For fans of my Draugr’s Saga tales, Chronicles of the Draugr King provides some back story and the legend behind the great evil Aedan and his Viking friends awoke.
I make these marks on the second day of the triduum of Allhallowtide (November 1’st), in the year of our Lord 664, at the monastery of Saint Enda of Aran, on the isle of Inishmore. This Abbey is not my home, but was the closest hallowed refuge to which I could flee. My name is unimportant, though what I am compelled to record hereafter is of the gravest nature, and pertains to the very salvation of mankind on Earth.
The triduum of Allhallowtide is dedicated to remembering the dead, including our hallowed saints, martyrs, and all the faithful departed believers. This year, it is my solemn burden to cause to be remembered a spirit so far from hallowed, as to be the spawn of Satan himself. Yet, for the sake of future Christians, I must mark this lambskin and warn you of a spirit who sundered kingdoms and men’s souls as a sickle through ripe wheat.
Scholars say that the creature was born in the territory of the West Slavs, or Wends, in Anno Domini 595. He was fathered by a man called Sobieslaw on the woman Jagoda. The child’s name had been hidden, suppressed; at great cost in life and souls, it was at last uncovered. For in a name there is power. As the word God will dispel evil, Christ’s name may calm souls in the darkest hour. So the name of this evil creature, Branumir, would be our greatest weapon against him. I must stop to wonder whether Sobieslaw knew the evil his child would visit on the world, and by naming him Branumir, which in the tongue of the Wends means protection and peace, intended mockery at his spawn’s future victims. I shall refrain from judgement, for we know not the good or evil nature of the boy’s father, or of his mother, who died in childbirth.
By 595, the great light of Christendom illuminated the lands of the Wends and most of Europe. Only the pagans in the far North resisted the good word and salvation of our Lord.
Among the goodly Christian folk of the West Slavs, Sobieslaw hung on to his wicked rites, worshiping the dark gods of the pagan Slavs—who we Christians know to be Satan and his minions. Sobieslaw was a great metalworker, some hailed him a wizard of the forge. Perhaps that appellation rang more true than his honest neighbors suspected. By some misfortune, for Sobieslaw, his pagan devotions were uncovered. His King was furious, and had his people drive Sobieslaw and his young son, then only two summers old, out of their lands.
We know not precisely what route they took, but we are informed that a year after his expulsion, Sobieslaw sought sanctuary with the Danes, also a pagan people. It must be assumed that he expected a sympathetic king to employ him, for he was a talented smith. His metalwork was said to be of the highest intricacy. I shudder to inscribe this, but his work had been said to be “divine”. Forgive them Father, for they could not have known the evil he wrought, nor that which his deeds ushered into the world of men.
He was not long with the Danes before they too expelled him. One can hardly imagine Sobieslaw’s dark practices if even the unrepentant pagan Danes would not tolerate his rites and sacrifices. In time we would come to know the full breadth and depth of his evil.
In the following year, it was recorded that he travelled yet further North, to the land of the Norse. In short order, they too expelled him. This is where our tale becomes muddied. Having been expelled by three kings, Sobieslaw must have understood that he would have to practice his black arts in secret if he was to live. His name is not recorded again. It was only through diligent scholarly research that we found connections to a traveling smith who had made his way to Ireland.
His evil may have gone unnoticed, if not for the fact that he was now in Christian lands, and we Irish devotees are wont to record events, as I do now. Thusly, a large number of suspicious deaths were recorded. Had they been common folk, their passings would have gone unnoticed, but they were all of them highborn; kings, princess, and bishops. Though no immediate connection was established, as these deaths occurred over many years, and across the many kingdoms of Ireland. It was only when the Annals of Clonmacnoise were being compiled, that a diligent monk noticed a peculiar pattern. In many cases where a highborn death—under undetermined circumstances—was recorded, it was also noted that a masterfully skilled metalsmith had attended court at the same time. This diligent monk will ever be remembered for alerting the church to this great evil; brother Colman Moccu Bairdene, who later became Abbot of the Clonmacnoise monastery.
It was my good fortune to have visited Clonmacnoise and to meet Brother Bairdene. I was firmly convinced of his conclusions, and in me, he cultivated a staunch ally. An old acquaintance of mine happened to be on pilgrimage to Jerusalem in that year, and was closer to Rome that either of us. We wrote to Brother Mar Hormizd, relaying our fears and sent copies of the evidence for him to consider. He is a wise man and agreed to become our emissary to the Holy Father in this matter.
While in the eternal city Brother Hormizd presented evidence to representatives of our Holy Father, Pope Eugene the first. Sadly, as a council convened to investigate this evil in June of 657, our Lord called Papa Eugenius to heaven.
Amidst the turmoil of a papal conclave to elect a new Bishop of Rome (Vitalian, the first of his name, succeeded Eugene to the throne of Saint Peter), the investigation was set aside as a new pope began his rule of the church. For seven years Brother Hormizd petitioned every church official of note, with no success.
During Brother Hormizd’s seven years in Rome, we continued to scrutinize all new cases of unexplained highborn deaths, with which a visit by a traveling metalsmith was also recorded. Finally, one record mentioned the smiths’s son. That first record was a terrifying revelation, as we understood the full extent—or thought we did—of the evil growing on our emerald isle.
Many new pieces of evidence came to light. Over many letters, we illuminated the connection between the smith, the deaths, and the boy. Each scenario unfolded as follows: a highborn man would commission a piece of metalwork from the smith, usually ornate jewelry. The smith would come to court to present his masterpiece and the smiths’s son would deliver the object on a silken pillow to the highborn. The next day the highborn would be found dead; their bodies shriveled and desiccated, as if mummified, like the Egyptian practice (well described by Herodotus). The most disturbing common thread of these records, is that over a period of 65 years, the smith, and his young son—said to appear four or five years old— never aged. At the time these patterns were noted, the full horror of this evidence had yet to be comprehended, for when has mankind battled such evil here on Earth?
Though Brother Hormizd presented this staggering body of evidence and irrefutable conclusions, the church had other matters which took precedence.
Frustrated by the church’s inaction, we three conspired to dispel this terrible and festering evil. In the Fall of 664 we met at Clonmacnoise to set our plan in motion.
We knew the smith to be working at a chieftain’s holding up the Shannon river, to which we travelled. With funds we borrowed form the Abbey’s coffer (forgive us, Father), we hired men to detain the smith. On October 30th, under the cover of darkness, our agents secreted Sobieslaw from the chieftain’s holding and brought him to the oratory near Killaloe, on Friar’s Island. It was our hope that the evil could not escape the island of its own accord, owing to running water surrounding it.
At high noon, on the day of All Hallow’s Eve, we three began the exorcism. The smith’s son watched on. For hours we intoned the sanctified words, employed holy water and our crucifixes, to no avail. The smith, Sobieslaw, cursed us in a strange tongue, we assumed of the Wends, but otherwise exhibited no ill effects from the exposure to our holy powers and artifacts.
When, finally, we admitted defeat, recognizing that exorcism was none of our specialities, we agreed to transport the smith to Rome, for surely the Holy Father would recognize the evil instantly, and his more experienced servants could perform the exorcism. Our accord had a numbing effect on the smith. His belligerence faded. Then, he smiled at us. I admit to you, dear reader, that his malevolent grin chilled my soul. Though I knew God to be with me, I faltered, my faith was shaken. In that moment I walked through the valley of the shadow of death … and I did fear evil. God, forgive my weakness.
Sobieslaw began whispering dark words that carried the weight of oceans, yet floated as lightly as morning mist. Upon those words, his son was drawn to him. I am no poet, and words fail to capture the horror we bore witness to that day. As they boy embraced his father, in the next heartbeat the boy grew to manhood before our eyes. Then, his body and his father’s literally became one. We made the sign of the crucifix, held our relics as shields before us, but his power overshadowed our faith, like a mountain to rabbit’s warren.
Sobieslaw, if that is truly his name, began chanting in a baritone, his thunderous words shaking the ground beneath our feet. Behind us, the oratory shook, then collapsed into the earth, as if swallowed by hungry beast.
Then Sobieslaw spoke to us in Latin. “Behold my power, fools.” He looked to the sky, arms outstretched. Then, as if he had plucked it from the heavens and snuffed it out, the sun’s light failed. Night fell upon us, a chill washed over our bodies like a frigid ocean wave. We are told that at the crucifixion of Christ, the sun also grew dark, and is supposed to be a wondrous and holy sign—crucifixion darkness—they call it. But this was no holy omen. In those eternal moments of darkness, Sobieslaw’s skin grew inky black, as if he drank the heavens dry.
We were no match for that evil. We were but three good Christians with no authority or power granted by God or the Bishop of Rome. Our hubris nearly doomed us. God, forgive us, but we fled. By land and by sea we escaped. As we did, the sun remained imprisoned in coal dark shadows as it settled into the Irish sea.
Now, we must find another way, for not only have we failed to banish this evil, we forced it to take overt action in the world of men. Our pride may have ushered doom to the Emerald Isle … and beyond.
ABOUT THE SERIES:
Set in Dark Ages England, Scotland, and Ireland, Draugr’s Saga is a series of stories about a former Viking slave, Aedan. Adopted as a blood brother by Erik Ragnarsson, Aedan must find a way to stem the tide of the Draugr, which may bring about the Zombie Apocalypse of the Viking Age.
Throughout the Draugr’s Saga, Aedan enlists new friends and allies, makes dangerous enemies, and even finds love, as he travels Dark Ages Britain in a hopeless quest to stop the ancient Draugr King.
Draugr’s Saga weaves the most exciting threads of Norse Mythology, Celtic Mythology, Zombie Apocalypse fiction, all steeped in the gritty and violent Viking age. Though a dangerous time, it was a time of magic, a time when Viking Gods still roamed the land; it was a time when men and women travelled the spirit roads of Yggdrasil and divined their Wyrd with the Viking Runes.
Equal parts Historical Fiction, Epic Fantasy, and Norse Mythology, Draugr’s Saga explodes off the pages with gut-wrenching action and mind-bending magic.