A Spark of Hope
©2002 All Rights Reserved PatsBard
- This story is solely owned and copyrighted by the author. It contains scenes of women loving women and as such may not be appropriate for all readers. If you are underage or stories of this type are illegal where you live, please do not read this.
- I cannot vouch for the historical accuracy of this tale, however I hope that it is an enjoyable read nonetheless.
- The characters may resemble ladies we all know and love. This could be considered a crossover Uber J/7, X/G.
- Ceara (KE-a-ra) is from Old Irish name Cera, whose meaning may be "bright red". Cera was the name of a wife of Nemed, of legendary early invaders of Ireland.
- Binne (BEE-ne) is from Old Irish /binn/ "sweet, melodious". Binne was the name of several fairy women in legend.
- Engilborg is Christian - /engil/, an old Icelandic word for angel; -borg, meaning deliverance. Too ironic to pass up.
- Hrefna literally means "raven".
- Brandr means "brand" or "fire-brand".
- Jorvik was the Viking name for the city of York.
- This story is a late (sigh) response for Psylocke, who requested either updates to an old story, or an offering of a new story by 11/02/02. I seem to have missed the deadline slightly, but here it is.
The rumble of thunder and the whipping of the wind rattled shutters and wall hangings alike, and sent sparks flying from the center hearth. Nestled snugly beneath the bedcovers, Ceara Wolfson registered none of it, aware only that her husband was off elsewhere and she was safe. One hand cradled her belly protectively and the other lay on the hip of her young niece, whose red-gold hair mingled with her own auburn tresses to create a perfect tapestry for the late October day.
So deep was her sleep that she never noticed when one of the sparks from the fire glided over to lie gently upon her forehead. Nor did she hear the tinkling whisper of a voice in her ear promising visions of hope to carry her through the turbulent years ahead, and praise for her courage in surviving the years past.
A score and ten years the Irish woman had lived upon the earth. Five years before, she had seen most of her family slaughtered before her eyes and the rest carried off by the Danes to become slaves in the halls they had stolen from the Saxon. She herself some thought lucky because the chieftain of the Vikings had chosen her as his bride, his rough offering of peace between their people - a meager offering, considering the distance between her home in Ireland and this filthy, timbered fortress miles inland from Jorvik. But it had served to make her countrymen docile laborers, regardless. That, and the swift beatings that were handed out for little to no reason.
Eirik had taken her niece, Binne, as wife, too, though she'd just reached her tenth year when they'd been taken. She still remembered his evil laughter when he told her should she not quicken with his child fast enough, the girl would be next. The horror of that thought had her doubled over, retching, much to his further amusement. She and Binne were both fortunate, though, when the lumbering Viking had been called back to his homeland before he found out his efforts with Ceara had been in vain.
There followed months of relative peace without him, then nightmarish days and nights with him. His cruelties extended even to his own men, so Ceara found unlooked for allies in her quest to keep Binne safe from the Viking's depravities. Her own safety came only when he was gone...or when his seed succeeded in taking root inside her. Ceara was a small, delicate woman and carrying a babe was a challenge her body had yet to overcome. One was lost during her ill-fated first marriage; two were lost while captive to this vicious barbarian from the Northlands.
Now...now another struggled for life within her womb, and her prayers before she slept were filled with pleadings to keep Eirik away until the babe was safely in her arms, whole and hale.
More sparks from the fire drifted over to join the first, forming a glowing crown upon her head. Time was an open portal on this night of Samhain, and visions of the future were carefully stitched into the fabric of Ceara's dreams. A gift for the brave young mortal who worshipped the one-god, yet, in her heart of hearts, still believed in faeries.
The rich aromas of a savory repast still lingered in the air of the great hall. Trestle tables hosted a half-score of men-at-arms whose hunger kept them even though their lord and lady had long since moved to chairs by the fire. Gone was the central hearth, along with its accompanying smoke-hole in the roof; Wolfshead Keep now boasted hearths built into three of its four walls, courtesy of its new lord's travels and modern ideas.
Slender fingers paused in their stitching as Ceara found herself staring once again at the lord of Wolfshead. It was hard to believe that the beautiful young woman sprawled so inelegantly in the heavy oaken chair was the self-same Viking warrior who had stormed the keep and wrested control of it from an enemy's hands a year after Eirik had been slain in battle. Covered in chain mail, leather, and furs, white-blonde hair a tangled mass upon her head, and wielding a sword longer than Ceara stood tall, Engilborg the Fierce had won more than just the title of Lord of Wolfshead. Her gruff affection for the then three-year-old Brandr and her patient instruction had slowly won over the heart of the Lady Ceara, much to Ceara's surprise and her people's eventual approval.
"What think you, heartling?"
Ice blue eyes twinkled knowingly at her as she brought her gaze up from where it had been fastened on Engil's ample bosom. Her gaze then went to the wooden sword the blonde grasped lightly in her hand and she frowned. "I think, my lord, you had best round off the tip of that lest you find yourself bested by a six-year-old."
Engil eyed the admittedly sharp tip of the sword and shifted unobtrusively in her chair. With any luck, Ceara wouldn't notice the bruise on her buttocks during their bedsport later in the evening. Brandr had taken advantage of a momentary lack of concentration on her part - Ceara walking across the lists with hips swaying enticingly - and had walloped her with more strength than she thought the lad had in him. However...
" 'Twas not that of which I was speaking." She watched with satisfaction as her lady's eyes deepened to an even more lustrous blue. "Nor that," she added dryly, and ruthlessly choked back a chuckle when Ceara smacked her forearm.
In retaliation, she dropped the sword and grabbed Ceara, lifting her from one chair to the other and snuggling her into her lap. Ceara's feeble attempts to free herself were easily ignored and Engil took advantage of the opportunity to press a hard kiss onto wine-shaded lips. "Brandr, take that sword out to Ulrik. He will finish the markings on it for you," she told the giggling child.
"He adores you, you know," Ceara informed her softly. The boy had his mother's auburn hair, but with warrior braids down either side just like those in Engil's tresses. His pale blue eyes he got from his father - Engil's half-brother - and the only trait Engil and Eirik shared in common. Brandr was quick to tell whoever asked that he got them from Engil and never spoke of his father at all.
"He's a smart lad," Engil returned arrogantly. "Now cease using that tone of voice if you wish to converse, else I'll have no choice but to carry you upstairs."
That tone of voice was a husky burr that still held remnants of a musical Irish lilt and it never failed to send shivers of delight down Engil's spine. To this day she had no idea how she had resisted it for as long as she did...or the smile that she was being graced with now. Audience and conversation forgotten, she set her formidable mind to the task of pleasing her lady and didn't stop until both were breathless.
"Now," she tried again once she could speak, "think you that Binne can be convinced into coming downstairs?"
Ceara sobered immediately, though her hands still trembled with the desire to be run through soft, blonde masses. "She is still upset that Hrefna has yet to write. Some days she is distraught with the idea that the Raven has forgotten her and others she is convinced some dire fate has befallen her." She sighed heavily. "In truth, I know not what to think. Raven has never gone so long without contacting us before."
"Bring her down and mayhap I can quell both your fears."
Ceara's steps faltered halfway up the stairs as she caught Engil rising and stretching out of the corner of her eye. At six feet, she was the tallest woman Ceara had ever seen save for Hrefna, with the cool, blonde beauty sported by most of the Nordic races. Where the men had a bulky, thick musculature, though, Engil was slender as a whip and deceptively strong for it. Just thinking of those iron-hard muscles under silky-soft skin made her catch her breath and she shook her head at herself as she went to fetch her niece. Who could have known that someone so closely related to her dead husband could make her feel so much love and joy?
She found Binne in her room, just sliding a long tunic over her head. The girl was a score and one now and adamant in her choice to wait for Raven to claim her, even though Engil's dark haired sister had spent the last few years sailing on trading ventures instead of wooing her as Binne had foolishly dreamt when she was younger. A few inches shy of Ceara's own five feet four in height, Binne boasted more womanly curves - something Ceara had been jealous of until Engil had convinced her how her slight frame fit with the Nordic beauty's perfectly.
"Has there been news?" Binne asked anxiously.
"Perchance, though I am not certain. Engil asked that I fetch you...I would think that means something. She almost smiled when she said it." Ceara and Binne spent an inordinate amount of time coaxing smiles from the blonde warrior. She and Raven both thought it was unseemly and womanish to go about showing their teeth unless it was in the joy of battle. Never mind the fact that both also guffawed mightily whilst sparring with the men. Some Viking code, no doubt.
Binne's green eyes lit up with an almost painful anticipation and Ceara was hard pressed to keep up with her flight down the stairs. There were glad tears shortly thereafter, as they entered a hall magically filled with yards upon yards of multi-colored fabrics...lace, satin, muslin, whatever a young girl's heart desired. And standing in the midst of the finery was the tall, dark form of Hrefna the Swift, the sparkle in her ice blue eyes the twin of her sister's.
"I've no time for wooing fanciful girls," she stated roughly. "I've a hall to build, men to train, and fields to attend before winter is upon us. Think you there is a woman hereabouts who would know how to be a proper chatelaine and lady of a manor?"
As proposals went, it ranked right up there with Engilborg's to Ceara. The answer was just as predictable.
Binne's flew from Ceara's side and launched herself into Raven's arms, sobbing and laughing in equal measure, while Raven exchanged a helpless glance with her sister. Engil simply shrugged and made a hugging motion, encouraging the warrior to hold Binne tightly. A squeak indicated the success of the silent message.
"Don't crush her, Hrefna! These Irish women are delicate creatures."
"Come you upstairs, my Viking warrior, and I'll show you just how delicate I am," Ceara whispered enticingly.
"Ah, rewards for my hard labors. Just as it should be," Engil laughed, then was dragged out of the hall by her lady, leaving Hrefna to work out the final maneuvers of this particular battle on her own.
The dream ended as gently as it began, all the sparks but one fading in the coming light of dawn. That last whispered to Ceara before taking its leave, "It is not permitted that you remember all you have seen, but take heart, little one, and know that a spark of hope is sometimes all that is needed to triumph in the end."
And so Ceara Wolfson remained strong and true as she waited for her angel to come deliver her from the darkness that was her life.
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