Taming His Viking Woman

By: Michelle Styles

Chapter One

AD 830—north-east Sweden

Sayrid Avildottar stood in the ice-cold pond, fish spear raised, her eyes on a particularly large sea trout.

She and trout were old adversaries. Fishing helped to hone her eye and her hand when she was at home as well as providing food for the table. And out here in the pond, no one ever complained that she was far too tall, too clumsy or too unwomanly. Not that anyone did much these days. She’d proved her worth with five seasons of profitable sea voyages.

It was amazing how quickly people fell silent when you had gold in your purse, a reputation as a canny trader and a sword by your side that you knew how to use.

The jaarl would surely relent and allow her to lead a felag further east where fortunes truly could be made, instead of always trading with Birka and having to pay tribute to the various sea kings who prowled the sea lanes. And after that, she would never need to go on a voyage again. She would be able to stay at home and make sure her lands were safe. It would give her half-brother, Regin, time to become the capable warrior that she knew he could be and give her half-sister time to choose the warrior she married, instead of being forced into an unwise alliance with a man who had little respect for her.

She simply had to work out a way to make the jaarl see it was in his best interest.

The trout spun round and started back towards her, making its final bid for freedom. Sayrid balanced on her toes, waiting for that precise heartbeat when her spear would be most effective.

‘Sayrid! Sayrid!’ Her half-brother’s voice resounded about the pond at the very instant she was about to thrust the spear.

The spear fell harmlessly into the pond and the fish flashed away.

‘This had better be good, Regin,’ Sayrid called back, retrieving the spear and vowing that next time the old trout would not get away so lightly. ‘You’ve cost me a fish supper.’

‘Blodvin has sent an urgent message about the marriage.’

‘What can be important about that?’ Sayrid peered into the water, trying to spot the trout again. ‘The bride price was sworn last jul-tide. It was more than it should have been, but dewy eyes, honeyed curls and a sizeable portion of land come at a price.’

Svear custom dictated that before any marriage could take place, the groom paid a bride price to his intended’s family to show that he was capable of supporting her and any children in the appropriate manner. In return her family paid a dowry which he could use during his lifetime, but which reverted to the woman and her children at his death or after a divorce. The amount exchanged usually cancelled each other out.

‘Sayrid. Is that all you can think about—how much gold my marriage will cost this family? It is my future happiness at stake here.’

Sayrid rested her elbow on top of the spear. Gods save her from her family. Ever since her younger brother, Regin, had fallen for Blodvin, he’d changed and become more apt than normal to stare off into space.

‘I’ll forgive you supper, but stop panicking. Come the next Storting you’ll be married. Even Ingvar Flokison the Bloodaxe would not dare cross our family, not after the bride price has been agreed. That’s all I’m saying…’ She detected a slight movement in the water. ‘Now if you don’t mind, I have a bone to pick with this trout.’

‘Sayrid, look at me instead of dismissing me. Please.’

Sayrid turned around and winced at Regin’s tragic expression. Thankfully their father was no longer there to mock.

‘Regin, what is wrong?’ she asked in a far gentler tone. There was little point in rehearsing her old arguments against a match with Blodvin. Regin had made up his mind and his stubborn streak rivalled her own. It was why they had been able to face their father down years ago when he had tried to use his fists on their sister, Auda, when she could barely walk. ‘What new demand has Bloodaxe made? Whatever it is, I’ll deliver it. You know me and my ways. I always hate being disturbed when I’m fishing.’

‘She is marrying someone else.’

Sayrid froze. ‘Who? Who thinks they can cross this family without retribution?’

‘Hrolf Eymundsson. Her father doesn’t dare refuse him as he is a sea king with half a dozen ships under his command.’ Regin clutched his hair with both his hands. ‘I can’t lose her, Sayrid.’

‘What?’ Sayrid stood up straighter. ‘Whose idea of a joke is this? Hrolf Eymundsson isn’t here. The jaarl would have informed me. He would have requested my help in defending our village.’

‘Hrolf and our jaarl exchanged peace rings at Birka. They are allied against Lavrans and his Viken raiders.’