THE SAGA OF PRINCE ERIK ‘BRAGI’ RAGNARSON Has Been Added to The Site Under the New Heading The VARANGIANS / UKRAINIANS Book Series – The True History of ‘The Great Viking Manifestation of Medieval Europe’© and the below Post Covers CHAPTER TWENTY SIX:
BOOK TWO: THE SAGA OF PRINCE ERIK ‘BRAGI’ RAGNARSON
A Novel By Brian Howard Seibert
© Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert
CHAPTER TWENTY SIX
26.0 THE NOR’WAY REVISITED (Circa 837 AD)
“Sorrowful deeds the dayspring saw,
unwelcome dawn, the alf folk’s grief;
thus early morn the ills of men
and every sorrow and sadness quickens.”
Bragi the Old (?); Elder Edda
(837 AD) “Welcome, Prince Erik!” Arthor shouted, truly happy to see a son of his old friend King Ragnar Lothbrok. “You look well enough coming out of the south, a little heavier even.”
Arthor had seemed very old to Erik when he had seen him as a young man, but it was as though he hadn’t aged a bit in the years since Erik last saw him. Such are the fleeting distorted perceptions of youth. “I’m older as well as thicker,” Erik said, taking Arthor’s hand in his. “And you haven’t aged a bit,” Erik added, without a trace of a lie.
“We’ve been hearing great tales about your adventures from your brother, King Roller,” Arthor said, leading Erik into his longhall. “You must tell us all of your adventures in Erik’s Keep, Gardariki.”
Just then Erik saw her, at a far hearth near the back of the hall, surrounded by two young children and with a baby suckling, a tattered and worn middle aged woman with copper coloured hair that he recognized. He walked along the hall to her. “You’re looking well,” he lied.
“Thank you, Erik,” she said, devouring his lie. She primped and preened her still beautiful hair and begged for more, the babe still at her breast.
Erik couldn’t even remember her name. “Are these all your children?” he asked. None of them were old enough to have been his work.
“They’re all that have lived,” she answered.
Erik asked her no more questions, turning and walking back towards Arthor. He did not want to know any more. It had never occurred to him that he might have conceived a child here, but when he saw the red-headed woman surrounded by her children a sudden wild hope had swept through his breast. A son, he had imagined. Brother Gregory’s vision would have turned out to have been preordained. Gunwar yet remained barren and Erik would have been overjoyed to have found a child of his being raised at Hawknista. Such was not the case, however, and Erik began to wonder if there was something wrong with his virility.
“See that she gets some new clothes and the same for her children,” Erik said, passing a purse of silver Kufas into Arthor’s huge bony hand. “Don’t let her know it was my silver that bought the goods.”
Arthor weighed the purse in his hand with mercantile skill and announced, “We shall have a feast in honour of your return!” and he ordered horns of ale brought in from the scullery as they took their places upon the longhall high seats. “Trade has been slow across the Nor’Way,” Arthor complained, “and the crushing blow you and your brother dealt the Khazars almost killed trade completely. Not that I have any feelings for the Huns,” he added. “King Hunn got what he deserved, near as I can tell, but their defeat almost killed the Nor’Way.” Arthor went on into detail of the hardship the people of Hawknista experienced, and it seemed to Erik that he was driving at something. Finally, Arthor got to the point. “Business is picking up. We’re trading with the Bulgars again, ’cause they’re trading with the Khazars again, who are trading with the Romans. The Huns have a trade treaty with Constantinople, Miklagard, as you call it. Be careful of the Khazars. They mean you harm.”
“And yet you trade with the Huns?” Erik asked, incredulously. “Why warn me about the Khazars intentions one minute and tell me of your plans to trade with them the next?”
Arthor looked at Erik perplexedly. They were sharing Arthor’s high seat and his horn of ale. “Because one is business and the other personal,” Arthor finally answered. “The Nor’Way will remain, whether your friends run it, or others take it over. Your father would maintain the Nor’Way at all costs. It is his legacy. Whatever goes on in the world, be it twixt the Danes and the Huns or the Bulgars and the Romans, the Nor’Way shall remain your family’s heritage. Ragnar discovered it. And Ragnar tamed it.”
“It is my heritage, yet its very success may destroy me,” Erik said. “I have moved beyond the legacy of my father. I no longer need it.”
“You may take that up with your brother, Roller, when he arrives. Till then let us feast and celebrate your return. Let us share ale, not hurl harsh words,” and Arthor took up the horn and toasted Erik.
“Roller is coming?” Erik asked. “Here?”
“He has spent the winter travelling about Norway and Finmark gathering tribute, furs and slaves, for trade this summer in Bulgar.”
“And he’s coming here?” Erik asked again in disbelief. Erik was overjoyed at the thought of meeting his brother. For the moment all thoughts of Huns and Bulgars, Arabs and Greeks fell away, replaced by thoughts of his brother and how long it had been since he had seen him. Before Erik could slide into a deep reverie, Arthor interrupted him.
“Years ago, when you were last my guest, I shared tales with you of bygone days and you shared a poem with us that I remember quite well. But you are older now with, no doubt, a tale or two more to tell. Recite for us this poem of yours and others of your life,” Arthor requested. Erik had forgotten what a lover of stories Arthor was, be they fact or fiction. He took up the horn of ale and stepped down from the dais to the audience area between the opposing high seats and he started into his poem, Dream of the Drums of War:
“Drums of war I dreamt of, dreams of Norns it seems of,
misty shrouded masts of mighty sea-steeds fighting.”
and he remembered back years into his past when he was barely out of boyhood, awaking frightened from a dream and telling his brother of their fate should they follow King Gotar. He remembered his trip to The Vik and his winning of a ship and his infatuation with Alfhild. He had made an enemy of Hrafn Ketil that day, but, while he was making his Nor’Way crossing, the Sea-King Oddi had taken care of that. Erik next recited a poem of how he had, in turn, taken care of the Sea-King Oddi:
“We set out from Stavanger Vik,
my brother and myself, with Ragnar’s heavy blessing,
Nor’Way silver in our purses, Norway timber ‘neath our feet.
We set off into Denmark with revenge upon our hearts.
The beacons of the sea-king we soon set to blazing,
and seven ships that followed, with augers we did raze.
Tyrfingr was proof ‘gainst Oddi’s berserk stare,
and deeply it did bite the quick of Oddi’s life.
As the waves rolled ‘cross the deck
of Oddi’s mighty ship, he blessed me with a promise
of a son named after him.
Landing in Liere’s harbour town on all fours on the beach,
I kissed the sand of Denmark and found it to my liking.
Grep came to the harbour town, I’d tarried overlong,
with feathered shaft upon word-bow, he sent his flygt a flying,
but he faltered ‘neath my nith-song, small payment for his crimes.”
And Erik’s memories took him back to King Frodi’s high seat hall and his winning of Gunwar’s hand and his song sang of foot-blades shattering the House of Westmar out upon the ice and the wresting ‘way of Alfhild from her father’s home and hall. Erik’s poem went on to describe the Danish victory over the Sclavs and their crushing defeat of the Slavs and their subsequent flight before the Hunnish horde, followed by their eventual success in the marshes of Lake Ilmen.
When Erik was through, all applauded his courage as well as his song. A red-headed woman served the Hraes’ leader choice cuts of meat and she always made sure his horn was full, and Erik was reminded of Brak and the older woman who served him so faithfully when Erik had first come to Hawknista, and the copper haired woman attended to Erik’s every need.
Erik had to wait a week for his brother, Roller, to arrive and the whole of that week he pestered Arthor with questions of his mother and further questions about Giantland. He then told the old merchant that he planned to take his men across the land bridge into that mysterious land that King Gorm had explored many years before.
“I’m not sure who your mother was,” Arthor had answered him. “Ragnar and Ladgerda rescued her from thieves that had attacked and destroyed her caravan, but we never learned who she was.”
“You mustn’t travel into Giantland,” Arthor warned him. “Few men return from there.”
“Your mother never met Dvalin,” he answered another question. “They were not captured at the same times.”
But Erik did not trust Arthor’s recollections of Giantland. When he had taken Dvalin back to be buried in his homeland, he’d gotten a terrible sensation that an ominous injustice had been committed there and, though fear and the season wouldn’t allow him to at that time, he’d always planned to return to Giantland and learn what had transpired. Erik felt that Arthor was being evasive with his answers regarding his mother, too, but he had only a gut feeling to go on.
King Roller was as surprised to find Erik at Hawknista as Erik had been on hearing that he was coming. Roller came rowing up the Northern Dvina with a dozen Nor’Way ships.
“Is the crossing still the experience it was,” Erik asked him, “when we first came across in Fair Faxi?”
“The crossing still turns men into Varangians,” Roller answered, hugging his brother warmly.
All went into Arthor’s longhall for a feast that would last long into the night. Erik learned that Roller had not yet found himself a wife, and Roller learned that Gunwar remained barren. “Hraegunar would not be pleased,” was Arthor’s observation on both matters. The conversation was pleasant and friendly enough, but there was an edge in the talk that threatened to cut through the fabric of sociability and, when he had finished telling his brother of his founding of Gardariki, Erik broached the subject of Roller’s trade with the Khazars.
“We trade with the Bulgars,” Roller corrected him. “What they do with the goods after that is beyond our control.”
“If the Khazars undermine our trade with Constantinople they will once more become a threat to us,” Erik said.
“The Khazar’s destruction almost killed the Northern Way. Has Arthor told you how bad it’s been up here?”
Erik nodded in affirmation. “But the Southern Way is the Way we decided to support,” Erik countered.
“It’s the Way you decided to support,” Roller corrected Erik again. “We set off for Denmark to destroy the Southern Way and somehow our plans got changed and we ended up helping establish it, but it was never our intention to destroy the Nor’Way in the process. If the Nor’Way can survive side by side with the Southern Way, who are we to destroy the work of our forefathers?”
“The Nor’Way is surviving by feeding the recovery of the Khazar Khaganate,” Erik answered angrily. “There is no denying that fact.”
“Had we done as I suggested and followed the Huns into the Caucasus and destroyed them, we wouldn’t have to worry about them. We Nor’Way traders could then trade directly with the Arabs, as you are doing, much to Constantinople’s chagrin. Most of the Greek support the Khazars have garnered comes from your trading with the Baghdad Caliphate. How do you think King Frodi feels about that?” Roller shouted, rising from his high seat.
“We can’t wipe out the Khazars,” Erik confessed, “for they sit settled on a constriction of the Asian plain, keeping the hordes that sit behind them at bay. Even now a great tribe of Turks, the Magyars have blocked up the Don and Volga River routes covering the Khazar’s building of a fortress they call Sarkel. The Magyars are but one of the hordes, and all of Europe would be sore pressed defeating them. As for King Frodi, he benefits from the Arab trade as much as I do,” Erik replied, he, too, rising. “We play one off against the other and get the best prices we can for all our goods.”
“So, you aggravate the Greeks, who then back the Khazars, and you expect the Norwegians to abandon the Nor’Way to destroy their trade? How long do you think it would take the Bulgars to come up north and get the furs from the Permians and the Biarmians and the Finns? There is nothing we can do here to stop them, so it is better to have your friends controlling the Nor’Way than your enemies. It will not be us who fail you when the Huns saddle their ponies for war. Of that you have my word.”
“You’d like to see a war with the Huns, wouldn’t you,” Erik accused his brother.
“The destruction of the Khazar Khaganate would not cause me grief,” Roller countered, “but, if war starts, it will be due to your trade with the Arabs more than anything we do up here. What is it that draws you so to these Arabs? To the alchemists of Baghdad? Is their trade worth risking the whole Southern Way?” The two brothers eyed each other intensely for several minutes. “However,” Roller started again, “my mother, Kraka, always warned me to follow your sage advice, and that I have always done, with profit of life and limb, and I will continue to do so in this matter. Just keep in mind, before you give us your answer, all the suffering the people of Hawknista and Hrafnista have endured waiting for the Nor’Way to recover.”
Roller thus put the fate of the Northern Way into Erik’s hands and all the younger brother could say was this: “Carry on with your trade. I shall head east into Giantland. We’ll discuss this further when we meet here on your return. You are right when you say it is better we have friends here in Hawknista than enemies. Let me know all you learn in Bulgar.”
The next day Erik took his brother over to Fair Faxi and withdrew a chest from a stern compartment. He opened it and took out the picture of himself with Ahmad Ibn Yakut. “It is a very fine painting of you,” Roller stated, as he sat on a rowing bench and studied it. “Who is the Arab with you?”
“He is a merchant and alchemist of Baghdad,” Erik answered. “But it is not a painting. It is an exposure from a pinhole housing. It drew itself. This is the science of the alchemists and they have much more. This is the future,” Erik started. “Brak has learned the secret of Indian steel from them….I have seen his swords, but there is much more. The Romans have stolen Greek fire from the Alchemists Guild, but they have even more powerful weapons. They have powders that explode when ignited and arrows that fly without bows.”
Roller was still studying the picture. “You look hungover. This drew itself?” he asked in disbelief.
“Yes. And I have learned the secret of the ton-stone that Brak was searching for. I have joined the Alchemists Guild and we have a hall in Gardariki where we experiment, and I fund their research and science.”
“And they share their secrets?”
“No. They don’t share their secrets. And I don’t ask them for them. The guild is the guild. It is ancient. It was old before the Romans. When the Romans conquered the Greeks, they tried taking over the Alchemists Guild, but it withdrew from the west or hid, so the Romans started a science of their own….a military science of engineers. And they have been at war ever since, the sciences of the east and west. That is why the Romans had to steal the secret of the sea fire from the alchemists.”
“And you support these alchemists against Constantinople and they don’t share their weapons with you?” Roller said, shaking his head.
“They share their good science quite freely: medicines, philosophy, optics,” Erik answered, rummaging through his chest, “but the bad stuff they keep secret. Man cannot be trusted with the weapons of science. I have seen this in my visions. This I just got,” he added, passing over a small tube. “You look into the end….the other end and it allows you to see great distances.”
Roller pulled his eye away from the tube quickly, then let it return to the tube slowly. “Ahhh….”
“It is an optical scope,” Erik reassured him. “You adjust it by pulling the other end away from you.”
“Can you get me one of these?” Roller asked. His eyesight had never been as fine as his younger brother’s.
“It’s yours. We have a shop in Gardariki that makes them.”
There were amiable partings as Roller and his men continued their journey south and Erik prepared Fair Faxi for an expedition into Giantland. He brow beat Arthor into accompanying them as guide and they set off the day after.
Crossing the land bridge into Giantland, Erik and his men were soon drifting down the Pechora River in a dense blanket of fog, a solid firmament that blocked vision only, allowing mass and sound to pass. Waves lapped at Fair Faxi’s strakes as the deadly mist swirled about the men aboard her. A powerful voice echoed off the waters at the bow giving off soundings as Erik and Arthor discussed their position in low whispers near the mast. They didn’t bother anchoring at night, for they could see just as well then as they could in broad daylight. That was the most disturbing thing about the fog: the day was bright, the sun a powerful beacon in the celestial firmament, yet one could not see the hand in front of one’s eyes. Some of Erik’s Centuriata were quite disconcerted by this fact and soon there were grumblings of their having penetrated the realm of the gods and tales of Thor’s great feats of prowess dominated the talk of the idle rowers.
As the Nor’Way ship progressed downriver, the waters widened, and the fog dispersed somewhat. Arthor instructed the men to keep to the right bank and, after several days of drifting and sailing and rowing, Fair Faxi was anchored off the ruined settlement that the men of King Gorm’s expedition had invaded. Even from the river one could observe that, long ago, the town had been sacked; there was no sign of life and no evidence that reconstruction had ever been attempted on that low plateau above the river meadows. The savage dogs were gone; only hawks circled the fields, searching for rodents to whisk back to their nests high up in the rocks of the cliffs behind the city.
“The town was in flames when we fled the escaping ogres,” Arthor claimed as Erik led his men across the meadow and up into the town. The stockade about the town had burned down into blackened pegs, falling away completely in spots. Log buildings had been levelled by the flames, their charred walls askew and the roof timbers long collapsed. Only the corduroy roads remained unburned, and evidence of warriors having fallen lay upon them. A cracked helmet could be seen here and a shattered shield there and broken spears and withered arrows lay about everywhere, but there were no remains anywhere. Survivors had returned to the ravaged town and buried their dead. At the back of the town, pressed into the enclosing cliffs, stood one small stone building. “That is where the giants lived,” Arthor explained. “Thorkill called it the hall of Geruth. It is much larger inside,” and everyone saw that it was so when they entered. The hall was as corrupt and filthy as Arthor had described it years before, but no ogres remained chained in what appeared to be cells. Erik had several torches lit and they carried on their exploration, back into the depths of the hall. Huge stone thrones sat at the back of the hall, but there was no sign of the giants Arthor had described. As Gorm and Thorkill had done many years previous, Arthor led them off to the left into a large and empty anteroom. At the back of it was the entrance to a treasure chamber which was, though not empty, bare. All that remained were some huge shields and swords, the weapons of giants that Arthor had described. Along one wall hung huge cloaks and beside each cloak Erik noted a pair of stilts. Erik had a man hold his torch and he took the stilts and climbed up on them and strapped them to his legs. In them, he stood over ten feet in height, and he took one of the long cloaks from a high peg in the wall and he wrapped it about himself.
“Is this the giant you saw?” Erik asked Arthor, taking up one of the huge helmets and placing it upon his head. His face disappeared in the shadows of the helm and only his eyes flashed brightly in the torchlight. He took up one of the massive shields, strapped on an enormous sword and armed himself with a large spear to complete the transformation from man to giant. Arthor looked up at Erik and said nothing.
When they had completed their exploration of the grotto, they returned to the entrance chamber only to find the exterior opening blocked up by a great stone slab. Fearsome whispers broke out among Erik’s men, so powerful are born beliefs. “Only giants could have moved such a slab,” some said. “We shall be trapped forever in the hall of Geruth,” cried others.
Erik took a torch and studied the slab blocking the entrance. It was solid stone in the shape of a huge coin and had been rolled from a slot in the great stone wall of the building. Although it had slid into a slot on the other side of the entrance, it had not rolled all the way shut, Erik guessed, from disuse. Small beams of light filtered in through the top and bottom corners, and Erik could get his fingers in behind the edge of the stone. Light was not the only element that penetrated the cracks; Erik could hear voices on the other side of the slab and they were speaking in Dvalin’s native language. Thinking back to the past, Erik grabbed a linden shield from one of his men and bit into it, growling ferociously, as his father, Ragnar, had done years before. He then went back to the great stone slab, grabbed it down in the corner of the entrance and began to roll it back, mightily. The muscles in his broad back bunched up and the sinews in his blacksmith’s shoulders stood out as he slowly rolled the stone up, in his berserker’s rage. He slipped his body into the opening he had created and, with his back to the doorway, he began to push with all his might. The stone door was moving, and light shone into the hall when Erik felt a spear in his ribs. “Don’t kill me,” he growled in the dwarf language and, when the spearhead was backed off, Erik let go the stone and jumped outside the doorway. The great stone slab rolled quickly shut as the bright light of day blinded Erik, who stood helpless and exhausted as the berserk fit left him. When his eyesight returned, he was standing in front of Dvalin, the dwarf he had grown up with, but he knew it could not be. He had seen Dvalin die.
“Where did you learn the dwarf language?” the little man with the spear demanded.
“From a dwarf who sounded just like you,” Erik answered. “A dwarf called Dvalin.”
The dwarf pointed his spear away from Erik slightly. “You knew my father?” Several other young dwarfs kept their spears fast on the Norseman.
It was a question that immediately endeared the dwarf to Erik. “Your father was my friend. I owe him much.”
“I am Durin, son of Dvalin,” the dwarf introduced himself. “He made you that sword, didn’t he?”
“Yes. It is star stone.”
“I can see that from the glow.”
“Some see it better than others.”
The dwarf smiled and the others in his party relaxed their weapons. “My father taught you our language well,” the dwarf started, clumsily.
“He was a man of patience. He always said I had a way with words, still, he showed much patience. When I was growing up, he and I would talk to each other in your language and none would know what we were saying.”
Durin led Erik off to a place where they could sit and they all sat about Erik in a semi-circle. “Tell me about my father,” Durin asked gently.
Erik felt the longing in Durin’s voice. The longing and the pride.
“He was our leader before he was captured,” Durin said proudly, looking about the other young dwarves. It was apparent to Erik that Durin was the leader here.
Erik told Durin all the tales he remembered growing up with Dvalin, and it was evident that the Norseman had truly loved the little fellow. He ended his story with the forging of Tyrfingr and then told of the fatal disease that had afflicted Dvalin because of it.
“We watched you with his body. We were very much moved by your efforts,” Durin said. “He was the last of my line to know the secret of the forging of the star stone. I was but a boy when your people sacked our city, but my mother told me that he was captured, and he never got the chance to teach his craft.”
“After my people sacked your city?” Erik asked incredulously.
“I’m sorry,” Durin apologized. “The one who leads you. Arthor. After he and others sacked our city.”
“Now there is a tale you must tell me,” Erik started, “for I am their leader here, and Arthor has told me quite another story.”
The dwarf sat a little closer to the Norseman and told him the story of the land the dwarves called Glassy Plains. “At first, none but dwarves inhabited the land of Glassy Plains, then Slavs would come to trade, and my forefathers created giants to keep them away from our city. Then the Norsemen came and we traded our fine steel weapons and furs to Arthor for gold and silks and other rich goods that corrupted our society, and, when we became too wealthy to work, to hunt and to forge steel, we had nothing more to trade; then Arthor came with men unafraid of giants and they attacked our city and killed our men and raped our women and took back the gold and the silk, and then they burned the town. They captured my father, Dvalin, and that was the last we ever saw of him until our shaman sensed your coming and we went to the source of our river and we watched you with the body of my father.”
A small rumbling sound came from the entrance of the Hall of Geruth, and the great stone blocking it began to roll back. The dwarves grabbed up their weapons and surrounded the opening. The butts of half a dozen spears could be seen protruding from the lower corner of the doorway as Erik’s men used the weapons of the giants to prize the slab free. As the door opened, spear tips, too, emerged, as Erik’s men prepared to charge out of the breach. “Send out Arthor,” Erik ordered. “The rest of you, stay inside the hall.”
Durin ordered his dwarves to stand down.
Arthor squeezed out of the opening and the men inside stopped up the great stone with a fragment of shield, but no others came out. Arthor stood at the entrance, blinded by the light of day and Erik called him forward. The three men, Erik, Durin and Arthor, went over to the place Erik and Durin had been at before and they sat down, and they talked.
“King Gorm was a true explorer,” Arthor eventually confessed. “He had nothing to do with the attack on the city. It was all the doing of Thorkill and myself. We had been raiding the territories about Hawknista for many years, between trading seasons, while your father was back in Norway. Thorkill had let it slip that he had been raiding Khazar caravans, so your father fired him and sent him back across the way. Now, Thorkill knew that the dwarves kept a hoard of gold in the city, so he went to King Gorm in Denmark and he arranged for a Nor’Way expedition for the purposes of exploration, but his real plan was to get the gold for himself, no matter how it affected Nor’Way trade.
“When he arrived in Hawknista with King Gorm and all his Danish troops, there was little I could do but go along with his plan. We went to the city of the dwarves and we surrounded it and made ready to assault it. The fact that the city was defended by giants only added to the challenge and the honours we expected to earn, but, when we attacked, it turned out that the giants were a ruse and we overwhelmed their defences. The dwarves were brave fighters and we lost many of King Gorm’s men, but when we captured their king, your Dvalin,” Arthor said, nodding to Erik and then Durin, “the dwarves fled, and we carried the city.
“It’s hard to explain what takes over in an army when a city is sacked, but I recall only a dark sensation of the aftermath. We did terrible things with the dwarves we captured, and the women suffered greatly. We were several days gathering up the booty and we were in no hurry to leave. We took Dvalin with us as a hostage and left in our own good time. It was I who concocted the tale of our adventures in Giantland, but, when Thorkill and King Gorm prudently left before Ragnar’s return from Bulgar, they carried my story back to the west with them. They had ordered that I kill Dvalin, our only witness, but, in return for his oath of silence, I let him live. I suspected Dvalin made the promise only to await a chance to escape and lead the dwarves again and cause us much trouble, so, when your father arrived from his Bulgar trade I gave him Dvalin with instructions that he never be allowed to return to the Eastern Realm. You can see why I was a little surprised,” Arthor said, shaking his head, “when you and Roller arrived unexpectedly, many years ago, with an ailing Dvalin in tow. The rest of the story you know.”
“My father hated Thorkill,” Erik started slowly. “He drove him out of the Nor’Way trade because he was raiding. Are you saying he never knew you were in league with Thorkill?”
“He always suspected a connection,” Arthor answered, “but he owed me favours.”
Erik was being very patient in the questions he asked Arthor. He had gotten the old Varangian talking, confessing, and he didn’t want to give him cause to stop. “You said Ragnar fired Thorkill because he caught him raiding Khazar caravans.”
Arthor nodded in the affirmative. “About four years before he came back to raid Giantland.”
“Back in Hawknista you said that my mother was captured some years before Dvalin. Was she captured in a raid on a caravan bound for Khazaria?”
Arthor began to get nervous with this new line of questioning. “Yes. But it was Ladgerda and Ragnar that captured her and numerous other Slavs in their famed attack upon Fafnir, the fire breathing dragonship. They took her back across the Nor’Way, but, when first the Bulgar and then Khazar embassies came looking for the captives, I had been instructed by Ragnar to blamed the Biarmians for the raid. When Ragnar came from Norway for the spring trading he learned that Thorkill had done further raiding so he fired Thorkill and sent him back west. Ragnar wanted no further trouble with either the Bulgars or the Khazars. They were our partners in the Nor’Way trade and he always preached that we should protect the survival of the ‘Way at all costs.”
Arthor sat back a little and drew his knees up in front of himself and he wrapped his arms around them nervously. “Ragnar had fallen in love with his captive, your mother, the one the Khazars were searching for. The betrothed bride of King Hunn, Kagan Bek of Khazaria. Ragnar sold all of the Slavs to Arab traders, but he refused to part with your mother, telling the Arabs that she was already sold to a Bulgar prince.”
Erik asked his next question very gently, and then Durin sensed that Erik, too, searched for knowledge about a lost parent. “Who was my mother?”
Arthor looked nervously into the rich verdant carpet upon which they sat. “We called her Boddi because we found her with a golden bodkin. We let her keep it, because we knew her to be of noble birth and proof of identity can be very important in ransoming a princess.”
“Who was my mother?” Erik asked, a little less gently.
“She was the daughter of King Olmar, the ruler of Kiev,” Arthor answered.
“I know King Olmar well,” Erik said, flatly.
“I’m sorry I have caused you so much grief, Erik,” Arthor apologized. “And you too,” he added, nodding towards Durin.
“How shall we end this little standoff of ours?” Erik asked Durin in the dwarf tongue.
“I don’t see much point in seeking revenge,” Durin said, “and perhaps the best thing for my people now is to resume trade with the rest of the world. To that end, I would like to accompany you beyond the land bridge to study the ways and the words of other lands.”
“It would be an honour to serve the son of Dvalin,” Erik answered. “Your father taught me some skill in the working of the star stone. Perhaps, between us, we can rediscover your father’s lost art.”
“And while we are figuring it out,” Durin answered, “you can tell me about my father.”
The next day, Erik and his Centuriata, Arthor and Durin left the City of Glassy Plains and sailed upriver in Fair Faxi for Hawknista. They arrived at the trading post a week before Roller and his Varangians returned, then the whole group successfully made the Nor’Way crossing together. Erik announced in Hrafnista that Nor’Way trade would continue as always and that the dwarves in Giantland would once again be playing a part in it.
Chapter 27: CONFLICT WITH THE KHAZARS (Circa 838 AD) of BOOK 2: THE SAGA OF PRINCE ERIK ‘BRAGI’ RAGNARSON shall follow on next Post or may be found under Heading of The VARANGIANS / UKRAINIANS Book Series – The True History of ‘The Great Viking Manifestation of The Middle Ages’© in Book Two: The Saga of Prince Erik ‘Bragi’ Ragnarson.
Note: This website is about Vikings and Varangians and the way they lived over a thousand years ago. The content is as explicit as Vikings of that time were and scenes of violence and sexuality are depicted without reservation or apology. Reader discretion is advised.
The VARANGIANS / UKRAINIANS or The Nine Books of Saxo’s Danish History Per Brian Howard Seibert
BOOK ONE: The Saga of King Ragnar ‘Lothbrok’ Sigurdson
King Ragnar ‘Lothbrok’ Sigurdson’s third wife, Princess Aslaug, was a young survivor of the Saga of the Volsungs and was a daughter of King Sigurd ‘the Dragon-Slayer’ Fafnirsbane, so this is where Ragnar’s story begins in almost all the ancient tales (except Saxo’s). In our series, we explore this tail end of the Volsungs Saga because King Sigurd appears to be the first ‘Dragon-Slayer’ and King Ragnar ‘Lothbrok’ would seem to be the second so, it is a good opportunity to postulate the origins of Fire Breathing Dragons and how they were slain. King Ragnar would lose his Zealand Denmark to the Anglish Danes of Jutland, who spoke Anglish, as did the majority of Vikings who attacked England, which spoke both Anglish and Saxon languages, sometimes mistakenly called a common Anglo-Saxon language. The Angles and Saxons of England never really did get along, as shall be demonstrated in the following books. King Ragnar assuaged the loss of Zealand by taking York or Jorvik, the City of the Boar, in Angleland and Stavanger Fjord in Thule from which he established his Nor’Way trade route into Scythia.
BOOK TWO: The Saga of Prince Erik ‘Bragi’ Ragnarson
Book Two of the Nine Book The Varangians / Ukrainians Series places The Saga of Prince Erik ‘Bragi’ Ragnarson from Book Five of The First Nine Books of the Danish History of Saxo Grammaticus (c. 1200 AD) about King Frodi ‘the Peaceful’ into its proper chronological location in history. In 1984, when I first started work on the book, I placed Prince Erik’s birth at circa 800 CE, but it has since been revised to 810 CE to better reflect the timelines of the following books in the series. Saxo had originally placed the saga at the time of Christ’s birth and later experts have placed the story at about 400 CE to correspond with the arrival of the Huns on the European scene but, when Attila was driven back to Asia, the Huns didn’t just disappear, they joined the Khazar Empire, just north of the Caspian Sea, and helped the Khazars control the western end of the famous Silk Road Trade Route. Princes Erik and Roller, both sons of Ragnar ‘Lothbrok’, sail off to Zealand to avenge their father’s loss, but Erik falls in love with Princess Gunwar, the sister of the Anglish King Frodi of Jutland and, after his successful Battle Upon the Ice, wherein he destroys the House of Westmar, Erik marries Gunwar and both brothers become King Frodi’s foremost men instead, and the story moves on to the founding of Hraes’ and Gardar Ukraine.
BOOK THREE: The Saga of Prince Helgi ‘Arrow Odd’ Erikson
Book Three, The Saga of Prince Helgi ‘Arrow Odd’ Erikson, recreates Arrow Odd’s Saga of circa 1200 AD to illustrate how Arrow Odd was Prince Helgi (Oleg in Slavic) Erikson of Kiev, by showing that their identical deaths from the bite of a snake was more than just coincidence. The book investigates the true death of Ragnar ‘Lothbrok’ by poisoned blood-snakes in York or Jorvik, the ‘City of the Boar’, and how his curse of ‘calling his young porkers to avenge the old boar’ sets up a death spiral between swine and snake that lasts for generations. The book then illustrates the famous Battle of the Berserks on Samso, where Helgi ‘Arrow Odd’ and Hjalmar ‘the Brave’ slay the twelve berserk grandsons of King Frodi on the Danish Island of Samso, setting up a death struggle that takes the Great Pagan Army of the Danes from Denmark to ravage Norway and then England and on to Helluland in Saint Brendan’s Newfoundland. A surprise cycle of vengeance manifests itself in the ‘death by snakebite’ of Helgi ‘Arrow Odd’.
BOOK FOUR: The Saga of Prince Ivar ‘the Boneless’ Erikson
Book Four, The Saga of Prince Ivar ‘the Boneless’ Erikson, reveals how Ivar ‘the Boneless’ Ragnarson was actually Prince Eyfur or Ivar (Igor in Slavic) Erikson of Kiev and then King Harde Knute ‘the First’ of Denmark. By comparing a twenty year lacuna in the reign of Prince Igor in The Hraes’ Primary Chronicle with a coinciding twenty year appearance of a King Harde Knute (Hard Knot) of Denmark in European Chronicles, Prince Igor’s punishment by sprung trees, which reportedly tore him apart, may have rather just left him a boneless and very angry young king. Loyal Danes claimed, “It was a hard knot indeed that sprung those trees,” but his conquered English subjects, not being quite as polite, called him, Ivar ‘the Boneless’. The book expands on the death curse of Ragnar ‘Lothbrok’ and the calling of ‘his young porkers to avenge the old boar’ when Ivar leaves his first son, King Gorm (Snake) ‘the Old’, to rule in Denmark and his last son, Prince Svein (Swine) ‘the Old’ to rule in Hraes’, further setting up the death spiral between the swine and snake of the ‘Lothbrok’ curse.
BOOK FIVE: The Saga of Prince Svein ‘the Old’ Ivarson
Book Five, The Saga of Prince Svein ‘the Old’ Ivarson, demonstrates how Prince Sveinald (Sviatoslav in Slavic) ‘the Brave’ of Kiev was really Prince Svein ‘the Old’ Ivarson of Kiev, who later moved to Norway and fought to become King Sweyn ‘Forkbeard’ of Denmark and England. But before being forced out of Russia, the Swine Prince sated his battle lust by crushing the Khazars and then attacking the great great grandfather of Vlad the Impaler in a bloody campaign into the ‘Heart of Darkness’ of Wallachia that seemed to herald the coming of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and included the famed 666 Salute of the Army of the Impalers. The campaign was so mortifying that the fifteen thousand pounds of gold that the Emperor of Constantinople paid him to attack the Army of the Impalers seemed not nearly enough, so Prince Svein attacked the Eastern Roman Empire itself. He came close to defeating the greatest empire in the world, but lost and was forced to leave Hraes’ to his three sons. He returned to the Nor’Way and spent twelve years rebuilding Ragnar’s old trade route there.
BOOK SIX: The Saga of Grand Prince Valdamar ‘the Great’ Sveinson
Book Six, The Saga of Grand Prince Valdamar ‘the Great’ Sveinson, establishes how Grand Prince Valdamar (Vladimir in Slavic) ‘the Great’ of Kiev, expanded the Hraes’ Empire and his own family Hamingja by marrying 700 wives that he pampered in estates in and around Kiev. Unlike his father, Svein, he came to the aid of a Roman Emperor, leading six thousand picked Varangian cataphracts against Anatolian rebels, and was rewarded with the hand of Princess Anna Porphyrogennetos of Constantinople, a true Roman Princess born of the purple who could trace her bloodline back to Julius and Augustus Caesar. She was called ‘Czarina’, and after her, all Hraes’ Grand Princes were called ‘Czars’ and their offspring were earnestly sought after, matrimonially, by European royalty.
BOOK SEVEN: The Saga of King Sweyn ‘Forkbeard’ Ivarson
In The Saga of King Sweyn ‘Forkbeard’ Ivarson, Prince Svein anonymously takes the name of Sweyn ‘Forkbeard’ in Norway and befriends the Jarls of Lade in Trondheim Fjord in Norway as he expands the Nor’Way trade route of his grandfather, Ragnar ‘Lothbrok’. He had come close to defeating the Eastern Roman Empire, and still felt that he was due at least a shared throne in Constantinople. He used the gold from the Nor’Way trade to rebuild his legions and his Hraes’ cataphracts and though his brother, King Gorm ‘the Old’, was dead, his son, Sweyn’s nephew, King Harald ‘Bluetooth’ Gormson had usurped the throne of Denmark and had hired the famed Jomsvikings to attack Prince Sweyn in Norway, setting up the famous Battle of Hjorungavagr in a fjord south of Lade. King Sweyn ‘Forkbeard’ would emerge from that confrontation and then he would defeat King Olaf Tryggvason of Norway in the Battle of Svolder in 1000 AD, in an engagement precipitated over the hand of Queen Sigrid ‘the Haughty’ of Sweden. Later he attacked England in revenge for the following St. Brice’s Day Massacre of Danes in 1002 AD and he fought a protracted war with the Saxon King Aethelred ‘the Unready’ that could only be described as the harvesting of the English for sale as slaves in Baghdad and Constantinople. With the help of his son, Prince Valdamar of Kiev, and the legions and cataphracts of Hraes’, he conquered England on Christmas Day of 1013, but victory was not kind to him.
BOOK EIGHT: The Saga of King Canute ‘the Great’ Sweynson
Prince Valdamar ‘the Great’ Sveinson of Kiev, who had supported his father, King Sweyn ‘Forkbeard’ of Denmark in attacks upon England left his ‘Czar’ sons in charge of Hraes’ and took over as King Valdamar of England, but the Latin Christian English revolted against his eastern name and Orthodox Christian religion and brought King Aethelred back from exile in Normandy and Valdamar had to return to Hraes’ and gather up the legions he had already sent back after his father’s victory. His half brother was ruling in Denmark and his sons were ruling in Hraes’ so, in 1015 AD Grand Prince Valdamar ‘the Great’ of Kiev was written out of Hraes’ history and in 1016 the Latin Christian Prince Canute ‘the Great’ returned to England to reclaim his throne. He defeated Aethelred’s son, King Edmund ‘Ironside’ of England, at the Battle of Assandun to become King Canute ‘the Great’ of England and later King Knute ‘the Great’ of Denmark and Norway as well. But that is just the start of his story and later Danish Christian Kings would call his saga, and the sagas of his forefathers, The Lying Sagas of Denmark, and would set out to destroy them, claiming that, “true Christians will never read these Sagas”.
BOOK NINE: The Saga of King William ‘the Conqueror’ Robertson
The Third Danish Conquest of Angleland was seen to herald the end of the Great Viking Manifestation of the Middle Ages, but this, of course, was contested by the Vikings who were still in control of it all. Danish Varangians still ruled in Kiev and Danes still ruled the Northern Empire of Canute ‘the Great’, for the Normans were but Danish Vikings that had taken up the French language, and even Greenland and the Newfoundland were under Danish control in a Hraes’ Empire that ran from the Silk Road of Cathay in the east to the Mayan Road of Yucatan in the west. “We are all the children of Ragnar ‘Lothbrok’,” Queen Emma of Normandy often said. Out of sheer spite the Saxons of England took over the Varangian Guard of Constantinople and would continue their fight against the Normans in Southern Italy as mercenaries of the Byzantine Roman Empire. They would lose there as well, when in the Fourth Crusade of 1204, the Norman Danes would sack the City of Constantinople and hold it long enough to stop the Mongol hoards that would crush the City of Kiev. It would be Emperor Baldwin ‘the First’ of Flanders and Constantinople who would defeat the Mongol Mongke Khan in Thrace. But the Mongols would hold Hraes’ for three hundred years and this heralded the end of the Great Viking Manifestation. The Silk Road was dead awaiting Marco Polo for its revival. But the western Mayan Road would continue to operate for another hundred years until another unforeseen disaster struck. Its repercussions would be witnessed by the Spanish conquerors who followed Christopher Columbus a hundred and fifty years later in the Valley of the Mound Builders.
By recreating the lives of four generations of Hraes’ Ukrainian Princes and exhibiting how each generation, in succession, later ascended to their inherited thrones in Denmark, the author proves the parallels of the dual rules of Hraes’ Ukrainian Princes and Danish Kings to be cumulatively more than just coincidence. And the author proves that the Danish Kings Harde Knute I, Gorm ‘the Old’ and Harald ‘Bluetooth’ Gormson/Sweyn ‘Forkbeard’ were not Stranger Kings, but were Danes of the Old Jelling Skioldung Fridlief/Frodi line of kings who only began their princely careers in Hraes’ and returned to their kingly duties in Denmark with a lot of Byzantine Roman ideas and heavy cavalry and cataphracts.