Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert





The White Castle of Chernigov by Lepestochek


(1034 AD)  Over Yulefest, King Canute had, as usual, invited and entertained a great many nobles of the north.  This festive season, when he invited Duke Robert and his daughter, Princess Estrid, to London, the Norman entourage included Estrid’s new daughter, Princess Adelaide, but also the duke’s concubine, Herleva, and her son, William ‘the Bastard’.  Tongues waggled when the two women and their children shared the same large master suite with the duke.  It was unthinkable for Princess Estrid to share lodgings with such a common woman as Herleva and, when it came time for the visiting Normans to leave, Princess Estrid refused to go back to Rouen with them.  Duke Robert was up in arms about this rebuff and he demanded that his wife rejoin his retinue.  Estrid refused and Canute had a talk with his daughter.

“I was worried it would come to this,” Canute told her, “he no longer loves you.”

“That’s not it, father,” Estrid told him.  “He still loves me, he loves me too much, but he also still loves Herleva.  He treats us with the same love and respect and I cannot tolerate someone as low-born as Herleva being treated the same as me, a princess of the purple.  But Herleva adores me as does her son William.  It is suffocating.”

“Perhaps it just takes some getting used to,” Canute offered.

“Robert wants to sleep with the two of us together,” Estrid lamented.  “I sleep with a commoner in my bed, and Robert wants me to watch when he focks her, and she watches as Robert focks me.  He says it keeps us moist!  I’m drowning in love!”

“Oh…I see,” her father said, taken aback somewhat by her candidness.  “Perhaps I should tell the duke to give you a little time, a little space.”

“I’m never going back!” Estrid wailed.

“You’re being a little overdramatic.”

“Herleva had sex with me while Robert watched!” she blurted out.

“Oh,” was all Canute could get out.  He then met with the duke and told him it was all over between the two of them.  “She wants an annulment.”

“We can’t get an annulment!” the duke protested.  “We have a child!”

“I’m on good terms with the Pope,” Canute said.  “I’m sure an annulment can be purchased.”

Duke Robert and the Normans stormed out of the king’s palace and sailed down the Thames without Princess Estrid and her daughter.  The winter weather was too rough for a channel crossing, so they sailed along the coast to Southampton and spent some time with Queen Emma and Prince Hraerik, who had already returned home from Yulefest in London.  Emma was behind in her Newfoundland trade preparations and Hraerik was still angry with Robert for his emerging plans to take the throne of Constantinople, but the weather soon cleared and the Normans crossed the channel to Caen and sailed along the coast to the mouth of the Seine and sailed up it to Rouen.

All spring Duke Robert sent messenger ships up the Thames to London demanding the return of his wife and child and finally Estrid relented a bit and sent a nanny along with Princess Adelaide back to Normandy.  “I don’t want his child,” Estrid said.  “If it will keep him from coming, he can have our child.”  This only infuriated the duke even more.  He threatened to attack King Canute if he didn’t send Princess Estrid back.  Then he threatened to install Princes Edward and Alfred, the sons of Queen Emma, who had been living in safety in Normandy, onto the throne of England, to which Canute offered to share the kingdom with them.  It worked into his plans to become the Emperor of the North.  He offered AEthelflaed’s Mercia to Edward and Alfred ‘the Great’s Wessex to Alfred.  He would then rule the empire from London.  This only served to infuriate Duke Robert even more.  He began to assemble an army and a fleet.

Queen Emma and Prince Hraerik didn’t take the threats seriously.  They had trade routes to service and they followed Hraegunar Lothbrok’s philosophy that trade comes first.  So the tallships bound for Newfoundland sailed west first and then Prince Hraerik and Witch Nadege led the great merchant fleet east.  Duke Robert’s Norman warfleet waited until they’d left and then sailed out of the Seine for the Thames and got caught up in a spring storm that carried the warfleet west past the peninsula of Cotentin to the shores of Jersey.  Robert was so further enraged by this that, instead of attacking England, the Duke proceeded against Brittany and his old adversary, Duke Alain, whose mother, Hawise of Normandy, Emma’s sister, had died in February and this ended a generations long alliance between the two duchies.  But invading neighbouring lands never seems to result in good outcomes and soon Duke Robert and his troops were bogged down in a ground war.

In the spring, Einar ‘Thong-Shaker’ and Kalf Arneson made themselves ready for a journey with a great retinue of the best men that could be found in Trondheim district and they went eastward over the ridge of the country to Jamtaland, and from there to Helsingjaland until they reached Sweden, where they procured ships, and, after the great merchant fleet had passed through, they proceeded east to Hraes’ and came to Ladoga.  They sent men to Novgorod to offer Magnus, the son of King Olaf ‘the Holy’, their assistance in attaining his father’s heritage and to be made king over the country.  Prince Ivaraslav had already moved his rule from Novgorod to Kiev, but his wife, Princess Ingigerd, and young Magnus held a consultation with the jarls and they all resolved unanimously that the Northmen who had come there should become Magnus’ men and be his subjects, and to this Kalf and the other men who had been against King Olaf at Stiklastad were solemnly bound by oath.  On the other hand, King Magnus promised them, under oath, secure peace and full reconciliation, and that he would be true and faithful to them all when he got the dominions and kingdom of Norway.  He was to become Kalf Arneson’s foster-son, and Kalf was bound to do all that Magnus might think necessary for extending his dominion, and making it more independent than formerly.

On their way down the Dnieper River, Prince Hraerik and Witch Nadege stopped in at Chernigov and visited with Prince Mstislav.  It had been almost a year since Princess Nado and Prince Eusty had died and, still, the peace held between the Hraes’ and the Alans.  But Misty was very depressed and was drinking and they worried about him.  They stayed and visited for as long as they could and then they left to catch up with the fleet.  Prince Hraerik stopped briefly in Kiev and asked Prince Ivar to keep an eye out for his brother.  Ivaraslav promised to do that.

“I had great hopes,” Hraerik told Nadege, as they shared the forecastle cabin, “that someday Ivaraslav or Mstislav would take over the Hraes’ Trading Company, but things are not looking well towards that end.”

“Give him time,” Nadege said, “maybe he’ll come around.”

“Are you sure you don’t mind being away from your baby to be here with me?”

“You are my number one priority,” she answered, and she meant it.  She had felt, for a brief time, what Misty and Nado had, and she wanted it.  She knew that she would have to be with her husband first, her children second and her witchcraft third if she was going to get what they had.  She had spent enough time training with Princess Nado to know what priorities Nado had set to keep Misty’s love.  “Queen Emma and the nannies are taking better care of the baby than I ever could anyway.”

Back in Brittany, the ground war that seemed to take forever was progressing into summer.  A castle and town would be taken and when the army moved on to attack the next objective, the previous castle would fall back into native hands.  Finally the two dukes begged their common uncle, Bishop Robert of Rouen, to mediate a peace, which their uncle did.  But because Duke Robert had initiated the attack, the Pope told Bishop Robert that he wished to speak with his nephew at the Vatican and that there would be penances involved.  But Robert looked at it as a way to placate the Pope while inspecting the progress of Norman knights in Apulia so, before heading south with more volunteer Norman knights, he placed his young son, William ‘the Bastard’ in charge of Normandy under the care of Herleva and the tutelage of his uncle, Bishop Robert.

Back in Novgorod, young Magnus, the ten year old son of Saint Olaf ‘the Holy’, had planned on overwintering in Hraes’, but his new retainers, Einar ‘Thong-Shaker’ and Kalf Arneson were very nervous about that proposal.  They had timed their journey to avoid the great merchant fleet of the Hraes’ and they wanted to return to Sweden before the great fleet came back north.  Prince Hraerik was the great grandfather of King Svein of Norway and he might object to a new King Magnus of Norway continuing his sanctuary in Novgorod.  And the great fleet was an army unto itself so, what its leader said is what usually happened.  They told Magnus that he should set out before winter to have time to raise troops in Sweden before returning to Norway.

Magnus Olafson began his journey from Novgorod to Ladoga, where he rigged out his ships, and then they sailed to Sigtuna in Sweden.  King Anund Jakob welcomed him to Sweden as did his daughter, Princess Astrid, Olaf’s widow and Magnus’ step-mother, who still went by her royal title.  Queen Astrid received very gladly and well her stepson King Magnus, and immediately summoned a numerous Thing of Swedes at a place called Hangtar.  At the Thing, Queen Astrid spoke these words: “Here is come to us a son of King Olaf the Saint, called Magnus, who intends to make an expedition to Norway to seek his father’s heritage.  It is my great duty to give him aid towards this expedition, for he is my stepson, as is well known to all, both Swedes and Norwegians.  He shall have want of neither men nor money, in so far as I can control things or have influence, in order that his strength may be as great as possible, and all men who support his cause shall have my fullest friendship, and I would have it known that I intend myself to go with him on this attempt, that all may see I will spare nothing that is in my power to help him.”  She spoke long and cleverly in this strain; but when she had ended many replied thus: “The Swedes made no honourable progress in Norway when they followed King Olaf, his father, and now no better success is to be expected, as this new king is but ten years of age and we have little faith in your expedition.”  Astrid replied, “All men who wish to be thought of as truly courageous must not be deterred by such considerations.  If any have lost connections at the side of King Olaf, or been themselves wounded, now is the time to show a man’s heart and courage, and go to Norway to take vengeance.”  Astrid succeeded so far with words and encouragement that many men determined to go with her, and follow the new King Magnus to Norway.

But Einar and Kalf had been right in that it would take the whole winter to convince a great force of Swedes to join them.  Queen Astrid began spending much of the gold and jewels she had received from King Olaf on wages for troops and on gifts to encourage support.  She knew she would be borrowing gold from her father, King Anund, before the army they were gathering even left Sweden.

Prince Hraerik and Princess Nadege spent the summer in India, travelling often from Mumba to Baghdad and Constantinople with untouchables for the slave markets.  His eastern wife, Princess Gretta, was in the Roman capital monitoring the activities of the Varangian Guard in the city as well as in southern Italy.  The Guard regiment that had followed King Olaf north into Norway had been decimated by Aesir witchcraft and Norman peasant knights and was back in the capital licking its wounds and initiating King Olaf’s half-brother, Harald Sigurdson, into the service of the Emperor.  Harald had been in service in Prince Ivaraslav’s Kievan Centuriata, his personal guard, but had fallen in love with Ivar’s daughter, Princess Elizabeth, and had been rejected as a suitor of someone born of the purple, so he had come to Constantinople to serve someone born of the purple in order to become rich and famous enough to be considered worthy of the princess.  The Guardsmen that had survived the Battle of Stiklastad had saved young Prince Harald in their strategic withdrawal to Sweden and then Hraes’ and they had left the young man with relatives in Kiev but now he was back and the Guardsmen loved him.  They talked long evenings about the battle and the witchcraft that had killed half of them and of the crazy Norman peasant knights and the fierce Jomsvikings that had killed another full cohort of them and they laughed and they drank with their new prince and the Roman knights that worked with the guards started actually believing some of the wild tales that the Guard had brought back with them from Norway.

The only Aesir witchcraft the Romans of Constantinople were familiar with were the witchcraft shows that one could pay to watch in the basement theatre of the Red House of Constantinople in the Saint Mamas district of the city.  But most Romans went there to watch the ancient Roman Vanir witchcraft that was part of the show as well.  Roman lands had long been Christian and witchcraft was forbidden and few believed in it anyway, but the shows exhibited a refreshing look at the old heritage of the Roman tripartite god religion of Jupiter, Mars and Mercury and the Vanir witchcraft and augury that was such a great part of it.  When King Olaf’s Varangian Guard regiment, or the cohort that was left of it, came back from Norway with tales of witches shooting arrows from their fingertips that caused the death of a man with each shot and crazy peasant knights from Normandy and howling Jomsvikings of the Baltic Sea, well, the Roman knights of the Emperor’s army thought they had all suffered battle shock.

But now, Prince Harald and his followers, a lot of whom had been in the battle, had come down from Kiev and they all told the very same stories, and the Roman knights became convinced that something occult had gone on in that battle.  Prince Harald very quickly became quite popular with the Guard and the Roman knights and the Aesir and Vanir witches that ran the shows at the Red House became very busy and popular in Constantinople.

Princess Gretta was operating out of the Red House and was using the theatre company that she and Svia ran to monitor Guard activities in southern Italy.  Her play, ‘Brutus, Prince of Rome’, seemed to be popular anywhere it showed, so it was quite easy to send them anywhere out in the Byzantine Roman Empire and several of the actors were agents Gretta was training and several others were Prince Hraerik’s Exeyes officers who had shown a propensity for the thespian way.  After all was said and done, spies were really just actors in real life, and, often, death.  While the acting troupe was putting on the play in Naples, word reached them that Duke Robert of Normandy was in the Vatican apologizing to the Pope for attacking one of his cousins in Brittany and perhaps of even attacking King Canute of England.  When Prince Hraerik had brought another fleet of untouchables into Constantinople, Gretta told him that Duke Robert may have attacked his grandson, Canute.  Then word arrived that the Pope had ordered Duke Robert to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem as punishment for his deeds.

“He must have attacked England,” Gretta told Hraerik.  “Duke Robert wouldn’t have been sentenced to Jerusalem for attacking Brittany, would he?”

“What’s Brittany?” the Prince asked and Gretta paused cautiously and then began laughing.  She remembered Hraerik telling her that he had taken one of his western wives, Queen Emma, to Brittany for the funeral of her sister Hawise in the early spring.  “What should we do?” she asked her husband.

“Duke Robert was threatening to attack England,” the Prince began.  “We never took him seriously, but I guess he’s lost it.  Do you remember the plan we had in place for Jarl Olaf in Italy?”  She nodded.  “Well, put it in place for Duke Robert in Jerusalem.”

She thought about that for a few seconds and said, “I don’t think ‘Brutus, Prince of Rome’ is going to go over well in Jerusalem.  It’s half Jewish and half Muslim.  The Jews are still mad at the Romans for all the conquering they did upon them and the Muslims are at war with the Romans half the time.  Christians that go on pilgrimages there keep a very low profile and try very very hard not to piss off the locals.”

“I have a new play for you,” Hraerik offered.  “It’s called ‘Black Jesus’.”

“Jesus Christ! Hraerik.  We can’t do a play about Jesus to an audience of Rabis and Imams.”

“It’s a play that explores the use of Magi magic in Jesus’ miracles.  Aesir, Vanir and Brahman magic.  Judas was actually the black son of the Magi King Gaspar of Sheba.  Judas supplies Jesus with the Zombie drug that they give Lazarus and he seemingly falls dead and they use the antidote to raise him from the dead the next day.  It is a critical expose of magic in the miracles of Christ.”

“Perhaps we could do ‘Amleth, Prince of Denmark’,” Gretta said, “or take the end of Amleth and put it at the beginning, and do ‘Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.”

“Fine, let’s do that,” Hraerik said.  “Call it ‘Hamlet, Prince of Denmark’ then.”

So, a plan was put in place to have the theatre troupe follow Duke Robert to Jerusalem when he left Rome to do his penance.

When Prince Hraerik and Princess Nadege sailed back to India, the Prince was informed that the mathematics required to develop a model for his four dimensional universe was too complex with the present proofs available.  While it was possible that time itself could theoretically provide a fourth dimension in a three dimensionally spatial universe, the calculations for proving it were beyond the mathematics of the present.  The Prince had seen visions of the start of the universe in a pulsing singularity as an infinitely dense mass in an infinitely tiny volume and the pulsing was the passing of time, but the singularity was not alone.  There were an infinite number of singularities all trying to get it right and with an infinite number of potentialities in an infinite amount of time going against an infinite level of difficulty the outcome becomes an infinity of one.  Only one universe comes out of an infinite number of attempts at something that is infinitely difficult and this universe is it.  Hraerik had seen the singularity become an infinite single dimension linear universe and when that infinity of one became two an infinite two dimensional planar universe developed and when that infinity of two became three an infinite three dimensional spherical universe evolved and grew outwards in waves or layers, like the skins of an onion or skulls within skulls, as some had put it, and the universe that we could see, all the stars above in the sky, those fiery hearths like our own sun, were but a small circumference in one layer or skin of the universe and this infinitely vast universe was even more so vast because infinite time added another dimension to that universe and everything that had existed in the past time and space continued to exist so that nothing ever went out of existence.  It just evolved.

But with evolution came life and it changed all that.  With life came consciousness and with consciousness came sentience and spirit.  Life was not content to just end and evolve, but sought to shake off the fetters that bound it forever to its own space and time and some spirits managed to escape those bonds and contact other spirits in other spaces and times and that is how the prophet Zoroaster had contacted Hraerik and, through him, had contacted another spirit further in the future.  Apparently there were limits to how far these spirits could bend time and space and it was through mathematics that the Prince had hoped to extend those limits.  But the finest Indian mathematical minds of the time were not up to it, yet.  It was disappointing.  Prince Hraerik did not lament the gold he had spent, for mathematics had made advances more quickly with the metal, but it was a setback.  The Guild had not called upon his particular talents for some time and he was concerned that his services were no longer needed and with that, how long would his supply of the youth giving drug, the elixir of life keep flowing?

When Prince Hraerik and Princess Nadege got back to Baghdad, there was a message waiting for them from Prince Ivaraslav in Kiev.  It said that Prince Mstislav was dead.  He had gotten sick and died while on a hunting expedition east of Chernigov.  Please come.  Ivaraslav also announced that Princess Ingigerd had given him another son, Prince Vyacheslav.

So, the Prince left Baghdad a few weeks before the trading season was over and they sailed directly to Chernigov and arrived in time for Prince Mstislav’s arval.  He was interred in a marble sarcophagus in a wing of the Church of the Redeemer, which he himself had founded, but, while being buried as a Christian, he had specifically included both Aesir and Aran rites in the rituals.  Ivar told Hraerik that Misty had planned his whole arval out from start to finish and he had likely known he was soon to die and had specified that a young slave girl that he had been sleeping with in honour of Princess Nado be sacrificed and interred in the sarcophagus with him.  She was an Alan girl and she would guide him to the Aran heaven that Nado and Iry Dada were in.  He did not want to go to the Christian heaven even though he was sure that his son, Eusty, was there.  Princess Nado was what he sought in the afterlife…all he sought.

“He is dead,” Hraerik explained to Nadege as they were in bed together in her old master suite in the White Castle, “but he will always be alive and existing in his own space and time.  If I had the skill that Zoroaster had, I could go back in time and talk with him, just like we are talking now.  I was hoping the Indian mathematics would help me control my visions so that I could do specific tasks such as that and not just have random visions come to me in what seems to be a random array.  Zoroaster had that ability, but he still needed me to extend that ability through a greater range of time and space.”

Witch Nadege listened to her Hraerik and kind of understood where he was coming from, but she knew she was no Nado and would never be a polymath like his Indian wife, Myia, had been.  But she wanted what Misty and Nado had had and for that she knew she must listen and at least try to comprehend him.  Spirits were her business and she had seen the progress that her prince had made with the Zombie drug of the Magis and she became determined to help him down that avenue at least.  Witch Nado had told her that Zoroaster had used a drug called Haoma to manifest his powers and they had both suspected that the two drugs may have been quite similar.

When the great merchant fleet stopped in at Kiev, Prince Hraerik was there to collect tithes in King Frodi’s palace like in times of old, instead of in Cherson.  As he led the great fleet north to Polotsk, he heard news from Ivar’s son, Prince Valdamar of Novgorod, that young Prince Magnus had gone to Sweden and was likely going to be stirring up trouble.  With the sainting of Jarl Olaf in Rome and his son, Prince Harald Sigurdson, entering the Varangian Guard in Constantinople, the news that Prince Magnus was in Sigtuna raising troops was disturbing.  It seemed that Norway would never know peace.  In Roskilde, the Prince collected additional northern tithes from the merchant fleet and released them to return to their homes.  He talked with young King Hardeknute of Denmark about the situation in Sweden, but nobody in Denmark was overly concerned about what was happening in Sweden, so Hraerik decided he would take it up with Canute in England.

When he got back to Southampton he quickly counted the tallships in the harbour and was relieved that they had all returned from the Newfoundland this time, but Queen Emma was still upset.  King Canute had ordered a halt to the construction of her replacement tallship because he required more tall warships for his navy.  He was raising troops and expanding the fleet to attack Duke Robert in Normandy in the spring.

“Duke Robert’s not even in Normandy,” Hraerik told her as she again walked her prince and Nadege into her city.  “He’s in southern Italy causing more trouble for the Byzantine Romans there and then he’s off for Jerusalem on pilgrimage by order of the Pope.”

“Jerusalem?” Emma asked.  “He only attacked his cousin in Brittany.  Jerusalem is pretty harsh.  It’s a very dangerous pilgrimage these days.”

“Robert jumped at the offer.  The Pope has ordered it, so the Emperor and Patriarch have to aid him and he’ll be in Constantinople scoping out his future attack upon the city, no doubt.”

“So that’s what he’s up to,” Emma said, squeezing Nadege’s hand.  “Your baby is doing so much better,” she told the young witch.  “The cholic is almost over.”

“Duke Robert is still following Sweyn’s plan,” Hraerik complained.  “It’s going to be bad for business if he gets bogged down in Eastern Rome.  And if war spreads to the Levant, it could get a lot worse.”  He didn’t tell Queen Emma that his operatives in the east were soon going to be following her nephew to perform a contract hit on him.  She had no love for her brother’s son, the one who had killed his older brother to take the duchy from him.  Still, if all went well, he would never tell her of how Robert died in Jerusalem.  Like she had said, it was a very dangerous pilgrimage.

At Yulefest in London, Prince Hraerik tried to talk Canute out of an attack upon Normandy.  He warned Valdamar that a war was brewing in Norway and advised him to not get bogged down in Frankia.  But Canute thought that Duke Robert’s absence afforded him a great opportunity to take the duchy for himself and perhaps add Brittany as well and combine them into one kingdom that he could add to his growing empire.


The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:

A.D. 1034.  This year died Bishop Etheric, who lies at Ramsey.


The Prince Hraerik’s New Chronicle of the Hraes’ for the year read:

(1034 AD). While on a hunting expedition, Mstislav fell sick and died, and

was laid in the Church of the Redeemer, which he himself had founded.

Thereafter Ivaraslav assumed the entire sovereignty, and was the

sole ruler in the land of Rus’.  Ivaraslav went to Novgorod, where he

set up his son Valdamar as prince and appointed Zhidyata bishop.

At this time, a son was born to Ivaraslav, and he named him Vyacheslav.