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Authors: Lily Byrne

Ragnar the Murderer

BOOK: Ragnar the Murderer
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Ragnar the Murderer

 

by

 

Lily Byrne

 

 

 

ISBN
             
1463698372

EAN
             
978-1463698379

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

 

'Ragnar the Murderer' is published by Taylor Street Publishing, who can be contacted at: http:

 

http://www.taylorstreetbooks.com

http://ninwriters.ning.com

 

'Ragnar the Murderer' is the copyright of the author, Lily Byrne, 2011. All rights are reserved.

 

All characters are fictional, and any resemblance to anyone living or dead is accidental.

 

 

Background

 

914 A.D.

 

The division of Britain is complete. From Chester to London, Danelaw has been declared, with the county of Wessex and the other western tribes on the other side. There is a fragile peace between the Anglo Saxons and the Norsemen, which any small misunderstanding could ruin at any moment.

The Danes have settled in the East, keeping themselves separate from the local people, who are exclusively Angle. Settlements are unconnected and fraternising between the different groups is discouraged.

Two villages, Byrnstanham and Hallfridby are deep within the Danelaw, not far from each other. The Anglisc of Byrnstanham view the Danes of Hallfridby with suspicion: invaders in all but name.

The Huskarlr regiment of Jarl Thorvald, the overlord of the area, adds to the unease. Danes all over the country are violent intruders on Anglisc soil- are these any different?

The elders of each village don’t want the youths to mix, or even meet. But inevitably, forbidding something only makes people want it more….

 

 

An

 


Come on!” urged Saehild, hopping from one foot to the other to keep warm. “The quicker we get there the quicker we’ll come back.”

Aelfwyn, being shorter and thinner than her younger sister, found it harder to wield the pails. The long, stone wall edged path to the well led downhill, and she hated carrying the heavy pails back up again.


I’m looking forward to the wedding feast of Eappa and Geatfleda next week, aren’t you? It’ll be a change from daily tasks. When I’m married I’ll have slaves and they’ll do all the work while I enjoy myself.”


You’ve got to find a rich husband first.”

Aelfwyn imagined it wouldn’t be difficult. Fair of face and curvaceous of body, men couldn’t resist Saehild. Their parents insisted she should not get married until her fifteenth birthday however, and as that loomed, soon Aelfwyn would lose her annoying but amusing companion.

Leafless, icy trees eerily overhung the sunken path through the wood.

As they turned the last corner, they saw two figures by the well, wearing the red woollen cloaks of Jarl Thorvald’s men, stout leather boots, and trousers with garters. Complaining to each other, their breath clouded around them as they chipped at the frozen water with their spears.

The girls hesitated a few yards away.


Will they attack us?” whispered Saehild dramatically, clutching at her sister.

Aelfwyn sighed.  “Probably not, but we’d better wait until they’ve gone.”

The taller Dane abruptly looked up and smiled. His dark red hair was wavy but tied back in a plait over his shoulders and he wore a fur cap instead of a helmet, as he wasn’t in battle. With skin rather darker than most Danes, he looked pleasant, not handsome but inscrutable, especially as his well groomed beard and moustache covered most of his lower face.


Come,” he said. “Do not be frightened.”

The other turned too, and smiled. Now, he really was good looking. Straight golden hair, his eyes big and blue, his lips an attractive shape. His moustache and beard were fortunately less full than the other’s, as this revealed his beauty. The sisters gasped. He held his hand out in a welcoming motion so they stepped forward as one.


We break ice,” said the handsome one, bending over his task while the other kept watch.

The girls watched, fascinated. Saehild pretended to re-arrange her head-rail, letting her flaxen blond, soft fine hair slip out. She took great care of it, unlike many girls, and owned three combs.


Saehild!” Aelfwyn glared at her, shocked at her inappropriate behaviour.


We’ve all got hair, it’s not something to be hidden,” she retorted.


There!” The handsome Dane pulled up the bucket from the well, and gestured for them to come forward. He then tipped water into their pails, smiling at both of them until they blushed.

Aelfwyn thought, however, that he smiled more at her sister. The same as every other man. Men were so weak and easily understood. They saw a pretty face and were instantly besotted. It amused her to see so many of them pursuing her sister, who often didn’t notice. Saehild was tall and well formed, obviously healthy and a promising prospect for bearing children.

Being born underweight meant Aelfwyn had always struggled to grow and throw off illnesses. As a result she had remained short and thin, despite eating as much as she could.

Grateful that her mother had kept her rather than abandoning such a weak baby, even so she wished to be as attractive as her sister. Everyone always thought she was the younger one, and even by eighteen, men hadn’t shown an interest. They no doubt thought of her as unpromising breeding stock.

As she and her sister stepped back, feebly mumbling “Thank you”, the taller Dane began filling his own pails. He seemed to be instructing his reluctant companion, who turned back to the girls.


Bjarni.” He pointed to himself, bowing his head politely and then pointed to his taller companion. “Ragnar.”


Saehild,” she gushed in delight. “My sister, Aelfwyn.”

Ragnar did not seem pleased however, and said something sharp to Bjarni in their own language. Bjarni rolled his eyes and Saehild giggled.


We should go now,” said Aelfwyn, realising their vulnerable position alone in the wood with two unfamiliar Danes.


Goodbye. See you again,” said Saehild, before Aelfwyn could drag her away.

Bjarni looked after them with interest.


What d’you think, then?” he asked Ragnar as the girls rounded the corner and disappeared from view. “Would you fuck them?”


Yes, probably,” his friend said unthinkingly. “I mean, no! We shouldn’t be associating with the locals. We have our jobs to do, we should-“


By the gods, you’re so boring! You wouldn’t fuck either of them just because of your job?”


The Jarl said we must be honourable if we’re training to be Huskarlr. At your age, you’re supposed to have grown out of fucking around.” Ragnar’s job meant everything to him, he had no family and Jarl Thorvald was the only father he had ever known.


I’m not nineteen yet. I hope by twenty I won’t be like you and have forgotten how to do it.” Bjarni pretended to doze off against the wall so Ragnar prodded his leg with his spear.


Get off! I’ll have the tall, pretty one. Those breasts, you could get lost in them. I bet she’s a dragon in the sack-“


Calm down or I’ll throw this ice over you. Come on.” Ragnar set off with two pails, Bjarni following cheerfully with the others.


Think they come here every day?”


I expect so. But we’re only on water duty for the fortnight, so don’t get too excited. There are loads of local girls for you to harass.”


Water duty! It should be the women doing such tasks, not us.”


It’s to teach us humility. You need to learn it.”

Bjarni kicked at him- no easy task while carrying pails of water- but Ragnar managed to fight back. Continuing to bicker, they rounded the corner in the opposite direction to the Anglisc, heading back to Hallfridby.

 

*  *  *

 


That was a nice start to the day,” said Saehild on the way back to their home. “Bjarni is so handsome, do you think father would let me marry him?”


I doubt it. Father’s very traditional, as you know. He will want you to marry a nice Anglisc boy. Someone like Wilmund.”


Ugh, Wilmund! He never washes his hair, he smells bad.” She giggled.

Aelfwyn giggled too. “Or Deorweald. Father would approve of him.”


Deorweald? He must be about twenty five! Almost old enough to be my father!”


Or what about-“


Oh stop talking about these horrible Anglisc. They’re all ugly and stinking. Give me a beautiful Dane any day. I want Bjarni to rush into our village, fight off all my suitors and carry me off to his hall. Or a hut he’s built just for us, we’d live happily ever after and have twenty children.”


Twenty?”


Yes, wouldn’t they be beautiful? The boys would look like him, the girls like me.”


Where would I live?”


You could have a corner in our hut, you could help me look after the twenty children, I’d need help.”


Do you think they’ll be at the well tomorrow?”


We have to fetch water anyway, so they know where to find us. What did you think of the other one? Ragnar was it?”


He’s alright. I’m sure he fancies you anyway.”

Saehild nodded smugly. “I saw him looking at me slyly. I could marry Bjarni and have Ragnar as my lover.” She giggled.


You would definitely have twenty children then, with both of them loving you!” Aelfwyn giggled too. She didn’t intend to get married. If no man wanted her, she wouldn’t want them either.

 

*  *  *

 

The next day, Saehild hurried her sister off to the well so early that her mother, Cwenburg, stared in shock. Intrigued by the meeting yesterday, Aelfwyn was not reluctant however. The Danes kept to themselves socially, with their own feasting days and customs, but were approachable sometimes. She had heard tales of fearsome Vikingr marauders in the past, but none she had met caused her problems, so why not see what they were really like?

They waited at the well for a time, but the men did not appear, however slowly Saehild filled the pails.

They were just about to leave, when a flash of red caught Aelfwyn’s eye. “Look!”

Two cloaked figures were hastening along through the leafless trees.


Is it them?”

A few seconds of uncertainty led to Ragnar and Bjarni appearing on the path in a hurry, then slowing their pace to a casual saunter.


Don’t be too friendly,” Aelfwyn warned her sister.


Morning,” said Bjarni, smiling. “No ice today?”


No, the weather’s warmer today. Thank you for yesterday, we wouldn’t have had any water if it wasn’t for you,” babbled Saehild.

Neither Dane understood her rapid speech.


Thank you for helping us yesterday,” said Aelfwyn plainly, and their expressions cleared.


You are welcome,” said Ragnar, bowing slightly.

BOOK: Ragnar the Murderer
12.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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