A/N: I hope Fanfiction doesn`t die on us all what with all the problems the site has had these last couple of weeks (and Fanfiction is the reason why I didn`t post yesterday – I was all ready but Fanfiction wasn`t). I want to thank all of you for the nice reviews – and the tweets when fanfiction didn`t work.
I also want to thank Suki59 for being my beta. This story just wouldn`t be the same (or exist at all) without her.
Charlaine Harris created the characters in this story and she owns them all. I just took them home with me and sent them to my favorite time in history.
Claude, Jason and I were already on Andre Beardless` longboat and so were Chow and Eric. The ship was ready to leave and we were only waiting for Andre Beardless finishing up his talks with Sam.
Sam Dogbreath and Andre Beardless had walked down to the beach together and I guessed they`d been discussing alliances and future battles while Jason, Claude and I had been packing. Claude was still insulted because I`d only thought of Jason when I`d been told I had to leave my village but he couldn`t hide how thrilled he was that he was now leaving for Queen Sophie-Anne`s court.
Most of the people from the village were gathered on the beach, shouting their good wishes to us. Tara stood there with JB, holding their baby. She waved to me whenever I looked at her but she didn`t shout anything.
Finally Andre Beardless climbed onto the boat and his crew got behind the oars. Eric and Chow were going to row too but Jason, Claude and I were situated on the benches at the back of the boat, next to Andre Beardless at the rudder.
Jason`s arm made its way around the small of my back and I leaned into him. I took a deep breath – the smell of my village and the sea mixing with the smell of Jason. It was home and I was bringing some of it with me.
“This is going to be fun, Sookie,” he said and though I didn`t agree with him, his good mood was contagious. One could never be sad when Jason was near.
Jason and I stayed like that all the way out the fjord and when I saw Cold River, which marked the ending of the fjord and the beginning of the open sea, Jason suddenly started waving. I squinted my eyes and noticed a woman with blonde hair.
“Who`s that?” I asked. I knew everyone in that village but since most of the women were blonde, I couldn`t tell one from the other.
“It`s Crystal,” he replied. There was something in his voice but when I turned to look at him he looked just like he always did when he had his eyes on a pretty woman.
“Crystal Purr?” I asked, her name referring to the sound she was said to make during sex. When I thought of her, I was happy I was known as Sookie the Shieldmaiden. I couldn`t imagine having a name originating from one`s conduct between the furs.
I didn`t know Crystal Purr very well but her uncle, Calvin the Broken Hand, had been a former lover of mine. And the main reason I only took lovers who lived far away from my village.
We`d known each other for years, of course, but it was that summer solstice a couple of years ago when we`d thought it a good idea to slip into the forest and get better acquainted.
Calvin had been … interesting but far from the best lover I`d ever had. And I certainly never meant for him to be more than a casual lover. But Calvin the Broken Hand had imagined himself in love with me and had insisted we get married.
He`d tried to get Jason and Claude on his side by offering them gifts but both of them had let him know that my marital choices were none of their business. And since Calvin hadn`t had enough leverage over Sam to get any help there, Calvin had finally left me alone.
Last I`d heard Calvin was married to a nice woman and they`d had a new child every autumn. Dark winters and all that.
When we were out in the open sea, the sails went up and the oars were pulled out of the water. I took a deep breath and decided I was going to look forward to my new life. I had Jason and Claude next to me and this was going to be another great adventure. We were going to fight honorable battles and eventually we would be able to go home to our own people again carrying riches that would support the whole village.
My eyes found Eric the Northman`s back. His long hair was blowing in the wind and his shoulders seemed even broader than I thought they were.
That is my husband, I said to myself but it felt like a joke. I smiled to myself, not wanting to ruin my new light mood. I have a handsome husband, a fierce warrior, a man any woman would welcome to her bed. And then I huffed at the absurdity of my being married to someone I hardly knew.
“What was that, Sookie?” Jason asked.
“Just trying to make sense of it all.” I shrugged but my eyes were still on Eric.
Jason may not be the smartest of men but he had great intuition. He followed my gaze.
“He`s not the worst man you could pick,” he said.
“I never picked him,” I pointed out.
“Then the gods picked him for you. They killed almost everyone else on that ship and since Chow doesn`t seem to be the one you`re staring at, Eric must be the man who`s meant for you.”
“I hope so, Jason, because it seems I`m stuck with him whether I want him or not.”
“Oh, you want him.”
My ever impolite cousin leaned over Jason and as usual he made an unwelcome remark.
“You are mixing up your own emotions with mine, Claude. I may find his looks agreeable but the man ….” I paused. I wanted to say that he annoyed me. That he thought too much of himself. That he just looked at me as another skirt to be conquered. But I didn`t. “I don`t know him.”
Jason`s arm hugged me closer. “I`ll look after you, Sookie. And when you have kids, I`ll make a wonderful uncle.”
I pulled away. “Kids?”
Jason smiled and Claude laughed.
After two nights on the ship – two nights where Eric the Northman found it natural to lay next to me when we slept – we finally saw land on the second morning.
“Land!” a voice shouted and very quickly the longboat, where almost everyone had been asleep, was full of activities.
Eric the Northman settled down next to me when we`d both finished our morning rituals. Jason and Claude were close by but their attention was glued to the strange lands we sailed by.
“It`s beautiful, isn`t it?” Eric asked, his voice laced with pride.
“It`s different.” I didn`t like the flatlands much but I didn`t want to insult him. You never spoke poorly of people`s children, swords or their homelands unless you deliberately wanted to pitch a fight.
I`d been to the flatlands before – most of our commercial activities took place in the larger cities there – but it had been some time since I`d last visited Nordby. The old king was alive when I was here last and there were no wars between family members.
The old king`s brother, Felipe the Elegant, had lost the first battles and the old king`s daughter, Sophie-Anne the Young, had declared herself queen of all the flatlands. Felipe the Elegant had fled across the oceans where he was trying to gather armies to take his late brother`s lands.
Luckily we lived too far to the north to be of any consequence to either fighting party up until Sam Dogbreath had decided to join Queen Sophie-Anne`s forces this summer.
Claude, Jason and I had listened to the tales from the south whenever a ship came in with news but we`d always found it a testament to the bad characters of both Felipe the Elegant and Queen Sophie-Anne that they were fighting their own kin.
Family was something you protected – not something you went to war against.
I looked towards land and the lack of mountains unsettled me. The flatlands were … flat. No majestic hills or towering cliffs. No deep fjords, splashing falls or wide rivers. Just flat land and tiny creeks.
And this was where I was supposed to live. At least for the time being.
“Yes, I suppose it is very different for you.” Eric looked as if he were giving it some thought. “But I promise you that you won`t regret this.”
I wanted to ask him how I could regret something that was never my choice and also how he could make a promise like that but I kept my mouth shut and hoped he was right.
After having slept next to him and having his arm wrapped around me, I`d become accustomed to that particular smell that was Eric. It was different from Jason`s and Claude`s and wasn`t bad at all. Somehow it was soothing, at least now that I was on my way to set foot in his country as his wife … of sorts.
“There`s Nordby.” Eric pointed at something in the distance. The only thing I could see that suggested there was a town there was the smoke coming up from all the little fires the people of Nordby had made to cook their breakfasts and heat their houses.
I nodded and squinted my eyes. Out there in the distance was my future. My new life as one of Queen Sophie-Anne`s warriors. And Eric`s wife.
“Eric!” A blond woman threw herself into Eric`s arms and he lifted her up and whirled her around. “I thought you were dead,” she squealed. Eric had jumped off the boat when he saw the woman on the beach.
Jason, Claude and I grabbed our things and jumped down onto the beach as well. I tried not to stare at the woman who was hugging Eric but found it hard not look at her. She was very pretty. Older than I was but the years had been kind to her.
I was about to walk towards the city of Nordby when Eric noticed me and stopped me.
“This is my wife, Pamela,” he said, while waving for me to come closer.
The woman stared at me and for a short moment I wondered if there were something wrong with me.
“Your wife? You got married?” Then she looked at me. “How did you manage to get my brother to marry you? I know plenty of women who would like to know the secret.”
Ah, she was Eric`s sister, not his mistress. I smiled.
“But your manners are still as bad as they used to be, Eric. Introduce us, please.” She slapped Eric`s shoulder and he took a step forward.
“This is my wife, Sookie, her brother, Jason, and her cousin, Claude.” Eric gestured towards us. Then he looked at his sister. “Sookie is a shieldmaiden. Just like you.”
“You`re Sookie the Shieldmaiden?” she asked and her smile got broader. “You have quite the reputation.”
“I am.” Then the mentioning of her name and her occupation clicked together in my head. “Are you Pamela Milkmaid?” I asked. Pamela Milkmaid was one of the most renowned shieldmaidens and my personal heroine.
Eric laughed. “She hates being called Milkmaid.”
Pamela gave him a wry look. “Why couldn`t they call me Pamela the Fierce or Pamela the Bloody? No, they had to make a joke out of the way I look.”
I wanted to tell her she was very beautiful in a wholesome way but figured she wouldn`t like it.
“I`m sorry,” I said. “It was just … you were one of the reasons I wanted to become a shieldmaiden in the first place. We heard all about the battles you won.”
Jason and Claude nodded, clearly impressed with having met Pamela Milkmaid in person.
“They probably exaggerated,” she said with a shrug. “And I lost in the end.” She held up her right hand – a hand that only had two fingers. Her thumb and her index finger.
Two kids came running and threw themselves at Eric.
“Uncle Eric!” they shouted and he lifted them up and swung them around like he`d done with his sister. They were probably around two and three, both of them as blond as Eric and Pamela and both of them with red cheeks and stars in their eyes.
I looked at the children but it was Jason who said to Pamela what I was thinking. “So you`ve stopped fighting?”
“Losing a couple of fingers and having children is a pretty effective end to any hopes of joining the battles.”
I wasn`t sure if I thought Pamela sounded bitter. It might have been my projecting how I would have felt or she might have actually resented her fate. I wasn`t sure.
I was just about to ask her if she`d lost her fingers before or after she`d had her children when she turned towards Eric.
“You should stop before they throw up on you, Eric,” Pamela said while pulling her children away from him. Then she turned back towards me. “Are you planning on continuing being a shieldmaiden?”
I nodded. “Yes, of course.”
I was here to fight for Queen Sophie-Anne, wasn`t I? Yes, I was somehow pretend-married to Pamela`s good looking but oh so annoying brother, but I was fairly sure the Queen hadn`t requested my presence so that I could sit in Eric`s longhouse and look pretty.
“Then you`d better be careful, Eric.” Pamela gave Eric a pointed stare.
“Don`t worry, Pamela. I`ll look after Sookie when we`re in battle. She won`t get hurt.”
I`m not sure if it was me or Pamela who snorted the loudest but Pamela was quicker to comment on his statement.
“I`m sure Sookie can look after herself in a fight. It`s what you do to her between the furs I`m worried about. She won`t be fighting much with a big belly or a kid in her arms.”
I hope you liked this chapter. You missed Pamela Milkmaid *ehem* Pamela the Fierce, didn`t you?
Marriage in the Viking Age
I`ve had a few questions about marriage in the Viking Age and will try to give you some answers. The problem is – we don`t know much about marriage between common people in the Viking age. There has been quite a few mentions of marriage between royal people and people of power and wealth in the sagas but not between the common warriors, farmers and tradespeople.
First of all, common law marriage – or moving in together and considering oneself married – seems to have been fairly common. Sharing the bed seems to have been the cornerstone of the marriage – both when entering into it and when getting a divorce. One stood by the bed and in front of witnesses one said three times that one was divorced and that was it.
Common law marriages were probably fairly common and even after the Viking Age – in spite of the church doing its best to outlaw it. This didn`t happen until approximately the 13th century where there were laws against common law marriages.
On a side-note, marriage between cousins weren`t outlawed until then either.
One of the main reasons for getting married – or living in an acknowledged common law marriage – was to secure the future of the children. A child born by an unwed mother without the father acknowledging that child only had her and her family to help support it. If the mother of the child was married the child would also have the help and support from the father of the child and his family.
There was some stigma in being an unwed mother but not if she`d been raped or seduced. In those cases the man was blamed and punished.
Men sometimes had more than one wife. Kings were reported to have had wives in all the countries they wanted alliances with – often daughters of the local kings there. But also common men had more than one woman in his life. Usually one of them would be his wife with all the rights that title gave her. The wife was the one to carry the keys to the family fortunes and also the one to make decisions about everything they owned. Men could have mistresses who would also live in his house and he could buy as many bed-slaves as he could afford.
The mistresses would be lower class women who would gain financially from moving into the richer man`s household but who would never be a threat to the wife since the man could never marry her, low born as she was. The bed-slave was, of course, even less of a threat to the wife and had even fewer rights than the mistress.
I have also seen accounts of women having more than one husband but I`m not sure how common that was.
Marriage between the kings and queens was often about forming alliances or as the result of a peace settlement. Two countries that had been at war with one another would often find a prince and a princess who could marry each other as part of the peace settlements.
Most of the marriages described in the sources we have are marriages between rich and powerful people so I`m not, as I mentioned earlier on, sure about the rules among common people. Among the rich and powerful marriage was something negotiated between the men in the two families. Usually the man and the woman in question were asked and in most cases their wishes were taken into account because a marriage against the bride`s will could very often turn ugly – ending in the death of the groom, as one of the sagas claimed. And there was always divorce. If the bride did not like the groom after they`d been married, she could always leave him. This was a fate most fathers would try to avoid for their sons and daughters.
In some cases the bride chose her own husband. If she didn`t have a father and her brothers either couldn`t agree on a husband or they turned down all her suitors because they wanted to keep her on their farm then she was allowed to find her own husband and the men in her family couldn`t object to it.
There was marriage for love too. Or for passion. Both the sagas and the poems tell us of great passions between Vikings – passions that lead to the two lovers marrying each other. And, Vikings being Vikings, they usually end up dying together too, which seems to be the ultimate declaration of love.
Marriages were usually something that happened fairly quickly after the young man and woman first set eyes on each other. If the young man courted a woman for too long without proposing or offering her his home, her family might kill him to restore her honor.
A man was expected to have a certain amount of money or fortune before he asked a woman to marry him. The idea was that if he didn`t have any money then he couldn`t support his children and had no business getting any. Some historians claim this rule was the main reason for the Vikings attacking foreign lands in the first place. It was all the men who wanted a wife but needed the money to get her who went abroad and stole whatever they could lay their hands on.
Some of the money paid by the groom went to the bride`s family and some of it to the bride. The bride also got money from her family and this was not to be touched by the groom. It was meant to support her and her children if she should become a widow.
Most weddings were held on Fridays – or Frigga`s Day – to honor the god of marriage. We don`t know all the details about the pre-Christian weddings and what we do know, I`ll leave for a later chapter.