Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert
CHAPTER SIXTEEN POINT ZERO
16.0 THE ENGLISH AND DANISH ATTACK ON NORWAY (Circa 1028 AD)
(1028) Over the winter, King Canute brought Prince Hraerik up to speed on what had transpired in the north of England and the peace he had re-established with King Malcolm of Scotland. 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 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 Hraerik 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 Hraerik 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,” Hraerik 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 Hraerik 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 apologize 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 apologized 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 Hraerik 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 Hraerik 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 Hraerik 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 the 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 The 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 Hraerik’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 Samsoe 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 Samsoe, 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 Hraerik 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 Hraerik 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 Hraerik 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,” Hraerik 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,” Hraerik 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,” Hraerik 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 Hraerik arrived in Kiev he learned that Prince Ivaraslav still did not trust his half-brother, Prince Mstislav, and was continuing to rule from Novgorod. Hraerik 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 has just turned twelve and was of marriageable age, so the Prince asked her to marry him and be his wife in Kiev.
“Prince Gretta is my wife in Gardariki,” Hraerik 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,” Hraerik 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,” Hraerik 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,” Hraerik 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,” Hraerik 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,” Hraerik 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.
Hraerik 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 Hraerik 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 Hraerik 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,” Hraerik 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,” Hraerik 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,” Hraerik 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.
Hraerik 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 Hraerik’s New Chronicle of the Hraes’ for the year read:
(1028 AD). A portent visible to the whole country appeared in the heavens.