Ch. 17 THE REIGN OF KING HARDE KNUTE

Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert

Fictional Painting of King Harde Knute of Denmark from 1880

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

THE REIGN OF KING HARDE KNUTE  (Circa 927-930 AD)

When King Ivar returned north with the Hraes’ trading fleet in the fall, he stopped in at Kiev to talk with Queen Helga.  “Prince Mal has been causing you trouble,” he said.  “Would you like me to deal with him?”

“No,” she replied.  “I’ll handle him.”

“Tell him you’re still my wife,” Ivar said.  “We haven’t seen eye to eye for a number of years, but he should still respect that.”

“Are we?” she asked.  “Are we still man and wife?”

“I think so.  I think some day you will realize how much your Drevjane friends took away from me and you’ll do the right thing.  Or you’ll let me do it.”

“Thank you,” she said.

“For what?” he asked.

“For respecting my opinion and letting me handle it.”

Ivar left King Frodi’s Hall and went to the Hraes’ Trading Company treasury, and checked the tithes for all the merchant ships and he matched payments collected against the value of goods shipped and he collected chests of gold Byzants and silver Kufas and he set off with his fleet of thousands of merchant ships and they headed north for Chernigov, the land of the Drevjane, and he collected a share of profits then paid out a share of tithes to the Swedish station owners there.  He did the same at Smolensk and Surazh and sent men to handle Polotsk.  Most of the merchant ships continued west along the Dvina River to the Baltic but, once more, King Ivar took the northern leg on his way to Sweden and portaged his ships from Surazh to the Lovat River and collected gifts from Vadim the Brave of Staraja Russa and collected profits and paid out tithe shares at Hraes’ stations in Novgorod and Staraja Ladoga before sailing along the Gulf of Finland and across the Baltic to the Hraes’ station in Birka and then to Uppsala in Sweden to visit with King Halfdan.

“I think Helga is contemplating punishing the Chernigov twenty,” he told Halfdan.

“Will you be getting back together?” he asked.

“We had always planned to have a son after Alfhild was born.  Perhaps we could get back together and try.  You seem to have had much luck in that area,” he said, as he watched Halfdan’s sons play in his highseat hall.

Ivar then visited the Hraes’ stations in Gotland and Skane before arriving in Liere to his wife, Queen Blaeja and his son Gorm.  His son was old enough to accompany him on his Danish rounds and he took Gorm to Hedeby and they explored Jutland together before returning to Liere.  Queen Blaeja wanted a daughter but they worked at it to no avail.  Her healer thought perhaps that she had Gorm too early in life and hinted that perhaps it was him, but Ivar knew better.  He sailed to Norway and arrived just in time for the birth of a daughter with his wife, Lagertha.  He took his son Frodi with him to visit Jarl Ane in Northmore and then Jarl Sigurd in Lade and he squared up business with the Hraes’ stations from Northmore to Hrafnista.

From Southmore, King Ivar sailed to Ireland and met with Princess Hrafnhild in Dublin and collected profits and paid out tithes.  The princess introduced him to some of the Ui Imair living in Dublin.  They were the sons of Imair, a bastard son of Hraegunar Lothbrok from when he had wintered in Ireland with his father-in-law, King Sigurd Fafnirsbane.  Imair had left Ireland to join the Great Pagan Army of 865 and had helped the legitimate sons of Hraegunar, his half-brothers, capture York and avenge Hraegunar’s death by helping kill King AElla with the death of the blood eagle.  Ivar told them that their brother Sihtric was helping rule over Frodingham province in Northumbria.  He then sailed off to Rouen to share profits and tithes with his uncle, Duke Rollo.  Finally, he headed to York to finish up business with Princess Blaeja Senior and her Hraes’ station in York Castle.  His first night there he raped Blaeja yet again, then headed off to Bamburg to see how Biorn was making out with the Angles there.  Once he was sure that Biorn had his conquests under control, he returned to York and, finding his bags still located on the third floor, he raped Princess Blaeja once more.

“You might as well move into my room and be done with it!” Princess Blaeja cried.  ‘If your father knew you were treating me like this, there would be hell to pay!”

“I enjoy plundering you from my room down the hall.  And that reminds me…father wanted me to give you this two year supply of a drug you requested.  I gave the exact same drug to Duke Rollo and he would only tell me it was for the elderly.  You don’t look elderly at all,” he said, and he ravaged her once more.  “I am thinking of wintering in York again.”

“Good,” Blaeja replied, resting in his arm.  “You owe me story.”

“Oh? And what story could that be?”

“You told me a while ago that your brother Helgi was killed by a poisoned blood-snake, not a viper as is told.”

“I’m not sure I should tell you this family secret.  You’ll have to promise not to kill my mother.”

“You said your mother was dead.”

“Not my dead mother.  My other mother.”

“Queen Mother Eyfura?”

“Yes.  My official mother,” Ivar confirmed.  “You have to promise.  ‘Cause you’re gonna wanna kill her.”

Princess Blaeja pushed away from Ivar and propped herself up on one elbow and stared at him quizzically.

“She’s dying anyway,” Ivar reassured her.  “The same poison that killed Oddi is eating her life away too.”

“I won’t kill her,” Blaeja stated flatly.  “Why does everybody think I’m going to kill somebody?”

“Who else thinks you’re going to kill someone?”

“Nobody.  Everybody.  Get on with the story.  I won’t tell it to anybody.  And I won’t kill your mother.”

“Good.  Now, how did I leave you hanging last time?  Oh yeah…Queen Eyfura, she started calling herself Queen Eyfura even though I hadn’t taken back the crown of Denmark yet, she told Hervor that she was the daughter of Prince Angantyr, her son, and she got a pledge from her handmaiden that they would both avenge their fathers.  So, when I started my military training, so did Hervor.  I think that is when I first started noticing her, noticing her breasts.  She could bind them up for training until she looked like a warrior, but after training, when she unbound them, they popped.  They were standing out there.  Under her tunic, of course, but out there.

“After a few years of training, Hervor disguised herself as a warrior and took a ship and a crew up the Dnieper and down the Dvina and crossed the Baltic to Zealand and she resupplied in Liere and learned that a four line poet named Hiarn had usurped the country with but a verse.  She then sailed to Samsoe Island, broke into the mound of her father and eleven uncles and took the famed sword Tyrfingr for herself. She slept with the sword between her breasts as she lusted for vengeance against the greatest of all Vikings, Arrow Odd.”

“But Oddi didn’t kill her father,” Blaeja said.  “It was Hjalmar the Brave who killed Angantyr.  Oddi killed his eleven brothers.”

“But here’s the thing,” Ivar explained.  “Angantyr used Hjalmar to get to Arrow Odd.  Angantyr proposed to Ingibjorg, Hjalmar’s lover, just to set up the duel on Samsoe, and he told Arngrim and Eyfura portentous dreams so he could kill Arrow Odd with Tyrfingr.  He even went to the trouble of marrying and knocking up Hervor’s mother before heading off to the holmganger, just to show the world that he didn’t give a damn about Hjalmar’s sweet Ingibjorg.  But once he was on Samsoe, Hjalmar insisted on fighting him and Angantyr did not think that Oddi would be able to slay his way through all his brothers.  He thought he would never get the chance to kill Arrow Odd for his grandfather, King Frodi.  But, as the duel dragged on and more and more of his brothers fell, Angantyr saw the possibility of Oddi still being alive once he had finished off Hjalmar.  But he underestimated Hjalmar.  By the time he had beaten Hjalmar near to death, he had, himself, been wounded many times and Oddi had killed all of his brothers in turn with nary a scratch.  Angantyr knew that he was so close to death himself, that he had no chance of beating Oddi, so he did the next best thing.  He deprived Arrow Odd of a perfect victory and he bared his chest to Hjalmar, who knew he was dying from the poison of that famed blade Tyrfingr and who could not resist avenging his sweet Ingibjorg.  So, although it was Hjalmar who technically did kill Angantyr, it was Arrow Odd who caused Angantyr to expose his heart of darkness to the fatal thrust.”

“Poor Ingibjorg,” Blaeja pined.

“Yes.  Arrow Odd buried Angantyr and his eleven brothers with their weapons on Samsoe, but for some reason took Hjalmar’s body back to Sweden and when he showed the body to sweet Ingibjorg, she dropped dead with grief.”

“That’s perfectly awful!” Blaeja cried.

“It’s perfectly artful,” Ivar corrected.  “Life is art and art is life!  Hjalmar the Brave and Ingibjorg were buried together in a huge howe that the king had erected for them.”

“It’s beautiful that they are together forever,” Blaeja admitted, “but it is still so sad.”

“Yes, but Queen Eyfura and Hervor both blamed Oddi for the death of Angantyr even though he didn’t personally do it.  And, of course, Queen Eyfura blamed Oddi for the death of her father, King Frodi, because there were plenty of witnesses to that killing.  So, the two of them hatched a plan to retrieve the famed sword Tyrfingr from the howe of Angantyr, but no one else knew of their plan to warn them of the curse of the blade.  The sword was always to be kept sheathed in the blood of its last victim, or it would be the death of its owner.  And my mother, Hervor, was sleeping with the damn blade.  But they wanted to use Tyrfingr because it was the sword that Angantyr fought with when he died.

“When Hervor returned to Kiev with the weapon, the two conspirators waited for a chance to meet with King Oddi on the main quay of Kiev.  Finally, they got their chance and, while Queen Eyfura distracted Oddi, Hervor gashed him on the ankle with the poisoned sword.  As the poison leached into Oddi’s leg, Prince Hraerik tried to convince Oddi to let him take that leg off, but Oddi would have none of that, and that is about when I arrived on the scene, and I witnessed the death of my brother.  And I remember telling myself that I, too, would not have allowed my leg to be amputated.  And look at me now,” Ivar lamented as he sat back and lifted his legs onto the dining hall table.  He took a long sip of his wine and continued.  “King Oddi recited his death dirge and a cleric recorded it in Latin as he spoke, and he forgave Hervor for her actions and I could see that she was already turning grey from exposure to the blade and she died two days later and was cremated with King Oddi aboard Fair Faxi on the Dnieper River downstream of Kiev.”

Princess Blaeja sat speechless at the dining hall table and they finished their wine and she went upstairs to bed.  When King Ivar retired and had his men carry him to Blaeja’s room so he could rape her in her bed, but she made love to him instead and he rested in her arms and cried.