The Fiction of Philip Kaveny
Read Part I
Read Part II
Author’s Note: Non-English old Norse and French expressions are in red.
Just at that instant twelve hundred years earlier somewhere near the land of the ice bears this transpired. Sylvia was about to answer her 13-year-old her turquoise-eyed daughter Serena’s baleful questions.
“How long will daddy be gone? I just saw sail Freya’s sail disappear beyond the horizon. Is that where that Sea Devil, that terrible Cracken, the one that blocked the Fjord came from?”
Serena was dark and very tall for her age. She took after her father Sven. She was also very healthy because her father provided very well for her and her mother Sylvia as a master carpenter and shipbuilder. That is, when clients paid their bills, which was nowhere near as often as Serena and Sylvia wanted.
Sven gave away all the meticulously wrapped and crated baskets of oranges (worth their weight in gold Kroners). They were part of the Emperors Basil’s Honorarium payment and diplomatic gift, coming north along Russian rivers from Constantinople. They were also an enticement to Sven the former Thane of the Berserkers, to take command of Basil’s personal Varangian body guard of Berserker warriors. The oranges were given to the Viking children, which made them tall and strong. Twelve hundred years later, it boggled the minds of the anthropologists, who found that the skeletons in certain Norse community’s grave yards were unusually tall and scurvy free.
Sylvia answered daughter in a grim sounding voice, “Your father Sven thinks he is off to spend eternity in Valhalla. That is to say, until Fenrir the great wolf chews through the chains that bind his great jaws shut and keep him from eating the sun, and the world turns to icy blackness.”
Serena looked at her mother impatiently and then she said, “I’ve heard that story a hundred times before. I hate that stupid story. I hate when father’s friends come over and get drunk and I hate the way the place smells the next day.”
Then she really blew her top and said, ”I hate the way father lets those guys promise to pay for the work he does for them later. Then they don’t, and we have to eat dried codfish even though he was a great warrior and once Thane of all the Berserkers. But then mother, you made him fall in love with you and renounce it all and now we all eat cod fish.” (Serena was clearly her father’s daughter.) But that was only half the picture. She was also the daughter of the Crown Princess of the Anglo Saxons, her mother Sylvia, and granddaughter of Anglo-Saxon King Alfred and Queen Judith. At least Serena was not foaming at the mouth as her father used to do. Still Sylvia was glad she had buried Sven’s tethered ax. She did not know that Serena had found its hiding place. Serena had not unearthed it yet, but she had been seen in the company of some of the younger Shield Maidens, and was lot more interested in marital arts than Latin grammar, which she was both contemptuous of and brilliant at.
Serena continued her rant, “I hate the way you are so kind to his creepier friends even when they pinch your butt until it is black and blue, because they know that they can get away with it since you made him take that stupid oath before Odin. Mother, how could you have married him? I will never, never, marry a Viking. Promise me you will let father out of his blood oath so he can start killing people again for Jesus Christ and the Emperor Basil. Let him take the job offer from the Byzantine Emperor Basil to head his Varangian Guard. I hate the smell of dried cod hung out to dry on cloths lines after it has been soaked in lye.”
During this time Queen Judith was a hostage of the Vikings but she stayed with her daughter and granddaughter.
King Alfred made the Vikings pay a thousand krona to him to take her back. Then he tried to pay them to sink her ship. But there were some things Vikings just don’t do, though many had thought of it. That was because he knew what he would face when his wife, who had both the name and the temper of the Biblical Judith (who cut off the head of Assyrian God), returned from her stay with Sven, Sylvia and Serena at the Norse capital of Kattegat.
Judith found her jewels, that Alfred had sworn were taken in the false flag raid of the Picts, had been given as Dane Gold tribute. Judith approach three Shield Maidens and asked, “How did you get such lovely jewels? I have some just like them.”
That was all Queen Judith said, but one of the Shield Maidens could not resist saying, “Not the way you did Queen Judith.”
To the surprise of everyone Judith approached the Shield Maidens and even exactly twelve hundred years later no one was sure what words transpired between in the conversation between them.
Ages later, historians would try to ascertain if Queen Judith really might have contracted with the Old Man in the Mountain through the maidens, for a poison that would cause the death of Alfred, a lingering, excoriating, painful death. It has been thought she poisoned him by first tasting his food and then taking the antidote herself.
Sylvia was used to distracting Serena, but it was getting harder and harder. So she decided to ask her two questions, to keep Serena’s mind spinning and out of trouble. Sylvia also thought, I never should have let my mother, queen of the Anglo Saxons and Serena’s Amma, come visit us as a hostage.
Sylvia asked Serena, “What is eternity, and how long does it last?” Serena looked like quite the little princess for an instant, with her hand on her hips touching the gold braided belt on her white linen shift that had been embroidered by the fine ladies of the Anglo-Saxon court. That is, she did, until she made the gesture of sticking her finger down her throat as she said, “spýja“ in a voice that sounded far too much like her father’s when he used to go into battle.
Her mother was quite concerned about her daughter’s language. It was hard for her as a mother to keep her father’s friend’s expressions and vocabulary from the not so tender ears of her daughter. Zeus, Serena’s Samoyed puppy, was thumping his tail against the ground and trying to nip the hem of Sylvia’s shift. Sylvia made the universal gesture of the exasperated mothers throwing her hands in the air as she said, “There is going to be a story and if either of you interrupts I am throwing you both to the Hnísa who eat bad children and their Lemmas in a single bite.”
Zeus stopped thumping and wagging his tail almost as if her could understand and Serena sat next to him with her folded hands as if she was some pious and proper Christian girl waiting to make first communion, rather than the daughter of the Crown princess of Ingland, and the seemingly reformed and retired Thane of the berserkers.
Then Sylvia started to tell, rather preform her story of the length of eternity as if it was woven in the wind, and played by a Chorus of Elven Harps.
“Once a little princess asked her great, great, amma this question what is Eternity. Her amma looked at her for a long time and said it is where the gods go when the die, it is the place where all great deeds are nothing but alms for oblivion, it is a place where great songs diminish to nothing against empty walls. Then the little girl asked her great, great, amma how long was it, how big, and where would I find it. Her great, great, amma said you would go north past everything past where the king of the King of the ice bears holds his court and then you would ask the frost Giant to carry you and your lemma Zeus on his great wide shoulders wrapped in seal fur robes to the hundred year, hundred-mile-high mountain. Then you would ask him what is and how long is eternity. The Frost Giant would say I know not answer to either question but I do know this from my own great, great, amma. I know that every hundred years a sparrow files by this hundred year hundred-mile mountain and lightly touches it with the tip her wing. When that great is worn to nothingness, that will be a second in eternity.
Both Zeus and Serena were asleep Zeus in Serena’s lap and Serena against her mother shoulder. Sylvia wondered if she would ever see Sven again.
Then Sylvia looked skyward just in time to see Sunna driving the team of five-legged horses who pulled her chariot of the sun to the highest point in the sky that she would reach on this day as if she were on a mission. Sunna was a goddess of the Greeks and looked like some partially draped living marble statue come vibrant and alive with breasts like the white blue veined dome of marble churches as she was on a mission of rescue to save her sister now embodied with the ship Freya and her crew from the terrible bottomless ketill, al yes that what Freya had become in Sven’s great strong mortal hands she was myth embodied, not the one true myth that Lewis taught us about, not the stone cold allegory of that the Baroque painters had tried to contest the icy logic of the reformation.
She was like the myth like that of Eleanor of Aquitaine baring her breasts to inspire the crusaders, or six hundred years later or Liberty carrying the flag to the Barricades in 1789, only to watch the revolution die on the road to Moscow. Or even the myth of the Russian Ambassador from the court of the enlightened Russian Czar Alexander I being called in by Napoleon and presented with a declaration of war, and then asked which was the quickest road to Moscow.
The Russian Ambassador in replied impeccable and precise diplomatic French Vous pouvez essayer la route à travers Poltava. The city in Ukraine where a hundred years before the modernized and westernized armies of Peter the Great of Russia had forced the armies of Charles the X of Sweden to march into the synchronized volleys of a Russian Army turn into a firing for the Swedish Empire.
Serena snuggled against her mother shoulder as the rush of the cool air from Sunna’s Chariot gave her goose Bumps and Zeus the Samoyed, puppy snored and seemed to open one sleepy eye before he tried to bury his forehead in Serena’s lap. Viking ships keels or backbones were so strong that to Eagles as large as Huey Helicopters could pick them up by each end and fly away with. This was a case of true myth but the first time it was done was with Sunna’s eagles, and it was clear that the Vikings and Freya were not going back from whence they came. Sven and his crew found out that were being dumped at the Valhalla International transfer Terminal since their passport of death in battle could not be valid. The only option that ecumenical litigation inter mythic litigation council could see, was to drop them into one of the Mandela’s of the Buddhist Samsara cycle though the score of Vikings that Comprised Freya’s crew would not find that fighting all day and fornicating al night was anywhere nears as much fun as the expected, though Sven and Borguild were special cases, Sven was too good and Borguild to evil so out of exasperation both of and a few of the crew members were simply drop in 21st Century England along with the ship Freya after they were given a cram course in twelve centuries of world history and enough modern English that they might be mistaken for Estonian Tourists who bought the deluxe five hundred pound English language course.
Just at that same instant back at Oxford University Joe Wainwright found out he had a friend he never expected.
It turned out that Joe Wainwright dissertation defense was not over as Ivan Petrovitch the Russian Wrestler and Anglo Saxon graduate student who Joe had threatened dis arm showed up at Joes Dissertation and asked a for side bar and permission to speak in Joe’s defense. This was granted since his father Boro Petrovitch was Oxford Universities greatest benefactor endowing a five hundred-million-pound center for the study of peace, fellowship, and social justice. Boro had done very well as oligarch of Kiev after the collapse the former Soviet Union. However, after former KGB officer and Russian Prime Mister Vladimir Putin and suggested that enough was enough, Boro had to either divest and form a foundation or start packing his long johns for Siberia.Boro formed the Petrovitch formed his foundation and started production of an award-winning BBC Series on Stalin and Churchill & Leonid Brezhnev and Margaret Thatcher unlikely saviors of humanity.
It was insisted that Boro Petrovitch address the Oxford community about his great gift. He gave the shortest address in Oxford history. As he said.
“Behind every University are gifts great crimes. I was just kidding for the next twenty-four hours every bar keep and restaurant owner charge it to Petrovitch I will be as broke as I started, by closing time tomorrow”
So, Ivan said yes, I have few questions for you Professors Woodcock I would like to ask them in series then you answer for yourself.
“Were you not the keynote speaker Tehran Holocaust Conference 2006 and were you not given a not given a million dollar advance to research our bestselling Manufacturing the Myth of the Holocaust. And did you or did you not spend two entire months as a guest of the Turkish government at a four-star hotel on the Turkish Rivera doing research for writing you’re the Armenian Geocide that never happened. And did not Joe Wainwright review both books for The Economist and say they belong in a University Libraries special collection perhaps right next to such classics of hate literature like Martin Luther’s The Jews and their lies?”