Pursued By A Viking – TS Florence

Freya could see that the golden-haired girl was someone important. Her hands were not rough like a farmer’s daughter, her skin was too clean and her teeth were too white and her dress was too well made. She would have ransomed the girl back to her family if not for Ivar the Cruel’s attack. The scream that erupted from the golden-haired girl when Freya loosed the arrow into the gigantic viking that charged her that day stayed with Freya for the rest of the day, as they rode hard through the harsh Scottish highlands. And since then, the mighty warrior Magnus had haunted her dreams, along with another man, a darker, man, chilling her to the core, causing her to wake from her dark dreams in a cold sweat, as if his icy gaze penetrated her soul in her sleep. She remembered hearing their leader in his great white bear fur yell the man’s name, as his warrior fell. Magnus the Mighty. The attack was a tragedy. Freya had lost over three quarters of her men in the initial attack, and she knew that more would be lost in the following days due to attacks from Scotsmen. She needed to get back to her allies, the MacKenzies. The only problem was making it through Sutherland territory without losing too many men. Freya’s father had been a hunter his whole life, and had taught her how to use a bow from the time she learned to walk. Now she used those skills to bring death to men. And each man she killed took away a piece of her happiness. But that pain was nothing compared to watching the slaughter that Ivar the Cruel inflicted on her that day.

Over 50 men dead. Freya wished to find a man who would take care of her. A man with a heart. Not one of he warriors, men who liked to drink too much ale, fight, and fuck their way through their lives. Freya never wanted any of these things, and she was tired of being surrounded by men who did. Never in her life had she met, or so much as seen, a man that would take her interest. Besides him. Besides the warrior whose name she did not know. Tall and lean, his muscles popping out of his body like a bull. The man warrior with the piercing gaze that haunted her dreams, his blue eyes that shone across the battlefield like beacons of cold fury.

He was surely Magnus’ blood warrior, and for that reason alone, she could never cross paths with him again without one of them dying. After the attack they had suffered that day, they stopped running once it was late into the night. Cold and exhausted, Freya cried silently under her blankets and furs, as she did after every battle. She cried for the men she had lost. She cried for her dead father. She cried for the man she had killed named Magnus. She cried, that so when she woke tomorrow, she would have no more tears left to cry. So then she could go on with her life, and pray that she would not need to go to battle again. So far, the gods had not blessed her so. S K A L D There she is, Freya, the Goddess of Death.

More beautiful than the poems could ever describe. The stories are true. She looks like a valkyrie shield maiden from the fairy tales. A legendary bow kona. A goddess sent to earth to punish men for their evil deeds. Skald stopped dead in his tracks as he watched Freya speak with Isla and her English friend. Skald envied the jealous look on Ivar’s face as he watched Isla beg with her English friend to stay with her. Tell me, Ivar. What does it feel like to have a woman take your heart? To give you a reason to live? Because I feel myself running out of reasons to live. Skald watched as the Englishman left the cage and scrambled behind Freya.

And Isla will stay, interesting. Freya took the bow from her back. So the stories were true, she was a bow kona, a bow woman. An archer, no matter her gender, one of the finest in all the lands. She put an arrow in its place, and let it loose, all in one seamless move. It was the man that received the bow that caused Skald to feel the small tug of emotion, the piercing of the ice casing that protected his heart, something he had not experienced in years. One of Skald’s most trusted blood warriors, a great war lord, Magnus, fell to his knees, landing face first onto the forest floor. And now we are fated to meet again, Freya, Goddess of Death, Bow Kona. What happens between us only the gods know. But Skald was certain of one thing.

This woman was the first human to cause him to feel any hint of positive emotion since he was a child, before his parents were slaughtered in front of his eyes. And a positive emotion came in spite of his friend’s death, so what then, could the gods want with Freya. Was Skald put on this earth to destroy her, or was Freya put on this earth to save him? T HIRT E E N Y E A RS E A RL IE R SKA L D Skald turned seven years old during the spring he watched his parents slaughtered before his eyes. The spring that his father had promised to teach him ship building in the summer. “We can get a whole ship built before the end of summer,” Skald’s father said to him, as they used their axes to carve the wood to their liking, while talking, and watching the orange flames of the fire dance into the sky. Every now and then, his father would stand up and walk over to his wife who was cooking fish over the fire, and put his hand on the small of her back, kissing her cheek. Watching his father show his mother affection brought Skald great joy, and he looked forward to finding a woman who would make his heart sing with joy just like his father’s. “Father, where did you find mother? I want a nice woman,” Skald asked causing his parents to laugh together. Skald laughed too, though only because he was happy to see his parents laughing together. “Your mother and I grew up in the same village, but all the other young men wanted her too.

So you know what I did?” Skald’s father said to him “What did you do?” Skald had not heard this story before. His eyes widened, and he jumped to his feet, running over to his mother and father. “I fought for her.” Skald’s father said. “You mean you fought with other men?” Skald asked, surprised. “Well, I did that too, but fighting for someone is more than that. I fought for your mother by showing her my heart. By showing her that there was more to me than the other men. The other men were just that. Other men.

But I was the man your mother needed, so I showed her that,” he said, his chest out, and proud. “So if I want a woman, I need to show them my heart?” Skald asked, skeptically. Skald’s mother answered for his father, putting his small hands in hers. “Yes; And if that lucky girl does not like your heart, then it was not meant to be. You do not let yourself grow bitter over this, but instead, you wait until another girl captivates your heart, and then you show her as well. And you go on, until your soul finds its counterpart. Odin, in all his wisdom, splits souls in two, and sends them down to earth. If your soul can find its other half, then your heart will know true happiness. Until then, you must search, my son. For love is the greatest thing a man and woman can have in life, more than any amount of gold and glory.

” That night, warriors from another land came to Skald’s small farmland. They came looking for land and women and gold. These warriors were the type that killed all those who stood in their way, without discrimination. Skald’s parents were fighters, but not fighters in the sense of warriors and valkyries, but fighters who stood for what was right. That night, Skald’s parents stood up for what was right, and it cost them their lives. Skald had not yet learned to properly wield a sword, besides the lessons he was taught by his father and in the village. The men forced Skald’s parents to their knees, and held Skald, forcing him to watch as their hearts were pierced with their terrifying, ugly, death bringing swords. C URRE NT D A Y SKA L D The smell of smoke from the Smithy’s shelter always gave Skald a cold feeling. For the smell from a Smithy’s shelter is a unique smell of molten metal, rock and wood; not like a normal fire. And that unique smell of molten metal, rock and wood was the smell that Skald had ingrained into his mind the night his parents were killed and his childhood home was burned to the ground, along with everything they owned.

Skald blocked out the smell and the memories, attempting to focus on the scent of manure and hay that was a constant reminder of where the stables were, as he and Ragnar saddled their horses, preparing for their journey. “Are you sure you do not want to take any more men?” Ivar scratched at the healing wound on his leg. As much as he wanted to join them on this journey, Isla had forbidden it. “Four men is enough,” Skald looked at the two men they had chosen, Erik and Haaken. Both Erik and Haaken were formidable warriors, hand picked by Skald and Ragnar, for their fearlessness in battle and willingness to obey any command. Isla came out to bid them farewell. Skald could still sense her fear of him, for he did not allow his heart to defrost. He had not felt his own heart beat since the night of his parents’ deaths. He believed that it had frozen over, like the deep, constant winters that the far north is cursed with. Deep, dark, and hidden, away from the world, encased in a protective layer of ice, lest he have it attacked and destroyed like he did as a child.

The lack of emotion caused people to be weary of him, but Skald liked that. It meant he didn’t become attached to people. “If you find Freya alive, do not kill her, but bring her to me first,” Ivar said, eying Skald. “If she’s alive,” Skald said, carefully. “She must hang for Magnus’ death,” Ivar said, with a sad resignation in his voice. “I know,” Skald said. For it was accepted custom that if they were to capture the leader of a rival clan, who had killed one of their blood warriors, that they must hang for their death. So far, the custom had not been broken in over 100 years. “We hope for your safe return, and if you find Jack, please bring him back” Isla said, looking to Ragnar and Skald, as they mounted their horses, and said their goodbyes. “You have my word,” Ragnar said to Isla.

Skald simply nodded, twitching his jaw, feeling the envy of Isla’s ability to love so openly and freely. She loved everyone, and everyone loved her. How did she manage that, after all the pain she had suffered? You must show the girl your heart until your soul finds its counterpart. Skald’s mothers words rang in his mind, but he forced it back down. She’s wrong, Skald thought to himself; giving your heart leads to pain and destruction. They made it to the Scottish border by within two days, and within a week they had made it to the township of Edinburgh. The town seemed to have a tavern on every corner, selling good ale. The taverns were one of the best places to go if you wished to find information on people. “Do you think these Scottish women like to fuck?” Erik asked, causing Skald to scowl at him in the dark. “They won’t want to touch your disease ridden body,” Skald said, causing himself to wonder if he had made the right choice to bring this man.

“Haaken, I want you to scout the surrounding streets before coming in, in case we need to make retreat,” Skald ordered, his voice cold and clinical. They had learned to speak the language of the Scots during their many years in Scotland raiding and pillaging under Ivar the Clever. Skald had hoped to hear men speaking of Freya, the Goddess of Death during his time spend eavesdropping on conversation with his men, but it was the men who approached Skald that left him surprised. The tavern they had chosen was lit by lamps on the walls, giving the place a golden glow. It was lively, with music being played and men signing, and ale being spilled onto the floor by men who had been drinking for far too long. Skald, Ragnar, Erik and Haaken were sitting in a booth besides a window, listening in on conversations. “You’re Norsemen, yes?” A huge man approached Skald, his eyes darker then the night sky. His face was filled with scars, his body was huge and muscle bound. The scars caused his lips to curve upwards, leaving him with a permanent smile that looked more menacing than kind. He must be slow in battle, Skald thought.

A weakness. “Keep your voice down,” Skald clipped. “We’re looking for a girl,” the man said. “So a man I do not know is looking for a girl,” Skald said, sarcastically. “Do you wish to make an enemy of me?” The man asked, his voice displaying his anger. “What are your names?” Ragnar interrupted, putting his hand out to stop Erik and Haaken from moving out of their booth. “I am Gregor, and this is my brother Gorm,” The huge man said, gesturing to his equally large brother. “And the girl you are looking for?” Ragnar asked. “Freya, the Goddess of Death. She is a valkyrie shield maiden, and a famous bow kona.

We intend to torture and kill her,” Gregor said. Skald’s ears pricked up at Freya’s name, causing his heart to rattle in its icy confines at the prospect of any news of her whereabouts. “And why would you want her dead?” Skald asked. “Because she killed our brother, Magnus the Mighty,” Gregor said. “It seems the gods have put us in this tavern to meet,” Skald said, new plans already taking place in his mind. “And why is that?” Gregor asked, sceptically. “Because we are Magnus’ blood warriors, and we have also come into Scotland, seeking revenge on Freya,” Skald said. “Then we are of the same mind and we should work together,” Gregor said, his brother Gorm, agreeing silently by nodding his head. Ragnar gave them the warrior’s handshake, while Skald stayed where he was. He did not know that Magnus had brothers, and he did not intend to give any more information to these men than what was necessary.

He did not trust them, for it took more than a meeting in a tavern, the drinking of strong ale and bonding over a mutual interest of revenge to gain Skald’s favour, particularly if their ambition interfered with his. We may be allies for now, but do not be so willing to accept them, Ragnar, Skald thought to himself. Skald allowed Gregor and Gorm to join them, but only because if they heard something, it would allow him to continue his plans. Always be planning. Always be one step ahead, Ivar would say. Many men didn’t plan ahead of breakfast, but if Skald wanted to bring Freya back to England, he would need to stay ahead of Gregor and Gorm. He owed them nothing, yet they threatened everything. Skald’s plan paid off. Just two nights later, Gregor came to their camp with news. “We know of Freya’s location, and we also learned some news of you, Skald the Heartless,” Gregor said, eyeing him carefully.

“Well, tell me the good first, and the bad after,” Skald clipped, keeping emotion from his face, which wasn’t difficult. “We heard that Freya is with the MacKenzie clan. They are Highlanders close to the Northern Shore, which means we will need to ride through most of Scotland to reach them. And secondly, we heard from other Northmen that have raided with you that you are incapable of feeling. That words and actions from others have no effect on you, that you have never shown the ability to care for woman or man, during death, love, or sorrow,” Gregor said.

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