Ch. 25 SAINT BRICE’S DAY MASSACRE

Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert

Saint Brice’s Day Massacre Across All of England (Nov.13, 1002 AD)

CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE

SAINT BRICE’S DAY MASSACRE (Circa 1001-1002 AD)

(Menja said:)

22.      “Yet more swiftly grind:       the son of Yrsa

                        Frodi’s blood will crave       for the bane of Halfdan–

                        he Hrolf is hight                    and is to her

                        both son and brother,          as both of us know.”

                                   Anonymous; Grottasongr, Prose Edda (Hollander)

(1001)  In the early spring, King Sweyn and Jarl Eirik returned to Angleland with the Danish legion and the jarl’s newly acquired Norwegian army and they reoccupied their fortifications on the Isle of Wight.  They left some of their officers and hearses there to organize the base for a spring assault and then the two blood brothers slipped off with a small fleet to Ipswich to spend some time with Princess Gyda and their children.  They had two women with them, Thora Haraldsdottir and Gunhild Burizleifsdottir.  Once news of Olaf Tryggvason’s death reached Wendland, King Burizleif’s agents began asking questions about the whereabouts of the king’s wife, Thora, and they were told she had died in the Battle of Svolder.  The agents didn’t believe the reports and began following Queen Consort Gunhild around in Roskilde and she feared she was going to be kidnapped to get information on Queen Thora so, King Sweyn packed up both women and took them off to Angleland with him.  He planned on having them live with Princess Gyda for a while, at least until the Wend agents got tired of searching for Thora.

Thora and Gunhild were looking forward to living in Ipswich, to seeing Angleland.  The only Anglish they had really seen were from the steady stream of Anglo-Saxon slaves being transported east through Denmark and the people that they saw enslaved were very good looking folk who fetched the highest prices in the slave markets of Constantinople and Baghdad.  They wanted to see free Anglish, young Anglish men and women living in their towns and cities.  Thora had only ever been with older men, King Sweyn, King Burizleif, even King Olaf, who had been in his thirties.  The two women met Princess Gyda, who was a little older than they were, but not by much, and she introduced them to her staff, Hearse Justin who commanded the local militia or fyrd, as it was called, and his son, Justinian, who was all of eighteen and training to be an officer, and Thora fell in love at first sight.  She had never seen a young man so handsome and so young and she stammered to introduce herself to the boy and she flushed when she stammered, and young Justinian thought the princess much younger than she was because she blushed so youthfully.  He was immediately attracted to her Danish looks, for he was an Angle who could trace his family roots back hundreds of years to relatives who still lived in Jelling in Jutland.  Not many could anymore but he was from a line of minor royals and hearses who had made their martial living off of their noble name for centuries.  Gunhild saw the spark go off between the two but she kept it from her husband Sweyn.

King Sweyn and Jarl Eirik returned to the Isle of Wight and their legions were ready to once again assault Angleland.  Once again an attack on Southampton was planned, followed by another siege on Winchester.  Jarl Eirik and the legions again set up trebuchets around the walls of Southampton  The walls had been repaired and strengthened since their last battle, but Sweyn had, again, brought shiploads of tonstone from Sweden.  Sweyn and Eirik met and decided to offer the people of Southampton terms if they surrendered before the assault began and they sent messengers with an offer that, because the city had been sacked in the Roman fashion just a few years earlier, if they surrendered now, the city would only be plundered and half the citizens would not be enslaved.  Word got around of the offer and the poor wanted to surrender, but the rich wanted to fight, trusting in their newly repaired and strengthened walls.  The ealdormen of the city, the men who had spent the money for the upgraded walls and had issued the contracts for the repairs, sided with the rich and decided to reject the offer.

King Sweyn was fine with that.  He needed the slaves anyway.  Demand was up in the east and the Battle of Svolder had interfered with the fall harvest of Anglish slaves.  After Jarl Olaf had been defeated, the Danes, Swedes and pagan Norwegians took back Norway for the Aesir and enslaved Norse Christians at will, but most went back to their old pagan ways without complaint so, the numbers enslaved were low.  Only in the Viken were Christians entrenched and they lost a lot of people to the slave schools of Kiev.  More slaves were needed and the people of Southampton were very conveniently located for loading into slaver knars.

Once the assault commenced, it was immediately seen how much better the walls resisted the incredible impacts of the trebuchet shot.  The dense tonstone ballistae slammed into the walls and stuck fast in them, neither breaking the stones, nor bouncing back off them.  Usually bounce backs could be collected and reused.  This was going to take a lot of tonstone.  The ealdormen were elated with their handiwork and shouted obscenities down at the besieging Vikings from the walls, but the reason the tonstone was biting so deeply into the walls was because the general contractor for the repairs and upgrades had used a slightly softer stone from a nearby quarry and had bribed city masons to approve of the usage.  Each stone impacted by the very dense and hard tonstone had hairline cracks running through it and, when enough stone blocks had become compromised in one section of the walls, the whole repair collapsed and fell outside the walls in a pile of rubble.  It took over a week for the city walls to be reduced to a scalable height, but soon the Vikings were over them and the city was plundered, again, in the Roman fashion, and slavers were loading the women into ships at one end of the city while there was still fighting going on in the other.  Half the city was enslaved and put aboard the slaver knars and, again, they sat in the harbour for three days while ransoms were arranged for people wealthy enough to be saved and, again, it was the poor who suffered the most.  The ealdormen had been complaining of how many of the local citizens were poor after the last sacking, but now their poor were all taken away.

Next, the Viking army moved inland against the people of Winchester and the government had never returned after the last sacking, long gone for the new capital, London, because the old capital was just too exposed to attack.  They, too, were offered terms and they took them because only the poor were left and plundering was better than enslavement.  The Viking army had to move further inland to get their next harvest of slaves and they did so unopposed.  The ships went up the River Itchen to support the heavy cavalry of the legions with supplies and fodder and the horse rode out in huge swathes, taking towns and villages too numerous to name and from all of these came slaves, the unransomed, and they were loaded into ships that had been emptied of their fodder and they were taken to Southampton and loaded into slaver knars to be taken to Roskilde where the great merchant fleet would soon be assembling.

The army progressed as far as Alton and were challenged there by the fyrds of Hampshire and hazel poles were set and the shield-walls met, and the Saxons died or their surrenders were accepted, taking knees or bending over shields as their conquering lords saw fit, and those that fled beyond the hazel poles were open game for the heavy cavalry and were hewn down as they ran like deer before wolves.  After three days, half the captives were enslaved and the other half were set free after pledging oaths of fealty to their lords that had raped them on the field and in their pavilions.  Some captives became slaves and they were marched to Southampton where they waited for slaver ships and some captives were released, no longer to be warriors when faced by Norsemen.  They could be warriors again when facing the Irish or the Scots or the Franks, for that matter, but they were possessed by the Danes now and could never take up arms against the Norse.

The Danes and the Norwegians returned to Southampton, for King Athelred lost a lot of his top Earls and commanders in the Battle of Alton and King Sweyn did not want their king overthrown by his own people if he threatened London.  He was perfectly happy with having Athelred as king as long as Angleland remained a source of supply for slaves.  King Sweyn met again with Jarl Eirik and his commanders and ordered them to ravage southern Angleland all summer from the Isle of Wight while he led the merchant fleet east and engaged in trade.  But before he left, Sweyn and Eirik took a small warfleet to Ipswich to visit with Princess Gyda and her guests before Sweyn left for Baghdad.

In Ipswich, Sweyn learned that Princess Thora was in love with the son of the local fyrd commander, a hero of the Battle of Maldon.  He had been hoping that Thora might have begged forgiveness and come back to him, but he was happy when Gunhild did.  She begged forgiveness for helping Thora behind his back and she took extra efforts to gain his forgiveness and she joined Sweyn and Gyda and Eirik in bed one night and learned all about the Sacred Band of Brothers.  Princess Thora slept with her young hearse, Justinian, and she was starting to show her pregnancy by him.  After a week in Ipswich, Sweyn sailed for Denmark and Eirik returned to the Isle of Wight and began the sack of southern Angleland.

Jarl Eirik led a large fleet from the Isle of Wight west past Southampton and up the River Test and pillaged the villages of Romsey, Compton, Houghton, Fullerton, Middleton and then the town of Whitchurch, enslaving half the populations as he progressed.  There was a steady stream of slaver knars sailing back down the Test and he followed them back to Fullerton and sailed up the River Anton to the city of Andover, which was walled, but of scalable height so the city was taken in a day and plundered for another three days.  Half the population was enslaved and the unransomed were loaded into knars returning up the Test.  Jarl Eirik and his fleet then preceded the slaver knars down the Anton and the Test back to the Isle of Wight.  Larger sea going knars were loading up the slaves there to take them east to the slave schools of Kiev.

Jarl Eirik and his men rested on Wight a few days while they loaded up the slaves and they enjoyed the women and children that were yet to be loaded.  Then the warfleet sailed west along the Anglish Sea to Christchurch and sacked the city, then sailed up the River Avon to the villages of Burton, Winkton and Avon, then Ringwood, Bickton and Fordingbridge, then Breamore, Downton and Alderbury, plundering all as they went and slaver knars followed the fleet like seagulls following an Anglish plow.  When they reached the city of Salisbury, the Saxons were waiting.  The city walls were stone and thirty feet high and would require some reduction by trebuchet so, they settled in for a siege.  The city had a thousand soldiers on the walls and had provisions for a whole summer of siege and they weren’t worried about catapults, but they had never seen a trebuchet before and the Viking army had two hundred of them and Jarl Eirik had the full Novgorod mobile legion at his disposal, ten thousand men, and they were soon loading Salisbury’s summer’s worth of stores into their ships.  An army travels on its stomach and now the legion had provisions to sail across southern Angleland.

Ships were how large armies were provisioned in the east.  A few cargo knars could carry supplies to provision an army for months and if the goods were transported by a wagon based baggage train, the train would be larger than the army.  So, while reports were going back to London and King Athelred that the Viking army was sweeping across southern Angleland, the mobile legion was actually sailing their transport warships across Angleland up one river at a time

They sailed back down the River Avon to Christchurch and then up the River Stour to the villages of Tuckton, Iford and Holdenhurst, then Knighton, Hayes and the town of Wimbourne Minster, then on to Sturminster, Shapwick and Littleton and then the town of Blandford followed by Bryanston and then they sailed back to the Isle of Wight, all the time being followed by their flock of seagulls.  Some of the sea going knars had returned from Kiev so, Jarl Eirik and his men partook of the Anglish women before being loaded and gave them a sample of what their lots in life would be henceforth.

Then the warfleet sailed west to Bournemouth and up the River Bourne to the towns of Rossmore and Alderney.  Then they sailed further west to Poole then across Upton Lake to Hamworthy and Upton towns, then west of Poole up the River Frome to the town of Wareham, then Moreton and then the walled city of Dorchester.  It had been a great Roman city during British times so, the walls were high and very well built and had been well maintained over the years because Dorchester was famous for its granite stone and its stone masons.  Half the Ealdormen were stone masons so, whenever the economy was slow over the years, another tower was added to reinforce the walls.  Even with trebuchets and tonstone projectiles, it was going to be a hard nut to crack.  Jarl Eirik left half his legion and most of his trebuchets there and he sailed back down the Frome.

They sailed west to the Isle of Portland and Weymouth, both of which they sacked, then up the River Wey to Broadwey town and Upwey village, both of which they plundered.  On their way back downstream Eirik saw a Welsh ship he recognised and he hailed Weiand and asked him what he was doing there.  Weiand told him that King Sweyn had sent him a messenger to come help sack the Saxons.  “He made me an offer I couldn’t refuse!” Wee And said in his lilting Welsh-Anglish that made people want to listen to him talk.  “I have half-brothers from here all the way to West Wales and I’m to guide you through Devonshire should you wish it!”  Eirik told him about the siege he was conducting against Dorchester and Weiand clicked his tongue and said it would be a tough one.  Eirik liked how Weiand just got right to the point and when they got back, he showed him the siegeworks.

Weiand was very impressed with the trebuchets and Eirik explained how they worked and how their whipping action achieved a much higher shot velocity than torsional catapults.  “Your troops go up and down those ladders all day?” Weiand said in amazement.  “Just up,” Eirik corrected him.  “They ride the ropes down all day, too.”

“Still,” Weiand said, “their legs must be strong as mules’!”

“The better to go up scaling ladders with.”

Weiand saw a footbow leaning against a tonstone bin and he said, “That’s a long bow if I’ve ever seen one!” and he took it up in his arms and he drew it like a handbow.

“That’s a footbow!” Eirik said.  “You shouldn’t be able to draw it like that.”  Eirik saw that the bow had a blue painted colour code stripe on it and he added, “It has a two hundred pound draw weight!  Your arms are as strong as a mule’s!”

“I’m a smith,” Weiand replied.  “My arms go up and down those ladders every day!”  He saw several footbow arrows pushed into the ground beside the bin and he nodded at Eirik and helped himself to an arrow and nocked it facing toward the city wall.

“That’s a long shot!” Eirik said.  “We keep the trebuchets this far back because the shot velocity is greatest as the arc of the stone begins its descent.”

Weiand saw that he had lots of arrow length left so, he kept the nocked arrow to his cheek and twisted his body to get his shoulder width into the shot and he let it fly just as a trebuchet released.  The arrow followed a slightly higher trajectory but travelled at about the same speed as the tonstone shot and the stone hit the wall two thirds up it as the arrow hit a man at the top of it.  The man dropped down behind the castellations and the men near him all ducked behind the stoneworks.

Eirik was amazed at the shot.  “I’ll give you a gold Byzant if you can do it again!”

“I don’t know if I can,” Weiand said.  “They’ve all ducked down behind the wall!  How about that man on the other side of the tower?  He didn’t see the other man go down.  Will you give me a gold Byzant if I drop him?”

“I’ll give you two!”

So, Weiand nocked another arrow and drew back his longbow and waited for the trebuchet to release and he loosed the arrow and again the arrow’s trajectory was higher, but it didn’t fly parallel to the shot, rather arcing across and overtop it and it was still arcing down when the tonstone hit the wall and it just seemed to touch the man across the throat and the man pitched forward and fell thirty feet down the front of the wall to his death.  “Don’t worry,” Weiand said.  “He never felt a thing.  He was dead before he hit the ground.  The arrow’s barb cut across his jugulars.”

“You could see that?” Eirik asked.

“Can’t hit what you can’t see,” he replied.  Eirik dug two Byzants out of his coin pouch and handed them to Weiand.  “Thank you, prince,” Weiand said.  “I’m making gold already and I haven’t even started yet.  Could I buy this foot bow off you?  It looks more like six foot to me, but…”

“You can have it,” Eirik replied.  “It’s called a footbow because it’s meant to be shot using your feet.”

“How and the fock are you supposed to shoot a bow with your feet?” Weiand asked.

Eirik just shook his head and laughed.

Eventually Dorchester fell and half the people were enslaved.  The slaver knars took them back to Wight and the warfleet sailed further west to West Bay town and up the River Brit to Bridport town and then the town of Beaminster.  The slave knars were only half filled and plunder was even scanter.  Weiand steered them clear of Charmouth, Lyme Regis, Axmouth, Sidmouth and Ottermouth saying the rivers are too small and plunder even scanter.

Then further west, they fell suddenly upon the town of Exmouth on the estuary of the River Exe and Weiand told them the city of Exeter was further upstream and that there was a Viking Ealdorman named Pallig who was in charge of the city and much of Devonshire.  “He’s new,” Weiand told Eirik.  “King Athelred appointed him last winter.”

“Is his name Pallig Tokesen?”

“I just know it’s Pallig and he’s a former Jomsviking who has accepted preliminary baptism from the king.  The king is his sponsor and god-father.  The king was sponsor and god-father of King Olaf Tryggvason of Norway, but he died in some battle in the east last year so, I guess Pallig is his replacement?”

“I was at that battle east of Denmark,” Eirik told him, “and so was Jarl Pallig and some of the Jomsvikings.  I would have killed Jarl Olaf Tryggvason myself had he not dove into the sea and drowned himself instead of face my wrath.”

“Could you tell me more of it?” Weiand asked.

“King Sweyn will return from Baghdad soon.  We’ll recount the battle together when he gets back.  Right now we should see if Pallig intends to defend Exeter or join us in sacking her.”

Jarl Eirik led his legion up the Exe to the city of Exeter and surrounded the city walls with his troops.  The city had already been locked up tight and expecting an attack.  He sent messengers to the city gate asking Jarl Pallig for a ‘parlee’, a term Eirik had borrowed from his fellow Norwegians, the Normans, just across the Anglish Sea.  Jarl Pallig came out from the city gates, surrounded by his Viking and Anglish officers and his Anglish troops set up an open pavilion and a table and some chairs for his guests.  “Welcome Lade Jarl Eirik,” Pallig greeted him, offering him a chair at the other side of the table.  “Would you care for some fine Frankish wine from across the Channel?”

“No thanks,” Eirik answered.  “I hear you’ve accepted Christianity from King Athelred.  You’ve never struck me as the religious type, Aesir or Christian.”

“It’s just preliminary baptism,” Pallig started.  “If you want to rent your sword to the Anglish, they require at least preliminary baptism, so, I gave the least that I had to, for as you pointed out, I’m not a religious man.”

“Why did you leave Jomsburg?” Eirik asked.

A servant poured Pallig some wine into a goblet and Pallig had him fill the other goblet out of the same bottle and he offered Eirik either glass but he refused so, Pallig took one for himself and left the other in the middle of the table.  He took a drink, then said, “After Jarl Sigvald refused to join in the Battle of Svolder, I felt I had to leave the order.  It was not his first act of cowardice.”

“So why the Anglish?”

“Funny thing, that,” Pallig began, and Weiand squeezed forward through the Danish knot of followers to hear better, “I left Jomsborg because Sigvald wouldn’t allow the Jomsvikings to attack King Olaf, and King Athelred wanted my sword because I was at the Battle of Svolder in the only group that didn’t attack King Olaf.  I can tell him the details of what happened and he knows it is from a neutral position, thanks to Jarl Sigvald.”

“Why would King Athelred care about Jarl Olaf and the Battle of Svolder?”

“Jarl Olaf was part of King Athelred’s plan to neutralize Viking attacks from Norway by Christianizing Norway and becoming King Olaf’s staunchest ally.  And it was working for five years and then all of Pagan Scandinavia rose up together and slew him.  And now Norwegians are back attacking Angleland again,” and Pallig again offered Eirik the wine.  “King Athelred is really pissed about it, especially with King Sweyn and the Danes.  He thinks king Sweyn sent Queen Thora to Lade to seduce King Olaf and that King Sweyn’s ‘daughter’ led King Olaf east to his slaughter.  King Olaf was his god-son and a key to stopping the unceasing Viking attacks on Angleland.”

“King Sweyn didn’t even know that Queen Thora was in Lade until he heard that Jarl Olaf had married her!  I can vouch for that.  We were both equally surprised!”

“So you’re that certain that Sweyn shares all his plans with you?” Pallig challenged.

“And is that what you are to Athelred?  Just another key in his plan to stop Viking attacks?” Eirik challenged back and they sat and stared at each other.  Eirik reached out and took his goblet of wine from the middle of the table and he drank from it.  He smiled at Pallig and shook his head.

“I’m to be the new Normandy,” Pallig admitted.  “Athelred has given me lands and titles and estates and gold to stop Viking attacks in Devonshire.”

“King Athelred is not about to make the same mistake Charles the Bald did with Normandy,” Eirik warned Pallig.  “He will not give Saxon lands to Vikings to stop Viking attacks.”

“The estates he has given me are in Cornwall, West Wales,” Pallig confessed.  “He has no qualms with giving up Welsh land to stop Viking attacks on Saxon land.”  Weiand heard this and his ears began burning.  “But thanks for the warning,” Pallig went on, “and let me give you one in return.”

Eirik took a drink of wine and leaned forward, all ears.

“King Athelred talks of nothing but revenge against the Danes since hearing of the slaying of Jarl Olaf,” Pallig started.  “He even wants to get ‘King Olaf’ sainted!  Imagine, a former slave becomes a Jarl then becomes a king and then, upon death, becomes a Christian saint!  Is nothing sacred anymore?”

“That’s your warning?” Eirik asked.  “Jarl Olaf gets sainted?”

“No. No. Sorry,” Pallig said.  “King Athelred talks of nothing but revenge and I think he plans to attack the Danelaw.  He knows that you and King Sweyn are holed up in Ipswich with Princess Gyda and I think that is where he will attack.  Jarl Olaf told him that Gyda refused to go with him to Norway and be his queen there and that is why he left her.”

“Olaf abandoned Princess Gyda,” Eirik protested.  “He didn’t even tell her he was going to Norway.  She told me this herself and she still thinks it’s because she is of Irish-Danish stock and he went to Norway looking for a true queen of high birth and long lineage.  A Queen Sigrid of Gotland or a Queen Gunhild of Norway, not a Princess Gyda of Dublin.”

“I know she’s right,” Pallig said.  “I watched Jarl Olaf when I was a boy in Jomsborg and he was a man with a plan and nothing was going to stop him getting his way.  Not love nor money, but King Athelred saw only the best of Jarl Olaf and I think he loved him as a god-son, so, now he seeks revenge.  Don’t let him catch you or King Sweyn off your guard in Ipswich.  He’ll have your heads and Princess Gyda’s too!”

“Thanks for the warning.  I trust your judgement in this and I shall take precautions.  Now, about Exeter…shall you defend her or help us sack her?”

“Cornwall will make a fine Normandy,” Pallig said, drinking more wine.  “I could grow old and fat in Plymouth like Duke Rollo did in Rouen.”

“You’d spend the rest of your days fishing on the River Ply,” Eirik joked.  “That’s no life for a Jomsviking!”

“If King Sweyn’s going to be here soon, I’d like to hear his thoughts on it before I make a decision.  Perhaps we could have another ‘parlee’ when he gets here?”

“Is it okay if we raid upriver while you’re waiting?”

“I’ve got a hundred ships and five thousand men,” Pallig said, “against your three hundred ships, a full Hraes’ legion and five thousand Norwegians.  We aren’t leaving Exeter so, feel free to raid.  Rape, pillage and plunder all you want, just try to keep burning to a minimum, if you would.  It profits no one.”

“Just remember that when King Sweyn comes,” Eirik warned, “he’ll have another full Danish legion with him so, hear him out before you side with the Anglish.”

Jarl Eirik left half a legion in Exmouth and took the rest of his forces up the River Exe to Pennsylvania town and then to the villages of Netherexe, Upexe and Tiverton and they raped and burned and pillaged as instructed and there were standing orders not to burn things such as houses and churches and towns.  “The hottest things I want to see here,” Jarl Eirik told his men, “are the honey-wells of the Anglish women!”  A steady stream of slaver knars took villagers and townsfolk south down the river to Exmouth where they were being loaded up into sea going knars.  The warfleet then sailed up the Lyman River to Wellington and down the Tone River to Taunton.  While laying siege to the walled city of Taunton they learned by messenger from Pallig that Saxon fyrds had been raised in Plymouth and Torquay and an army was marching north to relieve Exeter.

Jarl Eirik received the warning in the afternoon and planned to start his return to Exeter the next morning so, he met with his commanders to discuss a night assault upon Taunton.  He had a river full of empty slaver knars behind him and he didn’t want to take them back to Exmouth empty so, he planned to burn the town at midnight and force the people out from behind their stone walls.  The walls may have been built of stone, but most of the houses within were of wattle and daub construction with thatch roofs.  Eirik wanted to fire the town by using his trebuchets to hurl Greek fire-pots into the city while the people were sleeping but his artillery commander was concerned with the inherent danger to his men with shooting trebuchets in the dark and particularly with shooting Greek fire in a moonless night.  While they were discussing this, the naval commander went out to the nearest legion transport warship and came back with a crate in his arms and set it upon the planning table.

The small crate was sealed with wax and, as the officer used his seax to open the crate, he explained that each of the legion ships was equipped with one such crate and when he opened it he took out one small Cathayan sky lantern and he unfolded it.  He set it on the table and lit a small wafer of candle from the flame of a taper that was in a nearby candlestick and he put the wafer into the paper holder below the tissue balloon he had unfolded above it.  The heat from the candle wafer rose up into the tissue balloon and the sky lantern began rising up into the roof of the pavilion and it floated up there, sixteen feet in the air, and some officers expressed concern that it might set the tent on fire, but the candle soon started flickering and the sky candle began descending and it landed on the dirt floor and the tissue balloon collapsed on top of the sputtering candle and soon burst into flames in the middle of the pavilion floor.

“King Sweyn’s mother, Empress Helga,” the commander explained, “years ago used five thousand of these to burn the town of Iskorosten in Hraes’ one night and she captured all the citizens of the town when they fled from within the town walls to escape the great fire.”

“How many do we have?” Eirik asked.

“There are one hundred in each crate and we have half a legion with a hundred ships so, we should have ten thousand, more than enough.  And each crate has a MUD Book, a military use directions book,” and he took a small book out of the crate and unfolded it into one full vellum sheet.  “It is written in Norse in the miniscule font of Alcuin,” the officer announced, passing the parchment to Eirik.  “Do you read the font of Alcuin or do you read runic?”

Eirik grabbed the sheet, annoyed by the slight of a Dane against his Norwegian prince.  “Of course I read the font of Alcuin,” he replied.  “My sister owns two scriptoriums!”

The officer was visibly impressed by this.  They spread out the Mud book on the table and began reading the directions, but, as usual, manuals had a way of turning something simple into something quite complex and was soon requiring wind speeds and directions and was even factoring in the rotation speed of the earth under extremely calm conditions which were often present at night.

Eirik put the naval commander in charge of the sky lantern attack and he put his artillery commander in charge of a backup Greek fire attack in case the sky candles didn’t go as calculated.  But at midnight, five thousand legion troops lit five thousand Cathayan sky lanterns and let them float up into the air and a slight breeze took them toward Taunton and the guards on the walls of the town were so awed by the strange sight that they just watched as the faint lanterns floated towards them and didn’t raise any alarms.  Soon the lanterns were over Taunton and the lights began to flicker and the lanterns came down and burst into flames on the thatched roofs of the town.  The guards sounded the alarms as the roofs began to burn and the fire brigades came out and saw all the houses on fire and immediately began rousing the sleeping citizens to get them out of the town walls.  The Viking army was waiting for them at the town gates and the soldiers led them directly into the slaver ships.  Men, women, children and babies went directly into the slaver knars and sat on the benches and decks of the ships and awaited their fates in the morning.  The good looking girls of Taunton, however, were directed into the pavilions of the army and their screams could be heard floating out across the waters all night long as the citizens aboard ship drifted in and out of sleep.

Eirik woke up the next morning with a Taunton woman under each of his arms.  They were girls when they had been led into his pavilion, but they were women now.  He got out of his camp cot naked and dressed himself in front of the girls and he threw them their clothes and told them to get dressed and join their parents on the ships.  He was washing at his basin on the table and he could see the naked girls were still smudged in smoke and he called them over and he started washing the soot off their slender naked bodies and their pretty faces and then he sent them back to the cot to dress.  The soldiers always brought their leaders the finest girls or they knew they would answer for it.  When they were dressed he studied them and washed the last traces of soot from them.  “Just walk along the ships,” he told them in Saxon, “and call out for your folks until you find them!” and he patted the girls on the ass as they left his pavilion.  If they’d been Anglish girls they could have understood his Norse, so close were the two languages, but Saxon was different enough that one could still understand it while thinking in Norse, but it was better to switch one’s brain over to Saxon and use the proper words and pronunciations.

Eirik stepped out of the pavilion and could see that the town was still smoldering behind its stone walls and the fire brigades were resting near the tents.  They had been gathered together after they’d saved their people and the army sent them back in to fight the fires.  Usually a town was plundered first and then burned or not burned, usually depending on whether it was majority German Saxon or Danish Anglish or on a variety of other factors, but in this case it would not have been burned at all had it not been for the required rush to take the town.  “Sorry Pallig,” Eirik mumbled as he walked through the nearest town gate to survey the damage.  A force would be left to tear up floorboards and dig up dirt floors to look for gold and coins; the banks of Angleland were in the floors of the Anglish and Saxon houses and the fire brigades would help dig them up.

As Eirik walked down to the ships he surveyed all the young girls looking for their folks to ensure that, indeed, he had gotten the prettiest ones and he felt reassured when he could see that he had.  His girls had been so pretty that he soon saw a group of soldiers, destined to remain, dragging the two girls he had sent off back to the tents so, he intercepted the girls and walked along the river with them until they had found their folks and he told their parents in the ships to keep them well hidden beneath their shawls and kerchiefs or they would be taken away by others.  There was one common element, Eirik mused, in the sacking of cities and the plundering of towns and the pillaging of villages and that was: they were all different.  And Taunton, though rushed, had been particularly pleasant.

When Jarl Eirik got back to Exeter, he saw that the Anglish army had not yet arrived and that Pallig was still holed up within its walls.  He hadn’t even been able to set up a parlee with Pallig when they spotted King Sweyn’s Danish legion ships coming up the River Exe from Exmouth.  Jarl Eirik set up his pavilion tent in front of Exeter this time and he set up more tables and chairs and had bottles of sparkling wine from the Champagne province of Frankia put upon them along with fine Anglish wafers and Khazar Vayar from Kiev.  Sweyn joined Eirik in his pavilion and they had some Champagne and Khavayar and made light talk to start.

Sweyn told him that he led the Nor’Way fleet this time and all the improvements that Jarl Haakon had initiated and Eirik had completed were starting to pay dividends.  Trading in Baghdad was great and slave prices were high even with the Hraes’ plentiful supply.  His babies with Anise and Saffron were growing fast and his return via the Dan’Way was uneventful.  Prince Valdamar was making babies like crazy and Prince Hraerik was as youthful as ever.

“He never gets old,” Eirik said.

Then Sweyn told him some bad news.  “I stopped in at Jomsborg to see if Astrid had returned to Sigvald and he told me she hadn’t and my spies in Wollin told me why.”  He leaned forward.  “Remember when I told you that Princess Astrid had led her ship into the fight at Svolder and demanded her share of the spoils?”  Eirik nodded and leaned forward too.  “Well,” Sweyn continued, “she may have picked up more than spoils when she pulled up to the last Norwegian ship in the line.”

“What do you mean?” Eirik said hoarsely as he started to follow where this was going.

“My spies in Wollin told me that Astrid is back living with King Burizleif and she’s converted to Christianity and spends much of her time in a monastery outside of Wollin with a man in a wheeled chair, a Hraes’ wheeled chair, and a very big man, a warrior, perhaps a king.”

“Jarl Olaf?” Eirik cried!  “Olaf Tryggvason?” and Eirik squeezed his glass so hard he crushed it and blood began dripping onto the table.

“They don’t know,” Sweyn answered, “but my Gunhild always said Astrid loved him.  She even told me once that she thought Astrid may have poisoned her sister Geira to get Olaf for herself.  So I stopped in at Ipswich on my way here and I asked Gunhild if she thought Astrid capable of pulling off an escape like that and she told me that Astrid had trained to be a shieldmaiden in her youth, but she gave it up when she learned quite by accident that she liked focking better.  I’d tell you how she learned this, but it would make even a Viking like you blush!”

“So?  Did she do it?” Eirik asked anxiously.

“Gunhild thinks she might have, because she would never have sailed into battle for booty.  She has all the gold she’s ever wanted and could give two shits about more of it, but if she thought she could save Olaf, she’d sail right into Hraegunarok and back out again!”

“That focking cunt!” Eirik cursed.  “She’d do it too! I’ll wager!”  He released the shattered glass and pulled a shard of it from his palm.

“I grilled Thora about Olaf as well and she told me she had seen him swimming once in a contest with the best swimmers in Norway and he beat them all and could hold his breath underwater longer than humanly possible.  She also told me an interesting little part of Olaf’s plans for Norway.”

“What’s that?” Eirik asked, licking the blood out of his palm and washing down with Champagne.

“King Athelred planned on making a Christian Norway Angleland’s closest ally,” Sweyn began, “but Olaf was planning on turning on Athelred and using the armies of Norway to link up with my Kievan legion in Bamburgh and march south to London and kill Athelred in battle.  He knew that I was only toying with Athelred and using Angleland for slaves and Danegeld but he needed Angleland if Norway was ever going to be able to stand up to Denmark and the Hraes’.”

“So, he stole your legion to hide it up in York to attack Athelred!”

“He didn’t steal my legion,” Sweyn confessed.  “I gave it to him.  Prince Valdamar loaned me the legion because it was the one legion that had converted to Orthodox Christianity with him and I needed Christian legionnaires to follow the Christian Jarl Olaf.  I knew that if I left a Christian legion with a Christian leader, Athelred would take the bait.  That’s why we attacked York the fall before.  We plundered Northumbria to kill the Saxon princes that were ruling there to open up so that Olaf could rule up there.  When I left Jarl Olaf with my legion to overwinter on the Isle of Wight, I told him that Athelred would offer him full baptism and try to convert the legion to Latin Christianity as well, and I instructed him to accept the offer and to ask for York to rule over and I wanted Olaf to stay and rule in in York with my legion for I knew the time would come when I would eventually have to crush Athelred or whoever overthrew him and I planned to do it from both the north and the south.  I overwintered in Ipswich that year to more closely monitor Athelred and his plans to Christianize Norway, but it wasn’t supposed to happen.  Jarl Olaf was to stay and rule in York and keep stalling Athelred until I ordered him to attack Angleland from the north.”

“What happened?” Eirik asked.

“I focked up!” Sweyn admitted.  “I never checked out Olaf’s pedigree.  He never claimed to be King Trygve’s son.  He was just Ole from Hraes’.  He was Prince Valdamar’s foremost man that left Hraes’ to go a viking!  As soon as I left him in York to rule he headed off and attacked Norway.”

Jarl Eirik remembered what Pallig had said about Sweyn not sharing all his plans.  “Why didn’t you tell me this?”

“Because the first thing Olaf did in Norway was kill your brother Erling and then Jarl Haakon.  It’s my fault they’re dead!”   Sweyn put his forehead into his hands and stared down at the table.  “I didn’t know he had a claim to the Norwegian throne!”

“Jarl Pallig Tokesen rules inside Exeter right now,” Jarl Eirik said, more to control his anger than anything else.  “He left the Jomsvikings because Jarl Sigvald wouldn’t help in the attack upon Jarl Olaf.”

“I heard he had converted and joined King Athelred,” Sweyn said.  “How’d he end up here?  I thought he’d be up in York.”

“He was in York last year, with King Athelred and an Anglish army.  They were making sure your legion was still loyal and Latin Christian.  Your legion was holed up in Bamburgh Castle and refused to come out but they professed their loyalty and allowed the clergy in to inspect their chapel for Orthodox icons.  They convinced Athelred of their loyalty enough that he left them alone and crossed over to the west and plundered the Strathclyde Britons and brought them back under his sway.”  Then Eirik went into Athelred’s plan to turn Jarl Pallig into the next Duke Rollo of Normandy.

Sweyn looked for Weiand in Eirik’s group of men and caught his eye.  “And Weiand hasn’t killed him yet?” he asked.  Eirik followed his gaze over to Weiand and said, “Not yet, but I’m sure he and his half-brothers in West Wales already have plans to.  Anyway, I think your legion in York is still loyal to you and sits in Bamburgh awaiting orders.”

“Let’s keep that between ourselves.  Pallig is not to be trusted.”

“Let’s have lunch,” Eirik said, waving over his servant girls, “and then I’ll set up a parlee with Pallig.”

“A parlee?” Sweyn laughed.  “That’s very Norman of you.”

“Well,” Eirik replied, “he is the new Duke Rollo.”  And they both laughed.

After lunch, Eirik sent a messenger to the main gates of Exeter to ask Jarl Pallig for a parlee with Jarl Eirik and King Sweyn.  While they were waiting, Eirik told Sweyn about the warning that Pallig had given him.  “Pallig says Athelred blames you for the slaying of Jarl Olaf and that he is hell bent on revenge for his god-son.  He thinks Athelred has something planned for us.”

“This is focked,” Sweyn complained.  “Jarl Ole may not even be dead and had planned on stabbing Athelred in the back anyway.  But we say nothing to Pallig about it.  We don’t want to endanger our legion in the north.”

Jarl Pallig came out of Exeter surrounded by his Jomsviking officers and a few local Anglish hearses.  Jarl Eirik switched to Sweyn’s side of the table and invited Pallig to sit across from them with his back to his walled city.

“I’m surprised to see you here,” Sweyn said.  “I heard you’d converted and I thought Athelred might have sent you to lord over York.”

“He has offered me all of Cornwall to defend southern Angleland for him.  I come to listen to your offer to me if I abandon him and turn Exeter over to you peacefully.”

“Jarl Eirik has told me you left the Jomsvikings because Jarl Sigvald refused to attack Jarl Olaf Tryggvason.  I thought it only fair to tell you that I ordered Sigvald to stand down.  I wanted to keep Jomsborg on friendly terms with King Burizleif and attacking his son-in-law Olaf might have jeopardized that.”

“Jarl Sigvald is a Jomsviking and not subject to your orders,” Pallig reminded the king.

“Jarl Sigvald fled the Battle of Hjorungavagr instead of taking a knee in front of me.  When he married Princess Astrid and I married Princess Gunhild in Jomsborg, Sigvald took his knee in front of me and I bent him over his shield there.  He made himself subject to my orders.”

“Perhaps that is why,” Pallig said, “Princess Astrid left him?”

“Oh, the Princess took both knees in front of me and we shared a bed.  Sigvald’s taking a knee was at her request, let me assure you.”

Pallig was shocked at this news.

“Perhaps if you turn Exeter over to me,” Sweyn offered, “I will find you a place in our ‘new’ Angleland and I won’t require you to take a knee in front of me for fleeing Hjorungavagr.”

“I wasn’t even born when you won at Hjorungavagr,” Pallig said.

“Exactly!” Sweyn replied.  “But many of the Jomsviking hearses standing behind you were there and if they’re still here and have not taken a knee before me they soon will be.”  Many of the older Jomsviking officers standing behind Jarl Pallig looked down to the ground at this.  Jarl Pallig looked over his shoulder at them and he felt soon to be abandoned by them.

“What sort of a place in your new Angleland would we be talking about?”

“We could start with an Earldom and command of a full legion,” Sweyn replied, “and you can work your way up from there.”

“Of course you’ll make me give up Christianity,” Pallig offered.

“We don’t care if you’re Christian or otherwise,” Sweyn said.  “The Hraes’ Trading Company is full of Christians, both Orthodox and Latin.”

“If you make me give up Christianity I will accept your offer,” Pallig said.

“You must give up Christianity,” Sweyn ordered and Pallig accepted the offer and turned Exeter over to King Sweyn and his legions.  The city was systematically plundered by the Novgorod legion and Jarl Eirik’s Norwegian forces while King Sweyn and the newly arrived Danish legion headed south with Jarl Pallig’s Jomsvikings to find the Anglish army that was marching north against them.  They found the Anglish army camped near the village of Pin Hoo, which was located near the howe of an ancient king named Pin, who was supposedly buried there in a mound chamber with his many wives.

The high steward and many reeves had collected a force of fifteen thousand to match the reported Hraes’ legion and about five thousand Norwegians that had been reported in Exmouth but they found, instead, a Danish legion and five thousand Jomsvikings and they were no match for them.  King Sweyn had his officers mark out the battlefield with hazel poles and the shield walls crashed for an hour and then the fyrds of Devon collapsed and many took a knee before the Danes or were bent over their shields, but many more fled and were rode down by the heavy cavalry on the legion flanks and were lassoed and dragged into slavery by the horsemen.  Half those who surrendered were released after pledging fealty to their captors and half were enslaved, but those who fled the battlefield were either killed or enslaved.  Such was the Aesir law and the Vanir law followed by the ancient Romans.

The Viking army sacked and burned the villages of Pin Hoo and Clist on the way back and they raped the captive Saxon women in front of their enslaved soldiers and they marched them all to Exmouth and loaded them directly onto sea going slaver knars.  Then King Sweyn and Jarl Pallig took their forces up to Exeter and joined in on the rape and pillaging that was still going on there.  Half the people were enslaved and half were returned to their homes in the city and ransoms were arranged for the required three days and only the poorest of the city ended up in slavery.  All the nobles and freemen of Exeter managed to dig up the gold to free themselves and their families, but the captives of Taunton weren’t so lucky.  They had been quickly hauled away from their town with no opportunity to dig up their buried bullion so most had nothing to ransom themselves with.  Those who had relatives in Exeter sometimes got ransom from them but more often not.

For some reason, Jarl Eirik took it upon himself to find the two girls he had raped in Taunton and he ransomed their families and sent them back to Taunton aboard a ship of the ransomed, but he kept the two girls with him in the mansion he occupied in Exeter and he slept with them at night the whole time Exeter was ravaged and they were free to wander the city during the days but they always returned to him at night and when the Viking army headed back to the Isle of Wight, he gave them gold and bought them passage back to their parents in Taunton.  One of the Devon girls was a poet and the other was a singer and they wrote and sang for Jarl Eirik:

“Palely and flamily,

we ignite beneath the skins

we were bagged in at birth.

Waxen and bathetic

we are St. Sebastians

of pointing fingers.

We wring our hands,

familiar

with the posture of martyrs.

No god watches

at a distance

as we load long arrows

onto longbows.

What an endless tat-tat-tat.

What a shrill keening.

The funeral corteges

snake for blocks.

Candles gutter in clusters.

The comfort

we hunger for

sizzles like tiny wings.”

Devon Balwit of Devonshire

Back in Ipswich, King Sweyn put Jarl Pallig in charge of the Danish legion he was leaving there and he told Thora and Gunhild that they would have to overwinter there until King Burizleif’s agents gave up their search for them.  Princess Thora didn’t mind because she had given birth to her young knight, Justinian’s, son and they’d named the boy Justin after the grandfather.  Jarl Pallig was from Fynn but his mother was from Jutland and he knew many of Justin’s relatives there and he got on great with all three generations of Angles.  Jarl Eirik asked Gyda to overwinter with him in Lade because he didn’t trust Pallig but he trusted in his warning.  Gyda accepted so, she packed up all her children, two of Olaf’s daughters, one being Eirik’s wife anyway, two of Sweyn’s sons and now two of Eirik’s and she sailed with him and his Viking forces to Norway.  King Sweyn sailed to Denmark with his Novgorod legion and then sent them off to Hraes’ before the ‘Glassy Plains’ froze up solid for the winter.

After Sweyn had left Ipswich, Jarl Pallig took his Jomsvikings and a regiment each of Hraes’ foot and heavy horse for a viking expedition up the coast of Angleland to the mouth of the Humber River, near York.  The Jomsvikings had been in the area the year before with King Athelred, and Pallig had seen some wealthy little towns   He started the attack on the port town of Grimsby then they attacked the town of Waltham and the surrounding villages and they raped, plundered and burned throughout the area until winter drove them back south to Ipswich.  It became apparent from his actions there why he had wanted King Sweyn to have him give up Christianity.  The religion ran counter to his nature.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:

A.D. 1001.  This year there was great commotion in England in consequence of an invasion by the Danes, who spread terror and devastation wheresoever they went, plundering and burning and desolating the country with such rapidity, that they advanced in one march as far as the town of Alton; where the people of Hampshire came against them, and fought with them.  There was slain Ethelwerd, high-steward of the king, and Leofric of Whitchurch, and Leofwin, high-steward of the king, and Wulfhere, a bishop’s thane, and Godwin of Worthy, son of Bishop Elfsy; and of all the men who were engaged with them eighty-one.  Of the Danes there was slain a much greater number, though they remained in possession of the field of battle.  Thence they proceeded westward, until they came into Devonshire; where Paley came to meet them with the ships which he was able to collect; for he had shaken off his allegiance to King Ethelred, against all the vows of truth and fidelity which he had given him, as well as the presents which the king had bestowed on him in houses and gold and silver.  And they burned Teignton, and also many other goodly towns that we cannot name; and then peace was there concluded with them.  And they proceeded thence towards Exmouth, so that they marched at once till they came to Pin-hoo; where Cole, high-steward of the king, and Edsy, reve of the king, came against them with the army that they could collect.  But they were there put to flight, and there were many slain, and the Danes had possession of the field of battle.  And the next morning they burned the village of Pin-hoo, and of Clist, and also many goodly towns that we cannot name.  Then they returned eastward again, till they came to the Isle of Wight.  The next morning they burned the town of Waltham, and many other small towns; soon after which the people treated with them, and they made peace.

(1002)  In the early spring, King Sweyn and Jarl Eirik returned to Angleland with five thousand Vikings and two thousand Danes.  The Kievan legion that Prince Valdamar was to send his father was still frozen up in Hraes’, which had experienced an extremely cold winter.  So Sweyn made sure that his two thousand Danes came over in a hundred ships.  They spent a week in Ipswich while Princess Gyda settled her children back into the Anglish lifestyle and Sweyn reconnected with Queen Gunhild.  Princess Thora seemed even more in love with her young hearse warrior, Justinian, than ever and it rankled Sweyn a little.  He was hoping she’d come back to him when she left King Burizleif and then he had hoped the same when Jarl Olaf had been lost to her, but now she had found her young Anglish nobody and she seemed quite in love with him and they were starting a family together and Sweyn was surprised she had conceived and carried a child to fruition and had given the young man a son.  She had never been pregnant with him and he had heard of her miscarriage with Jarl Olaf and he was grudgingly happy for her.  He was even happier that Gunhild had remained faithful to him.  He half expected her to be sharing a bed with Pallig when he got back from Denmark, but his spies had assured him that was not the case.  Pallig had spent the fall and winter raiding with his Jomsvikings and the Danish legion he commanded and he always returned from his raids with slaves and plunder.  Sweyn heard about his attack on Waltham and gave him orders to cease any attacks on the Anglish without his approval.  Only named princes or princesses of the Hraes’ could make such decisions on their own.

“When you are named Pallighrae,” Sweyn told him, “or Hraellig, whichever of the two you choose, then, and only then, can you make such calls for the Hraes’.”

Jarl Pallig wondered where the Hraes’ naming was in Sweyn Forkbeard, but he learned that Sweyn was also Sveinald, Svein ‘the Old’, and ‘the Old’ indicated he was from the old Skioldung line, the Fridleif/Frodi line, of Danish kings as well as from the Sigurdhrae/Hraegunar Lothbrok line of Swedish/Norwegian kings, the original kingly founders of both the Dan’Way and Nor’Way trading routes.  Even Sweyn’s father, Eyfur ‘the Old’, though better known as Ivar ‘the Boneless’, didn’t have a Hraes’ moniker, but Eyfur was named after his mother, Queen Eyfura, daughter of King Frodi, from the original line of kings of the Angles of Jutland, so, Sweyn was the real deal.  A fine blooded king with long lineages on both sides of the Hraes’ bloodlines.  Still, Pallig didn’t like it.  He liked to fight and he liked to raid and he quit being a Jomsviking and he quit being a Christian because he wanted to be a Viking.  He liked taking gold and he liked taking girls and he didn’t like taking orders, but Sweyn was the boss, and he didn’t want to take a knee.

King Sweyn was concerned that he was short a legion this raiding season.  He liked to have two so he could keep Ipswich well protected while he raided, so, he met with his commanders and they decided to leave two thousand Danes, two thousand Norwegians and two thousand Jomsvikings in Ipswich along with the local Anglish fyrd for a total of eight thousand men to guard the southern end of the Danelaw.  Sweyn wanted his ten thousand man Danish legion intact because he had designed the mobile legions as fully functional integrated fighting units and he did not like breaking them up.  He wished the Kievan legion could have made it with him but the weather didn’t cooperate and he didn’t want the legion arriving just as he was leaving to lead the merchant fleet so he cancelled it altogether for the spring and sent word to Valdamar that he would pick it up in the fall as he passed back up through Kiev and would use it for the fall raiding.  That’s when he was really after slaves anyway, when they could be sent to the slave schools of Kiev for training over the winter.  Enslaving people too early had added expenses for feeding and accommodations and one winter was all that was needed for the general training of slaves.  And winter in Kiev was a prison in itself.  There were no slaves wandering away from the slave barns in the winter when the cold could kill exposed people within minutes.

The warfleet landed on the Isle of Wight with a full mobile legion, three thousand Norse Vikings and three thousand Jomsvikings and a lot more ships than was needed for that many men.  They hadn’t even set up their defences when Ealdorman Leofsy arrived from London and asked King Sweyn for a parlee.  Sweyn wondered what was up with all the Norman lingo being bandied about lately, but Sweyn welcomed the messenger from King Athelred and invited him into his highseat hall and offered him wine or ale.  Leofsy had heard of Sweyn’s penchant for Champagne so he took the wine and was rewarded with the sparkling variety.  Khazar Vayar and wafers followed and Leofsy was impressed with the civility being shown in the court of the Danish king.  He had sailed from London and his ship sat in the harbour while he made his offer to the Danes.

“King Athelred would like to make peace with you this year,” the ealdorman started, “and is prepared to offer you tribute of twenty four thousand pounds of silver for peace up to and including Yulefest.”  Leofsy knew that Athelred needed time to put together a large army to exact revenge from King Sweyn for the slaying of his god-son King Olaf Tryggvason.  Athelred had no intentions of keeping the peace, hoping that the Danes could be lulled into complacency prior to his planned attack.  He wanted Sweyn dead or in a Saxon snake pit.

“Is that all you’re authorized to spend?” Sweyn asked the ealdorman and, when he nodded the affirmative, Sweyn added, “Twenty four thousand pounds will only buy you peace to the end of summer, plus your people must supply us with provisions: food and drink and women to the end of this period.”

“I am authorized to accept that date,” Leofsy said “and offer you the stated provisions.”

King Sweyn invited Ealdorman Leofsy to stay overnight in the hall with his men and enjoy a Viking feast in his honour.  Leofsy accepted the invitation and asked for a few hours aboard his ship to prepare.  King Sweyn granted him the time then told Eirik and Pallig, “He’s out there right now counting our ships.  That’s why I brought extra ships.”

“Still, he’ll know we don’t have a second legion,” Eirik said.

“I don’t want him to think we have a second legion,” Sweyn replied.  My spies tell me he is presently raising an army to attack us in the fall.  The London fyrds won’t follow him out of the city because they are just strong enough to hold the city walls.  If they were defeated in the field, the city would fall so, Athelred needs to raise a new army and train it over the summer.  He’ll raise an army large enough to defeat our forces here.  If he thinks we have twenty thousand here he’ll come with thirty thousand and when he does I’ll be back from Baghdad with our second legion.  His army won’t be large enough to defeat us, but it will be too large for him to lose face and turn tail and run for it.  We want to beat his army but not crush it.  We don’t want Athelred falling in battle.  I want him to make it back to London with enough men to keep his own people from overthrowing him.”

Eirik shook his head and said, “Athelred is after your head for the killing of Jarl Olaf.  We should crush his army and kill him and be done with it!” and Eirik looked to Pallig for confirmation.  “It’s true,” Pallig agreed.  “Athelred wants all our heads on pikes!”

“An angry Athelred is still better for us than a competent king,” Sweyn argued.

“What if he attacks us with a large force while you’re in Baghdad?” Pallig asked.

“Just stay on the island,” Sweyn replied.  “He can’t get at us here unless it involves a sea battle and, I daresay, our Vikings and Jomsvikings alone could defeat any size Anglish army on the sea.”

“And if he attacks Ipswich?” Eirik postured.

“My spies will be watching for that as his army is being trained.  They are building barracks here in Hampshire so if they shift their training east it may be to attack Ipswich, but my spies will know well in advance.  They’ll be reporting to Ipswich every week or two so, if you, Eirik, could visit with Princess Gyda every week or two over the summer, they can report directly to you.  They are the XII’s officers of the Novgorod legion.  They had already implanted themselves in London so I left them there when I took the legion back to Hraes’ last fall.”

“It will be my pleasure to visit Princess Gyda,” Eirik said, smiling.  “My summer is looking better already.”

Jarl Pallig was sullen.  He had been looking forward to a summer of raiding.  Sweyn saw that he was disappointed and said, “Jarl Pallig, if I give you gold will you sail over to Southampton and bring some women back for our feast?”

Ealdorman Leofsy and his men were very pleased with the Viking feast held in their honour and with the Saxon women that slept with them at their benches and the next day they did a final count of the ships in the Viking harbour and sailed off for London.  A few days later a half dozen Anglish warships arrived at the Isle of Wight with twenty four thousand pounds of silver in bars and freshly minted coins and crates of supplies and a range of London professionals, some fit for kings and others for cooks.  The Anglish captain asked Sweyn if the girls were acceptable and reported that more would be forthcoming from Southampton as well.  “When Ealdorman Leofsy told the king he had agreed to supply you with women,” the captain reported, “the king’s high steward, Eafy, called Leofsy a pimp and the ealdorman flew into a rage and killed him with a seax.  Now Leofsy has been banished from England.”

“That is unfortunate,” Sweyn told him.  “If Ealdorman Leofsy needs sanctuary have him come see me.  He will be welcomed in Denmark.”

“He’s already found sanctuary in Normandy,” the officer told him.

“With Duke Richard?” Sweyn asked.

“Yes.  With Duke Richard.  Something is going on.”

King Sweyn had his men weigh the chests of silver and they confirmed that there was just over twenty four thousands pounds of silver and Sweyn pulled a few of the coins out of the chests and studied them, setting a few aside and giving the rest to the captain for him and his men..  When the Anglish sailors left, Sweyn showed Eirik the coins.  “They’re freshly minted,” he said.  “Do you remember Lydford and the mint we raided there?”  Eirik nodded.  “I made sure we didn’t damage anything there,” Sweyn continued, “and before we left I scratched a small notch into one of the striking press molds.  The notch is in these coins.  The mint is back up and running.”

“Shall I send for Weiand?” Eirik asked.

“No,” Sweyn replied.  “I think we’ve already cleared the mint of all its silver.  But we might want to get him involved for a raid next year.  I don’t think he’ll be offering us tribute next year after we kick his army’s ass this fall.”

Once the peace was established, Sweyn and Eirik sailed for Ipswich and they visited with Queen Gunhild and Princess Gyda there and Sweyn learned from his spies in London that Princess Emma of Normandy, Duke Richard’s daughter, was visiting King Athelred in London and that her chief steward, Sir Hugh, had taken over the chief ealdorman position in the city of Exeter.  The spies added that it appeared that Normans would be used to turn West Wales into the new Normandy protecting southern Angleland from the Vikings.

‘Weiand will not be happy hearing this,’ Sweyn thought, as he sailed for Denmark early to spend time with his wives in Roskilde before the great merchant fleet assembled in the harbour there.  Then he sailed off with the fleet for Kiev and a meeting with Prince Valdamar there.

“I find I’m running a little lean in Denmark these days,” Sweyn began with his son, “and I’d like to borrow a legion of Kievan cataphracts as well as the mobile legion.”

“Grandfather has two cataphract legions in Tmutorokan,” Valdy answered.  “Can you borrow one from him?”

“He needs them for the Pechenegs,” Sweyn responded.  “They’re acting up.”

“I need my two for the Pechenegs,” Valdy answered.

“Perhaps we’re all running too lean,” Sweyn said.  “I think Kiev should have three cataphract legions and I should have one for Denmark as well.”

Valdamar grimaced at this.  “Fine,” he said with resignation.  “I’ll get started on it over the summer while you’re in Baghdad.  You’ll have your Danish cataphracts ready for the fall.”

“With the Kievan mobile as well?”

“Yes,” Valdy said, “but you’ll have to give those back to me when you’re done with them, unless you want another Danish mobile legion raised.  I can do that for you over the summer as well.”

“No, that’s fine.  I’ll give them back.”

The city of Kiev would be busy over the summer.  It had doubled in size under King Ivar’s rule and had doubled that under Prince Sveinald’s rule and was well on its way to doubling under Prince Valdamar’s.  Two legions of cataphracts at five thousand men each with five thousand horses and half as many spares added up to a lot of armour and weapons and saddles and gear.  The horses would be purchased mainly from the Pechenegs, but the iron armour and steel weapons all came from the smithy shops of Kiev and Novgorod and Iskorosten.  Danish warriors would be solicited for the Danish cataphract and the Kievan unit would be comprised mainly of local Hraes’ and Poljane volunteers, but the Danes would be brought to Kiev for training and would spend most of their time on the southern steppe being trained by local Pecheneg cataphract units.  The Pechenegs had learned the hard way not to depend completely on light horse.  They had lost twenty thousand light horse to Roman cataphracts at the Battle of Adrianople years earlier and, in response, had worked with the Hraes’ to develop their own splendid cataphract units.  These Pechenegs were local Pechenegs, allied and loyal to the Hraes’.  Their women still provided all the Khazar Vayar out of the Dnieper and Volga Rivers to the Hraes’ for their trade.  It was a mutually beneficial alliance.

Sweyn worked days with Princess Serah of Kiev getting permits ready for merchants and collecting fees and duties and they spent nights together catching up with each other.  She had two children by Prince Hraerik, but over the years she’d had another half dozen with Sweyn so, there was a lot of catching up to be done.  But their first night together was always reserved just for the two of them and Serah led him into her master suite and undressed him and laid him on her bed and she took his lingam into her mouth and she sucked it hard and then got some oil out of her glove box and she oiled up his cock and began to stroke it as she laid on the bed beside him.  She watched his member as it grew larger and harder and then she began stroking it in earnest and she began moaning to it until it finally erupted in a high shower of Sweyn’s flow and she watched it with awe.

“Does it ever get old for you?” Sweyn asked her.

“It never gets old,” she replied as she licked Sweyn clean.  “It’s a most amazing thing!  That explosion, inside me, has made every one of our babies!”

“Have you never stroked off Prince Hraerik?” Sweyn asked.

“I have never jerked off another man,” Serah said honestly.

“Why not?”

“Because you were the one that first told me of it.  “You had watched that one slave in the pens jerk himself off for the women in the opposite pens and you ran off home and jerked yourself off to see how it felt.”

“I know that,” Sweyn said, “but why wouldn’t you have jerked off your husband once or twice?”

“Because it is our special thing!” Serah said, sitting up.  Her large breasts were still high and hard for a woman with eight children.  “Can we do it again?” she asked and she put Sweyn’s lingam back in her mouth.

Sweyn did get a chance to spend one night with his own wife, Princess Sviataslava, and, after they’d had sex he asked her how she liked living in Kiev with his son, Valdy.

“He’s a fock monster!” she answered.  “He focks forty times a day, whether he has to or not.  When I first came here I thought I could handle him myself so, on our first night together, I insisted that just the two of us sleep together.  Well, he has his ‘pink monster’ and he was focking me all night long and he came inside me so many times that I was sopping wet and finally I had to ask for help from some of his wives.  They joined us in bed and saved my ass.  If they hadn’t come, I’m sure he would have focked me to death!”

Sweyn began to laugh.  “He can’t be that randy!”

“He’s worse,” she said.  “There is something definitely wrong with your boy.  He’s a sex maniac.  Like I said, he focks forty of his wives each day and he has a court steward who keeps track of who he has focked and how often to make sure none of his wives are neglected and its all very anal.”

“He does anal too?”

“Well of course he does,” she said, “but I meant its very compulsive,” and she saw that Sweyn was joking and she gave him a shot to the arm.

“It just means he’s very thorough and organized and I’ll be getting my new cataphract legion on time and on budget.”

“You’re getting a new legion?  When do we attack the Romans?”

“It’s for Denmark and Angleland,” Sweyn told her.

“You’ve been focking around with Angleland for ten years!” she complained.  “It’s time to conquer Rome!”

“I’ve been focking around with Angleland because the Anglo-Saxons are a great source of slaves for our trading empire.  Besides, conquering the Roman Empire will take a lot of time and a lot of gold!  And Hraerik says the Romans just poison me in the end anyway.”

“What does Prince Hraerik know, anyway?” Svia asked.

“He knows everything!  He has seen all that has happened and all that is to come.  It’s just slow coming to him sometimes.”

“If your co-Emperors poison you, lets just conquer Rome and kill them all!  We don’t need the blood-line of Julius Caesar anyway!”

“It’s the blood-line of Augustus Caesar,” Sweyn corrected her.

“Julius was his uncle so, I’m sure the blood-lines are connected.”

“We don’t need it anyway,” Sweyn said.  “That’s why Valdy married Anna.  How many Porphyrogennetos’ do they have now?”

“Out of Prince Valdamar’s approximately twelve hundred children, she has provided him with four.”

“Oh dear.  We’ll have to make sure we take very good care of them.”

“So we can kill Emperors Basil and Constantine if we have to,” Svia said.

“I suppose we could,” Sweyn postulated.  “I have a new legion commander in Angleland and I’m grooming him to take over there.  Jarl Pallig knows the Anglish king personally and has already turned on him and turfed his baptism so he should remain loyal to me.  I think he may be attracted to my Queen Gunhild there so, she may be able to help control him.  I already scared the hell out of him by telling him I’d made Jarl Sigvald take a knee before me.”

“I thought you bent him over a bed in front of his wife!”

“His wife led him into the bedchamber naked on a leash and had him kneel in front of me and after he had sucked my cock enough, then I bent him over the bed and took him anally in front of my wives.  You should have seen the look on their faces.  They had never seen me fock a man before!”

“Well, either had I,” Svia said, defending them, “until you focked Count Vlad for me!  Why didn’t you make him take a knee as well?”

“I wasn’t going to stick my cock in his mouth.  He would have likely bit it off.  He saw me carry you off and he knew we had made love already.”

“Your taking his surrender was enough.  You should have seen the look on his face!”

“You saw his face?” Sweyn asked her.  “I thought you were hidden.”

“I was,” she explained.  “I was hiding behind the tent cloth of your room in the pavilion but you were bending him over his shield right in front of me and he saw me through the parting between tapestries.  When you drove your cock up his ass, his big round eyes grew even rounder and he gave me the most evil look but I got him right back.”

“What did you do?”  Sweyn asked.  He couldn’t remember anything happening as he rammed his cock up Vlad’s anus.  His cock was dry, so it was pretty hard on Vlad, but his blood acted as a lubricant and Sweyn had pounded him from behind until he came inside him.  He wanted to kill him after raping him, but Prince Hraerik had made him promise not to.  His grandfather had not taken Vlad’s surrender in the pavilion in Ramnic but, later, in Tmutorokan, when Hraerik had started to have nightmares about all the impalings in Wallachia, he had told Sweyn that he bent Vlad over a shield there and plowed him a furrow up his rear, hoping the dreams might stop.  Then he impaled Vlad, but he survived.

“I stuck my tongue out at him,” Svia answered, “like this!” and she made a face with her beautiful face and Sweyn fell in love with her all over again.

“You should have punched his teeth out!” Sweyn said.  “Then…I would have stuck my cock in his mouth!  After I took it out of his ass!”  And they both laughed.

“Thank you so much for letting me watch!  The evil things that man did to me!  The evil things he did to everybody!”

“It was my pleasure,” Sweyn said and he kissed her gently.  She was a Roman princess, but she was such a Viking!  “So, I told young Jarl Pallig that Sigvald had followed my orders because I had bent him over his shield and I told Pallig that I would bend him over his!”

“What did he say about that?”

“He decided to follow my orders!”  And they both laughed again.  “If I get him trained during this fall’s Anglish slave raiding, I could come in the spring and press my claim to the throne and when Emperor Basil refuses, I can use it as an excuse to attack him.  I’ve got Prince Valdamar working on some cataphract legions for us this summer.  Do you think Valdy would take over the Baghdad trade while I’m working the Romans over?”

“Not a chance!” Svia said.  “Valdy’s a fock monster!  I kid you not!  If it means leaving his concubines in and around Kiev, you can forget it.  He’ll put your legions together for you, but he can do that without leaving his women.  There’s something wrong with that boy.  I don’t mind it though.  I kinda like his ‘pink monster’.  I see that yours has grown a bit larger and she took his cock into her mouth and sucked on it for a bit then looked up at him.  “How did that happen again?”

“I focked the goddess Irpa and she blessed me with it.”

“Oh yes, the goddess Irpa.  So, how do I stack up against the goddess Irpa?”

“She’s definitely not as pretty as you are, but her body is just as perfect and it’s metal and when you touch it the metal turns soft as a baby’s bottom so, she kinda has that over you, but now you seem to be focking a lot harder so I can only assume that some of my son’s sex mania is rubbing off on you, so you have her beat there.”

“Sex mania?” she asked.  “Valdy’s sex mania?”

“You’re right,” Sweyn agreed.  “You rode my steed like a Nymph.  I think you are turning part Nymph sprite!”

“Nymph sprite?” Svia repeated.  “You’re mad!”

“I should know,” Sweyn claimed.  “I have focked a goddess before!  But just to be sure, why don’t you mount my steed once more and take it for a nice long ride, a slow steady trot at first, the kind that gets you bouncing high in the saddle,” and Svia mounted him and she rose up high on the saddle horn and back down again, “then you can speed up to a nice gait for the middle part,” and Svia sped up a bit, “and at the end, not right now, but at the end you can speed up to a fast gallop with a quick short bounce in the saddle,” and Svia continued her gait for the longest while and she stared down at her taut stomach and her muscles stood out like the little squares of a Roman breastplate and she suddenly felt like Valdy had turned her into a fock monster too and she broke into a gallop.

On the way down the Dnieper through the Pecheneg lands Sweyn watched a new crop of Pecheneg warriors riding about in their training exercises and he knew they were champing at the bit to get back at the Romans and when the fleet harboured near the Roman walled city of Cherson, he remembered how much he had enjoyed taking the city and raping the Roman girls within and enslaving half of them and taking them to Baghdad to become Muslim concubines for Arab princes.  He was romanticizing a bit, he knew, but it was Roman, after all.  And when he met up with his grandfather while sailing past Tmutorokan he asked him, “If I kill the emperors before they can poison me will it stop the poisoning from happening?”, and Hraerik told him he would have to try and get a vision on it.  Then in Baghdad he kept looking to their defences and he knew that if he conquered Rome he could take the Levant and be in Baghdad within two years.  Even quicker if he made peace with the Caliph and turned Arabia into an independent Roman province.  Italy would be easy, the Normans were already there.  And Spain was full of Vandals and Visigoths ready to throw off the Andalusian yoke.  All that was needed was a fresh new Alexander, but ‘the Great’ one had died at age thirty two of poisoning, the death Sweyn was fated, and he was no where near thirty anymore.  He had been twenty eight when Roman treachery had cost him his kingdom at the Battle of Dorostolon a generation earlier and it had taken him this long to get back into a position where he could even consider attempting to get what was due him.

He had sex with Serah and he had sex with Svia and he picked up his legions and he took them to Denmark.  He had sex with his wives in Roskilde and he left his new cataphract legion there to train some more and he took the Kievan mobile legion to Angleland with him.  He stopped at Ipswich and had sex with Gunhild and couldn’t have sex with Thora because she was still in love with her hearse and he learned that Jarls Eirik and Pallig had already taken their forces to the Isle of Wight and he learned from his spies that Athelred’s new army was almost ready and that Jarl Pallig hadn’t made a move on Queen Gunhild while he’d been gone.  Perhaps he had been too harsh in threatening to bend Jarl Pallig over his shield but then he thought about how beautiful his queen was and he told himself that for one night in Gunhild’s garden he would bend over a dozen shields.

Two of Sweyn’s mobile legions left the Isle of Wight, backed by Norse Vikings and Jomsvikings and they occupied Southampton but did nor ravage the city.  They left the Jomsvikings to control the city and protect the slaver knars that would be working out of there and the warfleet sailed up the River Itchen to Westminster and sacked what was left of the town then rowed along the river to Alresford and sacked that town and all the surrounding villages until the new Anglish army showed up, led by Ealdorman Elfric, but they were only expecting one Viking army and two showed up.  Elfric had thirty thousand men, but the Vikings had almost as many so, the Ealdorman used it as an excuse to withdraw.  King Sweyn sent his heavy cavalry after the retreating foot and he had equipped his horsemen with nets as well as their usual lassos and they carried nets between the horses and they tangled up a dozen men at a time in them and captured them and bound them up for the following legion foot soldiers to take their surrenders and thousands of Saxon soldiers were bent over their shields that day and half of them were taken away by slaver knars to Southampton to await the sea going knars that would take them to Kiev.  They were bound for the eunuch armies of the east and were ear-marked for castration only; the Hraes’ slave inspector cut one notch into the left ear of each soldier.  Two notches would have meant castration and a member shortening by six inches, and second notches were added to the left ears of troublemakers.  The other half had their left ear notched, but were set free on their own recognizance, owing eternal allegiance to the particular Dane that had taken their surrender and their anal virginity.  If they were captured in battle again, another notch would be added to their ears from the get-go and troublemakers would just be tossed into the sea without warning.

The legions settled into Alresford and rowed up the many streams that fed the River Itchen and they sacked all the surrounding villages and estates.  Thousands of Saxon men women and girls were taken away and put on ships and hauled to the slave schools in Kiev.  Then the warfleet sailed east along the southern coast of Angleland and raided the cities along the coast.  The wealthy citizens had already taken their gold and had fled to the safety of London but the poor were still there and it was slaves the Danes were after anyway.  A pretty poor girl fetched a better price in Baghdad than did a homely formerly wealthy woman.  The ships hit Worthing, Brighton, Eastbourne, Bexhill and a small town called Hastings and half the poor of each town were enslaved and the half that remained were given the houses of the wealthy to live in and they were told they had to stay in them or the Vikings would be back to enslave the wealthy when they returned.

In London, Ealdorman Elfric was under heavy criticism for the way in which he had handled the army, but he argued that the intel he had gotten from the king’s spies had been erroneous and that the Viking armies were much larger than anticipated and he managed to convince all that he was lucky to have managed a retreat that had lost less than half their men without an actual battle having taken place.  “Had we fought,” Ealdorman Elfric stated, “the whole army would have been slain or enslaved.  If we have numerical superiority, then, and only then, can we win against the heathen.”  He actually ended up with a medal for his courageous retreat and King Athelred started building a bigger army.

First night in Ipswich, King Sweyn and Jarl Eirik took Princess Gyda to bed and they had sex with the princess and then sex with each other while Gyda watched and admired their physical beauty.  They were both warriors and had chiseled muscular bodies and they trained daily as though their lives depended upon it, and they did.  Sea battles were the hardest and conditioning was crucial in fighting them.  There was no place to run and there was no place to hide.  Shield walls were hard to form and harder to maintain so, falling back a rank to rest and catch breath was often impossible and you fought those directly in front of you until they died, or you did.  So, Sweyn and Eirik’s bodies stood hard and well muscled in the candlelight as they focked each other and renewed their Sacred Band ritual and Gyda delighted when they sped up and came in each other in turn.  They bent over for each other and only Gyda rode their steeds, while the odd man out watched and often stroked himself in anticipation.

Gunhild, meanwhile, slept in Sweyn’s master-suite alone.  Sweyn’s spies had told him that Gunhild had remained loyal to him the whole time she’d been in Angleland, but Sweyn was not fully convinced.  Perhaps he had half hoped Gunhild and Pallig would have connected.  He didn’t mind sharing wives if it reinforced alliances and now he was hoping Jarl Pallig could take over Angleland for him while he renewed his Roman demands.  After a few days he began sleeping with Gunhild and accepted that she had, indeed, been loyal.

As November neared, the Danes and Norwegians prepared to return to their homelands and Jarl Eirik once again told Gyda to prepare her children for the trip to Lade.  He did not trust the Anglo-Saxons and he had promised himself that he would follow Pallig’s warning to the letter.  Sweyn left the Kievan legion in Ipswich under the command of Jarl Pallig and the Jomsvikings remained as well.  Sweyn took the Danish legion and Eirik took his Vikings and they sailed east together to the southern tip of Norway and parted ways with Eirik leading his Vikings north along the coast and Sweyn leading his forces further east.  Saxon spies in Essex monitored their departure and watched to ensure that they didn’t double back.  King Athelred was preparing an attack, one that would be very hard to defend against.

Jarl Pallig kept his legion on alert into November and, as the weather grew cold and snows threatened he sent his heavy horse out on patrols on the lookout for Anglo-Saxon forces.  Whisps of snow left tracks that were easily spotted from horseback so, the patrols were very effective in helping the security of Ipswich.  It gave Pallig something to do as they all began hunkering down for the winter.  Queen Thora and Hearse Justinian seldom left the longhall anyway.  She had just learned that she was pregnant again so, she and Justinian spent most of their time focking as it seemed doubtful that her condition could be worsened by the practice of the act that had caused it in the first place.  And Queen Gunhild was as usual, beautiful and aloof, and she was very hot to watch so, he spent most of his day out and about and he kept a slave girl nearby to relieve himself into when he spent his evenings in the longhall.  Sometimes he would take his cavalry south into Essex for some raiding and they would come back with plunder and fresh girls, sending back the pregnant Saxon girls from prior raids, back to their parents in Essex.  Although the Danelaw had been under Anglo-Saxon domination since King Athelstan’s victory at the Battle of Brunanburh in 937, Ipswich and the surrounding county had remained independent since Jarl Olaf Tryggvason and Princess Gyda had ruled it while he was allied with King Athelred, before he had abandoned his princess for a kingship and queens in Norway, and Athelred had loved his god-son Olaf so much that he had refused to take the domain back under his rule even after his mourning Olaf’s death at the Battle of Svolder.  He had loved his god-son and had made grand plans with him and King Sweyn of Denmark had destroyed those plans in just one great sea battle.  And now this domain of Ipswich was under the protection of another jarl that Athelred had befriended, but this Jarl Pallig had stabbed him in the back and had destroyed his plans to turn Cornwall into a new Normandy, protecting southern England from Viking attack.  Still, he allowed Ipswich independence to exist, even when Essex lords complained of raids on Saxon estates and of abductions of fine Saxon virgins.

The fact that King Sweyn immediately stepped in and provided Princess Gyda with regiments and legions to protect her from King Athelred, and immediately took her for his own and shared her with his Jarl Eirik may have had something to do with the domain’s ongoing independence.  What was an abandoned Irish princess to do anyway?  But King Athelred’s spies had told him that Queen’s Thora and Gunhild were overwintering in Ipswich with their young officer lovers and their new babies and he had made plans for them as well, plans that would be hard to defend against.

A dozen days into November, Jarl Pallig was having supper with Queen Thora and Hearse Justinian and Queen Gunhild and they had a few drinks late into the evening because the next day was the Sun’s Day and a religious festival day for the Christians and there was a foreboding in the air that they had sought to drive off with a few drinks and some levity.  The Queens soon went to bed and Thora led her hearse off into their side bedroom and could soon be heard focking again and Pallig looked down the torchlit hall to the closed double doors of Queen Gunhild’s master suite and the delights undoubtedly held within and he looked about to the slave girl that he kept in the hall and remembered he had sent her home pregnant earlier that day on a wain with some other raped Saxon girls heavy with child.  He saw two old hags at the far end of the hall, two scrawny old women that Gunhild had just hired as household help and, though they were free women and not slaves, Pallig walked to the end of the hall, took them by the hands, and led them back to his sleeping bench next to the highseats.  He picked the youngest looking one of the two, for neither one was even close to having ever been pretty, and he bent her over the end of the bed and flipped her black wool dress up onto her back.  She wore woollen shorts as old women were so wont to do so, he pulled them down to her knees and he put his finger up her honey well and he worked it until she was moist and then he unbuttoned his pants, took out his erect member and he slid it into her and started ramming her from behind.

The other old woman stood and watched and hoped he would come, but he didn’t seem to be satisfied by her so, she knew she would be next.  Pallig withdrew from the old woman, still hard, and he forced the second old woman to her knees and he thrust his cock into her toothless mouth and told her to suck.  She worked hard and diligently at sucking him off, hoping to make him come so she wouldn’t be bent over the bed with her compatriot who was still laying upon it, but she couldn’t get him to go off.  He pulled his cock out of her mouth and bent her over the bed, pulling her shorts to her ankles and then thrusting his wet member up her anus, which seemed tighter, but still he could not come so, he entered her honey well instead and he found it tighter yet, likely from lack of use, and he began thrusting hard.  By listening to Thora’s moaning as those two were still focking down the hall he did manage to come a bit and exploded pathetically within her.  He wanted to let his member grow soft inside her, but it shrank some and then stayed hard so, he pulled it out and stood her up.  He sent her back to her end of the hall and, while she pulled her shorts up from her ankles he gave her boney ass a slap and propelled her on her way.

The first old woman began to rise from the bed, but Pallig forced her back down and he slid his member back within her and began ramming her from behind again.  He listened to Queen Thora down the hall and he managed to come again a bit and he kept his cock within her but it still refused to go down.  He withdrew his stiff member, pulled her shorts back up around her ass and stood her up, slapping her rear as he sent her back.  He tucked his semi-hard member back into his pants and buttoned back up.  He could still hear Thora and Justinian focking faintly down the bedroom hall and their moans made him pace back and forth at the end of his bench and he walked toward the hall just to hear the focking better and he heard a click.  He took his seax out of its sheath at his waist and he walked further down the hall.  There was still that foreboding feeling about so, he walked up to Gunhild’s double door and he tapped on it gently.

“Yes?” a soft voice asked from within the room.

“I’ve been hearing noises,” Pallig said.  “May I search your room for intruders?”

“Yes, come in,” the soft voice said.

Pallig took a torch from the wall of the hall and he entered the room, closed the door a bit, but didn’t latch it so his queen wouldn’t feel distress and he put the torch into a holder on the wall by the doors and when he turned he saw his queen sheltering under silk sheets.  He looked about the room and saw no other so, he went towards the window on one side of the bed and the glass was high up to let in light but the arras on the sides swept down to the floor in the latest Norman fashion and he checked each curtain for espies.  He went back around the bed and checked the other arras but there were no spies hiding within the folds.  He stood at the edge of the bed and made his report to his queen.  She thanked him for his concern and rewarded him with a gentle kiss.  She got up out of bed naked, as young women were wont to sleep, and she stood in front of him and got up on her toes and she kissed him gently on the lips.  She took the seax out of his hand and put it upon the end table by the bed and she kissed the buttons on his shirt, undoing each one as she kissed it and she took off his shirt.  She dropped to her knees and she unbuttoned his pants and she took his hard member out and she put it into her mouth and began to suck it.  She could taste the traces of the honey well of the old woman still soaked upon it and she kept sucking it until the taste was gone.  She didn’t want to die alone.  She had watched Pallig at the end of his bench, raping the old women she had hired, the starving hags that had claimed to be Angles, but spoke it with a Saxon accent that would have been obvious to her had she not been Polish, and the whole time Pallig had been focking them she saw her own fylgja floating above them and then it left.

Once she had sucked the taste all away, she undid Pallig’s belt and pulled his pants to the floor and slipped them off his bare feet.  She sat him at the edge of the bed and she pushed him back upon it and she put his cold feet up into her armpits and she warmed them for him and she swayed with them sensuously and her breasts were drawn tight together with her arms and they swayed with her and she knew Pallig enjoyed it because he grew even larger and his penis swayed along with her dance.  She pushed Pallig further onto the bed by his feet and then she climbed onto his hips and she used both hands to direct his member into her own honey well and she began riding his steed and moaning gently and she did this for a long time, slowly, imperceptibly speeding up as she went until she was soon gasping for air as she moaned and she came and then he exploded full force deep within her.

As they lay entwined in each others’ arms, she said, “I think those old women out there intend to kill us.”

“Those old crone’s?” Pallig said, then he whispered, “Fock them!  I did!” and he laughed callously.

“I’m serious!” Gunhild whispered back.  “I was watching you fock them and I saw my fylgja floating above them, warning me.”

“You watched me?” he asked.  He’d thought his queen was always too aloof to notice anything he did.  He was glad she’d watched him.  “Shall I kill them?”

“No,” Gunhild said.  “I just didn’t want to die alone.”

“Can I ride you now?” he asked and Gunhild spread her legs as he slid atop her.

It was early morning of November Thirteenth, Saint Brice’s Day, when the two old Saxon women slipped into Gunhild’s room, marvelling how the door wasn’t locked and had even been left ajar, and they had very small knives in their hands, of the type that were easily hidden, and they went on either side of the bed and the younger woman, the one that had been raped first and then again, saw by the faint light of the high windows the large seax sitting on the end table so, she picked it up and put her small knife back in her hair and the two women got set and simultaneously slit the throats of Gunhild and Pallig.  The knives were so sharp they slit the arteries without waking the couple and they bled out on the bed without waking.  They saw the baby girl sleeping in her rocker and they let her live.

Next, the two Saxon spies went into Queen Thora’s room and they stood on either side of her bed and slit the carotid arteries of that couple, but the seax must not have been quite as sharp as the assassins knives because the cut woke young Justinian and he grabbed at his throat as his life poured away between his fingers and he saw it was the old servant women that had killed them.  As they were leaving the younger woman saw the baby in the crib and she used the boy as a sheath for the seax.  The younger woman, for some inexplicable reason, went back into the master bedroom and took the baby girl out of the rocker and carried her at her breast.  They walked out of the longhall and joined a stream of farmers heading out of the walled town to work their plots and cut winter firewood before attending Saint Brice’s Day mass at the town church later.

Queen Thora Haraldsdottir

Thora walked behind them with her baby in one arm and her hand in Justinian’s and she followed the Saxon women towards Essex and then turned off into a secluded meadow and she told her baby, “See?  That is where you were conceived.” And she led Justinian onward to Suttee Heaven and her baby was gone, but Gunhild and Pallig were waiting for them there and they saw King Gorm and her namesake, Queen Thora, waiting for them there.  Suttee Heaven was an Aesir heaven for couples that followed each other into death.  There was an old Anglish queen there with her husband as well and she was from the nearby town of Sutton, meaning South Town, and she had been buried in Sutton Howe when her husband had been killed while off fighting the Danes and they welcomed them there too. 

The queen of Sutton had committed Suttee long after her husband, the king, had died in battle and he had been paged in Valhalla, a knightly page had come to him, and was told to go to Suttee Heaven instead and he grumbled but went and he found the place quite pleasant.  It was a little above Valhalla and between the regular heaven and Valhalla and it overlooked them both.  Everything was at peace in Suttee and couples feasted and made love all day long and at night they slept entwined in each other’s arms and inside each other and the sleep was deep as though death itself and when they awoke everything seemed new.  Their sex was like the first time again and it always lasted longer and they all had the beauty of youth and the food tasted better and the wine was finer.  Some great warriors demanded to return to Valhalla, but not many, and their wives stayed in Suttee and became threesome nymphs that gadded about at their own pleasure.  And they could look down at their husbands in Valhalla and watch them fight and fock and they could look upon their relatives in regular heaven and watch them feast and fock and sometimes they could look down on the world and see how their living relatives were doing, but not often.

Queen Gunhild Burizleifsdottir

After Saint Brice’s Day mass in London, the priests read out the orders of King Athelred that they had received all across Angleland they day before:

“Your king, King Athelred, gives you order to slay all the Danes that

are in England.  This is accordingly to be done after the mass-day of

St. Brice; because it has been told the king, that they would beshrew him

of his life, and afterwards, of all his ‘good’ council, and then have his

kingdom without any resistance.”

So, the mobs rushed out of the church looking for the heathen Danes that resided in London and they slaughtered the unarmed men by sword and gathered up the Danish women and raped them in the streets and raped and buggered their children in the alleys and the babies they plucked from women’s arms and they dashed their brains out on the front doors of the streets.  Many of the finer women and girls and boys were dragged off into private homes and raped some more, but the older women were stripped naked and chased through the streets in the cold November air and many of them were driven into Kennel Street, a street famous for the sale of Anglish hounds and terriers, and the merchants of the street had decided to make a name for themselves and they had their slaves dig pits in the street and the Danish women that were chased into that street were thrown into the pits and were buried up to their waists in the dirt and the excrement of the road.  Throngs gathered on the sidewalks to watch as pit bull terriers were sicked upon the women and when the women raised their arms to protect their necks and faces, the starving pit bulls tore away their breasts and devoured them and when the women covered their breasts with their arms the pit bulls tore away their faces and when the women screamed the pit bulls tore out their tongues and devoured them.  This didn’t stop the women screaming and they screamed until their voices were gone and then they screamed in silence and you could only see that they still screamed because the blood from their missing tongues blew out their throats and flew out into the bloody streets.

The puppy mills of Kennel Street were always filled with starving dogs because they were kept at half ration to increase profits, so, when the pit bulls were sated, more pits were dug by slaves and the famed Roman war dogs were released and then more pits were dug and the hounds were fed.  This death by dog at half burial had always been reserved for escaped slaves, the hounds tracking them down and the pit bulls devouring them after they were caught, but this was only done out in the woods where civilized people could not bear witness.  This now was taking place in the middle of London and when Queen Emma of Normandy heard the ruckus she sent half of her personal bodyguard out in the streets to see what was going on.  They were her own personal Norman guards, but they were dressed in Anglish armour and trappings because she was, after all, queen of Angleland, even though she was Norman by birth and Danish by heritage.  One of her captains, Guillaume de Jumieges, was sent out in the direction of Kennel Street and he came upon the merchants there baiting their dogs on women buried in the street perhaps for half a mile, two wide at about ten foot spacing and the women at the far end looked long dead and torn apart and the women in front of him were still being chased down the street past the half buried dead and were thrown into holes and were being half buried and the hounds were now the breed tearing them to shreds and the screams were unceasing.  Guillaume had fought many battles in Flanders and Frankia and Normandy, but he had never seen anything as unnerving as this.  And it seemed to him that the English were not being very selective in whom they attacked, for he swore that many of the women looked Scottish and Irish and even Anglish.

Soon he saw a Danish man being chased down the street and he appeared to have survived a sword attack.  He had gashes all over his body and it looked as though he had been run through once for he had been holding in his intestines with one hand as he ran.  As he got closer, Guillaume could see that he was Scottish by his dress and his pleas that sounded Gaelic and Englishmen caught him and took him to a nearby tree and nailed the end of his small guts to the tree and then whipped the Scotsman round and round the tree until all that intestine was drawn out and wound neatly round the trunk;-then whipped him back again, till it was unwound: and all this, as they seemed to say, to find out whether a Dane’s gut or a dog’s gut was the longer.

Other Norman guards had been sent off in the opposite direction and they came to London bridge where they saw Danish women and children being chased to the middle of the bridge and then being caught up there and thrown off the bridge into the frigid waters of the Thames usually after having been raped or buggered.  The Danish men never made it to the bridge, being cut down in the street by English cavalry and their bodies were lying on the Roman pavements everywhere and flowing down the Roman drains.  The reports of her captains kept coming back to the palace and Queen Emma couldn’t believe what she was hearing or how this madness could have started then she heard that her husband, the king, had issued the order that had started the Saint Brice’s Day massacre and she swore to herself that she would make him pay.

She learned that in nearby Oxford, a hundred Danes, men, women and children had been chased into a church and had locked themselves inside and begged sanctuary from the priest within.  He granted them this and he told the mob outside to disperse as they inside were now under the protection of God, but the madmen outside would have none of that and they burned down the church with all inside and the priest prayed with the heathens until he, too, was overcome by smoke and died in the flames with his pagan flock.

In the Danelaw she heard that the English cavalry was set loose upon the Danes and many more foot were horsed and sent out to burn farms and Danish villages.  They would not be back for several days, but she knew what the results of that effort would be.  The cavalry units in London had already been seen returning to their barracks with young Danish girls draped over the pommels of their saddles.  Screams from young girls could already be heard peeling across the parade ground of the palace and Emma sent some of her officers to the barracks to save what was left of the young women and bring them back to her hall.  When she asked where her husband was, her staff did not want to tell her, but she insisted and learned he was off drinking at a whorehouse down by the wharfs that specialized in women that practiced anal sex, but were likely not women at all.  She was distraught by it all and she took a large bottle of Norman wine to bed with her and she longed for Rouen.

That night in London there was a schoolmaster who specialized in teaching young Anglish Danes the Latin script of the Romans and other diverse courses of study and, because it was Sunday, they had all read together in the rectory when the madness had started and he’d hid the boys in the basement and had sent away the crazed Englishmen that had come looking for them throughout the day.  His school had been searched many times over, but the door to the cellar was hid beneath a carpet and no Danes could be found.  So when darkness came and Queen Emma was drinking herself asleep and dreaming of Normandy, there were two dozen young Danes slinking down to the wharves to steal a ship and sail there.  They found a fine ship tied off beside a not so fine whorehouse and their schoolmaster helped them untie it and he pushed them off into the river and waved them good luck.

The boys rowed hard down the center of the river and were guided by the flames of burning buildings and houses on either side of the river.  They rowed all night long and they searched the corners of the ship for food and water, but all they found was fine Frankish wine and a lot of it so, they drank wine as they rowed and they crossed the Anglish Sea and sailed up the Seine into Normandy.  They’d had a fine wind so they were soon in Rouen and they asked for sanctuary there and were taken to Duke Richard and they told him what had happened in London.  “Where did you find this ship?” the duke asked them and they told him it was tied off at a whorehouse on the Thames and the duke said, “I recognize this ship!  It belongs to the king of England!” and he gave the boys food and supplies and two Norman warships to escort them to his uncle, King Sweyn Forkbeard, in Denmark.  Then he equipped a small warfleet and immediately set off for London.  His sister was there and he was distressed with the news coming out of England.

When Duke Richard arrived in London, King Athelred had just come down from a week long drunk and he refused to let Richard see his sister.  He didn’t even tell Emma that Richard was there and when Richard threatened to attack England, Athelred laughed so, the duke stormed off and returned to his land.

Two dozen young Danish students arrived in Roskilde with a Norman escort and their request to see their king was responded to very quickly.  It was not often that Danish students returned from England for Yuletide break under an escort of Norman warships.  When they addressed their king in front of his highseats and they told him what had occurred in London and through out Angleland, his whole court was shocked.  The boys were feasted and toasted as heroes and they stayed in the king’s court to provide witness to the goings on in Angleland as more ships came into Denmark with tales of the vast slaughter of the Danes throughout the Anglish countryside.  They and their parents were invited to Yulefest in Roskilde as Danish scholars and scripters began to document the disaster.  King Sweyn once again expected all the leading royals of Scandinavia to attend Yulefest in Roskilde and he wanted their opinions on what was to be done and what steps were to be taken.

Back in England, King Athelred raised a warfleet and sent an army to Normandy to attack Duke Richard before he could attack him.  The fleet was rushed and ill prepared and was kept secret from his queen.  The events were perhaps best described by the grandson of the queen’s captain, Guillaume de Jumieges:

“TOWARDS this same time, some reasons for discussion having arisen, Ethelred, King of the English, who was married to Emma, sister of the duke, burning with the desire to harm him and insult him, ordered a large number of vessels to be put to sea, and commanded the knights of all his kingdom that they had to return to the fleet on the day he indicated to them, suitably armed with their breastplates and helmets.  Eager to obey his commands, the English all rushed towards the ships.  The king, seeing this large and very well equipped army, calling to him the chiefs, and exposing to them the projects of his spirit, prescribed to them, with great sincerity, according to his royal way, to go to Normandy, and to devastate all this country by iron and fire, sparing only the mount of the archangel Michel, and taking care not to deliver to the flames a place of so much holiness and religion.  He also commanded them to take Duke Richard, and to tie his hands behind his back, and to lead him alive into his presence, after having conquered his homeland.  After giving them these instructions, he commanded them to leave in a hurry.  Then launching their ships into the open sea, and crossing the waves with the help of a favorable wind, they went to disembark on the banks of the Seine.  Rushing out of their ships, they delivered to the devouring flames all the surrounding maritime territory.  But Nigel de Coutances, having learned of their disembarkation from those who were placed on sentry, assembled the Knights of Coutances, with a large crowd of people from the general populace, and they rushed on the English with impetuosity, and made such great carnage that not a single one of them remained to tell this event to posterity.  One of them, in fact, tired of too long a walk, had sat far from his companions; but when he saw their disaster, was struck with terror and, forgetting the weakness of his body, he ran in haste towards the ships, and told those guarding them of the ruin of the army.  Those who remained, seeking together to go to safety and fearing for their lives, withdrew by force of oars into the mouth of the Seine.  Then, with their sails in the air, and starting with a brisk speed, they returned to their king, driven by a wind favorable to their wishes.  The king, as soon as he saw them, began to ask them the person of the duke; but they answered him: “Serene king, we did not even see the duke; but we fought for our lives with the terrible population of a county.  There are not only very strong and very bellicose men, but also women who fight, and who, with their pitchers, break the heads of the most vigorous of their enemies: that your knights were all killed by these people.  After this story, the king, recognizing his folly, was embarrassed and fell into a deep sadness.”

King Athelred was so shaken by these events that he quit whoring and drinking and he begged his Queen Emma for Christian forgiveness from one Catholic to another.

Back in Denmark, King Sweyn learned of the murder of his Queens Gunhild and Thora and of the men found dead in their beds.  A baby was also found dead and another had died in Thora’s womb and a third, a girl, was taken.  King Sweyn was shaken by this news and he sent his best commander, Gudmund, to take over in Ipswich and to return the bodies of his wives and babies and Jarl Pallig to Denmark.  He sent condolences and gifts to Hearse Justin on the death of his son, Justinian, and he assured the Anglish of Ipswich that the victims would be avenged.  Yulefest was very solemn that year as details of the massacre kept trickling into Roskilde from Angleland.  All the royalty of Scandinavia demanded vengeance as well and promised Sweyn their support and troops.  Prince Valdamar even left the frozen wasteland of Hraes’ with only a dozen of his wives and he spent Yule in Denmark with his grieving father.  The Novgorod legion was his to command and Valdy would send them as early as the spring would allow.  Princess Serah had come from Kiev and she promised to handle the spring trade on her own so that Sweyn could dispense justice and Princess Svia was with her and told Sweyn he could put off his attack upon the Romans until the Anglish were dealt with.

And the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:

“A.D. 1002.  This year the king and his council agreed that

tribute should be given to the fleet, and peace made with them,

with the provision that they should desist from their mischief.

Then sent the king to the fleet Alderman Leofsy, who at the

king’s word and his council made peace with them, on condition

that they received food and tribute; which they accepted, and a

tribute was paid of 24,000 pounds.  In the meantime Alderman

Leofsy slew Eafy, high-steward of the king; and the king banished

him from the land.  Then, in the same Lent, came the Lady Elfgive

Emma, Richard’s daughter, to this land.  And in the same summer

died Archbishop Eadulf; and also, in the same year the king gave

an order to slay all the Danes that were in England.  This was

accordingly done on the mass-day of St. Brice; because it was

told the king, that they would beshrew him of his life, and

afterwards all his council, and then have his kingdom without any

resistance.”