If a Viking man spouted poetry to a love interest, he could lose his life. Why? As with everything about the Vikings, there is only tantalizing little clues. Through the Poetic Edda, an oral history that wasn’t written down until the 13th century, we see glimpses of everyday life. It has been speculated this rule was to keep men from falsely leading a maiden on. Or possibly it wasn’t considered manly for a Viking warrior to spout soft words of love.
Most Viking marriages were arranged much like a modern company merger. There were strict rules about property and how the bride’s dowry would be dispersed. Viking women had more rights and freedoms than any of their counterparts at that time in history. This would have been due to their traveling husbands. Viking men were traders, leaving in the spring and wandering all summer long while the world was ice free. The return rates weren’t all that great back then. Between the dangers of ship travel, diseases in foreign lands, and raiding, a Viking man might never return.
So the Viking woman ran things at home. She had to oversee the livestock, production of crops and profit. While she was at it, she also prepared meals and made things for around the house. There was no local Wal-Mart to help out. It was a tough life. For this reason, all land inheritance was usually passed down through the woman.
With various gods, traditions, and superstitions, a marriage ceremony usually lasted on average, nine days. The Vikings had a thing about the number nine. There was drinking and feasting of course, along with rituals to entice the gods to give fertility, wealth and health. Quite often family swords were exchanged, and proof given that the marriage was consummated.
Another interesting concept − Viking woman could divorce easily. All she had to do was stand next to the bed shared with her husband and in front of three witnesses, simply say out loud three times, “I divorce thee.” Yup, it was that easy. Maybe that is why the men treated their women so well.
While monogamy was practiced, it wasn’t set in stone. If the man was lusty and wealthy enough, and his wife agreed to it, he could take a second wife. It was nothing to own several slaves as well. In fact, he was encouraged by his loving wife, to have a slave for copulation during her later months of pregnancy.
What of possible bastard offspring? Those long summer days did get a little lonely while Olaf was gone. Unfortunately, if a woman conceived while her husband was away, he had the right to deny feeding or clothing any offspring. When a baby was born, if the head of the household did not claim it on the ninth day, the baby was ‘exposed,’ meaning it was left to die in the forest.
The first time I actually immersed myself in a romance novel I felt like I was eavesdropping on people who were falling in love, and it started an addiction.
I prefer a character-driven historical romance. The birds and bees operation of making babies is great, but I like to get to know the characters and what makes them tick. Learning their faults, strengths and wondering how they are ever going to get together with all the problems in the way. I love learning the history of the time and seeing it through their eyes.
For years, as I dreamed of writing my own stories. I had one story that was the most persistent of the brood of ideas. I’ve always been fascinated by the Viking people, back before it became cool. I thought a Viking historical romance would be awesome.
As with all of this writing stuff, I have found I’m quite naïve. Ever wondered how you go about writing a historical novel? They say write what you know for a reason. It is hard to describe something you have never seen or done.
I’ve studied the subject of Vikings and their history, and it seemed easy enough. Throw in a few Viking sounding names, and a few sword fights and you have it. Right?
I found it harder to do the research than the actual writing. First, you need to find a time period. Then, you have to find out what was the political climate, who was in charge. Kings? Dictators? Governments? What battles were going on?
Once you determine how that fits into your plot, then you decide on names. Of course, they need to be period correct if you want an actual historical feel to it. Then there is religion, customs, foods, and daily living. What were their tools called? What was the wildlife they would be eating? Since it is set in Norway I was surprised to find they had different flora and fauna than, of course, someplace like North America, where I’ve lived all my life.
Next, there is clothing. Did they make it? Where did they get the materials? What were their houses like? The weather? Oh, wait! Are there different time zones and climates than where I live? What were the names of the towns of that time? Did you know that Selby, England was called Seletun in the Viking times? Or what is now York, was called Eoforwic? How do you pronounce them? How long did it take them to get across the North Sea? What were their trading routes?
My favorite was the day I had to actually Google, “How to Curse in Norse.” I found they didn’t use our short little words. Nope, they made insults an art form. Actually, entertainment called “flyting!” No joke. One of my favorite lines, “You are a drinker of sheep piss,” has entertained me for hours!
I’m deathly afraid of water. Traveling by boat is not something I ever want to do. I found it humorous I was going to have to learn about boats because that was the Vikings main mode of transportation. How fast were the ships? What were they built of? How were they designed? How many people could fit on one? How did they do long sea crossings? What did they eat? The questions are endless and so were the books and videos I perused to learn about it.
At first, when I started out, I would write one sentence and then spend the next hour looking up history or spellings. I have since gotten into the swing of things. I have built quite an organized research set-up. I learned to write out the scene and star the things I need to go back and check out. Then insert facts and figures later on. That went much smoother. I found it hard to break out of my little world of the past, to go to the local grocery store for food, after I’ve spent a half hour explaining how they cut up and cooked reindeer, or prepared lutefisk from dried fish.
Now, the journey is complete. The editing, beta reading, and formatting are done. Norse Hearts is ready to be printed and go out into the world. After all this time living with Einar, Seraphina, Dagfinn and Jarl Roald, I feel like I’m saying goodbye to a family. I am nervous about their debut and I hope they will entertain all of you as much as they entertained me.
For you, I hope when you are done reading it you will have laughed, cried, worried, fallen in love and become an expert on the Viking life of 760 AD. And enjoyed the journey so much you can’t wait for the next Viking epic, Assassin Hearts.
One thing for certain, I feel sorry for my High School History teacher and how hard she tried to teach me history. I have far more respect for her. If she was around to read this book, I know I would have impressed her and received an A!
Look for the release of Norse Hearts at the following links:
A month had passed since the funeral. I had stayed strong on the outside for all to see and succeeded in getting through it. Now, each morning when I arose, the reality seeped in a little more each day and the shock receded, leaving me raw and vulnerable.
I went from wanting someone to mention him or console me, to wanting to hurt in silence and avoid everyone. In this stormy sea, the squalls frequently came with drenching tears or became the doldrums of not feeling anything.
There was no direction. No goals. No plans for the future. I was adrift with no forward movement. The only constant was the ache and the knowledge it would never be the same. I was bitter that life marched on, dragging me with it.
This stage, or whatever you want to call it, differs for everyone. I know this after spending hours talking with others who, like me, have gone through it. I wanted to hurry up this stage, get it over quickly, thinking the sooner I did; I could capture some normalcy again. Now all I can do is record my journey and know that no two are alike.
Before Darrell passed, I had ample warning he would go before I would. We talked. I thought we covered it all. Finances, kids, what I would do after he passed. But no amount of planning or talking helps you prepare for the actual journey and the tidal wave of confusing emotions.
I thought it would go this way. I would grieve, hurt and then rebound. I would become a missionary in Africa or serve the homeless at a local soup kitchen. I would devote my life to my Lord. I would be a pillar of strength and guidance to my family. I would go on living because I thought I could handle being alone. I would be a good widow in everyone’s eyes, holding my love for him like a beacon. I would be the example of true love that never dies.
Then one night in the ER when I was deathly ill, it all came crashing down around me. I finally admitted to myself there is a difference between alone and being lonely.
I was depressed. I had isolated myself in our winter home in Yuma. I had lost weight due to not eating and sleeping. I couldn’t see a way forward because I was so wrapped up in my grief. Ending up in the same emergency room Darrell had on the same day a year later was a wake-up call. A stern ER doctor lectured me on what I needed to do to get myself healthy. I listened.
I reconnected with friends. Joined chat sites. Came home to the kids and started working on the house. I picked up writing again. Went out into the community and found volunteer work at the local cancer clinic. And ran into someone I wasn’t looking for.
At first, we just chatted. Then I tried to pushing him away in a panic because I didn’t want anything more than a friend. He firmly explained it was just an offer of friendship. Since he was four years out from his loss, I wanted to know about his journey in hopes I could glean from it some kernel of wisdom, a vision of hope.
So began a wonderful friendship and the year passed. On the anniversary of my husband’s death, family and friends helped light Chinese lanterns to remember the man who loved us all. The one I released hovered over the house as if he was saying he missed me. I was gaining more peace every day, moving forward sluggishly, but still not wanting to release the life I had shared with him entirely.
His clothes still hung in the closet. I felt I lost more of him with each change, with each item of his that slipped away. But I also knew it was healthy and to heal I needed to move on with life.
My husband and I had blended a family. Three of his kids and two of mine from previous marriages had bonded well. In fact, the kids had done far better than I had. Still, I worried about them going forward. So I tried to be a good example.
Except then, my new friend proposed. We had slowly begun to date, even though we didn’t think of it that way. We met for coffee, had lunch, even a few dinners. All the while talking about our former spouses and growing closer.
What should I do? Darrell and I had never talked about having someone else in our lives if one of us passed on. I loved him so much I never entertained the idea there would be anyone else. What would happen now? How could I replace the love I felt for one man with another? Where was my narrative of carrying my love for my husband until the day I died? What would the kids think? What would my friends think? What did I think?
It seemed a widow’s conundrum. It is not that I will ever love Darrell less, nor can I. And I could never, ever replace him. In fact, I struggled with the idea I could even love another man. But I had this same panic before my second child was born. I remember watching my daughter sleep one night while her sister stirred in my belly. I was worried. How could I ever love another baby as much as I had loved my first? Yet, when the second daughter was born, I fell in love immediately. Not with the same love, but a love that was hers and hers alone.
I had forgotten the heart is inflatable. It can stretch to love many. The thing is – each love is different – because each person is different.
How could I explain to those who were still grieving the loss of their father or friend, that I could still love Darrell? That the love I felt for him was there and it would never go away. It left a permanent scar that would ache every time there was a family gathering, and he wasn’t there. Or I visited a place that we had shared, and I remembered our past life together. Every holiday, every memory that crossed my mind would have a bittersweet twinge of melancholy.
Yet, I needed to move on. Continue to experience life. New loves would come in. Not to replace, but to reside alongside all the other loves that were already there.
It is lonely to live without your soul mate, the love of your life. But there are still people I love left in my life. The love that grew and was shared by two souls, who became one, now overflows, fills and touches all who are still in it. I realize I can choose to honor that love until we meet again, by living alone and always in its shadow. Or I can go out and experience continued growth to my heart and spread the love I have received.
I decided to honor my love for my husband by giving more love to another lonely heart. There are those who may think less of me or feel I didn’t love my husband enough to stay a grieving widow. I can say I totally understand.
I understand because I once thought that way. I have learned that until you travel the road, you don’t know how the trip is going play out. I remember what I thought it would be like to go to Africa and when I did, it was nothing like the journey itself.
So it is with grief. It is the most singularly, loneliest path we will travel in life. No one can walk it with us, and you never know where the path might lead, or what emotions you will experience.
Love those in your life who are grieving. Understand their choices may not always make sense to you. And remember one day you too will experience this path. There is no way to prepare for it except watching how others travel it.
Know that love continues to expand. It grows and flourishes when it is fed and understood. It is not meant to be locked away to die, never to be gifted again.
Last night, my friend stopped over and asked me to look something up for her on my computer. As my screen saver popped up, one of my favorite pictures of Darrell appeared. His eyes were crinkled in one of my favorite grins.
She looked sadly at me and asked, “Do you really think that helps?”
I didn’t have to ask what she was referring to; I knew it was about my grief over his passing. They say anger is part of the process of grieving. I had been fortunate that there hasn’t been really anything to be angry about. Yes, I missed him, yes, it had been hard to lose him, but really his final days had been peaceful and our relationship up to the last minute, had been so good.
Yet, a comment like this, even eleven months out, had a way of worming under my skin and setting off a bigger spark of anger each time I was questioned on how I was handling my grief.
Aren’t we all different? Isn’t it refreshing we aren’t all the same? Each of us sees through different eyes and perceives the world in so many wonderful ways around us. This is why I have always respected how differently each person handles things in their lives. Sometimes I worry their coping methods are destructive to their health or way of life, but still they have the freedom of choice to do this.
I had so many people who were wonderfully supportive. My favorites were the ones who just listen. Or ask me how I’m coping and really wanted to hear how I was doing it. My least favorites were those who had a preconceived idea of how I should be doing it.
I’ve been questioned about such silly things. Why are his clothes still in our closet? Why haven’t I spread his ashes and why do I wear my wedding ring? To them, there is a rule somewhere about this. I respect that through the years there have been some common customs developed to help people move on, but they aren’t set in stone.
I still have need of feeling some normalcy in my life, so the clothes remain until that need passes. We had wanted our ashes spread together, so I must wait to add mine to his. The wedding ring was my version of wearing black. I needed that support, that closeness to my husband, to the way of life I had. It also helped keep away others and not have the dreaded question asked, “So are you married?”
Whatever my reasons, they should be respected. Pictures of my loved one should be a normal thing. As my granddaughter pointed out, I could have asked if she had pictures of her grandchildren on her phone. They live in another state, so why wouldn’t she want to have pictures of them when she couldn’t be with them. She still loves them even though she doesn’t see them every day and wants a reminder of them. Why wouldn’t I continue to have pictures of Darrell decorate my living space? Just because he has passed, doesn’t mean he never existed. I can’t wipe my memory clean. Starting over is hard enough, but I need the foundation my married relationship created for me to continue on.
Grieving people are just touchy, each in a different way. No wonder people avoid friends who have lost loved ones. It is hard to determine what will and won’t offend or hurt them. I was on that side once. I had never lost a loved one and felt a deep agony over what to say to someone who had.
But don’t worry, no matter what you say or do, we understand you are trying to help and just overlook the unintentional mistakes. Just don’t be surprised at tears, a growl or a blank look. Just keep being there for us. We will heal; it is just going to take a little time.
The hardest thing about writing a book isn’t writing it. Some would say it’s just trying to actually sit down and write it. Some would say it’s the organization, or having the perfect plot, or of showing not telling, or even the construction of the grammar-perfect sentences. I would disagree. It is the editing process. In fact, it is so hard, that many are tempted to skip it or give up on it all together.
I would have to admit, first and foremost, I’m a reader. All my life, reading has been my entertainment, crutch, mentor, and escape. With the event of Amazon I discovered I could comment on books that I bought, so I became a reviewer. Eventually, for some strange reason I still do not comprehend, I felt the desire to even write a book and try my hand at self-publishing. So, as you can see, I’ve experienced all sides of how a book is created.
But I want to thank all those authors who go through the editing process and don’t give up. It is, of all the aspects of the book business, the process I hate the most. I know that I must go through an edit. My editor can verify this and has earned her halo going through it with me.
This doesn’t give me the right to sit in judgment of anyone’s book creating process, but it definitely gives me an understanding of the reasons why it could be easy for someone to not want to do it.
I do admire those writers who persevere. How they give of their time, trudge onward into the wee hours of the night, cussing and cursing, pounding their heads against walls and still come through the other side with a full head of hair.
I grow weary of those who evade the process or think it’s not necessary. I see it in books that have glaring grammar issues, poor formatting, poor plot structure or no plot at all. Something an editor worth their salt would help a struggling author to correct. I tire of those books I review that could be so good and yet when I contact the author to gently suggest an edit, am told that it is great just the way it is.
Or those who profusely produce and could be great, yet can’t see that we all have to go through an edit. I’ve heard many an excuse, but in my opinion, it boils down to one thing, an edit hurts, it is hard work and it takes dedication.
I remember one morning waking up after a long night editing, complaining to my husband, “Why the heck am I arguing with my editor over imaginary people and imaginary plot scenes? It is all just make believe!”
My pride has been stung again and again when I think I’ve written that perfect scene. When I’m sure the sentence is perfect in grammar. When I add so many neat things in a story, only to be told it has nothing to do with the plot, get rid of it. And it goes on and on. I want to believe in the dream of being such a great author that I write it perfectly the first time.
But Reality is, writing a book is not about writing it right the first time. It is about writing and writing and writing until you get it right.
After losing the love of my life in September, I have floated aimlessly on the waves of change, until the last few weeks. Then I decided to get back into my second passion in life.
I’ve taken control of the helm once again through the re-organization of my writing world. First was to hire someone that had knowledge of the vast digital world I am helpless in. Starting with my blog, you will notice new banners, social links and a page advertising the upcoming new book due to Mr. Richter’s skills, firstname.lastname@example.org. I have revised the first two books and added two children’s books as well.
For those of you who have been following my journaling on the 33 years of travel through cancer with my husband, (Living in the Shadow of Death) do not fear, I am still working on it. It will now be available on my Author website. It will be linked here and notification served through Facebook.
I needed the freedom to post again about my writing journey and to re-blog some of the awesome blogs I run across in my travel through cyber-space.
I must sadly report that I’m still editing Norse Hearts. This is a 100,000 worded romance, and trust me, grammar is not a talent of mine, just ask Chryse Wymer, http://ocdeditor.weebly.com/, my ever long-suffering editor. But when it is finished you will be inundated with advertising joy.
Meanwhile, thank you for following my little corner of insanity.
Recently I decided to raise awareness of the upcoming release of “Norse Hearts” by entering the cover in Little Book Corner’s Book Cover contest on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/littlebookcornerpage
Thank you to all who came out and voted! I am touched and very appreciative of your support. Now I would like to give you a little reward for your effort.
The following is the first chapter of the soon-to-be-released, “Norse Hearts.” Enjoy!!
Norse Hearts – Chapter 1 – The Raid
“That which has a bad beginning is likely to have a bad ending.”
Britain – 760 AD
Einar stood in the ship’s bow as its oars sliced the water in perfect unison, powering the ship effortlessly towards the riverbank. Uneasily, he rubbed the back of his neck. There would be no honor to Odin in what they were about to do. Watching the giant man at the steering tiller, he waited. At the helmsman’s nod, Einar raised his arm in a silent signal. The oarsmen quietly pulled in the sculls through the oar locks. The dragon ship’s momentum sent her bow onto the shore with a hiss. He glanced over as a second ship, with a larger, ornately carved bow, slipped in beside them.
Leaping ashore, the men took on solid form in the ghostly fog. Woolen cloaks covered their broad shoulders and leather tunics studded in various designs of worked metal. Heavy brows pulled into fierce intent and created granite profiles framed by beards. Unhooking their shields from the railing of the ship, those who had swords slid them into wide leather belts or scabbards. Others carried heavy war axes. They shoved helmets—wrought into fiendish metal faces—over wild sea-salted hair.
Church bells pealed, sounding hushed in the fog, as they called to the faithful for evening vespers.
All went silent.
Then, from far off, Einar heard something faint and growing steadily louder: a deep-throated singing—people chanting. Rolling through the humid air, their voices rose in ethereal waves.
The band of warriors moved silently around the trees. Finally reaching the edge of the forest, Einar saw a small, grassy incline with the chapel and monastery at the top. The little hamlet of Seletun had the only church on this stretch of the River Ouse. The stained-glass windows in the sanctuary glowed with jeweled colors. Quickly scanning the area, he saw that there was no challenge. It looked like there were riches to be had here, but he had no desire to kill unless in the heat of battle. In this moment, he was simply being loyal in following his jarl’s orders.
Time slowed as the choir’s chant gave an unholy rhythm to the sounds of creaking leather and the warriors’ heavy breathing. With brightly colored shields, black shadows for eyes under helmets, and swords or battle-axes now in hand, it looked as if heaven and hell were about to collide.
The chant ended just as Einar and his horde hit the chapel doors. Crashing into the sanctuary, he stared at the worshipers’ startled faces. The monk turned from the altar and froze in fear. Women raised their hands to their mouths that had opened in screams. The faithful scrambled to their feet to escape their impending doom. With an animal-like howl, his shield in front of him and his sword held high, Einar led the charge as they fell upon the hapless victims.
Terrified monks pushed over an iron-wrought candelabrum as they fled from the invaders. Flames crept up the heavy tapestries hanging behind the altar, adding the acrid smell of smoke to the carnage’s hellish glow. The warriors struggled and fought with any who stood against them. Their swords’ bright glint was now dulled by blood from those hacked without pity.
Einar’s gaze swept the front pews, noting a kneeling woman. Her bowed head was covered in auburn plaits. A fur-rimmed brown cloak, held together with a large gold brooch, draped over her thin shoulders. He strode forwards, catching an arm, and pulled her up, looking into her fear-widened eyes. He stared for a second at a plain silver cross that hung from her neck and then tore it from her violently. Reaching for the gold brooch, he ripped it from the cloak. Shoving her aside, she fell to the floor with a thin scream.
He whirled, facing the cry that had erupted behind him. A slim girl with copper-tinted hair ran past him, kneeling at the woman’s side, helping her to sit up. He watched a peasant rush the chapel door, and a single slash by the Norseman guarding it sent him into eternity. In the confusion, a monk who had a blonde, petite woman clinging to him screamed as she watched her family and friends die. Einar saw one of his men raise an axe to forever quiet the blonde, but the kneeling redhead lurched to her feet and darted forwards. Shoving the monk and the girl behind her, she glared at the warrior with her arms spread wide, protecting them. The sword hung in midair as the Norseman hesitated, startled by her defiance.
The twinkle of jewels caught Einar’s eye as the cross around her neck swung with the swirl of her cloak. He grasped the warrior’s axe hand, speaking roughly, “Gunnar, hold! She is the one we seek.”
Glancing at the weeping blonde, Einar snapped out, “Spare them. Slaves bring good profit, and we still have room for a few more.” His eyes narrowed as his gaze raked over the redheaded vixen. Her breast rose rapidly with quick breaths, anger setting her face in hard lines. A tan wool cloak, edged with gold embroidery and lined with fur, covered her slight frame. Without another word, Einar grabbed her arm and yanked her against him, fingering the gold cross, staring into her wide green eyes.
“Slitting her throat would lose us a chance of a better profit in ransom. I am taking her with us.”
Gunnar ground out angrily, “Then I claim first rights to her.”
Einar shot back, “No, she is mine. Take the other two.”
He watched Gunnar’s brow furrow and his knuckles whiten as he gripped his axe handle before bringing it down on a bench with a dull thud, the wood splintering. Kicking at the shattered bench, Gunnar pulled the axe loose. Looking at the trembling blonde who still clung to the monk, Einar heard him grunt, seemingly unimpressed with what was left. Slipping the axe handle into a leather loop on his belt, Gunnar grabbed them, joining him.
The redhead beat at Einar with her fist, screaming, “Nay, nay, let me go!” He tightened his hold on her wrist, smiling grimly to himself when he heard her sudden gasp.
Heading out of the church, the warriors grabbed everything of value and quickly searched the bodies lying about for anything of worth. Einar led the horde as they made their way back to the dragon ships, going a little slower for the captives taken and the loot carried. A few Norsemen trailed behind to discourage anyone who found the bravery to get back what had been stolen. The only noise in the foggy evening was the heavy breathing of men fired up from battle and the occasional whimper from the prisoners.
A few of the monks who escaped had gone into the bell tower, and clanging tones now called for help from the village.
Impatiently, Einar tugged on the struggling girl to hurry her along. Breaking from the forest’s edge, he almost lost his grip on the arm he was clutching. Grunting, he turned around, seeing she had wrapped her free arm around a slim tree trunk and dug her heels into the damp soil. Teeth clenched, her lips curled back, and her green eyes had a feral gleam.
“Nay. Nay!” she cried as he increased the pressure on her wrist again. Suddenly, she let go of the tree and braced both feet against his calf, throwing herself back. Her move startled him, and for a brief second, her hand slipped in his grasp. Twisting, she kicked up with her right foot between his thighs. White-hot pain seared through his groin, the air in his pain-constricted lungs leaving in a whoosh through his clenched teeth. His grip loosened while he instinctively sought to clutch his injured manhood. Wrenching free, she fled like a startled rabbit.
Suddenly, Gunnar’s laughter turned into a shout. “After her! She is the lord’s daughter!”
Gunnar had a head start on him, but Einar scrambled over damp rocks, stumbling through the deadfall littering the ground, until he came across a small path. Up ahead was a small meadow, and he watched her run across it, thinking that if he wasn’t in so much pain, he might appreciate the deer-like grace she had in full flight. She definitely knew the forest and had the advantage.
Still limping, he watched Gunnar gain on her. They both disappeared into the woods. His ragged breathing sounded harsh in his ears as he tried concentrating on any nearby noise. Tripping over a tree root, he muttered, “By all that is Thor’s, if he does not beat you, I will!”
Suddenly, he heard a loud shriek and a muffled “umph” as something hit the forest floor. Pushing past the pain, he started jogging. Finally reaching the forest’s edge, he saw Gunnar stretched out over the girl’s small frame. He had both hands imprisoned above her head as his weight pressed her flailing legs into the moist earth.
“Gnògr!” Gunnar growled.
Einar noticed the girl’s sudden stillness, and before he could call out, Gunnar shifted his weight, holding her wrists with one hand while his other hand slipped down her cheek, resting on her throat. The girl tried to move her knee to escape, and suddenly, his fingers tightened, cutting off her air. She froze again, and Gunnar loosened his hand and slid it down over her body, checking out the soft curves.
“Get off of me, you filthy lout! Murderer!” she shouted, struggling wildly again.
“Shhhh,” Gunnar hissed in her ear, pressing her against the ground with his full weight to stop her from moving again.
“Gunnar!” Einar barked.
Gunnar looked up, his brow wrinkling in anger. “What? I caught her, and I have claimed her—again—since you can not seem to hold her.”
“I have first claim and am holding her for ransom. Get off her.”
“Let me have a few minutes; then you can have her back, if you can keep her.” A smirk covered his face.
“Ekki! Let her loose now. Her ransom will cover the worm’s debt. Will you interfere with the jarl’s profit?”
“She is mine!” Gunnar spit back.
Folding his arms over his chest and leaning a shoulder into a tree, Einar stared impassively down at Gunnar. “Fine. You explain to the jarl why she is no longer a maid and why we have nothing to bargain with. I will wait here until you are finished.” He noticed that the girl had stopped struggling, watching the two of them intently. Finally, with a glare, Gunnar brought up his knee beside her hip, still holding her wrists, and with a rough jerk, he drew her up with him as he stood.
“I am not conceding my claim,” he snarled, pushing the girl towards Einar.
Pulling a length of leather from his belt, Einar quickly wrapped it around her wrists, binding her hands before her. Tugging at the length of remaining leather, he started back down the path as Gunnar walked behind, pushing if she slowed.
“You heathen swine! Give me one moment with that fancy sword on your back and I will hack you to pieces. You are nothing but thieving barbarians with pig dung for brains. Lord Allard will see to it you are nothing but food for worms.”
Einar glanced back at her, one eyebrow raised in surprise. Quite a bloodthirsty little thing, he mused. Maybe this is why her betrothed wanted her dead. He could see how her fiery temper might be daunting for a pasty-white worm like Cecil Allard. But Einar found her insults to be quite entertaining.
When the dragon ships came into view, the little vixen planted her feet—having caught her breath and strength—and started fighting again. Gunnar’s laughter grated across his nerves.
In one swift turn and scoop, he slung her over his shoulder. Putting his arm around her legs, he kept her still. She beat against his back with her bound hands and screamed.
“You son of a boar! Murdering heathen! Put me down!”
Loud laughter from the warriors around the boats drifted up, only adding to her agitation. A young, lanky warrior came up alongside him.
“I see you caught her. She sounds like a cat in season. If they did not hear the bells, they certainly will hear her.”
Einar grunted. With a few long strides, he reached the dragon ship. Her shifting movements and the tug on the scabbard strapped across his back warned him that she was trying to pull the sword out. Suddenly, Einar dropped his shoulder, dumping her on the ground. She took a deep breath to scream, but his large, rough hand descended over her mouth, cutting it off. He felt her lips pull back as she bared her teeth to bite, but he pressed her head against the side of the boat, his hand pushing against her mouth.
He said to the lanky warrior beside him, “Tell her to cease.”
“Why? You can speak Angles just as well as I can.”
Einar glared at him. “Do it.”
Stepping up, the Norseman spoke quietly in the girl’s language. “Ladye, if you do not cease your struggles, Einar will bind and gag you.”
Taking his hand away from her mouth, Einar’s fingers grasped her arm in a tight grip.
The girl stilled, staring at the warrior who had spoken. She took a deep breath and spoke softly. “How is it you speak as I?”
Einar watched Dagfinn pull his shoulders back and straighten. “I was born in this land and once was slave to the Norp weg. I am now called Dagfinn, shield hand to Einar Herjolfsson, your new master.”
Her eyes opened wide as she stared at the youth for a few seconds.
“I . . . I am no one’s property! I will not be anyone’s slave. Tell your lord to slay me now.” She drew herself up, squaring her shoulders, and stared into the dark holes of Einar’s helmet, seeking out the eyes behind it to convey her defiance.
Einar chuckled. “She is worth more alive. Quite dramatic, is she not?”
“Ladye, Einar refuses to slay you. A dead slave brings no profits,” Dagfinn said, a smile quirking at the edges of his lips.
“My father, Lord Landis Forthred, will pay him, if this is about coin. I am to be married tomorrow. My dowry is substantial, and my father will meet his demands,” she said, standing straighter, pushing her chin out.
Einar’s intense gaze sized her up.
Gunnar joined them, leaning against the side of the boat. “If what she says is true, there are several Forthreds who are related to the King of Northumbria. They can well afford a large ransom, but we have to meet with Roald in a fortnight, and he may not appreciate the problems she brings. Or did you think about any of that before you spared her?”
He gazed coldly back at his stepbrother. “We held our end of the bargain. She is gone—he does not have to marry her—but he did not hold up his end, so she will pay his debt, one way or another. You would pass up a chance for increased profit?”
“I think she would make a wonderfully obedient wife; do you not agree, Einar?” Dagfinn replied with a wolfish grin.
A scowl darkened Einar’s face. “Boy, if your sword arm was as quick as your wit, I would not need half of my men.”
Sudden silence fell between them as they stared at her. The girl shifted, her hands twisting in the bindings. Einar finally snarled out, “We need to go.”
Dagfinn translated quickly. “We are leaving. He will consider your offer.”
She beat her bound hands against her legs, the fingers laced and white as she spit out, “Did you not tell him I am to be married tomorrow? The lout can speak to my father now!”
Einar grabbed the leather lead; she pulled back against it, stomping her foot to emphasize her words. “I will not go. I must marry Lord Allard tomor . . . .”
Her words were muffled as Einar suddenly grabbed a length of leather from his belt and turned her around, his brawny forearm crushing her against his chest. She started to scream, but he shoved a rough piece of leather into her mouth, tying it off behind her head as she thrashed. Trying to shriek around the gag, she choked. She brought up her elbows, shoving into his gut. He caught his breath, scooping her up and pressing her against his chest, squeezing the air from her lungs.
“Move it, boy!” Einar ordered Dagfinn. “I am tired of her beating me like a dog!”
Gunnar’s laughter rang out as Dagfinn quickly tied another piece of leather around her ankles while she kicked, hampering the efforts. Einar lifted the squirming bundle up to several of the men in the ship, and they dumped her against the wooden mast.
The sound of wood clacking against wood sounded muffled in the fogged air as Einar and his men hung their shields along the gunwale of the ship. Nimbly vaulting up and into the ship, he made his way to the bow, meeting the glare of the bound and gagged redhead. Seating themselves on wooden trunks, his crew set the oars on end, waiting for his signal. Loot and other captives had been put in the holding area at the base of the dragon ship’s tall mast, and the captives knelt with their hands bound, their faces reflecting misery, fear, and shock.
Einar raised his hand, and, as one, the crew slid the sculls out into the water. Glancing up, he watched the ghostly forms of trees slipping by the dragon ship as it moved silently through the fog. The mist rolled around them in a moist caress as the proud bow disappeared into the gray.
I really feel sorry for my friends, family and social media contacts. It takes a special, patient type of person to put up with a writer. Think about this. You have to accept there is something not quite right with someone who wants to talk about their imaginary worlds and the people who inhabit them. Yet this is thought to be acceptable behavior because they can use the excuse they are writers.
For instance there are those times when you (the loyal friend), are talking to them and they stare off into space, thinking about a possible new plot twist. Talk about rude!
How about when you find them, sobbing in a corner because they just killed off one of their favorite characters? Or you go to a movie with them and they dissect the plot holes, or how it could have ended better?
As if that is not bad enough, they want you to join in on their insanity after the book is done. They insist that you read it, as they sit there bouncing, fidgeting and waiting for your opinion. Let us not forget how you innocently befriended them on Facebook, or Twitter, or a blog, and now you get all their eager updates about their books.
Honestly, I hope this is an exaggeration. There is some truth in it though, because at one time or another, I have been guilty due to my passion about writing. I had to learn how to temper my excitement around my friends. Not to run them off with some of the strange things going through my head, or bore them with my joy in the new hobby I finally had time to pursue.
I want to thank all of those dedicated friends and family who stand by their author friends. We appreciate your time, your votes, your support and your love.
For me this next year is going to be very busy as I work to release two children’s books and a historical romance. I promise to work on my bouncing enthusiasm. So when the advertising shows up occasionally, or I join a contest here or there, please be patient, I promise it won’t be for long!