This book is copyright © 2016 by J.D. Johnson
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Published by The Oni’s Lair
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Dedicated to my parents,
You both are missed but never forgotten.
“Get those ships onto the shore lads! There’s no time to waste when Thor be in a right nasty mood like this!”
The strong and powerful voice of Bjorn cut through the sudden winter storm like a battle axe, brutal and efficient. Men, young and old, rushed about the small village of Sandvik, dragging the vulnerable long ships to shore as those not helping with the ships rushed about the village, roping closed any still open window shutters.
One shutter was torn from the grasp of a young woman by a sudden gust of wind. Whatever curse she hurled at Thor for the storm was swallowed whole by the booming of thunder. Her large bosom heaved within the rain soaked blouse as she snatched back the shutter, slamming it shut and lashing it tightly closed.
Bjorn was fiercely proud of his clan; the men were known as fine warriors and the women more beautiful and skilled then any of the neighboring town’s women, making them prized brides through the region. It was this pride that made Bjorn so determined they would ride out this storm with as few losses as possible to both lives and property.
From out of the swirling snow a figure suddenly appeared, moving swiftly towards the hulking bear-like form of Bjorn. Although nearly as large of frame as Bjorn, the man moving towards the village leader moved with a tensed up grace, more akin to a panther than a bear, his breath billowed before his face like steam for only a second and then gone as the fringing wind snatched it away. “Bjorn! By Odin’s beard my Jarl; the long ships have been beached as ye commanded.”
Bjorn said nothing, not even nodding his head to the other man’s comment, ice gathering on his beard. The winter storm would be a bad one, indicating a long and harsh winter for the hardy people of Sandvik. This was not the first harsh storm Bjorn had survived and so he knew he would insure his kinsmen made it fine through this one and the next and the next after that.
Bjorn had only been named Jarl, or earl, of Sandvik last year but already he was well liked and respected for his ability to lead as well as his battle skills. Bjorn knew that this harsh winter would seal his command in the village that is as long as he could lead the villagers safely through the winter.
The younger man, Fenrir, knew that Bjorn’s mind was preoccupied this night, not just from the storm but the fact he was expecting his first child. Bjorn’s wife, Brynhildr, had went into labor just minutes before the storm struck the small village of two hundred souls. As much as Bjorn longed to be at his wife’s side and see his child pushed into the world he also knew his duty as Jarl came first.
For that reason tonight Bjorn knew the cries of his newborn son would battle the howling wind of the maddened snowstorm without him there. Tonight Bjorn would have his legacy, a son to carry on when after he would be taken to the halls of blessed Valhalla for eternal war beside the All-Father god Odin.
Finally turning to the younger man Bjorn nodded as a slight smile struggled be seen through his thick red beard of ice crusted flames. “Ah! Good, Fenrir. See that ye and the others get inside before the storm truly strikes.”
Bjorn briefly paused to pat Fenrir’s shoulder before struggling passed him in the wind, there was no need to say where he was going; everyone knew he was looking forward to his son’s birth. Fenrir watched the departing back of his friend and Jarl, he imagined he could faintly hear the cries of Bjorn’s newborn pup in the air as he saw the dark spot that was Bjorn, shoulder open the thick oak door of his home.
The midwife had already left, leaving Brynhildr alone with her newborn child, when Bjorn rushed forward to her side. Ice and snow melted from the fierce heat of the hearth, leaving a wet cold trail from the door to the bedside. Bjorn’s heavy fur cloak made a wet sloshing sound as Bjorn shrugged the garment from his shoulders, letting it fall to the floor.
With a warm smile his exhausted wife of twenty summers lifted aside the blanket, showing her husband the tiny wrinkled red face of their child, unhappy with the sudden intrusion of cold.
Bjorn grunted in pride at seeing his first child, a son to carry on his name. “Sven… we shall call the lad Sven, after my father.”
Brynhildr spoke softly, “He will be a fine son.” her voice harsh and raspy, tired from her own battle this night to see their son born, but filled with joy for her first born child.
“Aye, my love, and ye did fine yourself. Already he’s strong,” Bjorn spoke as his infant son grasped his meaty finger with one of his tiny hands. “A fine warrior he will be one day. Indeed a fine warrior.”
Bjorn leaned down to kiss his beloved wife’s sweaty forehead. Bjorn was a man and saw war in all of its bloody details but he knew this night his wife wagged her own war, one where she was the victor. Bjorn had loved his father and cared for the elder Sven even after a battle wound ended his life as a pillager. The elder Sven had not lived long enough to see Bjorn made village Jarl but here was the chance that his namesake could carry on the duty of the Jarl.
Within a few short moments Brynhildr’s breathing had deepened from her well earned sleep, yet the infant cradled within herb protective arms stared at Bjorn with strangely clear eyes, eyes that questioned the world around him.
Bjorn had struggled hard and shed much blood to become Jarl but with Sven he could groom his son to be a leader. Sven would have no need to make the same mistakes Bjorn had struggled through, his life would be easier, the hope of every parent for their children.
“Ye be me pride lad and ye will be the pride of all Sandvik one day. Oh that I promise ye lad, that I promise. ye already show strength and born in such a storm, ye must bear the blessing of Thor the thunder god.” Bjorn struggled to hide his yawn as the night finally caught up to the proud man.
Standing stoic against the wind and snows of the storm, his voice bellowing out orders and even bowing shoulder to the physical labor required his body ached with the desire to sleep. Yet that night Bjorn would not find the comfort of his bed or the warmth of his wife No, this night Bjorn knelt next to the bed, his finger grasped by infant Sven as he stared at his two most precious treasures, his son and wife, until in the end sleep overtook him, bringing Bjorn grand dreams of the future.
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Sven was everything his father could hope for in a viking Jarl's son, all except in one way. Sven had no interest in being a proper warrior, pillaging across the waterways and spilling the blood of his foes, Sven wanted to cook instead. In a time where Sven's dreams of cooking are deemed the domain of "women's work", father and son might never see eye to eye. Yet when Sven agrees to go pillaging for the first time no one's life will be the same.