Become a Fan
Lava and Ice--Prologue
By Dena L. Moore
Friday, May 31, 2002
North Atlantic Ocean
The ship lurched forward as the wind hurled into the sail. Olaf Blackfoot nudged one of the men and, motioning with his hand lest his words were not heard above the howling wind, bellowed, "Pull down the sail! Get the pole out of the socket before it crashes down." Men scrambled across the wet, wooden deck to disassemble the billowing white cloud high above the deck, losing their footing each time a wave hit the low-bellied knörr.
Olaf and his brother Orm High-brow were co-owners of the ship, and Orm was not on deck. Olaf was very anxious, much more worried about this unexpected approaching storm than he had ever been at sea. Although he was a skilled sailor and navigator, and had made this trip many times before, this time it was different, this cargo was much more precious. After much consideration, Olaf was moving his entire family from the unforgiving, rocky land of Western Norway to Iceland. There was plenty of land to be had in Iceland, and Olaf had many friends there.
Grabbing the arm of a slave girl who was hurrying past, Olaf asked, "Do you know where Master Orm is?" The girl turned frightened brown eyes towards him. Her face was pale, freckled and damp from the mist the waves sprayed over the bow. He had stopped her on her way to the short ladder that led below deck, down to the cargo hold.
"No, Master Olaf. Have not seen him for a while."
Olaf let her arm fall back to her side. Where the hell is he? He couldn't believe Orm would disappear at a time like this. He would think Orm would be concerned about the storm heading their way. He didn't want to spend precious time hunting for his brother, but the men were more comfortable taking orders from Orm. Orm was gifted with the luck of the tongue, whereas Olaf was more primitive in his communication.
"I am scared, Master. I want to go below."
Olaf saw that the girl was cold and trembling; he grunted in response. The girl took her chance and scurried away. Olaf went below deck right behind her, stepping down the thick wooden rungs of the ladder. The slave girl went to the far side of the vessel to a storage room he had left empty for his wife, children, and household slaves to stay in during the voyage. He knew Orm wouldn't be there. He was likely checking on the cargo. Olaf walked the long aisles of barrels, stacks of cloth, and household goods. The cargo smelled strongly of fish.
"Odin's eye!" A barrel of salted fish had tumbled onto its side and spilled down the center of the aisle. Olaf was pushing the herring back into the barrel when he heard the smacking of flesh against wood, and he knew someone was violating his precious oak planks, the planks he was going to use to build his new home. He threw the lid to the fish barrel back down on the floor and hurried toward the massive storage area where he kept the wood. As Olaf drew close to the planks, he heard a woman moan. "Orm"
Olaf knew that voice. He drew closer to the couple, more cautious now. A woman's bare foot pressed against the beam outlining the door; she was using the thick wood for leverage as she pushed her body into Orm's. His heart skipped a beat, then slammed painfully against his ribs. He had prayed that he was mistaken about her voice, but now he knew he was right. He also recognized the beautiful white leg. It belonged to his only love Ygar, his beautiful, skilled, Irish concubine. He drew even closer to the couple. Ygar's skirts were hiked up to her waist and her tunic was pushed down to show the globes of her breasts. He couldn't see her face, and he was glad of that. Olaf watched in silence as Orm brought Ygar to release once, twice, and then Orm himself grunted in pleasure. Olaf's pain bit deep, yet he had no thought of vengeance. He could not kill Ygar, or Orm, although he was entitlednay, expectedto under such circumstances. He loved them both. Olaf pulled an iron tipped blade from the top of his worn boot and drove it deep into his left eye. His body fell against Ygar's braced leg, and she let out a scream.
Thorin Asgeir's-dottir looked at her husband's lifeless body with disdain. Olaf Blackfoot was weaker than even she had realized.
"I'm sorry, Thorin," Orm said again, for at least the tenth time since Thorin had been summoned from her closet. "I didn't know he would find us."
"Ygar should be punished for this. She has brought shame to our family." Thorin didn't envy Olaf's love for Ygar, but she did care about her two son's future. How will my children ever overcome Olaf's suicide? It was a most shameful way to die and Thorin knew that Olaf was already in Hel for his weakness. I hope it is colder and darker in Hel than an Icelandic winter.
"If you punish Ygar, then you must also punish me. I invited her to my bed." Orm couldn't let the concubine bear the brunt of Thorin's anger. He clutched at Thorin's arm like a child, wanting to make her see reason. He knew Thorin would not let Ygar off so easily.
"Ygar made her choice, and has shamed our family. Don't you understand? My children are ruined because of her. I cannot let this go." Thorin turned away from Olaf's body. She didn't want to see the coward. "Will you seek payment for this deed, Orm High-brow, or shall I?"
"Thorin, please! Let us speak more of this." Orm's eyes met the icy cold blue ones of Thorin. Her golden yellow hair was unbound and flowed in waves down to her waist. Orm knew that Thorin's appearance belied her temperament. She was a no-nonsense type of woman, a woman he could easily grow to love.
"What more is there to speak of? I have been wronged by all of you. You and Ygar had no thoughts but of lust, and Olaf didn't have the nerve to call you out." Thorin sighed heavily. Her head was throbbing now. "Now my sons will suffer, through no fault of their own. Ygar's children will hurt from this, as well. If she had any sense in that silly Irish head of hers, she would have turned you away at once."
Thorin didn't have to say it. Orm knew what she was thinking. Ygar should have turned him away, just as Thorin herself had a few months before. It wasn't fair, the luck Olaf had with the women. Tongue-tied Olaf had enjoyed the favors of two of the most beautiful women Orm had ever met and he knew it was because Olaf was the head of the family, having inherited the farmstead when their father passed on. Olaf had been a rich man, and now he was dead. The brothers had decided to sell the farmstead and move on to Iceland because the land was too rough in Norway and the king's policies were leaning more and more towards Christianity. The brothers didn't believe that one god could be responsible for so much, couldn't believe that Odin and Thor and Tyr were the weaklings the missionaries portrayed them to be.
Orm glanced at Thorin's rigid expression. It reminded him of her reaction when he had suggested that she meet him at the bog near Olaf's farmstead in Norway. Although Orm had no trouble seducing women, the women he wanted most belonged to his brother. Ygar had been coming to his bed for the past few weeks, and she had pledged her love to him only yesterday. Orm had conquered Ygar out of jealousy of Olaf; he knew that Olaf loved Ygar but the woman Orm truly wanted for himself was Olaf's wife. Was his wife! Thorin was a widow now. Maybe, just maybe, he could think of a way to earn her respect, and eventually her hand. "You are right. Ygar must be punished."
Thorin looked at him again, her blue eyes suspicious. "And you will see to it?"
"Yes. I will take care of her. I have an idea." Orm tapped his unusually high forehead for emphasis; the forehead had earned him his name of High-brow. "If you agree, maybe all will not be lost for the children." Orm was formulating a plan even as he spoke. The see-saw motion of the ship broadened his idea.
Thorin grabbed onto a nearby support to stay steady on her feet. She would be glad when the storm passed. "I will have to learn of your plan first, before I agree to anything." Her eyes challenged Orm even as she spoke.
Orm smiled at Thorin's forthrightness. "Of course. I wouldn't expect anything less of you. This storm is not all that bad, but perhaps it is bad enough to dump Olaf over the side? We could say he fell in and drowned in the waves."
"I don't know. Olaf was a good sailor. How would we keep the crew quiet?"
"Every man on this ship has sailed with me many times over. They are loyal, to me and to Olaf. They wouldn't want to spread anything unlikely about Olaf. I will give them double their pay and guarantee to make a trip for booty."
"Orm! Piracy is very dangerous."
"Yes, it is, but that never stopped me before." Orm's face broke out in a wide grin. His teeth were nice and even and flashed white against his tanned skin. He and Olaf had returned just months before from an excursion to Spain.
Thorin suspected that their trip south had been one of looting, especially since Olaf had returned with so much gold and silver. Not soon after the men's return, Olaf had ordered her and Ygar to ready the household to move to Iceland before the winter cold set in. She sighed again. "If we can conceal Olaf's suicide, I will do anything necessary to do so. Asgeir and Harald deserve more from this life than to be branded as a coward's son."
"Yes, my nephews deserve much more. I will do this for you, Thorin. I will do anything for you." Orm reached for Thorin's hand, and she let him take it for the barest of seconds before pulling it away.
"Please, Orm. My husband has just died." She glanced back towards Olaf's body. The blade still protruded from his eye. Blood pooled under his head and ran in rivulets out from his body, soaking the wooden planks of the floor. Thorin couldn't hold back the tiny shudder that racked her body, but she quickly got it under control. She had to be strong.
Orm, so intent in his quest of winning Thorin's admiration, failed to notice her reaction. "I know," he said quietly, "I always thought you married the wrong brother."
"This is not the time, Orm." She didn't understand how Orm could think of sex while his brother lay dead on the floor in front of him. I can't believe Olaf killed himself over a concubine! He should've took their lives, not his own. Thorin shuddered again. "What will you do with Ygar, Orm? Her punishment should fit her deed."
"I will send her children into fosterage and keep her as a concubine. I need someone to run my estate while I am away." The ship rocked violently then, and Thorin was thrown into a wooden beam support. Orm helped her regain her balance. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine!" she exclaimed, exasperated. Thorin knew Orm wanted her to offer to foster Ygar's and Olaf's children, but she wasn't sure if she wanted the responsibility. "Who will you foster them with?" she asked, trying to decide. It was usually looked upon as a tribute to a person to foster their children, and she certainly didn't want to pay tribute to her late husband's concubine. Yet, Olaf had adopted the children as his own, and they were entitled to the same treatment as Thorin's own sons. It wasn't much of a difference, regardless. Ygar's children, Ottar and Halla, had been living in Thorin's household since their birth; they knew no other life. If Ottar and Halla were put under Thorin's care, they would grow up to be fine adults. She also had to think of her own children. Her boys were friendly with Ygar's son Ottar, and Olaf's and Ygar's daughter Halla would be a good help when she was older.
Orm didn't say anything for a moment, then he muttered, "I thought you would like to keep them."
Thorin tried to smile, but she couldn't. Although the situation was a bad one, she had decided what she would do. Ygar would hate her for taking her children from her, but it wasn't possible for the thrall to dislike her anymore than she already did. "Yes, I will keep them. Because Olaf adopted Ottar and Halla, they are my children as well. I wouldn't want any harm to come to them."
"Good." Orm grimaced as he looked down upon his older brother. "I will see to Olaf's body, then. You go and inform Ygar of what we have planned."
Thorin nodded in agreement. She had nothing more to say.
Please be patient with awkward sentences, later changes, and errors...this is the first draft. D.
Site: Gaea's Cauldron: Stories of Fantasy, Mysticism, and the Occult
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