A/N: With my thanks to hmonster4 for her wish to see a bit more of my Ostman and to katmom for her beta-eye and her take on Rose, I bring back you Vikingmett, who made this appearance at 30 Days of Emmett. ht tp: / /www. fanfiction. net/ u/ 2582208/ 30_Days_of_Emmett
"Lord Emmett. We touch land today?" Marcus inquired in passable Norse. The old man had actually seemed to thrive on the rough sea voyage from the small green island to the fjørd and harbor of Emmett's native shore. His skin was brown and his thin hair was growing out into salt-washed wisps, but his breathing was good and his chest was sturdy. He was a smart trell – slave – too. He was speaking Norse well enough to be understood by any man sailing with Emmett.
The One-Eyed flipped up his weathered leather eye-patch and scratched at the itch that resided where his eye once had. "Ja. And you will meet my Jarl, Edward of the Four Swords." Well, there were three swords in the Jarl's possession now, since one of them was now wrapped in its own oiled leather cloth on the skipniu's narrow deck.
The color green filled his vision as he took in the distance-view of his homeland. Mountains, still with a hint of snow at their peaks, stretched into the sky while fingers of land stretched into the ocean. It was as if the land of Nordweg were a living, breathing person. A person who was tiring, in Emmett's estimation. He hoped to be able to persuade his mother and brother to come with him next year when he next went to the Green Island where his Rose was.
Feet braced firmly apart on the deck of the skipniu, Emmett seemed to be as sturdy as the center mast that he wrapped one massive hand around. He could still see his Rose. His Rose. Yes, she was his. He remembered clearly the pride in her fjørd-blue eyes. The determination to be brave even when that dog, Úlfr, had her in his filthy hands. Her spirit was captivating – she was truly touched by the gods. The way she had threatened Emmett with the knife he had given her for her own protection yet had placed it deliberately behind her back when she was ready...
And those lips...her kiss...
Yes, he would return to her. Surely Jarl Edward would not object to him taking Rose as a wife.
[ +==+ ]
"Jarl Edward of the Swords," Emmett stated in introduction. His trell bowed appropriately. "Jarl, this is Marcus. He is learning good Norse and will be able to give us much information on where the wealth will lie on the Green Island."
Edward settled himself on the bench-bed at the rear of his longhouse, back firm, seeming to still be standing proudly though he was supposedly more at ease. At the Jarl's nod, Emmett settled himself – with some creaking of wood – onto the bench-bed at a perfect squared angle to his lord. The fire was not overpowering, but it gave off a homey light into the long, rectangular dwelling. Marcus, as a new trell, did not leave the building but stood at the far end of it, leaning against the outer wall. Furs were spread over a few of the seven bench-beds. These were the beds of the Jarl's sons and daughter. His wife had died three years past and Edward had not taken to himself a new wife.
He had, though, a leman to see to his manly needs and it was that female that came in after Emmett settled himself. "My lord," the girl said, her eyes cast down as was proper. "Is there anything I can do for you or your guest?"
Edward extended his hand to the serving girl. "Just some mead, Rina. Thank you."
The blond girl kissed Edward's offered hand before doing as she had been bidden. Edward smiled fondly at her as she left the longhouse. "Now that you're home for the winter, Emmett, you should consider taking a leman yourself. To keep you warm at night."
"Actually, my lord, I did come to see you about my...future...in that regard."
Edward grinned. "Good! Did you bring back more than the translator, then?" The Jarl's ruddy hair glinted as tossed back half a mug of the mead in a go. "You should have brought her. Rina could have instructed her as to her role among us. It's good for the females to have companionship during the winter."
Feeling his cheeks heat, Emmett all but inhaled his own warm, fermented honey beverage before setting the empty mug to his right on the wood of the bed. He wondered how best to say this. "I met a girl on the Green Island." Best to start with the basics.
The problem he was going to have, Emmett had concluded during the long sea voyage from the Island to his home harbor, was that he wanted to leave Nordweg entirely and Jarl Edward might not approve. And without his approval, Emmett could possibly forfeit the services of a navigator upon his return to his Rose. And he would have to give up his prized sword at Edward's pleasure. There was also a distinct possibility that he would be asked to pay for the loss of the another fighting man – his brother Eysteinn would be missed as well the following summer.
"A girl? What is her name?"
"Steg," Emmett replied at once, grinning at his memories of how he had learned her rightful name.
"A rose, is she? Beautiful?" Edward inquired, leaning forward in interest.
Caution flared in Emmett's chest. "A golden rose, my lord. Beautiful doesn't begin to tell the tale."
"Well, where is she? I would see her!" Another grin as Edward bounced with apparent youthfulness to his feet. "Perhaps, if she were very beautiful, we could trade, eh?"
"No!" Emmett leapt to his own feet, hands clenched in fists before he could calm himself. "No, she's mine. I want to take her to wife, Lord Edward."
"To wife?" Edward stared at him, bewildered. Then, he began to pace halfway around the fire circle and back to his bench-bed. "Emmett. You should marry, yes, but marry one of your own kind. One of us. Not a foreigner. What kind of sons would she give you? She might not last a winter! Our women are bred for this land."
It was Emmett's turn to be confused. "Our women die all too often, Lord Edward. New blood is good blood."
Edward seemed to think on this, holding his hands over the fire though it wasn't really cold. "Well, bring her here. I'd like to meet her."
[ +==+ ]
At midvinterblót – the days-long celebration in the dead days of winter that involved drinking and storytelling as well as the sharing of craftsmanship – Emmett was not blind to the young women who smiled at him. Young women of good families and fine dowries. He had been approached by more than one father and an elder brother or two as well.
"She'd make you a fine wife and we know you're a man in good standing, with property and with the Jarl," Emmett had been assured. Frequently.
His brother had likewise been courted on behalf of a young lady or two. He was rather more receptive. Emmett supposed that having his brother have a wife to bring with the family as they relocated to the Green Island would be a good thing.
Jarl Edward caught Emmett's eye and beckoned to him with a lift of his rock-hard jaw. Maneuvering his way through the crowd of people in the Jarl's longhouse was not too difficult for a man of the One-Eyed's size and reputation.
"One-Eye," Sigurd called just before Emmett attained a conversational point with Jarl Edward, "is it true you're looking for a wife? Because my wife's cousin is from Balestrand and she'd be a fine bride for you. She will be here before we leave on the summer raids. You could meet her."
Emmett smiled a little. "I thank you for the compliment, Sigurd. I have a bride in mind, though, and am hoping to wed her this coming summer." His golden rose. He paused for a moment to refresh his memory and to feed Sigurd's apparent curiosity. "She's got hair the color of sunshine and eyes like a spring melt in the fjørd. A figure a man would sail far to find again and spirit like none I've ever seen, Sig. She's the greatest treasure I've ever seen and I must have her as my wife."
Sig might have been drooling, but Emmett wiped the smile off his face when he saw the disapproval in their lord's. "Emmett."
"My lord." Tension crackled between the men, both of them imposing in their own ways. The Jarl carried the weight of tested authority, the One-Eyed emanated battle-readiness in his shoulders and stance. They faced each other as conversations died down around them. Only a baby cried in the arms of its mother, near the fire where it was warmest.
"You know I do not approve. It would be wisest to marry among our own people. Keep whomever you wish as a leman – every man needs variety – but you would do well to heed me."
Emmett did not wish to have another confrontation in the midst of a celebration, nor with twenty or more witnesses, so he bowed briefly. "It is a matter that will keep," he said with some diplomacy. "After all, a man does not get wed in midwinter."
Apparently taking this as capitulation, the Jarl smiled briefly. "No, indeed."
[ +==+ ]
"Emmett," Eysteinn began as they were testing the skipniu's decking for soundness at the first true warming of the Spring, "you can't be serious. We can't just leave our homes and lands and start over again so far away! It's not like it's inland or near a new harbor or even Halvard's land in Balestrand, that Sigurd mentioned last month. Your restlessness, brother, is being gossiped about."
Emmett felt his muscles tensing and flexed his fingers to dispel his inner need to lash out. It wasn't his brother he was truly angry with – though Eysteinn did frustrate him to no end with his closed-mindedness regarding the Green Island. "My restlessness, as you call it, is only my wish to return to my Steg. I promised her."
Eysteinn gaped, the earnestness of the proposition finally sinking in to him. "You betrothed yourself to her? Why didn't you say so? The Jarl could not object if you have done so."
After applying stress to one of the questionable-looking boards, Emmett used some of his irritation to break it. "We need to replace this one. And I don't know if she understood me," he admitted to his brother. "But I'm going back to her. And I want to stay there. And I want you and our mother to join me. The land is good and healthy and young. We could be an outpost, a safe harbor for the Jarl for future forays. It would be a wise move," Emmett concluded, pushing himself to his feet and meeting his brother's gaze.
Eysteinn lacked Emmett's overpowering build, but his sense of what was right was just as strong. "Have you told it like that to Jarl Edward? Even I can see the sense in it and he is not an unreasonable man."
"He likes the idea, but he wants me to marry Sig's cousin, if none of our girls will do. And then he wants me to stay in his service. To train the men. Odin's claimed me for his own and it would be, Lord Edward says, folly for me to cast the god's favor away."
Emmett finished his answer while looking out over the harbor, where other men sought to repair their own skipniu for the good of all. The small waves caressed the hull of the longboats, as if reassuring the men inside them that all would be well in the coming summer. If he closed his eyes, he could feel his golden rose's fingertips in the touch of the wind's edges. Her voice in the cool breeze. Her clear eyes in the fjørd.
Eysteinn slapped his brother's broad back. "Sorry, my brother, but Lord Edward has a point."
Emmett half-turned to angle a look at Eysteinn from his one eye. "He does, but Odin's power is not limited to Nordweg."
[ +==+ ]
"Úlfr! Call when you see land," Emmett directed as he strapped on his sword and checked the fastenings on his boiled leather armor. The familiar actions steadied his nerves. He had been learning the language of the Islanders. Gaeilge, Marcus had called it.
Marcus, the old fellow, was no longer his trell and Emmett had left him at home with his mother. The old man had become strangely attached to Systa, Emmett's mother's personal maid. Systa – a woman of middle years and no family – had also learned Gaeilge, as Marcus taught it over the long, lagging winter. It was a language filled with liquid syllables and strange sounding combinations, but Emmett had a powerful wish to learn. Systa had learned with the idea of speaking with Marcus in his own language.
Not being a fool, he had observed the way the wind was blowing and had released Marcus into his mother's service. He fully expected to hear word that the two trells were married by the end of summer.
Just now, though, the one-eyed warrior was thinking of a wedding of his own. It was foolish, in the rational light of day.
"Consider, One-Eye," Jarl Edward had said at last, shortly before he took command of one of the other skipniu that was setting out from Nordweg. "Your Steg might truly be all that you think she is. But she is a foreigner and has been alone all year. And you, frankly, invaded her island and stole treasure from her home, right? You have benefited greatly from pillaging her people. What makes you think she'll be waiting for you. A kiss? A knife? Be sensible, Emmett."
The doubts assailed his heart as Úlfr called, "Land! The island is visible, One-Eye."
Blowing out a breath, Emmett called to his mind all that he had learned of the language Marcus had taught him. What if all the words were lies? What if the speech he had carefully planned was in fact a series of grave insults? What if Steg had wed and had a babe at her breast?
What if she had died?
Odin, he prayed, his hand over the patch that covered his empty eye socket. Odin, if you hear me, if you haven't turned my life over to the Trickster, I hope you have saved my Steg for me. My beautiful golden rose. I have worked hard to be worthy of her. I have trained your people, god of my lost eye. I have served my lord and made sure my mother was well provided for. All those you have entrusted to my care are established in strength. Odin, I have sacrificed with my eye and my own life. I pray she is there. I pray she remembers me and that her eyes will shine for me as they do in my memory. There is nothing I will not give for her if she is given to me. Nothing.
He nodded as he finished his prayer and shook his melancholy off. He was here to establish a base for Jarl Edward, who was on the skipniu immediately to Emmett's right. He would do that. He was prepared to fight any reinforcements the robed men of this island might have collected against him.
Marcus had warned him that the men of the stone buildings were there to worship a god of their own. A man-god who had sacrificed his son for humans. Sounded weak to Emmett, but Marcus said they knew how to fight.
Marcus had said a great deal, once they were able to talk to each other. Getting the man to shut his mouth had been the hard part.
The wind was cold, blowing off the land. Colder than the water as the skipniu were guided in to the rocky shore. "Furl the sails," Emmett directed. "We don't want to go back out there. Oars!"
In a heartbeat, the men had dropped their weapons and bent their backs to the task of rowing. It wouldn't overly tire them – it was a short distance and it was necessary.
The oars cut roughly through the shallows. Waves pushed at the longships as if to repel them from the land, but Emmett persevered. His focus was not only on his own ship but also on the nearest ones to him, making sure that his men didn't get oars tangled up with those of another craft. Such disasters had happened, and though the warriors did put in some training in this work, it wasn't their primary concern.
"Emmett!" Rough laughter rolled low to his ear. "Looks like all your muttering has done you some good, anyway."
Emmett frowned at Úlfr and his leering face before following the navigator's pointed fingers.
"Steg! Ann-ehmuhkull!" he breathed, in his language and hers. His Rose was there on the shore, almost exactly where he had left her the summer before. Her hair was a pale gold veil that swirled about her body. She was wearing a cloak that covered her, hiding the perfection of her body from all eyes. Good. He knew what she felt like pressed against him and could draw his own conclusions...
He grinned. His men chuckled about him, the jests whispered but not overly so. "Secure the skipniu," he ordered. "I'm going ashore."
Never taking his eyes from his golden goddess of the dawn, he braced his arm on the rim of the hull and leapt over it to land calf-deep in the water. He slogged through the water, just as he had the year before. But this time, he gave no thought to the smell of the sea water or the green hue of the grass just beyond the sand-surrounded rocks. This season, there was only his Island Rose.
He was almost in reach of her when her hand came out from her cloak...and she was wielding the knife. The knife Emmett had given her from Úlfr's own sheath. He hesitated only a breath as she held it up to his eye level before, with a light in her own eye, she slipped the knife behind her.
Emmett nodded, sure that Odin had smiled upon him. Here she was, his Steg, his Ann-ehmuhkull, as entrancing as she had been in every sleeping dream and every waking memory. He took a deep breath and said what he had come to say.
"Rose, my island woman," he began in her tongue, in Gaeilge, "I have come back, as I promised you." Surprise flared in her crystal blue gaze and his smile broadened. "And you have waited, just as I hoped."
He was prepared to take her gently into his arms, to show how much he treasured her – insofar as he could in front of his men and Jarl Edward, whose skipniu was now scraping the sand and being secured for landfall. Instead, Rose surprised him, throwing herself at him, knife and all, her arms around his neck and her laughter in his ears. Her joy was such a relief to him, such an amazing gift, that Emmett the One-Eyed laughed with her, laughed with such force as he could not remember having felt since attaining manhood.
Swinging her around in a circle, he heard but ignored the jeers and laughter of his men, just as he caught sight of the narrowed gaze of the Jarl. "Emmett!" she breathed against him. He needed no further invitation to press his lips to hers.
And what a kiss she gave him. Her lips were warm, her breath sweet and smelling of mint. Her hands in his hair as they stood all but motionless as the cool air swirled around them and the skipniu in their group all made landfall to empty themselves on the shore.
He held her tightly against him, feeling her heart pound as did his own. This was his woman. The one he would spend the rest of his days and nights with. The woman who claimed him, body and spirit. "Rose," he breathed. "I love you."
"You speak Gaeilge," she murmured, staring into his eyes.
He laughed. "Marcus taught me."
"Where is he? I have missed him."
"He is well, back in Nordweg."
It was not her rich voice that said his name that time – it was his lord. Grimacing, Emmett shook his head sharply and tried to smile a little. Arm firmly around Rose, he turned.
"Jarl Edward, this is my Rose," he stated in Norse. "Rose?" he continued in Gaeilge, "this is Lord Edward Karlsson."
Rose bent her knee before Lord Edward but Emmett never let his hand slip from her back. It seemed that it was only then that Rose took in the sheer number of men that had arrived. She lifted worried eyes up to Emmett. "What is happening? My people..."
Lord Edward drew himself up and looked as imposing with his bronze thatch of hair as any man had any right to look. "Emmett, translate if you would."
"Yes, my lord."
"I promise on my honor not to harm you or anyone you claim here on this small isle, but we are not going to take such care elsewhere. If you wish to be safe, stay close to my man Emmett. Do not argue with my men and instruct the others who are here with you to cooperate."
Rose stiffened under Emmett's arm, watching Jarl Edward's face as he spoke. She was wise enough not to look away and Emmett's respect for her grew twice over. "I will tell them," she said, her words short and harsh without any of the warmth she had shown to Emmett.
Lord Edward nodded. "Good. Now, Emmett. Don't translate this. I will let you stay here as a go-between. You will work for me, here, and make my will known that this is to be a permanent harbor for us, to give us a base from which to come and go in the future. Enjoy your Rose," he said more warmly with a fond smile at the blond goddess under Emmett's arm. "Enjoy her and see if you can persuade her to come as a free woman back home with you. If not, take her as a leman and treat her as you will."
"I will not," Emmett ground out. "I will not take her as leman. She will be my wife."
"Enjoy her for the summer," the Jarl repeated. And with another hard look, he turned away, shouting orders to his own crew.
"Rose..." Emmett murmured, postponing his tasks for as long as he could in the interests of securing the one thing that really mattered. "An boas-he too may?"
"Marry you? Emmett? Really?"
"Ja. I want you with me. Always."
"Isea!" she breathed. Yes.
The weather was cooler than it had been, and Emmett noticed. He still brushed sweat from under the eyepatch he wore to cover Odin's claim on him, but he was not conflicted any longer. While Jarl Edward had raided the larger body of the Green Island – Éire, he had learned it was called – Emmett had wed Rose and the two of them lived in the largest building on the island of Rathlin. It was a place where the monks worshiped their Man-God, but there were rooms in it for people to live, and that's where Emmett lived with his new wife.
His new wife who was going to give him a son. He was sure of it.
"What are you doing with your sword?" Rose asked after washing her face. She had been sick again that morning. Emmett was not a fool; he knew what that meant.
He grinned at her. "Polishing it."
She still looked like a goddess to him when she gazed in that manner down her perfect nose. "Oh? I daresay we polished your sword in fine fashion last night, husband."
His laugh burst forth with joy and mirth. "Indeed we did! But it is not something I'd prepare to share with Jarl Edward."
Rose's playful moment was over and her gaze briefly toured the high-ceilinged chamber as if surveying the table and benches, wide stone hearth and wooden altar. "He is returning today."
"Yes. And I will have to tell him."
She did not doubt him, not for a moment. Emmett's pride in her was filled anew with each day. "What will he do?" Rose did not move, but spoke with dignity and calm acceptance. "He won't – hurt you, will he?" Her lips trembled for a moment.
Emmett hastened to reassure her. Setting aside his sword, he pushed off the stool he had been sitting on – one built just for his size – to embrace his wife. "No. It's not his way. But he will find some way to...punish me." He held her tightly, as if to prevent the gods or the Jarl from taking her away.
The morning mists had burned away under the distant disc of the sun when Lord Edward's skipniu came in to moor itself at the harbor Emmett had constructed over the summer. Deciding it was best not to delay, Emmett met the Jarl on the beach.
"Are you ready to depart?" Edward called, apparently not willing to postpone any discussion, either. "You may bring her along, remember."
Without Rose by his side, Emmett didn't feel nearly so defensive. He just wanted this to be over; the low-level dread of disappointing the Jarl had festered all summer. "She is my wife," he told Lord Edward. No need to hide it; he was proud of this. "And I will stay here as your harbormaster, if you want me to serve you in that way."
The Jarl's nostrils flared, his jaw tightened and his eyebrows furrowed the skin over his sharp nose. "You know what I have asked of you."
"I do. I am not less your man because I want to live here, where the soil is more ready to grow crops. I am just wanting to bring up my sons in a place with bounty, not want."
The Jarl was not known to be a man of violent temper; he angered but he was ever a master of his emotions – they did not master him. It was, in part, what made him an effective leader of strong men. He glared mightily however, before pushing by Emmett and crunching over the wet sand and pebbles to the more firm grass. "You are not my trell, Emmett Bjørnson, and I cannot compel you to anything." A light of humor glowed briefly in the Jarl's green eyes. "You're as strong as the bear of your father's name. I couldn't make you do anything, even if I wished to." He looked away, then, crossing his arms and scanning the wall that surrounded the cluster of buildings Emmett and Rose lived in, with the monks of Rathlin. "I can see you've made yourself a home, here. I won't make you leave it. But you are no longer my man, Emmett. I will have my sword again, to give to someone who will do as I bid them."
The demand was made quietly, with the quiet air of an expectation met. Emmett silently slid the gift-sword from its sheath and handed it, hilt-first, to Edward, who was no longer his lord or leader. "I understand. I can fight with an axe and spear."
"I know it. I'd not leave you defenseless."
Emmett stood next to Edward, his back straight if feeling strange without the weight of the sword upon it. "You're a fair man." Still, a sense of loss swirled around him and a sudden shaft of pain – like a ghost of his old wounding – shot through where his eye used to be.
Odin... Reminding him of his sacrifice. Emmett stiffened against the momentary jolt of supernatural fear that chilled his skin and curled his hands into fists.
"Emmett?" Rose's voice floated to him over the wet expanse of grass and Emmett nodded. "Are you and the Jarl out here?"
"Here we are, wife!" Emmett called, relaxing as he watched her approach. Edward, next to him, shook his head slowly but he was smiling.
When the Rose of Rathlin reached them, the hilt of her knife visible from the sheath she wore around her hip over her red gown, Edward's face expressed his rueful acceptance of the new situation. "You have a fine knife," he said. His words were for the woman, but his look was for the man. "I am sure it was worth what you paid for it." The Jarl did not know that Emmett had taken that knife from an unconscious navigator who had assaulted Rose the year before, but that wasn't the point of Edward's observation.
Emmett nodded his tacit comprehension of the unspoken message. The knife was fine indeed, but it was Steg, Ann-ehmuhkull, his Rose who was the treasure here. "No cost is too high," he said in answer.
Rose, her intuition sharp as ever, nodded, meeting Edward's steady gaze with her own. "I have a farewell meal prepared, Lord Edward," she said in halting Norse.
When Jarl Edward left, he took Emmett's sword with him, but he left his belt-knife behind. It was not in compensation, but in appreciation. Emmett would later give the knife to his firstborn son.
An bpósfaidh tú mé - An boas-he too may. - Will you marry me.
Isea - Ih-shaw. Yes (Northern Ireland)
Ja - Yes
leman - A slave whose primary purpose is the sexual gratification of her owner. A leman was generally well-regarded and pampered, for a slave.
skipniu - longship
trell - slave