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Sigurd The Hero
by [?]

THE TOWER OF THE NORTH-WEST WIND

On the rugged shore of the Northern Sea, where the summer sun never sets, there stood long ago a grim bleak fortress, called the Tower of the North-West Wind. Before it stretched the sea, which thundered ceaselessly at its base, like a wolf that gnaws at the root of some noble oak. On either side of it glittered the blue fiord, dotted with numberless islets, throwing its long arms far inland. Behind it frowned a dense forest of pines as far as eye could reach, in which the wind roared day and night, mingled often with the angry howls of the wolves.

The Tower of the North-West Wind stood there, the solitary work of man in all that wild landscape. Not a sign of life was to be seen besides. Not even a fisherman’s hut on the shores of the fiord, or a woodman’s shed among the trees. The stranger might easily have taken the rugged pile itself for a part of the black cliff on which it stood. No road seemed to lead up to it, no banner floated from its walls, no trumpet startled the sea-birds that lodged amongst its turrets.

Yet the old castle was not the deserted place it looked, for here dwelt Sigurd, the mightiest hero of all that land, brother to Ulf, the king.

Men hated Ulf as much as they loved his brother; for Sigurd, with all his prowess, was just and generous, and lied to no man.

“If Sigurd were but king,” said they one to the other, “our land would be the happiest the sun shines upon. As it is, Ulf makes us wretched. We had rather be his enemies than his friends.”

But though they said this one to another, Sigurd listened to none of it, and when they urged him to rebel, he sternly bade them hold their peace. And he went forth and fought the battles of the king, his brother, and they followed him, wishing only the battle-cry were “Sigurd!” and not “Ulf!”

For all this loyalty the king gave his brother little thanks. Indeed, as victory followed victory, and Sigurd’s fame rose higher and higher, Ulf’s heart swelled with jealousy, and jealousy presently grew to hate. For it was not in Ulf’s nature to endure that another should be held greater than himself. So, instead of rewarding his brother for his service, he accused him and degraded him, and made another general in his place.

“Now,” said the soldiers, “our chief will surely rebel, and we will follow his lead, and pluck down Ulf from the throne and set up our Sigurd.”

But Sigurd sternly silenced them, and bade them serve their king as they feared him. He meanwhile departed sadly from his brother’s court, and came and dwelt alone in his Tower of the North-West Wind.

For many weeks the time passed slowly, as Sigurd brooded over his wrongs and pined in idleness.

Yet this grieved him less than the secret visits of not a few of his old comrades, who had deserted Ulf, and now came begging him to lead them forth and rid the land of a tyrant. He sent them each sternly away, bidding them, on pain of his anger, return to their duty and serve the king; and they durst not disobey.

So passed many a weary month in the Tower of the North-West Wind, when one bright summer day a little fleet of English ships sailed gaily up the fiord under the castle walls.

Sigurd joyfully bade the voyagers welcome to his castle, for the chief of the little band was Raedwald, an English king, whom Sigurd himself only two years before had visited in his own land. There, too, he had met not Raedwald only, but Raedwald’s beautiful daughter, who now, with her gay train of attendants, accompanied her father on this visit to his friend and comrade.