A prequel to Vikingr
The willow grouse bobbed its head towards the ground in a gesture of surrender and struggled to unfurl its clipped wings. Around her, a ring of bearded men jeered and laughed with coarse voices. She raised a pleading, warbling cry towards the group.
To the men she was a plain, perhaps even ugly creature. When they looked down on her all they saw was brown feathers and a body plump enough to feed a few. But among other grouse, she walked as tall as a queen.
Ana, hanging on to her father’s strong arm as they watched the men’s sport, saw the subdued bird with clear eyes. While her back and helm were indeed an autumn brown, they were tinted with a deep red hue. Brilliant white plumes armoured her belly and a further splash of snowdrift white surrounded her sharp beak.
Their sport upset Ana and she began to feel tears hot on her cheeks as the men prodded and cajoled her with pointed sticks and insults which bit deep into her pride.
Strong, calloused fingers seized a handful of Ana’s hair and began to drag her into bitter reality. Her scalp burned with pain and she lashed out, seeking to take hold of her father’s arm again.
“Get up, thrall.” A deep voice shouted in her ear, deafeningly loud. “Where’s your courage, boy?”
“I’m not a boy.” She screeched back.
It was the insult which barbed her the most, pricking her in the tender emotional scab formed where the village children had teased and laughed at her for having such plain features.
“Brother, you’ve brought me a girl. I asked for a male thrall to take home to father.”
“She doesn’t look like a girl.”
Another hand caught Ana’s wrist and yanked on it hard. A young, handsome face inspected hers. The second brother had amber-coloured stubble on his chin and hair hanging in a golden braid down his back, shaved close on either side.
“What’s your name, girl?”
“I hope you rot in a ditch and dogs eat your liver raw, you filthy northman.”
“You curse well for a Finn. How do you know the Norse tongue?”
Ana decided she would show them how well her tongue could play at being Norse, how deep the grouse’s beak could bite. She spat in the Norseman’s face, grimacing as she saw saliva spatter over his smooth cheek.
“Chain her again.” The Norseman said as he threw her back onto the ship’s heaving deck.
For more historical short stories, check out Saxon Story #1.
Vikingr can be found on Amazon Kindle here.