This Book Series Is Updated Due To The Illegal and Dispicable Russian Attack Upon Ukraine

References to Rus’ Are Changed to Hraes’ to Show The Original Proper Source And Spelling

This Has Been Done to Ensure All Know That Ukraine Founded Hraes’, not Russia

Hraes’ (Rus’) Was Founded by Danes and Slavs 400 Years Before Muscovite Rus’ Even Existed




Princess Sviataslava of Constantinople and Kiev





A Novel By

Brian Howard Seibert

© Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert


(Contains Scenes of Violence and Sexuality Consistent with the Viking Period)

(May be Offensive to Some)

Kelowna, B.C.

2023 AD



Left Click on Chapter Title Below to GO TO Chapter. Left Click on Table of Contents to RETURN to TOC.








5.0  PRINCESS GUNHILD OF WEND  (Circa 990 AD) 141

6.0  BATTLE OF MALDON  (Circa 991 AD) 163


8.0  KING SWEYN RULES DENMARK  (Circa 992-995 AD) 199

9.0  QUEEN SIGRID THE HAUGHTY  (Circa 994-999 AD) 211

10.0  THE BATTLE OF SVOLDER  (Circa 999-1000 AD) 273

11.0  SAINT BRICE’S DAY MASSACRE  (Circa 1002 AD) 306

12.0  SWEYN IN ENGLAND or VALHALLA CAN WAIT  (Circa 1003-1006 AD) 365

13.0  KING SWEYN ATTACKS ENGLAND AGAIN  (Circa 1007-1010 AD) 418


15.0  KING SWEYN CONQUERS ENGLAND  (Circa 1013 AD) 487

16.0  KING SWEYN’S END IN ENGLAND  (Circa 1014 AD) 502




© Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information or storage retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.

The author wishes to acknowledge his indebtedness to the following works, upon which he has based much of his research and a great deal of his writing:

Saxo Grammaticus.  The First Nine Books of the Danish History of Saxo Grammaticus.  Denmark, c.1200.  As translated by Oliver Elton, B.A. London, 1893, with consideration toward the translation by Peter Fisher.  Cambridge, 1979.

Author unknown.  Arrow-Odd:  A Medieval Novel.  Iceland, c.1200.  As translated by Paul Edwards and Hermann Palsson.  New York, 1970.

Authors unknown.  The Hrafnista Sagas.  Iceland, c.1200.  As translated by Ben Waggoner., 2012.

Author unknown.  The Saga of King Heidrek the Wise (Hervor’s Saga).  Iceland, c.1200.  As translated by Christopher Tolkien.  Oxford, 1960.

Vernadsky, George.  The Origins of Russia.  Oxford, 1959.

Pritsak, Omeljan.  The Origin of Rus’.  Cambridge, Mass., 1981.

Davidson, H.R. Ellis.  The Viking Road to Byzantium.  London, 1976.

Dunlop, D.M.  The History of the Jewish Khazars.  New York, 1967.

Author unknown.  Gautrek’s Saga.  Iceland, c.1200.  Translated by Hermann Palsson and Paul Edwards.  Middlesex, 1976.

Snorri Sturluson.  The Prose Edda.  Iceland, c.1300.  As translated by Lee Hollander, B.A. London, c. 1960.

THE HISTORY OF LEO THE DEACON Byzantine Military Expansion in the Tenth Century Introduction, translation, and annotations by Alice-Mary Talbot and Denis F. Sullivan with the assistance of George T. Dennis and Stamatina McGrath Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection Washington, D.C.

PREVIOUSLY (From Book 6, Chapter 14):



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“Hraerik came to me in a dream and I told him, ‘I don’t want to write your story, your lying sagas anymore.  You’re all slavers!  You’re all rapists!  You’re not good people at all!’

‘You don’t understand,’ Hraerik said.  ‘You don’t know the kind of people we had to deal with!’  And he told me about the Army of the Impalers and the Longitudinal Impalement they specialized in and the Salute of the Impalers and how the number 666 was the Number of the Impalers and then he told me about the war his grandson, Svein, had with them and the mental trauma they inflicted upon him and his men.

Then I understood where he was coming from.  I understood what I was writing for and I began writing once more.”

Brian Howard Seibert

(986 AD)  The people of Lade were even beginning to think that perhaps Prince Valdamar had misheard news of the Jomsvikings upcoming attack on them and began to hope that maybe it wasn’t coming.  But Freya’s day afternoon, one of Jarl Haakon’s very fast scout ships returned with news that sixty Jomsviking ships were sailing up the coast of Norway.  They were estimated to arrive at Trondheim Fjord late on Saturn’s day and, since Jarl Haakon wanted to meet somewhere outside the fjord, they planned to sail against them on Saturn’s day morning. 

Prince Sweyn had his fleet of thirty Roman dromons ready to sail and Prince Valdamar likewise had his thirty Hraes’ transport warships ready to go so, they went over to Jarl Haakon’s longhall to see if the rest of the fleets were ready.  Sweyn and Valdamar were talking with Eirik and Aud when Haakon came up and asked Sweyn, “Could you go to Hell and get Hallveig Irpa?”  When Sweyn said he would, Haakon added,  “And tell her to bring all her chantreusses!”  Sweyn took his dromon shieldship to sail over to Hell and pick up Hallveig and Emma and they loaded up their helmets and armour and shields and the twelve chantreusses that had helped contact the spirit, Thorgerder Helgibruder.  “Why do we need the children?” Sweyn asked Emma as he helped her with the gear.

“We have to conjure up Thorgerder Helgibruder when we get there.  She doesn’t just appear out of thin air, you know.”

“I know,” Sweyn said.  “I kinda thought she did just appear out of thin air.  I kinda saw her do just that when we were calling her up in Hallveig’s master bedroom.”

“That’s because we had chants going to call her there.  If we just conjure her up without the proper chanting, she’s as likely to appear here, in Hell, as she is upon the battlefield.”

“I don’t like taking children into battle with me,” Sweyn protested.

“Either do I, Sweyn.  Welcome to my life!” and Emma looked up at Sweyn with an expression of helplessness on her face.  “This is going to be really bad, Sweyn.  I’m so afraid,” she said, and she looked about herself as if searching for someplace to hide.

“I’m sorry, Emma,” Sweyn said, hugging her and trying to reassure her.  “Jarl Haakon called her Hallveig Irpa,” he added, as Hallveig came out her hall with the children, “when he asked me to come fetch her.”

“Don’t tell me this,” Emma said.  “That means it is even worse than we thought.  Irpa is Hallveig’s spirit name.  Haakon is afraid we’re going to lose.  These are Jomsvikings we’re up against.  Jomsvikings!”

“We aren’t going to lose!” Sweyn reassured her.  “We are Hraes!  We never lose.”

Sweyn helped her onto the gangplank and watched her go up it.  She had been training hard and it showed as she stepped lightly up the plank.  Hallveig Irpa then came down the quay with her brood trailing behind her and he could see she had been in training as well.  She was old, but she was in good shape.  “The children can sit below deck,” Sweyn told her as they boarded.  “This is a Roman dromon.  We have a full rowing deck below deck,” and he took them below deck and took them into his captain’s cabin at the bow of the ship.  There were chairs and beds in the cabin and the children marvelled at the comforts there.  “I’ll settle them in,” Hallveig said, “and then I’ll come up on deck and join you and Emma.”  Sweyn didn’t realize she had taken a hold of his hand until she let go of it as he was leaving and she smiled at him softly.  He realized then that she was as nervous as Emma.

Jarl Eirik had gone north to Namdalen, to gather troops and ships from all around the islands.  They had all been told that the Jomsvikings were coming and the arrow had been passed, but these were Jomsvikings they’d be fighting so, Eirik went out to gather up the stragglers.  As they turned into Trondheim Fjord, Eirik sailed south along the Hamrasund, and a warship came to meet him and the man in charge of the party was called Thorkel Medium; he was a Red Viking and in conflict with Jarl Haakon and they immediately broke out their weapons and intended to attack Eirik.  They had three ships, but when Eric saw this, he said to Thorkel, “If you want to fight us then we’ll be ready.  But I’ve a word of advice first.”

“What is it?” said Thorkel.

“It seems unbelievable to me,” said Eirik, “that we Norwegians would fight amongst ourselves when we are under attack from outsiders, from Danes and Jomsvikings.  But if you help my father with your fleet and give him what you are capable of, then we shall do whatever it takes to be reconciled with you.”

“I want this choice,” Thorkel replied, “if you will, Eirik, that I will not be restrained by what you say when I meet your father.”

“I will take care of that,” Eirik assured him, so, Thorkel and his company joined Eirik’s fleet.

Soon after this, all the small fleets had been gathered together in the great bay in front of the cities of Lade and Trondheim and Jarl Haakon and Eirik and Sweyn sailed past them all in Sweyn’s Roman dromon shieldship and they counted three hundred and sixty ships of various sizes from bireme dromons to Hraes’ transport warships to dragonships and longships and finally Nor’Way ships.  They sailed south along the Norway coast and assembled in a fjord called Hjorungavagr and they made their plan of battle while they waited for the Jomsvikings.  Prince Sweyn’s thirty Roman dromons were linked together side by side and were connected together by their fore and aft boarding bridges to form a high battle platform in the center of the fjord and the Hraes’ troops on the decks began setting up their trebuchets.  Prince Valdamar’s thirty Hraes’ transport warships were set half on either side of the battle platform and they, too, set up their trebuchets.  And then two flanking fleets were arranged on either side of that to virtually block off the fjord and smaller ships were arranged behind the rest in support.  There were a number of small islands just beyond the fjord which was part of a large island off the mainland.  Small fast scout ships were sent out patrolling the small islands and the larger islands out beyond Hjorungavagr.

Jarl Haakon was very pleased with the arrangement that Sweyn and Eirik had come up with and he had Sweyn sail his shieldship southwest up the fjord to Hjorungavagr Creek at it’s source.  There was a small quay there and Haakon, Hallveig, Emma and the children got out with a large force of troops and slaves and they set up a camp and were going to go inland to a sacred oak grove to conjure up spirits.  Sweyn soon saw that Haakon had selected the fjord for a reason and perhaps had fought battles here before.  Other small support ships were arriving to work on the camp some more so, Sweyn took his ship back into formation and waited with Valdamar and Eirik.

The Jomsvikings had sailed south from the Vik, where they had led a surprise attack on the city of Tonsberg there, and then they had sailed west and north following the coastline of the country, invading and plundering all the way up the coast as they went.  They killed many men and burned many places and the people fled before them.  They sailed to a channel called Ulfasund, and then they sailed past Stad to a harbor called Hereyjar and they anchored there with all their fleet.

By then they were running short of supplies so, Vagn Akason took his ship and went to an island called Hod, not knowing that Jarl Haakon was nearby with his great fleet.  Vagn found a thrall’s hut beside a large corral that held only three cows.  Vagn and a few of his men went up to the log hut and they peered into it through gaps in the chinking.  “What is that thrall doing?” Vagn whispered.  “I do believe he is focking a goat,” his scout whispered back.  Vagn looked a little closer through the hole and, indeed, the thrall was focking a she-goat from behind and seemed to be saying words of love to it as he humped her rump.  Vagn straightened up, went over to the door and kicked it open while he drew his sword.  As he stepped into the dark room, the slave withdrew from the goat and stood there with his erect cock dripping semen on the floor.

“Sorry to interrupt your nith work,” Vagn said, “but we need your livestock!”  He asked the man his name and he answered, “I’m called Ulf,” as he put his pants on.  Then Vagn said to his men, “Now take the cows and the goat and slaughter them on our ship, and I’ll pay Ulf for them and any others we can find here.”

“Who is in charge of this ship?” Ulf asked.

“I am and I’m going to need all your cattle,” said Vagn.

“I have my master’s cows out grazing in the woods,” the slave said, “but I need my goat back before I get them for you.”

“Your master leaves you on this island to graze his cattle all alone with only a she-goat to keep you company?”

“I need my goat back,” the slave said.  “She’s my only comfort.”

“I’ll get you your goat,” Vagn replied.  “I don’t want to stand between lovers, but I’ll need all your cattle first.”

“I need my goat back first,” the thrall said.

“I need your cows first,” Vagn said, raising his sword.

“You’re Danes,” Ulf said.  “You must be here to attack Norway!”

“We’re Jomsvikings,” Vagn said, resting upon his sword, “and we’re here to kill your Jarls.”

“They’re not my Jarls,” Ulf spat.  “I used to be a Dane once, before I was taken in a Viking raid.”

“Now you fock goats in Norway,” Vagn spat back.

“Just the one,” Ulf said.  “I used to fock the cows, but the master found out and he brought me little Edith.”

“Your goat is English?”

“Fock the English!’ my master said, ‘But don’t fock the cows anymore.”

“Well, I’m still going to need the rest of those cows,” Vagn said, raising his sword again.

“And I’m still going to need my goat back first,” Ulf explained, “because, if Jomsvikings kill my master’s cows at sword point, he’ll just bring me out more cows to graze, but if you kill my she goat, he may not replace her, and she sleeps with me in my hut here and she never has a headache and she’s seldom on the rag.”

“You’re a hard man to deal with Ulf,” Vagn laughed, “at least that’s what your goat has been telling all my men.”

“It seems to me,” Ulf replied, scheming to get his she-goat back, “that there could be a greater slaughter of sea cows not far from here if you could but spare me my goat.”

“Do you know anything about Jarl Haakon’s whereabouts?” Vagn asked, getting suddenly excited.  “If you can tell us the truth about where he is, then you can keep your goat.  What do you know of Jarl Haakon?”

Ulf answered, “Last night he lay here alone on the island of Hod in Hjorungavagr Bay, and you can kill him if you want, because he is waiting for his men there.”

Vagn shouted out to his men to bring back the goat, then said, “I will give you money as well as the goat if you go on board with us and show us the way to the jarl.”

“It is not fitting,” said Ulf, “that I fight against the Jarl, and I do not agree, but I will show you the way until you see his ship, if you will, and then I’ll go.”  Ulf locked his goat up in his hut and went off on the ship with them, but it was early in the day so, Vagn and his men went first to Hereyjar to tell his leader, Sigvald, the tidings that Ulf told them.

The Jomsvikings then began to prepare for a great battle and wanted to be ready for anything, even though Ulf kept reassuring them that Jarl Haakon was alone with one ship in Hjorungavagr Bay, but Sigvald was suspicious of Ulf and suspected something was up.  Vagn’s ship led the way and they soon saw that there were more ships in the fjord than Ulf had told them.  When they saw many ships coming out to meet them, Ulf leaped overboard and swam under the waves and when Vagn saw this, he took a spear and waited for Ulf to come up for a breath and then sent it arcing across the billowing waves straight into Ulf’s back and he sank below the waters.

“Focking nith!” Vagn shouted at Ulf.

Sigvald and all the Jomsvikings rowed into the fjord, and saw that the Norwegian fleet was drawn up in order so, they drew their own fleet into battle order to meet them.  They saw the battle order of Haakon and they arranged their fleet to match whom they wanted to fight against.

It was such that to the west sat the source of Hjorungavagr Fjord and the mouth faced the east.  There were three islands called Hjorungar just before the mouth of the bay, and the largest one is the only island named.  But they were in a row in line with the middle of the fjord, and they were the same distance to land on each side.  An island sat to the north of the three, called Primsid, and Hjorund Island sat to the south of the three, and further south yet from there was Harundarfjordur.

Sigvald put his ships and the ships of Harald ‘Bluetooth’ in the middle of the warfleet and his brother, Thorkell ‘the Tall’, put his ship next to him.  Bui Digri and Sigurdur put their ships out on the north flank of the fleet and Vagn Akason and Bjorn ‘the Welshman’ put their ships on the southern flank.

Jarl Haakon and his men saw the lineup against them and had some second thoughts on their own order of battle.  And so they arranged in most places that three were intended against one of the enemy.  Princes Sweyn and Valdamar were up against Sigvald in the center, but three men were appointed against Thorkell ‘the Tall’ and there was Yrja-Skeggi’s ship, and another under Sigurdur ‘the Fry’ from north of Halogaland, and a third of Thorir ‘the Deer’.  Two more men were added to be with Sweyn against Sigvald, first Gudbrandur from Dalir and Styrkar from Gims, and they and their men joined Sweyn on the decks of his dromons and blended in with the Hraes’ troops there.

Opposite Bui was Thorkel Midlangur and another Hallsteinn Kerlingabani from Fjolur and the third Thorkell Leira, a landlord of the Jarl.  But in front of Sigurdur Kapa, Bui’s brother’s ship, there were father and sons, Armodur from Onundarfjordur and Arni and Fidr, his sons.  Then against Vagn Akason was meant Jarl Eirik Haakonarson and another, Erlingur of Skugga, and a third, Ogmund ‘the White’, and the three were to pay Vagn the honour of combat.

And against Bjorn ‘the Brexit-the Welshman’ was intended Einar ‘the Little Lander’, and another in Havardur Uppi, and as third, Hallvardur of Flydrunes, Havardur’s brother.  But Jarl Haakon, himself, was kept free of the fight, and was meant to support all the factions together and lead the warfleet.

There were four Icelanders with Haakon’s fleet, one was named Einar, who was then called Skjaldmeyjar Einar, and he was the Jarl’s poet and had little honour from the Jarl of late.  Einar had a great deal to say about it and he claimed he would run from Jarl Haakon’s force over to Sigvald’s, and so, he recited a verse:

“I make the tin too respectful         in the midst of evil times,

 I did that while others,                    arrow weaved, asleep.

 I got what I thought was right        parliamentary money better,

 meidur saves hodd by rumor,       each, but the poet worse.”

Then he said, “After all, I will go to Sigvald.  He will do me no less honour than the Jarl does.”

He then jumped out of Jarl Haakon’s ship and onto Prince Sweyn’s dromon and bravely shouted out to Sigvald:

“Let’s get the earl extra                   wolf’s price dares swords,

 we load a table on a bar                Sigvald’s bow shields;

 does not kill the one who bends      sarlinns is grams find,

 stripes spread out on others         finally, with me.”

Jarl Haakon realized that Skjaldmeyjar Einar was acting out and the Jarl called him and asked to speak with him.  Then the Jarl took his fine scales he had with him, made of gilded silver and of gold complete with weights, one of gold, the other of silver.  On both sides the figure of a man was engraved as if it were an idol, and it was called a lottery, and these were a common feature to have, but another feature was very important: when the scales were in balance it made a tinkling sound and this was not common at all.  Einar had never heard of such a thing before and was very pleased with the scales so, Jarl Haakon gave them to him.  And from this Einar got a byname, and was thereafter called Einar ‘Skalaglamm’.

There was a second Icelander there named Vigfus, son of Vigga-Glum, the third Thordur, who was called Arrow-hand, and the fourth Thorleif, who was called Skuma, the son of Thorkel ‘the Rich’ west of Dyrafjordur from Alvidra.  It was said of Thorleif that he got himself a large half-root stump in a forest, and then went to a place with waiters and fire and food, and he burned the stump all over the outside, and he held it in his hand and went to meet Eirik Haakonarson on his ship, and Einar ‘Skalaglamm’ accompanied him there, and then Thorleif thumped the stump in his hand and when Eirik saw him do it, he said, “What are you going to do, Thorleif, with that big stump you have in your hand?”  Thorleif answered him thus:

“I have in my hands                the shatterer of skulls,

 the bane of both                  Bui and Sigvaldi,

 Jomsvikings destruction        is Haakon’s defense;

 If I live, this oaken club’s     the bane of the Danes.”

And the four Icelandic champions went aboard with Jarl Eirik: Einar ‘Skalaglamm’, Thorleif Skuma, Vigfus Vigaglumsson and Thordur ‘Arrow-hand’.

Sigvald had seen the catapults on the center ships of the Norwegian fleet and had organized his own fleet just beyond what he thought was catapult range so, when the center trebuchets started flinging tonstones at great velocity and several of his ships were broken up, he set his men rowing hard straight for Jarl Haakon’s fleet.  A dozen of his ships were shattered before he got his fleet inside of trebuchet range and the fleets joined in battle.  Jarl Haakon joined Prince Sweyn, to strengthen the center against Sigvald, and now the hardest battle between fleets was fought, and neither side could make progress against the other.  And it was said that Sigvald and his forces were on an equal footing in the center, so that no further loses of their ships occurred.

On the one flank, Jarl Hakon could see that Bui had greatly punished their party on the northern arm, and those who fought with him had lost ships, and it seemed to them that it would be better to get away from him.  But he went after them nonetheless, and he dealt out great blows to them and they got away from him, as he was murderous in battle.  The Jarl could see that there was an even fight going on between Eirik and Vagn on the southern arm of the engagement.  So, Eirik set out against the north flank in his own ship and Sweyn joined him in another ship, and the Theban brothers went to take the fight to Bui but could only manage to straighten out their line and no better.  In the meantime, Jarl Haakon and Prince Valdamar held the center against Sigvald.

But when Eirik returned to the southern arm of the line, Vagn and his ships had greatly battered Eirik’s fleet and it was giving way, and then Eirik’s ships broke apart, and Vagn and his men pushed through the line and threatened to attack the rear.  Eirik became very angry when he saw this, and he steered his ship, Jarnbardinn or Ironbeard, hard at Vagn’s ship and they lashed their ships together and they fought again and the battle was even sharper than it had been before.  Vagn and Aslakur Holmskalli lept from their ship onto Eirik’s Jarnbardinn and they fought their way down both sides of the deck wreaking havoc and carnage as they progressed.  Aslakur Holmskalli struck with his sword using both hands in wild abandon.  Eirik could see that these men are so fearless and insane that it will not take long for them to clear the deck so, he urged on his men to keep fighting.  Aslakur was a bald man with no helmet upon his head because of the heat.  The wind was warm and the weather was clear and hot and many men had taken off their outer clothes to stay cooler, and had only their armor on.  Eirik kept urging his men on against them, and they attacked Aslakur with their weapons, chopping him in the head with both swords and axes, but the blows had no effect against his bare head.  It was as though they were striking Aslakur’s skull with a piece of whalebone instead of with steel.

Vigfus Vigaglumsson was sure they were fighting a berserk instead of a man so, he took a spear butt and pushed it through the drift hole of a small anvil he had earlier used to sharpen his weapons, and Vigfus raised up the anvil and brought it down with great force over the shieldwall and he drove it into Aslakur’s head and killed him dead.

As Vagn was working his way down the other side of the ship, dealing out bitter two handed blows as he went, Thorleif Skuma ran against Vagn and struck him with his blackened club on the helmet top and it burst wide open, and though he was dazed by the blow, Vagn leaned over and stabbed Thorleif with his sword, and then leaped out of the Ironbeard and landed standing on his own ship’s deck and urged his own men to fight on.  Aslakur Holmskalli and Vagn Akason had cleared so many men from the deck of the Ironbeard that Eirik had to get men from other ships, until he was fully ordered, before he could carry on the fight.  And then Eirik and his men saw that his father, Jarl Haakon, and the army had gone ashore to eat and there was a lull in battle.

Now the princes and jarls all met and talked and Jarl Haakon said, “I think I see that the battle is getting away from us, and it is, as I thought, most difficult to fight these Jomsvikings, for it seems to me that these men are more berserk than warrior, and these men are no worse off now than when we had begun the fight.  We must strike a different tack in dealing with the Jomsvikings.  I shall go inland to pray and you must return to your ships and await my deliberations.”

Jarl Haakon went inland along Hjorungavagr Creek and met up with Hallveig Irpa in a clearing in the sacred oak forest, and the Jarl knelt there on his knees in front of her and they prayed for the aid of Thorgerder Helgibruder, and they both looked west, and now spoke to the gods for her reception.  Emma started the chantreusses chanting and they joined hands and went about the kneeling couple in a circle.  Haakon and Hallveig Irpa, in their words of prayer, challenged the Lade spirit, Thorgerder Helgibruder to answer their calling.  Dark clouds could be seen far-off in the west and they moved east very rapidly and a great wind arose to presage their arrival.  The black clouds could be seen pouring rain as they approached and Haakon and Hallveig Irpa both knew it was Thorgerder Helgibruder.

Jarl Haakon took Hallveig Irpa and her Valkyrie Emma to his ships, leaving the children to chant in the grove, and the Jarl now urged his army on all over again.  “And I know now for sure,” he said, “that we will defeat these berserks of Jomsborg, and now we will do better, for I have been promised a win.  We have Thorgerder Helgibruder and she will not fail me, for she has never fallen short of victory!”

There had been a break in battle, but that was over now as the two fleets closed in again with a tumultuous clash of weapons.  The Jarl and his Valkyries joined Prince Sweyn on his shieldship, and they formed up a second time and the Jarl was again against Sigvald, and the battle raged once more as Haakon put his trust in Thorgerder Helgibruder.  Hallveig Irpa conjured up the spirit above her and a huge ghostly visage of a fierce shield maiden appeared overhead.

The fine spring weather went south and the sky grew dark and black clouds billowed as if up from the sea and everything cooled down quickly.  Rain lashed down and hail pelted down with it, followed by both lightning and thunder.  The Jomsvikings fought from the northeast against the west wind and the sleet came down so hard, some men could hardly keep their feet.  The men had all earlier taken off their clothes because of the heat, but now the weather had changed and they begin to freeze.  And yet they attended battle without fail.  But when the Jomsvikings would hurl spears or shoot arrows the wind would carry them back at the Danes along with the projectiles of the Norwegians.

It was Havard Hoggandi, Bui’s companion, that was the first to see where Thorgerder Helgibruder was in Jarl Haakon’s army, and then many people saw the spirit, an unscrupulous occurrence, as witchcraft, and they saw that, when the light was softened, an arrow flew from every finger of the spirit, and was always the death of a man and this shower of darts was always directed at Sigvald and his comrades, the Jomsvikings.

And now Sigvald spoke out to his men, for Haakon and his men attended the battle now with greater ferocity.  “I do not think,” said Sigvald, “that we are here with men to fight today, but with the worst spirit, and though it will be more difficult to go against a ghost, yet it is required that we men harden and handle it as best we can.”  And the Jomsvikings fought on with the greatest courage and endured their severe losses as the storm raged on against them.

As the fighting went on, Jarl Haakon felt that the hailstorm was waning and he called upon Thorgerder to increase the intensity of her efforts.  But she was deaf to the Jarl’s prayer and she began to be angry with him, and he looked to Hallveig Irpa for assistance and she directed the spirit once more into the fray as she protected herself from the arrows of the Jomsvikings with her shield on one side and Emma protected her with her shield from the other side.  The north flank was once more under severe attack by Bui Digri and his fleet so, Hallveig Irpa sent the spirit to that wing to thin the ranks of the berserks there and drive them back.  But the southern flank began to collapse again and Hallveig sent the spirit there soon after.  The Jomsvikings pulled off for a short respite after their last inhuman efforts and they rested and ate on their ships, keeping under the catapult range, but beyond arrow shot.

“They’re trying to collapse our flanks,” Jarl Eirik complained as they all met on Sweyn’s central shieldship.  The dromons were proving proof against Jomsviking attack due to their higher draft, but Prince Valdamar’s lower transport ships were constantly in a state of repelling assaults and the fleets on the flanks were being decimated of troops.  “We need a second spirit,” Haakon stated and he took Hallveig Irpa and Emma aboard his ship and shouted for his men to hold on until he returned.

The Jarl and his Valkyries went back to the sacred oak grove and the chantreusses were still chanting and dancing in a circle and Haakon and Hallveig Irpa broke through the circle and began praying in the center.  A dark cloud gathered above them and Haakon knew it was Thorgerder and he invited her to accept various things in sacrifice for a second spirit, but she did not want to accept, and he thought he was looking at the matter the wrong way.  And it finally came to the point that he offered her human sacrifice, but she didn’t want to accept what he offered her in humans.

The jarl thought his case most unexpected, and, if he could not soothe her, things would not go well for the men of Lade.  He accepted the desperation of their situation and increased the offer to her, and it was so important that he invited her to all other men, except himself and his sons Eirik and Sweyn and his son Valdamar.  But the Jarl had a son named Erling there, who was seven years old and a most promising young man, but, too late, he realized that he had not sheltered his young son because he was one of the children dancing about him in the circle.  Thorgerder accepted his offer and chose Erling Haakonarson.

Hallveig Irpa was in tears and she pleaded for the life of Erling and Emma joined in and, now that the Jarl had his prayers and vows answered by the Lade spirit, Thorgerder Helgibruder, he offered himself up instead, but the cruel spirit refused.  The Jarl hugged his boy and handed him to Skofta Kark, his slave, and the thrall did as he was ordered and slit the throat of the boy and collected up his blood in a bronze wash basin.  Haakon tore the clothes off of Hallveig, and Emma tried to help him but she had to keep the poor terrified children chanting in their now smaller circle.  Haakon was in the center with Hallveig and he dipped both hands into the basin of blood and he smeared Erling’s blood all over Hallveig Irpa’s naked body and she grew younger and stronger and was soon the spirit Irpa alone.  She was twenty six years old again, just like Thorgerder’s age when she died in battle and Irpa rose up into the black cloud with Thorgerder and it swept out east and rejoined the battle that had just recommenced.  Haakon left Emma with the children and Emma joined herself into the circle to make the full dozen again and they danced and chanted as the Jarl rejoined the fleet.

So, it soon grew even darker this second time and in this ancient abode, Havardur saw that now two women were on Jarl Haakon’s ships and both of them fired arrows from their fingertips and each shot brought about the death of a man, just as he had seen before.  The two spirits split up and each went to a separate flank and caused great devastation amongst the Jomsvikings with their deadly arrows.  Thorgerder Helgibruder floated below the black clouds and hail in her white Shield maiden’s dress and armour and she fired five arrows at a time from each hand and each arrow brought the death of a man in the fleet off the southern flank.  And Irpa floated in glorious form, naked and swathed in red blood strokes as she floated above the northern flank and fired arrows into the ships of the Jomsvikings.  One ship she was above, she cleared the deck of men, ten at a time, until there were only five left alive at the stern of the ship, and all five dropped to their knees and pledged themselves to serve her if she would just spare their lives so, she touched them and they fell unconscious at the back of the ship and Irpa moved on to clear another ship’s deck of stalwart young men.

This time Sigvald spoke to his men, “Now I think it best we flee,” he said, “and so do all my men, as it is now worse than before, when we were barely able to bear it, and now we fight against two spirits.”  And Sigvald turned away from his ship and called on Vagn and Bui and their fleets on the flanks to do likewise.  “When there was one thing,” Sigvald said, “we had a chance, but with two we shall no longer persist.  After all, it is not men that we flee from, but spirits.  We did not make a vow to fight witchcraft!”

At the moment that Sigvald had freed his ship from the battle, Thorkel Midlangur was on the northern flank and he ran the length of his ship and jumped into the ship of Bui, and struck at Bui just once with his sword, and he chopped off his lip and chin all the way down through, so that it immediately fell onto the deck of the ship and there sat the teeth of Bui and he still managed to say, “It will be hard for the Danish girls of Borgundarholm to kiss me now,” but nobody could understand him because he spoke his Danish with a new Norwegian steel accent.  He then struck at the face of Thorkel, but the ship was bloody now, and Thorkel slipped and fell across the topstrake as he tried to avoid the blow, and Bui’s second blow caught him in the middle and cut Thorkel in two and half of him fell into the sea and half upon the ship’s deck.

After this, Bui took hold of his two chests of gold, one in each hand and he jumped overboard after Thorkel with both chests, and did not come up again.  Some of his men said that when Bui got up on the topstrake and was about to leap overboard, he said, “Overboard, all Bui’s men who wish to guard this gold,” but, again, nobody understood him, and then he stepped off the strake.

By then, Sigvald had withdrawn his fleet, and he didn’t know that Bui had gone overboard, and he called for Vagn and Bui to flee with him, but Vagn answered him and sang a verse:

“Sigvaldi has led                  ourselves into danger,

 but faint-hearted,                has fled home to Denmark.

 He intends to embrace           soon his girlfriend,

 but beyond the topstrake,              Bui has lept with courage.”

It was said that Sigvald had become cold and left the steering board in the hands of another to warm himself by rowing with his men.  And when Vagn had recited the verse and he saw Sigvald’s ship leaving, he threw a spear at him on the steering board, thinking he was still standing at the helm, but Sigvald was at the oars, and the man who steered received the consignment.  When Sigvald’s fleet was back in the range of the trebuchets he received another consignment of tonstones and another dozen ships broke up before they got away.

Thorkell ‘the Tall’, Sigvald’s brother, went away with him and had six ships, and so did Sigurd Kapa after Bui, his brother, had gone off overboard, and it seemed as if both of them had fulfilled their vows, Thorkell and Sigurd, and they all now sailed until they’d come home to Denmark, and had taken away with them four and twenty ships.  All that was left of the Jomsvik ships that remained in Hjorungavagr Bay rallied around Vagn’s longship, and there they all defended themselves until darkness fell.  But when it got too dark to still fight, the battle broke up and many men still stood upon Vagn’s ship, and Jarl Haakon had little time to search the abandoned ships, so, they just removed all the oars and kept a watch over them for the night, and when this was done, Jarl Haakon and his men rowed ashore, and pitched tents and made campfires and now drank to victory toasts.  Einar ‘Skalaglamm’ made many a verse and used his new scales to weigh the hailstones sent by the sisters, Thorgerder and Irpa, and it was considered good.  It is said that a hailstone weighed a penny, and, as they weighed, the scale pans tinkled.

And while this was going on, the wounds of the injured men were bound up by the Valkyries of Prince Valdamar’s fleet, and they stayed up all night, Jarl Haakon himself and Gudbrand of the Dales.

Prince Sweyn took Hallveig and Emma and eleven children into the Captain’s cabin of his dromon shieldship and the healers gave the young ones potions that would make them sleep and they tucked them into the beds of the cabin.  Hallveig was still naked and covered in blood so, Sweyn covered her with a blanket and Emma scrubbed the blood off of her body.  “She’s so young,” Sweyn said to Emma as Hallveig fell asleep in a captain’s chair in her blanket.

“She’ll remain young like that for a long time,” Emma said.

“How long?” Sweyn asked.

“That is entirely up to Thorgerder Helgibruder,” Emma answered.  “She’s gone now, but she will likely keep Hallveig young for a long time because of the sacrifice she has made.  She had to sacrifice her son, you know.”

“I thought it was Haakon’s son who was sacrificed.”

“It was,” Emma said.  “It was Haakon’s son by her.  You’ve lived in Lade long enough to know that our Jarl Haakon is a rapist.”

“I know,” Sweyn admitted.  “I had to help him with some of his rapes.  I didn’t want to, but I had to.”

“Hard or soft?” Emma asked, and Sweyn realized that Emma knew Haakon’s methods.

“Both,” Sweyn confessed.

“I’m sorry he put you through that.  When he raped Hallveig, he made me watch.”

“But Hallveig wanted me because she was a virgin and didn’t want to die that way,” Sweyn said, expectantly.

“Many women who are taken by force don’t consider it sex as much as assault.  Hallveig was saving what was left of her virginity for a man she loved and respected and that man was you, Sweyn.”

“But she was a virgin,” Sweyn protested.  “I’ve had virgins before.  I know that I pierced her flower.”

“She’s a healer, Sweyn.  She knows how to fake it.  She’s helped many young women on their wedding nights prove themselves to their new husbands,” and she laughed a bit in embarrassment.  “Don’t be angry with her.  She loves you, as do I.”

“I’m not.  I love you too.”  The children were asleep and Hallveig was curled up in her chair snoring softly so, Sweyn gathered up some furs and he made love to Emma on the cabin floor and they curled up together and enjoyed the warmth of each other’s bodies.  Just as Sweyn was drifting off, he saw Hallveig getting up in her hard new body and he wondered if she was a virgin once more as she stepped out of the cabin.

Emma mumbled, “Who is it?”  And Sweyn answered, “Hallveig just stepped out to relieve herself,” and they fell asleep in each other’s arms.

In the darkness and cold of the night, Vagn and Bjorn ‘the Welshman’ discussed with their men what they should do – “There are two courses we could take,” said Vagn, “one, to stay here with the ships until daylight and let them kill or take us, and the other, to leave here and make our way to the forest and try to survive until we can steal a properly equipped ship.”

They all decided that they should take the sail mast and yardarm and float with it across the bay to escape in the darkness.  There were eighty men left and together they swam with the mast in the darkness and moved onto the mainland and hid in some trees.  It was said that when Sigvald had fled, all the thunder and lightning took off after him and that the weather became calm and cold.  And so it was at night when Vagn and his men were in hiding until daybreak  They were wet and freezing and many were wounded, and there were ten men laid to rest in the night, and threescore and ten who survived.  When they woke up in the morning, they realized that they had fled to a small island instead of the mainland.

The next dawn, the Jarl’s men were still tending their wounds, and had been all night since they had set up camp, and, as a result of their wounds many of the men had died.  As they were erecting a howe on the shore, they heard the twang of a bowstring coming from a ship and an arrow flew up out of the darkness and struck Jarl Gudbrand, Haakon’s uncle, and he fell dead.  Jarl Haakon ordered his men away from the shore until a search of all the ships could be conducted.  All of the men thought this to be of the greatest harm, and wanted to search right away, but Jarl Haakon ordered his men to wait until there was more light and then they would search all the ships and surrounding islands for survivors because he felt that nobody would be safe until all the wounded Jomsvikings were dealt with.

One man stood by his tent doors, and when Jarl Eirik went into the tent, he asked: “Why are you standing here?”  Then he asked, “Are you wounded, Thorleif?”

“I did not remember,” he answered, “that Vagn Akason’s bloodsnake came to me yesterday when I struck his helm with my blackened club.”

The jarl found the wound, then said, “Your father would be ill if you were to die now.”

And when Einar Skalaglamm heard the earl speak, he said:

“The wounder of gold          searched frantically.

 for the hidden marks             of the wound fire.

 and the earl did say            to the man of sea horses,

 ‘Your father will suffer          if you die,’ we think.”

And then Thorleif Skuma fell down dead.

And when it was clear in the morning, the Jarl and his men went to inspect the ships and came to the ship which Bui had owned, and they found there Havard, who had been Bui’s right hand, but he was injured in that both his legs were cut off below his knees.  Prince Sweyn and Thorkell Leira went there to him and Havard asked, “How is it, lads?” and he added, “Did any consignment come from a ship last night to land there, or on someone?”

“On someone,” they answered.

“Who did my arrow kill?” Havard asked, smiling weakly.  When they told him, he said, “My luck was close then, for it was meant for the Jarl himself,” and Thorkell Leira killed him.

As they carried on inspecting the ship’s they found Hallveig Irpa sleeping amongst the furs of a Jomsviking ship with five young Jomsborg warriors and Prince Sweyn woke her and said, “We were wondering where you had got off to, Hallveig.  Are these men your captives?”

“Yes,” she answered, as she got up and stood before Sweyn, young and naked as she had become the day before.  “Thorgerder Helgibruder had me spare them yesterday, and she gave them to me after they had all sworn oaths to serve me if I didn’t kill them.”

Sweyn took up a fur off the deck of the ship and wrapped it around the healer.  “You’re no longer covered in blood,” he told her.

“I had my young men bathe me last night after I awakened them, and then we focked all night.”  Sweyn looked at the five warriors still asleep in the furs and he could see that they were all naked underneath them.  “I worked them hard last night,” she told Sweyn, “I had such a battle lust worked up.”

“Can you bring them down to Jarl Haakon’s camp when you’re done with them?” Sweyn asked.  “We’re gathering up prisoners for the Jarl’s judgement on them.”

“They’re mine!” Hallveig said.  “I’ll bring them to camp, but Thorgerder blessed me with them!”

During the search of the surrounding islands, they saw where a group of men were hiding in a copse of trees and the Jarl’s men went on one ship and rowed out to the skerry, and they gathered up the men and they were all brought ashore to meet the Jarl, and they were seventy men.  Vagn and his companions had their hands tied behind their backs and were tied to each other with one rope and not in a stern manner.  The jarl and his men broke out supplies and some began to make breakfast.  But before they sat down to eat, the ships of the Jomsvikings were brought ashore and stripped of goods, and the gold was distributed amongst the men, except for the gold that Bui had taken with him, and Jarl Haakon and his men divided up their weapons, and they now boasted to have won a great victory.

Then the Norwegians ate breakfast and when they were full, they went out of the camp to the captives.  Thorkell Leira was to be executioner of the Jomsvikings.  Thorkell had previously spoken to the Jomsvikings and had asked them if they were as courageous as all that was said about them.  But the warriors of Jomsborg did not answer him.

First, some warriors who are very wounded were released from the rope.  Skofta Kark and some other slaves had guarded them on the rope and now that the men had been freed, the slaves twisted sticks into the hair of the Jomsvikings so their heads could be more easily handled afterwards, and three wounded men were led out first by their handles, and Thorkell then went to them and made them kneel and the slaves held their heads steady by the sticks and he cut off the head of each of them with his sword, and then spoke to his comrades and asked them if he looked somewhat changed by this deed “for it is a saying among men,” he said,” that all men change colour after beheading three men one after the other.”

But Jarl Haakon answered him, “We do not see you changed by this, but still it seems to me that you may have.”

Now a fourth man was let off of the rope, and a stick was twisted into his hair, and he was led to the place where Thorkell was doing the cutting.  This man was very injured and when he came forward, Thorkell spoke to him and asked him what he thought of dying.  “I am fine with death,” he answered.  “It will happen to me like it happened to my father.”

“Your father was beheaded too?” Thorkell asked.

“No, my father died and was fine with it and I am too, so strike your…”

Thorkell quickly cut off the man’s reply and head, and so ended his life.

Now the fifth man was released from the rope and led there with a stick in his hair and Thorkell Leira said, “And how are you going to die?”

He answered, “Without fear, for I do not forget the laws of the Jomsvikings and I am not allowed to show fear of death or speak words of fear, for all men shall each someday die.”

And Thorkell struck off his head.

And now Jarl Haakon and Thorkell determined to ask each of them before they were beheaded, which way they were going to die, and then to see whether they were as brave as what was said of them.  If none of them showed fear of death, then the Jomsvikings would be considered truly fearless.  But secondly, Thorkill Leira enjoyed hearing their words, no matter what.

Now the sixth man was taken from the rope and a stick was twisted in his hair and he was led out and Thorkell asked how well he intended to die.  “I want to die,” he said, “with a good reputation intact; but your reputation left you when you changed colour, for you are ashamed of your life and will live in shame and misery until, like me, you die!”

Thorkill had no more words for this man, and quickly cut off his head.

Then a seventh man was led to be beheaded and Thorkell asked him how well he intended to die.  “I think very well,” said he, “and I think it would do well to perform a test as I die.  I have here a dagger,” he said, pulling it out from his sleeve and he stepped in so close to Thorkill that he could have stabbed him before Thorkill could raise his sword and then he stepped back out of striking range and he said, “I shall hold it level and try with all my might not to let it fall when my head does and if I hold it level for even a second then my body shall have followed its training, but if it falls right away, then you shall know only the mind is trained.”

Skofta Kark stepped forward to hold the head of this one still, for he had often wondered about such things.

And now Thorkell struck so that at once the head fell off the torso, but the knife immediately fell to the ground and they knew now, for sure, that only the mind could be trained.

Then an eighth man was led out, and Thorkell asked the same.

“I think I shall die well, but” he said, and then he knelt down to receive his blow and when he thought it was almost upon him, he shouted, “Ram!”

Thorkell stopped the blow and asked why he would shout such a thing.

“Because,” he said, “in death I will be a ram and I’ll give it to those two ewes, those witch bitches, you called upon yesterday to fight your battle for you, and I’ll fock them both to undeath!”

“Mother focker!” said Thorkell, “Such a speaker!” and he struck off his head at once.

Now a ninth man was freed from the rope, and Thorkell asked, “What is true, comrade,” he said.  “How good do you think you are going to die?”

“I intend to die well like all my comrades, those who here now lay dead.  But I wish that you would grant me that I was not thus led to be struck like a sheep, but that I would kneel before your sword, facing it, and that you would walk in front of me and strike me in the face, and watch carefully whether I blink or not, because we have often talked, we Jomsvikings, whether a man would react if the blow was in his face.”

Thorkell did as he asked.  He knelt upwards in front, as Thorkell struck the front of his face and he did not see him blink, except when the blade moved into his eyes and lopped off the top of his skull.  A slave picked the top up by the stick, but the scalp pulled away and the brain fell out freely and the blood red skull rolled into the grass and sat up like a dish.  “That would make a fine cup for a Bulgarian prince,” Sweyn said after it came to a stop.

“Perhaps that was what was on his mind?” Jarl Haakon said.

“It is only a Bulgarian thing,” Jarl Eirik replied.

And after this a tenth man was freed from the rope and led to the killing floor, and Thorkell asked the same thing again.

“I think I shall die very well,” he said; “but I wish you would let me relieve myself before you cut my head off, so I don’t go off in my pants as I die.”

“It shall be as you wish,” Thorkell said, thinking he wanted to piss, but he unbuttoned his pants and pulled out a huge member and he began stroking it in front of the Jarl.  The member was so large and hard that the jarls could only stand and watch.  Haakon stepped to one side as the thing went off and shot out into the grass.  When he finished with it, he said, “Things do not always go off as planned, for I had intended that this companion of mine should go off inside Thora Skagadottir, the jarl’s wife, and that she should share her bed with me,” and he shook the thing off as he said this, and then stuffed it back into his trousers.

So, Jarl Hakon said, “Cut off his heads as quickly as possible,” and he added, “for you behold here a man who has long had evil in mind, and has now done it to himself.”

Thorkell was amused by this so, he ignored the Jarl and cut off only one of the man’s heads, and so ended his life.

Still, the princes and jarls marvelled at the courage of a man who could stroke himself off just before being beheaded.  Their little experiment was proving the Jomsvikings to be braver than anyone had expected.

Next, a man was let off of the rope and led forth.  He was a handsome young man and had a beautiful head of hair, so that it lay on his shoulders and was as yellow as silk.  Thorkell asked him how he thought he would die.  “Although I have lived the most beautiful of lives,” the young man said, “and they have now just so recently died, that I do not think it worthwhile to live any longer, and yet have no real choice in the matter.  But still I wish that you grant me that slaves will not lead me to be beheaded, and I wish that someone who is of as high and fine a rank as you would lead me out, and yet I think that you will have no trouble in finding such a man among you,” and he tossed his hair back and it flowed forth over his shoulders almost sensuously.  “It is another thing that I am so accustomed to my hair that I want that man to keep my hair out of the blood while I am being beheaded, and to quickly pull my head free of my body, so that my hair does not become all bloody.”

A royal retainer of some note stepped forward, a minor jarl, to lead him out, and it was not considered necessary to turn a stick in his hair, as it was so long, and the young jarl took the fine blonde hair and wrapped it in his hands, and then held both hands for his handsome young head to receive the blow, and Thorkell Leira raised his sword and intended to cut hard and fast so there’d be no pain, and he struck down, but the young man, when he heard the whoosh of the blow start, quickly pulled his head back hard and it took the retainer’s hands under the blow, and Thorkell struck both arms off at the elbows.  Then the blonde haired handsome man sprang up and made a joke and said, “Who is this boy with hands in my hair?” and the two arms hung down as the hands locked up upon his locks.

Jarl Haakon then spoke, and said, “Great storms are happening now, and too many of these men are yet left in the line, and we should go as fast as we can and kill them.  They have had great mirth at our expense.  Death is but a joke to them and they face it far more bravely than any normal man should.”

Jarl Eirik was still watching the young Jomsviking as he spoke and answered his father, “Do we not want to know, father, who the men are, before they are all killed?  What is your name, young man?” Eirik asked and both Sweyn and Haakon knew his interest.

“My name is Sveinn,” the young Jomsvik said.

“Whose son are you, Sveinn,” asked Eirik, “and what is your gender?”

“My father’s name was Bui Digri,” he said, “and he was Veseta’s son from Borgundarholm, and I am a Dane by birth.”

“How old are you?” Eirik asked as his interest grew.

“If I pass this winter,” he said, “then I will be eighteen years old.”

“So, you must pass the winter,” said Eirik, “and if you accept my rule and become my man, you will not be killed.”

Sweyn also added, “If he is under eighteen, he is too young to be slain.  My Valdamar is just turning eighteen himself.”  Prince Valdamar stepped forward and vouched for his father’s words.

And Eirik now took him aside in peace and let him join in his company of men.

And when Jarl Haakon saw this, he spoke, and said, “I do not know how you can accept this young man into your company, who has so much shame and contempt for us as this one, a man whom we have suffered the most from.  But yet I can see that I will not keep the young man out of your hands so, your will shall be followed here.”

So, it went as Jarl Eirik wanted.

And now Jarl Hakon said to Thorkell Leira: “Hit the men hard again.  We must get this done more quickly.”

Eirik then added, “The men will not be beheaded until I have spoken to them before, and I want to know who is being killed and I want Einar to keep a record of this.”

Einar stepped forward and said, “Oh, I have been, my prince.  The battle gave me much to compose, but this stuff is gold!”

Then another man was loosened from the rope and the free end of the rope was getting long enough to twist around his foot.  The man was tall and handsome and young in age and seemed most diligent.  Thorkell asked him how he intended to die.

“I think well of it,” he said, “if I take care of one last vow before my end.”

Jarl Eirik said, “What is your name? And what is your vow that you wish to take care of before you lay down your life?”

He answered: “My name is Vagn, and I am the son of Aki Palnatokason of Fyn.  That is what I’ve been told, at any rate.”

“What vow did you make, Vagn,” Eirik asked, “that you say would allow you to die in peace?”

“I had a vision and I swore,” said Vagn, “that I would go to the bed of Ingibjorg, daughter of Thorkell Leira, without the permission of him or her kinsmen, if I came to Norway, and I now feel very much lacking in my cause if I shall not do so come before I die.”

“I will make it so,” said Thorkell angrily, “that you shall not come to into heat with any of my kin,” and Thorkell ran at him and struck at him with both hands on his sword, but Bjorn ‘the Welshman’, foster-father of Vagn, though still bound in the line, tugged on the rope about Vagn’s foot and knocked him down and Thorkell’s blow went over him and Thorkell tripped over him and landed on his own sword and it cut him badly.  Vagn did not lie down long, and sprang to his feet and at once took the sword which Thorkell had and struck Thorkell Leira’s head off.

Then Vagn said, “Now I have fulfilled my second vow, and I now believe in the vision more strongly than before.”

Jarl Haakon said, “Do not let him play free for long, and kill him as soon as possible, for he has done us great harm.”

“He shall not be killed sooner than I myself,” said Eirik, “and I will accept Vagn into my company as well.”

Jarl Haakon said, “We need to kill these men as quickly as possible.  This has gotten out of control!”

Einar ‘Skallaglamm’ stepped forward and said, “This is bringing you much fame!  Gold couldn’t buy you the fame that this execution is garnering!”

“It’s a good thing to enlist a man such as Vagn, father,” said Eirik, “and it seems to me well earned, though we take Vagn in the respect and ambition which Thorkell Leira has had, and replace him.  Thorkell had hoped to stop Vagn’s vision and look what it got him.  It comes down to what is often said, ‘that prophecy can be wise,’ but you have already accepted it today.”

Sweyn stepped in this time and asked Vagn his age.  The young Jomsviking said he would be eighteen in a month and Sweyn said, “He’s too young to be slain.”

And then Vagn said, “I like it best to accept peace from you, Jarl Eirik,” then added, “but if I am to be spared, all those who are left must be given peace as well, should they wish to serve you.”

Eirik answered: “I will want to have a word with these comrades of yours, before I allow what you ask.”

Eirik went to where Bjorn ‘the Welshman’ was tied in the line, and asked who he was; he answered that his name was Bjorn.  Jarl Eirik stepped back and said, “Are you Bjorn ‘the Brexit’ who is best known for heroically saving your companion from King Harald’s highseat hall?”

“I do not know,” says Bjorn, “that it was heroic, but still I came out of his hall with the man alive.”

“What reason brought you here to us,” asked Eirik, “an old man with white balding hair like some seagull?  What drove you to this journey?  Was it because all the kings want us lowly Norwegian jarls gone from here, sending those who’ve not yet come of age to those almost upon old age to fight with us?  Will you want to accept life from me, “said Eirik, “if I can get it for you?  Because I do not think you are a killer, an old man such as you?”

Bjorn answered, “Don’t discount my capacity to kill.  Many men died in that Danish hall before I got our man out.  Vagn only allows me to follow him because of it.  But I wish to accept life from you, Eirik,” he continued, “if you free my foster-son, Vagn, and all our men who are left.”

Eirik said, “It shall be granted to you and to all,” he says, “if I can get it.”

Jarl Eirik went before his father and begged him that they all have peace, the Jomsvikings who were left; Prince Sweyn, Prince Valdamar and Einar ‘Skallaglamm’ joined in and the Jarl gave in to all of them.

And the Jomsvikings were all redeemed, and they were assured and given peace.  And it was ordered by Jarl Haakon and Eirik that Bjorn ‘the Brexit’ should go to the estate of the one who had conjured up the spirits, Hallveig, the old woman who was now young.  It was also ordered that five more young Jomsvikings go to that same hall of Hallveig Irpa, the goddess who had turned the tide of battle.  Hallveig Irpa took the men back to her ship and once more accepted their surrenders.

Jarl Eirik took Sveinn Buison and Vagn Akason to his ship, the Iron Beard, and he accepted their surrenders under the awnings.  The rest of the Jomsvikings were bent over their shields right there on the killing field and the few that did not offer up their surrenders were raped or killed by Jarl Haakon depending on how he felt about them.  There were no captives of a rank suitable for princes to ransom so, Sweyn returned to his shieldship and had Emma again and Valdamar went back to his ship and focked each of the three wives he had smuggled with him under his forecastle.

Vagn Akason went east to the Vik on the advice of Jarl Eirik, and Eirik told Vagn, before they parted, that he should propose marriage to Ingibjorg Thorkellsdottir as he had foreseen.  And when Vagn went east to the Vik, he went to bed with Ingibjorg without asking her kin, and Vagn stayed there over the winter.

But in the following spring, Vagn took his new wife and son they had named Eirik, and they all went to Denmark, home to Fyn and his estates there, and they lived together for the rest of their lives and many great and famous offspring were sprung from Vagn and Ingibjorg.

After Hallveig freed him in Lade, Bjorn ‘the Welshman’ went home to Britain and ruled there while he lived, and was considered to be a great leader.

Now it was said of Sigvald, that when he fled from the battle, he did not stop until he made it all the way home to Denmark, and that Astrid, his wife, was there and she prepared a feast for him.  They told all there the stories of the battle and of the whole journey together, since the Jomsvikings were mostly from Denmark, and it was a great pleasure for all to hear what they told of those tidings.  And after that, Astrid had a fine bath drawn for Sigvald and she joined him in the bath and she scrubbed his body and asked him about each particular wound.  She then dove under the water and searched for more wounds, but found only his steed and she stroked it and she came above the water and she rode it.  “Don’t ever go back to Norway,” she said, after she’d pleasured him.  “The wound I found under water,” said Astrid, “will be in constant need of care and polishing,” and she began stroking his steed again, “and should be kept as far away from Norway as possible.”

Then Sigvald told her, “Henceforth I keep clear of Norway and shall only talk of the battle we Jomsvikings fought there.”

Sigvald added, “It might be such in my life that my greatest defeat ends up being boasted of as being tinged with victory, and I think that you’ll like it better as time wears on.”  Sigvald ruled over his estates in Zealand for a long time, and was considered the wisest man, and his fame was not solely there, for great tidings of him are told of in other sagas.

But Jarl Haakon ruled Norway for a short time afterwards, and was thought to be the best of all jarls, and so were his sons.

It was not told of what Sveinn Buison, the handsome blonde young man, ended up doing, whether he was with Eirik, or did something different, but it is possible they became discreet lovers and he shared Eirik with his many wives.

Sigurdur Kapa, Bui’s brother, went to Denmark and took over his paternal estate after Veseti in Borgundarholm and lived there for a long time, and was considered to be the best of men with his wife Tofa, and their intercourse was always good and many great offspring came of it.

Thorkell ‘the Tall’, the noble brother of Sigvald, was considered the wisest man, and later proved himself in many ways.  He later served with Sweyn ‘Forkbeard’ in England.

Skjaldmeyjar-Einar, who Haakon called Einar ‘Skallaglamm’, went to Iceland and wrote of the Jomsvikings, but he drowned in Breidafjord, that is now called Skaleyjar or Scales Island, because there the scales drifted ashore, the ones that the Jarl gave him.

Thordur ‘Arrow-hand’ went home to Dyrafjord to his father Thorkel in Alvidra, and it was said that Thorleif Skuma and Thordur ‘Arrow-hand’ were brothers, and Thordur lived in Alvidra after his father, and many offspring from him had come to Fjordur west, and Einar wrote most clearly about these tidings out of Iceland.

It has been said since, that Bui Digri became a dragon in Hjorungavagr Fjord and guarded his two chests of gold; but it may have been that the dragon was seen there at Hjorungavagr, or it may be that the evil spirit of Thorgerder Helgibruder took rest upon the gold and appeared there occasionally afterwards.  But we cannot say whether it is the one or the other.  It may not be true at all, because many things that happened back then, cannot be seen today.

It may even be that Thorgerder Helgibruder was not clearly seen on that day and that the storm that came up with the hail and the sleet and the wind that was conjured up by witchcraft was enough to turn the tide of battle, for the Jomsvikings depended upon their superior skill in combat and their elite physical conditioning to garner victory in battle, and nothing evens the playing field in that regard as much as hail that turns fighting footwork into walking on marbles and sleet that slows down the speed of lightning quick strokes and wind that deadens arrows that fly against it.  Under those conditions sheer numbers overwhelm skill and the Norwegians, being attacked at home, had the numbers and were not lacking in counteractive combative skills.  The real trick is in conjuring up the storm, and Witch Hallveig and Jarl Haakon had used Hjorungavagr Fjord for this, successfully, in the past.  Still…Witch Hallveig did become the goddess Irpa and her bloodied body did regain its youth in the primacy and the five Jomsvikings that Thorgerder Helgibruder gave her did serve her for the rest of her life as will be told, because many things that happened back then, had consequences that carry forward to this very day.



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            1.   Now then are come                   to the king’s high hall,

                  the foreknowing twain,             Fenja and Menja,

                  in bondage by Frodi,                 Fridleif’s son,

                  these sisters mighty                  as slaves are held.

                                               Anonymous; Grottasongr, Prose Edda

(986 AD)  Prince Sweyn and Emma were at the forestem of his dromon shieldship, surrounded by children, as they sailed back to Trondheim Fjord.  “Are they still focking down there?” Sweyn asked Emma.  “Like bunnies,” she answered.  “When Hallveig turned into Irpa, it terminated her pregnancy.  That’s why Thorgerder had her spare the five Jomsvikings when they pleaded for their lives.  They’re hers now.”

“She’s working them hard down there!”

“A part of Irpa still remains in her.”

“I noticed,” Sweyn said.  “She still looks like a goddess!  I hope she doesn’t fock them to death!”

“There are worse ways to go,” Emma said, hugging Sweyn’s arm.  “Hallveig told me that Thorgerder promised her five babies to replace the two of yours that she lost, one baby from each of her men.”

“That’s a nice trick if she can pull it off!”

“Quintuplets!  That’s what she said.  We only have one in here,” she said, putting Sweyn’s hand on her taut belly.  “Do you think we can add four more?  Or do you now desire Hallveig’s goddess body instead of mine?”

“Your body has been looking fairly godly with all the training you’ve been doing,” Sweyn told her, and he stepped back to study her form up and down.  “There’s another cabin in the aft, you know.  We could work on four more.”

“We can’t leave the children here on deck alone,” Emma said, disappointedly.

Sweyn looked back midships and saw Bjorn ‘the Brexit’ standing by the mast.  “Bjorn!” he shouted, “Could you come here and watch the children for us?”  Sweyn looked at Emma.  “He has children in Britain.  He’ll be fine with them.”

“I’ve got half a dozen back home,” Bjorn said, as he came up.  “They’ll be fine with me.  How long will you be gone?”

“We’ll be in the aft cabin about four hours,” Sweyn estimated, taking Emma by the hand and making a dash for the stern.

Sigvald and the Jomsvikings who left with him were very lucky when they fled south down the coast of Norway, for there was a great Hraes’ fleet that went up the coast a few days later.  Sweyn and Alfled went out onto their quay in front of their longhall and watched the Hraes’ fleet sail into Trondheim Fjord.  Three hundred and seventy Hraes’ transport warships entered the harbour before the cities of Trondheim and Lade and Sweyn watched as Valdamar ran down the quay, buttoning up his pants as he went.

“I think this is your fleet,” Sweyn said, as his son came up to them.  “I hope they aren’t cutting in on your focking time.”

“My other wives missed me while I was in Hjorungavagr,” Valdamar said, nodding to Alfled.  “I sent a message off to your grandfather when I rushed here to warn you about the Jomsvikings.  I told him to send two of your mobile legions to Norway via the Mediterranean because I didn’t want them sailing past Denmark and warning King Harald.”

“Jarl Haakon’s going to be shitting himself,” Sweyn warned Valdamar.

“He’ll know they’re Hraes’!” Valdamar said, pointing at the red and black raven banners.  “He knows he’s not under attack!”

“He’ll be shitting himself about how he’s going to feed them!”  And the princes both laughed.

“It’s only a few thousand men,” Alfled said.  “I’ll whip them up something in the scullery!”

“With the regiment I brought, it’s two full Hraes’ legions,” Valdamar explained.  “That’s twenty thousand men!”

“To the Romans or the Caliphate, it is but an expeditionary force,” Sweyn explained to his son.  “But here, in the north, it’s one big mother-focking army!”

Soon they saw horses coming from Jarl Haakon’s longhall.  It was the Jarl and Eirik and Aud and they reached the quay just as Sweyn and his group got back to shore.  Aud leapt from her horse and rushed up to Sweyn and hugged him and then Alfled.  “How am I going to feed all these men?” Haakon shouted down from his horse.

“You’re not,” Sweyn told him.  “The king of Denmark shall!”

“I don’t think King Harald’s going to feed…” and then he stopped.  “When are we going?” he asked.

“Can we feed them for a few days while they rest?” Sweyn asked.  “They’ve come a long way.”

“We can feed them as long as you wish, King Sweyn,” Jarl Haakon said, in complete respect.

When Alfled and Aud and Eirik heard Haakon address Sweyn in such respectful terms, they realized that their victory at the Battle of Hjorungavagr stood for winning much more than just a battle.  It stood for their winning a war.  They spent the rest of the day unloading horses from ships and beaching ships and blocking and levelling ships so the crews could live under their awnings.  Great quantities of food were prepared for the troops and massive amounts of fodder were gathered for the horse.  By the end of the day there were beached ships and kite shield corrals set up from Buvika and Borsa to Hell and back.  A great feast was thrown for all the Hraes’ officers of the fleet in the highseat hall of Jarl Haakon and copious quantities of beef and ale were delivered to each and every transport warship and support ship of the Hraes’ fleet.  By the end of the day ‘King’ Sweyn retired a very tired prince.

“King Sweyn, Haakon called you,” Alfled told him in bed, “and he was dead serious when he said it.”

“I didn’t want it to come to this,” Sweyn said, “but Valdamar went to great cost to bring the legions here so, we have to use them.”

“Listen to them downstairs,” Alfled said.  “Is that Katla moaning in orgasm?  She has such a sweet sound.”

“I think it’s Dagmar,” Sweyn told her.  “She has that little gasp at the end.”

“I think it’s one of those Polish girls,” Aud said, as she came up from under the sheets.  She mounted Sweyn’s steed and began her ride as Alfled watched.  “Is her ass as sweet as Eirik’s?” Alfled asked.  “Much sweeter,” Sweyn said.  “When I’m in Eirik, I always think of Aud.”

“That’s so sweet,” Aud said, and she began riding a bit harder.

“And when you’re in Aud, do you think of Eirik?” Alfled teased.

“Well, I hadn’t until you brought him up,” Sweyn complained.

Jarl Eirik was in his own longhall master suite bedroom in bed with Sveinn Buison, the blonde haired Jomsviking he had saved from death.  The young man was lying on his side with Eirik’s hard cock in his mouth and the jarl was lying opposite him with his cock in his mouth.  They pleasured each other for a long time, then Eirik rose to his knees and lifted Sveinn by the hips and entered him from behind and kept thrusting into him and he grabbed his waist for the final few thrusts before he came deep within him.  Then Eirik went down on all fours and Sveinn entered him from behind and kept thrusting into him until he came.  Eirik’s two wives had been pleasuring each other at the end of the bed but they stopped to watch Sveinn’s beautiful locks flowing as he ploughed a furrow in their husband, and when he was done they all slept together in the bed.

The next day, the troops had light duty and most of them used the day to repair their armour and their saddles and bridles.  They knew the next few days were going to consist of naval and military drills and likely a few tattoos for the locals.  Battle plans were reviewed and Hraes’ merchant ships arrived from Tonsberg in the Vik and from Denmark itself.  Nobody knew they were there.  The Hraes’ fleet of hundreds of ships had been spotted by no one.  The training exercises were kept within the fjord itself so that word did not get out.

While the training progressed, Jarl Eirik set out with Sveinn Buison and a fleet of fine Norwegian warships for Jomsborg.  They took chests of gold with them to pay the Jomsvikings to stay in Jomsborg and to lock their gates and not get involved in the upcoming royal struggle.  Eirik met with some of their leaders aboard his shieldship and he explained Prince Sweyn’s legal right to the throne that Prince Harald had ignored when he took up the crown from his father Gorm.  Surviving brothers of the dead king had legal priority over sons and that was Norse and Aesir succession law.  Gorm ‘the Old’ Ivarson had been Svein ‘the Old’ Ivarson’s older brother so, when he died, regardless of Svein’s living in Kiev, or even Baghdad for that matter, Svein should have had first right of refusal of the throne and that right had not been offered him.  The interim leaders of Jomsborg knew Eirik, and had heard of his great efforts in saving the lives of Jomsviking captives, some of whom were aboard Eirik’s ships and even captained some of them so, they took the gold and assured Eirik of their neutrality in this matter of succession.

Eirik and his fleet had snuck through the sound, between Denmark and Skane undetected, but it wasn’t necessary for them to try to sneak back, it wasn’t worth the risk, so, he hunkered down with his fleet on the Island of Bornholm and only Captain Vagn Akason went back to the Vik, outside Tonsberg, and Vagn went to the Hraes’ store and warehouse in the city and he proposed to Ingibjorg, the daughter of Thorkill Leira, and when she said yes, he took her there in the warehouse in a massive pile of sable pelts.  Vagn took her without asking her relatives and Vagn took her without telling her that he had killed her father, but they were in love and he wanted her and he thought it best to spare her the details.

While training progressed, Prince Sweyn travelled around Trondheim Fjord in his dromon shieldship and he visited his wives and children there.  He went to Gudrun’s farm near Borsa and, seeing that her family was doing very well, he carried Gudrun to his ship and asked her to voluntarily board it and he sailed off with her for three days of training and they made love in his captain’s cabin below deck whenever they could.  He visited his son at Jarl Kettle’s longhall in Vanvikan and he went to Hell and visited with Emma in Hallveig’s longhall there.  “Do they ever come out?” Sweyn asked Emma.  “Only to eat,” she replied. looking up at Hallveig’s second floor loft suite.  “They’ve been up there focking since they got back from Hjorungavagr.  It’s a good thing she spared very young men or they’d all be dead by now.”

“There are worse ways to die,” Sweyn said, echoing her words from before.

“I know,” she laughed, “but the thumping is driving me crazy!”

“I know exactly what you mean,” Sweyn said.  “Let’s go to your room and make some noise of our own.”

“We can’t.  Our children are in there playing.”

Sweyn looked out into the hall and he saw Bjorn ‘the Brexit’ sitting there eating.  “Bjorn!” he shouted, and the children were soon playing with Bjorn out in the hall and Sweyn and Emma were in her room making some noise of their own.  After their afternoon sex, Sweyn said, “Saved by Bjorn again.”

“I’m worried about Bjorn,” Emma said.  “I think he expected to be servicing Hallveig but all she does is fock her young warriors with her new young body.  He’s starting to look at me funny.”

“I’ll go out and send the children to you and then I’ll have a word with him,” Sweyn told her.  “Don’t hurt him,” she said as he walked out the door.

“Do you remember that one Jomsviking who wanted Thorkill Leira to execute him from the front?” Sweyn said as he passed Bjorn a cup of wine.

“I do,” Bjorn said.  “He didn’t flinch.”

“Did you see how Thorkill hacked his skull off and it rolled in the grass and Thorkill said he’d make a drinking cup of it?”

“Yeah.  And you said it was a very Bulgar thing to do.”

“Well, if you ever have sex with Emma without my permission, I will make a drinking skull cup out of your head, understand?”

“Understood,” Bjorn stammered.  “It will never happen!”

Sweyn went into Emma’s bedroom and spent some time with her and the children there.  When he got ready to leave, he gave her some gold Byzants.  “Buy gifts for the children and some things for yourself and buy Bjorn a comely little slave girl and tell him she’s from me.  Be sure and tell him I took the gold coins out of my drinking skull cup,” and then he left.

Emma didn’t know what Sweyn had said to Bjorn, but he treated her with the utmost respect afterwards and he was very pleased when she brought him home a pretty little local slave girl.  And Emma made sure he treated her with that same utmost respect.

After a week of training, Prince Sweyn and Jarl Haakon led a combined Hraes’ Norwegian fleet out of Trondheim Fjord and south down the coast of Norway.  As their vast armada approached Denmark, King Harald ‘Bluetooth’ Gormson led a fleet of one hundred and twenty Danish warships out of Roskilde harbour and across the Kattegat to meet them.  When the king saw the size of the princely fleet, he fled with his ships through The Sound and sailed for help to Jomsborg.  Sweyn sent Jarl Haakon and Prince Valdamar to give chase with half the fleet and he took the other half to Roskilde Harbour and they occupied the city and Harald’s palace there.

Sweyn entered Harald’s highseat hall palace in the city and Harald’s wives sat on his highseats and he recognised Queen Gyritha of Sweden on the first highseat and Queen Consort Thora of the Obodrites upon the second highseat.  Nobody sat on the third highseat even though Sweyn had heard that Harald had numerous other wives, but perhaps they were just concubines.  Queen Gyritha pointed him over to the guest highseat, but Sweyn stood in front of her and he declared himself the new king of Denmark, King Sweyn ‘Forkbeard’ Ivarson, and he had the Lawspeaker of Lade come up beside him and present his arguments of priority over Harald Gormson.  As the Lawspeaker was reciting the arguments, Sweyn stepped up to the house highseats and sat beside Gyritha.  She immediately got up and joined Thora on the second highseat.  After Sweyn’s case had been presented, Sweyn announced that he would be offering the present queens their present positions on the throne should they accept Sweyn’s invitation to join him in the master bedroom of the palace second floor that night.  Any queens who did not show, would put their positions at risk of replacement by consorts, concubines and any other royals King Sweyn saw fit to replace them with.

A great victory feast was organized in the palace and Jarl Eirik and Prince Valdamar returned from their chase just before the feasting started with news that they had left Jarl Haakon and the fleet at the mouth of a fjord of Jom in which they had entrapped King Harald and his entire Danish navy.  King Sweyn sat on the first highseat, Jarl Eirik on the second and Prince Valdamar shared the third.  Danish princes and jarls vied for spots on the guest highseats and King Sweyn waved the royals off and on the six guest highseat spots until he was comfortable with the arrangement.  They feasted and celebrated late into the evening and Sweyn retired early to give his new brides a chance to visit him.

Sweyn made himself comfortable in Harald’s master bedroom and had guards posted outside the room with orders to search and question all who wished to enter.  Sweyn had his sword ready on the headboard of the bed and he had his protection kit on the board as well.  He stripped naked and climbed into bed and a little later there was a slight tapping at the door and Sweyn gave permission for entry.  A young girl walked into the room and Sweyn recognized her as Princess Gunhilde, Queen Gyritha’s daughter.  “You said any other royals and I was wondering if princesses were included in your invitation?” she asked, shyly.

“What would your mother say?” Sweyn asked her.

“She won’t be coming here tonight,” Gunhilde answered.  “She says she won’t ever be coming here.  I thought I might try to be queen.  I’m a virgin,” she offered.

“I suspected as much,” Sweyn said, getting out of bed.  He stood naked in front of her and he started to undress her.  She was very pretty with dirty blonde hair and as he opened her dress he saw fine young breasts and a slim waist and her dress fell to the floor and she stepped her slim ivory legs out of it and stepped into Sweyn’s arms.  His member had been growing in size as he’d undressed her and it was upright and hard by the time she pressed her flat belly against it.  She was a head shorter than he was and she began kissing the nipples on his chest as he pulled her into him.  “I think you will make a fine queen,” he whispered and he lifted her up and laid her out upon the bed.

“I’ll try very hard,” she replied.

Sweyn put some towels under her and he got atop her and entered her and the blood began flowing.  He thrust his way into her and she gasped.  “Am I hurting you?” he asked.  “No,” she whispered, “I just wasn’t expecting it to be so big.”  She got comfortable and relaxed and Sweyn gently began stroking inside her.  As she became accustomed to the action he began thrusting deeper and she would gasp a little as he did so.  “I should put on protection,” he said, stopping.  She pulled him into her and said, “No.  I want to have your first baby here.”  So Sweyn resumed his thrusts and she was so perfect underneath him that he soon gushed warmly inside her.  He then rolled beside her and thrust deeply within her and he hugged her against his chest and he enjoyed her youth and her freshness for a long time.

Soon there was a gentle tapping at the door and Sweyn withdrew from young Gunhilde and he kissed her gently.  He wiped himself off with a towel and he gave permission to enter and in stepped Queen Thora and she saw Gunhilde in bed with Sweyn and she said, “Oh my.  Am I too late?”

“There is room for one more,” Sweyn said, getting out of bed.  He walked up to Thora and began undressing her.  She had long black hair that flowed onto her shoulders and as Sweyn opened up her dress he found very large breasts beneath and they reminded him of Serah’s huge Khazar breasts.  “Oh my,” Sweyn said as he fully uncovered them.  As her dress fell to the floor he saw her fuller figure and he stepped into her and he kissed her and he walked her over to the bed and sat her down upon it.  He stood in front of her and his member was standing erect in front of her and she took it into her mouth and began sucking on it hungrily.  When it was hard and wet she laid back upon the bed and spread her thighs apart to receive him and Sweyn mounted her and he thrust into her and started driving into her hard and fast and she wrapped her legs around him to slow him down.  Gunhilde was under the sheets beside them, watching and learning.

Sweyn pulled Thora over on top of him and she began riding his steed and her breasts rose and fell with her hips and Gunhilde watched this with eyes wide open.  She had never seen such large breasts before and Sweyn was soon rising up to meet them and he began sucking on them, first one and then the other, until Thora began to moan in orgasm and she began riding harder as her orgasm emerged and took over her body.  Sweyn fell back and enjoyed her efforts and Gunhilde saw that Thora’s nipples were quite erect and large and she reached over to rub one and Thora moaned in delight so, Gunhilde took her nipple into her mouth and began to suck it and Thora came as Sweyn exploded inside her.  The two women collapsed on top of Sweyn and he took them into his arms, and they breathed heavily for some time.  The threesome slept together all night long.

In the morning, when Gunhilde went into the dressing room to relieve herself, Queen Thora said, “Princess Gunhilde just turned sixteen, in case you didn’t know.”

“I guessed about that,” Sweyn replied.

“Queen Gyritha is going to go crazy when she learns you’ve focked her daughter.”

“Queen Gyritha had her chance to come to my bedroom last night and she didn’t.  If she comes to me tonight, I may let her remain as queen.”

Thora laughed, and said, “Her brother is Eric the Victorious and he’s even crazier than she is.  If he finds out that you’ve deposed her, he’ll come here with a fleet and attack you.  You should keep her as your queen even if she doesn’t want to fock you.”

“I know King Eric and his wife,” Sweyn said.  “I’m not worried about him.”

“I’m going to be your practical wife,” Thora told him matter of factly.  “You should keep her as queen just to keep the peace.  King Eric is only worried about perceptions.  How would it look if his sister was deposed?  If you keep her here as queen and she won’t fock you, I’ll fock you.  Harold’s concubines will fock you.”

“I thought he had concubines,” Sweyn said.

“Queen Gyritha doesn’t know about them,” she said, then she kissed him quickly as Gunhilde came out of the dressing room.  “Shall we fock our king some more?” Thora asked Gunhilde as she crawled into bed.  “Can I ride his steed?” Gunhilde asked.  “Can she ride your steed? Thora asked Sweyn, innocently.  “Only if you wet my steed first, Queen Thora,” Sweyn answered.

Queen Thora was correct about Queen Gyritha.  When both Thora and Gunhilde shared the first highseat with Sweyn, Gyritha realized that her daughter had taken Sweyn up on his offer of other royals the night before.  She immediately began throwing spoons and trencherplates at the highseats and pretty much anything else she could lay her hands upon.  Sweyn’s guards had to physically restrain her until she calmed down.  Gunhilde was mortified.  She had never seen her mother react like that.  Thora wasn’t surprised.  She had even brought a sunshade with her on the highseat and she used it to deflect the objects Gyritha had been throwing.  It was the second time she had helped her new king.

When Queen Gyritha had fully calmed down that evening, she went to King Sweyn and she offered to remain his queen if he would no longer sleep with Gunhilde.  “I hope you used protection,” she said, and when Sweyn didn’t answer, she said, “You did use protection, didn’t you?”

“She didn’t want me to,” Sweyn said.  “She said she wanted to be the first to have babies with me.”

“She’s too young to have babies,” she said.

“You look pretty fine,” Sweyn said, eying her figure.  “How old were you when you had her?”

“That’s not the point!” she answered.  “Maybe she was on her period?  Was she bleeding at all?”

“She was,” Sweyn stated, “but I attributed it to her virginity, and I’ve focked virgins before and I’ve focked women on their periods before and I’m pretty sure it was the former.”

“She may still not be pregnant,” Gyritha grasped.  “I will remain your queen if you’ll leave Gunhilde alone.”

“Will you fock me?” Sweyn asked.

“Certainly not!” Queen Gyritha stated.

“I offered myself to all royals and your daughter offered herself to me and I accepted and we consummated the deal.  By Norse law we are now man and wife.  I don’t feel comfortable breaking that arrangement with her if you’re unwilling to give yourself in her place.”

“Okay!” Gyritha blurted.  “I’ll fock you!  I’ll be your diligent queen and tend to all your needs!”

“Okay.  I’ll leave her alone,” Sweyn said, “but if she’s already pregnant, she’s still my wife and we’ll all have the baby together.  I could never let her down like that.”

Queen Gyritha thought about it and she decided to roll the dice.  She would do anything to protect her daughter if she wasn’t pregnant yet.  “You have a deal,” she said.

“You’ll sleep with Queen Thora and me tonight?” he said.

“Queen Thora?  Together?”

“That’s what Gunhilde and I did last night.  We slept with Queen Thora.”

“You didn’t let her see you focking that Polish cunt, did you?”

“No.  She was in the dressing room when we did it,” Sweyn lied.  There were too many objects in the room that could be thrown to warrant the truth being told.

“Then Thora can wait in the dressing room while we fock and vice versa.”

“You speak Latin?” Sweyn asked her.  “I’m impressed!”  When she looked at him questioningly, he said, “Vice versa is Latin.”

“I don’t speak Latin,” she said.  “Vice versa is just a saying here.  Only our Christian priests speak Latin and they just repeat memorized phrases.  I don’t think anybody speaks Latin anymore.”

“The Roman Emperors still do and I’ve learned it as well,” Sweyn said.

“So, is that your plan?” Gyritha laughed.  “Now that you have gone from prince to king, your next step is to be a Roman Emperor?”

“Exactly!  Now where were we?”

“You’re serious,” she said.  “You’re really going to be a Roman Emperor?”

“Actually, a co-Emperor,” Sweyn told her and he could see that she was very impressed.

“What’s your favourite Latin saying?” she asked.

“Caveat emptor,” he told her.


“Seize the focking day!”

“That’s certainly you,” she told him.

“Now, where were we?”

“We were discussing Thora’s staying in the dressing room while we focked and vice versa.”

“Right!  You’re not a tender youth like Gunhilde.  If you don’t want to watch me focking Thora, don’t watch.  And if she wants to watch, so be it.  And that goes for my other wives as well. 

“There’ll be other wives?” she blurted.

“I have wives in Lade and Kiev and Gardariki,” he said.  “But that’s the deal!”  Gyritha hummed and hawed for a bit so, Sweyn added, “I don’t think you realize what you’re asking me to give up here.  Gunhilde is a very beautiful young girl, with the sweetest honey well I’ve ever tasted and…”

“Okay! Okay!  I accept your offer!”

So, Queen Gyritha joined King Sweyn and Queen Thora in bed that evening, but not before Sweyn told Gunhilde that he was going to have to let her alone for a bit until she showed signs of pregnancy because her mother had decided to be his queen as well.

That night, when Queen Gyritha joined Sweyn and Thora in their nuptial bed, she slipped in naked between the sheets, spread her legs and allowed Sweyn to enter her and thrust within her but she did not engage in the process so, Sweyn focked her and came inside her then rolled off her and began kissing Thora and she responded to his advances with ardour.  The next morning, when Gyritha was relieving herself in the dressing room, Queen Thora said, “I’m going to be your wise queen and suggest you be patient with her.”

“You told me you were going to be my practical queen,” Sweyn said to her.

“I’ve decided to put more effort into it.  It is far harder to be wise than practical.”

“I shall follow your advice,” Sweyn assured her, “but only because you put so much effort into last night.”

The next day, Gunhilde had words with her mother, and said, “I gave myself to King Sweyn because you told me you would never sleep with him and I didn’t want the throne to slip out of our family’s grasp.  Now you’ve decided to sleep with him and now I’m left out in the cold!”

“I slept with him to get you away from him,” Gyritha said, trying to console her crying daughter.

“I love him and you won’t keep me from him for long!  He’ll soon want me over you when I give him his first baby here!”

That night, Queen Gyritha undressed herself in front of Sweyn and Thora and joined them in bed and took Sweyn’s erect member into her mouth and began sucking on it until it was moist and she then mounted Sweyn’s steed and rode him until she came and he exploded within her.  Thora did likewise and the women slept on either side of Sweyn, each tucked under an arm.

While all this was going on, Prince Valdamar had kept himself busy sampling Danish Princesses from Zealand, Fyn, and Jutland.  He married a princess from each of the three Danish provinces and was busy with them in his own wing of the palace.  And the prince and his three new wives seldom ventured out from their wing of the great hall.  When they all finally came out, Prince Valdamar introduced them to King Sweyn and Queens Gyritha and Thora, saying, “This is Princess Sigrun of Zealand, Princess Freja of Fyn and Princess Jorun of Jutland.”  And the queens all marvelled at the youth and beauty of the Danish royals and told Valdamar they were happy that he was so accepting of the local princesses.  When the Hraes’ merchant ships began arriving in Roskilde harbour for the spring trading cycle, Prince Valdamar went through the slaveships inspecting and testing captive princesses from England, Ireland, Britany and Frisia and he bought a princess from each of those kingdoms.

Word arrived in Roskilde that Jarl Haakon wanted to attack King Harald and his forces trapped in the fjord and he requested that the rest of the Hraes’ fleet join him to assist in an assault upon the Danes.  The news of the entrapped King Harald also reached the estate of Sigvald in southern Zealand and he put together a Danish Jomsviking fleet of veterans to go to the aid of Jomsborg and they sailed off to Wendland.  Sigvald and his fleet arrived at the Island of Jom in the evening and they saw the great fleet of Jarl Haakon anchored just outside a fjord and he could see that there were a great number of ships hemmed in the fjord so, he knew it must be the warships of King Harald.  He sailed north out of sight of the Norwegian fleet and then southeast until he came upon land, a ridge he knew beyond which the fjord sat.  His fleet anchored off the coast while Sigvald and a small scout party headed inland towards King Harald’s fleet and when they were almost upon the fjord Sigvald signalled for his men to stop and he advanced alone upon a clearing and he saw a small camp of soldiers and they were cooking food around a campfire and then Sigvald saw King Harald standing in the distance drinking out of an ale horn.

Sigvald signalled for his men to keep back out of sight and he advanced alone and knelt down at the edge of the clearing and took his bow and put an arrow on the string.  He licked a finger and tested the wind and he then took his shot.  The arrow arced upwards and across the clearing and came down between King Harald’s shoulders and the Danish royal pitched forward and died on the ground before the campfire.  Sigvald returned to his men and he led them back to their ships.  “I don’t think we can help King Harald here,” Sigvald said to his men and he told them they would go to Jomsborg and see if their comrades there needed any help.

When King Sweyn arrived with his half of the Hraes’ fleet he joined up with Jarl Haakon’s Hraes’ and Norwegian fleet and they slept on their ships and prepared for battle the next morning.  As they formed up their numerous ships, a small warship sailed out from the Danish fleet with a white shield hanging from the top of its mast.  “The Danish naval officers approached and told King Sweyn and Jarl’s Haakon and Eirik and young Valdamar that King Harald was dead and that the Danish forces were ready to swear allegiance to their new king.  King Sweyn accepted their oaths and he and the jarls went to see the body of Harald and hear the story of his death.  Harald was lying dead upon a camp bed and the arrow had been removed from his back and was now lying across his chest.  Sweyn had Harald stripped of his armour and he kept it along with the gilt arrow and he put them in the cabin of his dromon shieldship and he then took a black leather bag out of one of his sea chests.  He wanted to find out who had murdered his nephew and he had seen the markings of that arrow before, in Hjorungavagr, and he thought it might be Jomsviking markings.

King Sweyn had Harald’s body brought to the head of the fjord and he had ships carpenters build a wooden casket for Harald and then he gave a speech to the warriors gathered about:  “My nephew, Harald ‘Bluetooth’ Gormson has been murdered by an assassin and I plan to find and punish this archer, but Harald’s death shall not allow him to escape his own punishment.  He sent Jomsvikings to Norway to kill me and Jarl Haakon and his people.  We defeated the Jomsvikings at the Battle of Hjorungavagr and many of our captives were beheaded in punishment.  Even though dead, Harald must be punished with beheading as well.  Is there any man here who wishes to do this deed?”

Jarl Haakon stepped forward and said, “I would like to do it!”

King Sweyn pulled Harald’s body down the camp cot until the head hung over the end of it.  Jarl Haakon pulled out his sword and struck Harald’s head from his body and it fell onto the sand of the beach.  Sweyn picked the head up and put it between Harald’s feet at the other end of the cot.  Sweyn and Eirik then carried the cot inland to where a grave had been dug and a coffin had been built.  Sweyn and Eirik lifted Harald’s body into the casket and Sweyn placed Harald’s head just above the shoulders and said, “I would like to have a few moments alone with my nephew and then I will nail the coffin shut, as is our Hraes’ custom.”  He said a few words over Harald and then took a hammer and some nails out of a little black tool bag he had with him and he fumbled with the bag, looking for a few more nails and he put the bag in the casket and dug out a few more yet and he lifted the casket lid onto the casket and was about to start nailing it shut when a man yelled out, “You’ve left your tool bag in the coffin!”  Sweyn took the bag out of the coffin, nodding his thanks to the man who had shouted, and he nailed the coffin shut.

A Christian priest had been found from among those of the Danish fleet and they gave Harald ‘Bluetooth’ Gormson a very respectful Christian burial at the head of the fjord.  Sweyn didn’t want him returned to Denmark for burial, because he, himself, was now focking all of Harald’s wives, and daughter, and he didn’t want any of that to change.  Years later, a small stone Christian church was built over King Harald’s grave on the Island of Jom.

When the fleet returned to Denmark, they had to beach a lot of their ships on the coast of the harbour town that served the city of Liere because Roskilde harbour was filling up with merchant ships getting ready for the spring sailing for Kiev and parts beyond.  It was late when Sweyn got back to the city of Roskilde and his new palace there, and Princess Gunhilde was waiting for him at the entrance and she told him she was pregnant and he made her a queen consort on the spot.  His queens had already retired to the master bedroom awaiting his arrival so, he walked in with Gunhilde and he told Gyritha and Thora the good news and he began undressing Gunhilde in front of her mother.  When Gyritha began to protest he patted Gunhilde on the ass and sent her to bed and had Gyritha come out from under the sheets naked and he had her undress himself.  He took Gyritha in the bed and then he took her daughter and finally he took Thora and then they all slept together.

It seemed quite strange to Gyritha to share a lover with her daughter, but Gunhilde loved it and Thora did not find it strange at all.  Sweyn knew, that at that very moment, there were slaveships out in Roskilde harbour that had mother and daughter captives that would be sold together as concubine pairs in Baghdad and Constantinople, and a good looking mother such as Gyritha paired with a beautiful virgin daughter such as Gunhilde would sell in the slave markets for triple their value as they’d sell for apart.  A good looking mother with two or three beautiful virgin daughters would sell for four or five times their value apart.  But they had to look alike or it would be too easy to just put pairs together.  The slavers and their armies had become sophisticated enough to capture whole villages at a time and mothers and their daughters were kept together and protected from rape and ravishing for the higher profits they would command in the markets.  Mothers without daughters took the brunt of that shortfall and became comfort women for the slavers on the long journey east and their nights under the awnings of slaver ships could be sexually challenging.

Prince Valdamar was tasked with leading the merchant fleet east and then south to Kiev, where Princess Serah would meet them to collect the tithe fees and issue the trade permits.  King Sweyn would meet them there later because he needed more time to put his new kingdom in order.  Princess Alfled had arrived in Roskilde from Lade with the Norwegian merchant fleet that used the Dan’Way rather than the Nor’Way, and Sweyn wanted to make her a queen consort of Denmark as well before he headed off to Constantinople for trade.  He loved Alfled and he trusted her.  Normally he would have led the Baghdad trading fleet, but he had a little matter of a claim on a co-Emperorship in Constantinople to address with the Roman Emperors there so, that was the group he planned to lead.

King Sweyn and Prince Valdamar led the Christian merchant fleet to Constantinople and Prince Valdamar brought two of Sweyn’s mobile legions with him and he waited with his fleet of four hundred warships outside the Golden Horn harbour while his father presented his claim for the co-Emperorship to Emperors Basil the Second and Constantine the Eighth.  He showed them the contract that Emperor John Tzimiskes had signed with him after the Battle of Dorostolon in 972 and he showed them his new Royal Seal of Denmark and his crown and then he said, “I also remembered the Roman need for Tzar Peter’s head to prove that he was actually dead,” and Sweyn put a black leather bag on a side-table of the Roman throne room and he took out the head of King Harald ‘Bluetooth’ Gormson and he set it on the tabletop.  “And, as you can see,” he pointed out and lifted up a lip, “there is his famous ‘Blue Tooth’.”

“That contract was drawn up fourteen years ago!” Emperor Basil said.  “I’m not saying it’s no longer valid.  I’m just saying we shall need some time to go through all this.”  Emperor Constantine said something to Basil and they had a little discussion while King Sweyn waited.  “Co-Emperor Constantine has come up with an idea you might be interested in while we go through it all.  We noticed you brought your famed mobile legions with you and we were wondering if you might be interested in putting down a revolt in Anatolia for us over the summer and we can discuss your claim when the trading season is near its end.  It is rumoured that your nemesis, General Bardas Skleros is gathering up an army of rebellion in the east with the support of the Caliphate.  Our armies are still fighting the Arabs in the Levant and I shall be leading an army against the Bulgarians this summer, so, if you could take your legions to Anatolia and put down this revolt, it would be appreciated and would work towards a favourable decision on your co-Emperorship.  I’ve noticed that the contract you have provided us with has a clause committing you to support Rome in defence against enemies, as does your treaty of 945.  For this assistance we could pay you ten thousand pounds of gold.”

“We would need twenty thousand pounds of gold.  We have two full Hraes’ legions with us, the equivalent of four of your Roman legions.”

“Can we split the difference?” Emperor Constantine suggested.

“Done,” said King Sweyn.  He put Harald’s head back into the black leather bag and he told them, “You can keep the contract documents for your perusal.  They are just copies.”

“Great!” Emperor Basil said.  “I’m not sure I’d know where to look for our copy.  I’m sure it can be found, but Emperor Tzimiskes was a general, not an administrator.  I only knew about your Treaty of 945 commitment because we had to memorize the treaty in school when I was a child.”

“He was a great general,” Sweyn said.  “Like Emperor Nicephorus before him.  You both look a lot like your grandfather, Emperor Constantine the Seventh.  My mother loved him.”  Sweyn then realized he was starting to sound a lot like his own grandfather and he suddenly felt old.

“Some of our officers shall meet you on our main quay in the Horn and they’ll have your contract and your gold for you, and they’ll go with you to Anatolia.”

“The red gold of Byzantium?” Sweyn said.

“The red gold of Byzantium,” both Emperors repeated.

When King Sweyn told Prince Valdamar about the new contract, he responded by saying, “Isn’t that what the Romans did to you last time?  They offered you a contract and gold and then they didn’t give you your co-Emperorship?”

““I know,” said Sweyn, “but it’s fifteen thousand pounds of gold to kill General Bardas Skleros.  That motherfocker killed a lot of my men in Bulgaria fourteen years ago.  I’d do it for a third that amount just to put my cock up Skleros’ Bardass and then I’m going to stick it up his throat a do rappatio on the motherfocker!”  Valdy tried to calm down his father a bit.  “We can make the fifteen thousand pounds of gold over the summer,” Valdamar said, “and you can rape Bardas and rappatio him and we can always kill more Romans in the fall if they don’t deliver.  And I’m pretty sure The Prince would rather have us kill Romans after the trading season ends, and not before.”

King Sweyn made sure his traders were all set up and selling slaves and furs satisfactorily before setting off with his legions up the Halys River for eastern Anatolia.  Four hundred ships and two mobile legions sailed up the Roman river and portaged across to the Euphrates River and then portaged across to the Araks River and sailed up and down it, but could find no rebellions breaking out anywhere.  Near the end of August, the month named after Augustus Caesar, the originator of the purple blood of the Roman Emperors, King Sweyn learned that Emperor Basil had suffered a catastrophic defeat in his war against the Balkan Bulgars.  His whole army of twenty thousand men, four legions, had been slaughtered and the Emperor had barely escaped with his life thanks to the efforts of an elite Armenian regiment that had fought its way out of the Bulgarian ambush.  King Sweyn and Prince Valdamar had been working their way back to Constantinople because the trading season was winding down and they had just left the Halys and were at Sinope, at their Hraes’ trading store there, when King Ivar’s Roman wife broke the news to them.  They took their fleet back to Constantinople and sailed past the city and went on to Macedonia and sailed up the Maritsa River to Adrianople and halted the Bulgarian advance on Thrace.  Just the rumour that Prince Svein and the Hraes’ were coming was enough to halt them in their tracks.  They had fought against the Hraes and their prince fifteen years earlier and had lost and were just now recovering territories that Prince Sveinald ‘Sviatoslav the Brave’ had taken from them in fifteen weeks.  They did not want to mix it up with the Hraes’.  Their veterans still talked about the kite shields of the mobile legions and the round shields of their beautiful Valkyries and the horned helmets they had worn to win the Battle of the Impalers in Wallachia.  The Bulgarians decided to consolidate their regained territories in the northeast instead.  The Roman officers and Roman regiments and most of the Roman gear that had accompanied them in Anatolia were let off in Adrianople to bolster the area’s defence capabilities, then Sweyn and Valdamar took their Hraes’ legions to Constantinople.

“Emperor John shouldn’t have turned on me in Bulgaria,” King Sweyn told the two sons of Emperor Romanos, co-Emperors Basil and Constantine.  “Had he made me co-Emperor instead, I’d still be in Pereslavet with the Bulgars and Romanians under my thumb.  Now the Bulgarians are on the loose.”

“Thank you for saving Adrianople,” Emperor Basil said.  “My whole army fled and I was lucky to make it out of Bulgaria alive.”

“We couldn’t find any rebellion going on in Anatolia,” Sweyn told them.  “There was plenty of talk of rebellion, but nothing we could act upon.  Bardas Skleros is still in Baghdad, but my spies in the Caliphate have confirmed he has garnered the support of the Buyid dynasty there.  Nothing can be done until he comes across the frontier with his forces, however, we consider the contract fulfilled now and would like our red gold purified before we head back to Kiev.”

“That won’t be possible,” Basil said.  “The contract said that a rebellion was to be put down.”

“The contract was limited to the summer trading season and there was no rebellion to put down.  It was your bad intel, not mine.”

“Still, you lost zero men and I’ve just lost twenty thousand.”

“That’s not my problem.  It cost a lot of gold to have two full legions traipsing across Anatolia all summer and, had I found Bardas Skleros and his rebels, we would have defeated them without losing many men and we’d have his booty and the gold in his baggage train.”

“Still,” Basil repeated.  “You’ll have to try again next year.”

“Fine!” Sweyn said.  “We’ll try again next summer, but rebel towns we conquer shall be subject to the old Roman pagan laws of pillage and you’ll have to purify the gold for us whether we find Bardas Skleros or not.”

“That sounds more than fair,” Emperor Basil said, smiling politely.  “We’ve heard it said that you follow the old Roman laws of conquest.  Why is that?”

“The Aesir have always followed the old Roman Vanir laws,” Sweyn started, “and our religions were the same at one point in the past.  Only the names of the gods became different with the differences in our languages.  Zeus Pater or Jupiter is our Odin, Mars is our Thor, and Mercury is our Freya, just as God is your father, Jesus is the son and you’ve added a Holy Ghost to make it a tripartite gods religion as well.

Emperor Basil looked about his throne as if blasphemy had just been spilled from some Holy Grail.  “You sound like our Vanir witches,” he said, once he was sure only his brother was within earshot.  “Perhaps you should convert to our old Vanir religion?”

“I already have,” King Sweyn told him.  “After I couldn’t kill Emperor John at Dorostolon and he couldn’t kill me, we had to make peace.  Since that time I have followed both the Aesir and Vanir religions.  It was the Vanir god of war Mars that saved me at Dorostolon.  My grandfather had a vision there and told me so.”

“How is Prince Erik doing?” Emperor Constantine inquired.  “Did Emperor Theophilos really teach The Prince how to speak Latin in 839?”

“He’s still kicking, and by that I mean still kicking ass.  But he learned Latin from a nun as he was taking her down the Dnieper to release her to your Bishop in Cherson.  It was reading and, particularly, writing in Latin that Emperor Theophilos taught my grandfather.  It saved his life.  We shall always owe Emperor Theophilos our gratitude for that.”

“And it was such a long life he saved!” Emperor Basil quipped.

As King Sweyn and Prince Valdamar were leaving the throne room, they heard both Emperors say in unison, “Eight thirty nine!  Fock!!!”

Once Prince Valdamar got out to the Golden Horn harbour, he laid into his father, “We can’t run two legions all over Anatolia next summer for free!  You’re letting these Romans run roughshod over you!  We need that gold purified.”

“No, we don’t,” Sweyn told him.  “Your grandfather’s already figured out how they purify the gold.  He can do it for us in Tmutorokan.  We just don’t want them to know we’ve figured it out.  That’s why we always get Magistros Kalokyras in Cherson to come and clean it for us.  Besides, they do it for us for free as part of the contract, but we don’t need them to do it for us.”

“Oh,” Valdamar breathed.  “I should have known grandfather would have that figured out.”

Then Sweyn told Valdy what he had said to the Emperors about their old Roman Vanir religion.

“Did The Prince really have a vision of Mars at Dorostolon?”

“Only if he was looking up at the heavenly bodies, son,” Sweyn told him.  “When I’m co-Emperor I plan on bringing the Vanir religion back to Rome.  Telling my co-Emperors that tall tale is just a good way to get the ball rolling on that!” and he slapped Valdy across the shoulders.  “But we are soon going to visit with my old friend Kalokyras,” Sweyn told his son.  “I think we’re going to have to take Cherson!”

“Now you’re talking!” Valdamar said, excitedly.

“Emperor Basil has no intention of making me a co-Emperor, ever!  Constantine is a co-Emperor in name only.  Basil rules the roost there and he knows he’ll have to share control if I get there.  So, we’ll take Cherson and use it as a bargaining tool.”

“When should we start?”

“Just as soon as we get all our traders out of Constantinople.  We’ll have to let our people know that nobody overwinters in Constantinople this year.  And we’ll have to do it quietly.  I’ll take the merchant fleet back through Kiev, while you take the two legions and attack Cherson.  If you catch them by surprise, you may be able to ride your cavalry right through their gates.  I kept some of the Roman gear our allies had on our ships when we let them off at Adrianople.  Not enough to arouse suspicion, but enough to dress the front ranks in.”

When they took the merchant fleet out of Constantinople and across the Black Sea, they met Prince Erik and the Baghdad fleet in front of the Cherson peninsula and Sweyn and Valdamar went through their attack plan with him.

“As long as you take Cherson by Yuletide,” Erik told them.  “That will give us enough time to strike a deal with them before the next trading season starts.  I don’t want Roman trade shut down for years like it was last time.”

“That was fifteen years ago,” Sweyn said.  “The Armenians are out of power in Rome now.”

“I heard it was an elite Armenian regiment that saved Basil’s ass in Bulgaria!” Erik said.  “Do you really think Basil was bright enough to have an elite Armenian regiment nearby to help him out while he focked up the whole battle?”

“Those focking Armenians!” Sweyn spat.

“Some Armenian general is looking after him.  Probably setting himself up for a co-Emperorship of his own.  You’re right in thinking Basil will never share rule with you.  The Armenians are working on him as we speak.”

“You’ve got the best spies in Constantinople!” Valdamar said.

“Mine have just been there the longest.  They’ve seen all your spies come,” he said, looking at Sweyn, “and they’ve seen yours too, Valdamar,” Erik said, looking over at his great grandson.  “It’s the old give him enough rope and he’ll hang himself and we’ll save his ass with our elite Armenian regiment trick.  Now Basil owes some Armenian general his ass.”

“Focking Armenians!” Sweyn said again.  “They’ve got the best spies!”

“They are the spies,” Valdamar said.  “Every Armenian in Constantinople is part of their spy network, whether they know it or not.”

“Even Empress Theophano!” Sweyn said.  “Emperor John was keeping her for some sex on the side, but Svia learned that as soon as he was dead, her fellow Armenians sent her off to be a Roman princess for some old German king or other.  The Holy Roman Emperor in Aachen wanted a Roman princess who was Porphyrogennetos, you know, born of the purple with the blood of Augustus Caesar running through her veins so she could give him little Caesar babies, but they didn’t want to give him one because he would then claim to be the true new Rome, so they gave him Empress Theophano instead.  I mean, she focked an Emperor who was born of the purple and she gave birth to two sons who have the blood of the Emperors flowing through their veins, but, really, she doesn’t have a lick of Roman blood flowing through her honey well.  Just the hot sexy blood of an Armenian whore.  So, now she’s stuck in Aachen humping some old German Kaiser wanna be.”

“You sound like you’ve spent some time in Lade,” Erik said.  “There’s something in the focking water there.”

“I knew it was the focking water!” Sweyn said.

“I like your plan,” Prince Erik told his grandsons.  “Now would be the time to do it.  Basil has a war still going on in the Levant, and now Bulgarians wanting to tear a strip off of him and soon he’ll have an old Armenian friend of ours starting a rebellion in Anatolia.  If you take Cherson now, he’ll want to deal and get that wrapped up as soon as possible.  But if Cherson drags on into a long siege, you might miss your chance to kill Bardas Skleros at the invitation of the Emperors.  A rebellion is brewing and you may even get imperial permission to sack Roman cities, old school style.  The plunder would be great and the slaves invaluable.  We can sack Cherson later, if we don’t get Roman cooperation, but an invitation to lead two mobile legions aggressively into Roman lands comes once in three lifetimes.”

“Was it your spies that warned Emperor Basil about General Bardas Skleros and his rebellion?” Sweyn asked his grandfather.

“I have good spies in Constantinople,” Erik admitted, “but I have great spies in Baghdad.  Read your manual.  It’s all in General Sun Tsu Wu’s ‘Art of War’.”

When King Sweyn arrived in Kiev, Princess Serah was there to help him collect tithes and duties.  They worked together days and spent their nights going through the Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana and Serah amused herself by stroking Sweyn’s lingam and watching it erupt.  She fine-tuned his orgasms and experimented with the sensuality of sounds.  When she thought she had his eruptions under the control of her moans of pleasure she had sex with him without protection and at the peak of her ride she went into a quick set of sensual moans that had him erupting within her before he could withdraw.  She’d had many fine princes by Prince Erik, but she really wanted a princess by King Sweyn, partly because she loved him and partly to assure her position in Hraes’ should anything happen to The Prince.  She still practiced her Jewish faith and, though the Aesir religion was fairly accepting of other faiths, there had been a lot of proselytizing going on of late and she had a feeling that Christianity might be winning in the faith race, and it was very intolerant of other religions.

After a week, Sweyn followed the merchant fleet up the Dnieper and he went to Chernigov to ask Princess Svia to move with him to Denmark.  “You shall be my Primus Queen there,” he told her.

“I don’t want to move to some backwater country like Denmark,” she replied.  “What of your co-Emperorship in Constantinople.  Emperors Basil and Constantine are contractually bound to honour you with the position.”

“Some Armenian general is focking it up for me again!” Sweyn said.

“Those focking Armenians!” Svia cursed.  She had given up being an Armenian when her own family line had sent her to a convent to be raped by priests and bishops.  But she really hated what they had done to her cousin, Empress Theophano, passing her off as Porphyrogennetos to the German emperor in Aachen, and then abandoning her there when the Germans realized that they’d been conned.  She had to fock the German emperor’s ass off to keep her position there, but at least she had managed to contact Svia and they had worked through their differences.

“Will you come with me?” he asked.

“I’ll be queen?  Not a queen consort?”

“Yes!” Sweyn told her.  “I’ll make Queen Gyritha a queen consort with Thora and Gunhilde and Malfrieda.”

“Princess Malfrieda is coming?”

“Is that okay with you?”

“Well, yes, of course,” Svia said.  “At least there’ll be someone there I know and love.”

“Besides me,” Sweyn said.

“Yes, of course,” she responded.  “Besides you.”

It took several days for the servants to pack up Princess Sviataslava’s belongings and Sweyn and Svia and Sviatopolk spent the days together supervising the move and Sweyn and Svia spent the nights together making love.  Sweyn remembered when he’d first seen Svia in Ramnic and he saved her from Count Vlad and he took her to his pavilion and they made love together for the first time.  “She’s mine!” he had told his grandfather, and finally they were together alone for a few days.  Then they sailed up the Dnieper for a few days and caught up with the rest of the fleet at the Smolensk Surazh portage.  His small fleet of warships took priority and he passed by all the waiting Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Norman, Anglish, Irish and Icelandic merchant ships.  They paid the portage to the Lovat River and met Princess Malfrieda in Novgorod.

“Will you come to Denmark with me and be my queen consort?” Sweyn asked her. 

“I’d come to Hell with you to be your queen consort,” Malfrieda told him.

“We’ve been to Hell together,” Sweyn replied.  “It’s a shithole village hardly worthy of a princess, let alone a queen such as yourself.”

“Is it okay with you, Princess Svia?” Malfrieda asked.

“As long as I get to be Primus Queen,” she replied.

Their small fleet sailed down the Volkov River to Lake Ladoga and then down the Neva River to the Gulf of Finland and they crossed the Baltic Sea to Sweden.  Sweyn stopped in at Birka and Uppsala, as usual, to visit with his friends, King Eric the Victorious and Queen Sigrid of Sweden and he came bearing gifts and as he passed out the presents he announced that he was the new king of Denmark.  They had, of course, already heard this news as Queen Gyritha of Denmark was Eric’s sister, but they congratulated Sweyn as though they had not known.  “How did King Harald die?” King Eric asked.

“He was shot in the back with an arrow by one of the Jomsvikings he had hired to kill Jarl Haakon,” Sweyn told him. 

“I’d heard that King Harald hired the Jomsvikings to kill you,” King Eric said, bluntly.

“That may be,” Sweyn replied, “but I prefer to think more highly of my nephew until we find out whose markings were on the arrow.  Then we can ask the Jomsviking who killed him.”

Queen Sigrid was talking with the princesses while Sweyn and Eric went off alone to discuss matters.  “My sister will, of course, remain your queen,” King Eric told Sweyn.  All others are to be queen consorts, even King Harald’s daughter, Gunhilde.”

“And if I decide otherwise?” Sweyn asked.

“Then I shall visit you with my warfleet,” Eric threatened.

King Sweyn took it as more of a warning than a threat and purchased his usual pure iron for the smithies of Hraegunarstead and a double order of tonstone for his trebuchets and he took them aboard his small warfleet.

When Sweyn and his wives got to Roskilde, Sweyn introduced them to his new wives as Queen Sviataslava and Queen Consort Malfrieda, and Queen Consort Gyritha stormed out of the great hall, for there could only be one Primus Queen.  Gyritha had been worried that Sweyn was going to make young Gunhilde his queen because she had already provided the new king with baby Svein, but he had promoted a Roman princess to the position instead.  A foreign princess who wasn’t even Norse.

When King Sweyn joined his wives in bed, he noticed that Gyritha was missing.  The next day, he reminded her that they had made an agreement together and that it did not guarantee her priority.  She joined his many wives in bed the next evening and Aud joined them as well the evening after.

King Sweyn enjoyed his winter nights of sexcapades with Queen Svia and Queen Consorts Gyritha and Gunhilde and he enjoyed the quiet tender sex he experienced on winter nights with Queen Consorts Malfrieda, Alfled and Thora and, as spring approached, he got the nagging feeling that nature was going to make him pay for the pleasure he was enjoying for months on end.  Days spent skating on frozen ponds with Gyritha and her children and nights spent trying to make more of them, but Gunhilde was the only wife blessed with fertility and she was soon pregnant again.



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2.       To moil at the mill                 the maids were bid,

            to turn the grey stone          as their task was set;

                        lag in their toil                       he would let them never,

                  the slaves’ song he              would unceasing hear.

                                               Anonymous; Grottasongr, Prose Edda

(987 AD)  King Sweyn led the First Kievan Legion and the Seventh Mobile Legion to Normandy and he visited his cousin Duke Richard and they set themselves up in Rouen and from there they again planned their attack on England.  They would again occupy the Isle of Wight across the Solent from Southampton, but they planned to attack western England, the Port City of Watchet, on the Brycgstow Sea, the estuary of the Severn River that to the City of Bristol, the whole system of which was renowned for its seventy foot tidal variance, the largest in the known world, some said.

The duke introduced his cousin, King Sweyn ‘Forkbeard’, the new ruler of Denmark to Jarl Olaf Tryggvason.  “Prince Sveinald!” Olaf stammered, as he met the Danish king.  He bowed deeply before him when he realized that the king of Denmark was actually the Grand Prince of Hraes’, Prince Svein ‘the Old’, Sviatoslav ‘the Brave’, Ivarson, the father of his former patron, Grand Prince Valdamar ‘the Great’ of Kiev.  King Sweyn could not remember ever meeting Olaf, but he knew he had been one of Valdamar’s rising young captains who had left Gardar to return to Norway, so he invited him to join in on the attack.

King Sweyn led his combined fleet across the British Sea and west around Cornwall and into the Bristol Channel, where they experienced the remarkably large tidal range, and they caught the City of Watchet by complete surprise.  Most of the population of Watchet was captured and the city was plundered for three days in the Roman fashion to which the Kievan Legions were accustomed.  But the small Fort of Watchet had locked itself up and was offering stubborn resistance.  After three days of rough treatment at the hands of the Vikings, ransom was offered and many citizens paid it and ransomed themselves, while many others were enslaved and slaver knars rolled in behind the warships and took them off to Kiev for slave training.  King Sweyn had put Jarl Olaf, Prince Valdamar’s man, in charge of the siege of the Fort of Watchet while his own troops plundered the city and the surrounding area.  Olaf’s crews were the newbies and so the drudgery of siege-work fell to them, while the pleasures of pillaging went to the experienced forces.  When Sweyn and Eyvind heard that Olaf had recited a poem about the attack, they asked to hear it, and Olaf recited it thus:

“The Rhyme of the Viking Mariner (and his Black Albatross),

     The Viking-Guest                       did beat his breast,

     For he could not                         show fear;

     He followed the                           Raven Banner,

     That Viking                                  Mariner.

     And now the Storm                     of Battle came,

     And he was big                           and strong:

     He struck with sword                  ‘gainst all aboard,

     And chased the foe                    along.

     With sloping mast                       the battle blast,

     Tore ship from                             stem to stern,

     With yell and blow                      he chased his foe

     Into the sea,                                 his churn.

     The ship drove fast,                   loud roared the blast,

     And southward                           aye they set.

     The English man                        again had ran,

     Into the Port of                            Watchet.

     The din was here,           the din was there,

     Oh, din was all                around:

     It cracked and growled,   and roared and howled,

     That brutal battle            sound!

     At last did cross              Black Albatross:

     Through fog the              Raven came;

     To claim the dead,          as it was said,

     We hailed it in                 Thor’s name.

     It ate the food                  the warriors blued,

     And round and                round it flew.

     The bucklers split,          mail shirts were slit;

     Warriors were run          right through!

     A good south wind         sprung up behind;

     The Albatross                  did follow,

     And every way,               the battle play,

     Rang steel on steel        ground hollow!

     The steel did bite            throughout the fight,

     The Raven perched       for blood;

     The warriors bled,          the decks ran red,

     Witch steed drank          the flood.

     “Thor save the                Viking Mariner!

     From the fiends              that plague us!”–

     “Why look thou so?        With my arrow

     I shot the                      Albatross.”

     And I had wrought         a hellish shot,

     And it would work           us woe:

     Some spread the word      I’d killed the bird

     That made the blood      to flow.

     Ah wretch! said they,     the bird to slay

     That made the blood      to flow!

     But I had done                a wonderous one,

     And it would work           us well:

     Some said the word       I’d killed the bird

     That brought the fog      and mist.

     ‘Twas right, said they,    such birds to slay,

     That bring the fog           and mist.

     The fair breeze blew,     the white foam flew,

     The furrow ploughed     the sea:

     Into the Port                     of Watchet Fort

     We caused the                foe to flee.

     The fair breeze dropt,    the sails we cropt,

     In the harbour                 we flew;

     And English crews         rushed to their pews

     In hope stone walls        stood true.

     All in a bright                   and copper sky,

     The bloody Sun,             at noon,

     Right up above               the mast it was,

     No bigger than                the Moon.

     Day after day,                  day after day,

     A siege as slow,             as slow can be;

     So slow, as if,                  a painted skiff,

     Upon a painted               sea.

     Water, water,                   everywhere,

     And red deck boards      did stink;

     Water, water,                   everywhere,

     And not a drop                to drink.

     About, about,                 in reel and rout

     The death-fires danced    at night;

     The water boils,              like witch’s oils,

     Burnt red, and blue           and white.

     And every tongue,          of moisture wrung,

     Was withered at              the root;

     We could not speak,      no more than creak,

     Yet the city we                did loot.

     Ah! well a-day!                what evil play,

     Had I from old                 and young!

     ‘Stead of Thor’s cross,   Black Albatross

     About my neck                was hung.

     The men ‘hind walls      were singing palls,

     We stood parched          before them.

     And in the town               the women sound,

     As our men raped           and tore them!

     We carried away             their women that day,

     And then took all            their children:

     Back to the east,             a Baghdad feast:

     Of naked women and    bare children.

     With throats unslaked,  and black lips baked,

     We could not laugh        nor wail;

     The women gone           as plunder on,

     I cried, a sail!                   A sail!

     Our ship was back          we watched it tack,

     And recognized               its sail:

     From Normandy,            it crossed the sea,

     To take us                        away all!

     We boarded ship            to take a trip,

     Back to their                    Normandy:

     Last of the slaves,          joined us on waves,

     ‘Twas my mother            and me!

     Years ‘fore, we                were captured a’sea,

     Pirates took us                all away:

     Raised as a slave,          I had been brave,

     Until an uncle did           save day!

     Like one that strode       a lone whale road

     Doth sail in fear               and dread,

     Because he knows,       a cold wind blows,

     So close behind             his tread.

     But soon a free               warm wind on me,

     No sound nor                  motion made:

     Its path was not              upon the wate’,

     But in lush,              wooded shade.

     A Hermit good                 lives in that wood

     Which slopes down        to the seas.

     He talks and stirs            with mariners

     That come from far         countries.

     His singing brims            with godly hymns

     That he makes in           the wood.

     My soul he’ll pray            and wash away

     Black Albatross’s            blood.

     The same moment         that I could pray;

     Then from my neck        so free,

     The Albatross                  fell off and sank,

     Like lead into                   the sea.”

Both Sweyn and Eyvind looked at each other as if not knowing quite what to think of it.  “I’ve never heard that poem,” King Sweyn Forkbeard said, “nor I,” Eyvind chimed in.

“It’s ‘The Rhyme of the Viking Mariner’,” was Olaf Tryggvason’s reply, “ and it’s not been heard, ‘cause every word, my mouth has just let fly.”

“Have you ever been to Lade?” the King then said, thinking of the Nidelva water.  Still, King Sweyn and his skald, Eyvind Skaldaspillir thought enough of the poem to write it down.  They would give it to Aud in Birka to add it to a book she was compiling.  “I don’t think,” Sweyn told Eyvind, “that we’ll be hearing from that young man again.”

Jarl Olaf Tryggvason had been four years on this cruise, from the time he left Vindland till he went to the Scilly Islands.  King Sweyn Forkbeard went back to Denmark with his slaves, all the captives from Watchet and the surrounding towns and estates that had not been ransomed by the wealthy of the city.  And there were thousands upon thousands.  Olaf had been attacking and plundering England with his own ships for the past few years, but they were after the peoples’ gold.  It did not take Olaf long after joining the Hraes’ fleet, for him to realize that the Hraes’ were just after the people.  They were slavers and traders and England’s plunder had long been lost or buried.  Its people were the gold that the Viking raiders now sold, and that had taken his thoughts back to his childhood when he and his mother had been enslaved by Baltic pirates and they’d had their lives devastated.

King Sweyn led his legions back to Denmark with him following behind hundreds of slaver knars with thousands and thousands of Saxon English.  Then the spring merchant ships began arriving in Roskilde harbour, at first just a few, and then many and, too soon, it was time to go east.  Sweyn led the Hraes’ merchant fleet across the Baltic, throngs of ships, thousands in numbers and some split off and sailed up the Nieman River into Poland to trade with the Lithuanians and the Prussians and the Wends on their way south.  A portage had been built and run to service their needs and get them across to the Pripyat River and onwards to Kiev, but most ships still plied the Dvina River and traded with the Sclavs and the Livonians and the Kurlanders on their way to the Surazh-Smolensk portage and thence to Kiev.

Princess Serah met Sweyn on the quays of Kiev and he could see that she was pregnant.  “Yours,” she reassured him, “and it should be a daughter.”

“That’s wonderful!” Sweyn told her and he got down on his knees and he kissed her belly and he felt her swelling stomach and worked his hands up and felt her swollen breasts.  “They’re huge!” he said, suddenly aroused.

“Prince Erik hasn’t visited once since summer,” she complained.  “He’ll know it’s not his.”

“Then tell him it’s mine.  Tell him we made a mistake, and let’s go now and make another.  Just short and quick and then we’ll tend to the fleet,” he said, directing a lieutenant to take over, and he led Serah along the dock.  “I must taste you,” he said, “taste of your breasts!”

“They’re not flowing yet,” she assured him.

“Let me make them,” he said.  “Let me make them flow again.”

The Hraes’ fleet paid its tithes and got its permits in Kiev, but this year the fleets of Kiev and Tmutorokan gathered in the Bay of Cherson and they traded with the Greeks of the Cherson Peninsula before splitting up into fleets that went to Baghdad and Constantinople.  But King Sweyn and Prince Valdamar went with neither.  Prince Erik led the fleet to Baghdad and he went on to India and back to Baghdad several times and Duke Richard’s Latin Christian son, Robert, led the Christian fleet to Constantinople under the guidance of Captain Bjorn.  Once the merchant fleets had set off for their respective destinations, Sweyn and Valdamar took their two mobile legions across the Black Sea to Anatolia.  They had a rebellion to put down…if they could find it.

They were looking for Bardas Skleros who had been exiled in the Caliphate for as many years as King Sweyn had been seeking the Danish throne.  It happened that, after the death of the Emperor John Tzimiskes, a few years after Sweyn had lost the Battle of Dorostolon and his City of Pereslavet, his magistros, Bardas Skleros, planned a great rebellion against the young Emperors, Basil and Constantine, and laid waste Anatolia for four years, ravaging the countryside with fire and destroying cities, cruelly defeating and slaughtering in a pitched battle the Roman forces that were deployed against him.

One army was led against Skleros by the patrikios and stratopedarches Peter the Eunuch, and when battle broke out on the plain of Lapara, on the boundary of Armenian territory, patrikios Peter was hit by a spear and knocked from his horse and died, while most of his bodyguards were killed along with him.  Another army was led against Skleros by the magistros Bardas Phokas, who, after receiving from the Emperors the office of Domestikos of the Schools for his successes against the Hraes’, drew up in battle order to oppose Skleros at Pankaleia, a plain near Amorion that was suitable for cavalry action, at which time Phokas was struck on the skull with a staff on the battlefield and was knocked from his horse and brought to the ground; and he would have been captured by his foes and died ingloriously, if he had not been overlooked as one of the rank and file by the enemy, who did not recognize him, and had been saved by the approach of night.  Bardas Skleros was elated by all his victories and considered himself invincible.  Thereupon he forced Nicaea and Abydos and Attalea to surrender to him, and he subdued all Roman territory in Asia.  He then acquired numerous dromon triremes and gained control of the sea, and caused great harm to the merchants and the imperial city itself, by not allowing the grain transports to sail to it as they did previously; until the Emperors secretly dispatched from Constantinople’s Golden Horn harbour Greek fireships, under the command of the magistros Bardas Parsakoutenos, who landed suddenly at Abydos and set fire to the usurper’s triremes and destroyed his army of soldiers and seized the fortress.  Then Bardas Phokas led an army and attacked Bardas Skleros and defeated him, forcing him to seek refuge in Baghdad with the Arabs there.

Both Roman and Hraes’ intel now indicated that Bardas Skleros, with the aid of the Caliphate, had finally returned to Cappadocia to start his rumoured rebellion, so King Sweyn, once again, met up with Roman officers and he and Prince Valdamar once again took their two mobile legions from one end of Anatolia to the other, looking for the rebels.  By now the Roman cities of the east were seething with rebellion and the Roman officers had been given special dispensation by Emperor Basil to allow the Hraes’ legions to sack a few of the most rebellious smaller towns to serve as a warning to the eastern cities.  The Emperor was to receive all pillaged gold and the Hraes’ were to retain all plundered silver with the loot monitored and divided in the old Roman Vanir fashion by the Roman officers present.  The citizens were to be handled in the old Roman fashion as well and the Hraes’ were allowed to retain the enslaved.

As the two Hraes mobile legions progressed east across Anatolia, they came across a small city that the Roman officers determined to be sufficiently ‘Pink’ to permit sacking.  The towns and cities that were judged to be loyal to the Empire were said to be Roman Red, and less loyal cities were Red and then Light Red and disloyal cities were Dark Pink and rebellious cities were Pink.  The small city that the officers had just studied was so rebellious that they called the city ‘Pinkville’ and okayed its sacking by the Hraes’, reminding the Vikings and Varangians that all plundered gold was to be forwarded to Emperor Basil in Constantinople.

Pinkville was all bolted shut and feeling secure behind its high stone walls when the legionary fleet sailed up the Halys River and began slinging high velocity tonstone shot from the shipborne gravity trebuchets and the weaker riverside walls were soon tumbling down into the waters and warships with ladders fired scorpion arrows into the cracked and crumbling walls and the ships were cinched up and Hraes’ marines and troops raced up ladders and poured into the city and they opened the landward gates and the heavy horse and cataphracts that were discharging from the troop transports charged straight into the city streets and the city fell by noon and was completely plundered by nightfall.  Half the men were loaded up into the slaver knars that had followed the fleet and were taken off to Tmutorokan for quick training and prep before being destined for sale to the Eunuch armies of the east and the other lucky half were imprisoned within the many stone churches within the walls.  The Hraes’ troops were billeted in the houses of Pinkville where they helped themselves to the women and children before the slaver knars came back for half of them.  The Roman officers followed the Hraes’ troops throughout the town and ensured that the pillaged gold and silver was all amassed in the town square so that the gold could be shipped off to Constantinople and the silver could be distributed however King Sweyn saw fit.

This same fate awaited many of the larger towns and smaller cities across Armeniakon, Chaldia and Cappadocia and everywhere the Hraes legions went, the slaver knars followed.  And when the Hraes’ troops were hunkered down in the captured towns, raping and pillaging, Sweyn sent out his Exeyes officers to the surrounding cities to infiltrate and locate Bardas Skleros and his rebels.  But they could find him nowhere.  Some of the intel officers came back with reports of sightings of Bardas and rumours of Skleros, but some Exeyes officers didn’t come back at all.  They were to mole down in Cappadocia and hide under cover as displaced Romans and they were to watch and wait at selected locations.  The legions had spent the prior summer traipsing around Anatolia and the Exeyes officers had trained all winter at their covers so they could blend in with the locals.  Thanks to the teachings of General Wu, the Hraes’ legions had twice as many Exeyes, intel officers per capita, than even the Roman legions.  When the legions left in the fall, the implanted Exeyes officers were left behind.

King Sweyn didn’t even go to Constantinople to ask the Emperors to purify his gold.  He sent a messenger who came back with the answer that the body of Bardas Skleros would be required.  But Sweyn had expected as much and he had found himself a Roman wife who liked whips and chains and travelled with him all through the summer and Prince Valdamar had purchased a dozen new young beautiful wives for his Kievan covies and the Hraes’ Trading Company had garnered thousands of fine slaves for the markets of Baghdad, Ashaval and Constantinople.  The King and his son both planned on returning the next summer for more of the same, should they be so invited.  And with the volume of gold that had been shipped to Constantinople, both King Sweyn and Prince Valdamar expected to be well received the following summer.  However, if Anatolia hadn’t been ready to rebel at the start of the summer’s raids, they were certainly primed for it by the end.

When they were returning with their legionary fleet, they met The Prince and the Hraes’ Baghdad merchant fleet just before Cherson.  “It is time,” Prince Erik said.  “Anatolia is about to explode in revolt like one of our footbow rocket arrows!”



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3.       The chained ones churning    ay chanted their song:

                “Let us right the mill             and raise the millstones.”

               He gave them no rest,         to grind on bade them.

                                               Anonymous; Grottasongr, Prose Edda

(987-988 AD)  When King Sweyn returned to Denmark from Baghdad in the fall, he got back early and led a Hraes’ Viking raid against the Frisians.  Some Normans joined him in the raid, but he was not surprised when Jarl Olaf wasn’t among them.  There was something in the poem that Jarl Olaf had recited previously that had told him Olaf was troubled by raiding.  King Sweyn led his mobile legion against the Frisians and attacked the city of Dorestad, which had been in a period of decline for decades, but he wasn’t after plunder, he was after the people.  Thousands of Frisians were loaded into ships and very few had the gold to ransom themselves so, almost all of them were sent to Kiev.  Dorestad never recovered from the sacking and disappeared off the face of the earth.

When, the next year, King Sweyn would attack Flanders and the city of Quentovic and thousands of citizens would be loaded into ships and sent off to Kiev, the city was much more affluent than Dorestad had been and many were able to ransom themselves and the city would survive the sacking.

Jarl Olaf Tryggvason visited the Scilly Isles the next spring because he’d heard of a seer, a priest, a fortune-teller there who could tell beforehand things not yet done, and, what he foretold, many said did come true. Olaf became determined to test this man’s gift of prophecy.  He sent one of his men, one of the handsomest and strongest, clothed him magnificently, and told him to tell the priest he was the leader of their Viking band of brothers.

When the messenger went to the fortune-teller, and professed to be the leader of their crews, he got the reply, “You’re not the king, but I advise you to be faithful to your king.”  And he would say no more to the imposter.  The messenger returned to Jarl Olaf and told him what had happened and that the priest had called Olaf a king.  Olaf’s desire to meet the priest was multiplied by this, for now he had no doubt of his really being a fortune-teller.  Olaf, King Trygve’s son, had told no one of his royal descent since leaving Hraes’, so he went to see the seer and asked him if he could foresee how it would go with him in regard to his kingdom, or of any other fortune he was to have.

The hermit replied in a holy spirit of prophecy, “You will become a renowned king, and do many deeds that will be celebrated, even though the Norwegian Aesir Jarls will refuse to follow you because your family had been enslaved.  Many men will you bring to the faith and baptism, both to your own and others’ good, and that you might have no doubt in the truth of this matter, listen to these foretokens: When you return to your ships many of your people will conspire against you, and then a battle will follow in which many of your men will fall, and you will be wounded, almost mortally, and carried upon a shield to your ship, but after seven days you will be well again, and then immediately you shall let yourself be baptized.”

Soon after that Olaf went down to his ships and was met by some mutineers and people of the Aesir faith who wanted to destroy him and his followers.  A fight broke out and the result was exactly as the hermit had predicted, and Olaf was wounded and carried upon a shield to his ship and his wound was healed in seven days.

Then Olaf perceived that the man had spoken truth, that he was a true fortune-teller, and had the gift of prophecy.  Olaf went once more to the hermit, and asked particularly how he came to have such wisdom in foreseeing things to be?

The hermit replied that the Christian God himself let him know all that he desired and he brought before Olaf many great proofs of the power of the Almighty.  In consequence of this encouragement Olaf agreed to let himself be baptized, and he and all his followers took preliminary baptism that day.  He remained there a long time, took the true faith, and gathered about himself priests and other learned men.

In the autumn Jarl Olaf sailed from the Scilly Isles to East Anglia in England, where he put into a harbour, and proceeded in a friendly manner, since it was Christian country, and he himself had just become a Christian.  There was a summons to a Thing going around the county, and it stipulated that all men were to attend it in Ipswich, so Olaf and his men went and when the Thing was assembled, a princess called Gyda was at it, a sister of Olaf Kvaran, who was then King of Dublin in Ireland.  She had been married to a great earl in Angleland, and after his death she was at the head of his dominions.  In her territory there was a man called Alfvine, who was a great champion of single combat.

He had asked her for her hand, but she gave as answer, that she herself would choose whom of the men in her dominions she would take in marriage; and on that account the Thing was assembled, that she might choose a husband.  Alfvine came there dressed out in his best clothes, and there were many other well-dressed men at the meeting.

Jarl Olaf had come there also; but had on his bad-weather clothes, and a coarse over-garment, and stood with his people apart from the rest of the crowd.  Princess Gyda went round and looked at each, to see if any appeared to her a suitable man.

When she came to where Olaf stood, she looked at him straight in the face and asked, “What sort of man are you?”

He answered, “I am called Jarl Olaf and I’m a stranger here.”

Princess Gyda replied, “Will you have me if I choose you?”

“I will certainly not say no to that,” he answered and he asked her what her name was, and of her family and descent.

“I am called Princess Gyda,” she said, “and am daughter of the King of Ireland, and was married in this country to an earl who ruled over this territory.  Since his death I have ruled over it and many have courted me, but none to whom I would choose to be married.  Now the people of this land want me to choose a husband or they will choose one for me.”  Gyda was attracted to Olaf because his blonde hair and blue eyes reminded her of her father and she was homesick for Ireland.

“I have just recently converted to Christianity,” Olaf told her, “but the priest who converted me told me to seek council through prayer.  Perhaps we could go into the church and pray?”  Gyda thought the idea a good one so, they went into the town chapel and prayed together.  The church was empty so, they knelt down before the altar and began to pray and Olaf slipped his arm around Gyda’s waist and pulled her tight beside him.  When she looked up at him he dropped his head and kissed her on the lips.  She returned his kisses but when he put his hand upon her breast she whispered that they were in a church.

“We are close to our lord here,” Olaf replied.  “I am waiting for a sign from him that we are to stop,” and he slipped behind her and placed both hands upon her breasts and prayed for a sign.  When no sign came he opened up her Anglish dress and began kissing her breasts.  He was very pleased with what he had uncovered so far, so he picked her up and sat her upon the altar and unbuttoned her dress further and it had been quite some time since the death of her earl, so when he began kissing her honey well she wanted to stop him but her body refused and she, too, began looking for any sign for her to stop him.  Gyda started moaning and her face flushed with passion and when she had come Olaf stopped, stood up and looked about for a sign.  When none was forthcoming, he unbuttoned his pants and slipped his erect member out and put it into her well and very gently eased himself into her, as if expecting some sign, but once he got fully in she gasped slightly and he began thrusting into her again and again until he flowed inside her.  He picked her up off of the altar and she wrapped her legs around him as he made his final few thrusts and then he hugged her close and whispered into her ear, “I think I was converted just so I could marry you.  Will you marry me?”

“Yes!” she breathed and he set her upon the floor and kissed her for the longest time.  She was a young and very beautiful woman with bright green eyes and flowing red hair and they made their wedding plans together right there in the church.  As they left the building Gyda warned Olaf that there was a duelist in the land who would likely challenge him for her hand, and she was going to point him out, but Olaf said no one would ever come between them, and Jarl Olaf and Princess Gyda were betrothed.

Alfvine was very displeased with the news and it was the custom then in Angleland that if two strove against each other for anything, the matter would be settled by single combat, and now Alfvine challenged Jarl Olaf to fight about this business.  The time and place for the combat were settled, and that each of them should have eleven men with them.

When they met, Jarl Olaf told his men to do exactly as they saw him do.  He had a large axe, and when Alfvine was going to cut at him with his sword he hewed the sword right out of his hand, and with the next blow struck Alfvine with the back of it.  He then bound him fast and it went the same way for all Alfvine’s men.  They were beaten down, bound, and carried before Princess Gyda’s palace.  Jarl Olaf asked her to send for the priest so they could be given last confession before they were slain, as that was the Christian thing to do, but Princess Gyda told him that the Christian thing to do would be to spare them all.

So Olaf ordered Alfvine to quit the country and to never return and Olaf took ownership of all his property.  In this way, Jarl Olaf got Princess Gyda in marriage and they lived sometimes in Angleland and sometimes in Ireland.

While Jarl Olaf was busy in England, King Sweyn had spent another summer plundering rebel cities in Anatolia with still no sign of Bardas Skleros.  When they were returning with their legionary fleet, they met The Prince and the Hraes’ Baghdad merchant fleet just before Cherson.  “It is time,” Prince Erik said.  “Anatolia is about to explode in revolt like one of our footbow rocket arrows!”

As usual, thousands of ships of the merchant fleet of the Hraes’ gathered off Cherson and most sailed north with King Sweyn for Kiev and a smaller contingent sailed east with Prince Erik for Tmutorokan, but, once out of sight from land, the four hundred transport warships of the Hraes’ legions led by Prince Valdamar beached across the bay from the city of the Romans and, within thirty minutes a full regiment of horse set off south towards the fortress.  Some of them wore Roman cavalry uniforms and carried Roman legionary standards.

Magistrate Kalokyras had been recalled from duty in Italy to ensure that Cherson was safeguarded from rebellion.  When officers came and warned him of the approach of an unexpected cavalry regiment he went to the walls of the city and watched their movements.  It was a Roman regiment and they bore the standards of a unit from Constantinople, but he had the feeling that he had seen this somewhere before.  And then he remembered Wallachia and he fought off the urge to shit himself.  “Lock up all the gates!” he ordered.  “Those may not be Romans!”  He remembered the Hraes’ cavalry as they sailed up the Olt River on their way to Ramnic Valcea and their skill at deception.  ‘It’s Prince Sveinald,’ he thought, and then he did shit himself.

Prince Valdamar led his cavalry force and he wore the colours of Rome, as did his men, but the east gates of the city were closed as were the south and west gates as they circumvented the walls.  The young prince led his men back to the east gate and he saw the face of a man upon the gate tower and he recognized it from his youth in Tmutorokan.  It was the countenance of Magistrate Kalokyras of Cherson.  Valdamar took a small group of his men, the ones who wore Roman gear, and they rode to the gate and shouted to be let in.  “Magistrate Kalokyras!” Valdamar shouted.  “We followed behind the Hraes’ merchant fleet from Constantinople and we bear an urgent message from Emperor Basil!”

“I recognize your standards,” Kalokyras shouted back, “but I see kite shields in your rearward forces.”

“Many of our regiments now carry kite shields,” Valdamar answered.

“But your regiment has not yet been issued kite shields,” Kalokyras shouted.  “All the new kite shields have gone to our Italian regiments.”

“Emperor Basil shall hear of this!” Valdamar bluffed.

“Emperor Basil is the one who ordered me back here from Italy!”  He was now certain he was dealing with Hraes’ cavalry officers, but he did not recognize the young man before him.  “You tell Prince Sveinald that he is welcome as a guest and we’ll share wine together should he care to visit.”

“The message is urgent!” Valdamar declared.  When the gates remained closed, he led his men away.  They returned to the fleet and set up camp.  The Greek citizens of the peninsula soon began streaming into the fortress city for safety.  “We should stop them,” the Hraes’ officers protested.  “It’s going to be a siege,” the prince replied.  “The more that make it into the city, the faster they shall go through their supplies.  We have a schedule to follow.  Only supply trains are to be stopped.”  Cavalry units occupied the surrounding hill tops and watched for wains and wagons, but they did not interfere with civilian movements.

Prince Valdamar had circumvented the landward walls of Cherson with earthworks and a wooden stockade to cut off supplies by land and they controlled the bay in front of the city to cut off supplies by sea.  Trebuchets were set up behind the earthworks and they fired constantly against the landward walls of the city to reduce them to a scalable height and ship mounted trebuchets shot tonstone ballistae against the seaward walls.  But the walls had been upgraded to resist trebuchet volleys and only tonstone seemed to have an effect on the improved stoneworks.  So, Valdamar was pleased when his father arrived from the north with fresh Swedish tonstone.  The greater density and hardness of the tonstone gave it penetrating power that broke up the stone of the walls.  Hraes’ troops snuck up to the walls at night to recover some of the tonstone, but the ballistae that flew over the wall or got stuck in the wall was gone.  And the tonstone on the seaward assault was always gone.  So, fresh tonstone from Sweden was a gift from Odin.

“Magistrate Kalokyras invited you as a guest to sit down and have wine with him,” Valdamar told his father.  “He’s a crafty old fox so, I wouldn’t take him up on it.”

King Sweyn ordered that the trebuchet barrage be halted the next day and he had a pavilion set up a short distance from the east gate of the city.  He left a cohort of cavalry on a hilltop and he rode alone to the pavilion with a bottle of fine Frankish sparkling wine and some Khazar Vayar and he sat at the lone table in the open pavilion and he drank some wine and waited.  Magistrate Kalokyras soon rode out from the city gates and he brought a bottle of fine Italian wine and he joined King Sweyn.  They made small talk for a bit and reminisced about old times for a while.

“Do you still sleep inside your wives?” Kalokyras asked.

“Yes,” Sweyn admitted.  “But not because I have to anymore, but because I enjoy it.  Do you still shit your bed at night?”

“Yes,” the magistrate answered, “but not because I have to…” and they both broke out laughing.

“I didn’t want to attack your city,” Sweyn started, “but the Emperors owe me a co-Emperorship.”

“They’ll never give it to you, Sweyn,” Kalokyras told him.  “The people of Constantinople would take their heads.  Have you considered asking for something that they can actually give you without putting their own lives at risk?”

“Such as?”

“You’ve heard that Empress Theophano was exported to the Holy Roman Emperor as a Porphyrogennetos and then they later found out that she wasn’t?”

“I did hear something about that.  Then Rome abandoned Theophano and now she’s in Aachen humping her ass off on the German emperor just to keep her head.”

“Ah…so, you have heard.  They did the same thing to the Bulgarians years ago, and Tzar Samuel isn’t the Tzar he thinks he is because their Roman princess wasn’t Porphyrogennetos as well.  They found out and they’ve been at war with us ever since.  It is strictly forbidden for Emperors to send Porphyrogennetos off to be married to foreigners, however, there may be one possible exception.”

“And what is that?” Sweyn asked after a long pause.

“It may be allowed if the Porphyrogennetos involved is a foreigner.”

“And who might that be?” Sweyn said, suddenly interested.

“Emperor Basil and Constantine have a number of sisters, all of them Porphyrogennetos, but one of them isn’t actually their sister, the offspring of Emperor Romanos.  She is their aunt, the offspring of Emperor Constantine the Seventh, your mother, Helga’s husband.  Do you follow?”

“My mother’s handmaiden?”

“Exactly!  Empress Helga left her in Constantinople to take care of Emperor Constantine when she had to flee the city, when you had to flee the city.  Your mother gave her orders to serve the Emperor in her stead and she took the orders seriously and when the Emperor was suffering from depression in isolation she gave him relief by having coitus with him.  She got pregnant and when the Emperor was poisoned and died, she gave birth to his daughter and it was all hushed up and she was raised as one of Romanos’ daughters and her mother, the handmaiden was returned to your mother in Gardariki.”

“She’s still in Gardariki and still taking my mother’s orders quite seriously.  She lives in the palace with Prince Erik and she focks him quite regularly, not because he’s depressed but because he’s a horny old bastard!”  And the two laughed again.  “She’s the one who’s depressed,” Sweyn added, “because she lost her daughter and was never able to have another child.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Kalokyras said.  “She gave birth to her daughter in the purple room.  The surgeons there may have fixed her while they were working on her.  Anyway, her daughter’s available and if you ask for her, they may give her to you.”

“I have too many wives already,” Sweyn said.  “I may soon be under attack because I have one too many queens and not enough queen consorts.”

“I don’t think you appreciate what may be being offered here, Sweyn.  The German Emperor would throw Empress Theophano out on her ear to get his hands on this Porphyrogennetos princess, I don’t care how fine a fock she is.”

“I also know that they would expect me to convert to Christianity in order to marry this girl, and, while I might consider converting to become co-Emperor of the World, I’m certainly not going to convert for a piece of ass, I don’t care what kind of children she provides me with.”

“It was just a passing thought,” Magistrate Kalokyras said.  “How can we end this present mess we are in, my friend?”

“If you surrender,” Sweyn started, “I’ll only enslave a quarter of your citizens, not the usual half.”

“I’m under orders from the Emperor not to surrender on pain of losing my head,” Kalokyras answered.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Sweyn said.  “We’ll offer you sanctuary in Gardar for as long as you want.  I promise you, we’ll never turn you over to the Romans and we’ll take fine care of you, villas, fine food and wine,” and Sweyn offered him some Champagne and Khavayar, “and the most beautiful Swedish slave girls…”

“I can’t, my friend.  What would you think of me if I did?”

“Remember when we were in Wallachia, fighting the Ghost Regiment and you told me you were an administrator and not a warrior?”

“I remember that and I wish, to this day, that I would have run off in the night.  Then, at least, I wouldn’t be shitting my bed at night!”  And they laughed and understood as only veterans of the Battle of the Army of the Impalers would.

“Then don’t die over this foolishness,” Sweyn pleaded.  “You’re still just a magistrate, an administrator.  Don’t die upon this hill called Cherson.”

“You’re making shitting the bed sound like a positive outcome.  Thank you, Sweyn.  Now I feel much better about having to wear brown pyjamas,” and they laughed again.  “I’ve enjoyed the wine, my king,” Kalokyras said, “and the Khazar Vayar.  The world owes your father, King Ivar ‘the Boneless’, a debt of gratitude for bringing us Khavayar.”

“Goodbye, my friend,” Sweyn said.  “I hope some good comes out of all this.”  And they both rode away in their respective directions.  The Greeks enjoyed a full day of reprieve from the barrage, but it resumed the next day.

After a month of siege, Prince Erik arrived in Cherson Bay and surveyed the damage.  The walls had been knocked down some, but repairs were being made at night so, progress was slow.  That night Erik rode towards the city gate, accompanied by Sweyn, Valdamar and a cohort of cavalry and he took out his bow and he placed a rocket propelled arrow on his string and he lit the fuse with a fireplug he held in his teeth.  He shot the arrow up above the city and it exploded and the sparks showered down into the city.

“It won’t do any good,” Sweyn said.  “The houses are all made of brick and the roofs are all clay tiles.  No wood, no straw.”

Erik had them all wait there for a half hour and they discussed strategy while they waited for something, and then a rocket propelled arrow flew out of the city and exploded over their position.  “You don’t think I only have spies in Constantinople, do you?” Erik asked, taking a torch from one of the officers.  He searched the dry ground for something and he soon found the arrow shaft with a message rolled around it.  It was written in Greek and said, ‘The water supply to the city comes via underground pipes from springs in the hills south.  Dig down, cut off pipes, city falls in three days.’

The next day, Erik and the cohort rode south and found the springs and then dug down just beyond the pools and they smashed the clay pipes that ran to Cherson.  The city surrendered in three days.  “You should have accepted my terms,” King Sweyn said to Magistrate Kalokyras.  “Then only a quarter of your citizens would be bound for Baghdad instead of half.  You could have saved twenty thousand Greeks and Romans a fate of slavery.”

“I had my orders,” Kalokyras said.

“My other offer still stands, my friend,” Sweyn said, looking over to Prince Erik.  “A villa in Tmutorokan, fine wines and food and Slav slave girls.”

“Thank you,” the magistrate replied.  “I’ll take you up on your offer, since my other offer leaves me shortened by a head.”

The Hraes’ occupied the city and began the slave selection process.  There was no raping and there was no pillaging.  The slavers of Kiev and Tmutorokan were there within days and they sorted out the women first, mothers with virgin daughters were penned together and women of concubine quality were penned together and then women of skill and then housekeepers were penned up.  Children were then penned up, a group who were suitable for use of a sexual nature, those who could be used for fine crafts and those who might be purchased for adoption.  All babies would be sent to Kiev to be raised and trained as foundling slaves.  Then the men were penned up, handsome young men and boys of concubine quality for those of that persuasion, young men to be castrated for the slave armies of the east and older men with skills.  Slaving was a brutal business, but there was only one profession that was older and it was equally brutal.  But the Hraes’ were following the ancient laws of the Aesir Vikings and the Vanir Romans and this fate fell on only half the population and the other half were allowed to live as they normally would, paying their taxes as they normally would, only to new oppressors instead of the old.  Most conquerors subjected all their vanquished to slavery or worse.  While all this was going on, an envoy arrived from the Emperors in Constantinople asking for terms for the return of Cherson.  Prince Valdamar had heard of the offer that Magistrate Kalokyras had recommended to his father and he asked the envoys, “What is the name of the available sister of the Emperors?”  And they answered, “Anna Porphyrogennetos.”

Prince Valdamar told his father and Erik that he wanted to marry this Anna Porphyrogennetos and he explained why, “You have been fighting for years to gain a throne of Rome,” he started, looking at his father, “but that throne is located in Constantinople and is subject to the whims of the mob there.  By marrying Anna Porphyrogennetos, I can take the throne of Rome to Kiev with me, and it will be subject to the whims of me!  Every king and prince in Europe will want to marry my offspring by this Porphyrogennetos just to get the blood of the Emperors flowing through their family lines.  While sitting upon the throne of Rome would be great, eventually you’ll be poisoned or killed by the mob or murdered by some Armenian general, but through Anna, the throne will always flow through me and my offspring by her, and other kings will seek to befriend me and marry my offspring in alliance instead of defeating me in order to depose me.  This will be a great thing for the Hraes’.  You have fought hard to become king of Denmark, but all my offspring will be Caesars when they rule.  They will be Czars of the Hraes’!”

“Are you willing to convert to Christianity?” Sweyn asked.  “Because this will be a requirement.  I’d do it for the throne, but not for a woman.”

“I’ll do it for a woman and a throne,” Valdamar said.  “A throne I can take with me anywhere because the throne will be our children.”

“I think Prince Valdamar is showing great foresight here,” Prince Erik said.  “I have foreseen the fall of Rome and the death of the last Emperor Constantine far in the future and it is the Hraes’ that carry on the bloodline of the Porphyrogennetos.  The sacking and plundering of Constantinople is much worse than what has happened here in Cherson.  Raping and pillaging is allowed for three full days before all surviving citizens are gathered up and sold into slavery.  The desert tents of the conquerors are full of the beautiful young girls and boys of Byzantium and the only Roman law of conquest followed is the allowance of ransoming and only when it garners the conquerors greater profits than slavery.

“All that is required now is preliminary baptism, and Prince Valdamar can fall away once, just as your mother, Empress Helga did, and he can get final baptism years later if desired.  Once the blood of Augustus is in our line, there’s no way of getting it out, no matter what religion we may follow.”

So, it was decided to follow Magistrate Kalokyras’ advice and ask for the hand of Princess Anna Porphyrogennetos in return for Cherson, including the conversion of Prince Valdamar to Christianity if required.  But the counteroffer that came back from Constantinople asked for much more.  The Emperors asked that all of Hraes’ be converted to Orthodox Christianity and they asked that the two Hraes’ legions return to Anatolia the following summer and finish the job they had started.  After much debate, a revised offer was sent to Rome whereby the official religion of the Hraes’ would be Orthodox Christianity but there would be no forced conversions and that the two Hraes’ legions would be available to the Romans, but the Hraes’ princes might not be available to lead them and that qualified and approved Roman officers might have to be substituted as required.  Armenian generals need not apply.

The revised offer was accepted by the Emperors and they requested the immediate return of Cherson, which was, of course, rejected.  Princess Anna was to marry Prince Valdamar in Cherson and the city would be returned following the wedding festivities.  Until then, Cherson would be subject to the ancient Roman rules of conquest, including the ransoming of citizens from the half selected for slavery.  The half selected for freedom would be allowed to return to their homes and carry on under Hraes’ rule or would be provided transport to Constantinople if desired.  The marriage was proposed to take place after Prince Valdamar and his legions finished putting down the Anatolian revolt the following summer, should such revolt actually occur.

Prince Erik kept his word to Magistrate Kalokyras and provided him with a villa in Tmutorokan and even agreed to his revised request for his slave girls to be Greeks of Cherson and not Slav.  Prince Valdamar and the magistrate went shopping together in the slave pens that had been set up within the public buildings of Cherson.  It was a special dispensation, as no slaves would be publicly sold in Cherson, but were to be taken only to Constantinople for sale.  The Emperors had requested that no Orthodox Christian subjects would be sold in the Muslim slave markets of Baghdad, but only in the Christian slave markets of Byzantium.  Prince Valdamar took this opportunity to shop for some Roman princesses that were not Porphyrogennetos for concubines before they could be ransomed and Magistrate Kalokyras used it as an opportunity to exact revenge on some local dynastic families that had given him trouble over the years.  While Valdamar chose for himself three Roman princesses based solely upon their beauty, Kalokyras selected three Roman princesses based solely upon their family names.  Prince Valdamar took his three princesses directly to the Governors Palace that the Hraes’ princes now occupied and he introduced them to his pink monster and Magistrate Kalokyras took his three Roman princesses to his new villa in Tmutorokan and introduced them to his sado-masochistic whip, placing them in a row upon his bed and whipping and then raping them sequentially.  This would turn out to be a mistake, as the three girls managed to get messages out to their families and Magistrate Kalokyras was soon officially found guilty of treason for telling the Hraes’ about the water supply source of Cherson and how it might be cut off.  It was Prince Erik’s spy who had secretly sent off this information, but there was a question of what Kalokyras and Prince Sweyn had talked about in a pavilion outside the gates of Cherson and three powerful family dynasties of the city claimed that the meeting was the source of the leak and demanded the return of their daughters and the imprisonment of the magistrate for trial in Constantinople.  Prince Erik refused the request, but Kalokyras panicked and took his three princesses by ship to Anatolia and found Bardas Skleros there and joined in the planning of his revolt.  Bardas Skleros saw three good reasons for letting the magistrate join his rebellion and Kalokyras shared his newly acquired slave girls with Bardas and his officers.

Prince Erik and King Sweyn were drinking and dining in the hall of the Governors Palace and they could hear the second floor humping going on with Prince Valdamar and his three Roman princesses and because it had been going on for days, Erik asked Sweyn if this was a normal occurrence or were the princesses just excessively appealing.

“The same thing happened at my longhall in Lade,” Sweyn explained.  “I gave him and his three Polish princesses a second floor master suite and the constant thumping drove my wife, Alfled, crazy.  She tried to quiet them down by taking some wine up to them and, when she knocked on the door, Valdamar answered it and he stood before her naked with a monstrous hard-on before her and it was so large, she just stared at it the whole time she passed him the tray of wine, and she swore to me that it grew even larger as she stared.  After that she got in the habit of taking him a tray of wine each afternoon just to get a look at the monster.  I didn’t mind because at least she complained less about the noise of all that humping going on overhead.

“When he got himself three local Norwegian princesses as well, I ended up enlarging the main floor master suite for him and his six wives to cut down on the noise, so, Alfled thought it best I tell him about the move while she took him up his afternoon wine.  She knocked and he opened the door and there stood his ‘pink monster’, as he liked to call it, and it was huge.  I averted my eyes, but Alfled just stared directly at it the whole time I told him about the move, and I think it did grow larger as she stared because it was as big as the member on any Viking horse I’ve ever seen.  It’s not the size of a Percheron’s, but it’s as big as any Viking horse.”

“Viking horses may be small,” Erik stated, “but their cocks are pretty large.”

“I kid you not,” Sweyn said.  “It’s as big as any Viking horse’s!”

“And he calls it the ‘pink monster’?”

“There’s a story behind that, too,” Sweyn confirmed, “that I’ll share with you some other time, but I think we may have to move Valdamar and his wives to the main floor here.”

“There aren’t any main floor bedrooms here,” Erik responded.  “It’s a Roman palace.”

“There’s the library,” Sweyn offered.  “It’ll give you an excuse to move all their Latin books to Gardariki.  I know you’re just dying to do it!”

“That’s a good idea” Erik told his grandson.  “I’ll even pay for the renovations.”

“Can I leave you with that then?” Sweyn asked.  “I want to leave for Denmark this afternoon.”

“Sure,” Erik said.  “Can you say hi to Princess Serah for me when you stop in Kiev?” Erik asked, and he gave Sweyn a wink.

“I always do,” Sweyn said.

When Sweyn’s small warfleet arrived in Kiev, Princess Serah met him on the main quay.  Later, as she was stroking him off, Sweyn asked her if she had ever told her husband, Erik, that she was in the habit of stroking him off when he passed through Kiev.

“I’ve never told him,” Serah said, “and he’s never asked.  Why?”

“He asked me to say hi to you for him as I passed through Kiev, and then he gave me a wink, like he knew what was going on.”

“Oh…that!” Serah said.

“What that?” Sweyn asked.

“He has spies in Kiev,” she told him.  “They’re not as good as his spies in Constantinople or his best spies in Baghdad, but I guess they’re better than I thought they were.”

“Fock!” Sweyn said, realizing how he’d been caught.

“Can I stroke you off first and then we’ll fock?” Serah asked.  “You last so much longer the second time!”

“You just want to watch me go off,” Sweyn teased.

“Well, of course!” Serah replied.  “It’s an amazing thing!”

When Sweyn’s small warfleet arrived in Roskilde harbour he saw some Swedish warships anchored there.  When he went into his palace, Gyritha was on his first highseat and she asked him to come up and join her for some wine.  She had news for him.

“My brother, King Eric, was here a month ago and he took Princess Aud to Sweden with him so he could marry her.  They’ve been betrothed for years,” she explained.

“Yes,” Sweyn told her.  “Jarl Haakon told me of her betrothal a few years ago.”

“I made sure I didn’t tell him that you’ve been helping yourself to Aud’s sweet little anus for the past few years because I didn’t want him to get angry with you.  But he got angry anyway.”

“He knows?” Sweyn asked.  “Does he have spies?”

“He never found out about Aud’s anus,” Gyritha reassured him.  “He was angry because he told you to keep me as your queen and when he found out that your wife, Sviataslava was queen and I had been demoted to queen consort, he got very angry.”

“Where is Svia?” Sweyn asked looking around the great hall.  He saw Queen Consort Malfrieda over in a corner of the hall with the children, but he couldn’t see his Roman wife anywhere.

“Is it true?” Gyritha asked.

“What?” Sweyn asked as he searched the far reaches of the hall.

“That he told you I was to be queen or he would be visiting you with his warfleet?”

“He did mention that!” Sweyn spat.  “I didn’t know that he was crazy enough to actually do it!”

“Well, he is that crazy!  He’s Eric ‘the Victorious’, and sometimes the byname goes to his head.  I’m your wife and I want you two to work things out amicably and I’d like to know that you’d appreciate my help in this matter.”

“Where is Svia?” Sweyn asked again.

“I’m just getting to that part,” Gyritha admitted, “but I’d like your reassurance that you’ll let me help you and Eric resolve your differences amicably.”

“I love you, and I’ll always be thankful for your help, in this and other matters.  Now where is Svia?”

“He took her as well,” Gyritha confessed.  “He saw her and he fell in love with her so, he took her and they had a double wedding.”

“He what?” Sweyn shouted, then he sat down beside his queen and he put his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands.  “She has that effect on men,” Sweyn admitted.

“She has that effect on women, as well,” Gyritha confessed.  When Sweyn looked up at her, she said, “I didn’t start it!  She came on to me!”

“Fock, fock, fock,” Sweyn said, talking into his crotch.  “Now I’ll have to go back to Kiev and get another mobile legion.  I hope Eric appreciates that I’m fighting a war right now with the Romans.  We sacked Cherson a while ago!”

“You won’t need a legion,” Gyritha reassured him.  “I’m going to work this out between you two peacefully.”

“How are you going to do that?” Sweyn asked.

“First we have to find out if Queen Sviataslava wants to be rescued,” Queen Gyritha explained.  “Eric loves her so much, he demoted Queen Sigrid to queen consort, and boy is she pissed!  Perhaps Queen Svia loves him as much in return now?”

“That’s not going to happen,” Sweyn said.  “I promised to make Svia an empress of Rome.  She’s got her mind pretty much set on that.”

“Empress of Rome?” Gyritha said.  “How will you ever deliver on that promise?”

“I already have a contract with Rome that they must make me co-Emperor, but those focking Romans are slippery as eels!  Trying to make them deliver on it is turning out to be more trouble than it’s worth.”

“I still have handmaidens in Uppsala and I have them keeping an eye on Svia and she seems to be enjoying her time with Eric.  I know, I know, she should be here with you, but I’ll make it up to you in so many ways if you’ll just be patient.  Gunhilde will help me.  Have you ever had a mother and daughter team work on you?  I mean really work on you?”

Sweyn looked up at her with interest.

“Besides, I’ve already arranged for Queen Svia’s escape,” Gyritha said.  “One of my handmaidens has already told Svia, if she ever wants to leave, she can get her to Novgorod.  Wasn’t Queen Consort Malfrieda a handmaiden there once?” she asked.  “Handmaidens always stick together.  My handmaiden knows her people there.”

“Does your mother daughter team include Malfrieda?”

“Not unless you want a grandmother, mother, daughter team!”

“Perhaps she can have a sleepover with the children tonight,” Sweyn offered.

“That would be wonderful,” Gyritha said.  “Your wife, Gunhilde, gave you baby Svein, and Malfrieda is so good with him.”

While King Sweyn spent time with young Gunhilde, Malfrieda and the children, Queen Gyritha went to a Hraes’ slave shop where she had purchased handmaidens before and she asked the master slaver there what was so special about the mother-daughter slave pairs he often sold.  “Why are they worth double what they would be worth alone?” she asked the man.  The slaver told her what he had heard in Baghdad and the stories he had heard in Constantinople and she could only reply, “Oh my,” and “Oh dear,” and ”Oh…really?”  She had known the slaver for many years because he sold her many handmaidens in Sweden as well so, she believed all the incredible things he had told her about mother-daughter slave pairs and she understood their increased worth.

When Sweyn went to his bedroom that night, Gyritha stood naked in front of him and she welcomed him and told him that their daughter had watched them have sex the night before.  When they had sent her out of the room so they could have sex, she had knelt and watched their full copulation through the keyhole.  “She must be punished!” Gyritha said.  “I sent our daughter to bed, but she must be spanked for her insolence.”

Sweyn looked toward the bed and Gunhilde laid on it covered by a translucent white silk sheet and he could see that she was naked as well.  Gyritha began undressing Sweyn and said,  “Come out from under the sheets and accept your punishment!” and she sat Sweyn, naked, on the edge of the bed.  Gunhilde laid herself down across his knees and he saw her sweet buttocks braced for a paddling.  “You must punish her!” Gyritha urged.  Sweyn began spanking the girl and her bum turned red and warm with the smacking, and Sweyn’s right palm warmed too.  His lingam grew stiffer with each slap of her rump.  “Now get back under the covers and watch,” Gyritha ordered, and Gunhilde got up off his lap, using his hard penis as a crutch as she rose.  She dashed under the covers in fear and she watched as Gyritha pushed Sweyn onto his back and took his cock up into her mouth and began sucking.  “You’d better be watching, you little tramp,” she told Gunhilde, as she straddled Sweyn’s hips and lowered herself onto his member.  “As further punishment, you shall watch what you are forbidden to enjoy,” and Gyritha began riding Sweyn’s member as Gunhilde watched with big round eyes from under the silks.  Gyritha was soon moaning in orgasm and Sweyn exploded inside her and then hugged her close.  “That was so…,” Sweyn whispered, “I can’t describe it!”

“I must go to the dressing room and relieve myself,” Gyritha said, tucking Sweyn into bed beside Gunhilde.  “When I get back, I think you should spank her again!” and she looked at Gunhilde and spat, “Little tramp!”

When she went into the dressing room and closed the door, Gunhilde slid under the sheets and took Sweyn’s member into her mouth and sucked it hard again.  She then threw back the sheets and she straddled Sweyn’s hips and she said, “I can do this as good as mother,” and she slid onto his erect cock.  She began riding Sweyn, only faster, as if she wanted to get it done before her mother returned to the room.  She soon began moaning and crying out “father, father,” and the two were soon coming together and Sweyn hugged her close and thrust deep to discharge the last of it.  When Gyritha came out of the dressing room, Gunhilde pulled herself off Sweyn and pretended to be asleep under the covers.

“Asleep already,” Gyritha said, “and her punishment half over!”  She walked around the huge bed and threw back the silks and grabbed Gunhilde by the wrist and dragged her across the bed and across Sweyn’s lap until her bum was over his crotch.  “Spank her,” Gyritha demanded, and Sweyn began to paddle Gunhilde’s sweet buttocks again and they turned beet red very quickly this time as Sweyn’s penis again grew stiff with each slap of her rear.  He felt Gunhilde’s hand upon his member and she directed its growth into her honey well and each time he smacked her bottom it went in a little deeper and Gyritha urged the spanking on, seemingly oblivious to her daughter being focked with each stroke of Sweyn’s palm.  Gunhilde was soon crying out in ecstasy as she rocked back and forth across Sweyn’s hips and Gyritha encouraged the strokes and the rocking, unaware of what was going on underneath.  “You can cry out all you want,” Gyritha shouted, “but the punishment shall not stop until you father has spanked the tramp right out of you!”  And Sweyn exploded inside Gunhilde and he grabbed her ass and rocked it across his hips manually until he was done inside her.

“She’s had enough for now,” Gyritha said, and she pushed Sweyn back down and she straddled his beard.  “Now watch!” she ordered, as Sweyn put his tongue in her honey well and savoured her taste.  And so it went for most of the night until the three collapsed into each other’s arms and fell asleep, sexually exhausted.

As Yuletide approached, Sweyn sent out invitations to all the Hraes’ stations and to all his allies for a great feast in Roskilde to celebrate this Yulefest as King Sweyn ‘Forkbeard’ Ivarson of Denmark.  King Eric ‘the Victorious’ was at the top of the list.  He had his men watching the Baltic for Sweyn’s legendary legionary transport warships, but they had seen none and Eric’s spies in Liere confirmed this.  There were no Hraes’ warships in Roskilde harbour, only King Harald’s fleet that had sworn allegiance to Sweyn.  But Jarl Haakon brought a small warfleet with him because he trusted no one, and Jarl Eirik brought a small warfleet because he had been taught by his father, and every Hraes’ station manager and prince brought a warship or two, and the Ui Imair of Ireland all brought a ship or two with each family representative, and the Angles of the York and London Hraes’ stations brought a small warfleet because England seemed to always be in conflict and Duke Richard of Normandy came with a legion of cataphracts, descendants of the old rented Roman cataphracts that King Ivar had left them with when he had saved young Richard from the Franks in 944.  The legion had been upgraded over the years and they carried Sweyn’s kite shields and improved armour and were practicing a new Roman thing called jousting and Sweyn had requested their attendance to demonstrate this new combat training method to all the Norse kings and princes that would be attending the twelve days of Yulefest.

When King Eric ‘the Victorious’ arrived in Roskilde harbour, it was full of warships, hundreds of warships and none of them were Sweyn’s yet all of them owed Sweyn loyalty in varying degrees from ‘I owe you my livelihood’ to ‘I owe you my life’.  Eric demanded that room be made for his hundred and twenty warships and Sweyn accommodated twenty and sent the other hundred to beach at the harbour town that served Liere.  Queen Gyritha assured her brother that King Sweyn held no grudges and was perfectly happy with the arrangements that stood between the Danish House of Skjold and the Swedish House of Munso.

While Eric visited with Gyritha, Sweyn visited with Svia.  “He’s crazy, you know,” Svia told Sweyn.  “You’d think he was Emperor of Rome, the way he goes on about his business.  He thinks he can conquer you, when he couldn’t even take on one of your many legions.”

“I know,” Sweyn said, sadly.  “Gyritha has told me some of the things he has done.  It’s amazing that he’s still alive.”

“Queen Sigrid almost killed him herself when he demoted her to make me queen.  She’s going to leave him soon, I can tell.”

“Do they treat you well?” Sweyn asked.  “You can leave him, too, if you wish.  I’m trying to keep the peace, but you can leave him and go to Novgorod with Gyritha’s handmaiden there.  And then you could go on to Kiev and stay with Prince Valdamar.”

“Her handmaiden made me the offer, but I’m fine for now.  King Eric is crazy, but he’s a gentleman and sex with him is crazy!  He’s always surprizing me with new levels of crazy.  I’ll keep him entertained until he bores me.  Is Queen Gyritha taking good care of you?”

“She wasn’t at first, but when Eric carried you off, she decided to keep me entertained so I didn’t kill her brother.  She and her daughter Gunhilde work hard to keep me satisfied, and they know they’re up against your beauty so, they work very hard at it.  How is Aud?”

“She’s a gods’ send,” Svia said.  “Eric treats her as a queen consort and has sex with her once a week, which leaves Aud free to work on her bookmaking and she’s set up a scriptorium in Birka that is synchronized with her one in Lade.  What’s happening with your co-Emperorship?  Am I still your empress?”

“Yes.  But the Romans still aren’t cooperating.  I told you that I presented Basil and Constantine with documentation and proof of Danish kingship, and they’re still mulling it over, so, we sacked Cherson to speed things up a bit.”

“Did it work?  Are they in agreement?”

“They’re coming around.  They’ve offered Prince Valdamar a Roman princess, a Porphyrogennetos, to get Cherson back and we’re going to take two legions back to Anatolia this summer to put down a rebellion for them.  Prince Erik has asked for patience from all.”

“They can’t give him a Porphyrogennetos princess!” Svia said.  “It’s forbidden!”

“Apparently there’s something wrong with this one.  She’s part Hraes’.  Her mother was my mother’s handmaiden that she left in Constantinople to take care of Emperor Constantine the Seventh when we fled the city from the mob.  The Emperor knocked her up before he died and Princess Anna was raised with Basil and young Constantine as their sister.  Nobody knows this.”

“Holy shit!” Svia said.  “A Hraes’ princess born of the purple!  That’s incredible!  Emperor Romanos was one horny focker; he must have got it from his father.  I thought it was because he was half Armenian.  It’s a good thing Emperor John didn’t know she was Romanos’ sister and not daughter.  He would have married her as a Porphyrogennetos empress and ruled as full Emperor instead of sharing the throne with Romanos’ sons!”

“She was only nine at the time,” Sweyn said, doing the mental math.

“He would have raped her, then married her to save her name and he would have kept my cousin Theophano on the side for regular sex.”  Then Svia and Sweyn both said, “Those focking Armenians!”

“How is Theophano?” Sweyn asked.  “You girls still have things patched up?”

“She’s still in Aachen focking the German Emperor’s ass off for her life.  She’s doing fine.”

“I’ll bet she wishes she was a Hraes’ Porphyrogennetos princess.”

“She’d be in Constantinople on the throne of Rome instead of in a shithole like Aachen focking the ass off some old German prince.”

“You know what’s funny?” Sweyn told her.  “No.  What?” she asked.

“You remember Prince Ivar’s monster cock?”

“My honey well still aches,” Svia laughed.

“Well, Prince Valdamar has one just like it that he calls the ‘pink monster’, and it’s huge.  Malfrieda thinks her father was Prince Mal of Dereva because Empress Helga found her at the Battle of Iskorosten and Mal had a monster cock and she carries the cock in her bloodline.”

“Malfrieda’s a princess?” Svia asked.

“It could be,” Sweyn answered.  “Prince Valdamar has always suffered because he was princely from my side but of handmaiden slave stock from Malfrieda’s side when she may actually be a princess.  And now he’s going to marry a Roman princess, a Porphyrogennetos, that is supposedly royal from both sides but is actually of handmaiden slave stock on her mother’s side, too.”

“That’s ironic,” Svia said as Sweyn leaned over and kissed her.

“Try to be patient,” Sweyn told her.  “We’re going to get young Valdy a Porphyrogennetos princess and then we’re going to get us a Roman throne and then I’ll reconquer Bulgaria and we’ll live in Pereslavet, just like we planned.”

“Just as you planned!  I want us to live in Constantinople!”

“Okay,” Sweyn said.  “Fock Bulgaria and fock Wallachia!  We’ll live in Constantinople!  I’ll reconquer the Levant for the Romans.”

“That’s my prince!  I’m going with you.  I want to enter Jerusalem and Damascus with you!”

At mid-Yuletide, the jousting began.  The Roman knights of the First Rouen Regiment were to go up against the Frankish knights of the Third Rouen Regiment and the Norman knights of the Second Rouen Regiment were to go up against the Viking knights of the Fourth Rouen Regiment, all out of the First Rouen Legion of Cataphracts of Richard the First of Normandy.  There was a thin blanket of snow covering a field just outside of the city of Roskilde and wooden viewing stands had been built in front of the city walls and the legionary pavilions were across from the stands and a jousting run sat between the two.  The top six knights of the Roman regiment congregated at one end of the run and the top six knights of the Frankish regiment gathered about the other end.  The Romans were all descendants of the Byzantine knights that King Ivar had hired to venture north to fight the Franks over Normandy, the ones who found fine Frankish wives while north and never returned to Constantinople, and the Frankish regiment was composed of cavalrymen of the Frankish king who were training with the Normans, so the rivalry between the two groups was intense, as they had fought against each other a generation earlier.

A scale mail armoured knight on a ring mailed horse stood at each end of the run, each on the right of a heavy short fence that ran the length of the run and they charged at each other with couched lances lowered and shields held high and the Roman knight unseated the Frank, who tumbled into the dirt and snow and had to be helped up so he could recover while the next pair of cataphracts faced off.  King Eric ‘the Victorious’ and Queen Svia had been given prime seats next to King Sweyn and Queen Gyritha and Queen Consort Gunhilde because Sweyn wanted to instruct his brother-in-law in the differences between cataphracts and the light cavalry that was common in the northern lands.

“Cataphracts are a combination of heavily armoured knights on armoured horse compared to northern cavalry who are lightly armoured with completely unarmoured horse,” Sweyn explained to Eric.  “My cousin, Duke Richard has two legions of cataphracts, but he has only brought one of them for the jousting games.”  King Eric visibly winced as another knight, a Roman this time, was unseated.  “Each legion has five thousand knights,” Sweyn went on, “and I don’t really see how he can afford to keep two, but he does.  We Hraes, have two legions in Kiev and another two in Tmutorokan, but we need them because we’re fighting Pecheneg horsemen all the time.”

“That’s twenty thousand cavalrymen,” Eric stammered.

“Twenty thousand knights,” Sweyn corrected him.  “Each knight is, as a minimum, a captain of rank.”

Queens Svia, Gyritha and Gunhild were sitting a little behind and offset from the men, but Gyritha was letting Gunhilde do most of the talking so she could listen in on the men’s conversation.  “And besides the twenty thousand cataphracts,” Sweyn went on, “our three mobile legions each have four thousand heavy cavalry who are armoured as well as the knights except the horse are lightly armoured for better mobility.”

“That’s another twelve thousand,” Eric said.

“And our mobile legions also each have six thousand foot soldiers who have horses as well and can double up as light cavalry.”

“That’s another eighteen thousand!”

“Yes, for about fifty thousand total,” Sweyn boasted.  “And we have another six legions of foot soldiers that are ten thousand strong each.  One in Novgorod, one in Chernigov, two in Kiev and two in Tmutorokan.”

“That’s sixty thousand foot!”

“I know it might seem excessive at first, but these Pecheneg hordes we fight can number up to eighty thousand light horse, and when I conquered Bulgaria for Rome, I almost ran out of troops!  I would have carried on and attacked Constantinople, but I just didn’t have enough men left alive.”

“You attacked Constantinople?”

“The Hraes’ always seem to attack the Romans at least once every generation, whether we need to or not.  Prince Erik in eight sixty, his son, King Oddi, in nine oh seven, my father, King Ivar, in nine forty five, and I would have in nine seventy, but I almost ran out of men before I ran out of Bulgarians!” and Sweyn laughed and slapped his knee and patted Eric on the shoulder affectionately.  “But I’d been at war with the Wallachians and then the Khazar Empire and then the Bulgarian Empire for about five years straight, so, when the Romans wouldn’t pay me what they owed me, I just didn’t have enough men left to collect the debt.  I’m still trying to get them to pay.  We sacked their city of Cherson last fall and now we’re making them pay, but they still owe me a co-Emperorship on the throne of Rome.”

King Eric winced again as another knight was unseated and he felt the crash of the lances on shields and he knew he didn’t want to be on a shield wall with five thousand heavy cataphracts charging straight at him.  He had fielded an army of ten thousand once when he’d been at war with the Danes and he thought, at the time, that it was a vast array, but the numbers Sweyn seemed to be talking about were many times larger.  He began to wonder if any country of the north could stand up to the Hraes’ and then he wondered if all the Norse countries, bound together somehow, could even do it.

“I heard you talking with Eric,” Gyritha told Sweyn as she undressed him for bed.  “How much of it was true and how much was bragarful?”

“It was all true,” Sweyn told her.

“No!” she responded.  “Your Hraes’ have attacked Rome three or four times?  And you have all those legions?”

“Last fall was the fifth time we’ve attacked the Romans.  And we have even more legions and we also have Pechenegs that fight for us.  But the biggest fighting force we have is still our own huge merchant fleet and they’re all Vikings.  King Ivar tripled the size of the Hraes’ Trading Company in his lifetime.  There’s a lot of gold being made and a lot of it to protect.”

“Your daughter, Gunhilde, was under the stands today sucking the cock of some Roman knight and you must punish her,” Gyritha then told him.  Sweyn looked over at the bed and Gunhilde was under the silk sheets, naked, looking at him imploringly.  “We have something special worked out for you tonight,” Gyritha said as she sat him on the bed.  “And the neighbour girl was under the stands with her,” Gyritha added, “stroking off a Norman knight, and she must be punished as well!”  And Sweyn saw another head pop out from under the sheets and it was Queen Svia and she looked naked and afraid as well.  “It was her idea,” Gyritha whispered, “and Eric let her come.”  As Sweyn was spanking Gunhilde and making her demonstrate to him exactly how she had performed what she had performed on the Roman knight, he watched Gyritha and Svia pleasuring each other and he could see that they were quite familiar with each other’s personal sexual preferences.

When King Eric was ready to return to Sweden, he asked Queen Svia to come back with him and she agreed and checked with King Sweyn to make sure it was okay with him.  “Eric wanted me to make sure you’re okay with how the arrangement has been working out,” Svia told him.  “As long as you’re happy,” Sweyn said, “and are trying to be patient with the Roman thing, then I’m happy too!”  The Swedes left peacefully and in good spirits with their hundred and twenty warships and the Hraes’ merchant princes slowly drifted away from the festivities.

When Duke Richard had his legion of cataphracts packed up and ready to go,  King Sweyn gave him a chest of gold to cover expenses and a chest of gold to award to the victors of the jousting games categories.  The Norman knights had won overall with the Viking knights victorious in numerous classes of combat and there were surprisingly few deaths.  Duke Richard told Sweyn, “If you need help against the Romans, you can count on my cataphract legions.  You won’t have run out of men until I, too, have run out of men.”  And the Duke and his warfleet sailed north around Jutland and then southwest along the coast for Normandy.

The last guests to leave were Jarls Haakon and Eirik and their wives and families.  “I miss our nights together,” Eirik confessed to Sweyn when they were alone in the palace library, “at your longhall in Lade with Alfled and Aud.”  Sweyn knew what Eirik missed most, the intimacy of the Theban Sacred Band of Brothers and he locked the library doors and he unbuttoned his pants and took out his lingam and Eirik knelt down before him and took it up into his mouth and began sucking it sweetly.  He swallowed the member and regurgitated it with ease over and over and Sweyn guessed it was something Sveinn Buison had taught him through practice on long Norwegian nights in Lade.  When Eirik had sucked it long and hard he looked up at Sweyn and Sweyn bent him over a desk and pulled down his pants and entered Eirik from behind.  He thrust deeply into him and began slow and gentle but soon picked up the pace and erupted inside him.  Sweyn then laid Eirik back upon the desk and took Eirik’s lingam into his mouth and sucked it harder than it already was.  He couldn’t swallow it up as Eirik had, for that took practice, but he took as much of it as he could in his mouth and when it was ready he went upon the desk and straddled Eirik’s hips and he lowered himself onto it.  He rode Eirik’s steed until Eirik was flowing within him and then they laid beside each other for a while and enjoyed the peace of their breathing.  The next day Jarls Eirik and Haakon sailed north with their small warfleets past Jutland, then west and north up the coast of Norway to Trondheim Fjord.



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4.       They sang as they swung   the swift-wheeling stone,

       till of Frodi’s maids               most fell asleep.

              Then Menja quoth,              at the quern standing:

                                               Anonymous; Grottasongr, Prose Edda

(989 AD)  Hraes’ Exeyes officers that had implanted themselves in The Varangian Guard of Constantinople had been tasked with the job of piecing together what exactly had happened on Emperor Basil’s disastrous military excursion into Bulgaria in 986.  The Guard had not been involved with the military operation, having been replaced by an elite Armenian cavalry regiment, but the Hraes’ princes wanted the full story and they had managed to put together the Roman version of the campaign.

In August of 986, the Emperor Basil mustered his troops and marched against the Mysian Bulgarians, for the arrogant Bulgars had lost fear of the Romans, now that Prince Svein was no longer in alliance with them, and they had for years been harassing Roman territory and mercilessly plundering Macedonia.  The Emperor was roused to great anger and hastened to destroy them at the first assault, but he was deceived by fickle fortune, for after he had traversed the narrow and steep mountain tracks and reached the vicinity of Sardica or Sofia, which the Hraes’ were accustomed to call Triaditza, he set up camp there for the army and settled down and kept watch over the city for twenty days.  But he was not able to accomplish anything since the army had not brought proper siege equipment such as trebuchets with them.  The Bulgarians ambushed them first, when they left the camp for forage and fodder, and killed many of them, and carried off a large number of their pack animals and horses.  Then, after the siege machines and the other contrivances accomplished nothing, because of the antiquity of the equipment and the inexperience of the men who brought them up against the walls, the catapults were set on fire by the enemy, and when lack of supplies began to overwhelm the army, he and the army packed up and headed back for Constantinople.  After marching all day, they pitched camp in a thicket for the night.  The next day, then, the army was traversing a wooded defile, which was full of caves, and as soon as they passed through it they came to steep terrain, filled with gullies.  Here the Bulgars attacked the Romans, killing huge numbers of men and seizing the imperial headquarters, and plundering the army’s baggage train.  An elite Armenian mounted regiment had managed to save the Emperor and fight their way out of the fallen headquarters and they galloped off with him quickly before the enemy closed off a steep slope and cut off any retreat.  The remains of the army were trapped and slaughtered and almost all of the twenty thousand legionnaires that Basil had led into Bulgaria died there.

The Armenian regiment returned with the Emperor to Roman territory, but the Bulgarians, on realizing that the Emperor had escaped their ambush, set off after him and would have caught up to him had they not learned that Hraes’ cataphracts from Prince Svein’s mobile legions had reached the Emperor first.  So, the Bulgarians turned north and east and recaptured much of Bulgaria that had been taken by the Hraes’ and was then stolen by the Romans.

Over the winter, while King Sweyn had been celebrating Yulefest in Denmark with his many wives, both old and new, Bardas Skleros heard about the disaster that had transpired in Bulgaria and he left the Caliphate for Cappadocia Province in Anatolia, and Magistros Bardas Phokas rebelled against the Emperors and defeated the Roman forces in Asia and captured all the ports and towns along the coast except for Abydos; and after hauling numerous triremes onto shore, he kept guard over the straits of the Hellespont, and did not allow cargo ships to proceed to the imperial city; and he established most of his army, under the command of Magistros Leo Melissenos, on land near Abydos, to protect their own triremes and to besiege Abydos.  Then he erected a secure palisaded encampment opposite Constantinople on the hill of Chrysopolis, and dispatched there large numbers of cavalry and infantry, and appointed as commanders of this army his brother, Patrikios Nikephoros and Magistrate Kalokyras, surnamed Delphinas, who had joined the rebellion after fleeing the Hraes’ who had just recently sacked the city of Cherson.

Emperor Basil crossed the Bosporos with a sufficient force and defeated these men in a pitched battle and took them prisoner.  Nikephoros Phokas, the brother of Bardas Phokas, was put in fetters and confined in prison, whereas Magistrate Kalokyras Delphinas was tried on the spot, for he had his three new Roman wives in the camp with him and had been sharing them with Nikephoros and his other officers and the girls complained to the Emperor about their terrible treatment at his hands and the Emperor had Kalokyras hanged from a gallows pole right there on the hill of Chrysopolis, where his tent was pitched and where his wives had been defiled and he died on that hill while his concubine wives watched in muted delight.  When Bardas Phokas heard about the destruction of his brother’s army at Chrysopolis, and the capture and imprisonment of his brother and the hanging of Kalokyras Delphinas on a gallows pole, he mustered his main army and went to Abydos, to take the fortress there by siege and cross over to Europe so he could conquer it too.  But the Emperor Basil learned about the usurper’s march on Abydos, and, after assembling his army and fitting out the Greek-fire-bearing triremes, got ready to oppose him at Sestos, just across the Hellespont.  They pitched the Imperial pavilion on the plain across from Abydos, and the Emperor drew up his troops daily and drilled them and he debated with his generals how they should attack the larger force of rebels.

(April 13 989 AD)  One night, the two Hraes’ mobile legions of King Sweyn and Prince Valdamar landed on the coast of Asia, just east of Abydos and they camped a short distance from the rebel camp outside of Abydos.  Prince Valdamar wanted to attack them that night, but King Sweyn reminded him that night attacks were forbidden by both Aesir and Vanir martial codes so, they rested until early morning and then the father and son rode out with hazel poles and marked the proposed field of battle directly across the strait from where Emperor Basil and his legions were camped.  King Sweyn and Prince Valdamar waited with a cohort of heavy cavalry while a cohort of regular cavalry rode out from the rebel camp, led by Bardas Phokas and Bardas Skleros.  They adjusted the poles a little further apart due to their larger force of thirty thousand men and they knew their adjustment was accepted when the Hraes’ leaders rode away.

Sweyn and Valdamar put the Kievan Seventh Mobile Legion on the right and the Tmutorokan Ninth Mobile Legion on the left, with the foot soldiers placed in three ranks backed by Valkyries and with the heavy cavalry regiments on their respective flanks.  The spare horses and pack animals were gathered behind the Valkyries.  While the legions were forming up, Hraes’ transport warships were rowing up the small river that ran behind where the legions were forming up.  Sweyn had not selected the battlefield because it would be convenient for the Emperor to watch, the distance across the strait being far too distant for viewing, even with optical scopes, but because of the little river that ran to the sea there.  It was barely deep enough and wide enough for the warships, but it allowed them to form up in a long line behind the troops and, on each ship were mounted two gravity trebuchets that were turned broadsides toward the battlefield.

At first Bardas Phokas had thought the Emperor had brought his troops across the Hellespont to fight him, but when the saw large Viking longships coming up the river across the battlefield from him, he realized it was Prince Svein’s mobile legions, a totally different army altogether.  His scouts soon came back from the European side of the strait and confirmed that the Emperor’s troops were still at ease on the other side.  Bardas knew he had to defeat the Hraes’ legions before noon so the Emperor wouldn’t have time to help them, but he had a larger force and was confident he could do it.  Phokas formed up his foot soldiers into a marching square that was wide enough to match Sweyn’s foot, but he kept his light cavalry within the square because they were no match for the Hraes’ heavy cavalry.  The foot were equipped with long spears to keep any attacking horse at bay.  They marched from their side of the battlefield and, as they approached, the Hraes’ warships along the little river began to unleash a hail of tonstone projectiles upon the Roman rebels.  The tonstone shot was not that big because of the density of the metal, but it packed a punch at two hundred pounds with a velocity over a hundred miles an hour.  The tonstones crashed into the charging troops and obliterated large swathes of them, sending men and weapons and armour flying hundreds of feet and crushing horse.  The Roman rebels stopped their assault and withdrew out of trebuchet range, maintaining discipline as they fell back.  Bardas Phokas saw activity on the opposite coast of the Hellespont and he knew the Emperor was gathering up aid.  Fire breathing dromons were being roused awake for attack.  He knew he could not afford to lose time at the cost of saving lives so, he ordered his troops back into the fray and they charged back into the trebuchet barrage.  Men were again flying and horses were falling as they dashed across the plain, but soon the tonstones were replaced with a hail of rocket propelled footbow arrows followed by footbow arrows and then rocket propelled handbow arrows and finally handbow arrows for which they had answering volleys.  By the time the two army shield walls crashed, the rebels manpower advantage was gone and the square formation they’d been forced to employ kept a lot of their men out of the fight while they held shields and spears to keep the flanking heavy cavalry at bay.  And their spears weren’t enough to keep the heavy cavalry out of the fray.  The Hraes’ horse were all equipped with Turkish horn bows and they used them with deadly accuracy, pelting the rear facing troops of the square with a waxing rain of arrows that flew amongst the troops like wasps, hard to keep away and biting in their stings.

While the land battle was boiling away, a sea battle was brewing as the Emperor’s three hundred fire-breathing dromons crossed the strait and began spewing venomous flames upon the beached triremes of the rebels, who had not left enough marines at the ships with whom to launch a counterattack.  They could only fire catapults from the beached ships and only if the firebreathers swept by in range so, triremes burned on shore and marines ran about them like burning human candles and when Sweyn watched the spectacle he swore he could smell burning flesh and it reminded him of Ramnic in Wallachia.  When Sweyn had last been in Kiev with Serah he had learned that she had just paid for the upgrading of the horse armour of a Kievan cataphract regiment so, he commandeered the old horse armour and he now had his Valkyries affixing the armour to the spare horse assembled behind them so, when he judged the rebel square to be sufficiently fragmented, he called back some of the heavy horse for fresh mounts and they suddenly became cataphracts.  They rode back out into the fray and charged across one far corner of the square, breaking up the shieldwall for the following heavy cavalry and when they rode free of that corner, they charged through the next corner, breaking up that shieldwall for another regiment of heavy cavalry and the Roman light horse within the square panicked and rode out to be slaughtered by the third regiment of heavy cavalry.

Bardas Phokas, astounded by the sudden heavy attack, sallied forth from the safety of his vanguard, and was dismounted by a cataphract knight and, as he fell from his horse, his neck was severed by his own sword.  The group of mounted knights that had followed him out from the vanguard broke and ran for it as their army began disintegrating behind them.  They were the only ones that escaped capture, for most threw down their arms within the hazel poles and they were bent over their shields and their surrender was taken, while those who attempted to flee beyond the poles were slaughtered by the cavalry.

Emperor Basil and his forces soon landed outside the walls of Abydos and he relieved the siege of the city and claimed the victory for himself.  He had the gigantic body of Bardas Phokas buried in the earth at Abydos, while his head was sent on to Constantinople, fixed on a spear, to be paraded triumphantly through the streets, along with the city criers who went before it to announce the news of the great victory.

“Your rebellion has been put down!” King Sweyn told the Emperor before the walls of Abydos.  “This is the wrong rebellion,” the Emperor replied.  “This is the body of Bardas Phokas we bury.  You have been paid to put down the rebellion of Bardas Skleros and his body doesn’t seem to be here.”

So, King Sweyn and Prince Valdamar spent another summer searching the whole of Anatolia for Bardas Skleros and accepting the surrender of cities that had supported Bardas Phokas in his rebellion.  The Hraes’ legions would occupy a city after surrender and it was systematically pillaged of valuables.  All gold went to the Emperor, all silver to King Sweyn and Prince Valdamar and all slaves to the Hraes’, who began the slave selection process.  The slavers of Kiev and Tmutorokan were following behind them and, within a day, they sorted out the women they wanted, then the children and then the men.  Because the cities all surrendered, only a quarter of the population was enslaved and ransoms were allowed.  Prince Valdamar used this as an opportunity to expand his bevy of beautiful concubine wives and he added three Roman princesses each from the provinces of Opsikion, Lydia, Pisidia, Boukellarion, Phrygia, Galatia, Cappadocia, Armeniakon and Paphlagonia, twenty seven new wives in total.  He kept the three latest new wives on campaign with him and, when they were replaced with newer wives, the others were sent off to Cherson to await him there.  Valdamar’s campaign pavilion soon became known as the tent of moans.

By the time the trading season was nearly over, Anatolia had been thoroughly searched and Bardas Skleros was nowhere to be found.  King Sweyn had been offering a reward of gold for information leading to the capture of Skleros and he had his spies in Baghdad watching for his return to the Caliphate, but it was as if Bardas had disappeared from the face of the earth.  Then word came from Kiev of all places.  Some of the soldiers who had surrendered and been enslaved at the Battle of Abydos came forward and claimed to be soldiers of Bardas Skleros’ army and they offered to talk for the gold reward if they could use some of it to ransom their freedoms.  Sweyn had them shipped from Kiev and they caught up with Sweyn, Valdamar and the legions in Lykandos, which had just surrendered.  The slavers who brought the six men told Sweyn and Valdamar that the six were being trained to join the eunuch armies of the east and were about to be castrated when they decided to speak up.  They knew where Bardas Skleros was and were ready to talk if it would save their gonads.  Sweyn told them they could ransom themselves for half the gold reward and keep the other half for themselves and, because they had all been officers, he offered them positions in his army.  They accepted the ransom offer but turned down the offer of positions and then they told Sweyn that Bardas Skleros was buried in an unmarked grave outside the city of Caesarea.

Bardas Skleros had been murdered by Bardas Phokas’ men and the followers of the Skleros rebellion had been forced to join the Phokas uprising.  When they got to Caesarea on their way back up through Anatolia, the men took King Sweyn and a cohort of his horse to a deserted location outside of the city and they dug up the body of the general.  King Sweyn gave the men their gold and set them free.  “Follow them!” he told one of his Chapter Twelve officers.  The officer led a squad of cavalry to Caesarea and they observed Skleros’ men buying horses and gear for a ride out in the wilderness somewhere for they had purchased pack horses as well.  They followed the tracks of the men past the location where Skleros had been buried and they rode for two days and came upon the group digging up chests of gold.  The squad of cavalry rode out of their observation place and surrounded the six Skleros men and a dozen chests of gold they had dug up.  The men were bound and the chests were tied to the pack animals and the Hraes’ cavalry squad returned to the Hraes’ camp outside Caesarea with the captives and the gold.  King Sweyn offered the captives positions in his legions once more and they took them, but the positions were now in Novgorod and they were to remain captives until they took their posts there.

“Bardas Skleros captured the gold when he sacked the city of Melitene,” Sweyn told Valdamar.  “Those men are now assigned to the Novgorod Legion, but they must always be watched by our Chapter Twelve officers.  They are never to return to Roman lands!”

“Why?” Valdamar asked.

“Because six of those chests of gold belong to me and the other six belong to you.  If the Skleros men ever come back here and talk too much, Emperor Basil might demand his share, and he’s not a very sharing Emperor.”

“I noticed that!” Valdamar agreed.  “He sure didn’t want to share the victory in Abydos!”

“Considering the victory was solely ours.  All he did was burn up a lot of valuable ships that were ours to take once Bardas Phokas was dead.”

While the gold was being tracked and recovered, Sweyn had taken the body of Bardas Skleros to morticians in Caesarea and he had them preserve it.  It had been buried in the arid desert for a while but it was still in recognizable condition and Sweyn wanted to keep it that way.  Then he had the corpse sealed up in an airtight wooden casket and they took it back to Cherson with them.  King Sweyn bid farewell to Princes Erik and Valdamar there and he sailed north with the merchant fleet to Kiev.  He helped Princess Serah with the tithes and he spent time with her and their new baby and he gave her a chest of gold before he caught up with the fleet and returned to Denmark.

Prince Erik spent some time with Valdamar in Cherson making marriage arrangements with the Romans for the hand of Princess Anna Porphyrogennetos before the next spring trading session.  Emperor Constantine would be bringing his sister to Cherson along with a great retinue of soldiers, bishops, and priests.  Prince Valdamar would receive preliminary baptism prior to the wedding and would be expected to receive final baptism after the first year of marriage.  Once the final baptism was administered then all citizens of Hraes’ would be encouraged to receive preliminary baptism.  Prince Erik’s spies in Constantinople reported that the princess was not looking forward to the marriage, feeling she was being married off to barbarians.

“When Sweyn was a boy, Emperor Constantine was trying to gain the affections of your grandmother, Queen Helga,” Erik told his great grandson, “and she wasn’t too enamoured with the Emperor, so Constantine shamelessly plied Helga with gifts of silks and perfumes and fashions and gold jewellery until your grandmother had no choice but to marry him.”

“Yes,” Valdamar said, “my father has told me of this.  And when they were finally married, a mob gathered in Constantinople and drove Queen Helga and Prince Sweyn out of the city!”

“Well,” Prince Erik said, “some of that shameless generosity must happen over the winter months and King Sweyn shall be consulting with some very gifted healers in Lade who shall be carving love runes for you and Anna and your wedding here in Cherson.”

“I thought you didn’t believe in witchcraft!”

“I don’t, but neither did your father until he saw the spirit of Thorgerder Helgibruder at the Battle of Hjorungavagr last spring!  I personally met the shield maiden Thorgerder well before the Battle of Stiklastad and Sweyn’s description of her looks were too accurate to be mistaken or imagined.”

“Perhaps she’s described such in skaldic poetry and Sweyn subconsciously remembered it when describing her,” Valdamar conjectured.

“I know all the skaldic poems,” Erik ‘Bragi’ stated.  “There are none that describe Thorgerder in the vivid detail that Sweyn saw during the battle.  These healers in Lade are very powerful and we’ll need all the help we can get.”

“Can I send the gifts off from Kiev?” Valdamar asked.  “I have to get back to my wives there.  I have to make up all the lost time my wives endured while I was in Anatolia.  They don’t cut me any slack.  And my new Roman wives here are almost worn out!”

“You have twenty seven Roman wives with you here!” Erik exclaimed.

“I know!” Valdamar replied.  “I should have gotten more while I had the chance.  There were a lot of gorgeous princesses still left in Armeniakon and Paphlagonia.”  Prince Erik shook his head in disbelief.  ‘If this young man ever went to Gujarat with him, he’d never come back,’ Erik thought.  “And in Cappadocia and Phrygia,” Valdamar continued.

“Kiev will be fine!” Erik said, to stop him.  “Constantine sent all his gifts off to Helga in Kiev so, I guess it’s fitting that some gifts be returned to Constantinople from there.”

So Prince Valdamar took his twenty seven new wives to Kiev with him and he made them comfortable together in one of his villas outside the city and he began making love to the wives he’d left behind, determined to get caught up.  But he made time to get a gift off each day to Princess Anna in Constantinople.  He sent her fine silks from Cathay and sables from Permia and fine sparkling wines from Champagne in Frankia and Khavayar preserves from Khazaria and diamond rings from Africa and rubies from India and ancient Sanskrit texts from Gujarat and poetic verses from Persia and he would write little love notes in Sanskrit and Persian and Greek and Latin and Cathayan on his own royal stationery and Anna would have to get some of his notes translated because she couldn’t read Sanskrit or Cathayan and soon she came to think that the Hraes’ were not as barbaric as they were made out to be.  Valdamar described Kiev as a great and beautiful city on par with Cherson and Nicomedia and Caesarea.  Of course, no city matched Constantinople, but Anna would have a clean slate to work with in the attempt.

Prince Erik was helping Valdamar with the finer forms of flattery while he visited Princess Serah in Kiev.  He mentioned that his new son looked a lot like Sweyn and he thought it was good that he was handsome and he worked on putting a daughter into his Khazar wife.  Prince Sweyn had told her to blame him if Erik questioned the paternity of the child but she realized that Prince Erik loved his grandsons more than anybody in the world and that the Hraes’ blood ran deep and thick through the generations and the finer points were of little consequence to the Prince.  He celebrated Yulefest with his wife in Kiev and he had managed to make a baby with Serah, for one had started to blossom within her and she hoped it was another girl.

(989 AD)  King Sweyn and his wives spent Yulefest in Lade with Jarls Haakon and Eirik and King Eric of Sweden brought his wives there as well.  King Sweyn visited with Gudrun in Borsa and his son in Vanvikar and then he went to Hell and visited Emma and Hallveig.  “How long is Irpa supposed to stay in Hallveig?” Sweyn asked Emma.  Hallveig had given birth to quintuplets and she still looked like a goddess and her five warriors still served her and met her every need.  Emma herself had given birth to twins, one Sweyn’s and one Eirik’s but only Emma seemed to know whose was whose.

“It doesn’t usually last this long,” Emma said, “but she does look marvellous!”

“I need you and Hallveig to prepare a love charm for young Prince Valdamar,” Sweyn told her.  “Is Hallveig able to do it?  Or does Irpa control too much of her?”  Sweyn could hear that Hallveig was currently occupied with her five young warriors in her second floor master suite.  The thumping of the second floor had a familiar woof to it and he soon heard Hallveig moaning in ecstasy.  “I thought she preferred women,” Sweyn said, as Emma seemed to be enjoying the orgasmic orchestrations.  “She does,” Emma answered.  “It’s Irpa who prefers men!”  She smiled as Hallveig reached a particularly high level of ecstasy.  ‘You’re jealous!” she told Sweyn.  “Hallveig still loves you, you know.  This is all Irpa!  Most of it anyway.”

“Can she help us?”

“She will, but it will cost you.”

“I have plenty of gold,” Sweyn said.  “How much will she need?”

“It depends.  Tell me what you’re looking for.”  So, Sweyn told her about their conquest of Cherson and their deal to give the city back for the hand of Princess Anna Porphyrogennetos of Constantinople.  “She’s born of the purple,” Sweyn concluded.

“I know what Porphyrogennetos means,” Emma said.  “She has the blood of Augustus Caesar flowing through her veins.  Young northern girls learn all there is to know about princesses, even slave girls.  You never know, one just might find out that one actually is a princess!”

“Tell me about it!” Sweyn said, and he told Emma about his Queen Consort Malfrieda and how she might actually be the daughter of Prince Mall of Dereva.

“If she’s not sure,” Emma said, “then Hallveig could tell her if she is or not.  She just has to lay hands on Malfrieda and Prince Mal and she can tell right away if they are father and daughter.”

“Prince Mal is long dead! Sweyn said.  “Too bad,” Emma replied.  “Any relatives?”

“I don’t think so.  Just her possible mother, but we’re not even sure about that.  And she’s quite mad now, I mean, crazy as hell.”

“If Prince Mal raped her, as you said, then if Hallveig can identify the rape victim as being Malfrieda’s mother, wouldn’t that kinda prove that Prince Mal was her father?”

“You’re smart!” Sweyn exclaimed.  “I don’t care what Hallveig says!”

“What does Hallveig say?” Emma asked.

“I’m just yarding your arm,” Sweyn answered.  “She knows you’re smart, she wouldn’t have bought you otherwise.”

“You’re sweet, Sweyn,” Emma said, stroking his cheek.  “We should be doing some of that,” Sweyn said shrugging towards Hallveig’s bedroom, as she began another bout of ecstasy.  “But we better get back to Valdamar.  Will it be expensive?  We’re not asking her to kill someone.”

“Killing someone is easy,” Emma said.  “You can cut runes and do rites and get inside their heads for a few minutes and they’ve killed themselves.  Love is harder.  You have to get inside their head for between a day and forever, depending on how long you want the love to last.  A day is still harder than a few minutes, but forever is very difficult.”

“Who would want a love charm for a day?” Sweyn asked.  Emma laughed.  “Some men just want to do her and move on!  Others think if they just get a chance to woo her, the woman will fall in love with them.  They just want to get their foot in the door.  Yet others will be satisfied with the first year and a first child to bind them together.  Royals tend to want forever.  They have too much at stake with their marriages, alliances, scions, even true love.  Hallveig has a room here where she keeps track of her forever charms and she has to perform rites over them each year to make sure they last.”

“We would definitely want forever,” Sweyn said.  “There is definitely a lot at stake with this one.  And she’s been getting more and more nervous about the match.  Will that make it harder?”

“No,” Emma said casually.  “She could hate Valdamar.  Once Hallveig gets inside her head it’s like turning a key.  One minute her honey hole is locked, the next minute she’s Valdamar’s personal honey well.  Gods, I’m getting hot!  The children are napping in my room.  Where can we go?” and she looked around the hall.  “I brought my dromon,” Sweyn offered.  “We could go to the cabin.”

“I’ll tell my handmaiden we’re stepping out,” Emma said, and Sweyn gathered up his cloak and weapons as she poked her head into her room and soon, they were running down the dock and leaping aboard his ship.  Sweyn had forgotten how sweet Emma felt when he was inside her.  They made love for an hour and then they rested.  “You’re going to have to fock with me once more before you go,” Emma said sweetly as she rested in his arms.

“How much does Hallveig charge for forever?” Sweyn asked.

“She wants to have a baby with you,” Emma told him.  “Hallveig does, not Irpa.  She told me this recently.”

“We’re kind of related,” Sweyn said.

“Not that closely,” Emma rebutted.  “I told you years ago that you were the only man she ever respected.  She’ll definitely want this as part of her price for forever.”

“Part of her price?” Sweyn said.

“She’ll still want some gold,” she said and then she saw Sweyn shaking his cock as if to say this is gold.  “You’re such a whore!” she said, swatting his arm.  “Did you bring something from Princess Anna?  A lock of hair?  Fingernail parings?”

“I have a lock of her hair,” Sweyn said.  “Don’t ask me how I got it or I’ll have to kill you!”

“Seriously, Hallveig will ask me.”

“My grandfather, Prince Erik, has spies in Constantinople.  They’ve been watching her since the marriage was first brokered.  They watch where she shops, they watch where she studies, they know where she gets her hair done.”

“Prince Hraerik?…Bragi?  Right?  The Bragning Prince who lost his love on the dusty plains of Gardariki?  And avenged her death at the Battle of the Goths and the Huns?”

“The very same,” Sweyn said.  “I see you know your princes as well as princesses.”

“All young Norse girls know of him.  The ultimate prince and princess story!  Did it really happen?”

“Exactly as the tale tells,” Sweyn told her.

“I’d like to meet him just once,” Emma breathed.

“Don’t ever meet your heroes,” Sweyn told her.

“You’re my hero!” Emma said.  “Do you know what they say about you, Sveinald ‘the Brave’ Ivarson?  They say that Prince Hraerik defeated the Huns, but that Prince Sveinald crushed them.  They say that the Roman generals fear you more than any other man alive.”

“But did I avenge the death of a princess?”

“They say that your mother married the Emperor of Rome and when the Roman mob tried to kill her you saved her, you and the Varangian Guard of Constantinople!”

“They say that?” Sweyn said.

“Oh gods!” Emma said.  “Now I’m hot again!”  Sweyn pulled her over to his naked body and kissed her.  “This doesn’t count as the one more time,” he whispered.

That evening, Hallveig sat upon her highchair in the middle of her highseat hall as her chantreusses chanted and danced in a circle about her.  The torches flickered as spirits entered the hall and left.  She was in much closer contact with the spirit world now that she had a part of Irpa still inside her.  The spirits she was calling upon this night were much gentler than the shield maiden spirits she had called upon the last time Sweyn had helped her.  Sweyn could see faint traces of the spirits, so closely Hallveig had drawn the spirit world into her hall.  The children could see them as well, but Emma had prepared them calming potions so they wouldn’t be distracted by ghosts.  These spirits were souls of love and fertility, mostly female, but there were a few males as well, and Sweyn thought of Sveinn Buison, Jarl Eirik’s lover.  He had a gentle soul for one who could fight well.

Hallveig paid little attention to the spirits that came and went.  They were local spirits that could only help with local love charms and her victim was in Constantinople.  It would take time.  She was carving a love rune on a whalebone while she waited.  She had the lock of Princess Anna’s hair tied in a loop through a hole in the wood of the whalebone.  It was a board that looked like a whalebone, the name being more for the pattern of the runes than for the material it was cut into.  Wood was easier to carve than bone and Hallveig used a very sharp paring knife.  The whalebone pattern had four rune charms in it, one in each quadrant of the rectangular shape.  A forever charm required more than a short duration charm and a distant charm required more than a local charm.  Sweyn would provide the blood for the charm since his son was in Kiev.  She nodded for Sweyn to come over and Sweyn and Emma stepped down from the guest highseat and Emma held his arm as Hallveig cut into a vein in his arm and blood flowed into a bowl on her lap.  The saga stories always had somebody cutting the palm of their hand to get blood, but palm cuts healed slow and could interfere with sword and buckler use, so, the back of the hand was preferred or a vein if a lot of blood was required, as was needed for forever love charms at a distance.

“We need a key phrase,” Hallveig said, as she began painting the whalebone with the blood from the bowl, “that you can say to Princess Anna in person to activate the charm and Prince Valdamar must be in front of her when you say it.  Just a short line that she will be distracted or startled by.”

“Fear not the pink monster,” Sweyn told her.

“That should do,” Hallveig said, and she repeated the phrase to the children and they worked it into their chant.  Emma wrote it on a strip of velum for Sweyn and he noticed that she wrote it in Norse in the miniscule font of Alcuin and he was impressed.  She was a very smart girl.  There had been a lull in spirits flowing through the hall, but Sweyn saw more flitting through as the torches flickered.  He rubbed his arm where Hallveig had cut it and he watched the witch as she worked the runes and he saw the skin of her forearms as the long sleeves occasionally fell away and her skin was pale and flawless with a glossy sheen, almost like wet white silk.  It was sensual in a way.  Emma pulled on Sweyn’s arm and she led him back to the highseats.  Soon a raven haired spirit appeared before Hallveig and she looked Vanir, Roman.  Hallveig closed her eyes and stared into the spirit.  She repeated the chants with the children and Sweyn heard ‘fear not the pink monster’ woven into the words.  Then the spirit flew off and left the hall.

“You must say this phrase exactly as written,” Emma said and she pressed the velum note into the palm of his hand, “and you will only get three attempts to say it correctly or the spell will be lost forever.”

Emma’s handmaiden gathered up the children and put them to bed.  It was midnight and they were all tired.  Hallveig slid off her highchair effortlessly and she walked over to the highseat and held her hand out to Sweyn and took his hand and led him off to the staircase that led up to her second floor suite.  Sweyn looked back at Emma, sitting nervously at the edge of her highseat.  He knew she would sit there until Hallveig was done.  He watched the witch’s ass as she led him up the stairs and, even through her black woollen dress, he could see it was well muscled.  She led him to the edge of her bed and she began to undress him.  She saw that he was already hard and that seemed to please her as she stood before him.  Sweyn realized she was waiting for his return favour and he quickly began undressing her.  He left her shoulder broaches on and just slid the straps off of her shoulders and, as the dress slid down, he saw her magnificent flawless breasts standing out from her chest and he knelt as he pulled her dress down past her hips and her flat stomach looked as though chiselled from Carrera marble, glowing white with a polished sheen.  Once the dress passed her hips it fell away and he saw a tuft of blonde hair and the pink of her well and the curved flow of her legs and her perfect toes as she stepped forward, away from the woollens.  He stood up in front of her, still hard and very close.  She put her hand on his member and she placed it between her thighs, just below her well.  Sweyn put his arms around her and her skin felt hard and then suddenly soft, as if armour and then flesh and he knew she was part Irpa.  Her face was fresh and young and he kissed her warm lips and they too were hard and then soft.  It was as though he was making love to a statue that turned into a woman upon touch, a very beautiful woman, a goddess.  They kissed like that for a long time and Sweyn could feel the wetness of her well coming down upon his member and then she led him onto the bed and she laid him on his back.  She sat upon his chest and she slid up to his chin and he began to kiss her again and she had the taste of honey in her well and he drank deeply of it until she came in shudders.

She slid down his body and his member tried to enter her but she slid across it and slid further down and she took his member into her mouth instead.  She sucked on it in long laboured draughts that caused it to swell and lengthen and he saw her transform it into something like his son’s pink monster and, when it had grown so large and swollen that it ached for her, she slid back up his body and she allowed it to enter her and she began to ride his member, sliding down it with ease and clinching hard on the upstroke so that he grew even larger inside her.  She bounced her hips upon his riff and she sped up as she climaxed and she began moaning loudly, as though a siren drawing ships to shore, and she drew the semen out of Sweyn as he flowed heavily within her.  She collapsed on him, breathing heavily and he felt her skin like warm smooth marble and then soft again and he hugged her to himself and he flowed within her just a little bit more and he wanted to keep flowing within her but he knew the night was young.  She slid up a bit more and she began kissing Sweyn hungrily.  She explored his mouth with her tongue and it invited his to do the same.  She slid down and began kissing his chest and his nipples and they grew large, like a woman’s nipples, as she sucked, and she slid back up and her breasts invited him to do the same so he drew hard upon one and it grew large and he was rewarded with a flow.  He drew deeply of her and did the same to the next.  She was still breastfeeding her babies and it reminded him of Serah and her great Khazar breasts.

Hallveig got off of the bed and she went over to her sideboard and she came back with her stuffed horse cock and she belted it on to herself and oiled it up.  Sweyn got on his hands and knees in front of her and she put the thing up his anus and she drove it into him and kept thrusting it in and out and Sweyn thought of Eirik and the Sacred Band of Theban Brothers that Hallveig had helped create and he enjoyed her strokes and began moaning and she joined in with him until she came long and hard.  She was very pleased with this and she took her belt off of herself and strapped it onto Sweyn and she bent over before him and he put it up her tight anus and slowly slid it into her.  She inhaled on the first stroke, but took it all in and Sweyn was soon driving her hard from behind.  They both began moaning and she came once more.  They laid beside each other and Sweyn massaged her breasts with his hands and he marvelled at the metal of her skin, so hard yet so soft.  He sat atop her and massaged her shoulders as well and then her arms.  He turned her over and straddled her waist and he massaged her back and he again marvelled at the metal of her skin, which grew soft and supple as he massaged his hands across it and her skin was white and unblemished by flaws or marks.  He turned about and he began massaging her buttocks which were muscled like a man’s and he worked his way down the backs of her legs and she groaned in pleasure.  Her skin was such a marvel to work, he could not stop and he turned her over and he began massaging her skin up her legs and the closest he could come to relating the experience was when he had walked barefoot through warm beach sand that had been undisturbed for a very long time and seemed concrete to the toes until disturbed and it instantly turned to warm soft sand.  He worked his way up her thighs and began kissing the honey of her well and she moaned in pleasure and he began kissing and massaging her flat belly and he couldn’t believe she’d just had five babies.  He knelt between her thighs and he put her legs over top his and he watched his member grow stiff, struggling to reach her well, and it grew huge again.  He began, once more, massaging her breasts and then he fell upon them and began kissing them and sucking on her nipples and, again, she flowed for him and he drank of her.  The tip of his member had struggled to enter her and it slid into her as he resumed massaging her and soon it was in her exploring within and the massaging strokes turned into thrusting strokes and he grabbed her shoulders to get a deeper penetration and he began rocking in an out of her and she wrapped her strong metaled legs around him and he began driving into her with an urgency that brought deep moans as her response and, as he sped up, the moans became loud cries and as he exploded within her she began to shriek wildly but Sweyn could not stop and he drove and flowed again and again as she shrieked until he was sated.  When he collapsed on top of her she was unconscious and the metal hue of her skin was gone.  He rolled off her and gathered her up in his arms and they slept together like statues until late morning. 

When he woke up, Hallveig was staring into his eyes and smiling.  “I think Irpa is gone,” she whispered, “and I think I am pregnant again.”

“You can tell so soon?” Sweyn asked and he brushed her cheek and the metal was, indeed, gone.

“I felt your seed sow itself the first time you came within me,” she said.  “The second time you went off like your Cathayan fireworks at Yule and that was what drove Irpa from me.  She was sated at last!  Thank you, Sweyn.  Your forever charm is paid in full and what grows within me now is our own forever charm.”  She kissed him tenderly and she got out of bed and began dressing before him.  ‘Irpa may be gone,’ he thought, ‘but the youth she had given Hallveig still remained.’

Sweyn had promised Emma one last go before he left so, after lunch they raced out across the dock to his ship once more.  Sweyn beat her into the cabin and she bolted the door shut behind them.  “I don’t know if it’s safe to fock you!” she told him as he stripped off his clothes beside the bed.  “You had Hallveig shrieking at fourth watch last night!  It scared the shit out of me, but it didn’t wake the children at all.”

“That was Irpa you heard shrieking.  That was her in orgasm.”

“If you can do that to a goddess, what are you going to do to me?”

“Get undressed,” Sweyn said, lying naked on the bed.  “Let’s find out!”  He wanted to know if the monstrous erection Irpa had given him had stayed with him as Hallveig’s youth had done.

(990 AD)  In the spring, King Sweyn led the great northern merchant fleet east and they paid their tithes in Kiev and met up with the merchant fleet of Tmutorokan at the Bay of Cherson and the Christian fleet sailed west and the rest sailed east.  Prince Valdamar awaited his father in the city of Cherson and when Sweyn saw him, he knew he was nervous.  At first, Princess Anna had refused to come to Cherson to meet the young prince, but then, amazingly, she had changed her mind and had agreed to come if it helped the people of Cherson.  Thirty Greek-fireships protected the princess and her entourage of bishops, priests, nuns and officers that were to help with the conversion of the Hraes’.  Once she was in Cherson, the fireships could not protect her and she was dependent upon the Hraes’ for her security, but this, too, she had agreed to.  It seemed that over the winter she had developed warmer feelings for the young prince and his people.  Her brothers, the Emperors, were surprised by this, but happy about it and encouraged her to go meet her prospective husband.

When Valdamar and his father went out on the main quay to greet her, they saw that she was a tall young woman with long blonde hair and a slim figure.  Sweyn thought for a second, he was looking at his mother, Helga, but then he saw her handmaiden in the princess.  The Chapter Twelve officers of the time had ensured that the slaves purchased for handmaiden service for Queen Helga in Constantinople looked like her and could be used as a double in dangerous locales.  The story the late Magistrate Kalokyras had told him appeared to be true at least.  Prince Valdamar was smitten at first sight.  “She’s gorgeous!” he whispered as the two men walked towards her.  “Welcome Princess Anna!” he said with a bit too much enthusiasm.

“Prince Valdamar,” she replied and walked right past him.  She had been to Cherson many times before and she knew her way around the place and she led her entourage into the city and she waited for her prince to catch up.  “We’ll be staying at the palace?” she asked him.  “Preferably the west wing?”

“Yes, of course,” Valdamar stammered, “the west wing shall be all yours!”

“She seems a little aloof,” Sweyn told Valdamar as they drank in the hall and waited as she settled into her wing.

“At least she came,” Valdamar said.  “Last fall our spies said there wasn’t a hope in hell she’d come.”

“Funny you should bring Hell up,” Sweyn replied.  “We were hoping you’d have come to Lade for last Yulefest.”

“Kiev was frozen in like a turd!” Valdamar swore.  “I couldn’t go anywhere so I spent the whole winter focking my wives and I still didn’t get caught up!”

“You’re a slave to your vices, son,” Sweyn told him.  “How many wives do you have now?”

“Six hundred and thirty three, at last count,” Valdamar answered.

“And how many children do you have?”

“Eight,” Valdamar said, “by my wives.”

“And how many by your concubines?”

“Six hundred and thirty three,” he answered, matter of factly.

‘You don’t know, do you?”

“I’m pretty sure that each has at least one,” he said.  “Some are on their third or fourth.”

“Let’s keep this to ourselves,” Sweyn told him.  “The princess shouldn’t be bothered with minor details.”

“Do you think I have a chance with her?” Valdamar asked.

“I think you have a very good chance,” Sweyn answered, “but when your chance comes, you have to be ready to make the best of it.”  He wanted to tell his son about Hallveig and the love charm she had prepared for him, but somethings are best left unsaid, like how many wives and children you have.

“At least we won’t have to spend another summer traipsing around Anatolia looking for the ghost of Bardas Skleros,” Valdamar said, trying to change the subject.  They had dug up the body of Bardas Skleros and had preserved it and some of the officers in Princess Anna’s retinue were to confirm that the body, indeed, was that of Skleros so they could close the contract on him and get their fifteen thousand pounds of gold purified.  Roman metallurgists were also among the retinue, but they would be taken to Gardariki, where the gold was kept, to purify it.

Prince Valdamar had taken the advice of his father and had sent Princess Anna a gift every day since their marriage proposal and now that she was in Cherson she received them from him personally and she seemed to enjoy getting them because she stayed in Cherson a full month without showing young Valdamar even a hint of affection.  The young prince began fretting and worrying if he would ever win the heart of his princess.  Once it was confirmed that the gold in Gardariki had been purified, Sweyn walked up to the young courting couple and he sat next to Princess Anna and he said, “Do not fear the pink monster!” and Prince Valdamar was mortified when he said it, but she didn’t react to the phrase at all.  “Fear not the pink monster!” Sweyn corrected himself and then she asked, “Where is this pink monster?”

“Prince Valdamar has it, but he keeps it on a short leash.  You can find it in his room.”

“Really?” Princess Anna said, looking at Valdamar for confirmation.  “Can I see it?”

“I can show it to you,” Valdamar stammered, “in my room.  It was my brother’s pink monster, but now it is mine!”  Valdamar looked to his father.  ‘Go!’ Sweyn mouthed the one word, and Valdamar grabbed his princess by the hand and they ran off to the east wing together.  They were gone for several hours and the Roman retinue began to show concern for her whereabouts when the couple returned to the hall arm in arm and Anna doted over Valdamar for the rest of the week while her prince was prepared for preliminary baptism.  Princess Anna would go to bed in the west wing, then dress up as one of her handmaidens and sneak out and sleep with Valdamar in the east wing.  A week after his baptism, they were married and could go to bed together in the east wing.  By then, Sweyn was sure, she was carrying Valdamar’s ‘ninth’ child.



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5.       “Gold and good hap             we grind for Frodi,

                        A hoard of wealth                 on the wishing-mill;

                        he shall sit on gold,              he shall sleep on down,

                        he shall wake to joy:            well had we ground then!

                                               Anonymous; Grottasongr, Prose Edda

(990 AD)  When Sweyn was returning to Denmark from Baghdad in the fall, the Hraes’ merchant fleet was sailing past Wollin on the southern Baltic coast when a Jomsviking warship rowed up and Jarl Sigvald invited King Sweyn to come with him to Jomsborg to meet with King Burizleif of Poland for a proposal of allegiance.  King Sweyn led a small warfleet to Jomsborg and they entered the walled harbour of the island city.  Even though the Jomsvikings were allies of Denmark, King Sweyn didn’t trust Sigvald enough to leave his warships so, Jarl Sigvald brought King Burizleif out into the harbour aboard his longship and they had two young women with them.  King Sweyn and a party of his officers went aboard the longship and Sweyn was introduced to Burizleif and his two daughters, Gunhild and Astrid.  Jarl Sigvald explained that King Burizleif wished to strengthen relations between Poland and Denmark by offering one of his daughters to King Sweyn in marriage if Sweyn agreed to exchange his daughter, Princess Thora, to the Polish king in return.  What Jarl Sigvald didn’t tell Sweyn was that he had fallen in love with Princess Astrid and had been promised her hand for brokering the deal.  He was sure that Sweyn would choose Gunhild, for she was a princess of renowned beauty.  And what Jarl Sigvald hadn’t told King Burizleif was that Princess Thora was actually the former King Harald’s daughter and that King Sweyn Forkbeard had taken her as his own wife when he conquered Denmark.

But when King Sweyn met Princess Gunhild, he was swept away by her beauty and was very interested in making such an exchange for her hand.  King Burizleif provided assurances of the chasteness of both his daughters and, being yet caught up in ancient ways, expected the same from King Sweyn, who then took Sigvald aside and said to him, “You know full well I’ve been focking Thora for the past four years.  What are we going to tell King Burizleif?”

“Provide him with a dowry for Thora,” Sigvald offered, “to be redeemed when Thora is delivered here a virgin.  I assure you the dowry is well worth the virginity of Gunhild.”

“King Burizleif will be pissed when he beds Thora and she’s well past bleeding,” Sweyn replied.  “I don’t like this.”

“If it’s the dowry,” Sigvald said, “I’ll pay for half of it because I’ve been promised Astrid if your wedding with Gunhild goes forward.  If you offer King Burizleif a chest of gold, I’ll chip in half of it.  Then we’ll have a double marriage here in Jomsborg and you can sail off to Denmark and bring back Princess Thora.”

King Sweyn looked back at Princess Gunhild standing beside her father and sister by the mast and he thought her well worth a chest of gold, especially if Sigvald was to contribute half of it.  “We can see what the Polish king thinks of your offer.”

“It will take me a week to come up with my share of the gold,” Sigvald said.  “Can you cover me and honeymoon in Jomsborg for a week while I get the gold?”

“I was going to raid England,” King Sweyn replied, “but I can put it off for a week with that fine beauty.  My warfleet will remain in the harbour while we honeymoon together.”

“Of course.  It will only take me a week.”

So, a deal was worked out between the two kings and Sweyn gave Burizleif a chest of gold, to be redeemed upon delivery of a chaste Thora.  King Sweyn knew of a certain witch in Lade who could arrange for an unchaste woman to seem chaste again so, he was comfortable with the arrangements.  Meanwhile, Jarl Sigvald sent a secret and urgent demand to the women of Denmark requiring a ransom of gold for the return of their king from the Jomsvikings.

A huge double wedding was arranged for in the great hall of Jomsborg Fortress and much of the royalty of Poland was in attendance, including many of the princes that were now under the sway and control of Prince Valdamar of Kiev so, many Poles were not surprised when the prince of Kiev showed up in person with twelve of his Polish wives.

‘Where is Princess Anna?” Sweyn asked his son.  “She’s back in Kiev,” Valdamar answered.  “Your surprise marriage was a chance for my Polish wives to have a little holiday and get a little of my special attention.  I’m glad you’ll be experiencing the pleasures of Polish women unless, of course, you haven’t already been enjoying the princess.  She’s very beautiful.  She reminds of one of my mothers.  I’m not sure which one though…Svia or Malfrieda…”

Sweyn laughed at this because Gunhild was a raven haired beauty like Svia.  “Princess Gunhild is still quite chaste,” he answered.  “Tonight, I shall unfold her flower!”

“I don’t think I could exhibit such restraint in the face of such beauty,” Valdamar said.

“How long will you be staying?” Sweyn asked.

“About a week, off and on,” Valdamar answered.  “We’ll be taking my fleet out a few days to visit some of my wives’ relatives.  I don’t think Jomsborg has the resources to feed both our warfleets for a week.”

“I daresay we have enough forces between us to carry the fortress if we so wished,” Sweyn agreed.

“It’s your wedding day,” Valdy replied.  “No talking business!”

“Where are you staying?”

“Second floor,” Valdy said,” just down the wing opposite yours.  It’s a huge master suite with ample room for twelve wives.”  When Sweyn began stroking his forked beard, Valdy added, “They don’t have a ground floor library.  I checked.”

The double wedding went off without a hitch in the Aesir fashion and Sweyn and Gunhild left the celebration early to enjoy each other while Sigvald and Astrid stayed late.  Sweyn doubted if Sigvald had been able to show the restraint that he had.  He began to suspect that Sigvald and Astrid had been involved with each other for a long time.  But Gunhild was particularly beautiful that night and Sweyn carried her over the threshold and into their suite.  She was wearing a lovely white dress of silk and lace, a dress Sweyn had bought her at the Hraes’ station in Wollin.  He laid her on the bed and began taking it off her.  When he had her naked he began undressing himself and she gasped when he uncovered his huge hard member.  It was still enlarged from his experience with the goddess Irpa and Gunhild was a little afraid of it.  Sweyn laid down beside her and she could not take her eyes off it and Sweyn’s eyes were devouring the vision on the bed beside him.  Gunhild was the youngest of Burizleif’s daughters and Sweyn guessed her to be about sixteen, much younger than he was and he leaned over her and kissed her gently then began kissing her neck and her chest and then her breasts.  He kissed his way down her body and began kissing her honey well until it became sufficiently moist for him to enter her.  He got up and took a towel from the dressing room and he laid himself on the bed and adjusted the towel so that it was under his hips.

Normally, on first night, towels were not used and sheets were bloodied in testament to the chastity of the bride, but Sweyn did not want to give the local handmaidens any indication of Gunhild’s chastity, so he pulled Gunhild over himself and he had her straddle his hips and lower herself onto his member at her own pace.  She allowed him in until he met her hymen and then she took a breath and sat herself upon it and her blood flowed freely onto the towel as she settled onto him.  He guided her hips back up a bit and let her settle once more at her own pace and she soon got the thrust of it going and she found pleasure in the gentle stroking and Sweyn found a certain seductive pleasure in her youth and beauty and was soon coming inside her and flowing freely himself.  Then he stayed in her and they laid together for a long while and she told him that it had hurt a little when she broke her flower but then it became pain and pleasure together and she thanked him for his gentleness.

As they were laying together on the bed, Gunhild heard a gentle pounding coming from the floor and she said, “Listen…what is that sound?” and Sweyn listened to the familiar sound of his son giving special attention to his wives.  “What sound?” he replied.

And so it went all week, Sweyn and Gunhild would make love in their newly wedded bliss and then the gentle pounding noise would start and Gunhild learned from the help that she was not the only one hearing it.  Gunhild was an astute enough young woman to put together the fact that when Prince Valdamar left with his wives for a day and a night, the pounding noise in the night did not occur.  “I think this pounding noise is coming from your son’s wing of the great hall,” Gunhild whispered after some particularly fine sex with her husband.  “And I think we were making a similar pounding noise tonight, but it was so slight as not to be heard.”  She grabbed Sweyn’s shoulder and pulled him towards her and she whispered in a quiet concern, “I think the pounding noise is Prince Valdamar focking his wives!”  She looked Sweyn in the eyes with so much earnestness and concern that Sweyn couldn’t help but burst out laughing and he said, “I think you’re right!”

“It’s not funny!” Gunhild said.  “The pounding goes on all night.  Those poor girls!”

“Need I remind you that he has twelve wives with him,” Sweyn replied, and he told her about the racket Valdy had made in his longhall in Lade with just three Polish princesses in tow.  “By the end of the week he had exhausted all three and he had to marry three more Norwegian girls to keep up with him.”

“How many wives does he have?” Princess Gunhild asked, incredulously.

“He has eight wives, twenty five consort wives and approximately seven hundred concubine wives, all in and around Kiev, and he services each and every one of them at least once a month.”

Gunhild did the mental math and said, “That’s at least twenty four focks a day!” she exclaimed, “and that’s with no days off!”

“I believe he told me he’s up to forty focks a day,” Sweyn said.  “He doesn’t take days off.  He claims his worse days focking are still better than his best days working.”

“What does he do for work?” Gunhild asked.

“Well…he’s a Viking so, he conquers countries and enslaves their people.  And his wives don’t give him time off to do it so, when he goes off to war he has to make up for lost time.”

“He has to make up for focks he misses while he’s off somewhere killing people?” Gunhild asked, again, incredulously.

“He even has to make up for the focks he misses while he’s here with only twelve of his wives!”  And Sweyn concluded his tale by telling Gunhild about their conquest of Cherson and his converting the main floor library into a master suite so Valdamar’s constant pounding wouldn’t drive the Greeks of Cherson crazy.

“Poor Prince Valdamar!” Gunhild said.  “What kind of a wife am I to you?”

“You are my Queen Consort!” Sweyn told her.  “I would make you my Queen,” he added, “but King Eric the Victorious of Sweden attacked me when I demoted his sister last time.”  And Sweyn noticed that after their talk, Gunhild began putting a great deal of effort into her focking and she never complained again about the pounding noise.  Sweyn took out his volume of the Kama Sutra and taught Gunhild about nominal congress and how it could be employed to get him hard and ready again.

At the end of the week, Prince Valdamar and his wives sailed back to Kiev following many wishes and blessings, but Jarl Sigvald still had not received his secret ransom of gold from the women of Denmark so, he asked Astrid to work with Gunhild and entertain King Sweyn so he wouldn’t be quick to leave.  “How will we do that?” Astrid asked.  “With sex!” Sigvald said.  “Ask Gunhild to step up her sex and keep Sweyn from wanting to leave.”

“I think she already has!” Astrid replied.  “She was trying to keep up with Prince Valdamar’s constant pounding all night!”

“Good luck with that!” Sigvald said.  “The man’s a veritable machine, a trebuchet of sex, going off every few minutes or so!” and he grabbed Astrid and pinned her on the bed.

Young Gunhild rose to the challenge and told Sweyn she didn’t want to leave Jomsborg quite yet as she’d arranged some very special entertainments for her new husband.  The first night, Gunhild brought two of her youngest and prettiest handmaidens into bed with her and the three women spent the night bringing pleasure to Sweyn.  The next day, Gunhild thanked Astrid for her fine idea, but when Sigvald requested another day, Astrid was at a loss for ideas.  Gunhild told Astrid that a third handmaiden of hers was a nith.  “Really?” Astrid asked.  “Yes,” Gunhild replied.  “When her family found out, they sold her into slavery!”  “Did you know that when you bought her?” asked Astrid.  “Of course not!”  Gunhild said.  “I found out when she kept disappearing and I followed her out to the kennels and she had her way with the hounds.  And not just one of them.  All twelve of them!”  “Oh, my gods!” Astrid exclaimed and they came up with ideas for an evening of nith entertainment.

That night, after Gunhild and her two handmaidens had pleasured Sweyn half the night, Astrid snuck the young nith girl into their room and then left.  The nith slave had two goats and a ram with her and she put her ram into the dressing room and got the male goat to mount the female goat and she let them fock for a while to get the male going and then the girl put the female goat into the dressing room and got on all fours in front of the male goat who then mounted the nith and began focking her.  The goat had a lot of stamina because he kept focking the nith girl until she had come several times before the goat exploded within her.  Goat come was all over the floor and the nith girl wiped herself clean before taking the goat to the dressing room.  She then came out with the ram which had begun to get excited while alone in the room with the female goat and she began stroking the ram’s already erect cock and then she went under the sheep and took it into her mouth and began sucking on it as the ram got really excited and pawed at the floor with its front hooves.  She then wrapped her legs around the ram’s flanks and grabbed onto the ram’s wool so she had suspended herself underneath the beast and it entered her and she swung back and forth under the sheep as it drove into and then out of her until it came in buckets inside her and it flowed out of her and poured onto the floor.  Sweyn and the three girls were entranced by the performance that was echoed by the sounds of the two goats focking away in the dressing room.

Astrid returned to the room to lead the nith slave and her animals back out of the suite.  After watching that performance Sweyn was ready for another round of sex with the three women.  The next morning, Gunhild again thanked Astrid for her help, but once more, Sigvald asked for another day.  Gunhild had no new ideas so, Astrid told her that she would take care of everything.

That night, after Gunhild and her two handmaidens had pleasured Sweyn half the night, Astrid snuck herself into their room and undressed for Sweyn and joined them in bed.  She showed Sweyn some positions that even the Kama Sutra hadn’t covered and she pleasured her younger sister while Sweyn watched and then taught them both a few more positions that were new to Sweyn.  The next morning, Gunhild thanked her sister for the help in pleasuring Sweyn, but Sigvald asked for yet another day’s grace and Astrid again said she would come up with something.

That night, after Gunhild and her two handmaidens had pleasured Sweyn half the night, Astrid snuck herself into their room and she led Sigvald in behind her by a rope around his neck.  Astrid stripped her husband naked and he knelt down by the side of the bed.  Sweyn stood up naked in front of him and Sigvald took Sweyn’s large member and put it in his mouth and began sucking on it to get it wet and hard.  When it was ready, Sigvald bent over the bed and Sweyn grabbed his hips and entered his anus and began thrusting fiercely.  Sigvald cried out in pain because of the size of the member and the women watched his face from the bed as Sweyn drove even harder.  He kept thrusting wildly and he reminded the women of the big ram they had watched with the nith, and Sweyn kept thrusting until he finally exploded within Sigvald.  Sweyn withdrew from Sigvald and slapped his ass as he might have a woman’s and he joined his wife in bed.

Astrid dressed Sigvald as they watched from the bed and she led him out of the room by the rope on his neck.  Astrid then came back into the room and undressed for Sweyn and joined them in bed.  Sweyn decided it was his turn to teach the women something new and he had the girls braid his fork beard into one long member pointing straight out from his chin.  He then took his glove out of his protection packet and had Gunhild pull it over his braided beard and Astrid tied it off.  The two handmaidens were working on Sweyn’s erection while this was going on and Sweyn had Gunhild straddle his hips and mount his member while Astrid straddled his chest and mounted his fork beard.  The two women rode him and when Astrid began slowing, Sweyn grabbed her hips and pulled her down hard on his beard and he began kissing her clitoris until she came violently.  He then lifted her off and the two maidens took turns riding his beard while Gunhild pleasured herself on his member.

The next day a chest of gold arrived for Sigvald from Denmark.  It was much the same as the chest he and King Harald had extorted from the women of Denmark years before to finance the ill-fated Battle of Hjorungavagr.  The chest was full of gold rings and jewellery that the matrons of Denmark had donated from off their fingers and from out of their cabinets for the ransom of their king, a stranger from the east.  When Sigvald gave him the chest of gold he told him that the women of Denmark had paid for his new wife and that he should take the whole thing because King Burizleif would not likely refund the gold Sweyn had given him for an unchaste Thora.

Gunhild was surprised when Sweyn wanted to stay another day so that they could spend the night together alone and just enjoy each other.  They went to bed early after a final feast and they enjoyed each other and then rested in each other’s arms.  Gunhild wanted to ask Sweyn a question, but she did not quite know how to ask it.  Finally, she just blurted it out and said, “I can’t believe you focked Sigvald.  I just can’t believe he offered himself like that and you did it!”

“It goes back to the Battle of Hjorungavagr,” Sweyn explained.  And he told her about the battle and about how Jarl Sigvald had fled with twenty four ships when the battle was turning against them and about the seventy Jomsvikings they’d captured afterwards.  “We were beheading the captives the next day and we’d killed about ten of them when another man was let off of the rope around his neck and led forth.  He was a handsome young man with a beautiful head of hair, so that it lay on his shoulders and was as yellow as silk.  Thorkell Leira, our executioner, asked him how he thought he would die and he just wished that we’d grant him that someone of high and fine a rank would lead him out and he tossed his hair back and it flowed forth over his shoulders and he asked that man to keep his hair out of the blood while he was being beheaded so that his hair didn’t become all bloody.  One of our retainers stepped forward, a minor jarl, to lead him out, and he took the fine blonde hair and wrapped it in his hands, and then held both hands for his handsome young head to receive the blow, and Thorkell Leira raised his sword and as he struck down, the young Jomsviking quickly pulled his head back hard and it took the retainer’s hands under the blow, and Thorkell struck both his arms off at the elbows.  Then the blonde haired handsome man sprang up and made a joke and said, ‘Who is this boy with hands in my hair?’ and the two arms hung down as the hands clinched up in his locks.”

“That’s perfectly awful!” Gunhild said as she paled.

“Jarl Haakon thought so, too!  But I found it quite resourceful and Jarl Eirik thought it a very brave act so, he offered the Viking his life should he accept his offer.  The young man told Eirik that his name was Sveinn Buison and that he would accept the offer and Eirik’s rule and he would become Eirik’s man if the offer was extended to all members of their party.  And Eirik now took him aside in peace and let him join him.”

“That’s beautiful!” Gunhild said.

“When I say that Eirik took him aside in peace, perhaps took him from behind in peace would be more accurate,” Sweyn explained, “for Eirik took him aside and bent him over a stump and ploughed him quite a furrow as we all watched.  That is the Aesir way.”

“I had no idea,” Gunhild said.

“And so, it went as Jarl Eirik wanted,” Sweyn continued.  “Jarl Haakon told Thorkell Leira to get it done more quickly unless they accepted the terms.  Another man was let off the rope and the free end of it twisted around his foot.  The man was tall and handsome and young and Thorkell asked him if he intended to die bravely or to accept terms.  He told Thorkell he wished to die, but would have died more bravely if he had taken care of one last vow before his end.  And Jarl Eirik said, ‘What is your name? And what is your vow that you wish you’d taken care of?’ and he answered, ‘My name is Vagn, and I had a vision and I swore, that I would go to the bed of Ingibjorg, daughter of Thorkell Leira, without the permission of him or her kinsmen, and that after I’d focked her, Thorkell Leira tried to kill me but I got the better of him.’

“And Thorkell said, ‘I will make it so that you shall not come into heat with any of my kin,” and Thorkell ran at him and struck at him with both hands on his sword, but Bjorn the Brexit, foster-father of Vagn, though still bound in the line, yanked the rope about Vagn’s foot and pulled him down and Thorkell went right over him and landed on his own sword and then Vagn sprang to his feet and grabbed the sword and struck Thorkell Leira’s head right off.  Then Vagn said, ‘Now that I have fulfilled my second vow, I now believe in the vision more strongly than before and I shall accept terms.’

“Jarl Haakon said, ‘Do not let him free and kill him as soon as possible, for he has done us great harm.’  But Eirik said he’d accepted the offer so, Haakon was so pissed he forced Vagn over the stump and rammed him from behind himself and when he was done he gave him to Eirik to rule, and Eirik said, ‘I will accept Vagn into my company as well.’  Then Jarl Haakon said, ‘We need to kill or free these men as quickly as possible.  This has gotten out of control!’  Then our skald, Einar Skallaglamm, stepped forward and said, ‘This shall bring you much fame!  Gold couldn’t buy you the fame that this execution is getting you!’

“Jarl Eirik went before his father and begged him that they all have peace, the Jomsvikings who were left and we all joined in and the Jarl gave in to all of them.  Our men were matched up to their men and the surrenders were consummated all at the same time, except for five of the Jomsvikings and Bjorn ‘the Brexit’ who went to the estate of the witch Hallveig, who had conjured up the spirits that helped win us the battle.  Hallveig, the old witch, was now young, was part Irpa, the goddess who had turned the tide of battle and she accepted their submissions.”

“So, who did you get?” Gunhild asked.

“Nobody,” Sweyn replied.  “There was nobody there of princely status so, I got no-one.  Had Jarl Sigvald surrendered and not fled, he would have fallen to me.”

“So, last night was retribution for the Battle of Hjorungavagr?” Gunhild asked.

“It was as far as Sigvald was concerned, but I don’t think Astrid knows about the surrender terms.  I think she just felt if she had to offer herself to me, then Sigvald should as well!”

“She’s like that!” Gunhild agreed.  “She’s a mean and spiteful middle sister.”

“You have an older sister?”

“I did,” Gunhild complained bitterly, “but she died a few years ago.  I think Astrid may have poisoned her.”

“Why would she do that?”

“My oldest sister, Geira was married to a very nice Viking from Kiev,” Gunhild started, “but I could see that Astrid fell in love with him as well.  I think she may have poisoned Geira so she could have Olaf for herself, but the Viking was so grief-stricken he took off raiding in England and we’ve not seen him since.”

“Was this Viking called Olaf Tryggvason?”

“Yes!  Do you know him?”

“I’ve raided with him in England, but I don’t think I’ll be seeing him again.”

“Why?  Is he alright?”

“He’s fine, but I heard he’s converted to Christianity and has married an Anglish princess there.  His raiding days are over!” and Sweyn laughed and crawled atop Gunhild on the bed.  “I’m glad he’s fine,” Gunhild breathed as Sweyn entered her.

When King Sweyn arrived in Roskilde with his new wife, he gave the chest of gold that Sigvald had extorted to his wives, asking them to return as much of the gold to the women of Denmark as they could get back to their respectful owners and for them to keep the rest for themselves.  This pleased his wives very much and they welcomed Gunhild into the fold.  As it was late in the season, Sweyn had not planned on doing any raiding in the west that year, but a message came from Duke Richard telling him that Jarl Olaf Tryggvason was waiting in Rouen with his small warfleet and a proposition on raiding for his king.  So, a very surprised King Sweyn packed up his mobile legion and he sailed to Rouen.

King Sweyn met Jarl Olaf at Duke Richard’s palace and Olaf had a new wife with him there.  Princess Gyda was a beautiful young woman with red flowing hair and Sweyn recognized her at once as being the sister of King Kvaran of Dublin.  Her father had ruled in Dublin as well, back in King Ivar’s day.  Jarl Olaf told him that they had become accustomed to spending a year in their Anglish kingdom and then a year in Dublin, but when they returned to Angleland in the harvest they learned that a warrior named Alfvine had returned to their land and had led a revolt against their true rulers.  Jarl Olaf proposed that if King Sweyn helped them crush the revolt, he could enslave their people in the true Roman fashion of conquest and take half the population as captives, leaving the other half to repopulate their kingdom.

“We only request that there be no plundering nor ransoming,” Olaf added.  “Any gold the people have, we will be taxing out of them next year.”

The proposition worked for King Sweyn, as the people were what he was after anyway and the risks were low because it wasn’t really raiding as much as helping legal rulers put down a revolt.  He just hoped it wouldn’t drag on like the revolt he and Prince Valdamar had helped put down in Anatolia for Emperors Basil and Constantine.

The combined fleets sailed from Rouen to Ipswich on the east coast of Angleland and the sudden arrival of hundreds of warships caught Alfvine and the local militia off guard and they took the city right away.  Olaf killed Alfvine in their retreat and he accepted the surrender of his militia soldiers.  Hraes’ slavers were hard on the sterns of the war fleet and they began gathering up citizens and transporting them to Kiev that very afternoon.  The Hraes’ heavy cavalry regiments began ranging out to the surrounding towns and villages and gathered up half of the people and herded them into Ipswich and then onto ships bound for Kiev.  It took two weeks to sack Suffolk County over which Princess Gyda and Jarl Olaf ruled and on the day before King Sweyn and his fleet were set to sail back to Denmark a militia army from the Fyrds of Colchester and Chelmsford in Essex arrived outside Ipswich and their leader, Earl Byrhtnoth, offered to drive the Vikings out for Princess Gyda.  King Sweyn responded by forming up his ten thousand man mobile legion in front of the two thousand militiamen which brought about a sudden withdrawal of the Saxons.

“I think your Earl Byrhtnoth will be back,” Sweyn warned Olaf and Gyda.  “If he causes you trouble, let me know.”

“Thank you, King Sweyn,” Gyda whispered as she kissed him on the cheek goodbye.

“If he does cause trouble,” Jarl Olaf said, “then perhaps Colchester will be due for a good sacking next year.”

“If you can provoke him, I’ll make it worth your while,” Sweyn said.  “We’ll meet him with an equal number of men so he doesn’t run for it next time.  I can leave you a regiment of heavy cavalry if you wish.  Or a regiment of foot.  Or both.”

Jarl Olaf took both.  It mattered not to Sweyn, for Olaf would be feeding his troops, not he.

When King Sweyn got back to Denmark, Gunhilde Haraldsdottir was ready to give birth and Gunhild Burizleifsdottir just found out she was pregnant.  When Gunhilde gave birth to a baby girl, Sweyn named her Gyda after Olaf’s wife, who had impressed him with both her beauty and intellect.  They celebrated Yuletide in Sweden this time and baby Gyda came along to meet the king of Sweden, her great uncle.  Jarl Eirik came from Norway with his wives and Sveinn Buison and he visited with his sister, Queen Consort Aud, but Jarl Haakon was getting old and stayed in Lade.  King Sweyn and Queen Consort Malfrieda visited with Queen Sviataslava and Queen Gyritha visited with her brother, King Eric ‘the Victorious’.  Duke Richard of Normandy was absent and Queen Consort Sigrid spent her time with Queen Consorts Thora, Gunhild and Gunhilde and baby Gyda.

(991 AD)  In the spring, King Sweyn once more led the merchant fleet to Kiev and they picked up the thousands of English captives who had been sent to Kiev for training in the slave schools there.  Even a few months of training over winter added value to the worth of the slaves that often doubled their selling prices.  And there was the branding.  The Hraes’ Trading Company sold only the best slaves and troublemakers were weeded out in the schools and sold to independent slavers who didn’t have a reputation to maintain.  King Ivar had spent a lot of time and money building up the Hraes’ brand and King Sweyn respected what he had accomplished and did not want tarnish the Hraes’ name.  That is why he so valued the slaves taken in England, the Angles, Saxons and Jutes; because of their looks, intelligence and civility, they were prized in both Constantinople and Baghdad.

As usual, Sweyn spent a week in Kiev doing books with Princess Serah, among other things.  She was still absolutely fascinated with the stroking of Sweyn and he was still enamoured with her bountiful breasts.  Serah told him that Prince Valdamar and Princess Anna were in Cherson spending time in their palace there and dedicating a new church.  The city had been returned to the Romans, but the princess maintained her own palace there and many Greek traders had joined the Hraes’ Trading Company now that Hraes’ had officially converted to Orthodox Christianity, but conversions were encouraged and not forced.  The Hraes’ merchant fleets used Cherson harbour as a gathering place before heading off to Constantinople or Baghdad or Cathay and India and the skilled craftsmen of Cherson were a final source of wares to sell to the customers of those destinations.  Sweyn talked with Valdy about the craftsmen and they reminisced about the great slave prices they got for the craftsmen of the city that they had enslaved after their siege a few years earlier.  Many of those enslaved had already worked their way to freedom and were back in Cherson creating goods and crafts for the Hraes’.  Valdamar even told Sweyn that many of the English men and women they had sold as slaves had worked their way into freed status and had set up English colonies near Gothic communities on the Black Sea coast, the largest of which had come to be known as Little England and even had merchant ships working in the Hraes’ company fold.

When the Prince arrived in Cherson, final arrangements were made within the fleet and they formed up into their separate groups and headed off in different directions.  When Sweyn arrived in Baghdad, he learned that both Anise and Saffron were pregnant by him, something to do with a faulty glove and failure thereof.  “I’ve been there,” Prince Erik said, patting Sweyn on the shoulder, “and I’m off to India!”  Anika and Saleem were pissed.  They’d had no idea that Sweyn had been carrying on an affair with their daughters while he was carrying on an affair with them.  Sweyn made the error of reminding them that they had paid him to rape their daughters and that’s what started the whole affair in the first place.

“We paid you to rape them, not to fock them!” the two women said in harmony.  “I’ll take the babies to Kiev,” Sweyn offered, “and raise them as my own if you wish.”

“No!” both women said in harmony again.  “We love our new granddaughters!”  So, Sweyn carried on a relationship with all four women and he, too, grew to love the new granddaughters, but that came with the realization that he was now focking grandmothers.  How was he going to conquer the world if he was already focking grandmothers?  His case for a co-Emperorship of Rome seemed to be stagnating in the courtrooms of Constantinople even as Emperor Basil struggled with the reconquest of Bulgaria, a country he had conquered in months.  The rich and powerful all seemed willing to cut off their own noses to spite their faces.  Sweyn decided to ask his grandfather about it when he came back from India.  He knew Prince Erik was planning an execution of a Turkic warrior sometime in the future, hundreds of years in the future.  Perhaps he had learned something of Rome’s future in his visions of these eastern hordes.

“I have seen the fall of Rome,” the Prince told Sweyn when he got back to Baghdad from Mumba and Ashaval, “but it has nothing to do with the Turkic horde I have seen in my visions.  The leader I plan to kill is not quite that far into the future.  He is far enough into the future that I shall be long dead when I kill him, but it will still be a few hundred years shy of Rome’s fall.  I have only seen the fall, and the death of the last Emperor, Constantine ‘the Eleventh’ Palaiologos.  I have seen nothing about what led up to the fall.  Why do you ask?”

“I’m trying to determine if I should keep pursuing my case for a co-Emperorship.  When I become co-Emperor I want to reconquer Bulgaria, win the war in the Levant and recapture Egypt and Italy.”

“Rome is not worth saving, son.  It never has been.  It’s just another slaver state, just…like…us.  If I thought I could change the world, I would have joined with Princess Gunwar and stopped slavery.  I never stopped her from trying to stop slavery, but I never helped her either.  Things happen in their own time and when we try to rush change we often just make things worse.”  Erik walked over to the bar in their huge master suite in the Caliph’s palace and he poured them both another round of fine Frankish sparkling wine.  He walked back and passed Sweyn a glass and continued.  “There is a flaw in man,” he began.  “We believe what we want to and that usually involves what gets us the most.  We profess that black is white and white is black if it earns us a Byzant more.  I don’t have to be prescient to tell you that if you reconquer Bulgaria in three months as you did before, you will embarrass Emperor Basil, who has been trying to reconquer it for the past three years.  He will think about having you poisoned.  When you recapture the Levant in six months, the Armenian generals that have been trying for the last six years won’t be so kind.  You’ll be dead in your first year as an Emperor.  You will only last longer if you succeed less and this will slow you down exponentially.  And you are already focking grandmothers!”  Erik laughed at the surprised look on Sweyn’s face and added, “Oh, I’ve been there.  It reaffirms your mortality.  Try planning a hit that you’ll be doing after your dead!  Talk about reaffirming your mortality!”

“How are you going to do that?” Sweyn asked.  “How can you kill someone in the future long after you are dead?”

“By getting into his head,” Erik said.  “Princess Blaeja, the spirit of Princess Blaeja is going to help me with that.”

“Who was Princess Blaeja?” Sweyn asked.  He kind of knew, but wasn’t sure.

“She was the daughter of King AElla of York.  She was a healer and a witch.  You should know her.  You’re focking her great granddaughter.”

“She was there when King Hraegunar Lothbrok was slain by the Death of Cuts.  She was the one that recognized Hraegunar’s curse for what it was!”

“She’s the reason your father named you Svein!”

“Swine,” Sweyn said.  “The mortal enemy of the snake, Gorm, Worm, ‘the Old’, from the Frodi-Fridleif Skjoldung line of kings!”

“Yes!  Sviatoslav, Sveinald, Svein ‘the Old’, from the Frodi-Fridleif line of kings!” Erik said.  “You have just completed the final stage of the curse.  I helped with the first stage, I helped my brother King Hraelauger of The Vik, Duke Rollo of Normandy, perform the Death of the Blood Eagle on King AElla and the second generation helped when Prince Helgi ‘Arrow Odd’ Erikson plundered Princess Blaeja, and you, the third generation, have completed the cycle of three, by just killing King Harald ‘Bluetooth’ Gormson.”

“I didn’t kill Harald.  I tried everything in my power not to kill Harald.  He was killed by his own men.”

“He was killed by your man!” Erik said.  “You defeated Jarl Sigvald at the Battle of Hjorungavagr and he fled rather than become your man, but he was your man anyway.  There was no escaping it.  You don’t know how close you came to losing that battle.  There was only one reason that King Harald sent the Jomsvikings to attack the Jarls of Lade and that was to kill you.  Princess Blaeja, her spirit, warned Harald ‘Bluetooth’ that you were nearby, that you were coming for him.  So, he sent the Jomsvikings to kill you.  Thorgerder Helgibruder died at the Battle of Stiklastad while fighting beside your Uncle Helgi and she loved him so much that she came back to help keep you from dying.  And the granddaughter of the shield maiden Stikla and Prince Helgi loves you so much that she became the goddess Irpa to keep you from dying.  And when you defeated the Jomsvikings, Jarl Sigvald became your man and he was the one who shot King Harald in the back with that golden arrow you keep on your shieldship.  But Jarl Sigvald wasn’t officially your man until just recently.”

“How do you know all this?” Sweyn asked, incredulously.

“Princess Blaeja told me.  She said you just recently focked Jarl Sigvald up the ass in Jomsborg, and that officially closed the cycle.”

“And I’m focking her granddaughter?” Sweyn said in disbelief.

“Blaeja had Hraegunhild and she had Blaeja and she had Gorm and Gorm sired Harald who sired Gunhild whom you have had two children, so far, with.”

“She must be pissed at me!” Sweyn said.  “This ghost, this witch.”

“Not at all,” Erik reassured him.  “Blaeja was the first grandmother I focked.”

“Really?” Sweyn asked.

“Yes.  Prince Helgi plundered her, but he followed the rules of Hjalmar ‘the Brave’, who shares your byname, by the way, so the plundering was mutual, but his brother, King Ivar, raped her and raped her grand-daughter, Young Blaeja.  Your father, my son, Ivar, was a rapist,” Erik said.  “I’m sorry to tell you this, but it gets worse.  I know the following for a fact because Ivar told me how it went down.  Jarl Sigurd of Lade couldn’t seem to pry a child out of his wife, so, he invited King Ivar, his friend and known rapist, to his longhall and was ‘suddenly’ called away for three days, the right three days, and for three days Ivar raped his wife in the longhall and nine months later baby Haakon was born, so, there’s a good chance that Jarl Haakon is your half-brother and Jarl Eirik and Aud are your nephew and niece.  I’m telling you this because Princess Blaeja has warned me that if Jarl Haakon doesn’t stop raping his subjects, they are going to kill him over it.”

“He won’t stop!” Sweyn said.  “He’s getting worse!”

“Well, at least now you know where he gets it from.”

“And where did Ivar get it from?” Sweyn said, eyeing his grandfather.

“Don’t look at me!” Erik replied.  “Like your uncle Helgi, I, too, follow the rules of Hjalmar ‘the Brave’.  I think it may come from Queen Eyfura’s side.  King Frodi was known to rape a girl or two hundred!”

“I’ve heard the stories about him.  Are they true?”

“I’m afraid so,” Erik said.  “He was a rapist when Hraelauger and I went to Liere and he was under the house of Westmar, but Princess Gunwar straightened him out.  When she died on the plains of Tmutorokan, something inside him snapped.  He murdered your grandmother, Queen Alfhild, and he fell back into debauchery.  But, getting back to getting inside this Turk prince’s head, I’m working with Princess Blaeja on a plan to run this hit on top of a failed hit.  We’re going to ensure that the failed hit succeeds in killing the Turk.”

“Why is Princess Blaeja helping you?”

“I’m no longer sure she is helping me.  I may be helping her do the hit.  But we help each other because I still love her.  I was being cavalier when I said she was my first grandmother, I mean, she was, but she was still a lot younger than me when we fell in love.  I’ve outlived a lot of women that I’ve loved, including your mother, Empress Helga.”  Erik looked away towards a dark corner of the room.

“It’s not easy being a prophet, is it?” Sweyn asked or consoled, he wasn’t sure which.

“I still see them,” Erik said.  “Princess Blaeja, Empress Helga, Queen Eyfura, Queen Alfhild, Princess Gunwar.  I loved them all.  I have wives right now that I love, and I hope I don’t outlive them, but I will.”

“Is Sinead one of them?” Sweyn asked.

“Oh yes!” Erik answered.  “She’s not a princess, but, of all my wives, she is the one I am most proud.  The hells we both overcame together.  She is now such a free spirit!”

“I’m proud of you two as well,” Sweyn confessed.  “When I first saw the two of you together, I was concerned because of her youth, but she is now a fine young woman, and an underwater breather and leader of your recovery fleet!”


6.0  BATTLE OF MALDON  (Circa 991 AD)

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            6.       “Here shall no one                harm his neighbour,

                        nor bale-thoughts brew       for others’ bane,

                        nor swing sharp sword        to smite a blow,

                        though his brother’s banesman    bound he should find.”

                                   Anonymous; Grottasongr, Prose Edda (Hollander)

(991 AD)  When King Sweyn returned to England he took his legion to Ipswich and learned from Princess Gyda that Jarl Olaf had taken his Hraes’ regiments by sea to Chelmsford to do battle with Earl Byrhtnoth.  The Earl had insulted him by calling him a Danish churl of the Danelaw and Olaf had responded by telling him he was actually a Norwegian churl of the Gofockyourselflaw.  Gloves came off, slaps were administered and another season of plundering was started.  Sweyn left Princess Gyda a regiment of Hraes’ foot to protect Ipswich with and he sailed off for the harbour at Maldon, just outside of Chelmsford.  Jarl Olaf and his Hraes’ regiments were already sacking the town of Maldon by the time he got there.

“Earl Byrhtnoth is dead,” Jarl Olaf told King Sweyn, passing him some wine as they shared the highseat in a longhall of the town, “but we captured his skald who has been composing a rendition of the battle ever since.  Perhaps it is time he recited it for us!”

The English skald came forth and Jarl Olaf tossed him a silver coin, saying, “There will be more if we are pleased,” so the skald began his recital thus:




Then he ordered each of his warriors, his horse to let loose

Far off to send it and forth to go,

To be mindful of his hands and of his high heart.

Then did Offa’s Kinsman first know

That the Earl would not brook cowardice,

Loosed he from his hands his darling to fly,

His Hawk to the wood, and to the battle strode.

From that one could tell that the chieftain would never

Weaken in the warfare – when he his weapons seized.

And after him Edric chose his chief to follow,

His friend in the fight – then ‘gan he forth to bear

The spear to the strife – high spirit had he,

So long as he with his hands to hold was able

His buckler and broadsword; his boast he fulfilled

That he by his friend’s side should fight.


Then did Brithnoth begin his men to bestow –

He rode up and counselled them – his soldiers he taught

How they should stand, and their standing to keep,

And bade them their round shields rightly to hold

Fast to their forearms, that they flinch not at all.

And when he had his folk fairly bestowed

He lighted there with his people, where he would liefest be

Where he knew his own troops were most to be trusted.


Then stood forth on the strand and sternly spake

The messenger of the Vikings, delivered his tidings;

He boastfully spoke, for the seafarers

Their sentence to the earl, where he stood on the shore.

“They sent me to thee, those bold seamen,

And bade me to say that thou must send swiftly

Ring-money for pledges. For you were it better

That you buy off this spear-rush with your tax,

Than that we should have so hard a battle.

What need we to vex us, if you will agree?

We will for this gold a sure compact make

If thou wilt agree to it – thou that art strongest.

If that thou be willing thy people to redeem,

To yield to the seamen at their own choice

Tribute for a truce, and so take peace of us,

Then will we with the tax to ship betake us

To sail on the sea – and hold truce with you.

Brithnoth made answer – his buckler he grasped,

Brandished his slender spear – and spoke.

“Hearest thou, sea-robber, what this people say?

For tribute they’re ready to give you their spears,

The edge poison-bitter, and the ancient sword.

War-gear that will bring you no profit in the fight.

Thou messenger of the seamen, back with thy message.

Tell to thy people, these far more hateful tidings,

There stands here a good earl in the midst of his men,

Who will this country ever defend,

The kingdom of Aethelred, mine overlord,

The folk and the ground – but they shall fall,

The foemen in the fight; too shameful methinks

That ye with our tribute, to ship should be gone

Without a blow struck – now that ye have thus far

Made your incoming into our land.

Nor shall ye so softly carry off our riches.

Sooner shall point and edge reconcile us,

Grim war-play indeed – before we give tribute.”

Bade he then to bear the shields, the warriors to go,

So that they on the river’s bank all stood.


Nor could for the water, the army come at the other,

For there came flowing, flood after ebb;

Locked were the ocean-streams, and too long it seemed

Until they together might carry their spears.

There by Panta’s stream in array they bestood,

Essex men’s rank, and the men from the ships,

Nor might any one of them injure the other

Except where from arrow’s flight one had his death.

The flood went out – the pirates stood ready.

Full many of the Vikings, eager for battle.


Then bade the men’s saviour, one to hold the causeway,

A warrior war-hardened, that was called Wulfstan,

Courageous mid his kin – he was Ceola’s son,

Who the first foeman with his spear did fell

That bravest stepped forth upon the land-bridge.

There stood with Wulfstan warriors goodly

Aelfere and Maccus, high hearted both,

That never at the ford would turn them to flight,

But they steadfastly ‘gainst their foes made defence,

While their weapons to wield they were able.


When they saw that, and keenly espied

That bitter bridge-guardians there they met

Then began they to feign – those loathed guests –

And begged that they might some foothold get,

To fare over the ford – the foemen to lead.


Then did the earl, in his overweening heart

Lend land too much to that loathed people.

Then ‘gan he call out – across the cold water

Brighthelm’s son, and all the band listened.

“Now room is meted you, come swiftly to us,

Warriors to war. Only God knows

Who at the end shall possess this fight’s field”.

Then went the war wolves – for water they recked not.

The troop of the pirates, west over Panta.

Over the shining water they carried their shields

Seamen to the shore, their bucklers they shouldered.

There against the raiders ready stood

Brithnoth with his band, and with the bucklers bade

Form the shield wall, and make firm the ranks

Fast against the foes. Then was fighting nigh,

Fame in the fight – now was the hour come

When that those fated, must fall.




Now was riot raised, the ravens wheeled,

The eagle, eager for carrion, there was a cry on earth.

Then loosed they from their hands the file-hard lance,

The sharp-ground spears to fly.

Bows were busied – buckler met point

Bitter was the battle-rush, warriors fell

On either hand, the young men lay!

Wounded was Wulfmur, a war bed he chose,

Even Brithnoth’s kinsman, he with swords

Was straight cut down, his sister’s son.

Then to the Vikings was requital given.

I heard that Edward did slay one

Straightly with his sword, nor stinted the blow,

That at his feet fell – the fey warrior.

For this his thane did to him give thanks,

Even to his chamberlain – when he had a space.


So stood firm the stout-hearted

Warriors in the war – they did keenly strive

Who with his point first should be able

From fey men to win life.

Warriors with weapons: wrack fell on earth.

They stood steadfast; Brithnoth stirred them,

Bade each of his men intend to the strife

That would from the Danes win glory.


Went one stern in battle – his weapon upheaved,

His shield for safety – and ‘gainst the chief strode –

As resolute against him the earl did go,

Each to the other did evil intend.

Sent then the seafarer a southern dart,

And wounded was the warriors’ chieftain.

But he shoved with his shield – so that the shaft burst,

And the spear broke, and it sprang away.

Wroth was the chieftain, he pierced with his spear

That proud Viking who gave him that wound.

Yet prudent was the chieftain; he aimed his shaft to go

Through the man’s neck – his hand guided it

So that he reached his sudden enemy’s life.

Then he a second swiftly sent

That the breastplate burst – in the heart was he wounded

Through the ring-harness – and at his heart stood

The poisoned point; the earl was the blither:-

Laughed then that high-heart – made thanks to God

For his day’s work – that his Saviour granted him.


Loosed then one of the foemen a dart from his hands,

To fly from his fingers – that it rushed forth

Through the noble thane of Aethelred.

Close to his side stood a youth not yet grown

Wulfstan’s child – even Wulfmeer the younger.

He plucked from his chieftain that bloody spear

Then loosed the hard spear ‘gainst that other to go;

In ran the point – so that he on earth lay

Who ere had sorely wounded his chief.

Went an armed Viking against the earl

Who wished the earl’s jewels to plunder,

His armour and rings – and well-adorned sword.

Then Brithnoth drew his sword from sheath

Broad and brown edged – and at his breast-plate smote.

Too soon hindered him one of the seamen,

So that the earl’s arm he did injure.

Fell then to earth the fallow-hilted sword,

Nor could he hold the hard brand

Or wield his weapon.


Yet then this word did speak

The old warrior; cheered on his men

Ordered to go forward – his good brethren.

No longer could he firmly on his feet stand.

He looked up to heaven……..

“I thank Thee, Lord of all peoples

For all those joys that I on earth have known.

Now, my Maker mild – I have most need

That thou to my ghost should grant good.

That my soul to Thee may journey,

Into thy kingdom – O Lord of the Angels,

May pass with peace – I do desire of Thee

That the hell-fiends may not hurt it.”

Then hewed at him those heathen men

And at both those men that stood him beside,

Aelfnoth and Wulfmeer – both fell;

Then beside their liege – their lives they yielded.




Then fled those from the fight that wished not to be there.

Then were Odda’s sons first in the flight

Godric from the battle, and left his good lord

Who had often given him many a mare,

He sprang upon the horse that his lord had owned,

Upon the trappings where no right had he,

And with him his brothers – they both galloped off,

Godrinc and Godwig, they loved not the battle,

They went from that war – and the wood they sought,

They fled to the fastness – and saved their own lives,

And men more than had any right

If they had all bethought them of the blessings

That he had done them for their good comfort.

Even thus to him Offa one day ere had said

In the meeting-place where he held his moot.

That with proud minds many did then speak

Who later at need would not endure.

Then fell that leader of the folk,

Aethelred’s earl and all did see,

His hearth companions – that their lord was laid low.


Then went forth the proud thanes,

Brave men – hastened eagerly,

And willed they all – for one of two things:

Their lives to lose, or their loved lord to avenge.

Thus urged them forth the son of Aelfric,

A warrior young in winters – with words he spake,

Aelfwin thus said – boldly he spoke,

“Think ye of the times when we oft spake at mead

When we on the benches did raise up our boast,

Henchmen in the hall – about hard strife,

Now may each one make trial of how bold he be.

Now will I tell my lineage to all

That I was in Mercia of a mighty kindred

Mine old father – Aldhelm was he called,

An alderman wise – and rich in wealth;

Nor shall the thanes mid the people reproach me,

That I would consent to flee from this fight,

My home to seek, now my lord lieth low,

Slain in the strife; but yet it most grieves me

For that he was both – my kinsman and my lord.”

Then went he forth – full mindful of the feud,

So that with his spear one he slew.

A pirate ‘mong his people – that he fell to the earth.

Slain by his weapon. He ‘gan to urge on

His comrades and friends – that they should go forth.

Offa spake, his spear-shaft shook,

“Lo thou, Aelfwin, hast all heartened

Thanes at need – now our lord lieth,

The earl on the earth – for us all is need

That each one of us should hearten the other

Warrior to war, while he his weapon may

Have and hold, his hard blade,

His spear and good sword – for Godric hath us,

Odda’s coward son, all betrayed.

For many men thought when he rode off on the mare,

On that proud steed, that he was our lord.

And for that cause are the folk scattered over the field

The shield wall broken. May his plan come to nought!

For that he so many men hath set to flight.”

Leofsund spoke, his buckler uphove,

His shield for safety – and that man answered,

“I do promise this, that I will not hence

Fly a foot’s step, but shall further go

To avenge in the war my friendly lord.

Then shall not need in Sturmere the steadfast soldiers

To twit me with words, now my friend is fall’n,

For that I returned home without my lord,

Turned from the battle, but the sword shall take me,

The point and the steel.” And he, most wroth, departed.

Fought steadfastly – flight he despised.

Dunmer then spoke – shook his spear,

A humble churl – called out above all,

Bade each warrior – “Brithnoth avenge!

Now may not go he who thinketh to avenge

His friend among the folk, nor mourn for his life.”




And then they went forth – for life they recked not.

Then ‘gan the house men hardly to fight,

The fierce spear bearers – and they begged God

That they might avenge their friendly lord,

And on their enemies bring death.

Then the hostage ‘gan eagerly help,

He was in Northumbria of a hardy kin,

Eclaf’s child, and Aesferth his name.

He weakened not a whit in the war-play,

But he sent forth often a shaft,

Often he a buckler struck, often a man hit,

Ever and again he dealt out wounds

The while he his weapons might wield.

Then yet in the rank stood Eadward the tall,

Ready and eager – a boastful word spoke,

That he would not flee a foot’s space of land,

Or budge back, now that his better chief was fall’n.

He shattered the shield wall and fought with the soldiers

Until he his treasure-giver upon the seamen

Had worthily avenged – ‘ere he lay with the slain.

So did Aeturic – a noble companion,

Eager and impetuous – he fought keenly,

Sibright’s brother, – and full many more, –

Split the hollow shields, sharply parried.

The buckler’s edge burst, breast-plate sang

A grisly song. Then in the strife struck

Offa a seaman, that he sank to the earth,

And then Gadda’s kinsman the ground sought.

Soon in the struggle was Offa struck down

Yet had he done what he boasted to his friend

As he bragged before to his ring-giver:-

That they both to the burg should ride

Hale to their home, or in the battle fall,

On the war field perish of their wounds.

He fell like true thane at his chief’s side.

Then was breaking of bucklers, the seamen came on

Stern to the strife; the spear often pierced

A feyman’s body. Forth then went Wistan,

Thurstan’s son, with the enemy fought,

He was in the throng – of three men the bane

Ere him Wigelin’s son on the battlefield laid.

Then was stern meeting, stood fast

Warriors in the war, then men sank down

Wearied with wounds – slaughter fell on earth.

Oswald and Ealdwald all the while

Brothers both, urged on the men,

Their dear kinsmen, with words incited

That they there at need should hold out,

Stoutly wield their weapons.

Brythwold spoke, grasped his buckler,

He was an old comrade, urged the men,

He full boldly cheered his soldiers,

“Thought must be the harder, heart the keener

Spirit shall be more – as our might lessens.

There lies our chief all cut down,

Good man on the ground; for ever may he grieve

Who now from this war-play thinketh to go.

I am old in years – hence I will not,

But by the side of mine own lord,

By my chief so loved, I think to lie.”

And thus them all did Aethelgar’s son urge,

Even Godric, to the battle – oft he cast a spear,

A spear of slaughter to go upon the Vikings,

As he ‘mid the folk foremost went,

Smote and struck down till he sank down in the fight.

He was not that Godric who left the battle.”

“What do think of it?” Jarl Olaf asked King Sweyn.

“What is this bridge our skald was talking about?”

“There was a causeway that connects the island we landed on with the mainland at low tide.  Our skald is using the story of the Roman Hector on the Bridge to place three Saxon warriors on the causeway to block our advance.  It is poetic license.”

“So, it didn’t happen?” Sweyn asked.

“Earl Brithnoth marked out the field of battle with hazel poles and they kept to their side of the field as required.  We just crossed the causeway and set up our shieldwall on our side of the battlefield per standard practice.”

“We’ll pay him for his poem, but have him lose the Hector on the Bridge part,” Sweyn said, “or I’ll use my executive licence on him,” and they paid the skald a piece of gold and dismissed him, then began discussing the fall campaign.

“Should we plunder Chelmsfyrd or Colchester?” Olaf asked.  “Chelmsfyrd is nearby but is strongly walled and Colchester is northeast, towards Ipswich, and poorly defended.”

“I think we should perhaps plunder both,” Sweyn said.  “Rather than plunder one completely, as we’ve laid waste Maldon, let us plunder both in the Roman fashion, leaving half the citizens of each to carry on after we’ve gone.  Once we’re done with Maldon, you take your regiments to Colchester and I’ll lead my legion to Chelmsfyrd.  I daresay the English have never seen a trebuchet!”

“Well, they’d never seen a kite shield before Maldon,” Olaf said of the Hraes’ regiments he was leading.

King Sweyn sent spies to Chelmsfyrd to spread lies about the way Earl Byrhtnoth had died, saying the Earl had not died at all, but had only been wounded and that he and his famed thanes had willingly bent over their shields for the Danes.  Then he had the armour and weapons of the earl drawn out of the plunder, as well as the armour of his most illustrious thanes.  Earl Byrhtnoth had been a proud and wealthy earl and had been noted for his fine and flashy armour.  His gold trimmed helm sported a full fold-down face shield with bright golden moustaches above the breathing hole.  His chainmail was brightly polished and trimmed in silver and his round shield was Roman red and had silver hawks upon it, falconry having been his favourite sport.  And his great broad sword gleamed silver and was trimmed in gold.  A Viking had died trying to get himself, too soon, the earl’s war gear.

And the foremost men of the earl’s retinue had equally famous weaponry, not as costly, but famously deadly.  Bright round shields, polished helms and brightly feathered spears.  Sweyn outfitted a troop of his heavy cavalry with this war gear as the lies of the earl being alive spread throughout Essex.  When the slaver ships arrived and carried off the people of Maldon, Olaf took his regiments to Colchester and King Sweyn wore the royal armour of Earl Byrhtnoth as he led a round shield equipped cavalry troop to Chelmsfyrd, followed at a distance by two regiments of Hraes’ kite shielded heavy cavalry and at an even further distance by two regiments of kite shielded foot.  He led an almost full legion of his famed Hraes’ mobile troops against the Saxons of Essex and far back at the port of Maldon, marines were unloading trebuchets from the holds of his troop transport warships, trebuchets he hoped he wouldn’t have to use.

Scouts who knew the lay of the land rode with the vanguard and, as they approached Chelmsfyrd, Sweyn signalled for his heavy cavalry to halt and the troop trotted gayly towards the city gates as though returning from a joust in Colchester.  Knightly thanes rode about their earl as though laughing about the sport they’d had, and Sweyn had a hawk on his arm and another in the air above him and the Saxon warriors on the towers straddling the gates began waving at the earl and his men and they sent some lightly armed cavalrymen forth to greet them and, when they rode in amongst the earl’s men, they realised it was a trap when they saw riders doubled up behind the knights, but they were dragged down from their mounts and slain as the earl’s men rode gayly about them and the second riders jumped on the emptied horse and took their place.  Knights held back from the troop and pretended to joust about as they rode over the bodies to keep them from the sight of the sentries and the rest of the troop entered the city.  They tied their horses to the gates so they couldn’t be closed and they rushed up into the towers and took them by force.  They then waved the brightly feathered spears of the earl’s thanes in signal for the halted heavy cavalry to charge and they set about the grim task of holding the gates, for the Saxons soon realised their defences had been compromised by the screams of the warriors thrown from the towers.

Chelmsfyrd had fallen in under an hour and Colchester did not last as long.  Half the folk from each city were enslaved and marched down to the sea, where slaver ships awaited them and held them for three days so ransoms could be arranged.  An army was being equipped in London to march out to meet the Danes, but it wasn’t expected to arrive for another week.  It was said that King Athelred ‘the Unready’ would be riding out at the head of it, but King Sweyn had made no plans to welcome him.  He had plans to be long gone for Denmark and Olaf would be back with Princess Gyda in Ipswich and the Danelaw.  If the London fyrds moved against the Anglish of Suffolk, Olaf would take his warfleet and princess to Normandy and await King Sweyn there and then they would move against London in the early spring.  Jarl Olaf and Earl Byrhtnoth had been foils in a short sword duel of kings and the earl was dead and the jarl was rich.

But the Anglo-Saxon king moved faster than expected and arrived with his army sooner than expected and trapped King Sweyn and his legion inside the walls of Chelmsfyrd with half of its citizens.  Jarl Olaf and his regiments had already returned to Ipswich so, King Sweyn faced the London fyrds and King Athelred alone.  The first thing he did was lock all the gates.  Then he continued plundering the city while the Saxons were locked without, but now, the Saxon women were plundered up on the battlements of Chelmsfyrd in full view of the Anglo-Saxon army below.  There were not many priests left in the city because many younger monks had been enslaved and sent to Kiev.  They were educated and fetched good prices in Baghdad.  But some of the older priests were taken up into the towers of the front gates and were thrown out of them to their deaths.  Finally a spokesperson for the king rode up to the gates and asked for a meeting with the Viking leader.

“We offered to leave the harbour of Maldon for a payment of silver and Earl Byrhtnoth refused us and he died in battle.  We shall give your king the opportunity of not making that mistake again.”

“How much silver would you require for this boon?” the messenger asked.

“Ten thousand pounds of silver!” Sweyn told him, and, when he whistled under his breath, Sweyn said, “And if the king comes back with a lower offer, the price will go up to fifteen thousand.  We have a few more old priests we can fling from the towers and we have a few Saxon nobles we can then add into the mix.”

“No need for that,” the messenger said, remounting his horse.  “I’m sure the king shall meet your demands.

But there was much debate about paying a ransom in the pavilion of King Athelred.  “We don’t bargain with terrorists!” one earl exclaimed and an archbishop responded with, “It’s not your men being tossed from the tower.”

The entry in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for that year said:

‘A.D. 991.  This year was Ipswich plundered; and very soon

afterwards was Alderman Byrhtnoth slain at Maldon.  In this

same year it was resolved that tribute should be given, for the

first time, to the Danes, for the great terror they occasioned by

the sea-coast.  That was first 10,000 pounds.  The first who

advised this measure was Archbishop Siric.’

King Sweyn celebrated Yuletide in Roskilde and he invited everybody in Scandinavia who mattered, and every prince and manager of the Hraes’ stations throughout the north.  He invited Duke Richard of Normandy to come, but he didn’t bring his legion of Cataphracts with him.  As King Sweyn had fully expected, he brought Jarl Olaf Tryggvason and Princess Gyda.  The fyrds of London had moved against the Danelaw.  Queen Consort Gunhild Burizleifsdottir was very happy to meet Olaf again and she was delighted to meet his new wife, Princess Gyda.  She told Gyda, “I’m so happy he has found you!  He was so distraught at the death of my sister, Geira, I didn’t think he would ever find happiness again, but I’m so happy to see that I was wrong.”

And Gyda replied, “I’m so happy to see that you have found King Sweyn.  He and Olaf do so get along.  They seem to complement each other.”

King Eric of Sweden and his entourage soon showed up and Jarls Haakon and Eirik arrived from Lade and visited with Queen Consort Aud.  King Sweyn visited with Queen Sviataslava and King Eric visited with his sister, Queen Gyritha.  Queen Consort Sigrid had also come from Sweden, but she felt left out again and spent a lot of time with the new babies of the Queen Consorts Gunhild and Gunhilde.  It was while visiting with Gunhild that she met Jarl Olaf and she was immediately attracted to the young jarl and he, too, showed interest, even though Sigrid was a bit older.  She was tall and lithe and youthful in her demeanour and her long flowing locks were sensuous and Gyda was very pregnant.

It was in Roskilde that Jarl Olaf also met Jarl Haakon for the first and only time.  They did not get on well, considering the fact that they were both Norwegians visiting in Denmark.  Jarl Olaf was a young Christian noble who looked down on the older Jarl Haakon, the Aesir prince who was more warlock than priest and was rumoured to be a rapist to boot.  And Jarl Haakon knew that Olaf was King Trygve’s son, but was more slave-spawn than anything else.  Haakon was the living embodiment of the reason Olaf had converted to Christianity.  Olaf had ambitions of following in his father’s footsteps and pagan jarls like Haakon would never accept a former slave as their king any more than they would a jarl who had bent over for King Sweyn, as word was getting out that Sigvald had done.  And here in the court of King Sweyn, Jarl Haakon had found both, Jarls Olaf and Sigvald, the fain and the fallen, toasting and regaling with true Scandinavian royals, and his daughter Aud telling him that Olaf was sampling King Eric’s Swedish stock.

Nothing came of this clash of Christian and Aesir jarls, but only because Aud made sure nothing came of Olaf’s interest in her fellow queen consort’s booty, and because King Sweyn used the festive season to further his plans against England.  During the Yuletide feasting and New Year’s bragarful and boasts, Sweyn announced that he planned on taking England from King Athelstan before three years were up.  He got Duke Richard’s support in using Normandy as a base from which to attack King Athelred, even though Richard overtly kept a neutral position in the conflict.  Then he got Jarl Haakon’s support in the form of Norse warriors from the Nor’Way and he got King Eric’s support of Swedish warriors and warships.  He knew he had his son, Prince Valdamar’s support and the support of his Hraes’ legions, even though Valdy couldn’t make it to the feast because he was too busy focking his seven hundred or so wives.  And he felt he had Jarl Olaf’s full support in this, even though he was now a Christian, because half of Sweyn’s own Danish wives were Christian and he had supported Valdy in his conversion to Christianity.

King Sweyn had softened towards Christians over the years.  He had been a staunch pagan when he had first come to Denmark and had met Jarl Haakon here, but he was forming plans to become an Emperor, and that would involve at least preliminary baptism in the Orthodox Christian faith, but he had to keep his Aesir faith as well.  He had seen in Hjorungavagr what paganism could do for him and he needed the Aesir warriors and Valkyries of his legions that would fight and die for their places in Valhall if he was to recapture Bulgaria and conquer the Levant and return Egypt and Italy to the Roman fold.

Jarl Olaf was making plans as well, to become a king, and that involved converting all Norway to Latin Christianity that would be more accepting of former slaves.  When the Apostle Peter had gone to Rome and had begun preaching Christianity, the slaves of Rome were his first converts.  The one true god religion with the one true god heaven, where slaves would be treated as well as kings, drew only one type of convert, at first, and that was slaves.  The Vanir religion of the Romans, the religion they had brought west with them from fallen Troy, saw Christianity as far more of a threat than the other mystical boutique religions that came to Rome from the Middle East.  No other exotic religion promised one heaven where god treated all equally.  Not even the other one true god religions of the Persians and the Jews.  The slaves of Rome found Christianity attractive and this frightened the Vanir priests of Rome, for the Roman Empire was a slaver state and near half the population was slave.

The Vanir Emperors of Rome, the followers of Zeus-Pater and Mars and Mercury, were so afraid of Christianity and its slave followers that they started pogroms against Christians and would often crucify them in their gladiatorial arenas and in the evenings they lit up crucified Christians as human candles to light up their gladiatorial combats.  Rome was a slaver state and its economy ran on the conquest of all the states around them.  Half the populations of the conquered states would be enslaved and sent back to Rome, the whole country plundered, and the other half would remain to rebuild their cities and pay heavy taxes to Rome for their freedom.  It was the Roman rules of plunder.  When the states rebelled, as they all too often did, the Roman legions would return to reconquer them and again, half the population would be enslaved, the whole country plundered and the remaining half left to clean up the mess or else.  Pax Romana was a cruel farce.  For every century that Rome ruled, you could count the years of peace on one hand.  The Romans were Vikings before Vikings were Vikings and Sweyn needed the old Roman Vanir religion returned to complement his own Aesir religion because war was business and the tri-partite gods religion was the religion of war.  But he could be accepting of Christianity because not everyone was capable of being a warrior and Sweyn was fine with that.

But Olaf Tryggvason wanted to be king of Norway and, if only Christians could accept that, then everybody in Norway would have to be Christian, no exceptions.  The pagans would never accept him and it would take just one witch or warlock to poison him, so there could be no exceptions.  The tri-partite gods religion was a death cult and, if it could not accept him, it would try to kill him.

While these two leaders struggled with their personal ambitions, Queen Consort Sigrid, in her boredom, watched.  She had caught the attention of the younger man, but the older leader proved more elusive.  And she preferred her kings…pagan.



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6500 (992):  Pechenegs arrived on the opposite side of the Dnieper.  Vladimir (Prince Valdamar) set forth against them, and encountered them.  Vladimir took up his position on the near side, and the Pechenegs theirs on the other, and did not venture to this side of the river.  Then there came to the Prince an old man (Prince Erik) who said to him, “Oh Prince, I have a younger son at home (Prince Sveinald).  I came forth with four others, but he abides by the hearth.  Since his childhood, there has been no man who could vanquish him (now King Sweyn ‘Forkbeard’).

    Excerpts From the Baffling Writing of the Monk Nestor, The Hraes’ Primary Chronicle

(991 AD)  Prince Valdamar founded the town of Belgard or Belgorod, meaning White Keep, and populated it people from other towns, bringing to it many settlers from about Hraes’, for he was extremely fond of his city, his creation.  The city was established at the mouth of the Dniester River and was located across from the Roman Grecian settlement and fortress called White Castle and, following the marriage of Prince Valdamar and Princess Anna was to demonstrate the newfound love and support between the Orthodox Christian Empires of Rome and Hraes’.  The two walled cities would support each other as bastions against the Bulgar aggression that was vexing Emperor Basil of Constantinople.

(992 AD)  Prince Valdamar next attacked the White Croats of the Wendish territories south of the Cherven Towns he had taken from the Poles.  He planned to establish a line of buffer fortress cities between Gardar and Poland and, of course, they would all be on Wendish lands to begin with.  Valdamar was helping himself to eastern Polish lands while the Poles were engaged with challenges in the west.

When he had returned victorious from the White Croatian War, a large horde of Pecheneg horse warriors arrived on the opposite side of the Dnieper River from the direction of the Sula River tributary that flowed from the east.  Prince Valdamar set forth to go against them with two of his Kievan legions, the Second Kievan Legion and the Ninth Mobile Legion, but when he encountered them on the banks of the Trubezh tributary, where a small village had stood, he soon realized the vast size of the horde.  They looked to number about eighty thousand warriors and there were no women, no children amongst them and his own two legions numbered only twenty thousand, give or take a cohort or two.

Vladimir took up his position on the near side of the river, and the Pechenegs theirs on the other, and the Hraes’ legions did not venture to the farther shore and the Pecheneg horse couldn’t attack them, for the troop transport ships of the mobile legion controlled the waters of the river.  Any Pecheneg horse that ventured to cross the river were quickly sent to the bottom by a volley of arrows.  As the ships established their control, they set up their deck mounted trebuchets and soon the Turks couldn’t even approach the river because the trebuchet officers began making sport of which team could take which Pecheneg warrior right off the back of his horse.  And there were plenty of river stones in the Trubezh so the trebuchets were cheaper to run than the Turkish bows the archers were equipped with.

The Prince of the Pechenegs, Kagan Kurya of the Painted Horse, finally came down to the riverbank under a white flag of truce, and calling to Prince Valdamar, proposed to him, “Send one of your warriors, and I will detail one of mine, that they may do battle together.  If your man conquers mine, let us not fight together for three years to come.  But if our champion wins, let us fight three years in succession.”  Then each prince returned to his own force.

Vladimir returned to his camp, and told his generals, “They’re just here to plunder.  They have no wives, no children.  They’re just here to raid and, from the sounds of it, for three years or so.  I stalled them by agreeing to find a champion to fight theirs.  I’ve already sent messengers to Prince Erik in Tmutorokan and to King Sweyn in Denmark.”

“Will The Prince be our champion?” one Hraes’ officer asked.  “Will he bring Tyrfingr?”

“My grandfather is a hundred and fifty years old!” Valdamar said.  “He is not going to be our champion!  He is bringing two more mobile legions.”

But Valdamar did send heralds throughout his legions to inquire whether there was any man who would fight with the champion of the Pechenegs.  Many wanted to come forward, but none was found anywhere, at least that was what Valdamar told Kurya each day as he waited for The Prince to arrive with his legions.  On the morrow, the Pechenegs arrived, bringing their champion, and he was a veritable giant; but on the Hraes’ side there was none.  Vladimir now appeared to be concerned as he sought a champion throughout his whole army.  This went on for a few more days and then Prince Erik, Hraerik ‘Bragi’ Hraegunarson, the old man Valdamar and his father both called grandfather.

“Grandfather,” Valdamar greeted him warmly, “your old friend Kagan Kurya is back.

“Greetings, grandson,” The Prince replied.  “Are you sure its Kagan Kurya?”

“That’s who he claims to be,” Valdy answered and then he described the man, the kagan.

“Fock!” The Prince cursed.  “I warned him to stay away.  Now we’ll have to kill him,” Prince Erik said, shaking his head sadly.  “He’s a good kagan, but he’s always being pressured to attack us.  Years ago it was the Khazars putting him up to it and now he’s under pressure from the Mongols in the east.  It’s Steppe politics.  As the Mongol hordes in the east grow in size and power, they push westward against the Naymans who push against the Bashkirs who push the Kipchaks who push the Cumans who are now pushing the Pechenegs of the Painted Horse.  My spies tell me they’ll try to pass themselves off as short term raiders, but they’re here to stay and now we’ll have to wait for King Sweyn.”

“We’ve got four legions now,” Valdamar said bravely.  “We can crush them!”

“It’s not that,” The Prince began.  “Years ago, when you were still in Princess Malfrieda’s womb, trying to kick your way out,” he laughed, as he remembered Kiev that fall, “I led the Hraes’ merchant fleet against Kagan Kurya and his Painted Horse Horde, and I scared him off with a demonstration of Tyrfingr and a threat that Prince Svein, King Sweyn, would be very hard on him.  He went back east peacefully.  A few years later he came back and attacked Prince Svein at the Dnieper Cataracts and Sweyn beat him quite handily, but let him go with a warning.  Now he is back, and by Aesir law, King Sweyn has first rights to kill him.  We do NOT want to deprive Sweyn of his rights of first refusal.  Remember what happened to King Harald Gormson and his ‘Bluetooth’.”

“I get your drift,” Valdy responded.  “Whatever happened to King Harald’s head?”

“Sweyn showed it to the Emperors and I suppose he still has it as proof, should he ever get his co-Emperorship.”

“How’s that going?”

“It’s still in the courts of Constantinople,” Erik told him.  “Meaning the Emperors are stalling on their decision.  Emperor Basil is getting better at fighting his own battles.”

“Fock!”  It was Valdamar’s turn to curse.  “Don’t they know that father is the best general they’ll ever have?  He took Bulgaria in three months for them, beat the Army of the Impalers for them, crushed the Khazars for them!  And they still won’t share the throne.”

“They’re afraid of him,” Erik explained.  “They need him to put the Roman Empire back on the Map, but they’re scared shitless of him.  They won’t share, so they think others won’t share.  They’re like little Caesar bullies in a concrete Roman sandbox.  How are your little Caesars coming along?” The Prince asked, suddenly smiling.  “Have you prized any more out of Princess Anna?”

“We have another one on the way!” Valdy said proudly.

“Congratulations!” Erik belted, and he slapped Valdamar across the shoulders proudly.  “Now, we have to show the Romans how we deal with Pechenegs.  That’s another reason we have to wait for Sweyn.  The Romans are having troubles with Bulgars and Magyars and Sweyn will want to show them how he can handle hordes.  And I once showed Kagan Kurya how dangerous my sword, Tyrfingr, could be.  I brought Tyrfingr with me this time, for Lesson Number Two, and I brought all of King Ivar ‘the Boneless’ Hraerikson’s gear, Hraes’ Ship’s Round, King Frodi’s guilt helm, King Helgi ‘Arrow Odd’s Roman scalemail shirt, the whole shebang.”

“Even Sleipnir?” Valdy asked excitedly.

“Even Sleipnir.  Not the original four, of course, but I brought their sons, who were trained by their fathers, and these boys are big…all four of them!”

“The Pechenegs have a giant for a champion,” Valdy blurted.

“So I’ve heard,” Erik said.  “My spies tell me he is every bit as big as the smallest one of my four horsemen.  But he is their only giant, one out of their hundred thousand.”

“I counted eighty thousand,” Valdy stated.

“My spies said a hundred thousand and I’ve had it confirmed.”

“You always have the best spies!” Valdy swore.  “I guess we’d best wait for father.”

“Welcome to the Big Show!”

The next day Prince Erik went with Valdamar to talk with Kagan Kurya from a ship on the river.

“Oh Prince of the Pechenegs,” Prince Erik started, “I have a young son at home.  I came forth with four others, but he abides by the hearth and is only now on his way here.  Since his childhood, there has been no man who could vanquish him.  I think I have warned you about his angry temperament before, years ago just outside the walls of Kiev.”

“Is it you, Prince Erik?” Kurya shouted from the shore.  “I hope you haven’t brought your sword, Tyrfing.”

“You know I had to,” The Prince shouted across the waters.  “And I’ve brought its friends along.  They want to play the steel game too!  But we need a favour.  We have to wait for King Sweyn.  We don’t want to incur his wrath by starting without him.”

“We are running low on supplies,” the kagan shouted back.

“We have plenty in our ships!  I’ll send you some over.  I even brought some Kumis and Blaand!”

“We’ll take the Kumis!” the kagan shouted back.  The Pechenegs had imbibed the Viking milk Blaand and had found it very weak and bitter.  They much preferred their own fermented milk Kumis.

It took another full week before King Sweyn arrived in Kiev with the Danish First Mobile Legion and the Kievan Ninth Mobile Legion he had borrowed for his attacks upon England.  And that whole week Prince Erik plied the Pechenegs with the finest cuts of beef and mutton and, of course, Kumis.  But he made sure not to provide the Turks with any grain stuffs or vegetables that they could supplement their horses diets with.  “And don’t let the Pechenegs see you laying down fodder for our own horse to eat,” The Prince instructed his men.  The Turks only saw the Hraes’ grazing their horse upon the local grasses.  The Pecheneg horse had already overgrazed the local fields about their encampment and their horse had to be ranged farther and farther afield to graze upon grasses that hadn’t been chewed down to their stems.  But they could be brought back quickly if under sudden attack so the handlers didn’t worry about it overmuch.  The Hraes’ legions, meanwhile, subsisted on oatmeal, as the Roman legions had done for centuries, and fresh hay fodder from the fields of Kiev was laid down for their horse behind their encampment and hills on the other side of the river so the Turks would not demand a supply of fodder for their own horse as well.

When King Sweyn was finally sent for, he came out of Kiev to the Trubezh River with his legions rested and ready for battle.  It was early morning when he showed up with his fleet and his troops stayed on their transport vessels until the hazel poles had been set out to mark the field of battle.  The grandfather, father, and son had a strategic conference while this was happening and it was agreed that Prince Hraerik would lead the foot in the center array and that King Sweyn would lead the Cataphracts on the left flank while Prince Valdamar led the heavy horse on the right.  The Pechenegs had been beaten often in war by King Ivar ‘the Boneless’, so, by dressing up like him and by wielding the famed Tyrfingr, the Hraes’ generals knew that the Turks would be hesitant to attack hard there, and by putting King Sweyn on the left flank with the powerful Cataphract Knights, for Prince Sveinald had already defeated Kagan Kurya once at the Dnieper cataphracts, they were fairly certain that the Turks would not focus their attack there.  That left young Prince Valdamar on the right flank as the ‘weak’ point that Kurya was likely going to decide to focus his attack upon, so, the Princes decided to have Valdy’s flank collapse back towards the river and Sweyn’s flank drive forward and around to drive the Pecheneg horse into the river.

“Isn’t that how you defeated Kurya the first time you fought him?” Prince Erik asked.

“Yes,” Sweyn confessed, “but I had divided their forces and Kagan Kurya was on the other side of the river when I drove the other half of his army into the waters.  It was the dividing of his army that gave me victory that time, not the driving of their horse into the river.  I don’t think Kurya will see it coming.”

Prince Erik did not agree with this, but he knew he would have a hard time convincing Sweyn that Kurya would see it developing, and time was of the essence, so he came up with a counterplan of his own.  Strategic withdrawals were hard to control and could lead to panicked flight under certain conditions, but that had never bothered the Pechenegs because their fast light horse allowed them to feign retreat and turn about to attack as a whole new way of fighting.  But the Pechenegs were getting bigger with improved diets and lifestyles and their giant champion served notice to this fact, and many Pecheneg warriors were now too heavy for their light horse tactics, so they were foraying into the realm of the foot soldier for the first time.  Their champion was to lead a large contingent of their troops against Prince Erik’s center and they had hired Bulgar and Khitai foot soldiers to bolster their forces, but foot were not mobile like light horse and once they took to flight, well, let’s just say the prospect of being bent over one’s shield and then sold into slavery in some eunuch army kind of propelled the whole flight idea along.

King Sweyn went back to his fleet on the river and began the disembarking of troops and horses and they took positions along the far riverbank while the other legions were ferried across the river.  The Pechenegs kept themselves well back of the field anyway, fearing the long range of the trebuchets on the ships.  But Sweyn had left all his marines and archers aboard his transport ships and they lay hidden in the bilge areas so that the ships looked quite abandoned in the river after the unloading.  This would cause the Pechenegs to feel safe in plunging into the waters to escape Sweyn’s planned wheeling onslaught, which they might turn and fight instead, if the ships were manned.  Once the horse was in the water, their speed advantage was gone and they were sitting ducks for the Hraes’ archers and their Turkish recurve bows.  The Hraes’ were noted for using the best weapons and tactics they encountered against their enemies and the Turkish bows were the best in the world and the wheeling around tactics were the best of the Roman’s tactics.

It was while fighting the Romans in the mountains of Bulgaria that the Pechenegs had learned the hard way that one could not depend on light horse alone.  In order to win in the west, one had to be able to fight in many terrains, not just on plains.  So, when the Hraes’ formed up with a strong foot soldier center with cavalry on the flanks as a standard formation, the Pechenegs met it with a similar offering.  Prince Erik was correct when he had presumed that the Pecheneg giant would be front and center against him with his own large contingent of foot, and he was there kneeling on King Ivar’s battle platform, surrounded by his Centuriata, to meet him.  And he held the famed blade, Tyrfingr, above him and the Pecheneg foot could all see that it glowed bright, even in the strong daylight of noon.  And Kagan Kurya saw King Sweyn on the Hraes’ left and he wanted no part of that fight so he sent one of his princes with a dozen regiments of light horse against him and he led two dozen regiments of light horse against the weaker flank of Prince Valdamar’s.

At first, the Pecheneg giant was hesitant to attack Prince Erik directly, leading his group of big men against Erik’s Centuriata on his left and then shifting back and attacking his Centuriata on the right.  Meanwhile, Kagan Kurya’s charge against Valdy’s flank had an immediate effect as the Hraes’ heavy cavalry fell back from the assault.  As the fighting progressed, the kagan had a flashback to a scene that was burned into his memory of watching half his army on the far side of a river being driven into the waves and he hesitated for a second, then signalled for a feigned withdrawal of his regiments.  Prince Erik was standing on his battle platform and could see what the kagan was doing.  He knew Kagan Kurya had remembered his battle with Prince Svein at the Dnieper cataracts.  As he was surveying the action, a Pecheneg arrow flew from one of their powerful Turkish bows and it hir The Prince on the shoulder and knocked him down onto Hraes’ Ship’s Round, and it looked for a second as if he had been killed, but Prince Helgi’s Roman scalemail shirt was proof against arrows and Erik only needed a few moments to recover his wind.

The Pecheneg giant had been watching Prince Erik and had seen him go down and picked that moment to attack the four giants carrying the downed prince, and, as he led his cohort of giants against the battle platform, Prince Erik arose and swung Tyrfingr around and down and the blade bit through the giant’s chainmail shoulder-piece and clove all the way through his body to the groin.  One of Erik’s own giants had to put up his shield to keep Erik from pitching forward off the platform with the force of his blow, and then they charged and Erik’s whole Centuriata let loose upon the Pecheneg foot.  The Pechenegs fell back a step as they witnessed their champions halves being trampled and crushed into the bloodied ground the battlefield had become, and then they saw the Pecheneg light horse on their left fleeing the field and had no way of knowing it was a feigned withdrawal and a panic set about the foot soldiers and some of them turned and fled in panic and soon the whole of them were routed.

When the Pecheneg horse had halted their feigned withdrawal, they swung about and saw their whole center fleeing in panic with King Ivar’s battle platform and Prince Erik’s Centuriata and a full legion of Hraes’ foot cutting them down from behind.  Then they saw Prince Valdamar’s two full mobile legions of heavy horse coming at them and they swung about again and fled the field far ahead of their foot.  King Sweyn had been on the Hraes’ left flank fighting hard against the light horse with his cataphracts, but when the light hose saw their fellow Pechenegs in full flight, they joined them.  Sweyn led his heavily armoured cataphracts after them and it looked as though he wouldn’t catch them, but the light horse had not been properly fed for several days and it began to take its toll as the horse began to slow with exhaustion.  The heavy horse had been well fed with both hay and oats and they began to ride the light horse down.  The couched lances of the knights became a murderous weapon against the lightly armoured backs of the fleeing Pecheneg warriors, who tried firing their bows backwards at the pursuing enemy, but their frontal armour was far too heavy for the arrows to pierce and their lances far too sharp.

Prince Hraerik and The First Kievan Legion of foot were chasing down the Pecheneg foot and slaying them from behind and Erik’s four giant shield-bearers were in their early twenties and born to run and were using their spear handled shields to slaughter all those in front of them as Erik knelt upon Hraes’ Ship’s Round and dealt out fatal blows with Tyrfingr.  He had always wanted to try Ivar’s Battle platform but had never really had the opportunity until now, so he was fain to halt the slaughter.  The ‘Big Show’ as he had called it, the big show of force was of more value to the Hraes’ than the pittance they would get for wild Pecheneg warrior slaves in the markets of Baghdad and India.  And behind the legions followed the Valkyries of the Hraes’, beautiful shield maidens that dispatched the fatally wounded and saved those that they could, be they Hraes’ or Pecheneg.  They were healers in training and they could give a shit about the value of a life in the slave markets.  They saved everybody they could and mercifully dispatched all those they could not.  It was this empathy in battle that made Valkyries unique.  The warriors seemed incapable of it.

King Sweyn had been riding down and killing Pechenegs for an hour and had changed mounts several times before he saw Kagan Kurya on a hilltop, surrounded by his personal guardsmen.  Sweyn put spurs to his fresh mount and charged up the hill and Kagan Kurya put knees into his exhausted mount and rode downhill at him.  He had ordered his guard to stand down and they went at it tete-a-tete in Frankish jousting fashion.  Kurya launched his spear at Sweyn and the accurate throw was turned aside by Sweyn’s kite shield and when Sweyn lowered his couched lance, it caught Kurya high in the chest, just above his small round shield, and Sweyn torqued up on his lance and it took Kurya right out of the saddle and he lifted up the kagan and slid him down his lance and by the time Kurya had reached Sweyn, he was dead.  “Sorry my friend,” Sweyn breathed as he lowered the weight of the kagan’s body onto his saddle horn.  He waved off the guard as he wheeled his mount about and they fled for their lives as he took Kagan Kurya back to the battlefield.  He had killed enough men for the day, for the ‘Big Show’.

The Hraes’ kept riding down the Pechenegs all afternoon and the starving Pecheneg horse couldn’t even stop to eat a bit of grass, for the fields had all been eaten bare by the overgrazing of a hundred thousand horse for a week too long in one spot.  Pecheneg warriors were injured when their horses collapsed out from under them and they got up and tried to fight but were hacked down by the passing Hraes’ knights and cavalry.  The Danish skalds that King Sweyn had brought along from Liere rode along with the knights and bore witness to the slaughter in the drapas they would later write.

In his joy, Prince Valdamar founded a city on this river bank, where a village had stood before the coming of the Pechenegs, and he called it Pereyaslavl’, a city to replace the Pereyaslavets Prince Svein had lost to the Romans, after Emperor John had slaughtered twenty thousand of Svein’s Pecheneg allies in the mountain passes of Bulgaria.  The city was built around the mound that King Sweyn had erected to hold the body of Kagan Kurya and, eventually, a Christian stone church was built on top of the Howe of Kurya.  Grand Prince Valdamar declared a national day of heroes be celebrated in Hraes’ for both his father, King Sweyn ‘Forkbeard’ Ivarson of Denmark and his great-grandfather, Prince Erik ‘Bragi’ Ragnarson of Gardariki.  Then they all returned to Kiev with victory and renown.


8.0  KING SWEYN RULES DENMARK  (Circa 992-995 AD)

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7.        This word first then              fell from his lips:

                        “Sleep ye shall not               more than a cock in summer,

                        or longer than I                     a lay may sing.”

                                   Anonymous; Grottasongr, Prose Edda (Hollander)

(992 AD)  In the early spring, before the assembling of the great merchant fleet, King Sweyn and Jarl Olaf had taken their fleets to England and learned that an Anglo-Saxon fleet had been assembled in London to meet them.  As their longships progressed up the Thames they’d been met by an English ship captained by Alderman Elfric and he had warned them of an impending attack awaiting them before London.  King Sweyn sent on a scout ship to verify Elfric’s report and it had run into an ambuscade of Saxon ships that were hidden under overgrowth along the banks of the Thames.  Six Vikings had fled downstream in a four oared boat, but all others on the ship were slaughtered.  When no further Viking ships came upstream, the Saxon ships had broken out from under cover and rowed downstream to meet the Viking fleet.  A great battle Had been fought between three hundred Viking longships and three hundred Anglo-Saxon warships and there was a great slaughter, but in the end the Vikings controlled the river.

The entry in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for that year said:

A.D. 992.  This year the blessed Archbishop Oswald departed this

life, and sought a heavenly one; and in the same year died

Alderman Ethelwin.  Then the king and all his council resolved,

that all the ships that were of any account should be gathered

together at London; and the king committed the lead of the

land-force to Alderman Elfric, and Earl Thorod, and Bishop Elfstan,

and Bishop Escwy; that they should try if they could anywhere

without entrap the enemy.  Then sent Alderman Elfric, and gave

warning to the enemy; and on the night preceding the day of

battle he sculked away from the army, to his great disgrace.  The

enemy then escaped; except the crew of one ship, who were slain

on the spot.  Then met the enemy the ships from East-Anglia, and

from London; and there a great slaughter was made, and they took

the ship in which was the alderman, all armed and rigged.  Then,

after the death of Archbishop Oswald, succeeded Aldulf, Abbot of

Peterborough, to the sees of York and of Worcester; and Kenulf to

the abbacy of Peterborough.’

King Sweyn had returned to Denmark with his legion and ships to hear that Pechenegs had attacked Hraes’ and were threatening to attack Kiev.  He led his legions and the merchant fleet east into Hraes’.  He had fought alongside his grandfather and son and they had won a great victory and much renown beyond the banks of the Trubezh River.

His trading in Baghdad was uneventful, but when he returned to England in the fall it was to raid.  He met Jarl Olaf in Rouen and they took their combined fleet back to Ipswich and met with Princess Gyda back in her highseat hall there.  King Sweyn left a regiment of Hraes’ foot there for her security.  Then, operating out of Ipswich they raided Kent and captured Sandwich and plundered the city and surrounding area.  Hraes’ slaver ships followed and they took away all the people that could not ransom themselves.  Jarl Olaf then returned to his wife in Ipswich and King Sweyn returned to his wives in Denmark for the winter.  Again, Yulefest was celebrated in Roskilde and guests were invited from around the northern lands, Denmark being centrally located to all involved. 

Jarl Sigvald and his wife Astrid arrived and Sigvald brought news that King Burizleif of Poland was unhappy that he had not as yet received the hand of Princess Thora in marriage.  He wanted King Sweyn to redeem his chest of gold so, Sweyn sent Thora north to Lade so the witch Hallveig could restore Thora’s virginity.  When she got back, Sweyn had her pack up her belongings and dowry and, much against her wishes, sent her and her retinue of handmaidens and guards to Wollin with Sigvald and Astrid where she was married off to the Polish king.

(993 AD)  In the spring Olaf and Sweyn’s combined fleets again ventured up the Thames and, while Sweyn’s Hraes’ legion ships explored the walls of London for weaknesses, Olaf led his fleet further west past London and sacked and plundered the town of Staines.  Slaver ships sailed right past London to collect up the people of the town for sale in Baghdad and Constantinople.  The London fyrds could not march out and save them with such a great fleet just sitting on the river in front of the city.  The people of England were shaken.  The king sent out spies to learn more about the Viking leader, Olaf Tryggvason.  They knew all they needed to know about King Sweyn ‘Forkbeard’, or so they thought, but the Christian Viking leader, Olaf, was an enigma.

The combined fleet sailed back down the Thames and returned to Sandwich to raid Kent and King Sweyn put his legion under the command of Olaf when he left to lead the great merchant fleet east.  Olaf raided all summer in southern England and, when King Sweyn returned in the fall to raid, Olaf convinced him to attack Northumbria with him because London seemed very well defended at that time.  He also pointed out that Bamburgh Castle in Northumbria had been a stronghold for Sweyn’s father, King Ivar, many years earlier but was now ruled by the Strathclyde Britons.  So the Viking fleet headed north past Ipswich and Sweyn took note of the fact that Olaf didn’t even stop to visit his wife, Princess Gyda, as they sailed by.  They caught the Welsh by complete surprise and took Bamburgh Castle without a fight and they used the castle as a base from which to raid Northumbria.  Indeed, they caught most of the north by surprise, for their raids were largely unopposed because defences were scant or non-existent and their legion took town after town until the city of York fell and was plundered, all, except Castle York which was owned by the Hraes’ descendants of Prince Helgi ‘Arrow Odd’ Hraerikson and ran the company station there.  They conquered the Northumbrian lands all the way to the mouth of the Humber River and slaver ships came up the Humber and the Ouse Rivers to take away the Angles of York and the Welsh of Bernicia.

The entry of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for that year read:

A.D. 993.  This year came Olaf with three and ninety ships to

Staines, which he plundered without, and went thence to Sandwich.

  This year was Bamborough destroyed, and much spoil was there taken.

Afterwards came the army to the mouth of the Humber; and there

did much evil both in Lindsey and in Northumbria.  Then was

collected a great force; but when the armies were to engage, then

the generals first commenced a flight; namely, Frene and Godwin

and Frithgist.  In this same year the king ordered Elfgar, son of

Alderman Elfric, to be punished with blindness.

An English army was raised in the north but, when it went up against Sweyn’s mobile legion, the leaders fled and the army surrendered and the soldiers’ supplications were taken as they were bent over their shields and half of the troops were enslaved and sent off to Baghdad and the eunuch armies in the east.  King Athelred was so enraged by this treasonous behavior that he had Earl Elfgar, the son of Alderman Elfric who had fled their last fight, blinded for the treason of his father.

Jarl Olaf overwintered in York and used the Hraes’ legion to subdue and secure Northumbria.  King Sweyn visited Princess Gyda in Ipswich and relieved the Hraes’ regiment he had left with her, giving her fresh troops for security.  King Sweyn then returned to his wives in Denmark for the winter and, again, Yulefest was celebrated in Roskilde and guests were invited from all about the northern lands. 

Jarl Sigvald and his wife Astrid arrived with a chest of gold for Sweyn and Sigvald brought news that King Burizleif was very pleased with his new Queen Consort Thora.  Princess Astrid told Queen Consort Gunhild that Thora was very unhappy with her lot in Poland, their father, King Burizleif, being much older than her.  And Thora was not the only unhappy queen consort in the northern lands.  When King Eric ‘the Victorious’ arrived from Sweden, Sweyn learned that Queen Consort Sigrid had divorced him and had returned to her very ample holdings in West Gotland, just south of Norway.  Divorce was quite simple in the Aesir religion.  One had only to tell one’s spouse in public, “I divorce thee,” three times and the divorce was complete.  Sometimes it was a little too simple, but it did give Scandinavian women a lot more freedom than other women of the time, and Queen Sigrid ‘the Haughty’ had decided it was time to exercise that freedom.  King Erik was upset, but was still doting over Queen Svia, so, he accepted her decision.  But Queen Svia was unhappy as well.  She enjoyed being doted over but she reminded King Sweyn, as he slept inside her in his palace in Roskilde, that the arrangement was temporary and that King Sweyn had to get on with pursuing his contract with the Romans for a co-Emperorship, with or without his conquest of England.  “You are being distracted by this bright copper object called England when you should be going after the shiny gold prize called Rome!” she remonstrated her lover.  “Now that Queen Sigrid is gone, King Eric devotes all his sexual energy on me.  If it persists, I’m going to flee to Kiev as arranged.”

“But what of Queen Aud?” Sweyn asked.  “Doesn’t she share the load?”

“King Eric focks her once a week, whether she needs it or not,” Svia replied.  “The rest of her time is devoted to her scriptorium and her books.  She is very devoted to saving ‘The Lying Sagas of Denmark’ from their predicted destruction.  I think your grandfather put a little more into her than just education when she trained under him in Tmutorokan.”

“I do not doubt that,” Sweyn agreed.  “I think he slept in her bum,” he added, as only a veteran of ‘The Battle of the Army of the Impalers’ would understand.

(994 AD)  In early spring, King Sweyn returned to England with a Danish mobile legion he had been training in Liere, stationed out of the old Fortress of King Frodi.  He met Jarl Olaf with his Kievan mobile legion in Sandwich for a planned a surprise attack on London.  Sweyn hoped that their diversionary attack upon Northumbria the prior fall would shift the king’s attention north, and the regiments that remained in York began a spring plundering campaign to support the deception.  But when their fleet quickly sailed up the Thames they found the fyrds of London quite prepared for an attack and the beefed up Roman walls around the city were well manned and well equipped.  King Sweyn attacked the walls with his ship mounted trebuchets, but towers had been added to the old walls to strengthen them against missile attack and the walls along the river were even stronger than the walls facing the land, which was unusual for fortifications, but London had been attacked by Vikings many times before and they always came up the river.

Jarl Olaf continued with his strategy of plundering upstream of London to dishearten the Anglo-Saxons by operating out of the already sacked town of Staines and plundering the town of Reading from there.  The whole surrounding area was plundered in an attempt to draw out the fyrds of London, but they stood fast within their walls.  Finally, King Sweyn ran out of time and had to return to Denmark to lead the great merchant fleet east.  He left Jarl Olaf his Danish legion with instructions to ravage southern England all summer and they would attack London again in the fall.  Sweyn planned to take his Kievan mobile legion back east for a rest and he wanted to bring another fresh Kievan legion back with him from the east in the fall.

Trading in the east was becoming pretty routine.  The Fenja, fine furs, came via the Nor’Way trade route and the Menja, slaves, came via the Dan’Way courtesy of Ireland, England and Flanders, and Viking traders from Iceland to Finland were involved in the raiding and trading.  Other goods such as fine Frankish wines, Irish liquors, Scottish whiskeys, Baltic amber, Swedish tonstone, Hraes’ honey and Khazar Vayar all made their way to the Middle East as well, in return for gold and silver and silks and spices, fine China and glass wares and nautical gear and kites and sky lanterns and specialized weapons of war.  There were cataphracts in Normandy and trebuchets in Denmark and rocket arrows in Kiev, but Greek fire was always just out of King Sweyn’s grasp.  The Byzantines kept their stolen secret weapon safe and the Alchemists’ Guild, from whom they’d stolen it, were trying hard to keep it controlled, but some Arab alchemists had gotten access to the fuel of it, although the firing tubes were still beyond them so, they launched it from catapults.  Sweyn tried to get some from the Caliphate in Baghdad to use against London, but the Caliphate feared the Varangians more than their Roman enemies so, the only things that king Sweyn brought with him to England was a fresh Kievan legion and a fresh load of tonstone from Sweden.

While the Anglo-Saxons were celebrating a religious festival, Jarl Olaf called it the Nativity of Saint Mary, King Sweyn ordered the assault upon London on the Eighth of September, 994 A.D. and trebuchets from aboard longships on the Thames launched flaming pots of Arab Greek fire that Sweyn had stolen from Caliphate armouries into the city with devastating results.  Several churches were burned and the parishioners within toasted, military barracks were set aflame and the troops within were consumed by the flames but Sweyn had not been able to get enough of the stuff to send the city up in flames and the fires were all brought under control.  So, trebuchets were set up on land to try to reduce the weaker landward walls, but the fyrds of London attacked them in numbers and would set the siegeworks aflame and then retreat back into the city.

The legionary transport ships used their trebuchets to reduce a section of the river walls to scalable heights and an assault did make its way into the city but the fierce fighting of the fyrds drove the Vikings back out.  London just would not fall.  One more legion would have done the trick, but Sweyn had only brought the one from Kiev.  King Athelred was within the walls and could match him man for man and they were fighting from within the walls.  A besieging army should be two or three times stronger than those being attacked, but at even odds even the superior fighting skill of the Vikings was negated.  And King Sweyn knew better.  He had led armies in the east that had numbered over sixty thousand and he had run out of men against the Romans.  Now here in the west he was becoming accustomed to their large armies of five or ten thousand and his two legions had seemed a veritable host and the London fyrds had matched him man for man.

King Sweyn settled in for a long siege and sent his heavy cavalry out plundering the countryside around London and they loaded up their ships with wealth.  Soon King Athelred sent out messengers asking for respite from the plundering and King Sweyn set a price of sixteen thousand pounds of silver which was met.  For that sum the fighting would be halted for the winter and the Danes and Norwegians withdrew from London into the south of England and they occupied the city of Southampton and the Isle of Wight.  Slaver ships arrived and half the citizens of Southampton were enslaved and taken east to Kiev.  Jarl Olaf remained in Southampton with his Norwegian fleet and the Kievan legion while King Sweyn took his Danish legion back to Denmark with him.

King Sweyn held Yuletide festivities once more in Roskilde and he learned from Jarl Sigvald that Thora was unhappy with her life in Poland and was pleading to come back to the west.  Jarls Haakon and Eirik made it this year and that gave Sweyn and Eirik a chance to reconnect and when Eirik’s sister, Queen Consort Aud, arrived from Sweden they learned from her that Queen Svia had left Sweden and had gone to Kiev.  King Eric ‘the Victorious’ was in a rage and had taken his warfleet east into Hraes’ to go after her.  When Prince Valdamar had refused to send her north to King Eric, the Swedish royal burned Novgorod to the ground, but it was actually the older smaller town of Staraja Ladoga, which wasn’t as bad, but, still, it set a precedent that would carry far into the future.  Eric didn’t dare go further into Hraes’ for there was a full legion waiting for him in Novgorod and a few more waiting for him in Kiev.  Hraes’ was not called the land of forts for nothing.  King Eric finally arrived in Roskilde halfway through Yule and Queen Aud soon had him cooled down.

Back in England, King Athelred had received more information from his spies on Jarl Olaf and his preliminary baptism.  Further, he ordered the people of Wessex to supply provisions to the Norwegians and the Danes and he sent priests to the Christian Viking to plead for peace in exchange for the provisioning and they offered the Vikings whatever they required.  Then the king sent Bishop Elfeah and Alderman Ethelwerd to Jarl Olaf to talk of religion and final baptism and they gave up hostages to be left with the ships and they led Jarl Olaf with great pomp and ceremony to King Athelred in the town of Andover west of his capital in Westminster.  There the king offered to be Olaf’s sponsor in final baptism and honoured him with royal presents and accepted him as King of Norway and offered to be his ally in the Christianization of Norway.  In return, King Olaf promised to bring the Christian faith to Norway and to never again treat England or Christian countries with hostility.  King Olaf then brought all his Norwegians to Westminster where they were baptised in the Latin Christian faith.  The Kievan legion that King Sweyn had left under his command was already Orthodox Christian, baptised during Prince Valdamar’s conversion to Christianity when he married Princess Anna Porphyrogennetos in Cherson, but King Olaf insisted that King Athelred and his bishops baptise them in the Latin Christian faith and provide them all with young English Christian wives to tie them to their new Norwegian lord and their new home in York, for Olaf got for himself the official titles for all the lands that King Erik Bloodaxe of Norway had ruled in Northumbria.  He promised King Athelred that it was from Northumbria that he would take Christianity into Norway and make that country an English ally as well.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for that year read:

‘A.D. 994.  This year died Archbishop Siric: and Elfric, Bishop of

Wiltshire, was chosen on Easter-day, at Amesbury, by King

Ethelred and all his council.  This year came Anlaf and Sweyne to

London, on the Nativity of St. Mary, with four and ninety-ships.

And they closely besieged the city, and would fain have set it on

fire; but they sustained more harm and evil than they ever

supposed that any citizens could inflict on them.  The holy

mother of God on that day in her mercy considered the citizens,

and ridded them of their enemies.  Thence they advanced, and

wrought the greatest evil that ever any army could do, in burning

and plundering and manslaughter, not only on the sea-coast in

Essex, but in Kent and in Sussex and in Hampshire.  Next they

took horse, and rode as wide as they would, and committed

unspeakable evil.  Then resolved the king and his council to send

to them, and offer them tribute and provision, on condition that

they desisted from plunder.  The terms they accepted; and the

whole army came to Southampton, and there fixed their winter-quarters;

where they were fed by all the subjects of the West-Saxon

kingdom.  And they gave them 16,000 pounds in money.  Then

sent the king; after King Anlaf Bishop Elfeah and Alderman

Ethelwerd; and, hostages being left with the ships, they led

Anlaf with great pomp to the king at Andover.  And King Ethelred

received him at episcopal hands, and honoured him with royal

presents.  In return Anlaf promised, as he also performed, that

he never again would come in a hostile manner to England.’

(995 AD)  King Sweyn spent the early spring trying to bring peace between King Eric and Grand Prince Valdamar but he had to rush back to England when he learned that Jarl Olaf had abandoned him in Southampton and had set himself up as a king in Northumbria, apparently with King Athelred’s support.  He visited Princess Gyda in Ipswich and learned that Olaf had totally abandoned his family there.  Gyda was in tears and was afraid of what would happen to her and their young children, but Sweyn assured her that he would leave his Hraes’ regiment there for her protection and he returned to Denmark with his legion and took no operations against the Anglo-Saxons that year.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle entry for that year read:

‘A.D. 995.  This year appeared the comet-star.’


9.0  QUEEN SIGRID THE HAUGHTY  (Circa 994-999 AD)

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(Menja said:)

8.       “A fool wert, Frodi,                and frenzied of mind,

              The time thou, men’s friend,    us maidens didst buy;

              for strength didst choose us           and sturdy looks,

                    but didst not reck      of what race we sprang.”

                                   Anonymous; Grottasongr, Prose Edda (Hollander)

(994 AD)  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 Eric ‘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 Eric, 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 humour.  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 ‘Bluetooth’.

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 endeavour to ensnare him by some deceit, and bring him into the jarl’s power.

(994-995 AD)  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 Eric ‘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 Eric’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.

(995 AD)  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 is yet alive 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 of, 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 turns out.”

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 sincerest 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.

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 woman in Norway.  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, son of 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, son of 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 went to the sty 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 Norway and was looking for him.  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.

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.

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.

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.

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 misjudgement 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.

In the late 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, son of 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 England we shall be attacking him, and we will be killing and enslaving the Anglo-Saxons instead of our own people.  Then they will turn on him soon enough.”

(995 AD)  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.

Lodin was the name of the man from Viken who, long ago, had saved Astrid, King Trygve’s wife from slavery on condition she married him.  Lodin had bought Astrid, took her home to her kin in Vestfold Province and married her with her family’s consent.  She had then 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 then reunited with her daughters, Ingebjorg and Astrid by King Trygve and she’d 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.

When Harald ‘Bluetooth’ Gormson, king of Denmark, had adopted Christianity, he had 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’ Ivarson, immediately after Harald’s death, went out on war expeditions in Saxland, Friesland, and at last in England, 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.

(996 AD)  When King Sweyn returned from the east, Jarl Eirik was ready to join him in an attack upon England 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 Eric ‘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 Eric set off east and attacked Novgorod, intending to burn it to the ground because his Queen Sviataslava had not yet 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 Eric’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 English, 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 English 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.”

“English 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 England 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 again.  I could raid them.”

“They’re always 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 Erik 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 England 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 England 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 English 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 defences 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.

(996 AD)  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.

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 started to laugh, 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

(997 AD)  When King Sweyn arrived in Watchet, he and Jarl Eirik led their Danish and Novgorod legions and Norwegian ex-pats against all of southwest England.  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 England 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 English 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 English 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 English 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 English 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 English 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 English 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.  After they left, King Sweyn went back to the three coin presses and he closely studied one of them and made an adjustment to it.  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 Erik, 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 Nia-Gara 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 Erik 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.

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.’

(997 AD)  Queen Sigrid ‘the Haughty’ of Vaster Gotland lived in her great manse, and during the 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 in a manner that made the queen call them to her, and ask what they were smiling about?”  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 also attempted to have the people 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 of Norway.

(997 AD)  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 England, 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.

Heart’s dearest,

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 of 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!”

Heart’s dearest,

Why dost thou sorrow so?

Henry ‘Long Fellow’ of Wadsworth

Then the king proceeded to Tonsberg in a very foul mood, and held a Thing, at which he declared in a speech that all the men of whom it should be known with certainty that they dealt with Aesir spirits, or in witchcraft, or were sorcerers, should be banished forth from the land.  Thereafter the king had all the neighbourhood 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 warlock particularly knowledgeable 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 managed to escape by a 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.

(997 AD):  It was scorchingly hot over the summer in the southern plains of Hraes when a large horde of Pecheneg warriors came out of the east, keeping well south of Kiev, on its way to Bulgaria to assist the Bulgars in their war against Rome.  The Pechenegs were still reeling from their disastrous defeat at the hands of King Sweyn and Princes Valdamar and Erik and their Hraes’ legions southeast of the city previously, so the decided to work with the Bulgars in their war with Emperor Basil of Constantinople.  They had instructions to lay siege to the Roman City of White Castle on the northern shores of the Scythian Sea but, instead, fell upon Prince Valdamar’s new City of Belgard, east across the Dniester River from White Castle.

When Valdamar heard of the siege he had to send to Novgorod for their mobile legion because he had loaned his father, Sweyn, the Kievan mobile legion and he could not leave Kiev without at least one legion in defense.  But Belgard was walled and set up for siege, so the prince awaited the Novgorod legion in Kiev as the siege wore on.  But, due to the hot weather, and the newness of the city, provisions had been in short supply and when boats came across from White Castle with provisions for Belgard, as was required of their mutual support agreement, the Pechenegs realized that they had laid siege to the wrong city, so they forded the Dniester and laid siege to both walled cities.  Inadvertently, they were now at war with both Hraes’ and Rome and they isolated Belgard from any Roman support.  Soon the citizens of Belgard found themselves running out of food.

The siege was prolonged due to the legion having to come all the way from Novgorod, and the famine grew increasingly severe. The inhabitants thus held a council in the city, and said among themselves, “We are about to die of hunger, or we must surrender to the Pechenegs, and hope they spare us out of fear of King Sweyn and Prince Valdamar.  We are perishing of famine as it is.”  Thus they came to a decision.  But one old man, who was not present at the council, arrived by ship and inquired what it was about.  The people told him that on the morrow they would surrender to the Pechenegs.  Upon hearing this decision, he summoned the city-elders, and remarked that he understood they intended to surrender to the nomads. They replied that the people would not endure famine.  Then the ancient one said, “Listen to me: do not surrender for three days, and do as I tell you.  I am Prince Erik of Gardariki and our Hraes’ merchant fleet shall soon arrive to relieve you.  I have rushed here with supplies, but it is not enough to last all three days, so I shall show you what must be done.”  They gladly promised to obey, and The Prince provided them with the supplies he’d brought, measures of oats, wheat, and bran and then he bade the women prepare the liquid with which to brew porridge, and ordered them to dig a pit. In this pit he bade them place a tub, and to pour the liquid into the tub.  Then he ordered them to dig a second pit, and place a tub in the latter likewise.  He next provided them with baskets of honey that was stored aboard The Prince’s ship and then bade them dilute it greatly, and to pour it into the tub in the other pit.  Upon the morrow, he directed them to send messengers to the Pechenegs.  The citizens went forth to the Pechenegs, and offered them hostages, so that ten of the nomads should come into the city to see what was happening in their town.  The Pechenegs rejoiced, thinking that they wished to surrender.  They therefore accepted the hostages, and selected the chief men of their own party, whom they sent into the city to look over the town and learn what was occurring.  The Pecheneg representatives entered the town, and the inhabitants said to them, “Why do you waste your strength? You cannot overcome us if you besiege us for ten years.  We secure our sustenance from the earth.  If you do not believe it, behold it with your own eyes.”  They thus conducted the Pecheneg envoys to the pit where the brew was, then drew some up in a pail and poured it into pots.  After they had brewed porridge, they conducted the Pechenegs to the other pit.  They hauled up the buckets and after eating from them themselves, offered them to the Pechenegs.  The latter were astonished, and exclaimed, “Our princes will not believe this marvel, unless they eat of the food themselves.”  So they poured out a bowl of brew and buckets of mead from the pits, and gave them to the Pechenegs, who returned to their camp and recounted all that had happened.  After brewing the porridge, the Pecheneg princes ate it, and were amazed, and upon recovering their own hostages and returning those given by the city, they raised the siege off both cities and moved on into Bulgaria.

(998 AD)  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 warlocks and other evil doers.  Eyvind went from his ship to the land with his followers, and there they cast many of their spells 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 daylight.  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 watchmen 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 to great rocks.  Eyvind and all with him left their lives on those rocks, and the skerry is still called Skrattasker.

Soon after, 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.”  He firmly believed that the meat that this Odin man had put in their pot was human flesh from an Aesir sacrifice, but he shared this with no one.

King Olaf soon 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 you 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.

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 peacefully and the bondes returned home and the king went to 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.  That night the guests 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, he 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.

King Olaf went 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.

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.

King Olaf and his people went out to Nidaros and built houses on the flat side of the river Nida, which he raised to be a merchant town, and gave other 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.

King Olaf appointed a meeting with the relations of Jarnskegge, and offered them 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 naked 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 AD)  The next spring, King Sweyn and Jarl Eirik returned to England 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 England.  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.

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.

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.

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.  It happened one fine 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 going 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.

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 England 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 English 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.

(999 AD)  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 lenderman from the king.

There was a bonde, by the name of Raud the Strong, who dwelt in Godey in Salten fjord.  Raud was a very rich man, who had many house slaves, and likewise was a powerful man, who had many Fin warlocks in his service when he wanted them.  Raud was a great idolater, and very skilful 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 also 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 decks 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 Aesir spirits tormented his men, and sometimes even himself.  Then Olaf, with his much larger fleet retired to Trondheim, and landed at Nidaros, where he took up residence for a time.

(999 AD)  When King Sweyn and Jarl Eirik returned to England 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 England 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 England 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 England from King Athelred within three years, but it had become far more profitable to drag out the defeat of Athelred ‘the Unready’ and plunder England 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 Essex 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 defences 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 that 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 English 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 English 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 English 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 English Sea to Normandy and Jarl Eirik led the other half to Ipswich and resumed work on the city’s defences.  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.

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?” asked 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 Jarl 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.

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.

King Olaf was more expert in all exercises than any man in Norway whose memory is preserved to us in sagas; 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.

(999 AD)  Leif ‘the Lucky’, a son of Erik ‘the Red’ Thorvaldson, who first settled Greenland, came in the summer from Greenland to Norway and, as he met King Olaf, he adopted Christianity, and passed the winter with the king.

Gudrod, a son of Eirik ‘Bloodaxe’ and Gunhild ‘the Mother of Kings’, had been ravaging in the west countries ever since he fled from Norway before Jarl 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 England; 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 had 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 then were all the sons of King Eirik ‘Bloodaxe’ and Queen Gunhild ‘Mother of Kings’ 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 English 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 English ships added to their own and they 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 defences 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 English 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



10.0  THE BATTLE OF SVOLDER  (Circa 999-1000 AD)

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9.       “Hardy was Hrungnir,           but his sire e’en more;

            more thews than they          old Thjatsi had.

                        Ithi and Aurnir                       are of our kin:

                        are we both born to              brothers of etins.

                                   Anonymous; Grottasongr, Prose Edda (Hollander)

(999 AD)  King Sweyn celebrated Yulefest in Roskilde with his wives and children and he learned through reports from King Burizleif’s agents, who were searching for his wife, Thora, that she had been spotted in Lade, Norway.  The agents even postulated that Queen Thora may have been smuggled to Norway through Denmark, possibly even through Roskilde city itself.

Then King Sweyn remembered the huge harp he had received as a gift from King Burizleif, brought to him by Jarl Sigvald and Princess Astrid, the king’s daughter, and then he remembered a tale he had heard about Queen Aslaug ‘Kraka’, King Ragnar ‘Lothbrok’s wife, who was also called the witch Kraka, and how she had been smuggled out of captivity in the body of a large harp.  He had a long talk with his wife, Queen Consort Gunhild, also a daughter of King Burizleif, and she broke down and admitted that she and her sister had smuggled Queen Thora out of Poland to get her out of the grasp of their aging father.  “She was so unhappy in Poland, we were afraid she was going to take her own life!” Gunhild cried.  “We have to get her out of Norway,” Sweyn replied.  “That crazy Jarl Olaf Tryggvason is Christianizing the whole country and is killing anybody who refuses to convert.  Her life is in danger there!”  He did not want to tell Gunhild that she was in danger because he was focking Olaf’s abandoned wife, Princess Gyda, in Angleland.  “And if your father’s agents find out you’ve been involved in Thora’s escape, your life could be in danger here.  We must keep this under wraps!”

Jarl Eirik was celebrating Yulefest with Princess Gyda in Ipswich and his loneliness was palpable.  His wives were all in Sweden and Denmark and he hadn’t been with Svein Buison in over a year.  Gyda had just put all her children to bed and the two were alone in the longhall and she could feel his longing for young Buison, for Sweyn had let it slip about the youthful warrior Eirik had spared and she admired his mercy.  She was glad he had found someone, for life could be lonely for someone of ‘the male’ persuasion.  She felt she had to cheer him up.  She was used to Yulefests alone.  Sweyn was never with her for Yule and she’d celebrated alone ever since her husband, Olaf, had left her to be King of Norway.  She had her children and that was enough for her, but she knew the loneliness that Eirik was experiencing.

Eirik was sitting upon the guest highseat and Gyda got a bottle of wine and two glasses and she sat beside him and poured the wine.  They drank and talked for a time and Gyda was very gay and happy, hoping her cheer would infect Eirik and when they ran out of wine, she got up to get another bottle.  Eirik watched her ass sway as she walked away and her red silk dress emphasized the sway in her hips.  When she returned with the wine he saw her beautiful smile and the whiteness of her teeth in the duskiness of the hall and he saw a lilt in her walk caused by the wine and she joined him on the highseat and poured them each another glass.  They talked and drank some more and Gyda was so sure of Eirik’s persuasion that she poured him another glass and she sat on his lap as she passed it to him.

She was very surprised to find that he was hard as a rock and when she got up her foot slipped and she sat right back down upon it.  Eirik held her close and he kissed her deeply and he pushed her down on the highseat and got on top of her and she struggled, but Eirik forced his way inside her and he was thrusting hard and she was about to scream, but she thought of her children in the bedrooms so, she began to plead for him to stop, but by then all that would come out were moans and she soon had her legs wrapped around his buttocks and she forced him deeper and deeper inside her as her wine took over.  He was frantic by then, thrusting in and out of her so fast she came three times before he exploded inside her.  She was drunk and dizzy as he picked her up and carried her to her master suite and he laid her on the bed and undressed her and covered her with a silk sheet and then he undressed himself and he slipped between the sheets and began caressing her all over her body.  He began sucking on her breasts and she thought of her children again and the room was spinning when he entered her again and he began thrusting more slowly and more gently this time and he told her he loved her and that he loved it when she watched him and that he had been watching her too and she felt him going off inside her again and then she passed out.

Gyda woke up in a panic early the next morning and tried to wake up Eirik, but he was still passed out from the wine.  Her children would be waking soon and she had to get him out of the room.  She rose slowly out of bed and stood beside him and she shook him and she could feel him oozing out of her and sliding down her legs and she remembered that they were drunk and hadn’t used a glove and she thought quickly about her last period and remembered it was two weeks ago and she went into her dressing room to wipe herself and she heard her daughters walk into the room and they saw Eirik in bed and not her.  She eased the dressing room door shut and she sat down and leaned with her back against it and she put her head into her hands.

She could hear her daughters tugging at Eirik and asking him where their mother was.  “She must be out in the hall,” he explained.  “I got sick last night so she tucked me in bed and was taking care of me.  She must be asleep out there somewhere.”  The girls ran out of the room and began searching the hall and Gyda whispered thanks as she went past the bed and she snuck out of the room into the hall so her daughters could find her there.

It happened one day that Queen Thora was spotted and recognized in the City of Lade and was followed by king’s men who noted her place of residence and told King Olaf that they were being visited by a queen.  One evening King Olaf visited Queen Thora in her modest hall and she very kindly and pleasantly received him and offered him some Franish sparkling wine and some Khazar Vayar she had brought with her to Norway.  Thora related to the king her sorrows, and entreated his advice in her need, and protection in his kingdom.  Thora was a well-spoken woman, and the king took pleasure in her conversation and gave her permission to remain in his kingdom as long as she had fine wine and Khavayar to share with him.  He visited with her several evenings.

He saw she was a beautiful woman, young and fertile, and over a period of weeks it came into his mind that she would be a good match, so he finally turned the conversation that way, and asked if she would marry him.  Now, as she saw that her situation was such that she could not help herself, and considered what a luck it was for her to marry so celebrated a man, she bade him to dispose himself of her hand and fate; and, after nearer conversation, King Olaf took Thora in marriage.  This wedding was held in harvest after the king returned from Halogaland, and King Olaf and Queen Thora remained all winter together at Nidaros.

The following spring, Queen Thora complained often to King Olaf, and wept bitterly over the fact that she, who had great property and wealth in Wendland, had no goods or possessions here in Norway that were suitable for a queen, and sometimes she would entreat the king with fine words to get her property restored to her, and saying that King Burizleif was so great a friend of King Olaf that he would not deny King Olaf anything if they were to meet.

But when King Olaf’s friends heard of such speeches, they dissuaded him from any such expedition.  It is related at the king one day early in spring was walking in the street, and met a man in the market with many, and, for that early season, remarkably large angelica roots.  The king took a great stalk of the angelica in his hand, and went home to Queen Thora’s lodging.  Thora sat in her room weeping as the king came in.  “Sit here, my queen,” the king said, “and here is a great angelica stalk, which I give you for your anxiety.”

She threw it away and said, “A greater present my father, King Harald Gormson, gave to me and he was not afraid to go out of the land and take his own.  That was shown when he came here to Norway, and laid waste the greater part of the land, and seized on all the scat and revenues; and you don’t even dare to go across the Danish dominions for fear of King Sweyn.”

As she spoke, King Olaf sprang up, and answered with a loud oath, “Never have I feared King Sweyn.  I have fought together with him but I have never fought for him and if we ever meet again he shall give way before me!  That is more than can be said about your father, Harald ‘Bluetooth’!”

(1000 AD)  The winter after King Olaf came from Halogaland, he had a great vessel built at Hladhamrar, just off Lade, which was larger than any ship in the country, and of which the beam-knees are still to be seen.  The length of keel that rested upon the grass was seventy four ells.  Thorberg Skafhog was the man’s name who was the master-builder of the ship; but there were many others besides, some to fell wood, some to shape it, some to make nails, some to carry timber; and all that was used was of the best.  The ship was both long and broad and high-sided, and strongly timbered.

While they were planking the ship, it happened that Thorberg had to go home to his farm upon some urgent business and, as he remained there a long time, the ship was planked up on both sides when he came back.  In the evening the king went out, and Thorberg with him, to see how the vessel looked, and everybody said that never was seen so large and so beautiful a ship of war.  Then the king returned to the town.

Early next morning the king returned again to the ship, and Thorberg with him.  The carpenters were there before them, but all were standing idle with their arms crossed.

The king asked, “What’s the matter?”

They said the ship was destroyed; for somebody had gone from stem to stern and cut one deep notch after the other down the one side of the planking.  When the king came nearer he saw it was so, and said, with an oath, “The man shall die who has thus destroyed the vessel out of envy, if he can be discovered, and I shall bestow a great reward on whoever finds him out.”

“I can tell you, king,” said Thorberg, “who has done this piece of work.”

“I don’t think,” replied the king, “that any one is so unlikely to find it out as you are.”

Thorberg says, “I will tell you, king, who did it.  I did it myself.”

The king then said, “You must restore it all to the same condition as before, or you shall pay for it with your life.”

Then Thorberg went and chipped the planks until the deep notches were all smoothed and made even with the rest, and the king and all present declared that the ship was much handsomer on the side of the hull which Thorberg, had chipped, and bade him shape the other side in the same way, and gave him great thanks for the improvement.  Afterwards Thorberg was the master builder of the ship until she was entirely finished.  The ship was a dragon, built after the one the king had captured in Halogaland; but this ship was far larger, and more carefully put together in all her parts.

The king called this ship Serpent ‘the Long’, and the other Serpent ‘the Short’.  The Long Serpent had thirty-four benches for rowers.  The head and the arched tail were both gilt, and the bulwarks were as high as in sea-going ships.  This ship was the best and most costly ship ever made in Norway.  It was the culmination of Viking ship building, the final evolution of the longship, for there was a limit to the size that frameless shell planked ships could be taken to, and the Long Serpent was it.

When King Olaf had nearly rigged out his fleet in Nidaros, he appointed men over the Trondheim country in all districts and communities.  He also sent to Iceland Gissur the White and Hjalte Skeggjason, to proclaim Christianity there; and sent with them a priest called Thormod, along with several men in holy orders.  But he retained with him, as hostages, four Christian Icelanders whom he thought the most important; namely, Kjartan Olafson, Haldor Gudmundson, Kolbein Thordson, and Sverting Runolfson.

Of Gissur and Hjalte’s progress, it is related that they came to Iceland before the Althing, and went to the Thing; and in that Thing Christianity was introduced by law into Iceland, and in the course of the summer all the people were baptized.

The same spring King Olaf also sent Leif Eirikson back to Greenland to proclaim Christianity there, and Leif went there that summer.  In the great Atlantean Ocean he saved the crew of a ship which had been lost, and who were clinging to the wreck.  He also found Vinland the Good, arrived about harvest in Greenland; and had with him for it a priest and other teachers, with whom he went to Brattahild to lodge with his father Erik.

People called him afterwards Leif ‘the Lucky’, but his father Erik said that his good luck and bad luck balanced each other out, for if Leif had saved the crew of a wreck on the ocean, he had brought a harmful person with him to Greenland, and that was the priest.

The winter after King Olaf had baptized Halogaland, he and Queen Thora were newly married in Nidaros and soon she became pregnant, which surprised her because she had not gotten pregnant before with either King Sweyn or with King Burizleif.  But she lost the baby and the midwives had to take it out and it had been a boy child, which had been both stout and promising, and she called it Harald and they buried its body in Lade, in the backyard of Sweyn’s longhall there because the baby had not been born alive and had never been baptised and could not be buried in a Christian cemetery.

The king and queen had loved the prospective infant exceedingly, and had rejoiced in the pregnancy and both hoped that it would grow up and inherit the attributes of its father; but it was not to be, which both took much to heart.  Queen Thora was distraught by how things had turned out.  She had always wanted a baby and when Gunhilde had so many so easily with King Sweyn, her failure to conceive had been torture.  And when King Sweyn had sold her for a chest of gold to King Burizleif and his daughter, Gunhild, who came as part of the deal, started bearing King Sweyn babies, her failure to conceive had caused her severe depression, which had made it easier for Sweyn to send her off to Wendland and the old king there.  Only then, was her failure to conceive a blessing.  And then she’d escaped.  Burizleif’s daughter, Astrid, who was also part of the deal somehow, was also having trouble conceiving, and was equally envious of her sister, Gunhild’s, fertility and helped her escape and passed her troublesome step-mother off to her sister in Denmark.  Thora told Olaf that she had a chest of gold in Wendland, that was too heavy for four men to carry, that King Sweyn had given out as her dowry, and King Olaf started to give an ear to her complaints of all the property she had left in Wendland.

In that winter were many Icelanders and other clever men in King Olaf’s great longhall, which had belonged to Jarl Haakon, as before described.  Ingebjorg, Trygve’s daughter, King Olaf’s sister, was also at the court at that time.  She was beautiful in appearance, modest and frank with the people, had a steady manly judgment, and was beloved of all.  She was very fond of the Icelanders who were there, but mostly of Kjartan Olafson, for he had been longer than the others in the king’s house, and he found it always amusing to converse with her, for she had both understanding and cleverness in talk.  The king was always gay and full of mirth in his intercourse with people, and often asked about the manners of the great men and chiefs in the neighbouring countries, when strangers from Denmark or Sweden came to see him.

The summer before Halfred Vandredaskald had come from Gotland, where he had been with Jarl Ragnvald, Ulf’s son, who had lately come to the government of Vaster Gotland.  Ulf, Ragnvald’s father, was a brother of Sigrid ‘the Haughty’; so that King Olaf Skotkonung, the Swedish ruler, and Jarl Ragnvald were cousins.

Halfred told Olaf many things about the jarl: he said he was an able chief, excellently fitted for governing, generous with money, brave and steady in friendship.  Halfred said also the jarl desired much the friendship of King Olaf, and had spoken of making courtship with Ingebjorg, Trygve’s daughter.  The same winter came ambassadors from Gotland, and fell in with King Olaf in the north, in Nidaros, and brought the message which Halfred had spoken of, that the jarl desired to be King Olaf’s entire friend, and wished to become his brother-in-law by obtaining his sister Ingebjorg in marriage.  Therewith the ambassadors laid before the king sufficient tokens in proof that in reality they came from the jarl on this errand.

The king listened with approbation to their speech; but said that Ingebjorg must determine on his assent to the marriage. The king then talked to his sister about the matter, and asked her opinion about it.  She answered to this effect, “I have been with you for some time, and you have shown brotherly care and tender respect for me ever since you came to the country.  I will agree therefore to your proposal about my marriage, provided that you do not marry me to a heathen man.”

The king said it should be as she wished.  The king then spoke to the ambassadors, and it was settled before they departed that in summer Jarl Ragnvald should meet the king in the east parts of the country, to enter into the fullest friendship with each other, and when they met they would settle about the marriage.  With this reply the jarl’s messengers went eastward, and King Olaf remained all winter in Nidaros in great splendour, and with many people about him.

Soon after the king convoked a Thing in the town, and proclaimed to all the public, that in summer he would go abroad upon an expedition out of the country, and would raise both ships and men from every district; and at the same time fixed how many ships he would have from the whole Trondheim fjord.  Then he sent his war-token south and north, both along the sea-coast and up in the interior of the country, to let an army be gathered.  The king ordered the Long Serpent to be put into the water, along with all his other ships both small and great.

He himself steered the Long Serpent.  When the crews were taken out for the ships, they were so carefully selected that no man on board the Long Serpent was older than sixty or younger than twenty years, and all were men distinguished for strength and courage.  Those who were Olaf’s bodyguard were, in particular, chosen men, both of the natives and of foreigners, and the boldest and strongest.

Ulf the Red was the name of the man who bore King Olaf’s banner, and was in the forecastle of the Long Serpent; and with him was: Kolbjorn the marshal, Thorstein Uxafot, and Vikar of Tiundaland, a brother of Arnliot Gelline.

By the bulkhead next the forecastle were: Vak Raumason from Gaut River, Berse the Strong, An Skyte from Jamtaland, Thrand the Strong from Telemark, and his brother Uthyrmer.

Besides these were, of Halogaland men, Thrand Skjalge and Ogmund Sande, Hlodver Lange from Saltvik, and Harek Hvasse; together with these Trondheim men: Ketil ‘the High’, Thorfin Eisle, Havard and his brothers from Orkadal.

The following were in the fore-hold: Bjorn from Studla, Bork from the fjords, Thorgrim Thjodolfson from Hvin, Asbjorn and Orm, Thord from Njardarlog, Thorstein ‘the White’ from Oprustadar, Arnor from More, Halstein and Hauk from the Fjord district, Eyvind Snak, Bergthor Bestil, Halkel from Fialer, Olaf Dreng, Arnfin from Sogn, Sigurd Bild, Einar from Hordaland, and Fin, and Ketil from Rogaland and Grjotgard ‘the Brisk’.

The following were in the hold next the mast: Einar Tambaskelfer, who was not reckoned as fully experienced, being only eighteen years old, Thorstein Hlifarson, Thorolf, Ivar Smetta, and Orm Skogarnef.

Many other valiant men were in the Serpent, although we cannot tell all their names.  In every half division of the hold were eight men, and each and all chosen men, and in the fore-hold were thirty men.  It was a common saying among people, that the Long Serpent’s crew was as distinguished for bravery, strength, and daring, among other men, as the Long Serpent was distinguished among other ships.

Thorkel Nefja, the king’s brother, commanded the Short Serpent; and Thorkel Dydril and Jostein, the king’s mother’s brothers, had the Crane; and both these ships were well manned.  King Olaf had eleven large ships from Trondheim, besides vessels with twenty rowers’ benches, smaller vessels, and provision-vessels.

King Olaf proceeded in summer with his ships and men southwards along the land and past Stad.  With him were Queen Thora and Princess Ingebjorg, Trygve’s daughter, the king’s sister.  Many of his friends also joined him, and other persons of consequence who had prepared themselves to travel with the king.  The first man among these was his brother-in-law, Erling Skjalgson, who had with him a large ship of thirty benches of rowers, and which was in every respect well equipped.  His brothers-in-law Hyrning and Thorgeir also joined him, each of whom for himself steered a large vessel; and many other powerful men besides followed him.  With all this war-force he sailed southwards along the land; but when he came south as far as Rogaland he stopped there, for Erling Skjalgson had prepared for him a splendid feast at Sole.

There Jarl Ragnvald, Ulf’s son, from Gotland, came to meet the king, and to settle the business which had been proposed in winter in the messages between them, namely, the marriage with Ingebjorg the king’s sister.  Olaf received him kindly; and when the matter came to be spoken of the king said he would keep his word, and marry his sister Ingebjorg to him, provided he would accept the true faith, and make all his subjects he ruled over in his land be baptized.  The jarl agreed to this, and he and all his followers were baptized.  Now was the feast enlarged that Erling had prepared, for the earl held his wedding there with Ingebjorg the king’s sister.  King Olaf had now married off all his sisters.  The jarl, with Ingebjorg, set out on his way home and the king sent learned men with him to baptize the people in Gotland, and to teach them the right faith and morals.  The king and the earl parted in the greatest friendship.

After his sister Ingebjorg’s wedding, the king made ready in all haste to leave the country with his army, which was both great and made up of fine men.  When he left the land and sailed southwards he had sixty ships of war, with which he sailed past Denmark, and in through the Sound, and on to Wendland.  He appointed a meeting with King Burizleif; and when the kings met, they spoke about the property which King Olaf demanded, and the conference went off peaceably, as a good account was given of the properties which King Olaf thought himself entitled to there.  He passed much of the summer there and found many of his old friends.

The Danish King Sweyn ‘Forkbeard’ was happily married to Sigrid ‘the Haughty’.  Sigrid was King Olaf Tryggvason’s greatest enemy, the cause of which was that King Olaf had broken off with her and had slapped her in the face.  She urged King Sweyn often to give battle to King Olaf Tryggvason; saying that he had reason enough, as Olaf had married his sister Thora without his leave, “and that your predecessors would not have submitted to such treatment.”  Such persuasions Sigrid had often in her mouth, and Jarl Eirik supported her in this, and at last she brought it so far that Sweyn resolved firmly on doing so.  ‘It is time to return Norway to its Aesir roots,’ he told himself.

Early in spring King Sweyn sent messengers eastward into Svithjod and Gardar, to his son-in-law Olaf Skotkonung, the Swedish king, to his son, Grand Prince Valdamar ‘the Great’ of Hraes’, and to Jarl Eirik in Ipswich, and informed them that King Olaf of Norway was levying men for an expedition, and intended in summer to go to Wendland.  To this news the Danish king added an invitation to Prince Valdamar and the Swedish king and Jarl Eirik to meet King Svein with an army, so that all together they might make an attack on King Olaf Tryggvason.  Prince Valdamar sent news that his first wife, Princess Hraeguneda of Polotsk, had just died in childbirth, but had given Valdy a last and final prince, but the Swedish king and Jarl Eirik were ready enough for this, and immediately assembled great fleets and armies, with which they sailed to Denmark, and arrived there after King Olaf Tryggvason had sailed to the eastward.

Haldor the Unchristian tells of this in his lay on Jarl Eirik:

“The king-subduer raised a host

Of warriors on the Swedish coast.

The brave went southwards to the fight,

Who love the sword-storm’s gleaming light;

The brave, who fill the wild wolf’s mouth,

Followed bold Eirik to the south;

The brave, who sport in blood — each one

With the bold earl to sea is gone.”

The Swedish king and Jarl Eirik sailed to meet the Danish king, and they had all, when together, an immense force.

At the same time that King Sweyn sent a message to Svithjod for an army, he sent Jarl Sigvald to Wendland to spy out King Olaf Tryggvason’s proceedings, and to bring it about by cunning devices that King Sweyn and King Olaf should come against each other.  So Sigvald set out for Wendland, first, going to Jomsborg, and then he sought out King Olaf Tryggvason.  There was much friendship in their conversation, and the jarl got himself into great favour with the king.  Astrid, the jarl’s wife, King Burizleif’s daughter, was a great friend of King Olaf Tryggvason, particularly on account of the connection which had been between them when Olaf was married to her sister Geira.

Jarl Sigvald was a prudent, ready-minded man and, as he had got a voice in King Olaf’s council, he put him off much from sailing homewards, finding various reasons for delay.  Olaf’s people were in the highest degree dissatisfied with this; for the men were anxious to get home, and they lay ready to sail, waiting only for a wind.

At last Jarl Sigvald got a secret message from Denmark that King Sweyn had returned from Baghdad and that the Swedish king’s army was arrived from the east, and that Jarl Eirik’s also was ready, some having arrived from Ipswich and some from Sweden; and that all these chiefs had resolved to sail into The Sound between Denmark and Skane and wait for King Olaf at an island which is called Svold.  They also desired the jarl to contrive matters so that they should meet King Olaf there.

There came first a flying report to Wendland that the Danish King Sweyn, had fitted out an army; and it was soon whispered that he intended to attack King Olaf.  But Jarl Sigvald said to King Olaf, “It never can be King Sweyn’s intention to venture with the Danish force alone, to give battle to thee with such a powerful army; but if thou hast any suspicion that evil is afoot, I will follow thee with my force, and I will give thee eleven well-manned ships.”

The king accepted this offer; and as the light breeze of wind that came was favourable, he ordered the ships to get under way, and the war-horns to sound the departure.  The sails were hoisted and all the small vessels, sailing fastest, got out to sea before the others.  Jarl Sigvald sailed nearest to the king’s ship and called to those on board to tell the king to sail in his keel-track: “For I know where the water is deepest between the islands and in the sounds, and these large ships require the deepest.”

Then the jarl sailed first with his eleven ships, and the king followed with his large ships, also eleven in number; but the whole of the rest of the fleet sailed out to sea.  Now when Jarl Sigvald came sailing close under the island of Svold, a skiff rowed out to inform the jarl that the Danish king’s fleet was lying hidden in the harbour before them.  Then the jarl ordered the sails of his vessels to be struck, and they rowed in under shelter of the island.

Haldor the Unchristian says:

“From out the south bold Trygve’s son

With one-and-seventy ships came on,

To dye his sword in bloody fight,

Against the Danish foeman’s might.

But the false earl, the king betrayed;

And treacherous Sigvald, it is said,

Deserted from King Olaf’s fleet,

And basely fled, the Danes to meet.”

It is said here that King Olaf and Jarl Sigvald had seventy sail of vessels: and one more, when they sailed from the south.  The one more was Princess Astrid’s personal warship that her father, King Burizleif had provided for her.  He told her to keep it out of any fight, for he feared that, if there was trouble, Jarl Sigvald and his famed Jomsvikings would be in the thick of it.

The Danish King Sweyn, the Swedish King Olaf, and the Norwegian Jarl Eirik, were there with all their forces.  The weather being fine and clear sunshine, all these chiefs, with a great suite, went out on the isle beyond the harbour to see the vessels sailing out at sea, and many of them crowded together; and they saw among them one large and glancing ship.

The two kings said, “That is a large and very beautiful vessel: that will be the Long Serpent.”

Jarl Eirik replied, “That is not the Long Serpent.”

And he was right; for it was the ship belonging to Eindride of Gimsar.

Soon after they saw another vessel coming sailing along much larger than the first; then said King Sweyn, “Olaf Tryggvason must be afraid, for he does not venture to sail with the figure-head of the dragon upon his ship.”

Says Jarl Eirik, “That is not the king’s ship yet; for I know that ship by the coloured stripes of cloth in her sail.  That is Erling Skialgson’s.  Let him sail; for it is the better for us that the ship is away from Olaf’s fleet, so well-equipped as she is.”

Soon after they saw and knew Jarl Sigvald’s ships, which turned in and laid themselves under the island.  Then they saw three ships coming along under sail, and one of them very large.

King Sweyn ordered his men to go to their ships, “for there comes the Long Serpent.”

Jarl Eirik said, “Many other great and stately vessels have they besides the Long Serpent.  Let us wait a little.”

Then said many, “Jarl Eirik will not fight and avenge his father; and it is a great shame that it should be told that we lay here with so great a force, and allowed King Olaf to sail out before our eyes.”

But when they had spoken thus for a short time, they saw four ships coming sailing along, of which one had a large dragon-head richly gilt.  Then King Sweyn stood up and said, “That dragon shall carry me this evening high, for I shall steer it.”

Then said many, “The Long Serpent is indeed a wonderfully large and beautiful vessel, and it shows a great mind to have built such a ship.”

Jarl Eirik said under his breath, “If King Olaf had no other vessels but only that one, King Sweyn would never take it from him with his Danish force alone.”

Thereafter all the people rushed on board their ships, took down the tents, and in all haste made ready for battle.  While the chiefs were speaking among themselves as above related, they saw three very large ships coming sailing along, and at last after them a fourth, and that was the Long Serpent.  Of the large ships which had gone before, and which they had taken for the Long Serpent, the first was the Crane; the one after that was the Short Serpent; and when they really saw the Long Serpent, all knew, and nobody had a word to say against it, that it must be Olaf Tryggvason who was sailing in such a vessel, and they went to their ships to arm for the fight.

An agreement had been concluded among the chiefs, King Sweyn, King Olaf the Swede, and Jarl Eirik, that they should divide Norway among them in three parts, in case they succeeded against Olaf Tryggvason, but that he of the chiefs who should first board the Long Serpent should have her, and all the booty found in her, and each should have the ships he cleared for himself.

Jarl Eirik had a large ship of war which he used upon his viking expeditions, and there was an iron beard or comb above on both sides of the stem, and below it a thick iron plate as broad as the combs, which went down quite to the gunnel.

When Jarl Sigvald with his vessels rowed in under the island, Thorkel Dydril of the Crane, and the other ship commanders who sailed with him, saw that he turned his ships towards the isle, and thereupon let fall the sails, and rowed after him, calling out, and asking why he sailed that way.

The jarl answered that he was waiting for King Olaf, as he feared there were enemies in the water.  They lay upon their oars until Thorkel Nefia came up with the Short Serpent and the three ships which followed him.

When they told them the same they too struck sail, and let the ships drive, waiting for King Olaf.

But when the king sailed past the isle, the whole enemies’ fleet came rowing within them out to the Sound.  When they saw this they begged the king to keep on his way, and not risk battle with so great a force, for he was still at full speed with a full sail up.  The king saw that he could outrun the Danes but that the ships that had slowed to wait for him could not, for they were now dead in the water thanks to Jarl Sigvald, so Olaf replied, high on the quarter-deck where he stood, “Strike the sails; never shall men of mine think of flight.  I have never fled from battle.  Let God dispose of my life, but flight I shall never take.”  It was done as the king commanded.

Halfred tells of it thus:

“And far and wide the saying bold

Of the brave warrior shall be told.

The king, in many a fray well tried,

To his brave champions round him cried,

‘My men shall never learn from me

From the dark weapon-cloud to flee.’

Nor were the brave words spoken then

Forgotten by his faithful men.”

King Olaf ordered the war-horns to sound for all his ships to close up to each other side by side.  The king’s ship , the Long Serpent, lay in the middle of the line, and on one side lay the Serpent, and on the other the Crane; and as they made fast the top strakes together, the Long Serpent’s forestem and the Serpent’s were in line together; but when the king saw it he called out to his men, and ordered them to lay the larger ship more in advance, so that its stern should not lie so far out behind.  Then said Ulf the Red, “If the Long Serpent is to lie as much more ahead of the other ships as she is longer than them, we shall have hard work of it here on the forecastle.”

The king replied, “I did not think I had a forecastle man afraid as well as red.”

Said Ulf, “Defend your quarterdeck as I shall the forecastle.”  The king had a bow in his hands, and laid an arrow on the string, and aimed at Ulf.  Ulf said, “Shoot another way, king, where it is more needful: my work here is your gain.”

King Olaf stood on the Serpent’s quarterdeck, high over the others.  He had a gilt shield, a helmet inlaid with gold and over his armour he had a short red coat, and was easily distinguished from other men.  When King Olaf saw the scattered forces of the enemy gather themselves together under the banners of their ships, he asked, “Who is the chief of the force right opposite to us?”

He was answered that it was King Sweyn with the Danish army.

The king replied, “We are not afraid of these soft Danes, for there is no bravery in them; but who are the troops on the right of the Danes?”

He was answered that it was King Olaf Skotkonung with the Swedish forces.

“Better it were,” said King Olaf, “for these Swedes to be sitting at home killing their sacrifices, than to be venturing under our weapons from the Long Serpent.  But who owns the large ships on the larboard side of the Danes?”

“That is Jarl Eirik Haakonson,” said they.

The king replied, “He, I think, has good reason for meeting us; and we may expect the sharpest conflict with these men, for they are Norsemen like ourselves.”

The kings now laid out their oars, and prepared to attack.  King Sweyn laid his ship against the forecastle of the Long Serpent.  Outside of him Olaf the Swede laid himself, and set his ship’s stern against the outermost ship of King Olaf’s line; and on the other side lay Jarl Eirik.  Then a hard combat began.  Jarl Sigvald held back with the oars on his ships, and did not join the fray.

So said Skule Thorsteinson, who at that time was with Jarl Eirik:

“I followed Sigvald in my youth,

And gallant Eirik, and in truth

The’ now I am grown stiff and old,

In the spear-song I once was bold.

Where arrows whistled on the shore

Of Svold fjord my shield I bore,

And stood amidst the loudest clash

When swords on shields made fearful crash.”

And Halfred also sings thus:

“In truth I think the gallant king,

Midst such a foemen’s gathering,

Would be the better of some score

Of his tight Trondheim lads, or more;

For many a chief has run away,

And left our brave king in the fray,

Two great kings’ power to withstand,

And one great earl’s, with his small band,

The king who dares such mighty deed

A hero for his skald would need.”

This battle was one of the severest ever told of, and many were the people slain.  The forecastle men of the Long Serpent, the Little Serpent, and the Crane, threw grapplers and stem chains into King Sweyn’s ship, and used their weapons well against the people standing below them, for their ships were larger and stood higher above the waters, and they cleared the decks of all the ships they could lay fast hold of, and King Sweyn, and all the men who escaped, fled to other vessels, and laid themselves out of bow-shot.  It went with this force just as King Olaf Tryggvason had foreseen.

Then King Olaf the Swede laid his ships beside them in their place, but when he came near the great ships it went with him as with them, for he lost many men and some ships, and was obliged to get away.

But Jarl Eirik, too, knew how to handle the big ships of King Olaf’s formation, for he, himself, had a large Norse ship and he remembered what had worked for the Jomsvikings at the Battle of Hjorungavagr, and he laid his ship side by side with the outermost of King Olaf’s ships, thinned it of men, cut the cables, and let it drive.  Then he laid alongside of the next, and fought until he had cleared it of men also.  Replacements streamed onto his higher ship from the rest of his fleet and soon all the people who were in the smaller ships of Olaf’s formation began to run into the larger, and the jarl cut them loose as fast as he cleared them of men.  The Danes and Swedes laid themselves now out of shooting distance all around Olaf’s ship; but Jarl Eirik lay always close alongside of the ships, and used his shields and swords and battle-axes, and as fast as people fell in his vessel others, Danes and Swedes, came in their place.

So says Haldor, the Unchristian:

“Sharp was the clang of shield and sword,

And shrill the song of spears on board,

And whistling arrows thickly flew

Against the Serpent’s gallant crew.

And still fresh foemen, it is said,

Earl Eirik to her long side led;

Whole armies of his Danes and Swedes,

Wielding on high their blue sword-blades.”

Then the fight became most severe, and many people fell.  But at last it came to this, that all King Olaf Tryggvason’s ships were cleared of men except the Long Serpent, on board of which all who could still carry their arms were gathered. Then Jarl Eirik lay with his ship by the side of the Serpent, and the fight went on with battle-axe and sword.

So says Haldor:

“Hard pressed on every side by foes,

The Serpent reels beneath the blows;

Crash go the shields around the bow!

Breast-plates and breasts pierced thro’ and thro!

In the sword-storm the Holm beside,

The earl’s ship lay alongside

The king’s Long Serpent of the sea —

Fate gave the earl the victory.”

Jarl Eirik was in the forehold of his ship, where a cover of shields had been set up.  In the fight, both hewing weapons, sword, and axe, and the thrust of spears had all been used; and all that could be used as weapons for casting were cast.  Some used bows, some threw spears with the hand.  So many weapons were cast into the Serpent, and so thick flew spears and arrows, that the shields could scarcely receive them, for on all sides the Long Serpent was surrounded by war-ships.

Then King Olaf’s men became so mad with rage, that they ran on board of the enemies ships, to get at the people with stroke of sword and kill them; but many did not lay themselves so near the Serpent, in order to escape the close encounter with battle-axe or sword; and thus the most of Olaf’s men went overboard and sank under their weapons, thinking they were fighting on plain ground.

So says Halfred:

“The daring lads shrink not from death;

O’erboard they leap, and sink beneath

The Serpent’s keel: all armed they leap,

And down they sink five fathoms deep.

The foe was daunted at the cheers;

The king, who still the Serpent steers,

In such a strait — beset with foes —

Wanted but some more lads like those.”

Einar Tambarskelver, one of the sharpest of archers, stood by the mast, and shot with his bow.  Einar shot an arrow at Jarl Eirik, which hit the tiller end just above the earl’s head so hard that it entered the wood up to the arrow-shaft.  The jarl looked that way, and asked if they knew who had shot and at the same moment another arrow flew between his hand and his side, and into the stuffing of the chief’s stool, so that the barb stood far out on the other side.  Then said the jarl to a man called Fin, “Shoot that tall man by the mast!”

Fin shot and the arrow hit the middle of Einar’s bow just at the moment that Einar was drawing it, and the bow was split in two parts.  “What is that.” cried King Olaf, “that broke with such a noise?”

“Norway, king, from thy hands,” cried Einar.

“No!  Not quite so much as that,” said the king.  “Take my bow, and shoot,” and he flung the bow to him.  Einar took the bow, and drew it over the head of the arrow.  “Too weak, too weak,” said he, “for the bow of a mighty king!” and, throwing the bow aside, he took sword and shield, and fought valiantly.

The king stood on the gangways of the Long Serpent and shot the greater part of the day; sometimes with the bow, sometimes with the spear, and always throwing two spears at once.  He looked down over the ship’s sides, and saw that his men struck briskly with their swords, and yet wounded but seldom.

Then he called aloud, “Why do ye strike so gently that ye seldom cut?”

One among the people answered, “The swords are now blunt and full of notches.”

Then the king went down into the forehold, opened the chest under the throne, and took out many sharp swords, which he handed to his men; but as he stretched down his right hand with them, some observed that blood was running down under his steel glove, but no one knew where he was wounded.

Desperate was the defence in the Long Serpent, and there was the heaviest destruction of men done by the forecastle crew, and those of the forehold, for in both places the men were chosen men, and the ship was highest, but in the middle of the ship the people were thinned.  Now when Jarl Eirik saw there were but few people remaining beside the ship’s mast, he determined to board; and he entered the Serpent with four others.  Then came Hyrning, the king’s brother-in-law, and some others against him, and there was the most severe combat, and at last the jarl was forced to leap back on board his own ship again, and some who had accompanied him were killed, and others wounded.

Thord Kolbeinson alludes to this:

“On Odin’s deck, all wet with blood,

The helm-adorned hero stood;

And gallant Hyrning honour gained,

Clearing all round with sword deep stained.

The high mountain peaks shall fall,

Ere men forget this to recall.”

Now the fight became hot indeed, and many men fell on board the Long Serpent, and the men on board of her began to be thinned off, and the defence to be weaker.  The jarl resolved to board the Serpent again, and again he met with a warm reception.  When the forecastle men of the Serpent saw what he was doing, they went aft and made a desperate fight; but so many men of the Serpent had fallen, that the ship’s sides were in many places quite bare of defenders; and the jarl’s men poured in all around into the vessel, and all the men who were still able to defend the ship crowded aft to the king, and arrayed themselves for his defence.

So says Haldor the Unchristian:

“Eirik cheers on his men,

‘On to the charge again!’

The gallant few

Of Olaf’s crew

Must refuge take

On the quarter-deck.

Around the king

They stand in ring;

Their shields enclose

The king from foes,

And the few who still remain

Fight madly, but in vain.

Eirik cheers on his men,

‘On to the charge again!'”

Kolbjorn the marshal, who had on clothes and arms like the king’s, and was a remarkably stout and handsome man, went up to king on the quarter-deck.  The battle was still going on fiercely even in the forehold.  But as many of the jarl’s men had now got onto the Serpent as could find room, and his ships lay all round her, and few were the people left in the Serpent for defence against so great a force; and in a short time most of the Serpent’s men fell, brave and stout though they were.

King Olaf and Kolbjorn the marshal both sprang overboard, each on his own side of the ship; but the jarl’s men had laid out boats around the Serpent, and killed those who leapt overboard.  Now when the king had sprung overboard, they tried to seize him with their hands, and bring him to Jarl Eirik; but King Olaf threw his shield over his head, and sank beneath the waters.  Kolbjorn held his shield behind him to protect himself from the spears cast at him from the ships which lay round the Serpent, and he fell so upon his shield that it came under him, so that he could not sink so quickly.  He was thus taken and brought into a boat, and they supposed he was the king.  He was brought before the jarl; and when the jarl saw it was Kolbjorn, and not the king, he gave him his life.  At the same moment all of King Olaf’s men who were still alive sprang overboard from the Serpent; and Thorkel Nefia, the king’s brother, was the last of all the men who sprang overboard.

It is thus told concerning the king by Halfred:

“The Serpent and the Crane

Lay wrecks upon the main.

On his sword he cast a glance, —

With it he saw no chance.

To his marshal, who of yore

Many a war-chance had come o’er,

He spoke a word — then drew in breath,

And sprang to his deep-sea death.”

Jarl Sigvald, as before related, came from Wendland, in company with King Olaf, with ten ships; but the eleventh ship was manned with the men of Astrid, King Burizleif’s daughter, the wife of Jarl Sigvald.  Now when King Olaf sprang overboard, the whole army raised a shout of victory; and then Jarl Sigvald and his men put their oars in the water and rowed towards the battle.

Haldor the Unchristian tells of it thus:

“Then first the Vindland vessels came

Into the fight with little fame;

The fight still lingered on the wave,

Tho’ hope was gone with Olaf brave.

War, like a full-fed ravenous beast,

Still opened her grim jaws for the feast.

The few who stood now quickly fled,

When the shout told — ‘Olaf is dead!'”

But the Wendland cutter, in which Astrid’s men were, rowed back to Wendland; and the report went immediately abroad and was told by many, that King Olaf had cast off his coat-of-mail under water, and had swum, diving under the longships, until he came to the Wendland cutter, and that Astrid’s men had conveyed him to Wendland: and many tales have been made since about the adventures of Olaf the king.

Halfred speaks thus about it:

“Does Olaf live? or is he dead?

Has he the hungry ravens fed?

I scarcely know what I should say,

For many tell the tale each way.

This I can say, nor fear to lie,

That he was wounded grievously,

So wounded in this bloody strife,

He scarce could come away with life.”

But however this may have been, King Olaf Tryggvason never came back again to his kingdom of Norway.  Halfred Vandredaskald speaks also thus about it:

“The witness who reports this thing

Of Trygve’s son, our gallant king,

Once served the king, and truth should tell,

For Olaf hated lies like hell.

If Olaf ‘scaped from this sword-thing,

Worse fate, I fear, befell our king

Than people guess, or e’er can know,

For he was hemm’d in by the foe.

From the far east some news is rife

Of king sore wounded saving life;

His death, too sure, leaves me no care

For cobweb rumours in the air.

It never was the will of fate

That Olaf from such perilous strait

Should ‘scape with life! this truth may grieve,

‘What people wish they soon believe.'”

By this victory Jarl Eirik Haakonson became owner of the Long Serpent, and made a great booty besides; and he steered the Serpent from the battle.

So says Haldor:

“Olaf, with glittering helmet crowned,

Had steered the Serpent through the Sound;

And people dressed their boats, and cheered

As Olaf’s fleet in splendour steered.

But the descendent of great Heming,

Whose race tells many a gallant sea-king,

His blue sword in red life-blood stained,

And bravely Olaf’s long ship gained.”

Now when Sweyn the Danish king, Olaf the Swedish king, and Jarl Eirik divided the kingdom of Norway between them, King Olaf got four districts in the Trondheim country, and also the districts of More and Raumsdal; and in the east part of the land he got Ranerike, from the Gaut river to Svinasund.

King Sweyn, as adopted son of Jarl Haakon, and Jarl Eirik’s blood brother, was called Jarl Svein and was engaged at this time to marry Princess Holmfrid, a daughter of King Olaf Skotkonung, the Swedish king.  Olaf gave these dominions into ‘Jarl Svein’s’ hands, on the same conditions as the sub kings or jarls had held them formerly from the upper-king of the country.  Jarl Eirik got four districts in the Trondheim country, and Halogaland, Naumudal, the Fjord districts, Sogn, Hordaland, Rogaland, and North Agder, all the way to the Naze.

So says Thord Kolbeinson:

“All chiefs within our land

On Eirik’s side now stand:

Erling alone, I know

Remains Jarl Eirik’s foe.

All praise our generous jarl, —

He gives, and is no churl:

All men are well content

Fate such a chief has sent.

From Veiga to Agder they,

Well pleased, the earl obey;

And all will by him stand,

To guard the Norsemen’s land.

And now the news is spread

That mighty Trygve’s son is dead,

And luck is gone from those

Who were the Norsemen’s foes.”

While Prince Valdamar was still dealing with the death of his first wife, Hraeguneda, word arrived in Hraes’ that King Olaf Tryggvason was dead, killed at the Battle of Svolder, and it was said that when Valdamar’s mother, Princess Malfrieda heard the news, she dropped dead from grief.  Others said it was from a sudden illness, but Valdy knew better.

The Danish King Sweyn retained Viken as he had held it before, but he gave Raumarike and Hedemark to Jarl Eirik.  Jarl ‘Sweyn Haakonson’ also got the title of Swedish jarl from Olaf the Swedish king along with his young daughter.  Jarl Eirik and Sweyn both retained their Aesir faith, but as long as they ruled in Norway they allowed everyone to do as they pleased in the holding of Christianity or not.  But, on the other hand, they held fast by the old laws, and all the old rights and customs of the land, and were excellent men and good rulers.  Jarl Eirik had most to say of the two brothers in all matters of government in Norway and Sweyn was fine with that.

Jarl Eirik and his men sailed the Long Serpent to Ipswich and he showed it to Princess Gyda and she was astounded by the size of it, and the quality of its finish, and by the gold gilt dragon’s head and tail, so pagan in their look and feel.  Eirik took her up on the high quarterdeck where King Olaf and his men had made their last stand and then further up onto the poop deck where Olaf and Kolbein had dove down into the waters to escape death.  “Jarl Olaf escaped to his death,” Eirik lamented, “but, his marshal, Kolbein was captured and I bent him over his shield and spared him his life.”  Gyda didn’t know what to say.  Half the soldiers of England had been bent over their shields and taken from behind by the Danes or sent off to the eunuch armies in the east.  “Olaf should have fought me to the death and earned his place in Valhall, or should have at least bent before me o’er his shield, but he lept into the waters, depriving me of his death or supplication.  Now there is but one thing that I must do, and it shall pain us both.”

Gyda wanted to ask him what, but he had not offered, and she was afraid to press.

That night a great feast was held in the royal longhall in Ipswich and it went on late into the evening.  As midnight approached, Jarl Eirik and Princess Gyda retired to their great master suite and guards were posted at the double doors while the party went on without.  Jarl Eirik remembered the night when the two had gotten drunk and had first made love and he undressed Gyda who was tipsy from wine and he slid her between silk sheets.  He had been drinking as well, but he’d made her match him cup for cup and she was far more taken by it than he, so, he undressed himself and he slipped between the sheets and began caressing her all over her body.  He began sucking on her breasts and the room was spinning when he entered her and he began thrusting slowly and gently and he told her he loved her as he flowed inside her.  He was caressing her pretty face as there was a knocking at the door, and the guards entered with the two young daughters of Jarl Olaf.  They were in their nightclothes and the guards stripped them naked and left them standing, bewildered and frightened, by the side of the bed, and they returned to their posts.

“Come into bed,” Jarl Eirik said, “and join your mother.”

“Don’t!” Gyda pleaded, as the wine left her head.  “They’re just girls!”

“It is the Aesir way,” Eirik explained, “and his oldest has just reached marriageable age so, it must be done.”

“Just take the one,” Gyda bargained, fighting back the wine.

“Fine,” and Eirik pulled Olaf’s oldest girl on top of himself and he entered her with some force, but no blood came forth.  He pulled her around and got on top of her and he thrust into her gently as she cried and he focked her for some time before he came within her.  Then he tucked her between himself and Gyda and asked his wife how she had lost her virginity.  Gyda told him she had been playing with her personal things and had used her horse dildo upon herself out of curiosity.  “That is unfortunate,” Eirik said, grabbing Olaf’s younger daughter and placing her atop his hips.  “Don’t”, Gyda cried weakly as Eirik forced his way into the girl and her blood flowed freely.  His steed was not as big and hard the third time around so, the girl rode it bravely until he came again.  He then tucked her between himself and Gyda as well and he covered them all under blankets and they slept together all night.

Yulefest was again celebrated in Roskilde and people came from all over the northern land to celebrate the great victory of the Danes, Swedes, and Norwegians over Jarl Olaf Tryggvason.  Hraes’ princes and managers were invited and arrived from all over Hraes’ Trading Company controlled lands as well.  And all were invited to celebrate the marriage of King Sweyn, as Jarl Svein of Norway, to Princess Holmfrid of Sweden, as she had just turned twelve in November and was of marriageable age.  The marriage was one of alliance only and Sweyn was named Jarl Svein of Norway for rights of succession reasons to keep the Swedish throne free of Danish claim.  Still, Princess Holmfrid was a Swedish beauty quite like his mother so, Sweyn helped himself to the girl and took her virginity over the Yule festive season and the young girl was swept up in the honours and adulation of her new Norwegian royalty.  She was going to eventually live in Lade and rule over all Jarl Svein’s Norse holdings there and her decisions over northern matters were subject to her father’s approval.

A second marriage took place in King Sweyn’s study and it was a marriage of victory and necessity, for Jarl Olaf’s oldest daughter was pregnant and Jarl Eirik took her in matrimony as well.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:

A.D. 1000.  This year the king went into Cumberland, and nearly

laid waste the whole of it with his army, whilst his navy sailed

about Chester with the design of co-operating with his land-forces;

but, finding it impracticable, they ravaged Anglesey.

The hostile fleet was this summer turned towards the kingdom of




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10.      “Scarce had Grotti come    out of grey mountain,

                   from out of the earth            the iron-hard slab,

                      nor had the mountain-maids now    to turn the millstone,

                        if we had not first      found it below.

                                   Anonymous; Grottasongr, Prose Edda (Hollander)9.      

(1001 AD)  In the early spring, King Sweyn and Jarl Eirik returned to England with the Danish legion and the jarl’s newly acquired Norwegian army and they reoccupied their fortifications on the Isle of Wight.  They left some of their officers and hearses there to organize the base for a spring assault and then the two blood brothers slipped off with a small fleet to Ipswich to spend some time with Princess Gyda and their children.  They had two women with them, Thora Haraldsdottir and Gunhild Burizleifsdottir.  Once news of Olaf Tryggvason’s death reached Wendland, King Burizleif’s agents began asking questions about the whereabouts of the king’s wife, Thora, and they were told she had died in the Battle of Svolder.  The agents didn’t believe the reports and began following Queen Consort Gunhild around in Roskilde and she feared she was going to be kidnapped to get information on Queen Thora so, King Sweyn packed up both women and took them off to Angleland with him.  He planned on having them live with Princess Gyda for a while, at least until the Wend agents got tired of searching for Thora.

Thora and Gunhild were looking forward to living in Ipswich, to seeing England.  The only English they had really seen were from the steady stream of Anglo-Saxon slaves being transported east through Denmark and the people that they saw enslaved were very good looking folk who fetched the highest prices in the slave markets of Constantinople and Baghdad.  They wanted to see free English, young English men and women living in their towns and cities.  Thora had only ever been with older men, King Sweyn, King Burizleif, even King Olaf, who had been in his thirties.  The two women met Princess Gyda, who was a little older than they were, but not by much, and she introduced them to her staff, Hearse Justin who commanded the local militia or fyrd, as it was called, and his son, Justinian, who was all of eighteen and training to be an officer, and Thora fell in love at first sight.  She had never seen a young man so handsome and so young and she stammered to introduce herself to the boy and she flushed when she stammered, and young Justinian thought the princess much younger than she was because she blushed so youthfully.  He was immediately attracted to her Danish looks, for he was an Angle who could trace his family roots back hundreds of years to relatives who still lived in Jelling in Jutland.  Not many could anymore but he was from a line of minor royals and hearses who had made their martial living off of their noble name for centuries.  Gunhild saw the spark go off between the two but she kept it from her husband Sweyn.

King Sweyn and Jarl Eirik returned to the Isle of Wight and their legions were ready to once again assault England.  Once again an attack on Southampton was planned, followed by another siege on Winchester.  Jarl Eirik and the legions again set up trebuchets around the walls of Southampton  The walls had been repaired and strengthened since their last battle, but Sweyn had, again, brought shiploads of tonstone from Sweden.  Sweyn and Eirik met and decided to offer the people of Southampton terms if they surrendered before the assault began and they sent messengers with an offer that, because the city had been sacked in the Roman fashion just a few years earlier, if they surrendered now, the city would only be plundered and half the citizens would not be enslaved.  Word got around of the offer and the poor wanted to surrender, but the rich wanted to fight, trusting in their newly repaired and strengthened walls.  The ealdormen of the city, the men who had spent the money for the upgraded walls and had issued the contracts for the repairs, sided with the rich and decided to reject the offer.

King Sweyn was fine with that.  He needed the slaves anyway.  Demand was up in the east and the Battle of Svolder had interfered with the fall harvest of English slaves.  After Jarl Olaf had been defeated, the Danes, Swedes and pagan Norwegians took back Norway for the Aesir and enslaved Norse Christians at will, but most went back to their old pagan ways without complaint so, the numbers enslaved were low.  Only in the Viken were Christians entrenched and they lost a lot of people to the slave schools of Kiev.  More slaves were needed and the people of Southampton were very conveniently located for loading into slaver knars.

Once the assault commenced, it was immediately seen how much better the walls resisted the incredible impacts of the trebuchet shot.  The dense tonstone ballistae slammed into the walls and stuck fast in them, neither breaking the stones, nor bouncing back off them.  Usually bounce backs could be collected and reused.  This was going to take a lot of tonstone.  The ealdormen were elated with their handiwork and shouted obscenities down at the besieging Vikings from the walls, but the reason the tonstone was biting so deeply into the walls was because the general contractor for the repairs and upgrades had used a slightly softer stone from a nearby quarry and had bribed city masons to approve of the usage.  Each stone impacted by the very dense and hard tonstone had hairline cracks running through it and, when enough stone blocks had become compromised in one section of the walls, the whole repair collapsed and fell outside the walls in a pile of rubble.  It took over a week for the city walls to be reduced to a scalable height, but soon the Vikings were over them and the city was plundered, again, in the Roman fashion, 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 knars and, again, they sat in the harbour for three days while ransoms were arranged for people wealthy enough to be saved and, again, it was the poor who suffered the most.  The ealdormen had been complaining of how many of the local citizens were poor after the last sacking, but now their poor were all taken away.

Next, the Viking army moved inland against the people of Winchester and the government had never returned after the last sacking, long gone for the new capital, London, because the old capital was just too exposed to attack.  They, too, were offered terms and they took them because only the poor were left and plundering was better than enslavement.  The Viking army had to move further inland to get their next harvest of slaves and they did so unopposed.  The ships went up the River Itchen to support the heavy cavalry of the legions with supplies and fodder and the horse rode out in huge swathes, taking towns and villages too numerous to name and from all of these came slaves, the unransomed, and they were loaded into ships that had been emptied of their fodder and they were taken to Southampton and loaded into slaver knars to be taken to Roskilde where the great merchant fleet would soon be assembling.

The army progressed as far as Alton and were challenged there by the fyrds of Hampshire and hazel poles were set and the shield-walls met, and the Saxons died or their surrenders were accepted, taking knees or bending over shields as their conquering lords saw fit, and those that had fled beyond the hazel poles were open game for the heavy cavalry and were hewn down as they ran like deer before wolves.  After three days, half the captive warriors were enslaved and the other half were set free after pledging oaths of fealty to their lords that had raped them on the field and in their pavilions.  Thus, some captives became slaves and they were marched to Southampton where they waited for slaver ships and some captives were released, no longer to be warriors when faced by Vikings.  They could be warriors again when facing the Irish or the Scots or the Franks, for that matter, but they were possessed by the Danes now and could never take up arms against them.

The Danes and the Norwegians returned to Southampton, for King Athelred lost a lot of his top Earls and commanders in the Battle of Alton and King Sweyn did not want their king overthrown by his own people if he threatened London.  He was perfectly happy with having Athelred as king as long as England remained a source of supply for slaves.  King Sweyn met again with Jarl Eirik and his commanders and ordered them to ravage southern England all summer from the Isle of Wight while he led the merchant fleet east and engaged in trade.  But before he left, Sweyn and Eirik took a small warfleet to Ipswich to visit with Princess Gyda and her guests before Sweyn left for Baghdad.

In Ipswich, Sweyn learned that Princess Thora was in love with the son of the local fyrd commander, a hero of the Battle of Maldon.  He had been hoping that Thora might have begged forgiveness and come back to him, but he was happy when Gunhild did.  She begged forgiveness for helping Thora behind his back and she took extra efforts to gain his forgiveness and she joined Sweyn and Gyda and Eirik in bed one night and learned all about the Sacred Band of Brothers.  Princess Thora slept with her young hearse, Justinian, and she was starting to show her pregnancy by him.  After a week in Ipswich, Sweyn sailed for Denmark and Eirik returned to the Isle of Wight and began the sack of southern England.

Jarl Eirik led a large fleet from the Isle of Wight west past Southampton and up the River Test and pillaged the villages of Romsey, Compton, Houghton, Fullerton, Middleton and then the town of Whitchurch, enslaving half the populations as he progressed.  There was a steady stream of slaver knars sailing back down the Test and he followed them back to Fullerton and sailed up the River Anton to the city of Andover, which was walled, but of scalable height so the city was taken in a day and plundered for another three days.  Half the population was enslaved and the unransomed were loaded into knars returning up the Test.  Jarl Eirik and his fleet then preceded the slaver knars down the Anton and the Test back to the Isle of Wight.  Larger sea going knars were loading up the slaves there to take them east to the slave schools of Kiev.

Jarl Eirik and his men rested on Wight a few days while they loaded up the slaves and they enjoyed the women and children that were yet to be loaded.  Then the warfleet sailed west along the English Sea to Christchurch and sacked the city, then sailed up the River Avon to the villages of Burton, Winkton and Avon, then Ringwood, Bickton and Fordingbridge, then Breamore, Downton and Alderbury, plundering all as they went and slaver knars followed the fleet like seagulls following an English plow.  When they reached the city of Salisbury, the Saxons were waiting.  The city walls were stone and thirty feet high and would require some reduction by trebuchet so, they settled in for a siege.  The city had a thousand soldiers on the walls and had provisions for a whole summer of siege and they weren’t worried about catapults, but they had never seen a trebuchet before and the Viking army had two hundred of them and Jarl Eirik had the full Novgorod mobile legion at his disposal, ten thousand men, and they were soon loading Salisbury’s summer’s worth of stores into their ships.  An army travels on its stomach and now the legion had provisions to sail across southern England.

Ships were how large armies were provisioned in the east.  A few cargo knars could carry supplies to provision an army for months and if the goods were transported by a wagon based baggage train, the train would be larger than the army.  So, while reports were going back to London and King Athelred that the Viking army was sweeping across southern England, the mobile legion was actually sailing their transport warships across England up one river at a time.

They sailed back down the River Avon to Christchurch and then up the River Stour to the villages of Tuckton, Iford and Holdenhurst, then Knighton, Hayes and the town of Wimbourne Minster, then on to Sturminster, Shapwick and Littleton and then the town of Blandford followed by Bryanston and then they sailed back to the Isle of Wight, all the time being followed by their flock of seagulls.  Some of the sea going knars had returned from Kiev so, Jarl Eirik and his men partook of the English women before being loaded and gave them a sample of what their lots in life would be henceforth.

Then the warfleet sailed west to Bournemouth and up the River Bourne to the towns of Rossmore and Alderney.  Then they sailed further west to Poole then across Upton Lake to Hamworthy and Upton towns, then west of Poole up the River Frome to the town of Wareham, then Moreton and then the walled city of Dorchester.  It had been a great Roman city during British times so, the walls were high and very well built and had been well maintained over the years because Dorchester was famous for its granite stone and its stone masons.  Half the Ealdormen were stone masons so, whenever the economy was slow over the years, another tower was added to reinforce the walls.  Even with trebuchets and tonstone projectiles, it was going to be a hard nut to crack.  Jarl Eirik left half his legion and most of his trebuchets there and he sailed back down the Frome.

They sailed west to the Isle of Portland and Weymouth, both of which they sacked, then up the River Wey to Broadwey town and Upwey village, both of which they plundered.  On their way back downstream Eirik saw a Welsh ship he recognised and he hailed Weiand and asked him what he was doing there.  Weiand told him that King Sweyn had sent him a messenger to come help sack the Saxons.  “He made me an offer I couldn’t refuse!” Wee And said in his lilting Welsh-English that made people want to listen to him talk.  “I have half-brothers from here all the way to West Wales and I’m to guide you through Devonshire should you wish it!”  Eirik told him about the siege he was conducting against Dorchester and Weiand clicked his tongue and said it would be a tough one.  Eirik liked how Weiand just got right to the point and when they got back, he showed him the siegeworks.

Weiand was very impressed with the trebuchets and Eirik explained how they worked and how their whipping action achieved a much higher shot velocity than torsional catapults.  “Your troops go up and down those ladders all day?” Weiand said in amazement.  “Just up,” Eirik corrected him.  “They ride the ropes down all day, too.”

“Still,” Weiand said, “their legs must be strong as mules’!”

“The better to go up scaling ladders with.”

Weiand saw a footbow leaning against a tonstone bin and he said, “That’s a long bow if I’ve ever seen one!” and he took it up in his arms and he drew it like a handbow.

“That’s a footbow!” Eirik said.  “You shouldn’t be able to draw it like that.”  Eirik saw that the bow had a blue painted colour code stripe on it and he added, “It has a two hundred pound draw weight!  Your arms are as strong as a mule’s!”

“I’m a smith,” Weiand replied.  “My arms go up and down those ladders every day!”  He saw several footbow arrows pushed into the ground beside the bin and he nodded at Eirik and helped himself to an arrow and nocked it facing toward the city wall.

“That’s a long shot!” Eirik said.  “We keep the trebuchets this far back because the shot velocity is greatest as the arc of the stone begins its descent.”

Weiand saw that he had lots of arrow length left so, he kept the nocked arrow to his cheek and twisted his body to get his shoulder width into the shot and he let it fly just as a trebuchet released.  The arrow followed a slightly higher trajectory but travelled at about the same speed as the tonstone shot and the stone hit the wall two thirds up it as the arrow hit a man at the top of it.  The man dropped down behind the castellations and the men near him all ducked behind the stoneworks.

Eirik was amazed at the shot.  “I’ll give you a gold Byzant if you can do it again!”

“I don’t know if I can,” Weiand said.  “They’ve all ducked down behind the wall!  How about that man on the other side of the tower?  He didn’t see the other man go down.  Will you give me a gold Byzant if I drop him?”

“I’ll give you two!”

So, Weiand nocked another arrow and drew back his longbow and waited for the trebuchet to release and he loosed the arrow and again the arrow’s trajectory was higher, but it didn’t fly parallel to the shot, rather arcing across and overtop it and it was still arcing down when the tonstone hit the wall and it just seemed to touch the man across the throat and the man pitched forward and fell thirty feet down the front of the wall to his death.  “Don’t worry,” Weiand said.  “He never felt a thing.  He was dead before he hit the ground.  The arrow’s barb cut across his jugulars.”

“You could see that?” Eirik asked.

“Can’t hit what you can’t see,” he replied.  Eirik dug two Byzants out of his coin pouch and handed them to Weiand.  “Thank you, prince,” Weiand said.  “I’m making gold already and I haven’t even started yet.  Could I buy this foot bow off you?  It looks more like six foot to me, but…”

“You can have it,” Eirik replied.  “It’s called a footbow because it’s meant to be shot using your feet.”

“How and the fock are you supposed to shoot a bow with your feet?” Weiand asked.

Eirik just shook his head and laughed.

Eventually Dorchester fell and half the people were enslaved.  The slaver knars took them back to Wight and the warfleet sailed further west to West Bay town and up the River Brit to Bridport town and then the town of Beaminster.  The slave knars were only half filled and plunder was even scanter.  Weiand steered them clear of Charmouth, Lyme Regis, Axmouth, Sidmouth and Ottermouth saying the rivers are too small and plunder even scanter.

Then further west, they fell suddenly upon the town of Exmouth on the estuary of the River Exe and Weiand told them the city of Exeter was further upstream and that there was a Viking Ealdorman named Pallig who was in charge of the city and much of Devonshire.  “He’s new,” Weiand told Eirik.  “King Athelred appointed him last winter.”

“Is his name Pallig Tokesen?”

“I just know it’s Pallig and he’s a former Jomsviking who has accepted preliminary baptism from the king.  The king is his sponsor and god-father.  The king was sponsor and god-father of King Olaf Tryggvason of Norway, but he died in some battle in the east last year so, I guess Pallig is his replacement?”

“I was at that battle east of Denmark,” Eirik told him, “and so was Jarl Pallig and some of the Jomsvikings.  I would have killed Jarl Olaf Tryggvason myself had he not dove into the sea and drowned himself instead of face my wrath.”

“Could you tell me more of it?” Weiand asked.

“King Sweyn will return from Baghdad soon.  We’ll recount the battle together when he gets back.  Right now we should see if Pallig intends to defend Exeter or join us in sacking her.”

Jarl Eirik led his legion up the Exe to the city of Exeter and surrounded the city walls with his troops.  The city had already been locked up tight and expecting an attack.  He sent messengers to the city gate asking Jarl Pallig for a ‘parlee’, a term Eirik had borrowed from his fellow Norwegians, the Normans, just across the English Sea.  Jarl Pallig came out from the city gates, surrounded by his Viking and English officers and his English troops set up an open pavilion and a table and some chairs for his guests.  “Welcome Lade-Jarl Eirik,” Pallig greeted him, offering him a chair at the other side of the table.  “Would you care for some fine Frankish wine from across the Channel?”

“No thanks,” Eirik answered.  “I hear you’ve accepted Christianity from King Athelred.  You’ve never struck me as the religious type, Aesir or Christian.”

“It’s just preliminary baptism,” Pallig started.  “If you want to rent your sword to the English, they require at least preliminary baptism, so, I gave the least that I had to, for as you pointed out, I’m not a religious man.”

“Why did you leave Jomsburg?” Eirik asked.

A slave poured Pallig some wine into a goblet and Pallig had him fill the other goblet out of the same bottle and he offered Eirik either glass but he refused so, Pallig took one for himself and left the other in the middle of the table.  He took a drink, then said, “After Jarl Sigvald refused to join in the Battle of Svolder, I felt I had to leave the order.  It was not his first act of cowardice.”

“So why the English?”

“Funny thing, that,” Pallig began, and Weiand squeezed forward through the Danish knot of followers to hear better, “I left Jomsborg because Sigvald wouldn’t allow the Jomsvikings to attack King Olaf, and King Athelred wanted my sword because I was at the Battle of Svolder in the only group that didn’t attack King Olaf.  I could tell him the details of what happened and he knew it was from a neutral position, thanks to Jarl Sigvald.”

“Why would King Athelred care about Jarl Olaf and the Battle of Svolder?”

“Jarl Olaf was part of King Athelred’s plan to neutralize Viking attacks from Norway by Christianizing Norway and becoming King Olaf’s staunchest ally.  And it was working for five years and then all of Pagan Scandinavia rose up together and slew him.  And now Norwegians are back attacking England again,” and Pallig again offered Eirik the wine.  “King Athelred is really pissed about it, especially with King Sweyn and the Danes.  He thinks King Sweyn sent Queen Thora to Lade to seduce King Olaf and that King Sweyn’s ‘daughter’ led King Olaf east to his slaughter.  King Olaf was his god-son and his key to stopping the unceasing Viking attacks on England.”

“King Sweyn didn’t even know that Queen Thora was in Lade until he heard that Jarl Olaf had married her!  I can vouch for that.  We were both equally surprised!”

“So you’re that certain that Sweyn shares all his plans with you?” Pallig challenged.

“And is that what you are to Athelred?  Just another key in his plan to stop Viking attacks?” Eirik challenged back and they sat and stared at each other.  Eirik reached out and took his goblet of wine from the middle of the table and he drank from it.  He smiled at Pallig and shook his head.

“I’m to be the new Normandy,” Pallig admitted.  “Athelred has given me lands and titles and estates and gold to stop Viking attacks in Devonshire.”

“King Athelred is not about to make the same mistake Charles ‘the Bald’ made when he gave King Sweyn’s Great Uncle Rollo Normandy,” Eirik warned Pallig.  “He will not give Saxon lands to Vikings to stop Viking attacks.”

“The estates he has given me are in Cornwall, West Wales,” Pallig confessed.  “He has no qualms with giving up Welsh land to stop Viking attacks on Saxon land.”  Weiand heard this and his ears began burning.  “But thanks for the warning,” Pallig went on, “and let me give you one in return.”

Eirik took a drink of wine and leaned forward, all ears.

“King Athelred talks of nothing but revenge against the Danes since hearing of the slaying of Jarl Olaf,” Pallig started.  “He even wants to get ‘King Olaf’ sainted!  Imagine, a former slave becomes a Jarl then becomes a King and then, upon death, becomes a Christian Saint!  Is nothing sacred anymore?”

“That’s your warning?” Eirik asked.  “Jarl Olaf gets sainted?”

“No. No. Sorry,” Pallig said.  “King Athelred talks of nothing but revenge and I think he plans to attack the Danelaw.  He knows that you and King Sweyn are holed up in Ipswich with Princess Gyda and I think that is where he will attack.  Jarl Olaf told him that Gyda refused to go with him to Norway and be his queen there and that is why he left her.”

“Olaf abandoned Princess Gyda,” Eirik protested.  “He didn’t even tell her he was going to Norway.  She told me this herself and she still thinks it’s because she is of Irish-Danish stock and he went to Norway looking for a true queen of high birth and long lineage.  A Queen Sigrid of Gotland or a Queen Gunhild of Norway, not a Princess Gyda of Dublin.”

“I know she’s right,” Pallig said.  “I watched Jarl Olaf when I was a boy in Jomsborg and he was a man with a plan and nothing was going to stop him getting his way.  Not love nor money, but King Athelred saw only the best of Jarl Olaf and I think he loved him as a god-son, so, now he seeks revenge.  Don’t let him catch you or King Sweyn off your guard in Ipswich.  He’ll have your heads and Princess Gyda’s too!”

“Thanks for the warning.  I trust your judgement in this and I shall take precautions.  Now, about Exeter…shall you defend her or help us sack her?”

“Cornwall will make a fine Normandy,” Pallig said, drinking more wine.  “I could grow old and fat in Plymouth like Duke Rollo did in Rouen.”

“You’d spend the rest of your days fishing on the River Ply,” Eirik joked.  “That’s no life for a Jomsviking!”

“If King Sweyn’s going to be here soon, I’d like to hear his thoughts on it before I make a decision.  Perhaps we could have another ‘parlee’ when he gets here?”

“Is it okay if we raid upriver while you’re waiting?”

“I’ve got a hundred ships and five thousand men,” Pallig said, “against your three hundred ships, a full Hraes’ legion and five thousand Norwegians.  We aren’t leaving Exeter so, feel free to raid.  Rape, pillage and plunder all you want, just try to keep burning to a minimum, if you would.  It profits no one.”

“Just remember that when King Sweyn comes,” Eirik warned, “he’ll have another full Danish legion with him so, hear him out before you side with the English.”

Jarl Eirik left half a legion in Exmouth and took the rest of his forces up the River Exe to Pennsylvania town and then to the villages of Netherexe, Upexe and Tiverton and they raped and pillaged and plundered as instructed and there were standing orders not to burn things such as houses and churches and towns.  “The hottest things I want to see here,” Jarl Eirik told his men, “are the honey-wells of the English women!”  A steady stream of slaver knars took 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.  While laying siege to the walled city of Taunton they learned by messenger from Pallig that Saxon fyrds had been raised in Plymouth and Torquay and an army was marching north to relieve Exeter.

Jarl Eirik received the warning in the afternoon and planned to start his return to Exeter the next morning so, he met with his commanders to discuss a night assault upon Taunton.  He had a river full of empty slaver knars behind him and he didn’t want to take them back to Exmouth empty so, he planned to burn the town at midnight and force the people out from behind their stone walls.  The walls may have been built of stone, but most of the houses within were of wattle and daub construction with thatch roofs.  Eirik wanted to fire the town by using his trebuchets to hurl Greek fire-pots into the city while the people were sleeping but his artillery commander was concerned with the inherent danger to his men with shooting trebuchets in the dark and particularly with shooting Greek fire in a moonless night.  While they were discussing this, the naval commander went out to the nearest legion transport warship and came back with a crate in his arms and set it upon the planning table.

The small crate was sealed with wax and, as the officer used his seax to open the crate, he explained that each of the legion ships was equipped with one such crate and when he opened it he took out one small Cathayan sky lantern and he unfolded it.  He set it on the table and lit a small wafer of candle from the flame of a taper that was in a nearby candlestick and he put the wafer into the paper holder below the tissue balloon he had unfolded above it.  The heat from the candle wafer rose up into the tissue balloon and the sky lantern began rising up into the roof of the pavilion and it floated up there, sixteen feet in the air, and some officers expressed concern that it might set the tent on fire, but the candle soon started flickering and the sky candle began descending and it landed on the dirt floor and the tissue balloon collapsed on top of the sputtering candle and soon burst into flames in the middle of the pavilion floor.

“King Sweyn’s mother, Empress Helga,” the commander explained, “years ago used five thousand of these to burn the town of Iskorosten in Hraes’ one night and she captured all the citizens of the town when they fled from within the town walls to escape the great fire.”

“How many do we have?” Eirik asked.

“There are one hundred in each crate and we have half a legion with a hundred ships so, we should have ten thousand, more than enough.  And each crate has a MUD Book, a military use directions book,” and he took a small book out of the crate and unfolded it into one full vellum sheet.  “It is written in Anglish in the miniscule font of Alcuin,” the officer announced, passing the parchment to Eirik.  “Do you read the font of Alcuin or do you read runic?”

Eirik grabbed the sheet, annoyed by the slight of a Dane against his Norwegian prince.  “Of course I read the font of Alcuin,” he replied.  “My sister owns two scriptoriums!”

The officer was visibly impressed by this.  They spread out the Mud book on the table and began reading the directions, but, as usual, manuals had a way of turning something simple into something quite complex and was soon requiring wind speeds and directions and was even factoring in the rotation speed of the earth under extremely calm conditions which were often present at night.

Eirik put the naval commander in charge of the sky lantern attack and he put his artillery commander in charge of a backup Greek fire attack in case the sky candles didn’t go as calculated.  But at midnight, five thousand legion troops lit five thousand Cathayan sky lanterns and let them float up into the air and a slight breeze took them toward Taunton and the guards on the walls of the town were so awed by the strange sight that they just watched as the faint lanterns floated towards them and they didn’t raise any alarms.  Soon the lanterns were over Taunton and the lights began to flicker and the lanterns came down and burst into flames on the thatched roofs of the town.  The guards then sounded the alarms as the roofs began to burn and the fire brigades came out and saw all the houses on fire and immediately began rousing the sleeping citizens to get them out of the town walls.  The Viking army was waiting for them at the town gates and the soldiers led them directly into the slaver ships.  Men, women, children and babies went directly into the slaver knars and sat on the benches and decks of the ships and awaited their fates in the morning.  The good looking girls of Taunton, however, were directed into the pavilions of the army and their screams could be heard floating out across the waters all night long as the citizens aboard ship drifted in and out of sleep.

Eirik woke up the next morning with a young Taunton woman under each of his arms.  They were girls when they had been led into his pavilion, but they were women now.  He got out of his camp cot naked and dressed himself in front of the girls and he threw them their clothes and told them to get dressed and join their parents on the ships.  He was washing at his basin on the table and he could see the naked girls were still smudged in smoke and he called them over and he started washing the soot off their slender naked bodies and their pretty faces and then he sent them back to the cot to dress.  The soldiers always brought their leaders the finest girls or they knew they would answer for it.  When they were dressed he studied them and washed the last traces of soot from them.  “Just walk along the ships,” he told them in Saxon, “and call out for your folks until you find them!” and he patted the girls on the ass as they left his pavilion.  If they’d been Anglo girls they could have understood his Norse, so close were the two languages, but Saxon was different enough that one could still understand it while thinking in Norse, but it was better to switch one’s brain over to Saxon and use the proper words and pronunciations.

Eirik stepped out of the pavilion and could see that the town was still smouldering behind its stone walls and the fire brigades were resting near the tents.  They had been gathered together after they’d saved their people and the army sent them back in to fight the fires.  Usually a town was plundered first and then burned or not burned, usually depending on whether it was majority German Saxon or Danish Anglish or on a variety of other factors, but in this case it would not have been burned at all had it not been for the required rush to take the town.  “Sorry Pallig,” Eirik mumbled as he walked through the nearest town gate to survey the damage.  A force would be left to tear up floorboards and dig up dirt floors to look for gold and coins; the banks of England were in the floors of the Anglish and Saxon houses and the fire brigades would help dig them up.

As Eirik walked down to the ships he surveyed all the young girls looking for their folks to ensure that, indeed, he had gotten the prettiest ones and he felt reassured when he could see that he had.  His girls had been so pretty that he soon saw a group of soldiers, destined to remain, dragging the two girls he had sent off back to their tents so, he intercepted the girls and walked along the river with them until they had found their folks and he told their parents in the ships to keep them well hidden beneath their shawls and kerchiefs or they would be taken away by others.  There was one common element, Eirik mused, in the sacking of cities and the plundering of towns and the pillaging of villages and that was: they were all different.  And Taunton, though rushed, had been particularly pleasant.

When Jarl Eirik got back to Exeter, he saw that the English army had not yet arrived and that Pallig was still holed up within its walls.  He hadn’t even been able to set up a parlee with Pallig when they spotted King Sweyn’s Danish legion ships coming up the River Exe from Exmouth.  Jarl Eirik set up his pavilion tent in front of Exeter this time and he set up more tables and chairs and had bottles of sparkling wine from the Champagne province of Frankia put upon them along with fine English wafers and Khazar Vayar from Kiev.  Sweyn joined Eirik in his pavilion and they had some Champagne and Khavayar and made light talk to start.

Sweyn told him that he led the Nor’Way fleet this time and all the improvements that Jarl Haakon had initiated and Eirik had completed were starting to pay dividends.  Trading in Baghdad was great and slave prices were high even with the Hraes’ plentiful supply.  His babies with Anise and Saffron were growing fast and his return via the Dan’Way was uneventful.  Prince Valdamar was making babies like crazy and Prince Erik was as youthful as ever.

“He never gets old,” Eirik said.

Then Sweyn told him some bad news.  “I stopped in at Jomsborg to see if Astrid had returned to Sigvald and he told me she hadn’t and my spies in Wollin told me why.”  He leaned forward.  “Remember when I told you that Princess Astrid had led her ship into the fight at Svolder and demanded her share of the spoils?”  Eirik nodded and leaned forward too.  “Well,” Sweyn continued, “she may have picked up more than spoils when she pulled up to the last Norwegian ship in the line.”

“What do you mean?” Eirik said hoarsely as he started to follow where this was going.

“My spies in Wollin told me that Astrid is back living with King Burizleif and she’s converted to Christianity and spends much of her time in a monastery outside of Wollin with a man in a wheeled chair, a Hraes’ wheeled chair, and a very big man, a warrior, perhaps a king.”

“Jarl Olaf?” Eirik cried!  “Olaf Tryggvason?” and Eirik squeezed his glass so hard he crushed it and blood began dripping onto the table.

“They don’t know,” Sweyn answered, “but my Gunhild always said Astrid loved him.  She even told me once that she thought Astrid may have poisoned her sister Geira to get Olaf for herself.  So I stopped in at Ipswich on my way here and I asked Gunhild if she thought Astrid capable of pulling off an escape like that and she told me that Astrid had trained to be a shieldmaiden in her youth, but she gave it up when she learned quite by accident that she liked focking better.  I’d tell you how she learned this, but it would make even a Viking like you blush!”

“So?  Did she do it?” Eirik asked anxiously.

“Gunhild thinks she might have because she would never have sailed into battle for booty.  She has all the gold she’s ever wanted and could give two shits about more of it, but if she thought she could save Olaf, she’d sail right into Ragnarok and back out again!”

“That focking cunt!” Eirik cursed.  “She’d do it too!  I’ll wager!”  He released the shattered glass and pulled a shard of it from his palm as the rest tinkled across the camp table.

“I grilled Thora about Olaf as well and she told me she had seen him swimming once in a contest with the best swimmers in Norway and he beat them all and could hold his breath underwater longer than humanly possible.  She also told me an interesting little part of Olaf’s plans for Norway.”

“What’s that?” Eirik asked, licking the blood out of his palm and washing it down with Champagne.

“King Athelred planned on making a Christian Norway England’s closest ally,” Sweyn began, “but Olaf was planning on turning on Athelred and using the armies of Norway to link up with my Kievan legion in Bamburgh and march south to London and kill Athelred in battle.  He knew that I was only toying with Athelred and using England for slaves and Danegeld but he needed England if Norway was ever going to be able to stand up to Denmark and the Hraes’, just as I need England to stand up to the Romans.”

“So, he stole your legion and hid it up in Bamburgh to attack Athelred?”

“He didn’t steal my legion,” Sweyn confessed.  “I gave it to him.  Prince Valdamar loaned me the legion because it was the one legion that had converted to Orthodox Christianity with him and I needed Christian legionnaires to follow the Christian Jarl Olaf.  I knew that if I left a Christian legion with a Christian leader, Athelred would take the bait.  That’s why we attacked York the fall before.  We plundered Northumbria to kill the Saxon princes that were ruling there to open things up so that Olaf could rule up there.  When I left Jarl Olaf with my legion to overwinter on the Isle of Wight, I told him that Athelred would offer him full baptism and try to convert the legion to Latin Christianity as well, and I instructed him to accept the offer and to ask for York to rule over and I wanted Olaf to stay and rule in in York with my legion for I knew the time would come when I would eventually have to crush Athelred or whoever overthrew him and I planned to do it from both the north and the south.  I overwintered in Ipswich that year to monitor Athelred more closely and his plans to Christianize Norway, but it wasn’t supposed to happen.  Jarl Olaf was to stay and rule in York and keep stalling Athelred until I ordered him to attack England from the north.”

“What happened?” Eirik asked.

“I focked up!” Sweyn admitted.  “I never checked out Olaf’s pedigree.  He never claimed to be King Trygve’s son.  He was just Ole from Hraes’.  He was Prince Valdamar’s foremost man that left Hraes’ to go a viking!  As soon as I left him in York to rule he headed off and attacked Norway.”

Jarl Eirik remembered what Pallig had said about Sweyn not sharing all his plans.  “Why didn’t you tell me this?”

“Because the first thing Olaf did in Norway was kill your brother Erling and then Jarl Haakon.  It’s my fault they’re dead!”   Sweyn put his forehead into his hands and stared down at the table.  “I didn’t know he had a claim to the Norwegian throne!”

“Jarl Pallig Tokesen rules inside Exeter right now,” Jarl Eirik said, more to control his anger than anything else.  “He left the Jomsvikings because Jarl Sigvald wouldn’t help in the attack upon Jarl Olaf.”

“I heard he had converted and joined King Athelred,” Sweyn said.  “How’d he end up here?  I thought he’d be up in York.”

“He was in York last year, with King Athelred and an English army.  They were making sure your legion was still loyal and Latin Christian.  Your legion was holed up in Bamburgh Castle and refused to come out but they professed their loyalty and allowed the clergy in to inspect their chapel for Orthodox icons.  They convinced Athelred of their loyalty enough that he left them alone and crossed over to the west and plundered the Strathclyde Britons and brought them back under his sway.”  Then Eirik went into Athelred’s plan to turn Jarl Pallig into the next Duke Rollo of Normandy.

Sweyn looked for Weiand in Eirik’s group of men and caught his eye.  “And Weiand hasn’t killed him yet?” he asked.  Eirik followed his gaze over to Weiand and said, “Not yet, but I’m sure he and his half-brothers in West Wales already have plans to.  Anyway, I think your legion in York is still loyal to you and sits in Bamburgh awaiting orders.”

“Let’s keep that between ourselves.  Pallig is not to be trusted.”

“Let’s have lunch,” Eirik said, waving over some slave girls, “and then I’ll set up a parlee with Pallig.”

“A parlee?” Sweyn laughed.  “That’s very Norman of you.”

“Well,” Eirik replied, “he is the new Duke Rollo.”  And they both laughed.

After lunch, Eirik sent a messenger to the main gates of Exeter to ask Jarl Pallig for a parlee with Jarl Eirik and King Sweyn.  While they were waiting, Eirik told Sweyn about the warning that Pallig had given him.  “Pallig says Athelred blames you for the slaying of Jarl Olaf and that he is hell bent on revenge for his godson.  He thinks Athelred has something planned for us.”

“This is focked,” Sweyn complained.  “Jarl Ole may not even be dead and had planned on stabbing Athelred in the back anyway.  But we say nothing to Pallig about it.  We don’t want to endanger our legion in the north.”

Jarl Pallig came out of Exeter surrounded by his Jomsviking officers and a few local English hearses.  Jarl Eirik switched to Sweyn’s side of the table and invited Pallig to sit across from them with his back to his walled city.

“I’m surprised to see you here,” Sweyn said.  “I heard you’d converted and I thought Athelred might have sent you to lord over York.”

“He has offered me all of Cornwall to defend southern England for him.  I come to listen to your offer to me if I abandon him and turn Exeter over to you peacefully.”

“Jarl Eirik has told me you left the Jomsvikings because Jarl Sigvald refused to attack Jarl Olaf Tryggvason.  I thought it only fair to tell you that I ordered Sigvald to stand down.  I wanted to keep Jomsborg on friendly terms with King Burizleif and attacking his son-in-law Olaf might have jeopardized that.”

“Jarl Sigvald is a Jomsviking and not subject to your orders,” Pallig reminded the king.

“Jarl Sigvald fled the Battle of Hjorungavagr instead of taking a knee in front of me.  When he married Princess Astrid and I married Princess Gunhild in Jomsborg, Sigvald took his knee in front of me and I bent him over his shield there.  He made himself subject to my orders.”

“Perhaps that is why,” Pallig said, “Princess Astrid left him?”

“Oh, the Princess took both knees in front of me and we shared a bed.  Sigvald’s taking a knee was at her request, let me assure you.”

Pallig was shocked at this news.

“Perhaps if you turn Exeter over to me,” Sweyn offered, “I will find you a place in our ‘new’ England and I won’t require you to take a knee in front of me for fleeing Hjorungavagr.”

“I wasn’t even born when you won at Hjorungavagr,” Pallig said.

“Exactly!” Sweyn replied.  “But many of the Jomsviking hearses standing behind you were there and if they’re still here and have not taken a knee before me they soon will be.”  Many of the older Jomsviking officers standing behind Jarl Pallig looked down to the ground at this.  Jarl Pallig looked over his shoulder at them and he felt soon to be abandoned by them.

“What sort of a place in your new England would we be talking about?”

“We could start with an Earldom and command of a full legion,” Sweyn replied, “and you can work your way up from there.”

“Of course you’ll make me give up Christianity,” Pallig offered.

“We don’t care if you’re Christian or otherwise,” Sweyn said.  “The Hraes’ Trading Company is full of Christians, both Orthodox and Latin.”

“If you make me give up Christianity I will accept your offer,” Pallig said.

“You must give up Christianity,” Sweyn ordered and Pallig accepted the offer and turned Exeter over to King Sweyn and his legions.  The city was systematically plundered by the Novgorod legion and Jarl Eirik’s Norwegian forces while King Sweyn and the newly arrived Danish legion headed south with Jarl Pallig’s Jomsvikings to find the English army that was marching north against them.  They found the English army camped near the village of Pin Hoo, which was located near the howe of an ancient king named Pin, who was supposedly buried there in a mound chamber with his many wives.

The high steward and many reeves had collected a force of fifteen thousand to match the reported Hraes’ legion and about five thousand Norwegians that had been reported in Exmouth but they found, instead, a Danish legion and five thousand Jomsvikings and they were no match for them.  King Sweyn had his officers mark out the battlefield with hazel poles and the shield walls crashed for an hour and then the fyrds of Devon collapsed and many took a knee before the Danes or were bent over their shields, but many more fled and were rode down by the one legged cavalrymen of a disabled regiment of heavy horse on the legion flanks and were lassoed and dragged into slavery by the horsemen who never had to leave their steeds.  Half those who surrendered were released after pledging fealty to their captors and half were enslaved, but those who fled the battlefield were either killed or enslaved.  Such was the Aesir law and the Vanir law followed by the ancient Romans.

The Viking army sacked and burned the villages of Pin Hoo and Clist on the way back and they raped the captive Saxon women in front of their enslaved soldiers and they marched them all to Exmouth and loaded them directly onto sea going slaver knars.  Then King Sweyn and Jarl Pallig took their forces up to Exeter and joined in on the rape and pillaging that was still going on there.  Half the people were enslaved and half were returned to their homes in the city and ransoms were arranged for the required three days and only the poorest of the city ended up in slavery.  All the nobles and freemen of Exeter managed to dig up the gold to free themselves and their families, but the captives of Taunton weren’t so lucky.  They had been quickly hauled away from their town with no opportunity to dig up their buried bullion so most had nothing to ransom themselves with.  Those who had relatives in Exeter sometimes got ransom from them but more often not.

For some reason, Jarl Eirik took it upon himself to find the two girls he had raped in Taunton and he ransomed their families and sent them back to Taunton aboard a ship of the ransomed, but he kept the two girls with him in the mansion he occupied in Exeter and he slept with them at night the whole time Exeter was ravaged and they were free to wander the city during the days but they always returned to him at night and when the Viking army headed back to the Isle of Wight, he gave them gold and bought them passage back to their parents in Taunton.  One of the Devon girls was a poet and the other was a singer and they wrote and sang for Jarl Eirik:

“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

at a distance

as we load long arrows

onto longbows.

What an endless tat-tat-tat.

What a shrill keening.

The funeral corteges

snake for blocks.

Candles gutter in clusters.

The comfort

we hunger for

sizzles like tiny wings.

Devon Balwit of Devonshire

Back in Ipswich, King Sweyn put Jarl Pallig in charge of the Danish legion he was leaving there and he told Thora and Gunhild that they would have to overwinter there until King Burizleif’s agents gave up their search for them.  Princess Thora didn’t mind because she had given birth to her young knight, Justinian’s, son and they’d named the boy Justin after the grandfather.  Jarl Pallig was from Fynn but his mother was from Jutland and he knew many of Justin’s relatives there and he got on great with all three generations of Angles.  Jarl Eirik asked Gyda to overwinter with him in Lade because he didn’t trust Pallig but he trusted in his warning.  Gyda accepted so, she packed up all her children, two of Olaf’s daughters, one being Eirik’s wife anyway, two of Sweyn’s sons and now two of Eirik’s and she sailed with him and his Viking forces to Norway.  King Sweyn sailed to Denmark with his Novgorod legion and then sent them off to Hraes’ before the ‘Glassy Plains’ froze up solid for the winter.

After Sweyn had left Ipswich, Jarl Pallig took his Jomsvikings and a regiment each of Hraes’ foot and heavy horse for a viking expedition up the coast of England to the mouth of the Humber River, near York.  The Jomsvikings had been in the area the year before with King Athelred, and Pallig had seen some wealthy little towns   He started the attack on the port town of Grimsby then they attacked the town of Waltham and the surrounding villages and they raped, plundered and burned throughout the area until winter drove them back south to Ipswich.  It became apparent from his actions there why he had wanted King Sweyn to have him give up Christianity.  The religion ran counter to his nature.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:

A.D. 1001.  This year there was great commotion in England in

 consequence of an invasion by the Danes, who spread terror and

 devastation wheresoever they went, plundering and burning and

 desolating the country with such rapidity, that they advanced in

 one march as far as the town of Alton; where the people of

 Hampshire came against them, and fought with them.  There was

 slain Ethelwerd, high-steward of the king, and Leofric of

 Whitchurch, and Leofwin, high-steward of the king, and Wulfhere,

 a bishop’s thane, and Godwin of Worthy, son of Bishop Elfsy; and

 of all the men who were engaged with them eighty-one.  Of the

 Danes there was slain a much greater number, though they remained

 in possession of the field of battle.  Thence they proceeded

 westward, until they came into Devonshire; where Paley came to

 meet them with the ships which he was able to collect; for he had

 shaken off his allegiance to King Ethelred, against all the vows

 of truth and fidelity which he had given him, as well as the

 presents which the king had bestowed on him in houses and gold

 and silver.  And they burned Teignton, and also many other goodly

 towns that we cannot name; and then peace was there concluded

 with them.  And they proceeded thence towards Exmouth, so that

 they marched at once till they came to Pin-hoo; where Cole,

 high-steward of the king, and Edsy, reve of the king, came against

 them with the army that they could collect.  But they were there

 put to flight, and there were many slain, and the Danes had

 possession of the field of battle.  And the next morning they

 burned the village of Pin-hoo, and of Clist, and also many goodly

 towns that we cannot name.  Then they returned eastward again,

 till they came to the Isle of Wight.  The next morning they

 burned the town of Waltham, and many other small towns; soon

 after which the people treated with them, and they made peace.

(1002 AD)  In the early spring, King Sweyn and Jarl Eirik returned to England with five thousand Vikings and two thousand Danes.  The Kievan legion that Prince Valdamar was to send his father was still frozen up in Hraes’, which had experienced an extremely cold winter.  So Sweyn made sure that his two thousand Danes came over in a hundred ships.  They spent a week in Ipswich while Princess Gyda settled her children back into the Anglish lifestyle and Sweyn reconnected with Queen Gunhild.  Princess Thora seemed even more in love with her young hearse warrior, Justinian, than ever and it rankled Sweyn a little.  He was hoping she’d come back to him when she left King Burizleif and then he had hoped the same when Jarl Olaf had been lost to her, but now she had found her young Anglish nobody and she seemed quite in love with him and they were starting a family together and Sweyn was surprised she had conceived and carried a child to fruition and had given the young man a son.  She had never been pregnant with him and he had heard of her miscarriage with Jarl Olaf and he was grudgingly happy for her.  He was even happier that Gunhild had remained faithful to him.  He half expected her to be sharing a bed with Pallig when he got back from Denmark, but his spies had assured him that was not the case.  Pallig had spent the fall and winter raiding with his Jomsvikings and the Danish legion he commanded and he always returned from his raids with slaves and plunder.  Sweyn heard about his attack on Waltham and gave him orders to cease any attacks on the English without his approval.  Only named princes or princesses of the Hraes’ could make such decisions on their own.

“When you are named Pallighrae,” Sweyn told him, “or Hraellig, whichever of the two you choose, then, and only then, can you make such calls for the Hraes’.”

Jarl Pallig wondered where the Hraes’ naming was in Sweyn ‘Forkbeard’, but he learned that Sweyn was also Sveinald, Svein ‘the Old’, and ‘the Old’ indicated he was from the old Skioldung line, the Fridleif/Frodi line, of Danish kings as well as from the Hraegunar ‘Lothbrok’ line of Danish/Norwegian kings, the original kingly founders of both the Dan’Way and Nor’Way trading routes.  Even Sweyn’s father, Eyfur ‘the Old’, though better known as Ivar ‘the Boneless’, didn’t have a Hraes’ moniker, but Eyfur was named after his mother, Queen Eyfura, daughter of King Frodi, from the original line of kings of the Angles of Jutland, so, Sweyn was the real deal.  A fine blooded king with long lineages on both sides of the Hraes’ bloodlines.  Still, Pallig didn’t like it.  He liked to fight and he liked to raid and he quit being a Jomsviking and he quit being a Christian because he wanted to be a Viking.  He liked taking gold and he liked taking girls and he didn’t like taking orders, but Sweyn was the boss, and he didn’t want to take a knee.

King Sweyn was concerned that he was short a legion this raiding season.  He liked to have two so he could keep Ipswich well protected while he raided, so, he met with his commanders and they decided to leave two thousand Danes, two thousand Norwegians and two thousand Jomsvikings in Ipswich along with the local Anglish fyrd for a total of eight thousand men to guard the southern end of the Danelaw.  Sweyn wanted his ten thousand man Danish legion intact because he had designed the mobile legions as fully functional integrated fighting units and he did not like breaking them up.  He wished the Kievan legion could have made it with him but the weather didn’t cooperate and he didn’t want the legion arriving just as he was leaving to lead the merchant fleet so he cancelled it altogether for the spring and sent word to Valdamar that he would pick it up in the fall as he passed back up through Kiev and would use it for the fall raiding.  That’s when he was really after slaves anyway, when they could be sent to the slave schools of Kiev for training over the winter.  Enslaving people too early had added expenses for feeding and accommodations and one winter was all that was needed for the general training of slaves.  And winter in Kiev was a prison in itself.  There were no slaves wandering away from the slave barns in the winter when the cold could kill exposed people within minutes.

The warfleet landed on the Isle of Wight with a full mobile legion, three thousand Norse Vikings and three thousand Jomsvikings and a lot more ships than was needed for that many men.  They hadn’t even set up their defences when Ealdorman Leofsy arrived from London and asked King Sweyn for a parlee.  Sweyn wondered what was up with all the Norman lingo being bandied about lately, but Sweyn welcomed the messenger from King Athelred and invited him into his highseat hall and offered him wine or ale.  Leofsy had heard of Sweyn’s penchant for Champagne so he took the wine and was rewarded with the sparkling variety.  Khazar Vayar and wafers followed and Leofsy was impressed with the civility being shown in the court of the Danish king.  He had sailed from London and his ship sat in the harbour while he made his offer to the Danes.

“King Athelred would like to make peace with you this year,” the ealdorman started, “and is prepared to offer you tribute of twenty four thousand pounds of silver for peace up to and including Yulefest.”  Leofsy knew that Athelred needed time to put together a large army to exact revenge from King Sweyn for the slaying of his god-son King Olaf Tryggvason.  Athelred had no intentions of keeping the peace, hoping that the Danes could be lulled into complacency prior to his planned attack.  He wanted Sweyn dead or in a Saxon snake pit.

“Is that all you’re authorized to spend?” Sweyn asked the ealdorman and, when he nodded the affirmative, Sweyn added, “Twenty four thousand pounds will only buy you peace to the end of summer, plus your people must supply us with provisions: food and drink and women to the end of this period.”

“I am authorized to accept that date,” Leofsy said “and offer you the stated provisions.”

King Sweyn invited Ealdorman Leofsy to stay overnight in the hall with his men and enjoy a Viking feast in his honour.  Leofsy accepted the invitation and asked for a few hours aboard his ship to prepare.  King Sweyn granted him the time then told Eirik and Pallig, “He’s out there right now counting our ships.  That’s why I brought extra ships.”

“Still, he’ll know we don’t have a second legion,” Eirik said.

“I don’t want him to think we have a second legion,” Sweyn replied.  My spies tell me he is presently raising an army to attack us in the fall.  The London fyrds won’t follow him out of the city because they are just strong enough to hold the city walls.  If they were defeated in the field, the city would fall so, Athelred needs to raise a new army and train it over the summer.  He’ll raise an army large enough to defeat our forces here.  If he thinks we have twenty thousand here he’ll come with thirty thousand and when he does I’ll be back from Baghdad with our second legion.  His army won’t be large enough to defeat us, but it will be too large for him to lose face and turn tail and run for it.  We want to beat his army but not crush it.  We don’t want Athelred falling in battle.  I want him to make it back to London with enough men to keep his own people from overthrowing him.”

Eirik shook his head and said, “Athelred is after your head for the killing of Jarl Olaf.  We should crush his army and kill him and be done with it!” and Eirik looked to Pallig for confirmation.  “It’s true,” Pallig agreed.  “Athelred wants all our heads on pikes!”

“An angry Athelred is still better for us than a competent king,” Sweyn argued.

“What if he attacks us with a large force while you’re in Baghdad?” Pallig asked.

“Just stay on the island,” Sweyn replied.  “He can’t get at us here unless it involves a sea battle and, I daresay, our Vikings and Jomsvikings alone could defeat any size English army on the sea.”

“And if he attacks Ipswich?” Eirik postured.

“My spies will be watching for that as his army is being trained.  They are building barracks here in Hampshire so if they shift their training east it may be to attack Ipswich, but my spies will know well in advance.  They’ll be reporting to Ipswich every week or two so, if you, Eirik, could visit with Princess Gyda every week or two over the summer, they can report directly to you.  They are the XII’s officers of the Novgorod legion.  They had already implanted themselves in London so I left them there when I took the legion back to Hraes’ last fall.”

“It will be my pleasure to visit Princess Gyda,” Eirik said, smiling.  “My summer is looking better already.”

Jarl Pallig was sullen.  He had been looking forward to a summer of raiding.  Sweyn saw that he was disappointed and said, “Jarl Pallig, if I give you gold will you sail over to Southampton and bring some women back for our feast?”

Ealdorman Leofsy and his men were very pleased with the Viking feast held in their honour and with the Saxon women that slept with them at their benches and the next day they did a final count of the ships in the Viking harbour and sailed off for London.  A few days later a half dozen English warships arrived at the Isle of Wight with twenty four thousand pounds of silver in bars and freshly minted coins and crates of supplies and a range of London professionals, some fit for kings and others for cooks.  The English captain asked Sweyn if the girls were acceptable and reported that more would be forthcoming from Southampton as well.  “When Ealdorman Leofsy told the king he had agreed to supply you with women,” the captain reported, “the king’s high steward, Eafy, called Leofsy a pimp and the ealdorman flew into a rage and killed him with a seax.  Now Leofsy has been banished from England.”

“That is unfortunate,” Sweyn told him.  “If Ealdorman Leofsy needs sanctuary have him come see me.  He will be welcomed in Denmark.”

“He’s already found sanctuary in Normandy,” the officer told him.

“With Duke Richard?” Sweyn asked.

“Yes.  With Duke Richard.  Something is going on.”

King Sweyn had his men weigh the chests of silver and they confirmed that there was just over twenty four thousand pounds of silver and Sweyn pulled a few of the coins out of the chests and studied them, setting a few aside and giving the rest to the captain for him and his men..  When the English sailors left, Sweyn showed Eirik the coins.  “They’re freshly minted,” he said.  “Do you remember Lydford and the mint we raided there?”  Eirik nodded.  “I made sure we didn’t damage anything there,” Sweyn continued, “and before we left I scratched a small notch into one of the striking press moulds.  The notch is in these coins.  The mint is back up and running.”

“Shall I send for Weiand?” Eirik asked.

“No,” Sweyn replied.  “I think we’ve already cleared the mint of all its silver.  But we might want to get him involved for a raid next year.  I don’t think he’ll be offering us tribute next year after we kick his army’s ass this fall.”

Once the peace was established, Sweyn and Eirik sailed for Ipswich and they visited with Queen Gunhild and Princess Gyda there and Sweyn learned from his spies in London that Princess Emma of Normandy, Duke Richard’s daughter, was visiting King Athelred in London and that her chief steward, Sir Hugh, had taken over the chief ealdorman position in the city of Exeter.  The spies added that it appeared that Normans would be used to turn West Wales into the new Normandy protecting southern England from the Vikings.

‘Weiand will not be happy hearing this,’ Sweyn thought, as he sailed for Denmark early to spend time with his wives in Roskilde before the great merchant fleet assembled in the harbour there.  Then he sailed off with the fleet for Kiev and a meeting with Prince Valdamar there.

“I find I’m running a little lean in Denmark these days,” Sweyn began with his son, “and I’d like to borrow a legion of Kievan cataphracts as well as the mobile legion.”

“Grandfather has two cataphract legions in Tmutorokan,” Valdy answered.  “Can you borrow one from him?”

“He needs them for the Pechenegs,” Sweyn responded.  “They’re acting up.”

“I need my two for the Pechenegs,” Valdy answered.

“Perhaps we’re all running too lean,” Sweyn said.  “I think Kiev should have three cataphract legions and I should have one for Denmark as well.”

Valdamar grimaced at this.  “Fine,” he said with resignation.  “I’ll get started on it over the summer while you’re in Baghdad.  You’ll have your Danish cataphracts ready for the fall.”

“With the Kievan mobile as well?”

“Yes,” Valdy said, “but you’ll have to give those back to me when you’re done with them, unless you want another Danish mobile legion raised.  I can do that for you over the summer as well.”

“No, that’s fine.  I’ll give them back.”

The city of Kiev would be busy over the summer.  It had doubled in size under King Ivar’s rule and had doubled that under Prince Sveinald’s rule and was well on its way to doubling under Prince Valdamar’s.  Two legions of cataphracts at five thousand men each with five thousand horses and half as many spares added up to a lot of armour and weapons and saddles and gear.  The horses would be purchased mainly from the Pechenegs, but the iron armour and steel weapons all came from the smithy shops of Kiev and Novgorod and Iskorosten.  Danish warriors would be solicited for the Danish cataphract and the Kievan unit would be comprised mainly of local Hraes’ and Poljane volunteers, but the Danes would be brought to Kiev for training and would spend most of their time on the southern steppe being trained by local Pecheneg cataphract units.  The Pechenegs had learned the hard way not to depend completely on light horse.  They had lost twenty thousand light horse to Roman cataphracts at the Battle of Adrianople years earlier and, in response, had worked with the Hraes’ to develop their own splendid cataphract units.  These Pechenegs were local Pechenegs, allied and loyal to the Hraes’.  Their women still provided all the Khazar Vayar out of the Dnieper and Volga Rivers to the Hraes’ for their trade.  It was a mutually beneficial alliance.

Sweyn worked days with Princess Serah of Kiev getting permits ready for merchants and collecting fees and duties and they spent nights together catching up with each other.  She had two children by Prince Erik, but over the years she’d had another half dozen with Sweyn so, there was a lot of catching up to be done.  But their first night together was always reserved just for the two of them and Serah led him into her master suite and undressed him and laid him on her bed and she took his lingam into her mouth and she sucked it hard and then got some oil out of her glove box and she oiled up his cock and began to stroke it as she laid on the bed beside him.  She watched his member as it grew larger and harder and then she began stroking it in earnest and she began moaning to it until it finally erupted in a high shower of Sweyn’s flow and she watched it with awe.

“Does it ever get old for you?” Sweyn asked her.

“It never gets old,” she replied as she licked Sweyn clean.  “It’s a most amazing thing!  That explosion, inside me, has made every one of our babies!”

“Have you never stroked off Prince Erik?” Sweyn asked.

“I have never jerked off another man,” Serah said honestly.

“Why not?”

“Because you were the one that first told me of it.  “You had watched that one slave in the pens jerk himself off for the women in the opposite pens and you ran off home and jerked yourself off to see how it felt.”

“I know that,” Sweyn said, “but why wouldn’t you have jerked off your husband once or twice?”

“Because it is our special thing!” Serah said, sitting up.  Her large breasts were still high and hard for a woman with eight children.  “Can we do it again?” she asked and she put Sweyn’s lingam back in her mouth.

Sweyn did get a chance to spend one night with his own wife, Princess Sviataslava, and, after they’d had sex he asked her how she liked living in Kiev with his son, Valdy.

“He’s a fock monster!” she answered.  “He focks forty times a day, whether he has to or not.  When I first came here I thought I could handle him myself so, on our first night together, I insisted that just the two of us sleep together.  Well, he has his ‘pink monster’ and he was focking me all night long and he came inside me so many times that I was sopping wet and finally I had to ask for help from some of his wives.  They joined us in bed and saved my ass.  If they hadn’t come, I’m sure he would have focked me to death!”

Sweyn began to laugh.  “He can’t be that randy!”

“He’s worse,” she said.  “There is something definitely wrong with your boy.  He’s a sex maniac.  Like I said, he focks forty of his wives each day and he has a court steward who keeps track of who he has focked and how often to make sure none of his wives are neglected and it’s all very anal.”

“He does anal too?”

“Well of course he does,” she said, “but I meant its very compulsive,” and she saw that Sweyn was joking and she gave him a shot to the arm.

“It just means he’s very thorough and organized and I’ll be getting my new cataphract legion on time and on budget.”

“You’re getting a new legion?  When do we attack the Romans?”

“It’s for Denmark and England,” Sweyn told her.

“You’ve been focking around with England for ten years!” she complained.  “It’s time to conquer Rome!”

“I’ve been focking around with England because the Anglo-Saxons are a great source of slaves for our trading empire.  Besides, conquering the Roman Empire will take a lot of time and a lot of gold!  And Erik says the Romans just poison me in the end anyway.”

“What does Prince Erik know, anyway?” Svia asked.

“He knows everything!  He has seen all that has happened and all that is to come.  It’s just slow coming to him sometimes.”

“If your co-Emperors poison you, let’s just conquer Rome and kill them all!  We don’t need the bloodline of Julius Caesar anyway!”

“It’s the bloodline of Augustus Caesar,” Sweyn corrected her.

“Julius was his uncle so, I’m sure the bloodlines are connected.”

“We don’t need it anyway,” Sweyn said.  “That’s why Valdy married Anna.  How many Porphyrogennetos’ do they have now?”

“Out of Prince Valdamar’s approximately twelve hundred children, she has provided him with four.”

“Oh dear.  We’ll have to make sure we take very good care of them.”

“So we can kill Emperors Basil and Constantine if we have to,” Svia said.

“I suppose we could,” Sweyn postulated.  “I have a new legion commander in England and I’m grooming him to take over there.  Jarl Pallig knows the English king personally and has already turned on him and turfed his baptism so he should remain loyal to me.  I think he may be attracted to my Queen Gunhild there so, she may be able to help control him.  I already scared the hell out of him by telling him I’d made Jarl Sigvald take a knee before me.”

“I thought you bent him over a bed in front of his wife!”

“His wife led him into the bedchamber naked on a leash and had him kneel in front of me and after he had sucked my cock enough, then I bent him over the bed and took him anally in front of my wives.  You should have seen the look on their faces.  They had never seen me fock a man before!”

“Well, either had I,” Svia said, defending them, “until you focked Count Vlad for me!  Why didn’t you make him take a knee as well?”

“I wasn’t going to stick my cock in his mouth.  He would have likely bit it off.  He saw me carry you off and he knew we had made love already.”

“Your taking his surrender was enough.  You should have seen the look on his face!”

“You saw his face?” Sweyn asked her.  “I thought you were hidden.”

“I was,” she explained.  “I was hiding behind the tent cloth of your room in the pavilion but you were bending him over his shield right in front of me and he saw me through the parting between tapestries.  When you drove your cock up his ass, his big round eyes grew even rounder and he gave me the most evil look but I got him right back.”

“What did you do?”  Sweyn asked.  He couldn’t remember anything happening as he rammed his cock up Vlad’s anus.  His cock was dry, so it was pretty hard on Vlad, but his blood acted as a lubricant and Sweyn had pounded him from behind until he came inside him.  He wanted to kill him after raping him, but Prince Erik had made him promise not to.  His grandfather had not taken Vlad’s surrender in the pavilion in Ramnic but, later, in Tmutorokan, when Erik had started to have nightmares about all the impalings in Wallachia, he had told Sweyn that he bent Vlad over a shield there and ploughed him a furrow up his rear, hoping the dreams might stop.  Then he impaled Vlad, but he survived.

“I stuck my tongue out at him,” Svia answered, “like this!” and she made a face with her beautiful face and Sweyn fell in love with her all over again.

“You should have punched his teeth out!” Sweyn said.  “Then…I would have stuck my cock in his mouth!  After I took it out of his ass!”  And they both laughed.

“Thank you so much for letting me watch!  The evil things that man did to me!  The evil things he did to everybody!”

“It was my pleasure,” Sweyn said and he kissed her gently.  She was a Roman princess, but she was such a Viking!  “So, I told young Jarl Pallig that Sigvald had followed my orders because I had bent him over his shield and I told Pallig that I would bend him over his!”

“What did he say about that?”

“He decided to follow my orders!”  And they both laughed again.  “If I get him trained during this fall’s English slave raiding, I could come in the spring and press my claim to the throne and when Emperor Basil refuses, I can use it as an excuse to attack him.  I’ve got Prince Valdamar working on some cataphract legions for us this summer.  Do you think Valdy would take over the Baghdad trade while I’m working the Romans over?”

“Not a chance!” Svia said.  “Valdy’s a fock monster!  I kid you not!  If it means leaving his concubines in and around Kiev, you can forget it.  He’ll put your legions together for you, but he can do that without leaving his women.  There’s something wrong with that boy.  I don’t mind it though.  I kinda like his ‘pink monster’.  I see that yours has grown a bit larger and she took his cock into her mouth and sucked on it for a bit then looked up at him.  “How did that happen again?”

“I focked the goddess Irpa and she blessed me with it.”

“Oh yes, the goddess Irpa.  So, how do I stack up against the goddess Irpa?”

“She’s definitely not as pretty as you are, but her body is just as perfect and it’s metal and when you touch it the metal turns soft as a baby’s bottom so, she kinda has that over you, but now you seem to be focking a lot harder so I can only assume that some of my son’s sex mania is rubbing off on you, so you have her beat there.”

“Sex mania?” she asked.  “Valdy’s sex mania?”

“You’re right,” Sweyn agreed.  “You rode my steed like a Nymph.  I think you are turning part Nymph sprite!”

“Nymph sprite?” Svia repeated.  “You’re mad!”

“I should know,” Sweyn claimed.  “I have focked a goddess before!  But just to be sure, why don’t you mount my steed once more and take it for a nice long ride, a slow steady trot at first, the kind that gets you bouncing high in the saddle,” and Svia mounted him and she rose up high on the saddle horn and back down again, “then you can speed up to a nice gait for the middle part,” and Svia sped up a bit, “and at the end, not right now, but at the end you can speed up to a fast gallop with a quick short bounce in the saddle,” and Svia continued her gait for the longest while and she stared down at her taut stomach and her muscles stood out like the little squares of a Roman breastplate and she suddenly felt like Valdy had turned her into a fock monster too and she broke into a gallop.

On the way down the Dnieper through the Pecheneg lands Sweyn watched a new crop of Pecheneg warriors riding about in their training exercises and he knew they were champing at the bit to get back at the Romans and when the fleet harboured near the Roman walled city of Cherson, he remembered how much he had enjoyed taking the city and raping the Roman girls within and enslaving half of them and taking them to Baghdad to become Muslim concubines for Arab princes.  He was romanticizing a bit, he knew, but it was Roman, after all.  And when he met up with his grandfather while sailing past Tmutorokan he asked him, “If I kill the emperors before they can poison me will it stop the poisoning from happening?”, and Erik told him he would have to try and get a vision on it.  Then in Baghdad he kept looking to their defences and he knew that if he conquered Rome he could take the Levant and be in Baghdad within two years.  Even quicker if he made peace with the Caliph and turned Arabia into an independent Roman province.  Italy would be easy, the Normans were already there.  And Spain was full of Vandals and Visigoths ready to throw off the Andalusian yoke.  All that was needed was a fresh new Alexander, but ‘the Great one’ had died at age thirty two of poisoning, the death Sweyn was fated, and he was nowhere near thirty anymore.  He had been twenty eight when Roman treachery had cost him his kingdom at the Battle of Dorostolon a generation earlier and it had taken him this long to get back into a position where he could even consider attempting to get what was due him.

He had sex with Serah and he had sex with Svia and he picked up his legions and he took them to Denmark.  He had sex with his wives in Roskilde and he left his new cataphract legion there to train some more and he took the Kievan mobile legion to England with him.  He stopped at Ipswich and had sex with Gyda and Gunhild and couldn’t have sex with Thora because she was still in love with her hearse and he learned that Jarls Eirik and Pallig had already taken their forces to the Isle of Wight and he learned from his spies that Athelred’s new army was almost ready and that Jarl Pallig hadn’t made a move on Queen Gunhild while he’d been gone.  Perhaps he had been too harsh in threatening to bend Jarl Pallig over his shield, but then he thought about how beautiful his queen was and he told himself that for one night in Gunhild’s garden anyone would bend over a dozen shields.

Two of Sweyn’s mobile legions left the Isle of Wight, backed by Norse Vikings and Jomsvikings and they occupied Southampton but did not ravage the city.  They left the Jomsvikings to control the city and protect the slaver knars that would be working out of there and the warfleet sailed up the River Itchen to Westminster and sacked what was left of the town then rowed along the river to Alresford and sacked that town and all the surrounding villages until the new English army showed up, led by Ealdorman Elfric, but they were only expecting one Viking army and two showed up.  Elfric had thirty thousand men, but the Vikings had almost as many so, the Ealdorman used it as an excuse to withdraw.  King Sweyn sent his heavy cavalry after the retreating foot and he had equipped his one-legged horsemen with nets as well as their usual lassos and they carried nets between the horses and they tangled up a dozen men at a time in them and captured them and bound them up for the following legion foot soldiers to take their surrenders and thousands of Saxon soldiers were bent over their shields that day and half of them were taken away by slaver knars to Southampton to await the sea going knars that would take them to Kiev.  They were bound for the eunuch armies of the east and were ear-marked for castration only; the Hraes’ slave inspector cut one notch into the left ear of each soldier.  Two notches would have meant castration and a member shortening by six inches, and second notches were added to the left ears of troublemakers.  The other half had their left ear notched, but were set free on their own recognizance, owing eternal allegiance to the particular Dane that had taken their surrender and their anal virginity.  If they were captured in battle again, another notch would be added to their ears from the get-go and troublemakers would just be tossed into the sea without warning.

The legions settled into Alresford and rowed up the many streams that fed the River Itchen and they sacked all the surrounding villages and estates.  Thousands of Saxon men women and girls were taken away and put on ships and hauled to the slave schools in Kiev.  Then the warfleet sailed east along the southern coast of England and raided the cities along the coast.  The wealthy citizens had already taken their gold and had fled to the safety of London but the poor were still there and it was slaves the Danes were after anyway.  A pretty poor girl fetched a better price in Baghdad than did a homely formerly wealthy woman.  The ships hit Worthing, Brighton, Eastbourne, Bexhill and a small town called Hastings and half the poor of each town were enslaved and the half that remained were given the houses of the wealthy to live in and they were told they had to stay in them or the Vikings would be back to enslave the wealthy when they returned.

In London, Ealdorman Elfric was under heavy criticism for the way in which he had handled the army, but he argued that the intel he had gotten from the king’s spies had been erroneous and that the Viking armies were much larger than anticipated and he managed to convince all that he was lucky to have managed a retreat that had lost less than half their men without an actual battle having taken place.  “Had we fought,” Ealdorman Elfric stated, “the whole army would have been slain or enslaved.  If we have numerical superiority, then, and only then, can we win against the heathen.”  He actually ended up with a medal for his courageous retreat and King Athelred started building a bigger army.

First night in Ipswich, King Sweyn and Jarl Eirik took Princess Gyda to bed and they had sex with the princess and then sex with each other while Gyda watched and admired their physical beauty.  They were both warriors and had chiselled muscular bodies and they trained daily as though their lives depended upon it, and they did.  Sea battles were the hardest and conditioning was crucial in fighting them.  There was no place to run and there was no place to hide.  Shield walls were hard to form and harder to maintain so, falling back a rank to rest and catch breath was often impossible and you fought those directly in front of you until they died, or you did.  So, Sweyn and Eirik’s bodies stood hard and well-muscled in the candlelight as they focked each other and renewed their Sacred Band ritual and Gyda delighted when they sped up and came in each other in turn.  They bent over for each other and only Gyda rode their steeds, while the odd man out watched and often stroked himself in anticipation.

Gunhild, meanwhile, slept in Sweyn’s master-suite alone.  Sweyn’s spies had told him that Gunhild had remained loyal to him the whole time she’d been in Angleland, but Sweyn was not fully convinced.  Perhaps he had half hoped Gunhild and Pallig would have connected.  He didn’t mind sharing wives if it reinforced alliances and now he was hoping Jarl Pallig could take over England for him while he renewed his Roman demands.  After a few days he began sleeping with Gunhild and accepted that she had, indeed, been loyal.

As November neared, the Danes and Norwegians prepared to return to their homelands and Jarl Eirik once again told Gyda to prepare her children for the trip to Lade.  He did not trust the Anglo-Saxons and he had promised himself that he would follow Pallig’s warning to the letter.  Sweyn left the Kievan legion in Ipswich under the command of Jarl Pallig and the Jomsvikings remained as well.  Sweyn took the Danish legion and Eirik took his Vikings and they sailed east together to the southern tip of Norway and parted ways with Eirik leading his Vikings north along the coast and Sweyn leading his forces further east.  Saxon spies in Essex monitored their departure and watched to ensure that they didn’t double back.  King Athelred was preparing an attack, one that would be very hard to defend against.

Jarl Pallig kept his legion on alert into November and, as the weather grew cold and snows threatened he sent his ‘one legs’, his heavy horse out on patrols on the lookout for Anglo-Saxon forces.  Wisps of snow left tracks that were easily spotted from horseback so, the patrols were very effective in helping the security of Ipswich.  It gave Pallig something to do as they all began hunkering down for the winter.  Queen Thora and Hearse Justinian seldom left the longhall anyway.  She had just learned that she was pregnant again so, she and Justinian spent most of their time focking as it seemed doubtful that her condition could be worsened by the practice of the act that had caused it in the first place.  And Queen Gunhild was as usual, beautiful and aloof, and she was very hot to watch so, so Pallig spent most of his day out and about and he kept a slave girl nearby to relieve himself into when he spent his evenings in the longhall.  Sometimes he would take his cavalry south into Essex for some raiding and they would come back with plunder and fresh girls, sending back the pregnant Saxon girls from prior raids, back to their parents in Essex.  Although the Danelaw had been under Anglo-Saxon domination since King Athelstan’s victory at the Battle of Brunanburh in 937, Ipswich and the surrounding county had remained independent since Jarl Olaf Tryggvason and Princess Gyda had ruled it while he was allied with King Athelred, before he had abandoned his princess for a kingship and queens in Norway, and Athelred had loved his god-son Olaf so much that he had refused to take the domain back under his rule even after his mourning Olaf’s death at the Battle of Svolder.  He had loved his god-son and had made grand plans with him and King Sweyn of Denmark had destroyed those plans in just one great sea battle.  And now this domain of Ipswich was under the protection of another jarl that Athelred had befriended, but this Jarl Pallig had stabbed him in the back and had destroyed his plans to turn Cornwall into a new Normandy, protecting southern England from Viking attack.  Still, he allowed Ipswich independence to exist, even when Essex lords complained of raids on Saxon estates and of abductions of fine Saxon virgins.

The fact that King Sweyn immediately stepped in and provided Princess Gyda with regiments and legions to protect her from King Athelred, and immediately took her for his own and shared her with his Jarl Eirik may have had something to do with the domain’s ongoing independence.  What was an abandoned Irish princess to do anyway?  But King Athelred’s spies had told him that Queen’s Thora and Gunhild were overwintering in Ipswich with their young officer lovers and their new babies and he had made plans for them as well, plans that would be hard to defend against.

A dozen days into November, Jarl Pallig was having supper with Queen Thora and Hearse Justinian and Queen Gunhild and they had a few drinks late into the evening because the next day was the Sun’s Day and a religious festival day for the Christians and there was a foreboding in the air that they had sought to drive off with a few drinks and some levity.  The Queens soon went to bed and Thora led her hearse off into their side bedroom and could soon be heard focking again and Pallig looked down the torchlit hall to the closed double doors of Queen Gunhild’s master suite and the delights undoubtedly held within and he looked about to the slave girl that he kept in the hall and remembered he had sent her home pregnant earlier that day on a wain with some other raped Saxon girls heavy with child.  He saw two old hags at the far end of the hall, two scrawny old women that Gunhild had just hired as household help and, though they were free women and not slaves, Pallig walked to the end of the hall, took them by the hands, and led them back to his sleeping bench next to the highseats.  He picked the youngest looking one of the two, for neither seemed even close to having ever been pretty, and he bent her over the end of the bed and flipped her black wool dress up onto her back.  She wore woollen shorts as old women were so wont to do so, he pulled them down to her knees and he put his finger up her honey well and he worked it until she was moist and then he unbuttoned his pants, took out his erect member and he slid it into her and started ramming her from behind.

The other old woman stood and watched and hoped he would come, but he didn’t seem to be satisfied by her so, she knew she would be next.  Pallig withdrew from the old woman, still hard, and he forced the second old woman to her knees and he thrust his cock into her toothless mouth and told her to suck.  She worked hard and diligently at sucking him off, hoping to make him come so she wouldn’t be bent over the bed with her compatriot who was still laying upon it, but she couldn’t get him to go off.  He pulled his cock out of her mouth and bent her over the bed, pulling her shorts to her ankles and then thrusting his wet member up her anus, which seemed tighter, but still he could not come so, he entered her honey well instead and he found it tighter yet, likely from lack of use, and he began thrusting hard.  By listening to Thora’s moaning as those two were still focking down the hall he did manage to come a bit and exploded pathetically within her.  He wanted to let his member grow soft inside her, but it shrank some and then stayed hard so, he pulled it out and stood her up.  He sent her back to her end of the hall and, while she pulled her shorts up from her ankles he gave her bony ass a slap and propelled her on her way.

The first old woman began to rise from the bed, but Pallig forced her back down and he slid his member back within her and began ramming her from behind again.  He listened to Queen Thora down the hall and he managed to come again a bit and he kept his cock within her but it still refused to go down.  He withdrew his stiff member, pulled her shorts back up around her ass and stood her up, slapping her rear as he sent her back.  He tucked his semi-hard member back into his pants and buttoned back up.  He could still hear Thora and Justinian focking faintly down the bedroom hall and their moans made him pace back and forth at the end of his bench and he walked toward the hall just to hear the focking better and he heard a click.  He took his seax out of its sheath at his waist and he walked further down the hall.  There was still that foreboding feeling about so, he walked up to Gunhild’s double door and he tapped on it gently.

“Yes?” a soft voice asked from within the room.

“I’ve been hearing noises,” Pallig said.  “May I search your room for intruders?”

“Yes, come in,” the soft voice said.

Pallig took a torch from the wall of the hall and he entered the room, closed the door a bit, but didn’t latch it so his queen wouldn’t feel distress and he put the torch into a holder on the wall by the doors and when he turned he saw his queen sheltering under silk sheets.  He looked about the room and saw no other so, he went towards the window on one side of the bed and the glass was high up to let in light but the arras on the sides swept down to the floor in the latest Norman fashion and he checked each curtain for espies.  He went back around the bed and checked the other arras but there were no spies hiding within the folds.  He stood at the edge of the bed and made his report to his queen.  She thanked him for his concern and rewarded him with a gentle kiss.  She got up out of bed naked, as young women were wont to sleep, and she stood in front of him and got up on her toes and she kissed him gently on the lips.  She took the seax out of his hand and put it upon the end table by the bed and she kissed the buttons on his shirt, undoing each one as she kissed it and she took off his shirt.  She dropped to her knees and she unbuttoned his pants and she took his hard member out and she put it into her mouth and began to suck it.  She could taste the traces of the honey well of the old woman still soaked upon it and she kept sucking it until the taste was gone.  She didn’t want to die alone.  She had watched Pallig at the end of his bench, raping the old women she had hired, the starving hags that had claimed to be Angles, but spoke it with a Saxon accent that would have been obvious to her had she not been Polish, and the whole time Pallig had been focking them she saw her own fylgja floating above them and then it left.

Once she had sucked the taste all away, she undid Pallig’s belt and pulled his pants to the floor and slipped them off his bare feet.  She sat him at the edge of the bed and she pushed him back upon it and she put his cold feet up into her armpits and she warmed them for him and she swayed with them sensuously and her breasts were drawn tight together with her arms and they swayed with her and she knew Pallig enjoyed it because he grew even larger and his penis swayed along with her dance.  She pushed Pallig further onto the bed by his feet and then she climbed onto his hips and she used both hands to direct his member into her own honey well and she began riding his steed and moaning gently and she did this for a long time, slowly, imperceptibly speeding up as she went until she was soon gasping for air as she moaned and she came and then he exploded full force deep within her.

As they lay entwined in each other’s arms, she said, “I think those old women out there intend to kill us.”

“Those old crone’s?” Pallig said, then he whispered, “Fock them!  I did!” and he laughed callously.

“I’m serious!” Gunhild whispered back.  “I was watching you fock them and I saw my fylgja floating above them, warning me.”

“You watched me?” he asked.  He’d thought his queen was always too aloof to notice anything he did.  He was glad she’d watched him.  “Shall I kill them?”

“No,” Gunhild said.  “I just didn’t want to die alone.”

“Can I ride you now?” he asked and Gunhild spread her legs as he slid atop her.

It was early morning of November Thirteenth, Saint Brice’s Day, when the two old Saxon women slipped into Gunhild’s room, marvelling how the door wasn’t locked and had even been left ajar, and they had very small knives in their hands, of the type that were easily hidden, and they went on either side of the bed and the younger woman, the one that had been raped first and then again, saw by the faint light of the high windows the large seax sitting on the end table so, she picked it up and put her small knife back in her hair and the two women got set and simultaneously slit the throats of Gunhild and Pallig.  The knives were so sharp they slit the arteries without waking the couple and they bled out on the bed without waking.  They saw the baby girl sleeping in her rocker and they let her live.

Next, the two Saxon spies went into Queen Thora’s room and they stood on either side of her bed and slit the carotid arteries of that couple, but the seax must not have been quite as sharp as the assassins knives because the cut woke young Justinian and he grabbed at his throat as his life poured away between his fingers and he saw it was the old servant women that had killed them.  As they were leaving the younger woman saw the baby in the crib and she used the boy as a sheath for the seax.  The younger woman, for some inexplicable reason, went back into the master bedroom and took the baby girl out of the rocker and carried her at her breast.  They walked out of the longhall and joined a stream of farmers heading out of the walled town to work their plots and cut winter firewood before attending Saint Brice’s Day mass at the town church later.

Thora walked behind them with her baby in one arm and her hand in Justinian’s and she followed the Saxon women towards Essex and then turned off into a secluded meadow and she told her baby, “See?  That is where you were conceived.” And she led Justinian onward to Suttee Heaven and her baby was gone, but Gunhild and Pallig were waiting for them there and they saw King Gorm and her namesake, Queen Thyra, waiting for them there.  Suttee Heaven was an Aesir heaven for couples that followed each other into death.  There was an old Anglish queen there with her husband as well and she was from the nearby town of Sutton, meaning South Town, and she had been buried in Sutton Howe when her husband had been killed while off fighting the Danes and they welcomed them there too. 

The queen of Sutton had committed Suttee long after her husband, the king, had died in battle and he had been paged in Valhalla, a knightly page had come to him, and was told to go to Suttee Heaven instead and he grumbled but went and he found the place quite pleasant.  It was a little above Valhalla and between the regular heaven and Valhalla and it overlooked them both.  Everything was at peace in Suttee and couples feasted and made love all day long and at night they slept entwined in each other’s arms and inside each other and the sleep was deep as though death itself and when they awoke everything seemed new.  Their sex was like the first time again and it always lasted longer and they all had the beauty of youth and the food tasted better and the wine was finer.  Some great warriors demanded to return to Valhalla, but not many, and their wives stayed in Suttee and became threesome nymphs that gadded about at their own pleasure.  And they could look down at their husbands in Valhalla and watch them fight and fock and they could look upon their relatives in regular heaven and watch them feast and fock and sometimes they could look down on the world and see how their living relatives were doing, but not often.

After Saint Brice’s Day mass in London, the priests read out the orders of King Athelred that they had received all across England they day before:

“Your king, King Athelred, gives you order to slay all the Danes that

are in England.  This is accordingly to be done after the mass-day of

St. Brice; because it has been told the king, that they would beshrew him

of his life, and afterwards, of all his ‘good’ council, and then have his

kingdom without any resistance.”

So, the mobs rushed out of the church looking for the heathen Danes that resided in London and they slaughtered the unarmed men by sword and gathered up the Danish women and raped them in the streets and raped and buggered their children in the alleys and the babies they plucked from women’s arms and they dashed their brains out on the front doors of the streets.  Many of the finer women and girls and boys were dragged off into private homes and raped some more, but the older women were stripped naked and chased through the streets in the cold November air and many of them were driven into Kennel Street, a street famous for the sale of English hounds and terriers, and the merchants of the street had decided to make a name for themselves and they’d had their slaves dig pits in the street and the Danish women that were chased into that street were thrown into the pits and were buried up to their waists in the dirt and the excrement of the road.  Throngs gathered on the sidewalks to watch as pit bull terriers were sicked upon the women and when the women raised their arms to protect their necks and faces, the starving pit bulls tore away their breasts and devoured them and when the women covered their breasts with their arms the pit bulls tore away their faces and when the women screamed the pit bulls tore out their tongues and devoured them.  This didn’t stop the women screaming and they screamed until their voices were gone and then they screamed in silence and you could only see that they still screamed because the blood from their missing tongues blew out their throats and flew out into the bloody streets.

The puppy mills of Kennel Street were always filled with starving dogs because they were kept at half ration to increase profits, so, when the pit bulls were sated, more pits were dug by slaves and the famed Roman war dogs were released and then more pits were dug and the hounds were fed.  This death by dog at half burial had always been reserved for escaped slaves, the hounds tracking them down and the pit bulls devouring them after they were caught, but this was only done out in the woods where civilized people could not bear witness.  This now was taking place in the middle of London and when Queen Emma of Normandy heard the ruckus she sent half of her personal bodyguard out in the streets to see what was going on.  They were her own personal Norman guards, but they were dressed in English armour and trappings because she was, after all, Queen of England, even though she was Norman by birth and Danish by heritage.  One of her captains, Guillaume de Jumieges, was sent out in the direction of Kennel Street and he came upon the merchants there baiting their dogs on women buried in the street perhaps for half a mile, two wide at about ten foot spacing and the women at the far end looked long dead and torn apart and the women in front of him were still being chased down the street past the half buried dead and were thrown into holes and were being half buried and the hounds were now the breed tearing them to shreds and the screams were unceasing.  Guillaume had fought many battles in Flanders and Frankia and Normandy, but he had never seen anything as unnerving as this.  And it seemed to him that the English were not being very selective in whom they attacked, for he swore that many of the women looked Scottish and Irish and even Anglish.

Soon he saw a Danish man being chased down the street and he appeared to have survived a sword attack.  He had gashes all over his body and it looked as though he had been run through once for he had been holding in his intestines with one hand as he ran.  As he got closer, Guillaume could see that he was Scottish by his dress and his pleas that sounded Gaelic and Englishmen caught him and took him to a nearby tree and nailed the end of his small guts to the tree and then whipped the Scotsman round and round the tree until all that intestine was drawn out and wound neatly round the trunk;-then whipped him back again, till it was unwound: and all this, as they seemed to say, to find out whether a Dane’s gut or a dog’s gut was the longer.

Other Norman guards had been sent off in the opposite direction and they came to London bridge where they saw Danish women and children being chased to the middle of the bridge and then being caught up there and thrown off the bridge into the frigid waters of the Thames usually after having been raped or buggered.  The Danish men never made it to the bridge, being cut down in the street by English cavalry and their bodies were lying on the Roman pavements everywhere and flowing down the Roman drains.  The reports of her captains kept coming back to the palace and Queen Emma couldn’t believe what she was hearing or how this madness could have started then she heard that her husband, the king, had issued the order that had started the Saint Brice’s Day massacre and she swore to herself that she would make him pay.

She learned that in nearby Oxford, a hundred Danes, men, women and children had been chased into a church and had locked themselves inside and begged sanctuary from the priest within.  He granted them this and he told the mob outside to disperse as they inside were now under the protection of God, but the madmen outside would have none of that and they burned down the church with all inside and the priest prayed with the heathens until he, too, was overcome by smoke and died in the flames with his pagan flock.

In the Danelaw she heard that the English cavalry was set loose upon the Danes and many more foot were horsed and sent out to burn farms and Danish villages.  They would not be back for several days, but she knew what the results of that effort would be.  The cavalry units in London had already been seen returning to their barracks with young Danish girls draped over the pommels of their saddles.  Screams from young girls could already be heard peeling across the parade ground of the palace and Emma sent some of her officers to the barracks to save what was left of the young women and bring them back to her hall.  When she asked where her husband was, her staff did not want to tell her, but she insisted and learned he was off drinking at a whorehouse down by the wharfs that specialized in women that practiced anal sex, but were likely not women at all.  She was distraught by it all and she took a large bottle of Norman wine to bed with her and she longed for Rouen.

That night in London there was a schoolmaster who specialized in teaching young Anglish Danes the Latin script of the Romans and other diverse courses of study and, because it was Sunday, they had all read together in the rectory when the madness had started and he’d hid the boys in the basement and had sent away the crazed Englishmen that had come looking for them throughout the day.  His school had been searched many times over, but the door to the cellar was hid beneath a carpet and no Danes could be found.  So when darkness came and Queen Emma was drinking herself asleep and dreaming of Normandy, there were two dozen young Danes slinking down to the wharves to steal a ship and sail away.  They found a fine ship tied off beside a not so fine whorehouse and their schoolmaster helped them untie it and he pushed them off into the river and waved them good luck.

The boys rowed hard down the center of the river and were guided by the flames of burning buildings and houses on either side of the river.  They rowed all night long and they searched the corners of the ship for food and water, but all they found was fine Frankish wine and a lot of it so, they drank wine as they rowed and they crossed the English Sea and sailed up the Seine into Normandy.  They’d had a fine wind so they were soon in Rouen and they asked for sanctuary there and were taken to Duke Richard and they told him what had happened in London.  “Where did you find this ship?” the duke asked them and they told him it was tied off at a whorehouse on the Thames and the duke said, “I recognize this ship!  It belongs to the King of England!” and he gave the boys food and supplies and two Norman warships to escort them to his uncle, King Sweyn ‘Forkbeard’, in Denmark.  Then he equipped a small warfleet and immediately set off for London.  His sister was there and he was distressed with the news coming out of England.

When Duke Richard arrived in London, King Athelred had just come down from a weeklong drunk and he refused to let Richard see his sister.  He didn’t even tell Emma that Richard was there and when Richard threatened to attack England, Athelred laughed so, the duke stormed off and returned to his land.

Two dozen young Danish students arrived in Roskilde with a Norman escort and their request to see their king was responded to very quickly.  It was not often that Danish students returned from England for Yuletide break under an escort of Norman warships.  When they addressed their king in front of his highseats and they told him what had occurred in London and throughout England, his whole court was shocked.  The boys were feasted and toasted as heroes and they stayed in the king’s court to provide witness to the goings on in England as more ships came into Denmark with tales of the vast slaughter of the Danes throughout the English countryside.  They and their parents were invited to Yulefest in Roskilde as Danish scholars and scripters began to document the disaster.  King Sweyn once again expected all the leading royals of Scandinavia to attend Yulefest in Roskilde and he wanted their opinions on what was to be done and what steps were to be taken.

Back in England, King Athelred raised a warfleet and sent an army to Normandy to attack Duke Richard before he could attack him.  The fleet was rushed and ill prepared and was kept secret from his queen.  The events were perhaps best described by the grandson of the queen’s captain, Guillaume de Jumieges:

“TOWARDS this same time, some reasons for discussion having arisen, Ethelred, King of the English, who was married to Emma, sister of the duke, burning with the desire to harm him and insult him, ordered a large number of vessels to be put to sea, and commanded the knights of all his kingdom that they had to return to the fleet on the day he indicated to them, suitably armed with their breastplates and helmets.  Eager to obey his commands, the English all rushed towards the ships.  The king, seeing this large and very well equipped army, calling to him the chiefs, and exposing to them the projects of his spirit, prescribed to them, with great sincerity, according to his royal way, to go to Normandy, and to devastate all this country by iron and fire, sparing only the mount of the archangel Michel, and taking care not to deliver to the flames a place of so much holiness and religion.  He also commanded them to take Duke Richard, and to tie his hands behind his back, and to lead him alive into his presence, after having conquered his homeland.  After giving them these instructions, he commanded them to leave in a hurry.  Then launching their ships into the open sea, and crossing the waves with the help of a favourable wind, they went to disembark on the banks of the Seine.  Rushing out of their ships, they delivered to the devouring flames all the surrounding maritime territory.  But Nigel de Coutances, having learned of their disembarkation from those who were placed on sentry, assembled the Knights of Coutances, with a large crowd of people from the general populace, and they rushed on the English with impetuosity, and made such great carnage that not a single one of them remained to tell this event to posterity.  One of them, in fact, tired of too long a walk, had sat far from his companions; but when he saw their disaster, was struck with terror and, forgetting the weakness of his body, he ran in haste towards the ships, and told those guarding them of the ruin of the army.  Those who remained, seeking together to go to safety and fearing for their lives, withdrew by force of oars into the mouth of the Seine.  Then, with their sails in the air, and starting with a brisk speed, they returned to their king, driven by a wind favourable to their wishes.  The king, as soon as he saw them, began to ask them the person of the duke; but they answered him: “Serene king, we did not even see the duke; but we fought for our lives with the terrible population of a county.  There are not only very strong and very bellicose men, but also women who fight, and who, with their pitchers, break the heads of the most vigorous of their enemies: that your knights were all killed by these people.  After this story, the king, recognizing his folly, was embarrassed and fell into a deep sadness.”

King Athelred was so shaken by these events that he quit whoring and drinking and he begged his Queen Emma for Christian forgiveness from one Catholic to another.

Back in Denmark, King Sweyn learned of the murder of his Queens Gunhild and Thora and of the men found dead in their beds.  A baby was also found dead and another had died in Thora’s womb and a third, a girl, was taken.  King Sweyn was shaken by this news and he sent his best commander, Gudmund, to take over in Ipswich and to return the bodies of his wives and babies and Jarl Pallig to Denmark.  He sent condolences and gifts to Hearse Justin on the death of his son, Justinian, and he assured the Anglish of Ipswich that the victims would be avenged.  Yulefest was very solemn that year as details of the massacre kept trickling into Roskilde from England.  All the royalty of Scandinavia demanded vengeance as well and promised Sweyn their support and troops.  Prince Valdamar even left the frozen wasteland of Hraes’ with only a dozen of his wives and he spent Yule in Denmark with his grieving father.  The Novgorod legion was his to command and Valdy would send them as early as the spring would allow.  Princess Serah had come from Kiev and she promised to handle the spring trade on her own so that Sweyn could dispense justice and Princess Svia was with her and told Sweyn he could put off his attack upon the Romans until the English were dealt with.

And the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:

A.D. 1002.  This year the king and his council agreed that

tribute should be given to the fleet, and peace made with them,

with the provision that they should desist from their mischief.

Then sent the king to the fleet Alderman Leofsy, who at the

king’s word and his council made peace with them, on condition

that they received food and tribute; which they accepted, and a

tribute was paid of 24,000 pounds.  In the meantime Alderman

Leofsy slew Eafy, high-steward of the king; and the king banished

him from the land.  Then, in the same Lent, came the Lady Elfgive

Emma, Richard’s daughter, to this land.  And in the same summer

died Archbishop Eadulf; and also, in the same year the king gave

an order to slay all the Danes that were in England.  This was

accordingly done on the mass-day of St. Brice; because it was

told the king, that they would beshrew him of his life, and

afterwards all his council, and then have his kingdom without any



12.0  SWEYN IN ENGLAND or VALHALLA CAN WAIT  (Circa 1003-1006 AD)

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11.      “Winters nine we grew        beneath the ground;

                        Under the mountains,         we mighty playmates

                        did strive to do          great deeds of strength:

                        boulders we budged            from their bases.

                                   Anonymous; Grottasongr, Prose Edda (Hollander)

(1003 AD)  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 England, and he’s begged the forgiveness of Queen Emma for his slaughter of the Danes in England.”

“This Athelred’s as slippery as a Roman,” 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 English 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 levelled.  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 plundered 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 England 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 English 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, many of them the one-footers, 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 English soldiers over their shields and had focked them from behind and they were having difficulty getting it up any more 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 English 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 English soldiers before running out of seme.  Officers joked that the English soldiers had just joined the ranks of the nithes and some Danish soldiers were even found forcing English 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 English troops had participated in the Saint Brice’s Day Massacre, especially in the Danelaw, and some of the Hraes’ knights had regained their stamina and had stripped themselves naked in the afternoon sun’s warmth and were tearing the clothes off the English 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 English 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 off 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 English for their crimes.  And everywhere that the Danish legions went, the English 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, England 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 ‘Norsemen’.

The Danes under King Sweyn ‘Forkbeard’ had been attacking England 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 English 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 Erik?”

“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 are 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 English towns 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 English 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 England 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 someday 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 English 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 England and she was enjoying herself with Sweyn.  “You can get away with that,” she said, “but a lady cannot.  In the dressing room I noticed 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 England 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 England.  England is the ‘New Normandy’.”

Sweyn stopped eating.  He looked at Emma in disbelief.  “I’m conquering England,” 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 English 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…”

“Where’s 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 England 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…that I was even wearing a glove.  Moreover, 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 English 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 AD)  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 English 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 English 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 English 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 English 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 England,” 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 Erik, Arrow Odd’s Norwegian half, says it will someday become a great land, full of slavers and slaves, black slaves from Africa!”

“Not English slaves?”

“No.  Just English 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 slave 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 England 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 English 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 English 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 AD)  Before Yulefest, King Sweyn had sent slaver knars to England 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 English 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 England.  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 England, 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 English 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 AD)  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 England.  Sweyn sent his commander Gudmund to lead the forces with instructions to avoid English 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 England 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 England 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 England 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 England 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 England.

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 slaves 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.”

“You what?”

“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 England, the first thing he’s going to do is ban slavery.  He says when he becomes king all the English 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 throughout 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 Ulfgeat 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.’



Back To Table of Contents

12.    “Rocks we rolled                    out of etins’ realm:

                        The fields below                   with their falls did shake;

                        We hurled from the heights           the heavy quernstone,

                        The swift rolling slab,          so that men might seize it.

                                   Anonymous; Grottasongr, Prose Edda (Hollander)

(1007 AD)  King Sweyn returned to England in the early spring and he brought only his legion of Danish cataphracts and the knights held jousting competitions for Queen Emma’s entertainment while she got her quarry back up and running.  She made sure she was in Southampton when the English ships arrived from London with the king’s silver to be paid in tribute to the Danes.  King Sweyn was sent for and he arrived in the city and met with the Ealdormen of London and he accepted the tribute and he gave them peace.  When they returned to London, Sweyn took the silver and Queen Emma back to Wight with him and they continued with the tournaments.  “I’ve challenged Duke Richard to a jousting tournament,” Sweyn told Emma, “his cataphract legions against mine.”

“Ooohhh…,” Emma exclaimed.  “Where? When?”

“In Rouen,” Sweyn replied.  “Midsummer.”

“Can I come?”

“I was hoping you’d ask,” Sweyn said.  “You can take Athelred’s flag ship.  I brought it back from Denmark for you.”

“You did?  I love you Sweyn!” And Emma kissed him with her soft full lips.

Emma returned to Southampton midsummer to inspect construction and Sweyn met her in the Hraes’ palace in the city.  Emma was still living in a suite there while construction on her palace slowly progressed.  “Did you tell Athelred you were going?” Sweyn asked her.

“Yes.  I told him I was going to visit my brother and he offered me his flagship.  I told him Southampton had a flagship for me.  I didn’t tell him it was his old stolen flagship from you and I didn’t tell him about the tournament either.  I told him I was going to check up on my store in Paris.”

“Can you take me to Paris?” Sweyn asked.  “I want to see your store.  Everybody talks about it!”

“Really?  That’s sweet!” she said.  “But I can’t take you to Paris.  You’re a foreign king.  And a Viking at that!”

“I’ll go as your bodyguard,” Sweyn offered.  “You can call me Gold Harold.”

Emma thought about it and said, “I can’t call you Gold Harold.  People will think you have gold!  I’ll call you Hagrold!”

“I got this for you at your Paris store,” and he passed her a package.  “You were there already?” she asked.  “No,” he answered.  “I sent my Exeyes officers to scout the place for security reasons.  I asked them to buy it while they were there.”

Emma opened the paper bag, a new convenience for Hraes’ shoppers, and she took out a male glove kit.  “I don’t want you having to use a female glove,” Sweyn explained.  “I think sex will be better with the male counterpart.”


“Well, first off, we can put it on me together.”  She opened the kit and took out the glove.  “I haven’t put one of these on a man since I made King Robert wear one when he insisted on focking me.”  Sweyn laid back on the bed for her.  She unfolded it and measured it against Sweyn’s hard cock.  It was made of thin lamb’s intestine and sewn off round at the end and sealed with flexible glue, then oiled to maintain its flex and stretchability.  She was about to put some oil on his cock so she could slide it on and Sweyn stopped her.

“Use your lips,” he said.  “If you wet it with your mouth, my cock will absorb your saliva and the glove will adhere like a second skin.  If you use oil, it will always slip around.”

“You know, I’ve sold thousands of these and I didn’t even know that!”  She put his hard cock into her mouth and began sucking and stroking it with her lips.  Suddenly it grew on her.  She took her mouth off it and she marvelled at it, then she measured the glove up to it.  “The goddess Irpa gave you this?” she asked, and when he nodded she asked, “How?”

“I was focking her and I guess it wasn’t large enough so she made it bigger.”  While Witch Hallveig was a mare girl, whenever she turned into the goddess Irpa, she turned into an elephant woman, to use the yoni terminology of the Kama Sutra.

“Just like that?  And it’s been bigger ever since?”

“It was larger yet when she first did it and I thought it would go back to normal when she was done, but it’s stuck around since then and sometimes it pops up like this and sometimes it pops up as big as it used to and sometimes I can make sure it doesn’t happen at all, for deer girls, like the twins.”

“Both of them?”

“Yes,” Sweyn said.  “To me, they’re both deer girls.”

“And I’m not?” Emma said.  “I’m not a deer girl?”

“You were before you had your children,” Sweyn said.  “Now you’re a mare girl and I like to pop it up a bit for you.”

“Well, now I don’t think it’s going to fit,” she said, measuring the glove back up to his cock.  She took it into her mouth again and got it good and wet, but it would no longer slide on.

“It stretches a bit,” Sweyn said.  “Try stretching it a bit.”

“It’s not going to work!” she said, and Sweyn said, “It’ll go back down in a bit.”

“Well, I’m going into the dressing room to take out my glove and, when I get back, you’d better have that cock under control!”  Emma went into the dressing room and while she was gone Sweyn thought about the costs of Richard staging the tournament and it went down a bit.  When she got back she wet it again with her mouth but she didn’t stroke it with her lips and the glove slid on neatly.  She tied it off at the base of his cock in a cute little bow and she sat up and said,  “You’re right!  That was fun.”  She got out the oil and began oiling it up and it expanded in size again and she got see the glove stretch.  “I like this,” she said and she laid beside Sweyn and added, “It’s your turn to ride me!”  But Sweyn was feeling lazy that day so he told her to ride him, adding, “When breaking in a new glove it’s easier for me to monitor the performance of the glove if you ride me, and we don’t want to get you pregnant.”  Sweyn didn’t know if that was true, but it seemed to make sense and Emma sat up and straddled his hips and she lowered herself onto the fine new freshly oiled glove.

When they sailed to Normandy, Queen Emma and her flagship sailed an hour ahead of the Hraes’ cataphract legion ships so that it could not be said that they sailed together, but the one hundred and twenty ships of King Sweyn’s fleet kept her ship in sight in case she came across pirates or Viking ships.  There were other Viking ships that were attacking England as well as King Sweyn’s and they would have loved to come across Queen Emma all alone.  In the Bay of the Seine, one of Sweyn’s officers pointed out the plain on which the Norman jarl and a few knights and a peasant army had defeated the English forces of King Athelred.  Sweyn’s Exeyes officers were still trying to find a viable reason for Athelred’s attack upon Duke Richard beyond alcoholism or a madness possibly brought on by a sexual disease.  They would be studying the issue further during the jousting tournament.  King Sweyn wanted a full understanding of the motives behind all actions taking place within the Hraes’ Trading Company sphere of influence.  A motivations based decision making process was the driving force behind the Hraes’ business philosophy.

Queen Emma arrived in Rouen two hours before King Sweyn’s fleet arrived and beached along the banks of the Seine River.  She was welcomed by her brother Richard and she formed part of the official dignitaries who welcomed King Sweyn to the city.  King Sweyn was given a suite in the royal palace and he quickly learned that it was across the hallway from the suite that Queen Emma had been given and he wondered if she had anything to do with that.  “Of course, I did,” Emma told him at their welcoming feast later.  “I don’t want to be here all by myself.”  It seemed an odd comment to Sweyn until Emma slipped into his suite later that night, after the feast.  “I grew up here,” she explained, “and I have friends here, but I have no lovers here, nobody like you!”

“Well, thank you Emma,” Sweyn said as he welcomed her into his suite.  “That’s so sweet!”

“You’re making fun of me,” she said.

“No.  I’m having fun with you,” he corrected.  “Let me pour you some of this fine wine your brother Richard has put in our rooms.  It’s quite remarkable.”

“I know!  I had some!  It’s not sparkling wine but it seems like it.”

“I know!”  They sat in the great room and drank wine and ate Khavayar and played footsies under the table and Emma looked to the bedroom and said, “Let’s have sex!”

What’s the rush,” Sweyn asked?  He had his foot up her dress and his toe in her panties and was winning the game.  “I want to fock,” she said, “and go back to my room and sleep.”

“I want to sleep inside you,” Sweyn said.

“I don’t want Richard learning that we see each other.  His servants are everywhere.  If he finds out we’re focking, he’ll start holding back from me.  And that won’t do either of us any good.”

“Okay,” Sweyn said, as she dragged him off to his bedroom.  “It’ll be fun!” she said, as she tore his clothes off.  She took his member into her mouth as he clambered onto the bed and she pulled her panties out from under her frilled gown and she jammed him into herself and began riding.  “Tomorrow, during the tournament,” she started as she rode him, “I’ll find a place we can sneak off to, but you have to follow my lead.”  The sailing had been long that day and the waves had taken the ships up and down ceaselessly so, her ride aboard the longship Sweyn, seemed a perfect way to cap the day, and she was soon coming all over him as he came within.  Sweyn hugged her close to himself and whispered, “I want to sleep inside you,” and she whispered back, “five minutes,” and he clung to her and he savoured each one of those five minutes.

The next day, the jousting began.  The Roman knights of the First Rouen Regiment were to go up against the Danish knights of the Second Roskilde Regiment and the Norman knights of the Second Rouen Regiment were to go up against the Hraes’ knights of the Third Kievan Regiment.  The two Norman regiments comprised half of the First Rouen Legion of Cataphracts of Richard the Second of Normandy.  The Second Rouen Legion of Cataphracts was in the field in Aquitaine enforcing some trade agreement Richard had with their Duke.  Wooden viewing stands had been built in front of the city walls of Rouen and the legionary pavilions were across from the stands and a jousting run sat between the two.  The top six knights of the Roman regiment congregated at one end of the run and the top six knights of the Danish regiment gathered about the other end.  The Romans were all descendants of Byzantine knights that King Ivar had hired many years earlier, knights who found fine Frankish wives while north and never returned to Constantinople, and the Danish regiment was out of the new Danish and Kievan cataphract legions that Prince Valdamar had created and trained in Kiev for his father.

A plate mail armoured knight on a scale mailed horse stood at each end of the run, each on the right of a heavy short fence that ran the length of the run and they charged at each other with long lances lowered and kite shields held high and the Roman knight unseated the Dane, who tumbled into the dirt and mud and had to be helped up so he could recover while the next pair of cataphracts faced off.  King Sweyn ‘Forkbeard’ of Denmark and Queen Emma of England had been given prime seats on either side of Duke Richard and his wife, Duchess Judith of Normandy and Emma was literally bouncing out of her seat each time a knight was unseated.  She loved jousting and she loved the pageantry and she loved the Roman chivalry that the Byzantine knights had brought to Normandy with them.  It wasn’t real, of course; not much out of Constantinople was, but it was the stuff that princesses of her time gobbled up; ‘The Viking and the Nun’, ‘Bjorn of the Barrows’,  ‘The Battle of the Goths and the Huns’, ‘The Tale of Tristan and Isolde’ that Emma learned when in her city of Exeter and Cornwall, these were the chivalric tales of her time.

King Sweyn and Duke Richard got in a discussion of the kite shield while watching the jousting.  The Danish and Kievan cataphracts still carried the original kite shields with a point at the top and the Normans had adopted a round top kite shield.  “When I first designed the kite shield,” Sweyn explained, “our helmets weren’t as good.  We might have had a few with cheek pieces and eye protection, but most were open faced with ring mail around our necks only.  So, the pointed top gave us some face protection.  Some newer helmet designs have full face shielding so, the round top is all you need.  Modern helmets are just that much better!”  And the two princes agreed on that point at least as they discussed everything cataphract from equestrian face plate armour to stirrups to helmet plumage.  These were the royals bringing the truly armoured medieval knights to Europe and Duke Richard said, “I think this is the first international jousting match we’ve ever had!”  King Sweyn reminded him that over a decade earlier, his father, Duke Richard the First had brought the First Rouen Legion of Cataphracts of Normandy to Denmark for a jousting tattoo and tournament in Roskilde, but Richard reminded him that it was still only Norman cataphracts that fought.  “Here we have Norman and Danish and Kievan Hraes’ cataphracts going at it lance to shield in a truly international jousting match!”

King Sweyn had to agree with Duke Richard on this point as well.  Duke Richard then told him, “I heard that when Duke Richard had his legion of cataphracts packed up and ready to leave Denmark, that he told you, ‘If you need help against the Romans, you can count on my cataphract legions.  You won’t have run out of men until I, too, have run out of men.’ Is that not so?”  And again, King Sweyn had to agree with him.  “I just want you to know,” the Duke continued, “that the same goes for me with your war on the English.  What Athelred did to our Danes in England is unforgivable.  You won’t run out of men until I, too, have run out of men.”  The two royals sat back, drank some wine together and enjoyed the rest of the morning’s matches.  At lunch Emma asked her brother if they could show King Sweyn the cheese pavilion.  “We have many very famous cheeses in Normandy,” she told Sweyn and he followed her lead.  “I love cheeses!” he said.

“You take him,” Richard replied.  “We have servants bringing food right here if you wish to stay and not miss anything.”

“I’d love to see this pavilion,” Sweyn said.  “We Danes are famous for our cheeses as well!”

“Richard hates cheese,” Emma said as she walked Sweyn straight through the cheese pavilion and she took him into a quiet livery stable near the grounds.  “We used to hang out here and neck,” Emma said, “when we were children,” and she led Sweyn into her favourite stall and closed the gate behind them.  “My father, Duke Richard, used to keep a few horses here,” Emma whispered, “for us children to ride, and boys and girls would hide and kiss in the stalls and our parents would be looking for us and it was all very exciting.”

“Did you ever get caught?” Sweyn whispered back.

“No.  That’s why I brought you here,” she whispered some more.  “I don’t want my brother, Duke Richard, to catch us either,” and Sweyn could tell she was excited by the way she was breathing.  There were workers and slaves going in and out of the livery and she looked about and got on her knees.  “You keep watch,” she said, looking up, and she unbuttoned Sweyn’s pants and took out his stiffening lingam and she put it in her mouth and sucked it hard and she kept sucking hard and started making suctioning noises and Sweyn thought someone would surely hear them and he started to get excited as well and his cock grew suddenly larger.  Emma kept sucking on it, but it now barely fit in her mouth and was too long for it so, she swallowed it down and gagged it back up and swallowed it down and her breathing became ragged and she looked up at Sweyn and he looked down at her and nodded all clear and she sucked him like that for a long time and she coughed a bit and Sweyn got excited over the noise and his cock grew suddenly larger again just as Emma had swallowed it and regurgitated it quickly and she crawled up his chest and she pulled up her dress and she eased herself onto the swollen member and she wrapped her legs around his buttock muscles and she rode his member while he supported her, slowly at first because of the size and once she relaxed a bit she went faster and began to moan and the noise got Sweyn excited and he came as she was riding him and he flowed and she sped up some more and rode him until she was sated.  She wrapped her legs tightly around his waist when she was done and his member went soft and she slid down off him.  She sat in the hay at his feet and she held his legs and she whispered, “Thank you, Sweyn.  That was so…ohhh!”

Sweyn tucked his member back into his shorts and buttoned up his pants.  Emma was still holding his legs and catching her breath so, he held her head in his hands and he tucked her into his thighs for a few minutes and then he lifted her up by her arms and he tucked her head against his chest and when she looked up at him he kissed her and he kissed her again.  Sweyn pulled all the straw of Emma’s dress and they walked straight back through the cheese pavilion and were back at her brother’s side just as the servants were taking away the lunch.  Sweyn grabbed a joint of beef off a platter going by and he told Richard, “One can’t live off of cheese alone!” and he passed a strip of beef across to Emma.

That night, after the feasting, Emma once more visited with Sweyn in his suite and they had sex and then talked for a long time, drinking the strange Frankish wine and eating oysters and cheese and Khavayar.  One night he told Emma about the witch from Hell, Hallveig, and her apprentice healer, Emma, and he told her about the summoning of the shieldmaiden spirit Thorgerder Helgibruder and the sacrifices made to win the Battle of Hjorungavagr, at least as much as he felt comfortable telling her.  Then they had sex again and Emma returned to her suite.

One night Emma told Sweyn about the first time she had been with a man in the livery stable they were wont to frequent at noon during the tournaments.  Her father, Richard ‘the Fearless’, had thought it would be good for her to learn about God while practicing her riding so, he had a Brother Thomas ride with her and preach to her as they rode and he made her ride side-saddle to protect her virginity, knowing full well that he would be held personally responsible if she lost it while under his care.  He would lift her side-saddle onto her horse in the very same livery stall that Emma and Sweyn would frequent and then he would lift her dress and push aside her panties and inspect her hymen before the ride and when they had finished their riding and he had finished his preaching he would lead her horse into the stall and lift her dress and push aside her panties and ensure that her hymen was still intact.  One day, she had forgotten to put on her panties, not unusual for a girl just ten years of age, and Brother Thomas took note of it during his hymen inspection.  After their ride and his preaching, the monk performed his hymen inspection and then lifted Emma off her saddle and he bent her over a stook of hay and flipped her dress up and over her back and Emma heard him spit and felt him wiping his wet hand over her anus and then he penetrated her anus with something long and hot and wet and she realised that he was focking her from behind.  She had seen slave women treated like this in some of the Viking halls, but she had never thought that the anus was involved.

She blamed herself for forgetting her panties and vowed not to do it again, but Thomas would remove her panties for his hymen inspection and when they were riding he would have them stop in woods or by haystacks and he would have his way with her anus and call her his little ‘altar boy’ and he would put her panties back on during his final hymen inspection and this treatment carried on for months until Brother Thomas was promoted to Father Thomas and he left Rouen for a minster in Paris.

“Can I?” Sweyn asked.  “Can you what?” Emma asked.  “Can I take you from behind?  Anally?”

“No!” she said.  “You may certainly not!”  They were sitting naked at the end table and Sweyn got up and gave his member a few shakes and it was getting hard.  “I won’t use my Irpa on you,” he swore, “just my regular cock.”  And she repeated, “No!”  Sweyn grabbed her by the wrists and pulled her up out of the chair and he dragged her over to the bed and bent her over the edge and she struggled the whole way but Sweyn was too strong.  She heard him spit and she felt his finger go up her anus as he wet it and then he forced his member up it and was soon stroking away and she would have screamed but she didn’t want Richard learning she was in Sweyn’s suite so, she stopped struggling and she rode out the storm until Sweyn surged inside her.  He was still inside her when he picked her up and laid her next to him on the bed and he said, “See?  It wasn’t your fault.  He was a full grown man and you were a ten year old girl and he raped you.”

“It was the way he took me,” she said.  “He bent me over like he had a god given right to my ass, then he called me his ‘little altar boy’.  The priests and brothers all fock their altar boys, everybody knows that, the parents even know that…it made me wonder if my father knew that.”

“Maybe it was the priests’ lust for boys that made your father feel safe about the brother riding with his daughter?” Sweyn postured,  “Was he that way, this Brother Thomas?”

“Oh no!” Emma said.  “He often told me that, were it not for my flower being intact, he would be taking me from both sides.  I think he loved boys and girls.”

“Still, it was never your fault,” Sweyn told her.

“Thank you, Sweyn,” she said, “for proving that to me, I think.  Can you do me a favour?”

“Anything,” Sweyn assured her.

“Can you get your cock out of my ass?” and as Sweyn began to withdraw, she added, “Easy now, it’s tender.  I think you went Irpa on me a few times while you were plundering my anus!”  Emma returned to her suite and Sweyn hoped he hadn’t pushed her too hard,  But it was apparent to him that she had taken him back to that livery stable and stall for a reason, whether she even knew it or not.

The next day at jousting, Emma was friendly towards Sweyn, but before noon she went off on her own, so, Sweyn stayed and ate with Duke Richard and his wife.  The Duke was entertaining many local nobles during the jousts and Prince Valdamar had arrived from Kiev in the morning and came down at lunch to watch his Kievan cataphracts perform.  He had arrived with a dozen wives, of course, and had spent the morning settling them into Duke Richard’s largest guest suite and then he came down alone to join his father Sweyn and watch the combats.  Sweyn was surprised and he hugged his son fiercely and they sat together and watched as six Kievan cataphracts went up against six Norman knights.  Emma returned late from lunch and sat down on the other side of her brother so, Sweyn took Valdamar over in front of her and introduced his son to the Queen of England.  Emma thought he was big and handsome like Sweyn, but his blonde hair was cut short in the latest Danish fashion and he wore the white silk shirt of the Hraes’ and slate-grey tight pants in the latest fashion and she could see the bulge in his pants and Sweyn had told her that his son kept a monster in there and she averted her eyes as they were introduced but her eyes were drawn back to the bulge in his pants as they talked and she averted her eyes once more.

“She’s young for a queen,” Valdamar said, as they sat back down, “and very pretty!” and he looked across the duke at her as she cheered on her Norman knights.  “Eyes front,” Sweyn whispered.  “That’s Duke Richard’s youngest sister.”

That night, Sweyn was in his suite hoping that Emma would visit him and he heard a tapping at his door.  Emma usually just eased the door open and slipped herself in, but she had seemed a bit put off so, he went over to let her in and when he opened the door it was Princess Svia standing in front of him in a crimson silk robe, and she said, “Sweyn, may I come in?” and she brushed past him half expecting to see naked young women in the room.  She had a bottle of wine in her hand and she turned back toward Sweyn as he closed the door behind her.  “This wine is amazing,” she said and she looked around for some glasses.  “I have glasses in the bedroom,” he said and he took the bottle from her and she followed him into the bedroom.  He put the bottle on the end table and he turned around and he kissed her hard and long and he didn’t want to stop, but she had to breath so he let her.  “I’ve missed you so,” he said as he stepped back and surveyed her as she caught up her breath.  “You’re gorgeous!” he said, and he meant it.  She had kept her beauty over the years and was still the most exquisite woman he had ever met.  She had a strength and grace in her step that very few women showed and her raven hair was just now flecked with strands of grey.  “I told young Valdy,” she began, “not to tell you I came along because I wanted to surprise you,” and she stood beside the bed and she opened her crimson robe and she was naked underneath and she let the silk flow down her shoulders and her back and it slid outwards off her bottom and floated to the floor and she stood naked before him and the hot blood came flooding back, the hot blood that had flowed through him at Ramnic when he first saw her.

He took her up into his arms and he placed her gently upon the bed and he began kissing her face and her neck and then all down her body.  She stretched her lean taut muscles as he worked his way down her body and when he’d finished kissing her petite feet he worked his way back up again.  He then stood up and undressed in front of her as she watched and he got on the bed and got on top of her and he slid into her welcoming well.  She was hot and wet and he knew that she’d been thinking the same thoughts.  They had been together and apart for so long and so often that it took but a touch and a kiss to bring it all back to them and they made love like two souls still as one, connected over space and time.  They started like new lovers, gentle and delving, then familiar lovers, calming and trusting and Sweyn grew inside her, then hardened lovers, strong and thrusting and Sweyn grew larger again and they let their bodies take over and Svia gasped and began moaning and Sweyn drove hard into her and exploded in her, wanting to start a baby in her, then he collapsed beside her and stayed inside her and they both breathed heavily in synchronized heaves.

“You still have the goddess Irpa in you!” she gasped.  “I do so love Irpa!”

“And you still have the goddess Svia in you,” he replied.  “I do so love you, Svia!” and he rolled out of her and laid flat on his back on the bed.  His cock was still huge and wet and the cool night air took some of the Irpa out of it.

“I came with Valdy so I could spend some time with you,” she said.

“And you’re wondering why he’s taking the Kievan cataphracts back east with him?”

“I’m wondering why England hasn’t fallen yet,” Svia started slowly.  “We have to start our attack upon Rome soon, with or without England.”

“They’ve had a famine in England,” Sweyn explained.  “We’re buying English slaves for next to nothing, for food, and it’s just starting to stabilize now.”

“That sounds like the perfect time to attack them!”

“If I attack King Athelred now, a million English will starve to death.  That’s ten years’ worth of slaves…my slaves.”

“How long will it go on?”

“Grandfather says it’ll be over soon.  The heat is an anomaly of this worldwide warming cycle.  He said the warming period is ending and, as it slips into a cooling cycle, the weather will be unpredictable for a while.”

“If it’s unpredictable, how can he say the famine will be over soon?”

“He’s been watching these anomalies for a while.  The first was a famine in Ireland in King Ivar’s time, caused by a cooling anomaly.  The Hraes’ made a fortune off of that famine.  There have been a number of anomalies since then and Prince Erik has tracked each of them and the Hraes’ have profited off of all of them.”

“That sounds predatory,” Svia spat.

“It does,” Sweyn agreed, “until you see how many lives it saves.  We give the English food for their offspring which keeps people in England from starving, while we take the slaves away to areas that aren’t in famine.”

“So, you’re England’s saver instead of enslaver,” Svia said.

“Not hardly,” Sweyn reassured her.  “When they started to come out of the famine we started raiding for plunder, slaves and grain.  Then we’d sell their grain back to them for more slaves.  Finally, Athelred begged us to take tribute instead, thirty thousand pounds of silver for this year, more for next.”

“If it were gold, then maybe, but what’ll you do for slaves?”

“We’ll get more silver out of them next year and Irish and Norse Vikings still raid so, we’ll buy their slaves.  “If I can get this to work, the English silver will help pay for our war with Rome, but my grandfather says I still die of poisoning, whether I pre-emptively kill my co-Emperors or not.”

“How can that be?” Svia asked, then they both said in unison, “Those focking Armenians!”

Prince Valdamar and his entourage of wives stayed for the rest of the tournament and King Sweyn slept inside Princess Svia at night.  Word of Valdy’s prowess with multiple wives spread throughout Duke Richard’s palace and when Svia left Sweyn’s suite in the mornings it was duly noted by staff.  When the tournament was over, they headed back to Kiev and took the Kievan cataphracts with them.  Sweyn asked Emma if she was still angry with him.

“”I’m not angry,” Emma said.  “My brother was starting to spy on me.  I had to keep some distance.  Fortunately, your son came and distracted all his spies.  They couldn’t believe all the pounding emanating from his suite!”

“So, are you still going to show me your store in Paris?” Sweyn asked, hopefully.

“Yes.  Are you still going to pose as my bodyguard?”

“I’ve made all your security arrangements,” Sweyn said, kissing her gently.  “We can leave in the morning if you wish.”

They took Queen Emma’s English flagship, which was actually King Athelred’s stolen flagship, up the Seine to Paris and they first visited Duke Richard’s Hraes’ store, which was downstream along the river and it was pretty standard Hraes’ fare, with a warehouse and fur storage and slave quarters and auction area, which was new.

“A Persian once told me in Baghdad,” Sweyn told Emma, “that they used to auction off brides annually in Babylon, but I’ve never seen it done before.”

“The Roman Gauls here auction off estates,” Emma explained, “but Richard came up with auctioning off slaves.  The word is from the Latin ‘auctum’ and I find the practice dehumanizing.  Slave women are brought up naked onto the stage and bidders come up and poke and prod them and then bid on them.”

“It might eliminate the clients test riding the stock all the time,” Sweyn offered.

“I wish!” Emma said.  “His good clients come in early and bend them over the edge of the stage and fock them in front of everybody.  It’s disgraceful.  There are no slave auctions at my store!  Discrete sales only of select offerings.”

“I thought you didn’t sell slaves,” Sweyn chided.

“If I was still in Frankia, we wouldn’t, but my manager kept asking me because our clients kept asking her so, I relented a bit.  No open sales, discreet offerings only and no free test rides!”

Soon their ship approached the quay in front of her store and the sign on the second floor wall simply said: ‘HRAES’ in large white letters and it was above a dockside restaurant area in front of the store and there were clients seated at tables and they were ordering food.  “We only offer food that we sell,” Emma said.  “Fine wines, pastries, Khazar Vayar.”  The ship was tied off at the end of the quay and there were a few clients’ boats and sailboats tied off down the sides.  The store had just opened and was already starting to fill.  Sweyn was dressed as a Norman bodyguard and he offered Emma a hand as she stepped over the topstrake.  He played his part and followed her as she strode into her store and found her manager, who was a fine looking Norman woman in her thirties.  Food was being prepared in one corner of the large store and waiters served the clients at tables inside as well as through a separate door to the outside deck.  The front of the store was actually at the far end of the building that faced onto the street that ran along the Seine and the high end furs and fashions and products ran down one side of the store and was frequented by royals and the regular family goods and lower end products ran down the other side.  There were fitting rooms mid-wall down the high end side and discreet slave rooms on the opposite side.  A pre-pubescent teen boy was leading a young slave woman out of a slaver stall and he walked her over to his mother on the other side of the store.

“He’s just purchased a new handmaiden for his mother,” the manager told Emma.  Sweyn played his part and gave the slave room a quick check and he saw a glove, still warm and wet, laying on the floor of the small chamber.  ‘High end or not,’ Sweyn thought, ‘some things don’t change.  He bent her over the chair in the corner and he’ll be bending her over his mother’s dresser until he leaves home.’  And then he laughed at himself, realising that he was no older than that boy when his mother’s handmaiden had taken his virginity in Constantinople.  He returned to Emma and stood beside her and her perfume made him want to take her right there, but he kept motionless and stood guard.

By the time Emma had finished going through all the books at the store and had inspected all the areas she wanted Sweyn to see, it was too late to sail back to Rouen so, they left the ship docked at the Hraes’ store and rented a carriage to tour Paris in the afternoon.  Emma showed Sweyn the sights of the City of Love and they had supper at a very nice restaurant then went to their hotel.  It was an inn for royals and she’d booked a suite and a room for her bodyguards.  Sweyn and one of his Exeyes officers took first watch and Sweyn was standing guard outside her suite when he felt a hand on his shoulder from behind and he looked over his shoulder and saw Emma nodding him into the room.

“I’ve never gone back to that livery stable,” Emma told him.  “I could never stay away from it and now I could care less about it.  Thank you.”

“Sometimes it’s hard to believe that something bad isn’t our fault,” Sweyn told her.  Finally, they were in a place where Sweyn could sleep inside Emma, so, he did.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:

A.D. 1007.  In this year was the tribute paid to the hostile

army; that was, 30,000 pounds.  In this year also was Edric

appointed alderman over all the kingdom of the Mercians.  This

year went Bishop Elfeah to Rome after his pall.’

(1008  AD)  In the early spring, King Sweyn returned to England and he brought only his Danish mobile legion and Queen Emma, once more, got her quarry back up and running.  She made sure she was in Southampton when the English ships arrived from London with the king’s silver to be paid in tribute to the Danes.  King Sweyn was sent for and he arrived in the city and met with the Ealdormen of London and he accepted the forty thousand pounds of silver in tribute and he gave them peace.  When they returned to London, Sweyn took the silver and Queen Emma back to Wight with him and they surveyed the stone that was being cut for the new cathedral in the city.  Her palace complete, Emma had moved out of the Hraes’ palace and into her three story manse in the center of Southampton.  When her Portsmouth designer had offered her the option of adding a post and beam third story to her two story stone palace, Emma immediately told her to add the story and now her house, though of smaller footprint than the Hraes’ palace, was of equal square footage.  And it hadn’t slowed down the start of her cathedral because the post and beam construction was done by carpenters so, the stone masons moved on to the cathedral while the carpenters took over the palace completion.  The cathedral design had been beyond the expertise of her Portsmouth designers and Emma had actually had to go to Normandy to have the plans drawn up so, they were ready for her Portsmouth contractor’s stone masons to work off of and they commenced construction of her Latin Christian church in the city square.

Sweyn had been so impressed with her Hraes’ store in Paris that they had visited together the previous summer, that he asked Emma to go into partnership with him on a similar store in Southampton.  He offered her floor space in half of the Hraes’ palace in the square and he gave her the freedom to design it any way she pleased.  He wanted to see what she would come up with and if it could be applied to the Hraes’ stores of the north and perhaps even the east.  Queen Emma would return to London when required for official engagements, but she spent most of her summer in Southampton and visited the Isle of Wight often.  Her contractors in Portsmouth had designed a tall cathedral and the stone had to be of superior quality to handle the compressive stresses and that quality was found in the quarry on Wight.

King Sweyn spent the summer buying slaves from the Norse and Irish Vikings that were plundering the west coast of England and training his mobile legion for a special campaign he had planned for the fall.  Jarl Eirik was in Baghdad for him, running the trade there again.  When he returned in the fall, they would take the legion and his Vikings out for a final slave raid on the west coast.  Because he was going east, Jarl Eirik left Princess Gyda and the children in Lade over the summer.  He still followed the warning of Jarl Pallig even though he had died during the Saint Brice’s Day Massacre.  King Sweyn had, meantime, hired another Jomsviking Jarl to lord over Ipswich while Gyda was gone.  He brought in Jarl Thorkell ‘the Tall’ Strut-Haraldson, younger brother of Jarl Sigvald of Jom to keep the peace in East Anglia, but the Jomsvikings he brought were soon raiding in Colchester in Essex.  When complaints reached Sweyn from London via Queen Emma, he sent his commander Gudmund to Ipswich with a regiment of heavy cavalry to rein in the Jomsvikings.  Plunder was returned and women were released and apologies were made.

When Jarl Eirik returned from trading in Baghdad, he was incensed.  He did not like Princess Gyda’s kingdom being used as a raiding base for the Jomsvikings.  “We must keep Ipswich neutral,” Eirik argued, “to keep Gyda and the children safe there.”  Sweyn agreed and wondered if his choice of using deadly Jomsvikings to keep peace had been a valid one.  But Eirik had stopped in at Lade on his way back and brought Gyda and the children to Wight with him.  They stayed in the Viking fortress there and they got a chance to meet the Queen of England several times.  Once Queen Emma had shut down construction for the season and returned to London, Sweyn and Eirik set out with the Danish mobile legion west along the southern coast and then north and east into the Bristol Channel, or Brycgstow Sea, and up the mouth of the Severn River to Avonmouth and up the River Avon to Bristol.  They caught the Roman walled city by complete surprise and took the main gate within minutes of landing.  Foot soldiers held the gate while heavy cavalry landed their horses and took off through the city streets, disarming the fyrd warriors as they came out of their buildings.  Within an hour the city had fallen.

Three days of plundering began and little mercy was shown for the Bristol pirates, as King Sweyn called them, and the men were herded down to the slaver knars that were just catching up with the warfleet and they were held on the ships as the Hraes’ troops settled into the homes and wives of Bristol and began searching the buildings for gold that was rumoured to be well buried within the walls.  The inside corners of clay floored homes were favoured locations and the corners were soaked down and spears were thrust into the clay for the tell-tale clink of steel on silver or the clank of steel on gold, then the corner was torn up to expose the household treasure.  By the end of the three days, the wives were well worn and the floors were well torn and the city had been relieved of a small fortune in silver and gold coin.  The Bristol slavers had been making a lot of money kidnapping and selling the Welsh to the Irish Vikings, and the now King Sweyn and his Danes were helping themselves to the profits.  Half the city was enslaved and the other half left free and ransoms were allowed for the captives and more gold was dug up from the recesses of the city to free relatives and friends, but the poor were all taken away to overwinter in the slave schools of Kiev.  In five days the Hraes’ legion had come and gone like a black squall blown in from the sea and the Bristol slavers couldn’t report the theft of their ill-gotten gold nor their missing poor.

Perhaps it was the Norse and Irish Viking raids or maybe the indiscretions of the Jomsvikings or possibly word reached London of the plundering of Bristol, but more likely it was just the payment of thousands of pounds of silver in tribute that caused King Athelred to proclaim the secret building of ships and arming of thanes over winter while the Danes were gone, returned to their homelands.  So, the English did as commanded and worked all winter on warships and weapons.

While King Athelred had given the command to build, it was Queen Emma who took command of the building.  She brought Christian Norse Viking shipbuilders that had fled the re-paganization of Norway from York into London with the promise of work and silver and fine Saxon wives and she brought in her designers from Portsmouth and they began work on a new kind of ship that Vikings would find hard to attack.  The York Vikings wanted to carry on what King Olaf Tryggvason had started with his famous ship, the Long Serpent, and this was a ship with full quarterdecks and higher topstrakes, a ship that physically prevented boarding, a ship that had taller decks from which archers could shoot downwards from and soldiers could drop anvils from, a ship with castellated side rails and two masts like a cargo knar to reduce its dependency on rowing.

The designers from Portsmouth, mostly females, wanted something quite different.  They wanted a design their carpenters could actually build.  There were very few shipbuilding carpenters in England but, due to the Viking army’s propensity to burn estates, there were plenty of house building carpenters, post and beam, mortise and tenon type carpenters who could build strong frames that were filled in by wattle and daub plasterers.  So, they proposed a design that had been working its way up from the Mediterranean through Frankia and into Normandy called fixed frame shipbuilding in lieu of the Viking shell based construction.  A post and beam frame would be built for the ship and steamed planks would be bent around the frame and seams would be caulked and tarred in a sloppy but fast fit-up and construction would be kept simple and crude in order to build the number of large ships commanded in the short winter window.  And, as if the Viking shipwrights weren’t already pulling out their long hair and beards, the women wanted the ships built upside down as if houses, with the topstrakes at the bottom and the side ribs as posts and the keel as a great roof beam, tying the house together.

“How will you launch these upside down ships?” the Viking ship designers asked.

“We are going to build them along the banks of the Thames,” Queen Emma started, “and then we are going to roll them over into the river, sliding them down the clay riverbanks.”  The Vikings on the other side of the design table almost rolled out of their chairs in laughter until Emma and her Portsmouth designer unrolled a large vellum drawing done in three dimensions showing a huge upside down ship, first rolling, then sliding down the mud, controlled by ropes, and then splashing into the water of the Thames.  The drawing was marvellous, done overnight by the women, and it sold the idea.  It said, “THIS CAN BE DONE!”

All winter these huge two story planked houses were being built along both banks of the Thames, upstream and downstream of London, and they looked quite similar to Viking longhalls and the citizens were told nothing about them being otherwise and the Londoners marvelled at how these new homes had no windows or smoke holes.  Emma worked her crews straight through Christmas holidays and the wagons and wains of London creaked relentlessly hauling supplies out to the longhalls and some workers even began to live under the ships they were constructing, except for the Viking shipwrights who were living in the city with their new Saxon wives.

In late winter, after the first melting of snow, a longhall was completed and the riverbank had its snow turn to mud so, a ship launch was prepared for and crews of men were on the control ropes and the ship’s crew was under the ship releasing mortise joints and jacking up the one side and, when the ship threatened to roll over and slide down the bank they grabbed a hold of topstrakes inside the ship so they could be inside it to control the ship when it hit the water.  Tar was at the ready to throw aboard so leaks could be stopped up immediately by the crew controlling the ship and boats were in the river nearby should things go awry.  When the ship began to roll, the men all jumped inside and it slid down the muddy bank and took them for a ride but, when it hit the water, which was colder and more viscous than anticipated, it hit the water hard and rocked over suddenly, flinging many of the men out into the middle of the Thames and, like so many English sailors, most could not swim and they paddled and shouted until the boats rowed out and saved them.  But those that had stayed with the ship screamed out for tar as water rushed within.  They ran about with tar until they saved the ship and more men were rowed out to start bailing out water.  Construction had been crude, but the planks were strong and thick and built for river battle, not oceanic cruising.  And the ships sat high out of the water with a fully decked level between the waterline and the topstrake and castellated railings were yet to be added to further increase the height.  And the fore and aft quarter decks were higher yet and one could see that the aft quarterdeck had been built by housebuilders, as it was square at the back and had windows.

Had Prince Erik seen the ship, he may have remembered ships like it that he had seen in his visions, armed with fire spewing tubes of iron, not Greek-fire spewing tubes of bronze, but the fire spewing tubes of iron that he remembered seeing at the fall of Constantinople when he had foreseen the death of Emperor Constantine XI Dragases Palaiologos.  Future galleys he had seen packed with fire spewing shot throwing iron tubes that stuck out in lines from tween decks and, had he seen this first launching, he might have realized that he was seeing the birth of the mighty British navy.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:

A.D. 1008.  This year bade the king that men should speedily

build ships over all England; that is, a man possessed of three

hundred and ten hides to provide one galley or skiff; and a man

possessed of eight hides only, to find a helmet and breastplate.’

(1009 AD)  In the early spring, King Sweyn returned to England and he brought only his Danish mobile legion and Queen Emma, once more, got her quarry back up and running.  She made sure she was in Southampton when the English ships arrived from London with the king’s silver to be paid in tribute to the Danes.  King Sweyn was sent for and he arrived in the city and met with the Ealdormen of London and he accepted the forty five thousand pounds of silver in tribute and he gave them peace.  When they returned to London, Sweyn took the silver and Queen Emma back to Wight with him and they surveyed the fresh stone that was being cut for the new cathedral in the city.  Emma had settled into her palace in the city square and she had an open house celebration for all her subjects.  They were all allowed to tour through her new palace and the invitation included the Danes and Vikings that frequented the city.  Select citizens were also invited to a great open house feast to be held later in the palace.  King Sweyn and Jarl Eirik were milling through the palace with the citizens of Southampton and the stone works of the first and second floors were quite similar to the Hraes’ palace across the street, but the added third floor was quite different in that it was of oak post and beam construction and the massive roof timbers and ridge beam were open to view and it gave the whole top floor an open magical feel that was seldom found in enclosed buildings.  It was almost like the free floating feeling Sweyn had felt in the tall cathedrals of Normandy and Frankia but it was much cosier and it just felt like home.

“Who designed this?” Sweyn asked Emma, “and have you hired her to work on our Hraes’ store?”

“How do you know it’s a she?” Emma asked him.

“I can feel it in this place, and I know you!”

“It’s the wife of my Portsmouth contractor,” she told him, “and she’s over in our store right now inspecting the progress.”

“She does good work!” Sweyn said and he and Eirik carried on with their tour.  There were still workers there doing some minor clean-up work and Sweyn noticed three women sweeping and dusting and they were dressed in black, a young pretty girl, an older woman and an aged old crone and they stood out because they were dressed identically, which was unusual for the age difference between the three.  Later that night, at the feast, Sweyn was introduced to the contractor and his wife and he complemented them both on their work.

In late spring, Sweyn left for Baghdad trading and Jarl Eirik was left in charge of Wight and he spent the summer going between Wight and Ipswich to help Princess Gyda keep a rein on Jarl Thorkell ‘the Tall’ and his Jomsvikings.  They were champing at the bit to do some raiding but Eirik worked hard to keep the peace.  While sailing with his small warfleet back to Wight he saw many new large English ships anchored up the mouth of the Thames and it looked as though they were there to keep Viking ships out of the river.  Eirik made a mental note to investigate the ships the next time he was going to visit Ipswich and he continued on toward Wight when he saw twenty of the new large English ships raiding the English coast at Hastings.  Something was up and he wanted no part of it, but he knew he would have to go to Southampton and bring it up with Queen Emma.

When he met with Queen Emma at her new palace in the city, he told her about the new large English ships he had seen raiding English coastal cities and she got very upset about it and said she would have to sail to London and find out what was going on.  Jarl Eirik was in charge of keeping King Sweyn’s peace so, he insisted on escorting her past the raiding fleet at least to the English ships guarding the Thames.  She told him she had heard something of some large new ships, but if an Earl had gone rogue with them and was raiding his own lands, she had to get something done about it.  They sailed back east along the southern coast but the raiders were gone and only the damage was left behind.  He took her as far as the mouth of the Thames and then she asked Eirik if he could keep an eye on Southampton while she was in London in case the raiders turned on her city while she was gone.  He told her he would and Portsmouth as well he assured her, then he watched her sail up the Thames toward the new and menacing English ships.

In London, Emma learned from her husband that Earl Brihtric, brother of Alderman Edric, had betrayed Earl Wulnoth, the Sussex war chief, father of Earl Godwin, to King Athelred and he was found guilty of plotting against the king and he went into self-exile and had gone to the navy and had taken back the twenty new ships he had provided the king with money to build and he had plundered everywhere along the south coast, and had wrought every kind of mischief.

“Something must be done to bring him back under control,” Emma told her husband.  “Those ships aren’t designed for the open sea.  They’re river ships to protect the Thames and London.”  King Athelred assured her he would take care of it and she told him she had to return to Southampton and see to the defence of her city.  The king told Earl Brihtric to take a large force of the new ships after him and offered silver in reward for getting him under rein, dead or alive.  Earl Brihtric took eighty new ships down the Thames from London and set out into the British Sea, or what some were now calling the English Channel, looking for the rogue Earl, thinking that he could acquire for himself much silver and reputation, by getting Wulnoth into his hands alive or dead.  While they were sailing and searching the southern coast of England, a storm came up and drove the eighty ships aground along the coast.  Earl Brihtric and his men barely made it to shore alive and following the storm came Earl Wulnoth and his twenty ships out of the harbour they had hidden in to avoid Brihtric’s fleet as it passed by and Wulnoth’s fleet set upon the abandoned ships and plundered and burned them all.  They then returned to their hidden harbour to divide the spoils.  Earl Brihtric and his men had a humiliating walk back to Sandwich and they took all the new ships that were patrolling the river and they rowed them back up the Thames to London.  The Earl claimed that the ships were unseaworthy and that they should be retired before the Vikings found out that they had been built in the first place.

When Queen Emma heard the result of her husband’s folly, she returned to London and demanded that her ships be taken back to Sandwich to protect the Thames from Vikings.  She warned all the naval commanders and all the Earls that the ships were, under no circumstances, to be taken out to sea and were to remain on the river protecting the Thames and London.  Even King Athelred withered before her anger and the ships sailed back down the Thames with her as she returned to Southampton with her children.

In Ipswich, Jarl Thorkell heard about the new English ships upon the Thames and he decided to raid there.  In August, he took five thousand Jomsviking warriors in a hundred Viking longships and they sailed south along the coast and into the mouth of the Thames and he found eighty of the new large English ships waiting in the river for him so, he attacked them.  The Viking ships were much more manoeuvrable than the English ships but the English had catapults mounted on their decks and they flung huge stones down upon the lower longships as they rowed between the larger ships and tried to attack them.  Had Thorkell been planning an attack on London, he would have brought scaling ladders with him, but he had planned on attacking ships so he’d left the ladders in Ipswich.  He was surprised to find this new use for ladders for he had never seen ships so tall.  Even the Long Serpent he had seen at the Battle of Svolder wasn’t as tall as these new large English ships.  When he took his ship alongside an English one, they protected themselves from a shower of arrows with their shields, but the English began dropping huge stones on them and one Englishman even dropped an iron anvil and it fell between the shields and punched a hole in the bottom of his ship.  Thorkell led his ships up the River Stour where the larger English ships could not follow and they beached their damaged ships and sacked the town of Sandwich.  They then marched west to the walled city of Canterbury and laid siege there, but the Earl of Canterbury paid them three thousand pounds of silver to leave East Kent so, they marched west along the coast re-plundering the towns that Earl Wulnoth had just plundered a few months earlier and, when they approached Portsmouth, Queen Emma went to Wight and asked Jarl Eirik for help.  Jarl Eirik went to Portsmouth with his five thousand Vikings and he told Jarl Thorkell and his five thousand Jomsvikings that they would have to keep the peace.  Jarl Thorkell told Jarl Eirik that the English had destroyed his ships with their large new ships and that he was going to make them pay and he as much told Eirik to fock off and mind his own business before leading his Jomsvikings away to the north for an attack upon London.

There were more new large English ships protecting London so, Jarl Thorkell marched his army upstream and they forded the Thames and came back down against the city but they had no ladders and siege equipment with which to challenge the fine upgraded Roman walls of London so, they raided and plundered towards Oxford but then moved south again.  Meanwhile, the fyrds of London refused to leave their city and pursue the Jomsvikings so, King Athelred ordered that an army of citizens be raised to go after them.

When King Sweyn got back from Baghdad, all hell had broken loose in England.  London was under attack and the surrounding countryside was being ravaged.  Sweyn assured Emma that there was only so much he could do, as the Jomsvikings were an independent brotherhood of knights and were not answerable to the Danes or the Norwegians.

“They even attacked me once,” he told her as they slept together on Wight.  “I told you about the goddesses Thorgerder Helgibruder and Irpa before,” Sweyn reminded her.

“Oh yes,” she said.  “I remember Irpa and her gift to you.”

“Well it took my Hraes’ forces and Jarl Eirik’s Norwegians and both the goddesses to defeat the Jomsvikings so, if I were Athelred, I’d try to make peace with them.”

But Athelred didn’t make peace with Thorkell and the Jomsvikings attacked and burned Oxford before retiring back to their ships in Sandwich for the winter.  Queen Emma shut down her cathedral construction for the season and returned to London with her children and Sweyn left his mobile legion on Wight under the command of Gudmund with orders to keep the peace around Southampton and to control Thorkell if he got a chance.  Then Sweyn and Eirik went to Ipswich and gathered up Princess Gyda and their children and Eirik left his five thousand Vikings in Ipswich to guard Gyda’s kingdom from both Athelred and Thorkell.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:

A.D. 1009.  This year were the ships ready, that we before spoke

about; and there were so many of them as never were in England

before, in any king’s days, as books tell us.  And they were all

transported together to Sandwich; that they should lie there, and

defend this land against any out-force.  But we have not yet had

the prosperity and the honour, that the naval armament should be

useful to this land, any more than it often before was.  It was

at this same time, or a little earlier, that Brihtric, brother of

Alderman Edric, bewrayed Wulnoth, the South-Saxon knight, father

of Earl Godwin, to the king; and he went into exile, and enticed

the navy, till he had with him twenty ships; with which he

plundered everywhere by the south coast, and wrought every kind

of mischief.  When it was told the navy that they might easily

seize him, if they would look about them, then took Brihtric with

him eighty ships; and thought that he should acquire for himself

much reputation, by getting Wulnoth into his hands alive or dead.

But, whilst they were proceeding thitherward, there came such a

wind against them, as no man remembered before; which beat and

tossed the ships, and drove them aground; whereupon Wulnoth soon

came, and burned them.  When this was known to the remaining

ships, where the king was, how the others fared, it was then as

if all were lost.  The king went home, with the aldermen and the

nobility; and thus lightly did they forsake the ships; whilst the

men that were in them rowed them back to London.  Thus lightly

did they suffer the labour of all the people to be in vain; nor

was the terror lessened, as all England hoped.  When this naval

expedition was thus ended, then came, soon after Lammas, the

formidable army of the enemy, called Thurkill’s army, to

Sandwich; and soon they bent their march to Canterbury; which

city they would quickly have stormed, had they not rather desired

peace; and all the men of East-Kent made peace with the army, and

gave them 3,000 pounds for security.  The army soon after that

went about till they came to the Isle of Wight; and everywhere in

Sussex, and in Hampshire, and also in Berkshire, they plundered

and burned, as THEIR CUSTOM IS.  Then ordered the king to

summon out all the population, that men might hold firm against

them on every side; but nevertheless they marched as they

pleased.  On one occasion the king had begun his march before

them, as they proceeded to their ships, and all the people were

ready to fall upon them; but the plan was then frustrated through

Alderman Edric, AS IT EVER IS STILL.  Then after Martinmas they

went back again to Kent, and chose their winter-quarters on the

Thames; obtaining their provisions from Essex, and from the

shires that were next, on both sides of the Thames.  And oft they

fought against the city of London; but glory be to God, that it

yet standeth firm: and they ever there met with ill fare.  Then

after midwinter took they an excursion up through Chiltern,

and so to Oxford; which city they burned, and plundered on both

sides of the Thames to their ships.  Being fore-warned that there

was an army gathered against them at London, they went over at

Staines; and thus were they in motion all the winter, and in

spring, appeared again in Kent, and repaired their ships.’

(1010 AD)  In the early spring, King Sweyn returned to the Isle of Wight in England where he had left his Danish mobile legion over the winter and with him he brought his Danish cataphract legion and he brought his son, Prince Valdamar, who brought his Kievan mobile legion and his Kievan cataphract legion and they met Jarl Eirik, who brought another five thousand Vikings with him besides the five thousand he had left in Ipswich over the winter.  He left Princess Gyda and the children in Lade as this promised to be an interesting summer.

Over Yulefest, King Sweyn had learned from Jarl Sigvald that Thorkell had sent out a call for more Jomsvikings to join him in England and thousands had sailed off from Jom for prospects of women and plunder.  When Queen Emma returned to Wight to get her quarry back up and running, Sweyn told her that the Jomsviking problem had just gotten worse and he brought legions to help keep the peace.  They returned to Southampton together when the English ships arrived from London with the king’s silver tribute.  King Sweyn warned the Ealdormen of London about the Jomsviking threat as he accepted the forty eight thousand pounds of silver in tribute and he gave them peace with the Danes.  When they returned to London, Sweyn took the silver back to Wight with him and Emma settled into her palace in the city square.

The Jomsviking army had spent the winter in Kent and the town of Sandwich, where they repaired their ships.  Then they sailed north to Ipswich and found that an army of five thousand Vikings occupied the town under the command of Jarl Eirik and he met with Jarl Thorkell and sent them onward to Cambridge to attack Earl Ulfkytel, so they sailed up the River Stour.  Additional Jomsvikings had joined Thorkell ‘the Tall’ from Jomsborg over the winter and King Sweyn had brought more back to England with him in the early spring before collecting his tribute to keep the peace once more and had then returned to Denmark to lead the spring merchant fleet east to Baghdad.  But he stopped in at Ipswich on his way out to collect the latest intel from his spies in London and he’d left some final instructions with Jarl Eirik to pass onto Jarl Thorkell.  The Jomsvikings rowed up the Stour as far as they could then left their ships in the shallows under guard and marched across Anglia towards the city of Cambridge and the people of East Anglia fled before the army.

The London Exeyes officers had sent word to Ipswich that Earl Ulfkytel had gathered his Norwich fyrd and was marching south to fight the Jomsvikings, stopping in Cambridgeshire to collect additional fyrds.  Volunteer foot soldiers had even marched out from London to follow the brave earl who had gained a reputation for courage when he had fought hard with Vikings in Thetford a few years earlier.  Earl Ulfkytel had battled hard against Vikings and survived so, how tough could Jomsvikings out of Wendland possibly be?  They were soon to find out.  They met them just south of Cambridge in an open field that Jom officers had marked out with hazel poles in the Aesir fashion.  And the hazel poles caused many an English soldier’s buttocks to clench because they had come to know the meaning of those long hard rods.

There were no horse at the battle and very few archers.  Only a few English officers were mounted and they were well behind their shieldwall when the Lindenwood crashed.  The Norwich fyrds held the center with the earl and his officers behind them and the Cambridge fyrds held the left and the Londoners the right.  Jomsvikings, and only Jomsvikings, faced them all and they were six ranks deep and howling like wild beasts.  The Jom warriors soon broke up their own shieldwall and berserks in their ranks came out from behind shields and used two hander swords and great pole axes to shatter the shield wall of the English and the battle broke into single combats and small milling group combats and the Jomsvikings were soon slaughtering the Angles and the Saxons and Jarl Thorkell and his Jom officers were running around saving English lives and taking surrenders.  They were under orders from King Sweyn to follow the Roman rules of war and plunder; the Hraes’ slavers needed men for the eunuch armies of the east, and the Anglo-Saxon warriors commanded the highest prices.  The Danes would pay the Joms dearly for captives properly ransomed and Sweyn promised pain to those who didn’t follow Roman law.  The berserks could not be stopped, but the regular troops were reined in and began forcing captives to take a knee and then bent them over their shields even as the berserks raged on and drove the English from the field.

It was Easter when King Athelred’s cousin, Athelstan fell on the right flank and Ealdorman Oswy and his son, and Earl Wulfric, son of Lord Leofwin, and Earl Edwy, brother of Earl Efy, and many other good lords and thanes fell with him on the London flank, and a great multitude of the people of both Norwich and Cambridge fell in the center and on the left flank.  Thurkytel Myrehead was first to break and run before the brutal berserk assault and many did likewise and Earl Ulfkytel led his men from the field in an organized flight that saved lives and he furthered his reputation by putting his horse between the wild berserks and his fleeing forces and his officers did likewise as they followed behind him and many lives were saved by doing this.  The men that fled the field were open game to be killed, but the Jomsvikings had no horsemen to chase them down with so, the fleeing English escaped off into the fens and fled back to London.  Those that surrendered within the hazel poles were spared their lives but were taken from behind by two or three warriors in a row and then an ear was notched in the marking of their particular sponsor and half the men were enslaved and the other half set free under conditions of surrender.  They could no longer take up arms against Vikings, Jom or otherwise, and would be twice beheaded if found on a battlefield with notched ear.

The notching of captives’ ears closely followed the markings used by the Hraes’ slavers that followed them to denote castrations to be meted out for the eunuch armies, gonadal castration for single notched captives and full castration with six inches of member lost for double notched troublemakers or ,often, those twice captured.  For a full grown adult male, gonadal castration usually allowed the male to still have an erection and perform coitus and only reproductive capacity was lost, but with full castration and the loss of six inches, even the well-endowed were impaired, because it was always the best six inches that were lost.  Fortunately, for those less endowed, it was ancient Roman law, and Roman numerals had never included the mathematical concepts of zero and negative numbers that were being discovered by the mathematicians of India and had become part of the Indian and Arabic numerals that were displacing the old Roman system.

The Jomsvikings took control of all of East Anglia, raping and plundering as they went, and they soon found horses for themselves and rode about all the area, occupying towns and plundering them in the Roman fashion and always behind them followed the slaver ships, up the riverways that served the towns; and the Jomsvikings bivouacked in the towns for weeks at a time, locking up the husbands and sleeping with their wives and daughters in a most unchristian fashion.  They even rode out into the wild fens, killing men and slaughtering cattle as if they were still after the fleeing fyrds of Ulfkytel.  For three full months they had their way with East Anglia, then, as fall approached, they began plundering in earnest.  The slavers warned them that King Sweyn would soon be back from Baghdad and the slave schools of Kiev would need to be filled in the fall so that slaves could be trained and conditioned in keeping with Hraes’ high standards over the long Hraes’ winter.  The Jomsvikings sacked and plundered the city of Cambridge and enslaved half the populace and offered ransoms and then handed the poor over to the slavers for silver kufas of Baghdad.  They then headed north and sacked and plundered Thetford while their ships were being brought north into the Wash and down the River Great Ouse and then the Little Ouse to the town, and the whole week they awaited their ships they locked up and tormented the husbands while they ravaged the women of Thetford.  They had hoped to find a mint in the town, but it had been moved to London, so, they enslaved half the populace without ransom and burned the town when they left.

They returned with their ships to the River Great Ouse and sailed west into Oxfordshire and into Buckinghamshire and along the Ouse until they came to Bedford and sacked and plundered the town in the Roman fashion and on to Temsford, where they did the same, always burning as they went.  Then they returned to their ships with their spoil, which they apportioned out to the ship crews.

The London fyrds again refused King Athelred’s request that they go out of London and assist the surrounding cities and towns, but the Londoners were still missing many of the volunteers they had sent out in the spring to fight the Jomsvikings so, their refusal was warranted.  So the king raised an army of his own and when the king should have taken it out to meet the Jomsvikings as they went north, then the king took his army south, and when they were in the east, then the king took his army to the west; and when they were in the south, then was the army in the north.  The privy council was summoned by the king to advise him how they might defend the country, but whatever was advised, was soon revised until nothing at all was accomplished.  Queen Emma was stuck in London watching this going on and people were soon coming to her for help, but King Athelred would not let her and the children leave London, for the whole country beyond was unsafe, so, Emma left the children and took her flagship south to the Isle of Wight and visited Prince Valdamar, who was keeping the peace there.  “I was at the Battle of Hjorungavagr with my father,” Valdamar told her, “and the Jomsvikings very nearly succeeded in killing us both!”

“Is there nothing you can do to help?” Emma pleaded.

“Father instructed me to protect Southampton and Portsmouth for you, not the whole of England.  These Jomsvikings are crazy.  I don’t like them and, quite frankly, they scare the shit out of me!”

“I’ll go with you!” Emma offered and she gave him her seductively pleading save all Frankia look.  So, they sailed halfway around England to the Wash and sailed up the River Nene with a Hraes’ warfleet of Kievan cataphract knights and they arrived in Northampton just before the Jomsvikings were about to attack it after marching a short distance from the River Ouse.

Queen Emma introduced Prince Valdamar to Lady Aelfhelm of York and her daughter, Aelfgifu of Northampton.  Valdamar saw Aelfgifu and he fell in love with her.  She had long dirty blonde hair and fine blue eyes, a button nose and red velvet lips and her cheekbones were regal and her cheeks flushed red when she met the prince.  She was quite old to be unmarried, about twenty, Valdy guessed, almost half his age, and she was tall and slender and she moved in a manner that was both royal and seductive.  She moved a lot like Queen Emma, he realised.

Prince Valdamar and Lady Aelfhelm went out together to address the Jomsvikings, while Emma and Aelfgifu stayed in the walled city.  “My city’s called Southampton!” Emma told Aelfgifu.  “And yours is Northampton.  Perhaps they could be sister cities?”

“I heard that your English name is also Aelfgifu,” Aelfgifu said, “and that Emma is your Norman name, my queen.  Perhaps we could be sisters in sister cities?”

“I’d like that,” Emma said and then they watched from the wall as they started talking below.

Prince Valdamar had never met Jarl Thorkell ‘the Tall’, but he remembered seeing him at the Battle of Hjorungavagr, and he took an instant dislike toward him.  He told Thorkell that he had come to Northampton to ask for Princess Aelfgifu of Northampton’s hand in marriage and that he felt he should stand up for the city of his new possible wife to be and he asked Thorkell to stand down.

Jarl Thorkell had never met Prince Valdamar either, but he remembered seeing him at the Battle of Hjorungavagr, standing tall on the high deck of a Roman dromon as he had fled the battle with his older brother, Sigvald, and he told Valdy that he wished him success in his marital conquest and that his request would be followed to help him achieve that end.  And the Jomsvikings stood down and returned to their ships to divide up their plunder.

Prince Valdamar told Lady Aelfhelm that the city would be fine and as they walked back to the main gates the lady asked him if he was serious about wishing to ask for the hand of her daughter.

“I was trying to think up a quick reason for me to want Jarl Thorkell to not attack your city,” Valdamar explained and, as they walked inside he saw Aelfgifu again, as she and Emma were walking towards them, “and I thought that the fact I have just fallen in love with your daughter might be a good one, so, yes, I wish your daughter’s hand in marriage.”

“You would have to convert to Christianity,” the lady postulated.

“I am a Christian,” Valdamar said.  “I have officially converted my whole country to Christianity,” Valdy added, but he didn’t add that it was in order to marry a Roman Porphyrogennetos Princess.

So, the two discussed Aelfgifu’s dowery and Lady Aelfhelm offered to provide her with all their holdings in Northampton and Prince Valdamar accepted this and it was decided that the Prince and Princess should be married so, Valdy asked Queen Emma to witness for him as he asked Princess Aelfgifu for her hand in marriage from her parent.  Emma began to tear up as though Valdy was her own son, even though he was a decade older than she, and then said, “This is so romantic, so Frankish, of course I will!” and she kissed Valdy on the mouth warmly.  Lady Aelfhelm invited Prince Valdamar and his retinue to a feast and when Queen Emma and Prince Valdamar entered the great hall of the palace of Northampton they went to the head table and stood before the lady and Princesses Aelfgifu and her sister, Aelfrowana, and Emma asked for Aelfgifu’s hand on Valdamar’s behalf.  Princess Aelfgifu looked over at her mother and then looked at Prince Valdamar and said, “Yes”.  The feast then became an engagement celebration.

Valdamar and Aelfgifu talked together all evening and decided to get married as soon as possible so, the next day they talked to the clergy in Northampton and they learned that, although Valdamar was Christian, he was the wrong type of Christian.  There was a growing schism between Latin Christians and Orthodox Christians and that schism had grown an unfathomable distance.  The Bishop of Northampton told the couple that it would have been better had Valdamar still been Aesir or even Heathen because there was a path to follow for conversion to Christianity from those religions, but from Orthodox to Latin, that would be through uncharted waters and there was no telling how long that would take.  And there was the question of Prince Valdamar’s seven hundred and some Christian and Aesir wives back in Hraes’.

Valdamar grew impatient and offered to buy Princess Aelfgifu, but was told by Lady Aelfhelm that such things were not possible with free persons in England.  Valdamar was going to tell her that his father’s slaver knars were full of the free English that had thought, only days prior to their capture, that such things were not possible, but he kept his mouth shut and packed up to leave Northampton.  As they were sailing back to Southampton and the Isle of Wight, Valdamar spotted some tall masts behind a hidden cove along the south coast.  He made a mental note of it and dropped Queen Emma off at Southampton and carried on to Wight.  By then, his father was back from Baghdad.

“I should never have brought Jarl Thorkell to England,” Sweyn told his son, as he was updated on the unchecked raiding of the Jomsvikings all summer.  “I knew they might be hard to control, but I had no idea they would be this much trouble.”

“Also, I saw some tall masts behind a cove today,” Valdamar continued, “and they looked similar to the double tall masts of the new English ships on the Thames.  It may be the pirate Earl Wulnoth.”  So, they decided to prepare a warfleet to take back east and investigate.

The next day, Sweyn and Valdamar assembled a small warfleet and they took it east along the south coast of England and when they got to the area that Valdy had spotted the dual masts off behind some hills, there was nothing there.  So, they kept sailing until they found a river mouth and then sailed up into it and discovered a bay hidden in behind a promontory.  They sailed into the bay and found twenty of the new English ships anchored together along the north shore of the bay.

“Why couldn’t we see the masts today?” Valdy asked, and Sweyn answered, “Some of the ships must have been anchored on the south side of the bay and the masts would then be visible over the hilltops.  Somebody focked up!”  The Hraes’ warfleet swept into the bay and there were only a few guards posted on each ship and the rest of the English forces were on land and could only watch as the Danes took possession of the ships.  They threw lasso ropes up around the castellations of the ship rails and scaled up the ropes as the English sailors dove from the decks into the waters far below.

“Take some boats and go after them,” Sweyn shouted to the marines aboard the Hraes’ ships.

“Just let them go,” Valdy suggested.

“Most of them can’t swim!” Sweyn said, looking between the castellations.  “They’re focking drow