Chapter 85 – My Women

I enjoyed the company of many women and I found them all not only different from each other but many of them also bore the same qualities that I found exciting and interesting. I admit to many casual liaisons and there is no doubt that I have a number of undeclared children, though I was always forthright in my acceptance of fatherhood, when I knew about it. It was only right to take responsibility, to support an offspring. The church and law insisted upon it. Besides, I was proud to claim the creation of a new life. What greater thing can a human being do for another than to give them life. It is the one thing that makes us like God, the creator of us all.

Oddny was my first real love. I was caught off guard, like lightening from the sky striking me when least expected. Up until the very moment I saw her face I had nothing but simple physical curiosity about women, and an inner lust that I had no idea what to do with, as one would expect from a boy. It was like I had always known her, like there was something deep that tied us to one another, something even more intrinsic than the bond I felt with my own brothers and foster brothers. Certainly more profound and very different than the feelings I had for my own young sisters. She was simple yet smart, harsh yet kind, stern yet funny and most of all she did not feel the need to bow her head or hide her face in the presence of me or any man, even though she was just a labor woman, a girl with no parent. This often did not fare well for her.

She might cut my skin to watch me bleed, laugh if I fell down, call me to kiss her then run away before I could. Our connection was more than just passion, more than affection, there was an affinity of the mind and spirit between us, as if we were two parts of the same thing, meant to be joined. It pleases me to say that we were friends, the way that true friends are.

But she had no means, no wealth, no family or father to negotiate an arrangement. She was just a worker woman, a girl about my age, at Oddi and my brothers and foster brothers insisted I would have to make better choices. And that is how I became joined with Herdis, a business arrangement. Not to say that I had no feelings for Herdis, but I had known Oddny from the time my beard began to grow. After some years had passed I was compelled to call her from Oddi to be with me when I moved from Borg to Reykholt, and the year after, Thordis, my fourth living child, was born. So be it; she was not the only one.

Thuridur gave me Oraekja, and though the child carried my name, it proved convenient in some sense that Thuridur’s husband also went by the name of Snorri. Oraekja, my son, proved to be a loyal ally in my later years. Perhaps too loyal for his own good.

It was within my right and my desire to keep those dearest and special to be near me. So Gudrun was with me at Reykholt as well. Of course I could not marry her, so I claimed her as the house mistress, in charge of all domestic things, a position of rank and authority. She was the most lovely thing to look upon, slender and swan-like, beautiful like her mother. There was the convenience that Snaelaug, Gudrun’s mother, was mistress to my uncle Thord, and the further convenience that there was a great inheritance involved that came under my auspices after some arrangement. Gudrun was mother of my Ingibjorg.

I know, it’s all so messy and complicated and seems insincere on my behalf. But it was the most common thing in those days and I did have honest affection for my lovelies, at least for a time. I attribute my casual lustfulness to my youth, for once I partnered with my most dear Hallveig, my eye wandered far less frequently. We had no children together that survived but we did have something very precious for twenty years. It grieved my soul when she died so suddenly and pained me deeply when her sons, by her first husband Bjorn, greedily demanded inheritance, before her corpse was even cold. It is just as much their collusion with Gissur and his minions, as that death warrant from Hakon that brought me to my end. It is a complex and unfriendly web. But it was a time of despicable conflict between kinsmen that should never have happened, that I tried to mitigate and calm for many years without glory or success.

I languished in the few months after Hallveig left me and though it was quite evident that misdeeds against me were afoot, I did not take precautions against them. So be it.

I came to Reykholt when I was just twenty six and by the time I was twenty eight I was master of three sizable estates, Borg, Reykholt and Stafholt and all or part of half a dozen chieftaincies. I loved Reykholt; it is the place where I began my real life, it is the place where it ended.

It is at Reykholt where I first felt real power of my own. Not the implied power that I had known just because I was Sturlunga, power that I had earned on my own, that belonged to me. I was impressed with it in the beginning, but as I grew comfortable with it and saw that men would do my bidding and follow my commands without question, sometimes with fear inside them, I became complacent to the plight of others. I expected them to follow my command because I was superior to them. But there was so much strife in the land. Clan against clan, all lobbying for power, for control over others. But why? I didn’t even understand this in myself, how could I understand it in others. I believed with my superior command that I could make all men get along with each other, that I could make them see that there was enough of all resources that they could be shared and all would have the same degree of wealth or poverty. That is not realistic of course. If you have nothing, you want something, if you have something, you want more and if you have more, you want it all. I see now that I never truly understood the plight of those that had less than me, because I never had less.

At my end, it was not power or the loss of it that flooded my thoughts. It was the women. In my inner voice I called for them to aid me, as the implement of my death crashed down on me; I called for them to comfort me, protect me. In my inner voice I called for my mother, for Oddny, for Gudrun, for Thuridur, but mostly for Hallveig. I died there, down the stairway, at the end of the corridor on the doorstep leading to my warm Snorralaug, overlooking the blue mountains and the sapphire sky. I died mired in sin, my own blood, and the meat of my brain.

I asked God or any of the Gods that might answer me, ‘why is this happening’? It came to me that it made no matter which God might answer, if any, that good men do good things and bad men do bad things and neither needs God to tell them how to be.

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