Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 52

Tor: Viking Master

Ellen Margret

Copyright

eBooks are not transferable. They cannot be sold, shared or given away as it is an infringement of the copyright of this work.

TOR: VIKING MASTER 28 Days of Heart Series Copyright © 2010 ELLEN MARGRET Cover art by Amanda Kelsey Edited by Nicole Bunting eBook conversion by jimandzetta.com

All Romance eBooks, LLC Palm Harbor, Florida 34684 www.allromanceebooks.com

This is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or business establishments, events, or locales is coincidental. All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

First All Romance eBooks publication: February 2010

Foreword

“Nothing’s better than a healthy heart, which helps women endure the ailments of life—physical or romantic—and come out on top of it all. This anthology, with stories by some of the most talented romance writers in the market, will benefit hearts everywhere. It’s not often you can contribute to a worthy cause, one that may well affect you in your lifetime, and at the same time assure yourself of some excellent entertainment. Have a good time, and let your heart be your guide.”

Charlaine Harris

Chapter One

“By Odin, ‘tis the woman who killed our brother!” Tor roared, catching sight of the slender Saxon wench with long, dark, flowing hair. “Aye, Tor, you are right,” Royd agreed. “That is certainly the Saxon who killed our brother last summer. There can be no doubt for she bears the red birthmark on her left arm.” “I would know her even without that mark. I have her face etched into my mind. I saw that face as she stood over our brother, holding the knife with which she killed him. I would have taken her as our slave then had not a small army of Saxons arrived to challenge us.” “Aye, and whilst we were occupied with them, she escaped, much as she does now. She runs like a deer, Tor. You may lose her if you do not go immediately.” Tor dropped the silver candlesticks and the gold statue of the Virgin Mary into the sack which his brother, Royd, held out. He turned on his heels and tore off after the Saxon. Fury and anger fueled his powerful muscles as he gradually began to catch up. She certainly was fleet of foot, despite the fact that she ran on heavy ground, soaked by the recent downpour. Then she slipped, her left ankle turning beneath her. The next second he stood over her as she lay on her back. “God help me,” she muttered. “He shall not help you where you are going, woman. God

Ellen Margaret

does not live in my village.” “You speak the tongue of the Saxon.” “Aye, I know it well. My thralls taught me.” “Why do Norsemen keep tormenting us? ‘Twas bad enough that you ransacked and looted our church last year, yet here you are again.” “Then stop replacing the precious items which we take. Give up Christianity and burn your churches to the ground. There will be nothing for us to claim then, other than slaves.” “You are all disgusting thieves.” Tor glowered at the Saxon. He had already begun to dream up ways to make her suffer. “I hoped to see you again, woman. In some ways this is all too easy.” “Oh, Lord, I recognize you!” “Few people forget Tor Thormund. Mayhap ‘tis because of my size, or then again,” he growled, smiling thinly, “it might have something to do with my charm.” “You have all the charm of a pig,” she spat. He hauled her up and tossed her roughly onto his shoulder. “I can assure you that what little charm I may possess shall not be dished out to you. From now on, woman, you are my thrall, and I can do what I want with you.” “I would rather kill myself than be your slave.” “I doubt you would do that. Your religion forbids it, and besides, I shall be keeping a very close eye on you.” “Where are you taking me?” “To my longboat, which shall sail to Denmark. That shall be your new home, thrall. That is where I shall make you work harder than you have ever worked, and that is where you shall die. You will never see England again.” “You are an evil bully!” she hissed, kicking. Her right foot smashed into his genitals. In direct response he smacked her backside very hard. “Keep still or I shall render

2

Tor: Viking Master

that ass black and blue.” He suddenly saw a tall, broad Saxon, come racing towards him. He had a very impressive sword with a jeweled hilt. It was obvious this was no mere peasant. “Thank God, Ralston comes to save me!” she cried. Tor put her down on the ground. He did not worry that she might escape for her ankle had already swollen up. He pulled out his sword and faced the Saxon. “Did you think to take my Maida? By God, I shall not let that happen!” “She is no longer your Maida. She belongs to me!” Tor roared, thrusting his broadsword at the Saxon’s midsection. The man side-stepped and spun around. He retaliated with a wide sweep of his sword which sliced a section through Tor’s right arm. “You have skill! I should respect your for that, but instead I might kill you.” “Using my skill, I shall kill you, Viking.” “I have decided that neither of us shall die today. I am not ready to die, and you, I think, are too valuable to lose. You will make a fine thrall.” “Is that what you think?” Ralston snarled, taking a step backwards. Tor had seen the branch lying on the ground. He knew the Saxon would fall over it. As he fell, he lost his sword, and Tor kicked it aside. “Now we shall never know who is the better man. You have a sword. I do not.” “Is that a challenge, Saxon?” “Aye.” Tor threw aside his own sword. Far enough so that it was out of the Saxon woman’s reach, then he threw himself at Ralston. They fought like two huge, angry bears, and the fighting ability of the Saxon astounded him. In hand-to-hand fighting, Tor was always victorious, but Ralston proved a formidable opponent. Soon, they both bore significant bruising

3

Ellen Margaret

to their bodies, but Tor would not allow himself to be defeated. He wanted both Saxons as his thralls, and in the end he got them. He stood back, and wiping blood from his mouth, he stared down at the unconscious Saxon. “He did well,” he muttered. Then, out of the corner of his eye he saw that the Saxon woman almost had her hand on his sword. She had crawled to it on her hands and knees. In one swift movement, he snatched it up and sheathed it. “You would like to have thrust that through my back, no doubt.” “Aye, I would.” “You killed my brother. I suppose ‘twould doubly please you to kill me.” “You think I killed your brother?” He saw Royd come running. “I know you killed my brother. That is why your life is going to be misery from now on.”

“More trouble, Tor?” Royd said. “Nothing I couldn’t handle,” Tor replied, staring at the long wound to his right forearm. “That will surely scar.” “I will add it to the rest then. Royd, can you get that Saxon down to the longboat? I’ll take the woman.” “I’ll call Olaf across. ‘Twill take two of us to carry him.”

4

Chapter Two

Maida had never liked being on the water. She avoided boats whenever possible. Now, as the sleek longboat with its brightly colored sail, cut through the churning water, she felt her stomach grow queasier and queasier. “The weather is against us,” Royd said, staring at the seagulls being buffeted about by the sharp wind. “Aye,” Tor replied. “The wind is in the wrong direction to be of any use to us.” He shouted to his men. “Take down the sail and man the oars. At this rate we shall start going backwards and end up in England.” “That is what I pray for,” Maida muttered. “That was my idea of humor, thrall. We do know how to row. We shall not return to your homeland. See, it lies as just a dark stretch of land now, beneath those low-hanging clouds. Bid farewell to it, for you shall never set eyes upon it again.” “Then I shall never see my cousin, and my friends again.” “‘Tis fitting, for I shall never see Denby again.” She felt her stomach flip and gagged. With her hands tied to the bulwark she couldn’t even get up and go to the side. “You are a poor sailor, thrall,” Tor remarked. She hung her head and began to retch. “Damn you! Do you enjoy seeing Maida suffer?” Ralston growled.

Ellen Margaret

“So, you have returned to your senses. Oh, by the way, you lost the fight with me, but I imagine you worked that out.” “Next time we should hand wrestle,” Ralston grunted. “You would still not win.” Maida tensed as the huge Viking strode towards her. The ship was being tossed about in the choppy water, but it didn’t seem to affect his stability as he walked. He bent down, unfastened her bonds and picked her up. His arms held her tightly, and it was like having a metal band around her body. Seconds later he set her on her feet at the edge of the boat. She stared down at the churning water and vomited into the sea. “‘Twas foolish to lose that food. You will get little to fill your belly when we reach my village.” She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. “So, you starve your slaves.” “Nay, just the ones I don’t like. Actually, just you.” She looked at him sideways. His bright blue eyes stared at her with deep animosity. He truly did hate her. “You are a very cruel man, Viking.” “I can be,” he agreed. “Now walk back to where you were before you threw up.” She turned, but when she put weight on her left ankle it gave way. She thought that the Viking moved to catch her, but at the same moment the ship was hit by a very large wave. She got thrown sideways and landed hard on one of the crossbeams. The timber slammed into both breasts, squeezing them against her ribs. She felt a crushing pain in her breastbone, and it left her fighting for breath. She lay in several inches of water on the floor timbers, struggling to breathe. “You are nothing but trouble,” Tor said, picking her up. “I think I shall have to hold onto you until this storm abates.” She was only dimly aware of being picked up, and being carried somewhere. Then Tor, still holding her, sat down on one of the benches. “I would rather drown than have you

6

Tor: Viking Master

holding me.” “Drowning is, I hear, very painful. It is also very final, and I want you to live. Once dead, a thrall cannot suffer, and also cannot serve me.” She took several shallow breaths. She suddenly noticed all the blood on her gown, but she knew it was not her blood. “Is bleeding to death any preferable to drowning?” Tor glanced at his arm. “I shall not bleed to death. Do not get your hopes up.” “I have seen wounds such as that before. People come to me when they are injured. That is a deep wound, and I think you do not fully appreciate quite how deep.” “The bleeding will slow. It does not bother me.” “Not only are you a thief, you are a liar, Viking. That does pain you.”

*****

She was right. It did, but he had only just come to fully realize it. He had been too busy before, but now that he sat down, he began to feel the full force of the pain. His arm felt as though it was being incinerated, and the pain radiated all the way from his shoulder down to his fingers. Blood flowed far too readily from the wound, and it clearly needed binding. “Olaf, find me some cloth to bind this piddling cut.” “That is more than a piddling cut,” Olaf said, when he arrived with a dirty piece of sail cloth. “This is all I have.” “‘Tis filthy,” Maida said, staring at it. “He said ‘tis all we have,” Tor declared. “‘Tis better than nothing.” She shook her head, as she tore off the hem of her gown. “I know not why I bother, but this will serve as a better binding.” She wrapped the cloth around his arm. Finally, she tied it off. “That will only slow the bleeding. The wound, I imagine, will need at least twenty stitches.” “‘Twill heal. When I return my sister will tend to it.”

7

Ellen Margaret

Olaf snorted. “The same sister that almost took off the top of your finger when she tried to dig out a splinter. Tor, your sister may be beautiful, but she does not know how to tend to wounds.” “Iduna does her best. At least she is a fine cook.” “That won’t help your arm.” “Stop harping on about my arm. ‘Tis not deep. This thrall is just trying to create a problem when there isn’t one. I shall be half-healed by the time we reach Denmark.” He glanced at his men seated on the benches. “Put your backs into rowing, Vikings. We head for home.”

8

Chapter Three

Maida watched Tor walk onto dry land. His gait was unsteady, and his brow smeared with sweat. The binding on his arm seemed to be not only saturated with blood, but also puss. “Help the Saxon wench down,” Tor said to Olaf. “I can manage.” She clambered down onto Danish soil. “I do not wish to be touched by any Vikings.” She heard a snort from the Viking known as Dag. “She does not wish to be touched!” Dag laughed. “She had best get used to being a thrall of no importance. Tor has made it clear that she is a loathsome bitch, so he’s not going to mind us all having a turn fucking her.” Maida felt the blood drain from her face. Please God, she hoped he did not speak the truth. “So, can I have her first?” Dag shouted across to Tor. Tor rubbed his eyes and stared up at the sky. Maida could tell from Tor’s stance and his vagueness that he was sick. Not that he had admitted it to any of his men. “Can I, Tor?” Tor swayed. “Can you what, Olaf?” “Nay, I’m Dag. I said, “can I be first to shag the Saxon thrall?” “What Saxon thrall?” “That one,” Dag said. “The one we just took from

Ellen Margaret

England. Can I shag this woman called Maida?” “I’ll think about it,” Tor muttered, still staring into space. So he was considering it. She felt terrified, and she heard Ralston curse behind her, as he climbed off the ship. He obviously feared for her too. Tor suddenly seemed to shake himself. He beckoned to her. “Come here, thrall. You will walk with me. My village is but ten minutes from here.” She went up to Tor. Her hands had been tied in front of her. Ralston’s were also tied, and so too were his ankles. He only had enough length of rope between his ankles to shuffle along. Clearly they thought he might cause trouble, which, of course, given the chance, he would. “You might do yourself a favor and get your men to find you a horse.” “I shall walk. I always walk to the village when I return ”

from

“Looting and plundering,” she cut in sharply. “I see that you are going to be a spirited thrall.” “You may see nothing if you are dead.” He looked at her in surprise, and she saw the filmy look to his eyes. They were no longer a clear blue. They had clouded over with sickness and pain. “Why should I die?” “Because you are hotter than hell. I can feel the heat coming off your body from here.” “‘Tis a slight fever. ‘Twill pass soon enough.” “So, you don’t have a dry throat, a throbbing head, and aching muscles and limbs?” He gave her that look again. She thought he might drop to the ground at any moment.

Thrall, if I go down, then my men lose their jarl. If that happens, they are all likely, with the exception of my brother, to fuck you. Actually, even my brother might. Although he hates you every bit as much as I do, he does find you comely.” The bald truth of that shocked her rigid. She realized then

10

Tor: Viking Master

that it was imperative Tor stay alive. “Do you desire to fuck me?” “Not at all. You disgust me.” She was right, then. Keep him alive, and she might, temporarily at least, be spared being shagged by the whole Viking crew. “Do you have a woman, then, Viking?” “I can have any woman I want from the village, but I choose not to.” “Do you not like women?” He turned his head to glance at her and staggered. He stopped and took great, deep breaths. “I loved a woman, and I made her my wife. Her name was Kelda. She died four years ago, just a short time after giving birth to my beautiful daughter, Inga. I have not taken a woman since.” “Oh, I am sorry.” He raised an eyebrow. “You are sorry? Woman, you are a thrall. I expect no pity from you.” “I am sorry she died. I am sorry that a little girl never knew her mother. I imagine I am not so sorry for you.” “Ah, that is better. Your spirit returns.” He suddenly sat down on the ground. “You are dizzy?” He nodded. “Aye, too dizzy to walk.” “Then you need a horse.” “Aye, I need a horse.” He shouted across to Royd. “Get a horse from the village. The Saxon bitch’s ankle is playing her up, and if she rides with me, then we shall get there quicker. I have no desire to carry her and dirty my skin. I shall wait here with her until you return with the horse.” “Aye, Tor, I’ll get a horse,” Royd shouted. She sat down on the ground and gaped at Tor. “You are an accomplished liar, Viking.”

11

Ellen Margaret

He lay back on the grass and stared into the cloudy sky. “You talk too much, Saxon.”

*****

Sharing the same horse, Maida rode with Tor into his village. She glanced around at the assortment of longhouses with their neatly thatched roofs. Smoke spiraled upwards from the dwellings, and she could smell food cooking. She smelled bread and some sort of roasting meat. Quite possibly fowl. A ram was mating with a ewe in one of the pens, and an assortment of hens squabbled over some corn on the ground. It was not so very different from her own village, except in her village she was the daughter of a nobleman. She lived in the finest house. Now, she would likely be thrown into some dark byre.

Tor slid down from the horse. “You will come with me into my longhouse.” She stared at the biggest longhouse just to her right. “Aye, that’s the one. I want to show you to my sister before I have you chained up in the byre.” ‘Twas to be the byre for her. She dismounted and followed Tor as he weaved a zigzag course to the door. He staggered inside, went straight to a chair, and sank into it. She stood just inside the door, not knowing what to do. A slight woman with silver-blond hair glanced up from stirring a huge, black pot. “Tor, you are back. I am preparing a mutton stew, and there is a fowl roasting on the spit.” He heaved a sigh and rubbed his eyes. “Aye, Iduna, I am back. Get me a horn of ale. I want no food.” “You always want food.” Iduna filled a horn with ale from a jug and gave it to Tor. “Are you sick?” “Slightly feverish. I took a wound to the arm. ‘Twill need some stitching.” “Tor, you know I cannot—” He held up his hand. “Aye, I know. You only have to look

12

Tor: Viking Master

at a wound and it festers. I don’t expect you to stitch it. Go and get the old healer.” “The old healer?” “Aye.” She frowned. “Do you speak of Thorberta?” “Aye, her. Fetch her here.” “Tor, don’t you recall? She died last winter. You were at her funeral.” He tipped the ale down his throat. “Was I?” She touched his forehead. “By Odin, you could cook porridge on your head.” Tor chuckled. “Now, that would look daft, sister.” Maida saw that Iduna was now looking at her. “Who is this?”

brother, and I was

fortunate enough to capture her. She is here to pay for her crime.”

here. Chain her up

somewhere. I cannot look upon her.” “Right now, I can’t even get up from this chair, and I do not intend to go outside where my men will see how sick I am. If you want her chained up in the byre, then you take her.” “Who is going to see to that arm?” Maida asked. “I suppose I will have to see what I can do,” Iduna sighed. “I shall stitch it. Let me see.” She removed the stained cloth from Tor’s arm and then gagged. “Oh, by Freya, that stinks. ‘Tis putrid and festering,” she stammered, dashing across to grab a bucket. “Oh, now I shall lose my breakfast.” Tor’s head dropped to his chest, and the horn of ale toppled to the floor. “By Odin, I feel bloody awful.” Maida walked across to him. “Let me see to it.” She spoke in Danish, and she noted the look of surprise on her captors’ faces.

13

“My

new

thrall.

She

killed

our

Iduna stiffened. “Get her out

of

Ellen Margaret

“You speak our language. Few Saxons can do that,” Iduna remarked.

“I have friends in the Danelaw, and I learned from them, as did Ralston. Not all Danes steal and pillage. Some are hard- working merchants.” Tor grunted. “Will you let me look at your wound?” Maida asked. He shook his head and groaned. “You would sew me to the bed. Why should you wish to help me?” “Do you not recall what you said?” “Nay, I can’t even think.” “You said that if your men lose their jarl then they will all want to fuck me.” “So, let them fuck you,” Iduna said, wiping her mouth with a cloth. “Let them fuck you so that you lose the use of your legs. Let them shag you to death. I would even watch.” “If they did that, then I wouldn’t have a thrall to torment. Why do you think I brought her here? If I had wanted her dead, then I would have killed her in England. Iduna, you are not normally this spiteful.”

and,

therefore, you should have killed her,” Iduna retorted. “If I am dead, then there will be no one to heal your brother. In my village I am the person that sick people come to. I learned my skills from an old woman, who I imagine was much like your Thorberta. She taught me well, and I have saved many sick people. I have also birthed many babes.”

can stitch the wound. I have no choice,” Tor

muttered. “You should go to your bedchamber. ‘Tis best if you are lying down,” Maida said. “I like the thought of lying down.” He got up and weaved his way to the door.

“Don’t

I

have

reason?

She

killed

our

brother

“She

14

Tor: Viking Master

“Tor, that is the door to outside, ‘Tis the other one.” Iduna pointed to the bed chamber door.

“I knew that,” he grunted, heading off in the right direction. “Come on, thrall. Show me how skilled you are with a needle.” Maida stared at her tied hands. “Will you cut these ropes, Iduna?” “Nay, and do not call me Iduna.” Maida sighed. “Very well. Do you have herbs?” “Aye. What herbs do you want?” “Feverfew, yarrow, valerian.” “We have those.” “Most importantly, do you have poppy juice?” “Aye.”

clean

bandaging, and hot water?” “I’ll get it.” She scowled. “You had better heal my brother. If he dies, then I shall order you to be killed. That is, after the men have all fucked you.”

“May

I

have

it,

along

with,

needle,

thread,

15

Chapter Four

Tor sat on the bed. Maida held up her hands to him. “Aye, I know. You want them untied.” “I cannot help you if they are bound.” He took out the dagger at his belt. “Nay, I suppose not. The question is, will you attempt to take this dagger from me when your hands are free? I doubt at this moment that I have the strength to stop you.” She shrugged. “Where would I go? There is a sea between me and my home.” “You could kill me and escape.” “A Saxon in Denmark! What chance would l have?” “None. You are safer here, and besides, in the mood Iduna is, she stands outside with a knife in her hands ready to kill you.” “It would not surprise me.” She held up her hands again. “She is not always so curt and vindictive.” Tor cut the bonds. He stared at the red, chafed rings around her slender wrists. “That is likely sore.” “Not as sore as your arm. Raise your left arm, Viking. I will lift your right. Your tunic must come off.” Just taking off his tunic caused him no little pain. He saw her cast a glance over his naked torso. “You do have many battle scars.”

Tor: Viking Master

“Aye, but I have given up counting them.” He watched as she took a cloth, dipped it into the bowl of warm water, and dabbed it at his wound. He grimaced when the pinkish yellow liquid oozed out. “This is a mess.” “I can see that.” She continued to cleanse it, and he bore it well enough, but when she took out up the needle and thread and pushed it through his inflamed skin, he groaned and felt the world upend itself. Maida pushed him down onto the bed. “Lie down. This will be difficult to bear. You may pass out.” “Nay, I shall not.” But he knew he might. He stared at a spider on the ceiling. He told himself that watching it spinning a web would take his mind off the pain. It didn’t. For what felt like an eternity Maida worked at his wound, inserting the needle, pulling through the thread, tying it off, and then doing it again, and again, and again. He lapsed in and out of consciousness, and then finally heard her speak, as she touched him on the shoulder. Clearly some time had passed without him realizing it. “Viking, I have applied a poultice to draw out the poison, and ‘tis very poisoned. See those red marks running up your arm from the wound. That shows that your blood is tainted with the poison from the wound. It also means that your fever is not likely to abate very soon. Indeed, ‘twill likely worsen. I think it best if you know the truth.” “Aye, I want the truth.” He opened his eyes, glanced at the bandaging on his arm, and then saw that he lay, naked, on the bed.

“Your breeches were soaked in blood. I couldn’t even pull them off you. I had to cut them off with your dagger.” “So, you did use the dagger.”

“Aye, but not to harm you. I do not hurt people.” She took the cloth and wiped it over his chest. “You killed my brother. I arrived just as he breathed his

17

Ellen Margaret

last and saw you with the knife in your hand.” She drew the cloth across his abdomen and cleared away the dried blood. The thrall certainly had gentle hands. “I did not kill your brother, but I saw who did.” “You spin lies, much as that spider up there spins a web.” He looked down. The cloth skimmed lightly over his shaft. “Blood seems to get everywhere. ‘Tis even on your balls,” she said, wiping them clean. “Do you want me to have an erection?” he groaned, but by then the cloth had worked its way down his legs. She shrugged. “Viking, I doubt you are strong enough to muster an erection at this moment.”

rod lay limp and near

lifeless. “I spin no lies. I tell the truth.” “Give me your version of the truth.” She put a cup to his mouth and made him drink. “That is poppy juice. You will feel much less pain very soon. You will also sleep.” “Your version of the truth, thrall.” “Call me Maida, and I might tell you.” He sighed. “Your version of the truth, Maida.” She sat on the bed. “Very well, this is it. Last summer you and your brutish Vikings looted our church. Your brother found me inside the church where I was trying to hide a small gold statue of an angel. Although ‘twas small, it was one of the most valuable pieces in the church.” “Did Denby take it from you?” “Aye, he did, but then one of your men ran in, and declared that he should have it since your brother was rich enough anyway. Denby told the other Viking to get out before he killed him. The other Viking stood his ground and then accused your brother of sleeping with his wife. Denby flew

18

She was, of course, right. His

Tor: Viking Master

into a rage, and they fought. Denby came off worse, and the other Viking ran off with the statue. I went to your stricken brother and saw that the knife had been driven into his heart. I pulled it out just as you arrived with another Viking.” “That was Royd.” “You both assumed I murdered Denby,” she said. “But I did not. I would have helped him if I could.” “That is a tall tale, Maida.” “But ‘tis the truth. You jumped to a false conclusion, Viking.” “In this room, if I am to call you Maida, then you are to call me Tor. Now, do you really expect me to believe that story?” “I told it as it happened.” “Who is this Viking you claim murdered Denby?” “He is the one you call Dag, but he does not know that I witnessed him kill your brother.” Tor suddenly sat up. He felt the room spin around him. “By Odin, Denby did have a fancy for Dag’s wife. She made no secret that she liked him too. By the gods, you might speak the truth.” She pushed him back down to the bed, and placed a blanket over him. “No might. I do speak the truth. Do you truly think that I, a healer, would kill someone?” “Nay, you would not. Looking now into your eyes, I see a tender woman with a kind heart. I believe, Maida, that I have wronged you.” He yawned and his eyes closed. He felt exhausted. “Go to sleep, Tor. Sleep is healing.”

*****

Maida glanced down at herself. Her clothes were filthy and so too was her body. She felt sure she must smell like an

19

Ellen Margaret

old horse. Iduna had brought in another large bowl and filled it with water. She thought she might need it for Tor, but right now Iduna decided that she wanted it for herself. The bowl was fortunately large enough for her to stand in, and so she cast off her clothes, took the tablet of soap, and stepped into the bowl.

20

Chapter Five

Maida clearly thought he had drifted off to sleep, but he hadn’t. He felt groggy, and very sleepy, but his eyes were open, and they stayed open as he watched her bathe herself in the bowl. She had her back to him, and so he had a perfect view of her curvaceous backside and slender waist. He continued to watch as she ran her soapy hands over her shoulders and down her arms. Then, when she bent to wash her legs and knees, he gained the most erotic view of her bottom and labia. Inwardly, he groaned. It was the most beautiful sight he had ever seen. He didn’t dare move in the bed for he had no wish for her to discover that he was awake and watching her. Her hands began to work on her breasts and then her right hand dipped between her legs. By Frigg, let her turn around so that he could see her from the front. Frigg was listening, because Maida did turn around. Tor’s eyes were transfixed on her pubis. He could only ogle her as she ran her hands over it, once again, and then she applied yet more soap to her breasts. What utterly gorgeous breasts they were. Not too large, yet not too small, and they looked so firm. Her pink nipples seemed so hard. How he would love to kiss them. She stepped out of the bowl and dried herself off, and she continued to walk around the chamber totally naked. As she passed close to the bed, he quickly closed his eyes, leaving just the tiniest slits for him to look out of. That was when he saw the dark bruising under her breasts. She obviously hurt herself

Ellen Margaret

when she tumbled in the boat, yet she had not once complained. Neither had she complained about the ankle which she so clearly limped upon. “Viking, I can sense that you are watching me.” His eyes opened fully. “By Frigg, you are an astute woman.” “You breathe too fast for a man who sleeps and make a poor show of closing your eyes.” She limped across to the bed. “You watched me bathe.” “You could have stopped when you realized.” “I was filthy, thanks to your mistreatment of me.” “Then, I apologize.”

your

mistreatment of me, or for ogling me?” “Not for ogling you. I could not help it. You have

a

beautiful body, although that bruising must hurt you a good deal.”

“Aye, it hurts.” “You know, I was having trouble thinking clearly anyway, but with you standing nude before me, ‘tis near impossible.” “I would rather not put back on my dirty clothing. To do so would make the bathing pointless.” “There are clothes in the trunk over by the wall. They belonged to my wife, and she has no need of them now. Take what you want.” Maida went to the trunk, found a chemise, and put it on. “You should stop there. ‘Tis night time. You would not want to sleep in a dress.” She returned to the bed. “You limp badly. I know your breasts must hurt. Why don’t you have some of the poppy juice?” “It must be treated with respect. ‘Tis a powerful herb.”

a good deal better for

22

She

put

her

hands

on

her

hips.

“What,

for

“Aye, and it eases

pain. I feel

Tor: Viking Master

having had it.” She lightly touched his head and frowned. “You may feel better, but you are not. Your fever is still high. However, I shall take a little, so that I can get some sleep.” She picked up the cup and drank. “Now, where shall I sleep?” “Sleep with me.” “Is that an order from my Viking master?” “Nay.” “Am I still your thrall?” “Aye.” “Even though I have told you I did not kill your brother.” “You are here in my country. I cannot take you back for the weather has turned. Therefore, you remain here, and you are my responsibility.” She sat on the bed and folded her arms crossly. “You are an unfair man.” He yawned. The poppy juice had taken a powerful hold of him. “I am a Viking. Allegedly we pillage and we forcefully take away maidens’ virtues.” “Have you done that to a maiden?” “Nay, I have not. I hope I never will.” He saw Maida rub her eyes. He could tell that she had trouble keeping them open. “Goodness, that was strong poppy juice.” “Perhaps it was, or perhaps you are just very tired.” She yawned. “I cannot keep awake.” He pulled her down beside him. “Then go to sleep, Saxon. I promise not to take away your virginity.” “It’s already been taken,” she muttered, as she drifted off to sleep. Tor’s eyes were also closed. It was strong poppy juice.

*****

“Why do you sleep in your chemise?”

23

Ellen Margaret

Maida opened her eyes. She was still feeling the intoxicating effects of the poppy juice. Had she fallen asleep beside Tor? Well, she lay beside him now, and the heat coming form his body was like a furnace. She doubted he could be even remotely lucid. “Take it off. I want to hold you in my arms.” She didn’t understand. Surely he didn’t want her! But then he put his hand under her chemise and gently stroked the bare skin of her inner thigh. It had been so long since a man had done that to her. “I love you with all my heart. You mean so much to me.” It made no sense. He was being so affectionate and tender. “Take that undergarment off so that I can show you how much your husband loves you. I want to kiss and caress you in all those places you love to be touched,” he chuckled. Now she understood. He thought she was his late wife. “Kelda, you mean so much to me, but you know that. I tell you every day, and every night.” “Tor, I think you are confused. You should go to sleep.” “How can I love you when I am asleep? Kelda, I want to slide my hot prick inside you. I am so damned hot for you,” he growled, throwing aside the blankets.

She was about to get up when he came down upon her and gave her the most passionate of kisses. He started gently but then the kiss grew more heated, and his tongue worked its way inside her mouth. She felt desire stir within her. She realized that she wanted to give herself to him. She had been without a man for far too long, and she was lonely for love. Tor wanted to love her, and it didn’t seem to matter that he thought she was his late wife. She sat up and took off her chemise. Immediately Tor’s hands began to roam over her body. He held her head, and kissed her again, and then his tongue licked her neck and shoulders. She felt herself being carried along on a growing tide of emotion. She felt passion, and desire, mount within her. She didn’t want Tor to be licking her shoulders; she wanted

24

Tor: Viking Master

him to kiss her breasts. Suddenly, without conscious thought, her hands were on his head, directing him to her breasts. “That is where I want you to be. I want you to suck me there,” she gasped, pushing him towards her right breast. “By Frigg, I want it too.” He took her nipple into his mouth. She felt the tingle in her womb as he sucked hard. When he moved across to work at the other breast, the tingle became a flowing, molten river. “Enough, for I want you down there,” she demanded, pushing his head down to the most sensitive area between her legs. Pleasure me down there,” she gasped, lying back on the bed. “By Freya, you are not usually so free with your orders, wife, but I don’t mind. You only tell me to do that which I long to do.” She lifted up her knees and spread her thighs. Then her hands held his head, guiding him to where she wanted him to be. But he didn’t need to be told, for his tongue was already bringing her to the brink of orgasm. “No more,” she gasped. “Now you must shaft me.” She had been free with her orders, but she did not expect him to suddenly flick her over, onto her hands and knees, and drive his rod deeply into her. She had never been shafted from behind. She gasped, for his penetration was so deep, and when he frantically pumped her with his rod, she almost lost the ability to breathe, for his large hands held her breasts so tightly against her ribs. But she didn’t feel pain, she felt only pleasure, and she groaned, throwing her head back when her climax came. She felt the warm moistness between her legs, and knew that Tor had ejaculated, but he had made no sound, and then, when he suddenly collapsed on top of her, she knew why. He was unconscious again. It took some effort to wriggle out from under him. When she did, she got out of bed and washed herself once again in the bowl. She put the chemise back on and was about to return to the bed when the door opened. She silently thanked God that no one had come in a few minutes before.

25

Ellen Margaret

“Is he any better?” Royd demanded. She looked at Royd and then at Dag who appeared beside him. She suddenly felt great fear. She knew that Dag had killed Denby, but Dag did not know she knew. She should tell Royd. “He has a fever. The poppy juice is helping.” “Did you stitch him up neatly?” Royd asked sharply. She recoiled slightly. His tone was so harsh. “Aye, I think

so.”

“Then you are needed no more,” Royd hissed. “Your work here is done. Dag, take the bitch to the byre and tie her up.” “Nay, you cannot do that. Let me tell you that he—” She wasn’t allowed to finish. Dag marched towards her and smacked her across the mouth. She felt her lower lip split. “There is no need to hit her, Dag,” Royd remarked. “You said she is the one who killed Denby.” “Aye, she is.” “Then you should want her to suffer.” “Just take her to the byre. When he’s better, Tor can decide for himself what he wants to do with the thrall.” She couldn’t speak. She was being dragged, roughly, off to a byre by the man who had killed Royd’s brother, and Royd didn’t even know.

26

Chapter Six

Dag pushed her into the byre and shoved her to the floor. He had hit her again in the mouth, for no reason at all. Now, her top lip was split too and her mouth throbbed. She wore only a chemise and it offered no protection against the biting cold in the barn. “You’ve got good curves, thrall. I’d take you now if I didn’t have to get back to my wife. She’s already naked in bed, waiting for me to return. She’s nearly as comely as you. She’s also a damn good lover.” Likely that was why Denby had slept with her, she thought. “Don’t you look at me like that, thrall. Don’t you give me that accusing stare. I’ve done nothing wrong.” Nothing except kill Denby. Dag thought no one knew about it. He thought the murder had gone unseen. Well, she had seen it, and now Tor knew too. The problem was, would he even remember her telling him? After all, he had just coupled with her, thinking that she was his late wife. Dag took some rope and tied her hands to a wooden post. “Now, this should hold you. You’ll have to spend the rest of the night in a sitting position. I think all thralls should suffer discomfort, and you certainly will. You will ache, and you will be cold. Tomorrow, someone might bring you some food, or they might not. Anyway, I shall be back tomorrow evening to shag you. I’ll look forward to that, and my wife won’t even

Ellen Margaret

know because she’s off to visit her mother in the next village.” Maida didn’t bother trying to speak. Her mouth hurt too much. “You know, I think I’ll have me a little taste now,” Dag muttered. “I fancy kissing those breasts of yours,” he said, tearing away the front of her chemise. She almost threw up when his mouth sucked each nipple. He was rough and he even bit her. “I’ll have the rest of you tomorrow. Think about that as you try to sleep, thrall,” he said as he strode off, and slammed the byre door shut.

She was

experiencing a living hell.

*****

Tor woke up, and felt the other side of the bed with his hand. Should someone have been there? His brain still felt a little foggy. He sat up, realizing he felt very much better, for the ache in his body had gone, and the pain in his arm was so much less. He knew he had the thrall to thank for that. He frowned, and tried to think harder. Thrall? For some reason that description no longer felt apt. In fact, it sounded totally wrong. And where was she? Shouldn’t Maida be in his room? He stared at the cup of poppy juice and vaguely recalled Maida drinking some, and that was just after she had… He sucked in a breath as he stared at the bowl on the floor. She had washed in his room, and he had watched her every movement. By Thor, she had the body of a goddess. He managed to get up and find a clean pair of breeches. He did recall Maida saying that she’d had to cut the other ones off him. She had done so much for him. She had stitched his wound, bandaged it, and bathed him. Wasn’t there something else, though? Then it hit him like Thor’s mighty hammer, and he had to sit back down upon the bed. Upon the bed that he thought he had made love to Kelda in last night. Oh, aye, he had definitely coupled with a woman, but Kelda was dead.

28

Sleep! She

wasn’t

going to

get

any sleep.

Tor: Viking Master

That meant only one thing. He had taken Maida, and she wasn’t to be treated as a thrall at all, because she hadn’t killed Denby. Dag had killed him. By Odin, Dag was going to pay now. Tor needed to speak to Royd, but he also had to find out where Maida had gone. He tugged on his boots, and went into the living hall, not bothering to find garments for his torso. Iduna glanced up from her cooking pot. “Ah, you look better today. Would you like some porridge?”

saw Royd sitting at the table already eating his.

“Where is Maida?”

more

porridge. “She is not to be treated as a thrall. We made a mistake, and she did not kill Denby. We wrongly accused her, and thus we have badly treated her. Dag killed our brother. Look, I will give you the details later. Where is she?” Royd gulped, and dropped his spoon into the bowl. He got up and stared at Tor in horror. “She didn’t kill Denby?” “Nay, she did not. She is not in my room, so where is she?” “I got Dag to take her to the byre during the night, and he was none to gentle with her. He hit her, and split her lip.”

“You told him to take her to the byre! Are you insane?” “I didn’t think you would want her in your room. She had stitched your wound, so I thought it best to have her tied up in the byre.” “You blood stupid, thoughtless idiot! Do you know how cold it is?” “Aye, ‘tis very cold. The wind is biting.” He ran to the door. “Did you give her warm clothes?” Royd jumped up and followed. “Nay, she was taken in her chemise. Knowing Dag, he wouldn’t have given her a blanket. He may even have fucked her.” “Damn you, Royd. I think you are little better than Dag!”

29

He

“The

thrall?”

Royd

said,

spooning

up

some

Ellen Margaret

Tor’s curses filled the air as he stormed out of the longhouse and ran to the byre. He flung open the door, and when he saw Maida tied to a post with her breasts exposed, his heart almost stopped beating. He dashed to her. “Maida, do you hear me? Speak to me.” He tilted up her face and her pallor looked awful. Her eyes were closed and her breathing erratic. “Royd, cut her bonds. Quickly.” Royd used his dagger to slice through the bonds and Maida slid into Tor’s arms. “Is she alive?” Royd asked. “Aye, just, but she is so damn cold.” “Let me carry her. You are likely still too weak.” “Nay, I shall carry her. I can’t trust you to do anything right. Look, if you want to be useful, go and find Dag. He’s the one who should be tied up in here.” “Aye, I shall find him.”

*****

How could she be back in bed? She had been in bed with Tor, but then Dag had come and taken her to the byre. Then the cold had seeped into her joints and numbed her flesh. Even her lungs had felt frozen. Finally, she slipped into a deep sleep from which she supposed she might never awaken. But she had awoken, and she wasn’t cold any more. In fact she was wonderfully warm, but likely that had something to do with the fact that a naked body was pressed to her, holding her tight, and rubbing her back. She opened her eyes and looked into Tor’s concerned face. “Thank Odin. You have woken at last. Damn, I am still mad with my brother for ordering you to be taken to the byre. The man has no sense.” She frowned. “How is this possible? I was in the byre. I thought I was going to die.” “I woke and found that you had been taken by Dag.” “I tried to tell Royd about Dag, but then Dag hit me in the

30

Tor: Viking Master

mouth, and I couldn’t speak.” Tor gently touched her cut and puffy lips with his finger. “He did not fuck you in the byre? Please, tell me that he did not.”

“Nay, he planned to do that tonight. He tore my chemise, and he pawed and kissed my breasts.” Tor swore. “Tor, I thought you would be out of your senses for a few days. I never expected to leave that byre alive.” “I heal fast. You tended well to my arm. I am grateful to you, and I also know that I had a poor way of showing it. I recall what happened last night. I am so sorry.” “You refer to coupling with me?” “Aye, my brain was addled. I did wrong. You should have stopped me while you could.” “I did say that my virginity was already taken. You were considerate and gentle.” “Damn and blast. I forgot about your husband! This makes it so much worse. I loathe myself.” She was about to speak when they heard footsteps outside the door. Then the door burst open and Royd appeared with Ralston. “I am sorry about this,” Royd blurted, “but Ralston got to hear what happened. The whole damn village knows what happened, and that’s why Dag has taken off, and stolen one of our horses. If Maida is to be treated as a guest, then I suppose Ralston is to be also. He insisted on coming to see how she is.”

*****

Tor sat up. He stared at Maida, lying naked next to him in the bed, and then he looked at Ralston, who stood there fuming. He was totally lost for words. “Have you got nothing to say, Viking?” Ralston growled. Tor swallowed. “I got it all wrong.”

31

Ellen Margaret

“Is that supposed to be an apology?” “Nay, ‘tis not even the beginning of one.” He took a deep breath. “Likely you want to kill me for being here in bed with Maida.” “Have you shagged her, Dane?” Tor dragged a hand across his face. This was the most embarrassing and ridiculous of situations. Ralston clenched his fists. “You bloody well have. I see it in your face.” Tor sighed. “I was sick. I thought she was my wife, but she’s not. She is your wife. By Thor, what a mess.” Maida sat up, clutching a blanket to her breasts. “Tor, Ralston is not my husband. He is my brother.” “Your brother!” “Aye, my brother. He is five years older than me, and very protective, as you can see.” “So that is why he referred to you as my Maida.” “I still want to tear your heart out of your chest,” Ralston growled. “I do not blame you,” Tor sighed. “Actually, I would prefer if you left Tor’s heart alone. He has a good heart, I think, and it belongs in his body,” she said, patting his chest. “Ralston, you have an incredible and forgiving sister.” “Aye, I know, her husband always said that.” Tor’s heart suddenly turned to lead. “You have a husband, Maida?” She shook her head. “I had a husband. He died two years ago of a lung complaint. It was the day after our babe was delivered stillborn. ‘Twas a grim time for me.” He suddenly grabbed her to him, and crushed her against his chest. “I don’t care if your brother sees this, and I don’t care if my brother does, either. Woman, you need looking after,

32

Tor: Viking Master

and if you have no objections, I want to do it.” “Tor, you have known me just a few days.” “Then let me get to know you even better in the days ahead. See how you feel about me come the spring. If you have grown to love me, then stay. If you have not, then I shall take you home.” “That sounds like a rather good idea,” she said. Tor grinned and kissed her head. Growing serious he looked at Royd. “You say Dag has gone?” “Aye, he took off with one of our best horses.” “You should not have let slip to the village what we wanted him for.” “Aye, I know, and I even got that wrong. I’ll take some men and search for him later.” “Search everywhere you can think of. I want that man to pay with his life.”

33

Chapter Seven

Maida loved to play with Inga. She was a strong girl with a fiery temper, but she had a wonderfully childish sense of humor. For a five-year-old, she had much intelligence, and she knew everything that went on in the village. “My father is the most important man in the village. He is the jarl.” “Aye, I know, Inga. He is a powerful man.” “Do you like sleeping with him, Maida?” She smiled. The girl was always so direct. “I do. I love your father very much. He gives me everything I want.” “He especially cares about you because you are having his baby.” “We are both so pleased about it, but what makes me equally happy is the fact that your father has promised me that he will never go a-Viking to England again. He says he will concentrate on being a farmer from now on.” Inga frowned. “Nay, that is wrong. He plans to go a- Viking once again. I heard him tell Uncle Royd that he is organizing a boat to sail to England in early July. That is only three months away. They spoke of valuable statues and artifacts, whatever they are.” “Nay, Inga, you must be mistaken.” “I am not. ‘Tis the truth. My father would never settle down to be a farmer. He does not like working the land. He

Tor: Viking Master

likes sailing to England and taking Saxons’ precious things.” “But he promised me.” “He promised to marry you too, didn’t he?” “Aye, he did.” “But he won’t.” “Why won’t he?” “Because when my mother lay on her deathbed, after giving birth to me, she asked him to swear to Odin that he would never marry again. Whatever my father swears to the mighty Odin, he sticks to. I know for certain that he will never marry you. Iduna told me this.” Maida suddenly felt so sick. She shot to her feet. “I have to go.” “Where are you going?” “To find Ralston.”

*****

She told him everything Inga had told her. She was distraught by the time she had finished. “We must leave. I want to return to England. Not to our home village though, for that is where Tor will soon be pillaging again, and I know he cannot be stopped. We must go to our aunt’s village, ten miles to the north of our village.” “Maida, ‘tis March, and the weather is still foul.” “We shall surely find someone to take us. I shall pay for men and a longboat, but we must not use Tor’s men. We must go further along the coast and find willing men with a boat. They must also be sworn to secrecy.” “Pay them with what?” “I shall take coin from Tor’s chest.” “That is the same as pillaging.” “My sins will never come close to equaling Tor’s sins. Ralston, ‘tis time to go home. We were not meant to live in this land, and I was never meant to marry a Viking.”

35

Ellen Margaret

“You carry Tor’s child.” “Who I shall raise now as a Saxon, in England. Now, are you in agreement with me?” He sighed. “You may be right. I will see what I can do.”

36

Chapter Eight

Tor looked everywhere he could think of. He searched his village, and the land around, but could not find Maida. When finally he realized that Ralston had disappeared too, and that a good deal of his coin had gone, he was forced to conclude that they had left of their own free will. He had no idea why. He thought they loved each other, for she had certainly told him so, and she was going to bear his child. He shared his thoughts with Iduna. “So you have looked everywhere you can think of?” “She is not here. I wonder if she has tried to get back to England with her brother. She has taken some of my money.” “You care about the money taken?” “Nay, I do not care about the coin. I care about her. This makes no sense to me, but I do think she left freely. She must have enlisted someone’s help.” “Tor, who would take her? Certainly no one from this village. All are loyal to you.” “I have asked in four other villages. No one knows anything. I am at a loss as to know what to do.” “You love her very much.” He tore at his hair. “Aye, I do, and I want her back. We were happy, and we never argued. I have no idea why she left.” “You did treat her badly in the beginning. We all did. Perhaps she still bears a grudge, and perhaps she does not want

Ellen Margaret

her child brought up as a Viking. You know how much she loathes what we do. She considers looting, and the taking of slaves, utterly wrong.” “I know, which is why I do not understand why she took my coin.” He stormed across to the door. “Where are you going?” “To look again.” “I am sorry, Tor, but I do not think you will find her.”

been

repaired.” “What is wrong with your longboat?” “The storm last week broke her mast. It crashed down into the ship and broke several crossbeams.” “That sounds like months of work to me.” “Damn it. I know.”

*****

“Ralston, I have to warn the people in our village of the impending Viking attack. I know that Tor intends to descend upon them in July. Inga told me.” Her aunt glanced up from her weaving. “Maida, you are over eight months with child. You should be careful just walking across a field, never mind intending to travel to your home village.” “Erwina is right,” Ralston agreed. “Nay, I must go. I have to warn the villagers in advance of them coming. ‘Tis June now, and they should know. Our cousin lives there, and she may be in danger.” “You want them to prepare to raise arms against the father of your unborn child?” Ralston asked. “Nay, of course not. I want no arms raised at all. Oh, why does Tor have to do this? The Viking way is wrong.” “‘Tis wrong,” Erwina agreed.

“Then

I

travel

to

England

when

my

boat

has

38

Tor: Viking Master

“I forbid you to go,” Ralston said. “I shall certainly not help you.” “I forbid it too,” Erwina added. “You shall stay here where ‘tis safe. You have to think of your babe.”

*****

She would not leave it at that. Maida went to find the blacksmith. He was a friendly chap, who she could easily talk to. Perhaps he would accompany her to her village. “Cuthbert, I must warn my villagers of the attack. Tor and his Vikings are due to invade in early July.” “You do speak of the father of that babe you carry,” Cuthbert said, plunging a red-hot sword into a tub of water. She waited for the hissing to subside. Steam hit her in the face, and she wiped the moisture away. “I do.” “Don’t you care about this Viking called Tor?” “I loved him, and he loved me. Oh dear, this is all so very difficult.” He shook his head. “Lady, I shall not help you. You are too far gone to travel anywhere.” “Then will you find someone to get word to my village?” “Aye, I may consider doing that.” But, looking at his face, she doubted he would do that. Perhaps he was not such a good friend after all. Still, deeply troubled, Maida went for a walk in the nearby woods. It was only a gentle stroll, on level land and did not tax here. She liked being alone in the woods for it cheered her spirits a little. She needed that, for most of the time she felt so depressed and low. In truth, she missed Tor so much. She weaved her way through the oak trees, but suddenly a man leapt out at her. She turned to run when she saw who it was. “Oh nay, you can’t escape. You’re too large with child to do that,” Dag growled. He caught her easily and held her tightly with his arm

39

Ellen Margaret

crushed to her breasts. “How did you know where I was?” she gasped. “Well now, I went to find the blacksmith, and who should be in there talking to him, but you? So, I followed you into these woods, and here we are.” “You are hurting me. Please, have a care for my babe.” “Why should I care about your babe? If it fell out of you and lay dead on the floor I wouldn’t care.” “Dag, let me go.” “Oh, I can’t do that. Now, I understand you wanted someone to take you to your village. I think I might just do that. I’d like to see Tor again. I imagine he would part with a fair bit of coin to have you back.”

*****

“Can I believe my eyes? By Frigg, there is Tor’s longboat down there,” Dag said, pointing down from the cliff top. She saw it. It was his boat, and it looked empty. Which meant that Tor and his men must already be on land, doing what they did best, and what she despised so much. They would be pillaging. She rubbed her belly, for she had dreadful cramps. The ride had been long and uncomfortable. Dag had taken the path along the cliff, and he had pushed his horse hard. She had bounced about in the saddle, feeling thoroughly awful. “Now the fun begins,” he said, dismounting. He didn’t help her down gently from the horse, he dragged her off and her feet hit the ground hard, jarring her, with the result that a pain ripped through her belly. Then she felt the warm, dampness and knew that her waters had broken. “Please God, don’t let me lose another baby,” she gasped, clutching her belly as another intense cramp took hold. “Come on, we’re going to speak to Tor,” he snarled, pushing her along the path that led to the church nearby. “That’s where they must be. They’re inside looting, every last one of them.”

40

Tor: Viking Master

She could barely put one foot in front of the other, and so he pushed her roughly onwards. Finally, he shoved her in through the church door. There were a dozen or so Vikings inside, and some had glistening treasures in their hands. Tor stood in the central aisle. He held a large, silver candlestick. “Tor, I have something you might want!” Dag shouted. Tor turned and his face showed his astonishment. “Dag, what are you doing with Maida?” He rushed forward, candlestick still in hand. “By Odin, I am so relieved to see you, Maida. I looked everywhere for you. Why did you leave?” “That is far enough, Jarl,” Dag ordered. Maida winced as Dag’s sword touched her neck, but she stared in displeasure at the candlestick in Tor’s hand. “You made me a promise. You said you would not go a-Viking again.” “I am not.” “Aye, you are. Look at you and your looting men.” Royd spoke up. “We came to return the items we took. I think ‘twas a crazy thing to do, but Tor insisted. He knew that was what you would want. He had intended to tell you, but you suddenly disappeared.” “You have returned the artifacts!” She felt a powerful contraction and fell to her knees. Dag’s blade followed her. Tor went to move. “Stay, Jarl!” Dag barked. “If you want this woman handed over to you then I want payment. I want the most valuable items here.” He laughed. “How ironic. They will find their way back to Denmark, and when I get there I shall be a wealthy man.” “Take what you want. Do not harm her.” “Get your brother over there to put the items in a bag. Hand it to me, then you can have her. I don’t want to see the bitch give birth, which she seems likely to do. You should have

41

Ellen Margaret

heard her groans as we rode here. Of course, I pushed my horse hard. I’m a bastard like that.” “Do it, Royd,” Tor said. Within minutes Royd had filled a bag. He gave it to Dag. “Now, let her go,” Tor hissed. “Not just yet. She is traveling down the coastline with

me.”

“She can’t ride anywhere! Look at her!” Tor yelled. “If you have her now, then you will come after me.” “Nay, I will not.” “Of course you will. I killed your brother, and you want me dead. So I’ll ride with this woman for a bit, just to give me a head start. Then I’ll let her off, and you can come find her.” “She is having contractions. Dag, don’t do this,” Tor begged. Dag pushed her over to his horse. It stood munching on grass, a few yards away from the cliff top. When he secured the bag to his horse’s saddle, she pretended to have a strong contraction. She dropped to her knees, knowing that his attention had turned away from her. But her attention was on him. She had to do it, and straight away. She suddenly rose to her feet and charged at him. She had the advantage of her increased weight, and it was enough to knock him sideways. She landed on her hands and knees, just inches from the edge of the cliff. She stared down at the sheer drop and watched Dag fall. His screams were chilling to hear, but it elicited no pity from her. She dropped onto her side as another contraction came over her. She felt her womb harden and she cried out. The next instant she was in Tor’s arms and he began to run towards the church. “‘Tis not your time yet,” he said as he rushed into the church. “Royd, get those cushions on the bench by the altar. Throw them down to make a bed.” “Nay, I am a few weeks early,” she sobbed. “Tor, I do not

42

Tor: Viking Master

want to deliver another dead babe.” “You shall not. Our babe will be healthy. How soon before you are likely to push?” “Now!” she yelled as he laid her on the cushions. Tor stared at Royd. “Get everyone out. I shall see to this.” Royd did not wait to answer. Most of the Vikings had already cleared the church. Tor pushed up her skirts. She felt the urge to push very strongly. “My babe comes!” “Our babe comes. I see the head.” She panted for a short while, and then pushed again. She felt her babe slither out from her womb and give a lusty cry. “‘Tis a boy,” Tor spluttered, holding the babe in his arms. He glanced around as a woman came rushing in. “Ah, I think ‘tis one of the women from the village.” “‘Tis my cousin, Blythe. She will know what to do.” Blythe nodded. “Aye, I’ll help now. Then you must be taken to my dwelling to rest.” “I shall come,” Tor said, still looking at his son. Blythe baulked. “He’s a friendly Viking,” Maida explained. Tor grimaced. “Aye, I promise not to rape you.”

43

Chapter Nine

Maida put the babe to her breast. Tor thought it to be such a beautiful sight. He sat on the edge of the bed, just staring at his son feeding. He felt thoroughly overcome with emotion. Maida glanced up. “So, you were returning the artifacts to the church.”

have

softened me, Saxon.” “When Inga told me you were to go a-Viking, she was mistaken?” “Aye, she was. I wanted to do something to please you, and I knew returning the items would. It made me the laughing stock of my men.” “Oh dear, I should not have left you.” “Nay, you should not.” “I know that I was wrong. I must tell you that I took your coin to pay men in the next village to bring me here. I also paid them to be silent.” “They remained silent. I questioned every man in every nearby village. I searched everywhere for the woman I loved. Nay, not loved, love. I love you, Maida.” “I have missed you so much, Tor. I thought about you every day.” “I have never stopped thinking about you. Our babe is healthy, I think.”

“Aye,

I intended

to

do

that

months

ago.

You

Tor: Viking Master

“Aye, he is healthy, just a little small.” “Viking children grown rapidly. Now, you are going to come home to Denmark with me.” “Aye, even though you will not marry me, I shall come with you.” “Woman, I asked you to be my wife. Do you not recall?” “Aye, I do, but Inga also told me that you would not wed me. You swore to Odin that you would not marry another. ‘Twas Kelda’s dying wish.” “Inga should keep her mouth shut. How can a little mouth spin out so many words that cause so much damage?” He touched his babe’s downy hair and smiled. “My son shall be far wiser than his big sister.” “You did not promise Kelda that you would remain unwed?” “I did tell her that I would not marry again, but only because that was what she desired to hear. A woman on her deathbed must be humored. What I did not do was swear to Odin that I would not marry.” “Ah, I see, and I understand.” “So, I ask you again. Will you be my wife, and will you return to Denmark with me?” “Aye, and aye.” He put his arm around his wife-to-be, and kissed her head. Then he kissed his son’s head. “So, do we have a name for this handsome little Viking?” “Not yet, but we have all the journey home to think of one.” “Aye, we do,” Tor agreed, grinning broadly.

45

About the Author

Ellen Margret is a writer from the UK. She lives in the beautiful Cotswold Hills. Her first novel, Like Lazarus, was published in 2007 with Midnight Showcase. She is married to Richard and has four children, three cats, and a dog. She thinks that writing is the best therapy in the world for keeping happy. Writing makes her happy, and she hopes that her readers enjoy her work. To find out more about the author, please visit her website at www.ellenmargret.co.uk.

Also by This Author

Single Titles

Double Nova: Sci Fi Romances, Midnight Showcase Jarvia, Midnight Showcase A Faery Gathering, Midnight Showcase Loving Lazarus, Midnight Showcase Power of a Carronade, Midnight Showcase Like Lazarus, Midnight Showcase