The Viking's Reward
Aric & Kara's
journey
Raised by Viking demi-gods, the Norns, in the 21st century, Kara falls in love with clan chieftain, Aric Thorenson, in the 9th century.

When they find out she is his gift for 'saving' one of the sisters many years ago, they struggle with not knowing if their feelings are their own or those created by the gods.

Although I have finished THE VIKING'S REWARD I still need to edit it before submitting to a publisher.
In the mean time, I am over 1/2 way through with THE VIKING'S CAPTIVE and am so glad I haven't submitted the 1st one because I need to tweak a few things to make the 2nd book flow smoother ... so that leaves the 3rd book  (UNTITLED) - the question now is, do I finish the 2nd book before I submit the 1st or do I wait until I am starting the 3rd to see if any changes need to be made for a better flow from one book to the next?

This is going to be a challenge!
Prologue and first chapter for The Viking's Reward!!!

   “Would ye hurry, Skuld? I cannot get out of these bonds on me own.” The older woman snapped at her distracted sister.
    “Stop yer moaning, Urd, I am getting to it.” The youngest of the three women said as she watched the battle between man and beast only a few yards in front of them.
    “That is going to leave a scar.” Verdandi grimaced at a particularly hard swipe the beast gave the young man.
    “I do not know why we could not use regular rope instead of these damn bracelets that not even the gods can get out of.” Urd muttered.
    Rubbing her wrists when Skuld finally undid the ties, the old woman sat next to her sisters at the base of their tree and watched the fight, grinning like a fool.
    It was a rarity to win a bet with her sisters but, this time, she made sure they didn’t scry into the future to find the answers and it was ending in her favor, no matter if the boy lived or not.
    “So he jumped in to save yer life, Urd, not to save his own?” Verdandi asked, not missing the action.
    Losing her grin, Urd glared at her beautiful middle sister.
    Skuld nodded enthusiastically, not taking her eyes off the scene. “He did, I saw it all. When the beast came tearing out of the clearing, he vowed to protect Urd.”
    Urd smiled at their youngest sister with gratitude. The bet was won!
    Skuld sighed wistfully. “He is so handsome, I hope he survives. Twould be a shame to lose a Viking such as he.”
    “Thor would not be thrilled if he died, not to mention Odin. He is too young to go to Valhalla.”
    Urd shrugged. “Eh, Verdi, they could teach him just as well there as here when it comes to the battles warriors are want to do.”
    Verdandi also shrugged while Skuld continued to sigh as she watched the play of muscles the young man exhibited during the clash.
     Urd was pleased no matter the outcome.
    Her sisters believed the young men of today would only be willing to die for a beautiful woman, unless there was a reward of some kind, they would not do so for any other. Urd insisted any honorable man would do what they could to save another’s life, no matter their looks and grew angry when they scoffed at her.
    As a result, the sisters devised a plan to prove who was right. They knew it was the time for the boys of the village to go out and prove their right to join the men in all things men do.
    Skuld insisted choose the boy for this bet while Verdandi captured a creature from the Lands of Mists and kept it restrained until the right moment and it would be the eldest bound helplessly to a stake since she was not the prettiest of the three sisters.
Nothing could have gone better.
    Skuld grinned as she told Verdandi that it was the Jarl’s youngest son, Aric, whom she chose, insisting it was not because of his looks but rather the fact of his position, which was sure to make him haughtier and therefore less likely to place himself in danger for their sister.
    Urd still proved them wrong.
    They gasped in anticipation as the young man slipped. The beast instinctively saw its opportunity and pounced, claws extended.
    The creature roared in triumph as it came down on its prey.
    The three sisters sat frozen, their eyes riveted on the scene before them.
   Urd blinked in confusion.
    The monster lay covering the boy as if dead for the longest time while the sisters held their breath in astonishment at such a sudden end to the fight, when the beast began to shift by small degrees.
    Watching in surprise, they saw the human ease away from the animal, push himself painfully to his feet, raise a leg to brace against the creature and then pulled his sword free before wiping it on the creature’s fur.
    Skuld jumped to her feet and clapped her hands excitedly. “Yay!”
    Shocked, the lad swung around to look at the three women. The way he growled as understanding dawned on him quieted Skuld and she slipped behind her two sisters as they stood.
    “What is this?” The blonde boy demanded as he approached, ignoring the blood seeping from the wound on his upper chest.     “Some misbegotten sense of humor?”
    They stared at him speechless, not use to being spoken to thusly.
    “To what?” An arm swept angrily behind him indicating the animal. “To feed me to the beast as some kind of sport?”
    “Twas only a little bet – ow!” Skuld cried out when an elbow jabbed her in the rib.
    “A bet?” Aric asked in bewilderment.
    Urd took a small step forward and held herself regally. “Aye, twas to see if ye were worthy of the gift we wish to bestow on ye.”
    “Gift? By Odin’s teeth, what damn gift?”
    “Yes, what –?” Skuld began to ask before Verdi’s hand slapped over her mouth.
    “Ye saved me, when ye could have left me to me fate.” Urd explained indulgently.
    “Seems twould have been wiser to do so. Particularly, since there does not appear to be any saving to do.” The boy muttered angrily.
    Ignoring the comment, Urd lifted her chin. “Ask for anything and it shall be granted.”
    Frowning, the young man looked at each of them, pausing on Skuld’s shrouded face, and then at the massive tree behind them.   “Ye are the Norns, the Sisters of Fate.”
   “I told ye he would figure it out! Smart as well as handsome.”
    “Hush, Skuld, the deal was if he knew prior to the battle with the beast.”
    Rolling her eyes and wishing her sisters were mute, Urd waved her hand for silence. “What would ye wish from us? Riches? A beautiful slave to warm yer furs? What?”
    His jaws clenched in anger. “Ye would not have cared if I lived or died simply because of some damn bet. Where is the honor in that?”
    Urd scoffed. “Mankind wagers all the time.” Before the boy could say anything, she encouraged him to choose. “There must be something we can give ye in appreciation.”
    “Appreciation of what? Risking my life over a bet? I want nothing from any of ye.” He spat each word before turning.
    “I cannot allow ye to go without some sort of reward for yer heroics.” Urd insisted when Aric turned around and looked at the aged hand on his forearm, surprised at the strength.
    The old woman let him go when the boy arched a haughty brow. “There must be something.”
    “I will not accept something done without honor.”
    Before he could walk away, Skuld slipped between her sisters and yanked the torque from around his neck. “Then we shall find ye a worthy gift and it shall have this so ye shall know it was from us.”
    “I said I want nothing from any of ye.” He reached for the necklace but Skuld danced away, her laughter like distant bells. Refusing to play a game, he cast a furious glance at the shrouded woman about to demand the return of his necklace when they disappeared before his eyes.
    Enraged at their deceit, the boy turned to bring the beast back with him as proof of his deeds, only to find it gone.
    Throwing his hands up in frustration caused him to grit his teeth at the pain it caused. Cursing the Fates, he left clutching his injured side.
    “Well, of all the gratitude.” Skuld huffed once they were inside their home.
    The ever-levelheaded Verdandi tried to explain the young man’s point of view as Urd paced.
    Urd stopped in mid stride. “I have it!”
    When the two sisters looked at her, Urd hurried them deeper into their home. They watched silently as she looked through the Threads of Life until she found the boy’s.
    When her shoulders slumped in defeat, Verdandi placed a hand on Urd’s shoulder. “What is it, sister?”
    “I wished to find Aric’s true love and give her to him as his gift.”
    “Awww, how very sweet.” Skuld sighed romantically.
    “But?” Verdi encouraged.
    “He has no true love. As a matter of fact, there is little more than dalliances in his future until he marries a woman simply to breed heirs.”
    Skuld frowned. “How very sad.”
    Silence filled the room as they stood thinking.
    “We could have the dwarves, Brokk and Eitre, make him a sword. Something which cannot be damaged in combat.” Verdandi suggested.
    There was no reply and Urd went back to thinking.
    “A soul mate is truly more precious than any treasure one could hope for.” Skuld stomped her foot and went to the strands, searching carefully through them. “And I will find him one.”

*****

    It would take them weeks to find her, each bringing up prospects only to have the other two find some flaw before Skuld cried out in excitement. “I found her!”
    After so many fruitless tries, the other two marked their places on the Threads of Life to go to their sister.
    “What have ye this time, Skuld?”
    “Look, Verdi, she’s beautiful, kind, and so full of love to give.”
    They peered at the thread.
    “She is too far.” Verdi stated. “Ye went too far. The distance will make it difficult for her to adjust to life here.” The middle sister dismissed, returning to her threads.
    “She will adjust to many difficulties and yet she will prevail, why not in this?” Skuld argued.
    Having no wish to argue, Verdandi waved her hand dismissively. “Let us leave it to Urd. She won the bet, she should get final approval.”
    Urd took the line in her aged hand and studied it. Long moments went by before the old woman stood and nodded. “She is the one.”
    Skuld clapped her hands. “I knew it!”
   “This will not be an easy task.” Verdandi frowned turning towards her sisters. “The child is far into the future, with so many obstacles to overcome in order to be the woman we know is needed for Aric and the man he is to become.”
   “We will ensure she takes the proper paths in her life.” Urd shrugged.
    “Ye willingly tamper with free will?” Verdandi raised an eyebrow. “Wait. Ye cannot imply –”
    Urd smiled impishly, her face instantly looking younger. “Tis not tampering, simply guiding.”
    Skuld looked from one sister to the other, her eyes growing round as she caught on. ”I will go!”
    “She is of the age where anything happening now will be a part of her persona.” Verdi said.
    “I will help her.” Skuld said excitedly.
    “Tis easy enough for me to lend assistance in her upbringing.” Urd shrugged.
    “I found her; she was in my strands so I should be the one to go.” Skuld huffed.
    In the end, it was decided that Verdandi stayed in the present since it was her main duty while Urd and Skuld would collect the chosen female.

Chapter 1

    Kara huddled on the front porch trying to stay dry as the rain fell.
    It was no use doing her homework since the wind was blowing and it would only make the papers wet if they blew away so she spent her time looking at the house across the street.
    The place had been empty since she came to live with Lisa and her boyfriend, Jim, but someone finally moved in yesterday while she was in school and she still hadn’t seen anyone.
    Sitting up straighter when the door opened, Kara stared wide-eyed as an old woman stepped out.
    Watching as the lady looked up to the stormy skies before shaking her head and taking a step off the porch, Kara bit her lip when she took a step down to the walkway.
    Putting the backpack down, Kara jumped up and raced across the street, coming up to the woman as she made her way to the mailbox, rain spattering on the long dress.
    “The mailman didn’t drop anything off for you, ma’am.”
    “Is that so, young one?”
    Urd allowed the girl to walk her back to the door. “Would ye like to come in and get dry while ye wait for yer mother?”
    “Oh, she’s not my mother, she’s my aunt. But she doesn’t like for me to call her ‘aunt’.” She rushed on.
    “Ahhh.” Urd smiled as if in understanding. “Even so. The offer stands, no matter the person yer waiting for.”
    Kara worried her lower lip and looked back at the porch where her backpack sat and tried not to shiver. “I really shouldn’t, I could get in trouble.”
    “For keeping an old woman company?”
    Sighing, Kara smiled and took a step away. “For not being there when Lisa gets home.”
    Urd nodded and held out her hand. “I understand. My name is Urd.”
    “That’s a funny name.” The child giggled then went white. “I’m sorry, that was rude. And I did so well not saying anything about how you talked too.”
    “I suppose I do talk funny and it is a funny name but it is the one I have.” She smiled and kept her hand out.
    Kara took the woman’s hand and lightly squeezed. “My name is Kara Keets.”
    “It is a pleasure to make yer acquaintance, Kara Keets.”
    “I need to go now, ma’am”
    “You may call me Urd, Kara, and my sister is Skuld.”
    She stopped. “You have a sister?”
    “Yes, I do. I have two sisters actually but only one lives here with me. Perhaps you could come back another time and meet her?”
    “Is she nice?” Kara asked as she got to the steps.
    “Nice?” Urd seemed to consider that. “I think ‘nice’ could fit her well.”
    Kara frowned, not understanding but when a car pulled into the driveway at her house, she ran back across the street, apologizing over her shoulder. “Sorry. I have to go!”
    Urd watched the girl go, a frown creasing her wrinkled brow as a slim man dark haired man and woman with dark blond hair and gaunt features got out of the car, both unsteady on their feet. Kara scooped up the backpack and clutched it to her little chest, eyes peeking out uneasily from the wet bangs covering her lowered face.
    The man came up, grabbed Kara by the arm, and she watched as Kara cowered and pointed across the street causing both adults to look at her.
   Urd pasted a smile on her face and waved.
   The man ignored her and pulled the girl inside after unlocking the door. The woman barely smiled back before following them inside.
   Stepping through the door, Urd wandered to the kitchen and placed her hands flat on the counter in thought.
  Skuld found her like that when she came into the room. “What is it, sister?”
   “I must admit it is one thing to read the Threads of Life and another to see them in person.”
    “Tis that bad?”
    Urd shook her head clearing her thoughts. “No matter; we will succeed.”

*****

    It took two more weeks before they saw Kara again. It was early in the evening when they drove past and swerved into their driveway. Skuld got out and slammed the door, laughing in child-like glee.
    “Ye shall never drive like that again. Better yet, ye shall never drive at all, we are returning that contraption.” Urd grumbled as she climbed out.
    Kara looked up from her doll when the car went past and watched the two as they carried on. Looking behind her to make sure Lisa wasn't around, she gingerly stood up and walked to the middle of the yard, the doll clutched in her hands.
    “Oh! Is this the Kara you were telling me about, sister?” Skuld exclaimed as she walked towards the girl.
    “It is indeed.” Urd commented, frowning when she looked into the child’s face. “What is it, little one?”
    Kara wiped at her eyes and shook her head.
    “Why, her doll is broken.” Skuld said softly as she knelt in front of Kara. “I must admit, I am very good at mending broken dolls. Might I take a look?”
    Looking into the beautiful woman’s face then at Urd, Kara clutched the broken toy tighter. When the older woman nodded, she slowly held out the doll, liking the feel of the soft hands that touched hers as the toy was gently taken.
    Skuld looked at the doll’s torn arm and head. “Oh my, what happened to you?” Skuld asked the doll.
    Kara hiccupped. “I got caught playing with her instead of doing my chores.”
    The sisters’ hid their anger well.
    “Would you like me to fix her?”
    Kara sniffed and looked at Skuld. “Can you?”
    “I absolutely can. But we haven’t been formally introduced.” She held the doll up to look into its face, the parts being held together gently in her hands. “My name is Skuld.”
    Kara giggled. “Her name is Miss Penny.”
    “Miss Penny. What a lovely name.” She then looked at the girl. “And I understand you are Kara.”
    “Uh huh.” Kara nodded.
    “Come inside so I can fix Miss Penny and Urd will give you some cookies and milk while I get my sewing supplies.”
    “Oh.” Kara looked crestfallen and looked across the street. “I really shouldn’t.”
    The women glanced at the house and heard the loud music, then at each other.
    “How about if I talk to yer aunt and let her know ye are with us in our home?” Urd asked.
    Kara worried her lower lip. “I dunno.”
    Skuld knelt down and smiled into the girl’s eyes. “I promise it will be okay.”
    “You don’t know them.”
    Skuld winked and stood up. “You do not know my sister.”
    When the younger woman held out her hand, Kara looked at Urd.
    “Twill will be fine, lass.”
    “Why is it you sound like me but Urd sounds…?”
    “Old world?”
    Kara nodded. “Uh huh.”
    “She comes from a different generation, honey. Wait until you meet Verdi, she’s just as bad.”
    Not one to feel anything towards humans, Urd watched the two walk away and pondered her emotions.
    Mankind were playthings to while away the centuries, nothing more.
    Nevertheless, there was something about the girl that tugged at a very old heart. As soon as her little hand was enfolded by Skuld’s, Urd could feel her need to trust.
    With determination, she headed for the child’s house and knew then she was going to begin to take care of the girl.

*****

    It did not take long for Kara to realize her life was changing.
    Lisa ordered her to stay with the “old hag” across the street on the days she or Jim were not home to let her in, as well as when they threw parties at their home. So it wasn’t surprising Kara spent most of her time across the street when she wasn’t in school.
    It was during one of those times while doing homework that she listened as the sisters talked. Not understanding the language, she still enjoyed listening and closed her eyes to focus on the sounds.
    “What are ye doing, child?”
    Startled, Kara opened her eyes and blushed, her eyes downcast. “I was just listening to you two talking, I wasn’t falling asleep or being nosy, I promise. It – it just sounded pretty.”
    Urd patted her hand. “I was not accusing ye of anything wrong.”
    Encouraged by the show of kindness, Kara asked what she always wondered when catching them speaking in a different language. “What is it you are saying?”
    “Many different things. Mostly about the past.” Skuld answered.
    “It sounds like nothing I have ever heard.”
    “It’s called Norse. Would you like us to teach you?” Skuld answered.
    “You would teach me?”
    “Why would we not?” Urd asked.
    “Well.” Kara ducked her head. “Because if you wanted to talk about me I would know what you were saying.”
    Urd chuckled and Skuld laughed. “Let us worry about that.”
    Kara smiled and nodded. “My mother told me once that it was always good to be bi-ling … bi …” She scrunched up her face. “I can’t remember the word.”
    “Bi-lingual?”
    “Yes! That’s it.” She smiled up at them. “I would very much like to learn Norse.”
    “Yer mother was a wise woman.”
    Lips trembling Kara nodded trying not to cry. “She was a professor of history and my dad was a doctor.”
    The sisters knew of the car accident three years ago that killed her parents on the night these people celebrated their new year, sending their only child into the unwelcoming arms of her mother’s sister.
    The monthly checks were the only thing that kept Lisa and Jim from fostering the child out and Urd used very little persuading for Lisa to agree to allow the sisters to keep Kara at their place as often as possible.
    Skuld hugged the child then put her at arm’s length and winked. “We’ll make them proud of you.