Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN POINT ONE
18.1 THE SECOND BATTLE OF STIKLASTAD PART TWO (JULY 29, 1030 AD)
(1030 AD) As the armies on both sides stood so near that people knew each other, the king said, “Why are you here, Kalf? For we parted good friends south in More? It beseems you ill to fight against us, or to throw a spear into our army; for here are four of your brothers.”
Kalf replied, “Many things come to pass differently from what may appear seemly. You parted from us so that it was necessary to seek peace with those who were left behind in the country. Now each must remain where he stands, but if I might advise, we should be reconciled.”
Then Fin, his brother, answered, “This is to be observed of Kalf, that when he speaks fairly he has it in his mind to do ill.”
The king answered, “It may be, Kalf, that you are inclined to reconciliation; but, methinks, the bondes do not appear so peaceful.”
Then Thorgeir of Kviststad said, “You shall now have such peace as many formerly have received at your hands, and which you shall now pay for.”
And the king replied, “You have no occasion to hasten so much to meet us; for fate has not decreed to thee today a victory over me, who raised you to power and dignity from a mean station.”
Now came Thorer Hund, forward in front of the banner with his troop, and called out, “Forward, forward, bondesmen!” Thereupon the bondesmen raised the war-cry, and shot their arrows and spears. The king’s men also raised a war-shout; and that done, encouraged each other to advance, crying out, “Forward, forward, Christ-men! Cross-men! King’s men!” When the bondes who stood outermost on the right flank heard it, they repeated the same cry, but when the Norman knights heard them shout it, they thought these were king’s men, and turned their arms against them, and they fought together, and many bondesmen were slain before Harek could call off the knights. The weather was beautiful, and the sun shone clear, and a warm breeze blew across the wide field of Stikla’s stead, cooling off the men as the shield walls crashed and the fight began in earnest. King Olaf had drawn up his army upon a rising ground, and it rushed down from there upon the bonde-army with such a fierce assault, that when the shield walls had crashed, the bondes’ array was driven back before it; so that the breast of the king’s array came to stand upon the ground on which the rear of the bondes’ array had stood, and many of the bondes’ army were almost in flight, but the Norman knights forced them to stand their ground and the jarls and lendermen and their house-men stood fast, and the battle became very severe.
Then the bonde-army pushed on from all quarters. They who stood in front hewed down with their swords; they who stood next thrust with their spears; and they who stood hindmost shot arrows, cast spears, or threw stones, hand-axes, or sharp stakes. Soon there was a great fall of men in the battle. Many were down on both sides. In the first onset fell Arnliot Gelline, Gauka-Thorer, and Afrafaste, with all their men, after each had killed a man or two, and some indeed more. Now the ranks in front of the king’s banner began to be thinned, and the king ordered Thord to carry the banner forward, and the king himself followed it with his regiment of Varangian Guardsmen he had chosen to stand nearest to him in battle, and these were the best armed men in the field, and the most expert in the use of their weapons. But the lendermen urged their men on, and the knights forced them to advance.
Olaf came forth from behind the shield-bulwark, and put himself at the head of the army, and when the bondes looked him in the face they were frightened, and let their hands drop. The combat became fierce, and the king went forward in the fray. The skalds stayed back just to say:
“Thundered the ground beneath their tread,
As, iron-clad, thick-tramping, sped
The men-at-arms, in row and rank,
Past Stiklestad’s sweet grassy bank.
The clank of steel, the bowstrings’ twang,
The sounds of battle, loudly rang;
And bowman hurried on advancing,
Their bright helms in the sunshine glancing.”
“Midst in their line their banner flies,
Thither the stoutest bonde hies:
But many a bonde thinks of home,
And many wish they ne’er had come.”
“Loud was the battle-storm there,
Where the king’s banner flamed in air.
The king beneath his banner stands,
And there the battle he commands.”
“I think I saw them shrink with fear
Who would not shrink from foeman’s spear,
When Olaf’s lion-eye was cast
On them, and called up all the past.
Clear as the serpent’s eye—his look
No Trondheim man could stand, but shook
Beneath its glance, and skulked away,
Knowing his king, and cursed the day.”
“When on they came in fierce array,
And round the king arose the fray,
With shield on arm brave Olaf stood,
Dyeing his sword in their best blood.
For vengeance on his Trondheim foes,
On their best men he dealt his blows;
He who knew well death’s iron play,
To his deep vengeance gave full sway.”
King Olaf fought most desperately. He struck the lenderman, Thorgeir of Kviststad across the face, cut off the nose-piece of his helmet, and clove his head down below the eyes so that they almost fell out. When he fell the king said, “Was it not true, Thorgeir, what I told you, that you would not be victor in our meeting?” At the same instant Thord stuck the banner-pole so fast in the earth that it remained standing. Thord had got his death-wound, and fell beneath the banner. There also fell Thorfin Mun, and also Gissur Gullbrarskald, who was attacked by two men, of whom he killed one, but only wounded the other before he fell. So shouted Hofgardaref-skald, from behind the Varangian shield wall:
“Bold in the Iron-storm was he,
Firm and stout as forest tree,
The hero who, ‘gainst two at once,
Made Odin’s fire from sword-edge glance;
Dealing a death-blow to the one,
Known as a brave and generous man,
Wounding the other, ere he fell,—
His bloody sword his deeds showed well.”
High upon a hill behind the bondes army, Witch Hallveig had her chantreusses dance, twelve in a ring around her, and those who stopped to catch breath on Stikla’s field below could see wisps of clouds where spirits gathered. And from the east, dark storm clouds came, following the River Helgaa, the Holy River named after Hallveig’s grandfather, Helgi ‘Arrow Odd’ Hraerikson, the famed warrior who had fought beside the warrior maiden Stikla at the first battle upon her stead. Soon, the overhead sun became red, and as the battle progressed it grew darker until it became as dark as at night.
Once the cohort of Norman knights in the vanguard were sure the bondes army would stand, they laid into the Varangian Guard regiment and, with the help of the Jomsvikings on either side, they pressed them hard and many of the Emperor’s men fell, but their shieldwall held. Then, coming in from the west, the goddess Irpa was seen to fly at them and from the fingertips of each hand flew five arrows, each the death of a man. And Hallveig’s Jomsviking captives fought on harder with this, for they had seen the darts of Irpa before, but it was against them in that fight. Hallveig’s metaled goddess body flew above them, naked and swathed in human blood, possessed by Irpa, and beautiful as Hell, even in the darkness, and she focused her deadly flights upon the center of the Varangian corp and the skalds who had sheltered there took flight at the Guardsmen’s fall.
A skald took up a fallen shield and from its shelter sang:
“No common wonder in the sky
Fell out that day—the sun on high,
And not a cloud to see around,
Shone not, nor warmed Norway’s ground.
The day on which fell out this fight
Was marked by dismal dusky light,
This from the East I heard—the end
Of our great king it did portend.”
At the same time, Prince Dag Hringson came up with his people in support, and began to put his men in array, and to set up his banner; but on account of the darkness the onset could not go on so briskly, for they could not see exactly whom they had before them. They turned, however, to that quarter where the men of Hordaland and Rogaland stood.
On the one side of Kalf Arneson stood his two relations, young Olaf and Kalf, with many other brave and stout men. Kalf was a son of Arnfin Arnmodson, and a brother’s son of Arne Arnmodson. On the other side of Kalf Arneson stood Thorer Hund, meaning hound. King Olaf hewed at Thorer Hund, and struck him across the shoulders; but the sword would not cut, and it was as if dust flew from his reindeer-skin coat. So said the skalds:
“The king himself now proved the power
Of Fin-folk’s craft in magic hour,
With magic song; for stroke of steel
Thor’s reindeer coat would never feel,
Bewitched by them it turned the stroke
Of the king’s sword,—a dust-like smoke
Rose from Thor’s shoulders from the blow
Which the king though would end his foe.”
Thorer struck at the king, and they exchanged some blows; but the king’s sword would not cut where it met the reindeer skin, although Thorer was wounded in the hands.
Skalds sang thus of it:
“Some say that Thorer’s not right bold;
Why never yet have I been told
Of one who did a bolder thing
Than to change blows with his true king.
Against his king his sword to wield,
Leaping across the shield on shield
Which fenced the king round in the fight,
Shows the dog’s courage—brave, not bright.”
The king said to Bjorn the marshal, “Please kill the dog on whom steel will not bite.” Bjorn turned round the axe in his hands, and gave Thorer a blow with the hammer of it on the shoulder so hard that he tottered. The king at the same moment turned against Kalf and his relations, and gave Olaf his death-wound. Thorer Hund struck his spear right through the body of Marshal Bjorn, and killed him outright; and Thorer said, “It is thus we hunt the bear.” Thorstein Knarrarsmid struck at King Olaf with his axe, and the blow hit his right leg well above the knee. Fin Arneson instantly killed Thorstein. The king, after the wounding, staggered towards a stone, threw down his sword, and prayed God to help him. Then Thorer Hund struck at him with his spear, and the stroke went in under his mail-coat and into his lower abdomen. As Thorer shook his spear free to deal another thrust, Kalf struck at him on the left side of the neck. These three wounds were King Olaf’s death; and after the king’s death the greater part of the forces which had advanced with him fell with the king. Bjarne Gullbrarskald now sang verses about Kalf Arneson, having been taken captive by the bonde army:
“Warrior! who Olaf dared withstand,
Who against Olaf held the land,
Thou hast withstood the bravest, best,
Who e’er has gone to his long rest.
At Stiklestad you were the head;
With flying banners onwards led
Thy bonde troops, and still fought on,
Until he fell—the much-mourned one.”
The skalds still about free also made these verses on Bjorn:
“The marshal Bjorn, too, I find,
A great example leaves behind,
How steady courage should stand proof,
Though other servants stand aloof.
To Russia first his steps he bent,
To serve his master still intent;
And now beside his king he fell,—
A noble death for skalds to tell.”
Prince Dag Hringson still kept up the battle, and , joined by the remaining Guardsmen, made in the beginning so fierce an assault that the bondes gave way, and some took flight. There a great number of the bondes fell, and these lendermen, Erlend of Gerde and Aslak of Finey; and the banner also which they had stood under was cut down. This onset was particularly hot, and was called Dag’s storm. But now Kalf Arneson, Harek of Thjotta, and Thorer Hund turned against Dag, with the array which had followed them, and then Dag was overwhelmed with numbers; so he grabbed Prince Harald and betook himself to flight with the men still left him. There was a valley through which the River Helgaa flowed and the main body of the fugitives fled, the Norse and Swedes and Guardsmen, and men lay scattered in heaps on both sides, and many were severely wounded, and many so fatigued that they were fit for nothing. The bondes pursued only a short way; for their leaders soon returned back to the field of battle, where they had their friends and relations to look after.
Thorer Hund went to where King Olaf’s body lay, took care of it, laid it straight out on the ground, and spread a cloak over it. He said that when he wiped the blood from the face it was very beautiful; and there was red in the cheeks, as if he only slept, and even much clearer than when he was in life. The king’s blood came on Thorer’s hand, and ran up between his fingers to where he had been wounded, and the wound healed up so speedily that it did not require binding.
Kalf Arneson searched for his brothers who had fallen, and found Thorberg and Fin. Fin threw his dagger at him, and wanted to kill him, giving him hard words, and calling him a faithless villain, and a traitor to his king. Kalf did not regard it, but ordered Fin and Thorberg to be carried away from the field. When their wounds were examined they were found not to be deadly, and they had fallen from fatigue, and under the weight of their weapons. Thereafter Kalf tried to bring his brothers down to a ship, and went himself with them. As soon as he was gone the whole bonde-army, having their homes in the neighbourhood, went off also, excepting those who had friends or relations to look after, or the bodies of the slain to take care of. The wounded were taken home to the farms, so that every house was full of them; and tents were erected over some. But wonderful as was the number collected in the bonde-army, no less wonderful was the haste with which this vast body was dispersed when it was once free; and the cause of this was, that the most of the people gathered together from the country places were longing for their homes.
The bondes who had their homes in Veradal went to the chiefs Harek and Thorer, and complained of their distress, saying, “The fugitives who have escaped from the battle have proceeded up over the valley of Veradal, and are destroying our habitations, and there is no safety for us to travel home so long as they are in the valley. Go after them with war-force, and let no mother’s son of them escape with life; for that is what they intended for us if they had got the upper hand in the battle, and the same they would do now if they met us hereafter, and had better luck than we. It may also be that they will linger in the valley if they have nothing to be frightened for, and then they would not proceed very gently in the inhabited country.” The bondes made many words about this, urging the chiefs to advance directly, and kill those who had escaped. Now when the chiefs talked over this matter among themselves, they thought there was much truth in what the bondes said. They resolved, therefore, that Thorer Hund should undertake this expedition through Veradal, with six hundred men of his own troops. Then, towards evening, he set out with his men; and Thorer continued his march without halt until he came in the night to Sula, where he heard the news that Dag Hringson had come there in the evening, with many other flocks of the king’s men, and had halted there until they took supper, but were afterwards gone up to the mountains. Then Thorer said he did not care to pursue them up through the mountains, and he returned down the valley again, and they did not kill many of them this time. The bondes then returned to their homes, and the following day Thorer, with his people, went to their ships. The part of the king’s men who were still on their legs concealed themselves in the forests, and some got help from the people.
Harald Sigurdson was severely wounded; but Ragnvald Brusason brought him to a bonde’s the night after the battle, and the bonde took in Harald, and healed his wound in secret, and afterwards gave him his son to attend him. They went secretly over the mountains, and through the waste forests, and came out in Jamtaland. Harald Sigurdson was fifteen years old when King Olaf fell. In Jamtaland Harald found Ragnvald Brusason and some of the Varangian Guardsmen and they all went east to Prince Ivaraslav in Hraes’.
Thormod Kolbrunarskald was under King Olaf’s banner in the battle; but when the king had fallen, the battle was raging so that of the king’s men the one fell by the side of the other, and the most of those who stood on their legs were wounded. Thormod was also severely wounded, and retired, as all the others did, back from where there was most danger of life, and some even fled. Now when the onset began which is called Dag’s storm, all of the king’s men who were able to combat went there, but Thormod did not come into that combat, being unable to fight, both from his wound and from weariness, but he stood by the side of his comrade in the ranks, although he could do nothing. There he was struck by an arrow in the left side; but he broke off the shaft of the arrow, went out of the battle, and up towards the houses, where he came to a barn which was a large building. Thormod had his drawn sword in his hand; and as he went in a man met him, coming out, and said, “It is very bad there with howling and screaming; and a great shame it is that brisk young fellows cannot bear their wounds: it may be that the king’s men have done bravely to-day, but they certainly bear their wounds very ill.”
Thormod asked, “What is thy name?”
He called himself Kimbe.
Thormod: “Were you in the battle, too?”
“I was with the bondes, which was the best side,” he said.
“And are you wounded in any way?” said Thormod.
“A little,” said Kimbe. “And hast thou been in the battle too?”
Thormod replied, “I was with them who had the best.”
“Art thou wounded?” asked Kimbe.
“Not enough to signify,” replied Thormod.
When Kimbe saw that Thormod had a gold ring on his arm, he said, “You are certainly a king’s man. Give me your gold ring, and I will hide you. The bondes will kill you if you fall into their hands.”
Thormod said, “Take the ring if you can get it: I have lost that which is worth more.”
Kimbe stretched out his hand, and wanted to take the ring, but Thormod, swinging his sword, cut off his hand; and it is related that Kimbe behaved himself no better under his wound than those he had been blaming just before. Kimbe went off, and Thormod sat down in the barn, and listened to what people were saying. The conversation was mostly about what each had seen in the battle, and about the valour of the combatants. Some praised most King Olaf’s courage, and some named others who stood nowise behind him in bravery. Then Thormod sang these verses:
“Olaf was brave beyond all doubt,—
At Stiklestad was none so stout;
Spattered with blood, the king, unsparing,
Cheered on his men with deed and daring.
But I have heard that some were there
Who in the fight themselves would spare;
Though, in the arrow-storm, the most
Had perils quite enough to boast.”
Thormod went out, and entered into a chamber apart, in which there were many wounded men, and with them a woman binding their wounds. There was fire upon the floor, at which she warmed water to wash and clean their wounds. Thormod sat himself down beside the door, and one came in, and another went out, of those who were busy about the wounded men. One of them turned to Thormod, looked at him, and said, “Why are you so dead-pale? Are you wounded? Why didn’t you call for the help of the wound-healers?” Thormod then sang these verses:
“I am not blooming, and the fair
And slender girl loves to care
For blooming youths—few care for me;
With Fenja’s meal I cannot fee.
This is the reason why I feel
The slash and thrust of Danish steel;
And pale and faint, and bent with pain,
Return from yonder battle-plain.”
Then Thormod stood up and went in towards the fire, and stood there awhile. The young woman said to him, “Go out, man, and bring in some of the split firewood which lies close beside the door.” He went out and brought in an armful of wood, which he threw down upon the floor. Then the nurse-girl looked him in the face, and said, “Dreadfully pale is this man—why art thou so?” Then Thormod sang:
“Thou wonderest, sweet sprig, at me,
A man so hideous to see:
Deep wounds but rarely mend the face,
The crippling blow gives little grace.
The arrow-drift o’ertook me, girl,—
A fine-ground arrow in the whirl
Went through me, and I feel the dart
Sits, lovely girl, too near my heart.”
The girl said, “Let me see thy wound, and I will bind it.” Thereupon Thormod sat down, cast off his clothes, and the girl saw his wounds, and examined that which was in his side, and felt that a piece of iron was in it, but could not find where the iron had gone in. In a stone pot she had stirred together leeks and other herbs, and boiled them, and gave the wounded men of it to eat, by which she discovered if the wounds had penetrated into the belly, for if the wound had gone so deep, it would smell of leek. She brought some of this now to Thormod, and told him to eat of it. He replied, “Take it away, I have no appetite for my broth.” Then she took a large pair of tongs, and tried to pull out the iron; but it sat too fast, and would in no way come, and as the wound was swelled, little of it stood out to lay hold of. Now said Thormod, “Cut so deep in that you can get at the iron with tongs, and give me the tongs and let me pull.” She did as he said. Then Thormod took a gold ring from his hand, gave it to the nurse-woman, and told her to do with it what she liked. “It is a good man’s gift,” said he. “King Olaf gave me the ring this morning.” Then Thormod took the tongs, and pulled the iron out; but on the iron there was a hook, at which there hung some morsels of flesh from the heart,—some white, some red. When he saw that, he said, “The king has fed us well. I am fat, even at the heart-roots;” and, so saying, he leaned back and was dead.
King Olaf fell on Wednesday, the 29th of July 1030 AD. It was near mid-day when the two armies met, and the battle began before half-past one, and before three the king fell. The darkness continued from about half-past one to three also. Skalds speak thus of the result of the battle:
“The loss was great to England’s foes,
When their chief fell beneath the blows
By his own thoughtless people given,—
When the king’s shield in two was riven.
The people’s sovereign took the field,
The people clove the sovereign’s shield.
Of all the chiefs that bloody day,
Dag only came out of the fray.”
And they composed these:
“Such mighty bonde-power, I ween,
With chiefs or rulers ne’er was seen.
It was the people’s mighty power
That struck the king that fatal hour.
When such a king, in such a strife,
By his own people lost his life,
Full many a gallant man must feel
The death-wound from the people’s steel.”
The bondes did not spoil the slain upon the field of battle, for immediately after the battle there came upon many of them who had been against the king a kind of dread as it were; yet they held by their convictions, for they resolved among themselves that all who had fallen with the king should not receive the interment which belongs to good men, but reckoned them all robbers and outlaws. But the men who had power, and had relations on the field, cared little for this, but removed their remains to the churches, and took care of their burial.
Thorgils Halmason and his son Grim went to the field of battle towards evening when it was dusk, took King Olaf’s corpse up, and bore it to a little empty houseman’s hut which stood on the other side of their farm. They had light and water with them. Then they took the clothes off the body, swathed it in a linen cloth, laid it down in the house, and concealed it under some firewood so that nobody could see it, even if people came into the hut. Thereafter they went home again to the farmhouse. A great many beggars and poor people had followed both armies, who begged for meat; and the evening after the battle many remained there, and sought lodging round about in all the houses, great or small. It is told of a blind man who was poor, that a boy attended him and led him. They went out around the farm to seek a lodging, and came to the same empty house, of which the door was so low that they had almost to creep in. Now when the blind man had come in, he fumbled about the floor seeking a place where he could lay himself down. He had a hat on his head, which fell down over his face when he stooped down. He felt with his hands that there was moisture on the floor, and he put up his wet hand to raise his hat, and in doing so put his fingers on his eyes. There came immediately such an itching in his eyelids, that he wiped the water with his fingers from his eyes, and went out of the hut, saying nobody could lie there, it was so wet. When he came out of the hut he could distinguish his hands, and all that was near him, as far as things can be distinguished by sight in the darkness of light; and he went immediately to the farm-house into the room, and told all the people he had got his sight again, and could see everything, although many knew he had been blind for a long time, for he had been there, before, going about among the houses of the neighbourhood. He said he first got his sight when he was coming out of a little ruinous hut which was all wet inside. “I groped in the water,” said he, “and rubbed my eyes with my wet hands.” He told where the hut stood. The people who heard him wondered much at this event, and spoke among themselves of what it could be that produced it: but Thorgils the peasant and his son Grim thought they knew how this came to pass, and, as they were much afraid the king’s enemies might go there and search the hut, they went and took the body out of it, and removed it to a garden, where they concealed it, and then returned to the farm, and slept there all night.
The next day (Thursday), Thorer Hund came down the valley of Veradal to Stiklestad, and many people, both chiefs and bondes, accompanied him. The field of battle was still being cleared, and people were carrying away the bodies of their friends and relations, and were giving the necessary help to such of the wounded as they wished to save, but many had died since the battle. Thorer Hund went to where the king had fallen, and searched for his body, but not finding it, he inquired if anyone could tell him what had become of the corpse, but nobody could tell him where it was. Then he asked the bonde Thorgils, who said, “I was not in the battle, and knew little of what took place there; but many reports are abroad, and among others that King Olaf has been seen in the night up at Staf, and a troop of people with him: but if he fell in the battle, your men must have concealed him in some hole, or under some stone-heap.” Now although Thorer Hund knew for certain that the king had fallen, many allowed themselves to believe, and to spread abroad the report, that the king had escaped from the battle, and would in a short time come again upon them with an army. Then Thorer went to his ships, and sailed down the fjord, and the bonde-army dispersed, carrying with them all the wounded men who could bear to be removed.
Thorgils Halmason and his son Grim had King Olaf’s body, and were anxious about preserving it from falling into the hands of the king’s enemies, and being ill-treated, for they heard the bondes speaking about burning it, or sinking it in the sea. The father and son had seen a clear light burning at night over the spot on the battlefield where King Olaf’s body lay, and since, while they concealed it, they had always seen at night a light burning over the corpse; therefore they were afraid the king’s enemies might seek the body where this signal was visible. They hastened, therefore, to take the body to a place where it would be safe. Thorgils and his son accordingly made a coffin, which they adorned as well as they could, and laid the king’s body in it; and afterwards made another coffin in which they laid stones and straw, about as much as the weight of a man, and carefully closed the coffins. As soon as the whole bonde-army had left Stiklestad, Thorgils and his son made themselves ready, got a large rowing-boat, and took with them seven or eight men, who were all Thorgil’s relations or friends, and privately took the coffin with the king’s body down to the boat, and set it under the foot-boards. They had also with them the coffin containing the stones, and placed it in the boat where all could see it; and then went down the fjord with a good opportunity of wind and weather, and arrived in the dusk of the evening at Nidaros, where they brought up at the king’s pier. Then Thorgils sent some of his men up to the town to Bishop Sigurd, to say that they were come with the king’s body. As soon as the bishop heard this news, he sent his men down to the pier, and they took a small rowing-boat, came alongside of Thorgil’s ship, and demanded the king’s body. Thorgils and his people then took the coffin which stood in view, and bore it into the boat; and the bishop’s men rowed out into the fjord, and sank the coffin in the sea. It was now quite dark. Thorgils and his people now rowed up into the river past the town, and landed at a place called Saurhlid, above the town. Then they carried the king’s body to an empty house standing at a distance from other houses, and watched over it for the night, while Thorgils went down to the town, where he spoke with some of the best friends of King Olaf, and asked them if they would take charge of the king’s body; but none of them dared to do so. Then Thorgils and his men went with the body higher up the river, buried it in a sand-hill on the banks, and levelled all around it so that no one could observe that people had been at work there. They were ready with all this before break of day, when they returned to their vessel, went immediately out of the river, and proceeded on their way home to Stiklestad.
After the battle, the Jomsvikings looked for Witch Hallveig and had found her half dead inside the circle of her chantreusses. The children were still dancing around her and were singing to keep her alive. Because the sacrifice the Goddess Irpa had wanted was the body of King Olaf, Hallveig had no human blood in which to bath her naked body, so, rather than sacrifice one of her young singers, for Hallveig had been required to do that hard task before, she decided to bleed herself into the great silver bowl she had. Then she stripped and swathed her naked body in her own blood and grew so weak she near passed out until the goddess Irpa took possession of her body and gave her supernatural strength. But after the battle, Irpa left Hallveig’s body back on the hilltop and awaited her sacrifice and told her chantreusses to sing or she would die unless the goddess got her sacrifice. The Jomsvikings took up Witch Hallveig and carried her to the leaders hall with the children following along and singing to keep her alive.
Jarl Kalf had just returned to the hall when the Jomsvikings brought in the naked Hallveig swaddled in a wool blanket. They laid her upon a table and gave the children chairs on which to sit and sing and they fed half the chantreusses while the other half sang and then did the opposite. Jarl Kalf sent out search parties to look for the body of King Olaf and Thorir Hund went to the great flat stone where he had run a spear into Olaf, but his body was nowhere to be found. Hallveig’s Jomsvikings stayed with her in the hall and the children sang while the bondes army searched for the corpse of the king.
In the fall, Prince Hraerik returned to Constantinople with a final shipment of Untouchables and then went to the Red House to meet with Gretta. “Jarl Olaf ‘the Stout’ Haraldson is dead,” he said. “They’re already talking of making him a saint. Saint Olaf! Imagine that!”
“Didn’t the Christians make your son, King Ivar ‘the Boneless’ a saint, too?” Gretta asked with a half-smile on her face.
“Yes,” Hraerik answered, “but that cost the Hraes’ Trading Company a small fortune. They’re sainting Jarl Olaf for free.”
“Nothing is for free,” Gretta reassured him, “and that is exactly what you get for it, nothing. Now follow the money. What do the Christians get for it?”
“Norway!” the Prince spat. He gave Gretta a thankful nod. “I was so pissed when I heard about it, I didn’t think.”
“We heard the news about Olaf when what was left of his Varangian Guard regiment made it back to the Emperor. Empress Zoe turned toward the Teutoburg Forest and cried, ‘I want my cohorts back!’ or so they jest in court.”
“They’re going to make a hero out of him,” Hraerik realized, “and use it to bring Christianity back into Norway.”
“The Varangian Guard rescued Olaf’s half-brother, Harald,” Gretta said, “and returned him to Prince Ivaraslav and Princess Ingigerd in Novgorod, then came back here. The Orthodox Christians want to saint him right away so they can get their Orthodox boots in the door. The Latin Christians will hear about it and the race will be on: Who can saint him first!”
“I’ve got to get Ivar to move back into Kiev,” Hraerik lamented. “He’s getting too involved with the Swedes. The ‘Great Northern Empire’ is his father, Valdamar’s baby. He and Misty have to start working with each other and get back into the Hraes’ Trading Company business. I can’t keep doing it all on my own.”
“There, there,” Gretta poo pooed him, steering him to the bed. “You tell me all about it while I dress you down.” Gretta soon had him naked and she sat him on the bed and took his lingam in her mouth to get it hard and wet.
“What those boys need is a common enemy,” Hraerik said as Gretta pushed him back down on the bed and straddled his hips and began riding him.
“God you’re hard,” Gretta said. “It’s like riding a pole!”
“That’s it! Poland!”
“Poland’s a mess,” she said. “It’s been a mess since we killed King Boleslaw. Now the people are up in arms and killing the priests and bishops and reverting back to Perun.”
“Not all of Poland,” the Prince said, and Gretta stopped her ride to listen. “Just the Polish cities that Ivar lost when that warrior Bishop Thietmar and Boleslaw attacked him. And don’t stop.” Gretta resumed her ride.
“I enjoyed that hit,” Gretta said, and Hraerik knew she did because she tightened up on him as soon as she thought about it. “That sword of yours, Tyrfingr, was one focked up weapon. It scared the shit out of me. I think I peed myself a little bit when I was taping it under the bishop’s desk. But I think if King Olaf would have had it with him he would have won the Battle of Stiklastad.”
“Oh, he would have!” Hraerik assured her. “He would have wiped out half that bondes army and the rays off Tyrfingr would have killed him later. It would have been win-win for us!”
“Can you get it back?”
“Oh, no. It’s at the bottom of the Scythian Sea. I dumped it right in the middle. And ever since then, when we put our lead sounding weights into the water past a hundred feet, the lead weights come back up all black for some reason. Now sailors are calling it the Black Sea. I don’t think the Alans are very happy about that.”
“Speaking of Alans,” Gretta started and she suddenly grew even tighter, “I heard that Princess Nado of the Alans contacted Witch Nadege when you were in India together and needed you to help Witch Hallveig in Norway?”
“Oh, that…” he replied. “I don’t want to get into that right now. What a focking shit-show!” Gretta felt Hraerik begin to lose his hardness, so she changed the subject.
“Princess Sviataslava has agreed to buy our acting troupe from us,” she said, and she felt him grow harder at the mention of Svia. She’d managed to keep herself as beautiful at her age as Empress Zoe, even more so. “Now we can keep our thespian secret weapon at the ready in case we have to kill another king.”
“And without you being involved in it and exposing yourself to recognition. No more acting for you, right? You’re just a hitman.”
“I’m your hitman,” Gretta said, kissing him. “Yours and yours alone.”
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:
A.D. 1030. This year returned King Olave into Norway; but the
people gathered together against him, and fought against him; and
he was there slain, in Norway, by his own people, and was
afterwards canonised. Before this, in the same year, died Hacon
the doughty earl, at sea.
The Prince Hraerik’s New Chronicle of the Hraes’ for the year read:
(1030 AD). Ivaraslav captured Bel’z. To Ivaraslav was born his
fourth son, and he named him Vsevolod. In this year, Ivaraslav
attacked the Chuds and conquered them. He thus founded the city of
Yur’ev. At this same time, after Boleslav ‘the Great’ had died in Poland,
there was a revolt in the Polish country. The people arose and
killed the bishops, the priests, and the boyars, and there was rebellion