Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert
CHAPTER TWENTY SIX
KING SWEYN ATTACKS ANGLELAND (Circa 1003-1006 AD)
23. The mighty maidens, they ground amain,
Strained their young limbs of giant strength;
the shaft tree quivered, the quern toppled over,
the heavy slab burst asunder.
Anonymous; Grottasongr, Prose Edda (Hollander)
(1003) In the early spring King Sweyn returned to Ipswich to collect his Kievan legion there and he left commander Gudmund in charge of Jarl Pallig’s Jomsvikings and he left Hearse Justin in charge of the two thousand man local fyrd. Jarl Eirik had already sailed on to the Isle of Wight with the Danish mobile legion and new cataphract legion and he began setting up for the summer. When King Sweyn arrived with the Kievan legion they left the Danish legion on Wight and took the other two west along the coast until they fell upon the town of Exmouth on the estuary of the River Exe again and they crushed it. All the people were enslaved and ransoms were not accepted. Slaver ships were there to take the townfolk away and the place was burned to the ground and the town just disappeared off the face of the earth. Weiand came sailing down the River Exe and he had news of Exeter and places further inland. He had overwintered in Devonshire with his half-brothers there and they’d had one mission and that was to find where King Athelred had relocated his mint and to find out where they were storing his silver for the mint.
“There’s a new Jarl Pallig in Exeter,” Weiand told King Sweyn, “and his name is Jarl Hugh and he’s Norman.”
“What the hell is a Norman doing in Exeter?” Sweyn asked him.
“King Athelred attacked the Normans before Yule and his army got its asses handed back to them,” Weiand started. Sweyn had heard that much but the Welsh smith got to the quick of it real fast. “He’s offered Duke Richard the same deal he was going to give Jarl Pallig. Exeter and all parts west are to go to Normandy for the defense of southern Angleland, and he’s begged the forgiveness of Queen Emma for his slaughter of the Danes in Angleland.”
“This Athelred’s as slippery as an eel,” Sweyn replied. “Did you find his mint?”
“It’s still in Lydford,” Weiand said, “but he keeps his silver in Taunton now. He’s rebuilt the town and strengthened the walls and he has a small citadel in the center that protects his silver. I guess we should have knocked down the walls when we had the chance.”
“Don’t worry,” King Sweyn told him. “From now on we’ll be knocking down all the walls!”
And, true to his word, Sweyn had his trebuchets set up in front of the city of Exeter’s main gate and walls and the Hraes’ legions began knocking them down a foot at a time. Soon Jarl Hugh sent a request for a parlee. A pavilion was set up just out of bow range on the road into the city and King Sweyn and Jarl Eirik offered Jarl Hugh some of his own fine Frankish wine along with Hraes’ Khazar Vayar and Anglish wafers. “I have been ordered to withdraw from Exeter and return to Normandy,” Jarl Hugh said.
“Why the sudden change of heart?” Jarl Eirik asked.
“I’m not sure I follow,” Hugh replied. “I’ve just been ordered to withdraw. I was told Exeter was not worth fighting over.”
“Duke Richard is not defending the coast?” Eirik asked.
“I wouldn’t know,” Hugh answered. “I’m under the personal command of Queen Emma of Normandy. I seek your word that our Norman force may sail away in peace if we turn the city over to you.”
Eirik looked over to Sweyn for a nod, then said, “You have our word.”
Then Sweyn added, “We’ll be sacking the city for three days before enslaving its citizens. Because of your Danish heritage I invite you to join us for three days of plundering and feasting as long as whatever plunder you gather goes to Queen Emma of Normandy for distribution as she sees fit.”
“I don’t think it would be fitting for Queen Emma to accept such an offer,” Jarl Hugh said, “but it would be presumptuous of me to assume such, so, I’ll accept the offer on her behalf.”
Fifteen thousand Danes and five thousand Norwegians entered the city at noon and joined the five thousand Norman troops already within the walls and they began raping and pillaging the thirty thousand citizens of Exeter. No one was spared, no one was ransomed. The men were beaten and many were raped and then they went straight onto slaver knars and after that the feasting began. The matrons of Exeter prepared and served the feasts while their daughters were being raped in their homes and the slavers went about gathering up the children. All the gold and silver and valuables that had been accumulated since the last sacking of Exeter were gathered up and relative portions were given to King Sweyn, Jarl Eirik and Queen Emma for distribution to their respective peoples. Once the three days were up all the matrons and women and girls of Exeter were loaded into slaver knars and the Normans retired to their ships and returned to Normandy with their share of plunder. Then the Hraes’ set fire to every building in the city that would burn and they unleashed their trebuchets upon the city walls until Exeter was completely leveled. They recovered all their tonstone shot and returned it to the ballast of their ships and they sailed up the River Exe, plundering and burning every town and village that they found as they headed for the walled town of Taunton.
Jarl Eirik had already sacked most of them several years before, but the Saxons were industrious, if nothing else, so they went to Pennsylvania town and then to the villages of Netherexe, Upexe and Tiverton and they raped and burned and pillaged, but this time they burned the houses and churches and estates. They laid waste to everything in their path and they sent out their heavy cavalry and cataphracts, sans armour, to raid the rich farms and estates on either side of the river for many miles inland. A steady stream of slaver knars took all the villagers and townsfolk south down the river to Exmouth where they were being loaded up into sea going knars. The warfleet then sailed up the Lyman River to Wellington and down the Tone River to Taunton. They laid siege to the walled city and began reducing the west wall using their trebuchets. After a few days of ballistae assault, the wall was nearing scalable height and a note was found attached to a stone that had been tossed from the battlements at the soldiers below. Jarl Eirik was addressed on the cover in both miniscule font and runic inscription, so, it was taken to the Norse Jarl and it said:
“Palely and flamily,
we ignite beneath the skins
we were bagged in at birth.
Waxen and bathetic
we are St. Sebastians
of pointing fingers.
We wring our hands,
with the posture of martyrs.
No god watches
This night at first watch
as we wait at east gate
for the Norse Jarl of Posey.
“It could be a trap,” Sweyn warned Eirik.
“Or it could be a way into the city,” Eirik replied. “It was written by Devon. She knows it is my favourite part of her poem. I’ll take a troop of cavalry and they can wait in the woods while I check the east gate.”
“You’re sweet on those two,” Sweyn laughed.
“Those two, you see, are sweet on me!” Eirik responded. “They both ride on me, so very, very, sweetily!”
Eirik rode with his troop of horse to the woods east of east gate and he rode out into the darkness at midnight with two spares and his girls were there and they got up upon the horses and they rode to the woods with their Jarl. Eirik took them back to his Viking camp and Sweyn met with them in Eirik’s pavilion. “This is Devon and this is Balwit of Taunton,” Eirik told the king, “and they have an offer for us.”
“If you spare our friends and families,” Devon gulped, “we will let you in the town at dawn, but only if all lives are spared where possible.”
“Our people will be forced to die fighting,” Balwit added, “by the wealthy of our town to protect the king’s silver as well as their own.”
“How many are we talking of sparing?” Sweyn asked in a very business-like manner.
“Perhaps a hundred?” Devon said, pleadingly.
“Very well,” Sweyn said. “A thousand it is, but you and your sister will have to choose who remains free.”
“The girls also wish to accompany me to the Isle of Wight and to Ipswich,” Jarl Eirik said. “They want me to take them to Lade and to Sweden to meet Queen Aud. They wish to learn in our scriptoriums there.”
“Who you hire for your scriptoriums is totally up to you and Queen Aud,” Sweyn said, “but I read their note, their fragment of poetry, and I, for one, would like to read more of their work!” And Sweyn left the threesome in the pavilion.
“I have missed you two so…” Eirik said as he led the young girls to his bed.
So, at dawn, Eirik and his poets led his five thousand Norwegians into the opened east gate of Taunton and they secured the streets and headed straight for the silver citadel and they caught the guards by surprise and they entered the silver storeroom without a fight. Eirik and Devon and Balwit stood together in the center of the tower and there were bars of silver in stacks all around them as high as a man. “I shall see that you girls get a few of these each,” Eirik said, squeezing them under his arms, “and more than just a few if you are good!”
The Norwegian troops secured the town gates and opened them up to the legions without and the citizens of Taunton woke up to Viking warriors in their streets. The houses were cleared of their inhabitants and the people were herded through the streets to the town square. Devon and Balwit were led into the square by Jarl Eirik and he announced that one thousand people would be ransomed and nine thousand would be enslaved and that the two girls would pick the one thousand. The people that had, for the past few years, branded them as Viking lovers and Viking whores for the time they had spent with Eirik the last time Taunton was sacked cast down their heads and didn’t even try to be picked. The people that had shaved their heads and burned their books and poems and songs stayed at the back of the throng, and the girls families stepped forward first and were followed by their friends and there weren’t a hundred amongst them so Devon and Balwit let their parents choose some and they let their friends pick others and soon the family’s butcher and his kin were amongst them and the family’s baker and her kin and they began picking who they’d need for a smaller nicer town and there were no rich amongst that lot and when they’d hit a thousand, the rest were hauled off to the slaver knars.
Half the town was burned and the citadel and stone walls were knocked down by the thousand citizens of New Taunton. Then Eirik and Devon and Balwit led the fleet back east along the River Tone and then south down the River Exe until they got to the smouldering remains of Exeter. Jarl Eirik set up his pavilion in front of the ruins and entertained his two girls of Taunton while King Sweyn and Weiand led a cavalry regiment west to Lydford and the mint there. The town offered no resistance and the guards were soon smoked out of the minting fortress and Weiand and Sweyn stood once more in the stone keep and saw there just about as much silver coin in sacks that had been there last time, but there were far fewer bars of silver on hand. They loaded the silver up on legionary supply wains and Sweyn found the one coin mould that he had marked last time and he showed Weiand the line he had gouged in it last time and this time he used a small seax to gouge a second line opposite it. “If they reopen the mint,” he said, “then we’ll learn about it by monitoring the coins in circulation.”
The fleet sailed from Exeter east along the southern coast of Angleland and, as they sailed past towns and villages on the coast, King Sweyn would send out ships from his fleet to sack them, so many ships for this size of village, and so many ships for that size of town, and always slaver knars followed them to take away all the people and the Danes burned all the buildings. All civilization along the coast suddenly ceased to exist. There was minimal loss of life, but only because there was maximum loss of freedom. When they landed at Wight, the Kievan legion there was champing at the bit to be set loose upon Hampshire across the sound from them. They had been raiding the Hampshire countryside to gather intel and to keep their wits about them but they wanted to ravage Southampton. King Sweyn said, “We have a special relationship with Southampton,” and he asked his Exeyes officers if the people of Southampton had at all participated in Athelred’s Saint Brice’s Day Massacre and they told him that the intel they had gathered said no, so, it was decided that Southampton would be occupied and roughed up a little but would be spared and Exeyes officers would lead the legions with whatever cavalry forces they required to determine which cities towns and villages had participated in the massacre and to what levels. As the legions moved inland, it became apparent that Southampton had only refrained from participating in the massacre due to their close proximity to an annual Viking stronghold, for all the towns had participated in the extermination to varying degrees of bad to worse to hell on earth. Jarl Eirik wanted to document the calamities for his sister Aud so, he had brought his two Devon girls along on the campaign to write down the reports of the Exeyes officers first-hand.
Jarl Eirik’s officers chided him that he’d brought them along just to fock them so, he refrained from doing that and had his officers bring him the two finest girls that they captured each day instead and his officers realised that they had just focked themselves as they deposited their Hampshire beauties at his pavilion doors each night. Devon and Balwit were busy with their vellums full of testimonies and they learned to ignore the cries of their fellow Saxon women. “It’s not as though you’re likely to find virgins amongst these Hampshire girls,” Devon said with contempt. “They’d have to find twelve year olds to find virgins here,” Balwit agreed. One night, Eirik’s officers deposited two beautiful young twelve year old virgins at the pavilion doors, but Devon and Balwit refused to allow Eirik to touch them and they slept with their jarl instead. Then they took the young girls under their wings and gave them jobs preparing vellums for them.
The girls learned to ignore a lot as the legions progressed north through Hampshire, and the terrible testimonies they recorded helped them in that regard. The Vikings sacked Eastleigh, Winchester, Basingstoke, Andover and then Salisbury before meeting any resistance beyond local fyrds and all the time they were followed by slaver knars working their way up rivers and creeks behind them and then working their ways down again, loaded with captives that had not been allowed ransom. The rich were already gone off to London and those with horse and cart were packed up and fleeing north. Once again, only the poor were left to be enslaved but they were worth the same in Baghdad and Constantinople, rich or poor.
In Wiltshire, just past Salisbury, an army had been raised from the fyrds of Hampshire and Wiltshire, over thirty thousand men at arms, led by Ealdorman Elfric out of the London fyrds. King Sweyn had his officers mark out the field of battle with hazel poles and when the Saxon army formed up at their end of it, Earl Elfric rode upon his horse in front of them and began to rouse them with speech but soon began to wretch violently and he vomited on his horse’s mane and withdrew himself from the field of battle. Sweyn became concerned that the whole army might leave the battleground before the fight even began so, he sent his legion of cataphracts against them in one great charge of five thousand knights against thirty thousand foot. The Saxon shieldwall wavered before the charge of the armoured horse and the arrows of the Anglish archers bounced off the mail of the men and the scale of the horse and many men dropped their shields and ran from the horse and the cataphracts bowled through the remaining forces as if they weren’t there and then they turned and charged them from the rear and more men fled towards the main Danish army and others just threw down their weapons and surrendered and waited to be bent over their shields.
The heavy horse of the mobile legions rode out of the flanks and used their new nets to capture the fleeing soldiers and they were dragged back to the field of battle and were kept separate from those that had surrendered on the field. Those that fled beyond the hazel poles were forfeit and could be killed by pursuing cavalry or foot, but the Hraes’ found significant value in trained soldiers sold to the eunuch armies of the east so, they developed improved methods for their capture and lassoes and nets were a part of that initiative. But in this battle, so few had captured so many that it was difficult for the Danes to bend all the surrendered soldiers over their shields. Some of the knights had already bent three or four Anglish soldiers over their shields and had focked them from behind and they were having difficulty getting it up anymore so, they brought in rams from the local fields and they used them to accept the surrenders of the forfeit soldiers, those that had fled the field. The Anglish rams had stamina but even they were tanking as more deserters were being returned by the cataphracts and heavy cavalry. Some of the cavalrymen began lassoing male goats and bringing them back with the captives and the goats were found to have the greatest stamina of all and the captured soldiers were being bent over their shields and focked by billy goats and wagers were being let on whose goat could come in the most Anglish soldiers before running out of semen. Officers joked that the Anglish soldiers had just joined the ranks of the nithes and some Danish soldiers were even found forcing Anglish soldiers at sword point to fock the ewes that were starting to wander onto the field of battle. Things were getting out of hand as the afternoon progressed, but the Danish jarls let it go on because Anglish troops had participated in the massacre, especially in the Danelaw, and some of the knights had regained their stamina and had stripped themselves naked in the afternoon sun’s warmth and were tearing the clothes off the Anglish captives before ploughing them a deep furrow over their shields. It had turned out to be a very short battle but a very long and drawn out surrender. When the rams and goats were finally sated, the Anglish soldiers were allowed to redress, and then they were marched into Salisbury, which was still being sacked, and they were lined up on the sidewalks of the roads that ran down to the river and while they awaited slaver knars they got to watch the women of Salisbury being raped in the streets.
The men of Salisbury had already been hauled off to Wight in slaver knars and the soldiers soon followed and then the women and children of Salisbury were shipped off and the city was burned to the ground. Then the legions headed of to Wilton and then Warminster and they sacked and burned those towns as well. Ships kept arriving at the Isle of Wight from all over Scandinavia full of troops and warriors from Hraes’ and Finland and Sweden and Norway and Denmark and even some from Normandy. Ships came from Dublin and Scotland and the Orkneys and the Hebrides and even from Iceland and Greenland. Countries that had converted to Christianity just recently or even long ago still had plenty of angry Aesir to fill up ships with and they came to help King Sweyn punish the Anglish for their crimes. And everywhere that the Danish legions went, the Anglish hounds and terriers were clubbed senseless and were half buried in the streets and the heavy horse and cataphracts rode over them until they were maimed and mangled and choked on their own blood and they were left there, dead or dying, in the streets of towns that were burned to the ground.
All summer, Angleland was ravaged, but King Athelred stayed behind the walls of London with the numerous fyrds there. Ealdorman Elfric had returned to London with harrowing tales of the hard-fought battle in Wiltshire and all the Earls and Ealdormen found reasons to stay in London as well. All the wealthy had locked themselves up in London and were sitting on their gold there and the economy suffered as if a plague had struck the land and the plague was called the Norsemen.
The Danes under King Sweyn Forkbeard had been attacking Angleland for over a decade, but there had always been some sense and pattern to his attacks. Roman rules of combat and plunder had more or less been followed and towns and cities were always left with half their populations and ransoms were encouraged that further reduced depopulation, but, since the Saint Brice’s Day Massacre, the Danish attacks had taken on a more violent aspect and whole civic populations were being enslaved and ransoms were not being allowed. Entire cities and towns were being laid waste, burned to the ground, and their peoples were being transported east for sale in the slave markets of Baghdad. And King Athelred and his councillors were being blamed for this, for ordering the massacre in the first place. Through a comforting fog of liquor and whores, King Athelred came to the conclusion that things, at the very least, had to be returned to where they were at before the ill advised massacre was implemented. One of his more rational councillors suggested that King Sweyn was likely most angry with the murder of two of his wives in Ipswich, no matter what the king’s spies had claimed they’d been up to. They’d been found sleeping with King Sweyn’s officers after he had returned to Denmark, but this could very well be a normal Viking thing and the king would mourn his wives all the same.
This same councillor suggested that perhaps his new wife, Queen Emma, being of Danish heritage, could meet with King Sweyn and broker a peace or at least a de-escalation between the two kings. King Athelred immediately seized upon the idea as if it were his own. Queen Emma was a pawn in his court and he couldn’t even remember the last time they had talked, let alone had focked. He had messengers sent to the Isle of Wight to see if King Sweyn would meet with Queen Emma in Southampton to discuss a truce. Sweyn agreed to meet the queen and a date was set and hostages were exchanged to ensure the queen’s safety and she sailed by ship out of London and arrived in Southampton towards the end of summer. She was escorted by Hraes’ legion Exeyes officers to the Hraes’ palace in the city and she could see that the local Anglish citizens seemed to be getting on well with the Danes there.
“Thank you for coming,” King Sweyn said from his highseat as she was shown to the guest highseat on the other side of the hall. Her retainers were seated at benches on either side of her triple highseats as were Sweyn’s officers on his side of the hall. They were about twenty Roman feet across from each other and servants came and offered the queen Frankish sparkling wine and Khavayar on wafers, which she accepted politely.
“Thank you for agreeing to see me,” Queen Emma started, and then she got right to the point in Danish that was passable. “I’ve been sent to broker some semblance of peace between you and King Athelred.”
“Your husband?” Sweyn asked.
“Yes. My husband, King Athelred.”
“You speak of him,” Sweyn said in her native French, “more as your king than your husband. Are you sure you are his wife, Queen Emma?”
“Quite sure,” she replied in French. “All too sure. My marriage was arranged by my brother, Duke Richard. It is a marriage of convenience only.”
“I know,” Sweyn continued in French. “I remember seeing you in Richard’s court in Rouen once. You were just a sweet young girl then. Now you have grown to be a fine young woman!”
“I didn’t think you’d remember me,” she responded. “You were visiting with your dashing Jarl Ole at the time. Whatever became of him?”
“He became a prince in Angleland and then he moved on to become a king in Norway.” Sweyn didn’t elaborate on how Jarl Olaf’s reign had ended.
But Emma knew all about the Battle of Svolder and Olaf’s end and she was glad that Sweyn hadn’t gloated over his victory there. “Your French is very good,” Emma said. “As a child I just assumed everybody spoke French so, your French back then didn’t impress me at all, but it certainly does now. Where did you learn to speak it so fluently?”
“In Tmutorokan,” Sweyn said, dans la Francais, “in southern Hraes’.”
“Oh, I know where Tmutorokan is,” Emma said. “How is your grandfather, Prince Hraerik?”
“He’s doing remarkably well for how old he is getting,” Sweyn answered, a little surprised at how knowledgeable the young queen was turning out to be. “I’m surprised you know of him.”
“The brother of my great grandfather, Duke Rollo? Why wouldn’t I know of him? We’re all children of King Hraegunar Lothbrok! Normandy is still the western end of the Hraes’ Trading Company, is it not?” and she picked her plate of Khavayar up off the arm of her highseat and she strolled, glass of wine in hand, across the twenty Roman feet between them and her long brown hair swayed with her hips and her green eyes flashed as she gestured with pouting red lips at his highseat and Sweyn slid over a bit and said, “We have a new Hraes’ station in Iceland.” He watched her breasts as she came up the steps and then he watched her ass as she swung it around to sit down.
“Iceland?” she laughed. “The land of fire and ice? We have Paris, the city of love!” and she sat down beside him and she offered him a wafer of Khavayar off her plate. “Now, what must I do,” she started, switching back to her Danish, “to broker peace between you and King Athelred?”
“I have already withdrawn my cataphract legion to the Isle of Wight,” Sweyn started and Emma jumped in excitedly, “You have a legion of cataphracts? Can I see them?”
“You’d have to come with me to the Isle,” Sweyn said.
“I love knights and cataphracts!” Emma exclaimed. “My brother, Richard, has two cataphract legions! Your father, King Ivar ‘the Boneless’, gave him his first one. Well, not to my brother, but to our father, Duke Richard, to protect him when he was just a boy.”
“I remember the story,” Sweyn laughed. “Young Richard called him Gold Harald, because the legion was rented from the Romans and was costing a fortune in gold.”
“I remember that story too!” Emma agreed. “He called him Hagrold for short!” and they both broke out laughing. “When can we go?”
“I have a late lunch planned for you, and we can go right after that.”
So, food was brought into the hall and after they ate Emma asked Sweyn if he could put up her retinue in the Hraes’ hall and she just wanted to take two personal bodyguards with her and go to Wight in King Sweyn’s shieldship. When they got to the harbour at Wight, Emma could see the Viking Fortress and it was crafted in the Danish fashion of a circular earthen berm, a ring fort, capped with a wooden stockade around the top and a deep ditch down around the outer perimeter. Many of the Anglish town’s and villages had wooden palisades around them instead of proper stone walls and most of the cities still used the stone walls that the Romans had built hundreds of years earlier.
“It’s a temporary fortress,” Sweyn explained. “A military post only.” He knew what she’d been thinking so, she said, “I know. It’s a Roman ring fort of the Scythian steppes. I wasn’t expecting a Norman stone castle!” But she had been hoping.
When they got inside the walls things just got worse. The roads were sawn half logs to keep down dust and the longhalls were grouped in squares of four. The fortress was huge, but everything was highly flammable and not very defensible against a protracted siege. But Sweyn’s longhall was huge, twice the dimensions of the rest in all directions and it had a second floor over parts of it. There was a parade square of dirt across the road from Sweyn’s hall and the cataphracts were soon forming up for Queen Emma’s inspection. The knights were well armoured and they wore red silk shirts over their mail and the shirts had white piping around the seams to reinforce them and lines of white piping across their chests to simulate laminar armour. Their helmets were round and worked to a point at the top, with flip down faceguards and red and white feathered plumes that fell down from the peaks. Their shields were of the kite design that Sweyn had invented and the four quadrants alternated between the red and white colours of the legion, Roman blood red and silk white. The horse were well armoured as well, with plate on their faces and forelocks and scale mail down their sides, and they were big horses, eastern offspring of Belgians and Percherons, to bear the weight of all the armour.
“Your colours are the opposite of the Hraes’ Trading Company colours,” Emma said as they watched the tattoo from the elevated entrance porch of Sweyn’s highseat hall. The rowers of the Hraes’ warships wore white silk shirts with red piping on the seams, but the two colours were identical. “It is a Hraes’ legion, my queen,” Sweyn said, somewhat gallantly. Once the legion had paraded past the hall, Pecheneg trick riders followed and rode full bore while leaping out of their saddles, holding their pommels, and hitting the ground to bounce back up into their saddles and repeat the same manoeuvre on the other flank of the horse. The legion’s horse archers then rode across at full speed shooting arrows at knights holding round shields as they rode in an opposite direction across the back of the square. A few bait and run tactics completed the late afternoon tattoo and King Sweyn and Queen Emma retired into the hall to discuss matters.
“That is the legion I’ve already pulled from the field,” Sweyn offered. “It seemed overkill considering the Anglish resistance we’ve been facing.”
“I don’t think any nation could face up to the Hraes’ cataphracts,” Emma agreed. “The horse armour precludes the use of sarissas or pikes to hold them at bay.”
“Oh, the Romans can and the Persians can and soon the Caliphate will,” Sweyn told her. “My son, Prince Valdamar, and I took a legion just like this one into the Roman Empire to help the two young Caesars there and we won our battle and we won the hand of the Emperors’ sister, Princess Anna Porphyrogennetos, for my son and they’ve been married just over a decade now.”
“Do they have children?” Emma asked, excitedly.
“My son has had four children by Anna, and another eleven hundred and ninety six by his other wives.”
“Oh my god!” said Emma. “How many wives does he have?”
“Anna is his queen and he has another eight queen consorts and he has seven hundred concubine wives in estates around Kiev.”
“I have estates around Normandy, but I don’t have any children,” Emma said sadly.
“Perhaps King Athelred will help you with that,” Sweyn said, then he got down to business. “I want the Danelaw kept neutral and I want Jarl Olaf’s holdings in Northumbria passed on to his successor in Norway, Jarl Eirik of Lade, under the same freedoms and conditions King Athelred gave Olaf. I have two mobile legions in southern Angleland that I could withdraw as a sign of good faith, but I have many more Viking groups that have taken over estates and villages that will be there until fall. They volunteered from all over Scandinavia to come and help punish your king for his massacre of Danes. They’ll be returning home for the winter and most of them won’t be back next year.”
“Again,” Emma began, “I want to apologize for what King Athelred did. He was ill-advised by his councillors and had been drinking and whoring for a week. It’s no excuse, but I can barely express how sorry I am for the evil he has wrought.”
“Well, I can’t stop all the vengeance,” Sweyn replied, “but I can temper it. You can tell your king that henceforth we will follow the Aesir and Roman laws of war and plunder as we had been doing prior to the massacre.” Sweyn didn’t tell her that he had hit his quota for slaves for the year and that any more captives threatened to collapse slave pricing in the east.
“Thank you! Thank you so much!” Emma said. “King Athelred thanks you as well for listening to his apology. Perhaps some day you will be able to forgive him.”
That evening, as they had a final supper before Emma was to return to Southampton, a storm moved in across the sound called ‘the Solent’ and it was named thus for the dangers posed when a storm arose. They went out on the porch and watched the storm above them. “You’ll have to stay the night,” Sweyn said. “I can’t put your life at risk taking you back. I’ll have a room prepared for you and benches for your bodyguards. They can keep watch outside your room for you. I’ll have a troop outside that they can call upon if they need assistance.”
“Emma looked out over the sound and lighting flashed and she recoiled from it and Sweyn caught her and then the thunder crashed and she trembled slightly and Sweyn held her for a second. “I’m sorry,” she said. “That caught me by surprise.”
They went back inside and had some evening aperitifs and a final taste of Hraes’ delicacies from the east. The storm pounded outside and rain and hail fell hard, as those inside celebrated small victories, but the day had been long and everyone retired early. “Please let me know if you require anything at all,” Sweyn told Emma as he showed her to her suite. It was at the start of the bedroom hall and near her officers’ benches and her two bodyguards were posted outside her doors as she closed them gently.
The storm got worse and Sweyn could feel the hall shake in his master suite and he couldn’t imagine Emma was getting any sleep, having been so startled by the lightning and thunder on the porch. He grabbed a magnum of Frankish wine and went to the doors of her room as her guards stood ready. He tapped on the door and he heard Emma getting up inside. She opened the door a crack and Sweyn said, “I couldn’t sleep because of the storm, so I brought this,” and he showed her the magnum, “and gifts for your officers,” and he nodded down the hallway. She let Sweyn in and he could see that she had quickly wrapped herself in a sultry blue silk sheet. “Come in,” she said, opening the door wider for Sweyn. He stepped inside and she popped her head out and looked down the hall past her officers and she saw two naked Anglish slave girls standing at the ends of each of the guards’ benches. The guards were looking at her fine form through the translucent silk as she checked the rest of the hall. ‘Pretty nice gifts,’ she thought as she dismissed her guards. “The king has gifted you for the night,” she added nodding down the hall and the guards took their eyes off her and followed her gaze to their benches. “Go,” she said, and they were gone like ghosts.
She stepped inside her room and locked the door behind her. There had been Khazar Vayar and fruit and wafers put on the end table beside her bed and she strode over to it in her sheet and invited Sweyn to come sit with her. She sat down at the edge of her bed and Sweyn sat at the chair beside the table and he poured her some wine. She sat with her legs just under her and off to one side and she adjusted her sheet and tucked the silks together just above her breasts and she reached for some wafers and buttered them up with Khavayar, her sheet threatening to fall away at any moment. Sweyn could not take his eyes off her and he watched her every movement. She passed Sweyn a wafer and their eyes met and he saw a longing within her as he took it. They both ate their wafers as they watched each other and just as they finished, a huge crash of thunder shook the hall and Emma’s sheet fell away and she looked as though to fall and Sweyn rose up and caught her again and she was naked in his arms.
He kissed her and kept kissing her as she tore at his bedclothes. They were both naked on the bed and Emma paused, then took Sweyn’s member into her mouth and began to suck it harder. When he was wet and good and hard, she laid back on the bed and pulled Sweyn on top of her. He entered her and began thrusting into her, gently at first, and then deeply and he sped up slowly as she wrapped her legs around his buttocks and she was soon moaning and squeezing his glutes with her calves and, as she was coming, Sweyn moaned “Emma” and thrust deeply then “Emma” and he thrust more and “Emma,” and thrust and “Emma” and he exploded within her and she squeezed him to draw him even further inside her and she squeezed every last pulse out of Sweyn.
Thunder had been peeling above them the whole time and they’d not noticed, so intense was their desire. Sweyn rolled off to the side and onto his back and they both laid beside each other, breathing heavily. “Wow,” Emma said. “So that’s what it feels like!”
“What?” Sweyn asked her, rising up on one arm and watching her breasts heave.
“An orgasm,” she said. “I’ve never had one.”
“I haven’t gone off like that in a long while,” Sweyn agreed, then he asked, “Hasn’t Athelred been…” and he paused, and she nodded for him to continue, “been pleasing you?”
“I haven’t been with him since the massacre,” she said, “but even before that he only wanted to mate once a month when his physician said it would make a son and then I made sure he was drunk and I wore a glove. A lady’s glove,” she said, putting her hand over her honey-well.
Sweyn didn’t quite follow. “If you want children, I think you have to forgo the glove.”
“I want children,” Emma said, “but Athelred drinks and whores down at the wharfs and he consorts with women who specialize in anal and I don’t think they are women. They are men who dress as women so Christian laws aren’t broken. I think Athelred may be diseased.”
Sweyn moved back just a bit, trying not to show his surprise.
“It’s okay,” she said. “I’ve always used a glove with him. The kind we sell for this at the Hraes’ store in Paris. It may be the city of love,” she said bitterly, “but it’s also the city of pestilence.”
“How do you know he’s diseased?”
“His whoring is known, even in Normandy, so, on our wedding night, I made sure he was drunk and I put my glove on as a precaution. I checked it the next morning, and if there’s green puss in there along with the come, I’m guessing there might be disease as well.”
“You can’t live like that!” Sweyn said.
“Once a month I check my glove and it’s always green. It’s been over a year now. I don’t know what his physician is doing, but I can’t ask. He’ll know I’m using a glove.”
“What if he wants to make love and he’s not drunk?”
Emma laughed, “When isn’t he drunk?” She even felt as though he made sure he was drunk so that he could bear focking her.
“Speaking of that,” Sweyn said, getting up and getting their wine glasses. “We forgot all about our magnum!” Thunder again rocked the building and Sweyn jumped into bed with Emma, who said, “And the thunder!” and she clutched Sweyn to her. They drank the wine in bed and talked some more until the wine was gone and they were both a little drunk and then Sweyn laid on his side and he said, “Move down a bit Miss! I’m taking a piss!” and he stuffed his penis into the empty magnum and began peeing into it. As he pissed, the displaced air burped out of the bottle a few times. “The Solent isn’t the only sound suffering from storms. There’s a tempest in this pee pot!” and they both laughed drunkenly. Emma hadn’t had fun since moving to Angleland and she was enjoying herself with Sweyn. “You can get away with that,” she said, “But a lady cannot. In the dressing room there’s a chamber pot,” and she got up naked and a little drunk and she swayed her way to the room and disappeared. Sweyn laid back and listened to her pee. He liked her sway and the way she’d shifted her cargo. When she stopped peeing he got back up on his elbow. He didn’t want to miss her return trip and he watched her breasts sway as she came back to the bed.
She fell on top of him as she got to the bed and he was already hard from watching her sway so, she climbed on his member and she rode it until she came and he was still hard so, she rode it again and once more came. “You didn’t explode!” she complained drunkenly.
“Can I sleep inside you?” he asked and she passed out in his arms. He pulled the silk sheets and a blanket over both of them and he went to sleep inside her.
Everything rose slowly the next morning because of the storm and when Sweyn rose, he was still inside Emma. She was still on her side beside him and he began thrusting into her gently until she started waking up. “I’ve never woken up like this,” she whispered and she began squeezing Sweyn inside her. He thrust in and out of her from the side and they were soon very excited and thrashing away until they both came. “That was different,” Sweyn whispered and he hugged Emma and stayed inside her and they drifted back to sleep for another hour.
Jarl Eirik was out waiting in the hall. The bodyguards told him they were indisposed and he didn’t want to disturb them so, he had servants take them in breakfast.
“Did you order this?” Emma asked Sweyn.
“It wasn’t me!” Sweyn said. “But let’s dig in! I’m starving!”
“Moi aussi!” Emma responded and they both realised that they had been talking in French all night long and Emma hugged Sweyn thankfully.
“What’s that for?” Sweyn asked, hugging her back.
“I’ve missed Normandy since my brother forced me to marry King Athelred,” Emma started, “but when I’m with you I don’t miss home anymore. I feel like we’ve been making love in Normandy this whole time!”
They got up and ate breakfast at the side table naked. “I love watching you,” Sweyn admitted. “Your every move, your every look. A part of me will go with you when you leave.”
“That’s sweet, Sweyn,” she said, “but I’ll be coming back. When Athelred asked me to come negotiate with you, I made him give me the city of Southampton to replace Exeter, which you destroyed.”
“I had to destroy Exeter,” Sweyn said. “Athelred used it as a bargaining tool with Jarl Pallig and then with Duke Richard. He was willing to give away Exeter and Cornwall to secure Angleland from our attacks.”
“He offered my brother Cornwall, but Richard wants more. He arranged my marriage with Athelred to seal the Cornwall deal, the ‘New Normandy’, but he wants my marriage with Athelred to open a path to the throne of all of Angleland. Angleland is the ‘New Normandy’.”
Sweyn stopped eating. He looked at Emma in disbelief. “I’m conquering Angleland,” Sweyn told her. “Then I’m conquering Rome!”
“That’s fine too! Richard’s willing to share. We’re all Danes here and we’re all Hraes’. We are all children of Hraegunar Lothbrok. It doesn’t hurt to approach the Anglish problem from a few different angles.”
“Why are you telling me this?” Sweyn asked Emma.
“Because I like you! You went to the trouble of including my people when you sacked Exeter. You didn’t have to do that. My own brother just handed me off to an alcoholic whoremongering king and I had to figure out what he was up to on my own. At least you gave me a share in the plundering of my own city.”
“You got your share, that’s good,” Sweyn said. “I was worried that Jarl Hugh might cut you out.”
“Yes, Jarl Hugh tallied the total value at twenty thousand pounds of silver of which half went to several of my estate treasuries and the rest was distributed among Hugh and the men according to plundering custom.”
“That sounds about right,” Sweyn confirmed.
“Thank you, Sweyn. Now, I realize that you are currently occupying Southampton, but I would like to take my plunder and plough it back into my new city. It wouldn’t look good if I profited from the sacking of Exeter. I would like to build a new stone cathedral in Southampton and to facilitate monitoring construction I’ll need a new palace here. So, I’d like to build a palace here first and then we’ll be neighbours and we’ll be able to visit each other often. But I’d like your word that you won’t sack my city again before I put money into stone edifices within it.”
“You have my word,” Sweyn said, like a boy caught stroking off. “I won’t sack your city.”
“Thank you, Sweyn,” she said, sliding naked off her chair and kneeling in front of him. She rested her elbows on his knees and her head on her forearms and she started to blow kisses at his cock.
“I was surprised when you went straight for my cock and started sucking me off,” Sweyn told her. “Where did you learn to suck cock like that? I’d heard it was a Frankish thing, but I thought that was just a story.”
“It is a Frankish thing, all right,” Emma said, “but I’m Norman and I’m Hraes’. I first read about it in your grandfather’s Norse translation of the Kama Sutra. We sell it in my Paris Hraes’ store.”
“So, that’s where you know of my grandfather from?”
“No,” she replied. “Your grandfather, Hraerik Bragi, is still famous in Paris, and in a good way, not like Hraegunar, who is still infamous there. The Viking and the Nun tale? Sister Saint Charles had a son by him, Baldwin of Flanders. Some of his sons and daughters still work for Hraes’ Trading, both in Normandy and Frankia.”
“I remember,” Sweyn said and he started kissing her head. “You’re beautiful,” he said, looking down at her, “but do go on.”
“Anyway, I read the Kama Sutra as a girl behind the counter of Richard’s Paris store and when I was fifteen I wanted to get a royal charter to open my own Hraes’ store in Paris, but I needed a personal charter approval from the king of Frankia because we are Hraes’ and the Franks still remember that Hraegunar Lothbrok sacked Paris, so Duke Richard, my father, took me to Paris to meet with the king to get my charter. The king took us into his private study and my father was called away. The king was sitting at his desk and he told me he would cut through a lot of bureaucracy if I would slip under his desk and give him head.”
“Did he know you were only fifteen?”
“Fifteen is three years older than marriageable age,” Emma said defensively. “Anyway, thank god I had read the Kama Sutra! I went around and slipped under his desk and unbuttoned his pants and I sucked him hard and then sucked him off. I was almost done when I heard my father come back into the study and he asked the king where I was. The king had just started coming in my mouth and I took my first swallow and his cock suddenly went limp and he told my father he’d already signed the document and that I’d left to go to the library. When my father left, the king told me I’d have to start all over so, I sucked him hard again and it took a lot of work and then I sucked him off and it was like he came twice in my mouth. I just kept swallowing and swallowing and I didn’t think he was ever going to stop flowing. Then he signed my charter and that’s how I got my first Hraes’ store.”
“Did your father ever find out?”
“Oh, no! He would have killed the king and that would have been very bad for us. Bad for everybody.”
“How many Hraes’ stores do you have?”
“I was getting to that,” Emma said. “When I wanted to get a royal charter for Orleans, I was sixteen and I left my dad at home. I met with the king in Paris and he wanted to fock me in his study this time and I told him it wasn’t possible, that I was a virgin and that a Hraes’ store in Orleans wasn’t as valuable as a Paris store so I told him I’d only give him a hand job. We negotiated and he settled for the original blow job, that’s what the Parisian whores call it…a this job or a that job, but it is their trade, so, it was back under the desk for me. We didn’t get interrupted this time so, he just had a normal flow that time. When I turned seventeen I wanted a third store in Marseille…”
“It’s an old Roman city in southern Frankia on the Mediterranean. I think it’s so old it’s named after the Roman god Mars.”
“Ah, Thor!” Sweyn said, stroking her hair.
“Yes, exactly, Thor!” she repeated. “I wanted Hraes’ stores from north to south across all Frankia so, I went to Paris again, but the king wanted to fock me again and he knew the value of a store in Marseille!”
“What exactly is the value of a store in Marseille?”
“Two rivers, one portage, and you’re all the way from Denmark to Rome! Our longships are built for it!”
Suddenly Sweyn saw why everyone called her Emma of Normandy, especially the Normans! Sweyn kissed her head hard.
“What was that for?”
“Oh, nothing. I think I just fell in love with you, but go on…”
“Well, thank you Sweyn. That’s so sweet!” and she put his hands back on her cheeks and went on. “I wanted Marseille and he knew why I wanted Marseille so he added, ‘It will take a lot of royal charters to get Viking ships sailing on Frankish rivers again so, you’d best get used to bending over my desk instead of sucking under it.’ And he was right so, I sucked him hard and I put a new Hraes’ glove on his cock, tied it off, oiled it up and I bent over his desk so he could take my flower from behind and the king of Frankia focked me while I bled all over his Hraes’ Persian carpet.”
“You focked the king of Frankia?” Sweyn said and he whistled through his teeth.
“I lost my virginity to the king of Frankia!” Emma added. “How many women can say that! We’re talking Paris here. You have to find a ten year old girl to find a virgin in that city!”
“You sound bitter!”
“I bent over for the king of Frankia and lost my virginity and when I got back to Rouen, the king of Angleland was there and my brother had just given him my hand. I didn’t even get to go to Marseille, let alone start a store there! Then, I had to make sure that Athelred got so drunk at our wedding he didn’t realize I wasn’t a virgin. I even cut myself to put some blood on the sheets!”
“Didn’t you tell Richard about your plan? It’s a great plan! He would have told Athelred to piss off!”
“He doesn’t tell me his plans or even ask me who I’d like to marry so, fock him! I could tell him I wanted to marry the king of Denmark and he wouldn’t care!”
“Do you want to marry the king of Denmark?” Sweyn asked.
“Why would I want to marry the king of Denmark when I can just sail across the Solent and fock him anytime I please? Besides, I think you’re my cousin twice removed or something. We’re far enough apart to breed but not far enough apart to marry.”
“By Christian standards. I’m Aesir! Marry me Emma!” Sweyn said, half joking, but three quarters serious.
“I’m already married!”
“Again, by Christian standards. Just say I divorce thee, Athelred, three times and you’re done with him!”
“I’ll tell you what I told King Robert when he asked me to marry him,” Emma said.
“The king of Frankia asked you to marry him?”
“Yes, and I told him I’d marry him when I saw dragonships on the Rhone!”
“Will dragonships on the Thames do?”
”It’s the Rhone or I’m goin’,” she answered and she got up to start packing her things. “Can I meet you out in the hall?”
“Sure, I’ll wait for you at the tables,” Sweyn said, and he got up, got dressed, grabbed his magnum of pee, and stood by the door and watched Emma dress and she looked at him demurely and he squeezed out the door. Eirik was waiting for him at one of the tables so, Sweyn walked over and sat across from him, putting his magnum in front of him. Eirik reached over for the magnum and Sweyn said, “Don’t drink it”. “Why not?” Eirik asked. “It’s bad.” “I don’t care.” “It’s pee! I pissed in it.” “You pissed in fine Frankish wine?” “I drank the wine, then I pissed it back into the bottle.” Eirik leaned forward and whispered, “I don’t care how many Christian queens you fock, that water ain’t turning back into wine!”
Sweyn leaned forward and said, “I don’t know how it happened, but I think Emma of Normandy has just retaken Southampton!”
“I’m not sure what you mean by retaken Southampton,” Eirik replied, “but I have a pretty good idea how it happened,” and he watched Queen Emma placing her bags outside the room Sweyn had just come from. Her bodyguards rushed up from their benches to gather up her bags and they carried them behind her as she walked regally to Sweyn’s table and Sweyn jumped up and asked, “Would you like anything before we leave?”
“I’m fine,” she said. “Will you walk me down to your ship?” She then added, “Good morning, Jarl Eirik,” even though it was after noon. Sweyn took her by the arm and they walked out of the highseat hall together.
Back in Southampton, King Sweyn provided Queen Emma with a personal attachment of officers that included Exeyes officers, Records officers, guards and two cataphract knights in full regalia. Emma took her officers wherever she went in the city and even out into the surrounding countryside where she bought an old quarry and a sand and gravel pit. She purchased the land across from the Hraes’ palace in the city and she had the damaged building that was on it demolished and removed. Sweyn found her some quarry stone on Wight that couldn’t be found anywhere on the mainland and she came out to Wight to visit with him and inspect it and she bought the quarry there as well. She hired a builder from nearby Portsmouth, mainly because she had seen his work and learned that the features of his that she liked had been designed by his wife, who worked with him a lot when she wasn’t pregnant. But she was pregnant a lot and Emma hoped some of it would rub off on her.
Back in London, Emma’s reports from the field arrived at about the same time that the benefits of her actions were being felt, and the effects of people no longer disappearing had an immediate ripple effect on the economy of the new capital, London, but the impact on upcoming harvests were not retroactively correctible so, a hard winter was upcoming. A few weeks in London and Emma discovered that she was with child. Athelred was a proud father to be and Emma was glad she had made it back to London just in time for their physician appointed sex.
In the fall, the Vikings left the Isle of Wight and Sweyn and Eirik spent a week in Ipswich with Princess Gyda and the children before Eirik took them north up the Anglish coast. He wanted to stop in and visit his Northumbrian holdings before sailing off to Norway and Lade. Sweyn sailed from Ipswich to Roskilde and he arrived there in time to meet the returning merchant fleet, ships from Baghdad and Constantinople and India. Some ships had even returned from Cathay, but they had been gone for two years. Sweyn prepared for Yule and he hoped celebrations would be lighter this year.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:
“A.D. 1003. This year was Exeter demolished, through the French
churl Hugh, whom the lady had appointed her steward there. And
the army destroyed the town withal, and took there much spoil.
In the same year came the army up into Wiltshire. Then was
collected a very great force, from Wiltshire and from Hampshire;
which was soon ready on their march against the enemy: and
Alderman Elfric should have led them on; but he brought forth his
old tricks, and as soon as they were so near, that either army
looked on the other, then he pretended sickness, and began to
retch, saying he was sick; and so betrayed the people that he
should have led: as it is said, “When the leader is sick the
whole army is hindered.” When Sweyne saw that they were not
ready, and that they all retreated, then led he his army into
Wilton; and they plundered and burned the town. Then went he to
Sarum; and thence back to the sea, where he knew his ships were.”
Also, in 1003, Queen Emma gave birth to a son she named Edward.
(1004) In the early spring, King Sweyn met Jarl Eirik and Princess Gyda in Ipswich. He had sent his legions on ahead to the Isle of Wight under commander Gudmund to set up for summer raiding, but he brought a small warfleet with him. Eirik had stopped in York on his way south and he got a promising report from the Kievan legion of Bamburgh Exeyes officers he had left there. His sister, Aud, had been doing some saga research for her scriptorium books and she had come across an interesting saga story about a mint in the town of Thetford in East Anglia. It had been built by King Alfred ‘the Great’ more than a century earlier and it had been raided by the Great Pagan Army in the mid-ninth century so, spies had been sent to the city of Norwich from York in the fall and they learned that the mint had been moved to the city itself for better security.
Once Princess Gyda and the children were settled into Ipswich, Jarl Eirik led five thousand Vikings and King Sweyn led a regiment of two thousand Danish heavy horse north back to the town of Yarmouth on the Anglish coast and they sacked the town and enslaved half the people. Ransoms were offered and many were released on payment of silver. Slaver knars took away the rest. While this was happening, the Viking army continued on up the River Yare to the city of Norwich and caught the Anglish by surprise and quickly took the city, all except for the central keep in which the mint was located. The citadel was surrounded and a siege took place within the city walls and trebuchets were brought into the streets and tonstone ballistae knocked down the gates and the sections of wall on either side of the gate towers and the Vikings stormed into the keep and soon were plundering the mint within. There were bars of silver and bars of gold stacked upon the floors and sacks of coins of both types stacked on shelves and the Norse began hauling the bullion down to their ships on the river. Then they enslaved half the population and, again, offered ransoms which were paid in silver and many were released. Slaver knars were in the process of transporting the rest away, when the commander of the army of East Anglia, Earl Ulfkytel, arrived with a force of five thousand foot from the fyrds of Anglia and surrounded the city walls, trapping all within.
The River Yare forked at Norwich and the River Wensum ran through the city and ran in front of the keep within it and that’s where all the longships sat along the bank before the keep, laden with gold and silver bars and coin. King Sweyn took his regiment of heavy horse outside the walls and offered to set up hazel poles for battle, but Ulfkytel had learned from citizens fleeing the city that there were another five thousand Viking foot within the walls so, Ulfkytel offered Sweyn a payment of silver and gold for peace for the raiding season to a sum equalling what was in the mint at that time, in other words, legally giving the Danes what they had already stolen. King Sweyn accepted the offer, but when he told Jarl Eirik, he was told they’d learned from the mint workers that there was still a mint in Thetford. It had not been moved, as had been surmised, but a new larger mint had been built in Norwich to handle the silver that was just recently being locally mined in the vicinity. The mint in Thetford only coined gold that had been mined in that area for hundreds of years.
King Sweyn sent messengers to Earl Ulfkytel stalling for time, telling him that the slaver knars were already loaded with the few that remained enslaved and the ships would have to be allowed to sail east to the coast with their cargoes. Earl Ulfkytel refused to allow this and it became a point of contention holding up the peace agreement. That night Eirik and his five thousand Vikings sailed up the River Yare under cover of darkness to go plunder the town of Thetford and the mint within. The river was growing too small for the longships but soon turned into a small lake that fed the River Tiffey at the other end so, they sailed into that river and it turned into another small lake that fed the River Thet that ran to Thetford, but it got too small again and the ships had to stop midstream. Jarl Eirik left a force to guard their ships and the Viking army marched all morning to the town.
Thetford had a high plank wall all around it but no army guarded it so the Vikings marched up and burned down the gate and wall and entered the town as the citizens were arising. There was a small stone building in the center of the town in which the mint had operated for over a hundred years but the two guards were asleep when the Vikings arrived and were bound and gagged. Eirik entered the building and he saw bars of gold stacked along one wall and sacks of coins on shelves along the opposite wall and in the center of the room stood one coin press. The citizens of the town were gathered up and the few mule drawn wains in the town were loaded up with gold and the people carried the rest in their arms and the army led them back towards their ships on the River Thet.
Earl Ulfkytel was awakened that morning to news that people had seen Viking ships rowing up the Yare to the west, many ships, in dawn’s light so, he roused his troops and left a force at Norwich with orders to shoot arrows at any slaver knars that attempted to leave the city, then set out west after the Viking army, marching along the River Yare. By the time they got to the small lake, Ulfkytel had a pretty good idea where they were going so, they just marched straight for Thetford. When they saw empty ships sitting midstream in the River Thet, Ulfkytel sent a small force to destroy them and they picked up the trail of the Viking army that had marched past on its way to Thetford and they followed it. Jarl Eirik and his men had just entered a large clearing when they saw Earl Ulfkytel and his fyrds entering it from the other side. Eirik had the people of Thetford set down the gold and he sent them back to their town. He had his men form up a shieldwall, as did Ulfkytel and they marched at each other across the clearing and clashed in the middle.
They fought for two hours in that field and soon so many men had fallen that the shield walls melted into individual battles quite similar to the fighting that raged across the decks of ships and Eirik led his Vikings in the type of warfare they excelled at. Earl Ulfkytel was on horseback directing his troops and Eirik led a group of his champions in a deck clearing excursion towards the earl and the Anglish troops started to fall back to protect their earl and they were slowly driven from the field into the woods and then they fled.
Jarl Eirik had his men load up the dropped gold onto the wains till they were overloaded and they helped the mules along until they got to where they’d left their ships, but they were gone. They followed the river to the small lake and they saw their men who had been left to guard them sitting on them in the middle of the lake while Anglish archers were shooting arrows at them occasionally. When the archers saw the Viking army they ran off into the woods and Eirik soon had the gold loaded aboard his ships and they returned to Norwich with their wounded.
“It was the hardest fighting I’ve come across in Angleland,” Jarl Eirik told Sweyn as they walked through the city together. “Almost as hard as Svolder. No, not nearly as hard as Svolder, but, Earl Ulfkytel put up a hard fight before we drove him from the field.”
“I’m glad you’re safe,” Sweyn said. “You expose yourself to too much, brother, and I worry about you.”
“When I die, I want to die in battle.”
“Valhalla can wait,” Sweyn replied. “I need you here with me.”
“Thanks for letting me cut loose at Svolder,” Eirik responded. “You must have been shitting yourself for me at that one!”
“That I was!” Sweyn said. “You exposed yourself far too much, but you had first right to revenge. Olaf killed your father and brother!”
“Still, thank you for allowing me to lead the charge. Olaf did stab you in the back and he took your legion.”
“I let him take my legion,” Sweyn reminded him. “Now it’s in Bamburgh under your command and its Exeyes officers located these fine mints for us to sack! So, in gaining King Athelred’s love and trust, Jarl Olaf did us a great favour. He was a slave, after all, quite used to bending over for his many masters as a boy. Perhaps he took a knee for Athelred to get our legion here. We can at least thank him for that.”
“Yes, perhaps. And we may even want to thank him for driving our pagan Norwegians out of Norway to Iceland. Many of them moved on to Greenland and now they’ve even started settling the Newfoundland further west. There is said to be a meadow there on the northern tip of the Isle of New Ireland they call ‘The Mounds of the Meadow’ and they smelt bog iron there and they forge bloom steel. And there are many meadows there where they gather fodder to overwinter the cattle of Greenland.”
“That’s the island that my uncle, Prince Helgi ‘Arrow Odd’ discovered,” Sweyn said.
“Still, he was half Norwegian! That was the half that found the Newfoundland!”
“But it was Princess Gunwar’s half, the Danish half that found New Scotland and New Angleland!”
“That’s Skrailingland! Nobody can settle there!”
“Prince Hraerik, Arrow Odd’s Norwegian half, says it will someday become a great land, full of slavers and slaves, black slaves from Africa!”
“Not Anglish slaves?”
“No. Just Anglish slavers, those focking pirates of Bristol!”
“We should raid those fockers again!” Eirik spat. “They hid their gold well last time. They’re still sitting on a fortune!”
“That we should,” Sweyn agreed. “But right now, we must get back to Wight and focus on the Saxons.”
“What do we do with Norwich?”
“I guess our peace agreement with Earl Ulfkytel has gone up in smoke,” Sweyn said. “What do you suggest?”
“Let’s do the same with Norwich,” Eirik said. “Let’s burn it!”
“I promised Queen Emma I’d follow Roman law in our plundering.”
“Then let’s just burn the empty half!”
So, they packed up their gear and their slaves and they burned the citadel and half the city, then left for Yarmouth with their slaver knars in tow. There were sea going slave knars waiting there and the unransomed captives were transferred into them and were taken away to Kiev. The warfleet returned to Ipswich for a week, left the surviving Vikings there to bolster defences and then Sweyn and Eirik sailed off with their regiment of Danish heavy horse for the Isle of Wight.
Queen Emma was in Southampton, starting on her palace in the city. Plans had been drawn up over the winter and had been sent up to London for her approvals as they progressed and now Emma met with her contractors from Portsmouth. They would be using Stone masons from both Portsmouth and Southampton but all labourers would be hired locally. The palace had been designed to use the existing foundations of the prior building to save on time and cost so, Emma went to her quarry on Wight to check on the stone prep being done there. Per the treaty she had arranged with the Danes, she was required to get an escort of officers from the Viking fort there, which meant visiting with King Sweyn.
“Athelred has cut my royal allowance,” Emma complained to Sweyn. “He said he’s having trouble paying his troops’ wages.”
“Will that affect your construction?” Sweyn asked her, concerned that her visits might be affected.
“Not for my palace,” she answered, “but the cathedral construction might be drawn out.”
“That’s good,” Sweyn said, turning on his side to face her in bed, “we’ll be able to visit longer.”
“But not as often.”
“I talked with some Hraes’ managers over Yulefest and they all knew about your Paris store.”
“Really?” Emma asked, turning on her side to face him. “What did they say about it?”
“They said it’s leading edge, very sharp and driving fashion in Paris!”
“That’s so kind of them,” Emma said, almost blushing and her cheeks glowed in the candlelight.
“They also said that even though Richard’s store handles all the slave trade, yours still tops his in profits, and that’s quite phenomenal considering the margins in slave trading.”
“I don’t like the slave trade,” Emma said. “I’m not a supporter of that freedom movement they have in Sweden,” she started. “I just don’t like the people that run it…the slavers and their knars.”
“They’re a pretty rough bunch,” Sweyn said.
“They’re disgusting! They parade around with their wee wives, all done up in makeup and fancy clothes to look older, but they’re just young girls! Some are as young as eight years old! Way below marriageable age!”
“They don’t get pregnant when they’re that young,” Sweyn said, “but I’m not defending them. I’m just telling the why of it.”
“It’s just not Christian!” she said. “And it shouldn’t be Aesir, either!”
“The Aesir religion is a religion of conquest. It doesn’t invade folks’ bedrooms.”
“Let’s not talk about it anymore,” she said. “Let’s just fock.” And so, they did.
The next night, when Sweyn and Emma retired to his master suite, they were having Khavayar and Champagne in bed when a servant brought two children into the room. “These slaves are twins,” Sweyn began, “brother and sister and they’ve been having sex together for three years.” The children were wearing white silk robes. “One of our Viking raiding troops found them at a Hampshire estate last fall, a Christian estate.” They made a very handsome young couple. “They weren’t found in time to make it onto a slaver knar so, they overwintered here on Wight with our maintenance staff. Our staff said they focked like bunnies all winter long and they did it anywhere and in front of anyone.” Sweyn snapped his fingers and the children dropped their robes and stood naked in front of them. “Would you like to see them fock?” Sweyn asked Emma.
“Oh god no!” Emma said and she covered her eyes, but she left a small crack between her fingers.
When spring came, King Sweyn sailed off to his great merchant fleet in Roskilde, leaving Jarl Eirik to raid southern Angleland all summer, but it was an exceedingly hot summer and there was a drought as well. Even though Eirik was plundering in the Roman fashion and burning nothing, the crops were scorched by the sun and a famine was anticipated over the winter. When Sweyne returned to the Isle of Wight in the fall from his trading in Baghdad, Queen Emma told him that things were so bad she had to stop construction of her palace and she planned on spending her plunder profits that were sitting in her Normandy estates on grain there and shipping it from Rouen to Southampton and London. The Hraes’ Trading Company had profited immensely during the Irish famine many years earlier and Sweyn geared up the company to take advantage of the dire Anglish situation. He promised Emma he would stay in Denmark with his legions while the famine progressed, knowing full well that it would be cheaper to buy Anglish slaves during the drought than fight for them.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:
“A.D. 1004. This year came Sweyne with his fleet to Norwich,
plundering and burning the whole town. Then Ulfkytel agreed with
the council in East-Anglia, that it were better to purchase peace
with the enemy, ere they did too much harm on the land; for that
they had come unawares, and he had not had time to gather his
force. Then, under the truce that should have been between them,
stole the army up from their ships, and bent their course to
Thetford. When Ulfkytel understood that, then sent he an order
to hew the ships in pieces; but they frustrated his design. Then
he gathered his forces, as secretly as he could. The enemy came
to Thetford within three weeks after they had plundered Norwich;
and, remaining there one night, they spoiled and burned the town;
but, in the morning, as they were proceeding to their ships, came
Ulfkytel with his army, and said that they must there come to
close quarters. And, accordingly, the two armies met together;
and much slaughter was made on both sides. There were many of
the veterans of the East-Angles slain; but, if the main army had
been there, the enemy had never returned to their ships. As they
said themselves, that they never met with worse hand-play in
England than Ulfkytel brought them.”
Also, in 1004, Queen Emma gave birth to a daughter she named Goda.
(1005) Before Yulefest, King Sweyn had sent slaver knars to Angleland loaded with grain and fodder and they sailed along the coasts and up the rivers and, everywhere, they traded food for children and young women. The starving Anglish traded their slaves for fodder and their offspring for food. A steady stream of sea going knars returned to Roskilde with their human cargoes and then sailed to Sweden and Norway to buy more grain and supplies to take back to Angleland. Sweyn kept his promise to Emma and his legions remained in Denmark. Children could be purchased for small sacks of grain and a beautiful young woman went for a large one. The Hraes’ Trading Company slaver pavilions were set up in town and city squares and the starving poor streamed in from the countryside with their children and they sold them to the slavers rather than watch them die of malnutrition. In some areas that the company moved into, children were already disappearing and mysterious meat patties were turning up at local butcher shops.
This was not the first famine the Hraes’ Trading Company had attended to and many of the slavers knew how to get the victims onto their knars for next to nothing. Independent slavers joined in on the enterprise and once out to sea many of the slavers raped and brutalized the women and had their way with the children. The plights of the starving weren’t over just because they had made it into the holds of slaver knars. The independent slavers cut costs by barely feeding their captives and leaving it up to the Danes of Roskilde and Kiev to fatten the slaves back up for resale in the eastern markets. And then the quantity of slaves purchased had to be monitored. A large influx of slaves into the markets could severely depress or even collapse prices. Major market failures had occurred several times in the past during Roman eras of major conquests when half the populations of whole countries would suddenly appear in the slave markets all at once. Slaves as a product had a somewhat inflexible demand curve and, when sales hit saturation levels, prices dropped quickly because unsold slaves still had to be fed and provided for and many countries had regulations governing minimum standards of care. Slavery had been around at least as long as the world’s oldest profession and often was an integral part of it so, standards, though seldom onerous, were almost always enforced.
And because this was not the first famine the Hraes’ Trading Company had attended to, Sweyn was cognizant of how quickly a company could go from being the saviour of the famished to the enslaver of the famished. Free food and supplies to the royals and government officials was found to be beneficial in helping with that problem. But Sweyn had no reason to go to Angleland, so he spent the spring with his wives in Denmark for the first time in many years and he left early with the spring merchant fleet and vowed to spend more time with his grandfather while trading in Baghdad. He even deliberated over going trading in India with him. Hraes’ company profits in India were extremely high with a great demand for Anglish slaves there and there was new ocean going trade taking place with Cathay and the Underwater Breathers division of the company was following that trade and recovering gold from wrecks that had accumulated over decades of trade between India and Cathay and the Indonesian pirates that ravaged their fleets halfway in between. He would ask his grandfather. Perhaps they could round up some of these Sumateran buccaneers and sick them on the Bristol pirates.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:
“A.D. 1005. This year died Archbishop Elfric; and Bishop Elfeah
succeeded him in the archbishopric. This year was the great
famine in England so severe that no man ere remembered such. The
fleet this year went from this land to Denmark, and took but a
short respite, before they came again.”
Also, in 1005, Queen Emma gave birth to a son she named Alfred.
(1006) In the early spring, King Sweyn returned to the Isle of Wight with his legions. Jarl Eirik remained with Princess Gyda and the children in Ipswich. The famine over winter had been relieved by the Hraes’ slaver knars bringing food in trade for captives and this trade continued into the spring even as the legions began plundering southern Angleland. Sweyn sent his commander Gudmund to lead the forces with instructions to avoid Anglish forces and to attack soft targets. He stayed on Wight and spent time with Queen Emma and her palace construction in Southampton and she visited him in his Viking fort whenever she visited her quarry on Wight.
“I have to wear my lady’s glove,” Emma told him when they slept together. “I had trouble during the birth of Prince Alfred and I’ve been advised by the king’s physician not to get pregnant again. There could be complications.” So, she wore her internal glove while they had sex and afterward Sweyn had the brother and sister twins brought into the suite for their entertainment. As the two slaves were having sex, Emma asked, “Is she pregnant?”
“You have a fine eye, my queen,” Sweyn replied. “She failed to tell us she had started menstruating and now she is pregnant.”
“I should have a fine eye for it,” Emma said. “I’ve been pregnant three times in the last three years! So, if she’s pregnant by her brother there could be complications.”
“He hasn’t started puberty yet.”
“Well, how then?” and she looked at Sweyn.
“She failed to tell me that she had started her period, so, there shouldn’t be any complications.”
“Jeez, Sweyn,” she said and she punched him on the arm. “How long has this been going on?”
“Remember the first time we watched them fock?” Sweyn said.
“You watched,” Emma reminded him, “I just peeked.”
“Well, after you left to go back to Southampton, I would watch them because it reminded me of you, and then they would sleep with me, and then we started having sex together.”
“You had sex with both of them?” Emma asked.
“It didn’t seem right to separate them,” Sweyn explained as they watched the twins fock. ”They can join us once they’re done,” Sweyn offered.
“I’ll just watch you with them,” Emma said, watching the slight swell in the twin sister’s belly as she rode her brother.
While Emma was building her palace, Sweyn had the carpenters of Wight build him huge granaries within his fortress and when spring was almost over, Jarl Eirik came down from Ipswich and Sweyn went up to Ipswich to spend some time with Princess Gyda before returning to Roskilde to lead the great merchant fleet east.
When Sweyn returned in the fall, the real raiding of Angleland began. Sweyn joined Eirik and Gudmund and his legionary fleet in the Bay of Sandwich as slaver knars were being loaded with half the citizens of the town of Sandwich which was part of a five port coalition of cities that had been ordered to provide King Athelred with ships with which to fight the Danes. They had already laid waste to Hastings, Dover, New Romney and Ramsgate and Sandwich was the final town sacked to deprive the king of longships. Once that was done the legions swept through southern Angleland as the farmers were gathering up their crops and they took the harvests into their ships and transported them to the Isle of Wight where the grain was deposited in the newly built granaries. The Hraes’ Trading Company slavers were still buying up the starving young of Angleland and the famine was about to enter a new man-made phase so that the prior year’s record profits could be maintained. King Athelred ordered the people to arm themselves and go out into the fields to protect the farmers and their crops while he remained in safety behind the walls of London with the fyrds there. But the legion forces were too powerful and they forced the armed citizens to drop their weapons and help gather the grain into their ships. The order did the people more harm than good as the grain was gathered and stolen from them with even greater efficiency. When the granaries were full, the Vikings hauled the longships they had taken from the five ports into their fortress and filled them with grain as well. No grain was left loose lest rats infest the island and spread disease.
Once a vast portion of the country’s harvest had been commandeered, Sweyn and Eirik led the legions north past Southampton to Winchester, Basingstoke, Reading, Wallingford, Didcot, Abingdon and then the city of Oxford. They plundered all those towns and cities and enslaved half the populations in the Roman Vanir fashion and they were unopposed by local fyrds who did not want their surrenders taken in the Viking Aesir fashion. Viking longships and knars sailed up past London and Queen Emma watched from the walls as her husband, the king, whored with his women who specialized in anal down by the wharves, and then she watched them days later return down the Thames ladened with slaves and plunder and grain. She admired Sweyn for his efficiency and she wondered if there would be anything left of Angleland for her brother, Richard, to conquer.
In Oxford, Sweyn showed Eirik a newly built stone church that had replaced a wooden church that had been burned during the Saint Brice’s Day Massacre four years earlier. King Athelred had come to Oxford two years after the massacre with money to rebuild the church and he gave a speech there. The king told the story of how the mobs of Oxford had chased a hundred Danish citizens into the church and when the Danes had barred the doors the mob set the church on fire and burned the Danes alive. Athelred had shown no remorse for his ordered killings and he even complained that the Danes had broken the locks of the church to get in and claim sanctuary from the priest within. When the priest gave them their requested sanctuary, the mob burned the church with the Danes and the priest trapped inside and Athelred even complained that the troublesome Danes had caused sacred irreplaceable texts to be burned with them.
After Sweyn told Eirik the story, he asked him, “Now what do you think we should do with this new church King Athelred has had built?” Eirik opened the front doors and looked inside and the church was completely empty. “Since this is a Roman Christian church,” the Jarl started, “we should follow Roman law and just burn the empty half.”
“Which half is the empty half?” Sweyn asked, looking in the door. “There’s a covered table at the far end with their sacred texts upon it so, this would be the empty end. If we fire the doors the flames should reach the rafters and set the roof on fire and if their Roman Christian god knows Roman law, he’ll stop the fire about where that nave is.” So, they set the doors alight and the roof caught fire and the whole church burned and, when the roof collapsed, the stone walls were knocked outwards and fell into the streets. When Sweyn looked at Eirik, he just shrugged and said, “I guess their god doesn’t know Roman law!”
The mobs of Oxford were hiding in their homes and the legions went into them, threw the men out into the streets, and raped the women inside them and bivouacked in the homes for a week while they plundered the city. The men were loaded into slaver knars and that was the half of the population they enslaved. They took all the wealth and all the grain and they slaughtered all the livestock and hauled the meat down to their ships. The warfleet sailed back down the Thames with their slaves and their grain and their meat and the fyrds of London looked down hungrily at all that food. The Hraes slaver knars were already drawing down grain from the stores on Wight with which to purchase the starving young men and women of Angleland.
Queen Emma was down in Southampton finishing up her palace construction for the year and she was shutting down her quarry on Wight for the season.
“King Athelred wants to buy peace with you,” she started. They were in bed with the twins and the Danish servants were bringing in breakfast for them. “He wants me to tell you that he’s willing to pay thirty thousand pounds of silver for the year…”
“That’s not much,” Sweyn complained.
“…for starters, then we’ll see how things work out and it can be adjusted.”
“I still need my slaves,” he replied.
“I told him that,” Emma said. “And I told him to make slavery illegal.”
“I told him to make slavery illegal and that all English slaves must be sold to the Hraes’ slavers at the present famine prices over a set period of time.”
“And what is that set period of time?” Sweyn asked.
“Whatever your needs are for that particular year,” Emma answered, smiling softly and pouting just a little. Sweyn pondered it for a moment. “My brother, Richard, has already told me that, when he conquers Angleland, the first thing he’s going to do is ban slavery. He says when he becomes king all the Anglish will be his slaves, the Saxons, the Angles, the Danes, the Welsh, the Scots and even the Irish. They will all be his slaves and they will all work for him. There will be peace through out the land and he will tax all his subjects equally, tax them harshly and leave them with only enough to live off of. He says the lands will all be his and the people shall rent their properties from him, the resources will all be his and rent will be paid to work them, all the mines, all the forests, even the salt in the sea.
“Fock! He’s one greedy bastard!”
“It’s the way the Frankish kings work. They didn’t call Charlemagne ‘Charles the Great’ for nothing!”
“Still, it’s not the Aesir way!”
“It’s the new Christian way. The pope and the bishops will, of course, get their share of the tithes. This, of course, will only happen should you fail to conquer Britain. Richard knows full well you have first rights here. He is not about to fock with you, dear cousin!” Emma smiled softly again and pouted a bit with her soft full lips.
“You tell Athelred to have the silver ready for the spring and he’ll have his peace,” Sweyn said and he kissed those pouting lips. The naked twins were already at the end table eating so, Sweyn took Emma’s hand and they joined the young couple. The young girl was eating for two these days. Emma watched her swollen belly and she looked at Sweyn and she shook her head.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:
“A.D. 1006. This year Elfeah was consecrated Archbishop; Bishop
Britwald succeeded to the see of Wiltshire; Wulfgeat was deprived
of all his property; Wulfeah and Ufgeat were deprived of
sight; Alderman Elfelm was slain; and Bishop Kenulf departed
this life. Then, over midsummer, came the Danish fleet to
Sandwich, and did as they were wont; they barrowed and burned and
slew as they went. Then the king ordered out all the population
from Wessex and from Mercia; and they lay out all the harvest
under arms against the enemy; but it availed nothing more than it
had often done before. For all this the enemy went wheresoever
they would; and the expedition did the people more harm than
either any internal or external force could do. When winter
approached, then went the army home; and the enemy retired after
Martinmas to their quarters in the Isle of Wight, and provided
themselves everywhere there with what they wanted. Then, about
midwinter, they went to their ready farm, throughout Hampshire
into Berkshire, to Reading. And they did according to their
custom,–they lighted their camp-beacons as they advanced.
Thence they marched to Wallingford, which they entirely
destroyed, and passed one night at Cholsey. They then turned
along Ashdown to Cuckamsley-hill, and there awaited better cheer;
for it was often said, that if they sought Cuckamsley, they would
never get to the sea. But they went another way homeward. Then
was their army collected at Kennet; and they came to battle
there, and soon put the English force to flight; and afterwards
carried their spoil to the sea. There might the people of
Winchester see the rank and iniquitous foe, as they passed by
their gates to the sea, fetching their meat and plunder over an
extent of fifty miles from sea. Then was the king gone over the
Thames into Shropshire; and there he fixed his abode during
midwinter. Meanwhile, so great was the fear of the enemy, that
no man could think or devise how to drive them from the land, or
hold this territory against them; for they had terribly marked
each shire in Wessex with fire and devastation. Then the king
began to consult seriously with his council, what they all
thought most advisable for defending this land, ere it was
utterly undone. Then advised the king and his council for the
advantage of all the nation, though they were all loth to do it,
that they needs must bribe the enemy with a tribute. The king
then sent to the army, and ordered it to be made known to them,
that his desire was, that there should be peace between them, and
that tribute and provision should be given them. And they
accepted the terms; and they were provisioned throughout England.”