Sookie the Shieldmaiden: 15

A/N

I was entirely blown away by the reception you gave the last chapter. Thank you very much!

I also want to thank Suki59 for being such a great beta. And after having been in hibernation for way too long, she posted a story today. Go read it – it`s so very sweet!

Her story is an early pimp for the new contest Northwoman has started up. Well, new-old contest. It`s the same contest she ran with Northman Maille last year, a contest that was one of the most successful SVM fanfic contests ever. Do you have a favorite song? Write a fanfic about it and enter it to the I Write the Songs contest.


Eric was very quiet and first I assumed he was busy biting back the pain in his arm. I`d managed to tie a bandage, using a branch to help keeping it from getting bent or re-broken. My tunic would never be the same, torn down the middle and missing large parts that I`d used for my fingers and Eric`s arm. His tunic wasn’t as long as it used to be either. I`d needed plenty of cloth to make sure his arm was getting as much support as possible.

But now I realized Eric wasn`t just quiet. He was grumpy. Or angry. Or in a very sour mood.

His huffing gave him away. And his grunting.

I wanted to ask him how he was doing but you don`t poke at an angry bear so I kept my mouth shut.

We were walking downstream again, having decided it would be faster to go down and use our boat than to follow Victor over the mountains. That way we could also pick up Claude and Jason and hopefully have their help against Victor and his men.

I just hoped Jason was fit to fight because Eric sure wasn`t. Not that he`d admit it, though. He`d talked for a very long time about how rarely he used both hands on his sword, being as strong as he was. He`d sounded as if he was mainly trying to convince himself so I hadn`t interrupted him. I`d only suggested he needed to be careful with his left arm until it was healed and that had made him stop talking alltogether.

I carried the iron chain since Eric was more hurt than I was. A broken arm beats a few broken fingers. The chain was heavy but it would be a shame to waste good iron.

We`d lost our swords and we could only assume that Victor and his men had taken them with them which made me want to throw Victor into the river. Actually, I wanted to throw him into the river regardless of the sword but I felt naked without it and wanted him to pay. I`d won my sword in a fight a couple of years ago and it was a good sword.

But I was confident I would win it back. And anyone holding it would be killed. Slowly.

Going down the hill was faster than going up and it wasn`t even close to dusk when we made it back to the outskirts of Calvin`s village.

Not wanting to walk in on any nasty surprises, Eric and I waited in the forest until we were sure the only people in the village were people who were supposed to be there. And Claude and Jason.

I was glad to see some of the villagers alive and walked down to meet them. Even if I didn`t know any of them very well, we all hugged and cried a little. Eric stood by and watched and soon he turned towards the house where we`d left Claude with Jason.

After having given one last hug to a grandmother I couldn`t remember the name of – an old woman who`d lost all of her family, I followed Eric.

I found him standing outside the house where we`d left Jason and Claude. Dreading what would meet me I walked inside and a terrible stench filled my nose. Claude was standing by the door, looking down when I entered.

“There was nothing I could do,” he said and my eyes immediately went to Jason who was still on the bed. His eyes were open and he was alive but he wasn`t Jason. His face was empty and drawn.

I hadn`t been gone for long but it still seemed like Jason had lost weight. His skin was like paper, his golden-blond hair looked almost gray. And when I looked down his body I realized where the smell had come from.

Jason had not left the bed while I`d been gone. Not even to relieve himself.

“Oh, Jason!”

My heart broke from seeing him like this. My strong, gullible, sweet, happy and all too lovable brother had lost himself entirely over a girl I hadn`t even known he was interested in. A girl to whom he had made not promises. At least, no promises of fidelity.

How hadn`t I known this?

How hadn`t I known my own brother?

I wanted to throw myself into his arms and kiss him to make him better. Hug him and bring him back from the Land of Sorrow where he`d currently taken residence.

But I knew that was not the way to do it. I nodded to Claude and made a gesture at Jason`s feet and then I pulled Jason up with my arm under his shoulders. Claude grabbed Jason by the legs and we lifted him.

Jason was like a sack of rocks between us but somehow we managed to get him out of the house where Eric waited. With him in tow Claude and I carried Jason down to the beach. Without any kind of reaction from Jason, we waded out until we were hip deep in water and threw him into the sea.

Jason was still carrying his dagger and his sword and between them and his weight, Jason sank to the bottom. It wasn`t deeper than he could easily get up to breathe but he sank down and stayed there.

I grabbed Claude`s arm and soon I felt Eric`s hand on my shoulder. The three of us stared at Jason in the sea for what seemed like days.

Would Jason choose life or death?

Tears ran down my cheeks. All my life I`d done my best to protect my brother from his own recklessness and now I was the one who`d thrown him into the water to drown.

The irony of Eric`s and my just having escaped a similar death was not lost upon me. I`d used the last of my strength to save Eric from drowning and now I`d endangered my brother.

But it had to be done. Jason needed to choose between drowning and living because he could not survive where he was now.

I counted my breaths, knowing they were the number Jason needed but did not claim. Each of them was a breath Jason`s body craved but didn`t get.

It was the right thing to do but when I`d thrown Jason into the water, I`d been sure he would jump up immediately. That he would throw away his state of indifference if not the sorrow. But for each moment he wasn`t breathing my resolve diminished and I was just about to jump over to Jason and save him when his head broke the surface and he inhaled air in large gulps.

He turned towards me, anger burning from his eyes.

“What in the name of the Hel are you doing, Sookie?” he shouted. “Are you trying to kill me?”

He stood up and when he`d taken a couple of deep breaths he ran towards me. Eric walked in front of me and just stood there, looking at Jason without saying anything.

Jason stared at Eric and then he huffed. After a while he shrugged and walked past Eric without looking at me.

“Did you kill them all?” he asked no one in particular.

“Some of them,” I said. “But not all. And not Victor, their leader.”

“It seems we need to finish the job then,” Jason said.

With relief I went back to Calvin`s village to find some food and weapons. I found myself a belt for a sword I`d grabbed – a belt that would also keep my tunic together in front. Eric also found weapons and soon we were back at the shore where our boat was. Jason and Claude were there already and without a word we boarded the boat and started to sail home.

I glanced at Jason, waiting for signs of his being back to his own self or breaking apart again. I also watched Eric who might soon go into battle with a broken arm. His eye was still black and, like me, he was bruised all over. Eric`s nose looked slightly better, though, so he wouldn`t be Eric the Crooked Nose just yet.

Claude was very quiet as if he knew the outcome of the battle and the survival of all four of us depended more on him than it usually did. Even if I was in better shape than my brother or my husband, I wasn`t going to be as fast or strong as I usually was with my broken fingers and strained muscles.

As we came closer to home, the knots in my stomach tightened. Would we be there before Victor or would we land in the middle of a battle?

Victor and his men weren`t as numerous as they`d been before Eric`s and my raid in the night but they were still enough to do damage. Especially if they ambushed our village.

And especially since it was now dark and people in the village would have gone to bed.

We heard the attack before we saw it. Heard the screams and the fear, heard metal on metal. Heard the animals panicking. The mountains surrounding the fjord echoed every sound and every yell.

Without securing the boat, we jumped ashore as soon as we were close enough. We ran up towards the village, fearing the worst.

And the worst was exactly what met us. Houses were burning and women and children were screaming from inside the burning buildings.

Jane the Meadlover ran past us, her dress and hair burning and before I managed to stop her to help her put out the fire, she fell to the ground and died with a horrible scream.

I was about to give my orders to Claude and Jason when my brother ran past me, his sword raised, yelling out a battle cry that made my hair stand up even more than Jane the Meadlover`s death scream had managed.

My eyes met Eric`s and then Claude`s. We all recognized someone going berserk and that was exactly what Jason had done.

Warriors going berserk were killing machines and they wouldn`t always be able to separate foe from friend.

And they wouldn`t care if they died.

I ran after Jason and caught up with him just as he separated someone`s head from his body. It was an enemy, luckily. One of Victor`s men.

Jason continued his path of destruction, killing yet another man and then another. I looked to my right and left to make sure Jason wasn`t caught from behind or the sides. Jason only looked in one direction and he was only interesting in one thing – killing as many people as possible.

But even if I watched out for my brother, even if I did my best to save his life, I couldn`t help him when Victor suddenly jumped out from behind a house, his sword raised.

It was as if time stood still when Victor`s sword glided through the air. I shouted for Jason, tried to make him see what was happening, but Jason never realized the danger he was in until the sword had caught him and separated his hand from his arm.

I screamed and ran the last few paces to where Victor was raising his sword again to give Jason the final blow. I caught his arm with my blade just as his sword was gliding down and soon there were two hands on the ground – Jason`s left hand and Victor`s right one.

I was about to kill Victor when I heard Eric behind me.

“Don`t do it, Sookie!” he shouted.

I looked at him and was just about to ask him why when I knew the reason Victor was allowed to live when he truly needed to die. He would make an excellent hostage.

Instead of killing Victor, I bent down to my brother, tearing out yet another piece from my tunic to stop the bleeding from his arm.

Jason looked at me as if he were in a trance. No screams in pain, no anger, no sorrow over his lost hand or fear for the village he`d grown up in.

I managed to tie up the stump of his arm but his arm needed more attention than I could give it just then. I also knew it would have to wait.

Over my shoulder I saw Eric hit Victor with the handle of his sword and Victor fall to the ground. Then Eric ripped off a piece of Victor`s tunic and started tying up his arm to stop the bleeding. I got up and helped Jason to stand as well. I needed to bring him out of danger before I continued my part of the battle.

I looked up and noticed that our house was still standing. It wasn`t burning like so many of the other houses. I helped Jason into our house and laid him on his bed. He wouldn`t be entirely safe but I assumed the battle would be over soon what with Victor having been caught.

I ran out again to find Claude and Eric but it was Tara I ran into. She didn`t see me even though she was looking straight at me.

“Tara!” I shouted and she blinked a few times.

“Sookie?” she whispered.

“Yes, it`s me, Tara. What has happened?”

“It`s …,” she started, then she fell silent.

I took her in my arms and held her. My breath hitched when I felt her skin. She was cold.

“What happened?” I asked but I knew the answer.

“The children ….”

And I cried.


A/N:

I`m a mother myself and had a hard time writing those two last lines. I feel even worse about posting them, but the story needed them. I hope I`m not giving anyone any nightmares.

Iceland

Northman Maille had a couple of questions and her first one was: I read somewhere they also called Iceland that to keep people away, because it’s not, is that true?

I`ve never read that but it is a fact that the first Viking settlers left after a year because of the harsh climate and because they tried to settle in one of the areas where you couldn`t grow much food. If you`ve ever been to Iceland you`ll know that parts of Iceland is ice (obviously :-D ) as in glaciers and parts of it is dried lava with very little dirt on top. And then there are areas that are fairly fertile. I suppose if you land in the wrong area, the island just isn`t very accommodating.

On a side-note – scriptures from Ireland mention monks settling on Iceland before the first Vikings came there but modern archeologists have never found any traces of the monks. One can`t help wondering what happened to them (and if I had one kroner for every historical fate I want to know more about I would be a very rich woman now).

Freya`s house

Northman Maille had another question: You mention Valhalla and I know that is where the warriors go. I seem to remember you telling me once about Freya’s house, what is the difference between the two places? Did all people from the Viking Age go to one or the other, or was there a Norse version of hell?

You are quite right. Frøya had first pick of the warriors who died and she usually chose the warriors who were most honorable and not as blood thirsty as the rest of them. She got to pick half of the warriors and they lived with her in Folkvang.

I`m not sure what they did in Folkvang. I can find plenty of descriptions of what the warriors who ended up with Odin in Valhalla did all day but very little about Frøya`s warriors in Folkvang. But I assume she put them into battle training as Odin did with his warriors.

The reason Odin picked so many men and women who would spend all their time after death in eternal battle wasn`t (just) a prize for a job well done and a battle well fought. No, Odin picked his warriors for pure selfish reasons: He needed warriors who could help him in the battle at Ragnarok.

Ragnarok

Ragnarok is the end of the world and the final war against the jotne (there are basically three people – the humans, the æser, who are the gods, and the jotne, who are the enemies of the gods).

Ragnarok is thoroughly described: First there`ll be three years of war and then we`ll have the Fimbul winter – which is an extraordinarily cold winter. Three roosters will crow and there`ll be a flood. The Fenris wolf will come and eat Odin. The tree of Yggdrasil – the tree of life – will die and only two people will survive. They will be the beginning of a new era.

Icelandic names

I have to agree with a couple of reviewers who checked up on Icelandic names. I find their name tradition fascinating too.

I just read an interview with the Icelandic footballer Björn Sigurðarson who plays in Norway. He has a couple of very famous (well, famous for those of us who love football) half-brothers, namely Bjarni Guðjónsson, Þórður Guðjónsson, and Joey Guðjónsson. It wasn`t hard to guess that they had their mother in common and that she`d first been with Guðjón and then with Sigurð.

I remember the first time I was in Reykjavik many years ago. I was supposed to call a friend of a friend and was told he was in the phone book. It took me a little while before I realized I had to look under his first name, not his last name. Apparently everyone is listed by their first names in the phone books.

Oh, and I just love using those cute Icelandic letters ð and Þ :-D

I`ll stop here before I obsess completely over Iceland.

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