Vinland Saga – 13 – The Prince is Beautiful, But Cautious

After what looked like a no-win scenario had unfolded for Askeladd, Thorfinn, and Prince Canute, the standoff actually de-escalates when Askeladd starts speaking Welsh, to the surprise of even Bjorn.

It’s his assessment that their “hosts” from Brycheiniog won’t do them any harm, but they cannot let a horde of Danes cross their lands unchallenged, hence their intimidating posture. Askeladd tries to get Canute to intimidate them back, but the prince hides behind Ragnar.

Askeladd and Gratianus have a private meeting with the Brycheiniog commander, Asser, in which Askeladd reveals that he is half Dane and half Welsh, and a living descendant of the legendary King Artorius of Brittania, who inspired the legend of King Arthur.

The episode’s cryptic cold open depicts him in his youth bringing his dying mother back to Wales, and Gratianus greeting him. It should be noted young Askeladd looks a lot like Thorfinn. No wonder he’s taken such a shine to him; he’s the son he never had.

Anyway, Askeladd agrees to hand over the weapons of all his men and allow themselves to be escorted across Brycheiniog so Asser and his king can save face and look good to the common subjects. In exchange, Askeladd will see to it Canute is the one who succeeds the Danish throne, which means he’ll have a powerful seat at the table with which to ensure a treaty of non-aggression with Wales is arranged.

The fact of the matter is, Askeladd hates the Danes, likely in part (if not mostly) because of what they did to his mother. He seems as intent of keeping Wales unspoiled for her sake as anything else. But between some concerned looks from Bjorn and some groaning of his men, he will be testing their loyalty—and the secrets he’s kept from them—to their furthest limits by changing their route to Gainsborough.

In the meantime, Prince Canute finally hits his limit for enduring verbal abuse and mockery from Thorfinn, and calmly explains that as a prince he must be more cautious with his words…before abandoning that cautiousness to give Thorfinn a piece of his mind. Ragnar is shocked, but in a good way; he knows more than most how he might be hurting the fledgling by not insisting he leave the nest.

Still, Ragnar’s desire to protect a child who has already endured so much (Canute’s childhood was not a happy or peaceful one) seems to override that logic. It’s probably heartening to no end to hear Canute speaking to someone other than him; it means Canute and Thorfinn are, against all odds, developing a rapport. That can only be good for the both of them.

Vinland Saga – 12 – The Face of a King

As Thorkell’s forces chases his, Askeladd sends a message across the Severn River, hoping for some reinforcements to even the odds. His “Ear”, an Asian-looking man with very good hearing, can tell the enemy is only a few days away, if that.

The men are worried, and Bjorn relays that worry, but Askeladd is content to leave everyone in the dark. He also hasn’t been quite the same since seeing Prince Canute’s face. It just doesn’t seem like the face of a king. To be fair, Canute is young…but so is Thorfinn.

A thick, brooding atmosphere of impending doom pervades the march of Askeladd’s men as they grow more fatigued and Thorkell draws closer, but takes on a more otherworldly hue once they arrive at the spot where Askeladd says the reinforcements will be waiting.

The rendezvous point is a Roman ruin, suffused in fog. The soundtrack starts to boom with synth bass and brash, punishing tuba as Askeladd draws near and bows in deference to the two figures in romanesque garb. Eventually, triremes come into view.

These aren’t representatives of the Roman Empire reborn, nor another world, but one of the stubbornly independent kingdoms of Wales. Any enemy of the English is a ally of theirs. Askeladd’s connections enable them to cross Wales to reach Gainsborough rather than deal with Thorkell.

It will be a long journey, and the lands of Wales are rough and unforgiving, so Askeladd appoints Thorfinn as Prince Canute’s bodyguard. Amusingly, the Welsh commander mistakes Finn as the Danish prince, and says the same thing Askeladd thought when he sees his face—just not king material…at least not yet.

Thorfinn’s job is to make sure Canute lives to fulfill his destiny, but despite being the same age the two couldn’t have more different paths to get to that age. Finn is cold to Canute, while the prince is frightened of Finn. We’ll see if putting the two together toughens Canute, softens Finn…or both. Of course, the challenge of just keeping Canute alive becomes painfully plain when their forces are lured into a trap, with archers from a neighboring Welsh kingdom raining arrows down on them.

In an odd aside, we see an aged, balding Leif Erikson arriving at a port, and spots one of the slaves being taken away. (S?)he looks a lot like Thorfinn: messy straw hair, brown eyes. I wasn’t quite sure what was going on here. Does this scene place some time after the ambush? I doubt Finn would be so easily captured. If you have any insight into that, let me know in the comments.

Otherwise, this was an interesting episode to mark the halfway point of the series. Thorfinn is protecting Canute mostly to get another duel out of Askeladd, a duel that’s sure to be the closest yet as he grows stronger and Askeladd gets older. But there’s a lot going on around him that threatens postpone or even deprive him of that duel, if for instance Askeladd doesn’t survive the ambush.

Overlord III – 13 (Fin) – Another Easy Triumph

Gazef Stronoff knows there’s no way he can win, but he’ll fight Ains Ooal Gown anyway. As Head Warrior he is the sword of his kingdom; if he doesn’t face their greatest foe, who will? All other considerations are secondary.

While an argument could be made there was far more Brain, Climb, and other warriors of the kingdom could have learned from Gazef, staying alive to teach them would have meant some kind of surrender against Gown, which his code simply would not allow.

Gown defeats him easily by stopping time and casting True Death upon him. It’s pretty anticlimactic, but it’s also efficient, and Gown had no real reason to do further bodily harm to such an impressively stalwart opponent.

Emperor El-Nix is driven half-mad by the results of his new “ally’s” overwhelming victory over the royal armies. Climb surmises that Gazef may have given his life as a message to him, Brain, and others not to bother fighting the likes of Gown and instead building a future. Brain ain’t hearin’ it; after drinking with Climb, he’s jumping right back into the fight.

As for King Ramposa, with his eldest son gone too long and his second son already jockeying, he agrees to cede E-Rantel to Lord Ains. Princess Renner has a simple task for Climb: to deliver her handpicked roses to the memorial of the fallen armies, flashing her trademark evil smirk once his back is turned to her.

Ains’ dark forces march into E-Rantel without resistance, save a pebble thrown from an angry little boy whose father died in the recent battle. Albedo, who hates humans, prepares to execute the whelp for his disrespect, but she’s blocked by Momon.

Even weirder, however, is that Lord Ains appears behind Albedo to offer Momon a job as their law enforcer in the city. No harm will come to the innocent, as long as Momon makes sure to deal with the guilty. I imagine either Ains simply used a cloning spell or Demiurge disguised himself as Momon or Ains.

Whatever the deal was with two alter-egos of Momonga being in the same place at the same time, the effect is the same: the townsfolk see Momon as their protector, sacrificing his honor for their sake. I’m sure they’d much rather have an adventurer like him enforcing laws than the myriad undead beasts under Ains’ command.

With that, Sorcerer King Ains Ooal Gown takes a seat in the throne room of E-Rantel’s royal palace, all the Floor Guardians and Battle Maids assembled and offering him congratulations on his triumph. But as usual, he didn’t have to actually do much, and a lot of the plan that was just executed wasn’t even his, but Demiuge’s.

Still, as far as Demiurge, Albedo, or anyone else in that room is concerned, everything that happened happened because their lord and sorcerer king made it happen. E-Rantel is now the capital of his new “Sorcerer Kingdom”, Ains Ooal Gown.

No doubt OverLord IV will deal with the political transition and administration of the city, dealing with any resistance that crops up, and perhaps further expansion of the new kingdom. I’ll be here to watch, as always.