Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert
PRINCESS HELGA AND THE CHURCH OF SAINT IVAR (Circa 946-952 AD)
(1A). Now then are come to the king’s high hall,
the foreknowing twain, Hraerik and Hraelauger,
in service to Frodi, King Fridleif’s son,
these brothers mighty as princes are held.
Anonymous; Grottasongr, Prose Edda
Queen Silkisif walked into her suite and saw Hraerik with a naked couple and they were performing a sexual act. “What are you doing?” she asked Hraerik.
“It’s called the crab,” Hraerik explained. “It’s a position that requires practice. I wanted them to make sure it’s even possible,” and Hraerik stepped back as the couple held their positions. There was a painter in the corner of the room trying to quickly capture the moment because ‘the Crab’ did not lend itself well to long poses. Hraerik had brought back a painter friend of Ivar’s from Kiev. He and Silkisif had both determined that the Norse translation of the Kama Sutra required sketches or drawings but, after receiving the exquisite volume of Sindbad the Sailor from the Caliph of Baghdad, Hraerik felt that the deluxe volumes of the translation should have exquisite little half folio paintings. Then copyists of regular volumes would do sketches off of the paintings.
Silkisif took Hraerik by the hand and led him into her bedroom and closed the door. “You’re working too hard on your deluxe volume,” she complained, “And not nearly hard enough on the deluxe me!” She grabbed the crotch of his silk pants and said, “Not nearly hard enough!”
“Shall I tell them it’s a day?” Hraerik asked.
“No,” she answered. “Let the painter do his strokes and let’s see what he comes up with and let me do my strokes and let’s see what I come up with.” They made love on the bed and ‘the Crab’ position was not involved. As they lay on the bed after, Silkisif asked, “Do you know when she will be coming?”
“She didn’t say,” Hraerik answered.
“How long will she be staying?”
“She didn’t say.”
“Well, did she say anything?”
“Just that she and Svein would be overwintering in Gardariki.”
“I heard what you did in Iskorosten!”
“It was just a childish stunt,” Hraerik said.
“You conquered Iskorosten! Helga had been besieging the city for six months and you came and conquered it in six hours!”
“Well, Helga wasn’t going to let me help her and I promised Ivar that I would so, I had to make a game of it. I told her I would take the town with a child’s toy.”
“You attacked Iskorosten and your own army didn’t even know you were attacking them. They thought it was a Cathayan rite for the fallen of Iskorosten.”
“I didn’t want any more of them to fall.”
“I know! I even heard that no beavers were hurt in the taking of the town! No wonder Ivar would always talk you up after you two would battle the Romans!”
“The Romans are not the Drevjane. Some of their generals scare me and I think even Ivar was a bit concerned.”
“Nothing ever scared Ivar,” Silkisif said.
“Nothing ever scared Ivar,” Hraerik agreed sadly and the couple clutched each other fiercely in their grief. “Please try to show Helga some kindness,” Hraerik pleaded. “She still grieves as much as we do.”
“I shall show her nothing but kindness,” Silkisif promised, “as long as she stays in Gardariki.” Silkisif led Hraerik out to see the painting progress. The naked couple were sitting and relaxing in one corner of the great room, drinking juice and eating fruit, and the painter was hard at work in the other corner catching up with their last pose.
“The Crab looks great,” Hraerik said, “and what is this new position again?” Hraerik asked the painter. He looked up, shrugged and looked over to the naked couple. “The Deer Woman,” the young girl said, putting down her fruit and walking over to see the painting. “You’re painting my yoni too big,” she told the painter. “The Elephant Woman has the big yoni!”
“Does it really matter?” the painter asked.
“We’d best do as she says,” Hraerik told the painter, patting him on the shoulder.
“Yes,” Silkisif agreed. “She’s a Deer Woman!”
Princess Helga and Prince Svein arrived in Gardariki a week later and Hraerik had two women to keep happy. And he would visit the Roman consul’s wife in Sinope every month for a week.
One week, when Hraerik was gone, Princess Helga invited Queen Silkisif to visit her and Svein in Gardariki and Silkisif came and she said,” Svein has Ivar’s eyes!”
“I know!” Princess Helga said. “It’s remarkable.” Princess Helga had been cold towards Queen Silkisif because she had Christian leanings. Many of the people in Tmutorokan were Greek and many more were Christians, but this animosity soon melted as they talked of Ivar and how much they both missed him.
“I was so sad to learn that they had to burn his body,” Helga cried, “but he had the plague. I wanted him buried in Kiev. All we got was a leg. But you can come up to Kiev and visit his leg anytime you want,” she offered.
The next time that Hraerik was in Sinope, Queen Silkisif invited Helga and Svein to visit her in Tmutorokan. Silkisif took Helga to a small stone slab in a corner of an Aesir grove and she swore her to secrecy then told her, “This is the grave of Ivar. I wouldn’t let them burn his body.”
“Really?” said Helga, falling to her knees and feeling the smooth stone with both her outspread hands. And she ran her fingers through the grass on either side of the stone and she looked up at Silkisif with tears in her eyes. “Really?
“Captain Biorn brought his body back from the east just to show me it and he said it had to be burned because he died of the plague. I couldn’t let them burn Ivar, so I called on my legions to step in and take Ivar from him.”
“Oh, I do so love our legions,” Helga gasped. “If it were not for our legions, I’m sure Prince Mal would have kidnapped me and had me as his wife!”
“Thanks to our legions we have Ivar’s body here,” Silkisif said, “and you can visit him anytime you please,” and the two women hugged each other and they sat in the grass near Ivar’s bones and they talked and told stories about him.
“Did he really die of the plague?” Helga asked. “I was hoping they’d find a wound or someway he might have died in battle.”
“I checked his body myself,” Silkisif said. “No wounds. He died of the plague. I could see the rash. I wasn’t allowed to touch him.”
“Will he be able to go to Valhall?” Helga asked Silkisif.
“I don’t think so,” Silkisif cried. “I’ve heard it said that Hraerik is guaranteed a place in Valhall, but he has sated Odin’s eagles for three generations. He has killed a lot of men!”
“Is there anything that can be done?” Helga asked.
“I have heard that Princess Gunwar converted to Christianity before she died,” Silkisif started, “and that Prince Hraelauger, Hraerik’s brother was secretly in love with her and became a Christian so he could be with her in the Christian heaven. And I mean, to be with her in the Biblical sense, like they’re focking and everything.”
“No!” Helga exclaimed. “Doing it and everything?”
“Yes!” Silkisif said. “The ghost of Queen Alfhild visited Hraerik and told him so! She told him she would await him in Valhall and that Hraerik was assured a place there with her and her daughter, Eyfura!”
“No! Both of them? They’re going to share him?”
“Like you wouldn’t share him? In Valhalla?”
“Oh dear,” Helga said. “I had King Frodi’s bed made up for Hraerik at the palace in Kiev.”
“So?” Silkisif asked.
“That’s the room that the ghost of Queen Alfhild raped him in,” Helga said. “I must have caused him so much distress. His wife, Gunwar, making it with his brother and Alfhild telling him this?”
“You didn’t know,” Silkisif said, comforting her. “It’s not your fault.”
“I know, but I snuck into his room later and made love to him. It might have been like the rape all over again.”
“If he got it up, it couldn’t have bothered him too much.”
“Oh, he got it up alright. Many times, he got it up!”
“It’s those alchemists’ drugs he has.”
“You two do it, right?” Helga asked gently. She suspected but she asked gently because Hraerik was her foster-father.
“We’re both adults and we share our grief over Ivar together.”
“You don’t mind sharing Hraerik with me, do you?” Helga asked.
“No. I’m actually starting to like you Helga. I don’t mind sharing Hraerik at all.”
“Thank you,” Helga breathed. “You have a great heart and a beautiful soul.”
“Should I check more into this Christian heaven thing?” Silkisif asked. “Hraerik’s spoken for in Valhall, but if there were a way of sharing Ivar in the Christian heaven, would you be interested?”
“If you could get me back with Ivar in hell I’d be in!” Helga said. “If you can share Hraerik with me on earth, I can share Ivar with you in heaven!”
Silkisif got up and gave Helga a hand, pulling her up. “This could be the start of a wonderful relationship.”
In the spring Prince Hraerik and Princess Helga returned to Kiev to prepare for the merchant fleet from the north and Queen Silkisif and her sons assembled the Tmutorokan fleet in Gardariki. Prince Hraerik led the northern fleet south and sent a portion of it off to Constantinople and led the rest through the Rioni-Kura portage to the east, sending a portion of the fleet off to the Caspian and Cathay and heading south with the remainder to the Araks-Tigris portage and on to Baghdad. He left Captain Biorn to run trading with the Caliphate and led a fleet further south to Gujarat. Princess Helga was busy raising Svein, but Queen Silkisif began building a Christian church right next to the Aesir grove in Tmutorokan and asked the Orthodox Christian bishop in Cherson to come preach in her city.
When she learned that a bishop named Rodgeir had arrived, she went to meet him and the bishop preached the faith to her, and the bishop had an interpreter but he wasn’t needed, because Queen Silkisif spoke both Goth and Greek. She soon gained an understanding of spiritual wisdom and let herself be baptised. And in that same month the whole population of the city was baptised. But work on the church was slow because many craftsmen from Kiev and Gardariki were busy rebuilding Iskorosten. She talked with the bishop about dedicating her church to Prince Ivar, who was buried next to it. The bishop told her that it would be very difficult because Ivar was a pagan who had only been preliminarily baptised, and in the Latin Christian faith at that. “And it doesn’t help,” the bishop went on, “that he was the most feared Viking in Christendom.”
In the summer, Princess Helga and Prince Svein visited Silkisif in Tmutorokan and she told Helga what the bishop had said.
“What can we do?” Helga asked. “How can this be? Ivar was baptised in Angleland so that he could marry that little Christian witch, Queen Blaeja. No offence intended now that you are Christian.”
“None taken,” Silkisif said. “You must go to Constantinople next spring and get the Emperor in your debt. Ply him with gifts or grace.”
“You want me to fock the Emperor?”
“Only if you have to,” Silkisif consoled her. “If this is going to work, you, too, shall have to get baptised. Perhaps if you get baptised in Constantinople, that will be enough.”
“Oh god, I mean gods, I’ll have to fock the Emperor! Hraerik is going to be so pissed.”
“Don’t tell him. If you have to do it, don’t tell Hraerik.”
“I’ll tell him if I have to do it. I’ll fock anyone I damn well please. This is for Ivar.”
“And I can’t hire enough masons to work on the church. They’re all in Iskorosten rebuilding. Could you spare me a few?”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Helga reassured her.
In the fall, when Hraerik returned from India, Silkisif told him about her conversion to Christianity.
“Great!” Hraerik said, getting up on one elbow in the bed. “I lost my first wife to Christianity and now I’m losing another.”
“Oh, you called me your wife,” Silkisif responded. “Your wife. I like that.”
“Well I can hardly call you my foster-daughter anymore,” Hraerik said, kissing her gently. “My wife. I like it too.”
“You haven’t lost me,” she added, “until I have died. And you’ll be going to Valhall and you have two queens you love already waiting for you there. Ivar can’t go to Valhall because he died of the plague, but if he can go to the Christian heaven, I want to be there for him.”
“He did get baptised in Angleland,” Hraerik said.
“I know,” Silkisif replied. “But that was a Latin baptism and I’m building an Orthodox church. Bishop Rodgeir says it might cause problems.”
“That damn Christian schism!” Hraerik cursed. “It’s causing problems for everybody. Our Christian traders from Denmark, Angleland, Ireland and Normandy are all being harassed in Constantinople. Why can’t the Christians just get along?”
“Why can’t the Muslims? Why can’t the Jews? They all believe in the same true god.”
“The Zoroastrians too,” Hraerik added.
“The Magis?” Silkisif asked.
“Yes, the Magis,” Hraerik said. “The prophet Zoroaster came up with the concept of one true god who was so powerful he could take care of everything. Even the Egyptian true god, Aten, of the Pharaoh Akhenaten was patterned after the Persian god, Ahura Mazda of the Magis. The Zoroastrians drove the Vanir out of Persia and into India.”
“Helga’s right!” Silkisif said. “The Christians are taking over.”
“The Christians are only one sect of this true god religion.”
“They’re all Christians to me,” Silkisif said. “I’m only joining them because of this damn plague. Anybody can get into Christian heaven, even plague victims, as long as you’ve said enough prayers, and you can pay people to pray for you, so if you’re rich, you’re in!”
“And that is why they are taking over.”
Princess Helga and Prince Svein overwintered in Gardariki again and Helga would monitor the church’s progress and sometimes stayed over in Tmutorokan with Hraerik and Silkisif. It took the Prince back to when Queen Eyfura and Prince Ivar would overwinter in Gardariki and those were amongst the happiest days of his life. In the spring, Hraerik took Helga and Svein back to Kiev and they prepared for the arrival of the northern merchant fleet once more. But this time, Hraerik was surprised to learn that Princess Helga wanted to take charge of the merchant fleet that was going to Constantinople. He was glad she wanted to accompany the traders, but he insisted she take a cohort of Kievan legionnaires with her as a personal bodyguard. “If Constantinople was safe,” he told her, “the Emperor wouldn’t need the Varangian Guard.”
When Princess Helga arrived in Constantinople, she expected to stay in the Saint Mamas district in the city, but the Emperor, Constantine the Seventh Porphyrogennetos, on hearing Queen Helga was visiting, invited her to stay in the palace with her bodyguard. When she came before the Emperor, he saw that she was a little older than he was and that she was beautiful. Her long blonde hair danced about her regal shoulders, one of which was bare, and her blue eyes shone radiantly, as Norse eyes often did. Her nose was upturned and refined, and her lips pouted red. She was tall and stood remarkably straight and her breasts projected forward as did her glutes backward. Her long dress was a light blue silk and one could almost see through it. The Emperor broke into a sweat and was glad his wife was not sitting next to him.
“I hope you had a good journey, Queen Helga,” the Emperor said.
“I led our merchant fleet here,” Princess Helga stated imperiously. “The journey was refreshing.”
“Yes. You do look refreshing…refreshed,” the Emperor stammered.
Princess Helga could impress, if she wanted to, and she addressed the Emperor in impeccable Greek. “Your city is very quaint,” she said in peccable Latin. “You should show me around,” she said in perfect Persian.
“Yes,” the Emperor said in Latin, stepping down from the throne and taking her arm, the one with the bare shoulder. “Perhaps we should start with the palace.” And the Emperor showed her around the palace complex, and he was impressed with her intellect. He walked her back to her apartments in the palace and commented that perhaps he should have her moved closer to his quarters, but she pointed out that she had a legionary cohort of personal bodyguards with her and they required a lot of room. By this, she managed to avoid the Emperor, for he had a large nose that took some getting used to. He was not a handsome man. He persisted in making advances on her, but she always managed to put him off with one excuse or another. As the trading season progressed, Helga gathered more and more information from the bishops and patriarch of the city on how a church could be dedicated to Ivar and how he could be accepted into the Orthodox faith, post-mortem. As the trading season grew to a close, Constantine’s efforts to bed Helga grew increasingly desperate so, she drew her legion officers closely around herself and used them to keep the Emperor at bay and then departed from Constantinople two weeks earlier than the rest of the fleet and sailed to Tmutorokan to report her findings to Silkisif there.
“He is a tall lanky and ungainly man,” Helga told Silkisif, “with a rather unpleasant looking face. His nose is long and thin and makes up much of his countenance.”
“Did you fock him?” Silkisif asked. “Because the bishop in Cherson says he can’t help us. Any intercession must come from Constantinople through the Emperor or the patriarch.”
“No. He was begging for it, of course, but I was hoping you had made some progress. How is the church coming along?”
“It won’t be completed until next year, so we do have some time.”
“I’ll lead the fleet next spring as well then. I’ll fock him if I have to,” she said, “but I’d really prefer not to.”
“You poor dear,” Silkisif said. “The things we do for Ivar!”
Princess Helga returned to the Black Sea with her small fleet and met up with her merchant fleet just before the Dnieper estuary. Hraerik and his Baghdad fleet caught up with her fleet at the Dnieper rapids portages and they sailed together to Kiev.
“How did you like trading in Constantinople?” Hraerik asked her.
“I liked it so much, I want to do it next year,” she replied. “But I can hardly wait to get back to young Svein.”
Again, Princess Helga and Prince Svein overwintered in Gardariki and Hraerik spent more time with his grandson, who was starting weapons training and studying languages. Silkisif started spending more time in Gardariki and the two women practiced different ways of sharing Hraerik. And the carpenters and masons kept making steady progress on the church in Tmutorokan. Finally, it was time for spring trading and Helga soon found herself back in Constantinople with a request for the Emperor. “I need your approval on a post-mortem baptism,” Helga explained, leaning over the Emperor as he studied the document.
“I love the fragrance you’re wearing,” the Emperor said as Helga’s breasts brushed his arm.
“I’m not wearing any fragrance,” Helga told him.
“Oh?” the Emperor said. “Perhaps you could leave the document with me and I’ll come by your apartment this evening and we can sign it together?”
“That would be wonderful!” Helga lied. She steeled her resolve and said, “Tonight then.”
That evening, Helga dismissed her personal guard for the night and soon there was a quiet knocking at her door. It was the Emperor, so she let him in, and he posted his own personal guard outside her suite. She took the document from him and placed it upon the table of her great room and got it ready to be signed. The Emperor came in and looked about the room. Helga was wearing a seductive white silk dress as she held out an ink quill that she had freshly dipped. He took the quill and signed the letter. “How is your bedroom?” he asked.
“There’s a problem with the bed,” she said, and she led him into the bedroom.
“What’s the problem?” he asked, bending over it and checking the mattress.
“You’re not on it,” she said, and she sat him down, took his pants off and pushed him back onto the bed. ‘Suck it up, princess,’ she told herself and she took his limp penis in her mouth and began sucking it until it was hard. Then she stripped off her dress and straddled him on her knees and she took his penis in both her hands and gently inserted it into herself and she began rising and falling on him in a seductive rhythmic motion that soon had the Emperor exploding within her. She rose off him and bent over beside the bed and she licked him clean, then she put his pants back on and pulled him up off the bed. She put her dress back on in front of him and she escorted him to the door. “Thank you for signing that for me,” she whispered.
“There is one thing,” the Emperor said. “I had the patriarch look at your document, but he mentioned you would be needing a separate document allowing a bishop to dedicate a church to the post-mortem person. I took the liberty of having him draft up the document. It should be ready for signing the same time tomorrow evening if that works for you?”
“Thank you for being so helpful,” she whispered, and then she kissed him passionately. “I look forward to tomorrow evening,” she lied as he left.
The next morning a messenger knocked on Helga’s door and there were several servants bearing gifts. There were flowers and sweets and some very expensive bottles of fragrances. There was a velvet box that held a gold cross and chain and a silver box that held a gold and jewel encrusted bible. In yet another box there were two bottles of very fine wine with accompanying golden goblets and in a final wrapped gift there was a his and hers very sexual white silk sleep set. ‘It looks as though the Emperor is hoping to sleep over,’ Helga told herself and further steeled her resolve. ‘And from the looks of the cross and bible,’ she thought, ‘the Emperor has learned from the patriarch that I’m planning to accept baptism on Sunday.’
The next evening, Helga again dismissed her personal guard for the night and soon there was a quiet knocking at her door. It was the Emperor, and he was carrying roses in one hand and a document in the other. She let him in, and he again posted his personal guards outside her suite. She took the flowers and document from him and placed the letter upon the table of her great room and got it ready to be signed and put the flowers in a vase. Again, the Emperor came in and looked about the room. Helga was wearing the seductive white silk sleepwear as she held out an ink quill that she had freshly dipped. He took the quill and signed the letter. “How is your bedroom?” he asked again.
“Same problem as last time, but I think it will take us all night to fix it properly. But let’s have some wine by the fireplace first,” she offered. “We’ll be at it all night.”
The next morning, Constantine asked if he could visit again this evening, but Helga told him she was getting baptised on Sunday by the patriarch and should probably rest.
“But Sunday is two days away,” Constantine complained. “You can rest Saturday.”
“Okay,” she said. Tonight. But only if you baptise me on Sunday. It is much more regal to be baptised by a king of kings than by a patriarch.”
“It will be my pleasure to serve you, both tonight and Sunday!” he said gallantly.
After the Emperor left in the morning, more servants showed up bearing even more gifts. Brocade silk with gold thread by the rolls and gold jewelry brooches and necklaces and rings. And dozens of flowers and Frankish sparkling wines and even Khazar Vayar. ‘He’s falling in love with me,’ Helga fretted. She had to be patient until the baptism, then Constantine would have to respect her privacy.
Constantine showed up that evening and they enjoyed the sparkling wine and the Khazar Vayar and even Helga had to admit she was having a pleasurable night. A close bond was growing between the two royals and all day Saturday servants kept arriving with gifts of all kinds. ‘He is smitten,’ Helga thought, and she half expected him to show up unannounced Saturday night, but he respected her privacy and she didn’t see him again until the time of her baptism before mass on Sunday.
There were a number of baptisms taking place that day, but only Helga was being baptised by the Emperor. The rest were being handled by the Patriarch who sprinkled each of them with water and asked which Christian was each convert’s particular sponsor, and he made the sponsor the convert’s godparent. When the Emperor sprinkled Helga with water, he asked the multitude who would be her sponsor, but no one responded. The patriarch asked the Emperor if he wished to be Helga’s sponsor to which he gladly accented, and the patriarch asked the Emperor if he had a Christian name for her and the Emperor said, “Helene”, so the patriarch made Constantine her godfather.
After the baptisms the patriarch held mass and the newly converted got their first bread and wine. It was a strange custom for Helga as she took communion with the Emperor, but she kind of liked it. As they were leaving the church, Constantine asked Helga if he could visit her that night. The patriarch was giving blessings to all as they were leaving but he was giving congratulatory handshakes to the newly converted, so Helga asked him if it was permissible for a new convert to have sex with their godparent.
“Oh, no,” the patriarch said. “That would be strictly forbidden!”
“I’m sorry,” Helga told Constantine. “I think you’re like a father to me now.”
The Emperor was in shock, but he kept plying Helga with gifts every day that she was in Constantinople. And she decided to extend her stay by two weeks this time.
Helga kissed the Emperor passionately on the main quay of the city, just below the gate that her Ivar had nailed his demands to, and as her small fleet left Constantinople, Constantine openly wept. The people around him thought that he was sorry to see the last of their Hraes’ trader guests leave, but he was crying because the best lover he’d ever had was now forbidden fruit. But he promised himself that he would be the best godfather in the world and send Helga gold and alms on every anniversary of her baptism for as long as he lived.
Helga’s small fleet caught up with her merchant fleet at the Dnieper rapids portages and Hraerik’s merchant fleet caught up with her soon after.
“How was trading this season?” Hraerik asked.
“It was very profitable,” Helga answered.
“I heard that you were baptised and by the Emperor himself no less.”
“I got baptised for Ivar,” Helga said.
“Did the Emperor give you a baptismal name?”
“Helene,” she said.
“That’s the Empress’s name. Helena Lekapene.”
“It’s Helene, after the Emperor’s grandmother,” she said.
They were standing beside each other at the forestem of Hraerik’s shieldship. “Helene of Troy,” he started. “The beauty that launched a thousand ships,” and he snuck his hand into hers and held it gently. “How many ships did you take to Constantinople this year?”
“About a thousand,” she said, squeezing his hand back gently.
Princess Helga and Prince Svein overwintered in Gardariki once more and the weather on the Black Sea coast was particularly warm that year. It was excruciatingly cold in Kiev that year, but it was beautiful weather in Tmutorokan. When Ivar’s church was finally completed, Queen Silkisif invited Bishop Rodgeir to Tmutorokan from Cherson to dedicate it. But when the bishop was vested up, he asked, “In whose name, my queen, do you wish this church to be dedicated?”
She answered, “To the glory of the holy King Ivar, who rests here, shall this church be dedicated.”
The bishop answered, “Why so, my queen? Has Ivar shone with miracles after his death? Because we only call those people saints who shine with miracles when their bodies are buried in the earth.”
She answered, “From your own mouth I have heard that in the eyes of God there is more worth in true steadfast faith and regular practice of holy love, than in the glory of miracles. But in my opinion, as I saw with my own eyes, Ivar was returned to us here from the east and that was a miracle in itself. Plus Princess Helga has gotten post-mortem baptismal papers for Ivar in the Orthodox faith to add to the Latin baptism he received while alive and she has received permission from both the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Emperor Constantine of the Eastern Roman Empire to dedicate this church to King Ivar ‘Harde Knute’ Hraerikson of Angleland, Denmark and Hraes’,” and she passed the paperwork to the bishop. He perused it quickly and nodded accent. The bishop then consecrated the temple, dedicating it to the glory of God and all the saints in the name of Ivar. Then a headstone was placed on top of the stone slab that covered Ivar’s grave next to the church that said, ‘King Ivar Harde Knute of Denmark,’ then below that, “Prince Eyfur Hraerikson of Hraes’’ and below that ‘Prince Ivar the Boneless of Angleland’. A precious cross was placed atop the headstone, magnificently adorned, that would be kept in the church and placed on the headstone when masses were said for Ivar. Slabs had been added to the left and right of Ivar’s grave to hold places for Princess Helga and Queen Silkisif so they could join their love in heaven when they died. Bishop Rodgeir then held mass for the soul of Ivar and even called the place Ivar’s Church during his epistle.
The late winter weather was so fine that after the mass people went outside into the Aesir grove and wandered amongst the trees on the grass that was starting to reawaken from hibernation. Hraerik stood in front of Ivar’s grave holding hands with Silkisif on his left and Helga on his right. Svein was off playing with friends in the trees. “I’m so proud of you girls,” he said. “I didn’t think you would be able to do this. I’m so impressed.”
“I had to sleep with the Emperor,” Helga told him.
“Oooh, that must have been hard for you,” Hraerik said. He had met the Emperor occasionally and he was not a handsome man. “I’ll bet he was impressed!”
“He’s still sending me gifts,” Helga stated.
“I would like you to have the grave on his right, Helga” Silkisif said, not to subtly change the subject, but to just change it. “You’re his first wife so you should be on the right.”
“I think it should be first come, first served,” Helga responded.
“Fine,” Silkisif said, “if I die first, I want to be buried on the left.”
“Thank you, Silki.”
“You’re welcome, Helen.”
Hraerik hugged them both under his arms and they held hands around him.
“Can I bring some friends back to Gardariki?” young Svein asked, coming up to the group. Hraerik pulled him into the hug and said, “As many as you want.”
Princess Helga told Hraerik that she would not be leading the fleet to Constantinople during the next spring trading cycle so, Hraerik asked her if he could take Svein north to visit his cousins while he fetched Captain Sihtric from Ireland to handle Baghdad trade while Captain Biorn handled Constantinople. “We’ll be back in a month,” Hraerik promised. Helga said, “It is important that he meet his relations in the north,” so Hraerik asked Svein if he wanted to come.
“I would love to come,” Svein said, excitedly.
Heading north, they stopped at the Hraes’ station in Chernigov and met once more with Princess Helga’s parents there. At the same time that Hraerik was updating the Hraes’ Trading Company Managers Book, he started a new Hraes’ Family Book in which he planned to record all the blood relatives of both the Frodi/Fridlief and Hraegunar/Sigurd family lines. They did the same at Smolensk and Surazh and went to Polotsk to record Oddi’s wives and offspring there, then they went to Staraja Russa and Novgorod and Staraja Ladoga before sailing along the Gulf of Finland and across the Baltic to the Hraes’ station in Birka and then to Uppsala in Sweden to visit with King Halfdan. Hraerik and Svein conveyed greetings from Halfdan’s uncle in Chernigov and they entered Halfdan’s marriage details and offspring into the book.
Hraerik then visited the Hraes’ stations in Gotland and Skane before arriving in Liere to his daughter-in-law, Queen Mother Blaeja and his grandson, King Gorm and wife, Queen Thyra. He introduced young Svein to Gorm’s young sons Canute and Harald, his nephews even though Svein was 7 and 5 years younger than they were. When the boys were playing, they kept calling Svein Frodi. Blaeja insisted that Hraerik and Svein stay in her highseat hall so they did as the queen mother wished. “Princess Blaeja came to me in a dream and asked me to sleep with you,” Queen Blaeja explained, after they had tucked Svein into his chamber. She led Hraerik into her bedroom at the back of the hall. He sat on the bed and said, “Princess Gunwar used to live in this hall. Her brother, King Frodi, lived in the hall that young Gorm is in and Gunwar slept here, in this very room. This is where she blessed me with her virginity.”
“This is the room where thirty princes’ heads lined the walls?” Blaeja said, somewhat disturbed. “We’ll be moving to Roskilde soon anyway. The harbour here isn’t big enough for the merchant fleets anymore.”
“So they say,” Hraerik started. “It happened before I fell in love with her. Frodi’s champions, the sons of Westmar, didn’t think they were worthy enough for her, so they killed them and nailed their heads to the walls.”
“Well, I’m glad they found you worthy!”
“They didn’t. My brother, Hraelauger, and I and nine others battled with them out on the ice and we killed them all and then I won the hand of Gunwar.”
“Things were rough back then!” she said.
“I’m sorry Ivar was so rough,” Hraerik said quietly.
“He was nice to me in the end,” she said. “That’s when I knew he was leaving me, going back to Helga, when he was nice to me in the end. So, is it over?”
“Yes. Ivar named Gorm snake and then he called Svein swine, so it’s pretty obvious what he intended. That’s why we call Svein Frodi here, and when we talk of Ivar, he is King Harde Knut or we call him Fridleif, after King Frodi’s father. I had always feared why Ivar named our son Gorm and as soon as we heard that Ivar named his son in the east Svein, I knew what was up. Hraegunar’s curse!”
“So, you know that Ivar raped your grandmother? Just so you know, when Princess Blaeja and I had a relationship, we loved each other.”
“I know that. Every princess grows up loving you, even now. The story of Gunwar’s Song and the Head Ransom Song are just so beautiful that all young teenage princesses fall in love with you the minute they hear it.”
“Do you know,” Hraerik started gently, “that Ivar poisoned your grandmother?”
“Yes. She just told me. She tells me everything. That’s why she had me named after her. She’s a witch, you know.”
“I knew she was a healer, I didn’t know she was a witch. I guess you have to become a healer before you can become a witch and, I guess, all healers have a bit of the weird in them.”
“She also told me she killed Ivar,” Blaeja started. It was her turn to talk gently. “She told me to tell you she was sorry. She said you would forgive her one slight for the favour she will be doing you.”
“I figured it would take more than the plague to kill Ivar. My son, Oddi, was the greatest warrior that ever lived, but Ivar was the greatest leader. Of course, I forgive her. And the curse has always been over as far as I was concerned. It ended when we’d killed King AElla, and Princess Blaeja forgave me that slight. I would have never had her as a lover had I felt otherwise.”
“She told me ‘It’s not over yet’,” Blaeja said. “Not until she completes her favour to you. What are you two up to? She said she will use her powers as a healer to kill a man for you just like she killed Ivar. What does she mean?”
“I think Cathay Khan will be dying of the plague,” Hraerik offered, as Blaeja started unbuttoning his shirt. She tore it off and stepped back to survey the scars. “My, my,” she said stroking an old wound, then she knelt down. “Have you made my grandmother some kind of spiritual assassin?” she asked, as she unbuttoned his pants.
The next morning, Hraerik asked Queen Mother Blaeja if she would like to go to Hedeby and Jelling with them. “Only,” she answered, getting up on one elbow, “if we can take Canute and Harald along. They haven’t seen Thyra’s folks in a while.”
“That was my next question,” Hraerik said, kissing her. “We’ll all go together and I’ll bring you right back.” So, they visited their largest Hraes’ station in Denmark, Hedeby, and then they stayed at the hall of Thyra’s parents while visiting the station in Jelling and Hraerik picked up the two sons of Maharaja Rajan from their mothers. He passed on gold to the women that Raj had given him and they gave their blessings to their sons who would be off to India to visit their father. They dropped Queen Blaeja and her grandsons off in the harbour of Roskilde because she wanted to inspect Thyra’s construction projects there.
“Queen Thyra is the engineer of the family,” she whispered to Hraerik as she kissed him goodbye.
“Can I stay with you,” Hraerik whispered back, “when we meet up with the merchant fleet?”
Hraerik, Svein and Raj’s sons then sailed to Norway and visited the Hraes’ station in Kaupang and then sailed up the coast of the Nor’Way to Southmore, where he visited Ivar’s wife, Lagertha, and Ivar’s son, Frode. Jarl Ane and Jarl Sigurd met him there and Ane joined him to help out in the east.
From Southmore, Hraerik sailed to Ireland and met with Princess Hrafnhild in Dublin, then visited with Sihtric of the Ui Imair and his wife Brianna and their many children in Waterford. Sihtric also joined him to help in the east. Then they sailed off to Rouen and met with Hraerik’s great-nephew Richard and introduced him to Svein. Then they sailed to York to meet Prince Hraegunar and Princess Hraegunhild and all their children and grandchildren before joining up with the great Hraes’ merchant fleet that had assembled in Roskilde harbour in Denmark. But Hraerik sailed past it and went on to Liere and they stayed with Queen Blaeja. “Your mother says ‘Hi’,” Hraerik told her as he joined her in her bedchamber.
Hraerik and Svein were soon meeting Helga on the main quay of Kiev and she was very happy to see them both and had many questions for her son. While the northern merchant fleet was south, the anniversary of Helga’s baptism came and envoys from Constantine arrived in Kiev bearing rich gifts. These they gave to Queen Helga along with a message from the Emperor: “You have not come with your fleet this year bringing us furs and wax and slaves. I miss you so much. Please come next year and feel free to bring your personal legionnaires and bodyguards. Your apartments in the palace await you or, if you are unhappy with them, any accommodations you wish shall be granted you. I must see you again soon.”
Helga sent this message back to the Emperor: “Dear Constantine (godfather), I stayed in Kiev this trading season to spend more time with my young son. I miss you as well. Please come visit me in Kiev. Any accommodations you require will be granted you. P.S.: I shall try to lead our merchant fleet to Constantinople next trading season.”
The Emperor was overjoyed that Queen Helga had not forgotten about him and that she was going to try to come to Constantinople the next year. He made sure that the Varangian traders and their Captain Biorn were given special treatment while in the city. The other traders from Spain and Italy, Germany and Khazaria all complained about the special treatment given the Varangians and the Emperor made sure Captain Biorn heard their complaints. Constantine made sure Biorn knew that if Queen Helga accompanied them the next trading season, the Varangian advantages would be multiplied.
When Prince Hraerik returned from Baghdad with the merchant fleet, Princess Helga and Svein met him on the main quay of Kiev and they both hugged him warmly. Only one of Rajan’s sons came back with him though because the other wanted to stay longer in India. Hraerik sent young Rajan back to Jelling under the care of Prince Ane and the northern fleet. Sihtric decided to stay in Kiev and Hraerik, Helga and Svein headed south to overwinter in Tmutorokan. “I think you’ve forgotten how cold a Kievan winter is,” Hraerik said as he parted with Sihtric.
“Not as cold as Brianna’s yoni,” Sihtric laughed, “now that she’s had a dozen kids with me. I think I’ll stay and play in the east for a bit!”
In Tmutorokan, Hraerik and Helga picked up Silkisif in their carriage and they all went to Saint Eyfur’s Church to visit Ivar’s grave. “You girls have caused quite the stir in heaven,” Hraerik told them as he stood, a woman under each arm, in front of the grave.
“Whatever do you mean, Hraerik?” Helga asked.
“Yes,” Silkisif said, turning and looking up at him. “Whatever do you mean?”
Hraerik looked down at her, her hair blonder than blonde and silkier than silk. Then he looked down at Helga, her eyes bluer than blue, and he started to explain. “You’ve managed to turn the terror of all Christendom into a Saint. I didn’t even think you’d be able to get him into Christian hell. Now he’s in Christian heaven and he’s Saint Eyfur. Do you wish to explain how you did this miracle?”
“Nope,” they both said in harmony.
“I’ve noticed the Emperor’s gifts are still piling up, faster than ever. Are things getting serious between you two?” he asked, looking down at bluer than blue.
“I haven’t been encouraging him,” Helga said. “I don’t think I’m that impressive.”
“Oh, you are Helga,” Hraerik reassured her. “You most definitely are,” and he gave her a squeeze.
“Most definitely,” Silkier than silk added, looking across at her and Hraerik gave Silki a squeeze as well.
“Who told you this?” Helga asked. “It was that Blaeja, wasn’t it? Not Queen Blaeja. Her grandmother, Princess Blaeja. She’s a witch, sure as hell. Those Northumbrians! Christian this and Saint So and So that, and they all practice witchcraft in one form or another.”
“I can’t say,” Hraerik said. “There’s one witch in heaven that has agreed to do a job for me. As a Spiritual Assassin.”
“Who are you whacking?” Silkisif asked.
“Oh, she won’t be using a sword,” he said. “This witch is a healer. I thought she was going to use the plague on Cathay Khan, an emperor far in the future, but now I fear it shall be much worse.”
“I knew it was Blaeja!” Helga spat.
When spring came, Hraerik took Helga and Svein back to Kiev and sailed south again at the head of the northern merchant fleet. When the anniversary of Helga’s baptism came again, envoys from Constantine arrived in Kiev once more bearing rich gifts. These they gave to Queen Helga along with a message from the Emperor: “You have not come with your fleet this year bringing us furs and wax and slaves. I miss you so much. I am isolated in Constantinople and if I travel to Kiev, I fear my throne will be usurped as it had been for many years previous. Please come next year and bring your personal legionnaires and bodyguards. Your apartments in the palace await you. You are the only woman that has ever made me feel like a man. I must see you again soon. P.S.: I have sent you a deluxe copy of my book, ‘De Administrando Imperio’. Please come and tell me what you think of it.”
Helga looked through the book and admired the workmanship. It reminded her of Hraerik’s translation he was working on in Tmutorokan. But it was written in Latin and she would need Hraerik’s help reading it. Helga sent this message back to the Emperor: “Dear
godfather Constantine, I stayed in Kiev this trading season to spend more time with my young son, hoping to convert him to Christianity. But the reverse has happened. I have fallen away from Christ and I need to be re-baptised by you. I shall be coming to Constantinople next trading season for sure so please arrange for my re-baptism late in the trading season so we can spend some time together in your quaint city. I miss you as well. P.S.: I only make you feel like a man. You make me feel like a queen. PSS: I shall be bringing my young son, Svein.” The Emperor was overcome with passion that Queen Helga was no longer his goddaughter and wanted to spend time with him before her re-baptism in Constantinople the next year. Again, he made sure that the Varangian traders and their Captain Biorn were given special treatment while in the city. And again, the other traders all complained and again the Emperor made sure Captain Biorn heard their complaints. Constantine gave Biorn more gifts for Queen Helga and made him promise he would keep his queen safe on their voyage to Constantinople the following year.