Here is an extract from the book, Jealousy of a Viking, which has recently been released.
The Danes, as the people who lived in the east of Britain were known, had a strong belief in magic. Magic was used as well as herbs by wandering healers, called Volvir. These women practiced Seidr, or magic, to heal. To avoid confusion I have called healers “Wise Women”.
In my research I learned that the Volvir were respected and sometimes a little feared, but I also discovered that the Vikings believed in Black Magic too, and did not tolerate witches.
Helgha and Erik met when he was lost in the forest. His horse had been injured and Helgha took him to her home. Her father tended the horse and Erik stayed the night as it was getting dark and unsafe for him to leave.
Helgha felt a strong attraction to Erik, a young and handsome man.
In this chapter she dreams of what might happen.
Each night for the next two weeks, Helgha recalled Erik’s features before falling asleep. She could see them as clearly now as she had when she first saw him in the forest. She thought about how he moved his head and how he walked. His laugh sounded in her ears as sleep found her. She dreamed of him walking into her home and asking her father’s permission to court her.
One day Helgha sat with a spindle in hand. She ought to be spinning wool but instead gazed into the fire where her mother stirred broth in a cauldron hanging over the flames. In the smoke, she imagined herself and Erik in a marriage ceremony.
Ædelflaed noticed her idleness and interrupted her dreams. “It’ll be your job to tend to the sickness and injuries of your people when you marry. You’ll need to know what herbs to use for each job.”
Helgha’s heart sank as reality reared its head She dragged her gaze away from the firepit. “Mother! I’ve been watching and learning all my life. I know almost as much as you about tending the sick and injured.”
“I know, Helgha, but your father’s going to talk to Gunnar Janson about you marrying his son. You might think you know everything, but there are still many things you need to understand and not only about healing.”
Ædelflaed stretched, put down her spoon and stood. “Come with me, girl.” She left the longhouse and walked toward the storeroom where she kept her dried and fresh herbs.
She took a deep breath as they entered the storeroom and a smile lit up her face. The scents of the herbs perfumed the air. She picked out lavender and meadowsweet. There was the clean-smell of mint. And under it all the earthy perfume of fungi. Some herbs hung in bunches from the ceiling, drying. Others, already dry, Ædelflaed had put into pots and stored on shelves around the room.
Ædelflaed reached up, lifted a pot from a high shelf, and turned to Helgha. “Sometimes, Helgha, no matter how much you care for each other, a man will hanker after other women. You need to understand how to prevent him from straying. Now, I will teach you how to stop that. It involves herbs added to his drink, but also words said over it.” She paused, glancing around. “Magic words.”
Helgha’s eyes opened wide and she gasped. “Magic? You know magic? Isn’t that dangerous?”
“Not if you know what you’re doing, and do it right.”
“But if someone found out, they could accuse you of witchcraft.”
Ædelflaed smiled at her daughter. “That’s why I’ve told no one except you, and you must never tell anyone, either, or we’ll both be in a lot of trouble. This knowledge has been handed down from mother to daughter for many generations. My grandmother taught my mother and she taught me. Now I’m teaching you and I expect you’ll teach your daughter when you have one.”
She told Helgha which herbs to use and in what proportions. “It’s important you get this right. If you use the wrong amounts it won’t work.”
She heated some water, poured it onto the herbal mixture and began chanting mysterious words over it.
“You learn these words, Helgha. You’ll need this someday when your husband casts glances at some pretty slave girl.”
Each day for the next week, Helgha practised the words until her mother declared herself satisfied. “Good. Now your husband won’t stray.”
One morning, about ten days after Erik’s final departure, her father came to her. “I’ve chosen a husband for you. I’ve decided on Gunnar Janson’s son. I spoke with Gunnar yesterday and he’s in agreement.”
Helgha hung her head. She must obey her father, but her dream of becoming Erik’s wife dissolved as she foresaw a life lived with a man she did not like.
Gunner Janson’s son won’t make any woman a good husband.
On the few occasions they met, he had treated her with disdain. He barely spoke to any woman unless it was to give her an order and he had told Helgha he thought them weak. They did not know how to fight, and fighting was life.
But she must do as her father said, and so she whispered, “Yes, Father,” hoping she sounded acquiescent, but a feeling of tightness encompassed her chest, and her hands clenched involuntarily.
Helgha took a deep breath and carried on with her tasks with a heavy heart. She would obey her father, but all her dreams of a life with Erik came crashing down around her ears. Thoughts of rebellion flashed through her mind but immediately disappeared. She did not know if Erik felt the same way. Most probably, he did not. They had been beautiful dreams though.
Crushing her thoughts if Erik, she left the longhouse and walked to the well where two serving women were drawing water. Hearing the drumming of hooves on the road, she looked up. Her stomach turned over and her heart beat faster as Erik rode through the gate. He slid from Stjarna’s back and jogged over to where she stood. Taking the buckets from her, he looked into her eyes. Helgha thought there was something there. Some warmth that made her think her dreams were not in vain.
“Hello, Helgha,” Erik said, then looked away.
Had she imagined what she saw in his eyes?
“Hello, Erik.” Redness crept up her neck and infused her face.
Leaving the other women staring after them, the pair walked to the house in silence.
Why had he come? Surely her dream had not come true and he intended to ask for her hand in marriage. He must have some other reason to come here. Yes, that was it. He was on his way somewhere else and stopped at Thoringsby because it was convenient.
They entered the house, Erik following Helgha. He put the buckets down and spoke to Ædelflaed. “Thank you for your hospitality the other week. I wouldn’t be alive now if it weren’t for your kindness.”
Ædelflaed smiled at the young man. “No thanks are necessary. We did what anyone would do. You could have been killed by wolves or bears out there in the dark.”
“I have something for you. To thank you. Wait a moment and I’ll go and get it.” Erik ducked through the door, and a moment later returned with his saddlebags over his arm.
“First, for you, Ædelflaed, I have this.” He handed over a necklace of glass beads.
Ædelflaed gasped. “This is beautiful, Erik.”
“It was made in Jorvik. We don’t make much glass there, but what we do is usually made into beads or rings, and is of fine quality. Now, for Biorn I have some wine. I’m sure he’ll enjoy it when he comes in. It’ll make a change from ale.”
Helgha smiled at the thought. Biorn drank more ale or mead than wine, but he would enjoy the change.
Erik pulled something else from his saddlebags. “For Hartvigg I have this wooden sword. He needs to learn how to fight like a true Dane. I have a Kubb set for Laeff and for Sigmund this toy longboat. After all, we Danes are seamen.” He turned and smiled at Helgha.
Her stomach turned somersaults.
“And for you, this amber necklace. The amber comes all the way from the Baltic Sea.”
Helgha blushed as Erik fastened it around her neck, and she looked at her mother.
Ædelflaed frowned. Helgha knew what thoughts passed through her mother’s mind. Like the ones passing through her own head.
Why has Erik brought me such a valuable gift? Does he want to court me?
Neither she nor her parents knew anything about the young man. He appeared to be well off if his clothing were anything to go by. But would Erik’s father want his son to marry someone from a family who could not bring an advantage? Helgha’s father was a free man, a ceorl, but what Erik’s status was Helgha did not know. She realised he must be richer than her own family and would demand a high bride price.
Helgha sighed, pushing those thoughts away. If it were the case that Erik wanted to marry her, then his father would speak to hers. She would be the last to know.
Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed this short extract. If you would like to know more about Helgha and Erik, you can find out by reading the book. Click here, or on the book cover in the sidebar, to go to Amazon where you are.
The book is currently available as a paperback and ebook. Eventually it will be released in other formats.
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