Dear Father, he was a Viking! Torchlight burned in his eyes, bronzed the skin of his clean shaven face and neck, and wheat-gold hair touched the top of his shoulders. The indigo cloak he wore swept across his chest, held at his right shoulder with an ornate brooch of silver. Beneath the drape of wool, showed his embroidered tunic, and at his side, a sword, its hilt embellished in runes and the hammer of Thor. His raiments indicated wealth and an eclectic, worldly mode of dress.
She gaped in awe of him, perceived his consternation at the sight of her dressed in just her thin wool undergown. A shiver ran through her as he eyed her hair, where it tousled in thick ropes along her arms and down her back. In spite of her fear, from the depths of her faith her courage continued to spout.
“There are no riches here. Your heathen kind has been here before and taken it all. Have you returned to raze even the timber dwellings?”
“I seek the Maiden Seer, not a squeaking mouse. Step aside. Where is the prophetess? Is she in this room?” Raising the torch higher, he stepped closer to within a couple of feet of her, a towering presence. His light and attention fell on the nuns huddled in a corner behind Amber. Beyond him, Amber saw the man’s cohorts just outside the door, hands on their hilts at the ready for opposition. She feared for the abbess and the monks who remained elsewhere in the complex. Her men-at-arms, encamped down the hillside, might be summoned with a just a shout, yet she hesitated to provoke bloodshed if it could be prevented.
“Truly!” she maintained, looking up at his looming frame. Panic threatened to overcome her as the heat of his torch warmed her face. “I am the one. I foresaw you as an iron oak and knew you would come.”
The Viking lowered the flame, which cast his eyes in unearthly gold. He drew back briefly and a flicker of dismay crossed his face, a subtle expression for Amber to detect and judge. Through hundreds of readings she knew had hit her mark in the Viking.
Grabbing her by the arm, he jerked her closer to him, prompting screams from the nuns in the corner. He smelled of smoke, leather and the faint scent of eucalyptus.
“Iron oak?” he said gruffly, more statement than question.
“Sisters, be at ease.” Looking up at the Viking, she tried not to grimace under the vise grip of his huge hand. “Yea, an iron oak. Are you the one?” He may need proof from her, but she also needed it of him, lest she lose her nerve to proceed.
He narrowed his eyes in response, and flexed his jaw with an almost imperceptible nod. “You cast the runes?”
“Aye. And since you have found me, cease this menace. If you have come to take what little is here, then do your worst. We are all prepared to die. We know where we will be after death. Do you?” Amber pulled at her arm as she spoke the much-too-brave words, felt little prepared to die, and tried to forget the oft-told stories of the terrible Danes. She held on though, to her interpretation of her dream, determined to see it through.
“No one will die, mouse. At least not yet.” He let go of her, urging her backward. “Get your things! If you have foreseen my coming as you claim, then you also know you are coming with me.”