Ch. 4.1 THE BATTLE OF ASSANDUN

Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert

 

CHAPTER FOUR POINT ONE

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

 

Kings Edmund ‘Ironside’ and Canute ‘the Great’ at the Battle of Assandun, by M Paris  (1200–1259)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How much did he want?” Hraerik asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

returned into Essex, and advanced into Mercia, destroying all

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

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

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

Assingdon; where they fiercely came together.  Then did Alderman

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alderman Ethelsy (59).  And all the nobility of the English

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

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

Edmund was.  Then advised Alderman Edric, and the counsellors

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

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

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

sworn brothers.  There they confirmed their friendship both with

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

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

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

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

made peace with them, and purchased their security, whereupon

they brought their ships to London, and provided themselves

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

Edmund; and he is buried with his grandfather Edgar at

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

and Ethelsy took to the abbacy.