Stardust Ch. 01byMsLaLa31©
FOREWORD: Hi guys. This is one of the new stories I've been working on. I don't want to go so in-depth that I spill all the details.
I pretty much just wanted to preface by saying that this is completely a love story. It is more a Fantasy and has lots of magic, enchantment...even time travel. It is also part-historical Romance with a lot of Viking references; however, not everything in the story is historically accurate. There's a bit of fact and a bit of fancy.
There are no sex scenes in Part 1. Even so, I hope you are able to read the story and are transported into the world of my characters.
Please comment (be nice) and vote. I really, really love hearing from you guys.
Holy crap, this is it...I'm so nervous! Okay...without further ado, I give you, "Stardust."
Tyler had buried her little brother today, and now she was alone in the world. She knew it was asinine to walk along the duck pond this late at night...especially in a foreign country; but she couldn't bring herself to go back to the confines of the hotel room, yet.
It was disconcerting to be the only living relative.
Sitting on a bench, Tyler wept in such a manner that the force of her sobs made it difficult to breathe.
When she was empty, she got up and slowly made her way to her rental car. Noticing something on the ground a few yards away, she paused. The moon was huge and full, its light bounced brightly through the tall trees and off of the object.
Curious, Tyler walked toward it and looked down.
What she saw was a small, gold box...but she had been wrong about one thing.
The moon hadn't caused it to shine; the box had been...glowing? Couldn't be, she thought. Against her better judgment, Tyler picked up the box and ran her fingers over the warm, smoothness.
It was small enough that it could fit into her pocket, but it was incredibly heavy.
Tyler shook the box...nothing.
As she continued to examine it, she found that there was a small clasp in front. Flipping it up, Tyler watched as the lid slowly began to open.
She jumped at the loud boom of thunder. Suddenly, the wind picked up and black clouds billowed overhead, effectively blocking the moon. Lightning bolts illuminated the sky.
The forecast hadn't called for rain, she thought. Tyler had purposely checked the weather for the scattering of Marcus's ashes.
The wind was now whipping about her so strongly that it pushed her forward.
Clasping the little trinket to her, Tyler was about to make a beeline for the car, but stopped when the box moved in her hand. Turning her attention back to the gold ornament, she watched in horrified silence as the weather died down, and all was once again quiet.
Eerily, strange music radiated from the box, reminding Tyler of a scratched 1950s record. Unexpectedly, a quiet voice seemed to fill the air as it recited a rhyme:
A transformation will befall the wielder of this box, And he who does not believe, or whosoever mocks, Shall find himself confined to a prison of his making, Until the gods have accomplished their enchanted undertaking...
Eyes widened, Tyler watched as the figurine very slowly unfolded, shifting itself first into a ball. Then it changed back into a cube.
This was all too creepy.
When the box shifted into a pyramid, it suddenly stopped, the tip pointing directly at her. Tyler was aware that everything had gone completely quiet.
Her mind screamed at her to run away. She feared she had opened something otherworldly...something akin to an Ouija board.
The unnatural quiet was disturbed by another shock of lightening as it brightened the sky. It was immediately followed by a deafening peal of thunder. Tyler screamed when a lightning bolt crashed into the ground before her.
She was hurled onto the ground as everything was cast into darkness.
Winter, Northumbria, 876
It was colder than a witch's titties. Lord Brand Magnusson maneuvered his huge, black destrier, Sleipnir, through the mounds and mounds of snow. He and his men were returning from serving their great Norse leaders.
Having traveled for over six months in an effort to return home, the men were weary.
Now that the manor was within sight, the mood among them changed. They all were energized as they spurred their warhorses onward, more than ready for the comforts of home and the sight of their wives and children.
Always the warrior, Brand caught a movement on the left behind a copse of trees. Instinctively, he withdrew his sword, and turned Sleipnir in that direction. Alert, his men followed with their swords and axes at the ready.
Brand pulled the horse to a stop a few yards away from the form that was lying in the snow. He'd thought it was an animal, but it was a person! Hurriedly, he jumped off of Sleipnir in one fluid motion.
Once beside the figure, he fell to his knees and prayed to Odin that it wasn't one of his people. Turning the body over, Brand found that it was a woman. But she wasn't like anything he had ever seen.
During his travels, he had heard stories that there was a foreign land of people with dark skin that ranged from the lightest brown to midnight black. While others had scoffed at the idea, Brand had acknowledged that no one knew the mind or the ways of Odin.
The world was a vast place; and anything was possible. Here, lying before him was proof.
As his men gathered around him, there was a collective gasp. Not only was the woman dark, but she was wearing very unusual clothing. The fabric of her garments clung to her body and had not been nearly enough to combat against the frigid climate.
Leaning down, Brand pressed his ear to her nose and mouth. Feeling her shallow, labored breath across his cheek, he issued an expletive.
She was alive!
He whipped off his furs and wrapped them around the woman, swaddling her.
"Bjor," he called to his huge commander.
As Brand mounted Sleipnir, Bjor lifted the woman off the ground and placed her in Brand's arms.
His squire, Finn, mounted his own, small mare and rode at a breakneck speed to alert the manor's healer of their arrival.
Taking care to cover the woman's face, Brand urged Sleipnir toward the keep.
As the men arrived, they were met in the large, stone courtyard by the crowd who had come to welcome their return home.
Despite the warriors' return, the once jovial disposition among the villagers was now grim. Bjor anticipated his lord's needs and was there to take the woman out of Brand's arms as he dismounted Sleipnir.
The crowd parted as the small, old woman pushed her way forward. "This way, "Asgerd said as she hurriedly led them into the keep.
She knew everything there was to know about medicines. Asgerd had been the manor's healer for 40 years. She instructed Bjor to set the woman down on the pallet in front of the large fireplace.
They would first have to warm the woman if she would have any chance of survival.
When Asgerd removed the furs from around the stranger, there was another collective gasp among them. Even the warriors who had already seen the dark woman came closer for another look. Nobody had ever seen such a thing.
As they all murmured amongst themselves, some wondered if this was some kind of mischief from Loki.
Maybe this woman was a Dökkálfar...a dark elf.
It was hard to ruffle Asgerd...she had seen a lot in her 70 years. But even she was amazed that such a person existed. A young boy came forward and very gently dragged his finger along the woman's cheek. He looked at his finger to see if any of the brown color had come off...his wide, blue eyes stretched when his finger came away clean.
The boy turned to the crowd and showed that there was nothing on his finger. The bystanders continued to stare at the stranger, wide-eyed.
Remembering her purpose, Asgerd snapped into attention and took in the woman's appearance. She wore very peculiar clothing which left most of her voluptuous body exposed for all to see.
There were rules of decorum and Asgerd would not allow the crowd to continue gawking at the woman especially in her state of undress.
"Shoo!" she said to her kinsmen, pushing them away. Asgerd refused to move a muscle until only she and her apprentice Inga were the only ones left in the room.
Lord Brand and Bjor quietly stood watching behind the two women.
"What should we do?" Inga asked, frightened.
"We do what we would if she were one of our own," Asgerd said, looking back at Lord Brand.
When he quietly nodded his consent, she began to remove the girl's garments.
In a show of propriety, the two giants turned away and made to leave.
"Asgerd, you will keep me informed of the woman's progress. Spare nothing while treating her. I will return in a few hours' time," Brand instructed quietly.
"Yes, milord," she replied.
Once the woman's clothes had been removed, Asgerd gave her own orders to Inga.
"Quickly, we need more blankets. It is important that we warm her. But Inga, avoid touching her body as much as possible...it will likely do more harm than good. We must be tender with this one."
As Inga went to retrieve the blankets, Asgerd took a visual inventory of the woman's injuries. There were blisters already forming where the snow had damaged her skin. She hoped the wounds were only on the surface; any deeper and the girl would be in danger of losing her limbs.
Asgerd gingerly touched the skin on the girl's arm and found that although it was now a grayish-yellow, it was still soft. That was a good sign. If the skin had been firm, she would have reason to worry.
A small, shiny object trapped in the girl's garments caught Asgerd's attention.
She very carefully removed it.
Once it was in her hand, Asgerd dropped it as if burned. It was a gold box, and the moment she touched it, the box had begun to glow. An old Nordic inscription had been engraved on it.
Asgerd took a cloth and once again picked up the trinket. She wrapped it carefully and turned back to the girl, looking down at her in wonder.
Who was this strange woman? she wondered.
Asgerd began the process of dressing the girl's digits first. The fingers and toes could not touch under any circumstances. She then tied a splint around the hands and feet. If the girl awoke and began to fidget, she would run the risk of doing irreparable damage.
Next, Asgerd placed cloths dipped in warm water on the girl's skin. The process of re-warming her was going to be a long one. Turning to her jars, she painstakingly applied her homemade paste of aloe and herbs.
Soon, Inga was back with a bundle of blankets.
"What did you do? Take every blanket we have in the keep?" Asgerd asked.
"Almost," Inga replied. "All except Lord Brand's." Asgerd shook her head.
Taking the blankets out of Inga's arms, she gently laid them on the sleeping girl. "We will have to change the cloths every few minutes. We must keep the warm temperature on her...warm, though Inga, not hot. Use your discretion. If the temperature is uncomfortable for you, so then will it be for her."
Taking the wrapped box with her, Asgerd pulled on her cloak and hurried toward the door.
"Where are you going?" Inga asked. She didn't want to be left alone with the mysterious woman.
"Never mind that...I will return shortly. Take care of her!" Asgerd commanded.
Much to Inga's chagrin, the strange woman began to moan.
"What mischief brings you to my door at this hour, old woman?"
Asgerd turned to see the young witch walking toward her, arms laden with wood. Her voice was mesmerizing in its rich, huskiness.
Svala had chosen to distance herself from the rest of the village. Because of her gift and peculiar ways, she had become the outcast. Actually, the alienation had been self-imposed.
She had spurned the attempts people made at friendship; eventually, the townspeople had left her to herself. Sure, whenever people needed answers or a magic spell cast for them, they would venture to the witch's cottage.
They would bring coins or their biggest, fattest chickens or wine, fabric...the very best they had to offer in exchange for what Svala could do for them. But that was as far as the visits went. If people didn't need anything, nobody bothered her.
When Asgerd said nothing, Svala spoke again. "Has the woman arrived?" She walked past the old woman and opened the door.
Asgerd's eyes widened imperceptibly. It was sometimes disconcerting how accurate Svala was.
"Yes, she has. Lord Brand found her in the woods. The cold is ravishing her body."
Svala seemed to mull over this bit of information. "Come in from the cold," she said.
As Asgerd stepped into the cottage, she welcomed the warmth coming from the fire in the hearth.
Surreptitiously, she eyed the witch. She was a beautiful woman, and could have made a satisfactory match if it had not been for her gift. Svala's ability to see and hear things had almost destroyed her.
Asgerd remembered her as a child.
She had always been quiet...distant. She had come to them when Lord Brand's father Magnus had been chieftain. She was of noble birth, but her mother and father had been killed. His Lordship had been the girl's godfather, so he had taken her in.
At first, Svala was very distrustful. She didn't speak and stayed to herself. Then the nightmares had begun.
The only time the girl spoke was to tell of gruesome images that haunted her. No one had known what to do with the child until one day she had come into the great hall while everyone ate the evening meal.
She had walked right up to His Lordship's brother and pointing, said, "You did it."
Ulfar was not well-liked. And he'd had a temper...everyone knew that. They also knew that when the fiery demon inside him awoke, it was best to get out of its way.
But young Svala had proved that Ulfar's transgressions went beyond a mere bad temper. A young girl had gone missing in early spring. By fall, it was assumed that the child was dead.
Ulfar had made the most raucous.
He spoke about tearing up the countryside, not leaving any stone unturned. He'd also said he would have the offender drawn and quartered. But it had all been for show. Ulfar had done nothing.
Lord Magnus and his men had been the ones to rip through the countryside for weeks. When the lord had returned, he had been much thinner and weary...and without any answers.
Even though the villagers no longer talked about the missing child, they all still mourned her, wondering if some terrible act of nature had claimed her, or if there was a villain in their midst.
When Svala had disturbed Ulfar at his meal that day, he had turned on her, very nearly about to box her ears for being so insolent as to interrupt a member of nobility at his meal.
"Be gone girl, and find your manners. Who are you to disturb the Lord's brother while he dines?!" Ulfar had bellowed.
"You did it," was all Svala had said.
Before the situation turned ugly, Lord Magnus had called young Svala to him. Sitting her on his knee, he spoke quietly to her.
"What has you troubled, little one? Do you not know 'tis bad manners to disturb a Lord and his guests in such a manner?" he had asked.
While Magnus had admonished her, he had done it gently so that Svala had not felt attacked.
Her eyes brimmed with tears anyway. "My Lord, you do not understand. He did it," she said quietly.
Ulfar sat watching the two, his face ruddy from anger.
"Come now, child. Tell me what my brother has done," Magnus had urged in an effort to humor the girl.
"He killed her," she whispered.
Magnus looked at young Svala in disbelief. "Who?" he'd asked.
"The girl who is missing. The one you cried for. He killed her."
Magnus had been stunned. He had broken down in the privacy of his own chambers when they could not find the child. No one knew about that.
With everything in him, he knew that some dark mischief was upon them. He had long since feared that Ulfar was unbalanced. More than once, he had caught his brother staring at children while they played.
Magnus had always detected something manic in his brother. But he never thought...
"Go on, child. Tell me more," he said quietly. Svala had turned her head to the side as if listening.
"He did bad things to her. He touched her in places he should not have. Then he beat her when she would not stop crying. He beat her until she was quiet forever."
"How do you know this, Svala?" Magnus asked, anguished.
She didn't answer.
"Child, do you fear me?" he asked.
When she shook her head, he continued. "Good, because you have nothing to fear from me. Now tell me, how do you know these things?"
"She tells me," Svala had whispered.
The hairs on the back of Magnus's neck had stood up...he didn't pretend to not know who "she" was.
"She says she will take us to her body," Svala said.
"Show me," he said finally.
The spot where Svala had taken him was outside of the manor, deep inside the forest. There was an expanse of dirt that did not mesh with its surroundings...it had looked disturbed.
Magnus motioned for his commander to begin the digging. As he and Svala sat atop his horse, he prayed that this was all a mistake. Magnus hadn't wanted to believe the child was dead.
If it was true, this would beget even bigger problems.
He would have to kill Ulfar. It would also mean that Svala possessed a rare and precious gift. She would have to be protected from those who would harm her because of it.
Suddenly, his man stopped digging and looked up at Magnus, tears in his eyes. He had found the girl.
After that, there had been an uproar and everyone had wanted Ulfar's head on a pike. Magnus was a just and fair lord; what his brother had done had sickened him. He gave the order to have his brother drawn and quartered in the same fashion the sick man had claimed he would do to the girl's killer.
As rumors had begun that Svala was a witch and possessed powers, Magnus had called his people into the courtyard. He had stood with the little girl in his arms.
"This child is under my household. By Valhalla above, I have sworn to protect her. If any man lay harm to her, may Odin protect him," he had bellowed.
And with that, he had carried Svala into the keep, leaving behind him a stunned audience...nobody had ever dared to even look at Svala in an untoward manner.
"I am certain that you can care for whatever ailment the woman struggles with. What brings you to me, Asgerd?" Svala asked, bringing the old woman's thoughts back to the present.
"This," she replied.
She set the small bundle onto a table and unfolded the surrounding cloths. The box glowed beautifully, ethereally.
Svala's eyes widened as she looked at it. "It came with the woman?" she whispered.
Asgerd simply nodded.
"You have not touched it, have you?"
"I had to remove it from the girl's person. When I touched it, it burned me," she said. Asgerd held up her fingers to show the raw flesh there.
"'Tis not you that it wants. If it has come here with the girl, she is the only person it will allow to wield it," Svala said.
"What is it?" Asgerd asked.
"It is a gift from the gods. They have chosen this woman to do a great work here. We must treat her as one of our own for Odin will be greatly displeased if she is harmed while in our care. Her time with us will be short, but she will leave a great impression upon us," Svala said.
"Now go, attend her. Leave the box with me. I will keep it in my care until the appropriate time. I have need of more meditation on this. I will come to you when I know more. Go quickly, the woman is feverish," Svala urged.
Asgerd turned to leave, wondering about all Svala had said. The gods had sent the child to them? She would not argue; something was definitely amiss. In all her 70 years, she had never felt the change in the liveliness around them to this magnitude.