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The Caged Viking The Caged Viking

Sandra Hill Books
July 2021 (06-22-21)
Amazon ASIN: B097J5SQ46
BN ID: 2940162169697

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(Saxon England, AD 1014)

Daddy, dearest?…

Bergliot, the serving girl, stood a fair distance from the cage and stared at the beast. It was a man, actually. A Norseman. But, after six months and more living in a cage, the pitiful creature was more animal than man.

Not that Bergliot felt any pity. Nay, she did not. What kind of man allowed himself to be captured and put on display in his enemy’s hall? Especially a Viking. A disgrace he was!

Bergliot had been raised in a Saxon keep, though half-Norse blooded herself, and had been told from an early age that Vikings were the world’s fiercest warriors, never given to surrender. They were also reputed to be more handsome than the average male. Hah! There was naught handsome about this hairy, smelly, snarling spectacle.

He was tall, but gaunt with nigh starvation. Hair once blond hung in greasy clumps about his face and down his back. Unshaven for many a month, his face was barely discernible under a heavy beard. Despite the grime and filth that covered him, old and new scars were prominent from forehead to legs. He wore but a scrap of fur tied about his male parts. The only life left in him stemmed from piercing silvery blue eyes.

Not that those eyes took note of her. No one did. And that was all well and good. An over-tall maid with no bosom or curves to speak of, with hair chopped off unevenly, even to her scalp in places, adorned in a drab homespun garment that hung on her skinny body down to her bare feet, blended in well with the lower staff that labored for this vast royal household.

Bergliot had only been in the Winchester Castle a few sennights now, having been brought here as an indentured servant, and she, for a certainty, was not supposed to be in the great hall. But she’d been drawn to this spot and continued to stare, trying to comprehend why the beast fascinated, and repulsed, her so.

She knew why, of course, and spat on the rushes at her feet.

For his sins, the beast was her father.

Not that she would recognize him if she hadn’t been told of his identity, and not just because of his present condition. She hadn’t seen much of the man in all her twelve years, and not at all the past three. Some father!

In one hand, Bergliot held a boar leg bone, gnawing idly on the little remaining meat, whilst using the other hand to scratch her back side. The coarse wool of her gown caused a bothersome itch. That and the fleas that infested her bed furs and took bites out of her fair skin.

Suddenly, she felt a hard whack to the back of her head, causing the bone to fly and her to stumble, almost falling flat on her face into the rushes. The bone was caught mid-air by one of the royal hounds permitted to prowl the great hall. The dog scooted under a trestle table, too far under for her to reach, if she was inclined to retrieve the bone, which she wasn’t.

“Stop picking at yer arse,” the raspy-voiced Egil, her self-proclaimed protector, hissed, waving the wooden end of an axe at her. What kind of protector sells his ward into slavery? For her protection? A likely story! A good one for the skalds, but not for me, Bergliot griped silently, but did not say aloud. She was not such a dullard that she did not know when to curb her tongue, if forewarned.

Egil, though a gray-beard of considerable years…having seen at least fifty winters…was short and wiry in frame, one of a dozen woodcutters who provided the kindling for the many palace hearth fires. He was stronger than he looked, as Bergliot well knew from the bruises on her arms from his dragging her hither and yon, all for her supposed well-being.

“Have I not told ye a hundred times that ‘tis unseemly fer a lass to touch her privates?” Egil waved his axe handle in her face to make sure she was paying attention.

“Huh?” Bergliot said, rubbing the back of her head. She would no doubt have a knot the size of an egg by nightfall. “What’s a person to do when they have an itch, then?”

“Do it when yer alone and no one can see.”

“Like the self-pleasuring I caught you in yestereve in your bed furs?” Bergliot laughed and ducked, just missing a second knot from Egil’s axe handle.

“And why have ye washed yer face and hair? Are ye trying to look pretty?”

“What? Are you barmy? I am no more pretty than…than you are!” Egil’s lips twitched with a grin at her outrage. The codger knew how much Bergliot disliked being called pretty, her bane from the time she was a toddler.

“Pretty or not, do ye want some Saxon whoreson tupping ye in a dark corridor?”

Bergliot gasped with outrage. “They would not dare!”

“They would dare, believe you me, and they will not care if ye are barley-faced, or pretty as a gilly flower. Nor will they care which hole they plug either.”

Now he had gone too far. Blood rushed to Bergliot’s face and her hands fisted. She was about to launch herself at the old man, but he had turned abruptly at the hissing sound that came from the cage. The beast had made the sound, as if to signal Egil.

With a motion for her to remain where she was, Egil sidled over to the cage, looking right and left to make sure he was unobserved. It was early morning, and there were few people about, but still the household had been warned to stay clear of the cage.

The beast shuffled forward in his cage and was whispering to Egil who pretended to be examining the strength of the wood bars, something a skilled woodcutter might do. Egil nodded several times, then returned to her, his demeanor one of sadness or worry, she wasn’t sure which.

“What did he want?” Bergliot asked as they walked out of the hall, he toward the wood lot and she toward the outside scullery where there were another five or fifty cauldrons for her to scour.

Egil declined to answer, but the nervous tic at the side of his mouth said it all. Egil was worried about something the beast had told him.

“Does he know he’s my father?” Bergliot asked of a sudden.

Egil shook his head. “He thinks ye dead.”

Bergliot shrugged. “He would not care anyway.”

“Foolish boy!” Egil said, slicing her with a glare. “Ye are the reason he’s in that bloody cage.”



I know how the caged bird (beast) feels…

Hauk the Handsome was not so handsome anymore.

Truth to tell, not having bathed or shaved or cut his hair for more than six months (twenty-four sennights and three days, to be precise), he, who had once stunned one and all, especially women, with his god-like good looks, stunk to high Valhalla. A disgrace! Everyone knew that Vikings bathed more often than the average man and took special care with personal appearance. Unlike the stinksome Saxons who had no excuse for their foul odors.

In his defense, Hauk scarce got enough water for drinking, let alone bathing, residing as he did in a cage in a corner of the great hall of the royal court at Winchester, put on exhibition like some exotic animal. In fact, his wooden pen had once been occupied by a huge white bear, a hunter’s trophy from a far-off arctic land. Beasts, both of them, according to his ignorant captor, King Aethelred. `

Despite the thin war braids he tried to maintain in his wild hair, framing his face for some semblance of dignity, lice had become his new best friends, cracking the nits his only source of entertainment. That, and the occasional beast-like growl he emitted just to amuse himself when lackbrain Saxons poked him through the bars with sharp lances or burning sticks. Actually, they didn’t prod him much anymore, or leastways not from up close, ever since he grabbed one irksome housecarl by the wrist and bit off the man’s foul thumb.

Hauk was so thin his hips scarce held up the loin cloth he’d fashioned out of a fur tossed his way on that freezing winter night, following the St. Brice’s Day Massacre. And, yea, he had been known to let it drop a little lower when some tongue-sucking, pole-up-the-arse ladies of the court passed by.

His other pastime involved making mental lists of all those foemen he would torture and kill when he was free, starting with the king, who’d ordered the death of all Viking males in Britain on that infamous saint’s feast day, even Norse settlers who had lived peaceably in England for decades. Among the horrendous acts committed was the burning of the locked St. Frideswide Church in Oxford, where dozens of Norse men, women, and children had taken refuge. In addition, there had been the noted hersirs and their warrior underlings, who’d managed to evade the fiery end but then were handed a worse fate. Face-front decapitations.

And they said Vikings were brutal pagans! What did that say about Christians?

Hauk could not dwell on the mind pictures that plagued him day and night, berating himself for not arriving earlier, or he would grow as demented as he pretended to be. For a certainty, he now understood the rage that drove some Vikings into berserkness. Hauk shook his shaggy head, loosening a few more pests in the process. With determined effort, he banked the embers of that roiling wrath, hiding his the emotions which beset him suddenly, waiting for the right opportunity to strike. Every good warrior knew that timing was everything, whether in battle or a contest of wills.

It was a waiting game.

Sweyn Forkbeard, king of all the Norselands, would come to his rescue, eventually. Hauk was certain of that fact, not because Hauk was of such importance, but because no Viking worth his salt would allow the atrocities leveled at his family to go unavenged. Among those who had burned to death in the church had been Sweyn’s sister Gunhilde, her husband Pallig Tokesen, a Danish ealdorman of Devonshire, and their child.

Included among those who’d reportedly been beheaded was Hauk’s son Bjorn, who had seen only twelve winters, but had been big for his age. Bjorn had been fostering in Pallig’s keep ever since his mother died three years past of a wasting disease. To his shame, Hauk had considered the youthling safer there than a-Viking with him in the Rus lands or ensconced in his small Vestfold estate. Now, that is a lie! Truth to tell, I did not want to be bothered with the bratling, whose Saxon mother tricked me into a marriage I never sought or wanted. I neglected the child to punish her. And now… He sighed. …and now ’tis too late to make amends.

Hauk had been in Frankland when he’d first heard rumors of Aethelred’s perfidy…not the massacre, no one could have predicted that, but rumblings of the inept Saxon king’s wild imaginings that there would soon be an uprising of Norse settlers in Britain against him. By the time Hauk arrived in Oxfordshire, he’d been a day too late. The church had been a charred ruin. Piles of headless bodies lay untended as feasts for the vultures that hovered overhead in a dark cloud, the heads scattered about the fields.

A cleric, who’d stood praying over the corpses, even as he kept swatting at the angry birds, told him of his son’s passing, or what he knew of it. Nay, the God-man had not stayed to witness the actual decapitations, but he recalled seeing Bjorn among the males being led to the slaughter.

In his grief over his son’s death, and the guilt he felt over his neglect that led to the boy being in peril, Hauk hadn’t exercised his usual caution. As a result, he’d been captured by some of Aethelred’s guardsmen who’d returned to the site of their treachery, no doubt to plunder the bodies for treasure. Human vultures. Even the clothing of the corpses would have been taken by nightfall, he’d known from past experience.

But that was past. Hauk had to look forward. He only hoped he could hold on, that the Saxon curs would allow him to live long enough until Sweyn’s arrival with the northern army that he was gathering. They should be underway shortly, gods willing. That news he got from the newly arrived Egil, one of his hersirs who’d been off in the Baltics on one of Hauk’s longships gathering amber for trade and only recently heard of his master’s fate.

Egil, pretending to be a woodsman until he put in place a plan for Hauk’s escape, had with him a ragtag maid for which he claimed questionable guardianship. Hauk was suspicious and wouldn’t be surprised if they were fur mates, despite the girling’s youth. But why Egil wouldn’t just admit such was beyond Hauk. All the maid did was gawk at Hauk with a sneer on her fool face.

Until Egil’s arrival, all of Hauk’s hopes had lain with Queen Emma, Aethelred’s not-so-adoring child bride. To give her credit, Emma was partly responsible for Hauk’s survival thus far. At the very least, she’d arranged for a serving boy to put a pile of clean straw outside his cage every few days and remove the pile of soiled rushes that he pushed through the bars. A pail of drinking water and the occasional hunk of bread or slab of cheese were also given to him by the same servant, when he remembered.

Emma had been given in marriage by her father, Duke Richard of Norsemandy, last spring when she was only twelve years old to the Saxon king who’d been well into his thirties and had already fathered ten children, none older than the young Emma. It was meant to be a powerful alliance between the two countries with Emma acting as peacemaker. Hah! Some peace, considering that Richard and his family came from a long line of Vikings, including Rollo, or Rolfr the Ganger, first Duke of Norsemandy.

The king had long been referred to as “Aethelred the Unready” because of all the poor decisions he had made. Yes, he had been a boyling when he took the crown and no doubt was ill-advised by his guardians on the Witan council, but what excuse was there for the rest of his reign? Really, what could the monarch have been thinking to order the massacre of Vikings in November, a mere eight months after wedding a Norse bride? Could he not see that it represented a slap in the face to Vikings everywhere, and to Emma, a personal affront? Thirteen years old she might only be now, and already breeding a Saxon whelp, but she knew her own mind. And that had benefitted Hauk, thus far.

“You must be patient. Norsemen from Hordaland to Iceland are volunteering readily for Sweyn’s sea army,” Emma had whispered the last time he spoke with her two sennights past whilst her husband and other nobles on the high dais were being entertained by a troop of jugglers. “’Tis said the numbers are so massive, five hundred longships are required.”

Hauk had shrugged. Not for the first time, he’d told her, “They consider your husband’s Viking death decree to be a slur on our very culture.”

“I know,” she’d said with an exaggerated moue of sympathy. “I told Aethelred that my father would be furious, but he just waved my concerns aside.”

Hauk wasn’t so sure that the girling queen cared about such issues as their shared heritage, or even her father’s temper. He’d noticed in the months of his captivity that her appearance had changed dramatically, with more and more adornments in the form of robes of samite silk and jeweled brooches. In fact, she wore a ruby encrusted circlet about her head all the time as a reminder of her rank. Perchance her sympathies would sway toward whichever side was favored to win.

“You are not to worry,” Emma had assured him. “I will handle everything.” On those unpromising words, the queen had sashayed back to her husband and the other royal folk.

So now, he relied more on Egil for his escape. And there the fool stood now, blathering to the fool maid. Hauk made a hissing sound, and Egil approached the cage.

“Best you give me a knife, Egil. In the event of attack, Aethelred or one of his cohorts might decide to kill me and hide the evidence of their vileness.”

“Nay. Not yet. ‘Tis I whose throat will be slit if they suspect my complicity and then where would ye be?”

“Where I’ve been for the past six months and more.”

“When news comes of Sweyn’s landing on Saxon soil, I’ll release you. You’ll have all the weapons you need then.”

Hauk glared at his comrade-in-arms, not pleased to have his orders questioned.

“In the meantime,” Egil went on, sensing Hauk’s displeasure, “I’ll arrange horses to carry us away from Winchester, and you can make plans for where ye want to meet up with the armies. We could go north to London or to Jorvik, where your longship Sea Wolf is till docked, and where Sweyn will no doubt land his ships. Or south to Plymouth or Southampton where Duke Richard’s army will cross the Channel.”

“Just how soon do you expect this to happen?” Hauk barely restrained himself from reaching through the bars and throttling the old man.

“Soon. Soon.”

“That’s what you said a sennight ago.”

“Now, do not be getting yer bowels in an uproar, milord.”

Hauk was no more a lord than Egil. A karl, or chieftain of his small holdings, yes. A low-level jarl in some circles, by reason of his ancestry. But by no means a high-placed noble. Nor did he want to

“As ye well know, milord, patience is a virtue recommended by the gods.”

“Patience!” Hauk roared. Then, noticing several housecarls glancing their way, he lowered his voice. “I need to kill someone, Egil, and best you be careful it is not you.”

Hauk felt impotent in his inability to escape on his own. He hated having to rely on others, especially when those others were a self-loving, thirteen-year-old queen and a scrawny, overaged, lackwit Viking with a sudden penchant for wielding power over his master.

Thor’s Balls! I need a different kind of champion to rescue me.

“With luck, ye will be home in Hordaland by summer,” Egil had assured him.

“Luck, fuck!” Hauk had muttered.

“Leave everything to me,” Egil concluded airily as he walked away toward the girling who still stood gawping at him.

Hauk stuck out his tongue at her, an immature act which he found oddly satisfying.

The impudent wench stuck out her tongue back out at him.

He had to laugh.

Alone again, Hauk mused over Egil’s words. He cared not about a return to his home. In fact, he could not foresee any life beyond the personal revenge he needed to fulfill. After that, he would willingly join his son in Valhalla.

Ah, Bjorn! I did love you. I did! He blinked against the sudden burning in his eyes, and a single tear slid down his grimy face.



(Blue Dragon Vineyard, Northern California, 2019)

Tears of a Viking…

The Viking came to her again that night.

And Dr. Kirsten Magnusson was not a happy camper…rather, sleeper.

“Go plague someone else,” she muttered.

The Viking just stood there, a Norse pain in the ass.

How did she know he was a Viking?

His facial features, what she could see of them, were pure, sculpted Nordic. He wore the arm rings of an ancient Viking warrior. Thin braids framed the sides of his face. And he was one tall drink of water…or would that be mead?

“This is getting ridiculous,” she said on a groan. “Leave me alone!”

She rolled over in her bed and buried her head under the soft down pillow. When she peeked out, he was still there.

She tried self-hypnosis to lull herself back to sleep. A friend of hers, a fellow professor at UCLA, was big on transcendental meditation and some weird spiritual crap called “soul soaring.” Imagine you are floating in the sky, like a cloud. Softly. Softly. Softly. Listen to the silence. Be the silence.


It would be different, explainable even, if it was a sex dream…if the guy was even attractive, as Vikings were known to be. Like the History Channel’s Travis Fimmel who played the Viking Ragnor Lothbrok, sporting an intricately braided, manly, top knot ponytail, with his head shaven on the sides. Mischievous pale blue eyes. Biceps bulging over tight arm rings. Long hairy legs (but not too hairy) exposed by a knee-length, leather tunic. Yum! Now that was eye (or dream) candy she could get excited about!

But, no, her guy wasn’t even attractive. How could he be? He was tall but so thin that his ribs stuck out. Old scars and new wounds marred much of his exposed skin. Despite the large amount of hair on his face, she could see the gauntness of his sunken cheekbones. The long hair on his head, probably blond at one time, was so greasy its color was indistinguishable. Sometimes it was pulled back into a rough, single braid, but other times, like now, it hung loose with thin plaits on either side of his face. War braids, they were called. He wore nothing but a fur wrapped around his private parts and rings on his upper arms.

Leaning back against the bars of a wooden cage, arms folded over his chest, ankles crossed, he stared at her. He said nothing, but his eyes…(silvery blue, not unlike good ol’ Rag’s), filled with pain or anger, she wasn’t sure which…held hers in a silent challenge. No pleading from this proud Viking. No, he was demanding something from her. That wasn’t quite true, either. It wasn’t so much that he wanted her help, it was that he needed her help.

But then came the zinger, something new in the chain of dreams. A tear…one single tear…seeped out of the pale ocean eyes.

Have I ever seen a Viking cry?

Never! And I grew up in a big family of macho men of Norse descent.

Maybe she should get up and drink a glass of warm milk.

Yuck! A stiff drink might be better.<./EM>

Or play some soft music.

Like what? A freakin’ lullaby?

Nothing worked.

She had been plagued by the dream for months now…a dream that was much more than an imaginary series of events that normally occurred during sleep. Being a professor of Nordic Studies at UCLA, a research scientist, Kirsten should know better than to give such importance to the fantasies she was seeing in her head. But they were too vivid, too real, to be anything but…okay, call me crazy…a call to action. As far-fetched as it might seem, Kirsten sensed a magnetic pull toward someone in need of her help. But who? What? Where? How?

Maybe I should contact that Long Island Medium, the one that has a TV show on one of the cable networks. Imagine the ratings on that one. Modern academic woman connects with Viking hunk. A telepathic love connection across the ages. But, no, this isn’t love. It’s something else. So, no mediums.

Maybe I could hire a ghost hunter? Where does one find of ghost hunter anyhow? On the Internet, I’ll bet. You can find anything on the Internet.

Better yet, maybe I need an exorcism?

Or maybe I’m just losing my mind.

She surrendered and eased into the dream. Again.

It was a castle, but not like most people today pictured a castle. No stone exterior with turrets and towers. No fancy marble columns. No oriental carpets on the floors or Old Masters paintings in gilt picture frames on the walls. In fact, no pictures at all, although there were a few museum-quality tapestries and ancient shields hanging on the walls for decoration. Instead, it was more like a large, very large, wooden fortress set upon a hill. The motte-and-bailey style popular during that time period…motte, as in mound, not a water barrier moat.

None of the hundred or so revelers remarked as she strolled between the long trestle tables, even in her Snoopy-flipping-the-bird sleep shirt, a gift from one of her brothers last Christmas. It was a dream, after all. To these medieval folks, she was invisible. She could be naked for all they would notice.

Good thing she wore slippers, though. The rush-covered floor was gross, with discarded bones and grease, and who-knew-what-else with dogs and cats ambling among the crowd, at will.

Too bad she didn’t have her cell phone with her. If such a modern device would work in a dream! She would love to capture the images of this primitive hall, especially with the foods now being paraded around the room and then placed on the high table for display before eating. Not just the customary whole boar with an apple in its mouth, being carried on an iron spit by two male servants. There was also a pheasant in full colorful presentation, which had presumably been gutted, plucked, and roasted, then reassembled with head and feathers. A pyramid of honey oat cakes held place of honor on one of the lower tables where little swipes were evident along the sides, samples snuck by passing children and adults alike.

All of this extravagant food was indicative of not just a royal household, but some special occasion. Easter, Kirsten guessed, when she noticed the rounds of bread with a cross imprinted on them. Hot cross buns, anyone? That and the mountains of hard-boiled eggs were clues that it was a holy feast. She recalled that the tradition had been for people to give up eggs for Lent back in the Dark Ages, but not wanting them to spoil during those forty days of fasting, they were boiled and preserved in brine or some other manner until Easter when there would be an overabundance of the suckers to be consumed.

But none of this was important to Kirsten. The main point of this dream, its star, was in another part of the hall. Carefully, she made her way toward the lower, darker end of the massive room where a large, wooden cage was situated. There was a sputtering wall torch nearby which gave her just enough light to make out the hazy figure inside.

“Hello,” she said. Well, that was dumb. But, really, what does one say to a man in a cage? In a dream, no less.

No reaction. He just stared at her. Maybe he couldn’t see her either. But, no, he pushed away from the back wall of his cage and walked toward her, stopping about a yard away from the nearer bars. p> He was tall, at least six-foot–three, Kirsten gauged by her own five-ten. Filthy and reeking of BO. Long hair, which might be blond under all that grime, was roughly braided tonight in one long coil down his back. Pale gray eyes were startling, especially contrasted by oddly dark lashes. He wore nothing but a scrap of fur around his hips. The rest of his skin was marred with old and new scars and bruises. He was far too thin for his tall physique.

“My name is Kirsten Magnusson, and you are…?”

Still no reaction.

She repeated her introduction in Old Norse.

Was that a tiny flutter of his eyelashes?

“You’re a Viking, right? Me, too. Well, I like to say Norse-American. Same thing. You might have known my father at one time. Magnus Ericsson.” She, who was comfortable addressing a symposium of two hundred students or a conference of colleagues, was babbling with nervousness.

And he was looking at her like the babbling idiot she was.

“This is just a dream,” she said then, giving an unasked-for excuse for babbling. “I’m not sure why you’re plaguing me every night, like some ghost or spirit or something.”

That was definitely a movement of his eyelashes. In fact, she could swear he rolled his eyes.

“I think you’ve been calling to me to come save you.”

His eyes scanned her body, head to toe and back up again, obviously finding her lacking in the Knight-ess in Shining Armor category. He glanced right and left to see if she had someone with her, like maybe a small army, then shook his head.

“I know. I don’t have any troops to back me up. Not even my brothers who, believe me, are always up for a good fight. But I’m smart. Suffice it to say, I can probably figure something out.”

Her Viking spoke for the first time then, in a voice raspy from lack of use, or maybe he’d been choked at one time. “Did Sweyn send you?”

“Swane who?”

“Sweyn Forkbeard.”

“Oh. No, I came on my own.” But at least now she had a better idea of the time period. Sweyn Forkbeard hadn’t invaded England until 1014.

“Lucky me!” he remarked on her solitary rescue mission. “Key?” he asked.

She looked around but didn’t see any evidence of a key. In fact, she couldn’t imagine anyone entering this cage if they valued their life. They probably just passed food or water through the bars. Yes, there was that little door over there at the bottom corner, like a doggie gate.


“No, but I could probably get one. Better yet, I could grab one of those swords off the wall over there, if they’re not too heavy. Don’t they have any lady swords? Ha, ha, ha.”

“Halfwit!” His word was harshly uttered and blunt, and oddly sexy with its hoarseness.

“What? You think I can’t do it?”

“Go. Away.”

“I wish I could.”

“Trouble!” he said with a snort of disgust.

She wasn’t sure if he meant that he was in trouble…


…that trouble was coming…

What could be worse trouble than living in a cage?

…or that she was trouble.

That’s gratitude for you!

At least she had him talking.

“Why dost thou carry the emblem of a dog? I have ne’er heard of a Viking realm named for such. Bearstead, Wolfshire, Fox Lair, Ravensmore…but ne’er a scrawny mongrel.”

“Huh?” She followed the direction of his gaze and laughed. “That’s just Snoopy. A pet dog known for his wit and philosophy of life.”

“Why does it have his finger raised? Not that dogs have fingers.”

She laughed. “It’s an age-old gesture. Can be traced by to ancient Roman times, I think. Even Socrates mentioned it.”

His eyes went wide when he understood her meaning. Then he shook his head again and muttered, “The Norns of Fate must be having a grand jest at my expense.”

“I saw you weeping tonight,” she told him then, reaching a hand through the bars to pat his arm in sympathy. “Do you want to talk about it? I’m good at listening.”

“You dare much, milady,” he snarled, grabbing hold of her wrist and yanking hard. “Lest you taste the flavor my wrath, you will ne’er mention that subject again.”


He released her hand and she drew it back quickly, rubbing the soreness with her other hand. “Jeesh! Talk about overreacting! There’s nothing wrong with a man crying on occasion. It doesn’t make him any less manly. In fact--”

He said a one-word Anglo-Saxon expletive that had survived the centuries, right in line with her Snoopy shirt.

On and on the dream went. Sometimes he didn’t talk to her at all, just stared at her intensely. Other times, he spoke, a little. The gist of it all was that, despite his words to the contrary, he needed her.

That was her opinion anyway, and when it came to her dreams, she had the last word.


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