from Skulváði Úlfr: The Legend of the Son of Nadlan the Rus’

By | 1 December 2009


LETTER-So the story goes: Glámis, the bride
of Olaf Great Blade,
had a daughter called Nadlan The Rus’
who sailed east to Byzantion.

Nadlan journeyed and travelled some more.
And, because she craved adventure,
went as far as The Land of Seljuks
to trade in silk and silver.

Because she was brave, bold and the tallest
of any Viking maid —
with jet black hair and silver lashes —
she was welcomed wherever she went.

Or this was so till roving Hús-bands,
saw her south of Fatimid.
There she was taken to Togrul’s men,
but bought her freedom with gems.

It was fleeing the Ghuzz that she found Gladsheimr
for it seemed to her Óðinn’s plains.
The sun glided off dew-jewelled trees
and people there wore little clothes.

Being fond of jewels Nadlan would join them
in this place of pleasures waiting.
She had gone in fact to Ginnungagap
and could lie around as long as she liked.

On the outer shores of Ymir’s Pool,
shining with singing stones,
she lay for weeks — wounds from Hús-barbs
bristling beneath her ringshirt.

She was found by chance by strange dwarfs,
subjects of a powerful queen.
The Whizzer-stormer welcomed their faces
the shade of night itself.

Their leader, Alf Queen — let us call her that —
ordered Gardril, her medicine woman,
to tend the wounds of Silver Brows
(the name they gave to Nadlan.)

The Black Queen had seen such ravaged women
on her northern shores.
Lately they surfaced in great numbers,
but none like Nadlan.

She ordered the Archer robed in bright red,
in the finest beaten and woven reeds
boiled in richest dyes from red-parched earth
and from crimson berries.

Nadlan’s Rus’-black locks and fine white-haired face
glowed under Gardril’s touch.
When the Alf Queen looked at Nadlan now
she saw the sea as she did in her dreams.

To the Alfar Dís Silver Brows made deserts
into cool oceans of green
as she told stories, strange and sonorous,
of Arran and Atli’s desolate cities.

Alf Queen ate and drank to tales of the Hús.
‘They are poor bowmen.
‘They make good targets,’ smiled the Turkoman-feller
‘and their shields love the torch.’

She taught Silver Brows the secret ways
of desert hunting, well- fishing
and of signs to mark the highland rocks.
No bond could break the two.

The Gusir’s Terror taught the Queen
star-maps and iron smelting.
They charted caves and hidden islands
where fruit and minerals flourished.

While hunting for gems in the Radak Dunes,
leagues from the Queendom,
a Hús-band trader crossed their journey
with a wicked scheme.

He was a midget with hands to his knees,
of a foul and fiendish manner,
with rapier toes and amulet eyes —
one who gained ore for service.

‘Water for ware,’ he called to them.
‘These dunes are known
for their precious stones. I starve without them
and you are a long way from home.

‘Give me your takings and I will give you
water of the mineral springs
from Gardabon Lakes. You are too far south
to make the trip in one day.

‘You would not wish to travel wearied,
burdened by dust and thirst,
when you could give me your rubies and gold
for this crystal spring.’

‘We do not trade with those who treat
their women like animals.
Stoop lower with shame when you face me,’
said the Alf Queen.

‘Surely you deserve every respect,’
said the midget.
‘And for your bag of brilliant stones,
I would stoop lower if I could.’

‘You neither provide diversion nor distaste.
You have broken our rest
in the worst heat,’ said the Alf Queen.
‘You bore us with your begging.’

‘You will not last too many more days.
I hear that wind-storms wait
behind the Laak Dune and your bag is full,’
the ore-slave needled.

‘Leave us to ourselves,’ said the Soot-Elves Queen.
‘We ride and die together.
You have not cared for Alf-trade till now.
You will not have our bag!’

Because they refused to return his offer
of water for ore,
he now made demands to divide the two,
challenging one, then the other.

He saw how much the Rus’ loved the Alf
and set out to test them,
to break their bond, for news of the pair
had reached the Seljuk chiefs.

Nadlan spoke up for her lip-stream-diver,
to spare her the trouble of treachery —
this trader’s malice: ‘Bring me your chief’s heart
and take my life for my Queen.’

But the midget hated haughty women
and cast a curse on them:
‘While either lives, neither loves another.’
Still, the Queen was pleased.

This was a safe curse as they made no claim
to find another to fill their dreams.
The Queen had found all there was to love
in the feller of the finder-and-Gusir’s-work.

As the months went by it was found out
that Nadlan was to have a child
for the man-beast of the Hús-band tribe
who left her on Ginnungagap’s shores.

The Desert Rus’ so loved her loyal mistress
that she killed herself after the birth
according to Rus’-code — not to break a bond
by sharing its joys with a third.

The child grew up bold and strong.
The dwarfs named him Silver’s Son.
The lonesome Alf Queen could not love him —
her heart frozen by Nadlan’s death.

Under the guise of proving the man,
she sent him against the Ribat’s clan
to doubtful wars, his death assured.
But Hel’s Boat won battle after battle.

As his fame grew, the Alf-Queen’s faded.
Before long she died a lonely death.
Soon, the legend of Silver’s Son
spread to Harðraði’s camps.

Loveless and unloved Silver’s Son led wars
that drove ore-mongers
from the Radak Dunes before he rode north
through the edge of Ginnungagap.

He followed wars as far as Navarre,
and, later, as a trader
in Port Adulis on the Red Sea,
made his fortune in slaves.

Yet some say of him that Silver’s Son
lost all he gained;
that a single stone stands in Balerica
to the Son of Togrul Beg’s flight-bright Slayer.

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