King Harald Hardrada of Norway lures a political enemy into a dark room, where he has him stabbed and hacked to death. Hated after the murder, he enlists a strong warrior to help him win back the people's favor, promising to allow the warrior's brother back from exile as the price of the warrior's cooperation. He sends the warrior on a diplomatic mission, where he wins a truce from the dead man's friends.
The exiled brother then returns to Norway but Harald, having in the meantime achieved his aim of a truce, sends the man out to his death at the hands of an enemy army. It may be the most treacherous act since King David said: "Uriah, would you mind dropping this note off for me?"
Moralists who want the good guy to win in the end will be happy to know that before the story ends, Harald gets his from King Harold Godwinson of England at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, bringing the curtain down on the Viking era, by traditional reckoning. Of course, Harold's forces lose the Battle of Hastings three weeks later.
History. It's a tough game.
© Peter Rozovsky 2011