"To Sail Between the Worlds"
Something shook Asgrim Jonsson worse than the shaking of any boat. He jolted awake in panic, afraid those men in suits of wood with their faces painted red from ochre and blood might have returned. To his immediate relief, it was just his mother, Halldora, yet his breath still came quickly. He wondered if the Skraeling man rowing the oar in front of him might be one of them, those monsters who took everything from him.
"It's okay, Asgrim. We're here in a safe place now." She patted his head, but her hand was unusually bony. She must have been even hungrier than he was.
"We're gone, right? We're in Greenland now, or Iceland, or Norway, or..."
"Venarfjord, where your uncle lives. He is both the chief and the priest of this town."
Asgrim's face went pale as he sighed in defeat. He was never going to leave this land until he met Christ. Memories of that village in the south he had lived his entire life at filled his mind as he gazed at the entrance of the fjord in front of him. The trees were much smaller and the mountains more bare, yet it looked the same as Grenholt.
"I-is he better than that man who killed Dad?" Asgrim clutched his knife, recalling the face of his father, Jon Ulfsson, still with a fresh scar from the last battle he fought. He had handed him that knife before he departed under that Icelander bastard Viga-Haukr to fight the Innu. He promised us victory, yet we lost so much.
"Of course he is, dear. Venarfjord is safe. We'll gain so much from being here...just like our family always has."
He wanted to scream, or even jump over the side of the ship in hopes the oceans claimed him and not the skraelings, yet as he saw the high mountains rising out of the fog, he suddenly felt calm again. It felt as if those mountains embraced him, keeping him safe from the terrifying world outside. Some in front of him muttered about Venarfjord.
This fjord was a lot more rugged than Grenholt. The trees grew like shrubs or had long since been stripped of all their wood, and the Skraeling huts near the mouth of the fjord reminded Asgrim that he wasn't totally safe. Two tall Skraeling man glared at him from the shore as they worked on butchering a seal. Yet as they traveled deeper into the fjord, passing islands and the mouths of creeks, cheers in the boat turned his attentioned to distant smoke rising--a town!
"Venarfjord...is this it?" Asgrim thought to himself.
Asgrim had never seen any town this large, for he was born and lived his whole live in and around Grenholt. The smoke of the houses seemed to fill half the fjord as the green sod of their roofs rose out from the ground. The high palisade studded with the occasional platform for watchmen signaled a security found nowhere else. In the middle of the town he saw another tall tower with a cross alighting it. If even these walls aren't enough, then that church will protect us! The Lord would never let those heathens destroy something so grand!
His mother noticed Asgrim's sudden change in mood.
"See, Venarfjord isn't so bad. We'll definitely be safe here. It's a town nearly as great as the biggest in Greenland or even Iceland."
"M-Maybe you're right. Maybe we really can start our lives over in this land."
A newfound optimism filled Asgrim as the ship pulled closer and closer to a dock. Not only was he safe, but he was going to start a new life to gain that prosperity his father always promised him.
"You would really give this up, Uncle Magnus?" Asgrim Jonsson asked. "You're really leaving this land with everything we need?"
"You know I've wanted to go back to Greenland since I was a boy. And now I finally have that option." Magnus gestured his staff toward the shifty man standing at the door, his garb the strange patterns of the cloaks the skraelings wore. It was clasped by a crude brooch which still bore traces of some bizarre skraeling art style.
"Who will be priest if you're selling it all to Audun Eriksson, that half-skraeling!?"
Audun smiled at the conversation before him as Magnus put a wrinkled hand on his nephew's shoulder. He is like me when I was his age.
"I told you to marry his daughter while you still could. But I told you a lot of things, didn't I?"
"Worry not, Asgrim Jonsson," Audun said, "The chieftainship will be in good hands with me. And we're going to need it." A sudden worry came over that man's face.
"You see the coming chaos, don't you?" Magnus said. "Fitting for a survivor of Grenholt who still resides in Markland."
"Anyone with a clear mind might see it, Magnus Ulfsson. One day we will outlive our welcome with the Skraelings. The Ölurskraelings welcomed us for 15 years before destroying us. They are more ill-natured than the Skraelings of this land, but all men reach a point when they grow tired of each other ."
"That doesn't matter, all I care about is my uncle making these decisions for me," Asgrim said. "This beautiful country and its people are my inheritance!"
"If you think like that, then go to Norway and join King Haakon's hird and pray he names you ruler of one of his lands." Audun advised. "Markland is a free land, more free than Iceland or Greenland. Be they skraeling or Norse, we follow only those who provide for us."
Asgrim clenched his fist as he knew the truth of Audun's words. He looked to his uncle once again for advice, but his uncle simply shook his head.
"I am old and finally wanted to see Greenland. And more importantly..." Magnus looked to Audun, who produced a string of small gold plates from his cloak. Asgrim's eyes went wide as he gazed upon the horrific art of the skraelings, full of crude engravings of animals and birds. So much gold in one place! Impossible...
"I see the stories of your gambling prowess are true," Magnus said approvingly. "Yet one disc is missing. I want to see the one they say you took from that Ölurskraeling lord."
"If I part with that one, I'd be like my namesake, that Audun who sold everything he had when he bought that polar bear from my father."
"No matter. I've heard rumours it is unlike any other medallion these Skraeling lords wear. They say it came from far to the west, as far as the west meets the east, proof the Skraelings trade with Prester John's kingdom and knew of Christ even before ourown Jon Hallgrimson arrived."
"Gaze upon it for yourself then." Audun took from his cloak one last amulet, larger and thicker than the others. In the flickering candlelight its texture seemed different, as if forged from a different sort of gold. Engraved on the surface was a cross within a circle where at each end strange animals glared out at him, animals drawn in a distinct style from the typical Skraeling art. Their eyes unnerved Asgrim, as if angered they had been brought so far from their homeland.
"Fascinating...I could study this the remainder of my life," Magnus noted in awe. "Yet that in the center appears like Yggdrasil, the tree I believe our ancestors worshipped before reached by the light of Christ. Yet I have never heard of an eagle perched atop it, nor seen an eagle with such a strange look."
"Some of the Skraelings believe in such trees, yes," Audun said. "Yet what of those beasts? That looks like another eagle, a more normal one I suppose, and I suppose that's a raven. Maybe the other two are a wolf and a bear? I wonder whatt his Skraeling"
"Typical Skraeling heathenry," Asgrim said. "It looks almost like the devil's craftsmanship."
"Maybe it is," Audun replied, putting the medallion away. "I've seen the Skraelings torture people to death and devour their bodies in the most horrifying rituals. It's good I'm not selling it to a man of God."
"It is God's will you do sell it to me, though," Magnus said. "I cannot leave for Greenland without it."
"That'll cost you much more than a chieftainship then," Audun said. He looked around, examining a Skraeling vase by the window where a purplish sweetvetch flower grew, a Skraeling gift. "Looks like you don't have much else."
"I don't understand either of you," said Asgrim. "Just what do you need so much gold for, uncle? A chieftainship in Greenland?"
"I'm buying something greater than a chieftainship. I will buy the highest seat in the church, a bishopric. Right now, there is no bishop in Greenland. If I put myself forward to the chiefs of Greenland, then surely they will select me as a compromise for I am old and will be with the Lord soon ."
"You, a bishop!?"
"I've wanted it the moment I understood what this land was and what it meant to me. I once despised this country and chased after nothing but riches, then I learned the true value of wealth is ruling over the hearts of men in the name of our father sitting in heaven. That was the only way I tamed the savage Skraelings."
Audun clapped his hands.
"Wonderful I am dealing with such a good Christian then!"
"A good Christian? The Lord forgives, but sometimes I do not..."
He tapped his staff on the floor three times and in an instant a chunk of the wall gave way as a man Audun recognised as his cousin Olafr jumped out and put Audun at knifepoint. In the confusion, Audun dropped the medallion onto the ground, where it rolled and came to a rest at Asgrim's feet. Asgrim hesitated for a moment, but put his boot on it as Audun knocked Olafr away from him and drew a hatchet from his cloak.
He backed up, preparing for a fight as he stashed the remainder of the gold in his cloak.
"Heh, what the hell do you think you're doing, priest? You'll be lucky to buy a chieftainship with that gold, let alone the holy seat of bishop!"
"Olafr put down the knife and show him what you found," Magnus commanded.
"Yes, father." Olafr, a short, wiry man of mixed descent, produced a gold medallion identical to that they had just looked over.
"Asgrim, what is that there?"
"Asgrim grabbed the Skraeling medallion from underneath his boot, suddenly confused why there are two of them."
"You must have a very good reason to carry around these fake gold medallions. God looks poorly on defrauding his ministers. Was the rest of your gold fake as well?"
Audun lowered his hatchet, keeping a close eye on Olafr, but kept silent. Magnus pointed to a shiny candlestick on his wooden table and shrugged.
"I'm a wealthy chief and man of the church. I am around gold more than all but the merchants of Hafnarfjörður. Melting a trifle amount of gold and mixing it with copper might fool the usual chief, Skraeling or Christian, but it will not fool me."
"You're very insightful even in your last moments!" Audun charged at Olafr, but Magnus swung his staff at Audun's legs, knocking him to the ground. Asgrim immediately helped his cousin restrain the swindler.
"This sort of fraud and forgery against the church might make you an outlaw if the Greenland Althing hears about it," Magnus said. "Should my kin kill you here to spare you the grief?"
"Tch..." Audun spat on the ground beneath Olafr's sturdy boot. "Sending that man to search my ship for that disc is also a crime. And you won't want to kill me. There will be an army of Skraelings on Venarfjord by the next moon."
"Is that true, Uncle?" Asgrim asked, suddenly worried.
"I believe it, which is why I want him to hold up his end of the bargain and give me actual gold so he can have the chieftainship."
Audun frowned, annoyed at the course of the situation.
"It's all in my ship. Just go there and you'll find my gold...if you can."
"Wonderful," Magnus said. He motioned to Olafr and Asgrim to get off Audun, although Asgrim took the man's axe just in case. Magnus helped Audun to his feet, glaring directly at him.
"You are a dishonest, wicked man, but talented in every aspect. For that alone I am confident you'll lead Venarfjord well."
"Against those dishonest, wicked Skraelings, our people need nothing less. Good luck dealing with the church, Bishop, I will be dealing with a situation far worse."
Far across the ocean to the east lay the Old World, the cradle of humanity where the oldest civilisations developed. Contact between Old and New World occurred very rarely and went unknown and unrecorded for countless centuries. Yet the 1st millennium saw the increasing integration of the northwestern fringe of the Old World into society as a whole. This economic and cultural integration gave rise to Norse society, their legendary Viking raids, and an unprecedented era of exploration that led the two worlds into their first collision.
The source of this exploration goes back to the roots of the so-called Viking Age in of itself. Northern Europe's increasing integration with the world under the Frankish Empire and wealth from the Islamic world's trade routes provoked great social changes in Scandinavia that prompted increasing centralisation. In addition, the Medieval Warm Period helped spur a population increase. Large numbers of men readily followed those with ambition in expeditions that varied in purpose from trade, raiding, and eventually even settlement. The beneficial climate produced a less stormy North Atlantic with reduced sea ice. These conditions permitted the Norse conquest of islands such as Orkney, Hjaltland, and the Faroes.
The greatest settlement of all of these was Iceland, settled at the end of the 9th century. It was not an appealing place, even in medieval times, for it was a cold and volcanic island in the midst of the ocean. The soil was poor and vegetation sparse, particularly after its rapid deforestation, while the interior was an uninhabitable land full of glaciers and volcanic desert, lacking sustenance even for livestock. Even so, it offered free land (for the initial settlers) and even for later settlers, a place of refuge and a place to make oneself, for it was a place of social mobility of the sort which was declining back in Scandinavia.
Here the Norse set about reproducing society both adapted to the conditions of their new land and repudiating the perceived excesses of their homeland . Traditional rights found in Norse society were expanded and codified into a system of courts, while chiefs were expected to be generous and attentive to the needs of their followers and nigh-incapable of coercing them. While violent feuds were a common factor of Icelandic life, the courts--and Iceland's own social system--mitigated the worst of it, for few of Iceland's free farmers cared to follow those constantly quarreling with neighbours. Iceland was thus never governed by a king, but only its courts and freemen, a society highly unusual in medieval Europe but a commonly found one in North America.
Naturally, people still fell afoul of this system. Powerful chiefs and those freemen allied to them might bend the justice system in their favour, and some individuals were simply disliked for their personal conduct. These people might be driven elsewhere, as was the case of Erik the Red, banished from Iceland in the late 10th century for killing men out of vengeance for murdering his slaves.
To maintain his livelihood, Erik led men to settle the poorly known lands to the west known as Greenland. He established the manor of Brattahlid, inviting settlers from Iceland and Norway to his new land. The new society in Greenland replicated Icelandic institutions such as an Althing and a code of law inspired by both Iceland and Norway. Although the coast of Greenland was barren and mostly treeless and the interior incredibly steep, for Norse farmers it represented free pastures for their livestock and in years of fortunate weather, fields for growing rye, barley, and oats.
While violent feuds and no center of power dominated Iceland, in Greenland matters were different. Feuds were less common and more easily resolved thanks to the dominance of the chief seated at the manor of Brattahlid from both prestige as heir to Erik the Red (even after Erik's line died out in the 11th century) and from the manor's size and prosperity. Brattahlid's chief had many followers and helped resolve disputes even beyond his region thanks to his prestige at the Greenlandic Althing, held nearby at Gardar. Undoubtedly this more peaceful society owed itself to an increasing fear of the harsh environment, reflected in the literature of the Greenlanders.
The settlement of Greenland and the discovery of Vinland occurred within a generation and were inextracibly linked. The efforts of Leif Erikson (son of Erik the Red), Thorfinn Karlsefni, and later settlers produced little luck in Leivsland, but did open up new fortune in Markland. In Markland, Greenland's settlers found a crucial good--timber--essential for replenishing their increasingly deforested homeland. What's more, they found the rarest of all goods--oxwool.
Domesticated centuries before by the Inuit along the Strait of Ringitania, the muskox accompanied the Inuit on their migrations that by the 11th century sent them all the way to Markland. The muskox produced a soft and strong inner fur from which was spun the warm luxury fiber termed "oxwool." The Norse discovered this for themselves in the 11th century, and this immediately reoriented their explorations west of Greenland into searching for new sources of this. This culminated in the settlement of Venarfjord in 1120, a permanent Norse colony intended to act as a base for trading with the natives they termed skraelings along with cutting timber. As Venarfjord gained success and importance to Greenland, its ruler acquired a chieftainship for himself .
Oxwool first found great value among the elite of Iceland and Greenland. A son of Magnus Thorgrimsson, founder of Venarfjord, purchased a chieftainship in Iceland for himself in 1130 with only a few shirts of oxwool. Iceland's elite took notice and sent their followers on expeditions to Greenland--or sometimes even further to Markland--to purchase oxwool for themselves. Those who went to Venarfjord ended up successful, while others met mixed results. Over the next few decades, many died at sea or at the hands of the skraelings although a few found success outside of Venarfjord.
In Greenland, oxwool upended the local economy. The trading port of Herjolfsnes in the far south became more important, as did Sandnes in the north due to its port having less ice . These chiefs became increasingly competitive with those at Brattahlid due to their newfound wealth from timber and oxwool, with associated feuding generally carried out in Markland.
The craze for oxwool reached Europe a generation later. Oxwool is recorded as a commodity purchased in Bergen, the key Norwegian port, by merchants from continental Europe around 1180, and records discussing "kiffet" (an alternative name, clearly derived from Inuit qiviut) appear in Scotland by 1200. Medieval descriptions portray it as the most soft and warm fabric fit for kings, lavishing it terms such as "Greenland silk."
Its source was not known--some speculated Greenland was so remote the cows grew thick coats they lacked in warmer climates, or that Greenland had a specific sort of native cattle species. By 1300, however, educated Europeans called the animal terms derived from its Old Norse name sauðnaut  such as English "sannolt", although in many languages such as English that term is now an archaic one.
Markland's amount of oxwool wasn't inexhaustible. The muskox herders lived only in the northernmost areas above the treeline, and the Norse only encountered these herders when they migrated to the coast. They were fierce enemies of the reindeer-herding Innu, for muskox carried diseases mostly harmless to them but lethal to reindeer. The Norse thus favoured the expansion of the Inuit through alliances--they feasted with the Inuit and gifted them weapons, most notably the iron swords that came to form a symbol of tribal leadership among the Inuit. This alliance let the Inuit push far to the south and turn all of coastal Markland north of the Naskappenfjord  into a hunting ground for their own needs, driving the Innu further inland.
The Norse understood well that Skraeling politics functioned similarly to their own. The sagas show they conceived indigenous leaders like one of their own chieftains, knowing he was prestigious yet reliant on being able to provide for his followers. They did not reduce the Inuit or Innu to a single group under the command of one leader, but instead tried discerning prominent individuals among them to deal with them.While an imperfect method spoiled by their own cultural biases, it worked far better than later European practices of treating native rulers in the decentralised east as kings.
Even so, the Norse had difficult relations with the Innu even in the best times, for the Innu associated them as allies of the hated Inuit. The Norse relied on the Innu for timber cutting, as quality timber around Venarfjord so close to the treeline quickly diminshed from demand. The Innu extorted great sums of goods from the Norse, which sometimes resulted in the Innu chief being overthrown by an ambitious follower who attacked the Norse anyway.
This kept almost all Norse settlements and trading posts temporary, seasonal affairs. Even in country claimed by the Inuit, Innu war parties regularly attacked Norse who tried to support their trading posts there in hopes of claiming their valuable goods. Despite their more primitive weapons, the Innu held the advantage with their mobility. This kept alive a martial tradition in Greenland, for Greenlanders often joined raids retaliating for slain kin.
A few Norse tried settling this region anyway. In 1210, Viga-Haukr Ormsson, an exile from Iceland, won support from the chief of Hvalsey to claim land in the south along the Naskappenfjord. With allies among the local Inuit, he lured Greenlanders from Venarfjord and established a farm/trading post/manufactory hybrid in the vein of Venarfjord called Grenholt. With its palisade, it survived several initial attacks. Haukr claimed a gold medallion from a fallen Innu sachem, and acquired another in a peace treaty he signed with a second Innu band along with some silver beads .
This reignited Norse interest in these southern lands, for gold and silver were exceptionally rare commodities in Iceland and Greenland. It became the key base for trading with Leivsland and the growing settlement of Straumfjord, home to a community of mixed Norse-natives. Haukr's relative Magnus Markusson travelled even further south, exploring the Gulf of Kanada and traveling up the Kanada River and reporting the natives owned gold and silver, which he purchased from them by selling his sword and several knives.
This colony lasted only 15 years. Warfare with the Innu reignited, and this time the Innu came in greater numbers and besieged the town in winter. As long as snow was on the ground, the Innu kept the Norse confined with their reindeer-pulled sleds that gave them frightening mobility. Dozens of Norse died in skirmishes (including Viga-Haukr himself) or from disease, and their livestock herds completely wiped out. The Norse held out until the summer, when they evacuated on the scheduled trading ship, although the next year the Norse returned, killed Innu reindeer and towey goat herds, and won a favourable peace settlement that permitted them to retain a smaller camp.
The Norse trade in this region focused on obtaining walrus tusks, timber, and iron. Likely they had been denied access to the walrus hunting and iron gathering on Bjørneøen by manipulations of hostile chiefs. This brought them south to Leivsland, where relations with the Innu were complex at best and occasionally even beyond there to lands as far south as Kanada Bay. These Norse traders (often exiles from Greenland) acted independently, attempting to gain wealth from trade, prestige in battle (capturing the gold or silver medallions of indigenous leaders was common), or new followers.
The latter often involved the Norse permanently settling among the natives. Although to the Norse they were swarthy pagans who spoke alien languages, the fact they were farmers who tolerated Norse individuals to settle among them was more than enough. These men, perhaps only a few dozen at most in the 1100-1500 period, married into the community and often were thoroughly assimilated, their legacy remaining as the Salmon Clans found in Eastern North America. For the natives, they brought knowledge of new agricultural techniques, connected them to Norse trading links, and introduced sheep into their communities.
In the north, the Norse quest for oxwool took them back to Helleland by around 1080, but their presence didn't become permanent here until 1105. Less connected to the Norse trade and still at war with the last Kinngait culture people, the Inuit of Helleland gladly accepted Norse goods and weapons in exchange for their muskox pelts and the privilege to hunt walrus and gather bog iron.
It was still too cold for the Norse to settle, however, so the Norse stayed only during the warmer months. Even at its economic height, only those Norse who married Inuit women or were exceptionally unfortunate, overwintered on Helleland--the majority returned home before the ice floes stopped travel. Their camp was well-provisioned by the standards of either Norse or Inuit and maintained inhabitation year-round--Norse in summer, Inuit in winter.
With the exception of Venarfjord and Grenholt, no real attempts at settlement in the New World were made in the 13th century beside an attempt on Leivsland rapidly destroyed by the Innu. Therefore, no organised land-taking occurred . Grenholt consisted of a single farm, while Venarfjord had five farms at its height. At no time did more than 800 Norse stay in Markland, and over half stayed only seasonally. Markland remained under the control of Greenland's Althing and its parish priest under the spiritual authority of Gardar, seat of Greenland's bishop.
Ten Norse trading posts operated in these golden years from 1150 to 1300. Venarfjord with its 200 permanent residents was the undisputed center of these settlements, commanding a network of small farmsteads across the eponymous fjord. Others existed to cut timber, hunt walrus, and trade with the natives. At its southernmost, the trade reached Leivsland, while adventurers ventured even further south to lands in Kanada Bay and up the Kanada River itself in search of gold and silver artifacts. The temporary Norse expeditions in Markland and Helleland became called the vestrsetr, or "the stay in the west" in contrast to the nordrsetr, the walrus hunting expeditions to Bjørneøen .
All of this Norse trading activity produced a commercial revolution in the North Atlantic, and key among this was shipbuilding. Venarfjord and Markland as a whole provided the essential ingredient--timber. At first the Norse brought this timber back to Greenland and Iceland to supplement their local stock of wood (predominantly driftwood), yet increasingly they built large, ocean-going knarrs with it right there in Markland. Wood was cut and brought to Venarfjord and assembled into large ships as needed, although in its short existence, Grenholt had a shipyard as well.
There were not many ships--Venarfjord's chief owned one, and in all of Greenland there existed no more than 5 or 6 knarrs at a given time. In Iceland, there similarly was a small number. Yet even these small numbers proved revolutionary, for they freed the people of both islands from the hassle of dealing with merchants from Norway. A mutual interdependence was fostered--although they produced similar trade goods, Greenland's merchants enriched Iceland's chiefs with Markland's goods in exchange for additional cattle or grain (necessary for beer).
By the end of the 12th century, Iceland's economy being increasingly focused on the trade with Greenland and especially Markland. Walrus ivory, reindeer antlers, and above all timber and oxwool arrived in their shores alongside a few gold and silver trinkets. Icelanders received both increasing numbers of foreign merchants and themselves even sent out a few merchants. Those chiefs who promoted this trade grew increasingly wealthy and increasingly monopolised Iceland's system of leadership (although this was by no means the only factor).
The ships allowed Greenland and especially Icelandic merchants to make their own trips to Bergen or very rarely Scotland, where they reaped sizable profits for themselves instead of selling it cheaply and letting the Norwegian merchants gain the profits in their home ports. This aroused the anger and jealously of local merchants who in 1200 complained to King Sverre Sigurdsson of Norway. Sverre ruled in their favour, needing to keep Bergen allied to him during the instability in Norway as Bergen was regularly attacked by his rivals. In response, Icelandic and Greenlandic merchants either turned to smuggling or risked trade in Denmark or Scotland. However, Sverre's edict seems to have been short-lived, for within a decade the Icelanders and Greenlanders returned to Bergen.
In Iceland itself, power had become increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few chiefs who owned the majority of the chiefdoms. These chiefs and their clans were universally ship owners involved in the trade with Markland and Norway who derived their wealth from large farms by the sea and increasingly from influence over the church. They often enlisted Norwegian aid (in exchange for their legal power over the church), which as Norway recovered its stability from its civil war, intensified conflict within Iceland. In Greenland, a similar process occurred as conflict emerged between the chiefs of Sandnes, Brattahlid, Hvalsey, and Herjolfsnes.
These wars, conventionally termed the Sturlung era after the name of a prominent clan, lasted around 20 years and saw shifting alliances between the parties in question as well as the Norwegian king (by this time the vigorous and clever ruler Håkon IV, Sverre's grandson). Håkon purchased the titles of chiefs himself and enlisted Icelandic and Greenlandic nobles who frequented his court to lead their allies to victory in the name of the Norwegian crown. The powerful chief, Þórðr kakali Sighvatsson came out on top thanks to his involvement in the oxwool trade, alliance with the Norwegian king, and especially his skill at intrigue--he burnt to death his rival Gissur Þorvaldsson alongside his wife and their three sons at their own farmstead in Flugumýri.
By the standards of the region, battles might be quite large and even involve naval action (invariably involving the trade ships converted for war). In Iceland, a few battles had hundreds of men on either side, while in Greenland, the final battle of the war between Einar Sokkisson, chief of Brattahlid, and Bardr Bjarnesson, chief of Herjolfsnes, involved 200 Greenlanders on either side (almost 15% of Greenland's male population), a contingent of skraeling allies on Bardr' side brought by his ally Pall Audunsson, chief of Venarfjord, and 15 ships, including two knarrs as flagships. Bardr won due to the contribution of his skraeling archers with their powerful bows.
Håkon IV found it easiest to control his North Atlantic domains from a single point. Naming Þórðr kakali
("the stammerer") as Jarl of Iceland, he ordered his administrators to set up their base at the trading village of Hafnarfjörður. In Greenland, Håkon named Bardr his jarl and set up administration at Herjolfsnes. Both Hafnarfjörður and Herjolfsnes were declared kaupstad (market towns), granting them royal permission to hold markets and fairs among other privileges. Competing ports lost their status as fishermen, shipwrights, and most importantly merchants permanently relocated to Hafnarfjörður in Iceland and Herjolfsnes in Greenland. Norwegian law guaranteed eight ships arrived each year to Iceland and two ships arrived to Greenland.
The jarldom in Greenland died out with Bardr Bjarnesson's death in 1271, but in Iceland it persisted even after Þórður's death in 1265. Håkon's successor as king, Magnus the Law-Mender, wanted a strong local force to bring Norwegian customs to the "lawless" land, yet at the same time wanted to avoid provoking the Icelanders, so Þórðr's younger brother and close ally Tumi Sighvatsson the Younger (also known as Tumi Jarl) thus succeeded to the jarldom.
Greenland instead became governed by the local lagmann
, all of whom came from the group of nobles who lived much of their life in Norway. While not officially subordinate to Iceland, it defacto held less autonomy and was governed by two lagmann
. One lagmann
lived at Brattahlid and supervised the Althing, the other at Herjolfsnes. These men were usually Greenlanders elected by the Althing, but required royal assent to assume their position. Such assent came from the Norwegian king's emissary who captained one of the two ships sent every year (hence his common title "Captain of Greenland").
Urbanisation became such a problem for landowners that the jarl strengthened existing prohibitions against landless farmers leaving their fields , but at the same time, urbanisation was the source of each jarl's strength. Athough by law agents of the Norwegian king were permitted to buy goods first, in Iceland Tumi Jarl's effectively controlled these men in Hafnarfjörður and thus continued the traditional Icelandic practice of the chief buying first and setting prices on goods. Because there were no other kaupstad in Iceland, the jarl used this traditional law to exercise great influence over Iceland's economy to the benefit of himself and his allies.
Hafnarfjörður and Herjolfsnes were not large, even by medieval standards. In 1300, Hafnarfjörður had no more than 1,000 people, a fraction that of Bergen or other true medieval centers. Herjolfsnes had only 300 people, yet that was almost 10% of Greenland's population. Most people in these cities lived there temporarily--they would be farmers sent by their landlords to fish, foreign merchants, and the small retinue of officials from Norway (who lived there with their families).
Hafnarfjörður functioned as the center of Norway's empire in the North Atlantic. Ships from the Faroes, Orkney, and Hjaltland occasionally made stops there, although trade with Norway remained the dominant factor. After the ships from Bergen, those from Greenland were most valued, for they brought oxwool and walrus ivory, the most valuable trade goods. As it eclipsed all other communities on the island, in 1290 the Bishop of Skalholt Arni Thorlaksson (one of Iceland's two bishops) ordered the seat of his diocese relocated to Hafnarfjörður.
Problems lay on the horizon. The climate of the entire planet was cooling in the late 13th century due to volcanic activity. Ice sheets expanded and with them reshaped weather patterns in the North Atlantic. The number of storms increased and ice floes hindered trade, particularly with Greenland. Sailing off the east coast of Greenland became particularly hazardous to the point fewer and fewer sailors dare make the journey, instead heading directly to Norway . At the same time, these storms led to the nigh-abandonment of trade with Helleland, ending that region as an independent source of oxwool. Only Markland now supplied Iceland with its oxwool.
Markland suffered numerous troubles of its own related to epidemics among the natives and increasing amounts of warfare. The cooling climate made journeys more difficult and dangerous.Worse, the main settlement at Venarfjord became increasingly deforested. Icelanders themselves mitigated this by trading directly with Markland instead of relying on Greenlander intermediaries. Arrival of these unfamiliar Norse only added to the tension with the natives, as well as the Marklandic Norse who viewed them as foreigners seeking to exploit them compared to their Greenlandic kin.
This marked the beginning of Iceland's attempt at dominating the entire North Atlantic. To Iceland's increasingly influential merchants, let alone Iceland's jarl, Hafnarfjörður should be the center from which all politics from the Faroes to Hjaltland and Orkney to Markland orbited about. In 1297, Sighvat Tumasson (son of Tuma Jarl) petitioned Norwegian king Eric II for authority over Greenland (which included Markland), using the pretext of an Icelander murdered in Greenland . Although the petition went unanswered, it boded ill for relations between the two islands.
Ilinu and Utameknisat
Norse interaction dramatically changed the Amerindians they interacted with, and the Leivslander Innu, conventionally termed the Ilinu, were perhaps the most dramatic of these. This culture originated on the mainland but migrated to Leivsland in the 10th century, first absorbing remnant Paleo-Thuleans of the Kinngait Culture before conquering the other native group of the island, conventionally termed the Red Skraelings for their characteristic use of red ochre.
As the Kinngait Culture and Red Skraelings lacked livestock, agriculture, or advanced tools and numbered no more than 1,200, they were quickly defeated by the Innu with the last survivors wiped out by the end of the 12th century, leaving the Innu in control of Leivsland . The Ilinu population rapidly increased as they maintained fields of river turnip, bistort, and sweetvetch and converted much of the land into pasture for their reindeer and towey goats. By 1300, it reached an equilibrium of almost 30,000 people, mostly concentrated in the river valleys.
The Ilinu were fiercely territorial of their land and violently repelled Norse settlement efforts in the 11th and 12th centuries, believing outsiders sought to deprive them of their home. Traditional law held no outsider might spend more than four days on the shores of Leivsland nor lose sight of the coast, with the exception of those married to an Ilinu woman and accepted by her male relatives. This law did not deter Greenlandic traders from sailing there hoping to make money off of trade with the Ilinu, who desired their tools, blankets, beads, and iron weapons. Straumfjord, the former site of the Norse colony, grew into the largest town on the island with a population of about 800.
Norse traders readily found brides in Straumfjord thanks to their wealth and the Ilinu coveting Norse goods. Families who lacked herds sent their daughters to Straumfjord in hopes of marrying these men, although often they were disappointed for rarely did more than a dozen Norsemen operate in the area at any given time. These men were the ancestors of the ethnic group later called the Utameknisat ("sons of the hammer", referring to their association with iron and craftsmanship), a Metis people who played a pivotal role in the region in later times.
Even in the late 13th century when the Utameknisat numbered only a few hundred, they already played a important role in local trade networks as merchants and sailors. They introduced Norse technology such as harpoons which combined with their sailing skills resulted in the introduction of whaling to the region, bringing a valuable source of meat, bone, and oil. Other Utameknisat ventured as far inland as the Kanada or as far south as Cape Cod as middlemen for Norse goods. Aside from Straumfjord, other Utameknisat communities lay on Natikyst, Ministikyst, and Sanutsimøen, the latter becoming a notable producer of salt by 1300 .
In contrast to later times, the early Utameknisat were more Norse. They practiced Christianity as opposed to the syncretic religion of the Salmon Clan (whom they considered kin due to their common ancestry) and are recorded to speak the Norse-Innu trade language as opposed to their unique dialect of Ilinu. However, some Norse traditions survived far longer, like elements of their governance such as chiefdoms called kwoti that could be bought and sold or writing in runes. They often used Norse or Christian names, although occasionally innovated unique names found among no other culture based on calques of native names or peculiarities in their religion--true to their matrilineal culture inherited from their Ilinu mothers, the Utameknisat almost universally used matronymics instead of the Norse patronymics .
They contributed greatly to the small "Leivian exchange. " Some Utameknisat herded sheep they inherited from their Norse fathers who voluntarily exiled to offshore islands so their sheep would not harm reindeer populations with the diseases they carried. This started a custom among those few peoples such as the Havnaki and Migmak who also herded sheep, as they would tend their flocks on offshore islands or especially on islands in lakes. Sheep were never widespread because reindeer were culturally preferred, but their wool made a valuable good. They were most prominent among the animals the Salmon Clans herded, no doubt because of their syncretic Christianity.
Other livestock never established themselves. Chickens were viewed as redundant when many in Eastern North America raised ducks or even geese, so were only found among the Ilinu, Utameknisat, and Markland Innu. Goats brought from Greenland were viewed similarly when compared to sheep and towey goats and totally died out by 1400. Pigs were rare in Greenland so never gained a foothold outside of feral populations in Markland that were prevented from spreading far by the mountains, harsh climate, and frequent hunting. Horses were also rare--although occasionally sold to native leaders, there was never enough stock for a breeding population and therefore they often ended up sacrificial offerings.
More valuable were the cats owned by the Utameknisat. While many the Christian Norse shared the common negative attitude toward cats found in medieval Europe, they still brought their cats to Greenland and Markland and from there to their sons and daughters among the Utameknisat. These were large cats--adult males weighed up to 8 kilos and could be almost 1 meter long (including their tail)--and their cold-adapted bulky bodies and thick coats made them look even larger. Their tame nature compared to wild bobcats fascinated Amerindians, and the Utameknisat often sold these cats. Uniquely, many cats were polydactyl, to the point the modern breed of Leivsland cats is entirely so. Among some groups they were skinned for their pelts or eaten for their meat, yet often they were associated with shamans or agriculture due to their unique nature and tendency to hunt rodents and other small pests.
Norse dogs also spread, but these found less appeal. Although traded as exotic dog breeds, their small number left little mark on the domestic dog populations of the region, although the Markland Sheephound, a medium-sized spitz-type breed, was bred by Utameknisat sheep herders. They were common on the offshore islands in the Gulf of Kanada.
Among crops brought by the Leivian exchange, only barley proved popular, as Norse agriculture in Markland was sparse at best and redundant compared to the Arctic-adapted agriculture of the Eastern Woodlands. The Utameknisat brewed ale from it which became a regionally popular drink. The Ilinu and Utameknisat drank it nearly as much as the Norse at all occasions, while among the Havnaki and Migmak it was the second most important ceremonial drink after maple mead.
The Utameknisat were literate and wrote their language in runes, but writing was rare. Runes mared ownership, passed secret messages (often against hostile non-literate enemies), and above all, recorded religious traditions. These include oral stories that are a mix of Innu mythology, Norse folklore, and Biblical passages. The Utameknisat kept these writings private and regarded them as sacred treasures to be known only by community leaders. As a result, only the elite of their society were socially permitted to read, restricting what they might record, a tradition that appeared among the Ilinu as well and spread to other Algonquian societies .
Most crucially, a blacksmithing tradition appeared as the Utameknisat began turning the bog iron of Vinland into rough but functional iron goods. At the same time, some Utameknisat married Norse women from Venarfjord who settled on the island and introduced Norse-style warp-weighted looms and weaving, more efficient technology than native looms. These two events involving just a few individuals would revolutionise the entire regional economy and severely endanger the Greenlander position in the Americas.
Greenlander Decline in the Americas
If anything brought down this Norse colonial system in the North Atlantic, it was its own success. Their trade network relied heavily on their monopoly over textiles and iron goods for which natives were always eager to trade for. Yet once the Utameknisat broke this monopoly by making Leivsland a new center of iron and textile production, decline set in. Norse goods no longer fetched the high prices they did before, and worse, the Norse now had competitors who far better understood the nuances of trade in Amerindian societies.
The southerly migration of the Thule Inuit in Greenland likewise doomed the system. By 1250, the seasonal Norse trading post at Bjørneøen began purchasing oxwool in exchange for locally mined iron, fabrics, and Norse beads. By 1300, the Greenlandic Inuit had migrated far enough south to seasonally trade with the Norse of the Western Settlement. Naturally, the lack of a lengthy and potentially dangerous sea journey greatly appealed to the Norse who eagerly accepted the chance to locally obtain oxwool.
The impact of this was drastic for the Norse in Venarfjord and Helleland. In the latter, the Norse trading post fell abandoned 1300, no doubt as the voyage was viewed as too risky. In Venarfjord, the Norse purchased less and less oxwool, breaking generations-old trading links that no doubt caused confusion among the natives. Fewer ships arrived from Greenland, down to only 2 ships by 1300. Woodcutting, the secondary industry of Venarfjord, resumed its former importance as the dominant economic activity.
A secondary factor likewise damaged the Norse trade--epidemic disease. In the early 13th century, Norse-introduced chickenpox, measles, and whooping cough killed at least 10% of the population of eastern North America, sparked wars and famine, and kept populations declining throughout that century. A fourth disease, seal influenza, spread from Fusania in the late 13th century with similar effect. Smaller populations demanded fewer goods and demanded goods with military value such as tomahawks and especially swords, recognised by natives as weapons of the elite. As the Norse were always more loathe to part with these goods for fear they'd be turned against them, this further crippled trade.
The decimation of tribes due to disease led to new tribal migrations which led to war with those who already lived in the area. Unlike the local muskox herders for whom reindeer herding was secondary, these newcomers were primarily reindeer herders, and like all reindeer herders, they strictly controlled muskox herding lest the deadly diseases carried by muskox decimate their herds.
These natives viewed the Norse as allies of those they sought to displace, sparking destructive wars and murders of Norse woodcutters and merchants that reduced the amount of muskox pelts for trade. Further, the Norse refusal to trade weapons to their allies gave them a reputation as stingy, leading to sporadic conflict even there.
This same factor occurred in Greenland. The initial wave of Thule culture migrants fragmented into two tribes based on their stance toward the Norse. The pro-Norse Thule group abandoned reindeer herding entirely, concentrating only on muskox for the sake of Norse trade, while the remaining tribes abandoned muskox. Neither group acquiesced to the Norse hunting in their land, which made relations between all three peoples difficult at best and shifting depending on political circumstances.
Politics in Iceland similarly affected Greenland. As climate change stopped much of the Greenland-Iceland trade, the Icelanders began to send expeditions directly with Markland. Most of these were timber cutting expeditions, although some traded with Venarfjord directly. Semi-permanent Icelander camps even appeared. The Icelanders were not well-liked by the Inuit (whom they held no pre-existing relation with), nor the Marklanders of Venarfjord for their supposed stinginess.
As the chief of Venarfjord set the price of goods in Markland, he was a hated figure among the Icelanders for charging exhorbitant prices for oxwool and timber. In 1293, an Icelandic merchant assassinated the elderly chief of Venarfjord, Pall Audunsson, leading the Greenlandic Althing to ban Icelanders from Markland. This decree was often ignored, including by some Marklandic trading posts, yet when enforced it was met with violence and feuding. This was the beginning of what some historians term the Marklander Wars, memorialised in sagas written in Greenland and Iceland, a lengthy period of feuding between Greenlanders and Icelanders.
All of this brought about the collapse of the Norse trading empire in the New World. The first region to suffer Norse abandonment was the Gulf of Kanada as well as those further east such as the Migmak and Havnaki. Trade with those peoples was abandoned by 1285 after a particularly severe epidemic depopulated their villages. The one ship every year or so that ventured this far south stopped coming, with the Ilinu and Utameknisat taking up the trade instead.
Norse trading posts in Markland followed. Of the four that existed, each faced a serious decline in Norse activity. They became almost exclusively used for timber cutting, with timber shipped directly to Greenland or Iceland. Icelanders took over one trading post in 1295 following the murder of the Greenlander captain heading the expedition, but in 1300 the Innu burnt the post and massacred 16 Icelanders.
Venarfjord itself faced difficulties thanks to the decreasing local supply of timber. Even in the Medieval Warm Period, it was fairly close to the tree line in Markland, yet as the climate cooled severe blizzards increased, killed many mature trees, and stunted the growth of new trees. Further, the population of the entire area numbered over 1,000 year-round and over 2,000 seasonally when accounting for both Norse and Skraeling, a number maintained for over 150 years. This population had consumed a massive amount of wood for tools, firewood, repair, and export, rendering the area bereft of trees. This forced the population to travel further and further to get wood, rendering them vulnerable to opportunistic murder or capture from roaming enemies or wild animals.
Far to the north, the Norse trade in Helleland survived somewhat longer, but epidemics and the cooling climate forced an end to regular Norse visits by 1300 (although sporadic visits occurred as late as 1350). Although once famed by the Norse for how cheaply the Skraelings sold oxwool, even this wasn't enough, for an increase in storms and sea ice ensured the Norse could not even reach the island.
The end result of this was the consolidation of the oxwool trade in Greenland, a factor that reinvigorated the Norse in that region. The Western Settlement in particular benefitted, stopping a decline that had begun in the mid-13th century, yet even the Middle Settlement benefitted. As Greenland's other major good, walrus ivory, declined from an increase in the elephant ivory trade from Africa and Asia, oxwool became practically the sole export.
Even Greenland's dominance of the oxwool trade good not halt their difficulties. The cooling climate and expanding glaciers ruined farms on the fringes, while Inuit raids prompted a further consolidation. Farmsteads became increasingly fortified, especially around the Western Settlement's capital Sandnes. Herjolfsnes was not given to listening to complaints from this region and often carried out their own Inuit policy independent of what the local chiefs in the Western Settlement desired. Beset with enemies from within and without, Greenland was to face repeated disaster in the centuries to come.
This chapter primarily covers Greenland and Iceland, with a brief glimpse into Europe TTL. Aside from a few ATL Norse (I guess the result of butterflies caused by the difference in the Vinland expeditions of Leif and Thorfinn and the oxwool isssue) figures, I'm keeping the Old World mostly OTL for now. Things are still mostly unchanged since Iceland being a bit richer isn't going to much affect Norwegian policy. I've provided a lot of context on the functioning of Greenlandic and Icelandic society which is all OTL--they were very unique for medieval Europe and indeed closer to how many eastern Amerindian societies functioned both OTL and TTL.
The Icelandic and Greenlandic characters are a mix of historical and fictional characters. I should note that Þórðr kakali died in Norway before he could return to Iceland on behalf of the king, but he seems to have stood a chance of bringing Iceland under Norway's rule so I have him living another decade. His brother Tumi was killed in the 1240s, but he survives TTL. His son Sighvat is historic as well. A wealthier Iceland, combined with a competent heir (OTL it seems Gissur jarl, who is killed with his sons TTL, had no real heir), makes the position of Icelandic Jarl survive TTL. In Greenland it does not, perhaps because of Greenland's insignificance even with the oxwool trade.
This chapter comes out right before Christmas and the start of winter and covers suitably northern and cold lands. Or perhaps not so cold since as I post this, much of North America as far south as Florida is colder than Greenland. Have a happy holidays and New Year, since the next entry (or map) won't be out before then. This entry is the last of those covering the rest of North America outside of Fusania, so the next entry will return to Fusania, specifically the Ringitsu in the late 13th century and their continued exploration. Thank you for reading!
 - Ölurskraeling is the Norse term for the Innu and other Algonquian speakers
 - Chiefs often served as priests in Iceland, much to the consternation of the Norwegian church. A few even became bishops, although as time went on this became increasingly outrageous to the Archbishop of Nidaros. Priests committing simony and other crimes like fathering illegitimate children or being married was extremely common in Iceland and Greenland. Yet because of the reform of the church in Norway, Magnus Ulfsson (same man as the boy in Chapter 61, now obviously well-matured) will face an uphill battle to gain Greenland's episcopate.
 - No matter the truth of the supposed founder of Norway Harald Fairhair, his conquests, and his rule (all of which are shrouded in legend), it's clear the Icelanders came to view him as a tyrant figure by the 13th century
 - Like in Iceland, in Greenland there were a set number of chiefdoms which were not based on geography (outside of the ability of the goði who held it to attract followers to his seat). One chief relocating to Markland thus reduces the number of chiefs in Greenland, since there doesn't seem to have been a mechanism for creating new chiefdoms (which was a weakness in the system)
 - Sandnes was the largest farm of the Western Settlement and was noted in Norse times for its port having a longer sailing season. However, it was further away from Iceland and Norway than Herjolfsnes, Hvalsey, or other ports of call in the south.
 - "Sauðnaut" ("sheep-cattle") is the modern day Icelandic term and an obvious calque of the muskox's scientific name "ovibos", but had the Norse really exploited muskox to the degree they do TTL it seems like a logical name. "Sannolt" seems like one potential modern English spelling
 - Naskappenfjord is Groswater Bay/Lake Melville, a very long fjord in Labrador
 - Grenholt is Rigolet, NL. Both Viga-Haukr and his ally Magnus are historical figures named in the Sturlung saga as convicts who fled to Greenland. I edited a previous chapter to add a reference to Magnus Markusson earlier ITTL as it fit better.
 - Sometimes left untranslated as "landnám", referring to the manner by which the Norse divided up the free land in Iceland and Greenland
 - Bjørneøen ("Bear Island") is the modern form of the name likely given to Disko Island in Greenland by the Norse, who did indeed have a trading post there. Nordsetr is an actual term, but expeditions to Markland seem to have been rare enough (unlike the seasonal expeditions to Disko Island) that the Norse never used a contrasting term
 - It was not true feudalism where peasants or even tenant farmers were tied to their land, but effectively all tenant farmers were required to work the fields of a landowner and follow his choice of chief since early in Iceland's history, and this system survived for centuries even after Norway and then Denmark took over the island. Thus, urbanisation will be limited at best.
 - Part of the failure of Greenland OTL was no doubt its failure to maintain communication with Iceland, but this was logical given the lack of good shipbuilding material and the fact that sailing to Iceland was not particularly shorter and rather more dangerous due to ice floes than sailing to Bergen. Worse, there weren't really many goods in Iceland worth trading for. TTL somewhat mitigates that, but the danger factor is still present.
 - I believe this would be possible under medieval Scandinavian law. A lot of Greenland seems to have had an independent parliament (unnamed IIRC, but highly likely it was also called the Althing as in Iceland) and its own bishop which seems to be because connections with Iceland were sporadic at best. Not the case TTL (and especially not with Markland, whose status is unclear) so I believe Iceland (which remains under a local jarl TTL much like Orkney) could plausibly try and include Greenland as a vassal
 - These would be the Beothuk, who had a distinct use of red ochre body paint compared to other groups. The Kinngait culture are the Dorset, who had an offshoot present on Newfoundland at one point
 - This was occasionally found in Norse culture, but is common among some matrilineal societies like those found in India. As the majority of East Coast natives, including the Innu/Ilinu, are matrilineal, it seems logical that this hybrid culture would adopt this naming practice
 - Natikyst is Anticosti Island, Ministikyst is St. Pierre, and Sanutsimøen is the Magdalen Islands, all island groups in the Gulf of St. Lawrence
 - The Leivian exchange is so named for Leif Eriksson. These animals would most closely resemble modern Icelandic landraces of sheep, dogs, chickens, cats, etc., although the cats are also partially based on the Maine Coon (the polydactyl nature) and Norwegian forest cat. A small founding stock and the natural conditions of that corner of North America would probably mean the cats would evolve to look like one of those two modern breeds.
 - A similar system is found among the Ojibwe and Mi'kmaq OTL and appears to derive from petroglyphs and was used for mnemonic purposes. Most of the information recorded is sacred knowledge and is thus restricted in use and knowledge. While the writing are pre-Columbian in origin, it's unclear to what degree missionary writing influenced their evolution