Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert
2.0 THE GREAT FLOODS OF ENGLAND (Circa 1014 AD)
(1014) When Prince Hraerik returned to Baghdad from India, Prince Valdamar and Jarl Eirik informed him that England had been experiencing heavy rains and extensive flooding the whole time he had been in India. The English people were starting to chatter about King Canute’s Unicorn scorn pole and the curse he had laid upon the land. The clergy was working hard there to keep a lid on this talk of Aesir magic, but crops were not growing because of the wet conditions and upcoming harvests would be endangered if the rains continued. Still, it wasn’t the catastrophic flood that the Prince had foreseen although it did look weather driven by cyclic change. Prince Valdamar and Jarl Eirik wanted to attack England after the trading season, but the Prince preached patience.
“This is not what I have foreseen,” Hraerik told them. “The flooding I saw was as hazardous to us as it was to the English. There is more to come.”
When the combined merchant fleets of Baghdad, Constantinople and Cathay gathered in the Bay of Cherson to pay their Hraes’ tithes and fees, spies sent word down from Kiev that an earthquake in the Irish Sea had caused great flooding in Wales with a loss of lives and a large loss of cattle and other livestock. “This must be what you saw,” Valdamar told the Prince. “We still have time to take an army and defeat them before winter sets in.” But there were very few lives lost in the Welsh floods so, Hraerik repeated, “This is not what I’d foreseen, but this will be attributed to your scorn pole so, we’ll let the English conspire and we must wait for more.”
And the English did conspire. They consulted with the Welsh Witches and the Witches of York about what they could do to dampen the effects of the curse. They consulted with the Warlocks of Wessex and nobody even knew there were warlocks in Wessex and they consulted with Druids in Ireland and Wizards in Scotland until the Bishops in England became alarmed at the amount of pagan consulting that was occurring and they called a conference on the matter in Winchester. And King Sweyn’s secret Exeyes officers in London kept sending out reports to Ipswich that went to Liere and then to Novgorod and on to Kiev. When the great merchant fleet arrived in Kiev they stopped for resupply and most headed north for home, to Sweden and Gotland and Denmark, to Normandy and England and Ireland, to Norway and Iceland and even Greenland. Jarl Eirik carried on with his Norse fleet, for news had come to Kiev that there was an Olaf there again fomenting trouble, and Eirik still remembered the alkaline taste he had gotten in his mouth when King Sweyn had told him there was a rumour that Olaf Tryggvason had survived his little swim in the Kattegat and had not died at the Battle of Svolder and the Olaf that was now touting Christianity might be that Trygve’s son rising from the ashes of Svolder, a Christian resurrection of sorts.
Prince Valdamar still wanted to rush off with his legions and attack England while the fall was still fresh, but Hraerik talked him out of it and once he settled into his concubines in his palaces surrounding Kiev, he settled down somewhat. Six weeks later, word came back to Kiev that the Irish merchant fleet had been wiped out by a huge rogue wave that had come from the southwest, the Atlantean Sea, and had hit their ships before impacting the western coasts of Ireland and England and the English Channel all the way to the Netherlands and Jutland. The Irish fleet had hired mercenaries to go back to Dublin with them to retake the city from the Irish, but they and a shitload of gold Byzants and silver Kufas were now at the bottom of the Channel. And that is where the Hraes’ fleet and legions would have been, too, had not the Prince held them back in Kiev. The tidal wave hit the coast of England and many areas were sheltered by cliffs, but where the rivers met the sea and the bays were low, the wave tore into the lands and swamped whole towns and swept their people away. Tens of thousands of English souls were lost in a matter of minutes and the waters raged far inland.
This was the curse of the Unicorn scorn pole and many English common folk wanted to send King Athelred back to Normandy and call back King Canute before the next calamity struck them. And the witches and the warlocks of England were consulted again, this time by Duke Richard of Normandy, who still sat in London with his legions. Queen Emma and her sons were in Rouen building her tallships and even they had seen the Seine River rise a few feet with the tidal blast. She sailed her latest tallship to London, but she left her children in Rouen. She saw the Unicorn scorn pole still standing on Sandwich as she sailed up the Thames and she wondered what calamity awaited them next. ‘That focking Athelred won’t even take down his own scorn pole,’ she thought and she knew no others wanted to catch the shade that was thrown at him by taking it down on his behalf. In London, she told her brother to pack up his legions and return to Rouen with her.
“Prince Hraerik foresaw this calamity,” she reminded her brother. “When the summer flooding seemed to taper off, we laughed at his prediction of catastrophe, but who is laughing now? He made us an offer, and I suggest we take him up on it. Withdraw your legions and come back to Rouen with me.”
“I have consulted with the witches and warlocks of England,” Duke Richard replied, “and they have assured me that the curse has exhausted itself.”
“I checked with our witches in Rouen,” Emma lied, “and they are of a different opinion. They say the Unicorn has lots of horn left.”
“You’ve certainly gone all Aesir suddenly,” he responded.
“A lot has happened lately.”
“I’m going to sit tight here over the winter. I prefer to have King Athelred feeding my legions here than myself feeding them in Rouen. I’ll stay till spring and enjoy the English women and we’ll see if the scorn pole has any horn left.”
“Well, at least tell Athelred to take his own scorn pole down!” Emma said, frustrated by her brother’s attitude. “And don’t you dare take it down for him!”
“I’m not afraid of a scorn pole!” Richard spat.
“Either am I!” Emma spat back. “But when Prince Valdamar comes back as King Canute and cleans up this mess, he’ll learn that you took Athelred’s shade for him and he’ll just keep on cleaning his way up the Seine and give you a good scrubbing in Normandy. And I’m pretty sure he’ll have the Prince with him and Prince Hraerik and King Robert are like this,” and she crossed her fingers.
“How would he even know King Robert?”
“He knew King Robert’s father, and Prince Hraerik’s son, Prince Hargold, saved our father’s life when he was a boy, and Gold Harald didn’t even have legs!”
Duke Richard looked down into the hands that were now in his lap. “I’ll tell Athelred to take down his scorn pole. If he doesn’t, I’ll follow you back, if he does, I’ll stay till spring and see what happens.” Duke Richard didn’t look up so, Queen Emma turned and left.
In Kiev, Prince Hraerik set up a meeting with his great grandson, Prince Valdamar, who was diligently servicing his concubine wives while his England was flooding, and in their talk, the Prince told Valdy that he wanted to take half of the Hraes’ legions to Tmutorokan to overwinter so they could sail for England in early spring and not be ice-bound, like frozen turds, in Kiev, while spring wasted away. When Prince Valdamar agreed to it, the Prince then invited him and his several thousand wives and children to come to Gardariki for Yulefest.
“While your family is here in Tmutorokan,” Hraerik started, “I suggest you apportion out your lands as your father, Svein, did before he set off to attack Bulgaria and then the Romans. I want us to set up our legions on the Isle of Wight and in Bamburgh under the commands of Jarls Gudmund and Eirik and our Hraes’ slavers can follow and start buying up famine victims before too many starve from the flooding. Once we get them set up for raiding, we can follow the spring merchant fleet east and south to Baghdad and Constantinople and when we return in the fall we’ll bring the rest of our force from Kiev and Novgorod back north with us. Does that sound like a plan?”
“I don’t like the part about apportioning out my lands,” Valdy admitted. “It didn’t work out that well for either my father or me. And it worked out horribly for Ivar and Helgi.”
“I know,” the Prince agreed. “But if you don’t, it will just be that much worse. Once we conquer England, you’ll have to stay there until you’re sure the country won’t revolt again. You won’t even be able to go back to Denmark until you’re sure.”
“So, I have to leave that little shit Harald as King of Denmark?” Valdy spat, wryly and then sipped some wine. “I was going to take him out with our legions going north on the way by Liere.”
“We are better off to have a friend in Denmark than have some usurper take over while we’re fighting in England. Besides, he just might be your half brother.”
“My father told me that he knocked up young Gunhilde first and then, suddenly, her mother Gyritha announces she’s pregnant too? And then she has baby Svein two weeks before Gunhilde has baby Harald? I’m pretty sure Harald Bluetooth threw a good fock and a half into Queen Gyritha before he fled to Jom. I know I would have.”
“I know you would have,” Hraerik laughed. “Queen Gyritha may be getting on, but she’s still pretty hot. Like fine wine, those Swedish princesses age well.”
“You’d know,” Valdy laughed, “you old grand motherfocker,” referring to Hraerik’s affair with his grand mother, the Swedish princess, Empress Helga.
“Aw, Helga,” the Prince reminisced. “She was ‘The Swedish Princess’ and there will never be another like her. And Queen Silkisif, what a pair! But you’ll be soon focking grand mothers. Half the Princes of Europe what to marry your daughters by Anna, your Porphyrogennetos daughters. And when they have babies, you too shall be focking grandmothers.”
“Aw, don’t remind me,” Valdy lamented. “Every week there’s a new royal delegation in Kiev asking for the hand of Theophano.”
“That was brilliant,” Hraerik told him. “When you stepped up to your father and told him you would marry Anna if he wouldn’t and then you told him why, we both had to step back and we looked at each other and we knew that you’d just had the greatest epiphany any prince had ever had, ever! ‘Why conquer the throne of Rome in Constantinople, when you could just marry Anna and bring the throne of Rome to Kiev?’ you said, and we were both dumbfounded. I’ll remember that moment to my dying day.”
“I don’t think you’ll ever die,” Valdy replied, “but thank you for bringing that up. Now I’ll remember it when I’m focking grandmothers before my time. And speaking of focking grandmothers,” Valdy added, “how did you make out with the first grandmother you ever focked, the ghost of Princess Blaeja?”
“Oh…I focked her again! I didn’t want to, but it just ended up happening. And it was mind-blowing!”
“You focked a ghost? How the fock do you fock a ghost?”
“I was a ghost too, for a while,” Hraerik confessed. “I was dead for a while.”
“Oh, fock!” I’m not sure I want to hear this.”
“It was bad. The hit kind of went south on us for a bit. I was going to tell you and Eirik about it in Baghdad, but I’m waiting for one last bit to come in and then I’ll tell you both at Yulefest. I’m hoping Jarl Eirik will come to Yule in Tmutorokan as well. Have you heard how he’s making out in Norway? Has he found out who this Olaf is?”
“Some messengers arrived the other day and he got back to Lade okay. England sheltered them from a direct hit by that rogue wave, but they felt it. It was like a twenty foot swell coming at them from behind and their rowers had to switch rowing trunks and row backwards straight into it…the whole fleet did that and they never lost ship. Jarl Eirik has learned that the Olaf isn’t Olaf Tryggvason, though I’ve heard from Polish sources that Tryggvason is still alive but not kicking in Wendland. He’s still in one of King Ivar’s wheeled chairs, so rumour has it, and Princess Astrid takes care of him. Old Boleslaw won’t admit it, but he’s still pissed about not getting Queen Thyra back.”
“Well, fock Boleslaw!” the Prince cursed. “If he wants to protect Olaf, he’s not going to get Thyra back. Besides, she’d kill herself first before she’d allow us to send her back to him.”
“Well, fock Boleslaw,” Valdy agreed, “even though he is my father-in-law. I just wish I could get better info on Olaf in Wend. It’s like he’s a ghost or something. Sorry about the ghost reference.”
“That’s okay,” Hraerik said. “The sex was great. I’m thinking of going back for some more. So, you’ll bring all your wives and children? For Yule?”
“I will,” Valdy assured the Prince.
“Young Ivaraslav will be coming but Ivar’s Ivaraslav is going to still be in Constantinople with Princess Sviataslava. He’s leading the Guard for Basil ‘the Bulgar-slayer’. I still can’t believe what that Roman motherfocker did!”
“I know! Blinding every Bulgarian captive he had except for every hundredth man? Leaving them one eye to lead the rest back to Sofia with? It’s brilliant!”
“I know! Why didn’t we ever do that?” It’s brilliant!”
“In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king. It’s a Byzantine thing,” Hraerik explained. “Roman Emperors blind their brothers or other Emperors when they’re pissed with them. It was a message to the Bulgarian emperor.”
“Well, Tzar Simeon got the message. He dropped dead!” Valdy said.
“You know who would have really appreciated the thought put into it?” Hraerik asked.
Valdy looked up into the air and said, “King Ivar ‘the Boneless’! He would have loved it!” And they both laughed.
“Exactly,” Hraerik agreed. “Your grandfather!”
“Still,” Valdy said, somewhat pensively. “I don’t like my Ivar exposed to this kind of treachery. We’re supposed to Christians now.”
“Young Ivaraslav is yours and Anna’s,” Hraerik reminded him, “and elder Ivaraslav is Ivar’s and Svia’s.”
“I know, but I’ve raised him like a son and shall always treat him as one. I just don’t like Svia exposing him to Basil’s ways. He’ll come back to Kiev and try to use them against his brothers.”
“That’s why we need to apportion out the lands at Yulefest. So, be there! I’ve got to head out with the legions this afternoon. I plan on giving them some added training. Maybe we’ll go to Bulgaria after Yule and help Ivaraslav slay more Bulgars? And let Svia be. She’s finally enjoying Rome!”
Duke Richard told King Athelred that he should take down his own scorn pole. “It will show your people that you are not afraid of Prince Valdamar!”
“But I am afraid of Prince Valdamar! It was a Unicorn scorn pole. They don’t get worse that that! He had my best spy fucked by a horse and then he cut the horse’s head off and impaled it on that pole and then he fucked my best spy to death and then cut her head off and impaled it on the unicorn’s horn. And he did it in front of the two hundred princes and thanes that he held as hostages and witnesses before he had them mutilated and had their hands cut off.”
“Better their hands than their heads,” Richard said. “But that pole has to come down, and you’re the only one who can do it. If I did it for you, it would send the wrong message to your people. I’m just here to help you. It must be you and your English people that defeat Valdamar!”
“My English subjects are more afraid of Valdamar than I am,” Athelred complained.
“That is why you must take down the scorn pole,” Richard doubled down. “If you don’t, I’ll have to head back to Normandy. I’ll not keep my legions here to be slaughtered because your troops are too scared shitless to fight!”
“Okay! Okay!” Athelred relented. “I planned on doing it at the start of Christmas festivities,” he lied. “I want to make a big deal out of it, with clergy there and the witnesses there and all my town criers there to watch it and announce it through out the land!”
“That’s a great idea!” Richard exclaimed. “That is why you must be king here!”
“It…it is a great idea,” Athelred said, but he had just come up with it to put off the event a little longer. When Richard left the throne room, the king began trembling with fear.
Emma was back in Normandy building her tallships when she heard the news that King Athelred was going to tear down the Unicorn scorn pole first day of Yule. She wanted to be there to watch and this time she brought her sons with her to Sandwich. They sat off the coast of the island on her latest tallship and they watched the destruction through King Sweyn’s optical scope that she and Prince Hraerik found while searching Sweyn’s master suite for secret papers in between sexual sessions. Hraerik told her to keep it. They made them at one of his Guild factories in Gardariki. She loved it for sailing and she loved the compass that he had given her as well. She hoped he would be back soon. It was great having a lover that brought clarity to sight and location to self. She saw a small circular view of Athelred on the sand with her brother beside him. She adjusted the scope to make it clearer and she thought Athelred looked the worst she had ever seen him. His drinking and focking boys was catching up with him. Then she looked at her brother and saw that he looked just like his father, just as she remembered him when she was a girl. They were all getting older. Everyone except the Prince and she hugged her scope and passed it to her eldest son and showed him how to adjust it.
Once her sons and daughter had a look, she put the scope to her eye once more. Athelred has digging the sand with a shovel but he was digging all around the scorn pole instead of attacking one side of it only. She could tell that he was not healthy, but there were hundreds of people watching who could not and they kept cheering him on to redouble his efforts. The digging got harder as he went down and he did finally attack it from only one side and then he went around to the other side and attempted to push it over and he tilted it as much as it would go and he went back around and dug some more. He made this back and forth attack upon the scorn pole, resting several times as he switched from front to back and, finally, the pole toppled over. Athelred grabbed the witch’s head by the hair and pulled it off the unicorn’s horn and he threw it into the pole’s hole and buried it with sand. He tried to pull the stallion’s head off of the scorn pole, but the tapered end, the horn, had been driven through the skull of the horse where a hole had been chopped. He gave up the attempt and just shovelled some sand over the horse’s head and buried it. Then he had his retinue pack everything up and they left to the cheers of the supporting crowd. Queen Emma packed up her scope, gathered up her children and had her captain set sail for a return to Normandy.
“That went rather well,” Duke Richard told King Athelred as they returned to the king’s shieldship and rowed back up the Thames. “Your subjects loved it!”
The next day, King Athelred couldn’t get out of bed. Everyone thought that he had overexerted himself on the beach, but when he started coughing up blood, the physicians realized that a pox had set upon him. He was deathly ill as Christmas festivities progressed and his subjects began whispering that it was the curse of the Unicorn scorn pole. The witches and warlocks of England began predicting he had less than a year to live. When Queen Emma heard this, she finally went to the Witches of Rouen and they confirmed the prognosis.
Guests started arriving in Gardariki for Yulefest by the thousands. The inns were full and every available building in the city had been cleaned, painted and furnished to take up the slack, but even this was not enough so, pavilions had been set up everywhere and a legion was even sent to Bulgaria to assist Emperor Basil and young Prince Ivaraslav and his Varangian Guard in the slaying of Bulgars so that their legionary barracks could be used to house the overflow. The festivities were keeping spirits high and every night Cathayan rockets and fireworks would be set off to entertain the guests. No expense was being spared in the entertaining of guests and troops and citizens.
“The fireworks alone must be costing you a fortune!” Prince Valdamar said as he entered Prince Hraerik’s study. They sat down and shared some wine. “They’re getting old,” the Prince explained. “The powder in them ages and loses some of its explosive power, so the rockets are no longer reliable as weapons. It’s the cost of doing business when your business is war. I was hoping that Jarl Eirik would be able to make it, but I hear that the new Jarl Olaf is causing much the same trouble as the old one had.”
“Focking Christians and their forced conversions!” Valdamar spat.
“That’s not very Christian of you,” the Prince said.
“At least I try,” Valdy responded. “Forced conversions isn’t even trying. It doesn’t work…what is that?” He pointed at a bottle of liquor on Hraerik’s desk.
“It’s Irish liquor. I was hoping to share it with you and Eirik this Yule.”
“I mean what’s in it?”
“The bottle just arrived from our Maharaja in India,” Hraerik started. “And that little snake inside is a cock, taken from a man that was raping my Myia at the University in Mumba.”
“Is Myia okay?” Valdy asked and Hraerik told him about the ‘hit’ on the khan of an eastern horde and that Myia didn’t make it.
“So you were dead how long?” Valdy asked.
“Well, it seemed a lot longer than it actually was, but it was about five minutes.”
“So you focked the spirit of Grandmother Princess Blaeja in under five minutes and it was the best sex you’ve ever had?”
“It was under three minutes, but it seemed like an hour. And Blaeja took over the body of the eleven year old Cathayan princess so, she was an eleven year old Princess Blaeja.”
“You focked an eleven year old Princess Blaeja?” Valdy asked incredulously.
“Everything was going south on the ‘hit’,” Hraerik started, defending his actions. “The khan was supposed to fock the eleven year old princess. I was just supposed to get him to do it, but he wouldn’t so, I had to take full control of him. And the princess died and her spirit left her body and took the spirit of Myia with her so, Princess Blaeja had to take full control of the princess’s body and she looked pretty hot at eleven. So, yes, I focked an eleven year old Princess Blaeja, but in spirit only, and it was the best! The spirit of Princess Blaeja wants to do it again with me sometime in the future.”
“And you’re going to die again just to do it with her?”
“Fock yeah!” the Prince said. “It’ll only be for three minutes next time.”
“That’s the most focked up assassination I’ve ever heard of!” Valdamar said.
“We killed a man that hasn’t even been born yet. The hit was pretty focked up from the get-go. But we got it done and Princess Blaeja was still searching for the secret location where they buried the khan when I was busy burying my Myia.”
“My condolences,” Valdy said, putting his hand on his father’s shoulder. “Did she find the secret location?”
“No,” Hraerik stated flatly. “She couldn’t find it so, she put a spell out so that his people would never be able to find it either.”
Over the Yulefest, Prince Valdamar apportioned out his lands to his wives and their sons and he gave out dowries to his daughters. After Yule, the legions were prepared for late winter sailing across the Mediterranean Sea and the Prince and Prince Valdamar led them in Hraerik’s Roman dromon shieldship. They used a Cathayan compass and charts to plot a course west and sailed the full length of the Roman Sea without touching upon land until they got to the Pillars of Hercules and the Andulusian navy did not approach the great Hraes’ fleet as it went through the strait and turned north up the coast of Spain. The Muslims of Cordoba did not want trouble with the ‘Magis’ from the North.