Chapter 103 – Voices

What is that moment when the boy becomes a man, when he realizes that choice belongs to him, when it is his own words and actions that will shape an outcome? For me, the seed was planted when I was still at Oddi. My first real taste was when I understood that the dominion of my clan flowed within me and that I could command both power and wealth. Command beyond just the selfish inclination of a spoiled boy. For Hakon it came when he realized he was the King and not Skuli; what it meant to be a King.

I greatly underestimated the seed of brilliance that grew inside of young Hakon. It was my great misfortune that I allied myself with Earl Skuli. I was wrong, shortsighted to permit my prejudice to allow me to lean towards age rather than youth. But had I wintered with Hakon instead of Skuli the first time I came to Norway, I would have seen the potential in the young man. Potential and ambition, his lack of fear, unwillingness to be manipulated by a regent. I underestimated his ruthless need to take what he wanted and I knew the writing was on the wall when my friend and ally Earl Skuli was murdered. Put down like a disobedient dog.

Things were bad in Norway. I knew this of course. It made me sick in my stomach when I realized that I had chosen the wrong side. Hakon was much more adept than I had understood. He had been a young inexperienced adolescent when I met him for the first time. But now he was a skilled and determined leader, well aware of how to deal with adversaries. Unfortunately for me, Skuli was ambitious, with his own plans and his alliance with me was my doom. All he wanted from me was my fealty and ‘my Iceland’ of course. Skuli believed it shouldn’t be that difficult to take the monarchy of Norway for himself, but he was wrong and paid with his life.

I didn’t see this at first but my voice, my friend from the other side, told me the whole story, told me my future and what was to come. He had seen it, he said, even though it had not happened yet. A soothsayer. He warned me that Hakon would have none of Skuli’s betrayal; he told me that Earl Skuli had been killed, even before word had arrived by messenger. The threat Skuli posed to Hakon was removed. I knew all this would turn to me. I would have changed my allegiance to Hakon but it was too late, he had chosen my son-in-law Gissur to be his liege man in Iceland. To rule my Iceland and deliver it under Norway. Troubles upon troubles.

But why didn’t my secret voice visit me sooner and warn me? Perhaps I would not have believed him anyway; I was inebriated by my own ambition.

Hakon had not forgotten my disobedience, my return to Iceland against his command. Gissur had Hakon’s favor. My position ebbed; the Sturlunga voice had grown weak, repudiated in some circles, diminished, even mocked.

It’s never wrong to do the right thing and it’s always wrong to do the wrong thing. It was too late for me to right the wrong I had committed. I would have chosen the other side, had I known how things would turn out. It is always too late to harvest good fortune, once the die has been cast against you.

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