Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert

(Circa 912 AD)

            “The snake will strike, venom filled, flashing from

            the time worn skull of Faxi.”

            Arrow-Odd’s Saga.

Princess Eyfura and Hervor waited through the spring trading season without a sign of Oddi.  They were hoping he would have visited Kiev and his father, but he had sent word that he was rebuilding Berurjod in Jaederen Province and would arrive in Kiev after the spring trading season.  Prince Hraerik was waiting on the main quay of Kiev, when Oddi sailed up in Fair Faxi.  He saw his father,  Hraerik, and leapt onto the dock.  As they embraced and hugged below the dragonhead of Fair Faxi, a slight hooded figure approached and pulled a long blade out from under a cloak.  The spectre thrust out the blade at Oddi, who instinctively blocked it with his wrist band, and he smashed the figure down to the dock and the spectre curled up in pain and lashed out with the sword again, and the edge bit Oddi’s ankle to the bone.  Then the sword went flying across the dock and clattered on the boardwalk and Hraerik saw right away that it was Tyrfingr.  Oddi pinned the assailant to the decking and pulled back the hood to expose Hervor, dazed but still breathing with a black bolt of lightning painted across her grey stained face.  Hraerik threw his fur cloak over Tyrfingr and saw Eyfura approaching from the longhall, so he rolled the sword into the fur and kicked it into the river.  “The water will protect us from the rays of the blade,” Hraerik explained to Oddi as his wife drew near.

“I saw Hervor quickly leave the hall,” Eyfura said.  “What has she done now?”

They returned to Oddi and Hervor.  Hraerik inspected Oddi’s wound while Eyfura revived Hervor.  Hraerik tore the white silk shirt from his chest and tore off a strip of it to tie around Oddi’s left leg.  He then stripped his belt of his seax and used the sheath to twist the silk strip tight around Oddi’s leg.  He pulled out the seax and told his son, “Your leg has to come off at the knee!”

“You’re mad!” Oddi cried, pulling his leg free of his father.  “This limb isn’t going anywhere.”

“The sword she cut your leg with is Tyrfingr.  The blade is poisoned.  If I don’t take it off at your knee, you’ll be dead within hours.”

Oddi sat down on the dock, hugging his legs to his body.  “I know.  I saw what it did to my friend, Hjalmar.  It’s probably too late already.”

“Let me take off your leg, son.  Please.  We can fit it with a prosthetic.”

“And I’ll join one of your Special Centuriatas?”

Eyfura had fully revived Hervor by then and both women watched the father arguing for the life of his son.

“No, father,” Oddi continued.  “It is too late.  I can feel the poison at work already.  I think the hours you gave me may have been overly optimistic.”  Oddi remembered watching Hjalmar die and he realized he was sitting just as Hjalmar had been sitting.  “I want to die with us holding each other in our arms.”

By now all Oddi’s men had come from Fair Faxi, gathered round their captain and began clamouring for Hervor’s head.  Eyfura huddled over Hervor as if to protect her from the throng.  Oddi ordered his men to respect the fine blood of the women and sat down on a bench below the forestem of Fair Faxi.  Hraerik sent for some camp chairs and fine wine from King Frodi’s highseat hall and they sat in the warm spring sunshine as Oddi’s strength waned.

Hraerik helped his son into a camp chair from the bench.  “Is there anything I can do for you?” he asked.

Oddi asked him to record in Latin the Death Ode of Arrow Odd and then said this:

1st (c. 912)

“Listen to me,                        to what I must say,

 you witnesses of                 my friends long gone.

 No need to hide it                nor conceal the way

 this forest ash                      could not take fate on.

2nd (c. 840)

 I was fostered early             by my father’s wish,

 to be brought up                 at Berurjod;

 I felt no loss                         of love or bliss,

 and took what Ingjald         could offer Odd.

3rd (c. 845)

 We both grew up                at Hraegunarstead,

 Asmund and I,                     through childhood,

 spear shafts shaping,        and ships a building,

 children fletching                arrows of wood.

4th (c. 852)

 A witch said, ‘You will        burn here at Berurjod.

 Venom-filled snake            shall sting you,

 from below the                     skull of Faxi,

 the adder will bite                just above your shoe.’

5th (c. 852)

 The seeress read                true runes to me,

 but no way could I,              would I, heed;

 Asmund and I buried Faxi,   Ingjald’s best horse,

 a visit to my father’s           estate we’d need.

6th (c. 852)

 I was given a ship               called Fair Faxi

 by my fathers both              foster and true.

 We followed the fleet          of Hraegunar Lothbrok

 on the Mediterranean        blue.

7th (c. 855)

 Asmund and I and              our ship of boys

 trailed up the rivers             of Moorish Spain.

 Hraegunar took Seville      by sheer will,

 but lost men on the             way back again.

8th (c. 856)

 While Asmund my friend     did often say

 he’d travel the Nor’Way      whale road;

 I told Ingjald                         that we’d both go away

 and never come back;        but I’ve broken my word.

                    9th (c. 856)

 We hoisted our sail,            but we sat on the sea;

 till Hrafnistaman-like          we raised our hands;

 we sailed a fair wind          to that steep cliffed isle

 where Grim once had        his longhall and lands.

                    10th (c. 856)

 We got to the longhall       and were blithely greeted,

 till Grim welcomed              the boys of Berurjod.

 He gave Gusir’s Gifts         shared his arrows of gold,

 before I, the Nor’Way         whale road trod.

11th (c. 856)

 In spring I had heard          of the plan to raid

 the silver howes                  of the Bjarmiars;

 at once I told                        Sigurd and Gudmund

 I wanted to wander             the ‘Way with these warriors.

                    12th (c. 856)

 My two kinsmen                  were capable men,

 great leaders                       and warship captains;

 their brave crews                wanted to claim

 the silver offerings of          the Tyrfi-Finns.

                    13th (c. 856)

 In my Nor’Way ship            we made the crossing;

 Asmund and I were             Varangians now.

 we ravaged the Bjarmar     with fire and flame;

 and their slave led us         to the howe.

                    14th (c. 856)

 He showed us where         to find plunder,

 in that place                         we gathered a hoard;

 but that countryman saved        from being a slave,

 turned us in                          hoping for a reward.

                    15th (c. 856)

 The Bjarmians came,         quick to defend

 the silver howe,                   of their dead;

 we brought down                mighty warriors

 before the                 Tyrfi-Finns fled.

16th (c. 856)

 We quickly marched           down to our ships,

 but the slave brought         the Bjarmiars back;

 we traded their silver          and gold weapons,

 for our iron blades,             grey and black.

17th (c. 856)

 I quickly kindled                  a blaze in the forest,

 a burning beacon               upon the land;

 it brought back                     my two relatives

 and their ships,                    just as planned.

18th (c. 856)

 We saw splendid ships,     hasten to land,

 richly clad rowers                racing to shore,

 happy they were,                 it showed clearly,

 my kinsmen coming           to greet us more.

19th (c. 856)

 Forced to leave                   our lives to fortune,

 we let our ship                     sail it would where:

 we carried silver soil           in sacks on deck,

 river washed sacks of sand,    till we saw it not there.

20th (c. 856)

 We came upon an island    beyond steep cliffs

 in late summer,                    then reefed our sails;

 making haste we                 hauled up ships

 upon rollers and whisked    them onto trails.

21st (c. 856)

 We raised awnings,           and camped in our ships.

 With Gusir’s Gifts                I hunted dread bear;

 And on Varg island             we lit a good fire

 in the mouth                         of the dead bear.

22nd (c. 856)

 Then a giantess came        and threatened to throw us

 off of the island;                  and into the waves;

 I shot that giant through    the mouth of the bear

 right in the eyes                   and chased her to her caves.

23rd (c. 856)

 We feared none                  when we stayed there,

 we weren’t afraid                of anything;

 some of us stacked             on the cliff above

 a mighty log wall;                in a ring.

24th (c. 856)

 I went out hunting               with Gusir’s Gifts

 for the giants’ cave,             just to find strife;

 I shot in the eye                   the king of the trolls,

 but in the heart,                   I shot his wife.

25th (c. 856)

 There I got a byname,        that I craved,

 Arrow Odd through the      crags they wailed,

 Arrow Odd, Arrow Odd,      give him wind by god,

 and with a fair wind             we all sailed.

26th (c. 856)

 Some sailed back               Hrafnista bound,

 but Odd sailed upon,          the Nor’Way;

 through Permian lands      and Volga strands,

 to the Don and the              great Azov Bay.

27th (c. 856)

 In Tmutorokan                     Odd became a rich man,

 trading silver                        Bjarmiar swords;

 for their weight                    in gold, then

 he met Prince Hraerik,       the Gardariki lord.

28th (c. 857)

 On my way home                I met a vulture,

 it flew with me                      ‘cross Giantland,

 until it came to its                nest on the crag

 and let me rest                     with its chicks near at hand.

29th (c. 858)

 Then came Hildir                to save me,

 that giant enslaved me,      took me home,

 he let me stay                      for many months

 his daughter let                    my steed roam.

30th (c. 858)

 I helped Hildigunn              ride my steed,

 winsome girl,                        she rode it well.

 A fine brave son                  she carried for us,

 as I bartered my way          out of Giant hell.

31st (c. 858)

 I promised Hildir                  a big bear as a dog,

 and on Varg Island             he grabbed hold.

 The bear made him            king of Giantland,

 and next spring he              gave me much gold.

32nd (c. 859)

 The wealth that I made      in Bjarmia land,

 with my Nor’Way ship        gave me fame,

 but the Romans were         brewing up trouble

 in Khazaria                           once again.

33rd (c. 860)

 I was given a ship               called Fair Faxi,

 by my fathers both              foster and true.

 We followed the fleet          of King Hraelauger

 on the Mediterranean        blue.

34th (c. 860)

 Asmund and I and              our ship of youths

 saved lives while                fighting the Romans.

 Constantinople won’t fall   because of its wall,

 but the treaty we made      gave good omens.

35th (c. 861)

 We Varangians still            ruled the Nor’Way,

 but the Southern Way        fell to the Slavs.

 King Frodi lost Kiev,           retreated to Zealand,

 for refusing to stop              selling slaves.

36th (c. 861)

 In the Vik I met Gudrun,    she took my heart;

 Asmund met her sister,      Sigrid was his delight.

 Both were in the                  Freedom Movement,

 and brought us trouble,      when captives took flight.

37th (c. 861)

 We met Halfdan,                 a slaver at Elfar Skerries,

 many folk had he                murdered or enslaved;

 with three ships                   against his thirty,

 we cut him down                 and his captives we saved.

38th (c. 861)

 Back in the Vik                    we lingered,

 with our sisters                    of delight.

 They wore us down            just out of town,

 Then found us                     our next fight.

39th (c. 861)

 We next met Soti                a slaver off Skane,

 many folk had he                murdered or enslaved;

 with five ships this time      against thirty,

 we cut him down                 and his captives we saved.

40th (c. 861)

 Back in the Vik                    we lingered again,

 with our sisters                    of delight.

 They taught us things        to do with swings,

 Then found us                     our next fight.

41st (c. 861)

 We next sailed south         along the coast,

 all on watch for                    Hjalmar and Thord;

 searching for plunder,        in lives of men,

 we scoured the                    Elfar Skerry fjord.

42nd (c. 861)

 Found at last off                  the Swedish coast,

 two great champions,        Hjalmar and Thord;

 they soon asked                  which we’d rather,

 to fight or to choose           friendship as reward.

43rd (c. 861)

 We fought a bit                    then counselled together,

 Thord thought it foolish      fighting over our wealth;

 a band of Norse and          a band of Swedes thought

 to band together      seemed the best stealth.

44th (c. 861)

 But Hjalmar set some         Viking laws that all

 agreed to follow:                 No uncooked meats,

 no robberies,                        and on pain of death,

no women taken on ship    against their entreats.

45th (c. 861)

 We sailed our ships            to any shore

 that promised a                   chance of plunder;

 we fought in our ships,       chieftains or kings

 and tore other                      warships asunder.

46th (c. 862)

 Prince Hraerik of Gardariki    convinced the Slavs

 to call back the Hraes’       and King Frodi left Liere;

 but he wanted my head     in his hall,

 before going to Kiev,          before leaving here.

47th (c. 862)

 Raging and wrathful           when Frodi was gone,

 we went to Zealand,           found five berserks there;

 I killed the five                     with Gusir’s Gifts,

 and Hjalmar took                 the berserks’ six knarr.

48th (c. 863)

 We were in the Vik             when we heard the news:

 It came out of Angleland     came out of York,

 King Hraegunar ‘Lothbrok’     Sigurdson had died.

 There was talk of snakes,   there was talk of pork.

49th (c. 864)

 King Hraelauger of             Norway took me aside,

 and warned me that           King Frodi still wanted my head.

 He sent me away                to green Ireland to

 find Saint Brendan’s          Newfoundland instead.

50th (c. 864)

 We sailed from the Vik       west in speeding ships,

 across the Irish                    whale road, and

 when we went there,          the folk fled away,

 terrified, out of                     their houses they ran.

51st (c. 864)

 Exploring on land                were Asmund and I,

 when a bow did thrum          and an arrow did fly,

and it hit Asmund                 deep in the chest.

He died in my arms              and I asked myself why?

52nd (c. 864)

 I rushed along a                  wide wagon road,

 towards where the              arrows were doled;

 to have Asmund back        I’d give all my wealth,

 I would gladly give              all of my gold.

53rd (c. 864)

 I saw them at last,               the archers gathered,

 stout men standing             by their wives;

 so I showed all four             how to really shoot,

 and helped them to             lose their lives.

54th (c. 864)

 There I caught the hand      of Princess Olvor,

 and she promised me         a plate-mail shirt;

 that would keep me warm     and above water,

 and would keep me            from getting hurt.

55th (c. 864)

 Unlike a byrnie with            steel blue rings,

 ice cold about                      my iron sides;

 was on my flesh                  a padded silk shirt

 sewn with gold                     next to my hide.

56th (c. 864)

 I began my mission            for my king,

 And with Olvor I read            what Saint Brendan planned;

 she wanted to come           but her brothers were gone,

so I set off to find                 the newfound land.

57th (c. 864)

 In eight hundred                 and sixty four,

 we sailed across                 the ocean blue,

 New Ireland, Scotland,        and Angleland,

 Brendan’s newfound land     was true!

58th (c. 864)

 I met a native                       princess there,

 she helped me                     to explore,

 when I brought her             home with child,

 her kingly father      showed me the door.

59th (c. 864)

 Back in Ireland,                   Olvor had a girl,

 and Hraegunhild                 she was named.

 Olvor said after                    Hraegunar Lothbrok,

 my grandfather,                   she claimed.

60th (c. 864)

 We sailed south for             the Anglish Sea,

 in King Hraelauger’s          fleet of twenty ships.

 Looking for slavers             we found Skolli there,

 with forty ships but              no captives or whips.

61st (c. 864)

 He swore before                 eight witnesses,

 he was offshore to              avenge his kin,

 killed by King Edmond       for farming land.

 He was there to fight          and with help would win.

62nd (c. 864)

 Hjalmar and Thord              agreed with me,

 so we took the field            and battled three days

 before Edmond fell             and we made Skolli king.

 He gave us thanks             and we parted ways.

63rd (c. 865)

 Off King Frodi’s Danmar    we found our slavers,

 Hlodver and Haki setting   off to Kievan Hraes’.

 Ten ships came at us,        they had twenty more,

 but hard it was to send ten    to the eagles’ claw.

64th (c. 865)

 Out came twenty more,      warships all,

 chock full of warriors,         fearsome as hell.

 We weren’t after slavers    they were after us,

 we won but were so few    one ship served us well.

65th (c. 865)

 With Denmark after us,      we met Ogmund Eythjofsbane,

 half giant at Tronuvagar,   with two ships in full array,

 under black awnings          we fought all day ‘til only

 three of us remained,         and of them, nine sailed away.

66th (c. 865)

 Ogmund warned me           King Frodi wanted my head,

 and everyone around me    would wind up dead.

 Later we were crushed      to find Thord Prow-Gleam

 slain, and out his side          stuck Ogmund’s arrowhead.

67th (c. 865)

 We searched for Ogmund   but could find him not.

 In Uppsala the barrow        of Thord we built high;

 but back in Sweden           we found there was fear,

 Ingibjorg had been wooed   by Prince Angantyr.

68th (c. 865)

 Princess Ingibjorg loved    Hjalmar the Brave,

 but Angantyr and                eleven berserk brothers,

 bairns of Prince Arngrim    and Princess Eyfura,

 King Frodi’s daughter,       cursed her as promised to others.

69th (c. 865)

 Holmganger on Samsey    is what they challenged,

 we met the tainted              berserk brothers;

 and while Hjalmar               battled Angantyr,

 I killed eleven of the           coupler mothers.

70th (c. 865)

 But Angantyr was strong     and carried a poison snake,

 Tyrfingr, a famed blade,     a biter of the brave;

 it hacked Hjalmar’s byrnie     sent poison to his heart,

 but Hjalmar gave the prince      the death he so did crave.

71st (c. 865)

 Bury the berserk brothers    I did as we’d agreed,

 Tyrfingr with Angantyr,       blade gone gave some relief.

 Took Hjalmar to Sweden   and he shared his howe,

 with his Ingibjorg                 because she died of grief.

72nd (c. 866)

 King Frodi did not               take too long,

 after hearing his                  grandsons were dead,

 to attack Norway and         then Angleland.

 Before his armies                we all fled.

73rd (c. 866)

 Men thought me a gallant   warrior at the rain of spears,

 when battle sweat flowed    at the Bravellir bestad,

 and Stikla was shieldmaiden,    center of the wedge, when

 Odd the Way Wanderer     first led the Battle of Stiklastad.

74th (c. 866)

 The shield maiden, Stickla     was at my side, when

 I led an army in the             Nor’Way north and

 we stopped Ogmund          his foremost man,

 so after me they                  named Halogaland.

75th (c. 866)

 But in Angleland                 we couldn’t stop Frodi,

 his armies were too            great to withstand,

 we fled across the               Atlantean Sea,

 to try our luck in the            newfound land.

76th (c. 866)

 We sailed past                     New Ireland,

 we had no chance              to pause,

 we sailed up the                  Gitchee River,

 chased only by the             Kievan Hraes’.

77th (c. 866)

 We visited the village         of the Algonquin tribe,

 there I saw Watseka           and finally met our son,

her father, Ahanu                welcomed me inside,

I warned of King Frodi         coming to kill everyone.

78th (c. 866)

 We learned that the            Hraes’ of Tmutorokan

 sailed past New Scotia      to New Angleland;

the two fleets were               separated, so to

 attack the Kievan Hraes’   is what we planned.

79th (c. 866)

 We took the fight                to King Frodi,

 we almost kicked                his royal steed,

 we hid our ships,                 sank them in the Gitchee,

 and rowed our boats          for better speed.

80th (c. 866)

 We left them downriver,     the Kievan fleet of ships,

 but they gained on us,       on a Gitchee lake with squalls,

 it turned back into a river     before they could overtake,

 and then the fast river        became the Gitchee Falls.

81st (c. 866)

 Watseka and her people   met us at Nia Gara,

 and helped portage our boats    past the raging water walls.

 The Kievan fleet of Frodi     was not so nearly blessed,

 when gitchee dragonships     came against the Gitchee Falls.

82nd (c. 867)

 We wintered in                    the newfound land,

 Watseka and our son         showed me the Mississipp,

 and the valley                      of the mounds, then

 we raised our fleet              and made our return trip.

83rd (c. 867)

 Before we got to Europe,    we saw an island called Iceland,

 discovered by my Floki,     after our first trip to the west.

 There I found my son,        Vignir, I had with Hildigunn,

 And he told me where        Ogmund Eythjofsbane was at rest.

84th (c. 867)

 He said: ‘he’s waiting         at a newfound land fort,

 I can’t see him missing you,          being half warlock’.

 So back we went                to New Ireland,

 and we fought                     Ogmund Tussock.

85th (c. 868)

 Ogmund sent a whale       to destroy our ships,

 but Vignir steered us          through his beast.

 I clubbed his eight men      to death, for steel didn’t bite,

 but Ogmund killed Vignir     then ran for the east.

86th (c. 868)

 I visited with Olvor               in Ireland,

 and spent some time          with Hraegunhild,

 then went with kin               to Aquitane,

 and avenged a bishop       who was killed.

87th (c. 869)

 In Paris I visited a nun       famously saved from slavery,

 In Flanders she showed    me my half-brother,

 Norseman and the Nun,    none saw that one coming.

 In Rouen I was with Duke Rollo,     Norway’s Hraelauger.

88th (c. 869)

 Frankly, I found Frankia    boring as Christian hell,

 so Odin sent Raudgrani      to hone Odin’s hawk,

 he sent me the Vikings,     Gardar and Sirnir,

 To help fight Ogmund,       the fierce warlock.

89th (c. 870)

 In Angleland we found       a Finngalkin of his,

 and we killed the beast      with Gusir’s Gift well shot,

 then we searched for         Ogmund Eythjofsbane,

 and in Giantland                 we finally fought.

90th (c. 875)

 In Geirrodargard we           found him in shaggy cape,

 woven from the beards      of tributary Baltic kings.

 Warlock cloak we thought,    and giants came to aid him.

 Geirrod the giant fell first,    Gusir’s Gift death brings.

91st (c. 875)

But his wife, Geirrid,            then took Gardar’s life,

 so I shot her down              when Gusir’s Gifts twirled.

 Ogmund tried escaping     so I grabbed him by the beard,

 and ripped his face off       as he fled to the underworld.

92nd (c. 880)

 After, I thought it fitting      to take my brother, Baldwin,

 to Gardariki, so Hraerik      could meet his secret scion.

 As King Frodi of Kiev         was still looking for my head,

 I thought it best to go         via the Mediterranean.

93rd (c. 881)

 My life laying low                was again getting boring,

 So I planned once more      the Nor’Way to fare.

 I started by visiting             Duke Rollo in Rouen,

 and went by my name        of Bjorn Ironside there.

94th (c. 882)

 I went to Ireland to see      Olvor and Hraegunhild,

 I went to York to see          another Hraegunhild and bring

 Princess Blaeja bad news:    the curse of Hraegunar Lothbrok

 still endangered                  all AElla’s offspring.

95th (c. 884)

 I saw foster-father, Grim,     before I went to Giantland,

 with bad news for Hildir       and his daughter, Hildigunn.

 I had to tell her our son,     Vignir, died in Helluland

 at the hands of Ogmund      Tussock Geirrodson.

96th (c. 884)

 Hildir was angered,             and Hildigunn was hurt.

 She still loved me she said    so we played games,

 childish games, and she      watered my steed at her

 well of life and we               talked of daughter’s names.

97th (c. 884)

 I told her that I wanted to   Way Wander for a while,

 and search for Ogmund    as I kept Nor’Way slaver free.

 Since my head was wanted          by the king of Gardar,

 she sewed a birchbark suit,      so people couldn’t see me.

98th (c. 884)

 I went to Gardariki,             got stone arrows from Jolf,

 I knew Sigurd and Sjolf      thought they were the best;

 they knew not who I was     when I said I was Barkman,

 so in Olmar’s highseat hall        they put me to the test.

99th (c. 884)

 I shot bow better                  than those two hunters,

 as Ingjald and Ottar            gathered up my deer;

 then I outswam                    those two swimmers,

 and Olmar’s daughter,       Silkisif, gave a cheer.

100th (c. 884)

 Prince Hraerik returned       from Novgorod, when

 they challenged me             to a bragarful.

 I outdrank them both          as we recited our tales,

 Mine were bright                 and theirs were dull.

101st (c. 884)

 I asked King Olmar,            grandfather of the Prince,

 If Hraerik and Gunwar       had a baby and he said yes, just one.

 So I told him I was              Helgi Bjorn Arrow Odd,

 Prince Hraerik’s                   long lost son.

102nd (c. 884)

 I asked King Olmar             to help me tell the Prince

 that I was his long lost son,      and he was spellbound.

 Back in Frankia, my uncle,               Duke Rollo told me that

 Prince Alf, King Frodi’s son,    had a fleet snooping around.

103rd (c. 885)

 The trading season done,   King Frodi led a fleet to Rouen,

 three hundred ships strong,          and all well-equipped.

 We took our ships up the   Seine and rowed right past Paris,

 We tried to warn the Franks,    but the gate locks were tripped.

104th (c. 885)

 King Frodi and Prince Alf  laid siege to the city of Paris,

 Hraegunar Lothbrok           sacked the city forty years past,

 so now it had high walls    of stone to keep the raiders out.

 But the Kievan Hraes’        and Danes were twenty thousand vast.

105th (c. 885)

 King Charles and Count Oddo    had two hundred fighting men,

 so they were more              accepting of our help,

 when they had gone           through half of them,

 so wintering in Paris,          were Duke Rollo and his whelp.

106th (c. 885)

 King Frodi grew concerned    about the men upon the walls,

 for no matter how many died,    their numbers never fell,

 so, come spring trading,    he returned to Konogard

 with the Kievan Hraes’       merchant fleet from hell.

107th (c. 886)

 I told my Duke of Rouen     that my blood snake had a lust,

 And my dragon wished to travel       along the Southern Way.

 Fair Faxi was a ship of men    at the quay of Kiev, when

 I wounded Ogmund Tussock    and King Frodi I did slay.

108th (c. 886)

 I fled the quay of Konogard      as fast as oars could row,

 and ran the Dnieper rapids      in a ship, the first time ever,

 then we sailed to my father      in Gardariki, Tmutorokan,

 and told the Prince             the king was dead forever.

109th (c. 887)

 I travelled to Baghdad        still laying low, then west

 until I reached the               City of Jerusalem, unnerved

 I was taken to the water,      dipped in the River Jordan,

 and then I saw clear how      Christ might best be served.

110th (c. 887)

 In Gardariki, I asked           Prince Hraerik how I might best

 earn the right to ask for      the hand of King Olmar’s Silkisif.

 He told me to finish            what I had started in Kiev,

 to end King Frodi’s             son, King Alf, end the bloody tiff.

111th (c. 887)

 I was given a legion           of Tmutorokan Cataphracts,

 and we went to war on Kiev and King Alf.

 His son, Prince Vidgrip,       sallied forth to meet us;

 I took his head         and captured his army myself.

112th (c. 887)

 Felled by my sword             were many a warrior

 when we fought Alf             before the Kievan gates;

 I shot Alf Bjalki there                      with three stone arrows,

 I beat the gate beams        with stones of great weights.

113th (c. 887)

 Queen Gydja used magic     to defend her gates,

 she shot arrows from each finger    just as Alf had done,

 she fled into a temple         and I stoned her from the roof,

the Kievan Hraes’ fought well    but finally we won.

114th (c. 887)

 We returned to Gardariki,      to find the king was dead,

 so Prince Hraerik offered       me her hand instead;

 I married Princess Silkisif      King Olmar’s daughter,

 And together we ruled,      all Hraes’ we led.

115th (c. 888)

 But with all the men lost     in all of the fighting,

 we couldn’t hold Kiev,        it fell to the Poljane,

 and the Slavs who              fought against slavery

 trusted us not, and who can    blame them, the Danae.

116th (c. 890)

 We worked out a deal        to share Kiev with the Slavs,

 and end slaver traffic          on the Southern Way journey,

 but a new king had arisen     in the north called Quillanus,

 so I with an army went       and had a jousting tourney.

117th (c. 890)

 Quillanus, like Frodi,           wore a mask upon his face,

 we competed for three days    and jousted to a draw,

 so we agreed to part our ways    but first I had to see his face,

 and when he showed it      Ogmund Tussock is who I saw.

118th (c. 890)

 Instantly the war was on,   and his vassal kings fell to me:

King Marron of Murom        and King Rodstaff of Rostov

 King Eddval of Sursdal      and Paltes Junior of Holmgard,

Prince Kaenmar of Kiev,     and Prince Chermal of Chernigov.

119th (c. 890)

 But again I couldn’t beat    Ogmund Eythjofsbane Tussock,

 the half giant, Geirrodson,     he was my nemesis.

 He gained the name           Quillanus Blaze,

 all of Novgorod                    was his.

120th (c. 890)

 Quillanus sent me               gifts of gold and

 took Staraya Russa,           leaving Novgorod free,

 sent offerings of peace,       and he told me he was,

Vadim the Brave,             that was good enough for me.

121st (c. 896)

 Silkisif gave me a son,       Asmund he was named,

 and Prince Hraerik and      Princess Eyfura had a son.

 They named him Eyfur        after her, and all lived in Kiev,

 while I ruled in Gardariki,     Silkisif gave me another one.

122nd (c. 907)

 In nine oh seven we laid      siege to Constantinople,

 Fighting Romans for our    trading rights, we portaged ships

 around their harbour chain,    tacked a treaty to their gates,

 which they signed, it kept      our, slave and duty free, trips.

123rd (c. 911)

 In nine eleven we laid siege    to the Romans once again.

 Without slaves to row their ships,   they kidnapped our men it seems,

 our ships that foundered     on their Black Sea shores,

 soon found our sailors rowing    in the bellies of their triremes.

124th (c. 911)

 The siege was amicable,     for a siege, that is,

 trading carried on still,        while dragons belched their fire.

 Finally, after weeks,            our men were released,

 And maritime laws              to which all nations could aspire.

125th (c. 911)

 After the siege                     I told Silkisif,

 I wanted to return                to Hrafnista and get,

 the wealth I had buried      there, and see who lorded,

 over my family’s                  northernmost islet.

126th (c. 911)

 I went up the Nor’Way       in Fair Faxi and a knarr,

 And I tracked down            the dwarf Durin, and told him

 who I was, and thanked    him for helping my mother, Gunwar,

 he told me I was Hraerikson,    a well-earned patronym.

127th (c. 911)

Next, I went to Varg isle      and visited Giantland, where

 my Hildigunn had a baby     and she called her Hraegunhild,

 after my grandfather          and her father, King Hilder,

she was beautiful and         we were thrilled.

128th (c. 911)

 Next was Hrafnista,             and I met Gudmund there,

 we dug up all my treasure     and I shared it with my friends,

 we feasted for a fortnight,     then people brought me gifts,

 we loaded up the knarr      with silver, gold and gems.

129th (c. 911)

 Then I visited Olvor,            in lovely Ireland,

 and saw my daughter        Hraegunhild, all grown,

 and then I went to Frankia     to see a nun in Paris,

 her Baldwin in Flanders    and Duke Rollo in Rouen.

130th (c. 912)

 Next, I stopped in York      to see Princess Blaeja there,

 her Hraegunhild was          all grown up, but she had

 a young son, Hraegunar,    that looked a lot like me,

 I called him Little Ironside    he was a happy lad.

131st (c. 912)

 In spring we sailed to         Jaederen Province,

 and I saw Berurjod             and Hraegunarstead,

 they were deserted             and destroyed, so I left

 a crew to do repairs,           bring them back from the dead.

132nd (c. 912)

 On down to the fjord,          on the eroded bank,

 I saw Faxi’s greying skull    where Asmund and I had

 so deeply buried her,         to see if a snake was there,

 but nothing showed at all,     Heid’s prophesy was bad.

133rd (c. 912)

 So we headed off to           the quay of Konogard,

 My father waited for me     with his bride and youngest son,

 Queen Eyfura and Prince Eyfur,    but her grand-daughter, Hervor,

 slunk onto the dock with     Tyrfingr in her homespun.

134th (c. 912)

 She lashed out with            the poisoned blade,

 and I knocked her down,    but as she fell,

 she nicked my leg with      the blood-snake, Tyrfingr,

 its poison’s in my body,      my blood doth start to jell.

135th (c. 912)

 My father offered to            amputate my leg,

 but I just said no,                 the poison’s going to my head,

 I just saw Angantyr,            he warned his daughter,

 about the blade and           tells me she’ll soon be dead.

136th (c. 912)

 He’s asked me for a favour    to bring her to Valhall,

 my shield maid can enter    the warrior’s paradise,

 she can watch us battle,      then bring us our sweet mead,

 Asmund’s there, he does swear,    I see it and it’s nice.

137th (c. 912)

 I know I took the faith         of Christianity,

 but I had fingers crossed     when in waters they dipped me.

 Promise me young Hervor,   for you are soon to die,

 you’ll come with me to Valhall    in a burial at sea.

138th (c. 912)

 I bid you farewell father     and love you in my heart,

 And love you Prince Ivar,     Eyfura, you’d your chore.

 To Silkisif send love           and to my sons also,

 send them all my greetings,    I’ll go there no more.”

“Angantyr came to you?” Princess Eyfura came up close.  Prince Hraerik was transferring Oddi onto a great bearskin one of his men had laid upon the dock.

“Yes.  He came to me and added a bit of verse,” Oddi said weakly.  “Angantyr wants me to bring Hervor to Valhall with me.”  While Hraerik and Eyfura were attending to Oddi, Hervor was tearing off her clothing and she laid herself naked beside Oddi.  She hugged him and tried to be him and she whispered, “I shall treat you so fine in Valhall, this I promise.”  Prince Hraerik could see a grey pallor to the skin of Hervor and it was a grey he had seen before.  He knew she was not long for this world.

Oddi took Hervor under his arm.  “Finally,” he said, “a shield maiden to my liking,” and she hugged him.  “If you ever go to Ireland, Father,” Oddi began, “could you stop and visit with my wife and daughter in Dublin?  Tell them both I love them and was thinking about them at the end.”

“Anything else?” Hraerik asked, as more wine was poured.

“Yes.  Give my scale mail shirt to little Ivar when he gets old enough to fit it.  It has saved my life more than once.  Sigurd Hrae and Hraegunar left it with the king of Ireland and I got it from his daughter.”

Oddi’s forty picked men sat about, watched and listened.  They all knew they were witnessing a most famous death, a death foretold.

“Your brother, King Hraelauger figured the prophecy out,” Oddi said weakly as he savoured the wine as if it might be his last.  “When the witch Heid foretold your future, Father, she said your son would die from the bite of a poison snake that crawled out below the skull of Fair Faxi.  Because Hraegunar was in the room with you, everyone thought she was talking to him and that the son was you.  When I was twelve, you and Grim gave me your ship, Fair Faxi, and that same witch foretold that I would die from the bite of a poison snake below the skull of Faxi.  In Heid’s first foretelling, she was talking to you, father, not to Hraegunar.  It is your son dying under the skull of Fair Faxi.”  And Oddi looked up at his ship and laughed, bravely.  “Tyrfingr, your arrow of the gods, is that poisoned blood-snake that crawled out under the skull of Faxi.  I am, indeed, dying below its weathered skull.  It has all been preordained.  Fate is all.  Of the great things we have done, this will be the most famed.”  Oddi laughed again, but then he coughed and then coughed up blood.  He quickly drank more wine and this time it was his last.  Below the skull of Fair Faxi, from a poisoned blood-snake bite, he died.

Hervor was crying at Oddi’s side and Princess Eyfura was trying to console her.  She got up, naked, and began walking back up the quay toward the main gates of Kiev and when Eyfura followed and tried to cover up Hervor with a blanket, she pushed it away.  Hraerik had his men carry Oddi’s body into the hall and laid him out on his highseat and covered him with the blanket.  He went to Hervor, standing naked in the hall and he stroked her hair.  “Where is the scabbard?” he asked gently.  “We must sheath Tyrfingr.  The water will shield us from its poison, but it is still dangerous.”

“The scabbard is in my room under my bed,” Hervor blurted.  Hraerik and Eyfura led the shield maiden to her room and Hraerik recovered the scabbard while Eyfura put Hervor to bed.  Hraerik went out to the dock and into the river to sheathe Tyrfingr.  The blade glowed dangerously until he got it in the leaden scabbard.  Trapped under the bones of Angantyr, the blade’s power had grown.

“Quiet, child,” Princess Eyfura whispered, as she tucked Hervor into bed.  “We wanted revenge and we got it.”

“But he died so bravely, grandmother.  And I feel so bad.  It’s all so sad.”

“It was our duty to avenge our fathers.  And we did it.  I’m proud of you, Hervor,” she said, hugging the girl.

Later, in bed, Hraerik told Eyfura that he suspected Hervor may have been overly exposed to Tyrfingr’s poison.

“How overly?” Eyfura asked.        

 “She will likely be dead in two days.”

“I don’t know what caused her to do all that,” Eyfura said.  “Angantyr’s sword.  The lightning bolt painted on her face.  She stained her body grey.  It’s all so sad.”  She rolled over and went to sleep.

Hraerik watched the beauty of her form as moonlight filtered into the room.  The faint light glistened on her shoulder and followed along her side, dipping under the blankets to her waist and thrusting up to follow the curve of her hip then tapering down her shapely legs.  Perfection in form…if not in substance.  He wondered how much of the blade Eyfura had been exposed to. 

Duke Rollo of Normandy woke up in a sweat.  His wife was beside him asleep.  He listened for the sound that had awakened him.  It came again….a low whisper of wind, a sound without effort, but, still, a sound.  He rose out of bed and wrapped a robe about himself.  It was spring but it was still unseemingly cold.  He went to the door that led to the balcony and he opened it a crack.  Her figure seemed a wisp of smoke, beautiful as ever.  She never seemed to age.  Always as young as she had been when she’d fallen in battle.  The moonlight caught up in her hair and she looked toward him.  He hadn’t seen her in years.  He was married now, with children, but it mattered not.  He shifted the door and slipped out on the cold stone deck.

“He is dead you know,” she said.  “My son is dead.”

“I know.  I had a dream of his death,” Rollo replied, then checked himself.  “Was this still the dream?” he thought.

“Angantyr’s daughter, Hervor, cut him with the blade, Tyrfingr, and its poison killed him under the skull of Fair Faxi, as prophesied.”

“It was preordained,” Rollo responded, as if those words might help.

But they didn’t help, so he held her as she cried.  He stood and he held her for hours and he cried with her and he kept holding her as if he held her long enough, she would stay.  In the morning, Duke Rollo’s wife told him he had been sleep walking, that she found him standing on the balcony, frozen and shivering and wet and she’d led him back to bed.

Two days after Oddi’s death, Hervor joined him.  She had bequeathed her only possession, Tyrfingr, to her son.  Hraerik prepared a great feast and funeral for his son and Oddi and Hervor were burned together in Fair Faxi on the Dnieper River in a stone ship burial at sea.  Two months later, Prince Hraerik left for Gardariki and Princess Eyfura and Prince Ivar remained in Kiev to rule in her father, King Frodi’s name.

The Saga of Helgi ‘Arrow Odd’ Hraerikson      .

The End               .

To be Continued in:              .

The Varangians, Book 3, “The Saga of Ivar ‘The Boneless’ Hraerikson”