I erred on the side of caution and set up my paperbacks early in case of Amazon waiting times, and surprise they went live quickly and you can get them now!
The ebook is still due to launch on the third of September as planned. I also wanted to say thank you to everyone has taken advantage of the launch sale price and done a pre-order! I’ve really been blown away by the excitement around this passion project of mine and I can’t wait for everyone to read it.
Need a sneak peek? Keep reading for chapter one!
Fenrys Rune-Tongue opened her mouth to the sky and let the rainwater drip slowly down her parched throat.
It had been four days since she had been tied to her corner of the longboat. She had lived off the little rainwater she could manage to get into her mouth or suck off the wooden railing she was tied to. Her captors didn’t care if she died; they were hoping she would save them the headache of handling her.
In the dark of midnight, the raiders had beached their boat in the bay at her village of Visby, the place of sacrifices, where women came to learn to be seiðr to serve the gods. No one had ever dared attack them. Not until Egil had managed to convince his men it would be easy picking.
Fen had made it harder for them than they expected. She had been trained as a shield maiden and a seiðr, and she had killed seven of the raiders before they managed to overpower her.
It had been sufficient time for the acolytes and the teachers to get away and hide in the forest, and that was enough for Fen.
“We should push her over the side and be done with it,” Brandr spat as he glared at her.
Fen smirked. She liked that he was scared of her.
She was a seiðr, a keeper of stories and magic, a seer and sacred servant of Freya and Odin. Their mistreatment of her was enough for even the strongest of the raiders to be nervous. Egil only laughed at him.
“Don’t be a coward. She can do nothing to us without an ax in her hand.”
“The seiðr have magic. Who knows what curse she will bring down on us,” Brandr argued, earning Egil’s fist in his face.
“Shut up. We will be in Hedeby tomorrow, and we will sell her like all the rest.”
Fen laughed. “You think anyone is going to buy a seiðr? They will be too scared of the All-Father’s wrath as you should be,” she said calmly. Brandr raised his fist to her, but Egil caught his arm.
“Leave it. Don’t let the witch provoke you,” he said. “We are going to sell her to someone who doesn’t care about the gods or what powers she might have.”
Fen ignored them, settling deeper into her damp blue cloak that still smelled of pine smoke and blood. She tried not to listen as the other female slaves were assaulted that night, as they had been every night since their capture.
She prayed softly to Freya that they would be strong and those who touched them would die screaming and without glory. If she had a chance to get free, she would give them that death for everything they had done.
The goddess’s warm presence caressed her, and Fen whispered her gratitude. She was Odin-marked, after all, so the goddess rarely acknowledged her, but Freya was the mother of all seiðr; maybe she would not forget her daughter like Odin had. Fen had saved as many of her priestesses as she could. Perhaps that made Freya look favorably on her.
Fen wanted to know what the fuck the All-Father was playing at, letting an ox-like Egil take her as a slave. She should have seen their attack in the runes, should have been able to read this journey in her wyrd.
No one had seen it, and that was bad for all of the seiðr.
* * *
The following day, Fen woke to the smell of smoke and a fog so thick, she could barely see the front of the boat. She did her best to wipe the frost off her braid, still stained with blood and mud despite the rain that had been falling on her for days.
As the sun warmed, the fog began to vanish, and the trading port of Hedeby rose out of it—an island of moored boats, raiders, farmers, whores, and foreigners.
“Finally, we can be done with you,” Brandr snarled as he directed one of the men to untie her. He wasn’t about to lay a hand on her despite his words.
With cramps racing up and down her legs and back, Fen climbed from the boat and onto the wooden jetty to stand with the other twenty slaves. They all looked ashen and not worth the coin Egil would charge for them.
“Walk,” Egil commanded, shoving at Fen with the butt of his spear. He wasn’t brave or stupid enough to get too close, either. One wrong move, and Fen would have that spear so deep in his gullet that it came out of his throat.
The slaves were herded along the stinking streets, through the fish markets, and where farmers were selling crops. The ring of a blacksmith’s forge sounded in the distance, and people were busy selling or buying everywhere. There were also traders from the east—men in richly colored robes selling spices, dyes, and fabrics.
The stench of human suffering, blood, and shit filled Fen’s nose as they made it to the slave markets. Women and children were chained in pens, separate from the men, and ranked only slightly higher than livestock.
Fen ground her teeth together at the curse biting at her tongue. She made to follow the women into a pen, but a round shield shoved her back.
“Not you, witch. We would never sell you to this crowd,” Brandr said, sharing a smile with Egil. He took the rope of her leash and tugged her along.
There were only the two of them. She would only need a slight distraction. Fen froze as the cold, sharp tip of a spear rested on the back of her neck.
“Don’t even think about it. You already cost me seven vikingar, and if you weren’t worth the gold I need, I would gut you right here,” Egil snarled softly. “Now, move.”
Fen kept walking, following Brandr and trying to stay out of the way of the crowd. They headed out of town and up a grassy hill.
She wondered if she was being taken to be sacrificed, but no one would pay raiders gold for that, and no one would dare to sacrifice a seiðr.
Cages had been built at the top of the hill, but of metal, not wood. They were filled with criminals and those too dangerous to sell at a regular slave market.
Those hard-faced men all looked like they were going to piss themselves. The slave traders didn’t look much happier.
Blank-faced women of all ages were crowded into another cage. Fen couldn’t help but notice they were holding up better than the men.
What in Hel’s name is going on here?
The caw of a raven made Fen’s head snap to the side, and her stomach filled with ice. She hadn’t been afraid before, but she was now.
Two stone obelisks rose out of the earth like teeth, strange runes carved into them. They were at least ten feet tall, and sitting on top of each one was a raven watching her.
A Sky Bridge.
She had never seen them but heard the stories and knew to fear them.
All-Father, what did I do to displease you? Fen begged. Surely not something terrible enough to deserve this. She had saved the other seiðr. She had always served the gods loyally. Despite her heartbreak, she would show no fear.
“Good, we made it before they got here,” Egil said with a laugh at Fen.
“They are watching us,” Brandr whispered, noticing the birds.
“Shut the fuck up. This will be done with soon,” Egil replied. “Their gold spends as easily as any other’s. The bridge only opens once a year, so any curse for taking the witch will leave when she does.”
A pale light began to glow between the pillars, growing brighter as it filled the space. A bronze metal head shaped like a monstrous cat appeared through the light, followed by the rest of an armored body. Four others appeared, all bigger than ordinary men, carrying wickedly curved sickle swords at their sides and shields almost as tall as Fen was.
“You will sell me to the People of Sand and Sky? Do you really not fear the gods, Egil?” Fen demanded, a last pathetic attempt to save herself.
Egil only laughed. “Bitch, the gods won’t hear you once you go through the Sky Bridge. Not even Odin himself will be able to see you or hear your prayers.”
Fen straightened to her full six feet of height, making the two shorter men step backward in fear of the giantess.
“I pray to Odin that you both live long lives, and you die old men, alone by a hearth and with no honor,” she cursed. “You will not see the halls of Valhalla. You will freeze in the wastes of Hel’s halls, and no one will remember your name.”
Brandr hit her, fear making his face white. Fen tasted iron as she smiled at him and spat on the ground, sealing her curse with blood.
“It doesn’t mean shit,” Egil said, joining the other traders and the strangely armored men.
“Take it back,” Brandr hissed.
“Never,” Fen replied, her red-stained smile widening further. Egil whistled at them, and Brandr dragged her forward and thrust her rope at the bronze soldier.
The eyes of the helm were completely black, but Fen could feel them assessing her. A gloved hand touched her long, golden braid, and the warrior nodded. Gold ingots changed hands, and Fen’s rope was tied to the train of the other slaves.
The ravens hadn’t moved from the top of the glowing Sky Bridge, black eyes watching every moment.
“Why?” she whispered, but no reply came to her. There was no warmth of magic in her fingers or the iron and honey taste of runes on her tongue.
The train of slaves began to move through onto the bridge. As Fen’s feet stepped into the burning light, the last thing she knew of Midgard was the black eyes of the ravens and the cold certainty that Odin had abandoned her.
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