View Full Version : A Viking's diary: Of Varangians and Greeks

September 15th, 2014, 10:53 PM
Day 1:

I and the lads were sitting in the harbor tavern of Reikyavik, drinking and dying of boredom. Skjalli proposed we could find a brawl, but the only people drinking in the tavern besides us at that moment were some puny Irish merchants and a priest, so roughing up such whimps would have been no sport. Granted, when the priest started to harass us with his Christianity and offered to baptize us, Ragnar called him out and baptized him in the watering trough himself. In any case, that was no real fight to speak of. Thankfully, neighbor Thorsten and his company barged in suddenly, started drinking and bragging about their latest raid in the lands of the Rus. Their glassy eyes and remnants of puke in their beards lead us to think that their actual "raid" didn't reach much further than the tavern of the next town here on Iceland. Thorsten was such a nice guy he was buying beers for all of us, so in the end, we all got terribly drunk.

Day 2:

As we were fixing up our hangover with some more beer, we came to think we could go on a raid ourselves. The thing is, every raider needs a ship. Thankfully, Skjalli's rich old man just happened to gift him a ship on his 18th birthday. When we were done fixing up, we went to the harbor to check it out. Turned out there were other men examining it already. At first we wanted to teach them proper manners, but it turned out Skjalli, being the dumbshit he is, had lost his ship to these guys in a game of dice yesterday while drunk. We have to do something about it!

Day 3:

We pooled our money and went to the tavern to win the ship back. The man who won it turned out to be a very clever bastard, constantly buying us drinks while we gambled, so in the end we got drunk and lost all our money.

Day 4:

We went to see the town's moneylenders, so we could win back our ship. In the evening, the result is the same as yesterday.

Day 5:

No moneylender wants to have any business with us anymore. After much begging and whining, Skjalli managed to extort a few coins from his father, we tossed in the last pennies of ours. We all swore by the gods not to drink a drop this time, nd praised be Odin - won Skjalli's ship back. Obviously, we got terribly drunk afterwards to celebrate.

Day 6:

Now we have to start recruiting the crew. At first, nobody took us seriously, but when Ragnar spewed out that there's going to be free mead for the trip, a whole bunch of volunteers turned up quickly. Thank's to that idiot and his big mouth, we'll have to buy whole two kegs now!

Day 7:

We set sail tomorrow, so it must promptly be celebrated. We assembled at the tavern, and I don't remember much of anything afterwards.

Day 8:

I woke up with a terrible headache. In a barn, naked, with an equally naked redhead lass at my side. Her old man was standing outside, beating the door with his battle-axe and shouting how he's going to take us to the temple to be married or rip off my legs and a few other things if I refuse. To make things worse, I was late for departure, so it ended with me running through the entire town naked, trying to jump in my pants on the move while trying to evade the spears the father of that girl was throwing after me. The girl was also screming for me to marry her and threatened me with courts and alimonies. To top it all, several moneylenders joined me on the run and started to pester me about paying interest. I barely managed to jump in our boat, promising my last night stand's father and the moneylenders to come back with plentiful loot. By Thor's hammer, why did I have to get so drunk yesterday...

Day 9:

We're out in the sea, drinking.

Day 10:

We're drinking.

Day 11 - Day 15:

Still drinking.

Day 16:

The helmsman get so drunk he falls overboard and drowns. Consequently, we lose our course. This isn't good!

Day 17:

One of our companions, still wasted, starts to babble something about navigating by the stars. We tell him to show his words in deeds. At least we have a new helmsman now.

Day 18:

Turns out we haven't even decided what the course is to begin with. Long and extensive debates begin over where and why to go, ending up in a fight with oars. The only ones who remain untouched are the berserkers, since nobody dares to hit them. Our differences are finally settled over horns of mead, and we keep settling our differences for the next few days in this manner.

Day 23:

Much to everybody's horror, turns out we are out of booze. Everybody's looking for scapegoats, the crew is threatening mutiny. I and the lads promise to fix things quickly and we set course for England.

Day 25:

The crew is about to give up on the whole affair and throw us overboard, when the watchman reports land with a village. We make landfall, drive the natives away in the woods and start raiding the place without much thought. Turns out the bastards don't have any booze in the village either. Thankfully, Skjalli came up with the bright idea to break open the church cellar. Although there was only church wine, and every proper Viking knows only women and faggots drink wine, nobody gives a f**k at the moment.

Day 27:

We're still boozing on church wine, when the townsfolk come back with a whole bunch of armed men and are about to kick our asses. We must leg it fast, but we at least manage to roll the remaining kegs of wine aboard our ship.

Day 28:

Turns out we have forgotten all our food in the village. The crew starts to look for scapegoats again. Me, Skjalli and Ragnar almost get tossed overboard again, when Ragnar spits out that it must be a Jewish conspiracy. At first nobody believes him, since Jews aren't known for living either in Iceland or small English towns, but when he explains that all the misfortunes of the world are the product of either witchcraft or Jewish conspiracies, such an argument convinces the men. Since witches are, by definition, women and there are no women in our midst, that kind of narrows it down to the Jews. At least we have wine to slake our anger with.

Day 29:

One swarthy lad with curly hair and hooked nose is recognized by some as a Jew. The said man keeps swearing by All-Father's beard that his nose was merely broken in a tavern brawl and he's been doing too much tanning this summer, but nobody believes him and he is promptly handed over to the berserkers for re-education. It's doubtful he'll survive.

Day 30:

We're almost out of food, and subsisting on wine alone with no snacks is no enjoyment. Someone remembers having seen the yesterday's "Jew" before and attests that he is a proper Norseman after all. Although the "Jew" is barely alive after yesterday's beating, we pour him a horn of wine as a compensation for roughing him up, and he seems to get better already.

Day 32:

Now we're getting really hungry and the crew is grumbling again, and the berserkers can barely contain themselves, asking to be taken ashore where they can find someone to send to Valhalla. We promise to make a stop on Danish coast at first chance. Some try to make fishing rods out of the oars and catch some fish for drying. I want to see where they're going to dry those fish! Not to mention only a Viking could wash down dried fish with wine...

Day 33:

The Danes are our fellow Norsemen. Sort of. Ish. Anyway, we try to play nice with them in most dealings. Berserkers aren't quite happy about it, but restrain themselves for now. We buy plenty of food and snacks, our fishing enthusiasts dry their fish in the meanwhile. We take a few days shore leave.

Day 38:

We set sail again. At first, it was difficult to assemble the crew, but soon they arrived themselves, chased by angry fathers and husbands. We sail past a burnt-down village later, circled by crows and vultures. Folks they there was an open-air party just yesterday, so I ask the crew if anyone knows what happened there. The berserkers blush.

Day 42:

We stop at Courland. Sagas say that the natives here are pretty tough fighters. A certain Egil Skallagrimsson is said to have raided here and having had his ass served. The Couronians must evidently have a thing for bondage and maybe even more perverse things, since they are said to have bound Egil and his men to poles for unspecified but likely lewd purposes. Egil did manage to escape, beat the Couronians and seize lots of valuables though, at least so he brags in his saga, but his saga deliberately avoids any mention of what the Couronians intended to do with him and his men while they were bound, leaving it open to our decadent imaginations. In any case, everyone wants to test their courage and mettle against the Couronians, especially the berserkers.

Day 43:

A bunch of Couronians show up. At first we get ready to fight, but turns out the dreaded Couronians are completely peaceful folks - they've come to trade, so they say. Well, if trade is what they want, trade they will get... It's hard to understand what they say, with the language barrier and all that, but I gather as much that there's a town nearby, the local konung is throwing a feast there in two days and has commanded to invite us over too.

Day 44:

We're all preparing for the feast, polishing our armor, washing our clothes and ourselves. It's actually a bit embarassing for a proper Viking man like ourselves to splash around with water like a woman. Real men can be smelled from 10 paces away, but that's how the native conventions are - one Couronian who spoke a little Norse made it clear with words, gestures and grimaces that this manly scent of ours will win no approval with the native womenfolk. He didn't say anything against eating fish and garlic nor mentioned any perfumes and other womanly accessories, so I find we won't be ridiculed when we tell of this at home.

Day 45:

What a feast! There's so much food that the tables are breaking, so much booze you could get a whole army crawling, the women as fair and pretty as valkyries themselves, and everybody is friendly, not looking for a brawl! Couronians are sure lucky to have such a konung, and we are lucky to be invited to such a feast!

Day 46:

Party! Party! Party!

Day 47:


Day 48:

The konung commanded more booze to be brought in! Party on!

Day 49:

Party... party... uh... party...

Day 50:

By Odin's beard, we're still partying!

Day 51:

A brawl, finally! The bards that were playing the music played mostly something the locals call "metal". Pretty nice, actually - songs mostly about long-haired Norsemen with swords and axes, battles, gods and heroes, ridicule of all those Christian fooleries, our thing, basically. But today, a bunch of strange southerner bards showed up - faces as black as soot, baggy pants, lots of golden chains. These bards would start rambling about how "pimp" their horses are, how much "bling" and "dough" they have, how much the "ho's", which I gather means "women" in their tongue, love them. The Couronian bards listened them for a while and started to heckle and jeer them, which the strangers didn't take kindly. Good thing the konung had commanded weapons to be left outside.

Day 52:

Seeing how their music style isn't appreciated here, the darkies left overnight, but also stole much of our booze. We searched far and wide for the bastards, hoping to teach them a few lessons, but try catching wind in a field! Fortunately, we heard rumors that the neighboring town is throwing a feast as well and decided to go steal booze from them. Our host didn't have anything to object, so we disguised ourselves as bards and arrived at the feast in the evening. We were received well, but things went south when we were asked to sing and play - Skjalli, for example, sings like a rooster with a severe cold. While he was vocally tormenting the guests, I and Ragnar quietly took off and loaded the booze kegs in our cart. Skjalli was finally booed, beaten senseless and thrown out for his poor singing, where we picked him up and took off before anyone noticed. When we returned, our host and his men received us as heroes.

Day 53:

Looks like shit has really hit the oars now! It appears we mistook the fermentation kegs with beer-in-the-making inside for the real thing. Everybody is having terrible hangover now, many are stricken with liquid bowels, and everybody is very angry with us. In addition, the neighboring townsfolk have come to retake their stolen barrels and teach us a lesson, while our host's men nor ourselves are in any shape to fight. The konung was spitting fire and brimstone, (somewhat deservedly) blaming us for it all while his men were already looking for ropes to tie us and hand us over to the neighbors for lynching or just string us up in the nearest tree themselves, much to their neighbors' delight. Looks like the party is over for good!

Day 54:

Thankfully we managed to get out with our hides intact, so pledge by the gods to not drink a drop in our next stop. We set sail for Daugava River, and from there into the land of the Rus.

Day 65:

We slowly sail up Daugava River. Every castle and town we arrive in has decreed dry law already a week beforehand in anticipation of our arrival. I guess bad news do travel fast. Looks like we've managed to rack up quite a reputation in this land already...

Day 74:

We are finally in Russland. There's a bit of a catch though - we must haul our ship across a stretch of land between Daugava and some smaller river that runs into Dniepr, and we can then sail to the famed Miklagaard, or Constantinople, as the Greeks call it. We got the idea to visit the Greeks back in the feast with the Curonians - Ragnar mentioned that he has never seen a real faggot, and as everybody knows, only faggots drink wine and bathe every day. Since the only people in the known world to do both of these things are the Greeks, and "the Greek way" is also called that way for a reason, we agreed to set course to Miklagaard to satisfy Ragnar's curiousity.

Day 75:

We haul our ship over logs greased with salmon fat. What a waste of delicious salmon, if you ask me...

Day 76:

May the Jotuns blast that damn ship!

Day 77:

We finally arrive at a small river and set course south.

Day 83:

We stop by Kiev. The knyaz, who is said to be a Norseman by birth, invites us over to his place. Instead of beer or mead, he offers us a strange, stong-scented drink that looks like water. He calls it "vodochka". I don't remember much more after that.

Day 84:

My head hurts, my mouth is dry - a rather familiar situation. Knyaz arrives again and offers his "vodochka". Strong as Jormungand's venom, this "vodochka", but I get better after having a horn. That is, until the point where I don't remember anything afterwards again.

Day 85:

Same story. A lot of us would probably want to tell the knyaz to stick his "vodochka" where the sun don't shine by now, but since he's our host, we must not insult him.

Day 86:

Most of our men lie around in various states of inebriation ranging from comatose to barely able to crawl, but the knyaz just keeps serving us new horns. When I try to politely decline, he looks at me displeased and asks: "Do you not respect me?" And so I must toast with him and drink, lest I offend our generous host.

Day 87:


Day 88:

Today we must build a funeral pyre for five of our companions, who have died of liver failure. I don't think they will go to Valhalla, but hopefully some other decent "halla" will await them instead. Drink-halla, probably - even if the sagas and legends hold no mention of such a place, I'm certain Odin will make one just for the likes of us. The bodies of our brothers burned on the pyre with such beautiful blue flames, saturated with "vodochka". But in the funeral feast, knyaz would serve copious quantities of that accursed drink again. I really should have listened to my mother and become a merchant instead of a viking!

Day 89:

We realize that in a week at most, all of us will be burning with blue flame. While the knyaz still lies snoring under the table, we quietly pack up and leave. Skjalli, being the most literate of us, writes and leaves behind a letter of gratitude, thanking for his hospitality and apologizing for our leave. I hope the knyaz can read runes and won't take offense.

Day 105:

The river flows through the steppes. As we sail, a bunch of slant-eyed chavs with short bows on horses start to harass us, trying to talk us into giving them a few coins for beer and snacks. We tell them to love their mothers very much and ignore the parasites - asides from shooting a few arrows at us, they can't really do much about it while we are in the middle of the river.

Day 107:

We arrive in the Black Sea. I don't get what's so black about it - looks just like a regular sea.

Day 108:

Our livers are gradually recovering after our stay at knyaz's. The last remnants of the church wine we stole in England start to dwindle rapidly.

Day 111:

We arrive in Constantinople. The city is indeed every bit as impressive as the travellers say. In the harbor, we heard that the Greek emperor is hiring the likes of us for his personal guard. I've heard of Norsemen who've gotten filthy-rich here before, so propose to the lads to try our luck. They agree without much hesitation. Ragnar saw a real faggot in the harbor tavern for the first time and was very disappointed.

Day 112:

We go to the Emperor's place to offer our services, but the arrogant piece of troll dung didn't even want to see us, having a common guard captain receive us instead. To add injury to insult, that captain called us Varangians! When I find out what "varangian" means, I'm going to kill the bastard!

Day 113:

I learn that "Varangian" means simply "Norseman" in the local tongue. That means the guard captain's wife will not become a widow today. In any case, we are all accepted in the Varangian Guard and asides from guarding the Emperor and going on the occasional war on his behalf, it seems that life here will be the easiest ever.

Day 114:

We are issued Varangian Guard uniforms, making our membership official. Time to celebrate!

Day 115 - Day 124:

We are still celebrating!

Day 123:

We've drunk half of the taverns in Constantinople dry, and the rest refuse to serve us. In response to such unfair and discriminatory practice, we start little riot.

Day 124:

We wake up in a damp cellar behind bars with only bread and water to eat. Nobody cares about the bread, but the guard must bring us several buckets of water before we finally feel better. There's a raging mob with torches and pitchforks out, shouting and threatening to string up the Norse pigs. Looks like we've been a little too spirited in our protest yesterday...

Day 125:

Thankfully, the mob has dispersed. Our boss, the Emperor, has intervened on our behalf, paying the damages in our stead and having us let out. With a stern warning to stay out of further trouble, of course. We heed his command and celebrate our release very modestly, with but a keg of wine. Did I mention we have completely shifted to drinking wine? The beer is hard to get in these parts, and despite it's ill reputation, the wine hasn't turned any of us into faggots yet.

Day 126 - Day 225:

Nothing noteworthy. Some easy babysitting jobs, but mostly sitting around in the tavern, drinking, throwing dice, chasing girls and the occasional brawl with the local Greek soldiers. The Greek troops hate us Norsemen with a passion - they claim we steal all the girls from them and drink all their booze. As if it wasn't evident which of us are the most badass...

Day 226:

Another assassination attempt on the Emperor. Failed, needless to say. Actually, nothing serious - some guy had snuck in the palace with paper and coal, apparently intent on spying on the Emperor and drawing something compromising about him. We let him off with a black eye and a stern warning not to be seen here again, and lied to our captain about how we tortured the spy, chopped him up in tiny pieces and fed his remains mixed with flour to the goldfish in the palace pond. He believed us and paid us all a bonus.

Day 227:

We go to the captain to ask for advance from the next month's salary to fix up after yesterday's "celebration" of a job well done. The captain promptly tells us to go f**k ourselves, but relents when somebody utters the word "mutiny".

Day 236:

The Emperor, apparently not wanting us to drink ourselves to death out of a lack of anything better to do, decides to send to do some fighting with the Turks. We rejoice at finally getting a chance to swing our battle-axes. Unfortunately, the general commanding the army turns out to be a complete asshole, forbidding any drinking in the camp until the first victory.

Day 250:

After a long and miserable march with no beer, mead, wine or even "vodochka" to cheer us up in the evenings, we finally encounter the Turks. There's a lot more of them than us, the native Greeks are scared shitless, and our guts are burning for booze so badly that we are all ready to just quit. Then the general suddenly announces that he has reliable intelligence about copious stocks of booze in the Turkish camp. CHAAAAARGE!!!!

Day 251:

That damn Greek piece of troll dung cheated us! We fought so hard, kicked plenty of Turkish arse, risked our lives, only to find out that the Turks are Muslims, who don't drink a drop of booze, let alone keep any around in their camp! We searched their camp three times over and were about to have a go at our general for lying to us, when Skjalli showed up with a bag of some strange herb. He claimed he had gotten it from a dying Turk, who claimed it to be better than any booze. We opened the bag and found a strange weed inside. Not sure what to do with it, we tried to chew it, but to no significant effect.

Day 252:

Skjalli questions other prisoners and finds out that this weed is supposed to be burned like incense and it's smoke inhaled, or baked into cakes and eaten. Since none of us really knows how to bake a cake, we try the burning method.

Day 253:

The effect is... astounding!

Day 254:

The effect is still astounding. Unfortunately, the Turks have regrouped and are back for revenge, while we are all too stoned to fight and make a hasty retreat.

Day 280:

The Emperor is very angry, spewing fire and brimstone as he berates us about our screw-up and threatens to behead us all, but becomes more lenient when we show him what we found in the Turkish camp. For the next two weeks, he accepts no audiences.

Day 294:

The Greek land is a nice place, but we're starting to get homesick, some claim their guts can no longer bear the faggot juice that is wine. Speaking of faggotry, since the appearance of that weed of ours, there are rumors that some of it's most devout enthusiasts have already taken to selling sexual favours in back alleys to get the coin to buy it.

Day 295:

We ask the Emperor to release us from our service. The Emperor, shrouded in a cloud of smoke, mutters something incoherently, which we understand as a permission to go to the treasury and take as much gold as we can carry as payment. This time, we all swear on Odin's beard not to visit a single tavern on our way home.

Day 296:

We finally set sail home. There's no booze on the ship, and I suppose that's alright after all this drinking for a change. Of course, some have spent over a half of their generous salary to buy the mystery weed instead and keep breathing it's smoke, but that's a whole different thing.

Day 345:

We have kept our oath and not visited a single tavern on our way. However, just miles from the Iceland coast, a great woe befalls us when the helmsman, high on weed-smoke, starts to shout that there's a pink sea-serpent fighting green mermaids on the starboard. Everybody, being as stoned as the helmsman, runs to the starboard to look and the ship capsizes in result. Gone are our hard-earned treasures, and we barely get to the coast alive. When the helmsman confesses it was just a joke, it ends very ill for him.

Day 346:

I sit around with Ragnar and Skjalli, trying to drown our misery in weed smoke. I have to get married or pay alimonies, Skjalli confesses that the ship was actually his father's, not his, so he's bound for a good beating from his old man, Ragnar in turn owes to just about every moneylender in Iceland. Thankfully, the green pixie that visits us everytime we inhale the mystery weed's soothing smoke does cheer us up a little. Suddenly, I'm struck with a brilliant idea - we could earn back at least some of our losses by selling the mystery weed, of which several large bags had washed ashore after the shipwreck. If our countrymen come to enjoy this new habit as much as we have, we are going to be rich!


Anyway, that's my story of Varangians and Greeks, and of how I gained my first business experience. Granted, our konung isn't quite happy with our new enterprise, but that's a story for another time.

September 27th, 2014, 05:21 PM
Looks as though you enjoy yourself a satire, CyberWar. What you've made here reminds me of that mockumentary style of television shows taking a hold on both sides of the Atlantic in the last decade or so. I saw a message develop, this ragged, drunken brutality sunk to the lowest levels of existence, failing and failing and failing in a way of showing that belligerence precludes prolonged success. A good message all around, though crassly delivered in a very telling voice. You sounded quite convincing as a Viking, I must say, so well done there for your authenticity. I did snicker a couple of times openly at some of their antics, an understated but fully formed and much appreciated sarcastic comedy.

To make this more powerful as a commentary, perhaps you should relent a bit on the exploits of our Norse gentlemen. I thought, especially towards the end, you had beaten it over the head, only just barely. A couple less fallen, drunken episodes, and I might have really enjoyed the repetitive nature of their habits; however, as time went on, I found it all just droning. Excise a touch of the constant social miscues, make the story a bit shorter, and you'll find the impact that much better. Perhaps the bits about the rapping, dark-skinned characters you've introduced and their overdone, borderline racist portrayal could be left out, as they add nothing to the plot nor the characterization. I also thought that the use of the slurs in general, especially the gay ones, just made the characters stray a little past my care point. At that, I just wanted them to fail and go home so I didn't have to read any more about them.

I would caution you on your voice a bit too. At times, it felt more rude and childish than classically heathen. I understand you're attempting to produce an immature sound, but I believe there to be a difference between whiny and uncouth. I would swing them more in the direction of recklessly irresponsible, almost teenage, than a bunch of hairy apes. I think that does more to accentuate their immaturity as opposed to their animalism. For instance, the bit about the berserkers blushing: not necessary. These are berserkers. They don't blush. It might be best to get a better feel of your characters.

Well, if nothing else, I found sections of it largely funny and well-researched. You put a lot of work into this; it just needs a bit of quick revision, perhaps reel it back just a bit, and you'll find success with this style of piece.