The decking creaked as the crew readied the longship for landing. They hauled on the hemp ropes and adjusted the striped sail to reduce speed. Two men went forward and took down the dragon head. They were coming home, and did not want to scare the land spirits of their own country.
One of these men was Erik. He was the navigator, and his skills were not required in these waters. All aboard knew the shape of the mountains before them. Erik’s home was always their first landing in Norway, as the Fedrasil made its way to its home port in the village another three hours’ sail along the coast.
A beardless boy of perhaps fifteen came up to help with the heavy carved wood, but Erik waved him back. “You’re still a midshipman, lad. Leaning over the prow like this is dangerous work. Stay amidships where it’s safe.”
The teenager grumbled loudly, but retreated to his duty of keeping the cargo secure. It was not really a boring task, since the cargo included two live goats and a captive woman.
As Erik stowed the dragon head, he reflected on just why they kept the inexperienced sailors away from bow and stern. Even in summer, even without wearing armor, anyone who fell into the North Sea was destined for the realm of Ran, goddess of shipwrecks. It was for her that all the Vikings wore a ring of gold or silver in one ear. One needed something precious to offer to Ran, to gain admittance to her queendom. Sacks of coins could come loose, arm-rings and pendants could fall off, amber would float away, but a closed loop that pierced one’s flesh would stay with a pirate to the end.
On the shore, a pair of naked children looked up from their play and spotted the square sail on the horizon. They ran to the longhouse, and burst in shrieking, “A ship! A ship!”
“What ship, children?” Svanna asked, hand automatically going to the hilt at her side. It was not her sword, though that was handy, but only a practical knife. “Is it the Fedrasil?”
“It looks like it!”
Svanna grinned and rushed out to the cliff in front of the great hall. “It is! I know that sail! Erik is coming home! Run now, sons, and fetch water for the cauldron. Tell your sister to kill a chicken.”
Other women would strew fresh rushes when their men returned, but Svana was too practical for such gestures; she knew Erik would track foreign dirt into the house, and Svana would sweep and cut rushes after he got clean. Still, there were preparations to be made.
It was a long wait before the Fedrasil turned into the tiny harbor. Svanna bounced on her heels like a young maiden anticipating Erik’s usual greeting, a crushing hug for his wife. It had been so long since she had felt his powerful warrior’s arms around her.
The wooden ship was a lithe design, able to sail up fjords, and turn like a dancer with its oars, but in this cove it came about in a leisurely way and drew up to the cliff as if to a dock, as it had so many times before. Erik threw down his sea-bag and grinned at Svanna as he clambered over the side. But he did not rush to her and fold her in his strong embrace, because his hands were full of another woman.
Svanna stared in shock as Erik hauled a slender maid to land. Her hands were tied, and she was not struggling, but Erik held her as if she might escape if he turned his back for a moment, now that she was on land.
“I brought us a slave,” Erik called happily to Svanna. “Boys, daddy’s home! Be good lads and grab that bag for me. I’ve a few presents in it for you!”
The captive’s strawberry blonde hair had been hacked off unevenly, clearly without her cooperation. This was no thrall, then, but a freeborn woman. A genuine slave would have already had short hair, that shameful mark of a status without honor, wherein one’s word meant nothing; a thrall could not enter into oaths, not even a marriage oath, nor testify before the Thing, and could be slain by her owner with impunity. Though the Romans would cut their own hair and beards, any of the peoples of the North—and surely the Celts were as heathen as the fjord-born—would fight tooth and claw against the honor-stealing cutting of the hair. This woman was going to be trouble.
Erik marched his prisoner to the longhouse. Once inside, he only let go to hit her, again and again, as she sank to the ground where she was put, cringing and raising her bound arms to protect her head. She did not make a sound.
Svanna stared, at first in shock, then in pity; she perceived that the young woman had spent her tears and screams already, on the long voyage from Eire to Norway. As Erik’s hands continued to fall on the slim foreigner’s back, her sympathy mixed with jealousy. Erik was paying attention to this slave, but not to Svanna! ‘I wish I was her,’ Svanna thought. Then she thrust the thought away, telling herself, ‘No, I don’t, I just want Erik all to myself, and that’s perfectly natural. I’m his wife!’ But she knew she was lying to herself. She still felt pity, yes, and jealousy, but also an awakened desire.
She had seen Erik strike people in a rage, and that had always both frightened and disgusted her. But he was beating the Irish slave calmly and thoughtfully, and Svanna was excited by it. She wanted to be that young, attractive woman under Erik’s hands.
But she knew the other woman was terrified. She knew, too, that it could be her, being beaten like that, if she lost a battle just once. But then it would not be her beloved Erik doing it, but some untrustworthy stranger. As Erik was to the Irishwoman. A roil of emotions seethed with Svanna, and she did not understand what she felt.
When Erik was done beating the young woman, Svanna went to her and cut her bonds. The woman looked up in sudden hope. Svanna noticed that the slave had blood on her clothes. She led the other woman to the bath, the hot bath Svanna had made ready for Erik, but Erik was busy giving gifts of loot to his sons and daughter. Svanna would draw another bath for him later.
Svanna gestured for the young woman to get into the tub, but the foreigner blinked at her, uncomprehending. Svanna tried to talk to her, but it was clear the captive did not speak a word of Norse. Svanna wondered what Erik was doing with her the whole time she was on the ship.
“Svanna,” Svanna indicated herself. Then she gestured at the foreigner. She said nothing. The tall Norsewoman tried again. “Svanna,” pointing, then pointed at the woman of Eire.
This time she responded, whispering, “Cyrridben.”
“Cyrridben. Svanna, Cyrridben, bath. Bath.” Svanna pointed. She made scrubbing motions. It was clear the foreigner did not understand, or perhaps she was shy. Svanna had heard that in other countries, people lived in separate rooms and when they bathed, they even had separate rooms for that. Svanna decided she had better just show her how it was done, and unpinned her apron from her shoulders. She loosed her belt and let it fall, and the doeskin shoes, and finally the under-dress. She climbed into the tub and washed quickly, then climbed out and gestured again. “Cyrridben. Bath.”
This time the foreigner got into the tub and washed. Svanna noticed how beautiful she was, if a little too thin. She was perhaps twenty, perhaps a little younger, and had small, perky breasts. There were no wounds on her, so the blood on her clothing must belong to someone else. Svanna waited to dry herself off until after she washed Cyrridben’s bloody clothes, after Cyrridben got out. Then she got them both dry and wrapped up in old cloaks.
She settled Cyrridben in a corner of the great hall, on a bearskin, out of the way. The foreign woman curled up and stared blankly at the wall. Svanna watched her for a few moments, long enough to see that Cyrridben’s gaze was unblinking. There was something wrong behind her eyes. That was hardly surprising, Svanna thought. Whose had that blood been? Parents? Husband? Children?
Svanna went to the table, served the meal, and sat down by Erik. She let him eat in peace, after his long voyage, but when he was finished, she asked him, “Why were you beating Cyrridben just now?”
Svanna gestured. “That’s her name. Why? She wasn’t trying to escape.”
“New slaves have to be broken.”
“Erik, if she gets any more broken, she’ll be dead. She’s acting like Aunt Gerta did after her baby was stillborn.”
“She’ll adapt. They all do, in time. I brought her here to help you with the house.”
“To help me? A real slave who could understand my orders and wasn’t too traumatized to stand up would be of use to me. Cyrridben is a burden. I can’t believe you looked at her in Eire and thought what a great floor-scrubber she’d make. Don’t think I haven’t noticed her beauty.”
“Svanna, she’s a child.”
“What makes you think that?”
“Well, she’s short.”
“Aren’t all foreigners short?”
“Not all. Why? Do you think she isn’t? A child, I mean.”
“She’s no child. I managed to get her to take a bath. You’re next, by the way. Tyr’s Hand, but you stink, Erik. Anyway, at least I know now that you didn’t rape her, too.”
“By the gods, Svanna, how could you think that of me?”
“I sailed in my youth, remember. I was a shieldmaiden once. I know what goes on in a raid. How I wish I could sail still, and go with you when you go a-viking!”
“I know well how great a shieldmaiden you were, my beloved. I’ve never believed in that silly rumor that it’s bad luck to take a woman aboard. Though some of the crew do, and they gave me guff for snatching Cyrridben instead of a sensible pig or set of candlesticks. You could sail with me anytime, if I didn’t need you here to defend the landholdings.”
“I know. I know, Erik dear. Let me draw you a bath.” She had not had to do any defending while Erik was away this time out, but she had in past seasons. Again she imagined herself taken like Cyrridben, bound and beaten, dropped down into some alien household somewhere across the sea. All her life, she had been raised to be the perfect housewife, sword-born defender of her house and lands. The keys she wore pinned to her apron at the shoulder were the symbol of her ownership of this valley and cove and everything within it. When Danes or Swedes came a-viking to Norway, she was in charge of marshalling the defense of this harbor. To win, or to fall in the front of the battle, to go thence to Valhalla, or if she were chosen among the first half, to Folkvangr, and the halls of Freya. Svanna had worshipped the Free Lady all her life, and she would die before she became a slave. It was dishonorable to even consider such a life, and yet, and yet… imagining herself in Cyrridben’s place beneath the blows of Erik’s hands made her wet.
Svanna rose from the table and turned for the firepit at the center of the great hall, walking slowly. She hoped Erik would grab her and give her that powerful hug of his, but he didn’t. She wanted him to take her right there, standing up, enter her and slap her behind in rhythm to his pounding. She sighed as she went to the giant kettle and got a bucket of hot water for Erik’s bath. It wasn’t Bath Day—it was only Thorsday, and Bath Day was two days away yet—but she made an exception for returning sailors who still smelled of blood and the smoke of burning villages.
Svanna poured the hot water into the tub, then added cold water, standing ready in the bucket from the well outside. It was too cool, now. She went back for another bucket of the hot, to get the water just the right temperature. Erik had already set aside his cloak and boots and weaponry, and was now peeling out of his wool tunic and trousers. Such a fine, well-muscled body he had. Svanna admired him like an artwork, not despite the scars but in appreciation of them, because they were his.
Svanna poured in the steaming water and Erik settled into the wooden tub with a sigh. He began lathering with soapwort, and Svanna took up another piece and washed his wheaten hair. Gods, he was handsome. Not the king of the elves himself could be more beautiful to her. “I love you, Erik.”
“I love you too, Svanna, my darling wife.”
When at last he was clean and dry, and wrapped in an old cloak, and nothing else, and had eaten and dried his hair by the fire, Svanna led Erik to their sleeping niche along the wall. She burrowed into the furs and pulled him down on top of her. He rested his head on her ample bosom and fell instantly asleep.
Svanna sighed. Perhaps tomorrow he would make love to her. If he wasn’t too busy with Cyrridben.
The smell of the sea is unique, primal, composed of water and salt and life, spiced with traces of dissolved gold and a million rotting things. It permeated the darkness of the bunker beneath the hill, just as it had filled the air of Svanna’s cove long ago.
A voice echoed in the pitch black: “Dawn waits for no man!”
Susan rose from her squeaky cot. What an intense dream that had been! She was sure she had connected with a real person, and real events of long ago. Perhaps she would dream of them again tonight.
With a hundred other people, Susan hiked down the treacherous wooden stair to the beach. They gathered in a circle in the first pale, foggy light of predawn, as the waves crashed on the black rocks. They sang Jack in the Green, welcoming in the spring on this day of Ostara.
As the white sun came over the Marin headlands and burned through the mist, the colors on the clothes of the assembled heathens sprang into reality. Some wore jeans and zippered jackets and wool watchcaps, and others had on traditional garb that would not have looked out of place in Svanna’s house. On the beach was a miniature Viking longship, about the size of a person. Into it, each person placed a nickel as a sacrifice to Ran. No other coin would do, because nickels were pure, and other coins were not. A woman went around the circle with a basket of colored eggs, sacred to Ostara, the Dawn Goddess, whose festival this was.
A middle aged woman in blue traditional garb trimmed at the hems with gold ribbon ceremoniously lit the ship on fire. Four men stripped naked and swam with the boat out into the surf. They pushed it past the wave at the entrance to the little bay and out into the open sea. This was not the deadly cold ocean of the ancestral lands of the heathens, but the Pacific just north of San Francisco was cold enough for the ladies to admire their courage.
Then the Asatruars—those true to the dwellers in Asgard—tossed their colored eggs into the surf. The four men swam back and dried off as the assembled heathens watched the ship sail into the horizon. Then it went under, and at almost the same moment, the tide returned the tiny shields that had been on its sides.
At first Susan held her breath, wondering what this meant. Then Prudence, the woman in blue, proclaimed, “Gifts back from Ran!” As one, though it had not been a planned part of the ritual, the heathens bounded into the foam to pick up the little shields. Each person examined the heraldic devices painted on them for some sign of significance. Susan’s was easy to interpret: it was a heart, symbol of Freya, the goddess of love and war.
Susan spotted Cindy, bundled up in a denim cloak closed with antler buttons, an item from one of the vendors. After the enforced single-file of the stair, Susan fell into step beside the red haired woman.
“Wow, Cindy, that past life dreaming exercise really worked. You should lead a workshop next year.”
“Oh? What did you dream?”
Susan related her dream of Svanna. “Poor Svanna. She wants to ask Erik for a consensual adult spanking, but apparently there is no such thing in the ancient world.”
“You sound like you’ve heard the term before.”
“I’ve always had a secret yen to try it. But I guess I have the same problem as Svanna. Whenever I go looking for someone to do sense-play with, I always end up only finding people who want me to be a slave. And like Svanna, I’d die first. I’m a priestess of Freya. There are very few kinky sex acts she wouldn’t approve of, as long as the participants are willing. But, well, you’re an Asatruar too, you know what a slave collar means to us.”
“Indeed I do. But perhaps that isn’t the only option. My advice is to continue to explore your past life as Svanna in the dream state, and see what happens.”
One of Susan’s friends joined them on the walk back from the beach, “Speaking of sex. Vlad’s here.”
“Vlad’s always here,” Susan smiled. Vlad was not precisely the stereotypical tall dark and handsome—he was barely taller than most of the ladies, but two out of three wasn’t bad. “Who’s he out to charm the pants off today?”
“That new lady, the one who calls herself Luna Thorsdottir.”
Susan snorted. “That’s a bit of an ethnic mismatch.” Lots of people took ‘religious names’, in heathenry and in the wider circle of pagans. Among Wiccans and other neopagans no one would bat an eyelash at the name Luna, but heathens were often persnickety about philology.
“You know what she told me? She said she wasn’t going to go off with Vlad tonight because she was married, and she thought that would be cheating.”
“Vlad’s not cheating. Vlad’s part of your vacation.”
“He has some competition now, I hear. Have you heard about the new fellow, Eric?”
Susan nearly tripped, hearing that name. “What do they say about him?”
“Well, he’s not as smooth a seducer as Vlad. And Vlad’s title as the male Lesbian is safe. But he’ll indulge any wild fantasy.”
“Oh? Point him out to me.”
They reached the barbecue area outside the bunker, where bacon was frying for breakfast. Muffins were laid out on the picnic tables. Various heathens in a mix of garb and modern dress were circling around with paper plates, and among them, one black man, Snorri, the adopted son of an Asatru couple. There were also a couple of Natives in their regalia. Susan did not know their story.
“There he is,” Cindy pointed. The fellow was thin and blonde, and wearing more of a Renaissance Faire costume than true heathen garb, though he got points for trying; and Susan had to admit the green velvet looked very touchable.
Then he lifted his eyes and met her gaze, and Susan caught her breath. Eric was Erik! She was sure of it. She saw the Sea in his eyes. The wailing gulls could be real, but the sudden sound of a creaking wooden mast and the pop of a sail catching the wind could only have come from the spirit world.
“Cindy!” she gasped. “It’s him!”
“Go say hi.”
“What do I say? You’re the man of my dreams? He’d think I’m drunk or something.”
“Just start with hi.”
Susan sat down next to him, and said hello. He was sipping a cup of coffee, and was clearly not in seduction mode yet. They made small talk as the man with the bells on walked by. In the cool of the morning, some of the heathens, including Snorri, started sparring with shenai, bamboo swords. A fully garbed lady in ankle length dress and Viking style apron set down her knitting and joined in.
That night, Susan dreamed of Svanna.
“It’s been a week since you got home, Erik,” Svanna said while they walked on the beach, away from the others. “Don’t you think it’s time you started paying attention to me instead of Cyrridben?”
“Sorry.” He shrugged. “Nobody ever said training a new slave would be easy. But once it’s done, things will be better. You’ll have more time for weaving. Hilde is a great spinster, and I’m really happy we added your sister to the household after she was widowed, but it was you who said that getting a slave to take care of the routine chores would help you increase production to the point we might be able to start trading some of the cloth. I could go out on a trading ship instead of going a-viking. I’m not as young as I used to be. Not that I don’t enjoy the fighting, but I know I’m slowing down. You felt that way yourself ten years ago, and you’re no older than me.”
Svanna nodded thoughtfully. “But it’s the way of women to give up the life of a shieldmaiden while we’re still young enough to bear children. And I meant buy a slave. You could have pirated something valuable enough to trade for one.”
“I know, it’s just—I hope you won’t think it’s squeamish of me, but I just don’t fancy owning one of our own people. I know the foreigner isn’t making herself useful yet, but that will come in time.”
“Erik. I don’t think you’re squeamish. At all. So I’m going to tell you something that’s hard for me to admit.”
After a pause, he encouraged her, “Go on.”
“When I see you beating Cyrridben, I get jealous.”
He nodded, and stroked his blonde beard in thought. “I can understand that. I haven’t been spending as much time with you as I’d like. And the trip overnight to the village to buy the iron collar took me away after I’d only been here a few days. It was hard for me too, but it had to be done.”
Svanna remembered watching Erik putting that damned thing on Cyrridben. It was the first time Svanna had seen her cry, and then Cyrridben hadn’t stopped. It was three days ago, and all Cyrridben did was cry and sleep. Svanna was certain Cyrridben had not been a slave before.
“It’s not just that. I feel the most horrid sense of excitement when I watch you beat her. I want to be her. I would never want to feel what she’s feeling—I’d fall on my sword rather than endure that misery and despair. But I want to be the one under your hands. I want that, Erik. It fills me with desire.”
Erik looked horrified. He sputtered, “You’re my wife. I can’t do that to you.”
Svanna felt embarrassed. She backed down, and said, “It’s just—seeing you beating Cyrridben makes me want you.”
“Oh. Well.” A look of puzzlement crossed his face, and then he fell back on his old standby, and kissed her. “Let’s, um, go to bed early tonight.”
Svanna summoned up a conciliatory smile. “Let’s.”
“I’d better go and finish with the rye, if we’re making an early night of it.” Erik trudged up the trail from the beach.
Svanna walked along the shore, as full of longing as when she was watching and waiting for the red and white striped sail of the Fedrasil to come over the horizon.
“Well, that didn’t work. I’ve been thwarted, but I can’t give up yet. I don’t want violence. It terrifies me when Erik’s mad drunk, but maybe that’s better than nothing. Maybe I should think of an excuse to celebrate something, and bring out the mead. I want the calm and cool Erik, the one who strikes Cyrridben with hardly any emotion at all. But it seems I can’t have that one.”
Svanna knew that her plan was probably a bad idea. The angry, drunken Erik could genuinely hurt her, and then what would they do? Their relationship was already strained by Erik’s long voyages at sea. This could crack their marriage asunder.
She asked aloud, “Freya, Goddess of love and all the arts of pleasure, will this longing within me EVER be fulfilled?”
Svanna’s restless feet turned toward the water, and she saw something washed up on the narrow bit of sand. It was pale yellow. Svanna’s soul went still as she realized what it was, even as she reached down and plucked it from the wet sand: amber. Freya’s Tears, the holy substance that fell from the eyes of the Goddess as she searched for her lost husband Odh. It was like no other thing on Earth, for it could be polished like stone, but floated on the water like eiderdown, and it held energy as a barrel holds wine. It could be charged by magic, or by rubbing a fur, or by the peculiar tame lightning that sometimes danced on a ship’s rigging. It was a sign.
“I asked, and she answered,” Svanna whispered. “It’s an omen. My longing will be fulfilled. But does this mean I should employ my plan tonight, or wait for my Wyrd?” Svanna had never been one to sit and wait for destiny to arrive. “Finding a piece of amber on the shore is as good a reason to celebrate as any. Tonight I break out the mead.”
Many centuries later, a very old piece of amber appeared on a vendor’s table inside the echoing cement bunker at the Ostara festival. It was dark with age. “This probably isn’t the original setting,” said the seller. She went on about cut and tools and something about the style of the silver brooch.
Susan tuned her out. The amber was calling to her, a soul-deep resonance exactly like what she felt when she looked at Eric. She had to have it. “How much?”
It was more than she had with her. She pulled out her money and counted it up. It was barely half. “Do you trade?”
Susan considered what she had with her. She would not trade her sword, symbol of her free status within heathendom. Nor would she trade her car; she needed it, and it was too valuable to trade to for a piece of jewelry in any case. “How about a wool cloak?” Susan indicated the one she had on.
Susan unfastened the cloak and handed it across the table, and pinned on the purring amber. Well, not literally purring, that would be creepy; but Susan felt she had made the right decision. She would just have to stay close to the bonfire tonight.
She went out and found Cindy and related her dream and told her, “I know it must sound crazy, but I think this is the same piece of amber. What does it mean?”
“Your task in this lifetime is to solve the dilemma of how to get the senseplay you desire without becoming dishonored by accepting a slave’s role. This is the puzzle you failed to solve in your life as Svanna. But in this modern world there is a place for senseplay without the trappings of dishonor.”
“Yes. That makes sense. I think there’s more, though. I think I’m supposed to get back together with Erik. And I think Eric might be the same Erik.”
“Why don’t we ask him if he’d like to try the dreaming? Then we’ll know.”
Cindy got the two of them together. She explained the past life dreaming, and Susan told Eric about her dreams.
Eric grinned. “You’re saying I’m the man of your dreams?”
“I guess I am. That sounds really stupid, doesn’t it?” Susan laughed.
“Not at all, my lady.” Like Vlad, Eric knew how to charm a woman. He kissed her hand, and told her, “It would be my honor to be your dream lover.”
Susan smiled back.
Cindy guided Eric in how to dream of a past life, and to try to recall his life as Erik the navigator with Svanna, if he had any such past life memory. That night, he dreamed. And Susan dreamed the same dream. And so did Cindy. There were all there, the three of them, reliving their pasts together, so they could each restore their destinies: Susan to have her desires fulfilled, Eric to fulfill them, and Cindy to get the two of them back together, after sundering them in twain in her life as Cyrridben.
Svanna tried to get Cyrridben to eat oat porridge. Cyrridben, seeing her as an ally and protector, allowed her to put a few spoonfuls into her mouth, feeding her like a baby. The Celtic woman even let Svanna put an arm around her as she fed her, although she flinched from everyone else.
Then Svanna served the main meal, and after supper she passed around the mead-horn, displayed the amber she had found on the seashore, and called for a toast to Freya. “To Freya!” echoed her family. Svanna plied Erik with drink, in accordance with her plan. Every few seconds she thought, “This is a really bad idea. I shouldn’t be doing this. I could really wreck things if I manage to provoke him into striking me. Anger isn’t what I want. But I want his hands on me so badly I’ll even take a rotten imitation of what I really want.”
Svanna felt sick inside. But she had a plan and she was no coward. She watched for her moment, the moment when Erik would provide her an opening. It was very much like combat, this business of manipulating Erik.
But the evening wore on, and the moment did not come. Erik started to slur his words and look sleepy, and Svanna thought she might have given him too much. Erik started singing a sea-chantey, badly. “Oh the raidersh life for—hic! – me!”
Svana saw her moment. She was balanced on the brink, and had only that instant to decide: to go on with her plan, however much it frightened her, or to let it go, and go on living in quiet yearning.
“Oh, shut up that noise, Erik, please!”
“Thought you liked my shinging voishe.” Erik chugged the rest of the horn, sloshing honey mead into his beard. “Uurrrrrrp.”
“Only when you’re sober.”
“If I’m drunk it’sh your faul, faul, follot.” Erik pointed at her and poked her arm.
Svana felt a jolt of excitement. He was almost there. He was like a stone poised above a snowy slope, right on the tipping point, ready to start an avalanche. If she could just push him an inch more, he would fall into passionate fury. Or so she hoped.
“Tonight maybe, but how drunk were you when you sacked Eire? How drunk were you when you picked your share of the treasure? A more useless prize I’ve never seen than that pretty young thing you brought home with you.”
Svanna’s spinster sister tried to shush her, but Svanna ignored her.
“She steals your attention from me, she does nothing but weep in the corner and cast a pall of sorrow over the house, she uses blankets and water and gives nothing back. Admit it, Erik! You chose her for her beauty. You wanted her. You forgot all about me! You always forget all about me when you’re at sea!”
“That’sh not true.” Erik stood up, swayed, and caught his balance on the table. “I washshinkin’ of you all’time.”
“You wanted her. You still want her. You never wanted me in the first place. You chose me because I’m good at fighting, so I can hold these lands against raiders from up the coast. You never gave a thought to how much you’d like me when you’re home!”
“Love you! Alwaysh love you!” Erik staggered closer and caught himself again. He tried to prove his love by planting a slobbery kiss on her face, but she pushed him roughly away.
“Drunkard! Go back to sea and leave me in peace, and take that strumpet with you!” Svanna shoved him again, hard, in his churning belly.
For one sick moment, as she saw the hurt in his eyes, she regretted her words, and her ill-wrought plan. Surely this was not the work of the Goddess of Love. She should have waited, patiently, for the promise of the amber to be made manifest.
Then her plan succeeded. Erik struck her. Not as he beat Cyrridben, not the calm and measured blows meant only to establish his dominance, but a wild, uncoordinated backhand that caught her shoulder and glanced off her chin. He was barely able to find her with his hand in his drunkenness.
It was not satisfying. It was not sexy. It made her feel ill.
Erik grunted an incoherent sound and snatched back his hand, eyes wide in horror. He stumbled, tried to catch himself on the edge of a chair and knocked it over, bumping into Svanna. He reeled back again, flailing to regain his balance.
Then a shadow moved in the corner, and a shiver of metal rang softly. A look of incomprehension passed over Erik’s face. His eyes gazed fixedly ahead, and a peculiar gasp came from him. Then he fell.
Behind him stood Cyrridben, risen from her despair. In her hand was Svanna’s sword, dripping blood.
Erik’s body hit the floor with a thump. His eyes were open and unmoving.
“Erik!” Svanna shrieked. She dropped to her knees beside him, took his head and shoulders in her arms and rocked, crying, “Erik, Erik, Erik!” Her tears fell on his face, beautiful again now in repose, calm as she had wanted him to be.
The children burst into tears.
“Erik, oh my dear sweet Erik, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry!”
Tears fall like sea-spray, wet salt glistening in firelight. The gulls wail by the shore, endless, eternal. Wind ripples the heather, and songbirds dart amid the yellow blooms. Some things never change: grief and love and the Sea. But some things change. Customs change, and times change.
On the western coast of North America, as the morning fog burned away, a man in black motorcycle leathers sat playing a large wooden concert harp. The strings sang of sweet rain plinking into shallow pools, and wildflowers growing by the roadside, and the red flash of a blackbird’s wings.
Susan, Eric and Cindy sat talking around the remains of last night’s campfire, and Susan and Eric realized they had the same dream. They shared the same experience of past lives as Svanna and Erik.
“What happened to Cyrridben?” Susan asked Cindy.
Cindy said, “It is given to me to remember the realm of Folkvangr, and the hall Sessrumnir within it. I don’t know what happened in Cyrridben’s life after she murdered Erik. She may have been killed, or sold. She may have run away, or committed suicide, or she may have stayed with Svanna for the rest of her days. But I do know that the three of us came to the halls of Freya together, to be healed of our mortal woes, until we were ready to try again. I had to repair my error, and get the two of you back together. The rest is up to you.” Cindy stood up, and smiled. “And now I leave you to it. My work here is done.” She walked away into the bunker.
Susan said, “Back then nobody understood masochistic play. Erik the ancient heathen couldn’t give me what I needed. But can Eric the modern heathen do it?”
“Oh, gods, yes. I’d love to! I’ve been into that for years.”
“Really. Let’s go to the beach. Tonight, when we’ll have it to ourselves. I’ll bring everything. Will you join me on the beach in the moonlight, my lady?”
“Yes. Yes, I will.” Susan smiled shyly. They kissed.
The day passed slowly. Susan and Eric talked and talked, sharing the details of their modern lives.
At sunset they dared the treacherous stair. Eric had a lantern and a big bag. When they reached the beach in the pink light of the sunset on the water, Eric selected a patch of relatively dry sand near the cliff and suspended the lantern from an overhanging tree root. He spread a large, thick blanket, and bowed Susan down onto it.
From the sack, he withdrew a dozen jar candles, lit them, and spread them randomly on the sand, little flames winking in the sea wind despite the protecting glass, as the evening light faded and the stars flowered. Eric brought wood out of his bag and kindled a small campfire on the beach. Then he began peeling Susan out of her outer garments, belt and boots and shoulder-pinned apron, so much like Svanna’s long ago.
Contemplatively, he rubbed the amber. “This was hers,” he whispered.
“Yes, I think so,” Susan said. “Can you feel the age? The power?”
“I feel it.” The promise of the amber hung heavy in the chill night air.
He took off his cloak and boots and the green velvet doublet. He was dressed now only in velvet breeches and a woolen shirt.
The beach in the moonlight, the roar of the Sea, stars above, fires below, the moonpath on the water, all surrounded them in the mystery of night as Eric pulled Susan over his lap and began to warm her up over her under-dress with a light hand-spanking.
The slap, slap, slapping could barely be heard above the tide on the sand, the crackling fire, the west wind in the trees above the cliff, and the crash of the surf against the rock spires.
Susan thought, “I’m really doing this.”
Spank, spank, spank, spank, spank, Eric kept up a steady rhythm. He thought, “I’m really doing this.”
He pulled off her dress, and continued spanking her over her panties, some indeterminate pale color glowing in the moonlight. The smoke of the campfire caressed her bare skin with warm gusts. Eric pulled off her panties, spanked her some more, and rubbed her bare bottom.
Then he rolled her gently off of his lap, and arranged her lying bottoms-up on the blanket. He carefully pulled her arms and legs into an X position, echoing the shape of the rune Gebo, the Gift, the rune of sex magic. She turned her head to the side, looking up at him with one sparkling eye reflecting the candlelight and the moonlight. She had a deeply happy smile on her lips.
Eric thumped her body with his hands from shoulders to feet, halfway between spanking and massage. Then he reached into her piled garments and pulled her sword belt free of the sword and pouches. He took the buckle in his right hand, and ran his left hand appreciatively down the length of the wide, heavy leather belt.
He grinned, and snapped the end down on her back. The sting was incredibly exciting. Susan smiled and sighed and closed her eyes, and dug her toes into the yielding surface of the blanket, making little holes in the sand beneath. Eric swung again, and swatted her well-warmed butt. Susan spread her legs a little more.
Eric needed no further encouragement. He began a steady rhythm, striking again and again with her own sword belt. The end of the heavy leather belt made little triangular tip-marks whenever it touched her back or legs, probably pink but seeming dark in the firelight and moonlight. It left no shapes on the buttocks, but even in the wavering orange light of the lantern and the other candles and the popping campfire, as the belt descended again and again and again, Eric could see a rosy glow on Susan’s buttocks.
Susan sighed and groaned in pleasure. It was both stimulating and profoundly relaxing. It was soul-fulfilling.
Eric’s rhythm synchronized with the crashing surf. A mist began to roll in off the sea, fresh and cold and wet. It cooled Susan’s burning flesh, and the sensation of the mist and the woodsmoke flying against her skin as the leather smacked into her over and over nearly had her in ecstasy.
The amber and the sea and their souls: power flowed between them, among them, through them. Amber-colored firelight, winking like phantom fairy lights from the candles as the fog rolled in, blotting out the stars. The moon shown down through the mist, pale and blurry as old memories.
Eric set the belt aside and reached into his bag. He poured oil on her buttocks, smelling of rare essential oils of rose and yarrow. He massaged the oil into her bottom, and back, and legs, and the bottoms of her feet. He took a foot and pulled the toes back, just enough to draw the skin of the sole tight. Then he picked up a slender stick from the ground. Ever so lightly at first, then going to more medium pressure, he switched the arch of her sole. Then he did the same to the other foot.
Then Eric set Susan’s feet back down on the blanket and moved back to her buttocks. He poured more oil onto her backside, and slicked his hand. Slowly, he worked one finger into her tight butt hole. He withdrew it, covered it in oil again from her skin, and worked it back inside. Again and again he oiled the inside of her, penetrating more deeply, and more easily, each time.
Then he worked in a second finger. Thrusting slowly, he moved the two fingers in and out, in and out. Then he began to scissor them, carefully stretching her. He reached into his bag and brought out a glass massage wand. It glistened like ice in the firelight. He oiled it, and carefully inserted it into her well-prepared opening.
The sensation was incredible. It was like having all her genitals turned on at once, and her feet as well; the nerve Eric hit inside her electrified every pathway below her waist at the same time.
Red light of passion exploded in her mind. Fire rent the veil that cloaked her inner sight, and the night lit up for her like neon. Eric glowed to her mind’s eye like Elmo’s Fire dancing in the rigging of a sailing ship.
Eric flipped her over. He took her ankles and held her legs high, wide, and apart. He let go and Susan stayed in position. Eric pushed the glass wand even farther inside her, right up to the round ball at the end.
Susan threw her head back and groaned in pleasure and desire. Eric spanked the round globes of her buttocks with his hand and pushed the anal toy into her. Susan started to pant. Eric gave her the belt again, whipping her pink bottom over and over until she squirmed.
Eric withdrew the toy and stripped out of his shirt and breeches. He popped free, straight as a mast. Eric oiled up and entered her deliciously prepared bottom. He positioned her legs over his shoulders and thrust into her, in rhythm to the pounding of the sea.
Their souls commingled as their bodies joined, amber light and sea-wind and flickering fire. Susan’s nipples grew erect in the cold sea mist, and Eric massaged her breasts. He pinched and twisted her nipples in just the right way to make her gasp aloud in pleasure. His hand kneaded over her plump belly and down to the pleasure bud. Eric played it like a harp, and sweet sounds poured from her mouth.
Foam crept onto the sand around the glass jars of the candles, high tide claiming the beach as the tides of desire claimed their souls. Heedless of the ravenous water, they bellowed their ecstasy to the night.
Then they collapsed together, a heap of arms and legs and long hair. Still feeling joined in their hearts, they lay and recovered their breathing as the sea doused their campfire, crept to the edge of the blanket, and carried away the now-spent amber pin. Its promise fulfilled after so many centuries, the Tear of Freya floated back into the brine from which it had come.
Susan watched it go. There was no more longing within her. She had the only magic she needed: love and the fulfillment of desire.
“You’re my soulmate, Eric. Will you marry me?”
Author's Chapter Notes:
I originally wrote this story for the Shadowlane site, but it was rejected due to violence. But hey they still paid me, and now you get to read it on here instead!