24.0 ‘THE GREAT’S NORTHERN EMPIRE

Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert

 

CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR POINT ZERO

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

 

Duke Rollo in the Notre Dame Cathedral in Rouen by Raimond Spekking

 

(1035 AD)  “I want King Canute interred in Winchester!” Queen Emma told Prince Hraerik, when he arrived in Southampton from the east.  “I don’t want Valdamar buried in Normandy.”

“Why didn’t they bring him back after they’d won the war?” Hraerik asked her.

“Earl Godwin says it was his dying wish to be interred in the Cathedral of Rouen next to his great uncle, Duke Rollo.”

“Why would he want that?  Rollo’s my brother, but he’s been long dead.  Valdy wouldn’t have ever known him.”

“Exactly!” Emma declared.  “I think it was Earl Godwin’s dying wish.  If King Canute is buried in Normandy, it will be harder for me to remain Queen of England in Winchester.  I may actually have to move there.  But I do so love Southampton,” she fretted.

Prince Hraerik and Princess Nadege had already settled into Sweyn Castle on the Isle of Wight to raise their growing family, so, he too, wanted Emma to stay in Southampton, but it did look as though Earl Godwin may have left Canute in Normandy for ulterior reasons.  He offered up his eastern wife, Gretta, to watch over Southampton if Emma did have to move to Winchester.  “She’s Gytha’s mother and can keep an eye on Earl Godwin for us.  Visiting her grandchildren is a great excuse for popping in anytime and being nosey.”

“Sounds like you’ve had a few mothers-in-law,” Emma responded.

“Not as many as I likely should have,” Hraerik confessed, and he thought back and realized he hadn’t had any.

“That woman scares me,” Emma confessed.  “She was one of the women in black that killed Sweyn.”

“So was Gytha,” Hraerik reminded her.

“Yes, but Gytha turned out to be the kidnapped daughter of Sweyn.  She could hardly be held responsible.”

“And Gretta was born to a mother who was an assassin and was raised as one, just as Gyda had been.  She can almost hardly be held responsible.  Besides, all the women in black were working under your husband, King Athelred’s, orders.”

“That’s true,” Emma admitted.  “It takes me back to a very bad time in my life.  And so do my sons by him,” she added.  “Princes Edward and Alfred have offered to bring back Valdamar’s body if we will honour the king’s last offer to share the kingdom with them.  Canute offered to make Edward King of Wessex and Alfred King of Mercia.”

“That was only because Valdy wanted to be Emperor of the Great Northern Empire and he wanted a lot of vassal kings below him so he could be king of kings.  We could counter-offer them the Earldoms of Wessex and Mercia.”

“But Godwin’s the Earl of Wessex…,” Emma started and then realized what Hraerik was implying.  “I like it!” she said.  “It’ll teach Godwin right for leaving Canute in Rouen.”

“Exactly,” Hraerik agreed.  “We’ll put Godwin back in charge of Sussex and Gretta can keep an eye on him from Southampton.  You’ll have to move to Winchester to keep an eye on Edward.  And Princess Aelfgifu can keep an eye on Alfred from Northampton.”

“But Aelfgifu One is in London helping King Harald rule,” Aelfgifu Number Two reminded him.

“She’s Princess of Northampton.  She can do both.”

So, negotiations were begun with Duke William ‘the Bastard’ of Normandy for the return of the remains of King Canute and the Normans were quite relieved to get rid of the body, as it reminded them of Canute’s attack upon Normandy, and they were ecstatic that the two English princes that had been living in the court of Rouen for the last decade would be taking the body with them on their return home, because the princes reminded them of King Athelred’s attack upon Normandy.  But young Duke William was a hard bargainer and he offered to support the two princes only if they agreed to leave their kingdoms to the Duke after they died.  They reminded Duke William that they were only receiving earldoms but the Duke was perfectly happy with earldoms.  “You will have the full support of Normandy,” the duke promised them, “should someone try to remove you from your earldoms or kingdoms while I am Duke of Normandy.”

The two English princes knew they were sticking their necks out by going back into the den of Danes that were ruling England and they had witnessed, first-hand, the growing power of Normandy.  The Norman knights were becoming world famous for their courage and prowess in battle in Italy and Brittany and in their own duchy.  King Canute had brought the full English army to bear upon Normandy and the duchy had fought it to a draw, with their Duke Robert gone and half their knights operating in Apulia.  They only let Canute win because he was dying and Earl Godwin had promised to quit Normandy if they would only bury King Canute in the Cathedral of Rouen, next to Duke Rollo.  If Duke William would support them for the rights to their earldoms, it was added security they felt they could count on.  And they made sure that everyone in England knew that the duke supported them by having a regiment of Norman knights attached with the Norman fleet that helped them deliver the sarcophagus with bodies to Southampton and then Winchester, but the fleet overshot Portsmouth and landed at Poole, just west, and the princes and knights escorted the kings carriage all the way to Shaftesbury before the English army learned where they were and accepted the body of their king and commander in the town.  Officially, King Canute was listed as dying there, at the location of the official transfer from Norman hands to English.  Many of the English officers there had fought with Canute in Normandy and they didn’t consider Princes Edward and Alfred to be very English anymore.

When the princes and their personal Norman retinues escorted the body to Winchester, their mother, Queen Emma was there to greet them.  “Welcome home, sons,” she told them.  “I’m so glad you brought King Canute with you.”

“He’s the only reason they let us come back!” Prince Edward said, bitterly, as Prince Alfred hugged his mother.  “It is dangerous here,” Emma responded.  “I wish you would have stayed in Rouen.  Now that the war is over, I would be back there visiting with you as usual.”

“The war was hard on us too,” Edward complained.  “The Normans were always watching us, suspicious of us.  Weren’t they, Alfred?”

“Always watching us,” Alfred agreed.  “Why aren’t we safe here?”

“Because you’re taking the two largest earldom’s away from their rightful English lords.  Earl Godwin has been very gracious about it, but Earl Leofwin of Mercia is not to be trusted.”

“Yes, mother,” Alfred said, always the loving son.

“If he causes trouble, we’ll have to have him killed,” Edward said, always the practical son.

Prince Hraerik and Princess Nadege were going to go to Winchester and accompany Queen Emma and her princely sons to London for Yule, but Nadege’s water broke early and she gave her Prince a new baby as a Yulefest gift.  Earl Godwin tried to convince Queen Emma to bring her sons to London for Yule, but Emma was still uneasy about Godwin.  He had left Canute in Normandy, she was sure of it, but he still expressed only the firmest support for his queen and had helped ensure that King Harald ‘Hare-foot’, Princess Aelfgifu’s son by Canute, had accepted joint kingship with King Hardeknute, Emma’s son by Canute, officially, at least, and had freely turned over his Wessex to her son, Prince Edward, unlike Earl Leofwin, who had to be threatened to give up Mercia to her son, Prince Alfred.  So, Earl Godwin went to London alone with his retainers.  His wife, Princess Gyda, didn’t want to go either.  She had learned that Princess Aelfgifu had been spreading rumours that King Hardeknute may have had something to do with the death of her son, King Svein of Norway, causing Hardeknute to cancel his planned Yule visit to London.  Many of the English earls weren’t going either, displeased with Earl Leofric’s treatment regarding Mercia.

(1036)  Hraerik and Nadege spent the whole of Yule doting over their new baby, but once the new year approached, Hraerik wanted to show Nadege some of the progress he had been making with the Zombie drug and, at the same time, show her, prove to her that he had been, still was, capable of the true love she was looking for.  She wanted the true love that Prince Mstislav and Princess Nado had shared, that she had experienced while sharing love with them in an Aran witchcraft lovemaking ceremony.  “I want to show you three loves in three nights,” he told her, “if you’re up for it.”

“Oh, I’m up for it,” she replied, “but you have to tell me more.”

“I’ve had many loves in my long life,” Hraerik confessed, “but I have had three loves in particular, that were pure unadulterated infatuations.  My first love was Princess Alfhild, and one never gets over their first love.”  He waited for Nadege to agree with him, and when she just stared at him dreamily, he said, “Well, do you agree?”

“I don’t know,” she replied.  “You are my first love, and I don’t think I’ve lost you.”

“Really?” he said, quite astonished.

“I was ten years old when we first made love,” Nadege began.  “Sure, it was for a witching spell, and you may not have felt anything, but I fell in love with you that night.  I couldn’t say anything, your wife was in the bedroom with us.”

“Really?” he repeated.  “You were with Captain Hugh.  I thought you two were a couple.”

“I was the healer for his fleet,” Nadege said.  “I let him use me as his cabin boy, because I was studying witchcraft and I needed him for sex.  I was advanced for my age and the spells I was learning called for sex.  There was never anything, any love, between us.”

“So, I was your first?  Your first love?”

“You still are, I hope, but go on with Alfhild.  Tell me about her.”

“I first saw Princess Alfhild when Rollo and I sailed into the Vik and she stood upon a cliff and the sun played in her hair as we went to a War Thing in King Gotar’s highseat hall.  When we entered the hall, she was there, she was King Gotar’s daughter, and I tried so hard to impress her with my courage that I offered to lead an attack upon the Danes for him.  He refused me at first, as did Princess Alfhild, but when he lost an army attacking the Danes he accepted my offer, and my brother Rollo and I took one ship called Fair Faxi to Liere to destroy the House of Westmar and Danish power with it.

“In Denmark, we fought the twelve berserker sons of Westmar and we had our famed ‘Battle upon the Ice’ and I won the hand and heart of King Frodi’s sister, Princess Gunwar, and I married her and married into the ‘Old Fridleif-Frodi Line of Anglish Danish Kings’ and my byname went from ‘Bragi’ to ‘Bragi the Old’.  Gunwar and I went back to the Vik to try to arrange for Princess Alfhild’s marriage to King Frodi, for Alfhild had wanted to marry up, not down, but her father had other plans.  Her mother had died and King Gotar offered me Alfhild if I would divorce Gunwar and give her hand to him.  Princess Alfhild agreed with the plan, since my fame had been growing, and she seduced me, but I learned that Gotar was a rapist and murderer who had drawn my wife to himself by threatening to kill me if she did not marry him.  I convinced Alfhild that she really wanted King Frodi and she turned on her father, but only under the condition that I forgive her one slight, and we escaped Gotar’s trap and returned to Denmark with King Frodi’s new wife.”

“And your third true love?  Your third infatuation?” Nadege asked softly.

“Queen Eyfura, King Frodi’s daughter.”

“And Queen Alfhild’s daughter?” Nadege asked gently.

“Yes.  She married Prince Arngrim and they had twelve berserk sons together, but she lost them all and she lost her husband, too, during a revolt of the Slavs of Kiev and Novgorod.  I sailed up the Don River and saved her and we fell in love, or, I fell in love.  She told me she had loved me ever since she was a little girl.  As a princess, she had grown up with all the tales of my fame, ‘The Viking and the Nun’, ‘The Head Ransom Poems’, ‘The Battle of the Goths and the Huns’, and she told me that she had always loved me, and I fell in love with her so easily.  She was half Gunwar and half Alfhild…how could I not?”

“How could she not?” Nadege asked.  ‘The Viking and the Nun’?  ‘Gunwar’s Song’?  She was fated from her royal birth to love you.  She wouldn’t have had a chance.”

“You’re toying with me,” Hraerik protested.

“No!  I’m not!  Even the young witches of Rouen talk and dream about the Viking who saved the Nun.  I dreamt about you.  Maybe that’s why I fell in love with you?” and Nadege started feeling all warm and tingly and she drew herself closer to her Prince.  There were no silk sheets between their naked bodies now.  “So, what do you have planned?”

“I’m going to take you back with me, back into the past, and I want you to be in me and feel my passion as I’m making love to my true loves, just like you were with Misty and Nado, except quietly.  They must not know you are there.  That could change the past.”

“Can you do that?” Witch Nadege asked incredulously?  “The past has passed.”

“No,” Hraerik told her.  “My Indian mathematicians have modelled the universe to include a fourth dimension, time, and the past is always there in a past dimension that can be visited if a spirit knows how to do it.”

“And the Zombie drug will make us such spirits?” Nadege asked.  “Yes,” he told her.  “But your spirit will have to stay inside mine.  I don’t want to lose you.  Are you still in?”

“I’m in!” she said, without hesitation.  “If you can do this, I want to be there as a witness to it.  This is powerful warlock shit.  I’ve never heard of a warlock that could do this!”

“I’ve gone backwards and forwards in time a few weeks,” Hraerik confessed, “but never years.”

“A few weeks is amazing!” Nadege said.  “I’ve heard of warlocks that can bend time, stretch it out a bit, but to go back and forward…forward, to see the future, how do you do it?”

“First you have to know that time is a dimension.  You have to absolutely know!  Then your spirit knows how to guide you.  And then you have to practice and build on it.”

So Witch Nadege prepared the Zombie drug and the antidotes while Prince Hraerik meditated and focused his mind in the Indian fashion he had been training in, and then they made love on the bed and were soon leaving their bodies and their spirits were flying off to The Viken in Norway far into the past.  They saw a young Hraerik and Princess Alfhild sitting together in a beautiful lush green meadow sharing a picnic lunch.

“That was quite a performance you put on,” Alfhild told Hraerik.  “Father would never have let you go, had you played it any other way.”  They had packed a lunch and gone for an afternoon’s ride once again, stopping to eat on a blanket in the midst of a wooded glen.  “Why is this peace mission so important to you, Hraerik?  You were the one who warned father not to attack King Frodi.  You should be the least concerned about how father placates the Danes, and now you risk your life as the Norwegian emissary?”

“Let us say I’m trying to impress your father,” Hraerik said, lightly.

Alfhild would have none of this levity.  “I’ve been leading you on, Hraerik,” she confessed.  “I enjoy your company, your stories, your poetry.  I have affection for you, Hraerik.  Affection, but no passion.  And now you’ve put yourself and your brother in grave danger because of me.”

“Your concern for my welfare may not be passion yet, but it is the stirrings of greater emotion.”

“You must call off this mission, Hraerik.  I won’t be responsible for your death.  For both your deaths.”

“I have no intention of dying,” Hraerik replied.  “That would hardly impress your father.”

Alfhild studied Hraerik’s deep coarse face.  “You’re not on a peace mission, are you Hraerik?” she asked.  Hraerik did not reply.  She had succeeded in fathoming his intent and her concern turned to fear as she second guessed the madness, the wildness of Hraerik’s plan.  She rose and staggered blindly to a small oak sapling and leaned on it for support.  “What dark and dangerous course have you set for yourself, my eloquent prince?  What extreme have I driven you to?”

Hraerik got up and embraced her from behind.  “This isn’t your fault.  It has nothing to do with you.  You must not tell a soul.”  He held her close and could feel her heavy breathing, the pounding of her heart.  He felt the flush of her cheek, then the moisture of her sweet breath.

“I’ve been raised in a royal court,” she started.  “Father has encouraged me to observe the functions of a king since my early youth and he has never kept any of it from me:  the granting of marriages, the planning of alliances, the making of war.  All this I have seen–participated in.  My father has done all this in order that I may be a powerful queen when my times comes.  He has no sons, so I must be strong for him.  Strong and emotionless.  When the time comes that he chooses me a king, I shall be that powerful queen he wants me to be.  I love my father, Hraerik.  He has given me everything he has to offer.  And when he gives me my king, well…I shall try to love him too.”

Hraerik turned Alfhild to face him.  “And if your father should choose me for you…would you try to love me?”

Tears crested upon Alfhild’s lower eyelids, but they would not flow.  “I already do love you,” she said, quietly.  “But my father will never allow it.  Even now he talks of giving me to King Frodi as a gift to patch up his mistake!”

Hraerik looked into her eyes and said, “If I destroy the House of Westmar and the Danes, he will allow us to love each other.”

“It is too risky,” she said.  “I don’t want to be the cause of your death.”

Hraerik drew her to him and kissed her passionately.  “I love you and I will not lose you to the Danes.”  She kissed him back and he brushed her hair from her face and began kissing her all over.  The spirits of Prince Hraerik and Witch Nadege had just entered Hraerik’s young body and they felt the lust growing within him as he gently lowered Princess Alfhild onto the blanket.  They kissed and he began undressing her and he tore his pants off and was atop her, entering her and her blood flowed onto the blanket and they felt his passion for her, his love as he thrust deeply within her and he was soon flowing inside her as she moaned in orgasm.  When he stopped flowing he stayed inside her for a long while and she whispered, “Don’t leave me.  Don’t go to Denmark.”

Prince Hraerik was inside of Hraerik and Witch Nadege was inside of him and they both felt the young passion and love that had flowed into Alfhild and Prince Hraerik could feel the warmth that Nadege had experienced and he took her and they left, they had to leave to get back to their bodies and, as they flew back to England, he didn’t know how to tell her that there was something wrong.  That it had not happened that way.  That Princess Alfhild had rejected him and was planning on becoming King Frodi’s queen.  But they were back and Witch Nadege was dead and he began making love to her and he flowed into her before collapsing dead atop her.  Nadege revived and immediately began kissing him with her antidotal lip-balm and soon he was alive again and breathing heavily on the bed beside her.

“That was awesome!” she exclaimed as he recomposed himself beside her.  “You really loved her!  The passion was so deep!”

“I didn’t expect it to be so…sensual,” Hraerik admitted.

“She really loved you,” Nadege said.  “How could it be otherwise?”

“There was something wrong with it,” Hraerik began.  She was so excited about the experience that he didn’t know how to start.

“I know,” she said.  “It was beautiful, but I could detect another spirit there.  She couldn’t detect me because I was inside of you, but she was there and she knew you were there.”

“Who was this spirit?” Hraerik asked, but he already knew.

“I think it was the spirit of Alfhild,” Nadege told him.  “The long dead spirit of Alfhild.  Why would she be there watching you experiencing them?”

“Because it never happened like that,” Hraerik said.  “Alfhild rejected me at that picnic and she broke my heart.  I wanted to take you to an earlier time when I was falling head over heels in love with her.  Witch Alfhild must have drawn me to that scene and she changed it somehow.  She was inside Alfhild and she changed herself.  She’s trying to change the future!”

“Oh my God!” Witch Nadege cried.  “That could change everything!”

“What if I got her pregnant?” he asked.  “I know that I wanted to.  I loved her and wanted to marry her.”

“That would definitely change the future.  Didn’t your Indian mathematicians warn you about this?”

“Of course,” he replied.  “That’s why I was being so careful.  That’s why you were inside me.  I knew I couldn’t detect myself, but if you were there beside me, instead of inside me, my younger prescient self might have detected you.”

“Well, it’s a good thing we did that,” Nadege said, “because Witch Alfhild would certainly have detected me.”

“But the mathematics proved that there was a certain flexibility to the past, an ability to self-correct itself that could make changing the future difficult.  That may be why our hit on the Khan from the future may have slid a bit sideways on us.  We have to carry on and make sure it does repair itself.  Tomorrow night it’s Denmark.  Will Witch Alfhild be able to track us?”

“Not if young Alfhild is still in Norway.  She can haunt herself and be drawn to herself whenever you approach, but there are no spells to haunt others with this type of sensory recognisance.  She would have to guess where and when you’re going to Denmark.  And I’ll be inside you watching for her and I’ll let you know if I sense her.”

“Why can’t I sense her?”

“She doesn’t want you to, and you may be becoming a warlock, but if you were a trained warlock, you would sense her, whether she wanted it or not.”

So, the next night Witch Nadege prepared the Zombie drug and the antidotes once more while Prince Hraerik meditated and focused his mind again, and then they made love on the bed and were soon leaving their bodies and their spirits were flying off into the past and on to Denmark and King Frodi’s Viking fortress in Liere.  They saw a young Hraerik and Princess Gunwar sitting together in her bedchamber.

“You must leave tonight,”  she sighed again.  “I shall help you escape.”

“Will you come with me?” Hraerik asked.  “I’ve been promised your hand, and I wouldn’t mind at all if the rest of you came with it.”

“I must stay with my brother,” Gunwar repeated, sadly.  “He is sending Hanund away tomorrow and he shall need me, more so now than ever.  You have cost him much:  his wife and his best friend.  Hanund’s father will not take this slight easily.  You may very well have destroyed the Southern Way, his Danepar, before it really got started.  My brother shall be hard on you when his champions have you at their mercy.  You must leave tonight.”

“If I stay and defeat the sons of Westmar, then will you give me your hand?”

“So little time and so much to learn about you,” Gunwar said and she kissed him gently.  “I’ll help you in any way I can against the berserks, for they are destroying our land, but I don’t think you’ll be winning my hand.”

“I’ll take your help then, since you’ve offered it, but I must warn you that I have a plan.  I may yet survive to claim your hand.”

“You may have a plan, but I’d rather lose you through flight, than not have you alive at all.  I feel that our fates are intertwined somehow.  Henceforth, my hand is yours and the rest of me comes with it.”  Princess Gunwar put her hand upon Hraerik and began undressing him and she laid him out naked upon the bed and she began undressing herself as he watched her beauty unfold before him.  She grabbed a huge towel off her headboard and she folded it up thicker and she held it in one hand while she put the other, the hand that her brother had given Hraerik, around his growing member and she lifted him by it and slid the towel under his buttocks.

“I hope that didn’t hurt,” she said as she settled him down upon the towel.  “I don’t want to get any blood on my bed.”  But she didn’t let go of his hard member.  Instead, she began stroking it with her hand.  “My brother gave you this hand and it freely services you and shall please you while you live, but if you wish the rest of me, you must promise to love me for the rest of your life, and I pray to Thor, the god of warriors and shield-maidens, that it is a long one, but if it is as short as I suspect, I will love you with my heart and soul for as long as you remain and earthbound spirit.”

“I promise to love you for the rest of my life,” Hraerik told her, “and my prescience tells me it will be a very long one.”

Gunwar stopped stroking his member and she bent forward and took it into her mouth and began to suck it harder and get it wetter and then she straddled his hips and she put his member into herself and sat upon him until her membrane separated and she began to flow blood onto his abdomen.  She wouldn’t let herself wince at the pain, for she was a shield-maiden, and she began to ride him as she would her steed, but this was a different sort of ride and she found both small pain and great pleasure in it.  Prince Hraerik was again inside Hraerik and Nadege was inside him and they, too, found great pleasure in it.  But none found it so great as Hraerik, himself, and he was aroused by both the ride and the new love of the rider.  The Prince was aroused as well, and Nadege could sense it, but it wasn’t a sexual arousal as much as it was a sensual sensation, a marvelling at making love with a true love for the first time in almost two centuries.  When Gunwar began crying out in orgasm, young Hraerik could hold back no longer and he exploded within her and the two spirits felt the great pulses of his flow and then it was time to leave.

“She fell in love with you even though she was sure you were soon to die,” Nadege said.  “It was so beautiful.”

“Was she there?” Hraerik asked.  “Was the ghost of Alfhild there?”  They had stayed overlong, enjoyed the sex too much.  He’d been swept up by the taste of her, the smell of her, the unfolding of her beauty.  The sound of her strong gentle voice.  The feel of her flesh.  He’d wanted to stay with her forever.

“No.  She wasn’t.  It was just us.  It was so beautiful.  She wanted to die in your place!”

Hraerik didn’t want to tell her that Gunwar was planning to kill herself if he lost the ‘Battle Upon the Ice’.  She told him that after he’d won.  Early the next morning, he remembered that Gunwar had awakened from a nightmare that she’d had very many times before.  She was trembling so much, that he had awakened too.  “What is it?” he’d asked her, and he’d comforted her in his arms.

“I dream every morn, in the half light of dawn,” she’d begun, “and I see the heads of the thirty princes that came to court me.  The beast–that’s what I called Grep–comes into my room as I sleep, and he lines the wainscoting with the heads of the young men who came to ask for my hand,” and she’d held up the hand her brother had given away.  “Still dripping with gore, they cry out for revenge, but, this time, they cried no more.  And they bid me thank you and your brother.  Thank you, Hraerik!” she’d cried, and she’d buried her head in his shoulder and she’d sobbed for a very long time.

Soon they were back, but Witch Nadege was already dead and had been for a few minutes when he began making love to her and Emma was there helping steady him and she began moaning in way she knew would get him flowing and he exploded inside her before collapsing dead atop her.  Emma then helped Nadege revive and then Emma began kissing Hraerik with her own antidotal lip-balm and soon he was alive again and breathing heavily on the bed.  Hraerik had asked Emma to help them with the witchcraft in case Witch Alfhild was there and had plans.

“That was so beautiful!” Nadege exclaimed, as Emma worked at reviving Hraerik beside her.  “You stayed too long,” Emma told them both.  “Tomorrow you have to cut it shorter.”

“Princess Eyfura should be shorter,” Nadege said.  “They were older and it’s not as far into the past.”

“We can’t visit Princess Eyfura,” Hraerik told Nadege.  He didn’t want to tell her that the ghost of Alfhild had already been interfering with the future when he and Eyfura were trying to make a baby together.  Witch Alfhild might not be able to haunt other people, but she’d already shown an ability to haunt her daughter and great granddaughter and Hraerik knew from experience that Alfhild haunted King Frodi’s palace in Kiev, for that is where she’d been murdered.  He wished he could tell Nadege that they were going to a safer place than that, but he couldn’t even do that.  “We have to go to King Gotar’s highseat hall in Viken and ensure that Princess Alfhild hasn’t changed the past too much.  And if Alfhild’s there, the ghost of Alfhild will be there too and, unlike us, she can haunt the place as long as she likes.  We’ll have to manage our time better, bend it, slip forward through it, perhaps go back.  No pleasure this trip.  All work, no play.”

Queen Emma came out to Wight from Southampton in the afternoon and she told Hraerik that she would have to be going back to Winchester soon.  “King Harald ‘Hare-foot’ was upset that only Earl Godwin showed up for Yule celebrations from Wessex.  He has invited Earls Edward and Alfred to visit him in London.  I don’t want them to go.  It will be too dangerous.”

“Is there anything I can do to help?” Hraerik asked.  He didn’t like the direction the English were leaning since his Grandson Canute had died.  They were already calling King Harald, the ‘Hare-foot’, which Hraerik knew to be an insult, an English version of the ‘Swift Danes’ of Bishop Thietmar of Merseburg, and the Bishops of England were the ones who had started the byname and were withholding support for young Harald.

“I can handle King Harald,” Emma replied.  “But I’m not going to allow any of my sons to go to London without the fyrds of Wessex going with them.”

“Don’t trust the English,” Hraerik warned her.  “Canute gave preferential treatment to the Danes from Kiev and Jutland here in England and the English hold a lot of resentment for it.  They’re starting to show disrespect for the Danes and the Hraes’ amongst them.”

“You’re still concerned about this ‘Swift Danes’ thing?” she asked him.  “King Harald is young and into hunting and I’m sure they just mean he’s fleet of foot in the hunt.”

“I could beat Harald in a foot race!” Hraerik assured his primus wife.  “And I’m over two hundred years old!”  Both Emma and Nadege started laughing at it.  They didn’t doubt that Hraerik could, but it sounded funny.  They had an early supper together and retired to the master suite for some ‘manage et trois’ before they started casting spells and practicing witchcraft.  Emma almost wished that Captain Hugh was there to join them, but the Newfoundland fleet would not be assembling for another month or so.

Prince Hraerik and Witch Nadege flew from England to Norway and into the past in but a flash of time and they entered young Hraerik as he took Princess Alfhild out for a ride to discern her feelings toward young King Frodi.  They rode to the spot they had picnicked at a year before and Hraerik spread a woollen blanket out upon the green grass between two great oak trees and Alfhild sat down, her legs together and off to one side.  She leaned on one arm and she looked up at Hraerik and smiled.

“I remember our last picnic here,” she started.  “You were setting out searching for fame and fortune and I found my prince to love.”

“I remember,” Hraerik confessed and he returned her smile.

“You’ve found your fame, and now my Bragning prince has found me, once again” and she reached out and touched Hraerik’s hand.

Hraerik held her hand and it was soft and warm.  ‘How easy it would be to fall in love with her again,’ he thought, then he said, “I remember our last time here as if it was yesterday.  Your father was preparing you for a king, but when I asked you if you could ever love me you responded with love.  I’ve now learned that I may have gotten you pregnant.”

“There is a rumour of it,” Alfhild said, trying to gauge her prince’s thoughts, “but I hear that you had found a new true love in Princess Gunwar.  While it is true that my father wanted me looking up at a king, I’m looking up now,” Alfhild whispered, and her bright green eyes sparkled like gems and her full lips pouted softly.

“Alfhild,” Hraerik started slowly.  “I’m in love with my wife, Gunwar.”

“And yet you’re divorcing her?”

“I have no choice in the matter.  I came back to press a suit for my brother-in-law, King Frodi.  He wishes to have you for his queen.  Your father has other plans, as I’m sure you’re aware.”  Alfhild acknowledged nothing.  “Remember when you sat upon a rowing bench of Fair Faxi with a dwarf named Dvalin and he read your palm and he saw in it an illustrious young king?”

“He promised me a great king,” Alfhild reflected.  “A very young king, handsome and brave and showing great promise.”

“Frodi is this promising young king Dvalin saw in your hand.  I would not have come back if I didn’t believe this to be true, but I must know if I got you pregnant.  I must take responsibility for it if the rumour is true.”

“The rumour is true,” Alfhild admitted, “but my father took care of it.  He is king, after all, and has his way in all things.”

“How did he take care of it?”

“He told my mother to prepare a potion to abort the pregnancy and, when she refused, he ordered her as Norway’s Prime Healer to do it, so she gave me the potion and I lost the baby.”

“I’m so sorry,” Hraerik told her and he pulled her to his chest and hugged her.  “I should have been here for you.”

“My mother was sick, the illness incurable, but I think her ending her own grandchild accelerated her death.”

“I’m so sorry,” Hraerik said again.  He remembered Alfhild’s mother coughing a lot and he knew she was ill, but now he felt he had sped up her death.

“I think my mother,” Alfhild continued, “may have poisoned herself.”  Alfhild began crying and she tucked her head into Hraerik’s shoulder to muffle her sobs.  When she stopped crying and recomposed herself, Hraerik said, “I have not come back without a plan.  I hope you will consider King Frodi’s great desire for you.”

Alfhild looked down at the blanket for a long time.  “What is he like?” she asked shyly, and Hraerik told her all about the young king.

“My father was right when he said you are dangerous, Hraerik ‘Bragi’,” Alfhild said.  “There is a reason father wanted you to divorce Gunwar and marry me before he marries Gunwar.  If you desert Gunwar and take for yourself the prize that you promised King Frodi, then my father can hardly be blamed for saving Gunwar’s honour by marrying her.  You would no longer be in our young king’s favour, and he would be indebted to my father.  Now, apprise me of your plan and I will keep your trust, but, as you would have me desert my father this one time: in your hour of greatest need, so too shall I desert you.  I shall always be your friend, Hraerik, and you must forgive me this one slip.  Are we agreed?”

“I’ll forgive you your slip,” Hraerik agreed.  “I had already surmised your father’s reasons for his selection of the order of events, but we, too, can work this order to our advantage.  Today I shall divorce my wife and on the morrow your father shall give me your hand in marriage.  In the intervening week before Gunwar’s trothal, we shall make good our escape to Denmark, where I shall divorce you and give your hand to King Frodi.  Thus, shall your father’s plan, of my marrying first, rebound upon the conceiver, for Gunwar shall be a free woman, to go where she pleases, and you shall be my wife, duty bound to follow me.”

“Your grasp of the political is even greater than I remember,” Alfhild conceded, and they started into their picnic lunch.

That evening, Hraerik and Princess Gunwar were divorced by King Gotar.  It was a simple matter, with the young couple both saying, “I divorce thee, I divorce thee, I divorce thee,” three times in a public assembly, and, the next day, Hraerik and Princess Alfhild were quietly married.  The night of the nuptials, Hraerik watched as Alfhild slipped out of her pure white wedding dress, standing in front of him in a translucent slip of Byzantine silk.  He felt a wave of desire come crashing over him, and he found himself longing, once more, for her love.  Hraerik thought he had gotten over Alfhild, but, being with her the past few days, and now having her waiting in front of him, he realized he had only been fooling himself.  No one survives their first love unscathed.  Fragments of it lie about the soul, jangling in seeming disarray, only to have a moment’s temptation draw all the pieces together again, as if by some amorous alchemy.  Alfhild slipped under the covers of their nuptial bed and played the part of the seducer.  “It’s not too late to change your mind, Hraerik,” she whispered.

“You’re not making this easy, Alfhild.”

“I’m testing this power Gunwar has placed over you.  She is a shield-maiden, a follower of Thor, and has probably enchanted you.”

Hraerik sat down on the bed beside her.  “If I didn’t care for you, I would join you, but I know your future lies with King Frodi,” and he stroked her soft pink cheek.

“Is this that prescience of yours speaking?”

“No.  It is my heart,” Hraerik said and he drew close to Alfhild and he kissed her tenderly.  He then stood up and stepped away from her, as if to break some spell she had been working upon him.  “According to my poetic craft, I should be drawing my sword and placing it on the bed between us, but, since Tyrfingr cannot be drawn without taking a life, and I certainly cannot trust myself without a sword between us, I shall at least place the sheathed sword between us.”  Hraerik slid Tyrfingr under the sheets beside the beautifully sprawling princess and he began undressing and slid, naked, between the sheets on his side of the bed.  The young newlyweds laid on their own sides of the bed and stared up at the ceiling in the candlelight.  Hraerik was hard as a rock, but steadfast in his resolve.

‘Is the spirit of Alfhild here?’ Hraerik sent a thought towards Nadege.  She was still inside him and he was still inside the young Hraerik.

‘She was earlier, but not now,’ Nadege thought back at him.  ‘She is in the hall haunting somewhere.’

‘We can’t trust Alfhild,’ he started.  ‘Her ghost won’t allow her to marry King Frodi.  Her spirit is trying to save herself.  She’ll put a deceptive shade into young Alfhild.  I have to put a thought into young Hraerik, that he can’t trust her, has to deceive her.  Then the ghost of Alfhild will be fooled as well and won’t cast shade upon her.’

‘What do you have in mind?’ Nadege asked, when suddenly young Hraerik asked Alfhild, “Did your mother ever tell you if our baby was a boy or a girl?”

“She told me it was a boy,” Alfhild answered.

“We had sex once and we conceived a baby boy,” Hraerik told her.  “Do you know what that means?”

Alfhild looked at him with her bright green eyes and said, “What?”

“It means the gods favour us to be together.  I love you, Alfhild.  I have never stopped loving you!”  And he rolled over above her and he kissed her deeply and she looked up at him and returned all his kisses and more.  As things grew more passionate, Hraerik said, “Wait!  Let’s do this right this time.”  And he got up and went over to his trunk and pulled out a glove kit and waved it at Alfhild.

“We don’t need that,” Alfhild laughed.  “We’re married and I want another baby.”

“Yes, but we should let your father and Gunwar have a baby first, just to let everyone know that we chose to get married and didn’t have to get married.  Otherwise the common folk will start up with their rumours again.”

Alfhild remembered all the ugly little rumours and was soon tying off the glove on Hraerik’s large hard member.  Alfhild put some oil on the glove and climbed over Hraerik’s hips and she lowered herself onto him and began to ride it gently.  Prince Hraerik then left the body of young Hraerik and Nadege cried, ‘Nooo,’ as she was swept out within him.  ‘Why do we have to leave?  She felt heavenly!’

‘Time management,’ the Prince told her.  ‘We have to go forward in time a bit.  We only have a few minutes.’

As spirits, Hraerik and Nadege could see that King Gotar had Princess Gunwar’s room monitored.  He’d placed the captain of his guard and a household slave in the chamber next to Gunwar’s and they had removed a section of wall between the rooms and had covered up their work with tapestries and they sat behind their handiwork and watched their future queen.  Should Hraerik attempt to garner embraces from his former lover they had orders to kill him.  And Gunwar had even less faith in King Gotar and she kept a spear at the head of her bed in case the old king tried anything before their planned nuptials.  She knew that their plan was to be long gone with the girl, Alfhild, before the second nuptials were to take place.  Hraerik had told her, when he and Alfhild had got back from their picnic, that the primus princess of Norway had agreed to marry her brother, King Frodi, so they just had to wait a few days before conditions were right for their escape from the Viken.

But later that night, when Gunwar was sleeping, the captain of the guard slipped into her room and removed the spear from the headboard of her bed and the slave followed and they quickly stuffed a gag into Gunwar’s mouth and the slave held down the princess while the guard bound her arms and legs to the bedposts.  Then the bedroom door opened and in walked King Gotar in his royal bed robe and he sent the men back to their chamber before dropping the robe on the floor at Gunwar’s bedside.  She saw he was naked and, as he tore her silk nighty off, she saw he was hard, and he got on top of her and he entered her roughly and began thrusting in her and kissing her over her gag and then he began kissing her all over her body and she struggled to keep him from entering her again, but he forced his way into her and kept thrusting until he flowed inside her.  When he was done, he laid beside her and caught his breath.

“Forgive me,” he said, once he’d caught his wind, “for not being able to control my desire for you.  But we shall be married next week anyway, so I am only taking an advance on what I shall have for the rest of our lives together.  And I am much pleased with what you have to offer.”

Princess Gunwar realized then that Gotar was one of the very Aesir rapist jarls of Norway, of the northern Nor’Way.  The Angles of Jutland were Aesir, but a more continental Aesir that extended freedom and respect to lower classes.  The northern Aesir, the Norse and Swedes still practised royal primacy and even human sacrifice, so kings often had their way with princesses under their rule and even with princes and jarls if that was their inclination, and the jarls had their way with the freewomen and the commoners had their way with the slaves and naught could be done about it because primacy also gave them the rights of life or death.  One did not complain to their king about his treatment of them because his want was his right according to Odin, and the jarls according to Thor and the freemen according to Frey in the order of the power of their respective gods.  And, of course, the slaves had no god, nor heaven, and their lives were forfeit to all.  But the Vik had been under Danish control before and was supposed to be more continental.  She had trusted in the gods and in her spear, but both had deserted her it would seem.

King Gotar rose from the bed and walked naked around her, lighting a few more candles off the others so he could see her better, inspect her better.  He sat beside her and he massaged her lean supple muscles and he admired her taut shield-maiden’s body and he would start kissing it wherever he had interest.  “You are gorgeous,” he told her.  “It was not just your beauty that caused me to take an advance on our betrothal,” he began.  “I had to ensure that you are worth forgoing an even stronger alliance with your brother, King Frodi, by having him marry my daughter, Princess Alfhild, as well.  And my dear, you are well worth it,” and Gotar fell upon her again and began kissing her all over her body.  “I had to be sure that you and your prince truly loved each other and that Hraerik’s love for Alfhild could be rekindled.  I have spies monitoring their bed chamber as well and I have received a report that they are in their honey well suite focking like bunnies and have been all night long.”  He got atop Gunwar and began rubbing his body against hers, trying to get hard again so he could rape her again.  “And it’s a good thing they are focking like bunnies,” Gotar continued, “for if they weren’t, my spies would have entered the room once they’d fallen asleep and they would have killed your ex-husband.  You see, you are the only thing keeping him alive right now.  I could take you by force for the rest of our lives if required, for I am a bit of a rapist.  I’ve had my way with all the women of the Vik that I’ve desired, and, of course, all the wives of the jarls under me, so taking you by force is appealing to me as well, but I would prefer to have your love, and for that, I need your prince to stay alive.  Having your true love alive and madly in love with my daughter may be more to your liking than having him dead, and, once you’ve warmed up to me somewhat, you’ll find that loving a king has its perks as well.  So, I’m going to untie you and I want to see how well you can make love to me, and then perhaps I shall not have my spies kill your lover.”

King Gotar went over to some tapestries along the wall and tapped on some boards and Gunwar’s keen sense of hearing could make out a gentle tapping in response and then Gotar began untying Princess Gunwar one limb at a time.  She knew his spies were watching and ready to go off and kill her Hraerik if ordered, so, when Gotar stood limp before her she sat up and took his member into her mouth and began to suck it hard.  When the king was comfortably hard, he sat down beside her and she sat facing him on his lap and she slid herself over him and began to ride him as he held her close and began sucking on her breasts, one at a time, as she rose up and down in front of him.  He patted her ass to speed her up as they went along and she was going rapidly atop him as he came inside her.  Then he pulled her into bed alongside him and they slept together until morning.

“Don’t pass any signs on to Hraerik,’ King Gotar told her the next morning, “that we’ve already consummated our wedding, for I shall have spies watching and if he gets upset, it will not be too late to have him killed.  Your brother, King Frodi will find my daughter, Princess Alfhild, to be a very sweet young lover.  Not as sweet as you my dear, but very sweet indeed.”

Gunwar almost threw up at his words, but she knew of their own plan and steeled her resolve until an opening would present itself.  She was a shield-maiden, and this was a battle of sorts…just as deadly, but harder fought.

The spirit of Prince Hraerik with Witch Nadege inside had caught the rape while checking the hall for the ghost of Alfhild and it was a hard thing to watch when there was nothing you could do about it because you were lighter than ether and even harder to speed forward through because you were so short on time.  But he had seen much of this play before, he had lived through much of it, so he kept forwarding thoughts to Nadege so she could keep up with the ploys.

As the week progressed, Hraerik and Alfhild became the perfect young married couple and they seldom left their honey well suite and Hraerik soon gauged that they were being spied upon from behind an arras or tapestry.  So they spent some time in Gotar’s highseat hall sharing the second highseat with Gotar and Gunwar on the first, but mostly they kept to their room and focked like bunnies for the spies.

One night, after Hraerik and Alfhild had enjoyed a particularly sensuous evening together, Alfhild whispered, “I think my father has been raping Gunwar.”

“What?” Hraerik responded.  “What makes you think that?  She would have given me some indication of it.”

“I think my father intends to kill you.  I think he has raped Gunwar and he’s told her that he will have you killed if she tells you about it.  That is why you can’t see the signs of it, but I can.”

“Has she said anything to you?”

“No, but I can see he has raped her.  I can see it in her eyes.  He has told her he will spare you, but I think he is planning to kill you anyway.  He wants a double alliance with King Frodi.”

“I’ve seen nothing but normal in her eyes,” Hraerik argued.  “How could you see his rape where I can’t?”

“Because he has raped me!” Alfhild hissed, quietly fighting back tears.  “Don’t let me cry,” she told him.  “The spies will hear it.”

“Tell me about it,” Hraerik whispered.

“He waited three days after the death of my mother, then he came knocking at my door.  I let him in and we consoled each other for our loss, but then he started kissing me and wouldn’t stop.  He pinned me to the bed and slowly took my clothes off, one piece at a time and then he sat atop me and disrobed.  I would have screamed out, but I was too ashamed to have slaves or courtiers rush to my room and find us like that.  They couldn’t stop him anyway.  He’s the king!  He might’ve even let them watch, so, I gritted my teeth as he entered me and I bled all over the bed, not because of my virginity, because you’d already taken that, but because I was on my period, luckily.  He had his way with me, came, and was gone.  I prayed to the gods that he would not come back, but next night he was at my door again.  I was still on my period, but after that night, I went through my mother’s apothecary and found a glove kit for my father.  I did not want him getting me pregnant!  He’s been focking me ever since.  Right up to our wedding night together.  That is why I can see it in Gunwar’s eyes.  I have seen it in my own.  Every time I look in the mirror.”

“I’m going to kill him!” Hraerik whispered hoarsely, rising up in the bed.  Alfhild pulled him back down on top of her.  “No,” she said.  “We must use your plan and get out of here alive.”  And Alfhild began moaning as if they were having sex to keep the spies from getting suspicious.

That same night, King Gotar had just finished having a particularly rough round of sex with Gunwar, using all her shield-maiden strength and physicality to his utmost enjoyment, when he went over to the wall and began talking lowly to his spies on the other side.  But, Gunwar had always had very keen hearing and could make out what he was saying.  “Go to Alfhild’s chamber and kill Hraerik tonight,” he whispered, then he returned to her bed and stood before her, once again limp.  She quickly took him in hand and she serviced him as quickly as possible and, as she was riding him in his preferred fashion, she reached to the headboard for the bronze chamber pot and she brought it down hard upon his head.  At first she thought she had killed him, but she could see him taking shallow breaths while unconscious.  She got dressed, located her spear in the closet and slipped out into the hall.  Prince Hraelauger was at the far end of it and started to move toward her, but she waved him off and pretended to blow a horn, so he got ready to rouse his men in the hall and blow the horn as a signal to those without.

The two spies from next to Gunwar’s room entered the room next to Alfhild’s and saw Hraerik and Alfhild making love so, they waited until the coupling was over and the soft snoring of Hraerik told them he was sleeping, and then they, too, crept into the room past the loosened boards behind tapestries.  As they padded softly across the wooden floor, both Hraerik and Alfhild woke, but when Hraerik opened his eyes he could see that it was too late to even move.  The captain of the guard had already started his sword’s down stroke, and Hraerik could only think of one word, as though it had been drilled into him from birth, and, as the blade severed a thin shaft of moonlight in its downward arc, he cried, “Kraka!”, and a terrible blackness came down over him.  Hraerik felt a dull blow to his face and chest and then a sharp blow between, then the smell and sound of linden wood splitting.  Twisting quickly, Hraerik pulled Tyrfingr free of her sheath and slashed out at his assailant.  Hraerik’s shield had fallen, no, been propelled off the headboard, and it had protected him from the death stroke.  No sorcery shielded the captain of the guard, though, and he fell to the floor screaming, one leg severed at the thigh and the other still biting upon Hraerik’s jammed sword.  Hraerik sat up and tried to pry his blade free and his hair was on end as he awaited a blow from the second man, but it didn’t come for the longest time and he wondered if Kraka’s promised protection had stayed the other man’s stroke as well.  Then Gunwar burst into the room, caught up her spear and she threw it at the second assailant, piercing him through the chest.  Hraerik recognized the slave as he clutched at the shaft of the spear and sank quietly to the floor.

Hraelauger had been sleeping at a bench in the hall, but Gunwar had awakened him and, at the commotion, he began blowing upon his horn, a signal that would bring Brak and his selected men out of hiding from a secret cove.  Slaves were rushing everywhere, fleeing what seemed an attack.  Torches could be seen coming up from the beach, for Hraerik’s crew had also been on standby, and King Gotar was seen rushing out of Gunwar’s room, half dazed and half crazy, down the hallway banging on everyone’s doors.  “King Frodi is upon us!” he warned.  “The Danes attack!” he cried, and disarray reigned as the king fled among his slaves to the garrison in the Vik.

Hraerik and the women got their things together and followed Hraelauger down to the beach.  Hraerik saw his men as they were coming up from the beach carrying torches and he waved them back to Fair Faxi, and they dragged the ship out into the water and prepared to sail off.  Hraelauger had some of the men go over to King Gotar’s three dragon ships and slash up the sails.  Brak, meanwhile, led his chosen troop, all men who bore King Gotar a grudge, up to the king’s longhalls and they pillaged them, then fired them.  Hraerik set his men to rowing Fair Faxi out to sea and then let out the sail and a gentle wind carried them down the Vik as the longhalls of King Gotar blazed.

As young Prince Hraerik sailed off for Denmark, the old Prince Hraerik flew off to England.  Witch Nadege popped free of him and they landed in Wight in plenty of time to be revived by Queen Emma.  “The past seems to have corrected itself,” Hraerik told the girls.  “Did you spot the ghost of Alfhild anywhere?”

“No,” Nadege said.  “I could sense her there, but she was laying low as though ordered by the gods not to fock up time.”

The threesome went to bed together after that and they enjoyed each other.  Hraerik and Nadege had never seen so much sex without having the time to enjoy it and Emma would be off to Winchester in the morning, so, they were all quite rammy and enjoyed each other for a very long time before falling asleep in a tangled mass.

In the morning, Queen Emma returned to Southampton and she took a carriage to Winchester.  Her sons, Princes Edward and Alfred were waiting for her, as was Earl Godwin.  They had received a messenger from King Harald ‘Hare-foot’ in London requesting their presence in the new capital.  Winchester had remained the capital of England under King Canute, but King Harald had little support in southern England, so he had declared London the capital of his England.  His mother, Princess Aelfgifu, Canute’s first wife, was from York and Northampton and had bribed all the northern earls to support Harald in his bid as Co-King of England with Queen Emma’s son by Canute, King Hardeknute of Denmark.  So, King Harald felt more comfortable in Princess Aelfgifu’s northern England than he did in Queen Emma’s southern England.  And Queen Emma felt more comfortable with her sons remaining in Winchester and Southampton than she did with them in King Harald’s London.

“You are not going to London,” she told her sons.  “It is far too dangerous yet.”

But this time it was her dutiful son who baulked.  “But Earl Godwin shall escort us and we’ll take our full Norman retinue with us,” Alfred protested.  “King Harald has offered us his protection.”

“I don’t trust Harald,” Prince Edward said.

“I don’t trust him either,” Queen Emma agreed, “but there are many other English earls between here and London, and I trust them even less.”

“We’ll have a full cohort of Norman knights with us,” Earl Godwin said, “and I’ll take a full cohort of the Wessex fyrd with us as well.”

Then Emma said, “Will the Norman knights be riding in full armour and war gear through the countryside of England?”

“Well, no,” Godwin and Alfred admitted.

“Then they aren’t Norman knights!” Emma answered.  “They’re just light cavalry with spears and shields.”  And that was the end of arguments about it.  The messenger was sent back to London empty handed.

A week later, Emma returned to Southampton to see off the tallship fleet as it sailed west to the Newfoundland.  Then, a week later, she and Princess Nadege saw Prince Hraerik off as he led the English merchant fleet east to Roskilde Harbour, where the great merchant fleet of the Hraes’ was assembling.  While she was in Southampton, another messenger arrived in Winchester from London demanding that the sons of Emma attend an audience with their king and Prince Alfred and Earl Godwin headed north with a retinue of a thousand horsemen and Prince Edward wisely chose to ignore the demand.  The retinue was attacked on its way to London and Prince Alfred was captured and taken away by a much larger force of horse and was never seen alive again.  Earl Leofric of Mercia was suspected of the attack, but the attackers wore full armour and none could be identified.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:

A.D. 1036.  This year came hither Alfred the innocent etheling,

son of King Ethelred, and wished to visit his mother, who abode

at Winchester: but Earl Godwin, and other men who had much power

in this land, did not suffer it; because such conduct was very

agreeable to Harold, though it was unjust.

          Him did Godwin let,

          and in prison set.

          His friends, who did not fly,

          they slew promiscuously.

          And those they did not sell,

          like slaughter’d cattle fell!

          Whilst some they spared to bind,

          only to wander blind!

          Some ham-strung, helpless stood,

          whilst others they pursued.

          A deed more dreary none

          in this our land was done,

          since Englishmen gave place

          to hordes of Danish race.

          But repose we must

          in God our trust,

          that blithe as day

          with Christ live they,

          who guiltless died–

          their country’s pride!

          The prince with courage met

          each cruel evil yet;

          till ’twas decreed,

          they should him lead,

          all bound, as he was then,

          to Ely-bury fen.

          But soon their royal prize

          bereft they of his eyes!

          Then to the monks they brought

          their captive; where he sought

          a refuge from his foes

          till life’s sad evening close.

          His body ordered then

          these good and holy men,

          according to his worth,

          low in the sacred earth,

          to the steeple full-nigh,

          in the south aile to lie

          of the transept west–

          his soul with Christ doth rest.

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

(1036/7 AD).  Prince Ivaraslav built the great citadel at Kiev, near which

stands the Golden Gate.

The END