Authors: Sandra Hill
This book is dedicated to my four sons, Beau, Rob, Matt, and Daniel. They've got Viking in their blood, rogue in their rascally brains, a comedic vein that would put SNL to shame, and enough alpha to drive a mother mad.
Instead of there having been a book titled
Truly, Madly Viking,
there should have been one titled
Truly, Madly Viking Mom.
No kidding, every gray hair on my head (not that you'll ever see them), was put there by the four musketeers.
Although none of them has ever read a word I've written (fear of learning Mom knows something about sex, I suppose), they have been supportive of my writing from the get-go. From spotting and reporting my books on store shelves (including that Maine bait-and-tackle shop), to setting up computer programs, to researching items, to talking up my books to friends and acquaintances, to general enthusiasm when I've won awards or made lists. Although the one who owns a pizza franchise for some reason refuses to put my books' covers on the delivery boxes. Jeesh! And each of them refused to dress as a Viking and wear a signboard at my book signings, not even for cash. Even so, they probably think they're going to inherit a million dollars some day from my writing. Ha, ha, ha!
They say there is a special place in heaven for mothers of sons. I believe it. But they bring joy and humor to this mother's life, as well.
So, this one is dedicated to you, guys. Maybe you'll even read it this time.
“My tongue, leaden with grief
Naught will stir my soul.
No skaldic poem touches me,
My heart is heavy with woe.
So many tears! Such sadness!
All my thoughts are dark.
How can I breed joy from such blackness?
Rain in my sad heart
And rain drenching my landsâ¦”
“I have braved sea waves
and fought serpent winds
through many countries to
make this visit to youâ¦”
âA loose interpretation of
circa tenth century
Clueless men get stungâ¦every timeâ¦
To market, to market, to buy aâ¦chauvinist pig?
And so the trouble beginsâ¦
You did WHAT with my honey?
Beware of rogues with angel facesâ¦
They were certainly lippy todayâ¦
Clueless men will believe anything when it comes to sex!
You could say she was going a-Vikingâ¦
In the battle of the sexes, men rarely winâ¦
Sometimes the best meals involve no foodâ¦
The shortest distance between two people is a smileâ¦
The terrible trouble arrivedâ¦
You could say it was a sexual healingâ¦
He never promised her a rose gardenâ¦
There was nothing sweet about the sorrow in this partingâ¦
Even a thousand years ago, men were cluelessâ¦
They wouldn't even let him wallow in peaceâ¦
Some men bang their heads against a wall, others bangâ¦
A man can only be pushed so farâ¦
They were party animals before party animals were inventedâ¦
lueless men get stungâ¦every timeâ¦
Honey was a lot like a woman. Sweet when you were in the mood, and sticky when you were sated.
John of Hawk's Lair grimaced at his own flowery musing. He was a warrior when called to service by his Saxon king, a good master to his various estates, but mostly just a reclusive student ofâ¦yes, honey.
He didn't realize that he'd spoken aloud until his visitor from the Norselands, Hamr Egilsson, made a snorting sound and said, “Hah! Forget about honeyâwhen a man's sap is rising, a female nether nest is the only thing that will do.”
Nether nest? Help me, Lord!
Hamr of Vestfold, the wildest Viking that ever rode a longship, dipped a fingertip in one of the
dozens of small pottery jars that John was experimenting with, each marked with an identifying placard, such as “Clover” or “Cherry Blossom,” and licked the honey appreciatively. Hamr was a nephew, thrice removed, of John's Norse stepfather, Lord Eirik of Ravenshire. Vikings considered even the thinnest blood connection family; John, though full Saxon, had been raised to do likewise.
John smacked his hand away. “Those are for research. Be careful you don't drop any on my notes.”
While Lady Eadyth of Ravenshire, John's mother, was a beekeeper far-famed for her mead and time-keeping candles, John was more interested in the medicinal properties. His patience was wearing thin with his irksome guest, who was clearly getting restless after only three days here in the wilds of Northumbria. John doubted he would have his company much longer. Not that Hamr would be returning to his homeland anytime soon since he had been recently outlawed by a Vestfold Althing for trawling the wrong bed fursâ¦those of a high chieftain's wife. Hopefully, it would be a short exile.
“Can you not go find a country to plunder, Hamr?”
“Done that. In fact, I am thinking about becoming a pirate.”
“Have you not fame enough as an outlaw? Must you add piracy to your sins?”
“Methinks I would be a good pirate. I would give piracy a respectable name.”
“You would not know respectable if it hit you in your face.” John inhaled for patience. “Swordplay then?”
“Visit a brothel?”
“Done that. And done that. And done that.”
“Go exploring in the lands beyond Iceland?”
“Join the Varangian guard in Byzantium.”
“Too much work.”
“Build a new longship.”
“I have too many already. Rather, my father does.”
John made a clucking sound of disgust.
“Lord Gravely, you are too somber by half and unimaginative,” Hamr continued.
John frowned at the rascal for all his m'lording. John was entitled to wear the title of Lord of Gravely, which he disdained because of his deceased, evil, undoubtedly insane father. For that reason, he would never beget children of his own. The risk of the taint in his blood was too great. “Call me Hawk, or call me John, but do not call me Gravely,” he warned.
Hamr crossed his eyes at John. Betimes the lackwit behaved like a youthling scarce out of
swaddling clothes, even though he had passed the same thirty-one years as John.
Easing himself off the stool with a long sigh of boredom, Hamr finally started for the door, just before Graeme the Stableman knocked.
“Is there a problem, Graeme? One of the horses?”
Graeme twisted his cap in his hands. “Nay, the horses are fine. My manpart is not.”
By the rood! What now?
Hamr's ears perked up and, instead of leaving, he turned to listen to the conversation.
“I know ye pay me and me wife to slather that honey on my manpart so we kin stop breedin' babes, butâ”
“You can go now, Hamr,” John said.
“Are you daft? This promises to be the most fun I've had since I got here.” Hamr sat on his stool once again.
John was about to tell Graeme to come back later, but he blathered on, “By the saints! I was tuppin' Mary in one of the horse stalls las' night, and I'm still pickin' straw off my ballocks and in my crack. Mary says she has straw up her woman channel, and it itches somethin' awful.”
Way more detail than John wanted or needed.
Hamr had a hand over his mouth. Laughing, no doubt.
“We both got flies swarmin' around our private
parts.” Graeme was on a roll now. “What should we do, Lord Hawk?”
“You could take a bath,” he suggested.
Graeme stared at him in horror. A bath a year was his routine, John guessed. Or twice a year, at best.
“I have an idea,” Hamr said with a grin.
“Shut your teeth, fool,” John advised. Then, to his stableman, “Do you want to quit the project, Graeme?” John had twelve couples of childbearing years involved in his experiments to prevent conception. One less would not be fatal to the study.
“Nay!” Graeme replied. “We need the coin.”
“My ideaâ¦Does no one want to hear my idea?” Hamr was waving his hand to get their attention. “You could remove Mary's honey by licking her nether folds.”
Graeme's expression bespoke his reluctance.
“And she could remove yours by sucking your cock.”
Graeme's eyes lit up with delight. “Good idea!” he said. “I will tell Mary it is Lord Hawk's orders.”
John groaned. But he had no time to bemoan his dilemma. Efrim the Woodsman arrived, holding a bloody rag to his left hand, which had been cut almost to the bone two months past. The wound still festered. “Maude, the scullery maid, said you used honey on her husband Harry's boil an' it healed jist fine.”
Honey on a broken blister was one thing, a gaping wound quite another. Next, his people would expect him to cure leprosy with honey.
John washed Efrim's wound, then honey-salved it, emphasizing the importance of keeping an open sore clean and covered with unsoiled bindings.
“Thank ye very much, m'lord. I have no coin, but my Essie will send ye some of her special goat cheese.”
Arguing that he did not need to be paid had gained John naught in the past; so, he just nodded. “I do appreciate good goat cheese.”
I loathe goat cheese.
“Do you do this all the time?” Hamr wanted to know once Efrim departed.
“I do not claim to be a healer, but, yea, a fair number of people come to me as a last resort when all else fails.”
“And they pay for your services with cheese?”
“And eggs, fish, venison, live chickens, a pig, wool, manureâ¦yea, manure for the gardens. Even a barrel of eels.”
Hamr rolled his eyes. “Mayhap you could hint that a big-breasted woman with wanton ways would not be unwelcome payment.”
John decided the best course was to ignore the lackwit.
That night a lone rider entered the keep gates.
A man of about fifty years with a grizzled white beard and long hair in the Viking style, and a patch over one eye.
Oh, Good Lord!
It was Bolthor, the world's worst skald, who quickly told John that he had been sent by his mother to keep him company. A mother he was going to throttle if she did not stop interfering in his life.
John knew from past experience that come nightfall there was going to be a poem about honey licking and miracle cures.
And there was.
That night in John's great hall, where the fare was plain due to the recent death of the longtime Hawk's Lair cook, a glaze came over Bolthor's one eyeâ¦a sure sign that he was overcome by the verse mood. Without much ado, Bolthor announced, “This is the saga of John of Hawk's Lair. I call it âHawk's Honey.'” It mattered not that John groaned and pleaded with Bolthor not to recite his saga aloud, or that Hamr laughed so hard he fell off his seat. Bolthor considered it his gods' given duty to spread his poetic wisdom.
In the land of the Saxons,
A lackwit knight was born.
Day and night he spent
Mooning over honey.
But alas and alack,
As time went on,
He did not realize that
Ice was growing on his heart.
Even worse, cobwebs were growing
On his manpart.
And the most important honey
Was missing from his life.
Mayhap honey is a bane betimes.
Mayhap man needs a bit of sour
To offset the sweet.
Mayhap the hawk should fly
Instead of resting on his feathery arse.
While everyone else laughed and clapped their hands with appreciation, John was heard to murmur, “Mayhap someone ought to stuff a codpiece in a certain skald's mouth.”