Thank you so much for all your comments. Some of you asked me which island I`d been on. It was Håholmen right outside of the city of Molde.
This time the chapter is a bit longer. I hope you`ll enjoy it.
I want to thank Suki59 for correcting my mistakes. There wouldn`t have been any shieldmaiden without her.
The night before the blot was quiet since no one wanted to be hungover the next day. It was an evening for renewing friendships and acquaintances and for people of various trades to learn from each other. There was gossip about kings and queens, warriors and battles. When the night was over, the parentage of every baby born in the last three years had been questioned.
Eric and his men were clearly on a mission. Even if he laughed and joked with everyone, there was always an undertone of forging bonds before the upcoming battle. When he was talking to someone at the other end of the campsite, I could see how he was negotiating with some and convincing others to join Sophie-Anne`s side.
Bill of the Long Silences, Chow Blackhair and Rasul the Friendly were moving from group to group as well, always looking for friends, trying to get as many swords to join them as possible.
I saw leather purses changing hands too and a goat or two were pushed from Eric`s camp to the camps of more indecisive tribes.
Sophie-Anne was not gambling everything on Felipe`s surrendering because she had his foster son.
I was meeting old friends and acquaintances as well. Most of them wanted to express their anger and sorrow over the attack on our village and some volunteered for any revenge expedition.
It warmed my heart to have the support of so many people and, though I knew they would not all fight for Sophie-Anne, some might fight for Sam and our village. For me.
I was getting tired from all the talking and smiling and, most importantly, my mushroom experience. Tara and Jason had already retired and were sleeping next to one another. It was nice to see how close they`d grown. They`d found each other in their grief and, as far as I could tell, they held each other up instead of weighing each other down.
I`d kept an extra eye on them, not wanting Jason`s randy ways to be hurtful to Tara but he seemed to be a more respectful version of himself towards Tara than I`d ever seen him with any woman.
I walked a bit away from them, not wanting to wake them up if I had another of my “I am a raven” dreams. I wasn`t sure when the mushrooms would be out of my blood and head but I suspected they weren`t yet. Not entirely. I still saw a bit too many vibrant colors and heard a few noises no one else reacted to.
I found a nice spot under a tree and rolled out the fur I`d been sitting on. Being tired to the bone, I was soon sprawled on the fur and deeply asleep. Ravens kept popping into my dreams and also large blond Odins who weren`t really Odins. An arm pulled me into a warm body and even if it weren`t Odin and I weren`t his raven, I enjoyed the feeling of that body.
Then eleven children ran over a meadow and jumped into a warm lake where they started having fun. All the children were blond and had blue eyes.
I started breathing heavier.
Eleven children. No, something was wrong.
With a gasp, I woke up and saw Eric lying next to me, his arm draped over my waist.
“I never said anything about our having eleven children when I was looking into the future,” I hissed. “It wasn`t part of my dream.”
Eric`s eyes were closed but I could see a lopsided smile forming on his lips. Then his breathing became even again. I wanted to kick him awake, but lay down and closed my eyes instead and tried to find my way back to a dreamland without bathing children.
Just as I was half asleep, I felt a kiss on my cheek. “Are you sure?”
We got up early to prepare ourselves and the animals for the blot. The sacrifice had to be spectacular for the gods to notice it and feel honored. We`d brought more animals than we usually would have and it seemed we were not the only ones to do that.
These were times of unrest and everyone wanted to survive the summer.
After we`d prepared what needed preparing, Jason, Tara and I went to the lake to wash ourselves and soon Eric and his men were there too.
I helped Jason wash his hair as it was one of the things he found difficult with just one hand. I also gave him a good scrub on his back and he did the same for both me and Tara.
Eric washed his own hair and didn`t seem to need his back scrubbed so I got out when Jason and Tara were done and soon we`d all put on light clothing and were walking back to the camp in our bare feet.
The grass was soft between my toes and I took it as a sign from the gods that they`d given us such a beautiful day for the blot. All the warriors – and everyone else with something at stake – were going to be naked during the blot and it was always much nicer to be naked when it was warm than in a blizzard.
But first we would fight the traditional holmgangs and have other tests of courage and skill.
I could feel the anticipation running through my body. I loved the holmgangs but there was always this little fear that I would embarrass myself and my family. No one wants to be the laughing stock in front of absolutely everyone she knows.
I looked around and saw how all the warriors grouped to one side and everyone else stood to the other side. Jason came over to stand next to me and, to my surprise, Tara joined him. It shouldn`t have been a surprise, of course, given all the training Tara had put herself through lately and the revenge she`d sworn to take.
It was just, for me Tara was a wife and a mother, not a warrior.
I swallowed at that thought and gave her a quick smile.
Eric and his men walked up to stand behind us and, as if I were some kind of smitten girl, I felt his presence.
We stood in a circle in the clearing. In the middle of that clearing there was timber laid out in a square and in that square the holmgangs were going to be fought. Amelia stepped forward with Niall Whitebeard and Pythoness the Ancient. Niall and Pythoness had the same powerful abilities as Amelia – only even stronger since they were so much older – and helped guide the chiefs of each of their villages just like Amelia did Sam.
If Amelia made me nervous it was nothing to what Niall and Pythoness did. Pythoness was blind but seemed to be able to see anything she wanted to see. Niall`s looks could fool you too. He had the appearance of a dear, old grandfather but the things I`d seen him do …. I shivered just from looking at him.
“The holmgangs are a special treat for the gods,” Amelia said in a loud voice. “I want anyone who has a special gift to present to step forward.”
Amelia didn`t mean physical gifts like a new knife or a nice fur. She wanted warriors who had learned a special skill to show it to the gods. Since we were in the woods, there would be no running on the oars of a boat but I couldn`t wait to see what other skills might be presented.
A young guy with red hair and large upper arms came forward. He was carrying three large swords.
“My present is sword throwing,” the young man shouted. The pale skin on his throat showed red spots of agitation, which was expected for someone coming forward like he did. After all, a good present was one that had the potential to kill you.
Niall nodded as if he knew him and I assumed the man was from Niall`s village. “Go ahead. I am sure the gods will be pleased.”
The man smiled and then he threw one of his swords high over his head. The sword swung beautifully but before it started crashing down towards the guy again, he threw another sword in the air, and then the last one.
His swords were clearly heavy and they were certainly lethal which was probably why all watching held their breath – and cheering every time he caught a sword and sent it upwards again. His swords went up in large circles and came down to land in his hands with amazing precision – only to be thrown up in the air again.
It was spectacular and I felt a thrill at the pit of my stomach. I`d never seen anything like this and surely the gods would appreciate the offer.
When the young man was done, everyone shouted and clapped and several of his friends came over to give him a hug. We all knew what a spectacular present like this meant. The gods must have enjoyed the performance as much as we did.
Several other warriors came forward and showed their abilities with weapons and a few climbed the trees and presented their abilities to jump from one tree to the next or to dance from branch to branch. Luckily no one fell and no one was injured.
Then Pythoness the Ancient called forward all warriors who wanted to show their fighting skills. I stepped into the square and realized that Eric had done the same.
Pythoness walked among us and sent most of the warriors away and finally we were only six people left in the square. Eric and I were among the six. Pythoness came over to stand between us and suddenly I saw her tiny hand in mine and her other hand holding Eric`s.
“This will be a good holmgang,” she said and the crowd cheered. “Husband and wife. It will be spectacular.”
I looked at Eric who winked at me. And then something inside me made me grin at him. This wasn`t the first time I`d fought Eric. I`d won but I`d lost too. Eric knew my secret but I`d practiced after our last battle. Now I was going to whip his sexy butt with my sword. And I was going to laugh while doing it.
“First blood or first person on the ground outside the logs,” Pythoness continued. “Try not to kill each other.”
And with that we were each given a sword. A real sword which meant I would have to be careful since Eric`s reach was longer than mine. Damned his long arms.
“Try not to chop off any body parts you would want me to use on you later,” Eric said and then he raised his sword.
I raised mine too and the battle was on. This was a battle I wanted to – no, needed to – win. But I had to be smart. Deep down I was angry with Eric and my anger could be my downfall. I was ready to jump into his face and carve nasty runes on his chest but I knew he would nick me with his sword if I did. And if I bled I would lose.
I circled him instead. Eric knew me too well to jump me. He just watched me move – his eyes narrowed into two small blue slits.
When we`d gone too long without attacking each other, people started shouting at us. I wasn`t distracted by it but Eric – who received the biggest insults from the crowd – grew visibly annoyed. Suddenly he took a step forward but I`d seen it coming and stepped to the side.
We weren`t wearing our usual protection, no chainmail or heavy leather robes, so any touch by Eric`s sword could make me the loser of this fight.
I took two sidesteps and moved behind him, bending down. Eric was tall and I figured his legs were my best chance at nicking him. Unfortunately he took one protective step backwards just as I thought I would manage to cut into his shin.
I “felt” that he would take another step backwards but there was something wrong with that feeling so I didn`t follow him but jumped to the side instead. This turned out to be very wise because he didn`t step backwards but drove forward instead. Eric had tried to trick my special knowledge of how my opponent would move and I had seen through that trick.
I grinned at him when he slashed his sword into thin air. He gave me a smile of acknowledgement and it was my turn to move forward. His left arm moved slowly and seemed unprotected so I tried my best to wound him there.
He stumbled to the side in surprise – a surprise that grew even bigger when I kept driving at his arm and his next sidestep was stopped by the timber bordering our little holmgang field.
I grinned when I saw him losing balance and wanted to make sure he wasn`t regaining it so I jumped forward with my sword raised, which seemed to do the trick as Eric took yet another step to the side, driving his other leg into the timber.
My arms went up in joy and relief over my victory, not realizing that Eric was not entirely down. With a flip of his wrist he drove his sword forward and I felt a distinct pain in my lower arm.
The next thing I knew, Eric was on the ground outside the timber limits and I was staring at blood dripping down from my arm.
“NO!” I yelled. If Eric had cheated me of my victory I would kill him. Slowly. By cutting off his balls. And pulling out the little hairs on his butt. One by one.
My brain kept making up painful things I could do to Eric and it took me some time before I realized everyone had gone quiet. Eric was back on his feet and Niall walked towards us.
“An interesting battle,” Niall shouted. “One drew blood and one pushed the other one outside theholmgang limits.”
I waited for his verdict and swallowed my tears of anger and disappointment. Why had I let Eric`s sword come so close to me? I`d been winning. I`d been showing Eric. And now my arm was bleeding.
“Eric the Northman clearly fell but we also saw the blood on Sookie the Shieldmaiden`s arm.” Niall grabbed my hand and then Eric`s. He linked them so that Eric and I were holding each other`s hands. “I declare that they both win,” Niall shouted and from the cheer he got, the crowd seemed to agree.
Eric pulled me into his arms and lifted me up. A deep kiss landed on my mouth and his tongue searched for mine. Soon I was kissing him back and if Niall hadn`t stopped us, I`m not sure what would have happened.
The other four warriors fought each other and I didn`t see a single move and couldn`t say who ended up winning those holmgangs. Niall had stopped us from kissing in the middle of theholmgang field but that didn`t stop us from kissing elsewhere.
But after a while – a long while – I pulled back. I`d heard the distressed calls from cows, sheep and pigs and knew the blot was up. I wouldn`t miss the blot for anything – not even for Eric`s kisses.
I moved back into the crowd of warriors and saw Jason and Tara there. I couldn`t get closer to them but I was glad they were next to each other as the blot could get wild and we all needed someone to watch our backs.
Mead was passed around but I only drank small sips having already thrown up on Eric twice and not wanting to do a repeat performance.
Niall stepped forward, a large knife in his hand. A sheep was being herded towards him and he looked at the warriors. “Will the warriors who brought this sheep step forward?” he shouted and a few men and a woman did. They undressed and stood naked in front of Niall. Niall slit the sheep`s throat, held the animal up and made sure its blood sprayed each and every one of the warriors in front of him.
Everyone in the crowd shouted in joy over the beautiful gift presented to the gods and the warriors drenched in blood hugged each other and smeared the blood even more over their bodies. A couple of women came over to pick up the animal so they could later serve it as food for everyone.
Several animals were sacrificed like that and more and more people were naked and covered in blood. Even some of people in the crowd had undressed and were moving closer to each other.
Blots usually ended with a large orgy at the and this certainly would as well.
The cows and sheep from my village were pushed forward and Niall looked in my direction.
“Will the warriors who`ve given these fine animals step forward?” he shouted.
Jason, Tara and I walked over to Niall and so did Sam, Rene and a few other warriors from my village. We all stripped and stood there naked.
I took a deep breath, letting the emotions of the sacrifice fill me. This was my offering to the gods. I was a warrior – a tool for the gods and hopefully one they would grant victories in the upcoming battles and wars.
Jason grabbed my hand and Tara took the other one. A deep humming came from my throat and I realized everyone around me shared it. It was as if the gods were singing through us and it filled me with joy.
I closed my eyes and heard the sounds from the crowd, the animals and my own humming and as the shouts rose into a yell, I fell warm liquid running down my face and chest and it was as if the gods visited my body and I received their strength. It happened again for each animal Niall sacrificed and by the end, I was convinced we`d been successful in our offerings.
The gods must have been very pleased.
Jason gave me a hug and then I got one from Tara. Tara and Jason then hugged and just before Sam pulled me into his arms, I saw Tara and Jason`s hug turn into a kiss.
For a short moment I wanted to stop them but then I decided that it would be fine – perfect, actually – if Jason and Tara decided to enjoy each other`s bodies tonight. They both needed it andblot was not a night to say no to pleasure.
Sam`s hug was nice and warm, as if he wanted to transfer some of his strength to me, but when he opened his arms to hug someone else, Rene was there to take over.
I didn`t want to hug Rene, not after what I`d seen in my dream, but I couldn`t not hug him. So I did.
Luckily I was pulled away from the hug very quickly and ended in the arms of someone else. Someone tall. Someone I recognized as Eric.
It was his turn to sacrifice animals so I stepped back and enjoyed the view of a naked Eric being sprayed with blood. It was magnificent.
I`d decided not to participate in any orgies during the blot but as I watched Eric – when I felt him in my blood – I knew that he and I would have our own private orgy.
Eric had angered me and hurt me like no other man since Claude but on the night of blot there was no way I could stay away from him.
A blood-covered Eric? Hot or not? Hmmm.
Vikings and France/Francia
I notice that this story has quite a few readers from France so I figured I would add a little something for the French readers. I came over an interesting article about the Vikings and Francia (which I think it she English name for the area ruled by the Franks from the 3rd to the 10th century).
In 845 Ragnar Lodbrok (Furrypants … yeah, I know) sailed up the Seine with 120 ships and over 1000 warriors. Paris was their goal and when they arrived they started burning down houses and churches in anger because the Parisians had escaped with all their valuables.
To save the city the West-Frankish king Charles the Bald had to bribe Ragnar Lodbrok with 3.5 ton of silver. Paris was saved but the Vikings got greedy. A city that will pay you 3.5 ton of silver to get rid of you must be worth another visit.
The Vikings came back several times and each time the number of Vikings on the river Seine increased. Charles the Bald had to do something.
Unfortunately he didn`t have any boats so he couldn`t fight the Vikings on the river. He therefor started building fortified bridges to block the river against the Vikings.
In 885 Ragnar Lodbrok`s son Sigurd Orm-i-øyet (Worm-in-the-eye) came up the river Seine with a fleet of Viking ships that “stretch of 20 kilometers was packed so closely that one couldn`t see the water in the river” according to the monk Abbo Cernuus. Sigurd had even brought women and children because he was planning on staying.
Sigurd was stopped by a bridge close to Paris and he offered the city that he wouldn`t raid it if they let him through. He wanted to raid Burgundy instead. Paris said no, to his big surprise. After having, unsuccessfully, tried to gain access to the bridge tower and tried to burn down the bridge they set up camp and raided the farms around Paris instead.
The Vikings made sure Paris starved but Paris still fought back. They fought back for almost a year with huge sacrifices. But then an agreement was made: The Vikings were allowed to sail past Paris and plunder Burgundy if they let Paris alone. This was Sigurd`s original demand so he quickly accepted.
One of the men who were on this raid was called Rolf. In 911 he came back to the Seine with his own army. He was offered a large area at the Seine if he promised to become Christian and fight off all the other Vikings. He accepted and that was the beginning of the kingdom of Normandy (the Vikings were called Normans).
This was the quick version and you are probably all still giggling over Furrypants