Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert
(Circa 869 AD)
“And his shield was called Hrae’s Ship’s Round,
And his followers were called the Hraes’.”
Eyvinder Skald-Despoiler; Skaldskaparmal.
When Oddi returned from New Ireland he sailed around the old Ireland and beached Fair Faxi and went inland to visit Olvor and his daughter, Hraegunhild in Dublin. “She has grown so much,” Oddi exclaimed, as he got dressed. Olvor was still in bed, propped up on one elbow. They had spent the morning talking…she had spent the morning listening…to Oddi’s life these past five years and she was mortified. “You must kill this King Frodi, Oddi. He will never stop. You must find a way to kill him!”
“I shall lay low with Duke Hraelauger in Normandy. Frodi can’t touch us there. It’s part of Charlemagne’s Holy Roman Empire, the Constantinople of the west.”
“There is no Constantinople of the west!” she countered. “The biggest city here is Paris, and your grandfather, Hraegunar Lothbrok, already sacked that!”
“It’s the plan Prince Hraerik came up with.”
“I told you when I first met you that Hraegunar Lothbrok was your grandfather and you didn’t believe me. My mother was a Welsh witch and she told me that years before I even met you.”
“Okay, I believe you,” Oddi whispered, as he joined Olvor on the bed.
“Well, thank you,” Olvor whispered back. “It’s just, if my mother knew you were coming and she’s but a healer, how are you going to keep your location from this warlock, Ogmund Eythjofsbane?”
“My uncle has a spae-witch in Rouen that can block Ogmund’s efforts. I’m to lay low there and work for my uncle in the Hraes’ Trading Company stations. I’ll be able to visit you from there.”
“Why don’t you just stay here? With us?”
“If Frodi finds out that I’m hiding in Ireland, he’ll do what he did to Angleland and the Nor’Way. I can’t put you and Hraegunhild in danger. But I’ll visit you both when I can.”
Oddi sent messengers north to Hrafnista and asked his kin to join him, so Gudmund and Sigurd sent word back that they would come to Ireland as soon as they could. Oddi spent the spring with Olvor and his daughter and Oddi taught Hraegunhild all about Saint Brendan and the land he had found “He’s half Dane,” Oddi chided. “That’s the Dan part of Brendan.” And Olvor worked at repairing Oddi’s plate-mail shirt. At spring’s end there was a joyful meeting between the Hrafnista men and Oddi. Afterwards, they set sail from Ireland and kept heading south, hugging the coast, and they crossed the Irish Sea and soon had Wales off their portside, then they crossed the Anglish Sea and the water became much shallower along the coast and Oddi had never been there before. They plundered southern Gaul, Frankland and Alsace. They created havoc as they went until they managed to crash their ships on an unknown shore. They went inland with full weapons and armour and they soon came upon a house. It was of unusual stone construction they had never seen before. It had colorful glass windows and spires on the roof. They went up to it and found that the door was open. Oddi said, “What do you think it’s used for, Sigurd?”
“I’m not sure,” he replied. “What do you think, Gudmund?”
“I am not sure,” he said, “but I suspect that men must live here and will come back soon.”
“We shouldn’t go in,” Oddi added. They sat down on a bench across the road from the house and waited. Soon they saw people hurrying into the house, and they then heard a racket coming from within that they had never heard before. “I think these are strange men in a strange country and we should wait here until they come out of the house.” And it was as Oddi said, and soon people were hurrying from the house.
One of the men walked to where Oddi sat and said, “You look Norse. Can I help you?”
Oddi asked him what country this was. The man said that the country was called Aquitane. “But what is this house you’ve just left?” Odd asked.
“We call this a church.”
“What kind of noise is it you have been making in this church?”
“That we call Mass,” said the local. “But what about you, are you a complete heathen?”
Odd said, “We do not have a religion. We believe in our strength and mettle. We don’t follow Odin at all. What religion do you practice?”
“We believe in God, creator of heaven and earth, the sea, the sun and moon,” said the pious man.
“He who has built all that,” Oddi said, “must be great, that much I can see.”
The stranger gave Oddi directions to a hostel for pilgrims but he and his men found an inn and paid for their lodgings with silver and gold. They rested there several weeks and met with a few of the locals. They asked Oddi and his men if they would like to follow the Christian faith and Gudmund and Sigurd converted. They again asked Oddi if he would follow their faith and he said, “I will accept your faith, but I will still believe in my might and mettle. I will not sacrifice to other gods, but I don’t want to stay here. Therefore, since I will travel from place to place, and be with pagans sometimes and with Christians at other times, I will only practice the faith when I am with Christians.” The locals were satisfied with that, so Oddi was baptized. The Vikings settled in and stayed there for a while.
After a while, Oddi asked Sigurd and Gudmund if they would come with him to find his uncle Hraelauger in Normandy. “We like it here,” they replied, “more than anywhere else. And the women here like us too.”
“Then I’ll have to set out on my own,” said Oddi.
“You said you wanted to lay low in Frankia,” said Gudmund. “This seems as good a place as any.”
“I’ve been bored because nothing ever happens here.” He didn’t ask them again and, one day, he just left of his own accord.
And when Oddi was leaving the city, he saw a large group of people heading towards him. A man was riding an ass while others walked about him. These people were all dressed well and no one was carrying weapons. Oddi stood at the side of the street as the group walked past him. Then Oddi saw four men rush up carrying long knives in their hands. They ran up to the man who was riding and they stabbed him and cut off his head. Then they ran back past Oddi, and one of them had the man’s head by the hair and it swung and sprayed them as he ran. Odd figured they were up to no good, so he ran after them but they charged into a forest and entered an underground earth-house like Oddi had seen in Ireland. He chased after them into the ground chamber. Oddi attacked them with his sword, but they fought fiercely, four long knives against one long sword in a very crowded room. But he battled with them, using the pommel of his blade to batter them until he had killed them all. He then took their heads and tied them together by the hair and went out with the four heads together in his left hand and the one they had carried in his right. Oddi went back to the city and he saw there were others who had returned to the church with the body of the man who’d been killed. Oddi took all the heads into the church and said: “Here is the head of your man of the cloth and I have avenged him with the heads of those who had slain him.” The people of the church were very thankful and thought very highly of the deed he had accomplished. Oddi asked who he had avenged and they said he was their bishop. “I’m glad I killed them then,” Oddi told them, but now they kept an eye on him because they didn’t want him to go. He was now more bored than ever and things were worse because they kept a watch on him. He waited for a chance to get away and when that chance came, Oddi vowed to do no more good deeds on the way out.
He headed northeast until he reached the Seine River. He took off his plate-mail shirt and his clothes and walked into the river and washed himself. Then he got out of the river and let the warm summer sunshine dry him off and he got back into his clothes and his shirt that Olvor had made and recently repaired for him. It felt as powerful as ever. He put his quiver on his back and followed the Seine to Paris. He marvelled at the city walls and they reminded him of Gardariki and he thought about what his father had told his uncle when they fled Angleland from King Frodi. “Find Bishop Prudentius and tell him he owes me a mark of silver,” he had said. He decided to find Bishop Prudentius, but when he checked at a cathedral as to where he might find him, he was told that the good bishop had died seven years earlier. Oddi then asked where he might find Sister Saint Charles, the nun that the Viking had saved, but nobody seemed to know. He then told the priests that he was the recently converted Viking who had avenged the killing of a bishop in Aquitane, and he had an audience with the nun that afternoon.
“You told Father Pieter that you avenged the death of Bishop Rancier of Bordeaux, young man,” Sister Saint Charles said in perfect Norse.
“I wish I could have saved the Bishop, but his assassins were very fast,” Oddi started. “I am also the son of the Viking that saved you.”
The sister perked up instantly. “You are the son of Hraerik?” she asked. “I’m so glad to meet you. I hope you are staying in Paris,” she added. “I’ll give you a tour of the city. It has changed so much.”
Oddi looked at the nun and he imagined her as being twenty years younger and he thought she may have been pretty. “I talked to my father, Hraerik, about you. He told me you were strictly business and a great teacher of languages. The Greek you taught him saved his life. The Emperor Theophilus of Constantinople wrote out a death warrant for my father, then had him deliver it to King Louis the Pious in Ingleheim, but my father read the message on the way and changed it to a letter of introduction and it saved his life.”
“And they say Greek is a dead language,” the sister laughed. And the sister kept her word and Gave Oddi a tour of Paris that would hold him in good stead in the future. “They are building walls around the island portion because of your grandfather, you know.” And Oddi watched as great stone blocks were being craned up to the top of the walls in progress. “I am going to Flanders in a few days”, the nun explained, “and I was wondering if you would have time to come along? There is someone there that I would like you to meet.”
“I was planning to meet my uncle Hraelauger in Rouen tomorrow,” Oddi answered.
“Perhaps some other time then?” the nun asked.
“Yes. I shall be here for a while and I plan to visit Paris often.”
“You know, there is a train of Hraes’ Trading Company wagons going to Rouen tomorrow morning, yes? Perhaps you could ride with them? They travel often between Paris and Rouen. There is no Hraes’ trading station here in Paris…the king won’t allow it…but your uncle has set up deliveries. He is so…innovative.”
The next morning, Oddi caught a ride with the Hraes’ Trading Company wagon train and it took him to his uncle, Hraelauger, in the City of Rouen, north of Paris.