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Authors: The Outlaw Viking

Sandra Hill - [Vikings I 02]

BOOK: Sandra Hill - [Vikings I 02]
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The Outlaw Viking
Sandra Hill

This book is dedicated to my four sons: Beau, Rob, Matt and Daniel. Any one of them could have been the model for my Viking hero, Selik, who is handsome, brave, strong and sensitive. Not surprisingly, there’s a bit of the “outlaw” spirit in each of them
.

And to the god with a sense of humor depicted in this book. He had better be saving me a special place “up there” after giving me four unconventional “Viking” sons
.

Contents

Chapter One

“Mommy, make the big lady move. I can’t see.”

Chapter Two

Cursing angrily, Selik chased the tall woman into the forest,…

Chapter Three

After gobbling the unpalatable food down hungrily and drinking all…

Chapter Four

Rain watched with dismay as more and more of the…

Chapter Five

Any soft feelings Rain may have been entertaining toward Selik…

Chapter Six

Heartsick, Rain staggered to her feet, clutching the length of…

Chapter Seven

“Ubbi—doobie—doo. Da—da da—da da. Ubbi—doobie—doo. Da—da da—da da.”

Chapter Eight

“Attend me well, Rain. You will stay here at Ravenshire…

Chapter Nine

Selik was doing energetic laps from one end of the…

Chapter Ten

“You little minx,” Selik exclaimed against Tyra’s luxuriant hair on…

Chapter Eleven

“You think kissing me will be a punishment?” Rain asked…

Chapter Twelve

When Rain caught up with Selik, he was standing in…

Chapter Thirteen

Several hours later, when Rain and Selik emerged from the…

Chapter Fourteen

Rain grabbed Ubbi by the hand first thing in the…

Chapter Fifteen

Rain ran as fast as she could toward the woods,…

Chapter Sixteen

“I’m hungry,” Rain gasped several hours later, and her stomach…

Chapter Seventeen

The sun dropped below the hills and the autumn wind…

Chapter Eighteen

A cloud hung over the small farmstead during the following…

Chapter Nineteen

Rain didn’t speak to King Athelstan the next day. Nor…

Chapter Twenty

In the corridor near the outside entry to the prison,…

Chapter Twenty-One

Two days later, Selik awakened from a drunken stupor and…

Chapter Twenty-Two

He did not meet Rain coming back to the farmstead.

York, England

“Mommy, make the big lady move. I can’t see.”

Thoraine Jordan felt her face flame with embarrassment at the loud whine of the small child behind her. She sensed people around them turning to look at the object of the remark and then having to crane their necks upwards.

Big!
That was the key word.

Rain grimaced. After all these years, the cruel word should have stopped hurting, but it never had.

Sighing wearily, she glanced at her mother, Ruby, whose lips formed a thin white line of suppressed anger. Rain squeezed her hand reassuringly, not wanting her overly protective mother to say something that would create a scene.

Turning to face the little boy who’d made the innocently cutting comment, Rain said, “Step in front of us, honey. We’re in no hurry.”

“Oh, no, ma’am,” the child’s mother protested
quickly. “He dint mean no harm. He’s jist overtired from waitin’ so long.”

The crowd continued to gawk curiously, and Rain wished she could disappear. “That’s okay. We don’t mind,” she told the young woman.

After the lady and child moved sheepishly ahead of them in the line that stretched in front of the Viking museum, Rain’s mother whispered, “You’re too kind. Children should be taught from an early age that certain remarks are inappropriate.”

“Oh, Mother! He merely commented on an obvious fact. I’m six feet tall. There’s no hiding that.”

Her mother dismissed her words with a short jerk of her hand. “Sweetie, you’re a beautiful woman. I thought you got over that height hang-up long ago. You have no reason to be embarrassed.”

Rain put an arm around her mother’s shoulder and gave her a quick peck on the cheek. “I’m thirty years old, and you’re still worrying about my feelings being hurt. That’s precious.”

“Humph! To me, you’re still my baby. Doesn’t matter to me that you’re a physician—or that you’ve delivered a few babies yourself. I’ll always think of you as my little girl.”

Rain flicked her long blond braid over her shoulder and looked down at her body meaningfully. “Little? Hardly!”

Her mother’s mouth pursed indignantly. “You’re just big boned, Rain, like your father. You’ve never been overweight.”

Trying to change the subject, an old and tiresome one, Rain teased, “Which father, Mom?” An enigmatic smile passed over her mother’s still attractive face. It had been a family joke for years that her unorthodox mother claimed to have had a time-travel experience thirty years before, when she’d met Thork Haraldsson, an outsize Viking version of her husband, Jack Jordan. In fact, her moth
er contended that Rain was conceived in the past and born in the present. Even worse, her mother insisted that, while her Viking father, Thork, had died before Ruby had returned to the future, she’d left behind Rain’s Viking half brothers, Eirik and Tykir.

Geez!

“Don’t start on me, young lady,” her mother chided, wagging a forefinger at her with mock sternness. “In a way, Thork and Jack were both your father. They were both very tall men and identical in appearance, except that your Viking father had more of a muscular build.”

Rain rolled her eyes at that enticing mind-picture. Her father had been a good-looking man. In a more muscle-clad body, he would have been drop-dead gorgeous.

Her mother reached over and touched the antique dragon brooch on the lapel of Rain’s white silk blouse. “It pleases me to see you wear the brooch Thork gave me.”

“Just because I wear it doesn’t mean I believe.”

Her mother chucked Rain playfully under the chin. “I know that, silly.” She caressed the pin lovingly, a dreamy expression clouding her face. “I wonder what happened to the matching brooch, the one Thork wore on the other shoulder of his mantle.”

Rain smiled at the whimsical look on her mother’s face, then hesitated before she spoke her next words. “I never believed all that nonsense of yours. I still don’t, but lately I’ve been really confused and—well, I don’t know.”

Her mother raised an eyebrow in question.

“The nightmare has returned.”

A soft gasp of dismay escaped her mother’s lips. “Oh, honey, I’m sorry. I didn’t know. I’ve been so preoccupied since your father’s death.”

Rain dismissed her mother’s concern with a wave
of her hand, explaining, “The dream is nothing new. I’ve had it intermittently since I was a child, since Eddie was killed in that Lebanese bombing.” Rain had been only twelve years old when her older brother, a Marine, had died on duty in Beirut, but it had changed her life forever. “I haven’t had the dream for a long time, but it’s back—with a vengeance.”

“The same dream?”

“Yes, but more intense…and graphic. Sometimes I feel like I’m caught in a vortex, being drawn toward something—or someone—in terrible need or pain. In a way, that’s why I decided to become a doctor, you know. The pictures of death and despair I saw in my dreams—well, I interpreted them as a kind of calling to the medical profession.”

“That and that blasted pacifism of yours.”

Rain smiled, knowing her outspoken mother didn’t share her views on nonviolence.

“It doesn’t help that you work in that inner-city hospital, you know. Talk about a daily dose of needless violence!”

Rain decided to steer the conversation away from that volatile topic. Her mother would much prefer her surgeon daughter to practice in a nice, safe suburb, closer to home.

“Anyhow, Mom, the dreams occur almost nightly now. I hate going to sleep anymore. And I wake with the most grueling migraine headaches. I wonder if—”

Her words halted in midsentence as a group of tourists exited the underground Jorvik Viking Centre and the line in which Rain stood began to inch forward. Ever since Rain’s mother had read of the Coppergate archaeological dig here years ago, she’d devoured newspaper and magazine articles detailing the thousands of artifacts taken from the site—treasures that gave new insight into the fierce, proud people who’d flourished there under a series of Viking
kings from 850 to 954 A.D. She’d yearned to return to the site of her alleged time-travel journey.

After they paid their money and entered the building, the docents ushered them into “time cars” which would whisk them back one thousand years through a reconstruction of an actual street in Jorvik, Viking Age York. The museum was populated by life-sized, lifelike figures of primitive Norsemen and its sounds and smells were redolent of a teeming market town of the early medieval period.

About to remark on the wonderfully executed dioramas, Rain looked at her mother and took a quick, sharp breath of alarm at her white complexion and hands clasped to her chest.

“Mother! What’s wrong?” The doctor in Rain emerged immediately. She feared her sixty-eight-year-old mother was suffering chest pains.

“It’s just like it was then,” Ruby whispered shakily.

“What is?”

“This street—Coppergate. See the thatched roofs, the wattle-and-daub houses? Oh, Rain, it takes me back so vividly!”

Rain breathed a sigh of relief that her mother wasn’t ill. Personally, she considered the houses pretty crude and failed to share her mother’s enthusiasm, but she kept her thoughts to herself.

They moved on and watched a burly blacksmith making the much-prized Viking sword. He worked five rods of metal into tightly twisted ropes, then hammered, filed, and welded again until he’d forged the deadly weapon. He explained that the whole pattern-welding process took one hundred hours for just one sword and that the Vikings valued them so much that they gave them names, like Leg-biter or Adder.

As their car moved along slowly, haunting medieval music permeated the air, floating sweetly from
a primitive carved pan pipe played by a blond-haired boy. In fact, all the figures in the exhibit had pale hair, from the lightest shades of platinum to fiery red. The huge men sported carefully groomed beards and mustaches and hair down to their shoulders. Most of the women and girls wore braids, some hanging to the waist and others tucked under neat cloth caps.

Industrious craftsmen toiled in front of the houses, carving wooden bowls, polishing amber stones, or working with brass. They gave the lie to the traditional image of Vikings as ferocious rapers and pillagers of peaceful folks.

Rain inhaled deeply, picking out the odors of fresh straw, wood shavings from the shipbuilders, smoke from the hearth fires, and faint, inland salt-water breezes—even some of the unpleasant smells that would have prevailed in a primitive city of this size.

After completing the one-hour tour of the Viking museum, they strolled arm-in-arm around the lobby, viewing drawings and photos of the archaeological excavation.

“Oh!” her mother exclaimed sharply, coming to an abrupt halt.

They’d come to a massive oil painting depicting the Battle of Brunanburh in 937 A.D. which had ended, once and for all, Viking dominance in Northumbria, according to the small card under the picture. The Dark Age knights battled on a flat-topped volcanic hill near Solway Firth. The huge painting detailed artistically the thousands of fallen warriors, including five Viking kings and seven jarls, a son of the Scots King Constantine, and two cousins, two earls, and two bishops of the Saxon King Athelstan.

Her mother’s voice trailed on, but Rain heard none of it. A chill rippled over her body, and a migraine headache slammed full-force behind
her eyes. Tears streamed in a silent path down her face.

Rain’s nightmare vision had come to life.

Over the years, like pieces of a crossword puzzle, she’d viewed parts of this battle scene in her dreams—the blood-soaked earth, gaping wounds, hacked-off body parts, screaming horses, and overwhelming carnage. No wonder she’d become a pacifist, opposed to all wars as senseless, after viewing this human tragedy over and over and over.

Even the man in the center of the painting was familiar. The tall blond giant stood with widespread legs encased in cross-gartered leather shoes. Many of the men around him wore leather or metal helmets with nose guards, but the handsome Viking’s long platinum hair blew freely in the wind. Blood soaked his short-sleeved, calf-length mail tunic and dripped from the sword and shield that he held in arms outstretched in entreaty to the gloomy gray sky, as if calling out in anguish to Odin. His ravaged, desperate face drew Rain, almost seemed to pull her into the painting, into the midst of the horrible maelstrom.

Rain stepped back sharply to escape the magnetic pull of the scene. The painting frightened her.

Her mother’s face drained bloodless, and her lips trembled as she exclaimed, “Oh, my God! It’s Selik.”

“Selik?” Rain croaked out, barely holding raw emotion in check. “Who’s Selik?”

“Don’t you remember the young man I told you about who was a Jomsviking knight, along with your father Thork?”

Oh, no! Not the time-travel stuff again!

But Rain squinted her eyes nonetheless, trying to better see the central figure in the painting. “You don’t mean the handsome rake who seduced all the women, the one who always teased you and joked with the children?”

“That’s the one. He was so good-looking, like a Norse god. And charming! He just smiled and the women melted.”

“I don’t know,” Rain said skeptically. “This man looks too grim and battle-scarred to be the same person. You must be mistaken.”

Her mother stared thoughtfully at the contorted face. “Maybe you’re right. Selik was a lover, not a hater.”

Rain shivered. “Let’s go, Mom. I’ve had enough of Vikings for one day.” Her mother laughed, and they walked back to their hotel, only a few blocks away.

That night Rain’s nightmare returned, but now all the pieces of the puzzle came together in one horrid, gruesome battle to the death, complete with the sounds and smells of war. When she saw her lone Viking warrior raise his sword and shield to the sky and scream out his agony over his fallen comrades, Rain cried too, waking her mother and probably half the hotel as well. After she calmed down and sent her mother back to bed, Rain huddled in the window seat and stared blindly out at the street, knowing she’d never sleep again that night.

Soon after dawn, she dressed, left a note for her mother, and walked the empty streets of York for hours. She was the first one in line when the museum doors opened at nine.

Rain made a beeline for the lobby where the oil painting hung. Scaffolds had been erected overnight, and laborers worked noisily on repairs to the high plaster ceiling. Rain ignored the barrier put up to keep tourists away from the work area and moved as close to the picture as possible. Then she pulled a small paper bag out of the large carryall slung over her shoulder. She unwrapped the magnifying glass she’d just purchased in a tourist gift shop and examined the compelling Viking soldier—
Selik
, her mother
had called him. She rolled the name softly on her tongue.

Rain had no doubts now. Selik was the specter who’d been haunting her dreams for years. She furrowed her brow in confusion. What did it mean? Did she have some kind of telepathic skill? Was the dream a message or warning of some type?

“Hey, lady, look out!”

Rain glanced apprehensively up to the shouting man on the scaffolding. At the same time, she heard a loud cracking noise. She had no time to move out of the way of the massive block of heavy plaster ceiling that fell ominously toward her.

Rain felt a sharp pain on top of her head, then nothing. The physician in her recognized instantly that she’d been dealt a fatal blow. Then, miraculously, Rain moved spirit-like over the huge pile of rubble that covered her body and viewed the scene dispassionately. Workmen tried frantically to get to her, but Rain didn’t care.

A shimmering white light approached, and Rain smiled, feeling an incredible peace envelop her.

So, this is what it’s like to die
.

But then the beautiful white light formed a hazy, body-shaped figure, and its head moved slightly from side to side, halting her progress. Its hand pointed her in another direction.

 

Rain recognized the sweet, sickening scent immediately. She’d been in too many hospital emergency and operating rooms awash with the wasted life force of countless victims to remain ignorant of the deathly odor of blood.

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