Vikings taken the great.., p.2
Vikings: Taken (The Great Heathen Army series Book 1), page 2
Carefully making their way through what was left of the village, Ubba ignored the destruction of property and lands. Thatched cottages, barns, and even crops burning around him, sending their putrid smoke into the already heavy atmosphere. The village had been completely ransacked by one of his brothers and his men. Even some of the Lord’s hounds had their throats cut.
Ubba sighed with frustration. Everything that was ransacked was of no use to man nor beast. What was the point of razing buildings and valuable food to the ground? He thought. The food and shelter would be useful if they stayed around. But Ubba knew his brothers didn’t think while in battle - they acted like berserkers. They had a thirst for blood.
Ubba grunted, and for now, ignored the death and destruction all around him. He had a job to complete. He stepped over yet another mutilated corpse and continued onwards, fighting along the way.
Rosfrith slowly removed her fingers from her ears and ceased repeating the song within her head. Compared to the noises from outside the walls, it was deathly quiet in the kitchen. Wondering what was happening, she leaned forward, as quietly as she could. The floor squeaked underneath her hand. She pulled her hand off the offending plank, which covered the stores below. Safely back in her corner, her brow furrowed when she heard muffled voices. They were quiet, but she knew they were not speaking her language. Fear made it difficult to breath, but she listened carefully to heavy footsteps nearing.
The next few minutes seemed to blur. She heard a sharp whistle, before a loud shattering of wood. The servants screamed. Rosfrith knew whoever was outside, had broken the door down. The servants were no longer keeping quiet to avoid detection. They had been found.
Over the din of screams and shouts, Rosfrith picked out Edith’s familiar voice. She was chanting, over and over, “Protect us, Oh Lord, from the wrath of the Norsemen.” A loud roar stopped Edith in her flow. Rosfrith jumped with fear for her maid. Tears sprang to her eyes, so she put her fingers back in her ears, trying to block out what was happening outside her hiding hole. She knew she could do nothing to help.
Asmund Jensson breathed heavily, axe in the air. He scanned the room he had burst into. A smirk grew on his lips when he noticed the room full of servants, huddled together, trying to hide their eyes from his large form. He let out a snort and lowered his weapon. There were no fighting men. He turned to search for his friend and fellow warrior, Bard Klaussen, but turned his gaze back quickly. You could never be entirely sure a soldier wasn’t hiding amongst them. “Bard, let’s get these thralls out of here and take them to Ivar.”
Bard nodded until another spoke up. “Not all of them, Asmund. There’re some comely ones here to entertain us for a while,” said Eirik.
Asmund glanced at him and narrowed his eyes. “What did you say?”
Eirik shrugged away Asmund’s cold tone. “I’m saying, I could do with some loving. A couple of these women look very agreeable.” His brown eyes narrowed as he rubbed his beard, nodding at the men who seemed in agreement with him. “And, it’s been a long journey…” His words trailed off when his glance focused on one of the women that interested him.
Asmund hesitated, but only because he’d been on strict orders from Ivar to bring all the women into the hall. They needed to find Lord and Lady Guader, their son, and both daughters. He glanced at the group again. Surely they would not hide in the kitchen with the servants?
Bard, not one to care about orders from anyone, even Ivar the Boneless, stepped forward. “Take your pick, Eirik,” he said, before laughing at Asmund’s hesitation. He shrugged. “What? You don’t think that the brothers will get theirs? Besides, they are no ladies in here, only thralls.”
Bard moved into the room, shoving Asmund to the side. He motioned to three men, who already stood in the room, to move forward. “Ivar wants all the hostages in the hall as soon as we can round them up,” said Bard, before he smirked and slapped one of the men on his back. “Although, Ivar can wait a while longer for all of them.” Bard watched as more men moved forward, but they were still waiting for Asmund to give the order.
“Take your pick,” Bard said, encouraging them. He turned and winked at Asmund, knowing that he was his friend before his leaded. He laughed when he moved forward and some of the women screamed. He thanked the gods for their good fortune of checking the kitchens. There was plenty of time to have their fun, and get the ones they didn’t want to Ivar and his brothers, Sigurd, Ubba, Bjorn, and Halfdan.
Asmund finally nodded. “Take your pick, men.”
The men laughed, and turned their gazes onto the women.
Edith didn’t understand their tongue, but the intent in the men’s eyes was enough. She had been married, she understood that look – unlike some of the maidens standing with her.
Not feeling brave, but knowing as one of the oldest, she had to do something, Edith took a breath, and stepped forward. She wanted to conceal some of the younger women and hopefully, give the heathens time to change their minds. Not that she held much hope.
Asmund eyed the group of crying women until he noticed one of the older ones step forward. His eyes narrowed on her. To his annoyance, she didn’t flinch. He hoped she wasn’t going to be too much trouble. If she were, he’d soon stop her. With his axe, if needs be.
One of the men who’d also noticed Edith pointed. “Is she offering herself?”
The others sniggered.
Bard glanced towards the woman. “Not her, she’s too old.”
“Unless she is offering,” one of the men behind them laughed.
“Still too old,” countered Bard.
“But, with more experience,” another replied.
“Calm down. You will have your pick,” said Asmund. Truthfully, he wanted rid of the wenches, let Ivar deal with them. But, it had been a long and lonely journey. He glanced at the men and nodded at the youngest one. “You, Magnus, take some of these thralls to the hall. Ivar awaits. If he asks where we are, tell him we are locked in battle with the enemy.” He laughed at his poor humor.
When he finished laughing, he ignored the scowl on Magnus’s face. He was the leader, not some lad who had barely any hair on his chin. Asmund stepped forward and grabbed Edith. He pulled her forward with his great strength.
Almost falling onto the floor, Edith found herself being thrown towards the doorway, towards another lumbering beast. Once she found her footing, she turned and noticed other women being torn from the group. It was the older ones being singled out. Her heart sunk at the innocent faces of the ones left. A sharp shove whipped her head back around. She growled at the man. He laughed at her.
When she realised they were being taken out of the kitchen, her heart ached for Rosfrith. She might not see her again. Unconcerned the enemy would understand her, Edith shouted. “Be still, Mistress Rosfrith. Remember, stay where you are. Whatever you hear, don’t come out. Remember your promise.” A hard slap across her face quietened her.
Bard continued to pull the older and less desirable women from the group and pushed them towards Magnus. “Take them. Kill any which misbehave.”
Magnus growled and stepped towards the women to frighten them. He sniggered when they recoiled. I might be young, but I still scare these wenches into doing what I wish. He waved his axe to get them moving. He followed them as they screamed and ran across the open courtyard towards the main hall.
“Now for some fun,” Bard said, watching Magnus disappear around a corner. He shut what was left of the wooden door. He didn’t need any more men in on their party. His narrowed gaze returned to the women. A sneer appeared on his lips. “Choose yours, men” he said, stepping forward and grabbing a servant with an ample bust. The other men grabbed their own.
Rosfrith tried to hold down the bile she felt rising in her throat. Even from her darkened corner, she knew what was happening to those women. Although it didn’t sound entirely like the coupling she’d heard, she was old enough to understand the situation. Besides, she understood the women’s pleading and p
Rosfrith desperately wanted to help them, but, like them, she was outnumbered. Being a child wouldn’t stop them defiling her. So, much to her horror, she stayed where she was. Tears slipped from her eyes.
After what felt like an eternity, the women’s screams, scraping of wood on the floor, crashing objects falling to the ground, sounds of flesh hitting flesh, and laughter of the men, became quieter. The sound of sobbing took its place.
“Come on, let’s get these up to the hall. We’ve wasted enough time on these wenches,” said Bard. He pulled up his trousers and tightened his drawstring. “I bet Ivar is wondering where we are.” He joked, not the least bit concerned. To his way of thinking, Ivar the Boneless had pretty much given them leave to do whatever they wanted to the people. Everyone, except the family. Ivar wanted them himself. He pulled his tunic down and grabbed the woman off the table, unconcerned that she hadn’t had time to cover herself.
Asmund glanced around the room. He ignored the woman, now he’d satisfied himself. The carved pots, which were strewn over the floor, piqued his interest. His bedmate would love some of those. “You go, I’ll see what’s here to take, first.”
Bard’s eyes narrowed. He didn’t want Asmund to find more valuables than him. “I’ll look, too.”
Asmund shrugged, unconcerned, for there was plenty for all of them.
“Move,” said Bard as he pushed the woman he had hold of, over to the corner of the room. When the others didn’t immediately move, he made a jerking movement. He smirked when they all followed - like the sheep on his holding back at Ranaricii.
Asmund stooped down and picked up a couple of wooden pots to inspect them. They were of good quality, but well used. He moved around the room, growling towards the women when their sobbing escalated.
His attention divided between the women and a pot, Asmund failed to notice the chair leg in front of him. He stumbled. Laugher from his fellow warriors made him scowl at his mistake. He turned and threw the pot, which was in his hand, at one of them. He smirked when the laughter stopped and looked down at the offending chair. When he removed his foot from around the leg, he noticed a door behind it.
He signalled to his men, as he grabbed his axe. Each of them swiftly, but quietly, grabbed their weapons, unsure what was going to be behind the door. He pulled the chair away.
“Nay,” said one of the women. She was terrified the beasts would find their mistress and inflict the same vile acts on her.
Asmund’s head quickly turned to silence her. His eyes narrowed. He didn’t understand what she had said, but it could have been a warning to whoever was in there. He lifted his chin to one of the warriors, indicating that the women needed watching. He turned back around and reached to open the door. On a deep breath, and poised ready for the possible battle, he opened it.
From the darkness of her hiding place, Rosfrith controlled her panic when she heard the chair scrape along the floor and the door squealing open. All was quiet, before she heard a low voice.
“Now, what do we have here?”
Rosfrith looked in horror at the beast of the man, whos words she did not understand. He filled the whole space, blocking out the light from behind. She closed her eyes tight, hoping against hope he was referring to the pots and pans that hung in front of her. Her heart stopped when she heard the floorboard creak. That meant he was near. Closing her eyes, she made herself as small and inconspicuous as possible. When her arm was roughly grabbed, the breath she was holding escaped as a loud squeak.
“Another one to join in on the fun,” said Asmund, as he hauled the kicking girl out from the darkness. He held her in the air. When he looked at the angry, red face, he realised she was a child. A feisty one at that.
“Now, that one is too young,” said Bard stepping back in case her flailing kicks landed on him.
“Ay,” replied Asmund, not at least bit interested in a girl of this age, although it didn’t deter some of the men. He’d just witnessed that. “Come on, let’s go. We don’t want to annoy Ivar too much.”
Through fear and anger at being found, with all her might, Rosfrith tried to kick the beast who held her in the air. Unable to aim any of her kicks, she screamed and cursed at him. Be damned with being lady-like.
Eventually, the beast threw her, like vermin, towards the rest of the women who were huddled in the corner. When Rosfrith joined them, a couple of them nodded at her. Although she felt a little of her fear dissipate, she was also very aware they weren’t out of danger yet.
“Gather what you can, and let’s go,” said Asmund as he glanced around. He noticed his orders were unheard - the men were pillaging what they could find.
While he scanned the scene, Asmund’s eyes narrowed. He’d noticed the women gather in front of the young girl he had just found. They pushed her behind them, sheltering her. He rubbed his beard while he considered their actions. It couldn’t be because she was young, there was another female who looked about the same age, already in the room, sobbing into the breast of another. His head tilted to the side. Amongst the drab clothes of the others, the young girl’s attire was brighter, more quality to the cloth. He turned his head. “Hey, Bard. How old is the Lord’s daughter?”
Bard heard nothing over the din of the room being plundered.
“Bard,” Asmund shouted, now more confident in the way he was thinking. This would be a great find. “Bard, what’s the age of the Lord’s daughter?”
Bard stopped and rubbed his beard with his free hand, the other balancing utensils. “Young, I think. He has two. One a young adult, one too young to breed, yet.”
A smile spread over Asmund’s lips. “I think we’ve found all the treasure we need.”
Main Hall, Dunwich Fortress
Ivar was not happy. He stalked back and forth across the reeded floor of the hall, a scowl firmly on his handsome features. The axe strapped over his muscly shoulder, dripped with fresh blood. “Have none of you found the Lord or his family?”
“No,” said Sigmund, a matching scowl to his brother’s. To demonstrate his annoyance, he swung his axe and chopped a chair in half.
The captives, who huddled together in a corner, jumped. They tried to stifle their screams because they did not want to draw that temper in their direction. Their situation was dire enough.
Ubba stepped forward. “We have started to ask, but none of them understand us of yet,” replied Ubba, trying to calm his brother down. When Ivar was in a foul mood, there was no telling what he would do with the captives within the hall. “A little more time and we will find both the Lord, his wife and their children.”
Ivar’s lip curled with disgust. “How can we not have found anyone of importance yet?” He waved his arm towards the group of people. “Just their thralls.”
“We…” Ubba stopped in mid-sentence when the hall door burst open and a group of women, most looking worse for wear, were herded in. Ubba hid his disgust at the state of the women. It was plain to see what had happened to them. But, there was no point in saying anything. It was the way of the men to take what they wanted – whether materialistically or from the people.
“Ari. Ask this lot,” Ivar waved over to the women, “where the Lord and his family are.”
Ubba watched Ari, one of Ivar’s kinsmen, walk towards the group. He veered towards one of the elder ones and gestured for her to come forward. After some hesitation, she did.
“Where are your Lord, Lady, and their children?” Ari asked bluntly.
Ubba sighed, the woman obviously didn’t understand what he was saying.
“Guarder?” Ari tried again, knowing the servant would understand the name.
Hesitantly, she pointed towards the door. “Gone, before you came,” she said in a fearful voice. She quickly lowered her eyes.
Ari forced the woman’s chin up, making her meet his eyes. “Lady Guader?”
She flinched under his cold
The old lady shrugged.
Sigurd growled while watching the non-verbal exchange. “She’s lying, Ari. If not the Lord, the rest are here. None have left the area since we breached the walls. They are hiding,” he said, and glanced at the group. “I’ll try and get answers out of her.”
But, before anyone could cross-examine the woman, the door opened again, and more captives were herded in.
Ubba’s blue gaze watched as the terrified men and women ran over to the rest of the captured thralls. When he turned away from them, he noticed Asmund smiling. He was gripping a young girl, not allowing her to run with the others.
Ubba didn’t need to be a genius to know she was the youngest mistress. He hoped Ivar wouldn’t take all his frustrations out on the youngster.
Ivar turned towards the commotion by the door, but not before he noticed the look of horror on some of the captive’s faces. He followed their gazes, which landed on Asmund. It told him everything he needed to know. Well, at last, someone had found something of importance. “Well, well. What do we have here, Asmund?”
Asmund strode into the room, barely giving Rosfrith time to put a foot on the floor. “I found her hiding in a cupboard, Lord.” He placed Rosfrith down but held her tightly by the arm. She was still trying to attack him, and after the ribbing he’d had off Bard when she’d managed to bite him, he wasn’t taking any chances. “She’s a feisty one, and I think she is the Lord’s youngest.”
Edith cried out when she saw Rosfrith unceremonially hauled in. A stern look and an indiscreet flexing of an axe arm from one of the brutes guarding them, stopped her running forward. She realised she’d be no good to her mistress if she were dead herself, so she glanced over at Rosfrith, who apart from fighting like a caught rabbit, seemed unharmed. Unlike some of the women they had brought in.
by Ceri Bladen have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes