The wait for this chapter was a little longer than usual but I hope you`ll find the chapter worth the wait.
I want to thank Suki59 for being such a great beta and friend and if I could talk to Charlaine Harris I would thank her for creating such wonderful characters. Less than a month now until the next book. YAY!
I wasn`t sure what brought me more pain – having been beaten thoroughly or listening to Eric going through the same treatment. Right now I was experiencing both.
Trying to keep my head cool, I ran my fingers over my skin to see if there was any damage I hadn`t accounted for yet. My fingers had suffered the worst from the beating and I couldn`t really use them.
Two of my fingers were broken. Luckily, they were both on my left hand and not my sword hand but they were still excruciatingly painful. My scalp was sore and I could imagine had bald spots from having been dragged by my hair. I`d been kicked in my ribs but I didn`t think anything was broken. I was bruised all over and my tunic had been torn in the front.
When they`d dragged me away from Eric I`d been certain I was going to be raped. A true warrior would never rape his victims – there was no honor in that. But these men had used nets to catch Eric and me and had therefore proven themselves honorless.
They`d started out tearing my tunic in the front and had groped my breasts while commenting loudly on their size and shape. I`d tried to kick them but had kept my mouth shut. I knew what they wanted – they wanted to hurt Eric with my cries. This was what cowards did. They hurt the wife or the kids to break a man`s spirit. I wasn`t sure Eric would be tormented by my screams of terror but I was not taking any chances.
But then the men had surprised me and had let me keep my pants on. It could have been because they`d realized I wasn`t going to cry or yell out my pain if they raped me or it could have been because the men had some honor after all.
They`d beaten me up but that was expected. It was painful but as long as I managed to get my broken fingers to heal without becoming crooked or stiff, there would be no lasting damage.
Not that I was sure I would survive the next day.
I mentally shook my head. There was no point in thinking about tomorrow. I was alive tonight and that was what mattered.
They`d chained me to a tree far enough away from the camp for me not to be able to hear what was said there. I couldn`t see the bonfire but the night wasn`t very dark, what with summer approaching, so I could see people walking to and from the camp.
To and from wherever they were hurting Eric.
If I couldn`t follow what was going on at the camp, I was close enough to hear the thuds and grunts whenever Eric was hit.
Every grunt was … painful.
I kept being reminded of Eric at the atonement he`d arranged. The pain he`d received there and how he`d born it. It had been awful watching him being hurt like that but somehow it was … worse now.
To tear my mind away from Eric`s pain – my ears back from that place deep in the forest where Eric was tormented – I ripped a piece of cloth from my tunic, pulled my broken fingers straight and tied the cloth around them.
I wanted to scream out my pain but I welcomed it too. For a moment or two I didn`t hear Eric. His grunts were gone and I wasn`t afraid they were going to kill him.
Because that was what had me swallow hard. What if they killed Eric?
I had imagined they would have killed us both immediately but they didn`t. They hadn`t killed me, at least. They`d beaten me up but I`d been beaten before.
What if they had some kind of plan for me? A plan that didn`t include Eric? And now they were killing him. Slowly.
I gave my fingers an extra pull just to make sure I`d set them straight. And to clear my thoughts.
If Eric were dead – if they`d killed Eric – I would deal with it.
At least that was what my brain told me. My level-headed and very sensible brain. Problem was, the rest of me didn`t agree. Parts of me wanted to go into a panic at the thought of Eric being killed.
My brain didn`t understand what was going on. Not at all. Hadn`t I rejected Eric several times? Hadn`t I decided he was too vain, he thought too highly of himself, he was too … ?
That was as far as my brain got because my ears heard a new sound. There was still grunting but no more thuds. Taunting words were said and the men saying them came closer and closer. So did the grunting sounds.
They were moving Eric. Were they bringing him to me? I cursed my ability to predict movements because it was so limited. I could only predict movements when I was fighting people and right now I wanted to be able to “hear” their plans for Eric.
I held my breath and listened with everything my ears could muster. I squinted through the forest to see if I could see anything. Every muscle in my body was on alert. What was going on?
They hadn`t killed Eric. His grunts told me he was alive. But how much had they hurt him? And where were they taking him?
Suddenly I saw them coming closer, three men carrying someone – no, not someone, Eric – between them. They weren`t as much carrying him as dragging him.
I`d been beaten up right here where I`d been tied up so I hadn`t had to walk after they`d hurt me. I was fairly sure I could, though, and therefore it pained me to see the state Eric was in.
Coming over to where I was, they threw Eric to the ground. I`d been chained to the tree and now they were doing the same to Eric. It surprised me that they were carrying this much iron chain around with them when rope was so much cheaper and easier to carry.
Of course, rope was easier to untie as well.
It all went too quickly. I just sat there, staring at Eric lying on the ground with his eyes closed. When Eric and I were both shackled to the tree, the men went in the direction of the camp, not even bothering with one last taunt.
Apparently we were nothing. Little bugs they`d caught in their palms. Bugs they would probably want to hurt more later. Tomorrow.
But this was tonight and I needed to see how Eric was doing. Was he even conscious?
I leaned down to listen to his breathing and was relieved to hear shallow intakes of air. He looked awful, though. Blood all over his face and his nose would never be the same after having met someone`s knuckles.
I ran my hands down his face, brushed his hair away and carefully touched his nose, trying to assess if it was broken. It was. After taking a deep breath I figured it was better to mend his broken nose while he was unconscious and wouldn`t feel the pain than waiting for him to come around.
I quickly yanked his nose back in place and was met by Eric`s very large blue eyes staring at me.
“Ouch, Sookie. Don`t you think Victor and his men have hurt me enough?” he hissed.
“I just wanted to fix your nose. I`m sure you don`t want to be known as Eric the Crooked Nose?”
Eric got up into a sitting position and carefully touched the facial extremity in question. He sat like that for awhile. Then he looked at me with a lopsided smile. “I`m sorry to say that your husband isn`t as handsome as he used to be.”
I laughed a little. “Lucky for you I don`t particularly like handsome men.”
That made him move closer to me. “Really?”
I rolled me eyes but I still had a smile on my lips. “Really.”
The forest floor was getting darker but I could still make out Eric`s facial expression and it made me warm all over.
Tomorrow we could be dead. Actually, tomorrow we probably would be dead but tonight it was Eric and me and our battered bodies.
I let my hand glide down his face again, carefully avoiding his nose and the eye that was quickly swelling. Eric did the same to me and we just looked at each other, some kind of mutual understanding flowing back and forth between us.
“We`re quite the sight,” I said after awhile.
“I would say that we are quite the couple,” he replied and for some reason that made me happy.
It was probably the knowledge that the Norns had cut the thread of our lives and that the last bit of it was being woven that made me more receptive to Eric`s charms. Or maybe it was the broken nose. I leaned forward and kissed it very carefully and heard him take a deep breath through it, either from fear that I would accidentally hurt him or because …
His shackled hands were on each side of my face and he tilted my head slightly to the side. Then he kissed me.
To just state that Eric kissed me would be an understatement because this wasn`t a kiss. It was two pairs of lips meeting, two tongues finding each other, but it was so much more. It was a wave of emotions – desires – and I wanted to give into each and every one of them.
Eric`s hand went from my cheek, down my neck to pulling my ruined tunic to the side, and his palm caressed the side of my breast very carefully. I winced slightly because of the bruises there but then some deeper emotions took over and I leaned into his touch which grew more insisting.
My own hands had found Eric`s shoulders, his neck and were now copying the movements of his hands by moving down his muscular chest. I knew I couldn`t pull his tunic over his head – his shackled hands would stop the undressing – but I desperately wanted to touch his naked torso. Kiss it. So I pulled up his tunic enough for me to lean down and lick his nipple. I kissed him and nibbled a little too while my fingers followed the trail of blond hair from his chest down his stomach.
“Oh, Sookie,” Eric whispered, his voice sounding hoarse.
I pulled away and looked at him but when I leaned in for a kiss Eric went for my breast instead and started kissing and sucking on first one of them and then the other.
How I happened to end up lying on my back on the ground, I wasn`t sure, but I had Eric on top of me, kissing every bruise on my chest and sucking on my nipples. He kissed his way up and licked my collarbone. Then he looked up at my face.
“I want you so much, Sookie,” he said.
“I want you too,” I whispered back and with that statement our more frenzied movements began.
Even though our shackles and the pain of our beatings hindered us, they also ignited our desire as we managed to pull off our pants and boots and Eric pulled my tunic to the side. Soon I was almost bare and Eric was as naked as he could be, his tunic pulled up to his waist.
I`d expected Eric to rush it, to sink himself deep into me the moment my pants were lying next to me. It was what I wanted too because it felt as if I couldn`t wait another breath for him to be inside me. But Eric had other plans, plans that suddenly seemed even better than the ones I`d had.
“Touch me,” he whispered and I knew he didn`t mean his torso or his butt because I`d been touching both of those plenty already.
Eric was on his side next to me, so close he was almost leaning over me, and I could feel him against my hip. I leaned down and found him standing straight – long and hard as he was. I closed my hand around him, enjoying the feeling of his pulsing in my palm, while Eric`s hand went down between my legs.
His long fingers glided up and down, circling what needed to be circled and dived inside where I wanted more of him – and soon. He moved his fingers in the rhythm my hand had on his cock and soon we were both making little noises of enjoyment.
I was getting close and I could tell Eric was too and just as the thought that I wanted Eric inside me – that I wanted him to truly fuck me – entered my brain, he quickly moved between my legs and pushed himself deeply into me.
My legs went up to land on his hips while he ground himself into me. I met his movements and had a small moment of regret that Eric and I hadn`t done this before because he was, by far, the best lover I`d ever had. And we`d only just begun.
My hands went to his head, my fingers touched his scalp, they ran through his hair, and I pulled him down for a kiss. When his hand touched my breast again it started a numb feeling on my skin that expanded and it felt as if my skin were touched by thousands of tiny explosions.
Soon the tiny explosions turned into one larger one and I groaned into Eric`s mouth when I came with a force I`d never felt before. Eric ground himself into me two times, three times, four times more and then his body went rigid and he collapsed over me.
Eric was heavy but he felt like he weighed nothing on top of me because I wanted him closer. I wanted to feel more of him. All of him. In spite of having recently been beaten.
I wanted us to lie like this forever, my brain empty of thoughts, my sex filled with his cock.
I was happy.
Which was strange considering I was shackled and would probably meet my death tomorrow.
“Oh, Sookie,” Eric whispered into my ear and in those two words he expressed my feelings – only I would probably have said “Oh, Eric,” instead.
He pulled back a little, but stayed inside me. And when he rolled to his side he dragged me with him, still deeply rooted inside me. Not as deeply as he had been, of course. Even Eric`s large member shrank after sex. But I enjoyed having him there and he apparently did too because he made sure he wasn`t leaving accidentally.
We lay there for a long time, looking into each other`s eyes, caressing each other lazily with our fingers, the soft clanking of our shackles turning into a nice melody and not the foreboding they were.
I gently leaned forward and give him a kiss. I figured we needed to talk about tomorrow but when I pulled back from the kiss, Eric was the first one to speak.
“I`m glad we`re now truly husband and wife,” he said.
“Why?” I asked, though, deep inside, I was glad too.
“Because, tomorrow, if we die, the Valkyries will know. They`ll let us live in the same house, share the same bed.”
I smiled, though it was our imminent death he was talking about. “I thought you were an optimist. We may not die tomorrow.”
“I am,” he said and kissed my nose. “And I can`t think of a better future than to go to Valhalla with you. And if we don`t die, we`ll just have to settle for a life together here.”
I hope you liked this chapter.
I just came home from a week on Iceland. If you`ve never been there – go! If you`ve been there, you know what I`m talking about. Iceland is probably the most extraordinary country in the world. The nature, the history, the people.… It`ll take your breath away!
As you probably know, the Viking age is part of my heritage but I`ve mainly read the Danish and Norwegian part of it. Going to Iceland gave me a chance to learn more of the Viking age seen from “The Saga Island” as they call themselves. It`s all part of the same history, of course, but some of the stories I read there were new to me and I will try to retell them here.
I know I have several readers from Iceland and I welcome any thoughts from you – shout out if I`ve gotten it all wrong!
I ran into the story of the Celt princess Melkorka Myrkjartansdottir in the small Saga Museum in Perlan in Reykjavik and I just have to retell it.
First some background: Iceland was mainly settled by Vikings fleeing the ever expanding kings in Norway and Denmark. At least that`s the truth when it came to the male population of Iceland. But genealogical research has revealed that 50% of the earliest women on Iceland were Celts – most of them from Ireland.
These women didn`t come to Iceland voluntary but were raided and sold to men looking for bed-slaves, mistresses and wives. The difference between these three groups may have been in name only.
One of these Celtic women was Melkorka. She was only fifteen when she was taken into slavery in Norway. Ten years later Höskuldur Dala-Kollsson went to Hordaland in Norway to buy timber. Apparently he forgot his plans when he saw Melkorka because he ended up buying her instead.
Melkorka was a mute but she was still more expensive than most slaves because she was so extraordinarily beautiful.
Höskuldur took her home to Iceland and in the winter she gave birth to his son Olafur Pa – a son Höskuldur loved very much.
When Olafur Pa was a couple of years old Höskuldur came over Melkorka talking to her son, telling him he was the grandson of an Irish king called Myrkjartan. Höskuldur was so amazed that Melkorka could speak and of her heritage that he immediately changed her status from slave to wife and gave her her own farmstead.
This was the whole story of Melkorka but my imagination started spinning on this. Imagine her life – living as the daughter of a king, becoming a slave at the age of fifteen, then being sold again at the age of 25, getting a family with a man she hasn`t chosen but who apparently treated her well and then being acknowledged as a princess and wife later on.
And the whole time pretending to be a mute. It would take a special kind of person to manage that. That story really took my breath away.