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Heresy

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It was during the first year of Horik's reign, son of Gudrød, who had successfully held himself against Karl mikli, that Christian faith lost its first tentative foothold in the lands north of the Danevirke. Harald Klak had fled a few months prior, hiding at King Louis' court, and with all of Horik's brothers slain, Horik was left to see after the state affairs in Denmark on his own.

His first official act was to to reinstate the old faith by expelling Ansgar and his retinue as well as to burn down all the Christian remnants Harald had let build during his tenure. This business he assigned to Ragnar Sigurdsson, a young man of big stature and dark hair, who proved himself very eager and committed to the task. Together with a band of loyal men, he traveled throughout the land, carrying out king Horik's orders with the greatest care and a violent hand.

Among these men were two brothers, called Flóki and Thorir, sons of Gaut. They were of a high growth, taller than most at the time and skilled in many a thing, though they did not share much likeness between them. Thorir was of unequaled strength, handsome and gold haired, with a violent temper that often lead to berserkergang, which only his brother was able to calm. In battle, he counted numerous victories and never had a weapon grazed his side, for which he earned himself the name Thorir Jarnsida. His prowess was feared and respected even by Ragnar himself.

His brother Flóki was of an entirely different disposition: dark haired and with a pale complexion, he was long limbed and calm, preferring the atgeir or bow to hammer and axe, which he handled with great skill. He was considered a gifted skald among his peers and his verses were of such artistic craft and imagery, that the old and wise referred to his verses when speaking of the past. His compositions were later made use of by Bragi Boddason and handed down even to Sigvat Tordarson himself. Because of this, he was nicknamed Flóki Ormstunga.

Of all Ragnar's men, it was they who chased away the memory of the White Christ with the greatest efficiency, for Thorir had an uncanny instinct for where to find remaining altars and Flóki knew amusing tales and songs of the old gods to entertain all folks and those who would listen.

While they were lodging close to Ribe at a farmstead of Hemming Halfdansson, Harald Klak's kinsman, Thorir called his brother away one evening to lead him into a nearby grove, where a small, wooden house stood proud against the dark sky. It was a church and Flóki's mood was very grim upon seeing it. He said: "Our host deems me a liar, for serving us both misbelief and false generosity. No less than exile will he reap for such treachery. But let us see what may be inside, before we burn it down. It would be quite improvident not to share Christ' riches among ourselves."

Upon enter, they found a man kneeling and praying, though not much else. They guessed it to be a priest, forgotten and hiding from Horik's verdict, and when he tried to flee, Thorir captured him easily and dragged him back to the altar by his hair. There, he bound him by his own girdle like a sacrificial lamb. The man said: "The Lord will punish you for the sins you are to commit, heathen. Eternal Hell will be your belligerent reward."

Thorir replied to this: "It will be you who is doomed to reside with Utgard's mistress. Clinging to a false god is the way of the weak and old. But to me is an eternal youth and men’s fear do not touch me." Though he was very pale, the priest answered: "You are the devil's fool and I shall say no more to you."

At this, he closed his eyes and braved himself for death, but Flóki was not satisfied with the outcome and stilled his brother's vengeful hand. Pulling him to the side, he confided in him his displeasure at letting the priest go so easily, thinking it better to chastise him for his words first than to grant him the swift mercy of Thorir's hammer. Thorir was reluctant, but agreed on this after Flóki said: "It is our prerogative to demand nothing less in return for his insults."

The priest still lay bound and shivering like a newborn calf in early morning mist, when they returned to the altar. Flóki took off his helmet and in the shadow play of the candles, it deemed the priest, he had large horns attached to it. He gave an undignified yelp, as Flóki leaned over him to touch his smooth, beardless cheek. They then saw that he was still very young. Flóki asked after the priest's name and lineage, but he was stubborn and said: "I am a son of the Holy Spirit, and God is father to all."

These words angered Flóki beyond all measure and he hit him repeatedly with an open hand like one would chasten a woman. This shameful treatment roused the priest's temper enough, that he used Christ's name in cursing. When the two brothers laughed at this, he knew he had fallen into their trap and he said in his defense: "Your games will not make me falter. My faith is strong and righteous." Flóki said: "'tis no game, when your life is on the stakes. You should heed our words, for Christ is a weak god and no warrior, unable to defend himself nor those he calls his."

Yet the priest would not listen to their reasoning and Flóki could see that all good advice was lost on him. As was his nature to bargain, he nonetheless offered him his freedom in exchange for his oath: to forsake Ansgar and all that followed him and join them in their search for those still loyal to Harald. The priest replied, he had rather they take his life than his soul and averted his gaze.

Such disregard to honor and life roused Thorir's temper and he stated sourly: "It is thus decided, but you will have no word over who the recipient of your impudent sacrifice is."

Hearing this had the priest struggle in fear against his bounds, renouncing the claim, and Thorir had to press him back on the altar with one big hand. His hammer then struck him on the head and he dedicated the killing to the thunder god and slayer of giants. Flóki was dissatisfied with this, feeling he had been cheated out of his prize and he made this verse:

"Hrungnir's slayer fell,
the friar's folly scorning,
to the disregard of Flóki's needs,
deadly to the head.
From God's anvil
arrogated, took the thunderer
with little lenience
life as his reward."

Flóki then demanded compensation from his brother for the lost claim to the priest's life, which after much debate Thorir granted him, leaving the nature of it to Flóki's discretion.

His brother was an impatient man and insisted that a ritual to the Trickster god's honor be conducted immediately, while the blood and memory of the priest's demise was still fresh. With no further notice of his intentions, Flóki then proceeded to unclasp his coat, shed his byrnie and arming shirt and the woolen tunic beneath. His chest was very pale. Despite Thorir's lack of quick wits, he followed his brother's example with haste and impatience when understanding dawned. Only in his cloth trousers, he pushed the dead body from the altar and sat down on it himself, with Flóki stepping between his legs. They embraced one another in a fashion befit for lovers, exchanging kisses and heated, unashamed caresses.

Flóki then had Thorir in the position of a woman, face pressed to the top of the stone altar and hips raised. Standing behind him, he handled his brother by the waist with firm hands and neither position was flattering, though it was worse for the one in front to be held in such a manner.

Yet with no witness to bear their misplaced affections, Thorir deemed it a good sacrifice to both their satisfaction and minded not the ignoble deed done to him, indeed participating most zealously with thunderous moans. For all Flóki was able to take control of their meeting, his brother was like a warhorse, demanding and with an unparalleled strength in his firm thighs and quivering loins that pulled forth many an undignified noise from Flóki's mouth.

Using some of the spilled blood on the altar to draw secret runes into his brother's muscled, heaving back, Flóki chanted in the customary manner, taking strength from the ritual himself and with a hoarse voice that had Thorir give a mighty shudder, he called out thrice to appeal to the Trickster God. Now that he had dedicated his brother's submission to the bearer of the serpent, he slowed in his urgency and the pleasure he took with his brother's willing body was all to their own benefit.

They parted by the time the moon was on its demise. As they put back on their clothes and gear, Thorir asked what they should do with the priest's body. Flóki thought for a short while, then said: "Hang him up in the tree for Grimnir's envoys to feast on." And Thorir did as was custom for traitors, tying the young man with a rope to the highest branch he could reach for all to see. They then proceeded to set flame to the church and watched the fire eat away at the wood, which caused such a roar that all folk came running from the farmstead to bear witness to the demolition of Christ's house.

Among them were Ragnar and his, and when Hemming and his wife cried out at the crude hanging of their oldest son, they seized them both and forced them to their knees. The servants meant to stand by their masters, but when they saw that Ragnar's men were armed and ready to strike, they kept calm after only the feeblest of protests at such treatment.

Together with Flóki, Ragnar held trial over them, accusing them of their falsehood and deliberate deceit, which was to be punished with ostracism after the law. But Hemming held his son's illegitimate slaying against that and appealed to at least have his revenge before he would be brought forth to Horik. By this device, he hoped to escape the disgrace of exile by death and thus to clear his family's name.

Ragnar and Flóki considered this, but thought it ill advised, as a man stricken with grief was a dangerous opponent. Flóki said: "One of his sons shall enter the holmgang with Thorir, but Hemming’s case now lies with King Horik." He found much agreement with this arbitration among Ragnar's men and the local folk, and Hemming had to accept the wisdom in this.

It would now so happen, that both remaining sons had not yet come of age, unable to either hold or wield a sword without being a hazard to themselves. The older of the two stepped forward nonetheless, challenging Thorir to the duel. Thorir recognized his bravery and said: "We shall meet again in ten years, and you can try taking vengeance on your father's behalf. But you are weak and small now, and there is no honor in fighting you."

They then gathered all their belongings and supplies and rode back to King Horik's hall, where Hemming received his judgment in front of the Althingi. He was ostracized as Flóki and Ragnar had estimated and died in Francia, in the year his son Rorik fought Thorir, who had kept his promise. Though the boy did not win then, Thorir spared his life and he later became a mighty warrior and chieftain, as Thorir had foreseen, known as Rorik of Dorestad, ruler of Frisia.

By disposing of Christ's last advocate in the land, no church rose up on Nordic soil, until Bjørn Eriksson claimed its deceitful merits in Birka for himself five years later and even then, it was a difficult task to spread Christ's words and the teaching of the bible, for the northern people were stoic even during King Olaf Tryggvason's reign.