Colum's Viking Captivity, part 2 - a series of well-researched gay erotic short stories - NSFW!

in fiction •  2 years ago

OFF THE COAST OF BJÖRKÖ – 806 A.D.

The wind was a blessing and a curse, Colum thought.  When there was no wind, he and Niall were slaves to the oars, their shoulders and backs nearly torn apart by the effort it took to  resist the ocean’s power.  Their Viking masters laughed at them, mocked their exhaustion, and beat their already aching backs when their strokes flagged.  They were the only two slaves, so the Vikings also stroked the oars, and every lapse by their captives was more work for them.

But when there was a wind, as there was now, he and Niall were put on another duty.  The sea spray pelted Colum’s naked body and soaked the ropes that kept his hands bound around the forward prow of the ship, the great wooden dragon’s head that struck fear in the hearts of men.  The wind that thrust the ship forward chilled the already-frigid beads of sea spray on his back, his ass, his head.  His monk’s tonsure was gone now, his hair cropped nearly to the skull, marking him as a thrall, and the sun burned his scalp.  He shivered with the cold, but also, in some deeper part of himself, with excitement.  He knew what was coming next, knew that the cold was prelude to an incredible warmth within.

He could hear the grunts and cries from behind him.  A Viking ship has two prows, so it could be easily beached and just as easily relaunched.  His friend and fellow former monk Niall was bound to the opposite one, and Einar, his owner, pumped away furiously, battering Niall’s ass with his massive cock. Colum would soon be crying out himself…

“Won’t you give us a go,” one of the men said to Viggo, leering at Colum.  “Look at him wiggling that rump! The monk is praying for a real man to have a chance at him!”

“He will pray in vain if I don’t do the job,” Viggo returned the jibe, both men smiling, the easy banter of warriors who were coming home from a successful raid, their pockets loaded with gold and silver.  Viggo was the owner of the ship, the leader of the expedition, but the northmen were not much for masters, and it was not by force that he governed them.

“Ah, what do I care,” the man laughed.  “Soon we’ll be in Birka and I’ll hire half a dozen wenches with the proper holes.”

Viggo’s booted feet parted Colum’s bare feet, spreading his legs.  He heard Viggo’s breeches drop, the silver belt buckle clattering on the deck.  “Any port in a storm, I say,” Viggo answered, and the whole ship’s crew roared with laughter.

The Vikings had their way with Colum and Niall in front of each other as easily as they would share a meal.  Niall’s master Einar had been more generous with his property, allowing man after man to spill his seed in Niall’s ass.  Colum had watched them, one after another, get up and drop their pants as if going to relieve themselves, stuffing their hard members into Niall’s ready receptacle.  And Niall had loved it…reveled in it, his cries of pain and of ecstasy intermingling.

But Viggo had not shared Colum.  He had tied him to the prow more than once on this journey, the journey from Iona to…where?  Somewhere they would melt down the treasure they had captured from the monastery, sell off the gems with which the crosses and goblets had been encrusted.  He had tied him to the dragon and penetrated him with nothing but spit and sea water for lubrication.  The salty water that ran off his back down his ass crack stung his insides as it was pumped up into him by the hammer of Viggo’s cock – Thor’s hammer, Colum thought absurdly, remembering the pagan fables, thrown and returned to his hand again and again.

Viggo had been merciful in not sharing him…but that was all.  He took Colum now as he had before, hard and fast, his hands grasping the dragon’s neck to steady himself, only his cock and hips touching Colum’s body.  Colum thought back to the beach, where he had lain himself out willingly on his monk’s robe – long gone now, washed away by the tide along with his previous life.  There Viggo had pressed his weight on to him, into him, his arms wrapped around Colum’s chest.  There he had broken his ass open as he did now, but there he had nuzzled Colum’s neck, bit it like an animal would its mate.

But not today.  In front of the other men, he was a war machine, and Colum’s ass was nothing more than a fortification to be destroyed.  Viggo’s massive cock punched his insides, that strange place inside his guts lighting up with pain and pleasure as Viggo hit it.  The root of his fruit and branches, he thought, surely, how else could it make his own cock so hard, as it was watered with Viggo’s juices?

Each time a wave raised the prow of the ship, it raised Colum up with it. Then the downward motion pushed him towards the horizontal, and Viggo’s weight came forward with him, onto him, into him, allowing him to thrust deeper.  Einar heard Colum’s whimpers and looked over his shoulder.  Then he laughed and mirrored Viggo’s action on the other end of the ship with Niall, so that as the ship rocked back and forth, each of the two prisoners cried out in alternating bursts, causing laughter among the other men.  It was a game now, Viggo and Einar making music on their drums.

Finally Viggo put his hands on Colum’s hips, to steady himself for the great eruption.  The feeling of his big strong hands, wrapping halfway around Colum’s trim waist, was too much.  “Oh, God!” Colum cried out, his own seed spilling as Viggo hissed, groaned, and spent inside him.

“Land,” a man shouted, and Viggo pulled out of Colum, still hard, the last of his cum dripping onto Colum’s ass cheeks.

“Head for the stakes,” Viggo said, pulling his breeches up.  His knife sawed at the ropes holding Colum to the prow, freeing him.  “Sail down.  Oars in.”

Back on his oar, Colum looked ahead at the coastline.  The town looked more like a fortress, Colum thought, with walls and men on the ramparts, and a wooden castle on the highest hill.  

A series of stakes, tree trunks really, forced the ship into a narrow channel.  Colum wondered if it was to protect ships from running aground.  Then, as the ship passed into a narrow inlet, and he saw the fortifications on either side, he realized that they were there to make sure that any visitor, or invader, had to thread the eye of the needle. 

He was shocked at the sight of the town.  It was the largest he’d seen, dwarfing even the busy market town around Clonmacnoise, the monastery where he’d lived for so long, and so happily, before being sent off to Iona.  The docks were bustling, crowded with ships – not just Viking raider ships, but other craft, strange and unfamiliar to him, from far-flung lands.

He and Niall were taken off the oars now – bringing the ship into dock was a job for more seasoned hands.  They stood at the back of the ship, out of the way.  

“What is this place?” Niall asked him.  “What country is this?”

“Birka, that was the name they used.  We’re somewhere in the Vikings’ lands.  They don’t have countries, or kings.”

“But…I thought they were…” He whispered, even though only Viggo spoke their tongue and he was occupied at the front of the ship.  “Pirates.  This is…civilization!”

“Even pirates have to sell their wares somewhere, don’t they? Where did you think they went when they were done raiding?”

“Back to Hell, was what they always told us at Iona.”

Colum smiled.  “Does this look like Hell?”

Then there was no time for conversation.  The ship docked and they were put to work unloading the loot.  When one of the boxes spilled open, Colum couldn’t help but gasp at its contents.  The head of a bishop’s crozier, solid gold and studded with gems, glinted in the sun.  It was worth enough in itself to build Iona all over again.

A hand cuffed him on the back of the head.  Viggo, Colum realized when he heard his voice.

“If you let that fall in the sea, you’re going in after it.”

“Sorry, lord,” Colum said, hastily closing the lid and putting the box on his shoulder.  Viggo had been so cold, so cruel, since that moment on the beach.  Was that his real self Colum had seen, or was this?  Was this to be his fate, to be beaten and savaged and used, and nothing more?

When they were done loading the hired wagons, they walked behind them through the town.  Niall’s eyes were agog; unlike Colum he had never even seen a real town before, never mind one like this.  The smell of meat and root vegetables roasting was overwhelming.  Colum was starving; they had eaten as well on the ship as the Vikings had, but rowing was hungry work.  The town was nothing but a market, he thought, his eyes trying to absorb everything he saw.  Vendors of ornate decorative silver clasps and buckles, soapstone figures, pottery, bolts of cloth, combs of bone and stone and silver and still more combs...and past that, the blacksmiths and glassmakers and tanners, their flames and stenches sensibly far away from the rest of the commerce.

And beyond that, were a series of large halls, the great Viking halls of which Colum had read.  They halted at one of them.  Colum and Niall started to unload the wagon, but Viggo stopped them. 

“Later.”

Colum’s eyes had to adjust to the dark, windowless building.  Torches and fireplaces provided light and heat, and they were quickly set to maintaining both, and to serving the food.  Colum’s stomach rumbled, and the torture of having a great platter of roast chicken in his hand and being unable to eat it was, for this moment anyway, far worse than anything Viggo had done to him.

On and on their serving duties went.  Flagons of ale had to be filled again and again.  Platters were stripped of food as quickly as he could bring it.  It was like that Greek legend he recalled, of the man forever rolling a boulder uphill, never making it to the top.  Finally he stumbled, weak with hunger.  

Viggo saw from his place at the table.  “You two.  Go and help in the kitchen.”  Colum and Niall handed off their burdens to other slaves and staggered outside.

The kitchen was a bustling outbuilding behind the hall, where stocky women sweated over ovens and kettles and pits.  The biggest one, called Gunna by the others, took one look at them and said, “Well, you’d better eat something.”

The two ex-monks squatted in a corner and glutted themselves on bread and cheese and fowl.  The ale was strong, much stronger than Colum was used to, and he regretted guzzling it so greedily.  His head was already spinning from the shock of it all and this didn’t help.

“Go on, then,” Gunna said to them, waving them out the door.  “There’ll be enough for you to do soon enough.  Go and get a rest.”

Colum and Niall found their way to the seashore, looking at the ocean road by which they’d come here.  Niall leaned up against a boulder and fell asleep, but Colum couldn’t sleep, his mind too restless.  It was hitting him now, the sorrow.  The other monks were dead…all of them.  Some had been his friends, some his enemies, some he’d like and some he’d loathed.  But they didn’t deserve to die.  

“Why did they have to kill them all?” he asked the ocean.

“It wasn’t the plan,” Viggo said from behind him.  He jumped up but Viggo waved him back down to the ground, sat beside him and looked out to sea.  “We were there for the loot, that’s all.”

“Then…what happened?”

“The great ugly fat one, he was ready to go into slavery.  Not that we would have taken him.  Too big a mouth to feed for the little labor we’d get.  But the rest would have done.  Or most of them, anyway.”

Fedelmid, Colum thought, his perverted torturer, who had reveled in flogging Colum for his many offenses against the monastery’s rules.  Of course he’d do anything to survive.

“But the abbot, he declared that they would rather die and go to Heaven than become slaves to pagans.”

“And what did you say?”

Viggo shrugged.  “I would have said nothing.  But the others demanded to know what he said.  So…I translated.”

“And that was that.”

Viggo nodded.  “Yes.”

Colum was relieved, and ashamed of being relieved.  Relieved that it hadn’t been Viggo’s fault, ashamed that he was concerned about Viggo’s guilt in the matter.  And an even greater guilt took him then, that he couldn’t repress his other concern.

“Are…are you going to sell the manuscripts?”

Viggo chuckled.  “Did you see any dealers of books in town?”

“No…but I saw Arab coins.  Arab script on some of the pottery.”

Viggo looked Colum in the eyes, appraising him anew.  “For a cloistered monk, you know a lot about the outside world.”

“I was at Clonmacnoise for many years before Iona.  The abbey was near a large market town.  I know the Arab silver coins are prized because of their quality.  And Arabs buy books.  We were always being frightened with the specter of our manuscripts ‘falling into infidel hands.’”

Viggo laughed, his blue eyes sparkling.  “Where they would be safer than in barbarian hands.”

“Are they safe in yours?” Colum asked, daring to look Viggo in the eyes, daring the punishment.  But when nobody else was around, it was different, he realized.  It would be a double life with his new master, friendly and perhaps even affectionate in private…but in public he would be beaten, cuffed and spat on, a slave unworthy of human kindness.

“I won’t tell you I don’t intend to sell most of them.  And I want you to tell me – honestly – which ones are worth anything.  I know…something about these things.  But not as much as you.  I will give you pen and paper, so you can copy them out.  Not like you have done at the monastery, all ornamented and such.  Copied quickly, as you would a letter.”

Colum thought of all the Latin books he had memorized, knowing the pages would be destroyed by the Church, burnt as heresy or the paper stripped and reused for the accounting of saintly miracles.  He had never dreamed that it would be barbarians and not Christians who would save the classical works lodged at Iona. 

Now he could recreate all the old pagan works he’d memorized, return their wisdom to the page, knowing they would go somewhere they would survive, safe from willful destruction at least.

He dared to ask.  “Why?  Of what financial value are the words themselves, without the decoration, the ornamentation?”

Viggo smiled.  “Because it pleases me.  You need no more reason than that.” He got up.  “Come, it’s time to go to town and sell our loot.”

Colum got up and followed him.  Viggo turned around quickly, and Colum nearly ran into him.  The look on Viggo’s face was stern.  

“And Colum,” Viggo said, addressing him by name for the first time.  “It would be best if you learned to call me ‘my lord’ at all times.  So you get, and stay, in the habit.”

Colum nodded, abashed, realizing he’d completely forgotten to do that in their conversation.  “Yes, my lord.”

He is my lord and master, Colum thought.  He had always had someone to answer to, someone to call “your Grace” or “your Eminence” or “my lord.”  How many times those words had been ashes in his mouth, having to say them to some fat, greasy, spittle-flecked toad!  But Viggo…it felt right to call him a lord, a master.  It felt…good.  Warm.  Safe.

Back at Viggo’s hall, Niall was loading some of the treasure back on the cart.  Colum gave him a hand, relieved that the box of manuscripts wasn’t among the items to be sold.  

They drove the cart into town, Viggo at the reins and Colum in the back.  They avoided the main thoroughfare, clogged with people and vendors.  Viggo pulled up behind one of the houses that fronted the marketplace.  The sound of the cart brought a man to the back door. 

Colum disliked him instantly.  He was wiry, nearly skeletal, his eyes huge in his head, alight with greed, his smile pulled into place against his nature.

“I heard you did very well on this expedition, Viggo.”

Colum had forgotten that Vikings didn’t treat each other with respect for rank; one man was as good as another unless he was an earl.  Viggo had called himself a prince when they had met in combat on Iona, and one of his men (now dead) had mocked him as a “sea-king,” a man with a ship and a crew but no lands.  Only his thralls would call him “lord.”

“That remains to be seen, doesn’t it, Harald?”

Harald smiled, and what teeth he still had were brown and rotten.  “Come in, come in.”

Colum thanked his physically active days at Clonmacnoise for making him strong, his sturdy back and shoulders needed now to hoist the heavy silver and gold out of the cart.  Inside the man’s house, there were scales, and in the next room Colum could see the red glow of a furnace where the silver crucifixes and gold chalices would be melted down, broken up into spendable bits of precious metal.  Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, he thought.

Harald went about his business, examining the gems, extracting them from their settings, weighing the metal.  Eventually he made a great show of counting out a pile of the Arab coins.  

“There!” Harald cried.  “A fair price!”

Colum’s blood rose.  One of his more tedious tasks had been recording the value of the gifts given to the monastery, and the value of the treasure placed in safekeeping.  He hated numbers, had no gift for them, but he was no fool and they had been drilled into his head all the same.  

“My lord,” Colum said.  “That is not…”

The blow came too fast to see.  Viggo had whipped around and struck him with the back of his open hand, but the force was enough to send Colum staggering to his knees.  His skin stung with bright pain, and his cheekbone ached dully from Viggo’s knuckles.

“My new thrall,” Viggo said to Harald, scooping up the coins.  “He has yet to learn his place.”

Harald examined Colum with predatory eyes.  The violence had excited him; he licked his lips as he looked at Colum on his knees.  

“He has a mouth on him,” Harald said, and Colum knew what he really meant.  “I could teach it to be silent.  Another twenty pieces of silver for him,” Harald offered.

Colum’s guts clenched with fear.  He was a slave, after all, as easily bought or sold or traded as the rest of the loot.

“Not today,” Viggo said casually.  “He’s still of some use to me.”

“As you wish,” Harald said, giving Colum one more long leering look.  Colum had to work to keep the disgust off his face – even this man was his superior now.

Viggo drove the empty cart back to his hall, Colum in the back, watching Harald’s house with rage.  He had robbed Viggo, and Colum had been powerless to stop it.

Near the hall, Viggo stopped the cart.  He turned around in the seat and looked down at Colum.

“Do not, ever, speak when you are not spoken to.”

“Yes, my lord, I’m sorry.”  A surge of anger rose in Colum, and he thought, fine!  Let yourself be robbed to save your pride!  See if I care!

This mollified Viggo.  They rode on.  Without turning to face him, and with some effort, Colum could tell, Viggo finally asked him the question burning in his mind. 

“How bad was it?”

“If the fair price was three pieces of silver, you received two, my lord.”

He watched Viggo’s back tense, could see and feel the heat of his rage.

“Do I need a slave to teach me about trading?” he spat at last.

The question stung Colum more than he could have imagined.  Viggo had been physically cruel to him, had hit and slapped him, had done so many things to his body with his hands and his cock.  But this…this hurt worse.  Why, he wondered?  Why do I care so much about the opinion of this man who has made me his slave?


That night, Colum and Niall followed Viggo and Einar into town.  The public house was full to bursting with men and whores.  Colum began to sweat as soon as he was inside from the heat of the bodies, the fires, the torches.  The singing and roaring, the clanking of coins being exchanged for ale or lost over games of dice, the women willingly or unwillingly thrown across laps and spanked to raucous laughter… He hadn’t realized until now how quiet his old life had been, how peaceful, how much he had enjoyed the silence.

It was their job to fetch the food and drink; Viggo and Einar were in no mood to sit and wait or flag down the publican or his family.  Each of them had a few coins in hand for that purpose – but not enough to buy my way out of here, Colum thought grimly.

When not needed, they were to stand back, out of the way, but always with their eyes on their masters should they need anything.  Colum was relieved to press himself up against the cool wall, out of the worst of the chaos.

Viggo reached out and grabbed a woman, young and plump and rosy cheeked.  She shrieked with laughter and barely disguised delight.  Of all the women in here, Colum thought, you certainly lucked out, my lady.  So many of the other men were ugly and lumpy and dirty, so unlike Viggo.

Colum watched as Viggo undid his breeches and his great pole of a cock stood at attention.  Nobody looked at it but Colum, and the wench, whose eyes widened at the sight, not entirely without fear.  Nobody looked at it directly, he corrected himself.  But the other men in the room were being shown up, Colum thought, probably deliberately.  Viggo was raising his staff proudly, asserting his domination, making the others shrink a little inside, knowing their manhoods were smaller.  Clever man, Colum thought, with a bitterness that surprised him.

He watched as the woman got down on her knees in front of Viggo and began to suck his cock.  Viggo drank his ale and chatted with Einar as if nothing was unusual about it.  Every now and again he would grab her hair and force her further down, force himself further into her throat.  Lazy slut, Colum thought, take it!  She’s terrible at this.

Viggo signaled and Colum went to his side.  Viggo handed him his cup without looking at him, his eyes cold and impassive as he watched the bobbing head.  Colum refilled it from a great barrel, using one of the dippers hung on the side, and left a coin in a bowl on a table next to it, monitored avidly by a toothless old woman.

He didn’t know who he wanted to spill it on more, Viggo or the woman.  He held the drink out to Viggo as he was learning to do, with two hands, head bowed.  The smell of juniper in the ale made Colum’s mouth water, his head aching from the heat and noise and craving an antidote.

Viggo looked up at him, his blue eyes glazed with drink and pleasure.  Colum’s eyes met his, and Viggo’s widened as he saw what Colum was unable to hide – his jealousy, his anger.  He laughed, took the cup, drank deeply, and tossed it to the ground.  

Colum was not dismissed, and so he had to stand there while Viggo now planted both hands on the slut’s head and began to fuck it, hips bucking.  He closed his eyes and tilted his head back, adrift on the tide of pleasure.

Then his eyes flew open and locked on Colum’s.  This is what you want, they said, and Colum couldn’t deny it.  Viggo didn’t break eye contact as he fucked her face harder and harder, the woman’s muffled cries and choking irrelevant.  Then, finally, so close to eruption, he threw her off of him and stroked himself until his climax.  Then he turned just slightly in his chair, and pointed his cock at Colum, still looking straight at him.

His semen was like a geyser, flying everywhere, landing on Colum’s face and chest with a shocking splash.  Viggo came and came, and Colum stood there, taking it, flushed with shame that everyone could see this, flushed with excitement that he, not the slattern, was the one who was making Viggo explode like this.  Colum wiped his face off with his hand and cleaned it on his tunic.

Viggo tucked himself back into his breeches and picked up the cup.  “Go fill it again.  Then you can go back to the hall.  Einar,” he said to his companion, who was passed out from drink.  “Einar!”  He knocked him on the head with his empty cup.  

“Mrughh…”

“I’m sending the thralls home after they get this drink.  We’ll need them to be fresh in the morning.”

“Ergh.”  That, it seemed, was consent enough.  Einar waved his empty cup and Niall quickly took it from his hand.

The two slaves filled the cups one last time and returned them to their masters.  As they walked away, Niall whispered, his eyes bright, “I saw it all.  Can I…”  He reached out and Colum, puzzled, didn’t stop him.  

Niall’s fingers scooped a clot of cum from Colum’s neck where he had failed to wipe it off.  He put it in his mouth, his eyes closed.  Hardly thinking about it, Colum slapped Niall.  

“What are you doing!”

Niall’s eyes filled with shocked tears, and not from the blow.  “I just…you’ve had it, I wanted to taste it too…”

“Aren’t we unmanned enough already without you doing it to yourself in public?”

Niall hung his head.  “I’m sorry, Colum.  I…”

Colum turned away, heading for the door.  Out of the corner of his eye he could see Viggo’s eyes sparkling with merriment at the scene.  Damn you both, Colum thought.  Defiantly, he grabbed a full and unattended cup off a table, and downed its contents in three gulps, not caring what the punishment would be.

To his surprise, the Vikings roared their approval; more eyes than Viggo’s had been on this whole scene.  “He drinks like a man, anyway!” one of them shouted, and the rest laughed.  

One of them slapped him lightly on the back of the head, almost affectionately.  “Now be off with you!”  Colum didn’t need to be told twice.

Outside the full moon was bright, bright enough to see by once his eyes adjusted to the night.  He made his way down the muddy road, the sounds of the public house receding in the distance.

Niall tagged behind him, but Colum kept up his pace, not slowing for his friend.  Back at Viggo’s hall, he went to the slot in the stable that was his bed and paced it angrily.  I must get out of here!  he cried silently, but the thought of Viggo, his arms wrapped around Colum on the beach, his cock inside him, weakened his resolve.  When will I get that again, if ever?  Or is his appetite to be spent on greedy bitches in taverns, now that we’re on land, now that…now that he has no need for me, Colum thought sadly.  

Niall saw the look on his face.  “Colum,” he said tentatively once they were in the stable.

“Yes?”

“I could…make you feel better.”

Colum laughed. “How would you do that?”

Niall responded by going to his knees in front of Colum and reaching for the string to his breeches.  

Colum thought of the look on Niall’s face that day on the beach, servicing Einar, reveling in the big man’s stream of piss in his face, his cock down his throat…  Could I do that? he wondered? To another man?  The thought made him erect, and Niall could see how fast that happened, and smiled.  “Let me show you how good it feels.”

“We belong to our masters,” Colum said.  “It’s not for us to…do this.”

Niall nodded.  “And I asked Einar if I could…do this with you.  He said nobody cares what thralls get up to on their own.  As you said, we’re unmanned already.”

But I would be a man again if I took you, Colum thought darkly, shocking himself.  I could see how it feels to be Viggo, how it feels to make another man MY slave…

Temptation!  How they rattled on about it in church!  How you were always supposed to be resisting it!  How lovingly they chanted their carefully curated lists of temptations, as if it was as exciting to recite them as it was to do them!  Here was the real thing, Colum thought.  How many of the seven deadly sins on Pope Gregory’s list could he commit at once?  Thinking of the slattern bent down in the sawdust, he already knew himself guilty of envy and wrath.  Lust, pride, greed …  And, he thought with wild humor, Niall is guilty of gluttony.

He pushed Niall away.  “No.”  Seeing the look of hurt on his face, he added, “You’re my friend.  I won’t make a plaything of you.”

Niall rose, red-faced, embarrassed.  “I’m sorry.  I just…I love it, Colum.  I love the feeling of men, the taste of them, the smell of them, so much!  I want more!  All my life I’ve been robbed of pleasure and I want it!” He bit his lip.  “I know I’m going to Hell…”

“Nonsense,” Colum snapped.  “If everyone who ever fulfilled their lusts went to Hell, Heaven would be a great empty field.”

Niall laughed at the picture, and Colum smiled back at his friend.  “Now go to sleep.” 

Niall went to his stall and Colum laid down in his.  He curled up in a ball, trying to ignore his raging erection.  Perhaps he could push some straw aside, to minimize the noise if, perhaps when Niall was asleep, he could touch himself and…

He rolled over and saw it.  A small chest, in the corner of the straw.  He sat up and opened it and saw a neat pile of  new, blank paper, a pot of ink, and quills.  And laid across all that, a scroll.  And on top of that, a note.  His erection faded as the puzzle occupied his mind.

The handwriting on the note was crude, the grammar imperfect, but it was Latin.  “Told Niall did of your memory.  Take to Dýrfinna house of tomorrow, where place for you is to work.”  So Viggo knew now what Colum had really been up to at Iona, saving pagans and not saving souls.

He tried to figure out what worth the words were to Viggo, the ancient words from ancient paper, which had never in all their lives been given gem-encrusted covers and richly colored illustrations like those given to the works of Church Fathers – no, the pagan words had never needed such frippery for their value to be known, Colum thought. 

The fact that Viggo could write Latin at all, however awfully, was incomprehensible to Colum.  Who was this man?  Where was he from, what had he done and been?

Colum took the scroll out into the moonlight and opened it carefully.  


So, when our mortal frame shall be disjoin’d,

The lifeless lump uncoupled from the mind,

From sense of grief and pain we shall be free;

We shall not feel, because we shall not be.

Though earth in seas, and seas in heaven were lost,

We should not move, we only should be toss’d.

Nay, e’en suppose when we have suffer’d fate

The soul should feel in her divided state,

What’s that to us? for we are only we,

While souls and bodies in one frame agree.


Blasphemy, Colum thought excitedly.  We are born, we live, we die, that’s it…  He stood there, gulping down the gorgeous prose, oblivious to the cold, the night’s events forgotten.  

“There are other volumes of that book,” Viggo said, startling him.  What a gift he had for that! Colum thought.  He turned to his master, on whom the only sign of heavy drink was a slight glaze to his eyes.  “A trader now in town has the rest of them.  He has no idea what’s in them; only that as you say, some Arab will pay good money for them some day.”

“I…” I must have them! Colum wanted to shout.  “I’ve never seen this.  It’s…amazing.  My lord,” he remembered to append.

Viggo nodded.  “Yes, it is.  Your church would burn it, and burn the ashes again to make sure.”

Colum laughed.  “They would, my lord.”

“I wanted you to confirm what I thought.  I’ll get the rest of them tomorrow.”

“Thank you, my lord, I…thank you.”

“We’ll go into town tomorrow to do some trading.”  He paused.  “You will stand to my left, in my line of sight.  If the offer is good, do nothing.  If it is low, touch your face.”

“Yes, my lord.”

“Then you’ll go see the Volva.”  The priestess, Colum translated to himself – the sorceress.  That must be who Dýrfinna was.  

Viggo looked into the distance.  “And we’ll see what happens next.”  He walked away, leaving Colum alone in the moonlight, wanting to follow him, to thank him the way…the way he found himself wanting to so badly.  But instead he turned back to the scroll, reading by the full moon’s light until that shining disc set behind a hill.  Then he stumbled to his stall and fell into a deep sleep.


Harald greeted them enthusiastically the next day – as well he should, Colum thought, given how well he made out yesterday.  Colum unloaded more of the loot from a sack, marveling at the cupidity of the church.  Not only did it pour gold and silver into elaborate decorations like the bishop’s crozier now on the table, rather than feeding the poor and hungry with it, but it even took money from the poor and hungry to make these things.  

Colum had never been religious.  He had become a monk to live with books and learning, and the life of a monk was the only avenue to that.  Abbot Ioseph at Clonmacnoise had known it, had seen him going through the motions of observance.  “You don’t believe, do you?” he asked Colum one day when they were alone.

Colum was startled.  But he trusted the abbot, who kept the young men busy and active with wrestling and fighting when they weren’t at more sedentary tasks.  Whereas at Iona, life had been nothing but fasting and prayer and petty theological disputes about what sort of haircut a monk should have.  Ioseph had been a man of the world before he was a monk, which made all the difference, Colum thought.

“I believe that knowledge is sacred, Father Abbot,” he answered carefully.

Ioseph had nodded and smiled tolerantly.  “One day, son, you’ll feel the spirit.  No man can force it on you, or into you.  Until then, of course, keep your own counsel on this as you do now.  The Lord loves honesty more than piety, in my opinion, but unfortunately most men don’t share His values.”

Honesty was in short supply today, Colum thought, watching Harald duplicitously calculating the value of the crozier and a set of silver candlesticks.  He counted out the coins with a flourish.  “There!” he said.

Colum rubbed his face vigorously.  The price was even worse today than yesterday.  Harald saw how far he could go and then went farther the next time.  Colum realized that Viggo would have been twice as rich had he not been taken so badly every time he saw Harald.  

“Twice that,” Viggo said.

Harald laughed, as if at a good joke.  “Ha, you would make a poor man of me.  I’ve never known you to negotiate a price, Viggo.”

“I’ve never thought I needed to,” Viggo said levelly, his steel blue eyes boring into Harald’s watery piggy slits.  

Harald shrugged, and added a few coins to the pile.  “I suppose the children will have to go without new clothes this month.  They grow so fast!”  Colum saw no sign of the allegedly needy children anywhere, and reckoned they probably didn’t exist.

Colum rubbed his face again.  Harald caught on this time – he was crafty and a cheat but he wasn’t slow.  

“Does your thrall…” he began contemptuously.

“Does my thrall what.” Viggo said, his steely voice sending a thrill and a chill through Colum.  It was a tone of voice that promised death if Harald finished the sentence.  

Harald’s anger was clear.  “Nothing, nothing.  Well, this is a fine piece, now that I think of it.  I may be able to ransom it to the Christians, for more than the mere value of the metal.  They’re funny that way, you know.”  More coins landed on the table.  Colum knew the price was still short but the game was up – he stood impassively, his eyes downcast like a good slave.

Viggo swept the coins into a purse.  “Thank you, Harald,” he said smoothly.  “Always a pleasure.”

They left and Colum looked at Harald.  The man’s eyes were full of hate, and the self-righteous rage of a robber who’d been robbed.  Unseen by Viggo, Colum nodded briskly to him as they left, inflaming Harald even more – how dare a slave nod to him!  Colum smiled to himself, even knowing he’d made an enemy today.

Outside, Viggo handed him two gold coins.  “Give these to the Volva with my regards.”  He almost said more, but reconsidered.  “You did well in there.”

“Thank you, my lord.”

Viggo smiled, the heat of rage in his eyes settling down into another kind of fire.  “I’ll see to your payment later.”

Colum’s loins ignited at the thought.  Viggo, taking him, ruling him, penetrating him…He swallowed, knowing his thoughts were clear on his face.  He dared to look Viggo in the eyes, to make sure his own message was clear.

“I look forward to it, my lord.”


The Volva’s house was just at the edge of the village.  She had her own pens full of chickens, a few pigs, a goat…as likely to end up as sacrifices to Odin and Thor and Freya, Colum thought, as to end up on the dinner table. 

He went to knock on the door but it opened as he raised his hand.  The woman inside had the grey hair, the stoop, the wrinkled face of the very old, but her eyes were as young and bright as Colum’s.  “So,” she said.  “Well, well.  Come in.”

Whatever Colum thought a witch’s house looked like – lots of bones hanging about and a cauldron boiling, he’d always supposed – this was far from it.  Dýrfinna’s house was tidy, neat, clean.  A spindle stood in a corner, a tunic half finished on the stool in front of it.  A brisk fire crackled in the fireplace.

He handed her the gold coins, and she nodded.  “Viggo serves the gods well.”  She whispered something Colum couldn’t understand, and tossed one into the fireplace.  Now there’s a real sacrifice, Colum thought, as he watched the coin begin to soften on the hot coals.

“You speak our language,” she said.

“Yes, a bit.  My accent needs work.”

“Well, you learned it off sheets of paper, so that’s to be expected.” She indicated a desk in the corner.  Colum’s shock was apparent – it was a monk’s desk, clearly appropriated from some monastery.  

“Yes,” she nodded.  “A spoil of war.”

“Why would a Viking bring a desk back from raid?” Colum wondered.

“Because I told a Viking to do it,” she smiled.  “I have seen Viggo’s ørlög,” she said, using the word that literally meant “ancient law,” but really meant a man’s fate, his destiny.  “And I have seen you, and your place in it.”

Colum thought back to what Viggo had said on the day he’d fought Ljótr.

 “Do you know what the runes said about you?”

“No, my lord.”

“That you will share my bed, like a woman.  And that you will ride by my side, like a warrior.  I will make you my woman.  But you are already a warrior.  It only remains now to make a Viking out of you.”

Dýrfinna took his right hand.  “Well, let’s just see if the men’s magic is right,” she said, almost as if reading his mind.

She closed her eyes and felt his hands, right, left, right again.  Her own were cold at first, an old woman’s, but they grew warmer and warmer, quickly.  Her breathing increased, and Colum felt a strange sensation in his stomach.  

Her eyes flew open with surprise.  “Oh,” she said with amazement.  “The gods favor you.  They have many plans for you.”

Colum didn’t say that he didn’t believe in the Viking gods any more than he did the Christian one.  He supposed there might be one or the other or all of them, but unless they appeared in his life and made a great display of it, their existence was of no consequence to him.  

“I know,” she nodded.  “That’s what interests them.  Some of what interests them, anyway.” She took both his hands now in hers and closed her eyes.

“Free, slave, free, slave, free.”  She nodded.  “Two down, three to go.”

“What do you mean?” Colum asked.  

“Your destiny.  You were free, now you are a slave.  The rest will follow.”

Colum liked the idea of being free again, but the idea that it would be followed with another enslavement was too much to bear.  He opened his mouth but she cut him off.

“Wait.  There’s more.”  She was silent a moment, then let go of his hands, and backed away.  Her eyes narrowed as she regarded him with new interest, respect even. 

“Scholar, lover, warrior, merchant, magician, scholar.  Each and all in time.”

“What do you mean?”

She smiled.  “Your ørlög.  Your future.”

“And Viggo’s?” he had to ask.  “Where is he in all this?”

She laughed.  “You do love him very much.  Oh, don’t look so afraid,” she waved a hand as if to chase away a fly.  “That’s as old as cocks themselves and their need to go in holes.”  Colum blushed at her bawdiness.  “Some men burn for women and some burn for men.  Others just burn.  And he’s quite the man.  You know, don’t you, that he’ll marry and have children?  But that’s no obstacle.  In fact, it’ll make it easier for the two of you if he does.”

Colum thought of Viggo being serviced by the tavern wench.  To have to share him with a woman…to lose him every night to her bed…he didn’t know if he could bear it.  She was right.  He did love Viggo.  Loved him as a woman loved a man.

She slapped him lightly on the wrist.  “Don’t be a fool.  He’s yours, in your hearts.  But the gods must have sons, to carry on the battles.  And who better to make sons than Viggo?  Now that would be a crime against nature, for him to spill all his seed in you.”

“And how many lives will he lead?” Colum had to ask.

“First you must count how many he’s lived already.”

Colum has to think about that.  How does he know Latin, how to read and write it, to recognize great manuscripts, as easily as he kills a man in battle?  How can he be so gentle in private and so cruel in public, when other man are the opposite with their lovers?  

She indicated the desk.  “There is much in your head that needs to be set loose in the world again.  Pagan words lost with the paper that carried them to you, but found again in you.  Get to work,” she said.  “The gods want them saved, and for that purpose they have saved you.”


Colum’s hand was aching when he rubbed his eyes and realized Dýrfinna was next to him.  “Enough for today.”  He blinked and realized the sun was setting; he’d been writing for hours, mapping back onto paper the verbal landscapes he’d so assiduously recorded in his head, another book of Livy’s History of Rome restored to the world.  

She took his sore hand in hers and he felt the heat transferring from hers to his, unknotting his cramps.  She rubbed the pads of his fingertips, the meat of his palm, his wrist.  When she was done, he was a new man.  He shook his hand and realized it felt as fresh as it did on a Monday morning at Iona, after Sunday’s enforced rest from writing.

She fed him well, and then he went back to his stable-bed and collapsed with a satisfied sigh.  Viggo’s money and Livy’s account of Caesar’s first consulship, saved from oblivion.

He fell asleep and dreamed…

It was cold, so cold…the snow was blue in the achingly bright moonlight, the air sparkling with the frozen spray kicked up by the horses ahead of him, landing cold and wet on his face.  The river was solid now, the only risk to crossing it was that the horses would slip on the ice.  But Colum had directed the creation of the hipposandals, the leather horse shoes that would keep their hooves safe from the cold, and from falls on this world made of ice.  

Viggo rode beside him and smiled at him.  “Again your learning comes in handy,” he said, since the hipposandals were a Roman invention of which Colum had read in his many books…so many more now than he’d ever dreamed of reading, even seeing, back at Iona.

Colum smiled in turn, instinctively checking his sword as he always did now, to make sure it hadn’t frozen into the scabbard – even the wrapping of lanolin-rich wool between the hilt and scabbard would freeze in this, he thought.  And while bandits were less likely in the cold dead of night, he had learned the hard way that it always paid to stay alert.

“It’s thanks to you, and your sharp dealings with that Frankish merchant, that we have that book,” he said, tipping his head back to the sled behind them, laden with the goods they were taking to the Arab world, laden with the books Colum would read at night by the firelight, his head in Viggo’s lap.  How they had managed to come to this bitterly cold place first, so far East of home, so far North of their destination, was beyond him…

He woke up with a start, shivering.  Viggo was standing in the stall entrance.  “Get your breakfast and meet me in the yard.  It’s time you begin your training.”

“As what…lord,” he asked groggily.

“As a warrior,” Viggo said with a smile before walking out.


The axe felt strange in Colum’s hand.  Axes were for chopping wood, or cutting off a chicken’s head.  To use one as a weapon was…barbaric, he smiled to himself.  It was longer than a hatchet, and he had trouble keeping it upright.  He’d fought with swords, albeit wooden ones, back at Clonmacnoise, but the balance on this was all wrong; the weight was all up top.  

“Swing it low,” Viggo said, hunching down with his shield, “aim for the feet.  Chop a man in the foot with an axe and the battle’s over.”

Colum swung it hard, and the motion nearly took him around with it.  Viggo laughed at him.  “Your reach is a little short.”

“You have the advantage there, lord,” Colum said.  “You’re taller than I am.  All Vikings are, I think,” he said ruefully.

“Come on, again.”  He knocked his own axe against his shield a couple times.

Colum lifted his own shield and tried again; this time his motion was downward, towards Viggo’s feet, which only buried the axe head in the dirt.

“I just split your head open,” Viggo said, and Colum looked up.  He’d done what Ljótr had done on the beach, what had let Viggo kill him – let his guard open up.  His shield had moved to the side and Viggo’s axe would have been buried in his skull in a real fight.

“Damn it,” Colum cursed.

Viggo laughed. “Spoken like a Viking.  Come on now.”

Colum kept trying, growing more frustrated each time.  All his training back at Clonmacnoise did him no good here.

“I’m too short,” he panted.  “I need something more balanced.”

“Well, there’s the Dane axe, but that’s a weapon for an experienced fighter.”

“What’s that?”

Viggo walked to the weapons rack and picked up another axe, this one nearly as tall as he was.  He swung it around like a feather.  “See, this is a weapon that…”

“Is perfect for me,” Colum smiled.  “Lord.”

Viggo looked at him with tolerant amusement.  “Go on then.”  He handed the Dane axe to Colum.

“Your guard, lord.  You’ll need it.”

Viggo lazily lifted his shield, and Colum attacked.

Almost all his training at Clonmacnoise had been with the stave, the long pole that could be swung two handed in a closed grip, used as a shield in a wide grip, used as a spear in a cross grip.  The Dane ax was as close to a stave as he would get here; he need only adjust his grip higher, towards the head, to rebalance the weight.

Viggo yelped as the Dane axe bit the edge of his shield.  Colum pulled the head back towards him as the other end flew around and hit Viggo in the side.  He swung the blade at Viggo’s feet, slow enough that he had time to jump.  Colum’s body kept moving with the weight of the ax head, until, at the end of the blade’s arc, his body was sideways, which let him reverse the motion and thrust the blunt end of the ax into Viggo’s guts.

“Ooomph,” Viggo said, flinching.  Colum backed off, suddenly realizing what he’d done.  He dropped his axe and shield to the ground.  This was his master and he’d hurt him – what would be the price?

Viggo’s astonishment turned into a smile, then a roar of laughter.  “By all the gods, you are a warrior.”  He dropped his own axe and shield and rushed Colum, tackling him to the ground.  He pinned his slave’s hands above him into the dirt, his hair brushing Colum’s face.  “But I am still master here.”

Viggo attacked his throat with his mouth.  His beard was smooth, clean, trimmed short, and felt like silk on Colum’s skin, but his lips were rough and chapped from a life outside and the salt sea air.  They opened and his teeth clamped on the side of Colum’s neck, strong enough to tear the life out of him like a lion killing a lamb.  Then Viggo’s weight pressed down on him as he spiked his erection into Colum’s groin over and over with the sinuous, almost snake-like motions of his hips.

Colum’s own manhood responded to the twin sensations of tongue and cock, rising to the challenge, his sword dueling with Viggo’s.  But he knew this was a battle he would lose…a battle in which he would have surrendered anyway.  

“Fight me,” Viggo whispered in his ear.

Colum had been a wrestler, too, and knew not to struggle uselessly to free his arms as an inexperienced fighter would do.  Instead, as much as it pained him to part from the pressure of Viggo’s cock against his own, he turned his hips, flinging his right foot over Viggo’s.  His master had unwisely left Colum’s legs unpinned, and the strength of Colum’s middle and his sturdy if shorter legs made Viggo’s lock on his arms irrelevant.  Now he was on top…

Viggo smiled, pleased.  Using his own wrestling skills, he inverted their tangled bodies again, then used his stronger thighs to part Colum’s, pressing his hard meat into the space between Colum’s balls and ass, rubbing it against the root of Colum’s own erection.  Colum’s face scrunched up, warring against the pleasure, and Viggo grinned, rolling off him.

“Into the stable.” Colum jumped up, heart racing, and nearly ran to his stall, Viggo right behind him.

A hand in his back pushed him down into the straw, on all fours.  He heard Viggo’s pants drop and he fumbled for the string of his own.  Viggo’s firm rough hands reached around and tore them away.  Viggo yanked Colum’s breeches down, and they caught on Colum’s cock and made him cry out as his hard member was pulled straight down.  Then it was free of the breeches and bounced up, slapping against his stomach.  

“Your crack is sweaty,” Viggo noted approvingly.  “You’ve been working hard.”  Colum heard him spit in his hand and then felt his master’s fingers probing his asshole.  The spit was hardly a concession to the invaders as his asshole screamed in pain as two fingers, three, four pried him open.  Then the fingers were out, and Viggo’s huge tool was up against his hole, rubbing, teasing, Viggo slapping it against his ass crack.

“There we go,” Viggo said, and Colum felt something slicker, slipperier on Viggo’s fingers as they entered him this time.  Viggo had managed to excite some fluid out of his cock, and it would be the only lubricant Colum would get.

On his knees, Colum braced himself against the wall, the rough wood chafing his palms.  Viggo put his hands on Colum’s shoulders to brace himself and with a single thrust plunged his cock all the way in.

Colum screamed with anguish.  Viggo didn’t stop for a moment to let him adjust, but pumped furiously, the warrior lust their battle had incited blinding him to care.  He threw himself at Colum’s ass again and again, Colum crying out as each stabbing motion hit that place inside him, that unknown organ of pain/pleasure.  His own cock was still hard, bouncing furiously with each of Viggo’s attacks.  

Viggo slowed down.  He was close, so close…Colum could feel his cock twitching inside him, pulsing, wanting to take the killing stroke, the stroke that made the wielder of the weapon die a little, not the victim.  But with tremendous self-control, Viggo willed it into quiescence.  Colum waited with him, then, when he was sure the moment had passed, he arched his back, pushed his ass up, took even more of Viggo inside him than he thought possible. 

“Fuck yourself with my cock,” Viggo commanded, unmoving behind him, his hands by his side.  

Colum did as he was told, willingly, moving slowly, then quickly, slowly, slowly…fast!  He couldn’t believe with what relish he impaled himself on Viggo, beating his insides like a drum with Viggo’s stick,  the beat like that of…yes, of a barbarian ritual, a primal frenzied dance around the fire.  

“All the gods,” Viggo whispered, and took control.  The force of his attack pressed Colum flat on the ground, the straw scraping and stabbing his fruits and his member, as Viggo came inside him with a warrior’s bellow.

“Fuck!  Fuck!” Viggo shouted in disbelief as his orgasm went on and on, his body out of his control as it seemed to empty itself completely into Colum.  Colum gasped as his own cock responded by exploding into the straw, the furious friction too much for it.  

They lay there, their breaths heaving almost in time, slowing into deep sighs of exhaustion, of satisfaction, of relief.  Viggo wrapped his arms under Colum and held him tight, held him close.  Any pain Colum may have felt was magically erased by this, his master’s great affection for him.  He put his own hands around Viggo’s, willing them to stay around him forever.

“The runes were right,” Viggo said.  “You are a warrior.  And you will fight by my side.”

Colum couldn’t help but ask.  “As a slave?”

“No.  As a free man.  But not yet.”

“When…when will I be free?”

“When the time is right.”  Viggo nuzzled his neck, his beard sending wild sensations down Colum’s spine.  “Is it so bad, being my slave?”

“Not now it’s not…lord,” Colum said with a smile and they both laughed.  Colum sobered.  “But I am a man, lord.  I…I would always be yours, like this, but…”

Viggo kissed him.  “I know.  And I respect and admire you for your desire for freedom.”  He pulled out of Colum at last, both of them groaning at the parting.  He rolled over and pulled Colum to him, so that his thrall’s head was on his chest, Colum’s hands now around Viggo’s torso, Viggo’s hand lovingly stroking his shorn head.

“But think of it this way.  First, how would it look if so soon after coming home with a new thrall, I let him go free?  I would look weak.  And men pounce on weakness.  And,” he said, kissing Colum on top of his head, “however great a warrior you will be, you aren’t yet.  Now, you’re under my protection, but if you were free, any man could grab you and make you his slave.”

Colum considered all this and nodded.  “Yes, I see it.”

“Come on,” Viggo said, getting up and slapping Colum playfully on the ass.  “Time for you to serve me my lunch, slave.”

Colum rolled over and looked up at him, letting Viggo see the mess on his belly, the straw stuck to his spilled seed, knowing Viggo would be pleased to see what he’d done to him.  He smiled.  “Yes, master.”


Colum was at his desk at Dýrfinna’s house, transcribing more of the book Viggo had found, which he now knew to be Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura.  All he’d known of the author was what St. Jerome had said of him, that he had gone mad after drinking a love potion, wrote this book and eventually killed himself.  From comparing what the classical authors themselves had written, to what the Church fathers had written about them, Colum had learned long ago to take the latter with a grain of salt.  

There was a commotion in the village Colum could hear even from here.  Shouting and screaming, the screams sounding disturbingly like the voice of…

Dýrfinna’s hand was on his forearm like an iron claw.  “No.”

Colum’s eyes widened as he put it together.  “Niall!”  He wrested himself from her grasp.  

“He’s another man’s property now,” she said.  “You are only a slave, yourself.  If you try and interfere, even Viggo can’t protect you.”  But by the time she finished her sentence, she was shouting out the doorway after Colum as he ran down the road.  

The situation was obvious as soon as he saw it.  Einar, looking sour, was stalking away.  Niall cried out after him, a rope around his neck and the other end of it in the hand of a man, whose other hand was scooping up the dice that had won this prize.  A great ugly beast of a man who reminded Colum of Ljótr, the man who had challenged Viggo on the beach at Iona, and had died for it.

“Come on,” he growled, yanking Niall’s rope as Niall clawed at his neck, trying to keep his new master from strangling him.  To Colum’s horror, he hauled Niall into a doorway…where Harald stood, gloating triumphantly, his eyes glittering with malice as they met Colum’s.

It was clear now – this was Harald’s revenge on Colum, for forcing him to pay Viggo a fair price.  And Harald would be the cruelest of masters, Colum knew.  There were no penalties for abusing slaves, or even killing them; they were less than cattle…

Colum raced to find Viggo, who was washing himself behind the hall.  Any other time Colum would have stood there, admiring his long lean body, marveling at how he had survived enough wounds to collect that many scars, lusting for his enormous manhood…but only Niall was in his mind now.

“My lord,” he said, bent over, hands on knees, gasping for air after his mad dash.  “Please, help me.  Niall has been taken as Harald’s slave.”

Viggo thought about that for a moment, realized what it meant.  Harald could not avenge himself on Viggo, but by harming, abusing, maybe even killing Colum’s friend, he could hurt Colum – hurt Viggo’s property.

“How?”

“Einar lost him in a dice game, to some man who took him to Harald.”

Viggo’s features darkened.  “Fool.”  He thought for a moment.  “There’s nothing I can do.”

“Why not?  Lord, please,” he fell to his knees. “He’s…my only friend.  All I have left in the world other than you.”

Viggo smiled compassionately.  “I know, Colum.  But think on it.  Were I to interfere in another man’s business, challenge him to a fight, over a slave?  Do you know how weak that would make me look?  To show that I cared at all for any slave…no, I’m sorry.”

“Then let me!  Let me fight him!”

Viggo laughed, then sobered, seeing the look on Colum’s face.  “You are a slave.  You can’t challenge a man to a fight.”

Then it was as if a bell rung in Colum’s head.  Dýrfinna’s words came back to him… “Free, slave, free, slave, free.”  And suddenly he knew what it meant. 

“Then free me, my lord.”

Viggo considered it, weighed the options.  “Let’s say I free you.  And you survive the contest, and free Niall.  Then he would have to be your thrall, under your protection.  And because you’re a foreigner, some bigger, stronger man might then beat you in combat and re-enslave you.  Then both of you would be slaves again, to a new master.”

“That’s true, lord.  So the solution is, you free me.  I fight.  And if I win…if I survive,” he said, realizing that might not happen, “I return to you as a thrall, bringing Niall with me as your property.”

“You would go free and return to slavery, for your friend’s sake?”

Colum nodded.  “I swear it.”

 Viggo looked down at him, but it felt as if he looked up.  There was a new respect for Colum on his face.  “That…is the action of a hero.  The gods would never forgive me if I interfered with this.”  He raised Colum to his feet, held his chin in his hands, drilled him with his diamond eyes. 

“Normally there is a great ceremony around this occasion.  But, that’s for another day.  Colum of Clonmacnoise, I free you from my service.”  He smiled.  “Come on, let’s get you armed.”


The sight of a man known to be Viggo’s thrall, carrying a shield and Dane ax as Viggo walked behind him, a hand on the sword on his belt, was enough to attract a crowd as they made their way to Harald’s house.

Viggo had given Colum the words to speak, and his Norse had become better already.  “Harald Grímsson,” Colum shouted at the doorway. “You are not a man's equal and not a man at heart.”  These were the words, so offensive and insulting to Harald’s manhood, that he could not fail to respond.

Harald came out his door, and, seeing Colum armed, grew red faced.  He appealed to the growing crowd.  “A slave!  A slave challenges me!  Kill him!”

Viggo’s voice was like steel, holding every man in place.  “You will have to do that yourself.  He is a free man now.  And he has come for his brother, and to do honor to the gods by risking his life for his brother.”

The men muttered, nodded.  This was different; not the insane rage of a slave that needed quick extinction, but rather a warrior’s action, done for the honor of family.  And Viggo had declared Colum free, and so he was free.  

“Fight! Fight! Fight!” the crowd chanted.

Harald paled.  He was a merchant, not a warrior, but like any northman he had some skill.  “Very well.  But we will fight the traditional way – with the sword.”

Colum looked at Viggo.  “He is right,” Viggo acknowledged.  “It is the way.”

“Very well,” Colum said, dropping the ax.  “With swords.”

Men brought rocks and sticks to make a square.  “That is the arena,” Viggo told him.  “You mustn’t step out or you’ve lost.”

That was fine with Colum; wrestling had taught him to be conscious of the need to stay within a proscribed space.  But, he thought hesitantly, back then no man was coming after me with a sword…

Viggo drew his sword and handed it to Colum.  “This is my sword, his name is Bǫlkr.”

Colum smiled.  “The Divider.”  It was what he’d come to expect of Viggo, a play on words, a thing that could cleave a man in two, cleave his soul from his body, separate him from his property.

Viggo nodded, unsmiling.  “Yes.  Do not shame it.  Do not shame me.”

Colum nodded.  “I will do you both honor.” Then it was time to fight.  

In a way they were evenly matched.  Colum had more formal fighting training, but no swordsmanship, whereas Harald was weaker, out of practice, but had clearly defended himself and his property in the past.

“A hundred pieces of silver on Colum of Clonmacnoise,” Viggo declared.  “Who will take the bet?”  

Colum flushed with pride at Viggo’s huge bet on his success, but only for a moment, because Harald began the attack with a shout.  His intent was clearly to push Colum out of the ring and end the battle before it began, making Colum’s life forfeit.  But Colum was too fast; as Harald charged, Colum waited till the last second to turn and go to a knee.  Harald tumbled over him to the ground, nearly impaling himself in the process.  He jumped up, furious.

Colum beat his sword on his shield three times, a challenge – come and get me!  Harald was too crafty to respond emotionally, though.  Naturally – the man was a cheat who was practiced at suppressing emotion when it might cost him something.  Harald feinted, circled, the two of them working the center of the square.  

Death wasn’t necessary to win, but Colum could tell that this would be a fight to the death.  Harald’s pride was wounded, Colum was still a slave in his eyes, and still the man who had cost him a large sum of money.

Harald struck fast, hammering away with his sword on Colum’s raised shield.  Colum was too busy defending himself from the blade to see the next move, as Harald slammed his shield into Colum’s shoulder.

The impact knocked him to the ground, nearly knocking his sword out of his grasp.  He managed to keep his shield up as Harald continued his assault, and stabbed at Harald’s feet from the ground to keep him off balance.

Colum took advantage of one of Harald’s off-balance moments to spin up to his feet, bouncing and dancing around, keeping Harald turning with him to face him.  Harald frowned at this mocking, baiting behavior, so unlike the Viking way.  Colum grinned at him like a madman, and saw something flicker in Harald’s eyes, a hesitancy, a doubt…

That was when Colum attacked.  He had slipped his forearm out of the straps that held the shield, and now he threw it like a discus at Harald’s knees.  It struck true, and Harald buckled to the ground with a scream of pain.

Now it was Colum beating down with his sword as Harald held his own shield up in defense.  Harald made the mistake of letting his sword hand fall to his side, and Colum stepped on the blade, high enough up towards the hilt that his enemy couldn’t free it.  

Harald’s shield would defend against blows rained down on it, but Colum had already seen the flaw in some Viking shields.  This was a series of planks rather than a single piece of wood, with leather on either side, and that meant a blade, especially one as sharp and slim-pointed as Viggo’s, could slip through the leather, part the planks…

With a twist of his hand he reversed his grip on Bǫlkr, and plunged the blade down like a knife into a table.  

The Divider, indeed.  It pierced the shield, and then it parted Harald’s flesh as it sank in above the collarbone, straight down into his heart.  Death was instant.

Colum turned Bǫlkr slightly as he’d learned to do from Viggo, to keep the body from clinging to the blade, and pulled it out, the leather of Harald’s broken shield wiping it clean.  Harald fell.  It was over.

Viggo spoke to the crowd.  “It is ended.  Harald’s property is forfeit to Colum of Clonmacnoise.  Does anyone dispute it?”

None did, amazed at what they’d seen from one they’d known to be a monk, a slave, a foreigner.  

Niall burst out of the house, where he’d been held by the beast who’d won him.  He ran and hugged Colum, who hugged him back fiercely.  “We’re free,” Niall said.

“Not exactly,” Colum said.  “But we’re safe.”


Viggo and Colum stood in Harald’s – what had been Harald’s – house. He felt strange; he had killed a man but felt no guilt about it.  Harald would have killed him, and perhaps more importantly, would have killed Niall.  He had to die.  Even those who believed in the New Testament’s goodness and mercy would surely see that the Old Testament of wrath and vengeance applied in this case.

They examined the contents of the house.  “There’s nothing here,” Colum said.  “No treasure…”    

“Of course not.  His hoard is buried, somewhere, nearby or under a corner of the house.  Don’t worry, we’ll find it.”

“You’re definitely a rich man now, then,” Colum said.  

“It’s yours,” Viggo said.

“But I’m…a slave can’t…”

Viggo held a finger to Colum’s lips.  “I will hold it for you.  Until the day you are truly free.”

“Right, I need to…” He took a knee again, to surrender his freedom to Viggo, as he had promised.  As, he thought, he wanted to.  I want to be his.  I want to be warm and safe and protected and…loved.  Let him scorn me in front of others; I know what’s in his heart.

“Wait,” Viggo said, catching him before he could finish going to the ground.  “Not yet.” 

He lifted Colum up, but still towered over him by half a foot.  Viggo put a finger under Colum’s chin to tilt it up, then he leaned down and kissed him on the lips.

His mouth was soft, tender, warm; it tasted of oranges and honey.  Colum felt the way he did when he drank strong spirits the first time – the complex flavors in his mouth, the burning in his throat, the “Oh!” moment in his mind when the alcohol arrived.  Viggo kissed him again, and again, little touches, little nips.  

“My warrior,” he whispered, putting his hands on Colum’s, feeling them, holding them, before lifting them and pinning them up against the wall behind him, pushing Colum’s back flat against it, grinding his hips into Colum’s midsection, his tool engorged, excited.

“My beloved,” Colum replied, and Viggo’s eyes widened.  But only for a moment, before he smiled, then nuzzled, then bit Colum’s neck, causing him to lose his breath.  Then with a swift motion, Viggo threw him on his back onto Harald’s desk, one hand sweeping the scale, so recently used to cheat them, onto the floor along with all the other implements of commerce.  He yanked Colum’s breeches down and dropped his own.

Viggo saw something on the desk and grinned.  He picked up a gold coin from the desk and put it between his teeth.  He leaned forward, pushing Colum’s legs back, until his face was in Colum’s.  Colum laughed, and met his mouth with his own, clamping his own teeth around the other edge of the coin.  They kissed, their lips touching and parting, neither of them letting go of the coin, their shared treasure.

Then Viggo broke the kiss, spat the gold onto the floor, and attacked Colum’s mouth with his own, invading it with his tongue.  Colum resisted, knowing Viggo relished the opposition; he turned his head away to make Viggo clamp his throat with his teeth, and the gasp forced out of him opened his mouth and Viggo was on it in a split second, overmastering him, his tongue forcing Colum’s to fight back.  Like two cobras they danced and darted with their faces, stabbing forward, rearing back.  

Then Viggo lowered his hand from Colum’s ankles to his hamstrings, and his face disappeared from sight.  

“Oh!” Colum shouted as Viggo’s tongue entered his ass, stabbing it, teasing it, all the blood in his body rushing down there to respond.  He could feel himself opening up, getting slick with Viggo’s spit, knowing what was coming.

Viggo stood.  “Grab your ankles,” he commanded, and Colum did, pulling his legs back and up and raising his ass to the height of Viggo’s waist.  Viggo didn’t touch him, only looked down as he bent his knees and moved around until after several misses – or several deliberate teases, Colum thought – his cock was just aligned with the hole.

Then Viggo pushed, hard, all of him at once into Colum.  Colum screamed with the shock, the pain, and then Viggo’s hands were on his ankles again, pushing them back till he was folded in half, as his lover pounded away at him, conquering him completely.

I’m conquered, I’m his willing subject, Colum thought, ecstatic with the pain, the pleasure, and so much of it was not just the feel of Viggo but the sight of him, his hard, scarred body over his, taking him, covering him, abusing him, protecting him…

He saw the look in Viggo’s eyes, the contraction of their dark centers, and could tell he was about to cum.  Viggo looked at him and Colum knew what he wanted.

“Not yet,” Viggo said, slowing his pace.  “Not yet…”

Colum could feel Viggo’s member twitching inside him, demanding release.  Viggo froze in place, their eyes locked, Colum surrendering to him body and soul, only waiting for the moment, the command.

Viggo began to move again, slowly, then faster.  He was close, so close…

“NOW!” Viggo shouted as the pressure behind his climax built to a crescendo.

“My lord!” Colum cried out. “I submit to you, I surrender my freedom to you, I am yours, your slave...”

“AHH!” Viggo shouted, spilling at last, his seed marking Colum’s insides, making him Viggo’s property again, for as long as he wanted him, forever…

At the end of his shuddering climax, Viggo pulled out, both of them shivering from the parting.  He let go of Colum’s legs, and fell on top of him, sweaty, out of breath.

“My thrall.  My lover.  My brother in arms.  All these things.”

“Yes, lord,” Colum said, to all of it.


The ship was ready to set out.  Colum made sure everything was in order, all the food and water and weapons well secured.  He was a thrall, but he was first thrall, in charge of the rest of Viggo’s slaves.  And while he was submissive, head lowered, as he politely begged a warrior to please let Colum check the box he was sitting on, he received a respectful reply as the man stood and waved a hand to his former perch.  Colum was something they had never seen, his story one they had never heard, one they knew would be repeated, remembered, the slave who was freed to fight, and proved himself a warrior, and willingly returned to slavery afterward, the price of the justice he attained, the justice he served out.

As he observed his preparations with satisfaction, Viggo came to his side.  “Do you have any qualms, about going with us?  To fight your people?”

“Where are we going, lord?”

“Up the Temes river, to raid what I hear is the home of a particularly prosperous Saxon king.”

“Oh, that’s all right then, lord,” Colum grinned.  “I’m Irish.”


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