Of Ragnar of Jutland
There was a man hight Ragnar, a farmer from near Fyrkat in Jutland. He was a wedded man; he had to wife Gudrun, daughter of Gunni and Sinfjotli, and sister to Ulrik of Ranrike; he had no sons but Ingibjorg was hight his daughter. Ragnar gave his daughter Ingibjorg to Halldor, who held land adjacent to Ragnar, and she bore him a son hight Arinbjorn and a daughter hight Dagrun.
Yet Ragnar was ill-favoured. Gudrun died when Ingibjorg was young, and he was left alone. His neighbours oft argued with him about the rights to the best pasture land. It was because of this that he had several times to go travelling, supporting his farm through trade.
And so Ragnar came to Gotland, the greatest island in the Baltic Sea, where he met Hilda, the daughter of Gaut a famous hersir of Visbær and the widow of Bræsi a rich trader. Hilda was of fine figure, and Ragnar lay with her whenever he visited Gotland. Hauk and Sighfridh were hight their sons.
In later days Ragnar’s feud with his neighbours on Jutland escalated. Ragnar was ambushed and killed on the way to the shieling, and so Ingibjorg his daughter travelled to England, where she followed her mother’s brother Ulrik, owner of the Svart-svín, hersir of the Holmbyggjar.
Of Hauk and Sighfridh Ragnarsson
When the sons of Ragnar and Hilda grew the people of Gotland said that they were touched by Loki, for they lacked restraint as they lacked a father. They spent much of the wealth of their mother Hilda, on strong alcohol and stronger women. They were also known for their gambling, where Hauk oft lied and cheated whilst Sighfridh oft stole.
Finally Hilda went to her brother, Magnus son of Gaut, a rich hersir and wise leader in Visbær. Magnus was told by Hilda how Ragnar’s sons were akin to Loki, and Magnus decided it was soft-living that had corrupted the sons of Ragnar, and so gave to Hauk a long-ship and sent him trading. However, in order that he would not forget this was a punishment, the ship was hight Lögseims, that is Sea-thread, a kenning for Jörmungandr the sea-serpent child of Loki. Magnus gave Hauk a great many furs, and instructed him to travel through the lands of the Rus and trade the furs for silver.
Travels in the Rus-lands
Hauk and Sighfridh took many men, including their good friends Lopt and Olaf, and travelled south and east, up the rivers to Rurik’s city, mighty Holmgarðr (that was later named Novgorod). Here they conducted their trade, and got much silver. Thereafter they went further, into the lands of the Rus and beyond.
There they fought alongside the Rus in a great battle, which sadly was lost. Many tales are told of that contest- how Lopt led the Rus charge, how Sighfridh lost his teeth but thankfully not his life, and how Hauk did absolutely no fighting but got very drunk and did much trading.
The Return to Gotland
Ragnar’s sons escaped the lands of the Rus, and returned to Gotland. They returned with much silver and fine clothes, but lacking many of their men. However their mother’s brother Magnus declared the journey successful, and gave them both fine swords.
Hauk did not wish to settle again, for the taste of adventure had intoxicated him even more than alcohol once had. And so he soon slipped away from his Uncle’s hall, and left Gotland once more aboard Lögseims. He took with him again his companions, Sighfridh, Lopt and Olaf, and also more men to replace those who had died in the Rus lands. Foremost among the recruits were the half-brothers Thorhelm and Snorri Sveinsson. Thorhelm was cruel man, famed for his slaughter of the defenseless and his taming of a mighty serpent, Smug. He had to himself a wife called Fritha. Snorri was, like many of Lögseims, a great follower of fashion and was particularly famed for his vast collection of clothes.
Arrival in Englisc Lands
Hauk traveled first to Sweden, thinking to travel onwards to Norway and offer his services to Harald Fairhair. At a great feast in the hall of the Österhus Vänner on the isle of Norderön, he met his half-sister Ingibjorg. She told him of the wealth and riches that were to be won in the Englisc Lands in the Great Heathen Army under Halfdan, and so Hauk turned Lögseims further west.
There was a lady called Freyja. She was a fearsome fighter, bountiful feaster, and great gift-giver, who led a force of mercenary Vikings in Britain called the Oestvikingae, a feared host. She was a child of Gotland, and many there knew her name. Hauk saw that she would lead him to greatness, and so he sought her out, and pledged his sword to her. Her warriors also included the fierce Visna, a shieldmaiden every bit as fearsome as her namesake who fought for Harald Wartooth against Sigurd Ring at the Battle of Bråvalla.
Shortly after his arrival in Englisc lands, the Oestvikingae visited a hall ruled by the Westmen. After all had dined on a great feast, the lord of the hall called for entertainment and to hear a tale of Vikings. There Hauk recited these verses, about his life:
Now this is the saga all about how
My life got flipped, turned upside down
And I’d like to take a minute just sit right there
I’ll tell you how I became the Rus vike from Visbær.
On the isle of Gotland, born and raised
In the mead-halls I spent most of my days
Drinking hard, wenching, cheating at dice
And picking on folks, never playing nice.
Caused havoc all round, I was up to no good
Enjoyed making trouble in my neighbourhood
I got in one little blood-feud, my mum got scared
And said “You’re going to your uncle Magnus in Visbær”.
He lent me his ship, gifted it at a feast
I sailed her south, to the Rus and the East
I bought some bling, traded furs that were rare
Then I set sail home, went home to Visbær.
Magnus wanted his ship back, he said I was late
But I said screw that, fled in sixty eight
I sailed for Englisc lands, til I was finally there
In the Oestviking, the Rus vike from Visbær.
Hauk Leads the Oestvikingae
After several years of fighting, Freyja declared that she wished to return to Gotland, and use her money to rule men in peace not in war. All the Vikings of the Great Heathen Host lamented this fact. The remaining Oestvikingae had a great Thing, and there Hauk persuaded them that he would be their leader. And so it was.
At this time, the Great Summer Army had joined the Heathen Host, and together they fought the forces of Wessex near to Reading. Many mighty battles were fought, and for the first time the Englisc halted the Viking advance, Wessex succeeding where East Anglia, Northumbria and Mercia had failed. At Æscesdūn King Bagsecg of the Great Summer Army was slain with a sword hight Kingslayer, and the Vikings fled. The Englisc later said that all the Vikings who fled that day were cowards, and poured shame upon them.
The Oestvikingae organised a great blót, and gathered many folk. From Gotland came Wulfhild, daughter of Magnus, cousin to Hauk. She feasted in the hall of the Oestvikingae at the top table in the place of honour, but then whilst all were drunk she took Hauk’s longship Lögseims and fled with it, in the process driving it against the rocks and destroying it. A dark mood descended upon Hauk after the defeats and insults that had been placed upon him, and he fell under the influence of a dark vǫlva named Guðrún, who delighted in bloodshed.
The next year the Great Heathen Host descended upon London. As the Englisc fled their burning city, the Oestvikingae fell upon them, under the orders of the vǫlva Guðrún to gather living creatures for sacrifice at blót. The Englisc attempted to travel in a convoy, escorting refugees to St Albans, but the Oestvikingae harried them, chasing through the woodlands, howling like wolves and striking where they were weakest. The Englisc convoy collapsed, and Hauk unleashed Thorhelm the Cruel, who chased down the unarmed civilians and children like a fearsome beast. However, the Oestvikingae over-extended themselves, advancing ahead of the other Vikings, and were driven off by the re-grouped Englisc, who marched on to St. Albans. Guðrún was displeased not to have her offering, and the Oestvikingae swore to do better next time… Whilst the plunder from London was being divided, Fritha of the Oestvikingae, wife of Thorhelm the Cruel, claimed for herself the Chalice of King Edwin of Northumbria, a precious vessel that once bore the saint’s head.
The Doom of Kings
Two years later, the Oestvikingae fell again upon Mercia. Mercia had been weakened by the many raids, and their leaders were divided between those seeking peace and those who would still fight. The vǫlva Guðrún told Hauk that the Kingslayer, the sword that slew King Bagsecg at Æscesdūn, was held at a monastery named Earleywood, and foresaw that:
Kingslaying blade will betray its bearer,
Defeat’s disgrace will be drowned in blood.
Hauk swore that he would get the Kingslayer for Guðrún, and traveled south to find it. However it was well-defended, and so Hauk made an agreement with his father’s daughter Ingibjorg of the Holmbyggjar – she would give him the Kingslayer if it fell into her hands, and he would give her land to settle upon if any fell into his hands. Hauk cared not for the settled life, he was a raider and nothing else, and unlike the Holmbyggjar he had no wish to possess land for he sought only war. Seeing this, Kappi Bosison, younger son of Styrsman Bosi who led the Holmbyggjar, left the Holmbyggjar and joined the Oestvikingae to seek his fame and fortune.
Later that day, the Holmbyggjar managed to seize the Kingslayer. When the Oestvikingae re-joined them, however, they refused to hand it over and treacherously turned on Hauk’s forces. They struck Hauk, Fritha and Kappi down, and forced Thorhelm to surrender. But Thorhelm was cunning, and as soon as they were distracted he seized the Kingslayer, and fled back to the Oestvikingae. Sadly at this moment the Englisc arrived, attacked the divided Vikings, and took the Kingslayer. The Oestvikingae fell into berserking, and Kappi earned himself the name Spear-Splitter, but they did not recover the Kingslayer.
The Englisc took Kingslayer back the Earleywood Monastery, and so Hauk led the Oestvikingae there. The Englisc were few, and could not stand against the greater numbers of the Vikings, and thus the Vikings forced entry into the monastery and took the Kingslayer and other relics. Thorhelm, using his customary speed, escaped with the Kingslayer. However when he returned to the monastery he was ambushed by some nuns, who tormented him and placed a strange Christian curse upon his shield.
Later, at banquet, there were great discussions about whether Mercia should seek peace or war from the Vikings. Ingibjorg spoke in favour of co-operation and settlement, showing the Englisc what could happen if they chose peace; Hauk spoke of killing all who stood against him, showing the Englisc what could happen if they chose war – which led to Hauk almost coming to blows with Herewulf of Mercia. Hauk returned to Guðrún bearing Kingslayer.
Hauk took to Kingslayer to the vǫlva Guðrún, and she thought of a plan to harness its magics to make King Burhred flee Mercia, so that Ceolwulf might take his place and rule Mercia as a puppet of the Vikings. Guðrún presented her plan to Ivar Ragnarsson, and he was pleased. And so when the Great Army attacked Mercia, Guðrún went ahead of them, to the heart of that land, and she took with her Hauk and his cousin Wulfhild, who was learning the arts of seiðr from Guðrún, and other warriors. In a terrible storm Hauk erected a powerful níðstang, topped with a stag’s head, bathed in blood from the Chalice of King Edwin of Northumbria, and sliced with the Kinglayer. And the vǫlvas carved it with dark runes, and recited spells, and walked backwards around it three times with their heads between their legs, and called down the gaze of Odin on King Burhred.
After erecting the níðstang to curse Burhred, the Oestvikingae travelled to Repton, and there met with the rest of the Great Heathen Host. There Hauk was reunited his cousin Katla, sister to Wulfhild, and her family.
Under King Ivar ‘the Boneless’ Ragnarsson’s leadership, the Great Heathen Host erected a mighty fortified bank around their camp at Repton. When Burhred’s army arrived, they tried to pen the Vikings inside this camp. As disease began to spread in the camp, King Ivar saw the need for us to break out and fight in open group – the Oestvikingae were among the leaders of the breaching force. It was a hard fight, with the Englisc intent on not giving the Host the space to use their superior numbers, but eventually the Mercians were driven back. Hauk was greatly impressed by the courage of the fallen Mercian thegn who led the battleline, and died with his sword in his hand. Hauk took his penis as a talisman, and later Guðrún buried the body with a boar’s tusk between its legs and a Thor’s Hammer around his neck, to ensure that he went to Valhalla, and was whole there.
The Oestvikingae then fought through the streets and woods surrounding Repton, as the Host fought to get to open ground where they could reform the battleline. The vǫlva Guðrún instructed Hauk that in order to ensure the battle ahead would go well, he must sacrifice an infant, quartering them into a bloody mess, and this was done, using a young Viking boy that they encountered and brawled with. This earnt Hauk his sister Ingibjorg’s grave disapproval.
The Great Heathen Host succeeded in getting through to clear ground, fighting past many Englisc and suffering some terrible losses in the process. They then reformed the shieldwall, and charged Burhred’s wall, seeking to capture and kill the King. As his battleline broke, Burhred fled, and hid in the nearby woods. The Vikings split up to search for him, clashing with Mercians seeking to find and protect their lord.
The Oestvikingae succeeded in capturing several ladies of Burhred’s court, and Hauk sought to threaten them to draw out Burhred and talk to him. In order to do this, Hauk sent one of their hostages to get Burhred and told her to return within a certain count or else the others would die. This strategy drew the ire of other Vikings, with Guðrún and Thorhelm the Cruel not wanting to set a captive free, the Holmbyggjar saying that slaying unarmed women was cowardly and wrong, whilst the Westmen wanted to continue the pursuit not engage in politics. As the count was completed, Burhred had not emerged – either because he was too cowardly to come forward to save his people, or because he was too far away to hear the demands – and so the Oestvikingae killed their captive, impaling her on Odin’s Tree.
The search for Burhred continued, and the Oestvikingae clashed with Englisc and Viking alike as they continued to carve a bloody path through any hostages they caught. However the search proved inconclusive, and the Oestvikingae returned to Repton to bury the dead.
A while later, they feasted at a hall of the Cilternsaete. There much news was shared: King Burhred was missing, presumed fled; Ceolwulf had declared himself King of Mercia; and King Ivar ‘the Boneless’ Ragnarsson, the man who held the Great Summer Army and the Great Heathen Host together, was dead. Tempers were high, and Englisc and Viking alike turned their ire on the Oestvikingae for the sacrifices they had performed, especially the killing of the unarmed hostages. Hauk remained defiant: the sacrifices were neccessary in order to gain the victory, and the threat to the hostages would have been averted by Burhred if he was a true king and cared about his people, if he had just stepped forwards. With King Ivar dead, there was no leader to bind the Vikings together, and deep fractures appeared between the groups… The peace held, but only just.
After the Battle of Repton, Hauk wrote this song about King Ivar’s death:
The saddest song, I shall now sing;
Of how the Kingslayer, killed a king.
Ivar the Boneless, big and brave;
Reaved British lands, for Ragnar’s revenge.
His Heathen Host, harried the Englisc,
Kings were killed, and kingdoms vanquished.
When fighting Wessex, we suffered woe,
King Bagsecg killed, by Kingslayer’s blow.
The sword was saved, stored in Christ’s house,
Symbol of our slain, giving Saxons strength.
So we were sent, to steal sword for seiðr,
As witches wove words, wyrd’s web drew near:
Kingslaying blade will betray its bearer,
Defeat’s disgrace will be drowned in blood.
As Burhred’s battleline, began to flee,
Ivar sprang forward, shouting his glee.
The Viking king, drew Kingslaying blade,
Predicted by witches, who prophecies made:
Kingslaying blade will betray its bearer,
Defeat’s disgrace will be drowned in blood.
From Englisc flight a thegn stepped forth,
Boldly blocked Boneless, to save Burhred his lord.
Both rained blows, blood flowed bright,
Ivar’s blade bounced; bit him, took life.
The battle was won, Burhred’s battleline fled,
But the Viking king, was cut, killed, dead.
Where to now, will the wanderers Vike?
The heathen host, has lost it’s head.
The witches’ words, were twisted and wicked,
The bearer betrayed, was Boneless not Burhred.
Mercia retreats, but Ragnarsson is rift,
Saxons gain strength, as Ivar is slain.
Kingslaying blade betrayed its bearer,
Defeat’s disgrace was drowned in blood.
The Great Army Splits
After the death of Ivar, the Oestvikingae were given part of a map that showed where he had hidden the treasure he had taken from Medhamstead Abbey 5 years before. They went east, through the lands of the Cilternsaete, to find it. On the way they clashed with other Vikings, wild raiders, who stole their fragment of Ivar’s map. However the Oestvikingae were wise, and had memorised their fragment of the map, chanting its words and drawing its shapes on the ground. When they met the Holmbyggjar, who had also once possessed some of Ivar’s map but then lost it, they shared the details which they remembered and together they rebuilt the map in their minds. With the help of some Englisc they later managed to defeat the wild Vikings, enforcing the peace which Ceolwulf had made.
The Oestvikingae then followed other treasure hunters to the place where Ivar’s gold lay. Using the map they had memorised, they hurried to one of the locations, and the keen eyes of Thorhelm quickly spotted the glint of monastic relics. Some of their treasure was stolen by the Holmbyggjar, once again reneging on earlier friendship, so Guðrún and Fritha buried the rest. Later they managed to rescue another piece of treasure from Englisc hands, and Fritha buried it so well that no man could find it, though several saw the area she had hidden in it and searched it long and hard. They then had to get the treasure out of the area, beyond the grasping hands of the Englisc. They dug up their first hoard, and entrusted it to Thorhelm’s swift legs whilst the rest of the warband held up the Englisc attempting to persue him. Then Fritha sneaked out to her buried stash, and managed to return it all on her own whilst the other searchers were distracted.
That evening they dined well, and received news that Harald Fairhair was seeking to rule these islands as well as Norway. The Oestvikingae agreed that they would not bend their knee to him, but would march north with Halfdan to repel his attack (staying somewhat near the back of Halfdan’s army, making sure that they Englisc did not rise up behind them).