Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert
CHAPTER TWENTY THREE
QUEEN SIGRID THE HAUGHTY (Circa 994-999 AD)
20. “No longer thou Liere shalt hold,
have rings of red gold, nor the mill of riches.
Harder the handle let us hold, sister;
our hands are not warm yet with warriors’ blood.
Anonymous; Grottasongr, Prose Edda (Hollander)
(994) King Harald Grenske ruled in Vestfold, the province on the west coast of the Vik Fjord, and he was married to Asta, a daughter of Gudbrand Kula. One spring King Harald made an expedition to raid the Baltic to plunder, and he heard that Queen Sigrid had divorced King Erik ‘the Victorious and had returned to her family lands in Vaster Gotland, just east of Vestfold so, he went to western Gotland and his ships camped along the coast for a time. He knew Sigrid, a daughter of the famed warrior Skoglartoste, who he had been trained by in his youth, and he knew that she had many great estates there. When Queen Sigrid heard that her foster-brother had come to the country a short distance from her, she sent men to him to invite him to a feast. He accepted the invitation, and went to her estate with a great following and was received in a most friendly way. He and the queen sat in the high-seat and drank together that evening, and all his men were entertained in a most hospitable manner.
At night, when King Harald went to rest, a bed was put up for him with a hanging of fine linen around it, and with costly bedclothes; and the few men that were in the longhall had been put up at the very far end of it. When the king was undressed, and had gone to bed, the queen came to him, filled a bowl with wine for them to drink together, and was very gay, and pressed him to drink. The king was drunk above measure, and, indeed, so were they both and Sigrid, who had not had a man since she’d divorced King Erik, slipped in between King Harald’s sheets and they focked for a long time. Then he slept, and the queen returned to her master suite and laid herself down as well. Sigrid was an older woman of great understanding and clever in many things and she felt that she knew Harald well enough to have free sex with him without destroying his marriage.
The queen was very gay as he visited and they slept together for a few days and she and the king talked of many things with each other; among other things, how she valued her property, and the dominions she held in Gotland, as nothing less than his royal property in Norway. And with that observation the king was not pleased, how his kingdom could be compared to the lands of a former queen and he found no pleasure in anything after that, but made himself ready for his journey in an ill humor. On the other hand, the queen was remarkably gay, and made him many presents, and followed him out to the road to see him off.
In the fall, King Harald Grenske returned from the Baltic with his ships, and steered to Vaster Gotland once again. He sent a message to Queen Sigrid that he wished to have a meeting with her and she rode down to meet him. They talked together and he soon brought out the proposal that she should marry him. She replied that this was foolish talk for him, who was so well married already that he might think himself well off. Harald then said, “Asta is a good and honest woman; but she is not as well born as I am.”
Sigrid replied, “It may be that you are of higher birth, but I think she is now pregnant and she carries both your fortunes within her.” They exchanged but few words more before the queen rode away.
King Harald was now depressed in mind, and prepared himself again to ride up the country to meet Queen Sigrid. Many of his people tried to dissuade him; but nevertheless he set off with a great attendance, and returned to her longhall to press his marriage claim. Sigrid began to worry that Harald might kidnap her and carry her off with him, but that same evening, another king, called Vissavald, from Gardariki in the east, came likewise to pay his addresses to Queen Sigrid on a marriage claim of his own. Both kings vied with each other and soon insisted that she choose between them, leaving Sigrid to wonder why a girl couldn’t fock anybody anymore without marriage being forced on them. She’s just wanted to have some good clean sex with both the younger men but both had returned and were now trying to force her into marriage with one or the other of them. What was a girl to do? And she thought of King Sweyn Forkbeard and she suddenly wished it was him beating down her doors with a marriage offer and she thought of Sweyn’s Swedish mother and how she had handled her suitor problem.
Lodging was given to both the kings, and to all their people, in a great old longhall that stood near her hall, and she told the kings she would entertain them there until she had made up her mind and then her chosen king would be invited to sleep with her in her longhall. All the furniture in the old hall was of the same character, but there was no want of fine food or strong drink in the evening, and that was so strong that soon all were drunk, and the kings’ watch, both inside and outside the old hall, fell fast asleep. Then Queen Sigrid ordered an attack on them in the night, both with fire and sword. The longhall was burned with all who were in it and those who slipped out were put to the sword. Sigrid is said to have claimed that she would make these small kings tired of coming to court her, just as another Swedish queen had back in the day in Kiev, in Gardariki. She was afterwards called Sigrid ‘the Haughty’ by all, not just by those who knew her.
When Harald had gone inland after Sigrid, he left Hrane behind with the ships to look after the men. Now when Hrane heard that Harald had been burned alive, he returned to Vestfold as quickly as he could and told the news. He went first to Asta and related to her all that had happened on the journey, and also on what errand Harald had visited Queen Sigrid. When Asta got these tidings she set off directly to her father in the Uplands, who received her well, but both were enraged at the actions the two young kings had taken in Gotland, and that King Harald had intended to marry another woman without asking his pregnant wife about it. In summer, Asta, Gudbrand’s daughter, went into labour and had a boy, over whom they poured water in the Aesir fashion and they named him Olaf. Hrane, himself, poured the water over him, and the child was brought up in the house of Gudbrand by his mother Asta. Vestfold Province then fell under the rule of King Sweyn who had inherited the Vik after the death of King Harald ‘Blue Tooth’.
At the same time, Jarl Haakon ruled over the whole outer part of Norway that lies on the sea, and had thus sixteen districts under his sway. The arrangement introduced by King Harald Fairhair, that there should be a jarl in each district, was continued so, Jarl Haakon had sixteen jarls under him. While Jarl Haakon ruled over Norway there were good crops in the land and peace was well preserved in the country among the bondes.
The Jarl, for the greater part of his lifetime, was therefore much beloved by the bondes; but it happened, in the longer course of time, that the jarl became very intemperate in his intercourse with women, and even carried it so far that he made the daughters of people of consideration be carried away and brought home to him; and after keeping them a week or two as concubines, he sent them home. He drew upon himself the indignation of the relations of these girls, and the bondes began to murmur loudly, as the Trondheim people have the custom of doing when anything goes against their judgment.
Jarl Haakon, in the meantime, heard some whisper that to the westward, over the North Sea, was a man called Ole, who was looked upon as a king. From the conversation of some people, he fell upon the suspicion that he must be of the royal race of Norway. It was, indeed, said that this Ole was from Russia; but the jarl had heard that Trygve Olafson had had a son called Olaf, who in his infancy had gone east to Gardariki, and had been brought up by Prince Valdamar, King Sweyn’s son.
The jarl had carefully inquired about this man, and had his suspicion that he must be the same person who had now come to these western countries. The jarl had a very good friend called Thorer Klakka, who had been on all his viking expeditions, sometimes also attending his merchant voyages across the Nor’Way so, Jarl Haakon sent Thorer across the North Sea to Northumbria, and told him to make a merchant voyage to York, as many were in the habit of doing, and to carefully discover who this Ole was. Provided he got any certainty that he was Olaf Tryggvason, or any other of the Norwegian royal race, then Thorer should endeavor to ensnare him by some deceit, and bring him into the jarl’s power.
(994-995) When King Sweyn returned from the east he learned of Queen Sigrid’s burning of her hall and he pretty much guessed where that idea had sprung from. His mother, Queen Helga, had gained fame and notoriety for burning the representatives of her suitor, Prince Mal, in a bath hall in Kiev, but that only led to further bloodshed, culminating in the siege and burning of Iskorosten and the death of Prince Mal. Then Sweyn reminded himself that the burning of the town had put the young girl Malfrieda into the hands of his mother and she became her handmaiden and from there Sweyn’s first lover and suddenly Sweyn took an interest in Queen Sigrid, her beauty, and her efficiency in eliminating two suitors in one single burning. So, he sent troops to Vestfold to take over the province and ensure they took no action against this Swedish queen.
He then visited Princess Gyda in Ipswich and learned that she had heard nothing from Olaf. Again. Gyda was in tears and was afraid of what would happen to her young children, and once she got them off to bed she asked King Sweyn to join her on her highseat and they shared wine late into the evening. A bottle later he was sharing more wine and Khazar Vayar with her in her master suite. She was a beautiful young woman and Sweyn had much to teach her from the Kama Sutra and of nominal congress. When he left, he assured her that he would leave his Hraes’ regiment there for her protection and would soon set her up with a Hraes’ trading station like the ones in London and in York. He returned to Denmark with his legion and took no further operations against the Anglo-Saxons that year.
Again Yuletide was celebrated in Roskilde, but it was a little different this year. Jarl Haakon stayed in Lade, but Jarl Eirik came down and told Sweyn that Haakon had sent a spy to York to find out more about a King Olaf of Norway who now ruled the lands that Jarl Erik Bloodaxe had once lorded over. And King Erik ‘the Victorious’ did not come down from Sweden because he was preparing for war against Prince Valdamar unless his wife, Queen Sviataslava, was returned to him by spring. And Prince Valdamar did not come because he was too busy still focking his many wives and he had now added his ‘mother’, Queen Svia, to that busy itinerary. But Queen Consort Aud did come down from Sweden to visit with her brothers, Eirik and Sweyn, and all were surprised when Queen Sigrid attended with her son, Prince Olaf Skotkonung, and she was in very high spirits and paid a lot of compliments and attention to King Sweyn.
Things were quite different that Yulefest. Instead of sleeping with King Erik’s Queen Svia, he ended up sleeping with his Queen Aud and her brother Eirik. Finally, Sweyn got to sleep in Aud’s honey well instead of up her bum and Eirik slept up Sweyn’s. Sweyn tried to sleep with Queen Sigrid, but it was hard with her son, the prince, there with her, and she was trying to be elusive as though looking for something more serious than the casual sex that had led to the burning of her suitors.
Part 17 (52) – King Olaf Tryggvason Comes To Norway (circa 995)
In the spring, King Olaf Tryggvason made preparations to go to Norway with his Latin Christian Kievan legion and begin the forced conversion of Norway to Christianity. When he heard that a merchant had just arrived in York from Norway, he had the merchant brought to him to learn the latest news from the north. Thorer suddenly fell under Olaf’s power instead of the reverse happening, and he immediately got acquainted with Ole. “I’m King Olaf Tryggvason of Norway and I want to inquire about news from Norway, and above all of the Upland kings and great people, which of them yet live and what dominations they now have.” He asked also about Jarl Haakon, and if he was much liked in the country.
Thorer replied, “The jarl is such a powerful man that no one dares to speak otherwise than he would like; but that comes from there being nobody else in the country to look to. Yet, to say the truth, I know it to be the mind of many brave men, and of whole communities, that they would much rather see a king of Harald Fairhair’s race come to the kingdom. But we know of no one suited for this, especially now that it is proved how vain every attack on Jarl Haakon must be.”
King Olaf disclosed to Thorer that he was King Trygve’s son and asked him his opinion on whether he thought the bondes would take him for their king if he were to appear in Norway. Thorer encouraged him very eagerly to the enterprise, and praised him and his talents highly, even though he knew of the enslavement of Ole Trygve’s son and how it would negatively affect the support of all the Aesir bondes in Norway. Olaf knew by his positive answer, that Thorer must be working for one of the Lade jarls so, he forced Thorir and his Viking crew to convert to Christianity or be beheaded for their treachery and he took Thorer aboard his ship when they sailed from York.
King Olaf led a fleet of one hundred and ninety four ships, including Thorir’s, and they sailed first to the Hebrides, and from thence to the Orkneys. At that time Earl Sigurd, Hlodver’s son, lay in Osmundswall, in the island South Ronaldsa, with a ship of war, on his way to Caithness. Just at the same time Olaf was sailing with his fleet from the westward to the islands, and ran into the same harbour, because Pentland Firth was not to be passed at that tide. When the king was informed that the earl was there, he made him be called, and when the earl came on board to speak with the king, after a few words only had passed between them, the king said the earl must allow himself to be baptized, and all the people of the country also, or he should be put to death directly; and he assured the earl he would lay waste the islands with fire and sword, if the people did not adopt Christianity. In the position the earl found himself, he preferred becoming Christian, and he and all who were with him were baptized.
Afterwards the earl took an oath to the king, went into his service, and gave him his son, whose name was Hvelp, as a hostage; and the king took Hvelp to Norway with him. Thereafter Olaf went out to sea to the eastward, and made the land at Mosteroy Island, where he first touched the ground of Norway. He had high mass sung in a tent and afterwards, on that spot, a church was built, then an abbey.
Thorer Klakka said now to the king, that the best plan for him would be not to make it known who he was, or to let any report about him get abroad; but to seek out Jarl Haakon as fast as possible and fall upon him by surprise.
King Olaf did so, sailing northward day and night, when wind permitted, and did not let the people of the country know who it was that was sailing in such haste. When he came north to Agdanes, he heard that the earl was in the fjord, and was in discord with the bondes.
On hearing this, Thorer saw that things were going in a very different way from what he expected; for after the battle with the Jomsborg Vikings, all men in Norway were the most sincere friends of the jarl on account of the victory he had gained, and of the peace and security he had given to the country; and now it unfortunately turned out that a great chief had come to the country at a time when the bondes were up in arms against the jarl.
Part 18 (53) – Jarl Haakon’s Flight
Jarl Haakon was at a feast in Medalhus in Gaulardal and his ships lay out by Viggja. There was a powerful bonde, by the name of Orm Lyrgja, who dwelt in Bunes, who had a wife called Gudrun, a daughter of Bergthor of Lundar. She was called the Lundasol; for she was the most-beautiful of women. The jarl sent his slaves to Orm, with the errand that they should bring Orm’s wife, Gudrun, to the jarl.
The thralls told Orm their errand, and he bid them first seat themselves to supper, but before they had done eating, many people from the neighbourhood, to whom Orm had sent notice, had gathered together: and now Orm declared he would not send Gudrun with the messengers.
Gudrun told the thralls to tell the jarl that she would not go to him unless he sent Thora of Rimul after her. Thora was a woman of great influence, and one of the jarl’s best beloved. The thralls said that they would come another time, and both the bonde and his wife would be made to repent of it; and they departed with many threats.
Orm, on the other hand, sent out a message-token to all the neighbouring country, and with it the message to attack Jarl Haakon with weapons and kill him. He also sent a message to Haldor in Skerdingsstedja, who also sent out his message-token. A short time before, the jarl had taken away the wife of a man called Brynjolf, and there had very nearly been an insurrection about that business.
Having now again got this message-token, the people made a general revolt, and set out to Medalhus. When the jarl heard of this, he left the house with his followers, and concealed himself in a deep glen, now called Jarlsdal.
Later in the day, the jarl got news of the bondes’ army. They had beset all the roads; but believed the jarl had escaped to his ships, which his son Erlend, a remarkably handsome and hopeful young man, had the command of.
When night came the jarl dispersed his people, and ordered them to go through the forest roads into Orkadal; “for nobody will molest you,” said he, “when I am not with you. Send a message to Erlend to sail out of the fjord, and meet me in More. In the meantime, I will conceal myself from the bondes.”
Then the jarl went his way with one slave, called Kark, attending him. There was ice upon the Gaul River, and the jarl drove his horse upon it, and left his coat lying upon the ice. They then went to a cave, since called Jarlshella, where they slept.
When Kark awoke startled, he told the jarl about a dream he’d had, that a black threatening man had come into the cave and was angry that people should have entered it and that the man had said, “Ulle is dead.”
The jarl said that his son Erlend must have been killed. Kark slept again and was again disturbed in his sleep; and when he awoke he told the jarl this dream, that the same man had again appeared to him and bade him tell the jarl that all the sounds were closed. From this dream the jarl began to suspect that it betokened a short life for him. They stood up, and went to the house of Rimul. The earl now sent Kark to Thora, who begged her to come secretly to the jarl.
She did so and received the jarl kindly and he begged her to conceal him for a few nights until the army of the bondes had dispersed.
“Here about my house,” said she, “you will be hunted after, both inside and outside; for many know that I would willingly help you if I can. There is but one place about the house where they could never expect to find such a man as you, and that is the swine-stye.”
When they came there the jarl said, “Well, let it be made ready for us; as to save our lives is the first and foremost concern.”
The slave dug a great hole at the edge of the stye, bore away the earth that he dug out, and laid wood over it. Thora brought the tidings to the jarl that a King Olaf Tryggvason had come from sea into the fjord, and had killed his son Erlend. Then the jarl and Kark both went into the hole. Thora covered it with the wood, and threw earth and dung over it, and drove the swine upon the top of it. The swine-stye was nearby a great flat stone.
Part 19 (54) – Erlend’s Death
King Olaf Tryggvason came from sea into the fjord with five of his longships, and Erlend, Haakon’s son, rowed towards him with three ships. When the vessels came near to each other, Erlend suspected they might be enemies, and turned towards the land. When Olaf and his followers saw longships coming in haste out of the fjord, and rowing towards them, they thought Jarl Haakon must be there; and they put out all oars to go after him. As soon as Erlend and his ships got near the land they rowed right into the beach and jumped overboard, taking to the land; but at the same instant Olaf’s ships came upon them. Olaf saw a remarkably handsome man swimming in the water, and laid hold of a tiller and threw it at him. The tiller struck Erlend, the son of Haakon, on the head and clove it to the brain and there Erlend lost his life.
Olaf and his people killed many, but some escaped, and some were made prisoners, and got life and freedom that they might go and tell all what had happened. They learned then that the bondes had driven away Jarl Haakon, and that he had fled, and his troops were all dispersed.
Part 20 (55) – Jarl Haakon’s Death (circa 995)
The bondes then met King Olaf, to the joy of both, and they made an agreement together. The bondes took Olaf to be their king, and resolved, one and all, to seek out Jarl Haakon. They went up Gaulardal; for it seemed to them likely that if the jarl was concealed in any house it must be at Rimul, for Thora was his dearest friend in that valley. They went up, therefore, and searched everywhere, outside and inside the house, but could not find him.
Then Olaf held a House Thing, or council out in the yard, and stood upon the great flat stone which lay beside the swine-stye, and made a speech to the people, in which he promised to enrich the man with rewards and honours who should kill the jarl. This speech was heard by the jarl and his thrall, Kark, and the jarl watched his slave by the light that filtered in through the cracks in the wood. “Why are you so pale,” said the jarl, “and now, again, as black as earth? Do you intend to betray me?”
“By no means,” replied Kark.
“We were born on the same night,” said the jarl, “and the time will be short between our deaths.”
King Olaf went away in the evening. When night came the jarl kept himself awake but Kark slept and was, again, disturbed in his sleep. The jarl woke him, and asked him what he was dreaming about?
He answered, “I was at Lade and Olaf Tryggvason was laying a gold ring about my neck.”
The jarl said, “It will be a red ring Olaf will lay about your neck if he catches us. Take care of that! From me, you enjoy all that is good, therefore, betray me not.”
They then kept themselves both awake, the one, as it were, watching the other suspiciously. But towards day the jarl suddenly fell asleep; but his sleep was so restless that he drew his heels under himself and raised his neck, as if going to rise, and screamed out dreadfully.
At this Kark, became alarmed, drew a large knife out of his belt, and stuck it in the jarl’s throat, and cut it across, killing Jarl Haakon.
Then Kark cut off the jarl’s head and ran away with it. Late in the day he came to Lade, where he delivered the jarl’s head to King Olaf, and he told all the circumstances of his own and Jarl Haakon’s doings. Olaf had him taken out and immediately beheaded.
Part 21 (56) – Earl Hakon’s Head
King Olaf, and a vast number of bondes with him, then went out to Nidarholm, and had with him the heads of Jarl Haakon and his slave, Kark. This holm was used then as a place of execution of thieves and ill-doers, and there stood a gallows on it. He had the heads of the jarl and of Kark hung upon it, and the whole army of the bondes cast stones at them, screaming and shouting that the one worthless fellow had followed the other. The heads that hung from the gallows were battered and bruised, so, nobody noticed when, overnight, one head was removed and replaced by an unrecognizably battered head. The next day they then sent men to Gaulardal to fetch the jarl’s dead body. So great was the enmity of the Trondheim people against the rapist, Jarl Haakon, that no man could venture to call him by any other name than Haakon ‘the Bad’, and so he was called long after those days. Still, his body was burned with great respect in the Aesir way.
For, sooth to say of Jarl Haakon, that he was in many respects fit to be a chieftain, first, because he was descended from a high Aesir race, next, because he had a good understanding and knowledge of how to direct a government, and also because he was of manly courage in battle to gain victories, and had good luck in killing his enemies.
So said Thorleif Raudfeldson:
“In Norway’s land was never known
A braver jarl than the brave Haakon.
At sea, beneath the clear moon’s light,
No braver man e’er sought to fight.
Nine kings to Odin’s wide domain
Were sent, by Haakon’s right hand slain!
So well the raven-flocks were fed —
So well the wolves were filled with dead!”
Jarl Haakon was very generous, but the greatest misfortunes attended even such a great chief at the end of his days: and the great cause of this was his misjudgment of just how far he could push his people in his great need to rape and possess, even for a short time, all the most beautiful women of his dominions.
(995) In the spring, Jarl Eirik returned to Roskilde leading many of the people of Trondheim who were fleeing King Olaf Tryggvason and his fleet. A veritable flotilla of refugee ships arrived in the harbour, from large dragonships to knars to twelve oared boats. Jarl Eirik told King Sweyn that Jarl Haakon was dead, murdered and beheaded by his own slave, Kark, on the orders of King Olaf Tryggvason, who rewarded the slave with, not silver, but a beheading of his own. “Why would he do that?” Eirik asked Sweyn, pacing back and forth in front of the highseats. “Why would he behead the slave for following his own wishes when he was enslaved himself?”
“Because Kark turned on his own master,” Sweyn answered, “and Olaf wants to be remembered as a king who punishes slaves, not as a king who once was one.”
“What are we going to do to stop him?”
“Just as Olaf turned on Kark,” Sweyn answered, “so too shall he turn on those who support him now. I have learned that his mission is to convert all of Norway to Christianity and the Aesir followers won’t stand for that. The worshipers of Odin demand victories and the one true god religion doesn’t seem capable of delivering on this.”
“We should attack him now, before he gets established,” Eirik stated.
“We shall,” Sweyn said. “He gets his support from King Athelred. By attacking Angleland we shall be attacking him, and we will be killing and enslaving the Anglo-Saxons instead of our own people. They will turn on him soon enough.”
Part 22 (57) – Olaf Tryggvason Elected King (circa 996)
Olaf Tryggvason was chosen at Trondheim by the General Thing to be the king over the whole country, as Harald Fairhair had been. The whole public and the people throughout all the land would listen to nothing else than that Olaf Tryggvason should be king. Then Olaf went round the whole country, and brought it under his rule, and all the people of Norway gave in their submission, and also the chiefs in the Uplands and in the Viken, who before had held their lands as fiefs from the Danish king, now became King Olaf’s men, and held their lands from him. He went thus through the whole country during the first winter and the following summer. Jarl Eirik, the son of Jarl Haakon, went to his brother, King Sweyn in Denmark, and their friends and relations, all fled out of the country, and went there or east to Sweden to King Olaf ‘the Swede’, who gave them a good reception.
So said Thord Kolbeinson:
“O thou whom bad men drove away,
After the bondes by foul play,
Took Haakon’s life! Fate will pursue
These bloody wolves, and make them rue.
When the host came from out the West,
Like some tall stately warship’s mast,
I saw the son of Trygve stand,
Surveying proud his native land.”
“Jarl Eirik has more upon his mind,
Against the new Norse king designed,
Than by his words he seems to show
And truly it may well be so.
Stubborn and stiff are Trondheim men,
But Trondheim’s jarl may come again;
In Swedish land he knows no rest,
Fierce wrath is gathering in his breast.”
Part 23 (58) – The Story of Astrid and Lodin’s Marriage
Lodin was the name of a man from Viken who was rich and of good family. He went often on merchant voyages, and sometimes on viking cruises. It happened long ago one summer that he went on a merchant voyage with much merchandise in a ship of his own. He directed his course first to Eistland, and was there at a market where many merchant goods were brought, and also many thralls were sold and there Lodin saw a woman who was to be sold as a slave, and, on looking at her, he knew her to be Astrid Eirik’s daughter, who had been married to King Trygve. But now she was nothing like what she had been when he last saw her; for now she was pale, slight in countenance, and scantily clad. He approached her and asked her how she had fallen to such a low state. She replied, “It is hard to tell but I was taken by pirates and was sold as a slave, and now, again, I am brought here for sale.” After speaking together a little, Astrid knew him and begged him to buy her and bring her home to her friends. “They will recompense you greatly!” she pleaded.
“I will buy you on this condition,” he said, “and will take you back home to Norway, if you promise you will marry me, for I have loved you always.”
Since Astrid was in dire straits and knew, moreover, that Lodin was a good man of high birth, and rich, and brave, she promised to marry him in exchange for her ransom. Lodin quickly bought Astrid, took her home to her kin in Vestfold Province and married her with her family’s consent. She sent word to her brother, Sigurd, in Novgorod that she and her son Olaf had been enslaved by pirates and asked him to search for Olaf and she gave him a description of what he had looked like when she last saw him. Astrid was reunited with her daughters, Ingebjorg and Astrid by King Trygve and she soon had more children by Lodin. Their children were Thorkel Nefia, Ingerid and Ingegerd.
Astrid’s father, Eirik Bjodaskalle’s sons were Sigurd, who found young Olaf in Eistland, Karlshofud, Jostein, and Thorkel Dydril, who were all rich and brave people who had estates east in the country. In Viken in the east dwelt two brothers, rich and of good descent; one called Thorgeir, and the other Hyrning, and they married Lodin and Astrid’s daughters, Ingerid and Ingegerd.
Part 24 (59) – Olaf Baptizes The Country Of Viken (circa 996)
When Harald Gormson, king of Denmark, had adopted Christianity, he sent a message over all his kingdom that all people should be baptized, and converted to the one true god faith. He himself followed his message, and used power and violence where nothing else would do. He sent two jarls, Urguthrjot and Brimilskjar, with many people to Norway, to proclaim Christianity there. In Viken, which stood directly under the king’s power, this succeeded, and many were baptized of the country folk. But when King Sweyn Forkbeard, immediately after Harald’s death, went out on war expeditions in Saxland, Friesland, and at last in Angleland, the Danes who had taken up Christianity returned back to heathen sacrifices, just as before; and the people in Norway did the same.
But now that Olaf Tryggvason was king of Norway, he remained long during the summer in Viken, where he was finally reunited with his mother, Astrid, and many of his relatives and some of his brothers-in-law were settled, and also many who had been great friends of his father; so that he was received with the greatest affection. Olaf called together his mother’s brothers, his stepfather Lodin, and his brothers-in-law Thorgeir and Hyrning, to speak with them, and to disclose with the greatest care the business which he desired they themselves should approve of, and support with all their power; namely, the proclaiming of Christianity over all his kingdom. He would, he declared, either bring it to this, that all Norway should be Christian, or die. “I shall make you all,” he said, “great and mighty men in promoting this work; for I trust to you most, as blood relations or brothers-in-law.” All agreed to do what he asked, and to follow him in what he desired.
King Olaf immediately made it known to the public that he recommended Christianity to all the people in his kingdom, which message was well received and approved of by those who had before given him their promise, and these being the most powerful among the people assembled, the others followed their example, and all the inhabitants of the east part of Viken allowed themselves to be baptized.
The king then went to the north part of Viken and invited every man to accept Christianity; and those who opposed him he punished severely, killing some, mutilating others, and driving some into banishment. At length he brought it so far, that all the kingdom which his father King Trygve had ruled over, and also that of his relation Harald Grenske, accepted of Christianity; and during that summer and the following winter all Viken was made Christian.
(995-996) When King Sweyn returned from the east, Jarl Eirik was ready to join him in an attack upon Angleland and as they made preparations, Sweyn sent knars to Sweden to purchase more tonstone for his trebuchets, and they came back with the news that King Erik ‘the Victorious’ was dead. He had waited with his warfleet in Sigtuna until Sweyn and his merchant fleet got back from the east and had gotten past Sweden and then King Erik set off east and attacked Novgorod, intending to burn it to the ground because his Queen Sviataslava had not been returned to him by Prince Valdamar of Kiev. The Novgorod mobile legion faced his attack on Lake Ladoga and they fought a sea battle and the Swedish king died fighting, taken by Valkyries up to Odin, exactly ten years after he had defeated Styrbjorn ‘the Strong’ in Sweden at the Battle of Fyrisvellir.
Prince Valdamar brought Queen Svia and another ten wives to Roskilde during the Yuletide celebrations and he professed to having no involvement in King Erik’s death, the Novgorod legion only directly responding to a foreign attack on their own. Queen Aud came down from Sweden and Queen Sigrid from Vaster Gotland and they joined Eirik and Sweyn and his wives in mourning the Swedish king. They arrived early for Yulefest in Denmark and Sigrid announced that her son would not be making the celebrations that year, as he was busy taking over the kingdom for his late father. This fest, Sweyn slept with Svia and Sigrid, though, not with them together.
Prince Valdamar missed young Olaf Skotkonung because they were both young princes and had grown up together in the same royal circles and they got on with each other famously. “I wish Olaf had made the fest,” Valdy told his father, as they had lunch together one afternoon. “He has the charisma of his father and the earthiness of his mother, Sigrid.” Sweyn didn’t miss him, though. He was busy enjoying the earthiness of Olaf’s mother. She was a happy soul and she had a light-heartedness that made her a joy to be with. She made the best of trying times and made good times so much better! Sweyn could see that she took great pride in her ability to stand out from those around her and he saw why she had the byname ‘the Haughty’. “Has the Kievan legion really been lost?” Valdy asked Sweyn again. He had been caught up in thoughts of Sigrid and he found it curious. “It depends what you mean by lost,” Sweyn answered slowly, as if he had been pondering heavily on the question. “Have we lost the Kievan legion to the Anglish, or have we found a way of embedding half a legion in Bambrough Castle as your grandfather, King Ivar, had done many years ago?”
“But some of our legionnaires returned to Kiev from Bambrough, but they only left because they came to dislike Christianity as much as their Anglish wives. They want to rejoin our legions, but I’m going to punish them instead. They deserted us and took farms and wives in the land of bread and honey, Northumbria. How can we compete with that? When our legionnaires retire, we give them five acres in frozen turd-ass land and they have to buy their own wives.”
“Anglish wheat and Anglish honey-wells,” Sweyn said wistfully. “The land of bread and honey. The Hraes’ don’t compete. We buy up our competition. It makes for higher profits. So, don’t punish the deserters. Let them rejoin our legions and promote them rather than denigrate them. We make it seem as if they’ve completed a phase of some secret mission, Orthodox Christianity over Latin, Hraes’ over Anglish, and word will get back to our legion in Bambrough and, when we need them, they will be there for us. I’ve heard how Jarl Olaf Tryggvason gains his Latin Christian converts and I have no doubt that our legionnaires had no choice in the matter of their conversions.”
“How does he convert so many, so fast?” Prince Valdamar asked.
“Our people in the Vik have been fleeing here in droves,” Sweyn said, “and I’ve pieced together his method. He went to Vestfold first and promised all his relatives and his people great wealth and estates to support him in his proselytizing. Then, with their swords behind him, he went north to the provinces of Buskerud and then Oppland, then Hedmark and Akerhus and then Ostfold and finally Oslo. And in each part of Viken, he invited every man to accept Christianity; and those who refused were punished severely. Some he killed, some he maimed and others he drove into banishment. But each place he went to, he ensured that he had greater number of men than the warriors of the towns. All he needs is a few free men roaming around with swords while they are fighting the townsmen and those men not directly fighting can put their children and wives to the sword and the sack. So, they agree to convert before the fighting starts because they see that Olaf holds that power of numbers over them. But the conversions must roll along quickly before the bondes can organize and meet numbers with numbers. That is why it is happening so quickly. Once Saint Peter’s stone gets rolling it must never be allowed to stop. Jarl Olaf will keep it rolling until all Norway is converted and we Danes cannot stop it without the loss of very many lives.”
“We have to do something,” Prince Valdy said.
“Jarl Eirik and I were going to attack Angleland and kick the Northumbrian planks out from under him. Without King Athelred’s support, Jarl Olaf can be isolated and destroyed, but the destruction must come from within Norway.”
“Can I send you a legion to help?” Valdy asked. “I’ll send you the Novgorod mobile legion. They shouldn’t have fought King Erik so, now they can fight King Athelred.”
“I won’t be raiding this spring,” Sweyn said. “There’s too much going on. I have to keep a close eye on Jarl Olaf. Can you raid some slaves for us in the east?”
“The Pechenegs have been acting up. I could raid them.”
“They’re a tough sale,” Sweyn said. “Slavs would be better.”
“The Drevjane are fighting with the Dregovichi. I could get them raiding each other and buy their captives.”
“That would be better.”
“I’m still going to raid the Pechenegs, though,” Valdy said. “Tough sale or not, they’re acting up.”
“Just be careful with them,” Sweyn warned his son. “They’re dangerous.”
“And the Novgorod legion?”
“I’ll sail through Novgorod after this trading season and pick them up on my way through. Could you tell them to be ready to go?”
“I’ll tell them,” Valdy replied. “And I’ll promote the deserters. I just don’t fathom how you come up with these ideas.”
“When I want to figure something out I try to think of what the Prince would do. Or I try to remember the things that King Ivar did. And in this case I remember a story about King Ivar leaving half a legion in Bamburg Castle and then sending it south to Normandy under the control of his Captain Sihtric of the Ui Imair to help young Duke Richard keep Normandy after his father, William, was assassinated. The legionnaires captured King Louis of Frankia in battle to get the kidnapped young Richard back. When King Ivar returned from the east he went there under the name ‘Hargold’ and he expanded Normandy for Duke Richard. When I first came here and likewise wanted to keep my identity close, Jarl Haakon, now with Odin, took to calling me Gold Harald. I think he suspected I was the son of the anonymous Hargold.”
“He knew all the old tales,” Valdy admitted.
Jarl Sigvald and Astrid arrived late for Yule from Jomsborg and Wollin. “Queen Thora has gone missing,” he told Sweyn in confidence. “King Burizleif is frantic. He is searching for her everywhere. I think he may really love her!”
“Do you or Astrid have any idea of where she might be?” Sweyn asked the Jarl. “She must be found and returned! We can’t afford trouble from the Wends.”
“He’s still very happy with you,” Sigvald reassured his king. “He sent you this great harp as a gift,” the Jarl said, as men hauled a harp into the hall. “It was Astrid’s idea. The harp has been in their family since Hraegunar Lothbrok was king in Liere. It weighs as if it were made of tonstone. We were already late with all the searching for Thora and then we had to haul this heavy-assed thing around with us!”
In the spring, King Sweyn led his merchant fleet east and then picked up additional Slav slaves in Kiev, as planned. Prince Valdamar wasn’t there, though. Princess Serah told him he was off chasing after Pechenegs with his Kievan mobile legion. “They’ll be gone a month,” Serah said, as they lay in bed. Then they both realized they had been doing the mental math of the costs of that and they laughed. Serah still had fine large breasts and she was breastfeeding her latest child so, Sweyn indulged himself fully. But he also slept inside Princess Svia while there.
Trading in Baghdad was brisk and a month later Pecheneg captives began arriving from Kiev and they were a tough sell as always. The males were always welcomed into the eunuch armies of the east, but they did not take well to castration. And the females usually sold as household slaves, doing tasks they were totally unaccustomed to. Sweyn ended up forwarding most of them to India and Prince Hraerik sent back Untouchables in return. Then the flow of Pechenegs stopped and Sweyn had a feeling that something had happened. When the fleet was reassembling in Cherson, Prince Valdamar was there making arrangements to build another church in the city. “I swore to Odin that I would build another church if he saved me from the Pechenegs,” Prince Valdamar told him.
“Why would you offer Odin a Christian church?”
“I got separated from my legion. I was hiding under a bridge for Christ’s sake! I’d have built the devil himself another Hagia Sofia to get out of that jam!”
“I warned you the Pechenegs were dangerous! Given half a chance, they’ll make a cup out of your skull!”
“That’s a Bulgar thing!” Valdy replied. They sailed back up to Kiev together and Valdamar took him to Novgorod to get his legion. “Queen Malfrieda should move back here,” Valdy said. “The people of Novgorod still love her!”
“Is this the hall where she saved young Olaf Tryggvason?” Sweyn asked. “The very same,” Valdy replied. “He murdered a slaver, but mother wouldn’t let him be executed for it. She paid his wergild.”
“She could have saved herself a lot of money and us a lot of trouble now.”
“She has a compassionate soul,” Valdy said.
“I’ve heard people complaining that you aren’t executing your capital criminals, either,” Sweyn added.
“The Christians aren’t complaining. Just the Aesir who refuse to convert! As more people convert, they’ll see it my way.”
“Meanwhile you pray to Odin in war and build churches to Christ in peace,” and Sweyn slapped Valdy on the back and they laughed together.
That fall in Angleland the Vikings returned. King Sweyn took a small fleet to Ipswich and spent time with Princess Gyda, who was pregnant with his child. Jarl Eirik led the rest of the force back to Watchet in western Angleland and they took over the town once again. But Sweyn overwintered in Ipswich, and he sent spies to York and to London and he stayed with the princess for the birth of their daughter and they celebrated Yulefest and Christmas there together.
The entry in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for that year read:
‘A.D. 996. This year was Elfric consecrated archbishop at Christ church.’
It would be the last short entry in the chronicle for a long time because, after Yule, King Sweyn set out to join Jarl Eirik in Watchet. Sweyn wanted Ipswich kept neutral so, his ships slipped quietly out of port over a period of several days. His heavy cavalry rode out around the harbour of Ipswich searching for spies and several were found and tortured and killed. The ships sailed west along the Anglish Sea and turned north before the Scilly Islands and then east into the Brycstow Sea and sailed up into Watchet Harbour. Sweyn’s army had sacked Watchet before so, when Jarl Eirik attacked, the officers knew what their defenses were and they had stormed into the harbour one early morning and controlled the town and surrounding villages by noon. The old citizens were all there and they all knew King Sweyn’s army and his men, but the new citizens who had moved in to replace the people Sweyn had enslaved soon experienced sacking, Roman style. The menfolk were locked up and guarded within the stone fort and the first of the slaver ships docked in the harbour and they selected the young virgin girls and their mothers and they took them off to Kiev, then the town was plundered. Loot was pillaged, the women were raped and then more slaver knars came and took away half the new people. King Sweyn had given instructions that the people that had survived the first sacking shouldn’t have to pray to survive the second so, he had ordered that the slavers only be allowed to take away half of the new citizens that had moved there after the first sacking. And, of course, those that could afford to ransom themselves or others were allowed to do so. Then the Viking army overwintered in Watchet.
(997) When King Sweyn arrived in Watchet, he and Jarl Eirik led their Danish and Novgorod legions and Norwegian ex-pats against all of southwest Angleland. The legions had established themselves in Watchet and they raided far and wide in Devon and Cornwall. They worked their way deep into Devon in an ever increasing arc that led south and Sweyn sent out his spies and intelligence officers that were attached to each legion, his XII’s, or Exeyes officers, or as the other legionnaires called them, the Cross-Eyes, because they were developed from Chapter Twelve of the Norse translation of Sun Tzu Wu’s Art of War. In the original Cathayan version of the book, Spies were actually covered in the final chapter thirteen, but Vikings were superstitious and would never allow a thirteenth warrior, so two original chapters were combined into chapter eleven of the Norse translation and Spies fell under chapter twelve. Even though Indian numerals, transmitted north as Arabic numerals, were becoming predominant worldwide, Roman numerals were used in the designation of book chapters in pretty much all the scriptoriums of the western world. The intelligence officers of the legions were looking for one thing. They had learned from a Celt supporter in Watchet that there was a mint in Devon that had been set up in a town called Liddyford and it had been built there solely because King Athelred’s mother had been born and raised in the town and a royal mint meant jobs, regal positions, for the family and friends of the queen mother. And the mint had produced every silver coin that was currently circulating in Wessex and most of the coins that had been paid out to the Vikings in Danegeld.
King Sweyn had to return to Denmark to lead the merchant fleet east, but he left Jarl Eirik in charge of the army and they raided southern Angleland all summer. The Exeyes officers learned that there was a stone keep in the town of Liddyford that protected the hundreds of silver bars that were being turned into coins and that protected the hundreds of sacks of silver coins that were waiting to be circulated. The Keep was called Lydford Castle and it was surrounded by a walled Saxon town on the River Lyd, a tributary of the Tamar River that flowed into the Anglish Sea in the south. The mint would be more securely approached from the south.
News of the plundering of Watchet again, spread north across the Brycstow Sea into Southern Wales and a young man from Wales came to Watchet to visit the king. He was raven haired and it was cropped straight above his shoulders and he was clean-shaven and handsome in a Welsh way and was of average height and size, but his arms were big and strong like those of a smith. He asked to see the king and was shown into his highseat hall and was led before King Sweyn and Jarl Eirik, who were presently being addressed by Exeyes officers.
“I am Weiand and I come from Wales,” the young man said.
“Weiand as in Weyland?” Sweyn asked, “for I can see by your arms you’re a smith.”
“It’s true that I am a smith,” Weiand replied, “but it’s as in Wee Little And, as my brothers called me.”
“You don’t look wee to me!” Sweyn said, laughing with Jarl Eirik and the Exeyes officers.
“You haven’t seen my brothers!” Weiand said.
“Well, what can I do for you, Weiand?”
“I have come here on an urgent matter that involves the Anglish in Wales and the Vikings in Dublin. The Anglo-Saxons of the city of Bristol just across the bay from here have been raiding the villages of Wales at night and have been taking the citizens captive and have been enslaving them without the opportunity of ransom and have been selling them as slaves in Dublin.”
“And what has that to do with me?” Sweyn asked him.
“Since King Athelred daren’t show his face hereabouts because you are king here, I thought you might wish to enforce the law for us. By not affording us the opportunity to ransom our captive people, are not the Anglish of Bristol committing acts of piracy? And are they not disrespecting the Dublin Vikings by selling them captives as slaves? The Ui Imair of Dublin and Waterford have paid them much gold for slaves, but the Anglish have sold them captives instead. This sullies the name of the Ui Imair!”
King Sweyn was related to the Ui Imair, so he took an interest in the Welshman’s complaint. “How much gold have the Anglish of Bristol taken from the Dublin Vikings?” he asked the smith. “Over twenty thousand pounds and just as many marks of silver,” the young man answered. “Bristol is a very prosperous city, but they keep their wealth hidden and pay no scat on their pirated treasures.”
“Come join me on the highseat,” Sweyn offered. “We were about to eat!” and he made room for Weiand to sit beside him and he told his Exeyes officers to check into this city of Bristol across the Brycstow Sea and Eirik started into the finer details with them as Sweyn carried on with his guest. “Your timing is good,” Sweyn said. “I’ve just returned from Baghdad and we plan to leave Watchet soon and return to Denmark so, an attack on Bristol to dispense some justice may be just what we’d wish to do before we go,” and Sweyn began to ask Weiand how best to assault Bristol. “I’m sending my intelligence officers to spy on Bristol and I’d like you to go with them,” Sweyn said. “If what you’ve told us checks out, we’ll make it worth your while.”
Sweyn’s Exeyes officers were very thorough and when they returned from Bristol a few days later they reported seeing night raiders heading out and coming back with Welsh captives and they saw ships filled with captives sailing out from Bristol into the Brycstow Sea and then into the Irish Sea. And ships came back and heavy chests were being unloaded on the quays of Bristol. And the Bristol pirates had been spying on the Hraes’ legions the whole time they were in Watchet. The officers had seen citizens of Watchet rowing a four oared boat into Bristol at dusk, meeting with fyrd officers on the quays and returning to Watchet under cover of darkness. They had already begun monitoring the four citizens in Watchet and recommended using them for disinformation.
A few days later the Hraes’ legions began packing up their gear and preparing to leave Watchet. The Watchet spies rowed across the bay and up the Severn and Avon rivers and then returned that night. When the Hraes’ fleet rowed out of Watchet harbour and sailed west along the coast of the Brycstow Sea, the Exeyes officers observed the four oared boat set out from Watchet and row north across the bay, then they left their cover on the Watchet shore and set the mast of their eight oared boat and sailed after the fleet. They found the fleet camped a distance down the coast and they made their report. Early the next morning the fleet sailed northeast across the bay and up the Severn mouth and then up the Avon River and they launched a dawn attack upon Bristol and caught the local fyrds by surprise and captured most of them in their barracks. The city was plundered and half the citizens were enslaved and deprived opportunity to ransom as punishment for their like crimes. Almost every house in Bristol had gold or silver hidden under the floorboards or buried in corners and the silver was in Kufas from Baghdad and the gold was in Byzants from Constantinople, indicating that the slaves had been sold in Dublin and had been paid for with coin from Hraes’ traders in the east.
King Sweyn paid Weiand for his help in gold and silver and gave him a ship full of rescued Welsh captives to take back to Wales with him. “I hope we do business again!” King Sweyn said, to which Weiand replied, “I heard you talk with your Cross-Eyes when we first met and you were looking for a mint on the River Lyd. I have half-brothers in West Wales that know where it is.”
“Can you trust our Welsh captives here with your ship and gold?” Sweyn asked the young man. “I have a feeling our next business opportunity is going to make you a mint!”
“My brothers know their families,” Weiand replied. “I just hope my brothers will leave me some of the gold!” Weiand invited a few of the Welshmen that he knew to join him and he sent off the rest.
The Viking fleet sailed out of the Brycstow Sea and then south to the Anglish Sea and, as they were heading east, King Sweyn had the fleet turn into the mouth of the Tamar River to surprise the Saxons of Plymouth. The city was so named because it was at the mouth of the Plym River but it was originally the town of Sutton, meaning south town. But it wasn’t really Plymouth or the Plym River that Sweyn was interested in. The city was just in the way and the Vikings fell upon it as if it wasn’t even there. Plymouth was soon sacked and half its people enslaved and Sweyn and half his fleet sailed up the Tamar River on the other side of Plymouth, the west side, and then he split it up further and sent a quarter up the Tavy River under Jarl Eirik as well, not being sure which was which. Then they rowed up the Tamar River, which twisted and turned its way into West Wales or Cornwall, where they met Weiand’s half-brothers and then they were directed up the River Lyd to Lydford and they sacked the town and enslaved the people and captured Lydford Castle, the home of King Athelred’s mother. She no longer lived there, but it was because of her that the stronghold had been turned into a mint.
Inside the stone keep there was silver everywhere! Bars of it were stacked like cordwood waist high along the stone floor of one wall. And there was a smelting furnace and three coin striking presses and then sacks of silver coins piled up on the floor along the opposite wall. It took half a day to load all the silver aboard the ships and King Sweyn gave Weiand and his men and half-brothers their shares and a ship to take back to South Wales with them. When he rejoined the other quarter of his fleet, he learned that Jarl Eirik and his men had sacked Tavistock and enslaved the people and had burned Saint Mary’s Abbey, a place where King Athelred’s mother had prayed, or so they said.
When they got back to Plymouth, the Kievan legion had finished sacking the city and the enslaved were already gone on their way to the slave training schools of Kiev. Jarl Eirik led the legions back to Denmark, and King Sweyn took a small fleet with him to visit with Princess Gyda in Ipswich. He stayed for the birth of his second child with her, a boy, and after, as he slept with her he had a dream. He’d been having regrets for refusing to allow the ransoming of beautiful young wives by the pirate husbands of Bristol, and perhaps self-doubts that the Bristol pirates had been selling captives as slaves and were as bad as Weiand had painted them, but then he dreamt:
That hundreds of years in the future the Bristol pirates would sack and plunder the failing Viking settlements of Greenland, enslaving and selling the captives. The settlements would never recover and collapsed due to the failure of animal husbandry in Greenland because of the worldwide climate cooling that his grandfather, Prince Hraerik, had predicted would follow the worldwide climate warming of the Viking age.
And that the collapse of the Viking Greenland settlements would soon be followed by the mysterious collapse of the Danish and Norman settlements in New Ireland and New Scotland and all along the great river seaway that led inland to the great lakes of the newfoundland and past the great Nie-Agg-Rah Falls to Lake Mie-Chi-Gan and the mighty Mis-Sis-Sippi River Valley of the Mound Builders that Sweyn’s uncle, Prince Helgi ‘Arrow Odd’ Hraerikson, had discovered while fleeing the wrath of King Frodi, Sweyn’s great grandfather.
And then the Bristol pirates would ‘rediscover’ New Ireland and call it the Isle of Brycstow or Bryczil and would claim to dry cod there, but they stole the cod from the Spanish Basque fishermen there, just as they had stolen cod from the fishermen of Iceland. Later, they would take a Roman ship’s captain there and further north and tell him it was Iceland. The Roman Italian would return to Bristol and then go to Spain and from there he would sail west and ‘rediscover’ the newfoundland, mistakenly calling it India, the country Prince Hraerik was presently trading in.
And then, hundreds of years after that, the Bristol pirates would play a leading role in the sale of black African unransomed captives to a new Republic in the newfoundland to provide cheap labour for the plantations there and cheaper concubines for the plantation owners.
And then he dreamed that hundreds of years after that, the citizens of Bristol would finally rise up during an anti-slavery protest and cast a statue of one of their slaver captains into the sea and that many Viking and Danish and Norman finds would be discovered, after that, throughout the newfoundland.
The dream reassured Sweyn that he was right in withholding ransom from the Bristol pirates, but the part about the Roman sea captain disturbed him. He was from Italy, but he had sailed for the country of Spain, not the Roman province of Espania and Sweyn realized that he would never be allowed to become an Emperor of Rome and restore the magnificence of the great Viking Roman Empire and the Zeus, Mars, Mercury gods of its Vanir religion. He looked over at Gyda through the faint moonlight streaming through the Roman glass of the window and he stroked her long red hair of silk. She was a young Irish beauty, the daughter of a Dublin Viking king who had bought a beautiful Irish slavegirl for his wife, and now she, too, bore the children of kings, two of the king of Norway and now two of the king of Denmark. She was not the first of slave blood to bear his children and she would not be the last and Sweyn did not have a problem with that and he drifted back to sleep and he forgot about his dream.
Part 25 (60) – Of The Hordaland People (circa 997)
Early in spring King Olaf set out from Viken with a great force northwards to Agder, and proclaimed that every man should be baptized. And thus the people received Christianity, for nobody dared oppose the king’s will, wheresoever he came. In Hordaland, however, there were many bold and great men of Hordakare’s race.
Hordakare had left four sons, — the first Thorleif Spake; the second, Ogmund, father of Thorolf Skialg, who was father of Erling of Sole; the third was Thord, father of the Herse Klyp who killed King Sigurd Slefa, Gunhild’s son; and lastly, Olmod, father of Askel, whose son was Aslak Fitjaskalle; and that family branch was the greatest and most considered in Hordaland.
Now, when this family heard the bad tidings, that the king was coming along the country from the eastward with a great force, and was breaking the ancient law of the people, and imposing punishment and hard conditions on all who opposed him, the relatives appointed a meeting to take counsel with each other, for they knew the king would come down upon them at once: and they all resolved to appear in force at the Gula-Thing, there to hold a conference with King Olaf Tryggvason.
Part 26 (61) – Rogaland Baptized
When King Olaf came to Rogaland, he immediately summoned the people to a Thing; and when the bondes received the message-token for a Thing, they assembled in great numbers, well armed. After they had come together, they resolved to choose three men, the best speakers of the whole, who should answer King Olaf, and argue with the king; and especially should decline to accept of anything against the old law, even if the king should require it of them.
Now when the bondes came to the Thing, and the Thing was formed, King Olaf arose, and at first spoke good-humouredly to the people; but they observed he wanted them to accept Christianity, with all his fine words: and in the conclusion he let them know that those who should speak against him, and not submit to his proposal, must expect his displeasure and punishment, and all the ill that it was in his power to inflict.
When he had ended his speech, one of the bondes stood up, who was considered the most eloquent, and who had been chosen as the first who should reply to King Olaf. But when he would begin to speak such a cough seized him, and such a difficulty of breathing, that he could not bring out a word, and had to sit down again.
Then another bonde stood up, resolved not to let an answer be wanting, although it had gone so ill with the former: but he stammered so that he could not get a word uttered, and all present set up a laughter, amid which the bonde sat down again. And now the third stood up to make a speech against King Olaf’s; but when he began he became so hoarse and husky in his throat, that nobody could hear a word he said; he also had to sit down.
There was none of the bondes now to speak against the king, and as nobody answered him there was no opposition; and it came to this, that all agreed to what the king had proposed. All the people of the Thing accordingly were baptized before the Thing was dissolved.
Part 27 (62) – Erling Skjalgson’s Wooing
King Olaf went with his men-at-arms to the Gula-Thing; for the bondes had sent him word that they would reply there to his speech. When both parties had come to the Thing, the king desired first to have a conference with the chief people of the country; and when the meeting was numerous the king set forth his errand: that he desired them, according to his proposal, to allow themselves to be baptized.
Then said Olmod the Old, “We relatives have considered together this matter, and have come to one resolution. If you think, king, to force us, who are all related together, to do such things as to break our old law, or to bring us under yourself by any sort of violence, then we will stand against you with all our might: and be the victory to him to whom fate ordains it. But if you, king, will advance our relations’ fortunes, then you shall have leave to do as you desire, and we will all serve you with zeal in your purpose.”
The king replied, “And what do you propose for obtaining this agreement?”
Then answered Olmod, “The first is, that thou will give your sister, Astrid, in marriage to our Erling Skjalgson, whom we look upon as the most hopeful young man in all Norway.”
King Olaf replied that this marriage appeared to him also very suitable, “as Erling is a man of good birth, and a good-looking man in appearance: but Astrid herself must answer to this proposal.”
Thereupon the king spoke to his sister and she said, “It is but of little use that I am a king’s sister, and a king’s daughter, if I must marry a man who has no high dignity or office. I wish, rather, to wait a few years for a better match.”
Thus ended the conference.
Part 28 (63) – Hordaland Baptized
King Olaf took a falcon that belonged to Astrid, plucked off all its feathers, and then sent it to her. Then Astrid asked, “Is my brother angry?” And she stood up, and went to the king, who received her kindly, and she said that she would leave it to the king to determine who she married.
“I think,” said the king, “that I must have power enough in this land to raise any man I please to high dignity.”
Then the king ordered Olmod and Erling to be called to a conference, and all their relations; and the marriage was set and Astrid was betrothed to Erling.
Thereafter the king held the Thing, and recommended Christianity to the bondes; and as Olmod, and Erling, and all their relations, took upon themselves the most active part in forwarding the king’s desire, nobody dared to speak against it; and all the people were baptized, and adopted Christianity.
Part 29 (64) – Erling Skjalgson’s Wedding
Erling Skjalgson had his wedding in summer, and a great many people were assembled at it. King Olaf was also there, and offered Erling an earldom.
Erling replied thus: “All my relations have been herses and officers only, and I will take no higher title than they have; but this I will accept from you, my king: that you make me the greatest of that title in the country.”
The king consented and, at his departure, the king invested his brother-in-law Erling with all the land north of the Sognefjord, and east to the Lidandisnes, on the same terms as Harald Fairhair had given land to his sons.
Part 30 (65) – Raumsdal And Fjord-districts Baptized
The same harvest, King Olaf summoned the bondes to a Thing of the four districts at Dragseid, in Stad, and there the people from Sogn, the Fjord-districts, South More, and Raumsdal, were summoned to meet. King Olaf went there with a great many people who had followed him from the eastward, and also with those who had joined him from Rogaland and Hordaland. When the king came to the Thing, he proposed to them there, as elsewhere, Christianity, and, as the king had such a powerful host with him, they were frightened. The king offered them two conditions, either to accept Christianity, or to fight. But the bondes saw they were in no condition to fight the king, and resolved, therefore, that all the people should agree to be baptized. The king proceeded afterwards to North More, and baptized all that district.
He then sailed to Lade, in Trondheim and ordered the temple there razed to the ground, first taking all the ornaments and all property out of the temple, and from the gods in it, and, among other things, the great gold ring which Jarl Haakon had ordered to be made, and which hung on the door of the temple; and he then had the temple burnt. But when the bondes heard of this, they sent out a war-arrow as a token through the whole district, ordering out a warlike force, and intended to meet the king with it. In the meantime King Olaf sailed with a war force out of the fjord along the coast northward, intending to proceed to Halogaland, and baptize there. When he came north to Bjarnaurar, he heard from Halogaland that a force was assembled there to defend the country against the king.
The chiefs of this force were Harek of Thjotta, Thorer Hjort from Vagar, and Eyvind Kinrifa. Now, when King Olaf heard this, he turned about and sailed southwards along the land; and when he got south of Stad proceeded at his leisure, and came early in winter all the way east to Viken.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:
‘A.D. 997. This year went the (Viking) army about Devonshire into Severn- mouth, and equally plundered the people of Cornwall, North-Wales, and Devon. Then went they up at Watchet, and there much evil wrought in burning and manslaughter. Afterwards they coasted back about Penwithstert on the south side, and, turning into the mouth of the Tamer, went up till they came to Liddyford, burning and slaying everything that they met. Moreover, Ordulf’s minster at Tavistock they burned to the ground, and brought to their ships incalculable plunder. This year Archbishop Elfric went to Rome after his staff.’
Part 31 (66) – Olaf Proposed Marriage To Queen Sigrid (circa 998)
Queen Sigrid in Vaster Gotland, who had for byname ‘the Haughty’, sat in her manse, and during the same winter messengers went between King Olaf and Sigrid to propose his courtship to her, and she had no objection; and the matter was fully and fast resolved upon.
Thereupon King Olaf sent to Queen Sigrid the great gold ring he had taken from the temple door of Lade, which was considered a distinguished ornament of great value. The meeting for concluding the business was appointed to be in spring on the frontier, at the Gaut river. Now, the ring which King Olaf had sent Queen Sigrid was highly prized by all men; yet the queen’s gold-smiths, two brothers, who took the ring in their hands, and weighed it and measured it, spoke quietly to each other about it, and in a manner that made the queen call them to her, and ask “what they smiled at?” But they would not say a word, and she commanded them to say what it was they had discovered. Then they said the ring is almost perfect, but false. Upon this she ordered the ring to be broken into pieces, and it was found to be tonstone plated in gold. Then the queen was enraged, and said that Olaf would deceive her in more ways than this one.
In the same year King Olaf went into Ringerike, and there the people also were baptized.
Part 32 (67) – Olaf Haraldson Baptized
Asta, the daughter of Gudbrand, soon after the fall of Harald Grenske, married again a man who was called Sigurd Syr, who was a king in Ringerike. Sigurd was a son of Halfdan, and grandson of Sigurd Hrise, who was a son of Harald Fairhair. Olaf, the son of Asta and Harald Grenske, lived with Asta, and was brought up from childhood in the house of his stepfather, Sigurd Syr.
Now when King Olaf Tryggvason came to Ringerike to spread Christianity, Sigurd Syr and his wife allowed themselves to be baptized, along with Olaf her son; and Olaf Tryggvason was godfather to Olaf, the son of Harald Grenske, who was then three years old. Olaf Tryggvason returned from thence to Viken, where he remained all winter. He had now been three years king in Norway.
Part 33 (68) – Meeting Of Olaf And Sigrid (circa 998)
Early in spring, King Olaf went eastwards to Konungahella to the meeting with Queen Sigrid, and, when they met, the business was considered about which the winter before they had held communication, namely, their marriage; and the business seemed likely to be concluded.
But when Olaf insisted that Sigrid should let herself be baptized, she answered, “I must not part from the faith which I have held, and my forefathers before me; and, on the other hand, I shall make no objection to your believing in the god that pleases you best.”
Then King Olaf was enraged, and answered in a passion, “Why should I care to have thee, an old faded woman, and a heathen jade?” and therewith he struck her in the face with his glove which he held in his hand, rose up, and they parted. Sigrid then said, “This slap will someday be thy death.”
The king set off to Viken, the queen to Vaster Gotland. Queen Sigrid had a skald in her court that had come to her from Angleland, and he sang:
The Saga of King Olaf Tryggvason and Queen Sigrid the Haughty
Queen Sigrid the Haughty sat proud and aloft
In her chamber, that looked over meadow and croft.
Why dost thou sorrow so?
The floor with tassels of fir was besprent,
Filling the room with their fragrant scent.
She heard the birds sing, she saw the sun shine,
The air of summer was sweeter than wine.
Like a sword without scabbard the bright river lay
Between her own kingdom and Norroway.
But Olaf the King had sued for her hand,
The sword would be sheathed, the river be spanned.
Her maidens were seated around her knee,
Working bright figures in tapestry.
And one was singing the ancient rune
Of Brynhilda’s love and the wrath of Gudrun.
And through it, and round it, and over it all
Sounded incessant the waterfall.
The Queen in her hand held a ring of gold,
From the door of Lade’s Temple old.
King Olaf had sent her this wedding gift,
But her thoughts as arrows were keen and swift.
She had given the ring to her goldsmiths twain,
Who smiled, as they handed it back again.
And Sigrid the Queen, in her haughty way,
Said, “Why do you smile, my goldsmiths, say?”
And they answered: “O Queen! if the truth must be told,
The ring is of copper, and not of gold!”
The lightning flashed o’er her forehead and cheek,
She only murmured, she did not speak:
“If in his gifts he can faithless be,
There will be no gold in his love to me.”
A footstep was heard on the outer stair,
And in strode King Olaf with royal air.
He kissed the Queen’s hand, and he whispered of love,
And swore to be true as the stars are above.
But she smiled with contempt as she answered: “O King,
Will you swear it, as Odin once swore, on the ring?”
And the King: “O speak not of Odin to me,
The wife of King Olaf a Christian must be.”
Looking straight at the King, with her level brows,
She said, “I keep true to my faith and my vows.”
Then the face of King Olaf was darkened with gloom,
He rose in his anger and strode through the room.
“Why, then, should I care to have thee?” he said,–
“A faded old woman, a heathenish jade!”
His zeal was stronger than fear or love,
And he struck the Queen in the face with his glove.
Then forth from the chamber in anger he fled,
And the wooden stairway shook with his tread.
Queen Sigrid the Haughty said under her breath,
“This insult, King Olaf, shall be thy death!”
Why dost thou sorrow so?
Henry of Wadsworth, the Longfellow
Part 34 (69) – The Burning of the Warlocks
Then the king proceeded to Tonsberg, and held a Thing, at which he declared in a speech that all the men of whom it should be known to a certainty that they dealt with evil spirits, or in witchcraft, or were sorcerers, should be banished forth of the land. Thereafter the king had all the neighborhood ransacked after such people, and called them all before him; and when they were brought to the Thing there was a man among them called Eyvind Kelda, a grandson of Ragnvald Rettilbeine, Harald Fairhair’s son. Eyvind was a sorcerer, and particularly knowing in witchcraft. The king let all these men be seated in one room, which was well adorned, and made a great feast for them, and gave them strong drink in plenty.
Now, when they were all very drunk, he ordered the house be set on fire, and it and all the people within it were consumed, all but Eyvind Kelda, who contrived to escape by the smoke-hole in the roof. And when he had got a long way off, he met some people on the road going to the king, and he told them to tell the king that Eyvind Kelda had slipped away from the fire, and would never come again in King Olaf’s power, but would carry on his arts of witchcraft as much as ever. When the people came to the king with such a message from Eyvind, the king was ill pleased that Eyvind had escaped death.
Part 35 (70) – Eyvind Kelda’s Death
When spring came King Olaf went out to Viken, and was on visits to his great farms. He sent notice over all Viken that he would call out an army in summer, and proceed to the north parts of the country. Then he went north to Agder; and when Easter was approaching he took the road to Rogaland with three hundred men, and came on Easter evening north to Ogvaldsnes, on Kormt Island, where an Easter feast was prepared for him. That same night came Eyvind Kelda to the island with a well-manned long-ship, of which the whole crew consisted of sorcerers and other dealers with evil spirits. Eyvind went from his ship to the land with his followers, and there they played many of their pranks of witchcraft.
Eyvind clothed them with capes of darkness, and so thick a mist that the king and his men could see nothing of them; but when they came near to the house at Ogvaldsnes, it became clear day. Then it went differently from what Eyvind had intended: for now there came just such a darkness over him and his comrades in witchcraft as they had made before, so that they could see no more from their eyes than from the back of their heads but went round and round in a circle upon the island.
When the king’s watchman saw them going about, without knowing what people these were, they told the king. Thereupon he rose up with his people, put on his clothes, and when he saw Eyvind with his men wandering about he ordered his men to arm, and examine what folk these were. The king’s men discovered it was Eyvind, took him and all his company prisoners, and brought them to the king. Eyvind now told all what he had done on his journey. Then the king ordered these all to be taken out to a skerry which was under water in flood tide, and there to be left bound. Eyvind and all with him left their lives on this rock, and the skerry is still called Skrattasker.
Part 36 (71) – Olaf And Odin’s Apparition
It is related that once on a time King Olaf was at a feast at Ogvaldsnes, and one eventide there came to him an old man very gifted in words, and with a broad-brimmed hat upon his head. He was one-eyed, and had something to tell of every land. He entered into conversation with the king, and, as the king found much pleasure in the guest’s speech, he asked him concerning many things, to which the guest gave good answers, and the king sat up late in the evening with him. Among other things, the king asked him if he knew who the Ogvald had been who had given his name both to the ness and to the house.
The guest replied, that this Ogvald was a king, and a very valiant man, and that he made great sacrifices to a cow which he had with him wherever he went, and considered it good for his health to drink her milk. This same King Ogvald had a battle with a king called Varin, in which battle Ogvald fell. He was buried under a mound close to the house; “and there stands his stone over him, and close to it his cow also is laid.” Such and many other things, and ancient events, the king inquired after. Now, when the king had sat late into the night, the bishop reminded him that it was time to go to bed, and the king did so. But after the king was undressed, and had laid himself in bed, the guest sat upon the foot-stool before the bed, and still spoke long with the king; for after one tale was ended, he still wanted a new one.
Then the bishop observed to the king, it was time to go to sleep, and the king did so; and the guest went out. Soon after the king awoke, he asked for the guest, and ordered him to be called, but the guest was not to be found. The morning after, the king ordered his cook and cellar-master to be called, and asked if any strange person had been with them. They said that, as they were making ready the meat, a man came to them, and observed that they were cooking very poor meat for the king’s table, whereupon he gave them two thick and fat pieces of beef, which they boiled with the rest of the meat. Then the king ordered that all the meat should be thrown away, and said this man can be no other than the Odin whom the heathens have so long worshipped; and added, “but Odin shall not deceive us.”
Part 37 (72) – The Thing In Trondheim
King Olaf collected a great army in the east of the country towards summer, and sailed with it north to Nidaros in the Trondheim country. From thence he sent a message-token over all the fjord, calling the people of eight different districts to a Thing; but the bondes changed the Thing-token into a war-token; and called together all men, free and unfree, in all the Trondheim land. Now when the king met the Thing, the whole people came fully armed. After the Thing was seated, the king spoke, and invited them to adopt Christianity; but he had only spoken a short time when the bondes called out to him to be silent, or they would attack him and drive him away. “We did so,” said they, “with Hakon, foster-son of Athelstan, when he brought us the same message, and we held him in quite as much respect as we hold you.”
When King Olaf saw how incensed the bondes were, and that they had such a war force that he could make no resistance, he turned his speech as if he would give way to the bondes, and said, “I wish only to be in a good understanding with you as of old; and I will come to where ye hold your greatest sacrifice-festival, and see your customs, and thereafter we shall consider which to hold by.” And in this all agreed, and, as the king spoke mildly and friendly with the bondes, their answer was appeased, and their conference with the king went off peacefully. At the close of it a midsummer sacrifice was fixed to take place in Maeren, and all chiefs and great bondes were to attend it as usual. The king was to be at it as well.
Part 38 (73) – Jarnskegge Or Iron Beard
There was a great bonde called Skegge, and sometimes Jarnskegge, or Iron Beard, who dwelt in Uphaug in Yrjar. He spoke first at the Thing to Olaf, and was the foremost man of the bondes in speaking against Christianity. The Thing was concluded in this way for that time: the bondes returned home, and the king went to Lade.
Part 39 (74) – The Feast At Lade
King Olaf lay with his ships in the river Nida, and had thirty vessels, which were manned with many brave people, but the king himself was often at Lade, with his court attendants. As the time now was approaching at which the sacrifices should be made at Maeren, the king prepared a great feast at Lade, and sent a message to the districts of Strind, Gaulardal, and out to Orkadal, to invite the chiefs and other great bondes. When the feast was ready, and the chiefs assembled, there was a handsome entertainment the first evening, at which plenty of liquor went round, and the guests were made very drunk. The night after they all slept in peace. The following morning, when the king was dressed, he had the early mass sung before him; and when the mass was over, ordered to sound the trumpets for a House Thing, upon which all his men left the ships to come up to the Thing.
When the Thing was seated, the king stood up, and spoke thus: “We held a Thing at Frosta, and there I invited the bondes to allow themselves to be baptized; but they, on the other hand, invited me to offer sacrifice to their gods, as King Hakon, Athelstan’s foster-son, had done; and thereafter it was agreed upon between us that we should meet at Maeren, and there make a great sacrifice. Now if I, along with you, shall turn again to making sacrifice, then will I make the greatest of sacrifices that are in use; and I will sacrifice men. But I will not select slaves or malefactors for this, but will take the greatest men only to be offered to the gods; and for this I select Orm Lygra of Medalhus, Styrkar of Gimsar, Kar of Gryting, Asbjorn Thorbergson of Varnes, Orm of Lyxa, Haldor of Skerdingsstedja;” and besides these he named five others of the principal men. All these, he said, he would offer in sacrifice to the gods for peace and a fruitful season; and ordered them to be laid hold of immediately. Now, when the bondes saw that they were not strong enough to make head against the king, they asked for peace, and submitted wholly to the king’s pleasure. So it was settled that all the bondes who had come there should be baptized, and should take an oath to the king to hold by the right faith, and to renounce sacrifice to the gods. The king then kept all these men as hostages who came to his feast, until they sent him their sons, brothers, or other near relations.
Part 40 (75) – Of The Thing In Trondheim
King Olaf went in with all his forces into the Trondheim country; and, when he came to Maeren, all among the chiefs of the Trondheim people who were most opposed to Christianity were assembled, and had with them all the great bondes who had before made sacrifice at that place. There was thus a greater multitude of bondes than there had been at the Frosta-Thing. Now the king let the people be summoned to the Thing, where both parties met armed; and, when the Thing was seated, the king made a speech, in which he told the people to go over to Christianity.
Jarnskegge replied on the part of the bondes, and said that the will of the bondes was now, as formerly, that the king should not break their laws. “We want, king,” he said, “that you should offer sacrifice, as other kings before you have done.” All the bondes applauded his speech with a loud shout, and said they would have all things according to what Skegge said. Then the king said he would go into the temple of their gods with them, and see what the practices were when they sacrificed. The bondes thought well of this proceeding, and both parties went to the temple.
Part 41 (76) – The Trondheim People Baptized
Now King Olaf entered into the temple with some few of his men and a few bondes and, when the king came to where their gods were, Thor, as the most considered among their gods, sat there adorned with gold and silver. The king lifted up his gold-inlaid axe which he carried in his hands, and struck Thor so that the image rolled down from its seat. Then the king’s men turned to and threw down all the gods from their seats and, while the king was in the temple, Jarnskegge was killed outside of the temple doors by the king’s men. When the king came forth out of the temple he offered the bondes two conditions, that all should accept of Christianity forthwith, or that they should fight with him. But as Skegge was killed, there was no leader in the bondes’ army to raise the banner against King Olaf so, they took the other condition, to surrender to the king’s will and obey his order. Then King Olaf had all the people present baptized, and took hostages from them for their remaining true to Christianity and he sent his men round to every district, and no man in the Trondheim country opposed Christianity, but all people took baptism.
Part 42 (77) – A Town In The Trondheim Country
King Olaf and his people went out to Nidaros and made houses on the flat side of the river Nida, which he raised to be a merchant town, and gave people ground to build houses upon. The king’s house he had built just opposite Skipakrok, and he transported thither, in harvest, all that was necessary for his winter residence, and had many people about him there.
Part 43 (78) – King Olaf’s Marriage
King Olaf appointed a meeting with the relations of Jarnskegge, and offered them the compensation or wergild for his bloodshed, for there were many bold men who had an interest in that business. Jarnskegge had a daughter called Gudrun; and at last it was agreed upon between the parties that the king should take her in marriage. When the wedding day came King Olaf and Gudrun went to bed together and Olaf took her virginity.
As soon as Gudrun thought the king was asleep, she drew a knife, with which she intended to run him through; but the king saw it, took the knife from her, got out of bed, and went to his men, and told them what had happened. He had the naked Gudrun by the wrist and he threw her out of his room and then threw her clothes out after her, and she ran off with all her men who had followed her there, dressing herself as she went. Gudrun never slept in the king’s bed again.
(998) The next spring, King Sweyn and Jarl Eirik returned to Angleland and occupied the Isle of Wight on the south coast and, from there, attacked Southampton and Winchester. When they were in Lydford the previous fall they had captured maternal relatives of King Athelred and were using information forced from them to prepare an assault on the former capital of Angleland. The king’s government had been moved from Winchester to London, as it was the only city large enough and strong enough to withstand an attack from the Viking army. King Sweyn once more returned to Denmark to lead the merchant fleet east, leaving Jarl Eirik in charge of the legions as they ravaged the Dorset, Hampshire and Sussex countrysides. The cities would be sacked in the fall so that the enslaved could be trained as slaves and concubines over winter.
Part 44 (79) – Building Of The Ship Crane (circa 998)
The prior autumn King Olaf had laid the keel of a great long-ship out on the strand at the river Nida. It was a snekkja or dragon ship, and he employed many carpenters upon her, so that early in winter the vessel was ready to be fitted out with gear. It had thirty benches for rowers, was high in stem and stern, but was not broad. The king called this ship Tranen or the Crane and it was ready in the spring. After Jarnskegge’s death his body was carried to Yrjar, and lies there in the Skegge mound on Austrat.
Part 45 (80) – Thangbrand The Priest Goes To Iceland (circa 997-998)
When King Olaf Tryggvason had been two years king of Norway, there was a Saxon priest in his house who was called Thangbrand, a passionate, ungovernable man, and a great man-slayer; but he was a good scholar, and a clever man. The king would not have him in his house on account of his misdeeds; but gave him the errand to go to Iceland, and bring that land to the Christian faith. The king gave him a merchant vessel and he landed first in Iceland at Austfjord in the southern Alptfjord, and passed the winter in the house of Hal of Sida. Thangbrand proclaimed Christianity in Iceland, and on his persuasion Hal and all his house people, and many other chiefs, allowed themselves to be baptized, but there were many more who spoke against it.
Thorvald Veile and Veterlide the skald composed a satire about Thangbrand, but he killed them both outright. Thangbrand was two years in Iceland, and was the death of three men before he left it.
Part 46 (81) – Of Sigurd And Hauk (circa 998)
There was a man called Sigurd, and another called Hauk, both of Halogaland, who often made merchant voyages. One summer they had made a voyage westward to England; and when they came back to Norway they sailed northwards along the coast, and at North More they met King Olaf’s people. When it was told the king that some Halogaland people were come who were heathen, he ordered the steersmen to be brought to him, and he asked them if they would consent to be baptized; to which they replied, no. The king spoke with them in many ways, but to no purpose. He then threatened them with death and torture, but they would not allow themselves to be moved. He then had them laid in irons, and kept them in chains in his house for some time, and often conversed with them, but in vain.
At last, one night they disappeared, without any man being able to conjecture how they got away. But about harvest they came north to Harek of Thjotta, who received them kindly, and with whom they stopped all winter and were hospitably entertained.
Part 47 (82) – Of Harek Of Thjotta
It happened one good-weather day in spring that Harek was at home in his house with only a few people, and time hung heavy on his hands. Sigurd asked him if he would row a little for amusement. Harek was willing; and they went to the shore, and drew down a six-oared skiff; and Sigurd took the mast and rigging belonging to the boat out of the boat-house, for they often used to sail when they went for amusement on the water. Harek went out into the boat to hang the rudder. The brothers Sigurd and Hauk, who were very strong men, were fully armed, as they were used to gong about at home among the peasants. Before they went out to the boat they threw into her some butter-kits and a bread-chest, and carried between them a great keg of ale. When they had rowed a short way from the island the brothers hoisted the sail, while Harek was seated at the helm; and they sailed away from the island.
Once the two brothers got underway, they went aft to where Harek the bonde was sitting, and Sigurd said to him, “Now you must choose one of these conditions, first, that we brothers direct this voyage; or, if not, that we bind you fast and take the command; or, third, that we kill you.” Harek saw how matters stood with him. As a single man, he was not better than one of those brothers, even if he had been as well armed; so it appeared to him wisest to let them determine the course to steer, and bound himself by oath to abide by this condition. On this, Sigurd took the helm, and steered south along the land, the brothers taking particular care that they did not encounter people.
The wind was very favourable; and they kept on sailing along until they came south to Trondheim and to Nidaros, where they found the king. Then the king called Harek to him, and in a conference desired him to be baptized. Harek made objections; and although the king and Harek talked over it many times, sometimes in the presence of other people, and sometimes alone, they could not agree upon it.
At last the king said to Harek, “Now you may return home, and I will do you no injury, partly because we are related, and partly that you may not have it to say that I caught you by a trick, but know for certain that I intend to come north next summer to visit you Halogalanders, and you all shall then see if I am not able to punish those who reject Christianity.”
Harek was well pleased to get away as fast as he could. King Olaf gave Harek a good boat of ten or twelve pair of oars, and let it be fitted out with the best of everything needful, and then he gave Harek thirty men, all lads of mettle, and well appointed.
Part 48 (83) – Eyvind Kinrifa’s Death
Harek of Thjotta went away from the town as fast as he could, but Hauk and Sigurd remained in the king’s house, and both took baptism. Harek pursued his voyage until he came to Thjotta. He sent immediately a message to his friend Eyvind Kinrifa, with the word that he had been with King Olaf, but would not let himself be cowed down to accept Christianity. The message at the same time informed him that King Olaf intended coming to the north in summer against them, and they must be at their posts to defend themselves. It also begged Eyvind to come and visit him, the sooner the better.
When this message was delivered to Eyvind, he saw how very necessary it was to devise some counsel to avoid falling into the king’s hands. He set out, therefore, in a light vessel with a few hands as fast as he could. When he came to Thjotta he was received by Harek in a most friendly way, and they immediately entered into conversation with each other behind the house. When they had spoken together but a short time, King Olaf’s men, who had secretly followed Harek to the north, came up, and took Eyvind prisoner, and carried him away to their ship. They did not halt on their voyage until they came to Trondheim and presented themselves to King Olaf at Nidaros.
Eyvind was brought up to a conference with the king, who asked him to allow himself to be baptized, like other people, but Eyvind decidedly answered he would not. The king still, with persuasive words, urged him to accept Christianity, and both he and the bishop used many suitable arguments; but Eyvind would not allow himself to be moved. The king offered him gifts and great fiefs, but Eyvind refused all. Then the king threatened him with tortures and death, but Eyvind was steadfast. Then the king ordered a pan of glowing coals to be placed upon Eyvind’s belly, which burst asunder.
Eyvind cried, “Take away the pan, and I will say something before I die,” which also was done. The king said, “Wilt thou now, Eyvind, believe in Christ?”
“No,” said Eyvind, “I can take no baptism, for I am an evil spirit put into a man’s body by the sorcery of Fins because in no other way could my father and mother have a child.” With that died Eyvind, who had been one of the greatest sorcerers, or so the king’s bishop would have us believe.
When King Sweyn returned to Angleland in the fall, all the preparations for an assault on Southampton and then Winchester had been made by Jarl Eirik and the legions. Trebuchets had been set up around the walls of Southampton and Sweyn brought shiploads of tonstone from Sweden. Once the assault commenced, it took mere days for the city walls to be reduced to scalable heights and the Vikings were over them in the first wave and the city was plundered and slavers were loading the women into ships at one end of the city while there was still fighting going on in the other. Half the city was enslaved and put aboard the slaver ships and they sat in the harbour for three days while ransoms were arranged for people wealthy enough to be saved.
Next, the Viking army moved inland against the people of Winchester and all the government people were long gone for London because the Anglish all knew that their capital was doomed to fall. Only the poor were left there to await their fates so, when the city fell, there were few ransoms paid for the half that was enslaved. After three days, the captives became slaves and they were marched to Southampton where they waited for the slaver ships to return from Kiev to take them away as well. Even with the thousands of Anglo-Saxons that were being taken away by the Hraes’, there were still independent slaver fleets that were ravaging the coasts of Ireland and Friesland and Brittany. Only the coasts of Normandy were safe and only because the Normans were Hraes’.
The Danes and the Norwegians returned to Denmark for Yule and King Sweyn had a special announcement before the festivities began. He had asked Queen Sigrid to be his wife and she had accepted his proposal. They had been lovers for a few years and now decided to get married while Sigrid was still young enough to have children with Sweyn. Many thought that she was already too old to bear children, but Sigrid knew better.
Jarl Sigvald and his wife Astrid were the first to show up for festivities and Astrid was welcomed by her sister Gunhild. The previous Yulefest, Astrid had smuggled their step-mother, Queen Thora, into Roskilde in the body of a large harp that had been gifted to King Sweyn by King Burizleif of Poland, but Denmark was becoming unsafe for her so, the sisters had arranged passage for her into Lade, in Norway. Thora knew she would be sent back to Poland if discovered in Denmark and she had been to Lade before so, that is where she had asked the sisters to send her. So a small ship manned by Jomsvikings was arranged to discretely take her up the coast to Lade, where she was to live anonymously.
King Olaf Skotkonung arrived in Roskilde the first day of Yule and gave his mother, the bride, to King Sweyn of Denmark and a great alliance between the two countries began that day. The ceremony was kept short because Queen Sigrid was throwing up in the mornings.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for that year read:
‘A.D. 998. This year coasted the (Viking) army back eastward into the mouth of the Frome, and went up everywhere, as widely as they would, into Dorsetshire. Often was an army collected against them; but, as soon as they were about to come together, then were they ever through something or other put to flight, and their enemies always in the end had the victory. Another time they lay in the Isle of Wight, and fed themselves meanwhile from Hampshire and Sussex.
Part 49 (84) – Halogaland Made Christian (circa 999)
The spring after, King Olaf fitted out and manned his ships, and commanded himself his ship the Crane. He had many and smart people with him; and when he was ready, he sailed northwards with his fleet past Bryda, and to Halogaland. Wheresoever he came to the land, or to the islands, he held a Thing, and told the people to accept the right faith, and to be baptized. No man dared to say anything against it, and the whole country he passed through was made Christian. King Olaf was a guest in the house of Harek of Thjotta, who was baptized with all his people. At parting, the king gave Harek good presents and he entered into the king’s service, and got fiefs, and the privileges of lendsman from the king.
Part 50 (85) – Thorer Hjort’s Death
There was a bonde, by name Raud the Strong, who dwelt in Godey in Salten fjord. Raud was a very rich man, who had many house servants, and likewise was a powerful man, who had many Fins in his service when he wanted them. Raud was a great idolater, and very skillful in witchcraft, and was a great friend of Thorer Hjort. Both were great chiefs. Now, when they heard that King Olaf was coming with a great force from the south to Halogaland, they gathered together an army, ordered out ships, and they too had a great force on foot. Raud had a large ship with a gilded head formed like a dragon, which ship had thirty rowing benches, and, even for that kind of ship, was very large. Thorer Hjort had also a large ship. These men sailed southwards with their ships against King Olaf, and as soon as they met gave battle.
A great battle there was, and a great fall of men, but principally on the side of the Halogalanders, whose ships were cleared of men, so that a great terror came upon them. When the chieftains fled, Olaf and his forces attacked them at their homes and killed them and took all the large great ships he could find and he added them to his fleet.
King Olaf baptized the whole people of Halogaland and then sailed southwards along the land; and on this voyage happened much and various things, which are set down in tales and sagas, namely, how witches and evil spirits tormented his men, and sometimes himself; but it was rather written about what occurred when King Olaf made Norway Christian, or in the other countries in which he advanced Christianity. The same autumn Olaf with his fleet returned to Trondheim, and landed at Nidaros, where he took up his winter abode.
(999) When King Sweyn and Jarl Eirik returned to Angleland in the spring, they led their fleets to the Isle of Sheppey at the mouth of the Thames and occupied the island and sacked the villages there and enslaved half the people. Slaver ships had accompanied the fleets to Angleland and after three days they took the unransomed to Denmark where they would be held until the great merchant fleet assembled in Roskilde harbour to take them to the slave markets in the east. Their slave training would be scant and their value diminished but the eastern markets were booming and the fresh faces would fetch good prices anyway. Gold and valuables were to be plundered over the summer and, in the fall, the people of Angleland would again be sought and enslaved and sent off to Kiev for training over the winter. King Sweyn had bragged to his retinue back in Denmark a decade earlier that he would take Angleland from King Athelred within four years, but it had become far more profitable to drag out the defeat of Athelred ‘the Unready’ and plunder Angleland for the Hraes’ Trading Company and their land of Gardar in the east.
Once Sheppey had been secured, King Sweyn took Jarl Eirik and a small warfleet to Ipswich to visit with Princess Gyda and beef up her forces there. Although Ipswich was in the Danelaw and not directly under the control of King Athelred, the city was close to the Saxons of Sussex and could easily be attacked by the Anglo-Saxons of London. Sweyn spent a week with Gyda while Jarl Eirik worked on bolstering the city defenses and one night, after they’d had sex, Gyda asked Sweyn, “Is Jarl Eirik of a male sex persuasion, because I see him looking at other men.”
“I think he just admires other warriors strengths,” Sweyn answered, not wanting to tell her of his own Band of Brothers relationship with Eirik. But Gyda watched Eirik watching other men and she knew he was of that persuasion and she started to place great trust in Eirik and feel secure when she was around him. He was gentler and kinder than the other princes she had met and she liked it. King Sweyn left another two regiments of Hraes’ troops in Ipswich and then they returned to Sheppey.
When they got back, a fine new great longhall had just been completed for King Sweyn and he invited Eirik to join him in the new master suite the first night. They had maintained the Band of Brothers relationship the witch Hallveig had initiated between them and after they had made love with each other Sweyn told him that he thought Gyda trusted him. “We shall be trying a new strategy this summer and I’m worried that Ipswich may be attacked once our army returns to Denmark over the winter.”
“What is our new strategy that could so endanger the Danelaw?”
“I want to attack and withdraw, plunder and leave, bloody Athelred’s nose, but not knock him out of the game. If he were to fall in battle, who knows what king the Anglish would appoint to replace him?”
“Perhaps someone more warlike?”
“Exactly, but by not crushing their army, they will develop a false courage and perhaps be emboldened to attack the Danelaw, starting with Ipswich, so I am considering leaving a full legion in Ipswich over the winter to counter this.”
“And you wish me to command the legion while you return to rule Denmark?”
“Princess Gyda trusts you and feels comfortable with you around,” Sweyn explained. “And I do as well.”
“Can I give it some thought?”
“Of course,” Sweyn replied, and he stroked Eirik’s cheek and he kissed him warmly.
King Sweyn led the fleet up the Thames and they attacked London from their ships, using trebuchets to launch Greek Fire into the city and keep the London fyrds busy manning walls and fighting fires while Jarl Eirik led a force up the Medway River and laid siege to the city of Rochester. The city was surrounded by an old Roman wall that had been upgraded for modern catapults but not for trebuchets so, the walls were quickly reduced to scalable heights and King Sweyn came back down with his fleet for the final assault. The city fell quickly and was sacked in the Roman fashion with half the people enslaved but with many ransomed. Gold and valuables were plundered and slaver ships arrived to transport the slaves to Denmark. When an Anglish army approached from London, the Danes abandoned the city and returned to the Isle of Sheppey.
King Sweyn asked Jarl Eirik to keep an eye on Princess Gyda and Ipswich while he was gone off to lead the great merchant fleet east and he gave him permission to visit her from time to time. Then he sailed off in his shieldship with the slaver fleet to Roskilde. Over the summer the Anglo-Saxons were busy building a fleet of ships to attack the Danes on the island, but every time they got ready to set out, something always came up to delay them, and this happened several times while the Danes freely raided throughout Kent. When the Anglish fleet finally came down the Thames to attack the Danes, Jarl Eirik followed his instructions and led the Danish fleet out to sea. Half crossed the Anglish Sea to Normandy and Jarl Eirik led the other half to Ipswich and resumed work on the city’s defenses. And Princess Gyda watched Eirik as he watched his men work and she knew he was of ‘the male’ persuasion and she became very casual with him over a series of visits.
Part 51 (90) – Halfred Vandredaskald Baptized
As King Olaf one day was walking in the street some men met him, and he who went the foremost saluted the king. The king asked the man his name, and he said Halfred.
“Are you the skald, Halfred?” said the king.
“I can compose poetry,” he replied.
“Will you adopt Christianity, and come into my service?” asked the king.
“If I am baptized,” he answered, “it must be on one condition, that you yourself will be my godfather; for I will have no other.”
The king replied, “I can do that.”
And Halfred was baptized, the king holding him during the baptism.
Afterwards the king said, “Will you now enter into my service?”
Halfred replied, “I was formerly in Earl Haakon’s court; but now I will neither enter into your nor into any other service, unless you promise me it shall never be my lot to be driven away from you.”
“It has been reported to me,” said the king, “that you are neither prudent nor obedient and not likely to fulfil my commands.”
“In that case,” replied Halfred, “put me to death.”
“You are a skald who composes difficulties,” said the king; “but into my service, Halfred Vandredaskald, you shall be received.”
Halfred said, “if I am to be named ‘the difficult skald’, what toothing gift do you give me, king, on my name-day?”
The king gave him a sword without a scabbard, and said, “Now compose me a song upon this sword, and let the word sword be in every line of the strophe.”
Halfred sang thus:
“This sword of swords is my reward.
For him who knows to wield a sword,
And with his sword to serve his lord,
Yet wants a sword, his lot is hard.
I would I had my good lord’s leave
For this good sword a sheath to choose:
I’m worth three swords when men use,
But for the sword-sheath now I grieve.”
Then the king gave him the scabbard, observing that the word sword was wanting in one line of his strophe.
“But there instead are three swords in one of the lines,” says Halfred.
“That is true,” replied the king.
Out of Halfred Vandredaskald’s lays were taken the most true and faithful accounts that were related in the Saga of Olaf Tryggvason.
Part 52 (91) – Thangbrand Returns From Iceland (circa 999)
The same harvest Thangbrand the priest came back from Iceland to King Olaf, and told the ill success of his journey; namely, that the Icelanders had made lampoons about him; and that some even sought to kill him, and there was little hope of that country ever being made Christian.
King Olaf was so enraged at this, that he ordered all the pagan Icelanders in Lade be put to the sword, but Kjartan, Gissur, and Hjalte, with the other Icelanders who had become Christians, went to him, and said, “King, you must not fall from your word that however much any man may irritate you, you will forgive him if he turn from heathenism and become Christian. All the Icelanders here are willing to be baptized; and through them we may find means to bring Christianity into Iceland: for there are many amongst them, sons of considerable people in Iceland, whose friends can advance the cause; but the priest Thangbrand proceeded there as he did here in the court, with violence and manslaughter, and such conduct the people there would not submit to.”
The king harkened to those remonstrances; and all the Iceland men who were there were baptized, many under threat of sword.
Part 53 (92) – Of King Olaf’s Feats
King Olaf was more expert in all exercises than any man in Norway whose memory is preserved to us in sagas; and he was stronger and more agile than most men, and many stories are written down about it.
King Olaf could run across the oars outside of the vessel while his men were rowing the Serpent.
He could play with three daggers, so that one was always in the air, and he took the one falling by the handle.
He could walk all round upon the ship’s rails, could strike and cut equally well with both hands, and could cast two spears at once.
King Olaf was a very merry frolicsome man; gay and social; was very violent in all respects; was very generous; was very finical in his dress, but in battle he exceeded all in bravery.
He was distinguished for cruelty when he was enraged, and tortured many of his enemies. Some he burnt in fire; some he had torn in pieces by mad dogs; some he had mutilated, or cast down from high precipices.
On this account his friends were attached to him warmly, and his enemies feared him greatly; and thus he made such a fortunate advance in his undertakings, for some obeyed his will out of the friendliest zeal, and others out of dread.
Part 54 (93) – Baptism Of Leif Erikson (circa 999)
Leif, a son of Erik the Red, who first settled in Greenland, came this summer from Greenland to Norway; and as he met King Olaf he adopted Christianity, and passed the winter with the king.
Part 94 – Fall Of King Gudrod (c. 999)
Gudrod, a son of Eirik Bloodaxe and Gunhild, had been ravaging in the west countries ever since he fled from Norway before the Earl Haakon. But the summer before mentioned, where King Olaf Tryggvason had ruled four years over Norway, Gudrod came to the country, and had many ships of war with him. He had sailed from Angleland; and when he thought himself near to the Norway coast, he steered south along the land, to the quarter where it was least likely King Olaf would be. Gudrod sailed in this way south to Viken; and as soon as he came to the land he began to plunder, to subject the people to him, and to demand that they should accept of him as king.
Now as the country people saw that a great army was come upon them, they desired peace and terms. They offered King Gudrod to send a Thing-message over all the country, and to accept of him at the Thing as king, rather than suffer from his army; but they desired delay until a fixed day, while the token of the Thing’s assembling was going round through the land. The king demanded maintenance during the time this delay lasted. The bondes preferred entertaining the king as an honoured guest, by turns, as long as he required it; and the king accepted of the proposal to go about with some of his men as honoured guests from place to place in the land, while the rest of his men remained to guard the ships.
When King Olaf’s relations, Hyrning and Thorgeir, heard of this, they gathered men, fitted out ships, and went northwards to Viken. They came in the night with their men to a place at which King Gudrod was living as a guest, and attacked him with fire and weapons; and there King Gudrod fell, and most of his followers. Of those who were with his ships some were killed, some slipped away and fled to great distances; and now were all the sons of Eirik Bloodaxe and Gunhild dead.
When King Sweyn returned from Baghdad, he stopped first in Ipswich and spent some time with Gyda and their children. Once again, when they were in bed together, Gyda mentioned that she believed Jarl Eirik was of ‘the male’ persuasion and Sweyn asked her, “Would it bother you if he was?” to which she answered, “No. I think I find it reassuring that he is.” to which Sweyn replied, “Try not to be too surprised if you find that he is not.”
When King Sweyn returned to the Isle of Sheppey he invited Jarl Eirik into his master suite for some wine and Khazar Vayar and then they had sex together. “I think Gyda likes you,” Sweyn told him afterwards. “She talks about you.”
“What does she say about me?”
“She says you are of ‘the male’ persuasion.”
“I guess I am, in a way, but I have wives too! Have you told her that?”
“I was going to, but she finds it reassuring that you are of ‘the male’ persuasion and it makes her feel more friendly towards you so, I didn’t say anything one way or the other. Have you thought about overwintering with the legion in Ipswich?”
“I have and I will,” Eirik responded.
Jarl Eirik had been busy while Sweyn was in Baghdad. He had been raiding the whole of Kent all summer and had taken much plunder, but now it was time to take care of business. The combined warfleet of the Danes and Norwegians sailed up the Thames and was finally met by the fleet King Athelred had built and equipped in London. A short sea battle was fought upon the waters of the river and when half the Anglish ships had their decks cleared of men the rest retreated back to safety before the walls of London. Then the Vikings sailed back down the Thames with half the Anglish ships added to their own and attacked the Island of Thanet and sacked the towns along the coast, enslaving half the people and sending them off east in slaver ships. After Thanet was laid waste, the Viking army worked its way up the coast of the mainland to the Isle of Sheppey, plundering and enslaving the people as they progressed. Captives were transported to Sheppey and ransoms were arranged for all that could afford it after having been plundered and the rest were enslaved and held pending the return of more slave ships.
During a lull in the fighting, Sweyn and Eirik returned to Ipswich and visited with Princess Gyda. She personally served the men their ale and mead on the highseats and joined them to hear how things were going in Kent. Jarl Eirik completed some final touches to the defenses of Ipswich and King Sweyn hired carpenters to begin building barracks in which the Kievan legion would overwinter. Sweyn then told Gyda that Jarl Eirik would be in charge of the legion while it stayed in Ipswich and that he would be overwintering in their longhall for added security. Gyda was pleased to hear it because her winters had been lonely without Sweyn there and she felt comfortable trusting Eirik.
When Sweyn and Eirik got back to Sheppey some slaver ships were already back from Kiev and soon began loading up the slaves of Kent. A steady stream of knars sailed in from the Anglish Sea and took away thralls by the thousands. King Sweyn took his Danish legion and followed them and sailed off to overwinter in Denmark and Jarl Eirik gathered up his Kievan legion and sailed for Ipswich.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:
‘A.D. 999. This year came the army about again into the Thames, and went up thence along the Medway to Rochester; where the Kentish army came against them, and encountered them in a close engagement; but, alas! they too soon yielded and fled; because they had not the aid that they should have had. The Danes therefore occupied the field of battle, and, taking horse, they rode as wide as they would, spoiling and overrunning nearly all West-Kent. Then the king with his council determined to proceed against them with sea and land forces; but as soon as the ships were ready, then arose delay from day to day, which harassed the miserable crew that lay on board; so that, always, the forwarder it should have been, the later it was, from one time to another; — they still suffered the army of their enemies to increase; — the Danes continually retreated from the sea-coast;– and they continually pursued them in vain. Thus in the end these expeditions both by sea and land served no other purpose but to vex the people, to waste their treasure, and to strengthen their enemies.’