Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert

PREVIOUSLY (From Book 6, Chapter 17):



(1014 AD)  After Yulefest, King Sweyn returned to Queen Emma’s palace in London and learned that his youngest concubine wife was not vomiting as much but was still just as pregnant.  Prince Valdamar was busy building a moat and bailey castle in Gainsborough, and his English wife was back in Northampton with her family.  Valdamar was travelling between Athelred’s palace in London and Aelfgifu’s palace in Northampton and his own castle in Gainsborough and he finally got around to inviting his father to come north and inspect the work before he planned on heading east for trade and war in the spring.  So, King Sweyn packed up his household and retinue and pavilion and sailed down the River Trent to Gainsborough.  But before they left, the old woman in black visited an apothecary in London and purchased a few items.  When they got to Prince Valdamar’s castle in Gainsborough, Sweyn was put up in a suite there and his personal guard billeted in the great room and his women in black stayed with him in the master bedroom.  While Sweyn was busy inspecting the construction of the castle with his son, the middling woman cleaned the suite, the young woman drew a bath for Sweyn and the older woman was busy cooking for Sweyn in the castle kitchen.

The great room had several bedrooms off it where his Exeyes officers stayed and two food tasters shared a room as well.  The old woman was preparing concoctions in the kitchen along with the food and one of the balms was an Aesir poison and another mixture was a special antidote for the poison.  Because Sweyn had food tasters, the old woman mixed the antidote into the king’s meal and she kept the poisonous balm in a little container tied around her neck.  When Sweyn got back to the suite from his inspections, the young woman had his bath all drawn in the dressing room and she came out to him naked and she was showing a small bump and she displayed it for him as she undressed him in the bedroom and led him into the dressing room for his bath.  The old woman returned from the kitchen and had the middling woman prepare the table in the great room for their meal.  She went into the bedroom to see how things were progressing and she could hear Sweyn and the young woman focking in the dressing room as water splashed about.  She went back to the kitchen and finished preparing the food and put the portions on plates and carried it all on a wooden tray to the suite.  Sweyn and the young woman were at the table when she got back and she presented the food to the food tasters who ate from each item on the tray.  Once it passed their inspection, she put the tray on the table and the young woman spun the tray around to look at it and put Sweyn’s portion away from him.

“This is how forestem comes stern in the great gale of the Nor’Way,” the old woman said, laughing, as she spun the tray about again.  Sweyn started into his meal and quickly finished it and the antidote that was in it as well.  He was in high spirits and he took two bottles of Frankish wine into the bedroom with his women in black.  They undressed and sat naked upon the huge bed and drank some wine and then Sweyn got frisky with the young woman again and was soon focking her and the middling woman joined in and began riding Sweyn and then the young woman took the reins again.  Sweyn was getting old and he could last a very long time, especially after the bath he’d had earlier.  The old woman went off into the dressing room and she put the poison balm onto her lips and she greased herself, her honey well, with pig fat so she could go a long time and she returned to the bedroom and she took her turn upon Sweyn and she put a finger to her lips and she wiped a bit of balm across Sweyn’s eyes and when he looked up at her he could swear it was Princess Svia that was riding him, and not the older Svia of today, but the young Svia he had rescued from Count Vlad during the Battle of Ramnic and she was beautiful.  The old woman leaned forward as she rode Sweyn and she got horizontal on top of him and she kissed him with her poisoned lips and Sweyn got very excited with the young Svia he thought was riding him and he flipped her onto her back and started focking her hard and fast and the old woman closed her eyes and then died from the poison, but Sweyn was possessed and kept focking her lifeless body until he exploded inside of her and he cried out, “Svia, Svia, Svia, Svia!” then collapsed on top of her and he fell unconscious and then died.  The two other women realised what had just transpired and that both of them were dead upon the bed and they ran naked out into the great room and roused the guards and the Exeyes officers and they went into the bedroom and, sure enough, the king was lying dead inside his expired concubine.  They tried reviving the king, but found the two locked together in love and could not pry the king out of the old woman.  They put the two bodies on their sides and began pounding on Sweyn’s back to try reviving him and the two women copied them and tried reviving the old woman.  The men pounded on the king’s chest to no avail and the women pounded on the chest of the older one and she coughed, weakly, and came back to life.  But still they could not pry the two apart, for Sweyn had gone full Irpa inside of her and they were locked together in the passionate embrace and when they tried easing Sweyn’s large member out of the old crone, she cried out in pain.  Finally, they got the two apart and the officers were astounded at the size and colour of King Sweyn’s member.  It was a metal silver in colour and was the size of a Viking horse’s member.

“The king flew into a desirous rage and he began focking my mother very violently,” the middling woman told the Exeyes officers, “and then I think she died.”

“I think he focked her to death!” the one Exeyes officer said.

“And then he died focking her,” the other officer concluded.  “We could only revive the woman.”

Prince Valdamar and Jarl Eirik were discussing burial arrangements for King Sweyn and Valdy stated that Sweyn would want to have his arval in Liere and have his body burned in the Aesir fashion as was his faith.  “But the official report cannot state he died focking a woman to death,” the prince added.

“I quite agree,” the Jarl replied.  “Perhaps it could state that he fell from his horse?  That’s a common accident.”

“He fell from his horse and landed on his sword,” Valdy said.  “That will keep the Aesir happy.”

“We’ll have to preserve his body,” Eirik said, “if we’re going to ship it to Denmark and then have it presentable for burning.”

“I still find it suspicious that he would fly into a fit of lust focking that old crone” Valdy complained.  “The young girl perhaps, but he called the old one ‘Lady Dryasdust’.  And the girl said he cried out ‘Svia!’ four times before he collapsed on top of her.  Princess Svia is one of the most beautiful women in the world.  Why would he call out her name while focking that!”

“I brought the witch, Hallveig, from Hell with me,” Eirik said.  “I was going to have her preserve Sweyn’s body.  Maybe there is something else she can do for us.”

The women in black were being held under lock and key in the master bedroom of Sweyn’s suite and his body was lying in state in the great room on the table.  The witch, Hallveig, came into the room at midnight, burning incense and sprinkling water as she came.  Prince Valdamar and Jarl Eirik were already sitting at the table on either side of Sweyn and Hallveig sat down next to his head and she cut runes into a stick and she opened Sweyn’s mouth and put the stick under his tongue.  “Hold his hands,” she instructed the men, and Valdy and Eirik each clasped a hand between the two of theirs.  Hallveig recited an Aesir prayer and Sweyn’s eyes opened and stared bluely up at the ceiling and his hands twitched slightly and Valdy and Eirik looked at each other.

“How did you die my king?” Hallveig asked and Sweyn mumbled as though talking with a stick in his mouth.  Then Hallveig said, “He says he was poisoned by the old crone.  She had poison on her lipstick.  She also died from the poison, but Sweyn injected her with the antidote when he came inside her.  That is why she could be revived.  She put the antidote in his food, but the antidote has to be taken after the poison for it to work.”

“I’ll have her executed!” Valdamar cursed.  “Were the other two involved?”

Hallveig asked the corpse the question.  “He says they weren’t, but he doesn’t want her killed.”  Hallveig listened as the corpse mumbled some more and then she sat back in her chair and she blinked.  “He wants you to be king of England and build a tower in London and keep them locked up in it as your concubines.  He wants you to make love to the young one, fock the middle one, and hard fock the old one, ‘Lady Dryasdust’, until she confesses that it was King Athelred that put her up to this.  Then fock her to death!  She is the one who killed Queen Gunhild and Thora and the men in Ipswich on Athelred’s orders during the Saint Brice’s Day Massacre.  That is what King Sweyn has said and that is what he wants,” Hallveig said.  “He also had one last request from both of you, a hard one,” and she discussed the request with Valdy and Eirik.  She took the runestick out of Sweyn’s mouth, closed his eyes with her hand and she kissed his forehead gently.  The next day, she preserved his body.

The army in Castle Gainsborough declared Prince Valdamar the King of England and a few days later, a small warfleet sailed down the River Trent led by King Valdamar and Jarl Eirik and they carried the body of King Sweyn out of the Humber estuary and east to Denmark.  Commander Gudmund and Jarl Sigvald ruled in London while they were gone, but the main part of the army remained in Castle Gainsborough with all the hostages that had been taken from the English earls.  Valdamar and Eirik spent a week in Liere burying their king as the great merchant fleet began assembling in Roskilde Harbour.  Prince Valdamar realized he would have to sail with the merchant fleet to Baghdad in the place of his father.  It was decided that Jarl Eirik would organize the army in England while Valdamar was away.  But they both headed back together to Gainsborough to move the army into the different areas of the country.  When they got back, they found that Commander Gudmund and Jarl Sigvald had fled London with their troops.  “Duke Richard of Normandy has brought a warfleet up the Thames to London and is claiming England for King Athelred,” Sigvald said.

“He has two legions of foot and two of cataphracts,” Gudmund added.  “We had to make a strategic withdrawal from London.”

“Jarl Thorkell and his Christian Jomsvikings are in London as well,” Sigvald said, “but King Athelred is still back in Normandy, where it is safe.  Queen Emma has brought her son, Edward, King Athelred’s son, with her and has convinced the London fyrds to join them.  She says King Athelred will forgive all when he returns as king, and rule in a gentlemanly fashion, so, now all the fyrds of England are joining them.”

“Half our forces have returned to Denmark and to Hraes’,” Valdamar complained.  “We’ll have to withdraw and come back in full force next year.  Duke Richard can’t afford to keep four legions in England forever.”

Messengers were sent to the Isle of Wight to mobilise the two legions there for withdrawal and to meet the main army at Sandwich.  Another ship was sent off to Iceland to warn Valdamar’s great grandfather, Prince Hraerik, who was still in the Newfoundland, that the English had revolted and for him not to return to London as he had planned.  Then King Valdamar and Jarl Eirik gathered up their two legions and their hostages in Gainsborough and York and he sent for his wife, Queen Aelfgifu, and her family to come from Northampton and the armada sailed down the Trent for Sandwich.

King Valdamar’s fleet stopped in at Ipswich and Jarl Eirik sent Princess Gyda and the children off to Lade, but he told her Sweyn’s two oldest sons were of age to join the army and that all hands would be needed for the withdrawal.  In the harbour of Sandwich the fleets were joined up and provisioned.  Jarl Sigvald told King Valdamar that he would join his Jomsvikings in Canterbury and they would hold the city walls for a year until he got back with a large army.  King Valdamar took all the hostages that they had collected from the English out onto the beach of Sandwich and he made preparations for the maiming of them in the proper Aesir fashion.

The longships of the Hraes’ fleet were nosed up onto the beach and sat side by side for miles in the sand.  The two hundred hostages were taken from the ships and sat in a long row in front of the ships, then a twelve foot long oak stake was implanted pointed end up into the beach sand and three great stones were placed around the base to shore up the pole.  The witch, Hallveig, began carving ancient runes of scorn upon the pole.  Three women dressed in black were then taken from King Valdamar’s shieldship and dragged across the sand to a spot in front of the scorn pole for all to see.  There was an old crone, a middle aged woman and a young pregnant girl and they all wore identical long black dresses and King Valdamar announced that the old woman had been found guilty of poisoning King Sweyn and causing his death.  For this crime, she was sentenced to death in the worst Aesir-Vanir fashion, Rapatio or faciem rapere, to be executed before the maiming of the hostages.  Her accomplices were sentenced to life imprisonment in a tower to be built in London.

A dozen round shields were strapped together to make a bundle and the old woman was bent over the cylinder of shields and each of the officers in King Valdamar’s army took a turn violently raping the crone as her accomplices held her fast.  Then a white stallion was brought forth from one of the transport ships, the stallion purported to have officially thrown King Sweyn off to his death, and the middle aged woman was charged with getting the stallion sexually stimulated by the oral method and handlers had the stallion mount the old woman and fock her from behind as well.  The stallion rammed her hard from behind and handlers held a wide plank for the horse to support its front hooves upon, but the horse got so excited a hoof would slip off the plank and land on the back of the old woman and ribs could be heard cracking.  When the stallion finally came within her the semen spurted out of her in gushes and when the horse withdrew, the semen flowed out of her and ran out upon the sand.

The handlers kept the stallion behind her as though expecting the horse to come again if ordered to do so.  Then King Valdamar marched out amongst a group of his officers to the other end of the prostrate crone and he stepped forward from the group and he was naked and he, himself, performed faciem rapere on her, thrusting his large lingam into her mouth and down her throat until she could not breath and she would flail about with her bruised and battered body until Valdamar withdrew enough for her to catch a breath and then he would repeat the faciem rapere once more.  His member was so huge that her mouth was forced fully open to accept it and the angle of her jaw allowed for no bite reflex.  When Valdamar finally came in her throat, he kept his lingam down it until it suffocated her and she flailed and twisted and finally twitched her last bit of life away.  Valdamar closed his eyes and savoured the lifeless throat for a few minutes before withdrawing his ‘Pink Monster’ from her corpse.

Once more the officers surrounded their king and they walked around the corpse to the horse and Jarl Eirik passed Valdamar his sword and he struck off the head of the stallion and the horse collapsed onto the semen wetted sand and Valdamar drove the sword into the forehead of the horse, piercing the skull between the eyes, and four huge warriors held a shield between them, King Ivar’s battle platform buckler and Valdamar took the head of the horse and stepped upon the shield and the warriors lifted him up and carried him standing in front of the scorn pole and Valdy slammed the horse’s head onto the stake and pushed it down until the sharp end emerged from the forehead of the horse like a foot long horn, creating a Unicorn.  Meanwhile, Jarl Eirik took his sword over to the old crone’s body and he struck her head off.  The witch, Hallveig, tattooed Aesir curse runes upon the face of the struck head and she laid a curse upon it and passed it up to her naked king.  Valdamar took the crone’s head from her and he slammed it neck first onto the sharp stake, right up to the top of the skull and he aligned the head to match the horse’s and they both faced towards London.

In this manner, King Sweyn’s murderer was executed, and a great curse was placed upon the land of the Angles and the Saxons, on England, and the curse would not be lifted until, once more, a Knytling King ruled the land.  “Henceforth,” Valdy shouted out to London, “I am no longer King Valdamar ‘the Great’ Sweynson but shall return as King Canute ‘the Great’ of England!”

Jarl Eirik passed Valdy up a white silk robe with red piping in the Hraes’ fashion and he put the regal robe on and the warriors lowered him down from the scorn pole.  As King Canute returned to his shieldship, Witch Hallveig, Jarl Eirik and the officers began the maiming of hostages.  The witch cast bones and hands were chopped off, ears were lopped off or noses were cropped, all according to the way the bones landed in the sand in front of each hostage.  Hallveig shouted out the name of each god that had claimed a morsel and this added to the power of the scorn pole’s already powerful curse.  The hands and ears and noses, the morsels for the gods, were buried in the sand beneath the scorn pole.  Never had any land been so powerfully cursed in either Aesir or Vanir memory.  This was all explained to the hostages as they lost their respective appendages and they were told to warn the English that terrible things were about to befall them.  Never had a curse such as this been unleashed upon any land.

When the warfleet sailed east to Denmark, King Canute asked Jarl Eirik, “Care to join me in Baghdad?”

“I’d love to,” Eirik replied.  “I haven’t talked to the Caliph in a long time.”

Shortly after they had left England, King Athelred returned to London to join Duke Richard, Jarl Thorkell, and his son, Edward in the retaking of England.  Queen Emma was sailing east down the Thames in one of her new tallships as Athelred was sailing west up the Thames in one of his old longships and she hid herself in her stern-castle cabin as they passed each other.  She planned on overwintering in her city of Southampton.  She saw the scorn pole, the Unicorn that King Valdamar had gifted England with as she sailed south and then west along the coast.  Nobody had taken it down…they were all too afraid.  None had ever seen a full Unicorn scorn pole erected in the full Aesir fashion, but all knew that the curse would fall first on the poor souls who disturbed it.  ‘Athelred must have seen it on his way north,’ Emma thought, ‘had he balls, he would have stopped and taken it down.  It was, after all, his unicorn.  He should take it down.’

Prince Hraerik missed his messengers in Iceland.  Princess Blaeja had come to him in a dream, in a feeling that said his grandson, Svein had died.  He had overwintered with Arrow Odd’s descendants in their village near the great Nia-Gara falls, but the warning made him cut his visit short and he took his huge Roman dromon east down the Great Newfoundland River and he sailed straight out into the Atlantean Sea, east, all the way to the British Sea, the English Channel as it was now being called.  He had his men row the dromon into the Viking fortress harbour on the Isle of Wight and he could see that it had been cleared out of legions and equipment, but it was apparent that it had been evacuated, not attacked.  He had his men row up along one side of the quay and they swung out the boarding ramp and he and two officers walked down it and up the quay to have a look around.  King Svein’s great hall was empty, but amply stocked, as though he was expected to return soon after overwintering in Denmark, and Hraerik thought for a second that his dream had been wrong but realized that there would still be legions here if all was good.  But the legions were gone and, so too, must be Svein.

A faint blast was heard on a foghorn so, the Prince and his men went out and could see from the fortress gate a tallship quite like the tallships they had destroyed on the Thames the fall before.  But it was new, and far more refined, and he thought it might be Queen Emma’s.  Svein had told him a lot about this Princess Emma of Normandy who had become Queen of England, he had talked of her enough that Hraerik knew that he had grown to love her, so he walked on down the quay and waved her ship in to dock on the other side of it.  He could see Emma’s troops scrambling around the deck of the tallship, preparing their defences, and he saw Emma at the forestem, he knew it was Emma because she was as beautiful as Svein had described her.  He sent his entourage back to his ship and stood on the dock alone to greet her.  Emma and two security officers were lowered on a rope platform and Emma stepped forward onto the quay, an officer on each side of her.

“Queen Emma?” the Prince asked as she stood there.

“Prince Erik?” Emma asked and, when he smiled, she held out her hand and he kissed it.  “I hope you don’t mind my calling you Erik,” Emma said.  “It’s the Low Anglish Danish of Jelling that we’ve been taught in Normandy.” 

“Erik is fine,” Hraerik said.  “My first wife, Princess Gunwar, called me by that many years ago.”

“Princess Gunwar!” Emma exclaimed.  “I know that name.  All the young princesses of Europe learn of her, but few know her Christian name, Hervor,” she whispered, and the ‘vor’ rolled off her tongue with a Frankish twist that was somewhat sexy.  “Sweyn told me about you.  A hundred years old, but looking forty.”

“And Svein told me about you, Queen Emma, and you are even more beautiful than he described.”

“King Valdamar has withdrawn his legions,” Emma half asked, half told as she looked up toward the fortress.  “My condolences on your loss.”

“So, Svein really is dead?”

“I’m afraid so,” Emma said, tearing up a little.  “You’ve just returned from your Newfoundland?”

“Yes.  I had a dream he died, so I sailed straight across the Atlantic,” Hraerik answered.

“Straight across?” Emma asked.

“Please join me in Svein’s great hall and I’ll tell you about it,” Hraerik offered, and she knew they would be talking about a lot more than that.  She could see a cook and some cabin boys carrying baskets up to the fortress.  “It’s completely abandoned, except for those three.  They will be preparing us lunch.  Bring a full security squad if you wish.”

Emma’s officers were about to call up to the ship for a security detail, but she shushed them and said, “My two officers shall be fine.”

They spent the afternoon in King Sweyn’s great hall, eating lunch and talking and drinking Champagne and sampling Khazar Vayar that Emma happened to know was hidden in Sweyn’s master suite.  She’d told her officers that she and Prince Hraerik were going to be going through some of King Sweyn’s hidden papers and that they should not disturb them.  She told him all that she knew about Sweyn’s death and that she suspected Athelred of using spies to poison him.

“Athelred began to ask my brother, Duke Richard, if he would support him over Prince Valdamar if King Sweyn happened to die,” Emma explained.  “I thought it suspicious, but Richard said it was just sour grapes.  But he readied his legions just in case.  I was opening a new Hraes’ store in Reims, so he added that it would be better for the Hraes’ Trading Company to have England in Danish Norman hands than in Anglo-Saxon.”

“It’s hard to argue with that,” Hraerik agreed.

“But I warned my brother that Prince Valdamar would not take England’s loss sitting down and now he’s put a curse on the land.  An Aesir Unicorn scorn pole!  He said he would be back in the fall to retake England.”

“A Unicorn?” Hraerik asked, whistling gently through his teeth.  “That’s powerful Aesir magic.  Valdy’s Orthodox Christian now.  How would he even do that?”

“Sweyn was pagan to the end.  He wouldn’t even convert when they crowned him King of England on Christmas Day!  And he surrounded himself with pagans, Jarl Eirik, and Jomsvikings and witches.  They must have helped him.”

“If Valdamar made a Unicorn scorn pole, he will be back, but not this year,” Hraerik said.  “My dream was quite clear.  I saw the death of Svein and then I saw terrible flooding all over England.  The flooding was caused by weather changes due to the worldwide warming cycle we are in changing over to a cooling cycle, but the English were blaming it on some kind of evil.  They must have been blaming it on the Unicorn scorn pole.  Anyway, the floods will kill thousands and make the lands unsafe for campaigning, so Valdamar will delay his return by a year.  But when he does come back, I foresaw his victory, and it was quite complete.  Advise your brother to not be here when Valdamar returns.”

“King Valdamar is very angry with my brother,” Emma fretted.  “He’ll attack Richard in Normandy.”

“That would not be good for Hraes’ Trading,” Hraerik assured her.  “I’ll have a word with Valdy on Richard’s behalf.  If Richard quits England before Valdy returns, there will be no retribution against Normandy.  You have my word.”

“My brother won’t listen to me,” Emma began.  “He gave me to that letch, Athelred, just to get his hands on England,” she continued, “but he does believe in soothsayers and witchcraft.  Do you mind if I pass your flood warning on to him?  But not the cause.  I’ll tell him it’s the curse, the curse of the Unicorn scorn pole and he’ll flee England once the flooding starts!”

“Is he that superstitious?”

“The king of the Franks is always complaining about the witches of Rouen or the warlocks of Normandy.  He even warned Richard that he would tell the Pope on him and the papacy would withdraw their support for the Norman troops in northern Italy.”

“How is King Robert?” Hraerik asked, smiling.

“He’s as horny as ever,” Emma complained.  “Every time I open a new Hraes’ store in Frankia I have to fock him to get a permit!”

“I’m glad to see you’re so dedicated,” Hraerik laughed.

“You don’t know the half of it,” Emma assured him as she took his shirt off and sat him on the bed.

“I know about Marseille.”

“You know about Marseille,” Emma poo-pooed Hraerik and kissed him gently.  “That took dedication.  King Robert always settled for a blowjob for permits, but for Marseille, he wanted the real deal and I gave up my virginity to the King of Frankia.  Then my dear brother gave me to King Athelred without even asking me about it.  I had to fake my virginity with a drunk Athelred, but he was always drunk anyway.”

“No,” Hraerik said.  “I know about your plans for Marseille.  Your Seine to the Rhone River portage plans.”  Emma stopped unbuttoning his shirt.  ‘It’s a good plan,” Hraerik said, reassuring her.  “I want to use it.”

Emma continued unbuttoning his shirt.

“Is this more of your dedication?” he asked as she started unbuttoning his pants.

“No.  This is all for me,” she replied.  “Is it okay?  Sweyn told me the Alchemist drug you use to stay young makes you randy as hell.”  Hraerik nodded an okay.  “This is just for me.  I miss Sweyn and you’re The Prince, the Head Ransom Prince that fought the Huns to avenge Princess Gunwar.  All the young Princesses of Europe want to fock you, as did I when I was young.”

“You’re still young,” he reassured her.

“You’re sweet, like Sweyn, Erik,” Emma said as she pulled his pants off.  “This is all about me,” she repeated, taking Hraerik’s stiffening lingam into her mouth.  When she got it all hard and wet to her liking, she tore off her dress and panties and pushed Hraerik back and put a glove on him and then she rode him hard, fighting back the need to moan or cry out, lest her officers should become alarmed.  She came three times before she finally got her Prince to explode and flow.  “You’re a pleasure to ride,” she said as she rolled off him and laid beside him, breathing heavily, “but you’re a long ride too!”

“It comes with age,” Hraerik confided.  “After the first hundred years it just takes longer and longer.”

“Sweyn said you were over a hundred,” Emma posited.  “Exactly how old are you?”

“A hundred and forty six,” he guessed.  It wasn’t something he liked to keep close track of.

“A hundred and forty six,” Emma breathed, “and you sailed across the open ocean?  Shouldn’t someone that much older, be that much wiser?”

“It was easier this time,” Hraerik told her and he reached out for his pants and took a wooden packet from his pocket.  “I used this, this time,” and he opened the little box and he passed it to her.  “I got it from Cathay.  That little needle under the glass always points north,” he said, “come hell or high water.  To head east, I keep the needle pointing to my left.”

“You said it was easier this time.  How many times have you crossed over to the other side?”

“Twice, when I was much younger.  I was with King Frodi when he chased Arrow Odd across the Atlantean Sea, and I was trying to keep the two of them apart so they didn’t kill each other.  Then I sent Frodi back and later crossed back east myself.  We hadn’t discovered Iceland or Greenland back then, so we had to sail straight across.  No safe island jumping back then, but it is faster!  So much faster!”

“How fast was it?”

“Two weeks, this time, instead of two months!”

Emma got herself up on her elbow and her breasts danced about Hraerik’s ear.  He turned and sampled them with his lips.  “That’s incredible” she gasped.

“I know.  I had a good wind.  I want to start a trade route back and forth, and I want to use your portage to bypass the Muslims of Spain and take product directly into the Mediterranean markets.”

“Furs and hawks,” Emma said.  “What else?  Tell me about this Newfoundland.”

“Furs and hawks and seals and cod and whales and tin and copper.  And there’s a huge valley past the Nia Gara water falls that my son, Arrow Odd called ‘The Valley of the Mound Builders’ and there is a river down this valley that’s as long as the Nile and there are cities the size of London and Paris all the way down it and the natives call it the Mis Sis Sip Pi River and there is gold and silver to be had at the southern end of this river.”

“Can I be a part of this?” Emma asked.

“A part as in partner?” Hraerik asked back.  “You already are.  I need your Marseille.”

“You already have the Nor’Way and the Dan’Way!  Why would you need my Marseille?”

“Worldwide cooling is coming,” he warned her, “and the Land of Hraes’ will revert back to the ‘Glassy Plains’ it was between the time of Attila and the time of the Khazars.  That is why I have foreseen flooding in England this summer.  The weather change between warming and cooling cycles is wilder than the change between cooling to warming cycles because heat is more volatile than cold.”

“So I can be a partner?” Emma asked.

“If you can keep King Robert’s permits flowing, you can be my partner at this end of the route.  I’ll have native partners at the other end of it.”

“And no slaves?” Emma asked.  “I don’t want slave trading to be a part of this partnership.”

“No slave trading!  We’ll follow the rules of Hjalmar ‘the Brave’,” Hraerik said.

“I know that name!” Emma said and she kissed him.

“My native family at the north end of the river don’t have slavery.  They do at the southern end, but it stays in the south, coincidentally, where all the silver and gold is.”

“Hjalmar didn’t allow rapes either,” Emma said, remembering her history.  “Women had to willingly board his ships.”

“No rapes either,” Hraerik assured her.  Normandy was full of rapist lords and witchcraft and all the Aesir vices married seamlessly somehow with Latin Christianity.  “But I do need one more thing,” he added.

“You need me to ride you again, Erik,” Emma said, imploringly.

“I need your tall ships,” Hraerik replied.  “The ones with the houses at the back.  When I was in Cathay they had such ships for ocean sailings.”

“Yes, you did mention Cathay.  I’ll give you your tall ships, Erik, but you must tell me about Cathay!”

“Now I need you to ride me!  And you shall come with me, all the way to Cathay!”

The afternoon was well spent before the two emerged from King Sweyn’s suite with a rasher of various vellums in their hands and their clothing somewhat askew.  It was an old Roman saying that advised one to never meet one’s heroes, but for every rule, there are always exceptions, and Queen Emma had met The Prince from her childhood imaginings and the dreams remained intact and, now, fulfilled.

“It’s too late for me to sail for Normandy today,” Hraerik told her as they walked back to their ships.  “My men will be sleeping under the ships awnings tonight, I’m afraid.”

“Do you see the clouds over the coast of Southampton?” Emma asked, and when Hraerik nodded, she said, “I think there is a spring storm brewing.  Sweyn warned me years ago that the Solent was very dangerous here when a storm was a brewing, so, if you’ll allow me to return your favour of lunch by having my cook provide us with supper in the great hall, the storm could be upon us and my men shall have to sleep in our little house at the back of my tallship, and, I don’t know about you but, I think I shall be sleeping in King Sweyn’s master suite.  Should you be out and about late and walking in the storm, Erik, perhaps you should seek shelter in the great hall as well.  Perhaps I could ride you to the Newfoundland this time?”

The first spring storm of the year came as Emma had predicted it would and when Prince Hraerik arrived at the great hall at midnight, all wet and cold and needing some warmth, Emma took him into her master suite and made sure his blood was flowing to all his extremities and he carried her off to the Newfoundland.  Later, as Emma slept in his arms, the rain came down in buckets, presaging what was to come, and thunder peeled across the heavens and Emma would unconsciously jump at the sound and Hraerik would hold her ever so gently and settle her back into deep sleep.

The two ships parted ways in the morning, the tallship sailing northeast to Southampton, and the Roman dromon sailing southwest around Frankia for the Pillars of Hercules and the Mediterranean Sea.  Prince Hraerik wanted to meet his great grandson in Baghdad, share condolences, and then head onward to India to kill a man that lived far in the future.  While they were trading together in the Caliphate, King Sweyn’s young Danish son, Prince Harald, would proclaim himself ‘King of Denmark’.