Sneak peak of Bonded to the Berserkers

Laurel

The first scream came from the dormitory. Loud and ear-splitting, it rang through the kitchen where I stood with my arms elbow-deep in soapy water.

“Curses,” I muttered, grabbing a cloth to wipe my hands. Who was awake and shouting at this late hour? Which one of the orphans had cried out? We all knew to stay quiet, even when being punished.

Sage rushed in from the back hall. She was my age, but small and frail, and much too thin.

“What is it? What is happening?” I asked.

“Somebody cried out,” she said. “One of the girls must be having a nightmare.”

That could not be it. No orphan would dare. Sage’s creased forehead told me she shared my thoughts.

Footsteps stomped up the hall—the friar coming to investigate. He would be angry at being disturbed. I’d drugged his draught that night, but obviously not enough.

Out of habit, I grabbed the mead jug, ready to refill his cup and placate him.

Another shriek rang out.

“What’s going on?” the friar roared from beyond the inner door. Sage shot forward, passing through the kitchen to hasten outside. I didn’t blame her. The friar would want answers, and while he treated me well enough—I was the only one who could make his favorite meals—Sage often bore the brunt of his rage.

Still, I backed into the corner. Maybe, in his haste, the friar wouldn’t see me, and Sage would also get away.  

“Sage!” the friar entered the kitchen, to be greeted with another chorus of cries from the outside. Something was happening. Something was wrong.

Another scream from just beyond the door. This time, it sounded like Sage. The friar turned white.

“It’s happening,” he muttered.

“What?” I pushed away from the corner, grabbing the closest thing I could to use to defend myself—a pot. “What’s happening?”

But the friar turned and ran back the way he came, robes flying and sandals flapping.

The door to the outside banged open. But it was only Sage, backing away from the door, her face pale as the moon.

I gulped in a breath as a bearded giant entered the kitchen. He ducked through the doorway and rose up, taller than the tallest man I’d ever seen. Almost twice as tall as any orphan. He loomed over Sage, and then stepped aside, making room for his companion to slip inside. A massive grey wolf.

If this was a nightmare, we were all having it, all at once. My grip tightened on the pot.

“Please,” Sage said. “Do not hurt us.” She shook but stood her ground.

“No one will hurt them,” the warrior said, his voice a gravelly rumble.  

“Leave them be,” Sage croaked.

The warrior advanced, the wolf stalking forward with him.

Sage glanced at me, and then away. She was so brave, and unwilling to give me up. The warrior had eyes for only her.

I had to help.

I inched from the corner, trying to get closer without attracting attention. More pots sat stacked on a shelf. If I threw the one I held, I could quickly grab another.

The warrior was talking to Sage, who looked as if she might faint. I didn’t catch what he said in his deep, growling voice.

“If you leave the others alone, I’ll come with you,” she answered. Brave, sweet Sage, always trying to save others, at the risk of herself. I wouldn’t let her be taken, not without giving her a chance of escape.

I took a deep breath.

The warrior gave up talking and reached for my friend.

I flung the pot as hard as I could.

 

*

 

Ulf

 

Do you smell that? My warrior brother, Haakon, nudged me. We stood outside the abbey, waiting amid the ranks of the Berserkers to claim our prize. The woman we’d waited over a hundred years to find.

Our mate.

What do you smell? I asked, using the private link that connected his mind to mine.

A scent like…flowers. Blossoms.

I sniffed the air. The scent was spicy and pungent. But there was a hint of floral sweetness.

There, I pointed to a wing of the great stone building, the part at the foot of a tall tower. The scent comes from there.

But, Haakon nodded to the second half of the building, long and low with a few windows. The main sleeping area is there. That’s where most of the women are.

I grunted. As we watched, our Berserker brethren broke down the door of the building Haakon pointed at. The warriors rushed in to claim the precious treasure inside.

“We must wait,” I told Haakon. “Thorbjorn ordered us to keep watch for any guards.”  

“There are no guards. These fools don’t know what treasure they possess,” Haakon snorted. “They do not protect these women. We will take them, and keep them safe.”

Glass shattered outward, showering the dark lawn. Warriors leapt out of the dormitory through the windows, now carrying small white bundles in their arms. Spaewives. Women with a magic deep inside, magic that would break the Berserker curse. Some of them screamed, some cried, some cursed and fought. By the end of the night they’d all be claimed as Berserker brides.

“Enough waiting,” Haakon hooked his axe into his belt. “Let’s go.”

Following the floral scent, we ran forward to claim our mate.

*

Laurel

 

The warrior struck down the pot, swatting it as easily as a gnat.  I shrank back but he gave me barely a glance before  returning his attention to Sage. The wolf barked.

I reached for another pot.

“Leave her alone,” I screamed, banging on the pot before I threw it. I grabbed up two more. I was fast running out of things to throw. Not that they did any good.

Sage shook awake and ran back down the hall. Frowning, the bearded warrior stalked after her. I swung a heavy cauldron and let it fly, hoping it’d hit his head.

Instead, it glanced off an axe, clanging to the ground and rolling harmlessly away. Two more warriors entered, crowding the small space.

“Go. I’ve got this one,” the new warrior, the one who’d deflected my missile, told the bearded one.

Run, Sage, I thought as the bearded warrior and wolf went after my friend. But then I turned my attention to the two warriors closing in on me.

*

Haakon

This is the one. I told Ulf, using the private link between our minds. In the century we’d shared the bond, I’d never felt such a rush of triumph. The beast in my breast crowed at the sight of the woman backed into the corner.

“Stay away,” the woman growled, as brave as any wolf. She caught up a pan and threw it. I jumped out of the way, and it hit Ulf, who cursed.

“Watch her, Ulf,” I laughed. “She’s a fighter.”

“I mean it,” she looked around in desperation, perhaps looking for another thing to throw.

She is our mate, I said silently to Ulf, who confirmed it with a nod. He kept his head turned, hiding his burn scars. Perhaps he didn’t want to scare her anymore than she was.

Not that she seemed frightened.

She was lovely, with  dark hair, flushed cheeks, a bosom that jiggled enticingly. I had to pause and breath in her scent. Sweet as a mountain blossom, with a touch of spice and smoke. I took a deep breath and caught another, disgusting smell. Cabbage?

“Calm yourself, beautiful. You’re coming with us,” I told her. “But you have nothing to fear.”

Her chest heaved up and down. She wore a little dress, not much, just a thin shift on this hot summer night. Did the holy man make her stand there in nothing but her night clothes? Did he like to look on her?

Jealousy gripped me. Ulf felt it, too. No one should look on our mate but us.

I took a step forward.

“Leave me,” she said. Her eyes darted around the room, looking for escape. She inched away from me, her bosom straining under the fabric of her shift. Such a nice bosom, two bountiful globes with dusky nipples pressing on the thin cloth. I could easily hold each breast in my hand, cupping their warm weight, soothing and teasing the nipples with my thumbs right before bending down and sucking the peaks into my mouth. Our beautiful mate would writhe and cry in pleasure. She’d try to stop me and I’d pin her arms–

Haakon, Ulf said. You’re distracted.

“Your home is under attack,” I told her bosom. “You cannot stay here. You will come with us and be safe.”

“Never,” she growled, fierce as a she wolf. She was lovely, our mate. Green eyes, black hair, and a bosom to make angels weep. To make holy men break their vows.

The beast within roared to life. It would not rest until she was marked as mine.

Haakon, you must not lose control.

“Come here,” I ordered her.

Instead, she looked to the left, to the giant cauldron sitting on the fire.

“Do not—” I began, but too late. She leapt onto the great hearth and kicked away the logs supporting the giant pot, yelping as sparks singed her bare feet.

“No,” Ulf thundered, as the cauldron tipped and gallons of stinking, steaming liquid gushed over the edge, splashing onto the floor.

 

*

Laurel

 

I rushed from the hearth, sloshing through cabbage soup.  The warriors bellowed in my wake. If I got to the pantry, I could barricade myself in. There was food there, I could eat for days. I could hide.

Strong arms closed around my waist and swung me back.

“Got you,” a warrior said. I howled and kicked. Somehow my foot connected with the right place, and the warrior dropped me. I trembled as I backed away. He was fine-looking, with brown hair streaked with gold, tanned skin. Fierce, golden eyes. Strange eyes—like a wolf.

His gaze fell on my breasts, and  I cursed the fact that I’d stripped off my dress. It was so hot in the kitchens, I liked to wear my shift when I knew I’d be alone.

“Come on, little fighter,” the handsome warrior coaxed. “It is not safe for you here. We came to rescue you.”

“What?” I half sobbed. My feet throbbed from the hot broth. I almost slipped on the soup- covered flagstones, and landed half on the hearth, reaching towards the fire. If I got close enough, I could grab up a burning stick and rush them–

“Enough,” growled a second warrior, pulling me towards him. I froze. He was ugly, a harsh scar marring half his face. I recoiled and he growled again, and caught me in his arms.

“Stop, Ulf, you’re scaring her.” That came from the handsome one.

Ulf grunted and pushed me forward. “Take her, then, Haakon.”

Grinning like he’d won a prize, the handsome warrior Haakon bent so his shoulder hit my middle, and then I was up, up, over his shoulder hanging half down his back, squawking like a goose about to be cooked.

“Stop! What are you—”

“Quiet,” a hand clapped on my bottom. I hissed at this outrage, and the hand caressed my right buttock instead. I almost started shrieking, but a draft hit my face. We were outside.

Muffled sobs and cries came from all around. The moonlight illuminated quite a scene. Large warriors milled about the abbey grounds, some held my friends—the orphans. One giant went by, dragging one of the nuns, who railed and fought him. Sister Juliet—a kind young woman who’d grown up in the orphanage until she took vows. She screamed as he tossed her up over his shoulder and strode into the forest.

“Let me go,” I struggled, beating my fists against the warrior’s back. My hands might as well been flowers for all the damage they did to the leather jerkin he wore or the powerful muscles of his back.

He gave a great leap, and landed atop the abbey wall. My stomach flipped and I screamed, but only crouched and leapt from the wall. Cradling me in his arms, Haakon jogged across the road and plunged into the forest. Trees blocked my view of the abbey, and just like that, the home I’d known all my life was gone.

Speak Your Mind

*