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Forum Saradas  |  Female Muscle Art - Female Muscle Fiction  |  Muscular Women Fiction  |  Conquering Vinland
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Author Topic: Conquering Vinland  (Read 11905 times)

Offline bertmacklinsbrother

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Re: Conquering Vinland
« Reply #30 on: October 14, 2021, 06:51:55 pm »
Lady Cassandra, crested over the waters, the hulls creaking as it bobbed across a particularly large wave.  Freydis wasn’t sure why Sten gave his boat a woman’s name. No doubt one of the many useless cultural habits he picked up while galavanting through Europe and the Mediterranean Sea on his trade routes.  Naming a ship something so lewd seemed ridiculous.  Then again, Sten naming his possessions after his sexual conquests was absolutely something that Sten would do, so Freydis couldn’t be completely shocked.

The vessel skirted the western coast of Greenland and then headed north towards the unclaimed island Freya had depicted in the snow.  Since then, Freydis had replayed the interaction with the goddess in her head several times, and even recounted the entire story to Sten.  And of course, ever the nihilist, he didn’t believe a word of it.

“Are you sure this ship will hold together?” Freydis questioned, hanging tight to the railing as they soared over another oversized water peak.

The waters were particularly dark today, ominously reflecting the grey skies above.  Sten sidled up next to Freydis, his short hair smelling of fruits and lavender.  He looked up at her with long, dark lashes and brandished his dangerous, perfect smile up towards her, which caused a warmth to spread in her chest.

It wasn’t that Sten was shorter than the average man by much; rather it was Freydis uncommon height that made the two appear odd while side by side.  Standing next to one another, she was always reminded of her unconventionally brutish stature, especially when compared to his more delicate build.  Was it odd that it made her uncomfortable and proud at the same time?  Within her, the woman and the warrior were in constant conflict; one wanting to be loved and held, while the other wanted to be feared and respected.

“Lady Cassandra has been through it all,” Sten beamed, “She’ll get us to your magical island, don’t you worry.”

Freydis ignored the sacrilegious comment, as well as her urge to punch Sten in the shoulder. 

“Lady Cassandra is a ridiculous name for a ship,” Freydis snorted, “And it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.  She sounds like a pompous European brothel owner, not a fierce conqueror of the seas.”

“Well,” Sten smirked, “If you’d known as many brothel owners as I have, you’d know just how fierce they can be.  And when you have a ship of your own, you can name her whatever you’d like.  In fact, I’m curious to know; what would you name your ship?”

“I don’t know,” she shrugged, “Freydis’s Ship.”

Sten scoffed so hard he almost began to cough.

“Wait, really?” Sten said, blinking, “If you had a ship to call your own, you’d name it Freydis’s Ship?”

“Yes,” Freydis responded sternly with a frown.

“Oh my dear,” Sten clicked his tongue, “You lack so much imagination.  Someday I’m going to take you away from our little rock of ice you call a home, so you can actually see the world.  Maybe then you’d lighten up… at least a little.”

Freydis simply shrugged her shoulders and tossed her braid of red hair to the side.  She always played with her braid when she was anxious.  Why was she anxious?  She peered down towards Sten, who was suddenly standing uncomfortably close as they overlooked the horizon.

Right.  That would explain it.

Sten quickly slapped at Freydis hand, which had begun subconsciously whittling into the wooden railing with her throwing axe, an act that apparently was not allowed aboard Lady Cassandra.  Freydis had a habit of making notches and etchings into things; ships, tables, chairs, floorboards.  But unlike most places Freydis inhabited, Sten’s ship was orderly, clean, and relatively unmarked.  Not to mention it smelled of roasted nuts and flowers, rather than sweat, burning logs, and farm animals. 

She let out a sigh and slid the small axe back into its side holster.  Sten was doing her a favor; the least she could do was not destroy his boat.

“Why are you helping me?” Freydis found herself asking before the silence between them had a chance to settle.

Freydis had come to Sten in secret, telling him about her conversation with the goddess and her instructions to navigate to the unclaimed island to the north.  While Sten, ever the pragmatist, seemed to think her delusional, he still offered up his ship.  Despite risking the untameable sea on a stormy afternoon, as well as treason for aiding the woman whose plan was to overthrow the Jarl, Sten had been all too eager to be part of Freydis’s adventure.

He gazed up at her, his eyes sparkling, face serious for a moment before relaxing into a jovial smile.

“Entirely selfish reasons,” Sten smirked, “An unfortunate cut of my trade income is given to Jarl Leif every season.  A change in leadership gives me every opportunity to renegotiate my agreement.”

“And if we end up at the bottom of these waters instead?” Freydis asked, clinging to the railing as the ship crested yet another unnaturally large wave.

Sten’s arm reached across her back and caught her, steadying her wavering frame.  As a warrior, Freydis had spent her life sailing on warships.  She was used to it.  But she had never been on a vessel so small; she felt exposed to the harsh winds and the waves that slammed against the sides of the hull, rocking the entire ship back and forth violently.  Typically, even the worst of storms were hardly unsettling when the ship was sturdy enough.  But the way this boat rocked helplessly on the turbulent water made Fredyis’s stomach lurch.

“I already told you,” Sten laughed, “Lady Cassandra is the best ship on the seas.  We’re taking a little trip over to a neighboring island; this is nothing compared to my voyages to Frankia or Wessex.”

Freydis continued to frown.  She didn’t like the sight of the storm that continued to brew on the horizon; dark grey clouds that churned and twisted, occasionally flashing green with Thor’s lightning.  It almost felt like the gods didn’t want her on this journey.  They were angry at her for seeking out this power.  Why then had Freya been so eager to send her?  Would she not have the gods’ blessing?

“So,” Sten breathed, “You never told me why we have to go to this island.”

“I told you everything about meeting Freya and her spell to grant me the strength to overthrow my brother.”

“Yes,” Sten said, rubbing his freshly shaved chin, “But, why the island?  Didn’t her spell give you the power you were looking for?  Also, what did she mean by ‘power’?  Are you going to be able to throw fire like Surtur?  Or emit pure light from your eyes like Tyr?  Or perhaps you’ll be able to transform into a mighty bear and eat all your enemies!”

Sten wiggled his fingers in front of his face, making mystical sound effects.  Somehow, despite how foolish he looked, Freydis found herself smiling.  Sten beamed with satisfaction, which of course infuriated Freydis, so she quickly returned to her usual stoic demeanor.

“I do not know,” she admitted, “I only know that I must go to the island.  The chant in the goddess’s ancient language was difficult to comprehend, but Freya told me the island contains a trial, which I must overcome to finish the spell.  To be honest, I’m not at all sure what I will find or what will become of me.”

“Well,” Sten sighed, leaning further into the railing of the ship, overlooking the dark waters, “I hope your goddess isn’t sending you on a wild chase.  I’ve traveled these waters more than most, and there is nothing on that island but ice.”

“You could say the same about Greenland,” Freydis scoffed, which prompted a chuckle from Sten.

Lady Cassandra rocked and creaked, the waters unsettling even further the closer they got to the island.  By the time they were approaching the shore, a cold rain was pouring down over them and the waves had become as tall as men.  The ship climbed and plummeted over each wave, pulling them in unexpected directions.  Sten maintained the course as Freydis used every ounce of strength she had to keep the sail ropes steady, as she fought against the whipping wind.

Sten shouted to her, his voice barely audible over the thunder.  Though she could hardly hear him, she understood what he was trying to tell her.  They wouldn’t be able to get any closer to land in this storm.  And that meant she would have to swim the rest of the way.  It wouldn’t be a long swim by any means… at least not during a calm summer day.  But in this season and in these elements, fighting against the waves and the dangerously cold waters could certainly kill her.

But death was a foe she had faced many times, and she wasn’t about to give up now.  While Freya’s instructions were cryptic, one thing remained certain; the power she sought would not come to her easily.  Freydis would have to earn it.

Freydis tightened the leather straps on her gear, ensuring her hand axe and armor were securely fastened.  Luckily she hadn’t put on her heavy battle armor and instead wore something lighter.  She removed her heavy fur cloak and left it on the ship.  As cold as it would be without it, it would only slow her down in the water; besides, wearing a sopping wet cloak in such cold weather could be deadly.  She’d just have to manage.  Freydis also left her sword and its scabbard behind.  It would only serve to sink her to the bottom of the sea.

She tied her red hair braid above her head to keep it out of the way and gave a nod to Sten, who gazed solemnly in her direction.  His look of concern told her that she damn well better survive, and with a fire in her heart, she dove from the ship’s railing into the frigid, black water.

--

Freydis hardly remembered making it to shore.  She recalled being tossed around with each crashing wave, fighting to keep her head above the water.  The sensation of her arms burning retold the events, as she struggled to wrestle the storm’s current.  As she was continuously dunked under the water which threatened to fill her lungs, she had lost all coordination and had no idea which way to go.  Salt stung her eyes and blinded her, though somehow she had managed to pick the right direction and fight onwards.  Icy daggers stabbed into her body until it had gone completely numb, but even through feelingless limbs, she had pressed on.

Now, she laid on her back atop a sheet of frozen sand, staring at the angry, grey skies as ominous thunder continued to rumble and cold rain splattered on her face.  She gasped short and painful breaths, each gasp a fire in her throat, her body shaking and begging to rest for a bit, sweetly and seductively convincing her to fall asleep there on the shore. 

But she knew that sleeping meant death.  Surviving in these elements meant moving and finding somewhere warm to recover.  Freydis willed herself to move, though her wet clothes were already beginning to freeze against her skin.  Looking back out to the water, she barely spotted Sten’s boat in the distance, rocking amidst a sheet of rain.  There was no way he could make it to shore in this storm to pick her up, and jumping into the sea a second time would surely cause her body to seize up and shut down completely.  Clearly, turning back was not an option.  Facing inland and taking slow, painful steps, Freydis shivered uncontrollably as her boots squished against the mushy sand until they started crunching against ice and rock.

What she was supposed to do next was still unclear.  Freya’s instructions had been vague.  Some kind of a trial she needed to overcome.  But this whole quest meant nothing if she was too dead to even begin.  Before she worried about where she needed to go, she needed to find shelter, dry out her clothes, and get a fire going.  Otherwise her body would not last long.

Shelter and wood were nearly non-existent along the coast.  As she traversed across sharp, jagged rocks slippery with wet ice, every step she took risked breaking her ankles.  She had to navigate carefully, but also could not linger.  Her shivering was already becoming more violent and the feeling had not yet returned to her arms.

She lost nearly all sense of time as she wormed her way up the uneven, rocky path, fighting just to stay awake and to keep from collapsing.  As she walked, she wondered if she was insane.  She began to doubt that she had ever met with Freya.  Perhaps her mind had been playing tricks on her afterall, and this was some foolish suicide into which she had trapped herself. 

But it had seemed so real, hadn’t it?  She had heard the goddess’s voice, and could reach out to touch her, same as any man or woman.

“No,” she uttered through clattering teeth, “Now is not the time to lose faith.  I trust in the gods and I trust in myself.”

Freydis pressed onward, even as her situation grew more dire and her body threatened to fail and collapse onto a stoney grave.  After a while, the rocks began to grow in size, becoming bluffs and cliffs, and there were hints of greenery growing from beneath the stones.  The downpour of icy rain had lessened, becoming a cool mist as she traveled further inland.  Finally, she came across an overhang that managed to hide a dry area large enough to shelter herself from the drizzling rain.  Some dead roots and sticks were scattered around the terrain, and she painstakingly gathered the driest among them.

With shaky arms, Freydis flicked her hand axe’s blade against a sharp stone, creating a small stream of sparks.  Eventually, the tangled brush of small roots managed to catch and a small fire began to build.

Freydis peeled off all her wet clothes, hanging them on a rock near the fire so they could dry.  She sat on the stoney ground completely naked, her set of strong, battle scarred arms cradling her knees to keep her chest warm.  The flames struggled for a while against the violent winds, which carried bursts of mist that threatened to snuff its light.  But somehow, the fire endured and grew large enough to overpower the wind as she tossed on the larger sticks and a dried log she had found wedged between two stones. 

A sigh escaped her lips as her body finally began to calm down, the heat restoring some life to her arms.  At that point she knew she had gotten through the worst, and had somehow managed to survive, assuming she didn’t come away with a fever. 

Accompanying the rejuvenating warmth, suddenly another surge of energy began to spread through her body; a more intense heat than what the measly fire could put out.  The feeling was intense!  Wonderful!  Freydis moaned from the tingle that climbed up her spine, a feeling of near bursting limitlessness crawling through her and spreading to every finger and toe.  The small hairs on her arms and legs stood up as she shivered; not from the cold, but from the feeling of pure ecstasy that writhed inside.

Was that the numbness finally leaving her body?  It felt as though it was more than that.  The sensation was incredible; like reaching climax with a lover in a soft bed.  Freydis’s eyes opened as she shuttered away the last remnants of the bliss.

“You have done it, child,” Freya’s voice said, startling Freydis as she looked up to find the goddess sitting across from her, silhouette nearly masked from the flames.

“Freya?” Freydis asked with a steady voice, “That feeling… Did I complete your trial?”

“You completed a trial,” the goddess corrected, “That is how it works.  You faced a challenge.  You fought, you struggled, and in the end you persevered.  As a result, you’ve become stronger, proving you are worthy to be a champion.  As long as you continue to prove your worthiness, the Vanir magic will gift you with this strength.”

Freydis looked down at her naked body, opening her hands and examining her arms.  She didn’t feel very powerful, nor did she look any different.  But, at the same time, she had an indescribable energy; an urge to act and to move.  A few minutes ago, she was nearly dead and on the verge of collapsing.  Yet now, she was ready to leave the shelter and continue her journey.  It was like she had just woken up from a long day’s rest.

“So,” Freydis hummed, “I almost drowned and I was gifted with some power.  And yet, this is not over.  I have to keep finding trials and nearly kill myself to prove I’m worthy of the magic, is that it?”

“You might be overlooking a few details,” Freya laughed lightly, “But those are the basics, yes.  In all those stories you humans tell about the gods, the theme of facing trials and perseverance is common.  And for good reason.  In Asgard, the mighty must be judged and earn their right to rule.  With my blessing, you will get stronger from facing challenges and triumphing over strife.  Grit, fortitude, willpower; these are the traits the gods hold in high regard.”

“If I only need to triumph to win your favor,” Freydis sniffed, “I would have just challenged Hrothgar to an armwrestling match.”

“Ah,” Freya smiled, raising a finger, “If only it were that simple.  But you must face real trials; true tests of your skills that create struggle and conflict for you to overcome.  That is what it means to be a champion.  I have entrusted you with this gift and now it is yours to use.  The path you’re on is not an easy one.  Nor should it be.”

“So, what now?” Freydis asked, “Am I done with this island?”

“That is up to you,” Freya shrugged, “Remember, I told you I would help you write your own destiny; I’m not here to tell you what to do.  But, if I were to start somewhere, I’d be willing to bet there is another trial waiting for you here.  Besides, you probably aren’t strong enough to get back in those waters and leave the island, even if you wanted.  Find a challenge and earn another blessing, and you’ll gain the strength you need to leave this place.”

“Oh,” Freya continued, “And I don’t think it’d be wise to try and wait out the storm.  My Asgardian kin are a jealous type, and they don’t take kindly to me meddling with mortals.  They just love to make things difficult, don’t they?  I suspect that the storm will last as long as they intend it to.”

Before Freydis could respond, the goddess was simply gone.  She blinked and was suddenly alone by the fire.

Offline SabinicThigh

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Re: Conquering Vinland
« Reply #31 on: December 12, 2021, 10:10:19 pm »
BMB, you are one of my favourites. I am really interested in this one man, so I would love to see it continue. It isn't like anything else on the forum. It stands out as historic fiction. I want to see this gal triumph. If you have anything to add I'd love to see it.

Offline bertmacklinsbrother

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Re: Conquering Vinland
« Reply #32 on: December 16, 2021, 03:22:41 pm »
Thanks so much, SabinicThigh!  It's good to hear from you; it's been a while!  And I always look forward to seeing your content as well :)

And yes, there is more to come for Freydis.  I have the next chapter mostly done, but the holiday busyness has kept me from the final proof reading.  I will be getting back to this story soon though.  Thanks so much for the comment and the compliment!

Offline Tikka1910

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Re: Conquering Vinland
« Reply #33 on: December 26, 2021, 08:27:21 pm »
Can't wait for the sequel with action

Offline bertmacklinsbrother

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Re: Conquering Vinland
« Reply #34 on: January 05, 2022, 01:34:26 am »
Freydis wrung out her clothes one last time before finally deeming them well enough to wear.  They had been drying on the rock for a while and the last of the chill left her body.  Which was fortunate timing as she used up the last of the dried wood and the small fire sputtered into a heap of black, smokey embers. 

After being so near death, she was surprised how soon she was ready to dress again and head back out into the harsh wilderness.  And yet she was compelled forward with a renewed sense of vigor.  The plan was to move towards the center of the island, and while the goddess had not given her a deliberate direction, she figured that heading further inland was her best choice.

“Okay,” Freydis whispered to herself, “So, I must face challenges and overcome them.  If I succeed, I will get stronger.  Or I will die trying.  Seems fair.”

She still wasn’t exactly sure how it all worked.  There was no exact definition for what was considered a trial.  And strength came in so many forms; assuming she did overcome trial after trial, was she going to get physically stronger?  Or maybe gain more skill in battle?  Maybe the gods would bestow upon her an enchanted weapon to call her own, like Odin’s faultless spear, Gungnir, or Thor’s mighty hammer, Mjolnir.  Or maybe Sten was onto something, and she’d get some other kind of godly powers.  The answers were vague and would only lead to more questions the more she thought about them.  Her only choice now was to act.

With her energy restored, Freydis managed to stretch her damp clothes across her body, though just barely.  The salt water had certainly shrunk them a bit, as she had to fight to pull them tightly over her torso and legs, plus she had to loosen each of the straps that fastened her padded armor to her chest and shoulders by a notch.  Not to mention, getting her wet leather boots back on was a notable struggle, her feet almost refusing to slide into the sole.  Soon though, she had managed to get all of her clothes and gear secured and was ready to venture back out into the rain.

While her legs still burned, at least the pain from before had subsided.  The soreness was almost entirely gone and the bursting energy she had felt while sitting by the fire still thrummed within her.  At the time, she had passed it off as a simple near-death rush, but now she was certain that this vigor was Freya’s blessing, awarded to her from overcoming the first trial.  It had to be.

She had battled the elements; fighting the icy waters and nearly dying on the frozen shore.  But ultimately, she persevered and survived.  And now this energy--this force-- was hers.

And it felt incredible!  Whatever stirred within her urged motion.  It did not want to sit idly; it needed to move.  Complacency was no longer an option, no matter the danger or the tax on her body.  What a strange, yet intoxicating feeling it was.

Freydis continued inland, forging a path through the treeline until the rocky bluffs transitioned yet again into a deep forest.  Most of the trees were naked, their leaves stripped from the harsh winter, but there were a number of tall dark green pines that bristled with every strong burst of wind, sprinkling Freydis with the wet snow that shook from the branches.  All the while, Freydis moved with a purpose, unrelenting to the uneven terrain or her aching limbs.

That’s when she realized it.  At first, it was too subtle to notice amidst the sounds of swaying trees, howling winds, and the splattering of water against rocks.  But upon listening closer and looking for the signs, she could tell that something big had been moving through those woods.  The story was told in the way smaller wildlife scuttled in the distance, birds up in the treetops going silent, and the snapped branches that had given way to a large body of mass.

It was clear she was approaching the den of some predator.  And a large one, by the looks of it.

Calmly, she knelt down and examined the ground she walked, coming across a set of tracks and a few other markings left on tree trunks and stumps.  Freydis let out a long sigh.  As she had suspected, a family of bears inhabited this island, and she was currently trespassing on their hunting grounds.

But there was no way out except for forward.  As she continued moving toward the center of the island, the air in the forest had grown warmer, the ice almost disappearing completely from her surroundings in favor of wet slush.  The ground had gone from snowy wildlife trails to mud and vibrant orange leaves.  An earthy scent hung in the air, though there was something else on the wind; something almost palpably sour on her tongue.  It was a stink of death and decay.

Another fathom through the wooded path and Freydis noticed a trail of blood; a deer carcass had been dragged through the area recently.

Freydis found herself trembling as her walk slowed to a careful crawl and she reached for her handaxe.

This was pure madness.  Here she was, purposefully moving through a bear’s territory with no means to defend herself, all in her attempts to find the island’s center.  Freydis had been a warrior for a long time; she knew that being hasty and careless was a quick way to ensure death.  And yet she pressed on, driven by her innate need to succeed and her ambition to take Greenland from her brother, Leif.  She had a stalwart determination to see it through, and yet, the moment, she couldn’t help but laugh at the absurdity of it all.

The treeline opened up into a clearing, where there was a small river and a pond that collected fresh water.  Some flowers were still in bloom; rare for this time of year, but it showered the area with a sea of white and purple pedals.  It was an absolutely beautiful place, other than the more potent death stench that hung in the air.

Looking to the horizon and estimating the distance she had walked, Freydis estimated that this was, at long last, the island’s center.  And what lied there made her heart thump loudly inside of her.  Housed in the middle of this land was a large cave; no doubt the home of the bears that prowled here.

This was it, wasn’t it?  Her next trial?  It was a common theme in many Norse stories; heroes and gods battling and slaying fierce beasts.  But Freydis had no desire to kill a bear living peacefully on their land.  She had hunted many animals in her lifetime, out of necessity for food and pelts, but she had never sought to kill for simple sport.

But, her inner debate was fruitless as she suddenly heard a snorting and huffing echoing from within the dark cavern, followed by the sounds of claws clacking on stone.  Sure enough, it had picked up on her scent.  Exiting the cave, with furious eyes set on Freydis, she was confronted by the largest bear she had ever seen.

--

A roar shook the bones in Freydis’s chest.  The bear stood on its hind legs, raising two large claws into the air and opening its mouth to showcase its rows of long teeth.  It made a show of its sheer size, a typical move used to intimidate and create fear.  And dammit, if it wasn’t effective.

Freydis could feel her legs shaking; this had to be the biggest animal she had ever seen, easily twice her height as it towered over her.  It barked out another roar, making it clear that it was not only territorial, but extremely angry.  She didn’t see any way to avoid it; she was going to be attacked.  There was no way the bear would let her leave, especially if it had cubs in the nearby cave.

Gripping her small handaxe, she suddenly wished she hadn’t left her entire suite of weapons on Sten’s ship.  It was foolish to come to this island so ill-prepared, even if avoiding drowning was a decent enough reason to have left her equipment behind.

The bear dropped down to four legs and began to run towards her, barreling in a charge.  Freydis found herself reacting faster than she anticipated, her legs planting into the ground before launching her to the side, her body becoming lateral and her shoulder pivoting downwards as she leapt and rolled out of the way.  The rocky dirt was hard and hitting the ground sent a shock through her, nearly forcing all air out of her lungs.  But she remained composed, sucked in another quick gust of air, and used her tumbling momentum to catch her footing and stand upright again. 

With a quick sniff, the bear turned around, circling back and then swinging its massive claw in an arc towards Freydis’s head; if it connected, it would mean an instant death.  She ducked and rolled under the attack, then brought her handaxe upwards, cutting across the beast’s stomach.  Another roar bellowed out from the bear, only this time far more terrifying; her ears rang as the tone echoed across the trees.  She had not slashed deep enough to wound it very much past its thick hide; instead she had only managed to anger it further.

Freydis’s skin flashed hot as a sudden force connected with her right shoulder.  The sharp sound of the roar was so disorienting, she hadn’t even seen the other claw come flying in from the side.  She was sent to the ground, hitting with a thud, face grinding into the dirt and snow.  Freydis was on her stomach for only a moment; as painful as it was to get back up, she knew better than to leave her neck and back exposed to an enraged predator; instinctually the beast would grab her by the spine and knaw, slash, and crush until she was snapped in two.  Staying still was not an option.  She managed to roll again, wincing as her recently pummeled shoulder made contact with the ground.

She clammored to her feet.  Her right sleeve was wet with hot, sticky blood that ran down from her shoulder; the cut had to be deep if she was already bleeding that badly.  Switching her axe to her left hand, Freydis crouched down into a defensive stance, ready to dodge again if the bear tried another swipe.

Instead, the bear went down on all fours and into another tackle, managing to clip Freydis before she could move.  Her legs became tangled and she fell backwards.  As the beast followed through to land its jaws around Freydis’s throat, she brought her legs back and kicked as hard as she could.  The animal was struck with a force it was not expecting as Freydis planted both of her boots into the bear’s snout, seeming to strike just hard enough to send it reeling back.

She got her feet under her again and, before she could really think about what she was doing, found herself running toward the bear.  Like with any opponent, the moment they were off balance was the time to go on the offensive; Freydis simply never thought she’d be applying that logic to a bear of all things.  As she ran toward it, the bear shook its daze and went for a desperate claw swipe at her chest.  In a surprising surge of strength, Freydis somehow managed to jump over the bear’s arm and twist her body through the air, swinging onto the bear’s back and wrapping the handle of her axe around its neck.

The bear howled and bucked, aiming to shake her off.  She managed to grip the sides of the bear tightly with her booted heels while keeping the axe handle firmly fastened around the beast’s throat.  Its jaws snapped and gnashed with little direction or purpose.  Suddenly, it stood on its hind legs and Freydis’s entire perspective shifted as her weight was suddenly hanging from the bear’s neck.  It continued to claw and snarl, nearly threatening to fling Freydis to the ground under the force of her own weight.

And that’s when she had the idea; more of a battle instinct than a careful thought.  As the beast twisted, aiming to send Freydis flying, she decided to let it happen.

She loosened her grip on the head of the axe, and immediately she began to plummet down several feet toward the dirt.  However, as she fell, she shifted her right arm, grunting through the pain that flared from her shoulder wound, and regripped the axe handle.  She squeezed as hard as she could and let the axe bury itself into the bear’s neck and slice up and over its shoulder as her body fell through the air.  The force the bear had used to buck her onto the ground had also been used as a weapon as she hung from her axe, carving the bear as she plummeted.

Hot blood sprayed onto her as the bear’s neck split open.  It gargled another howl and Freydis cried out as she slammed into the ground yet again.  After falling from such a height, she could feel the breath exploding out of her lungs, leaving her gasping and writhing.  She didn’t know if she had the strength to get back to her feet. 

And unfortunately, her gambit had not worked.  Despite the gushing blood running down the side of its neck and soaking its light brown fur, the bear continued to lumber toward her.

Freydis kicked against the dirt, pushing herself backward in small increments; an act of desperation as the predator made its way into her space, ready to plant one final claw into her.  But while Freydis was defenseless, the bear was also moving far more slowly.  The wounds it had suffered were dire, and much like Freydis, it was only moving thanks to sheer willpower and rage.  The bear went in for a final attack, seeking to maul her until she was a motionless corpse.

But Freydis was quicker.  With all the force she could summon, she threw the axe, planting it right into the bear’s eye.

The bear’s final howl wasn’t the terrifying roar that had shaken her core minutes ago.  Instead it was a low, and pathetic groan; the last bit of life leaving it as the massive hunk of fur and flesh collapsed into a heap.  Her axe head had buried itself deep and was sunk far into the beast’s eye socket.  Freydis was shocked at her own strength; it took tremendous force to throw an axe that hard, let alone when one’s back was planted against the ground.

A day ago, she would have chalked it up to pure adrenaline.  But thinking through the fight--the speed, accuracy, and agility she displayed when warring with this incredible monster-- it was clear that Freydis had become stronger.  Even after receiving a battering that would have toppled most people, she fought on.

With a swift inhale, a surge of energy similar to what she had experienced back by the fire suddenly returned.  Freydis yelled out into the clearing, her voice traveling up into the sky as she writhed in the dirt, pure elation spreading through her like a most delicious wine.  Gods, it was incredible.

She groaned in a mix of pain and pleasure, and felt her clothes tighten against her.  Freydis’s linen sleeves constricted around her limbs and climbed up, exposing her wrists and shins.  The leather straps that held her padded armor in place were suddenly digging into her skin.  Her shirt tugged against her collarbone and her pants felt so tight, it was as though they would split from the slightest movement. 

Freydis felt her feet begin to strain within her boots, which had already been seeming a size smaller since they were soaked in the sea.  But now, her toes were scrunched together and the leather had suctioned around her ankles.  They had become so tight she was wincing with discomfort, though she fought her instinct to take the boots off, afraid that she wouldn’t be able to get them back on afterwards. 

Though the ill-fitting footwear was annoying, she was surprised to feel the pain in her shoulder, where she had been mauled by the massive claw, fade away.  Her skin was still slick and sticky with crimson, but the wound itself had stopped bleeding.  A relief seeing as the blood loss could have been fatal given how far she was away from the shore at this point.  And despite the life or death tussle that had taken every ounce of strength she had, Freydis found herself standing up proudly, feeling invigorated.

“Now this,” she laughed, “This is power!”

For a second time today, she had come back from the brink of death, each time becoming a better version of herself.  The first time had been a curious event, but after her battle with the bear, she was now confident in the goddess’s blessing and her ability to keep utilizing it. 

Triumph and conquest.  As long as she could continue seeking out challenges, Freydis could keep this feeling alive; this beautiful sensation of pure force and control that coursed through her entire body.  The sudden renewed strength in her muscles that, only moments before, had been pushed to the limits, was testament enough to this incredible gift.  She felt unstoppable.

The trials the island put her through had been beaten.  And now, it was time to return to the ship before Sten’s small vessel capsized in the storm.

Freydis placed a hand on the bear’s carcass, out of respect for her fallen opponent.  Killing the innocent creature was not something she had set out to do, but she was grateful that her win could provide her with such a gift.  Then she used her axe to carve into the bear’s flesh and begin to remove the hide.  Though not as precise or sharp as a hunting knife, she still managed to collect the pelt; a commemorative keepsake from the largest game she had ever hunted, and a story that none back home would believe.  She rolled up the large bundle of fur and sinewy skin, attaching it to her back with leather straps as if it were a pack.

And then Freydis began to run back toward the shore, gleefully feeling the wind whip through her braided hair as her legs carried her at surprising speeds.

Offline GLKnight

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Re: Conquering Vinland
« Reply #35 on: January 05, 2022, 02:37:17 am »
This was a pretty good installment!
If you like my stories and want to support me, throw some dollars my way at Patreon.com/GLKingWrites

Offline Tikka1910

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Re: Conquering Vinland
« Reply #36 on: January 19, 2022, 05:21:48 pm »
Very well. I hope for the sequel soon. Maybe Freydis will soon be able to kill bears with just her hands.

Offline ArkhamAsylum

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Re: Conquering Vinland
« Reply #37 on: January 20, 2022, 10:17:39 am »
I finally read the latest chapter, and what a great chapter it was. Freydis's growth has commenced. I wonder how big and strong she will become and what Sten thinks of her 'developments'. I'm looking forward to what happens in the rest of the story.

Offline bertmacklinsbrother

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Re: Conquering Vinland
« Reply #38 on: May 06, 2022, 01:48:37 pm »
I know it was a long wait, but here is the next chapter!

--

“Son of a whore,” Sten cursed as he pulled the rope with every ounce of might he had, wind and cold rain pelting against his face in a relentless torrent.

Given his mother worked in a brothel for fifteen years, he knew he was technically cursing at himself.  And, perhaps, given the situation, cursing at himself was appropriate.  It was his own damned fault he was in this mess in the first place; out at sea, in the middle of a horrendous storm, one breath away from capsizing his ship and sinking down into an unceremonious and icy grave.

From the moment Freydis came to him, spouting nonsense about a visit from the gods and seeking the power to dethrone Jarl Leif Eirikson, he should have sat her down and convinced her that those crazy delusions had gone a step too far.  Not only was she fantasizing about conversing with deities, but she was also acting on her traitorous intent, staging a coup and overthrowing Greenland’s rule. 

When she had initially mentioned her distrust in her brother at the feast, Sten was able to play it off as harmless speech driven by battle weariness and a few horns of ale.  How could he have predicted that Freydis was not only serious about taking the jarldom, but would also spin some grandiose, gods-supported tall tale to further her claim?

Or that, somehow, Sten would become wrapped up in all of it?

Sten liked to think himself a smart man; starting his own trade business while learning several languages, along with the diverse customs and economies of the world was not an endeavor for the simple minded.  He was a well-traveled man of culture who prided himself on using his wit to get out of many unfortunate circumstances.  A few trade agreements going sour in Persia, or almost having his sack severed by a government leader in Frankia after being caught with the poor sod’s wife; Sten had survived those seedy situations thanks to his cleverness, silver tongue, and a whole heap of luck.  And up until today, he thought he had learned his lesson and had a knack for avoiding trouble.

And yet, as much as Sten knew that he should have refused Freydis’s request, all it took was her asking for his help, and he jumped at the opportunity.  He spat on caution almost as openly as he spat on the gods, all for the sake of that insufferable woman.  After all this time; after all the countries he had traveled, all the sights he had seen, all the women he had bedded and the hearts he had broken– nothing fascinated him like Freydis Eiriksdottir. 

So now, here he was; on a tiny vessel in the midst of the worst winter storm he had ever witnessed in all his years sailing.  Freydis was still missing almost half a day since she leapt off the side of the boat, and Sten still doubted she survived fighting the frigid waves long enough to make it to the island.  The winds and rain certainly hadn’t lightened; the gods– in whom Sten very much did not believe– seemed absolutely determined to crush his tiny toy boat under their gigantic boot as powerful gusts and towering spikes of water tossed him in every direction.

Somehow, though, Lady Cassandra stayed afloat.  Despite the groaning wood that took a constant battering against peaks far taller than her hull, and a mast that Sten was sure would snap in two with the next force of wind, his trusty ship stayed true.  And as long as Lady Cassandra kept fighting, Sten would keep fighting.  He’d continue holding out hope that Freydis was still alive, and do his best to keep the ship as close to the shore as possible for when she was ready to swim back.

It was a task easier said than done; there wasn’t much he could do to actually control his direction at this rate.  The skies had become a far deeper, almost unworldly green, flashing with spectral lightning and booming with deafening thunder as clouds churned ominously overhead.  Colors in the sky whorled like a pool of upset oil; glistening with a twisted reflection of light and pigment. 

“Now that’s fucking horrifying,” Sten grunted to himself.

Nearly blinded by salty spray and completely soaked to the bone, Sten did everything he could just to keep the ship upright, let alone circle around the island’s shore with any sort of precision.  Staring at the vengeful storm, hard as it was to look away, was only going to get him killed sooner.

If Freydis came back, he’d get them out of this hell and finally convince her to give up her insane game against her brother.  Though he also knew that talking sense into Freydis was about as likely as him surviving this tempest.  She always was one of the most stalwart and hard-headed people he had ever met, and once she set her mind to something, there was little anyone could do to change her course.  It was one of the traits he admired most about her, even if it was the reason they were in this deathtrap.

It got to the point where Sten had lost all sense of time, feeling as though eons had passed since they first set sail.  The storm entirely hid the sun, or moon, from view, and with the constant struggle in the cold rain, he had no idea how long he had been fighting to keep his ship upright.  His hands were completely numb, which was probably fortunate considering the blood trail his palms were leaving on the ropes.  He had also completely ruined his silk robes; some of his favorite accouterments from his journey to Egypt.  Such a waste of good, expensive fabric.  The constant barrage of salt water had soaked through the heavy furs he had thrown across his shoulders, leaving his entire wardrobe sopping wet and only further contributing to his deadly chill.  If he had the energy to actually feel the cold, he’d probably be quite upset.

Soon after, the blurry vision followed; he fought to stay upright, but his entire body was drained after what seemed like a full day of strife and unrelenting cold.  He could feel his grip become lazier and the urge to give into the drowsiness had nearly gotten to him.  But he hung on, yet again, clinging to the small hope that Freydis was still out there. 

And yet, how long could he keep going?  What if she had drowned immediately and now he was just continuing his own suffering for nothing?  At what point did he admit that it was time to turn the ship around and get out of the storm while he was still alive?  Those questions plagued him, prodding at his faded mind and twisting in his gut.

Sten didn’t consider himself a coward.  He considered himself more of a “tactical retreater”, if anything.  And every logical fiber of his being told him it was a prime opportunity for a tactical retreat.  Death didn’t sound like something he was eager to rush into; there was so much left for him to do!  So much of the world yet to see and women yet to leave screaming under the sheets.  His viking brethren were so focused on killing, plundering, and dying gloriously in battle that they rarely stopped to see all the beauty they had around them, and all the wondrous things still to find.  Sten didn’t believe in Valhalla, but even if he did, there was no desire to leave this mortal realm anytime soon.

No, Sten certainly did not want to die.  Not when there was more out there for him to discover and experience.

But the thought of surviving while Freydis sank to the bottom of the sea left a sour taste in his mouth.  How was he to enjoy another cup of wine or a breathtaking sunrise when he had let such an incredible woman perish?  He could not simply leave; not while there was the slimmest chance Freydis was still out there.

Despite his body and mind slipping further, somehow, he hung on.  He dug his heels in, pulling the ropes as tight as he possibly could, despite his burning arms, as the sail whipped in the fury of rain.  More countless time passed and Sten felt his vision fading further; he knew he was on the brink of collapse.

But then he saw it, just off of the starboard hull.  Amidst the dark waves, a black silhouette bobbed in the water.  Sten blinked away icy droplets, trying to focus on the object.  A barrel of his merchandise that had gone overboard, perhaps?  Or a sea creature cresting to the surface?  No, nothing like that; the dark figure had too complex a shape and it was moving toward him.  Shadowy appendages slapped against the sea, propelling itself toward his ship.  It was a person.  By some twisted chance, a person was swimming to him.

Freydis.  It had to be.

Sten sighed, steering the ship with one last final push of strength, doing his best to get just a little closer to her.  He felt his back hit the deck before he even realized he was fainting.  Before the world could fade away entirely, somehow he managed to toss a rope overboard.  As he finally passed out, he just hoped it was enough to get Freydis onto the ship.



Sten gasped for air as he awoke, skin clammy and chilled.  He laid upon red and purple silk sheets; the bedding he had acquired in India several trades back.  Though it was perhaps needlessly lavish to put an expensive bed on his small vessel, where the niceties were likely to get soaked in seawater, there was nothing like the touch of authentic silks on one’s body.  For a moment, he had assumed he was lying on his own funeral pyre, the storm having claimed his life.  If he were to die, being pushed out to the sea on Lady Cassandra, wrapped in silks, would be a fitting send off; not that he deserved any service of that magnitude.

One so self centered and completely vain wasn’t likely to be remembered.  Sten, when he was honest with himself, admitted that he didn’t have many friendships.  He had plenty of connections, sure; business contacts whom he could contact for a favor or join for a drunken night of debauchery.  But those weren’t the sorts that showed up to funerals.  For all the people Sten constantly surrounded himself with, he was, unfortunately, very alone in this life.

Damn.  The depressing things that entered one’s mind when you were dead… In this moment, as Sten laid on his bed, unsure if he was even breathing, his thoughts were permeated with nothing but hollowness and regret.

After a moment, the deliriousness faded as he blinked away the fog, vision clearing and settling on a person who stood by his bed.  He smiled as he laid his eyes on Freydis, standing vigilant as if she were on watch.  His stirring caused her to turn toward him and soon Sten was peering into her cool green eyes, taking in the sharp features of her face; the angular jaw, wide set nose and battle scars that marked her as a warrior.  As always, she had that same series of unique and alluring traits from which he could not seem to look away.

Calling her a beauty would have been incorrect, and quite honestly, an insult to her.  She was not something so fragile and delicate.  Instead, Freydis was strong and defined.  During the time they had been together, Freydis often questioned why Sten would waste his time with someone who lacked the typical feminine features so many men craved. 

“Of all the women in the world,” she would question, “Why me?”

And in a rare moment for him, Sten would be at a loss for words.  He would stumble through an answer, comforting her with assurances that she was radiant and feminine, at least in her own way.  But those compliments only upset her further, as if she suspected they were given out of pity.

It was true that Sten could get most women that he wanted.  He was well-traveled, cultured, and ran a successful business.  He had also been gifted with a pretty face and his years of sexual pursuits with exotic and foreign ladies from all over the world had taught him skills in bed that his brutal Viking brethren did not have the patience or willingness to adopt. 

So, why was a man who could have anything or anyone so damn smitten by this hardened, stubborn ox of a woman? 

The truth was, explaining his specific brand of attraction to Freydis Eiriksdottir was simply impossible.  Even today, he had such difficulty expressing why she captivated him so.  And the fact that their short relationship had ended so soon still plagued him.  Of all the regrets that he felt during his moment of impending death, Freydis was at the top of that list.

As he looked upon her now, reminiscing on their past, he was suddenly struck by some oddities to her appearance.  Was his vision still blurry, or did she appear a bit huskier than he remembered?  Surely, she was wider in the shoulders and legs, and more solid in her stance.  The way that Freydis’s linens and leathers were stretched across her body made her appear like she was nearly bursting through the fabric, and the indentation of her muscles underneath the skin-tight clothes left no imagination to the strength she possessed. 

Or perhaps the icy salt water had wrecked her garb, leaving it ill-fitting.  Yes, that had to be it.



“You’re alive,” Sten croaked, his throat completely dry and sore from inhaling the constant spray of the sea, “Thank the gods.”

Freydis flashed a rare smile, ringing out the dark red braid of hair that hung down past her collar bone.  A steady stream trickled down and pattered onto the wooden floor of the room.  Normally, Sten would scold her for getting sea water in his bedroom and near his silks, but he was too elated at her survival to really care.  And it wasn’t as though his clothes and sheets weren’t already ruined at this point from cradling his soaked body.

He then noticed that his hands, which had been blistered and bloodied from fighting the ropes, had been wrapped in bandages.  Freydis must have tended to him while he was passed out.

“Sten thanking the gods?” Freydis mused, “I never thought I’d see the day.  Perhaps your near-death has left you sick in the head.”

“Perhaps,” Sten grinned, sending a wink in Freydis’s direction, “Maybe I have gone ill.  That just means I need a maiden at my bedside, taking care of me, giving me baths, and feeding me stew until I’m all healed.”

“This maiden,” Freydis scoffed, pointing at her own chest, “is more likely to smother you with a pillow while you sleep.”

“Oh good,” Sten sighed, “I always thought that would be a fitting end for me, though I pictured myself smothered by breasts instead.”

Freydis and Sten both laughed until the chortling faded to the creaking and rocking of the boat.  Freydis must have been able to steer them clear of the storm, as the waters were far less violent now.  Sten was impressed that she had managed to fight the winds and navigate the ship without his help, especially after swimming all that way from the island.  She must have been completely exhausted, though she certainly didn’t show it.  Her eyes were lit with a strange sparkle and she had an alertness and energy to her that didn’t fit someone who had almost drowned in the frigid sea.

A moment of silence hung between them.  Sten used the opportunity to continue peering at Freydis, and he couldn’t help but take in her shape.  The more he stared, the more he realized that there definitely was something different about her.  She had always been a big woman, that much was true.  But right now she was looking downright imposing; almost frightening.  He could see that her arms, tightly wrapped by her sleeves, were bulging with more muscle than he remembered and even her neck was crawling with thick veins as she breathed.

“Something is odd about you,” Sten hummed, “Do I dare ask if you found what you were looking for.”

Freydis gave him her usual stoic look, relinquishing a slow and firm nod.  Sten winced as he sat up in his bed, dreadfully curious.  They had begun this endeavor with him completely confident they were on a quest straight out of a story you’d tell children around a fire.  Gods, powers, mysterious islands; it was all so ridiculous.

And yet, as Freydis stood by his bedside, gesturing her thick arms as she told Sten the entire story from her surviving the elements to battling an enormous bear, he no longer knew what to think.  She even showed him the pelt she had carved and the wound the bear’s claw had left on her shoulder, even though it had already seemed to have healed far faster than what was normal, appearing fully scabbed over despite having occurred recently.  In addition to her clearly transformed body and the unnatural storm they had just overcome, Sten was beginning to believe that the whole crazy story was true.

As Freydis finished her tale, there was a lull as Sten sorted through all of the details internally.

“If you weren’t standing here in front of me,” Sten said, “I’d say you were a lunatic.”

He paused, awestruck as he sought each and every detail across her body.  His throat let out an involuntary, pained grunt as he forced his way out of bed and clambered to his feet.  Immediately upon standing next to Freydis, Sten realized just how notable her growth had been.  Whereas before she had stood a few fingers taller than him, now he didn’t quite reach her chin.

“I’m at a loss for words,” Sten gaped, “You look so strong.  So…”

“Terrifying?” Freydis finished his sentence with a grimace, though it wasn’t exactly what he was going to say.

She broke his gaze and stalked away, her heavy boots thumping down the wooden floors.  Freydis stopped at the small round mirror Sten had in the corner of his quarters and observed herself with a sigh.

“This power feels incredible, Sten,” she said absently as she continued to look at her reflection, tightening her hands into fists, seeing how her muscles thickened and strained against her damp clothing.

“My reflexes were at their peak when fighting that bear; the way I could dodge and leap around its attacks was something out of a fantasy story.  And the strength behind each of my axe swings was incredible, easily tearing through the beast’s dense fur and hide.  After I conquered it, I should have bled out right there.  But instead, my body felt invigorated and I ran through the woods like I was a kid again; never tiring as I leapt across rocks and over fallen trees.  And the swim back to your ship, though I fought against a fucking storm, was as effortless as swimming across a calm lake in the summer.”

She sighed yet again, turning toward him.
“I got what I wanted,” she nodded sternly, “I’ve received this gift and can now challenge my brother to open combat and take the jarldom of Greenland.  I would give anything to be in control of my own destiny; to have the power to enact real change.  I would sacrifice whatever was required of me.  Except…”

Freydis trailed off, looking away in pain.

“What is it?” Sten asked, slowly approaching her and taking her hand in his, “Please don’t keep your feelings bottled up like you always do.  You know you can trust me.”

Freydis finally relinquished a bit of ground and sighed.  Sten listened intently, though he found his heart pounding from just how much bigger she was than him.  The changes only amounted to a small amount of height and a slightly more muscular body.  But adding that onto a woman that was already so intimidating certainly made Sten acutely aware of the stark contrasts between them.  She was, without question, the biggest woman he had ever seen.

“Except…” she said through gritted teeth, “I don’t know if I can handle the way you’re looking at me now.  Like… Like I’m a monster; a nightmare creature from Hel.”

“Freydis…” Sten began.

“I’ve never cared about what others choose to think of me.  I was not born beautiful nor have I ever tried to be.  There is warrior’s blood in me, through and through.  The battle scars and my muscles; they are part of me.  And I like who I am.  I am fearless; I face my challenges head on without a second thought because I know I have the strength to persevere.  I never want to give up that feeling.”

“But, at the same time, I know that a part of my heart will wither and die if you think of me as a monster.  That is what makes this path so difficult.  It’s not my resolve or my drive; my dedication has never been more true.  I want my enemies to see me and have fear driven through their hearts like a spear.  I want them to tremble… but not you… I don’t want that from you.”

Sten was at a loss for words.  This was probably the most he had heard Freydis speak at one time in all the years he had known her.  And it was certainly the most honest and open she had been with him.  She had always been a woman of few words, and while Sten respected her stalwart nature, it had also been aggravating being with someone who never relinquished their emotions. 

This, though.  This was the Freydis that he had always wanted to see; someone who was so strong, and yet could expose themselves and show a moment of weakness to a trusted partner. 

“Maybe, though,” Freydis said, “That is just the price I have to pay.  You seeing me as something other than human; I’m willing to make that sacrifice for my goals, no matter how painful it is.”

Sten gripped Freydis’s hand tighter.  My god, had even her fingers become longer?  Thicker?

“My lady,” Sten said earnestly, craning his head to look into her eyes, “You will never have to worry about that from me.”

It was so relieving to hear Freydis finally speaking her mind.  She was the most guarded person he had ever met; for her to be trusting him to this degree was a boon; an honor, even.  It was the very thing that had always been missing between them. 

“As long as you’re speaking honestly,” Sten chuckled lightly, “I suppose it’s only fair I do the same.  And the truth, Freydis Eiriksdottir, is that I’ve loved you for a long, long time.  No matter how far apart we were, you’ve dominated my thoughts since the moment we met.”

There was a moment of softness on her face as she absorbed his words.  Her thick eyebrows, usually slanted downwards in a serious demeanor, relaxed.  She opened her mouth, but struggled to speak. 

“I-I just,” Freydis stammered, “I’m sorry, but I simply refuse to believe that.  You could have any woman in Midgard.  You’re you and I’m…well…me.  I’m a horrid brute who wields battle axes, not sewing needles.  I don’t know how to cook anything that isn’t salted meat.  And I certainly don’t want to bear children and grow old in a little cottage.” 

“You have your own dreams and ambitions, and I’m too selfish to give up on mine.  You deserve a beautiful, delicate woman who will support you in your endeavors and give you many sons and daughters to take over your business.  That’s what you really want, and you’re not going to find it with me.”

“Freydis dear, shut up,” Sten scoffed, rolling his eyes, “Don’t you go retreating again, like a turtle that won’t come out from its shell.  Every time in the past that I’ve confessed my feelings, you’ve denied me, telling me what kind of a woman I should want, and how you’re not it.  Well not this time.”

He stared deeply into her vibrant, green eyes.  They glistened, almost as if she was on the verge of tears.  That would be a first.

“You are the most incredible woman I know,” he continued, “I don’t care if your new gift means you can beat me in arm wrestling.”

Freydis took a moment, simply breathing in and out, her tall frame standing over him with such presence.  With each inhale and exhale, her tunic threatened to split and free her body from its confines, and Sten kind of wished that it would.  He felt her hand tighten, squeezing his firmly.

“Gift from the gods, or not,” Freydis smirked, “I could always beat you in arm wrestling.”

Sten simply laughed, and Freydis pulled him into an embrace, pressing his ear to her warm, hard bosom.  Being wrapped in her arms felt different than it had the last time they were this close; she enveloped so much more of his body in her strong arms and easily held him against her as his full weight melted into her.  He could feel the muscles beneath her clothes and while he was curious just how such a powerful woman looked completely naked, Sten was find simply enjoying the hug.  Time faded away as Lady Cassandra coasted smoothly back toward Breidafjordur.

There was still much for them to discuss and settle.  Sten had no idea if their conversation meant they were seeing each other again.  He had a suspicion that with all Freydis had on her mind and the impending challenge she was going to throw at Jarl Leif, the distraction of their questionable relationship was the last thing she needed.

But Sten was okay with that.  He would continue to be her support for now.  Today, he could simply be happy on two fronts.  First off, he had somehow gotten out of that terrible storm with him and Lady Cassandra still intact.  And two, him and Freydis had unearthed some feelings they had long buried concerning one another.  At this moment, that, along with the overdue embrace, was enough for him.

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