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




King Canute ‘the Great’ Sweynson




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.

2022 AD



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

Table of Contents




2.0  THE GREAT FLOODS OF ENGLAND  (Circa 1014 AD) 46



4.1  THE BATTLE OF ASSANDUN  (Circa October 18th, 1016 AD) 104



7.0  KING CANUTE GOES TO LIERE  (Circa 1019-1020 AD) 167






13.0  THE DEATH OF THORKEL ‘THE TALL’  (Circa 1025 AD) 296

14.0  THE BATTLE OF THE HOLY RIVER  (Circa 1026 AD) 320



17.0  THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM  (Circa 1029 AD) 364



19.0  KING CANUTE GOES TO THE VATICAN  (Circa 1031 AD) 421


21.0 PRINCESS NADO OF THE ALANS  (Circa 1033 AD) 455



24.0  ‘THE GREAT’S NORTHERN EMPIRE  (Circa 1035+ AD) 511



© 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.

Saxo Grammaticus.  Book Ten of the Danish Histories of Saxo Grammaticus.  Denmark, c.1200.  Untranslated in the Public Domain for some inexplicable reason.

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, translation and annotations by Alice-Mary Talbot and Denis F. Sullivan, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection Washington, D.C.

JOMSVIKINGS SAGA, Authors unknown, translated by N.F. Blake, edited by S. Nordal and G. Turville-Petre, Thomas Nelson and Sons, Liverpool, 1962.

EIRIK’SAGA ‘RAUTHA’, Eirik ‘the Red’s Saga, Authors unknown, translation by J. Sephton, Liverpool, 1880.

PREVIOUSLY (From Book 6, Chapter 17):



Back To Table of Contents

“During this time Canute ‘the Great’, called by some Canute ‘the Old’, was king of England and Denmark.  Canute ‘the Great’ was a son of Svein Haraldson Forkedbeard, whose forefathers, for a long course of generations, had ruled over Denmark.”  [In the above introduction of Canute ‘the Great’ Sweynson in the Heimskringla Saga (The Chronicle of the Kings of Norway), ‘the Old’ byname may refer to the old Fridleif/Frodi Skioldung line of Danish kings or perhaps he was just old.] 

Brian Howard Seibert

(1014 A.D.)  After Yulefest, King Sweyn returned to Queen Emma’s palace in London and learned that his youngest concubine wife was not vomiting as much but was still just as pregnant.  Prince Valdamar was busy building a moat and bailey castle in Gainsborough, and his English wife was back in Northampton with her family.  Valdamar was travelling between Athelred’s palace in London and Aelfgifu’s palace in Northampton and his own castle in Gainsborough and he finally got around to inviting his father to come north and inspect the work before Sweyn planned on heading east for trade and war in the spring.  So, King Sweyn packed up his household and retinue and pavilion and sailed down the River Trent to Gainsborough.  But before they left, the old woman in black visited an apothecary in London and purchased a few items.  When they got to Prince Valdamar’s castle in Gainsborough, Sweyn was put up in a suite there and his personal guard billeted in the great room and his women in black stayed with him in the master bedroom.  While Sweyn was busy inspecting the construction of the castle with his son, the middling woman cleaned the suite, the young woman drew a bath for Sweyn and the older woman was busy cooking for Sweyn in the castle kitchen.

The great room had several bedrooms off it where his Exeyes officers stayed and two food tasters shared a room as well.  The old woman was preparing concoctions in the kitchen along with the food and one of the balms was an Aesir poison and another mixture was a special antidote for the poison.  Because Sweyn had food tasters, the old woman mixed the antidote into the king’s meal and she kept the poisonous balm in a little container tied around her neck.  When Sweyn got back to the suite from his inspections, the young woman had his bath all drawn in the dressing room and she came out to him naked and she was showing a small bump and she displayed it for him as she undressed him in the bedroom and led him into the dressing room for his bath.  The old woman returned from the kitchen and had the middling woman prepare the table in the great room for their meal.  She went into the bedroom to see how things were progressing and she could hear Sweyn and the young woman focking in the dressing room as water splashed about.  She went back to the kitchen and finished preparing the food and put the portions on plates and carried it all on a wooden tray to the suite.  Sweyn and the young woman were at the table when she got back and she presented the food to the food tasters who ate from each item on the tray.  Once it passed their inspection, she put the tray on the table and the young woman spun the tray around to look at it and put Sweyn’s portion away from him.

“This is how forestem comes stern in the great gale of the Nor’Way,” the old woman said, laughing, as she spun the tray about again.  Sweyn started into his meal and quickly finished it and the antidote that was in it as well.  He was in high spirits and he took two bottles of Frankish wine into the bedroom with his women in black.  They undressed and sat naked upon the huge bed and drank some wine and then Sweyn got frisky with the young woman again and was soon focking her and the middling woman joined in and began riding Sweyn and then the young woman took the reins again.  Sweyn was getting old and he could last a very long time, especially after the bath he’d had earlier.  The old woman went off into the dressing room and she put the poison balm onto her lips and she greased herself, her honey well, with pig fat so she could go a long time and she returned to the bedroom and she took her turn upon Sweyn and she put a finger to her lips and she wiped a bit of balm across Sweyn’s eyes and when he looked up at her he could swear it was Princess Svia that was riding him, and not the older Svia of today, but the young Svia he had rescued from Count Vlad during the Battle of Ramnic and she was beautiful.  The old woman leaned forward as she rode Sweyn and she got horizontal on top of him and she kissed him with her poisoned lips and Sweyn got very excited with the young Svia he thought was riding him and he flipped her onto her back and started focking her hard and fast and the old woman closed her eyes and then died from the poison, but Sweyn was possessed and kept focking her lifeless body until he exploded inside of her and he cried out, “Svia, Svia, Svia, Svia!” then collapsed on top of her and he fell unconscious and then died.  The two other women realised what had just transpired and that both of them were dead upon the bed and they ran naked out into the great room and roused the guards and the Exeyes officers and they went into the bedroom and, sure enough, the king was lying dead inside his expired concubine.  They tried reviving the king, but found the two locked together in love and could not pry the king out of the old woman.  They put the two bodies on their sides and began pounding on Sweyn’s back to try reviving him and the two women copied them and tried reviving the old woman.  The men pounded on the king’s chest to no avail and the women pounded on the chest of the older one and she coughed, weakly, and came back to life.  But still they could not pry the two apart, for Sweyn had gone full Irpa inside of her and they were locked together in the passionate embrace and when they tried easing Sweyn’s large member out of the old crone, she cried out in pain.  Finally, they got the two apart and the officers were astounded at the size and colour of King Sweyn’s member.  It was a metal silver in colour and was the size of a Viking horse’s member.

“The king flew into a desirous rage and he began focking my mother very violently,” the middling woman told the Exeyes officers, “and then I think she died.”

“I think he focked her to death!” the one Exeyes officer said.

“And then he died focking her,” the other officer concluded.  “We could only revive the woman.”

Prince Valdamar and Jarl Eirik were discussing burial arrangements for King Sweyn and Valdy stated that Sweyn would want to have his arval in Liere and have his body burned in the Aesir fashion as was his faith.  “But the official report cannot state he died focking a woman to death,” the prince added.

“I quite agree,” the Jarl replied.  “Perhaps it could state that he fell from his horse?  That’s a common accident.”

“He fell from his horse and landed on his sword,” Valdy said.  “That will keep the Aesir happy.”

“We’ll have to preserve his body,” Eirik said, “if we’re going to ship it to Denmark and then have it presentable for burning.”

“I still find it suspicious that he would fly into a fit of lust focking that old crone” Valdy complained.  “The young girl perhaps, but he called the old one ‘Lady Dryasdust’.  And the girl said he cried out ‘Svia!’ four times before he collapsed on top of her.  Princess Svia is one of the most beautiful women in the world.  Why would he call out her name while focking that!”

“I brought the witch, Hallveig, from Hell with me,” Eirik said.  “I was going to have her preserve Sweyn’s body.  Maybe there is something else she can do for us.”

The women in black were being held under lock and key in the master bedroom of Sweyn’s suite and his body was lying in state in the great room on the table.  The witch, Hallveig, came into the room at midnight, burning incense and sprinkling water as she came.  Prince Valdamar and Jarl Eirik were already sitting at the table on either side of Sweyn and Hallveig sat down next to his head and she cut runes into a stick and she opened Sweyn’s mouth and put the stick under his tongue.  “Hold his hands,” she instructed the men, and Valdy and Eirik each clasped a hand between the two of theirs.  Hallveig recited an Aesir prayer and Sweyn’s eyes opened and stared bluely up at the ceiling and his hands twitched slightly and Valdy and Eirik looked at each other.

“How did you die my king?” Hallveig asked and Sweyn mumbled as though talking with a stick in his mouth.  Then Hallveig said, “He says he was poisoned by the old crone.  She had poison on her lipstick.  She also died from the poison, but Sweyn injected her with the antidote when he came inside her.  That is why she could be revived.  She put the antidote in his food, but the antidote has to be taken after the poison for it to work.”

“I’ll have her executed!” Valdamar cursed.  “Were the other two involved?”

Hallveig asked the corpse the question.  “He says they weren’t, but he doesn’t want her killed.”  Hallveig listened as the corpse mumbled some more and then she sat back in her chair and she blinked.  “He wants you to be King of England and build a tower in London and keep them locked up in it as your concubines.  He wants you to make love to the young one, fock the middle one, and hard fock the old one, ‘Lady Dryasdust’, until she confesses that it was King Athelred that put her up to this.  Then fock her to death!  She is the one who killed Queen Gunhild and Princess Thora in Ipswich on Athelred’s orders during the Saint Brice’s Day Massacre.  That is what King Sweyn has said and that is what he wants,” Hallveig said.  “He also had one last request from both of you, a hard one,” and she discussed the request with Valdy and Eirik.  She took the runestick out of Sweyn’s mouth, closed his eyes with her hand and she kissed his forehead gently.  The next day, she preserved his body.

The army in Castle Gainsborough declared Prince Valdamar the King of England and a few days later, a small warfleet sailed down the River Trent led by King Valdamar and Jarl Eirik and they carried the body of King Sweyn out of the Humber estuary and east to Denmark.  Commander Gudmund and Jarl Sigvald ruled in London while they were gone, but the main part of the army remained in Castle Gainsborough with all the hostages that had been taken from the English earls.  Valdamar and Eirik spent a week in Liere burying their king as the great merchant fleet began assembling in Roskilde Harbour.  Prince Valdamar realized he would have to sail with the merchant fleet to Baghdad in the place of his father.  It was decided that Jarl Eirik would organize the army in England while Valdamar was away.  But they both headed back together to Gainsborough to move the army into the different areas of the country.  When they got back, they found that Commander Gudmund and Jarl Sigvald had fled London with their troops.  “Duke Richard of Normandy has brought a warfleet up the Thames to London and is claiming England for King Athelred,” Sigvald said.

“He has two legions of foot and two of cataphracts,” Gudmund added.  “We had to make a strategic withdrawal from London.”

“Jarl Thorkell and his Christian Jomsvikings are in London as well,” Sigvald said, “but King Athelred is still back in Normandy, where it is safe.  Queen Emma has brought her son, Edward, King Athelred’s son, with her and has convinced the London fyrds to join them.  She says King Athelred will forgive all when he returns as king, and rule in a gentlemanly fashion, so, now all the fyrds of England are joining them.”

“Half our forces have returned to Denmark and to Hraes’,” Valdamar complained.  “We’ll have to withdraw and come back in full force next year.  Duke Richard can’t afford to keep four legions in England forever.”

Messengers were sent to the Isle of Wight to mobilise the two legions there for withdrawal and to meet the main army at Sandwich.  Another ship was sent off to Iceland to warn Valdamar’s great grandfather, Prince Erik, who was still in the Newfoundland, that the English had revolted and for him not to return to London as he had planned.  Then King Valdamar and Jarl Eirik gathered up their two legions and their hostages in Gainsborough and York and he sent for his wife, Queen Aelfgifu, and her family to come from Northampton and the armada sailed down the Trent for Sandwich.

King Valdamar’s fleet stopped in at Ipswich and Jarl Eirik sent Princess Gyda and the children off to Lade, but he told her Sweyn’s two oldest sons were of age to join the army and that all hands would be needed for the withdrawal.  In the harbour of Sandwich the fleets were joined up and provisioned.  Jarl Sigvald told King Valdamar that he would join his Jomsvikings in Canterbury and they would hold the city walls for a year until he got back with a large army.  King Valdamar took all the hostages that they had collected from the English out onto the beach of Sandwich and he made preparations for the maiming of them in the proper Aesir fashion.

The longships of the Hraes’ fleet were nosed up onto the beach and sat side by side for miles in the sand.  The two hundred hostages were taken from the ships and sat in a long row in front of the ships, then a twelve foot long oak stake was implanted pointed end up into the beach sand and three great stones were placed around the base to shore up the pole.  The witch, Hallveig, began carving ancient runes of scorn upon the pole.  Three women dressed in black were then taken from King Valdamar’s shieldship and dragged across the sand to a spot in front of the scorn pole for all to see.  There was an old crone, a middle aged woman and a young pregnant girl and they all wore identical long black dresses and King Valdamar announced that the old woman had been found guilty of poisoning King Sweyn and causing his death.  For this crime, she was sentenced to death in the worst Aesir-Vanir fashion, Rapatio or faciem rapere, to be executed before the maiming of the hostages.  Her accomplices were sentenced to life imprisonment in a tower to be built in London.

A dozen round shields were strapped together to make a bundle and the old woman was bent over the cylinder of shields and each of the officers in King Valdamar’s army took a turn violently raping the crone as her accomplices held her fast.  Then a white stallion was brought forth from one of the transport ships, the stallion purported to have officially thrown King Sweyn off to his death, and the middle aged woman was charged with getting the stallion sexually stimulated by the oral method and handlers had the stallion mount the old woman and fock her from behind as well.  The stallion rammed her hard from behind and handlers held a wide plank for the horse to support its front hooves upon, but the horse got so excited a hoof would slip off the plank and land on the back of the old woman and ribs could be heard cracking.  When the stallion finally came within her the semen spurted out of her in gushes and when the horse withdrew, the semen flowed out of her and ran out upon the sand.

The handlers kept the stallion behind her as though expecting the horse to come again if ordered to do so.  Then King Valdamar marched out amongst a group of his officers to the other end of the prostrate crone and he stepped forward from the group and he was naked and he, himself, performed faciem rapere on her, thrusting his large lingam into her mouth and down her throat until she could not breath and she would flail about with her bruised and battered body until Valdamar withdrew enough for her to catch a breath and then he would repeat the faciem rapere once more.  His member was so huge that her mouth was forced fully open to accept it and the angle of her jaw allowed for no bite reflex.  When Valdamar finally came in her throat, he kept his lingam down it until it suffocated her and she flailed and twisted and finally twitched her last bit of life away.  Valdamar closed his eyes and savoured the lifeless throat for a few minutes before withdrawing his ‘Pink Monster’ from her corpse.

Once more the officers surrounded their king and they walked around the corpse to the horse and Jarl Eirik passed Valdamar his sword and he struck off the head of the stallion and the horse collapsed onto the semen wetted sand and Valdamar drove the sword into the forehead of the horse, piercing the skull between the eyes, and four huge warriors held a shield between them, King Ivar’s battle platform buckler and Valdamar took the head of the horse and stepped upon the shield and the warriors lifted him up and carried him standing in front of the scorn pole and Valdy slammed the horse’s head onto the stake and pushed it down until the sharp end emerged from the forehead of the horse like a foot long horn, creating a Unicorn.  Meanwhile, Jarl Eirik took his sword over to the old crone’s body and he struck her head off.  The witch, Hallveig, tattooed Aesir curse runes upon the face of the struck head and she laid a curse upon it and passed it up to her naked king.  Valdamar took the crone’s head from her and he slammed it neck first onto the sharp stake, right up to the top of the skull and he aligned the head to match the horse’s and they both faced towards London.

In this manner, King Sweyn’s murderer was executed, and a great curse was placed upon the land of the Angles and the Saxons, on England, and the curse would not be lifted until, once more, a Knytling King ruled the land.  “Henceforth,” Valdy shouted out to London, “I am no longer King Valdamar ‘the Great’ Sweynson but shall return as King Canute ‘the Great’ of England!”

Jarl Eirik passed Valdy up a white silk robe with red piping in the Hraes’ fashion and he put the regal robe on and the warriors lowered him down from the scorn pole.  As King Canute returned to his shieldship, Witch Hallveig, Jarl Eirik and the officers began the maiming of hostages.  The captives were ordered to stand and the witch cast bones and hands were lopped off, ears were chopped off or noses were slit all according to the way the bones landed in the sand in front of each hostage.  And behind the witch followed a one legged cavalry officer who had a peg for the other leg and he carried a beautifully curved cutlass and Hallveig would point with her wand to a point on one lower leg of the hostage being maimed and the officer would strike that leg off at that point and he would say, “Welcome to the Legion of the One-Legged!”  Valkyrie medics followed next and bandaged and saved the maimed hostages.  Hallveig then shouted out the name of each god that had claimed a morsel of this hostage and this added to the power of the scorn pole’s already powerful curse.  The hands and ears and noses and feet, the morsels for the gods, were buried in the sand beneath the scorn pole.  Never had any land been so powerfully cursed in either Aesir or Vanir memory.  This was all explained to the hostages as they lost their respective appendages and they were told to warn the English that terrible things were about to befall them.  Never had a curse such as this been unleashed upon any land.

Still, King Canute was being lenient with his hostages.  They had been surrendered to him to guarantee the support of the Angles and Saxons of England, and when their families had shifted their support to King Athelred instead, they had forfeited the very lives of each and every hostage.  Valdamar had chosen to maim the hostages, rather than slaughter them, and they were all being maimed in a way that they could still support King Canute as members of his Legion of the One-Legged when he returned to reclaim his truant kingdom.  As the warfleet then sailed east to Denmark, King Canute asked Jarl Eirik, “Care to join me in Baghdad?”

“I’d love to,” Eirik replied.  “I haven’t talked to the Caliph in a long time.”

Shortly after they had left England, King Athelred returned to London to join Duke Richard, Jarl Thorkell, and his son, Edward in the retaking of England.  Queen Emma was sailing east down the Thames in one of her new tallships as Athelred was sailing west up the Thames in one of his old longships and she hid herself in her stern-castle cabin as they passed each other.  She planned on overwintering in her city of Southampton.  She saw the scorn pole, the Unicorn that King Valdamar had gifted England with as she sailed south and the west along the coast.  Nobody had taken it down…they were all too afraid.  None had ever seen a full Unicorn Scorn Pole erected in the full Aesir fashion, but all knew that the curse would fall first on the poor souls who disturbed it.  ‘Athelred must have seen it on his way north,’ Emma thought, ‘had he balls, he would have stopped and taken it down.  It was, after all, his Unicorn.  He should take it down.’

Prince Erik missed the messengers awaiting him in Iceland.  Princess Blaeja had come to him in a dream, in a feeling that said his grandson, Svein had died.  He had overwintered with Arrow Odd’s descendants in their village near the great Nia-Gara falls, but the warning made him cut his visit short and he took his huge Roman dromon east down the Great Newfoundland River and he sailed straight out into the Atlantean Sea, east, all the way to the British Sea, the English Channel as it was now being called.  He had his men row the dromon into the Viking fortress harbour on the Isle of Wight and he could see that it had been cleared out of legions and equipment, but it was apparent that it had been evacuated, not attacked.  He had his men row up along one side of the quay and they swung out the boarding ramp and he and two officers walked down it and up the quay to have a look around.  King Svein’s great hall was empty, but amply stocked, as though he was expected to return soon after overwintering in Denmark, and Erik thought for a second that his dream had been wrong but realized that there would still be legions here if all was good.  But the legions were gone and, so too, must be Svein.

A faint blast was heard on a foghorn so, The Prince and his men went out and could see from the fortress gate a tallship quite like the tallships they had destroyed on the Thames the fall before.  But it was new, and far more refined, and he thought it might be Queen Emma’s.  Svein had told him a lot about this Princess Emma of Normandy who had become Queen of England, he had talked of her enough that Erik knew that he had grown to love her, so he walked on down the quay and waved her ship in to dock on the other side of it.  He could see Emma’s troops scrambling around the deck of the tallship, preparing their defences, and he saw Emma at the forestem, he knew it was Emma because she was as beautiful as Svein had described her.  He sent his entourage back to his ship and stood on the dock alone to greet her.  Emma and two security officers were lowered on a rope platform and Emma stepped forward onto the quay, an officer on each side of her.

“Queen Emma?” The Prince asked as she stood there.

“Prince Erik?” Emma asked and, when he smiled, she held out her hand and he kissed it.  “I hope you don’t mind my calling you Erik, Prince Hraerik” Emma said formally.  “It’s the Low Anglish Danish of Jelling that we’ve been taught in Normandy.” 

“Erik is fine,” Erik said.  “My first wife, Princess Gunwar, called me by that many years ago.”

“Princess Gunwar!” Emma exclaimed.  “I know that name.  All the young princesses of Europe learn of her, but few know her Christian name, Hervor,” she whispered, and the ‘vor’ rolled off her tongue with a Frankish twist that was somewhat sexy.  “Sweyn told me about you.  A hundred years old, but looking forty.”

“And Svein told me about you, Queen Emma, and you are even more beautiful than he described.”

“King Valdamar has withdrawn his legions,” Emma half asked, half told as she looked up toward the fortress.  “My condolences on your loss.”

“So, Svein really is dead?”

“I’m afraid so,” Emma said, tearing up a little.  “You’ve just returned from your Newfoundland?”

“Yes.  I had a dream he died, so I sailed straight across the Atlantic,” Erik answered.

“Straight across?” Emma asked.

“Please join me in Svein’s great hall and I’ll tell you about it,” Erik offered, and she knew they would be talking about a lot more than that.  She could see a cook and some cabin boys carrying baskets up to the fortress.  “It’s completely abandoned, except for those three.  They will be preparing us lunch.  Bring a full security squad if you wish.”

Emma’s officers were about to call up to the ship for a security detail, but she shushed them and said, “My two officers shall be fine.”

They spent the afternoon in King Sweyn’s great hall, eating lunch and sipping Cathayan tea and talking and then they were drinking Champagne and sampling Khazar Vayar that Emma happened to know was hidden in Sweyn’s master suite.  She’d told her officers that she and Prince Erik were going to be going through some of King Sweyn’s hidden papers and that they should not disturb them.  She told him all that she knew about Sweyn’s death and that she suspected Athelred of using spies to poison him.

“Athelred began to ask my brother, Duke Richard, if he would support him over Prince Valdamar if King Sweyn happened to die,” Emma explained.  “I thought it suspicious, but Richard said it was just sour grapes.  But he readied his legions just in case.  I was opening a new Hraes’ store in Reims, so he added that it would be better for the Hraes’ Trading Company to have England in Danish Norman hands than in Anglo-Saxon.”

“It’s hard to argue with that,” Erik agreed.

“But I warned my brother that Prince Valdamar would not take England’s loss sitting down and now he’s put a curse on the land.  An Aesir Unicorn scorn pole!  He said he would be back in the fall to retake England.”

“A Unicorn?” Erik asked, whistling gently through his teeth.  “That’s powerful Aesir magic.  Valdy’s Orthodox Christian now.  How would he even do that?”

“Sweyn was pagan to the end.  He wouldn’t even convert when they crowned him King of England on Christmas Day!  And he surrounded himself with pagans, Jarl Eirik, and Jomsvikings and witches.  They must have helped him.”

“If Valdamar made a Unicorn scorn pole, he will be back, but not this year,” Erik said.  “My dream was quite clear.  I saw the death of Svein and then I saw terrible flooding all over England.  The flooding will be caused by weather changes due to the worldwide warming cycle we are in, changing over to a cooling cycle, but the English were blaming it on some kind of evil.  They must have been blaming it on the Unicorn scorn pole.  Anyway, the floods will kill thousands and make the lands unsafe for campaigning, so Valdamar will delay his return by a year.  But when he does come back, I foresaw his victory, and it was quite complete.  Advise your brother to not be here when Valdamar returns.”

“King Valdamar is very angry with my brother,” Emma fretted.  “He’ll attack Richard in Normandy.”

“That would not be good for Hraes’ Trading,” Erik assured her.  “I’ll have a word with Valdy on Richard’s behalf.  If Richard quits England before Valdy returns, there will be no retribution against Normandy.  You have my word.”

“My brother won’t listen to me,” Emma began.  “He gave me to that letch, Athelred, just to get his hands on England,” she continued, “but he does believe in soothsayers and witchcraft.  Do you mind if I pass your flood warning on to him?  But not the cause.  I’ll tell him it’s the curse, the curse of the Unicorn scorn pole and he’ll flee England once the flooding starts!”

“Is he that superstitious?”

“The King of Frankia is always complaining about the Witches of Rouen or the Warlocks of Normandy.  He even warned Richard that he would tell the Pope on him and the papacy would withdraw their support for the Norman troops in northern Italy.”

“How is King Robert?” Erik asked, smiling.

“Horny as ever,” Emma complained.  “Every time I open a new Hraes’ store in Frankia I have to fock him to get a permit!”

“I’m glad to see you’re so dedicated,” Erik laughed.

“You don’t know the half of it,” Emma assured him as she took his shirt off and sat him on the bed.

“I know about Marseille.”

“You know about Marseille,” Emma poo-pooed Erik and kissed him gently.  “That took dedication.  King Robert always settled for a blowjob for permits, but for Marseille, he wanted the real deal and I gave up my virginity to the King of Frankia.  Then my dear brother gave me to King Athelred without even asking me about it.  I had to fake my virginity with a drunk Athelred, but he was always drunk anyway.”

“No,” Erik said.  “I know about your plans for Marseille.  Your Seine to the Rhone River portage plans.”  Emma stopped unbuttoning his shirt.  ‘It’s a good plan,” Erik said, reassuring her.  “I want to use it.”

Emma continued unbuttoning his shirt.

“Is this more of your dedication?” he asked as she started unbuttoning his pants.

“No.  This is all for me,” she replied.  “Is it okay?  Sweyn told me the Alchemist drug you use to stay young makes you randy as hell.”  Erik nodded an okay.  “This is just for me.  I miss Sweyn and you’re The Prince, the Head Ransom Prince that fought the Huns to avenge Princess Gunwar.  All the young Princesses of Europe want to fock you, as did I when I was young.”

“You’re still young,” he reassured her.

“You’re sweet, like Sweyn, Erik,” Emma said as she pulled his pants off.  “This is all about me,” she repeated, taking Erik’s stiffening lingam into her mouth.  When she got it all hard and wet to her liking, she tore off her dress and panties and pushed Erik back and put a glove on him and then she rode him hard, fighting back the need to moan or cry out, lest her officers should become alarmed.  She came three times before she finally got her Prince to explode and flow.  “You’re a pleasure to ride,” she said as she rolled off him and laid beside him, breathing heavily, “but you’re a long ride too!”

“It comes with age,” Erik confided.  “After the first hundred years it just takes longer and longer.”

“Sweyn said you were over a hundred,” Emma posited.  “Exactly how old are you?”

“A hundred and forty six,” he guessed.  It wasn’t something he liked to keep close track of.

“A hundred and forty six,” Emma breathed, “and you sailed across the open ocean?  Shouldn’t someone that much older, be that much wiser?”

“It was easier this time,” Erik told her and he reached out for his pants and took a wooden packet from his pocket.  “I used this, this time,” and he opened the little box and he passed it to her.  “We get them from Cathay.  That little needle under the glass always points north,” he said, “come hell or high water.  To head east, I keep the needle pointing to my left.”

“You said it was easier this time.  How many times have you crossed over to the other side?”

“Twice before, when I was much younger.  I was with King Frodi when he chased Arrow Odd across the Atlantean Sea, and I was trying to keep the two of them apart so they didn’t kill each other.  Then I sent Frodi back and later crossed back east myself.  We hadn’t discovered Iceland or Greenland back then, so we had to sail straight across.  No safe island jumping back then, but it is faster!  So much faster!”

“How fast was it?”

“Two weeks, this time, instead of two months!”

Emma got herself up on her elbow and her breasts danced about Erik’s ear.  He turned and sampled them with his lips.  “That’s incredible” she gasped.

“I know.  I had a good wind.  We’ve been secretly working on a trade route back and forth for years, and now I want to use your portage plans to bypass the Muslims of Spain and take product directly into the Mediterranean markets.”

“How long have you been working on this trade route?”

“We sent a small fleet of Roman dromons direct sailing across after the Battle of Hjorungavagr.  They were here in the west anyway and they’re the largest ships we had.  They came back fully loaded, but they’re warships and they don’t have much cargo space.”

“Furs and hawks,” Emma said.  “What else?  Tell me about this Newfoundland.”

“Ivory and furs and hawks and seals and cod and walruses and whales and tin and copper.  And there’s a huge valley past the Nia Gara water falls that my son, Arrow Odd called ‘The Valley of the Mound Builders’ and there is a river down this valley that’s as long as the Nile and there are cities the size of London and Paris all the way down it and the natives call it the Mis Sis Sip Pi River and there is gold and silver to be had at the southern end of this river.”

“Can I be a part of this?” Emma asked.

“A part as in partner?” Erik asked back.  “You already are.  I need your Marseille.”

“You already have the Nor’Way and the Dan’Way!  Why would you need my Marseille?”

“Worldwide cooling is coming,” he warned her, “and the Land of Hraes’ will revert back to the ‘Glassy Plains’ it was between the time of Attila and the time of the Khazars.  That is why I have foreseen flooding in England this summer.  The weather change between warming and cooling cycles is wilder than the change between cooling to warming cycles because heat is more volatile than cold.”

“So I can be a partner?” Emma asked.

“If you can keep King Robert’s permits flowing, you can be my partner at this end of the route.  I’ll have native partners at the other end of it.”

“And no slaves?” Emma asked.  “I don’t want slave trading to be a part of this partnership.”

“No slave trading!  We follow the rules of Hjalmar ‘the Brave’,” Erik said.

“I know that name!” Emma said and she kissed him.

“My native family at the north end of the river doesn’t have slavery.  They do at the southern end, but it stays in the south, coincidentally, where all the silver and gold is.”

“Hjalmar didn’t allow rapes either,” Emma said, remembering her history.  “Women had to willingly board his ships.”

“No rapes either,” Erik assured her.  Normandy was full of rapist lords and witchcraft and all the Aesir vices married seamlessly somehow with Latin Christianity.  “But I do need one more thing,” he added.

“You need me to ride you again, Erik,” Emma said, imploringly.

“I need your tall ships,” Erik replied.  “The ones with the houses at the back.  When I was in Cathay they had such ships for ocean sailings.”

“Yes, you did mention Cathay.  I’ll give you your tall ships, Erik, but you must tell me about Cathay!”

“Now I need you to ride me!  And you shall come with me, all the way to Cathay!”

The afternoon was well spent before the two emerged from King Sweyn’s suite with a rasher of various vellums in their hands and their clothing somewhat askew.  It was an old Roman saying that advised one to never meet one’s heroes, but for every rule, there are always exceptions, and Queen Emma had met The Prince from her childhood imaginings and the dreams remained intact and, now, fulfilled.

“It’s too late for me to sail for Aquitane today,” Erik told her as they walked back to their ships.  “My men will be sleeping under the ships awnings tonight, I’m afraid.”

“Do you see the clouds over the coast of Southampton?” Emma asked, and when Erik nodded, she said, “I think there is a spring storm brewing.  Sweyn warned me years ago that the Solent was very dangerous here when a storm was a brewing, so, if you’ll allow me to return your favour of lunch by having my cook provide us with supper in the great hall, the storm could be upon us and my men shall have to sleep in our little house at the back of my tallship, and, I don’t know about you but, I think I shall be sleeping in King Sweyn’s master suite.  Should you be out and about late and walking in the storm, Erik, perhaps you should seek shelter in the great hall as well.  Perhaps I could ride you to the Newfoundland this time?”

The first spring storm of the year came as Emma had predicted it would and when Prince Erik arrived at the great hall at midnight, all wet and cold and needing some warmth, Emma took him into her master suite and made sure his blood was flowing to all his extremities and he carried her off to the Newfoundland.  Later, as Emma slept in his arms, the rain came down in buckets, presaging what was to come, and thunder peeled across the heavens and Emma would unconsciously jump at the sound and Erik would hold her ever so gently and settle her back into deep sleep.

“Thank you for taking me to the Newfoundland last night,” Emma whispered, when she woke up the next morning.  “Do you go there often?”

“No.  Not often enough,” Erik told her, “but I had to go and address a complaint.  Years ago, Eirik Rautha’s people kidnapped some natives.  I had to warn them to stay out of our territory.  I don’t want them stirring up the natives in the south.”

“Eirik Rautha?” Emma asked.  “But Eirik ‘the Red’ has been dead for a decade?”

“I know,” Erik said.  “When he was alive he kept the Greenlanders out of the Newfoundland for us.  Now they are coming south and causing trouble with the Skraelings, they call them.  The Screamers.”

“Why did he keep them out of the Newfoundland?”

“Because the Newfoundland is green and Greenland isn’t,” Erik said.  “He was building a third colony of settlers in Greenland, which is more black and white than green, and he didn’t want to lose settlers to the Newfoundland.  But now that he is gone, the Greenlanders come south, and they’re all Christians, and they’re all better than the natives.”

“I’m Christian,” Emma countered, “and I don’t think I’m better than natives.  Well, any more than I think I’m better than the English.”

“That’s because you’re special,” Erik said kissing her.  “They are starting their own Greenland Sagas and some of the tales are disturbing.”

“Tell me some,” Emma pleaded.  So Prince Erik began a section of one of them, a Chapter Thirteen of Eirik’s Saga ‘Rautha’.

“One morning Karlsefni’s people beheld as it were a glittering armoured knight above the open space in front of them, and they shouted at him.  He stirred about on his steed, and they could see that he was Hraes’ and of the famous Legion of the One-Legged, wounded warriors of the Hraes’ Trading Company that became cavalry officers and rode about protecting Hraes’ territory, and he rode down quickly towards where they lay camped.  Thorvald, son of Eirik ‘the Red’, sat at the tiller, and the One-footer shot him with an arrow in the lower abdomen.  He drew out the arrow.  Then said Thorvald, ‘Good land have we reached, and fat is it about the paunch.’  Then the One-footer rode away again northwards.  They chased after him, and saw him occasionally, but it seemed as if he would escape them.  He disappeared at a certain creek.  Then they turned back, and one man spake this ditty:—

‘Our men chased (all true it is) a One-footer down to the shore; but the wonderous knight strove hard in the race and we could not run down his horse.  Hearken, Karlsefni.’

Then they journeyed away back again northwards, and saw, as they thought, the land of the One-footers, going up the river valley of the main river of the Newfoundland.  They wished, however, no longer to risk their company, for they had been warned by the Hraes’ to keep to the north of New Ireland and they were well south, on the coast of New Scotland.  They conjectured the mountains to be all one range; those, that is, which were at Hop, and those which they now discovered; almost answering to one another; and it was the same distance to them on both sides from Straumsfjordr.  They journeyed back, and were in Straumsfjordr the third winter.  Then fell the men greatly into backsliding.  They who were wifeless, and there were many, pressed their claims at the hands of those who were married.  Snorri, Karlsefni’s son, was born the first autumn, and he was three winters old when they began their journey home.  Now, when they sailed from Vinland, they had a southern wind, and reached Markland, and found five Skraelingar; one was a bearded man, two were women, and two children.  Karlsefni’s people caught the children, but the others escaped and sunk down into the earth. And they took the children with them, and taught them their speech, and they were baptized.  The children called their mother Voetilldi, and their father Uvoegi.  They said that kings ruled over the land of the Skraelingar, one of whom was called Avalldamon, and the other Valldidida. They said also that there were no houses, and the people lived in caves or holes.  They said, moreover, that there was a land on the other side over against their land, and the people there were dressed in white garments, uttered loud cries, bore long poles, and wore fringes.  This was supposed to be Hvitramannaland (Whiteman’s land).  Then came they to Greenland, and remained with Eirik the Red during the winter.”

“But wasn’t Eirik ‘the Red’ dead by then?” Emma asked.

“Yes.  And the children they had taken were grown up and one of them escaped back south.  My men caught him rowing a four oared boat in the Kanata River and they questioned him because it was a native rowing a Norse boat instead of paddling one of their canoes.  They spoke to him in Algonquin, which he seemed to understand and he told them he’d been kidnapped as a child and that his brothers and sisters were still captive there.  My men returned him to his village in New Scotland and promised that the kidnapping would be dealt with.  When I read the report, it was so unusual that I decided to investigate it personally.”

“But if two children were taken and one escaped,” Emma asked, “how could his brothers and sisters be left behind?”

“Exactly!” Erik said.  “It turns out that the native male and his two wives didn’t just disappear into the earth as the saga says.  The chieftain did, because the Greenlanders killed him and buried his body to hide it, but they kidnapped the wives and children and abandoned their new Straumsfjordr settlement and their forty single men enslaved the chieftain’s wives as concubines.  Then they left for their settlement on the northern tip of New Ireland called ‘The Meadows’ and overwintered there.  They stayed in the Newfoundland over winter because it was less severe there than winter in Greenland and their shortage of women was solved by the two concubine wives they had kidnapped.  When they left in the spring, the two native women were pregnant by then and the Greenlanders took them all with them.  Their babies were the brothers and sisters that the native man had referred to, and there were many of them by the time I got to Greenland.  I took the two wives back to New Scotland and all the children that wanted to go with them, but the children were all baptized and many didn’t want to leave because they were Christian.  It was heart breaking.”

“I can imagine,” Emma said as she consoled The Prince with some early morning consolation sex.  They had breakfast brought into their suite, then got dressed and went out to their respective ships.

The two ships parted ways in the late morning, the tallship sailing northeast to Southampton, and the Roman dromon sailing southwest around Frankia for the Pillars of Hercules and the Mediterranean Sea.  Prince Erik wanted to meet his great grandson in Baghdad, share condolences, and then head onward to India to kill a man that lived far in the future.  While Erik and Valdamar were trading together in the Caliphate, King Sweyn’s young Danish son by Gyritha, Prince Harald, proclaimed himself ‘King of Denmark’.



Back To Table of Contents

‘Eirik said to his people that he purposed to seek for the land which Gunnbjorn,

 the son of Ulf the Crow, saw when he was driven westwards over the ocean,

 and discovered Gunnbjarnarsker (Gunnbjorn’s rock or skerry).    Then he sailed

 oceanwards under Snoefellsjokull (snow mountain glacier), and arrived at the

 glacier called Blaserkr (Blue-shirt); thence he journeyed south to see if there were

 any inhabitants of the country.    In the summer Eirik went to live in the land which

 he had discovered, and which he called Greenland, “Because men will desire

 much the more to go there if the land has a good name,” he said.’

Eirik ‘the Red’s Saga, Translated by J. Sephton

(1014 AD)  Prince Erik sailed his Roman Dromon through the Pillars of Hercules into the Mediterranean Sea and immediately had his crew set up bright bronze Greek Fire tubes at the fore and aft of his ship.  The tubes had hoses that ran from them to below deck and not much more than that.  The Eastern Roman fire weapon was so feared by all that Erik had learned that just the sight of the bronze tubes was enough to keep away pirates and most Arab fleets.  Only the Romans wouldn’t be fooled by the ploy and The Prince had trade agreements and contracts with them.  The Prince used his vellum charts and new Cathayan compass to guide him from the western end of the Roman Sea, the Mediterranean, to the eastern Byzantine end of it and he had his men pack away the bronze tubes before entering the Aegean Sea and the Sea of Marmara, and then the Bosporus and the Black Sea and finally the Sea of Azov.  He switched ships in Gardariki and took his merchant flagship back across the Black Sea to the Halys-Euphrates portage and met up with King Valdamar and Jarl Eirik in Baghdad.

“I’m afraid it’s back to Grand Prince Valdamar,” Valdy apologized when Erik had addressed him as king.  “I’ve just received news that my young half-brother Harald has proclaimed himself King of Denmark so, I have managed to lose both the English and Danish crowns in less than a year.”

“I’m sure it was Queen Gyritha that put him up to it,” The Prince consoled him.  “And my condolences on the loss of your father, Sweyn.  How did it happen?”

And Erik, Valdy and Eirik sat tightly about a table in the Caliph’s banquet hall and discussed events while slaves brought them more and more wine.  They were half cut and in good spirits when they retired to their Hraes’ suite in the palace and Anika, Saleem, Saffron and Anise were waiting for them.  Prince Erik made a bee-line for Saleem and asked her to join him for some Champagne and Khavayar in his master suite.

“Sorry to Shanghai you,” The Prince apologized, using a Cathayan term he had picked up there, “but I know you were a bit of a witch in an earlier career.”  They had some Frankish sparkling wine and they could soon hear both Saffron and Anise moaning from Valdamar’s suite across the great room.

“You’ll have to do something about that boy of yours,” Saleem said, as she listened to the younger women.  “He’s too much for any one woman to handle.  Perhaps three.”

“He’s Sweyn’s boy,” Erik said sadly.  “Sounds like your girls are doing an admirable job.”

“My condolences on your grandson, Sweyn,” Saleem said, reaching across the table to hold his hand.  “They did an admirable job on King Sweyn as well, and I’m a grandmother now because of it.”

“Well, I hope they have their own internal gloves, ’cause I’ve yet to see a glove that will fit Valdy’s ‘Pink Monster’.  Unless you have monsters of your own in Baghdad.”

“Oh, we have monsters of own here in Baghdad,” Saleem assured him as she rubbed her yoni with her other hand and recollected her abduction and rape a generation earlier.  “Still,” she said, putting her head in her hand, “I hope they don’t get knocked up by Sweyn’s son now,” and she shook her head in her hand and gave Erik’s hand a squeeze.  Then she looked up, smiled, and asked, “I was a pharmacist once so, what drug do you need?”

“There is a drug made of the poison of an African blow fish,” Erik started, “that let’s one put people under so that they appear to be dead, and I need the antidote for it that wakes them up again.”

“The Zombie drug!” Saleem hissed.  “It is very hard to acquire and the antidote is even harder.  It is controlled by the Alchemists’ Guild.  They can’t control the Zombie drug because the blowfish is quite common off the Gold coast, but the antidote is of rare chemicals known only to the Guild and they control it quite closely, even within the Guild itself.  Without the antidote, the drug is just another poison that kills in high enough doses in minutes and in low doses in days.  And that is what it is commonly used for these days…murder.”

“I’ve heard it is being used as a sex drug as well,” Erik prodded.

“Really?” Saleem asked.  “Do you have some with you?”  But when Erik shook his head, she was disappointed and said, “I was hoping you’d show me something new tonight.”

“Oh, I’ll show you something new, if you’re willing,” and she perked up a bit, “but I was hoping to get some intel on the drug as a sex weapon.  I think a witch may have killed Sweyn with it.  And I think she saved herself with the antidote, but I don’t think she got it from the Guild.”

“I’ll check with some of my Baghdad contacts,” Saleem said as she poured them more wine.  “I’ll get you some of the drug, but I can only try to get the antidote.”

“The Christians’ Apostle Judas Iscariot used the drug to poison Lazarus,” Erik told her, “and their Lord Jesus used the antidote to raise Lazarus from the dead the next day.”

“That’s why I don’t follow religions,” Saleem said, as she began undressing The Prince.

“So you likely don’t want to hear how the drug was used at the Lord Christ’s crucifixion.”

“Not in the least,” Saleem said, pausing over a button.

“Then how about I show you the latest position that is popular in Mumba?”

“Now you have my attention,” Saleem said, as she resumed unbuttoning his pants.

The Prince decided to spend a week in Baghdad with his great grandson Valdamar and Jarl Eirik.  The Norwegian Jarl was a great help with Valdamar, having lost his father, Haakon, through evil machinations two decades earlier, and it was King Sweyn who had helped him through his troubling times with Olaf Tryggvason.  But now they learned that a new Olaf was causing trouble in Norway.  A Hraes’ trader had arrived late with slaves from Ireland and news that Jarl Sigurd ‘the Stout’ had died when the Danes lost the Battle of Clontarf in Dublin in the spring.  He also had news that a new Olaf also ‘the Stout’ was fomenting trouble in Norway.  Good news of a sort also arrived in Baghdad that Emperor Basil II had begun his war with Bulgaria and had just won the Battle of Thessalonica.  This was the war that King Sweyn was to have started against the Bulgars once he had added his conquered English forces to the Hraes’ legions that he had sent back to Kiev to prepare for the Bulgarian campaign.  When word arrived in Constantinople that Prince Sveinald ‘the Brave’, King Sweyn ‘Forkbeard’ of Denmark would not be leading his Hraes’ legions against Tzar Simeon of Bulgaria, Basil decided quickly to lead his Roman legions north instead.

Prince Valdamar had brought his son, Prince Ivaroslav, to Baghdad with him for training in trade, while other sons remained in Hraes’, training legions to be taken back to England in the fall.  Prince Erik doted over the young prince the whole week they were in the Caliphate together, but he warned Valdamar that he might have to postpone his invasion due to great floods he had seen in his dreams swamping England and killing thousands.  Crops would not be harvested and a great famine would overtake the land, which would be good for Hraes’ slavers, but bad for campaigning.  The Prince did point out to his younger scions that the English would be blaming the whole calamity on the Aesir scorn pole, the Unicorn, that Valdamar had left the English when he withdrew from Sandwich.  It had been a great curse put upon the Isle of Britain and now the whole island was starting to pay for it.  And King Canute ‘the Great’s reputation as a powerful leader was being born as the flood waters broke.

“But don’t let this Aesir magic go to your head, King Canute,” Prince Erik warned his great grandson, “for the dreams that told me of this coming flood also indicated the cause as being a shift in weather from world-wide warming to a world-wide cooling cycle and that, in the foreseeable future, crop failures and famines will be an increasingly common occurrence.”

“Thank you for addressing me as King Canute,” Valdamar answered.  “It bodes well for me that someone as prescient as you should see fit to call me that.”

“It was a good choice,” Erik replied.  “Your grandfather, King Ivar, was called Ivar ‘the Boneless’ by the English behind his back only.  To his face they called him King Harde Knute and they feared and respected him.  In Denmark, Ivar had his coins minted with King Frodi’s visage on one side and his own King Harde Knute visage on the other because he wanted all to know that he was the grandson of the feared and respected King Frodi ‘the Peaceful’ Fridleifson of Jelling, but in York, he had his own visage struck on both sides of his coins, for there, he feared no one.  Valdamar is a new and eastern name that Count Vlad of Wallachia had Svein bless you with, but Canute is a name that the English will recognize and fear.”

At the end of the week, Saleem had a large vial of the Zombie drug ready for Erik, but only a small vial of the antidote.  “It was very hard to obtain,” she explained.  The Prince paid her well for her help and then showed her a new position popular in Frankia that Queen Emma had shown him on Wight.  The next day he sailed for India on a mission to execute an evil man who was yet to be born and would live two hundred years in the future.  Prince Erik had foreseen his own death in another hundred years so, if he had to kill the man in the future, he felt he might as well do it now.  He was a renowned prophet with the Alchemists’ Guild and his wife in India, Myia, was a polymath with the Guild, but the power they had in the University might not last and they needed the Aesir magic of the Guild’s Magis in order to kill this man in the future.  Now was quickly evolving to be the time to get the ‘hit’ done.  His wife was in India right now trying to get the exact same drugs through the Guild and the safe procedures for using them.  They weren’t even sure, at this point, how much of the drug they needed and exactly how it was to be used.  The only thing they knew for sure was that the man in the future had to be killed or a Turkic horde would conquer the world under his leadership.  And this sure intel had come to Erik in a dream from the ghost of a long dead witch, Princess Blaeja of York, whom he had focked over a century earlier, the first grandmother he had ever focked, and he had just spent the last week in Baghdad focking another grandmother while getting the drugs he needed to kill the man from the future that the first grandmother had told him about.  Things tended to get complicated after the first hundred years of living.  But this mission was tenuous at best and kept getting more complicated.

The Prince made a stop at Ashaval, in the province of Gujarat, and Erik met Rajan Rajan’s son there.  “I’m sorry,” Raj apologized.  “I waited in Baghdad for you but your traders said you were in the Newfoundland and wouldn’t be trading this year so, I led your fleet here with mine.”

“I know,” Erik replied.  “I planned on staying in the new western lands for a year, but shit happens.”  They were once more sitting on the balcony of King Ivar’s suite in the palace.  “My grandson, King Sweyn, conquered England and it took the English all of five weeks to poison him so, I rushed back from the west and here I am.”

The Prince told the Maharaja what had happened to Sweyn and then his son, Prince Valdamar, and Raj updated Erik on events in Gujarat.

“Things have been relatively quiet here,” Rajan assured him.  They talked for hours and then there was a gentle knock at the door and Raj let himself out as he let two young Jat princesses in.

After a week of trade in Ashaval, Prince Erik’s next stop was in the heavenly city of Mumba, in Maharashtra province.

“How’s spring trading so far?” Myia asked, hugging Erik warmly.   She was still living at her parents’ estate on the bay.  “I’ve gotten the drugs,” she whispered as she kissed him on the cheek.

“And the process?” Erik whispered back, not mentioning that he had gotten the drugs too.

“I have the procedure as well.”

Myia’s parents joined them in the great room and soon they were joined by their daughter, Kura, and Erik’s young son, Eyfur.  The Prince spent several days getting reacquainted with his many children in Mumba and Princess Mahara’s half dozen, but soon it was time to prepare for the future hit.

“Did you have any trouble getting the drugs?” he asked as they laid in bed together.

“No,” Myia lied.  “I used my connections at the Chemists’ Guild and all went smoothly.  Have you kept in touch with Princess Blaeja’s spirit,” she whispered as though Blaeja might hear.

“She keeps in touch with me,” Erik answered, “by sending me dreams.”  He saw where her mind was running and said, “Nothing sexual.  Deadly floods in England, my grandson, Sweyn, dying…that sort of thing.”

“Sorry,” she stammered.  “She was your lover once.”

“A hundred years ago!” Erik said.  “Should we be doing this here, in your home like this?  I’ve perused the process and it seems quite dangerous.”

“Only for us,” Myia reassured him.  “If I die, I want to die in the house I grew up in.  That our children are growing up in.”

“It’s really that dangerous?” he asked.  “I read the warnings, but often they’re exaggerated for safety reasons.”

“The drug is banned from all Guild Universities,” Myia said, “because a number of students and even professors have died from it.”

“Why would students and doctors be using it at the University?”

“It can be used as a sex drug,” Myia whispered.  “Couples take it and it is so powerful, they can experience their partner’s orgasms.  They die and enter their partner’s mind just as they’re coming and they experience their orgasm and then the antidote revives them.  It is said to be a mind blowing experience.  But if you don’t get the antidote in time, you are dead.”

“Have you ever tried it?”

“No,” Myia lied again.  “The story’s just been going around the University for years.  But for what we’re going to be using it for, it is even more dangerous.  We will both be leaving our bodies.  Administering each other the antidote will be tricky.”

“Perhaps we should get your parents to help administer it.”

“We’ll be focking, silly.  I don’t want them watching.”

“It’s just sex.  People see it all the time.”

“You’re so Aesir!”

“We should get Mahara to help,” Erik said.  “We’ve had sex with her together already.”

“She’s breastfeeding your latest baby right now.  Besides, how will she help with your part?  You have to come inside me and you’ve never failed at that.  We’ll be fine.  Call your princess!”

“I’ll call her,” Erik said, “but then we must prepare and I’ll sleep and she’ll come through me in a dream.”

So they poured out small vials of the Zombie drug and the antidote in the amounts dictated by the ancient Brahman procedure they were to follow written in Sanskrit.  There were other processes, but for what they wanted to accomplish, there was only the last and most dangerous procedure that was to be employed.  Erik swallowed his dose of antidote right away.  It would be in his system and he would be injecting it into Myia via his seminal fluid.  It was the most direct and fastest acting method for the time.  Myia followed her instructions and put a sealing gloss on her lips and then applied the antidote as a gel over her sealed lips.  She had to keep her lips pursed so as not to lose her gel.  The procedure called for her to orally ingest the Puffer Fish drug first and take care to avoid her lip gel, then Erik was to ingest his drug and they were to have sex for fifteen minutes, and they both looked at the water clock on the wall, and then Myia would die and Erik had to come within minutes and inject the antidote to revive Myia, then he would die and the revived Myia would kiss him to administer his antidote, but kissing wasn’t as direct and she had to keep it up until Erik resumed breathing.  Direct injection was more effective, but they were only equipped to flow one way.

Erik and Myia got into bed together and put their doses of the Puffer Fish drug on the headboard and Myia watched as Erik drifted off into a deep sleep.  She marvelled at his self-control as he slept and began dreaming.  The sexual precision required by the Brahman procedure seemed rigorous and it was for the male, but this was Aesir/Vanir/Brahman witchcraft and was intended for use by witches and warlocks who trained extensively in sexual control techniques, but Erik was an Aesir warrior and they trained in techniques as well.  True warriors were expected to be sexually aroused by battle, to experience true frenzy, to be the berserker and the euphoria of bloodletting propelled them beyond their physical limitations to a higher level, to victory, and when victory was attained they were trained to bend the vanquished over their shields and make the vanquished theirs.  And they were required to flow into each and every captive they took, be they warrior or shield maiden, and this took rigorous sexual control that could even surpass the precision of warlocks.  It was the Aesir way.  The Vanir way.  The Brahman way.  Witchcraft and warlocks and warriors and witches and shield maidens were all on the battlefields and the gods were watching and the Valkyries were taking the dead.  It was the warriors’ way.

Princess Blaeja came to Erik as he dreamed and she awakened him and he told Myia to take her dose of the drug.  Myia sucked it back and then laid him back upon the bed and began to suck on his lingam to get it wet and hard.  After a few minutes of this, Erik was ready and he took back his vial and swallowed his dose.  Instantly he got harder and larger and he laid Myia back and he entered her as the spirit of Blaeja watched with lust.  Erik began thrusting deeply into Myia and as he sped up she wrapped her legs around his buttocks to control his thrusts.  They did this for a few minutes and when Myia began to come, Erik entered her mind and he could feel her womanly orgasms and they were quite different from the male sensations he was used to.  They were gentler and often and were building slowly but then Erik sensed that Myia’s mind was troubled.  Princess Blaeja was about to guide the two off to Cathay but they were suddenly gone.  Myia had left momentarily and Erik had followed her and Blaeja called them back and Myia returned to her, but Erik had followed a memory that had gained his undivided attention.

An old professor at the University, one of Myia’s gurus, had brought her the Puffer Fish drug and antidote, but only on the condition that they have sex and Erik was being focked by this man and he was not enjoying it, as, apparently, Myia had not.  He was old and sweating and bald and fat and was thrusting inside her and, as he came, Erik entered his mind and followed his memory and he was now focking one of the professor’s young students and she was very young and fine and Erik felt that if he focked her he would steal this fine memory from the prick who had taken his wife, so he did just that and took some time with the memory and he exploded inside the young girl and he flowed and robbed the professor of his exquisite memory.  The young student had worked hard for her ‘A’ and it was the old man’s most magnificent memory and Erik took it in revenge.  But as he was leaving the professor’s mind and returning to Myia’s, the old instructor threw some shade at him and gave him another memory that Erik tried to shake off but couldn’t.  It was with him but he couldn’t experience it yet.  He had to get back.  And when he got back, both Blaeja and Myia were in a panic and Erik told them that he had gotten lost.

Princess Blaeja had to make up time and she whisked the spirits of the couple, who were still busy focking, off to Cathay and they entered a palace master suite and in the kingly bed slept an old khan.  He was Chinese, but not Chinese, more Turkic, and Erik realized he was the leader of the horde he had seen conquer the world.  Myia was looking at a far corner of the room where there was a small cot and on it a young tiny Chinese princess slept fitfully.  Myia could see she was sick and could sense she was dying.  She was barely more than a child yet had so little time left and Myia was saddened by it.  Blaeja directed Myia into the girl to find some strength in her then she returned to Erik and directed him into the Khan to wake him and control him.  The khan began tossing and turning.  Erik felt that he was hard, that he had been dreaming of a conquered queen that he had raped and enjoyed and impregnated and had added to his concubine harem.  He had harems all over his conquered lands and he had forced himself upon each and every royal in his harems, for he only had royals.  It helped that the khan was ready to go and Erik thought it would be easy.

When Myia had entered the girl, she knew right away that she was in rough shape.  There was a jaundice flowing through the girls veins and she sensed a steel contraption of some sort in her honey well and it wasn’t the kind of metal that could stay long inside a human body without rusting and causing infection.  Why hadn’t she taken the thing out and then she followed one of the girl’s memories.  She was a young Chinese princess and she had been left for the khan, for the rapist khan, and the metal contraption was a trap of some sort.  She had kept it hidden within her because it was the reason she had been left there in the palace when the conquering army drove the Chinese host out.  The princess was in such a state that Myia could not do much with her.

Erik roused the khan out of sleep and he opened his eyes and could see that the young pretty princess in the corner had seemed to recover somewhat and Erik got him to get up out of bed and walk naked toward her.  The khan approached her bed and looked upon her with lust and he tore back her sheets and uncovered her naked young body and he saw she was just a girl and Erik tried to get him to mount her but he wouldn’t.  Erik forced up memories of him sleeping inside young Sinead years earlier and of Sinead having sex with him but, still, as ready to go as his erect penis was, the khan would not budge.  He may have forced himself upon the women he conquered, raped the princesses he captured, but he did not fock children.  He was no paedophile.  Erik tried to control the khan, but, he too was a warrior, and had supreme self-control.  The khan turned about and started to return to his bed.  Then both he and Erik heard a noise behind them and they turned around and it was a naked Princess Blaeja standing starkly before them.

Myia had not been able to get the princess up, so the spirit of Blaeja entered the girl to help and they got the girl up and Blaeja took over her form and looks.  But this Blaeja was not the grandmother Blaeja that Erik had focked, but the young Princess Blaeja that his son, Helgi ‘Arrow Odd’ Bjorn Ironside, had focked and she was exquisite.  Even Erik’s spirit was hard now.  The khan advanced once more and he forced Blaeja to the cot and he got atop her and entered her and he began thrusting gently at first and as she grew wet, then more deeply.  Erik even got caught up in the lust of it all as young Princess Blaeja began moaning exotically, but she did this only because the young Chinese girl could not bear the weight of the khan and her life had left her body.  Still, the khan focked on and he came within the corpse and Erik came within the spirit of young Blaeja and even the Anglish princess was coming hard when it happened.

Myia had been trying to keep the spirit of the young Chinese princess within her body but she left and took Myia with her just as the rusty trap went off and a tarnished blade sprang out of it and slashed into the khan’s lingam and bit deeply into it.  The device had been designed to fully cut the cock off near the end and the sudden massive blood loss was supposed to be intense enough to cause loss of consciousness and the khan was supposed to bleed out while the young princess whispered the curses of her people into his dying ear.  But the trap had rusted and sprang with only enough force to almost cut the tip off and there was little blood loss.  But it also cut the princess a bit and the jaundiced blood from her yoni entered the blood within the khan’s lingam and her deadly infection was passed on to him.  He didn’t know it, of course, and the trap going off brought sudden pain into the orgasm both he and Erik were enjoying and young Princess Blaeja was still moaning in extasy when the khan and Erik began screaming in pain.

Erik’s spirit flew out of the khan and returned to his bed in Mumba just in time to realize that Myia had already died from the drug and though he was still focking her, had been focking her the whole time their spirits had been gone, it was imperative that he come within her now to inject the antidote into her.  He began thrusting hard and fast but he could not come.  Then he realized that he had come within the professor’s young girl and he had flowed again within young Princess Blaeja and he just didn’t have any more to flow.  He kept trying hard until the poison overcame him too and he collapsed dying on top of the dead Myia.

Princess Blaeja realized that both Myia and Erik’s spirits had been torn away suddenly but she stayed with the khan and hoped he would slowly bleed out as he tried to get free of the trap, but the khan didn’t move.  He thought the trap had just half sprung closed and he didn’t want to try pulling himself free and have it go off all the way and cut his cock off completely.  So he stayed inside the dead princess all the early hours of the morning and the jaundice that was in the dead body of the princess fled her corpse and entered his warm and living carcase.  In the morning, one of his captive royals was pushed into the room with instructions to wake the khan by riding his cock to his great satisfaction or she would lose her life and when she entered the room and saw the khan flailing away atop the little Chinese princess, she screamed and retainers rushed into the room to help their khan.

The hours and days that followed passed in seconds as the spirit of Princess Blaeja, the grandmotherly one, watched the khan get aid and medical attention and then refuse medical attention when the jaundice set into his lingam and the healers wanted to remove it.  Finally, after days of excruciating pain, the khan allowed the doctors to cut his cock off, but it was too late.  The jaundice had spread into his lower abdomen and he was back in excruciating pain and the doctors gave him days to live.  The khan gathered his sons and warriors about him and he had each of them swear that he would murder fifty of the Chinese clan before the khan died.  Fifty thousand warriors filed past him and swore this for themselves and their subordinates and two and a half million Chinese people were murdered within days and the khan left instructions on his secret burial, for he had seen witches about the night he had focked the Chinese princess to death, and he did not want witches haunting his great burial mausoleum.  The murder of the Chinese people continued long after the khan was dead, but Blaeja couldn’t stay to follow the burial procession to know where the miscreant khan could be found resting.  She had to hurry back to her prince in Mumba.

When Blaeja got back to their bedroom in Mumba, Myia was already dead and Erik was dying atop her.  He was just pitching forward when Blaeja used all the strength she could muster, which amounted to about one flap of a butterfly’s wings, and she directed Erik’s fall so that his lips landed on Myia’s in what could be called one last kiss, but it was the kiss of death for Myia and a kiss of life for Erik, for when their lips touched the gel, antidote went onto the thickening tongue of The Prince and a minute later a sudden breath came to his chest and he was soon heaving and gasping in air.  He saw Myia dead beneath him and instinctively started blowing air into her, but to no avail, although it did introduce more of the antidote into his system.  He realized that she was gone and he remembered that it was his fault.  He was going to get Mahara and her parents, but he realized there was nothing to be done so, he crawled into bed with his wife and he hugged her body and he slept with her one last time.

Princess Blaeja came to him in a dream, not as the young Princess Blaeja, nor as the grandmotherly Princess Blaeja he had known, but as the beautiful yet wise Princess Blaeja that she liked to picture herself as and she told Erik that she was as much to blame for Myia’s death as he was, for she, too, had been caught up in the sex she was having with Erik and she had totally lost all thought of the khan or the princess or Myia, so swept up was she by the orgasm they were having together.  “If I could go back in time and change things, and I can,” she said, “I’d do it, but I may not be able to kill the khan again.”  She told Erik how close the khan had come to surviving, but she also told him how much excruciating pain the khan had been in, both before and after they cut his lingam off.  “I’m going to go back and see if I can find out where they buried him,” Blaeja said, “so I can torment his soul for all the people world-wide he has murdered.  And I’ll assess our chances of saving Myia and still killing the khan and we may be able to try a do-over if you wish.  I’ll be back tomorrow night in a dream.  Don’t let anyone corrupt your wife’s body until I get back,” and Blaeja left for Mongolia.

Erik hugged Myia’s body and went back to sleep with her.  He had a dream that had Myia’s old professor in it and, at first, he thought it was the shade that the professor had thrown at him, but it wasn’t.  It was a continuation of Erik’s spirit when it was in Myia and she was being focked by the professor to get the drug and antidote as she had agreed upon.  Once the old guru had a taste of sweet Myia, he couldn’t let go of her.  He stalked her at the Guild University and every once in a while he would catch her alone somewhere and he would rape her and Erik still had those memories with him and he could see the old man’s sweat and smell his stink and feel his thrust as he penetrated her and he counted eleven times that he had raped her after their deal had been done with and there was nothing she could do about it.  It was India and it was the Brahman way.  Royals raped their subjects, upper castes raped the lower castes and professors raped their students.  Only power stopped rapes from happening, but Myia hadn’t told Erik what had been happening to her.  She wanted to stop the evil khan so badly that she sucked it up and took the punishment.  She needed the drug to kill the khan and she got the drug to kill the khan and she was prepared to be raped to kill the khan and she was prepared to die to kill the khan and she died killing the khan.  He knew she had no regrets about killing the khan and that she would die again to kill the khan.  Erik hoped that Blaeja would come back and tell him there could be no do-over, because if she came back and offered him one that had the slightest chance of the khan surviving, he would have to tell her that Myia is fine with things as they are.

Erik hugged Myia’s body and kissed her, then went back to sleep with her.  He had another dream that had Myia’s old professor in it and, this time, it was the dream with the shade that the professor had thrown at him.  He had stolen the professor’s favourite memory so Myia’s guru returned the favour.  Erik had swept Myia off her feet in a chance meeting and had fallen in love with her because she knew about cosmology and she cared about the abstract things that concerned Erik.  How the Universe was created.  How warming and cooling cycles were repeated.  How the underwater breathers of Gujarat and Mumba competed.  In the dream, the professor is at the Guild University coaching Myia on the likes and dislikes of a certain Aesir prince and is showing her how to casually meet this prince and is telling her how she has been selected to make this prince happy because he is a very important prophet for the Guild.  He even tells her that The Prince is over a hundred years old, but she must show surprise at this if he ever tells her it.  And she did, Erik realized.

When Princess Blaeja, the middle Princess Blaeja returned she told Erik that she couldn’t find the khan’s howe.  But she did find the grave of the young Chinese princess.  The khan had ordered her body cut up and fed to swine, but her people soon killed all the pigs in that sty and they buried them all in a huge grave with a magnificent marker that was written in a Chinese form that her people would know, but the khan’s people wouldn’t.  And they visit her grave and cry about all the millions of their people that died stopping the khan.  “I met the spirit of the young princess there,” Blaeja told him, “and I apologized to her for using her in our ‘hit’ on the khan.  Do you know what she told me?”

“I think I could guess, but tell me.”

“She said that her own people had set up the execution and thanked us for making sure it finally worked.  She said her people knew the consequences of their action, but also had learned from their own prophets how many lives would be lost if he was to live.  She told me to thank you and Myia for your sacrifices.  I didn’t tell her that Myia died.”

“You could have,” Erik replied.  “I don’t think Myia would want any do-overs if there were the slightest chance the khan would survive.”

“I studied it,” the spirit of Princess Blaeja said.  “The risks kept getting worse the more scenarios I ran.”

“I thought as much,” Erik said.

“Do you mind if I ask you something?” Blaeja said.

“Go ahead.”

“Would you mind, and I realize this is too soon to ask and I apologize for asking, but, if I ever get the chance to have sex with you like we had with the khan and the princess, is it okay if I jump at the chance?”

“Please do!” Erik answered.  “As long as it is for a good cause.  Or even a cause that is a little on the shady side.”

“That was the best sex I’ve ever had in my life and I’m no longer alive!”

“I know!  That was the best sex I’ve had in my life and I’ve been focking for almost two hundred years!  Whatever got into to you?”

“Got into me?” Blaeja asked.  “Why you got into me, that’s whatever!  And thank you so much for getting into me,” and then she was gone.

Prince Erik buried his wife, Myia, in her family’s plot on their estate and he consoled his other wives and his children and he blessed his Indian family with many gifts and songs and stories.  He spent the rest of summer sailing between the City of Seven Islands, Mumba, and the first city of the Jats, Ashaval, and spent time with his children of both cities and with the Ashaval children of his son, Ivar.  Soon the summer was waning and in his last two weeks in Mumba, he spent extra time with his wife, Mahara, because she wanted yet another baby.  “I may not be coming to India every summer,” he warned her, but she replied,  “Our having a new baby together every second year is almost as great.  And I shall try to cover for Myia as your Aesir wife as well as your Hindu wife.  At least until I can find you a proper Aesir wife.”

Prince Erik sailed back north and spent a week in Gujarat, with Rajan’s son, Rajan, and one day he put a bottle of clear liquid in front of the Maharaja and he asked him for a favour.  “Do you know what this is?”

Rajan answered, “Is it sparkling wine?”

“It’s Irish liquor,” Erik told him.  “The Irish call it ‘sunshine in a bottle’ because, no matter what the weather, if you drink enough of the stuff, it will always be sunny.  If I gave you gold and the name of a professor at the Guild University in Mumba, do you think you can cut his cock off and put it in this bottle for me?  The liquor will keep it fresh and you can send it to me.  I’ll recognise his cock because he has focked me with it.  But it has to be done in a manner that the Guild can never trace to me.  Can you get this done for me?”

“My father had just such a man who can do this,” Raj answered.  “I shall get him on it as soon as you leave.  No gold required.  You are still The Prince, the prince who saved Mumba and then Ashaval.  A good half of all Jats owe their lives to you, but then again, a good quarter of the Jats are probably sprung from you and King Ivar’s line.  I shall send the bottle to Tmutorokan before winter.”



Back To Table of Contents

(1014 AD)  When Prince Erik returned to Baghdad from India, Prince Valdamar and Jarl Eirik informed him that England had been experiencing heavy rains and extensive flooding the whole time he had been in India.  The English people were starting to chatter about King Canute’s Unicorn scorn pole and the curse he had laid upon the land.  The clergy was working hard there to keep a lid on this talk of Aesir magic, but crops were not growing because of the wet conditions and upcoming harvests would be endangered if the rains continued.  Still, it wasn’t the catastrophic flood that The Prince had foreseen although it did look weather driven by cyclic change.  Prince Valdamar and Jarl Eirik wanted to attack England after the trading season, but The Prince preached patience.

“This is not what I have foreseen,” Erik told them.  “The flooding I saw was as hazardous to us as it was to the English.  There is more to come.”

When the combined merchant fleets of Baghdad, Constantinople and Cathay gathered in the Bay of Cherson to pay their Hraes’ tithes and fees, spies sent word down from Kiev that an earthquake in the Irish Sea had caused great flooding in Wales with a loss of lives and a large loss of cattle and other livestock.  “This must be what you saw,” Valdamar told The Prince.  “We still have time to take an army and defeat them before winter sets in.”  But there were very few lives lost in the Welsh floods so, Erik repeated, “This is not what I’d foreseen, but this will be attributed to your scorn pole so, we’ll let the English conspire and we must wait for more.”

And the English did conspire.  They consulted with the Welsh Witches and the Witches of York about what they could do to dampen the effects of the curse.  They consulted with the Warlocks of Wessex and nobody even knew there were warlocks in Wessex and they consulted with Druids in Ireland and Wizards in Scotland until the Bishops in England became alarmed at the amount of pagan consulting that was occurring and they called a conference on the matter in Winchester.  And King Sweyn’s secret Exeyes officers in London kept sending out reports to Ipswich that went to Liere and then to Novgorod and on to Kiev.  When the great merchant fleet arrived in Kiev they stopped for resupply and most headed north for home, to Sweden and Gotland and Denmark, to Normandy and England and Ireland, to Norway and Iceland and even Greenland.  Jarl Eirik carried on with his Norse fleet, for news had come to Kiev that there was an Olaf there again fomenting trouble, and Eirik still remembered the alkaline taste he had gotten in his mouth when King Sweyn had told him there was a rumour that Olaf Tryggvason had survived his little swim in the Kattegat and had not died at the Battle of Svolder and the Olaf that was now touting Christianity might be that Trygve’s son rising from the ashes of Svolder, a Christian resurrection of sorts.

Prince Valdamar still wanted to rush off with his legions and attack England while the fall was still fresh, but Erik talked him out of it and once he settled into his concubines in his palaces surrounding Kiev, he settled down somewhat.  Six weeks later, word came back to Kiev that the Irish merchant fleet had been wiped out by a huge rogue wave that had come from the southwest, the Atlantean Sea, and had hit their ships before impacting the western coasts of Ireland and England and the English Channel all the way to the Netherlands and Jutland.  The Irish fleet had hired mercenaries to go back to Dublin with them to retake the city from the Irish, but they and a shitload of gold Byzants and silver Kufas were now at the bottom of the Channel.  And that is where the Hraes’ fleet and legions would have been, too, had not The Prince held them back in Kiev.  The tidal wave hit the coast of England and many areas were sheltered by cliffs, but where the rivers met the sea and the bays were low, the wave tore into the lands and swamped whole towns and swept their people away.  Tens of thousands of English souls were lost in a matter of minutes and the waters raged far inland.

This was the curse of the Unicorn scorn pole and many English common folk wanted to send King Athelred back to Normandy and call back King Canute before the next calamity struck them.  And the witches and the warlocks of England were consulted again, this time by Duke Richard of Normandy, who still sat in London with his legions.  Queen Emma and her sons were in Rouen building her tallships and even they had seen the Seine River rise a few feet with the tidal blast.  She sailed her latest tallship to London, but she left her children in Rouen.  She saw the Unicorn scorn pole still standing on Sandwich as she sailed up the Thames and she wondered what calamity awaited them next.  ‘That focking Athelred won’t even take down his own scorn pole,’ she thought and she knew no others wanted to catch the shade that was thrown at him by taking it down on his behalf.  In London, she told her brother to pack up his legions and return to Rouen with her.

“Prince Erik foresaw this calamity,” she reminded her brother.  “When the summer flooding seemed to taper off, we laughed at his prediction of catastrophe, but who is laughing now?  He made us an offer, and I suggest we take him up on it.  Withdraw your legions and come back to Rouen with me.”

“I have consulted with the witches and warlocks of England,” Duke Richard replied, “and they have assured me that the curse has exhausted itself.”

“I checked with our witches in Rouen,” Emma lied, “and they are of a different opinion.  They say the Unicorn has lots of horn left.”

“You’ve certainly gone all Aesir suddenly,” he responded.

“A lot has happened lately.”

“I’m going to sit tight here over the winter.  I prefer to have King Athelred feeding my legions here than myself feeding them in Rouen.  I’ll stay till spring and enjoy the English women and we’ll see if the scorn pole has any horn left.”

“Well, at least tell Athelred to take his own scorn pole down!” Emma said, frustrated by her brother’s attitude.  “And don’t you dare take it down for him!”

“I’m not afraid of a scorn pole!” Richard spat.

“Either am I!” Emma spat back.  “But when Prince Valdamar comes back as King Canute and cleans up this mess, he’ll learn that you took Athelred’s shade for him and he’ll just keep on cleaning his way up the Seine and give you a good scrubbing in Normandy.  And I’m pretty sure he’ll have The Prince with him, and Prince Erik and King Robert are like this,” and she crossed her fingers.

“How would he even know King Robert?”

“He knew King Robert’s father, and Prince Erik’s son, Prince Hargold, saved our father’s life when he was a boy, and Gold Harald didn’t even have legs!”

Duke Richard looked down into the hands that were now in his lap.  “I’ll tell Athelred to take down his scorn pole.  If he doesn’t, I’ll follow you back, if he does, I’ll stay till spring and see what happens.”  Duke Richard didn’t look up so, Queen Emma turned and left.

In Kiev, Prince Erik set up a meeting with his great grandson, Prince Valdamar, who was diligently servicing his concubine wives while his England was flooding, and in their talk, The Prince told Valdy that he wanted to take half of the Hraes’ legions to Tmutorokan to overwinter so they could sail for England in early spring and not be ice-bound, like frozen turds, in Kiev, while spring wasted away.  When Prince Valdamar agreed to it, The Prince then invited him and his several thousand wives and children to come to Gardariki for Yulefest.

“While your family is here in Tmutorokan,” Erik started, “I suggest you apportion out your lands as your father, Svein, did before he set off to attack Bulgaria and then the Romans.  I want us to set up our legions on the Isle of Wight and in Bamburgh under the commands of Jarls Gudmund and Eirik and our Hraes’ slavers can follow and start buying up famine victims before too many starve from the flooding.  Once we get them set up for raiding, we can follow the spring merchant fleet east and south to Baghdad and Constantinople and when we return in the fall we’ll bring the rest of our force from Kiev and Novgorod back north with us.  Does that sound like a plan?”

“I don’t like the part about apportioning out my lands,” Valdy admitted.  “It didn’t work out that well for either my father or me.  And it worked out horribly for Ivar and Helgi.”

“I know,” The Prince agreed.  “But if you don’t, it will just be that much worse.  Once we conquer England, you’ll have to stay there until you’re sure the country won’t revolt again.  You won’t even be able to go back to Denmark until you’re sure.”

“So, I have to leave that little shit Harald as King of Denmark?” Valdy spat, wryly, and then sipped some wine.  “I was going to take him out with our legions going north on the way by Liere.”

“We are better off to have a friend in Denmark than have some usurper take over while we’re fighting in England.  Besides, he just might be your half brother.”

“My father told me that he knocked up young Gunhilde first and then, suddenly, her mother Gyritha announces she’s pregnant too?  And then she has baby Harald two weeks before Gunhilde has baby Svein?  I’m pretty sure Harald Bluetooth threw a good fock and a half into Queen Gyritha before he fled to Jom.  I know I would have.”

“I know you would have, too!” Erik laughed.  “Queen Gyritha may be getting on, but she’s still pretty hot.  Like fine wine, those Swedish princesses age well.”

“You’d know,” Valdy laughed, “you old grand motherfocker,” referring to Erik’s affair with his grand mother, the Swedish princess, Empress Helga.

“Aw, Helga,” The Prince reminisced.  “She was ‘The Swedish Princess’ and there will never be another like her.  And Queen Silkisif, what a pair!  But you’ll be soon focking grand mothers,” Erik warned.  “Half the Princes of Europe what to marry your daughters by Anna, your Porphyrogennetos daughters.  And when they have babies, you too shall be focking grandmothers.”

“Aw, don’t remind me,” Valdy lamented.  “Every week there’s a new royal delegation in Kiev asking for the hand of Theophano.”

“That was brilliant,” Erik told him.  “When you stepped up to your father and told him you would marry Anna if he wouldn’t and then you told him why, we both had to step back and we looked at each other and we knew that you’d just had the greatest epiphany any prince had ever had, ever!  ‘Why conquer the throne of Rome in Constantinople, when you could just marry Anna and bring the throne of Rome to Kiev?’ you said, and we were both dumbfounded.  I’ll remember that moment to my dying day.”

“I don’t think you’ll ever die,” Valdy replied, “but thank you for bringing that up.  Now I’ll remember it when I’m focking grandmothers before my time.  And speaking of focking grandmothers,” Valdy added, “how did you make out with the first grandmother you ever focked, the ghost of Princess Blaeja?”

“Oh…I focked her again!  I didn’t want to, but it just ended up happening.  And it was mind-blowing!”

“You focked a ghost?  How the fock do you fock a ghost?”

“I was a ghost too, for a while,” Erik confessed.  “I was dead for a while.”

“Oh, fock!”  I’m not sure I want to hear this.”

“It was bad.  The hit kind of went south on us for a bit.  I was going to tell you and Eirik about it in Baghdad, but I’m waiting for one last bit to come in and then I’ll tell you both at Yulefest.  I’m hoping Jarl Eirik will come to Yule in Tmutorokan as well.  Have you heard how he’s making out in Norway?  Has he found out who this Olaf is?”

“Some messengers arrived the other day and he got back to Lade okay.  England sheltered them from a direct hit by that rogue wave, but they felt it.  It was like a twenty foot swell coming at them from behind and their rowers had to switch rowing trunks and row backwards straight into it…the whole fleet did that and they never lost a ship.  Jarl Eirik has learned that the Olaf isn’t Olaf Tryggvason, though I’ve heard from Polish sources that Tryggvason is still alive but not kicking in Wendland.  He’s still in one of King Ivar’s wheeled chairs, so rumour has it, and Princess Astrid takes care of him.  Old Boleslaw won’t admit it, but he’s still pissed about not getting Queen Thyra back.”

“Well, fock Boleslaw!” The Prince cursed.  “If he wants to protect Olaf, he’s not going to get Thyra back.  Besides, she’d kill herself first before she’d allow us to send her back to him.”

“Well, fock Boleslaw,” Valdy agreed, “even though he is my father-in-law.  I just wish I could get better info on Olaf in Wend.  It’s like he’s a ghost or something.  Sorry about the ghost reference.”

“That’s okay,” Erik said.  “The sex was great.  I’m thinking of going back for some more.  So, you’ll bring all your wives and children?  For Yule?”

“I will,” Valdy assured The Prince.

“And Ivaroslav?”

“Young Ivaraslav will be coming but Ivar’s Ivaraslav is going to still be in Constantinople with Princess Sviataslava.  He’s leading the Guard for Basil ‘the Bulgar-slayer’.  I still can’t believe what that Roman motherfocker did!”

“I know!  Blinding every Bulgarian captive he had except for every hundredth man?  Leaving them one eye to lead the rest back to Sofia with?  It’s brilliant!”

“I know!  Why didn’t we ever do that?”  It’s brilliant!”

“In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king.  It’s a Byzantine thing,” Erik explained.  “Roman Emperors blind their brothers or other Emperors when they’re pissed with them.  It was a message to the Bulgarian emperor.”

“Well, Tzar Simeon got the message.  He dropped dead!” Valdy said.

“You know who would have really appreciated the thought put into it?” Erik asked.

Valdy looked up into the air and said, “King Ivar ‘the Boneless’!  He would have loved it!”  And they both laughed.

“Exactly,” Erik agreed.  “Your grandfather!”

“Still,” Valdy said, somewhat pensively.  “I don’t like my Ivar exposed to this kind of treachery.  We’re supposed to Christians now.”

“Young Ivaraslav is yours and Anna’s,” Erik reminded him, “and elder Ivaraslav is Ivar’s and Svia’s.”

“I know, but I’ve raised him like a son and shall always treat him as one.  I just don’t like Svia exposing him to Basil’s ways.  He’ll come back to Kiev and try to use them against his brothers.”

“That’s why we need to apportion out the lands at Yulefest.  So, be there!  I’ve got to head out with the legions this afternoon.  I plan on giving them some added training.  Maybe we’ll go to Bulgaria after Yule and help Ivaraslav slay more Bulgars?  And let Svia be.  She’s finally enjoying Rome!”

Duke Richard told King Athelred that he should take down his own scorn pole.  “It will show your people that you are not afraid of Prince Valdamar!”

“But I am afraid of Prince Valdamar!  It was a Unicorn scorn pole.  They don’t get worse that that!  He had my best spy fucked by a horse and then he cut the horse’s head off and impaled it on that pole and then he fucked my best spy to death and then cut her head off and impaled it on the unicorn’s horn.  And he did it in front of the two hundred princes and thanes that he held as hostages and witnesses before he had them mutilated and had their hands and legs cut off.”

“Better one hand and one foot than their heads,” Richard said.  “But that pole has to come down, and you’re the only one who can do it.  If I did it for you, it would send the wrong message to your people.  I’m just here to help you.  It must be you and your English people that defeat Valdamar!”

“My English subjects are more afraid of Valdamar than I am,” Athelred complained.

“That is why you must take down the scorn pole,” Richard doubled down.  “If you don’t, I’ll have to head back to Normandy.  I’ll not keep my legions here to be slaughtered because your troops are too scared shitless to fight!”

“Okay!  Okay!” Athelred relented.  “I planned on doing it at the start of Christmas festivities,” he lied.  “I want to make a big deal out of it, with clergy there and the witnesses there and all my town criers there to watch it and announce it through out the land!”

“That’s a great idea!” Richard exclaimed.  “That is why you must be king here!”

“It…it is a great idea,” Athelred said, but he had just come up with it to put off the event a little longer.  When Richard left the throne room, the king began trembling with fear.

Emma was back in Normandy building her tallships when she heard the news that King Athelred was going to tear down the Unicorn scorn pole first day of Yule.  She wanted to be there to watch and this time she brought her sons with her to Sandwich.  They sat off the coast of the island on her latest tallship and they watched the destruction through King Sweyn’s optical scope that she and Prince Erik found while searching Sweyn’s master suite for secret papers in between sexual sessions.  Erik told her to keep it.  They made them at one of his Guild factories in Gardariki.  She loved it for sailing and she loved the compass that he had given her as well.  She hoped he would be back soon.  It was great having a lover that brought clarity to sight and location to self.  She saw a small circular view of Athelred on the sand with her brother beside him.  She adjusted the scope to make it clearer and she thought Athelred looked the worst she had ever seen him.  His drinking and focking boys was catching up with him.  Then she looked at her brother and saw that he looked just like his father, just as she remembered him when she was a girl.  They were all getting older.  Everyone except The Prince and she hugged her scope and passed it to her eldest son and showed him how to adjust it.

Once her sons and daughter had a look, she put the scope to her eye once more.  Athelred has digging the sand with a shovel but he was digging all around the scorn pole instead of attacking one side of it only.  She could tell that he was not healthy, but there were hundreds of people watching who could not and they kept cheering him on to redouble his efforts.  The digging got harder as he went down and he did finally attack it from only one side and then he went around to the other side and attempted to push it over and he tilted it as much as it would go and he went back around and dug some more.  He made this back and forth attack upon the scorn pole, resting several times as he switched from front to back and, finally, the pole toppled over.  Athelred grabbed the witch’s head by the hair and pulled it off the unicorn’s horn and he threw it into the pole’s hole and buried it with sand.  He tried to pull the stallion’s head off of the scorn pole, but the tapered end, the horn, had been driven through the skull of the horse where a hole had been chopped.  He gave up the attempt and just shovelled some sand over the horse’s head and buried it.  Then he had his retinue pack everything up and they left to the cheers of the supporting crowd.  Queen Emma packed up her scope, gathered up her children and had her captain set sail for a return to Normandy.

“That went rather well,” Duke Richard told King Athelred as they returned to the king’s shieldship and rowed back up the Thames.  “Your subjects loved it!”

The next day, King Athelred couldn’t get out of bed.  Everyone thought that he had overexerted himself on the beach, but when he started coughing up blood, the physicians realized that a pox had set upon him.  He was deathly ill as Christmas festivities progressed and his subjects began whispering that it was the curse of the Unicorn scorn pole.  The witches and warlocks of England began predicting he had less than a year to live.  When Queen Emma heard this, she finally went to the Witches of Rouen and they confirmed the prognosis.

Guests started arriving in Gardariki for Yulefest by the thousands.  The inns were full and every available building in the city had been cleaned, painted and furnished to take up the slack, but even this was not enough so, pavilions had been set up everywhere and a legion was even sent to Bulgaria to assist Emperor Basil and young Prince Ivaraslav and his Varangian Guard in the slaying of Bulgars so that their legionary barracks could be used to house the overflow.  The festivities were keeping spirits high and every night Cathayan rockets and fireworks would be set off to entertain the guests.  No expense was being spared in the entertaining of guests and troops and citizens.

“The fireworks alone must be costing you a fortune!” Prince Valdamar said as he entered Prince Erik’s study.  They sat down and shared some wine.  “They’re getting old,” The Prince explained.  “The powder in them ages and loses some of its explosive power, so the rockets are no longer reliable as weapons.  It’s the cost of doing business when your business is war.  I was hoping that Jarl Eirik would be able to make it, but I hear that the new Jarl Olaf is causing much the same trouble as the old one had.”

“Focking Christians and their forced conversions!” Valdamar spat.

“That’s not very Christian of you,” The Prince said.

“At least I try,” Valdy responded.  “Forced conversions isn’t even trying.  It doesn’t work…what is that?”  He pointed at a bottle of liquor on Erik’s desk.

“It’s Irish liquor.  I was hoping to share it with you and Eirik this Yule.”

“I mean what’s in it?”

“The bottle just arrived from our Maharaja in India,” Erik started.  “And that little snake inside is a cock, taken from a man that was raping my Myia at the University in Mumba.”

“Is Myia okay?” Valdy asked and Erik told him about the ‘hit’ on the khan of an eastern horde and that Myia didn’t make it.

“So you were dead how long?” Valdy asked.

“Well, it seemed a lot longer than it actually was, but it was about five minutes.”

“So you focked the spirit of Grandmother Princess Blaeja in under five minutes and it was the best sex you’ve ever had?”

“It was under three minutes, but it seemed like an hour.  And Blaeja took over the body of the eleven year old Cathayan princess so, she was an eleven year old Princess Blaeja.”

“You focked an eleven year old Princess Blaeja?” Valdy asked incredulously.

“Everything was going south on the ‘hit’,” Erik started, defending his actions.  “The khan was supposed to fock the eleven year old princess.  I was just supposed to get him to do it, but he wouldn’t so, I had to take full control of him.  And the princess died and her spirit left her body and took the spirit of Myia with her so, Princess Blaeja had to take full control of the princess’s body and she looked pretty hot at eleven.  So, yes, I focked an eleven year old Princess Blaeja, but in spirit only, and it was the best!  The spirit of Princess Blaeja wants to do it again with me sometime in the future.”

“And you’re going to die again just to do it with her?”

“Fock yeah!” The Prince said.  “It’ll only be for three minutes next time.”

“That’s the most focked up assassination I’ve ever heard of!” Valdamar said.

“We killed a man that hasn’t even been born yet.  The hit was pretty focked up from the get-go.  But we got it done and Princess Blaeja was still searching for the secret location where they buried the khan when I was busy burying my Myia.”

“My condolences,” Valdy said, putting his hand on his father’s shoulder.  “Did she find the secret location?”

“No,” Erik stated flatly.  “She couldn’t find it so, she put a spell out so that his people would never be able to find it either.”

Over the Yulefest, Prince Valdamar apportioned out his lands to his wives and their sons and he gave out dowries to his daughters.  After Yule, the legions were prepared for late winter sailing across the Mediterranean Sea and The Prince and Prince Valdamar led them in Erik’s Roman dromon shieldship.  They used a Cathayan compass and charts to plot a course west and sailed the full length of the Roman Sea without touching upon land until they got to the Pillars of Hercules and the Andulusian navy did not approach the great Hraes’ fleet as it went through the strait and turned north up the coast of Spain.  The Muslims of Cordoba did not want trouble with the ‘Magis’ from the North.



Back To Table of Contents

(1015 AD)  Early March, the Hraes’ fleet landed at the Viking harbour of the Isle of Wight and the legions settled into their barracks which had remained untouched thanks to the efforts of Queen Emma of Normandy.  She expected, in return, that her city of Southampton and surrounding area be spared the ravages of war, as had been her prior agreement with King Sweyn.  Prince Erik, of course, guaranteed this when he went on to Normandy to view her progress on their tallships.  Prince Valdamar carried on to Sandwich and surveyed the damage that had been done to his Unicorn scorn pole.  He learned that King Athelred, himself, had pulled down the pole and had immediately been stricken down by a pox and was now carried about upon a shield.

“So, what do you think of my tallships?” Queen Emma asked Prince Erik at her shipyard just north of Rouen.

“They are just what we shall need,” The Prince replied.  Emma led him down the main quay and up a gangplank to inspect the latest completed vessel.  The Prince had not been with a woman since losing his wife, Myia, and watching Emma’s youthful sway as she strode up the plank reminded him of that fact.  She took him aboard deck and led him to the captain’s cabin under the poop.  “It’s the latest design,” she said as she led him to the bed.  She pushed him back onto the sheets and began unbuttoning his pants, then she took his lingam into her mouth and got him all hard and wet and she lifted up her frilly dress with her many frilly skirts underneath and she sat herself down on his midriff and slid herself down onto him and then she straightened up and began to ride him slowly.  She moaned a bit and Erik could see that she had also been alone for a time.  “It’s such a nice design,” she breathed, “so nice…” and she began to come a little and it reset her focus and she began to ride him harder and then harder until they both came together.  She fell off him and laid beside him on the bed.  “It’s been while,” she said, and Erik replied, “I know it!”

They cuddled and kissed for a while like a couple that had missed each other’s company and then they began to catch up.  “My brother has returned to Normandy with his legions,” she started, and then she told Erik about the Unicorn scorn pole and what had happened to King Athelred when he tore it down, “and now he’s carried around on a shield like your grandfather, Prince Ivar ‘the Boneless’.

“King Ivar was my son,” The Prince reminded her.

“Oh yes,” she apologized, “I keep forgetting how old you are.  I rode you pretty hard for an old war horse.  I hope I didn’t break anything.”

“Well,” Erik began, “my saddle horn was hard and now it’s soft.  You’ll have to correct that presently.  I don’t know what to say about your broken king though, my queen.  I can explain all the other calamities that have struck England since the coming of the Unicorn pole, but this one escapes me.”

“Well, I know what it is,” Emma said.  “I told Sweyn that Athelred was diseased, and the disease has caught up with him.  I’ve never seen him look so sickly, even before he took down the scorn pole.  But as soon as he ended up on that shield, my brother packed up his shield and came home.”

“That helps everything,” Erik said, kissing Emma sweetly.

“There was one complication,” Emma said, kissing him back.  “Athelred attacked the other Viking mercenaries, the thingmen that he had brought over from Normandy,” and she began to tell The Prince the sordid details of it.

She told him of the English attack on two corps of thingmen, the corps in London and one in Sleswik, just north of London.  “The attack was planned and executed by Ulfkytel of East Anglia,” she said, slowly and deliberately, “and the massacre in Sleswik was thoroughly carried out, but the one in London missed its mark somewhat.  It was planned to strike during the Yule festivities when the thingmen would be drunk, and armed men were smuggled into their stronghold in wagons carrying merchandise for the midwinter market.  But the Vikings were warned by a young Anglish girl who wished to save her lover Thord.  Captain Eilif and his men escaped to Denmark with the girl, but in Slesswick, the plan succeeded, with none escaping and among the fallen was Captain Heming, Thorkel ‘the Tall’s brother.  Now Thorkel’s out for English blood.  He’s switched sides and gone off with his men to meet Prince Valdamar at Sandwich.”

Prince Erik couldn’t tell Emma that Thorkel hadn’t switched sides, that he had always been loyal to Sweyn, and that his conversion to Christianity was a sham to get Jomsvikings into London during the siege of 1013.  Thorkel had forty ships with him and they all became thingmen for Athelred inside Fortress London, but instead of attacking from within, Thorkel saw the opportunity to escort King Athelred to safety in Normandy after Emma and her children had fled and he sent a message without to King Sweyn telling him to make that offer.  “London will soon ask for terms if Athelred flees,” Thorkel assured his king without the walls.  King Sweyn made King Athelred the offer of amnesty in Normandy, but King Athelred would only go if his new convert, Thorkel ‘the Tall’, would provide for his personal safety.  The plan worked better than anyone could have imagined.  Not only did Athelred flee and London fall, but the Jomsvikings providing safety for the English king were just waiting for word from the Danish king of when to slit his throat.  But that word never came.  Sweyn was in love with Emma and he would not kill Athelred without talking it over with her first.  And then he was dead and Prince Valdamar didn’t know that Thorkel was now working for him so, once again, the order never came.

When Athelred was called back to England by his people, Duke Richard saw his opening, and Thorkel came back with them for the ride, but it was now the Norman duke who was in control of the English king.  Then Prince Valdamar went to Sandwich and erected his Unicorn scorn pole and Thorkel sat tight.  He still had forty ships in a castle outside London, but when both Viking and Jomsviking thingmen came under sudden attack he took his men to meet Prince Valdamar, which turned out to be a mistake, because Valdy still didn’t know that Thorkel’s conversion and defection was a sham strategy thought up by his father, Sweyn.

“Maybe The Prince knows,” Thorkel ‘the Tall’ said, as the ropes about his wrists made him taller.  He was in the campaign pavilion of Prince Valdamar on the Island of Sandwich.

“This is quite the tall tale you have, Jarl Thorkel ‘the Tall’,” Valdy said as some of his men pulled down on the ropes and the jarl grew taller yet.

“It’s Sweyn!” Thorkel grunted.  “It’s a strategy only your father could have come up with!  You know me.  You know I couldn’t come up with such an elaborate ruse, not even as an excuse.  I thought he would have told you about it.  Maybe he told The Prince?”

Valdamar signaled for his men to release Thorkel.  “You’re in luck,” Valdy said, “because The Prince is with me.  We’ll find out!  For now, join me for some wine,” and he had wine brought over for his prisoner.  “The Prince is in Normandy buying some of Queen Emma’s tallships, you know, like the ones that thrashed the shit out of your fleet a few years back.”

“That was another ruse of King Sweyn’s that didn’t go near as well,” Thorkel replied.

“Likely because of you, though, not father’s plan.”

“Oh, definitely,” Thorkel agreed.  “Some of your father’s plans were well beyond my pay grade.”  And they laughed and shared wine and the next day the fleet sailed back to Wight to meet The Prince and Queen Emma in Southampton.

There were three new tallships in the Viking fortress harbour when Prince Valdamar brought his fleet back from Sandwich.  The Prince met Valdy and Thorkel as they walked together up the quay and he said, “Thank the gods you didn’t kill him!” and then Valdy knew Thorkel had been telling the truth.

“Thorkel told me of father’s plan and I had to believe him.  It had Sviatoslav ‘the Brave’ written all over it!”

“I told you,” Thorkel laughed.  “You didn’t have to make me three inches taller just to find that out.”

“I’m just glad he didn’t make you a foot shorter!” The Prince said.  “Young Sweyn told me of his convoluted plan.  I just wish we still had your forty ships inside London!”

“Oh, Duke Richard wasn’t about to have two thousand Jomsvikings staying in London with him,” Thorkel explained.  “He wanted King Athelred under his thumb, and his thumb alone.”

They had wine brought when they got to the highseats of King Sweyn’s great hall and they continued their discussion on Fortress London.  “It’ll be a tough siege,” Valdamar began.  “The London fyrds have gotten very proficient at defending their walls.”

“Well,” Erik replied, “the Drevjane of Iskorosten got very proficient at putting out fires until they met up with five thousand little Cathayan sky lanterns.”

Thorkel didn’t know what The Prince meant by that, but Valdy certainly did.  His grandmother, Empress Helga of Kiev had the wooden walled city of Iskorosten under siege for six months and The Prince levelled the town in six hours using the Cathayan fire sparrows as the Drevjane had called them.  Empress Helga fell in love with The Prince that night and they were lovers to the day she died.

“We’ve tried fire,” Valdy complained.  “King Athelred’s wife, Queen Emma is right across the strait from us.  We could use her as a hostage.”

“Nobody touches Queen Emma,” The Prince ordered.  “I brought some of that new sex drug back from India and she’s agreed to try it with me.”

“The death drug?” Valdy asked.  “You don’t want us using her as a hostage, but you’ll kill her for five minutes?”

“It’ll just be for three,” Erik said reassuringly, “besides, she’s my new partner.  The Hraes’ Trading Company is going to be doing direct sailings to the Newfoundland and back using her tall ships!”

“Across open ocean?” Valdy asked.  “That’s not the Mediterranean!”

“That’s what the tallships are for,” Erik said.  “I saw how they were doing it in Cathay when I was there.  They use big ships they call junks.  They’ve sailed east to the Newfoundland and their ocean in a hell of a lot bigger than ours.  Especially as far north as we are.”

Thorkel just sat back and drank his mead.  He hadn’t been able to follow anything that they had said for the past while.  But he did understand the conversation about the hostage and he had seen Prince Valdamar fall in love with Princess Aelfgifu of Northampton and now he was pretty sure he was watching The Prince of the Hraes’ falling in love with Queen Emma, Aelfgifu Number Two.  “How is my wife?” Thorkel asked Valdy during a break in their conversation.  “I’ve been undercover.  I haven’t seen her in over two years.”  Thorkel had fallen in love himself when he had kidnapped Aelfgifu Number One in Northampton.

“She’s in Kiev with my wife, Aelfgifu.  Aelfrowana and your children are fine.  They play with our children all the time.”  The conversation gravitated to wives and children for a while and then it went back to Fortress London.

The next day Jarl Eirik arrived with his fleet and some troops that King Olaf had sent with him from Sweden.  Eirik had left his son Haakon in charge of Lade and Norway, but, as he was still young, Eirik gave him a guardian in his kinsman, the famous Trondheim chief, Einar Thong-Shaker.  In his day, Einar was the best archer in Norway; hence his nickname, the one who makes the bow-thong tremble.  He, too, had fought at the Battle of Svolder, but on King Olaf’s ship and twice did his arrow seek Eirik’s life.  On the third try, he drew the bow and it was struck by an arrow and broke with a loud snap.  “What just broke so loudly?” King Olaf Tryggvason had shouted from the poop.  “Norway from your hands,” replied the gallant archer.   After Jarl Eirik and King Sweyn ‘Forkbeard’, his blood brother, had become rulers of all Norway, they made peace with Einar, married him to their sister, the generous Bergljot, and endowed him with great lands and power.

Once Eirik got settled in, Prince Valdamar, or King Canute, as he was now to be called, asked his princes, jarls, generals and officers to sit in on a strategy meeting so they could learn their respective roles to be played in the reconquest of England.  “While our slavers are out buying up the starving famine victims of last year’s calamities,” and Valdy took a bow as all applauded the success of his Unicorn scorn pole.  None had ever seen the famous Aesir Unicorn curse applied to an enemy before; like the blood eagle, it had not been done in living memory, and the results had been catastrophic.  The terror could not have been greater.  The Prince knew it was important to acknowledge the success of Aesir magic when it went well, for it gave the Aesir warriors courage in battle so, he led the applause and did not stop clapping until he was sure that all fully appreciated the power the curse now held over the English people.  “While the slavers are busy,” Canute began again, “we shall be out raiding.  The Prince and I shall be with you until the merchant fleets leave for Baghdad and Constantinople, but spring and summer are to be used for raiding and skirmishing only.  There are to be no full engagements with the English.  Once contact is made, disengage.  Your task at hand is to unnerve the enemy.  We want to make full use of the power the Unicorn scorn pole has over them so, we allow them no victories.  We hit them, then disappear like ghosts.  We rape, we pillage, we burn, then we disappear.  The Prince and I shall return in the fall with more legions and then we begin the siege of Fortress London and we’ll have some new Cathayan siege gear to show you.”

While the Hraes’ were having their meeting, a gemot, a war council, had been summoned by King Athelred in Oxford, near the border of the Danelaw.  Athelred wanted to build a closer union between the North and the South, the Saxons and the Angles.  Among others who attended were two Scandinavian nobles from the Seven Boroughs, Sigeferth and Morcar, who were Angles.  During the sessions of the gemot, the brothers were accused of treason and slain in the house of Eadric Streona, the Mercian earl and the result was a riot.  The followers of the murdered men called for revenge, but were repulsed and driven into the tower of Saint Frideswide’s Church, which the Saxons promptly burned.  Such a violation of the right of sanctuary could not be overlooked, even in those impassioned times, and only through penance on the part of the luckless King was the stain removed.

But the deed was done because Eadric wanted the wealth of the two Danes, and Athelred actually did exact forfeiture of property.  But it may also be that Eadric was endeavouring to extend and consolidate his Mercian earldom and to do this he would have to devise some method to deprive the Seven Boroughs of their peculiarly independent position in the Danelaw or Danish Mercia.  Whatever his purpose, he seems to have had the approval of the ill-counselled king.

Sigeferth’s widow, Aldgyth, was taken as a prisoner to Malmesbury, where Edmund, Athelred’s virile son, saw her and desired her.  But Athelred objected to his son’s matrimonial plans solely because he did not enjoy the thought of having in his household as daughter-in-law a woman who could not help but be a constant reminder of a deed that was treacherous, stupid, and criminal.  Passion, however, was strong in Edmund Ironside and he married the widow in spite of his father’s veto.  More yet, he demanded her slain husband’s forfeited official position.  Athelred again refused, so the prince proceeded to the Danish strongholds and took possession of them anyway.

Edmund’s act was that of a rebel, but his father was being carried about on a shield still, and in the Danelaw his rebellion was regarded in large part as proper vengeance.  Thus fuel was added to the old fire that burned in the hearts of Angles and Saxons.  The spirit of rebellion, so general in the kingdom, had now appeared in the royal family itself.  Most significant of all, Prince Edmund had probably thwarted the great ambition of Eadric Streona.  And here was the King’s son actually governing two strongholds of his earldom.  Would he not in time supplant the low-born Eadric?  It caused the earl much consternation and Athelred’s gemot seemed to have driven the Saxons, Angles and Danes further apart rather than more together.

One Viking that had come back from Normandy with King Athelred and was still standing by him was Jarl Olaf ‘the Stout’ Haraldson, but during the Oxford gemot, Olaf had learned that Jarl Eirik Haakonson had left Norway and had arrived in England so, when Athelred returned to London, Jarl Olaf headed towards York.  He had two warships awaiting him on the Humber and when he got there they sailed off for Norway to, once more, Christianize the land on Athelred’s behalf.  He met his blood brother there, named Ole, who had two merchant ships and they sailed together to Lade to set a trap for Jarl Eirik’s son Haakon.

The two merchant ships rowed into Lade and were hardly noticed, but when two warships were spotted a little later entering Trondheim Fjord, young Jarl Haakon and his men rowed out in a warship to see who they were.  His guardian Einar was readying a larger warship to sail after him, but when Haakon rowed between the two merchant ships, ropes were raised between them and Ole’s men managed to capsize Haakon’s smaller warship.  While the young Jarl and his men were in the water, Olaf ‘the Stout’ came up in his warships and took them all prisoner.  Olaf spared his life on the condition that he and his followers were to leave Norway, surrendering all to sovereignty, and swearing oaths to never more fight against Olaf and his band of Christian mercenaries, his Swords of Christ.  Haakon, Einar and their followers took the required oaths and were permitted to flee Norway.  It was a large following, for all Norwegians who wished to remain Aesir were required to leave as well.  Some sailed for The Vik which was under Danish control, others sailed for Denmark and relatives there, but most of the people of Lade followed Jarl Haakon to the Isle of Wight and the Viking fortress there.

King Canute and his legions were already out in south England raiding and plundering and they began working their way towards the city of Canterbury, where they expected to find Jarl Sigvald and his Jomsvikings under siege.  Instead, they were out and about and carrying on commerce with the locals.  Sigvald explained to Canute that King Athelred had sent Ealdormen with an offer of twenty thousand pounds of silver to sit in Canterbury peacefully and stay out of any fighting for a year.

“I thought it was better to accept the offer,” Sigvald said, “than have Canterbury under siege for a year, so I took the silver, in your name, of course.”

“And how long does this payment indispose you for?” Canute asked.

“Until the fall,” Sigvald said.

“We won’t need you until fall,” Canute told him.  “If you get another offer from London’s Ealdormen, take it, then warn them you will stay out of the fray, but you can no longer guarantee your men will.  They’ll likely gamble you will control your men.  That will deprive Athelred of another twenty thousand pounds of silver to use against us.  If we need your men, we’ll let you know, but you can sit tight and control Canterbury and enjoy your Saxon women,” and Canute gave him a sly wink and left.  He didn’t even ask Sigvald how much of the silver was left.

Jarl Eirik was systematically plundering southern England, using the rivers, just as King Sweyn had taught him a few years earlier, when news came that his son had just arrived at their fortress on Wight.  Norway had, once more, fallen into Christian proselytizing hands, but this time conversions were not being forced.  Aesir were being allowed to leave if they gave up lands and titles, but it was a lot to ask of those who had been forced to accept Christianity two decades earlier and were familiar with both faiths.  And the slaves of Norway were joyous, for slaves had a long history in the Christian faith and the one Christian heaven accepted all good people including slaves while the many and varied Aesir heavens accepted none.  Now the slaves of Norway were being promised an afterlife.

But now, the Christian slaves of England were being sold to Hraes’ slavers at heavily discounted prices because the famine sweeping across the country precluded feeding them, and their afterlives were in jeopardy, totally depending on what lands they would end up being sold in.  In Byzantine lands their faith would be respected, in Muslim lands they might be allowed to join the Islamic faith, but in Jewish lands their religion would not be respected and they would not be allowed to join the Jewish faith because one had to be born into it.  Except for the Khazars, who had been allowed to join the Jewish faith to spite the Byzantines.  Worst case would be Aesir lands, where they would be allowed no faith and no prospect of heaven, for they were considered no more than just chattel and could be killed at any owners whim and anyone else’s for that matter, as long as they could pay replacement costs.  As the famine progressed, free born children and youths began show up on slavers ships to avoid death by starvation, but their sale could cost them their very souls if they landed in the wrong place.

Jarl Eirik had difficulty steering his longship through the throng of slaver ships in the fortress harbour, but he was soon with his wives and children in King Sweyn’s great hall there.  Haakon and Einar told him what had happened in Lade and the old Jarl vehemently cursed Jarl Olaf for taking his realm, but secretly thanked him for sparing his family.  He freed up some longhalls within the walls, halls that had housed legions that were now housing themselves in English mansions and enjoying Saxon maidens, and then he got the men of Lade working on new longhalls outside the fortress walls.  Once he was satisfied with the arrangements, he rejoined his Viking warriors on the mainland.

While King Canute and his jarls and generals were executing their spring hit and run campaign, Prince Erik was working with Queen Emma to outfit their ships for a trade mission to the Newfoundland.  But the direct sailing aspect of the venture was being kept under strict wraps.  All but captains and owners were led to believe the mission would go by way of Iceland and Greenland, the Norse controlled route that had just fallen into Jarl Olaf’s Christian hands.  The Prince had explained to Emma that the Greenlanders felt it their right to be able to control Newfoundland trade, Erik ‘the Red’ even banning it altogether for many years, fearing it would cause people to leave the settlements of his misnamed land.  It wasn’t till after the death of Erik that his son, Leif ‘the Lucky’ was able to start expanding Newfoundland trade, but they were not taking advantage of the full potential of the land, did not even fully know the full potential of the land.  But Erik’s son, Helgi ‘Arrow Odd’ had lived there for a few years, had wives and children there and knew the potential and had always planned to someday establish trade there.  Death took him years too soon.  It was being said in his sagas that he lived to be three hundred years old, but Erik told Emma that it was he who was prophesied to live three hundred years.

“Another hundred or so years to go,” Erik said as Emma snuggled in his arm in the captain’s bed of one of their tallships.  Emma was outfitting three of her own and Erik, the three he had purchased from her.

“Will the alchemist drug keep you alive that long?” Emma asked in disbelief.

“I was born in 810,” Erik said, “and though I’ve died a few times since then, I’ve always managed to get back up and dust myself off and here I am a healthy two hundred and five!  Two oh five and still alive!”

“Thank you for sharing some of the drug with me.  You’re sure it helps with childbirth?” Emma asked.

“That is one of the many things it does help with.  It makes one more virile and capable of handling the results of that virility.  But first we have to survive this new drug of mine, this sex drug,” Erik told her, and he took out the vials of poison and antidote and began to explain how they worked together.

“I ingest a measured amount of the antidote,” and Erik poured antidote out of the vial and onto a spoon and he sucked it off the spoon and swallowed it.  “Now the antidote is in my system, but it must be taken after the poison in order to work so, when we make love and I come inside you, you are essentially being injected with the antidote, that is why you cannot wear an internal glove and are at risk of pregnancy.”

Emma watched The Prince as he talked and her gorgeous green eyes were as big as saucers.  She’d gulped when he swallowed and he had her undivided attention.  Their lives were at stake.

“Now we’ll mix your spoonful of antidote into your lip colouring and make a gel of it and you can put it on in front of the mirror while I dispense the correct amounts of the poison.”  Emma took the lip gel and brushed it onto her lips carefully.  “Try not to smear it,” Erik warned, “until you kiss me with it once you’ve come out of your death.”

They sat naked on the edge of the bed and Erik gave Emma her spoonful of the sex drug and then waited a bit and took his, while Emma crawled between the sheets and laid herself back for Erik.  He swallowed the poison and then crawled between the sheets on top of her and he mounted and entered her and started thrusting deeply within her.  He began thrusting faster and faster and soon they were off, two spirits flying and focking in mid-air, and the world was below them and the sun was above them, warming their bodies.  They came together in a massive orgasm and Erik flowed freely within Emma and then they were in a meadow with lush grasses and sweet flowers and Erik realized he was in Emma’s body and she was above him thrusting deeply into him and he heard her breath, “Oh God!” and she came into Erik rather quickly, but recovered and began focking him some more until they both came together again in a massive explosion.  Now they were in the part of Emma’s palace where they liked to sneak off and make love and they alternated bodies and positions for what seemed hours but was only minutes and then they were back in the captain’s bed and when Erik exploded one last time within Emma she came back to life and started breathing heavily and she saw that The Prince was dead and laying atop her and she pulled his head to her and she kissed his lips and she got some of the lip gel onto her tongue and she slipped her tongue deep into his mouth and he soon came back to life and began breathing suddenly.  Emma pulled his head to her chest and they both caught their breaths and hugged each other closely.  Then Erik slid off her and laid beside her.

“I’ve never come that hard in my life!” Emma gasped.  “And so many times!  Is that how it is with you?  One great series of pulses?”

“So many questions,” he answered.  “Just lay back and enjoy it for a while.”

“Oh…I am,” she replied, still trying to catch her breath.  “Did we really go to all those places?”

“Enjoy them,” Erik said, pulling Emma tightly against his body.  He had been inside her body, felt her, experienced himself through her and it took some getting used to, but he knew they were now connected as they had never been before.

“Can I sleep inside you tonight?” Erik blurted out.

“What?” Emma said.  “Only one man has ever done that with me.”

“Not because I have to,” Erik said, quoting Sweyn, “but because I want to.”

Later, that night when they were really back in Emma’s palace suite, Erik had his way and slept inside her.

A week later, when the prevailing winds were right, six tallships, captained by sailors Erik had taken with him the year before, sailed west and south down the coast of Frankia and then caught the prevailing wind westward and sailed off directly towards the Newfoundland.  They carried goods to trade with the natives there, iron ships kettles and glassware and colourful cloth and blankets and clothing to be exchanged for furs and hawks and hopefully gold.  Unknown to the Hraes’, Basque fishermen, casting their nets off the coast of north-western Spain, watched the tallships head west, out into the open ocean.

Another week later and the merchant ships began sailing off to Roskilde to join the Hraes’ fleet.  A few merchant ships sailed from Ireland and England, more from Normandy and Friesland and Prince Erik and King Canute sailed with them to lead the Hraes’ fleet to Kiev and then on to Cherson for tithing and finally on to Baghdad and Constantinople and India and Cathay.

Princess Svia and the elder Prince Ivaraslav were already in Constantinople to handle trading there so Prince Valdamar handled Baghdad, and Prince Erik handled Cathayan and Indian commerce.  Trading went well and The Prince spent some time with his children in Mumba and everyone there was still grieving the loss of Myia.  Erik rejoined Prince Valdamar in Baghdad and they left early to prepare their additional legions for transport to England.  When they got to Kiev, Valdy’s son, young Prince Ivaraslav didn’t want to release any legions for service in England, claiming that Pechenegs were acting up and the legions would be needed to protect Kiev and the surrounding cities.  Prince Valdamar and his son almost came to blows and Ivaraslav refused to pay his father a Novgorod tax that was due Kiev.  Finally, to keep the peace, The Prince called up an additional legion from Tmutorokan instead and they left for England with only one mobile legion and one cataphract legion in lieu of two of each as they had planned.  Their strategy of overwhelming force and heavy siege equipment was in jeopardy due to Pechenegs and a delayed Silk Road caravan due to the size of their ordered siege equipment.  Their fall campaign was not getting off to a good start, but they left without some legions and siege gear because they didn’t want it getting off to a late start as well.

King Athelred and his officers were hoping that the Vikings would be easing up in the fall and would then go into winter quarters at Wight, but the fall arrival of fresh Hraes’ troops from the east signaled otherwise.  The news must have been hard on the shield borne Athelred, for he became extremely ill shortly after hearing it.  His rebellious son, Prince Edmond returned from the Danelaw with his new wife and he took charge of England’s defence.  Prince Erik was glad that Queen Emma had stayed in Southampton over the summer.  Edmond was Athelred’s son by his first wife and he held no affection for their Norman queen.  He summoned Earl Eadric of Mercia to London with his forces but they soon had a falling out and Eadric fled London with forty ships and men and sailed down the Thames to join King Canute at Sandwich.

With the arrival of additional Slav troops from Hraes’, the Saxons of Wessex gave up the fight and accepted Canute as their king and provided fresh horses for the Hraes’ mobile legions.  It was difficult transporting horses over such long distances so, only the heavy horse of the cataphract legions were brought over from Hraes’.

A few days later, King Canute moved on London and, with Earl Eadric following, started northward, crossed the Thames at Cricklade in Wiltshire, and proceeded toward the Warwick country.  Prince Edmund took a force south to meet him, but the militia balked and suddenly became sticklers for legal form and regularity, and refused to go on without the presence of the King and the aid of London.  As neither was forthcoming, the English militia dispersed to their home counties.  Once more the summons went out to the fyrds and, once more, the militias insisted that the King be in personal command of the force.  King Athelred crawled upon his shield and was borne out to the field, but all could see that the hand of death was upon him and they refused to follow the king as well.  Athelred became even more gravely ill and was carried on his shield back to London.

With the second attempt at fighting having failed, Prince Edmund left the South to its fate, and rode north to Northumbria to seek the help of Earl Uhtred.  Such was the chaos of England at the time that the Saxon South accepted the invader, while a prince of the house of Alfred looked to the north and the Angles and Danes for aid in the half-Scandinavian regions beyond the Humber that had once so readily submitted to King Sweyn ‘Forkbeard’.  Earl Uhtred gave Edmund troops and the prince took them south to meet Canute, but he went west through Mercia and pillaged Earl Eadric’s lands as he passed through them.  Canute led his forces eastward into Bucks, marching his army in a northeasterly direction toward the Fenlands, and thence northward through Lincoln and Nottingham toward York.  When Earl Uhtred learned of this attack on his territories, he hastened back to Northumbria, but he was not in position to fight, having given Prince Edmund a large part of his troops and, driven by necessity, he submitted to Canute, and all Northumbria with him, and they gave hostages.  But Earl Eadric wanted Uhtred executed for the lives lost in his lands that Prince Edmund had so recently and viciously passed through, so he was slain, and with him, Thurkil, the son of Nefja, would have been slain, but Witch Hallveig intervened.  And after that King Canute made Jarl Eirik Earl of Northumbria with all the rights that Uhtred had held.  And it was Jarl Einar ‘Thong-Shaker’ that killed Uhtred for sending Jarl Olaf ‘the Stout’ from Northumbria to Norway and endangering the young Jarl Haakon of Lade.  Jarl Eirik gave his son an earldom in Northumbria to rule over in lieu of Lade.

Reports were coming in from Norway that fall about Jarl Olaf travelling along the shores and up through the dales; wherever it was practical, and he was summoning the peasantry and even slaves to public assemblies where he presented his case.  His appeal was to national Norse pride and to the people’s sense of loyalty to Harold Fairhair’s dynasty.  Almost everywhere the appeal was successful, but in the north the men who loved the old order were not willing to yield without a struggle.  While Jarl Olaf was proselytizing in southern Norway, Jarl Eirik sent Einar back to Norway to organize the northern resistance of Halogaland, Namdalen and Trondheim while Olaf was occupied in the south.  Jarl Eirik was needed in England and also feared that Jarl Thorkel ‘the Tall’ would get Northumbria if he left to retake Norway and Jarl Eirik wanted both.

While Prince Erik commanded a legion to control southern England and spent his time between Wight and Southampton, King Canute led his legions through Mercia and Bristol subjugating any further resistance outside London.  In Norway, both Aesir and Christian parties were active, Jarl Einar in the Trondheim Fjord and Jarl Olaf in the South.  All through Lent the fleets were gathering.  Finally on Palm Sunday, March 25, 1016, the Viking dragonships clashed with each other at the Nesses, near the mouth of the Christiania Firth, The Vik.  Neither force was great, though that of the Northmen and Einar was considerably larger than the pretender’s host, but at the Nesses for the first time the cross figured prominently in Norwegian warfare: golden, red, or blue crosses adorned the shining shields of Jarl Olaf’s kingsmen.  After mass had been sung and the men had breakfasted, Olaf and his kingsmen sailed out and made the attack.  The outcome was long uncertain, but finally victory was with King Olaf.  Jarl Einar and his small fleet of Aesir then sailed to York to help in the English fight.  The attempt to dislodge the new king was put on hold for the time being.

After the submission of virtually all England, King Canute returned to his ships in the south and made preparations to attack London.  That city alone showed the old determination to resist and King Athelred and Prince Edmund and a number of the English earls were there with their armies to protect the walls and, as always, so too were the London fyrds.  King Canute immediately began preparations for a last descent upon the stubborn city; but before his longships had actually left harbour, England lost her king.  April 23, 1016, Athelred died.  To say anything in real praise of the ill-counseled king was impossible, so Prince Edmund didn’t even try.  He just took up the crown, became King Edmund, and carried on with the defence of Fortress London.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:

A.D. 1015.  This year was the great council at Oxford; where

Alderman Edric betrayed Sigferth and Morcar, the eldest thanes

belonging to the Seven Towns.  He allured them into his bower,

where they were shamefully slain.  Then the king took all their

possessions, and ordered the widow of Sigferth to be secured, and

brought within Malmsbury.  After a little interval, Edmund

Etheling went and seized her, against the king’s will, and had

her to wife.  Then, before the Nativity of St. Mary, went the

etheling west-north into the Five Towns, and soon plundered

all the property of Sigferth and Morcar; and all the people

submitted to him.  At the same time came King Knute to Sandwich,

and went soon all about Kent into Wessex, until he came to the

mouth of the Frome; and then plundered in Dorset, and in

Wiltshire, and in Somerset.  King Ethelred, meanwhile, lay sick

at Corsham; and Alderman Edric collected an army there, and

Edmund the etheling in the north.  When they came together, the

alderman designed to betray Edmund the etheling, but he could

not; whereupon they separated without an engagement, and sheered

off from their enemies.  Alderman Edric then seduced forty ships

from the king, and submitted to Knute.  The West-Saxons also

submitted, and gave hostages, and horsed the army.  And he

continued there until midwinter.



Back To Table of Contents

(1016 AD)  King Edmund ‘Ironside’ Athelredson, like his great grandfather before him, King Alfred, was a Saxon through and through, except for the part of him that wasn’t.  His father was King Athelred ‘the Unready’ of Wessex, the Saxon heartland of the Anglo-Saxons, but his mother was Lady Aelfgifu of York, an Angle of Mercia, and he was thankful for that and he knew he had only the foresight of his forefather, Alfred, to thank for it.  Toward the end of King Alfred ‘the Great’s reign the king married his daughter, Saxon Princess Athelflaed, to the Angle Prince Athelred of Mercia in an effort to unite the Angles and Saxons of Angleland, as the island was called at that time, against the encroachment of the Norse Vikings and the Anglish Danes of Jutland, from whence the Angles of Angleland had migrated hundreds of years earlier.  Prince Edmund had worked hard to carry on his great great great grandfather’s work by himself marrying the Mercian Anglish Princess Ealdgyth, although it was no sacrifice, for he had always loved her, and he carried the famed sword of King Offa of Mercia to further remind all that he was Angle as well as Saxon and he spoke both languages equally fluently and could read and write in both King Alfred’s Old Saxon and Saint Alcuin’s Anglish miniscule font.  The army he had brought to Fortress London with him was composed Angles from both Mercia and Northumbria and Danes from the Danelaw.  What was missing here were his own Saxons from Wessex and he blamed his father for that.

Sometimes Edmund found it hard to believe that his father, King Athelred ‘the Unready’, which actually meant ill-advised, was of the line of King Alfred ‘the Great’, so far had he fallen in his later reign.  He had heard all the stories about his father’s week-long bouts of drunkenness and his nights in the whorehouses along the Thames with young women who wore freshly whiskered faces above their bodices, young wolves in sheep’s clothing, and he was amazed that his father had as many children as he’d had, although Edmund suspected that he may have had help with the last few.  Edmund adjusted the breastplate of his cuirass and it reminded him of Princess Emma of Normandy, former Queen of England.  His own wife, Ealdgyth, now held that title, a title Athelred had never allowed his own mother to bear, for one focked up reason or another.  But he had been quick to award it to Princess Emma of Normandy shortly after his mother had died during childbirth, giving his father yet another daughter to marry off in alliance.

He had heard that Princess Emma was in her city of Southampton with Prince Valdamar ‘the Great’ of Kiev, or King Canute ‘the Great’ of England as he was now wont to call himself, and he heard that Canute was in Winchester Cathedral, just north of there, accepting the sworn pledges of his own Earls of Wessex, who had accepted him as their new king, instead of following the right choice of the Witan of London.  Edmund wished he could hate his step-mother Emma, but he couldn’t.  She had been more of a father to him in the last dozen years than Athelred had ever been and he poked at the one dent in the cuirass he wore, a dent right over his heart and he remembered Queen Emma telling him how the dent got there.  She was at a jousting match in Rouen, jousting being a new form of simulated combat that he found intriguing, and the breastplate had belonged to the son of a real Roman knight who had moved to Normandy and had saved her father from the king of the Franks, and a Norman knight had struck the son of the Roman knight on the chest with a lance and had unseated him.  All the knights in this new jousting game had to wear breastplates because had the son of the Roman knight worn regular chainmail, he would have died from such a blow, instead of just being unseated.  Queen Emma had been presented with the breastplate and she had given it to Edmund in London in better times and she had promised to take Edmund to Rouen with her someday to watch the new jousting matches, but the better times didn’t last long enough for her to keep her promise.  And now Prince Canute was in the old capital of England, Winchester, being crowned its latest king, which was now one king too many, so that was where King Edmund of England was now going.  He hoped his old battle-worn sword and dinted cuirass would make him look an experienced enough warrior to attract and reclaim the fierce fyrds of Wessex.  Fortress London would stand while he was away, for the fyrds of London had grown to be the fiercest of them all.  They just would never leave London is all.

The English kingship tended to be elective: on the death of a king, long live the king, the mighty earls and the great officials of the Church, the “witan” or wise, would meet in legal assembly and select a successor.  Typically the next male heir of the house of Alfred ‘the Great’ would be chosen; but sometimes the choice changed, and such choices the “wise men” made tended to stand.  But in the spring of 1016, a free choice was impossible with almost all of England sworn and pledged to a new leader who shared not blood with Alfred nor England and who barely shared the byname ‘the Great’!  And with only the Witan of London backing the next male heir of Alfred, the two present Kings of England would have to hack it out.

During the winter months the Danish fleet had been beached at the old Viking Fortress of King Sweyn on the Isle of Wight, but the Hraes’ armies had been all about England taking the submissions of one earldom after another.  In April, Canute was back from his march to York and was getting his fleet ready for an assault on London, when news of the death of Athelred gave him pause.  The Saxons of Wessex came together at Winchester and awarded the kingship to Canute, and proscribed all the descendants of Athelred.  This done, they adjourned to Southampton to give their pledges of loyalty.  It was a body of great respectability that thus gathered to pay homage, containing, as it did, both laymen and churchmen, earls, bishops, and abbots.  King Canute had changed his name to the English form of Knute, hoping it would be more accepted than the eastern name of Valdamar, or Vladimir, had been, and he now accepted the Latin Christian faith in lieu of the Orthodox Christian faith he had accepted to marry a Roman royal of the purple blood, Princess Anna Porphyrogennetos, and he then took the hand of an English lady, Princess Aelfgifu of Northampton, to wife, but like King Athelred before him, he did not make her his queen.  Queen Emma of Normandy, Aelfgifu ‘Number Two’, was giving away the bride, but only under the condition that she would not have to give up her title and Prince Erik of Tmutorokan was beside her giving away the groom and making sure Queen Emma got her way.  The Prince wanted to stay with Emma in Southampton, but he had heard some disturbing news about Khazar aggression in Tmutorokan so, he left England to lead the Hraes’ spring merchant fleet east, and King Canute led the Hraes’ war fleet west up the Thames to take the siege of London to the next stage.

Canute brought more legions to bear on the siege of London that had been in progress all winter.  His plan now was to totally isolate the city by blocking the Thames both upstream and downstream of the city, and a canal was dug around London Bridge wide enough to permit the long but narrow viking ships to pass into the stream west of the city and on the north side of London a ditch was dug enclosing the entire city so that none could go either in or out.  Attacks were made from time to time upon the walls after Hraes’ trebuchets had reduced them somewhat but the fyrds of London truly were fierce and they drove back the Hraes’ and then the Vikings and then the Jomsvikings pretty much in that order.  The siege continued through the month of May and went into June and then some disquieting news arrived from Wessex.

On the approach of the Hraes’ warfleet or soon thereafter, King Edmund and his army had left London.  He had managed to keep his departure secret, and he had raised further forces from the fyrds of Wessex and they were now facing the Hraes’ legion that had been holding the Viking fortress on Wight.

When Canute heard that his enemies were mustering in the southwest, he sent a force westward to look for Edmund.  But at Penselwood, near Gillingham in Dorset, the Hraes’ legion from Wight came upon the Saxon forces first.  Edmund’s success in raising the west had not been great, but it augmented the Angle and Dane forces pledged to him and, trusting in the help of God, he gave battle and won a small victory.  The Hraes’ legion couldn’t beat him so they had to withdraw to protect Southampton and Wight as they had been ordered to do.  King Edmund “Ironside” fought well at the Battle of Penselwood and added a few more dints to his cuirass, and a bit more experience to his military ‘resume’, as the Normans would say.

A month later, the force that Canute had sent out under Jarl Thorkel ‘the Tall’ to find King Edmund, found him, and battle was again joined at Sherstone, a little farther to the north near Malmesbury in the upper part of Wiltshire.  The encounter at Sherstone was a genuine battle, fiercely fought, and one that would live long in the memories of the Englishmen there.  It occurred after the feast of Saint John, in the early days of July.  The western campaign was under Thorkel’s command, but three prominent English earls, Eadric ‘Streona’, Almar Darling, and Algar, had come from the siege of London with him and they knew how Edmund would fight in his own Saxon lands and a Danish victory was had at Sherstone, but Thorkel took all the credit, which was something English earls liked to do for themselves.  They were soon squabbling over the victory at Sherstone, which was, at best, a draw, for Edmund and his army were still intact and roaming around the countryside as if it was they who were the Vikings roaming loose about the lands.  Thorkel insisted it was his leadership that brought about victory, but Earl Eadric Streona begged to differ, claiming that he had picked up the head of an English soldier who bore some resemblance to Edmund and he had waved it around above the shield walls clashing and had deceived the Saxons into believing that their king was dead.  Thorkel took one look at the head and said it was the head of Edmund and that he had seen the prince many times when he was Athelred’s thingman in London.  Earl Eadric was taken aback by Thorkel’s claim that his great general-ship had cost Edmund his head.  Eadric ‘Streona’, meaning ‘the Grasper’ had finally met his match in duplicity.

After the encounter at Sherstone, Thorkel took the head back to London with him and rejoined Canute before the walls, but he left a part of his Jomsviking force under Ulf ‘the Stout’ and the three English earls with orders to collect their own Edmund head if they still thought he was alive!  So, Eadric once more shifted his allegiance and he made off on his own and found the English army and he made peace with Edmund and joined him against the Hraes’.  Edmund’s army was strengthened by Eadric’s retinue, as was his prestige as he roamed about the Midlands gathering troops and gear and the story spread about his head.  After a few local fyrds that had melted into the citizenry came forth and joined him, Edmund had an army at his command, and with this host he marched to the relief of London.  At the appearance of this force, Canute found it difficult to maintain the complete siege and to fight a fierce foe at the same time.  As always, prudence was Canute’s greatest virtue, and he promptly raised the siege and withdrew to his ships.  Edmund came up with his forces to Brentford, just as some Hraes’ were busy crossing to the south bank.  The legionnaires fled, but many of the English that pursued them were drowned because of heedlessness, as they rushed ahead of the main force to get at the booty in the Hraes’ baggage train.  And Canute had left a little surprise for Edmund, for the whole Hraes’ force had not left London, and there was another fight at Brentford two days after the city had been relieved and Thorkel’s Jomsvikings caught some English troops crossing the waters and slaughtered them before withdrawing to the warfleet.

With the relief of London, the English fyrds considered their duty done, and soon Edmund found himself once more without a large army because it was harvest season and the crops were good and the famine had been very damaging with the previous year’s poor harvest.  The tireless Edmund then returned to Wessex to raise more of the militia there.  While he was off seeking recruits, the Hraes’ warfleet returned to the capital, resumed the siege, and attacked the city furiously by land and water, but the fyrds there remained fierce and Fortress London stood.

When Jarl Eirik heard that the Earl of Mercia, Eadric ‘Streona’, had once again returned to the English fold after both ‘the Grasper’ and Jarl Thorkel ‘the Tall’ had each claimed to have the head of Edmund, he assembled his retinue in York and consulted with them.  He asked Witch Hallveig if Edmund was dead.

“For the spirits to talk,” she replied, “we must make a sacrifice.”  They were in the great banquet room of Castle York, where Ragnar ‘Lothbrok’ had died of the Twelve Cuts of the Poisoned Blood Snakes and all felt that there was great power in the room.  It was evening and dusk was coming earlier now that fall was the season.  After Earl Uhtred had been beheaded by Eirik, he’d had Uhtred’s head preserved by the witch in much the same fashion they had preserved Jarl Haakon’s head two decades earlier.  Jarl Eirik had Einar ‘Thong-Shaker’ bring in two finely crafted and gilt boxes and they put them up, side by side, on the highest highseat.  Eirik opened them and they held the heads of Jarl Haakon and Earl Uhtred, their dark eyes closed and their blue lips pouting.

Einar had left the hall and he came back with a prisoner.  After Earl Uhtred had been slain, it was learned that he had been giving sanctuary to a Thurkil ‘Nefja’ meaning ‘Nosy’, who turned out to be the young half-brother of Olaf Tryggvason, a man who was rumoured to have also survived the Battle of Svolder by making a swim for it.  At that most famous of battles he had commanded the Short Serpent, but as Jarl Eirik and his Norwegians cleared the decks ship by ship, Thurkil had ended up on the Long Serpent fighting alongside his brother and he was actually the very last man to dive overboard before Eirik and his men finally seized it.

Of him, Hallfred ‘the Troublesome-Scald’ sang:

“Strong-souled Thurkil

 Saw the Crane and the Dragons

 Two float empty

 (Gladly had he grappled),

 Ere the arm-ring wearer,

 Mighty in warfare,

 Leaped into the sea, seeking

 Life by swimming.”

Thurkil ‘Nefja’ had survived the battle and had spent the next sixteen years in anonymity in northern England, serving Earl Uhtred as a warrior-prince.  He was discovered and captured after the Earl was beheaded and had almost joined the earl, but Witch Hallveig had stepped in and saved the prince.  She had left her five Jomsviking ‘thingmen’ back in Trondheim Fjord to protect her holdings in Hell and she had missed their ‘things’ immensely.  She was still blessed by the goddess Irpa and had not aged a day since the Battle of Hjorungavagr, or so it seemed, and her sexual appetite as a demi-goddess had taken five young men to sate.  Over a matter of months Prince Thurkil had been worn down from a virile prince to a libido pauper by Witch Hallveig and she soon made it clear what she had really saved him for.  He was to be sacrificed to Irpa for word on the head of Edmund.

When Jarl Eirik heard this he was overjoyed, having turned livid with rage when he had heard that Olaf Tryggvason may have survived the battle by swimming for it.  When he learned that his brother Thurkil had survived by swimming for it, that just increased the likelihood of Olaf having survived ten-fold.  Now at least one of them would pay.  Eirik told Hallveig he wanted Thurkil slain by Death by Twelve Cuts of the Poisoned Blood Snakes just as Ragnar had died in the very same hall, but Hallveig objected, saying Thurkil was not worthy of such a fate and that it would detract from Ragnar’s most famous death.

“I would like to see Thurkil serve his lord, Uhtred, in death as he had in life,” and she gave Jarl Eirik the honour and pleasure of striking off Thurkil’s head with his broadsword.  Then she placed his head between the heads of Jarl Haakon and Earl Uhtred and she turned their boxes to face the fresh offering as blood pooled about its neck on the highseat.

Jarl Eirik licked the blood off his blade and with a reddened tongue he asked the witch, “While you are asking the goddess Irpa if Prince Edmund’s head is still attached to his shoulders, could you ask her if Jarl Olaf Tryggvason has outlived his brother?  Or more plainly, did he, too, survive his swim for it and make it to Wendland as rumoured?”

“I shall ask her that second question as well,” Witch Hallveig answered, “and she may respond.  The head of the brother of that focking Christian king is a powerful offering.  I think she will tell you.  I think she will be very pleased with our sacrifice.”

After the evening meal in the hall, a highchair was brought in and placed between the highseats and Hallveig sat on it while her twelve chantreusses held hands and danced around her in a ring and sang out songs that would attract spirits.  Torches and candles throughout the hall were soon set to flickering as spirits flew through the hazy air of the room.  Then a rush of wind entered the hall through the front double doors which slammed and banged open and shut and Witch Hallveig got down from her highchair and went over to the head of Uhtred just as the eyes opened.  She had been carving runes into a stick when Irpa arrived and she now forced the stick through the pursed lips of Thurkil Nefja until it was under his thick tongue.  Jarl Eirik was close behind her and he could hear Thurkil mumbling something in Anglish.  Hallveig asked Thurkil in Norwegian if Prince Edmund’s head was still attached to his torso and she received a whispered answer from the heavy lips of Thurkil in Norwegian to the affirmative.  As proof, Thurkil told Hallveig that King Edmund was presently in Wessex raising another army from the fyrds of southern England.  Then Hallveig asked Thurkil if his older brother, Jarl Olaf Tryggvason, had survived his swim after the Battle of Svolder and if he had made it to Wendland.

Thurkil croaked much about that affair.  “King Olaf dove under the waves and, though gravely injured, swam under six vessels before coming up for air between ships, then he swam under another six and came up next to Princess Astrid’s Wendish longship.  Her men dragged him out of the waters and they hid him under the forecastle while Astrid awaited her share of the plunder.  Then they sailed to Wendland together and yet live in a monastery as man and wife and Astrid gifted Olaf with a wheelchair built in Tmutorokan to Prince Erik’s design that was inspired by King Ivar ‘the Boneless’, for Olaf was crippled by his Svolder injuries and his great exertion in the final swim.”

Hallveig turned around and told Eirik and Einar what Thurkil had told her.  They’d heard some of it, but it wasn’t loud enough for them to hear all of it.  Hallveig was about to step down from the highseat, but Jarl Thurkil croaked some more:

“Princess Astrid had poisoned her older sister to get Olaf for herself, and she finally got him after the Battle of the Svold.  Her younger sister, Gunhild, was pregnant in Ipswich when she was murdered by King Athelred’s two female spies and Gunhild only slept with Jarl Pallig the night of their murder because she wanted to share herself with the jarl before they were killed.  She was always faithful to King Sweyn and the girl child she’d had was his.  Princess Thyra was also pregnant when she was murdered by the two women spies, but pregnant by her new lover.  The two spies killed Thyra’s young boy by Sweyn, but they couldn’t kill Gunhild’s daughter by Sweyn, so they kidnapped her and raised her as a spy.  She is the youngest of the three women punished for poisoning King Sweyn and should be shown some clemency.  The same can be said of Princess Gyda.  Her sons with King Sweyn are King Sweyn’s true sons.”  Then Jarl Thurkil croaked no more.

When Witch Hallveig turned around to tell Eirik and Einar what Thurkil had said, Jarl Haakon’s blue eyes opened brightly.  He whispered at Hallveig, “Tell Prince Valdamar to cease and desist,” but she could not hear him, for she was talking to the jarls.  Earl Uhtred’s eyes were laughing at Jarl Haakon’s eyes and Haakon glared back at him angrily.  Uhtred laughed a croaking laugh that Hallveig did hear and she said to the jarls, “I think he just laughed!”  But the eyes in both heads were now closed and Thurkil had even seemed to have somehow spit the stick out from under his tongue.  Hallveig picked her runestick up off the highseat and she closed the boxes with the heads and she passed them to Einar.  Then she picked up Thurkil’s head by the hair and she swung it casually as she walked out the hall with her twelve chantreusses trailing her.  She was going to preserve the head so it could serve the Earl Uhtred.

Jarl Eirik sat on the highest highseat next to Thurkil’s pool of blood and he put his forefinger into it and he then sucked the blood off of his fingertip.  ‘So, Jarl Olaf is alive and not well,’ he thought.  ‘I’d kill him, but I’d likely be doing him a favour,’ he thought, as he pictured spending years with Jarl Sigvald’s wife, Astrid.  Then he pondered what Thurkil had said about Princess Gyda and how her sons by Sweyn really were Sweyn’s sons.  ‘Had Sweyn thought that he had been focking Gyda behind his back, so far back?’ he asked himself.  ‘The spirit of Sweyn must have thought that about Jarl Pallig and Queen Gunhild for the spirit of Thurkil to have brought that up,’ he told himself.  Eirik thought back to the Yulefest many years ago when Gyda had sat upon his lap.  ‘She thought I loved men,’ he realized.  ‘She thought I wouldn’t be aroused by her so, she sat, sure that I wouldn’t want her.’  Then he realized that he had become very aroused and he had taken the drunken woman to her bed and had focked her by force.  ‘No wonder she was so flustered the next day,’ he rationalized.  “Focking talking heads!” he shouted.  “They can drive one crazy!”

Jarl Eirik sent a messenger off to London to warn King Canute that Prince Edmund was not dead and was raising an army in Wessex and then he made preparations to lead his own army south to assist Canute and he planned to pass through Mercia on the way through and punish Earl Eadric for his duplicity by sacking his earldom.  The northern Vikings sailed up the Trent into Mercia and sent the fleet back to York.  They would not be returning until Fortress London fell.  As they made their way south through the earldoms of Mercia, Jarl Eirik and his troops plundered everything.  Gold, silver, weapons, armour, horses, cattle, sheep, harvested crops and people.  It was fall and the slaves would be sent to the schools in Kiev for training over the winter.  The jarl hadn’t pillaged so indiscriminately since King Sweyn’s reign when they’d delayed conquering England just so they could harvest slaves.  Young women were taken for the pleasure of the soldiers and young men to help handle the beasts and wains full of grains.  The old were left alone and buildings were untouched because they would all soon belong to King Canute.

As the Viking army swept eastwards around Oxford, raping, pillaging and plundering as they were wont to do, King Edmund’s fresh army caught its trail of destruction and went after it.  The pursuit was on so, the Viking army ceased its raiding and marched their Anglish slaves as quickly as they could to stay ahead of the Saxon army.  The Vikings left small herds of stock on the pathway to delay the English and they would intersperse silver amongst the animals so that the soldiers would stop and check each beast to see if it had a pouch of silver tied about its neck or a gold coin stapled to its ear.  Sometimes they would dress captive women in their plunder armour and leave them in formation and, with their long hair they looked like Vikings from a distance and the Saxon army would slow up and approach these ‘Viking’ units with extreme caution and then they would discover that they were Anglish women and treat them in pretty much the same way that the Vikings had.

“Who amongst my legion is tired of running,” Jarl Eirik addressed his encamped troops,  “and would like to stay and fight tomorrow to delay the English?”

A small number of berserks and warriors stepped forward.  Jarl Eirik took them aside and explained their mission and then he made sure they got the choice cuts of meat in their evening meals and they got choice young Anglish women in their tents.  The next morning the group was equipped with English weapons and armour and they were left in formation on the pathway for the Saxon army to find.  The English troops had wasted too much time approaching armed Anglish women with caution so they marched up to the group and many hadn’t even drawn their swords when the Vikings and berserks fell upon them.  The attack happened so suddenly that the English forces panicked and began fleeing and the Vikings cut them down en masse until Edmund and a force of knights worked their way to the vanguard of the army and charged the small knot of Vikings and killed them all in a fiercely fought battle.  The Viking warriors all fought well and earned their places in Valhall many times over.

Later that day, another troop of Anglish armed women were spotted on the pathway and they were approached with extreme caution, which delayed the main army and, when it was discovered that the troops were actually armed Anglish women, the English troops fell upon the relieved girls and stripped them of their armour, then stripped them of their clothes and raped them all right there on the pathway, causing further delay.  King Edmund caught up to the vanguard and admonished his troops, not for their rapes, but for their tardiness.  He had the women sent back to the officers at the rear of the formation where they could be bred with dignity and not delay.

The Viking army continued to leave small herds of livestock and wains of hay on the pathway and they were all salted with silver and other booty, but when it got to Kingston they had to ford the Thames to get on the south side of it before they reached Fortress London on the north shore and got trapped.  Edmund’s officers all knew this and they sped up their troops to try and catch them while crossing.  Their knights would play havoc with the Viking foot-soldiers in the waters, so, Jarl Eirik left them a final present, several dozen hay wains sitting across the pathway that were salted with gold coins and a large herd of cattle that were found grazing off of the hay wains.  First, the English vanguard drove off the cattle and began ransacking the wains and sifting the gold coins out of the grasses, then the main army came upon them and were told that the cattle had been grazing out of the wains and they began slaughtering the cattle to get at the gold they had eaten and King Edmund and his officers couldn’t stop them.  The English fyrds were unpaid soldiers and their rewards were honour and plunder, whatever goods that could be had while on campaign, be it wine, women or wealth, and the troops considered the gold to be plunder and it was theirs!

An opportunity was missed.  King Edmund could see the Viking army crossing the Thames off in the distance.  Had they not stopped for the gold the English could have caught many of the Vikings halfway across the river and the carnage would have been great and the victory glorious.  But the gold and the silver they were collecting at Earl Eadric’s expense did benefit Edmund in one way, the local fyrds flocked to join his army because word of the abundant plunder began to spread.  And news travelled faster than Jarl Eirik’s plunder laden army or the gleaning army that was in pursuit.  When the Norwegians arrived across the river from Fortress London they learned that the siege had been lifted and King Canute and his fleet had withdrawn to the Isle of Sheppey.  There were still a few Hraes’ regiments on the other side of the Thames, but the river was too deep to ford safely so they were going to fend for themselves.

Jarl Eirik turned his forces southeast and headed for the Isle of Sheppey.  The retreating Hraes’ had told him that supplies were running down, so his plunder would be welcomed there and there were slaver knars at both Sheppey and Sandwich that were waiting to take slaves and captives east.  Jarl Eirik became determined to not expend any more livestock or Anglish women fending off the pursuit of the English, but King Edmund was, if nothing else, persistent, and just north of Otford the English army caught up with him again.  The Viking jarl put together a delaying force comprised of young Anglish male captives dressed in Viking armour and Viking berserks dressed in English armour and the berserks formed a shield wall and forced the Anglish to fight the Saxons while their main army made for Sheppey and, with their captives and plunder, crossed in awaiting longships to the island.  Another select group of berserk warriors took their hard earned seats in Valhall.

“I’m glad you made it through from York,” King Canute welcomed Jarl Eirik.  “We need the supplies you brought.”

“Fortunately the famine is over,” Eirik started, “and the crops were excellent and the cattle were fat.”  He settled into his second highseat and the wine Valdy had passed him.  “Witch Hallveig warned us that King Edmund was gathering a Saxon army, but I didn’t think he would have it mobilized so quickly.”

“Yes,” Valdy agreed, “he has the advantage here.  We beat him and he raises another army and our numbers keep going down and are not easily replaced.  I withdrew our siege from London because I got word from The Prince that he is returning ahead of the merchant fleet with two Hraes’ legions.  That is all he could get.  Eastern Pechenegs are attacking Kiev, led by a notorious Khan Putin of Georgia.  The Prince will meet us at Ipswich and we shall fight King Edmund in Essex where we’ve had many victories.”

Jarl Eirik agreed that they’d enjoyed many victories in Essex, but he then expressed concern about their plan to gain their victory over Edmund and the English.  He told Valdy that Witch Hallveig had sensed that Jarl Thurkil Nefja, Olaf Tryggvason’s brother was in York and, sure enough, they found that he had been serving Earl Uhtred for the past sixteen years after the Battle of the Svold, so they sacrificed him to get an answer about Edmund’s whereabouts, but they had also asked about Olaf’s whereabouts as well and were told, among many other things, that Olaf Tryggvason was alive and unwell and living with Princess Astrid, Jarl Sigvald’s wife in a monastery in Wendland.”

“I have sent a messenger to Canterbury,” Valdy said, “ordering Jarl Sigvald and his Jomsvikings to join us here.  He is expected anytime.  He’ll want to know about that!”

“Exactly,” Eirik agreed, “but the goddess Irpa told Hallveig many other things.  She confirmed that it was the three women in black that had attended to King Sweyn at Gainsborough that had poisoned him, but only the older two were Athelred’s spies.  They were the ones that murdered Queens Gunhild and Thyra in Ipswich with all the others, but they couldn’t kill Gunhild’s young baby daughter so they kidnapped her and raised her as their own.  That girl is the youngest of the three in black and they raised her as a spy.  Goddess Irpa has instructed us to show her clemency.”

“But I do,” Valdy swore.  “I don’t fock her nearly as hard as I fock the older bitch!”

“Still, we are to show her more,” Eirik said, putting his head down.  “And I know what King Sweyn’s spirit told us to sacrifice in our upcoming battle, but Irpa went to the trouble of adding that both Gunhild and Gyda were fully faithful to King Sweyn, even though Gunhild was found murdered in bed with Jarl Pallig and your father was kind enough to share Gyda with me.  I have a feeling that King Sweyn’s spirit now knows the truth and does not want us to follow through with his post-death orders.”

“I’m not going to give those murderous spies any more clemency than I’ve already shown them!” Valdamar hissed.  “The sacrifices shall be made!  The curse of the Unicorn scorn pole has worked wonders for us.  All England has been afraid to join Edmund’s armies because of what happened to their lands and their king.  The scene is ripe for the appearance of Irpa and Thorgerder in the upcoming battle.  The English are so spooked, the first five arrows from each hand will set them running.  I’ll not be deprived of that because someone wants clemency, goddess or not!”

“As you wish,” Jarl Eirik responded.  “I shall send for Witch Hallveig to join us, but you’ve seen the goddesses at work for yourself in your youth.  They are not to be trifled with.”

“Of course not,” Valdy concurred.  “Everything shall be accorded Witch Hallveig as she sees required and the sacrifices shall be made in the most respectful of manners.”

Jarl Eirik ordered one of his captains to take two ships back up into Mercia and to give his son a message to send Witch Hallveig to Ipswich by sea.  He told him to tell Hallveig to bring her chantreusses and all she would need to call Thorgerder Helgibruder and the goddess Irpa.  “And tell her to bring the talking heads,” he added, shaking his own.

The next morning Jarl Sigvald arrived with his Jomsvikings from Canterbury and they were ferried across to the island in longships just before the English army arrived on the shore.  King Edmund sat on a white charger in Kent and watched King Canute welcome Jarl Sigvald to the Isle of Sheppey.  When the Jomsviking jarl heard that King Olaf was alive and living with his wife in Wendland, he had a veritable English bird.  Edmund knew Jarl Sigvald quite well, but he could not understand the antics that the jarl was going through has he tossed his helmet and threw his gloves and he launched a great battle-axe out into the waters between two ships.  The young English king didn’t think that the Jarl was a berserker, but he was in some kind of frenzy in front of the Viking fortress.  King Edmund set up his pavilions right there and his army camped where they could watch the enemy at all times.

King Canute didn’t mind at all.  They were living in longhalls and Edmund was living in a tent and Valdy could keep an eye on the English army better than Edmund could see the Hraes’ for at least the Hraes’ legions had a tall stockade covering their daily trips to the shitters and their drying laundry and their drinking and debauchery.  The Hraes’ slaver knars had wanted to leave with the Anglish captives, young men and women that Jarl Eirik had brought with him from Mercia, but Prince Valdamar kept a dozen girls for himself, Jarl Eirik kept a few of the boys and they passed the rest out amongst their men.  The slavers would have to wait for their slaves until the Hraes’ army sailed from Sheppey into Essex and the fighting got serious.  Meanwhile they all watched the English shitting off the riverbank of the Thames and they watched them washing their clothes in the waters downstream and they watched the English pavilions dissolving into the mud that became the English camp when it rained and the weather seemed to be getting cold and stormy.

The next day a Hraes’ regiment was spotted on the riverbank well upstream of the English army and the Vikings on Sheppey could see from the standards that it was from the London siege, so ships were sent to fetch them and they told a story of their hiding until the Thames became fordable, but when it did, a local fyrd had started across the Thames from the other side to go help defend Fortress London.  The Hraes’ regiment waited until they were almost all the way across, then formed up on the riverbank and shot volley after volley of arrows into the fyrd.  The Saxons were falling like snowflakes in a pond, but showed great courage by charging into the withering volleys as the arrows ran out.  Then spears were cast into the Saxon fyrd and shaft bearing shields split as heavy spearheads struck hard and more English bled out in the waters of the Thames.  As the Saxons neared shore, the Hraes’ counterattacked and the shield walls crashed in the shallows of the river’s edge and Saxon shields were shattered by the swords of the Danes and the axes of the Slavs amongst them.  Only wounded Saxons survived the onslaught as the Hraes’ hacked their way through the fyrd and kept going to the other side of the Thames and made good their escape.  The English waters ran red with Alfred’s finest, for the Hraes’ could not but admire the courage with which the Saxon’s had fought, being caught by surprise and all.

King Canute blessed the regiment with Mercian women during a feast in their honour that stormy night and when he asked them if there were any further men still back towards London from their siege they boldly told him that they were the last.  “Enjoy your women tonight,” Canute said, “for in the morning they will be on their way to Kiev and we shall be on our way into Essex.”

But King Canute changed his mind later that night.  He had no love for slavers so, when Jarl Eirik’s army had arrived to join his, the Viking Fortress became very crowded so, he had sent the slavers and their knars around to the other side of the island to camp under their awnings.  He sent messengers the two miles or so across the island to wake the slavers and tell them to bring their ships back to the fortress under cover of darkness and then he had his own marines row their warships around to the slaver camp and both parties beached their ships on the respective blocking of the other ships so it looked as if the warships were still beached in front of the Viking fortress.  Where the slavers were short a few ships, awnings were spread over timbers to look as if they covered some ships.

In the morning Canute told the Hraes’ slavers they were to hold the fortress for a week and enjoy the Anglish women before leaving for Kiev.  Then the Viking army disappeared into the trees on the backside of their fortress and marched to their warships on the other side of the island.  The Thames was so wide at this point of the river that the north shore was well out of sight and the Viking warships disappeared into the morning mists as they sailed north and followed the coast of Essex up to the River Crouch and then sailed into the estuary.  Then it was the Hraes’ slavers who were watching the English army shitting into the river and washing their clothes downstream.

When The Prince got back to Baghdad from India, young Prince Mstislav of Tmutorokan, had a messenger waiting there who told him that the Khazars were back and had been doing some raiding in Gardariki lands and were raising an army to attack Tmutorokan with.  The Prince had planned on spending a week with his agents in Baghdad, Anise and Saffron, but had to settle for a night, and he cut trading short and returned to Tmutorokan with the great merchant fleet.  The Prince had already sent one Gardariki legion to Kiev to link up with a Kievan legion there prior to sailing to England to help King Canute in his war with King Athelred’s Edmund.  So, they were short men if they were going to have to fight the Khazars again.  Erik didn’t want to release the merchant fleet to return north, because the fleet was an army unto itself, but the merchant warriors did not want to stay in the south too long or they would be trapped there if the Rivers of Hraes’ froze up early.  He would lead the merchant fleet to Cherson to pay their tithes, but he was waiting for a messenger he had sent to Constantinople to return.  He had sent a message to Emperors Basil and Constantine that the Khazars were back and intended to attack both Tmutorokan and Cherson and, as part of their Trade Contract of 943, the Hraes’ and Romans were required to support each other against common enemies.  He told the Emperors that he would aid the Romans of Cherson against the Khazars once again if they would but provide him with two Roman legions to augment his own Hraes’ legions.  There would, of course, be a charge of ten thousand pounds of gold for the Hraes’ support against the Khazars.

Emperor Basil was still in conflict with the Bulgars and he jumped at the chance to get Hraes’ aid against a Khazar attack, so the messengers returned from Constantinople with ten thousand pounds of the Red Gold of Byzantium and the assurances that a Roman fleet with two legions would meet The Prince in Cherson.  The red gold would, of course, only be purified if there was a conflict with the Khazars.  Once The Prince got that news, he left Prince Mstislav in Tmutorokan to prepare the legions and he led the great merchant fleet to Cherson for tithe payments and release for return north.  By the time they got to Cherson, the two Roman legions were already there waiting for his orders.  He sent them on to Tmutorokan while he completed the tithing of the great fleet and then he headed back to Gardariki to raise his own mobile legion.

When the Khazar army entered Tmutorokan lands from the east, they were met by Eastern Roman, Gardariki Hraes’ and Tmutorokan Hraes’ legions and were overwhelmed and surrendered and had to pledge allegiance to both Hraes’ and Rome prior to being bent over their shields by both Hraes’ and Roman troops.  The Hraes’ troops were Aesir, or formerly Aesir Orthodox Christians, so they were quite used to the religious significance of deflowering the anuses of surrendering captives, but the Romans were formerly Vanir in ancient times and were full Orthodox Christians, quite unaccustomed to the ceremonies of their common tripartite god religions of yore.  They watched their Hraes’ compatriots having their way with the Khazar captives and soon, cohort by cohort, they joined in on the rapes of the Khazar soldiers.  They had all studied their own Roman history and they knew that when the Vanir Romans marched back east and conquered the Aesir Greeks, who had driven them out of Troy per the great Trojan War of Homer, the Romans of that ancient time had felt great pleasure in bending captured Greeks over their shields and had even forced some Greeks to fight them just to take that revenge upon them.  Thus their history had been told in the ancient writings of The Aeneid by Virgil.

The Roman legions returned to Constantinople with tales of the Hraes’ General Sphengos, the brother of General Sveinald and Prince Sviatoslav of old, and his quick conquering of the Khazar host.  They told of the innumerable Khazar troops who had been captured and how the Aesir, like the Vanir of old, bent their captives over their shields and how the Roman troops had been ordered to help them or they would have been there so much longer.  From the description the legionnaires gave of Sphengos, Emperor Basil suspected that this Sphengos must be the one who was a brother of Prince Vladimir or Valdamar, Sviatoslav’s son, because the Sphengos who was a brother of Sviatoslav and Sveinald would have been elderly by now and hardly able to bend anyone over a shield.  So, messengers were sent to Tmutorokan and Gardariki to thank them for their help and for them to let the Romans know when they wanted their red gold purified.  Prince Erik was no longer in Gardariki to accept their thanks because he was in Kiev leading two mobile legions north and then west to England to take part in the reconquering of the country.  The Red Gold of Byzantium was already locked up in the Don Jon keep of Gardariki and would be purified at Erik’s convenience.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:

A.D. 1016.  This year came King Knute with a marine force of one

hundred and sixty ships, and Alderman Edric with him, over the

Thames into Mercia at Cricklade; whence they proceeded to

Warwickshire, during the middle of the winter, and plundered

therein, and burned, and slew all they met.  Then began Edmund

the etheling to gather an army, which, when it was collected,

could avail him nothing, unless the king were there and they had

the assistance of the citizens of London.  The expedition

therefore was frustrated, and each man betook himself home.

After this, an army was again ordered, under full penalties, that

every person, however distant, should go forth; and they sent to

the king in London, and besought him to come to meet the army

with the aid that he could collect.  When they were all

assembled, it succeeded nothing better than it often did before;

and, when it was told the king, that those persons would betray

him who ought to assist him, then forsook he the army, and

returned again to London.  Then rode Edmund the etheling to Earl

Utred in Northumbria; and every man supposed that they would

collect an army King Knute; but they went into Staffordshire, and

to Shrewsbury, and to Chester; and they plundered on their parts,

and Knute on his.  He went out through Buckinghamshire to

Bedfordshire; thence to Huntingdonshire, and so into

Northamptonshire along the fens to Stamford.  Thence into

Lincolnshire.  Thence to Nottinghamshire; and so into Northumbria

toward York.  When Utred understood this, he ceased from

plundering, and hastened northward, and submitted for need, and

all the Northumbrians with him; but, though he gave hostages, he

was nevertheless slain by the advice of Alderman Edric, and

Thurkytel, the son of Nafna, with him.  After this, King Knute

appointed Eric earl over Northumbria, as Utred was; and then went

southward another way, all by west, till the whole army came,

before Easter, to the ships.  Meantime Edmund Etheling went to

London to his father: and after Easter went King Knute with all

his ships toward London; but it happened that King Ethelred died

ere the ships came.  He ended his days on St. George’s day;

having held his kingdom in much tribulation and difficulty as

long as his life continued.  After his decease, all the peers

that were in London, and the citizens, chose Edmund king; who

bravely defended his kingdom while his time was.  Then came the

ships to Greenwich, about the gang-days, and within a short

interval went to London; where they sunk a deep ditch on the

south side, and dragged their ships to the west side of the

bridge.  Afterwards they trenched the city without, so that no

man could go in or out, and often fought against it: but the

citizens bravely withstood them.  King Edmund had ere this gone

out, and invaded the West-Saxons, who all submitted to him; and

soon afterward he fought with the enemy at Pen near Gillingham.

A second battle he fought, after midsummer, at Sherston; where

much slaughter was made on either side, and the leaders

themselves came together in the fight.  Alderman Edric and Aylmer

the darling were assisting the army against King Edmund.  Then

collected he his force the third time, and went to London, all by

north of the Thames, and so out through Clayhanger, and relieved

the citizens, driving the enemy to their ships.  It was within

two nights after that the king went over at Brentford; where he

fought with the enemy, and put them to flight: but there many of

the English were drowned, from their own carelessness; who went

before the main army with a design to plunder.  After this the

king went into Wessex, and collected his army; but the enemy soon

returned to London, and beset the city without, and fought

strongly against it both by water and land.  But the almighty God

delivered them.  The enemy went afterward from London with their

ships into the Orwell; where they went up and proceeded into

Mercia, slaying and burning whatsoever they overtook, as their

custom is; and, having provided themselves with meat, they drove

their ships and their herds into the Medway.  Then assembled King

Edmund the fourth time all the English nation, and forded over

the Thames at Brentford; whence he proceeded into Kent.  The

enemy fled before him with their horses into the Isle of Shepey;

and the king slew as many of them as he could overtake.  Alderman

Edric then went to meet the king at Aylesford; than which no

measure could be more ill-advised.  The enemy, meanwhile,

returned into Essex, and advanced into Mercia, destroying all

that he overtook.  (Continued Next Chapter)


4.1  THE BATTLE OF ASSANDUN  (Circa October 18th, 1016 AD)

Back To Table of Contents

(1016 AD)  The Viking ships swept up the River Crouch, rowed quietly in the morning mist past trees along the banks whose boughs splashed gently in the waters as rivulets echoed past them off the oar strokes of the raiders.  The masts of the ships had been unfooted and the oar locks had rags in them to silence the creaks of maple upon oak as the oars were being bent by Hraes’ and Danes and Norse and, of course, Jomsvikings.  Soon Burnham-on-Crouch came upon them on the right bank and the Hraes’ legions disembarked first and rushed up the riverbank, with not a sound, not a cry, just the splashing of the water and the mashing of the mud and then the screaming of the people as they charged up into the streets.  The East Saxons of Essex that were out in the streets fled ahead of the armed and armoured troops and the fast ones escaped off into the woods, leaving the women and children to fall into Viking hands.  The people who had been in their homes and businesses quickly bolted their doors and hid, but heavy boots unbolted doors and the people were soon dragged out from their side boards and closets.  The homes were searched for silver and the businesses were relieved of their gold and the store houses were stripped of supplies and then the Vikings were gone.  It had happened so fast that some of the people hadn’t even realized, at first, that their women were gone as well.  By noon, King Canute’s army was back on the river rowing quietly.

The day was calm, the sun was bright, the only sound was the hollow splashing of many oars in water.  Soon, the town of Hullbridge came up on the left bank of the River Crouch.  King Canute and Jarl Eirik stood at the forestem of the shieldship and there was a red shield hung upon the front of it as the mast behind them was lying upon the deck between the surging rowers.  Jarl Sigvald and his brother, Thorkel ‘the Tall’ were standing at the mast foot discussing how the women were to be distributed amongst the men.  There was a larger town on the north side of the river off in the distance a half mile inland and Jarl Eirik was to lead his Vikings there and take and hold the place and the second Hraes’ legion would sack Hullbridge and hold it and they would bivouac their troops in the towns and set up their army camp in between them.  From there they would pillage the surrounding towns and villages for a few days and then return to the sea and continue north and go up the next river and do it all again until they could work their way up to Ipswich and meet with The Prince there.  The witch, Hallveig would be there by then and they could plan the upcoming battle against Edmund Athelredson and his fresh Saxon army.  The Prince had picked Ipswich as the place they would rendezvous, as the Normans put it, and Canute had guessed it was because it was the point he could get to quickest in case Edmund was in hot pursuit.  But Canute expected Edmund and his army to be distracted by the Hraes’ slavers for a week or two.

Prince Erik had selected Ipswich as a meeting place because it was King Sweyn’s strongest fortress outside of the Viking fort on the Isle of Wight and Queen Emma of Normandy was hunkered down in Southampton, across the strait, trying to avoid all conflicts and The Prince thought it safer for her if they kept the fighting well away from her city.  Besides, they had six tallships returning to the Viking Fortress of Wight from trading in the Newfoundland and he wanted to keep the results of it secret.  Norway had now fallen into the hands of King Olaf ‘the Stout’ and his Anglish Christians and the Norwegians controlled Christian Iceland and Christian Greenland and, to date at least, all Hraes’ trade with the natives of the Newfoundland had been kept quiet.  Until Jarl Eirik was back in control of Norway, Erik did not want word of the Hraes’ direct sailings getting out.  Erik ‘the Red’ had considered the Newfoundland to be a Greenland discovery and had controlled all trade there, which was virtually none, until his death opened up exploration for his son, Leif ‘the Lucky’ and others, and now, some progress was being made by them.  But The Prince knew for a fact that the Newfoundland had been discovered by his son, Prince Helgi ‘Arrow Odd’, a hundred years before Erik’s Bjarni Herjolfsson, by tracing the earlier discovery of it to Saint Brendan of Ireland two hundred years earlier yet.

Not only had Helgi ‘Arrow Odd’ re-discovered the Newfoundland, but he had a wife there and had fathered children with her.  When King Frodi threatened to pursue Helgi to the ends of the Earth if need be, for killing his twelve berserk grandsons, Helgi held him to his word and even King Frodi discovered the Newfoundland before Erik ‘the Red’.  A combined Hraes’ and Danish fleet had chased Helgi’s Norse and Anglish fleet halfway around the world and Erik, himself, had named the Newfoundland, New Ireland, New Scotland and New Angleland for the lands that the Greenlanders now called Helluland, Markland and Vinland.  The Prince considered the Newfoundland to be the possession of the Hraes’ Trading Company and he intended to expand their trade there significantly.  As the Earth swung into a world-wide cooling period that would negatively impact Hraes’ trade with the east, The Prince wanted to position his father, Hraegunar ‘Lothbrok’s company in a more favourable position globally.

The Hraes’ slavers on the Isle of Sheppey were enjoying themselves with their Anglish slave girls for the first week.  The slavers were usually not allowed to sample the product because any virgins fetched higher prices and ‘the product’ was not to be impregnated before it could be trained in the slave schools of Kiev and be sold in the slave markets of Baghdad and Constantinople.  But Jarl Eirik’s Viking army had already helped themselves to the women while traversing Mercia so, whoever was going to be impregnated was already pregnant, which brings us to the second week.  Some of the women began throwing up and the slavers felt it their duty to get the pregnant women to Kiev as early as possible.  So, they cut their stay short and sailed off for Kiev and when they uncovered their ships, the English army could see that they had been guarding merchant slaver knars and not warships.  Just as that realization was sinking in with King Edmund, news started coming to him that Essex was under attack by the armies of the Hraes’, Danes, Vikings and Jomsvikings.  Only King Canute led such a disparate group of soldiers so, the English now knew where the warships had gone.

King Edmund cursed vehemently at being so duped until Earl Eadric reminded him that new fyrds had continued to join them while they were sitting in Kent and they were now stronger than ever.  So, the king marched his army back west along the Thames to Dartford, where the river could be safely forded and they marched into Essex to confront Canute.  Still stinging from the deception, King Edmund marched his troops hard and made it to the source of the River Crouch much earlier than Canute could have anticipated.  Hraes’ and Viking troops were raiding in west Essex when they first spotted the horsed scouts of the English army and they retreated back to Hullbridge to inform their commanders.

When The Prince arrived in Ipswich with his two Hraes’ legions, he was welcomed by Witch Hallveig, who was just leaving for the River Crouch.  “My Prince,” she stammered and she bowed before him, “it is a great honour to meet you.”

“Thank you, Witch Hallveig,” Erik responded, puzzled at her warm greeting.

“I’m sorry,” she continued, “you are the father of Arrow Odd and he was my great grandfather.  We worship him in parts of Norway.  It is such a great honour,” and she bowed again, and when she rose up, Erik gave her a great warm hug and she flushed.

“I can see you are on your way out,” Erik said, “but next time we meet perhaps we can do something that makes me feel a little less old?”

“I look forward to our next meeting,” she said.  “I’m off to Essex to perform some magic to help your grand…your son, King Valdamar, I mean, Canute win his upcoming battle with Prince Edmund and the English.”

“You seem…distraught,” Erik said.  “Is everything okay?  With the magic, I mean.”

“I’m worried that the spirit of Thorgerder Helgibruder and goddess Irpa will not answer our call.”

“Why wouldn’t they?” The Prince asked.

“Because it may be against the wishes of the spirit of King Sweyn, my lord.”

“King Sweyn’s wishes should be respected,” Erik said.  “My men need a few days rest after coming all the way from Kiev, but we will leave for Essex tomorrow morning so, I will only be a half day behind you.  Have King Canute delay his engagement until I’ve arrived and we can go through this.  Tell him to use whatever delaying tactics he has to.”  The Prince kissed Witch Hallveig on her forehead and she rushed off to Essex.

As the large English army moved into Essex, King Canute withdrew his forces from Hullbridge and they sailed to Burnham-on-Crouch and returned the women they had borrowed there to their homes and then helped occupy them.  The English army, for it was more than just a Saxon army now, so many other fyrds had joined them, then took up a position on a hilltop called Ashingdon and they camped there and rested from their long forced march.  Local fyrds were joining them as they rested so, Edmund was in no hurry to engage the Hraes’.  But Canute could see the English getting stronger as they rested so, when Witch Hallveig arrived the evening of October Seventeenth, the king moved his army to the hilltop of Canewdon, two miles straight east of Edmund and he had his officers ride out and plant hazel poles in the valley between them for the next day’s battle.  King Edmund sent out officers to adjust the poles a little further apart to adjust for the growing English army.  It was a minor point, but it smacked of victory for the English.  And Edmund knew that he needed every beneficial omen he could put on display for his men.  They were all nervous.  They heard rumours that a powerful witch had arrived from Norway, Halogaland, where the pagans still ruled some areas and they all knew they were in close proximity to the Unicorn scorn pole that had struck the legs out from under King Edmund’s father, King Athelred.  Everyone in the English camp was on edge, especially the Earls.  Many of the hostages that King Canute had maimed on the beaches of Sandwich were their sons and rumour had it that this witch from Norway was the same powerful necromancer that had put the curse on the scorn pole while they had been forced to watch the witchcraft.

Witch Hallveig had pleaded with King Canute to delay the battle as The Prince had requested, but Valdy could only see the English camp growing stronger while his remained the same.  “If the omens turn out to be good we’ll attack, if not, we’ll withdraw,” Valdamar told her.  “My legions are not like the English.  They attack in an orderly fashion and can withdraw in orderly fashion as well.”

“Still,” she pleaded.  “You are a son of King Sweyn as well.”

“I have issued a command,” Canute said.  “Proceed!”

Witch Hallveig took up a position dead center on the hill of Canewdon and she prepared a great silver bowl with gold trim on the ground in front of her while Jarl Eirik organized the arrangement of their forces for battle just west of her.  The young chantreusses began dancing and singing in a circle around her and as spirits gathered, the weather started to turn.  Clouds settled in and began to block out the bright sunlight.  “Bring forth the sacrifices,” Hallveig ordered, making sure not to use their names.  Soldiers brought forth two young warriors, the sons of King Sweyn by Princess Gyda that had been ordered by Jarl Eirik to join the campaign.  Hallveig prayed that the weather would clear, but when it continued to darken she began to disrobe.  She still had a part of the goddess Irpa in her and she looked much younger than her years and her body was that of a goddess in form and beauty and her skin glowed silver metal and all warriors wanted her.  The sons of Sweyn were enraptured by her and she stood between them with a knife in each hand and the soldiers held the young men as she simultaneously slit their closest carotid arteries and the boys toppled forward, caught up by the soldiers and they bled their lives out into the great silver bowl.  Hallveig washed her body with their blood as they lay dead at her feet and her nipples grew very erect as she washed her breasts and the berserks amongst the warriors gathered round began howling and going into fits and very black clouds appeared in the north over Ipswich and they moved south towards Ashingdon.

Jarl Eirik had arranged Canute’s two Hraes’ mobile legions across the center of the field and had put his Vikings on their right and the Jomsvikings on their left.  One rank of Hraes’ Valkyries he spread across the very back of the full formation and he placed the Hraes’ heavy cavalry of the legions on each of their respective flanks.

King Edmund matched the Hraes’ legion center with his own Saxon army and on his right he put Earl Eadric’s Mercian fyrds and on his left were the Kentish fyrds, a few London men and a new force of Essex fyrds that had been joining him daily.  And on each flank he put his English knights and some light cavalry.

King Canute asked Witch Hallveig if all omens looked fortuitous and she looked to the north and saw the black storm that was brewing there heading straight for the hilltop of Ashington.  From her viewpoint atop Canewdon she could see the fleet anchored off Burnham-on-Crouch with marines at the ready to pick up the army if the omens were bad, but she could see that they were all good and that, perhaps she had been wrong about her lover, Sweyn’s wishes.  “We are good to go!” she said.

King Canute waved for Eirik to begin the attack and Eirik waved to Thorkel ‘the Tall’ on his right and then to Jarl Sigvald on his left.  King Edmund saw the movement and he waved for his Saxon troops to advance with him and he waved to Earl Ulfkytel of the Essex men on his left and to Earl Eadric and his Mercians on his right. 

The Hraes’ legions had all the gear and they started firing rocket propelled foot bows at the Saxons before they had taken ten paces out of their camp.  Then regular foot bow shafts flew at them, then rocket propelled arrows and, finally, when the two got close enough the English responded with arrows against those of the Hraes’.  Then spears flew and a few more men fell and the shield walls crashed and the battle began in earnest.  On the wings the horse had it out and the light cavalry proved useless against the heavy cavalry of the Hraes’, but the English knights, with their Norman training, performed very well.  There just weren’t enough of them.

As the battle raged, Witch Hallveig stood naked upon the hilltop and called on the gods and the spirits to come help the Hraes’.  She called upon Thorgerder Helgibruder to come set her arrows flying and she called on the goddess Irpa to come possess her body again so she could fly and loose more arrows upon the Saxons.  The dark clouds came from the north and she could see cold rain and hail in the distance, but the clouds came over the River Crouch then turned south and followed the river out to sea!  Hallveig collapsed to her knees and she began weeping over the bodies of Sweyn’s slain sons and her chantreusses kept dancing and singing around her, afraid to stop.

On the battlefield, the English army let out a great cheer as the clouds turned south and they renewed their attack with added vigour.  They began driving back the Vikings and the Hraes’ and the Jomsvikings and new fyrds could be seen coming onto the field as the hours passed and they joined the rear of the English.  King Canute had stood up in his stirrups and had waved for the marines at the river to leave their ships and come join him and he rode with them as they marched onto the field and he plugged them into gaps in the line and he went to Jarl Thorkel on the right and gave him encouragement, then to Jarl Sigvald on the left and encouraged him and he waved at his cavalry fighting on the flanks, then he joined Jarl Eirik at the shield wall and he began fighting with sword and buckler to get back some ground they had lost.  But they just lost more.  Jarl Eirik gave the king a grimaced look and shook his head and King Canute got aboard his charger and he signalled for his legion to begin a controlled withdrawal.  This attacking in reverse had been drilled into the Hraes’ legions from the time of General Wu in Tmutorokan, but the Vikings hadn’t been drilled in it so Canute joined Thorkel ‘the Tall’ to help him keep the withdrawal under control.  Sigvald and the Jomsvikings on his left knew all about controlled withdrawal, having experienced it once when fighting against the Hraes’.

But when the Jomsvikings began withdrawing a little too fast, as they were wont to do, King Edmund rode over to Earl Eadric and told him to press the attack forward.  For some reason the earl was maintaining the line of the English formation and letting a space grow between his men and the retreating Jomsvikings.  “It is a trap!” the earl protested.  “The withdrawal is too controlled.  It is planned.”

“Get your men after those Jomsvikings!” King Edmund ordered, but the earl refused and kept his men marching in line with the rest of the army.  King Edmund began cursing profusely and rode off to rejoin his Saxon army to press the attack there.  “It’s a trap!” the earl shouted after the king as he rode off.  “You’ll see!”

Soon the Hraes’ army was backing up upon its own Canewdon hill and Witch Hallveig gathered up her chantreusses and turned to lead them down the other side when she saw Prince Erik and his two Hraes’ legions, bearing the Raven banners of Ragnar ‘Lothbrok’, coming up the hill towards her.  The Prince put his finger to his lips to keep Hallveig from shouting out in joy and the witch held her chantreusses close to her as the Hraes’ legionnaires passed around them.  Canute saw the Raven banners of his great grandfather crest the hill and then Prince Erik with his troops, and he saw The Prince signal for another manoeuvre General Wu had taught them called ‘the passing’, and Erik’s men turned sideways shield-first and passed between the rearward advancing legionnaires and the fresh troops took over the shield wall and began driving the English back down Canewdon.  Jarl Eirik patted The Prince on his shoulder couplet and he rushed off to join his own Vikings on the right.  He had seen an earl that he wanted to redress for a battle they had fought in the past when King Sweyn was alive.  Earl Ulfkytel was still driving his Essex men forward and Jarl Eirik was going to put a stop to that.  Jarl Eirik threw himself into the shield wall opposite the earl and when Ulfkytel saw it was the Viking, Eirik, he had his men break up the wall there and the fighting took on more of the semblance of a deck clearing in a naval battle and the Jarl and the Earl went at it with sword and buckler.  The men around them paused and caught their breath and watched.  Ulfkytel was a powerfully strong man but he was getting old and slowing down.  He delivered a series of heavy blows on Eirik’s shield, which started to break up.  Eirik was strong and he too was getting old, but he had lost none of his speed and Ulfkytel raised his arm for one last powerful blow when suddenly Eirik lunged out so quickly he could hardly be seen and he thrust his sword into Ulfkytel’s armpit and back out again just as fast and the Essex earl stood there for a second and then collapsed dead.  His men began fighting again, right away, as though they had not just seen their leader fall, so hard were they trained, and Jarl Eirik had to step out of the line for a new shield so an opportunity was lost, but Jarl Thorkel ‘the Tall’ and the Vikings began driving back the Essex men, just as the fresh Hraes’ troops were driving back the Saxons and when the Jomsvikings reversed their rearward advance and closed the space that had grown between themselves and the Mercians, Earl Eadric climbed on his horse, shouted, “It’s a trap!” and rode off with his Mercian men before the Jomsvikings could engage.

The Saxon army fell back on the right and spread out to cover for the missing Mercians and the Essex men worked their way to the River Crouch so they couldn’t be outflanked and the English army took on the look of a one armed man fighting.  They continued their own rearward advance along the River Crouch until darkness saved them and they fled the field.

Prince Erik looked for Hallveig and her chantreusses after the battle and found them resting in King Canute’s pavilion near the crest of Canewdon.  “It’s too cold tonight for the children to be sleeping in a tent,” he told her and he offered them the captain’s cabin of his shieldship, and he helped carry some of them to his ship and got them all set up in it.  “I’ll come check on you once I check on my men.”  The Prince rode back up Canewdon Hill to the Pavilion of Canute and celebrated victory toasts with Valdy and Jarl Eirik and the others, then he had his legions set up a security perimeter and posted guards around the field of battle to prevent theft and disfigurement.  Then he returned to his ship and found the children all asleep and Hallveig sitting in his great chair crying.  He saw that she was still covered in the blood of Sweyn’s sons and had just thrown her clothes overtop the red of it when she had led the children away from the battle.  He calmed her and held her and asked her if he could wash her and he carried her over to his map table and he laid her upon it.  He got a basin of water and a cloth and he stripped Hallveig’s clothes off and began to wash her body and he massaged her muscles.  He felt the Irpa in her and her metallic silver skin was hard but grew soft on contact in a strange yet sensuous manner and he took his time washing her and admired her fine well-muscled body.  While he was washing her, she drifted off and the shutters of one of the windows to the cabin blew open and a breeze entered the room.  He went over and closed the shutters and secured them and returned to Hallveig and finished washing her, then covered her in a blanket and carried her back to his great chair and he sat in it and held Hallveig in his arms and comforted her.

The goddess Irpa had entered the room with the breeze and she joined with Hallveig and she rocked Hallveig as Erik held her and his member grew as she rocked across his loins and Hallveig reached into his pants and began stroking his lingam gently.  He began kissing her mouth and then her breasts and her metallic skin grew soft beneath his kisses and caresses and she threw off the blanket and she knelt on the arm of the chair and took Erik’s lingam into her mouth and she sucked it until it grew very large and hard and Irpa blessed it and it grew even larger.  Hallveig then sat on Erik’s lap and he entered her and she began riding him slowly and Irpa then entered both of them and she controlled and adjusted Hallveig’s efforts to maximize the pleasure Erik was feeling and Irpa enjoyed the ecstasy they were both feeling and she savoured their procreating and when Hallveig sped up and contracted, Erik exploded within her and she came and she collapsed on him and he pulled her into his arms and covered them both with the blanket and they slept.

The next morning Hallveig and her chantreusses boarded her ship and sailed back to Ipswich on their way back to York.  King Canute, Prince Erik and Jarl Eirik walked through the dead on the field of the Battle of Assandun.  A lot of English aristocracy was laying at their feet.  Canute pointed out a Godwin, the Ealdorman of Lindsey; and another ealdorman, Alfric, and Ethelwerd, son of an East Anglian ealdorman; also the bishop of Dorchester and the abbot of Ramsey.  Jarl Eirik pointed out Earl Ulfkytel who many said was killed by Thorkel ‘the Tall’ to avenge his brother, Heming, and Jarl Eirik corrected none on that point.  He had killed Ulfkytel in a fit of personal vengeance of his own, a luxury that, as a leader, he should not have risked, so he let the rumour stand.  His own Vikings knew better and that was enough for him.  The victorious Hraes’ army plundered the English camp, baggage train and bodies and parted out the booty according to old Roman law.  Then they buried or burned their own dead according to whether they were Aesir or Christian in religion.  They left the English dead on the field so they could be identified and buried by their own people and Canute paid the people of Burnham-on-Crouch to watch over their dead until relatives claimed the bodies.

King Edmund and the remnants of his Saxon and East Anglish army had marched west all night and continued to march all day until they got to London.  His wife and the London fyrds wanted him to stay there, but he knew he would be trapped in the city and he had to raise another army and fight another day so, he fled westward with his forces to the Severn Valley; King Canute followed him to London, but stayed there and re-established the siege.  Once more King Edmund tried to rebuild his army, but England was exhausted; her great earls lay dead the length and breadth of the country, from York to Winchester and from Worcester to Norwich.  The people failed to rally to their king’s calling and Jarls Eirik and Thorkel pursued the retreating Saxon army through Oxford to Gloucestershire with one Hraes’ mobile legion that didn’t match the decimated Saxons in size, but was fully fed and equipped.  But they hadn’t come to fight.  They were there to parley, as the Normans put it.  A council had been called in Winchester by Queen Emma of Normandy, who was still Queen of England while there were two kings, to deliberate on the state of the country, and it was determined that peace should be sought through a divided kingdom.  King Canute offered to allow King Edmund to rule south England and he would rule London and all lands north.  Queen Emma would, of course, maintain her holdings in and around Southampton that her husband, King Athelred had given her and the people of Kent wished her rule as well, being Jutish as were the Southampton area folk.  Earl Eadric met with the jarls and climbed right aboard this solution.  King Edmund reluctantly consented, and Earl Eadric joined Thorkel ‘the Tall’ and returned to London to work out details in King Canute’s siege camp just outside London.  Jarl Eirik and his Hraes’ legion remained in Gloucestershire across a river from King Edmund and the Saxon army and they again watched each other from across the waters.

But the devil was in the details and the details were worked out by Canute and Eadric outside London.  Canute insisted that any shared kingdom should revert fully to the surviving king should the other king die of natural causes, so as not to prolong a divided England.  And Canute insisted on keeping a Hraes’ legion on Wight to protect the interests of Queen Emma and that the two kings should pay a wergild for the upkeep of the force.  Earl Eadric told King Canute that he would support such an agreement and they rode with a regiment of Hraes’ cataphracts back to the Severn valley.  On a small island near Deerhurst in Gloucestershire, the two kings met and signed an agreement that Prince Erik had drafted which put an end to the war that had been waged across England for over a generation.  It was written that King Edmund should have Wessex and Canute Mercia and Northumbria; and, in a general way, the Thames became the dividing line between the two kingdoms.  As to the disposition of East Anglia and Essex there was a little haggling to be done.  Canute wanted it all, but it was agreed that Essex would be shared by both and that the Assandun battleground would be memorialized and respected by both parties and freely accessed by all.  The Battle of Assandun was to be considered the final battle that had decided the fate of England in moving forward as both Saxon and Anglish with equal rights for all.  The Low German Saxon language would be the official language in the south and Low German Anglish, the language of the north.  But both lands would remain a united England and support each other in peace and prosperity.

It sounded great on paper, but England had just reverted back to the seven kingdom status it had been prior to King Alfred ‘the Great’s monumental unifying efforts of a hundred years earlier.  Still, the agreement brought the prospect of peace to a war weary country.  The Saxons of Wessex got a king of the Saxon line of King Alfred ‘the Great’ and the Angles of Mercia and Northumberland, the Danes of the Danelaw, and the Angles of East Anglia got a king from the ancient Fridleif-Frodi Skioldung line of Anglish Kings of Jutland.  Both kings pledged brotherhood between them with a common goal being the establishment of a strong united England with two kings but one queen who had been like a mother to both.  The prosperity the two kings sought for England had already manifested itself in the city of Southampton, for Queen Emma had managed to keep the peace there for over a decade and all England looked to the south as an example of what could be accomplished if there could be harmony between the Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Danes in England.

After both kings signed their copies of the document, they were passed around for signing by a dozen witnesses, starting with Prince Erik and Earl Eadric and various earls and jarls in attendance at Deerhurst.  Kings Canute and Edmund headed for their respective capitals of London and Winchester and Prince Erik headed for Southampton and Earl Eadric for Oxford while Jarl Eirik returned to York.  Jarls Sigvald and Thorkel retired to Canterbury which remained a Jomsviking keep in Kent.

King Canute ended the siege of London by ordering the west gates opened and producing his copy of the Agreement of Deerhurst along with a number of English earls who were witnesses to the document.  The London fyrds remained apprehensive but they allowed their new king into the city with his regiment of cataphracts and they took over the king’s palace there.  Queen Emma’s palace was left alone in case she should visit the city.  The first thing that Canute did was order the construction of the Tower of London in which King Sweyn had requested his two murderous women in black be kept to be tormented by his son, Valdamar.

Their first night back, Canute had the older woman in black brought into his master suite and he warned his guards at the door to not be alarmed if they heard screams.  “Undress me,” he ordered the woman and she bowed and began disrobing her king.  When she lowered his underpants she was staring at his huge member, the cock he called the ‘Pink Monster’.  And she knew all too well what a monster it truly was.  She was a deer woman and had never been able to conceive, so she was very small and he was very large and sometimes he would order her to suck the monster, but if he was spiteful, he would not.  She was hoping his next order would be to suck it, when, “Bend over” he said.  She bent over the edge of his bed and he flipped up her dress.  She was not allowed undergarments so, he just drove right in and she gasped in pain as their dry flesh bit into each other and her blood lubricated his lingam.  He thrust his way into her and began thrusting fiercely as she cried out in anguish until enough of her blood had flowed to stop the tearing of her flesh.  Once the penetrations went smoother, she stopped crying out so, he grabbed her by the shoulders and he drove in deeper and he began tearing at her womb and entering that cavity and she screamed in pain.  She thought she was screaming at every thrust but he was pounding on her so fast and furious that it ended up being just one long scream after another.

The guards were new and were disturbed by the screams, but their captain told them she had murdered the king’s father and he was, over time, focking her to death.  The captain had the young woman in black by the scruff of the neck and when the screaming stopped, he opened the door, thrust her into the room, then quickly slammed it.  She entered the room, expecting the same, but she knew that she always got a gentler version of it.  The old woman was slumped over in a corner, crying and dishevelled, and Canute was sitting at an end table with a bottle of wine and two glasses.  “Please, come in and sit down,” he said, as he poured her some sparkling Frankish wine.  She sat down and couldn’t understand what was happening, but she sat and drank the wine slowly.  Canute spread some Khazar Vayar over an English wafer and offered it to her.  She took it and ate slowly.  “It was under the orders of my dead father that I rape the old bitch over there and make rough love to you,” Canute explained, “but a witch from York has told me that King Sweyn has relented a bit in your punishments.  He has asked me to show some compassion going forward.  He had also ordered me to imprison you both in a tower in London for the rest of your lives, but I expect that he might also wish me to provide you with creature comforts that are more compassionate as well.”

Canute fed her some more wafers and poured her some more wine and when she’d had her fill, he carried her over to the bed and began undressing her.  The older woman was now watching what was happening in disbelief as King Canute took a basin of water from atop the headboard and began gently washing the young woman’s rather beautiful body.  She was slim with hunger and straight limbed and welcoming.  He began kissing her lips and then her breasts and he kissed her all over her body and then he laid himself on the bed beside her and said, “You may suck the monster hard, but not too hard for your comfort.”  The older woman could not believe what she was hearing.  They had both been systematically raped and sexually abused for the past two years and because of the words of a witch this was changing?  Canute eased the younger woman onto himself and he told her to ride him at whatever speed she found most comfortable.  He laid back and watched her firm young breasts bounce gently as she rode him and she began to have an orgasm and he flowed within her.

When they finished making love, Canute offered her more wine at his end table and he went over to the corner and helped the older woman over to the end table and sat her down as well, then got another glass and poured her some too.  The older woman gulped it down greedily.  It washed down the blood that was in her mouth from screaming.  “Now,” Canute started, “when I build your Tower of London, it could be very small and very tall and cold as hell or it could be shorter, say, three floors and much roomier with three or four fireplaces to keep you warm and your children could live in it with you and you would all have separate rooms and your own kitchen and lots of food and milk and, dare I say, wine and Khazar Vayar?”  The younger woman had already had two girls by Canute, and they were not the product of lovemaking, but she perked up at the offer of them living with her.

“What do we have to do?” the older woman asked.

“You must kill a man for me,” Canute answered.

“Would this man happen to also be a king and must die by natural causes?”

“Remind me to never piss you off,” Canute told her.  She’d been imprisoned the whole campaign yet she knew the latest on Edmund.  Once a spy, always a spy.  “You’ll have but this one chance to turn both your lives around and show me how you return my favour.  Can I count on you both?”

The two women looked at each other and the younger one’s eyes pleaded with the older one.  “We’d like four fireplaces in our Tower of London,” the old woman answered dryly and then sucked back some wine.

“Let me get some of that blood off of you,” Canute told her and he walked over to the bed and returned to her seat with the wash basin.

When Prince Erik sailed into the harbour of Southampton, he saw only three tallships sitting in the harbour there instead of six.  His mind raced as he worried that they had lost three of the new ships on this year’s trade mission to the Newfoundland.  Queen Emma was waiting to greet him on the main quay and she waved as he directed his men to stop rowing and signalled his rudder-man from the bow of the ship.  He gave the sign for his men to raise the oars and the rudder-man barked out the order.  The ship glided along the pier and Erik leaped onto the quay just before the ship nosed into the beach.  He ran a bit to slow himself down and he came to a stop in front of Emma and he kissed her.  She took his hands and said,” Before you get into a panic, the other three ships I have sent on to Rouen.”

Erik breathed a sigh of relief.  “I was worried we’d lost some,” he said, taking Emma by the arm and walking her back up the quay.

“Everything went as planned,” she reassured him.  “And the furs are beautiful, and the hawks…divine.  One ship’s cargo is for Rouen, one is for Paris and the third is for Rome and Naples.  While you boys were fighting over the summer I had some new riverboats built for the Seine and the Rhone.  King Robert wanted too much!  I knew I’d have to fock him to get permits, but for Viking ships on the Seine, no matter how small, he just wanted too too much!”

“How much did he want?” Erik asked.

“He wanted all of me.  He wanted to marry me.  So, I had some new Frank riverboats built.  A new style my designer in Portsmouth came up with.  They’re getting quite handy with naval engineering.”

“And what do you call this new riverboat design?”

“It is called a Gyrfalcon, after our most valuable cargo.  And it looks nothing like a longship.”

“So, what does it look like?” Erik asked as they walked into Southampton.

“It has no forestem,” Emma started, excitedly, “just a pole sticking straight out the front horizontally, and it has a Latin sail instead of a square sail and it is square at the stern with a cabin at the back.”

“A house, you mean?  Like your tallships?”

“No,” Emma scorned him.  “Just a very small cabin.  Barely large enough to have sex in.”

“Well, thank you for adding that,” he replied.  “I brought back more of the drug from India.  Are you interested?”

“Oh yes,” she whispered, “but we should do it in the captain’s cabin of one of our tallships.”

King Canute sent the older woman in black off to Oxford to find employ in the manor house of Earl Eadric and he kept the younger woman, her ‘daughter’, as a hostage in his palace so the old one wouldn’t disappear.  Then he sent messages to the earl that a few clarifications were required on the Deerhurst agreement and he then signed the addendum copies and forwarded them to Oxford for signature by King Edmund with the earl as a witness.  He advised the earl to have the king come up to Oxford for the signing, as Wessex was quite dangerous for Mercians to travel through after they had fled the Battle of Assandun and many held the earl, in particular, at fault for their defeat.  The earl was well aware of the rumours travelling from Essex to Wessex and he offered his king a fine feast at Oxford to celebrate the addendum, which turned out to be quite beneficial to Edmund, and the king took the bait.

King Edmund arrived in Oxford for the signing and stayed at the earl’s manor house and he was pleased with the added terms and stayed for the celebratory feast.  The older woman in black had managed to get herself a job in the manor house scullery and, being well trained and skilled in assassinations managed to get poison into King Edmund’s wine.  The king had food tasters, of course, and they sampled Edmund’s wines before he drank them, but she had managed to get antidote into the personal meals of the food tasters, so the poison had no effect on them.  It was a very slow acting poison so, food tasters may not have helped anyway, but, for death to be by natural causes, it was important that the food tasters not die with their king, be it at the table, or later, in bed.  And that is where King Edmund died, in bed.  He had thrown a celebratory fock into his wife, then he went to sleep and just never woke up again.  In the morning, his wife found him lying dead beside her.  Poison was ruled out because there had been no foaming at the mouth or discolouration and his food tasters were yet alive and it was determined that he’d had too much wine and too much sex for the level of stress he’d been under since the death of his father.

The earls of Wessex were up in arms and wanted to elect one of Edmund’s sons as King of Wessex, but King Canute pulled out the Agreement of Deerhurst and pointed out that it stipulated that rule passed on to the surviving king so that England would not remain divided and the councillors and clergy all agreed with the meaning and the twelve witnesses confirmed the free signing of the document so King Canute became the king of all England.  The two women dressed in black lived in the King’s Palace until their Tower of London was built, which ended up looking more of a palace than a prison anyway.  And King Canute would visit them weekly and make love to them instead of raping them and he showed them the clemency that Witch Hallveig had requested, because the last time he had gone against the witch’s wishes, he had almost lost the Battle of Assandun.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:

A.D. 1016.  (Continued From Last Chapter)  Then assembled King

Edmund the fourth time all the English nation, and forded over

the Thames at Brentford; whence he proceeded into Kent.  The

enemy fled before him with their horses into the Isle of Shepey;

and the king slew as many of them as he could overtake.  Alderman

Edric then went to meet the king at Aylesford; than which no

measure could be more ill-advised.  The enemy, meanwhile,

returned into Essex, and advanced into Mercia, destroying all

that he overtook.  When the king understood that the army was up,

then collected he the fifth time all the English nation, and went

behind them, and overtook them in Essex, on the down called

Assingdon; where they fiercely came together.  Then did Alderman

Edric as he often did before–he first began the flight with

the Maisevethians, and so betrayed his natural lord and all the

people of England.  There had Knute the victory, though all

England fought against him!  There was then slain Bishop Ednoth,

and Abbot Wulsy, and Alderman Elfric, and Alderman Godwin of

Lindsey, and Ulfkytel of East-Anglia, and Ethelward, the son of

Alderman Ethelsy.  And all the nobility of the English

nation was there undone!  After this fight went King Knute up

with his army into Glocestershire, where he heard say that King

Edmund was.  Then advised Alderman Edric, and the counsellors

that were there assembled, that the kings should make peace with

each other, and produce hostages.  Then both the kings met

together at Olney, south of Deerhurst, and became allies and

sworn brothers.  There they confirmed their friendship both with

pledges and with oaths, and settled the pay of the army.  With

this covenant they parted: King Edmund took to Wessex, and Knute

to Mercia and the northern district.  The army then went to their

ships with the things they had taken; and the people of London

made peace with them, and purchased their security, whereupon

they brought their ships to London, and provided themselves

winter-quarters therein.  On the feast of St. Andrew died King

Edmund; and he is buried with his grandfather Edgar at

Gastonbury.  In the same year died Wulfgar, Abbot of Abingdon;

and Ethelsy took to the abbacy.



Back To Table of Contents

Middle Woman in Black

(1017 AD)  Duke Richard of Normandy was the first foreign ruler to congratulate King Canute on his victory at the Battle of Assandun, and the first to offer him condolences on the sudden death of his co-king of all England, and the first to offer King Canute a marriage of alliance.

The Duke arrived in Southampton to visit his sister, Queen Emma of England, and they proceeded to Winchester to visit with King Canute.  After pleasantries, Duke Richard got right down to business.  “Now that King Edmund is dead and there is no longer two kings,” he began, “you shall have to marry my sister so she can continue on as Queen of England.  And I would like to marry one of your daughters from Kiev as recompense for losing my sister.”

“I am already married to Princess Aelfgifu,” King Canute countered, “and I have taken up your Latin Christian faith that allows me but one wife.  Princess Aelfgifu has no problem with Emma of Normandy remaining Queen of England.”

“Well,” the duke went on, “my sister is in ‘the way’ and I hold you responsible.  I’ll not have her raising a ‘bastard’ and if she is to marry and stay queen, it is you she must marry.”

“I’ve had nothing to do with…” Canute started to protest and Prince Erik, who was standing on the other side of Queen Emma began coughing violently.  “Could you and Queen Emma share my second highseat and enjoy some of your fine sparkling Frankish wine and some Khazar Vayar while I have a short chat with my grandfather?”

Queen Emma quickly guided her brother to the second highseat and they sat there and were brought wine.  Khavayar followed as Valdy led Erik to a side chamber.

“How could you?” he asked his grandfather.  “You’re two hundred years old!  Couldn’t you have used a glove?”

“We were using that new sex drug, the one that killed Myia.  I can’t pass on the antidote to Emma if I wear a glove.”

“The drug that killed Myia!  Why are you even using it?  And my father told me that Emma isn’t supposed to have children.  It could kill her.”

“I’m sharing my Alchemists’ drug with her.  It makes her fertile and capable of bearing a child.  We were hoping this wouldn’t happen but we took precautions in case it did.  Emma told me she was still in her period.  We should have been okay.”

“Unless Emma wanted a child with you, and, perhaps, wanted access to a drug that will keep her young forever!  I think my father may have fathered her children when she was married to Athelred!”

“Oh, Sweyn did,” Erik confirmed.  “The goddess Irpa told me so.”

“The goddess Irpa?” Valdy asked in disbelief.  “The goddess Irpa that deserted me in battle?  When did you talk to the goddess Irpa?”

“We didn’t really talk,” Erik told him, “she possessed me when I was focking Witch Hallveig, and she told me many things.”

“When did you fock Witch Hallveig?”

“After the Battle of Assandun,” Erik admitted.  “I had her in my ship to wash all the blood off her body.  Things went well between us.  While we were focking, Irpa entered the cabin and she entered both of us and she enjoyed us both and made us fock like gods and I traded places with Hallveig and she traded places with me and it really was quite spectacular.”

“How did Irpa come to tell you about Sweyn’s children?”

“Sweyn had thought that Princess Gyda had cheated on him with his sons by her, that is why he wanted them sacrificed to bring us victory, but Irpa told me they were really Sweyn’s sons and that is why she didn’t accept the sacrifice.  She told me that Witch Hallveig had told you this, but you wouldn’t listen.  That’s when she also told me that Emma’s sons by Athelred were actually by Sweyn because she didn’t want you killing them.  You should have listened to Hallveig, son.”

And for a second, Valdy thought that his father Sweyn was talking to him directly through Prince Erik and he said, “I’m sorry, I focked up.”

“And I’m sorry that I focked up,” Erik admitted.  “I shouldn’t have knocked up Emma, but the sex drug makes us fock like gods, like focking with Irpa!”

“My father told me what focking Irpa was like for him,” Valdy admitted.  “I just hope you haven’t knocked up Witch Hallveig as well.  Did you use a glove there?”

Erik coughed.  “I forgot.  But the goddess Irpa didn’t want us using a glove anyway.  She told us she was blessing Hallveig with two sons to replace Sweyn’s sons, to repair the damage to our family hamingja, our aett.”

King Canute had to sit for that one.  He took a seat at the meeting table and said, “You blessed her with twins?”

“I think it was Irpa that blessed her with twins,” Erik admitted.  “I blessed her the first time we focked and Irpa blessed her the second time we focked.”

“You focked her twice,” Valdy said, shaking his head.

“You’ve focked a dozen times in a row,” Erik protested.

“But I was twenty.  You’re two hundred!”

“There was one thing Irpa made known to me and it was that the oldest woman in black had murdered Sweyn and the middle one helped, but that the youngest one is innocent, is actually Sweyn’s daughter who was kidnapped in Ipswich and raised by the other two and that Sweyn has had a child by her.  She also told me that you have had several children by her, your half-sister, and that perhaps you should stop focking her.  Apparently, her name is Gytha Sweynsdottir.”

“I have stopped raping her,” Valdy professed, “but I was ordered to rape her by father when Witch Hallveig talked with him after he had been murdered.  I have started to show the women in black clemency and shall wean myself off of her.  The other one now works for me.”

“Let’s get back to the problem at hand,” Erik suggested.

“If you’d have used your hand there wouldn’t be a problem,” Valdy joked.

“The sex drug doesn’t fly solo,” The Prince replied.  “If you divorce Aelfgifu number one and marry Aelfgifu number two, I’ll marry Aelfgifu number one and we’ll switch it up in our own private Aesir ceremony.  Nobody will know but us.  Not even Duke Richard.”

“But he wants one of my daughters in exchange and I’m pretty sure he wants one of my daughters by Anna!”

“No doubt,” Erik agreed.  “She carries the blood of the Caesars.  But isn’t that what you wanted when you told Sweyn you wanted to marry Anna?  Sweyn wanted the throne of the Caesars in Constantinople, but you told him you wanted to take the blood of the Caesars to Kiev through her so you could take the throne of the Romans anywhere you wanted.  So, how about Rouen for starters?”

“But can we do that?” Valdy asked.  “Can we marry our Aelfgifus as Christians and then switch them and marry them as Aesirs?”

“I think we’ll be fine doing that,” Erik answered.  “When my first wife, Princess Gunwar, converted to Christianity, I knew I had lost her in the afterlife, because I was still Aesir, but what I didn’t know was that my brother, King Hraelauger, or Duke Rollo, as he is now known, secretly loved her and he converted to Christianity so that he could be with her in heaven and, I am told by the spirit of Queen Alfhild, your great great grandmother, that the two of them share each other there.  But Duke Rollo wasn’t sure he would go to heaven so, although he had a Christian funeral, he had one of his slave girls sacrificed to Odin and put into his marble sarcophagus with him to lead him to Valhalla in case the Christian God wanted to send him to hell.”

“I’ve visited Duke Rollo’s sarcophagus in the Cathedral of Rouen,” Canute said in astonishment.  “Do mean to tell me that there are two bodies in there instead of one?”

“Yes,” Erik answered, “and even though he mixed and matched religions like that, Queen Alfhild told me that he still went to heaven.  So, I think we’ll be fine with a little nuptial ceremonial mixing and matching.  We’ll have to clear it with our women first, of course.”

“You don’t have to answer this, but did it bother you to learn that Uncle Hraelauger went to heaven to share your wife?”

“Not at all,” Erik replied.  “Had I known that he secretly loved Gunwar, I would have shared her with him on Earth, if she was willing.  I’m never converting.  I’ve killed so many men in battle, or caused them to be killed, I’ve learned from a few spirits that I am guaranteed a seat in Valhall at the right hand of Odin.  I even bumped the great warrior Starkad to his left hand.  I have also been told there will be a god called Bragi and that he shall be me!  Imagine that, Prince Hraerik ‘Bragi’ Hraegunarson a god!”

King Canute hugged The Prince warmly.  “I love you grandfather,” he said.  “Shall we go back into the hall and deal with our duke?”

“After you, grandson.”

It was decided that King Canute would marry Queen Emma before the spring merchant fleet sailed east and that Prince Erik would return from the east in the fall with Princess Estrid, Valdamar’s daughter by Princess Anna.  So, Queen Emma and Prince Erik got their eight tallships ready to sail west to the Newfoundland and then the two couples got married and then secretly remarried and The Prince sailed east with the Hraes’ merchant fleet.  Queen Emma spent the summer between Southampton and Rouen, where she was having more Gyrfalcon riverboats built, and she watched something she thought she would never see again, her belly swell with a baby within.  King Canute and Princess Aelfgifu spent their summer travelling between Winchester, the old capital, and London, the defacto new capital, and Canute watched in amazement as Aelfgifu’s belly also swelled with child, their third or fourth, he wasn’t sure.  He still had seven hundred wives in the east, but he wasn’t sure exactly how many children he now had with them either.

King Canute lorded over Wessex from Winchester, as he wanted to keep a firm hand on the rebellious Saxons there, but he allowed Earl Eadric to continue running Mercia from Oxford as always, and he’d already given Jarl Eirik Northumbria to rule from York and he gave East Anglia to Jarl Thorkel ‘the Tall’ to run from London.  He also gave Eirik’s son, Jarl Haakon, Castle Gainsborough and surrounding area to run for him.  He picked a young Saxon earl named Godwin from Sussex to help him run Wessex and Jarl Sigvald and his Jomsvikings continued to run Kent from Canterbury.

In the fall, Prince Erik returned from trading in India and Baghdad and he brought Princess Estrid from Kiev for marriage with Duke Richard of Normandy.  The duke was much older than the young princess and they did not hit it off very well, but her father, King Canute now, convinced her to give the marriage a try.  They were wed in Queen Emma’s palace in Southampton and the eight mysterious tallships arrived in the city harbour soon after.  Their sailings were sworn to secrecy to prevent possible Norwegian trade interference because of the perceived rights of their Icelandic and Greenlander traders to the Newfoundland.  Four tallships sailed with Duke Richard’s fleet on its way back to Rouen.  King Robert of Frankia charged a tithe for the merchandise transported on past Normandy via the Seine-Rhone portage route, but he did not charge an extra tithe for using the Gyrfalcon riverboats as he had wanted to for Viking longships.  However, regardless of marital status, Queen Emma and King Robert’s arrangement for permits still stood and she accompanied her riverboats as far as Paris to satisfy the Frankish king’s demands.

“At least he has stopped asking me to marry him, now that I am married to your grandson Canute,” Emma whispered as she shared her palace bed Prince Erik in Southampton.

“So, how is King Robert?” Erik asked her wryly.  “Healthy I hope.”

“He’s healthy as a Percheron,” Emma answered.  “I had my personal physician check him out and I wore an internal glove.”

“Good,” Erik said, “because I obtained more antidote for the sex drug, so I won’t be wearing a glove.”

“Are you still Irpa blessed?” Emma asked, slipping her hand under the sheets to check.

“Not presently,” he replied, “but I will be I you keep your hand there.  I don’t think it will last much longer though.”

“But Sweyn’s Irpa blessing lasted years.”

“But Irpa actually accepted their sacrifice at Hjorungavagr.  She didn’t accept Valdy’s sacrifice at Assandun.”

“That whole arrangement was focked up from the get-go,” Emma complained.  “Two of Sweyn’s sons sacrificed for nothing.”

“Witch Hallveig benefitted from it,” Erik countered.  “She has two fine baby boys that, I hear, look a lot like Sweyn.”

“Those are your sons, too!” Emma protested.

“Don’t tell Hallveig that or she’ll tell Irpa to take back my blessing.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t,” she replied as she felt the Irpa manifesting itself as her hand kept working his lingam.

While King Canute was in London, he spent a lot of time with Princess Gyda and their children in the Tower of London complex because Princess Aelfgifu always remained in Winchester to rule over the rebellious Saxons when he was gone off to the city.  He treated the young woman in black much better after he had learned she was his half-sister, but he was still debating whether he should tell her or not.

“Prince Erik thinks we should stop having sex completely,” he told her after they had just finished having sex.  “He thinks stopping the rapes is not enough.  I told him that we would work on it.”

“But I love having sex with you now,” Gyda told Canute.  “Who am I to have sex with if not you?”

“The Prince thinks I should find you a good match, a young English prince or earl.  He says you should be allowed a normal life.”

“And what about my mother?” Gyda asked.  “Can she join me in my normal life?”

“That is up to her,” Valdy said.  “We’ll have to see what she says about a more normal life.”

“When is she coming back?”

“She’s still working in Earl Eadric’s manor,” he answered.  “I have one last project for her before she returns to London.”

“Will you still be having sex with her?  Or does The Prince think you should wean yourself off her as well?”

“That will be up to her,” Valdy replied.  “I still have to follow some of my father’s wishes as regards her, because she’s not as innocent as you, but in the spirit of clemency, I shall no longer be raping her, which means it will be entirely up to her if and when we have sex and how rough she wants it because, my dear Gyda, she does like it rough and she bites!” and Valdy grabbed Gyda and began nibbling on her neck.

King Canute had sent the woman in black a message in Oxford to poison Earl Eadric whenever a good opportunity might arise in which there would be no chance of her being discovered.  If no opportunity presented itself, she was to hold off until the earl came to London for Yulefest.  Valdy told Gyda if she was caught poisoning the earl in Oxford, the earl’s men would kill her, but if she got caught doing it in London, he could protect her, and he had other projects he needed her for.  No opportunity presented itself so the woman in black got herself assigned as the earl’s personal cook and was a member of Earl Eadric’s Yulefest entourage to London.  She was in a position to poison the earl with impunity, but Canute had her hold off.  He had broached his plan with Jarl Eirik, who had come down with his son, Haakon, from York and the Jarl didn’t like the plan.

“We should just kill him in public,” the Jarl suggested.  “It will set a good example for any ealdormen who want to withhold support from you.  We can do it at Christmas to really drive the point home with the Christians!”

“They’re all Christians here,” Valdy reminded him.  “Even I’m supposed to be Christian.  On what grounds would we have him killed?  He has shown me nothing but support.”

“He has only supported you because no opportunity has arisen for him to desert you,” Jarl Eirik explained.  “As soon as it turns to his advantage to turn on you, he shall.  Just as he turned on Edmund at Assandun and fled the field of battle.”

“Then let’s charge him with that!” Valdy said.  “The battle could have turned out different for Edmund if Eadric hadn’t turned and run off with the whole right flank of the English army!”

“Naw,” the Jarl drawled.  “The Prince had just arrived with two full legions of fresh Hraes’ troops.  The English were doomed.  But, of course, the English will never admit that.  The Saxons are the first to blame Eadric for the loss and it’s their earls we want to impress your power upon.  I like your idea.  We could probably get the Saxons to kill him for us too!”

“I could ask Earl Godwin if he wants to do it,” Valdy said.

“I was just kidding,” Jarl Eirik replied.  “I get to kill him!  I don’t want to be going into battle with anybody like him on my opposite flank.  We should off all the Mercian officers who fled too.  As an example for the rest!”

Valdamar and Eirik fleshed out the details of their plan and who was to be killed with Eadric and invitations were to be sent out to those who might not be coming to the King’s palace Christmas day and the plan grew to involve the king’s Exeyes officers and his personal Centuriata.  When Canute went home to Gyda in the Tower of London that night, he felt uneasy at how a simple murder had grown into a Christmas pageant.  He had wanted Earl Eadric ‘Streona’ quietly poisoned in Oxford solely to allow Aelfgifu’s family in Northampton to be able to expand their control of Mercia and now it was turning into an overt execution of English earls that could very well run out of control.  After he’d had sex with Gyda, he told her about his concerns with the new plan for killing Earl Eadric, but Gyda liked the plan.  It was bold and daring and more fitting of a great king and it also kept her ‘mother’ out of harm’s way.

“We’ll have to execute him here, at the Tower of London,” Valdy warned her.  “It is our official prison after all.”

“You’re not killing him here!” Gyda told him.  “Our children play out in the yard here!  You kill him right in your palace!”

“Can I at least put his head on a pike here, atop one of the towers?”

“After the children have gone to bed,” Gyda allowed him.  “And it has to be gone in the morning.”

When King Canute returned to Winchester two days later, he brought Princess Gyda and the children with him.  Princess Aelfgifu was not pleased when Valdamar showed up with an imprisoned assassin under his wing, as it were.  “Prince Erik advised me to find her a husband,” Valdy explained to her, “so she can live a normal life.”

“The Prince is a very wise man,” Aelfgifu responded.  “I think we have many fine young earls in England for her to choose from.”

When Prince Erik and Queen Emma came up from Southampton to visit, Canute went through his new plan with them.  Nobody came to the earl’s defence; there was no defending ‘the Grasper’.  Then Valdy told Erik that he was going to follow his advice and find Princess Gyda a husband.  Queen Emma mentioned a few young earls and princes in Southampton and Kent that were available and Valdy added them to the list of Mercian earls that Aelfgifu had given him and while they were discussing the best likely candidates, Earl Godwin arrived at Winchester palace from Sussex and he saw Princess Gyda playing with children in the palace gardens and he instantly fell in love with her.  She was lovely and looked so gentle surrounded by the young children; he had no idea she was a trained assassin.

King Canute noticed that his protégé, Earl Godwin was spending more time around Winchester than usual so Canute decided he’d leave Godwin in charge of Wessex while he and his family were up in London town.  He did not want to leave a Wessex earl in charge of the district, lest a rebellion should result, so, a young Sussex earl from a minor family with few alliances seemed a safe alternative.  Earl Godwin jumped at the chance but was then disappointed when he learned that Princess Gyda would be going back to London with the king’s great entourage.  “Will Princess Gyda be returning with you after Christmas?” young Godwin asked, hopefully.

“I think she’ll be staying in London,” Canute answered.  “Why do you ask?”

“Oh, no reason.  We talk in the garden sometimes when she plays with the children.”

“You do realize that those are her children.”

“Oh, I know.  But she’s also told me that she isn’t married so I thought it proper that we could just talk.”

“Well, there’s no harm in just talking,” Canute responded.  “I’ll have a talk with her and see if she wants to come back soon.”

It was the first inkling that Valdy had that Godwin was in love with Gyda.  He thought about her mother, Princess Gunhild of Wend, and how he had met her a few times when she was a young woman in Poland and he had just conquered provinces there.  She had been the youngest of King Burizleif’s three beautiful daughters and looked to be on tack to surpass her sisters in comeliness.  Then he realized just how beautiful Princess Gyda had become at Winchester, under the two Aelfgifu’s tutelage.  She was no longer a woman in black blending into backgrounds, but a princess in royal blue with bouncing raven black locks that framed her beautiful face and danced on her ivory shoulders.  Valdamar couldn’t wait to get her back to the Tower of London and her punishments there.

The princes, earls and jarls of England began drifting into London for the Christmas celebrations and Yule festivities.  The inns were all booked up.  The stables of the city were being rented out to the commoners and, no doubt, there would be a few births taking place within their stalls.  Both Queen Emma and Princess Aelfgifu were ready to pop.  King Canute was spending an inordinate amount of time at the Tower of London instead of within his palace with Aelfgifu.  The princess, though burdened with child, became even more determined to find Gyda a quick match and Emma helped her, though she was spending time with Erik at her own palace.  But when Princess Gyda was introduced to young princes, earls, and jarls, she always seemed to be mentally comparing them against young Earl Godwin in both conversation and looks and she realised that she had developed some affection for the Sussex earl.  She was, foremost, an assassin, trained to be cold and aloof, yet every young royal she met in London just could not seem to match her Godwin in manners, features, and the types of things she liked to talk about.  And there were a lot of young men in London that went out of their way to be introduced to the beautiful princess.

When Princess Gyda’s ‘mother’ arrived in London with Earl Eadric’s group, they all stayed in his estate house in London, so Gyda seldom saw her but she worried that she might still be called upon to poison ‘the Grasper’, so, she borrowed a proper Frankish chef from Queen Emma’s entourage and sent him to Earl Eadric’s estate looking for work and her ‘mother’ was quickly fired and replaced.  Gyda told the older woman in black that she did it because she needed help handling Canute’s ‘Pink Monster’ now that Princess Aelfgifu was immobilized with child.  She had no idea that Valdamar’s increased sexual attention to her was the result of his sudden realization of just how beautiful she had become.  He continued to punish the older woman, but only if she asked for it, and he devoted more and more attention to Gyda until the princess had to beg the older woman in black to ask for it more often.

Queen Emma and Princess Aelfgifu both went into labour on the same December day, but they did not give birth on the same day.  Aelfgifu went into labour and quickly discharged a baby boy, but Emma’s labour dragged on into the early morning of the next day before she finally disgorged a baby girl.  “I thought you said your Alchemists’ drug was going to make it easy,” she gasped to Erik.

“I believe I said it would make you feel younger,” Erik said.  “How long were your labours when you were younger?”

“They were long!”

The Aesir Yule festivities ran from December twenty first to New Year’s Day, what the Christians referred to as the Twelve Days of Christmas, but the Christians officially only celebrated December twenty fifth, Christmas Day, so, King Canute had a special celebration planned for that day.  Invitations had been sent out to all the prominent people of England and they began filtering into the king’s great palace hall in the afternoon.  A splendid early supper was provided the guests with a multi course meal, Frankish sparkling wines and Khazar Vayar.  After the meal, King Canute announced that he had received many requests from the ealdormen of England that recognition be given to certain veterans of the Battle of Assandun.  There was cheering throughout the hall until Canute read off the list of veterans that were to be honoured.  Northman Leofwineson was first, followed by a number of his lieutenants, all of whom had commanded the English right flank at Assandun and then came Earl Eadric ‘Streona’ of Mercia.  The younger officers came forward, thinking to receive some land title or another, but Eadric knew when his name was called as regarded Assandun, it would not be for honours or gifts.  Even during King Edmund’s general retreat to the Severn, Saxon earls had been calling for Eadric’s head, claiming his flight had cost them their victory.  He got up and as the others moved forward, he moved back, toward the rear exit.  But Jarl Eirik was waiting for the earl just outside the exit and he came back in with Earl Eadric by the scruff of his neck.  He threw him to the floor in front of King Canute, who announced to the crowd that Earl Eadric ‘Streona’ of Mercia had been found guilty by a jury of his peers of deserting his post as leader of the right flank of the English army at the Battle of Assandun and was to suffer death by beheading for treason against his king.  The jarl’s men held the earl down as a chopping block was brought into the hall and was placed under his head, then Jarl Eirik swung a great axe and lopped off the head of the treacherous earl.  Captain Northman and two of his lieutenants were ordered to suffer the same fates and their heads were soon lying beside Eadric’s, but the lesser officers were ordered to be immediate exiles from England and would suffer Eadric’s fate as well if they ever returned to the land.

King Canute had the traitors heads mounted on pikes and he, himself, took Earl Eadric’s head to the Tower of London, as his Centuriata bore the three others in procession behind him.  The Tower of London had a square outer wall with a tower at each corner, but, where a massive main tower was to have been located in the center of the enclosed compound, he had built a three story palace for his women in black, so, he mounted one head atop each corner tower with Eadric’s head getting the prominent location facing Canute’s palace where it had been lost.  He sent his Centuriata back to the feast with word for the festival to carry on and Canute joined Princess Gyda in bed.  She was beautiful lying there asleep, her raven hair splashed about her pretty face, so he stripped naked and slipped between the sheets.  He found that she too was naked so he availed himself of her while she slept.  He knew that he had awakened her, that no woman could sleep through the grand entrance the ‘Pink Monster’ made of itself, but she played her part by sleeping and coming and calling out the names of the gods profanely, “Fock me, Odin!” or “Thrust Harder my Thor!” or “Tryst me, Tyr” while she came, until Canute flowed hard and heavy within her.  When the guard changed early in the morning they bore away the heads from the towers and stood them along the main street of London, Watling Street, for all to see and know what happens to those who commit treason against their king.

Princess Aelfgifu remained in the King’s Palace with her new baby and her children and King Canute kept spending nights with Princess Gyda until she begged her mother for help.  The old woman in black asked Canute to spend the night with her.  When he asked, “Would you like it rough?” she gulped and told him, “Yes, some like it rough!”  She’d had it rough with the sailors on the wharfs of London before King Athelred had found her and her mother and had turned them into his trained assassins, but rough with the ‘Pink Monster’ took it up a level.  Pain and pleasure merged as one and she relished the feeling as her spy training taught her to blend the pain into the pleasure, but she despised the feeling when she could barely walk later.  The two lovers thrashed about the room for an hour until Valdamar was fully sated and they rested together on her huge bed.

“Why couldn’t you kill Princess Gyda when she was in her crib in Ipswich?” Valdy asked her as they rested.

“What?” the old woman gasped.

“Your mother had no qualms about putting a blade through the baby boy there.  Was it Gyda’s raven black hair that stayed your stroke?”

“How do you possibly know this?” she asked Valdamar.  “Not even King Athelred got the full report and I know my mother didn’t tell you and we were the only two who knew!”

“The goddess Irpa told my grandfather what you had done on Saint Brice’s Day of a thousand and two and also what you hadn’t done and he literally thanked the gods that you had spared the baby girl and had raised her as your own.”

“How long have you known this?”

“He learned of it the night after the Battle of Assandun,” Valdy said.  “I’m not going to tell her.”

“I hope not.  Maybe it was her hair.  It’s black like mine.  It could have been,” and she thought hard into the past and tried to see if that was it.

“At Castle Gainsborough we called the three of you ‘Sweyn’s women in black’ little knowing that you were going to assassinate him.  Your black hair blended into your black dresses and it seemed to make you almost invisible, as if you just blended into the background.”  Valdy brushed her black hair over her head and away from her face.  It was flecked with grey now.  “You are really quite beautiful, as is Gyda.”

“We followed the orders of our king,” she said, defensively, “and I hope you can forgive us for it.”

“I raped you following the orders of my king, my father,” Valdy replied.  “I hope you can forgive me.  It was King Sweyn, after he had died, who told us you had poisoned him, or we would have just thought your mother had focked him to death.  He was getting on, you know.”

“As we all are,” she replied.  “But how could he tell you this after death?”

“An Aesir witch talked with his spirit before it had fully left his body.”

“Aesir witches are the best!” she admitted.  “My mother fashioned herself a Vanir witch.  She professed to being Roman.  She told me we were Londoners from way back.  Our forefather had guarded the stone walls of London long before the new fyrds of London did during your sieges.”

“I imagine he guarded them just as fiercely.  Did he take a wife here?” Valdy asked, brushing her hair back once more.  He knew that she had been a whore on the wharfs of London, the daughter of a mother and daughter team that had gained repute for their acting and role playing while servicing sailors.  Enough to gain the attention of King Athelred, who had frequented the Thames whore houses long before he had met Queen Emma.

“He retired here in London after his twenty years’ service and he took a Briton girl to wife,” she started.  “He got land just outside the city, more land than if he had retired in Rome, and he ran a farm worked by British slaves.  When the Angles came from Jutland and conquered the Britons after the Romans had left, he became the slave of his Anglish lord and just continued working his lord’s farm with his Briton slaves.  He no longer lived in London, but many Londoners lived outside London at that time.  When his offspring finally managed to get back into London, it was as Anglish slaves and we worked our way up to being whores.  But by then, Londoners were not just Angles anymore.  They were Britons and Romans and Angles and Saxons.  They were Londoners.  That is why the fierce fyrds of London, as you call them, never left their duty on the walls of London to fight elsewhere in England.  They were always Londoners first.  If you want to rule England, my king,” and she paused a moment for a look that would allow her to go on, and Valdy nodded to pry more from her, “you must first rule the Londoners, and for that, you must live here.”

“Sage advice,” Valdy agreed.  “To that end, I have been preening a young prince, an earl of Sussex to take over for me in Wessex.”

“That is wise, my king” she said and looked imploringly for a nod to go on.

“Please speak freely here.”

“It is wise to use an earl from Sussex or Essex to rule Wessex, for a local lord would only breed rebellion.  But even a Sussex lord must be tied to you by blood.”

“I am working on just that,” Valdy said.  “My grandfather also told me that Princess Gyda is innocent and that I must show her clemency, and to that end, I have built you a palace here instead of the austere tower the spirit of my father ordered.  King Sweyn had no idea that Gyda was kidnapped.”

“He still would have focked her,” she said.

“I know,” Valdamar admitted.  He was struggling with that very same problem now.  “But it does help me grant clemency, and to that end I have also stopped raping you.  He ordered me to have your mother focked to death as punishment for his murder, but he wanted me to slowly, violently, rape you to death and for Gyda he wanted me to rape her for the rest of her life.  That is what his spirit ordered.  The Prince has requested more than just clemency and that is why there has been a sudden change in your treatment.  I hope the sex tonight wasn’t too rough.  If it is, let me know.”

“What sex?” she asked, innocently.  “Can we do it again?”

“I was hoping you’d ask, but first I must ask for your help on a few matters.  The Prince says I must find Princess Gyda a match so she can live a normal life and that means she would be leaving the Tower of London.  I just wanted to make sure you’re okay with that.”

“Oh, God yes,” she answered.  “Gyda deserves a normal life.  I should have just left her with her people, but Athelred may have learned that we’d shown mercy.  Perhaps it was her hair.  I just grabbed her up and put her against my breast and she’s been in my heart ever since.  But get her out of here!”

“Done!” Valdy said.  “You, however, I can never release.  But if you promise to serve me, I shall reduce your sentence to what was Gyda’s, only the rapes shall only occur when you request them and shall be only as rough as you wish them.”

“I promise to serve you,” she told her king.  “Now, what was your second request?”

“Ah…the second,” he thought out loud.  “Perhaps we should finish the first one first.  I promised The Prince I would find Gyda a match and I have since learned that the Sussex Earl Godwin I have been grooming seems to have fallen for Princess Gyda when I took her to Winchester with me.  While Winchester is a ways from London, it is still close enough that she could visit you often.  Would that be blood enough to stop any rebellion on Godwin’s part?”

“And Winchester is close enough for you to visit often?” she asked.  “Have you told anyone else about Gyda?”

“Only the Aesir witch and Jarl Eirik know, and they have sworn themselves to secrecy.  The Prince learned it from the goddess Irpa and he awaits my decision on the matter.”

“Don’t tell her,” she advised.  “Have Jarl Eirik adopt her and give her hand to Earl Godwin.  And only give her to Godwin if he is willing to share her with his lord.  I know you Knytling kings and you’re not likely to be able to keep your hands off of her for long.”

“Sage advice,” Valdy said again.  “Jarl Eirik will soon be returning to York.  Jarl Thorkel wishes to live in London while ruling nearby East Anglia.  Perhaps I should have him adopt Gyda?”

This news about Thorkel ‘the Tall’ caught the old woman in black by surprise and, even though locked up in the Tower of London, she prided herself in what she knew about London affairs and she warned, “I’ve never heard of an Anglian lord ruling the east from London.  Perhaps you’d best have him adopt Gyda for you, and have her watch her foster-father very closely for you.”

“Sage…” Valdy started.

“Don’t say it!” she blurted.

“Thank you,” Valdy said, “for taking me so literally when I said feel free to talk freely.”  And then he laughed to put her at ease once again.

“And your second request?” she asked.

“Did King Athelred ever send you to Denmark?”

“He sent us to Norway once, but that was two decades ago.  We did the prep work for Jarl Olaf Tryggvason’s taking of Norway.”

King Canute got up on one elbow and asked her, “You didn’t have anything to do with the latest Olaf’s taking of Norway, did you?  Olaf ‘the Stout’?”

“Only while King Athelred was alive,” she admitted.  “He was still my king, even though I was your prisoner.  When he died I ceased all further work against you,” and she put up her hands as if surrendering to him, “and now you are my king!”

“I swear,” Canute began, “I could have built that massive tower here and taken away the stairs and you’d still manage to gather intel on London.  At the risk of being censured for being repetitive, remind me to never piss you off!”

“You are my king now,” she reassured him.  “Edmund could have been my king, but he came to London during his retreat and then he left London to fend for herself.  Then you came up with your brilliant plan to share England with Edmund.”

“And within four weeks he was dead,” Valdy added.  “It took Athelred five weeks to poison my father!”

“Yes, but he was exiled in Normandy at the time,” she added.

“True that!” Valdy said, looking down at the silk sheet on the bed.

“But, had I known it was a race,” the woman in black said, “I would have killed Edmund in two weeks for you.  Now, who is it you would like me to kill in Denmark?”

“My half-brother, King Harald.  He refused to help me with the retaking of England.”

“Shall we get back to what we were doing?”

“Was it rough enough?” he asked.

“I’ll be sorry in the morning, but you could go up a level.”

“It’ll be rough,” he warned.

“Some like it rough!”

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:

A.D. 1017.  This year King Knute took to the whole government of

England, and divided it into four parts: Wessex for himself,

East-Anglia for Thurkyll, Mercia for Edric, Northumbria for Eric.

This year also was Alderman Edric slain at London, and Norman,

son of Alderman Leofwin, and Ethelward, son of Ethelmar the

Great, and Britric, son of Elfege of Devonshire.  King Knute also

banished Edwy etheling, whom he afterwards ordered to be slain,

and Edwy, king of the churls; and before the calends of August

the king gave an order to fetch him the widow of the other king,

Ethelred, the daughter of Richard, to wife.

The Prince Erik’s New Chronicle of the Hraes’ for the year read:

(1017 AD).  Ivaraslav took up his abode in Kiev, and in the same

year the churches were burned.



Back To Table of Contents

Young Woman in Black

(1018 AD)  In the early spring, Queen Emma and Prince Erik prepared their fleet of tallships to sail once more for the Newfoundland.  Two more tallships had been added to their fleet and the goods they returned with were now extensive enough for The Prince to take furs back to the east with the Hraes’ merchant fleet.  Once the tallships left, Erik led the English component of the Hraes’ fleet to Roskilde harbour and he had a passenger on his shieldship with him and she was dressed in black.  He also carried with him a bundle of letters that Princess Estrid had given him to pass on to her brothers in Hraes’.  While the merchant fleet was assembling in the harbour, the woman in black slipped anonymously, invisibly, into the Danish population.  She could speak the languages fluently, both the Low Germanic Danish dialect of the Angles and the High Germanic Norse dialect of the Zealanders.  And she had gold and silver with her and she settled into a comfortable inn near the harbour that allowed her access to sailors and mercenaries and the type of people that could help her get her mission accomplished.  She also had her poison kit with her.

She planned on using the same slow acting poison she had killed King Edmund with, but she didn’t have to worry about giving food tasters antidotes because Canute had no written contract with Harald.  Canute had precedence over Harald regarding the title, but King Sweyn had left Harald in charge of the kingdom while he and Canute were campaigning in England, and when they’d won the war and then King Sweyn was poisoned, Harald had refused to relinquish control of the army in Denmark and Canute had control of a withdrawing Hraes’ army fleeing England, but Canute didn’t want to squander his men fighting Dane against Dane when he needed all of them to fight the English.  So, he had taken his Hraes’ troops back to Kiev and Tmutorokan for a furlough and then a return to Britain.  And now that he had won his second war with the English, he didn’t want to squander his English silver fighting a war over Denmark when he needed his Danegeld tax on England to pay off his Hraes’ legions and the Scandinavian mercenaries that had joined him.  He had collected over eighty thousand pounds of silver from his English subjects, not without protests either, to pay off some troops to send them home and to pay others to keep them in England.  What was needed in Denmark was a nice quiet economical killing and ‘Gretta’, the persona that the middle woman had created for herself in Roskilde, was just the person to get the job done.  If she could just get a job.

Denmark was quite different from the England that Gretta was used to operating in.  So many English people had died or disappeared or had been enslaved during their ten year war with the Danes that people were in short supply everywhere.  A spy or assassin could get a job almost anywhere or in any position they needed to operate in.  But getting a job in the Danish royal palace was near impossible.  Subjects were on long lists waiting for jobs there.  And people abounded everywhere in Denmark and jobs were scarce everywhere.  The women of Denmark truly were more bountiful than the land.  Every year young men and women sailed east with the Hraes’ merchant fleet to earn their fortunes in Novgorod or Kiev or Tmutorokan.  And now Gretta learned that there were young men sailing west to make their fortunes in the Newfoundland.  Hraes’ trading posts were being established up both sides of the great Kanata River of Newfoundland that ran far inland to a pair of great waterfalls called Nia and Gara, North and South, or Niagara Falls.

As Prince Erik sailed off east with the fleet, Gretta decided that she had to reset her plans and adjust her schedule.  King Canute had given her a contact in Roskilde, an Exeyes officer who was in charge of Hraes’ spying in Denmark.  Everything that the Hraes’ did was patterned after the Roman systems that had been in place in ancient times when the Empire ran from Northern Britain, south through Gaul and along both north and south coasts of the Mediterranean all the way east into Persia and touching upon India and the Silk Road to Cathay.  But everything the Romans did was concrete and real estate.  The Northern Hraes’ Empire was a concept and a trading company that had posts and stores stretching from the Newfoundland and Greenland and Iceland in the west to England, Ireland, Normandy, Frankia, Norway, Denmark, Sweden , Finland, Estland, and Hraes’ in the east with further stores in Constantinople and Eastern Roman lands, Baghdad, Ashaval, Mumba and Cathay.  Hraes’ trade was even now extending through Frankish riverways to Italy and the original Rome.  While Roman legions had enforced Roman laws in conquered provinces, Hraes’ legions now enforced trade contracts in partnered countries.

When Gretta contacted her man in Roskilde, she learned that he ran a shop that sold Persian carpets in Denmark.  “It gives me ample reasons to travel freely,” the Exeyes officer explained as they talked and drank wine at the back of his shop.  He was a Dane, born in Kiev, trained in Constantinople, and now living with a Zealand wife and Danish children in paid retirement in Roskilde.  He was a pledged for life follower of the Hraes’ Knytling Kings of Jelling.  He was Hraes’, owing no allegiance to any one country, but an allegiance instead to a company, a concept, a cooperation.

Gretta had walked through the shop and had studied the beautiful Persian carpets being sold there and she’d baulked at the prices marked on the rolls, but the store had traffic and carpets were being sold and many were veritable works of art.  “Could we get some of these carpets into the palace?” she asked innocently.

“We do occasionally sell carpets into the palace,” the officer said, “but we can’t jeopardize our whole operation just to support one mission operative.  But I can see where you are going with this and I do know a tapestry shop that has just had a large order placed by the palace, by the queen actually, and they are looking for workers and installers.  You must know how to weave,” he said.

“Not a clue,” she answered.

“Really?” he said, quite surprised by her answer.  “You’d want an installer position anyway.  It just helps if you know the product, but I can teach you, I can talk you through it.”  He showed her the tapestries he had on hand and explained the warp and woof of them and the various stitches just so she could bluff her way through her lack of knowledge and then he dove straight into explaining the installation of tapestries onto stone and wood and daub walls.  Gretta picked things up very quickly and the next day she went to the tapestry shop down the street from the carpet shop and she managed to get a job as an installer.  She would start in a few days so she bought several tapestries and supports from the shop and took them back to the carpet shop and had the officer show her how to install the tapestries and then she put them up all around his office.  He followed behind her and took them down.

“Put them up there, there and there,” he directed her, and she put them up again and she noticed that he had picked some more difficult locations.  He took them down again and said, “There, there and there,” and she installed them in the even harder locations more quickly than she had done in the first locations.  “Come back tomorrow,” he said, “and we’ll install them all over again.”

When Prince Erik and the Hraes’ merchant fleet arrived in Novgorod, they learned that King Canute’s son, Prince Ivaraslav had been attacked by his brother Prince Sviatopolk and King Burizleif of Poland and had been driven out of Kiev.  The great merchant fleet was a Varangian army unto itself and when it arrived in Kiev, King Burizleif fled back to Poland and Prince Sviatopolk fled to live amongst the Pechenegs.  The Prince went about Kiev and inspected the damage done by the Lyakhs and Poles and then inspected the progress that had been made on the rebuilding of churches that had been burnt the year before.  He found Bishop Thietmar of Merseburg hard at work supervising the rebuilding of the German Latin Church in Kiev and he sat with him and they talked about the Chronicle he was writing as the work was progressing.  Thietmar passed The Prince his Chronicon, not expecting The Prince to be able to read the High German in which it was written.

“It is written in proper High German,” the bishop said, condescendingly, “not your Low German Anglish of Jutland.”  When Erik began reading it aloud, the bishop was visibly impressed.

“In this great city, which is the capital of the kingdom,” Erik began, “more than four hundred churches and eight markets are there, but the number of the people are unknown: which, coming there from every other province, the strong Slavs ran, who had come hither from all quarters, and were followed by the Swift Danes, who had hitherto resisted the great Pechenegs, but were overcome by the others.”

“Where did you learn to read High German?” the bishop asked.

“I learned it while being held captive in the court of Louis ‘the Pious’ in Ingelheim,” Prince Erik told him.

“But he reigned over a hundred years ago,” the bishop protested.

“I know.  I was there,” The Prince replied, becoming annoyed.  “Do you know what ‘Swift Danes’ means?”

“It is what the Romans call you Hraes’,” he replied.  “They claim you flee from battle and that is exactly what happened here in Kiev when King Burizleif and his Polish army came.”

“It was specifically what the Romans called me,” Erik started, “when we Danes and Norwegians fought the Khazars before the Battle of the Goths and the Huns.  They called us ‘Rhos’ after my family byname ‘Hraes’, and they called us ‘ Dromitai ’ meaning ‘those who run fast’ because we retreated before a Khazar army that was twice our size.  We retreated north back up to Novgorod and the Khazar army perished because of its huge size.  Then we chased the survivors back to Khazaria and we conquered Kiev from King Olmar of the Poljane Slavs and we founded Hraes’.”

“That must have been before King Louis ‘the Pious’,” the bishop protested.

“That is the only time the Romans called us ‘the Swift Danes’ and their secret Khazar brothers paid for it.  You are not to use this insulting terminology to describe my grandsons!”

“These are only my notes!  In German!” the bishop replied, startled at the Hraes’ prince’s anger.  “I will be rewriting my Chronicon in formal Latin.”

“I want to see your formal Latin version before you leave Hraes’,” Erik told the bishop.  “I’ll be back in early fall.  Your church should almost be completed when I get back from Baghdad.”

Before The Prince rejoined the great merchant fleet, he sent a messenger back to Denmark to tell Gretta, the woman in black to meet him in Kiev in the fall.  Then he spent the summer trading in Baghdad and India.

The woman in black finished her tapestry hanging training in Roskilde and left her Exeyes officer handler to go work at the tapestry shop that was supplying new tapestries for the king’s palace.  She worked for a journeyman hanger who was astonished at how slow she was and bellowed orders to her constantly to “speed it up” and she kept worrying that she would be fired, but the twenty hangers that were doing the job still weren’t enough so she was kept on and her work speed did pick up as she gained experience.  She even began to enjoy working with tapestries and the journeyman would sometimes take the time to explain the different meanings of symbols and drawings that were in the tapestries.  Because Gretta was always dressed in black and seemed to be adept at blending into the background anywhere she went, the journeyman would have her work in the king’s great hall, sometimes even when King Harald sat at his highseat, and Gretta soon learned how the king sat and where he rested his bare arm while he sat.

As the tapestry project began to near completion, Gretta worried that she wouldn’t get a chance to apply her slow acting topical poison to King Harald’s highseat, but one day the journeyman took her into the empty great hall and began to explain some repairs required there and he was called away by another worker and she was left alone in the hall.  She approached the triple highseat from behind and she took a bottle of the poison out from the bosom of her black dress and she used a paste brush to apply the topical poison to the arm of the king’s highseat.  It soaked into the wood and it would slowly absorb into any skin that contacted the wood.  It was slow enough acting to have no effect upon persons who might join the king on his highseat, but over a period of several days, the level of poison that was transferred to the king made him become ill.  The king kept coming and sitting at his highseat to rule over his subjects even though he was gravely ill and the tapestry project was successfully completed before Gretta could learn if she had succeeded in killing the king.  She kept working at the tapestry shop, partly because she found that she enjoyed tapestries, and partly to better monitor the palace as regarded the health of the king.  It took two weeks, but the town heralds and criers began going through Roskilde bellowing, “The king is dead!  Long live the king!”

When she returned to the Persian carpet shop, the Exeyes officer offered her congratulations.  He also passed along a message from The Prince to meet him in Kiev early fall.  She missed her daughter and her grandchildren and wanted to return to England first but the officer recommended she go straight to Kiev via slaver ships that often took captives to Kiev at all times of year.  “They go whenever they have enough poor wretches,” he told her.  “You don’t want to be late for The Prince.  He has a project requiring your special talents.”

She waited a week in Roskilde before several slaver ships full of captive Irish women and children stopped in Roskilde to pay tithes before sailing off to the slave schools of Kiev.  Before leaving she heard that King Canute had been proclaimed King of Denmark in absentia.  It took four weeks to get to Kiev and when she arrived there she reported to the Tmutorokan legion that The Prince had left there to defend the city.  The Exeyes officer in charge of legion intelligence told her that The Prince wanted to set up a hit on Bishop Thietmar of Merseburg who was in town supervising a church rebuild and documenting the recent history of a Polish and German victory over the Hraes’ Danish Princes of Kiev.

“The Prince feels that the bishop’s history contains insults to his grandsons,” the officer informed Gretta.  “You are to get an inside job at the rebuild and collect intel on the bishop’s writing habits: where he writes, where he keeps his journals, where he’s at with his final Latin Chronicon, the usual…”

Unlike Denmark, there were plenty of open positions in Kiev.  The Polish attack and sack had left a lot of damage and had killed a lot of people, so workers for rebuilds and repairs were in short supply.  Gretta got a job working directly under the bishop’s supervision, developing tapestries to his tastes and then hanging them in the church.  She was a Latin Christian herself so, she had no problem understanding exactly what he wanted, unlike the Orthodox Christian Danes and Slavs working on the church rebuild.  She spent most of her time working in the church rectory, which was exactly where the bishop did most of his writing and kept some of his books.  When he was away she would go through his journals and she could almost read his High German well enough to get the gist of what he was documenting.  Later, a Latin version of his work had been placed there by the bishop and she had been trained by King Athelred’s court staff to read Latin.  Most other languages the women in black were trained in required speech only or speech as well as reading, but she had enjoyed learning Latin because nobody spoke the language, all priests mouthed it, of course, but nobody conversed in it.  He had been writing his Chronicon since his youth in the 990’s, but she was reading when she should be working so she started with the year he had become a bishop in 1009 and she skimmed through his writings about the Holy Roman Emperors and the Eastern Roman Emperors until she got to 1016 and she found a passage that directly addressed King Canute’s conquest of England and his defeat of King Athelred and his son, King Edmund, and she learned that Jarl Eirik had beheaded Prince Uhtred and a Jarl Nefja, who had been a half-brother of King Olaf Tryggvason of Norway.  She had heard about the slaying of Uhtred, but she hadn’t known anything about Jarl Nefja even existing.

She was about to put the book away when she noticed that there had been an entry made below it that had been blotted out and overwritten by another entry.  She held the book up to the light and could make out some of what had been erased.  It seemed that when King Olaf had heard that his brother had been killed, he pleaded with King Burizleif to avenge him.  Poland had been at war with the Germans, but when Princess Astrid joined in the pleas, Burizleif made peace with the Germans and asked them to join in on the plundering of Kiev while the Hraes’ legions were in the west conquering England.  She had done the prep work for King Athelred’s support of Jarl Olaf in his seizing of the Kingdom of Norway, and she knew that Olaf had brothers and sisters in Norway, but she had no idea that two of the Tryggvasons had survived the Battle of Svolder.  She knew this was a war crime and that was probably the reason the lines had been blotted out.  Kiev had been blatantly attacked and plundered for the death of some Jarl in a country thousands of miles away.  Thousands had died, thousands more were raped and many Slav women had been kidnapped and were, even now, being plundered in Germany and Poland.  She got back to work hanging tapestries and gave some thought as to what type of poison she would be giving the bishop before he left Kiev.  There would be no saving him from the anger of The Prince now.

When The Prince returned to Kiev with the great merchant fleet, Gretta had a meeting with him and went through all information she had uncovered from the Latin Chronicon entry for 1016 and the entry for 1018 which she had gone through the next day.  She started with the last entry first and it was pretty much the same as what Erik had read out of Thietmar’s High German journal.  It still attributed the Polish victory to the flight of the ‘Runaway Slavs’ followed by the ‘Swift Danes’.  “I’ll discuss what actually happened in more detail with King Canute’s son, Prince Ivaraslav,” Erik told Gretta.  Then Gretta told The Prince about the entry she had read for 1016, where Olaf Tryggvason had pleaded with King Burizleif to attack Kiev while the Hraes’ legions were in England to avenge the death of his brother, Jarl Nefja.  Prince Erik grew red around his neck when he heard the words and grew angrier yet when he learned that Burizleif had made peace in his war with the Germans and invited them to plunder Kiev with him.  “We need a poison,” The Prince said, “that will allow Bishop Thietmar to get back to Merseburg and live there for a few weeks before he dies.  I don’t want his death to be traced back to Kiev because it may cause another attack and some Hraes’ legions are still in England.”

“I have slow acting poisons,” Gretta answered, “but nothing that will last more than a week before causing death.  He would die in Merseburg, but pretty much as soon as he got back.”

“This was an unprovoked attack that took thousands of lives.  Let me talk with Prince Ivaraslav and see what can be done at my end and could you double check your poisons for a way to make them slower acting.”

Prince Erik had a discussion the next day with Prince Ivaraslav and, after a light talk about Princess Estrid’s unhappiness in Normandy, as outlined in her letters, he told him that the Poles had learned about the Hraes’ attack on King Athelred and England and that they decided to attack Kiev while many of the Hraes’ legions were thus engaged.  Then he asked the young prince about his withdrawal from Kiev before the army of King Burizleif.  “The Polish army entered Hraes’ from the border between Poland and Germany,” Ivar started, “picking up German units as they progressed and they approached Kiev from the west.  At night, many of the Poljane and Drevjane Slav soldiers would abandon their posts and flee over the walls for their villages.  By the time the Poles neared, we had only one Hraes’ legion of Danish troops left protecting the walls of Kiev, and even with our Danish citizens, the walls were just too long for our numbers to defend.  I ordered our Danish soldiers to withdraw to Chernigov because the city is smaller and we had enough men to cover the walls there.  We evacuated the Hraes’ men, women and children to Chernigov with us, but we didn’t have the time, the ships and the supplies needed to evacuate the Slav women and children their men had abandoned.  We surrendered Kiev to the Poles, but they sacked and plundered the city anyway.  All the women were raped, even some of the children, and Burizleif’s troops foraged through Kiev for any women that were hiding and any valuables they could get their hands on.

“The Poles attacked us in Chernigov but we successfully defended her walls and they returned to pillage Kiev some more.  When you approached with the merchant fleet, they took their spoils and all the pretty young Slav women back to Poland and Germany.  Most of the women that they left in Kiev are now learning they are pregnant.  In the spring, the Dnieper will be littered with sinking sacks of new-borns.  None of the women will want to keep their Polish or German babies.  It is criminal what King Burizleif has done.”

“I heard that the rebuilding of Bishop Thietmar’s German church continued on through the occupation unmolested,” The Prince told his great grandson, “and I have learned that he is adding a description of the Polish attack to his Chronicle of Merseburg, and in it, he calls your troops ‘Swift Danes’.”

“As in ‘Swift Hraes’ Danes?” Ivar asked, turning red around his neck.  “We made a strategic withdrawal and continued to fight the Poles to a draw!  Only our Slav troops ran and only because they were green and wanted to protect their villages in Dereva.  The bishop has no right to write that!”

“That is what I have told him.  I was hoping he would change his wording, but apparently he has not.  I’m planning on having him poisoned, but I want him to die in Germany so we are not blamed.  What are your views on this?”

“I think we should have Bishop Thietmar impaled in front of King Frodi’s palace, but your right, that would just bring Burizleif back with his Polish army and a far larger German army with it.  A nice quiet death in Merseburg would be best.  Do you have Exeyes officers there to do it?”

“No,” Erik said.  “We are planning to give him a very slow acting poison before he leaves Kiev, slow enough for him to be home a few weeks before he drops dead.”

“Do you have such a poison?”

“We’re working on it.”

“I’m just thankful the walls of Chernigov proved effective against the Polish ballistae or we’d have died there,” Ivar said.  “And the moat!”

“You have your great Uncle Helgi to thank for that,” Erik said.  “When Prince Ivar was threatening to take Princess Sviataslava from him, he reinforced the walls and constructed the moat.”

“Wasn’t it the moat that killed Uncle Helgi?”

“Some say so, but others say it was a lie, that Prince Ivar murdered him and threw his body into the moat so it looked like he was killed in his general retreat.”

“More ‘Swift Danes’, Bishop Thietmar would write,” Ivar complained.

“It’s hard to protect ourselves from the lies of private chronicles,” The Prince agreed.

“You should write this all down,” Ivar pleaded, “like our bishop does, in Latin.”

“We have our family sagas,” Erik said, “in Danish in the miniscule font of Alcuin.  “That should suffice.”

“But they’re all separate!  You should write one complete ‘Chronicle of Hraes’!”

“I have had visions and the future Christian Danish kings call our family sagas ‘The Lying Sagas of Denmark’ and they burn most of them.”

“That’s why you should write a Latin ‘Chronicle of Hraes’ and keep copies in Kiev where the Danish kings dare not come.”

“They’d be kept in churches here and we’ve already seen how many churches have been burnt lately.”

“There is a monastery nearby,” Ivar offered, “that is in caves that will never burn.  Your Chronicle copies can be kept there and they will never be burnt.”

“I’ll think about it,” Erik replied.  “Perhaps I will start with the story about Ivar and Helgi’s battle at Chernigov?”

“If you write it, I want to be the first to read it!” Ivar said, excitedly.

That night, Erik thought about Helgi dying in Chernigov and how Ivar’s father, King Canute, no, Prince Valdamar avenged him by defeating the eldest Prince Ivar and how Jarl Eirik had helped him by executing Ivar with a sword-stroke.  Now Jarl Eirik had caused the sacking of Kiev by executing Jarl Olaf’s younger brother, Nefja, and now Bishop Thietmar had been dragged into the fray and was soon to die, somehow.  Prince Erik did start writing ‘The Chronicle of Hraes’ that very night and he wrote about the Battle of Chernigov before falling asleep with a quill in his hand.  And he dreamed as he slept and he dreamt of a village near Chernigov called Chernobyl and it was the future and there were a thousand Tyrfingrs in a building there, immersed in water and the water turned to steam and made great machines turn.  Erik had seen these turning machines in Rome where a fire heated the water in a pot and spouts on the pot released steam and the pots spun about an axle at high speed and grinding wheels sharpened the swords of the legions of Constantinople, but these machines in Chernobyl were much bigger and were powered by the strange glow of Tyrfingr, of a thousand Tyrfingrs, and one of the machines exploded and the glow of hundreds of Tyrfingrs killed many men and Erik remembered his friend, the dwarf Dvalin, who had helped him forge Tyrfingr, and had died for it, far off in Giantland.

He tossed and turned because of the dream and he woke up Gretta, who was sleeping with him.  He had fallen asleep with the quill in his hand, but Gretta had gotten up and helped him back to bed and they’d had sex again before falling asleep in each other’s arms.  She noted that Erik was much like Canute, only not as big and not as rough, and she brushed his long hair from his face and said, “You must’ve been dreaming, my Prince.”

And The Prince answered, “I think I know how we can poison Bishop Thietmar very slowly!”  He looked across the captain’s cabin of his shieldship to the heavy lead box that held the ever more dangerous Tyrfingr.  “We’ll do it tomorrow!”  And the idea thrilled Erik so much that he had to have sex with Gretta once again.

The next day, Prince Erik met with Bishop Thietmar and they went outside in the warm fall sun and Erik read the Latin and he said, without thinking, “You have changed it a bit,” in Latin, “but ‘high velocity Danes’ is still here.”

“What?” Bishop Thietmar asked, and Prince Erik realized that, because he was reading in Latin, he had talked in Latin.  “You speak Latin?” the bishop asked.

“I learned Latin from Emperor Theophilus while his ‘guest’ in Constantinople.”

“But Emperor Theophilus lived two hundred years ago!” the bishop protested.  “He’s in my earliest Chronicon!”

“I know! I was there!” Erik repeated.  “I am a writer of Sagas and Chronicles myself,” he went on, “so I’m not going to tell you how to write yours, but I don’t think it properly depicts the strategic withdrawal my grandson had to make.  He fought off King Burizleif in Chernigov.  It’s very close to the village of Chernobyl.”

“I’ll give that due consideration,” the bishop lied.

While the bishop was outside the rectory, Gretta installed the sword Tyrfingr under the desktop of Thietmar’s writing station.  She had taken it out of the lead box Erik had set upon the floor before going outside and she left it in its scabbard to hide the glow.  It was now so dangerous that the rays of the sword escaped the leaden scabbard, so Erik told her to come out of the rectory when she was done and to not spend too much in the room for the rest of the day.  When she came out, Erik led the bishop back inside and he picked up his lead box, saying he had to deliver it to one of the locals nearby, and as he was leaving the rectory he saw the bishop sit at his desk and begin to write some more.

“If he stays in there and writes most of the afternoon, we can come back for the sword tonight,” Erik told his assistant assassin.  “Keep track of him.  If he leaves for a time, we’ll have to leave the sword there longer.  But not too long or it will kill him in three weeks!”

As Erik walked away from the church with the lead box over his shoulder, Gretta watched his taut ass sway as he strode.  She would report the bishop’s movements to Erik that night, in bed.  Then, after some sex, they would return to the church with the lead box and reclaim the sword with the strange glow, this ‘Tyrfingr of Chernobyl’ The Prince had called it.  If the bishop stepped out in the afternoon, they’d have to leave the sword till next day, so they would just stay on the shieldship and have more sex.  Gretta was hoping the bishop would step out for a bit.  The bishop did step out, but he quickly returned with two young boys who seemed familiar, somehow, to Gretta and he had some of his people take the boys to his carriage staging area.  The bishop would be leaving soon, apparently with the two young boys.  Perhaps they were his ‘alter boys’, she thought, but she could not picture the bishop taking young boys from behind.

That night, after sex, the two assassins went back to the church with the lead box and uninstalled Tyrfingr and sealed it in the box and returned it to its shelf in the captain’s cabin and they had more sex.  Erik woke up in the middle of the night and he got out of bed and went into his dressing room and took a nice long piss in a toilet jar.  At his age, he seldom slept all night without having to piss, but, at least after sex, he enjoyed a nice long piss.  He was glad his life extending Alchemist’s drug made him randyer because he liked the sex and he loved the long piss that followed.  He got back into bed and he watched Gretta sleep and he thought she must have been a real looker in her youth.  Valdy had told him she was a whore with her mother, a mother daughter team that had impressed King Athelred.  He could see it.  He just hoped that Valdy knew what he was getting himself into with his women in black.  Gretta was so good at killing she was like a snake that crawls into your campaign bedroll.  It sleeps with you to stay warm but it can also bite you.  The Prince was sleeping with her to keep her warm within the Hraes’ bedroll so she wouldn’t bite his grandson.  ‘So far, so good,’ he thought as he snuggled up to her for warmth, ‘she really likes my sword.’

He looked at the lead box that once more held Tyrfingr and he was glad it was a whole ships width away from him.  He’d keep it further away, but he didn’t like to have it out of sight.  It was getting too dangerous.  If it got into the wrong hands and he thought of his dream about Chernobyl.

A few days later, Bishop Thietmar completed his supervision of the church construction.  He gathered up his Latin ecclesiastic entourage and the two boys and they rode in carriages back to Merseburg.  The Prince had some Exeyes officers shadow him into Germany to report on the poisoning results and Erik and Gretta headed back to England, hoping to catch up with the merchant fleet on the way.  When they arrived in Southampton, the tallships were waiting in the harbour, back from trade in the Newfoundland.  Queen Emma was in a jubilant mood.  Her new baby was healthy, her latest trade endeavour was a success and her Aesir husband was back safely.  She knew he must have been on a dangerous mission because King Canute was nervous the whole time The Prince and his assassin were gone.  Valdamar knew they had succeeded in the first mission when he was informed that he was the new King of Denmark, but he’d heard of the Polish attack on Kiev and he didn’t know how things would go with the Merseburg bishop.

The Prince stayed in Southampton with his new wife, but he sent Gretta on to Winchester to give an update report to King Canute.  They were still waiting on a report from Exeyes officers on the success of the Chernobyl poison, so Gretta stayed in Winchester and visited with her daughter and grandchildren as they waited.  Just before Yule, a report came in and Erik and Emma went to Winchester and The Prince read it to Canute and Gretta.  The Exeyes officers followed the Bishop for three weeks to Merseburg and, posing as traders, the officers got news that the bishop was first ill three weeks later.  Another three weeks and the bishop was dead, his blood soured and his skin quite pale and grey.

From Winchester, the royal entourage headed for Yulefest and Christmas in London.  The woman in black returned to her palace in the Tower of London.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:

A.D. 1018.  This year was the payment of the tribute over all

England; that was, altogether, two and seventy thousand pounds,

besides that which the citizens of London paid; and that was ten

thousand five hundred pounds.  The army then went partly to

Denmark; and forty ships were left with King Knute.  The Danes

and Angles were united at Oxford under Edgar’s law; and this year

died Abbot Ethelsy at Abingdon, to whom Ethelwine succeeded.

The Prince Erik’s New Chronicle of the Hraes’ for the year read:

(1018 AD)  King Burizleif of Poland attacked Ivaraslav with Sviatopolk’s aid.

After collecting Hraes’, Varangian, and Slav troops, Ivaraslav marched forth

against them, and upon arriving at Volyn’, they camped on either side of the

River Bug.  Ivaroslav and his forces lost the Battle of the Bug and retreated to

Kiev, driving off attacking Pechenegs, and they defended the walls.  On the

approach of the Polish army, the Slav troops ran away over the walls and the

Hraes’ were not strong enough in numbers to defend the walls so they retreated

to Chernigov, which they could defend.  King Burizleif, Sviatopolk and his Poles

sacked Kiev and raped and pillaged the Slav women and children who were left

there, defenceless.  Then Ivaraslav fled with four men to Novgorod, and returned

with the great merchant fleet.  King Burizleif fled before the fleet, taking much

plunder and many Slav women with him back to Poland, and Sviatopolk fled

among the Pechenegs.


7.0  KING CANUTE GOES TO LIERE  (Circa 1019-1020 AD)

Back To Table of Contents

(1019 AD)  After the Yuletide celebrations in London, King Canute brought in the new year by putting young Jarl Haakon in control of the Earldom of Worcester.  He needed one of his Norse Jarls to lord over the Mercian lands that were loyal to Earl Eadric ‘Streona’, the Grasper, lest rebellion break out amongst the Anglians there.  And he needed someone close to Wales and the Bristol pirates who were always trying to enslave the Gaels.  Jarl Eirik’s young son seemed keen on ruling an earldom a little further from York as an expression of independence.  Valdy also felt more comfortable with his most loyal lords ruling the lands around Northampton, which his first wife, Aelfgifu, ruled and returned to while he was in Winchester and then they would meet up and live together in the king’s palace in London half the time.

Canute’s other Aelfgifu, Queen Emma, lived with him in Winchester or was off in Normandy when The Prince was away with the great  merchant fleet and she lived in Southampton with Erik the rest of the time.  The new English royals were settling into a routine.  Southampton was fast becoming the most secure and prosperous district in England outside of London, thanks to the security provided by the Hraes’ legion permanently stationed in the fortress on the Isle of Wight and to the growing trade that was flourishing in the Newfoundland.  Prince Erik planned on taking Prince Ivaraslav with him to Baghdad once more to learn how to handle the eastern trade the next year on his own.  The Prince was planning to sail with his tallships for the Newfoundland trade the following year.  He was trying to convince Aelfgifu Number Two to join him in the western adventure, but Emma was dead-set against the idea.  Her Norman and English sailors had returned with enough hair-raising stories about the Skraelings, as they called the locals there, to keep her out of that land forever!

The Skraelings of the Newfoundland were very possessive of their lands and were constantly fighting with each other over territory so, whenever the Hraes’ Trading Company wanted to set up a trading post in a native tribe’s land, they would have to fight them for every square foot of it.  Only once the Hraes’ had demonstrated that they were a force to be reckoned with, could a trading post be built on a piece of land that was owned by both parties, or, more correctly, on loan from the tribe.  Where the lands were bountiful, native populations were quite large and most native villages were the size of English towns and some native centers were the size of London, especially the fortified native cities of the Valley of the Mound Builders beyond the Nia and Gara Falls of the Great Lakes District.  While the stories all intrigued the queen, she had written too many condolence letters to the families of lost men for her to want to ever make the trip.  And they hadn’t yet lost a ship, which statistically was overdue.  She fretted over the sadness that would bring to her city of Southampton.  Commerce was a rough enough trade within the confines of Europe, but beyond, on the Silk Road of the east to Cathay, or on the Whale Road of the west to the Newfoundland, it could be deadly.

A century earlier, Erik’s son, Prince Helgi ‘Arrow Odd’, had banned the exchange of steel weapons with the natives of the Newfoundland, and this ban was maintained by the Hraes’ to keep the slight edge their steel blades had over the stone and copper weapons of the natives.  The Skraelings were just entering a bronze age in which tin, mined in the north, near the Great Lakes, was traded for copper, abundant in the far south among the even more advanced civilizations beyond the sea that the Mis Sis Sip Pi River flowed into.  It reminded The Prince of the dreams he’d had of the Aesir who had first used the riverways of Hraes’ to transport tin from the Britons of Cornwall to add to the copper weapons of the Vanir Persian Kings of Aran during their own earlier bronze age.  The kings paid dearly for this tin because they could turn that tin into gold, for their bronze weapons allowed them to defeat the copper armed warriors of their neighbours and they turned their neighbour’s gold into their own.  The gold Alchemists remained the dear friends of kings, but the new bronze Alchemists became the even dearer friends of princes and warriors.  And the battle between the blade and the breastplate was born, a battle that rages on to this very day, The Prince mused, as he thought of the new armoured cataphracts being developed by the Romans and emulated by the Hraes’.  They were getting so well armoured they could charge right through spear braced shield walls.  He wondered if the natives there had reached the blade versus breastplate stage in their bronze age evolution or was it just beginning?

The small craftwork shops and factories in Southampton hummed with the sounds of glass beads being cast and looms sliding and wool spinning as trade goods were manufactured expressly for the Newfoundland trade.  Smithy shops tapped away at the iron kettles and frying pans and buckets that were allowed for trade there.  And the shops across the British Sea, the English Channel, were humming away in Normandy.  It was an English and French venture, this direct sailing to the Newfoundland and it was in direct competition with the Norse archipelago trade through Greenland.  There was no major conflict with the Norwegian trade…yet.  The twelve tallships of the Hraes’ venture sailed out of Southampton in the spring and The Prince prepared for another spring excursion with the great merchant fleet heading east.

The Danes had elected King Canute as their sovereign in the fall of the prior year and now they expressed a desire for Canute to participate in a coronation in Roskilde, but he did not feel comfortable leaving England in the hands of the English so, he put off any trip until the merchant fleet returned in the fall.  He wanted The Prince and Queen Emma in Winchester to keep the Saxons under control and he did not yet fully trust Earl Godwin who, while spending a lot of time in Wessex, devoted most of that time to courting Princess Gytha.  Canute saw his grandfather off, bound for eastern trade, and then escorted Queen Emma to Winchester for the summer.

Prince Erik and the English fleet waited in Roskilde Harbour while the great merchant fleet assembled and they then sailed across the Baltic to Hraes’ and on to Kiev.  Prince Ivaraslav ‘the Wise’ had just returned from a victorious battle near the Al’ta River against his brother, Prince Sviatopolk ‘the Accursed’, who had fled off towards Poland with his remaining troops.  Ivaraslav promised to join The Prince in Baghdad once he consolidated his rule in Kiev, so Erik led the great fleet south to the Bay of Cherson, where their fees and tythes were collected.  Then a portion of the fleet sailed south for Constantinople and the rest sailed east for Baghdad, Cathay and India.  When Ivaraslav failed to show up in Baghdad, Prince Erik sent a message to Prince Mstislav of Tmutorokan and then took part of the fleet on to India.  He had to buy Untouchables there to make up for the shortfall in slaves that peace in England had brought about.  When he got back to Baghdad, Prince Mstislav was at the Caliph’s palace waiting for him.

“Now that your father, Prince Valdamar, is King Canute of England and Denmark, one of you young princes is going to have to take part in the Hraes’ trade.  It does, after all, pay all the bills in our land of Hraes’,” The Prince extolled.  “No trade, no princes.”

Prince Mstislav had assumed that his older brothers would have taken over trade, so when his father had given him Tmutorokan while partitioning out Hraes’ to his sons, he had sat back and enjoyed the women and the weather of the southern principality, but now he saw an opportunity opening for a younger sibling, so he said, “I’ll help you,” and from that day forward Mstislav worked harder than Erik had ever expected.  He was bright and energetic and he learned quickly; he reminded Erik of his Khazar wife Serah.  He had taken over Queen Silkisif’s city of Tmutorokan and he also took charge of Hraes’ interests in Cherson.  He controlled everything outside of Gardariki, Erik’s city, where the gold of Hraes’ was stored, and the Hraes’ navy was berthed, and the legions of cataphracts were stationed, the new cataphracts with plate armoured knights and mail and plate blanketed horse.  Gardariki was the golden city of Gardar, Hraes’, and it was built to show off that gold and to hold it securely within its walls.  The gold of Gardariki had financed King Sweyn’s decade and a half war with England and had paid for the eastern legions that Prince Valdamar had borrowed to recapture England and become King Canute.  Some believed it was the English silver, the Danegeld, that had paid for the Danish victory, but that coin had hardly covered the Jomsvikings and other mercenaries that the Danes had paid to ‘help’ King Athelred.  It was the gold of Gardariki that had paid the legions who did the grunt work.

Prince Mstislav took one split second to decide that, if his older brothers weren’t going to work with The Prince, he was going to jump at the chance.

When The Prince parted with Mstislav in Cherson, after showing him how to collect the tythes and execute the final accounting, he said, “I shall be leading the Newfoundland fleet west next year.  Can you handle the great merchant fleet for me while I am gone?”

Mstislav was completely taken off guard by this request, but he looked skyward, bit his lower lip, then said, “I can do it!”  The Prince knew he could.  He had made sure that plenty of resources would be available to help Prince Ivaraslav, but now, that help would be working for Prince Mstislav.

“It would be best if you met the great merchant fleet as they assemble in Roskilde Harbour,” The Prince told him.  “Let them know whose boss from the get-go.”  Then The Prince got up and went.  He met with Prince Ivaraslav in Kiev and learned that the prince had just married Princess Ingigerd of Sweden, Olaf Skotkonung’s daughter.  Ivaraslav was a northern prince, ruler of Rostov and then Novgorod and now Kiev.  He was busy strengthening his Varangian alliances instead of ensuring that the trade gold kept flowing.

King Canute surprised his grandfather and was waiting for him at Roskilde harbour when he returned from trading in the east with the great merchant fleet.  He told Erik that Queen Emma was waiting for him in Winchester and that Jarl Thorkel was taking care of things in London, but he urged Erik to make haste in getting back.

“I’ll be overwintering in Roskilde palace and in King Frodi’s Fortress in Liere,” he told The Prince.  “I have left a letter with Queen Emma that you two are to read to my English subjects over Yulefest.  Keep a close eye on the Saxons for me.”

When The Prince got back to Southampton Harbour, he was met by Queen Emma.  She wasn’t in Winchester and there were only eight tallships in the harbour.  He was worried and took out his optical scope and he could see Queen Emma on the main quay and she held a large placard that was lettered in the not-so-miniscule Anglish font of Alcuin and it said, “4 Ships in Rouen” and he realised that Emma had remembered how much he had worried the last time they were short ships, and he waved her thanks.

During Yulefest, the Queen and her Prince read out King Canute’s letter to his English subjects on Christmas Day in the king’s palace and it read:

CANUTE’S PROCLAMATION OF 1020            .

1. Canute the King sends friendly greetings to his archbishops and suffragan bishops and to Thurkil the Earl and all his earls and to all his subjects in England, nobles and freemen, clerks and laymen.

2. And I make known to you that I will be a kind lord and loyal to the rights of the Church and to right secular law.

3. I have taken to heart the word and the writing that Archbishop Lifing brought from Rome from the Pope, that I should everywhere extol the praise of God, put away injustice, and promote full security and peace by the strength that God should give me.

4. Now I did not spare my treasures while unpeace was threatening to come upon you; with the help of God I have warded this off by the use of my treasures.

5. Then I was informed that there threatened us a danger that was greater than was well pleasing to us; and then I myself with the men who went with me departed for Denmark, whence came to you the greatest danger; and that I have with God’s help forestalled, so that henceforth no unpeace shall come to you from that country, so long as you stand by me as the law commands, and my life lasts.

6. Now I give thanks to God Almighty for His aid and His mercy in that I have averted the great evil that threatened us; so that from thence we need fear no evil, but may hope for full aid and deliverance if need be.

7. Now I will that we all humbly thank Almighty God for the mercy that He has done to our help.

8. Now I command my archbishops and all my suffragan bishops that they take due care as to the rights of the Church, each one in the district that is committed to him; and also my ealdormen I command, that they help the bishops to the rights of the Church and to the rights of my kingship and to the behoof of all the people.

9. Should any one prove so rash, clerk or layman, Dane or Angle, as to violate the laws of the Church or the rights of my kingship, or any secular statute, and refuse to do penance according to the instruction of my bishops, or to desist from his evil, then I request Thurkil the Earl, yea, even command him, to bend the offender to right, if he is able to do so.

10. If he is not able, then will I that he with the strength of us both destroy him in the land or drive him out of the land, be he of high rank or low.

11. And I also command my reeves, by my friendship and by all that they own and by their own lives, that they everywhere govern my people justly and give right judgments by the witness of the shire bishop and do such mercy therein as the shire bishop thinks right and the community can allow.

12. And if any one harbour a thief or hinder the pursuit, he shall be liable to punishment equal to that of the thief, unless he shall clear himself before me with full purgation.

13. And I will that all the people, clerks and laymen, hold fast the laws of Edgar which all men have chosen and sworn to at Oxford;

14. for all the bishops say that the Church demands a deep atonement for the breaking of oaths and pledges.

15. And they further teach us that we should with all our might and strength fervently seek, love, and worship the eternal merciful God and shun all unrighteousness, that is, slaying of kinsmen and murder, perjury, familiarity with witches and sorceresses, and adultery and incest.

16. And further, we command in the name of Almighty God and of all His saints, that no man be so bold as to marry a nun or a consecrated woman;

17. and if any one has done so, let him be an outlaw before God and excommunicated from all Christendom, and let him forfeit all his possessions to the King, unless he quickly desist from sin and do deep penance before God.

18. And further still we admonish all men to keep the Sunday festival with all their might and observe it from Saturday’s noon to Monday’s dawning; and let no man be so bold as to buy or sell or to seek any court on that holy day.

19. And let all men, poor and rich, seek their church and ask forgiveness for their sins and earnestly keep every ordained fast and gladly honour the saints, as the mass priest shall bid us,

20. that we may all be able and permitted, through the mercy of the everlasting God and the intercession of His saints, to share the joys of the heavenly kingdom and dwell with Him who liveth and reigneth for ever without end. Amen.

While Queen Emma and Prince Erik were in London reading King Canute’s letter to his subjects, King Canute and his wife, Queen Aelfgifu, were celebrating Christmas Day in his palace in Roskilde.  Emma had refused to give up her title in England and Aelfgifu had loved her so dearly that she preferred to let her keep it, however, no such love existed between Aelfgifu and Harald’s mother, Queen Gyritha, who also was determined not to give up her title easily.  She was old enough to be Aelfgifu’s mother, but she was still younger than Canute and still quite beautiful.  She had given birth to her Harald after marrying King Sweyn ‘Forkbeard’, Valdamar’s father, after their victory at the Battle of Hjorungavagr, and Prince Valdamar had met her and got to know her well enough to know that there was a good chance that Harald was old enough to have been King Harald ‘Bluetooth’s offspring.

There had always been a rumour circulating around Zealand that, when Prince Sweyn had brought his Hraes’ and Norwegian fleet south to conquer Denmark, King Harald ‘Bluetooth’ had thrown a last fast fock into his wife, Gyritha, before fleeing with his fleet to Jomsborg, and that her son Harald had been the result of that fast fock.  When King Sweyn had conquered Roskilde he took all the wives of Harald ‘Bluetooth’, but Queen Gyritha had refused him so, her daughter, Gunhilde, had stepped forward and offered herself to King Sweyn and Sweyn took her up on it, for she was a beautiful young virgin that had crawled into bed with him and they were married for a week before Gyritha relented and offered herself to Sweyn instead.  They were barely married a week when Sweyn learned that young Gunhilde had become pregnant during their brief marriage, so, King Sweyn did the honourable thing and took both mother and daughter to wife along with ‘Bluetooth’s other wives.  But when the two pregnant queens gave birth, it was Queen Gyritha that preceded Queen Gunhilde by two weeks, thus making her son, Harald, the oldest child by Sweyn in Denmark, even though Gunhilde had become pregnant two weeks before her, which led many common folk to say that baby Harald was the son of Harald ‘Bluetooth’ and not Sweyn ‘Forkbeard’, that he was the product of that one last fast fock.

Queen Gyritha literally threw herself at King Canute when they were alone together one fall afternoon, and Canute decided to find out for himself if this was true and he agreed to the secret tryst with Gyritha.  As the queen had not yet given up her master bedroom in the palace, that is where the clandestine couple repaired to. 

He rushed in to her, kissed her lips and then, with trembling fingers, bared her breasts, which he covered with kisses.  He then absolutely tore off her clothes, not even sparing her chemise, and she stood before him as naked as the day she was born.  In a few seconds he had doffed his clothes and she saw his huge member, so stiff and hard and erect that it stood well past his navel.  It was a monster the like of which she had never seen and she had seen a few monsters while queen and single.  All her modesty disappeared as if by magic, and she removed her hands which she had instinctively placed over her exposed breasts and she took those hands and lowered them around his monster and then she fell to her knees and took the tip into her mouth and it filled her palate and there was so much more of it.  She kissed down the side of it and sucked and kissed her way back up the other and she took the glans into her mouth again and swallowed in a bit more this time before kissing her way down the thick long shaft of it once more.

Then she held his testicles in her hands, one in each and she sucked first one into her mouth and savoured his sack a while before releasing it and taking up the other in past her lips and onto her tongue and she savoured that orb as well.  Kissing her way back up the tall shaft she took the tip back between her lips and she swallowed up even more of it this time and she wetted it and rose again up off her knees and kissed his belly and then his chest.  He placed his hands on her buttocks and he lifted her up close to his body and drew her toes up off the floor and he set her vaginal lips over his glans and slowly slid her onto the monster and she sucked in her breath as he absolutely filled her and she felt somehow that there was so much more of him to come yet and she braced herself as he turned and lowered her onto the bed and then slid her out a bit and threw himself into her as he, too, landed on the bed and she cried out and gasped in at the same time as he drove himself almost fully within her and he withdrew and thrust into her and he did this for a long time as she wrapped her legs around his buttocks to try to control the penetrations, but she could not.  She swore she could feel his stiff monster so deeply within her as to be pressing against her white belly from within.

“Oh, please, please stop!” she cried and when he stopped she pulled him back within her and began thrusting at his shaft herself in much shorter strokes this time and she began to come all over the big thing and, when she stopped her short quick thrusts, he withdrew from her and he pulled her by her legs to the edge of the bed and he knelt down on the floor and began kissing and lapping her vagina as though to devour her flow and then he began sucking up her clitoris and drawing it up between his lips and she thought he was going to suck it right off her body and then she felt as though she was leaving her body and she began having huge orgasms one after the other as he sucked on her and worked his thin chin deep into her vagina.  “Please, please stop,” she cried again, and he stood up and picked her up by the waist a few inches and slid her back onto the bed and he entered her again and began thrusting into her and he filled her so fully that her flow was forced out to the lips of her vagina and it wet more of his shaft, which he threw further into her and soon she was gasping with each thrust and the wetter she got the faster he drove it into her until he, too, was gasping and soon after his glans pulsed within her and shot huge spurts of hot fluid deep inside her and he had filled her so that it couldn’t escape and she felt the fluid flow within her nether reaches until it was almost cool, much cooler than the hot regions it was flowing into and it was a feeling she had never felt before and she began to come as he pulsed within her and she could almost feel his great testicles working hard to fill her and she could still taste those orbs she had tried to swallow whole but couldn’t and she used her legs to drive him deeper and deeper inside her and she knew she had triumphed over the monster and she squeezed with her legs as the last of the flow was injected into her and she took it in to cool herself down.

Gyritha laid back, exhausted and Canute collapsed atop her still inside her.  He rolled off her to the side, but he had so filled her that his member pulled her over on her side beside him.  They breathed heavily and hugged each other and then she panicked a bit and got the sudden urge to pull off him and it took her an effort to get herself free of him and she recollected herself.  Canute was resting on his side as she shook her head at the sensations she’d experienced, and fear and sexual pleasure were what stood out for her and the last bit of fear had caused panic and she scooted down to have a look at this monster she had slain and was hanging down limp and lifeless and still huge.  She took it in her hands and lifted it and let it drop with a slap as it hit his hip, but the tip still dragged across the bed and she did this a few times and it began to stiffen and for some strange reason she got the compulsion to put it into her mouth and suck on it before it got too large to fit her palate and she got almost half of it in past her lips and she tried to swallow it down but it had already grown too large and the monster had somehow sprung back to life because there was now no dropping it back across the bed as she’d been doing.  It was pointing out straight at her in accusation of how she’d dared attempted to slay it and it wanted to bite her again.

Canute laid on his back and he pulled Gyritha atop him and he held the monster by the neck as she slid her vaginal cowl once more over its head and it struggled to escape as she tried to confine it and she rode it hard and then it rode her and she rode it again until they flowed together once more and they rested again side by side and she felt as though he were some kind of machine for he’d flowed just as much as he’d flowed before like some great siege engine that was cranked up and down and discharged the same load over again and then pulsed with the recoil back and forth, in and out, until it came, at last, to rest.  She vowed not to touch it again but they talked for a while and she was sure the beast was slain.  They talked about other lovers and children they’d had and monsters they’d seen and she was always drawn back to it, to look at it, tease and torment it and, once more, it came back to life.  She knew she wouldn’t be walking too much too soon but she tempted the dragon back into her den and they danced once more this dance of life and she dared the gods bless her again so she could match the title of her king.

After their conversations about children, Canute was convinced that King Harald had been the son of Harald ‘Bluetooth, not his half-brother, a son of Sweyn ‘Forkbeard’.  He had meetings with his retainers and a meal with his men before catching up with his wife at their palace suite.

“How was she?” Aelfgifu asked Canute.

“She wants to remain Queen of Denmark,” he answered.

“I meant in bed…how was she in bed?”

“I can see why my father kept her as queen,” Canute said.  “She is a fine example of Danish beauty, inside and out.”

“Your father was Aesir,” she reminded him.  “He kept many wives as queens.  I wish to be Queen of Denmark.  We are Christians.  You must choose.”

“You know what my choice will be, Aelfy,” Canute said, walking over to his wife on the bed and kissing her.

“I know, Valdy, but I don’t love her.  I wish we could share her together, but I have no feelings for her.”

“You don’t mind if I enjoy her while we’re here, in Denmark?”

“Oh, God no!  I could certainly use the help with you.  You are so…driven…by your impulses.  Thank God we’ve had Princess Gyda here to help me with you,” and she looked over at Gyda, who was already in their bed.

Even though Canute had enjoyed Gyritha for three hours that afternoon, he enjoyed Aelfgifu and Gyda for another three hours that night.  He was still driven, no longer able to do the twelve straight hours he’d do in his youth, but he could still take up a respectable portion of it.  And he still had seven hundred wives back in the east, back in Kiev, many of them Polish, and though King Burizleif of Poland had taken back many of his Cherven lands, he knew better than to try and take back Prince Valdamar’s Polish wives.  They pined for their prince and had prayed to the gods that the English would win their war with him and he’d return to the east and now they prayed for an English rebellion.

When Prince Erik returned from the east to Roskilde Harbour with the great merchant fleet, he was surprised to see King Canute already there, and he had Jarl Eirik and Earl Godwin there with him.  The Prince knew something was up, but Valdy claimed that they were taking King Harald’s Danish army out for manoeuvres and training to ensure they were still up to Hraes’ standards.  “Queen Emma awaits you in Winchester,” Valdy concluded.  “She is holding down the fort for us until you get back.”  Erik left it at that, but he knew that, if Jarl Eirik was in Denmark, a battle would soon be in the offing.  He just wasn’t sure if the Danish army was going for ‘training’ against King Olaf in Norway or against the former King Olaf in Poland.  North or south, the ‘training’ was going to culminate in a battle.  But Prince Erik missed his Emma and sailed for Southampton with the English portion of the great merchant fleet.

The Danish army was freshly equipped and provisioned and set off in ships east along the Baltic until they got to the Island of Jom and met with the Jomsvikings in Jomsborg.  Canute had a message sent to King Burizleif in Wend, requesting the head of Jarl Olaf Tryggvason, or, if that was unsuitable, challenging Jarl Olaf to battle.  “My grandfather, King Ivar ‘the Boneless’, had no legs and was borne into battle on a shield carried by his retainers,” Canute’s message read, “so don’t let your dead legs keep you from this fight!”

“Never have I shirked from battle,” came Olaf’s reply, “and the same can be said for King Ivar, who invented the fine wheeled chair I am in.  Shield borne I shall come with ten thousand Poles and Norwegians.  Meet me in Stargard with one of your famed mobile legions and we shall do battle.”

King Burizleif was relieved.  He thought that King Canute was after the two boys that Bishop Thietmar had left with him after the sack of Kiev.  The boys were the princely sons of King Athelred by Queen Emma, and King Canute had promised not to hurt them, so he sent them to Prince Ivaraslav in Kiev instead, with orders that they be slain there, no doubt.  When the Poles had taken Kiev, they found the two Latin Christian boys in chains there, so they turned them over to the local Latin Christian church community and the bishop had then found out who they were and was going to take them back to Germany with him, but Burizleif had learned who Thietmar had in tow and relieved him of his burden, thinking they might be of value if Canute ever faltered, but when Valdamar turned up in Jom with two legions, Burizleif was ready to turn the boys over to him, but soon learned that it was not boys he was after, but rather the brother of Thurkil Nefia, Jarl Olaf Tryggvason.  He breathed a sigh of relief and promised himself that he would send the two young princes south to the court of the King of Hungary at first opportunity.

Canute did not like the idea of sending only one legion into Poland, but he knew that while Olaf Tryggvason lived, his sons in Hraes’ would always be under danger of attack from him for the death of his brother, Thurkil Nefia, in York.  His Exeyes officers assured him that the Polish army was in Wollin City on the island of Wollin so, they took their ships along the internal seaways of Poland and sat with the fleet outside the Harbour of Wollin and Canute commanded the fleet that monitored the Polish army, while young Earl Godwin led the mobile legion south into Poland.  Jarl Eirik would not be held with the fleet while Godwin attacked his arch-enemy alone so the two earls headed to Stargard together with their legion.

Princess Astrid begged Olaf not to meet the Danes in battle but he would have it no other way.  They met at a field outside of Stargard that Olaf’s officers had already marked out with hazel poles.

The two armies collided and they fought for two hours before the Polish wing began to give way before the Hraes’ Danes and when Jarl Olaf was carried on his shield to lead a Norse force to bolster them, Jarl Eirik was waiting with a Norse force of his own, all berserks, and they fell upon the Polish wing and fought their way to the former king and Jarl Eirik slew Jarl Olaf as he fought bravely from his shield.  One of Olaf’s legs, his right one, had fallen out from under mail and Eirik hacked it off above the knee and Olaf bled out as they fought on and he grew quite pale and he died.  Eirik had held off from striking the leg off, but the retainers left it swinging freely and Jarl Eirik was wielding his sword called Leg Biter and finally he could no longer desist from the blow.  He’d much rather have struck one that took Olaf’s head off instead, but the sword cried out for a leg and Eirik could only ignore the pleas of his blade for so long.  It was a battle, after all, and both Poles and retainers were trying to kill him as he was trying to kill Olaf.  When the Polish army was routed, they left Jarl Olaf on the field on his shield, so Earl Godwin went up to the body and struck off the head and gave it to Jarl Eirik, who had been with his berserks, driving the Poles and the Norwegians from the battlefield.  They did not give them chase nor bend them over their shields.  The captured Poles carried the body of their jarl upon his shield, sans head, back to Princess Astrid.

Jarl Eirik brought Jarl Olaf’s head back to Wollin to show King Canute, who said, “There is a witch in Jomsborg who can preserve it for you until you can get it back to Witch Hallveig in York.  I’m sure your father, Jarl Haakon, shall want to have a word or two with it, tete-a-tete, back in Northumbria.”  The Danes were quick to pick up new Norman phrases, or perhaps it was just that their English queen was Queen Emma of Normandy.

“Oh, I’m sure he will!” Eirik replied gleefully.  “Let’s get this head to Jom as quickly as possible.  And make sure you thank Earl Godwin for his valiant efforts at Stargard.  He led his legion well.”  And the young earl blushed at the compliment.

“In that case,” Canute started, “I think I may grant him permission to ask Princess Gyda for her hand in marriage, should it so please him.”

Earl Godwin beamed brightly and could not get words out to express his joy.

“I don’t think our young earl is interested,” Jarl Eirik said in indignant jest.  “Do you find something awry with Princess Gyda?”

“Yes!” the earl stammered.  “I mean, No!  I wish very much to ask her for her hand.”

They found a witch in Jomsborg who could put a proper spell on Jarl Olaf’s head and she cut runes into a stick and put it under the king’s thick tongue and it croaked words into her ear and the witch told Jarl Eirik, “I’m not sure what this means but, the head says it was one of Jarl Thorkel ‘the Tall’s Jomsvikings who came to Poland and told him that you had slain, had beheaded, his brother Thurkil Nefia in York.”

Both Jarl Eirik and King Canute grew angry over this apparent betrayal by their Jomsviking comrade.  “Why would Thorkel betray us and, even more strange, why would Jarl Olaf tell us that he did it?” Canute asked Eirik.

“Jarl Olaf wants to talk to his brother,” Eirik said.

“What?” Canute cried.

“I had Thurkil Nefia’s head spellbound and preserved by Witch Hallveig after the beheading.  Thorkel’s man must have told Olaf, and now he wants to talk to his brother’s head.  He knows that by telling us who leaked the intel, we now owe him that.  After Haakon gives him an earful, I’ll have to let him talk with Jarl Nefia,” Eirik added, shaking his head.  “It’s the least we can do for him.”  The witch put Olaf’s head into a plain wooden box built for the strange cargo and Jarl Eirik carried Jarl Olaf under his arm as they walked toward their ships.

“That witch seems as good as Witch Hallveig,” Canute said, stopping.  “Wait here.  I have to ask her something.  Jarl Eirik sat on a stump by the side of the road and he waited for his king and every once in a while he would open the box and look at the head and smile and say, “Jarl Haakon’s gonna have a few sharp words for you!”

Soon King Canute was walking along the road with the witch trailing behind him.  He had asked the witch if she could tell him for certain if King Harald the Second of Denmark had been the son of King Harald ‘Bluetooth’ the First and she told him she would need a body or a spirit to ask.  He told her that King Harald ‘Bluetooth’ had been killed by the arrow of a Jomsviking named Jarl Sigvald and that King Harald was buried at the head of a fjord on the other side of the Island of Jom.  So, King Canute and Jarl Eirik took the witch by ship to the fjord and she told them she couldn’t help them because a small wooden church had been built over the grave of the king and she could not contact the spirit of the king through the aura of the Christian church.

“I’ll fix that!” Jarl Eirik said and he got a few of his Aesir followers to take torches and they burned down the church.  King Canute calmed his Christian followers by assuring them he had plans to replace the wooden church with a fine stone one.  Once the ashes cooled a bit, the witch could contact the spirit of the king.

“He will not talk to me,” the witch told Canute, “but he grieves.”

“Who does he grieve for?” Canute asked her.

“He has recently lost a son,” she said, “a year or so ago.  It was the Harald the Second you asked of.”

“So, Harald the Second isn’t the son of King Sweyn?” he asked her.

“If this Harald has died just over a year ago, I can say with certainty that he isn’t,” the witch confirmed.

“If I give you gold enough to build a stone church with, will you give it to a Christian who can get it done?”

“I know the Bishop of Wollin,” the witch replied.  “I treat him for his gout.  I’ll give him the gold and I’ll make sure he gets it done.”

Canute gave the witch the gold and then gave her some more for her trouble.

“When the church is done,” she said in thanks, “the Bishop of Wollin will send a message to the Bishop of Lund and your Danes will know it has been done.”  She thanked him again for his generosity.  The Danish army ‘manoeuvres’ were completed and the warfleet returned to Roskilde.

King Canute enjoyed Gyritha the rest of that fall in Roskilde and she tried hard to get pregnant so she could have a claim to stay Queen of Denmark, but she began having hot flashes and she realized her time for that had passed.  On Christmas Day, King Canute and his wife, Princess Aelfgifu, were coronated King and Queen of Denmark at the king’s palace in Roskilde and when they returned to Winchester in the early spring, Canute left Queen-Mother Gyritha the palace for her use.  Canute had planned to leave shortly after Christmas but he stayed longer when he learned his son, Prince Mstislav of Tmutorokan, would be soon arriving to lead the great merchant fleet east; the king and queen stayed to greet him and introduce him to Queen-Mother Gyritha.

The royals then sailed to Southampton and took carriages to Westminster and relieved Erik and Emma so they could return to Southampton to prepare for their tallship sailings for the Newfoundland spring trading.  The glass shops and looms of the city had been buzzing all winter preparing trade goods for the Skraelings there.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:

A.D. 1019.  And this winter died Archbishop Elfstan [of

Canterbury]: he was named Living; and he was a very provident

man, both as to God and as to the world.

The Prince Erik’s New Chronicle of the Hraes’ for the year read:

(1019 AD)  Sviatopolk advanced with a large force of Pecheneg warriors,

and Ivaraslav collected a multitude of soldiers, and went forth against

him to the Al’ta River.  Ivaraslav halted at the site where Boris had been

slain and, lifting up his hands to heaven, exclaimed, “Boris!  If I could

trade places, I would!”  When he had thus spoken, the two armies attacked,

and the plain by the Al’ta was covered with the multitudinous soldiery of

both forces.  It was then Friday.  As the sun rose, they met in battle, and the

carnage was terrible, such as had never before occurred in Hraes’.  The

soldiers fought hand to hand and slaughtered each other.  Three times

they clashed, so that the blood flowed in the valley.  Toward evening

Ivaraslav conquered, and Sviatopolk was injured and fled the field.

His retainers bore him to Brest on a litter and in the wilderness between

Poland and Bohemia, he died a miserable death.

Thus Ivaraslav settled in Kiev, together with his followers, and wiped away

the sweat of his labors now that victory was won after a hard struggle.



Back To Table of Contents

(1020 AD)  In the early spring the tallships were all prepped and ready to go and Prince Erik pleaded, once more, for his queen, Emma, to join him on the excursion.  “If you really wanted me to go to the Newfoundland,” she admonished him imperiously, “you wouldn’t have knocked me up!”

“Your beauty was the cause of that,” he argued, “and the Newfoundland should not be deprived of its gorgeous queen for something no mortal man could resist.”

“You’re so full of it, my poet,” Emma said, “and so is your baby,” she added, adjusting the diaper.

Prince Erik kissed Queen Emma goodbye on the main quay of Southampton and two longships towed his tallship out of the harbour and out into the English Channel to join eleven tallships, the rest of the fleet of that was going to make the western ocean crossing.  They sailed in a tacking pattern west past the coast of Frankia and then south until they found a strong westerly prevailing wind and the fleet made good daily progress, as much as two hundred miles a day, and Captain Hugh of Erik’s flagship told him that they wanted to stay as far north in the prevailing wind as possible without crossing into an easterly prevailing wind that typically ran at England’s latitude.  Going further south to Spain’s latitude would guarantee them a strong westerly wind but they would have to go further back up the coast of the Newfoundland to get to the mouth of the great Kanata River and that would eat up any time they gained on the crossing.  “And the further south we cross at,” Captain Hugh added, “the longer the crossing becomes, the longest distance being at the equator.”

“When I made the first tallship crossing a few years ago,” The Prince told the Captain, “we had no idea what the prevailing winds were like.  We just knew it would take twice as long to get there with all the tacking we did and half as long to get back home with a direct wind.”

“Going home is always better,” the Captain agreed.

“How far south does the Newfoundland go?” Erik asked.

“Nobody knows for certain,” the captain said.  “We’ll have to explore that way someday when we’re not so busy setting up our trading posts!”

As they were going up the coast of the Newfoundland, Prince Erik began to recognize some of the bays.  He knew from experience that one of the bays had extreme tidal fluctuations where tides were so great as to rise and fall twenty-six fathoms.  The captain knew of the bay and pointed it out as they went by it.  “There are tides that big in the Brycgstow Sea near Bristol in England,” he told Erik, “and nowhere else that I know of.  The latitudes are about the same, too.”

“I know,” Erik said.  “That’s why we called this part of the Newfoundland, New England, and then we named the next coast New Scotland, because it had a Scottish shape to it, and then the island north of it, New Ireland, because it was an island about the size of Ireland and it seemed to be off the coast like Erie is off England.”

“I thought the Greenlanders named it thus,” the captain said.

“No.  They think they discovered the Newfoundland and they call it from north to south, Helluland, Markland and Vinland.  But we Danes discovered the Newfoundland over a hundred years earlier and Saint Brendan of Ireland found it over a hundred years before that!”

“How do you know all this?”

“I was here a hundred and fifty years ago when my son, Prince Helgi was the first to find it and King Frodi pursued him to it with a war fleet.”

“I’d heard you were old,” the captain started, “but when I saw you I thought the tales were all bullshit.  You look younger than I do and I’m only forty!”  The captain shook his head in disbelief and as they were sailing north watching for the great river on their port side the captain kept looking back at Erik from time to time and then kept shaking his head in disbelief again.  “There it is,” he said, as they came around a bend in the coast that took them west.  “It’s the beginning of the estuary of the great Kanata River.”

They spent the rest of the week sailing up the huge estuary and they would stop at Hraes’ trading posts that had been established along the southern coast.  “The river is so wide here that we’ll catch the posts on the northern coast on the way back,” the captain said.  All the Hraes’ trading posts were built in the ring fortress fashion of King Frodi’s fortress outside Liere, but not as large.  The design was based on the Roman Byzantine ring forts of the Scythian steppes, a built up earthwork ring with a log palisade along the top and four gates with a crossroad running through it.  “The natives are very territorial here,” the captain explained, “so we have to give them gifts to use their land and we need the forts because their neighbours will attack us when they attack them and they do it a lot in the fall.”

The Prince’d had a hand in the planning of them and all posts had river access and enclosed harbours if possible and they were about a day’s sail apart so that they could support each other.  Each trading post served a local tribe and the Hraes’ traders of that post learned the local language, but the languages were all related, similar to the situation in Europe where the Danish Angles spoke almost the same language of the English Angles and the Saxons spoke another related language and the Norse another related language.  And then the Normans spoke French, which only the Franks and the Gauls and the Romans understood.  And it was the same in the Newfoundland.  Suddenly the Hraes’ would come across a tribe that spoke a totally different tongue, but the Hraes’ were world-wide traders and they all picked up languages quickly.  It was part of the business, a very important part, so the Hraes’ princes had paid attention to language training over many generations.

The tallships worked their way up the Newfoundland river until it was narrow enough to work both banks of it and one tallship would berth at a trading post and unload to resupply it and the rest would keep moving upriver and another would anchor to resupply another post and the tallships leap-frogged their way upriver until they got to the first great lake.  It was long and wide, so the tallships resupplied the south shore only, planning to do the north shore on their way back.  Then the fleet of tallships entered a river at the western end of the lake and resupplied the trading posts on both riverbanks again until they heard a great roar of water and got up to the Nia and Gara Falls and they anchored in the great pool at the foot of the high waterfalls.

“It was along this river, a hundred and fifty years ago, that my son, Prince Helgi ‘Arrow Odd’ Erikson,” Prince Erik told the captain, “had scuttled his own ships and had hidden them underwater and had taken York boats, longboats he had purchased in Northumbria, and portaged them around the falls to escape the wrath of King Frodi of Denmark.”

The old portage route that King Frodi had built to try and chase after Arrow Odd had grown over, but Prince Erik had convinced the tribe that Arrow Odd had married into to clear the portage route so it could be used by the Hraes’ traders.  The local natives had spent the last few years clearing and conditioning the old portage route that King Frodi’s army had almost completed, clearing it of a hundred years of overgrowth, and it was now ready for use.

Each of the dozen tallships had been equipped with a small Viking longship strapped upside down their foredecks and The Prince had each captain unstrap them and lower them down by ropes by the ships’ cargo cranes.  Two tallships sat abreast of each other and the crane of one ship would lower the bow and the crane of the other ship would lower the stern of a longship into the water between them and then they would unload the other longship from the foredeck of the other tallship.  When all twelve of the longships were safely in the water, the local natives came out and greeted The Prince and began dragging the ships up onto the riverbanks and they used roller logs to haul the longships up the portage road they had reconditioned.  Other natives dragged the supplies behind the ships on travois sleds and soon the longships were floating in the Nia-Gara Falls River and being loaded with supplies and trade goods that they were going to take to the ‘Valley of the Mound-Builders’.  But there were no mound cities built yet in the Valley of the Mound Builders, just ceremonial mounds for religious worship and a lot of snake mounds.  “King Gorm ‘the Old’ would have felt at home there,” Erik told Hugh, “for the Snake King was a great explorer in his own day.”  The mound cities would come later, once the natives had seen how the Hraes’ built their ring fort trading posts.  The Byzantine ring forts were very effective in providing security for the Hraes’ traders, and the continually warring tribes of the Newfoundland and Nia-Gara and Mississippi River Valleys began to emulate the earthen rings and log palisades, but they had more time and manpower and they filled in the centers of the rings with earth as well and would even go up a level or two for increased security and soon whole cities were built on these raised platforms or mounds and the Mississippi Valley truly became the ‘Valley of the Moundbuilders’.  But for now, there were no mound cities.  Only twelve longships sailing across three more great lakes to a small river that would join the mighty Mississippi and take them all the way south to the Great Mayan Sea.  Three trading posts were planned for now, the Miss, the Siss and the Sippi in the south where gold was to be found and the natives liked to trade with it.

Most of the trading over the summer was done in the south and most of the goods were exchanged for gold.  The Prince realised that the fine furs that were garnered in the north were not enough to get trade up to the levels the Hraes’ Trading Company was accustomed to, and with slavery out of the question due to Christian Norman distaste for it, gold and silver was the answer.  And there was plenty of it in the south, so much so that the Hraes’ only accepted gold in trade for goods, the bountiful silver not as likely to have the effect of the gold on the kings and princes of Europe.  But exactly where the gold was coming from was to be kept a secret known only to the Normans of Rouen and the Jutes of Southampton.  King Canute and Queen Emma had both agreed that secrecy was paramount for the new Newfoundland trade.  The Newfoundland trade of the Greenlanders, the hay and the lumber and the hawks was to stay in the north.  The furs and the silver and gold were to be the trade goods of the Great Lakes and the Mississippi Valley and it was to be kept secret as long as possible.

That is where King Canute really had a problem with Jarl Thorkel ‘the Tall’ and his Jomsvikings.  They worked for many and varied European kings and princes and Canute had already learned, from a talking head, that the Jomsvikings talked too much to be able to keep the new trade route secret for long.  When he accused Thorkel of telling King Burizleif of Poland that Jarl Eirik had killed Olaf’ Tryggvason’s brother, he denied it, but said what of it?  What if one of his Jomsvikings had let it slip?  Jarl Eirik had killed Earl Ulfkytel at the Battle of Assandun and deprived him of vengeance for Ulfkytel’s slaying of Thorkel’s brother, Jarl Hemming.  “So word got out,” Jarl Thorkel said.  “What of it?”  It was the wrong answer at the wrong time for a king who was planning on keeping a gold and silver trade route secret.  Jarl Thorkel was banished from England and all Jomsvikings too!  They were sent to duties in Denmark and the Vik and Jomsborg, but their loose lips were to go nowhere near London or Southampton or Rouen.

Queen Emma was concerned about word getting out to continental Europe and the Mediterranean countries because advances in sailing ships on the Roman Sea were on par with her own imaginative advances and the Eastern Romans and the Italians had large fixed-frame ships that were capable of making the Atlantic crossing, though, at their latitudes the crossing was a much longer distance than at the English northern latitudes.  They were presently hemmed inside the Mediterranean by the Al Andulus fleet that operated out of Islamic Spain and controlled the Pillars of Hercules that led out to the Atlantean Ocean.  Still, the Basques of Northern Spain had access to their sailing technology and to both the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantean Ocean.  They controlled the rivers between Spain and Frankia and were quite capable of setting up a river portage that could compete with her own Seine-Rhone portage route that was now transporting goods between the northern and Mediterranean markets that was earning herself and Prince Erik rich profits and King Robert of Frankia rich tithes and permitting pleasures.

The Nor’Way was also a potential threat to the secrecy of the new trans-Atlantean sea route.  The increase of furs coming from the Newfoundland had been obfuscated by rumours of increased trade coming from the Greenlander’s increasing trade, but now King Olaf ‘the Stout’ of the Nor’Way controlled that trade through his capital in Lade, Jarl Eirik’s old holdings.  King Canute still controlled The Vik, but King Olaf controlled the Viking Jarldoms that stepped their way up the Nor’Way coast like a ladder runged of fjords.  And he controlled the Faeroe Islands and Iceland and Greenland and the northern tip of New Ireland in the Newfoundland.  The Hraes’ Trading Company controlled the southern end of the Island and would not allow the Greenlanders any further south than that, but the Norse had found a northern bay west of Greenland that allowed them access to rivers flowing south into the Newfoundland and there had been fights between Hraes’ troops and Greenlanders who were discovered on the Mississippi River.

Prince Erik left three longships and crews at the mouth of a tributary river on the western shore of the fourth Great Lake to build the Miss Trading Post and he was leading nine more longships down the Mississippi to establish two more trading posts, each to be equipped with three longships to support each other.  Preparatory exploration and work had been done by Hraes’ traders in York boats, but now, with the portage upgraded, longships plied the long river and trade and cargoes would grow exponentially.  Tallships would operate on the east side of the Falls and longships on the west.  The Miss trading post was being built in the ringfort style at the southern end of the last Great Lake on land allowed them by the Michi-Gan natives there and now nine longships plowed south down the long river and they stopped at a place where another great river flowed into the Mississippi from the east and they set up the Siss Trading Post and left three ships to begin work on another ringfort.  Now six longships sailed south down the long river until they got to the estuary and the Great Mayan Sea.  Three ships were left there to start on the third Sippi Trading Post and Prince Erik led the last three longships into the Mayan Sea and they sailed straight south for several days until they saw a peninsula of land that jutted north, out into the sea.  It was the land of the Mayans and the source of the gold.

No Europeans had ever been to the land of the Mayans, but the southern Newfoundland natives had been there trading tin and furs for copper and gold.  The Hraes’ had been allowed to build their southernmost post on land provided by the Red Stick natives of the delta and a few of them had accepted Hraes’ gold for their guidance to the Mayan territory.  And the Red Sticks helped The Prince set up a market on the outskirts of a Mayan city on the coast.  The Hraes’ beached their three longships to form a square with the sea behind them and they set up cooking fires within the square and they set out trade goods on furs outside of the square.  While the Newfoundland natives had the look of the people of Cathay, the Mayans had rounder heads and looked a bit Magyar or Pecheneg.  Erik wondered if the Newfoundland was the easternmost part of Asia, but he had already been there, in the land of the rising sun, looking east out into the vast Ocean there, the Ocean he had assumed to be the Atlantean that he’d often observed to the west of Ireland.  Yet here were the same types of people and it puzzled him.  He would have to dream on it, he told himself as he welcomed Mayans into their camp for trade.

The Hraes’ had set out hides that had iron frying pans upon them and hides with iron ship’s kettles and others with fine China plates and pewter eating utensils and spices and other goods, but there were no weapons.  The Hraes’ traders were all armed with steel swords but they were kept sheathed and were shown to no one.  Mayans were allowed within the square of ships to observe how food was cooked upon frying pans and was boiled in kettles and they were allowed to sample how the various spices from Cathay and India changed the taste of meats and staples.  And the Red Stick guides translated the barter in gold required for each type of good, a pound of gold for a fry pan, or two pounds of gold for a kettle.  Erik remembered back years when he had first traded with the White Sea natives who hid while they marked out prices for their goods by placing a certain type of fur required for a purchase at the foot of the pile of goods.  The natives there feared contact with the Varangians because many had died of plagues carried by the white men.  But the Varangians would leave and the natives would come back and buy what they wanted and there would be a white sable for a sword or a beaver pelt for a knife.  But the Varangians learned that there was a price to be paid in trading Biarmians weapons for furs and Permians fine steel swords for their silver and gold swords, an advantage they’d lost in their having superior weaponry, and the mistake was not to be repeated in the Newfoundland.  No weapons were to be traded and no technology was to be exchanged.  The Prince had even ordered that the only cavalry support allowed in the Newfoundland was to be from the Legions of the One-Legged, for they seldom left their horse and the horses were very well kept track of.  If a one-legged veteran lost his horse, he would serve the rest of his New World duty on foot, and he only had the one of them.  The Prince may have had visions of the natives becoming famed horse warriors, he didn’t recollect, but he was still plagued by visions of hordes of horse warriors riding in from the east and attacking and burning Kiev, and there were to be no horse warriors plaguing them in the west.

The local Mayans loved the exotic goods the Hraes’ were offering them and soon Mayans began arriving from other cities, carrying gold and prices were going up as trade goods dwindled.  After three weeks everything had been sold and the Hraes’ didn’t even have pans or kettles in which to cook their own food.  They loaded their gold into the three longships and the crates of gold didn’t take up much space but they had to be carefully placed and ballast had to be tossed to keep the ships at acceptable waterlines.  The Red Stick guides told the Mayans that the Hraes’ would be back the next year, same time, same place, for more of the same trade.  And Prince Erik remembered his father, King Ragnar ‘Lothbrok’, preaching to him about the Nor’Way trade route and how it had to be regularly maintained and he thanked him for the wisdom of his words.

When they got back to the Mississippi delta, the ringfort was well into its construction.  Local Red Sticks had been hired to help with the earthen ring and the Hraes’ were already working on the palisade around the crest.  There were sixty men to each thirty oared longship, so one hundred and eighty traders were left to complete and inhabit the ringfort over winter and Erik led the three gold laden longships back up the Mississippi River to the ringfort that was almost completed at the river confluence.  The Hraes’ trader who was leading them had visited Jerusalem and Egypt and he’d nick-named the trading post Cairo for some reason or another and the Normans in Erik’s group had already nick-named the southernmost post Baton Rouge after the Red Sticks who had helped, so the three longships continued north up the long river to what they now called the Michigan Post.  Then it was back across the three great lakes to the Nia-Gara Falls portage where they loaded the gold equally into the tallships there and they headed back to the Kanata River.  While they’d been gone, the resting tallships had resupplied the ringfort trading posts on the north shores of the river, but Erik had them revisit them quickly so he could see their progresses.

It was along the Kanata River that Erik could see that the natives had been emulating the security offered by ringforts by building their own for their villages and cities, but the native ones were much bigger due to their great populations so the rings tended to be huge and their centers were filled in and they took the appearance of mounds with palisades around the perimeters and they dotted the river valley.  The Prince knew from this that the natives of the Mississippi Valley would emulate the design as well and he knew that their populations were even greater so the mound cities would be larger yet and it would come to be known to all as the ‘Valley of the Mound Builders’.

Prince Erik had tried dreaming about the Mayan natives and how they might be related to the Pechenegs of Asia but, as usual, he had very little control over his dreams and he dreamt, instead, of the bay the captain had told him about that rose and fell seventy feet or so and he told the captain he wanted to see it.  So they took a tallship and they sailed for the bay while the rest of the fleet serviced the trading posts on the south end of New Ireland, and they sailed up the long bay and they felt the heavy rise and fall of the tides and Erik could see from the watermarks that the extreme range was, indeed, fact.  “Why did you want to see this?” the captain asked.  We have this same extreme tide in Bristol and the Brycgstow Sea there.”

“I think the two of them are connected somehow,” The Prince replied.  “They are at similar latitudes and their long bay layouts are similar.  Anyway, I had a dream that, in the future, an Italian sea captain came to Bristol and he paid the Bristol pirates there to take him to Iceland, but the pirates were wanted in Iceland for stealing codfish, so they took him here instead and they took him to this bay for some reason and the Italian sea captain took note of the heavy rise and fall of the sea in Iceland, or what he thought was Iceland, and he must have known that it matched Bristol’s and then the pirates took him up the coast of New Ireland and they told him it was Greenland, for they were wanted there as well for kidnapping Greenland women.  While the Bristol pirates were in New Ireland they chased off Basque fishermen who were there in unarmed ships and they stole the codfish that the Basques had drying on the shores there.  And when the Italian sea captain was taken back to England he had a feeling he’d been duped, but he knew better than to accuse the Bristol pirates of wrong-doing so he went to Spain in disgust.”

“What means this dream?” the captain asked.  “Who was this Italian sea captain and why did he go to Spain of all places.  It’s Islamic!”

“I have no idea,” Erik said.  “Sometimes these prescient dreams just come to me out of the blue and then I find out, years later, what they meant.”

“You really are two hundred years old, aren’t you?”

“And I don’t feel a day over a hundred!” The Prince laughed.

They sailed their tallship back to New Ireland in time to rejoin their fleet for the crossing back to England and The Prince could see that the waters off of New Ireland were, indeed, teeming with codfish.  As the tallships were sailing away from the island they towed their four oared boats behind them and the codfish would jump out of the water and just land in the boats and the men aboard them would fillet the fish and then bring them to the ships for eating on the sail back to England.  The prevailing wind came from the west and in two weeks they were back in Southampton, a week late, but much wealthier.

Queen Emma was worried about Prince Erik the whole week the fleet was late.  It had never happened before.  The fleet had always been back early.  The prevailing winds were always better than anticipated and the fleet got back early.  When it wasn’t back early, Emma began to worry, and when it was late, she worried in earnest.  And there were others in Southampton who began to worry.  Jarl Eirik had come down from York and was resting with Witch Hallveig in the Viking fortress on Wight, King Sweyn’s old haunt.  And his grandson, King Canute, had come down from Winchester after The Prince was late a week, with Princess Aelfgifu, and her Northampton sister had given Emma support and was with her when the tallship sails were first spotted.  Aelfgifu Number Two hugged Aelfgifu Number One as they stood on the main quay of Southampton and watched the tallships come in.  “You scared me!” Emma said, as Erik joined her on the wharf.

King Canute was there and said, “You scared us all.”  They rode a royal carriage into Southampton and Emma’s palace there.  Sweyn had watched her build it, and now his son and his grandfather were there relaxing in it and drinking wine and having a light lunch.

“Jarl Eirik wants to meet with us in King Sweyn’s fortress,” Valdy began.  “He has Witch Hallveig with him and they want to have a séance there, but they’re waiting for you.”

“Why would they wait for me?” Erik asked.  So Valdy brought him up to date on events that had occurred while The Prince was in the Newfoundland.  He told him that Jarl Olaf Tryggvason was dead and that Jarl Eirik had his head and that Olaf’s head had said that Thorkel ‘the Tall’s Jomsvikings had told him that Eirik had killed his younger brother in York and that is why the Poles had attacked Prince Ivaraslav in Kiev.

“Why would Olaf’s head tell us anything?”

So Valdy told him that Jarl Eirik had beheaded Thurkil Nefia and Witch Hallveig had put a spell on his head and Olaf’s head wanted to talk to it.  And Jarl Haakon’s head wants to give Olaf’s head a piece of his mind, and King Sweyn’s head wants to watch.  “So, Jarl Eirik thought it best to have you here in case anything prescient was said.”

“It’s gonna be a regular Pow Wow,” Erik responded, whistling through his teeth.

“A what?” Canute said.

“The Newfoundland natives would call such a meeting a Pow Wow.”

“They’re into witchcraft?” Valdy asked.

“No.  It’s just a term for a meeting of head chiefs.”

“Pow Wow,” Valdy repeated.  “I like it!  A Pow Wow tete-a-tete!”

“A-tete-a-tete,” Prince Erik added.  “We know you ladies were born Christians,” he addressed the two Aelfgifus, “but would you care to join us?”

The two Aelfgifus looked at each other and said, “We’d love to,” in perfect synchronicity.

After another glass of wine and some Khazar Vayar, they took Queen Emma’s little longship, the one King Athelstan had lost to the Danish schoolboys after his Saint Brice’s Day Massacre disaster, and they sailed across The Solent to the Isle of Wight and the Viking harbour.  Jarl Eirik and Witch Hallveig were on the quay to meet them.  Eirik had seen the tallships come in earlier and Witch Hallveig knew that they were coming two days out.  The royals all sat in King Sweyn’s highseat hall and they drank some more as Hallveig’s twelve chantreusses danced about the witch in her highchair and called the spirits into the hall.

King Olaf’s head had been transferred into a finely crafted hardwood box befitting the rank of a Jarl and former King and the box was arranged with the three other head boxes, with King Sweyn, Jarl Haakon, and Jarl Thurkil, in a circle facing each other on a circular high table set up in front of King Sweyn’s triple highseats and they had all been opened and their veils had been lifted so that all could see their countenances quite clearly and the state of preservation of the heads was quite remarkable, for the heads that had been taken decades ago looked as fresh as the one that had been taken months ago.  The circular table had a revolving top that seemed to rotate on its own as if seeking some elusive low point and it would stop for a time and then rotate a bit more.  The heads all seemed to be asleep with mouths closed and eyes shut.

Jarl Eirik and Witch Hallveig sat on the center highest seat while King Canute and the Danish Queen Aelfgifu shared the second highseat and Prince Erik and the English Queen Emma shared the third.  Witch Hallveig had to sit closest to the heads, for she controlled the spells they were under and only she would be able to understand what they might say.  Jarl Eirik sat with her on his own highchair and they were cutting rune-sticks together and, when one was done, Hallveig would put it under the tongue of one of the heads.  When she did this, the eyes would open suddenly and then close again.  And when this happened, the Christian women would clutch their husbands and gasp a little.  Slight breezes were flowing through the hall and it seemed as if spirits were slipping and streaming about and coming and going through windows and sometimes shutters would open and slam shut and the women would clutch at their husbands some more.  It had been decided to let Jarl Olaf talk with his brother, Jarl Thurkil, before Jarl Haakon and King Sweyn took a strip off him, so Witch Hallveig turned the two heads so that they faced each other in the circle a bit more directly and both their eyes opened and the rune-sticks under their tongues started to move and vibrate and a strange sound emanated from Olaf’s head first and Hallveig explained that Olaf was apologizing to his brother for getting him involved in his struggles and then Thurkil’s eyes opened and his stick began moving and Hallveig said he accepted his brother’s apology but would have had it no other way.  Hallveig turned the heads back into center and Jarl Haakon faced Olaf directly so, Haakon let him have it.  He opened his eyes and stared so intently that Olaf’s eyes opened in alarm and Haakon began cursing him in a long diatribe that needn’t have been understood to have been understood and when Haakon was done they both closed their eyes.  When it was King Sweyn’s turn to talk the table revolved so that Sweyn faced the highseats and he stared and blinked out to The Prince and to Jarl Eirik and then to his son, Valdamar, and last he laid his gaze upon Emma.  He had loved many women in his long life, but Queen Emma had been his last love.  Then Sweyn looked upon Olaf and he said something to the Jarl and Hallveig explained that he’d asked the Jarl to tell us a portent and then Sweyn’s eyes closed.

The tabletop then revolved so that Jarl Olaf’s head faced the highseat and his eyes opened and his rune-stick began vibrating and Olaf began speaking in tongues and Witch Hallveig translated the nonsense into Anglish Danish for all.  It was a warning and he started with something Prince Erik already knew when he said, “My Prince, the Christian Kings of Denmark shall destroy your family sagas,” and then he said, “but that, you already know.  But what you don’t know is that the Khan you have killed in the future to save Europe from conquest, shall be avenged by his sons, for Europe will never accept the Hraes’ as European, and the Hraes’ Danish lands in the east shall fall into Mongol hands, and your beloved Gardariki shall be destroyed.  Let it be known, too, that all your new works in the west shall be destroyed by God and not a trace of what you do there will be recorded.”  Then Jarl Olaf’s eyes closed and the spirits all seemed to leave the hall.

“What does he mean by this?” Canute asked his grandfather.

“There is a price to be paid for killing the Khan,” The Prince told them all.  “The Cathayans will pay it first and foremost, but, as I feared, the Hraes’ lands in the east shall not be spared.  The Latin Christian kings shall turn their backs on the east and Hraes’ shall fall to the Mongols, just as I have seen the Eastern Roman Empire fall to the Turks.”

“Is there anything we can do to stop it?”

“No,” Erik said, with the gravest finality.  “All other paths lead to worse consequences.  The sacrifices we shall make will be bearable, but barely so.  Europe will turn her back on us, but we shall save her nonetheless.”

“And the west?” Emma asked.

“I think Jarl Olaf seeks last laugh on that one,” Erik told his wife.  “We are excluding the Norse from the southern Newfoundland trade and he is bitter about it.  He thinks that only the Sagas of the Greenlanders will survive in the western lands.  We shall prove him wrong!”

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:

A.D. 1020.  This year came King Knute back to England; and there

was at Easter a great council at Cirencester, where Alderman

Ethelward was outlawed, and Edwy, king of the churls.  This year

went the king to Assingdon; with Earl Thurkyll, and Archbishop

Wulfstan, and other bishops, and also abbots, and many monks with

them; and he ordered to be built there a minster of stone and

lime, for the souls of the men who were there slain, and gave it

to his own priest, whose name was Stigand; and they consecrated

the minster at Assingdon.  And Ethelnoth the monk, who had been

dean at Christ’s church, was the same year on the ides of

November consecrated Bishop of Christ’s church by Archbishop


The Prince Erik’s New Chronicle of the Hraes’ for the year read:

(1020 AD)  A son was born to Ivaraslav, and he named him Valdamar.



Back To Table of Contents

(1021 AD)  When Prince Erik had asked Duke Richard for the hand of his sister, Queen Emma, in 1017, the duke requested the hand of King Canute’s daughter, Princess Estrid, the eldest daughter of Princess Anna Porphyrogennetos, and also born of the purple blood of the Roman Emperors.  The young princess was very fertile and had provided the older duke with a number of children, but it was not out of love, which Estrid had hoped for, but out of due diligence and a once a month intercourse routine that was timed by the duke’s witch healer, who tested Estrid for peak fertility before giving the duke the go ahead.  They spent one night together per month until she was pregnant again and then she wouldn’t see him for ten months.  He spent the rest of his time with his first wife, with whom he was fervently in love and Estrid put the two together and realized that she was but a concubine contracted to produce babies born of the purple for European royalty and Norman alliances.  Beyond the one night a month when she wasn’t already pregnant, Duke Richard treated Princess Estrid with total indifference and, perhaps, even a touch of cruelty.

The marriage with Duke Richard was not a loving relationship, and Estrid passed her feelings, via handmaidens and messages, back to Kiev and her brother, Prince Ivaraslav, and he passed the messages on to Prince Erik whenever he would lead the merchant fleet through Kiev.  Because The Prince had spent the last trading season in the Newfoundland, he had asked Queen Emma to look in on Princess Estrid once in a while whilst he was gone.  Emma had promised her husband to do it and when she did just that she was mortified at the cold treatment being shown the young princess, having, herself, gone through a cold relationship with her first husband, King Athelred.  Like all modern princesses, Emma had been raised on dreams of romance and had followed all the tales of romance between Tristan and Isolde and the Viking and the Nun and others and had hoped and prayed for such a love someday, but she had been married off by her brother into an English alliance and now she learned that her brother had married Princess Estrid to garner daughters for further royal alliances and the discovery sickened her.

When her Prince returned from the Newfoundland, she told him about what she had learned while he was there and they met with King Canute to discuss what was to be done about it.  Valdamar was very upset by the news and a little hurt that his daughter had not come to him for help, but had gone to her brother, Ivaraslav, in Kiev instead.  But then he realised that it was he, himself, who had given Estrid to Duke Richard in exchange for the hand of Queen Emma, and Estrid had never been told that he had only done it because Queen Emma and Prince Erik were in love and it was the only way they could be secretly married.  Over Yulefest, while King Canute and Queen Emma were busy officiating the Christmas festivities in London,  Prince Erik and Princess Aelfgifu went to Rouen to see what could be done about Princess Estrid and her children.  The princess would not leave the duke without her children, and they all knew that the duke would not give up his Porphyrogennetos babies without a fight.  The situation was further complicated by the fact that Queen Emma’s children by King Athelred were now being raised in Rouen for their own safety, as the children of Athelred tended to die if they strayed too close to England’s present king.  Their safety in Rouen might be jeopardized by an attack upon the Duke of Normandy by the King of England.

When Prince Erik and Princess Aelfgifu returned to Southampton, King Canute and Queen Emma were there waiting for them.  And when Valdamar heard what had been happening to his daughter, he flew into a rage and ordered preparations for war.  He mobilized the legion, ten thousand men, that were sitting on the Isle of Wight and supplies were ferried across the strait to the Viking harbour on Wight and the legionary fleet was prepared to sail the next day.  Prince Erik, Queen Emma and Princess Aelfgifu all begged with their king for a calmer approach, but that night, on the highseats of King Sweyn, Valdy asked his grandfather, “Are you coming with me?”

“Of course!” Erik shouted.  “You know it!”  And there was a rousing shout from all the officers and jarls gathered about the longhall.  Only Emma and Aelfgifu sat sullenly in silence.  They held hands across the triple highseats and worried about their husbands and their children.

The next day the fleet sailed for Normandy and that night they camped at the mouth of the Seine River.  Their longships captured and held every boat and ship and fishing vessel that had the misfortune of plying the river that evening and the knights rode out and patrolled the surrounding land so that not a solitary scream worked its way inland towards Rouen.  Surprise, total and complete, is what King Canute ordered, and that is what his men gave him.  When the fleet sailed into the river city the next afternoon, Duke Richard and a few of his officers and troops managed to ride out of Rouen with a regiment of Hraes’ cataphracts hot on their horses’ tails.  Princess Estrid and her children were found alone in the palace and Queen Emma’s sons, Edward and Alfred were there as well.  King Canute wanted to sack the city, but Prince Erik had words with him.

“Rouen has not been sacked since the days of King Frodi,” The Prince began, “and my brother, King Hraelauger, Duke Rollo, ruled it.  It was a Hraes’ trading center then and should not have been sacked, and it should not be sacked now.”

“Our legion deserves and expects booty,” Canute complained.

“The Hraes’ Trading Company shall reward them with a bonus.  That is all.  There is no booty for training exercises.”

“Is that what you think this is?” Valdy asked.

“When is the last time the legion has fought?”

“At the Battle of Assandun.”

“In 1016!” Erik added.  “I think a full mobilization training exercise has been long overdue.  Let’s pack up for Princess Estrid and her children and take them to Southampton.”

“And the boys, Edward and Alfred?” Valdy asked.

“Queen Emma will want them left here, I’m sure,” Erik answered.

If there was any question as to Queen Emma’s wishes, they were soon confirmed.  The two Aelfgifu’s arrived in Rouen that very evening, disembarking from Queen Emma’s longship at the main quay of the city.  The two women arrived at the palace and hugged Princess Estrid warmly and Emma took her sons into her arms and hugged them too.  “They are staying in Rouen,” Queen Emma announced, “as am I.  I’m going to wait here until my brother, Richard, returns and then I’m going to give him a piece of my mind!”

Both Prince Erik and King Canute knew that Queen Emma would not be dissuaded from her wish and they were equally glad that it was Duke Richard who would be facing her wrath and not themselves, so, the next day the Hraes’ mobile legion packed up their gear and sailed back to Southampton with Princess Estrid and her children, leaving Queen Emma and her sons to deal with the errant duke.  “We are all the children of Ragnar ‘Lothbrok’!” she exclaimed from the main quay as the fleet sailed away.

The mobile legion returned to King Sweyn’s Viking fortress on the Isle of Wight and King Canute and his retinue stayed the night with Prince Erik in Queen Emma’s Southampton palace before heading off to Winchester.  The Prince began making preparations for the spring sailing to the Newfoundland, but he would not be going west with the tallships this year.  He would be sailing east, once more, to Baghdad and India.  He had to see what kind of a job Prince Mstislav had done of the eastern trade the previous year and he had to make a decision about India.  The Alchemist Guild was pretty pissed about Myia’s death and the misuse of the Zombie blowfish drug in the killing of a future Mongol Khan and Prince Erik’s prescient skills were not as valued as they had once been, because that very same drug was being used by the Guild to communicate with past and future Guild members in lieu of psychic chants and spirit gatherings.  Science was taking over.  Still, prescience was proven and the new drugs were scarce, so, The Prince still received his allotment of the anti-aging Elixir drug and he was even being offered a Guild wife to tie him to the sub-continent.

Queen Emma got back from Rouen just in time for the tallships sailing and The Prince hugged her warmly as they waved off the fourteen tallships that were being towed out to sea from Southampton.  “Richard was pissed?”

“Not nearly as pissed as when I got through with him,” Emma answered.  “He’ll straighten up.”

“He’s already trying to get Princess Estrid back,” Erik told her.  “Valdy wants to marry her to Jarl Thorkel ‘the Tall’ to bring him back into the fold so he doesn’t have to banish him for telling Jarl Olaf about the killing of his brother.”

“And what does Estrid say about it?”

“It doesn’t matter.  Jarl Thorkel refused to give up his wife, Edith.”

“Athelred’s first wife?” Emma asked, shaking her head.  “She must be pretty good in bed.”

“I’m to drop them all off in Denmark,” Erik said, “on my way through Roskilde with the merchant fleet.”

“And what does Princess Estrid say about that?”

“Valdy wanted me to take her all the way to Kiev.  She pleaded not to go back and settled for Roskilde.  He wants her as far away from Rouen as possible.”

When The Prince took them to Denmark, Thorkel’s brother, Ulf, was there to meet them in Roskilde.  Queen-Mother Gyritha was watching over Denmark for King Canute, but Valdamar’s jarls were watching over Gyritha for him.  The great merchant fleet made the Baltic crossing without incident, but when Erik led it past Polotsk he heard that Prince Bryachislav of Polotsk, son of Izyaslav, grandson of Valdamar, was off laying siege to Novgorod, and, when he stopped in at Kiev with the fleet, Prince Ivaraslav was raising an army to go relieve Novgorod.  It was a matter of Prince Valdamar just having too many wives and too many sons for any of them to get along with each other.  When the merchant fleet arrived in the Harbour of Cherson, Prince Mstislav was there to meet him and help with the tariffs and tithes.  The Prince was glad that a least one of Valdamar’s sons was more interested in trade and business than in conquest.

From Cherson, the Orthodox Christian merchants sailed for Constantinople and other points in the Eastern Roman Empire and the rest of the fleet sailed east across the Black Sea and through the river portages to Baghdad while some went further east to Cathay, following the Silk Road.  Erik got Prince Mstislav set up in the Caliphate and proceeded south and then east to India, following the route of Sindbad the Sailor.  He stayed in Ashaval for a week and made arrangements for the transportation to Baghdad of untouchables he had purchased there.  When he arrived in Mumba, he stayed with his wife, Mahara, and family at the estate of Myia’s parents.  Misha and Meena, the two university students Erik had blessed with Aesir babies were there and they both expressed their grief at the loss of Myia. 

The Prince was a little surprised when Misha asked to meet him privately the next evening, but he took her up on her offer and they had a nice date together in Mumba that wound up at her apartment by the University of Mumba.  They had sex that night and Misha told him that she wished to be his new Aesir wife and continue the work he was doing with Myia.  “I was helping Myia with her Cosmology work, with your work, and I know that the Guild has halted work on your theories, but I think I can put a team together to continue on with the work without their help or knowledge.”

“But the Guild said the mathematics required would be cost prohibitive,” Erik replied.

“Our team would be volunteers,” Misha explained.  “University mathematicians who would work on theorems and proofs in cells and groups.  We intend to keep costs to a minimum.”

“The Guild has offered me a new Aesir wife,” Erik told her.  “She is very young and beautiful and quite the mathematical genius herself.”

“How young?” Misha said, getting up on her elbow.

“She’s twelve,” Erik said, “and just turned marrying age, is a virgin and a prodigy.  I found it difficult to turn them down.  I’m hoping it will convince the Guild to restart research.”

“They know you,” she said.  “They just want to keep you available for your prescient powers.”

“Did Myia tell you why the Guild halted work on my theories?” he asked.

“She told me that another dimension was added, but she didn’t get a chance to tell me what it was before she…” and Misha could just mouth the word ‘died’.

“The added dimension, the fourth dimension, is time,” Erik told her.  “The Universe, every second, every minute, every hour of it exists.  Time doesn’t pass by.  It grows forward.  People don’t die and cease to exist.  Their existence ends at some point, but their past always exists.  And the past, and future, can be accessed.  That is how Myia died.  We were accessing the future.”

Misha’s jaw grew slack and her mouth slowly fell open.  “You were there?  In the future?”

“Yes,” Erik said.  “We killed a man in the future and Myia didn’t make it back.”

“She’s still there?”

“I don’t think so,” Erik choked.  “The body she possessed died.  She didn’t make it back to her own time and space in time.”

“That’s focked up!” Misha said.  “Poor Myia!  Is she still out there?”

“I don’t think so,” Erik said.  “I think her existence just ended at that point, but she still exists in the past.  I think I could even go visit with her if I did it right.”

“How did you even start on the mathematics of it?”

“We didn’t.  The Guild has a drug and we had a guide.  It’s a Zombie drug.”

“That new sex drug?” Misha asked.  “The one that’s been killing people?”

“Yes.  Death and access are connected.  Our guide was a spirit, a witch.”

“You’re scaring me, Erik,” Misha said.

“I know.  It’s pretty focked up, but so is talking with somebody who is two thousand years in the past and connecting them with somebody a thousand years in the future, and I’ve done that for the Guild a number of times.”

“I can only help with the math,” she began, “but this is way beyond math.  Myia never told me anything about this.”

“I made her promise me to keep it secret.  I’m not supposed to tell anybody.  That’s why I am taking the Guild up on their offer.  I want you to promise me you’ll keep my secret as well as Myia did.”

“I won’t tell a soul,” Misha swore.  “Nobody would believe me anyway.”

“Will you come to my Aesir wedding?”

“To your twelve year old virgin?”

“I want you to meet Nika.”

“Yes, I’ll come.”

Erik and Misha had sex again and then The Prince took his carriage back to the family estate.

When Prince Erik returned to Baghdad from India, he met with Prince Mstislav at the Caliph’s palace and they went through sales figures on the untouchables that The Prince had sent from Ashaval.  The increasing numbers of Indian slaves being sold in Baghdad and Constantinople still did not make up for the lost sales of Anglo-Saxon slaves that used to be taken while the Danes were at war with the English.  And Slav slaves coming out of Hraes’ were decreasing due to the fragmentation of the land into petty principalities ruled by the numerous sons of Prince Valdamar, all with princely titles and aspirations.  Competition from slavers out of Africa was increasing to make up for the shortages.  Fur sales were up though, thanks to an increasing supply from the Newfoundland.

“I’m concerned about the infighting going on between principalities,” Mstislav told The Prince while they were discussing the slave shortage.  “Prince Bryachislav attacked Novgorod and captured a lot of Ilmen Slavs, planning to sell them here in Baghdad, but Ivaraslav attacked him and took back his people.”

“Well, Ivaraslav still rules over Novgorod even though he is Grand Prince of Kiev,” Erik replied.  “He has to look after his people.”

“And so does each and every prince,” Mstislav said.  “It is one cause of our present shortages.  Hraes’ princes used to rule only the cities and the Slav towns would raid each other and sell us their captives for slaves.  Now, every town is ruled by a minor Hraes’ prince and they don’t raid each other, so there are fewer slaves available.  Hraes’ is becoming less a company and more of a country!  The same has happened with England and Ireland now that our father, Prince Valdamar, has become King Canute of England.  Our Hraes’ slavers no longer raid the Anglo-Saxons and Welsh, and Irish slaves decrease every year.”

“We are making up for it with increased sales in furs and silks,” Erik countered.

“The loss of our high quality slave sales weakens our position in the Caliphate and in Constantinople.  Mediterranean slavers are taking over prime spots and the African slavers are pushing us out of other places.  Berber slavers are even raiding in Ireland instead of Vikings!”

Mstislav had been helping run the Hraes’ trade for the last few years, but he had picked up trading very quickly and he was very astute in his summary of present problems, but The Prince sensed there was more.  “Has something happened in Tmutorokan?” Erik asked.

“While I’ve been attending to the Hraes’ trade, Kasogians have been raiding the southern border of our lands.  When I get back I’ll have to wage war with them,” Mstislav admitted.  “I thought I could do both, rule and trade, but it’s proving to be difficult.”

“I’ll take care of the tithes in Cherson,” Erik offered, “and you can sail directly to Tmutorokan and assemble your legions and attack them.”

“That’ll help,” the young prince stammered, but he seemed apprehensive.

“When I finish with the tithes and release the fleet north to Kiev, I’ll come back to Gardariki and get my legions and we’ll make short work of the Kasogians!”

Prince Mstislav smiled and accepted the offer.  The great merchant fleet soon packed up and sailed north up the Tigris River and portaged to the Araks River which branched into the Kura and they sailed up it and portaged across to the Rioni River and sailed into the Black Sea.  They sailed along the northern coast and Prince Mstislav and his fleet sailed for Tmutorokan while the rest of the fleet carried on to Cherson Harbour to declare trade and pay tithes before carrying on up the Dnieper for Kiev.  The Prince took his small Gardariki fleet back east and assembled his legions in Gardariki and joined Prince Mstislav at the southern border of Tmutorokan.  A Kasogian army soon came forth to meet them.  It was fall, a time for raiding, and the Kasogians had gathered in full force, hoping to make a great sweep into Tmutorokan for riches and slaves.

The Prince sent out scouting patrols to assess strength and disposition and he soon picked up that Mstislav was not well versed in martial arts, so The Prince held strategy and planning meetings with his generals and officers to acquaint the young prince in the politics of war.  “You’ll find that you can rely on your legionary generals and officers for help in planning,” Erik told the prince, “because most of them are trained in the Varangian Guard and are quite skilled in the Roman art of war.  But the Aesir art of war is still superior.  The Romans would go out to meet the Kasogians, but our scouts have ascertained that the Kasogian army consists mainly of mounted light cavalry raiders, so we will let them come to us.  There is a pass we came through, so we should withdraw to it.  We can then arrange our legions across the pass and limit their use of light horse.  They could go to another pass, but that would cost them valuable raiding time and they don’t want to leave an intact army behind them while they’re spread out raiding, so they will come to us.”

So the Hraes’ legions withdrew to the pass and Erik explained some battle tactic basics that Mstislav had undoubtedly read about but had never intended to use in the field.  The Tmutorokan legions consisted of a full Hraes’ legion of foot, “which is like two full Roman legions of five thousand men each,” Erik lectured, “and we base our full legions on ten thousand men because it is better for large, pitched battles,”  and a full Hraes’ legion of cataphracts, “which consist of five thousand fully armoured men and horses, a lower number, but a stronger force.  The Romans fight a lot of thematic wars of smaller scale so their legions are leaner.”  The Prince had brought from Gardariki one mobile legion of ten thousand men, “six thousand foot and four thousand heavy cavalry and cataphracts,” Erik went on, “integrated together to provide a more versatile fighting force.  Mobile legions were designed by your grandfather, Prince Svein, who became King Sweyn and conquered England with them.  Each mobile legion is an army unto itself, complete with its own supply and transport fleet and siege trebuchets.  Each can fight on land and on sea and is particularly adept at capturing seaports and river cities.  They can be combined into larger armies and can be mixed and matched as well.  And that is what we shall be doing for the Kasogians.”

Scouts arrived with further news that the Kasogians, about forty thousand horsemen, were a half day away.  Prince Erik arranged the ten thousand foot across the center of the valley and put the legion of cataphracts on the left flank and the two regiments of heavy horse on the right flank.  The six thousand foot of the mobile legion he placed across the valley a little back of the legion of foot.  “Light cavalry is very mobile and flexible,” Erik began, and Mstislav was soaking it all in, “and will tend to bunch up when it finds weak areas that give way before it.”  The Prince then digressed into an explanation of crescent and wedge formations and how they matched up and he looked to his officers and told them, “the foot in the center is to give way before the enemy light horse and the cataphracts on the flanks are to hold their positions and wait for the light horse to bunch up in the center.  As the foot falls back and takes the shape of a longer crescent, the foot of the mobile legion will move forward to fill the gaps that form and spears will then be presented to hold the line.  Then, and only then, will the cataphracts charge the light horse before them and then wheel about and attack the horse in the center from behind.  Once the circle is closed, the light horse are not to be allowed to escape because then we will never catch them.  Prisoners are to be taken and bent over their shields in the Aesir way before being enslaved for sale in Baghdad next year.  Nobody is to be killed who can be captured.”

After the strategy meeting, the officers were sent out to arrange the legions across the valley and Erik took the young prince aside and gave him the usual lecture that he gave princes about being too brave in battle.  “You must avoid personal combat and let your men do the fighting.  Battles are lost because leaders fall and old princes are few and far between.”  Prince Mstislav was fine with that.  He was a fast learner and he wanted to see just how this strategy would play out.

An hour after noon, just after the legions had eaten, the Kasogian horsemen came riding up the valley.  They saw the legions arrayed before them and didn’t even stop to rest and water their horses before charging straight into battle.  If they were hoping to catch the legions off guard, their hopes were dashed.  Mounted scouts had been signalling their approach from hilltops via mirrors for the last many miles.  The horsemen came at the legions and the foot soldiers fell back before them, then planted their long spears which bristled outwards from the formations.  The cataphracts didn’t budge and had their long lances levelled and the light horse hit them and were halted and began flowing sideways into the void created by the retreating infantry, but when the foot planted their sarissas and spears the horses were either impaled or had balked and the light cavalry bunched up in the center just as the cataphracts charged and drove more light horse into the middle and surrounded them.

Years before, in Bulgaria, a Roman army of cataphracts had closed just such a trap on twenty thousand Hraes’ Pecheneg horsemen and they slaughtered them all.  It was much the same here, but for the slaughter part.  The legionnaires were all well rested and well fed and the Kasogians had been riding all morning and were both hungry and thirsty when they attacked and now they were hemmed in and fighting for their lives and were quickly exhausted and dragged from their horses and were gagged and bound and were being bent over their shields just outside the shieldwall while the horsemen within watched in a trapped mass and awaited their turns to be dragged down, bound and raped.  The cataphracts were all equipped with lassoes and nets for capturing fleeing foes and these were now used to drag Kasogians from their mounts and into the throngs of waiting foot.

Kasogian princes rode about in the mass demanding terms, but none were given and they, in turn, were dragged from their horses and raped with the rest of their men, as the Aesir were wont to do in the old Vanir Greek and Roman fashion.  The captives were fed and then marched down to the Black Sea coast where slaver ships awaited them.  They spent the night on the beach and the slavers had their way with the younger, handsomer ones before they were loaded onto ships the next morning for transport to the slave schools of Kiev.  The schools would be crowded for the first time since England had fallen to the Danes in 1013 and there would be no escaping from Kiev in the winter.

Prince Mstislav was amazed at the number of Kasogians that had been killed compared against the few legionnaires and even more amazed at the thirty thousand that had been captured.  He had even bent a few of them over their shields himself!

“I didn’t see you bending any Kasogians over their shields,” Mstislav joked with Erik.

“My bending men over their shields days are long over,” Erik said.  “At my age one prefers the comfort of beds and the women within them.  To that end, shall we carry on into Kasogian lands and sack a few of their cities?”

“Teach me how to sack a city,” Mstislav replied.  “We need female slaves as well.  The women’s slave schools of Kiev should not sit empty while the men’s schools are bursting at the seams.”

Just after the slaver ships left the coast, the transport supply ships of the mobile legion arrived and the legion was loaded up and taken down the coast to attack the one Kasogian seaport city, while the Tmutorokan legions followed inland down the coast sacking towns and villages as it progressed.  Women and children were herded after the legions as captives and the seaport had fallen by the time they got there.  Thirty thousand children were loaded into slaver ships and another thirty thousand women were loaded into the legionary transport ships and they were all taken to Kiev for training over the winter.

Prince Erik joined Prince Mstislav for a celebration in the city of Tmutorokan and during the feast the young prince told Erik that Prince Rededya of the Kasogians had already vowed to attack the Hraes’ in revenge for their attack upon him.

“We’ll have to stall him,” Erik said.  “We’ll send him gifts and gold and apologies, enough to keep him expecting more to come, then, when nothing more is forthcoming, he will attack us.  But next fall.  Our slave schools will need filling again.”

The Prince returned to Gardariki and put together gifts and gold and sent them to Mstislav in Tmutorokan for forwarding on to Prince Rededya of Kasogia and then he loaded many chests of gold into the ships of his personal fleet and he sailed off to England.  He would build another Gardariki in the west and keep half the Hraes’ gold there.  It would take several seasons to transport it without raising suspicions, but Gardariki was a fortress city that had been designed to withstand assault from without.  These new Hraes’ princes were beginning to pose a threat of assault from within.  ‘Best not to keep all ones eggs in one basket,’ Erik thought, ‘especially if the eggs are golden.’

The Kasogian war had delayed The Prince’s departure and he barely made it through the rivers of Hraes’ before they began freezing over.  Worldwide cooling was prevailing, heralding an end to the five hundred year warming period, and the rivers were freezing over a few days earlier than they had been previously.  The Prince made a mental note to keep that in mind.  The weather was more erratic going from warming to cooling than it was when going from cooling to warming, because hot weather was a lot more volatile than cold weather.  There was a lot more energy in the warm systems than in the cool ones, so, extremes of heat could be experienced while the cooling trend took over.  The change, itself, caused volatility, the type that could result in flooding as had happened in England but had been blamed on Prince Valdamar’s Unicorn curse that had paralyzed and killed King Athelred.  While it was possible that the Unicorn curse had paralyzed Athelred and the incapacitation may have contributed to his death, it had nothing to do with the flooding that had accompanied it.

Queen Emma was waiting for The Prince when he arrived in Southampton late, but she wasn’t worried because Erik had sent messages with the merchant fleet that he would be delayed.  They’d been instructed to leave out the reason for his delay, war not being a very reassuring excuse.  She met him on the main quay and as they walked towards her city Erik asked, “Have you ever been to Gardariki?”

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:

A.D. 1021.  This year King Knute, at Martinmas, outlawed Earl

Thurkyll; and Bishop Elfgar, the abundant giver of alms, died in

the morning of Christmas day.

The Prince Erik’s New Chronicle of the Hraes’ for the year read:

(1021 AD)  Bryachislav, son of Izyaslav, grandson of Valdamar, came

and captured Novgorod, and having taken the people of Novgorod and

their property, he returned to Polotsk.  When he arrived at the Sudomir’

River, Ivaraslav came thither from Kiev after a seven days’ march.  He

conquered Bryachislav, and returned the people of Novgorod to their city,

while Bryachislav fled back to Polotsk.  In the fall, the Kasogians attacked

the Principality of Tmutorokan and Prince Mstislav drove them back.



Back To Table of Contents

(1022 AD)  The Prince and Queen Emma visited with King Canute and Princess Aelfgifu in Winchester and Erik told Valdy about his plan to expand King Sweyn’s Viking fortress on the Meduna River on Wight into a western Gardariki, a city with a castle in which to store half of the Hraes’ gold treasure of their trading company.  “The mobile legion we have there would be permanently stationed in the castle and the city would help Southampton provide goods for our Newfoundland trade,” he explained.  “We’ll rebuild Sweyn’s fortress into a proper stone castle using rock quarried from Emma’s quarries on Wight.  Knars will transport the stone down the Meduna to the Viking Harbour and we’ll start construction this year.”

“My quarries will be able to supply all the stone required for the castle,” Emma reassured Valdamar.

“How much gold are we talking about?” Valdy asked his grandfather.  He had no idea of what the Hraes’ Trading Company was worth these days.

“I’ll be bringing in about eighty thousand pounds of gold,” Erik replied, “and twice that amount in silver.”

“That’s half of the Hraes’ Red Gold Hoard?” Valdy asked, referring to the treasure by its old Roman name.  “I had no idea we had that much gold!”

“Your father planned on attacking Rome,” Erik reminded him.  “That was going to take a lot of gold.”

“So, we’re no longer attacking Rome?  Shouldn’t we be following my father’s wishes?”

“Sweyn had a claim to a share of the throne, as step-son of Constantine the Seventh,” The Prince elaborated, “through the marriage of Empress Helga with the Emperor.  That claim ended with him.”

“My wife, Anna Porphyrogennetos, was born of the purple and was a daughter of Constantine the Seventh, God rest her soul.  Wouldn’t I have just as strong a claim?”

“Theoretically,” Erik postulated, “but you would be considered a usurping uncle, and that’s a tough sell for Romans.  They’ve got that old Prince Brutus tale where he feigns madness to survive and overthrow his usurping uncle, King Tarquin.  You’d be seen as the usurping Uncle Vladimir ‘the Impaler’ taking away the rightful thrones of Basil and Constantine the Eighth.  It would NOT sell well.”

“Some of my sons are born of the purple and are grandsons of Constantine the Seventh,” Vlady protested.  “Wouldn’t they have a strong claim?”

“They might,” Erik agreed, “but they’re too busy squabbling amongst each other.  Hraes’ is fragmenting into a patchwork of petty principalities.  They’re half the reason I want half the Hraes’ gold here, in England.  I don’t want to keep all our eggs in one basket.”

“Especially golden eggs!” Valdy concurred.  “I had no idea the Romans took that Brutus story to heart so much.  Didn’t you write your own version of it?”

“The Amleth Saga,” Erik replied.  “Amleth means dull like the Roman name Brutus.  But Prince Amleth was actually King Bjorn ‘of the Barrows’ of Sweden.  He played a mad prince to escape my wrath when I usurped the Swedish throne from his father, King Alrick, and when I succumbed to my wounds from killing Alrick, he took back the throne and was going to kill me instead.”

“Ah, yes,” Valdy said, looking at their wives, “the Head Ransom Drapa!”

“We know that one!” the women chimed in.  “All princesses know that one!”

“Yes,” Erik said.  “I played the mad poet and wrote a drapa for my dead wife, Gunwar, and when he heard it, he was so pleased, he offered to help me avenge her death if I wrote him a like drapa overnight.  And he was true to his word.  He helped us defeat the Khazars at the Battle of the Goths and the Huns.”

“Are things really that bad between my sons in Gardar?” Valdy asked.

“I’m afraid so,” Erik answered.  “It’s not as bad as what you went through, but it could be a lot better.  Ivaraslav is still Grand Prince of Kiev, but Prince Bryachislav and Prince Mstislav are giving him a run for his title.”

“And my eldest Ivaraslav?”

“He’s content being Emperor Basil’s right hand with the Varangian Guard in Constantinople with his mother, Princess Sviataslava.”

“Then we’d best leave Rome alone,” Canute said.

“It would probably be for the best,” Prince Erik agreed.

As they were all in agreement, The Prince began construction of his new Gardariki in the west and Queen Emma threw herself, whole-heartedly, into the project and she reminded Erik of Princess Gunwar, when they’d built the first Gardariki, and he loved her for it.  While the Hraes’ legion engineers were digging test holes for foundation analysis, Emma had her designers from Portsmouth come out to Wight to start drawing up plans for the castle and the walled city that would surround it.  Prince Erik took workers in ships up the Meduna River and they reopened the quarries of their queen and began cutting stone.

While castle construction began, the people of Southampton were working on goods for trade in the Newfoundland and the tall ships were being readied for their spring sailing.  More Hraes’ trading posts were planned and more troops allocated for their defences and more Legions of the One-Legged for patrols.  The Prince was becoming even more paranoid of ravaging hordes of horse warriors after his conflict with the Kasogians so he was ordering that all horse sent to the Newfoundland be mares and the cavalry be bereft of stallions.

Profits from western trade were still in negative numbers and Hraes’ gold that had been hoarded for an attack upon the Romans was now being used for more peaceful purposes.  Compasses for the direct sailings were being purchased from Cathay and other navigational devices were being taken from the North African desert and were being adapted for marine use.  The ships of the desert, camels, were used a lot at night to avoid the excessive heat of day, and readings off stars were in constant use to keep caravans on track between oases, through the shifting desert sands.

Drawings and plans of Gardariki were completed by the time the tallships sailed and Prince Erik had approved them before heading east with the great merchant fleet so that construction could continue while he was in Baghdad and India.  Queen Emma monitored progress from Southampton and King Canute took his ships to Wight often to survey the work.

When the great fleet sailed past Polotsk, The Prince had a few words with Prince Bryachislav to try and patch things up between him and Prince Ivaraslav, and when they sailed past Kiev, The Prince did likewise with Ivaraslav.  Then he met up with Prince Mstislav at Cherson and learned that Prince Rededya of the Kasogians had been mollified, so far, with gifts, but would likely continue with fall raiding in Tmutorokan.  There were other problems with other princes to be handled as well, so, Erik was relieved when they finally arrived at the Caliph’s palace in Baghdad.  He spent a week in the city, most evenings being spent with Anise and Saffron, his trade agents there, before heading off to Ashaval and Mumba to spend time with his children and new Aesir wife there.  He also met up with his older concubine wife, Misha, and told her that he wanted to get her group working on mathematics for him.

“I thought the Guild was going to work on your theories with your new Aesir wife,” Misha complained.

“They are, but I know the kind of progress they make and I would like you to shadow them.  I’ll provide you with everything they do for me and we’ll see if you can accelerate things a bit.  We’re not as young as we used to be.”

“How is your new young Aesir wife?”

“Nika’s very young,” Erik repeated, “but she is a prodigy and I think you’ll be impressed with some of her proofs.”

“I meant in the sack,” Misha protested, poking him in the ribs.

“Well, she was very good, but now she’s very pregnant,” Erik said, getting up on one elbow.  “She throws up while we’re having sex now.”

“You should have used a glove.”

“She wanted to have a baby,” Erik protested.  “How could I not oblige her?”

“Okay, I’ll put the team together.”

“I was hoping you would.  I brought you some gold.”

“My team are volunteers,” Misha said.  “We don’t need your gold.”

“It’s for progress bonuses,” The Prince told her.  “We were going to attack Rome, but now we’re not, so I have some extra gold to speed things along.”

“Just as well then.  It’s going to be hard to model your theorem with your added dimension.  Time as a dimension?  I still have cosmologists trying to wrap their heads around that one!”

“I know!” Erik said.  “It makes my head hurt.”

The Prince’s Indian fleet made several sailings to Baghdad and back, taking untouchables north to increase slave sales and sailing back with Hraes’ products that were moving in India.  One item of inventory that particularly caught Erik’s eye was white African elephants for breeding purposes.  They were more of a light grey, but larger than Indian elephants and stronger for heavier work.  Some special costs were a lot of drugs for sedating the beasts during sailings and a lot of fodder.  

Nika had given The Prince a new young son and he spent some time with the baby, but was glad to head back to Baghdad and spend a final week there with Anise and Saffron before sailing north with Prince Mstislav and the great merchant fleet.  As they sailed along the Black Sea coast, they stopped in at the Kasogian city they had sacked the prior fall and they found it reinhabited, so they reconquered it and learned that Prince Rededya was, indeed, raising a raiding army to take into Tmutorokan in the next few weeks, so, the Hraes’ enslaved all the Kasogians of the city once more and the merchant fleet took the men, women and children of the city and surrounding lands west with them to Cherson and then north to the slave schools of Kiev.  The Prince and his young acolyte, Prince Mstislav, sailed back to Tmutorokan from Cherson and raised their legions again to face the new Kasogian threat.  Their legions awaited the Kasogian army at the same pass where they had beaten them the year before.  “We should await them here again,” Prince Erik told Mstislav.  “It worked out pretty well for us last time.”

The Kasogian army soon drew up in orderly array and some riders came forth carrying white standards.  “They want a parley,” The Prince said.  “A what?” Mstislav replied.  “They want to talk!”  So, the two Hraes’ princes rode out to meet the standard bearers and Prince Rededya then rode out from his forces to talk.

“Why should we destroy our forces by doing battle?  Let us rather fight in single combat ourselves.  If you win, you shall receive my property, my wife, and my children, and my Kasogia.  But if I win, I shall take your Tmutorokan.”

“Don’t do it,” Erik hissed.  “Our legions will win and we need the captives.”

“I heard that his wife is pretty hot,” Mstislav replied.

While they were discussing the offer, Prince Rededya upped the offer.  “If you’d rather, we could wrestle in the old Greco-Roman fashion instead of making single combat with swords.  I’m old,” he added, stroking his white beard.  “You’ll win for sure.”  He then pulled at his white moustaches and said, “My wife is young and very pretty.”

“He’s stronger than he looks,” Erik warned the young prince, “and Greco-Roman is fought naked and the loser is bent over.”

“I don’t intend to lose,” Mstislav answered.

“Don’t put yourself at risk!” Erik said.  “That is what I have been teaching you.”

“I accept your challenge!” Mstislav shouted in reply and he turned to The Prince and whispered, “I want all Kasogia, not just a few slaves.  With his wife as my own, I shall rule all of it.”

“Don’t do this,” Erik repeated.  “We can beat the Kasogians and take them as slaves and keep doing it for the next decade at least.  That is how your grandfather, King Sweyn would play it.”

“It’s too late,” Mstislav said, “I accepted his offer and he’s already getting ready.”

Prince Rededya was already standing on the dusty plain between the two armies and he was stark naked and his page was oiling up his body.  Mstislav was off his mount and stripping off his clothing and he told Rededya, “I’m Christian.  We aren’t allowed to fight completely naked.”  He stood in front of him in his underpants and began oiling up his own body.  What he didn’t tell Rededya was that he always kept a silver dagger hidden in his shorts.  As he had told his great grandfather, he did not intend to lose.

They began the Greco-Roman wrestling with a hand grip and they used strength and weight to try to overpower their opponent, and they struggled in this fashion for a full hour, coming to grips and struggling, then breaking apart.  Rededya’s greater strength and weight began to overcome Mstislav’s youthful endurance and, after another hour of wrestling, he picked Mstislav up and slammed him down onto the dusty plain, knocking him almost senseless.  Rededya picked him up by the hips and Mstislav could feel that the Kasogian was already hard with lust and was trying to penetrate him, but his underpants were blocking his thrusts, so, Rededya tore his shorts away and entered him from behind and the silver dagger fell into the dust on Mstislav’s left and Rededya began thrusting wildly into his anus and Mstislav exclaimed, “Oh Virgin Mother of God, please help me conquer this man!  If you gift me with a weapon to kill this man with, I will build a church in thy name.  Oh Virgin Mother please help me with this and I will build you a large stone church,” and the young prince went on with his prayers until he felt the older prince flowing within him, then he braced himself with his right hand and reached out with his left hand and picked up the knife and began stabbing back at Rededya’s ribs above his own back and he felt one last great pulse from Rededya within himself as the old prince collapsed onto his back, dead.

The young prince braced himself with both his hands and he shrugged backwards until Rededya’s lingam pulled free of his anus and the old prince fell away backwards into the dust.  The young prince was naked and stood before the troops and shouted, “He was trying to stab me with something long and hard and I thought it was a knife, so I prayed to our Sacred Virgin for a knife as well and she put a knife into the dirt at my side.  I only used it because Prince Rededya seemed to be trying to stab me with something.  I was so dazed and confused, but my prayers were answered.”

Prince Erik came up to Mstislav with a blanket and wrapped him up.  “You’re bleeding from behind,” he whispered “and the blood flows white.”

“I know!  He was trying to stab me!  But I managed to fight him off!” Mstislav shouted, still somewhat dazed, or acting so.  “Thank God the Virgin Mother made a miracle and saved me!”

The Kasogian army began to grumble that it was not a miracle, for Mstislav had used his left hand to slay their Prince Rededya, and this was a sign of evil.  Still, they did not want to fight the Hraes’ legions leaderless so, Prince Mstislav offered them a chance to join in his new army of his new land of Kasogia and he offered them a ten percent raise as well as booty rights.  The Kasogians agreed to pledge allegiance as long as the prince pledged them his protection so the Kasogians would not be bent over shields and enslaved.  Prince Erik was glad they had already reconquered and enslaved the one Kasogian port city to fulfil their slave requirements for the next trading season, for once they got to the capital city of Kasogia and Mstislav took Rededya’s wife for his own, The Prince knew they would not be raiding Kasogian lands for slaves anytime in the near future.

During Mstislav’s victory wedding feast, Erik stood drinking with his grandson, and said, “I know it was your knife that fell into the dust, but why did you take so long to use it?”

“I told you I had no intentions of losing,” Mstislav whispered, “but, while I was depriving Rededya of his life in a manner of which I am not proud, I thought at least I could allow him a death that all warriors wish for…to die focking   so I let him finish before I put my knife between his ribs.  I owed him that much.”

“That is focked on so many levels,” The Prince started, “that I’ve just got to respect the hell out of it!”  And he slapped Mstislav on the back and the young prince grimaced as his sphincter tightened.

“Do you want to hear something really focked up?” Mstislav asked his grandfather.

“Like that wasn’t focked up enough already?”

“I felt his spirit pass into me when he exploded inside me as he was dying,” Mstislav said, shaking his head, making his red hair dance.  “It felt like his spirit was passing right through me, but part of him stayed inside me.”

“I’ve been there,” Erik told him, deathly serious.  “Spirits are connected with death and they flow between the past, the present and the future.”

“Like the three Norns?”

“That’s a poetic simplification of it, but…yes.”  And Erik told him about his experiences with Myia and Princess Blaeja and their hit on the Mongol Khan from the future.

“That’s really focked!” Mstislav said.  “Now I don’t feel so bad about it.”

“I’ve told your father, Valdamar, what happened,” Erik said, “but let’s keep this spirit stuff between us.”

“I’m okay with that,” Mstislav replied.

The young prince rejoined his new Aesir-Aran wife on the first highseat of his new longhall.  She was the most beautiful girl in the country of the Alans, wonderfully handsome, a picture painted by the Sun, Princess Nado of the Burgalty clan.  Once they had spent enough time with their guests, Mstislav asked the young woman to show him to their master suite.  She took him by the hand and led him down the highseat steps and the revellers applauded as they walked through the hall to the bedchambers.  When they entered her master suite, Prince Rededya’s master suite, she led him to the edge of the bed, sat him down and began drawing his boots off.  She looked up into his eyes and she said, “You have the spirit of Iry Dada in you,” and she looked down at his feet and pulled his socks off.

“What?” The Prince said, sliding back onto the bed.

“It is okay,” she replied.  “I am an Aran witch.  I know about these things.  Prince Rededya’s Kasogian name was pronounced Iry Dada and he is inside you.  To me you shall be Mstiry Dada and I shall love you both.”  She began to undress her new prince and then she undressed herself in front of him and she could see that her new prince wasn’t stimulated by her nakedness so, she joined him on the bed and started stroking his member and she whispered “Mstiry Dada, Mstiry Dada,” as she stroked and Mstislav grew hard whether he had wanted to or not and Nado straddled his hips and she slipped his hardness into her softness and began to ride him, very gently at first, and then faster, and then harder, and she began coming and crying “Mstiry, Mstiry,” as she came and soon Mstislav exploded inside her and he kept coming and coming and flowing and flowing until a white stream came running out of Nado and began pooling on the prince’s abdomen.  “You flow for two,” she whispered as she collapsed onto his chest, breathing heavily.  She stayed on top of him for a long time and she hugged him lovingly.  “It is done,” she said.  “I can feel it within me.  I am pregnant.  We don’t have to make love anymore if you do not wish it.”

Mstislav hugged her back.  “Oh…I wish it!  I wish it!”  He had never come like that before in his life, so hard, and so long, with so much flow.  They slept together for a few hours and then Mstislav woke up and she was on top of him again.  “You were hard in your sleep,” she explained.  “I have potions that will help you keep up your flows,” and she began whispering “Mstiry Dada, Mstiry Dada,” as she rode him.

Prince Erik took his small personal merchant fleet back out into the Black Sea and sailed past Cherson to the mouth of the Dnieper and they tried to catch up to the tail end of the great fleet, but it was already past Kiev when he stopped in the city to visit with Grand Prince Ivaraslav.  “I hear that Prince Mstislav ‘the Fierce’,” Ivaraslav began, “is now Mstislav ‘the Focked’,” and he laughed as he recollected the news he had heard of the duel between Mstislav and Prince Rededya of the Kasogians.

“It may have looked that way,” Prince Erik said, “but Mstislav told me he missed the mark.”

“That’s not what I heard!” Ivaraslav said.  “I heard some people say they saw him flow white, standing there dazed and confused, with a bloody dagger in his hand and flowing white come from his ass!”

“Don’t tell him that,” Prince Erik warned him.  “Prince Mstislav had his reasons for fighting Iry Dada.  He is going to build a church to thank the Virgin Mother for her help in the fight.”

“Yes!  I heard she gifted him a knife while he was being focked up the ass!  That church better be made of stone,” Ivaraslav said.  “Long hard stone!”

“No good will come of you making bitter jest of the occurrence.  Mstislav won and now has a beautiful young Alan wife, Princess Nado.”

“He already has a Orthodox Christian wife,” Ivar objected, “and she’s the daughter of one of your Roman Princesses in Gardariki isn’t she?  And he’s only allowed the one wife.”

Ivar was referring to the three Roman Porphyrogennetos princesses The Prince had taken to Gardariki to help him organize the library of Cherson there.  They were all pregnant when he settled them into their library positions in his palace in Gardariki, so he did the right thing and he married them in the Aesir fashion and they had been bearing him Porphyrogennetos daughters annually ever since.  He had been marrying off some of their daughters to the various Princes of Hraes’ that Valdamar had fathered to try and build some form of cooperation between Valdy’s sons, but he had kept the Porphyrogennetos part secret for their own security, however, he did maintain their paperwork.

All princes are allowed an extra Aesir wife,” Erik corrected him, “to take them to Valhalla if they aren’t allowed in heaven.  It is a tradition begun by your great uncle, Duke Rollo of Normandy.”

“King Hraelauger!” Ivar said, sitting down and taking a long draught of mead.  “I haven’t heard that name in ages!  Did he really do that?  Is there really an Aesir witch sharing his sarcophagus with him in the Cathedral of Rouen?”

“That’s what I’ve been told,” Erik replied, “and by your great grandmother, Queen Alfhild.  The ghost of Alfhild, that is,” he corrected himself.”

“Did she really fock you?  Right here in King Frodi’s hall?  Her spirit, that is.”

“A gentleman doesn’t say,” Erik said.

“She’s been dead for over a century,” Ivar protested, “and it’s her ghost anyway!”

“Still,” Erik repeated, “a gentleman doesn’t say.”

“Fine!” Ivar said.  “I won’t call Mstislav ‘the Focked’.”

“Mstislav ‘the Fierce’ it is,” The Prince reminded him, “just as you are Ivaraslav ‘the Wise’.”

“Yes, Grandfather,” Ivar said as he walked with him to the main quay of Kiev.

Prince Erik did not catch up with the great merchant fleet until he was almost upon England and then it was only the tail remnant of the fleet, the Normans, the Angles and the Irish.  He passed them all with his smaller faster personal fleet and he could see the masts of all the tallships as he approached the harbour of Southampton.  Queen Emma was waiting for him on the main quay there and he could see that she was relieved when she saw him.

“Some Norman merchants stopped in on their way back from Baghdad,” she explained, “and they said you’d be late again because you had to fight the Kasogians again!”

“Well, we won again,” The Prince told his wife, “and it should be for good this time,” and he told her about Prince Mstislav’s personal combat with Prince Iry Dada as they drank wine in her palace together and he did not spare her any of the details.

“Is his new wife really an Aesir witch?” she asked him.

“She is of the Aesir-Aran faith and purported to be the greatest witch of the Alans,” he replied.

“The Alans are everywhere,” she said.  “Even the Basques, those sneaky mother fockers, are supposed to have come from eastern Alan stock!”

“These are the original mountain Alans of the Aryans!” The Prince assured her.  “She’s a princess of the Burgalty clan and they go way back past Zoroaster.”

“No!  Really?” she said.  “Is she going to be his suttee wife?  Like King Gorm’s wife?”

“Queen Thyra wasn’t an Aesir witch, but she didn’t have to be.  They were both Aesir.  King Harald ‘Bluetooth’ was the first to convert to Christianity of the Knytlings in Denmark.”

“So was this ‘Bluetooth’ buried with an Aesir witch,” Emma whispered.

“King Sweyn told me that Harald wasn’t even buried with his own head!” Erik whispered back.  “Sweyn needed it, blue tooth and all, to show the Roman Emperors that he had killed him and was then worthy of his Roman throne.”

“And those focking yonis never gave it to him!” Emma hissed.

“I always told him that the Romans would poison him if he took the throne in Constantinople anyway,” he told her, “but it ended up being the English who poisoned him.”

“Well,” Emma consoled him, “you were half right.”

Prince Erik spent the rest of the day unloading chests of gold he had fetched from Gardariki into the Don Jon of Queen Emma’s palace.  The next day Emma took her husband to Wight and showed him the progress on his new Gardariki.  He saw King Canute’s ships all hauled up onto the beach of the harbour for the winter.  “Next fall,” she started, “you’ll be able to unload your gold into your own Don Jon in King Sweyn’s castle!”

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:

A.D. 1022.  This year went King Knute out with his ships to the

Isle of Wight.  And Bishop Ethelnoth went to Rome; where he was

received with much honour by Benedict the magnificent pope, who

with his own hand placed the pall upon him, and with great pomp

consecrated him archbishop, and blessed him, on the nones of

October.  The archbishop on the self-same day with the same pall

performed mass, as the pope directed him, after which he was

magnificently entertained by the pope himself; and afterwards

with a full blessing proceeded homewards.  Abbot Leofwine, who

had been unjustly expelled from Ely, was his companion; and he

cleared himself of everything, which, as the pope informed him,

had been laid to his charge, on the testimony of the archbishop

and of all the company that were with him.

The Prince Erik’s New Chronicle of the Hraes’ for the year read:

(1022 AD)  Ivaraslav went to Brest.  At this time Mstislav, who

was in Tmutorokan, attacked the Kasogians and was victorious.

When he returned to Tmutorokan, he founded a church dedicated

to the Holy Virgin and built it of long hard stone.



Back To Table of Contents

(1023 AD)  After Yulefest and Christmas had been celebrated in London, King Canute returned to Winchester and Queen Emma and Prince Erik returned to Southampton.  Emma had been holding back some information on the last Newfoundland trading season until she got some confirmations from her Norman sea captains in Rouen.  They had sailed straight from New Ireland in the Newfoundland to Rouen, so Queen Emma had invited them to London over the festive season because she wanted to hear their tales directly from them before making Prince Erik aware of the developing problem.

“We had some trouble with the Greenlanders last trading season,” the queen told her husband.  “I didn’t want to bring it up with you until I received some confirmations.”

“What have they done now?” Erik asked wearily.  “They’re supposed to keep to the north end of the Island of New Ireland and we’re to keep to the south end.”

“The problem isn’t in New Ireland,” Emma said.  “It’s in the interior of the Newfoundland.”  Erik sat up as she continued, “Some Greenlanders in York boats were captured trading on the Mis Sis Sippi River.”

“They’re not supposed to be there,” Erik said.  “They’re not allowed on the Kanata River or across our Nia Gara Falls portage to even get there!”

“Apparently they didn’t use the river or go past the falls,” Emma responded.  “That’s what I wanted confirmed.  They’ve found a route straight west from Greenland into the Newfoundland and they take an inland river to the Mis Sis Sippi.  They were captured by one of our longships at the north end of Le Miz.”

“So, what happened?”

“Our longship captain decapitated one of them and sent the rest back north in their boats.  He told them if they ever came back, he would execute them all.”

“He should have brought the man back here instead of killing him,” Erik said.  “Then we could interrogate him, get names, numbers and routes so we can stop them.”

“My captain said that if he’d taken one of them, the rest would have trailed his ship to rescue the captive.  He gave them the body, but he kept the man’s head.  He claims our Aesir witches can make the head talk.”

“Perhaps Witch Hallveig can get it to talk, but the head has to be properly preserved in order for that option to work.”

“Our captain’s cabin boy is actually a young girl who is also an apprentice witch of Rouen.  She did some preservation work in the Newfoundland, but they sailed straight to Rouen to have her coven witch do the final work on it as quickly as possible.  By doing it this way, our captain figures we can get the intel without the Greenlanders even suspecting that we’ve got it.  We can lay a trap for them this spring in case they come back.”

“Oh, they’ll be back alright!” Erik said, rubbing his hands together.  “And they’ll fock up our relations with the natives there.  They always end up getting into battles with the Skraelings, as they call them.  They’re all warrior farmers, not professionals, like our Hraes’ traders, and they all take after Erik ‘the Red’!”

“The captain brought me the head,” Emma said.  “Do you want to send for Witch Hallveig or should we get a witch from Rouen?”

“Where is it?” Erik asked, looking about the master suite.  Then he followed Emma’s eyes up to the headboard of their bed.  He saw the special wooden box that witches kept heads in, the plain type.  “Gross!” Erik complained.  “That head has been watching us while we’ve focked the past week?”

“It’s quite a handsome head,” Emma teased.  “When I pictured his face instead of yours while I was riding you, I’d come three times!”

“Don’t joke about that!” Erik said.  “Not after all the shit Mstiry Dada has been through with his new Aran witch wife!”

“Don’t be such a pussy!” Emma told him, laughing.

“I’ll send for Witch Hallveig,” Erik answered her.  “I brought some more of that Zombie drug and antidote from India.  I want her to help us with an experimental use for it.”  Erik laid back on the bed again and said, “Why don’t you ride me again and come three more times?”

“Do you want me to move the head?”

“I don’t give a shit,” he said.  “Maybe he’ll decide to join in with us.”  And he pulled Emma onto his hips.

After they’d had sex under the Greenlanders head for an hour or so, Erik told Emma, “It’ll take a week to get a message up to York and a week for Hallveig to come down here.  Perhaps we can speed this up a bit?”

“A witch of Rouen would be quicker,” Emma agreed.

“I need Hallveig for the experiment,” Erik said.  “Do we have a witch here in Southampton?”

“We only have healers here,” Emma answered.  “Come on,” Erik prodded.  “No, really,” she protested.  “We’re Christians here.”  Erik looked at her and again prodded, “Come on.”  Emma sat up this time.  “I did invite that captain here in case you wanted to question him directly.  And he had his cabin boy with him.”

“And just how old is his cabin girl?”

“She’s about two years too young.”

“She’s only ten?  And she can preserve a head already?  She’s good!”

“That’s what the captain said.”

“Can you send for them?”

“They’re right here in the palace.  I gave them a guest suite.  They make a cute couple.”

Emma and Erik dined that evening with the cute couple and the girl was cute and blonde and the captain was about thirty and handsome and blonder.  They had been told that the young girl’s talents would be needed for a séance later so she came with her wand and magics kit and he carried her witch’s outfit for her.  After their meal in the highseat hall, they retired to Emma’s master suite and Witch Nadege undressed and stood naked in front of them as Captain Henri shook out her dress for her.  The girl saw the head box on the headboard of the bed and said, “Will it be involved?” and she walked over to the headboard and reached for it but was too short.  Erik followed behind her and brushed against her side as he took the box off the top and passed it to her.  “I think you knew it would be,” he answered, and he noticed she had quivered as he brushed against her.

“I think she came when you brushed her,” Emma whispered as he rejoined her and she gave him a little shot on the arm.

“I hope she can handle this,” Erik responded.

The girl was busy working on the head.  She took it out of the box and placed it on a silver platter and she was carving a rune stick to put under its tongue and her captain helped with the carving as she got dressed in her witch outfit.  Erik drank his antidote and Emma put hers on her lips and they measured out the correct amount of Zombie drug into two vials.  The drug doses sat on a bed table and the witch brought the head over to it and set it down beside the vials as both Emma and Erik got naked beside her.  They both sucked back the drug and got on the bed and Emma shook Erik’s lingam until it was big and hard and they started focking missionary style on the silk sheet.  Witch Nadege turned the head a bit so it could watch better and she put the rune stick under its tongue and its bright green eyes blinked open.

Erik was thrusting into Emma hard and fast by now and, as they were coming, their spirits left their bodies and they were flying now in the dusky English air and they flew past London on their starboard and then over Northampton on their port side and were soon above York, and their bodies were back in Southampton in a state of orgasm the whole time, if time, indeed, was passing.  They circled above Castle York, where the Hraes’ store sat, and they entered Witch Hallveig’s master suite through a shuttered window and it flew open and slammed shut behind them so hard that Jarl Eirik almost had a heart attack as he was focking the witch, but Hallveig sensed who it was because she’d thrown a fine fock or two into Prince Erik after the Battle of Assandun and she got out from under the Jarl and she walked across the room and Erik could see that she was still Irpa blessed because her naked skin was like silvered metal and her body was perfect.

Witch Hallveig opened up a fine crafted box on her sideboard and in it was Thurkil Nefia’s head, Olaf Tryggvason’s brother, and she put a rune stick under its tongue and she listened to it talk.  Jarl Eirik stood right behind her, naked as a hatchling, and he watched in excitement.  If there were talking heads involved, he was in.  “Prince Erik wants us to come to Southampton for some witchcraft,” Hallveig told her jarl, “as quickly as possible.”

“Does it involve talking heads?” Jarl Eirik asked her.  She stood up and turned to face him and she rubbed her perfect metalled body against his and Erik and Emma watched the jarl grow hard again and Hallveig whispered, “Yeeesss!”

“We’ll leave tomorrow!” the jarl said.  “If there’s talking heads involved, I’m in!”

Hallveig turned around again and bent over and whispered a reply to Thurkil’s head as the jarl entered her from behind and began thrusting in and out of her.  Emma and Erik watched from above as the jarl ploughed the perfect witch a long furrow, totally oblivious to the fact that they, themselves, were coming while focking in Southampton.  As they were still focking hard in their bed, the young girl whispered a request into one ear of the head and then listened to the Greenlander mumble some words and she told her captain, “I think he said they’ll be leaving York tomorrow!”  They heard a noise coming from the bed and they both watched as Erik began franticly focking Emma, who had just died, and he soon exploded inside her and then he died, himself, and collapsed on top of her.  A minute later Emma came back to life and she kissed Erik on the lips and she kept kissing him until he sprang back to life.  Then they hugged each other deeply.

“They were focking hard like that for over an hour,” Captain Henri told Witch Nadege.  “I know,” she said, looking down at the upturned toes of her shoes with little silver bells hanging from the tips.  She felt flushed.

“What did Witch Hallveig say?” Queen Emma asked, getting out of bed and walking over to them naked.  “They’re leaving York tomorrow and should be here in a week,” the young girl told her queen.  Emma sat down at a chair and took up a glass of wine from the bed table and began drinking it thirstily.  The girl took off her witch’s outfit and passed it to her captain.  Emma passed the girl a glass of wine and waved towards Erik.  As the young naked girl took The Prince his wine, Emma passed another glass of wine to the captain.  Erik was laying naked on the far side of the bed, so Nadege had to crawl up on the bed to pass the glass to him and he caught her about the wrist with one hand and took the glass with the other and sipped as he drew her towards himself and he put the glass on the headboard and he began to kiss her all over her young body as the head on the night table watched and then he pulled the girl across his hips and she mounted him slowly because he had grown quite large and she began to ride him as Emma and the captain sat and sipped wine and watched.  Emma thought of Brother Thomas back in Rouen and she wished for a second that he had raped her properly, not just anally, in that stable in Rouen, and she looked over at the captain and she could see through his pants that he had grown hard watching his ‘cabin boy’ having sex with his prince, so she got up and walked over to him and she unbuttoned his pants and took out his lingam and sucked it to wet it and then she sat facing him on his lap and she took him in herself anally and she began to ride him.  ‘Erik’s right,’ she thought as she rode her captain, ‘the Guild’s Elixir of Life drug does make you randy as hell!’

A week later, Jarl Eirik and Witch Hallveig arrived in Southampton from York and they brought a guest along.  Queen Emma and Prince Erik were on the main quay to greet them and when shown the guest they responded in unison, “You brought King Sweyn’s head?”

“He was stirring,” Hallveig said, “and making noises inside his box.  I thought he might have been upset because you had me awaken Jarl Thurkil instead of him, but that wasn’t it.”

“What is it then?” the two said in unison again.

“I don’t know,” the witch replied.  “But something’s up, so we brought him along.”

That evening, they took Eirik and Hallveig to their master suite and introduced them to the young apprentice witch, Nadege, and her captain.  Nadege marvelled at the richly crafted oak and walnut box they brought and she was told it held King Sweyn.  “I put preliminary spells on this Greenlander’s head,” the app-witch began, “back in the Newfoundland and our head coven witch finished the spells in Rouen, but, outside of the message, we haven’t done a thing with it.”

“And sending the message tete-a-tete, is that a witch of Rouen thing?” Hallveig asked the girl.  “I’ve never seen it done before!”

“No ma’am,” the girl said, bowing slightly.  “That was The Prince’s idea.”

Hallveig looked over to Erik, impressed.  “Did I fock a bit of warlock into you after Assandun?”

“We used an Alchemist Guild drug,” Erik answered, pulling Emma close to his side.  “It’s guild science, not witchcraft.”

“You focked her?” Emma whispered.

“Guild science!” Hallveig said with contempt as she looked at the Greenlander’s head sitting in its plain box on the bed table.  Jarl Eirik set King Sweyn’s head down beside it.

“You saw her body in York,” Erik whispered.  “Wouldn’t you?”

Hallveig bent over to study the rune stick that sat beside the head in the box.

Emma remembered York and Jarl Eirik driving his member into that bent over ass before her and whispered back, “I want to fock it now!”

Witch Hallveig straightened up and told the girl, “You did a fine job.”

Captain Henri poured out some fine Frankish sparkling wine and passed glasses around to everybody except the girl.  They gathered chairs about the bed table as though to start a seance and Hallveig took the rune stick out of the Greenlanders box and began to carve a few new runes into it, sipping wine between cuts.  She heard a slight noise and she opened King Sweyn’s box as well.  “He stirs,” she said, but no one could see his head move.  They all crowded their chairs around the one side of the round table, the open box side, and they watched as Hallveig put the rune stick under the thick tongue of the Greenlander.  “Sit beside me,” the witch told the wee app-witch, and Nadege slid her chair nearer and the two witches worked elbow to elbow.  They whispered incantations together and they said spells and they called on the spirit of the Greenlander and his green eyes blinked open suddenly, and Emma started back and spilt some wine and Erik put his arm around her.  “His name is Thorbjorn Ketilson,” Hallveig announced.  “What is it you wish to ask?”

“Have him tell us of the new route the Greenlanders have found into the Newfoundland.”

Hallveig whispered the request into the ear of the head and the girl listened intently to the unintelligible words she used.  She was speaking in tongues and the head was soon answering in kind.  “He does not wish to tell us,” Hallveig said.

“Can you compel him?” Emma asked.

“I can, but that will take time and it could be a lot of time.”

“Offer him the girl,” Erik said.

“What?” Hallveig asked.

“Offer him sex with Nadege,” The Prince repeated.

“How am I going…?” and Hallveig turned to the head and offered it sex with the girl.  The head mumbled a response and the app-witch translated it.  “He wants the sex first,” she said.  “Are you willing?” The Prince asked.  “I don’t know how to go about it,” she replied.

“Trust me,” Erik whispered and he could feel Emma squeezing his hand.

Nadege mumbled her own response into the head’s other ear as Hallveig monitored her tongue-speak.  “He agrees!” the young witch told everybody.

Everybody was impressed with this but then wondered how it was to be done.

“You saw us last week,” Erik told the young witch and her captain, “when we had sex to send that message.  Now it’s your turn, and you are going to love it!”

The Prince showed Hallveig the new Alchemist Zombie drug and the antidote and he began to explain its use.

“That’s not new,” Hallveig said.  “It’s African and it’s Magi.  Jesus, the Christian’s prophet used it to raise Lazarus from the dead.”

“Exactly,” Erik agreed, “and he used it to raise himself from the dead, but that use is purely physical, known only to a few healers and high witches, but known.  The Alchemist use of the drug is a new spiritual science being used by the Cosmologists of India.”

Hallveig was impressed.  “You sent your message through spirits?”

“We were the spirits,” Erik said, hugging Emma beside him.  “We carried the message to York, from the Greenlander, Thorbjorn, to Thurkil.  We watched Eirik plough you from behind as you were talking to Thurkil’s head!”

Hallveig looked at Jarl Eirik and he looked at her and they were both very impressed.  Just then a messenger came in with a request for Jarl Eirik at the Viking fortress on Wight and he had to leave unexpectedly.  Erik went on with his explanation of the drug and Emma mixed up the antidotal lip gloss as Erik gave Henri a dose of antidote with his wine.  Erik pored measures of the Zombie drug into vials as the witch and her captain doffed their clothes.  He gave one vial to Nadege and she sucked it down and they waited five minutes, watching Emma’s waterclock drip on the sideboard, and then Henri sucked back his and they went to the bed and Henri laid back and the girl sucked him hard and got him wet before straddling his hips and lowering herself onto him.  She began her slow rhythmic ride and dead eyes watched, both green and blue, and Erik walked over to his grandson’s head and he closed the box saying, “Your turn comes later.”

The couple were focking hard by now and picking up speed and were coming when Witch Hallveig watched the spirit of the dead Greenlander rise out of the box and flow across the room and into the handsome captain, who was now on top of the app-witch and driving her fiercely.  Only Hallveig could see the spirit, but Erik could sense it.  The spirit was now inside the coming captain and the young witch was writhing orgasmically below them.  The others turned their chairs about and watched them focking and they drank wine and Emma brought out Khazar Vayar and English wafers and they enjoyed themselves and were necromancing voyeurs for an hour.  Then the young app-witch died.  Her captain sped up his thrusts and they could see the girl was bleeding a bit and Erik, concerned, got up and stood at the head of the bed.  But the captain soon exploded inside her and the spirit with him and then Henri died and collapsed on top of her and Erik held the captain’s weight off of the girl a bit as the spirit left his body and Hallveig saw it return into the head as she helped revive the girl, who began kissing her captain fiercely until he, too, awoke.  The two lovers fell into each other’s arms and then blissfully fell asleep and Erik covered their naked bodies in silks and he returned to his chair beside Emma.  She held his hand and squeezed it because she knew the bliss the witch and her captain were in right then.

“Now ask the head again,” Erik told Hallveig.  The old witch who looked young in her silver metalled beauty sat in awe of the even older Prince who looked young too, though not of silvered skin, but of golden spirit, and she fell in love with him just as she had loved Sweyn.  “Tell us now of the new route your Greenlanders have found into the Newfoundland,” she said.

She listened to the mumbling of Thorbjorn, while she opened Sweyn’s fine box, and then she told Erik and Emma, “They’ve found a route straight west from Greenland to an inland bay that is larger than the Baltic Sea, and they take one of the rivers that flows into it and they sail a bit west and then straight south to a portage they’ve made to your Mis Sis Sippi River.  One great bay to the west and one great river straight south and they portage directly into your river that flows through the ‘Valley of the Mound Builders’.  It’s surprisingly quick once you’ve got the route down.  He thanks the girl.”

“Ask him quick, before he leaves, what is death?”

Hallveig had asked spirits that before, and they never answered, but she asked the Greenlander the question anyway.

“It is just blackness,” the head mumbled in tongues.  “A vast Ginungagap of nothingness.  I shall relish my time with your girl my whole death.”  Hallveig translated.

“Tell him to go back,” Erik said.  “Go back through his death and to his life.  There he’ll find his consciousness and a path to eternity and the universe.”

Hallveig told Thorbjorn this and the head said it would try and then the green eyes closed.  The witch closed his box and she looked at Erik in disbelief.  “They’ve never answered me,” she told him.  “The spirits have never told anybody about death.  Why would he tell you that?”

“Perhaps because I know the answer already?” Erik replied questioningly.

“This has been quite the night!” Hallveig said.  She had never seen so much new witchcraft, or science, in her long life.

“By the way,” Erik told her, “we are just getting started.”

By now the young witch had awakened and she came over and stood naked beside Emma.  The queen put a red shawl around the girl’s shoulders that would have covered her breasts if she’d had any, and her captain came over from the bed and sat down naked and took Nadege onto his lap and they listened as Erik told them what had happened to Prince Mstislav in Tmutorokan.

“The Greenlander is a cooperative spirit,” Prince Erik started, “and when he entered your body, Henri, to have sex with Nadege, the drug allowed you to share her together in a mutually beneficial way, and when you died, he returned to his own head.  The spirit of Iry Dada is an intrusive one with half a mind of its own.  Only half the spirit returned to its head and the other half stayed hidden within Prince Mstislav, so, his Aesir witch wife now calls him Mstiry Dada, and Mstislav wants the half spirit removed, so , we are going to experiment and find a spell that will accomplish this.  Witch Hallveig is going to ask King Sweyn if he will join us in this.”

The Prince wanted to keep his growing list of potential uses for the drug to himself so, he kept a lot of the details private and he mulled them over as the witch, Hallveig, spoke in tongues with Sweyn.  “He agrees to it,” the witch said when she was done.  Then  Hallveig went through several scenarios with the wee witch, Nadege, and Erik took his antidote and showed Henri what he had to do, and Emma got her lip gloss on and began getting naked, and Hallveig and Erik were right behind her and they all got together upon the bed.  The Prince wanted to extend and enhance the effects of the poison so, he took a half dose to start with and Emma then took her full dose, while the Young witch worked her spell upon King Sweyn’s head and his spirit flew up across the room and entered Erik.  The Prince could feel the pent up lust within Sweyn for Emma, and Erik was already hard and ready for her, but he let her suck on his lingam to get it harder yet, and wet.  Emma wanted it well wetted, for she could see Sweyn’s fire in Erik’s eyes.  Erik let Sweyn take over and he marvelled at how he was sharing Emma with the spirit of his dead grandson, a woman they both loved very deeply, in very similar, yet very different ways.  Emma worried that the gift of Irpa that Sweyn had been blessed with might carry over to Erik now that they were thus combined, and Hallveig rested her silver metalled perfect body and watched as Erik entered her queen.  Emma’s worries were justified as she felt Erik’s lingam swelling large within her as it stroked in and out and Emma knew it was Irpa’s gift and she was glad she had worked on The Prince.  Erik and Emma were soon coming together and they focked hard for an hour and Sweyn was controlling the pleasuring as Erik worked at methods to evict the spirit mentally and, when that failed, the young app-witch worked with Hallveig on spells that might drive him out, but Hallveig was getting worked up watching them and she knew her goddess Irpa was involved and she was soon laying back and pleasuring herself beside Emma and getting Nadege to help out with the masturbation and then Emma died and Erik took over from Sweyn and frantically began focking her hard and fast until both Erik and Sweyn exploded within her and they flowed until they filled her and their thrusts pumped their flow out of her and it pooled on the silk sheets between her legs and the Erik collapsed dead on top of her and Sweyn left his body and flew about the room and the young witch helped revive Emma and then Emma began kissing Erik with her glossed lips until he came back to life.

Hallveig was a sexual panther by now and she prowled across the bedsheets and she began lapping up the flow that had spilled out of Emma on the silk and she could taste Erik and Sweyn and traces of Emma and as soon as Erik was revived and recovering, she sucked back her poison.  Erik had to rush and take his second dose of antidote and he waited a bit and took his second half dose of poison and then Hallveig was on him like a silver sheened cat and she was between his legs sucking him hard as he laid back and let Sweyn take over and Hallveig could taste Emma on his cock and she got hotter and got atop him and ran his hard shaft deep within herself and as she rose and fell she felt the Irpa coming out in them and she took it all fiercely and Sweyn responded with the thrusts of a man long dead and well rested and he savoured her sensations and the two of them focked like wild cats for half an hour and Erik tasted blood and discovered it was his own as Sweyn and Hallveig scratched and clawed at each other while getting into positions that the Kama Sutra would have baulked at.  Erik had to ease back into control and get Nadege to try some more spells to drive Sweyn out, but he saw the young witch laying on the bed with her captain inside her and they were focking on the other side of Emma as she recovered.  The young witch looked across at Erik apologetically as the captain ploughed a furrow and the girl began moaning like the young girl she was and the captain was soon flowing inside her and when he was done she pushed him off her and began chanting spells into Erik’s ear.

None of the spells and charms were working and, as the young witch squatted over the resting Emma, her white flow began leaking out upon the queen and Emma began lapping it up and she followed the stream and began lapping the young witch’s clitoris and licking up the flow and the witch became distracted and coming as she tried out her spells.  And while Emma was lapping the wee witch, her captain had swung about and was now lapping at Emma’s clitoris and she was soon moaning too.  The experiment was getting out of control as if the sex drug had hallucinogenic powers as well, but nobody was hallucinating.  The ecstasy was real.  And while Erik was observing all this, Sweyn and Hallveig had gotten back into stride and were focking harder than ever and were both coming together and Erik was drawn into the ecstasy as well and he got atop Hallveig’s soft metalled frame and did some thrusting of his own and her body was perfect in both fit and form and Erik and Sweyn both went wild on her and she died.  They both thrust into her harder and faster and they exploded within her and flowed and flowed and the queen and young witch put some silks beneath Hallveig to catch the overflow because they sensed that she would want it, and then Erik fell dead upon her metalled breasts and they grew soft and pliable where his face touched them, but hard everywhere else.  Hallveig came back to life as the flow gushed inside her body and she took over for Emma, who was kissing Erik back to life and Hallveig applied her lip gloss to The Prince as well.  Emma pointed her over to the silk with the white pool upon it and the silver witch crawled over top it and began lapping it up while Emma resumed kissing Erik.  When Sweyn’s spirit left his body, Hallveig looked up from her drink and watched her king return to his head and she panicked a bit and went over to help Emma revive The Prince.

When Erik opened his eyes, Emma was above him kissing him and the captain and his young witch were going at it again and Hallveig was lapping at the crouching queen from behind and he could tell she was enjoying it.  Once Emma was sure Erik was recovering well, she gave him a sorry look and dove around at Hallveig and began kissing her clitoris and the two older women were pleasuring each other as the young witch and her captain were coming together once more.  The Prince laid back and rested and watched it all about him and he thought about how orgies were a Vanir Roman thing and they were all Aesir or worse and he wondered if the Brahman use of it as a sex drug was new or just an ancient use rediscovered.  Archives in Constantinople could perhaps tell him more and he made a mental note to personally take a shipment of Indian untouchables to the Romans in that city during the next trading cycle.  Erik got out of bed and took a long piss in the chamber pot of the dressing room and when the others had finished with their trysts he had glasses of wine for them.  They were all in a euphoric state and they cuddled together on the huge bed in great intimacy and soon fell asleep under the sheets.

The next morning they had breakfast brought to the master suite and they all sat about the bed table in various states of nakedness and ate and discussed their experiences with the experiment.  It was a general conclusion that things had gotten out of control and it was agreed that the Zombie drug had some unexpected attributes while being used as a sex drug.  But the attributes were not insurmountable and everybody agreed that further experimentation should be done to gather further data.  Jarl Eirik suggested that they rest up for one evening and get back at it the next while their experiences were fresh in their minds.  “We’ll have to consult with King Sweyn,” Witch Hallveig stated and they all turned and looked up at his box upon the headboard.  Then Erik looked at the scratches upon his arms and chest and was thankful for a night alone with Emma between sessions.

Jarl Eirik returned at noon from the Viking fortress and told Prince Erik that pirate ships had been spotted in the Channel to the west, Al-Andalus or Berber slavers, and that a town had gone missing in Cornwallis.

“What do you mean, a town?” Erik asked.

“The houses are there, the church and the store, but the people are missing, all of them, and all of their stuff.  It’s like King Sweyn’s raids, but Sweyn would follow Roman law when he sacked a town and he only took half of the residents, and he allowed three days for ransoming relatives.  These pirates are just kidnapping a town at a time.”

“King Canute was worried that something like this might happen,” Erik said.  “His ships have driven off all Viking slavers and they kept the Mediterranean slavers away.  That’s why he had all his ships stationed in Wight.”

“I sent a war fleet out after them,” Eirik said.  “I’ll lead another fleet after them when we’ve finished this talking heads business.  Sorry I was called away last night…how did it go?”

The Prince told him what had transpired and that it had gotten a bit out of control.  Erik also told him that they had decided to take a night’s break away from it and would resume the next evening.

“I was hoping it would carry on tonight,” Eirik said.

“Because of the pirates?”

“No.  Because I’m excited about this talking head stuff.  I can’t believe that you and Emma came to York carrying a message for us!”

“In spirit form only,” Erik reminded him.

“Still, we got the message loud and clear!” the Jarl exclaimed, and Erik could see by his eyes how the heads excited him.  “How was Sweyn?” he asked.

“He was randy as fock!” Erik said.  “He took over from me when we were focking Emma, and he went crazy focking Hallveig!  They both went crazy!” and Erik showed Eirik his arms.

“They did that?”

“Yeah, and Sweyn didn’t care because he was a spirit inside my body, and Hallveig has the metal skin that goes all soft and supple when you touch it, but try to scratch it and it’s like steel!  I need the night off just to recover.”

“So,” Eirik started slowly, “if Sweyn wants me it’ll be with your body?”

“Why would Sweyn want you?”

“Witch Hallveig made us Theban Band brothers.”

“THE Theban Band?  As in Thebes?  Aesir Greece?”

“Something like that,” Jarl Eirik said, a little embarrassed.

“Why would she do that?”

“Sweyn said it was to bind us together so we could win the Battle of Hjorungavagr, but later he suspected that Hallveig did it just to be bad,” and the jarl looked down at the table.

“It may have been to win,” Erik reassured him.  “Princess Blaeja, her spirit, told me just how close you guys came to losing that battle.  If you were bound by the oath of the Theban Band brothers, it might have made the difference.”

Jarl Eirik looked up brightly from the table, “Really?”

“The Theban Band fought miracles back in ancient times, until they were finally wiped out.  To the last man.  Like the Aesir Spartans at Thermopylae.  With an oath like that, you two would have brought a lot of hamingja into battle with you.”

“Hallveig bringing Thorgerder Helgibruder and then going full Irpa is what really helped us win that battle.  I don’t know why she couldn’t do it at Assandun,” Eirik pondered, “but if you hadn’t shown up with your legions we would have been toast!”

“I saw Thorgerder’s clouds heading straight for you.  Maybe she saw me coming up the river and didn’t want to steal my thunder?”

“That could be,” Eirik said.  “Helgi was your son, and she loved him, so, she wouldn’t want to step on your toes, no matter what Hallveig said or did.”

“Don’t tell Hallveig that,” Erik said.  “She focked me that night for saving her ass.  If she found out that Thorgerder turned away because of me, she might want that fock back.”

Jarl Eirik laughed, “How the fock’s she gonna get that fock back?”

“I don’t know, Eirik,” Erik said, “and I don’t want to find out!”

That night, Erik and Emma were in bed in her master suite cuddling and kissing, but they had both agreed to abstain from sex during their break.  Emma had Hallveig take all the heads into her suite so they weren’t bothered by noisy boxes and such, but there was something about the Greenlander that bothered Emma.  “What are we going to do about Greenlanders coming into our Newfoundland?” she asked her husband.

“Captain Henri wants to set a trap for them,” Erik answered.  “We’ll arrest them and bring them back to England for trial as raiders and we’ll allow King Olaf to ransom them if Olaf promises to restrict Greenlanders from trading in the Newfoundland, except for their traditional area north of New Ireland.  If we find them inland again, we’ll ban them from trading in their traditional land as well.  What do you think of that tack?”

“It sounds like a good plan for us, but a bad outcome for the Greenlanders,” Emma said.  “There is something about that Greenlander spirit that seems a little too accommodating.”

“In what way?”

“Well, he told you about death, and Hallveig was surprised because spirits don’t do that, and he gave us their route inland just for sex with Hallveig’s apprentice witch.  He was okay with entering Captain Henri’s body to fock Nadege, but it was the captain that took his head.  Why wouldn’t he have asked to use your body instead?”

“Well, the captain’s younger than I am, so, perhaps he was judging by age?  And he described death as just blackness, so sex with Nadege would look like a pretty good offer for someone coming out of months on end of blackness, and he told me about the blackness because he’s telling me nothing, of nothingness.”

“But nothingness is a lot!  He died by the sword.  Wouldn’t he be in Valhalla if it existed?”

“Greenlanders converted to Christianity over twenty years ago.”

“Well, heaven then!  Wouldn’t he be in heaven?”

“I don’t know.  You’re the Christian here.  You tell me.”

“Then, yes.  He’d be talking about heaven or hell or purgatory, but certainly not blackness!  He told you it’s all a fraud!”

“I used to think it was all a fraud,” Erik told her, “but I’ve seen too much to believe that anymore.  Just look at Hallveig!  She has skin of silvered metal!  Thorbjorn just has to find his way, find his consciousness.”

“I still don’t trust him,” Emma warned, as Erik began massaging her breasts through the silk sheets.

“I’d rather fock than talk,” he whispered.

“You’re lucky your drug makes me randy,” she whispered back and she slipped the silks out from under his hands.

The next evening the group joined Erik and Emma in her master suite and Jarl Eirik was not called away this time.  Witch Hallveig asked King Sweyn if he wanted to help with the experiment again, speaking in tongues.  “He agrees again,” the witch said, then went through several scenarios with the wee witch, Nadege, and Erik took his antidote and showed Henri and Eirik what they had to do, and Emma got her lip gloss on and began getting naked.  It had been decided that Witch Hallveig would sit out and run the experiment and keep it under control.  Erik undressed and joined Emma on the bed and he took a half dose of poison again and Emma then took her full dose, while the Young witch worked her spell upon King Sweyn’s head and his spirit flew up across the room and entered Erik.  The Prince once more felt the pent up lust within Sweyn for Emma, and she could see Sweyn’s fire in his eyes.  Erik let Sweyn take over again, as Hallveig monitored the possession.  Emma felt Erik’s hardness within her and the three were soon coming together and they took pleasure in each other for an hour and Sweyn was enjoying it as Erik worked again at methods to evict the spirit mentally while Hallveig cast spells to drive him out.  Witch Hallveig had used all her Aesir spells the prior evening so she went through her archives and was working on Vanir spells.  Witch Nadege stood by to help out if needed and Jarl Eirik and the captain stood by as well, but the captain got excited watching and he soon had the young witch naked on the bed and was focking her beside Erik and Emma.  When Emma died, Erik took over and frantically began focking her hard and fast until they exploded within her and then Erik collapsed dead on top of her and Sweyn left his body and flew about the room and the young witch was supposed to help revive Emma, but she was busy with her captain, so Hallveig stepped in and revived her, then Emma began kissing Erik with her glossed lips until he came back to life.

Hallveig watched her apprentice witch in the throes of orgasm as she covered for her and she was not pleased.  Nadege apologised and returned to her duties soon after.  Erik took his second dose of antidote and he waited a bit and took his second half dose of poison and then Eirik joined him on the bed and began sucking on his lingam.  Erik let Sweyn take over and Sweyn began taking Eirik from behind and he grabbed him by the hips and entered him and began thrusting slow and deep and soon all three of them were in a state of orgasm for the longest time.  Once more, the captain got on the bed with Witch Nadege and he began focking her wildly.  Nadege tried pushing him off but she was a young girl with a full grown man on top of her.  As Captain Henri was having his way with her, Witch Hallveig stopped her spell and watched them carefully and waved back Queen Emma when she tried to stop them.

“Go to my room and get the Greenlander’s head box!” Hallveig hissed at Emma.  By then, Eirik was taking Sweyn from behind and Erik thought that things were once more getting out of control.  Hallveig began casting a Vanir spell on the captain, a spell she had found in a book she was compiling in York with the help of Welsh witches from north Wales.  They were old Roman Vanir spells from before the flight, but no recent witches understood what they were for.  Hallveig flipped her manuscript open and began to read the elaborate Latin script and it started to make some sense to her.  Sweyn and Eirik were in deep embrace so she went over to the captain’s side of the bed and began reading over him as he was focking the young app-witch fiercely.  She was just completing the spell when Emma rushed in with the head box and Hallveig shouted, “Open it!”, and then started beating the captain on his bare back and buttocks until the half spirit of the Greenlander left the captain’s body and rose up into the air above and then was drawn straight into the head in the open box Emma was holding.  “Close it!” Hallveig shouted, but Emma already had it shut.

“I knew there was something off about that Greenlander” Emma said, passing the head box over to Hallveig while watching her husband thrashing around having sex with Jarl Eirik.

“It’s King Sweyn,” Hallveig told her.  “He’s been in control for the past hour.  It will be over soon.”

And Erik and Sweyn soon came hard within Eirik and Erik collapsed dead on top of his back and Eirik lowered himself onto the bed and Sweyn left Erik’s body and returned to his head and Hallveig watched closely to make sure it was his full spirit.  Emma rolled Erik off Eirik’s back and she began kissing her husband long and hard until he revived with a start and opened his eyes.  The captain and Nadege were at the bed table and they were both drinking wine and trying to recover from their experience with the Greenlander.  Soon, they were all at the table drinking and enjoying themselves and this progressed to the bed.

The next morning they had breakfast brought to the master suite and they all sat about the bed table in various states of nakedness and ate and discussed their experiences with the experiment.  It was a general conclusion that important things had been discovered and it was agreed that progress had been made in further uses of the Zombie drug.  But the attribute Jarl Eirik was really interested in was the messaging that could be done between heads.  Hallveig explained that they had set up a Welsh witch with rune sticks and spells and the head of Jarl Olaf and they wanted to communicate with young Jarl Haakon in York using Jarl Thurkil Nefia’s head from King Sweyn’s Viking fortress on the Isle of Wight.  That way Jarl Eirik could stay with King Canute’s warfleet in the south over the summer and destroy the Berber pirates before they caused more damage, but would still be able to assist his son in ruling York.

In the spring, Captain Henri led the tallships as they sailed for the Newfoundland, and Prince Erik and King Canute then led the great merchant fleet east while Emma continued with construction of King Sweyn’s stone castle and Jarl Eirik went to war with the Berber pirates of the Barbary Coast.

King Canute wasn’t going all the way east, he was just going as far as Roskilde to instil his official young son, Hardeknute, as ruler there.  Prince Erik left his son there under the care of King Canute and Queen-Mother Gyritha and carried on east with the merchant fleet.  Canute and Gyritha carried on the tryst they’d had years before and Canute set up Jarl’s Thorkel ‘the Tall’, whom he had exiled to Denmark, and Ulf Thorgilsson of Skane, whom he had given his daughter Estrid in marriage, as Hardeknute’s advisors.  When Canute wore out Gyritha, he returned to his Aelfgifu in England.

When Prince Erik arrived in Kiev, he learned that Prince Ivaraslav had called Prince Mstislav ‘the Fierce’, Mstislav ‘the Focked’, in public and now there was trouble between the two.  The Prince met Mstislav in Cherson and the young prince was angry and told him that he planned to attack Prince Ivaraslav after the summer trading cycle.  Erik tried to talk him out of it, but the young prince would not be dissuaded.

When they arrived at the Caliph’s palace in Baghdad, Erik asked Mstislav how his marriage with the Aran witch, Princess Nado, of the Burgalty clan was working out and Mstislav told him it was going very well and that sharing her with Iry Dada was working out as well.  Erik spent a week in the city, most of it again with Anise and Saffron, his trade agents there, then he left for Ashaval and Mumba and met with his new Aesir wife, Nika, just in time for the birth of their daughter.  Then he had meetings with Misha’s group working on mathematics for him and he checked on their progress.

The Prince’s Indian fleet made one sailing to Baghdad and back, with Indian untouchable slaves and then a second sailing through Baghdad and on to Constantinople to sell Indian slaves there as well.  While he was in the city he stayed at the Hraes’ Red House of Constantinople and slept with some of the princesses there and he consulted with the Aesir and Vanir witches that conducted magic shows in the basement of the building.  He went through some of their Vanir spell books and he found the spell that Witch Hallveig had learned from the Welsh witches of Wales, but the coven Witch Hama didn’t know what the spell was used for.  He gave her some gold to have research done on it and then he took his Indian fleet to meet Prince Mstislav and the great merchant fleet at Cherson for the tithings.

“I’ve been working on a spell to free you of Iry Dada,” Erik told his young acolyte.  “We’ve found a Vanir magic spell that may work.”

“Iry Dada doesn’t bother me,” Mstislav told him.  “I have better sex with Princess Nado when we share her.”

“It’s not good to have a spirit inside you.  It could take control of you.”

“Iry Dada is a warrior and I’m going to war with Ivaraslav.  Perhaps he will be helpful inside me.”

“You should work things out with your brother.”

“He can’t unsay what he said!” Mstislav said.  “Tell him, I’m coming at him!”

When Prince Erik took the great fleet through Kiev, he stopped in and gave Prince Ivaraslav the message from Mstislav.

“Did you try to talk him out of attacking me?” Ivaraslav asked.

“Till I was blue in the tooth,” Erik told him.

“I don’t want to fight with my brothers,” the young prince said.  “I’ll send him gifts.”

“Let’s hope that works,” Erik offered, but he knew it was unlikely.

Erik spent some time with young Prince Hardeknute in Roskilde, and while he was there a merchant ship arrived with news that Kiev was under siege by Prince Mstislav of Tmutorokan and his legions and Kasogian horsemen and Khazar troops and Huns.  When he got back to Queen Emma in Southampton he told her how their son was doing and she told him how well Captain Henri had done.  The trading in the Newfoundland had gone well and they’d replenished all the Hraes’ trading posts there and had collected vast quantities of fine fur pelts, some known, but most unknown to the old world.  And they had set their trap for the Greenlanders and had killed a few, but had captured many.  They had two dozen Greenland traders to ransom back to King Olaf of Norway, who controlled Iceland and Greenland trade.  King Canute had already sent messengers to Lade with an offer to exchange the prisoners for assurances that they would cease inland trade and stick to their northern coastal trade zone.

“King Canute also spent the summer in London,” she told him, “digging up the body of Saint Alphege and returning it to Canterbury to reward young Earl Godwin for his success in Poland.  Bishop Alphege was from Godwin’s hometown and he wanted the saint buried there to spite London as much as anything, I suspect.”

Queen Emma was showing her Prince the progress being made on King Sweyn’s castle when they saw Jarl Eirik’s warfleet sailing up the Solent and into the Viking harbour.  They had won a great victory over the Berber pirates south of Ireland and had destroyed most of the fleet but had lost a number of ships to the Arab version of Greek fire flung by catapults.  But the catapults were no match for the gravity trebuchets of the legion transport warships, both in range and firing velocity.  The tonstone shot being whipped at the Arab caracks tore them apart from stem to stern.  As the ships closed in on each other and throwing distances closed, triple shots of tonstone could be hurled with each fling, and the results were catastrophic for the caracks.  Emma and Eirik had even outfitted two new tallships with deck mounted trebuchets and tween deck mounted ballistae that shot huge bolts through portholes that smashed timber below the waterlines of the caracks, causing them to take on water faster than their bilge pumps could discharge it and some were equipped to fling tonstone shot that swept decks of men and machines.  Jarl Eirik’s war with the Berber pirates had gone so well that he planned to return to York soon and would only return to Wight if fresh pirate fleets came back.

“Witch Hallveig and I plan to send a message to York that we will be on our way home soon,” Jarl Eirik told Prince Erik and Queen Emma.  “You’re welcome to join in on the messaging if you wish.  If not, Witch Nadege can handle it.”

“I don’t know if I would be sending such a message,” Erik told him.  “You’ll get there when you get there.  There’s always a danger in the use of the Zombie drug.  It’s still killing people in India.”

“Hallveig and I have been very successful sending messages,” Eirik responded.  “We haven’t had any problems.”

“Do you mind if we just observe and help Nadege if she needs it?” Emma asked.

Eirik looked over to Witch Hallveig, then said, “That’s fine with us.”

So that night Witch Nadege set up everything in Witch Hallveig’s bedroom suite in King Sweyn’s longhall of the Viking fortress and Eirik prepared a message to send to his son, Haakon, in York.  Erik and Emma arrived with some sparkling Frankish wine and Khavayar and sat down at the bedtable and watched Eirik and Hallveig disrobe and relax on the bed while the young witch measured out the poisons and antidotes.  The couple administered their antidotes and took their poisons and were soon copulating on the bed.  Hallveig had the body of a young goddess and her silver metalled skin quivered in the candlelight as she rode Eirik’s member.  They were focking fairly hard when they began coming and their spirits headed north to York and they were mating with increasing ferocity as the minutes passed and were soon working up a sweat and making loud moans and cries as their bodies writhed about on the bed.  The young app-witch joined the couple at the bedtable and Emma commented on the excessive violence of their mating.

“They’ve been focking more fiercely every time they’ve sent a message over the summer,” Nadege replied.  “They seem to enjoy it more.”

“How often have they been sending messages?” Erik asked.

“Every couple of weeks.”

“That’s too often,” Erik protested.  “It’s far too dangerous to be used casually.”

Jarl Eirik was on top of Hallveig and they were going at it very hard and the three onlookers marvelled at the stamina of the man.  He was older, but in battle condition, used to fighting hours on end in battle ecstasy, and Hallveig used to be older, but was Irpa blessed with youth and godly strength, so their sex was a marvellous thing to watch, even taxing on the voyeurs.

“They’re usually gone longer than required for York,” the girl-witch said, “and I think they go on to Trondheim and Lade and Hell, to spy on King Olaf and visit Hallveig’s estates.”

Erik had just finished saying, “That’s too often and too far,” when Jarl Eirik began slowing his ploughing and they could see he was in some distress.  The young witch rushed over to the bedside and Erik and Emma followed, but the mating couple were both in orgasm and oblivious of their monitors and then Hallveig died.  The poison had taken effect and though in distress, Eirik began focking her vigorously and soon came within her, then collapsed on top of her and died.  Nadege helped revive Hallveig and she was soon kissing Eirik to revive him but Hallveig couldn’t get him to respond.  Nadege helped her and Erik joined in as well, but they could not revive the jarl.

“I think he had a heart attack,” Nadege told Hallveig and Erik began pounding on Eirik’s broad chest, but to no avail.  Jarl Eirik died on the bed while still inside Hallveig and Erik tugged and turned to dislodge him from the witch and he rolled the jarl off her and onto his back.  His lingam was still hard and overly large and had turned somewhat blue.

“He put everything he had into his last efforts to come,” Witch Hallveig said, “to ensure he revived me.”  And she kissed him lovingly.  Erik began pulling Jarl Eirik off the bed and Hallveig helped him, easily handling his lower legs even though the Jarl was a very heavily muscled and well-built man.  They laid the Jarl’s body on a carpet in a corner of the bedroom and then The Prince asked the witch if she was up for another trip.  “I don’t think it was a heart attack,” he told her.  “Eirik was old, but he was in fighting condition and the sex was hard, but so, too, is battle.”

“What do you think caused his death?” she asked.

“Let’s retrace his steps and find out.”

So, while they applied their antidotes, the app-witch measured out their doses of poison.  They downed them and then began a very wild ride, as they attempted to duplicate the sex that Eirik and Hallveig had practiced when the jarl died.  The Prince was much older than Eirik had been, but his youth was protected by the Alchemist drug he took, and he, too, was in fighting condition, so Queen Emma and Witch Nadege sat at the bedtable and watched the couple focking as hard as they could, and it was, Emma thought, quite magnificent and Nadege helped herself to another glass of sparkling Frankish wine.

Erik and Hallveig were soon in the heights of orgasm and their spirits flew out of their bodies and flew the heavens to York and they watched Jarl Haakon as he was focking the Welsh witch who had helped him take a message from his father an hour before and they passed a message to Jarl Olaf’s head that was still out and watching them, that Jarl Eirik was dead and the Welsh witch whispered it into Haakon’s ear as he was ploughing her and he stopped suddenly.  Then they flew outside of York to Hallveig’s two estates there and she showed him her two Jomsviking men that were raising their families on them, and then Hallveig led Erik north of York and they passed over and flew along Hadrian’s wall to the seacoast and then out across the North Sea waves, up the Nor’Way, until they got to Trondheim and they visited King Olaf’s great hall there and they watched Olaf ‘the Stout’ as he was feasting with his Centuriata of warriors.  Then they flew out of the king’s hall and off to Hell to visit Hallveig’s three estates there where her other Jomsvikings were living and raising large families.  When they flew back to England and went above Hadrian’s Wall again, Erik thought, ‘Did you always fly above this Roman wall when you sent messages?’

‘No!’ Hallveig thought in reply as they air sailed south.  ‘We’ve never gone that route before.  Perhaps Jarl Eirik was looking for something?’

‘Or trying to tell us something?’

They then flew south to London and they flew around the king’s palace and then the queen’s palace and finally flew into the Tower Of London.  Jarl Eirik had been looking to see where Gretta the Assassin was locked up, but she wasn’t there.  Eirik had flown throughout the palatial tower but could find her nowhere.  ‘Why was he looking for Gretta?’ Erik thought.

‘I don’t know?’ Hallveig thought.  ‘I didn’t realise he was looking for her.’

‘Well, she is gone,’ Erik thought, ‘and she is supposed to be securely locked up here!’

‘She’s escaped!’

‘I don’t think she’s escaped.  She’s snuck out for something.  Let’s wait for her.’

‘We can’t!  We have to return to our bodies or we will die!’

‘Join with me!’ Erik thought loudly and he pulled Hallveig towards himself and he entered her spirit and she saw the mental calculations he was doing and they spun forward in time several days until they saw the assassin returning to her lair and Gretta began unpacking her bag on her bed and she put her travel clothes away and undressed and went to bed.  The Prince watched her naked form through the light silk sheet and he longed for that body momentarily, remembering their nights together on his ship in Kiev and he wondered if they had shared some loving moments there while they plotted the death of Bishop Thietmar of Merseburg.  He then did some more mental mathematics and they spun back into the present and, as they flew off to Southampton, Hallveig asked him how he had done that time thing, but just as they got back, Hallveig died.  The spirit of Hallveig entered her and Erik entered his own body and he began focking Hallveig quite violently until he came within her and he flowed until he filled her and then he collapsed and died on top of her.  Witch Nadege helped Hallveig revive and Emma helped Hallveig kiss her husband back to life.

They all sat around the bedtable and Erik told them where they had gone and what had transpired.  “Why would he go to Hadrian’s Wall?” Erik asked Emma, but she had no idea.  “And what was Gretta doing that had peaked Jarl Eirik’s interest?”  Nobody knew the answer to that question either.  “We’ll have to ask him,” Erik said, and they lifted the dead jarl onto the bed.

“How are we going to do that?” Emma asked.

“I’ll get my runes,” Witch Hallveig told Erik.  “Do you know the Permian chants?” she asked her apprentice.  The app-witch began a series of chants as Hallveig carved her runes into a runestick and she would join in on the chants at certain points and harmonize with Nadege in a most beautiful manner.  The young witch had a young girl’s beautiful voice like the young girl she often was, and the older witch pitched in with a goddess like voice as the goddess she could sometimes be.  Soon aiding spirits circulated about the master suite and Witch Hallveig put her runestick under the tongue of her dead jarl and she waited for him to speak.  Erik was beside her, holding Jarl Eirik’s hand and he felt the jarl squeeze his fingers and his eyes opened as he mumbled a word at Hallveig.  Just one word and then he ceased being again.

“What did he say?” Erik asked the witch.

“Romans!” the witch replied.  “Or Romanous, as in Roman like?”

“Roman-like, like Hadrian’s Wall?  It still makes no sense!  And what of Gretta?”

“He wasn’t taking questions,” Hallveig said.  “He only had the one word for us, and it was a warning.”

“Fock!” Emma said, getting up and starting to pace.  “I’m Christian!  I can’t be doing this?”  Prince Erik put his arm about her and he comforted his queen.  Talking heads and waking the dead.  He took Emma to their master suite and he left the witches to clean up.  As Emma was in bed and trying to sleep in his arms she whispered, “You were magnificent.”

“What?” Erik whispered back.

“When you were focking Hallveig on the bed,” she said, “you were magnificent.”

King Canute and Princess Aelfgifu came down from Winchester to Southampton for Jarl Eirik’s arval in Queen Emma’s palace, and Prince Erik and all saw Witch Hallveig with her Jarl Eirik off on the main quay as they sailed back to York.  His son, Prince Haakon, was to be the new Jarl of York, King Canute had decreed, and that news and a body were what Witch Hallveig took back north with her.  All the people of York already knew their Jarl was dead even before Hallveig set out.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:

A.D. 1023.  This year returned King Knute to England; and

Thurkyll and he were reconciled.  He committed Denmark and his

son to the care of Thurkyll, whilst he took Thurkyll’s son with

him to England.  This year died Archbishop Wulfstan; and Elfric

succeeded him; and Archbishop Egelnoth blessed him in Canterbury.

This year King Knute in London, in St. Paul’s minster, gave full

leave (60) to Archbishop Ethelnoth, Bishop Britwine, and all

God’s servants that were with them, that they might take up from

the grave the archbishop, Saint Elphege.  And they did so, on the

sixth day before the ides of June; and the illustrious king, and

the archbishop, and the diocesan bishops, and the earls, and very

many others, both clergy and laity, carried by ship his holy

corpse over the Thames to Southwark.  And there they committed

the holy martyr to the archbishop and his companions; and they

with worthy pomp and sprightly joy carried him to Rochester.

There on the third day came the Lady Emma with her royal son

Hardacnute; and they all with much majesty, and bliss, and songs

of praise, carried the holy archbishop into Canterbury, and so

brought him gloriously into the church, on the third day before

the ides of June.  Afterwards, on the eighth day, the seventeenth

before the calends of July, Archbishop Ethelnoth, and Bishop

Elfsy, and Bishop Britwine, and all they that were with them,

lodged the holy corpse of Saint Elphege on the north side of the

altar of Christ; to the praise of God, and to the glory of the

holy archbishop, and to the everlasting salvation of all those

who there his holy body daily seek with earnest heart and all

humility.  May God Almighty have mercy on all Christian men

through the holy intercession of Elphege!

The Prince Erik’s New Chronicle of the Hraes’ for the year read:

(1023 AD). Prince Mstislav marched against Prince Ivaraslav with a force of

Khazars and Kasogians.



Back To Table of Contents

Princess Gytha, The Young Woman in Black

(1024 AD)  King Canute had finally consented to the Christian marriage of Earl Godwin Wulfnothson and Princess Gytha Thorkelsdottir.  He had allowed them to be married in the Danish way several years earlier, which allowed Valdy to maintain his relationship with the beautiful young princess as well, but he finally relented and allowed them Christian rites and had hoped that they would wed during the start of Yulefest, when there were many guests at his palace in London, however, they preferred to get married on New Year’s Day, before a small group.  Gytha already had several children by Canute and two that might be from either father, so it was decided to keep the wedding small and private.  Jarl Thorkel and his brother, Jarl Ulf, had been invited back from their exiles in Denmark to help celebrate the occasion and they were officially reconciled with their king over the Yule celebrations.  When they returned to Denmark, they took twenty four Greenlanders back to Roskilde with them, with orders to establish ransom negotiations with King Olaf of Norway for their release.

Not only did King Olaf refuse to pay ransom, but he had heard about the death of Jarl Eirik the prior fall and he now laid claim to the Earldom of Northumbria, claiming he had ruled it briefly under King Athelred and that King Olaf Tryggvason before him had ruled it briefly and that King Erik Bloodaxe before him had ruled it for a long time and it was more fittingly ruled by Norwegian Kings than by Lade petty jarls.  When King Canute heard this outlandish demand, he grew so angry that he ordered the immediate execution of the Greenlander captives, but, fortunately, they were in Roskilde and Prince Erik told Valdy he would take care of things when he led the great merchant fleet east.

After the sailing of the tallships for the Newfoundland, Prince Erik left Queen Emma to continue her building of King Sweyn’s castle and he led the English merchant fleet to Roskilde, where the great merchant fleet was assembling.  Jarl Thorkel handed over the twenty four Greenlanders and Prince Erik told them, “Your king, Olaf ‘the Stout’, has refused to pay your ransoms, so, seeing as how you all look strong and healthy and quite capable of merchant trading, I shall allow you to work in my personal fleet and accompany me to Baghdad, where you may seek your fortune with the rest of our merchants.  However, you must take oath to follow my orders and those of my officers or you can remain here in Liere in chains.  Which offer do you prefer?”  And all the Greenlanders, to a man, chose trading in Baghdad.

When they arrived in Kiev, the city was under siege by Prince Mstislav and his Khazars and Kasogians.  The fleet sailed up to the quays of Kiev and carried on business as usual, buying slaves from the slave schools there and buying merchandise to sell to the Arabs and Greeks.  The siege was temporarily halted while the business was conducted, because the merchant fleet had more warrior traders than both the Kievan and Tmutorokan armies combined.  Prince Erik visited with Prince Ivaraslav’s Centuriata officers in King Frodi’s great hall and learned that their prince was in Novgorod and that they’d been ordered to hold the city at all costs.  Then Prince Erik visited with Prince Mstislav in the camp of the besieging army.

“I take it you won’t be accompanying me to Baghdad this year?”

“This is taking a little longer than I expected,” Prince Mstislav replied.

“And probably costing a lot more than you expected as well,” The Prince added.  Mstislav looked down at his feet.  “If I take the Kievan merchants south with me,” Erik went on, “will your Tmutorokan merchants be waiting at the Harbour of Cherson?”

“I told them to carry on without me, so I expect they will be there waiting to pay tithes.”

“Good!” Erik said.  “If they aren’t there, I shall stop in at Gardariki and fetch them.”

“Thank you, Grandfather,” Mstislav said, again looking at his feet.

“Now, Ivar’s Centuriata has orders to hold Kiev at all costs.  Perhaps if you stayed on the east side of the Dnieper and laid siege to Chernigov instead, you might find the inhabitants a little easier to deal with.  Then, when I come back in the fall, we can sit down with Ivar and discuss a compromise.  If you hold Chernigov, he will be easier to deal with.”

“But we held Chernigov against the Poles,” Mstislav began, “and Kiev fell.  Isn’t Kiev the softer target?”

“Prince Ivaraslav lost his Slav supporters and didn’t have enough Danes to man the walls of Kiev.  So we ‘Swift Danes’ withdrew to Chernigov where we did have enough men to man the walls.  Remember?”

“Ivar won’t apologise for calling me Mstislav ‘the Focked’,” Mstislav complained.

“So, call him Ivar ‘the Swift’.  We don’t have time for this.  We have a trading empire to run.”

When Prince Erik arrived at the Harbour of Cherson, the Tmutorokan merchant fleet was waiting there to pay their tithes before going to Constantinople, Baghdad, Cathay and India.  The Prince had to cover for Mstislav in Baghdad, so he was continually sailing between India, Baghdad and Constantinople and didn’t have much time to spend with his wives in Mumba, but he did take young Nika with him for a round trip to Baghdad and back.  They had sex in the forecastle cabin of his shield ship and she apprised him of the advances they had made in the mathematics he required to experiment with his cosmology theories.

He was also glad he had brought the Greenlanders with him.  They only spoke Norse and some Skraeling, so they stuck to him like glue in these foreign lands and they were hard workers that he could trust.  He finished up in Constantinople with a final delivery of untouchables for his slavers in the Saint Mamas District.  He stopped in at The Red House there and thanked the coven leader, Witch Hama, and the witches, both Vanir and Aesir, for their help with spells.  Then he got final reports from his Roman spies and he presented them with a new task.  He wanted them to infiltrate the Imperial Security Service and dig up some old, declassified information on Prince Svein ‘the Old’, aka Prince Sviatoslav, aka General Sveinald, aka Prince Sphengos, aka Sphengelos, anything they could get that might connect it with an ongoing Imperial operation.

“That will take a lot of gold,” Erik’s chief spy replied.  “It shall require many bribes.”

“Spare no expense,” The Prince assured him.  “There is something going on that I’m not aware of.”

“That would be a first!”

“There is a first for everything,” Erik countered.

The Prince had put up all his Greenlanders with his officers in The Red House, because many of the princesses who worked there spoke Norse and could keep them amused and out of trouble.  It was expensive, but Constantinople could be a very dangerous place for an inexperienced Viking, so Erik paid their bill in gold and thanked the witches once more, then they sailed from the Saint Mamas harbour and joined the great merchant fleet as they sailed from Constantinople to their staging harbour in Cherson.  Tithes were collected and fleets were released to sail north and Prince Erik and his Greenlanders took the collected gold with them to Gardariki, but instead of depositing it in his treasury under his palace, he withdrew more chests of gold from his reserve.  The reserve he and Prince Svein had built up for a war on Rome.  The strong backs of the Greenlanders carried the heavy chests out of vaults and placed them in the ballast areas of the merchant warships.  They had never seen so much gold.  And they had never worked so hard carrying it all.  Even though it had taken a week to complete the job they still caught up with the tail end of the great fleet as it sailed up the Dnieper well before it reached Kiev.

In Kiev, the siege had been lifted and Prince Ivaraslav’s Centuriata officers informed him that Chernigov had submitted to Prince Mstislav rather than fight him.  Prince Erik used his position as Chief Merchant Officer of the Hraes’ fleet to get his ships moving along past all others and they were soon at the Dnieper shores near Chernigov and The Prince sent messengers to the city requesting Mstislav to come to him with some heavy carts and draft animals.  They rowed their gold laden warships into boat sheds that went out into the water and the Greenlanders unloaded some of the gold onto carts as they arrived, unseen by the many merchant ships passing by them on the river.

“That is your Hraes’ share,” The Prince told Mstislav, as the train of carts prepared to head back to Chernigov.  “Distribute shares to all the named princes east of the Dnieper from the city of Valdamar to your city of Tmutorokan and I shall be going to Novgorod to give Ivaraslav his share for distribution to all princes west of the Dnieper.  I shall tell him that that is the way things stand for now and let’s see how this works out.  D’accord?”

“Da,” Prince Mstislav agreed.  “All the way up to Valdamar.”

“Have you thought any more about getting the Iry Dada out of you?  Now that you should be done with war?”

“I kind of like him,” Mstislav replied.  “And Nado loves the extra sex!”

“Possession can be problematic,” The Prince warned him.  “Let me know if anything changes with it.  We now have the spells we need to rid you of him.”

“I’ll let you know.”

Prince Erik’s personal merchant fleet parted ways with the great merchant fleet at the Smolensk-Surazh portage and the great fleet sailed down the Dvina River while Erik’s fleet portaged across to the Lovat River and sailed up it to Lake Ilman, past Staraja Russa and on down the Volkov River to Novgorod.  Prince Ivar was waiting to greet his grandfather on the quays of the city and they embraced each other warmly.  “You got him to stop attacking Kiev, at least,” Ivaraslav told him as they watched the Greenlanders unloading his share of the gold.

“You are to distribute Hraes’ shares to all the named princes on the west side of the Dnieper up to your city of Ivaraslavl,” Erik instructed him.  “I have given Mstislav gold to distribute to the princes east of the Dnieper all the way to the city of Valdamar.”

“What about Suzdal, in between them?” Ivar asked.

Erik went through the velum pages and said, “Fock!  I missed that one.  I’ll leave you the gold for the Prince of Suzdal and you can pay him, but don’t squabble over the town.”

“I won’t if he won’t.”

The Prince then asked Ivar if he would consider apologizing to Mstislav for calling him ‘the Focked’.  And he went into the details of the fight Mstislav had had with Prince Iry Dada of the Kasogians.  “Prince Mstislav had promised me he wouldn’t lose, so he smuggled a knife into the Greco-Roman match, but Iry Dada had won the match fair and square, so Mstislav allowed Iry to finish his victory in the Greco-Roman style before he killed Iry with the knife.”

“I sure as hell wouldn’t do that,” Ivar admitted.

“Nor I,” Erik agreed.  “Mstislav waited until Iry came and then he killed him.  He said it was a death worthy of the great warrior that Iry Dada was.”

“It makes sense in its own bent way, I suppose,” Ivar said.

“But what Mstislav didn’t know was that Iry’s wife was an Aran witch and she had put a spell on her husband.  When Iry Dada died, his spirit entered Mstislav, so when Misty won Iry’s wife as a prize, Iry Dada came with it.  His spirit still resides inside Mstislav.”

“That’s pretty focked!” Ivar spat.

“I know!” Erik spat back.  “So consider apologizing to him.  He was trying to be fair with Iry Dada and he got focked over even more.  And let me know if his possession takes a turn for the worse.  Aesir-Aran possessions can get out of control.”

“Prince Mstislav ‘the Double Focked’!” Ivar mused.

“Don’t even think that,” Erik warned.  “He has the great warrior Iry Dada inside him and you don’t want to be focking with that combination in battle.”

“But we’re supposed to be Christians now.  We can’t have all this witchcraft about.”

“I’ve been hearing a lot of that lately.  Are you going to be taking a slave girl with you to the grave?” Erik asked him.  “Just in case?”

“Well, yeah, of course!  Just like Duke Rollo did!”

“Good.  It doesn’t hurt to cover your ass.”

“You should’ve told Misty that,” Ivar said, “before this whole Iry Dada thing!”  And they both began laughing.  “How about you?”

“I’m dying Aesir,” The Prince replied.  “Queen Alfhild’s spirit has told me that I already have a place in Valhall…right…next…to…Odin!”

“No!” Ivar replied.

“Yes!  She said I bumped the great warrior Starkad to his left side.”


“That’s what she said!”

“Your saga says you focked her spirit,” Ivar said.  “How was it?”

“It was great!  But not as great as turning yourself into a spirit and focking a beautiful spirit and then coming back.”

“You’ve done that?”

“A few times now.”

“This Christianity really sucks!  I wish father had never converted.”

“If Valdy hadn’t converted, you wouldn’t have the blood of the Caesars flowing through your veins.  All the royal houses of Europe want to ally themselves with you just so they can get one of your Porphyrogennetos daughters to marry them.”

“It didn’t work out so well for Estrid,” Ivar complained.

“Duke Richard’s an asshole!” Erik said.  “He sold his own sister to King Athelred just to get his hands on the English throne.”

“I think I might’ve done that myself,” Ivar admitted.  “It is the throne of England.”

“But he knew that your grandfather, Svein, was after that throne first.  Hraes’ princes don’t steal from Hraes’ princes!”

“You should tell that to Mstislav,” Ivar reminded him.

“It’ll work out.  Let’s just be patient.  How are things working out with you and Ingegerd?”

“She’s pregnant again.  You’ll meet her at supper tonight.  She’s arranging a feast for you.  You and your Greenlanders.  She thinks they’re a fine group of young traders.”

Prince Erik never expanded on just who they were caught trading with.  Details about the Newfoundland were almost unknown in the east and The Prince wanted to keep it that way.  The Greenlanders were sworn to silence about the vast verdant land west of their island that was anything but green.  Their time in Novgorod was so pleasant that they would have stayed longer, but Erik wanted to catch up with the great merchant fleet before the Norwegian merchant ships left Roskilde.  There were a few Norse merchant princes who had managed to maintain their Hraes’ status through the hard times with both King Olafs, Tryggvason and ‘the Stout’.

In Roskilde, Prince Erik arrived just before the small Norwegian fleet parted, so The Prince paid his Greenlanders their shares in gold and withheld half of it to pay off the ransom that King Canute had wanted, and the Greenlanders were happy with that.  They had never been paid so well, nor ever handled so much gold.  They all planned on coming back the next year with the Norse merchant fleet they were returning to Norway with.  Erik invited them to come with the fleet but join up with his fleet if they wished.  They all welcomed that offer and remembered their time at The Red House Of Constantinople, The RHOC, as they lovingly called it.  Prince Erik was glad that he had handled the problem with the Greenlander captives so profitably, but there were storm clouds brewing right in Denmark.  King Canute had sent a high level delegation to Roskilde and they had sailed north to King Olaf a few days before the Norwegian fleet arrived in Denmark.  They held a notice from their king that Canute considered himself to be the true king of Norway, and their writ outlined the various reasons.  Prince Erik heard about the writ from Queen Gyritha, and he knew there would be problems once the delegation delivered their demands, and he would have stayed in Roskilde with Gyritha and awaited their return, but he had a lot of gold aboard his personal fleet and could only visit shortly with Prince Svein and Princess Estrid and her husband Jarl Ulf, before heading off to the Isle of Wight to secure the gold in King Sweyn’s castle there.

When the delegation arrived in Tonsberg near The Vik, where King Olaf was now holding his court, they were kept waiting for days to be heard and, once heard, were kept waiting for days for Olaf’s reply, so angry had he gotten.  King Canute’s writ explained that as his father, King Sweyn ‘Forkbeard’, had been adopted as a son of Jarl Haakon ‘the Bad’, or ‘the Rapist’ as some now called him, and held rights to both Trondheim and The Vik, as had been awarded after his victory at the Battle of Svolder, and as his great grandfather, King Frodi ‘the Peaceful’ of Denmark, had conquered all of Norway up to Halogaland and had allowed King Harald ‘Fairhair’ to rule it as a subject king, and the present King Olaf ‘the Stout’, professing kinship with King Harald ‘Fairhair’, should profess a similar fealty to the kin of King Frodi ‘the Peaceful’, namely King Canute ‘the Great’ of England and Denmark.  But if King Olaf ‘the Stout’ Haraldson wishes to rule Norway as King Harald ‘Fairhair’ had, let him fare to King Canute ‘the Great’ Sweynson and receive the Kingdom of Norway from him as a subject king and become his vassal and pay the same tribute as the prior jarls had earlier paid King Sweyn.

When King Olaf finally made his reply to the delegation, he said, “I have heard tell in times of yore that King Gorm ‘the Old’ of Denmark was an excellent ruler, but he ruled Denmark only; but now the Danish kings who have come since his day do not seem to be satisfied with that.  It has come to this, that King Canute rules Denmark and England and, in addition, has subjected a large part of Scotland and some of Ireland.  And now he challenges my inheritance from King Harald ‘Fairhair’ as well.  He should, however, emulate King Gorm ‘the Old’ rather than his English Earl Eadric ‘Streona’, ‘the Grasper’, and learn moderation, or does he intend to eventually lord over all the Northern Lands alone?  Perhaps he intends to eat, alone, all the cabbages in England?  He will have to accomplish that before I shall pay him tribute or do him any sort of homage.  Now you shall tell him these my words, ‘that I will defend Norway with point and edge as long as life is granted me; but never shall I pay tribute for my kingdom to any man.’  This you shall tell him!”

The English Earl Godwin who headed the delegation was choked up at the response he received, but he consulted with the angry Danish Jarl who accompanied him, Thorkel ‘the Tall’, and responded in kind, but a little more diplomatically, as he was in an equally angry king’s court, and he said, “The King Gorm ‘the Old’ Ivarson, of whom you have spoken so kindly, was the brother of King Canute’s father, King Sweyn ‘Forkbeard’ Ivarson, and when he died, his son, King Harald ‘Bluetooth’ Gormson usurped the Danish throne from King Sweyn, who, per ancient Danish Aesir law, was entitled to take over as a surviving brother and held precedence over any surviving son, and King Harald effected this usurpation by accepting the Christian faith solely because it allowed sons precedence over brothers.  So, before you decide to emulate King Gorm, I’ll let you know that King Harald died violently after King Sweyn’s great Norwegian victory over King Harald’s Danes and Jomsvikings at the Battle of Hjorungavagr.  Also, let us remind you that Norway still suffers from the devastation that an angry King Frodi ‘the Peaceful’ of Denmark inflicted upon your land two hundred years ago and the same can be caused to happen again!”

After that vexed response, the delegation was held, awaiting their fates, for a few more days before being released.  “I thought he might take our heads!” Jarl Thorkel said, as they sailed back to Roskilde.  “If you’d have been doing the talking,” Earl Godwin said, “I’m sure he surely would have.”  The two royals laughed and breathed in the cool sea air.  “I’m sure you’re right about that,” Thorkel said.  “I was ‘short a few oars in the water’ after his answer to us.  But the Norwegians are angry with us to this day for what King Canute’s grandfather did to them two hundred years ago.  You might want to keep that ‘word-dagger’ sheathed when dealing with the Norse.”

“But wasn’t it Olaf’s grandfather who allied himself with King Frodi and thereby benefitted from all that destruction?” Godwin asked.

“What is it that those crazy Normans always say when they draw first blood at short sword matches?”

“Touch ya?”

“That’s it!” Thorkel replied.  “Touché!”

When The Prince arrived at the harbour of Southampton, Queen Emma and all their tallships were there to greet him.  “Come aboard!” he shouted to his queen.  “I have a deposit to make at the Don Jon of King Sweyn’s castle and I want you to show me your progress.”  He knew how much Emma loved building and he loved her for that.

“I’ll have to get the children!” she shouted back and she ran off up the quay to her carriage and took it back into the city.  The Prince and his fleet waited in the harbour for her return.  He would have sent his fleet ahead, but there was so much gold aboard each ship that he didn’t like having them out of his sight unless they were at anchor and under guard.  Each of his twelve ships now carried four chests of gold that weighed five hundred pounds, but that was Roman pounds, so, about four hundred British pounds, and they were equally distributed so that, in the event one ship sank, losses were minimized.  Each ship carried about an equal amount of silver.  They had started out with much more, but there were shares to be paid out along the way and trading had been decent.

When Emma came back, she had her sons and daughter by Erik along with her and she had Witch Nadege and Captain Henri in tow.  They all piled into Erik’s shieldship and they were soon rowing across The Solent to the Viking Harbour on Wight.  The Prince could see that the castle looked to be complete and the stone masons were now working on the stone wall that would run around the outside of the log palisade that protected the fortress.  Once the stone wall was complete, the palisade would be removed, and the new fortress would be just that much larger.  The stone towers that reinforced the walls against trebuchet shot were being built at a spacing that would hopefully accommodate future advances in trebuchet power and velocities.

The children played amongst the construction materials as they had often done over the summer while there with their mother when she supervised the build.  Erik’s sailors and traders were busy unloading the gold and silver and they all missed the strong backs of the Norse Greenlanders who had been released after paying their own ransoms.  Witch Nadege was playing with the children while her captain looked on and the young app-witch seemed to fit in well with them.  Erik wondered if there was any reason Emma had brought the cabin girl and her captain along, but he was almost afraid to ask, so he didn’t.  Once the ships were unloaded and beached, a feast was given for all the workers and merchants and it was late when Emma and Nadege got the children off to bed and the foursome had a nightcap in King Sweyn’s master suite.

“Witch Hallveig sent us a message a week ago,” Emma started, “and she wanted you to visit her in York, but stop and check in on Gretta on your way north.  She said something about using your time thing to see if Gretta had a visitor in the past few days.  We don’t know what she means, but she said that you would.  She’s starting to believe what you said about Jarl Eirik being poisoned.  Apparently he was being visited by a lot of disaffected Jarls from King Olaf’s Christian Norway.  Rebellion was a word oft used in their discussions.”

“There’s more to it than that,” Erik told her.  “I have spies in Constantinople digging up old shit on Prince Svein ‘the Old’.”

“You mean King Sweyn?” Emma asked.

“Yes.  This may go back a ways, past this Olaf and perhaps all the way back to the first Olaf.”

“Olaf Tryggvason?” Emma asked.  “Why Constantinople?”

“He may have been in the Varangian Guard.”

“Fock!” Emma spat.  “The Guard?”  Emma put her head down and shook it from side to side for a while.  She had already heard too much about the Varangian Guard through her Norman troops who assisted her brother in their Norman attacks on Italy.  They now held northern provinces, but the Eastern Romans held southern provinces and were trying to reclaim Rome and all of Italy and they were using units of the Varangian Guard to fight against the fierce Norman knights.  The Byzantine Romans had the finest knights in the world, outside of the Parthians in the east, so they were very surprised to come across Norman knights who were equipped with Roman armour and kite shields and sarissas and Roman saddle knock-offs right down to the stirrups.  The Eastern Romans were even more surprised to learn that these Northmen, these Normans, spoke the Romance Latin of the Gauls and Franks, but, even more surprising, some spoke the Low Danish of the Rhos of Kiev.  And a lot of men died when the Norman knights and the Varangian Guard faced off against each other.

“It’s a long story,” Erik began, so Emma poured out more goblets of sparkling Frankish wine and passed them out and she hesitated when she came to Nadege because she remembered how young she was when she’d played with her children, but she relented and gave it to her when she thought about the thing she was going to have the girl do for her.  “Decades ago, when Valdy was just a boy, Olaf Tryggvason was a slightly older boy who was the son of King Trygve of Norway and he had been enslaved and taken to Hraes’, and he had a little boy’s axe which he used to kill the Varangian that had enslaved him, and the boy was going to be killed for it and Valdy’s mom, Princess Malfrieda, saved him and paid his wergild, and owned him and kept him in her longhall.  He was a fine looking boy and, because King Sweyn was always away, she ended up having sex with the boy and he slept with her unless Sweyn was in Novgorod, and she told Sweyn all about it and he was okay with it.  By the time he was sixteen, it became apparent to the people of Novgorod that the two had been focking on a regular basis for years and when Olaf turned eighteen he had to leave or risk being killed by Sweyn’s many supporters.

“I think he may have joined the Varangian Guard for a year or two before heading back up through Hraes’ to become a Viking on the Baltic Sea.  Soon he found King Sweyn and began working for him as a raider, but found Christianity in England and then took over Norway and converted it to Christianity before he was finally killed by Jarl Eirik and King Sweyn at the Battle of Svolder.  It was rumoured that he had survived the battle and the rumours turned out to be true, but that is another story involving Bishop Thietmar of Merseburg and his ‘Swift Danes’ of Kiev.  But what I’m trying to find out is, if perhaps he found Christianity earlier than in England, say, in Constantinople, while serving with the Varangian Guard?”

“Fock!” Emma growled.  “Romans!  Eirik said Romans!” and she looked to Witch Nadege for confirmation and she got it.

“But Hadrian’s Wall?” Erik asked.  “Why did he fly along Hadrian’s Wall?”

“It’s a Roman wall,” Captain Henri said.  “He wanted us to know it was something built by Romans.”

“I think there’s more to it,” Erik said.  “We’re missing something he was trying to tell us.  Perhaps Witch Hallveig has some information for us?”

“I brought all my witchcraft stuff,” the young witch said, innocently.

“Witch Hallveig wanted you to message her as soon as you got back,” Emma started, “and I’m right between periods, so, if we wanted a son, the timing would be perfect, but I really, really, really don’t want to get pregnant, so, I was wondering, Nadege, if you could be a dear and cover for me.  You are too young to get pregnant, and I was hoping it would be okay with you and your captain.”

The Young witch looked up at her captain and said, “The pleasure is all mine.”

“Okay,” said Erik, giving Emma a ‘but it was your idea’ look.

“You’re probably going to fock the goddess Hallveig when you’re up in York anyway,” Emma said as they started prepping for the flight.

“I’ll be a spirit,” Erik told her, “and Hallveig will probably be asleep in bed and we’ll talk through her dreaming.”

“So it’ll be a wet dream?” Emma asked, taking a sip of her wine, but Erik was busy measuring out the antidote for them.

He swallowed his dose of antidote and Nadege applied her gel to her lips then she swallowed her poison and Erik waited a bit then swallowed his.  He picked Nadege up and he carried her over to the bed and he was getting hard as her young body brushed against his.  He put her on the bed and laid down beside her and she mounted him and began to ride his lingam, easy at first and then harder.  When they reached an orgasmic state together, their spirits rose up out of their bodies and took flight towards London.  Emma and the captain didn’t see this, of course; they just saw Erik and Nadege still focking hard on the bed.

Once the couple were above London, they circled the Tower of London palace and she followed him into the master suite of Gretta ‘the Assassin’ and they found her asleep in her huge bed.  Erik was relieved that she was home in her prison and not gadding about London.  ‘We are going to go into the past,’ Erik thought to her, ‘and for that we must join together so I can take you there with me,’ and he pulled the app-witch’s spirit against his chest and he entered her and they clasped each other as time went back and they could see what Gretta had been up to earlier in the day and then yesterday and the day before and the last week and, finally, one night an intruder entered Gretta’s room while she was getting ready for bed and she knew the man and they began talking and the two spirits listened in.

“You must get a message to King Olaf in Tunsberg,” the man began.  “It is time for him to form alliances and attack the Danes.  Gold shall be forwarded through regular channels for bribes and gifts, weapons and warriors, shields and ships.”

“I shall send the message through York,” Gretta confirmed.

“I have left your gold in the usual location,” the man said.  He was older and Erik felt as though he had seen him somewhere in the past, perhaps in King Athelred’s service.  Then the man said, “Good work!” and he left the room and the two spirits followed him, but he walked in the shadows in a deliberate pattern that seemed to thwart being followed and they lost him when he doubled back on himself and it was cumbersome and distracting for the two spirits who were still locked together in love’s embrace.  As they flew back to Gretta’s palace, time unwound forward and they were back in their own time in time to see Gretta still sleeping in her bed.  They uncoupled as they watched her.

‘How did you do that?’ Witch Nadege thought.

‘It’s science, not witchcraft,’ The Prince thought back, then they flew off to York to see what Witch Hallveig wanted.  They were soon circling Hallveig’s estate north of York and they entered her master suite through a window and they saw her two Jomsviking warriors hard at work satisfying the Irpa within the witch and they watched and waited while Hallveig finished with her men.  They were quite magnificent, two Jomsvikings and a goddess witch, in the sating of their lusts.  Hallveig knew they were watching, she had sensed their coming, but she also knew their time was relative and hers was not.  They could watch her for hours and for them mere seconds had passed.  So, she took her time and she sent her Vikings on their way, then she took a potion that allowed her to think with spirits and she greeted Prince Erik and Witch Nadege.  ‘What did you learn at The Tower?’ she asked them.

‘Gretta is spying for someone, perhaps a man from Athelred’s old spy network,’ Erik told her.  ‘It looks as if she is supporting King Olaf’s efforts in Norway.’

‘I thought as much,’ Hallveig thought.  ‘Jarl Eirik was helping a lot of rebellious jarls of Norway.  I think Olaf had him poisoned, and what you have discovered points the vial at Gretta.  You should have her killed.’

‘Not until we know who her handler is,’ The Prince said, ‘and learn who her employer is.  It almost looks like a repeat of King Athelred’s alliance with Jarl Olaf Tryggvason, but Athelred’s dead, and our own Exeyes officers now run British intel.  I’ll have them put more men on Gretta and I’ll work with one of our scriptorium artists and get some paintings done of Gretta’s guest so we can identify him through the old spy net.’

‘I won’t feel safe until she’s dead,’ Hallveig warned.  ‘Jarl Eirik’s son, Haakon may be next.  The Norwegian jarls are coming to him now.  She’s a trained assassin and should be neutralized.’

‘I can’t lock her up more, or she’ll know she’s being watched.  I can only put more tails on her,’ Erik explained.  ‘I want to find out if her guest is the puppet master or just another puppet, with shorter strings and deeper pockets.’

‘Make sure the tails you put on her are wolf tails and not sheep, and take care for yourself and your grandson.  I love you both,’ she admitted.

‘You love me!’ Erik thought.  ‘You just like Valdy.  Keep young Haakon safe!’  And Prince Erik took Witch Nadege by the hand and they flew out the window and headed back to the Isle of Wight.

When they got back, the Witch Nadege had just died as her spirit entered her body and when Erik re-entered his own, he began focking the girl frantically and Emma and the captain gathered around them to assist.  The Prince soon exploded within the young app-witch and he filled her rather quickly then died and would have collapsed on top of her, but Henri caught up most of his weight and eased him on his side and Emma turned the witch a bit so that Erik would stay inside her as he flowed.  She was soon revived and she began kissing Erik until he, too, revived.  Young Nadege kept kissing him anyway and could only stop with great difficulty.  Something had happened when they were having sex as spirits and Nadege couldn’t explain what, except maybe she had fallen in love with him.  She sat up on the bed and looked down at her prince as he caught his breath.  Queen Emma had wiped off his lips and she was kissing him now.

Soon the foursome were sitting around the bedtable discussing what the two had discovered on their flight that night.  All were concerned.  And all considered Gretta guilty and a danger, a loaded trebuchet just waiting to unload, and they all thought she should be killed as Hallveig had suggested, except Erik.  His admiration for the female assassin actually increased and the feelings he had felt for her when they were operatives in Kiev together even grew a little more as the mystery around her deepened.  “I’m going to London tomorrow,” The Prince announced.  “Who’s coming with me?” and all volunteered.  It was late, so Nadege left her witchcraft gear and returned with her captain to their suite and Erik and Emma went to bed.

“She was kissing you a lot,” Emma complained.  “You’ve got to stop focking that little witch.  She’s too young!”

“You’re the one who didn’t want to get pregnant,” Erik said.

“I know,” she said, “but we couldn’t glove up because of the antidote.  It just seemed that you two were enjoying each other just a bit too much while you were focking hard, and the captain and I had to sit and watch while you two were going at it for over an hour and Henri even thought you were enjoying each other too much.”

“You should have put a glove on Henri and enjoyed him while we were focking,” Erik said.  “You were riding him before.”

“I wanted to wait until I could put a glove on you!”

“Well, you can right now, if you wish!”

“Do you wish?”

“I wish very much,” Erik said, kissing her tenderly.

“Me too!” she breathed.  “But afterwards, you must tell me all about the Varangian Guard.”

“You like them?”

“No.  They terrify me.  They are attacking our Norman knights in Italy.  I want to know just who we are dealing with.”  She was answering him while she was tying up the Hraes’ glove she had purchased at her Hraes’ store in Paris.  ‘That damn little witch,’ she thought, as she sucked Erik’s lingam just a little harder so she could get the glove on him.  She then kissed her way up Erik’s chest and she mounted his steed and she began her ride.  She kept picturing the young witch riding her husband and she knew the power of the sex drug they had taken, for she, too, had experienced its bliss, and her thoughts soon had her moaning and coming and she felt Erik flowing inside herself, not exploding, but flowing, and she collapsed onto his chest and felt his warmth.  She stayed atop him and she held him trapped inside her and she said, “Now tell me all about The Guard.”

“I started the Varangian Guard quite by accident,” Erik started.  “In 839 I took an embassy from Gardariki to Constantinople to get the aid of Emperor Theophilus of Rome, against an impending attack by the Khazars and their Hun tribe.”

“Did he help you?”

“Ha!  He imprisoned me and then tried to kill me, but he was very sporting about it.”

“Sporting?  How could he be sporting about killing you?”

“He taught me Latin so I could protect myself.  Anyway, he sent me and a few of my men along with his embassy to the German Emperor Louis in Ingleheim.  A message to the German king asked him to kill me there, but I changed the Latin message to reward me and that saved my life.  But before I left, I got his permission to send the rest of my men back to Gardariki on my ship, Fair Faxi.  But I also instructed a few of my men to ask if they could stay in Constantinople and work as mercenaries for the Romans.  They always had foreign auxiliaries, even in their most ancient Vanir times, and some of them were attached to the Emperor’s personal guard.  I wanted them to work their way into that guard to spy on the Emperor.  They were members of my personal Centuriata and were quite good fighters, so they worked their way into the guard.”

“Do you still have your Centuriata?”

“Yes.  Some of them are the grandsons of my original men, but others are added new to replace others so there is always between a hundred and one hundred and twenty.  But they are scattered all over serving me now.  Anyway, the next Emperor Michael hired a lot of Hraes’ Varangian warriors into his personal guard, but his own guard was found to be plotting against him and only the Varangians were kept out of the plot, so when it was uncovered, his whole personal guard was executed save for the Varangians, and Emperor Michael and all Emperor’s after him would only hire Varangians as their personal guard after that.  So it became called the Varangian Guard.”

“Does the Varangian Guard still spy for you?”

“Does the Roman Emperor still wear purple?  When Prince Ivar ‘the Boneless’ ruled Hraes’, he had his own spies in the Guard, so we doubled up.  And Princess Helga had a few of her own as well.  But they were there to look after her son, Sweyn, who had joined the Guard as a boy.  While Sweyn was with them, Helga married Emperor Constantine ‘the Seventh’ and the Guard increased in size and started fighting foreign wars for the Romans.  I even went with the Guard to some of these foreign lands as Prince Sphengelos to gather my own intel.

“Some Romans claim,” Erik continued, “that the Varangian Guard was started when Prince Valdamar took over for Sweyn and sent six thousand troops to the Roman Empire to help the Emperor put down a revolt in the Anatolian provinces, but that’s wrong.  Once more I donned my Prince Sphengelos helmet and Valdamar and Sweyn and I led a legion of Kievan cataphracts south to put down the revolt and gain Valdy the hand of Princess Anna Porphyrogennetos.  Once we’d killed the rebels we took our legion back to Kiev.  Knights are expensive.  You don’t just leave them somewhere!”

“King Ivar left a legion of Roman cataphracts in Rouen,” Emma corrected him.

“Yeah!” Erik agreed.  “But he left them there to protect your father, Duke Richard ‘the First’, his Uncle Rollo’s grandson.  And the Romans charged him double for that missing legion.  He brought back all the Roman knights that wanted to go back, but they’d all gotten themselves Frankish wives and there’s just something about you Frank and Norman women that just gets their men talking in the Frankish Latin language and focking in the French way.”

Emma gave her husband a squeeze.

“Anyway, the Roman sons of those knights are still jousting in Rouen so, I guess it turned out to be a good long term investment, but at the time, King Ivar was pissed.  That’s when Hraes’ first got its own homegrown cataphract legions, trained by ex-Varangian Guard officers, of course.  And we’ve had our own cataphract knights ever since.  Right now, the Varangian Guard is being commanded by Prince Ivaraslav Ivarson, King Canute’s first-born son in Hraes’, although he’s likely the son of Valdy’s older brother, Ivar.  His mother, Princess Sviataslava is living with him in Constantinople and she runs all our Hraes’ stores there as well as The Red House of Constantinople.”

“The Witch-Pit of Rome?” Emma spat.  “We sent some of our Witches of Rouen there to get rid of a few!”

“And you’ll be glad to know that they are doing quite well there.  They get along well with the Vanir witches there because they speak a Romance language too.”

“So, is it Prince Ivaraslav that is leading the Varangian Guard against us in Italy?”

“Yes, but he’s Ivaraslav Ivarson, not the younger Ivaraslav Valdamarson that is ruling Kiev.  The younger Ivar’s mother was Princess Anna, born of the purple blood.”

So, the older Ivar is running the Varangian Guard in Rome and the younger Ivar, the Ivar with the purple blood of the Caesars running through his veins, is running Kiev?


“That’s pretty focked up!”

“I know!” Erik agreed.  “The Ivar that the Romans call ‘the Defender of Constantinople’ is a Dane, and the Ivar that the Germans call ‘the Swift Dane’ is actually more Roman than the Romans!”

“Tell me some more sweet things about Frankish Norman girls,” Emma said, “before I fall asleep,” and Erik began talking to her in French about Gold Harald, or Hargold, as Duke Richard had called him.

Roman London, or Londinium, had been established by Emperor Claudius in 47 AD, a fact Prince Erik had gleaned from the Roman Histories that he had read in learning Latin while imprisoned in Constantinople by another Roman Emperor almost eight hundred years later, and Londinium was established there because it was at a point up the Thames River where larger Roman ships could progress no further.  It became an important commercial center for supplying the heartland of Britain with Roman goods and services.  It soon surpassed Camulodinum, the city of Colchester, that King Sweyn had sacked once or twice, in size and it became the capital and was renamed Augusta, after the Emperor, but the Roman and Welsh citizens still called it London.  But Camulodinum remained an important city in Roman Britain and would also be renamed, though much later, as Camulot, under a Briton king named Arthur.  Erik had seen this in his visions, for it had happened after the Romans left Britain.

As Prince Erik and his party approached the city by ship, he saw the famed Roman wall that was built a hundred and a half years later, but only on the landward side, to thwart attacks by Picts from the north.  As they sailed closer, the river wall came abreast them on the steering-board side, a wall the Romans added a hundred years later due to a Danish Angle raider attack up the Thames River.  The Prince had read this in the Roman Histories, and it was the first time the Anglish Danes had attacked Britain, but it was a result of a world-wide cooling period the world was sliding into that fomented a European migration period that would result in the fall of Rome, itself.  This Erik had seen in his visions.  A thousand years later he had seen another cooling period arrive that resulted in the fall of Roman Constantinople, but that was still to come, a vision of the future Erik had seen.

The English London had been growing and was now almost as populous as it had been in Roman times.  In 409 AD, Constantine ‘the Third’ took his British legions back to Rome to become Emperor there, and Roman Britain was left to fend for itself.  But even before the Romans had left, the Picts from the north, circumventing the Roman Antonine Wall by sailing around it began attacking the eastern coasts of Britain.  The Angles of southern Jutland in Denmark were trading partners with the Roman Britons and were very good sailors, so the British hired them as foederati to protect the coasts of northern Britain and gave them the eastern coastal lands to settle upon.  The cooling was causing crop failures everywhere and the starving Danes flooded in from the east and took over Eboracum and called it Yoracum and then York and they conquered the lands southward, all the way to Icinia, but were stopped at Camulodinum, north of London, by King Aurelius.  The Pagan Angles ruled their new land by Danish custom and law and it was, in effect, the first Danelaw, though called Bernicia and Deira and Anglia.  Then the Jutes followed and conquered the province of Cantia, south of London, and called it Kent.  And when the Roman Britons hired the Saxons of Germany to protect their southern shores from Irish attacks, a similar set of events occurred and the Pagan Saxons soon invaded southern Britain in large numbers, but were also stopped by King Aurelius at the Battle of Mons Badonicus.  An uneasy peace prevailed while the followers of Odin, a religion of conquest, lorded over their Christian Roman Briton subjects in the conquered territories.

The city of London flourished in this peace, free of the crushing Roman taxation, but it soon became a tempting jewel for East Saxon lords and the city was attacked and sacked so ferociously that it remained completely abandoned for hundreds of years and the Saxon town of Londonwic took its place just west of the Roman walls that remained.  When King Frodi’s great heathen army invaded Angleland in 865 AD, they camped within London’s walls, oblivious to the curse that supposedly languished there, and when they left, King Alfred ‘the Great’, moved Londonwic back within the shelter of the Roman walls to protect the Saxon people from the ravages of the Viking attacks that were increasingly prevalent at that time.  The Roman walls were repaired and augmented over the years until the resulting Fortress London proved proof against the Viking attacks of King Sweyn and his son, Prince Valdamar, who finally prevailed over King Edmund, becoming King Canute ‘the Great’ of England.

There was a quay running out into the Thames that serviced both the king and queen’s palaces and their sailors brought the ship up alongside it with nary a bump.  Erik helped Emma across the gangplank and Captain Henri helped Nadege and they walked up the quay to the carriage that awaited them.  When they arrived at Queen Emma’s palace, there was a late lunch ready for them.  The fall weather had been cool, so they all enjoyed the hot food and warm red wine served them.  Queen Emma had staff waiting to go through royal matters with her and Prince Erik met with his Exeyes officers to set up several investigations.  Witch Nadege and her captain were shown their suite and were not seen after that.

Erik met with officers who had served in London under King Sweyn, both before and after he had conquered the city, so they were very experienced in the goings on there.  He wanted a team to investigate the story of Gretta’s mother and daughter sexcapades with King Athelred ‘the Unready’ and he wanted the women identified.  He passed out several artistic renderings of the man he had seen meeting with Gretta in the Tower of London and he told his officers that he wanted the man covertly identified.  All investigative work was to be done without tipping off those under perusal.  He soon sent them on their way and he looked for his wife, but she was still dealing with royal issues, so he went off to their suite and relaxed while his officers did their Exeyes work.  He wondered if all state intelligence services developed from the intel officers of their military units as had been the case since the most ancient of Roman times.  Julius Caesar had built up extensive intelligence gathering networks within the Roman legions, but no network was as vast as the one he inherited when he became Pontifex Maximus of the Vanir tripartite gods religion and the priests and warlocks took the confessions of all Romans and reported the information so gleaned to the Emperor at the top.  It was the Empire’s massive in-house intelligence gathering system that was carried into the later Latin Christian faith and fed the new Pontifex Maximus, the Pope, in the Vatican, just outside the city of Rome.

After a week of spying, the man in the paintings was identified as a Saxon intelligence officer out of a fyrd in Wessex.  He had been working directly under King Athelred for many years and it looked as if Gretta was still working for some agency of the old West Saxon aristocracy, King Alfred’s line.  And reports soon followed of the tryst that Gretta and her mother had established with King Athelred in their brothel in the wharf area of the city, the rumoured mother-daughter sexcapades that had enticed the king to break away, at times, from the male persuasion he preferred at the wharf inns.  It was a time when King Sweyn was in need of human chattel and his Danish legions were capturing whole swathes of English people and sending them east into the slave markets of Baghdad and Constantinople and the children who escaped the human harvest ended up orphans in London and many boys and girls were purchased by the innkeepers by the wharfs to be enjoyed by English nobles.  It would appear that Gretta was one such girl and that, whoever the woman in black was, she had purchased the girl to get into the confidence of her king.

Queen Emma had to return to Southampton to close construction on King Sweyn’s castle for the winter and Captain Henri had to return to Rouen to overwinter there, so Prince Erik and Witch Nadege remained together in London and The Prince would sleep with the girl in her suite and they grew quite close as Yulefest neared.  Once the Exeyes officers had gleaned all the intel that was to be had, Prince Erik arranged to spend some time with Gretta in her palace at the Tower of London.  She had earned her keep as the child of a mother-daughter team on the wharfs of the city and Erik looked forward to indulging in some of that experience.  Gretta was now middle aged, but she had always taken great care of herself physically in order to remain effective as an assassin, and Erik’s Exeyes officers had told him it was rumoured that her slave price had been triple because of her youthful beauty and she had maintained her looks over the years as well.

“I would like you to come east with me in the spring,” Erik told Gretta, their first night in bed together since their time in Kiev.  “I need your help on a hit.”

“Who are we killing this time?” Gretta asked.

“I’m not sure,” The Prince replied.  “We’re still gathering intel, but it will be dangerous, so I’ll be increasing your security here.  The target may have operatives here in London and you’re a sitting duck in the tower here, so I want you protected.”

“Why don’t you just stay with me here in the tower until spring?”

“I wish I could,” Erik said, kissing her.  “Princess Gytha will be coming up for Yulefest with Queen Emma and she will be visiting you with all her children.  They’ll keep you busy.”  He studied her fine form through the silk sheets of the bed and he brushed her raven hair back and it was flecked a bit with grey.  “You told me that Princess Gytha was Queen Gunhild’s daughter that you spared in Ipswich,” he began gently, “so, are you sure that you’re the daughter of your mother?”

“Oh, yes,” she answered.  “I have distinct memories of her from my earliest recollections.”

“Yet you don’t know what her name was.”

“I always called her mother,” Gretta said.  “Because of the business we were in, we always changed our names.  We were whores.  I’ve been a whore since I was six.  And when we were trained by King Athelred to be his assassins, we changed our names even more.  What’s in a name, anyway?  Would a rose by any other name not smell just as sweet?”

“I don’t know,” Erik said.  “Let me smell you.  Let me taste you!”  And he kissed her some more and smelled her hair and slid down the silks and he tasted her and she began to moan a bit, then he slid up and he entered her.  “You’re just as sweet as Roxanne as you are as Gretta, Roxy,” and he began focking her hard.  She wrapped her legs around his haunches and she drew him deep within herself with each stroke.  She felt like smooth rose petals inside  and when she came and flowed a bit, it felt like crushed rose petals, and he glided into her and back out in a feeling he’d never had before.  It was almost as if she was a perfect match for him, physically, complimentary, lingam to yoni.  She had mastered her craft and had complete control of herself and she could draw his fluids out of him even as he exploded within her.  He was dying to do the Zombie drug with her, but he couldn’t trust her, yet.  She had mastered her craft as an assassin even better.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:

A.D. 1024.  This year, on New Year’s Day, Earl Godwin Wulfnothson and

Princess Gytha Thorkelsdottir were wed in St. Pauls Church in London.

Their children were in attendance.

The Prince Erik’s New Chronicle of the Hraes’ for the year read:

(1024 AD)  While Prince Ivaraslav was at Novgorod, Prince Mstislav arrived

before Kiev from Tmutorokan’, but the inhabitants of Kiev would not

admit him: He thus departed thence and established himself upon the

throne of Chernigov.  He controlled all lands east of the Dnieper up to Valdamar;

Aesir magicians appeared in Suzdal’, and killed old people by satanic

inspiration and devil worship, saying that they would spoil the harvest.

When Ivaraslav heard of the magicians, he went to Suzdal’.

He there seized upon the magicians and dispersed them, then he

returned to Novgorod, whence he sent overseas after Varangians.


13.0  THE DEATH OF THORKEL ‘THE TALL’  (Circa 1025 AD)

Back To Table of Contents

(1025 AD)  During Yulefest the increased guards and Exeyes officers that Prince Erik had surrounded Gretta with kept her isolated.  The Saxon intel officer that had earlier visited her was apprehended when he tried to contact her again and he was imprisoned.  The Exeyes officers would be transporting him east with them in the spring.  The Prince did some research on whether it was possible for the woman in black to have mentally controlled Gretta into thinking she had known her all her life, but he realised that she would have had to have been an operative, a spy, an assassin, long before she had whored her and her ‘daughter’ out to King Athelred.  He had learned that Gretta was English, but he was now beginning to wonder if the old woman in black was.  Princess Gytha was allowed to visit Gretta and she brought her children with her, accompanied by Prince Godwin and her foster-father, Jarl Thorkel ‘the Tall’.

Jarl Thorkel had arrived for Yulefest from Roskilde and he brought young Prince Hardeknute, Queen Emma’s son, back to England with him and he visited with his own son, Harald, that King Canute was fostering for him.  Erik and Emma spent time with their son, Hardeknute, as well.  Thorkel’s brother, Jarl Ulf, and his wife Estrid, King Canute’s daughter from Kiev, also came to England from Roskilde.  King Canute and Princess Aelfgifu were in great spirits throughout the holidays and the king passed out gold and gifts to his guests from Norway, disaffected princes and jarls that had taken up residence in York and Northumbria, as well as his own English princes and earls and a lot of gold to the Latin church.  Some of the gold was from his share of profits from the Hraes’ eastern trade, but a lot of it was now coming from the Newfoundland.  Trade had been increasing over the near decade that Prince Erik and Queen Emma had been developing their tallship direct sailing across the Atlantean Sea and trade across the Mayan Sea had grown as well, and the Mayans had a lot of gold.  Some Hraes’ traders claimed that the Mayans had as much gold as the Permians had silver!  And all the Hraes’ western traders were sworn to secrecy, but rumours of the gold were leaking out from Norse sources connected with the Greenlanders.

Prince Erik wanted to add tallships to the Newfoundland fleet, but Emma’s shipwrights in both Southampton and Normandy were tied up building new warships for Canute, tallships that could be sailed and rowed, with rowers located ‘tween decks operating overlong oars via porthole openings in the side strakes.  Emma and her Portsmouth designers had come up with the new ships to meet Canute’s design requests for fixed frame ships that were rowed as well as sailed, but also had the tallship height aspect to make them hard to attack and easy to fight from.  They were as long as the super longships that King Alfred had come up with over a hundred years earlier, but the fixed frame, that was unknown thereabouts in Alfred’s time, gave the large ships superior rigidity and strength, but less ability to flex over waves, therefore, a rougher ride.  Erik tried to convince Canute to allow more tallship construction, but Queen Emma had begun the first English navy in response to the naval attacks of King Sweyn decades earlier and he wanted the queen to continue her efforts in this area.

“I’ve heard reports,” Canute told Erik, “that I find concerning.”  It seemed the king wanted to change subjects.  “Our Exeyes officers report that you are planning a hit in Constantinople on a very high value target.”

“Yes,” The Prince admitted.  “The Romans have been using our Varangian Guard to recruit, how shall I put it, some very ruthless officers to return north with violent Christianizing efforts, and have even been funding these efforts with the Red Gold of Byzantium.”

“Which Olaf has he funded?” Valdy asked.

“Both!” Erik answered.  “Both Olaf Tryggvason years ago and now Olaf ‘the Stout’ Haraldson.”

“Both?” Valdy asked, sitting forward in his first highseat.  “He recruited and funded both?”

“Yes, both!  And their forced conversions together have cost thousands of Aesir faithful their lives.  I plan to kill them in Constantinople.”

“And not get caught?  Are you using more of this Aesir magic of yours?  Your last hit cost Princess Myia her life.  I don’t want you risking your life for this,” Valdy said looking over at his grandfather.

Prince Erik sat forward in his second high seat and said, “Relax.  No Aesir magic will be employed in this hit.  Just good old Alchemists’ science.”

“You’re using poison,” Valdy guessed.

“No, but I’ll give you a little demonstration of this science if you come with me to Roskilde when I’m assembling the great merchant fleet.”

“Is it exciting, this death you are planning?”

“No.  It is quite boring actually.  You won’t even see the death.  It will happen weeks later in Wolin, Poland.  But it will be amazing, just knowing what caused it.”

“It sounds boring, amazingly boring.”

“Last fall I gifted Queen Gyritha with some young handmaidens from India, three Tantric Princesses, and she told me they were quite amazing.  She’ll share them with you if you ask nicely.”

“I didn’t know Gyritha was into women,” Valdy responded.

“She isn’t,” Erik said, “but for these girls she made an exception.  Their tantric sexual mantras are exceptional.”

“Okay, I’m in.  What do I have to do?”

“Invite King Boleslaw of Wend to visit you for Easter in Roskilde.  He’s recently converted so he’ll likely come, but just to make sure, tell him we’ll allow a dozen of his foremost merchants to join the great merchant fleet.  He’s been trying to get on board for years.”

“They’ll be the first Slav merchants outside of Hraes’ to join the fleet.  He’ll jump at that opportunity.  Why are you killing Duke Boleslaw?”

“He’s King Boleslaw now that he’s converted to Christianity.  The Holy Roman Emperor, Henry ‘the Second’ made him a king just before he died.  Kings of kings can do that.”

“They aren’t real Emperors,” Canute scoffed.  “Princess Theophano wasn’t ‘Born of the Purple’.  She wasn’t Porphyrogennetos, and they aren’t blood related anyway.  Only my children with Princess Anna are Czar material.  She was ‘Born of the Purple Blood’!”

“I know,” Erik admitted, “but try telling Duke Boleslaw that.”

“Why are you killing him?”

“The Romans were paying him to hide Olaf Tryggvason from us.  Bishop Thietmar of Merseburg was in on it as well.  I want them all dead!”

“I’ll send out the invite by messenger today,” Valdy assured his grandfather.

With the transition of worldwide warming to cooling came extremes in both hot and cold weather and while returning to Denmark in cold weather in his open longship, Jarl Thorkel became ill.  He was getting on in years now and had faced the ravages of the winter sea, side by side with his men and had taken a fever.  He died in Roskilde a few weeks later.  Jarl Ulf and Princess Estrid took over the fostering of Prince Hardeknute.  When word got back to England, Prince Erik told Queen Emma he didn’t think that Jarl Ulf was a good father figure for their son, but Emma felt that Ulf was up to the task.  She liked his determination.

Erik lamented the shortage of tallships as the Newfoundland fleet assembled in Southampton and Emma reminded him that at least each of the tallships now carried a new longship with them to the new world.  The shipyards were still building small sturdy Nor’Way type longships for trade on the Great Lakes and the Mis Sis Sippi River because the shell-first shipwrights were not involved with the house-building craftsmen of the fixed frame ships.

“But we need more ocean bearing cargo capacity,” Erik responded.  “Furs take up a huge volume.”

“That is why the Mayan trade is important,” Emma replied.  “Gold doesn’t.”

When Captain Henri set out with his tallships, he had a new cabin ‘boy’ with him.  Both Witch Nadege and Witch Hallveig were needed in the east and would be sailing with Prince Erik to perform an exorcism in Chernigov.  And his personal assassin, Gretta, would also be sailing with him to help perform the potential hit further south.  It was going to be a busy summer.  When the English merchant fleet sailed east to Roskilde, Prince Erik spent some time with his son, Hardeknute, and he did not like the way Ulf and Estrid were addressing the boy, as King of Denmark.  Hardeknute was Prince Regent at best and such talk could be dangerous.  Prince Erik took Jarl Ulf aside and warned him not to get the boy’s hopes up.  “Canute is still King of Denmark,” he warned, “and there are many other qualified prince regents waiting in the wings.”

As the great merchant fleet was assembling in Roskilde harbour, King Boleslaw of Poland sailed up with a merchant fleet of his own and The Prince welcomed him and his twelve foremost Wend merchants to join it.  Easter was still a few weeks off and Prince Erik would be well on his way through Hraes’ when it occurred so he told King Boleslaw all about the Easter procession that was planned through the palace and grounds of Roskilde.  When Canute arrived from England they set up a rehearsal of the procession a few weeks in advance to allow Erik the access he needed to the Polish king.  The procession would be long and full of European nobles but they used stand-ins for the rehearsal and King Boleslaw, with the Sword of Denmark on a pillow in his arms, paraded well ahead of King Canute, who carried the Sceptre of Denmark on a matching pillow.  Prince Erik apologized to King Boleslaw about the weight of the sword, but explained that it was traditionally carried about in its heavy scabbard as the blade was exceedingly sharp.  He then pulled the sword an inch or two clear of the scabbard to show the king the sharp edge and he left it that way as they paraded through the palace and out into the palace grounds.

King Boleslaw was still complaining about the weight of the heavy scabbard when he gave the sword back to Erik, so The Prince re-sheathed the two inches of sword and packed Tyrfingr back into its even heavier lead box and told the king they would give him a dull sword that required no sheath for the actual procession.  King Boleslaw thanked The Prince for his understanding.

Once the great merchant fleet was assembled in Roskilde, they sailed off to Kiev, but Prince Erik and his personal fleet stopped in Chernigov and The Prince visited Prince Mstislav there as the fleet sailed past and he tried to convince Misty that he should have the spirit of Iry Dada exorcised from his body and he introduced Witches Nadege and Hallveig to The Prince and his wife, Princess Nado, the Alan Aesir-Aran witch.  But they both claimed the possession was still working for them and they wanted Iry to stay.  “He is my Mstiry,” she said, hugging her husband, so Erik left both Nadege and Hallveig there to monitor Mstislav and he sailed on to Kiev, which was no longer under siege.  Erik learned from the legion officers there that Prince Ivaraslav was still ruling Hraes’ from Novgorod and was expecting help from his wife, Princess Ingigerd’s brother, King Anund Jacob of Sweden.  He told the officers to remind Czar Ivar, as Ivaraslav was sometimes being called, to be patient and they would try to work out a compromise when the great fleet returned in the fall.  Erik had warned Ulf that there were numerous princes waiting in the wings in King Canute’s Denmark, but here in Hraes’, there were literally thousands, thanks to the seven hundred or so wives in Canute’s prior life as the profligate Prince Valdamar of Kiev.  Prince Erik made a mental note to take even more gold out of his vaults in Gardariki and transport it to his vaults in King Sweyn’s castle.

Prince Erik had left his witches in Chernigov and could focus more on Gretta now that his forecastle cabin was less busy.  “We shall be stopping in Constantinople before we go to Baghdad,” The Prince told her.  “I am expecting some information there.”  They enjoyed each other as they sailed down the Dnieper River and were portaged around the cataracts by local Pechenegs and they stopped at the Harbour of Cherson while The Prince directed the collection of tithes and fees from the Hraes’ merchants of the fleet.  Then they sailed on to Constantinople and Prince Erik’s personal fleet beached outside the walls of the Saint Mamas district and his shieldship docked in a private boathouse that had an underground tunnel that led into the city.  The Hraes’ prince seldom used it, so as to keep it secret.  It was designed and built to get out of the city and it ran from the Red House of Constantinople to the boathouse, where a ship was always waiting.  Empress Helga had the tunnel built after she first bought the Red House for her Hraes’ fashion showings.  She and her son, Prince Svein, had been caught up in a mob riot after she’d married Emperor Constantine ‘the Seventh’ Porphyrogennetos, and she’d never forgotten the danger she had placed young Svein in.

Princess Sviataslava ran the Red House Of Constantinople, or the RHOC, but she was away with her son, Prince Ivar, in southern Italy, enjoying herself in the heel of the boot, while her son led the Varangian Guard in battle against Norman knights somewhere up the calve.  Her manager, Witch Hama, welcomed The Prince and his concubine and set them up in the penthouse bridal suite on the eighth floor.  Typically, Roman apartment buildings were limited to four floors because that was a limit that people tended to follow when walking up and down stairs to their flats, but the Red House serviced most of their guests on the first four floors and had the Princess flats in the next two and then larger special suites on the top two floors and the top two floors were serviced by an Archimedes screw that took guests up to the eighth floor in special roller chairs.  Prince Erik sat in a chair and pulled Gretta onto his lap and a servant loaded the chair into the huge bronze tube of the Archimedes screw and the screw began rotating and the chair rolled up the screw and in a minute or two they were on the eighth floor where another servant helped them out of the tube and led them to their bridal suite.  Their bags would follow on the next available chair, which happened to be the very next one, so the servant quickly grabbed their bags as he led them.

“That was amazing!” Gretta exclaimed, as they entered the room.  The Prince gave the servant a silver piece as he set out the bags for them and then took the silver and left with many thanks.  “Always make sure your first tip is the largest because then you’ll get fine service for the rest of your stay,” he told her.  “But how do we get down?” she then asked.  “Check out the bed,” he said.  “Sometimes guests come up and they never go back down,” he laughed, pushing on the huge silk sheeted mattress with both hands.  “No, really,” she said, “how do we get down?”  “You’ll see when we go down for supper.  Meanwhile, we wait.  One of my Exeyes officers will be delivering a package this afternoon.  So, really, let’s try out the bed!” and he pulled Gretta onto the bed and began tearing off her clothes.

An hour later there was a knock on the door.  It was a young Exeyes officer and he was looking back down the hallway and he passed The Prince a briefcase when he opened the door.  “That’s quite the staircase they have here,” the officer said.  “Why thank you,” Erik replied.  “I designed it for my late wife, Empress Helga,” Erik told him.

“You were married to Empress Helga?” the officer asked.  “I’m sorry.  It’s just that she died quite a while ago.  I mean,” he stammered a bit, “all the legions love her so much still.”

“Well, she did pay for one of our first Kievan legions out of her own pocket.  I certainly hope they still love her!”

“Oh, they do!  They do!” the officer stammered.  “Shall I stay with the files or would you like me to come back for them?”

“Could you come back at supper time and I’ll give you the files I don’t need, and then you can join us for supper here?”

“Thank you!  I’ve never eaten here.  I’ll be back in four hours.”  He then looked about himself and then back down the hall and said, “How do I get down?”

Prince Erik held his arm out in the hallway and snapped his fingers three times.

“No, really,” the officer said, “how do I get back down?”

“You ask this man,” Erik answered, as the servant he had tipped earlier came running up the hall.  Gretta came to the door and she watched the officer walk down the hallway with the servant and she was hoping she could see them go down, but they turned a corner and were gone.  “So, really,” she said, looking Erik in the eye, “how do they get down?”

“There is a stair going down,” Erik said.  “It is surprisingly easier to walk down stairs than it is to walk up them.”

“Well, that’s no fun!  I was hoping it would surprise me like coming up did!”

“Well, there is another way,” he told her, “and it is a lot more fun than coming up was, and then there’s a way that is downright scary.  Which one would you prefer?”

“The fun one!” she said, getting excited.

“Help me go through these files and then we’ll try the fun one.”

Erik sat at the dining table of the suite and Gretta sat across from him and he would look at files and flip some of them over and others he would pass to Gretta.  After a few sets of files, Gretta blushed and started sweating.  “These files are about mother and me,” she admitted.

“And they are all Roman security files, some going back fifty years to the start of Emperor Basil’s reign.”  Then Erik passed her a file he had pulled out of one of his bags, an English file.  “You’re English, you know.  Where did you learn to read Latin?” he asked her.

“Mother taught me,” she said.  “But I’ve always been able to speak Greek.”

“No, you haven’t,” he told her.  “You are an English orphan of King Sweyn’s Danish war upon the Saxons of England, and for that I apologize.  Your mother was not your mother.  She bought you as a young slave in London and she used drugs to implant your earliest memories.”

“No!” Gretta protested.  “Mother was always my mother.  She gave birth to me!”

“Your mother has always been an agent, a spy for Rome.  She was a hermaphrodite and they are almost always sterile.  Were you aware that she had a man’s package as well?”

‘Yes,” she admitted.  “She always told me it was her gift from God.”

Roman security services are always looking for hermaphrodites as agents,” Erik explained.  “It gives them flexibility.  And with King Athelred, it gave her a strange power over him.  He was homosexual, but that wouldn’t have given her control.  He had all the fine young boys of the wharf to play with.  But she was both!  A man, and a mother and daughter team, the paired sex slaves that men pay so much extra for.”

“She told me we worked for King Athelred!  That we were a hit team for the English nation!”

“She ensnared King Athelred into hiring her into that position, then, using drugs and alcohol and sex, she whispered the idea for the Saint Brice’s Day Massacre into his ear in a way that he actually thought it was something that he’d dreamt up.”

“She told me she was following her king’s direct orders.  I wouldn’t have helped her kill anybody had I known otherwise.  Even then, I couldn’t kill baby Gytha.  That’s why I had to take her with me.”

“Princess Gytha was King Sweyn’s daughter by Queen Gunhild.  I thank the gods that you saved her.  I thank you.  Every day I thank you.  Your mother would have killed her without giving it a second thought, because she was doing it under Emperor Basil’s orders and she was a Roman citizen, a blind Roman patriot who would do anything for her Caesar.  But you are still an English citizen, just as she told you, only your true mother and father were sold into slavery following Viking raids and she bought you and trained you to be an assassin.  Let’s go through these files together and piece together how it was accomplished.”

They went through the Roman files together and they learned that the intelligence operation had been initiated by General John Tzimiskes as soon as Emperor Nicephorus Phokas had announced that Prince Svein would become a Roman co-Emperor on his successful conquest of Bulgaria.  Roman legionary security operatives had helped stage the murder of the Emperor.  “When Emperor John Tzimiskes failed to kill Prince Svein at the Battle of Dorostolon, they set up an operation to covertly kill him,” Erik concluded.

“How did he fail at Dorostolon?” Gretta asked.

“I showed up with the great merchant fleet and I forced them to make peace with each other.”

“But it says in the file that the Emperor had three hundred Greek fire breathing biremes with their fleet at Dorostolon!  How could a merchant fleet force them to do anything?”

“You’ve seen it,” he said.  “We don’t call it the great merchant fleet for nothing.”

“Mother brought me here to Constantinople to learn Latin and some mid-eastern assassin tricks and I’ve seen their fire ships blowing off steam.  The fleet is great in numbers, but to them it would just be more ships to burn.”

“A generation earlier, my son, King Ivar ‘the Boneless’ lost a great many Viking ships to fifteen of those fire breathers and all the men on those ships were Hraes’ Christians because we thought the Romans might treat their fellow Christians more kindly than the Aesir Hraes’.  Such was not the case.  They burned them alive and those who were saved by the sea’s waters were taken to the Hippodrome and were crucified.  Ivar and I took fifteen warships out armed with black powder propelled fire arrows and we found those fifteen fireships in the Roman harbour of Messembria and we attacked them with exploding fire arrows and we blew up every one of those focking fireships without losing a man!

“When I showed up at Dorostolon to save Ivar’s son, Svein, we fired a few warning fire arrows over their firebreathers and their Admiral Dorr had commanded those fifteen fireships from years before and I could see his sphincter tighten up a bit…well, a lot, actually, and we had his whole fleet trapped upriver and we’d only have to blow up the first fifteen or so fireships and the rest of the three hundred would have been trapped upstream of the burning fireships with nowhere to go but further upstream until they ran aground.  And when those fireships in Messembria blew up and burned, they really blew up and burned.  The Roman admiral had been scarred for life.”

“My God!” Gretta said.  “How old are you?  King Sweyn was over seventy when he died and you went into battle with his father?”

“And his father was old when he had Svein, and I was old when I had Ivar!”

“I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t have asked.”

“Anyway,” he started again.  “It looks as if they were trying to kill Svein for a long time.  Svein always employed body doubles.  When Prince Svein was fighting the Bulgarians, he had a double known as Prince Sviatoslav, and he had a double called General Sveinald, and when he was fighting the Romans he had another double called Sphengelos and another called Sphengos.  And he always made sure that his look was distinctive so that his doubles could copy him and stand out from all others as Prince Svein.  He even selected officers as doubles and they actually commanded battles on one front while he commanded battles on another.  He developed a reputation of being capable of being in two places at one time.”

Prince Erik continued going through files and he found one on Prince Svein that reported on his plan to reconquer Roman territory for the Eastern Roman Empire once he had been made co-Emperor.  “Very few Hraes’ knew of Prince Svein’s plans to rebuild Rome,” he told Gretta.  “I don’t know how they got this intel, but now I see that Emperor Basil has been following it to the letter since he took over from Emperor John.  But Svein was a military genius.  It had taken him twenty weeks to conquer Bulgaria and Basil has spent the last twenty years accomplishing the very same thing.  They now call him Emperor Basil the ‘Bulgar-Slayer’.”

“Why do they call him ‘Bulgar Slayer’?”

“Ten years ago he defeated a Bulgar army and he captured fifteen thousand Bulgars and five thousand Wallachian allies.  He had them all blinded, but every hundredth man was spared one eye to lead his cohort back to Bulgaria.  When they arrived in Sofia, it is said the sight caused Tzar Simeon to lose his mind and he died shortly after.  From this incident comes the saying, ‘In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king,’ or so they say.  But it was the Wallachian allies that Basil was really punishing.”

“How so?” she asked.

“After Prince Svein conquered the Bulgarians for Eastern Rome, they refused to make him co-Emperor, so Svein attacked the Romans.  During the war, Empress Helga died in Gardariki, so Svein came back for her funeral.  The Romans attacked while he was gone and they trapped and killed twenty thousand Pecheneg light horsemen with their heavy armoured cataphract knights, so Count Vlad ‘the Impaler’ of Wallachia, our ally, captured Philippopolis and impaled twenty thousand Romans in revenge.  The blinding’s were Basil’s revenge.  Impaling is a Wallachian thing, and blinding, a Byzantine thing!”

Then Prince Erik found a file on Jarl Olaf Tryggvason.  There had always been a rumour that Jarl Olaf had first been converted to Christianity in Constantinople, but it had never been confirmed until just then.  Erik read that when Jarl Olaf had first fled Hraes’ after being caught focking Princess Malfrieda, he first fled to the Varangian Guard in Constantinople, where he was recruited into Emperor Basil’s security services and sent back up through Hraes’ to infiltrate Prince Svein’s western forces.  By this time Prince Svein was King Sweyn ‘Forkbeard’ and Olaf presented himself as Ole and offered his services in Sweyn’s Viking raids on England.  Olaf had been given orders to assassinate Sweyn at his earliest opportunity, so Ole made contact with Basil’s agents in England and was soon involved with King Athelred’s plans to make Norway an English ally.  While King Sweyn was attacking England, Jarl Olaf attacked Norway and made himself king there.  Sweyn was proving hard to kill, so the Roman plan shifted to bogging Sweyn down in a long war with the English and for that, the Saint Brice’s Day Massacre was executed.  Gretta’s mother had been the agent of Basil who had whispered the plan into King Athelred’s ear during a drunken orgy with the mother-daughter sex team.  The file ended by describing the great success the Saint Brice’s Day mission had been.

Prince Erik knew the rest of that story.  Following the massacre in which King Sweyn had lost his Polish queen, the decade of Viking raids turned into a decade of open warfare and Sweyn had lost twenty years of the conquests he had planned to make to rebuild the Roman Empire and, shortly after conquering England, he lost his life as well.

“I think your security officer is back,” Gretta said, as they heard a tapping on their door.  Erik looked over at the water clock on the sideboard.  “I didn’t realise it was so late,” Erik said.  “I know!” she replied, as they both got up and walked to the door.  They showed the young captain into the room and they excused themselves and went into their bedroom to change for supper.  Then they came out and they all went into the hall and Erik locked their door and took them back to the Archimedes screw and Erik showed Gretta a slide that took them back down to the main floor dining room.  They had a fine supper there and were entertained by a lute player as they ate and conversed, then they went down into the Don Jon of the Red House and enjoyed a magic show put on by the Aesir and Vanir witches of the house.  Then the Exeyes officer returned with them up the Archimedes screw to fetch the Roman files from the room.

“Our contact at the Roman archives needs these back,” the officer said, “before we can get files on the ongoing mission that the Romans are presently running in Scandinavia.  He loves our gold, but he doesn’t fully trust us.  Do you need anything copied out of this?”

“No,” Erik told him.  “That will just delay things.  How much gold are these files costing us?”

“I wouldn’t know,” the officer confessed.  “That is way above my pay grade!”

“Did you want anything copied?” Erik asked Gretta.

“God no!” she replied.  “I still can’t believe what I’m reading.”

With that said, the officer left with the files and Erik and Gretta went to bed and enjoyed the buzz that the fine wines of their evening had imparted upon them.  An hour later, as they relaxed in each other’s arms, Erik said, “Once we finish reading reports here I want you to become my cabin girl and I’ll take you to Baghdad and India with me and I’ll show you how The Hraes’ Trading Company operates.  Then when we come back to Constantinople in the fall, I would like your assistance with something.”

“Mother made me swear an oath of fealty to Emperor Basil when we were here learning Latin,” Gretta confessed, as she guessed where this was going.

“We can work around that,” Erik assured her.  “Are you interested?”

“Of course!” she said, hugging him.

“Tomorrow’s files are likely to detail the Roman operation in England right up to the present,” Erik started slowly.  “I think I shall be reading that you poisoned Jarl Eirik in Southampton.”

“I thought I was doing it for the English security service,” Gretta admitted nervously.  “I had no idea the Romans were involved.”

“Hraes’ security agents will also be reading the files,” Erik warned her.  “King Canute will know.  You can never go back to England.”

“Where will I go?” she asked her prince.

“I want you to live with me in Gardariki,” Erik told her.  “Would you like to try?”

“Are there any English people in Gardariki?” she asked.

“Quite a few, actually,” Erik told her to her surprise.  “English slaves were very prized in both Baghdad and Constantinople and many of them worked hard and bought their own freedom back.  We’ve always welcomed the freed English slaves in Gardariki and many of them work in my guild factories there…for pay, of course.  No slavery is allowed in Gardariki.  Princess Gunwar’s orders.”

“Who’s Princess Gunwar?”

“She was my first wife, and she started the freedom movement.”

“I’ve heard of the freedom movement, but it’s over a hundred years old!”

“Almost two hundred,” Erik corrected.

“So you’re the Chief Officer of the world’s largest slave trading company and your city doesn’t allow slavery because your first wife forbade it?”


“You’re a complex man, Prince Erik,” she whispered, kissing him.  “I thought mother was the most complex being on Terra, but you are far more complex than she ever was.  For example, why are you helping me?”

“For two reasons,” he started.  “When I was younger, I bought a slave girl as my cabin boy and we worked our way through many issues we had both suffered from,” and he went on to tell her about Sinead.

“And the second reason?” she asked.

“When we were in Kiev together killing Bishop Thietmar, I think I may have fallen in love with you.”

“That’s deep!” she said, tucking her shoulder into his armpit.

While Gretta was sailing through Baghdad to India with her prince, the witches he had left with Prince Mstislav in Chernigov were busy and getting into all kinds of trouble.  Prince Ivaraslav’s Varangian help arrived from Sweden when Princess Ingigerd’s father, King Anund Jacob arrived in Novgorod at the head of a Swedish Goth army, wearing a blinding robe of woven gold that had been gifted to him by King Canute.  Prince Ivaraslav gathered his Centuriata about himself and raised the Novgorod mobile legion and they sailed south with the Swedes and set up their war-camp just west of Chernigov before the field upon which Princes Ivar and Helgi had battled it out upon just a generation before them.  He sent his officers to challenge Prince Mstislav to battle for the city.

Prince Mstislav was holding Chernigov with his Tmutorokan mobile legion, which was sufficient to hold the city, but, in order to fight out on the western plain, he needed more troops, so he was granted a day to call up the local Severian Slav militias.  This would still leave him with far fewer troops than Ivaraslav and his Swedish father-in-law had, so Princess Nado volunteered her witchcraft skills to help and Witch Hallveig was not going to be outdone by an Alan witch, so she offered her assistance with the goddess Irpa and Witch Nadege offered to help as well.  As the Severian troops streamed into the city, a suitable young boy was purchased from a local prince and, as feasting was taking place throughout the city, Witch Nadege took the young teen into her suite and pleasured him that night.  It was his first sex, and the morning sex that followed would be his last.

At dawn, the Tmutorokan mobile legion and the Severian militias began forming up and marching in two columns out of the city.  By the time they arrived at the field of battle, the Novgorod legion and the Swedish Varangians were already formed up on the other side of the plain, with the Varangians warriors arranged in a wedge at the center and the mobile legion on horseback on either flank.  Mstislav had no choice but to keep his mobile legion fully horsed to meet the rival legion on the flanks and he placed his Severian troops in the center to face the Varangians and he bolstered them with his Centuriata which he would lead personally.  He saw the bright gold armour of the Swedish king off in the distance and Prince Ivar was at his side instead of with his troops and Misty smiled at his good fortune.  Although the king was Christian, the Swedish troops were Aesir and would be very susceptible to the surprise that was planned for them once the battle was engaged.  The two armies left their hazel pole markers and began advancing against each other.

The city was again sealed up behind its walls, with a skeleton force of Chernigov Danes left to man them, and the three witches were out in the central square before the palace and twelve young female chantreusses danced around them in a circle, chanting, and the teen boy stood before them nervously.  Spirit entities could almost be seen swirling above the city and dark brooding clouds were gathering in the east and were approaching quickly.  Witches Hallveig and Nadege moved to either side of the boy and Witch Nado was chanting before him loudly.  Hallveig took her razor sharp seax out of its sheath and she severed the right jugular of the lad and Nadege eased him to his knees over a large silver bowl and his life blood spilled forth into it and the boy died.  Witch Hallveig stripped off her black clothes and began swathing the blood all over her body until she was quite red with it, and though her form was already that of a goddess, as the black clouds gathered above her she glowed gold through the red and rose up into a black swirling dust devil and the clouds took her away and blew west towards the battlefield.

Witch Hallveig was fully possessed by the goddess Irpa as she approached the two fully engaged armies from above and she came out of the clouds as Irpa and hovered above Prince Mstislav and his Centuriata and she began shooting bolts from each finger of both hands and every bolt killed a Varangian and brave Swedes filed in behind the dead and replaced them.  But as quickly as the gallant Varangians came on, the goddess Irpa dispatched them until the Swedes began moving back just to get clear of the bodies to fight the Severians.  Beyond the center, the Varangians were slaying Severians all about them, but they had to fall back with the center to keep some semblance of formation and soon Varangians from the ends had to go to the center as a long swath of bolt shot bodies trailed in the field behind the advancing Centuriata of Prince Mstislav.  The legions on the flanks fought melee style from horseback, but the Novgorodians had to fall back with the Swedes to protect them.  Then the black clouds above the Varangians and Novgorodians began flashing bolts of lightning and thunder peeled across the battlefield and cold rain and hail was blown into the faces of the Northmen to add to their misery.  As the Varangians were driven back, they began to approach the hazel poles they had started from and once beyond them, the old Roman laws of war would no longer protect them, so many of the exhausted warriors began surrendering and could not be killed, but were taken by their captives to the back of the lines and were bent over their shields and raped before being tied to scaling ladders in groups.

King Anund watched as his men began to melt away and he called for Prince Ivar to sound a general retreat.  Once they withdrew outside the hazel poles, acceptance of surrenders were no longer required by Roman law and the fleeing could be slaughtered wholesale, so the retreat had to be coordinated to minimize losses as the northern troops fought their way back to their ships.  Once Prince Mstislav saw that the Novgorodians and Varangians were fleeing, he called a halt to his army’s advance.  He knew that The Prince would want to broker peace between the two younger princes and any further slaughter would just foment bitterness.  So the army of Chernigov watched as the northern army fled and only the black raining clouds followed them out over the Dnieper as they rowed off in their ships and then the clouds came back lighter and passed clearly over Prince Mstislav and blew back to Chernigov and a white twister deposited a prone Witch Hallveig at the feet of the two witches who were still being circled by the dancing chanting chantreusses.  They wrapped a heavy blanket around the sleeping Hallveig and had soldiers carry her and the boy back into the palace.  The victorious troops would soon be arriving in the square and the exhausted witches didn’t want to be there.

The summer in Denmark was not without incidence either.  Jarl Ulf had declared young Prince Hardeknute as King of Denmark in place of Canute and had wrested control of the army from Queen Gyritha, who immediately fled to England.  Jarl Ulf then joined an alliance that King Olaf ‘the Stout’ of Norway had already established with King Anund Jakob of Sweden and they set up a meeting that was to take place in Kingscrag, Skane when King Anund returned from Hraes’.  King Olaf wanted to change the defensive alliance into an offensive arrangement and King Anund was just getting back from his defeat in Chernigov, and he arrived at the meeting place with half the army that he had set out with in the spring.  He was angry because it was his Swedes that had suffered most of the losses during the battle, slaughtered by a witch, and his son-in-law, Prince Ivar, had hardly lost any men.  He gave the offensive arrangement his blessing because it would give him a chance to exact revenge out of Ivar and Mstislav’s father, Prince Valdamar ‘the Great’, who was now masquerading around as King Canute ‘the Great’ of England.  He learned at the meeting that Canute was no longer King of Denmark, but it would take an offensive measure to keep it that way.

Prince Erik and Gretta had enjoyed each other immensely over the summer, trading in Baghdad and Ashaval and Mumba and she had met his wives there and she began to experience the full scope of his trading empire.  If the Caesar of the Eastern Roman Empire was king of kings, then Prince Erik was chief merchant officer of all merchants and she appreciated the peace of trading over the wars of empire.  Erik’s personal fleet took one last shipment of untouchables bound for Constantinople and they sailed back north to where they had started.  The untouchables sold quickly as The Prince arranged for an audience with the Emperors Basil and Constantine, and he came bearing gifts.  He had lavished much gold about since arriving in the capitol and a lot of it was sent in the Caesars’ direction.  When he stood before the seated Emperors in their throne room, a place he had visited occasionally over the past two centuries, he had three gifts to show Emperor Basil ‘the Second’, the ‘Bulgar-Slayer’.  And Princess Sviataslava stood on one side of him and Princess Gretta on the other.

“Princess Gretta has told me that she swore an oath of fealty to you, Emperor Basil, and I wish to offer you one of these three gifts if you release her from that pledge,” The Prince said grandly as he waved his arm back to reveal the boxes that were being wheeled into the room.  “They have all been checked by your security,” he added, as several Varangian Guard officers stood armed on either side of the crates.  “Will you accept one of these gifts, should you choose it, in exchange for Gretta?”

Emperor Basil nodded an interest in the offering.

Prince Erik then opened the lid of the smallest box and in it was a small keg of black flour.  “This is the black powder we use to propel our rocket arrows that your Greek fire breathing biremes find so dangerous.  My Alchemists of Gardariki have reverse engineered the Cathayan formulation of it and have even improved upon it and with this gift comes the MUD Book for its manufacture, should you choose to accept this gift.”

Emperor Basil nodded his interest in the next offering.

“This is the famous sword Tyrfingr,” he said, opening up the lead lined crate he carried the dangerous weapon in.  He made sure the open box was pointed towards the Emperor and he was hoping that Basil would be so intrigued by it that the warrior within him would come close to inspect it.  Emperor Constantine was not interested in it, not being a warrior like his brother.  “It guarantees victory for all who carry it into battle, but must always be sheathed in the blood of its last victim.”  And The Prince reached into the box with one hand only and pulled the sword out of its lead scabbard enough to show the Emperor the glow of the blade and that peaked enough of Basil’s interest for him to come down from his dais and inspect the thing.  He walked up and studied the sword intently and even moved to touch it, but then returned to his throne.  The Prince left the crate open and moved on to the last gift, a tall box which he flipped open and held out a hand to steady the man who stepped out of it.

Gretta gasped as she saw that it was her handler who had visited her at the Tower of London.  Erik stood and steadied the man and said, “And this is my last offering, your head of security for Operation Brice with King Athelred ‘the Unready’ of England.  Please select your choice of gift if you find any worthy of exchange for Princess Gretta.”

Emperor Basil had not seen the creator of Operation Brice for almost two decades so he got up and came down to look at him closer and he stood in front of Tyrfingr for several minutes while he assured himself that it was his security officer.  Then he returned to his throne and he made his selection.

“I will not accept your black powder,” he started, “because Rome doesn’t need anything that was created by the Alchemists Guild.  Our Roman science is vastly superior to the Guild science.”  Then he moved on to the next gift.  “I will not accept your sword, as it is of Aesir magic and we are a Christian Empire.”  Then he moved on to the last.  “I have no idea who this man is,” he said, “but he looks in need of aid and, as we are a Christian Empire, I find it necessary to show him kindness and care, as he seems somewhat dishevelled at being carted about in a crate.  In exchange for this man, I release Gretta from her oath, whatever it may have been for.”

“Thank you, Emperor Basil ‘the Bulgar-Slayer’,” Prince Erik said respectfully, and he had his men pack up the rest of the gifts.  As they were sailing across the Scythian Sea to Tmutorokan, The Prince took the crate that held the sword Tyrfingr and he dropped it into the sea.

“It was getting far too dangerous,” Erik told Gretta.

“Did Emperor Basil get enough exposure?” she asked.

“He’ll be dead before the year is out,” he answered and he instinctively rubbed his hand, the one he had used to expose the blade a bit more.  “Emperor Constantine didn’t get as much of a blast.  He’ll last a year or two.”

It is said that the Scythian Sea came to be called the Black Sea because, at a certain depth, the lead weights of sounding lines turned black from something in the lower waters.  Perhaps that something is Tyrfingr.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:

A.D. 1025.  The entry for this year has been moved to A.D. 1026,

As it appears to have been wrongly dated.

The Prince Erik’s New Knytling Saga Chronicle for the year read:

Burislafs Final  (Boleslaw I ‘the Brave’ 967- June 17th 1025)

Chapter 130:  In the spring before Easter, Burislaf came to King Knud in Roskilde,

and was with him at Easter, and enjoyed many accolades, and carried the sword

before the king. And when Burislaf returned home, the king gave him good gifts,

whereupon they parted with friendship. The spring after Lent, Burislaf fell ill; he

then sent messengers to his advisers, consulted with them, and said that if he

recovered from this disease, he would visit King Knud, but if it did not fall into his

lot, then he asked the king himself to make a decision with the country that he liked

best. He also asked the king, for God’s sake, to grant his children friendship, and to

change everything between them, as he wished, for he saw that his brother Jarismar

had been well served by the fact that he had always been faithful to King Knud.

From this same disease Duke Burislaf died in Lent.

The Prince Erik’s New Chronicle of the Hraes’ for the year read:

(1025 AD)  King Anund came over with his Varangian followers.  Now this

Anund was blinded by a robe he had been given all woven with gold. He allied

Himself with Ivaraslav, and with his support Ivar marched against Mstislav who,

hearing the news of their coming, proceeded to meet them at Listven’.

At eventide Mstislav marshalled his troops, placing the Severians

in the centre opposite the Varangians, while he himself and his personal

retainers took up their position on the flanks. When battle commenced,

there was darkness with lightning, thunder, and rain.  Mstislav thus

ordered his followers to attack.  Then Mstislav came up with

his retainers to attack the Varangians, and the combat was violent.

As the lightnings flashed, the weapons gleamed and the thunder roared,

and the fight was violent and fearsome.  Now when Ivaraslav saw that

he was overpowered, he fled from the field with Anund, the Varangian

king, who lost his gold-woven robe in his flight. Ivaraslav arrived

safely at Novgorod, but Anund departed beyond the sea.

Then Mstislav proposed to Ivaraslav that the latter, as the

eldest brother, should remain in Kiev, while the Chernigov district

should belong to Mstislav.  But Ivaraslav did not dare to return to Kiev

until they were properly reconciled.  So Mstislav settled in Chernigov,

and Ivaraslav in Novgorod, though Kiev was occupied by subjects of

Ivaraslav.  In this year was born to Ivaraslav a second son, and he was

christened Izyaslav.  Also, on December 15 of this year Emperor Basil the

Second, ‘the Bulgar Slayer’, died after a brief but painful illness.



Back To Table of Contents

(1025 AD)  The Prince was late getting back to Southampton.  He had introduced Gretta to his three Vanir Roman Porphyrogennetos wives and his eighteen Hraes-Roman Porphyrogennetos daughters and three hundred and sixty Hraes-Hraes-Roman granddaughters and he set Gretta up in his palace in Gardariki as his new Aesir wife there to replace Anna, Empress Helga’s handmaiden who had given birth to Princess Anna Porphyrogennetos and had recently passed.  Once Gretta was settled in with her new extended family, The Prince sailed north and then stayed in Kiev and Chernigov a few weeks while he brokered peace between Princes Ivaraslav and Mstislav with Ivar controlling Hraes’ on the western side of the Dnieper and Misty the eastern side.  His witches in Chernigov didn’t want to return with him quite yet as they were still being celebrated as heroes in the city and the Alan Witch Nado had opened up to them and began to share some of her Aran magic with them.  Witch Nadege was her favourite protégé and there was the matter of Witch Hallveig having also spared another five young Swedish Varangian warriors and the goddess Irpa was still within her and she was putting the young men through their paces with a regularity that precluded sea travel.

When he caught up with stragglers of the great merchant fleet in Roskilde, he learned that Jarl Ulf had persisted in his encouragement of Prince Hardeknute’s King of Denmark claims and he warned the jarl that he was putting himself and the boy in jeopardy, but he had to be very diplomatic about his warnings because Ulf now controlled the Danish legions and the great merchant fleet had already dispersed to its home countries, so Erik had lost that huge army of ships.  He dared not tip off Ulf about what he’d learned in Constantinople and had learned in Sweden on his way through.  “I heard rumours in Sweden that King Anund plans to attack Denmark because he blames the Danes for his defeat in Chernigov,” he warned Ulf.  “I wouldn’t face the Swedes alone, because he likely has the aid of King Olaf and his Norwegians.  Take your legions into Jutland and wait for King Canute’s aid.  He is assembling a fleet with which to easily crush those two interlopers, and I guarantee that he will reward you handsomely for your help.”

The Prince had sent messengers with the English portion of the great fleet to tell Queen Emma he would be late, so she wasn’t worried as he sailed into Southampton weeks over schedule.  He saw all the tallships back from the Newfoundland and he saw a lot of new tall warships anchored beside them, and one in particular that was huge.  It had two masts set up like a large cargo knar and he’d counted sixty oar-ports ‘tween deck on the stearingboard side, so a hundred and twenty oars total.  He hadn’t seen a ship with that many oars in the north since King Alfred’s attempts at overlarge longships a century earlier.  And those were just open longships.  These were tallships with a full double deck and triple deck fore and aft castles!

“I’ve finished King Sweyn’s castle on Wight,” Emma told him, “and I’ve just finished King Canute’s castle on the sea!  What do you think of her?”

“She’s awe inspiring!” Erik said as his shieldship pulled up to the main quay beside it.  “A veritable fortress on the waters.”

“And it’s fixed frame, so it can take a lot of punishment,” Emma said proudly.  “King Canute wants to see you in Winchester right away.  I want to come and visit with Aelfgifu.”

“When do we leave?”

“I’ve got the carriage loaded up and ready to go now,” she replied.

“By the gods,” Erik said, “doesn’t anybody fock anymore?  I’ve been at sea for a long time!”

“Don’t get your balls in a knot, fellow Knytling,” she answered.  “I’ve got the carriage all set up and I’m going to ride you all the way to Winchester!”

“The children aren’t coming?  I haven’t seen them yet.”

“We’re riding in the back seat, they’ll be in the front seat and I’ve got a blanket hung between us.  Only my handmaiden will be on our side and she may have to ride you for a bit while I rest.”

“Your blonde handmaiden?” Erik inquired.

“Yes, your favourite,” and she poked him.

And she did have the carriage all set up.  There was a huge picnic basket with food and sparkling Frankish wine and Khazar Vayar and the handmaiden kept the children from peeking while they had sex and then Emma kept the children from peeking.

King Canute was waiting for them when they arrived at his palace in the evening and he said, “I’m glad you’re back safely,” and they hugged, “because I’ve been getting reports back from our intelligence in Constantinople that get more and more disturbing.”

“Is Emperor Basil dead yet?” The Prince asked.

“No,” Valdy said, curiously.  “I did get a report that he’s taken ill, but they expect a quick recovery.”

“That’s not going to happen,” Erik assured him.  “And King Athelred’s head of security is there with him and will be dying shortly after him, and Emperor Constantine will follow them both in about two years.”

“How do you know all this?”

“I took Gretta out of the Tower with me and we did a hit on them.”

“Poisoning?” Valdy asked, sitting down.

“Tyrfingr poisoning,” he answered.

Canute kind of knew what The Prince meant.  He knew that there was a poison in the sword that kept wounds from healing.  “I was looking for Gretta,” he said, “to have her beheaded.”

“No!” Erik echoed.  “Why?”

“She’s been working for the Romans,” Valdy explained.  “She was ordered to poison Jarl Eirik.  That’s how he died.  Didn’t you read the report?”

“I must’ve missed that one.  We were going through a lot of them.”

“I know!” Valdy exclaimed.  “I’ve been getting them all!  Each one more unbelievable than the last.  Where is Gretta?”

“I left her there to monitor Constantine’s death.  She’ll be back in a couple of years.  You can kill her then.”

“Jarl Eirik’s nephew, Ivar ‘the White’, just got back from the pilgrimage to Rome I sent him on, and he says he saw his Uncle Eirik’s spirit at the Vatican right when he died!”

“Are you still going next year?” Erik asked.

“He’s set up all the hostels and inns and security, so I guess it’s a go.”

“Did you read the reports on King Olaf?”

“Which one?  Trygve’s son or Harald’s son?”

“Both, I guess, but Olaf ‘the Stout’ Haraldson has worked for Basil for years and so has Jarl Ulf, when they were working for King Athelred together.”

“So, was Athelred working with Rome?”

“I don’t think the Romans found him worthwhile to work with,” Erik guessed.  “They likely just manipulated him and let him make his own mistakes.  They just wanted him to keep your father in the north fighting him rather than going back to Constantinople to claim his co-Emperorship.”

“But was Olaf Tryggvason really working for them?” Canute asked.

“Apparently,” he answered.  “When you kicked Jarl Olaf out of Hraes’ for focking your mother…”

“That motherfocker!” Valdy interrupted.

“…he snuck off to Constantinople and joined the Guard there.  That’s where they recruited him.  The Roman reports said he didn’t like to follow orders and that he kept letting opportunities to kill Sweyn pass by, but he ended up achieving a lot more than they’d expected him to, until Jarl Eirik killed him, or thought he killed him.”

“Is that why the Romans poisoned Eirik?” Valdy asked.  “Because he killed their Christian crier boy?”

“Basil’s hard-nosed,” Erik said.  “They don’t call him the ‘Bulgar Slayer’ for nothing.”

“Our security officer attached a statement that you told him Basil blinded fifteen thousand Bulgar warriors just so he could blind five thousand of their Wallachian allies.”

“He would have blinded more Bulgarians, but that was all he needed to avenge the twenty thousand Romans of Philippopolis that Count Vlad of Wallachia impaled to avenge our twenty thousand Pecheneg allies the Roman knights massacred at Adrianople.  Anyway, that’s likely why Basil had Eirik poisoned…vengeance.”

“If Jarl Ulf was working for the Romans,” Valdy began, “do you think Jarl Thorkel was working for them too?”

“No,” Erik said.  “When Thorkel was pretending to work for Athelred, he was actually working for your father, and Sweyn told me Thorkel did him great service against the English.  But I don’t think Jarl Ulf is working with King Olaf or the Romans anymore.  I put the fear of Canute in him and if you find him withdrawn to Jutland, it means he is ready to assist you against the Norwegians and Swedes.  Use his help, then decide what you’ll do with him.”

“Why were you so late getting back?”

“I was brokering peace between two of your many sons in the east.”

“Are Ivar and Misty going to bury the war-axe?”

“I think we’ve worked out a compromise,” Erik said.  “But Hraes’ is now divided and Ivar gets what’s west of the Dnieper and Misty gets what’s east.”

“Did you see my new tallships?” Valdy asked.  “Emma has finished them just in time for me to take them to Denmark in the spring against these conspirators.  One of my faithful officers just arrived from Liere with news that Kings Olaf and Anund are preparing to attack Skane and Zealand.  We’ll soon see how Jarl Ulf responds to their attack.  I shall be leading my new fleet to Denmark in the spring.”

“I got this from Prince Mstislav in Chernigov,” Erik said, taking a gold chain mail robe out of a bag he had slung from his shoulder.  “It’s the gift you gave to King Anund.  It was in the baggage train that Misty captured after defeating the Swedes.  You might want to give it back to Anund Jakob.  He’s still your son’s father-in-law.”

“I gave it to Anund to try to keep him from allying himself with Olaf, but I’ll try it again if I get a chance.  I’m okay with the Swedes, it’s the Norwegians that have been pissing me off lately.”

“Was the robe made with gold from the Newfoundland?” Erik asked.

“Yes,” Valdy admitted.  “I’ve been trying to buy peace with the Swedes and have also given gold to our rebellious Norwegian jarls and I’ve been giving much to the church for their support.”

“We need more tallships for the Newfoundland trade,” The Prince said.

“I know,” Canute replied.  “But I needed tallships for my war fleet too.  It’s the way of the future.  But Emma’s already starting on merchant tallships.”

So Prince Erik and Queen Emma visited in Winchester for a few days and they travelled with the king’s retinue to London for Yule.  Before festivities even began, a ship had braved fall weather and Hakon of Stangeby arrived with news that Skane had been occupied by the Swedish forces of King Anund and that Zealand had fallen to King Olaf’s Norwegians.  Then Canute learned that Jarl Ulf and his Danish legions had withdrawn to Jutland and were awaiting reinforcements from England.  “Well, at least we now know where the ears of the Ulf stand,” Valdy told The Prince.

“And where the ears are,” Erik told him, “the teeth are not far from,” meaning the Danish legions.

But the eyes of the wolf were on Denmark.  Once Jarl Ulf and his retinue arrived in Jelling on Jutland, he sent word to the Jute and Anglish Danes in Viborg that King Hardeknute wished to be confirmed as king by a general assembly there and Ulf produced a letter from King Canute of England giving him the power to promote Prince Hardeknute to that esteemed royal position.  He further told the gathered Danes that it was better to have such a king ruling in residence within the land than a king who spent all his time in England.  The people were inspired by Ulf’s fine speech and quickly officially elected young Hardeknute as their king.  And this was done while King Olaf’s Norwegians continued to ravage the eastern half of Denmark and King Anund harried all of Skane.

(1026 AD)  In the spring, the Newfoundland tallships sailed west under Captain Henri and then Prince Erik led the English merchant fleet east with the Irish and Norman components and they began assembling in Roskilde harbour under the noses of the Norwegian invaders as though nothing abnormal was happening.  The Norwegian merchant fleet joined it and the Swedish merchant fleet joined up with it on the Baltic.  It was business as usual for the Hraes’ Trading Company, and the great merchant fleet was too large and powerful for any one country to trifle with.

King Canute had taken his new war fleet out for spring manoeuvres and his shieldship sported two masts and a hundred and twenty oars, while the flanking ships of Prince Godwin and Earl Haakon had tall single masts and eighty oars each.  Six slightly smaller tallships trailed them and then the rest of the standard longships of the fleet followed.  The English and Danish legions embarked on the ships at Southampton and they then departed for Denmark.  When Canute arrived there, he went up the Jutland coast to Jelling and he found Jarl Ulf and Prince Hardeknute in King Gorm’s old palace.  The young prince quickly apologized to his father for usurping the throne and was just as quickly forgiven.  Jarl Ulf begged forgiveness as well, but it was not so easily forthcoming.  “Just be ready to defend Denmark when I need you,” King Canute told the jarl.  “We may make peace after this war.”

King Canute sent Exeyes officers from his Danish legion to Zealand to reconnoitre and he learned that King Olaf had come south in the fall with four hundred and eighty ships, but over the winter many had gone back to Norway and remained on call.  Olaf ‘the Stout’ had retained only sixty of his largest longships in Roskilde over the winter and when he’d sent for the rest to return in the spring, they were very tardy in responding.  Many of Olaf’s supporting jarls had received gold and gifts from England over Yule and the rebellious jarls even more.

King Olaf, meanwhile, had posted scouts in western Zealand to watch for any signs of King Canute and he kept his sixty dragonships ready to sail on a moment’s notice.  One day, while the Norse king was addressing the Danes of Roskilde at a public assembly to win their support, sentries rushed up and reported that they had seen several ships approaching from the west.  An old Dane in the crowd came forth and assured the King that the ships were merchant knars only; but when sails in growing numbers began to flood the horizon, he added that they were full of merchants who had come to buy back Denmark with iron.

King Olaf rallied his fleet and they sailed out of Roskilde harbour and sailed east through the sound between Zealand and Skane, gathering up all the Swedish war fleets he could find ravaging the coast of Skane and they all fled before Canute’s great warfleet, which soon blocked the whole sound from the north.  King Olaf could do nothing but continue eastward and connect with King Anund’s fleet, which was harrying the southern Skanian coast.

Components of Canute’s fleet, led by Earl Godwin, caught and crushed a small Swedish warfleet that had been north of it, harrying the coast off Stangeberg.  King Canute returned to Roskilde to reassert his regal domain in Zealand and he sent out ships to patrol The Vik and the coasts of Norway to ensure that his gold had bought peace with the jarls there.  He did not want a Norwegian warfleet coming up behind him while he attacked the fleets of Kings Olaf and Anund off southern Skane.  He spent time with Queen Gyritha in Roskilde and heard her grievances against Jarl Ulf while he waited for the jarl to arrive from Jelling with the rest of the Danish army.  He sent messengers to Jelling over the summer to hurry Jarl Ulf along, but he was in no hurry to attack the Swedes, whom he hoped would soon tire of the costs of maintaining troops on the sea.

But Olaf and Anund kept themselves busy by constructing a trap for King Canute and his fleet near the mouth of Holy River, a short stream in the eastern part of Skane that formed the outlet of a group of lakes just inland.  King Anund commanded the fleet while King Olaf, who had learned Roman military engineering while serving in the Varangian Guard, went inland with the army to build a trap for the Danes.  He built a frangible dam of cut logs and turf, and he bolstered the outlet flows of some of the smaller lakes, to fill the dam more quickly.  The army spent weeks working according to King Olaf’s directions, but it kept the Swedes occupied while they awaited the attack of King Canute.  When word finally came that Canute had arrived, the Swedes and Norsemen hastened to their ships.

It was late in the afternoon when Anund’s scouts finally caught sight of the great warfleet approaching from the west and couriers were dispatched to inform Olaf, who immediately prepared to break the dam, at the same time filling the course with large tree trunks left over from the construction.  King Canute saw the enemy drawn up in line east of the river mouth, but it was by then too late in the day to attack; so the Dane therefore refused battle that day.  Finding the harbour at the river mouth empty, he had his longships sail into it, as many as could be accommodated; and the large tallships all remained anchored just outside the estuary, which was too shallow to hold them.

At dawn the next morning, a large part of Canute’s longships were still beached and the troops were cooking breakfast and eating and conversing when, without the least warning, the waters of the river came bursting forth in torrents, dashing the floating logs against the beached ships as the riverbanks were inundated.  Many ships were damaged and many men drowned, but many had already been on their ships getting ready to sail, so, those who were able to, cut their ropes and allowed their ships to be swept out to sea with the deluge.  The tallships that were anchored at sea were swept out before them and the great tallship that Canute himself commanded was foremost among these and was swept out toward the expectantly waiting enemy fleets.  When the allied fleets recognised the ship, they immediately surrounded it and attempted to board, but it was not easily attacked, for the ship was high like a castle and had a very large number of men on board, who had been carefully chosen, thoroughly armed, and very well trained.  While the entire Swedish and Norwegian fleets were engaging the English fleet of tallships, the damaged longships along the Holy River were righted and made seaworthy and began assembling for battle.  King Canute was at the forecastle of his ship and he waved directions to his princes at the forecastles of their ships and arrows flew down from tallships into the lower longships and their crews huddled under shields and took many casualties from the fierce attacks.

Then the Danish fleet of longships attacked in great numbers from the mouth of the river and the Danish marines began boarding the enemy ships and the attack was carried to them.  The fighting went on for many hours, from ship to ship, as decks were swept on both sides.  Suddenly, Jarl Ulf came up alongside with his ships and men and the battle turned in favour of the Danes.  Canute’s forces now came at the allies from all sides.  Then Kings Olaf and Anund determined they had won as great a victory as they could and they ordered a retreat, withdrew from Canute’s fleet, and separated from the fight.

Disorganised and in damaged condition, Canute’s warfleet could make no effective pursuit and Ulf’s Danish fleet wasn’t large enough to go after them on its own.  The Danes and the English had suffered heavy losses, while those of the Swedes and Norsemen were relatively light, but their allied fleets combined were still smaller than the warfleet of Canute, because the majority of the Norwegian fleet remained in Norway.  So the two kings agreed to avoid further battle and sailed eastward to Sweden, intending to stop for the night in the harbour of Barwick on the coast of Blekinge, however, a large part of the Swedish fleet did not enter the harbour, but continued the journey northward and their sails were not lowered until their chiefs had reached their respective homes.

The next morning, King Anund called for a meeting of the remaining chiefs.  The entire fleet anchored and the assembly proceeded to discuss the situation.  King Anund lamented that of four hundred and twenty ships that had joined his fleet the preceding summer only one hundred and twenty were now in the harbour with him.  These with what was left of the sixty Norwegian ships did not make a force sufficient for successful operations against Canute.  The Swedish king then proposed to Olaf that he should spend the winter in Sweden, and in the spring, perhaps, they might be able to regroup and fight again.  Olaf protested against surrendering their purpose so soon.  It would still be possible, he argued, to defeat Canute, as his large fleet would soon be compelled to scatter in search of provisions, his eastern coasts having been too recently harried to afford much in the way of supplies. But the outcome of the meeting was that King Olaf left his ships in Sweden and returned to Norway overland.

Canute was kept informed of the situation of the enemy fleet, but did not attempt pursuit.  He did not want to fight the Swedes, his hope being to detach King Anund from his more vigorous ally.  To that end, he found some local Swedish Hraes’ merchants and he had them sail to King Anund bearing a gift, the golden robe he had lost after his battle in Chernigov, noting it was courtesy of the Princes Ivar and Mstislav who had patched up their differences and were looking towards a far more prosperous future.  When he learned from the merchants that the enemy fleet was about to disband, he returned to Zealand and blocked the Sound, hoping to intercept the Norwegian king on his return northward.  But King Olaf was on the march through south-western Sweden to his manors on the eastern shores of The Vik.  On his arrival in his own land, he disbanded the larger part of his army, with only a small body of trusted men remaining with him at Sarpsborg, where he planned to overwinter.

Though Canute had suffered a setback at Holy River, the final outcome gave no advantage to his enemies.  The Swedes were discouraged and tired of conflicts that did not seem to concern them.  King Olaf could claim no victory, having returned to Norway without his ships, almost fifty large snaeker dragonships.  From that day forth he found disloyalty everywhere.  Had Canute appeared with his fleet off the Norwegian coasts, he would have found only the enthusiastic allegiance of rebellious Norse jarls.

Canute was not prepared, however, to move against Olaf at this time.  He had to straighten up things with the Danish court in Roskilde.  Queen Gyritha had numerous complaints regarding Jarl Ulf and his abandonment of the Royal House to the invading Norwegians and the resulting rapes and abuses that followed.  It was clear that Ulf and his retainers were not very popular in Denmark anymore.  The day before Michaelmas, the King was in the palace at Roskilde, playing a game of chess with the jarl to help him open up about the travesty.  But as they were playing, the king made a wrong move and the jarl took one of his knights, the Roman one.  “Take the Norman knight,” Canute said.  The nose piece on the other knight was of the Norman variety.  “I hear that Olaf was a Roman knight and that is where he learned his military engineering.”

“What do you mean by that!” Ulf protested innocently.

“It means I don’t want you near Roman knights ever again!”

Jarl Ulf was angered by this and he overturned the chessboard, rose, and left the table.  When Canute added, “Are you running away now, timid Wolf?” the Jarl turned in the doorway and replied, “Farther you would have run at Holy River, if I had not rushed up with my fleet to help you as the Norse and Swedes were thrashing you and your men like dogs!” and the jarl left the room and went to his suite to sleep.

Jarl Ulf had a dream in the middle of the night and he saw his fylgja floating up above his bed and thought that he would be attacked in his room and he was not far off in his thinking.  Canute ordered Earl Godwin to go up to Jarl Ulf’s suite and slay him with his sword, not wanting to deprive him of Valhall, should heaven, as was likely, not have him.  But Jarl Ulf was nowhere to be found, so Godwin called up all his security officers and had them conduct a search throughout Roskilde.  In the morning it was learned that the jarl had sought sanctuary in the Holy Trinity Church nearby.  Earl Godwin dared not slay Ulf on holy ground, so Canute sent Ivar ‘the White’, one of his Centuriata guardsmen, a Norseman who was Jarl Eirik’s nephew, the man who had seen Eirik’s spirit while at the Vatican and he sent him to carry out the executive order.  Ivar soon returned to his king with a bloody sword as evidence that his daughter’s husband was no more.

But a life had been taken in God’s own house; blood had been shed before the holy altar; and, even though the king had ordered it, the Church could not overlook the crime.  The priests immediately closed the church; but on the king’s command, it was reopened and mass was said as before.  Canute blessed the church with gold and gifts to get this done.  He also gave his daughter, the divorced and now widowed Princess Estrid, large, landed estates.  But after the killing, she quickly sent her young son by Jarl Ulf, Sweyn, prudently off to her brother, Prince Ivaraslav, in Novgorod.

Prince Erik returned from the east on time this year, as very little out of the ordinary had occurred.  Emperor Basil was dead and trading had gone very well.  Princess Gretta accompanied him on his travels and when he dropped her back off at Gardariki, he picked up more of King Sweyn’s stored gold for redeposit in the Don Jon of his castle on the Isle of Wight.  He stopped in Kiev to see if Prince Ivaraslav had moved back, but he was informed that Ivar was still ruling out of Novgorod.  He then stopped in Chernigov to see how Prince Mstislav and his wife were getting along and to check if the spirit of Iry Dada was becoming an irritation.  He was hoping an exorcism had been done so he could bring the young Witch Nadege back west with him, but Iry Dada was still fine with both of them.  So he again left Witches Nadege and Hallveig in Chernigov with their Aran witch patron.

When the great merchant fleet arrived in Roskilde Harbour, Prince Erik learned that King Canute had just left for England and that Jarl Ulf was dead and young Prince Sweyn was now in Novgorod.  King Anund Jakob was back in Uppsala and King Olaf was overwintering in The Vik.  It was as if a war had not just occurred.  The Prince spent some time with Queen Gyritha as the fleet paid their tithes and went off to their home countries and then he, too, set off for England with his personal fleet.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:

A.D. 1026.  This year went King Knute to Denmark with a fleet to

the holm by the holy river; where against him came Ulf and Eglaf,

with a very large force both by land and sea, from Sweden.  There

were very many men lost on the side of King Knute, both of Danish

and English; and the Swedes had possession of the field of battle.

The Prince Erik’s New Chronicle of the Hraes’ for the year read:

(1026 AD). Ivaraslav recruited many soldiers and arrived at Kiev,

where he made peace with his brother Mstislav near Gorodets. They

divided Rus’ according to the course of the Dnieper. Ivaraslav took

the Kiev side, and Mstislav the other. They thus began to live in peace

and fraternal amity. Strife and tumult ceased, and there was a great

calm in the land.



Back To Table of Contents

(1027 AD)  In early spring, King Canute and his pilgrim retinue left Winchester for Southampton and from there sailed across the English Channel and up the Seine River, following the new river trade route to the Rhone River and down it to Marseilles, inspecting every Hraes’ post and store along the way.  Jarl Haakon of York was with him, as was his cousin, Ivar ‘the White’, who had slain the Christian Jarl Ulf in the Holy Trinity Church in Roskilde, and for whom they were seeking contrition in Rome.  It had been Canute’s intention to visit King Rudolf of Burgundy on the way through Frankia, but he was already on his way to the Holy City.  All the royals of Europe were going.  The German Emperor Conrad of the Holy Roman Empire was being officially crowned by the Pope in the Vatican and had personally invited Canute to his coronation.

King Canute had several chests of gold with him and he made donations at all churches along the way.  The generous progress south was one that was to be long remembered in the monasteries along the route.  Important institutions at some distance from the chosen route were also sent fine presents and gifts of gold, as was the monastic foundation at Chartres, under Bishop Fulbert and a church at Cologne.  But King Canute and his retinue followed the route that Jarl Ivar ‘the White’ had laid out on his trip to the Vatican two years earlier and they stopped first in Rouen to visit the new duke, Richard ‘the Third’, who had just inherited the Duchy on the death of his father, Queen Emma’s brother, Richard ‘the Second’ the year before.  Things were in turmoil in Normandy, as Richard’s younger brother Robert had tried to usurp the throne and a civil war had just finished with Robert’s acceptance of Richard’s rule.  But the inns they were staying at along the way were unchanged by this and the young local women that Jarl Ivar had arranged to meet up with them all along the route were unaffected by the unrest, so, Canute slept most nights with a recently deflowered young virgin under each arm, as did the jarls in their suites.  They briefly visited the Hraes’ store in Rouen and then left for their pre-arranged lodgings in Paris.

King Canute visited with King Robert ‘the Second’, King of the Franks, and his son and then he visited the original Hraes’ store there and Queen Emma’s Hraes’ store as well and he was amazed at the difference between the two establishments.  Emma’s store was much more modern and family oriented and had a restaurant in it that extended outside onto the dock by the River Seine and it was much more pleasant spending time there.  There were no slave sales in her store and fur sales were minimal and usually as finished fashions.  They sailed on up the Seine and visited her newer stores in Troyes and Dijon before being portaged across to the River Rhone and visiting her stores in Lyon and Marseille, and all were equally impressive.  Valdamar could see why his father, King Sweyn, had encouraged Emma to design her Hraes’ store in Southampton and had then emulated them in all the eastern Hraes’ stores from Denmark to Baghdad and beyond.  And a lot of the young women that were being suddenly blessed by English gold were workers from Emma’s stores along the route.

Leaving Marseilles, the small fleet sailed down the coast of Italy, stopping in the Norman controlled province of the Langobards to inspect her new Hraes’ store in Genoa before sailing further south to Rome.  There King Canute met up with King Rudolph of Burgundy and together they inspected Queen Emma’s newest Hraes’ store in the ancient city of the Romans.  Then they both met Emperor Conrad and Empress Gisela in Vatican City and the next day all the royals met Pope John ‘the Nineteenth’ at the Church of the Holy Apostles for a rehearsal of the coronation ceremony that would follow on Easter Sunday, March Twenty-Sixth.

The coronation and celebrations that followed lasted for a week and Canute and Conrad drew into close alliance with each other, Canute promising one of his Porphyrogennetos grand-daughters to Conrad’s son young son Henry.  In return favour, Canute received the southern Province of Slesswick, a swath of Anglish Danish land between the Schley and Eider Rivers, that Emperor Henry the Fowler had taken from the Danes a century earlier. Thus the Eider River, once more, became the southern boundary of the Danish kingdom.  But Canute worked hard to establish friendship with the Holy Roman Empire just south of Denmark, lavishing gold and gifts freely amongst the German princes at the coronation and receiving gifts in return, in order to secure his southern border so he could retaliate against King Olaf and initiate the conquest of Norway.  And because Olaf Haraldson was a Christian king and had brought about the reconversion of Norway that had fallen away after the supposed death of King Olaf Tryggvason, King Canute worked even harder to secure the blessing of the Pope for his counterattack upon the Norwegians for the rapes and abuses suffered by the Danes, Queen Gyritha in particular, in their attack upon Zealand the previous year.  Thanks in part to the growing schism between Latin and Orthodox Christianity, Olaf having been first baptised in Constantinople while a Varangian Guardsman there, Pope John, although not blessing retribution, took it under consideration and offered to turn a blind eye to it, a slight against the Orthodox Christian Emperor Basil, the ‘Bulgar-Slayer’, who had so recently died, if the Danes could see fit to spare the life of Olaf ‘the Stout’.

But there was another little problem that the Pope brought up with Canute, and it was about the slaying of a Christian earl while under holy sanctuary in a church in Roskilde the prior year.  King Canute apologized for the incident and explained that a treasonous Jarl Ulf, meaning Wolf, had been sentenced to be executed and the order had been passed down to an Aesir Heathen prince in the Danish legion who didn’t appreciate the Christian custom of holy sanctuary.  “I was going to have the truant officer executed for his crime,” Valdy started, “but I thought, perhaps it would be God-worthy to convert him to Christianity first, and I have tried and tried to convince him of the wonders of Christianity to no effect.  I have brought him with me to the holiest of cities in the hopes that I could find someone who could help convert the young man before I sentence him to death so that he may find heaven in the afterlife instead of that evil hall they go to.”

“Perhaps I could have a word with the young man,” Pope John offered.  “I have some expertise in that area.”  So Valdamar had young Ivar ‘the White’ brought into the Vatican and the Pope had words with him, through Valdy, as interpreter, and soon the Viking warrior was nodding in understanding of the Christian faith and he agreed to be baptised.

“I am performing a number of royal baptisms on Sunday,” the Pope told Canute in Latin, “and it would be auspicious to have a heathen Dane baptised with them,” he added proudly.

“I shall bring him myself,” Valdamar told him.

“Your Latin is excellent!” Pope John told the king, visibly impressed.  “Many read Latin, but so few of us speak it these days.  Where did you learn it?”

Valdy did not want to tell him that his grandfather had been taught Latin by the Eastern Roman Emperor Theophilus while imprisoned in Constantinople, so he just said, “Good merchants learn the language of their customers and my Hraes’ Trading Company has just opened a new store here in Rome.”

The Pope was even more impressed and he took King Canute by the arm as he walked with him out of his huge office and he said, “That young prince of yours seems like a fine young man.  Perhaps I can also intervene on his behalf and ask you to spare him so he can enjoy the benefits of Christianity in life as well as in the death that inevitably comes to all of us.”

“Your words of wisdom melt my soul,”  Valdy said piously.  “Your wish is my command.”

On the Sixth of April, a great synod met at the Lateran to consider various weighty matters and to settle certain important controversies.  King Canute had been invited by the Pope and he brought up several complaints of the English Church.  He stated that the tithes taken from the English archbishops for the pallium were too high and the Pope promised to reduce the charges on condition that Peter’s pence be regularly paid.  Canute then promised to send his English subjects a reminder on promptness.  The Pope also agreed to exempt the English school at Rome from the customary tribute.

The king also had another set of grievances, which he discussed in the same synod, about English and Danish pilgrims not being given fair and reasonable treatment on their pilgrimages to Rome, being burdened with unjust tolls and with overcharges at the inns.  Canute also felt that the highways should be made safer and justice more accessible to those who travelled on holy errands.  The reasonableness of Canute’s request was apparent to the synod, and it was decreed that the treatment of pilgrims should be both liberal and just.

From Rome, Canute hurried back to his Denmark campaign, following the same route, and same women, it seemed, as on the journey south.  But a ship was sent off from the mouth of the Seine to Southampton with a message to the English clergy and people, advising them as to their king’s accomplishments in Rome:


Canute, King of all England and Denmark and of the Norwegians and of part of the Slavic peoples, to Ethelnoth the Metropolitan and Alfric of York, and to all bishops and primates, and to the whole nation of the English, both nobles and freemen, wishes health.

I make known to you that I have lately been to Rome, to pray for the redemption of my sins, and for the prosperity of the kingdoms and peoples subject to my rule. This journey I had long ago vowed to God, though, through affairs of state and other impediments, I had hitherto been unable to perform it; but now I humbly return thanks to God Almighty for having in my life granted to me to yearn after the blessed apostles, Peter and Paul, and every sacred place within and without the city of Rome, which I could learn of, and according to my desire, personally to venerate and adore. And this I have executed chiefly because I had learned from wise men that the holy apostle Peter had received from the Lord the great power of binding and loosing, and was key-bearer of the celestial kingdom; and I, therefore, deemed it extremely useful to desire his patronage before God.

Be it now known to you, that there was a great assembly of nobles at the Easter celebration, with the Lord Pope John, and the Emperor Conrad, to wit, all the princes of the nations from Mount Gargano to the nearest sea, who all received me honourably, and honoured me with magnificent presents. But I have been chiefly honoured by the Emperor with divers costly gifts, as well in golden and silver vessels as in mantles and vestments exceedingly precious.

I have therefore spoken with the Emperor and the Lord Pope, and the princes who were there, concerning the wants of all my people, both Angles and Danes, that a more equitable law and greater security might be granted to them in their journeys to Rome, and that they might not be hindered by so many barriers, nor harassed by unjust tolls; and the Emperor and King Rudolf, who has the greater number of those barriers in his dominions, have agreed to my demands; and all the princes have engaged by their edict, that my men, whether merchants or other travellers for objects of devotion, should go and return in security and peace, without any constraint of barriers or tolls.

I then complained to the Lord Pope, and said that it greatly displeased me, that from my archbishops such immense sums of money were exacted, when, according to usage, they visited the apostolic see to receive the pall; and it was agreed that such exactions should not thenceforth be made. And all that I have demanded for the benefit of my people from the Lord Pope, from the Emperor, from King Rudolf, and from the other princes, through whose territories our way lies to Rome, they have freely granted, and also confirmed their cessions by oath, with the witness of four archbishops and twenty bishops, and an innumerable multitude of dukes and nobles, who were present.

I therefore render great thanks to God Almighty that I have successfully accomplished all that I desired, as I had proposed in my mind, and satisfied to the utmost the wishes of my people. Now then, be it known to you, that I have vowed, as a suppliant, from henceforth to justify in all things my whole life to God, and to rule the kingdoms and peoples subjected to me justly and piously, to maintain equal justice among all; and if, through the intemperance of my youth, or through negligence, I have done aught hitherto contrary to what is just, I intend with the aid of God to amend all.

I therefore conjure and enjoin my counsellors, to whom I have intrusted the counsels of the kingdom, that from henceforth they in no wise, neither through fear of me nor favour to any powerful person, consent to, or suffer to increase any injustice in my whole kingdom; I enjoin also all sheriffs and reeves of my entire kingdom, as they would enjoy my friendship or their own security, that they use no unjust violence to any man, either rich or poor, but that every one, both noble and freeman, enjoy just law, from which let them in no way swerve, neither for equal favour, nor for any powerful person, nor for the sake of collecting money for me, for I have no need that money should be collected for me by iniquitous exactions.

I, therefore, wish it to be made known to you, that, returning by the same way that I departed, I am going to Denmark, for the purpose of settling, with the counsel of all the Danes, firm and lasting peace with those nations, which, had it been in their power, would have deprived us of our life and kingdoms; but were unable, God having deprived them of strength, who in His loving-kindness preserves us in our kingdoms and honour, and renders naught the power of our enemies. Having made peace with the nations round us, and regulated and tranquillised all our kingdom here in the East, so that on no side we may have to fear war or enmities, I propose this summer, as soon as I can have a number of ships ready, to proceed to England; but I have sent this letter beforehand, that all the people of my kingdom may rejoice at my prosperity; for, as you yourselves know, I have never shrunk from labouring, nor will I shrink therefrom, for the necessary benefit of all my people.

I therefore conjure all my bishops and ealdormen, by the fealty which they owe to me and to God, so to order that, before I come to England, the debts of all, which we owe according to the old law, be paid; to wit, plough-alms, and a tithe of animals brought forth during the year, and the pence which ye owe to Saint Peter at Rome, both from the cities and villages; and in the middle of August, a tithe of fruits, and at the feast of Saint Martin, the first-fruits of things sown, to the church of the parish, in which each one dwells, which is in English called church-scot. If, when I come, these and others are not paid, he who is in fault shall be punished by the royal power severely and without any remission. Farewell.

King Canute had planned to stay in Denmark until he had brought King Olaf ‘the Stout’ Haraldson to heel, but mid-summer he got a message that King Malcolm II of the Scots was driving the English out of Lothian, the district between Scotland and England.  Canute and Malcolm had fought a battle over Lothian in 1012, while Canute was still Prince Valdamar of Kiev and he had attacked the Scots under the orders of his father, King Sweyn, and the two had fought to a draw and made peace by allowing both Scottish and English to share the land equally.  The Battle of Cruden, or Croju-Dane, as it was called, meaning ‘Slaughter of the Danes’, caused a terrible loss of life to both sides, but Valdamar left Malcolm to clean up the mess and bury the dead.  King Malcolm built a church on the battlefield with the Scots buried north of it and the Danes buried to the south.

The peace had been maintained until 1018, when the Northumbrians, under Earl Uhtred’s brother, Earl Eadwulf Cudel, had attacked the Scots and lost, but King Canute had met with King Malcolm and assured him that the attack had been unauthorized, and the peace was restored when the head of Eadwulf had been presented to the Scottish king.  Something had happened to disturb that peace, so King Canute soon sailed north with his mobile legion out of Wight and he met with the angry King Malcolm at Cruden Bay.  Two hundred transport longships sat in the harbour east of the mobile legion that stood ten thousand man strong behind King Canute and west of the Cruden Battlefield sat fifteen thousand Scottish warriors behind King Malcolm.  The two kings rode out alone and met each other in the center of the old battlefield they had fought upon almost two decades earlier.

“We lost many good thanes here,” Canute said to Malcolm as they sat across from each other.

“Aye, that we did,” King Malcolm replied, “and we shall again today unless we can repair our peace.”

“What has fractured our peace?”

“Why, your Jarl, Ivar ‘the White’ has,” Malcolm responded.  “He assured Duke Richard of Normandy that you carried the blood of the Caesars in you, so I sent my three daughters to Rouen to establish relations with you in the hopes one or two of them would also carry the blood of the Caesars in their offspring.  All three of them came back and are now with child!”

“I remember them,” Valdy said, recollecting three Scottish sisters he had taken in Rouen and Paris, “But they didn’t tell me they were your daughters.  I assumed they were the daughters of a Scottish earl.  But is it not a good thing that they were all prolific, if that’s what you wanted in the first place?”

“Aye, it might be,” Malcolm agreed, “if you indeed did carry the blood of the Caesars in your veins.  But King Olaf ‘the Stout’ of Norway has told me it was your wife, Anna Porphyrogennetos of Constantinople, who carried the blood of the Caesars in your family’s veins and not you!  He claims her byname, Porphyrogennetos, means ‘born of the purple blood’ in Roman.”

“That it does,” Valdamar agreed.  “And I have never claimed to be Porphyrogennetos myself.  Coming from the blood of the Old King Fridlief/Frodi line of kings goes as far back as Julius Caesar himself, and coming from the later King Ivar ‘the Boneless’ Harde Knute Knytling line of kings adds even more to that.  I am happy with that distinction, but rumours persist and it is hard to correct them.”

“So, why does your jarl persist in repeating these false rumours?  All my daughters claim they heard these words directly from your jarl’s mouth.”

“We fought to a draw here almost a score of years ago and made peace,” Valdy began.  “Yet it was almost destroyed by a Northumbrian earl who attacked you at Carham, and your victory there was your greatest and cost Earl Uhtred his head.”

“It was his brother, Earl Eadwulf, that lost against me that day,” Malcolm corrected him, “and it was you who delivered me his head.”

“I know,” Valdy agreed, “yet people everywhere insist on saying it was Earl Uhtred who lost against you even though I remind them that I had taken Uhtred’s head two years before the battle.”

Malcolm looked down and played with a loose thread on his saddle horn.  “Perhaps people need a more dramatic reminder about these things,” he said, then he smiled a bit.  “The witches all say the girls will be having boys.”

“That’s what your daughters told me they wanted.  But Donalda’s period was off for her to have a son, so I had to take her to Paris with me so she could have a boy.  It’s the Aesir way.  I assigned a whole cavalry troop to escort her back to Rouen.”

“I’m glad you showed them such respect,” Malcolm said.  “They’ll only be able to marry earls or princes up north here, so a kingly line such as King Frodi’s in their first son’s blood will keep the Scottish kingship within our family.  I just hadn’t expected to have such luck with all three of them.”

“So, does our peace still stand then?” Valdy asked.

“It stands as strong as that great monster of yours that my daughters can’t stop talking about.  The ‘Pink Monster’ they say you call it?”

“It was more of monster back when I was younger.  I keep it on a short leash these days, while trying to be a good Christian and all.”

“Speaking of that,” Malcolm started, “How went your pilgrimage?”

“It went very well,” Valdy said.  “I got the Pope’s permission to attack King Olaf.  All I have to do is find him.  He keeps running from me!”

“Well, now you have even more cause to attack him.  He wasted no time in trying to stir up trouble between us.”

“When King Ivar ‘the Boneless’ lorded over York, he always made it a point to get on well with the Scot kings.  It will take more than Stout Olaf to come between us, my friend.  We have spilled enough blood over this fertile ground,” he said, looking about the field, “to last us both our lifetimes.”

“Yes,” King Malcolm agreed.  “Now it is time for us to break bread and spill wine!”

“My ships’ cooks have been baking bread and roasting meats,” Valdy invited, “and I’ve brought the finest Frankish sparkling wines back with me.”

“I’ll have to take a few bottles to my daughters for celebrations after the births.”

“I have three cases for them,” Valdy said, “and they’re from Epernay in the Frankish Province of Champagne.”

The two armies gathered about the harbour, keeping a short distance apart as their kings and earls and officers feasted together between them.  Much bread was broken and even more wine was spilled and King Canute invited King Malcolm to bring a fleet to Southampton in the spring to show off his beautiful daughters and his new grandsons.

“Duke Richard passed on while I was in Rome,” Valdy added, “but the new Duke Richard ‘the Third’ told me his new concubine wife had just become pregnant and the Witches of Rouen all say it’s a boy.  I’ll invite him as well.  It will give you a chance to meet the new Duke of Normandy.”

“Normandy sure seems to be hard on Dukes,” King Malcolm stated.

“I know!” Valdy agreed.  “King Ivar ‘the Boneless’ had to save young Duke Richard ‘the First’ from the Franks and he had to leave a whole Roman cataphract legion in Rouen to protect him.  It cost Harde Knute a fortune!  Duke Richard called him Hagrold.”

“When I was in Rouen with my wife, Gunnora,” Malcolm recalled, “I saw those Roman and Norman knights jousting.  Will there be any jousting in Southampton in the spring?”

“I can ask Duke Richard to bring some Roman and Norman knights to joust with my Danish knights at King Sweyn’s Castle on the Isle of Wight.  It’s just across The Solent from Southampton.”

Prince Erik had led the great merchant fleet east in the spring and had missed King Canute’s return from Rome, but when he returned to Roskilde in the fall he found he had missed Valdamar again.  Canute had spent all summer going up and down the Norwegian coast and when he led his fleet into The Vik where King Olaf was supposed to be, the Norse king had retreated deep into the hinterlands of Norway.  Some said he’d fled east to Sweden, but there were rumours that he still lurked in the dense forests.  Valdamar had been planning on awaiting The Prince’s return from Baghdad in Roskilde, but he’d received word that the Scots had attacked and harried northern England, so he had returned to Winchester to lead an army against King Malcolm of Scotland.  The Prince shook his head at the news, collected the Danish tithes from the merchants of the fleet and disbanded it so they could return to their home ports.  He was glad to learn that his grandson had made peace with the Scots when he sailed into Southampton for the winter.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:

A.D. 1027. Canute, king of England and Denmark, received intelligence

that the Norwegians held their king Olaf in contempt on account of his

meekness and simplicity, his justice and piety. In consequence, he sent

large sums of gold and silver to certain of them, earnestly entreating them

to reject and depose Olaf, and submitting to him, accept him for their king.

They greedily accepted his bribes, and caused a message to be returned to

Canute that they were prepared to receive him whenever he chose to come.

This year went King Knute to Rome; and the same year, as soon as he

returned home, he went to Scotland; and Malcolm, king of the Scots,

submitted to him, and became his man, with two other kings, Macbeth and

Jehmar; but he held his allegiance a little while only.

The Prince Erik’s New Chronicle of the Hraes’ for the year read:

(1027 AD).  A third son was born to Ivaraslav, and he named him Sveinaldslav.



Back To Table of Contents

(1028 AD)  Over the winter, King Canute brought Prince Erik up to speed on what had transpired in the north of England and the peace he had re-established with King Malcolm of Scotland, and they both discussed the recent death of Duke Richard ‘the Third’ of Normandy and the succession of his brother, Duke Robert ‘the Magnificent’.  At the same time, Canute’s emissaries in Norway kept bribing and paying Viking chieftains to support his efforts against King Olaf there, and Olaf ‘the Stout’ saw his support outside The Vik withering.  In early spring a message arrived in Southampton that King Malcolm would soon arrive with his personal fleet and his three daughters with their new sons.  King Canute and Queen Emma sent greetings and congratulations to her nephew, Duke Robert, the new Duke of Normandy, and invited him to Southampton with his Princess Herleva of Falaise and their new son to meet with the Scottish king.  And Emma also asked him to bring his Roman and Norman knights for some friendly jousting in King Sweyn’s new castle on the Isle of Wight.

King Malcolm and his three daughters, Bethoc, Donalda and Olith, arrived first with their young sons, Mal Canute, Mael Canute and Maol Canute, and were put up in the north wing of King Sweyn’s castle, as were their troops, and their ships were beached in the harbour there.

Duke Robert and his concubine Princess Herleva, arrived next with their baby son William ‘the Bastard’, and were put up in the south wing of the castle, as were their knights, and their ships were also beached in the harbour.

King Canute and his Princess Aelfgifu sailed across The Solent each morning with Prince Erik and his Queen Emma to entertain their guests and Emma would tour the guests about the new castle and explain all the latest defensive accoutrements of the bastion.  The masonry and stonework was Norman in nature and Duke Robert saw that right away and took mental note of it.  He liked his castles Norman.  In the afternoons there was jousting on the Castle training grounds.  The jousting teams were made up of cataphract legion units, starting with the original Roman cataphracts, rather, the descendants thereof, against the Danish unit and the Norman unit against the Kievan team.  There was also a regiment of English knights, but they were still in training, so some were used as filler knights to replace the injured.  King Malcolm had seen the Roman and Norman knights years earlier in Rouen when he had visited Robert’s father, Duke Richard, but these new Norman knights were more heavily armed and armoured than he had seen before and Canute’s Kievan, Danish and English knights had their hands full competing with them.

“Our Norman knights,” Emma explained to Erik and Canute, “have been fighting against the Varangian Guard of Constantinople in southern Italy, and the equipment has gotten heavier as the battles grow deadlier.  The Romans of New Rome have all the best gear,” she lamented.

“And the best training,” Erik agreed.  He had fought against the Romans and had attacked Constantinople many times in his exceptionally long life.  He knew what Duke Robert and his officers and knights were facing south of Naples.

“The jousting has become so much deadlier than I remember it,” was all King Malcolm could add.  But his daughters all loved the extreme challenge of the jousts and they cheered on their favourites as they held their babes to their breasts, just as Roman women were likely doing in the Hippodrome of Constantinople, where jousting was taking over chariot racing as the top draw in martial competitions.  Under Emperor Basil, ‘God rest his soul’, which Prince Erik would enjoy uttering from time to time, the Eastern Roman Empire had expanded on all fronts, and Roman cataphracts had led the charge on those fronts.  If you fought the Romans, you’d better have knights, heavily armoured knights, or you would lose.  The Romans under Basil had improved on the cataphracts of the Persians, and the Normans, in fighting them, had improved as well and it could be seen in the competitions in King Sweyn’s castle on Wight.

Towards the end of the competition, Jarl Ivar ‘the White’ arrived on Wight from Winchester with a message for King Canute.  “This is Jarl Ivar,” Canute said, introducing him to King Malcolm and his daughters.  The girls all knew him and greeted him warmly.  “He is going to apologise to you young ladies for telling you that I carried the blood of the Caesars in my veins, which I don’t, and I am continually reminded of this by my sons in Kiev, who do.”

And Jarl Ivar apologised most graciously to the young ladies.  “My king has lectured me most sternly on the incorrectness of my statement,” he added.

But King Malcolm had something of his own to add.  “Just the other day,” he began, “I heard some courtiers talking about how King Canute is so powerful, he can even stop the tide from rushing in if he so chooses.  Do you, too, profess this?”

“I must confess to have repeated this claim once or twice,” Ivar replied.

“And what do you have to say about this,” Malcolm said, turning to King Canute, “my dear King Canute?”

“I believe you have already said it,” Canute replied, “when you told me that sometimes something more dramatic must be added to the lecture, and I think I have just the solution.”

The tide was soon to begin rising up the harbour beach, so, after the awards were all presented, and most of them went to the Norman knights, King Canute had his retainers, with Jarl Ivar foremost, carry him on his throne litter, out into the harbour and they held the litter in their hands as the cold spring waters rose up their calves and their feet were numb by the time it reached their knees and the whole time Canute could be heard commanding the tide to stay back, but the retainers’ knees were numb by the time the waters reached their hips and they hiked up their litter to keep the king dry and soon their teeth were set to chattering from the cold and King Canute said, “Apparently a king cannot hold back the tides, and perhaps his retainers should refrain from making such claims!”

“Aye!” the retainers shouted in shivering unison and Canute regally waved them back to shore and they waded back onto land.  They set the litter down and King Canute got up and walked over to King Malcolm and said, “There is much wisdom in your words, for I think my retainers will put more thought into their words, henceforth.”

Malcolm could still hear the chattering of their teeth as they shivered and could only reply, “Aye!”

Later, King Canute walked over to Prince Erik and told him, “I shall be sailing with a war fleet to Roskilde with your merchant fleet.  I’ve just received news that King Olaf has returned to Tonsberg and is stirring up trouble.”

So, after Queen Emma’s tallship fleet had sailed off west to their Newfoundland trade, the king and The Prince sailed east to Denmark.  Canute led his fleet of fifty English warships into the Lime Firth of northern Jutland where the Danish warfleet was assembling, and Erik led the larger English merchant fleet around Jutland and on to Zealand and Roskilde Harbour where the great merchant fleet was assembling.  Tithes were collected from the Irish and Norman and Flemish and Icelandic and Greenlander and Norwegian and Danish merchant fleets that awaited them there and then Prince Erik led them east to the Baltic, where they were joined by the Swedes and Poles, and then into Hraes’ and on to Kiev.

King Canute waited for the last of his Danish chieftains to join him and then he paid out gold for their support and a fleet of a thousand warships sailed back out the western exit of the Lime Firth and sailed north across the Skagerrak Sea to the coast of the Nor’Way.  Their northward progress was told of in a poem by the skald Thorarin Praise-tongue, who had come along to provide such royal rapport.  “The lord of the ocean sails from the Lime Firth with a vast fleet and King Canute parts the Skagerrak with many a fine ship where the war-trained men of Agder joyously watched the advance of their hero,” for Canute’s dragonships gleamed with silver and glowed with gold and boded of war.  “The swart ships glide past Lister and fill the Sound of Eikunda and finally reach Erling Skjalgson’s estates at Soli.”

When King Canute’s envoys had come north to enlist the aid of Jarl Erling, they had brought much of this gleaming silver and glowing gold and had fared widely over the winter, paying out the treasures that Canute had promised for support the autumn before.  And now they also gave money to others and bought their friendship as well, for Canute and Erling supported them in all this.  King Canute spent several weeks in Eikunda Sound while Jarl Erling gathered a large force of Norwegian supporters.  Their old alliance was renewed and Erling was promised all the region between the great headlands of Stadt and the Naze, with a little additional territory to the east, in The Vik, holdings of King Olaf.

The Norwegian king’s spies kept him apprised of Canute’s progress and of the growing size of his fleet and, while the Danes passed out gold in Soli, Olaf’s marines went into Sweden and snuck out the ships they had left there after the Battle of Holy River and sailed them through the Sound between Skane and Zealand and crossed the Kattegat Sea and rowed them up into the deepest reaches of Vik Fjord.  There King Olaf founded another town and he wanted to name it Olof’s town, but his officers thought the name should be even more secretive, so they called it Oflo, which, when written looked more like Oslo, and that’s what it came to be called by the time Olaf’s brother came back to Norway and re-founded the town.

Meanwhile, King Canute’s mighty fleet sailed north up the coast of the Nor’Way, on past the Hornel-mount and the promontory of Stadt, till the “sea-falcons glided into the Nith River.”  At important points along the way King Canute landed and summoned the jarls and hearses to things and assemblies, and the summons were always obeyed.  The jarls swore allegiance to their new King and solemnly gave Canute the hostages he requested.  All remembered what he had done with the English hostages he had mutilated over a decade before and of the terrible things that had happened to that country after he had erected his Unicorn scorn pole and the oaths and hostages were not given lightly.  Whenever it was required, Canute appointed new local officials from Jarl Erling’s group, whose loyalty he believed in.

Olaf was informed of Canute’s actions and did what he could to prepare to meet the invasion, but his supporters who came to his aid were few and far between.  What forces the Norwegian king was able to collect sailed up into Oflo Fjord, where King Olaf prudently remained until King Canute had once more departed from the land.  The Vik was officially part of Canute’s Denmark, had been given over to the Danes after King Sweyn and Jarl Eirik had killed the last King Olaf at the Battle of Svolder, or so it had been believed, and Valdamar knew that if he went into The Vik, Olaf would only retreat further into the deep woods of Norway.  All the jarls in The Vik knew this, but most of them had to support Jarl Olaf anyway…most of them were related to him in some way or another.  But they were soon mortified by the news their spies brought: that King Canute had sailed back south across the Skagerrak to the northernmost promontory of Jutland and had begun erecting a huge Unicorn scorn pole and he faced the pole directly north into the mouth of Vik Fjord and he had the Witches of both York and Rouen cut the runes that cursed The Vik and, in particular, the new town of Oslo, while Jarl Olaf ruled that part of his Danish Kingdom, for Jarl Olaf was a king no more, or a king of nothing.  King Canute had taken all of Norway away from him and the only lands he now ruled were Danish, had been Danish for years, and had never been given nor surrendered to him.

“The land of the Angles, our peninsula,” King Canute told Earl Godwin and Jarl Hakon, “has always pointed up into The Vik Fjord, like a Danish monster lingam ready to deflower a great Norwegian yoni, and I would not be the first Danish king to fock Norway!  My great grandfather, King Frodi ‘the Peaceful’, focked Norway over real good a century and a half ago, but I’m sure he still wasn’t the first.”

“Is that when King Frodi brought the great pagan army to England?” Earl Godwin asked.

“Yes,” Canute answered.  “But he wasn’t after England.  He was after my other grandfather’s son, Prince Erik’s Helgi ‘Arrow Odd’, and The Prince’s brother, King Roller of Norway, who later became Duke Rollo of Normandy.  Prince Helgi and King Roller fled from my great grandfather to East Anglia in England because Helgi was a co-King there, and he was running out of places to run to.”

“Why was your great grandfather out to kill Prince Helgi?” Earl Godwin asked.  Jarl Hakon knew the answer to that one.  He had read the family sagas many times before…the Sagas of the Knytlings, or Knot Kings.

“As ‘Arrow Odd’, Prince Helgi had killed eleven of his twelve grandsons, the berserker sons of Prince Arngrim and Princess Eyfura, in a duel on Samso Island,” Canute explained.

“Ahh, I’ve heard this,” Godwin said.  “And Prince Hjalmar ‘the Brave’ killed Angantyr, the twelfth son.  It’s the Duel on Samso, the most famous Holmganger of the north!”

“Exactly.  King Frodi ‘the Peaceful’ destroyed Norway and trashed England just to get at those two and he chased Helgi all the way across the Atlantean Sea and Helgi discovered the Newfoundland and fled into it and escaped the wrath of Frodi.”

“Did King Frodi ever catch Prince Helgi?”

“No.  King Roller and Helgi hid in Normandy for twenty years, and when King Frodi’s son Alf finally discovered them there, King Frodi took an army and trashed Frankia, but King Roller and Helgi saved Paris and King Frodi returned to Kiev to get a fresh army.”

“So, King Roller and Helgi saved Paris from a king that was only after their own heads and he got rewarded as Duke Rollo with Normandy?  Did Prince Helgi get anything?”

“He got to go to Kiev and kill King Frodi while in a duel with his champion and then he fled to the Romans for safety.  Only the Emperors could save him from the wrath of King Frodi.”

“But wasn’t the king dead?”

“Long live the king!” said King Canute.

“Ahh…” Godwin realised, “the wrath of King Alf.”  The king and his earls watched the northern sea, the Skagerrak, for a while, with the scorn pole at their backs.  The skald, Thorarin ‘Praise-Tongue’ stepped forward and said, “Jutland is like the sword and The Vik is the sheath.”

“Denmark is the sword,” Canute corrected him, “and Norway is the sheath.”

“That’s poetic,” Godwin said.  “What happens if the Norwegians drive Olaf out of Norway?”

“The poet lifts his pen while the king sheathes his sword,” Canute answered.

“And if they don’t?” Godwin asked.

“Then the ‘Pink Monster’ focks over Norway!” Canute replied and he turned back and walked to the scorn pole and adjusted a few of the rune carvings.

Godwin realised there was a dark side to King Canute.  His earls and jarls complained that he was too slow in his actions, too patient with his enemies, yet, whenever his king found it necessary for someone to be dead, that’s how they usually ended up.

The Norway under King Canute reverted to the old tripartite Aesir religion of Odin-Thor-Freya, but those that wanted to remain Christian were free to do so, however, the silver and gold that Canute had so freely passed out in his new Nor’Way managed to find its way only into the hands of his Hethin followers.  All the jarls and hearses and bondsmen that King Olaf had converted to Christianity at sword point, freely converted back to Aesir, and the even poor, who had converted to Christianity because they liked the idea of one equal heaven for all instead of seven heavens of which they got the poorest, even they freely converted back to paganism because they liked to eat.

The people of The Vik were soon grumbling.  Every time someone fell off a horse and died or fell into the sea and drowned, it was King Canute’s Unicorn scorn pole that had caused it.  False rumours were even circulated by troublemakers that one of the Witches of Rouen had sacrificed herself and had used witchly powers to decapitate herself and had even mounted her own head upon the unicorn’s horn.  Jarl Olaf knew his days of ruling Oflo Fjord were numbered and, when, due to world-wide cooling, an early frost killed off a lot of the crops, he left for Sweden.  King Anund Jakob had fallen under the sway of King Canute, so Olaf fled to Prince Ivaraslav in Kiev, but he was still ruling from Novgorod, so Olaf carried on to Constantinople.  Emperor Constantine ‘the Eighth’ Porphyrogennetos was ill, but took the time to see his Christian proselytizing agent in Scandinavia and promised him support.

Prince Erik was in Constantinople with his new wife and Magi assassin accomplice, Gretta, hoping to witness the death of another Emperor, when his spies informed him that King Olaf of Norway was in the City of the New Romans.  Then spies arrived from Kiev to inform The Prince that King Olaf was now Jarl Olaf of Nothing and he learned how his grandson Canute had used a Unicorn scorn pole to depose him without bloodshed.  The Prince and his wife were staying in the Bridal suite of the Red House of Constantinople and Princess Svia had just sent him up two young Swedish princesses for their enjoyment, when Erik turned to Gretta and said, “These horned horses, these unicorns, seem to be more powerful than I’d ever imagined.  Perhaps the next time we have to kill a khan from the future, we should use a unicorn.  I hear the Mongols love horses!”  But Princess Gretta was too busy enjoying her Swedish princess to comment.

The Prince had to lead the great merchant fleet back north soon, but his spies learned that Jarl Olaf had been given a regiment of the Varangian Guard to take back north with him to assist with the regaining of his throne.  There were rumours throughout the city that the Emperor wasn’t just ill, that he was dying, but The Prince ran out of time and had to leave Constantinople at the head of the Christian merchant fleet.

Prince Erik and Princess Gretta spent their last night together in the RHOC by themselves in the Bridal suite.  “You’ll have to stay here alone and witness the death of Constantine,” Erik told her.  “That has been your job here for the past two years, and send a messenger to me with the specifics of his death.  Whatever you do, don’t come in person.  King Canute still wants your head.”

“How many Emperors do I have to kill for him before he forgives me for killing his favourite jarl?” Gretta complained.

“Just one more jarl,” Erik answered, “and his name is Olaf.  While you’re minding the death of the Emperor, if you get a chance to kill Jarl Olaf, then do so, but only if a clean opportunity presents itself.”

“Olaf, the Jarl of Nothing?”

“Yes,” Erik answered.  “I imagine you know exactly what he looks like.”

“Oh yes,” she answered back.  “I saw him many times when he was serving King Athelred.  And if he sees me, it will be because I’ll be the last thing he ever sees!”

“That’s the spirit.  Just don’t be in a rush.  Take your time.  Killing Olaf could be a two year project that keeps Canute off your back.”

“And then what?”

“We’ll find someone else who needs killing, silly.  There will never be a shortage of people who need killing.”

“Especially when you’re in the business of killing.”


When Prince Erik arrived in Kiev he learned that Prince Ivaraslav still did not trust his half-brother, Prince Mstislav, and was continuing to rule from Novgorod.  Erik didn’t like it.  He wanted his grandsons to trust and support each other and, if Misty was ruling from Chernigov, then Ivar should be ruling from Kiev.  The capital was unstable if not directly lorded over.  He had Witch Nadege join him in Kiev from Chernigov.  She had been staying with Prince Mstislav and his wife, Princess Nado, the witch of the Alans, to monitor the possession of his grandson by the spirit, or half-spirit of Iry Dada.  Nadege was now in her early teens and was of marriageable age, so The Prince asked her to marry him and be his wife in Kiev.

“Princess Gretta is my wife in Gardariki,” Erik explained, “and it is working out well, and with the instability in this area, I would like you to live in my great hall in Kiev and keep my household here.”

“Will I have to have children for you?” Nadege asked, “because I really don’t want children.  I’m a witch and would like to practice my craft.”

“I have lots of children,” Erik admitted, “and grandchildren from India to the Newfoundland, so I would respect your wish, but I don’t want to keep you here if Rouen is where you could better practice your witchcraft.”

“Rouen witchcraft is Aesir based and practiced throughout the north,” Nadege explained, “and I have already learned most of it.  Here I have found Roman Vanir witchcraft and, through Princess Nado, the original Aran witchcraft of the Persians, so I would like to stay here and learn as much of it as I can.  If possible, perhaps I could travel to India with you to study Brahman witchcraft?”

“You would have to sail with me disguised as my cabin boy,” Erik told her.  “That is the way I have done it with my wives in the past.”

“You won’t be bending me over for anal sex, like a regular cabin boy, will you?  I prefer our regular sex.”

“No.  I prefer our regular sex as well.  The disguise is for your safety.”

“You may bend me over once, if you wish, just to explore the full cabin boy experience.”

“That won’t be necessary,” Erik assured her, “but if you happen to be bending over just right in our cabin one evening, I might take you up on it.”

Nadege smiled and kissed him and she felt his hardness against her thigh through silk sheets and they had more of their regular sex.

“Speaking of bending over,” Erik started, after they were sated, “how are Mstislav and Iry Dada getting on sharing the one body?”

“They seem to be getting along fine.  Iry just joins in on some the sex and Nado says it is best when they all come together.  I’ve been monitoring them and see no reason for an exorcism at this time.”

“So you monitor them while learning Aran magic?”

“Learning the Aran witchcraft that put Iry Dada into your grandson is part of the monitoring process.  I still don’t fully understand how it was done, and, although I have learned how to undo it using Vanir magic, I still want to learn how to undo it using the original Aran spells.”

“That sounds like a good approach.  When you get older I want us to do some Zombie magic together.”

“Is that Brahman witchcraft?” Nadege asked gently.

“I think it’s out of Africa,” Erik told her.  “The Christian lord and prophet, Jesus, used it to raise the dead, including himself, a thousand years ago, but it’s much older than that.  One of his apostles came back with him from Africa with it.  I think he was Judas, the son of a Magi king from West Africa who had attended the birth of the prophet by following a nova, or new star, to Bethlehem, or so the story goes.”

“But on Wight you said you got it in India.”

“Yes, and some in Baghdad, but the Brahman mages and alchemists are still learning about it and many of them have died doing so, so we’ll have to be careful with it.  The Zombie drug is so ancient it may been known to the Aran mages.  Maybe Nado knows something of it?”

“She knows a lot,” Nadege acknowledged.  “I’ll ask her about it.”

“Don’t tell her we have access to it.  She might want to try it and I don’t want Misty dying over it.”

“I’ll be careful with her,” she assured him.  “She can get pretty weird sometimes, weird in the magical sense.”

“You feel safe being with her though, right?”

“Oh yes!  It’s just the Alan in her.  They take everything so seriously.”

“The Alans were once a great people.  Our Vikings have even found Alan tribes living north of Islamic Spain and south of the Basques.  I think they were once all connected right across Europe.”

Just as the last of the great merchant fleet ships were passing through Kiev, a messenger ship arrived from Constantinople with reports from Gretta and Exeyes officers working with her.  Gretta wrote that Constantine was still hanging on to life, but just barely, and the officers claimed that Jarl Olaf appeared to be in no hurry to lead his Varangian Guardsmen north to Norway.  The Emperor had given him permission to take his men to Italy to raid the Normans there for gold and plunder with which to finance his northern operations.  ‘That would be good news to share with Valdy,’ The Prince thought.

Erik and Nadege sailed north up the Dnieper just behind the fleet and they stopped in at Chernigov to get married in Prince Mstislav’s palace and Princess Nado gave away the bride and Prince Erik and Princess Nadege spent the night together in the palace in Chernigov and consummated their wedding.  The next morning, The Prince returned to his ships and sailed after the great merchant fleet.

Prince Erik met King Canute in Roskilde Harbour and congratulated him on his success in using a mere scorn pole to turn King Olaf of Norway into Jarl Olaf of Nothing.

“It was all I could use,” Valdamar confessed.  “I gave the Pope my word that I would not physically remove Olaf from his new Christian kingdom, so I allowed the old gods to remove him for me.”

“Well, Jarl Olaf of Nothing went to the other pope, the Patriarch of Constantinople, and to Emperor Constantine, and he was awarded a regiment of Varangian Guards to help him retake Norway.”

“That’s just two thousand men,” Valdamar scoffed.  Jarl Erling can raise ten thousand men to take against him.”

“It’s two thousand Varangian Guards,” Erik reminded him.  “How long will ten thousand bondsmen and farmers last against two thousand Christian Dane warriors in the service of the Roman Emperor.  You saw how badly the Normans beat us in last spring’s jousting, and the Normans learned that from the Varangian Guard.”

“I get your point,” Valdy admitted.  “Jarl Erling is focked!”

“I did receive a valuable piece of intel before I left Kiev,” Erik added.  “Jarl Olaf was taking his Varangians to Italy next year to raid Duke Robert’s Normans there.  The Emperor is paying him gold to help his own Roman and Varangian troops there, and Olaf gets to keep his own plunder to finance his return to Norway.”

“That’ll piss Duke Robert off!” Valdy said, stroking his goatee.

“Exactly!  And Duke Robert didn’t promise the Pope anything!  Do you think Duke Robert could be persuaded to send a regiment of Norman foot to Jarl Erling to put some backbone into his franklins and farmers?”

“I can’t pay them.  That would be indirectly attacking Jarl Olaf.”

“Let’s invite him to Wight again this spring for more jousting,” Erik offered, “and we’ll see what he wants ethereally for his help.”

“What do you mean, ethereally?”

“Could the Pope put a price on love?  I saw the way Duke Robert was looking at your daughter Estrid of the Porphyrogennetos blood during the duelling last spring.”

Valdamar had to think a minute and he remembered that she had come from Denmark with the Danish cataphract knights to watch the fights.  She loved watching jousting.  That was the only thing she had enjoyed about her joyless marriage with Duke Richard, Robert’s brother.  “Do you think Duke Robert is secretly in love with my Estrid?” Valdy asked his grandfather.

Erik knew only too well how one’s brother could hold a secret love for the other brother’s wife and no one would know of it.  He had also seen how Duke Robert had been embarrassed introducing his concubine Herleva as his duchess and had introduced his son as William ‘the Bastard’ because Herleva was too lowborn to marry royalty.  For a duke like Robert to have a Porphyrogennetos Princess as his duchess, he would be willing to pitch an army against Jarl Olaf, Christian acolyte or not.  And Jarl Olaf had attacked his Normans in Italy first.  “I think Princess Estrid could be persuaded to come to Wight once again with her Danish knights.”

King Canute thought back to the last time he was in Rouen and Paris and how the young royal princesses of Europe had fawned about him, begging to be endowed with Porphyrogennetos blood, and he said, “I think we should have this spring’s jousts in Rouen!”

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:

A.D. 1028.  This year went King Knute from England to Norway with

fifty ships manned with English thanes, and drove King Olave from

the land, which he entirely secured to himself.

The Prince Erik’s New Chronicle of the Hraes’ for the year read:

(1028 AD).  A portent visible to the whole country appeared in the heavens.


17.0  THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM  (Circa 1029 AD)

Back To Table of Contents

(1029 AD)  Prince Erik had waited until Yulefest for news on the death of Emperor Constantine ‘the Eighth’ Porphyrogennetos of New Rome, who had died November 12th of 1028 of a mysterious illness that had turned him ashen grey before death.  There had been no opportunities to off the second target as he had led his Varangians to Italy before the Emperor had expired and was already engaged with the Normans there.  The Prince passed that news on to Duke Robert, who had been invited to England for Yule, as had Princess Estrid of Denmark.  When the duke had heard that Estrid would be in London, he left Herleva and little William ‘the Bastard’ in Normandy.  He was now a duke without a duchess, with just an unmarried concubine and her illegitimate son, and he had been going out of his way to connect with the Princess of Denmark.  The Prince knew that if he wanted to find Duke Robert, then he should first locate Princess Estrid and the duke was sure to be nearby.

“I’ve just received news from Constantinople,” Erik told Duke Robert, “and it involves your Norman troops in Italy.”  And The Prince announced that Emperor Constantine was dead, but before he had died he gave former King Olaf of Norway a regiment of Varangian Guard foot soldiers to help him win back the Norse country.  Olaf had taken the regiment to Italy instead and was reported to have attacked the Normans there.  Duke Robert almost cursed out loud, but Princess Estrid was nearby so he bit his lip instead.  “Have you any details of the attack?” the Duke asked.

“Not yet,” Erik said.  “I have only heard that they have taken much plunder, but I should have details on their attacks by the time we come to Rouen for the joust matches.”

“I hope to make another match at that time,” the duke said, “with the permission of her father, King Canute.  Do you know of any gift I might present the King of England with that would impress him enough to allow me to ask for the hand of his daughter, Princess Estrid?”

“Princess Estrid of Denmark?” Erik asked innocently.  “Besides adding Denmark to his Empire, he has just recently added Norway, so, perhaps a regiment of Norman foot to put against Olaf’s Varangian foot soldiers, who will undoubtedly be coming north eventually to challenge his rule there.”

“That is a great idea!” Robert hissed.  “I can please King Canute while exacting revenge on the Guard for their attacks!  I’ll send a regiment of my knights to Norway.”

“King Canute wants the Norwegians themselves to defend Norway from Olaf’s elite troops, so foot might be better.  They’ll blend in better with the hearses and the bondsmen.”

“My knights fight equally well on horse or on foot,” the duke whispered, “and they’re far harder fighters than foot soldiers.  I can dress them down to blend in.  I don’t want to underestimate the Varangian Guard; I want my knights to kick their asses!”

“Yes, dress your knights down,” Erik mused, “chainmail, helmets sans Norman nose pieces, round unpainted shields, that sort of thing…”

“And Viking swords instead of their Frankish blades,” Robert added.  “Do you know of any gift I can send Princess Estrid that will please her?”

“Her son, Sweyn, has moved from Sweden to Novgorod and is staying with her brother, Prince Ivaraslav.  You could gift her with a fast ship for her son so he can visit her whenever he pleases.”

“Another great idea,” Duke Robert replied.  “Perhaps she’ll use it to visit with me in Rouen before she gives it to her son?  Or maybe she’ll bring her son with her?”

“That’s the spirit,” The Prince answered, patting the duke on the back.  He knew that the last speculation was unlikely to occur.  Princess Estrid had moved Sweyn further east to get her son away from Canute, as far away as possible.  Everyone who had been involved with her son’s taking of the Danish throne was now dead, except for Sweyn, and Estrid did not trust her father, Valdamar.  And she trusted Norman dukes even less.

But The Prince had underestimated Duke Robert.  The Norman ruler had flattered and praised Princess Estrid so much and so often that she had taken to him just a little.  She had not had a man since her husband, Ulf ‘the Strong’ had been murdered while under sanctuary in Roskilde’s church, so, during the later evening of the New Year’s celebration ball she led the duke up to a deserted second floor library in her father’s palace and she raped him.  She didn’t ask him either.  She just laid him back on a study table and she tore his pants off and took his lingam into her mouth and sucked it harder and got it wetter and then she hiked up her light blue silk princess dress and she pulled up her frilly lace slips, dozens of them, and she got atop him and she rode him like his knights rode their Percherons, bouncing high and hard in the saddle and when she began moaning in orgasm he was soon flowing within her.

For the rest of the party Princess Estrid and Duke Robert stuck together as though bonded by some charismatic glue and both Prince Erik and Queen Emma could see that something had happened between the two of them.  After Yule they sailed back down the Thames together in their separate fleets.  Princess Estrid and her Danish fleet sailed east while Duke Robert and his fleet sailed south for Rouen and Prince Erik and Emma sailed behind him for Southampton in their latest tallship.  The British Sea, now more often called the English Channel, was busy with small merchant ships sailing between Normandy and Southern England.  Merchandise was being manufactured for the upcoming trading season and Yulefest had set everybody’s schedules back, so the race was on to make back time.  Another two tallships had been added to the fleet so quotas were increased correspondingly.  Destinations were a closely guarded secret and the secrets must have been kept, for the manufacturers still speculated that the goods were going to Iceland and Greenland, which must have been growing leaps and bounds.

But the Landnamabok of Iceland, the official land ownership register, had been full up for years and feuds had begun over who got what farm when a pioneer died.  And Greenland was green perhaps two days a year and then it went back to black, black and white.  The three colonies there were struggling and had been pushed out of the south of the Newfoundland by the Hraes’ Trading Company and just couldn’t compete with the world’s largest multi-national trading company.  Nobody could.  Either you traded alongside the Hraes’ Company or you didn’t trade.  Some Greenland entrepreneurs had set up their own company, the Herjolfsson Bay Company, officially called The Company of Adventurers of Greenland Trading Into Herjolfsson Bay, the only location they were allowed to trade in by the Hraes’, other than south to the northern tip of New Ireland.  Any Greenlanders caught trading south of that would be caught and taken to Southampton, where they overwintered in jail and were then forced to be traders in the east until they had repaid their fines.  And, after trading in Baghdad and Constantinople, very few of them returned to Greenland for those two increasingly scarce days of Green.

Greenland, being at the extreme limit of animal husbandry and well beyond the limit of agriculture was the first land to feel the pinch of the switch from world-wide warming to world-wide cooling, and few extended families could maintain cattle-based husbandry and were being forced to switch to a sheep-based method, which meant family clans got smaller and so did the ships they could support.  A good Norse longhall supported enough family members that a head of beef a day could feed, and when weather conditions made it more efficient to graze sheep instead, longhalls became just halls, short enough to feast on a sheep a day.  It wasn’t forced, but the smaller households just got on better with each other and could operate more freely, and the Norse were known for their desire for freedom.

The general cooling was expressing itself further south as well, with extreme flooding in England being followed by extreme droughts.  Prince Erik had seen it before in his dreams and visions and the switch from warming to cooling had always been more volatile than from cooling to warming, because the warm air systems were more volatile and carried more energy than the cool systems.  And the human impacts felt were far more extreme.  The warming system allowed greater crops to be grown, spawning larger populations in northern lands and the cooling system that invariably followed caused crop failures that left people starving to death or migrating south, causing violent clashes and invariably deaths.  Rome had fallen near the end of just one such cooling cycle and The Prince had seen in a vision Constantinople fall near the end of the next cooling cycle.  He had watched his father, Hraegunar Lothbrok, restart the Nor’Way trade route once the frozen lands of Scythia had warmed up enough to support a one season trading cycle and had, himself, helped King Frodi restart the old Gothic trade route to the land of the Greeks.  Blessed with a long life augmented by alchemy, he had seen trade burgeon under improving conditions and had helped populations grow, but now he was interpreting the end of that cycle and was growing concerned with future crop failures and how it would affect the relative world peace they were now enjoying, but he had seen the fall of Constantinople and the death of the last Emperor, Constantine ‘the Eleventh’, in a vision he’d had during the reign of Emperor Michael ‘the Second’, the Emperor who the Hraes’ had named the City of Constantinople, Miklagard after.

Michael’s Keep would be no more at the end of this world-wide cooling cycle they were now slipping into, and Erik was having disturbing visions of the effect the cooling cycle would have on the Hraes’ and their great city of Kiev, well before the great city of the Greeks would fall.  He had executed a great khan in the future to keep that fall from happening, but his visions of Kiev burning did not stop after the death of the khan.  His dreams told him that he had saved Europe by killing the khan, but Gardar, the land of the Hraes’ and Kiev were not yet considered to be enough of a part of Europe to be saved with it.  Only once Kievan Hraes’ was accepted into Europe would it be saved from these eastern invaders, these Mongols.

“Erik, wake up!” he heard a beautiful soft voice say.  “Wake up,” Emma repeated.  “You’re having another bad dream.”

“Sorry,” he said, pulling her to himself and kissing her dearly.  “What time is it?”

“Too early to rise,” she answered.  “Go back to sleep and get your rest.  We leave for Rouen in the morning.”

The next morning a small fleet sailed from Southampton for Normandy.  The Prince and Queen Emma led in their tallship and two cohorts of cataphracts followed in their transport ships.  Emma wanted to get to Rouen early to make some business arrangements which involved her going to Paris and meeting with the King of Frankia for permits to increase sailings on the Seine-Rhone portage route.  Prince Erik remained in Rouen and worked with Duke Robert to supervise the set-up of the jousting runs and the viewing stands.  The Roman and Norman knights had already been practising and the Kievan knights from the Isle of Wight joined in.  The Danish knights from Roskilde would be arriving with Princess Estrid in a few days and Erik always made a point of bragging up the princess to Duke Robert.  When King Canute and Princess Aelfgifu arrived from London, Erik and Valdy sat down with Robert and got a serious commitment from him to supply a regiment of his knights to Canute’s vassals in Norway, disguised as Norwegian foot soldiers.  All they needed now was news of Jarl Olaf’s activities.

Out on the tournament grounds Duke Robert spoke his approval of the improvements the Kievan knights had made to their couched lances and armour.  And, as the armour got heavier, the horses got bigger, a rule of thumb being the knight in full armour should not weigh more than fifteen percent the weight of the horse, so some of the larger, more powerfully built knights had switched from Percherons to Clydesdales.  “Your knights can now better compete against our Norman knights,” Duke Robert said.

“And how are your Norman knights doing in Italy?” King Canute asked the duke.

“Like Prince Erik, we too await news.  With spring, the Varangian Guard will return to Southern Italy and try to win back the conquests we made last year.  They expect the new Norwegian Jarl Olaf to return with his regiment as well.”

Canute looked over to The Prince for a response.  “We too await news,” Erik said.

When Princess Estrid arrived with the Danish knights, the jousting began.  The Danes, too, had larger couched lances and stronger protection and the duke and the princess were soon inseparable again.  By the time Emma returned from Paris, Robert and Estrid were visiting each other’s master suites at night and having breakfasts together in the mornings.  Once the duke made arrangements and got Canute’s permission, Robert announced their engagement together and Princess Estrid was showing off her engagement ring.  They were to be wed in the next year or two, or, as had been arranged between Canute and the duke, as soon as the disguised Norman knights killed Olaf and crushed his Varangian Guard regiment.

Soon, news came up the Rhone-Seine portage route that the Varangian Guard had returned to Southern Italy for another season of campaigning and, among them was Jarl Olaf and his Guard regiment for another season of plundering.  Duke Robert’s Norman knights there had orders to track Olaf’s movements and send word if he returned to Constantinople, for it would only be to return back up through Hraes’ to Norway to reclaim his kingdom.  But the Duke wanted his knights in place in Norway early so they could get a feel for the land and the farmers they were to instil some backbone into.  They would set up preparations and wait for a warning to come to them from Rouen.  At the closing of the jousting tournament, awards were given out and there was a more even spread of ribbons between the Roman, Norman, Danish and Kievan knights this time, and when Princess Estrid took her Danish knights back to Roskilde with her, they were followed days later by longships carrying a regiment of disguised Norman knights to Lade in Trondheim Fjord.

“Duke Robert prefers to have the Norwegian jarls feeding his knights,” Erik told Canute as they sailed back with their wives to Southampton together, “than to have them eating his stores at their barracks in Rouen.”

“Been there, done that,” Valdy replied.

Things were soon heating up in Southern Italy.  Norman knights, free-lancers, were involved in the retaking of Naples and Roman interests in the area were threatened, so Jarl Olaf ‘the Stout’ and his Varangian Guard regiment were sent in as New Roman free-lancers to attack the Principality of Salerno for booty.  The spring campaign was very successful and the Norwegian jarl began to fill his war chest with Italian gold.  He kept in contact with his supporters in Lade through Christian Norse merchants of the great merchant fleet that traded in Constantinople and, when his war chest was full, he would request that his supporters create an incident that would give him cause to return to Norway to reclaim his kingdom.

Prince Erik had again led the great merchant fleet east through Hraes’ and he went first to Constantinople and met with Gretta, who was staying in the Red House of Constantinople and had been monitoring Jarl Olaf’s movements in Roman territory, then he went to Baghdad and then India and then he returned to Constantinople with a fleet of slaver knars full of untouchables for sale in the slave markets of the Roman Empire.  “Any word on Olaf?” he asked Gretta when he arrived at the Red House.

“He’s still in Italy,” she replied.  “I should have followed him.”

“It’s too dangerous,” Erik told her.  “If Olaf doesn’t get you, then there are hundreds who will try to enslave a woman on her own.”

“But there aren’t any opportunities to make a hit on him here, in Constantinople.  It’s the capital of the Roman Empire, there are spies everywhere, and there are security services everywhere on the lookout for them.”

“Is it that bad?” he said, as he poured her some Frankish wine.  They were once more in the eighth floor bridal suite of the RHOC and he wanted her to relax.

“When I was operating in London,” she confirmed, “I could spy on kings and no one would know it.  Here, when I’m spying, I spot other spies, and, if they’re any good, they spot me.  And sometimes I see the Emperor’s security watching them and I wonder if they are watching me.  It’s that crowded here!”

“Have you been seen?” Erik asked her.

“No.  I’m sure of it.  Pretty sure.”  She paused.  “The Varangian Guard protects the new Emperor Romanos and Olaf is again a part of the Guard, so it protects him too.  In Italy, that would all change.  His guard would be down.”

“It’s too dangerous,” Erik repeated, “for a woman alone.”

“I wouldn’t be alone,” she replied.  “I’ll hire a theatre troupe to go with me.  I’ve written a play for it and I’ll hire a troupe to take it to Italy with me.  The actors in the troupe will be my cover and my protection.  They travel all the time and know how to handle the dangers.”

“You’ve written a play?  You, my dear, have too much time on your hands.”

“I know,” she said.  “I’m stuck in Constantinople trying to perform a hit on a target who is in Naples.”

“What’s it called?  This play of yours?”

“It’s called Amleth,” she said, “and it’s based on the saga ‘Amleth, Prince of Denmark’, that you wrote.”

“Nobody in Constantinople, or Rome, or Naples is going to want to see a play covering a Norse saga,” Erik lamented.

“I know,” she said.  “That’s why I’ve named it ‘Lucius Junius Brutus, Prince of Rome’.  You loosely based Amleth on the Brutus tale and I’ve loosely based Lucius Junius Brutus on your Amleth tale.”

“There is a certain poetry to your plan.  Tell me more about it.”  And Gretta spent the rest of the evening going through it with him and he read her play, written in common Latin, and he was impressed with what she had done with his saga.  “It’s going to take a lot of gold to get this done,” Erik concluded, and Gretta knew that she had won him over, once he’d begun fretting about costs.  They went to bed together and slept on it.  In the morning they decided the play would start in the fall in Constantinople and in the spring it would follow Jarl Olaf and his Varangian Guard regiment to Italy, to Naples, with an intended finale in Rome, itself, but she would stay in Naples and kill Olaf when his guard was down, and when the troupe returned to southern Italy she would rejoin it and return to Constantinople with it.

In the fall, Prince Erik returned to Constantinople with a final shipment of untouchables and then went to watch a play with Princess Sviataslava and her son, Prince Ivaraslav of the Varangian Guard.  “It’s called ‘Brutus, Prince of Rome,’ and it’s similar to my Amleth tale,” he told them as they sat down.  They were at an off, off the Mese theatre, but the reviews had been surprisingly positive.  The Romans loved their mad prince and, of course, everybody dies in the end.

Jarl Haakon Eirikson had been invited to spend Yulefest in London with his lord, King Canute ‘the Great’ of England and Denmark and the young jarl had thought that a great honour was being paid him for the efficient way he was running Norway for his king until the messengers also informed him that Jarl Kalf Arneson would be taking over the day to day running of Norway and that he was to resume running his old earldom in York in the new year.  He was understandably pissed off about it, but Canute was his king so, he was going to London to argue his case before packing up his family and moving them back to England.  Valdy had always been nice in his discussions of Norway governance with his jarl, but Haakon could sense that Valdamar had a basic lack of faith in his judgements and had all but said that he was too trusting in those about him, but had called him too conscientious instead.

Hearse Einar ‘Thong-Shaker’, Haakon’s officer in charge of military operations, had also received his recall notice to England via messenger from London.  He was really torn up by the news.  Just after that, a messenger arrived from Constantinople via Kiev, and he told Einar that King Olaf was ready and required an incident that would allow him to make a claim on the Norwegian throne.  Einar, too, knew that the promotion of Kalf was due to Jarl Haakon’s poor judgement in matters of trust, just as he knew that Haakon’s trust in him had been a serious flaw in judgement, for Einar had remained loyal to King Olaf Tryggvason, even after his ‘death’ at the Battle of Svolder and was still loyal to King Olaf ‘the Stout’ Haraldson and remained one of his sharpest Swords of Christ and was poised to strike.

Jarl Haakon was leaving Norway for England in his fine new brightly painted warship and was racing against a storm that was brewing and blowing out of the northeast.  It was late fall and the wind was cold and biting and ice was forming along the topstrakes and his rowers were kept busy knocking it back into the sea from whence it had lept.  The young jarl spotted the opening in the great Trondheim Fjord that led to the North Sea and he had his rudderman steer for it and they were soon in open waters.  Then he saw two warships coming out of the mouth of the fjord and soon he could make out the ship of Einar and the ship of Ole, his foremost man.  He stood at the aftstem of his own ship and he waved at them and they soon pulled up on either side of him.  The jarl hadn’t seen the ropes that were submerged in the water between the two ships that had glided up to his, but he felt a sensation of what the Normans called ‘Deja-Vu’, when suddenly the ropes were raised between them and Einar and Ole’s men managed to capsize Haakon’s large warship.  While the young jarl and his men were in the water, Ole’s men kept them from clambering atop the strakes of their capsized ship and would allow them no egress to his own.  Einar kept his ship off a bit so he wouldn’t have to watch the cold waters sap the lives out of those in them and slip beneath the waves.

Hearse Einar had planned to gather up all the floating bodies and Haakon’s ship and was going to burn them all along a deserted coastal beach, but the storm came upon them suddenly and they were lucky to get themselves back within the safe confines of Trondheim Fjord before the full fury of it came down upon them.  The storm progressed from the northeast and took Haakon and his men and his ship southwest across the North Sea and deposited them on the beaches of several of the Orkney Islands, where they were found by the locals over the next few days.  Jarl Haakon’s fine new ship was easily identified even though the blue and battered bodies weren’t so easily distinguished and news of the incident, the drowning, was kept quiet and sent only to King Canute in Winchester.  There was a mysterious rope entangled up in the rudder of the ship and there were numerous mysterious rope burns in the tarred lower strakes of the ship.  The fine new ship would be held for study by King Canute’s Exeyes officers.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:

A.D. 1029.  This year King Knute returned home to England.

The Prince Erik’s New Chronicle of the Hraes’ for the year read:

(1029 AD).  Peace prevailed.



Back To Table of Contents

“Olaf, Harald Grenske’s son, was brought up by his stepfather Sigurd Syr and his mother Asta.  Hrane the Far-travelled lived in the house of Asta, and fostered this Olaf Haraldson.  Olaf came early to manhood, was handsome in countenance, middle-sized in growth, and was even when very young of good understanding and ready speech.”

From The Saga of Olaf Haraldson in ‘The Heimskringla Saga’

(1030 AD)  When Jarl Olaf ‘the Stout’ Haraldson learned of the death of Jarl Haakon of Norway from a secret messenger sent to him by Hearse Einar ‘Thong-Shaker’, he knew it was time to take his personal retinue and his Varangian Guard regiment back north, up through Hraes’, and then to Sweden to prepare his attack upon the Jarls of Norway who now ruled his former kingdom.  He told his men that King Olaf Tryggvason had come to him in a dream and had told him it was time to retake his kingdom.  He gathered his men about him and they prayed to King Olaf Tryggvason for guidance and blessings.  The rivers of Hraes’ were still frozen over, so it would be a hard journey, but Olaf wanted to traverse Hraes’ before the great merchant fleet came down the Dan’Way rivers and might prevent him from achieving his goal.  He knew that the fleet’s leader, Prince Erik ‘Bragi’ of Gardariki, was of the same ‘Old Fridleif/Frodi’ line of Danish kings that Canute ‘the Old’ was birthed from and he knew that The Prince would stop him, even kill him, if given the chance.

The Dnieper River south of Kiev was first to begin breaking up, so light Roman biremes took the retinue and regiment up through the ice to Kiev.  Jarl Olaf stayed with Prince Ivaraslav and his sister-in-law, Princess Ingigerd, in Kiev for a week and they showed him and his followers the greatest of hospitality.  It is said that Olaf miraculously cured a young Danish Kievan boy of a boil on his neck that threatened his life, but a very skilled Roman physician was attached to the Guard regiment, and he may have helped with that.  Olaf left his young son Magnus in his aunt, Princess Ingigerd’s care there and Prince Ivaraslav provided the troop with horses, because the rivers north were still frozen over.  The horses were shod with iron ice-pick horseshoes and pulled heated and covered sledges full of men and gear up the rivers north to the Baltic.  From there Olaf hired ships to take his men to Sweden.  When they stopped at the Island of Gotland they heard news that Jarl Haakon of Norway had been missing all winter and no one knew what had happened to him.  Fortunately for Olaf, the Gotland merchant fleet had already sailed off to Roskilde to join up with the great merchant fleet there, so no one could inform The Prince of Olaf’s whereabouts.

Meanwhile, in Norway, Hearse Einar ‘Thong-Shaker’ and his son, Eindride, sailed out of Trondheim for England to lay claim to the power King Canute had invested in Jarl Haakon.  Valdamar had promised Einar titles and honour and, now that Haakon had gone missing, it was Einar, his killer, who was first in line to inherit his title.  King Canute told Einar that he had already promised his son, Svein, all Jarl Haakon’s Norse titles.  Ever the gentleman, Valdamar offered Einar and his son lands in England and Einar accepted them.  He was the only Norwegian who definitely knew King Olaf was returning for his crown and England seemed like a good place to be when Norway erupted and began spewing lives.

The Jarls of Norway had their spies in Sweden and Denmark watching out for the approach of Olaf.  If his ears were spotted, his teeth would not be far off.  Some jarls said he would come through Sweden and others said he would come from Jomsburg, so the regiment of Norman knights that Duke Robert had sent them were split up with one thousand stationed in south Norway to cover a sea approach and the other thousand in Lade, in the Trondheim Fjord, in case Olaf came by land from Sweden.  Their spies in Sweden were the first to spot the ears of the royal wolf when Jarl Olaf arrived in Birka and met with his wife, Queen Astrid and his daughter, Princess Ulfhild, meaning Battle Wolf.  They had not seen each other in two years so, there was much celebrating in the court of King Anund Jakob and the king welcomed the husband of his sister, Astrid.  Olaf sent spies into Norway and they established contact with his supporters there, including his half-brother, Harald Sigurdson, who was only fifteen but very stout, strong and warlike.  Six hundred men travelled east with Harald to join up with his brother, King Olaf, in Sweden.  King Anund offered Olaf another four hundred men and another two hundred or so more joined as they progressed through Sweden.  A relative through Harald Fairhair, Prince Dag and his son, Hring, brought another twelve hundred men from Sweden as they joined up with their king.  King Anund would have offered Jarl Olaf more men, but he had given King Canute hostages to keep peace between them and all knew what happened to Canute’s hostages when peace was broken.  He and his sister, Astrid, both pleaded with Olaf not to enter Norway with such a sparse host, but Olaf told them that the Varangian Guard he had brought with him was worth a whole army of bondesmen that would just break up at the first sign of a hard fight.  “My Guardsmen will put the bondes to flight,” he assured them.

King Olaf and his men set off across Sweden and sent messages ahead to all inhabited places he passed, that men who could fight and wished a share of booty, should follow him and more men joined his army.  Through forest and over desert moors and across large lakes they progressed; dragging boats from lake to lake as required.  And, as always, many followers joined the king, some foresters, some thieves, many vagabonds.  He proceeded without break until he came to Jamtaland, from which he marched north over Norway’s keel, the ridge of land after which began a descent to the sea coast.  The men spread themselves across the land and over the hamlets, proceeding in a scattered fashion, but always, when so dispersed, the Varangian Guard accompanied the king.  Prince Dag proceeded with his men on another line of march, and the Swedes on a third column.  As they progressed into Norway, locals told them of a large bond army that was forming to meet them.

King Olaf mustered his men, and reckoned he had added more than three thousand men to the retinue and Varangian Guard regiment he had brought up from Roman lands, which made up one great army to field.  Then the king made the following speech to the people: “We have a great army, and excellent troops and weapons and armour, and now I will tell you, my men, how I will have our force drawn up.  I will lead my banner forward in the center, and my personal retinue and Varangian Guardsmen shall follow it, together with the war forces that joined us from the Uplands, and also those who may come to us here in the Trondheim district.  On the right hand of my banner shall be Prince Dag Hringson, with his son, Hring, and all the men he brought to our aid; and he shall have the second banner.  And on the left hand of our line shall be the men the Swedish King Anund gave us, together with all the people who came to us in Sweden, and they shall have the third banner.  I will also have the people divide themselves into distinct cohorts and maniples, so that relatives and friends can be together; for thus they defend each other best, and know each other.  We will have all our men distinguished by a mark, so as to be a field-token upon their helmets and shields, by painting the holy cross thereupon with white colour.  When we go into battle we shall all have one countersign and field-cry,—’Forward, forward, Christian men! Cross men! King’s men!’  We must draw up our men in thinner ranks, because we have fewer and stronger people, and I do not wish to let them surround us with their men.  Now you men divide yourselves into separate cohorts and then maniples, and then each maniple into ranks, and my Guardsmen will help, then let each man observe well his proper place, and take notice what banner he is drawn up under.  Then we shall remain drawn up in array; and our men shall be fully armed, night and day, until we know where the battle will be between us and the bondes.”  When the king had finished speaking, the Guardsmen arrayed and arranged the army according to the king’s orders.

Then the king had a meeting with the chiefs of the different formations, and while they met, the men whom the king had sent out into the neighbouring districts to demand men from the local bondes returned.  They brought word that all the country around them was stripped of all men able to carry arms, as all the people had joined the bondes’ army; and where they did find any they got but few to follow them, for the most of them answered that they stayed at home because they would not follow either party: they would not go out against the king, nor yet against their own relations.  Thus they had got but few people.  So the king asked these men what they should now do.  Fin Arneson answered, “I will say what should be done if I may advise.  We should go with armed men over all the inhabited places, plunder all the goods, and burn all the habitations, and leave not a hut standing, and thus punish the bondes for their treason against their sovereign.  I think many a man will then cast himself loose from the bondes’ army, when he sees smoke and flame at home on his farm, and does not know how it is going with children, wives, or old men, fathers, mothers, and other connections.  I expect also, that if we succeed in breaking the assembled host, their ranks will soon be thinned; for so it is with the bondes, that the counsel which is the newest is always the dearest to them all, and most followed.”  When Fin had ended his speech it met with general applause, for many thought well of such a good occasion to make booty, and all thought the bondes well deserved to suffer damage; and they also thought it probable, what Fin said, that many would in this way be brought to forsake the assembled army of the bondes.

Now when the king heard the warm expressions of his people he told them to listen to him, and said, “The bondes have well deserved that it should be done to them as you desire.  They also know that I have formerly done such, burning their habitations, and punishing them severely in many ways, but then I proceeded against them with fire and sword because they rejected the true faith, betook themselves to sacrifices, and would not obey my commands.  We had then God’s honour to defend.  But this treason against their sovereign is a much less grievous crime, although it does not become men who have any manhood in them to break the faith and vows they have sworn to me.  Now, however, it is more in my power to spare those who have dealt ill with me, than those who dealt ill with God.  I will, therefore, have my people proceed gently, and commit no ravage.  First, I will proceed to meet the bondes; if we can then come to a reconciliation, it is well, but if they will fight with us, then there are two things before us: either we fail in the battle, and then it will be well advised not to have to retire encumbered with spoil and cattle, or we gain the victory, and then you will all be the heirs of all who fight now against us, for some will fall, and others will fly, but both will have forfeited their goods and properties, and then it will be good to enter into full houses and well-stocked farms, but what is burnt is of use to no man, and with pillage and force more is wasted than what turns to use.  Now we will spread out far through the inhabited places, and take with us all the men we can find able to carry arms.  Then men will also capture cattle for slaughter, or whatever else of provision that can serve for food, but not do any other ravage.  But I will see willingly that you kill any spies of the bonde army you may come upon.  Prince Dag and his people shall go by the north side down along the valley, and I will go on along the country road, and so we shall meet in the evening, and all have one night together.”

When King Olaf had drawn up his men in battle order, he made a shield rampart with his Varangian Guard regiment that would defend him in battle, for they were the strongest and best trained force.  Then he had called his skalds together, and ordered them to go in within the shield defence.  “You shall remain here, and see history unfold for yourselves, and then you will not have to follow the reports of others in what you afterwards tell or sing concerning the battle.”  There were Thormod Kolbrunarskald, Gissur Gulbraskald, a foster-son of Hofgardaref, and Thorfin Mun.  Then Thormod said to Gissur, “Let us not stand so close together, brother, that Sigvat ‘the Skald’ should not find room when he comes.  He must stand before the king, and the king will not have it otherwise.”  The king heard this, and said, “You need not sneer at Sigvat, because he is not here.  Often has he followed me well, and now he is praying for us, and that we greatly need.”  Thormod replied, “It may be, sire, that you now require prayers most, but it would be thin around the banner-staff if all thy court-men were now on the way to Rome.”

Thereafter the skalds talked among themselves that it would be well to compose a few songs of remembrance about the events which would soon be taking place.

Then Gissur sang:

     “From me shall bonde girl never hear

     A thought of sorrow, care, or fear:

     I wish my girl knew how gay

     We arm us for our Viking fray.

     Many and brave they are, we know,

     Who come against us there below;

     But, life or death, we, one and all,

     By Norway’s king will stand or fall.”

And Thorfin Mun made another song:

     “Dark is the cloud of men and shields,

     Slow moving up through Verdal’s fields.

     These Verdal folks presume to bring

     Their armed force against their king.

     On!  let us feed the carrion crow,

     Give her a feast in every blow;

     And, above all, let Trondheim’s hordes

     Feel the sharp edge of true men’s swords.”

And Thormod sang:

     “The whistling arrows pipe to battle,

     Sword and shield their war-call rattle.

     Up!  brave men, up!  the faint heart here

     Finds courage when the danger’s near.

     Up!  brave men, up!  with Olaf on!

     With heart and hand a field is won.

     One Viking cheer!—then, stead of words,

     We’ll speak with our death-dealing swords.”

These songs were immediately memorized by heart by the army.

Thereafter the king made himself ready, and marched down through the valley.  His whole forces took up their night-quarter in one place, and lay down all night under their shields, but as soon as day broke the king again put his army in order, and that being done they proceeded down through the valley.  Many bondes then came to the king, of whom most joined his army; and all, as one man, told the same tale: that the lendermen had collected an enormous army, with which they intended to give battle to the king.

The king took many marks of silver, and delivered them into the hands of a bonde, and said, “This money you shall conceal, and afterwards hand out, some to churches, some to priests, some to alms-men, as gifts for the lives and souls of those who fight against us, and may fall in battle.”

The bonde replied, “Should you not rather give this money for the soul saving of your own men?”

The king said, “This money shall be given for the souls of those who stand against us in the ranks of the bondes’ army, and fall by the weapons of our own men, for their souls are forfeit because they go against their king which is the same as going against God.  The men who follow us to battle, and fall therein, will all be saved because fighting for their king is the same as fighting for God.”

That night the king lay with his army around him on the field and lay long awake in prayer to God and slept very little.  Towards morning a slumber fell on him, and when he awoke daylight was shooting up.  The king thought it too early to awaken the army, and asked where Thormod the skald was.  Thormod was at hand, and asked what was the king’s pleasure.  “Sing us a song,” said the king.  Thormod raised himself up, and sang so loud that the whole army could hear him.  He began to sing the old “Bjarkamal”, of which these are the first verses:—

     “The day is breaking,

     The house cock, shaking

     His rustling wings,

     While priest-bell rings,

     Crows up the morn,

     And touting horn

     Wakes thralls to work and weep;

     Ye sons of Adil, cast off sleep,

     Wake up!  wake up!

     Nor wassail cup,

     Nor maiden’s jeer,

     Awaits you here.

     Hrolf of the bow!

     Har of the blow!

     Up in your might!  the day is breaking;

     ‘Tis Hild’s game that bides your waking.”

Then the troops awoke, and when the song was ended the people thanked him for it; and it pleased many, as it was suitable to the time and occasion, and they called it the house-carle’s whet.  The king thanked him for the pleasure, and took a gold ring that weighed half a mark and gave it him.  Thormod thanked the king for the gift, and said, “We have a good king; but it is not easy to say how long the king’s life may be.  It is my prayer, sire, that you should never part from me either in life or death.”  The king replied, “We shall all go together so long as I rule, and as you will follow me.”

Thormod said, “I hope, sire, that whether in safety or danger I may stand near you as long as I can stand, whatever we may hear of Sigvat travelling with his gold-hilted sword.”  Then Thormod made these lines:

     “To thee, my king, I’ll still be true,

     Until another skald I view,

     Here in the field with golden sword,

     As in thy hall, with flattering word.

     Thy skald shall never be a craven,

     Though he may feast the croaking raven,

     The warrior’s fate unmoved I view,

     To thee, my king, I’ll still be true.”

King Olaf led his army farther down through the valley, and Prince Dag and his men went another way, and the king did not halt until he came to Stiklestad.  There he saw the bonde army spread out all around; and there were so great numbers that people were going on every footpath, and great crowds were collected near and far.  They also saw there a troop which came down from Veradal, and had been out to spy.  They came so close to the king’s people that they knew each other. It was Hrut of Viggia, with thirty men.  The king ordered his followers to go out against Hrut, meaning ram, and make an end of him, to which his men were instantly ready.  The king said to the Icelanders, “It is told me that in Iceland it is the custom that the bondes give their house-servants a sheep to slaughter; now I give you a ram to slaughter.”  The Icelanders laughed at the king’s jest, and then went out with a few men against Hrut, and killed him and the troop that followed him.  When the king came to Stiklestad he made a halt and told those riding to alight from their horses and get ready for battle and the people did as the king ordered.  Then he placed his army in battle array, and raised his banner.  Prince Dag had not yet arrived with his men, so that his wing of the battle array was missing, so the king sent some Upland men to hold in their place, and raise their banner there.  “It appears to me advisable,” said the king, looking around to his half-brother, “that Harald, my brother, should not be in the battle, for he is still tender in years.”  Harald replied, “Certainly I shall be in the battle, for I am not so weak that I cannot handle a sword; and as to that, I have a notion of tying the sword-handle to my hand.  None is more willing than I am to give the bondes a blow; so I shall go with my comrades.”  It is said that Harald made these lines:

     “Our army’s wing, where I shall stand,

     I will hold good with heart and hand;

     My mother’s eye shall joy to see

     A battered, blood-stained shield from me.

     The brisk young skald should gaily go

     Into the fray, give blow for blow,

     Cheer on his men, gain inch by inch,

     And from the spear-point never flinch.”

Harald got his way and was allowed to be in the battle.

A bonde by the name of Thorgils Halmason, father to Grim the Good, dwelt on Stiklestad farm.  Thorgils offered the king his assistance, and was ready to go into battle with him and the king thanked him for the offer, but, “I would rather,” said the king, “that you should not be in the fight.  Do us rather the service of taking care of the people who are wounded, and of burying those who have fallen, when the battle is over.  Should it happen, bonde, that I fall in this battle, bestow the care on my body that may be necessary, if that be not forbidden thee.” Thorgils promised the king what he desired.

After King Olaf had drawn up his army in battle array, he made a speech to raise the spirit and courage of his followers, to go boldly forward, when came the battle.  “We have,” he said, “many good men, and although the bondes may have a somewhat larger force than we, it is fate that rules over victory.  This I will make known to you solemnly, that I shall not fly from this battle, but shall either be victorious over the bondes, or fall in the fight.  I will pray to God that the lot of the two may befall me which will be most to my advantage.  With this we may encourage ourselves, that we have a more just cause than the bondes, and likewise that God must either protect us and our cause in this battle, or give us a far higher recompense for what we may lose here in the world than what we ourselves could ask.  Should it be my lot to have anything to say after the battle, then I shall reward each of you according to his service, and to the bravery he displays in the battle, and if we gain the victory, there will be land and plunder enough to divide among you, which are now in the hands of your enemies.  Let us from the start make the hardest onset, for then the loyalty of the bondesmen to each other will be put to the test.  There being a great difference in the numbers, we have to expect victory from a sharp assault only; and, on the other hand, it will be heavy work for us to fight until we are tired, and unable to fight longer; for we have fewer people to relieve with than they, who can come forward at one time and retreat and rest at another. But if we advance so hard at the first attack that those who are foremost in their ranks are turned round, then the one will fall over the other, and their greater numbers will make for their greater destruction.  The Romans often say a stout few are better than a wavering many and we have Roman trained Varangian Guard legions in our vanguard!”  When the king had ended his speech it was received with loud applause, and the one encouraged the other.

King Olaf stood before his host armed thus: He had a gold worked helmet on his head, a white shield with holy cross inlaid in gold in one hand and in his other he had a lance.  In his belt he had a sword called Hneiter, which was remarkably sharp, and of which the handle was inlaid in gold.  He had also a strong coat of ring-mail.

Now when King Olaf had drawn up his men, the army of the bondes had not yet come near upon any quarter, so the king said the people should sit down and rest themselves.  He sat down himself, and the people sat around him in a widespread crowd.  He leaned down, and laid his head upon Fin Arneson’s knee.  There a slumber came upon him, and he slept a little while; but at the same time the bondes’ army was seen advancing with raised banners, and the multitude of these was very great.

Fin woke the king and said that the bonde-army was advancing against them.

The king opened his eyes and said, “Why did you wake me, Fin, and not allow me to finish my dream?”

“You should not be dreaming but, rather, you should awaken and prepare yourself for the enemy host that is coming upon us, or, do you not see the whole bonde army coming?”

The king replied, “They are not yet so near to us, and it would have been better to have let me sleep.”

Then Fin asked, “What was the dream, sire, of which you dearly wished to finish?”

Now the king told his dream, that he seemed to see a high ladder, upon which he went so high in the air that heaven was open, for so high did reach the ladder.  “And when you woke me, I was just coming to the highest step towards heaven.”

Fin replied, “This dream does not appear to me so good as it does to thee.  I think it means that thou art fey, unless it be mere want of sleep that has worked upon thee.”

When King Olaf arrived at Stiklestad, it happened that a man came to him from the local districts who was so tall that none stood higher than up to his shoulders, and very handsome he was in countenance, and had beautiful fair hair.  He was well armed, had a fine helmet, and ring armour; a red shield; a superb sword in his belt, and in his hand was a gold-mounted spear, the shaft of it so thick that it was a handful to grasp.  The man went before the king, saluted him, and asked if the king would accept his services.

The king asked his name and family, also what countryman he was.

He replied, “My family is in Jamtaland and Helsingjaland, and my name is Arnliot Gelline; but this I must not forget to tell you, that I came to the assistance of those men you sent to Jamtaland to collect scat, and I gave into their hands a silver dish, which I sent you as a token that I would be your friend.”

Then the king asked Arnliot if he was a Christian or not.  He replied, “My faith has been this, to rely upon my power and strength, and which faith has hitherto given me satisfaction; but now I intend rather to put my faith, sire, in thee.”

The king replied, “If you will put faith in me you must also put faith in what I will teach thee.  You must believe that Jesus Christ has made heaven and earth, and all mankind, and to him shall all those who are good and rightly believing go after death.”

Arnliot answered, “I have indeed heard of the white Christ, but neither know what he proposes, nor what he rules over, but now I will believe all that you tell me, and lay down my lot in your hands.”

Thereupon Arnliot was baptized.  The king taught him so much of the holy faith as appeared to him needful, and placed him in the front rank of the order of battle, in advance of his banner, where also Gauka-Thorer and Afrafaste, with their men, were.

Of the bonde army that had been raised against Jarl Olaf, for he was a jarl, having given up his throne to King Canute, it consisted of Norway’s foremost jarls and hearses and lendermen and bondes, as well as freemen and tradesmen and labourers who had little experience in warcraft.  But they did have a thousand Norman knights who were very well trained and tempered in Roman warfare and wanted nothing better than to train their blades upon Varangian Guardsmen of the New Romans of Constantinople.

When King Canute had laid all Norway under his power, he set Jarl Haakon to manage it, and gave the jarl a court-bishop, Sigurd, by name, who was of Anglish Danish descent, and had been long with King Canute.  This bishop was of a very hot temper, and particularly obstinate, and haughty in his speech, but he supported King Canute all he could in conversation, and was a great enemy of King Olaf.  He was now also in the bondes’ army, spoke often before the people, and urged them much to insurrection against Jarl Olaf.

When Jarl Haakon went missing, Canute placed his foremost man, Jarl Kalf Arneson, in charge and he had organized the raising of the bonde army.  But before he went missing, when Jarl Haakon had returned to Norway from his exile in England, his foremost witch, Hallveig, had returned with him and resumed dwelling at her five large steads around the village of Hell, near Stiklastad, and her two Jomsviking captives in York returned with her and joined the three Jomsvikings she had left in Norway to run her estates during the rule of King Olaf.  And her Aesir Jomsvikings had married many wives with her blessings and had many sons by them who had followed the warrior’s way of Jomsburg.  Because the village of Hell and her surrounding steads were between the city of Lade and the stead of Stikla, the famous warrior maiden of the Norse, Hallveig surmised that, if Jarl Olaf gained a victory against the bondes army, the Jarls of Norway would fall back to defend the Trondheim, leaving her estates to be plundered by the former Christian king, so she had gathered up her Jomsvikings and their sons and had joined the bondes army to help ensure its success, and Jarl Kalf welcomed her help, though the Christian bishop did not.

At a House-thing, at which a great many people were assembled, the Bishop Sigurd desired to be heard, and made the following speech: “Here are now assembled a great many men, so that probably there will never be opportunity in this poor country of seeing so great a native army, but it would be desirable if this strength and multitude could be a protection; for it will all be needed, if this Olaf does not give over bringing war and strife upon you.  From his very earliest youth he has been accustomed to plunder and kill, for which purposes he drove widely around through all countries, until he turned at last against this, where he began to show hostilities against the men who were the best and most powerful, and even against King Canute, whom all are bound to serve according to their ability, and in whose scat-lands he set himself down.  He did the same to Olaf the Swedish king.  He drove Earl Haakon away from his heritage; and was even most tyrannical towards his own connections, as he drove all the kings out of the Uplands, although, indeed, it was but just reward for having been false to their oaths of fealty to King Canute, and having followed this King Olaf in all the folly he could invent, so their friendship ended according to their deserts, by this king mutilating some of them, taking their kingdoms for himself, and ruining every man in the country who had an honourable name.  You know full well yourselves how he has treated the lendermen, of whom many of the worthiest have been murdered, and many obliged to fly from their country, and how he has roamed far and wide through the land with robber-bands, burning and plundering houses, and killing people.  Who is the man among us here of any consideration who has not some great injury from him to avenge?  Now he has come hither with a foreign troop of the Guard and auxiliaries, consisting mostly of forest-men, vagabonds, and such marauders.  Do you think he will now be more merciful to you, when he is roaming about with such a bad crew, after committing devastations which all who followed him dissuaded him from?  Therefore it is now my advice, that you remember King Canute’s words when he told you, if King Olaf attempted to return to the country you should defend the liberty King Canute had promised you, and should oppose and drive away such a vile pack.  Now the only thing to be done is to advance against them, and cast forth these malefactors to the wolves and eagles, leaving their corpses on the spot they cover, or drag them aside to out-of-the-way corners in the woods or rocks.  No man would be so imprudent as to remove them to churches, for they are all robbers and evil-doers.”  When he had ended his speech it was hailed with the loudest applause, and all unanimously agreed to act according to his recommendation.

The jarls and lendermen who had come with their followers consulted together how they should draw up their troops, and who should be their leader.  Kalf Arneson said, “Harek of Thjotta is best fitted to be the chief of this army, for he was descended from Harald Fairhair’s race.  Jarl Olaf is also particularly enraged against him on account of the murder of Grankel, and therefore he would be exposed to the severest fate if Olaf recovered the kingdom, and Harek is a man well experienced in battles, and a man who does much for honour alone.”

Harek replied, that the men best suited for war are in the flower of their age.  “I am now an old and decaying man, not able to do much in battle.  Besides, there is near relationship between myself and Olaf and, although he seems not to put great value upon that tie, it would not beseem me to go as leader of the hostilities against him, before any other in this meeting.  On the other hand, you, Thorer, are well suited to be our chief in this battle against Olaf; and you have distinct grounds for being so, both because you must avenge the death of your relation, and have also been driven by him as an outlaw from your property.  You have also promised King Canute to avenge the murder of your Asbjorn, and do you suppose there ever will be a better opportunity than this of taking vengeance on Olaf for all these insults and injuries?”

Thorer replied thus to his speech: “I do not confide in myself so much as to raise the banner against King Olaf, or, as chief, to lead on this army; for the people of Trondheim have the greatest part in this armament, and I know well their haughty spirit, and that they would not obey me, or any other Halogaland man, although I need not be reminded of my injuries to be roused to vengeance on King Olaf.  I remember well my heavy loss when King Olaf slew four men, all distinguished both by birth and personal qualities; namely, my brother’s son Asbjorn, my sister’s sons Thorer and Grjotgard, and their father Olver; and it is my duty to take vengeance for each man of them.  I will not conceal that I have selected eleven of my house-carles expressly for that purpose, being those who are most daring, and I do not think we shall be behind others in exchanging blows with Jarl Olaf, should opportunity be given.”

Witch Hallveig watched from the back of the hall and gave Jarl Kalf a look that told him you lead a wavering many, but Kalf already knew that.  The only troops he had confidence in were his own retinue, the Norman knights and her Jomsviking warriors.  But without the wavering many, they were sorely outnumbered.

Then Kalf Arneson desired to speak.  “It is highly necessary,” he said, “that this business we have on hand do not turn out a mockery and child-work now that an army is collected.  Something else is needful, if we are to stand battle with Jarl Olaf, then that each should shove the danger from himself, for we must recollect that, although Olaf has not many people compared to this army of ours, the leader of them is intrepid, and the whole body of them, particularly the Varangian Guardsmen, will be true to him, and obedient in battle.  But if we, who be the leaders of this army show any fear, and will not encourage the army and go at the head of it, it will happen that courage of our people, the spirit, will leave their hearts, and the next thing will be that each will seek his own safety.  Although we have now a great force assembled, we shall find our destruction certain, when we meet Jarl Olaf and his troops, if we, the chiefs of the people, are not confident in our cause, and have not the whole army confidently and bravely going along with us.  If it cannot be so, we had better not risk a battle, and then it is easy to see that nothing would be left us but to shelter ourselves under King Olaf’s mercy, however hard it might be, as then we would be less guilty than we now may appear to him to be.  Yet I know there are men in his ranks who would secure my life and peace if I would seek it.  Will you now all adopt my proposal: that shall you, friend Thorer lead the left banner, and you, Harek, go under the right banner and then I will lead the center banner which we will all of us raise up, and then follow.  Let us all be speedy and determined in the resolution we have taken, and put ourselves so at the head of the bondes’ army that they see no distrust in us; for then will the common man advance with spirit when we go merrily to work in placing the army in battle-order, and in encouraging the people to the strife.”

When Kalf had ended they all concurred in what he proposed, and all would do what Kalf thought of advantage.  All desired Kalf to be the leader of the army, and to give each what place in it he chose.  When the people left the hall Kalf took aside Hallveig and the Norman captain, Hugh de Hauteville, and he expressed his concerns about the wavering many.  Then he told Hugh, “I know that you wished to go tete-a-tete against Olaf’s Varangian Guardsmen, but I think it best if we break up your formation to lead under each banner, a cohort at center and half cohorts on each flank.  This will give backbone to our separate groups.”

Captain Hugh protested of course.  “We’ve come solely to fight the Varangers,” he said, “for the pain they’ve inflicted on our brothers in Italy.  I allowed you to split up our regiment because it ensured that at least half our men would go against the Guard, whether they attacked from the south or the east, and I have confidence that my half regiment of Norman knights can defeat a full regiment of the Varangian Guard, but a mere cohort against them is asking too much!”

“And what do you say, Witch Hallveig?” Jarl Kalf asked.

“I have seen that our messages arrived in the south,” she told him, “and Captain Hugh will be pleased to hear that his southern cohorts have already sailed up into Trondheim Fjord and are presently riding here.”

“That is great news!” Captain Hugh shouted.

“But they do not arrive in time,” Hallveig added.  “We need to make a sacrifice and call on the goddess Irpa for help, or all is lost.”

Jarl Kalf and Captain Hugh looked at each other in disbelief, or what they wished was disbelief, but Kalf was still Aesir and he believed Hallveig, and Hugh was Norman and, though Christian, they had their Witches of Rouen that they often consulted and Captain Hugh knew that of all foreign witches, it was Witch Hallveig of York that the Norman witches, themselves, consulted most.

“What sacrifice does the goddess require?” Kalf asked.

“She wants the body of King Olaf,” Hallveig said.

“You mean Jarl Olaf,” Kalf said.  “She wants us to kill Jarl Olaf.”

“No.  She specifically wants the corpse of King Olaf,” Hallveig said with determination.

“Then we shall give her King Olaf’s body,” Hugh told her.  “Even if my Norman cohort has to cut its way through a regiment of the Varangian Guard!”

“I shall bolster your cohort with my Jomsvikings,” Witch Hallveig offered.

“Your Joms warriors shall be welcome on the flanks of my cohort,” the captain said in thanks.

Kalf Arneson raised his center banner, and drew up his personal retinue along with one cohort of the Norman knights and those that wished to follow him of the bondes army fell in behind his force.

Harek of Thjotta and his men raised their banner on the right and a half cohort of Norman knights gathered under it and those that wished to follow him did just that.  Thorer Hund, with his troop, was at the head of the left banner; and the remaining half cohort of knights stood behind him and on both sides of Thorer was a chosen body of bondes, all of them the most active and best armed in the forces.  Behind Jarl Kalf Arneson and his banner, the center of the array was long and thick, and in it were drawn up the Trondheim people and behind Harek of Thjotta and his right banner, the many Halogalanders and behind Thorer Hund were the southern folk from Rogaland, Hordaland, the Fjord districts, and Sogn, and they had the left banner.

There was a man called Thorstein Knarrarsmid, who was a merchant and master ship-carpenter, stout and strong, very passionate, and a great manslayer.  He had been in enmity against King Olaf, who had taken from him a new and large merchant-vessel he had built, on account of some manslaughter-mulct, incurred in the course of his misdeeds, which he owed to the king.  Thorstein, who was with the bondes’ army, went forward in front of the line in which Thorer Hund stood, and said, “Here I will be, Thorer, in your ranks; for I think, if I and King Olaf meet, to be the first to strive a weapon at him, if I can get so near, to repay him for the robbery of the ship he took from me, which was the best that ever went on merchant voyage.”  Thorer and his men received Thorstein, and he went into their ranks.

When the bondesmen and array were drawn up the lendermen addressed the men, and ordered them to take notice of the place to which each man belonged, under which banner each should be, who there were in front of the banner, who were his side-men, and that they should be brisk and quick in taking up their places in the array; for the army had still to go a long way, and the array might be broken in the course of the march.  Then they encouraged the people; and Kalf invited all the men who had any injury to avenge on King Olaf to place themselves under the banner which was advancing against King Olaf’s own banner.  They should remember the distress he had brought upon them and, he said, never was there a better opportunity to avenge their grievances, and to free themselves from the yoke and slavery he had imposed on them.  “Let him,” he said, “be held a useless coward who does not fight this day boldly; and they are not innocents who are opposed to you, but people who will not spare you if you spare them.”

Kalf’s speech was received with loud applause, and shouts of encouragement were heard throughout the whole army.

Thereafter the bondes’ army advanced to Stiklestad, where King Olaf was already with his people.  Kalf and Harek went in front, at the head of the army under their banners.  But the battle did not begin immediately on their meeting; for the bondes delayed the assault, because all their men were not come upon the plain, and they waited for those who came after them.  Thorer Hund had come up with his troop the last, for he had to take care that the men did not go off behind when the battle cry was raised, or the armies were closing with each other; and therefore Kalf and Harek waited for Thorer.  For the encouragement of their men in the battle the bondes had the field-cry—”Forward, forward, bondemen!”  King Olaf also made no attack, for he waited for Prince Dag and the people who followed him.  At last the king saw Dag and his men approaching.  It is said that the army of the bondes was not less on this day than a hundred times a hundred men.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:

A.D. 1030.  This year returned King Olave into Norway; but the

people gathered together against him, and fought against him

in Stiklastad.  Before this, in the same year, died Hacon

the doughty earl, at sea.

The Prince Erik’s New Chronicle of the Hraes’ for the year read:

(1030 AD). Ivaraslav captured Bel’z.  To Ivaraslav was born his

fourth son, and he named him Vsevolod.  In this year, Ivaraslav

attacked the Chuds and conquered them.  He thus founded the city of

Yur’ev.  At this same time, after Boleslav ‘the Great’ had died in Poland,

there was a revolt in the Polish country.  The people arose and killed the

bishops, the priests, and the boyars, and there was rebellion among them.



Back To Table of Contents

(1030 AD)  As the armies on both sides stood so near that people knew each other, the king said, “Why are you here, Kalf?  For we parted good friends south in More?  It beseems you ill to fight against us, or to throw a spear into our army; for here are four of your brothers.”

Kalf replied, “Many things come to pass differently from what may appear seemly.  You parted from us so that it was necessary to seek peace with those who were left behind in the country.  Now each must remain where he stands, but if I might advise, we should be reconciled.”

Then Fin, his brother, answered, “This is to be observed of Kalf, that when he speaks fairly he has it in his mind to do ill.”

The king answered, “It may be, Kalf, that you are inclined to reconciliation; but, methinks, the bondes do not appear so peaceful.”

Then Thorgeir of Kviststad said, “You shall now have such peace as many formerly have received at your hands, and which you shall now pay for.”

And the king replied, “You have no occasion to hasten so much to meet us; for fate has not decreed to thee today a victory over me, who raised you to power and dignity from a mean station.”

Now came Thorer Hund, forward in front of the banner with his troop, and called out, “Forward, forward, bondesmen!”  Thereupon the bondesmen raised the war-cry, and shot their arrows and spears.  The king’s men also raised a war-shout; and that done, encouraged each other to advance, crying out, “Forward, forward, Christ-men! Cross-men! King’s men!”  When the bondes who stood outermost on the right flank heard it, they repeated the same cry, but when the Norman knights heard them shout it, they thought these were king’s men, and turned their arms against them, and they fought together, and many bondesmen were slain before Harek could call off the knights.  The weather was beautiful, and the sun shone clear, and a warm breeze blew across the wide field of Stikla’s stead, cooling off the men as the shield walls crashed and the fight began in earnest.  King Olaf had drawn up his army upon a rising ground, and it rushed down from there upon the bonde-army with such a fierce assault, that when the shield walls had crashed, the bondes’ array was driven back before it; so that the breast of the king’s array came to stand upon the ground on which the rear of the bondes’ array had stood, and many of the bondes’ army were almost in flight, but the Norman knights forced them to stand their ground and the jarls and lendermen and their house-men stood fast, and the battle became very severe.

Then the bonde-army pushed on from all quarters.  They who stood in front hewed down with their swords; they who stood next thrust with their spears; and they who stood hindmost shot arrows, cast spears, or threw stones, hand-axes, or sharp stakes.  Soon there was a great fall of men in the battle.  Many were down on both sides.  In the first onset fell Arnliot Gelline, Gauka-Thorer, and Afrafaste, with all their men, after each had killed a man or two, and some indeed more.  Now the ranks in front of the king’s banner began to be thinned, and the king ordered Thord to carry the banner forward, and the king himself followed it with his regiment of Varangian Guardsmen he had chosen to stand nearest to him in battle, and these were the best armed men in the field, and the most expert in the use of their weapons.  But the lendermen urged their men on, and the knights forced them to advance.

Olaf came forth from behind the shield-bulwark, and put himself at the head of the army, and when the bondes looked him in the face they were frightened, and let their hands drop.  The combat became fierce, and the king went forward in the fray.  The skalds stayed back just to say:

     “Thundered the ground beneath their tread,

     As, iron-clad, thick-tramping, sped

     The men-at-arms, in row and rank,

     Past Stiklestad’s sweet grassy bank.

     The clank of steel, the bowstrings’ twang,

     The sounds of battle, loudly rang;

     And bowman hurried on advancing,

     Their bright helms in the sunshine glancing.”

     “Midst in their line their banner flies,

     Thither the stoutest bonde hies:

     But many a bonde thinks of home,

     And many wish they ne’er had come.”

     “Loud was the battle-storm there,

     Where the king’s banner flamed in air.

     The king beneath his banner stands,

     And there the battle he commands.”

     “I think I saw them shrink with fear

     Who would not shrink from foeman’s spear,

     When Olaf’s lion-eye was cast

     On them, and called up all the past.

     Clear as the serpent’s eye—his look

     No Trondheim man could stand, but shook

     Beneath its glance, and skulked away,

     Knowing his king, and cursed the day.”

     “When on they came in fierce array,

     And round the king arose the fray,

     With shield on arm brave Olaf stood,

     Dyeing his sword in their best blood.

     For vengeance on his Trondheim foes,

     On their best men he dealt his blows;

     He who knew well death’s iron play,

     To his deep vengeance gave full sway.”

King Olaf fought most desperately.  He struck the lenderman, Thorgeir of Kviststad across the face, cut off the nose-piece of his helmet, and clove his head down below the eyes so that they almost fell out.  When he fell the king said, “Was it not true, Thorgeir, what I told you, that you would not be victor in our meeting?”  At the same instant Thord stuck the banner-pole so fast in the earth that it remained standing.  Thord had got his death-wound, and fell beneath the banner.  There also fell Thorfin Mun, and also Gissur Gullbrarskald, who was attacked by two men, of whom he killed one, but only wounded the other before he fell.  So shouted Hofgardaref-skald, from behind the Varangian shield wall:

     “Bold in the Iron-storm was he,

     Firm and stout as forest tree,

     The hero who, ‘gainst two at once,

     Made Odin’s fire from sword-edge glance;

     Dealing a death-blow to the one,

     Known as a brave and generous man,

     Wounding the other, ere he fell,—

     His bloody sword his deeds showed well.”

High upon a hill behind the bondes army, Witch Hallveig had her chantreusses dance, twelve in a ring around her, and those who stopped to catch breath on Stikla’s field below could see wisps of clouds where spirits gathered.  And from the east, dark storm clouds came, following the River Helgaa, the Holy River named after Hallveig’s grandfather, Helgi ‘Arrow Odd’ Erikson, the famed warrior who had fought beside the warrior maiden Stikla at the first battle upon her stead.  Soon, the overhead sun became red, and as the battle progressed it grew darker until it became as dark as at night.

Once the cohort of Norman knights in the vanguard were sure the bondes army would stand, they laid into the Varangian Guard regiment and, with the help of the Jomsvikings on either side, they pressed them hard and many of the Emperor’s men fell, but their shieldwall held.  Then, coming in from the west, the goddess Irpa was seen to fly at them and from the fingertips of each hand flew five arrows, each the death of a man.  And Hallveig’s Jomsviking captives fought on harder with this, for they had seen the darts of Irpa before, but it was against them in that fight.  Hallveig’s metaled goddess body flew above them, naked and swathed in human blood, possessed by Irpa, and beautiful as Hell, even in the darkness, and she focused her deadly flights upon the center of the Varangian corp and the skalds who had sheltered there took flight at the Guardsmen’s fall. 

A skald took up a fallen shield and from its shelter sang:

     “No common wonder in the sky

     Fell out that day—the sun on high,

     And not a cloud to see around,

     Shone not, nor warmed Norway’s ground.

     The day on which fell out this fight

     Was marked by dismal dusky light,

     This from the East I heard—the end

     Of our great king it did portend.”

At the same time, Prince Dag Hringson came up with his people in support, and began to put his men in array, and to set up his banner; but on account of the darkness the onset could not go on so briskly, for they could not see exactly whom they had before them.  They turned, however, to that quarter where the men of Hordaland and Rogaland stood.

On the one side of Kalf Arneson stood his two relations, young Olaf and Kalf, with many other brave and stout men.  Kalf was a son of Arnfin Arnmodson, and a brother’s son of Arne Arnmodson.  On the other side of Kalf Arneson stood Thorer Hund, meaning hound.  King Olaf hewed at Thorer Hund, and struck him across the shoulders; but the sword would not cut, and it was as if dust flew from his reindeer-skin coat.  So said the skalds:

     “The king himself now proved the power

     Of Fin-folk’s craft in magic hour,

     With magic song; for stroke of steel

     Thor’s reindeer coat would never feel,

     Bewitched by them it turned the stroke

     Of the king’s sword,—a dust-like smoke

     Rose from Thor’s shoulders from the blow

     Which the king thought would end his foe.”

Thorer struck at the king, and they exchanged some blows; but the king’s sword would not cut where it met the reindeer skin, although Thorer was wounded in the hands.

Skalds sang thus of it:

     “Some say that Thorer’s not right bold;

     Why never yet have I been told

     Of one who did a bolder thing

     Than to change blows with his true king.

     Against his king his sword to wield,

     Leaping across the shield on shield

     Which fenced the king round in the fight,

     Shows the dog’s courage—brave, not bright.”

The king said to Bjorn the marshal, “Please kill the dog on whom steel will not bite.”  Bjorn turned round the axe in his hands, and gave Thorer a blow with the hammer of it on the shoulder so hard that he tottered.  The king at the same moment turned against Kalf and his relations, and gave Olaf his death-wound.  Thorer Hund struck his spear right through the body of Marshal Bjorn, and killed him outright; and Thorer said, “It is thus we hunt the bear.”  Thorstein Knarrarsmid struck at King Olaf with his axe, and the blow hit his right leg well above the knee.  Fin Arneson instantly killed Thorstein.  The king, after the wounding, staggered towards a stone, threw down his sword, and prayed God to help him.  Then Thorer Hund struck at him with his spear, and the stroke went in under his mail-coat and into his lower abdomen.  As Thorer shook his spear free to deal another thrust, Kalf struck at him on the left side of the neck.  These three wounds were King Olaf’s death; and after the king’s death the greater part of the forces which had advanced with him fell with the king.  Bjarne Gullbrarskald now sang verses about Kalf Arneson, having himself been taken captive by the bonde army:

     “Warrior!  who Olaf dared withstand,

     Who against Olaf held the land,

     Thou hast withstood the bravest, best,

     Who e’er has gone to his long rest.

     At Stiklestad you were the head;

     With flying banners onwards led

     Thy bonde troops, and still fought on,

     Until he fell—the much-mourned one.”

The skalds still about free also made these verses on Bjorn:

     “The marshal Bjorn, too, I find,

     A great example leaves behind,

     How steady courage should stand proof,

     Though other servants stand aloof.

     To Hraes’ first his steps he bent,

     To serve his master still intent;

     And now beside his king he fell,—

     A noble death for skalds to tell.”

Prince Dag Hringson still kept up the battle, and , joined by the remaining Guardsmen, made in the beginning so fierce an assault that the bondes gave way, and some took flight.  There a great number of the bondes fell, and these lendermen, Erlend of Gerde and Aslak of Finey; and the banner also which they had stood under was cut down.  This onset was particularly hot, and was called Dag’s storm.  But now Kalf Arneson, Harek of Thjotta, and Thorer Hund turned against Dag, with the array which had followed them, and then Dag was overwhelmed with numbers; so he grabbed Prince Harald and betook himself to flight with the men still left him.  There was a valley through which the River Helgaa flowed and the main body of the fugitives fled, the Norse and Swedes and Guardsmen, and men lay scattered in heaps on both sides, and many were severely wounded, and many so fatigued that they were fit for nothing.  The bondes pursued only a short way; for their leaders soon returned back to the field of battle, where they had their friends and relations to look after.

Thorer Hund went to where King Olaf’s body lay, took care of it, laid it straight out on the ground, and spread a cloak over it.  He said that when he wiped the blood from the face it was very beautiful; and there was red in the cheeks, as if he only slept, and even much clearer than when he was in life.  The king’s blood came on Thorer’s hand, and ran up between his fingers to where he had been wounded, and the wound healed up so speedily that it did not require binding.

Kalf Arneson searched for his brothers who had fallen, and found Thorberg and Fin.  Fin threw his dagger at him, and wanted to kill him, giving him hard words, and calling him a faithless villain, and a traitor to his king.  Kalf did not regard it, but ordered Fin and Thorberg to be carried away from the field.  When their wounds were examined they were found not to be deadly, and they had fallen from fatigue, and under the weight of their weapons.  Thereafter Kalf tried to bring his brothers down to a ship, and went himself with them.  As soon as he was gone the whole bonde-army, having their homes in the neighbourhood, went off also, excepting those who had friends or relations to look after, or the bodies of the slain to take care of.  The wounded were taken home to the farms, so that every house was full of them; and tents were erected over some.  But wonderful as was the number collected in the bonde-army, no less wonderful was the haste with which this vast body was dispersed when it was once free; and the cause of this was, that the most of the people gathered together from the country places were longing for their homes.

The bondes who had their homes in Veradal went to the chiefs Harek and Thorer, and complained of their distress, saying, “The fugitives who have escaped from the battle have proceeded up over the valley of Veradal, and are destroying our habitations, and there is no safety for us to travel home so long as they are in the valley.  Go after them with war-force, and let no mother’s son of them escape with life; for that is what they intended for us if they had got the upper hand in the battle, and the same they would do now if they met us hereafter, and had better luck than we.  It may also be that they will linger in the valley if they have nothing to be frightened for, and then they would not proceed very gently in the inhabited country.”  The bondes made many words about this, urging the chiefs to advance directly, and kill those who had escaped.  Now when the chiefs talked over this matter among themselves, they thought there was much truth in what the bondes said.  They resolved, therefore, that Thorer Hund should undertake this expedition through Veradal, with six hundred men of his own troops.  Then, towards evening, he set out with his men; and Thorer continued his march without halt until he came in the night to Sula, where he heard the news that Dag Hringson had come there in the evening, with many other flocks of the king’s men, and had halted there until they took supper, but were afterwards gone up to the mountains.  Then Thorer said he did not care to pursue them up through the mountains, and he returned down the valley again, and they did not kill many of them this time.  The bondes then returned to their homes, and the following day Thorer, with his people, went to their ships.  The part of the king’s men who were still on their legs concealed themselves in the forests, and some got help from the people.

Harald Sigurdson was severely wounded; but Ragnvald Brusason brought him to a bonde’s the night after the battle, and the bonde took in Harald, and healed his wound in secret, and afterwards gave him his son to attend him.  They went secretly over the mountains, and through the waste forests, and came out in Jamtaland.  Harald Sigurdson was fifteen years old when King Olaf fell.  In Jamtaland Harald found Ragnvald Brusason and some of the Varangian Guardsmen and they all went east to Prince Ivaraslav in Hraes’.

Thormod Kolbrunarskald was under King Olaf’s banner in the battle; but when the king had fallen, the battle was raging so that of the king’s men the one fell by the side of the other, and the most of those who stood on their legs were wounded.  Thormod was also severely wounded, and retired, as all the others did, back from where there was most danger of life, and some even fled.  Now when the onset began which is called Dag’s storm, all of the king’s men who were able to combat went there, but Thormod did not come into that combat, being unable to fight, both from his wound and from weariness, but he stood by the side of his comrade in the ranks, although he could do nothing.  There he was struck by an arrow in the left side; but he broke off the shaft of the arrow, went out of the battle, and up towards the houses, where he came to a barn which was a large building.  Thormod had his drawn sword in his hand; and as he went in a man met him, coming out, and said, “It is very bad there with howling and screaming; and a great shame it is that brisk young fellows cannot bear their wounds: it may be that the king’s men have done bravely today, but they certainly bear their wounds very ill.”

Thormod asked, “What is thy name?”

He called himself Kimbe.

Thormod: “Were you in the battle, too?”

“I was with the bondes, which was the best side,” he said.

“And are you wounded in any way?” said Thormod.

“A little,” said Kimbe.  “And hast thou been in the battle too?”

Thormod replied, “I was with them who had the best.”

“Art thou wounded?” asked Kimbe.

“Not enough to signify,” replied Thormod.

When Kimbe saw that Thormod had a gold ring on his arm, he said, “You are certainly a king’s man.  Give me your gold ring, and I will hide you.  The bondes will kill you if you fall into their hands.”

Thormod said, “Take the ring if you can get it: I have lost that which is worth more.”

Kimbe stretched out his hand, and wanted to take the ring, but Thormod, swinging his sword, cut off his hand; and it is related that Kimbe behaved himself no better under his wound than those he had been blaming just before.  Kimbe went off, and Thormod sat down in the barn, and listened to what people were saying.  The conversation was mostly about what each had seen in the battle, and about the valour of the combatants.  Some praised most King Olaf’s courage, and some named others who stood nowise behind him in bravery.  Then Thormod sang these verses:

     “Olaf was brave beyond all doubt,—

     At Stiklestad was none so stout;

     Spattered with blood, the king, unsparing,

     Cheered on his men with deed and daring.

     But I have heard that some were there

     Who in the fight themselves would spare;

     Though, in the arrow-storm, the most

     Had perils quite enough to boast.”

Thormod went out, and entered into a chamber apart, in which there were many wounded men, and with them a woman binding their wounds.  There was fire upon the floor, at which she warmed water to wash and clean their wounds.  Thormod sat himself down beside the door, and one came in, and another went out, of those who were busy about the wounded men.  One of them turned to Thormod, looked at him, and said, “Why are you so dead-pale?  Are you wounded?  Why didn’t you call for the help of the healers?”  Thormod then sang these verses:

     “I am not blooming, and the fair

     And slender girl loves to care

     For blooming youths—few care for me;

     With Fenja’s meal I cannot fee.

     This is the reason why I feel

     The slash and thrust of Danish steel;

     And pale and faint, and bent with pain,

     Return from yonder battle-plain.”

Then Thormod stood up and went in towards the fire, and stood there awhile.  The young woman said to him, “Go out, man, and bring in some of the split firewood which lies close beside the door.”  He went out and brought in an armful of wood, which he threw down upon the floor.  Then the nurse-girl looked him in the face, and said, “Dreadfully pale is this man—why art thou so?” Then Thormod sang:

     “Thou wonderest, sweet sprig, at me,

     A man so hideous to see:

     Deep wounds but rarely mend the face,

     The crippling blow gives little grace.

     The arrow-drift o’ertook me, girl,—

     A fine-ground arrow in the whirl

     Went through me, and I feel the dart

     Sits, lovely girl, too near my heart.”

The girl said, “Let me see thy wound, and I will bind it.”  Thereupon Thormod sat down, cast off his clothes, and the girl saw his wounds, and examined that which was in his side, and felt that a piece of iron was in it, but could not find where the iron had gone in.  In a stone pot she had stirred together leeks and other herbs, and boiled them, and gave the wounded men of it to eat, by which she discovered if the wounds had penetrated into the belly, for if the wound had gone so deep, it would smell of leek.  She brought some of this now to Thormod, and told him to eat of it.  He replied, “Take it away, I have no appetite for my broth.”  Then she took a large pair of tongs, and tried to pull out the iron; but it sat too fast, and would in no way come, and as the wound was swelled, little of it stood out to lay hold of.  Now said Thormod, “Cut so deep in that you can get at the iron with tongs, and give me the tongs and let me pull.”  She did as he said.  Then Thormod took a gold ring from his hand, gave it to the nurse-woman, and told her to do with it what she liked.  “It is a good man’s gift,” said he.  “King Olaf gave me the ring this morning.”  Then Thormod took the tongs, and pulled the iron out; but on the iron there was a hook, at which there hung some morsels of flesh from the heart,—some white, some red.  When he saw that, he said, “The king has fed us well.  I am fat, even at the heart-roots;” and, so saying, he leaned back and was dead.

King Olaf fell on Wednesday, the 29th of July 1030 AD.  It was near mid-day when the two armies met, and the battle began before half-past one, and before three the king fell.  The darkness continued from about half-past one to three also.  Skalds speak thus of the result of the battle:

     “The loss was great to England’s foes,

     When their chief fell beneath the blows

     By his own thoughtless people given,—

     When the king’s shield in two was riven.

     The people’s sovereign took the field,

     The people clove the sovereign’s shield.

     Of all the chiefs that bloody day,

     Dag only came out of the fray.”

And they composed these:

     “Such mighty bonde-power, I ween,

     With chiefs or rulers ne’er was seen.

     It was the people’s mighty power

     That struck the king that fatal hour.

     When such a king, in such a strife,

     By his own people lost his life,

     Full many a gallant man must feel

     The death-wound from the people’s steel.”

The bondes did not spoil the slain upon the field of battle, for immediately after the battle there came upon many of them who had been against the king a kind of dread as it were; yet they held by their convictions, for they resolved among themselves that all who had fallen with the king should not receive the interment which belongs to good men, but reckoned them all robbers and outlaws.  But the men who had power, and had relations on the field, cared little for this, but removed their remains to the churches, and took care of their burial.

Thorgils Halmason and his son Grim went to the field of battle towards evening when it was dusk, took King Olaf’s corpse up, and bore it to a little empty houseman’s hut which stood on the other side of their farm.  They had light and water with them.  Then they took the clothes off the body, swathed it in a linen cloth, laid it down in the house, and concealed it under some firewood so that nobody could see it, even if people came into the hut.  Thereafter they went home again to the farmhouse.  A great many beggars and poor people had followed both armies, who begged for meat; and the evening after the battle many remained there, and sought lodging round about in all the houses, great or small.  It is told of a blind man who was poor, that a boy attended him and led him.  They went out around the farm to seek a lodging, and came to the same empty house, of which the door was so low that they had almost to creep in.  Now when the blind man had come in, he fumbled about the floor seeking a place where he could lay himself down.  He had a hat on his head, which fell down over his face when he stooped down.  He felt with his hands that there was moisture on the floor, and he put up his wet hand to raise his hat, and in doing so put his fingers on his eyes.  There came immediately such an itching in his eyelids, that he wiped the water with his fingers from his eyes, and went out of the hut, saying nobody could lie there, it was so wet.  When he came out of the hut he could distinguish his hands, and all that was near him, as far as things can be distinguished by sight in the darkness of light; and he went immediately to the farm-house into the room, and told all the people he had got his sight again, and could see everything, although many knew he had been blind for a long time, for he had been there, before, going about among the houses of the neighbourhood.  He said he first got his sight when he was coming out of a little ruinous hut which was all wet inside.  “I groped in the water,” said he, “and rubbed my eyes with my wet hands.”  He told where the hut stood.  The people who heard him wondered much at this event, and spoke among themselves of what it could be that produced it: but Thorgils the peasant and his son Grim thought they knew how this came to pass, and, as they were much afraid the king’s enemies might go there and search the hut, they went and took the body out of it, and removed it to a garden, where they concealed it, and then returned to the farm, and slept there all night.

The next day (Thursday), Thorer Hund came down the valley of Veradal to Stiklestad, and many people, both chiefs and bondes, accompanied him.  The field of battle was still being cleared, and people were carrying away the bodies of their friends and relations, and were giving the necessary help to such of the wounded as they wished to save, but many had died since the battle.  Thorer Hund went to where the king had fallen, and searched for his body, but not finding it, he inquired if anyone could tell him what had become of the corpse, but nobody could tell him where it was.  Then he asked the bonde Thorgils, who said, “I was not in the battle, and knew little of what took place there; but many reports are abroad, and among others that King Olaf has been seen in the night up at Staf, and a troop of people with him: but if he fell in the battle, your men must have concealed him in some hole, or under some stone-heap.”  Now although Thorer Hund knew for certain that the king had fallen, many allowed themselves to believe, and to spread abroad the report, that the king had escaped from the battle, and would in a short time come again upon them with an army.  Then Thorer went to his ships, and sailed down the fjord, and the bonde-army dispersed, carrying with them all the wounded men who could bear to be removed.

Thorgils Halmason and his son Grim had King Olaf’s body, and were anxious about preserving it from falling into the hands of the king’s enemies, and being ill-treated, for they heard the bondes speaking about burning it, or sinking it in the sea.  The father and son had seen a clear light burning at night over the spot on the battlefield where King Olaf’s body lay, and since, while they concealed it, they had always seen at night a light burning over the corpse; therefore they were afraid the king’s enemies might seek the body where this signal was visible.  They hastened, therefore, to take the body to a place where it would be safe.  Thorgils and his son accordingly made a coffin, which they adorned as well as they could, and laid the king’s body in it; and afterwards made another coffin in which they laid stones and straw, about as much as the weight of a man, and carefully closed the coffins.  As soon as the whole bonde-army had left Stiklestad, Thorgils and his son made themselves ready, got a large rowing-boat, and took with them seven or eight men, who were all Thorgil’s relations or friends, and privately took the coffin with the king’s body down to the boat, and set it under the foot-boards.  They had also with them the coffin containing the stones, and placed it in the boat where all could see it; and then went down the fjord with a good opportunity of wind and weather, and arrived in the dusk of the evening at Nidaros, where they brought up at the king’s pier.  Then Thorgils sent some of his men up to the town to Bishop Sigurd, to say that they were come with the king’s body.  As soon as the bishop heard this news, he sent his men down to the pier, and they took a small rowing-boat, came alongside of Thorgil’s ship, and demanded the king’s body.  Thorgils and his people then took the coffin which stood in view, and bore it into the boat; and the bishop’s men rowed out into the fjord, and sank the coffin in the sea.  It was now quite dark.  Thorgils and his people now rowed up into the river past the town, and landed at a place called Saurhlid, above the town.  Then they carried the king’s body to an empty house standing at a distance from other houses, and watched over it for the night, while Thorgils went down to the town, where he spoke with some of the best friends of King Olaf, and asked them if they would take charge of the king’s body; but none of them dared to do so.  Then Thorgils and his men went with the body higher up the river, buried it in a sand-hill on the banks, and levelled all around it so that no one could observe that people had been at work there.  They were ready with all this before break of day, when they returned to their vessel, went immediately out of the river, and proceeded on their way home to Stiklestad.

After the battle, the Jomsvikings looked for Witch Hallveig and had found her half dead inside the circle of her chantreusses.  The children were still dancing around her and were singing to keep her alive.  Because the sacrifice the Goddess Irpa had wanted was the body of King Olaf, Hallveig had no human blood in which to bath her naked body, so, rather than sacrifice one of her young singers, for Hallveig had been required to do that hard task before, she decided to bleed herself into the great silver bowl she had.  Then she stripped and swathed her naked body in her own blood and grew so weak she near passed out until the goddess Irpa took possession of her body and gave her supernatural strength.  But after the battle, Irpa left Hallveig’s body back on the hilltop and awaited her sacrifice and told her chantreusses to sing or she would die unless the goddess got her sacrifice.  The Jomsvikings took up Witch Hallveig and carried her to the leaders hall with the children following along and singing to keep her alive.

Jarl Kalf had just returned to the hall when the Jomsvikings brought in the naked Hallveig swaddled in a wool blanket.  They laid her upon a table and gave the children chairs on which to sit and sing and they fed half the chantreusses while the other half sang and then did the opposite.  Jarl Kalf sent out search parties to look for the body of King Olaf and Thorir Hund went to the great flat stone where he had run a spear into Olaf, but his body was nowhere to be found.  Hallveig’s Jomsvikings stayed with her in the hall and the children sang while the bondes army searched for the corpse of the king.

In the fall, Prince Erik returned to Constantinople with a final shipment of Untouchables and then went to the Red House to meet with Gretta.  “Jarl Olaf ‘the Stout’ Haraldson is dead,” he said.  “They’re already talking of making him a saint.  Saint Olaf!  Imagine that!”

“Didn’t the Christians make your son, King Ivar ‘the Boneless’ a saint, too?” Gretta asked with a half-smile on her face.

“Yes,” Erik answered, “but that cost the Hraes’ Trading Company a small fortune.  They’re sainting Jarl Olaf for free.”

“Nothing is for free,” Gretta reassured him, “and that is exactly what you get for it, nothing.  Now follow the money.  What do the Christians get for it?”

“Norway!” The Prince spat.  He gave Gretta a thankful nod.  “I was so pissed when I heard about it, I didn’t think.”

“We heard the news about Olaf when what was left of his Varangian Guard regiment made it back to the Emperor.  Empress Zoe turned toward the Teutoburg Forest and cried, ‘I want my cohorts back!’ or so they jest in court.”

“They’re going to make a hero out of him,” Erik realized, “and use it to bring Christianity back into Norway.”

“The Varangian Guard rescued Olaf’s half-brother, Harald,” Gretta said, “and returned him to Prince Ivaraslav and Princess Ingigerd in Novgorod, then came back here.  The Orthodox Christians want to saint him right away so they can get their Orthodox boots in the door.  The Latin Christians will hear about it and the race will be on: Who can saint him first!”

“I’ve got to get Ivar to move back into Kiev,” Erik lamented.  “He’s getting too involved with the Swedes.  The ‘Great Northern Empire’ is his father, Valdamar’s baby.  He and Misty have to start working with each other and get back into the Hraes’ Trading Company business.  I can’t keep doing it all on my own.”

“There, there,” Gretta poo pooed him, steering him to the bed.  “You tell me all about it while I dress you down.”  Gretta soon had him naked and she sat him on the bed and took his lingam in her mouth to get it hard and wet.

“What those boys need is a common enemy,” Erik said as Gretta pushed him back down on the bed and straddled his hips and began riding him.

“God you’re hard,” Gretta said.  “It’s like riding a pole!”

“That’s it!  Poland!”

“Poland’s a mess,” she said.  “It’s been a mess since we killed King Boleslaw.  Now the people are up in arms and killing the priests and bishops and reverting back to Perun.”

“Not all of Poland,” The Prince said, and Gretta stopped her ride to listen.  “Just the Polish cities that Ivar lost when that warrior Bishop Thietmar and Boleslaw attacked him.  And don’t stop.”  Gretta resumed her ride.

“I enjoyed that hit,” Gretta said, and Erik knew she did because she tightened up on him as soon as she thought about it.  “That sword of yours, Tyrfingr, was one focked up weapon.  It scared the shit out of me.  I think I peed myself a little bit when I was taping it under the bishop’s desk.  But I think if King Olaf would have had it with him he would have won the Battle of Stiklastad.”

“Oh, he would have!” Erik assured her.  “He would have wiped out half that bondes army and the rays off Tyrfingr would have killed him later.  It would have been win-win for us!”

“Can you get it back?”

“Oh, no.  It’s at the bottom of the Scythian Sea.  I dumped it right in the middle.  And ever since then, when we put our lead sounding weights into the water past a hundred feet, the lead weights come back up all black for some reason.  Now sailors are calling it the Black Sea.  I don’t think the Alans are very happy about that.”

“Speaking of Alans,” Gretta started and she suddenly grew even tighter, “I heard that Princess Nado of the Alans contacted Witch Nadege when you were in India together and needed you to help Witch Hallveig in Norway?”

“Oh, that…” he replied.  “I don’t want to get into that right now.  What a focking shit-show!”  Gretta felt Erik begin to lose his hardness, so she changed the subject.

“Princess Sviataslava has agreed to buy our acting troupe from us,” she said, and she felt him grow harder at the mention of Svia.  She’d managed to keep herself as beautiful at her age as Empress Zoe, even more so.  “Now we can keep our thespian secret weapon at the ready in case we have to kill another king.”

“And without you being involved in it and exposing yourself to recognition.  No more acting for you, right?  You’re just a hitman.”

“I’m your hitman,” Gretta said, kissing him.  “Yours and yours alone.”

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:

A.D. 1030.  This year returned King Olave into Norway; but the

people gathered together against him, and fought against him; and

he was there slain, in Norway, by his own people, and was

afterwards canonised.  Before this, in the same year, died Hacon

the doughty earl, at sea.

The Prince Erik’s New Chronicle of the Hraes’ for the year read:

(1030 AD). Ivaraslav captured Bel’z.  To Ivaraslav was born his

fourth son, and he named him Vsevolod.  In this year, Ivaraslav

attacked the Chuds and conquered them.  He thus founded the city of

Yur’ev.  At this same time, after Boleslav ‘the Great’ had died in Poland,

there was a revolt in the Polish country.  The people arose and killed the

bishops, the priests, and the boyars, and there was rebellion among them.




Back To Table of Contents

“The night that I wrote the slain and slaying comments about King Olaf and had Prince Erik call him Slaint Olaf ‘the Holey’, July 3rd 2022, I discovered three wounds on my lower abdomen consistent with where one would expect Olaf to have been speared in the Heimskringla Saga description.  There was fresh scabbing and bleeding where there had only been clear skin before.  It gave me pause when I wanted to explore the possibility that King Olaf had been impaled by his attackers.  That matter was eventually taken up by Sir Hugh ‘de Hauteville’.  Thank you Hugh.”

Brian Howard Seibert

(1031 AD)  It didn’t take long.  King Olaf ‘the Stout’ Haraldson was slain on July 29th of 1030 AD and well before Christmas King Canute received an invitation to visit the Pope in the spring.  There were rumours that King Canute may have gone against a Papal Bull and had helped the Norwegian bondes army with the slaying of Saint Olaf ‘the Holy’.

“Slain and slaying,” Valdamar told The Prince, “are the words I like associated with Olaf, not saint or saintly.”  They had just finished their Yulefest celebrations for 1030 and had just welcomed in 1031 in London.  Duke Robert had been up as expected, visiting with Princess Estrid…focking Princess Estrid was more accurate.  They were doing it everywhere, in their rooms, in the libraries, under staircases, even under, it was rumoured, the highseats in Canute’s London palace!  “Duke Robert has just sailed off for Normandy and Estrid for Denmark,” Valdy said.  “At least I hope she’s going to Denmark.  Their wedding is in early spring and you and Queen Emma are invited.  We made sure it wouldn’t conflict with either of your merchant sailing schedules.”

“Well thank you,” Erik said, “and Emma thanks you as well.  Rouen in the spring!  We’ll be there!”

“Paris in the spring!” Valdy said.  “That’s where I’ll be.  After the wedding I have to head south for Vatican City.  The Pope wants my assurances that I had nothing to do with Olaf’s unsavoury, what was the term he used?  Slaying?  Slain?  I love using those words in a sentence with Olaf.”

“Slaint Olaf ‘the Holey’, is good too,” Erik said, tracing a circular hole on his belly.

“You are a poet!” Valdamar said.  “Slaint Olaf ‘the Spear-Holey’ Haraldson!”

“Are you taking some witnesses with you when you see the Pope?”

“I am,” said Canute.  “Duke Robert is coming along with his new wife, my daughter Estrid.  They are honey welling, I mean honey mooning, but honey welling is more accurate, in Rome and then Apulia.  We are taking Captain Hugh ‘de Hauteville’ with us and he is going to tell the Pope that it was he, on his own initiative, that had taken Norman knights to Trondheim to fight the Roman Emperor’s Varangian Guard in Norway after it had disengaged from them while plundering in Apulia to go help the Orthodox Christians support King Olaf in the north.  As punishment for acting without orders, Duke Robert is providing him with two regiments of Norman knights with which to fight the Byzantine Romans in southern Italy as the Pope directs them.”

“And who are you taking?” Erik asked, though he already had a pretty good idea.

“I’ll be taking King Malcolm’s daughters with me to be blessed by the Pope.”

“And what will you be blessing them with?”

“They want daughters this time.”  Erik gave his grandson a funny look.  “The girls are concerned,” Valdy explained.  “They claim their father’s allegiance to me is faltering and that he needs another display of me holding back the waters and, for that, they need daughters, born of the purple, but my kind of purple, Great Northern Empire purple!”

“I’ve heard of marrying off daughters to build alliances,” The Prince protested, “but seeding your own daughters into the daughters of your allies?  That’s a new one for me, that’s all.”

“Do you think it’s a good idea?” Valdy asked.  “I’m only asking, because you thought my idea of marrying a Porphyrogennetos princess to bring the throne of Rome with me wherever I went was a great idea, and it’s never quite worked out the way I thought it would.  My Porphyrogennetos Prince sons all think they’re too good for me and poor Estrid was being used as a breeding sow by that pig, Duke Richard.  So, if you think my Scottish plan is a good idea too, I won’t do it.”

“Well, go ahead and do it, because I think it’s a very bad idea that has so many ways of blowing up on you, that it just might work and, if it doesn’t, at least you’ve had a fine time with Malcolm’s beautiful young daughters and, at our age, there’s something to be said about that!”

Valdy smiled and thanked his grandfather, then thought, ‘It was heart-warming to have a two hundred year old man call you old in the context that he had meant.  He’d always said to take care of oneself because there was no retirement program for kings and princes.  Very few of them ever lived that long and the few that did, always seemed to end up with the byname ‘the Victorious’, because that’s what it took to live long as a king or prince…to always be victorious in battle.  King Olaf learned that the hard way…dead at thirty five.  And his son, Magnus, would fare no better.  And his half-brother, Harald, would find his own Battle of Stiklastad to die at.’  Valdy laughed at himself, waxing wise as if he had visions like his grandfather.  He shook his head.  He had just turned sixty and for a prince and then a king, that was quite an achievement.  Forty six years as the Grand Prince of Hraes’ and the last fourteen years as the King of England.  ‘All further time was bonus time,’ he thought.  ‘Father Sweyn had died an elderly man…over seventy years old!  And he had died focking!’

Emma knew something was bothering Erik all winter and she tried to get him to tell her about it, but he wouldn’t.  She learned from members of The Prince’s Centuriata that Erik had been required to use witchcraft to save Witch Hallveig after the Battle of Stiklastad and it had bothered him, that’s all they knew.  One night, when they were in bed, Erik told her that Witch Hallveig was coming to Southampton, that she was pregnant and afraid and wanted to have her babies here.

“Babies?” Emma said.  “As in more than one?  Are they yours?”

“I’m not sure,” Erik told her.  “The twins might be mine, but I don’t see how.”

Then he told her about the shit-show that had happened after the slaying of King Olaf at the battle.  “Witch Hallveig knew she would have to call upon the goddess Irpa to help the bondes army defeat Jarl Olaf, so she had left her two Skioldung sons back in York, in case Irpa would want them for a sacrifice.  She was right.  But Irpa agreed to settle for the body, the corpse, of Jarl Olaf instead.  The goddess didn’t want Olaf sainted any more than her Aesir followers did.  So, Hallveig called upon Irpa to help in the fight against Olaf’s Varangian Guard and Irpa used a shower of arrows to clear a path right through the Guard for the bonde army to pass through and kill Olaf.  And that they did, but after the battle, Jarl Olaf’s body disappeared.  Nobody knew where it went.  So, Goddess Irpa got angry and put Witch Hallveig into a coma and gave the Norwegians three days to come up with the body or Hallveig would die in that coma.  The spirit of Hallveig left her body and asked me for help.”

“But you would have been in India,” Emma said.  “Her spirit contacted you all the way in India?”

“She couldn’t.  So, she contacted Witch Nado in Chernigov and Nado contacted Witch Nadege who was with me in India studying Brahman witchcraft.  They set up an intervention in which I would play a large part.  Nadege and I used the Zombie drug and had sex and my spirit flew to Chernigov and I had sex with Witch Nado and that allowed me to fly to Stiklastad and I had sex with Goddess Irpa and Witch Hallveig.  When I flowed within Witch Hallveig, Irpa made it so that two boys were conceived, I don’t know how, but she did it.  Then she woke Witch Hallveig from the coma and told her that she would accept the two boys in lieu of the body of Jarl Olaf and Hallveig had to agree or she would have died the next day.”

“That’s focked up,” Emma said.

“I know,” Erik agreed.  “And now Hallveig is afraid and wants to have her babies here.”

“Goddess Irpa’s not going to attack us here, is she?”

“No.  But Hallveig doesn’t know when Irpa will be taking her sacrifice.  It could be right after the birth or it could be years from now.  She doesn’t know and that’s why she’s afraid.  She needs our help.”

“Well, of course, she’s got it,” Emma said.  “Anything we can do for her will be done.”

“Thanks,” Erik said, laying back and relaxing.

“Is that why you’re so hard now?” Emma asked.  “Riding you lately has been like riding a pole.  It’s like full Irpa plus!”

“I know.  You should have seen it when I was with Goddess Irpa.  My lingam was as big as my forearm and Irpa took it all in.  I couldn’t believe it.  We hard focked for what seemed hours before Irpa had me take Hallveig.”

“What was it like?  Focking a goddess?”

“It was wild!  She was going crazy!  And I entered her spirit and experienced what she was feeling and it was so intense I didn’t want to leave her spirit but she forced me back into mine, which was pretty intense as well!”

“And Hallveig?”

“That was a real shit-show,” Erik repeated.  “Her Jomsvikings had erected her pavilion on the top of her hill at Stiklastad and she was in a coma on her camp bed and Irpa blew the blanket off her naked body and it flew across the tent and Hallveig was like her usual goddess self, but unconscious and I forced my way into her metalled body with my lingam as big as an arm and she couldn’t take half of it and her honey well opened up so wide I thought it was going to tear open and her men couldn’t see me but they could see her being forced open and they freaked.  They didn’t know if she was being raped or whot the fock was going on so they were drawing swords and their captain had to settle them down and send most of them out of the pavilion.  As I was hard-focking Hallveig she came out of her coma and began screaming in pain and I began flowing inside her and the more she screamed the more I flowed.  It was like a river pouring out of her and her five Jomsvikings watched in disbelief.  Then she started coming and she wrapped her legs around me and her Vikings could see that there was a man there by the way her legs wrapped and that freaked them out even more.  When Irpa was sure that two boys had been conceived, I was suddenly back in Mumba focking Witch Nadege who was dead and I flowed inside her and then I died.  She kissed me and woke me and I told her what had happened and she couldn’t believe it.

“So many different new things had occurred during that one session of witchcraft that Nadege said she wouldn’t even know how to start studying up on what had just happened.  And now Witch Hallveig is coming here.”

“I can see why she’s so afraid,” Emma said.

“I think I wrecked her for life,” Erik confessed.

In early spring, King Canute and his retinue left Winchester for Southampton and he joined Prince Erik and Queen Emma there and they sailed across the English Channel and up the Seine River to Rouen.  It was still early in the season and the crossing had been rough and there were still traces of snow along one bank of the Seine.  The king’s daughter, Princess Estrid, had already arrived in Rouen with his wife, Princess Aelfgifu, from Denmark, and they all stayed together in the east wing of Duke Robert’s palace.  Canute greeted Duchess Herleva, Robert’s concubine wife, and little William ‘the Bastard’ had grown a little since they had last met on Wight.  Valdamar soon surmised that the duke intended to maintain his relationship with Herleva even as he married Princess Estrid and he had expected that his daughter would object to that encumbrance, but she was in love and she told her father that everything would work out for the best.

“No good will come of this,” Valdy told Aelfgifu as they spent time together in the east wing master suite.  “Estrid is fine with the arrangement now, while in fiery love with Robert, but I know her and I know the pride all my children by Anna take in the born of the purple blood.  She will not want to share her husband with a thrall once the passion has cooled somewhat.”

“She’s not a thrall,” Aelfgifu corrected him, “she’s freeborn and very pretty.”

“Yes, but of such uncommonly common station that Duke Robert can’t marry her without giving up his own royal station.  I know these things.  My mother was a handmaiden when she married Sweyn and my Porphyrogennetos children never ever let me forget that, even though her father was a prince of the Slavs and her mother was a Swedish princess.”

“And Prince Mal gave you your little ‘Pink Monster’,” Aelfgifu said as she began stroking his lingam to get it hard again.  “I thank him in my prayers for that little gift he bestowed upon you.  Now if I could just get it to wake up!” and she shook the thing in her hand and it grew as it flexed back and forth and soon she took it in her mouth and savoured it.

King Malcolm’s daughters had been invited to the wedding as representatives of Scotland, but their presence in Rouen was official business and they planned to hook up with King Canute in Paris.  Jarl Ivar ‘the White’ of Canute’s retinue travelled once more with his king and made all the arrangements for a two week stay in the Frankish capital, the ‘City of Lanterns’, and he had booked the whole of Queen Emma’s Hraes’ Hostel next to her Paris Hraes’ Store.  Ivar set up tours of Paris and the surrounding estates for all the young royal princesses that awaited the blessing of King Canute and his Great Northern Empire blood.

Once more, King Canute had several chests of gold with him and he made donations at all churches along the way to Paris.  The monasteries, along the way, remembered the generous progress south that the English king had made a few years earlier and were queued up as Canute passed by at a leisurely pace.  The inns, along the way, also remembered the king’s generosity and the young local women flocked to gain the king’s attention.  Canute again slept most nights with a recently deflowered young virgin under each arm, as they made numerous stops along the short trip to the city.  They briefly visited Emma’s Hraes’ Store in Paris and then went next door to her Hraes’ Hostel lodgings in Paris.  The hotel was huge with four floors and the area of each floor equalled the floor space of her entire store next door.

Princesses Beatrice, Donalda and Olith were waiting for Canute when he entered the bridal suite of the hostel and they all vied for first sex with him, but Valdamar knew they wanted daughters, so he reminded them of the Aesir rule:

“Wait fourteen days once the period’s done,

 Fock for three and you’ll have a son,

 Fock any other days in between

 And you’ll be raising a little queen.”

The women went through the times of their periods and both Beatrice and Olith were good to go, so Valdy took them both to bed for the next several nights and then Donalda joined them.  They had all offered to pleasure her while she was waiting, but she was sore about her misfortune and she sat at the bed table drinking Frankish sparkling wine and eating Khazar Vayar and she pleasured herself as she watched them all pleasuring each other.  But once she could join in, she was overjoyed that the pent up lust that had been building up within her as she’d watched was suddenly released in an orgasmic avalanche of wanton profligation she had never experienced before.  She came explosively and often, so it became the habit of the three women to have one of them sit out a few days and then join in for an explosion of orgasms.  Even with this ongoing proliferation, King Canute managed to squeeze a few other princesses into his tight schedule, for he also wanted to see a few of the sites about the city.  And he wanted to see the lanterns at night, but he was a little disappointed.  There were more torches than lanterns and the ‘City of Lanterns’ was not on par with the night lights of Constantinople.  The Romans had access to the naphthas of the Middle East, which often flowed freely out of the ground, and had developed lanterns that used silk meshes and earth metals and glowed white and gave off a very white light.  And different earth metals were always being developed to radiate different colours and hues, so there was even an artistic aspect that was often infused into the night lights.  Valdamar was hoping to see something similar in Paris, but there was nothing being employed in the ‘City of Lanterns’ than had been in use in Kiev in his youth.  His grandfather, Prince Erik had often told him about the House of Lanterns in Constantinople that had stolen some secrets from the Alchemists’ Guild for their bright lanterns.  But there were others who had said that the House of Lanterns was the Guild.

When the three daughters of King Malcolm started showing signs of their pregnancies, King Canute decided it was time for the royal retinue to leave Paris.  King Canute visited King Robert ‘the Second’, King of the Franks, for the last time and then they quit the ‘City of Lanterns’.  He had seen the Frank king quite often there visiting Queen Emma to ‘discuss permitting issues’.

Witch Hallveig arrived in her longship at the main quay of Southampton and both Erik and Emma were there to greet her.  She was big for seven months and Emma could see she was carrying twins.  They put her up in a master suite in Emma’s palace and the slaves and servants doted over the witch, half out of respect and half out of fear.  She planned to stay a few months, but was there a couple of weeks when she went into early labour.  Healers were called and a midwife arrived just in case it wasn’t false labour.  But the midwife soon indicated that it appeared to be the real thing and that it was too early to be a safe delivery.

Things were progressing too quickly and two healers held up Hallveig’s legs at the end of her bed as the midwife sat on a stool in front of her and Erik and Emma watched from the side.  “She’s crowning,” the midwife said as she took the head and pulled the baby free of Hallveig.  It was a boy and was hairless and bright white and barely moved.  The arms and legs fell about loosely and the midwife said, “He has no bones!”  Erik cut the cord and she put the baby on Hallveig’s metalled chest and the baby took a breast and the midwife returned to her work.  She pulled another boy free and it was the same thing.  “This one’s boneless as well,” she said in distress.  Erik cut the cord and she cleaned it up and put it at Hallveig’s other breast, but the babies wouldn’t suck and within minutes of each other they died.  Then Hallveig’s metalled body turned to flesh, aged flesh, and Erik looked up at her and she was suddenly quite old.  The goddess Irpa had taken her sacrifices and had terminated her relationship with Witch Hallveig that went back decades into the early reign of Jarl Haakon Sigurdsson.

King Canute and his retinue sailed on up the Seine and visited with young royals in Troyes and Dijon before being portaged across to the River Rhone and visiting more young royals in Lyon and Marseille, and the daughters of King Malcolm were by now throwing up often and welcomed the assistance the young princesses along the way were providing in the satisfaction of their profligate king.  And the young royal women that were being blessed with the blood of Great Northern Empire purple were also being blessed by English gold.  Bright, shiny, heavy English gold of the Newfoundland.  Mayan gold flowing north and then east across huge continents and long rivers and vast oceans.  So much gold that King Canute was becoming famous for his support of the church and support of the poor and support of the arts and of literature.  And his support of all his European princesses, and, rumoured, many wives, was overlooked because of the weight of his gold.

Leaving Marseilles, the small fleet sailed down the coast of Italy, leisurely stopping at Hraes’ Hostels all along the route to Rome.  Pope John ‘the Nineteenth’ had taken King Canute’s complaint about the lack of safe hospices and hostels along the route to Rome seriously and had helped Queen Emma finance a chain of Hraes’ Hostels from Normandy to Rome and then into Southern Italy and even into Islamic Sicily.  By taking advantage of such opportunities, Queen Emma had progressed from being the wealthiest woman in England to, possibly being, the wealthiest woman in the known world.  However, the Hraes’ Hostel in Rome was a bit of a disappointment.  The city itself had been allowed to run down.  Defensive walls were in disrepair and aqueducts were down, so security and services were lacking.  The hostel itself had been located in an old Roman mansion and had been renovated to acceptable levels, but the water was bad and the food suspect.  Wine was sipped instead and Canute’s personal chef cooked food for the entire retinue.

Rome had been built on swampland and the early Romans had drained the land and had built their city on the seven hills that stood out of the swampland, but they had drained it anyway because the stagnant waters bred mosquitos that carried malaria.  That was why, when the Romans had fled Troy and had then left Carthage, they found this unoccupied land between the Etruscans and the Sabines, a valley of seven hills and a lot of swampland between them.  They thought the hills were seven heavens and they built on them and, as the population grew, people started dying.  The hills were the breasts of a she wolf that had a soft underbelly, a swampland, that was killing them with a strange yellow fever, the yellow eyes of the she wolf.  But the great city of Troy had been built with proper water supply and superior drainage and sewers, so the Roman military engineers got busy and drained the swamps and the dying stopped once the stagnant waters flowed.  The New Rome, Constantinople, was built near Troy and it, too, had aqueducts and sewers and Valdamar had visited the city on business with both his father and grandfather and Prince Erik had explained to him the need of such extravagances as provisions of health and preventers of disease and poxes.  Now, as King Canute, his realm now had cities large enough to soon be grappling with these problems.  London already had Roman walls and Roman engineering that had to be expanded and the seven hills of Kiev had been filled and the lands between required drainage systems.

Vatican City was in much better shape than Rome was, and the tithes paid to the Latin church helped pay for the local splendour.  “I am so glad to see you,” the Pope welcomed Canute in Latin, “and I greet and bless your entire retinue.”

“We thank you for your welcome and your blessing,” Valdamar replied.

“Your Latin is still excellent!” Pope John told the king.

Canute then introduced his retinue to the Pope, Duke Robert and his new wife Estrid and the three daughters of King Malcolm of Scotland and his wife, Queen Gunnora of Normandy, Princesses Beatrice, Donalda and Olith and then Sir Hugh ‘de Hauteville’, Knight of Normandy, and they got down to business.

“At our last meeting,” the Pope continued in Latin, “I gave you permission to wrest Norway from King Olaf on condition that you spare his life and now I have received requests from certain parties in Norway to have the dead King Olaf sainted.  I have also been informed that there were Norman knights present at the Battle of Stiklastad where King Olaf was slain.  I believe your wife, Queen Emma, is Norman and I would like your assurances that you were in no way a part of the death of the Norwegian king.”

“I can assure you,” Valdamar said, switching to Gaulish French, which he knew the Pope was fluent in, “that I was not involved and that the Norman knights were only in Norway to fight the Roman Emperor’s Varangian Guard knights that King Olaf led north into Norway with him.  The Varangian Guard knights had just fought and pillaged in Apulia, Southern Italy, against the Norman cataphract legion there and the Normans sent a message to their fellow legionary regiment in Rouen that the Guardsmen were on their way to Norway.  Sir Hugh took up the calling on his own and snuck his knights out of Normandy to Norway dressed as a peasant army and, at the Battle of Stiklastad, the Norman knights fought only the Varangian Guard and had nothing to do with the death of King Olaf.  The bondes army of the people of Norway killed King Olaf.  And I call on Sir Hugh to bear witness to my testimony.”

“Is this all true?” Pope John asked Sir Hugh in Frankish.

“It is all true, my Pope,” Hugh ‘de Hauteville’ told the Pope while standing at attention.  “I was at the Battle of Stiklastad and personally witnessed the death of King Olaf.”

“Please relax,” Pope John told him.  He was intrigued by the witness.  So often the evidence he heard of battles was second hand or worse.  To have someone who was there and had personally witnessed an event of this importance was truly rare.  “Please relate to me the exact circumstances of King Olaf’s death and try to keep it just about Olaf’s death.  We are considering him for sainthood.”

“I had one cohort, five hundred knights, against a full regiment of two thousand Varangian Guardsmen who made up the vanguard of King Olaf’s forces, but I consider one Latin Christian Norman knight to be worth four Orthodox Christian Varangian knights, so this was considered a fair fight.  My knights formed up in a wedge against the Varangian rectangle and we penetrated through their middle and allowed the jarls and hearses of the Norwegian bondes army to attack King Olaf and his personal retinue.  King Olaf led his men and fought bravely against the jarls and slew many of them himself, but one berserk clove Olaf in his right leg, just under his shield, and the king went down.  His men rushed to his aid and killed the berserk and surrounded him and King Olaf was helped back to a great flat stone from which I heard he had given a great speech before the battle.  That is how far back my Norman knights had driven the Varangians.

“King Olaf was lying upon the stone and had lost a lot of blood, but I don’t consider the blow to have been his death stroke.  I fought on with my men against the Guardsmen while the leaders of the bondesmen fought against Olaf’s retinue and some of them broke through and a few jarls fought their way to the stone and one of them slipped a spear up under King Olaf’s chainmail armour and he prodded around for an opening of sorts and when he found it, he thrust his spear deeply into King Olaf.  I think he impaled him your holiness”, and Hugh could see that the Pope grew quite pale at the telling.  “The Aesir pagans,” Hugh began by way of explanation, “follow the same religion as the ancient Roman Vanir, and impalement is the old Roman punishment for treason and the jarls felt that King Olaf had been treasonous to Norway by abandoning them and going to Constantinople for Orthodox Christian aid.”  The Pope nodded in understanding.

“The jarl who had impaled King Olaf was in a rage because the king had killed many of his relatives and he would shake the spear he had thrust within King Olaf and the king would cry out in pain and it was apparent that he was dying.  The jarl leader of the bondes army tried to stop the berserk jarl from tormenting the king, but he was in a rage and could not be stopped, so the leader took his sword and gave King Olaf a mercy stroke on his neck to end his suffering.  I consider the spear thrust to be the fatal stroke, for nobody survives an impaling.  Once the king was dead, the Varangian Guardsmen fled and they led the personal retinue and the king’s younger brother back to the east through Hraes’.”

The Pope was very pale and shaking at this news.  He realised then that there was something to be said about second hand recitations of events.  Once he had calmed a little, he asked Sir Hugh, “I have had reports that there was witchcraft used by the bondes army and its leaders.  I’ve been told that the sky grew dark and stormy and that witches were seen flying about causing havoc.  From my experience, whenever there are reports of a sky growing dark during our battles with pagans, witchcraft is always involved.”

“Good Norman Latin Christians do not believe in witchcraft,” Sir Hugh qualified, “and I saw no darkness during the battle.  Some might have, but fear can sometimes play tricks, and Norman knights know no fear.  I have brought two regiments of Norman knights to serve you in Apulia and I hope to be allowed to prove this to you.”

Duke Robert stepped in now.  “We have news that the Varangian Guard regiment, what was left of it, made it back to Constantinople and is being reinforced for another attack in Southern Italy, your Holiness.  I hope you will accept my generosity in this matter and give Sir Hugh ‘de Hauteville’ the opportunity to make reparations.  I wanted to punish Sir Hugh for borrowing my legionnaires, but, perhaps he shall die in battle instead.”

“I shall accept your offer,” Pope John ‘the Nineteenth’ replied, “and with God’s grace he will not die in battle.  We need more such Swords of Christ,” the Pope added.  “So many more.”  The Pope then had King Canute line up his retinue and the Pope personally blessed each of them.  Then he took Canute aside and told him that he would likely be sainting King Olaf for the good of the Latin Christian church.  He also said he was glad that any darkening of sky was likely caused by fear rather than witchcraft, because an eclipse had occurred a month after the battle and was already being attached to the sky darkening during the battle.

‘The race is on,’ Valdy told himself.  His grandfather had told him that the Latin and Orthodox branches would be contesting the sanctity of Olaf and would be likely sainting him quickly and for free.

Sir Hugh ‘de Hauteville’ soon led his Norman knights south to Apulia, but Princess Estrid wanted to stay in Rome a little longer before going south with her new husband.  Valdamar didn’t mind.  Rome was full of beautiful and pretentious princesses who wished to be blessed by greater royalty.

In its rundown condition, Rome could hardly be called the ‘Eternal City’, but it did have a secret byname that was protected by the followers of the goddess Angerona, who was the goddess of silence.  There was a statue of her at Volupia which showed her with her mouth stitched up.  The name was so secret, that no one was allowed to say it, not even in rituals for Angerona.  A poet called Quintus Valerius Soranus had let slip the byname in a poem about the ‘Sacred City’ and he was arrested by the Senate to be crucified, but escaped and fled to Sicily, where he was seized by the governor and executed by impalement.

Every married Roman had at least one mistress and, unknown to them, their wives had at least one lover, often their priest, and musicians and poets were everywhere and night clubs proliferated.  Rome had an exciting and sensuous night life.  It seemed as though the Romans were still practicing their ancient Vanir religion, for Roman women were as bountiful as Danish women had ever been.  And there was a new dance in Rome that had come up from Spain and it was called the Flamenco Tango and Estrid went out of her way to teach it to her father and her new husband.  But they spent a little too much time in Rome.  One of Queen Emma’s Gyrfalcon ships came from Paris to Rouen with the news that King Robert of Frankia was dead.  Duke Robert knew he would be needed in Normandy in case the transition of power took a wrong turn.  He passed the notice to Valdamar:

“King Robert ‘the Second’ has died on July 20th, 1031, at his residence in Melun of an overwhelming fever.  Long live the king!

Sometime before his most holy death, which happened on 20 July, on the day of the death of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, the sun, like the last quarter of the moon, veiled its rays to everyone, and appeared at the sixth hour of the day, turning pale above the heads of men, the sight of which was so obscured, that they remained without recognizing each other until the moment to see was returned.

Helgaud of Fleury, Epitoma vitæ regis Roberti pii”

Duke Robert and Princess Estrid took a security detail and the Gyrfalcon back to Rouen, but King Canute wasn’t in as much of a hurry.  King Malcolm’s three beautiful young daughters were over the vomiting stage of pregnancy and were in the affectionate stage and Valdy wanted to enjoy that stage while taking his time sailing north.  Besides, Bernice, Donalda and Olith had learned the Flamenco Tango with Valdamar and were excited about taking it back to Paris with them and teaching it to the friends they had made a few months earlier.  Canute doubted very much if he would ever be called back to Rome by the Pope again, so he wanted to enjoy a last Tango in Paris.

Soon after, Prince Erik was also heading back north, but from Mumba and Baghdad and Constantinople.  He had visited his grandsons, Princes Ivaraslav and Mstislav on his way south and had planted the idea in their heads that the war King Mieszko of Poland was fighting with King Conrad of the Holy Roman Empire provided an opportunity for them to work together and retake the Polish cities they had lost to King Boleslaw in 1018, when the Kievan Hraes’ people were called ‘Swift Danes’ and ‘Runaway Slavs’ by Chronicler and Warrior Bishop Thietmar of Merseburg.  So much had come to light about the Christianizing efforts of both the Orthodox Christians of the Greek Romans and the Latin Christians of the Holy Romans that Prince Erik did not regret its happening, but now was the time to put things back right.  His grandsons had agreed, so he wanted to see how effective their cooperation had been and if it had brought the two of them back together again.

When the great merchant fleet arrived in Kiev, The Prince was happy to learn that Prince Ivaraslav had relocated his highseats to King Frodi’s old palace in the city.  The two princes had campaigned together well and had recovered all their lost Polish lands and towns.  They agreed to share the new scat from the old territories and also took many Poles prisoner, allowed them ransoms and, those that could ransom themselves were allowed to settle along the Ros River, but those who could not were entered into the slave schools of Kiev for training over winter and eventual sale in Constantinople and Baghdad in the spring.  And they had found and released from slavery and concubinage many of the Kievan Slav women that had been raped and enslaved by King Boleslaw’s army in 1018.  They both thanked Prince Erik for his suggestion.  Business had been good for everybody.

Princess Ingigerd had preferred Novgorod because it kept her closer to Sweden, but Kiev was larger, more cosmopolitan and had an international complexion about it.  She was happy to be wherever her husband, Ivar, was.  The Prince stopped off in Chernigov as well and found Prince Mstislav and Princess Nado both happy with the current changes.  The Prince left Witch Nadege with the couple because the young woman wanted to study more Alan Aran witchcraft with Witch Nado.  She had accompanied Erik to India to study Brahman witchcraft in Ashaval and Mumba but did not want to stay and study alone in India because she did not like the way they treated their women there.

On his way back to England, Erik visited his grandson Svein, son of Princess Estrid, in Sweden, where he was living in the personal retinue of King Anund Jakob.  Princess Ingigerd was worried about him because his mother was now living in Rouen instead of Roskilde.  The young boy was growing up strong and Anund was raising him to be a true Viking king.  The Prince carried on to Roskilde Harbour and collected tithes from the great merchant fleet before releasing it and then sailed off to Southampton with his personal merchant fleet.  Qu