Authors: Violetta Rand
Tags: #Fiction, #Viking, #Romance, #Historical
Viking’s Fury Book 2
Copyright © 2016 by Violetta Rand
Published by Dragonblade Publishing, an imprint of Kathryn Le Veque Novels, Inc
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
For Violetta’s Valkyries
May 867 AD
oald watched from
a distance as his father’s longship anchored and the men began to unload the wares his younger brother, Konal, had brought back from his conquests in Northumbria. Time had passed so slowly over the last year. And now that his sibling had returned, perhaps his family could settle down again. For Konal left under less than favorable conditions, and their father had died uttering his second son’s name—regretting he’d let Konal go.
Prince Ivarr had honored their family with a recent missive, praising Konal’s abilities, which provided some comfort to their sire. But nothing prepared Roald for the raven-haired beauty who disembarked, and whose features alone revealed her birthright. A bloody Saxon.
He swallowed the bile in his throat and restraint replaced the need to go down to the river and shake his brother to death. Time away from the Trondelag had obviously done nothing but increase Konal’s defiance. Unwavering loyalty to his family and country is all that mattered. But his brother possessed ambition like no other man he’d ever met.
None on this steading would disagree with the idea that women born outside Scandinavia were welcome as thralls or concubines. The gods intended for Norsemen to marry and produce heirs within their own bloodlines, ensuring another generation of warriors to serve Allfather and conquer the world.
But judging by the way Konal snaked his arm about the woman’s waist and helped her up the narrow footpath, walking side-by-side, she must be his wife. So his anger was justified.
Konal waved enthusiastically as he climbed the hill and found Roald waiting.
“Brother,” Konal called. “It’s been too long.”
Out of respect for his father’s memory, Roald gripped his brother’s forearm in welcome. “Aye. You’ve been missed.”
Konal held his gaze. “You are beardless? There are only two reasons I can think of for such a change. Did you lose at a drinking game? Or is our beloved father…”
After Roald had received word that his brother was nearly home, he’d struggled with the idea of how to break the news of their father’s unexpected death. Out here in the open wasn’t something he’d considered. And surely not the moment they reunited. But Konal’s question must be answered. “Our sire died last week,” he said. “Taken by a fever that claimed six of our people. Twas nothing to be done.”
Konal’s expression changed to one of pain. “Almost a straw death. He deserved better.”
Their father had been in countless battles, killed a hundred men, gained lands and gold for his family. The fact that he’d died on his back from illness at the age of sixty, didn’t make him a coward. A straw death was reserved for men with soft hands—half-men who never faced a day of danger in their worthless lives. “Choose your words carefully next time,” Roald growled. “He expired the way Odin intended—as a king. Surrounded by his children and servants. Beloved to all. Remembered in ways only you and I can dream of.”
“I require no chastisement. I am well versed in our father’s accomplishments. But I wonder why you couldn’t wait to share this bad news.”
Roald’s gaze wandered to the Saxon woman then.
“Punishment,” Konal said bitterly. “You see, sweet Silvia,” he addressed the woman. “It is as I suspected. We will never be welcome here. And now that my father is gone, any hope I had is, too.”
“Please.” She looked at Roald. “I am Silvia—your brother’s wife.”
He spat on the ground near her feet. That’s what he thought about their union. “If I embraced you and blessed your marriage,” he said to her, “you’d call me a liar. Though I can
why my brother claimed you, I will never understand or accept why he married you.”
Laughter spewed from Roald’s lips as Konal wrapped his strong hands around his brother’s throat. From the day they could both walk and talk, they’d competed for everything.
“I should kill you,” Konal said. “Silvia has done nothing to deserve your spite and disrespect. She is an innocent. Direct your hatred at me.”
People gathered around them now, Roald’s own guards and men from the ship.
“Stop this madness,” Troel, his sire’s most trusted captain, intervened. “What would the jarl say? His body is yet to be consecrated to the gods and the two of you can’t hold your peace.”
“You haven’t given him rest?” Konal let go.
“We awaited your return,” Troel spoke for Roald. “Twas your father’s dying wish.”
Roald didn’t have anything else to say. Though he couldn’t deny his brother shelter, it would be the extent of his comforts here. As the new jarl, to be formally named so after his father’s funeral, he maintained control of the steading and all its resources. His brothers and sister were dependent upon his generosity to survive, not Konal’s.
It pained Roald to see his sister run into Konal’s arms like he was a hero returning from a bloody siege. Jealousy burned inside him. He’d never deny it. For as a second son, his younger brother possessed freedoms Roald didn’t. He could be careless. His other brothers, Bruin and Haakon, were also free of obligations. Roald knew the true reason Bruin had left a few months ago, he sought his own fortune wherever the gods led him.
“Milord.” Birger joined Roald as he stalked away from his family.
“What is it?” He stared at the undernourished adviser his father placed much too much trust in.
“The law is very precise on this type of thing. Brother or not, Konal cannot assault the jarl.”
“I am not the chieftain, yet.”
“According to tradition, you are, sir.”
He smirked. “Hold out your hand, Birger.”
The man complied.
Roald examined his palm closely. “Do you see calluses from years of hard toiling in the fields? Scars from the battlefield?”
“No.” The man’s shoulders drooped.
Roald pushed him away. “I am my father’s son,” he said. “But I am not my sire. You will not enjoy the same status in my new household.”
“Justice must be done.”
His persistence irritated Roald. “Your bloodlust is greater than any man who’s ever picked up an axe in defense of this country. Should I banish Konal for letting his pikk do the thinking for him? Or execute him for defending his wife, though she be a lowly Saxon?”
The answer caught Roald off guard. “What say you, little man?”
“Forgive me.” Birger retreated a couple steps. “I didn’t mean to interfere. Perhaps I should hold my tongue until after the mourning period for your father ends. Emotions are running high. I couldn’t expect you to see things clearly, yet.”
Roald growled in disapproval. “Be gone. And don’t let me see your face for the next few days, or the only one paying with his life for disrespecting my family, will be you.”
The scribe bowed awkwardly, then ran in the direction of the village where he lived.
Vile, disgusting little imp. Although Konal deserved to be punished for his blatant disregard, no one would touch a hair on his head but Roald. Blood ran thicker than vengeance. So help him, great Odin.
he next night,
Roald watched his people from behind the curtain separating his bedchamber from the great hall. A feast celebrating his brother’s return was under way. No matter how hard he tried to convince himself to join them, he couldn’t. He raised the ivory drinking horn to his lips, sampling the best mead from his storerooms. No expense had been spared. Another provision his father had made in his last testament.
Welcome your brother as you would a prince. Embrace him. Celebrate his feats. Make amends. Bless him. Prince Ivarr is pleased. Konal shall claim his own kingdom…
The sting of his sire’s last words was too fresh. He’d given Roald nothing but his seat of power. No encouragement. No dying words of love. Something he shouldn’t blame his brother for. But it seemed his heart and mind refused to listen to logic. Add the witch from Northumbria with her wide, blue eyes and dark hair, and the roots of his envy only penetrated deeper.
“I am jarl,” he muttered, taking another gulp.
“Aye.” His sister, Runa, approached from behind. “You are the future master of everything our father worked so hard to build. But our brother’s value only came to light once our father lay upon his deathbed. Would you steal that moment from Konal? Is your heart so hard and cold that you cannot put your animosity aside and truly welcome him home?”
Truer words could not have been spoken, but the source of such wisdom surprised him. “Since when did you become a wise woman?” He looked at her with genuine affection. Only seventeen seasons upon the earth and she spoke with such grace. “It seems our sire’s death has awakened many beasts.”
“His loss hasn’t awakened anything within me, Brother,” she said. “Only given me the freedom to speak my mind.”
“Then tell me what you truly think of the Saxon.”
Runa followed his gaze. “She is beautiful.”
“Aye.” There was no denying it. “And the future mother of our nieces and nephews.”
“She’s a scribe.”
Runa chuckled. “Educated by her father and monks at the scriptorium in Jorvik. Raised in their hallowed halls as freely as a boy. Imagine a girl having access to the secrets behind their god. I must admit how covetous I am of her knowledge.”
Roald set the horn aside and shook his head. “You’ve been tutored in the things any Norse woman needs to know to serve her future lord and husband well.”
“What about my own dreams?” Runa asked.
“I will consider your needs,” he said, hoping to ease her troubled heart. “I will choose a young warrior as your husband. Your body will not be defiled by an old man.”
“You miss my point,” she said.
“Don’t challenge me now, Runa. Not ever.”
“What if I don’t want to marry? Send me to the most sacred of places to serve Allfather.”
Anger swelled in his chest. “And what inspired you to say such a thing? To deny the future our father chose for his only daughter?” Roald gripped her shoulders and looked her deep in the eyes. Though she couldn’t rival the Saxon’s beauty, his sister was blessed. Lovely in every way. Jarls had already expressed interest in her. “You are destined to be the mother of warriors.”
She jerked free of his grasp. “This body is mine.”
“No,” he disagreed. “You owe your life to the house of Jarl Brandr, and now, to me.”
“Odin is my patron. Frigg is my mother. I wish to be added to the maidens who serve Thor. Let my virginity…”
Roald groaned as he covered his sister’s errant mouth. If she uttered a vow of service to the gods in his presence or publicly, then no one could deny her future. “Speak no more of this or I will have you locked in your room. Or gagged until I am convinced you will refrain from making a tragic mistake.”
She tried to bite his palm, but he refused to let go.
“Heed my words, Runa, for I’ve never felt surer of anything. Our brother’s future happiness depends upon your actions.” He didn’t know what made him say it out loud. Burdening her with something so powerful was a fate he’d not wish upon anyone. “As long as you remain obedient, Konal will prosper here. But if you falter—run away—promise yourself to the gods—I will make him suffer. Do you understand?”
Her green eyes grew wide, but she nodded.
“Good.” He released her.
“How dare you fate-bind me to our brother.”