Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert
12.0 THE BATTLE OF ZEALAND (Circa 822 AD)
“The Danish Angles of the Anglo-Saxons called England, Angleland, because they had conquered the northern half from the Romano-Britons first, but the German Saxons of the Anglo-Saxons preferred to call it Anglo-Saxony, because they had conquered their half last. It was the Saxon King Alfred ‘the Great’ of Wessex, who had married his eldest daughter, AEthelflaed to an Anglo-Mercian king, who first called himself King of the Anglo-Saxons and called the country England.”
Brian Howard Seibert
(Circa 822 AD) King Ragnar and his fleet arrived at the harbour town that serviced Liere in early spring and the king and his troops rode to Liere and were welcomed by Prince Sigurd Snake-Eye. “Welcome father,” Sigurd said gayly. “I thought Agnar would beat you home, but he has yet to arrive. Ivar wanted to rule Angleland for a while, so Agnar is leading the Danish troops back for victory celebrations.”
“They’ll be short celebrations then,” Ragnar told his son, “because Prince Harald has accepted our offer to rule for us in Zealand. Half the troops will be returning to Angleland with Agnar and half will be going to Stavanger.”
“And what of me?” Sigurd asked.
“You shall be joining Agnar and Ivar in Angleland,” Ragnar answered as they entered the palatial longhall in Liere and went the highseats where slaves had refreshments ready for the king and his officers. The captains and hearses poured in behind them and sat at their benches and waited for the servant girls to wait upon them. “What shall all three of us be doing in Angleland? We only need one prince there.”
“One of my sons can rule York while the other two go out and raid Wessex and Mercia. We need more slaves for both the Nor’Way and the Sor’Way, which means twice as much raiding. And don’t forget to offer ransoms. I don’t want to hear any complaints from the Saxons!”
The Zealand merchant fleet continued making preparations for the spring sailing across the Sor’Way as King Ragnar would still be leading the Scandinavian merchant fleet south while Prince Harald ruled in Zealand and kept the peace between the Angles and the Danes. If the Angles wanted to send their own merchant fleet down the Sor’Way, they would have to lead it on their own. But when Prince Harald arrived in Liere at the head of his Frankish troops for the handover, he told Ragnar that the Angles were still planning on using their own land based trade route through Wendland.
“That’s all the Franks you brought with you?” Ragnar asked suspiciously. He thought that Harald had perhaps hidden some in reserve somewhere. “That’s all Emperor Louis would give me,” Harald complained. “Just the troops he had stationed in your Roman ring fort in Hedeby.”
“That’s going to leave you severely short handed. How are you going to man all the posts we have in Zealand and Fyn?”
“We’ll manage,” Prince Harald said confidently. “You needed all the posts manned in case the Angles attacked you. I, on the other hand, do not have that problem.”
“All right then” Ragnar replied. “Prince Agnar and Sigurd will be taking our Danish troops back to Angleland for some raiding and I shall be leading the great merchant fleet east and we’ll pick up your Skanian merchant fleet along the way. ”Be diligent in your rule here. I don’t want to hear a bunch of Zealander complaints when I get back from Baghdad.”
Princes Sigurd and Agnar sailed west to Angleland with half the Danish forces and Jarl Brak led the other half north to Stavanger, while King Ragnar led the great Hraes’ merchant fleet east across the Baltic. Brak would station the troops in the town of Stafangr before leading the Norse merchant fleet across the Nor’Way. They left later than the Sor’Way traders because they had to wait for the Barents Sea ice to melt before the great storm would come and carry them all the way across the Nor’Way and deposit them in the White Sea.
Prince Harald settled into the palace in Liere and his new rule there. He kept the bulk of his meagre Frankish troops in Liere and sent a cohort off to Fyn to show token sovereignty over the island. The Frank commander there soon returned back to Liere with news of military sightings in nearby Jutland. Warships were seen gathering in the harbour off Jelling and troops were assembling there as well. They had also heard reports that the Angles had sent only a small group of merchants off to Constantinople via Wendland. The Frankish officer wanted to withdraw his five hundred men from Fyn and bring them back to Liere. He warned Harald that the Angles were planning an invasion of Denmark. But Prince Harald assured the captain that the Angles were their allies and the activity was likely just training manoeuvres. The officer got back to Fyn just in time to be captured along with the rest of his cohort. The Angles invaded the little island with a force of at least ten thousand men. The Franks didn’t even raise a sword. They knew the drill and they bent over their shields and surrendered. But the Angle soldiers didn’t rape the Frank troops and they treated them with great respect and called them allies and allowed them to go back to their Roman ring fort outside Hedeby and told them to tell Emperor Louis that his troops in Zealand would also be allowed to return unharmed to Hedeby as allies.
Most of the men of Fyn were either off to Constantinople and Baghdad with the great Hraes’ merchant fleet or in Angleland or Stavanger with the sons of Ragnar Lothbrok. So the Anglish troops settled in on Fyn and were bivouacked with the wives of the men who were away and pretty much had their way with them and their daughters and their sons if so inclined. They stayed on the island and feasted and drank and ravaged and plundered while their Prince Hemming, called the Sea-King Odd, meaning edge, because he had been considered the Spearhead of the dead King Fridleif, waited for Harald to make a move. After Fridleif’s death in battle against King Ragnar’s troops near Hedeby, the Angles of Jutland chose his young son, the seven year old Prince Frodi, as their new king. Prince Hemming had been his brother, Fridleif’s sea king, prior to his death and remained sea king under the young King Frodi, who remained in Jelling with his guardians.
Prince Harald sent messengers off down the Sor’Way to warn Ragnar and messengers of to Ingleheim pleading for aid from Emperor Louis. After a month of ravaging Fyn, the island was almost plundered out, so the Angles began raiding in Zealand and carrying off their women. Still there was no response from Harald, so they began occupying south Zealand and plundered and ravaged there. Harald was waiting for a return messenger from the Emperor but, when the messenger came he would only talk to the Frankish commander and he gave the Emperor’s instructions. “You are to march south and surrender to the Angles, who will return you safely to Frankia.” Emperor Louis had gotten his cohort back from the island of Fyn and they told the emperor that they’d been treated surprisingly well by the Angles, which was more than King Ragnar had ever done, bending his Frankish troops over their shields and then selling them in Constantinople, not once, but twice!
The commander of the Franks gathered up his fifteen hundred troops, the bulk of the regiment that had manned the Roman ring fort outside Hedeby, and he marched them to southern Zealand where they surrendered to the Anglish troops who were raping and pillaging there. The Sea King Odd had them ferried across to Fyn where he bivouacked them with the Fyn wives while he completed the plundering of Zealand. His occupation forces on Fyn feasted the Frank troops and favoured them with the ravaged wives of the island until the warfleet could return from the invasion to ferry them back to Hedeby where their remaining cohort awaited them. Still, there was no response from Prince Harald. After a month, Zealand was fully occupied and Liere was surrounded and Prince Harald surrendered with the few Skanian troops that remained loyal to him. The Sea King Odd sailed back to Jelling with him and put him under house arrest on his estate outside the city, then he took King Frodi and his family and guardians back to Liere to establish his rule over Zealand. Then Odd sailed to Fyn and feasted with the Frankish troops and gave them gifts of Zealand women and plunder and he gave them gold to give to their emperor. He told them that Prince Harald would be allowed to visit his estate in Saxony as soon as his family was settled into his princely estate outside Jelling.
After the death of King Fridleif, his son Frodi, aged seven, was elected in his stead by the unanimous decision of the Danes. But they decided that, due to the young age of the new king, a large group of guardians should assist in his rule, lest the sovereignty should fail due to the youthfulness of the ruler. The Angles of Denmark paid such respect to the name and memory of King Fridleif, that the royalty was bestowed on his son despite his tender years. So a selection was made, and the brothers Westmar and Koll were summoned to the charge of bringing up the king. Isulf, also, and Agg and eight other men of rank were not only entrusted with the guardianship of the king, but also granted authority to administer the realm under his name. These men were as rich in strength and courage as they were in wealth, and were endowed with ample gifts of mind as well as of body. Thus the unified state of Denmark was to be governed with the aid of regents until the king became a man.
The wife of Koll was Gotwar, head witch of the Anglish Aesir, and she was so skilled at flyting and insults that she could paralyse the most eloquent and fluent men by her glib tongue and extraordinary insolence. Words were her weapons and she not only trusted in questions and riddles, but was quick with seithr answers. No man could subdue this woman, who could not fight, but would shoot darts from her tongue instead. Some she would argue down with a flood of impudent words, while others she seemed to entangle in the meshes of her quibbles, and strangle in the noose of her sophistries; so nimble a wit had the woman. Moreover, she was very strong, either in making or cancelling a bargain, and the sting of her tongue was the secret of her power in both. She was clever both at making and at breaking leagues; thus she had two sides to her tongue, and used it for either purpose.
Westmar had twelve sons, three of whom had the same name, Grep, and these three boys were conceived at once and delivered at one birth, and their common name declared their simultaneous origin. They were being trained to be exceedingly skillful swordsmen and boxers. King Frodi had also passed on the supremacy of the sea to Prince Hemming, the Sea King Odd; who was very closely related to the king. Koll rejoiced in an offspring of three sons. King Frodi had a sister, Gunwar, surnamed ‘the Fair’ because of her manifesting beauty. The sons of Westmar and Koll, being ungrown in years and bold in spirit, let their courage become recklessness and were thought to be on a path both foul and degrading.
And this is what King Ragnar found his Zealand had devolved to when he returned from his trading in the east. The island had been raped and plundered, as had Fyn, and a great Anglish army now occupied the land. The Sea King Odd rowed out from Liere with his warfleet to challenge King Frodi, but the size of the great Hraes’ merchant fleet made attacking it a daunting task, for the merchants were all Vikings and Varangians, fully armed and ready to fight to protect their trade goods and leader.
“I’ll let you pass!” the Sea King Odd said. “But the Sor’Way is now the Dan’Way and next year you traders will find us here in Liere to accept your tithes. If you, King Ragnar, care to dispute this, I shall gladly meet your warfleet with mine, and whatever size fleet you bring, I shall match it ship for ship and send the rest of mine away and I give you one month to respond and don’t dally about it like Prince Harald did!”
“I accept your challenge!” Ragnar shouted in reply and he led his merchant fleet through the sound between Zealand and Skane and sent his merchants home with a call to arms of all his dispersed fleets throughout the Norse Sea region. He then carried on with his own merchant fleet and they went to Stavanger Fjord where half his Danish troops were stationed. Princes Agnar and Sigurd came from Angleland with the other half of their Danish troops and they made preparations for war on Rennes Isle at the mouth of the fjord. Jarl Ladgerda and Fridleif came to Rennes Isle with her Norse warfleet and Queen Imaira sent her Dublin Danish warfleet under the experienced command of the Shield-Maiden Rusila and her sons by Finn of Fin-Gael and Starkad. King Biorn of Sweden led a warfleet from Birka to help his father.
Soon after King Biorn left Sweden, Prince Huyrwil, the lord of Oland, rose up in revolt against the Swedes and made a league with the Anglish Danes and joined the attack on King Ragnar. As the two warfleets were assembling, Biorn and his father, Ragnar, watched as Prince Huyrwil and his small Oland warfleet sailed right by them and went on south and joined the Anglish Danish fleet. The Sea-King Odd had met with King Ragnar earlier and they had agreed to fight their naval battle in the narrow sound between Skane and Zealand and the Norse Danish fleet was beached and camped along the Skanian coast as it gathered and the Anglish Danish fleet beached along the Zealand side of the sound. The sons of Ragnar set up their awnings on the south side of the king’s huge Roman red pavilion he had picked up in Constantinople and the wives of Ragnar set up their tents on the north side. Once a few last straggler warships had arrived on the coast of Skane, the Norse warfleet hit the water and rowed out to the middle of the sound. The Anglish warfleet was not long assembling to meet them and the Sea-King Odd counted the warships facing him and he sent a third of his fleet sailing south to return to Jelling in Jutland. Odd always met his foes with an even number of ships, taking pride in the fact that he had never needed an advantage to win his sea battles.
King Ragnar suffered under no such illusions. The Finns had taught him that much in the snowy wastelands of Permia and he had learned, the hard way, to make use of any advantage he could garner from an enemy, so he, too, counted the ships of the Angles. He also felt it might motivate his young sons if he put his experienced shield-maidens, Ladgerda with her son and the Trondheim fleet and Rusila with her sons and the Irish fleet on the right flank of his Stavanger warships, and he placed his sons, Biorn and Ivar and Siward and Agnar with their Danish and Swedish warships on his left. His Stavanger sons, Roller and Erik, had wanted to come, and were almost old enough to join in, but Princess Aslaug would countenance no such thing, so they reluctantly stayed at Hraegunarstead with their mother.
The Sea-King Odd had no such mixing and matching to do. He put half his Centuriata officers in charge of half the Anglish warfleet on his right flank, and he put half his Centuriata officers in charge of the other half on his left flank. In the center he placed his shieldship and six others to face King Ragnar, and the six other ships were filled with berserker warriors, the followers of Westmar and Koll, the foremost guardians of young King Frodi, who was also yet too young to fight. As the two warfleets closed with each other in the middle of the sound, Odd saw the shield-maidens and their fleets on his left and he pulled the berserks out of the line and sent them back and around his own fleet to attack them from his far left. The sea-king ascertained that it was there that the Norse were weakest and it was there that he would gain a quick victory.
Once the ships had rowed close enough, the men at the bows all began shooting their arrows skyward and the rowers grabbed their shields from the top-strakes and strapped them to their backs in time to thwart the shower of darts. But they remained at their oars and drove the warships forward into the fray as the decks danced with the sway of arrows thwacking their way into wood. As the two fleets collided with the snapping of oars and the lurching of rowers, grappling hooks were thrown out into opposing ships and the bulwarks collided and boarding planks went down and groups of warriors crossed them and set up little fighting bridgeheads on the opposing ships’ decks. King Ragnar led a group of his finest warriors across a boarding plank and onto the shieldship of King Odd, but he could see him nowhere. The fighting was hard and their bridgehead could make little progress, for Odd’s ship had been manned with the bravest of his warriors, but, still, Ragnar could not see Odd anywhere and he would stand out because he was a very big man.
“Where the fock is he, Brak?” Ragnar shouted as the two fought their way to the mast.
“He was on his shieldship,” Brak said, as they took a breather behind their shield wall, “and this is his shieldship…”
“He’s up to no good!” Ragnar shouted. “Take over this attack for me. I’ve got to find him!” But the Angles were fighting back hard and used their breather to drive the men away from the mast.
The Sea-King Odd had slipped away from his ship and had joined Westmar and Koll of their shieldship and they led the small berserker attack fleet around their own and sailed straight for Shield-Maiden Rusila’s ships. When the ships collided and were lashed together, a swarm of raging berserkers leaped across the topstrakes, not waiting for planks, and landed on the foredeck of Rusila’s ship and began attacking her warriors and shield-maidens and drove them back towards the mast. There was much carnage and the mad berserks were soon in a sexual frenzy and were raping the captured shield-maidens and were even falling upon the dead ones. The Warrior maiden Rusila was amidships driving another swarm of berserkers back onto their own ship and was trying to protect her youngest son Gunholm, who could barely hold his own against the wild berserks. She had just driven the last of the berserks she was facing off her ship when King Odd and Westmar and Koll and their group of berserks arrived fighting from the foredeck. She pulled her shield to her left and just turned to face them when the butt of King Odd’s great spear struck her smack on her forehead and she was out like a candle in the wind.
Young Gunholm stood over his mother to defend her against Odd, but Westmar struck him up the side of his head with a great club and the boy fell senseless to the deck. Her other sons, Brodd and Bild were in the next ship over, fighting for their lives, and her other sons, Bug and Fanning were in the ship on her other side fighting hard as well. When Rusila woke up she was bent over her shield and looking down at her son, laid out on the deck and she was being raped from behind and she swung her fist back at King Odd, who was in her, but Westmar caught up her arm and held it fast while Odd had his way with her. Koll had been holding her from the other side and they had cleared away men from the sides so that her sons on the other ships could see her being ravaged by the sea-king. Brodd and Bild and their men had driven all their berserks back into the other ships and they rowed over to attack King Odd, but he was already finishing up and had withdrawn his great member from within Rusila and it was still dripping with his flow as he turned to face them.
“Let her go!” the two boys shouted. “Let her go and come fight us!”
“You are both brave young men to have driven off a ship-full of berserks. We’ll let her go, if you let us board your ship to fight you, and if we win you must join us in this war!”
“Come aboard then!” Brodd shouted, “but you must all leave her ship and let her go.”
“Leave her to her whelp!” Odd shouted as he led Westmar and Koll and their berserks across boarding planks that Brodd and Bild had thrown out between their ships. The berserks filed across them and assembled in the foredeck area of the boys’ ship. Westmar had thrown Rusila down like a used wet rag and she sprawled across the deck and slid over to Gunholm and found he was still alive, but she couldn’t revive him. He needed a healer, fast, and there were many raped shield-maidens on board in the same condition. Rusila and the other raped and wounded maidens began rowing her ship out of the fray and to the rear center of the Norse fleet where the healer’s ship sat.
Back on the deck of Brodd and Bild’s ship, the battle was not going well for them. It was apparent that this group of berserks were of stauncher mettle than the first had been, for half their men were dead already and the rest would soon follow, so Brodd told his men to throw down their swords. “We must join them or die,” Brodd said.
“Let us die, then,” Bild said.
“And what of our mother?” Brodd asked. “Can we protect her from Valhalla?”
“Fock!” Bild cried. “Throw down your swords men. We must join them.”
The berserks paused in their fighting so the men could throw down their swords and surrender to join them, but King Odd told his berserks to take them by force and they grabbed the men who had surrendered and tore their pants off, tossing the broks into the sea, and they bent the men over their shields and raped them from behind.
“I only meant that you and your brother will join us to fight with us,” Odd told the boys. “Your men’s fighting day is done. They’ve surrendered and have now been taken and their ears shall be notched and they shall never be allowed to fight Angles again. You two shall be spared all this, for I want you to fight with us the rest of this day, as agreed?”
“As agreed!” the two boys shouted.
The battle had been raging all this time and ships were lashed together in deadly combat up and down the line. While King Ragnar’s right flank was being driven back on the far wing where the berserks had attacked, his left wing was holding and his center right was gaining water where Ladgerda and her son, Fridleif, faced the Oland warfleet of Prince Huyrwil, driving it back to the brink. Here the Sea-King Odd placed some of his returning berserks and the sons of Rusila, to bolster the line, as it were. Odd had captured the other two sons of Rusila, Bug and Fanning, in much the same manner as he had the first two, and they were all posited at that point in the line to help the Oland Swedes, who seemed more farmers than warriors, and were losing ships fast.
King Ragnar had been looking for the Sea-King Odd, but had found his Shield-Maiden Rusila, wounded and tending her son, Gunholm, in the healer ship instead. The boy had been revived by a young healer witch, but he was still weak and groggy.
“The Sea-King Odd attacked us with a fleet of berserks,” Rusila told her king. “They cleared our decks then left.”
“So that’s where he went,” Ragnar whispered, holding Rusila close, as she held Gunholm. “I knew he was up to no good!” Ragnar left Rusila with her son and sent some ships to help on the right and he resumed his search for Odd. He joined Ladgerda and told her that Rusila and Gunholm had been injured, so she went to the healers ship, leaving Fridleif in charge of the fleet. Then Ragnar got word from Brak that Odd had been sighted back in the center of his fleet, so he returned to Brak and his shieldship. Brak and their men had cleared the decks of two ships while he was off and about and Brak pointed out the berserk ships that Odd was surrounded by.
“He keeps moving up and down the line, putting berserks where they are needed most,” Brak told Ragnar. “He’s pretty mobile. It will be hard to get through to him.”
“We’ll have to fight our way through to him,” Ragnar replied. “We’ll have to break through his line of ships.”
“That’s going to be hard slugging with this lot in front of us!”
Just then there was a lot of movement of ships on their right flank and both Brak and Ragnar watched as Ladgerda’s son, young Fridleif took it to the Oland Swedes and Prince Huyrwil pulled his whole warfleet out of the line and fled for Zealand. But Fridleif led his Trondheimers after them across the sound in pursuit.
“Leave them go!” Ragnar shouted across the waves, but Fridleif was too far down the line to hear him. “Fock! He’s taken off after them,” Ragnar told Brak. “Ladgerda’s gonna kill me!”
“I don’t think it’s a trap,” Brak said. “Let them fight it out.”
“She’s still going to kill me!”
The fighting was going so hard that the gap in the line just sat there for a time, like some gaping wound in need of bandaging, but eventually Shield-Maiden Ladgerda took some ships into the opening and were soon met by Anglish warships and they began engaging each other until the opening was closed off by ships lashed together and in battle. Meanwhile, her son, Fridleif had chased Prince Huyrwil and his fleet into a harbour along the coast of Zealand and they had to turn and fight. The Oland Swedes lashed their ships together into one great battle platform and Fridleif’s Trondheimers assailed them from all sides and the fighting raged the whole afternoon and evening.
King Ragnar and Jarl Brak kept attacking the Angles before them but could never seem to get any closer to the Sea-King Odd, no matter how many decks they cleared. It was becoming a battle of attrition…whoever ran out of ships first…lost. Evening waxed as the afternoon waned and the fighting raged on into night until darkness forced the fleets apart. King Ragnar led his Norse Danish fleet back to the Skanian coast and the Sea-King Odd led his Anglish Danish fleet back to the Zealand shores. The cooks onshore had been ferrying food and drink out to their respective ships all afternoon and evening, but they got up and cooked a late supper for the famished marines and troops that returned in the darkness. Princesses Ladgerda brought Rusila and her son, Gunholm, into the red pavilion of Ragnar, and they set the boy up in a camp cot to sleep and the women joined Ragnar in his kingly bed. The boy was recovering from his injury and had to be monitored and it was too much for Rusila to handle alone. The threesome made love while Starkad’s son slept on the other side of the huge pavilion. When Rusila tried to sleep she tossed and turned, worried about her other sons whom she’d learned were captured by the Angles.
Many of their men had been captured as well, but had been ravaged and then released on their own recognisance to never again fight the Angles. They loitered and helped out in camp, but were held in contempt by the unblemished warriors. A warrior was expected to fight to the death and go happily on to Valhall, but sometimes the logistics of battle didn’t always facilitate that happening. Ragnar would at some point console the fallen warriors, but right now he needed warriors that wanted Victory or Valhalla, so he avoided even making eye contact with those of the notched ear. But he did ask Brak to spend some time with them and talk about weapons and the forging of them. Many fallen warriors took up weapons manufacturing, where their experience with the song of the sword actually helped them in their new careers.
Back on the Zealand coast, Prince Fridleif’s fleet fought against Prince Huyrwil’s battle platform well into the night before retiring to the Danish shore to set up camp. Bjorn did not want to give the Swedes a chance to escape into Denmark. The Olanders stayed out upon the waters and camped on their battle platform and rested, awaiting the Norse attack that would follow on the morrow. At midnight, young Brodd and Bild met with their brothers, Bug and Fanning, and they told them they were bugging out. The Sea-King Odd had only required them to join with him for the day and it was midnight and they had already cut their ship free from the battle platform. But Bug and Fanning claimed that Odd had pledged them for the entire battle, so they were not free to bug out with them, so Brodd and Bild and their few men left rowed off quietly into the night.
The Sea-King Odd and his Anglish fleet had sailed back to Liere to sleep at night in their own beds and they would be taking their time in the morning assembling the fleet to take back out in the sound and over the night word was passed round that young King Frodi would pay in cold hard gold and future recognition the help of any Zealand Danes that would join the Anglish Danish fleet in the morning, and there were many hungry young men from the surrounding countryside who flocked to Liere to test their luck.
In the morning, those on the Skanian coast were taking their time assembling the fleet, but it was more due to the patching up of the wounded so they could rejoin the fray. King Ragnar had lost half his ships, as had the Angles, but the half that remained were only half manned by healthy warriors and the wounded needed time to swell their ranks. The king and his wives sat around a great hearth before the pavilion and broke fast with pancakes and syrup brought them by the cooks and Ragnar’s sons slowly drifted into the periphery and took up trenchers to eat with them. Ivar had held the immediate left flank fast alongside his father’s vanguard, and Biorn and his Birka Swedes had assisted him throughout the day. Siward and Agnar held the far left and had cleared the decks of many Angle ships, but it was known that the right flank had bore the brunt of the attack and that many Anglish berserks had lost their lives at great cost at that end of the battle line. At least Gunholm had recovered his senses over night and was once again ready to rejoin the fight. Rusila had not wanted that, but rumours were circulating that the quarter giant son of Starkad had been killed the previous day and Gunholm wanted to quash the rumour by joining King Ragnar in the vanguard. He wished to further his giant skills of blunting the sword blades of the enemy and Brak was the first to welcome that aid. He was a swordsmith and he wanted to see it firsthand.
Only one fleet was in a hurry that morning and it was Prince Fridleif’s Norse fleet. They wanted to take the attack to the Swedes on their battle platform before any more ships could escape away into the night as one had been observed doing already. They attacked at dawn and the battle raged for hours and Bug and Fanning both fell fighting alongside each other and the two princes, Fridleif and Huyrwil battled it out on the last center warship left to the Swedes of their platform and both were hurting from the many wounds they’d both received throughout the sea battle and Huyrwil tired first and had no shieldwall left to find respite behind and Fridleif saw that he was no longer keeping his shield high enough in front of him and Fridleif made a quick thrust above the buckler and, as Huyrwil raised his shield, the tip of Fridleif’s sword caught him in the throat and the rising shield lifted the thrusting sword upwards, right into Huyrwil’s brain and he died instantly. It is said that the Danes of Zealand named that harbour after the prince who died there.
When King Ragnar finally got his fleet reassembled, they sailed out into the sound and the only ship they found there was that of the brothers, Brodd and Bild, who rejoined them, saying they had won their freedom for the day and would now fight alongside their mother, Rusila. But they only had a few men in their ship and asked for more, but Ragnar had none but wounded to give them. His own ships were all half manned or worse and he and Gunholm showed them the ships all down the line with their decks half empty, or half full, as Ragnar preferred to describe them. Ladgerda and Rusila joined them on Ragnar’s shieldship and they asked the boys of their brothers, but were told they had committed to more than just a day.
“The Sea-King Odd,” Bild explained as he hugged his mother, “only asked us to join him for the day, but he asked them for the battle, so they refused to leave with us.” Bild didn’t know that his brothers were already lying dead on the deck of the Oland battle platform.
“And we heard news,” Brodd added, “that King Odd had sent out a call to all the young men of Zealand to refill his flagging fleet. Some said he felt entitled to use King Ragnar’s own people against him if they entered the fray voluntarily, as he only had kingly control over his own Anglish subjects.”
“That’s bullshit!” Brak exclaimed. “He swore to fight ship against ship, and he sent the rest of his Anglish fleet back to Jutland. To reman his ships in Liere is fully athwart his agreement!”
“I’m hoping that my own subjects would refuse to take up sword against me,” Ragnar said, but he knew that the Angles had gold from their own southern trade route and he knew, too, the ways and wants of men, so they waited for the Anglish Danish warfleet to arrive.
When the Sea-King Odd arrived with his fleet, the decks were full and their wounded Angles had been left in Liere in their young King Frodi’s care, and all the men there were fresh and in high fighting spirits. King Frodi had his men run down the red war-shield of his shieldship’s mast and they ran up the white peace-shield in its stead. As they were turning their ships to the north to sail back up the sound to Stavanger, Brak stood up on the topstrake and gave the Sea-King Odd the middle finger salute of the Army of the Impalers and he shouted, “Up Yours!” over the waters. The Danes knew naught of the Army of the Impalers of Walachia, as the Oster Goths of Greutunga did, but the Sea-King Odd fathomed the Volsung Jarl Brak’s message and gave him the salute of the Impalers in return.
Prince Fridleif and his fleet arrived in the sound just in time to rejoin his father’s fleet and he let his half-brother, King Biorn, know that he had put down the revolt of Prince Huyrwil for him, so King Biorn led his Swedish fleet back to Birka on that note. But Fridleif also had to tell Rusila that her two sons, Bug and Fanning, had died in the fighting and were buried with full honours in a howe along Huyrwil’s Harbour in Zealand. The rest of the warfleet sailed north through the sound and they returned to Thule and Angleland and Ireland respectively. The Angles of Jutland now controlled King Ragnar’s Zealand and his Sor’Way, or the Dan’Way, as they now called it. So Ragnar returned to Stavanger and his Princess Aslaug and his sons Roller and Erik and he focused on building his Nor’Way Hraes’ Trading Company that sailed over the north cape of Thule into Asia and on to Baghdad and Constantinople.
BOOK ZERO POINT ONE
THE SAGA OF RAGNAR ‘LOTHBROK’ SIGURDSON