The Last Viking Trilogy: The Golden Horn, The Road of the Sea Horse, and The Sign of the Raven

The Last Viking Trilogy: The Golden Horn, The Road of the Sea Horse, and The Sign of the Raven

by Poul Anderson

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504046145
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication date: 06/13/2017
Series: The Last Viking Trilogy
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 818
Sales rank: 246,624
File size: 4 MB

About the Author

Poul Anderson (1926–2001) grew up bilingual in a Danish American family. After discovering science fiction fandom and earning a physics degree at the University of Minnesota, he found writing science fiction more satisfactory. Admired for his “hard” science fiction, mysteries, historical novels, and “fantasy with rivets,” he also excelled in humor. He was the guest of honor at the 1959 World Science Fiction Convention and at many similar events, including the 1998 Contact Japan 3 and the 1999 Strannik Conference in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Besides winning the Hugo and Nebula Awards, he has received the Gandalf, Seiun, and Strannik, or “Wanderer,” Awards. A founder of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, he became a Grand Master, and was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.

In 1952 he met Karen Kruse; they married in Berkeley, California, where their daughter, Astrid, was born, and they later lived in Orinda, California. Astrid and her husband, science fiction author Greg Bear, now live with their family outside Seattle.
Poul Anderson (1926–2001) grew up bilingual in a Danish American family. After discovering science fiction fandom and earning a physics degree at the University of Minnesota, he found writing science fiction more satisfactory. Admired for his “hard” science fiction, mysteries, historical novels, and “fantasy with rivets,” he also excelled in humor. He was the guest of honor at the 1959 World Science Fiction Convention and at many similar events, including the 1998 Contact Japan 3 and the 1999 Strannik Conference in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Besides winning the Hugo and Nebula Awards, he has received the Gandalf, Seiun, and Strannik, or “Wanderer,” Awards. A founder of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, he became a Grand Master, and was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.

In 1952 he met Karen Kruse; they married in Berkeley, California, where their daughter, Astrid, was born, and they later lived in Orinda, California. Astrid and her husband, science fiction author Greg Bear, now live with their family outside Seattle.

Read an Excerpt

The Last Viking Trilogy

The Golden Horn, The Road of the Sea Horse, and The Sign of the Raven


By Poul Anderson

OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA

Copyright © 1980 Poul Anderson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-4614-5



CHAPTER 1

Book One THE GOLDEN HORN

I How They Fought at Stiklastadh


1

The night before King Olaf's last battle, his men lay out on the ground and slept under their shields, rolled up in cloaks. It was the end of July, in the year of Our Lord one thousand and thirty, and the nights were still short and light. Under a deep blue, dimly starred sky, hills lifted like the bulwarks of a ship. Harald Sigurdharson went to sleep with the feeling that this whole earth was a ship, plunging through a foam of stars to an unknown port.

A voice woke him, high and happy, before the sun lifted. He sat up and peered to see who stood black against the paling east and chanted. That was the Icelander, Thormodh Coalbrows'-Skald, who would rouse his fellows with the old Bjarkamaal.

"The sun is rising,
the cocks' feathers rustle,
'tis time for thralls
to tread into work.
Waken, warriors,
wake ye now,
all the goodly
swains of Adhils.
"


Harald shivered. He told himself it was only because the dew lay so cold and heavy in his garments. But everyone knew that today the battle would stand.

He climbed to his feet, thinking that his boyish dreams had never foreseen how far one must go to find a war. The ride from his mother's home with the troop she had raised for him had been hurried but seemed endless. He had felt awkward, leading seasoned men, and covered that with a chill manner that kept off any friendship with them. When at last they met King Olaf, the host must then cross the mountains of the Keel. And now they were on the seaward slopes of the Throndlaw, no great ways from the fjord. Yet only lately had their scouts seen foemen gathering against them.

The army came to life as Thormodh went on with the lay. There was a rattle of weapons, a grumble of voices, much coughing and hand-slapping. To Harald the force seemed uncountable, but Rognvald Brusason had told him it was very small to win a whole land. Olaf's guardsmen and other friends from the days before he was driven out of the country; the men of Dag Hringsson, Norse prince called back from exile to help; the Swedes whom King Onund Jacob had lent; the Norsemen who, like Harald, had come straight from their dwellings to join, together numbered less than four thousand, many of them poorly armed.

"A strangeness has come over Olaf," Rognvald had gone on. "Those heathens who would have helped, now ..." He shook his head dolefully. For no few common folk had come to go under the king's banner, especially outlaws seeking to better themselves; but Olaf would only have baptized men. It had cost him five hundred warriors, who went back rather than give up the old gods. Every man left had been told to mark the holy Cross on his shield.

Harald moved toward the king. He felt it behooved him, Olaf's half brother, to thank Thormodh for the verse as others were doing. Olaf had three skalds with him, whom he had told to stay inside a shield wall and watch the fight so they could later tell the world what had happened. They were bitterly jealous of Sighvat Thordharson, the greatest skald of his day and the king's dear friend. He was not here now, being on a pilgrimage to Rome, and the others had sneered at him for that.

Harald was in time to see Olaf give Thormodh a heavy gold arm ring and hear the Icelander say in thanks, "We have a good king, but none can say how long he may live. Grant me this, lord, that you let us never be parted, in life or in death."

"We'll be together as long as I may choose what happens," said Olaf softly, "if you don't wish to part from me."

"I hope, lord, however it goes in peace and war, I may stand where you stand, as long as I live," said Thormodh. "Then let Sighvat and his gold-hilted sword wander where he will!"

Harald turned away without having spoken. He had seen tears in the eyes of men.

Rognvald Brusason was ripping flatbread and salt flesh with his teeth. He nodded to Harald to sit down and join him. "A cold breakfast," said the boy.

"We may have a colder supper," said Rognvald.

He was a tall, slender man, very handsome, with long fair hair and mustache, the son of an Orkney jarl, and among the king's nearest men. Olaf had put Harald's troop with his, and those two had become good friends. Though Harald was only fifteen years old, there was no great time span between them.

Horns blew amidst echoes. The army gathered itself together and went on down the valley road. Soon dust hung heavy. Even mounted and above the worst of it, Harald grew dry in the mouth. The helmets below him were grayed.

Once he glimpsed afar a skirmish, weapons aflash in the early sun. He started thither. Rognvald laid a hand on his arm. "Easy, lad. That's but a few scouts, who'll be dead ere you can get there. You'll have had enough fighting by sunset."

A tale ran down the disorderly ranks, followed by barks of laughter. Olaf had recognized the leader of those enemy outriders who came unawares on his host. It was an Icelander called Hrut, which means "wether." He had said to the Icelanders in his guard: "They tell me in your country each householder must give his carles a sheep every fall. Today I'll give you a wether to kill." Hrut and his men were cut down at once.

"Now that's like the old Olaf!" Teeth gleamed in the sweat-streaked grime of Rognvald's face.

Otherwise, thought Harald, little remained of the king he had known, save bravery. In his youth Olaf the Stout had been among the wildest of the vikings who harried England. That was after his namesake, King Olaf Tryggvason, was slain, and Norway divided between Danes, Swedes and rebellious Haakonssons; heathendom had flourished anew. Returning home to claim his birthright, Olaf Haraldsson had been aided by his stepfather Sigurdh Sow, and by other chiefs who were weary of foreign rule. He beat the outlanders and the jarls; he went against the Upland kinglets, slaying some and maiming others, until he alone bore the royal name in Norway. He quarreled with the mighty king of Sweden but finally married his daughter. He put down the Orkney jarls and made those islands again a Norse fief. Everywhere he handled his own Norsemen as a rider handles an untamed horse. With mild words when he could, more often with sword and fire, he broke them to the worship of Christ and his own overlordship.

But that same almightiness had brought him to grief, Harald thought. More and more Norsemen came to hate Olaf the Stout. Many turned secretly toward Knut the Great, king of Denmark and England, who also claimed Norway by right of his father Svein Twybeard's victory over Olaf Tryggvason. In the end, chiefs and yeomen alike rose in revolt; the Danes arrived to help; Olaf the Stout was forced to flee to refuge with Grand Prince Jaroslav in Russia.

But now, after a year and a half, when Knut's Danish jarl had drowned at sea, Olaf had returned home. With what folk he could gather, Russian, Swedish, Norse, he was seeking his kingship again.

Harald's downy face lifted and stiffened. That those traitors, those swine would dare stand against Olaf! Their king!

But in truth Olaf had changed in Russia, changed so much that his jest about Hrut was astonishing. The man who once mowed down stubborn yeomen like wheat had lately given money to buy Masses for the souls of those enemies who would fall; he had forbidden looting and burning; he had tried to keep his army to the road so that crops would not be trampled; he spoke gently to every man; sometimes he had visions.

Harald crossed himself. He lacked his kinsman's devoutness, but the regrowth of heathendom which he had seen during Olaf's exile had angered him — that men should do what their rightful lord had banned.

They had not far to go this day. Olaf was merely looking for a good site to defend. On a high hill above a farm near Stiklastadh, the horns blew a halt.

Rognvald and Harald staked out their horses, for men fought afoot in the North, and helped each other don mail. Underpadding, nose-guarded helmet, rattling knee-length ring byrnie, small wooden shield with its single handgrip, sword sheathed at hip, all sent a thrilling like wine through the boy. Afterward he watched men straggle into place behind the banners of their chieftains. Rognvald squinted at the horizon.

"Dag's band is not yet in sight," he said. It had gone another way. "Best we ask the king what to do." He pushed through the crowd. Harald trailed him.

Olaf was talking with a stocky, grizzled yeoman, but turned as Rognvald neared.

"Good day to you," he greeted. "What is the matter?" When the Orkneyman had explained, Olaf decided: "Then the Uplanders had best take the right wing. Set up your standard to rally them there."

His glance fell on Harald, and he stroked his beard and stared until his half- brother grew uneasy. Despite his youth, Harald was already as tall as most men, wide-shouldered and narrow-waisted, hands and feet big but well formed. Thick fair hair tumbled past a lean face with long straight nose, jutting chin, thin lips. Above the large light eyes, the brows were dark, the left one higher than the right, which gave him a look of always studying the world and pondering how to overthrow it. His outfit was good, bedecked with gold, as befitted his birth, though travel-stained like everybody else's.

"I think best you stay out of the battle, kinsman," Olaf said. "You're still no more than a child."

Harald felt himself go hot. It angered him that his voice should break as he answered: "No! I'll be there. Should I be too weak to master my sword, you can bind it to my hand, and then see I've no more ruth for these farmers than you. But — but — I'll fight with my folk!"

He gulped for breath and hastily sought a way to nail down his words. It was mannerly to make a verse at great times, and the men on Aasta's stead had taught him skaldcraft as well as the use of arms. He blurted one that he had composed not long ago:

"Aught shall no woman ever
eye, than that I bravely
guard my place and greedy
glaive besmear with redness.
The young deed-worthy warrior
will not blench at spearshafts
flying when the folk
foregather at blood-meeting.
"


Olaf sighed. "Stay, then," he said in a troubled tone. "It's God's will whether you live or die."

He turned back to the yeoman, who owned the nearby farm, and went on: "Thorgils, I would liefer you kept out of the fight and promised me instead to care for the wounded and give the fallen a grave. And if I should die, give my body the care it needs, if they don't forbid that."

The man nodded mutely, pressed his hands between the king's and hurried off, stumbling a little.

Harald went to his post with Rognvald, wondering if he had made a fool of himself. But he was soon forgotten anyhow, for Olaf rose to address his men. He stood on a rock so everyone could see him, in chain mail and gilt helmet, one hand bearing a spear and the other a white shield with a golden cross, sword belted at his thick waist. His words rolled forth with a seaman's fullness: "We have a big and good host, and, even if the yeomen have somewhat more men, it was ever a matter of luck which side wins. And know this: I shall not flee from this battle; for me, it will be victory or death, and I ask that the upshot be what God deems best. Let us take comfort in knowing that our cause is the better one...."

His banner fluttered in a passing breeze, over his head of sunlit gold. The men cheered. When he urged them to go forward as strongly as they could at the outset and put the enemy's leading ranks to flight, so that one would trip over another and the more there were the worse it would be for them, Harald thought wildly that this lord could storm Hell gate.

Still the foe did not show himself. After Olaf finished, his army sat down in the long grass to wait. Harald's gaze ranged about. Behind him lay the clustered buildings of the farm, log walls and turf roofs. Cattle cropped in the meadow with a calm that seemed outrageous. Beyond them gleamed a river. Elsewhere he saw hills, fields that rippled green under the wind, the dark bulk of a forest. When he stood up, he saw a few more men come to talk with the king. But presently they left him alone. Olaf fell asleep with his head in Finn Arnason's lap. Stout Finn Arnason, of a family mighty in Norway, had stood by the king though his own brother Kalf was high in the rebel host. Harald thought this must be a bitter day for him.

The youth tried to talk with Rognvald, who lay at his ease chewing a grass stem, but chatter soon faded. Would they sit here forever?

When at last a shout lifted, Harald jumped, as if stricken with an arrow. The foe were coming in sight.

They trooped over a hill, endlessly, spears and spears and spears. The dogged tramping of thousands of feet reached Harald across miles. There they came, he thought in the leaping of his heart, there they came under the banners of their chiefs: plain bearded men in gray wadmal, farmers, fishermen, wrights, carles, common folk who did not like being taxed and fined and herded into a church they hardly understood. Wave after wave of them poured sullenly down into the valley; it was as if the earth rose in anger to cast off its kings.

Rognvald whistled. "A hundred times a hundred — at least," he said. "There'll be fat ravens tomorrow."

Finn Arnason shook Olaf, who blinked and said low, "Why did you wake me? Why did you not let me enjoy my dream?"

"You were hardly dreaming so well that you had not better make ready," said Finn. "Don't you see the whole yeoman host is on its feet now?"

Olaf looked down the slope. "They're not yet so near that it were better you called me instead of letting me dream."

"What was your dream, then?" growled Finn.

"I thought I saw a high ladder, and I went so far up it that Heaven was open before me."

Finn made to cross himself, but out of old habit it was Thor's hammer he drew. "I don't think that dream was as good as you believe," he said. "I think it means you're a fey man, if it wasn't merely dream mists which came over you."


2

Still the fight stalled. The yeomen needed time to pull their ranks together, while their leaders harangued them, and Olaf was waiting for Dag. They saw the prince at last, miles away in a smoke of dust, but he could not arrive for a while. Harald's tongue felt thick and dry, as if he were going to be ill.

"Forward, forward, yeomen!" The shouts hung on the air, which had grown very still. Slowly the foe slogged up the hillside. Behind the ranks, archers and slingers made ready.

They were only some yards off when they halted again. Harald could see their faces, their arms, a scar that twisted one mouth and a scarlet cloak that must be the best garment of another. Beyond their first line he was aware only of their manyness.

A small group stepped from the van to talk with Olaf. Rognvald pointed them out to Harald. "That's Kalf Arnason, and that's Thorgeir from Kvistadh, and that's Thorstein the Shipwright; he hates Olaf because the king once took his best ship as a fine. I don't yet see Thori Hound — no, there he is, moving toward the front under that green banner."

For Harald, to whom these men had been names and deeds only, the flesh was strange. He could not shake off the notion that they were somehow more than men, just as Olaf was, and that more would be fought out today than who should steer Norway.

Sharp-edged words drifted to him from the brothers Kalf and Finn. Olaf said something about making peace even at this late hour, but the chiefs went back to their host. And now Thori Hound and his men took their place in the lead, and Rognvald laid a hand on Harald's shoulder. "Hold your shield up slantwise," he reminded. "They will be shooting."

"Forward, forward, yeomen!"

Olaf's host roared back the rallying cry he had given them: "Forward, forward, Christ men, cross men, king's men!"

Harald heard the dark whistle of arrows rising behind him. He saw another flight meet it in the sky and pounce on him. Something hit his shield, he felt a rock bounce back, an arrow smote his shield rim and stuck, a spear glittered past. He knew with immense astonishment that he was now truly in a battle. It was like understanding, two years ago, that he had bedded his first thrall girl.

"Go!" shouted Rognvald. The Upland standard bearer set off at a run.

"Forward, forward, Christ men, cross men, king's men!"

As he plunged down the slope, Harald had a glimpse across the enemy host below. Somehow, those on the edges had taken up Olaf's cry, and their fellows were blindly attacking them. Laughter rattled in his throat.

A man ahead of him groaned and fell to his knees. An arrow stood in his eye. He pawed at it, rolled over, and Harald slipped in the blood that ran from his brain. The boy was hardly aware of picking himself up and following Rognvald.

Suddenly the enemy front was before him. He saw a face over a shield. Every part was stark in his mind: thick yellow brows, big nose, coarse pores. His sword whooped and hit the shield edge.

The yeoman grunted and smote with a light one-handed ax. Harald caught the blow on his own shield and lurched with the shock. He cut low, striking at the fellow's legs, and saw the calf flayed open. The yeoman howled and staggered back. Harald pressed in, hewing. Teeth grinned at him, another man was there. Where had the first one gone? Something clipped his helmet and he stumbled. Echoes flew in his head. He struck out wildly, catching an ax haft on his blade. The hilt was almost torn from his hands. Then still a third man shoved in before him. They traded blows. He saw rust on the other's sword.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Last Viking Trilogy by Poul Anderson. Copyright © 1980 Poul Anderson. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

The Golden Horn,
Foreword,
Early Kings of Norway,
Prologue: Of Olaf the Stout and his Kin,
I How They Fought at Stiklastadh,
II How They Fared to Miklagardh,
III Of Kings in Miklagardh,
IV How Three Made Merry,
V Of Harald and Gyrgi,
VI How Gyrgi Was Angered,
VII How Harald Was Betrothed,
VIII How Emperor Michael Went to his Weird,
IX How the Caulker Reigned,
X How Zoe Was Ungrateful,
XI How Harald Was Imprisoned,
XII Of Maria Skieraina,
XIII How Harald Was Wedded,
XIV Of Magnus the Good and Svein Estridharson,
XV How Harald Came Home,
XVI How Svein Was Angry,
The Road of the Sea Horse,
Foreword,
I Of Kings in Norway,
II How King Magnus Went to his Weird,
III Of Thora Thorbergsdottir,
IV How Anchors Were Dropped,
V How Harald Reigned,
VI How Svein Was Clever,
VII Of Einar Thambaskelfir,
VIII How Haakon Ivarsson Went Wooing,
IX How Anger Spoke,
X How Kalf Was Rewarded,
XI How Haakon Ivarsson Came Home,
XII Of Earl Godwin and His Sons,
XIII How Gunnar Geiroddsson Fared to Nidharos,
XIV How Harald Sailed North,
The Sign of the Raven,
Foreword,
I How a Ship Was Launched,
II How They Fought at the River Niss,
III How a War Was Lost,
IV Of Haakon Ivarsson,
V How Peace Was Made,
VI How They Fought in Sweden,
VII How Ellisif Was Angry,
VIII Of Harold Godwinsson and Tosti,
IX How St. Michael Drew His Sword,
X How Ulf Uspaksson Fared Alone,
XI How the Host Was Gathered,
XII How They Fared to Orkney,
XIII Of Kings in England,
XIV How They Fought at Stamford Bridge,
Epilogue: Of Olaf the Quiet,

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The Last Viking Trilogy: The Golden Horn, The Road of the Sea Horse, and The Sign of the Raven 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
At nearly 700 pages, The Last Viking trilogy by Poul Anderson may be a little long for one reading for some - in this I would suggest taking on each volume individually. Broken down, the trilogy consists of: The Golden Horn (c. 1028 - c.1040), The Road of the Sea Horse (c.1046 - c.1060), and The Sign of the Raven (c.1060 - c.1066). This is one of those times when fact far outstrips fiction - the larger than life Harald Hardrada looms front and centre - and its not hard to see why. This man lived a life that was both harsh, bloodthirsty, yet fantastical. His adventures are the stuff of legends ... and yet, he is, or was, real; his adventures did take place. What Poul Anderson has done is encapsulated the essence of Harald and make him more accessible. Anderson's trilogy is set out very similar to the Norse sagas, and each chapter begins with a preposition... "of", "when" and "how". The chapters are short with not clear timeline (again, very similar to the Sagas), yet the story is easy to read. A little knowledge or interest is sufficient as the foreward of each book provides enough historical information, that each of the following books could be read as stoned-alone. As I mentioned, Harald is the hero and a worthy one - his larger than life adventures need no embellishment. Anderson's story builds up the the climax of the final battle, before giving a nice historical wrap up of events as they occurred afterwards.