Background Information

The Vales: A semi-stateless society (courts, legislature, no executive arm of government) loosely modeled on saga period Iceland. See my article:

"Private Creation and Enforcement of Law -- A Historical Case." Journal of Legal Studies, (March 1979), pp. 399-415.

Archery Details: Most are borrowed from J. D. Latham and W. F. Paterson, Saracen Archery, Holland Press, London 1970, an annotated translation of The Complete Manual of Archery for Cadets, written in the fourteenth century by Taybugha al-Baklamishi al-Yunani. The technique for shooting at an enemy below you, mentioned by Harald to Hen and later used by Asbjorn, is called "jarmaki." The technique for shooting short arrows to very long ranges--probably four to five hundred yards---used a device called a "sipar," a sort of miniature shield attached to the inside of the forearm of the bow hand  to permit the head of the arrow to be drawn behind the bow. Harald achieves the same effect by sliding his light archer's shield around to the inside of the arm.

Chapter Subheads: Almost all are from the Elder Edda, mostly from Havamal, sometimes with a little editing. One subhead, however, is from a book first published in the twentieth century--again with a little editing.

Cover Illustration: The Ladies are in plate instead of mail, the Order banner is gold on green instead of green on gold, the Lamellar armor overlaps down instead of up, and Harald would never put such fancy barding on any horse of his. But I like it anyway—there are no chain mail bikinis and the general feel conveyed by the picture is, I think, just about right.

The Empire: Various elements are modeled on the Roman and Byzantine Empires and the Abbasid Caliphate. The political situation was inspired by the conflict between Haroun al-Rashid's sons. My Emperor, however, is a much more competent ruler than al-Rashid.

Lamellar Armor: Instructions for making a lamellar klibanion of hardened leather can be found in the article "The Perfect Armor." The method for hardening leather armor described in that article is unlikely to be historically correct, for reasons discussed in "The Perfect Armor Improved," which describes a different and at least conjecturally period technique.

Oat Cakes:  "the only things they take with them [when riding to war] are a large flat stone placed between the saddle and the saddle-cloth and a bag of oatmeal strapped behind. When they have lived so long on half-cooked meat that their stomachs feel weak and hollow, they lay these stones on a fire and, mixing a little of their oatmeal with water, they sprinkle the thin paste on the hot stone and make a small cake, rather like a wafer, which they eat to help their digestion." (Froissart’s Chronicles, Penguin Books translation, describing Scottish troopers c. 1400.)

My recipe:

1/2 c "Scottish Oatmeal" -- coarsely ground whole oats.    
1/4 c water    1/4 t salt

Grind the oatmeal to something intermediate between what you started with and bread flour; I use a spice grinder for the purpose. Add salt and water and let the mixture stand for about fifteen minutes. Make flat cakes 1/4" to 3/8" in thickness, cook on a medium hot griddle, without oil, about 3-5 minutes.

Stories: The book mentions various stories that Harald tells. Other than the ones involving events he was a part of, they are based on stories that exist in medieval sources. I will leave identifying them—there are at least three—as a puzzle for readers.