Christopher Pew (1968, Canadian)
“And you’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” Odin said.
“I have not! You’re too much! You are insatiable in your lust.”
“Have I ever left you unsatisfied?”
“No, not in the way you’re thinking.”
A golden-haired slave came by offering skewered meats, perhaps strategically sent over by the steward to hush them.
Anna and Odin watched the rest of the ceremony in silence as they chewed on sticks of venison. Then she got tipsy on the ever-flowing wine.
And the feast began when the ceremony ended.
Dancing girls, roast boar, smoked fish, musicians on the pipe and lute — both Byzantine and Varangian. She watched the free women and the slave girls, there wasn’t much difference in their demeanor. Such was the 10th century.
“Odin!” Prince Vladimir called. “You’ve come! And you’ve brought a lady with you.”
“Anna, on your knees before the prince, and don’t look him in the eye,” Odin said.
Anna did as she was told.
“She is but a traveling companion from a far off land. Strange customs, she has. You must forgive her.”
“But I do,” Vladimir said. “Rise, Anna.”
She rose to her feet to stand beside a young and very bearded Uri Konstantine.
“My prince,” she said, “congratulations on your wedding.”
“Odin,” the prince said, “perhaps you will allow me to bed with your Anna during these festive days.”
“But, dear prince,” Anna said, “you already have your own bride Anna. Another Anna in your bed will cause much confusion.”
Surprise crossed Vladimir’s face. Surprise, that a female would speak out of turn, especially while he addressed Odin about her. But then his reaction turned to amusement. He let out a robust laugh.
“Odin, a spunky one you have for yourself. I dare say she will best even you in the end. But the Lady speaks the truth; I must placate my new wife and the list of existing ones all in one night. Plus my handmaids: they have been promised, too. Yes, all in one night. I do not need yet another to add to the mix.”
“Be careful, sly fox, you have taken on a faith that allows you but one wife,” Odin said.
“Odin, be assured it means nothing. The oaths are but to placate Basil and gain entry to Byzantium. Things will go on the way they always have. You’ll have your tribute and sacrifices in your name —”
“But there you are wrong, Prince Vladimir,” Odin said. “Embrace what you have been given. Use it as a tool for the good you have been wanting to do. Unite your tribes. Bring justice to the land. End starvation.”
“Odin, surely you are not telling me to turn away from you?”
Christopher Pew (1968, Canadian)
With that, the smile faded from Prince Vladimir’s face. Before he turned to leave he said, “be well, my old friend.”
“Odin, what just happened?” Anna asked.
“I just changed history,” he told her.
“To what? What’s it going to be like when we get back to 1960?”
“Not to what, from what. I changed things so they will be as you know and love,” he said. “Now come, we are no longer needed here.”
“But —” she started to say. Even as she spoke, the hall faded and Anna found herself standing in an open plaza in the full light of day. By the dress of the people around her, she knew she wasn’t home yet.
... to be continued ...
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