Circa 864 AD

Princess Olvor

A few years after the Siege of Constantinople in 860, Arrow Odd had a run in with King Hraelauger of Norway.  While attending the wedding of a common cousin in the Vik, Captain Oddi and his foremost man, Asmund Ingjaldson, were arrested for wanton piracy by their king, who was also attending the wedding, for the king and the captain had numerous common relatives.

“King Frodi has charged you with piracy and attacking several of his sea kings up and down the Nor’Way coast,” King Hraelauger stated sternly, as Oddi stood in front of his high seats in his royal longhall in the Vik.  “And in my brother’s ship, Fair Faxi, no less.  Tell me of your adventures, Captain Oddi, foster-son of my cousin Grim Hairy-Cheek Ketilson?”  Hraelauger was beginning to have some serious doubts about Oddi’s parentage.

“We set out from Hraegunarstead in Fair Faxi,” Oddi started, “and met up with some Vikings who’d sailed down from Halogaland in two more Nor’Way ships.”  Oddi was dressed in a white silk shirt, bright red tunic, his hair bound by a gold headband tied round his long golden locks, his bright blue eyes flashing earnestly.  Two young ladies watched from benches at the entranceway of the longhall.  “We searched out a Viking named Halfdan near Elfar Skerries.  He had thirty ships so I challenged him to a sea battle.  He asked me who I was and I told him Arrow Odd and when Halfdan asked me why I wanted to fight, I told him I wanted to see who the better Viking was.  Then he asked me how many ships I had and I told him we had three against their thirty, but I prevailed in the battle anyway and destroyed all their ships.  And Asmund was not involved in any of this.” 

 “Those were King Frodi’s ships,” King Hraelauger started, then bit his tongue.  “King Frodi’s warrant mentions a Captain Soti and another Danish fleet?”

Before Captain Halfdan died, he told us of another Viking named Soti, in the south off Skane.  He, too, had thirty ships, all large dragonships.”

“All King Frodi’s,” Hraelauger whispered to himself through clenched jaws.

“While we were searching for Soti, he seemed to be stalking us.  We played a back and forth trap game and finally we caught Soti in a trap and destroyed his fleet.“

“Again, King Frodi’s ships,” the Norse king muttered, “Go on!”

“On my next voyage, I sought out five famed berserk brothers on Denmark, anchored off Zealand with six dragonships.  The brothers had gone inland to visit their concubines, so I went inland to challenge them.  I met them on their way back to the coast and I attacked them before they could go into their fits and I cut them all down.  I’m not sure what happened to their ships.”

“This warrant claims that you took those ships as well,” and the king waved for his prisoner to continue.

“I left ships in the hands of the original crews that surrendered to me.  What they did with them, I’m afraid I do not know.”

“But it is King Frodi that you should be afraid of, for he has asked for your head, Captain Oddi.  Although he has returned to Kiev, he still wants your head in his court in Liere.  The Halfdan you killed was half Danish, as was Soti, and the berserks you dispatched were full Danes killed on Danish soil.  That is why you were apprehended.  I shall have to consider his request.”  King Hraelauger looked down at his shoes.  “Take them away!” he ordered, and the guards prodded their guests out of the high seat hall and the shackles around the prisoners’ ankles clanked and clattered as they were led off into the shadows.  The two young ladies who had watched from the benches at the entranceway of the longhall got up, disappointedly, and left.

Exhausted, King Hraelauger sat resting at the head of his bed.  Blue and hazel eyes caught Hraelauger’s’ from the dark shadows of his stately chamber, and out from a corner stepped Princess Gunwar.  “Who goes there?” cried the king.  “What manner of spirit are you?”

“I am a shield maiden now,” Gunwar whispered softly.  She was as beautiful now as ever, not beaten and bloodied on a far-off battlefield in Tmutorokan.  Her hair was of soft gold and her eyes glowed blue then hazel out of the shadows.  Her full lips parted, and her gloss white teeth caught up the light of the tapers.  She was wrapped in a white silk sheet, a slight red stain on the left side and, as she stepped in front of the tapers on the table, the light showed her heavenly form through butterfly threads.  Her hardened war-maiden’s hands held a small iron cross to her breast.  “You shall release my son, Helgi, on the morrow,” she stated.  “Tonight, I am yours, but on the morrow, you shall release my son, the one you call Arrow Odd.”

“Stay back, spirit,” Hraelauger said weakly, grabbing for the woman he had loved from afar for so many years.”

Gunwar was at his side now, drawn to him by his hand on her hip.  She unbuckled the belt about his waist, and she undressed him.  She laid him back, naked, upon his bed and she opened up her silk sheet and slid onto him, her nakedness brushing up his body.

“Please,” Hraelauger whispered, Hraelauger lied.  He had always dreamed of her, wanted her, cried for her.  He had always loved her, and she had always been beyond his reach.  She now drew him to her and she kissed him with her warm full lips, and he kissed her back, pushing away all thought of his brother, her husband, and, when he pushed her, she pushed back, and when he thrust, she thrust back, and they began the rhythmic dance that had seen her bring life to thirteen sons, but only one to fruition, and her soul would do anything to save that one young man.  Then they rested, and Gunwar asked Hraelauger a question.  “Can one stop up the flow of time?”

“I think we have, just in your being here,” Hraelauger assured her.  And he pulled her to himself as though to make time stand still, and he held her in his arms, her head upon his chest, and he stroked her hair for a long time and made love to her again.  “I want to stay inside you forever,” he whispered, and he held her and tried to stay awake because he feared she would be gone.

“Forever in you,” she whispered back, but she was just a dream, oh what a dream, and then he slept the sleep of one committed to a cause.  Gunwar took her silk sheet and left Hraelauger with coarse wool, tucking the heavy blanket about his heaving chest before disappearing into the darkness.

“Tell me of your childhood,” King Hraelauger began, as Oddi and Asmund stood in front of their monarch once again.  He studied Oddi’s face and understood, at once, why it looked so familiar.  It was Gunwar’s countenance all over again, or her face had she been a warrior and not a war-maiden.  An embarrassing warmness set about him.

“Is this a clemency thing?” Oddi asked, and Asmund gave him a poke in the ribs.

“Just humour me,” Hraelauger answered lightly, not sternly as he would have answered the day before.  “I am not fully convinced that you are Brother Gregory’s son as so many others say.  I was at your twelfth birthday naming feast, and I heard your fortune being told, but I can’t remember Heid’s exact words.”

“That’s the thing that really stands out most about me, my curse,” Oddi started.  “When I turned twelve, when both Asmund and I turned twelve, Asmund’s father, Ingjald, brought in a seeress called Heid to read both our fortunes, totally against my wishes.  She prophesied that a snake would strike me, venom filled, from the time worn skull of Faxi, so I struck her in the nose.  Faxi was the favourite horse of Ingjald so, since he had brought the witch to my naming, against my wishes, I felt justified in killing his horse to keep the snake thing from happening.  Asmund and I buried the horse deep, and Ingjald still doesn’t know what happened to his dear Faxi, so don’t tell him.”

Hraelauger had sat up at the word prophesied, then said, “I remember you hitting her with a rod. Death shall strike, venom filled, ‘neath the time worn skull of Faxi.  The ship must be burned, and sacrifices made, or it shall be the death of your son.”  Hraelauger tried to remember the exact words Heid had told his brother, Hraerik, a generation before.  “I have heard this prophesy told before,” the king stated.  “Perhaps she did not mean you, Captain Oddi!”

“She meant me alright,” Oddi replied.  “So much so that I made plans to leave Hraegunarstead for the most dangerous place I could think of, just to prove the old witch wrong.  That’s when Asmund and I and the youths of Hraegunarstead followed your fleet to the Mediterranean.  After that we prepared to make the Nor’Way crossing the very next trading season.  In order to get Fair Faxi back into condition to make the crossing, I used my arrowhead making skills to devise a clinch nailing system to keep her strakes from separating during very rough seas and Brak provided me with the alloys needed to keep the nails from rusting, but I had to promise to replenish his supplies by trading Tonstone for alloying agents in Damascus.  So, we made the crossing to Bjarmaland and had many great adventures in the Eastern Realm.”

“I only ask,” King Hraelauger started, “because that very same old witch made that very same prophesy about my brother, Hraerik, many years ago.  And that snake still has not struck him dead either.”

“Well now, at least I do not feel so bad about striking the old witch!”

“Hraerik tried to strike her too,” Hraelauger laughed, “and would have if our father, Hraegunar, hadn’t stopped him.”

That night, in bed, Hraelauger thought hard about the old prophesy and his father and brother.  “A snake shall strike, venom filled, and your son shall die ‘neath the time worn skull of Faxi,” was what she had warned, Hraelauger tried to remember, “or was it Hraerik by name she had said?”  Then a spirit stepped out of the shadows and she was dressed in white sables and her blonde hair danced about the furs as her hazel blue eyes caught up the light of the tapers.

“You have not freed my son,” Gunwar whispered.

“He is no longer in chains,” Hraelauger replied.  “He is my guest.”

“You do not believe me,” she cried.

“You are but a dream, what a dream,” Hraelauger whispered.  “Since you are a spirit and all knowing, what exactly were the words that the witch Heid used to prophesy the death of your husband?”

“Death shall strike, venom filled, ‘neath the time worn skull of Faxi.  The ship must be burned and sacrifices made or it shall be the death of your son.” 

“But because she said, ‘the death of your son’, we all assumed she was talking to Hraegunar.  But what if she was talking to Hraerik?  If Oddi is your child and Hraerik is his father, then the prophesy forewarns of Oddi’s death, just as your son claims.”

“No!” Gunwar cried, falling upon the bed in tears.  “Hraerik struggled with that cursed prophesy most of his life, sailing in Fair Faxi to prove it wrong and fearing always just a bit in his mind that perhaps it would prove to be right.”

“And now that burden passes on to his son,” Hraelauger whispered, comforting the only woman he had ever loved.  “Let us just sleep together tonight and find a way through this thing.”  He tucked Gunwar in under his blankets and slid into bed beside her.  He calmed her and when her sobbing had subsided, he asked, “Last night you wanted to stop up the flow of time.  Why?”

“The drapas and the sagas that are now being sung and recited about you and your brother, my husband and my brother, about the Nor’Way and the Southern Way, and the battles we Norse fought with the Slavs and the Khazars and the Romans shall dim over time and will be called, by future Danish and Norwegian kings, the Lying Sagas of Denmark.  Future scholars will confuse the Huns of Atilla’s time with the Huns of our time.  Future poets will confuse Sigurd Hrae’s Gold with Rhine Gold and a Greek fire belching dragonship with a fire breathing winged serpent and our efforts will be lost.  The Hraes’ Trading Company, Frodi’s Gardar, Hraerik’s Gardariki, my Tmutorokan will all be lost to the flow of time.  It fills me with fear and trepidation.”

Hraelauger comforted Gunwar and tried to refrain, but as the night wore on, they made love and the shield maiden did not resist.  Hraelauger held her in his arms while she slept, determined not to let her go, to keep her there to see morning’s light, but he nodded off and when he woke up, she was gone.

“It has become apparent to me,” King Hraelauger started, the next morning, “that you and Asmund are in need of a mission, a quest to keep you both on the right path and keep you out of trouble.  My brother once told me of an Irish monk named Brendan, who had discovered a vast new land far to the west.  You are to take a fleet of ships….my ships….to Ireland and find this Brendan and set off in search of this new land.  My brother also told me that when the gods were dead, after Ragnarok, a new god would rise up in this western land, a god called technology, that would come to rule the world.  Explore this new land and try to stay out of trouble.  King Frodi wants your head, Captain Oddi, so we’ll keep your head as far away from him as we possibly can.”  King Hraelauger later regretted freeing Oddi, for he was never visited by the spirit of Gunwar again.

In the spring Oddi and Asmund met up with Hjalmar and Thord at the Gota River and Oddi explained that he had been given a mission by King Hraelauger to visit Ireland and explore parts further west. The two Norwegians had been given a fleet of twenty ships by their king, including Halfdan’s Gift, plus they were joined by Hjalmar and Thord’s fifteen.  Using some new navigational devices that had been acquired through Baghdad trade, they sailed directly to Scotland, then, raiding as they progressed, on to the Orkneys and to the coast of Ireland.  Oddi and Asmund were exploring on land when a bow thrummed, and an arrow flew out of the woods and struck Asmund in the chest and in Oddi’s arms he died.  

   Oddi led a group of his men to a clearing on the other side of the woods and they saw an archer in a velvet tunic, bow in hand and arrows at the ready.  Oddi shot his bow first and killed the man and killed another three in like manner before they could flee into the forest.  Oddi had his men search the periphery of the clearing until they found a trap door that led into an underground chamber.  They opened the door and Oddi entered to find four women hiding in the room.  He grabbed the prettiest of the four. 

“I have a gift for you if you let us be,” she cried, “for I am wealthy.”

“I have no shortage of gold myself,” Oddi replied.

“I have a shirt for you,” she said.  “A special shirt given to my mother by Vikings such as yourself, a Viking named Sigurd Hrae and his son, Hraegun.”

“How do you know these names?” Oddi exclaimed.  “They are from Jaederen, from Hraegunarstead, where I was raised.”

“Sigurd and Hraegun wintered here after defeating a fire-breathing dragon called Fafnir in the Eastern Realm.  They had lost their bearings on their return home, so they beached their ships along our coast, and they shared much wealth with us.  Red gold rings from Constantinople and silver Kufas from Baghdad,” she began, dropping ancient names like rose petals in a frost.  “And a shirt, a special shirt, was taken from Fafnir.  In it, fire shall not harm you and steel shall not bite you, nor cold, and swimming will not tire you for it will keep you above the swells.  It was worn by the Greeks to protect them from their fire, just as Hraegun had worn shaggy green rawhide shirt and trousers to protect him from the flames as he slashed at Fafnir’s soft underbelly from below.”

“Where is this shirt?” Oddi asked, suddenly keen for this fine gift.

“Let my maidens go and I shall take you to it.”

Oddi had the maidens released into the woods and the Irish princess led her Viking to Dub-Lin town.  “The town is run by the Danes,” she started.  “But they haven’t been around for a while,” she added, crossing herself.  They entered her manse and when Oddi wondered at the lack of men about she explained that he had killed her father and three brothers in the woods that day.  “But then again,” she said sadly, “they did shoot your friend, even as I pleaded for them to refrain from shooting arrows at the offspring of Sigurd Hrae and Hraegun.”

“Asmund was not of Hraes’ blood,” Oddi stated.

“Not him….You!”

“I was raised at Hraegunarstead, but I wasn’t born there.  I am Helgi Arrow Odd Hraegoryson, son of Brother Gregory of Berezan in the east.”  

“We only know of Hraegun and Sigurd,” the princess conceded.  “But my mother told me all about them, and she was a great seeress and very knowledgeable in our history.  I am Olvor, daughter of King Amhlaide and Queen Oltruve.”  She took a plate-mail byrnie out of a chestnut bureau and passed it to Oddi.  It seemed to fit quite well, but Olvor wasn’t happy with the fit so she took some measurements and marked the garment with a soapstone and she told Oddi to return next day, so Oddi left Olvor in peace. 

Oddi returned to their Viking camp on the coast and burned the body of his best friend Asmund.  Hjalmar and Thord Prow-Glamour sailed off to raid in Scotland while Gudmund and Sigurd showed up and took charge of King Hraelauger’s fleet on the Irish coast.  Oddi spent the spring in Dub-Lin town, staying in Olvor’s manse, while he researched the explorations of Saint Brendan, who had long since passed.  Oddi and Olvor became the best of friends and she even expressed a wish to sail west with Oddi to find the new land that the Irish monk had discovered.  But Oddi pointed out that she must stay home and rule her lands now that her father and brothers were gone. 

Oddi returned to the coast and had Gudmund and Sigurd assemble and provision the fleet for a long summer’s sail.  Hjalmar and Thord returned from a Viking raid just in time to join them.  Oddi taught them all in the use of the navigational tools that had been purchased in the bazaars of Baghdad…small sundials from which they could set their course and rectangular crystals that could locate the sun even on the foggiest of days.  They would be arcing west at a northerly latitude so high that the winds blew from the east almost continuously.

For three weeks they sailed west, the wind at their backs, and several times they saw signs of land to the north, birds and such, but Oddi kept them sailing west, following the course Brendan was supposed to have taken many years before, until they saw a great slab of land rising out of the western sea.  It was a coast of huge slabs of flat stone plummeting down into the sea, which was filled with great flat slabs of floating ice and on this ice were great white bears and seals they were hunting and the waters teamed with fish and the ships’ kettles steamed with cod and salmon.  Oddi named the coast Slabland and they sailed south along the rocky promontories until the coast sprouted trees, small at first and stunted but growing in size as they sailed south.  They put into shore at river mouths to replenish their barrels of fresh water and often men would claim to have seen native peoples.  They looked like Bjarmians some claimed, so distance was kept as they might have a war-like nature.  Smoke from camp-fires soon appeared far off in the woods, and further south, clearings appeared along the shore that might have once held villages, but no native people came out to greet the explorers.  They sailed around a huge rock of an island that seemed a lot like Ireland so they called it New Ireland.  They hugged the coast of the mainland and soon found themselves going upriver, the water was fresh and certainly flowing and soon they could make out the far riverbank, south, in the distance.

As the river narrowed, Oddi found a native group that seemed friendly and curious about them, so they rowed in to shore and tried to communicate with them.  Oddi had always been quick with languages and the tongue they spoke was similar to one Bjarmian language he had learned a bit of, and it seemed their king’s daughter was quite quick with languages as well, so soon they were slowly talking and drawing little maps in the riverbank.  Her advice was quite helpful and the people were friendly, so the Norsemen spent several weeks with the tribe, learning about and exploring the newfound land.  They visited great lakes and even greater waterfalls before the fleet headed back downriver.

Once they were back on the coast, they sailed south across a vast tidal bay and they found a land that had many berries and grapes and they called it Vinland.  It would not be the last time this land was discovered and called Vinland, perhaps it was not even the first.  But most natives were elusive, ever fearing the large fleet of ships and many armed men.  When the summer days began to shorten, it was time to head back north.  The Arab navigation devices would not work at night and the north star could not be spotted at night if it was cloudy or foggy.  The dragonships sailed best in the light of day, and the longer the day remained, the better.  Again, the wind was at their backs as they sailed east, and the sailors thanked the gods, but it was actually the seasonal prevailing winds that had blessed them.

Back in Ireland, Oddi learned that Olvor was with child and while the Vikings wintered there, she gave birth to a girl and named her Hraegunhild, after Oddi’s grandfather.  Sigurd Hrae and Hraegun had blessed the Irish with their gold and gifts and had won fame and glory with their tales of Arab trade and Roman victories and the secrets of steel that their Alchemist Brak taught them.  But when spring came, Oddi wanted to take his daughter home to Hraegunarstead with him and Princess Olvor would have none of that.  The parents agreed that Hjalmar would decide the girl’s fate and he decided in favour of Olvor.

Gudmund and Sigurd took their dragonships and sailed north to Hrafnista and gave up raiding, wishing to devote themselves to the Nor’Way trade.  Oddi, Hjalmar and Thord took the rest of the fleet south and across the Anglish Sea.  Along the coast they heard that a Viking named Skolli was anchored nearby with forty ships, so Oddi approached with his fleet of twenty and challenged him to a naval engagement.

“What is your name and why would you wish to hold battle with me?” Skolli cried out over the waves.

“My name is Oddi and I think you are a slaver here, kidnapping and enslaving the locals without offering them the benefit of ransom!”

“Are you the same Oddi who went to Bjarmaland long ago?”

“The very same,” shouted Oddi.

“I’m not foolish enough to go up against you,” Skolli shouted back.  “I’m preparing to attack King Edmund of England and I’d like you to join me.  My father and many of my kin settled in this land peacefully and this king attacked and slaughtered them all.  Greater fame awaits you if you join me and we kill this King Edmund and we rule over his land.  I will seal this deal with witnesses that I am not a raider.”

“Please,” said Oddi, “summon eight farmers of the land to swear oaths on your behalf.”

“It shall be so,” said Skolli.

Oddi returned to their ships and told Hjalmar and Thord what Skolli had offered, and that they should fight alongside him.  They slept on it and in the morning,  they went ashore with all their followers.  Skolli had been busy all night, and he came down from the land with the farmers, and they all swore oaths of support.  After that they joined their forces and went inland to make war.

Warriors from sixty ships gathered in force on the coast and headed inland in search of King Edmund and his army.  The two forces clashed in southern England and they fought for three days before the king fell and his troops capitulated.  Oddi, Hjalmar, Thord and Skolli shared the land, leaving King Skolli in charge of it and they parted great friends.  

Sailing east towards Denmark, the Norsemen were intercepted by two Vikings, Hlodver and Haki, who had thirty ships anchored off the coast of Skane.  Ten ships rowed out from the Danish shore and attacked the Norwegian fleet of twenty ships.  A desperate battle broke out and it was only with great effort that Oddi and his men managed to defeat the Danes.  They learned that Danes had been sent by King Frodi to avenge the deaths of the five famous berserks that Oddi had slain earlier.  Oddi and his men rested and sharpened weapons and repaired shields.  Soon twenty ships, the bulk of the fleet rowed out from shore and attacked the Norsemen.  A battle broke out so fierce that Oddi swore to Hjalmar he had never fought such men before.  “They are Danes from Gardar, the land of the Hraes’,” Hjalmar shouted out in response.  After hours of hard fighting with no let-up the two kings finally fell, but Oddi’s force was so decimated that they all sailed away on Halfdan’s Gift.

Fearing all of Denmark was after them, Oddi had his men sail for the sheltered inlets of the Elfar Skerries.  They wove their way through the inlets but soon spotted two ships lurking under their black awnings.  Hjalmar wanted to evade the ships but Oddi became determined to address them.  When Oddi asked who was in command and why they appeared to be waiting for somebody, their leader replied, “I am Ogmund Eythjofs Bane.  Are you by chance Arrow Odd, the Odd that went to Bjarmaland long ago?”         

“I am that Odd,” said Oddi, “but it wasn’t that long ago.”

“I’m glad,” said Ogmund.  “I’ve been searching for you.  Prepare to do battle.  King Frodi has requested your head’s presence in his court.  Just your head!”

Ogmund and his men took down their black awnings and prepared their ships for battle.  They were all huge men….giants….from the east…from Kiev.  They rowed out to meet Oddi and their ships straddled Halfdan’s Gift and a fierce battle ensued.  So many men fell on both sides that Ogmund raised peace shields and asked Odd how goes it.  Oddi admitted that it was going badly.

“It is like fighting with demons,” Oddi complained.  “Twice I struck at your neck, but my sword would not bite.”

‘I might say the same,” Ogmund complained in his Slav accent.  “I struck you in the chest, but my sword could not bite through that shirt you wear.  Do you want to keep fighting or do you want to part?  For I can tell you how this fight will go.  Hjalmar and Thord will fall here, as will all your men.  All my champions shall fall and then your fine shirt will save you and I shall fall here as well.  A shirt such as that I have only seen once, on a Captain at the foredeck of a Greek fire-ship in Constantinople.  Roman scale is the finest armour stone for stone.”

“Enough of your witchcraft,” Oddi shouted, remembering the prophesies of that old witch, Heid.  “Let’s get on with this.”

They kept fighting until all the Norse, save Oddi, were dead and only the Swedes, Hjalmar and Thord stood with him.  Ogmund and eight of his men were all that were left of his two dragonship crews.  “Shall we part now, Oddi?” Ogmund asked.  “It shall go as I predicted if we carry on.  Either way, king Frodi will not get his head, not here, not now.”

“I am not afraid of your witchcraft,” Oddi said, “but it just makes sense to part ways.”

Oddi and his captains sailed Halfdan’s Gift to an island and Oddi and Hjalmar went inland to hunt for food, leaving Thord to guard the Gift.  When they returned later with a small deer, they found Thord dead, pierced through his side with an arrow.  “It is Ogmund,” Oddi started.  “He’s decided to try his luck again.  I got my byname by shooting arrows, not losing all my friends to them,” he cried.  They erected a howe over Thord, then searched for Ogmund, sailing through and around the Skerries, but he was gone, likely back through the Southern Way to Gardar to lick his wounds.  It still seemed that all Denmark was looking for Oddi, strange black awninged ships searching here and there with full crews and warriors at the ready.  Sailing by moonlight, Oddi and Hjalmar were able to search and stay hidden, but finally they returned to that island, gathered up Thord and sailed off for Sweden.  They planned to raise a mound over him there.

Back in Uppsala, they were welcomed home as heroes.  They told King Hlodver and Princess Ingibjorg of the trials and tragedies they had faced and endured, and the king told them about the guests that had visited the kingdom that past summer while they were away.  “The twelve berserk sons of Jarl Arngrim and Princess Eyfura visited us and the eldest, Angantyr, sued for the hand of Ingibjorg.  Of course, we told them that Princess Ingibjorg had a preference for you, Hjalmar, but he challenged you to a duel on Samsey Island, a Holmganger, next spring.”

Oddi wintered near home, in the court of King Hraelauger.  It was tense, at first, for, after Oddi had told his king that he had discovered the western land of Saint Brendan, he had to tell him that he later lost the entire fleet to Danish bounty hunters, save for his own ship, Halfdan’s Gift.  “Frodi’s ship,” King Hraelauger corrected him, as Halfdan had been one of his Bay Kings’ before Oddi had killed him.

Hjalmar wintered at home in Uppsala in the court of his king and in the arms of Princess Ingibjorg.  “Tell me about New Ireland once more,” Ingibjorg pleaded, stroking Hjalmar’s fine blonde hair.  She had been dreading the challenge of the twelve berserks even before Hjalmar had returned home, but as time wore on, she became filled with fear and wanted to spend as much time with her lover as she possibly could.

“It is a great big island off the coast of the mainland, and it is as green as Ireland itself, and as isolated.  Further south we found a promontory that we thought was another island, but was connected to the mainland, and we called it New Scotland and further south we called the land New Angleland.”

“You named the lands Slabland, New Ireland, New Scotland and New Angleland, but you didn’t call any of the new lands New Sweden?” Ingibjorg teased.

“New Sweden is in the east, in Gardar and the land of the Hraes’,” Hjalmar replied, and he felt a great shiver course through Ingibjorg’s body, and he held her tight.  The sons of Arngrim would be coming from the east.