Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert
THE PARTITIONING OF HRAES’ (Circa 972-974 AD)
9. “Hardy was Hrungnir, but his sire e’en more;
more thews than they old Thjatsi had.
Ithi and Aurnir are of our kin:
are we both born to brothers of etins.
Anonymous; Grottasongr, Prose Edda (Hollander)
(972) Prince Svein and Princess Svia packed up their belongings in Pereslavet and loaded up their gold, some red, some yellow and they sailed with their legion, composed of what was left of Svein’s three new mobile legions, and they sailed to Gardariki to meet up with Prince Hraerik. He had just arrived there back from Kiev, where he had just finished tithing the merchant fleet that had then returned north across the Baltic. It had been the first time Hraerik had done it without Empress Helga and he was thankful they had trained his Khazar princess, Serah, to help with the paperwork. He’d then spent a bit of time with the pregnant Serah and her daughter and with Svein’s sons and Malfrieda and returned back to Tmutorokan in time to welcome Svein and Svia on the main quay of Gardariki. Queen Silkisif was there as well and very concerned about the young couple after their recent defeat at Dorostal.
“There were Pechenegs north of the rapids,” Hraerik said, “just as Emperor John warned there would be.”
“Well, he probably sent them there,” Svein shrugged. Princess Svia stood beside Svein but they were not holding hands as usual. They entered the city and rode chariots to the palace. There was food and ale inside and they sat at their high seats and discussed plans as they sat and dined, Hraerik and Silki on the first highseat and Svein and Svia sharing the second. “I’d like Serah to stay in Kiev with you,” Hraerik started. “She can help me with the merchant fleet from there and she can help with the children.”
“I won’t be long in Kiev,” Svein said. “I’m going north soon to claim the throne of Denmark, but she’s welcome to live there as long as she wishes. It works out well. She can help Prince Eyfur rule the Poljane. I’m going to leave Svia in Chernigov with Prince Helgi to rule the Drevjane,” and Svia nodded at this, “and I’m going to take Malfrieda to Novgorod with young Valdamar to rule the Hraes’ there.”
“You’re right,” Silkisif said. “It does work out well.”
“I’m leaving my gold here,” Svein said, “if It’s okay with you two.”
“Oh, yes,” Silki said, hugging Hraerik’s arm. “Leave it as long as you wish.”
Later, Hraerik and Silki were in bed together making love over all the gold stored in the basement of the palace. As they relaxed later, Silki said, “There had to be thirty thousand pounds of gold that Svein unloaded!”
“Thirty five thousand,” Hraerik confirmed. “He didn’t lose the war for lack of funds. He just ran out of legions.”
“And the Romans didn’t,” Silki said wistfully.
“They always seem to have one more legion,” Hraerik said just as wistfully. “I told him not to fock with those Armenian generals.”
“Speaking of one more,” Silki whispered, “do you think?”
“You know the drill,” Hraerik said, laying back.
“It’s just, with all that fresh gold below us…” and she took his limp lingam into her mouth and she soon had it swelling.
Fresh troops had been training all spring and summer in Tmutorokan so, Svein’s one legion was split back up into three legions and the new trainees were integrated into the legions as required. “I’ll send the Tmutorokan legion back when I’m done with the Pechenegs,” Svein promised as they left the main quay of Gardariki.
“Don’t be too hard on them,” Hraerik warned. “Kagan Kurya isn’t a bad leader.”
Six hundred ships sailed through the Cimmerian Bosporos and around the Crimea and up the Dnieper to the rapids. Prince Svein and Svia visited with Kagan Baitzas of the Yavdi Erdem Pechenegs at the portages and Svein apologized for the loss of all the Pecheneg warriors at the Battle of Arcadiopolis. “You were at your mother’s deathbed,” the Kagan said. “Things would have been different,” Svein assured him, “had I been there.” The kagan looked Svein in the eye and said, “At least your Count Vlad made the Romans pay for their treachery, life for life. Kagan Kurya is waiting to challenge you upstream,” the kagan warned. “Anything I should know?” Svein asked. “Don’t be too hard on him,” the kagan answered. “He’s from the east. I hear there are sturgeon in the Volga, too.”
It is said that the Hraes’ army spent the winter at the mouth of the Dnieper, starving, but it was just units of Hraes’ stragglers making their way back out of Bulgaria. Prince Svein had found a few of them camping there as he passed through and he picked them up and reintegrated them into his legions, but there would be more following, so he’d left supplies on the island there so nobody would starve.
Princess Svia was the first to spot the Pechenegs from the forestem of Svein’s shieldship. The nomadic horde was twice the size of the Hraes’ army, but half of them were on the left bank and the other half on the right. They were all horse mounted warriors and would cross the river back and forth on horseback to stay in touch, so the prince had his ships row up to the western bank and the legions were unloaded in twenty minutes and the Pechenegs were riding south on both banks to meet him. The ships returned to the center of the river and cast anchors as the legions formed up to face the western horde. Then the legions began advancing in reverse, moving south along the riverbank as though not wishing to engage the Pecheneg mounted warriors. The western group followed them south and the eastern group kept pace with them on the other bank. Prince Svein withdrew his army in this fashion for most of the day until they were almost upon the Dnieper cataracts, then he positioned his forces for battle and when the western Pecheneg forces attacked he met them with his army and their shield wall held against the light horse, collapsing slightly on the riverbank flank until the Pechenegs were soon encircled with the rapids at their backs. When the eastern nomads tried to ride across the river to aide their comrades, they found the waters too deep and fast for their horses to handle. Thousands were swept downriver and drowned in the rapids as the remainder watched a great slaughter of cavalry on the western bank as the sun set before them. It was the Battle of Cannae all over again, but this time, Hannibal’s veteran troops were replaced by the staunch Essoupi Rapids. The last of the western Pecheneg forces were about to plunge into the river behind them and try their luck with the waters when the ships that had been anchored upriver rowed down to block them off.
Kagan Kurya had his warriors lay down their weapons and Prince Svein allowed the kagan to ransom his men. The gold the Romans had given them was rowed across the river from their baggage train on the eastern bank and the kagan passed it on to Svein. In the Roman chests Svein found much of the gold he had given to the Romans as gifts for promising him the co-Emperorship with Emperors Nikephoros, Basil and Constantine. In one chest he found the baptismal ewer that he’d had made of Tzar Peter’s skull for his own proposed baptism. He wondered how many Romans knew, if any, what pate was under the encasing gold plate. Gold plated cranial drinking cups had never been a Pecheneg practice; it was more of a Bulgar thing. It was almost dark when the Hraes’ army embarked upon their ships. “There is a city called Kazaran at the mouth of the Volga,” Prince Svein told Kagan Kurya. “You may winter there if it is peace you seek. I shall be leading a Varangian merchant fleet through there in the spring and I shall give you land if you wish to serve me.”
When Prince Svein returned to Kiev there was much celebrating, for rumours had been circulating that he had been killed by the Pechenegs that had invaded Gardar. Instead, the prince had garnered a great victory there, but he did nothing to quash the rumours. It suited him if the Romans thought him dead.
The sons of Prince Sveinald had been awarded their respective territories of Gardar and fully expected to lose them because the Grand Prince had lost his Bulgar gains. But Prince Svein did not recant on his gifts. Instead, he announced that he would be going to Denmark and Norway. “I want to go to Denmark and take back the lands that my father conquered. His strategy of ruling two realms is now more important than ever. And I want to get the Nor’Way back up and running or the Khazars will be back on the Volga.”
Prince Svein bid his oldest son, Eyfur or Ivaropolk, as his Poljane subjects called him, goodbye in Kiev, leaving Serah as his guardian. Then he and Svia travelled with his younger son, Helgi or Oleg, as his Drevjane subjects called him, to Chernigov and he bid them goodbye there. And finally, he travelled to Novgorod with Malfrieda and their son, Valdamar, sometimes called Vladimir after Count Vlad, and their new baby Helga. He spent the winter with his mother’s favourite handmaiden there.
“Would you like to have another baby?” Svein asked her as they got into bed.
“No!” she said. “Use this!” and she threw him a lambskin.
“We used one of these when we both lost our virginity,” he said, throwing it back to her, “and it never worked.”
She laughed because it made her think back to their younger days in Constantinople. She sat down naked at the edge of the bed and said, “I’ll try and get it right this time.” She gave his lingam a few strokes with her hand and it stiffened up quickly and she slipped the lamb gut sleave over it and tied it carefully at the base. She then sucked on the gut and regurgitated some spit to lubricate it and then she climbed up on him and breathed in suddenly as she slid down on him. Then she let her breath out and began to ride him in a nice gentle rhythm. “You still have the most beautiful breasts,” he said as he watched them rise up and down with her body’s flow. “You say that to all the girls,” she replied as she picked up the pace and soon she began moaning gently and she came several times before he finally exploded within her. She gave his lingam a gentle squeeze and it felt good so, she did it again and then she got off him and she untied the lambskin and pulled it off him and she took his lingam into her mouth while it was still hard and she savoured the taste of it. It was salty, like Hraes’ Khazar Vayar and she went over to the bedtable and took some Khavayar and spooned it onto his cock and began to suck it off. “The trick,” she said, “to making the lambskin work, is to get off and move on to other things right away,” and she spooned more Khavayar on and licked it off, savouring the taste of both.
“I hope you’re enjoying my cock aperitif,” Svein said, enviously. He had been taught to speak the French of the Normans.
“Oh, yes,” she said. “The tastes are very complimentary. And don’t worry…you’ll be getting your share soon.”
She loved the boy in Svein. She loved the man, but the boy in Svein was hers always and she had turned that boy into a man. No other woman could make that claim. No other girl.
(973) A messenger came up from Kiev with the news that the Khazar princess, Serah was due soon and that Prince Hraerik was going to be there for the birth so, Svein and Malfrieda and Valdamar headed south by sleigh to the capital to visit.
“You sent a horde of Pechenegs our way.” the Prince complained as he shared a horn of mead with Svein.
“Kagan Kurya?” Svein asked. “That was half a horde. I killed the other half. How’d you find out?”
“A fleet of Khazars asked to use the Kuma-Kuban portage,” he answered. “They said that Kagan Kurya kicked them out of Kazaran. They pleaded to be allowed to sail to Hungary to join the Magyars.”
“And you let them?” Svein asked, incredulously.
“It’s the route their forefathers took a hundred years ago. How could I say no?”
“I think the Magyars of Hungary are converting to Christianity. Latin Christianity,” Svein added, remembering the schism that was growing. “The Khazars are Jewish.”
“They said the Wends offered to take them if the Magyars wouldn’t.”
“So, Kagan Kurya came through for me,” Svein said. “I was wondering if he would. I want his Pecheneg women to take over the sturgeon roe farming the Khazars had been doing for us. Kagan Baitzas hinted that these eastern Pechenegs might be interested.”
“Are you planning on reopening the Nor’Way?” Hraerik asked. “And you’re going to do it with Pecheneg help?”
“I can handle them,” Svein paused. “I want to be a Varangian while I still can.”
“A Varangian?” Hraerik exclaimed.
“Yes! A Varangian like you! I’ve worked the Dan’Way some, but I’ve never done the Nor’Way. The crossing!”
“Byzantium has a Varangian Guard of thousands and I’ll bet a hundred of them have actually made the crossing. Why would you want to do it?”
“Does it change you? Does it make you different?”
“Well….yes. I guess it does. It did me.”
“That’s why. My father couldn’t. I’m doing it for him, too.”
“It’s important to keep both ‘Ways’ running,” the older trader added.
“Especially now. With the Bulgars crushed and the Khazars gone….we have to fill that void. Or the Khazars will be back.”
“You’re not just after Denmark, are you?” Hraerik said. “You’re after Norway too!”
“I’ll take both if I can get them,” Svein said. “But if Denmark takes too long, I may have to settle for Finehair’s throne. Either of Haralds’ thrones will do, and then I’ll be back making a claim on the Roman throne. Why rule a million or two when I can rule a hundred?”
“But the contract specifically says the throne of Denmark,” Hraerik reminded him.
“When my great-grandfather, King Frodi allowed Harald Finehair to become the first king of Norway, it was as a suzerain to Denmark, as a part of Denmark, so, by conquering Norway, I will be conquering a sub-throne of Denmark, which should meet the contract requirements.”
“It might take a bit of a push,” Hraerik said, “but Hraes’ is big enough to provide that push!”
“It gives me an out if I don’t want to kill Harald ‘Bluetooth’,” Svein said. “You know how much I hate fratricide.”
“It’s not really fratricide if he’s your nephew, plus, he’s already stolen your throne!”
“I know,” Svein said slowly, “But what if I like him?”
“Well, if you’re going after Finehair’s grandsons, you’ll need help, and your father had a friend in Norway called Haakon ‘the Bad’ who is actually good except that he likes to rape young girls.”
“What?” Svein laughed. “How can he be good if he rapes young girls? Oh, yeah, says my grandfather who’s over a hundred years old and rapes his ten year old cabin girl while he’s out trading!”
“I didn’t rape her,” Hraerik said. “She was thoroughly broke in before I ever met her and I just slept in her. She actually raped me!”
“She…raped you?” Svein said, incredulously.
“I never had sex with her. I just slept in her to keep the Impalers at bay. One night I was sleeping in her and I accidentally got hard and she thought I needed sex so she started riding my steed as she had been taught by the slavers. I woke up and I tried to stop her, but I couldn’t.”
“You…couldn’t stop a ten year old girl?”
“I couldn’t! I’d fallen in love with her by then. And I didn’t even know it. I was in love with a ten year old girl and she told me after that she was in love with me, too.”
“Boy…those Impalers focked us up but good!” Svein said. “I don’t fock Svia anymore,” he admitted, “since she tried to sneak off with the Emperor, but I still sleep inside her when I have to.”
“We’re focked,” Hraerik agreed. “Anyway, your father, Ivar ‘the Boneless’, and this was ‘the Boneless’ part of him, told me that Haakon used to invite families to visit him at his highseat hall, local farmers and their wives and children and he would honour the parents by giving them his great room bedchamber and their sons and daughters would be given separate bedrooms beside the chamber. Most of these families lived in two room houses so, it was a great honour for them. In the middle of the night, Haakon would sneak into a young daughter’s bedroom and rape her while her parents were focking away in the next room. He’s deflowered half the virgins in Lade, doing this, and a lot of them he has gotten pregnant, but when they get knocked up, he gives their parents great gifts and honours and it’s all kept quiet and everybody is happy. So, he is Haakon ‘the Bad’, but he is also good in all his other dealings with his people.
“Anyway, the part I have to tell you about is when your father left the west to come back to Queen Helga here, he visited his friend, Haakon, before he left and Haakon was having trouble getting his wife pregnant. It’s ironic that Haakon was getting half the young virgin girls of Lade pregnant, but he couldn’t knock up his own wife so, he asked Ivar to give it a go, but he knew his wife would say no so, he invited Ivar to stay at his highseat hall for three days and he suddenly got called away for three days and that night Ivar’s men carried him into Haakon’s second floor master bedroom and he raped her all night long and his servants waited on them hand and foot all day long and he raped her again all night long and, again, they were waited on all day long and by then, they’d gotten to know each other fairly intimately and Ivar didn’t have to rape her the third night because she rode him like a stallion all night long. When Haakon came back on the third day, Ivar pretended that nothing had happened and his wife went along with it, but Haakon knew what had happened, had initiated what had happened and had even ensured that the three days were the right three days. Haakon sent Ivar word to Kiev a month later saying his wife was pregnant and then word nine months later that she’d had a fine baby boy they’d named Eirik, for Hraerik, after me for some reason. So, Eirik Haakonson is your half-brother, but nobody is supposed to know it because Ivar was supposed to keep it secret. But he couldn’t because Haakon’s skald at that time was Eyvindr ‘Skaldaspillir’, a friend of mine and he tipped me off about the whole affair.
“Now Eyvindr was a famous skald for King Harald Finehair, an Aesir skald that has been a thorn in the side of these new Scandinavian Christian kings that keep popping up from time to time. After Harald died, Haakon hired Eyvindr because Haakon is very Aesir as well. Eyvindr is aware of all the Christian king plots to destroy our family sagas and he goes to other royal houses and he recites the old Aesir poems and drapas and he corrects all the Christian skalds’ mistakes and errors and has even had to fight duels with Christian skalds who don’t like to be corrected. He has killed so many Christian skalds that he has earned the byname ‘Skaldaspillir’ because he has spilled so many skalds’ blood. And he recites our family sagas and promotes my drapas and your father’s warlock songs and he tries to keep Christian kings from calling our family sagas the ‘Lying Sagas of Denmark’!
“The fact that your father attacked Constantinople and that his brother Oddi and I, myself, have also attacked the Imperial City is an embarrassment to the Christian kings who have hardly even left their own towns let alone attacked the Eastern Roman Empire. So, they make themselves seem big by trying to make our family, the scions of King Frodi and King Hraegunar Lothbrok, seem small by calling our sagas, our deeds, lies! It is this evil effort of Christian kings that Eyvindr fights on our behalf and that Haakon supports out of love for your father. So, when you go to claim your Danish throne or your Norwegian alternate, make sure you go to Haakon and gain his aid and make sure you befriend his son, Erik, for he is your half-brother, but you can never tell him that. It would throw shade on Haakon’s wife and Ivar told me that she is a very beautiful lady.
“Also, don’t be surprised if Erik is a rapist, too. Ivar told me that Haakon was a rapist, but I never told Ivar that I knew his father Sigurd and that he was a rapist as well. It might run in the family.”
“But if Ivar is his father and not Haakon, how would Erik inherit his rapist tendency?”
“You are asking this of a hundred and some year old man who is focking a ten year old girl and whose son admitted to raping another man’s wife for three full nights?” Hraerik asked, and he laughed so hard he almost fell out of his highseat.
“I think we may have been focked long before the Impalers ever got a hold of us!” Svein said, and he began laughing because his grandfather was laughing so hard.
The Khazar princess, Serah, was soon to pop and Prince Helgi and Princess Svia still had not come down from Chernigov, so, Svein volunteered to go north and fetch them. It took him a day by sleigh so, he spent the night in the Hraes’ palace in Chernigov, the very palace his father had been taken to after the Chernigov twenty had ripped his legs off. It was the palace his son, Helgi, was starting his rule over the Drevjane people from, and the palace Princess Sviataslava was starting her guardian rule from. Svein and Svia tucked the fifteen year old Helgi into bed then they went to the master suite and drank some wine in the great room. “Will you come to Kiev with me tomorrow?” Svein asked her.
“You take Prince Helgi,” Svia said.
“I would like you to come too,” Svein said.
“Will you sleep with me tonight?” she asked, and she looked at him longingly.
“Can I sleep in you?” he asked.
“Only if you make love to me first!” she answered.
“You betrayed me,” Svein said. “You were going to leave me for Emperor Tzimiskes.”
“Please forgive me for that,” she pleaded. “He offered me ‘Empress of Rome’! I lost my mind. You know better than anyone what that throne can do to a person.”
“People lose more than their minds for that throne,” Svein admitted.
“I’ll share,” she said. “I’ll share you with Malfrieda. She can share your northern lands with you and when you come back for Rome, I’ll be your Empress in the south.”
“Malfrieda doesn’t mind sharing,” Svein said, and she was on him like a cat. They were focking on the couch of the great room and Svein picked her up and carried her to the bed in the bedroom and they focked some more. And when their lust was sated, Svein slept inside her and kept the Impalers at bay.
Two days later, Princess Serah went into labour and gave the Prince a fine young baby boy. Prince Hraerik stayed with Serah and planned on spending the winter between Kiev and Gardariki and Prince Svein took Svia and Malfrieda and his younger sons north to Chernigov, leaving his oldest son, Eyfur or Ivar, to rule the Poljane. He wanted to see how this sharing would work out so, he slept with the two women in Chernigov and when he took Malfrieda and little Valdamar and baby Helga north to Novgorod, he asked her what she thought of the sharing. “I’ve told you before,” Malfrieda said, “that I will share you just to be with you. As long as it’s not in the same city and you do not forget about me, I am fine with any decisions you make for us.”
Prince Svein spent the winter in Novgorod preparing a small merchant fleet to take north in the spring. He had Nor’Way ships built by the same shipwrights who built his legionary transport ships and he hired crews he could count on, men that knew how to keep their mouths shut and follow orders. Men who knew how to sail and fight like Varangians and there were plenty of these types in Novgorod. But a few times over winter, he took Malfrieda and Valdamar south with him and they practised sharing in Chernigov. Malfrieda worked hard to please him in Novgorod after those visits. Princess Svia brought out the best in Malf.
(974) Prince Svein planned to stop in at Liere on his way north and visit King Harald ‘Bluetooth’ there as a simple merchant on his way to the Nor’Way. He had not seen Harald since he was a child so, he didn’t think anybody would recognize him there, but he had grown out his hair and he grew a heavy beard to disguise himself and the latest fashion in the north was to part your beard in a fork at the bottom so it matched your moustaches above. And he gave himself a name that didn’t mean swine, his Wallachian name of Sweyn, Sweyn Forkbeard. And Sweyn had an ulterior motive for wanting to make the Nor’Way crossing, a crossing so violent that it changed a man, made him a Varangian. He thought that it would change him and drive the Army of the Impalers away. For good.