Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert
THE DEATH OF ARROW ODD (Circa 912 AD)
“The snake will strike, venom filled, flashing from
the time worn skull of Faxi.”
Once the treaty was concluded, Prince Hraerik and Ivar returned to Kiev, but Prince Oddi had business in Baghdad and then east on the Caspian, so he bid them farewell on the Black Sea. Prince Ivar noticed that his older brother seemed to be avoiding spending time in Kiev. He seemed to fear Princess Eyfura and Ivar was old enough to understand the history behind the fear. He had heard the tales of Oddi and how he had killed the twelve berserker sons of Eyfura and how he had killed her father, King Frodi, but that was before he knew he was a Prince, the son of Prince Hraerik. He was a Viking then, and a mighty warrior. Now he was family. Still, he feared Princess Eyfura and he kept a distance from her.
Princess Eyfura and Hervor waited through the spring trading season without a sign of Oddi. They were hoping he would have visited Kiev and his father, but he had sent word that he was rebuilding Berurjod in Jaederen Province and would arrive in Kiev after the spring trading season. Prince Hraerik was waiting on the main quay of Kiev, when Oddi sailed up in Fair Faxi. He saw his father, Hraerik, and leapt onto the dock. As they embraced and hugged below the dragonhead of Fair Faxi, a slight hooded figure approached and pulled a long blade out from under a cloak. The spectre thrust out the blade at Oddi, who instinctively blocked it with his wrist band, and he smashed the figure down to the dock and the spectre curled up in pain and lashed out with the sword again, and the edge bit Oddi’s ankle to the bone. Then the sword went flying across the dock and clattered on the boardwalk and Hraerik saw right away that it was Tyrfingr. Oddi pinned the assailant to the decking and pulled back the hood to expose Hervor, dazed but still breathing with a black bolt of lightning painted across her grey stained face. Hraerik threw his fur cloak over Tyrfingr and saw Eyfura approaching from the longhall, so he rolled the sword into the fur and kicked it into the river. “The water will protect us from the rays of the blade,” Hraerik explained to Oddi as his wife drew near.
“I saw Hervor quickly leave the hall,” Eyfura said. “What has she done now?”
They returned to Oddi and Hervor. Hraerik inspected Oddi’s wound while Eyfura revived Hervor. Hraerik tore the white silk shirt from his chest and tore off a strip of it to tie around Oddi’s left leg. He then stripped his belt of his seax and used the sheath to twist the silk strip tight around Oddi’s leg. He pulled out the seax and told his son, “Your leg has to come off at the knee!”
“You’re mad!” Oddi cried, pulling his leg free of his father. “This limb isn’t going anywhere.”
“The sword she cut your leg with is Tyrfingr. The blade is poisoned. If I don’t take it off at your knee, you’ll be dead within hours.”
Oddi sat down on the dock, hugging his legs to his body. “I know. I saw what it did to my friend, Hjalmar. It’s probably too late already.”
“Let me take off your leg, son. Please. We can fit it with a prosthetic.”
“And I’ll join one of your Special Centuriatas?”
Eyfura had fully revived Hervor by then and both women watched the father arguing for the life of his son.
“No, father,” Oddi continued. “It is too late. I can feel the poison at work already. I think the hours you gave me may have been overly optimistic.” Oddi remembered watching Hjalmar die and he realized he was sitting just as Hjalmar had been sitting. “I want to die with us holding each other in our arms.”
By now all Oddi’s men had come from Fair Faxi, gathered round their captain and began clamouring for Hervor’s head. Eyfura huddled over Hervor as if to protect her from the throng. Oddi ordered his men to respect the fine blood of the women and sat down on a bench below the forestem of Fair Faxi. Hraerik sent for some camp chairs and fine wine from King Frodi’s highseat hall and they sat in the warm spring sunshine as Oddi’s strength waned.
Hraerik helped his son into a camp chair from the bench. “Is there anything I can do for you?” he asked.
Oddi asked him to record in Latin the Death Ode of Arrow Odd so his father sent for vellum and ink and asked one of his men to find Prince Ivar. The ink came quickly but they were still looking for the young prince. King Odd began to recite his story. He was almost to the end of it when Prince Ivar was led down the quay.
“She lashed out with the poisoned blade,
and I knocked her down, but as she fell,
she nicked my leg with the blood-snake, Tyrfingr,
its poison’s in my body, my blood doth start to jell.
“My father offered to amputate my leg,
but I just said no, the poison’s going to my head,
I just saw Angantyr, he warned his daughter,
about the blade and tells me she’ll soon be dead.
He’s asked me for a favour to bring her to Valhall,
my shield maid can enter the warrior’s paradise,
she can watch us battle, then bring us our sweet mead,
Asmund’s there, he does swear, I see it and it’s nice.
I know I took the faith of Christianity,
but I had fingers crossed when in waters they dipped me.
Promise me young Hervor, for you are soon to die,
you’ll come with me to Valhall in a burial at sea.
I bid you farewell father and love you in my heart,
And love you Prince Ivar, Eyfura, you’d your chore.
To Silkisif send love and to my sons also,
send them all my greetings, I’ll go there no more.”
Prince Ivar stood beside his older brother, Oddi, completely speechless.
“Angantyr came to you?” Princess Eyfura came up close. Prince Hraerik was transferring Oddi onto a great bearskin one of his men had laid upon the dock.
“Yes. He came to me and added a bit of verse,” Oddi said weakly. “Angantyr wants me to bring Hervor to Valhall with me.” While Hraerik and Eyfura were attending to Oddi, Hervor was tearing off her clothing and she laid herself naked beside Oddi. She hugged him and tried to be him and she whispered, “I shall treat you so fine in Valhall, this I promise.” Prince Hraerik could see a grey pallor to the skin of Hervor and it was a grey he had seen before. He knew she was not long for this world.
Oddi took Hervor under his arm. “Finally,” he said, “a shield maiden to my liking,” and she hugged him. “If you ever go to Ireland, Father,” Oddi began, “could you stop and visit with my wife and daughter in Dublin? Tell them both I love them and was thinking about them at the end.”
“Anything else?” Hraerik asked, as more wine was poured.
“Yes. Give my scale mail shirt to Ivar here. It will fit him soon. It has saved my life more than once. Sigurd Hrae and Hraegunar left it with the king of Ireland and I got it from his daughter.”
Oddi’s forty picked men sat about, watched and listened. They all knew they were witnessing a most famous death, a death foretold.
“Your brother, King Hraelauger figured the prophecy out,” Oddi said weakly as he savoured the wine as if it might be his last. “When the witch Heid foretold your future, Father, she said your son would die from the bite of a poison snake that crawled out below the skull of Fair Faxi. Because your father, Hraegunar, was in the room with you, everyone thought she was talking to him and that the son was you. When I was twelve, you and Grim gave me your ship, Fair Faxi, and that same witch foretold that I would die from the bite of a poison snake below the skull of Faxi. In Heid’s first foretelling, she was talking to you, father, not to Hraegunar. It is your son dying under the skull of Fair Faxi.” And Oddi looked up at his ship and laughed, bravely. “Tyrfingr, your arrow of the gods, is that poisoned blood-snake that crawled out under the skull of Faxi. I am, indeed, dying below its weathered skull. It has all been preordained. Fate is all. Of the great things we have done, this will be the most famed.” Oddi laughed again, but then he coughed and then coughed up blood. He quickly drank more wine and this time it was his last. Below the skull of Fair Faxi, from a poisoned blood-snake bite, he died.
Hervor was crying at Oddi’s side and Princess Eyfura was trying to console her. She got up, naked, and began walking back up the quay toward the main gates of Kiev and when Eyfura followed and tried to cover up her up with a blanket, she pushed it away. Hraerik had his men carry Oddi’s body into the hall and he held Ivar’s hand as they walked beside the body. His men laid Oddi out on his highseat and covered him with a blanket. Hraerik left Ivar with his mother and he went to Hervor, standing naked in the hall and he stroked her hair. “Where is the scabbard?” he asked gently. “We must sheath Tyrfingr. The water will shield us from its poison, but it is still dangerous.”
“The scabbard is in my room under my bed,” Hervor blurted. Prince Ivar watched as Hraerik and Eyfura led the naked shield maiden to her room and Hraerik recovered the scabbard while Eyfura put Hervor to bed. Hraerik went out to the dock and into the river to sheathe Tyrfingr. The blade glowed dangerously until he got it in the leaden scabbard. Trapped under the bones of Angantyr, the blade’s power had grown.
“Quiet, child,” Princess Eyfura whispered, as she tucked Hervor into bed. “We wanted revenge and we got it.”
“But he died so bravely, grandmother. And I feel so bad. It’s all so sad.”
“It was our duty to avenge our fathers. And we did it. I’m proud of you, Hervor,” she said, hugging the girl.
Later, in bed, Hraerik told Eyfura that he suspected Hervor may have been overly exposed to Tyrfingr’s poison.
“How overly?” Eyfura asked.
“She will likely be dead in two days.”
“I don’t know what caused her to do all that,” Eyfura said. “Angantyr’s sword. The lightning bolt painted on her face. She stained her body grey. It’s all so sad.” She rolled over and went to sleep.
Hraerik watched the beauty of her form as moonlight filtered into the room. The faint light glistened on her bare shoulder and followed down her side, dipping at her covered waist then thrusting up to follow the curve of her hip and tapering down her shapely legs. Perfection in form…if not in substance. He wondered how much of the blade Eyfura had been exposed to.
Two days after Oddi’s death, Hervor joined him. She had bequeathed her only possession, Tyrfingr, to her son, Ivar. Hraerik prepared a great feast and funeral for his son and Oddi and Hervor were burned together in Fair Faxi on the Dnieper River in a stone ship burial at sea. Two months later, Prince Hraerik left for Gardariki and Princess Eyfura and Prince Ivar remained in Kiev to rule in her father, King Frodi’s name.
It is also recorded that all the people mourned for King Odd in great grief. They bore him away and buried him upon the hill which is called Shchekovitsa. His burial howe stands there to this day, and it is called the Tomb of Oleg. But this cannot be true because Queen Silkisif would have demanded he be buried in Tmutorokan, where he had reigned with her for many years.