Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert
(Circa 840 AD)
“Let us take this Saga for a ride,
Let us take it to a gallop,
Let loose the reins a bit….
Let’s see just where it takes us.”
Brian Howard Seibert
There was a man named Grim who’s byname was Hairycheek. This was because when he was conceived, a strange thing happened; Ketil Trout, his father, and Hrafnhild, Bruni’s daughter, went to bed together and her father spread a hide over them because he had invited some Lapps over, and during the night Hrafnhild looked out from under the hide and saw one Lapp who was very hairy. And it was at that moment of conception that Grim got his mark, his hairy cheek. Grim lived on the island of Hrafnista and was one of the most wealthy and powerful men of the Nor’Way. He was tall and strong with short cropped brown hair and he kept his hairy cheek clean shaven. He was married to a bright and beautiful woman named Lofthaena, the daughter of Lord Harald of the Vik Fjord in the east of Norway.
The summer after the death of Brother Gregory of Gardariki, Grim planned a journey to Hraegunarstead in Jaederen Province and then on to the Vik Fjord, where he had much property. Lofthaena wanted to go with him, but Grim was reluctant because his wife was with child.
“I will not be happy unless I go.”
Grim loved her dearly, so he let her come with him. She was very attractive, intelligent and well-spoken and was used to having her way. Her long blonde hair fell halfway down her tall lean body. They outfitted their two ships smartly and adorned themselves lavishly and the people of Hrafnista loved them for it and gave them a grand send-off. When they reached Jaederen they turned into Hraegunar’s Fjord and beached their ships at Hraegunarstead. They were greeted by his aunt Kraka and Brak, Hraegunar’s foremost man. Hraegunar himself had not been home in years, having marked himself with a spear to dedicate himself to following Odin’s calling. When Grim told his aunt that Brother Gregory had requested that his baby be raised at Hraegunarstead, she suggested that he be raised at a farm called Berurjod, just along the bay. Grim’s friend, a man called Ingjald lived there with his wife and baby, a handsome boy called Asmund. When Ingjald asked Grim what the baby’s name was, Grim explained that there was none. Brother Gregory wanted Hraegunar Lothbrok’s son, Hraerik Bragi, to name the boy when he next returned to Norway from Gardariki. Kraka thought the instructions very odd, so that is what they decided to call the boy until his proper naming…Odd, meaning edge.
While Grim and his wife were staying in Hraegunar’s longhall, Loefthana went into labour and gave birth to a boy. They named him Gudmund and took their baby with them when they left for the Vik, but Oddi stayed behind at Berurjod to be raised with Asmund.
Oddi was a good looking boy who picked up skills very quickly and Asmund followed Oddi’s example. Oddi and Asmund became sworn brothers. But Oddi spent much of his time at Hraegunarstead with Brak and seemed to take an interest in blacksmithing. Oddi would not play games like other children. He forged his first little arrow heads by the time he was five and seemed quite skilful at making arrows. Many arrows. And he did not take good care of them. He left them lying about on seats and benches and many were hurt by them, when they came in after dark and sat down on them. This one thing made Odd unpopular. Men told Ingjald that he should talk to Odd about this. Ingjald met with Oddi one day. “There is one thing, foster-son,” said Ingjald, “that bothers people.”
“What is that?” said Oddi.
“You do not take care of your arrows properly,” said Ingjald.
“I think you could blame me for it,” said Oddi, “if you had given me something to keep them in.”
“I shall get you whatever you want.”
“I think,” said Oddi, “that you will get me what I need, but not what I want.”
“I will get you what you want,” said Ingjald, impatiently.
“You have a black three-year-old goat,” said Oddi. “Have him killed and skinned whole with both horns and hoofs.” All was done as Oddi had asked, and he was brought the skin-bag. Then he gathered all his arrows up into it until the skin-bag was full. He had much finer arrows, and more of them, than other people, and he had a bow to match. Oddi wore a scarlet robe every day and had an embroidered gold headband round his long blonde locks. He had his quiver with him wherever he went. Asmund wore a brown tunic and kept his brown hair cropped short like his father, and everywhere he went he carried a short sword. Both boys were tall for their age and surprisingly strong.
The sworn brothers were six years old when they learned to row a boat and often rowed out from the land together in a four oared boat that Ingjald and Brak had helped them build. But they were only allowed to row it about the fjord. And the two boys practiced everything together: archery, swimming, sword play and riding, but afternoons, Oddi reserved for steel smithing with Brak. Brak had never seen a child take so quickly to steel work as Oddi. Not even his former student, Hraerik, had started so young or progressed so quickly.
Soon after they had gotten their boat, the boys heard rumours of an upcoming raid. Prince Hraerik was bringing a fleet of Nor’Way warships from the east to help his father in an attack upon a Gaul named Frank. The boys would row their four oared boat around the fjord and pretend it was a dragonship and Oddi was the captain and Asmund his foremost man and they planned to join the Prince’s Hraes’ fleet when it came from Kiev.