Title: Valkyrie's Vengeance
(Maidens of the Shield, Book 1)
Publisher: Night Shift Publishing
Sub-Genres: Action/Adventure, Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Stranded on foreign soil. Rescued and raised by the enemy. Tyra Svensdottir declares war on her own people after witnessing the death of the very woman who’d saved her life. Kidnapping the man who wields the sword of the underworld — Hel’s Hammer — Tyra forces him to repair her shipwrecked vessel. Her quest to kill the swordsman’s king takes them across frigid waters on a myriad of adventures and a voyage of sensual discovery.
Rorik Thorlicksson uncovers treachery within his clan but in order to return home to warn of the impending attack, he must yield to the woman holding him captive. Along their voyage he unravels the mystery behind his captor. He discovers she is the woman promised to him in wedlock at birth though her disappearance years ago released him from his betrothal. Dissuading the little heathen from her purpose and into his bed becomes a more appealing prospect with every passing day.
Blood vengeance brings them together even as desire binds their hearts. Amongst the secrets and obscurities of their destinies, they find a love that spans a lifetime as well as an end to A Valkyrie’s Vengeance.
Off the coast of
- 901 AD England
Thwack, thwack, thwack. Arrows embedded into the beached ship with every step Tyra Svensdottir took, missing her ankles by mere inches.
She dove for cover inside the grounded longship’s hull. Her heart stalled and then nearly pounded its way outside of her chest. She placed a hand there as if she could stop the horrendous hammering, or at least quiet it somewhat. Eyes wide, she spat the mouthful of salt water out and rose to her knees, making sure to stay hidden. The hull tilted on its side like a great fish dragged from the sea. Leaning against the wooden planks, Tyra summoned the courage not to cry. Who shot at her? How had they found her?
For the last three days, she’d wandered the beach alone. She wasn’t even sure where she was. Her gaze roamed her surroundings. Early morning mist swept the beaches in its wispy grasp and limited visibility. But she could hear voices. She couldn’t locate from whence they came.
Tyra slogged through the calf-high water, leaning low, to the front of the ship. Her fingers shook as she reached out to grasp the edge of the jagged planks where the hull had struck stone, causing the vessel to sink. Waves lapped at her ankles and washed the sand out from under her bare toes as she stepped over one of the bloated, dead bodies. Bile rose in her throat and she tamped it down. The rancid scent of rotting flesh permeated the air around the longship’s belly and her empty stomach protested the smell.
Her lips quivered. From fear? Cold? Both. She only wished to go home. Her father had warned her— when the gods grant our desires we may find we no longer wish for them, Tyra. An ache developed in her chest and she could almost hear the deep timbre of his voice. Why hadn’t she listened to him?
Bodies littered the beach in various positions. Her brother...her cousins...all dead. She’d been the sole survivor. Of the twelve men, only four had washed ashore so far. She covered her mouth, to hold in the scream forming in the back of her throat.
A deep, hearty laugh caused her to stiffen as she waited for further movement. She peered around the edge of the shattered boards and a single arrow thumped into the side of the ship next to her face. She leapt back with a gasp.
The laughter grew louder. They were toying with her now. They must know she was alone. Her legs were weak and wobbly from lack of nourishment and her vision blurred. Voices carried to her and she knew the enemy was closing in.
Tyra could not wait here to be slaughtered like an animal. She must move to a better battlefield. She scanned the area. The beach faded into a dark cluster of trees. If she made it there, she would have a better chance of survival with more places to hide.
But running from here to there...a single arrow would kill her. Tyra choked back her tears.
Taking a deep breath, she burst from the opening and plunged headlong down the stretch of open beach toward the cover of the trees. Her legs pumped furiously and she squealed at the swish of an arrow flying past her.
She gasped for breath and her lungs burned from lack of air. Plink. Plink. Two arrows hit the face of the rocks ahead of her and fell harmlessly to the ground.
Tyra grabbed one as she ran past. A weapon would even the odds somewhat. She might only be twelve-winters-old, but her father had taught her from an early age how to protect herself. He appreciated strength in a woman and had encouraged her to take up arms. A woman’s place was beside the hearth, but a woman also protected the hearth while the men were away.
Steep, craggy rocks settled at the base of an incline. She leapt over a small boulder and burst through the edge of the trees. There was no path here, and she knew not where to go, but she could not falter now.
The sound of the chase followed her as the enemy crashed through the brush behind her. Their harsh breath broke the silence of the forest as the men sucked air into their lungs. Tree limbs slapped against her face and stung her tender skin.
How many were there? Did she dare look? If she fell she would never be able to get away once they caught her. She could not look and risk losing her small advantage.
They laughed and taunted in a foreign tongue, and they were closing in. Lengthening her strides, she dodged a maple tree and leapt over a dead, fallen trunk.
Why had she stowed away on her brother’s ship? Why had she not stayed home where she belonged? Hugh had been headed to Jorvikskyr on a trading expedition, and her father had forbidden her to go. Determined, she had hidden away in an empty trunk. A storm had brewed so suddenly, near falling right atop them, leaving the crew little time to sail safely to land.
And due to her foolish pride she was left running for her life in an unknown land.
The terrain dipped and she slid down an embankment. She sprang forward and raced north. Several seconds later she realized she heard no sound.
Her footsteps slowed. She gasped for breath and leaned a hand against a thick oak, while her other settled against her heart. Dropping to her knees, she hid behind the large trunk, and searched the area. The mist weaved between the carpet of trees, Tyra studied the wall of green for the slightest movement. Nature’s breath seemed to be silenced as she waited for some sound.
Where had they gone? Had they given up the search?
The mist thickened amongst the vegetation and descended into a moist cloud just above her head. Everything beyond her reach faded into a grey haze.
A limb snapped. She shrank back, the bark of the tree scrapping against the soft flesh of her forehead. Hot, silent tears coursed down her cheeks. She’d wished for adventure. And now she wished for home.
Silence hung in the air like the weighty fog. It was there and she felt it. But it was the danger within she feared, not the fog itself.
She swallowed. Her parched tongue scratched against the roof of her mouth. Three days since she’d had any nourishment. Three days since she’d had shelter. And three days since she’d seen another human being. Alive at least.
To have endured the storm stowed away in a trunk and survived the crash—only to die on land at the hands of strangers seemed one of Loki’s cruel jests.
By Odin, she refused to be his entertainment and she refused to die here in a land not her own, amongst a people not her own.
Three sets of eyes turned in her direction.
Tyra sprinted forward, wielding her dagger. The second man removed his sword by kicking
body to the ground. A raging bellow spilled from her mouth that would shock
even the fiercest Valkyrie. Enid
The huge, brooding bulk of a Viking swaggered toward her. Determination and a blood rage she’d never felt before pulsed through her veins. Tyra tucked into a roll and sprang to her feet before him, her dagger piercing his side just below his looted armor and above his hip. A felling blow. He staggered.
Tyra regained her footing and whirled. The warrior’s indigo gaze widened and then focused on the dagger embedded in his side. She seized her weapon and removed it. Blood gushed from the wound. He grunted and swung a meaty arm at her. She ducked, circling her opponent.
Sweat beaded across her brow. “Come now, to be bested so easily by a mere maid,” she taunted.
He hefted his sword and wobbled on weakened knees. He swung the weapon and she scampered to the left. His movements slowed. The blade swished by her mid-section, missing her by mere inches. He stumbled from the loss of blood. Leaping onto his back, she forced him to his knees with her weight in his weakened conditioned.
Tyra grasped his hair. With a final slice across his neck from ear to ear, the Viking gurgled his last breath. She held him before her for several seconds as her heart slowed. Her eyes fastened onto the red Viking and narrowed.
She wiped blood from her brow and pointed her dagger at the giant to let him know, he was next.
The red haired giant they had called Sven stepped forward hefting his mighty battle axe. But another blocked his way. A dark Viking. By far the most handsome man she’d ever seen.
“Nay, it is my fight,” Sven said. “I killed the old woman.”
“You are our King. I will go. Besides, your old age would never allow you to keep pace with such young passion.”
“Do not kill her, Rorik!”
“Keep the men back and I will show you how to properly subdue a woman.” The dark one named Rorik strode forward with slow, calculated steps. He was in no hurry to slay her she imagined. Good, let him believe she would be an easy kill.
A mysterious grin flickered on his face. “Nay, I could never fell something so beautiful,” Rorik said as he reached her. Sea-foam colored eyes studied her. “Will you fight us all, my little Valkyrie?”
Tyra braced her stance, her sword lifted in a defensive position. Her mouth as dry as parched wheat she swallowed. “Aye, in order to kill the red giant, I will.”
“One by one?”
“Until my death or his. It matters not which.”
He laughed and gave mock applause, pulling free a gleaming, black-iron sword from its sheath. The ruby red eyes from the black wolf’s head sparkled under the light and glowed with life. Another swift, fierce smile swept across his features and then vanished without a trace, sending a shiver of awareness through her. He did not sport a heavy, wiry beard; instead a thin line of hair edged his jaw and mouth.
He was devastatingly handsome. As tall, if not taller, than the other Vikings and so broad of shoulder he near blocked out the sun. Straining with virility he crowded the area and seemed to fill her entire vision. Awareness of his every move cascaded over Tyra and sent a tiny tremor through her. He wore no tunic just a fur vest over fitted trousers. His only ornamentation was a single gold arm band. Her gaze traveled the length of his form as all that male flesh and muscle rippled before her eyes. This man needed no embellishments.
Heat crept into her cheeks as he caught her gaze. This time his smile lingered.
“She meant so much to you? The old woman?” He nodded toward the gathering group of Vikings and
limp body. Enid
Tyra reached for the dead man’s sword and clasped the hilt in firm hands. She moistened her lips and fought to keep her voice steady. “Does it matter?”
“Aye. I am curious why a Viking maid would risk her life for a Saxon woman.”
Tyra lifted her chin in challenge. “She was the only mother I have ever known.”
He hesitated. “I am sorry,” he said and seemed to really mean it.
She lifted her chin. “No apology will bring her back, Viking.”
“Revenge will not either.”
“Nay but it will bring me satisfaction knowing the men who killed her are now gone from this earth.”
They circled each other like wary animals waiting on the other to strike. “Then so be it.” He opened his fingers on the sword handle one by one, and then closed them once more. Here stood a true warrior.
He studied her and waited for her to make the first move. Tyra attempted to slow her breathing and adjusted the weight of the unfamiliar weapon in her hands.
“You are tiring,” he pointed out.
“Find out for yourself, Viking, how tired I am.”
Rorik wasted no time in gathering three men to follow the girl at his King’s request. The rest could follow at their leisure. He didn’t wish to lose her trail. He picked up her slight prints in the mud easily. Oleg knelt beside him and pointed to the tracks. “She heads north toward the cliffs.”
They weaved through the myriad spires of oak, elm, and pine trees, their heavy boots snapping twigs and limbs beneath their feet. They did not seek to conceal but instead moved quickly, hoping to catch up to her.
A trickle of water alerted him to the stream before he stumbled upon it. Immediately, they lost her tracks. She’d entered the water and walked up or down stream, for they found no tracks on the opposite embankment.
“We’ll split up, you two search back down stream and I’ll search north. She had to come out of the water eventually.”
So the girl was resourceful and smart. He would just have to be more resourceful and much smarter than she.
Rorik broke away from the other men and sloshed through the knee-high water. The center of the stream couldn’t have been any higher than his waist, easy to navigate. He carefully studied the muddied earth on both sides of the bank as he meandered up stream.
Picking up her tracks again minutes later, he increased his pace. He slogged out of the water to follow her. She turned due west. Emerging from the trees, he found a tiny nestled cottage as the stream curled sharply behind it.
The woman slammed out of the dwelling carrying a bundle of items in her arms. Reaching the edge of the stream, she dropped her load and scurried to braid and tie her wet hair.
Pausing, unwilling to reveal his presence just yet, he hovered behind the leafy brush.
She stripped off her soaked dress and his heart came to a stuttering halt. His vision focused on the smooth ivory back, the gentle curve of the side of her breast and heat plunged through his veins. A fire roared to life inside his body unlike any he’d ever experienced before.
He peered through the branches of the elm tree as she tore long stripes out of the material. She slipped on a pair of knee length braise, the Saxon men were known to wear and wrapped one of the bands of material around her chest, binding her breasts. With her back still turned away from him, she smeared mud over every inch of her body. Blood began to pound inside his head like a heartbeat.
A fever swept through him and he clenched his fist at his sides. Would her skin be soft? He wanted to taste her flesh, her lips and run his hands up those beautiful legs, wrapping them around his waist.
Her hands smoothed the mud almost lovingly across her flesh, and he imagined it was his own hands caressing her. He swallowed. Who would have imagined wallowing in the mud like a pig could be so erotic but somehow this Viking maiden managed to do so effortlessly.
When she was finished, she wrapped her boots in the rest of the material securely and hefted her bow and quiver. Replacing her sheathed dagger at her waist, she tied on a sword much more suited to her size.
The Valkyrie readied for war.
Against her own people.
He frowned and moved to get a little closer. The crunch of the needles beneath his feet alerted her. Her head jerked up, like a doe in danger. She peered cautiously in his direction.
He supposed now was as good a time as any for introductions.
Bursting through the brush, he raced toward her. She leapt to her feet and sprinted in the opposite direction. Scurrying through the trees ahead of him, she darted through the foliage, and he lengthened his stride crossing the glade in mere seconds.
They weaved in unison through the trees like a timeless dance. He caught glimpses of her muddied head in the distance until she seemingly disappeared. Rorik came to a halt at the edge of a cliff and peered around, trying to catch his breath. Where in Thor’s hammer had she gone?
His gaze searched the surrounding area for tracks but found nothing. It was as if she’d just disappeared. By Odin’s wrath that was impossible, he had been right behind her. She couldn’t have vanished.
He glanced around. A sharp jagged cliff dropped off to the west and nothing but trees surrounded the rest of the area. She couldn’t have jumped off the cliff. He peered down. She would’ve been crushed by the fall alone.
Rorik cursed and controlled his breaths. He studied the earth again and again, but found nothing. Retracing his steps, determined to find something, he refused to give up.
A short time later, he headed back to find the other men. He’d been so close to getting his hands on her but he’d ruined his chances in his lust-crazed state by making a noise. Frustrated beyond belief, he cursed the gods and himself.
He wasn’t ready to give up just yet but he needed to check on his men. He would come back and figure out this mystery.
For unlike a real Valkyrie, she couldn’t sprout wings and fly away.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Suzie still believes in happily-ever-after and after growing up reading classic adventure literature like Treasure Isle, Robinson Crusoe, and The Swiss Family Robinson tales, as well as epic novels like Gone with the wind, Suzie would dream up adventures of her own.With her love of history she brings the action of thrillers to historical romance with steamy, love scenes and a pace that will leave you breathless!
She lives happily ever after with her new beau, three boys and one little Shih tzu named Peppy Le’Pew in NC. One day she plans to retire and sail along the east coast an adventurer to the end.
Website link: www.suziegrantauthor.com
Blog link: www.adventureunleashed.blogspot.com
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