Vremore Kingdom, 913AD…

Savea’s sword clashed with that of her grandfather’s, then he spun and knocked her brother Mar off his feet. As Cain turned to deal with her once more, she quickly disarmed him and swung her blade at his throat, stopping just short of the death blow. Her grandfather laughed and then gently placed two fingers on her blade and pushed it away from his throat as he offered her a proud smile.

“Very good.” He said, helping her twin brother up off the ground. Mar removed his helmet and frowned at his grandfather. He was not happy he had lost the duel. “Do not frown Mar; it took your father a long time to get the hang of it too. It will come.” Their father Tait had learned to fight late in life and until he found his calling as an arched had been a dreadful swordsman. Or so they had been told he was a fairly accomplished warrior now.

Cain looked at Savea. “As for you, you are coming along nicely.” He said as Savea removed her helmet and tucked it under her arm. “You are an accomplished warrior.

“For a girl?” Savea grinned knowingly.

“For anyone. You fight better than many men I know. I pity any man who finds himself on the wrong end of your blade.” Cain put his arms around both their shoulders, ushering them back toward the palace. “Come now. I think it is time for lunch.

“I think I will skip lunch,” Mar said, “I have things to do before the festivities tonight.

“I also do. Please make our apologies to Grandmother.” Savea said, kissing her Grandfather’s cheek and then she wandered off with Mar.

They made their way into the private chambers of the palace. Savea said she wished to wash up before she had lunch. Mar agreed he needed to do the same, and they walked side by side as they made their way to their respective chambers. As children, they had shared a nursery, but as they came of age, they were separated and given their own rooms, and their younger brothers had taken the nursery.

Mar’s chambers were next to Savea’s. The two of them were close. Closer than they were to the rest of their kin. Mar and Savea had a bond that others would never understand. They knew all their secrets and confided in one another. Savea could tell her brother was upset about his loss during training. Mar tried so hard to be the man their father and Grandfather expected him to be. Upon their father’s death, he would be King and certain things were expected of a King, and Mar often felt like he did not measure up. Mar had a secret, a dark secret that only Savea knew. Mar killed time with the pretty young maidens in the kingdom, but he fancied other men.

It was a secret that would devastate his family and likely incite an uprising from the council of freemen, which would probably lead to violence and a strong likelihood of Mar losing his head. It saddened Savea that her brother was forced to live a lie. She only wished for his happiness, but the people would not tolerate his particular tastes. Mar faced a life he did not want, and that knowledge often left him depressed and filled him with self-loathing. It led him to cut himself. Perhaps as self-punishment, as he desperately tried to change his thinking or perhaps to feel anything other than the confusion and desperation that weighed on him.

Mar never removed his tunic in front of others to hide the hundreds of self-inflicted scars that covered his arms and torso. He had on more than one occasion expressed how he often wished to end his own life. Savea had lost count of how many times she had been forced to talk him out of ending his life. Should Mar kill himself, he would be disgraced and spend eternity at Hel’s table suffering more than he had in life. She did not want that for her brother. She would do anything to help him through the torment he suffered daily, but she feared that one day, Mar might give in to the self-hate and end it. She wanted to go to her parents, but she could not do so without telling them Mar’s secret, and she had sworn to him she would not tell a soul.

“I lost again,” Mar growled as they walked.

“Do not worry about it. It is only training.

“Most men my age have already made their name. I am a pathetic excuse for a man. I will make a terrible king.

“You will come into your own when you are ready and not a moment sooner.

“I am a disappointment to Father and Grandfather. I can see it in their eyes. You are a better warrior than I am.

“I will throw the fight next time.” She offered, trying to make him feel better.

Mar scoffed. “The only thing worse than losing to my sister is winning only because she let me.

“You are good at other things.” She said, stopping outside her chamber door.

“Like what?

“You always win at chess. You are a genius at strategy. And in a battle, that is more important than being good with a sword.

“You think so?” He asked, unsure.

“I know so. You can outsmart anyone.” Mar smiled, and she knew he was feeling better about the failure in training. “Now, I am going to have a bath.

“Good, you smell.” He teased as he walked to his door and disappeared into his room. Savea laughed and entered her chambers.

Savea walked over to the stand by the window and placed the helmet she was carrying on the top then she proceeded to unstrap her leather armoured chest plate. It was form-fitted leather and along the front of the chest plate while others had iron studs spanning the leather Savea’s chest plate had thin wispy brass filigree that covered the leather and kept true to her feminine figure. She also wore tall leather fur-lined boots, with leather shin and forearm guards. Slid securely into slits of leather on her forearm guards were small blades that were deadly in close combat or could be thrown with expert accuracy from a distance. Around her narrow hips, she wore a thick leather weapons’ belt that sheathed her sword and a dagger, both of which donned the royal family crest etched into the brunt of the blade at the base by the handle.

Her clan had been at war with the neighbouring Weksler Clan to the north of their borders. As she grew up, fathers had taken to training all their children male and female alike so that they may stand their ground, defend themselves, their home, and their clan. While it was traditionally considered improper for girls to dress as boys when it came to the battlefield, women were encouraged to wear pants like their male counterparts simply because it was easier to fight in trousers than a skirt. So when Savea donned her armour, she wore the fitted leather pants her Grandfather had given her. However, when out of her armour, Savea wore a dress.

Hanging her armour on the stand, Savea stripped away her leather trousers and her tunic, then she hauled water from the barrel by the fireplace and hung it to heat over the fire. She then removed the leather lace that held her long auburn hair in a braid. She hummed to herself as her slender fingers worked the tightly knit braid loose and left the long heavy locks to tumble down her back.

Since she was old enough to hold a weapon both her grandfathers and her father had trained her to fight. She had caught on fairly quickly. She had needed to. Midnight raids were a common occurrence. She never went out with the men when they attacked the enemy, but when the enemy was on their land, she sure as hell defended it.

All her life, she had heard stories about the Weksler Clan and the vicious King who had started the war. A man that was so cruel and malicious that he had attacked unprovoked and had even beheaded and skinned her uncle, who had died before she was born. The King was known for torturing his victims, and it was said that he enjoyed it. That he would dine by the screams of his prisoners, then chop off their heads and line his village walls with the severed heads of his enemies on pikes — a warning to all that he was not merciful. King Dixon had become synonymous with the face of evil. Mothers told stories of the King to scare their children into behaving.

At the moment, the seasons were in transition. The hot summer days were giving way to cool autumn breezes. Savea knew it was a tradition for most clans that the men set sail to explore the world and make their wealth, but with the war, the men refused to leave the village undefended, so they had stayed on home shores all year round. This fall season was particularly special. As of today, her grandparents had been married 40 years, and there was to be a huge feast at which Savea would sing as the minstrels played while the people rejoiced. The kitchen staff had been working all week preparing for the feast. Her Grandfather had commissioned a new dress for his bride. It was to be a formal occasion.

Savea filled the tub by the fireplace and climbed in the water. As she washed her long thick hair, she sang to herself, practicing the songs she had promised to sing to honour her Grandparents. It was her gift to them. Savea enjoyed singing, growing up the only granddaughter Savea spent much time with her Grandmother. She would tell Savea wonderful stories, and they would dance around the room together as Zahra sang her songs. Savea adored her Grandmother.

Yes, tonight would be perfect; nothing could ruin the festivities.


Dixon sat in his room, watching the slave girl dance for him. He was bored. The war with Cain had taken its toll on his life. He had lost interest in much of what used to bring him joy. As the woman undressed, Dixon found himself drifting off in thoughts about past battles. How could he win the next one? Much to Dixon’s surprise, the older man was a formattable foe; he was smart and surprisingly agile for a man in his 60’s. He was strong and skilled in battle, which made the man Dixon’s equal, which annoyed Dixon greatly because neither of them could ever seem to tip the balance of this blasted war and peace was not even an option. They would fight until one of them dropped dead.

At this rate, he was no longer sure it would be Cain biting the dust first. Dixon was getting long in the tooth himself having just turned 36 Dixon was now considered an older man, he was past his prime some would say, but Dixon was as dangerous now as he had ever been and maybe more so. Cain had been right about one thing. Dixon had been impulsive in his youth, but with time and experience, he had bettered himself. It had made him a better King and a better warrior.

There was a knock at the door, and Dixon rolled his eyes. More interruptions. “Enter.” He raised his voice so those knocking could hear him. The woman pulled her dress up to cover herself from the eyes of the man entering. Dixon glared at the slave girl. “Did I say dress?” He snarled, and she let her dress fall as she cast her eyes down. Dixon looked up at the two men who came in. They were two of his best warriors, Hoth and Gram. They were part of the freeman council and trusted advisors. “What do you want?” He demanded; their interruption aggravated him.

“We apologize for the intrusion.” Gram express regret.

“What... do… you… want?” He repeated with growing annoyance.

“We have an idea to bring an end to this war,” Hoth said.

Dixon looked at the slave girl. “Get out.” She grabbed up her dress and fled the room, closing the door behind her. Dixon fixed the warriors with a stern look. “I am listening.

“It is clear that this war will never end with a death or a victory for either side. You and Cain are too evenly matched, and this war has gone on too long. It has taken a toll on both sides. It needs to end.” Hoth said.

Dixon knew Hoth was right. He was a wise advisor, and he had never lead Dixon astray. “What do you suggest?” He still was not hearing any answers.

“Well, 18 years ago, Cain refused peace, but there have been so many losses on both sides he may be more open to peace now. What the council is suggesting is a union of the bloodlines to solidify peace between our clans.

Dixon looked at his men like they had lost their minds. “A union?” Dixon was a single man, he had yet to take a bride or sire a child, but he did not see how this idea would work. “Cain’s daughter is already married and has four children.” He reminded the council.

“Right.” Gram agreed, “But his granddaughter is of age, and she is not married.

Dixon relaxed back in his seat and tented his fingers as he thought about what they were suggesting. Royal marriages were never about the love; they were cold, calculated, political arraignments meant to build alliances and open trade agreements. If he united his clan with Cain’s, they would be unstoppable. The two most powerful clans in the land united as kin. It would bring a time of peace, give Dixon and heir, create a formidable alliance, and lead to a time of prosperity… that is if Cain agreed to it? Eighteen years ago, Dixon would have been certain Cain would refuse the proposition, but now after years of death and devastation, he may be more receptive to the idea.

If the war were over, the men would be free to sail once more, and Dixon could rebuild the kingdom’s wealth and restore it to its former glory. As a young man, he would have rejected the idea in its entirety, but at 36, he had to face reality, he needed an heir, which meant he needed a wife. A union with another royal bloodline would be preferred.

Dixon weighed the pros and cons of this arraignment should Cain agree. He had to admit having a wife would suck, but it worked out on so many other levels. Dixon had made up his mind. “Bring me my armour; we are going to Vremore.” He may have to fight his way in, but he would force Cain to grant him an audience.


Savea sat still while the servant woman braided her hair and weaved a crown of small white flowers in her auburn locks. She was adding the final touches to Savea’s appearance after having helped her into the heavy green dress pinning the shoulders in place with silver broaches. There was a knock on her door just as the servant slipped the last flower in place. “Enter,” Savea called as she stood up while the servant cleaned up.

Mar came in and smiled when he saw her. “Well, you look fabulous.” He said.

“You look very impressive too.” She said with a smile. They might have been twins, but Mar was much bigger than her. She supposed for a man he was average height, but he towered over her. Savea had always been small, even by women’s standards. She barely cleared 5’2”, she was extremely petite for a Norse woman, even at her heaviest when weighed down with armour she would be surprised if she topped out at 100lbs.

Her brothers always teased her, saying a strong wind would knock her down. When asking why she was so tiny compared to other Norse women, her mother would tell Savea she took after her grandmother’s Scottish roots. Perhaps her diminutive size was why she felt she had to fight. To prove that her size did not make her lesser to other women. She might have been small, but she could hold her own against anyone, even full-grown barbarian warriors. She cowered to no one.

Mar, on the other hand, stood 6 feet, which was on the shorter side of average for Norse men, but he was solid muscle. He was a hell of an attractive men and women often pursued him even though he would have preferred they had not. Except for their auburn hair and striking blue eyes, they had very little else physically in common. Tonight, he was dressed in tanned canvass trousers and a dark forest green tunic with silver embellishments. A fur cloak pushed back off his broad shoulders and held in place with silver broaches. Around his head, a thin gold band that identified him as royalty. She had to admit Mar was a striking figure; it would be imposable to tell by looking at him that he had no talent for war like other men.

“Thank you, are you ready for dinner? The hall is already full.

“Yes, I think I am. Shall we join the festivities?

“I am ready if you are.” Mar and Savea walked through the palace together to the great hall. As they came into the room, Savea could feel the excitement in the air. She and Mar took their seats at the large wooden table near the throne where their grandparents ate. The tables were filled with all sorts of wonderful foods and ales. Closest to the throne sat their father, Tait, and mother, Seri. As heir to the throne, their father was often at their grandfather’s side. The right of the throne, their great aunt and her three sons and their children and spouses. To the left sat Savea, her siblings, and her grandparents on their father’s side. Every other table in the hall was filled with the villagers. Everyone was eating and drinking. It was a great time until they heard a commotion outside the hall doors. The hall fell quiet as all the men stood and reached for their weapons.

While most people were in the hall, a few warriors were roaming the village as guards watching for an attack. Suddenly an eerie silence filled the air, and Cain stood up and watched the doors as everyone else was. Suddenly the tall, heavy doors swung open and in came a small army of heavily armoured and heavily armed men. Savea watched as the large man at the front marched forward, dragging an extremely wounded guard behind him with one hand. As he reached the center of the room, he effortlessly threw the wounded man at Cain’s feet.

He then reached up and removed his helmet, tucking it under his left arm as he stared her grandfather down. Savea took one look at this man and could not breathe. He was devastatingly handsome. His ebony hair hung loose and dusted his shoulders, wayward, unruly strands hung in his dark, brooding eyes. His jaw had a three-day-old beard that gave him that rugged look. The scar across his left eye made him look menacing, in an extremely exciting way. He was a big man; he stood taller than her brother if she had to guess he was at least 6’4”. His body was clad in armour, but it could not hide how fit and strong he was. His shoulders were broad, his arms solid, his legs long, and his hips narrow. The thin gold crown around his head identified him as a King. She had never seen the man until tonight, but there was no mistaking this man for anyone than who he was. This was Dixon, the Warrior King.

His mouth curved in an evil cocky grin. “Your sentries are getting soft, Cain. This one barely put up a fight.” He said smugly.

“Dixon, I supposed we should have known you would crash the party.

Dixon looked at Zahra, and he did something unexpected. He bowed to the Queen respectfully. “Your Majesty.

“What do you want?” Cain asked. “I assume you came for a reason. If it were to sack us, you would not be standing in front of me.

“18 years ago, I stood on this very spot and offered you a chance at peace.

“I recall.

“You rejected my offer.” He said, strolling over to the nearest table and taking a mug of ale from another man then strolled unhurriedly back to his spot before Cain as he sipped the ale. “18 years of death and devastation. We fight amongst ourselves when we should be sailing sacking infidels and bring home riches. Instead, we remain on home shores losing good men to a senseless war while our treasuries deplete. After all these sacrifices by both sides and we are no closer to a resolution. Neither gains nor gives ground. We are at a stalemate. So, I come before you today to once again propose peace. A truce, and to seal the deal, I propose a union of the bloodlines.” He said, draining the mug and tossing it aside.

“A union?” Cain said with interest. “Between whom?

“Myself, of course, and your Granddaughter.

Savea’s eyes widened in shock, and she shot to her feet. “Absolutely not.” She snapped.

Both Cain and Dixon turned their heads to look at her. Dixon’s gaze rolled over her with interest. “Who is she?” He asked Cain.

“That is my Granddaughter. The woman whose hand you are here to bid for.

“Huh.” Dixon made a thoughtful sound as he watched her. “What a pleasant twist of fate. I did not realize your kin was so comely.” He was looking at her like a wolf eyes meat. Suddenly Dixon snapped out of it and returned his attention to Cain. “Well, Cain, what do you say? Unite the clans and rebuild or continue to kill each other until we have both be devastated and weakened to fall prey to other clans?

“No!” Savea growled as she came around the table and marched over to both men. “There will be no union.

“Hush.” Dixon snarled. “Men are talking.

Savea was appalled. She slapped him hard across the face, and when he glared at her shocked that she had struck him, Savea did not back down. She looked right up into his angry eyes. “I will not marry you.

“The choice is not yours,” Dixon told her with pleasure, “It is his.” He said, nodding to Cain.

“He is right,” Cain said, and Savea turned to look at her Grandfather, shocked. “The choice is mine. I am King and patriarch of this family; you must obey both. My will is law.


“Silence.” Cain barked at her for the first time in her life and Savea was so stunned by his harsh tone she could not find the words to speak. Cain looked at Dixon once more. He then extended his hand. “Deal. I consent to the union.

Savea was horrified as she watched Dixon extend his hand. Both men gripped the other’s forearm firmly, and they shook sealing the agreement. “In a fortnight, we will wed.” Dixon said. “I will host. You and your people will be my guests. Once the Gods have blessed the union, we will be one clan and all the stronger for it.

“It will not happen.” Savea stood her ground. “Not even if you dragged me to the altar in chains would I marry you.

“That can be arraigned.” Dixon hissed venomously.

Cain glanced in the direction of a servant girl. “Pack Savea a few things she may need. You may take her now.” He told Dixon. “Give you two a chance to get to know one another. Perhaps she will be more agreeable come the nuptials if you two spend some time together.

Savea stared at her grandfather. “You are sending me away?

Cain offered her a tender look. “Savea, you have the chance to end a war and save lives. As a princess, you owe it to the people to do so. With privilege comes responsibility. My marriage was not my choice, so I understand how you feel betrayed, but sometime we must do things we do not like for the betterment of others.

“You married Grandmother; you are making me marry a monster. There is a difference.” Savea turned and ran back to her parents. “Father, tell him he cannot make me marry.

Tait looked like he did not know what to say. “It is not his decision, either.” Cain barked. “He is not King yet. As long as there is breath in my body, you will obey me.

Savea stood her ground. “I will not go.” She declared, staring her grandfather down.

Cain did not bend. He looked his granddaughter dead in the eyes as he spoke to his men, “Bind and gag her. Dixon will be taking Savea with him.

Savea’s eyes narrowed in outrage. “I will not forget this.

“One day, you will understand.

“I hate you.

“For peace, I will bear your hatred.

Next chapter