This is the story of the stupid things I did the year I was seventeen, the year my mother died, and how they twisted my life entire from the straight course it was set to run in.
I was born in Jarnholme, in Micklegarth, which the sea has eaten. Even then the sea ran closer each year and my father’s halls were damp, ever, with a rising salt smell. My grandfather was Arling the son of Gewis, called Greatking, who made the Jarns one people, a descendant of Tew, far back. When I was born he was dead, and my father, Gunnar Arlingsson, was king. The name the priests gave me at my secret naming was Ulf, meaning a wolf, an old name in our family, and one thought kingly and fortunate.
Before I was ten years old my father died, and his brother’s son Sweyn Rognvaldsson became king. I, as the elder of Gunnar’s sons, was considered to be his heir, especially as he had no son of his wife, Helga, but only a daughter, my cousin Hild, no shieldmaiden but rather inclined to be weak and sickly. She grew up with me and with my younger brother Arling.
Helga and my mother were considered jointly the first ladies of the land. My mother’s name was Athel Hengistsdottar, but she was always called Gudrede, meaning “wise counsellor”, for Sweyn, and my father before him, valued her advice almost as if she had been a man. She was the daughter of that Hengist who left Jarnholme with the intention of conquering Tir Tanagiri, as many have before and after him, and who made himself king of that part of the land that was called before Bricinia but afterwards Cennet. Thus she was a direct descendant in only four generations from Gangrader himself.
When she died, in my first grief I raged and wept and shouted against the gods, and Gangrader himself came to me as I sat on the shore and spoke gently to me and promised me many things.