Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert

Airavata of Indra



Prince Ivar extended his hand as the consul’s wife came across the gangplank.  “This place is a swamp,” she complained, covering her mouth with her other hand.  “I hope it’s not all like this,” she said, stepping onto the quay.

“The estate’s on a lakeshore further inland,” Ivar explained.  “This delta is all marshland.  You will be living further inland to keep away from it.  We’ll be taking carriages there.”

“Is that where the Hraes’ station will be built?” she asked as carriages rolled up to the wharf.

“No.  I’ve already purchased a warehouse and store in Phasis for that.  In the future I’d like to dredge a canal from the sea to the lake so we can row our ships right up to the estate.  It will be more secure that way.”

They rode in the carriages around the lake to the estate located as far from the delta as possible.  It was a huge brick house of two and a half stories, surrounded by many barns and outbuildings hidden amongst giant cedars.  They entered and were helped by many slaves and servants.  After a quick lunch they went up to their suite at the top of a broad marble staircase.  “Settle the children in their rooms, then come back and we’ll test the mattress,” Ivar said, patting the bedding as his bearers placed his shield upon the bed.

“It’s too early for rough stuff,” she told him, “but I’m just going to hold back a little bit.”  The consul was a leatherneck legionnaire who took a lot of abuse from his sweet young Patrician wife, but she now had a man in her life who thoroughly enjoyed it.  She preferred estates and horses because she loved leather and harnesses and her fine collection of riding crops.  When she came back into the room, locked the double-doors, and began to unpack her leathers and oils, Ivar was already lying naked on the bed.  “No biting,” he said.  “I’m going to Baghdad and I don’t want to look like I couldn’t handle a camel.”

The merchant fleet was already at the Rioni-Kura portage, so the warships kept going upriver, leaving Ivar’s small fleet to camp on the beach of Phasis.  Halfway up the Rioni, Prince Hraerik met a Hraes’ ship coming downriver.  It was the training crew for the new Phasis startup.  They had just finished a year in Tiflis and were hoping to go back to Denmark but would now be spending the summer in Phasis.  The Hraes’ stores, as they came to be called due to their attached storage warehouses, were taking on a look of their own, standing out from the trading posts of their competitors as being places that families began to frequent.  Ivar was the first Hraes’ prince to focus on having women managing their stores.  While his older brother, Oddi had been the first to set up women in charge of trading stations or posts, it was Ivar who turned them into stores.  Weapons and furs were relegated to the warehouse areas and clothing, silks, spices, and delicacies such as Khazar Vayar and sparkling wines were sold in the stores.  Cathayan kites and sky lanterns, Indian jewelry and books, Persian carpets and African incense were all sold up front in the female domineered stores.  Once Hraerik was assured that they had all the staff and inventory they required, he sent them on their way and he continued on upriver.

Soon he caught up with the merchant fleet as the ships were backed up single file in the stream that the Rioni had become.  It was a difficult portage to build.  Hraerik waved over half a dozen Hraes’ riders who were keeping order amongst the merchants and he borrowed a couple of horses from them so he could ride the portage and see how well it was operating.  The officers grudgingly gave up the mounts to their prince and four of the riders doubled up.  First Hraerik rode to the back of his own fleet and was just in time to meet up with his son, Ivar, at the head of his own small fleet.  “Come ride the portage with me,” he shouted and Ivar’s bearers jumped into the stream and carried him to shore.  He told his bearers to find some horses or a carriage and meet him in Tiflis.  They helped him mount the spare steed and the two princes galloped upriver along the bank.  Some areas of the stream got so narrow and shallow that the men had to get out of their ships and draw them along with ropes.  Hraerik and Ivar continued upriver until they came to a great waterfall and a narrow ravine.  There were high cliffs there, where portage crews were hauling up ships with ropes and pulleys.  The ships were then lowered onto wains and were towed by draft horses and oxen for a full day before they were lowered back into a river.  The ships were then sailed for a day or rowed for two, depending on favourable winds, until high cliffs rose on both sides of the bank less river, which were too high for them to haul ships up with ropes, and so the fleets steered on alongside the cliffs to where the river curved with the current until a small gap jutted into the cliffs and the ships were dragged ashore there, and the ground was flat and damp and muddy as the ships were dragged along by oxen through the gap in the cliffs into a clearing where they were once again hauled upwards on ropes and pulleys.  Again they were put on wains and towed for another full day before being lowered into a channel that had been dug out of a creek bed and dammed up every few miles so that ships could be slid down angled wooden chutes.  Coming back was harder, Hraerik explained to his son, because stout oxen were required to pull the ships up the sloped chutes.  But Ivar knew that because he had already traversed the portage the year before, but he was enjoying his time with his father, so he let him go on explaining the building of the great works.

Once the fleet was on the larger Kura River it was assembled into a long formation that descended upon the city of Tiflis and it beached upon the south bank of the river, just in front of the city walls.  The citizens came out and sold the Varangians food on sticks and set up booths for meals and baths and other more personal services.  The city profited greatly from the trade being carried on and supplied most of the manpower and animals for the portage works.  The two princes rode into Tiflis and inspected the Hraes’ store and station there to make sure that their brand was being properly represented there.  “Young King Gorm met his wife, Thyra, while we were inspecting a Hraes’ store and station in Hedeby,” Ivar remarked.  “She taught me a thing or two about what she expected to find in all Hraes’ stores, so I let her lectures guide me when I’m inspecting.”

“The tough kings fear you as a warrior,” Hraerik chided his son, “but the smart kings fear you as a businessman.”

“Fortunately for me, smart tough kings are few and far between.”

“Oh, there are a few of those around though.”

“I’ve met a few of them, that is true.  You’ll be meeting one of them in Baghdad.  And it’s not the Caliph, although he is smart.”

“Your friend, the maharaja?”

“Yes.  I thought that when he wanted to go to Jutland and Zealand, he was making a mistake that he would regret, but he went up there and he praised his way through all the royals and he razed his way through anybody who thought to take advantage of him.  He even came back with five hundred farming families and he gave them beautiful farms in Gujarat.  You are going to love Gujarat!”

“Those farmers were from the famine in western Jutland?” Hraerik asked.

“Yes.  Just one small area, not like Ireland’s famine.”

Once the inspection was complete, the princes found lodging at the best inn in Tiflis and continued their conversation over wine and supper.  “What would cause small famines like Jutland’s?” Ivar asked.  He knew his father’s theories of world-wide warming and cooling cycles but according to his theory they were still in a warming cycle.

“These are indicator areas for upcoming world-wide cooling.  They were likely the last areas to benefit from the warming cycle but nobody can remember back hundreds of years, so, they are likely the first areas to be disrupted by a change to a cooling cycle.  And disruptions caused by a cooling cycle are much worse than disruptions caused by a warming cycle.  A warming cycle fluctuation might slow down the growth of new farms and the population growth from those new farms, so families might be smaller.  But a cooling cycle disruption in an area that has grown to be over-farmed and over-populated is catastrophic.  One failed crop and people are starving, people are dying.  Another generation or two and the few indicators become common occurrences and another generation or two and the bumper crops that people have grown used to just don’t happen anymore and people are starving all over.  And when people can’t buy food, they stop buying furs and silks and slaves.  And that’s when our business starts going right to hell.  And when we’re not earning gold by the chest-full, we can’t pay for our warships and our cataphracts and that is when the horsemen come riding out of the east and burn Tmutorokan and Kiev.  Halfway through the cooling cycle these Sami on horseback will come fight us when it is too cold to be fighting, but the cold will not bother them.  It will have become much colder where they come from so, they will be used to it and will barely stop to warm themselves as Kiev burns.”

“Will we be able to stop this Sami cavalry?” Ivar asked.

“I’m working on it,” Hraerik said coldly.

“I knew it!  You plan on being around for it!  Two or three hundred years from now and you plan to be around for it.  Is it the drugs you gave me to give to Helga?  She took them and it took twenty years off her libido just like that,” and he snapped his fingers.  “She’s so randy, I’m almost afraid to go home.”

“Is that why you started playing house with your Roman girl?” Hraerik chided.  “You’re afraid to go home?”

“No.  That Roman girl is different,” Ivar countered.  “You say we’ll soon have the blood of Augustus running through our family veins, well, she’s got the blood of Caligula running through her’s.  I’m almost afraid to play house!”  And they both broke out in laughter.

“Shall we retire for the evening?” Hraerik asked when the last of the wine was gone.

“I was wondering if you wanted to check out the local sulphur hot spring with me,” Ivar answered.  “It’s supposed to have healing powers.”

“I could use some healing powers after all that riding,” Hraerik responded.  “My ass is killing me.”

“Welcome to my world…a lifetime of sitting,” Ivar said.  “Maybe the spring will give me my legs back?”

“Maybe it’ll put the spring back in my step.”

“Don’t expect miracles.”

Ivar had his bearers bring the carriage around front and they drove down the street and then along a road that took them to the edge of town.  Hraerik recognized the faint odour of sulphur as the carriage approached the spring.  It reminded him of the Alchemists Guild hall in Tmutorokan when they were back engineering the black powder they had gotten from Cathayan alchemists.  The hot spring was surrounded by a low stone wall with cobble stone paving in the forward area but was unattended.  Ivar’s bearers carried him to the springs edge as Hraerik walked beside him.  The princes stripped naked and slipped into the pool while the bearers stood armed guard.  The princes relaxed and soaked in silence for a while as their noses became acclimatized to the smell.

“How’s your ass now?” Ivar asked.

“It’s feeling better,” Hraerik replied, somewhat surprised.  “I didn’t think it would work this fast.”

“I think the city could market this better,” Ivar said, the businessman coming out in him.  “This may even help people with breathing problems.”

“Always looking for improvements,” Hraerik laughed.

“It could increase the number of visitors coming to Tiflis.  When the city’s prosperity increases, they associate it with the Hraes’ Trading Company and that makes us more accepted here.  It also increases the number of people coming to our store.”

“We should try to help the locals market the sulphur residue.  The Alchemists Guild in Tmutorokan would buy it and I’m sure the guild in Baghdad would buy it up as well.  The guild in Cathay sells it for medicinal purposes and for metalworking.”

“We have some Tiflis merchants that have purchased longships and have joined our merchant fleet hoping for big profits in Baghdad.  I think they are already taking some of this smelly yellow baby shit with them.”

“Speaking of baby shit, how many babies do you have now?”

“I’m not sure,” Ivar replied.  “I could keep track when I only had children in Denmark, Norway and Kiev but, since this India trade, I’ve lost count.”

“Aren’t you concerned that having children in Gujarat gives Rajan a lot of power over you?”

“It’s a caste thing with the Jats.  They love us because of our Aesir blood, our Bhraman blood mixed with their Vanir blood moves their standing up in their Indian caste system.  It’s not me, it’s their religion.  They consider all Norse blood to be Aesir blood so, they treat all Hraes’ well.  Very well.”

“Religion is for old women and children.  It helps them cope with the terrible things that men do.  But when full grown men start believing in religion, well, that’s when it starts getting weird.  Family is all.  Heiht is all.”

“So, we’ll give the city council some gold to make improvements here?” Ivar asked, changing the subject.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Hraerik answered.  “Now that my ass is better, let’s get back.”

The next morning, Ivar had the local Hraes’ store donate two hundred marks of gold towards improvements to the local sulphur hot springs.  And he confirmed that the local merchants were taking sulphur to Baghdad for sale there.  Sailing was much better on the Kura River and the merchant fleet was soon at the Kura-Araks confluence and a small fleet broke off towards the Caspian and Cathay while the main fleet began wending its way up the Araks River to the Araks-Tigris portage.  A few more days of sailing down the Tigris River and the Varangians arrived in Baghdad.

“This is Maharaja Rajan of Gujarat,” Ivar started, “and this is my father, Prince Hraerik of Tmutorokan.”

“Ahh, at last, the prince.  We finally meet,” Rajan said.

“Yes, at last,” Hraerik echoed.  “I’m sorry I missed you last year.  I had to go to Cathay instead of Baghdad.”

“Yes, Prince Ivar told me about your quest for weapons of war.  You boys have been very busy over the winter.”

“You’ve heard of our little squabble with the Romans?” Ivar asked, as he signaled for his bearers to seat him at a table in the Caliph’s dining hall.

“So has the Caliph.  He was angry with you for attacking Tiflis but now he is pleased to hear that you attacked the Romans.  I think he is more pleased than angry.”

“The army of Tiflis attacked us,” Hraerik corrected, as they sat down.

“Yes,” Ivar confirmed.  “They sent their army to tithe us against our treaty with the Caliph and, when we refused to pay them, they attacked us.  We crushed them, of course, and the city threw their gates open to our army out of fear.  We could not stop our army from pillaging the town…it happened too fast.  But we did attack the Romans.  They, too, are trying to tithe us.”

“Yet you pay a tithe in Gujarat,” Rajan added.  “Should I be worried?”

“You tithe our suppliers, not us,” Ivar said.  “Besides, we follow the same religion and we don’t mind sharing with our brothers.”

“We are more than brothers now, my friends.  We are family.  I have learned from young King Gorm that I have two Jat sons in Jutland and you, Ivar, have many more on the way in Gujarat.”

“Congratulations!” Ivar said, extending his hand across the table.  “I’m proud of you.  And I can’t wait to see my children.”

“Yes,” Hraerik added, “congratulations.  I look forward to visiting Gujarat.”

Ivar gave his father a look and then smiled.  Hraerik, it would seem, had changed his mind about not going to India.

“Yes,” Rajan started.  “You shall both be seeing a lot of children.  But first I must warn you that I believe it was Roman informants who told the Caliph about Tiflis.  There is a Roman general, a legate named Kourkouas, who was born in Armenia and considers both Tiflis and Bardha’a to be his hometowns even though the Caliphate now controls them.  He has family there and I believe he may have helped finance the Tiflis army in their attack upon you.  The Romans don’t want you to bypass their control of your Arab trade.”

“We ran into General Kourkouas,” Ivar replied, “in Nicomedia.  We were about to defeat a Roman army before the walls of the city but he showed up with reinforcements and we had to leave or we would have missed this trade cycle.  I would have loved to stay and kill this Kourkouas, but business before pleasure.  Perhaps I’ll get a chance this winter.”

“Good,” Raj said.  “Talk this way when you address the Caliph.  Downplay Tiflis and talk up your war with the Romans.  A common enemy will keep him on your side.”

“How much trouble can we expect from this Kourkouas?” Hraerik asked.  “Will the Khazars support him in Iberia?  We don’t want to be caught in a pincer between the Armenians and the Khazars.”

“Fortunately for you,” Rajan began, “Emperor Romanos has started a pogrom against the Jews of Constantinople and the Jewish Khazars are on the verge of making war on the Romans.”

“Things are tensing up.” Ivar complained.  “It’s not good for business.”

“It is not,” Raj agreed.  “The Caliph will want to talk with you at the feast tonight.  If he is more pleased than angry, he shall invite you to his head table to talk.  If he is more angry, he will talk at you in front of his retainers.”

The princes finished their lunch and got back to the business of trade in Baghdad.  Hraerik and Ivar were busy settling in their merchant fleet on the riverbanks of the Tigris and then arranging transport for goods into Baghdad.  Slaves were in high demand and Roman captives were in supply, mainly from Sinope, Amastris and Nicomedia.  Furs from Gardar and amber from Denmark, walrus ivory from Norway and tonstone from Sweden were also in high demand.  The markets of Baghdad were thronged with people, buyers, sellers, victims.  Proud patrician Roman women now stripped naked and being poked and prodded and inspected by their prospective Muslim husbands.  Highly educated Roman men now being marketed as personal instructors to wealthy Arab families.  Anatolian craft workers being sold for their weaving, carpentry, wainwright or shipwright skills and young Roman children being bartered to slave armies, concubine schools and pedophiles.  Irish, Slav, Armenian and now Roman slaves, all victims of famines, wars and systemic violent abductions.  Slavery had been around since Homo Sapiens first started systemically abducting Homo Neanderthals at the beginning of the last ice age and would last long after the Neanderthals were gone.

After a hectic day the princes were ready to feast and be entertained so Hraerik and Ivar met up with Rajan at the Caliph’s palace.  Ivar saw his favorite dancer and her friend so he waved them over to the table and asked them to join them.  Ivar’s bearers pulled out chairs for the ladies.  “Saleem, this is my father, Prince Hraerik,” Ivar started.  “Father, this is Saleem and her friend, Roxanna.  They will be spending the night with us.”

“Ladies,” Hraerik said.

Rajan added, “It is good to see you again.”

Food and wine were soon brought to the table and, after the meal, musicians came out and began to entertain the guests.  Rajan asked Ivar if he had written ‘Flight of the Valkyrie’ and when Ivar told him that he had, Raj asked, “Can you play it for us?”, but the Caliph sent a servant to ask Prince Ivar and his Hraes’ friend to join him at the caliph’s table.  “That is a good sign,” Rajan confirmed.

Ivar had his bearers carry him to the Caliph’s table as Hraerik walked beside him.  He introduced his father and they sat down across from him.  When the Caliph brought up the Hraes’ attack on Tiflis, Ivar had to clarify that they were attacked by the army of Tiflis for not paying a tithe that was against the Hraes’-Arab trade agreement and, likely, at the instigation of Romans.  Ivar further explained that, to that end, the Hraes’ had attacked the Romans over the winter and had brought many fine Roman slaves with them for sale in Baghdad markets.  “The Hraes’ are helping the city of Tiflis,” Ivar added, “in its recovery since their attack upon us.  We have hired many workers from the city to run our portages for us.”  The caliph knew the value of portage work because he benefitted from the Araks-Tigris portage payments.  “Also we have just donated gold for improving their local sulphur hot springs and we even have several of their leading merchants with ships in our fleet this year.”

“Could you have these Tiflis merchants come see me tomorrow?” the Caliph asked.  “It is just a formality.  Tiflis is an ally of the Caliphate and I would be remiss if I did not speak with them.”

When Ivar got back to his table, he sent one of his bearers off to get Captain Biorn.  He wanted the two Tiflis merchants brought in from the Tigris riverbank and put up in the best Baghdad inn and he arranged for Saleem and Roxanna to tuck them in at the inn.  “I’m sorry, Raj,” Ivar apologized.  “I’ll play you my song later.  I have to keep the caliph happy.”

Later, Saleem and Roxanna returned to the Caliph’s palace and joined Ivar and Hraerik in his suite there.  Saleem slept with Ivar in his room and, as usual, was paid extra for rough, and Roxanna joined Hraerik in his.

“I’m not as good as I once was, but I’m as good as I was once,” Hraerik told the young woman as they undressed each other and slipped into bed.  They made love for over an hour and the dancer came several times before the prince finally came too.

“You should have warned me,” the young woman said, “that your once was going to be a while.”

“When you get older, it takes longer,” the prince replied.  “When I was young, I would come just looking at a beauty such as you.”

“You’re a gentleman,” Roxanna breathed as she slipped into his arm and cuddled.

“Tell me about my son,” Hraerik whispered.

“A gentleman he is not,” Roxanna said, tensing up somewhat.  “But Saleem monopolizes him, so I don’t know what they do.  I only see the bruises in the morning.”

“Bruises on Saleem?”

“On both of them.”

“Oh my.  Let’s not go there.  I meant how he is seen in Baghdad.  I used to do a lot of trading in Baghdad years ago but I’ve left it up to my sons and grandsons.”

“How old are you?  I’m sorry, I shouldn’t ask.  Who did you trade with years ago?”

Hraerik listed off some of the Arab traders he dealt with long ago and Roxanna told him she knew of their trading houses and knew some of their offspring.  “I come from a long line of entertainers,” she started, “and trade so often involves entertainment.  I met the son of Ahmed Ibn Yakut once, but I know his grandson quite well.”

“I’ve lost track of them.  How is his house doing?”

“His grandson set up a trading house in Spain recently and they import sparkling wines from Frankia and hard wines from Ireland.  And, of course, Khazar Vayar from your house.”

“The hard wine from Ireland goes right to your head,” Hraerik laughed.

“I know!” she said.  “I keep away from that stuff!” and they both laughed.

“It was Ivar who really set up our Khazar Vayar business,” Hraerik confessed.  “I brought a new bottled preserves method back from Cathay and he experimented with it until he could preserve sturgeon roe long enough to get it to our markets in the west.  All the royals in Europe go crazy over it.  It’s worth its weight in gold over there.”

“I can see that you love your son,” Roxanna said.

“Yes,” Hraerik admitted.  “He’s complicated but I’m very proud of him and what he has done for our family business.  He is a fine warrior but an even greater businessman.  He absorbs everything he sees in the cultures he visits and he puts the ideas back together in a way that is uniquely Hraes’.”

“He is like his father,” Roxanna said, snuggling further into his arm.  “Do you have other children?”

“I had another son but I lost him,” Hraerik lamented.  “Now he was a warrior!” and the prince began to talk about Oddi.  The couple talked late into the evening before falling asleep in each other’s arms.  Saleem and Roxanna stayed with the two princes the two weeks they were in Baghdad and they saw them off when they left for India with some of the merchant fleet that had come to the Caliphate.  Rajan took some of his dhows back with him as well, but most of them remained to continue trading.

The city was like a glittering white jewel in the hot bright afternoon sun.  The blue of the river running through it centered the diamond that was Ashaval.  “It’s beautiful,” Hraerik whispered to Rajan as they sailed across the harbour and into the estuary.

“It’s not always this hot,” Ivar whispered.  They were aboard the Maharaja’s flagship dhow as they entered Gujarat Province and a full merchant fleet of hundreds of ships were behind them.  The flagship was the largest ship in the fleet and easily recognizable as the Maharaja’s.  People flocked to the riverbanks to welcome home their king and merchant fleet and to welcome the return of the Hraes’ traders.  The dhows carried on upriver and the flagship and longships all beached on the riverbank below the palace.  Some of the local women brought food for the Hraes’ merchants while they pitched their awnings and Hraerik could see that this was a place of peace and tranquility.

“Have some wine,” Ivar told his father as they relaxed on the balcony outside Ivar’s suite in the palace.  Hraerik watched his men relaxing by their ships below.  More and more local women were gathering on the white sand below, some with babies.  Hraerik asked his son, “How do you get your men to leave this place?”

“Some don’t,” Ivar admitted.  “And some I have to order to leave because I need them too much to lose them.  I allow them to take their Gujarat wives with them.  It looks like there may be some children coming back this time.  But it’s a good problem to have.”

“Beats the hell out of having to fight your way to your ships just so you can get away from clients who want to kill you.”

“Sounds like you’ve had to do that a few times.”

“More than once, I have to admit.  Giantland can be, well…Giantland.”

As evening approached, the maharaja joined them and he brought a special bottle of Madhu wine that Indian vintners had been making for over a thousand years.  “I’m sorry I couldn’t visit earlier,” Rajan apologized, “state business.  But I have brought a type of wine that has been fermented in India since the time of the first Aryan invasions.  We call it Bhrama Madhu,” he said, pulling the cork.  He then produced three crystal goblets worthy of kings and poured the red wine into them.  He passed out the goblets and sat down at the table.  “To a great trading season,” Raj toasted.

“To a great trading season!” the princes joined in.

“Prince Ivar has told me that you have visions of the past, present and future,” Rajan began.

“I have visions but I can’t really control them,” Hraerik replied.

“Have you ever had visions of Gujarat?” Rajan asked.  “Say…past visions of the Aryan invasions?”

“I know of them but I’ve had no visions of them.”

“How can you know of them if you’ve had no visions?” Rajan asked with polite curiosity.

“When I was a youth my mother, Kraka, accidentally fed me a meal of knowledge that was meant for my brother, that she had been conditioning my brother to receive, and it put me into a coma.  Nine days I was hung upon the world tree of knowledge, Yggdrasil, and I saw much there and I learned a thing or two about the followers of Odin, for I was upon his tree.”

“I have heard of Yggdrasil,” Rajan said.  “It is an Aesir tree of knowledge.”

“It is free to all followers of the tripartite gods, the Vanir and Bhramans as well as the Aesir, for the Vanir were the original creators of Wodin’s death cult religion on the Scythian plains.”

“Can you tell me more about the great war between the Aesir and the Vanir?”

“First I have to tell you how some Vanir became the Aesir,” Hraerik told Raj, as he sipped the Madhu wine.  “For thousands of years mankind worked with gold and silver and copper but the metals were suitable for jewelry and coins, nothing dangerous.  Then the Alchemists Guild, the purifiers of metals learned to add tin to copper to make bronze and the copper became strong enough to hold an odd, an edge, that was as sharp as obsidian, and new dangerous bronze weapons were soon developed and new bronze armour was developed to protect men from these sharp edges.  Soon there were new young alchemists who worked for princes, the followers of Thor and Mars and Indra, and they created better weapons for warriors so that turning tin and copper into bronze was like turning tin into gold, for whoever had these new bronze weapons soon turned the gold of others into their gold.  If you had no access to tin, you would not keep your gold, you could not hold your lands.  Copper was everywhere, but tin was scarce.  The Phoenicians controlled the Mediterranean and all access to the tin of Spain and Britain so, the Aryans of Persia were the first to use the riverways of Scythia to sail and row their way to Britain.  An age of extreme cold had just ended and there were still thick sheets of ice over much of Sweden and Norway and the Baltic Sea was full of ice floes, but the Aryans persisted and persevered because their alternative was death or enslavement.  They set up way stations along the trade route and the Persians who peopled these stations soon peopled the lands, for the soils were rich and moisture abundant and the land was uninhabited for the most part save for giants and dwarves who had managed to eke out a living there during the age of ice.  These Persians of the north soon had blonde hair and blue eyes because they often lived with giants and they became the Norse, the Scandinavians and Zeus came to be called Odin, Mars became Thor and Mercury was Tyr and the Vanir became the Aesir.”

Hraerik stopped and Rajan refilled his goblet.  He took another sip.

“The Aesir controlled all the northern lands from Scythia to Britain for five hundred years and all was good until the lands fell under a worldwide cooling period and the farms of the Aesir could no longer support their burgeoning populace.  The Aesir in the north began migrating to the south and took the Greek lands from the original inhabitants, driving them south into Asia.  This was the first war of the Aesir and Vanir and the riverways of Scythia froze over and closed the trade route for five hundred years.  The Aryan supply of tin was cut off, but they found a source of poor quality tin in India and that started the first Bhraman invasion and Zeus became Brahma, Mars became Indra or Shiva and Mercury became Vishnu as the main gods in your pantheon.

A warming period returned, but the Aesir didn’t travel north with the renewed tin trade, the Aesir who had remained in the north just multiplied until their population was swollen once more.  Then again, a cooling period evolved and drove the Aesir south once more and the Aesir in Greece were driven south by the Aesir from the north.  Now the Romans believe that these Aryan Greeks now attacked the Vanir Greeks in the city of Troy and that they, the Romans, were the survivors of Troy that fled first to Carthage, but could not stay there and live with the Phoenicians that had deprived them of tin in the first place, so they left Carthage and fled to Italy and founded Rome.  This is what the Romans believe, but I just saw it as the second Aesir-Vanir War.  The Romans also believe that Constantinople, which is built on ancient Byzantium, is the original location of the city of Troy, so the Vanir Romans have reclaimed their city from the Aesir Scythians.  Just the same, tin was once more cut off and Anatolian and Indian tin, though difficult to mine, filled in the shortages.  This became the second Bhraman invasion and they lorded over the first Bhramans and it was the start of your caste system.  It was learned that tin could also be purchased in Cathay and the Tin Road was born and would grow up to be the Silk Road.

“A five hundred year warming period followed and, again, the Aesir in the north prospered with the fine weather and the wombs of their women were as fertile as the land.  But during this warming period, alchemists began working the iron starstone so prevalent on the Scythian plains and iron weapons began supplanting the bronze and bog iron nodules made the new metal as common as copper.  So, when the world-wide cooling cycle began anew, a great struggle grew between the combined power of the Aesir and Vanir tripartite Greeks and the rising power of the Persians and their new monotheistic religion of the prophet Zoroaster.  The third Aesir-Vanir War was cancelled due to threats of new modern religions that offered one god and an equal social status.  Tin was no longer relevant as alchemists grappled with the secrets of steel and the problems of rust.  As the great enemy of alchemists, Pliny, once said, ‘Rust is the curse that the gods put upon steel for the pain steel inflicts upon men.’  I may be wrong but I believe Pliny died in the 79 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius while he was using Roman science and concrete to seal up the volcano.”

The princes had a laugh at that failed effort while they refilled their goblets.  The sun was going down, but the heat of the day yet lingered and Hraerik watched the Hraes’ merchants wining and dining with the Jat women below.

“The next five hundred year warming cycle,” Hraerik started up again, “ended at the time of the birth of the Roman god Jesus and the Pax Romana and as the next cooling cycle took over it started the period of the great migrations of the Aesir south once more: the Auster-Goths, the Vaster-Goths, the Vandals, the Burgundians, the Lombards and out of the east, the Huns.  The great city to fall in this migration was not Troy, but its daughter city, Rome.  The Eastern Roman Empire and Constantinople survived, but only by deflecting the Aesir west to that other great Roman city.

“This five hundred year warming cycle we are presently in shall end in two generations and its impacts can come on quite suddenly, unlike warming cycles that happen gradually, almost imperceptibly.  In a warming cycle you may start to have odd years of bumper crops and people think it fortunate, but in a cooling cycle you may start to have odd years of crop failures and famine and people immediately begin starving to death.  If the food runs out before winter does, people die.”

“So, it was famines that started the wars between the Aesir and the Vanir?” Rajan asked, incredulously.  “I thought it was some kind of schism within our religion like the Christians are now experiencing between eastern and western sects.”

“It was just weather warming and cooling cycles, although I should not say ‘just’ because the age of ice that preceded our present cycles started with ‘just’ a little cooler weather that snowballs out of control.”

“I am ‘just’ glad it was something beyond our control,” Raj replied.  “It is heartbreaking when wars are caused by misunderstandings or hate.”

“And it is bad for business,” Ivar added, smiling.  He looked toward the door and then there was a knock.  Several servants led four young Jat princesses into the great room.  Ivar’s bearers stepped out from the shadows and carried Ivar into the great room on his shield.  He picked out the two princesses that he preferred and asked his father if he found the other two acceptable or if he wanted the first two.

“These girls are a little young for me,” Hraerik said.  “And one more than I can really handle.  I’m not young like Ivar.”

“I believe we have an eighteen year old princess from Maharashtra, but she is considered an old maid here.”

“Is she as pretty as these two?” Hraerik asked diplomatically.

“Perhaps even more so,” Rajan answered.

“If it could be arranged at this late hour, I would appreciate it.”

The next day was consumed transporting goods to the markets of Ashaval and setting up awnings in the bazaars.  Ivar and Hraerik also spent time visiting the warehouses of Indian supply houses.  Spices, in particular, were in demand in northern Europe and, with trade limited to Ashaval as an open port, it was imperative for Ivar to instigate competition between the numerous spice houses of Gujarat in order to get the best prices.  Collusion was rampant in open port cities so, side deals and discounts were a requirement of transactions.  If you were paying list, you were paying list plus ten or list plus twenty and there was no point in the Hraes’ battling against tithes if the supply houses were going to help themselves to the savings.  And Ivar was very good at pitching one supply house deal against another.  Hraerik marvelled at the skill his son showed in cajoling suppliers into lowering their prices by talking with them in their particular Indian dialect and criticizing other houses and switching to their particular dialect while doing it.  This familiarity would often catch house owners up in their own lies and deceptions and Ivar would walk out telling his father that he could get an even better deal by playing this house against that house.

“I thought I picked up languages quickly,” Hraerik said, “but you bounce between dialects better than the Gujarats themselves.”

“I sleep with all their princesses,” Ivar explained.  “They are all Jats, but they come from different provinces and states and they all have different dialects.  We don’t sleep much,” Ivar admitted.  “We’re either focking or talking!” and the princes laughed.

That evening they spent time talking with the Maharaja again and then two more young princesses were brought to the suite along with the same older princess that had been with Hraerik the night before.  “Princess Myia is fluent in Persian and is teaching me Hindi as well Sanskrit so I can read the Vedas,” Hraerik confessed.  “We read at night,” but Hraerik didn’t tell his son that she was reading him the original Sanskrit Kama Sutra, the ancient book of sexual desires and fulfillments, one page at a time.

The next day was a holy day and Rajan surprised Ivar by inviting all the princesses he had been with to the palace with all his progeny.  There were babies and toddlers everywhere and they were mostly young boys.  “Three days,” Ivar told his father.  “The Warlock Song really works!”

“There are a few girls,” Hraerik pointed out.

“Sometimes the princesses lie about their periods.  They just want an Aesir baby!”

Hraerik could see the joy in Ivar’s eyes as he surveyed his babies.  He was proud of his son for having pursued his Indian trade route and working hard at it and making it happen.  He was born into the Hraes’ Trading Company, a company founded by his grandfather, Prince Hraegunar Lothbrok of Norway and his great grandfather, King Sigurd ‘Fafnirsbane’ Hring of Sweden, and he had done more to expand their trading house than any other Prince of the Hraes’.  Under his often heavy hand, trade had expanded with the Caliphate and Cathay and was growing rapidly in India, but in India, Prince Ivar had come of his own, he had found a kingdom that welcomed trade and welcomed traders.  He had found a paradise.  But this was at the expense of Roman trade and for that, Hraerik knew he would pay a price.

One very hot evening Hraerik was watching his men cooling off in the river below and he told Ivar that he was too hot and was going down to join them.  “There’s a pool in the palace,” Ivar blurted.  “I should have told you, but the heat never bothers me.  Heat and cold just don’t bother me that much.”

“You should be careful.  Too much heat can give you a stroke and too much cold can get into your joints and fock you up good,” Hraerik warned his son.

“I can show you where it is,” Ivar said, putting down his wine.

“I’ll just ask one of the servants,” Hraerik said, grabbing a towel.

“Rajan had it built for a group that trains in it.  But he said I could use it whenever I wanted so you’ll be fine using it.”

Hraerik asked one of the servants for directions in his broken Hindi and the slave showed him the way to the pool.  It was on a terrace of the palace and the pool was the length and width of a large longship and was finished in white marble.  As there were a few clothed patrons sitting on lounging chairs about the pool, Hraerik wrapped the towel around himself and disrobed under the cover of cloth, before stepping down the marble staircase of the pool into the water, raising the towel as he entered the water to keep it as dry as possible.  He then sat in the near end of the pool and laid his towel on the marble pavement behind him.  He was the only one in the pool so, he felt comfortable being naked as he cooled off.  Soon, a young couple came and walked over to the far end of the pool and, wearing loose draping clothing of white silk, entered the water and disappeared under the ripples.  Hraerik thought it odd to just walk into a pool fully clothed and just vanish under the waters like that, but he laid back again, against the side of the pool and relaxed.  They would have to come up soon anyway, or so he thought.  He started to count the seconds off in his head.  It was something he sometimes did in battle when timing had to be just right.  It was like an internal water clock that would drip out the seconds as he concentrated on other things.  Sixty.  He thought it odd that nobody else seemed to find it strange that a fully clothed couple would cool down this way, but nobody seemed to pay any attention to what they were doing at the far end of the pool.  One twenty.  Hraerik slid along the poolside a bit to get a little closer to the marble staircase.  He noticed that the Jats sitting about on lounging chairs were also dressed in the same loose baggy white silks that the young couple was wearing when they walked into the pool.  One eighty.  Hraerik was getting nervous now.  The young couple had been underwater three minutes and they were in the deep end.  Hraerik had his foot on the staircase and knew he could run the length of the pool much faster than he could swim it.  He would give it another minute.  He wasn’t a fast swimmer like his son, Oddi, had been.  So he would run it.  Two forty.  Perhaps another minute.  “Fock,” Hraerik shouted under his breath and sprang up and charged up the stairs and out of the pool.  He ran around the pool deck and dashed down the straightaway then dove in a long arcing flight, headfirst into the pool.  He entered the water and swam to where the couple had entered and he saw them under the waves just sitting still as if dead and he grabbed them both by the silks and pulled them up to the surface and paddled with his powerful legs, towing them to the poolside and he started to push them out of the water, first the young woman, but when he began to push the young man up the young man grabbed him gently by the wrist and put his finger to his mouth in the international sign for ‘the baby is sleeping’.  He then showed Hraerik that he was going to go under again and perhaps he should join him.  So Hraerik went under with the young man, who then pointed to a number of couples who were sitting underwater very still, staring at him with big round eyes, and they saw one person blow out a few bubbles and breathe in air trapped in a pocket of their silk garment.

When they went up to the surface, Hraerik saw the young woman sitting by the poolside smiling embarrassedly and the young man smiled gently.  “What is this?” Hraerik asked in broken Hindi.  “I thought you had drowned!”

“We are underwater breathers,” the young man replied in Persian, as a courtesy.  “We can stay underwater for hours.  We train in this pool.”

“Oh…thank the gods!” Hraerik said.  “I thought you had died.”

“Well thank you for saving us,” the young man said.  “You’re fine naked at that end of the pool.  We can’t tell from this end of the pool.”

“Hraerik realized that he was treading water naked in front of all these round eyed underwater breathers at this end of the pool, so he apologized and swam over to his end.  He sat back down at his end of the pool and began to relax when one of the patrons rose up from his lounge and began applauding Hraerik for his heroic actions, then more loungers rose until they were all up applauding.  The young couple sitting at the far end of the pool joined in and they kept clapping until Hraerik rose up out of the water to his waist and took a bow.  Then they all sat back down and resumed relaxing.

That night, when Hraerik joined his son on the balcony, Ivar asked him how his dip in the pool had gone as he offered him a goblet of wine.  Hraerik told him it was relaxing and had cooled him off and he asked his son what he had done on his day off.

“I visited with more of my children,” Ivar  said.  “I didn’t realize I had so many.”

“Well…two new princesses a night for three summers adds up.  You seem to have a very high success rate in India.  Why haven’t you given Helga another baby in Kiev yet?”

“It’s like I told Helga,” Ivar started, “she’s getting old.  That water clock is dripping.  I was starting to think it was me, but my success rate in Norway was pretty good, and now here…it’s great!  But that alchemist potion we’ve got her on will do the trick.”

“We still have to get you on it this winter as well,” Hraerik reminded his son.  “Knocking up young fertile virgin princesses is one thing, but a forty five year old woman when you’ve only got three nights a month with which to wrest a boy from her.  This drug will get you randy as hell.”

“Well, put me on it now,” Ivar said.

“Two virgin princesses a night on this drug?  You wouldn’t last a week, let alone a summer.”

“How are you and Myia getting on?” Ivar asked.  “Was she a virgin?”

“Yes.  It took a while,” Hraerik admitted.  “She had a tough time with it.”

“Sorry to hear it,” Ivar consoled.  “Is she still teaching you Hindi?”

“Yes.  She’s teaching me to speak Hindi and to read and write Sanskrit.”

“You’re not learning how to speak Sanskrit?”

“It’s kind of like Latin.  Nobody really speaks it anymore.  It is just written.  All the ancient Vedas and Sutras are written in Sanskrit.  All the Bhraman legal codes as well.”

“Has Myia studied that stuff?” Ivar asked.

“Yes.  She was going to school with the boys when her girlfriends were all getting married.  Indian women are supposed to be married before they are fully through puberty, so she really is an old maid, but that’s the sacrifice she made to…”

There was a knock on the door and one of Ivar’s bearers let the Maharaja into the great room.  “There was a Hraes’ prince running around naked at the palace pool this afternoon,” Rajan beamed, as he entered the room.  “Apparently he saved two underwater breathers from drowning!”

Ivar looked at his father questioningly and said, “What’s an underwater breather?  And if it breathes underwater how could you save it from drowning?”

“Exactly!” Rajan said.  “An underwater breather is a Jat who trains to breath underwater and they can stay underwater for hours without drowning.”

“How old did they say this Hraes’ prince was?” Hraerik asked.

“I believe the witnesses said he was about your age, Prince Hraerik,” Raj laughed.

“Then I guess it was me,” Hraerik confessed and he told them what had happened at the pool.  “I really thought they had drowned.  The young man and his wife were underwater for five minutes.  I mean who can do that..pearl divers maybe?”

“Well, you’ll be glad to hear that your father got a standing ovation for saving them,” Raj told Ivar.  “It was quite dashing the way your father just leapt up, naked as a newborn, and dove into the pool to save them.  Everyone there was quite impressed.  Everyone.”

Ivar poured more wine.  “Tell us about these underwater breathers,” he asked.  “How does it work?”

So, Rajan told them the story of how underwater breathing originated.  “Many years ago there was a sudden flood in a riverside community and many people were drowned.  Two brothers who had been working the surrounding fields returned home to learn their home had been flooded and their mother was still missing.  They borrowed a boat and rowed out to where their home was sitting, still under the waves, and one of the sons dove down into the water hoping to recover the body of his mother in their home.  As he swam through their house, he saw his mother in her bedroom sitting at the edge of her bed and sucking up air out of bubbles still trapped in her silken bedclothes and sheets.  He was almost out of air himself so, he joined her and drew in a breath from a bubble of air trapped in a silk sheet, then he took her and swam for the front door and the surface, just as his brother dove in from the boat above, thinking his brother had now drowned in the flood as well.  They were so happy to find their mother still alive that, every year on the anniversary of her salvation, they would hold a contest to find out who could emulate the hours their mother had spent underwater waiting for her sons to return home.

“We now hold that celebration in many places throughout India,” Rajan continued, “and here in Gujarat we train for underwater breathing and we enter many championships.  That is why I had a training pool added to my palace.  The couple you ‘saved’ are our champions that we are sending to the finals in Maharashtra Province and the young woman represents the mother waiting for her son, the young man, to save her, so when you dove in to save them both, you were like the second brother diving in from the boat up above to save them both, and that is why the people gave you a standing ovation.  They knew you were an Aesir prince by your white skin and your white lingam and they realized that you truly thought the couple was drowning and you acted quickly to save them so, to those people you are a hero.  They have all asked if you could accompany them to Maharashtra for the underwater breather festival there?  I told them I would ask you.”

“That’s where Myia’s from,” Hraerik replied.  “Can I ask her if she’ll accompany me first?”

“The festival’s next week,” Rajan replied, “so take your time answering.”  There was a knock on the door, so Raj took it upon himself to answer it while letting himself out.  Two more young beautiful princesses came into the great room accompanied by Myia.

“Hraerik’s a hero!” Ivar shouted in to Myia from the balcony.

“I’m not!” Hraerik shouted out to Ivar.  “I’m a fool if anything.”  And he directed the princesses out onto the balcony and grabbed Myia by the hand and led her to his room.

“What did Ivar say?” Myia said, as he led her into his room.

“I’ll tell you in here,” Hraerik said.  “I don’t want Ivar laughing too much.”  And he sat Myia on the bed, took the Kama Sutra book out of her hand and sat beside her and explained the events of the afternoon.

“I’d love to come to Maharashtra with you!” Myia said.  “You can meet my parents.”

“I might be a little old to meet your parents,” Hraerik said.

“I’ve told them all about you,” she said.  “Especially your age.  They are so impressed with what you do, and now you’re a hero!”

“Okay.  I’ll meet your parents.”

Myia was ecstatic and gave Hraerik a great hug.  “Now about the book,” Myia started, “it’s taken a bit of a turn on us.”  When Hraerik asked what she meant, she just offered to read a bit of the next chapter.

“There are two kinds of eunuchs,” she started, “those that are disguised as males, and those that are disguised as females.  Eunuchs disguised as females imitate their dress, speech, gestures, tenderness, timidity, simplicity, softness and bashfulness.  The acts that are done on the jaghana or middle parts of women, are done in the mouths of these eunuchs, and this is called Auparishtaka.  These eunuchs derive their imaginable pleasure, and their livelihood from this kind of congress, and they lead the life of courtesans.”  Myia looked down and said, “The book also says this type of pleasure performed by women is frowned upon.”

“I have visited many cultures where oral sex is treated the same as any other form of sex,” Hraerik said.  “I would certainly not frown upon it.”

“I was hoping you would say that because there is a later paragraph in the book that says it is okay.”  Myia continued reading.

“So much concerning eunuchs disguised as females.  Eunuchs disguised as males keep their desires secret, and when they wish to do anything, they lead the life of shampooers.  Under the pretence of shampooing, a eunuch of this kind embraces and draws towards himself the thighs of the man whom he is shampooing, and after this he touches the joints of his thighs and his jaghana, or central portions of his body.  Then, if he finds the lingam of the man erect, he presses it with his hands, and chaffs him for getting into that state.  If after this, and after knowing his intention, the man does not tell the eunuch to proceed, then the latter does it of his own accord and begins the congress.  If however he is ordered by the man to do it, then he disputes with him, and only consents at last with difficulty.”  Myia paused and then asked which type of eunuch she should play.

“Play the part of a eunuch disguised as a woman,” Hraerik said.  “You already have such a beautiful disguise.”  Then he mumbled to himself, “That’s what a lingam was.”

“The following eight things are then done by the eunuch,” Myia started, “one after the other: The nominal congress; Biting the sides; Pressing outside; Pressing inside; Kissing; Rubbing; Sucking a mango fruit; and Swallowing up.  At the end of each of these the eunuch expresses his wish to stop, but when one of them is finished, the man desires him to do another, and after that is done, then the one that follows it, and so on.”

Myia got up off the bed and knelt down in front of Hraerik with the book open on the bed beside him.  She unbuttoned his pants and pulled them off and threw them on the floor.  She then pulled off his underpants and threw them on the bed.  She then took his lingam up in her soft hands and looked over at the book.

“Number one: When, holding the man’s lingam with his hand,” and she added, “I’m playing the part of a eunuch disguised as a woman” just to remind him why the Sanskrit was written in the masculine, “and placing it between his lips, the eunuch moves it about his mouth and this is called the ‘nominal congress’.”  Myia bowed down and placed her lips around the tip of Hraerik’s lingam and stroked the crown with her lips and tickled the tip with her tongue.  She then stopped, looked at the book and said, “I would like to stop now.”

“Please continue,” Hraerik ordered.

“Number two: When, covering the end of the lingam with his fingers collected together like the bud of a plant or flower, the eunuch presses the sides of it with his lips, using his teeth also, it is called ‘biting the sides’.”  Myia bowed then looked up at Hraerik and added, “I’ll be gentle,” and she bowed back down and took the tip of his lingam in the fingertips of her right hand and began kissing the sides of his lingam with her lips, from tip to base, all the way around, and then she began to gently bite and nibble on the sides.  She stopped again and said, “I would like to stop now.”

“Please continue, or I shall have spank your bottom” Hraerik ordered.  Myia looked up at him and smiled in encouragement at his added words, then she looked over at the book.

“Number three,” she started, “When, being desired to proceed, the eunuch presses the end of the lingam with his lips closed together, and kisses it as if he were drawing it out, it is called the ‘outside pressing’.”  Myia took Hraerik’s erect lingam up with both hands and began kissing the tip with a sucking motion and she did this for a long time, enjoying the swelling lingam as it grew thicker between her fingers.  She drew her knees tight together and stuck her bottom out and began rocking and convulsing as she kissed and sucked his tip and then she caught herself and stopped.  “I would like to stop now,” she whispered, breathing convulsively.

“Please continue or I’ll have you whipped,” Hraerik ordered.

“Number four,” she said, looking at the book, “When, being asked to go on, he puts the lingam further into his mouth, and presses it with his lips and then takes it out, it is called the ‘inside pressing’.”  Myia moved her hands down Hraerik’s lingam and kissed the tip and began sucking until she had drawn half of it into her warm wet mouth.  Hraerik convulsed a bit and leaned back on his arms.  Myia then took it out, but kissed the tip again and sucked it in once more.  She tightened up her knees once more and swayed her back and convulsed gently as she rocked back and forth several times, but caught herself once more.  She stopped, looked up at Hraerik with her face flushing most sensuously and said, “I would like to…”and she breathed.  “I would like to stop now,” she lied.

“Continue on,” Hraerik shuddered, “or I’ll have you flogged.”

Myia looked at the book.  “Number five,” she said, “When, holding the lingam in his hand, the eunuch kisses it as if he were kissing the lower lip, it is called ‘the kissing’.”  Myia grabbed Hraerik’s now throbbing lingam in both hands and began kissing it all over and then began kissing the tip and sucking it in and out again.  “Oh,” she breathed, “I like this part so much!” and she returned to step number four and sated her lust as she rocked back and forth once more.  Then she stopped and whispered, “I would like to stop now,” and she was out of breath.

“Please continue or I shall have us both flogged,” Hraerik stammered.  His lingam was over-pressured and ready to explode.  He had not seen it this large in decades.

Myia looked over at the book and read, “Number six: When, after kissing it, he then touches it with his tongue everywhere, and passes the tongue over the end of it, and this is called “rubbing.”  Myia still had Hraerik’s lingam in her hands so, she just started licking it with her tongue in long luxurious laps, working her way up the sides to the tip and she licked the tip all around the heart shaped crown and began licking the end, but again she returned to step four and began suckle kissing the end and sucking it into her warm wet mouth and pulling it out again and once more she had her knees drawn up tight and the sway returned to her spine as she began rocking back and forth and a convulsing shudder ran through her body.  She felt Hraerik’s tip swell up in her mouth as if to explode and she deftly nipped the side of his lingam with her teeth.  “Not yet,” she whispered, exhausted.  “The best part is coming!”  Then she said, “I would like to stop now.”

“Please carry on or I will surely die,” Hraerik pleaded.

Myia looked at the book once more.  “Number seven: When, in the same way, he puts the half of it, meaning the lingam, into his mouth, and forcibly kisses and sucks it, this is called ‘sucking the mango’.”  Myia had tried this earlier in the morning and had sucked hard on a strip of mango fruit as if trying to suck the sweet flavour right out of the slice.  She grabbed the base of Hraerik’s lingam hard and jammed the rest of it into her mouth and she began sucking on it as if to draw the flavourful seed directly from Hraerik’s loin purse and she sucked it from the middle to the tip so fast and fiercely that the tip began swelling again and she had to give it another little nip.  “I must stop now,” she said.

“Don’t stop! Don’t stop!” Hraerik cried.  “If you stop, I am dead.”

Myia didn’t have to read the book for the last step.  “Number eight,” she breathed.  “And lastly, when, with the consent of the man, the eunuch puts the whole lingam into his mouth, and presses it to the very end, as if he were going to swallow it up, it is called ‘swallowing up’.”  Myia took her hands off Hraerik’s lingam and held his loin purse gently in her fingertips and jammed his lingam fully into her mouth until the tip hit the back of her throat and she swallowed it down the curve, but began gagging.  She took the massive erection out of her mouth and told Hraerik, “I practiced this on mango fruit this morning.  I can do this!” and she took his lingam back up into her mouth until it filled the back of her throat and she swallowed it around the curve and regurgitated it and she swallowed it down and sent it back up and swallowed it down until the tip swelled again and exploded in pulsing streams each time she swallowed it down and Hraerik put his hands on her head ever so gently and moaned each time he pulsed his semen into her throat.  She could feel his jewels convulsing in his loin purse as they ejected his spawning stream and she swallowed it all.  Hraerik collapsed back onto the bed and Myia collapsed onto his loins, his lingam still in her warm mouth.  It slowly withdrew from her throat and she caressed it with her tongue and she sucked it like a thumb.

After fifteen minutes of numb relaxation they began to stir.  “I think I did die,” Hraerik whispered, pulling Myia up onto the bed alongside him.  “I love it when you read me Sanskrit.  I love that book.”

Myia could feel the book under her thigh.  “I’d read you more but the next part is no good.”

“Is that the part about oral sex being bad?”

“Yes.  I don’t like that part.”

Hraerik began feeling between Myia’s wet thighs.  “Well, read it to me anyway.  I’m feeling a yoni here that is in need of some oral sex.”

“The book doesn’t cover oral sex on females,” Myia protested.

“I learned a bit about it in Frankia,” Hraerik said.  “Read me step six first, then the rest while I show you what I learned with Frankish girls in Gaul.”

Myia started reading while Hraerik started removing her skirt.  “Number six: When, after kissing it, he then touches it with his tongue everywhere, and passes the tongue over the end of it, and this is called “rubbing.”  Hraerik began lapping up her wetness as she read on.  “Striking, scratching, and other things may also be done during this kind of congress. The Auparishtaka is practiced only by unchaste and wanton women, female attendants and serving maids, or those who are not married to anybody, but who live by shampooing.

“There are also the following verses on the subject. ‘The male servants of some men carry on the mouth congress with their masters.  It is also practiced by some citizens, who know each other well, among themselves.  Some women of the harem, when they are amorous, do the acts of the mouth on the yonis of one another,” and Myia began convulsing as Hraerik began licking the ‘end of it’, but she continued reading the Sanskrit, “and some men do the same thing with women.  The way of doing this kissing of the yoni should be known from kissing the mouth.  When a man and woman lie down in an inverted order, with the head of the one towards the feet of the other and carry on this congress, it is called the ‘Congress of a Crow’.”  But Myia began convulsing again when Hraerik returned to ‘the end of it’ and she threw down the book and had three orgasms, one after the other.

“Are you sure your parents are okay with your being with me?” Hraerik asked Myia.  It was strange for Hraerik because he had never felt in need of someone’s approval.  But he had never met a woman who was book smart the way Myia was.  Her father was a prince and her mother was a medical alchemist, a healer.  And she wanted to be a healer and a philosopher of natural sciences and a cosmologist.

“My parents want to meet you.  They are so happy that I am going to have a child by you.  They had accepted the fact that I am a scholar and that my younger sister might have to be the one who marries, but now that you are gifting me with a Bhraman baby, they are so happy for the both of us.”

Prince Hraerik and Myia joined the representatives of Ashaval who went to Maharashtra for the underwater breathers festival in the city of Mumba, the City of Seven Islands.  But it turned out that the representatives actually joined Prince Hraerik, for Ivar saw the invitation as an opportunity to expand Hraes’ trading so, Hraerik led a small trading fleet of longships and dhows from Ashaval south down the coast along the Sea of Arabia to Mumba, the City of Seven Islands.  “Prince Ivar’s home city, back in our land of Hraes’, is called Kiev, the City of Seven Hills,” Hraerik told Myia, as they entered the bay of Mumba.

“I thought Rome was the City of Seven Hills,” Myia replied.

“I’m sure they stole that byname from us,” Hraerik answered and they both laughed.  “But it is intriguing that we all follow the same religion and we all have seven hills or islands.”  Hraerik put his arm around Myia’s waist and drew her up against himself.

They spent a week in Mumba and if Ashaval was Ivar’s dream city, Mumba was Hraerik’s.  Myia insisted that they stay in her father’s palace near the Madh Fort that protected the bay of Mumba and the markets within.  Hraerik worked hard on the trading effort because he loved the city and wanted to make trade there an ongoing proposition, but he took time off to take Myia’s family to the underwater breathers competition.  The young couple that Hraerik had ‘saved’ won the endurance competition with an underwater time of almost four hours and a celebration was enjoyed at Myia’s family palace.  Myia’s parents were pleased that Myia had been chosen to be gifted with an Aesir baby and showed their gratitude by encouraging Hraerik and Myia to have sex at every opportunity that presented itself.  And, with the help of the Kama Sutras pages on oral sex, Hraerik found that Myia could entice him to rise to the occasion several times a day.

Once they were back in Gujarat, it was back to grind of learning to speak Hindi and to read Sanskrit.  As the day approached when the Hraes’ trading fleet was scheduled to return to Baghdad, Myia began to worry that she wasn’t pregnant, but, in the middle of one of their language lessons, Myia had to rush to the washroom to throw up, and she knew she was in the way.  For Hraerik’s test in writing Sanskrit, Myia told him she would dictate a story to him and he was to write it down correctly.

“The Prince had just slipped the bolt of the bedroom door locked,” she started, “and caught me up in his arms, lifted me from the ground, and, with his lips glued to mine, bore me trembling, panting, dying with soft fears and tender wishes, to the bed; where his impatience would not suffer him to undress me, but rather to quickly throw open my blouse.  My bosom was now bare, and rising in the warmest throbs, presented to his sight and feeling the firm hard swell of a pair of young breasts, such as may be imagined of a girl well through puberty, but never before handled: but even their soft proud bearing and pleasing resistance to the touch, could not bribe his restless hands from roving; but, giving them the loose, my skirt was soon taken up, and the stronger lower center of attraction laid open to tender invasion.  My fears, however, made me mechanically close my thighs; but the very touch of his hand insinuated between them, disclosed them, and opened a way for the main attack.  In the meantime, I lay fairly exposed to the examination of his eyes and hands, quiet and unresisting; which confirmed him the opinion he proceeded so cavalierly upon, that I was no novice in these matters, since I was well past marriageable age, nor had I said one thing to prepossess him of my virginity; and if I had, he would sooner have believed that I took him for a cully that would swallow such an improbability, than that I was still mistress of that darling treasure, that hidden mine, so eagerly sought after by the men of Maharashtra, and which they never dig for, but to destroy.  Being now too high wound up to bear a delay, he unbuttoned, and drawing out the lingam of love assaults, drove it currently, as at a readymade breach…then! then! for the first time, did I feel that stiff horn-hard gristle, battering against the tender part; but imagine to yourself his surprise, when he found, after several vigorous pushes, which hurt me extremely, that he made not the least impression.  I complained, but tenderly complained: “I cannot bear this” and, indeed, it hurt me!  Still he thought no more, than that being so bold, the largeness of his lingam (for few men could dispute size with him) made all the difficulty; and that possibly I had not been enjoyed by any so advantageously made in that part as himself: for still, that my virgin flower was yet uncropped, never entered into his head, and he would have thought it idling with time and words, to have questioned me upon it.  He tried again, still no admittance, still no penetration; but it hurt once more, and, while my extreme love made me bear extreme pain, almost without a groan, again, there was still no breech.  At length, after repeated fruitless trials, he lay down panting by me, kissed my falling tears, and asked me tenderly “what was the meaning of so much pain?”  I answered, with a simplicity framed to persuade, that he was the first man that ever served me so.  Truth is powerful, and it is not always that we do not believe what we eagerly wish.  My prince, already disposed by the evidence, of his senses to think my pretenses to virginity not entirely apocryphal, smothered me with kisses and begged me, in the name of love, to have a little patience, and that he would be as tender of me as he would be of himself.  Alas! it was enough I knew his pleasure to submit joyfully to him, whatever pain I foresaw it would cost me.  He now resumed his attempts in more form: first, he put one of the bed pillows under me, to give his lingam a more favourable angle of attack, and another under my head, in ease of it; then spreading my thighs, and placing himself between them, made ready; applying then the tip of his lingam to the slit of my yoni, into which he sought entrance, it was so small, he could scarce assure himself of its being rightly pointed.  He looked, he felt, and he satisfied himself: then he drove on with fury, its prodigious stiffness thus impacted, wedgelike, broke the union of those parts, and gained him just the insertion of the tip of it, lip deep; which being sensible of, he improved his advantage, and followed well his stroke, in a straight line, forcibly deepening his penetration; but it put me in such intolerable pain, from the separation of the sides of that soft passage by a hard thick body, I could have screamed out; but, as I was unwilling to alarm him, I held in my breath, and crammed the pillow, which had turned up over my face, into my mouth, and bit it through in the agony.  At length, the tender texture of that tract giving way to such fierce tearing and rending, he pierced somewhat further into me: and now, outrageous and no longer his own master, but borne headlong away by the fury and over-mettle of that member, now exerting itself with a kind of native rage, he broke in, carried all before him in his attack, and in one violent merciless lunge, sent it, imbrued, and reeking with virgin blood, up to the very hilt in me.  Then! then all my resolution deserted me: I screamed out, and fainted away with the sharpness of the pain; and, as he told me afterwards, on his drawing out, when emission was over with him, my thighs were instantly all in a stream of blood, that flowed from the wounded torn passage.  When I recovered my senses, I found myself undressed and a-bed, in the arms of the sweet relenting murderer of my virginity, who hung mourning tenderly over me, and holding in his hand a glass of wine, which, coming from the still dear author of so much pain, I could not refuse; my eyes, however, moistened with tears, and languishingly turned upon him, seemed to reproach him with his cruelty, and ask him, if such were the rewards of love.  But my Prince, to whom I was now infinitely endeared by his complete triumph over a maidenhead, where he so little expected to find one, in tenderness to that pain which he had put me to, in procuring himself the height of pleasure, smothered his exultation, and employed himself with so much sweetness, so much warmth, to sooth, to caress, and comfort me in my soft complaints, which breathed, indeed, more love than resentment, that I presently drowned all sense of pain in the pleasure of seeing him, of thinking that I belonged to him: he who was now the absolute disposer of my happiness, and, in one word, my fate. The sore was, however, too tender, the wound too bleeding fresh, for my Prince’s good-nature to put my patience presently to another trial; but as I could not stir, or walk across the room, he brought dinner to my bedside, where it could not be otherwise than my getting down the wing of a fowl, and two or three glasses of wine, since it was my adored Prince who both served, and urged them on me, with that sweet irresistible authority with which love had invested him over me.  After dinner, and everything but the wine was taken away, my Prince very impudently asked leave to join me in bed, and accordingly fell to undressing until completely naked, which I could not see the progress of without strange emotions of fear and pleasure.  He was now in bed with me the first time, the first time anybody had enjoined me in bed; but when thrusting his own naked body against my naked body, his naked glowing body to the fire that was mine… oh insupportable delight! oh! superhuman rapture! what pain could stand before a pleasure so transporting?  I felt no more the sting of my wounded yoni below; but, curling round him like the tendril of a vine, as if I feared any part of him should be untouched or unpressed by me, I returned his strenuous embraces and kisses with a fervour and gust only known to true love, and which mere lust never rises to.  Yes, even at this time, when all the tyranny of the passions were fully over, and that my veins roll no longer but a cold tranquil stream, the remembrance of those passages that most affected me in my youth, still cheered and refreshed me, and let me proceed.  My beauteous Prince was now glued to me in all the folds and twists that we could make our bodies meet in; when, no longer able to rein in the fierceness of refreshed desires, he gave his steed the head, and gently insinuating his thighs between mine, stopping my mouth with kisses of humid fire, made a fresh erection, and renewing his thrusts, pierced, tore and forced his way up the torn tender folds, that yielded him admission with a sting a little less severe than when the breach was first made.  I stifled my cries, and bore him with the passive fortitude of a heroine; soon his thrusts, more and more furious, cheeks flushed with a deeper scarlet, his eyes turned up in the fervent fit, some dying sighs, and an agonizing shudder, announced the approaches of that ecstatic pleasure, I was yet in too much pain to come in for my share of.  Nor was it till after a few enjoyments had numbed and blunted the sense of the sting , and given me to feel the titillating inspersion of balsamic sweets, drew from me the delicious return, and brought down all my passion, that I arrived at excess of pleasure through excess of pain.  But, when successive engagements had broke and inured me, I began to enter into the true unalloyed relish of that pleasure of pleasures, when the warm gush darts through all the ravished inwards; what floods of bliss! what melting transports! what agonies of delight! too fierce, too mighty for nature to sustain?  How often, when the passion and tumult of my senses had subsided, after the melting flow of my Prince subsided, have I, in a tender meditation, asked myself coolly the question, if it was possible in nature for any of its creatures to be so happy as I was?”

Hraerik quickly finished writing his Sanskrit and looked up at Myia and said, “I’m so sorry I caused you so much pain,” and he made it up to her by throwing her on the bed and focking her again.  “You caused me so much pain,” he said lying beside her afterwards.  “I was hard the first time you said I had the tip of my lingam in you.  I could hardly write after that, I was so hot.  Don’t mark me too hard,” he pleaded and he threw himself naked upon her mercies.

A week before the Hraes’ traders were to return to Baghdad, Hraerik took another small trading fleet to Mumba and the waves of the Arabian Sea made Myia’s morning sickness worse but she recovered in the afternoons and the two would retire into the rear cabin of their dhow to spend more time together before they were to part.  Hraerik stayed in the princely palace, with Myia’s parents, and had talks with her father about establishing a Hraes’ station and store in Mumba.  It was to be a coordinated start-up with Ivar’s planned station and store in Ashaval.  “Once our baby is born,” Hraerik started, “I would like you to start your studies with the Alchemists Guild of Gujarat.  We already have several of their alchemists doing research in Tmutorokan and I shall be bringing some of our Aesir alchemists to study in Gujarat next trading season.  But only if that is your wish.”

Myia hugged him and told him it was her desire and she gave him a longingly sensual kiss and whispered in his ear, “It’s the ‘Congress of Crows’ next year.”  Hraerik took his leave and returned to Ashaval in time to attend the Maharaja’s farewell banquet.

“Rajan is a bit miffed,” Ivar told his father.  “He wants all trade to go through Gujarat.”

“Mumba was founded by Gujaratis,” Hraerik started.  “It’s two stores!  Two stations and two stores!”

“I know.  I know.  And it’s not like he hasn’t seen our stores before, “ Ivar said.  “He’s been in Hedeby and Jelling and Liere.”

“Maybe that’s the problem?” Hraerik redearthed.  “He’s seen our growth.  He’s a trader and he fears you.  You have to convince him that it’s only two stores.  If that underwater breathers thing hadn’t happened…if Myia hadn’t happened it might only be one store.  One store in Ashaval.  But now it’s two stores, both in Jat cities.  That’s not asking too much,” Hraerik stated, staring out at his men on the beach below.  They were packing up, getting ready to go.  Again, some wouldn’t be leaving.  There were Jat women wandering the beach with their men.  Some of them would be going.

“I’ll convince him,” Ivar said.  “At the feast tonight I’ll convince him.  Just make sure you play along with me.”

“I’ll try to keep up,” Hraerik laughed.  “Now I want you to start taking this drug once a day, every day.”  He passed a pouch of powder to Ivar.  “You can take it with water or wine, if you wish, and by the time you get back to Kiev you’ll be as randy as a rooster.  You’ll have Helga knocked up in no time!”

The farewell feast was in the palace dining hall that opened out to the river and the tables continued out from the hall and onto the river beach sand.  Torches on poles lit up the whole scene outside the hall and candelabras overhead lit up inside.  The sun was setting in the west, behind the hills of Ashaval and the lights of the estates that ran up the hills sparkled like diamonds in the shadows as the sun dipped below the crests.  Entertainers were playing their instruments in front of the hall’s many opened doors, entertaining those within and those without.  Ivar and Hraerik were sitting at the head table on either side of the Maharaja and his wife and, while Hraerik was telling her about his experience with the underwater breathers of Gujarat, Ivar was talking to Rajan about opening two Hraes’ stations in India instead of just one.  Hraerik offered to introduce the queen to the couple who had won the competition in Mumba.  He had invited them to the farewell feast and he took her to the next table to visit with them.

“I’m so glad my father has found a woman here who interests him,” Ivar said.

“Yes.  He sure has taken a liking to Myia,” Raj responded.  “It’s too bad she’s not a local princess.”

“Mumba was founded by Jats from Gujarat,” Ivar reminded him.  “And at least there are no alchemist guilds there.”

“You don’t like the alchemists?” Raj asked.

“I like them, but my father gets too involved with them.  In Tmutorokan that’s all he does is study and profess with them.  They regard him as a prophet there.  He helps them communicate with Zoroaster.”

“But Zoroaster has been dead for two thousand years!”

“I know!  They have ceremonies and he goes back and talks with Zoroaster, and sometimes he journeys to the future and talks with alchemists there.  Now he has had this vision of a new horde of Huns riding out of the east and destroying all before them.”

“Like Attila of old?”

“Like Atli, but much worse,” Ivar said.  “He says they will burn my City of Seven Hills, Kiev.”

“When will they do this?”

“Three hundred years from now.”

“Oh…I thought it was imminent.  Who’s to say what will happen three hundred years from now.”

“Exactly!” Ivar exclaimed.  “That is why I was glad he found a City of Seven Islands, Mumba.  It’s hard to burn islands.  He’s finally got his head back into the family business.  Perhaps he sees the seven islands as a sign that his vision is wrong.  It’s bad for business.  And Mumba has no alchemists’ guilds.”  Ivar shook his head in relief.

“Let me think about the two stores a bit more,” Rajan said.  “Keep in mind I only agreed to one and try to be patient.”

Later in the evening Ivar left Rajan alone at the table with his father.  “Ivar tells me you’ve had visions of future Huns coming out of the east,” Raj began.  “Hordes of Huns that burn your City of Seven Hills, Kiev.”

“Yes,” Hraerik replied.  “They come off the Mongolian Plain, but that won’t happen for another three hundred years.  So, we won’t have to worry about it.”

“Do they attack India as well?”

“Yes.  Almost all of India.”


“I’m not sure.  When I get back to Tmutorokan I could revisit my vision and see.  I wasn’t as knowledgeable of India as I now am, so the Indian part of it wasn’t clear to me.  With what I know now of your beautiful land and people, I will be able to make better sense of it.”

“Is there anything we can do to stop them?”

“I’m working on it,” Hraerik reassured Raj.

At the end of the evening, Maharaja Rajan announced that there would be two Hraes’ Trading Company stations and stores opening in India the next trading cycle.  One in Ashaval and one in Mumba.  Ivar didn’t know that the prince of princes of Gujarat funded the Alchemists Guild there and had great faith in their astrological work.  If the Alchemists Guild put great stock in the visions of Hraerik ‘Bragi’ Hraegunarson, then so did he.

It was an uneventful return trip the Hraes’ merchant fleet completed, first rejoining the main fleet in Baghdad, where Ivar first felt the stirrings of his father’s drug, then linking up with the fleet from Khwarizm and Cathay, when Ivar started feeling stirrings all the time, and then sailing through the rivers of Armenia and Georgia to Phasis and the Black Sea coast, by which time Ivar could go no further.  He bid his father goodbye and the main fleet slipped into the sea while Ivar’s small fleet of warships stopped in Phasis so he could visit his estate and the consul’s wife there.  She had given birth to Ivar’s son while he was in India and she felt ready for a romp with her patron, but she never expected the pent up fury of the ride that he gave her.  It was a full week of sex in the bedroom and sex in the kitchen and sex in the great room and she had a Hraes’ store to run in Phasis while Ivar slept and recovered and then it was sex in the woods and sex on the lake and the wild rough sex she had started with devolved to a whip and whimper sex as she wore out and then Ivar was gone.  Two weeks later, the consul’s wife was throwing up in a washroom and she knew she was pregnant again, and Ivar was in Kiev eyeing his wife Helga.

“What’s gotten into you?” Helga said.  “You’re as randy as a rooster!”  She was exhausted, having spent the last hour focking with her husband.  “I missed you,” she said, “and your timing is perfect.  We have three full days.”  She caught her breath and she attacked him.

“I was on fire for you,” Ivar said as they rested after that second round.  “I’m going to overwinter with you, here in Kiev.  We’re going to make a son together.”

“How went the trading?” she asked.

“Trading was great, but let’s not talk business.  Not until my lust is sated.  Your lips are like bellows…pump up my love.”  And Helga put her lips around his cock and sucked him hard again.  Then she straddled his hips and rode upon his steed until he gave up his seed, again.  “We’ll be doing this all winter,” she warned him.  “Are you up for it?”

“Your lips are my bellows.  You tell me.”

“Oh,” she whispered, “I’m going to ride you so hard, and put you up so wet!”

That was the first afternoon Ivar was back in Kiev and his timing was perfect for making a baby boy, but it wasn’t perfect for running a trading empire and the knocks were piling up at the bedroom door.  “I’m trying to knock up my wife and my attendants are trying to knock down my door,” Ivar complained as he threw his clothes back on.  He went out into the hall and announced that his wife was pregnant and called for three days of celebrations and feasting in Kiev.  The whole merchant fleet was to be entertained and provided for during the festivities, and he went back to bed with his wife.  They could hear festive preparations being made in the main hall of the palace and soon they could hear musicians playing out in the hall and the palace filled with the smell of sweet meats and strong ales.

“Let’s go out and see what is going on,” Helga whispered, listening to the noise out in the hall.  Servants were no longer knocking at the door and all interruptions had ceased.  “I think there’s feasting going on in our hall!  Get dressed, Ivar, and let’s see what is going on,” she said, slipping into a silk gown.  Helga touched up her hair and makeup and the couple slipped out of the master bedroom and stalked down the hallway and entered the main hall.  A few of the feasters saw the expecting couple and began applauding them as they walked to their highseat.

“I told them you were pregnant,” Ivar whispered as they sidled into their seats.

“You what?” Helga said, sitting down.  “I’m not pregnant.”

Ivar sat down beside her.  “Don’t start our first three days with negativity.  You’re pregnant.  I’m sure of it!”  A serving girl brought Ivar ale and served Helga milk.  “See…even the girl thinks you’re pregnant.”

“Only because you said I am!”

“Only because I believe you are.  We could stop now and never have sex again and you will still be throwing up two weeks from now…”

“I don’t throw up.”

“But I think you are right in thinking that we should keep working on this until we’re sure.  Let’s finish our ale and milk and we can our highseat spread served us in our room.”

As the festive couple sat and drank, people would walk up to their highseat and make wonderful toasts.  Poets came forward and recited warlock blessings and musicians serenaded the couple.  “Perhaps we could eat here,” Helga said, and food was soon served up.  The couple ate as more people offered up praises and blessings, but once the meal was finished, they returned to their room and had more ‘assurance sex’ as Ivar called it.

This carried on for the next two days, but once the feasting was over and the sex was over, it was back to business.  Ivar and Helga went through accounts and balanced books.  Chests of gold were collected and chests of silver were paid out.  The Hraes’ Trading Company ground out gold for Prince Ivar just as it had done for his grandfather, King Frodi.  The Fenja and Menja of Gardar, the land of forts, garnered gold for all who dared its wild waterways.  Soon the merchant fleets returned to their homelands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Normandy, Northumbria, Ireland and Iceland.

Once the fleets had left Kiev, Ivar was champing at the bit.  He was taking the potion his father had given him, daily, and he couldn’t have sex with Helga because she claimed she wasn’t pregnant and to have sex beyond their three day window was to risk having a girl instead of Svein.  And they had been planning for Svein for many, perhaps too many, years.  One day a message arrived from Prince Hraerik about some news he had regarding the Romans and their General Kourkouas.  He had been seen in Armenia.  Ivar told Helga that he was going to Gardariki to talk strategy and new ships with his father but he sailed, instead, to Phasis and slept a week with the consul’s wife who was now showingly pregnant.  He stopped in at Gardariki on his way back and spent several days there discussing strategy and a new ship design.  Kourkouas was supposed to still be fighting the Caliphate in the Levant so, having him spotted meeting clandestinely with his own Armenian people in Baghdad controlled territory would not likely bode well for the Hraes’ and their newest trade route.  The day he was leaving Ivar met Queen Silkisif, who was coming to meet with her foster-father, Hraerik.  They chatted a while and the three of them had lunch together and when Ivar left Silkisif once more told Hraerik, “He has Oddi’s eyes.”

Ivar made it back to Kiev in time for his three day sex foray with Helga.  She still maintained that she was not pregnant but the only thing she was correct about was that she never threw up.  So, once more Ivar was out in the cold once the three days were up.  This time Ivar arranged for a message to arrive from Gardariki and he sailed off to meet the consul’s wife in Phasis, but at this point in her pregnancy she was throwing up all the time.  Ivar cut his visit short and decided to visit his father to see what could be done about the drug he was taking, but while he was on his way, he decided to visit the city of Tmutorokan first. 

“My father told me to never come here,” Ivar said, looking down at his feet.

“Why would he tell you that?” Queen Silkisif asked.

“He knows I like my sex rough.  I guess he thinks there could be something between us.  I was hoping there could be.”

“He told me you raped women,” Silkisif said sternly.  “Do you?”

“Perhaps he learned that I raped a woman once, but I thought she was one of our slaves and as soon as I found out she wasn’t, I stopped.  I was twelve and curious.”

“You know I was married to your brother Oddi,” Silkisif started, “and he gave me two sons who still work for your company.”

“I know them both and they are both fine men.”

“Your brother promised me a daughter, but he died before we could see that promise to fruition.  Would you like some wine?”

This time, Ivar got back to Kiev in plenty of time for Helga’s three day window, but he need not have worried about it.  Helga was pregnant and her three day window was out the window.  “Good!” Ivar exclaimed.  “I don’t have to wait for the three days!  We can have sex right now,” and he swept her off her highseat and onto his shield and he took her as they were going down the hallway, before he could get her to their bedroom and then his men put his shield on the bed and he took her again in the bedroom.  “It’s assurance sex,” Ivar claimed.  “Thank the gods that you’re pregnant, but I want to make sure.  I want to be assured that you are pregnant.”

“I can assure you I’m pregnant,” Helga laughed.  “I think I was pregnant when you first said I was.”

“I knew it!  Something just felt right about it.”

Over the winter Ivar was having many new ships built.  They had lost a lot of ships and men to Greek fire in two separate attacks so, the new ships were being equipped with the new gravity trebuchets and rawhide sheepskin awnings.  They were also adding rams to the bows of the ships and reinforcing them with iron.  Roman ships no longer had rams because catapults and ballista had made them obsolete, but the Greek fire had proved so effective that rams were to be used in conjunction with vinegar soaked awnings to attack the fireships with.  And tons of tonstone was being brought out of Sweden as ammunition for the new trebuchets.  The much denser stone would theoretically be able to shatter single planks in the hulls of the heavy Roman dromon warships and Hraerik had come up with a new design of ram that rode below the water surface and broke the waves in a way that actually allowed the ship to be rowed faster even though it weighed more.

When spring came, Helga was well into her pregnancy.  She felt it was a boy and her healers agreed, divining that it was a boy as well.  The Hraes’ merchant fleet soon arrived and Helga saw her husband off.  Everything seemed fine, but Ivar was taking the Kievan legions with them to protect the fleet along the new trade route and she began to worry about her husband.