Ch. 13 SWEYN FORKBEARD GOES TO LIERE

Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert

Sweyn Forkbeard by L Frolich 1883

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

SWEYN FORKBEARD GOES TO LIERE  (Circa 974 AD)

10.       “Scarce had Grotti come    out of grey mountain,

                        from out of the earth            the iron-hard slab,

                        nor had the mountain-maids now   to turn the millstone,

                        if we had not first      found it below.

                                   Anonymous; Grottasongr, Prose Edda (Hollander)

(974)  The harbour of Liere wasn’t as much a harbour as a long looping crescent of a beach that offered small merchant ships sand to be drug up on, out of the waves and the water.  As ships got larger, it became a problem because there wasn’t proper anchorage for ships too large to be dragged about.  So, Queen Thyra, the builder of Denmark, had built the harbour and town of Roskilde, just to the north, for the large merchant ships and fleets that were traversing the Dan’Way in this newer age.  But the harbour town of Liere was still perfect for the smaller, stronger Nor’Way ships that sometimes still plied the northern passage to the east.  Sweyn had his small fleet of six Nor’Way ships beached on the quieter, more private harbour of old.

The harbour village still ran two miles up and down the shore of the bay, but many of the buildings were abandoned or little used, and the road that ran to the city of Liere, was ragged and overgrown.  Longhalls of merchant companies, including the Hraes’ Trading Company, still vied with the large rans of chieftains for the best spots along the bay, but the houses of many citizens were long gone, the people having moved to Liere or Roskilde.

Sweyn had spotted several beached Hraes’ Trading Company ships and had landed his ships away from them in case there might be a merchant or two that he knew.  Behind him was the strait between Denmark and Gotland, called The Sound, and ahead of him sat his realm, presently in the hands of his nephew, King Harald ‘Bluetooth’, son of Gorm ‘the Old’ Ivarson, who had died of grief long before Svein had gotten a chance to kill him.  Hraegunar Lothbrok’s curse of his swine sons against a snake king had ran its course and had run out of time.  But there was still the son of Gorm, which meant worm or snake, that had to be dealt with.  The son of King Worm had taken the Danish crown for himself, when by law it should have passed on to the Worm’s brother Svein, meaning swine, mortal enemy of snakes.  ‘Our family was focked up long before the Impalers got a hold of us,’ Sweyn reminded himself as he led his men up to a longhall he was going to rent.

He set his men up in the hall and they rested for a few days and got the lay of the land and then Sweyn took a few picked men and they rented some horses and rode to King Frodi’s fortress, just before Liere.

East of Liere, a hundred and fifty years earlier, King Frodi had built a fortress that was unique to the northern climate, being patterned after Byzantine station forts found upon the great Asian steppe.  Byzantine armies had long ago established a series of fortified barracks to control the nomadic tribes that from time to time threatened Greek cities on the northern coasts of the Black Sea.  Sweyn had seen many such forts in his campaigns against both Pechenegs and Khazars, so, as they cleared a small rise, he was not surprised by the sight of Frodi’s Fortress.  It stood a short distance out of Liere, in the middle of a broad low plain, where it controlled the main north-south road of Zealand as well as the harbour link.  The fortification consisted of a twelve foot high by thirty foot wide circular embankment four hundred feet in diameter, with a twelve foot high post palisade at its crest and a further twelve foot deep trench extending beyond its base.  The earthen work was pierced by four gateways in the four directions, the continuous palisade vaulting over these and massive oaken double doors on each gate for closing off the openings if necessary.  Zealand’s two main roads intersected within Frodi’s fortress, dividing the interior into four equal quadrants.  Inside the fortress, the roads were paved with logs in a corduroy fashion to keep down the dust, and there was another dirt road running around the inside of the embankment.  All four quadrants were fully developed, the north-east quadrant supporting two forty by one hundred and twenty foot longhalls, one being the palace of young King Harald, the other the longhall of his select troops, while the other three quadrants each held four thirty by eighty foot halls that were contiguous, forming a square about a courtyard and serving variously as barracks for regular troops, stables for horses and longhalls of officers.

Sweyn and his small Hraes’ party entered King Frodi’s Fortress without incident, arriving at the front steps of King Harald’s longhall.  Sweyn hailed the two guards on the hall porch and bid them request him an audience with their king.  He tossed them each a piece of silver and one of them disappeared into the hall.  Moments later, the guard emerged and motioned for the party to step inside.  Sweyn ascended the steps and passed by a pair of huge oaken doors, left open to the elements, his men trailing behind him in their order of rank.  As Sweyn entered the hall’s foyer, he was addressed by a court attendant.  The courtier asked him what he wished of the king.

“I am a merchant from Novgorod,” the prince stated.  “I just wanted to visit Denmark and buy some trade goods before I head off to do the Nor’Way crossing.  I wish to pay the king any tithes that may be required.”

King Harald welcomed Svein and pointed him and his men to a nearby table.  When the prince told him that he was going to make the Nor’Way crossing, the king explained that his timing was good because he was expecting a delegation from Norway within the hour.  Soon Jarl Haakon Sigurdsson arrived in the king’s hall and was seated at the opposite highseats.  King Harald told the Jarl that he was providing him with Christian clergymen to take back to Norway the next day to help with the Norwegian conversion to Christianity.  It was then that Sweyn realized that King Harald had just converted to Christianity.  Sweyn had hoped that there would be some redeeming quality that Harald might have had that would have given Sweyn a reason to not kill him, but becoming one of those Christian kings that kept popping up in the northern lands and kept calling the Hraes’ family sagas lies was not one of them.

Very early the next morning Jarl Haakon covertly sailed for Norway, leaving the Christian clergymen on the harbour town beach, as Sweyn and his small fleet of Nor’Way ships followed north behind him.  Haakon led Sweyn north past Jutland and then west to Norway and north again, up along the coast.  They went as far as Rennes Island then sailed southeast into Stavanger Fjord and kept sailing that direction and then turned east into Hraegunar’s Fjord.

“King Ivar ‘the Boneless’ once showed me this place,” Haakon told Sweyn.  “It’s Hraegunarstead and Oddi’s farm, Berurjod.  You’re from Hraes’ and you should learn some of your early history.”

Sweyn saw a great bustling farm on his left and a large stead being renovated in front of him at the end of the fjord.  People at the farm were waving Haakon and his longship in toward shore, so Haakon had his rudderman steer to the left.  As they skidded into the sand of the beach a few men came down and welcomed them.  Sweyn learned that they were the sons of the men his uncle, Arrow Odd, had left there years before to rebuild Berurjod and then Hraegunarstead.  Prince Sweyn left his men to camp out on the beach and he joined Haakon and his men in the longhall at Berurjod.  There was still an old man at the farm who had been a youth in Oddi’s crew sixty years earlier and he gave Sweyn a tour of the farm.

“Norway still suffered from the damage that King Frodi had wrought,” the old man named Bjork said.  “It still does, but things have improved over the years.  Your uncle Oddi looked the place over and said, ‘This is awful, a good farm in ruins like this, instead of the grand place it was in days of yore.’  He told us men where he and Asmund had practiced archery all day and where they had gone swimming to cool off, and then he named off all the landmarks for us,” and Bjork pointed out the areas and landmarks for Sweyn.  “We’d headed down to the bay, and everywhere around there the soil was eroded and Oddi saw something sticking out of the earth.  ‘But what is that, there?’ Oddi asked.  ‘What lies there exposed?  Is that not a horse’s skull?’  Then ‘Yes,’ we all agreed, ‘an extremely old and bleached skull of a horse’ we told him.  ‘Do you think it could be the skull of Faxi?’  Oddi asked us,” and Bjork pounded the earth with his walking stick.  “Oddi struck the skull with the butt of his spear and it suddenly turned all white against the black earth, and we expected a snake to crawl out from under it and strike Arrow Odd in the foot, as had been foretold, but nothing crawled out from under it.  Oddi flipped the skull over with his spear tip but there was no snake there.  ‘That old witch Heid lied,’ Oddi swore.  When we got to our ships, Oddi stood up on that flat stone over there on the beach and said, ‘Now we must divide up into two groups.  Forty men must stay here with the knar and the silver and rebuild Berurjod.  And when King Harold Fairhair is dead, rebuild Hraegunarstead.  And forty must come with me in Fair Faxi and help guard the gold until we reach Gardariki.’  He left it up to us who should stay and who shall go,” Bjork said.  “I decided to stay.  Many others rebuilt the farm and then returned to Hraes’, but I found a local gal who was very pretty and apparently she found my looks tolerable because we got married and had a family here at Berurjod with children and grandchildren and she passed on just a few years ago,” he said sadly.  “I miss her.”

“So, in your youth you travelled the Nor’Way with the famous Arrow Oddi?” Sweyn asked in wonderment.  “What was he like?” and they both sat down at the great flat stone.

“He was everything they say about him and more.  He was Prince Helgi.  He was King Odd.  When we heard he had shortly been killed by a poisoned blood-snake that had bit his ankle, we knew then what that witch, Heid, had meant.  We all cried for your uncle and some even wanted to go back to Hraes’ and forget about the work here, but we all persevered and got Berurjod fixed up.”

“I see that you’ve even started fixing Hraegunarstead,” Sweyn said.

“We started on that after King Harald Finehair died,” Bjork started.  “Then warships of the sons of Fairhair sailed through here one day and ordered us to stop the repairs.  We’d run out of silver by then anyway, but they said Arrow Oddi had killed King Frodi and that his kin had raised Hraegunarstead so, it was to stay in disrepair.”

“If I leave your people gold, will they carry on with the repairs?” Sweyn asked.

“If you’ll protect them from the wrath of Harald’s sons, they will.”

“And will you show me Oddi’s Nor’Way?” Sweyn asked.  “His paths to the giants and the Permians and Hawknista?”

Bjork thought about it and said, I’ll go with you if you give me a full warrior’s share, but I can’t fight or row anymore.”

“I’ll give you a captain’s share and you can command one of my ships,” Sweyn said.  “You’ll tell the warriors when to fight and when to row, and we’ll all treat you like a prince and all will respect your knowledge and experience.  You’ll be back here by fall all dressed in silk and wearing gold.”

They returned to the longhall and they feasted and were given benches to sleep upon and the free women of the farm chose warriors they wished to sleep with and some even picked two, in case the first steed broke too soon.  Prince Sweyn and Jarl Haakon talked late into the night about Denmark and Norway and the sons of Harald Finehair and the son of Gorm ‘the Old’.  They walked down to the beach and set up the guards and sentries for the night.  Stavanger Fjord was still under the sway of Harald’s sons and was not a safe harbour…yet.

In the morning, Prince Sweyn left gold with the men of Berurjod to covertly begin rebuilding Hraegunarstead.  “Keep it looking run down on the outside, but fix it from the inside out and get the smithy works up and running.  On the way back from trading, I’ll stop in at Sweden and get the iron we need for sword making.”  Sweyn was no smith, but he had picked warriors for his ships that were swordsmiths, men that had learned early how to forge weld swords and had learned even earlier how to wield them.  When the men heard that Sweyn was making Old Bjork a captain, they full well expected Sweyn to pick his worst captain to be replaced, but Sweyn picked his best instead.  He gave Bjork command of one of his finest Nor’Way ships and made his best captain a foremost mate of his own shieldship.  “I want to train you,” he told his former captain, “how to command a fleet so, stay by me and learn and next year you’ll command a dozen Nor’Way ships.”

They sailed out of southern Norway and went past Hordaland, then past Sogn and Fjord Province and then Southmore and Romsdalen and Northmore, where Sweyn knew he had cousins.  Soon they were entering the great bay of Trondheim Fjord, second only to the Vik, or Viken, in size.  King Hraegunar Lothbrok’s Stavenger Fjord was the third largest in Norway, but had fallen under the sway of King Harald Finehair when King Hraelauger had fled Norway for Frankia ahead of the great armies of King Frodi generations earlier to become Duke Rollo of Normandy.  The Normans were still part of the Hraes’ group, growing and evolving into a force to be reckoned with by world powers.

The six Nor’Way ships followed Haakon’s longship into the islands of the fjord then sailed south east into the fjord and then straight east to the cities of Trondheim and Lade.  Haakon had a huge great longhall on a vast farm between the two cities and there were many buildings surrounding the longhall and a river ran before it out into the Fjord.  Ships were beached all along the shore of his farm and there were many ships of the Nor’Way variety.  Haakon was a merchant warrior of the old ways and had always maintained a fleet of Nor’Way ships even while he sent vast fleets south along the Dan’Way.  If a trade route paid its own way, you maintained it, even if a newer, more profitable route came along.  You just built new ships for the new ‘way’ and you made money off of both.  Many Norwegians had abandoned the Nor’Way to maximize profits via the Dan’Way, but Jarl Haakon was ‘old way’ and did both even though the Hraes’ who controlled both ways had let the northern way run down.  Sweyn Forkbeard, a ‘named’ merchant of the Hraes’ Trading Company was now living in the north and he was determined to rebuild it.  To be a ‘named’ merchant of the Hraes’ group was to be a blood shareholder of the company, subject to a share of profits for life.

“This is my son, Eirik,” Haakon said, as they entered the great hall.  The hall was huge inside and Eirik was almost identical in looks to Sweyn but perhaps two years older.  The two men walked around each other and then shook hands.  “If I had a brother,” they both said at the same time, “which I don’t, he would look just like you!”

“There’s a bit of resemblance,” Jarl Haakon said, eying them both.  “Eirik always took after his mother, gods rest her soul.”

A welcome home feast had been prepared and was soon ready and there was much drinking afterwards and they were home and Haakon could relax and let down his guard a bit.  “Denmark was a bitter disappointment,” Haakon said.  “I supported Harald ‘Bluetooth’ in his wars against the Holy Roman Empire and we beat them to stave off Christianity and Harald converted anyway.”

“Just follow the gold,” Sweyn said.  “If Harald won against the Germans and then converted anyway, they must have offered him gold.”

“That must be it!” Haakon said, slapping his knee.  “We all fought the Germans and now he’s collecting the gold for all our efforts.”

“Denmark’s the big Christian dick of those Holy Roman pricks,” Eirik said, “and it’s pointed right up Scandinavia’s asshole, the Vik, and Sweden and Norway are about to get screwed.”  Eirik Haakonson had a way with maps and words.  “At least the sons of Harald Fairhair will be the first ones penetrated.”

“They’re already half Christian,” Haakon reminded his son.  “When the priests tell them to bend over, they’ll already have their cheeks spread and their butts buttered!” and Haakon laughed at his coarser jest.  Eirik’s mother had been gone a few years, Sweyn guessed, for their talk was pretty raw even for Vikings.  Not much good was said about the Jarls of Lade, but hard men would be needed if Sweyn was to get Denmark back.  And Eirik had been right about Jutland.  It was like a cork bottling up the Christianity of Europe and keeping it in the south, and Harald ‘Bluetooth’ had just popped that cork and it was going to be hard putting all that Christianity back in the bottle.  “If we don’t act now,” Sweyn said, “we’ll be focked!”

“Not bad,” Eirik said.  “We’ll be focked good, right up the keester!” and both Haakon and Eirik laughed and drank ale from their horns.  “I like him!” Eirik said, putting his arm around Sweyn.  “Best thing you’ve dragged out of Denmark in a while!”

“There was that Ivar ‘the Boneless’ fella I dragged up here a few times.  King of Denmark he was, I believe, but that was before both your times I’m afraid.  Now there was a man who could hold his own with both war and whore!”

With that, Sweyn asked where he was to sleep and Haakon directed a woman to show him to his bed chamber.  “This way,” she said and she led him to the back of the hall where the bedrooms were lined along either side.  “This is your room,” she said, opening the door and he walked past her into the room and she followed him in.

“So how was he?” Haakon asked his concubine the next morning.

“He slept inside me all night,” she complained.  “It was…uncomfortable.”

“Slept inside you?” Haakon asked.

“Well, first he focked me, then I rode his steed and it was a mighty steed indeed,” she said, “but after, when we were in each other’s arms, he asked me if he could sleep inside me.  At first I said no, but he pleaded with me, said it would keep the Army of the Impalers at bay so, I relented and he slipped his fine steed inside me and we slept that way all night.”

“He slept inside you all night?” Haakon asked.  “He stayed hard all night long?” he asked, incredulously.

“He woke me up several times mumbling in his sleep about Impalers and dying women and children, and I felt him inside me and he wasn’t focking hard, but he was stiff and big all night long.  It was as if the ghosts that were after him were giving him some good wood.”

“You don’t have to sleep with him tonight if you don’t want to,” Haakon said.  “I can give him one of my other wives.”

“I’m fine with it,” she said.  “It grew in me.  It was very fulfilling,” and they both laughed.  “In the morning he was sleeping beside me, inside me, so I pushed him onto his back and I started riding him and then he grew very hard and quite huge and he woke up smiling and when he went off inside me his steed almost threw me off!”  And she laughed with Haakon again.  “I’m serving him breakfast in bed!” she said, and she went off into the scullery.

Jarl Haakon watched her ass through her silken night shirt as she walked away.  He had taken her in a raid on Northumbria and was going to sell her in Baghdad, but she was just too fine a fock to sell so, he kept her as one of his many concubines.  When he had lost the wife he loved, he began collecting the wives he liked.  And he didn’t mind sharing them with a fine young warrior such as Sweyn and he pondered the things the young prince must have seen in battle and he wondered exactly what Impalers were.

Soon the merchant fleet of the Nor’Way began assembling in Trondheim Fjord and it was shaping up to be a large one.  Almost two hundred Nor’Way ships gathered in the bay and they set off north up the coast and the warmth of spring soon returned to the cold of winter as they progressed past Namdalen and along the shores of Halogaland, the northernmost province of Norway, and Sweyn remembered that it had been named after his uncle, Helgi ‘Arrow Odd’ Hraerikson, who had saved the north from the ravages of King Frodi.  They kept sailing north up the coast and when they got to the North Cape they sailed to the island of Hrafnista, the last island that still caught some warmth from the Norway Current, the last island that had trees.  Sweyn, Haakon and Eirik were sailing together in Sweyn’s shieldship and they turned into the west harbour while the rest of the ships sailed for the east harbour on the other side of the island.  Haakon had the men row into the harbour of the huge longhall of the Hrafnistamen and Sweyn saw the red and black of Hraegunar’s Raven Banner fluttering in the breeze from all corners of the hall.  They were welcomed by Grim’s sons as they tied onto the quay there.

Hrafnista was still the Hraes’ Trading Company jump off point for the Nor’Way crossing, and the hall was still the largest in the north and the Raven Banners of Hraegunar Lothbrok made sure there was no question of who you were representing when you became a Varanger on the other side of the crossing.  It was still a family business, but it was no longer as closely controlled as it had been and was open to all reputable Norwegian merchants and there were many Norse families who had made their livings off the ‘Way’ for generations.  Grim Gudmundson greeted Haakon and Eirik and then greeted Sweyn Forkbeard warmly when he learned he was a named merchant.  They all entered the longhall and were soon treated to a feast and they made offerings for a good crossing wind. 

The weather soon began warming and the prince and jarls joined their fleet on the other side of Hrafnista and they all sailed off to Varangerfjord to await a crossing wind.  The east harbour of Hrafnista wasn’t large enough to accommodate the merchant fleet anymore so, they camped along the shores of the north eastern fjord and they waited on the weather.  As a crossing wind came up, all the Nor’Way ships set their awnings and raised their sails for the crossing and were soon all swept east into a storm of such ferocity that they were soon Varangians, ‘Way Wanderers’, on the other side.  It was dusk when they sailed into Kandalaks Bay and the wind just died as they weighed anchors to spend the night in the sheltered harbour.  They slept aboard their ships under the warmth of their oiled woollen awnings.

The next day some ships broke away and began trading for fine furs with the natives there while others headed south, rowing up the Northern Dvina River and branching off into different rivers and streams that took them to the Volga River.  Prince Sweyn told Jarl Haakon that he was heading east to go to Hawknista and would be staying there awhile so, Haakon and Eirik decided to continue on south to the Volga and their usual route.  Sweyn led his six ships east, following Bjork’s directions and they were soon in the land of the Permians trading the German steel swords they had purchased in Liere for the fine silver swords of Permia.  Bjork took them into secret streams where they traded fine Seax knives for sable pelts, then he took them to an island where Arrow Odd would swim underwater to Giantland.  Sweyn had his men camp on the island and he dove into the river and found the cave that Oddi had entered, but he found no giants in the cave or in the land that the cave opened up on.  They’re all gone he told Bjork when he got back to the island.  They sailed on to Hawknista and visited with the people there for a few days as they traded for more furs with some natives around the hall.  Sweyn paid the men there to portage their ships across to the Kama River and there were a few other Nor’Way merchants that were doing the same, but many merchants had set up their own portages so they didn’t have to pay the fee.

Sweyn and his small fleet sailed down the Kama to where it forked into the Volga River and soon found themselves in front of the city of Bulghar that he had attacked and captured years earlier.  He was glad he had a full head of long hair and a forked beard and he learned that the Bulgars were still paying an annual tithe to the Princes of Kiev.  They caught up to Haakon and Eirik there and they were buying slaves from the Volga Bulgars to take south to Baghdad.  The slaves were mostly Burta and Viatich women and children who had been captured in raids along the western rivers.  When Sweyn saw the Bulgars pulling the people out of their holding pens he was glad he had kicked their asses a while back.  They stayed a few days in Bulghar while the fleet reassembled then they sailed down the Volga to the Don River portage where a third of the fleet broke off to trade in Constantinople and the remainder sailed on down the Volga to Kazaran.  Prince Sweyn met Kagan Kurya before the walls of Kazaran and left some men with him to teach the eastern Pecheneg women how to catch sturgeon and collect their roe.  He then set up a Hraes’ station in Kazaran, employing many of the locals who had returned there, and he set up the preparation facilities for Khazar Vayar production.  And some of the locals he hired were Khazars who were familiar with the process.  Prince Sweyn was impressed with Serah, Hraerik’s Khazar wife in Kiev, and her abilities in helping him with Kievan trade so, he was a little more lenient with the local Khazars than he had been in the past.

Once he had the Khavayar facilities set up and operating, he took his small fleet out on the Caspian and they caught up with the tail end of the Nor’Way fleet just before Samandar.  The fleet pulled into the Kuma estuary there and did some trading with the Khazars who still lived there.  Then they sailed down the Caspian to the Kura River and sailed up it to the Araks River tributary and they rowed to the Tigris portage, crossed over and sailed down the Tigris to Baghdad.  The Kievan merchant fleet was already there and his grandfather welcomed him and showed him the Hraes’ facilities there.

“I bought you some Irish and Anglish slaves,”  Sweyn told Hraerik as they toured the slave markets of Baghdad.  Prince Sweyn Forkbeard kept up his disguise in Baghdad because he could find himself in a dangerous position if the Svein that held a claim to the throne of Constantinople was found to be trading in the Caliphate.  They walked down a line of scantily clad Slav women that were chained to a hitching pole under an awning.  He adjusted a few of the silks the girls were wearing.  “Thanks,” Hraerik said.  “I’ll give you two Slav and Bulgarian slaves for each Aesir slave.  I can get the price of four for each of them in India.”

Varangian merchants in Baghdad were typically put up by a local sponsoring merchant they did a lot of business with and Prince Hraerik and his retinue were hosted by the Caliph in his palace so, that is where Prince Sweyn ended up.  All day he had been busy beaching ships and hiring transport and arranging for the sale of merchandise and Hraerik and his officers helped him along.  At the end of the day, Prince Sweyn was ready to rest when they reached the palace, but Hraerik and the Caliph had other ideas.  A welcoming feast had been arranged and there was music and female dancers and wine and food to be enjoyed.  Halfway through their feast, two beautiful older women joined them at the Norse table.  “Saleem, Anika,” Hraerik said, “this is my grandson, Sweyn Forkbeard.  Saleem and Anika are our agents in Baghdad.”

“Hi Saleem! Hi Anika!” Sweyn started, but when both women saw him they said, “He has Ivar’s eyes!” and they looked at each other and beamed brightly.  “Was King Ivar related?” they asked in unison.

“Yes, he was,” Sweyn said, as the women sat down, one on either side of him.  They lifted the tablecloth, looked down and said, “He has legs!” in perfect unison.

“Oh yes,” Sweyn said, remembering his father’s injury.  “I was a boy when he died in battle so I never really got to see him on his shield.”

“It was sooo amazing!” Saleem said.  “Yes, amazing!” Anika followed.  “He turned his disability into the most amazing thing.  When he entered a room with his bearers, everything stopped.  It was like royalty enthroned entering before you.  I had to bow.”

“I just felt like curtsying,” Saleem said.

Sweyn surveyed the women.  He knew that his father, Ivar, was a respected and honoured trader, but he sensed that he was also loved.  The two women were older, but still quite beautiful and they had dancers’ bodies, well-muscled with lean arms, and he was intrigued by the two.  They ate and talked business and Hraerik had them explain Baghdad trade to Sweyn.  At the end of the evening Saleem concluded with, “I remember King Ivar telling Sihtric once, ‘And don’t forget…slaves aren’t our only trade.  Furs and silks, grain, and honey, Khavayar and spices, weapons and armour, even ships.  We don’t just row them,’ Ivar said, patting Sihtric on the shoulder.  ‘We buy and sell them too,’ and Saleem patted Sweyn on the shoulder too.

“I have to go down and check on the ships,” Hraerik said.  “Could you girls show young Sweyn to the Hraes’ apartments in the palace?”

“We’d love to,” Saleem said, and “He has Ivar’s eyes!” Anika repeated.  As they left the dining hall and Hraerik broke off towards the Tigris, Saleem said, “He’s been checking on the ships lately.  Have you been experiencing a lot of theft?”

“We have a lot of new crews,” Sweyn told her.  He knew that his grandfather was going off to sleep with his cabin girl, but he would never tell them that.  They did have a lot of new crews, but only the old crews that had been with them in Wallachia would be able to understand “Here we are,” Anika said, as they stopped in front of great double doors in the palace hallway.  She took a key out of her purse and unlocked the doors and swung them open for the prince.  The great room was huge and there were a number of bedrooms off to either side of it.  “Which one is yours?” she continued.  There were bags and trunks in front of one of the rooms so, she walked over towards them.

“The Prince had them shipped over when I landed,” Sweyn said, following her.

“We’ll help you unpack,” Saleem said as she took up a bag and followed them into the suite.  “This looks like the bag you keep your protection in,” she said, setting it on the bed and sitting Sweyn down beside it.  “Have you ever read any of King Ivar’s literary translations?” she asked as she slowly unbuttoned his pants.  She looked up at him and then over to Anika and said, “He has Ivar’s eyes!”

“Not only Ivar’s eyes,” Anika warned as Sweyn’s member rose up out of his pants.

“My protection’s actually in the green bag,” Sweyn said, nodding towards the door.  Saleem took Sweyn’s lingam into her mouth as Anika went over and got the bag, closing the door behind her.  She then began undressing in front of Sweyn and she slowly started dancing in a most seductive manner, thrusting her hips this way and that and contorting her stomach muscles in a way that said, ‘I have perfect control over every muscle in my body.’

By the time Anika had completed her dance, Saleem was completing step eight of nominal congress, swallowing Sweyn’s lingam into her throat and disgorging it again and again.  “My turn!” Anika said, pulling Saleem’s head off of Sweyn’s member and pushing the prince back onto the bed.  She straddled his hips, grabbed his steed, and thrust the tip into herself and slowly began working it all the way in.  Then she began to ride him, slowly at first and then faster.  Saleem went through the green bag and got out Sweyn’s lambskin glove.  “My turn,” she said.  “You forgot the protection.”

Anika got off Sweyn.  “I didn’t forget it.  I was saving him for you,” and she kissed Saleem as she was tying off the lambskin.  Then she started kissing Sweyn and looking into his eyes as Saleem mounted his steed and began riding.  Then she started kissing Sweyn’s chin and forked beard and the gold coils that surrounded the forks.  She put one forked beard into her mouth and began performing nominal congress on it.  When it was moist enough, she straddled his face with her legs and she thrust the moistened fork into herself and began riding his chin and moaning gently.  Her moans and action soon had Saleem in orgasm and they began riding Sweyn in unison and moaning in orgasm together until Sweyn could hold off no longer and he exploded inside of Saleem so intensely it threatened the integrity of the glove.  Saleem felt the throbbing pulsing flow within her and immediately pulled herself free of the swollen steed.  She didn’t want to get pregnant again.  Anika was still savouring Sweyn’s chin and the sin of the fork upon it and she shivered in deep orgasm as she held onto the headboard of the bed to steady herself.  “I have never experienced that before,” she breathed as she pulled herself off of the rich gold coil of Sweyn’s fork beard.  Saleem was already lying exhausted on the bed beside Sweyn and she whispered, “It’s my turn!” and they all laughed and crawled under the sheets.

Sweyn heard his grandfather enter the apartment after about second or third watch and he hoped Hraerik had kept the Impalers at bay sleeping in his cabin girl down at the ships.  Sweyn was doing fine with a beautiful woman sleeping under each arm, but he still had a faint longing to be sleeping inside his Princess Svia in Chernigov.  It faded though, and he went back to sleep and the ghost cohort stayed away.  “Focking Impalers!” he screamed in a dream to keep them at bay.

Prince Sweyn and the two Hraes’ agents continued sleeping by three whenever they could long after Prince Hraerik had sailed for India and Sweyn ran the Caliphate trade through the summer with the expert assistance of Saleem and Anika.  He learned that the two women had two teenaged daughters the same age and as he got to know the women better they told him about the girls.  Their father had been an Arab merchant, a prince and distant relative of the Caliph, and a man that the Hraes’ company sought out for business advancement within the Caliphate.  Both Saleem and Anika had tried to set up meetings with him as a client, but he had proven elusive.  A lot of Arab merchants did not like doing business with women and the two supposed this to be true with this merchant as well when, suddenly, he agreed to a meeting with the two of them at a bazaar just outside the palace grounds.  They were sitting and drinking wine at the open air kiosk meeting place when a carriage pulled up and some men jumped out and grabbed them and took them away in the carriage.  The women had fought against the men the whole time of their abduction, but, once inside the carriage, the men began beating them and tied them together back to back and began fondling them, but held off sexually attacking them.  They were taken to an estate outside Baghdad and were handed over to the Arab merchant they were supposed to meet.

The Arab merchant had Saleem and Anika taken out of the carriage and slaves brought them into his large manse and took them up to his huge second floor master bedroom.  There were three large beds in the room and the merchant had his slaves strip the women naked and tie them face up on the outer beds.  He then sent the slaves out, stripped himself naked and he began raping Saleem on the one bed.  Once he had sated his lust within her, he got several fine whips out of a closet and began whipping the women about their breasts, walking naked between the beds, and repeating the assaults until he had become erect again.  He then threw himself upon Anika and raped her until he had gone off inside her as well.  He then went about and checked all their bindings and, satisfied, he had a short nap on the bed between the two women.

When he woke up, he sat up naked on his bed and began to write up a contract between the Hraes’ Trading Company and his firm, favourable to the latter and tried to force Saleem and Anika to sign them.  When they both refused, he raped them again.  Later he had food brought up for them and a large eunuch led them naked, one at a time, into the dressing room so they could relieve themselves and clean up a bit.  Then he retied them to their beds.  That night, he raped Saleem again and slept with her until third watch, then got up and raped Anika and slept with her until early morning.  When he woke up he sat naked upon his bed and began to revise the contract with even more favourable terms.  When they again refused to sign, he threw himself upon Saleem once more and raped her even more violently, thrusting deeply within her when he came.  Then he went over to Anika and threw himself upon her, but he was no longer hard so, he called in his large eunuch and had the slave perform nominal congress on him until he was erect enough to enter Anika again.  He thrust into her long and hard as the eunuch watched and grew erect.  He finally came within her and Anika was in some pain as the salty flow settled within her.

He asked the women to sign the contract once more and they refused.  He took the eunuch over to Saleem and he showed her his very large erection.  He stroked the eunuch several times and it grew even larger and he pushed the eunuch on top of her and the eunuch entered her and she gasped.  She cried out as he began focking her and he kept driving his huge member into her for a long time and she cried out each time he entered her until she was soon quite numb.  When the eunuch had lost his erection, he stopped.  The master then took his slave beside Anika’s bed and he knelt down in front of the slave and put his soft member into his mouth and began to suck him hard again.  When it grew too large for the merchant’s mouth, he finished the enlargement with several strokes of his hand.  Then he pushed the eunuch on top on Anika and she cried out as he forced his way into her.  While Saleem was more of a mare woman, Anika was all deer and not equipped to deal with a monster such as this.  She screamed each time the eunuch entered her and Saleem soon promised the merchant they would sign the contract.  The merchant beamed with delight at this.

When the women had signed the contract, the merchant allowed them to get dressed and he had breakfast brought into the room for them.  When they refused to eat, he had the carriage brought around and had them taken to Baghdad and dropped off at the meeting place.  They had not even been missed yet.  They went to Captain Biorn in the palace and they showed him their copy of the contract they had just signed and told him most of what had happened.  Biorn told them that the contract must be honoured while the signatories are alive and he told them that he would handle the merchant.

“Several weeks later,” Saleem told Sweyn, “news arrived in Baghdad that the merchant’s home estate was attacked and plundered by pirates.  His wife and children had been kidnapped and raped and when he rushed home to survey the damage, he was waylaid and killed by the same pirates who had hidden themselves along the road as though expecting him.”

“We’ve never told anybody,” Anika started, “the full story until now, not even Prince Hraerik.  Nine months later our dear daughters were born to us.”

“They are lovely girls,” Saleem added, “and we love them very much.”

“Yes,” Sweyn said.  “I’ve talked with your daughters and they are very lovely girls.  You are fortunate that some good came out of this terrible tale,” and he hugged the two naked women closely.  Once again they had slept by three.”

“But we need a favour from you,” Saleem continued.  She paused and could not seem to get her request out.  Then both she and Anika blurted out, “We need you to rape our daughters!”

‘What?’ Sweyn thought, but he could see that both women were in pain and he said, “I think I understand.”  He wasn’t the only one dealing with Impalers.  Impalement was not just a form of execution.  It could also be a form of punishment.  Punishment that you either beat or carried with you for the rest of your life.  “How would you like it done?”

“With force but not violence,” Saleem said.

“Just a bit of violence,” Anika added.

“Just enough to drive the merchant out of them!” Sweyn said.

“Exactly!” they both agreed.  “But you must wear protection,” Saleem added.

“Set up the time and place and I’ll take care of it just as you have asked,” Sweyn offered.

“Thank you,” Saleem said as she slid down the bed.  “You are perfect for this,” she said to Sweyn’s stallion, petting its mane.  “Not too big and not too small.”

“And not a monster like that eunuch!” Anika added, sliding down across from her.  Saleem stuffed Sweyn’s member into her mouth, greedily, before Anika could and began sucking in delight.  Anika kissed her cheek then began sucking on Sweyn’s large balls, first one and then the other.

Over the summer, Sweyn learned all about the Baghdad trade from Saleem and Anika’s viewpoint and from Jarls Haakon and Eirik’s view of it.  The Jarls of Lade had been trading the Nor’Way since its re-opening by Kings Sigurd ‘Fafnirsbane’ and Hraegunar ‘Lothbrok’ a century and a half earlier.  Eirik was the latest generation of Lade Jarls to profit from it and Sweyn invited him often to the Caliph’s palace because he enjoyed the feasting and drinking, but particularly the music and the dancers.

Prince Sweyn had also re-opened sturgeon roe farming of the Volga River, and each week, a ship would arrive from Kazaran with fresh Khazar Vayar and copious quantities of it would invariably end up being served in the dining hall of the Caliph.  A second ship was sent to Constantinople as well and a third ship sailed north up the Volga for Angleland and Frankia.  The legacy of King Ivar lived on in this sturgeon delicacy he had worked hard to preserve.  The Hraes’ had even begun to ship it to Cathay on their camel caravans that travelled the Silk Road from Khwarizm on the shores of the Aral Sea.  But preservation had to be improved for that long journey.  Prince Hraerik had noticed that the Black Sea salinity changed at a lower depth when they had been underwater breathing to recover King Ivar’s lost gold just off the coastline of Constanza.  Later he had some of it recovered and tested by his chemical alchemists in Gardariki and they identified an improved preservation salt in the deeper waters.  This peculiar salt also gave the water a blackening property that discoloured the lead weights used in depth sounding and this gave the sea its name.  By distilling the salt out of this deeper water and using it to preserve Khazar Vayar, the jarred preservation life of the delicacy was doubled and export to Cathay became possible.  This had a direct effect of doubling the number of trade embassies that arrived in Gardariki from Cathay and Silk Road trade grew exponentially under the guidance of General Wu, who handled all Hraes’-Cathay trade.

Prince Hraerik returned from India with many more slaves than he had left with.  They were all Indians from Gujarat and Maharashtra, untouchables that were below slaves there.  He could buy a dozen of them for the gold he got for just one of his Aesir slaves.  And the untouchables sold well in Baghdad and Constantinople.  They were considered somewhat exotic as well as diligent and gentle.  Hard workers, they flourished under the better treatment they received as slaves than they had received as free persons in India.  Economic slavery of the underprivileged could be far harsher than the physical slavery of legally protected thralls.  Slaves often had freedom awaiting them after a set period of servitude and rights of manumission.  The untouchables of India had no way out, until now.

The Prince kept a number of his Indian slaves for sale in Baghdad and sent the remainder onward to Constantinople for sale at the Hraes’ slave markets there.  So, he planned to spend an extra week in Baghdad with his grandson before they headed back to Hraes’.  “We have two weeks,” Sweyn told Saleem and Anika, “so, if you want me to carry this out for you…”  So, Saleem and Anika set up a supper for Sweyn at their estate on the edge of Baghdad near the Hraes’ ships on the bank of the Tigris.  And they set up an emergency that the women would be called away to for several hours.

When Sweyn showed up for the supper, he had gifts for all the women, but he only gave Saleem and Anika theirs.  He kept the gifts he had brought Saffron and Anise hidden in his jacket.  He had been attracted to the girls the first time he had seen them.  They were dancers, like their mothers, and their slim youthful bodies reflected the training they had received from childhood.  And they had seemed attracted to him, to his warrior’s body and his long blonde hair and exotically forked blonde beard with so much gold around them.  They ate and, after the meal, the adults drank fine wine and the girls had pomegranate juice.  Soon, a messenger arrived and told the women of an emergency that had to be handled right away.  “We’ll be two hours,” Saleem told the girls.  “Three hours tops!”  And Anika added, “Keep Prince Sweyn entertained while we’re gone!” and they sped off in the messenger’s carriage.

“You girls are too old for juice,” Sweyn said, when their mothers had left.  He poured them each a glass of wine and as they sipped it he went over to his coat and took out the gifts he had brought and gave them to the girls.  They opened the packages excitedly and were giggling as Saffron opened her gift and found a yellow silk and gold veil dancing costume.  Anise opened hers and found a silver and gold silk costume as well.  “Try them on,” Sweyn coaxed.  “Just put them on behind the screen.”

The girls went over to the screen and he could see them undressing behind the light screen and putting their costumes on.  They had been learning some belly dancing, but were too young to learn veil dancing yet.  When they came out from behind the screen, Sweyn offered them more wine and told them how beautiful they looked in the silks.  “Dance for me,” he said, and they began to dance for him using the movements they had watched the older classes using.  The wine was soon going to their heads as they swayed about the room and Anise thought that Sweyn was watching Saffron too closely so, she took off a veil and Sweyn complimented her on her figure and Saffron took off two veils.  When they were almost naked and dancing before him, Sweyn got up off the couch and began disrobing in front of them.

They danced as they watched his warrior body become uncovered and they marvelled at his battle scars and when he was naked and erect he stood before them and he stripped them of their last veils.  He pulled them against his naked body and he felt Saffron’s hand on his lingam so, he began kissing her first, on the lips and then on her firm young breasts.  Anise stepped in and began kissing Sweyn’s cheek so, he began kissing her as well.  He laid them both down on the carpet of the great room and he began kissing them all over their bodies.  Then he got on top of Saffron and he put his lingam in her and he thrusted hard and could feel her membrane giving way and blood flowed out and across the carpet as he focked her gently.  As soon as she showed discomfort, Sweyn withdrew and got on top of Anise and entered her slowly.  She gasped as her membrane gave way and more blood flowed as Sweyn thrust into her and when she too seemed sore he stopped and put on his lambskin glove.  He showed Saffron how it worked and he got her to tie it off then he laid down between the girls and he had Saffron staddle his hips and he showed her how to ride him as Anise watched apprehensively.  Saffron was soon enjoying herself and she came quickly and shivered in delight.  Sweyn lifted her off and pulled Anise toward himself and lifted her on.  She was a deer and Sweyn gave her some time to ease herself on to him and she began to ride him and he watched her high breasts bounce slightly as she picked up the pace.  She too soon came atop him and she closed her eyes and savoured the moment.  Saffron was watching them blissfully and she noticed the blood all over the carpet and looked over at the water clock and began to panic.  She went behind the screen, wiped herself off and she put her clothes back on and went to Anise and Sweyn, who were still enjoying themselves, and as Sweyn came inside the young girl, Saffron said, “How are we going to explain this blood to our mothers?”

Sweyn hugged and kissed Anise then said, “This wound on my shoulder has been known to open up and gush forth blood.  Tell your mothers it started bleeding and I had to leave because of it.”  Sweyn lifted Anise off, as she was still savouring the moment and he got up and took a towel from Saffron and knelt down and began wiping Anise off.  He had to lick some blood off her and he savoured her taste.  “Your mothers know I have this wound so, if you describe it to them they will believe you,” and he let Saffron feel his wound so she would remember the scar.  She began feeling his other scars and a great sense of empathy overcame her and she began undressing again and she got down and took the glove off of Sweyn’s lingam and took his member in her mouth and began to suck it hard again and was soon riding him once more.  She had seen Anise savouring her orgasm out of the corner of her eye while talking to Sweyn and she was not going to be outdone.  Not in veil dancing and certainly not in focking so, she climbed back onto Sweyn and she rode him hard until she came again.  She was savouring her orgasm when Sweyn whispered gently in her ear, “You forgot to put the glove back on.”

She got rigid and was about to dismount when Sweyn said, “Relax, it’s okay.  I haven’t come yet.”  So, Saffron relaxed and enjoyed her orgasm once more.  “It’s my turn,” Anise said, impatiently, so, Saffron dismounted and showed Anise how to put the glove on and tie it off.  Then Anise straddled Sweyn and lowered herself on his steed and began her riding anew.  Sweyn watched her small breasts bobbing as she rode and her closed eyes and open mouth soon had him exploding inside her.  She kept riding until she came and she collapsed on top of him.  He hugged her close and thought there was something he found special in her.  When Saffron, not to be left out, laid down beside them he took her under his arm.

They sat around a tall table beside the screen and discussed their stories.  “If your mothers don’t believe the story about my wound, I want you to blame all this on me.  Tell them I forced myself on you two.”  The girls began protesting against that approach, but Sweyn added, “Your mothers know how beautiful you two are and they know full well that a man such as I cannot possibly resist you two so, they won’t blame me as much as they’ll blame the emergency that came up.  Tell them I couldn’t resist your charms and I forced myself on you.  But don’t show them the gifts that I brought you or they’ll think I planned this whole affair.”

The girls agreed to this strategy and they kissed him lovingly as he got dressed and prepared to leave.  “Practice your veil dancing,” Sweyn said as he left.  “When I come back next year, you will be older and I want to see you two dancing for me again, but we’ll ‘create’ an emergency next time,” and he put his finger to his lips for secrecy.  The girls closed the door behind him and he walked down the lane a short distance and waited for his ride to return.  Saleem and Anika soon came along in the carriage and Sweyn got in and told them that the deed was done.

“How are they?” the women asked about their girls.  “Were they still virgins?” Saleem asked.

“They are fine and yes they were, but the bloodstains on the carpet are from an old wound of mine, the old shoulder gash that opens up from time to time,” and he winked at the two.  “And don’t worry.  I wasn’t too violent with them.  And I used protection.”

Sweyn had the carriage driver drop the women off at their door and then they left for the Caliph’s palace.  Sweyn went to bed alone in his Hraes’ suite and he heard his grandfather come back up from the ships after third watch.  The Impalers were rampant in this world they’d found themselves in.

Prince Sweyn and his small fleet returned north with the Kievan merchant fleet led by Prince Hraerik.  The Norwegian merchant fleet led by Jarl Haakon had left Baghdad two weeks earlier because their route via the Nor’Way crossing froze off earlier than the riverways of Hraes’.  While most of the Kievan fleet sailed left up the Kura River from the Araks, all the Tmutorokan based merchants turned right with Prince Sweyn and sailed onto the Caspian Sea and entered the Kuma River near Samandar.  Prince Sweyn stopped there to check on his Khazar city, then sailed further up the Caspian to Kazaran to check up on his new merchant enterprises there.  He filled his Nor’Way ships with the remaining Khazar Vayar that the Pecheneg women had collected and the Khazar women had preserved then he sailed back down to Samandar and took the Kura-Kuban portage to Tmutorokan.  He knew that Prince Hraerik would be in Kiev with the merchant fleet and not in Gardariki, but he stopped in at the city of Tmutorokan to visit Queen Silkisif.

Queen Silkisif welcomed Sweyn to Tmutorokan and had all his ships carried onto shore and had them blocked and braced so his men could sleep under their ships’ awnings.  She led Sweyn into her palace and she provided benches for all his officers to sleep upon.  “I shall be joining your mother and father in the Christian heaven soon,” she told him as they shared supper together on her highseat.

“Are you ill?” Sweyn asked and he sat back and looked at her.  She was still very beautiful with just a few wisps of grey in her long flowing blonde hair.  “You look perfect,” he told her.  “As beautiful as ever!”

“I’ve stopped taking the drugs your grandfather has given me, the ones that stave off aging.  Empress Helga has King Ivar all to herself and I am envious of her.”

“But you just can’t quit like that,” and Sweyn snapped his fingers.

“Prince Hraerik has warned me that, if I stop taking his drug, I will age very quickly.  So that is what I’ve decided to do.  I miss your mother and father so very very much.”

“So do I, but we must carry on,” Sweyn argued.

“There is a favour I must ask of you first,” Silkisif told him.  “It is for your uncle, Oddi and your father, Ivar.”  She leaned into Sweyn and she kissed him, not in the way she had kissed him as a boy, but in the way she kissed Prince Hraerik, long and deep.

Sweyn was shocked and instinctively pushed her away and then he thought about her going away and he pulled her back toward him and he kissed her back, long, and deep.  They left the highseats together and Sweyn carried a bottle of fine wine and two goblets with him and they went into Queen Silkisif’s master chamber.  They sat at the dressing table and had some wine and Silki told Sweyn some stories about his father.  When the wine was done, Sweyn stood up and began undressing in front of her, then he stood her up and began undressing her and, when they were both standing face to face naked, he took her in his arms and began kissing her and kissing her neck and then her breasts.  He savoured her nipples and sucked on them until they became quite hard.  He had always grown up with her beauty nearby, but now it was right in his arms and he kissed her lips again and he stroked her golden hair.  It was as soft as the silk he had given Saffron and he thought about the difference in their ages and the likeness of their beauties.  He scooped Silki up into his arms and he took her over to the bed and he placed her gently between the silk sheets and he slipped in beside her.  She felt his hardness between her thighs, seeking her, reaching for her and she slid down Sweyn’s hard body and took his member into her mouth and she savoured his tip and sucked on his lingam until it became quite hard and she slid up his body and straddled his hips and she savoured his hardness as it slid inside her.  She closed her eyes and she squeezed him as she rose up and down above him.  Soon she was moaning and coming atop him and when she stopped, he pulled her to him and hugged her and kissed her lips and then rolled himself atop her and he began thrusting deeply inside her and withdrawing and thrusting even further and she wrapped her legs around him to try and stop the thrusts but he would have his way with her and he kept it up, his thrusting hard and she moaned in both pain and ecstasy until he exploded within her and he thrust even deeper as his flow pulsed into her and then he stopped.  He rolled onto his side and kept her inside him and held her tightly in his arms.

“You can sleep inside me,” she whispered.

“Just a few more minutes,” he said.

“I want you to sleep inside me tonight,” she said and she squeezed on his member.  They slept together in each other’s arms and Silki woke up once in the middle of the night and Sweyn was still big inside her so, she hugged him and went back to sleep.

In the morning, Sweyn asked her how she knew that he might want to sleep inside her.  “Many of the men,” she said, “that went to Wallachia with you came back with…issues, and wives told me that was one of them.”

“You have always been such a good queen,” Sweyn told her.

“Not always,” she replied.  “I was a good princess first,” and she laughed and hugged his naked body.  “If you stay a few more days I’ll keep taking your grandfather’s drugs,” she offered, kissing his chest, and nibbling on his nipples.

“But you have to keep taking them after I’ve gone.”

“I’ll try,” she said.

Sweyn slept inside her for two more nights and on the third morning she said, “Please don’t tell Prince Hraerik about my indiscretions.  I slept with you out of love for you and your father and your uncle.”

“You’re still going to stop taking the drug, aren’t you?”

“I’ll try to keep taking them,” she answered, “but I miss Ivar and Helga so much.”

They had visited the Church of Saint Ivar every morning and then the graves of Ivar and Helga beside it, and they did so one last time before Sweyn left for Kiev with his ships.  He met up with Prince Hraerik just above the Dnieper portages and they stopped their shieldships and talked for a few hours.  Sweyn told him that he needed a dozen dromons and had ordered the captains and crews to go by way of the Mediterranean.  Prince Hraerik knew he was preparing to take Denmark and the dromons would be a powerful weapon in the north.  “I wish we had captured that Roman fireship in Wallachia,” he told Sweyn.  “That would have been a powerful weapon for you in the north.”

“You blew up that ship, didn’t you,” Sweyn told him.  “You shot a rocket propelled arrow into the ship while they were refuelling it.”

“I wanted that ship so bad,” Hraerik admitted.  “When I saw the burnt bodies the day after the fireship attack, I knew it was going to cost too many lives to capture it.  And all the deaths would be as horrible as what I was seeing after their attack.  So, I took my bow and one fire arrow and I went on top of the south hill that night and I saw them refuelling and I shot the arrow into the throat of a bronze firetube.  I couldn’t let all those men burn just because I wanted a ship captured.”

“That’s an impossible shot!” Sweyn said.  “You’d have to be able to see in the dark.”

“A trick I learned from the Ghost Cohort?” Hraerik responded.  “How did you figure out I’d destroyed the fireship?”

“When you came to my rescue at Dorostal, I saw you shooting off your Cathayan fireworks as you approached the Roman fireships and they literally backed up half a ship-length at your approach.  I could see that Admiral Theophiles and the fireships feared you more than anybody on earth.”

“Only because your father, Ivar, is in heaven.  We figured out their weakness when we attacked Theophiles in Messembria but we kept it a secret because we wanted to use Greek fire for our own ships.  I got greedy and forgot why the Alchemist Guild had banned Median fire in the first place, as being inhumane.”

“I would never be able to use Greek fire against our own people in the north anyway.  I think the Guild is right on this.  There are weapons that shouldn’t ever be invented.”

“I have some gold for you,” Prince Hraerik said, getting back to business.  “I brought it with me because I knew you were going through Kiev and if I missed you, Princess Serah has more gold in Kiev that she’d give you instead.”  They transferred twelve chests of gold from Hraerik’s shieldship to Sweyn’s ships right on the river.  “Speaking of gold,” Hraerik added, “How did you make out with your sturgeon gold project?”

“My ships are full of Khavayar!” Sweyn said.  “We sold it all summer in Baghdad and Constantinople and now I have to deliver this shipment to Frankia and Angleland this fall.  Pecheneg women along the Volga are harvesting the roe and Khazar women in Kazaran are preserving it.”

“It’s great seeing a plan come to fruition,” the Prince said.  “Now you are officially a builder and not just a destroyer!  Princess Serah is proud that you are employing her Khazar people for your project.”

“We used your Black Sea salt to preserve some of this batch going north and it turned the roe black!”

“I know,” Hraerik said.  “It doesn’t affect the taste, but it takes a little getting used to.  Still, it preserves it twice as long.”

“I’ve called it our Black Sea Khazar Vayar,” Sweyn said as they parted ways.

When Prince Sweyn tied off his shieldship at the main quay of Kiev, Princess Serah and his son, Ivar, were there to welcome him home.  A feast was soon prepared in King Frodi’s high seat hall and Sweyn and his men were afforded all the finest foods and ales and Princess Serah made sure they had the best accommodations Kiev could offer.  Serah put Sweyn up in King Frodi’s master suite and when he retired, he soon heard a gentle tapping at the door.  Princess Serah entered the room and thanked Sweyn for being so accepting of her Jewish people.  “I know that Hraerik has given you your gold, but I’d like to offer you some gold of my own in thanks,” and she dropped her robe and stood naked in front of him.  Prince Sweyn saw only her magnificent breasts and he flipped open his silk sheets exposing his own naked body and she slipped into bed with him.

Serah was still breast feeding her young daughter so, when Sweyn began kissing her swollen breasts they started lactating and Sweyn savoured her flows just to keep the sheets dry.  Serah apologized and was embarrassed by her bounteous breasts but Sweyn took pleasure in her bounty and when the flows finally stopped Sweyn put on his glove and he entered her and they began focking in earnest.  They had sex for a full hour before Sweyn finally came and he stayed inside her as his flow ebbed.  “I’d ask you to sleep inside me,” Serah said, “but Prince Hraerik did that with his lambskin on and I got pregnant anyway.  Now he sometimes sleeps in a young girl down at his ship so he doesn’t have to worry about getting her pregnant.”

“If I show you a safe way of Hraerik sleeping inside you,” Sweyn started, “will you let me sleep inside you?”

“Why yes, of course!” Serah answered.

Sweyn had Serah untie his glove and slip it off and he put some glove oil directly on his lingam and he got Serah to turn over and he thrust his lingam up her anus and he slept behind her with his hands on her breasts.  He woke up in the middle of the night and he realised that he had been fondling her breasts and she’d started lactating in her sleep so, he put her on her back and he began lapping up her flows to keep the bed dry and she woke up to Sweyn sucking on her breasts and they both became extremely aroused and they were soon focking without a glove and when Serah had come, Sweyn entered her from behind and came deep inside her anus.  They had sex again in the morning, with a glove this time, and Serah asked Sweyn not to tell Hraerik about her indiscretion.  “Just be discreet,” Sweyn answered, “when you show him your anal sex idea.  He may want to know where you learned about it.”

“Yes,” she said.  “How will I explain that?”

“Tell him you learned it in his Norse translation of the Kama Sutra,” Sweyn offered.

“But I don’t read Norse,” she said.  “I only speak it.  I only read Khazar and Greek.  And Hebrew.  And some Latin.”

“I think the deluxe edition of his translation has a very explicit half page painting of a couple having anal sex.  There’s a copy of the book in the palace library here.  I remember reading it as a boy.”

“You just looked at the paintings!” Serah teased.

“I did more than look,” Sweyn admitted.  “I’d sneak the book into my room and I’d sit in front of it and I’d put glove oil on my lingam and I’d begin stroking it like this,” and he took Serah’s hand and he wrapped it around the lingam he had just oiled and he told her to start stroking it.  “Keep it up,” he said and he laid back on the bed and watched her stroking his member with her soft hand and the harder it got, the harder she stroked it until it exploded and shot white come up into the air in pulsing bursts and Serah smiled as it went off and she kept stroking away until it stopped.

“That’s amazing!” she said.  “I’ve felt the pulsing inside me, but I’ve never seen it go off like that!”  She put her fingers in the small puddles of come that had landed back down on Sweyn’s taut stomach.  She put her fingers in her mouth and tasted Sweyn.  “It’s salty!” she said.

“As salty as Khazar Vayar?” he asked.

“Almost,” and she began lapping up the come off Sweyn’s stomach.  “I like the taste of you, my prince,” she said when she was done.  “That must have shot an ell and a half up in the air,” she said.  “Let’s do it again!” and she took Sweyn’s lingam into her mouth and she began to suck it hard again, then she oiled it and began stroking it, but it wouldn’t go off so she began moaning as if she was having orgasm after orgasm and Sweyn was excited by the sounds and soon exploded once more, but the stream only shot up an ell and it was not as much and not as often.  “That is so amazing!” she said.  “And you’d do it in front of the book.”

“Sometimes I’d do it on the book,” Sweyn confessed, and Serah laughed at that.  “Seriously,” Sweyn said.  “When you look at the book, there are a few paintings that I accidentally sprayed and when I wiped the book off, some of the painting came off with it.  You can’t really see it unless you’re looking for it.”

“I want to try it on Hraerik,” Serah said.  “Is it in the book?  This stroking off?  So I can tell Hraerik where I learned of it.”

“No.  I saw one of the slaves stroking off when I was a boy.  He was in one of the male slave pens and he was looking across the hallway at a girl in one of the female pens and he had his hard-on sticking out through the pen slats and he had his arm sticking out through some other slats and he was stroking himself off until he exploded halfway across the hallway.  I saw that and I went straight to my room to try it!” and Sweyn laughed and Serah joined in, uncomfortably.  She had been on the inside of one of those female slave pens and she had seen the males in the opposite male slave pens.  There was only one thing that female slaves were more afraid of than their slaver handlers and that was male slaves.  She had once seen a Khazar woman, a royal who had pissed off the slavers and they threw her into the male pen for a while and she almost had the life focked out of her before the handlers got her back out.  She wasn’t so royal after that experience, and when buyers wanted to probe every orifice in her body, she just bent over and let them do it.  Serah never saw what happened to the royal because Helga and Silkisif had come to her slaver looking for a concubine and after a little poking and prodding of their own, they had purchased her for Prince Hraerik.  They had marvelled at her big, beautiful breasts and at the tightness of her vagina and they said their prince would be pleased.  And their prince was.  He took her on his ship and he focked her when he was away from his wives, when he was is places that were too dangerous for his wives, and he slept inside her at night and he had nightmares while he was inside her and he would mumble about Impalers and the horrible things they were doing while he was sleeping inside a woman his wives had bought for him.  A woman his grandson had taken captive while sacking a city of women and children after killing all their men.

But she had been blessed.  Some of her master’s come had leaked out of his glove as he slept inside her and she had become pregnant with his child.  Suddenly she was a princess and a wife and a mother and was doing the books for the largest slave and fur sales company in the uncivilized world.  And she loved her baby and had grown to love her prince and even her prince’s wives, the ones who had poked fingers into her vagina and had squeezed her breasts and pinched her nipples and had said how much their prince would enjoy focking this one with the huge breasts.  And now she was focking and stroking off the grandson of her prince in thanks for his sparing and employing the remnants of her people that he had not killed or sold into slavery.  She was blessed because she saw that the life she’d been living before the calamity, that’s what her fellow Khazars called it, the calamity, was nothing but the flipside of the coin she now called Hraes’.  The Khazars were slavers and traders and warriors just like the Hraes’ and she had always been a royal on the flipside of the coin called Khazar and she had never taken the time to see just what her father had been doing to give them that great Khazar life.  She had never been outside of Atil Kazaran to see the ugly underbelly of the Volga River trade route.  She had never even bothered to see the ugly little slave markets that were right inside the Khazar capital.  Streets where women were chained naked to slave rails and were poked and prodded just as she had been.  Male slave pens that female slaves were thrown into for disciplining or execution, depending on if the slavers could get her back out before she was focked to death or not.

She had been blessed.  She loved her baby daughter and she loved her prince and she even loved the taste of Sweyn.  She would do anything she could that would help the lot of her Jewish people, but she would never ever take her life for granted anymore.  She would strive to see things for what they really were and she wanted to have another baby with her prince.  Even if it meant having another baby by her prince’s grandson instead.  Her prince wasn’t focking her anymore, not without a glove.  He was too busy focking a girl too young to have breasts, too young to have babies.  And he was sleeping inside her to keep the Impalers away.  But Sweyn wasn’t as careful.  He had already focked her without a glove but he had turned her about before he came within her.  And while she was stroking him off she had practised her range of moans and had found a few that had really gotten Sweyn excited.  If her crying baby could get her lactating instantly then perhaps her few picked moans could get a gloveless Sweyn exploding within her before he could stop himself.  She needed a boy this time though and her Jewish faith taught her just how to have one.  Her faith made her wait fifteen days after her period before she was pure enough to fock and this would ensure that she had a boy.

“Serah,” Sweyn repeated, and Serah looked up at him.  “I said, if you’re going to stroke off the Prince, you’d best do it just once, because he is old and twice may not work for him.”

“Have you slowed down?” Serah asked.

“When I was young I could stroke myself off three or four times in a row,” Sweyn said, proudly.

“Can we do it one more time?” she asked taking Sweyn’s lingam into her mouth.  She sucked him hard again and poured on oil and began stroking him and she moaned in orgasm and had him exploding within minutes.  “That is so beautiful!” she said, smiling at Sweyn and she began licking off his stomach.

Sweyn spent the rest of the morning visiting with his son, Ivar.  He watched Ivar practicing with sword and shield and then surveyed his language studies.  After lunch he led his Nor’Way fleet north up the Dnieper to a Hraes’ station on the right side of the river.  They beached their ships along the riverbank and Sweyn left his officers in charge of the gold and goods and he borrowed horses for a trusted troop of warriors and they rode overland to Chernigov.  If they were taking freight to Chernigov they would have sailed up the Desna River with their fleet, but it was faster going by road for the last few miles.  They arrived in Chernigov by evening and they were greeted by Princess Svia and his son, Helgi, who were preparing a feast for his arrival.  Sweyn and his men were afforded all the finest foods and ales and Princess Svia made sure they had the best accommodations Chernigov could offer.  After the evening’s entertainment by local musicians, Sweyn and Svia saw Helgi to his bedroom, then they went to Svia’s palace master suite and Sweyn began undressing.

“Can I sleep in you tonight?” he asked her.

“I’d prefer it if you focked me first!” she replied.  “Why can’t you just fock me first?  Why do I have to ask?”

“You left me for Emperor John,” he said, matter of factly.

“I was going to, but I never actually did.”

“Because my men brought you back.  Emperor John and Empress Theophano are back together, you know.”

“No!” Svia said, joining Sweyn by the bed and continuing to undress him.  “When? How?” she asked.

“She escaped from the convent six months ago.  A bishop from Nicomedia kept sneaking out to the island and raping her, with the nuns’ blessings.  He was brutal.  She had to escape or he would have focked her to death.  Emperor John is hiding her in the palace and using her for sex on the side.  Prince Hraerik’s spies had been keeping tabs on her and this was confirmed by Hraerik’s cleric in the palace.”

“Thank you for saving me from Emperor John,” Svia said.  “Now, please fock me before you sleep in me tonight.”

“Emperor John would have preferred to be having sex on the side with you,” Sweyn said.  “You are so much more beautiful than your cousin.”

“Thank you, Sweyn,” she said.  “Take me north with you.  You can sleep in me all the time, as long as you fock me first.”

“You have to stay here and take care of your son.”

“He’s not my son.  Why do I have to stay here and take care of some other woman’s son?  We should be conquering Denmark and then be getting you your co-Emperorship.  Then I could be Empress and we could be focking while my bitch cousin is being used for side sex by your co-Emperor.  Instead, I’m stuck in this shithole, Chernigov, babysitting your son and not even having side sex.”

“You must be patient,” Sweyn said.  “Helgi’s mother will be my queen in Denmark and you will be my Empress in Constantinople.  Now come, fock me first so I can sleep inside you.”

Svia had Sweyn naked by now and she began to take her clothes off.  Sweyn watched her the whole time as she disrobed and he could not take his eyes off her.  She was the most sensuous beauty he had ever seen.  Not only was he hard when she climbed into bed like a cat, but he was sweating and his pulse rate was up as though he was going into battle.  Her long black hair flowed on each side of her face as she crawled toward him and her breasts wayed below her and her dark almond eyes glowed as she licked her red lips with her pink tongue.  She wanted sex first and foreplay could wait so, she straddled his hips and she lowered herself onto his member and eased it into herself as one tasting a delicacy she’d not had in a while.  And then she began riding him hard with a suddenness he found surprising and her firm round breasts bobbed in the candlelight as she bounced up and down on his groin.  She rode him in this effortless bouncing gait for a long time and her breasts bounced with her as though drawing her along and Sweyn put his hands in front of her breasts and let the nipples rub his palms up and down and Svia was soon moaning in her peculiar sound as she came.  Sweyn had trained himself not to go off until he heard and felt his partner’s orgasm so, when she began her lilting moan, he exploded within her.  She felt him going off inside of her and each throbbing pulse gave her a small orgasm on top of the big one she was already having and, when the pulses stopped, she collapsed on top of him and her feline urges were sated.  For now.

Sweyn slept inside his princess all night long and she kept the Impalers a world away.  The only dream he had was of Princess Serah’s anus.  He dreamed he was sleeping again in Princess Serah’s anus.  Later he dreamed that his grandfather was sleeping inside Princess Serah’s anus instead of going down to his ship and he went down to his grandfather’s ship and he watched the lithe cabin girl swimming in the water beside it and he watched her drying herself off with a towel and when she went into the forecastle he followed her in and he had his way with her, but he came inside Svia.

In the morning, he visited with his son, Helgi, and he checked on his studies and on his archery skills.  He had lunch with Svia and Helgi and then he gathered up his men and they rode west, back to the Dnieper River.  They returned the horses and launched their ships and sailed to Smolensk and portaged across to Surazh and stayed there the night and slept in their ships.  There was a lot of gold and goods aboard and Sweyn wanted them watched closely.

While Sweyn slept in Surazh, his son Helgi crept in Chernigov.  His bedroom was next to Princess Svia’s master suite and he had been listening to Sweyn and Svia talk and he had listened to them fock and he was conflicted to learn that the most beautiful woman in the world was not his mother.  He had always wanted to have sex with his mother, but was constrained by his distaste for mother-fockers.  But now, he learned, she was no longer his mother and was being treated so harshly, she was literally begging for sex.  He had been spying on his mother since he had been made Prince of Chernigov and the Drevjane, and he had loosened some boards between his bedroom and her dressing room closet so, he removed the boards and slipped into her suite.  He opened her dressing room door a crack and watched her sleeping under silks on her huge bed and the moonlight pouring through the window caught the rise and fall of her breasts under the silk.  He had observed her before and he knew that she had always slept naked under her sheets.  And now she was no longer his mother.

Helgi entered the bedroom and closed the dressing room door behind him and stripped himself naked beside her bed.  He stood there and looked down upon the sleeping Svia and he could see by the moonlight that he was hard.  He slid in under the sheets and he pounced.  He was on top of her and she woke up screaming and he put his hand over her mouth and he got his hips between her thighs and he opened up her legs and he drove himself into her.  She was hitting him with her fists but he got his other arm around her and pulled her in so close to him that she could only pound weakly upon his back and all the while he kept thrusting into her and she recognized him in the moonlight and she cried, “Helgi, stop!  I’m your mother!” but he kept focking her and she could not stop him.  Finally, she stopped struggling and Helgi soon came within her and collapsed on top of her.  “You’re not my mother,” he whispered in her ear.  “I don’t know who is, but I know now who is not!”

Svia pleaded with him to leave her room but he would not.  He held her close to himself in the bed and he ravaged her body with his hands and he kissed her all over her face and her beautiful round breasts.  “I love you,” he told her.  “I’ve loved you since the first time I saw you and I’ve always wanted you but you told me you were my mother and now I’ve learned that you are not.  I want you for my wife!” he said.  “I own all of Dereva and I want to share it with you.  I will always make love to you and I will never sleep inside you.”

“I’m sorry I had to lie to you,” Svia said, “but it was thought best that you should have a Roman princess for a mother rather than a slave.”

“My brother, Valdamar, has a slave for a mother,” Helgi started, then stopped.  “Malfrieda is my mother?”

“Yes,” Svia began.  “And she is Ivar’s mother as well.  She and Sweyn go back a long time.  She was Empress Helga’s handmaiden and she took advantage of Sweyn when he was young.  It was all hushed up, of course, but the damage was done.  She had given him two slave spawn sons.  When the people of Novgorod wanted a prince as well, Sweyn went to Malfrieda again, but this time the birth was public knowledge.  And you’ve heard the complaints of the people.  If it gets out that Malfrieda is your mother, the Drevjane may decide that they don’t want you as their prince.  If you go back to your room, I’ll go back to sleep and forget this has ever happened.”

Helgi sat up and sat on the edge of the bed and thought about her offer.  He picked his clothes up off the floor and began dressing as Svia watched.  She thought he was a handsome youth and he had his father’s warrior body and his father’s big lingam, but he was not his father.  Helgi went to the master bedroom door and he let himself out.  As soon as he was gone, Svia bounced out of bed and raced to her door and locked it behind him.  She leaned her naked body against the door and cursed her sloppiness for having left it unlocked.  She had gotten up mornings and had found that she’d forgotten to lock her door, but this time it’d really cost her.  She went back to her bed and had a troubled sleep.

Prince Sweyn woke up in the cramped forecastle of his Nor’Way ship, having had a troubled sleep.  The original Nor’Way ships did not have forecastles or stern half-decks but his uncle, Helgi ‘Arrow Odd’ had been the first to add them to his ship, ‘Fair Faxi’, so, Sweyn had them incorporated into the original design when he’d had his ships built in Novgorod.  And now they were heading back to that city in northern Hraes’.  He had paid the local portagemen to haul his fleet from Smolensk and now they began the second stage of the portage and took the ships across the Dvina River and up the northern bank and hauled the ships on wains, a wagon at each end, and drew them along with oxen until they reached the source of the Lovat River, which took half the day.  They then sailed down the Lovat to Lake Ilmen and crossed it to Novgorod on the left bank of the Volkov River.  Malfrieda was there to welcome them with their son, Valdamar, in tow.

A feast had been prepared in the Hraes’ palace and Sweyn and his men were afforded all the finest foods and ales and Malfrieda made sure they had the best accommodations Novgorod could offer.  After the evening’s entertainment by local skalds, Sweyn and Malfrieda saw young Valdamar to his bedroom, then they went to Malfrieda’s palace master suite and Sweyn began undressing.

“Let me do that,” Malfrieda said, and she took over undressing him and sat him on the bed and she took his lingam up into her mouth and she sucked on it and kissed it up and down the sides and she fondled it and treasured it as the thing that had put life inside of her and one of those lives was sleeping in the bedroom next door.  She remembered when she had first seen his hard member standing up on its own, standing proud, and Sweyn was just a boy offering her his virginity and taking her flower in exchange.  She kissed it and she sucked it and she swallowed it for the treasure that it was and when Sweyn pulled her onto the bed and undressed her, she invited that treasure into her trove and she welcomed its gentle curious probing and thrusting and she put her legs around Sweyn and she pulled it deeper and deeper inside of her and she felt wave after wave of sensation as it coursed deep into her and she heaved in vocal pleasure and she felt it pulsing inside of her and its stream was as warm and wet as birth itself.  Then Sweyn hugged her and stayed inside her and they slept together.

That same night, the Prince of Chernigov lay awake in his bed and he thought that his cock would touch his chin as he thought of the beauty that was sleeping in the room next to him.  After second watch he got up and he paced the bedroom and he went over to the wall and he loosened the boards between his bedroom and her dressing room closet and slipped into her suite once more.  He opened her dressing room door a crack and watched her tossing and turning under her silks as the moonlight played on her slender hips.  He could tell she was still naked under her sheets.  And he slipped into her room.

Helgi stripped himself naked beside her bed and he crawled between the sheets and he curled up with her.  Svia woke and felt his hardness against her back and she felt his hands upon her breasts and he was soon probing for an opening with his member and he tried entering her anus and then he felt her fingers upon his cock and she inserted his tip into the proper orifice and he thrust his way into her and he kept thrusting until he came inside her.  “If you leave now,” she said, “I’ll forget this ever happened.”  Helgi got out of bed and got dressed while Svia watched him in the moonlight again.  He went out the door and Svia didn’t bother getting up and locking it behind him.  ‘He has a key,’ she thought.

After fourth watch, Helgi got up again and he went over to the wall and he slipped into her suite once more.  He opened her dressing room door a crack and watched her asleep on her back and he watched the rise and fall of her breasts again and he slipped into her room.

Again, he stripped himself naked beside her bed and Svia watched him in the moonlight through half closed eyes.  She felt him crawl on top of her and he entered her and began thrusting and driving until he came.  Then he laid beside her and hugged her body close and he slept with her.  In the morning Svia woke him up and said, “If you leave now, I’ll forget this ever happened.”  Helgi got up and dressed and was about to go through the door when Svia said, “Servants may be up and about.  Please leave the way you came.”  Helgi opened the dressing room door and was about to step inside when he stuck his head back into the room and said, “I love you, and I still want you for my wife!”  Then he left.

“You shall be my queen,” Sweyn told Malfrieda in the morning, “When I rule in Denmark!”

“But who will help young Valdamar rule in Novgorod?” she asked him.

“He can rule both,” Sweyn said.  “Prince of Liere and Novgorod.  And you shall help us both.”  She hugged Sweyn and put her head upon his chest.  She loved her man and would always be his woman even though they had never married.  She was the mother of all his sons and the legal mother of his latest son and daughter, yet they had never married.  “If I become your queen, you’ll have to marry me.”

“Only if you’ll have me,” Sweyn said.

“I’m free to choose you know,” she said.  “Your mother may have owned me, but she gave me my freedom out of love for me.”

“My mother may have owned all of you for a short little while, but you have always owned the largest part of me and you’ll own it until the day I die.”

“And what is this largest part of you?”

“It is my heart, my queen,” Sweyn answered.  “You own my heart!  Then he added, “And you seem to have a half interest in my cock as well.  I thought you were going to suck it right off me last night.”

Malfrieda slapped his chest in mocked disgust.  “You have always owned my heart,” she said in earnest.  “I accept your offer to be your queen!”  She then started licking her teeth with her tongue and said, “I think I’ve found the other half interest in your cock.  It’s caught between my teeth, it’s so small.”

“It’s small, is it?” Sweyn said and he pulled Malfrieda hard against his body and she could feel his large stiff member against her belly.  “Oh my,” she said, looking over at the bed.  “We’ll have to be quick.  The Prince of Liere will be waking soon.”

Prince Sweyn spent a week in Novgorod ordering more Nor’Way ships, two dozen this time.  And he made the forecastles a little larger.  He left Malfrieda and Valdamar waving from the quays of the Volkov and they sailed north to Lake Ladoga and took the Neva River to the Gulf of Finland and sailed straight west across the Baltic Sea to Sweden and the Hraes’ trading station in Birka.  Sweyn dropped off some Khazar Vayar at the store and took more to Uppsala and the new king there.  A King Erik had just taken over from his father King Olof, who had died after eating a meal, so, ‘he may have been poisoned’, Sweyn thought as he was introduced to Erik’s new wife, Queen Sigrid ‘the Haughty’, a pretty young blonde queen that reminded him of his Swedish mother, Helga.  The Swedish royals thanked Sweyn for the ample gift of the Khavayar delicacy that was sweeping through the north.  Then Sweyn rode into King Erik’s native province, the Uppland, and he bought a load of the pure iron ore that Sweden was famous for.  In Vastmanland, Sweyn bought a supply of tonstone that was to be picked up as ballast by his two dozen new ships in the spring.  The tonstone was for the trebuchets on his dozen Roman dromons that were presently traversing the Mediterranean on their way to Norway.

From Sweden, Sweyn’s fleet sailed to Denmark and dropped off a supply of Khazar Vayar at the Hraes’ station in Liere and sent a gift of it to King Harald ‘Bluetooth’, but he did not go to Liere, sailing on to the Hraes’ trading stations in Hedeby and Jelling to drop off more of the Khavayar delicacy.  He then sent one ship to the Vik and the Hraes’ store there and sailed around Norway, sending more ships off to the Hraes’ stores in Angleland and Frankia to resupply them with the delicacy and then they entered Stavanger Fjord and dropped Bjork and the iron off at Hraegunarstead.  Sweyn thanked Bjork for his guidance through the Nor’Way trade route rivers and he told him he would pay gold for all the swords that were forged at the smithy works over the winter.  “If you wish to sail the Nor’Way with us in the spring you are welcome.  Come to Trondheim early and bring all the swords and seaxs you can load in your ship.”

“I think I will come again,” Bjork said, “now that you’ve invited me.”  Bjork had made a fortune with the ship that Sweyn had given him and it had taken him back to his youth and his trading adventures with Arrow Oddi in Giantland.

Sweyn then dropped off product at the Hraes’ stores in Southmore and Northmore before leading the fleet to Trondheim Fjord and the city of Lade where Jarls Haakon and Eirik awaited him.  Two of the six Nor’Way ships sailed into the islands of the fjord then sailed south east through dusk to the city of Lade and Trondheim.  They sailed past Haakon’s huge great hall to the longhall that Sweyn had purchased in the spring and they began unloading chests of gold and treasure onto the quay in front of it.  When Sweyn went to unlock the double doors of his hall, they swung open and Alfled, the young woman Haakon had loaned him, was there to welcome him home.  “Haakon had me spend the summer here to look after your place,” she said.  “I hope you don’t mind.”

“Not at all,” Sweyn said as he directed his men into the hall and told them where to put the chests and the treasure and the remaining Khavayar.  “I see you’ve fixed the place up a bit.”

“Just a wee bit of woman’s touch,” she said.  “Will you be going to Jarl Haakon’s hall tonight?”

“It’s too late and I’m exhausted,” he said as she led him to his highseats.  “I’ve been delivering Khazar Vayar to all of Scandinavia.”

Alfled filled a goblet with wine and passed it to him.  “I’ve heard of it,” she said, “but I’ve never tasted it,” and she passed him some food she had put together while Sweyn had been directing his men.  Servants came out of the scullery with food and ale for Sweyn’s men.

Once Sweyn had finished eating he looked to the back of the hall and grabbed two goblets and a bottle of wine and two jars of Khavayar and he followed Alfled to the master suite and he watched the sway of her ass the whole time.  “I have been sleeping in your bedroom,” she said.  “I hope you don’t mind.”

“Not at all,” Sweyn said.  “Come join me for some Khavayar,” and he put the jars on the side table and filled the two goblets with wine and he pulled out a chair for her.  Sweyn could see that she had added a woman’s touch to his bedroom as well.  They shared the wine and the Khavayar and Sweyn took Alfled by the hand and led her to the bedside and began undressing her.  She had a pretty face with bright blue eyes and auburn hair and he uncovered her fine young breasts and he dropped her dress and saw her smooth hips and her pubic garden and he turned her about to see her beautiful bottom and she turned fully and began to undress Sweyn and she led him between silk sheets and they made love together and Sweyn slept inside her.

The next morning, Sweyn awoke to Alfled riding his steed and she paused and explained, “You got very hard this morning so, I thought I’d best take care of it for you,” and, when he smiled, she resumed her ride until she felt Sweyn’s warm gush inside of her.  “Keep going,” Sweyn said.  “You haven’t come yet.  It’ll stay hard for a while.” and Alfled began her ride once again until she came.  Later, they walked over to Jarl Haakon’s great hall for lunch and both Jarls welcomed Sweyn warmly.

“I hope Alfled has been taking good care of your longhall,” Haakon said, as they walked into the hall.  Sweyn answered, “She has been taking good care of everything of mine that is long.”  Eirik began laughing in the second highseat next to Haakon.  “Does that include,” Haakon started, “your longships as well?”

“My longship is no longer full of seamen,” Sweyn answered and both Jarls began laughing uncontrollably.  Alfled kept a straight face but had to squeeze Sweyn’s hand to do it.  Haakon invited them up on his third highseat and their lunch was brought to them on trencherplates by slaves.  As they ate they discussed how successful the trading season had been.  Everybody had earned record profits and Sweyn told the Jarls how much he had made on Khazar Vayar alone and they were speechless.  He then told them that he was expecting a fleet of twelve warships to arrive from Tmutorokan in a week or two.  “They are too large to portage,” Sweyn explained, “so I had to send them through the Mediterranean.”  Then he told them he was having two dozen more Nor’Way ships built in Novgorod and was expecting them to arrive in the spring.

“You call yourself a prince,” Haakon said, “but everything you do says you are a king!  It is a most amazing thing!”

“I’m glad King Sweyn is my brother now,” Jarl Eirik joined in.

“I am but a simple trader,” Sweyn said.  “A minor owner of the Hraes’ Trading Company.”

“Prince Ivar ‘the Boneless’ was an owner of the Hraes’ Trading Company,” Haakon continued, “and he became King Harde Knute of Denmark and Northumbria and he turned that small company into a large one and even challenged the authority of the Eastern Roman Empire.  If you are half the Hraes’ prince he was, I would be pleased to have you as my son, then Eirik can truly call you his brother.”

“I have great plans for the Nor’Way and the north,” Sweyn said, “and I’ll need the support of good strong men.  If you two Jarls are just such men, I’ll be glad to call you my father and my brother.”

“We are just such men,” Jarl Haakon said, and Eirik agreed.  “We pledge ourselves to support you as family,” they both said and Haakon pulled out a seax and gashed the back of his left hand and let it bleed into the palm of his right while the other two did the same and Sweyn shook hands with both of them as blood dripped about them.  Alfled took a towel out of her purse and began cleaning up the blood and she gave the towel to Jarl Haakon for safe keeping.  “It is customary for a father to give a son a token of his love,” Haakon began, “and I give you Alfled as your concubine here in Lade.  If you ever want Alfled to leave here with you, the choice will be hers and hers alone, for I now consider her to be my daughter.”

A huge feast was called for that night and preparations were quickly made, but Jarl Haakon gave Sweyn and Alfled his great master suite for one day and they retired into it all afternoon and focked like newlyweds.  As they were resting between bouts of fornication, Alfled told Sweyn that Jarl Haakon had asked her about him whenever they had slept together.  “I know,” Sweyn replied.

“Jarl Haakon told me that it was to end,” Alfled continued, “that’s why he made me his daughter, so I could tell him to fock off if he ever asks me about you again.  I am your property now, your concubine.”

“You may be my concubine,” Sweyn said, “but I shall always treat you as a wife.  If I ever depart from that you may tell me to fock off as well,” and he kissed her tenderly.  He had forgotten that his father was a king of Northumbria for a time so, having a good Northumbrian woman in his bed was comforting.  She climbed aboard him for one more ride before the feast started.  They could hear the people gathering in the hall just down from their room and the people could hear Alfled as well once she got deep into her gait over the hips of Sweyn.  There was applause in the hall when the new couple came out of the master suite.

Sweyn and Alfled were both famished and thirsty after their afternoon fling in the silks and they both ate too much and drank too much and they were ring dancing throughout the hall to Warlock songs and skaldic poems and the musicians were still playing when the couple returned to their suite for late night sex, but the room was spinning as Alfled rode her steed and she fell off her mount and passed out beside Sweyn.  He thrust his way back inside her as she slept and he joined her in slumber.  “Focking Impalers!” he said just before he passed out.

When Prince Sweyn’s warships arrived in Trondheim Fjord, Jarls Haakon and Eirik were shocked.  They had expected twelve large dragonships, but the Roman dromons that dropped anchor before his great hall were huge.  One was anchored next to his quay and they were anchored side by side all the way to Sweyn’s longhall quay.  Haakon saw Sweyn directing the berthing from his quay and then gangways were let down from the dromons to the quays and Haakon and Eirik went aboard the dromon at their quay and Sweyn and Alfled boarded the dromon at their quay and they walked across the ships using boarding gangways that were built into the ships to cross from ship to ship until they met in the middle.

“Our Viking longships are similar in design to the ancient Greek biremes,” Sweyn started explaining, “but are lighter for portaging so, they flex with the waves.  But the old Greek warships were subject to ramming, which is why they all had rams up front.  To counter this, the Romans built these heavier dromons which could withstand ramming.  They have heavy oak framing and are double and triple planked to withstand impacts so, they are really just floating battle platforms with full forecastles and double stern decks.  They have two and sometimes three masts with Latin sails and they have two or three banks of oars that are each long enough to be rowed by two or three men.”

“These are wooden fortresses on water,” Eirik said, whistling through his teeth.

“The Romans have three hundred of these each equipped with Greek fire tubes fore and aft and port and stearingboard,” Sweyn said.  “They are death on water.  Only King Ivar of Kiev and Prince Hraerik of Novgorod know how to defeat them.”

“And King Ivar is no longer with us,” Haakon said sadly.

“But we have the only ships with trebuchets on them,” Sweyn said.  “For now, anyway.”  And he had the men in the two center ships prepare a demonstration for the Jarls.  The sailors set up their forward trebuchets and they loaded them with tonstone shot.  Sweyn had an old log cabin sitting at the back of his property a quarter mile away.  Twenty men climbed up ladders to the cross-bridge of one trebuchet and they jumped holding ropes that were attached by pulleys to the swing arm of the weapon and the short end came down and the long end rose up and a sling with the shot was drawn along an aiming channel and the shot was flung back and arced around overhead and was flung forward almost horizontally at great speed and the tonstone was upon the cabin in seconds and it smashed the logs into kindling as the red cabin roof flew up into the air and crashed down on edge at a bizarre angle and teetered there like a rectangular Roman shield in defiance.

“Take out that Roman targe!” Sweyn shouted to the other ship and they got a good side view of the trebuchet at work.  The tonstone shot flew at the red Roman shield at high velocity and smashed the roof to pieces and there were red cedar shakes flying up into the air to great heights and they caught wind and glided over to Haakon’s property before settling to earth.  A lot of Viking ships were equipped with catapults, but the Jarls had never seen a gravity trebuchet at work before and the power of the whipping sound and the speed of the shot shocked and awed them.  The pent up energy of four thousand pounds of manpower dropping twenty feet was all focused into the two hundred pound tonstone shot and the dense tungsten metal could penetrate anything: logs, stone, steel bars, ships, armour and battlements.

“Everything he does smacks of kings and emperors,” Haakon told Eirik and Alfled, as Sweyn was directing the disassembly of the trebuchets.

Sweyn rejoined them and said, “Here our target was stationary and we were at anchor.  During sea battles there are hundreds of ships all moving at sea so, the shots are more difficult, but I’ve seen our tonstone shot tear down the length of a ship’s deck and just cream the soldiers that were standing on it waiting to attack us.  And I’ve seen our shot penetrate the decks and just massacre the rowers at work under them.  Naval warfare is a different beast these days.  The ships are bigger and the weapons are terrifying.  Alfled clung to Sweyn’s arm and she now understood why Sweyn slept inside her, but she was only just getting there.  It wasn’t the terror that drove him into her, it was the horror of the Impalers stripping women and children naked and painting and tattooing their bodies and impaling them on stakes like kicking and screaming death, all day long and all night and all day again until they finally all died screaming soundlessly.  This, he would never share with her.  She would be trying to sleep inside him, and she didn’t have the gear.  He hugged her into his side, instead.