Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert
(Circa 885 AD)
A place of refuge.
A sanctuary of learning.
Arrow Odd had laid low for many years, but King Hraelauger of Norway had a profile that was harder to hide. The Great Kagan of Kiev, King Frodi, eventually learned that the treasonous former Norwegian king was to become a duke of the Holy Roman Empire and was given lands and titles in exchange for protecting the northern coasts of Frankia from attack by other Vikings. So, King Frodi put together a fleet of three hundred ships, half from Kievan Hraes’ trade led by his son, Alf, and the rest from Denmark and the Anglish Danelaw, and he attacked Duke Hraelauger and drove his Norman troops south from Flanders to Rouen.
“Our position here is indefensible,” Duke Hraelauger explained to his lieutenants. “We’ll have to stall King Frodi and Prince Alf while we evacuate the city. They are here for slaves for their eastern trade.” Later he told Oddi, “He’s after my head now…unless you’ve got something to tell me.”
“Wasn’t me,” Oddi replied. “I’ve been keeping my head down. I think King Frodi finally figured out who the famed Duke Rollo actually is.”
“We have to keep the Franks thinking this is just another Viking raid. They’re already calling King Frodi by the name Sigfried and his son Alfgeir. We do not want to correct that.”
The Great Kagan of Kiev sent Prince Alf forth from Liere with a small fleet to scout out Flanders and Frisia several times, then entered the mouth of the Seine with his armada of three hundred ships. Predictably, King Frodi followed the Hun practices for handling hosts and set up proper supply lines, giving Duke Rollo time to save the citizens of Frankia as he retreated towards Paris. Prince Alf and his troops entered Rouen and, finding it abandoned, burned the city to the ground. King Frodi didn’t even leave his longship, just sat in it and watched. The great army continued rowing up the Seine towards Paris.
The Normans, as the followers of Duke Rollo were called, withdrew to Paris with a fleet of one hundred ships full of the citizens of Rouen and sought the protection of the Franks, who were suspicious and thought the Normans were attacking them, so they barred the gates to the city. Fortunately, Duke Rollo knew their defences and had his men drag their ships around one of the low bridges blocking the river that flowed around the island city. Count Oddo of Paris only had two hundred troops with which to defend the city, so he could not pursue them, but he immediately started building twin wooden towers at the far ends of each bridge so they would not be able to portage around so easily on the way back. He did not know, at that point, that the Normans were being pursued by King Frodi and the Hraes’, but, at least, now he would not be surprised by the Danes. The Normans had tried to offer aid, but the Franks were too suspicious, so they warned them of the coming fleet and carried on upstream with their refugees. Some of their larger ships could not be portaged, so they left them anchored on the Seine, leading King Frodi, on his arrival, to believe the Normans were taking shelter in the city. He laid siege to Paris. But the Franks had built high walls and ramparts around Paris after Hraegunar Lothbrok‘s sacking of the city decades earlier and now Paris could not be stormed. King Frodi lost many men trying to scale the city’s grey stone walls, and it did not seem to matter how many Franks he killed in attacks, they were always replaced by fresher tougher fighters. It was a mystery to the Danes, but it was not surprising that Count Oddo, on losing half his men, suddenly became more accepting of Norman aid. The siege was meant to keep the Parisians within, so it was quite easy, under cover of darkness, to sneak in Normans from without. Once the Normans had settled their refugees in several cities upstream of Paris, they returned and Duke Rollo and Arrow Odd wintered in Paris defending its walls while King Frodi and Prince Alf spent the winter in tents, outside the walls, trying to get in. It was during the defence of Paris that Count Oddo made Hraelauger Duke of Normandy and Count of Rouen. Duke Rollo jested that, had he known he would end up being the Count of Rouen, he would never have allowed King Frodi to sack the city.
By spring the Danes became unnerved by the fact that Count Oddo’s two hundred men still held the city even though the Danes had killed at least four hundred of them. When a Frankish relief army arrived from Saxony, King Frodi’s troops wasted no time in destroying it, yet the defenders of Paris never seemed to have their numbers diminish no matter how many fell in attacks. King Frodi even fired the ships the Normans had left on the Seine and drove them under the wooden bridge and burned part of it, isolating twelve Franks who were defending the twin towers Oddo had built the previous fall. Frodi demanded the twelve men surrender, but they couldn’t, for they were actually men of Normandy and Frodi would have killed them as traitors once he learned that they spoke not French, but Norse, so they fought to the death, preferring to die in battle than be hanged. With the towers and the bridge burned, it seemed as though Paris would fall, so Duke Rollo dressed up a dozen men to look just like the twelve from the towers and he had them paraded around the stone towers at the Paris end of the bridge and this really unnerved the Danes. The next morning, they were gone and Duke Rollo and Count Oddo were the heroes of Frankia. Oddi knew that King Frodi would never let Duke Hraelauger rule in Normandy unscathed, so he decided to follow the advice Queen Olvor had given him years before and he became determined to kill Frodi.