Day 22

Blod: So, Parvaneh, what can you do?

Parvaneh: I'm a dancer.

Blod: Does that mean you're athletic and charismatic?

Parvaneh: No. It means I dance for the pleasure of others. It's a niche art.

Blod: The problem we have is that we don't need a dancer. I'll talk you through each job we have in camp. We have building and crafting.

Parvaneh: That will ruin my hands.

Blod sighed. She saw where this was going.

Blod: We have healing and potion-making.

Parvaneh: I have no time for sick people and I'm squeamish.

Blod muttered under her breath something about having no time for Parvaneh and Parvaneh being squeamish about work.

Blod: Fetching water.

Parvaneh: That would hurt my back.

Blod muttered something about hurting Parvaneh's back herself if she kept this up.

Blod: There's the shelter to clean and the laundry to do.

Parvaneh: I don't know how-

Solveig: I'll teach you. It's not hard.

Parvaneh muttered under her breath. Blod and Solveig ignored it.

Blod: Cooking.

Parvaneh: I'm a lousy cook.

Blod muttered something about Parvaneh possibly being a lousy human being.

Blod: Foraging for fruit, medicinal herbs, hemp and seeds.

Parvaneh: I have allergies.

Blod: *mutters* Yeah, allergies to work.

Blod: The men are making some handwear you can use. I think Moira called them 'gloves'. That should protect you from allergies.

Parvaneh: But I don't know what fruit is safe to eat on this island. I have no concept of identifying any herbs or hemp. Same goes for seeds.

Moira: I can teach you what a man-seed is!

Blod: SHUT UP! YOU'RE NOT HELPING!

Moira: I can show you how to identify herbs, hemp and seeds.

Parvaneh made a whining noise. Blod and Moira ignored it.

Blod: We are hoping to grow crops and keep sheep in future.

Parvaneh: I know nothing about plants or animals.

Gudrun: I'll teach you.

Tomoe: I can too.

Solveig: I will too.

Parvaneh swore.

Blod: Fishing.

Parvaneh: I have an oversensitive sense of smell. I can't tolerate the smell of bait.

Blod: Hunting.

Parvaneh: Will it require carrying prey back to camp and skinning them?

Blod: Yes.

Parvaneh: Then no, on account of my back and being squeamish.

Blod: Logging.

Parvaneh: Back.

Blod: Mining.

Parvaneh: Claustrophobic and back.

Tomoe: We have a cart. It's only putting in the cart and taking out of the cart that would be a problem for you.

Parvaneh: Even that would ruin my beautiful physique.

Blod: Exploring.

Parvaneh: Now that sounds interesting. But provide me with protection. I can't fight to save my life, my feet get sore if I walk too far and I could meet any pig out there.

Blod: We'll make you some proper walking shoes. My Kari can protect you. She'll even slay the boars for you.

Kari: She can?

Blod: Starting this morning.

Kari: I'm hunting this morning.

Blod: Fine. This afternoon. Whatever.

She noticed Parvaneh heading for the napping area.

Blod: Oh no, you don't! You're going foraging with me this morning!

At midday, Blod pays Eustache a visit.

Blod: Eustache, do you have a moment?

Eustache: Certainly, my dear! Take all the moments you like! The pleasure is all mine!

Blod: Moira told me you are having these 'glove' things made.

Eustache: I suppose you'd like a couple of pairs?

Blod: Yes, please. Also-

Eustache sighed.

Blod: We have a derelict forge we need to get going to meet our rope tribute. Could we borrow Knut to resurrect it?

Eustache: I guess so. I'll send him this afternoon. Would you like our help in producing rope too?

Blod: If it's not too much trouble.

Eustache: Can you help us with our tribute?

Blod: What is it?

Eustache: Fresh fruit.

Blod: Sure.

She was about to leave when Eustache made noises to suggest he wanted to raise a complaint but was too polite to do so.

Blod: Spit it out.

Eustache: It's just...we do a lot for you (more than it seems you do for us), which includes fighting on your behalf. I'm wondering if...

Blod: What?

Eustache: The guys are rather lonely and are pining for good female company.

Blod: Hmm. Let me think about it.

Blod arrives back in camp to the other women awaiting orders for changeover.

Blod: Solveig, Knut is coming over this afternoon to fix the forge. You can swap with me in showing Parvaneh around the pickings, if you want.

Solveig: Thanks. I will.

Blod: I'll cook. Gudrun and Moira, I would rather you postpone training until after the tribute and focus on gathering hemp for now. Ragnhild, I would appreciate it if you could help me prep the cooking. You're free to have a nap when you're done. Tomoe, would you be happy to go logging on your own this afternoon?

Tomoe: Of course.

Blod: Shanaw, as you're not exploring this afternoon, please fetch us more water. Parvaneh, before you go exploring, could I have a word in private?

Everyone else moved off for their chores but Kari hung around, knowing her mum would go ape if she left her with Parvaneh all afternoon.

Blod: How would you like to put your dancing moves to good use?

Parvaneh: I'm listening.

Blod: The men in the other camp need us to return favours. They are longing for female company and I think you could put on a show for them every few nights or so.

Parvaneh: What's in it for me?

Blod: You get more napping and tavern privileges.

Parvaneh: Who will protect me?

Blod: Eirik, my husband.

After getting the pot and sauce ready, Blod went over to see Eirik.

Eirik: Ooh! Now that would be nice!

Blod: Please do what you can to keep Eustache and Knut under control. Tom too, maybe.

Eirik: I'll do what I can. When can we expect her?

Blod: Tomorrow night, I think.

Eirik: Freckles...

Blod: Mm?

Eirik: Come here.

Once Blod had left, Eirik went to see Tom.

Tom: Eirik, don't worry about me. I won't be a problem. I've been to enough dancing bars to know how to behave. It's Eustache and Knut you need to worry about. What a coup, though!

Eirik: That's good to know. What do we need set up?

Tom: Mood lighting, a stage, a pole, a chair and some music.

Eirik: Will Cissé's instrument do?

Tom: I don't think he knows how to play anything like what we need. I'll get Trygve to make a guitar with me. I'll play.

Eirik: What's a guitar?

Tom: It's a stringed instrument a bit like a lute. I'll draw one.

That evening, Trygve went out for some fresh air.

Eustache: Eirik, go with him, please. We need to keep tabs on Björn's diplomat.

Eirik found Trygve sitting on a log, staring out to sea.

Eirik: May I?

Trygve nodded. Eirik sat down beside him. Eirik didn't have to wait long before Trygve started puring his heart out.

Trygve: I thought the world would be different, you know.

Eirik: How so?

Trygve: I thought there would only be a handful of nasty leaders and everyone had their price.

Eirik: What was yours?

Trygve: To be a diplomat for a leader. I was naiive to think Björn could be anything but evil. But that's my job now.

Eirik: What did you do before?

Trygve: I the firstborn to the woodworking family Tømmermann in a village near Stravanger. My father pressured me into learning the trade so I could succeed him. When I told him I wanted to be a diplomat, he wouldn't hear of it. I fled, seeking a new life in Iceland. Our navigator was drunk most of the voyage, we completely missed Iceland and landed here. I, with the others, got absorbed into Björn's forces. Here's my chance, I thought. But he's a tyrant, a lot worse than my father ever was. But this is the life I chose. I have to live with it now.

Eirik: Do you ever dream of the island being free of Björn?

Trygve: I dare not.

In the women's camp, Ragnhild continues to open up to Solveig.

Ragnhild: So I was glad to be away from my mum. We were two peas in a pod, really.

Solveig: Tell me about Jón.

Ragnhild: Jón Æsgir loved fishing more than anything else...except maybe me. He was a gruff man to everyone else, didn't say much, but he had a very gentle side. He was a provider.

Solveig: Did you have any children together?

Ragnhild: We tried. Oh, we tried! I still don't know if it were me or him. Both our children were dead when I...when I...

Ragnhild couldn't hold it in. She wept mournfully.

Solveig: Oh! I'm sorry. I had a stillbirth myself. It really knocks you. You think it's your fault they didn't survive. I know better now. There was nothing anyone could have done.

Ragnhild: Can we change the subject, please?

Solveig: Were you with Jón when you came here?

Ragnhild: No. He had been gone for longer than usual and I mustered some men to look for him. Looking back now, there wasn't much hope. He used to get so drunk, he didn't know where he was. Njord probably claimed him. When we landed, Björn found us and gave us jobs. I had been the eyes and ears back home. Nothing escaped me. That's why I was put with you lot. Björn was unnerved with how much you people seemed to know about him. He wanted to address the balance. Sorry, can you give me a few minutes?

Solveig: Sure. I'm so sorry...

Day 23

Eustache decides to visit Trygve's workshop in the early afternoon.

Eustache: So this is what you've been working on for the best part of a day! A coffin fit for a cat, a stick, some metal wires, some weird metal things, a large smooth pole and a massive smooth wheel! Is this the best use of your time? You could be working on a guttering system, more barrels, more ballistas, more stools for the tavern!

Tom: Trust me, this is exactly what we need. I need to apply varnish now, let it dry, use tree sap to seal the instrument, mount the machine heads on the headstock, put the strings in and tune it. You've never seen anything like what you're going to see tonight. It'll be worth it.

Eustache: It had better be, or you'll both be working overtime until you've done an extra day's work!

Valur growled. Eustache was in the midst of leaving when Tom stopped him.

Tom: When Parvaneh arrives, please send her through. We need to agree the act together.

Eustache said nothing and left. He then bumped into Angelico.

Angelico: I've finished getting fruit. Is there anything you need help with around here?

Eustache: Get to that pot. Tom's whimsical project is going to take longer than he says. We'll be lucky if we get the evening's entertainment by sunrise.

Moira and Gudrun spent the afternoon in the tavern.

Moira: Blod said the men are in need of companionship. Couldn't we brew them-

Gudrun: It would be easier to go across ourselves, personally.

Moira: I don't think that's a good idea. I hope they're nice to Parvaneh tonight.

Gudrun: They have a lot to get out of their system. She's clever. She'll be fine.

Moira: She's clever but also naiive. I don't think she's ever been with a man. She would be more careful if she had.

Gudrun: Then she needs the education. It will do her good.

They were tired of waiting. The non-Norse men had learnt most of the words to the songs Eirik, Trygve and Knut were singing. Then, at 11:58 on Tom's watch, out came Tom and Parvaneh.

Tom: Eirik, Knut, Trygve, Eustache please get the stage and pole and put them here. Keep the pole at a right angle to the wheel, otherwise it won't support Parvaneh for long.

They brought out the stage and pole.

Tom: Gently.

Eustache: It's a mess in there. I hope you're going to tidy up before you go to bed tonight.

Tom didn't want to answer, for fear of committing to something he was too demotivated to do or risk Eustache's wrath when they were supposed to be enjoying themselves.

Parvaneh looked stunning. Tom started playing and she got to work.

Men in unison: Oooooh!

At the end of the song, where there would be clapping in modern times, Parvaneh instead had all the cheering, jeering, thumping of fists and tankards on tables, heckling and goading that can't usually be heard discernably over clapping.

Thankfully they had no prior concept of strippers on poles, so they didn't expect the bra to come off for the next song or a striptease. Tom was relieved. He'd never gone to an eleventh century tavern but was pretty sure these men wouldn't know how to behave if she did take off any clothes.

For the third song, Parvaneh abandoned the pole and gave Eirik a sensual lapdance. He was torn between the feelings that were rising in him and his responsibility to keep it tame. At the end of the song, she moved away.

Knut: Me next! Bring your beautiful body to me!

Eustache: Oi! I'm the leader! I'm next in line! Come here, my pretty!

Knut: She seems to prefer proper Norsemen! Don't mind my prick prodding you! Hehe.

Tom: I think you'll find she prefers the gentile punters who will treat her nicely, hence why she's heading for Cissé and Angelico.

When Angelico got his turn, he was stiff as a board.

Tom: Relax, my friend! It isn't sex, so your God won't have a problem with it.

Angelico: Um...okay...if you say so...

Day 23

Tom got off the bus and hurried into the Norseman's Rest. He was greeted by a pissed off Eirik.

Eirik: There's no point in running now. You're an hour late again. I was beginning to think I would need to spin those decks myself. There's only so many times I can recycle the coins in the jukebox.

Tom: Eirik, I'm sorry! The last flight landed an hour late.

Eirik: You're lucky Björn isn't here.

Some pissed off punters turned to look at Tom as he went into the backroom to change and unpack his gear. An irate Knut joined him.

Tom: Knut! Good to see you! How was it?

Knut: Thought you were avoiding me. Were you on shift when the instrument cases got damaged when we left?

Tom: Yes but I was called out for a wheelchair passenger. The other handler doesn't give a shit about our bags. They fell off the sortation belt.

Knut: Nothing inside was broken this time but if there ever is, I know who to come to with the bill!

Tom: Did the gig go down well? Do you think they'll play there again?

Knut wasn't listening and was half way storming out. Tom sighed. If anything, losing his fingers had made Knut more dangerous. Certainly more prone to bad temper. He was just a roadie now. He had played a mean bass. Knut popped his head round for one last word.

Knut: And stay away from Solveig.

So it came to this. He was scared of losing his groupie turned wife, even to a loser nobody like Tom.

Tom brought his gear out and started connecting up. Gudrun approached him. She was pissed already.

Tom: I don't have time for a tarot reading this evening. I'm also busy after work.

Gudrun: You wouldn't shay that if it were that hooker ashking! No. During her break, I want you to play Whole Lotta Roshie. I've already cleared it with Eirik.

Tom: Really? How did you convince him to allow that?

Gudrun: I promished I'd behave myshelf.

Tom: And will you?

Gudrun: What do you think, shonny?

Tom: Stupid question, I know. Could you at least wait until I've left the bar before you get all...frisky?

Gudrun: You'll have to run fasht then, won't you?

She winked and shta staggered back to her table.

Tom noticed Eustache flirting with Blod at the bar. They weren't discreet about it. Eirik obviously knew but thought it best not to aggravate a detective inspector, off-duty or not.

Tom gave him the nod when he was finished setting up.

Tom: Ladies and Gentlemen, returning for your collective delight tonight is...Parvaneh!

Tom put on Starlight by Muse first. Once Parvaneh had warmed to the first song, he put on Pour Some Sugar on Me by Def Leppard. Knut, who was supposed to be the security guard, was getting a little carried away. Eirik absent-mindedly cleaned a glass with a dirty rag while watching Parvaneh with fatherly interest. Blod and Eustache continued to flirt, ignoring everyone else around them.

After the first two songs, Parvaneh gave a little sign to Tom that said she needed her break. Tom: Everyone, Parvaneh! Don't worry, she'll be back in ten minutes or so.

He rummaged around for his AC/DC. Gudrun approached him.

Gudrun: I've changed my mind.

Tom: Good. I'll put on something more mellow, then.

He was about to grab The Stranglers when Gudrun grabbed his arm. He recoiled but she had his attention.

Gudrun: No, I mean I want to do two shongsh. Gimme Dirty Deeds too.

Tom grabbed the AC/DC disc again and popped it in.

Tom: In the interim, I present to you the...mature...shapely-

Gudrun: Jusht get on with it!

Tom cued the right tracks and legged it round the back, not wanting to witness the horrors now behind him. He was about to be mentally scarred for life. He heard the opening riff.

Bon Scott: Let me tell you a story...

Tom cringed. He then noticed he was not alone in the back yard.

Tom: What're you doing here?

Kari: Dealing. What does it look like, dumbass?

Tom: Not to Shanaw, I hope.

Kari: What's it to you?

Tom: Shanaw, you can do better. I'll try to get some. I'm not promising anything, though.

Kari: Oi!

Tom: In your parents' back yard too! Not to mention Eustache is in there.

Kari: H-he is? Fuck. Let's go, Shanaw.

As they left hastily, Parvaneh appeared. She had obviously taken something to keep her going for the rest of the night. Probably coke.

Parvaneh: Is that a banana in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

Tom: Condoms, actually. But not if you're going to be in this state.

Parvaneh: Those things are going nowhere near my vagina. All my punters use mine. I insist upon it. They don't rip like the crap you lot buy.

Tom: Fine. Whatever.

Parvaneh: But not tonight. Cissé's picking me up after the dancing and taking me to one of the hotels Björn likes me to use. Got two clients lined up already.

Tom: Are you sure this is the way to do it?

Parvaneh: What choice do I have? What choice do any of us have? Even Eustache is crooked.

Tom: Well, we all know that, but-

He heard Dirty Deeds coming to a close and ushered Parvaneh inside.

Tom: What do you want next?

Parvaneh: Closer.

On their way in, Eirik eyed him suspiciously.

Eirik: Don't rock the boat.

When Tom got back to his booth, he announced Parvaneh's return to the stage and stuck the Nine Inch Nails album on.

Knut tapped him on the shoulder.

Knut: Don't be a hero. It will be worse for you if you try.

Gudrun waved at him and stuck up three cards – the Devil, the Moon and the Tower.

The scene faded to white and Tom woke up with a lot to think about.

Over the next three days, Parvaneh slept in, deliberately avoided work, gave the women complexes and turned them against each other. Unable to fit in and experiencing an increasingly hostile environment in the women's camp, Parvaneh danced for the men every night. Dancing and appreciated there, she gravitated there, felt more at home.

Day 26

Things came to a head.

Blod: Parvaneh, it's quite clear you have no intention of doing your fair share for us. You're an extra mouth to feed and we don't need you. We have concluded that you are to move to the men's camp. You spend most of your waking hours there anyway. And stay away from my husband!