Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert
CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR
THE INDUS VALLEY TRADE ROUTE (Circa 938-939 AD)
“King Liere made you make him king?” Princess Helga asked Ivar incredulously.
“King Liere didn’t make me make him king,” Prince Ivar corrected his first wife. “He made me wait to make young Gorm king. He warned me what could happen if you turn over the reins too soon.”
“But you didn’t have to turn over the reign at all,” Helga insisted.
“I had to make him king. If I didn’t, some Danish prince from some other kingly line would murder him and claim the crown for himself. That is the way it works in Denmark. There are more kings than crowns.”
“So now Queen Blaeja gets to stay queen and I’m demoted to princess?” Helga asked incredulously.
“Queen Mother Blaeja,” Ivar corrected. “Gorm’s new wife, Thyra is now queen. We have to keep the Snake King alive if our plans are to reach fruition. You know that as well as I do. You will always be my queen. Now come back to bed. We need a son now, more than ever.”
Helga approached the bed and slipped under the silk sheets and slid towards Ivar’s waist, catching his steed in her mouth and tasting him and she could taste herself upon him and she enjoyed the melded taste for a while, then she slid up his chest and she mounted him. She rode his steed and she dreamed of a son, a Swine King who would take back the crown of Denmark. Ivar dreamed of a son too, but only in the sense that sex was better when making a child and sex was best when making a son. He exploded within her and he could swear he saw a son in the spirit of her eyes.
While Prince Ivar was in Kiev, troops began arriving from his far-flung empire. Jarl Biorn and Captain Sihtric arrived from Angleland with the York fleet and the Bamburgh legionnaires, warriors of the Ui Imair of Ireland followed, Norman cataphracts from Rouen soon arrived, Norwegians from Southmore to Halogaland came and King Halfdan’s picked Swedish troops arrived last. Ivar’s Danish contingent had sailed with the merchant fleet and the Kievan Hraes’ legions were already standing ready in Kiev. Ivar welcomed his captains and lieutenants into King Frodi’s palace as he sat upon his shield between four of the largest men any of them had ever seen. Ivar leaned out from between his bearers and gave each a hug, patting them on the back as they entered. “Come join me on my highseat,” he said to Biorn and Sihtric, as refreshments arrived. Princess Helga shared the first highseat with Ivar and his daughter, Hraegunhild and her husband shared the third highseat. He seated the Norman, Norse and Swedish officers on his guest highseats. “The rest of you, be seated at those benches,” Ivar said, pointing out tables to the different groups as they arrived at the hall.
“The Romans have been threatening to add a ten percent tithe to the tax free contract we have with them,” Ivar began explaining. “Historically, it has always taken a demonstration of our military might to keep the Romans in line and our Southern Way tithe free. General Sun Wu shall be training all of our troops while the merchant fleets are in Baghdad and Constantinople, but once the merchant fleet begins returning early from Constantinople, we shall lead our troops and fleet into the Black Sea and begin attacking the Roman lands down the western coast, beginning by looting Constanza, then plundering Messembria and ending our attack at the walls of Constantinople. By then the Romans are usually quite willing to agree to a treaty more to our liking.”
Then the feasting began. Prince Ivar had not explained that the Khazars, under direction of the Romans, had taken control of the mouth of the Kuma River where it flowed into the Caspian Sea, or that Prince Hraerik and the Tmutorokan Hraes’ were already constructing a new set of portage stations between the Rioni and Kura Rivers to provide a new route to Baghdad. But until the portage was completed, the merchant fleet to the Caliphate would have to use the Halys and Euphrates River portage to get to Baghdad and that route was through Roman lands and under Roman tythe.
Once again Sihtric became Prince Ivar’s right hand man, with Biorn at his left, on the spring sailing to the Caliphate of Baghdad. Sihtric pointed out the Pechenegs to Biorn, the warriors who ran the portages around the Dnieper rapids and the women who ran the Khazar Vayar runs south of the rapids and then, on the plains further south, the great herds of Pecheneg horse and cattle and sheep and the wild hordes of Pecheneg horsemen who rode about threateningly. And on the Black Sea coast Biorn saw the huge city of Cherson on the Crimean peninsula and then they were joined by a thousand more ships from Gardariki before they sailed straight south across the Black Sea to the mouth of the Halys River. The area was highly populated by the Greeks of the Eastern Roman Empire and there was panic among the citizens as they watched the approach of thousands of Hraes’ merchant ships, which were quite similar in looks to the Varangian warships that accompanied them. As the Hraes’ ships swept past the Roman border guards, all knew that the emperor would soon learn of the merchant invasion.
There was a long portage between the Halys and Euphrates Rivers and there were Greek portage stations at the ends of both rivers that had to be paid in Roman gold Byzants. Prince Ivar told the Greeks running the stations that he would pay them double for their services on the way back. He wanted to make sure they would still be there on the return trip, in case they were needed. Prince Hraerik had already sent messengers down the Kura River to let the Caliph’s Araks River portage station managers know that the Hraes’ merchant fleet would not be using that route on their southern sailing. But if he got the Kura River portage running over the summer, they might be using it in the fall return trip.
Once they were in Baghdad, Prince Ivar met up with Rajan of Gujarat at the palace of the Caliph. There they made arrangements for a direct sailing of Danish, Swedish and Anglish merchant ships to the Indian province of Gujarat after they had completed two weeks of trade in Baghdad. The rest of the Hraes’ merchant fleet, the Irish, the Scottish, the Anglish, the Normans, the Norse, the Gothic and the Novgorod, Kievan and Tmutorokan Hraes’ would remain trading in the Caliphate all summer under the command of Sihtric and Biorn. Select traders from the Hraes’ merchant fleet had already crossed the Caspian Sea for Khwarizm and the Silk Road trade of Cathay under the auspices of Prince Hraerik and his portage forging army.
After two successful weeks of trading in Baghdad, Prince Ivar and his fleet of two hundred ships followed the forty dhow merchant ships of Prince Rajan down the Euphrates to the Persian Gulf and sailed down the gulf to the Port of Dilman. It was contentious sailing, because the Indian dhows were single masted lateen rigged sailing ships that could tack better than the Viking longships could in a crosswind, but were essentially dead in the water when there was no wind, while the longships were well equipped for rowing under the calm conditions they were experiencing. Finally, it was agreed that ropes would passed out from the dhows to the longships and two of the latter would tow each of the former, as much to give the Varangians something to do as to speed up travel. The merchant knars of Ivar’s fleet managed to keep up with the pace. They took on water and supplies at Dilman Bahrain then sailed to the Port of Zara Dubai where they crossed over to the north side of the gulf and then followed the coast of the Indian Ocean to the Gulf of Khambhat in Gujarat Province. They arrived at the City of Ashaval and the dhows berthed at the quays while the Viking longships were hauled up along the east bank of the river that ran through it. Prince Rajan had a Jat palace near the river so Prince Ivar had his men set up the ship awnings and camp around their vessels while he joined Raj in a welcoming feast in the palace. Beautiful Jat women prepared food for the Varangians on the beach as Ivar watched from the heights of the palace and it did not look like they planned on coming back. After the feast Raj showed Ivar to his suite and there were two young girls in the bedroom making up the bed. “They come with the room,” Raj offered, “should you wish. And if your attendants need women…”
“They are fine,” Ivar said. “They shall secure the suite. The balcony has a view of the beach?”
“Yes,” Raj answered. “You can monitor your camp from here and the girls, though virgins, have been trained and apprised of your…tastes. If you need anything, just tell the girls and I will see to it,” Raj said, as he left the suite. “You’ll find that most Jats speak Persian.”
Ivar thanked him and had his men set his shield upon the bed and posted them outside the bedroom door. The two young women had long black hair, slender frames and cinnamon skin and one brought Ivar wine as the other warmed his bed. Ivar found that the girls had indeed been trained and seemed to like it rough, or at least gave that impression. Once the girls were sleeping, Ivar had two of his men come into the bedroom and carry him on his shield out onto the balcony so he could watch his ships beached on the riverbank. He saw that guards surrounded the ships as he had ordered and that some of the men were still up drinking, but most were under awnings with the women that had brought them food and remained to feast with them. Ivar marvelled at how things seemed to work in India. He shook his head and made a mental note to ask Raj about it. Ivar had his men carry him back to the bedroom and he woke one of the girls, but only the one.
The next day Ivar accompanied Prince Rajan to some of the markets of Ashaval and they determined which Hraes’ products would sell better in which venues. They had specialty furs such as sables, ermines and fox, amber and coloured glass, weapons and armour and, of course, slaves. The Fenja and Menja of the northern lands. And Ivar checked out the markets for products he wanted to buy, spices such as black pepper, turmeric and saffron, mascara and ointments, brightly dyed silks and cotton fabrics, musical instruments and mathematical books for his father and the Alchemists of Tmutorokan.
“I’d like to send ships upriver to source further product,” Ivar said to Raj. “When we buy in bulk we like to go to the source.” They were sitting at a table on the balcony of Ivar’s suite drinking a herbal broth of Cathay called tea.
“All products for export come to the ports here,” Raj explained. “It is how the Maharajas keep track of the required tithes.”
“You know how we feel about tithes,” Ivar started. “We don’t even pay tithes to the Caliph of Baghdad.”
“Yes. I know,” Raj began. “I don’t know how you did that,” he added, but he knew all about Ivar’s matched Irish and Anglish virgin slave girls. “It is quite an accomplishment.”
“Is that why my men were plied with slave girls last night?” Ivar asked. “To get us to accept your tithes?”
“Oh no!” Raj exclaimed. “Those weren’t slave girls. They are all women of the highest castes in the city! Some of them are the wives of our foremost merchant princes. As I told you in Baghdad, we follow the same religion. We are Vanir and you are Aesir. All Aesir are Bhramans. Your men are all princes here. Your presence here in Ashaval gives we Jats much power as a caste. You, yourself, being a king, a Bhraman of Bhramans, are held in the highest regard. The young girls you slept with last night are princesses from Ashaval. If you found them acceptable we would like to introduce you to princesses from throughout Gujarat Province. Two more tonight, virgins, of course, unless you wish more.”
“I am no longer a king,” Ivar confessed. “I gave my crown to my son in Denmark.”
“You will always be a king,” Raj stated. “Here we do that all the time. You are a Maharaja Pater, a king father. We have the same problem you face in Jutland, our name for your Denmark, too many princes and only crown.”
“King Father Ivar. It makes me sound old.”
“My son makes me feel old,” Raj said. “I watch him do all the things I did in my youth and it tells me I’m getting old. He shall be entertaining you next year, should you find it acceptable. I will not be here.”
“Where will you be?”
“After we meet in Baghdad, I would like to go north and visit your son in Jutland, if that would be acceptable to you. It is a pilgrimage to the heart of the Aesir. It will make me a Bhraman of Bhramans.”
“A great prince?” Ivar asked.
“Yes. A maharaja. Prince of princes.”
“You are welcome to visit Denmark,” Ivar said. “Jutland is the western half of Denmark. My son is King Gorm of Denmark and his queen is Thyra from Jelling in Jutland. She is a fine queen. My wife is Queen Mother Blaeja in Liere, a city in the eastern half of Denmark.”
Ivar told Rajan that he would send messengers to Denmark telling his son to expect an embassy from India. He also offered to leave some of his most knowledgeable men behind to teach embassy members how to speak Norse and how to follow Heathen customs, the help of which Rajan kindly accepted. That night, at another feast, Prince Ivar played the Head Ransom song as requested once again by his host and when he retired, there were two young princesses awaiting his companionship. India was turning out to be a life experience he had not expected. New methods of trade, a deeper understanding of his religion and expanded expressions of lust. Ivar knew he would have no problems finding volunteers to stay in India and teach the prince, but he wasn’t sure if he would ever get his volunteers to come back.
As summer progressed, the Hraes’ merchants found more and more merchandise to take back north for sale in Europe. Saddles worth a king’s ransom, swords of the most bizarre configurations, books of science and mathematics and of sex. And as Ivar learned more and more about India and its caste system, he could see a pattern of conquests that had developed over millennia and he could see that same pattern developing in Europe as well. He knew from his history studies that the Romans had gods that were related to the Norse tripartite pantheon, but, like the Indian gods, they seemed to be Vanir, not Aesir in origin. When the Romans conquered Gaul and Britain, they became the upper caste over the Celts, just as when the Norse tribes conquered the Celts of Germany, they became the overlords there. Then the upper caste Romans and Norse began to fight each other in the forests of Germany and they both found their matches and it became a war of attrition that the Romans eventually lost. When the Angles, Saxons and Jutes attacked Britain, the Romans withdrew and the Britons were conquered anew but, had they stayed, the new conquerors would have become the new upper caste over the Roman caste that would have remained over the Britons. Even now a new group called Danes were establishing themselves over the Angles of England in the Danelaw. The Saxons sensed that they were next and, so, fought hard to avoid becoming a lower caste. Ivar realised that he had given up northern Angleland just to have the opportunity to develop trade with India, only to learn from the Indians that it was his family’s destiny to conquer England. And the sons of Hraegunar Lothbrok would not be denied.
When the time came to return to Baghdad, there was not a Norseman in India that wanted to leave. Trading was good, the feasting was better and the women were the best of all. Prince Ivar had no problems finding volunteers to overwinter in a land that had no winter and Prince Rajan even found two Indian Alchemists that were willing to join the Alchemists’ Guild in Tmutorokan and several Indian merchants that wanted to travel to Kiev. Parting was sorrowful and there was nothing sweet about it, but Ivar and Raj bid their adieus and the Hraes’ longships and knars rowed out of the Port of Ashaval and sailed north up the coast of the Indian ocean. They arrived in Baghdad in time to meet up with the rest of their merchant fleet and Ivar learned that the Kuma River portage was not ready, so they all sailed up the Euphrates to make the Halys River portage at double the fees, just as Ivar had promised. But in Paphlagonia they were met by a Roman army looking to collect the Emperor’s tithes and dues. And the Romans wanted ten percent on common goods and twenty percent on luxury items, and saddles worth a king’s ransom did not fall under common goods. Ivar prepared his merchant warriors for battle but his father’s fleet of warships arrived off the Black Sea coast and the Roman army soon withdrew to their fortress at Sinope and the merchant fleet joined the Hraes’ warships on the sea.
“I want to take our forces and ravage Anatolia,” Ivar told his father as he boarded his ship.
“We have other fish to fry,” Hraerik responded. “I could only bring half our war-fleet because our portage works are being threatened by a local warlord. We are going to have to show the Armenians the might of the Hraes’ in a manner so crushing, they shall never ever consider attacking our merchant fleets in the future.”
“But the Romans wanted a twenty percent tithe,” Ivar protested.
“The Romans can wait,” Hraerik said. “Once we have bypassed the Khazars with our new portage route, the Romans will be coming to us directly. Then we will put them in their place and get a new treaty that is even better than the present one.”
“Show me where the Armenian army is and I’ll lead our legions and crush them for you.”
“I just came here to save your ass so you could continue on to Kiev with our merchant fleet. I’ll lead our forces against the Armenians.”
“You’re getting a little long in the tooth for crushing Armenians,” Ivar said, somewhat concerned.
“Long in the tooth?” Prince Hraerik asked. “Is that a Danish saying?”
“I think it is,” Ivar said. “I just worry about you sometimes. You never seem to show your age but that doesn’t mean you’re not aging. I don’t even want to know how old you are now.”
“Good. Because I don’t want to know either. But what I do want is your sword, Tyrfingr, and Frodi’s helmet, and Oddi’s shirt, and one of your shields and four of your bearers.”
Ivar just stood in front of his father in wonderment. Then he said, cautiously, “What are planning?”.
“Like Achilles’ cousin, Patroclus, I want to wear your armour while I fight the Armenians.”
“You want them to think it is me?”
“Yes. You’ll be travelling the trade route. Ivar the traveller…that’s what we call you. So, it is important that the Armenians fear you, not me.”
“I like it,” Ivar said. “I love it!”
Prince Ivar led his merchant fleet north on the Black Sea to Gardar and Prince Hraerik led his war fleet east to Armenia. They rowed up the Rioni River and joined the rest of the Hraes’ war fleet as they portaged across to the Kura River using newly paved roads between the two portage stations. The Armenian army that had been threatening the Varangians was based out of the city of Tiflis and, as the Hraes’ army approached, the Armenian forces came out from the city walls to meet them. Prince Hraerik and General Sun Wu sat on horses on a hill behind their forces and talked strategy while the Armenians marched out to the pole-marked field of battle. Hraerik had brought two Kievan and two Tmutorokan legions of foot soldiers and two legions of cataphracts for a total of fifty thousand men and the Armenians had fielded an equitable array.
“They’re cataphracts are Persian trained,” General Wu stated. “They’ll be a challenge. But their foot lacks the heavy armour of our legions.”
“Then we should skirmish with our cataphracts,” Hraerik suggested, “and take it to them with our foot soldiers. I’ll be leading them with Prince Ivar’s battle platform. It is quite the shield wall breaker.”
“The breaker of shield walls,” Wu mused. “I’ve heard the stories, but I look forward to seeing it in action.”
The Hraes’ scouts had placed the Hazel poles at a width suitable for two legions side by side at three rows deep and Wu placed the two reserve legions just behind the forward units so they could turn and protect their rear if the cataphracts ran wild. Hraerik positioned his battle platform between the two forward legions and bolstered the center with archers to form a mild wedge at the junction. The Armenians marched up in two columns that split apart and marched to their right and left across the field of battle, forming up into rows five deep because they had fewer foot. They were well trained and quite orderly, but Hraerik noticed that the two columns had not played themselves out fully and completely, leaving the back ends of the columns stacked back to protect the Armenian generals and officers behind them, so the two columns did not fully merge together to form a full shield wall. There was a seam running up the middle between the two columns and Hraerik planned to run his battle platform right up that seam. He told the two legion officers on the front corners what he intended to do so they could help guide him into that slot.
The two armies began marching down into the valley between them and Hraerik stood up on the shield between his armoured bearers, an admirable view not afforded his legless son when he was carried into battle. When Hraerik gauged the range correct, he laid down on his back upon the shield and put a foot-bow between his upturned feet and nocked a rocket assisted arrow then lit it with a slow burning fuse he kept between his teeth. He loosed the arrow then strung another and loosed it and then another. He stood up on the shield in time to watch the first heavy arrow plow into a row of men and explode, and the second arrow landed, killing more men, and then the third. This caused fear and confusion amongst the enemy, for they were well out of the range of anything but siege weapons and there were no siege weapons upon the field. Soon the Armenians were in range of standard foot-bows and Hraerik stood upon the platform and directed his archers on range and azimuth and they laid down and fired off a volley that landed amongst the enemy troops and caused more havoc. The line of archers then rose, ran to catch up and Hraerik barked out a new range and they loosed several volleys in this manner before the Armenian soldiers came within range of rocket propelled hand-bow arrows. Once that happened, the Hraes’ army fired volley after volley of deadly darts that killed when they struck the enemy and then exploded and injured those nearby. Even arrows that harmlessly struck shields deep within the ranks injured or killed the soldiers in front of them when they exploded. This caused the ranks to spread out as they progressed and allowed the fetters of Odin, fear, to spread.
When the Armenians got within normal bow range, they loosed volley after volley into the ranks of the Hraes’ army, but were answered in kind. Finally, spears were thrown and shield walls crashed. The spreading of the Armenian ranks was immediately apparent because the first rank was driven back by the tight Hraes’ array and the backwards motion was not stopped by the second or third ranks and Prince Hraerik and his officers had guided Ivar’s battle platform right into the seam between the back ends of the two Armenian columns, forming a wedge that drove deep towards the rear-guard generals. Prince Hraerik had been standing on his platform firing arrow after arrow into the front ranks with his heavy Turk horn bow, killing all the outstanding Armenian warriors he did not want to face, then he dropped his bow between his legs and pulled out Tyrfingr and settled down to his knees and took comfort in the familiar glow and wail of his famed sword as it clove through helm and shield and all those who stood in front of him.
With the Armenian shield wall reeling back under the tight Hraes’ rank and file, the Varangian shield wall could almost keep up with battle platform’s progress, but no array was as tightly packed or moved with the unison of Ivar’s Sleipnir, his eight legged shield storm. While the cataphracts on the flanks played cat and mouse with each other, Hraerik saw the seam opening up in front of him and he waved the reserve legions behind to follow up in his wake and they soon formed a heavy battle wedge that helped drive Sleipnir forward. Hraerik would occasionally stand up on his platform to observe the flanks and was satisfied that his cataphracts were tying up the Persian units but not really engaging them. Arrows thunked off his armour and pricked him through his chain-mail and he hoped that none of them were poisoned. He waved to General Wu, who rode between the reserve legions and signalled for more reserve soldiers to be thrown into the wedge behind him. He knelt back down behind the cover of Sleipnir’s shields and urged his platform forward. Tyrfingr began ringing once more in its peculiar sad wail and the two columns began parting before him as the warriors in front of him struggled to avoid Tyrfingr’s strange glow. No sword, nor shield, nor soldier’s frame could stop the arc of the blade, for it just seemed to pass through all that was put before it.
Soon, the Armenian generals’ horses were scattering as the Hraes’ legions poured through the seam and began attacking the enemy foot from behind. Two full reserve legions poured through that defile and spread out left and right in such an orderly fashion that the two column split that the Armenians had accomplished just an hour before paled in comparison. The stalwart Varangian legionnaires did it in tighter formation under battle conditions and the Armenian generals, even in their panicked disarray, took notice of it from their fleeing horses. On the flanks, Hraerik waved for his light cavalry to pursue the generals and then signalled for his heavy horse to engage. The Persian cataphracts saw the Armenian forces encircled and their generals in flight and attempted to save themselves. But the Hraes’ cataphracts had been saving the strength of their horse in the battle and soon ran them down from behind. None escaped. Those that were dismounted were surrounded and disarmed.
Some of the Armenian generals had failed to make a run for it and could be seen urging their foot to fight on as they sat upon their horses amongst their soldiers and arrows pelted off their fine plate and mail armour. Hraerik stood up on his shield, horn bow at ready, and he took several thin tipped mail piercing rocket propelled arrows and tried to light the fuse on one of them, but the slow burning fuse he had used at the start of battle was dead, so he rubbed the tips of two arrows on the still glowing edge of Tyrfingr and he shot the arrows at two generals who were directing the surrounded Armenian forces on his left and he hit them both in their mail protected necks, but the rings did not fail and they were both merely pricked. One of the Hraes’ archers had seen the prince trying to light his arrow fuse so he rushed up and passed Hraerik a still glowing slow burner. Hraerik looked to his right and lit and fired two rocket propelled arrows at the generals leading that group of foot and he hit the generals low, below their saddles, and when the arrows exploded they blew the generals up into the air and they fell amongst their foot. Hraerik looked to the generals on his left just in time to see them sliding off their horses as the poison from Tyrfingr took them.
General Wu sounded a shrill whistle and Prince Hraerik looked at him and shrugged in deference. The two groups of foot soldiers trapped by the Hraes’ legions looked as though they would surrender if allowed, but they were jammed up so tight they couldn’t lower their weapons, so the legionnaires kept up the slaughter. Prince Hraerik had seen this before in dreams, where the troops of the Persian King Xerxes were trapped in their own fortress so tightly the Greeks slaughtered them at the Battle of Plataea, in a killing spree unequalled before or since. But Hraerik had ordered a crushing defeat that would cow the Armenians into a submission that would last for many years, so he left it up to his general to call a stop to the slaughter. General Wu had worked as a military consultant to many middle eastern city states following the fall of the Tang Dynasty in Cathay many years earlier, so the prince trusted his commander in knowing what would be a sufficiently crushing defeat for that particular locality. The Persian cataphracts had all been killed or captured and the fleeing generals had all been killed, so a complete slaughter would be uncalled for, even unwise. Soon, General Wu sounded a horn and the Hraes’ legions began disarming those who would be disarmed. There were a few well armoured Armenian Warriors who fought to the death, but the poorly armoured locals were glad to throw down their spears and axes and the well armoured mercenaries threw down their swords and took a knee. They would all be paroled, allowed to live if they swore never to fight against the Hraes’ again, and it was an offer none refused.
The prisoners were all taken aboard the portaged warships and they sailed down the Kura River to the city of Tiflis. The mercenaries were kept in chains aboard the warships, but the local troops were paraded in front of the city gates and surrender was demanded or the local prisoners would be slaughtered. The citizens within did not know that their soldiers had been paroled and they did not have enough troops left to protect the city walls anyway. They had been counting on some of their men making it back to the city if their army was defeated. None did, so they threw open the gates and the Varangians entered the city and plundered it. But it was a controlled plundering, for Prince Ivar and a small merchant fleet were on their way back south from Kiev to buy up slaves and merchandise. The city was kept intact and ancient Roman law prevailed, so only half the city would be enslaved and the rest would remain as a tribute city to the Hraes’. Prince Ivar and his merchants would be selecting who they wanted as slaves and would be paying the legions a discounted rate for them. Then the enslaved would be allowed to ransom themselves at full value if they had any access left to gold. It was interesting to see how much gold was left hidden in a plundered city as relatives bought back their loved ones. The local paroled soldiers claimed they were exempt from slavery because they had already pledged themselves to the Hraes’ as requested and General Wu told Hraerik that this was sometimes observed so that cities still had enough fighting men to guard their walls, so Hraerik let their claim stand.
Normally, Prince Ivar and his merchants would have taken their slaves straight to Baghdad and sold them off-season in the slave markets there, but there was going to be a slave shortage in the spring because the Irish famine had ended, so the slaves were to be taken back to Kiev for training over the winter. That way they would fetch top prices in Baghdad and Constantinople in the spring. A treaty was drawn up between the city of Tiflis and the Hraes’ and Prince Ivar returned to Kiev with his merchant fleet and Prince Hraerik continued with work on the new eastern trade route.