Ch. 21 KING SWEYN MEETS OLAF TRYGGVASON

Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert

King Olaf Tryggvason

CHAPTER TWENTY ONE

KING SWEYN MEETS OLAF TRYGGVASON  (Circa 988-995 AD)

18.      “Our hands shall hold         the hard spear shafts,

                        weapons gory:          Awake, Frodi!

                        Awake, Frodi,            if listen though wilt

                        to our olden songs,              to our ancient lore.

                                   Anonymous; Grottasongr, Prose Edda (Hollander)

(988)  Sweyn returned to Denmark with the merchant fleet in the fall and when he was in bed with Gyritha and Gunhilde he told them about a young warrior named Ole that he had met in Rouen the previous year and he had invited him to raid Angleland with him.  “He turned out to be a very competent leader of men, who claimed he had received his training in Hraes’ under Prince Valdamar in Novgorod and then Kiev.  Valdamar confirmed this when we spent time together in Cherson and one of Valdamar’s skalds had quite a tale to tell of this Ole of Hraes’.  He told me the tale in saga form and I had one of my Exeyes officers write it down on vellum as he talked.  I’m going to give it to Aud for her scriptorium, but I wanted to see what you thought of the tale first:”

“Part 1 – Olaf Tryggvason’s Birth  (circa 963)

King Trygve Olafson had a wife called Astrid, daughter of Eirik Bjodaskalle, a great man, who dwelt at Oprustader.  After Trygve’s murder, Astrid fled, with her foster-father, Thorolf Lusarskeg and a few other faithful followers.  Astrid was pregnant with King Trygve’s child, and she went to a lake, and concealed her party at a holm or small island where her child was born.  It was a boy and she named him Olaf after the grandfather.  Astrid remained all summer there in hiding but when the nights grew long and the days began to shorten and the weather became cold, she had to take to the land, along with Thorolf and a few other men.

Astrid and her son were in danger, so they did not seek houses unless it was night-time and, when they went to them, it was secretly and they spoke to no one.  One evening, towards dark, they came to Oprustader, where Astrid’s father Eirik lived, and privately sent a man to Eirik to tell him of her arrival and Eirik took them to an outbuilding and spread a table for them with the best of food.  When Astrid had been there a short time, her travelling attendants left her and none remained behind with her but two slave girls, her baby Olaf, Thorolf Lusarskeg, and his son Thorgils, who was six years old; and they stayed with her father all winter.

Part 2 – Of Gunhild’s Sons  (circa 964)

After Trygve Olafson’s murder, Harald Gray Cloak and his brother Gudrod went to his farm, but Astrid was already gone, and they could learn no tidings of her.  A loose report came to their ears that she was pregnant with King Trygve’s child, so they soon went north and met with their mother, Queen Gunhild, and they told her all that had taken place.  She inquired particularly about Astrid, and they told her the report they had heard; but as Gunhild’s sons had been skirmishing with Jarl Haakon, they did not go after Astrid and her son that winter.

Part 3 – Astrid’s Journey  (circa 964)

The spring after, Queen Gunhild sent spies to the Uplands, and all the way down to Viken, to see what they could about Astrid, and her men came back, and could only tell her that Astrid must be with her father Eirik in Oprustader, and was probably bringing up her infant, the son of Trygve, there.  Then Gunhild, without delay, sent off men well furnished with arms and horses, and in all a troop of thirty, and as their leader she sent a particular friend of her own, a powerful man called Hakon.  She ordered him to go to Oprustader, to Eirik, and take King Trygve’s son from them and bring the child to her; and with these orders the men went out.  Now when they were come to the neighbourhood of Oprustader, some of Eirik’s friends observed the troop of travelers, and about the close of the day brought him word of their approach.

Eirik immediately, in the night, made preparation for Astrid’s flight, gave her good guides, and sent her away eastward to Sweden, to his good friend Hakon Gamle, who was a powerful man there.  Long before day they departed, and towards evening they reached a domain called Skaun.  Here they saw a large mansion, towards which they went, and begged a night’s lodging.  For the sake of concealment, they were clad in the poorest of attire and there dwelt a noble or bonde called Bjorn Eiterkveisa, who was very rich, but very inhospitable.  He drove them away and, therefore, towards dark they went to another dwelling close by that was called Vidar.  Thorstein was the name of the bonde there and he gave them lodging and took good care of them, so that they all slept well, and were well entertained.

Early that morning Queen Gunhild’s men had come to Oprustader and inquired after Astrid and her son.  Eirik told them she was not there, but they searched the whole house and remained till late in the day before they got news of Astrid.  Then they rode along the way she had taken, and late at night they came to Bjorn Eiterkveisa in Skaun, and took up their quarters there.  Hakon asked Bjorn if he knew anything about Astrid, and he said some people had been there in the evening wanting lodgings, “but I drove them away, and I suppose they have gone to some other neighbouring house.”

Thorstein’s slave was coming from the forest, having left his work at nightfall, and he called in at Bjorn’s house because it was on his way and, finding there were guests come to the house, and learning of their business, he went to Thorstein and told him of it.  As about a third part of the night was still remaining, Thorstein woke his guests and ordered them in an angry voice to go out and about their business, but, as soon as they were out of the house and down the road, Thorstein went to them and warned them that Gunhild’s messengers were at Bjorn’s house, and were on their trail.  They entreated him to help them and he gave them a guide and some provisions.  The guide conducted them through a forest to a lake, in which there was an islet overgrown with reeds, and they waded out to the islet, and hid themselves among the reeds.

Early in the morning Hakon’s troop rode away from Bjorn’s into the township, and wherever he came he asked after Astrid, and, when he came to Thorstein’s, he asked if she had been there.  Thorstein told him that some people had been there; but as soon as it was daylight they had set off again, eastwards, to the forest.  Hakon made Thorstein go along with them, as he knew all the roads and hiding-places.  Thorstein went with them; but when they came into the woods, he led them away from Astrid’s path.  They went about and about the whole day to no purpose, as they could find no trace of her, so they turned back to tell Gunhild the end result of all their travel.  Astrid and her friends proceeded on their journey and came to Sweden, to Hakon Gamle, where she and her son remained a long time, and they received friendly hospitality.

Part 4 – Hakon’s Embassy To Sweden  (circa 965)

When Queen Gunhild, the mother of kings, heard that Astrid and her son Olaf were in the kingdom of Sweden, she again sent Hakon, with a good attendance, eastward, to King Eirik of Sweden, with presents and messages of friendship.  Her ambassadors were well received and well treated, for she was the widow of King Erik Bloodaxe of Norway.  Hakon, after a time, disclosed his errand to the king, saying that Gunhild had sent him with the request that the king would assist him in getting hold of Olaf Tryggvason, in order to conduct him to Norway, where Gunhild would bring him up.  The king gave Hakon guides and he rode with them to Hakon Gamle, where Hakon requested, with many friendly gifts and expressions, that young Olaf be allowed to go with him back to his native Norway.

Hakon Gamle returned a friendly answer, saying that it depended entirely upon Olaf’s mother.  But Astrid would on no account listen to the proposal, and the messengers had to return to Uppsala as they came, and they told King Eirik how the matter stood.  The ambassadors then prepared to return home, but Hakon asked the king, as a royal favour, for some assistance to take the boy, whether Hakon Gamle would allow them or not.

The king again gave them some attendants, but when they returned to Hakon Gamle’s stead, they again asked for the boy, and on his refusal to deliver him up, they used high words and threatened violence.  But one of the slaves, Buste by name, attacked Hakon and was going to kill him, and they barely escaped from the thralls without a cudgeling, and proceeded home to Norway to tell Gunhild their ill success, and that they had only seen Olaf.

Part 5 – Of Sigurd Eirikson  (circa 966-972)

Astrid had a brother called Sigurd, a son of Eirik Bjodaskalle, who had long been abroad in Gardariki with Prince Valdamar, and lived there in great esteem.  Astrid felt exposed now that Gunhild and the Eriksons knew where Olaf lived and had now a great inclination to travel to her brother there.  Hakon Gamle gave her good attendants, and what was needful for the journey, and she set out with some merchants.  She had then been two years with Hakon Gamle, and Olaf was three years of age.

As they sailed out into the Baltic, they were captured by Vikings of Eistland, who made booty both of the people and goods, killing some, and dividing others as slaves.  Olaf was separated from his mother, and an Eistland man called Klerkon got him as his share along with Thorolf and Thorgils.  Klerkon thought that Thorolf was too old for a slave, and that there was not much work to be got out of him, so he killed him, but took the boys with him, and sold them to a man called Klerk for a good stout ram.

A third man, called Reas, bought Olaf for a good cloak.  Reas had a wife called Rekon, and a son by her whose name was Rekone.  Olaf was long with them, was treated well, and was much beloved by the people.  Olaf was six years a slave in Eistland.

Part 6 – Olaf Is Set Free In Eistland  (circa 972)

Sigurd, Astrid’s brother, came into Eistland from Novgorod, on Prince Valdamar’s business to collect the prince’s taxes and rents.  Sigurd came as a man of consequence, with many followers and great magnificence.  In the market-place he happened to observe a remarkably handsome boy and, as he could distinguish that he was a foreigner, he asked him his name and family.  He answered him, that his name was Olaf; that he was a son of Trygve Olafson and Astrid, a daughter of Eirik Bjodaskalle, was his mother.  Then Sigurd knew that the boy was his sister’s son, and asked him how he came to be there.

Olaf told him minutely of all his adventures and Sigurd told him to follow him to the peasant Reas.  When he came there he bought both the boys, Olaf and Thorgils, and took them with him to Holmgard.  But, for the first, he made nothing known of Olaf’s relationship to him, but treated him well.

Part 7 – Klerkon Killed By Olaf  (972-981)

Olaf Tryggvason was one day in the market-place of Novgorod, where there was a great number of people.  He recognized the pirate Klerkon again, who had killed his foster-father Thorolf Lusarskeg.  Olaf had a little axe in his hand, and with it he clove Klerkon’s skull down to the brain, and ran home to his lodgings, and told his uncle Sigurd what he had done.  Sigurd immediately took Olaf to Princess Malfrieda’s longhall, told her what had happened, and begged her to protect the boy.

She replied that the boy appeared far too comely to allow him to be slain; and she ordered her people to be drawn out fully armed.  In Novgorod the sacredness of peace was so respected, that it was law there to slay whoever puts a man to death except by judgment of law, and, according to this law and usage, the whole people stormed and sought after the boy.  It was reported that he was in Princess Malfrieda’s hall, and that there were a number of armed men there.

When this was told to Prince Valdamar, he went there with his people, but would allow no bloodshed.  It was settled at last in peace, that the prince should name the fine for the murder; and the princess paid it.  Olaf remained afterwards with the princess and was much beloved.  It is a law at Holmgard, that no man of royal descent shall stay there without the prince’s permission.  Sigurd therefore told Malfrieda of what family Olaf was, and for what reason he had come to Hraes’, namely, that he could not remain with safety in his own country and he begged her to speak to the prince about it.  She did so, and begged the prince to help a king’s son whose fate had been so hard and, in consequence of her entreaty, the prince promised to assist him, and accordingly he received Olaf into his court, and treated him nobly, and as a king’s son.

Olaf was nine years old when he came to Hraes’, and he remained nine years more with Prince Valdamar.  Olaf was the handsomest of men, very stout and strong, and in all bodily exercises he excelled every Northman that was ever heard of.

Part 8 (21) – Olaf Tryggvason’s Journey From Russia  (circa 982)

All this time Olaf Tryggvason was in Gardar, and highly esteemed by Prince Valdamar, and beloved by the princess.  Prince Valdemar made him chief over the men-at-arms whom he sent out to defend the land.

So says Hallarsteid:

“The hater of the stingy hand,
The chief who loves the Northern land,
Twelve years of age he was when he
First put his Hraes’ warships to sea.
The wain that ploughs the sea was then
Loaded with war-gear and men.
With swords, and spears, to battle-reap,
Out to sea his good ships sweep.”

Olaf had several battles, and was lucky as a leader of troops.  He himself kept a great many men-at-arms at his own expense out of the pay the prince gave him.  Olaf was very generous to his men, and therefore very popular.  But then it came to pass, what so often happens when a foreigner is raised to higher power and dignity than men of the country, that many envied him because he was so favoured by the prince, and also not less so by the princess.  They hinted to the prince that he should take care not to make Olaf too powerful, “for such a man may be dangerous to you, if he were to allow himself to be used for the purpose of doing you or your kingdom harm; for he is extremely expert in all exercises and feats, and very popular.  We do not, indeed, know what it is he can have to talk of so often with the princess.”

It was then the custom among great monarchs that the queen should have half of the court attendants, and she supported them at her own expense out of the scat and revenue provided to her for that purpose.  It was so also at the court of Prince Valdamar that the princess mother had an attendance as large as the young prince, and they vied with each other about the finest men, each wanting to have such in their own service.

It so fell out that the prince listened to such speeches, and became somewhat silent and blunt towards Olaf.  When Olaf observed this, he told it to the princess, and also that he had a great desire to travel to the Northern land, where his family formerly had power and kingdoms, and where it was most likely he would advance himself.

The princess wished him a prosperous journey, and said he would be found a brave man wherever he might be.  Olaf then made ready, went on board, and set out to sea in the Baltic.  As he was coming from the east he made the island of Bornholm, where he landed and plundered.  The country people hastened down to the strand, and gave him battle; but Olaf gained the victory, and a large booty.

Part 9 (22) – Jarl Olaf Tryggvason’s Marriage  (circa 982)

While Olaf lay at Bornholm there came on bad weather, a storm and a heavy sea, so that his ships could not lie there and he sailed southwards under Wendland, where they found a good harbour.  They conducted themselves very peacefully, and remained there some time.

In Wendland there was then a king called Burizleif, who had three daughters, Geira, Astrid and Gunhild.  The king’s daughter Geira had the power and government in that part where Olaf and his people landed, and Dixen was the name of the man who most usually advised Princess Geira.  Now when they heard that unknown people had come to the country, who were of distinguished appearance, and conducted themselves peaceably, Dixen repaired to them with a message from Princess Geira, inviting the strangers to take up their winter abode with her, for summer was almost spent, and the weather was severe and stormy.  Now when Dixen came to the place he soon saw that the leader was a distinguished man, both from family and personal appearance, and he told Olaf the princess’s invitation with the most kindly message.

Olaf willingly accepted the invitation, and went after harvest to visit with Princess Geira.  They both liked each other exceedingly, and Olaf courted Geira; and it was so settled that he married her the same winter, and he became Jarl Olaf and was ruler, along with Princess Geira, over her dominions.

Halfred Vandredaskald tells of these matters in the lay he composed about Jarl Olaf:

“Why should the deeds the hero did
In Bornholm and the East be hid?
His deadly weapon did Olaf bold
Dye red, as it should be told!”

Part 10 (25) – Jarl Olaf Tryggvason’s War Expedition  (circa 983)

Jarl Olaf Tryggvason had been all winter in Wendland with his beloved and went the same winter to the baronies in Wendland which had formerly been under Princess Geira, but had withdrawn themselves from obedience and payment of taxes.  There Jarl Olaf made war, killed many people, burnt out others, took much property, and laid all of them under subjection to him, and then went back to his castle.

Early in spring Jarl Olaf rigged out his ships and set off to sea.  He sailed to Skane and made a landing.  The people of the country assembled, and gave him battle; but Jarl Olaf conquered, and made a great booty.  He then sailed eastward to the island of Gotland, where he captured a merchant vessel belonging to the people of Jamtaland.  They made a brave defence; but the end of it was that Olaf cleared the deck, killed many of the men, and took all the goods.  He had a third battle in Gotland, in which he also gained the victory, and made a great booty.

So says Halfred Vandredaskald:

“The king, so fierce in battle-fray,
First made the Vindland men give way:
The Gotlanders must tremble next;
And Scania’s shores are sorely vexed
By the sharp pelting arrow shower
The hero and his warriors pour;
And then the Jamtaland men must fly,
Scared by his well-known battle-cry.”

Part 11 (30) – Jarl Olaf’s Journey From Wendland  (c. 982-984)

Jarl Olaf Tryggvason was three years in Wendland when Princess Geira fell sick, and she died of her illness.  Olaf felt his loss so great that he had no pleasure in Wendland after it.  He provided himself, therefore, with warships, and went out again a plundering, and plundered first in Friesland, next in Saxland, and then all the way to Flanders.

So says Halfred Vandredaskald:

“Olaf’s broad axe of shining steel
For the shy wolf left many a meal.
The ill-shaped Saxon corpses lay
Heaped up, the witch-wife’s horses’ prey.
She rides by night: at pools of blood.
Where Friesland men in daylight stood,
Her horses slake their thirst, and fly
On to the field where Flemings lie.
The raven-friend in Odin’s dress —
Olaf, who foes can well repress,
Left Flemish flesh for many a meal
With his broad axe of shining steel.”

Part 12 (31) – Jarl Olaf Tryggvason’s Forays  (circa 985-986)

After the Flemish lands, Jarl Olaf Tryggvason sailed to a place called Normandy and he learned that his own Norsemen lived there, the spawn of King Hraelauger Hraegunarson, one of the two Norwegian brothers who had helped King Frodi of Denmark found the land of Hraes’ in the East.  King Hraelauger had fled the wrath of King Frodi and had settled with his Viken subjects in Frankia, going by the name of Duke Rollo to avoid discovery.  Olaf met his great grandson, Duke Richard, in Rouen and he learned that the Normans yet maintained deep ties with the Hraes’ in the East and represented the Hraes’ Trading Company in the West.  The duke asked Olaf to meet with his cousin, Prince Sweyn of Lade, the father of Prince Valdamar of Novgorod and Kiev, in the fall, in Rouen, to join him in raiding the Anglo-Saxons of Angleland.  But Prince Sweyn didn’t raid that year.  He was busy battling the Jomsvikings in the Battle of Hjorungavagr and then conquering Denmark for himself.

So Olaf Tryggvason raided Angleland himself, and ravaged wide around in the land. He sailed all the way north to Northumberland, where he plundered; and thence to Scotland, where he marauded far and wide. Then he went to the Hebrides, where he fought some battles; and then southwards to Man, where he also fought.

He ravaged far around in Ireland, and thence steered to Bretland, which he laid waste with fire and sword, and all the district called Cumberland. He sailed westward from thence to Valland, and marauded there. When he left the west, intending to sail to England, he came to the islands called the Scilly Isles, lying westward from England in the ocean.

Thus tells Halfred Vandraskald of these events:

The brave young king, who ne’er retreats,
The Englishman in England beats.
Death through Northumberland is spread
From battleaxe and broad spearhead.
Through Scotland with his spears he rides;
To Man his glancing ships he guides:
Feeding the wolves where’er he came,
The young king drove a bloody game.
The gallant bowmen in the isles
Slew foemen, who lay heaped in piles.
The Irish fled at Olaf’s name —
Fled from a young king seeking fame.
In Bretland, and in Cumberland,
People against him could not stand:
Thick on the fields their corpses lay,
To ravens and howling wolves a prey.”

At this point, King Sweyn was at the end of the tale of Olaf Tryggvason, and his wives were quite amused, but the story was to carry on.

Part 13 (32) – When King Sweyn Forkbeard met Olaf Tryggvason  (circa 987)

When King Sweyn returned to the west from Hraes’ he brought the First Kievan Legion and the Seventh Mobile Legion with him and he visited his cousin Duke Richard and they set themselves up in Rouen and from there they again planned their attack on Angleland.  The duke introduced his cousin, King Sweyn ‘Forkbeard’, the new ruler of Denmark to Jarl Olaf Tryggvason.  “Prince Sveinald!” Olaf stammered, as he met the Danish king.  He bowed deeply before him when he realized that the king of Denmark was actually the Grand Prince of Hraes’, Prince Svein ‘the Old’, Sviatoslav ‘the Brave’, Ivarson, the father of his former patron, Prince Valdamar ‘the Great’ of Kiev.

King Sweyn and Duke Richard had decided to attack the west coast of Angleland so Sweyn led his fleet across the British Sea and west around Cornwall and into the Bristol Channel, a place with a remarkably large tidal range, and they caught the city of Watchet by complete surprise.  Most of the population of Watchet was captured and ransom was offered and many citizens ransomed themselves while many others were enslaved and shipped off to Kiev for slave training.  The city was plundered for three days in the Roman fashion to which the Kievan Legions were accustomed.  King Sweyn had put Jarl Olaf, Prince Valdamar’s man, in charge of the siege of the Fort of Watchet while his own troops plundered the city and the surrounding area.  Olaf’s crews were new and so the drudgery of siege-work fell to them, while the pleasures of pillaging went to the experienced forces.  When Sweyn heard that Olaf had recited a poem about the attack, he asked to hear it.

And Olaf recited it thus:

“The Rhyme of the Viking Mariner and his Black Albatross,

     The Viking-Guest                       did beat his breast,

     For he could not                         show fear;

     He followed the                           Raven Banner,

     That Viking                                  Mariner.

     And now the Storm                     of Battle came,

     And he was big                           and strong:

     He struck with sword                  ‘gainst all aboard,

     And chased the foe                    along.

     With sloping mast                       the battle blast,

     Tore ship from                             stem to stern,

     With yell and blow                      he chased his foe

     Into the sea,                                 his churn.

     The ship drove fast,                   loud roared the blast,

     And southward                           aye they set.

     The Anglish man                        again had ran,

     Into the port of                            Watchet.

     The din was here,           the din was there,

     Oh, din was all                around:

     It cracked and growled,  and roared and howled,

     That brutal battle            sound!

     At last did cross              Black Albatross:

     Through fog the              Raven came;

     To claim the dead,          as it was said,

     We hailed it in                 Thor’s name.

     It ate the food                  the warriors blued,

     And round and                round it flew.

     The bucklers split,          mail shirts were slit;

     Warriors were run          right through!

     A good south wind         sprung up behind;

     The Albatross                  did follow,

     And every way,               the battle play,

     Rang steel on steel        ground hollow!

     The steel did bite            throughout the fight,

     The Raven perched       for blood;

     The warriors bled,          the decks ran red,

     Witch’s steed drank       the flood.

     “Thor save the                Viking Mariner!

     From the fiends              that plague us!”–

     “Why look thou so?        With my arrow

     I shot the                      Albatross.”

     And I had wrought         a hellish shot,

     And it would work           us woe:

     Some spread the word      I’d killed the bird

     That made the blood      to flow.

     Ah wretch! said they,     the bird to slay

     That made the blood      to flow!

     And I had done               a wonderous one,

     And it would work           us well:

     Some said the word       I’d killed the bird

     That brought the fog      and mist.

     ‘Twas right, said they,    such birds to slay,

     That bring the fog           and mist.

     The fair breeze blew,     the white foam flew,

     The furrow ploughed     the sea:

     Into the Port                     of Watchet Fort

     We caused the                foe to flee.

     The fair breeze dropt,    the sails we cropt,

     In the harbour                 we flew;

     And Anglish crews         rushed to their pews

     In hope stone walls        stood true!

     All in a high                     and copper sky,

     The bloody Sun,             at noon,

     Right up above               the mast it was,

     No bigger than                the Moon.

     Day after day,                  day after day,

     A siege as slow,             as slow can be;

     So slow, as if,                  a painted skiff,

     Upon a painted               sea.

     Water, water,                   everywhere,

     And red deck boards      did stink;

     Water, water,                   everywhere,

     And not a drop                to drink.

     About, about,                 in reel and rout

     The death-fires danced    at night;

     The water boils,              like witch’s oils,

     Burnt red, and blue           and white.

     And every tongue,          of moisture wrung,

     Was withered at              the root;

     We could not speak,      no more than creak,

     Yet the city we                did loot.

     Ah! well a-day!                what evil play,

     Had I from old                 and young!

     ‘Stead of Thor’s cross,   Black Albatross

     About my neck                was hung.

     The men ‘hind walls      were singing palls,

     We stood parched          before them.

     And in the town               the women sound,

     As our men raped           and tore them!

     We carried away             their women that day,

     And then took all            their children:

     Back to the east,             a Baghdad feast:

     Of naked women and    bare children.

     With throats unslaked,  and black lips baked,

     We could not laugh        nor wail;

     The women gone           as plunder on,

     I cried, a sail!                   A sail!

     Our ship was back          we watched it tack,

     And recognized               its sail:

     From Normandy,            it crossed the sea,

     To take us                        away all!

     We boarded ship             to take a trip,

     Back to their                    Normandy:

     Last of the slaves,          joined us on waves,

     ‘Twas my mother            and me!

     Years ‘fore, we                were captured a’sea,

     Pirates took us                all away:

     Raised as a slave,          I had been brave,

     Until an uncle did           save day!

     Like one that strode       a lone whale road

     Doth sail in fear               and dread,

     Because he knows,       a cold wind blows,

     So close behind             his tread.

     But soon a free               warm wind on me,

     No sound nor                  motion made:

     Its path was not              upon the wate’,

     But in lush,              wooded shade.

     A Hermit good                 lives in that wood

     Which slopes down        to the seas.

     He talks and stirs            with mariners

     That come from far         countries.

     His singing brims            with godly hymns

     That he makes in           the wood.

     My soul he’ll pray            and wash away

     Black Albatross’s            blood.

     The same moment         that I could pray;

     Then from my neck        so free,

     The Albatross                  fell off and sank,

     Like lead into                   the sea.”

“I’ve never heard that poem,” King Sweyn Forkbeard said.

“It’s ‘The Rhyme of the Viking Mariner’,” was Olaf Tryggvason’s reply, “ and it’s not been heard, ‘cause every word, my mouth has just let fly.”

“Have you ever been to Lade?” the King then said, thinking of the Nidelva water.  Still, King Sweyn and his skald, Eyvind Skaldaspillir thought enough of the poem to write it down.  They would give it to Aud in Birka to add it to a book she was compiling.  “I don’t think,” Sweyn told Eyvind, “that we’ll be hearing from that young man again.”

Jarl Olaf Tryggvason had been four years on this cruise, from the time he left Vindland till he went to the Scilly Islands.  King Sweyn Forkbeard went back to Denmark with his slaves, all the captives from Watchet and the surrounding towns and estates that had not been ransomed by the wealthy of the city.  And there were thousands upon thousands.  Olaf had been attacking and plundering Angleland with his own ships for the past few years, but they were after the peoples’ gold.  It did not take Olaf long after joining the Hraes’ fleet, for him to realize that the Hraes’ were just after the people.  They were slavers and traders and Angleland’s plunder had long been lost or buried.  Its people were the gold that the Viking raiders now sold, and that had taken his thoughts back to his childhood when he and his mother had been enslaved by Baltic pirates and they’d had their lives devastated.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle entry for that year simply read:

‘A.D. 987.  This year was the port of Watchet plundered.’

Part 14 (32) – Jarl Olaf Is Baptized  (circa 988)

Jarl Olaf Tryggvason visited the Scilly Isles because he’d heard of a seer, a priest, a fortune-teller there who could tell beforehand things not yet done, and, what he foretold, many said did come true. Olaf became determined to test this man’s gift of prophecy.  He sent one of his men, one of the handsomest and strongest, clothed him magnificently, and told him to tell the priest he was the leader of their Viking band of brothers.

When the messenger went to the fortune-teller, and professed to be the leader of their crews, he got the reply, “Thou art not the king, but I advise thee to be faithful to thy king.”  And no more he would say to the imposter.

The messenger returned, and told Jarl Olaf what had been said and that the priest had called him a king.  Olaf’s desire to meet the priest was increased; for now he had no doubt of his being really a fortune-teller.  Olaf, King Trygve’s son, had told no-one of his royal descent since leaving Hraes’, so he went to see the seer and asked him if he could foresee how it would go with him in regard to his kingdom, or of any other fortune he was to have.

The hermit replied in a holy spirit of prophecy, “Thou wilt become a renowned king, and do celebrated deeds, even though the Norwegian Aesir Jarls will refuse to follow you because your family had been enslaved.  Many men wilt thou bring to faith and baptism, and both to thy own and others’ good; and that thou mayst have no doubt of the truth of this answer, listen to these tokens: When thou comest to thy ships many of thy people will conspire against thee, and then a battle will follow in which many of thy men will fall, and thou wilt be wounded almost to death, and carried upon a shield to thy ship; yet after seven days thou shalt be well of thy wounds, and immediately thou shalt let thyself be baptized.”

Soon after Olaf went down to his ships, where he met some mutineers and people who would destroy him and his men.  A fight took place, and the result was what the hermit had predicted, that Olaf was wounded, and carried upon a shield to his ship, and that his wound was healed in seven days.

Then Olaf perceived that the man had spoken truth, that he was a true fortune-teller, and had the gift of prophecy.  Olaf went once more to the hermit, and asked particularly how he came to have such wisdom in foreseeing things to be.

The hermit replied that the Christian God himself let him know all that he desired; and he brought before Olaf many great proofs of the power of the Almighty.  In consequence of this encouragement Olaf agreed to let himself be baptized, and he and all his followers took preliminary baptism forthwith.  He remained there a long time, took the true faith, and got with him priests and other learned men.

Part 15 (33) – Jarl Olaf Marries Princess Gyda  (circa 988)

In the autumn Jarl Olaf sailed from Scilly to Angleland, where he put into a harbour, but proceeded in a friendly manner, since it was Christian country, and he himself had just become a Christian.  There was a summons to a Thing going around the county, and it stipulated that all men attend it, so Olaf and his men went and ,when the Thing was assembled, a princess called Gyda was at it, a sister of Olaf Kvaran, who was king of Dublin in Ireland.  She had been married to a great earl in Angleland, and after his death she was at the head of his dominions.  In her territory there was a man called Alfvine, who was a great champion and single-combat man.

He had asked her for her hand, but she gave for answer, that she herself would choose whom of the men in her dominions she would take in marriage; and on that account the Thing was assembled, that she might choose a husband.  Alfvine came there dressed out in his best clothes, and there were many other well-dressed men at the meeting.

Jarl Olaf had come there also; but had on his bad-weather clothes, and a coarse over-garment, and stood with his people apart from the rest of the crowd.  Princess Gyda went round and looked at each, to see if any appeared to her a suitable man.

Now when she came to where Olaf stood she looked at him straight in the face, and asked, “what sort of man are you?”

He said, “I am called Jarl Olaf and I’m a stranger here.”

Princess Gyda replied, “Will you have me if I choose you?”

“I will not say no to that,” answered he; and he asked what her name was, and her family, and descent.

“I am called Princess Gyda,” she said, “and am daughter of the king of Ireland, and was married in this country to an earl who ruled over this territory.  Since his death I have ruled over it, and many have courted me, but none to whom I would choose to be married.  Now the people of this land want me to choose a husband or they will choose one for me.”  Gyda was attracted to Olaf because his blonde hair and blue eyes reminded her of her father and she was homesick for Ireland.

“I have just recently converted to Christianity,” Olaf told her, “but the priest who converted me told me to seek council through prayer.  Perhaps we could go into the church and pray?”  Gyda thought the idea a good one so, they went into the town chapel and prayed together.  The church was empty so, they knelt down before the altar and began to pray and Olaf slipped his arm around Gyda’s waist and pulled her tight beside him.  When she looked up at him he dropped his head and kissed her on the lips.  She returned his kisses but when he put his hand upon her breast she whispered that they were in a church.

“We are close to our lord here,” Olaf replied.  “I am waiting for a sign from him that we are to stop,” and he placed both hands upon her breasts and prayed for a sign.  When no sign came he opened up her Anglish dress and began kissing her breasts.  He was very pleased with what he had uncovered so, he picked her up and sat her upon the altar and unbuttoned her dress further and he began kissing her honey well.  Gyda started moaning and her face flushed with passion and when she had come Olaf stopped, stood up and looked about for a sign.  When none was forthcoming, he unbuttoned his pants and slipped his erect member out and put it into her well and very gently eased himself into her, as if expecting some sign, but once he got fully in she gasped slightly and he began thrusting into her again and again until he flowed inside her.  He picked her up off of the altar and she wrapped her legs around him as he made his final few thrusts and then he hugged her close and whispered into her ear, “I think I was converted just so I could marry you.  Will you marry me?”

“Yes!” she breathed and he set her upon the floor and kissed her for the longest time.  She was a young and very beautiful woman and they made their wedding plans together.  As they left the church Gyda warned Olaf that there was a duelist in the land who would likely challenge him for her hand, and she was going to point him out, but Olaf said no-one would ever come between them, and Jarl Olaf and Princess Gyda were betrothed.

Part 16 (34) – Jarl Olaf And Alfvine’s Duel

Alfvine was very ill pleased with the news.  It was the custom then in Angleland, that if two strove for anything, the matter would be settled by single combat, and now Alfvine challenged Jarl Olaf to fight about this business.  The time and place for the combat were settled, and that each should have eleven men with them.

When they met, Jarl Olaf told his men to do exactly as they saw him do.  He had a large axe, and when Alfvine was going to cut at him with his sword he hewed the sword right out of his hand, and with the next blow struck Alfvine with the back of it.  He then bound him fast and it went the same way for all Alfvine’s men.  They were beaten down, bound, and carried before Princess Gyda’s palace.  Jarl Olaf asked her to send for the priest so they could be given last confession before they were slain, as that was the Christian thing to do, but Princess Gyda told him that the Christian thing to do would be to spare them all.

Thereupon he ordered Alfvine to quit the country, and never appear in it again; and Olaf took all his property.  In this way, Jarl Olaf got Princess Gyda in marriage, and they lived sometimes in Angleland, and sometimes in Ireland.

(988-989)  When King Sweyn returned to Denmark from Baghdad in the fall, he got back early and led a Hraes’ Viking raid against the Frisians.  Some Normans joined him in the raid, but he was not surprised when Jarl Olaf wasn’t with them.  There was something in the poem that Jarl Olaf had recited the prior year that had told him Olaf was troubled with raiding.  They told Sweyn that Olaf had converted to Christianity and had married an Anglish princess.  King Sweyn led his mobile legion against the Frisians and attacked the city of Dorestad, which had been in a period of decline for decades, but he wasn’t after plunder, he was after the people.  Thousands of Frisians were loaded into ships and very few had the gold to ransom themselves so, almost all of them were sent to Kiev.  Dorestad never recovered from the sacking and disappeared off the face of the earth.

The next year, King Sweyn attacked Flanders and the city of Quentovic and thousands of citizens were loaded into ships and were sent off to Kiev, but the city was much more affluent than Dorestad had been and many were able to ransom themselves and the city survived the sacking.

(990)  When Sweyn was returning to Denmark from Baghdad in the fall, the Hraes’ merchant fleet was sailing past Wollin on the southern Baltic coast when a Jomsviking warship rowed up and Jarl Sigvald invited King Sweyn to come with him to Jomsborg to meet with King Burizleif of Poland for a proposal of allegiance.  King Sweyn led a small warfleet to Jomsborg and they entered the walled harbour of the island city.  Even though the Jomsvikings were allies of Denmark, King Sweyn didn’t trust Sigvald enough to leave his warships so, Jarl Sigvald brought King Burizleif out into the harbour aboard his longship and they had two young women with them.  King Sweyn and a party of his officers went aboard the longship and Sweyn was introduced to Burizleif and his two daughters, Gunhild and Astrid.  Jarl Sigvald explained that King Burizleif wished to strengthen relations between Poland and Denmark by offering one of his daughters to King Sweyn in marriage if Sweyn agreed to exchange his daughter, Princess Thora, to the Polish king in return.  What Jarl Sigvald didn’t tell Sweyn was that he had fallen in love with Princess Astrid and had been promised her hand for brokering the deal.  He was sure that Sweyn would choose Gunhild, for she was a princess of renowned beauty.  And what Jarl Sigvald hadn’t told King Burizleif was that Princess Thora was actually the former King Harald’s daughter and that King Sweyn Forkbeard had taken her as his own wife when he conquered Denmark.

But when King Sweyn met Princess Gunhild, he was swept away by her beauty and was very interested in making such an exchange for her hand.  King Burizleif provided assurances of the chasteness of both his daughters and, being yet caught up in ancient ways, expected the same from King Sweyn, who then took Sigvald aside and said to him, “You know full well I’ve been focking Thora for the past four years.  What are we going to tell King Burizleif?”

“Provide him with a dowry for Thora,” Sigvald offered, “to be redeemed when Thora is delivered here a virgin.  I assure you the dowry is well worth the virginity of Gunhild.”

“King Burizleif will be pissed when he beds Thora and she’s well past bleeding,” Sweyn replied.  “I don’t like this.”

“If it’s the dowry,” Sigvald said, “I’ll pay for half of it because I’ve been promised Astrid if your wedding with Gunhild goes forward.  If you offer King Burizleif a chest of gold, I’ll chip in half of it.  Then we’ll have a double marriage here in Jomsborg and you can sail off to Denmark and bring back Princess Thora.”

King Sweyn looked back at Princess Gunhild standing beside her father and sister by the mast and he thought her well worth a chest of gold, especially if Sigvald was to contribute half of it.  “We can see what the Polish king thinks of your offer.”

“It will take me a week to come up with my share of the gold,” Sigvald said.  “Can you cover me and honeymoon in Jomsborg for a week while I get the gold?”

“I was going to raid Angleland,” King Sweyn replied, “but I can put it off for a week with that fine beauty.  My warfleet will remain in the harbour while we honeymoon together.”

“Of course.  It will only take me a week.”

So, a deal was worked out between the two kings and Sweyn gave Burizleif a chest of gold, to be redeemed upon delivery of a chaste Thora.  King Sweyn knew of a certain witch in Lade who could arrange for an unchaste woman to seem chaste again so, he was comfortable with the arrangements.  Meanwhile, Jarl Sigvald sent a secret and urgent demand to the women of Denmark requiring a ransom of gold for the return of their king from the Jomsvikings.

A huge double wedding was arranged for in the great hall of Jomsborg Fortress and much of the royalty of Poland was in attendance, including many of the princes that were now under the sway and control of Prince Valdamar of Kiev so, many Poles were not surprised when the prince of Kiev showed up in person with twelve of his Polish wives.

‘Where is Princess Anna?” Sweyn asked his son.  “She’s back in Kiev,” Valdamar answered.  “Your surprise marriage was a chance for my Polish wives to have a little holiday and get a little of my special attention.  I’m glad you’ll be experiencing the pleasures of Polish women unless, of course, you haven’t already been enjoying the princess.  She’s very beautiful.  She reminds of one of my mothers.  I’m not sure which one though…Svia or Malfrieda…”

Sweyn laughed at this because Gunhild was a raven haired beauty like Svia.  “Princess Gunhild is still quite chaste,” he answered.  “Tonight, I shall unfold her flower!”

“I don’t think I could exhibit such restraint in the face of such beauty,” Valdamar said.

“How long will you be staying?” Sweyn asked.

“About a week, off and on,” Valdamar answered.  “We’ll be taking my fleet out a few days to visit some of my wives’ relatives.  I don’t think Jomsborg has the resources to feed both our warfleets for a week.”

“I daresay we have enough forces between us to carry the fortress if we so wished,” Sweyn agreed.

“It’s your wedding day,” Valdy replied.  “No talking business!”

“Where are you staying?”

“Second floor,” Valdy said,” just down the wing opposite yours.  It’s a huge master suite with ample room for twelve wives.”  When Sweyn began stroking his forked beard, Valdy added, “They don’t have a ground floor library.  I checked.”

The double wedding went off without a hitch in the Aesir fashion and Sweyn and Gunhild left the celebration early to enjoy each other while Sigvald and Astrid stayed late.  Sweyn doubted if Sigvald had been able to show the restraint that he had.  He began to suspect that Sigvald and Astrid had been involved with each other for a long time.  But Gunhild was particularly beautiful that night and Sweyn carried her over the threshold and into their suite.  She was wearing a lovely white dress of silk and lace, a dress Sweyn had bought her at the Hraes’ station in Wollin.  He laid her on the bed and began taking it off her.  When he had her naked he began undressing himself and she gasped when he uncovered his huge hard member.  It was still enlarged from his experience with the goddess Irpa and Gunhild was a little afraid of it.  Sweyn laid down beside her and she could not take her eyes off it and Sweyn’s eyes were devouring the vision on the bed beside him.  Gunhild was the youngest of Burizleif’s daughters and Sweyn guessed her to be about sixteen, much younger than he was and he leaned over her and kissed her gently then began kissing her neck and her chest and then her breasts.  He kissed his way down her body and began kissing her honey well until it became sufficiently moist for him to enter her.  He got up and took a towel from the dressing room and he laid himself on the bed and adjusted the towel so that it was under his hips.

Normally, on first night, towels were not used and sheets were bloodied in testament to the chastity of the bride, but Sweyn did not want to give the local handmaidens any indication of Gunhild’s chastity, so he pulled Gunhild over himself and he had her straddle his hips and lower herself onto his member at her own pace.  She allowed him in until he met her hymen and then she took a breath and sat herself upon it and her blood flowed freely onto the towel as she settled onto him.  He guided her hips back up a bit and let her settle once more at her own pace and she soon got the thrust of it going and she found pleasure in the gentle stroking and Sweyn found a certain seductive pleasure in her youth and beauty and was soon coming inside her and flowing freely himself.  Then he stayed in her and they laid together for a long while and she told him that it had hurt a little when she broke her flower but then it became pain and pleasure together and she thanked him for his gentleness.

As they were laying together on the bed, Gunhild heard a gentle pounding coming from the floor and she said, “Listen…what is that sound?” and Sweyn listened to the familiar sound of his son giving special attention to his wives.  “What sound?” he replied.

And so it went all week, Sweyn and Gunhild would make love in their newly wedded bliss and then the gentle pounding noise would start and Gunhild learned from the help that she was not the only one hearing it.  Gunhild was an astute enough young woman to put together the fact that when Prince Valdamar left with his wives for a day and a night, the pounding noise in the night did not occur.  “I think this pounding noise is coming from your son’s wing of the great hall,” Gunhild whispered after some particularly fine sex with her husband.  “And I think we were making a similar pounding noise tonight, but it was so slight as not to be heard.”  She grabbed Sweyn’s shoulder and pulled him towards her and she whispered in a quiet concern, “I think the pounding noise is Prince Valdamar focking his wives!”  She looked Sweyn in the eyes with so much earnestness and concern that Sweyn couldn’t help but burst out laughing and he said, “I think you’re right!”

“It’s not funny!” Gunhild said.  “The pounding goes on all night.  Those poor girls!”

“Need I remind you that he has twelve wives with him,” Sweyn replied, and he told her about the racket Valdy had made in his longhall in Lade with just three Polish princesses in tow.  “By the end of the week he had exhausted all three and he had to marry three more Norwegian girls to keep up with him.”

“How many wives does he have?” Princess Gunhild asked, incredulously.

“He has eight wives, twenty five consort wives and approximately seven hundred concubine wives, all in and around Kiev, and he services each and every one of them at least once a month.”

Gunhild did the mental math and said, “That’s at least twenty four focks a day!” she exclaimed, “and that’s with no days off!”

“I believe he told me he’s up to forty focks a day,” Sweyn said.  “He doesn’t take days off.  He claims his worse days focking are still better than his best days working.”

“What does he do for work?” Gunhild asked.

“Well…he’s a Viking so, he conquers countries and enslaves their people.  And his wives don’t give him time off to do it so, when he goes off to war he has to make up for lost time.”

“He has to make up for focks he misses while he’s off somewhere killing people?” Gunhild asked, again, incredulously.

“He even has to make up for the focks he misses while he’s here with only twelve of his wives!”  And Sweyn concluded his tale by telling Gunhild about their conquest of Cherson and his converting the main floor library into a master suite so Valdamar’s constant pounding wouldn’t drive the Greeks of Cherson crazy.

“Poor Prince Valdamar!” Gunhild said.  “What kind of a wife am I to you?”

“You are my Queen Consort!” Sweyn told her.  “I would make you my Queen,” he added, “but King Erik the Victorious of Sweden attacked me when I demoted his sister last time.”  And Sweyn noticed that after their talk, Gunhild began putting a great deal of effort into her focking and she never complained again about the pounding noise.  Sweyn took out his volume of the Kama Sutra and taught Gunhild about nominal congress and how it could be employed to get him hard and ready again.

At the end of the week, Prince Valdamar and his wives sailed back to Kiev following many wishes and blessings, but Jarl Sigvald still had not received his secret ransom of gold from the women of Denmark so, he asked Astrid to work with Gunhild and entertain King Sweyn so he wouldn’t be quick to leave.  “How will we do that?” Astrid asked.  “With sex!” Sigvald said.  “Ask Gunhild to step up her sex and keep Sweyn from wanting to leave.”

“I think she already has!” Astrid replied.  “She was trying to keep up with Prince Valdamar’s constant pounding all night!”

“Good luck with that!” Sigvald said.  “The man’s a veritable machine, a trebuchet of sex, going off every few minutes or so!” and he grabbed Astrid and pinned her on the bed.

Young Gunhild rose to the challenge and told Sweyn she didn’t want to leave Jomsborg quite yet as she’d arranged some very special entertainments for her new husband.  The first night, Gunhild brought two of her youngest and prettiest handmaidens into bed with her and the three women spent the night bringing pleasure to Sweyn.  The next day, Gunhild thanked Astrid for her fine idea, but when Sigvald requested another day, Astrid was at a loss for ideas.  Gunhild told Astrid that a third handmaiden of hers was a nith.  “Really?” Astrid asked.  “Yes,” Gunhild replied.  “When her family found out, they sold her into slavery!”  “Did you know that when you bought her?” asked Astrid.  “Of course not!”  Gunhild said.  “I found out when she kept disappearing and I followed her out to the kennels and she had her way with the hounds.  And not just one of them.  All twelve of them!”  “Oh, my gods!” Astrid exclaimed and they came up with ideas for an evening of nith entertainment.

That night, after Gunhild and her two handmaidens had pleasured Sweyn half the night, Astrid snuck the young nith girl into their room and then left.  The nith slave had two goats and a ram with her and she put her ram into the dressing room and got the male goat to mount the female goat and she let them fock for a while to get the male going and then the girl put the female goat into the dressing room and got on all fours in front of the male goat who then mounted the nith and began focking her.  The goat had a lot of stamina because he kept focking the nith girl until she had come several times before the goat exploded within her.  Goat come was all over the floor and the nith girl wiped herself clean before taking the goat to the dressing room.  She then came out with the ram which had begun to get excited while alone in the room with the female goat and she began stroking the ram’s already erect cock and then she went under the sheep and took it into her mouth and began sucking on it as the ram got really excited and pawed at the floor with its front hooves.  She then wrapped her legs around the ram’s flanks and grabbed onto the ram’s wool so she had suspended herself underneath the beast and it entered her and she swung back and forth under the sheep as it drove into and then out of her until it came in buckets inside her and it flowed out of her and poured onto the floor.  Sweyn and the three girls were entranced by the performance that was echoed by the sounds of the two goats focking away in the dressing room.

Astrid returned to the room to lead the nith slave and her animals back out of the suite.  After watching that performance Sweyn was ready for another round of sex with the three women.  The next morning, Gunhild again thanked Astrid for her help, but once more, Sigvald asked for another day.  Gunhild had no new ideas so, Astrid told her that she would take care of everything.

That night, after Gunhild and her two handmaidens had pleasured Sweyn half the night, Astrid snuck herself into their room and undressed for Sweyn and joined them in bed.  She showed Sweyn some positions that even the Kama Sutra hadn’t covered and she pleasured her younger sister while Sweyn watched and then taught them both a few more positions that were new to Sweyn.  The next morning, Gunhild thanked her sister for the help in pleasuring Sweyn, but Sigvald asked for yet another day’s grace and Astrid again said she would come up with something.

That night, after Gunhild and her two handmaidens had pleasured Sweyn half the night, Astrid snuck herself into their room and she led Sigvald in behind her by a rope around his neck.  Astrid stripped her husband naked and he knelt down by the side of the bed.  Sweyn stood up naked in front of him and Sigvald took Sweyn’s large member and put it in his mouth and began sucking on it to get it wet and hard.  When it was ready, Sigvald bent over the bed and Sweyn grabbed his hips and entered his anus and began thrusting fiercely.  Sigvald cried out in pain because of the size of the member and the women watched his face from the bed as Sweyn drove even harder.  He kept thrusting wildly and he reminded the women of the big ram they had watched with the nith, and Sweyn kept thrusting until he finally exploded within Sigvald.  Sweyn withdrew from Sigvald and slapped his ass as he might have a woman’s and he joined his wife in bed.

Astrid dressed Sigvald as they watched from the bed and she led him out of the room by the rope on his neck.  Astrid then came back into the room and undressed for Sweyn and joined them in bed.  Sweyn decided it was his turn to teach the women something new and he had the girls braid his fork beard into one long member pointing straight out from his chin.  He then took his glove out of his protection packet and had Gunhild pull it over his braided beard and Astrid tied it off.  The two handmaidens were working on Sweyn’s erection while this was going on and Sweyn had Gunhild straddle his hips and mount his member while Astrid straddled his chest and mounted his fork beard.  The two women rode him and when Astrid began slowing, Sweyn grabbed her hips and pulled her down hard on his beard and he began kissing her clitoris until she came violently.  He then lifted her off and the two maidens took turns riding his beard while Gunhild pleasured herself on his member.

The next day a chest of gold arrived for Sigvald from Denmark.  It was much the same as the chest he and King Harald had extorted from the women of Denmark years before to finance the ill-fated Battle of Hjorungavagr.  The chest was full of gold rings and jewellery that the matrons of Denmark had donated from off their fingers and from out of their cabinets for the ransom of their king, a stranger from the east.  When Sigvald gave him the chest of gold he told him that the women of Denmark had paid for his new wife and that he should take the whole thing because King Burizleif would not likely refund the gold Sweyn had given him for an unchaste Thora.

Gunhild was surprised when Sweyn wanted to stay another day so that they could spend the night together alone and just enjoy each other.  They went to bed early after a final feast and they enjoyed each other and then rested in each other’s arms.  Gunhild wanted to ask Sweyn a question, but she did not quite know how to ask it.  Finally, she just blurted it out and said, “I can’t believe you focked Sigvald.  I just can’t believe he offered himself like that and you did it!”

“It goes back to the Battle of Hjorungavagr,” Sweyn explained.  And he told her about the battle and about how Jarl Sigvald had fled with twenty four ships when the battle was turning against them and about the seventy Jomsvikings they’d captured afterwards.  “We were beheading the captives the next day and we’d killed about ten of them when another man was let off of the rope around his neck and led forth.  He was a handsome young man with a beautiful head of hair, so that it lay on his shoulders and was as yellow as silk.  Thorkell Leira, our executioner, asked him how he thought he would die and he just wished that we’d grant him that someone of high and fine a rank would lead him out and he tossed his hair back and it flowed forth over his shoulders and he asked that man to keep his hair out of the blood while he was being beheaded so that his hair didn’t become all bloody.  One of our retainers stepped forward, a minor jarl, to lead him out, and he took the fine blonde hair and wrapped it in his hands, and then held both hands for his handsome young head to receive the blow, and Thorkell Leira raised his sword and as he struck down, the young Jomsviking quickly pulled his head back hard and it took the retainer’s hands under the blow, and Thorkell struck both his arms off at the elbows.  Then the blonde haired handsome man sprang up and made a joke and said, ‘Who is this boy with hands in my hair?’ and the two arms hung down as the hands clinched up in his locks.”

“That’s perfectly awful!” Gunhild said as she paled.

“Jarl Haakon thought so, too!  But I found it quite resourceful and Jarl Eirik thought it a very brave act so, he offered the Viking his life should he accept his offer.  The young man told Eirik that his name was Sveinn Buison and that he would accept the offer and Eirik’s rule and he would become Eirik’s man if the offer was extended to all members of their party.  And Eirik now took him aside in peace and let him join him.”

“That’s beautiful!” Gunhild said.

“When I say that Eirik took him aside in peace, perhaps took him from behind in peace would be more accurate,” Sweyn explained, “for Eirik took him aside and bent him over a stump and ploughed him quite a furrow as we all watched.  That is the Aesir way.”

“I had no idea,” Gunhild said.

“And so, it went as Jarl Eirik wanted,” Sweyn continued.  Jarl Haakon told Thorkell Leira to get it done more quickly unless they accepted the terms.  Another man was let off the rope and the free end of it twisted around his foot.  The man was tall and handsome and young and Thorkell asked him if he intended to die bravely or to accept terms.  He told Thorkell he wished to die, but would have died more bravely if he had taken care of one last vow before his end.  And Jarl Eirik said, ‘What is your name? And what is your vow that you wish you’d taken care of?’ and he answered, ‘My name is Vagn, and I had a vision and I swore, that I would go to the bed of Ingibjorg, daughter of Thorkell Leira, without the permission of him or her kinsmen, and that after I’d focked her, Thorkell Leira tried to kill me but I got the better of him.’

“And Thorkell said, ‘I will make it so that you shall not come into heat with any of my kin,” and Thorkell ran at him and struck at him with both hands on his sword, but Bjorn the Brexit, foster-father of Vagn, though still bound in the line, yanked the rope about Vagn’s foot and pulled him down and Thorkell went right over him and landed on his own sword and then Vagn sprang to his feet and grabbed the sword and struck Thorkell Leira’s head right off.  Then Vagn said, ‘Now that I have fulfilled my second vow, I now believe in the vision more strongly than before and I shall accept terms.’

“Jarl Haakon said, ‘Do not let him free and kill him as soon as possible, for he has done us great harm.’  But Eirik said he’d accepted the offer so, Haakon was so pissed he forced Vagn over the stump and rammed him from behind himself and when he was done he gave him to Eirik to rule, and Eirik said, ‘I will accept Vagn into my company as well.’  Then Jarl Haakon said, ‘We need to kill or free these men as quickly as possible.  This has gotten out of control!’  Then our skald, Einar Skallaglamm, stepped forward and said, ‘This shall bring you much fame!  Gold couldn’t buy you the fame that this execution is getting you!’

“Jarl Eirik went before his father and begged him that they all have peace, the Jomsvikings who were left and we all joined in and the Jarl gave in to all of them.  Our men were matched up to their men and the surrenders were consummated all at the same time, except for five of the Jomsvikings and Bjorn ‘the Brexit’ who went to the estate of the witch Hallveig, who had conjured up the spirits that helped win us the battle.  Hallveig, the old witch, was now young, was part Irpa, the goddess who had turned the tide of battle and she accepted their submissions.”

“So, who did you get?” Gunhild asked.

“Nobody,” Sweyn replied.  “There was nobody there of princely status so, I got no-one.  Had Jarl Sigvald surrendered and not fled, he would have fallen to me.”

“So, last night was retribution for the Battle of Hjorungavagr?” Gunhild asked.

“It was as far as Sigvald was concerned, but I don’t think Astrid knows about the surrender terms.  I think she just felt if she had to offer herself to me, then Sigvald should as well!”

“She’s like that!” Gunhild agreed.  “She’s a mean and spiteful middle sister.”

“You have an older sister?”

“I did,” Gunhild complained bitterly, “but she died a few years ago.  I think Astrid may have poisoned her.”

“Why would she do that?”

“My oldest sister, Geira was married to a very nice Viking from Kiev,” Gunhild started, “but I could see that Astrid fell in love with him as well.  I think she may have poisoned Geira so she could have Olaf for herself, but the Viking was so grief-stricken he took off raiding in Angleland and we’ve not seen him since.”

“Was this Viking called Olaf Tryggvason?”

“Yes!  Do you know him?”

“I’ve raided with him in Angleland, but I don’t think I’ll be seeing him again.”

“Why?  Is he alright?”

“He’s fine, but I heard he’s converted to Christianity and has married an Anglish princess there.  His raiding days are over!” and Sweyn laughed and crawled atop Gunhild on the bed.  “I’m glad he’s fine,” Gunhild breathed as Sweyn entered her.

When King Sweyn arrived in Roskilde with his new wife, he gave the chest of gold that Sigvald had extorted to his wives, asking them to return as much of the gold to the women of Denmark as they could get back to their respectful owners and for them to keep the rest for themselves.  This pleased his wives very much and they welcomed Gunhild into the fold.  As it was late in the season, Sweyn had not planned on doing any raiding in the west that year, but a message came from Duke Richard telling him that Jarl Olaf Tryggvason was waiting in Rouen with his small warfleet and a proposition on raiding for his king.  So, King Sweyn packed up his mobile legion and he sailed to Rouen.

King Sweyn met Jarl Olaf at Duke Richard’s palace and Olaf had a new wife with him there.  Princess Gyda was a beautiful young woman with red flowing hair and Sweyn recognized her at once as being the sister of King Kvaran of Dublin.  Her father had ruled in Dublin as well, back in King Ivar’s day.  Jarl Olaf told him that they had become accustomed to spending a year in their Anglish kingdom and then a year in Dublin, but when they returned to Angleland in the harvest they learned that a warrior named Alfvine had returned to their land and had led a revolt against their true rulers.  Jarl Olaf proposed that if King Sweyn helped them crush the revolt, he could enslave their people in the true Roman fashion of conquest and take half the population as captives, leaving the other half to repopulate their kingdom.

“We only request that there be no plundering nor ransoming,” Olaf added.  “Any gold the people have, we will be taxing out of them next year.”

The proposition worked for King Sweyn, as the people were what he was after anyway and the risks were low because it wasn’t really raiding as much as helping legal rulers put down a revolt.  He just hoped it wouldn’t drag on like the revolt he and Prince Valdamar had helped put down in Anatolia for Emperors Basil and Constantine.

The combined fleets sailed from Rouen to Ipswich on the east coast of Angleland and the sudden arrival of hundreds of warships caught Alfvine and the local militia off guard and they took the city right away.  Olaf killed Alfvine in their retreat and he accepted the surrender of his militia soldiers.  Hraes’ slavers were hard on the sterns of the war fleet and they began gathering up citizens and transporting them to Kiev that very afternoon.  The Hraes’ heavy cavalry regiments began ranging out to the surrounding towns and villages and gathered up half of the people and herded them into Ipswich and then onto ships bound for Kiev.  It took two weeks to sack Suffolk County over which Princess Gyda and Jarl Olaf ruled and on the day before King Sweyn and his fleet were set to sail back to Denmark a militia army from the Fyrds of Colchester and Chelmsford in Essex arrived outside Ipswich and their leader, Earl Byrhtnoth, offered to drive the Vikings out for Princess Gyda.  King Sweyn responded by forming up his ten thousand man mobile legion in front of the two thousand militiamen which brought about a sudden withdrawal of the Saxons.

“I think your Earl Byrhtnoth will be back,” Sweyn warned Olaf and Gyda.  “If he causes you trouble, let me know.”

“Thank you, King Sweyn,” Gyda whispered as she kissed him on the cheek goodbye.

“If he does cause trouble,” Jarl Olaf said, “then perhaps Colchester will be due for a good sacking next year.”

“If you can provoke him, I’ll make it worth your while,” Sweyn said.  “We’ll meet him with an equal number of men so he doesn’t run for it next time.  I can leave you a regiment of heavy cavalry if you wish.  Or a regiment of foot.  Or both.”

Jarl Olaf took both.

When King Sweyn got back to Denmark, Gunhilde Haraldsdottir was ready to give birth and Gunhild Burizleifsdottir just found out she was pregnant.  When Gunhilde gave birth to a baby girl, Sweyn named her Gyda after Olaf’s wife, who had impressed him with both her beauty and intellect.  They celebrated Yuletide in Sweden this time and Baby Gyda came along to meet the king of Sweden, her great uncle.  Jarl Eirik came from Norway with his wives and Sveinn Buison and he visited with his sister, Queen Consort Aud, but Jarl Haakon was getting old and stayed in Lade.  King Sweyn and Queen Consort Malfrieda visited with Queen Sviataslava and Queen Gyritha visited with her brother, King Erik the Victorious.  Duke Richard of Normandy was absent and Queen Consort Sigrid spent her time with Queen Consorts Thora, Gunhild and Gunhilde and baby Gyda.

In the spring, King Sweyn once more led the merchant fleet to Kiev and they picked up the thousands of Anglish captives who had been sent to Kiev for training in the slave schools there.  Even a few months of training over winter added value to the worth of the slaves that often doubled their selling prices.  And there was the branding.  The Hraes’ Trading Company sold only the best slaves and troublemakers were weeded out in the schools and sold to independent slavers who didn’t have a reputation to maintain.  King Ivar had spent a lot of time and money building up the Hraes’ brand and King Sweyn respected what he had accomplished and did not want tarnish the Hraes’ name.  That is why he so valued the slaves taken in Angleland, the Angles, Saxons and Jutes; because of their looks, intelligence and civility, they were prized in both Constantinople and Baghdad.

As usual, Sweyn spent a week in Kiev doing books with Princess Serah, among other things.  She was still absolutely fascinated with stroking of Sweyn and he was still enamoured with her bountiful breasts.  Serah told him that Prince Valdamar and Princess Anna were in Cherson spending time in their palace there and dedicating a new church.  The city had been returned to the Romans, but the princess maintained her own palace there and many Greek traders had joined the Hraes’ Trading Company now that Hraes’ had officially converted to Orthodox Christianity, but conversions were encouraged and not forced.  The Hraes’ merchant fleets used Cherson harbour as a gathering place before heading off to Constantinople or Baghdad or Cathay and India and the skilled craftsmen of Cherson were a final source of wares to sell to the customers of those destinations.  Sweyn talked with Valdy about the craftsmen and they reminisced about the great slave prices they got for the craftsmen of the city that they had enslaved after their siege a few years earlier.  Many of those enslaved had already worked their way to freedom and were back in Cherson creating goods and crafts for the Hraes’.  Valdamar even told Sweyn that many of the Anglish men and women they had sold as slaves had worked their way into freed status and had set up Anglish colonies near Gothic communities on the Black Sea coast, the largest of which had come to be known as Little Angleland and even had merchant ships working in the Hraes’ company fold.

When the Prince arrived in Cherson, final arrangements were made within the fleet and they formed up into their separate groups and headed off in different directions.  When Sweyn arrived in Baghdad, he learned that both Anise and Saffron were pregnant by him, something to do with a faulty glove and failure thereof.  “I’ve been there,” Prince Hraerik said, patting Sweyn on the shoulder, “and I’m off to India!”  Anika and Saleem were pissed.  They’d had no idea that Sweyn had been carrying on an affair with their daughters while he was carrying on an affair with them.  Sweyn made the error of reminding them that they had paid him to rape their daughters and that’s what started the whole affair in the first place.

“We paid you to rape them, not to fock them!” the two women said in harmony.  “I’ll take the babies to Kiev,” Sweyn offered, “and raise them as my own if you wish.”

“No!” both women said in harmony again.  “We love our new granddaughters!”  So, Sweyn carried on a relationship with all four women and he, too, grew to love the new granddaughters, but that came with the realization that he was now focking grandmothers.  How was he going to conquer the world if he was already focking grandmothers?  His case for a co-Emperorship of Rome seemed to be stagnating in the courtrooms of Constantinople even as Emperor Basil struggled with the reconquest of Bulgaria, a country he had conquered in months.  The rich and powerful all seemed willing to cut off their own noses to spite their faces.  Sweyn decided to ask his grandfather about it when he came back from India.  He knew Prince Hraerik was planning an execution of a Turkic warrior sometime in the future, hundreds of years in the future.  Perhaps he had learned something of Rome’s future in his visions of these eastern hordes.

“I have seen the fall of Rome,” the Prince told Sweyn when he got back to Baghdad from Mumba and Ashaval, “but it has nothing to do with the Turkic horde I have seen in my visions.  The leader I plan to kill is not quite that far into the future.  He is far enough into the future that I shall be long dead when I kill him, but it will still be a few hundred years shy of Rome’s fall.  I have only seen the fall, and the death of the last Emperor, Constantine ‘the Eleventh’ Palaiologos.  I have seen nothing about what led up to the fall.  Why do you ask?”

“I’m trying to determine if I should keep pursuing my case for a co-Emperorship.  When I become co-Emperor I want to reconquer Bulgaria, win the war in the Levant and recapture Egypt and Italy.”

“Rome is not worth saving, son.  It never has been.  It’s just another slaver state, just…like…us.  If I thought I could change the world, I would have joined with Princess Gunwar and stopped slavery.  I never stopped her from trying to stop slavery, but I never helped her either.  Things happen in their own time and when we try to rush change we often just make things worse.”  Hraerik walked over to the bar in their huge master suite in the Caliph’s palace and he poured them both another round of fine Frankish sparkling wine.  He walked back and passed Sweyn a glass and continued.  “There is a flaw in man,” he began.  “We believe what we want to and that usually involves what gets us the most.  We profess that black is white and white is black if it earns us a Byzant more.  I don’t have to be prescient to tell you that if you reconquer Bulgaria in three months as you did before, you will embarrass Emperor Basil, who has been trying to reconquer it for the past three years.  He will think about having you poisoned.  When you recapture the Levant in six months, the Armenian generals that have been trying for the last six years won’t be so kind.  You’ll be dead in your first year as an Emperor.  You will only last longer if you succeed less and this will slow you down exponentially.  And you are already focking grandmothers!”  Hraerik laughed at the surprised look on Sweyn’s face and added, “Oh, I’ve been there.  It reaffirms your mortality.  Try planning a hit that you’ll be doing after your dead!  Talk about reaffirming your mortality!”

“How are you going to do that?” Sweyn asked.  “How can you kill someone in the future long after you are dead?”

“By getting into his head,” Hraerik said.  “Princess Blaeja, the spirit of Princess Blaeja is going to help me with that.”

“Who was Princess Blaeja?” Sweyn asked.  He kind of knew, but wasn’t sure.

“She was the daughter of King AElla of York.  She was a healer and a witch.  You should know her.  You’re focking her great grand-daughter.”

“She was there when King Hraegunar Lothbrok was slain by the Death of Cuts.  She was the one that recognized Hraegunar’s curse for what it was!”

“She’s the reason your father named you Svein!”

“Swine,” Sweyn said.  “The mortal enemy of the snake, Gorm, Worm, ‘the Old’, from the Frodi-Fridleif Skjoldung line of kings!”

“Yes!  Sviatoslav, Sveinald, Svein ‘the Old’, from the Frodi-Fridleif line of kings!” Hraerik said.  “You have just completed the final stage of the curse.  I helped with the first stage, I helped my brother King Hraelauger of the Vik, Duke Rollo of Normandy, perform the Death of the Blood Eagle on King AElla and the second generation helped when Prince Helgi ‘Arrow Odd’ Hraerikson plundered Princess Blaeja, and you, the third generation, have completed the cycle of three, by just killing King Harald ‘Blue Tooth’ Gormson.”

“I didn’t kill Harald.  I tried everything in my power not to kill Harald.  He was killed by his own men.”

“He was killed by your man!” Hraerik said.  “You defeated Jarl Sigvald at the Battle of Hjorungavagr and he fled rather than become your man, but he was your man anyway.  There was no escaping it.  You don’t know how close you came to losing that battle.  There was only one reason that King Harald sent the Jomsvikings to attack the Jarls of Lade and that was to kill you.  Princess Blaeja, her spirit, warned him that you were nearby, that you were coming for him.  So, he sent the Jomsvikings to kill you.  Thorgerder Helgibruder died at the Battle of Stiklastad beside your Uncle Helgi and she loved him so much that she came back to help keep you from dying.  And the grand-daughter of the shield maiden Stikla and Prince Helgi loves you so much that she became the goddess Irpa to keep you from dying.  And when you defeated the Jomsvikings, Jarl Sigvald became your man and he was the one who shot King Harald in the back with that golden arrow you keep on your shieldship.  But Jarl Sigvald wasn’t officially your man until just recently.”

“How do you know all this?” Sweyn asked, incredulously.

“Princess Blaeja told me.  She said you just recently focked Jarl Sigvald up the ass in Jomsborg, and that officially closed the cycle.”

“And I’m focking her grand-daughter?” Sweyn said in disbelief.

“Blaeja had Hraegunhild and she had Blaeja and she had Gorm and Gorm sired Harald who sired Gunhild whom you have had two children, so far, with.”

“She must be pissed at me!” Sweyn said.  “This ghost, this witch.”

“Not at all,” Hraerik reassured him.  “Blaeja was the first grandmother I focked.”

“Really?” Sweyn asked.

“Yes.  Prince Helgi plundered her, but he followed the rules of Hjalmar ‘the Brave’, who shares your byname, by the way, so the plundering was mutual, but his brother, King Ivar, raped her and raped her grand-daughter, Young Blaeja.  Your father, my son, Ivar, was a rapist,” Hraerik said.  “I’m sorry to tell you this, but it gets worse.  I know the following for a fact because Ivar told me how it went down.  Jarl Sigurd of Lade couldn’t seem to pry a child out of his wife, so, he invited King Ivar, his friend and known rapist, to his longhall and was ‘suddenly’ called away for three days, the right three days, and for three days Ivar raped his wife in the longhall and nine months later baby Haakon was born, so, there’s a good chance that Jarl Haakon is your half brother and Jarl Eirik and Aud are your nephew and niece.  I’m telling you this because Princess Blaeja has warned me that if Jarl Haakon doesn’t stop raping his subjects, they are going to kill him over it.”

“He won’t stop!” Sweyn said.  “He’s getting worse!”

“Well, at least now you know where he gets it from.”

“And where did Ivar get it from?” Sweyn said, eyeing his grandfather.

“Don’t look at me!” Hraerik replied.  “Like your uncle Helgi, I, too, follow the rules of Hjalmar ‘the Brave’.  I think it may come from Queen Eyfura’s side.  King Frodi was known to rape a girl or two hundred!”

“I’ve heard the stories about him.  Are they true?”

“I’m afraid so,” Hraerik said.  “He was a rapist when Hraelauger and I went to Liere and he was under the house of Westmar, but Princess Gunwar straightened him out.  When she died on the plains of Tmutorokan, something inside him snapped.  He murdered your grandmother, Queen Alfhild, and he fell back into debauchery.  But, getting back to getting inside this Turk prince’s head, I’m working with Princess Blaeja on a plan to run this hit on top of a failed hit.  We’re going to ensure that the failed hit succeeds in killing the Turk.”

“Why is Princess Blaeja helping you?”

“I’m no longer sure she is helping me.  I may be helping her do the hit.  But we help each other because I still love her.  I was being cavalier when I said she was my first grandmother, I mean, she was, but she was still a lot younger than me when we fell in love.  I’ve outlived a lot of women that I’ve loved, including your mother, Empress Helga.”  Hraerik looked away towards a dark corner of the room.

“It’s not easy being a prophet, is it?” Sweyn asked or consoled, he wasn’t sure which.

“I still see them,” Hraerik said.  “Princess Blaeja, Empress Helga, Queen Eyfura, Queen Alfhild, Princess Gunwar.  I loved them all.  I have wives right now that I love, and I hope I don’t outlive them, but I will.”

“Is Sinead one of them?” Sweyn asked.

“Oh yes!” Hraerik answered.  “She’s not a princess, but, of all my wives, she is the one I am most proud.  The hells we both overcame together.  She is now such a free spirit!” “I’m proud of you two as well,” Sweyn confessed.  “When I first saw the two of you together, I was concerned because of her youth, but she is now a fine young woman, and an underwater breather and leader of your recovery fleet!”