Chapter 104 – Skuli and Gissur

Earl Skuli was my friend, I thought. But in life he was not even a real collaborator. He had his own ambitions and his own problems. He couldn’t resign himself to be second to Hakon, who after all was the rightful heir to the throne. Skuli connived and plotted and it was the end of him for doing so. He was killed. Assassinated, though I don’t know for certain that it was by Hakon’s order but the dispute between them had grown to outright civil war, compounded inside a war they already fought against an enemy from the east. It appears as Hakon was not about to let Iceland slip from his grasp.

They were all against me. One thinks you can at least rely on your own family. That bond should be stronger than any other. Gissur, my own son-in-law was against me. Battle Sturla, my own nephew had been against me. Even Hallveig’s sons, my own stepsons were against me. A true absence of loyalty. After all that I had done, all that I had been for my Iceland.

Hakon had Gissur as his pawn. Gissur had his own ambition for Iceland with Hakon’s backing. There had been a letter given. An order to Gissur to capture me and send me back to Norway or kill me. I was not to be an obstacle and I had defied Hakon by leaving against his command. I had no real defenses, not that could bear arms in any way, in my defense. Even then I could see the approach of my destiny. Like a defenseless beast trapped in the corner of the cave with no escape, my fate imminent. My reprieve had been my work, my writing, the advice I could give on the law to those who still came to hear it from me. I had the work of my estates, to make them prosper or keep them that way. Most of all, before her sad demise, I had my Hallveig, who consoled me from my raging thoughts and worries, sided with me in my consternation about the unfairness of it all. She never criticized me or corrected me for my faults, though I knew I had many. We sat together many nights and talked about life and our journey to where we are. We of course spent much time at the church. I sought consolation from the Bishop, but he was no help. So my Hallveig was my only source of comfort. But she was weakened in her body. Often coughing without stop, drawing fever and having to take to her bed. She withered before my eyes, yet she still found strength to encourage me to continue, to speak my truths and defy those that would usurp my position. It tore my heart in two for her to suffer. I was useless to her.

My mistake was telling Hakon that I would be King of Iceland and we could be allies. I was overreaching, I know, but I thought the time to speak my ambition was at hand. When I told him, the expression on his face told me everything. An affirming modest smile over a frozen face. He didn’t disagree nor confirm support but it was clear to me that a rage burned inside him at my plan.

‘Who did I think I was, from this peasant country, to tell him that I would be King of my land, as he was King over his.’

We are so pathetic and obvious in our ambition. Why even have ambition. There is no everlasting purpose in it. Far better to just get along, there is more joy endeavoring to make humankind a collaborative union. How much more quickly we could advance ourselves. We are such slaves to our own selfish desires; we are like petulant spoiled children unable to see the folly in our selfishness.

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