Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert
THE CREATION OF IVAR THE BONELESS (Circa 916 AD)
“Hraerik came to me in a dream and he said, ‘Ivar the Boneless is Igor of Kiev’, so I researched Ivar the Boneless. It was said in the Sagas that he had no bones in his legs.
Then I researched Prince Igor of Kiev, hoping to find a similar nickname, but I could find none. ‘Show me,’ I pleaded with Hraerik. ‘Show me.’
Then I read: ‘The Drevjane had bent down two birch trees and they tied them to Prince Igor’s feet, and, like great bows, they let the trees loose and they tore the bones right out of his legs.
Prince Hraerik said Igor of Kiev is Ivar the Boneless.”
Brian Howard Seibert
“I still love your father,” Queen Eyfura told her son, Ivar. “We left Gardariki to rule here in Kiev, as queen and royal regent. Your father is a prince, but you are the grandson of a king. You, too, will be king. It is in your blood.”
“But when will father join us here?” young Ivar asked.
“He will come to Kiev when he is ready,” Eyfura answered. “He thinks Kiev is haunted by the memories of your grandmother, Queen Alfhild. She died here.” Queen Eyfura did not tell her regent son how her mother had died. No one ever talked of that.
“Father will never join us here,” Ivar exclaimed. “And Oddi will never join us again,” he complained. “And Hervor will never…” He set his jaw and shook his head. They were Hraes’, Varangians….Way Wanderers, masters of the Nor`Way and of the Southern Way….the Dan’Way.
“You’ll lead the troops for the first time tomorrow,” his mother started, “and gather tribute from the Poljane, Drevjane and Radimichi. You`ll have the lists for the required slaves, furs, honey and grain. If they are short on tribute, they must be harshly dealt with. Your lieutenants will help you with that. The slaves may be short. Prince Oddi was negligent in collecting the slave tribute. Other goods may be substituted until the practice is fully reinstated.”
Prince Ivar led his troops to collect tribute from the Drevjane and he saw a local Slav princess walking along a sidewalk in Chernigov, the main village. He learned that her name was Olga and he had her invited to the Hraes’ palace in the town. She fell in love with the prince that night and the inseparable couple were soon married. Late fall in Kiev brought the arrival of a daughter to the royal couple, Princess Alfhild, named after her great grandmother. Prince Ivar invited his father to her christening, for Princess Olga was Christian and wanted her raised in that faith. But Prince Hraerik suggested that perhaps young Princess Alfhild should be christened in Tmutorokhan, where they had an Orthodox Christian Bishopric. Princess Olga quickly concurred.
“You shall have to overcome your fear of Alfhild’s ghost in Kiev,” Prince Ivar admonished his father, “especially now that your grand-daughter is named after her.”
“I can’t believe you married a Christian girl,” Hraerik replied. “That must have made your mother happy.”
“I’m still paying for that,” Ivar replied, then changed the subject. “I want to lead an army to recapture all of King Frodi’s lands and titles. When Hervor went to Denmark to recover her father’s sword, your Tyrfingr, mother told me she did not dare to stay in the longhall of her great grandfather. She feared for her life from the men who ruled there; they were no relatives of ours. And the Saxons and Angles in Briton rule over Frodi’s Jute Lands there, the Dane Law. The lands we Danes conquered in Briton long before the Saxons and Angles even arrived there are now in the hands of those German interlopers. I want to win them all back for us.”
“Is there any particular reason that you would want to risk everything doing that?”
“Our position is too precarious here. Mother antagonizes the Slavs with her re-establishment of slavery. We need control of our northern realms as well as our eastern. We can draw troops from the north to quell rebellions in the east and vice versa.”
Hraerik liked how Ivar’s mind worked. He had spent his summers in Tmutorokhan, between the spring and fall trading seasons, studying under some of the finest scholars and alchemists of Asia. “I think you have a good plan there. Even Norway and Sweden must be brought under our control. Duke Rollo has lost control over his realm there and now they are traversing the Nor’Way and plundering the Caspian. We shall do this together, son….you and I.”
“How many troops can you raise?” Ivar asked.
“Ten thousand Tmutorokhan Hraes’, five thousand Khazars and Huns and
five thousand or so Oster and Vaster Goths.”
“Twenty thousand,” Ivar calculated. “I have ten thousand Kievan Hraes’, five thousand Novgorods, I can get two thousand Varangian cavalry from the Byzantines, plus Poljane, Drevjane and Radimichi auxiliaries….another twenty thousand or so.”
“Forty thousand men for two years or so?” Hraerik estimated. “That will take a lot of gold.”
“I’ll have to collect tribute over winter and then again in the spring,” Ivar stated. “The Slavs will not be happy.”
“I have gold enough to finance the campaign,” Hraerik offered.
“That’s Nor’Way gold. The Dan’Way must pay its share.”
Hraerik noted that his son was calling the Southern Way the Dan’Way. That was King Frodi’s terminology, names generated as Frodi became more distanced from the Norwegians and Swedes that had surrounded him. And the Dnieper was the Danepar and Novgorod became Holmgard. Everything was acquiring a Danish moniker. No doubt Princess Eyfura was behind it. She had pronounced herself Queen of Kiev and Holmgard and had begun reviving King Frodi’s royal house and lineage. Hraerik didn’t mind as long as she continued to spend her summers in Tmutorokhan with their son. Summers were becoming the most beautiful part of all their lives.
Prince Ivar was back in Kiev early fall and soon set out to collect tribute from the surrounding Slav provinces. He spent the winter collecting furs and slaves, the Fenja and the Menja of the Southern Way trade, for the spring trading season and once that was all set up, he went out in the spring to collect a second round of tribute for the upcoming campaign, warriors and gold from the Slav cities of Chernigov, Smolensk, Surazh and Polotsk.
Outside of Chernigov, Prince Ivar and his troops were confronted by a contingent of Drevjane warriors. They had heard about the second round of tribute and had decided to fight rather than pay. Ambushing the Kievan Hraes’ from the woods on either side of a forest road leading into the town, they used their bows to take down the vanguard and rear guard cavalrymen, then surrounded the main body and forced them to surrender at spear point. They tore Prince Ivar from his horse and dragged him to the woods edge, where they had bent over and staked down two birch trees, and they tied Ivar’s feet to the birches and threatened to cut the stake ropes unless Prince Ivar withdrew his orders for a second round of tribute. Ivar countered their demands with an offer to limit the tribute to volunteer warriors only, who would be allowed a full warrior’s share of booty. All parties were coming to an agreement, when one of the knots in the stake ropes let loose and one birch sprang free of the ground and tore one foot and leg bone from the prince. The force of the jolt tore the other stake free and that birch sprang up and, almost simultaneously, tore the bones out of his other leg. His thigh muscles were all that were left as the leg bones tore out at the weaker hip joints and were flung out into the surrounding woods. Prince Ivar blacked out from the pain and the Drevjane warriors fled in panic, thinking they had killed their prince. There was a medical alchemist in the main body of the Hraes’ troops and he came forward and began to work on the prince, twisting nooses tightly around Ivar’s quads and administering opium to keep the prince from going into shock. The men lashed two shields to a pair of long lances and they laid their prince on the shields and transported Prince Ivar between four horses to Chernigov and into the Hraes’ palace in the town square.
Two days later, Queen Eyfura and Princess Olga arrived in Chernigov at the head of a thousand Hraes’ cavalry, riding in carriages with more medical alchemists and medicinal supplies. They transported their prince back to Kiev, where he regained consciousness and began to stabilize.
Two weeks later, Prince Hraerik arrived in Kiev with the head of the Medical Alchemists’ Guild from Tmutorokhan to assist in the prince’s recovery.
“I told you our position was precarious,” Prince Ivar told his father, weakly, as he laid in bed.
“I know,” the elder prince whispered, as he hugged his son. “The Slavs have all sent in their second tributes out of fear. I shall lead your forces in your stead, my son.”
“You lead your own forces,” Ivar said. “I’m still leading mine.”
“You can’t possibly go on campaign in this condition,” Hraerik said.
“Watch me,” Ivar declared. “I’m young. I’ll heal fast. I don’t want to stay here any longer than I have to.
“I made Olga responsible for determining what the punishment should be for her own Drevjane people,” Ivar started, despondently, “and she had the revolt ringleaders flogged. They did this to her husband and she had them flogged?”
“There were claims it was an accident,” Hraerik started, “but there should have been more, given the gravity of your condition.”
“If you hadn’t embedded your medical alchemists into our Hraes’ forces, I’d be dead. I’d be talking to you like grandmother Alfhild. Has she come to haunt you yet?”
“No,” Hraerik laughed. “Perhaps she has found peace.”
“That would be good….because we are going to find war. Go back to Tmutorokhan and rally your troops. Bring them to Kiev in a month and we shall set sail for Denmark.”