The Norse King’s Daughter

Avon Books
October 2011
ISBN-10: 006167351X
ISBN-13: 978-0061673511

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Comes a time when all good Viking men must bite the shield...and wed...

“Toss the babe in the fjord. Or leave it on the cliff. Either way, the whelp will be dead afore morn.”

Sidroc Guntersson, third son of Jarl Gunter Ormsson, was a noted warrior who had seen cruelty in all its forms, but his father’s pronouncement about Sidroc’s newborn child turned his blood cold. “How can you suggest such for your own kin?” Why am I surprised? No doubt, you wish you’d ended my life in the same manner.

His loathsome father, who had the paternal sensibilities of a rock, shrugged and leaned back in the throne-like armed chair atop the dais in his great hall. Even as he spoke, one paw-like hand stroked the long, pale blonde hair of his latest concubine, a girl no more than thirteen. In all his twenty and six years, Sidroc had many times witnessed his father’s lusty appetites appeased by the more danico, multiple wives, as well as numerous mistresses, bed thralls, and any serving maid of passable appearance. On occasion, all at the same time. The gods only knew how many by-blows he’d bred, along with his four legitimate sons and two legitimate daughters.

“‘Tis a split-tail,” his father pointed out, as a defense for abandoning a newborn.

Sidroc bristled. “Yea, ‘tis a girl, and the mother is dead.” Sidroc’s voice was raspy with emotion. He’d seen men cleaved from head to belly in battle, but the image that would stay with him forevermore was of Astrid lying in a pool of her own blood. With a bloody mass of squalling, flailing arms and legs lying betwixt her thighs, its cord still uncut.

Eydis, the wet nurse serving his brother Svein’s one-year-old boy, had agreed to take his daughter to teat, but only until he hired another suitable maid, or until his brother found out. Svein did not share anything with anyone, especially not with him, ever since he thrashed him as a boyling, despite being five years younger. As he recalled, he’d been provoked by Svein drowning a stable cat, just for sport.

Sidroc was full aware that it was the practice in some parts of the Norselands to put a newborn out to die when it arrived underweight or handicapped in some way. After all, living was difficult in the harsh northern climate and survival was indeed best reserved for the hardiest. But to stand by and watch a child, one not handicapped in any way, be killed, well, it was something he could not do. Whether it be his child or some other’s.

To be honest, he felt no strong connection with the baby, less than a day old now. But he would be less than a man to abandon its fate to others, like his father.

"‘Tis not uncommon for a woman to die of the childbirth fever,” his father remarked coldly. “You are too missish by half.”

Missish? Sidroc shook his head at his father’s perception of him. He was a far-famed warrior, adept with halberd and broadsword. But all his father saw was a man not in his selfsame mold of cruelty.

His wife had not been a love match for him, like most noble families arranged marriages for gain, but he had held an affection for Astrid from the start. Not that he’d seen much of her in the two years they’d been married, what with his a-Viking and fur trading. “I promised Astrid on her deathbed that I would care for the child.”

His father shrugged again, and now his hand was groping his concubine’s small breasts. The silly girl giggled and preened at the attention of her master, even such a public display.

Sidroc knew he did not have his father’s full attention. Still, he persisted. “Signe deserves to live.”

“You named the child?” His father made a tsk-ing noise of disapproval.

It nigh gagged him to ask his father for favors, but needs must, he chastised himself. His much smaller keep at the edge of the Vikstead estates had burned to the ground last winter, along with a storeroom piled to the ceiling with precious furs intended for market. He and Astrid had been living with his father until he could rebuild. Even that favor had galled him. “All I ask is that Svein’s wet nurse be permitted to continue caring for the baby here at Vikstead until I return from a commitment I have made to the Jomsvikings. Once I have regained my wealth—“

“If you care so much, take the babe yourself.”

“They do not allow women or children at the Jomsborg fortress.”

“How long would you be gone?”

Someday, old man...someday! he seethed with tightly fisted hands. As a third son with two healthy older brothers, Sidroc knew he would never inherit the jarldom and that he must accumulate wealth enough to purchase his own lands, hopefully away from Vikstead this time. Joining the elite Jomsvikings had been his best option for increasing his fortunes. “Two years. Three at most.”

“Pfff!” his father scoffed. “Find a wife then, a rich one this time, for Thor’s sake! One with lands.”

This was a refrain he’d heard from his father many times in the past, a demand he’d resisted mightily. No doubt he’d married Astrid in part because she carried no dowry, just to defy his father. At the time, he’d had wealth and property enough that it had not mattered.

“Six sennights I give you to find a bride and a home for the whelp,” his father conceded. “At the end of that time, the babe goes. That is my final word.”

How had this argument with his father snowballed from a disagreement to a battle of wills? How had he allowed himself to be backed into a corner? “I suppose you have someone in mind, even with Astrid scarce turned to ashes in her burial byre,” he gritted out.

“King Thorvald of Stoneheim has one more unmarried daughter. Try her.” His father gave him an evil grin. “Or not. It matters not to me.”

Sidroc knew the woman his father referred to. Princess Drifa. Although she was long in the tooth for a least twenty-four years old...she was not unattractive. Being half Norse, half Arab, her features were exotic with slanted dark eyes, and her body was fine-boned. As he recalled, however, she had an outlandish passion for growing things. There was ofttimes dirt under her fingernails, dried leaves in her black hair, and she was known to bring flowers and bushes indoors. On one occasion, she even reeked of manure that she claimed made her flowers sweeter.

Ah, well, he supposed there were worse things. He would need to find a mother for Signe eventually, in any case. Besides, it was good to have a ready bedmate when no other was available.

Thus it was that Sidroc Guntersson of Vikstead, instead of going a-Viking this springtime season, as was his norm, or rebuilding his home, went off a-courting. May the Norns of Fate guide him!



Beware of rogues with bad intentions...

Drifa, daughter of the Norse King Thorvald, was being seduced, good and well.

After twenty-four years of resisting matrimony, even when she viewed the good examples of her four married sisters, Drifa was falling in love a little bit. Or in lust, leastways. And after only three sennights of the man launching his game of pursuit.

And what a handsome rogue, he was! Sidroc Guntersson was not much older than her. Perchance only twenty-six. She was of average height for a woman, but he was at least a head taller. With shoulder-length, chestnut hair, dark gray-green eyes framed by thick, dark brown lashes, a full sensuous mouth, and a battle-honed body, he was pure Viking man at his virile best.

He had been wed before, not that that mattered to her. His wife had died. What was odd to her, though, was that he refused to talk about her death. “Later,” he kept saying. “Not now.”

On the one hand, she thought his pursuit of another woman was disrespectful so soon after his wife’s death. On the other hand, some men were like that. If they loved hard enough, they wanted to replace that love with another. Not that he had said all this, but his silence on the subject was telling to Drifa. Who could not be drawn to a man who had loved so much?

“Open your mouth for me, princess,” Sidroc murmured against her lips, which were already swollen from his numerous kisses. Somehow, he had managed to find her in a secluded section of her herb garden where he had her backed up against a stone wall.

“Why?” she asked, which gave him the perfect opening.

His tongue slipped inside and began to stroke her with an in-out motion that mirrored what he was doing down below. With his hands cupping her bottom and his thighs separating her legs that were dangling off the ground, he undulated his hips against her. It was impossible not to notice the hard rod of his lust as it sought her woman-channel.

“My sap runs thick and hot,” he rasped out. “Quench me, m’lady.”

Oh! Oh! She began to swoon with utter ecstasy, especially when he sucked lightly on her tongue.

So this was what her sisters had sighed about.

So this was all the fuss the maids were always whispering about.

So this was why the gods had created men and women.

How could she have been so ignorant for so long? Was her sap rising, too? Did women even have sap? Was it this man alone, or was the time ripe for her to yield? Oh, good gods! Was she overripe? Nay, she did not think she would yield to just any man. Holy Frigg! What is he doing now?

“Tell me you will be my wife,” he whispered against her ear, which he was also plying with wet-tipped tongue and hot breath. “I. Need. You.”

“Why?” she asked again on a keening wail of tortuous pleasure.

With a chuckle, he pressed the evidence of his need against her. If possible, it was bigger...and harder.

“Why me?” she elaborated.

“Because I want you above all others. And because you want me, too,” he asserted with the usual arrogance of a Norseman.

She was confused. How could she answer when she was beset with so many conflicting emotions? She was not unaccustomed to yielding to a man’s attention. In truth, more than two dozen Norsemen, and a few Saxons, had offered for her in the past ten years. None of them had affected her like this. What an understatement! My blood is boiling in my veins. My bones are melting. My brain is one big throbbing mass of sexual fog. “I...I...‘tis too soon.”

“Nay. Betimes too much thinking clouds a person’s thinking. Betimes a person must jump into a decision. Betimes a woman must wed or go barmy from lack of carnal bliss.”

What? You are making that up. She had no chance to say that, though, because he was kissing her again. And caressing her breasts. And rubbing himself against her nether parts.

A flush of arousal swept over her in waves, and when he asked again, “Please, sweetling, be my wife,” she answered, “Yea, I will.”

Then...oh, praise the gods and all the goddesses!...he used his wicked wandering hands and his thrusting hips to bring her to a peak which would have had her screaming her woman-joy if his tongue had not been firmly planted in her mouth.

For long moments, she lay boneless against his chest, her face nestled in the crook of his neck, panting like a war horse.

What just happened? Have I died? Was that what he meant by carnal bliss? Best I pretend that this was not a shocking happenstance for me, or he will laugh at me. “That was nice,” she said in as calm a voice as she could muster.

He laughed. The brute just laughed at her. “We will go to your father this eventide,” he told her between quick nibbling kisses, as he helped her straighten her gunna and the long, open-sided apron worn by most Norse women.

Did I say him yea? I must have, but... “Mayhap I should approach him first, alone.” And mayhap I need to think this through in some quiet place far from his tempting self.

He shook his head. “Together. We will go together. And we will be wed within a sennight so we may return to Vikstead and present you to my father.”

That was not going to happen so soon, for the simple reason that the sixtieth anniversary of her father’s birthday was to be celebrated in ten days time. Everyone was coming, including three of her sisters who lived in Britain. Her father would never countenance her absence from such an important event. “Why must we rush?”

His face flushed, but all he would reveal was, “‘Tis not important, but you will understand in good time.”


He’d landed in the royal barmy bin where all the king’s men...and women...were missing a few stones from their turrets...

Later that day, Sidroc sat on a bench on one side of the hearth in the largest solar of Stoneheim, surrounded by members of the Norse royal family who had come from far and wide to celebrate the king’s upcoming sixtieth birthing day anniversary. They were all that a family should be, and all he’d never experienced himself.

After at least a dozen futile attempts, Sidroc had yet to ask King Thorvald for his daughter’s hand in marriage. He supposed that he should have told Drifa from the beginning why he must marry, and with haste yet, but he was experienced in the love arts, and he knew, sure as gammelost stinks, she would have balked if he told her it was not so much that he needed her, as that he had a newborn baby that needed a mother. Women wanted to be courted. Later...he would tell all later. They would both laugh about his craftiness.

For now, Drifa’s sisters were eying him suspiciously. This family did naught but talk and laugh and shout over each other, and the subjects they discussed were outrageous. Like some experiments being done with honey on a man’s staff to prevent conception, for the love of Frigg! “Now, if a man could lick his own cock, that would be another thing,” the king had proclaimed, and they’d all laughed, even the women.

In truth, going by the glaring sisters, he would not be surprised if someone asked Drifa in front of one and all if she still had a maidenhead. Actually, he hoped they did. Mayhap then he would have a chance to make an offer of marriage and get it over with.

In the midst of his elation this afternoon over Drifa's acceptance of his proposal, he’d forgotten her having told him days ago of the planned feast, but she hadn’t warned him of the deluge of guests who would arrive so soon. If she thought he was going to linger around this overcrowded castle for ten more days, without a wedding, he had news for her. “King Thorvald, can we speak in private?”

“Later, my boy, later,” the king said jovially, turning back to a servant who was carrying a tray with goblets of mead.

Drifa, who sat on the bench beside him, squeezed his hand, “Have patience.”

Patience! He gritted his teeth, trying not to appear overanxious. He’d already wasted three sennights in this drafty, hodgepodge, stone and wood castle, designed by one of the sisters, Breanne, who had a passion for building things. Chairs, tables, pig sties, castles, and whatnot. In fact, Breanne sat beside her husband, the Saxon Lord Caedmon, on an opposing bench whittling on a stick to amuse a child who hovered watchfully over her shoulder.

Another sister, Ingrith, was returning from the kitchen where she’d been engaged in her particular passion. Cooking. As evidenced by the delicious aromas wafting through the air. Roast hare and honey oatcakes, would be his guess. Ingrith’s husband, another Saxon lord, John of Hawk’s Lair, who seemed bemused by the whole situation, said near his ear in passing, “You are a dead duck, my good man, once these barmy birds get their claws in you.”

Lord Hawk was the one doing the experiments with honey, cocks, and male seed caps. He had no room to complain of barmy birds, in Sidroc’s opinion.

“I wish you would get your claws in me. Quickly. On the marriage bed,” he whispered to Drifa.

“Patience,” she said again, though she was now wearing a pretty blush on her face reminding him of how close to swiving they’d come today. Mayhap he would visit her bedchamber tonight, to seal the deal, so to speak.

“What did you say to Sidroc?” Ingrith inquired of her husband who tugged her down to sit on his lap. You’d expect that of a newly wedded couple, but these two had been together for at least a couple years.

“I was telling the man how fortunate he is to be in the midst of such intelligent Vikings, dearling,” he assured his wife.

“Pfff! I can only guess—” Ingrith’s words were cut off as the oldest sister Tyra approached with her husband, Adam the Healer. Another Saxon. What was it with these Viking women? Would a good virile Viking not do?

Tyra was a big woman. In fact, she’d trained to be a warrior at one time. Tyra stared pointedly at Drifa’s blush and at her hand laced with his, resting laying on his thigh, then glared at him.

“Should I kill him, father?” the bloodthirsty wench asked.

“Good gods, nay! We may have a husband for Drifa yet,” said King Thorvald.

Drifa tsk-ed her opinion.

Obviously, the old goat was more aware of his intentions than he’d let on. In fact, he winked at Sidroc, then leaned his massive body back into an armed chair, a horn of ale in hands propped on his lap, his legs extended to the fire. Although he was an old man, he appeared to be in fine physical condition, and although his hair and beard were white, they were finely groomed and adorned with precious jewels. The quality of his tunic and braies and boots attested to his high station.

His best friend Finn Vidarsson, ofttimes referred to as Finn Finehair, who had traveled here with him, was the only other man of his acquaintance who took grooming so seriously. In fact, Finn was known to trim his chest and man-hairs on occasion, a habit that he claimed women loved. Finn had never wed, claiming he’d never met a woman who matched his beauty. If Sidroc had not witnessed Finn’s prowess in battle, he would question his manliness.

Calling himself back to the present, Sidroc demanded, “I must needs speak to you as soon as possible, King Thorvald. ‘Tis urgent that I get home to Vikstead afore—”

“Did I tell you about the time Adam drilled a hole in my head?” King Thorvald asked him.

Only about a dozen times. “Did I tell you—?”

“Saved my life, it did,” King Thorvald said, as if Sidroc hadn’t spoken. “Made my cock get bigger, too, I warrant.”

“Father! Such language!” five women protested, including Vana, who was married to Rafn, the Viking hersir who commanded all the troops at Stoneheim. Vana had a passion for cleaning and was scrubbing at a trestle table behind them while the family meeting was about to commence. Though why he would be included in a family meeting posed both good and bad possibilities in Sidroc’s befuddled brain.

“Mayhap Adam should drill a hole in your head,” the king suggested to him.

Sidroc sputtered. “My co...manpart is plenty big enough.” Holy Thor! He hoped Finn didn’t hear about this. He would no doubt have a dozen holes drilled in his fool head.

“Well, I hope so. I have been trying to get Drifa married for many a year. After all this time, she deserves something...big.”

Drifa tsk-ed some more.

Everyone laughed, except him. He was crossing his eyes with frustration.

“Since you apparently already know my intentions, King Thorvald, do you then agree to give your daughter Drifa to me?”

The king rolled his eyes. “I do not give my daughters to any man. They have the right to choose. A promise I made to their mothers long ago.”

“What kind of lackbrained thing was that to do?”

Five women snarled.

“That does not mean like-minded men cannot influence them, however,” the king added.

“Influence her,” Sidroc sputtered. “Drifa has already accepted my suit. Have you not, sweetling?” he asked, picking her up and setting her on his lap. If Lord Hawk could take such liberties with his woman, so could he. Besides, if it was influence the king wanted, he was more than willing to...influence.

Drifa tried to escape, but he held on tight.

Everyone, even the women, stared at him, impressed at his finesse, no doubt.

“Let me up, you brute,” she said half-heartedly.

“Stop squirming.”

“Stop poking me with that...thing.”

“Your father wants to drill a hole in my head to make it bigger.”

“So I heard.”"

“Some folks think bigger is better.”

“Some folks are lackbrained.”

Tyra narrowed her eyes at him. “I thought you were already married.”

He had hoped to avoid the subject, but ‘twould appear he was not going to be so fortunate. “I was. My wife died,” he replied, stiff-lipped.


“Stop, Tyra. Sidroc does not like to talk of his wife who has gone to the Other World.” She squeezed Sidroc’s hand.

He stared at Drifa with surprise. Drifa is defending me? He had conflicting feelings over that circumstance. A rather odd joy filled him that anyone, least of all a woman, would come to his aid. And he was filled with guilt that she did not know his true reason for being here. Ah, well, he would make it up to her later. He squeezed her hand in return.

He started to say, “It’s not that I—”

“Nay, Sidroc,” Drifa said, “It is for you to discuss if and when you choose.” She silenced Tyra and her other sisters with a glare.

Who is this woman I am about to be betrothed to? Can she possibly be as amazing as I am beginning to believe?

“So, what think you, daughter, of a combined wedding/birthing day celebration ten days hence?”

Sidroc was about to protest the delay, but bit his tongue. That would still allow him another sennight for what should only be a two-day trip back to Vikstead.

Drifa nodded and he kissed her thoroughly afore she could raise any objections. To his surprise, and pleasure, she sank into his kiss as everyone cheered their good wishes.

The Norns of Fate must be on his side after all.

Or not, he soon found out.



The best laid plans of mice and clueless Viking men...

Drifa was happier than she’d ever been in all her life. Until, that is, Sidroc’s well-laid plans caused her heart to nigh break.

It all started later that day with Drifa’s ill-timed eavesdropping. Or was that good-timed?

Sidroc was at the lower end of the great hall speaking to his comrade-in-arms Finn Vidarsson as they shared horns of mead. Finn was a strutting peacock of a man, vain to the bone, who had every Stoneheim kitchen, chamber, and serving maid aflutter.

She heard her name mentioned and decided Sidroc must be announcing her father’s consent to their marriage.

“So, you have accomplished your goal, my friend. Well done!”

Goal? What goal?

“And just in time,” Sidroc agreed.

In time for what?

“She is comely enough, though not up to my high standards,” Finn remarked.

As if I would have you!

“No woman is comely enough to match you,” Sidroc scoffed.

“Still, methinks bedding the princess will not be such a hardship for you, Sidroc.”

Sidroc chuckled. “It took nigh tupping to get her to agree.”

Oh, nay! Please do not be discussing me so!

“And that would have been a problem?”

“Nay, but I needed to withhold that treat if I wanted her consent to wed.”

Treat? You rat! You bloody, stinking midden rat! “I want you above all others.” That is what you said to me. Liar!

“And now what?”

“I plan to swive her silly tonight. Then we will wed in ten days. After that, I will take her to my father’s estate and leave her there whilst there is still time to join the Jomsvikings. The funds in her dowry should satisfy my father.”

Over my dead unswived body!

“Dost think your father will indulge her zeal for plants?”

“I daresay he will let her do as she wills as long it does not interfere with his drinking and whoring. She will have my baby to while away her time besides bloody roses and manure.”

He expects to plant his seed and have it take immediately. The arrogant ass! But, oh, his words cut to the quick. Apparently his interest in my occupation with growing things is as false as his supposed affection for me.

“By then, you would have rebuilt your fortunes and can build a home wherever you choose. Mayhap even the Orkney Islands where many Vikings have settled.”

“You make a good point, Finn. The Orkneys are out of my father’s range and yet only a day’s longship ride in good weather from the Norselands.”

He has no home of his own? He would move to another country without consulting me?

“The binding ceremony cannot come too soon for me,” Sidroc added, “but the most important thing is that she will wed me now. A betrothal is as binding as the actual wedding vows.”

“Or so you think,” Drifa said, stepping out from the corridor where she had been standing, holding a pottery jug of mead, which she’d brought to replenish their supply. Her heart was nigh breaking, but she must get through these next few moments before letting loose her tears.

“Drifa!” Sidroc said with alarm, staring back at her over his shoulder.

And so you should be alarmed, you lying, lecherous lout.

He stood and approached her.

She backed up and held up one of her hands to halt his progress. “There will be no wedding.”

“I can explain.”

She shook her head. "You thought to wed me and shed me, all in one swoop. What a foolish maid you must think me."

“I can explain,” he repeated.

“I ne’er expected love from you,” Drifa said, hoping the twitch at the side of her mouth did not betray her foolish dreams, “but you said you wanted me above all others.”

“I do.” But then he dug his own grave, so to speak, when he tried to jest, “The only other candidate at the moment is Brunhilda of Lade.”

Drifa’s heart shriveled. Brunhilda was forty if she was a day and weighed as much as a war horse. And Sidroc views me in the same way. Even if he is jesting, I am not amused. “Go! Leave Stoneheim and ne’er let me see your devious face again.”

“We would suit, Drifa. You know we would.”

She raised her chin haughtily. “Pigs will fly afore I accept you now.”

“Is this a game you played with all your other suitors? Led them on to believe you will wed. Then cut off your favors at the last moment.”

“Ooooh, do not try to lay the blame for this travesty on me.”

“Travesty, is it?” He almost grinned.

The troll!

“You are a passionate woman, Drifa,” Sidroc said, trying a different tact. “We would both benefit from this union.”

I ne’er was before. Passionate, that is. And I ne’er will be again. Look what it has led me to. “You would swive me for coin?” she jeered. “What kind of man would do that?”

“A man who is desperate.”

Does he imply that only a man who is desperate would want me? And why is he desperate? It mattered not. He was a nothing, withholding a swiving as if that was some grand prize. Implying that she was panting after him like a randy she-goat. “Stay away from me, you mangy dog,” she warned as he drew closer.

He laughed.

Big mistake, that!

Before he could anticipate her next action, she raised the pitcher high with both hands and walloped him over the head. Not only did she knock him over, with mead flying everywhere, but the back of his head struck the edge of the bench on the way down. He landed on the rushes like a fallen oak, eyes closed.

“Oh, my gods! I’ve killed the man I love...I mean, the man I hate...I mean, HELP!”


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