Shieldmaiden

 

A Viking Birth Sigrid's son is born while the Valkyries ride across the sky.

A Viking Raid  Sigrid's father is killed in a punishment raid by the future King Hakon of Norway.

 Shieldmaiden

Chapter 1


On the day I was born my father saw the fylgia. Our family’s guardian-spirit appeared to him holding a distaff in one hand and a sword in the other. He thought it meant twins, a girl and a boy. Then he was called into the hall and presented with me, his first daughter. He already had sons so there was probably no disappointment. I like to think that he smiled as he put me in his helmet to show that he accepted this child as his own. Later, when he thought about the fylgia again, he wondered about her message. This is the way with gods and spirits. They show you signs but you have to interpret their meaning for yourself.

I had seen eight summers when it became clear to my father that it was not his sons but his daughter who had an aptitude for sword-play. He called me to him and handed me a short scabbard. My heart beat like thunder in my chest as I drew a blade from the fleece-lined bed. I turned it so it caught the sunlight. The grip had a pattern of trefoils. The top of the hilt had broken off and in its place our blacksmith had forged a disc with a picture of an eye on each side. My father pointed to it.

‘She can see in both directions and your enemies won’t take you by surprise,’ he said. I nodded. It made sense.

‘Is it really mine? To keep?’ He smiled and I knew a dream had come true, my very own sword. No more playing with sharpened sticks or pestering my brothers to let me use their blades. I swung it a couple of times from side to side. It lay smooth and balanced in my hand. It was a wonderful feeling.

‘What’s she called?’

‘That’s for you to decide.’

‘I shall call her Snakebite.’

‘That’s a good name. Remember you will be judged by how you use her so think before you act and make sure you bring honour to both your names.’

Becklund, my father’s farm, was set among the Cumbrian fells. There I rode my small mare Whitefoot and hunted deer and hare with bow and arrows. I swam in Loweswater and tickled trout in the small beck. When unable to escape, I also helped with the work on the farm and in the house. It seemed a perfect life and I saw no reason for it ever to end. But in the year we now call 933 it did. I was twelve years old when my whole world changed with the arrival of a stranger who had violence etched in the lines of his face.


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