Ch. 16 THE RAPE OF HRAEGUNEDA OF POLOTSK

Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

THE RAPE OF HRAEGUNEDA OF POLOTSK  (Circa 978-980 AD)

13.      “But since then                     we to Sweden fared,

                        We foreknowing twain,       and fought among men;

                        (byrnies we slit)                    and bucklers shattered,

                        We won our way                  through warriors’ ranks.

                                   Anonymous; Grottasongr, Prose Edda (Hollander)

(978) Prince Sweyn left Trondheim Fjord early, sailing south with the Norse component of the Hraes’ Dan’Way merchant fleet.  He picked up Bjork at Hraegunarstead along the way and they anchored in Roskilde Harbour, just north of Liere in Denmark and they waited for the rest of the merchant fleet to assemble there.  Bjork had gotten too old for the Nor’Way crossing so, he had given his Nor’Way ship back to Sweyn and had retired a very rich merchant.  Sweyn had incorporated the ship back into his Nor’Way fleet and again, this year, Haakon and Eirik planned to lead the Norse fleet across the Nor’Way crossing.  But it would be another month before the Arctic would be warm enough for the crossing.  The Dan’Way had a much wider trading window, but even that would begin to close when the world cooling period began to shut the window a few decades to come.  His grandfather had told him that the great cooling would start with the next millennia and by twelve hundred the Nor’Way would be closed again and by twelve fifty even the warmer Dan’Way would shut down, just as they had been doing for thousands of years since the northern glaciers had melted.

The Hraes’ Dan’Way merchant fleet no longer stopped in Kiev because the fleet now paid its tithes in Gardariki, but Sweyn stopped there.  He wanted to visit Princess Svia and make sure she was doing well with baby Ivar and he wanted to make sure that baby Ivar’s father was following Sweyn’s orders and not threatening Prince Valdamar in Novgorod.  He also discretely dropped Bjork off in the city with an assignment to covertly learn exactly how Prince Helgi had died in Chernigov.  And the First Kievan Legion was a good place to start so, Bjork introduced himself as the veteran he was and bought soldiers mead and ale and was soon hearing tales of legion battles and heroics.

“Prince Ivar has been treating me well,” Svia told Sweyn, “and baby Ivar has been growing fast.  And I don’t think Ivar has any plans of attacking Prince Valdamar.”

“I miss you,” Sweyn told her.  Svia knew he did but she joked, “You just miss sleeping inside me.”  Sweyn laughed, then admitted, “I do!  I’ll stop and visit you on my way back if that’s okay?” he asked.

“I miss you too,” she said.  “Make sure you visit.”

When Sweyn got to Gardariki, he helped Hraerik and Serah with the tithes and accounts and he updated them on Svia and the progress of baby Ivar.  “Where’s young Sinead?” Sweyn asked his grandfather when they were alone.  “She’s down at my ship,” Hraerik told him, “champing at the bit to go to India with me.  She’s going to be running her first recovery operation over the summer and she’s really excited about it.”

“Where’d the ship go down?” Sweyn asked.  “Just off Gujarat,” Hraerik said, “and it’s full of gold.  It’ll be big for her if her underwater breathers can get to it.”

“I still remember when I first saw her diving into the Dnieper between your ships and I thought, ‘that’s not a cabin boy!’ and now she’s diving with your underwater breathers and running her own operation,” Sweyn said, shaking his head.

“Thank you for being so patient with Ivar,” Hraerik told him.  “I know that being without Svia is hard for you.”

“It’s either, be patient,” Sweyn said, “or I have to kill him.  I hope it never comes to that.  Not to change the subject,” Sweyn said, changing the subject, “but your skald friend, Eyvindr Skaldspiller, overwintered with us in Lade and Haakon’s daughter, Aud, started writing a book on his drapas and poems.  She’s using your book of poems as a framework.”

“That’s great!” Hraerik said.  “Eyvindr’s work should be preserved.  I didn’t know Haakon had a daughter.  Is she by his first wife?”

“Yes.  She’s Eirik’s younger sister.”

“I didn’t think Haakon could get her pregnant.  Maybe Eirik isn’t your half-brother after all,” Hraerik posited.  “Any chance of getting a copy of the book?  I could run it through our Scriptorium here and you can take Eyvindr some copies back with you next year.”

“I asked Aud that and she said she would do a copy for you.  Eyvindr says its fine with him,” and Sweyn looked down at his shoes and said, “Aud wants to start her own scriptorium in Norway and she wants to come to Gardariki to apprentice for a year or two.  She was training as a copyist in York, but she wants to learn the whole bookmaking process.”

“Well, it sounds like my grandson is dipping his quill in Haakon’s daughter’s inkwell,” and he laughed as Sweyn grinned.  “Nominal congress only,” Sweyn confessed, “and only when Alfled is reading your Kama Sutra with us.  She’s been promised to King Erik of Sweden so, she’s saving herself for him.”

“There’s always anal,” Hraerik joked.  “Bring her with you next year and I’ll have her join Serah’s ladies in waiting while she’s apprenticing.  And I’ll keep my quill out of her inkwell.”

“She’s her own woman,” Sweyn said.  “I can’t tell her who she shares her ink with.”

“It’s Serah I’m worried about,” Hraerik joked.  “She’d trim my nib!”

“We’ll finish up Eyvindr’s book over the winter and I’ll bring Aud to Gardariki next spring.”

Sweyn was about to leave Gardariki, when Bjork arrived by ship with news for his prince.  He told Sweyn that he had learned straight from officers of the Kievan First that Prince Helgi had been captured in the town square of Chernigov and had been later taken back to the moat bridge and thrown off it into the water below.  He was still in full armour so, he sank like a rock.  Several of his officers were thrown into the moat after him to make it look like they had piled on top of him and they drowned as well.  The Kievan legion officers were pissed about how their fellow Chernigov officers had just been thrown into the moat to make their prince’s death look better.  The next day the moat had been dredged and the bodies were recovered.

“I don’t know what to do about this,” Sweyn confessed to his grandfather after he told him the news.

“As a father, there is only one thing you can do,” Hraerik told him.  “You have to protect your innocent young, your son, Prince Valdamar.”

“But Prince Ivar has promised not to kill him,” Sweyn pleaded.

“Prince Ivar has already killed one brother,” Hraerik started, “and he has murdered our own Hraes’ officers just to make it look a little more accidental.  It is multiple murders and it is fratricide.  There is only one thing for you to do and if you can’t do it, your own legions will do it for you!”

“I’ll handle it,” Sweyn said.  “I’m sending Bjork into Chernigov to confirm the reports and then I’ll take action.”

(979) Eyvindr Skaldaspillir agreed to overwinter in Haakon’s great hall in Trondheim Fjord so, Sweyn and Alfled spent a lot of time in Haakon’s hall as Eyvindr recited ancient drapas and even the sagas of Sweyn’s own family, ‘The Varangians Sagas’ that were being turned into the ‘Lying Sagas of Denmark’ by Christian kings of Denmark, Germany, and Frankia.  Aud would sit at a table with parchment and ink and try to keep up with Eyvindr and often Sweyn would sit with her and they would work in tandem to record the tales.  Then Aud would take her notes next door and Sweyn and Alfled would help her make proper copy of the previous night’s recitations.  It was hard work and, when they needed a break, they would read from the Kama Sutra and practice positions and variations on nominal congress, copying new discoveries into the margins of Sweyn’s working copy.  Once they had a drapa completed, they would go through it with Eyvindr, and, though he only read runes, he could follow the miniscule script as they explained it to him.  If he approved it, they would have him sign off on it in runic signature.  If not, the team would make requested revisions, consult the Kama Sutra during breaks, and then have it ready for signoff the next evening.

During the Yuletide, there was much gifting of The Varangian Sagas that Sweyn had brought up with him from the scriptorium in Gardariki, in both standard and deluxe editions for kings and skalds.  ‘The Saga of Hraerik ‘Bragi the Old’ Hraegunarson’ was the favourite of skalds because it had the Gunwar’s Song drapa in it followed by the Head Ransom drapa written in praise of King Bjorn of the Barrows and, though it did mention his dog Saur, it mainly paralleled King Bjorn with Prince Brutus of the early Roman Republic, which had then led to Hraerik’s prose tale of Amleth, Prince of Denmark.  ‘The Saga of Ivar ‘the Boneless’ Hraerikson’ was the favourite of kings because King Ivar of Denmark, though maimed by rebels, had reclaimed his rightful throne from the elected King Hiarn and had expanded the wealth and territory of his realm.  ‘The Saga of Helgi ‘Arrow Odd’ Hraerikson’ was the favourite of the people of Norway and Angleland because he had stopped the ravishing of Norway by King Frodi of Denmark and his Great Pagan Army and, though the least popular of the three, Sweyn had been told by his grandfather that it would be the only Hraes’ family saga to survive.  Even though Prince Hraerik was battling the destruction of his own family sagas by operating a scriptorium in Gardariki, and pagan skalds like Eyvindr were fighting the efforts of Christian kings to destroy these ‘Lying Sagas’, and brilliant young Norse women like Aud were setting up scriptoriums of their own in Norway and Iceland, the sad truth was that it was much easier burning books than copying them.  Prince Hraerik’s prescience told him that, finally, the last pagan scriptorium in the world, at the very edge of the world, in Iceland, would be destroyed when the Christian king of Norway would order the death of a prolific writer and skald, Snorri Sturluson, of Borg, Iceland, prior to his invasion of the remote island.

But this wasn’t to happen without a fight and the fight would start with miniscule script, the font chosen by King Charlemagne of Frankia for his scriptoriums, in the production of Christian Bibles and other sacred works in the often violent and always protested Christianisation of Germany and the Norse countries.  Ancient sagas and drapas and tales were being documented and certified, then gifted to the libraries of pagan royals and their wealthy followers for safe keeping and pagan skalds like Eyvindr were being employed to get the stories out there in their correct form.  Eyvindr ‘Skaldaspillir’ Finnsson earned his byname by going to the courts of kings and correcting the theft and conversion of pagan drapas into the verses of praise for Christian kings by challenging the Christian skalds on their thefts.  This often resulted in the spilling of skalds’ life-blood.

Prince Sweyn bid farewell in the spring to Haakon, Eirik and Alfled and, once again, he sailed south with the Norse component of the Hraes’ Dan’Way merchant fleet, but this time he took Aud with him.  They waited in Roskilde Harbour for the rest of the merchant fleet to assemble and they never left the forecastle of his shieldship.  Soon the Hraes’ Dan’Way merchant fleet sailed east and then south, past Kiev, and on towards Gardariki.  But Sweyn and Aud stopped in Kiev to visit Princess Svia and young Ivar and he was happy to learn that the elder Ivar had been following orders and not threatening Prince Valdamar in Novgorod.  He also visited with Bjork, who had returned from Chernigov and was still working on his assignment to covertly confirm how Prince Helgi had died.

“I befriended several more officers of the First Kievan Legion,” Bjork began, “and I learned details of how Prince Helgi was taken captive in the central square in Chernigov after a short fight.  He and several Drevjane officers were held in a cell and at midnight they were taken out to the bridge at the main entrance of the city and Prince Helgi was thrown off the bridge into the moat and his armour took him under as his officers were thrown in after him and suffered the same fate.  This has been confirmed by Chernigov legion officers as well.”

“Who did this?” Sweyn asked.

“I have the names of the officers who did this, but they were following the orders of Prince Ivar,” Bjork answered, nervously.

“Have them killed,” Sweyn ordered.

“The legion will investigate,” Bjork said.

“The Kievan legions are under orders not to get involved in this,” Sweyn explained.  “I’ll remind the commanders.  There will be no investigation.  I’ve had a chest of Hraes’ gold put at your disposal.  Get this done over the summer and I’ll pick you up on the way back in the fall.  Any gold left over is to be used in the reconstruction of Hraegunarstead and the forge works there.”

“And Prince Ivar?”

“I don’t even want him to know this has been done.  It was fratricide, a crime I very much abhor, but, as long as Ivar and Valdamar get along, I shall overlook it.”

When Sweyn and Aud got to Gardariki, he was too late to help Hraerik and Serah with the tithes and accounts, but he did get Aud settled in as a lady in waiting and she was soon working at the scriptorium of Gardariki.  Sweyn got a chance to sail south with the Prince and update him on the saga and drapa progress.  He even got to meet young Sinead once more.  She told Sweyn all about her first recovery operation just off Gujarat.  “It was a perfect recovery,” she started.  “It was too deep for divers, but well within the range of underwater breathers.  We took all the bars of gold and silver and left the lead bars behind.  They’re not worth the effort.”

Sweyn could see she was a very beautiful young woman and she dressed very lightly when at sea and her diver’s body could not be confined by the silk upon it.  She was lithe and very well-muscled and he could see that she did everything that the male divers did and she was very comfortable being at sea.  Salt water was her element.

While they sailed south, Prince Hraerik read Eyvindr’s book of poetry.  Some of the ancient works that were recorded in it had him in it and it made him feel old.  His body still felt young and he was still very physically and sexually active, but the deaths were starting to wear on him.  There was nobody left from his generation and very few left from the next.  Bjork was one of them, one who had sailed with his eldest son, King Oddi, and there were a few more who had travelled with King Ivar, but it was getting pretty lean.  He decided to spend more time with Prince Sweyn in Baghdad.

In Novgorod, as soon as Prince Valdamar turned twelve and was of marriageable age, he told Princess Malfrieda that he wanted to buy two Anglish slave girls he had seen for sale in the local Novgorod slave market.  “Why would you want Anglish girls?” Malfrieda had asked.  “They have some fine young Swedish and Danish girls for sale there and one of them is even rumoured to have been a princess who was captured by Baltic pirates.”

“I want two Anglish girls because that is what my father has been focking in Lade,” he replied, “and he seems to find his woman quite satisfactory so, that is what I want.  Besides, if that Swedish princess was captured by Baltic pirates, she’s lost her virginity long ago.”  So, Princess Malfrieda took Valdamar to the local slave market and he pointed out the slave girls he had found desirable and Malfrieda poked and prodded and confirmed their virginities and she paid three times the price of regular slave girls for the two virgin York Anglish girls who may have been princesses because they may have been captured by Norse pirates.  When Prince Valdamar got his new concubines home, they did not come out of his master suite for a whole week and, when they did finally emerge, the girls were both pregnant.  Princess Malfrieda took the girls under her wings and she made sure they received the best care and treatment possible.  She had wanted Prince Sweyn to give her another baby and these two would help her along until Sweyn Forkbeard gained his rightful Danish throne.

(980) Over Yuletide some Hraes’ named princes visited Prince Valdamar in Novgorod from Polotsk, Prince Hraegvolod and his wife and two sons and his twelve year old daughter, Princess Hraeguneda.  Their family line was originally from the Vik in Norway, but their line had moved to Polotsk generations earlier and they had been named and had run Polotsk for a very long time.  They had a fine time visiting in Novgorod and Prince Valdamar told his mother, Princess Malfrieda, that he found Princess Hraeguneda very attractive and, since she had just come of marriageable age, he wished to ask her father for her hand.  In early spring, Princess Malfrieda sent messengers with fine gifts and a proposal of marriage to Prince Hraegvolod asking for the hand of Princess Hraeguneda in marriage with young Prince Valdamar.

Prince Hraegvolod had some time earlier talked with Prince Ivar about his daughter, Hraeguneda, and the prince of Kiev had shown some interest in the girl, but he felt he should ask her about Prince Valdamar as well, and she replied, “I will not draw off the boots of a slave’s son and I wish to marry Prince Ivar instead.”  When Princess Malfrieda’s messengers returned to Novgorod they gave the Polotsk princess’ response to Malfrieda and Valdamar just as they had been told it.  Princess Malfrieda broke down in tears and Prince Valdamar gathered up a regiment of horse from his legion and they sailed up the Lovat River and then down the Dvina and formed up for battle in front of the walls of Polotsk.  They set out their hazel poles to mark the field and they waited for the forces of Polotsk to gather and then they fought a battle before the main gates of the city and the heavy cavalry of the Tenth Novgorod Legion easily routed the combined foot and cavalry of the Polotsk home regiment and Prince Hraegvolod and his two sons were killed in the fighting.

Prince Valdamar entered the city with his troops and he went straight to the Hraes’ palace at the city square and demanded the hand of Hraeguneda from her mother.  When her mother refused, Prince Valdamar tore the clothes off Princess Hraeguneda and began to rape her while his men held her mother back.  As soon as Hraeguneda’s mother saw Prince Valdamar’s huge member, she began shouting that it was the monster of Prince Mal and that she would recognize that penis anywhere and she pleaded with Valdamar to spare her daughter the terror of the thing and to take her instead, as she had already been damaged by the beast.  But Prince Valdamar would not be stopped and his men held her fast as Valdamar raped Hraeguneda in front of her.  The young princess had been saving herself for Prince Ivar and the rape went pretty much as her mother had predicted and there was a lot of blood on the floor of the palace hall and the screams of the young girl echoed down the hallways in all directions until Prince Valdamar had completely sated his lust within her.

Her mother had been in fits the whole while and kept calling Prince Valdamar the spawn of Prince Mal, who carried the monster of Mal between his legs.  She claimed that a party of Scandinavians from Polotsk had been captured by the Drevjane warriors of Prince Mal many years earlier and that she had been raped by Prince Mal and his monster and she had been kept captive until she had given birth to a daughter for Prince Mal and then had been returned to Polotsk alone and now she was sure that Malfrieda had been that daughter because she recognised Prince Valdamar’s monster.

“Your mother has lost her mind!” Prince Valdamar told Princess Hraeguneda as he took his new wife back to Novgorod.  The young princess soon grew fond of her prince’s monster and was pregnant when they received messengers from Prince Ivar of Kiev demanding the return of Princess Hraeguneda to her mother in Polotsk and the payment of wergild for the lives of Prince Hraegvolod and his sons.  “I will send my mother a message,” Hraeguneda told Valdamar, “that, I don’t mind drawing off the boots of my Slav prince for bed as long as his monster accompanies him.”  And they both laughed and frolicked some more in the silks of their bed.

More messengers arrived from Kiev demanding the return of the princess of Polotsk and Prince Ivar threatened to take a Kievan legion north to come at Prince Valdamar so, the young prince gathered up his Tenth Novgorod Legion and they sailed up the Lovat River and then sailed down the Dnieper to Chernigov and took the city for themselves.  Prince Valdamar placed hazel poles to once again mark the field of battle that Ivar and Helgi had fought upon and he awaited his older brother and his legion.  To make sure that his older brother understood the seriousness that the northern threat posed to his lands, Prince Valdamar and his officers had their way with the women of Chernigov.  Maidens, matrons, wet nurses, wives, even young girls were violated and their men were sent off to Kiev to complain to their prince.

When Prince Ivar went to gather his Kievan legions, he was informed by the commanders that they were under orders to not get involved in the conflict of Hraes’ princes.  When Prince Ivar threatened to have the commanders executed for treason, the commanders just laughed and the legions shut themselves up in their barracks and posted guards throughout their particular city quarters.  It would take an army to punish the legions and Prince Ivar no longer had one.

Prince Sweyn received news from Princess Malfrieda in Novgorod that Prince Valdamar had taken his legion south against Prince Ivar so, he asked Jarl Eirik to lead the Norse Dan’Way fleet south for him and he left Trondheim very early and sailed south with a small war fleet and he met Malfrieda and Hraeguneda in Polotsk and took them with him to Chernigov where they’d heard Prince Valdamar and his legion were holed up.  They planned on talking young Valdamar into returning north to Novgorod to defuse the situation.  But when they got to Chernigov they learned that Prince Valdamar had already led his legion to Kiev.

When Prince Valdamar approached Kiev with his legion, Prince Ivar fled the city with his personal Centuriata and they shut themselves up in the small walled town of Rodnya at the mouth of the Ros’ River.  Prince Valdamar sent a mounted regiment after them and took the rest of his legion into Kiev where they were met by the commanders of the Kievan legions.

“We have been ordered by the Prince and Prince Sweyn not to get involved in this princely squabble,” the Kievan legion commander told the Novgorod legion commander, “and I suspect that the Prince would require the same from you.”

“We have received no such order,” the Novgorod commander said, looking to his prince, “but I suspect you are correct in surmising that.”

“I know my great grandfather,” Prince Valdamar added, “and I know you are right in surmising that.  We’ll wait here until Prince Sweyn comes with the Dan’Way merchant fleet and we’ll see what he says.  Meanwhile one of our regiments has Prince Ivar under siege in Rodnya.  Send orders to them to keep the city sealed but to take no action against them,” Valdamar told his legion commander, and Prince Valdamar took control of King Frodi’s palace in Kiev and awaited his father’s arrival.  While they knew better than to plunder the women of Kiev as they had done the women in Chernigov, they didn’t mind paying them for their services and soon great feasts were being held throughout Kiev and lustful orgies broke out here and there in the city as well.  And Prince Sweyn arrived earlier than expected with his war fleet and found Kiev to be in a very festive atmosphere for a city he thought might be under siege.  There were drunken soldiers and sailors everywhere, many with a woman under each arm, and there was dancing and music in the main city square and when Sweyn and his men got to King Frodi’s palace, there was an orgy taking place in the great hall.  Prince Valdamar and his officers were enjoying Kiev’s finest professional females along with their feasting.

Prince Valdamar was sitting up on the first high seat, where King Frodi had told Prince Hlod he would get his bastard’s share in due time a century earlier, and he was being ridden by a very shapely older woman, but, of course, all the women in the hall were older than Prince Valdamar or, at least, Prince Sweyn hoped they all were.  “I’m glad I left your mother on my ship!” Prince Sweyn told Valdamar just as he was coming.  “Oh my gods, oh my gods,” Valdamar was moaning as he came, and then suddenly he said, “Oh My Gods!” and he pushed the woman off of himself and sat up straight to address his father.  But his monster was standing up straight in front of him as well and the woman who had been riding him threw her one piece of clothing over it and she stood naked in front of the princes.  “Your mother told me you had quite the monster for a lingam and I see that she was not exaggerating,” Sweyn said as he passed his cloak to the woman standing beside him.  ‘Pity,’ he thought as she covered herself, ‘she had a fine body.’

Prince Valdamar told his father that they were doing a little celebrating while awaiting his arrival.  “I’m holding off on killing Ivar until I get your approval,” he said.  “One of my regiments has him under siege in Rodnya with orders to keep him sealed in the town until you arrive with a decision on what we’re to do.”

“I take it that Princess Svia and baby Sviatopolk are with him?” Prince Sweyn asked.  Prince Valdamar answered, “Yes, as far as we know.”

The hall was made a little more presentable when Princesses Malfrieda and Hraeguneda arrived at the palace.  The professional women were all paid and sent home and the feast was sold as a welcoming feast for the princesses of Novgorod and Polotsk.

“How old was I when your mother found me after the Battle of Iskorosten?” Malfrieda asked Sweyn as they settled into King Frodi’s bedroom that night.  “I think you were a year or two older than I was,” Sweyn answered.  “Maybe six or seven?  Why do you ask?”

“Princess Hraeguneda’s mother claims that I might be her daughter and the spawn of Prince Mal of the Drevjane,” Princess Malfrieda answered.  “She saw Valdamar’s lingam and called it the monster of Prince Mal.”

“It is quite the monster!” Sweyn said, laughing a bit.

“When did you see it?” Malfrieda asked.

“It doesn’t matter,” Sweyn answered.  “When did she see it?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Malfrieda answered.  “She claims she was captured and raped by Prince Mal and that he kept her until she had a baby girl by him and then he sent her back to Polotsk, that she was a captive the whole time.  And she thinks that baby girl is me because I am Valdamar’s mother and she recognized his cock as being of the stock of Prince Mal, the monster of Mal that had raped her over and over again for a year.”

“When did she see young Valdamar’s monster?” Sweyn asked again.

“It doesn’t matter,” Malfrieda said and she tried to carry on with her story but Sweyn interrupted her.  “It does kind of matter!” Sweyn said.  “She’s now his mother-in-law and if he’s been focking her, well, we might want to put a stop to it.”

“Okay,” she said.  “It’s not as bad as that.  She saw Valdamar’s monster when he was raping her daughter.”

“Okay, that’s better,” Sweyn said, then he realized what she had said and he said, “That’s not really any better!  What is going on here?  I thought there was something in the water at Lade!”

“The water at Lade?” she asked.

“It doesn’t matter,” Sweyn said.  “Just carry on with your story.”

“Princess Hraeguneda’s mother thinks that I am the daughter of Prince Mal because I have passed Prince Mal’s monster on to Valdamar.  But she doesn’t know that I have also passed it on to Ivar as well.  Only Prince Helgi had a cock like yours, you know, large, but not overly so.”

“Not overly so?” Sweyn asked.  “What does that mean?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Malfrieda said.  “You have a fine cock, a very large cock, but it’s not a monster, thank the gods.  Shall I carry on?”

“Please do.”

“If I am Prince Mal’s daughter,” Malfrieda said, “then I am royalty on the Slav side.  And if I’m the daughter of Princess Hraeguneda’s mother, Hraefried, then I’m minor royalty on the Scandinavian side, so I’m not a slave and never have been.  Princess Hraefried was a captive and was never offered up for ransom so, she was never a slave and she was returned to Polotsk a free person.  So, I’ve never been a slave and I am actually royalty and haven’t just married into it!”

“I think that’s great news!” Sweyn offered.

“It is!  It makes me so happy I just want to fock your brains out!”

“Well then it is great news,” Sweyn said.  “I wasn’t planning on using my brain anymore tonight so, fock it!”  And that’s what Princess Malfrieda did.

Jarl Eirik and the Dan’Way fleet began passing along the Dnieper and Eirik met Sweyn on the main quay of Kiev.  “How bad is it?” he asked.  “Pretty bad,” Sweyn answered.  “Prince Valdamar’s legion has Prince Ivar under siege in Rodnya and I have to go there and decide how to resolve this.  Can you come along with me?  I need somebody to help me keep my temper.”

“Things are pretty bad if you’re asking me to help you keep your temper,” Jarl Eirik answered as he joined him.

Prince Sweyn took his warfleet to Rodnya and found that the regiment there had taken the order to seal off Rodnya literally and the town had been going almost a week without food and water.  They were down to eating the stray dogs in the streets and the town wells were almost dry and nobody had bathed the whole time so, the first thing Sweyn did, was have food and drink delivered into the city.  “My wife’s in there,” he told Eirik, “and she may very well be pregnant again.”  Then he arranged for a meeting with his son, Prince Ivar, at the town gates and he had a pavilion and a desk with chairs set up there.

“I told you not to fight with Young Prince Valdamar,” Sweyn told Ivar.  “Were you planning on killing him too?”

“What do you mean, him too?” Ivar asked.  “I didn’t kill Prince Helgi.  He fell into the moat during his retreat!”

“Have you happened to notice that all your officers involved in Prince Helgi’s murder are now dead?”

“Not all of them,” Ivar stammered and he did the math and realized the statement was true.

“I had them all killed,” Sweyn said.  “I told your legion commander who was going to be killed and why and he agreed to keep it quiet.”

“That focking bastard!” Ivar cursed under his breath.

“How is Princess Svia and her baby?” Sweyn asked.  “Is she pregnant again?”

“No.  She’s fine.  They’re fine.”

“I want her back,” Sweyn said.

“She’s my wife,” Ivar said.

“Wrong answer,” Sweyn said and he looked over to the awning hanging down from the corner of the pavilion and Jarl Eirik stepped out with his sword and just nicked Prince Ivar’s jugular vein and blood spurted out onto the tabletop and Ivar clutched at his throat then pitched forward into his blood upon the table, dead.

Prince Sweyn got up and Eirik followed him out toward the guards Ivar had posted outside his end of the pavilion.  The jarl still had his sword out and its reddened tip rested high against his shoulder as he walked and the guards threw down their weapons as Sweyn and Eirik walked through them and into the town.  He went to the Hraes’ palace by the town square and he went in and found Princess Svia and her baby.  “I’m taking you back to Kiev with me,” he said, kissing her gently.

Perhaps it was because of all the blood let during the killing of Prince Ivar or perhaps there was some confusing of Jarl Eirik with Prince Erik Blood-Axe, but the story went around that a General Sveinald had been aided by a General Blud in the killing of the Hraes’ prince.  When Sweyn and Eirik and Svia and her baby got back to Kiev, Prince Valdamar was made Grand Prince of the Hraes’ and a great feast was held in celebration without the aid of Kiev’s professional women, at least in King Frodi’s palace.

Jarl Eirik headed back down the Dnieper to catch up with the Dan’Way fleet and Prince Sweyn headed out two days behind him.  They met up with Prince Hraerik in Baghdad and soon the Nor’Way fleet under Jarl Haakon joined them there as well.

“I’d like to try to spend some time with you in Baghdad,” Hraerik told his grandson.

“And why is that?” Sweyn asked.

“We’ve been through a lot, lately,” the Prince replied.  “I’m gaining a greater appreciation of the lives around me and I’d like to spend more time with the people that mean the most to me.”

“Well, thank you,” Sweyn said.  “I thought perhaps it was because you were losing faith in my decisions.”

“No,” Hraerik said flatly.  “Sometimes we face hard decisions where there just aren’t any win-win solutions.  We do the best we can and we live with the results.”

Prince Hraerik spent two weeks with Sweyn in Baghdad, then he went to India for trade and to spend time with his wives there and he returned to Baghdad a month later with shiploads of Indian slaves for the Caliphate and Constantinople and he spent two more weeks with Sweyn in Baghdad and spent another month in India before returning with more slaves.  The business of exchanging Aesir slaves for Indian untouchables was turning out to be a very lucrative venture and it allowed the Prince to spend more time with his grandson.