The Whale Road
The first book of what will be a trilogy is The Whale Road, detailing the harsh life and times of the Oathsworn, a shipload of hard men owing no allegiance save to each other, bound by an oath made under the eye of Odin.
It is set in 965AD, 200 years after the first Viking raids and well past the first heady flush of those rape and pillage years. Part of the reason for the Norse to go raiding in the first place was the inheritance law – in a land-poor country, it was no good splitting farms up into smaller and smaller units, so the rule was that the eldest son got the lot. Any other sons were faced with the prospect of working for their brother for the rest of their life – or finding their fortune another way. Enter the raiding Norseman, always hoping to make enough money to buy a new future, either as a trader or a farmer.
By 965AD, however, the raiding Norse who had carved out the kingdoms in Scandinavia and elsewhere were finding they no longer had a role to play. All the jarls – petty chieftains – who took on warriors to make them great no longer wanted those swords around when they had achieved their goal. Now those warriors were dropped in status, no longer the lauded heroes they had once been and reduced to being merecenaries. They formed bands, called varjazi by the people east of the Baltic – the Greek version of it was varangii and, eventually, that word came to be applied to the Varangian Guard, famed elite axe-wielding favourites of the Byzantine Emperors.
That is exactly what the Oathsworn are when, led by Einar the Black, they take on a task for the trade port of Birka and cross the path of young Orm, whose story this is.