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 THIRTY TWO:
BOOK TWO: THE SAGA OF PRINCE ERIK ‘BRAGI’ RAGNARSON
A Novel By Brian Howard Seibert
© Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert
CHAPTER THIRTY TWO
32.0 BRAGI THE OLD AND BJORN OF THE BARROWS (Circa 840 AD)
“That’s what my kinsman Bragi the Old did when he had to face the
anger of King Bjorn of Sweden. He made a drapa of twenty stanzas
overnight and that’s what saved his head.”
Prince Arinbjorn; Egil’s Saga (c. 1230 A.D.)
(840 AD) “You must garner the support of the north,” Brak told Erik. “You must get all of the Aesir behind you.”
Back in Rogaland Province, Erik placed a tall stool on his father’s highseat to take down from the rafters Ragnar’s hidden books, the two red leather-bound renditions of the same book he had found so many years before while searching for a war arrow. This time it was Brak, not Dvalin, who steadied the stool while his stepmother looked on. Erik felt around the top of the rafter for that pair of books and when he felt them he immediately knew which one was the ancient original. He took it down, leaving the second copy where it sat. He passed the book to Brak. “This book is older than Babylon itself,” he said, climbing down from the stool. “I’m not sure what language it is written in.”
“It’s Coptic binding,” Brak said, carefully opening the ancient book. “The binding is older than Coptic and the writing is Aramaic. Chaldean Aramaic perhaps,” Brak said as he studied the print. “It is the script of the Alchemists of Zoroaster,” he added. “What makes you think it is older than Babel?”
“I can feel its age. It’s ancient. The other book is a recent copy of this one.”
Brak marvelled at this gift of Erik’s and he looked at Kraka and they both shook their heads. “The copy was made by the monks of an English abbey,” Brak started. “A Christian priest stole the original from Ragnar and replaced it with the copy. When Ragnar found out he had been deceived, he led a force against the monastery, got the original back and filled that priest full of arrows, he was so pissed off.”
“But how did father know it was a copy?”
“I think it is time you heard the whole story,” Brak began as they took their places on the highseats and refreshed themselves. “Shortly before your father, Ragnar, destroyed the fire breathing dragonship Fafnir and re-established the Nor’Way, I met him in Volsunga and presented him with an offer from a group of Magis out of the Caliphate and they paid me to set up a meeting with the Norse traders. The head Magi wanted Ragnar to take that little red book to the farthest reaches of the world and to safeguard it with his life and for this boon he paid Ragnar with some valuable information. A Roman bireme named Fafnir would soon be bound for Khazaria with a cargo of gold for the kagan to build the fortress of Sarkel and, because the ship had the Helm of Fear, Greek fire on board, there were to be no escort vessels. The Magi also told your father how to beat the fire breathing serpent ship by using raw sheep skins soaked in sour wine or vinegar. So Ragnar, who went by the name Gunar at that time, asked me if I wanted to join in on the adventure and the rest of that famous little viking raid is known by all, pretty much everywhere, by now. Years later, the Alchemists requested their book back from Hraegunar and, since Fafnir’s red gold turned out to be cursed, your father didn’t feel overly inclined to hold up his end of the deal, but during one trading season he did return the book to the Alchemists Guild and that’s when they told him it was a copy.
“Hraegunar knew that the book had disappeared from his longhall for a time, just when a Christian priest was looking for converts in Rogaland Province, but then it had turned up again, so Hraegunar put two and two together and tracked down that priest at his monastery and got the original book back. He hid both books up in the rafters along with his war arrows and I guess he just forgot about them. The Alchemists never asked for them again anyway, so I guess they just sat up there.”
“So, you have joined this Alchemists Guild?” Kraka asked. “Roller said you have, and he seemed to be very impressed by them. He showed us the scope you gave him.”
“Yes…they call it an optical scope. Did Roller also tell you what I learned of the ton-stone?” he asked Brak.
“Your brother said they were turning ton-stone into gold. I knew they were turning lead into gold, but ton-stone?”
“They used to plate lead objects with gold.” Erik started, “to pass them off as gold, until a Greek named Archimedes came up with a buoyancy method of quickly checking the density of gold against the lighter lead. Soon, many gold statues and works of art and the gold bars in kings’ treasure houses were turning out to be gold plated lead, so the Guild lost a great source of revenue until they found a replacement for the lead in the ton-stone we place in the pommels of our Stavanger swords. While we use the ton-stone to counterbalance the weight of our sword blades, with further acid refining, the alchemists are able to get the density of the ton-stone to exactly match that of gold so that their secret plating process is now undetectable by Archimedes’ testing.”
“That’s amazing,” Brak responded.
“They are experts at just that sort of thing.”
“No. I meant it’s amazing that you learned what they were up to. I set out to find that out when I was training to make Indian steel in Baghdad but I didn’t get anywhere.”
“I had to join them to learn about it. Even Ragnar’s Red Gold Hoard of Byzantium, his cursed treasure,” Erik went on, “was red because the Romans put copper in the gold, giving it its reddish hue, and that marked it as the Emperor’s gold. Anyone found with the red gold would answer to the Emperor, hence its curse, but the Alchemists Guild has special acids and processes to reverse this marking of gold. That is one reason I’ve joined them. And that book is the other. They want that book back. And, again, I want to know what they’re up to.”
Erik took Brak and Kraka to his room and he took a silver plate out of a small wooden chest and he showed them the picture of himself that had rendered itself. “You look hung over,” Kraka said as they studied the fine work.
“I travelled the Silk Road as a youth,” Brak said, “and I saw pinhole boxes in Cathay that could do this. But this is much finer work.”
They returned to the highseats for more refreshments.
“That is why I need to control the Huns,” Erik stated. “I have so much work to do. I must work with the Alchemists’ Guild and learn as much as they will allow me. They need my visions. They want to harness my abilities to communicate with Zoroaster.”
“But Zoroaster is long dead,” Brak said.
“I know. That is why they need the book. Zoroaster wrote it and blessed it with his own hand. And eleven others. With the twelve books, the Mages can talk to the dead. The past, the present and the future.”
“Like the three norns?” Kraka asked.
“Yes,” Erik answered. “But I have had a vision since I left Gardariki when I was in a cell in Constantinople. I dreamed that a Golden Horde, a tribe of Turkic horsemen will ride out of the east in the future and, because the Khazar Empire is not there at the gate of the Scythian steppe to control them, they will destroy the Romans and Constantinople and roll right across Europe, just as the Huns tried four hundred years ago, but this Golden Horde will not fail. So, I have to be careful in how we deal with the Huns. They must be stopped, but the Khazar Empire must not fall.”
“That will be difficult,” Brak said. “You must garner the support of all the northern lands to get the host you will need to win, but they’ll want the spoils. They’ll want to plunder and pillage Khazaria.”
“I’ve heard that Prince Hlod recently rode into Kiev and demanded his fair share of the Danepar, the Southern Way trade,” Erik started.
“And how did that go?” Brak asked warily.
“King Frodi was in a drunken stupor and told him he would get his bastard’s third once he, himself, had passed on.”
“Well a third is not bad,” Brak said and Kraka gave him a look.
“It’s a bastard’s third,” Erik repeated. “Prince Alf would get a share, Princess Eyfura would get a share and Prince Hlod would get one third of a share, the bastard’s third.”
“And what happens to the remaining two thirds of his share?”
“Prince Alf would get a share, Princess Eyfura a share and Prince Hlod would get a third, and, again, that two thirds share left over would be split as before until there is nothing left. They drag it out to embarrass the illegitimate heir.”
“So, Prince Hlod told him to fock off, right?”
“Worse. He told Frodi he would take Gardariki as his share.”
“But Gardariki is yours. It’s part of the Nor’Way. It has nothing to do with the Danepar.”
“Still, we expect an attack in the spring. I want to have a host ready to counter it and then perhaps we can negotiate. If Prince Hlod gets a quarter of the Danepar he may be satisfied.”
“Offer him more than a bastard’s third of the Southern Way,” Brak agreed, “but he can’t have any of the Nor’Way. That is Hraegunar’s, Roller’s, yours, the Hraes’. And if we can’t carve up Khazaria, people are not going to go to Scythia and fight the Huns unless you can make them want to go. You must garner their support without spoils!”
“How am I going to get military support from kings and princes without offering them spoils of war?”
Brak thought for a few moments then offered, “By doing them favours and calling in favours. I have seen where a cause becomes popular and champions are drawn to it just because other champions have joined it. It becomes a cause that garners its own support, a movement. You must visit with Jarl Ladgerda in Trondheim Fjord and enlist the aid of her Thule troops and shield-maidens, then you must go to Angleland and enlist the aid of your half-brothers Ivar, Siward and Agnar and their Danish and Anglo forces there, and then go to Ireland and visit with Queen Imaira and her son, your half-brother, Imair and get further help. Your father, Ragnar, is presently fighting a war with the Franks, so he won’t be able to help you.”
“Is he still trying to get the sons of Charlemagne to kill him?” Erik asked.
“He tried to get King AElla to do it, but he ended up defeating him and AElla ran to the Mercians for safety. Ever since he marked himself with Odin’s spear he’s been trying to get killed in battle, but he keeps winning, even against incredible odds.”
“That’s the kind of help I need. We’ll be going against incredible odds,” Erik told Brak. “If anybody can get a movement rolling, it will be King Hraegunar ‘Lothbrok’ Sigurdson.”
“It’s an Aesir thing,” Kraka reminded her stepson. “By marking himself with a spear, Odin blessed, he is dead to us, but he can lead hosts into battle in the hopes of death and Valhalla. But he can’t aid us. His sacrifice must be solely for Odin.”
It was beliefs just like that one that drove Erik away from the Aesir religion. The tripartite gods religions were religions of conquest and required such sacrifices to take place. Human sacrifices for victory in battle, witchcraft for success in life and love. That was why Erik was drawn to the science of the Alchemists’ Guild. Their magic was manufactured. It had a cause and an effect. It could not always be explained, but there was a process to it that did not involve sacrifices and blind belief. But he kept that to himself because, right now, he needed Aesir support for his cause, for his movement to aid Princess Gunwar and Gardariki.
“Once you get Ladgerda on board,” Kraka started, “the rest of your relatives will join in and get your movement going. You have been in the east a long time, but your brothers and sisters in the west still benefit from your efforts there and will come to your aid.”
So Prince Erik took a small warfleet from Stavanger and went to Lade in Trondheim and to York in Angleland and to Dub-Lin in Ireland and he convinced his relatives to gather together armies in support of his cause. They were all to meet him in Birka, Sweden, his last stop, at spring’s equinox. Then Erik sailed for The Vik and met with his brother, King Roller, who was gathering troops in his kingdom and from the Danes of both Zealand and Jutland and he told him that his movement was growing momentum and all were meeting in Birka at the next spring’s equinox.
Prince Erik left Norway for Sweden, intending to raise a host there to support his cause against the Huns. With an elite troop of Norwegian cavalry behind him, he rode south into Gotland only to learn that a war had broken out between the Goths and the Swedes. Gestiblind, King of the Goths, was losing his struggle against a more powerful Swedish King Alrik. When Gestiblind learned of Erik ‘Bragi’s arrival in his kingdom, he immediately sent his foremost man, Skalk ‘the Skanian’, a veritable giant of a man, to enlist the aid of that most renowned skald. Skalk rode out to the Norwegian camp bearing gifts and entertainment, and during the ensuing feasting he inquired of Erik what his business in Gotland might be.
“I intend to raise a mighty host with which to fight the Huns,” Erik replied. “To this end I wish to gain the support of your king. It is an honourable cause.” And Erik went on to explain his situation.
“I have no doubt about the honour of your mission,” the giant, Skalk, declared. “I cannot speak for my king on that matter, but I shall pledge myself to your cause, should you but give ear to my message.”
Erik nodded for Skalk to go on.
“King Gestiblind wishes to enlist your support in his campaign against King Alrik of Sweden. I’m here to extend you an invitation to an audience with my liege.”
“I have just learned of the conflict between your peoples,” Erik answered. “I need the aid of both the Goths and the Swedes in my upcoming struggle with the Huns. It pains me to see two noble people decimating each other, while the vile Huns carry on their aggressions unchecked. I shall speak with your king, but I shall pledge my efforts foremost to settling the dispute between your peoples amicably.”
“That is perhaps the best answer I could have wished for,” Skalk the Skanian agreed. “I shall set up your audience with my king, and, again, I pledge my support in your struggles with these Huns.”
Several days later, Prince Erik was in the court of King Gestiblind discussing his possible support of the Goth effort. Erik could see a lot of the Gothic General Ygg in King Gestiblind. They appeared as if cut from the same cloth, both tall and lean and well whiskered. The eloquent prince and the sagacious king got along well from the very beginning, Erik entertaining the king with his witty maxims, and Gestiblind responding with clever and amusing riddles. Basing his judgement more on gut feeling than anything else, Erik determined to aid the Goths in their struggle against the encroaching Swedes, but, rather than attack King Alrik directly, Erik decided to first attack his son, Gunthion, Governor of Wermland and Solongs. To this end, Erik got the loan of a brave vanguard of Norwegian warriors from King Roller and placed Goths on their right wing and Skanians on their left, and, when he led them against Gunthion, unfortunately the Swedish governor died in the confrontation.
While the Goths were celebrating their victory, Erik set forth to make peace with King Alrik. He listened to pleas from the Swedish king that he quit the struggle, for his father, Ragnar, and the Swedish king maintained a secret alliance, but Erik refused to turn his back on the Goths. When King Alrik offered to fight a duel with King Gestiblind, Erik told him that the Goth king was no longer fit for the holmganger, but that he would stand in the king’s stead.
Erik left that night but returned the next morn with King Gestiblind and the allied Goth army. King Alrik arrived at the battlefield with his Swedish host and it was decided that the result of a personal combat between Erik and the Swedish king would determine the outcome of the day. A combat circle was gouged out of the sand between the two armies.
Erik sorely missed not having Tyrfingr at his side, for the sword he had, although of good Stavanger steel, was no star stone blade. And King Alrik’s blade was fashioned by dwarves and famed for its strength. They fought their duel for over an hour on that un-named Swedish plain, and the dust they raised swirled about their struggle, and the two hosts sweated under the hot sun as they strained to see the outcome. The Swedish king, though older than Erik, was in admirable physical condition and, following a short respite, launched a particularly violent assault against the younger prince. As Erik put his all into his own defence, parrying the blows with both shield and sword, determined to weather the storm as it were, his blade failed and snapped off under a mortal downward blow; but his sword did deflect Alrik’s blow just enough to miss his body and the Swedish blade bit mercilessly into the Norwegian’s right thigh. Erik grunted heavily under the pain of the blow as its force drove him downward onto the gritty soil. King Alrik wrenched his sword free, preparing to dispatch Erik with another like blow, but when Erik raised his broken shard of Stavanger steel to protect himself, the great Swedish monarch held back his mighty stroke. “For love of your father, Hraegunar,” he declared, “I shall allow you a fresh sword and a poultice for your leg.”
King Gestiblind, himself, bandaged up Erik’s wound and urged the eloquent prince not to continue the battle. When Erik would have none of that idea, Skalk offered Erik his own sword. “This blood-snake will not fail you,” the Skanian said, “but you cannot hold yourself back when he attacks.”
“I didn’t know it, but he is a friend of my father,” Erik explained, as Gestiblind bound up his wound with a special poultice to stop the bleeding. “I don’t want to kill him unless I have to.”
Skalk the Skanian got up and looked down at the prone Erik and, head shaking, arms akimbo, said, “Well it looks to me like you’re going to have to. And the sooner, the better.”
“Skalk is right,” King Gestiblind concurred. “If you go back into the ring you’d best be quick about it.”
When Erik re-entered the combat circle, King Alrik launched another vicious attack that Erik staved off only with great difficulty. The older man had benefited, too, from the respite, getting back his wind and most of his strength. He knew his opponent was weak from loss of blood, growing weaker with each succeeding attack. His enemy could put no weight on his right leg, which led to his hopping about on his left as he manoeuvred in defence. King Alrik attacked Erik on his weak side, always slashing at him across from the left, at the same time exposing his own unshielded right side, but Erik continued to hop backwards in a circling retreat to his own left, apparently unable to move to the right. Soon King Alrik tired of the cat and mouse game; he raised his right arm across his left side, planning a massive stroke from which Erik’s paltry hopping could not escape, then lunged to his right till he was almost on top of Erik, but Erik did not hop weakly backwards as expected. He put his full weight on his right leg and stabbed upwards with the Skanian’s sword, piercing King Alrik’s chain mail shirt at a weak point in the armpit and driving the blade up to the hilt and out the side of his neck. The Swedish king spun away from Erik with the force of his own blow and flung himself upon the ground, quite dead.
As King Alrik’s gore soaked into the dusty Swedish plain, King Gestiblind made Erik the ruler of the land he had just conquered. “As long as I rule Gotland,” the old king proclaimed, “so, too, shall you rule Sweden,” and, when he dubbed Erik with his sword, the eloquent prince, suffering great loss of blood, fainted dead away.
After several days’ rest, Erik commanded the allegiance of King Alrik’s officers and, with King Gestiblind’s and his own picked troops, headed off for Birka, the trade centre of Sweden, to establish his realm. With the coming of winter, Erik had decided to further his plans for attacking the Huns by enlisting the aid of Finns and Permians. As previously agreed, King Gestiblind and Skalk the Skanian were busy putting together Goth and Skanian forces to lead into Hunland.
Erik took up the reigns over his newly won land and became determined to overcome a strength of the Huns that had long plagued his Hraes’ troops: the long range of their hornbows. No matter how hard he tried he could not duplicate the power of the Turk hornbow he had acquired. Perhaps it was the injury to his leg that gave him a greater appreciation of just how much power thigh muscles can generate, and perhaps it was while watching the little lever mechanisms of a duplicitous emperor’s twittering birds that he learned how to harness that power, for Erik devised a new footbow that could be drawn using leg power while standing and then loosed from the standard archery shooting position by a lever and it shot a long heavy arrow with greater range and power than any other bow in existence. And he trained a troop of Swedish archers to be proficient in its use. Never again would a Hun host be able to rain arrows down upon his warriors while standing just outside the range of the Norse bows.
A Swedish prince named Bjorn had taken it upon himself to erect a huge barrow for the late King Alrik, and every day Bjorn would visit the mound of his late great king. Erik’s followers warned him that, of all the Swedish leaders present when Erik had defeated Alrik, only Prince Bjorn had refused to swear allegiance to him. Erik had spared him because he was a fellow skald, be it, one of minor note, and he seemed harmless enough, asking only to be slain and buried with his fallen king. Besides, Prince Bjorn would spend his days on the barrow of King Alrik, writing poetry and throwing the barrow’s stones at birds that happened by. On windy days, he would assemble a triangular, diamond shaped silk kite he had purchased from the Hraes’ Trading Company, a new item imported from Cathay, that he would let out into the wind on a silken string from atop the barrow and sometimes it would rise up into the air so high that people had trouble even seeing it anymore. Children would gather around the barrow to watch the kite and sometimes men would come up to the barrow and ask questions about the kite and it all seemed quite harmless, even frivolous.
Norwegians and Goths and even some of the Swedes in Erik’s retinue warned him that the young prince was either mad or dangerous. One bright fall day Erik left his longhall and walked over to the barrow of King Alrik and decided to find out for himself if Bjorn was mad or not.
“Good morning Prince Bjorn,” Erik started. “It’s a fine day to go fly a kite.”
“Yes lord,” Bjorn replied. “And it’s a fine Hraes’ kite that has flown the Silk Road all the way from Cathay.”
“Some people are saying you are mad to be flying your kite all the time.”
“I am but mad north-north-west;” Bjorn said looking up at the birds flying above, “when the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a hernshaw.”
The subjugated Swedes called him Bjorn ‘of the Barrows’ and thought him mad, but Erik decided that he was an eccentric poet who liked the neufangoled kites just brought in from Cathay. Prince Bjorn, however, found that flying his kite allowed him to talk freely with members of the Swedish Freedom Movement as they passed by without raising the suspicions of the Norwegians or the Hraes’.
Once word of Erik’s victory over the Swedes worked its way into the realm of King Frodi, remnants of the fleet of the Hraes’ Trading Company made their way to Sweden and joined their recuperating leader. They brought with them tragic tidings.
Ask, one of Erik’s early followers, limped into the high seat hall of King Erik Bragi Ragnarson. Erik was overjoyed to see his friend and, as he stepped down from his high seat, he said, “Dear Ask, as you can see I’ve acquired some of that limp of yours.” That said, a serious look came over Erik’s countenance. He had only one question to ask, a question that he did not want to ask, a question that was as good as answered by the mere presence of Ask and his followers. “You bring news of Gardariki?” he asked. “Does it still stand? And Gunwar? What has become of my wife?” All these questions Erik found he had for Ask, and he blurted them out one after another.
“Gardariki has fallen to the Huns,” Ask began sadly, quietly, “and Prince Hlod has slain your wife, the fair Princess Gunwar.”
“No!” Erik shouted. He turned away from Ask and he staggered onto the dais and clutched his high seat for support. “This cannot be true. You are mistaken,” Erik cried, turning quite pale and clutching his injured leg. He was still weak from loss of blood and suddenly he grew faint and, collapsing, was caught up by his retinue. They took him to his bedchamber and they laid him down to rest and the priestesses of Odin fed him herbs and potions, but still he did not recover. He remained unconscious and in a fever, and many thought that he would die of his wound and his grief.
Bjorn of the Barrows took this opportunity to lead a revolt by the common people against this foreign domination, and without Erik’s strong hand at the helm of his company of followers, it was a bloodless succession. When Erik finally came out of his fever, he learned that Bjorn was now King of the Swedes and that he and his retinue were under house arrest and armed guard. King Bjorn’s first command as ruler of Sweden was to condemn Erik to death as soon as he was fully recovered from his illness. Prince Erik welcomed the sentence, for he felt he could no longer go on without Princess Gunwar.
Erik’s recovery was very slow and he spent his days locked up in his bedchamber attempting to compose a poem in memory of his slain wife. But the writing was going slower than his recovery, and, as days drew into weeks and his health began to return, a date was set for his beheading. The last few days, Erik worked feverishly on the poem for his wife, but the words just would not come. It was the day before his execution before Erik finally completed the work and, when Eyvind Ingvarson told King Bjorn that it was done, he had Erik brought to his hall to recite it.
Erik was brought forth to the highseat hall and given a place of honour opposite King Bjorn. Swedish maidens brought him ale, and a fine feast was spread before him. Once Erik had had his fill, he strode out into the open area between the high seats and began to recite his poem:
“I sit down and I try
to write a song how you’ve left me now,
but the words won’t come,
the words won’t come.
And my memories,
they flow like white water, echoing…
how it used to be,
it used to be.
will I see you again?
will I see you, will I see you?
My mind’s eye, it sees
the radiant glow of your beauty
through the dust of
the Don plain.
Soul wandering all alone
as you wait for your lover
to join you
But the God of gods will
look down, my life fades on the morrow,
and cast my soul
to the winds. Tween
earth and stars, I shall always remember
the dream of your love
in my heart.
will I see you again?
will I see you, will I see you?
Take me back through time,
back to the day that I met you;
how they baited me.
Roller saved me,
and I won the hand of my lover;
Oh, the fates did bless,
But the god of storms
threatened snow and my father did sacrifice
his life to stem
the tide, and
the storm’s depart will always bring back
the dream of your
love in my heart.
will I see you again?
will I see you, will I see you?
On foot-blades of bone
we razed the house of Westmar,
and old Gotwar
did curse me.
Twelve sons swept up in time,
she tried to poison my lover,
but, with Odin’s aid,
my wife I saved.
But fate would not
be denied fruition in vengeance,
and her nephew
blindsided my wife,
with golden spear, fratricidally,
he snuck up and took her
will I see you again?
will I see you, will I see you?
The lands of
Tmutorokan, they cried out in anguish,
for my wife’s blood
wet the sands of.
As she died out
upon the Don Plain, my blade died beside her;
’twas the curse of
And the cycle has gone
near full round, for I die on the morrow,
her vengeance is
gone to the winds. Though
gods keep us apart, I shall always remember
the dream of her love
in my heart.
will I see you again?
will I see you, will I see you?
I sit down and I try
to write a song how you’ve left me now,
but the words won’t come,
the words won’t come…”
Erik’s poem was a drapa in length, and, when he had finished, everyone in the hall, King Bjorn included, rose up and applauded his work. “A poem, a song, such as this,” the Swedish king began, “shall commend your fair Princess Gunwar’s memory to the ends of time. If you could but write such a fine poem on my behalf, I’d be inclined to pardon you.”
“Had you lived such a life as my Gunwar, and died as bravely, then, and only then, could I write such a fine poem on your behalf.”
“Because you are a fellow skald I shall ignore your slight, but should you change your mind on into the night and sit down and write me a drapa: my offer shall still stand.”
Erik looked hard into King Bjorn’s eyes and saw that he was dead serious. He stepped closer to the king and said, “Would this offer include your support in my cause against the Huns?”
“Your poem has told all, most eloquently, how the Huns have slain your wife, Princess Gunwar, most foully, fratricidally,” King Bjorn replied. “If you gain the support of the Danes and Norwegians, yes, and even the Goths, you may count on my support as well. This I swear.”
“You shall have your drapa,” Erik stated. “My death shall come at the hands of the Huns or, fates willing, theirs at mine. I must return to my hall and compose,” Erik concluded.
When the Swedish guardsmen came forward to take Erik back to his hall, King Bjorn waved them back. “He knows his way!” Bjorn stated impatiently.
Sitting in his high seat hall, with not a soul astir, Erik began working on a drapa for King Bjorn. The pain of Gunwar’s loss had given him great difficulty while writing her poem, but the prospect of avenging her death made the skaldsmith’s words flow off his tongue like droplets of sweet dew in a field full of flowers. But there was the problem of accomplishments or lack thereof. To write a full drapa of someone who was yet to accomplish great things, and Erik was being polite, would be a challenge. The only thing that Bjorn of the Barrows had accomplished so far was to play the mad fool to bide his time while he plotted against his king and then Erik remembered an old Roman tale that the Emperor of Constantinople had read to him while anonymously visiting him in his Byzantine cell. It was about a Roman prince named Brutus who feigned madness to buy time to overthrow his usurping uncle, King Tarquin. Emperor Theophilos had seemed to go out of his way to point out that the name Brutus meant powerful, strong, but above all else, dull. Erik could think of only one Norse name that would cover those attributes and that was Amlodi, the dull powerful storm that pounded the Kattegat on occasion, so he named his character Amleth. By starting his drapa in the Palatine throne room of ancient Rome and by comparing the Roman Prince Brutus cum Amleth to the Swedish Prince Bjorn of the Barrows, Erik was able to string enough heroic actions together to compile a full heroic drapa that sounded both sincere and complimentary and, by morning, he had composed and memorized the whole thing.
No record remains of Erik Bragi’s poem for King Bjorn of the Barrows, only tales of its telling, but the Swedish king was most pleased with the verses and he not only spared Erik’s life but added a postscript to the byname King Gotar of Norway had given him. “You are now Bragi the Old,” King Bjorn announced. “Bragi as given you by King Gotar, meaning eloquent in speech, and the Old, meaning you are of the old Danish Fridleif-Frodi line of kings by marriage and shall avenge your wife, Princess Gunwar’s death with the help of the people of Sweden.” And the Swedish King provided for Erik and his Hraes’ people over the rest of the winter, and he held Erik in the highest esteem.
The poems that ‘Bragi the Old’ wrote when he had to face the anger of King Bjorn of Sweden and the story that he made a drapa of twenty stanzas overnight to save his own head became a rallying cry across the northern lands and kings and princes flocked to Gotland in the spring to wreak vengeance on the Huns for the death of Princess Gunwar. And King Bjorn of the Barrow’s investment in a poem on his behalf by the famous skald, ‘Bragi the Old’, was a good one, for that is all that was ever recorded about him.
Chapter 33: BROTHER GREGORY’S BABY (Circa 840 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.