EXCERPT OF MORGAINE LE FAY AND THE VIKING THE DANISH DEVIL
Arthur looked up, turning away from the battle before him, as if he’d suddenly awoken from a bad dream. Frantically searching the field, he knew something horrible had happened before he saw it. Somehow, he could feel it. His eyes locked on one warrior. Even from this distance he could see the man was a giant among men. Broad-shouldered and thick-thighed, his legs squeezed the sides of his horse, as he galloped forward. Staring as the brutal beast made his way across the field, Arthur was an unwilling witness to the attack. The Nordic warrior was flexed and drawn. Taking aim, he flew like an arrow straight toward his target. “Nooo!” Arthur’s voice bellowed out of his chest, rising high into the air, as he could do nothing more than watch… Riding fast as the wind, the horned devil swept up beside Arthur’s sister. Whisking her off her saddle, he stole her away before anyone had an opportunity to raise a sword or throw a lance against him. Smoke billowed up from the ground. Burning arrows lit the dry grasses afire, transforming the meadow into a smoldering field of wooden shafts stabbed into the earth, as the cries of men rang up into the air. Maimed knights and injured warriors littered the field. But there was only one sight Arthur’s eyes locked upon… Her white steed was left standing bareback in the open field—a ghostly image amongst the fighting men. A haunting reminder of what had been taken.
Arthur did not hesitate, not for a moment. Digging his heels into the side of his mount, he shouted at the top of his lungs, “Morgaine…!”
But it was too late. The savage had his prize. He was riding away with his spoils of war. Arthur motioned Lancelot to his side, “Take command,” he told him, “you’ll have to take control, lead the knights and continue the battle.” Arthur raced away, followed the thieving devil with the curved horns standing out on the sides of his head. Riding his royal steed, Llamrei, he galloped faster than any horse in the entire kingdom, yet it was useless. He couldn’t keep up. With each stride, he fell further and further behind. His armor and weaponry weighed Llamrei down, while the beast who had his sister rode half naked. Completely bare-chested, only a small scrap of fabric covered his most private parts. After what seemed like hours but must have been mere minutes, the horse whinnied and neighed beneath him. Resisting the reins, Llamrie reared up beneath him. But Arthur did not care. He dug his heels into the steed’s side, insisting the horse continue. Arthur was unwilling to give in; ignoring the protests of his mount, he would not admit defeat. Gripping the leathers in his right hand, he slapped the strap back and forth from one side to the other, demanding the horse to offer more speed. But the pace and weight were too much. Finally, the stallion rose up onto his hind legs, bucking and shaking violently in a futile attempt to dispel the rider tormenting him. Foam began to froth from the stallion’s lips and Arthur had no choice. The horse could not continue; Arthur had pushed him to the brink and could demand no more. His head sank between his shoulders as he cried out in agony, blaming himself for his sister’s sure torture. He thought not of her nor her safety when he’d commanded her to come to court. She was offered as a beacon of light to his men, leading them into battle. Now it had cost her freedom and most likely her life. Arthur was not immune to the history of the Vikings. He had heard tales of their brutality and inhumanity. The Norse people were feared above all others, not only for the tales of their viciousness and cruelty, but for the legends in his lands. Tales of horned-devils riding off with women were not unusual and now his sister would surely be tormented by one such beast—her life would be forfeit, and all for what?
He threw back his head, letting a cry spring out of him as he implored the heavens, “My God spare her.” When he opened his eyes again, it was to the blazing sun above him. The white-hot orb in the sky beating down on him, blinding him like a sparkling jewel in the sky… Perhaps, he told himself, I can bargain with the Danish prince. Morgaine was a valuable gem; surely he could offer a bribe, something worthy of the trade. There must be a price the callous devil could not refuse.
Together they rode on, through the night and the next morning, until Morgaine had to stop.
“Please,” she whispered, her voice cracking from dehydration. “I need to stop.”
He grinned, pulling back on the reins. They immediately came to a stop. Without a word of warning, he shifted his weight and swung his leg back and over the hind end of his stallion, jumping back in one swift motion. He stood before her on the ground before she realized what had happened. Holding out his hand, he helped her dismount. “Had I known you were weakened by our journey, I would have stopped sooner.”
“I am not weak,” she insisted, her voice suddenly strong and confident. “But I am a woman and have certain needs.”
His eyes sparkled as he grinned devilishly. “Fair maiden,” he chuckled, “I had no idea.” And he did not need to say another word; she knew he was taunting her, provoking her to see what she would do.
She gave him an icy look and witnessed the shiver it sent through him, “Do not flatter yourself so. It is not that sort of need I require but a moment alone.”
He looked around, assessing her ability to escape him, but there was nowhere to hide. They were standing in a desolate field, littered with sharp rocks and pebbles, as if this had once been a land buried beneath water.
“I have no intentions of running away,” she told him the truth.
He smiled. “That is well, then go take your moment alone; but if you change your mind about being alone, call out and I will come to you.”
“You are a foolhardy man,” she mumbled, slipping behind a large rock so his vision was shielded.
When she was finished, she came back to find him setting up camp in the center of a clearing between the rocks. The sun was quickly setting and an icy chill ran through her.
He nodded. “Come, join me by the fire.”
It was no use arguing, she longed to feel the warmth from the flames. Yet she hesitated.
Shaking his head, he told her, “You have no need to be afraid of me. I have no intentions of harming you.”
“Then what are your intentions?” She asked pointedly, wanting to know.
“I…” He stopped to look down at her. “It is a good question. I had no plans to take you.”
“Then why did you?”
He laughed. “So many questions.”
“Well, what are your answers?”
He grinned. “Yet another question.”
“Please, tell me what you intend to do with me—I think I deserve that much.”
“Come, join me by the fire and I will try.” He nodded for her to come closer.
She nodded, agreeing, and slowly slipped up beside him.
He looked at her shivering. Quickly moving to his horse, he grabbed a wool blanket out of the side bag and drew it over her, holding his arms tightly wrapped around her like a cloak. After a moment, her body stilled, and he moved back away from her.
“Thank you,” she said.
“It was nothing, my dear,” he said with a smile that warmed her more than the blanket. The heat rose in her belly, moving up into her chest. Suddenly she was angry at the powerful effect this man had on her senses, her body, and even her emotions.
“Nothing,” she snapped back at him, repeating his response. Shaking her head, she wondered how one minute he could be so irritating and so kind the next. Then sitting down on a flat rock laying close to the fire, she asked him, “Will you tell me now…?”
He smiled at her persistence. “I will tell you what I can because I am not sure I have all the answers you seek. It was not a plan, and there were no intentions. I saw you on the battlefield and I wanted you. That is all.”
Frowning, she asked, “And do you always get what you want?”
He grinned sardonically, his eyes sparkling like sapphire gems as he answered with one simple word. “Yes.”
“Well, then—” she was taken a bit by surprise, “—now that you have me, what do you intend to do with me?”
“As I said, my mind is not made up,” he told her, and she could see the sincerity in his eyes.
“You have not—” and he interrupted her in mid-sentence.
“No. But I’ll let you know as soon as I decide. Now, I think we should get some rest,” he told her, nodding toward a spot next to the fire he had cleared of all rocks and pebbles.
He grinned, “Do not worry. It is you I want to get some rest,” he told her. “The horse needs water and I need to brush him down.”
The next morning, when she awoke, he was already up and waiting for her. The horse stood saddled, looking fresh and ready to go.
Holger handed her a pouch of dried fruit and a bag filled with water, “Eat,” he insisted and she saw no reason to argue. “We will want to get going before the sun is straight in the sky.” She could already feel the air warming. It would be a scorching day.
Taking a bite of the fruit, she was surprised by the rich flavor. The skin of the date ripped open, sending a flood of sweet warmth washing over her tongue. She flipped it over, working it around in her mouth, not ready to swallow until all the flavor was extracted.
He nodded and she jumped up, pulling on her fine embroidered linens.
“There is no need for those,” he told her, taking her mail and warrior weapons away.
“They are mine,” she insisted, a wave of emotion washing over her.
Looking at her, and seeing her reaction, he tried to calm her. “Weapons will not protect you from me and I have no desire to hurt you. As I have said before, it is not my intention to harm you.”
She wondered at his words, looking at the muscles rippling over his body. He was a warrior worthy of fear but he had given her his word and she knew enough of Vikings to know they valued their oaths more than life.
After a moment they were on their way again, riding toward some unknown destination that only he knew.
Morgaine could feel his leg sitting side by side against hers, jostling her up and down then back and forth. His bare flesh rubbed against her thigh. The heat from his skin was unsettling to Morgaine; branding her senses; this rough and rowdy ride excited her and she savored every moment as they rode on through the day.
Darkness rolled across the night sky, shadows spilled one on top of the other, like waves upon the sand until all traces of light were washed away. Nightfall worked its way over the horizon, reaching out and spreading slowly like the wings of a raven gliding upon the wind.
Morgaine had never felt like this before. She savored the warmth of this man’s touch, longed to feel his body pressed up against hers, and yet she knew it was wrong. He was her enemy. But for the moment, it did not matter. She was helpless, so out of control, with this man’s arms wrapped around her, holding her prisoner. She had never faced such a situation before. No words, no incantations or herbs, and somehow he had complete control over her will, her mind and, yes, all of her senses.
Impossible, she whispered.
“What is impossible?” he whispered in her ear and the aroma of his breath teased her senses. It was warm and salty, soothing as an ocean breeze washing over her face.
More magic, she assured herself. Her patience waning.
“Answer me, woman,” he demanded.
“That you have taken me captive and then attempt to comfort me.”
He laughed at her, making her senses bristle.
She was not amused. “Am I humorous?”
“It is true I have heard you are many things,” he replied, “but humor has never been cited as one of your many virtues.”
“First you laugh at me, and then you belittle me. Is this the way you treat all women?”
He pulled back on the reins. His horse slid to an immediate standstill. Then, burying his face into her hair, he whispered in her ear, “I have shown enormous restraint. Would you like me to show you how I treat all women?”
The burning ember inside her flared to a flame. The muscles low in her belly tightened, as she clenched her legs tighter, wrapping them around his steed.
Sucking air into her lungs, she felt the immediate pulse of desire race through the core of her body. She wanted to reach back over her head and wrap her arms around his neck, to pull him even closer. It was all she could do to hold her tongue and keep from begging him, when all she wanted to say was, “Yes, yes, please show me.”
Her body motionless, she could feel the warmth of him as his hands grew bold, slipping beneath the soft linens covering her, his fingers gently gliding up over her stomach, travelling and edging up…
A voice whispered inside her head. What are you doing? This man is your enemy. He intends to kill you, your brother, everyone you love…
She grabbed his wrist, holding him still and steady.
“You have caught me, kidnapped me, and dragged me here. I may be your prisoner, but do not think that I am interested in your advances.”
His body tensed. He pulled back his hands, gripping her firmly about the waist. “I am the prince over all the Norse lands and have never had a woman decline the privilege of being my lover.”
“Prince or pauper, it matters not to me what rank you hold,” she scoffed at him, “I, too, am highborn and accustomed to many privileges.” She snapped back, unwilling to let him bask in his own conceit. “And being your lover is not a privilege I would prize.”
“Perhaps,” he said, softening his touch. Slowly he ran his finger down the length of her neck, taunting her. “But are you accustomed to this?” He swung her around to face him; his mouth moved to her neck, gently caressing her throat with his lips and tongue.
The warrior with the devil’s horns was surprisingly gentle and tender with his affections.
Morgaine could not contain her pleasure. A small sigh moved up from her throat, over her lips, unexpectedly escaping into the air.
“This is nothing,” he whispered against her flesh, his hand moving down over her navel. Travelling downward. “After your shrill tongue and insults, the next time you will have to beg for my attentions.”
His tone shocked her back into the present. No man had ever spoken to her in this manner. He had no idea of her power. She was not some peasant he could toy with. Morgaine Le Fey was a princess, the sister of King Arthur. It was her turn to laugh…and it burst forth out of her loud and hard. He must not know of her talents. She was the most powerful sorceress in Camelot and perhaps a dozen other kingdoms.
“Me? Beg? To think you will ever witness such an act from me,” she started to say but then shook her head and continued, “You must be more than foolish.”
“We will see,” he said, sounding more arrogant and insolent than ever.
“Yes, we shall see,” she replied insolently.
Sneering, he gave his horse a nudge and they continued riding.
It wasn’t so very long until in the distance, a light appeared on the horizon.
“We are nearly there,” he told her, nodding his head as he leaned into her so she would have to turn to see the camp up ahead. “It will not be long now,” he said, running his hand through her cinnamon-colored hair.
The thought ran through her head: where is there and what is it?
“There?” She asked, nodding in the direction of the light.
“Yes,” he told her, “we are almost home."