Gone a Viking
Torunn Falksen stood near the dock as the three Drakkars neared the port. Her son Bjorn was returning from his first Viking raid and she was apprehensive of how he had fared. Her husband Rolf Dalgaard, a well respected berserker had not returned from his last voyage a year ago, although she was a good Danish wife and mother she still worried about Bjorn’s first time gone Viking.
It was 844 as those pesky Christian monks counted years and Bjorn had volunteered to be on this raid of Seville in Espania. Her heart leaped with joy as she could see him standing whole after the 30 oars of the drakkar he was on were lowered for docking. It would take time for all to be unloaded and she was now content that he was back home, so she turned and went back to their farmstead outside Ribe. Many Jarls and their men had now been going a Viking into farther lands for the past two generations since the old Roman Empire had crumbled and that Gaul Charlemagne had killed so many in his campaign of “Baptise or die”.
“Bo’gli’na klampi!” shouted the dakkar’s second in command.
At hearing the command Bjorn rushed to the bow and started fastening the lines. He was glad to be home and he would be pleased to see his mother. But his first raid had been everything he expected it to be and more.
He had a share in the plunder, he had been down the coast to a place he had never dreamed of and showed himself worthy in the raid, being blooded with honor now. He was accepted as a good Dane, maybe some to be learned yet but of strong spirit proven in a fight. His mother would be proud and he knew his father looked upon him with pride from Valhalla.
Some of the men had taken captives to be sold or kept as slaves based on their individual desires. None were taken with the express idea as hostages for ransom. He, himself had been content with plunder on this first raid.
After all was completed at the ship he made his way home to his farmstead and his mother.
“Kae’rlig hilsen” Bjorn yelled as he saw his mother out in front of their home.
“Hej” his mother yelled back waving her hand in his direction.
As they came together he hugged her tight to him.
“Your trip went well I seen by the bundle you are carrying” she told him as she stepped back for a better look and then having him turn around so she could see his back and all. “You seem to have fared quite well my son, I am honored.”
“Yes mother, my father’s teachings did we great service.” He answered.
“Let’s hope they serve you as well in bartering or trading these goods off in the coming days.” She told him. “Come lets go inside, you look as if you need some of my cooking.”
After eating and Bjorn showing her that which was his rewards for the voyage, especially a bracelet he gave to her as a welcome home present. They talked of his plans in trading the rest off and how good a trader his father Rolf had been besides being a well respected berserker.
Over the next couple of months Bjorn did do quite well in trading off all of his plunder from the raid on Seville. As well he worked with their two slaves on the farmstead. The two men that his father had kept over time were both of Britian one was called William and the other Clive. Both men had seemingly become used to their positions as slaves, as they had been quite young when captured and by now had spent half of their lives being the property of Rolf and now his widow Torunn and her son.
Many nights Bjorn would be out at one of his friends homes playing Hnefatafl , which he was known to be quite good at whether he played as the attacker with twice the pieces or the defender with the king to escape the attackers forces. Other nights he might be out with one young maiden or the other in more quiet endeavors and one reason some of his friends called him Bjorn the Kueidu’ifr (evening wolf).
Bjorn was a rather tall Dane with a wiry build and long somewhat wavy hair which although he combed often he rarely kept tied at the back of his head as some did. His beard was full as he hated scrapping his face except for the cheek bones and neck. He had piercing green eyes and fairly large hands and feet. He had one scar from learning to use a sword with his father on his right bicep and a rune tattoo on his left shoulder.
His mother Torunn was a beautiful woman in her own right with long flowing dark hair, she had several men to had made it known they would like to be suitors once she stopped mourning for Rolf. As yet she had no interest in such matters it seemed. She had loved her husband Rolf and their son Bjorn still lived there on the farmstead with her.
Ulf a well respected Dane was getting ready for a raid on the southern Irish coast, he was a contemporary of Ragnor Lodbrok and Bjorn had been asked if he wished to participate by Sigurd the second in command of the drakkar Bjorn and sailed on, on his previous Viking raid. Bjorn had gladly accepted. Torunn was both proud of him and yet also not quite ready for this to become a frequent part of her son’s life at the same time.
A couple of weeks later Torunn was again standing on the dock watching four dakkars sail out to sea with Bjorn on one of them.
Blanaid of Tralee had just left the chapel and was on her way home, talking with the monk brother always made her feel more at peace inside. Now she needed to be home and help her Mum with the chores and start preparing dinner for her Da and four brothers. She was a comely lass with long dark auburn hair, fair skin and the occasional freckle. But her most astonishing feature was her mesmerizing green eyes.
If young women were allowed she would dedicate her life to the one true God of the brothers. Although her parents had converted to the faith before she and her brothers were born, this was not something that they would be in favor of. Blanaid was now well into the age for marriage but seemed less interested in a husband and family of her own, as she was with the Christian faith. Soon her father might make the choice for her.
She had been named for the wife of the high king of Munster a hundred years before Curai Mac Daire and in love with his rival Cochulainn. Eventually this Blathnaid had aided her lover in entry to Con Doi Curai’s castle on the cliffs overlooking Dingle bay and after killing him escaped. Later though the two had been found by a druid loyal to her late husband along a cliff in Ulster and grabbing her threw both himself and Blathnaid off the cliff killing them both.
Blanaid had heard the legend so many times she could recite it backwards almost. Some times when someone would be telling the legend again she would repeat to herself silently, “eist moran agus can began” (hear much and say little).
The voyage had been fairly uneventful except for the occasional need to avoid where the fog banks were dense. The men of the north had a reverent fear of the fog, form the tales and lore of their heritage the fog held evil in it and they did not enter the fog unless absolutely forced to by circumstance.
At early morning the four dakkars came into sight of the cliffs overlooking dingle bay in the Corca Dhuibhne of Munster Ireland. After finding a safe place to beach their ships the crews of the four ships amounting to 360 men, minus the few left behind as a guard, headed up the beaches to the headlands for a monastery and town to raid, the town near the monastery was Tralee.
It was the monastery that was sighted first and many of the raiders took to it with zeal. Bjorn was among the remainder who headed for the town and as they neared it the plunder lust took over. Frightened men and women came out of their dwellings with men trying to defend what was theirs and those women not fighting alongside side their men were running for their lives. Many would not survive and some that did would be wounded or ravaged, all would be without possessions, some now homeless and some captured for sale as slaves later on.
Bjorn caught sight of a comely auburn haired young woman who seemed to be running back in the direction of the now probably burning monastery and fell in pursuit. He caught her quickly tackled her to the ground as she clawed and scratched to escape. Finally as he had her face down in the soil he started tying her hands behind her back.
“Co hifream leat” the girl kept shouting as Bjorn finished her hands and then stopped her kicking by also tying her feet and then tying that rope to the one binding her hands behind her.
Bjorn turned her over and leaned her against a knarled tree and then tied her to it before running into the melee to join his comrades in plundering the town.
A couple of hours later he returned a sack full and tied at its neck being held in one hand. Many other men making their way out of the town similarly laden, some pulling or pushing captives of their own along. Much of Tralee was in flames and the black smoke was getting thick. Moans and cries of women, men and children could be heard above the den of the crackling flames and guffaws of the sackers.
Untying her from the tree and pulling her to her feet, Bjorn started them both in the direction of the monastery. As they passed it he heard the woman gasp and then start to cry as she saw the thick smoldering smoke and embers of the fire that consumed anything burnable in the building, bodies of the monks were scattered about on the now very visible bloody ground . then he heard her say something he did not understand, over and over.
“Ma’ ithis nar cha cair. Ni thuigm. Co hifream leat.” She kept muttering to herself and her captor.
“Viena, mu’li ho’ra.” Was Bjorn’s only reply
After over an hour pulling the young Irish lass on the strengr and they were back at the dakkars. Once up and all on board all the captives were tied and put together in the tiald for the voyage. When all the crews returned and all was ready and made fast the four dakkars were shoved off and they started to oar out of the bay and onto the open sea.
Once they were out to sea and his duties lessened, Bjorn went to check on his captive and brought her some water to drink with a flikki to eat.
“Hvad hedder ou?” Bjorn asked her while pointing to her. But when she didn’t answer he said it again but added. “Jeg hedder Bjorn.” And pointed to himself.
After this was repeated a couple of times the young woman finally answered saying. “Blanaid, co hifream leat!” and then just continued to nibble on the flikki.
“Blanaid, good then eat.” Bjorn said and then stood and left. They did not understand each other’s words at all but Bjorn was sure the meanings were known to both of them.
The sea was not exactly calm for the voyage and many of the captives got sick during the trip. Bjorn kept a watch on the auburn haired one and saw that she was faring well, although when she caught him watching her what he saw in the green eyes was anything but fear…maybe not hatred , but surely not fear. By morning the four dakkars were dropping sails and preparing to make dock back in their home port.
After all plunder had been unloaded, all the captives were on shore and the ships looked after properly, men were milling around talking and getting ready to head for their respective homes. While Bjorn was talking to one of his friends an older man from one of the other ships stopped and started looking at Blanaid with an obvious stare. It was Yngue Black Tooth a berserker, but not considered a very honorable man by most.
As Yngue bent over to get a closer look, he outstretched his arm as if to touch what he was intently looking at. The young woman captive had not made a sound until then but when his knarled hand was about to touch her she couldn’t hold her tongue.
“Blast you to hell, you son of a fatherless dog. Leave me alone.” She yelled.
“Hey Black Tooth, that woman is my property. You have not asked permission to make such advances.” Bjorn yelled closing the space between him and Yngue.
“Quiet boy, I may want to barter for this little morsel. But I don’t make offers blindly; I want to see what I am buying first.” Yngue spat in Bjorn’s direction as he once again started to make contact with the captive, but this time more in the area of her concealed breasts with both hands fingers splayed out.
By now Bjorn was standing beside him, grabbed at Yngue’s shoulders, spun him around and stood face to face saying. “She is not for sale and even if she was I would be more particular than a price you could afford I am sure.”
“Careful puppy, your father is no longer here to ensure yours whimpers are conceded to.” Black Tooth said in an insulting gesture of indifference.
“Rust consumes iron and envy consumes itself.” Bjorn said
“Now you have insulted me whelp with that old oath. So I will have to teach you a lesson.” Yngue spat back.
“Hold on, what goes on here.” Ulf said as he had just walked up seeing an altercation about to start. Over the next few minutes both Bjorn and Yngue told their sides of the issue, as did a couple of bystanders. “Well then I suppose we do have a dispute but is it worthy of blood at this point.”
“Aye we do if Yngue pursues it that far, Ulf. The woman is my property and I have not given him leave to examine her, and I have told him she is not for sale.” Bjorn said.
“This whelp insulted me Ulf, am I supposed to forget that.” Yngue shouted back.
“Now Yngue, the nature of the insult was mild and you deserved it as you did start to paw at his property without his leave.” Ulf retorted.
“Odin’s curse be on his leave.” Yngue spat back. With that Yngue made a lunge at Bjorn, who efficiently side stepped the attack and clouted Yngue on the back of his neck to add injury to insult.
During the next few minutes the two men struck many blows at each other and blood did spatter some of the now throng of onlookers. Then Yngue seeing he could not best Bjorn barehanded pulled a knife and lashed out to cut the young Dane warrior. In one of the parries Bjorn was gashed at the bicep which only seemed to now enrage him in a couple of more moves he had grabbed Yngues knife from him and was astraddle the berserker on the ground with his own knife at his throat held by Bjorn.
Blanaid watched as she could from her vantage point and although she hated this recent capture she knew that this fight was over her. If she had to succumb to being violated in the near future she would much rather it be by the younger one who abducted her than that fetid mouthed beast who had attempted to paw her a few moments ago.
“Yield now or meet the unworthy in Aesgard. For you will die without a sword in your hand in worthy combat.” Bjorn said staring at the man beneath him with steel in his green eyes.
“I yield young wolf, I now see a lot of your honored father in you after all.” Yngue said.
Hurrahs, guffaws and much back slapping now erupted among all the onlookers. Yngue and Bjorn grasped hands in friendship after they were both standing.
As Bjorn returned to the tree where Blanaid was now standing he saw her eyes were on his as he approached and she held out her hands as if asking to have her bounds be cut. She was gestering her hands in the direction of his wound. Standing in front of Blanaid a few moments Bjorn decided to do just that.
After he cut her ropes, he was shocked somewhat to see her turn around grab some moss from the bowl of the tree and then tare a long strip of cloth from an undergarment beneath her dress and tend to the fresh wound at his upper arm. Then as he reached for his poki, she picked it up and slung it over her own shoulder. At this Bjorn untied even the strengr at her waist and started walking toward his and his mother’s home. Blanaid walked to his side but a step or so behind.
Blanaid decided it was better to bide her time right now and at least appear to be contrite in her status, she was alone and had no idea how to escape or even where home was over the ocean. Besides this man had already fought for her and he was not one of the ones who had killed the monks back at Tralee.
As they rounded a trail and small knoll the farmstead came into view. There standing outside talking to two men was Torunn, Bjorn’s mother and the two men were the farmsteads slaves of many years; William and Clive.
“Hej!!” Bjorn yelled in their direction.
“Hej.” All three yelled back.
Blanaid assumed this was where this Bjorn lived. She also guessed to herself that woman must be is ma she was too old to be his wife, no telling who the men were though.
Once there all five standing face to face Bjorn introduced Blanaid to his mother and the two slaves. Then took the poki from Blanaid and handed it to his mother as well. Then the three of them went into the house.
“You are hurt my son, who dressed this it looks fresh?” his mother said as she untied the bag of plunder.
Blanaids eyes were fixed on the bag, she had not seen what was inside as yet.
“Blanaid did mother, I had a fight on the area overlooking the docks after we unloaded this morning.” Bjorn told her.
“Why my son?” she asked.
“Old Black Tooth, Yngue. He was making uninvited advances at Blanaid there and it escalated.” Bjorn said flatly.
“What have you brought me my son, a slave for sale, a gift to lighten my load or one to lighten your heart.” She said with a wry motherly smile.
“Mother! To be honest I am no longer sure.” Bjorn answered thoughtfully.
As Torunn opened the bag and spread out her son’s prize, Blanaid looked on and felt a silent sigh as she saw nothing that came from her parent’s home. She did recognize a couple of bracelets she thought from having seen them worn by people of Tralee, but thankfully nothing from her family was here to enrage her again.
“Another good gain my son, this will profit you well.” His mother said.
“Us my mother, anything I do is for us you know this.” Bjorn answered her whole heartedly.
Torunn rewrapped the bag and stowed it away, then helped Blanaid clean and redress Bjorn’s wound. Then she sent Bjorn off to rest in his bed and took Blanaid to her room so the new slave would neither be alone nor have to be tied on her first night here.
“You can speak now if you wish girl, if you understand English as well as the Gael.” Torunn said as she closed her door.
Blanaid was stunned at hearing the language of the monks being spoke by Bjorn’s mother. “Lady you speak English?”
“Yes I learned it from William and Clive as I taught them our language over the years.” She said.
For a couple of hours the two women talked, then they went to sleep both in Torunn’s bed, Blanaid felt better than she had since being abducted by Bjorn. There was no relaxing of the fact that she was now a slave of this woman and her son, but she felt less apprehensive for her life somehow.
Over the next several weeks many things began to settle into a pattern. The work here for Blanaid was not that different than it had been in Tralee, she had been given a place to sleep at night and she was learning a little of the language here between her mistress Torunn and conversations with the two older slaves William and Clive. The two men were from Britain and had been here several years. Rolf, Torunn’s husband before he died on a Viking raid had been an amicable master..if you got your work done and created no problems, then he did not have a pension to abuse his slaves. He was gone often on voyages and when he was here worked as hard as any man. The son Bjorn was much like his father in that respect.
Many times Bjorn would be gone in the evenings with his friends playing hnefatafl or in Rime drinking mead until late at night.
Blanaid had made a few trips with Torunn into Ribe for marketing and had seen that the town was a thriving metropolis for traders, craftsmen and local businesses. There were fine wooden buildings, thatched roofs, and the port on the Ribe River where she had been brought in after being abducted. There were always a few dakkars and knarrs docked there. She had seen that the country side was different from Tralee, here it was low rolling at best with much farmland, a huge marsh was to the north and northwest of the town and meat was plentiful with the marsh lambs and wild pigs in abundance. Some of the tradesmen sold a quite good cheese and there was local honey to be had, the honey was also important because that was what mead was made from.
The next day they would all be away from the farmstead and in Ribe for a celebration of the visit of someone she heard called “Ragnor Lodbrok” that would be there.
That night after dinner Torunn heard Blanaid mutter something to herself as Bjorn left to go into Ribe to see friends.
“I meacht gain teacht ort” Blanaid had muttered quietly to herself as he closed the door behind him leaving. It was not in the language Torunn understood but was sure it was not complimentary of her sons going out for the night again.
The next day after the morning meal and many chores being quickly done by everyone, they all took the walk into Ribe where the mood was festive. Merchants and shops were open and business was brisk with a holiday spirit in the air. There were no speeches or parades this was merely an open friendly greeting for a very well known warrior. There would be much drinking and spectacle in the longhouse that night for sure for those with a seat there.
Around mid afternoon while Torunn, Blanaid and Bjorn were enjoying some food at a small temporary street vendor Yngue Black Tooth came by drinking mead from a mug in his slovenly manner. As he saw Bjorn he stopped and cuffed him on the back of the young man’s shoulder.
“Hej its Bjorn Rolfsen and his auburn tressed slave standing here with his statuesque mother Torunn Falksen. I hear no one calls you Keuidu’ifr anymore Bjorn, does that mean you have let this slave make a slave out of you?” Yngue clasped one of his knarled paws on the butt cheek of Blanaid as he said this and let out a huge mead spitting guffaw.
Blanaid wrenched immediately out of the man’s grasp and turned to slap him on the face. Bjorn grabbed her arm quickly before she could strike the blow however. As a slave the punishment for striking a freeman would have been dire. However those concerns did not include Bjorn himself so he turned and shoved the slovenly large Dane berserker backwards a few feet.
“Your mouth and manner has not improved since our last discussion about laying your hands on my possession.” Bjorn yelled at Yngue with venom in his tone and manner.
“Listen puppy I will do as I find I wish and if you aren’t very careful we will finish what we did not finish many weeks ago.” Yngue snarled back before he took another swill of his mead spilling as much down his throat and chest as he drank inside his throat.
“Any time Yngue, blame is a lazy mans wages.” Bjorn said.
“Alright you young cur this time we finish it!” Yngue said as he tossed his empty mug away and lunged at Bjorn, who only side stepped partially so that he could clasp both his hands into one large fist and hammer the back of Yngue’s head as he stumbled to the ground past him.
Yngue jumped to his feet from his knees and made to make the first of many jabs, upper cuts and roundhouse punches. A large crowd of onlookers was forming around them and within the human mass stood Ulf and his friend Ragnor Lodbrok. Ulf explained to his friend the history of this difficulty between the two antagonists.
Bjorn landed as many hits on Yngue as he himself was feeling. Both men were bloodied now from the force of blows. Split lips, abrasions and Yngue’s nose had dripping blood. After several minutes the moves were becoming more staggered and getting up from being knocked down was not as rapid. It was apparent to all those watching that these two men were fairly equally matched.
Blanaid was flushed with anger and only being kept out of the fray by the hand on her shoulder of Torunn who was intently observing the fight. Both William and Clive were standing to the other side of Blanaid now shouting like many for Bjorn to finish the older man off.
In desperation Yngue pulled a knife and started lunging and parrying at his younger opponent. This only incensed Bjorn more and after a slash brought blood from his upper right chest he increased the intensity his attack. Finally in a grapple for the weapon Yngue stumbled as much as being forced to fall and landed on his own knife, the force of the fall driving the knife deep into the older man’s chest piercing him to the heart.
Ragnor and Ulf stepped forward from the crowd, Ulf bent over Yngue’s body and made sure the man was dead nodding his observation to Ragnor who turned and faced Bjorn.
“Yngue Black Tooth is dead. I knew him as a berserker of some quality; however his manner left much to be admired away from a fight. It is too bad he will not have a seat in Valhalla.” Ragnor stated to all present as he looked at Bjorn. “There is no blame here on you though young Bjorn and no death price need b e paid. You simply defended yourself and your property as any man has the right to do.”
Ragnor and Ulf signaled for men to pick up the body and remove it before turning to leave. Bjorn turned to face his mother and their slaves as the crowd of onlookers began to disassemble and return to what they had been doing prior to the fight between the two men.
“You are hurt again my son, come here and sit under this tree so Blanaid and I can tend to your wounds.” Torunn said to her son. She then turned to William and said. “William you and Clive find me some moss, clean water and linen to clean and bandage the wounds with.”
“Yes mistress we will return quickly.” Both men said in unison.
Once Bjorn’s wounds had been tended to, the five of them continued walking around Ribe and enjoying the day away from the labors of having a productive farmstead. All Five were enjoying the food that was available as they looked at wares being out for sale or barter. Blanaid even saw a monk in the crowd once briefly.
Sigurd had found them at one point telling Bjorn and Torunn that Ulf and Ragnor Lodbrok had sent him to find them to invite them to the Longhouse that night for the evening feast. He also said they should bring their slaves with them to help with the service if that was acceptable to them.
So as the evening approached Bjorn and his mother Torunn were seated at a long table in the communal Long House while Willian, Clive and Blanaid had joined others serving food and drink to the mass of people there. There was a much boisterous din throughout the building as everyone was laughing, talking and occasionally all joined in singing well known songs. At one point Ulf had motioned for Bjorn to join him and Ragnor at their table for a short talk, when Bjorn returned he told Torunn that he had been invited on a raid the Ragnor was planning into the country of the Gauls in the near future and of course that he had enthusiastically accepted. Blanaid had been bringing them both more mead to drink when she saw him return to sit by his mother and almost spilled what she was pouring in hearing he had accepted the offer to leave on another raid soon.
“I think my son that your news affects more than me, and neither of us has the same feeling as you when you decide these things. I know it is how it will be with a good man of Jutland like you for years to come however.” Torunn told her son after Blanaid had left to attend others at the banquet.
“What are you talking about mother?” Bjorn asked instead of reply.
“The sky is not less blue because the blind man does not see it my son.” She replied.
“Mother please do not answer in old riddles today?” Bjorn asked his mother.
“I asked you when you brought Blanaid home Bjorn if she was to help me or you. Have you not accepted a truthful answer in yourself as yet?” Torunn said to him.
“Mother I told you then I was not sure by the time I reached home. When I took her it was for slave either to be of help to you or sell at your leave would have been fine with me. But by the time I was here I was no longer sure. Looking after her during the voyage, seeing her that close, then fighting for her honor and her healing ways, I know I would not sell her and do not want her gone from our home.” He answered.
“So you at least see that much, do you not see how she at least is ready to feel about you?” she asked.
“Mother believe me I have said nothing.” He answered.
“Bjorn, have you not been around enough young women yet to see signs even when naught is spoken. And you yourself as old Black Tooth said, you have not been hunting as the evening wolf now for weeks. This is not the Bjorn all know.” Torunn now spoke, in close to exasperation, with her son.
“But Mother she is a slave to you.” He said.
“Loki’s breath. That can be as easily changed as your bandages there.” Torunn retorted.
Nothing more was said on the matter as Bjorn saw his mother was nearing irritation with him and Torunn was seeing much of her late husband Rolf’s refusal to sometimes see the more sensitive nature of things.
Later in the evening once they had all returned back to the farmstead Torunn looked at Blanaid and asked her to redress Bjorn’s bandages and treat his wounds from the days fight with Yngue Black Tooth. She told the young woman if she herself did it this night she might have to be less than soothing in her touch, so her son might realize something they had talked about earlier.
As Blanaid finished redressing Bjorn’s bandages and attending with new salves his other wounds, she put everything away. While she did Bjorn spoke to her.
“Tak (Thank you) Blanaid.” He said
“Why, how many times am I going to have to tend to wounds from fighting on you? Blast your pride.” She said and walked out the door of the house. Bjorn got up and followed her out catching her standing by a tree near the path into Ribe.
“Why are you so angry with me Blanaid, all I did was defend your honor.” He said.
“My honor, or the honor affronted your possession! My lord and master!” she spat back.
Bjorn grabbed her at the waist quickly and held her there, but before he could , Blanaid shot more accusations at him.
“Oh so now Bjorn will take what he denied the old fetid mouthed one twice already!” she said in anger. “Go ahead take what has not been freely offered you already took my freedom from me before.”
“If you had it back what would you do leave and find a way back to Gael”
“What difference would it make to you? You are leaving again, another raid on another land so you can return at your will to be bandaged up again, or worse. Go ahead, may you leave without returning.” She yelled.
“Blanaid you did not answer my question. What would you do if you had your freedom back? Would you return to your homeland?” he asked again this time his exerted a little more pressure on the sides of her waist.
“Weeks ago I would have shouted yes and spat in your face, now I am not sure I can answer that wholly.” She said.
“I do not want you to leave. But I will talk to my mother in the morning and I feel sure she will agree to grant you your freedom.” Bjorn said while he let her go and then turned back toward the house.
“Why would you do that?” Blanaid asked him now confused more than angry at him.
“Because if you stay I want it to be because you want to, not because you have no choice.” He said and turned again to walk away.
Blanaid just stood there watching this man who had abducted her from all she had ever known, brought her tied like chattel to a foreign land as his property and now offered to set her free only to see if she would stay on her own. What was the one God of the monks trying to tell her? In truth she did not know what she would do, but she did not doubt the honesty in his voice.
The next morning Bjorn was gone before any of the others awoke. Blanaid woke up as the first streaks of dawn creeped over the horizon and found Torunn already up and sitting at the table.
“Blanaid come here and sit with me a while so we can talk.” Torunn said to her.
“Yes mistress.” Was all that Blanaid answered as she walked to the table and sat down?
“Bjorn talked to me last night and we decided to give you this. It is runes that will tell anyone here or in Jutland that you are a free woman. After we discussed his wishes on this I talked to him about William and Clive, they are getting similar amulets from me this morning as well. But since they have been here over half of their lives, I feel fairly certain they will stay and live here as free men working this farm.” Torunn told her.”What I wonder will you do with this freedom?”
“Before I would have found a way to leave and find my way back to my home in Tralee.” Blanaid answered. “But now if you allow I have my reasons for staying at least for a while.”
“This is what my son wants; it is also what I wish. You do not know this but two years after Bjorn was born I gave birth to a girl, we named her Brunhilld. She got the fever when she only five and could not be saved. Over the time you have been here I have come to feel about you as I did about her almost.” Torunn began to say as she saw Blanaid’s eyes looked as filling at the edges with tears. “I see in you a woman like me, one who has spirit to stand up to her man when she thinks he is wrong, but also who would pick up a sword or axe and stand at his side in defense of him. You are not like these girls he got his reputation from seeking, you would not just lay down and spread your legs because he wanted you too and then let him go seek another.”
“What makes you so sure that is what I am interested in Lady?” Blanaid asked.
“Because I am not blinded by youth and pride, you want him to come to you and he wants to be sure you will come to him. You will both find later that these things are unimportant if you truly love one another.” Torunn added. “You are no longer a slave Blanaid the choice is now yours and his.”
Over the next two weeks little seemed to change outwardly, Bjorn worked with William and Clive around the farmstead, Blanaid worked with Torunn around the house, garden and yard. William and Clive built Blanaid a better bed for her room in the loft of the house. All three of the former slaves now earned a wage for work they were doing as well as having their place to live and meals prepared. Clive had started seeing a woman in Ribe now which he and William had not done previously.
Bjorn had been into Ribe recently visiting with Sigurd about plans for the upcoming raid on Gaul with Ragnor Lodbrok. It was now known that both of his sons; Bjorn Ironside and Ivar Boneless would also be on the raid. They were now scheduled to leave in just two days.
That night after the evening meal as everyone was outside enjoying the starts and moonlight Blanaid walked out to the edge of the fields and stood looking up at the spectacle of lights in the sky. As she stood there Bjorn came up and stood beside her.
“I am glad you did not leave Blanaid.” Bjorn said turning to face her.
“Why, you are again. And if you come back hurt I will just have to bandage you up again. How many times will I have to mend you whole? I am not your mother Bjorn this gone a Viking is not my idea of how to have a long life.” She said with her voice full of concern.”One day like your father, you will not return at all.”
Bjorn took her in his arms loosely as she said this and asked. “Would that matter to you?”
Blanaid immediately pelted him several times with clenched fists in and about his chest and arms and then said her voice lightly cracked. “Yes it would for me and your mother.”
Bjorn smiled took her in his arms as she said this and bent his head placing his lips on hers. Blanaid wrapped her arms around his neck and returned his kiss passionately. The two of them stood there in embrace for long moments. After their lips parted Blanaid rested her head on Bjorn’s chest as he held her even tighter.
Torunn sitting in front of the house with William and Clive smiled as well and spoke to herself more than the two men even though they heard her. “It’s about time I was beginning to wonder if those two would ever come to their senses.”
Two days later Torunn and Blanaid stood watching four dakkars push out of dock, oars strike the water of the bay until they were out of the harbor and sails were unfurled headed now down the Ribe River for the sea, Bjorn was on one of those dakkars with Sigurd as second in command again. Both women showed only pride outwardly but had tears in their hearts.