Magnar – Mary Morgan

What began as a magical, whispered thought deep within a dark forest between a druid, raven, and Norse Seer, eventually took shape within the minds of seers and druids who belonged to five ancient clans that carried blood from both the Norse people and the Picts. While feuding clans and marauders continued to ravage the Scottish realm, the blood of their victims seeped into the land, and the people wept as they cried out for vengeance. Despite the pleas for war from their people, the chieftains, after seeking counsel from their druids and seers, sought another plan to ease the conflict tormenting the clans. These chieftains called for an order of guards to protect their current king and those who would follow to reign over Scotland. Though these ancient clans had ties to two different countries— Norway and Scotland, they deemed the strongest king should rule over both. After much debate, they came to a settlement. If the King of Scotland was to govern over both countries, he would require strong men to protect, serve, and even spy on his behalf. Men whose bloodline would be filled with the magic of the Norse God Odin and the Pict God Dagda—a bridge linking all of the people’s beliefs. The runes were cast on a stormy night, and the men were chosen. ’Twas on a Moon Day within the Black Frost month on Orkneyjar, that the blood of a wolf and an eagle were mixed with a powerful magic. Each man selected from these ancient tribes entered the stone chamber—to be one with the bones of the wolves. What emerged was dominant and commanding—feared by those who witnessed the pairing of each man with his wolf. And as the centuries bled into the next within the boundaries of Scotland, the wolves became more of a myth—one told by bards on a cold winter’s night. Especially the tales of the leader of these mighty wolves. Known as the barbarian, Magnar MacAlpin is honor-bound to one clan.

Loyal to one man—King William The Lion of Scotland. Without his knowledge, evil stalks this warrior. Eventually, the lines between predator and prey will blur, leaving behind a deadly carnage in its path. Though this warrior moves with stealth-like mastery, he is cloaked by the veil of darkness. The light of the full moon shimmers not from the steel of his weapon, but the silver within his eyes. He walks between the shadows of man and wolf—descended from the first and tied to the second. Magnar from the house of Alpin, King Kenneth MacAlpin. This is his tale. The MacAlpin Wolf Saga. Chapter One Orkneyjar Isles ~ Early June 1206 Bracing his forearms on the bow of the longship, Magnar ignored the rough edges biting into his skin.

He kept his focus fixed on the shore near the town of Kirkjuvágr on the Orkneyjar Isles. The land beckoned him toward her alluring bosom, tempting him with a song of welcoming. Stirring the blood flowing through his veins and calling forth the beast within his body. Magnar clenched his jaw at the invasion. We shall not linger long on this isle. How long had he been gone this time? Twelve moons? Or was it thirteen? Time merely concerned him when there were tasks to complete for his king. Furthermore, there was no need to seek the solace of the land here. The last time he walked on these shores, it was to his ship after harsh words were spoken in a conversation with his mother. And on that day, he vowed not to return until man and beast had tempered their anger. His beast rejoiced at the summons from the Seer, but Magnar still fumed at the order.

No doubt she would demand that he meet with his mother and mend the rift. He’d considered refusing. Even crushing the missive within his fist that spring day when the messenger placed it in his hand. The Seer refused to state clearly her reasons for the visit, and this inflamed his anger. Regardless, he could not disobey her request. A vow he made when he took an oath to protect both countries upon his initiation into the elite guard. As he stared out into the depths of the sea, images from another time sifted through his memories. “What are you?” she demanded in a raspy voice, heavy from the smoke within their small enclosure. “A man,” he af irmed with steely calm. “Nae.

” She shook her head. “What are you?” He placed his palms upon the coarse wood of the table. “A man.” She smacked the table with her gnarled fingers. “What are you?” Magnar fought the surging power within his body. His fingers dug into the wood, leaving ugly scars within the grain. The wolf gnashed his teeth within him—more at the fury of Magnar’s denial of what he truly was. Controlling his beast was easy. Yet resisting the Seer would only increase her wrath. “A man.

” Fury blazed in the depths of her eyes. “And a…wolf,” he af irmed with contempt for uttering the words out loud. A blast of sea spray snapped Magnar out of his thoughts from a bitter reminder of the lesson he had learned in his youth. After his terse words with the Seer that day, she’d ordered him to remain in his wolf form for one full month. He’d nearly gone mad. Not since that time had Magnar challenged the Seer again. Nor the woman who replaced her after her death. And never had he allowed the wolf to roam free for more than one day. A vow he made to both— man and beast. An oath that had kept them alive.

The longship rose high and slammed back down with a violent force, knocking one of his hardened warriors from his stance by Magnar’s side. Wiping the water from his eyes, he rose to his full height. “The air is warm,” remarked Rorik, resuming his position. He rubbed a hand over his jaw. “Then Odin favors our return. If not, storms would hinder us from landing.” “I feared the tempest we left behind in Scotland might follow us on our journey.” Magnar glanced at his friend. “You sense the unrest, too?” Shrugging, Rorik leaned against the bow. “A whisper on the breeze.

Not a prophecy.” “Are you now a soothsayer?” “Nae, nae.” Rorik turned away from the approaching shoreline. “Be careful the words you speak, or Ragna will hear you and cast out my tongue and eyes.” Magnar snorted in disgust. “The Seer poses nae threat to you or the men on this ship.” “Do you not fear her? Even when she called you home—” “This is not my home,” interjected Magnar tersely. “Furthermore, when did you ever fear a woman?” Rorik shook his head solemnly. “Ragna might be young and a beauty, but she is the Seer and mighty powerful. And when will you make your peace with both countries?” He regarded his friend for a few moments and then cast his sight outward.

“When they stop calling me the Barbarian of Orkneyjar.” His friend arched a brow but remained silent. Magnar blew out a frustrated sigh. “Since I chose to further my training in Scotland—” He waved a hand dismissively. “—the people here regard me as a savage. As if they are any better, aye?” Rorik shifted his stance. “Have not the Northmen judged themselves above all others?” Chuckling softly, Magnar nodded. “We are a mixture of both—Scottish and Northmen blood. An advantage for us. Nevertheless, we must endure this hostile greeting each time we set foot upon this land.

” “You are incorrect. It is merely fear that makes them lash out. There are a few who might envy what we are but many honor us. I ken they fear you more than any other wolves.” “Nae matter. We shall remain nae more than one night.” “Are you not curious as to why the Seer has called you home?” asked Rorik, running a hand through his beard. Magnar bit back the words to remind his friend again that this was not his home. “Her summons was not detailed.” “Are you worried?” “Not the word I would have chosen,” stated Magnar, bracing his hands on the bow.

“Annoyed. She removed me from an important assignment tasked by King William.” “I heard it was given to Ivar.” “Without my blessing,” added Magnar. Rorik smacked him on the back. “Aye, you are our leader, but even you cannot ignore an order given by King William.” Magnar fought the smile forming on his mouth. “True.” He inhaled deeply as they drew near their destination. The bloody scent of his previous training haunted him here on the Orkneyjar Isles.

This land was unlike his wild and rugged Scotland. Too ancient. Too barren. Too much magic. Though he was born on Kirkjuvágr, his heart belonged to another country. Magnar raised his fist, a sign for the oarsmen to slow their speed. He noted, as they drew even closer, the arrival of several men on horseback. The stiffness in his shoulders disappeared when Berulf, his old friend, waved to him. After returning the gesture, Magnar waited until the longship came closer to the beach, and in one swift move, he jumped over the side. The seawater came up to his waist—a frigid welcome back, and he embraced the cold.

He gave no care to the shouts from the men on the ship. Or the bark of laughter from Rorik, who followed his lead and jumped overboard. Making long, steady strides, he greeted his friend on the sandy shore. “Hail, Magnar!” exclaimed Berulf, embracing him in a strong hug. Magnar smiled. “Greetings, old friend. The Seer foresaw our approach?” Berulf laughed. “She did, and I am not too old to spar with you.” “Do I detect a challenge in your tone?” Releasing his hold, Magnar stepped aside and approached one of the horses. “Always.

” “When you have bested this man, you can fight with me,” teased Rorik, smacking Berulf on the back in greeting and handing Magnar his axe. “A fine welcome to see you here.” “If I recall, you owe me a barrel of uisge beathe,” remarked the man. Rorik pointed over his shoulder at the men offloading supplies. “Done.” Magnar placed a gentle hand on the animal. “You have brought my father’s horse, Alf.” Different emotions engulfed Magnar as he stroked the horse’s rich chestnut mane. When his father had died years ago in Scotland, Magnar’s mother had taken the horse with her to Kirkjuvágr. She vowed to never return to a land that stole the man of her heart.

Berulf approached on the other side. “I knew you would want to ride him on your journey to Ragna.” The horse snorted softly. “Aye, my friend. I have been away far too long.” “After you have visited Ragna, come seek me,” said Berulf. Magnar secured his axe to the side of the animal and then mounted his horse. “I look forward to sharing a cup of ale with you.” “And a game of hnefatafl,” suggested the man as he walked toward his horse. “Come, Rorik.

You can tell me about your adventures.” Rorik quickly swung a leg over his horse and asked, “Do you not mean the women I have met?” The roar of Berulf’s laughter followed Magnar as he rode off toward the hills. Giving his horse free rein, he allowed the animal to gallop over the lush grassy landscape. The wind slapped at his face, and he inhaled the salty tang of the sea mixed with the land. Embracing the elements, Magnar relaxed and allowed the tension to ease from his body. Onward they traveled through rolling hills until they reached a dense forest of ash and yew trees. When they entered, a silence, devoid of birdsong and animals, descended around them. Magnar slowed his horse. Sunlight glimmered through the canopy of branches as he followed the narrow path. Rune markings dotted several trees, guiding him farther into the sacred forest.

Approaching two giant yew trees, Magnar dismounted from his horse. “Stay steady, Alf.” After giving the animal a gentle pat, he moved gradually forward. Ducking under heavy limbs, he followed the stream flowing between more yew trees. Ragna’s cottage appeared in a small clearing. Wood smoke curled in a lazy circle upward. Magnar approached the entrance, and then waited. The Seer knew all who drew nigh—be it man or animal. Moments ticked by in frustrating silence. He fought the urge to shout his arrival, but it would do no good.

Ragna demanded patience and respect. And he was honor-bound to give her both. “You are early, Magnar, from the house of Alpin,” responded a familiar voice coming from around the back of the cottage. “I thought you would bide your time and rest your bones at the house of Berulf.” As the Seer came into sight, she shifted the bundle of herbs in her basket to her other arm. He clasped his hands behind his back. “Your request was marked urgent.” “And yet, you took your time crossing the sea.” Brushing past him, Ragna dropped the basket by the entrance of her cottage. “I had matters to attend to for King William.

” She eyed him skeptically. “The Lion can survive without one of his guards, even if you are the leader of the King’s guardians.” His gaze never wavered from hers. “Forsooth he parted with two. Rorik travels with me.” She shook her head. “This does not concern him.” Deciding it best to end this topic of conversation, he asked, “Why did you send for me, Ragna?” After sweeping her braids over her shoulder, her brow furrowed. “You are as impatient as my goat.” Magnar let out a growl.

“Temper your beast,” she demanded, wandering into her cottage. Unclenching his hands, Magnar exhaled slowly and followed her inside. As his eyes adjusted to the dark interior, he waited. She gestured to a bench by the hearth. “Please sit. You are blocking the sunlight.” Biting back the curse he wanted to fling outward, he did as she ordered. Ragna approached, holding a sealed parchment in her hands, and sat on the opposite bench. The firelight danced off her dark locks. “Since you still lack patience, I will be direct with my words.

Your mother, Olga, has passed from the realm of the living. She is dead.” Her words slashed like a blade through his heart. Immense pain blinded him, and Magnar stood abruptly. Dizziness swamped his senses as he fought for control. Tongues of flames from the fire snapped and hissed at him. The enclosure was too confining. His inner wolf howled, and he longed to rage with him. Suppressing the urge to shift, he clenched his hands at his sides. “How?” His question barely a whisper.

The Seer’s features softened. “Her heart.” Instinctively, Magnar rubbed his fist over his chest. Guilt haunted him. Quickly slamming the door on his last discussion with his mother, he asked, “When?” “Three months past.” Closing his eyes, he lowered his head. Pride had kept him away. Kept him at a distance from seeking forgiveness. Or offering an apology. First, his father.

Now, his mother. Gone. Forever. “She had penned three letters.” He snapped open his eyes, confused. “Three?” The Seer tapped the parchment against her knee. “One was for me. One for you, and I am not permitted to disclose the last name until you have read yours first.” She stood slowly. “If I may ask, why did you not mend the rift with her? Often times, your mother sought solace in the runes with me, but would not speak of the conversation she had with you before you left.

Can you share anything?” “Besides her constant talk of me taking a wife? Are you certain you don’t know?” He laughed bitterly. Raking a hand through his hair, Magnar stormed out of the cottage. Where did he begin to tell the dreadful tale of what he found out over a year ago? One so epic, he silenced his mother with his burning words as he stormed away in disgust. He lifted his head skyward, allowing the sun to warm his chilled bones. He heard the Seer’s gentle footsteps behind him. “If you have nae wish to discuss the conversation, I will understand. She kept the words tucked inside her heart and soul, refusing to share anything with me.” Blowing out a frustrated sigh, he glanced over his shoulder at her. “My mother confessed to having another son. My twin.

” Clutching the parchment to her breasts, Ragna’s eyes widened in shock, and she took a step back. “Nae.” “Even her secret remained hidden from you,” stated Magnar in a soft voice. Weary from the news, he brushed a hand down the back of his neck. “Twins cannot be firstborn,” she declared, moving to his side. “The magic was woven firmly, so there would be nae risk of harm. Or challenge.” “Apparently, something went wrong with the magic,” he replied dryly. Ragna touched his arm. “What happened to the other babe?” “My father took him far north.

Away from the isles.” “Norway?” He shrugged. “I did not ask.” Glancing sharply away, he confessed, “I spouted harsh words, damning both my parents when she told me last spring. I then left for Scotland.” Ragna moved away from him. Bending down on one knee, she placed her palm upon the ground. Slowly, she began to draw spirals in the dirt with two fingers. Dry leaves whirled around her as the wind lifted the strands of hair around her face. “Your new journey begins now, Magnar.

” She stood and turned toward him. Holding out the parchment, she added, “You must mend this rift that has split the fabric of your family. I shall consult the runes and tides. There is a reason two were born first in the house of Alpin. Go home, Magnar. See what you can learn from there. Watch the signs. Listen to the whispers in the breeze. Seek out the eagle near the tomb of bones. If there are two, there is a purpose—one your parents refused to consider.

A lone wolf can do as much harm as an entire pack.” His hand shook as he removed the parchment from her fingers. When he rubbed his thumb over his mother’s script, his grief returned in force. He swiftly banished the emotions. After carefully tucking the missive into his belt at his side, he gave a slight bow to the Seer. “My plans were to stay for one night.” She closed her eyes as if pondering some message from the Gods or Goddesses. The air stilled and warmed around them. A prickling of awareness skimmed across his skin. His inner beast lifted his head, and Magnar waited.

Exhaling slowly, Ragna opened her eyes and smiled. “Wait two nights and then journey back to Scotland.” Without giving him time to counter her reasoning, she retreated back into her cottage. He curled his lip in disgust and started walking in the direction of his horse. “I pray it was the Gods who spoke to you, Ragna. For I shall stay nae longer than I deem necessary.” As his steps led him through the darkness of the forest, Magnar sought to soothe the ache he would no doubt encounter when he reached his parents’ home.

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