Empty America Written by Doug Hoff circa 2003. Reposted with permission. (Hop, Vinland, circa 1010 a.d.) Thorfinn Karlsefni took a good look around. Not a bad settlement, all things considered. Sod houses (including one serviceable bathhouse) coming along nicely. And they found the vines that they were looking for and some very nice fields of wild wheat. Definitely better than Straumfjord, where they had wintered. A hundred and sixty men, all told, and a handful of women, including his wife Gudrid, widow of one of Eric the Red's sons. Thorfinn likes this place, just upstream from the estuary of a little river, which he has named Freydisi, after Eric's daughter and near a little lake, which he has named Snorri, after his son. It is spring and the land blooms. Strange creatures roam the fields and woodlands, like nothing that Thorfinn had ever seen before. Giant beasts, the most terrifying of which is a great cat with fangs like spearpoints. And some huge, shaggy walking beast with a nose like a great serpent. It had taken twenty of Thorfinn's best men to bring one of THOSE down, but its carcass had given them so much meat that they had to leave some of it behind and blankets for a dozen families. (One of the young men was working on a saga about that already.) One other creature, like a giant rat with tail like a paddle that swam like a fish, more than half as tall as a man, with teeth that could chew through tree-trunks, yielded amazingly waterproof fur. This land ... this was a land of marvels, just teeming with life, both strange and familiar. But no men. He didn't know how big this Vinland was, exactly, just having bumped around the edges a little looking for a suitable spot for a settlement, but he had a feeling that it was bigger than Iceland and Greenland combined. But there was no one to greet them. That just seemed strange, such a big place with no one in it. Thorfinn shrugged. More room for us. As soon as he can, he is sending a couple of ships back to Iceland to pick up more tools and other supplies. And women, they will definitely need more women. If they were going to stay that is. And looking around at his bustling little village, Thorfinn Karlsefni figured they would. 1010-1080 a.d (Vinland/Markland/Europe) Over the next 70 years (a period that Vinlanders [FN3] will call The Landnam, i.e. "the land-taking"[FN4]), the little Norse settlements prosper and grow, spreading both inland and along the coast of Vinland [FN4a] and Markand (Newfoundland). The sod houses are, in time, replaced by sturdy log cabins with thatched roofs. Longhouses with a single great room morph into "passage houses" with multiple living quarters, stables and storerooms. The Norse tend to be farmers with strong inclination towards animal husbandry, so trees are cut down and fields are plowed (domesticated versions of the wild wheat and some imported crops). But the Vinlanders are not just farmers. Hunters range far and wide, bringing back meat and pelts. The most prized furs are from the giant beaver (Castoroides ohioensis, 3.3' at the shoulder, weighing in at 450 lbs), whose waterproof fur makes for excellent hats, cloaks and lining for boots. Wooly mammoth (mammuthus primigenius) hunts are periodic affairs, due to the number of men that it takes to bring one down, and the meat and furs are collected in common and distributed equally to all the hunters. A number of attempts are made to domesticate the mammoth, with mixed results. Many frustrated owners simply give up and slaughter the beasts for food and fur. Some owners succeed (generally by capturing young mammoths and raising them in captivity) and plow their neighbors fields for profit. Keeping a mammoth is an expensive proposition, though, and the great beasts never become common domestic work-animals. Giant elk (megalocerous giganteus, 7' tall), on the other hand, prove to be _very_ handy to have around for plowing and dragging timber. Dire wolves (canis dirus) and saber-toothed cats (smilodon fatalis) keep Vinlanders who venture into the woods on their toes, but both are hunted for sport and for fur. Many hunters recover dire wolf cubs after killing the mothers and undertake the rather perilous (some might say suicidal) task of domesticating wolves that stand five feet at the shoulder. It is a rough go, as you can imagine, and the wilds of Vinland are littered with the gnawed bones of men whose decedents will never walk their pomeranians down the streets of Vinland cities with little plastic bags over their hands ... But a domesticated dire wolf makes a hell of a sled dog, so the stalwart Norse persevere. The fishing off the Vinland and Markland coasts is ... well, incredible. The Norse were not big into fishing as a rule, they tend to be a practical people and not inclined to pass up the free-food bonanza that teems in the offshore waters. You cannot dip a line in the ocean without pulling out a cod. Fishing boats routinely struggle their way back to Hop and the other coastal villages nearly swamped by the weight of their catch. Vinlanders also venture to sea to hunt whales with hand-thrown harpoons. Fishermen move down the Markland coasts, setting up camps and drying areas for their catches. Fresh-water fishing is nothing to sneeze at, either. The rivers and lakes positively overflow with salmon. The vast stands of excellent timber just boggle the minds of the Icelanders. No scrabbling for driftwood, here. The population of Vinland booms. Life in Iceland is kind of rough by comparison to Vinland. Most of the good land there is already taken, so Icelanders (especially tenant farmers who have had it up to here with workin for da man) head for Vinland in droves. (Greenland does pretty well, too, but is rapidly outstripped by Vinland.) Similar conditions prevail in Norway, and so a steady stream of Norwegians (with a smattering of other Scandinavians and a few Irish) is heading across the Atlantic for greener pastures. And it is not only land hunger that propels the Norse across the seas, but also the consolidation of royal power in Scandinavia. Norse had gotten kind of used to small-scale political organization, and they liked it. Vinland offered itself as a place where Vikings could be Vikings, rather than subjects. To the extent there is any government at all in the first 70 years of Norse settlement, it tends to be ad hoc democracy and/or local headmen, depending upon the inclination of the locals. Iceland became Christian in a.d. 1000 and mainland Scandinavia sometime before that. Many of the early Norse settlers in Vinland either remain pagan or revert to paganism once they arrive. Later immigrants are Christian, however, and the pagan population is quickly swamped. Vinlanders themselves have a fairly live-and-let-live attitude towards religion, and sectarian violence is largely unknown or (where it does crop up) is generally just window-dressing thrown up over feuds that really have their origins elsewhere. Still, pagan Vinlanders tend to cluster off from the Christians, electing their own godarir (chieftain-priests) and shying away from the scattered areas where the Church's law is actually enforced. By 1080, Vinland has its own bishop (who actually resides in Norway) and a growing population of priests and some fairly impressive churches. The Church turns a tidy profit by Vinland - its tithe in furs, skins and ivory (walrus and mammoth) is nothing to sneeze at, especially for a frontier province. The seeds of conflict are sown by the tithe. The Bishop (none to happy about the fact that pagans continue to resist conversion in Vinland and that no one seems real eager to convert them at swordpoint) decrees that all Vinlanders - pagan and Christian - must tithe. Practical reasons underlie the decision - Vinland Christians (many of whom were not exactly devout to begin with) were lapsing into paganism to try to duck the tax. But in 11th Century Vinland, there really is no one to enforce the diktat aside from individual Christian headmen, whose own compliance is spotty, so the decree goes largely unenforced. Tithing aside, trade booms between Vinland and northern Europe, primarily Norway and the British Isles, both of which trade raw and finished iron tools and weapons and luxury goods for Vinland furs and hides. A fairly steady stream of knorrir (merchant ships) make their way from Scandinavians trading centers like Hedeby, Kaupang and Birka to Vinland and back. Vinland also has a very healthy trade with the cities of Dublin and York. From there, Vinland products make their way into European trade and Vinland seeps into European consciousness. Adam of Bremen is fascinated by Vinland and spends a lot of time annoying various traders by pestering them for information about this new land, eventually cobbling it all together into the first major work on the subject, with a tongue-tying Latin title that will not be reproduced here. And in 1070 Vinland gets its first major influx of 'political' refugees [FN5]. A fleet of ships led by Hereward the Wake brings an influx of Saxons to Vinland's shores. Ironically enough, they are fleeing subjugation by the Vinlanders' Norman cousins. The first wave brings with them a small monastic community and invaluable illuminated manuscripts of the Peterborough Abbey. Other monks also follow - preserving the written texts such as Beowulf, and the dream of the Rood. Seeking a new land where they can be their own masters, the Saxon settlements - Niwe Wessex and Niwe Mercia [FN6] are soon thriving and pushing inland. Nothing succeeds like success, and the prosperity of the Vinland Saxons acts as a powerful draw upon those who are now serfs (villeins) in what was once their own land. A steady trickle of Saxon runaways manage to make it to both Norse Vinland and the Saxon settlements. By 1080, Vinland has a reputation of being not only a prosperous land, but also a free one. Distance, the uncertainties of travel and the cantankerous nature of the inhabitants, all combine to make it damn difficult for the traditional sources of authority in Europe (church, nobility and monarchy) to exert their power. Far-seeing guardians of the European status quo will come to see this, become alarmed and think upon ways this intolerable situation could be remedied. Part 2: War-Wolves of Vinland - One [FN7] 1080-1105 (Vinland/Europe) 1080 is a big year for Vinland [FN7a], what with the arrival of Bishop Alfric, a young Norwegian cleric. The Christian citizens of Hop are generally very happy that Vinland has been proclaimed its own see with a resident bishop. They go to great lengths to welcome him - starting construction on a modest [FN8] cathedral (which will continue, in fits and starts, for 40 years), a splendid fieldstone Residence [FN8a], and they even rename their city Anskar, after a saint who was an apostle to the Scandinavians in the 9th Century. The bishop is accompanied by a not-insignificant coterie of priests and other Church officials. Alfric makes no bones about the fact that he is there, not only to shepherd his flock, but also to fleece them - the tithe and Peter's Pence are to be paid, end of story. The population, both immigrant and native-born, continues to grow. Most of the immigrants continue to come from Scandinavia, Iceland and Ireland. Vinland receives a very healthy influx of Swedish pagans, as the forced Christian conversion of Scandinavia continues. Not all the immigrants are free - many are Irish slaves and indentured servants, brought to work the fields and labor in the towns [FN8b]. One thing that Vinland needs possibly more than anything else is labor - with land essentially free for the taking and gold to be made in furs, there is not much incentive to remain an urban laborer for any great length of time. With labor - especially skilled labor - in such short supply, guilds rapidly establish themselves and become very powerful in Anskar and the other towns. Farming and animal husbandry are the occupations of most Vinlanders. Every rural longhouse has a vegetable garden bursting with cabbages, peas, onions and other Scandinavian plants. Chickens and turkeys scratch in the dirt. Some farmers tend sown crops - primarily barley, hops [FN8c] and flax. Newcomers are Vinland are delighted to discover that virtually every small farmer has a few pigs rooting around his homestead, pork being a high-status meat in Scandinavian society. Hunters continue to push deeper and deeper into the interior, seeking out the giant beavers, scimitar and sabre-tooth cats, and mammoths and mastodons whose furs and hides fetch such an enormous price in Europe. And lets not forget the non-megafauna, such as seals, whales and so forth. As the Vinland economy grows more sophisticated, the dynamic of hunting changes. No longer primarily a part-time job of farmers seeking cash and skins, full-time hunting parties now roam the land. Skinning a mammoth is hard work, especially getting to the hide underneath a beast who has fallen on his side. Torsk (dried cod) imported through Bremen quickly becomes a not-uncommon food in the Holy Roman Empire - and skins and ivory flow out of Vinland and gold, silver, luxury goods, weapons and iron tools flow in. The Vinlanders also indulge in what could only be characterized as an orgy of boat-building. Overwhelmed by the quantity and quality of timber available and the wealth of fish in the Vinland seas, the coasts and inlets of Vinland and Markland now swarm with boats of all sizes [8b]. Timber being widely available, the holdup is sails. However, it is quickly discovered that mammoth hair is long-fibered enough to make excellent yarn. Unwashed, the yarn is water-resistant enough to make serviceable sails. The upswept, dragon-headed prow and broad square sail is now seen up and down the northern seaboard of the New World, and much of Vinland's trade is carried in Vinlandic hulls. The Vinlanders do not explore for its own sake and are not mapmakers by any stretch of the imagination, but they begin to get the idea that they are living at the northeast tip of a very large landmass. A number of Norse are convinced they are living on the fringes of Utgard, the land of the giants, which circles the world of mortal men. Given the animals they have encountered, it is an excusable mistake. Government in Vinland essentially mimics that in Iceland. The althing, or general assembly, meets once a year in Anskar. However, the governing body of Vinland is the Logretta, a quasi-legislative, quasi-judicial body made up of prominent men. The only official is the logsogumadur or "law speaker" who, at meetings of the Logretta, pronounced the applicable law to questions before the body. The once harmonious relations between Christian and Norse [FN9] begin to break down. Alfric is none too happy about the continuation of paganism in Vinland. Initially, anyway, the Vinlanders are very resistant to the idea of forcing their Norse friends and neighbors to convert, and calls for strenuous efforts to bring the Norse into the Church are largely ignored. The Norwegian authorities are none too keen to stir the pot and the Vinland Allthing has many, many pagan members. Not only are the Norse left to practice their religion, more than a few Christians 'lapse' back into paganism, as it seems to be a good way to dodge the Church's taxes (which are paid at church on feast days). The problem looms large for Alfric, who insists that, since the Norse are living in a Christian land, they too must pay the tithe, and demands cooperation from the Norwegian and Vinlandic authorities in collecting. The groundwork for civil and sectarian strife is laid. As Vinland prospers and grows, its existence continues to seep through European consciousness like a drop of ink in a glass of water, although most of the consumers of Vinlandic products have no idea where they come from [FN10]. Tales of huge hairy elephants and gigantic wolves are received entirely without skepticism or even real surprise - the idea of a far-off land populated by monsters fits in with a 11th Century European world-view. There is still no clear idea about the size and shape of the New World, or even that Vinland is a separate continent from Europe or Asia. European thinkers are used to the idea of sparsely inhabited or uninhabited reaches to their north, although none so far have proven to be so lucrative for trade. Of course, this uncertainty does not prevent Pope Gregory VII, in a hastily-added provision of Dictatus Papae [FN10a] from proclaiming "all newly discovered lands in the west" to be a papal fief. Europeans simply don't know if they would run into anything if they struck out across the Atlantic from Spain or France. The idea of striking out into the trackless Atlantic is not on the European mental horizon, as it were. The tools for reliably navigating large open bodies of water simply don't exist yet, and the northern Europeans dominate the Iceland-Greenland-Vinland route. Most of the European effort is not put into sending their own hunters to Vinland, but rather trying to do each other out of the profits already being made. English traders make a killing acting as middlemen for Vinlandic exports to Western Europe. Scandinavia serves the same function for the Holy Roman Empire and Eastern Europe, although coastal German cities try diligently to establish direct contact with Vinland fur traders. (Niwe Wessex / Niwe Mercia) The English in the New World have been busy. As William the Conqueror goes to work divesting English nobles of their estates and handing them over to his Norman followers, the initial rag-tag influx of refugees is followed by a rather unwelcome stream of disenfranchised English nobles, most still professing loyalty to Edgar the Atheling, the English claimant to the Throne [FN 11]. While Edgar himself plots against (and, along with King Malcolm, occasionally attacks) the Normans from Scotland, the Earls (and so forth) go to work immediately carving large domains for themselves, and soon what was once a fairly harmonious pair of little colonies has been greatly expanded and fragmented [FN11a]. It works like this: the dukes stake out land for themselves then ask for a writ from Edgar to govern it. Edgar, his palm suitably greased, dispatches the writs post-haste. Not that he has any recognized claim to the New World himself, but upon landing, the initial immigrants claimed the whole New World in Edgar's name. The formalities must be observed. A bastardized version of pre-Conquest English pre-feudalism takes root and spreads in the New World. In 1072, Edgar is ousted from Scotland and, after some intervening misadventures, departs to Flanders. From there, he attacks William in Normandy, with the assistance of King Phillip of France, to no discernable effect. In 1074, Edgar (now back in Scotland) realizes this is going nowhere fast. Essentially, he has two choices - he can take a boat to the New World and try to unite the squabbling dukedoms. Preferring to serve in heaven than reign in hell, Edgar joins William's court, effectively renouncing his claim to the English throne. Once they learn of it, the dukes have their own choice to make. They can transfer their allegiance to William or ... something else. They are not inclined to become Norman vassals. It was one thing to be technically loyal to an easily-bought refugee 'king,' and quite another to submit to one who is looking more and more powerful. The other new arrivals are from the Danelaw in northern England. Having enjoyed something like domestic autonomy under the English kings, they see the writing on the wall with William's consolidation of power. Hundreds, stripped of their lands, they take ship to the New World. Not inclined to live under either the Vinlanders or the English, they establish themselves in a brand new colony between them [FN12]. (Vinland, 1105) The ruins of the Froharg have long stopped smoldering and are covered with a light dusting of early-spring snow. It is Hrafnel Freysgodi's land, and this was his temple, dedicated to Freya, the goddess of fertility. Hrafnel is a prominent Norse magnate and godar [FN13], with expansive land holdings, several longships and over a hundred men - farmers, hunters and seamen - owing him loyalty. His name is great in Vinland, prominent and respected in the Logretta, where he leads the Norse faction. It is the collapse of the Logretta that led to the attack on Hrafnel's land and the burning of the Froharg. The Christian contingent in the assembly declared that henceforth, the laws of Vinland would be written in a great book that would be kept in the custody of Bishop Alfric and the logsogumadur would have to go to the bishop, who would tell him the law. It is a decisive shift in power from the Logretta to the Church, the fruit of twenty five years' worth of clerical attacks upon the Vinland's inherited religious tolerance. Norse Vinlanders protest vigorously, but they are outnumbered. In the end, the Logretta divides between Christian and Norse and each group declares itself to be 'out of law' with the other, effectively inaugurating civil war. Shortly after the schism, Bishop Alfric dispatched lay officers to collect the tithe from Hrafnel, under the belief that if he could force such a prominent Norse magnate to acknowledge the authority of the Church, he could bring his co-religionists to heel. He is wrong. The bishop's men make it far enough onto Hrafnel's land to burn his temple (as an affront to the White Christ) when they are ambushed. A swarm of arrows whistle out of the forest, striking them down as the stand in the temple clearing, the flames silhouetting them against the darkness of the forest. Bellowing with rage, Hrafnel and his men charge out of the woods, hacking and slashing with their swords and battle-axes. Only one of the bishop's men survives, and he run he runs terrified down the path through the woodland. In the weeks that follow, Vinland and Markland erupt in a paroxysm of communal violence, a terrible cycle of attack and retribution. Farms and hamlets are sacked and burned and whole communities are put to the sword. Women and girls are violated and murdered or carried off into slavery. Norsemen and Vinlanders, organizing themselves around hunting parties or companies loyal to local headmen, fight scattered but fierce and pitiless engagements throughout the colony. Each side struggles not just for the upper hand, but for sheer survival against an implacable enemy who was once their neighbor, their friend, their kin. And now, Hrafnel has called an allthing of the Norse of Vinland, to unite their forces and to forge a common battle plan for the desperate days ahead. Dozens of prominent men from all corners of the colony have gathered to stand in the torchlit forest grove, around the ruins of Hrafnel's temple, to hear his call for the extermination of the Christians of Vinland. The paintings of later days show them, big, bearded, glowering men, clad in heavy leather boots, rough wadmal [FN14] breeches and shirts and long fur cloaks. As befitting the times, all the men are armed and armored. Many wear thick leather jerkins [FN15], but the wealthier among them come clad in chainmail. All carry swords, spears or battle-axes and wear round helmets [FN16], some with a chainmail fringe over the back of the neck and iron loops to protect the eyes. Hrafnel cries for land to be soaked in blood, for the Norse to drive the Vinlanders into the sea, then to take to their boats and to wrest Iceland from the Christians. His fellows roar full-throated approval and pound their shields with the flats of their swords or thrust their spears in the air. The fury of the Northmen rings throughout the forest. But then, above it all, a clear, loud cry is heard: "Norse of Vinland, hear me!" The savage war-cries suddenly fade as the assembly turns as one to face the speaker, standing at the edge of the clearing. He is a grizzled old man, silver of hair and beard, bareheaded and clad in long gray robes. Using a spear as a walking stick, he strides through the crowd towards the ruined temple around which they are gathered. Flanking him are six ferocious men, dressed in bear skins, clutching spears, swords and battle axes. The Norse part soundlessly to let the man and his companions through. By the flickering torchlight, they can see that the old man in the gray robes, carrying the spear as a walking stick, has only one eye. A patch covers the other eye, but not the mass of scarring that covers the side of his face. Every man in the clearing stands stunned, looking at the silver-beared man in gray robes who only has one eye and who holds a spear as a walking-stick. Standing in the ruins of the temple of Freya, in the middle of this now-silent assembly, the one-eyed man speaks: "I am Erik Einauga, new to this land. I was born in the great city of Constantinople, where my father was a captain of the Varangian Guard, protectors of the Emperor. We were at sea, when our ship was taken by the Saracens, who slew my father but spared me and raised me as a warrior. Though the Saracens thought they made me a Musselman, like themselves, from my father I knew I was a Norseman. Like my father before me, I became a captain in the service of a foreign master and slew countless numbers of my lord's enemies. Six years ago, I stood on the steps of the great al-aksa-moschee in Jerusalem and fought, sword to sword, the great King Tankred." If any of the men in the crowd were skeptical, not a hint of it showed on their faces. "Though we fought as fiercely as any men could, Tankred and his knights overwhelmed us and drove us from Jerusalem. I alone managed to escape to Haifa and the sea. I made my way north, because I knew that is where my people were. In Iceland, I learned of a new land, where men could live free and keep the sidur [FN17] of our fathers and grandfathers. So I came here, and I heard the bishop and priests of the White Christ speak hatred of the sidur. And I saw the great numbers of the followers of the White Christ. I knew, then, what must be done. So I went into the wilderness to find the Norse a new land, away from the priests and their hatred. And I found a land to the south along the banks of a great river. A land of rich, black earth, vast sweet lakes full of fish, flocks of birds that block out the sun, and forests teeming with life. If we are to survive and follow the sidur, we must leave this place and go to this new land of the south. And I can lead you there ..." Empty America Part 3: War-Wolves of Vinland - Two 1105 (Skogrland [FN18]) Word of the one-eyed stranger spreads through Vinland like wildfire. Among the Norse, there is no universal consensus that they should flee. The Norse are, after all, a fighting people, and those in Vinland are no exception. Through the years, they have been bloodied in feuds, family and communal. But this is different - it is a war to the death. Hrafnel Freysgodi and some of his allies, all opposed to leaving, lead their men into Anskar, where they sack and destroy the main church and the bishop's residence. But they are driven out with heavy casualties by a Christian counterattack. Christian Vinlanders outnumber the Norse by two to one, and as the violence continues to escalate, it becomes clear that, if they are not to be wiped out entirely, they must either convert or leave. Chastened by the battle in Anskar, even Freysgodi comes to believe that they must depart. Einauga is constantly at his elbow now, in his gray robes, broad hat, and walking staff, as they travel the land, cajoling the reluctant and organizing [FN19] the Norse exodus. Those skeptical of Freysgodi (who has a widespread reputation as being an overbearing, arrogant boor) are won over by Einauga. They look into that one eye and know that they must do has he would have them do. In the days and weeks that follow, the Norse take to such roads as their are in Vinland - tracks for pack-horses and mammoths, really - and make for the coasts. For most, this is not a long journey - the Scandinavians who settled Iceland and Vinland have a cultural preference for farming near the sea. The first flotilla, seventy ships in all, is ready. Commanded by Freysgodi and guided by one of Einauga's bearskin-clad men, it takes to the sea, moving south along the coast of Skogrland. Before long, they spy signs of human habitation - the Saxon colonies of Niwe Wessex and Niwe Mercia. Many of the Norse are surprised to find the English here, but others are not. Contact between the Norse and the Saxons in the New World had been sporadic and isolated, although a number of the Saxons were are of the conflict that was rending Vinland and fear that one side or another would move south. Here and there, ships that left Vinland ill-provisioned visit coastal Saxon farms and barter for food. For the most part, the encounters are friendly enough, even though many of the Saxons are terrified and many of the Norse highly suspicious. As they move further south, however, Einauga's bearskinned lieutenant starts taking a hand in managing the flotilla. Norse warriors splash ashore and drive off the handful Saxon inhabitants of a large island off the coast [FN20]. The Norsemen are given strict orders to remain there, construct a stockade and await more arrivals. The soldiers christen it Streymoy, after an island in the Faroes. The rest of the flotilla moves on, making landfall at the mouth of a great south-flowing river [FN21]. This river valley, explains the bear-warrior, somewhat uncomfortable with the evident solemnity of the occasion, and the lands to either side are yours. Now Freysgodi takes over. He names the river "Thjorsa," [FN22] and their new home, "Domstolland" [FN23] Freysgodi orders the construction of a Domhring [FN24] in a clearing on the riverbank, near where the river enters the sea. In the center of the circle of stones, he places the Thorstein, the granite pillar of Thor, taken from the ashes of one of the Thunderer's temples in Vinland. On the Thorstein, he places a simple gold ring, its runes clearly visible in the flickering torchlight. One by one, the men approach the Thorstein, place their hands on the ring and swear an oath to be true to the sidur, to each other, and to Domstolland. And they vow that they will have their revenge. Freysgodi and the other men agree that those in the ships that follow them shall all land at this place and swear this same oath. The Norse then move up the river valley, seizing a number of small Saxon settlements and enslaving the inhabitants. More and more boats arrive in Domstolland and thousands make their way to the Domhring to swear the oath. Ari the Wise, who arrives in one of the second wave boats, takes the oath but is somewhat discomfited by the palpable anger seething all around him at the Domhring. Trouble is coming. Beware the fury of the North Men. Fury indeed. After depositing their women and children safely in Domstolland, the third and forth waves of Norse immigrants vent their rage upon the inhabitants of Niwe Wessex and Niwe Mercia. Commanding the third flotilla, Gizur Teitsson carves a broad swath of destruction the length of the Saxon colonies and returns to Domstolland laden with plunder and slaves. Just as the Saxons are getting back on their feet, the fourth wave sweeps over them. The Saxon Earls try to organize resistance, but the bad blood and lack of unity that have been sown among them is their downfall - some Earls bribe the Norse to pass them by, and provide guides to steer them onto the lands of their rivals. But others assemble their sheriffs, thegns [FN25] and peasant soldiers and march against the Vikings. After series of short, one-sided battles in which many of the Earls themselves fall in combat, the Saxons are defeated. The survivors hold a witan [FN26] in Niwe Wessex at which they agree that the only course of action left to them is to pay the Vikings to leave them in peace, and they dispatch an embassy to Domstolland to negotiate. The problem is that there is no one to treat with, really. Freysgodi has moved up river to stake out a vast estate and is, at the moment, busying himself with getting his own household re-established. The Domstollanders have not yet convened a new Logretta, and there is not really anyone who can claim to speak for them. In the end, the Saxons wind up making a private deal with Teitsson - his men and ships will protect Niwe Wessex and Niwe Mercia in exchange for tribute, payable in gold, furs and food. Teitsson is allowed to set up a longhport [FN27] on the Saxon coastline, from which he and his men can sortie. * * * Meanwhile, back in Vinland, the One-Eyed Wanderer and his followers are rounding up the stragglers as the last and largest of the Norse flotillas prepares to depart. On a gravelly beach on the coast of Vinland the boats and a great crowd of men, women and children are gathering. The Christian Vinlanders have not sat idle while their pagan neighbors make for the water. They move in, seizing whatever they is left behind. And the communal violence continues. Norse are ambushed on the trails to the coast and many parties have to conduct a fighting retreat to make it to the boats. With the last large group of Norse gathered at the water's edge, the Bishop's men make their move. A ring of iron closes in around the embarkation point. It begins at dawn, as the last of the Norse are loading their ships. More mob than army, the Vinlanders attack the last of the pack-trains. A general alarm goes up among the Norse, who rush to the aid of their fellow refugees. Throughout the woods, a dozen desperate skirmishes rage. Einauga is everywhere, bringing order out of chaos, assembling the remaining men into some sort of coherent line, which charges the onrushing Vinlanders, driving them back in bloody disorder. Einauga leads his men back to the waterline. The Christians are routed, but they will regroup, and be back in greater order and numbers than before. "To the boats! Get the women and children on the ships! Get the loaded ships out to sea!" The Norsemen's blood is up and they want to continue the fight, but they look into that one glimmering eye and do as they are bidden. As Einauga predicted, the Vinlanders gather their wits and charge again, this time moving down the beach in a disciplined svinfylking [FN28]. Einauga looks around. Most of the men are helping the women and children into the ships, and there are still dozens, children and gray-haired elderly, mostly sobbing with fear among heaps of their possessions. He summons his berserks, who gather around him, biting the edges of their shields and raging for battle. Einauga points his spear-staff at the charging Vinlanders. "There are your foemen!" The berserks charge down the beach, howling and waving their battle axes and swords. Above the din of battle, Einauga hears it. The howling of great wolves. Peering through the trees, he sees them: six dire wolves in iron collars. War wolves, trained to kill, rushing headlong through the forest towards the water. The lead beast is enormous, even for a dire wolf, and his eyes burn red like fire. Einauga looks down the beach. His berserks, outnumbered ten to one, battle furiously amidst the throng of Vinlanders, turning the surf red with their enemies' blood. Einauga then looks at the huddled group of terrified refugees and hurriedly waves the eight or so able-bodied men over to him. He is abrupt. "Two men for each wolf. The first takes it on his shield, the second attacks from underneath. Do you understand?" The men gape at him, as if certain that he is mad, but they nod. They are farmers and tradesmen, not Vikings, but each of them knows he cannot refuse his bidding. Einauga smiles fiercely. "Good! And fear not, should we fall, we will feast in Valhalla ere this day is out!" They hurriedly form up a line protecting the refugees. "Remember!" Einauga shouts, standing before them, "The lead wolf is MINE!" With that, he whips off his tattered gray robe, revealing a shirt of glimmering chain-mail. He casts down his staff and draws his sword, which blazes in the early morning light, revealing the runes etched in its blade. "Come Fenris!" he roars, "Come great wolf! My sword thirsts for you!" And then the wolves are upon them. Shrieking in terror, Ottar, a tanner, feels his forearm snap as a great wolf, fangs gleaming to tear his throat, and smashes into his wooden shield in mid-leap, its fore-claws slashing at him around the edges. Bjarni, a turkey farmer, masters his trembling limbs long enough to dive under the wolf and plunge a borrowed shortsword into its belly. The wolf falls to the earth. Drenched in the beast's hot blood, Bjarni struggles to his feet, holding his weapon aloft and yelling in surprise and triumph. And so it goes. The least - but in the end the greatest - men of Vinland, drive off and kill the remaining wolves. The berserks are eventually overwhelmed amid heaps of their slain. With the time bought they bought, the last of the Norse refugees struggle or are carried through the surf to the ships and are gone. As is the grey-bearded, one-eyed stranger, last seen grappling with the greatest of the dire wolves amidst the chaos on the beach, is gone. From the safety of their ships, the Norse scan the shoreline for any sign of him or the wolf. But there is none. The last boats to leave Vinland behind catch a fair wind, and are on their way south. Footnotes [FN1] OK, lets try this again. Originally, to the extent that I envisioned the TL as a whole, I was thinking about a fairly small collection of Norse settlements, with a population of maybe 50k by 1380, with a minimal impact upon European history and that of subsequent explorers. After the initial responses, I took a second look and decided to make it somewhat ... bigger. [FN1a] The sagas describe it as wild wheat. More recent scholarship indicates it could have been wild rice. I am going with wild wheat. [FN2] No kidding. Hop. There are varying theories about where it was. I am going with OTL's New Brunswick. At some point, should I get ambitious, a map of Empty America, including Vinland, will be posted along with the TL on www.althist.com. [FN3] Over time, 'Vinland' comes to refer not only to the area initially settled, but also to all of Norse-occupied North America. [FN4] Not a formal, legal affair such as took place in Iceland, but a reference to the settlement itself. [FN4a] Later research places Vinland settlement likely in New Brunswick, possibly on the shores of Fundy Bay. So, I am going with that. So it is: Early Vinland (New Brunswick/Northern Maine/Nova Scotia), Markland (Newfoundland). [FN5] Credit for the Saxon emigration idea and details goes to John Ruddy (jruddy98PLUS1@hotmail.com). [FN6] OTL Massachusetts Bay Colony area. [FN7] Alas, poor Warren Z. [FN7a] "Vinland" here is shorthand for the entire colony, including Markland. [FN8] By European standards, but it is the greatest construction project in the New World at the time. [FN8a] The largest stone house in Vinland at the time, by far. Most Vinlanders continue to live in their wooden longhouses, which now tend to be subdivided into individual rooms, and wood shingles have replaced thatch roofs for most prosperous farmers. [FN8b] An important distinction between Vinland slavery and OTL's slavery in the U.S.A. is that slave status was not hereditary. The children of an Irish slave laboring in Vinland were free. [FN8c] Like all truly civilized people, the Vinlanders like their beer. [FN9] Yes, Christians as well as pagans are Norse, but I am going to use the term as shorthand for those who are adherents to the Norse religion. [FN10] Like spices in OTL. [FN10a] March, 1075. [FN11] Thanks to Chris Williams for this idea. [FN11a] Including not only OTL's Massachusetts, but also Long Island and southern New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. Their claims are much larger than the area actually occupied. [FN12] In the area of OTL's Maine. [FN13] Chieftain-priest. [FN14] Homespun wool. [FN15] Properly tanned, the skin of a mammoth is extraordinarily tough. [FN16] One thing is for sure - the helmets did NOT have horns. [FN17] "custom" [FN18] From the Old Norse - "Forestland." i.e. North America. [FN19] We are not talking about a LOT of organization here. This is no D-Day with precise timetables, it is very ad hoc and chaotic. Whenever a sufficient number of ships are full, they depart. [FN20] OTL's Long Island. [FN21] Of course, OTL's Hudson River. [FN22] A river in Iceland [FN23] "Judgment-seat Land." Hey, you'd not be too cheery, either, under the circumstances ... [FN24] "Ring of Doom" [FN25] Officials who (in the Saxon colonies) serve military function. [FN26] A king's council, but here without a king. [FN27] Raiding base. [FN28] The preferred Viking battle formation, called "the boar." I picture it like a Zulu impi - a great mass in the middle, with "horns" of flankers on either side.