Ch. 10 THE SIEGE OF KIEV

Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert

Pechenegs from the Manasses Chronicle

CHAPTER TEN

THE SIEGE OF KIEV  (Circa 968-969 AD)

7.        This word first then              fell from his lips:

                        “Sleep ye shall not               more than a cock in summer,

                        or longer than I                     a lay may sing.”

                                   Anonymous; Grottasongr, Prose Edda (Hollander)

(968)  Prince Svein and Princess Svia stayed in Pereslavet with their legions to continue with the conquest of Bulgaria as they had been paid to do by the Romans and Hraerik and Sinead sailed off to Tmutorokan to prepare for the spring trading cycle.  Hraerik left Sinead with her new family in Tmutorokan while he visited with his wives in Gardariki and Empress Helga, Malfrieda and Svein’s sons went to Kiev with Hraerik to help him meet the great Hraes’ fleet there.  Hraerik left them there to spend the summer and he sailed south with the fleet across the Black Sea and he stopped in at Gardariki for some over gold sex with Silkisif, then went to Tmutorokan to pick up Sinead so she could come with him to Baghdad and Gujarat.

Prince Svein and Princess Svia led a fleet of six hundred ships from Pereslavet down the Danube to the Black Sea and they camped along the beach north of Costanza and Prince Svein gave his new wife a tour of the Roman city.  He was now an ally of the Eastern Roman Empire and had a valid and official claim to the throne in Constantinople and even had high ranking Roman officers attached to his general staff while he was on the Roman payroll attacking Bulgaria so, his reception in Costanza was that of a visit from and official Roman dignitary and Princess Svia was treated as a possible future Empress.  She remembered having received this kind of treatment as a child before she had been sent off to a nunnery to be educated and controlled.  The city officials entertained the young couple and Svein and his entourage of Hraes’ and Roman officers were given the Emperor’s palace while visiting.

“This is where your father stayed?” Svia asked Svein as they walked about the Emperor’s master suite.  “He was underwater breathing here, right?”

“Yes,” Svein said.  “He still has underwater breathers from Costanza working for him.  They go all over the world, recovering lost treasure.  The Black Sea, the Mediterranean, the Persian Gulf, the Indian Ocean, the Strait of Malacca…they may have even done work in the Cathayan Sea by now.  Anywhere there is lost gold Hraes’ warships go with the underwater breathers and recover it.”

“Why warships?” she asked.

“Because they recover gold and treasure.  Nobody attacks Viking warships.  They need them for security.”

“Oh,” she said as she tested the mattress on the bed.  “Care to try it out quick?”

“Not right now,” he replied casually and, when she straightened up in surprise, he pounced on her like a big cat.

After a few days of royal treatment, the entourage returned to the fleet.  They sailed south toward Messembria, another Roman city on the Black Sea coast but Svein directed the fleet to stop at a river estuary north of the city.  “If we go to Messembria,” Svia told him, “we’ll receive the same royal reception we got in Constanza.  And I’ve never been to Messembria,” she added, shaking her white sable stole and flipping an end over her shoulder.

“I’ve only been to Messembria once,” Svein said, “and it was to get supplies after my mother and I were driven out of Constantinople.  It wasn’t a pleasant visit.”

“Well, let’s visit now!  They have to be nice to us.  The only people they fear more than the Hraes’ are the Bulgars and we are all that stands between them and a pissed off Czar Peter of Bulgaria.”

“They still fear us more,” Svein replied, acting insulted.  “Your wish is my command, Empress Sviataslava,” and he gave her a deep bow.  He ordered his shieldship on to Messembria and signalled for the fleet to follow.  They reached a beach north of the city in the afternoon and the fleet set up camp there while a few warships accompanied the royal couple and their entourage to the harbour on the south of the city.  Old Messembria was on an island peninsula that was walled to protect it from the ravages of the sea and those who rode upon it, and there was a natural causeway that connected it to the mainland with a road.  New Messembria was a walled city on the mainland that held the major half of the population.  Svein’s shieldship anchored in the harbour along a quay and the warships anchored along the causeway where the men set up camp.  Prince Svein and Princess Svia and their entourage were greeted by the mayor of the old city and they were led in through the gates to a welcoming throng.  The people knew that these Hraes’ were there to defeat the Bulgarians and they had also heard of their recent victory over the Bulgars in Silistra, so the welcome was quite warm.  Women of Messembria were already visiting with the soldiers camped along the causeway.  And the entourage was shown to the Emperor’s palace in the central square of the city.  The mayor told them that a feast was being prepared for them in the square and told them to settle into the palace and let him know if they had needs.

“What was it that your grandfather and father did in Messembria again?” Svia asked her husband.

“They destroyed a dozen fire breathing bireme dromons in the harbour here,” Svein told her as she sat down on the bed and gave the mattress a bounce test.  “They attacked them with catapults from the north side of the causeway and they all blew up and burned in the south harbour.  Not one Hraes’ ship was lost and the Roman commander ended up imprisoned on the Island of Princes.  That’s where all the Emperors and generals of Constantinople are imprisoned if they fock up.”

“I know what the Island of Princes is,” Svia retorted.  “I was born in Constantinople.  You may have saved me in that shithole of Ramnic in Wallachia, but I was born in Constantinople!” and she gave her head a regal shake.

“And is that what all you royals do in Constantinople?” Svein asked.  “Bounce test every bed you come across?” and he lept onto the bed beside her and looked up at her beauty.  She was the most gorgeous creature that Svein had ever seen, and his own mother was a known Norse beauty of Scandinavia.  Svia’s face was perfect and her dark eyes were divine and her eyelashes were naturally long and sweeping to match her long raven locks.  Her cheekbones protruded out past her locks and her fine nose jutted out over her red pouting lips.  Svein was growing hard just looking at her and it was a profound effect that she had on most men who saw her for the first time.

“A quick fock before the feast?” Svein asked, pulling her on top of him.  “There’ll be a lot of hard-ons under the tables as they watch you up at the head-table.”  Svein kissed her passionately and would have been content to just keep kissing her, but she tore his clothes off and ravaged his young body.

The next day they were given a tour of the old city and it was full of churches from very many religions.  There were a lot of ancient Greek temples to Zeus and Apollo and to Venus and Aphrodite and there were old temples dedicated to Mithra and Ball and there was a Jewish synagogue and an abandoned mosque and a few dilapidated Latin Christian churches and many Orthodox Christian churches and monasteries.  There were Roman bathes and forums and an open theatre and there were mansions crowded next to each other with marble columns and terra cotta tile roofs.  There was even a kid’s playground along the inside of the north east wall.

Many of the wealthy of Messembria invited the Prince and Princess to dine with them or to hear musicians play and they watched a tragedy at the theatre and then they toured the new part of the city, the commercial part, and they visited the markets and the mills and the factories and the craft houses.  they visited the artists’ quarter and the street of lutes where the instruments were crafted and Svein knew that his grandfather and father would have loved to see it.  They stretched their visit out to a fifth day but Svein told the mayor that they had to go conquer Bulgaria and they left to great fanfare.

“Get used to this,” Svein told his beautiful wife, “for I’ve been promised a co-Emperorship once I’ve conquered the Bulgars.”

They sailed back north and met up with their fleet and then Svein took his three new legions west up the mouth of the Kamchiya River headed for Great Preslav.  The river was a funny little thing.  It seemed small yet expansive at the same time.  It would be wide and deep and narrow and shallow, yet it seemed to flow at the same slow speed.  Bulgar spies that the Hraes’ had hired had assured Svein that the river was as wide at Preslav as it was at its estuary, which would be very strange if true, but the river was turning out to be a strange little beast carrying them through the plains of Bulgaria, sometimes sparsely decorated with great old trees along its banks, but mostly with open fields, so it was secure and not open to ambuscade.  There were a few sections where the river narrowed so much that the ships couldn’t be rowed, which was fine if the wind was blowing in the right direction, but if not, they used their horses and ropes to tow them along.  Still, the ships were the way to move legions along because the vast amount of supplies legions required were stowed and towed when necessary, but transported more efficiently than wains on land.

A few days up the river and they sat in their ships before Preslav.  There was no army awaiting them and the city surrendered peacefully and the citizens threw themselves at the mercy of the invaders, claiming their czar had abandoned them and had fled to the city of Sredet (Sofia) further west.  The city of Preslav was treated according to ancient Roman law and was plundered for three days and half the citizens were taken as slaves, but because they had surrendered, half those taken had their names recorded and were released and would not be retaken into custody if the city stayed neutral in any future conflicts.

The Fifth Kievan Legion was stationed in Preslav, while the Sixth and Seventh Legions were sent south and west to capture cities and villages up to the Iskar River.  The city of Sofia was on the other side of the Iskar and was not to be attacked.  Prince Svein and Princess Svia took a few dozen warships from their fleet at Preslav and sailed to the Black Sea with their entourage of Roman officers then headed south for Constantinople.  It was a victory procession and they stopped in Constanza and Messembria for a few days each and celebrated the conquest of Bulgaria in each city.  Prince Svein even stopped in Burgas south of Messembria and accepted the surrender of the Bulgar forces there and left a regiment of foot to hold the city.

In Constantinople, Prince Svein asked for an audience with co-Emperor Nikephoros the second and the sons of Emperor Romanos, Basil and Constantine.  Emperor Nikephoros alone met with Svein and his entourage of Roman officers and the officers confirmed Svein’s claim that Bulgar had not only been attacked, but Bulgar proper up to the Iskar River had been taken.

“This is significantly more than was required of the contract between us,” Svein said as Svia stood beside him.  “I am requesting Roman services to purify the gold payment and would like the co-Emperorship as promised.”

Emperor Nikephoros pondered this as he sat on his throne, then said, “I need Tzar Peter’s head.”

“What?” Prince Svein said.  “That is not a requirement of our contract.”

“I know,” the Emperor agreed.  “But Constantinople is ruled by the mob these days.  I need Tzar Peter’s head to show the people or they will not accept my promoting a Hraes’ prince to co-Emperor.  They will riot and tear Constantinople apart.”

“That’s not my problem,” Svein said, squeezing Svia’s hand.

“But it will be as soon as I promote you to co-Emperor,” Nikephoros stated.  “But by then it will be too late to do anything about it.  If you give me Tzar Peter’s head, I shall put it on a pike in front of the Milion for the mob to see.  They will be so impressed they will have to accept your promotion.  Without the head, both our heads could end up on pikes in front of the Milion Pillar.  I’m sorry, but that’s the way it has to be.  Things are very volatile in the city right now.”

“You’re just trying to stall giving me my just reward!” Prince Svein accused him.

“I am doing no such thing!” Nikephoros said, looking over to his wife, Empress Theophano.

“The paperwork is already complete,” the Empress pleaded.  “Your co-Emperorship is complete once the documents are signed by all parties, all co-Emperors, and my sons have both agreed to sign.”

“All we need is Tzar Peter’s head,” Nikephoros said, “to ensure a peaceful transition of additional power.  Together, Rome and Hraes’ will be unstoppable!”

Prince Svein took Svia aside for a few moments and they discussed the situation and Svein agreed to attempt to get Tzar Peter’s head, but he reminded the Emperor that any failure to obtain it would have no effect on his claim.  Emperor Nikephoros agreed to this and invited Prince Svein and his wife to stay in Constantinople and celebrate the conquest of Bulgaria with them.  And Prince Svein knew exactly which apartments he wanted to stay in.  The Emperor stated that the apartments were far too modest for the Conqueror of the Bulgars and he offered the young Hraes’ couple lodgings much closer to the Emperor but Prince Svein told him the lodgings would be perfect for them and their bodyguards.

“This is where I lost my virginity,” Svein told Svia as they laid on the bed of a master suite in the palace complex.  “My mother’s handmaiden, Malfrieda, danced her way out of the dressing room with towels in one hand and a lamb-gut sheath in the other and we both offered each other our virginities on this very bed.”

“Are you sure Malfrieda was a virgin?” Svia said with envy.

“She bled all over me,” Svein said.  “That’s what the towels were for.  She was only two years older than me when we did it.”

“I wish I could have offered you my virginity,” Svia said sadly.

“Count Vlad took that from you, didn’t he?”

“I wish,” Svia said.  “Some nun let a visiting Bishop into my room when I was fourteen and he raped me.  I tried to fight him off but he was too strong.  Those focking nuns!  They run prisons and whorehouses!” and she rolled on her side away from Svein and started crying.

“We can leave Constantinople if you wish,” Svein said, consoling her.  “I love you and I don’t want you in pain.”

“I’m fine,” she said.  “Nobody has recognized me.  They think I’m a Hraes’ princess.  I love being a Hraes’ princess.  But being a Roman Empress would add just a little bit to it,” she said and rolled back to face her husband and she kissed him.  “Would you like some quick sex before the feasting?”

“I would love some quick sex!” Svein said.  “Six times over!” and he thought he saw Malfrieda watching from the dressing room as Svia rode him like a stallion.

The celebratory festivities in Constantinople were much more splendiferous than they had been in Constanza and Messembria.  There were breakfasts, lunches, and dinners in palatial halls in every Polis of Constantinople, every quarter had entertainments that differed from other quarters and, of course, there was the Hippodrome and the famous chariot races of Constantinople.  It reminded Svein of the Imperial dinners Emperor Constantine and his mother, Empress Helen, had thrown in Constantinople the years before their marriage.  The young Hraes’ couple sat with the Emperor and the empress in the Imperial box seats and Prince Svein told Emperor Nikephoros that his grandfather, Prince Hraerik, had sat in the Imperial box with Emperor Theophilos years ago.  Nikephoros did the math and said, “That would have been a least a hundred and twenty years ago if it was Emperor Theophilos.  Your grandfather and father must have lived long lives!”

“My father died in battle while he was still fairly young, but my grandfather is still kicking,” Svein said.

“He’s still alive?” Nikephoros asked.

“Oh yes!  He led the center legion at the Battle of Silistra last month.  He’s probably off trading in India by now.”

“Do all you Hraes’ live long lives?” Empress Theophano asked.

“No,” Svein said.  “Only my grandfather.”  Svein knew better than to talk to Romans about alchemists.  They were still using Roman numerals and doing math on abacuses.  Svein shook his head and smiled at Svia.  At least they were no longer killing each other in the sands of the arena.  They left that for the horses and chariots and, no sooner had he had that thought, then there was a crash and pileup of chariots in the far corner of the Hippodrome.

“What can you see?” Nikephoros asked Svein, who had the eyes of a raven.

“It’s some Blue team and some Green,” Svein said.  “Two drivers dead I think, and eight horses about to be.”

“Thanks,” the Emperor replied.  “We’re the Blues,” he said to Theophano.  “My eyes aren’t what they used to be,” he told Princess Svia.  Nikephoros was old, in his early sixties and Theophano was in her thirties, but he was an old sixties and she was a young thirties and still quite attractive.  They were both Armenians, of the Macedonian variety, or so they said, to give them a more Grecian aspect rather than the eastern aspect of Armenia.  They were the successors to western Rome, not the Germans of the Holy Roman Empire, and Macedonian sounded historically better than Armenian.  What was historical accuracy anyway?  Those who won wrote their own history and those who lost were written out of history.  Any good Roman knew that.  But finding a good Roman, that was the crux of it these days.  Nikephoros would have made a good Roman, but he wasn’t one.  He was a practicing ascetic with a young sexually active wife who wouldn’t have made a good Roman, even if she would have been one.  She had been forced to marry the only Armenian general in the Roman Empire who didn’t want all Hraes’ princes roasted on a spit in the Hippodrome.  The last Christians crucified there were Hraes’ Christians and that was only a generation ago by Armenian generals that had been imprisoned for the crimes.  And young Empress Theophano was sleeping with an even younger Armenian general who was planning to get them out.

After a week of festivities and honours that made Prince Svein almost taste what it was to be an emperor of Rome, the young Hraes’ couple returned to Bulgaria with a mission.  They were going to do a little head hunting, Bulgarian style.  Not only had Princess Svia learned to fock in a Greek Orthodox nunnery, but she had learned her Roman history under the tutelage of horny little rapist priests and monks and she had figured out why Nikephoros the second really wanted Tzar Peter’s head.  A hundred and fifty years ago a cruel Bulgarian Tzar Krum had defeated an even crueller Emperor Nikephoros the First in battle and had him beheaded and turned his skull into a gold encrusted drinking cup.  She put one and two together and suspected that Nikephoros the Second wanted to turn Tzar Peter the first’s skull into a drinking cup in revenge for what had happened to Nikephoros the First’s head.  She told her husband about it, leaving out the horny little rapist priests and monks part, of course, and Prince Svein was forced to give his head another shake.  ‘Oh, those Romans!’ he thought as he shook it from side to side.  Princess Sviataslava could have told Svein about the rapist priests and monks because he really loved her and it wouldn’t have mattered and he really hated Christians and he planned on punishing them anyway.

By the time they got back to Pereslavet, one of his new legions had returned from southern Bulgaria, so he took it and the old legion he had left in Silistra and they sailed up the Danube and then south up the Iskar River into the part of Bulgaria that he had not yet conquered.  He had sent messengers to Preslav with instructions to spread one legion there out thinly and to send the other back to Pereslavet and up the Danube after him.  A month after leaving Constantinople, the young couple were standing on the western bank of the Iskar River in front of the walled city of Sofia, known by the Bulgars as Sredet.  It was an old fortress that would not stand up to the sling velocity of the new trebuchets, which was ironic because the newer fortress of Preslav, which the Bulgarians abandoned would have.  The Hraes’ legions surrounded the city and trebuchets pounded the city and soon several sections of the forty foot walls were reduced to twenty and the Bulgarians soon requested terms.

Prince Svein offered them the standard Roman terms of sacking with a proviso that all members of the royal family would be allowed to keep their royal positions if they swore allegiance to the Hraes’.  Tzar Peter countered with a proviso that a quarter of the enslaved half would be allowed their freedom.  Svein told the Tzar that he was respectful of the Tzar’s wish to put himself at risk for the freedom of his people and he accepted the Tzar’s proviso.  The Hraes’ forces then entered the city and sacked it for three days and collected up their quarter of the inhabitants for the slave markets of Baghdad.  Tzar Peter asked Prince Svein if he could be allowed to ransom the enslaved quarter of his people and Svein told him that they could only be freed if Tzar Peter gave him his life.  The Tzar was shocked by the request, but he considered it because he was old and had already suffered a stroke that had caused him to pass the laurels on to his son, Boris, in all but deed anyway, so he accepted Svein’s offer and prepared himself for death and arranged for his Christian burial in a church in Sofia.

Prince Svein took Tzar Peter out in front of the royal palace in Sofia that his son and family was still allowed to occupy and had him kneel in the square and he quickly struck his head off with a stroke of his sword.  The head fell and rolled across the square towards Svia as the body crashed onto the cobbles at Svein’s feet.  Princess Svia rolled the head into a black leather bag with her foot, tied it off and passed it to Svein.  Tzar Boris rushed out of his palace and begged Svein to give him the head so that Czar Peter could have a proper Christian burial.  “I’ll give it back to you one year from now but only if you’ve kept the peace on your side of Bulgaria.  I shall treat Tzar Peter’s head with nothing but respect until that time and you can bury him then.  Meantime, all your people on this side of the Iskar River are free and all your people on the east side of the river are mine!  Any breaches of our agreement and the head will be, very respectfully, tossed into the Black Sea and I shall be back looking for my entitled half of the citizens of Sofia.”

Prince Svein left the old legion in Sofia and led his fleet back down the Iskar River.  He stood at the forestem of his shieldship with Tzar Peter’s head in a bag in his left hand and Princess Sviataslava under his arm on his right.  “I love you,” she said.  “I love you too,” he replied.  Then she added, “I’m going to fock you so hard tonight!”

It took three months but, by summer’s end, Prince Svein and Princess Svia were back in Constantinople with Tzar Peter’s head in hand.  “We’ll post this on a pike in front of the Milion,” Emperor Nikephoros said almost gleefully.  “Then we’ll have another round of celebratory feasts and games to get the people in the mood for the Coronation of our new Co-Emperor!”  The Emperor even stepped down from the throne and gave Svein a warm hug.  Empress Theophano remained on her throne and Svia kept back as though not wanting to get too close to the empress.

“Could we post guards around the Milion?” Svein asked.  “I promised Tzar Peter I would treat his head with the utmost respect just before I struck it from his body.”

“Yes, yes, of course,” the Emperor said.  “Anything for the Conqueror of Bulgaria.  Now you must tell me how you did this.  I’ve heard that Tzar Peter willingly parted with his head.  How could you possibly do that?”

So, the co-Emperor and the co-Emperor to be, retired to a side room to sit and discuss the campaign, leaving their wives in the throne room to chat.  “You don’t remember me,” Svia said quietly.

“Of course, I do!” Empress Theophano exclaimed.  “You are the beautiful princess of the Rhos.  How could I forget you already?  You are very quiet, but certainly not forgettable.  You are so beautiful!”  Empress Theophano was a beauty in her own right.  She had long raven curls, dark seductive eyes, and proud Armenian cheekbones.  She wasn’t the raving beauty that Svia was, but she held her own in a ballroom.

“Thank you,” Svia said shyly.  Theophano remained seated and Svia talked with her from the audience area.  It was evident that Theophano was mother and wife to three of the co-Emperors and was not about to share equal status with an empress of only one of the co-Emperors, and Svia was fine with that.  She planned on living in Svein’s new capital city of Pereslavet.

“So, how did you get Tzar Peter to part with his head?” Nikephoros asked excitedly.

“When it became apparent that we would take Sofia, he asked for terms,” Svein explained.  “I offered him standard Roman terms of conquest.”

“We don’t have standard terms,” Nikephoros interrupted.

“The ancient Vanir terms that Julius Caesar followed, before the Christianization of Rome, when Romans prayed to Zeus Pater and Mars and Mercury.”

“Oh, those terms,” the Emperor said, correcting himself.  “And what was Tzar Peter’s response?”

“He countered with a quarter of his people being enslaved, rather than half, so I, of course, agreed.  This told me he cared about his people.”

“And his head?” Nikephoros said, getting even more excited.

“Once we enslaved the quarter, Peter asked if he could ransom them.  I told him, only with a head ransom.”

“Oh…my,” the Emperor said.  “Didn’t your grandfather save his own head with a Head-ransom Song?”

“Why, yes,” Svein said, surprised that the Emperor knew about it.  “It was a Head-ransom Drapa, we call it, akin to your Roman epic poems and elegiac couplets.  Tzar Peter saved twelve thousand of his people with his head ransom, but I promised him a Christian burial and I told him I would treat his head with respect and give it a Christian burial at sea when we are done with it.  To that end, I would like to have a baptismal chalice made of the top of his skull as a gift to you, with the greatest of respect to Tzar Peter, of course.  I think the ancient Bulgars were in the habit of making drinking cups of their enemies, but Tzar Peter converted to Christianity and a baptismal chalice might be more appropriate, being used solely to baptise the Emperors of Rome here in Constantinople.”

“I like your way of thinking,” the Emperor said.  “Tell me more about this baptismal chalice.”

“It shall be made from the top of Tzar Peter’s skull, which is too elongated for a cup anyway, and more suited for an oval chalice with which to pour baptismal water.  It shall be encrusted in gold and trimmed in jewels and shall be my gift to Constantinople when it is done.  But the fact that it is made of Tzar Peter’s skull should be a fact known only to the Emperors of Constantinople so as not to ruffle the feathers of the Patriarchs that may follow.”

“That is an excellent idea,” the Emperor said.  “And you shall be the first co-Emperor baptised with it!”

“Me?” Prince Svein said, shocked.  “I don’t want to be baptised!”

“Of course, you’ll have to be baptised,” Nikephoros said, “ to be co-Emperor of a Christian empire.  Your mother got baptised, sponsored by her husband, Emperor Constantine.  I shall sponsor you and Empress Theophano shall sponsor Princess Sviataslava.  It will just be a preliminary baptism.  You can fall away from it after a bit if you wish.  Your mother did and she was re-baptised by the Patriarch.  It will be great!  All the citizens of Constantinople shall attend.  We shall have it in the Hippodrome!” the Emperor exclaimed.  “But if you fall away, you’ll have to be re-baptised before you die so you can be buried as an Emperor in Constantinople.”

“What if I die in battle?” Svein said.

“We have Orthodox priests that attend to the needs of our legions.  If you die in battle, they will administer last rites and you’ll be good to go.!”

“Fine,” Svein choked.

“And speaking of battles,” Nikephoros went on, “as co-Emperor how do you feel about leading our troops in battle in the Levant?”

“If I can bring my own Hraes’ mobile legions along,” he answered, “I’m good to go.”

“I was the best Armenian general Rome has ever had,” Nikephoros started, “and I thought I could beat the Arabs, but even I failed.”

“Your Roman generals have failed against the Bulgars as well and where are they now?  You shouldn’t be asking yourself whether or not I can do it, but rather, how long will it take me.  A year, you might ask.  Six months?  I’ll be in Baghdad in three months!”

“That confidence is what leads my generals to claim that the Arabs aren’t our greatest enemy and that the Rhos are!”

“The Muslims are your greatest foe,” Svein told him, “but not the Arab Muslims.  My grandfather says that Turkish Muslims riding out of the east shall be Rome’s downfall.  He told Emperor Theophilos that a hundred years ago and he still maintains it is true, but far into the future.  We, the Hraes’, shall be your greatest ally.”

“I think this will be the start of a great alliance,” the Emperor said.  “Shall we get Tzar Peter’s head on a pike at the Milion so, we can get on with the celebrations?”

“Let’s not forget the guards,” Svein added.  “We don’t want the skull damaged by stones and bricks.”

“Ah, yes,” Nikephoros laughed.  “You’ve had experience with Roman riots in Constantinople.  We’ll have guards, but the idea of the head is so we don’t have riots.”

The head of Tzar Peter was put on a blunted pike in front of the Milion and celebrations continued for the victory in Bulgaria and every night it was removed and craftsmen worked on the baptismal chalice.  A mortician removed the top part of the skull and replaced it with another so the head appeared intact but the skull section could be prepared.  The Emperor took great interest in the process and Svein provided Dacian gold to plate the cranium and Indian jewels with which to encrust the cross upon it.  Emperors had the option of non-submersion baptism where water was poured over the head of the royal being baptised.

While the celebrations were progressing, a merchant ship arrived from Kiev with news that the city had been surrounded and besieged by a horde of Pechenegs for the last month.  The Hraes’ sailors stated that Svein’s mother and his sons were trapped within the walls and that food was quickly running low.  The merchants claimed that the Pechenegs came from east of the Khazar lands and had been sent west in retaliation for Prince Svein’s attack upon Atil-Kazaran and Samandar the prior year.

“I’ll have to leave after the celebrations,” Svein told Emperor Nikephoros.  “The Khazars are reacting to the attack you Romans paid me to deliver.  I’ll have to deal with the Pechenegs and then the Khazars before I can become co-Emperor.  And I can’t leave the Khazars as a threat to Hraes’ while I fight in the Levant with my legions.”

The Emperor knew from his experience as an Armenian general that what Svein claimed was true and Armenians had suffered under the Khazar yoke long before falling under the Muslim one.  “We paid you ten thousand pounds of gold to give the Khazars a bloody nose,” the Emperor started.  “How much will you need to crush them completely?”

“Twenty thousand pounds of gold.”

“I’ll have the gold ready for you before you leave,” Nikephoros said.  “Crush the Khazars and if you free Armenia from the Muslim yoke on your way back to the Black Sea, there will be a bonus for your efforts of, say, another ten thousand pounds of gold.”

“It’s as good as done!  I’ll gather up my three legions in Bulgaria and take them east, but Bulgaria is mine.  I am establishing my new capital in Pereslavet.  From there I’ll be able to serve Rome better.  Kiev is a frozen wasteland half of the year.”

“Good!” Nikephoros said.  “We’ll leave Bulgaria to your veteran legion there, but let your commanders know they can count on us for an assist if the Bulgarians act up, something similar to the assist we gave you in Wallachia.  Meanwhile, we’ll be training six new legions here in Constantinople for you to take to the Levant as soon as you’ve wiped Khazaria off the face of the earth!”

“Those focking Khazars!” Svein said, as he climbed into bed with Svia.  “My grandfather warned me not to attack them, but the Romans are paying me twenty thousand pounds of gold to do it.  What was I supposed to do?  Turn down twenty thousand pounds of gold?”

“He’ll forgive you,” Svia said.  “He loves gold more than you do.  He focks his wives above his gold and they love it!”

“That’s my mother you’re talking about,” Svein said.

“Your family is so focking complicated!” she answered and she climbed atop him.  “You know what else is complicated?”  No, what?”  “Empress Theophano is focking around on the Emperor and do you know with who and what they do?”  “No.  Do you?”  Svia reversed her position atop Svein and took his lingam into her mouth.  “She massages his cock in her lips like this,” and she gave Svein a sample then spread her yoni out above his face, “and he uses his tongue like that,” she said as he licked her clitoris, “but I think he has a longer tongue,” so Svein stuck his tongue further up her yoni and she said, “longer, longer, he has a big Armenian tongue.”

“How do you know how big an Armenian tongue is?”

“We had Armenian bishops visit us at the nunnery,” she teased.  “Do you know who this young handsome long tongued Armenian general is?”

“Tell me quickly, then put my lingam back into your mouth!”

“It’s John Tzimiskes,” she said.

“Excuse me?  Did you have my cock in your mouth when you said his last name?  It wasn’t very clear.”

“It is Tzimiskes!” she repeated.  “It’s Armenian.  But it takes a long Armenian tongue to pronounce it and I don’t think you got it quite right,” and she squatted her yoni onto his mouth and he tried it again.  “Longer, longer,” she repeated and when she was satisfied with the length, she went down on him.

They say that sex and politics go hand in hand, but Svein and Svia were putting a new twist on it, or were they?

General John Tzimiskes tapped on the door of Empress Theophano’s apartment next to the Emperor’s.  Nikephoros Phokas was an ascetic and slept alone and seldom had sex with his young wife, so his leading general was next door helping out.  Theophano opened the door and let him slip in and they kissed quickly and then tore off each other’s clothing and began focking right away, before even making it to the bed.  John carried her on his member for the last few feet and he fell on top of her as she fell on top of the bed and she grunted when he penetrated her deeply with the force of the fall.  He began thrusting violently and she curled her legs around his back to slow his efforts.  She had gone without for a long while and his first thirty or forty thrusts had caused her some discomfort, but once she got into it, she relaxed her legs and let him ram away.  She soon came and her moaning made him ram her even harder until he finally burst inside her.  “Oh, god,” she said.  “You’re an animal,” and she kissed him.  “How did you make out on the Island of Princes?”

“I saw general Kourkouas,” he replied.  “He is with us.  The next time I’m in Constantinople, we’ll get him out!”

General John Tzimiskes was the Armenian general in charge of the war in the Levant and he’d heard news that he was soon to be replaced by a new Rhos co-Emperor, a Rhos prince who had just defeated the Bulgars in a matter of months.  A Rhos prince who’s father General John Kourkouas had almost defeated twenty years earlier.  A Rhos prince who’s grandfather had used the legal system of Rome to incarcerate the great general for war crimes and crimes against humanity.  And he had used the wealth and trading power of the Rhos to make the charges stick.

Empress Theophano crawled atop her general and stuck his cock into her mouth as she straddled his face with her vagina.  “Longer, longer!” she cried as he worked his tongue into her.

Prince Svein left the quays of Constantinople with twenty thousand pounds of gold in the hold of his shieldship.  Five hundred pound chests sat below the deck boards where his ballast had been.  Two dozen warships sailed out of the Golden Horn and headed north to Pereslavet.  There were messengers waiting there for him and messengers for the messengers and they all pleaded for him to come relieve Kiev.  He put the gold in the basement of his fortress palace then headed up the Danube and then the Iskar into Bulgaria.  He collected his veteran legion there and left Tzar Boris in charge of Sophia on his own recognisance.  “I still have your father’s head,” he said, and he showed him Tzar Peter’s head in the black leather bag.  “As I said before, your father will have a proper Christian burial in Sofia next year.  If we can get along, I may let you run Bulgaria for me.”  Svia was sitting beside Svein as he spoke and Boris’s Tzarina sat next to him.  “I have been offered the co-Emperorship of Rome in Constantinople, but Bulgaria, Wallachia, Romania and Hraes’ will remain mine.  I intend on surrounding myself with competent leaders who respect their people.  If you are half the man that Tzar Peter was, I want you on my team.”

Tzar Boris nodded his acceptance of Svein’s offer and it was planned that, after Tzar Peter’s burial the following year, Boris and his family would return to Preslav to rule Bulgaria from there.  As Svein was leaving Sofia, Tzar Basil came up to him and said, “I want you to know that I had nothing to do with the Pechenegs attacking Kiev.”

“I know, my friend,” Svein replied.  “Any Pechenegs I know would never attack me.  These are new hordes from the east, courtesy of the Khazars.  They shall pay for it!” he said as his shieldship pushed away from the quay.

Prince Svein had three mobile legions to collect and one veteran legion to distribute throughout Bulgaria and then he would head off to relieve Kiev.  In Baghdad, Prince Hraerik heard about the Pecheneg siege of Kiev so, he cut trading short a week and the merchant fleet headed north at as fast a pace as they could.  He sent most through Armenia and Georgia, but the Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish merchants, the Vikings, he took across the Euphrates Halys portage and he paid the Roman tithe for them and they sailed north across the Black Sea and straight up the Dnieper River.  The local Pechenegs portaged them around the Dnieper rapids and they were soon sailing past the Pecheneg horde that had surrounded Kiev.  Prince Hraerik spotted the Prince of the Pechenegs and he had a white shield set at the top of his mast and he sailed towards the group of Pecheneg horse.  Half his crew disembarked and they walked over to the Prince of the Pechenegs and Prince Hraerik asked him who he was and what his business was there in fluent Pecheneg.

“I am Kagan Kurya of the Kargara of the Painted Horse.  Are you the Prince of Kiev?”

“No.  I am his grandfather, Prince Hraerik of Gardariki and Tmutorokan, eternal Kagan-Bek of the Hraes’.  What is your business again?”

“I have come to battle Prince Svein of the Kievan Hraes’.”

“He has three huge legions and he should be coming along soon.  Meantime, I have a merchant fleet of Danes, Swedes and Norwegians coming to Kiev to pay their tithes and fees and I don’t want you focking around with them.  They’re all Vikings and they’ll kill you!  Prince Svein will be along to kill you soon enough and I don’t want to spoil his fun by having to kill you first.  That could go very badly for me with the Prince.”

“I would not want you to get in trouble with the Prince,” Kagan Kurya said.  “Perhaps we could exchange weapons and become friends, Prince Hraerik, eternal Kagan-Bek of the Hraes’,” and Kurya had his men bring forth a fine Turkish horn-bow complete with quiver and arrows.  Hraerik took up the bow and nocked an arrow on the string and looked out toward his ship on the Dnieper and he drew the bow and shot the arrow and it arched through the air almost a quarter mile and it hit the white shield on the mast dead center, an impossible shot.  “This is a fine bow,” Hraerik said.  “The white shield signifies the peace that I seek with you.  Now I have a gift for you,” Hraerik said, unstrapping his sword.

“I cannot take your sword,” the Kagan said.  “It must have much importance to you.”

“This is not my sword,” Hraerik said.  “It is the sword that I carry because my sword is too dangerous to carry,” and he passed the sword to the Kagan.  “This is my sword,” he said as he waved for his men to bring up a long wooden box.  “Have you heard of the famed sword Tyrfingr?” Hraerik asked.  The Kagan shook his head.  “Well, the Khazars have,” Hraerik continued.  Tyrfingr had gotten so dangerous that Hraerik had it kept in its leaden sheath inside a lead lined box.  “Do you have a man you don’t need?” Hraerik asked.  “An officer you don’t like or a warrior you think will run?”

“I don’t like my brother-in-law,” the Kagan said.  “He beat my sister yesterday and I was planning to kill him for it.”  The warrior came forward and he was a big man.  “Do you wish to fight him with this Tyrfingr?”

“No,” Hraerik said.  “I wish to demonstrate the power of Tyrfingr for you,” and he took the sheathed sword out of the box and he pulled Tyrfingr out of the sheath and it glowed brighter than the sunlight of the clear fall sky they were all under.  Hraerik asked the brother-in-law to dismount from his horse and he walked up to the horse with Tyrfingr and brought the sword down in a long sweeping arc and it struck the horse’s back just behind the front shoulders and it sliced through its chest and did not stop until it bit halfway into the ground, and the horse fell dead in two halves.  The Pechenegs looked at the horse and they looked at each other as if they had just seen magic.  It took all of Hraerik’s strength to pull Tyrfingr free of the ground again and as he walked past the brother-in-law, Hraerik thrust Tyrfingr into his chest through his chainmail armour with what seemed no effort at all.  He let Tyrfingr sit in the pooled blood of his chest as he eased the dying Pecheneg to the ground and he touched the cheek of the warrior as if to bid him farewell on his way to Valhalla.  “Tyrfingr must be sheathed in the blood of its last victim or it becomes really dangerous,” Hraerik said, as he pulled the sword out of the man’s chest and all could see that the glow had all but subsided.  Prince Hraerik calmly put the sword back in the sheath and then placed them both gently into the box and latched it closed.

“Thank you, my friend,” Kagan Kurya said.  “My sister loved that wife beater and it is better that you have killed him and not I.  My sister would have been as angry with me as your grandson might have been with you, had we not become friends instead of enemies.”

“Speaking of my grandson,” Hraerik said.  “I would head back east before he gets here.  He seldom sports a white shield as I have,” and Hraerik pointed towards the white shield on his ship with the impossible arrow in it.  “I would take your horde back through the land in between the Khazars and the Bulgars or the Khazars will try to talk you into coming back here to your deaths, but if you happen to see the Khazars on your way through, tell them, ‘Prince Svein will be coming at you!’  I’ll try to talk him out of it, of course, but as he becomes a greater and greater warrior chief, he becomes harder and harder to control.  I am afraid he shall crush the Khazars this time, even though I have specifically ordered him not to.”

“Thank you for the sage advice, my friend, and for the sword,” and Kagan Kurya turned about on his horse and told one of his lieutenants, “There is magic in the swords of the Hraes”, as they rode away.  So many Pechenegs began retreating from Kiev that the Hraes’ couldn’t get near the river to water their horses for the rest of the day.  As Hraerik docked his ship at the main quay, Empress Helga came up to him and kissed him and would not stop kissing him.  “I am going to fock you so hard in King Frodi’s room tonight,” she whispered as a very pregnant Malfrieda approached with the boys and the Khazar Princess Serah came up with their baby.  The Viking contingent of the merchant fleet soon started docking along the quays of Kiev and Hraerik, Helga and Serah were busy for two days processing and recording their tithes.  Then Malfrieda went into labour and gave birth to a baby boy.  She had tried to wait for Svein’s arrival, but little Valdamar had other ideas.  Prince Hraerik told her that Prince Svein had promised to name his next child Valdamar so, that is what they called him until Svein was to arrive.

Prince Svein and his three mobile legions in six hundred ships soon added to the organized chaos of Kiev in trading season.  “The Romans are paying me twenty thousand pounds of gold to crush the Khazars,” he told his grandfather as he held baby Valdamar in his arms.

“You know how I feel about that,” Hraerik told him, ‘but after the stunt they’ve pulled, I’ll not be trying to talk you out of it.”

“So, you agree it was the Khazars?”

“My spies have told me it was the Khazars.  Kagan Kurya of the Garkara of the Painted Horse told me it was the Khazars.  It was the Khazars.”

“It is twenty thousand pounds of gold,” Prince Svein said.  “I need it to move my capital to Pereslavet.  I can’t be co-Emperor of Rome from Kiev.  I’d be frozen in half the year.”

“You could overwinter in Tmutorokan like you always do,” Hraerik said.  “You wouldn’t be frozen in.”

“Yes,” Empress Helga said.  “Overwinter in Gardariki.”

“Pereslavet is located in the center of my Empire,” Svein said, “and I want you to move there with me, Empress Helga.”

“You’ll already have an Empress there,” Helga said, giving Svia a kiss on her cheek.  “If you’re leaving Kiev, then I’m moving to Gardariki with Hraerik and Silki.  Is it okay if I move in with you in Gardariki, Hraerik?”

“I’ve been dying to ask you,” Hraerik said, “but Svein has only recently acquired an empress to look after him.”

“Good,” Helga said, “but the people of Kiev are going to want to have a prince.”

“I shall appoint Prince Ivar to lead in Kiev and Prince Helgi can lead in Chernigov.  They’re getting old enough to rule.”

“If the Drevjane of Chernigov get a prince,” Helga said, “then the people of Novgorod will want a prince.”

“They can have Valdamar,” Svein said.  “When he is old enough to rule.”

Later Svein approached Malfrieda and took her by the hand and they walked.  “When I was in Constantinople, I stayed with Svia in the old palace apartments that you and I stayed in and I told her that we gave each other our virginities there.  She felt bad about keeping me all to herself and she still wants to share me with you, even when she is empress.  What do you think about that?”

“I know that Princess Svia is soon to be an empress and I am just a freed woman and a handmaiden at that, but I would be very pleased to be allowed to share in even the smallest little part of my prince.  I love you, Svein.”

Prince Svein walked her out to his shieldship and he led her below the foredeck and they made love in the furs under the deck.  “I don’t have protection,” she said, but Svein told her he didn’t care about her using protection and he entered her anyway and he remembered their first time together and soon he was flowing freely within her.

“I’d like you to stay in Kiev and take care of our boys and I will visit you and I want to be with you when I visit.”

“She didn’t ask you to share yourself with me, did she?”

“When I was having sex with her in our apartment, I thought I saw you watching me from the dressing room.  Remember the dressing room that you would dance out of wearing nothing but silk scarves?”

“Oh, do I!” she said.  “I have orgasms just thinking about those times.  Constantinople was heaven for me.  You were heaven for me.”

“I think I thought I saw you watching because I wanted you to be there with me again, to live that part of our lives again.  Will you stay with our boys in Kiev?  Helgi doesn’t have to live in Chernigov. He can rule it from here, with you.”

“And you’ll visit me?”

“Yes, I’ll visit you often.”

“Can Serah stay here with me?  We help each other with the children and she doesn’t want to live in Gardariki.”

“That would be up to the Prince,” Svein said, “but I could ask him.”

“Could you bring the Prince to visit Serah when you come to visit me?”

“I will try,” Svein said.  He kissed her and they made love again under the deck and then they returned to the city.

“I’m leaving for Tmutorokan,” Prince Svein told his grandfather, “before the rest of the merchant fleet arrives here.  It’ll be chaos if I’m here when those ships arrive.”

“Will you be overwintering there?” Hraerik asked.

“Until February,” he said.  “Then I’ll start earning that Roman gold.”

“Are you leaving Malfrieda and the boys in Kiev?” Hraerik asked.  “I saw you down at your ship with her.”

“We had sex,” Svein said bluntly.  “I haven’t been giving her the attention she deserves.  I want a few daughters for alliances and Svia doesn’t seem as easy to impregnate as Malfrieda was.”

“Yes,” Hraerik said, thinking back.  “For a while there it seemed that, if you sneezed on Malfrieda, you got her pregnant,” and they both laughed.  So, you’re going to give her the attention that she deserves now.  That is good.”

“Malfrieda was wondering if Serah could stay with her in Kiev, and she was wondering if you could visit with her when I come visit with Malfrieda.  They help each other with the children.”

“I should give Serah the attention she deserves?” Hraerik said.  “I think we could both work together on this.”

“Thanks,” Svein said.  “I saw your ship too.  It looks like you have a new cabin boy?”

“That’s Shawn,” Hraerik lied.  “I can’t keep my foredeck clean the way I used to so, he stays under it and keeps it clean for me.  I usually drop him off with his family in Tmutorokan, but I rushed here to break up the Pecheneg siege.”

“Thanks for helping me out with that,” Svein said.  “Empress Helga gave me shit for taking so long to get here.  I happened to notice your young Shawn swimming naked between the ships and it looked to me like he was a she.  You might want to have a look at that.”

“Thanks,” Hraerik replied.  “I’ll check it out.”

“That’s fine,” Svein said.  “We’ve all been experiencing some weird shit of some kind or another since the Battle of Ramnic.”

“Anybody else offing themselves?” Hraerik asked.

“We lost a couple more last month,” Svein answered.  “The ghost regiment did a real number on us over there.”

At noon, Svein, Svia and his legions gathered on the quays of Kiev and prepared to shove off and the family went down to the docks to see them off.  Hraerik and Helga would be following to Gardariki after the trading cycle was complete, but it would take longer than usual because Helga was going to be moving there permanently.  “I can’t believe the Romans are going to make Svein co-Emperor,” Helga told Hraerik as they sailed off.  “I’m worried for him.  You should have seen the riots there when we fled Constantinople.  So much hatred for us.”

“Emperor Nikephoros seems to be an Armenian general who does what he says he will do,” Hraerik said, holding Helga by the waist as she waved.  “I’m worried for him too.”

“For Svein?”

“For both of them.”

(969)  In early spring Svein packed up his mobile legions and they sailed up the Kuban River and portaged across to the Kura River, sailed down it and caught the Khazars in Samandar by surprise and took the city in a day.  Apparently the Pechenegs hadn’t been stopped on their way back east to give the Khazars warning that Prince Svein would be coming at them.  The city had been plundered by the Hraes’ a few years earlier so, pickings were slim and many of the citizens had been spared of slavery the last time so, captives were few as well.  “We’re being paid by the Romans to crush them!” Svia argued.  “We should load them all up!”  Svein looked back at the flotilla of slaver knars that had followed his fleet and he said, “I’ll leave a garrison here and we’ll take them on our way back from Atil, if we have room.  Right now, we should hurry and try to catch Atil by surprise.”

But news travels like the wind and Atil Kazaran was in full lock down when they arrived there.  Worse, the Khazars had studied how the trebuchets had knocked down their walls of their central city section the last time the Hraes’ went through and they had been busy reinforcing the walls with intermediate towers and beefed up thicknesses.  Prince Svein and his heavy horse rode around the landward city walls looking for weaknesses, but there weren’t any.  Either the Khazars hadn’t gotten around to it, or they didn’t think it was necessary because, like the Romans, they didn’t think trebuchets could be fired from ships, but the riverside walls had not been reinforced.  They were proof against the onagers and catapults that the Romans shot from ships, but they were no match for the higher sling velocities of the gravity trebuchets Svein’s grandfather had invented that could be fired from ships.  Climbing ladders and ropes was a seaman’s normal duty so, climbing up the ladders of a ship borne trebuchet were nothing to the marines of Svein’s mobile legions.

Svein had his men run drills on getting the trebuchets in place on ship and they were knocking down walls within an hour after being ordered to do so.  Some elite ships had their trebuchets up and launching in under thirty minutes.  These were transport warships that might have to fend off catapult attacks at sea so, it was imperative that trebuchets were stored below deck in a fashion that would facilitate reassembly quickly.  And all ships carried tonstone shot in the ballast sections underdeck so, the trebuchets had great effect in taking down the walls quickly to scaling ladder height.  And the ships were designed for scaling ladder attack because the cities of Baghdad and Constantinople both had riverside walls that were weaker than their landward works.  As trebuchets knocked down walls they also softened up lower wall sections that could then be pierced by scorpion bolt throwers so that ships could be tied off against the walls at a scaling ladder distance and longships were excellent for scaling ladders because their long and narrow aspect held a long row of ladders up against a wall and other longships could row up on the outside to transfer more troops onto the scaling ladder ship.

Using these marine siege techniques, the three mobile legions attacked the three walled sections of the city and soon the fighting was being carried out in the city streets.  Foot soldiers fought their way to landward city gates and let in the heavy cavalry that then charged through the streets and attacked Khazar troops that were trying to stop the incursions.  The two city sections of Atil fell on the third day and Kazaran fell on the fourth.  The city was sacked mercilessly for three full days and then all the inhabitants were loaded up into slaver knars and were sent off to Tmutorokan for sale in Baghdad in the spring.  This was not a conquest of acquisition, but a conquest of annihilation.  Prince Svein was being paid by Rome to crush the Khazars and there was yet a bonus to be gotten in Armenia, but that was to liberate the state so, Svein allowed his men to ravage the Khazars because they would be on a short leash in Armenia.  The officers took control of the section of the city called Kazaran, meaning Caesar’s House, the old section of the city that contained the palaces of the Kagan and Kagan-Bek, both of whom had been killed in the fighting.

“My grandfather says that the first Kagan was Emperor Valerian of Rome,” Svein told Svia as they ranged through the palace of the Kagan.  “It is said that the Kagans could all trace their blood-lines back to him and that Valerian could trace his own blood back to Augustus Caesar.”

“So, they were Porphyrogenita?” Svia asked in disbelief.  “Born of the Purple?”

“That’s what the Prince says,” Svein told her.  “He called them the Secret Khazars, because nobody knew except for the Byzantine Emperors.”

“But why would Emperor Nikephoros pay you to wipe out someone born of the Purple?”

“Because he’s Christian and the Khazars are Jewish and because he’s Armenian and the Khazars have attacked Armenia for centuries and they would have still been attacking Armenia, except the Caliphate of Baghdad now controls Armenia and the Khazars didn’t want trouble with the Muslims.”

“It’s too bad,” Svia said.  “To lose a long bloodline like that…”

“His blood poured out red, like everybody else’s.  Here is where my officers found the harem of the Kagan,” Svein said, and he swung the great double doors open to expose a vast open area and a complex of bedrooms all around it.  “There were enough harem girls to send one to each of my legion ships for my men to enjoy.”

“Six hundred concubines?” Svia asked, incredulously.

“More or less,” Svein said.  “Once my men are done with them, they’ll be sold in Baghdad to the harems of Arabia.”

“But there are sixty men per ship,” Svia said.  “There won’t be much left of them to sell.”

“There are thousands of Khazar women being taken under the awnings of those ships.  The harem girls will be fine.  I just wanted one of them to go to each ship so I don’t hear a bunch of complaints.”

“Here’s the Kagan’s bedroom!” Svein said, opening another pair of huge double doors.  Svia stepped into the bedroom and Svein locked the doors behind her.  “You should see the bed!” Svein said as he led her through the great room into the bedroom.  “It’s huge!” and she stood in front of a bed that was as large as most bedrooms.  “How many harem girls do you think he had on here?” Svein said, bounce testing the bed.

“That’s my job!” Svia said, bounce testing it herself beside him.  Then she pulled him on top of herself and whispered, “Take me now, oh great Kagan!”  So, Svein took her at the edge of the bed and he took her in each corner and then he came in her at the center of the bed.

While the Khazar women of Atil were being ravaged, the Khazar men were being put to work tearing down the walls of the city.  The Hraes’ spent two weeks tearing down the city.  Whatever buildings could be burned were burned and the brick buildings were torn down.  Atil was a city of bricks, millions of them, and the bricks were all stacked up and the stone blocks were all stacked up.  “What are you going to do with them?” Svia asked.

“We’ll just store them here.  If we have a building project in Tmutorokan, we’ll come get them.  Or if Emperor Nikephoros wants to rebuild Armenia, they’re here for him.”

Once Atil was destroyed, the remaining men and women of the city were loaded into the returning Knars and that group was sent off to Tmutorokan.  Then Prince Svein sent his heavy cavalry out in increasingly distant arcs and they pillaged the countryside, destroying farms and vineyards until not a single sheaf of grain or a single grape could be found in all of Khazaria. 

In the summer, Prince Svein left Kazaran and returned to his garrison in Samandar.  He left the people there in peace as he had decided to occupy the city in order to protect the Kuban-Kuma portage route that had been abandoned due to the presence of Khazars years ago.  He spent the summer repairing and improving the portage facilities and then he led his legions across the portage to Tmutorokan and they sailed across the Black Sea to Pereslavets to establish his capital there.  He sent word to Emperor Nikephoros that the Khazar Empire had been crushed and he requested Roman metallurgical engineers come to his new capital to purify his gold.  The Emperor sent his congratulations to Prince Svein and Princess Svia along with the engineers.  Once the gold was purified, another message came from Constantinople requesting that the young couple spend the Christmas holidays there and that Svein and Svia be baptised on December 21st and be wreathed co-Emperor and empress on December 25th.  Prince Svein accepted the invitation and then they left for Kiev to collect some final items for his move.  Prince Svein and Princess Svia visited with Svein’s sons while he packed up items from his youth and Malfrieda caught Svein alone and told him she was pregnant with his child.  He was elated and kissed Malfrieda warmly, which caught her by surprise.  “You’re not angry?” she said.

“Of course not!  You are my first love and we have such beautiful children together.  I will always love you.”  He hugged her then went down on one knee and felt her belly.  He looked up at her, beaming.  Then she knew it was okay.

“What will you tell Svia?” she asked.

“I’ll tell her I sneezed on you and you got pregnant.”

“Don’t tell her that,” Malfrieda said.

“I’ll tell her on the way back to Pereslavet,” Svein said.

Svein didn’t tell Svia on the way back to Pereslavet.  He was going to tell her before the merchant fleet returned from Baghdad, but he didn’t.  Then he was going to tell her before they left for Constantinople but he kept putting it off.  They were getting ready to sail to Constantinople when a messenger from Tmutorokan brought them news that there was soon to be an attempt on the life Emperor Nikephoros and that his own wife, Empress Theophano, and his Armenian general, John Tzimiskes, were involved in the plot.  “The Prince’s spies in Constantinople sent him word of this,” Prince Svein told his wife.  “He asks that we sit tight until a cleric he has contacted warns Nikephoros.”