I had added to the guard leather on the left side. “It allows me to remain on the horse and slide low enough to shoot from under her neck. I learned it from reading about the Mongols and Genghis Khan.

“You louts could learn a thing or two from this man,” Greis chuckled and the other men joined in.

The King’s men rode on to their quarters and I rode to the saddlers to show him what I’d done.

“Clever design Peng, well made and your stitching is excellent. Is that hardwood in the bottom?” He commented and questioned as he examined my cup.

“I don’t know what to call it, but a bowman’s rest might be adequate,”

“Yes, naming something is often more troublesome that making it. That’s an apt name. It would be good for a hunting saddle also,” Laurent agreed.

The King would arrive the next day. Greis had left men stationed all along the route from Bergen to the palace.

As it was the King received nothing but warm greetings and flowers as he passed village after village. Little girls waved and little boys saluted. Old soldiers stood along the road with all their medals gleaming on their old fashioned uniforms.

There were no incidents at all.

Since we lived along the approach to the palace we were out with our neighbors greeting the King and saluting along with the other boys. The King had changed to the day carriage and waved back at all the people along the street.

We hadn’t worn our uniforms for that and Father hadn’t either.

Kristen and Samilla were completely enthralled with how handsome the king was. To me he looked like a mile of bad road but women see things differently.

Unlike at Sommerstide they would not be at the palace for the honors. I was expected to attend the ball afterwards and dance with Valla. I would have to share her with her father and my brothers needed experience in dancing as well.

When the morning arrived we paid very close attention to grooming and dressed in light clothes until breakfast was over. We were to be at the palace at ten. Each investiture was separate and the king might take a side trip or two during the proceedings.

The Regent was invested as the Duke of Norway and Governor General which made all other regents and governors subordinate to him. So were the people in Oslo that thought they were running things.

The priest droned on a bit and the King looked vexed. The priest caught the look and summed things up a bit quicker.

Father was next, his powers and lands were listed and he would remain Lord Marshal to the Duke. He was to form a nationwide version of the local watch. Their duties would be enforcing the laws of Denmark and Norway.

After a brief lunch, during which I couldn’t eat a thing for the snakes in my belly. Instead I walked in the garden with Valla. It helped calm me and face my fate.

“I wonder when we can be officially betrothed?” Valla said absently.

“I don’t know, perhaps your mother would be able to say?” I replied equally absent.

“Do you still want to marry me?” Valla asked.

“Of course, but we have to be sixteen before anything can be done. But I will spend the intervening time nurturing my love for you,” I whispered.

Apparently it was the perfect answer because she burst into happy tears and pulled me in tight.

My uniform suffered no damage and we made our way back to the grand hall.

Valla was stunning in her white gown. Little silk flowers adorned every inch of it.

For the first ceremony I was called forward to face King Christian V. I knelt and the King took a sword from an attendant and tapped me on either shoulder.

“For service to the crown of Denmark and Norway in preventing the assassination of the Regent of Norway I convey the title of Knight of the Royal House.

Arise sir Edrich of Haluken,” The King’s voice boomed.

I stood before him, drew my sabre and saluted as instructed. I stepped back and waited.

A voice called for Rilla and Kiva to join me in front of his majesty.

We were all awarded medals for actions against foreign invaders.

Rilla and Kiva saluted together and they returned to their seats. The King sat down and motioned for me to kneel. Someone had placed a small pillow at just the right spot so I wasn’t kneeling on marble.

The same priest began jabbering about the history of monarchy and peerage and how I was entering a world of great responsibility.

Once again the King glowered at the priest which seemed to have the effect of shortening his diatribe. He ended his role with a brief prayer.

Father was called forward and I was awarded the title of Edrich Viscount of Haluken with all rights and responsibilities attached. I saluted the King, bowed and backed away ten paces before turning to walk back to my seat.

Next Rilla, Kiva, Olaf and Bolly were summoned forward one at a time. Each was presented with a Barony and the large gold medallion on an equally ornate chain. They were much the same as the one the King had placed around my neck earlier, just smaller.

Finally Bolly received his investiture and everyone could relax.

The priest walked up to give a benediction and the King looked at him pointedly. Martin Luther had broken the stranglehold of the roman church but the tendency of priests, protestant or roman to drone on incessantly, had not been affected. The priest did give a brief benediction and everyone stood and cheered the King and the occasion. The people cheered “Gud bevare Kongen” and Gud sign vår Konge god. The king bowed his head to them.

It was August and the King must have been roasting under his official robes. He beat a hasty retreat to his quarters and changed into cooler garb. The palace wasn’t stifling because convection and well placed airshafts sent hot air up and out drawing cooler air in through the subterranean shafts.

A Tea was served in the ballroom and cold punch was just the thing to quench the thirst.

Valla had latched onto me as soon as the King was out of sight. We took our drinks outside and relaxed in a shady place in the garden.

We had only just made ourselves comfortable when Gehrt walked up.

“I am sorry Sir Edrich, but I must tell you that this area is reserved for the family of the Regent,”

“Hello Gehrt, this is Valla, she is the Regent’s daughter. I am her guest. Valla this is Gehrt, he is a member of the Royal Guard and he is an accomplished horseman and well skilled with a sabre. With men like him, the King is in very good hands.

“Thank you Sir Edrich and you Lady Valla. I will trouble you no more.

After he left I placed my badge of office around Valla’s sensuous neck and unbuttoned my jacket.

“It’s odd that Denmark and Norway don’t use the Count title but they do use Viscount,” Valla observed.

I was about to reply when a porter approached with a carafe of punch and refilled our glasses.

“It’s a palace Edrich, someone always knows where you are,” Valla giggled.

I thanked the porter and nudged Valla who thanked him too.

“That’s one thing that should change in my opinion. I understand that they are servants by their job title. But they are not slaves. I hate how people ignore them, while they work hard to see to the comfort of people like us. I’m just talking about simple respect. Learn their names, say thank you . It’s not a difficult thing to do. It’s one of the things I especially like about your father. He talks to everyone as if they were on the same tier as he is,” I grumbled a bit.

“Yes I know, and I usually do say please and thank you but when he arrived I was daydreaming about our home and children. I do know what you mean though. Most of the people at our social level have very good manners towards staff. There are members of the court who do treat them as slaves and they rarely get what they want when they come here,” Valla answered back.

“I’m sorry, I made an incorrect assumption. Obviously you aren’t like that but there are many that are. I apologize if I offended you,” I said.

“Don’t be so serious, this is a wonderful day for you, please enjoy it. It is nearly a guarantee of our future life together,” Valla urged.

I released all my doubts in the face of her entreaty and resolved to enjoy the day with her.

I kissed Valla’s lips and told her I agreed.

I also told her I would bring sketches for her to inspect of our future house. Once Halkar had determined where the limits of my influence would be, I was able to compare it to notes I had made of possible building sites. I would discuss them with Father and get his recommendation.

The road to Haluken was the road to Oslo. Oslo was still the capital although the Regent stayed in Halla. He would visit Oslo frequently and sign documents, correct practices and generally clean house as needed. Dispatch riders took care of most communication, but there were times when Halkar needed to be there. Such as the opening of Reichsparliament.

The speakers would forward their proposals to Halkar and he would either endorse them, reject them or rewrite them and send them back for consideration. They couldn’t proceed with an act unless the Regent approved it. They did have emergency powers but the Regent had to be notified if they were enacted and there better be a very good explanation.

My future home would need to be situated between Halla and Oslo. I would discuss it with Father and determine the right place to build. I would receive an opportunity to see to that sooner than later.

“So, are you two planning your wedding already?” Lady Iris chuckled.

“I doubt that, Peng is probably thinking about where to build a home for them. He’ll leave wedding details to Valla,” Mother chimed in.

It was scary how well she knew me considering how briefly we had been under the same roof.

“How could you know that about me?” I asked.

“Simple, you are so much like Father you could be his natural child. You both think like engineers. You just have an uncanny knack of applying your intellects to human problems as well as mechanical ones,” Mother replied.

I stood and pulled out chairs the ladies and offered them punch.

“No dear, it’s a long walk to the toilet,” Mother replied.

Iris took a sip from Valla’s cup but returned it to her.

This punch is too sweet to suit me.

Valla whispered something to Mother but I didn’t hear what she said.

“Thank you dear, that’s good to know,” Mother replied.

The breeze had come up and it was refreshing.

The porter returned and put out more cups and a fresh carafe of punch.

“Rolf dear, could you bring a carafe of plain cool water out for us. The punch is a bit sweet for my taste,” Iris requested.

Valla smirked at me and Rolf was off to fetch the water as requested.

Valla explained what the smirk was about and Iris agreed with me.

“Oh yes, so many people treat servants as slaves or worse. They deserve human respect for the work they do. Halkar is adamant about this point. You will never see him abase a servant for any reason. He has dismissed servants for poor performance but feels no need to humiliate them in the process. He just tells them that they don’t seem to fit in and sends them on their way with severance and a recommendation. The butlers generally deal with staff but Halkar keeps his finger in just to make sure,” Iris said.

“Karl is the same way, he doesn’t go through servants like some. He’s still paying the old cook’s wages although she now cooks for the presbytery. Let them deal with her drink problem and foul temper. Perhaps they can rehabilitate her,” Mother put in.

“I don’t know a lot about Kristen but Samilla is a dear girl. Our chef didn’t particularly like her but for simple foods from England, Samilla was a godsend, I miss her,” Iris commented.

“Her puddings are fantastic aren’t they?” Mother replied.

We all sat around until mother needed relief. Valla helped her walk through the arbor to a special bench with a hole in it and a bucket beneath. Mother was able to empty her bladder with comparative dignity.

I became lost in thought again but Iris pulled me out of it.

“I know you are a strong young man but I must urge you to resist Valla’s temptations. Her libido has awakened and her judgement fades when she is in that frame of mind. It will be a long three and a quarter years for both of you but it’s well worth the wait. There are other things young people can do to relieve some of that. I don’t want to be too specific but I trust you Peng. You have my love and respect and you will retain them as long as you treat my daughter well and resist her advances. Now I want to tell you that she will be going to Austria to study painting. She’s really quite good already. Her heart burns only for you so have no worries that you will lose her. Just be strong when she returns. I hear that you will be busy in Haluken and Oslo. You will be expected to maintain a residence in Oslo and I know you are already designing your house in Haluken, at least in your head. Just include a large nursery and a place for your mother and I to stay when we visit,” Iris smiled sweetly.

“I will be sure to include those things in the plan,” I blushed.

I was saved from further interrogation,

by Mother and Valla’s return.

I did confirm that the Regent had warned me of Valla’s thirst for intimacy and promised to stand fast.

A page appeared and informed us that the Regent….Governor General wished to see us in chambers.

Owing to Mother’s condition we walked slow but the page went ahead to tell the Governor we were on our way.

“It’s rather unfair to spring this on you so soon, but you will need to make a trip to Oslo with your Father and I so you can be introduced to the Reichsparliament. We will take a coach in the Kings procession and leave from Bergen. The King will return to Copenhagen on a different ship. I will come straight back here from Oslo by the same route, but you and your Father will ride to Haluken or take a coach. The point being that you must introduce yourself as their Viscount. Even though it will be over three years before you take power. You will need to study protocol and learn about law to some extent. You will have a staff when the time comes, but you want to be sure they are telling you the truth. It’s not uncommon for an advisor to take a bribe to advise a peer in a certain direction. In matters of law it’s corruption, but in matters of government it’s treason. One of your mandates is to strengthen our border with Sweden. There have been too many encroachments and they must be stopped. You will have cavalry and mounted infantry at your command. You will need to raise a watch that is more versatile than just the Magistrates force. Haluken was neglected for a long time and now it's time to make things right. That will be the greater part of your responsibility in Haluken.

“When will we be leaving?” I asked.

“Friday, the King needs to return to Copenhagen to greet a Dutch delegation,” Halkar replied. “But you’ll find I’m an agreeable travelling companion. We can ride part of the way just to feel the breeze,” Halkar shared.

“The King may wish for your company as well so be ready,” Father put in.

“Why would he want to talk to me?” I asked.

“He’ll be very interested in how you react to all this commotion,” Father soothed.

“Will we be back in time for the beginning of the new term?” I asked.

“Yes, we’ll arrive home in mid-September,” Father assured.

“Can I go without my title at school? I really don’t fancy being addressed as Sir Edrich by classmates and teachers,” I pressed.

“Yes, absolutely, you can go by Edrich or Peng, whichever you find more comfortable. You will have graduated before you are sixteen. That’s when the title begins in force,” Father explained.

“I suppose that’s when my education really begins,” I told him.

“In a way yes. Your protocol training will increase. But that’s mostly just good manners. Comportment is a large part of it. You will probably have to study the relevant law and oversee the completion of your home. There’s a lot involved with building and the process will eat up much of the three years. I’ve seen your preliminary drawings, but you’ll need the help of an architect to make sure it will stand.

“I will do anything that is required of me. I won’t treat it as a burden but rather a new adventure. I never expected to find myself in this position but here I am. I will do the best job I can,” I declared.

“That’s all we can ask. Iris has made a suite of rooms available for you to take some rest or just relax. The ball will begin with dinner at six. I plan to have a nap this afternoon beforehand,” Halkar told us.

One of the staff showed us to the suite and we were able to take off our boots and uniforms and just relax in our drawers and undershirts.

Father and Mother retired to another bedroom in the suite and probably did the same. I had a long nap with Bolly and Ivy tucked up against me. Rilla fell asleep in a chair while reading and Kiva and Olaf were asleep on another bed. Eventually Papa woke us so we could wash and dress for the ball. I was rather worried that some of the women in court would be pushing their daughters at me as marriage prospects. Afterall, a Viscount receives a healthy stipend from the crown treasury. They didn’t know I would be putting in more than I was taking out.

Rilla, Kiva and I had become much closer than with Olaf. Olaf was in his own world to some extent but he had fully embraced the science of engineering. He envisioned new uses for Iron beyond axes, swords and cooking pots. But there was no reason for him to be the same as us. Bolly was just getting to grips with the maths involved and he seemed to enjoy it, but his taste ran to more fanciful inventions. He drew wonderful siege engines though.

Olaf wanted to build a steel foundry so we didn’t have to import Damascus steel from India. He had read a treatise on the crucible method and wondered if he could improve on the process. I encouraged him. There were great reserves of Hematite and magnetite in the northern reaches. Mining would have to be seasonal but it would provide the ore needed to produce a good grade of iron and then steel.

The ball was as I feared. Even with Valla on my arm I was introduced to several girls, most were older and a couple were Bolly’s age. None of them could hold a candle to my Valla.

I bumped into Gehrt on the way back from the toilet.

“What do you think of the party Gehrt?” I asked.

“Well Sir Edrich, it’s impressive.

“Please, call me Edrich. There will be time for titles later. You will probably obtain a knighthood yourself,” I assured him.

“I feel very foolish about the way I acted the other day. You are a consummate horseman and archer. You are obviously brave and capable. You need more time with a sabre but then, I didn’t do so well myself,” Gehrt chuckled.

We chatted a bit longer but I returned to Valla and the others at our table. I almost had to run for it. A woman of the court was dragging a spindly girl in my direction so I ducked away quickly.

Finally it was over. We said our goodbyes and boarded the coaches for home.