December 15, 1066
Still no sign of Hjalmar. We had storm today, the whole day, so it’s a save bet he is taking shelter somewhere along the coast. If I only had more men, I could have had them look out for Hjalmar. It also seems Harald and Ulf can stomach the cow milk they are drinking now that their mother left. It is still a question what we should feed them on board the boat. Hunwald suggested young cheese. Has anyone else sailed across a sea with infants on board?
December 16, 1066
Hjalmar Eiriksson has arrived in Watchet, and not a moment too soon. Soon after we left, Normans raided our house, we heard. We are now camping on the beach just outside the town together with Hjalmar’s crew. Our host, Hjalmar Eiriksson, seems to be a fairly literate and polite man – for a Norseman – and he even speaks some Latin and I happen to speak some Norse. The rest of his men appear to be stereotypical Norsemen however; unruly, barbaric and never far from their spirits. They do seem like expert sailors thought – Hjalmar said there wouldn’t be a better crew this side of Britannia – and they also have a weak spot for the twin. We will sail in the morning, and we hope to be arriving in Hjalmar’s home city of Veisafjord within three or four days.
December 19, 1066
We found shelter in a bay along the coast of Wales before a heavy storm once again struck the ocean. Hjalmar told me that storms like this one are very common this time of year and that they can pretty much slow down one’s voyage for a couple of days. It is decided that we spend the night here, and see how the weather is tomorrow morning. The twin has been quite quiet for most of the voyage, which somewhat surprises me. Maybe the rocking on the waves made them calm?
December 23, 1066
After nearly six days, we finally arrive in the Norse harbour town of Veisafjord. When we arrived at dusk, the whole city was lit. Hjalmar told me the local Norse still continued their pagan habit of celebrating the summer and winter solstice. Alongside Christmas, apparently. When we landed, we found several bonfires set up outside the town, with people dancing and drinking around them. Hjalmar brought me and the twin to his homestead which lies within the city perimeter. His servants brought us the first descent meal we had in over a week, and he also assured us we were on safe soil now. Hjalmar offered me and Caelin and Hunwald to take us to church tomorrow, where we could thank the lord for a safe crossing and join these Norsemen in their Christmas celebration. He also told me that a representative from his own overlord – the local king – would visit us after Christmas. It seems that king has some plans for us and the twin.
December 24, 1066
In a way, it’s strange to believe that these once savage and heathen Norsemen are such good Christians. And undoubtedly a lot of them aren’t. But our patron is, and looking at Veisafjord’s church – which is clearly the largest and most lavish building in town – it has become clear that the church is quite powerful in these parts and these once-enemies are rightly guided by the hand of the same god I worship. We spent three hours in the church, and I donated a large amount of gold we brought from Watchet Castle. The priest, a pious but somewhat mysterious Welshman, seemed quite pleased what he and his predecessors had accomplished here and in the other Nordic cities on Eire in the past decades. He also spoke of a number of monasteries in and around this area that would have formed the base for the Irish monks that would later spread of the world.
December 25, 1066
We celebrated Christmas yesterday night and I went to church together with Hjalmar and his wife Magda again. Hjalmar’s people seem to take care of everything, which is really very relaxing although I never loose the twin out of sight for too long. Hjalmar’s daughter Helena also seems to be quite fond of the twin, and quite fond of Caelin as well.
December 26, 1067
A man arrived at Hjalmar’s homestead in the afternoon, a friend or associate of our host clearly. He took me apart and told me he was an envoy for the king of Laigin, a man called Dairmait mac Mail na mBo. The king was Hjalmar’s overlord, as he had placed him in control of the town of Veisafjord, and in return the support of Veisafjord won him the throne of the kingdom of Laigin. King Dairmait had heard of Hjalmar’s patronage, but he came to offer us – or rather Harold and Ulf – something more. He was willing to give the twin land, an army and a fleet in order to take what’s theirs by right, when the time was right. I happily accepted of course, although it remains to be seen what ulterior motives this king might have. The envoy invited me to travel to the king’s residence at Fearna, a couple of hours from Veisafjord. I accepted the offer, but decide not to rush things. Infants cannot lead armies to victory, and nor can I.
December 28, 1067
A snowstorm came from the north, but Hjalmar’s homestead is very cosy in these harsh winter days. Hjalmar’s daughter Frida, a pretty young thing, offered to teach me the tongue of the Norsemen. She seems a chatty girl, but her Latin sounds very vulgar, so perhaps it’s best to learn to talk to these people in their own language.
December 31, 1067
Today, Hjalmar brought me into Veisafjord and showed me around the landing strand. In winter only a fishing ships would set sail. Most other sailors stayed in their home port for the winter, like Hjalmar, and they would make their first trip somewhere in March. Our flight from Watchet was even more special, in that way. Hjalmar told me the difference between Knarr’s and Snekke’s, which were also called longboats. He also told me that most good ships had a long history. Usually, when a new ship was built, it would often use the intact keel of an old ship, and preferably as many usable parts from the owner’s old ship. This saved money, time, and these essential parts had already proven themselves seaworthy.
January 1, 1067
Hjalmar took his sons and some of his men to sea for a traditional New Year trip. This included fishing, swimming in the ice cold sea, and to the best Norse traditions, drinking a lot of mead. He invited me as well, but I politely rejected his offer, and send off Caelin instead. The boy seemed eager to impress Hjalmar’s daughter Helena.
January 3, 1067
Hjalmar’s ship landed at Veisafjord. The men brought back a dozen firm fish, twice as many empty mead skins, and boastful stories of catching these hands with their bare hands while swimming. Hjalmar also seemed quite pleased with Caelin, and told me during our walk for the day that he might actually not be a bad candidate for his daughter. Had he only be a Norseman, he joked. I must admit it’s hard to accept the differences between Norsemen and Saxons. During our stay, I have never experienced being anything but welcome, but understandably, difference of culture runs very deep.
January 5, 1067
It’s rather warm and sunny for this time of year. During one of my daily walks with Hjalmar Eiriksson, he shows me around on the town’s shipyard. A large longship, a Drakkar – a dragon ship – was in the works, and it is probably the largest ship I have ever seen. It is thirty-two paces long and could accommodate no less than fifty men. Hjalmar told me that this was going to be a brand new ship, without old parts, for the simple fact that no ship of this size has ever been built in Veisafjord. The contact with the artisans actually gave me some opportunity to practice my Norse, as most in Hjalmar’s household speaks Latin to us.
January 6, 1067
Today, at the celebration of the Magi, we were surprised by something that’s very rare in these parts; wine. Usually mead or ale is drank here, and the taste of fermented grapes was quite a refreshment
January 9, 1067
The representative from King Dairmait of Laigin returned to Veisafjord again, and this time he insisted to meet the king soon. The king is a patient, but also very old man, he said, and his son and heir Murdaich is a much less tolerant man. Apparently, Murdaich rules over the Norse city of Dublin with an iron fist, and wishes to do so with Veisafjord. I asked the man what the king actually had in mind, what kind of land he wanted to grant the boys, and who was going to govern it during their minority. The messenger said that the king meant to grant them land on the island of Mann, which is inhabited both by Celts and Norsemen, and which was ruled independently under the wing of the king of Laigin. I agreed to meet the king three days from today, and asked Hjalmar to tell me about Mann and this supposedly ruthless king’s heir.