***Those here looking for a CLUE to the TRR Anniversary game can find the answer below***
Finna gasped. She had been sure he would rape her. When she stood before him, she glared and tilted her chin high, even as his fingers dug mercilessly into her flesh. Not even the snickers and howls of laughter from the other men deterred her.
Valdrik looked down on her, shaking his head for a moment, but then looked away toward his men as he spoke. "Stieg, ride ahead. I do not think they notice yet that she is gone. If we hurry, we can make it back before midday tomorrow. Útryggr and Ragnarr, I wish you to stay behind to watch for Aldar's men. Stay until morning light and then catch up to us." One of the two men nodded to Valdrik and nudged his mount, trotting off into the wood up a hill and out of sight with the other man flanking him as they headed in the direction of her home.
Frantic thoughts of what might happen next clouded her mind as Finna watched them disappear, leaving her alone with the madman. However, she supposed one was better than four.
"Can you handle that one on your own?" the remaining man, Stieg, asked laughingly as he slowly turned his mount and started away.
Valdrik scoffed. "This one cannot have many more tricks left to play. Go, I can handle her. I want you to ride ahead and tell our Jarl we have rescued his daughter."
Fear pooled in her belly when Stieg looked on her chillingly. His eyes were cold and hard, leaving her with the distinct impression he did not care for her, though she was not even sure he knew who she truly was. He was a brutal looking man, with a heavy beard and scarred face.
Her heart began to flutter, but at last, the man looked away and urged his mount in the direction they headed before her captor had stopped. Finna watched the man fade quickly into the night, and when she was again alone with Valdrik, she asked, "What do you plan to do with me now?"
He turned to her, his look quite blasé. "Same as I planned to do with you before you attacked me," he said.
Finna looked upon him, appalled and in disbelief. "What is in this for you?" she demanded.
He shrugged. "Your sister. The position of Jarl when your father passes."
Finna's eyes flared, and her back stiffened as he grabbed her up with ease again and sat her on the horse's back once more, this time with her legs draped over the side, mockingly like a lady would sit.
After Valdrik climbed up behind her, he pulled another length of rope from his belt. Finna looked at the binding and scowled. He must have brought enough to wrap her in if need be.
“Your hands, sweet maiden,” he said, waiting.
Finna jerked her hands forward. “There is no need. I am no fool. I know when I have been bested.”
“And I am no fool, either. You may cry defeat, but your eyes tell a different story. So, you shall be bound, warrior maiden." He lowered his voice and leaned closer, "Until I deem doing so unnecessary.”
“And how long might that be?” she asked scathingly.
"You are lucky, Finna. I am not a man to hurt a woman, but do not test me. I have not done to you what most men might have." With one finger, he turned her chin so she faced him.
Finna did not recoil as she had a mind to, but glared back, trembling against his touch.
"If you do anything like that again, I shall take your clothing from your body myself. I think you might be less tempted to run from me if you were bare from your toes to your head. What do you think?" His eyes fell to her breasts, his hot lusty stare evident.
Finna shivered under those hooded eyes, unused to a man looking on her so. Her breasts tingled into tight buds where his gaze lingered, sending heat to spread up her neck and into her cheeks.
He wished to wed her supposed sister, did he? She tilted her nose up at him. "Depraved mongrel," she muttered.
His gaze flashed to hers.
"You wish to wed my sister?" Finna asked. "If I indeed had a sister, she would hear of your licentious looks. Do not think I am blind, Viking."
His stare turned cold, and as if for emphasis, the rope closed tightly around her wrists, the coarse fibers biting into her skin.
She bit back her gasp, but his cool gaze steadied her determination to not back down or show him any pain. She snapped her teeth at his jaw in attempt to bite him and came very close to succeeding with the tiniest nip, the slightest touch of her lips against his skin.
Finna blanched at herself, at the salty taste of him on her lips.
Valdrik flinched and reached to touch the spot on his neck. He growled low. "Damn you," he cursed her.
She had the desire to strike him, but instead, she scrutinized him coldly over her shoulder. Oh, how she loathed this man. “I think you are a filthy son of a thrall whore! I shall spit your head on a spear when I get free from you, I warn you now."
Valdrik pulled back from her. "And to think I pitied your father for losing you. Methinks he was better off," he snapped.
"Why would I lie to you about your father?" he asked, tapping his heels into his horse. "I have taken you." He jerked her close, his grip around her ribs harsh. "I have conquered you," he said, his mouth very near her ear. "Do you think I need a ruse to keep you with me?"
She did not miss the hard press of his body against her, his inhale at her neck as he took in her scent. She gasped at the tightness of his arms around her and began to squirm from his hold. "Then tell me why my uncle would pretend to be my father?" she asked, struggling against him until he loosened his grip.
"Jealous hatred. Your mother. The fact that Aldar's rightful place was passed to his younger brother."
"Because of a lie," Finna said, whipping around on him. "Hadarr lied and told the people my father had died in battle."
"Nay, he did not. Aldar was gone overlong, and the people did not desire him for their ruler. Thus they chose your father when your grandfather passed on."
"Then why did half side with Aldar if they did not prefer him?" she asked.
"Half?" Valdrik snorted. "Nay, woman. Not even a third, at best. The others he slaughtered when he took you from your cradle in a raid."
Suddenly, the vision in her dream flashed before her, and Finna flinched. Could those images I dreamed so vividly be of that raid? she wondered. She shook herself. Nay.
"You mentioned my mother. Did you know her?" Finna asked.
"I do know her." Valdrik straightened then, and all his animosity and anger with her seemed to wash away into the darkness of the wood. His hold on her loosened, and the tenseness of his body relaxed against her.
Finna shook her head. "Nay, my mother is dead. Hadarr took her life. You have me confused with someone else."
Valdrik scoffed. "Nay, she lives. She has longed for you. Your sister, born to your parents two years after your uncle took you, has missed growing up without you as well. You shall know the truth when you see your mother, for you have the exact look of her, with the exception of age of course."
Finna mulled the idea over in her mind, though she found no sense to his wild tale. "To speak of my mother living you put things into my head I do not care to have there, Viking."
"You doubt me even still, though."
"Of course I do."
"And if you do not come with me, for we both know you shall attempt to escape me yet again, how shall you ever discern the truth, fair maiden?"
She cared not for his taunting words. "You will cease calling me that," Finna said, snarling back at him. When she turned and faced ahead once more, she ducked for a branch just as Valdrik reached to push the low hanging limb away. "I do not know," she said. "I shall ask my father when I return to him."
"You mean your uncle," Valdrik corrected.
She paused. "Nay, my father."
"Either way, the man you left this eve has lied to you your entire life, so why would he tell you the truth now?"
Finna did not answer him, and Valdrik said no more, much to her relief. Eventually the paths became visible and familiar in twilight. Twisted branches wove a gnarled canopy above where the first shades of dawn washed away the stars in the sky.
They continued in a similar way for hours until Valdrik reined in the beast carrying them and they stopped in a clearing where soft grasses grew on the bank of a small stream. She recognized the area well, had perhaps stopped there before.
"What are we doing?" Finna asked, looking around them.
"Stopping for respite and food before we continue on. Are you not hungry?" he asked.
She was, actually. She had not eaten the evening before, too upset to do so. Actually, she had not eaten since the night Hadarr's men attacked them. "Aye," she said.
"We will not reach your father's lands until noon tomorrow." Valdrik dismounted behind her and then reached up, planting his hands solidly around her waist. "We must rest here and make camp later, elsewhere. Far enough ahead your uncle cannot catch us."
Very awkwardly, Finna allowed him to pull her from the horse, as she had no other choice. Her body grazed his on her descent, and she was glad when she was on her feet once more, his hands no longer on her. He took the large animal by the reins to the stream to drink.
"He will come for me," Finna said, watching her captor.
He was tall, this Viking, and strong. She wouldn't deny he was a strikingly handsome brute in a very rugged way. Scars and all.
His dark brown hair spilled down around his shoulders, the color matching his short beard. He wore no braids or clasps in his beard as some men did.
"Are you so sure?" He did not turn to face her, instead bent to cup water in his hands from the stream and drank.
"No matter what you think, he is my father, and he loves me." Finna's brow furrowed, as she wondered why her words faltered.
Valdrik stood, shaking the water from his hands and drying them on his leggings as he turned to her, a mocking lift to the corner of his mouth as he approached her. "You must have made him very angry when you retuned without the loot of my village. Did you tell him the truth? Did you tell him that you were attacked before you even made way across the fjord?"
Though triumph surged from him, Valdrik reached up and smoothed his thumb over the bruise at the corner of her mouth, and then gently, almost as soft as the touch of a feather, he ran the pad of his finger over the split in her swollen, bottom lip. A spark of pity showed in his eyes.
Finna did not care for his touch or pity and jerked her head away. "Of course I told him the truth! I am no liar."
Valdrik circled around her. Suddenly, she felt herself propelled forward, and she stumbled as he pushed her again toward a tree at the bank.
She looked back at him. "What are you about?" she demanded.
"I must secure you from running away whilst I find food."
Finna gave him a scathing look. "It is not enough that you have bound my hands? I could help you hunt."
He outright laughed at her. "You must surely think me a fool." He pushed her back flush against the tree, one hand to her middle, his fingers hot, and his touch seeped into her through her vest. Finna turned her head, watching him as he wrapped the length of a rope around her and the trunk twice and then tied the ends on the other side where she could not reach.
When he stood before her again, Valdrik leaned on the tree, his body almost pressing into hers. Almost. So close was he, she could feel heat radiating off him. His icy-blue eyes roamed down her, and she could swear he was the most lustful man she had ever encountered.
She narrowed her gaze on him. "You shall pay for this, Viking. One day," Finna vowed.
Valdrik smiled, crooking a finger to run under her chin, his stare lingering on her mouth. "But not this day, sweet shieldmaiden. Not this day."©2014 Kerri M. Patterson