A Glibertarians Exclusive:  Season of Ice II

Next morning

Loading the longboat, seeing to the settling of supplies, and making away from the coast by nightfall had consumed Hengist’s attention since he and his men had reached the sea.  He had only attended his captive twice, and then only to untie her wrists and ankles long enough to enable her to use a pisspot, after which he had bound her again and left her against the side of the boat near the steering-tiller at the stern, where she keenly felt his eyes on her.

At mid-morning Jorgunn spelled Hengist at the tiller.  With a few spare moments and the rest of the raiding fleet in sight on the horizon, Hengist breathed a long sigh of relief and finally went to speak to his captive.

“I am Hengist,” he told her, in passable Beretanian.  “Henceforth, you are mine.  Do you understand?”

“Your slave, you mean,” the girl snarled, replying in Hengist’s own tongue.  In the night, her fear and shock had obviously turned to anger.

“If you like.  Worry not that I will sell you to the slave traders, even though a pretty one like you would fetch a good price. No, you are mine, and mine you will stay.  I have no woman to tend my house and fire.  You should do nicely.”

Suddenly he produced a knife and cut her bonds.  She tensed, as though to spring at him.

Hengist chuckled.  He tossed the knife at her feet.  “Go on,” he said.  “Pick it up.  Try to stab me.  I won’t resist.”

She picked up the knife but found it quite impossible to move towards him with it.

“I told you, I put on you a binding collar.  You may do me no harm, not while the collar is on you, by magic or mundane means.  You may use no magic at all, for any reason.  And only I can remove it.  So, get used to that fact.”

“I suppose I can look forward to more rape.”

“I would have you serve me as a woman in all ways,” Hengist replied.  “I prefer you do so willingly, and I will treat you gently if you only would.  But willing or not, you will tend my house and warm my bed.  I am not a rich man, but I have a comfortable house on a lake in the northlands.  My fields are fertile, the forests around them are rich with game and furs, and my lake has many fish.  I promise you this; you will never know hunger.”

“Given that I have no choice, what can I do but submit?”

“You are a smart one,” Hengist allowed.  “Now then:  What is your name?”

The girl scowled for a moment, as though reluctant to give even that small bit of information; but after a moment, her face showed resignation.  “My name is Mabinne.   Mabinne Madone.”

“Well met, Mabinne,” Hengist bowed his head formally.  “I am sure that, once you get to know me, we will get along well enough.”

“I suppose we’ll find out,” Mabinne said, and to herself, I am sure you think so, but I will never, ever forgive the murderer of my husband.

“Make yourself as comfortable as you can, then,” Hengist ordered.  “We will be with the rest of the summer fleet by nightfall, and in ten days we’ll be at Port Stronghold in Ikslund.  There I will reclaim my horses and wagon from the boarding stable, and in four more days you’ll see your new home.  And now, my sweet, if you will excuse me, I have a ship to run.”  He nodded at her and moved off.

The ten-day at sea seemed to pass like summer lightning.  At night, Hengist came to her with a heavy fur robe and spread it to cover them both, sleeping beside her.  Through the first night Mabinne lay rigidly awake, expecting another rape, but Hengist simply fell, pulled her close, wrapped the fur around them both, and quickly fell to snoring.  This pattern held for the next nine nights, whether due to the Ikslunder wishing her to accept his presence or simply his unwillingness to perform for his men in the open longboat, she never knew.  By the third night she managed to sleep the night through, and by the tenth, as the longboat moved into the frigid Never-Summer Sea, she was beginning to appreciate the big Northman’s warmth.

On the morning of the eleventh day in the longboat, the summer fleet hove into view of the massive fortifications guarding the entry of Ikslund’s principal harbor, Port Stronghold.

Mabinne was seated in the longboat near where Hengist was manning the steering-tiller.  She had heard of the great trading port of the north but could have hardly imagined the narrow inlet passing though great cliffs, enclosed further with massive stone walls; armed men stood atop the walls, manning siege weapons intended to stand off any hostile seafarers.

Mabinne was wrapped in the huge fur robe, which Hengist had explained was taken from a great bison of the northern interior’s taiga; he had given her the fur as a gift.  “You’ll appreciate it,” he informed her, adding “summer it may be, but the nights in Ikslund are cold even now.”

Hengist had discovered he enjoyed watching Mabinne.  She had regained her composure, cleaned herself up as best as possible in the longboat, and even borrowed a hair-pick from Hengist to comb the tangles out of her long brown hair.  She was looking forward now, staring in amazement at the massive stone walls enclosing the only entry into Port Stronghold; as the summer fleet approached, horns were blown in a prearranged signal, and the great chain across the harbor mouth was lowered into the water to allow passage.  Sails were furled and the fleet’s men took over oars to move the ships into shelter.  A stiff breeze was blowing across the gate, making Mabinne’s hair whip out like the battle flag on an Ashlands trireme.  Her eyes were wide, her mouth, with its full lips, slightly open…

… Hengist felt himself growing hard inside his leather trousers.  I must get her home soon, he thought to himself.

The fleet entered the harbor.   Hengist turned for a moment to watch the chain being drawn slowly back into place after the last of the summer raider longboats passed, and then turned his attention to his own boat.

“On to the oars.”  Hengist ordered.  “Medium cadence, you lot.  We’re home.”

He looked down from the tiller to see Mabinne looking his way.  “We’ll stay here in Port Stronghold tonight, perhaps tomorrow,” he told her.  “I have booty to sell, and I must get my horses and wagon out of the boarding stable.  Then we’ll be away to my home.”

Mabinne simply nodded, expressionless.

Port Stronghold was the only real city in the far north and was a major trading center for traffic passing through the Never-Summer Sea on their way to the western domains of Mondria and Juteland.  Mabinne had known this, but the knowledge didn’t prepare her for the bustling docks and marketplaces of the northern city.  Everywhere was activity – shouting, cursing, the banging of oars against wooden longboat hulls, the scraping of boats against the stone jetties as they tied up, the happy shouts of men setting foot on solid ground for the first time in several days.

When Hengist’s longboat docked, young roustabouts swarmed aboard.  Hengist grabbed three of them, pressed a gold coin into each youth’s hand.  “My wares,” he told them, indicating his three large leather bags of spoils.  “Take them to Kal Gunderson’s shop on the canal.  Not a bit of booty goes missing, you young whelps, do you hear?”

“Have not a care, Chief,” the oldest of the three replied, sketching a rough salute with one finger against his eyebrow.  “One piece missing, me and mine, we starve – word of thieves gets around fast here, eh?  Don’t worry, we’ll get it all there, every piece.  Come on, brothers, we’ve work.”  The three gathered up Hengist’s loot and scampered ashore, the weight of the booty seeming to inconvenience them not at all.  On Hengist’s longboat and the others, similar arrangements were being made by the other raiders – clearly it was going to be a profitable trip.

As Mabinne was pondering the irony of Hengist’s worries about the thieving of his stolen loot, she was mildly startled when the man himself suddenly spoke to her.

“Come,” he said gently, extending a hand to help her to her feet.  “There’s an inn.  It’s not far.  We’ll stay there tonight, maybe two nights, while I conduct my business here.”

She examined the extended hand for a moment.  Then she looked up at the man.  His face was carefully neutral, but there was no threat in his pose and no anger or lust in his eyes, only a strange, speculative look.  She took the hand.

Hengist looked her up and down.  Mabinne was still wearing the simple dress and ankle-high shoes she was wearing when captured; the only addition to her wardrobe had been the heavy bison robe.  Her Beretanian clothes were clearly the worse for wear.  “You need some new clothes,” Hengist decided.  “Warm clothes.  A coat, new boots.  We’ll take care of that one the way to the inn.”

He proved a man of his word.  First, he bought four skewers of cooked venison from a street vendor; Mabinne ate hers slowly, carefully, while Hengist wolfed his three portions in half the time she took with one.

Then he led her down a side street and into a large square that seemed to be taken up entirely with clothing vendors, all shouting, all protesting, haggling, calling to passerby.

Hengist quickly singled out one merchant, and after a great deal of shouting, cursing, haggling, thinly veiled threats and, finally, an agreement, Mabinne had five sets of new clothing:

  • Three sets of stout leather leggings paired with hip-length tunics, an attire that would have been mildly scandalous in Beretan but, from Mabinne’s observation, seemed to be something of a uniform for the women of Ikslund.
  • Two new ankle-length dresses of a thick, rich wool, one died a deep dark red, the other a brilliant blue; Mabinne raised an eyebrow at that expense until Hengist explained: “For receiving visitors, holidays, trips into the city and so forth. I’m not a poor man, and fine clothes show you are valued, respected.”  Mabinne raised a sardonic eyebrow at that, which Hengist ignored.
  • Two pairs of boots, one stout pair of heavy bull hide for everyday use and outdoor work and travel; the second of finely worked, butter-soft calfskin, to go with the fine dresses.
  • A long, heavy coat, that came down to well past Mabinne’s knees; heavy leather lined with sheepskin, it seemed stout enough to withstand an Ikslund blizzard, and Mabinne had no doubt it was intended for precisely that eventuality.

Along with the clothes, Hengist insisted that Mabinne select what undergarments and foot wraps suited her.

Burdened with this, and with evening drawing near, they proceeded to the inn.  The proprietor was an old friend of Hengist’s, which entitled the raider to a large room at the top of a narrow set of stairs – with a door that locked from without.  The room was big, with a round table and two chairs, a fireplace with a fire already cheerfully crackling away, and large bed covered with heavy quilts.

Mabinne entered the room with some apprehension about spending her first night alone with the big Northman, but Hengist simply ushered her into the room, placed her clothing parcels on the bed, then stood apologetically in the doorway.

“It is tradition,” he said, “to spend the evening drinking and feasting with my men.  I feel sure you would like an evening alone, to compose yourself.  I will have Fals downstairs bring you some supper.  I apologize for the need to lock the door, but even in the inn, this city is not always safe for a woman alone – I’m sure you understand.”

I understand you don’t want me trying to escape, Mabinne thought.  I understand you don’t want my trying to find a magic user to get this collar off my neck.

Still – he is trying to be considerate, or what passes for it among his people.

“So, I must be off.  I will be back quite late, I’m afraid.  I will try not to disturb you.”

I wonder if that means he won’t rape me again until tomorrow night?

Hengist made no indication he knew what Mabinne was thinking.  He simply blinked twice, reached into his long coat, and extracted one more parcel.  “Here,” he said.  “You may open this after I’ve gone, if you like.”  He nodded and stepped out, closing the door behind him; Mabinne heard the clicking of the key in the lock.

She examined the door briefly.  It was heavy, of stout oak framed with iron straps; she doubted even Hengist could break it open.  The windows looked out on the street but were too narrow to crawl out of and too high to drop down from in any case.  The room was clearly meant to imprison; it was a comfortable prison, but a prison all the same.

She remembered the parcel.  She retrieved it from the table where she had dropped it to examine the room.

Undoing the leather ties, she unwrapped the cheap leather enclosing what felt like another article of clothing, but she was not prepared for what she found – a knee-length, sleeveless nightgown of rich, deep blue, beautifully embroidered with red and black patterns.

The implications of that gift made her shudder for a moment – Hengist clearly meant her to wear it to bed with him – but at the same time she could not help to wonder, what sort of a man dresses a slave so richly?  What does he want of me?