Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert
(Circa 861 AD)
Oddi had Gudrun use her connections in the Vik to get a location on Halfdan’s raiding fleet while he sailed up the Nor’Way to get help and asked Gudmund and Sigurd, his kinsmen at Hrafnista, if they would like to raid against a very bad Viking named Halfdan. He explained that Halfdan was a raider who had begun to pillage the Nor’Way coast, taking captives without affording them the opportunity of ransom. He then told his foster-father Grim that they needed one more ship to complement their three and he promoted his blood-brother, Asmund, to captain of the fourth vessel.
Grim, a very wealthy and capable man, took charge and soon had all ships ready. “Now, would you have any idea,” Oddi asked, “where I might find this Viking?”
Grim said, “Halfdan anchors in the east, off Elfar Skerries, but he has thirty ships.”
“I’m sorry I asked for that fourth ship,” Odd apologized, “when three were all we needed.”
They sailed south round Norway and entered the Vik to confirm Halfdan’s location with Gudrun and then they sailed south down the coast of Skane and when they came to the Elfar Skerries they anchored their ships, for Halfdan was nearby. Once they had pitched their tents, Oddi went off in Fair Faxi with Asmund and a few others to where the Vikings were moored. Oddi saw a huge dragonship in the fleet and he called out to the ship and asked who the commander was. A sailor lifted up the ship’s awnings, “Halfdan is the name of this fleet’s leader, but who asks?”
“He is called Arrow Odd,” Asmund shouted in reply.
“Are you the Arrow Odd who went to Bjarmaland?”
“I have been there,” shouted Oddi, nonchalantly.
“What is your errand here?” Halfdan questioned.
“I want to know why you raid the Nor’Way coast, taking captives without affording them the opportunity of ransom” said Oddi. “It is contrary to Viking customary law.”
“I captain for King Frodi of Denmark and I’ll do as I please!”
“Unless you release all your captives, prepare for a naval engagement.”
“How many ships have you got?” Halfdan said.
“We have three vessels,” said Oddi, “all big dragonships with a hundred and twenty men aboard each, and we will be here tomorrow to meet with you.”
“I think we’ll sleep soundly despite that,” laughed Halfdan.
Oddi and Asmund and their crew rowed Fair Faxi back to their own Vikings and told them what had happened.
“Why’d you have to tell Halfdan we had three big dragonships,” Gudmund complained, “when all we have are little Nor’Way ships. They’re gonna laugh when they see us coming.”
“I know that it seems like we will have our hands full,” said Oddi, “but I have a plan on how we’ll deal with Halfdan. First-off, the majority of the ships in his fleet are merchant vessels and they looked to be full of captives so we don’t have to worry about those ships attacking us. Secondly, only three of his ships are actually warships. So, we’ll beach our cargo to make our ships lighter, and we’ll cut down some trees, the largest and most leafy we can find, and we’ll put two on the foredecks of two ships, and two on the aftdecks of the other two,” and so they did. When they were ready, Oddi said: “I want you, Gudmund and Sigurd, to take your ships and board the dragonship from our left and Asmund and I will attack it with our ships from the right. We want to take out Halfdan before his other ships can engage.”
“But you told Halfdan,” Asmund started, “that we only have three ships.”
“I lied,” Oddi confessed. “Three on thirty sounds better, but at these odds, I think we’d best use all four.” And everybody agreed.
Oddi and his men quietly rowed toward Halfdan’s ships which were anchored down the inlet. Halfdan saw four small ships approaching all green and covered with trees, when he was expecting three large dragonships. He watched the leafy ships approaching almost lazily and gave no orders to his fleet, sitting dead in the water. Oddi gauged their distance from Halfdan’s dragonship to be just right, then ordered his men to start rowing hard and the four ships leaped out of the water and began a rush for the flagship. They soon flanked the huge dragonship, and grappling hooks were thrown and lines were let and the smaller ships were soon towing the dragonship along with them, but one grappling hook let go and Sigurd’s ship shot forward and away from the pack. Lines were cut and the trees all fell free from the rigging and the trunks crashed against the topstrakes of the dragonship and the men of Hrafnista dropped out of the leafy branches like red and yellow leaves in a fall breeze and they hit the deck running, taking the Vikings by surprise, and they beat at the Vikings through their tent awnings. Oddi and Asmund battled so ferociously that they had the dragonship cleared as far as the quarterdeck before Halfdan even got to his feet, and they slew him there on the quarterdeck, and then Oddi gave the survivors two choices, they could keep fighting or they could give up their captives, but they took the latter and surrendered.
Oddi had his men free all captives on the ships and put their Viking raiders into chains on one lone merchant ship and sent them off to Denmark. Then he had some of his men join the captives aboard their merchant ships and they all sailed back to the Vik, where Gudrun and Sigrid awaited them at her father’s farm on the coast. There they sorted through the captives and gave all the Angles one ship and all the Saxons another and the Irish a third and fourth and they did the same for the Skanians and the Swedes and Goths and lastly their fellow Norse who had been kidnapped from their homes along the Nor’Way. Oddi used the some of the gold that the giant, Hilder, had given him to provide the freed captives with provisions for their return to their homelands.
They held a great feast for the freed captives that night on the beach and they used the worst of the slaver ships as fuel for a great bonfire. Oddi took the lead dragonship into his possession and a second dragonship as well, but all the other ships either went to the freed captives or were fed to the flames. He gave a share of Halfdan’s treasure to each of the captives and he kept the lead dragonship for himself and called it Halfdan’s Gift. He gave the second dragonship to Asmund, who called it Halfdan’s Shadow.
Gudrun was elated that so many people had been saved. Oddi and Asmund stayed with Gudrun and Sigrid just outside of the Vik because they didn’t want King Hraelauger to know what they were up to.
In the morning, after all the freed had sailed off, Oddi asked Gudrun, “Where can we find a slaver who is truly bad?” and Gudrun said, “I have already looked into it and Soti is the name of a powerful Viking, and he lies south of Skane. He too has thirty ships. I would recommend using more than just three this time.”