Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert
CHAPTER TWELVE POINT ZERO
12.0 THE MARRIAGE OF EARL GODWIN AND PRINCESS GYTHA (Circa 1024 AD)
(1024 AD) King Canute had finally consented to the Christian marriage of Earl Godwin Wulfnothson and Princess Gytha Thorkelsdottir. He had allowed them to be married in the Danish way several years earlier, which allowed Valdy to maintain his relationship with the beautiful young princess as well, but he finally relented and allowed them Christian rites and had hoped that they would wed during the start of Yulefest, when there were many guests at his palace in London, however, they preferred to get married on New Year’s Day, before a small group. Gytha already had several children by Canute and two that might be from either father, so it was decided to keep the wedding small and private. Jarl Thorkel and his brother, Jarl Ulf, had been invited back from their exiles in Denmark to help celebrate the occasion and they were officially reconciled with their king over the Yule celebrations. When they returned to Denmark, they took twenty four Greenlanders back to Roskilde with them, with orders to establish ransom negotiations with King Olaf of Norway for their release.
Not only did King Olaf refuse to pay ransom, but he had heard about the death of Jarl Eirik the prior fall and he now laid claim to the Earldom of Northumbria, claiming he had ruled it briefly under King Athelred and that King Olaf Tryggvason before him had ruled it briefly and that King Erik Bloodaxe before him had ruled it for a long time and it was more fittingly ruled by Norwegian Kings than by Lade petty jarls. When King Canute heard this outlandish demand, he grew so angry that he ordered the immediate execution of the Greenlander captives, but, fortunately, they were in Roskilde and Prince Hraerik told Valdy he would take care of things when he led the great merchant fleet east.
After the sailing of the tallships for the Newfoundland, Prince Hraerik left Queen Emma to continue her building of King Sweyn’s castle and he led the English merchant fleet to Roskilde, where the great merchant fleet was assembling. Jarl Thorkel handed over the twenty four Greenlanders and Prince Hraerik told them, “Your king, Olaf ‘the Stout’, has refused to pay your ransoms, so, seeing as how you all look strong and healthy and quite capable of merchant trading, I shall allow you to work in my personal fleet and accompany me to Baghdad, where you may seek your fortune with the rest of our merchants. However, you must take oath to follow my orders and those of my officers or you can remain here in Liere in chains. Which offer do you prefer?” And all the Greenlanders, to a man, chose trading in Baghdad.
When they arrived in Kiev, the city was under siege by Prince Mstislav and his Khazars and Kasogians. The fleet sailed up to the quays of Kiev and carried on business as usual, buying slaves from the slave schools there and buying merchandise to sell to the Arabs and Greeks. The siege was temporarily halted while the business was conducted, because the merchant fleet had more warrior traders than both the Kievan and Tmutorokan armies combined. Prince Hraerik visited with Prince Ivaraslav’s Centuriata officers in King Frodi’s great hall and learned that their prince was in Novgorod and that they’d been ordered to hold the city at all costs. Then Prince Hraerik visited with Prince Mstislav in the camp of the besieging army.
“I take it you won’t be accompanying me to Baghdad this year?”
“This is taking a little longer than I expected,” Prince Mstislav replied.
“And probably costing a lot more than you expected as well,” the Prince added. Mstislav looked down at his feet. “If I take the Kievan merchants south with me,” Hraerik went on, “will your Tmutorokan merchants be waiting at the Harbour of Cherson?”
“I told them to carry on without me, so I expect they will be there waiting to pay tithes.”
“Good!” Hraerik said. “If they aren’t there, I shall stop in at Gardariki and fetch them.”
“Thank you, Grandfather,” Mstislav said, again looking at his feet.
“Now, Ivar’s Centuriata has orders to hold Kiev at all costs. Perhaps if you stayed on the east side of the Dnieper and laid siege to Chernigov instead, you might find the inhabitants a little easier to deal with. Then, when I come back in the fall, we can sit down with Ivar and discuss a compromise. If you hold Chernigov, he will be easier to deal with.”
“But we held Chernigov against the Poles,” Mstislav began, “and Kiev fell. Isn’t Kiev the softer target?”
“Prince Ivaraslav lost his Slav supporters and didn’t have enough Danes to man the walls of Kiev. So we ‘Swift Danes’ withdrew to Chernigov where we did have enough men to man the walls. Remember?”
“Ivar won’t apologise for calling me Mstislav ‘the Focked’,” Mstislav complained.
“So, call him Ivar ‘the Swift’. We don’t have time for this. We have a trading empire to run.”
When Prince Hraerik arrived at the Harbour of Cherson, the Tmutorokan merchant fleet was waiting there to pay their tithes before going to Constantinople, Baghdad, Cathay and India. The Prince had to cover for Mstislav in Baghdad, so he was continually sailing between India, Baghdad and Constantinople and didn’t have much time to spend with his wives in Mumba, but he did take young Nika with him for a round trip to Baghdad and back. They had sex in the forecastle cabin of his shield ship and she apprised him of the advances they had made in the mathematics he required to experiment with his cosmology theories.
He was also glad he had brought the Greenlanders with him. They only spoke Norse and some Skraeling, so they stuck to him like glue in these foreign lands and they were hard workers that he could trust. He finished up in Constantinople with a final delivery of untouchables for his slavers in the Saint Mamas District. He stopped in at The Red House there and thanked the coven leader, Witch Hama, and the witches, both Vanir and Aesir, for their help with spells. Then he got final reports from his Roman spies and he presented them with a new task. He wanted them to infiltrate the Imperial Security Service and dig up some old, declassified information on Prince Svein ‘the Old’, aka Prince Sviatoslav, aka General Sveinald, aka Prince Sphengos, aka Sphengelos, anything they could get that might connect it with an ongoing Imperial operation.
“That will take a lot of gold,” Hraerik’s chief spy replied. “It shall require many bribes.”
“Spare no expense,” the Prince assured him. “There is something going on that I’m not aware of.”
“That would be a first!”
“There is a first for everything,” Hraerik countered.
The Prince had put up all his Greenlanders with his officers in The Red House, because many of the princesses who worked there spoke Norse and could keep them amused and out of trouble. It was expensive, but Constantinople could be a very dangerous place for an inexperienced Viking, so Hraerik paid their bill in gold and thanked the witches once more, then they sailed from the Saint Mamas harbour and joined the great merchant fleet as they sailed from Constantinople to their staging harbour in Cherson. Tithes were collected and fleets were released to sail north and Prince Hraerik and his Greenlanders took the collected gold with them to Gardariki, but instead of depositing it in his treasury under his palace, he withdrew more chests of gold from his reserve. The reserve he and Prince Svein had built up for a war on Rome. The strong backs of the Greenlanders carried the heavy chests out of vaults and placed them in the ballast areas of the merchant warships. They had never seen so much gold. And they had never worked so hard carrying it all. Even though it had taken a week to complete the job they still caught up with the tail end of the great fleet as it sailed up the Dnieper well before it reached Kiev.
In Kiev, the siege had been lifted and Prince Ivaraslav’s Centuriata officers informed him that Chernigov had submitted to Prince Mstislav rather than fight him. Prince Hraerik used his position as Chief Merchant Officer of the Hraes’ fleet to get his ships moving along past all others and they were soon at the Dnieper shores near Chernigov and the Prince sent messengers to the city requesting Mstislav to come to him with some heavy carts and draft animals. They rowed their gold laden warships into boat sheds that went out into the water and the Greenlanders unloaded some of the gold onto carts as they arrived, unseen by the many merchant ships passing by them on the river.
“That is your Hraes’ share,” the Prince told Mstislav, as the train of carts prepared to head back to Chernigov. “Distribute shares to all the named princes east of the Dnieper from the city of Valdamar to your city of Tmutorokan and I shall be going to Novgorod to give Ivaraslav his share for distribution to all princes west of the Dnieper. I shall tell him that that is the way things stand for now and let’s see how this works out. D’accord?”
“Da,” Prince Mstislav agreed. “All the way up to Valdamar.”
“Have you thought any more about getting the Iry Dada out of you? Now that you should be done with war?”
“I kind of like him,” Mstislav replied. “And Nado loves the extra sex!”
“Possession can be problematic,” the Prince warned him. “Let me know if anything changes with it. We now have the spells we need to rid you of him.”
“I’ll let you know.”
Prince Hraerik’s personal merchant fleet parted ways with the great merchant fleet at the Smolensk-Surazh portage and the great fleet sailed down the Dvina River while Hraerik’s fleet portaged across to the Lovat River and sailed up it to Lake Ilman, past Staraja Russa and on down the Volkov River to Novgorod. Prince Ivar was waiting to greet his grandfather on the quays of the city and they embraced each other warmly. “You got him to stop attacking Kiev, at least,” Ivaraslav told him as they watched the Greenlanders unloading his share of the gold.
“You are to distribute Hraes’ shares to all the named princes on the west side of the Dnieper up to your city of Ivaraslavl,” Hraerik instructed him. “I have given Mstislav gold to distribute to the princes east of the Dnieper all the way to the city of Valdamar.”
“What about Suzdal, in between them?” Ivar asked.
Hraerik went through the velum pages and said, “Fock! I missed that one. I’ll leave you the gold for the Prince of Suzdal and you can pay him, but don’t squabble over the town.”
“I won’t if he won’t.”
The Prince then asked Ivar if he would consider apologizing to Mstislav for calling him ‘the Focked’. And he went into the details of the fight Mstislav had had with Prince Iry Dada of the Kasogians. “Prince Mstislav had promised me he wouldn’t lose, so he smuggled a knife into the Greco-Roman match, but Iry Dada had won the match fair and square, so Mstislav allowed Iry to finish his victory in the Greco-Roman style before he killed Iry with the knife.”
“I sure as hell wouldn’t do that,” Ivar admitted.
“Nor I,” Hraerik agreed. “Mstislav waited until Iry came and then he killed him. He said it was a death worthy of the great warrior that Iry Dada was.”
“It makes sense in its own bent way, I suppose,” Ivar said.
“But what Mstislav didn’t know was that Iry’s wife was an Aran witch and she had put a spell on her husband. When Iry Dada died, his spirit entered Mstislav, so when Misty won Iry’s wife as a prize, Iry Dada came with it. His spirit still resides inside Mstislav.”
“That’s pretty focked!” Ivar spat.
“I know!” Hraerik spat back. “So consider apologizing to him. He was trying to be fair with Iry Dada and he got focked over even more. And let me know if his possession takes a turn for the worse. Aesir-Aranic possessions can get out of control.”
“Prince Mstislav ‘the Double Focked’!” Ivar mused.
“Don’t even think that,” Hraerik warned. “He has the great warrior Iry Dada inside him and you don’t want to be focking with that combination in battle.”
“But we’re supposed to be Christians now. We can’t have all this witchcraft about.”
“I’ve been hearing a lot of that lately. Are you going to be taking a slave girl with you to the grave?” Hraerik asked him. “Just in case?”
“Well, yeah, of course! Just like Duke Rollo did!”
“Good. It doesn’t hurt to cover your ass.”
“You should’ve told Misty that,” Ivar said, “before this whole Iry Dada thing!” And they both began laughing. “How about you?”
“I’m dying Aesir,” the Prince replied. “Queen Alfhild’s spirit has told me that I already have a place in Valhall…right…next…to…Odin!”
“No!” Ivar replied.
“Yes! She said I bumped the great warrior Starkad to his left side.”
“That’s what she said!”
“Your saga says you focked her spirit,” Ivar said. “How was it?”
“It was great! But not as great as turning yourself into a spirit and focking a beautiful spirit and then coming back.”
“You’ve done that?”
“A few times now.”
“This Christianity really sucks! I wish father had never converted.”
“If Valdy hadn’t converted, you wouldn’t have the blood of the Caesars flowing through your veins. All the royal houses of Europe want to ally themselves with you just so they can get one of your Porphyrogennetos daughters to marry them.”
“It didn’t work out so well for Estrid,” Ivar complained.
“Duke Richard’s an asshole!” Hraerik said. “He sold his own sister to King Athelred just to get his hands on the English throne.”
“I think I might’ve done that myself,” Ivar admitted. “It is the throne of England.”
“But he knew that your grandfather, Svein, was after that throne first. Hraes’ princes don’t steal from Hraes’ princes!”
“You should tell that to Mstislav,” Ivar reminded him.
“It’ll work out. Let’s just be patient. How are things working out with you and Ingegerd?”
“She’s pregnant again. You’ll meet her at supper tonight. She’s arranging a feast for you. You and your Greenlanders. She thinks they’re a fine group of young traders.”
Prince Hraerik never expanded on just who they were caught trading with. Details about the Newfoundland were almost unknown in the east and the Prince wanted to keep it that way. The Greenlanders were sworn to silence about the vast verdant land west of their island that was anything but green. Their time in Novgorod was so pleasant that they would have stayed longer, but Hraerik wanted to catch up with the great merchant fleet before the Norwegian merchant ships left Roskilde. There were a few Norse merchant princes who had managed to maintain their Hraes’ status through the hard times with both King Olafs, Tryggvason and ‘the Stout’.
In Roskilde, Prince Hraerik arrived just before the small Norwegian fleet parted, so the Prince paid his Greenlanders their shares in gold and withheld half of it to pay off the ransom that King Canute had wanted, and the Greenlanders were happy with that. They had never been paid so well, nor ever handled so much gold. They all planned on coming back the next year with the Norse merchant fleet they were returning to Norway with. Hraerik invited them to come with the fleet but join up with his fleet if they wished. They all welcomed that offer and remembered their time at The Red House Of Constantinople, The RHOC, as they lovingly called it. Prince Hraerik was glad that he had handled the problem with the Greenlander captives so profitably, but there were storm clouds brewing right in Denmark. King Canute had sent a high level delegation to Roskilde and they had sailed north to King Olaf a few days before the Norwegian fleet arrived in Denmark. They held a notice from their king that Canute considered himself to be the true king of Norway, and their writ outlined the various reasons. Prince Hraerik heard about the writ from Queen Gyritha, and he knew there would be problems once the delegation delivered their demands, and he would have stayed in Roskilde with Gyritha and awaited their return, but he had a lot of gold aboard his personal fleet and could only visit shortly with Prince Svein and Princess Estrid and her husband Jarl Ulf, before heading off to the Isle of Wight to secure the gold in King Sweyn’s castle there.
When the delegation arrived in Tonsberg near The Vik, where King Olaf was now holding his court, they were kept waiting for days to be heard and, once heard, were kept waiting for days for Olaf’s reply, so angry had he gotten. King Canute’s writ explained that as his father, King Sweyn ‘Forkbeard’, had been adopted as a son of Jarl Haakon ‘the Bad’, or ‘the Rapist’ as some now called him, and held rights to both Trondheim and The Vik, as had been awarded after his victory at the Battle of Svolder, and as his great grandfather, King Frodi ‘the Peaceful’ of Denmark, had conquered all of Norway up to Halogaland and had allowed King Harald ‘Fairhair’ to rule it as a subject king, and the present King Olaf ‘the Stout’, professing kinship with King Harald ‘Fairhair’, should profess a similar fealty to the kin of King Frodi ‘the Peaceful’, namely King Canute ‘the Great’ of England and Denmark. But if King Olaf ‘the Stout’ Haraldson wishes to rule Norway as King Harald ‘Fairhair’ had, let him fare to King Canute ‘the Great’ Sweynson and receive the Kingdom of Norway from him as a subject king and become his vassal and pay the same tribute as the prior jarls had earlier paid King Sweyn.
When King Olaf finally made his reply to the delegation, he said, “I have heard tell in times of yore that King Gorm ‘the Old’ of Denmark was an excellent ruler, but he ruled Denmark only; but now the Danish kings who have come since his day do not seem to be satisfied with that. It has come to this, that King Canute rules Denmark and England and, in addition, has subjected a large part of Scotland and some of Ireland. And now he challenges my inheritance from King Harald ‘Fairhair’ as well. He should, however, emulate King Gorm ‘the Old’ rather than his English Earl Eadric ‘Streona’, ‘the Grasper’, and learn moderation, or does he intend to eventually lord over all the Northern Lands alone? Perhaps he intends to eat, alone, all the cabbages in England? He will have to accomplish that before I shall pay him tribute or do him any sort of homage. Now you shall tell him these my words, ‘that I will defend Norway with point and edge as long as life is granted me; but never shall I pay tribute for my kingdom to any man.’ This you shall tell him!”
The English Earl Godwin who headed the delegation was choked up at the response he received, but he consulted with the angry Danish Jarl who accompanied him, Thorkel ‘the Tall’, and responded in kind, but a little more diplomatically, as he was in an equally angry king’s court, and he said, “The King Gorm ‘the Old’ Ivarson, of whom you have spoken so kindly, was the brother of King Canute’s father, King Sweyn ‘Forkbeard’ Ivarson, and when he died, his son, King Harald ‘Bluetooth’ Gormson usurped the Danish throne from King Sweyn, who, per ancient Danish Aesir law, was entitled to take over as a surviving brother and held precedence over any surviving son, and King Harald effected this usurpation by accepting the Christian faith solely because it allowed sons precedence over brothers. So, before you decide to emulate King Gorm, I’ll let you know that King Harald died violently after King Sweyn’s great Norwegian victory over King Harald’s Danes and Jomsvikings at the Battle of Hjorungavagr. Also, let us remind you that Norway still suffers from the devastation that an angry King Frodi ‘the Peaceful’ of Denmark inflicted upon your land two hundred years ago and the same can be caused to happen again!”
After that vexed response, the delegation was held, awaiting their fates, for a few more days before being released. “I thought he might take our heads!” Jarl Thorkel said, as they sailed back to Roskilde. “If you’d have been doing the talking,” Earl Godwin said, “I’m sure he surely would have.” The two royals laughed and breathed in the cool sea air. “I’m sure you’re right about that,” Thorkel said. “I was ‘short a few oars in the water’ after his answer to us. But the Norwegians are angry with us to this day for what King Canute’s grandfather did to them two hundred years ago. You might want to keep that ‘word-dagger’ sheathed when dealing with the Norse.”
“But wasn’t it Olaf’s grandfather who allied himself with King Frodi and thereby benefitted from all that destruction?” Godwin asked.
“What is it that those crazy Normans always say when they draw first blood at short sword matches?”
“That’s it!” Thorkel replied. “Touché!”
When the Prince arrived at the harbour of Southampton, Queen Emma and all their tallships were there to greet him. “Come aboard!” he shouted to his queen. “I have a deposit to make at the Don Jon of King Sweyn’s castle and I want you to show me your progress.” He knew how much Emma loved building and he loved her for that.
“I’ll have to get the children!” she shouted back and she ran off up the quay to her carriage and took it back into the city. The Prince and his fleet waited in the harbour for her return. He would have sent his fleet ahead, but there was so much gold aboard each ship that he didn’t like having them out of his sight unless they were at anchor and under guard. Each of his twelve ships now carried four chests of gold that weighed five hundred pounds, but that was Roman pounds, so, about four hundred British pounds, and they were equally distributed so that, in the event one ship sank, losses were minimized. Each ship carried about an equal amount of silver. They had started out with much more, but there were shares to be paid out along the way and trading had been decent.
When Emma came back, she had her sons and daughter by Hraerik along with her and she had Witch Nadege and Captain Hugh in tow. They all piled into Hraerik’s shieldship and they were soon rowing across the Solent to the Viking Harbour on Wight. The Prince could see that the castle looked to be complete and the stone masons were now working on the stone wall that would run around the outside of the log palisade that protected the fortress. Once the stone wall was complete, the palisade would be removed, and the new fortress would be just that much larger. The stone towers that reinforced the walls against trebuchet shot were being built at a spacing that would hopefully accommodate future advances in trebuchet power and velocities.
The children played amongst the construction materials as they had often done over the summer while there with their mother when she supervised the build. Hraerik’s sailors and traders were busy unloading the gold and silver and they all missed the strong backs of the Norse Greenlanders who had been released after paying their own ransoms. Witch Nadege was playing with the children while her captain looked on and the young app-witch seemed to fit in well with them. Hraerik wondered if there was any reason Emma had brought the cabin girl and her captain along, but he was almost afraid to ask, so he didn’t. Once the ships were unloaded and beached, a feast was given for all the workers and merchants and it was late when Emma and Nadege got the children off to bed and the foursome had a nightcap in King Sweyn’s master suite.
“Witch Hallveig sent us a message a week ago,” Emma started, “and she wanted you to visit her in York, but stop and check in on Gretta on your way north. She said something about using your time thing to see if Gretta had a visitor in the past few days. We don’t know what she means, but she said that you would. She’s starting to believe what you said about Jarl Eirik being poisoned. Apparently he was being visited by a lot of disaffected Jarls from King Olaf’s Christian Norway. Rebellion was a word oft used in their discussions.”
“There’s more to it than that,” Hraerik told her. “I have spies in Constantinople digging up old shit on Prince Svein ‘the Old’.”
“You mean King Sweyn?” Emma asked.
“Yes. This may go back a ways, past this Olaf and perhaps all the way back to the first Olaf.”
“Olaf Tryggvason?” Emma asked. “Why Constantinople?”
“He may have been in the Varangian Guard.”
“Fock!” Emma spat. “The Guard?” Emma put her head down and shook it from side to side for a while. She had already heard too much about the Varangian Guard through her Norman troops who assisted her brother in their Norman attacks on Italy. They now held northern provinces, but the Eastern Romans held southern provinces and were trying to reclaim Rome and all of Italy and they were using units of the Varangian Guard to fight against the fierce Norman knights. The Byzantine Romans had the finest knights in the world, outside of the Parthians in the east, so they were very surprised to come across Norman knights who were equipped with Roman armour and kite shields and sarissas and Roman saddle knock-offs right down to the stirrups. The Eastern Romans were even more surprised to learn that these Northmen, these Normans, spoke the Romance Latin of the Gauls and Franks, but, even more surprising, some spoke the Low Danish of the Rhos of Kiev. And a lot of men died when the Norman knights and the Varangian Guard faced off against each other.
“It’s a long story,” Hraerik began, so Emma poured out more goblets of sparkling Frankish wine and passed them out and she hesitated when she came to Nadege because she remembered how young she was when she’d played with her children, but she relented and gave it to her when she thought about the thing she was going to have the girl do for her. “Decades ago, when Valdy was just a boy, Olaf Tryggvason was a slightly older boy who was the son of King Trygve of Norway and he had been enslaved and taken to Hraes’, and he had a little boy’s axe which he used to kill the Varangian that had enslaved him, and the boy was going to be killed for it and Valdy’s mom, Princess Malfrieda, saved him and paid his wergild, and owned him and kept him in her longhall. He was a fine looking boy and, because King Sweyn was always away, she ended up having sex with the boy and he slept with her unless Sweyn was in Novgorod, and she told Sweyn all about it and he was okay with it. By the time he was sixteen, it became apparent to the people of Novgorod that the two had been focking on a regular basis for years and when Olaf turned eighteen he had to leave or risk being killed by Sweyn’s many supporters.
“I think he may have joined the Varangian Guard for a year or two before heading back up through Hraes’ to become a Viking on the Baltic Sea. Soon he found King Sweyn and began working for him as a raider, but found Christianity in England and then took over Norway and converted it to Christianity before he was finally killed by Jarl Eirik and King Sweyn at the Battle of Svolder. It was rumoured that he had survived the battle and the rumours turned out to be true, but that is another story involving Bishop Thietmar of Merseburg and his ‘Swift Danes’ of Kiev. But what I’m trying to find out is, if perhaps he found Christianity earlier than in England, say, in Constantinople, while serving with the Varangian Guard?”
“Fock!” Emma growled. “Romans! Eirik said Romans!” and she looked to Witch Nadege for confirmation and she got it.
“But Hadrian’s Wall?” Hraerik asked. “Why did he fly along Hadrian’s Wall?”
“It’s a Roman wall,” Captain Hugh said. “He wanted us to know it was something built by Romans.”
“I think there’s more to it,” Hraerik said. “We’re missing something he was trying to tell us. Perhaps Witch Hallveig has some information for us?”
“I brought all my witchcraft stuff,” the young witch said, innocently.
“Witch Hallveig wanted you to message her as soon as you got back,” Emma started, “and I’m right between periods, so, if we wanted a son, the timing would be perfect, but I really, really, really don’t want to get pregnant, so, I was wondering, Nadege, if you could be a dear and cover for me. You are too young to get pregnant, and I was hoping it would be okay with you and your captain.”
The Young witch looked up at her captain and said, “The pleasure is all mine.”
“Okay,” said Hraerik, giving Emma a ‘but it was your idea’ look.
“You’re probably going to fock the goddess Hallveig when you’re up in York anyway,” Emma said as they started prepping for the flight.
“I’ll be a spirit,” Hraerik told her, “and Hallveig will probably be asleep in bed and we’ll talk through her dreaming.”
“So it’ll be a wet dream?” Emma asked, taking a sip of her wine, but Hraerik was busy measuring out the antidote for them.
He swallowed his dose of antidote and Nadege applied her gel to her lips then she swallowed her poison and Hraerik waited a bit then swallowed his. He picked Nadege up and he carried her over to the bed and he was getting hard as her young body brushed against his. He put her on the bed and laid down beside her and she mounted him and began to ride his lingam, easy at first and then harder. When they reached an orgasmic state together, their spirits rose up out of their bodies and took flight towards London. Emma and the captain didn’t see this, of course; they just saw Hraerik and Nadege still focking hard on the bed.
Once the couple were above London, they circled the Tower of London palace and she followed him into the master suite of Gretta ‘the Assassin’ and they found her asleep in her huge bed. Hraerik was relieved that she was home in her prison and not gadding about London. ‘We are going to go into the past,’ Hraerik thought to her, ‘and for that we must join together so I can take you there with me,’ and he pulled the app-witch’s spirit against his chest and he entered her and they clasped each other as time went back and they could see what Gretta had been up to earlier in the day and then yesterday and the day before and the last week and, finally, one night an intruder entered Gretta’s room while she was getting ready for bed and she knew the man and they began talking and the two spirits listened in.
“You must get a message to King Olaf in Tunsberg,” the man began. “It is time for him to form alliances and attack the Danes. Gold shall be forwarded through regular channels for bribes and gifts, weapons and warriors, shields and ships.”
“I shall send the message through York,” Gretta confirmed.
“I have left your gold in the usual location,” the man said. He was older and Hraerik felt as though he had seen him somewhere in the past, perhaps in King Athelred’s service. Then the man said, “Good work!” and he left the room and the two spirits followed him, but he walked in the shadows in a deliberate pattern that seemed to thwart being followed and they lost him when he doubled back on himself and it was cumbersome and distracting for the two spirits who were still locked together in love’s embrace. As they flew back to Gretta’s palace, time unwound forward and they were back in their own time in time to see Gretta still sleeping in her bed. They uncoupled as they watched her.
‘How did you do that?’ Witch Nadege thought.
‘It’s science, not witchcraft,’ the Prince thought back, then they flew off to York to see what Witch Hallveig wanted. They were soon circling Hallveig’s estate north of York and they entered her master suite through a window and they saw her two Jomsviking warriors hard at work satisfying the Irpa within the witch and they watched and waited while Hallveig finished with her men. They were quite magnificent, two Jomsvikings and a goddess witch, in the sating of their lusts. Hallveig knew they were watching, she had sensed their coming, but she also knew their time was relative and hers was not. They could watch her for hours and for them mere seconds had passed. So, she took her time and she sent her Vikings on their way, then she took a potion that allowed her to think with spirits and she greeted Prince Hraerik and Witch Nadege. ‘What did you learn at The Tower?’ she asked them.
‘Gretta is spying for someone, perhaps a man from Athelred’s old spy network,’ Hraerik told her. ‘It looks as if she is supporting King Olaf’s efforts in Norway.’
‘I thought as much,’ Hallveig thought. ‘Jarl Eirik was helping a lot of rebellious jarls of Norway. I think Olaf had him poisoned, and what you have discovered points the vial at Gretta. You should have her killed.’
‘Not until we know who her handler is,’ the Prince said, ‘and learn who her employer is. It almost looks like a repeat of King Athelred’s alliance with Jarl Olaf Tryggvason, but Athelred’s dead, and our own Exeyes officers now run British intel. I’ll have them put more men on Gretta and I’ll work with one of our scriptorium artists and get some paintings done of Gretta’s guest so we can identify him through the old spy net.’
‘I won’t feel safe until she’s dead,’ Hallveig warned. ‘Jarl Eirik’s son, Haakon may be next. The Norwegian jarls are coming to him now. She’s a trained assassin and should be neutralized.’
‘I can’t lock her up more, or she’ll know she’s being watched. I can only put more tails on her,’ Hraerik explained. ‘I want to find out if her guest is the puppet master or just another puppet, with shorter strings and deeper pockets.’
‘Make sure the tails you put on her are wolf tails and not sheep, and take care for yourself and your grandson. I love you both,’ she admitted.
‘You love me!’ Hraerik thought. ‘You just like Valdy. Keep young Haakon safe!’ And Prince Hraerik took Witch Nadege by the hand and they flew out the window and headed back to the Isle of Wight.
When they got back, the Witch Nadege had just died as her spirit entered her body and when Hraerik re-entered his own, he began focking the girl frantically and Emma and the captain gathered around them to assist. The Prince soon exploded within the young app-witch and he filled her rather quickly then died and would have collapsed on top of her, but Hugh caught up most of his weight and eased him on his side and Emma turned the witch a bit so that Hraerik would stay inside her as he flowed. She was soon revived and she began kissing Hraerik until he, too, revived. Young Nadege kept kissing him anyway and could only stop with great difficulty. Something had happened when they were having sex as spirits and Nadege couldn’t explain what, except maybe she had fallen in love with him. She sat up on the bed and looked down at her prince as he caught his breath. Queen Emma had wiped off his lips and she was kissing him now.
Soon the foursome were sitting around the bedtable discussing what the two had discovered on their flight that night. All were concerned. And all considered Gretta guilty and a danger, a loaded trebuchet just waiting to unload, and they all thought she should be killed as Hallveig had suggested, except Hraerik. His admiration for the female assassin actually increased and the feelings he had felt for her when they were operatives in Kiev together even grew a little more as the mystery around her deepened. “I’m going to London tomorrow,” the Prince announced. “Who’s coming with me?” and all volunteered. It was late, so Nadege left her witchcraft gear and returned with her captain to their suite and Hraerik and Emma went to bed.
“She was kissing you a lot,” Emma complained. “You’ve got to stop focking that little witch. She’s too young!”
“You’re the one who didn’t want to get pregnant,” Hraerik said.
“I know,” she said, “but we couldn’t glove up because of the antidote. It just seemed that you two were enjoying each other just a bit too much while you were focking hard, and the captain and I had to sit and watch while you two were going at it for over an hour and Hugh even thought you were enjoying each other too much.”
“You should have put a glove on Hugh and enjoyed him while we were focking,” Hraerik said. “You were riding him before.”
“I wanted to wait until I could put a glove on you!”
“Well, you can right now, if you wish!”
“Do you wish?”
“I wish very much,” Hraerik said, kissing her tenderly.
“Me too!” she breathed. “But afterwards, you must tell me all about the Varangian Guard.”
“You like them?”
“No. They terrify me. They are attacking our Norman knights in Italy. I want to know just who we are dealing with.” She was answering him while she was tying up the Hraes’ glove she had purchased at her Hraes’ store in Paris. ‘That damn little witch,’ she thought, as she sucked Hraerik’s lingam just a little harder so she could get the glove on him. She then kissed her way up Hraerik’s chest and she mounted his steed and she began her ride. She kept picturing the young witch riding her husband and she knew the power of the sex drug they had taken, for she, too, had experienced its bliss, and her thoughts soon had her moaning and coming and she felt Hraerik flowing inside herself, not exploding, but flowing, and she collapsed onto his chest and felt his warmth. She stayed atop him and she held him trapped inside her and she said, “Now tell me all about The Guard.”
“I started the Varangian Guard quite by accident,” Hraerik started. “In 839 I took an embassy from Gardariki to Constantinople to get the aid of Emperor Theophilus of Rome, against an impending attack by the Khazars and their Hun tribe.”
“Did he help you?”
“Ha! He imprisoned me and then tried to kill me, but he was very sporting about it.”
“Sporting? How could he be sporting about killing you?”
“He taught me Latin so I could protect myself. Anyway, he sent me and a few of my men along with his embassy to the German Emperor Louis in Ingleheim. A message to the German king asked him to kill me there, but I changed the Latin message to reward me and that saved my life. But before I left, I got his permission to send the rest of my men back to Gardariki on my ship, Fair Faxi. But I also instructed a few of my men to ask if they could stay in Constantinople and work as mercenaries for the Romans. They always had foreign auxiliaries, even in their most ancient Vanir times, and some of them were attached to the Emperor’s personal guard. I wanted them to work their way into that guard to spy on the Emperor. They were members of my personal Centuriata and were quite good fighters, so they worked their way into the guard.”
“Do you still have your Centuriata?”
“Yes. Some of them are the grandsons of my original men, but others are added new to replace others so there is always between a hundred and one hundred and twenty. But they are scattered all over serving me now. Anyway, the next Emperor Michael hired a lot of Hraes’ Varangian warriors into his personal guard, but his own guard was found to be plotting against him and only the Varangians were kept out of the plot, so when it was uncovered, his whole personal guard was executed save for the Varangians, and Emperor Michael and all Emperor’s after him would only hire Varangians as their personal guard after that. So it became called the Varangian Guard.”
“Does the Varangian Guard still spy for you?”
“Does the Roman Emperor wear purple? When Prince Ivar ‘the Boneless’ ruled Hraes’, he had his own spies in the Guard, so we doubled up. And Princess Helga had a few of her own as well. But they were there to look after her son, Sweyn, who had joined the Guard as a boy. While Sweyn was with them, Helga married Emperor Constantine ‘the Seventh’ and the Guard increased in size and started fighting foreign wars for the Romans. I even went with the Guard to some of these foreign lands as Prince Sphengelos to gather my own intel.
“Some Romans claim that the Varangian Guard was started when Prince Valdamar took over for Sweyn and sent six thousand troops to the Roman Empire to help the Emperor put down a revolt in the Anatolian provinces, but that’s wrong. Once more I donned my Prince Sphengelos helmet and Prince Valdamar and I led a legion of Kievan cataphracts south to put down the revolt and gain Valdy the hand of Princess Anna Porphyrogennetos. Once we’d killed the rebels we took our legion back to Kiev. Knights are expensive. You don’t just leave them somewhere!”
“King Ivar left a legion of Roman cataphracts in Rouen,” Emma corrected him.
“Yeah!” Hraerik agreed. “But he left them there to protect your father, Duke Richard ‘the First’, his Uncle Rollo’s grandson. And the Romans charged him double for that missing legion. He brought back all the Roman knights that wanted to go back, but they’d all gotten themselves Frankish wives and there’s just something about you Frank and Norman women that just gets their men talking in the Frank Latin language and focking in the French way.”
Emma gave her husband a squeeze.
“Anyway, the Roman sons of those knights are still jousting in Rouen so, I guess it turned out to be a good long term investment, but at the time, King Ivar was pissed. That’s when Hraes’ first got its own homegrown cataphract legions, trained by ex-Varangian Guard officers, of course. And we’ve had our own cataphract knights ever since. Right now, the Varangian Guard is being commanded by Prince Ivaraslav Ivarson, King Canute’s first-born son in Hraes’, although he’s likely the son of Valdy’s older brother, Ivar. His mother, Princess Sviataslava is living with him in Constantinople and she runs all our Hraes’ stores there as well as The Red House of Constantinople.”
“The Witch-Pit of Rome?” Emma spat. “We sent some of our Witches of Rouen there to get rid of a few!”
“And you’ll be glad to know that they are doing quite well there. They get along well with the Vanir witches there because they speak a Romance language too.”
“So, is it Prince Ivaraslav that is leading the Varangian Guard against us in Italy?”
“Yes, but he’s Ivaraslav Ivarson, not the younger Ivaraslav Valdamarson that is ruling Kiev. The younger Ivar’s mother was Princess Anna, born of the purple blood.”
So, the older Ivar is running the Varangian Guard in Rome and the younger Ivar, the Ivar with the purple blood of the Caesars running through his veins, is running Kiev?
“That’s pretty focked up!”
“I know!” Hraerik agreed. “The Ivar that the Romans call ‘the Defender of Constantinople’ is a Dane, and the Ivar that the Germans call ‘the Swift Dane’ is actually more Roman than the Romans!”
“Tell me some more sweet things about Frankish Norman girls,” Emma said, “before I fall asleep,” and Hraerik began talking to her in French about Gold Harald, or Hargold, as Duke Richard had called him.
Roman London, or Londinium, had been established by Emperor Claudius in 47 AD, a fact Prince Hraerik had gleaned from the Roman Histories that he had read in learning Latin while imprisoned in Constantinople by another Roman Emperor almost eight hundred years later, and Londinium was established there because it was at a point up the Thames River where larger Roman ships could progress no further. It became an important commercial center for supplying the heartland of Britain with Roman goods and services. It soon surpassed Camulodinum, the city of Colchester, that King Sweyn had sacked once or twice, in size and it became the capital and was renamed Augusta, after the Emperor, but the Roman and Welsh citizens still called it London. But Camulodinum remained an important city in Roman Britain and would also be renamed, though much later, as Camulot, under a Briton king named Arthur. Hraerik had seen this in his visions, for it happened after the Romans left Britain.
As Prince Hraerik and his party approached the city by ship, he saw the famed Roman wall that was built a hundred and a half years later, but only on the landward side, to thwart attacks by Picts from the north. As they sailed closer, the river wall came abreast them on the steering-board side, a wall the Romans added a hundred years later due to a Danish Angle raider attack up the Thames River. The Prince had read this in the Roman Histories, and it was the first time the Anglish Danes had attacked Britain, but it was a result of a world-wide cooling period the world was sliding into that fomented a European migration period that would result in the fall of Rome, itself. This Hraerik had seen in his visions. A thousand years later he had seen another cooling period arrive that resulted in the fall of Roman Constantinople, but that was still to come, a vision of the future Hraerik had seen.
The English London had been growing and was now almost as populous as it had been in Roman times. In 409 AD, Constantine ‘the Third’ took his British legions back to Rome to become Emperor there, and Roman Britain was left to fend for itself. But even before the Romans had left, the Picts from the north, circumventing the Roman Antonine Wall by sailing around it began attacking the eastern coasts of Britain. The Angles of southern Jutland in Denmark were trading partners with the Roman Britons and were very good sailors, so the British hired them as foederati to protect the coasts of northern Britain and gave them the eastern coastal lands to settle upon. The cooling was causing crop failures everywhere and the starving Danes flooded in from the east and took over Eboracum and called it Yoracum and then York and they conquered the lands southward, all the way to Icinia, but were stopped at Camulodinum, north of London, by King Aurelius. The Pagan Angles ruled their new land by Danish custom and law and it was, in effect, the first Danelaw, though called Bernicia and Deira and Anglia. Then the Jutes followed and conquered the province of Cantia, south of London, and called it Kent. And when the Roman Britons hired the Saxons of Germany to protect their southern shores from Irish attacks, a similar set of events occurred and the Pagan Saxons soon invaded southern Britain in large numbers, but were also stopped by King Aurelius at the Battle of Mons Badonicus. An uneasy peace prevailed while the followers of Odin, a religion of conquest, lorded over their Christian Roman Briton subjects in the conquered territories.
The city of London flourished in this peace, free of the crushing Roman taxation, but it soon became a tempting jewel for East Saxon lords and the city was attacked and sacked so ferociously that it remained completely abandoned for hundreds of years and the Saxon town of Londonwic took its place just west of the Roman walls that remained. When King Frodi’s great heathen army invaded Angleland in 865 AD, they camped within London’s walls, oblivious to the curse that supposedly languished there, and when they left, King Alfred ‘the Great’, moved Londonwic back within the shelter of the Roman walls to protect the Saxon people from the ravages of the Viking attacks that were increasingly prevalent at that time. The Roman walls were repaired and augmented over the years until the resulting Fortress London proved proof against the Viking attacks of King Sweyn and his son, Prince Valdamar, who finally prevailed over King Edmund, becoming King Canute ‘the Great’ of England.
There was a quay running out into the Thames that serviced both the king and queen’s palaces and their sailors brought the ship up alongside it with nary a bump. Hraerik helped Emma across the gangplank and Captain Hugh helped Nadege and they walked up the quay to the carriage that awaited them. When they arrived at Queen Emma’s palace, there was a late lunch ready for them. The fall weather had been cool, so they all enjoyed the hot food and warm red wine served them. Queen Emma had staff waiting to go through royal matters with her and Prince Hraerik met with his Exeyes officers to set up several investigations. Witch Nadege and her captain were shown their suite and were not seen after that.
Hraerik met with officers who had served in London under King Sweyn, both before and after he had conquered the city, so they were very experienced in the goings on there. He wanted a team to investigate the story of Gretta’s mother and daughter sexcapades with King Athelred ‘the Unready’ and he wanted the women identified. He passed out several artistic renderings of the man he had seen meeting with Gretta in the Tower of London and he told his officers that he wanted the man covertly identified. All investigative work was to be done without tipping off those under perusal. He soon sent them on their way and he looked for his wife, but she was still dealing with royal issues, so he went off to their suite and relaxed while his officers did their Exeyes work. He wondered if all state intelligence services developed from the intel officers of their military units as had been the case since the most ancient of Roman times. Julius Caesar had built up extensive intelligence gathering networks within the Roman legions, but no network was as vast as the one he inherited when he became Pontifex Maximus of the Vanir tripartite gods religion and the priests and warlocks took the confessions of all Romans and reported the information so gleaned to the Emperor at the top. It was the Empire’s massive in-house intelligence gathering system that was carried into the later Latin Christian faith and fed the new Pontifex Maximus, the Pope, in the Vatican, just outside the city of Rome.
After a week of spying, the man in the paintings was identified as a Saxon intelligence officer out of a fyrd in Wessex. He had been working directly under King Athelred for many years and it looked as if Gretta was still working for some agency of the old West Saxon aristocracy, King Alfred’s line. And reports soon followed of the tryst that Gretta and her mother had established with King Athelred in their brothel in the wharf area of the city, the rumoured mother-daughter sexcapades that had enticed the king to break away, at times, from the male persuasion he preferred at the wharf inns. It was a time when King Sweyn was in need of human chattel and his Danish legions were capturing whole swathes of English people and sending them east into the slave markets of Baghdad and Constantinople and the children who escaped the human harvest ended up orphans in London and many boys and girls were purchased by the innkeepers by the wharfs to be enjoyed by English nobles. It would appear that Gretta was one such girl and that, whoever the woman in black was, she had purchased the girl to get into the confidence of her king.
Queen Emma had to return to Southampton to close construction on King Sweyn’s castle for the winter and Captain Hugh had to return to Rouen to overwinter there, so Prince Hraerik and Witch Nadege remained together in London and the Prince would sleep with the girl in her suite and they grew quite close as Yulefest neared. Once the Exeyes officers had gleaned all the intel that was to be had, Prince Hraerik arranged to spend some time with Gretta in her palace at the Tower of London. She had earned her keep as the child of a mother-daughter team on the wharfs of the city and Hraerik looked forward to indulging in some of that experience. Gretta was now middle aged, but she had always taken great care of herself physically in order to remain effective as an assassin, and Hraerik’s Exeyes officers had told him it was rumoured that her slave price had been triple because of her youthful beauty and she had maintained her looks over the years as well.
“I would like you to come east with me in the spring,” Hraerik told Gretta, their first night in bed together since their time in Kiev. “I need your help on a hit.”
“Who are we killing this time?” Gretta asked.
“I’m not sure,” the Prince replied. “We’re still gathering intel, but it will be dangerous, so I’ll be increasing your security here. The target may have operatives here in London and you’re a sitting duck in the tower here, so I want you protected.”
“Why don’t you just stay with me here in the tower until spring?”
“I wish I could,” Hraerik said, kissing her. “Princess Gyda will be coming up for Yulefest with Queen Emma and she will be visiting you with all her children. They’ll keep you busy.” He studied her fine form through the silk sheets of the bed and he brushed her raven hair back and it was flecked a bit with grey. “You told me that Princess Gyda was Queen Gunhild’s daughter that you spared in Ipswich,” he began gently, “so, are you sure that you’re the daughter of your mother?”
“Oh, yes,” she answered. “I have distinct memories of her from my earliest recollections.”
“Yet you don’t know what her name was.”
“I always called her mother,” Gretta said. “Because of the business we were in, we always changed our names. We were whores. I’ve been a whore since I was six. And when we were trained by King Athelred to be his assassins, we changed our names even more. What’s in a name, anyway? Would a rose by any other name not smell just as sweet?”
“I don’t know,” Hraerik said. “Let me smell you. Let me taste you!” And he kissed her some more and smelled her hair and slid down the silks and he tasted her and she began to moan a bit, then he slid up and he entered her. “You’re just as sweet as Roxanne as you are as Gretta, Roxy,” and he began focking her hard. She wrapped her legs around his haunches and she drew him deep within herself with each stroke. She felt like smooth rose petals inside and when she came and flowed a bit, it felt like crushed rose petals, and he glided into her and back out in a feeling he’d never had before. It was almost as if she was a perfect match for him, physically, complimentary, lingam to yoni. She had mastered her craft and had complete control of herself and she could draw his fluids out of him even as he exploded within her. He was dying to do the Zombie drug with her, but he couldn’t trust her, yet. She had mastered her craft as an assassin even better.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:
A.D. 1024. This year, on New Year’s Day, Earl Godwin Wulfnothson and
Princess Gytha Thorkelsdottir were wed in St. Pauls Church in London.
Their children were in attendance.
The Prince Hraerik’s New Chronicle of the Hraes’ for the year read:
(1024 AD) While Prince Ivaraslav was at Novgorod, Prince Mstislav arrived
before Kiev from Tmutorokan’, but the inhabitants of Kiev would not
admit him: He thus departed thence and established himself upon the
throne of Chernigov. He controlled all lands east of the Dnieper up to Valdamar;
Aesir magicians appeared in Suzdal’, and killed old people by satanic
inspiration and devil worship, saying that they would spoil the harvest.
When Ivaraslav heard of the magicians, he went to Suzdal’.
He there seized upon the magicians and dispersed them, then he
returned to Novgorod, whence he sent overseas after Varangians.