Dear readers, tonight we interview the half-brother of the protagonist Harald, from a series we visited before. Our guest is the heir to the throne, concerned about the future of his land and the choices of his brothers.
Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?
I was born in Engla-lond in the early years of my father’s reign, back when Cnute was consolidating his power, playing the sarding earls off each other, and swiving his new wife, Emma, my mother, the widow of Æthelred, the old Saxon king. My father was young then, more Viking chieftain than king. Cruel dastard then, same as now, but shrewd. I’d say my mother is an even match for him—clever, and just as ambitious. Emma got Cnute to promise that their offspring would inherit the throne, not his sons Sweyn and Harald—those stinking curs. So, they had my sister, Cunigard and me. They’re grooming her to marry the next Holy Roman Emperor and I am heir to the throne—a role I am more than willing, and well qualified to play.
So, my childhood was in Engla-lond until Father decides when I am eight years old, to send me to Danmark as future bloody king, under a council led by that nithing, Jarl Ulf. I was just a game piece on Cnutes’ game board, meant to rally the Danes so they’d defend against attacks from Nordvegr and Sverige. Didn’t quite work out that way. Jarl Ulf tried to get the Danish provinces to accept me as king outright, not under Cnute. Stupid Ulf. I think he was half elf-shot. Did nothing to push back the invaders from Scandinavia. My father had to sail from Engla-lond with a fleet. First thing Cnute did after establishing his hold on Nordvegr was kill Jarl Ulf and make it clear to me I was King of Danmark, within his northern empire.
I returned to Engla-lond whenever I was summoned and always chose to stay as long as I could. There are worse things than being young, a blessed gift to women, and heir to the throne. And there is always plenty to drink at my father’s court.
How are your relationships with your half-brothers?
Fine. I hardly see them. Sweyn’s a cruel arseling, but I know what he wants—a throne. I relate well to Sweyn. I understand him. As long as we both don’t claim the same throne, we’ll get along fine.
Harald has more chance of being named a saint than wear a crown. Has no stomach for ruling. And he’s an arrogant turd. He and that slut-wife of his, Selia. Harald says he has no use for the throne. Lying backstabber. We’ve had our run-ins. Beat each other half to death this one time. I was only accepting his wife’s offer to fill her where she’s empty. You know how you can tell some women are ready for you—the way they look at you? Guess it was an act, because she fought like a wild beast. Harald pulled me off her and we fought barehanded. I could have taken him, too, if our father hadn’t stopped us. There will come another time, when I’m ready.
And when your father, the king, dies, will Harald challenge your claim to the throne?
I’ll be declared king of Danmark and Engla-lond. My mother, the queen, will see to it. If Harald is still alive when Cnute dies. Anything can happen in the years that lie ahead.
What does the immediate future hold for you?
I’ll remain in Nordvegr with the king until we defeat King Olaf, which I expect will be soon. Olaf and his jarls have fled. Whether Cnute will follow them I know not. Unless Olaf can find more allies, he’s finished in Nordvegr.
It’s been said that someone tried to kill your half-brother, Sweyn, in Nordvegr. That before the assailant died by Sweyn’s hand, he said, “the sons of Cnute are dead men.’ Is this true?
Aye, true on both counts. Some cur attacked Sweyn when he was out pissing under the stars. He was drunk, but not blind drunk. No one catches Sweyn off guard. Got his sword in hand as the dastard struck. Sweyn took a knife to the shoulder but killed his attacker in the end. Before he died, the dog wouldn’t say who sent him, only those words about “the sons of Cnute.” Now if you’re asking me who’s behind the attack, let’s just say when I am no longer needed here, I’ll be back to Engla-lond to talk my loving half-brother Harald.
You will accuse him?
Let’s just say when I wonder who wants to kill Sweyn and me, I look first to Harald. Accuse? He and I will talk.
And if it’s not Harald?
Then it’s someone else with a chance at claiming the crown, or should I say “crowns”? Cnute rules Engla-lond, Danmark, now Nordvegr and parts of Sverige. Could be King Olaf behind the threat, the sons of Æthelred—there are a few other Saxon athelings.
And when you find the threat, what will you do?
What needs doing. What else is there?
Garth Pettersen is a Canadian writer living in the Fraser Valley near Vancouver, BC. When he’s not writing, he is riding horses or working with young disabled riders. Garth’s short stories have appeared in a number of anthologies and in journals such as Blank Spaces, The Spadina Literary Review, and The Opening Line Literary ‘Zine. His story River’s Rising was awarded an Honourable Mention for the Short Story America 2017 Prize, and his fantasy novella River Born, was one of two runners-up for the Windsor Editions (UK) Short Fiction Prize.
You can find Harthcnute on the just published The Cold Hearth, or start on The Atheling Chronicles series in book one, The Swan’s Road.
Join us next week to meet the — often overlooked as she’s 2 feet tall — world’s deadliest bounty-hunter. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.
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