Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert
7.0 KING RAGNAR ‘LOTHBROK’ GOES TO LIERE (Circa 810 AD)
“When Saxo tells us that Ladgerda bore Ragnar a son and she named him Fridleif, it raises very many questions, as the Old Skjoldung Fridleif-Frodi line of kings plays an important part in the Zealand rebellions that Ragnar has had to continuously put down. Was Ladgerda an Anglish Dane and was she related to this line of kings?”
Brian Howard Seibert
(Circa 810 AD) When the war fleet of King Ragnar of Denmark landed on the eastern coast of Zealand, it was beached in front of the harbour town that served Liere, a little farther inland. When he arrived at his palace in Liere, he learned that Queen Aslaug had already given birth to a fine young son she had named Lauger, after the shield-maiden, Ladgerda, and King Ragnar added the prenom Hrae, in respect of the roar of the dragon Fafnir and as a born prince of his new company Hraes’, and he came to be called Hraelauger or Roller. Young Princess Boda was about to give birth soon after Ragnar had returned, but complications arose and the head witch healer and midwives of Liere could only save the baby and they presented Ragnar with another fine son he named Erik, meaning Ever Ruler, and adding the prenom Hrae, for Hraerik. “She was too young,” the healer said. “We couldn’t save her.”
Ragnar blamed himself for the death of the young princess, the daughter of King Olmar of Kiev, and thought it best to occupy himself with kingly business, and he resolved to find solace in warfare and conquest. To that end, he decreed that every father of a family should place in the king’s service whichever of his children he thought most contemptible, or any slave of his who was lazy at his work, or any wife or daughter who was of doubtful fidelity. And though this decree seemed little fit for his purpose, he showed that the worst of the Danes were better than the best of other nations. Also, before heading off on campaign, he enacted that every piece of litigation should be referred to the judgment of twelve chosen elders, twelve jurors. This law removed all chance of incurring litigation lightly and would help Queen Aslaug rule in his absence. Thinking of his successful trading station in Ireland, he next looked to the Angles of Britain and took up arms against them, and attacked and slew in battle the ruler of Eorforwic, King Hame, the father of Prince AElla, a most noble youth who fled the city. The Britons had called the place Eburacon, meaning grove of the Yew trees, and the conquering Romans called the town Eboracum and made a city of it. When the Danish Angles conquered it, after the Romans, they called it Eorforwic, meaning city of the boar, so, when King Ragnar conquered the city, he renamed it Boarvik, or Bjorvik, Norse for city of the boar.
Then King Ragnar took his army north and he killed the Earls of Scotland and of Pictland, and of the isles that they call the Shetlands, and made his young sons Roller and Erik masters of the provinces, which were now without governors. He also deprived Thule of its chief by force, and commanded it to obey Fridleif, whom he also set over the Orkneys, from which he took their own earl.
Meantime, the Anglish Danes of Jutland, who were most stubborn in their hatred of Ragnar’s line, were obstinately bent on rebellion. They rallied to the support of Jarl Harald of Zealand, once an exile, and tried to raise the fallen fortunes of the rebel. By this foolhardiness they raised up a rebel army against King Ragnar, who set out to check the rebellion with his fleet of loyal Danes who crushed the army of the rebels, and drove Harald, the leader of the conquered army, a fugitive into Frankia. The estates of those who had risen with Harald, he distributed among those who were serving as his soldiers, thinking that the fathers would be worse punished by seeing the honour of their inheritance made over to the children whom they had rejected, while those whom they had loved most lost their patrimony. Then King Ragnar led his army south into Saxony, following the retreat of Jarl Harald. There he came up against Charlemagne, who happened then to be tarrying on those borders of his empire. King Ragnar’s fleet intercepted the Frank’s sentries and eluded the watch that was posted on guard. But while he thought that all the rest would be easy and more open to his attack, a woman who was a soothsayer, a Witch of Rouen, warned Emperor Charlemagne that the fleet of King Ragnar ‘Lothbrok’ was moored at the mouth of the River Seine. The emperor, heeding the warning, managed to engage the enemy, who were thus pointed out to him by witchcraft. A battle was fought with King Ragnar and his fleet, but Charlemagne and his army did not succeed as happily in the field as he would have liked. And so that tireless conqueror of almost all Europe, who in his calm and complete career of victory had travelled over so great a portion of the world, now beheld his army, which had vanquished all these states and nations, turning its face from the field, shattered by a fleet of Danes.
A meeting was held between the two leaders and Emperor Charlemagne ceded to King Ragnar and his Hraes’ Trading Company numerous trade benefits and a number of trading stations in Frankia, including Reric in north Germany and Hedeby in south Jutland, and westwards to the Seine and beyond in northern Frankia and Brittany.
King Fridleif (Gudfrid) of Jutland was a little harder to appease and he threatened to drive Emperor Charlemagne out of Denmark and chase him all the way back to Aachen, his capital. King Fridleif of the Anglish Danes led his warfleet up the Eider River and attacked the Franks and Obodrites that had been at war with the local Saxons there for years. He was victorious in battle and took several districts from them. He razed Reric and recaptured Hedeby and further built up the defensive Danevirk wall that separated Jutland from Saxony, depriving King Ragnar of two trading centers he had hoped would provide markets for his Nor’Way goods. But the Nor’Way was closer to the western side of Jutland anyway, so Ragnar focused on his gifts he had received in Frisia and west Frankia, at the River Seine and beyond and he established Hraes’ trading stations in Rouen and Bayeux instead. The battle brewing between the Angles and the Franks was not conducive to trade, so Ragnar kept clear of that one.
Emperor Charlemagne sent a Frankish army, under his son, Charles Junior, down the Elbe River and they ravaged some of the territory that Fridleif had captured, built and garrisoned a fortress there, and then returned to Aachen. Prince Drozko of the Obodrites then led a force into the Schlie and recaptured some territory, but was murdered by assassins while rebuilding Reric. King Fridleif retook all his captured territory and sent a fleet of two hundred ships to Frisia and conquered it, taking further trading stations from King Ragnar. Fridleif then compelled the merchants of Frisia to pay him skat tax. It soon became apparent to Ragnar that the Anglish Danes were after more than just southern territory. They seemed to be interested in eastern lands as well. And he was right. The Danes of Jutland were very aware of King Ragnar’s trek across the Baltic and through the riverways of Scythia to Reitgotland and of his attack on the Roman Emperor and of his winning of the Red Gold Hoard of Byzantium. Fridleif listened with envy about his slaying of the fire breathing dragonship, Fafnir, and of his new name of Hraegunar ‘Lothbrok’ Sigurd-Hringson, ‘Shaggy Breeches’ being all he had left unburned after fighting the fire breather. Some Anglish Danes came to suspect that their king had attacked the Holy Roman Emperor solely because King Ragnar had successfully attacked the Eastern Roman Emperor. King Fridleif had even sent some of his own Anglish officers across the Baltic to retrace Ragnar’s steps. It didn’t take the officers long to report back that worldwide warming was opening up very lucrative trade routes that would soon be grinding gold for the King of Zealand.
There was a rumour started at this time by certain Germans of the Empire that King Fridleif had died, murdered by an assassin of his wife, the Queen of Denmark, but this was only because King Fridleif had shifted his focus east. He was watching King Ragnar watching Sweden. News had just come from that land that their king was dead, long live the king, and that his sons by Princess Thora had been deprived of their rightful thrones by the slander of a Prince Sorely of Sweden who had robbed them of their inheritance. The new King Sorely had picked a poor time to challenge the Zealand Danes, for King Ragnar had been building up his forces to take east to attack the Sclavs of the Dvina River to open up a southern trade route into Scythia and he needed a compliant Sweden supporting that route, not threatening it. Ragnar had been raising an army against the Sclavs, and he had summoned an assembly of the Danes, promising them that he would give the people most wholesome laws, however, as he had enacted prior that each father of a household should offer for service that one among his sons whom he esteemed least; he now enacted that each should arm the son who was stoutest of hand or of most approved loyalty for this next campaign. He had also called upon Jarl Ladgerda to bring an army down from Lade and she came with a hundred and forty ships and their son, young Fridleif Bjorn ‘Ironsides’ in his Roman fire officer’s cuirass, and Queen Imaira of Ireland sent ships under the command of the shield-maiden Rusila in her Roman fire officer’s cuirass, and ships came from Northumbria and the Orkneys and the Faroes as well. And from all these lands he had recalled his full Centuriata of Hearses, his officers and Jarls he had left to rule his conquered lands for his sons, as governors until his boys grew old enough to rule.
All this war gear that he had been assembling to take against the Sclavs, he now took against King Sorle. And more. He had been freely passing out Roman armour and weapons he had captured from the Dragonship Fafnir, but he had kept one item for himself. It had been crated up in the belly of the beast and nobody was even sure what it was because it had been crated up in pieces, a gift for the King of the Huns, and it had taken a long time for Ragnar to assemble it properly and even longer to learn how to use the damned thing. It had never been used in battle before, and it was so bright and shiny that the king wasn’t even sure if it was supposed to be used in battle, or if it was more of an ornament of past times. It was an old Roman war chariot all trimmed in silver and gold with four huge razor sharp scythes extending outwards from each of its two wheels. A team of four huge white horses had been matched to draw the thing and Jarl Brak had forged chain mail armour for the horses, to protect them as a man would be protected. He’d said it was a Parthian thing, cataphracts they called it.
When the Danish fleet of over five hundred ships landed in Sweden, King Sorle met them with his much smaller army, and quickly offered King Ragnar the choice between a full scale battle or a duel, and when Ragnar chose personal combat, Sorle proposed he go against his champion, the famous warrior Starkad. Ragnar laughed at this. “It would not even be seemly for a prince to go up against a king,” the King of the Danes shouted. “You wanted to be King of Sweden, so let us two have at it!” Ragnar wanted the Swedish warriors added to his force, and that included the great Starkad, so he had to goad Sorle into combat. “King against king,” Ragnar said from the deck of his chariot, “and to the victor goes this fine Roman war machine all trimmed in gold.”
King Sorle looked at the Roman weapon and he thought that it alone would kill half his army, so he could not turn down the chance to win it. “Even if we fight to a draw,” he replied, “I get the chariot.”
“Agreed,” King Ragnar responded.
As they were gearing up for battle, Ragnar walked past the champion Starkad and said, “You’re looking fit for a man so advanced in age.”
“Fock You!” Starkad replied.
“After I kill King Sorle, I shall be leading his army with mine against the Sclavs of the Dvina. Are you familiar with the Sclavs?”
“I focking hate them,” Starkad admitted.
“Good,” Ragnar replied. “I shall make sure you get to kill as many of them as you wish!”
King Sorle chose Starkad as his second in the holmganger and, when King Ragnar chose his son, Fridleif, as his second, Jarl Ladgerda stepped forward in his place. Starkad laughed at this.
“Fock you, Starkad!” Ladgerda hissed, and when the shield-maiden Rusila stepped up beside Ladgerda, Starkad stopped laughing.
Jarl Brak was helping King Ragnar with his weapons and armour and Rusila passed him the Roman cuirass that Ragnar had given Queen Imaira and Brak passed Ragnar the trident sword they had forged for him together, the sword they called the ‘Long Serpent’, a serpent or a blood snake being a kenning for a sword. Brak had been teaching Ragnar the secrets of steel he had learned from the Guild, for he would not pass on his secrets to lesser men, and they had spent the last few years forging fine trident guarded swords for trade with the Permians in the east. This had built up Ragnar’s arm and grip strength well beyond that of kings and the sword that Brak passed him reflected this, for it was a full hand longer than a normal Viking sword, and, using Guild secrets, it was fully as strong as a shorter sword, but required greater strength in its handling. When Ladgerda passed Ragnar Brynhild’s shield, ‘Hraes’ Ship’s Round’, he refused it, saying he did not want it damaged.
“Your best war gear is required here,” Brak counselled. “The shield boss has a lip on it that you’ve trained yourself to employ against adversaries.” The shield had been built using the latest Roman technology that included a steel lip formed into the boss for hooking and leveraging an opponent’s shield and Brak had trained Ragnar in its use. Ragnar took up ‘Hraes’ Ship’s Round’ and Brak buckled a Roman helmet with cheek pieces upon his head and Ragnar stepped into the ring drawn into the Swedish soil that represented the island within which the holmganger would be fought. King Sorle stepped into the ring from the eastern side and they paced around the circle, measuring up their opponent. Back and forth they went around the edge of the circle and then they closed in upon each other and exchanged blows on their shields. Sorle noticed the added length of Ragnar’s sword and decided to test its strength, feeling the added length would have introduced a greater chance of fault in the forging of it. He hacked viciously at it with his own sword and steel rang out on steel as they fought thus, but no fault could be found, and as they disengaged, Ragnar lashed out with it and the extra hand of steel caught Sorle across the cheek and first blood was drawn from that cut.
They circled each other some more and when they would engage each other, Ragnar would always seem to inflict a cut or slash here and there about Sorle, nothing serious, but always drawing blood, due solely to the added length of Ragnar’s Long Serpent. And when Sorle closed in with shield against shield to try and use the added length against him, Ragnar would catch Sorle’s shield rim up in the lip of his shield boss and lever the shield outwards, exposing Sorle to stabbing thrusts that bruised him through his chainmail. Soon, King Sorle was bruised and bleeding and panting for breath and asking for a pause.
“I will give you pause by accepting your surrender,” Ragnar replied. “I will spare your life, but only if you bend over your shield and submit to me!”
King Sorle spat into the soil at this and continued fighting. They circled and clashed some more and Ragnar put a cut upon his other cheek and one across his forehead, just below his helmet and Sorle’s blood was pooling and forming mud with the soil of Sweden. As Sorle tired, he used his shield more and Ragnar caught its rim up in his groove, pried it outwards and thrust his sword over it in a stabbing stroke that caught a prior rent in the chainmail and Long Serpent bit deeply into the Swedish king’s heart and Sorle fell down into his pooling red mud and died.
King Ragnar stood sweating and breathing heavily over Sorle’s body and Brak and Ladgerda led him out of the circle and sat him down on the deck of his chariot and they began stripping his armour off. “The best gear is what saved you here,” Jarl Brak said, as they pulled off his Roman cuirass.
“I think it was the forging hammer and all the work we’ve done together that gave me the edge over him,” Ragnar replied.
“I think it was both,” Ladgerda and Rusila chimed in at the same time. Then Prince Fridleif and Ragnar’s other sons came up and congratulated their father on his victory. King Ragnar instilled his son by Thora upon the Swedish throne and had Starkad and the Swedish army swear allegiance to Biorn ‘Ironsides’ and then he led them all east to fight the Sclavs of the Dvina River.
Two days later, the Danish fleet took harbour in the mouth of the Dvina River and King Ragnar’s army camped upon a great open plain that sat far below a distant hill upon which rested the fortified town of the Sclavs. After viewing the size of the Danish force, King Daxo, of the Sclavs, sent forth envoys suing for a trade agreement and the tithes and taxes that went with it, to which King Ragnar replied, “The Danes pay tithes and taxes to none!. It is the Sclavs that shall pay us skat! We shall bend you over your shields before this day is through!”
The Sclav officers went back to their fortified hilltop town, and several hours later they rode out again carrying hazel poles across their saddle horns. With these they marked out the battlefield, then they came to the Danish camp and asked King Ragnar if he approved of their markings and whether the morrow suited him for battle. King Ragnar stood upon the deck of his Roman war chariot, as the sunlight danced upon its golden trim, and he approved of the markings and looked up to the sky for the position of the sun and he said, “The day yet holds enough time for us to bend you before your superiors, so, let us proceed with this today!” The envoys hiked up their shields and rode off to their capital. Ragnar reasoned that the day was fine and the morrow might bring rain and his team and chariot lost much of their momentum when plowing through mud, and he had lost his chance of testing the war machine upon the Swedes by doing personal combat instead and he didn’t want to leave this opportunity to chance and the frivolous nature of weather.
The sun was waning in the west before King Daxo and the Sclav army sallied forth from their walls and rode out to the eastern side of the hazel poled markings. Ragnar gathered his horsed Centuriata about himself and his chariot, the vanguard of the Danish formation, and he led his army of Danes and Swedes as one across the great open plain. Prince Fridleif led a small brightly coloured cavalry group that was to protect the right flank of the array, while King Biorn of Sweden commanded the mounted troops defending the left. Jarl Ladgerda led the Norse and Danish foot soldiers she’d assembled in three ranks on the right and the shield-maiden Rusila led an equal formation of Irish and Britons and Swedes on the left. And she kept Starkad close at hand as the two seemed attracted to each other as famed warriors, Rusila liking Starkad for his fame and warrior form, Starkad liking Rusila for her fame and flaming red hair, like that of the warrior god, Thor!
King Daxo’s army was mostly foot. What cavalry he had he’d surrounded himself with as he watched the armies close upon each other from the safety of a rearward hilltop position. The battle commenced with volleys from the archers and then spears were thrown as they closed. King Ragnar drove his chariot out from the ranks of his army and straight at the Sclav shield wall and he turned abruptly left at the last second and the scythe blades on the right wheel of his war chariot chewed up the shields of the Sclavs and lopped off arms that had held them out and he went down the vanguard of the whole right flank of their force, tearing up bucklers and tearing up men and Brak was beside him shooting off arrows as fast as he could and when they got to the end of the rank, they looped around and did the same against the left flank of the enemy so that when the two armies collided the full first rank of the Sclav army was gone. The ancient Roman war chariot was built more for show than go, but when it went, it caught everybody by surprise, even the Danes themselves! King Daxo sent some of his cavalry forward to slay any of his troops that even thought of running.
When the great champion Starkad saw the carnage before him, he went berserk and two of the four swords he had strapped to his giant belt sprang forth and he began hacking into the mangled Sclav line as soon as Ragnar’s chariot had passed. By the time the rest of the line caught up with him, he was surrounded by bodies and he was working on his second set of swords, having broken the first two over the armour of the Sclavs. The Shield-maiden Rusila was soon fighting at his side as the front ranks engaged and she marvelled at his berserk fury. And she could see that he was hard as a rock in his Berserk ecstasy and she wanted him. She fought her way over to him, but not too close, as he was reckless in his rage, and Ragnar drove his chariot up nearby them and, when Starkad’s third sword was broken, Ragnar threw him the Long Serpent and he caught it up, glanced his thanks, and continued his hacking attack. When his fourth sword snapped, Brak threw him his overlong trident blade and Starkad carried on, the swords of the Danes biting through the Sclav steel armour as though leather. Rusila fell back with the first rank to breathe while the second rank engaged and she joined Ragnar and Brak on the chariot deck.
“He’s magnificent!” she said. “A champion of champions!”
“He does make his presence felt!” Ragnar agreed. “But he has to rest soon or he’ll be done.” That wasn’t about to happen, as King Daxo had sent his famous champion riding to the aid of his left flank and the huge warrior lept from the saddle and shoved his way through his own ranks toward Starkad. The warrior Hergrim was known to Starkad and he sheathed his swords and withdrew behind his lines and fetched his club, for Hergrim was well versed in sorcery and knew how to blunt steel. Rusila’s Irish warriors were learning this as Hergrim battled his way through them and their swords would not bite the Sclav champion. Irish warriors were piling up as Rusila worked her way towards him, but Starkad came up and paused her and said, “Let’s see him blunt this,” and he showed her his steel banded wooden club. Warriors were withdrawing before Hergrim, so Starkad found plenty of room to fight him as he stepped into the forefront and they instantly flew into a furious combat that many stopped to watch. Hergrim lashed out quickly with his fine sword and Starkad responded surprisingly fast with his large club, parrying his stroke and shattering a quadrant of his shield. They circled each other, looking for openings, and began hacking at each other with sword and club. Another quadrant flew from Hergrim’s shield until it barely sheltered his shoulder and arm and he lashed out at Starkad with his sword and it glanced off the great club and deflected down into the body of a slain Irish warrior and it stuck fast into the Irishman and as Hergrim struggled to free it, Starkad caught him across the temple with a blow from his club.
Hergrim blacked out and when he awoke, he was fettered over a tripod of shields and Starkad had pulled of his breeches and was raping him from behind. He cried out in anguish and he struggled, but the Irish warriors about him held him fast. Rusila was back with Ragnar and Brak on the war chariot deck, watching, and she said, “He’s magnificent,” and Ragnar knew she was referring to the size of his huge member. When Hergrim began struggling so hard that the Irish were losing control, Starkad withdrew and walked calmly in front of him and punched him in the face until he had knocked out all his teeth. Then he opened Hergrim’s bruised and battered mouth and he thrust his member down his throat and when Hergrim would start suffocating he would withdraw it and give him a strangled breath.
“I don’t believe this,” Ragnar told Rusila, “he’s performing rappatio on the Sclav!”
“Rappatio?” Rusila repeated.
“It’s very old school,” Brak explained. “The ancient Vanir Roman generals would perform it on defeated generals. When Hannibal Barka was finally defeated by the Romans, he fell on his sword rather than let them do this to him,” and they all watched as Starkad once more thrust his member deep down Hergrim’s throat. He flowed into Hergrim and filled his lungs and, this time, when Hergrim blacked out, he never woke up again. The Irish warriors who had been taking a beating from the witchcraft of Hergrim let out a fierce cheer and they brought Starkad some wine and helped him rest upon some shields.
“He’s magnificent!” Rusila repeated, and Ragnar said, “I’ve heard of rappatio, but I’ve never actually seen it done,” but Rusila didn’t hear him. She was busy taking food and wine over to their champion. “Those two scare me,” Brak said, as he watched Rusila go after Starkad.
Ladgerda’s formation on the left was slowly driving back the Sclav right wing, keeping pace with Ragnar’s Centuriata in the center, but the loud cheering from the Danish right wing unnerved the whole Sclav army and they started to slowly give more ground and their front ranks soon realized that there were no longer ranks behind them as all that could, turned and ran. The front ranks knew that they’d be slain as soon as they turned about, so they surrendered and were quickly bent over their shields in the old school Roman fashion. The cavalry that King Daxo had sent forward to stop anyone from running were overwhelmed by the vast withdrawal and many were killed by their own fleeing foot. King Daxo, himself, could be seen on the hilltop, surrounded by his princes, and they all turned and fled, riding off past their town and into the woods beyond. They didn’t want to get trapped behind their own walls in a city they no longer had the manpower to defend. Prince Fridleif led his troop of Danish cavalry after the fleeing Sclavish troops, but they rode straight past the fleeing foot soldiers and entered the main gates of the town before they could be closed and they closed them off themselves and held them as the foot ran past the town and into the eastern woods after their king.
King Ragnar drove his chariot over to the left wing and picked up Ladgerda and he drove the Roman war machine into the fleeing Sclavs and the whirling scythes cut many to pieces and the heavy team trampled many more as they cut a huge swath into them as they drove towards the walled town.
“Where’s Rusila?” Ladgerda asked, as they were cutting their swath.
“I’m sure she’s back at the ships with Starkad by now, probably focking under the awnings.”
“Those two scare me when they’re together,” Ladgerda said, and Brak and Ragnar both began laughing.
By evening, a large contingent of the Danish army occupied the Sclav citadel, the troops occupying the homes of the former Sclav soldiers and, most likely, being served and serviced by their former wives. The rest of the army remained at their camp and guarded the ships and the Irish took wine and roast meats to the ship of Rusila, their leader, and she shared it with Starkad as they shared each other under her awnings. A great feast was being organized in King Daxo’s former palace on the hill in the center of his walled city. King Ragnar shared the highest highseat with Ladgerda and Brak and Daxo’s oldest queen shared the second highseat and Prince Fridleif and Daxo’s youngest queen shared the third.
It was later learned that King Daxo and what was left of his army fled south up the Dvina River and down the Dnieper to Kiev, the City of Key, to King Olmar of the Poljane Slavs. The Scythians, also, who were closely related by blood to Daxo on his mother’s side, are said to have been crushed in the same disaster. King Ragnar made Prince Hwitserk ruler of the Land of the Sclavs, but soon learned of a planned attack of the Anglish Danes of Jutland upon his own Kingdoms of Zealand and Skane so he hastened back to Denmark to protect his holdings there. It would be good to tackle any insurrection now, while he had his full army assembled. But when he got back to Zealand he found no rebellion in the offing. There were no Anglish armies wandering about the Isles. King Ragnar took his army to the Isle of Fyn and overwintered there so as most safely to be able to monitor King Fridleif of Jelling without provoking him to action, and to best monitor the manning of the Danevirk by the Anglish against any attack from the south, from Emperor Louis ‘the Pious’ of the Holy Roman Empire.
While residing in Fyn, King Ragnar fell in love with a young maiden, the daughter of Esbern of Fyn, a wealthy farmer, whom Ragnar began treating very generously. He would often invite Esbern and his daughter to his palace longhall for feasts and banquets and he even allowed the two to share his third highseat next to him and, of course, his beautiful young daughter was always invited to sit between the two men, right next to Ragnar. Ragnar would often give gifts to the two and, of course, would always pass the gifts directly to the daughter as she sat right next to him. Esbern soon realized that this regal attention was being visited upon them due to a lustful desire for his daughter on the part of Ragnar. Since his young daughter was more than a year short of marriageable age, he had her watched quite closely. He would be open to discussions of betrothal, but only after his daughter had reached the age of twelve, the age of marriageability.
King Ragnar, not being too respectful of his own laws, felt that the young girl had returned his affection and thought that love would somehow find a way, so he ventured in disguise to the neighbouring farmstead and, brandishing gifts and gold, conspired with the matron there to procure the affections of the young maiden next door. In the morning he exchanged a dress with the woman, and went next door in womanly attire and offered to assist the young maiden as she was busy winding wool on spindles. Cunningly, he set his hands to the work of a maiden, mimicking what the young girl was doing, though he was little skilled in the art. As they talked through the day he told her that he had helped the neighbour woman next door in exchange for a place to sleep so the young girl offered to share her room and bed with her at night, as she had no other accommodation to offer her. In the night, as they slept naked together, he embraced the maiden and gently deflowered her as she slept. The young girl awoke as the older woman assaulted her, but she feigned sleep for fear of waking her father in the next room. She just thought it was perhaps something the older woman was doing in her sleep. When she woke up in the morning, there was blood upon her sheets and the older woman was gone.
Having gained his desire, King Ragnar returned to his highseat hall and quickly invited Esbern and his daughter to his next banquet. Whenever Esbern and his beautiful young daughter sat next to him on their third highseat, the smell of the young girl rekindled fresh memories of their secret night together at the farmstead and Ragnar would be given added lust which he lavished upon Ladgerda and Rusila, who shared his master suite with him while the army bivouacked nearby. When they made love together at night, Ragnar and Ladgerda marvelled at how large Rusila’s swollen belly was becoming as she carried the child of Starkad, who had stayed in the east serving young Prince Hvitserk.
One evening, as Ragnar was feasting, he noticed that the young daughter of Esbern was edgy and uncomfortable and was showing the signs that Rusila had recently gone through on the second highseat on the other side of him. He knew then that she was pregnant and this added even more fuel to the lust he visited upon the women of his own household. As the young girl grew big, and began to show, her swelling belly betrayed her outraged chastity, and her father, Esbern, not knowing to whom his daughter had given herself to be defiled, persisted in asking the girl herself who was the unknown seducer. He had been having her closely watched because he did not trust royal lust, but her watchers had seen no young lustful men anywhere near her. She steadfastly affirmed that she had had no one to share her bed except her handmaid one night, and so Esbern gave the affair over to the king to investigate. The law in Denmark only protected children, so the debauching of young girls eight years of age or under was considered rape and was judged most harshly by the kings and princes who lorded over the lands, but the deflowering of young girls between eight and twelve was usually subject to fines, and young women twelve and over were to be protected by their fathers and family and marriage usually followed the outrage of chastity.
King Ragnar investigated the matter and met with all the folk who had been watching the young girl and he announced that he would not allow an innocent young girl to be branded with an extraordinary charge, and declared that he would avow his belief in her innocence by taking her to wife in his own household, thereby taking all responsibility for the results of her young pregnancy and by this generosity he partially removed the young woman from societal reproach and prevented her father, Esbern, from suffering any insult to his family. He also added that the son to be born of her would be considered to be of his own line, and that he wished him to be named Ubbe, meaning ‘lone wolf’. Esbern and all the people of Fyn were amazed at the wisdom of Ragnar’s judgement in the matter and Ragnar took the young girl to wife well before her marriageable age with the full whole-hearted consent of the locals.
“I’m not sleeping with you in our bed while you fock a ten year old girl!” Ladgerda lamented. “I didn’t even know it was possible for a girl so young to get knocked up.”
“Either did I, my dear,” Ragnar calmed her, “but I am doing this solely for the sake of the young girl and the hamingja of her family. Perhaps it was Loki, himself, who put seed inside her. Anything becomes possible with the gods.” So, Ragnar had the dressing room of his master suite made up into a second bedroom and he would sleep with Ladgerda and Rusila together some nights and with the young girl other nights. But when Ragnar would sleep naked with the young girl and get hard in the middle of the night, he would avail himself of her privates as she slept and she would awaken and feign sleep because she recognized him to be the old woman that had ravaged her at their farmstead and she dearly loved her Ragnar for going to so much trouble to make sure that love somehow found a way. She kept that dear secret to herself, but she vowed to tell young Ubbe that Ragnar really was his father, and she was soon pregnant again after giving birth to Ubbe anyway, and there was no question as to who was the father that time.