The Angry Mermaid 52 or Y Morforwyn Dicllon 52.

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Well, after completing 'The Ram' (not very satisfactorily I might add.) I've returned to 'The Angry mermaid.'Lets see if I can do a better job with this story.

Bev.

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The Angry Mermaid 52

Or

Y Morforwyn Dicllon 52

Mabina. The youngest daughter and Twin to
Drustan Her twin brother.
Grandpa Erin the twins grandfather.
Giana The twins grandmother
Caderyn The twins father.
Herenoie The twins wise and beautiful mother.
Morgaran The Twins oldest brother.
Aiofe The twins oldest sister. Famous for her beauty.
Tara The twins second oldest sister. Famous for her grace.
Feidlim Twins aunt (Caderyns’ beautiful sister.)
Mogantu Twins uncle (Married to Feidlim.) Chief of the Gangani tribe.
Brun. Twins 2nd cousin and the Acaman clans’ blacksmith.
Feorin. Twins second brother. Also training to be a blacksmith.
Rhun Feidlims’ son and Feorins’ favourite 1st Cousin. (Both red-heads.)
Arina Child of a Demetae fisherman, (rescued by Aiofe, Drustan and Mabina.)
Penderol Dumnonii Minor chief.
Udris Young Dumnonii warrior.
Dryslwyn High chief of the whole Celtic nation. Dwells in Brithony.
Bronlwyn Dryslwyn’s wife (and queen.)
Magab The moor who taught numbers.
Eric Saxon galley slave rescued from Corsair pirates.
Carl Another Saxon galley slave rescued by Drustan.
Torvel Celtic galley slave rescued from the same captured corsair ship
Arton. Turdetani Chieftain Holder of Gibral Rock.
Carinia Arton’s wife.
Isobel. Arton’s adopted daughter.
Appotel King of the Turdetani Tribe. (Southern Iberia.)
Bramana Queen. (Wife of Appotel)
Pilus King of the Capetani.
Shaleen Pilus’s queen and sister to Bramana.
Pedoro Lord Marshal of the Southern border region.
Lady Shulaar Lord Pedoro’s wife.
Taan. The scullery maid.
Isaar. Pedoro’s oldest son.
Ferdie Pedoro’s 2nd son
Sular Pedoro’s 3rd son
Gontala Pedoro’s youngest son.
Shenoa Pedoro’s only daughter.
Portega. Tyrant King to the west.
Portua. Portega’s grandson.
Jubail. Old Fisherman.
Mutas Magab’s younger brother and usurper.
Walezia King of Malta.
Alviar Megalomaniacal bishop of Carthage. (Hates Drustina.)
Ethelia Female healer who treats Drustina during her pregnancy.
Seripatese Drustina’s faithful horse.
Astos & Amitor Minor royalty who govern Alexandria. King and Twin Queen.
Meronee Nubian Queen of Nobatia The northern Kingdom of the Nubians.
Horam The Egyptian master Boat builder.
Muraa King Astos’s male partner.
Tuk Makurian general.
Fantu. Makurian Captain.
Irene Emperor Leon’s only child.
Leon Byzantine Emperor.
Zano Byzantine general who defeats the Bulgars with Drustina’s help.
Urthos The Gaul elected captain of the 4th ship. Ex Barbary galley slave.
Horus Horam the boat-builder’s son.
Sister Catherine Leader of the pirate nuns.
Guthrun Jarl of Bornholm.
Etheline Guthruns’ wife the countess of Bornholm.
Seripatese Drustinas’ mare
Capenda Taras’ mare.
Athun Gay king of Dark Age Denmark.
Queen Elthorn King Athuns’ Consort.
Heingist. Drustina’s loyal Danish navigator and pilot.

The Angry Mermaid. 52.

The early summer sun slid up the celestial plane in the north-east to once again remind Drustina just how far north they were. She peered from under her skins, reluctant to rise until Heingist appeared with some warmed ale and she smiled appreciatively.

“Ooo-ooh. That’s just the thing. I’m thinking somebody must have found some coals while I was trucking with the jarl; is he awake by the way?”

Heingist grinned.

“He is my lady and protesting his being kidnapped.”

“He should have put up more of a fight then; him and his sycophants.”

Heingist snorted dismissively.

“He’s a bloody coward, him and his sons. Here’s some bread and heavy cheese to help down the ale. Be careful, it’s strong.”

“Have we run out of wine then?”

“No mi-lady, but some of the crew managed to buy some beer when we were ashore and we’re using it to supplement the wine.”

Drustina nodded as her babies reached for the cheese and ale. She let Tara feed them while she addressed her own hunger. After completing her breakfast, she ordered the Mermaid to be slowed down, then she pushed her curvaceous arse over the stern and relieved herself. Next she stripped naked before hanging from the man-ropes with her feet jammed against a stay bar and lowering her arse down to the Mermaids’ wake and using the racing water to wash her privates clean. It was an excellent way for a woman to wash her private parts, provided the ship was going slowly. Her own personal ritual had caught on and several of the other, more athletic women, including Tara, took turns to follow suite while their sisters manned the helm and sheets and the men ate their food up forward. When she hauled herself inboard, she indulged in a new luxury accorded the women since leaving the Baltic; that was the use of a small amount of scarce fresh water to rinse her parts of salt before dressing again. This was becoming essential as the Mermaid approached the open Northern Sea where the water got progressively more salty than the Baltic waters.
Thus refreshed and douched, Drustina returned to the bow cuddy to speak with the jarl.

“We have decided to visit King Athun to plead for my navigator’s lands.”

“How so?” The jarl scorned.

Drustina decided to come clean and she explained.

“My navigator was once a freeman of the Isle of Fyn, your earldom. You might remember him better as the boy who defeated your second son for trying to change the boundaries of their land. His name is Heingist."

The jarl frowned momentarily then declared that Heingist had broken his banishment. Drustina lied outright.

“He did not willingly come here, I kidnapped Heingist when I learned that he knew the waters of Danmark.”

“He has still broken the rules of his exile. He has another three years to run.”

“Oh so you remember him that well do you? Well I suppose you would, considering he killed your son. Now it seems his family have been ejected from their farm, how is this so?”

“They refused to pay the rent to the jarl.”

“There were no rents. The family held the land as freehold.”

“The rents were introduced by me, to pay for the upkeep of the men at arms.”

“Oh, so where is there a kings’ writ from council authorising this. Your men at arms are sworn allegiance to the king and the king pays their stipend. You just house them and direct them to collect the transit dues. ”

“Not any more, the king does as we jarls tell him. He is a weakling and a pervert.”

“I didn’t ask about the kings’ personality, I asked if there is a kings’ writ, drawn up in council and signed by the king.”

“We don’t need that idiot’s signature, his writ no longer runs. The jarls make the law now.”

“Oh, by what authority?”

“The king would face our might if he refused.”

“Oh! So you took this so-called right, this authority by force?”

“Might is right.”

“Really Jarl; I think those are unwise words coming from a man in your position. You are in effect my prisoner.”

“You have no right to take me a prisoner. I am a jarl! You tricked me and my men, you broke the law!” The jarl snarled.

“Whose’ law,” Drustina smiled softly.

“The ki-; shit!”

Drustina continued smiling.

“Go on. Say it. The kings’ what?”

The jarl slumped with defeat as he mumbled softly.

“ The king ... the kings’ law.”

“But you say the kings’ writ no longer runs, you say the jarls make the law now. Have they passed a law preventing kidnap and if so, where is it lodged? Where is it writ?”

The jarl fell silent. He knew that the jarls had written no laws they had simply usurped King Athun's authority. Drustina sniffed contemptuously.

“I think we’ll wait until the kings’ verdict when we arrive at his court. Til then you remain shackled.”

The jarl cursed but remained securely attached by wrist shackle to the stout oak pulpit at the foot of the forward mast. He was going nowhere. Drustina turned from him and went to join Tara with her twins. Heingist was left to make all speed for Cubenhavn while Eric, Carl and Urthos remained with their ships to protect the rest of the women and cargo in Sister Catherines’ merchant vessel. Soon The Mermaid was far ahead of the other ships and out of sight bound for Cubenhavn.

Drustina woke to find the sun unexpectedly high as The Mermaids’ motion betrayed her having stopped. As she wallowed in the short chop Drustina peered out from her skins as Heingist approached. She smiled at his having shown good initiative by making a fast passage and allowing Drustina to sleep.

“Where are we now?”

“We’re just off Cubenhavn ma-am. The picket boat approaches.”

Drustina lurched out from under her skins and with a soft curse bared her arse over the stern to relieve herself. Heingist laughed.

“I don’t think the authorities will approve of you gesture ma-am, baring your arse to them.”

Drustina smirked.

“Why shouldn’t they approve? You and all the men have at different times described it as a delicious arse.”

Heingist snorted with amusement as he was forced to agree.

“Well that’s the truth and no mistake. Look out here comes the toll collector.

Drustina dipped her arse into the cold waters and rinsed her arse with a handful of the sea-grass growing on the weather/water line. As she washed herself she made a note to get The Mermaid careened somewhere tidal. As she was clambering back aboard and tugging up her britches, the toll collector stepped aboard. He went straight to Heingist who promptly pointed to Drustina.

“That’s the captain, the lady with the pale yellow hair.”

The toll officer hesitated for a moment before Drustina approached him and looked him levelly in the eye.

“Don’t be surprised sir; if you seek the captain, I am she.”

“Ah so it is you, we were expecting you, I presume you are the Lioness-of-Carthage.”

“I am. New travels fast.”

“Not really ma-am, Jarl Guthrun sent despatches while you were convalescing at his castle on Bornholm. We expected you to come direct via De Sund though it appears you came via the Storbaelt.”

“We did, it’s wider and safer.”

The toll collector nodded and motioned towards The Havn.

“Well, his majesty awaits your arrival eagerly. Let us make haste.”

Drustina gave a brief nod to Heingist who directed the crew to make sail immediately for Cubenhavn. That single, almost invisible action removed all doubt from the toll collectors’ mind. ‘The woman was obviously in command and that meant she could only be the ‘Lioness’. With the toll collector on board, the Mermaid made excellent speed and swept into the havn with the picket boat left far behind. As they secured the ship, a very young fresh-faced officer approached with a platoon of mounted soldiers. The officer saluted smartly and spoke to Drustina.

“You are the Lioness-of-Carthage I presume.”

“I am.” Drustina agreed.

“Then you will please accompany me to the great hall. I am the captain of the Palace guard. King Athun awaits your arrival with great anticipation. Here is a horse for you.”
Drustina eyed the proffered horse then wagged her head.

“I will ride my own mount lieutenant; my own lieutenant Heingist can take this horse.”

So saying she gave a soft low whistle and a beautiful white mare leapt nimbly from the Mermaid to stand obediently at her shoulder. As Drustina mounted the bareback horse in one smooth, athletic movement the officers’ eyes widened knowledgeably.

‘Here indeed was a well practiced horsewoman!’

He set his own mount to accompany her whilst staring appreciatively at the well worn scabbard that housed what was obviously an excellent sword. Heingist mounted the other horse with equal ease and they set off to the kings’ great hall. As they passed through Cubenhavn Drustina could not help but sense the mood of sullen resentment amongst the towns-people as they stared from their shops and houses or reluctantly stepped aside to let the escort column pass. Meanwhile, the young officer did his best to ignore the oppressive atmosphere as he made small talk whilst trying not to stare at the stunning example of womanhood beside him. Any Viking warrior would have died to have her for a wife. Drustina immediately noticed his wandering eyes so she sat more erect and thrust out her chest to exaggerate her magnificent assets. She smiled as the young officer half turned away in his saddle and surreptitiously adjusted his britches under his tunic. He turned back to realise he had been ‘spotted’ and he blushed scarlet. Drustina gave a knowing chuckle and set the young officer at his ease.

“Don’t worry lieutenant, I’ve had plenty of men react as you just did and I’m used to it. I’m not offended nor am I afraid; in fact I see it as a bit of a compliment. It’s nice to be taken for a woman but do not be mistaken. I can fight or draw a bow or cross swords with the best of them.”

The young officer smiled wanly as Heingist spoke from behind them.

“And she can fuck with the best of them as well!”

Drustina let out a snort of coarse laughter as the young officer let out a gasp of astonished disbelief at the lieutenants’ insubordination. Once again Drustina put him at ease.

“Don’t worry lieutenant; Heingist and I have been through plenty together. If I objected to the men’s rough ways, I would never command their respect. We have fought alongside each other on several occasions.”

“Well said milady,” Heingist agreed, “and we would all follow you to hell and back.”

Drustina exchanged a smile with the young lieutenant, a smile that said it all. Drustina’s command was won through respect, trust and loyalty. The young officer felt a small pang of jealousy for he had not yet seen a single arrow shot in anger. Like all young soldiers he was desperate to see action, to test himself and find out how he would stand under attack. As an officer in the palace guard of a king who seemed fearful of conflict or combat, he felt he would never taste the spoils of war. Drustina sensed his frustration and spoke quietly.

“Believe me sir, war is no game; it is a filthy cruel business with no honour and no glory.”

“But you can hold your honour true, you have fought; and won. You need never count your courage cheap.”

Heingist interrupted to add emphasis to Drustinas’ words.

“There is no honour nor courage in the thick of battle lad. It’s all fear, and sheer desperation. And milady will agree.”

Drustina turned around with battle saddened eyes to confirm.

“Aye Heingist, that’s the truth.”

She turned again to the young lieutenant.

“The only thing you fight for is your comrade who’s fighting for you. There’s no glory in it. That all comes after the battle when orators and story tellers make play with the facts and the truth.

Are these the gates to the kings’ palace?”

The young lieutenant nodded thoughtfully and called the guard. The gates swung open to reveal a well kept courtyard with accommodations running up either side to a great hall. The lieutenant motioned with his hand.

“The king is waiting, we can go straight in.”

They dismounted, and the lieutenant noted once again that the maid slid down of her horse just as the men did. Swinging her leg over her mares’ neck and just dropping down over the animals’ withers.

“You ride like a man my lady.”

“If I’m to fight like my men I must ride and dress like them.”

“Why yes my lady. Come let us meet King Athun.”

Drustina smiled inwardly as she sensed Heingists’ presence close behind her. He was a man prepared to die for his queen and had made it his duty to stay close at all times. Sometimes it irked Drustina but mostly she was glad to know her back was covered, especially in strange places. From the sunlit summer courtyard into the gloom of the great hall was a big contrast in light and for a moment Drustina paused to accustom her eyes. Eventually she picked up the king sitting in a shaft of light at the end of the hall so she stepped boldly forward. Immediately two armed men stepped from the shadows as though to stop her progress. The king called out.

“You cannot come any closer unless you disarm.”

Drustina paused, bemused by this attitude.

“When kings meet sir, they meet as equals, I see you have your sword, why should I not bear mine?”

“It is a precaution. I know not who or where my enemies might be.”

Drustina shrugged. She turned to Heingist.

“Are you happy to wait back here if I relinquish my sword?”

Heingist paused thoughtfully then in the gloom he caught his comrades’ expression as Drustina rolled her eyes back slightly to demonstrate she still had her dagger secreted under her jerkin in its shoulder scabbard. Knowing how adept Drustina was with said weapon he agreed. He did however make his own point.

“I am prepared to stand aside here provided those two armed men surrender their swords also.”

“The men hesitated uncertainly as Drustina spoke again to the king, echoing Heingists’ reservations.”

“My lieutenants’ reservation seems fair to me Athun. I will relinquish my sword provided these two guards relinquish theirs.”

One of the guards spoke.

“We cannot relinquish our swords.”

Drustina turned a cold baleful eye upon him.

“I was addressing the king! Be quiet soldier!”

The man fumed as he objected to her addressing him as a common soldier.

“I am not a soldier woman, I am a jarl!”

“And I am a queen. Jarls bow to queens!”

“Damn you. Who do you think you are?”

Heingist intervened softly.

“The lady is the ‘Lioness of Carthage’ jarl, I would mind you to keep a civil tongue.”

The jarl flashed a nervous glance to his opposite crony. He had no idea who or what the ‘Lioness of Carthage’ was but it sounded impressive. He then made his fatal mistake.

“King Athun!” he asked somewhat brusquely, “do you know who ‘The Lioness-of-Carthage’ is?”

“I do jarl and might I respectfully suggest that you mind your manners in front of her.”

Drustina was intrigued. It seemed that the jarls were in control and the king was the subservient one. Then the penny dropped.

The jarls were in control!

She turned to Heingist and whispered her conclusion.

“Well comrade, it seems the king is not master even in his own household. What should we do?”

Heingist smiled a little evilly.

“Push a little harder my lady. Demand that the king respond and act surprised if he doesn’t. Then we’ll dig the worms out of the woodwork.”

Drustina recognised Heingists agenda. The man wanted justice for his sisters and only the king’s law could enforce that. Somehow or other, the kings’ law would have to be restored. She turned again to address King Athun.

“So your majesty. Are we all to relinquish our swords or am I to remain this far from you for the whole visit?”

Athun seemed slightly flustered, as though waiting for permission from the jarls. He stared again at the girl before him then glanced nervously towards the jarls. Finally he addressed both the visitors and the jarls in a neutral tone.

“I see no reason why there have to be swords present. Can not everybody set aside their swords?”

Drustina showed no hesitation and she deftly drew her sword from its scabbard then handed it to Heingist.

“Look after this comrade; you know her value to me.”

Heingist nodded for he understood perfectly Drustinas’ attachment to her precious Toledo sword. He respectfully took the sword to slide it into his belt band while Drustina then turned to the jarls.

“Well gentlemen. Are you going to obey your king and forego your weapons?”

They realised their hand was forced. If they refused, they exposed their illegality in usurping the kings’ control. Reluctantly they unsheathed their swords and set them aside. Drustina then stepped boldly up to the king. At the foot of his throne she gave a little bob of respect then proffered her hand for Athun to take.

“Your majesty, firstly might I present myself formally? I am Drustina ap Caderyn ap Erin, formally of the Gangani tribe; Lioness of Carthage, Great Crocodile of the Nile, Consort The Pharo Astos, Defender of Constantia and Knight of Iberia.”

Athun rose to greet her for Drustina was the first visitor to meet with the king without the express permission of the jarls. His expression of relief told Drustina everything and she decided to take the initiative.

“I would take audience with you sir, privately.”

The king glanced uncertainly at the jarls but Drustina pointedly ignored them. Officially she knew nothing of the kings' situation and she decided to keep it that way. By acknowledging the kings’ authority at every juncture she pointedly embarrassed the jarls and kept them ‘on the back foot’. She continued to ignore them even as she stepped up to seize the kings’ hand to shake it.

“So my royal brother. Shall we break bread in your private office?”

“I think it best my jarls accompany me,” Athun replied nervously.

Drustina scanned the jarls with a hard stare then wagged her head.

“I’m afraid brother, the information I have to impart would be for a kings’ ears only and privately at that, shall we?”

At this the jarls could restrain themselves no further. The other jarl interrupted.

“Madam, I’m afraid we must be present at the audience. Those are the rules.”

Drustina span round and flashed angry eyes.

“What rules jarl. Who are you to dictate the kings’ companionship? When monarchs meet they meet as equals and they meet in freedom. My information is for the kings’ ears alone!”

So saying, she stepped to the door beside the throne, opened it and invited the king to join her. This action was the last straw to the jarls and the older one stepped to obstruct her. The moment he laid a hand on her wrist Drustina growled a warning.

“You don’t assault the royal person without consent soldier. Unhand me now!”

His grip tightened partly from frustration and partly from fear. Fear in as much as he was frightened of what the other jarls might say if they discovered that the king had been enjoying private audiences; and frustration that a mere woman should choose to belittle his authority and power. He went to tighten his grip on her wrist even further, hoping to hurt her slender wrist just enough to make her realise who had the power, the physical strength to enforce the will of the jarls. As he squeezed he motioned to the other jarl to watch the visitors’ companion Heingist. Then he let out a curse of pain as a sharp pain lanced up his arm. His hand instantly became numb and useless as it fell from Drustinas’ wrist.

“Aah! Damn you bitch. My bloody hand! It’s numb!”

“I see no blood soldier, but if you wish it to be bloodied so that you will not look so stupid to your peers, I will gladly bloody it ... scar it even. Let that be a lesson, you don’t assault queens, especially fighting queens."

He glared at Drustina partly in fear and partly in confusion.

“What did you do?”

“Never mind what I did, let that be a lesson to you. That hand will be numb for several minutes, long enough for me to despatch you to Hades.”

The jarl made to strike at Drustina with his other hand but he froze as a glistening dagger appeared in her hand as if by magic. It’s sharp point was already pricking his raised hand.

The jarls’ anger turned to pure fear as he realised the danger. Drustina pursed her lips contemptuously.

“Let that be your second lesson jarl. This is the Lioness of Carthage with whom you are in dispute, and the lioness is queen of the animal kingdom. You are obviously a somewhat dumb animal because so far, it has taken you two lessons to learn not to mess with me. I’ve despatched bigger brutes than you. Now step back and make way for your liege lord, the king.”

“You’ll not get away with this you bitch!”

“I already have Jarl. Now move back!”

She backed up her warning with a gentle stab of her dagger and the jarl cursed as blood was drawn.
“Go on! Fuck off you thug. I decide with whom I’ll talk; not you!”

Her language shocked her as he stepped back from the door protesting loudly.

“You carry a hidden weapon; you went in breach gentlemanly conduct!”

Drustina let of a loud effeminate squeal of amusement to emphasise her next words.

“Perhaps you’ve failed to notice Jarl, I’m not a gentleman ... I’m a lady!”

With that she nodded to King Athun to join her in the kings’ private suite then closed the door behind her with an emphatic clunk of the latch. Athun seized his opportunity.

“That was unexpected. You carried a secret weapon.”

“Yes, I only agreed to surrender my sword.” Drustina grinned. “I did not agree to disarm myself entirely. Like any other woman, I am allowed to protect myself. My self-protection is just a lot more effective than others of my sex.”

Athun grinned nervously then observed.

“Yes obviously. We will have to be quick, he will be reporting to the other jarls even as we speak.”

“How many are there in your castle?”

“Normally there are six.”

“And from their attitude I’m thinking they are your jailers not your guards.”

Athuns’ face clouded as he nodded. Drustina didn’t allow herself the luxury of criticising the king for allowing such subversion to have lost him his throne; she needed the king to be re-established in order that her loyal lieutenant and navigator should recover his familys’ farm. It was a pretty safe bet that other such iniquities were happening all over the kingdom. The rule by jarls had brought virtual lawlessness and the kings’ law needed to be restored. The news that there were only six jarls actually present reassured her. She needed more information.

“Have you any loyal followers ... people who might support you?”

“The only loyal men at arms I have are the escort who accompanied you from the dock.”

Drustina smiled.

“The young officer and those guards in the fancy uniforms?”

“The same,” the king confessed.

Drustina’s mind was working quickly. If she could move quickly and surprise the resident jarls she might just pull off a bloodless coup.

“While that idiot is fetching his cronies we’ll lay a trap. Are you any good with a sword?”

Athun visibly rankled.

“Of course I am, when I was disempowered I was a-bed and un-armed, or I would have made a fight of it. I stupidly trusted the jarls then; I’m a wiser but poorer king now.”

Drustina easily read the frustrated disappointment in the kings’ voice. His shoulders were slumped and his whole demeanour was utter dejection.

“How long have we got before that idiot returns with his cronies?”

Athun shrugged.

“It depends where the others are. If they’re all in or around the castle then perhaps twenty minutes. If they’re out and about the city and he needs to gather them all together, who knows.”

“We’ll work on the twenty minute plan then.”

The kings’ eyes widened.

“Are you telling me you’ve got a plan!?”

“Well no, not really. But we need to move quickly, the sooner the better.”

“Move how, move where?”

“Against them, surprise them just as they surprised you.”

“But we are only two or three.”

“What about your personal retinue, cannot that fresh-faced young captain swing a sword, and what of the troop that escorted me in? Are they loyal to you?”

The king frowned.

“The young officer Bjorn is loyal but I would hate to see him hurt.”
Drustina suddenly realised and she spoke softly.

“You mean you’re fond of him?”

Athun nodded guiltily but Drustina simply nodded her understanding.

“You mean you’re more than fond of him.”

“Well ... Yes I am, but he’s inexperienced with a sword.”

“Do the jarls know that?”

“I don’t think so. He’s never been called upon to fight.”

“Right; well ... he can make up the numbers, what of the escorts?”

“Some of them have seen combat. They volunteered to continue as my personal escort when the jarls seized control. It’s simply a cosmetic arrangement. The jarls had to maintain some semblance of legality.”

Drustina pondered momentarily then braved the direct question.

“Did they volunteer because they uuuhhm, because they have the uuuhhm ... same inclinations.”

Athuns’ face clouded again as he nodded dumbly. Drustina laid her hand gently on his trembling wrist.

“Fear not Athun. I have walked your walk. You have my sympathy and my support ... and the support of my troop if push comes to shove.”

“Your troop. Where is that?”

“They’ll be here by this evening.”

“How do we hold off the jarls between now and then?”

Surprise and speed as I said just now. We must move now, before the jarls can organise. I noticed there was little security when I crossed the courtyard.”

So saying, Drustina returned to the hall and called to Heingist.

“Where are those two jarls?”

“They left just now.”

Drustina turned to Athun.

“Is that young officer totally loyal?”

Athuns’ eyes nearly teared up with defensive anger.

“Of course he is, we are ...”

“I know what you are Athun. I do not judge you for that. I thought I’d made that clear!”

Athuns demeanour relaxed as he saw not only the acceptance in the fighting queens’ eyes but also the encouraging nod from Heingist as he reiterated his leaders’ words.

“Truly your majesty, we do not judge. Shall I call him in?”

Athun nodded as Drustina added.

“We’d best call the whole troop. Sixteen swords are better than four. Are they all as you and the young officer?”

Athun nodded again.

“The jarls made a mockery and gave me a bodyguard of ...”

Drustina scowled as she finished Athuns’ sentence.

“Like minded troops. Yes, I thought so as we were escorted by them. That would figure, but they are loyal aren’t they?”

“Totally. They are always getting into fights with the jarls’ men.”

Drustina nodded sagely and turned to Heingist who was already poised to go and collect the royal troop of a dozen guards. She nodded and he was gone immediately. Drustina then considered another angle.

“Where is your wife, the queen?”

“Probably in her quarters. The jarls keep her locked up.”

“What! Why the hell do they do that?”

“I am not allowed to see her. There is a bishop who preaches that the sins of the fathers pass unto the third and fourth generations. He interprets this to mean that if I am a sinner, then my children will be the same; you know, bad blood, like me. By denying me access to my wife and denying my wife the opportunity to conceive a child by me or anybody else, they hope to stop any chance of my ‘disease’ polluting the royal line.”

“Bloody hell!” Drustina cursed softly. “That’s fucking crazy. My children are all normal, both the ones I bore and the ones I fathered.”

Athun stared at her before daring to broach the subject.

“I was wondering about that. I wanted to speak to you about it.”

“Yeah, well not now not here, there isn’t time. Ah! Here’s Heingist.”

A shadow filled the doorway as Drustina’s lieutenant and the entourage of the royal bodyguard slipped quietly into the great hall. Heingist also had some information.

“We know where the jarls are plotting.”

Drustina smiled with evident satisfaction.

“Oh, do tell.”

Two of the guardsmen were on duty in the courtyard as the two jarls who left this hall went straight to the gate house. They are still there. You will notice I only have twelve of the guardsmen, the others are watching the gatehouse.”

“How many men at arms are there in the gatehouse?” Drustina asked.

“Usually about half a dozen but two have been sent into the town to gather the other jarls.”

“Roughly how many jarls and men are there in the whole of Cubenhavn?”

Athun answered.

“About a hundred. They’ll be scattered all over the city. It will take time for them to assemble.”

“Right, the faster we move, the sooner some sort of law is restored and the sooner my lieutenant Heingist gets justice..”

“Is this what it’s all about?” Athun asked.

Drustina could see the sense of disappointment in Athuns’ demeanour and she wagged her head.

“No brother king. It’s about justice for all and that includes you. I’ve already seen what the jarls are capable of. There must be justice; justice tempered with reason and respect.”

Athun smiled ironically.

“Fine words sister queen, but how are we to enforce it. There are perhaps a dozen jarls in the city but another dozen back on their estates. I have no army.”

It was Drustina’s turn to smile.

“You don’t get out much do you Athun?”

“I’m not allowed to. The jarls control my very movement.”

Drustina turned to the young lieutenant of the kings’ guard.

“What do you think of the situation in the city sir?”

“The people are angry ma-am.”

“Yes. I sensed that as we passed from dock to castle. What are they angry about?”

“The situation with the rulers.”

“Who are ...?”

“The jarls my lady. The kings’ power has been usurped.”

“Yes. That was my feeling also as we passed through their streets. D’you think they are for the king or against him?”

“The ordinary people are against whoever rules at this moment; the more informed know that the king is not master in his own castle.”

“That seems a reasonable appraisal. We’ll have to move very quickly. The first step is to overpower the occupants of the gate-house. We have to first secure the castle. Is there a way of getting across the courtyard to the gatehouse without being seen?”

“Only through the queens’ quarters and she’s guarded.” Athun explained.

"How many guards?"

“Usually two.”

“Hmm. That’s not many.”

The low numbers that Athun and the palace bodyguard were telling Drustina made her realise the jarls were either unable to afford a proper garrison to imprison the king or they were getting sloppy because the king seemed to be a defeated person. When she had first met Athun he certainly presented as a man broken in spirit. She wondered just how much support he would offer when it came to a real fight. Her conclusion was to strike while the iron was hot so she motioned to the king and two of the guards.

“We’ll see what’s going on in the queens’ quarters then if we reach the gatehouse, we’ll signal you. Lead on Athun, you know the best way.”

Athun was about to step out when Drustina gently touched his arm to remind him.

“Best you remove all that chainmail and fancy ceremonial armour. It might be alright for receiving visitors but not for creeping around castles.”

Athun chuckled and immediately stripped to his leather jerkin and britches. The two royal bodyguards did likewise and soon they were creeping silently along the alleyways. On the way, Drustina stopped in the kings’ dressing room and swapped her jerkin and britches for a short length chemise to resemble a woman just risen from her bed. She smiled to herself as she studied the diaphanous garment that reflected the kings’ taste in clothes. Next she secured her sword at her back alongside her dagger so that she looked like a lady’s maid visiting her toilet. Finally, she armed herself with a small cosh from the king’s private bedroom arsenal and then she secreted it somewhere very, very personal. When they reached the door to the queens’ quarters Drustina knocked and waited. A guard opened the door and stared at her. He obviously presumed she was some sort of ‘lady-in-waiting’ to the queen and he opened the door wider.

“What d’you want?”

“I have a verbal message for the queen from the jarls. She has to give an answer.”

The guard glanced salaciously at Drustinas’ delectable shape mistily enshrouded in the diaphanous chemise and nodded Drustina in. Once past him she checked out the second guard in the next chamber and ascertained there were only two, as the kings’ bodyguard had said. She silently extracted the cosh from her personal ‘lady-place’ and disabled him with a single blow to the head as he sat eating some food. She then returned to speak to the first guard where she passed him a folded piece of parchment and told him.

“You are to take this to the gatehouse. It’s the queens’ reply to the jarls.”

He looked at her suspiciously.

“You were quick.”

“It’s a one word answer; yes or no.”

He nodded, took the parchment, and without thinking to check his companion, he set off down the corridor towards the gatehouse only to be ambushed and killed by Athun before he had turned the second corner. Athun rejoined Drustina just as she was withdrawing her dagger from the second unconscious jarls’ throat. Athun studied the virtually bloodless corpse.

“That was neat and hardly any blood! You’re a cold blooded one and no mistake.”

Drustina wiped her blood-stained fingers on a handy towel and motioned towards the door to the queens’ inner sanctum.

“You’d better speak to your consort. We’ll need her on your side. I don’t think she’d take kindly to having her apartments invaded by a blood-stained stranger like me.”

Athun nodded agreement and tapped gently on the queens’ heavy outer door. A female courtier answered and immediately recognised the king. She knew he was not entitled to visit the queen and she was about the scream the place down but Drustina reacted quickly. She stepped past the king and slammed her fist into the lady courtiers’ solar plexus. The woman gave a choking grunt and collapsed to the floor trying to breath. The king span around and stared stupidly at Drustina.

“You just struck a woman!”

“So!” Replied Drustina. “I am a woman. No fancy chivalry here Athun. It’s life or death and there’s been both in as many minutes. If she’d have actually started to make a noise with her scream, I’d have had to cut her throat. She can be thankful she’s still alive, she’s one of the jarls supporters or she would not have made to scream. Life and death Athun, that’s all there is to it.”

Athuns’ expression hardened as he recognised the cold, steely temperament in the warrior queens’ nature.

“My God! You’re a dangerous woman!”

“And this is dangerous work. You’d better speak to your queen; I’ll warrant she’s behind those doors.”

She nodded towards the double door behind a heavy chorded drape as she took the chord from the drapes and bound the courtier tightly. The woman tried to curse through the gag but Drustina just gave her a deadly glare and she fell fearfully silent. The king tapped gently on the inner doors and softly called his wife's name.

“Elthorn, are you there?”

There was a brief silence and a womans’ voice replied.

“Yes! Who is it?”

“Athun. Your husband.”

There was another short pause then another reply.

“What is your password?”

Athun was about to answer but he felt Drustinas’ sword lying against his neck as Drustina interrupted.

“You said nothing of passwords!”

Athun frowned impatiently.

“It’s our own code.”

“How so?”

“We have always had a secret password so that we know it’s safe to talk.”

“It won’t be secret if you broadcast it here will it? What about this woman, she’s the jarls’ lackey. You’d best write it on this piece of parchment and pass it under the door.”

She reached to the table where the guard had been keeping tabs on visitors and took the parchment to hand to Athun.

“I have no ink.”

Drustina sighed and pointed to the dead guard. There’s ink aplenty on the floor where he bled.”

“I can’t write a word in blood to my wife!”

“Oh by Odins’ bloody eight-legged horse! Why the hell not? We’re wasting bloody time here!”

She snatched the parchment back and dipped her finger in the blood and asked him to whisper the word. Athun hesitated then did as asked. Drustina grinned as she wrote the word.

“Yeah. That would work.”

Then she added her own message.

‘I am the Lioness of Carthage. Athun is beside me! We are friends.’

There was a momentary silence before Elthorn replied.

“Speak in Latin!”

Drustina obliged and a heavy key turned in the lock. Drustina wondered why the queen was allowed to lock herself in then she realised the jarls didn’t even trust each other. The queen could make herself safe so that no jarls would come looking for carnal relations. Drustina smiled inwardly until a pale face appeared at the door. Elthorn looked like death. Drustina turned to Athun and nodded significantly.

“You’d best attend to her.”

Athun stepped forward and caught Elthorn just before she slumped into his arms. He carried her to her bed and gently laid her out as Drustina and Heingist searched the room for any lurking enemies or possibly any secret passages. They found neither and returned to Elthorns’ bed as she recovered. The queen looked up wide-eyed with uncomprehending fear so Drustina sat on the bed beside Athun. Elthorn settled a little as she found a woman in a diaphanous nightgown sitting on her bed. Drustina fingered the tail of her gown and added.

“You’re in no danger Elthorn. We have come to set the situation right.”

The queen stared nervously then asked, “How? My husband is surrounded by enemies.”

“Not now he’s not, not here anyway. I am Drustina ap Caderyn ap Erin and this is Heingist, my battle companion.” We are about capturing the castle. You must hide or escape into the town. Put on your outer clothes and choose dark ones for they look less conspicuous. Work clothes would be even better. We will tell you when it’s safe to leave. Now the king says it’s possible to get to the gate house from this part of the castle so we will leave you here until we are ready.”

“The queen nodded and smiled nervously at her estranged husband.”

“Do you trust this woman?”

Athun grimaced uncertainly.

“I have to my lady. I see no other help around here and she is certain death with weapons. Do as she says and wait here.”

With that the trio of Drustina, Heingist and Athun left the queen in her chambers. and slipped back to Athuns’ robbing room for Drustina to change back to her britches whilst leaving the diaphanous blouse to deceive the jarl’s troops. Athun was shocked at Drustina’s casual approach to her nakedness as she changed and even further stunned when he saw her ‘duality’ for the first time.

“My God! It’s true!”

Drustina glanced up as she was stepping into her britches.

“What this; my cock ... yeess it’s true,” she sighed,”I thought you’d have been the last to be upset by it, what with; - you know what and stuff.”

Athun dropped his gaze and nodded his apology.

“Well ... yes, you’re right. I, more than anybody, should have shown sympathy. I’m sorry it was unforgivable of me. It just took me by surprise. I was expecting some sort of peculiarity but not a full blown male organ.”

Drustina smiled briefly to set Athun at his ease then she shrugged.

“It’s of no consequence but to myself. Nobody gets to use or abuse my body without my express permission. They have my sword to answer to if they do... and several have.” She added for good measure. “Come let’s be sorting this gatehouse garrison. That’ll be the first step.”

They re-entered the corridor past Queen Elthorns’ chamber and emerged further along the building to enter the courtyard but a few yards from the guardroom door. A glance across the courtyard confirmed that the young lieutenant and six of the kings’ bodyguard were casually gathered on the other side of the gatehouse. The remaining six were bantering with a group of maids like idle soldiers often did when they flirted. With the men thus innocuously arranged as though the castle was enjoying its normal temper of peace the stage was set. Both guardrooms and exits were covered. It remained for the two groups to invade their respective sides of the gate-house while the third group stood in reserve. Drustina gave a silent signal and the attack began.

Drustina padded forward and appeared in front of the first guard as she gave him a fetching girlish smile. He turned and smiled back as she silently slid her dagger into his ribs. The man gave an almost soundless wheeze as her weapon pierced his heart and the man died in her arms. As she lowered him to the floor Athun watched speechless with shock before turning and whispering to Heingist.

“Cancer eat me! She’s deadly.”

“Just be glad she’s for thee and not agin’ thee. Heingist whispered back. “Now keep close behind her, she’s going to need back up in a minute.”

Athun stepped up close to Drustina as she withdrew the dagger and sliced open the guards’ throat for good measure. Athun gaped in horror.

“Shit woman, was there need for that! The man’s already dead.”

“He still had breath in his lungs. Now he’ll not be able to shout either. This is war Athun. Did you not expect to have to kill men?”

“But show some respect to the corpse woman!” Athun protested in a hoarse, nervous whisper.

“Just shut up and get ready to fight. There’s at least six men in the guard-room and we are three. We’ll have to leap in and surprise them before they can react.”

Before Athun had a chance to protest, Drustina had slipped silently across the narrow alley and crouched in the shadow before motioning to Heingist. Athun did not understand the signal but Heingist did ... ‘seven men ... four seated. Hit the standing men first.’

Heingist whispered the signal's meaning to Athun and when Heingist nodded ‘ready’ Drustina leapt from the shadow into the candle-lit guard room. Heingist followed immediately but Athun hesitated momentarily. Only two guards were immediately disabled and Drustina cursed the king for his hesitation. They should have killed three in the first attack. The seated guards struggled to their feet as the table and chairs were flung aside and Drustina confronted the third standing guard who had managed to draw his sword. In the desperately crowded space her speed and agility served her well but King Athun blundered into her as he tried to account for his hesitancy and he stumbled over her as he struck out at the third guard. Drustina cursed angrily as she was knocked to the floor.

“Dammit you lumbering oaf! Get off me!”

Her curse distracted Heingist who glanced sideways and consequently missed his stroke at the second assailant. Then the trouble really started. As Drustina leapt to her feet the seated guards where now afoot with swords drawn. Suddenly Athun was confronted by not two but three of the guards as they recognised their main assailant. He let out a nervous curse as the guards rightly concentrated on the king. Drustina was now badly positioned to fight more than one of the guards and she cursed furiously as she saw Athun start to wilt under the triple-sworded assault of the guards. Then she had a brainwave and shouted to Heingist in Latin, a language he was beginning to understand if not read or write. Athun, as king, also understood Latin.

“Heingist. Get ready to put out the candles! Athun get ready to step back outside the door.”

Heingist redoubled his assault on his second assailant just as Drustina did hers and the moment Drustina could see that they at least had the upper hands she shouted.”

“Candles!”

Suddenly the guard room was plunged into blackness and Athun flung himself backwards to the floor as Drustina and Heingist redoubled their attacks. The five guardsmen had not orientated themselves as Drustina and Heingist had done and the two facing the battle tested pair were immediately killed. The remaining three were groping angrily in every direction as they mistakenly changed their positions while searching for the king. Heingist and Drustina remained exactly where they were and thus ensured that they would not blindly attack each other. She called to Athun in the pitch blackness as she addressed him again in Latin.

"Crawl backwards towards the door so that Heingist and I don’t attack you!"

Athun squawked acknowledgement just as Drustina felt a body brush past her sword point. She stabbed instantly and the guardsman gave a grunt of agony as Drustina quickly sheathed her sword and drew her dagger. The guard swung blindly with his sword but Drustina had already dropped to one knee. She heard the blade whistle over her head then she reached forward gently with her fingers until she just brushed the mans’ tunic. Having determined just how far he was away from her, she lurched forward and upwards with her dagger and had the satisfaction of fetching up against his belly as her dagger found it’s mark.

‘Thank the gods he isn’t wearing armour,’ she thought as he let out a scream of pain and desperately tried to attack the demon that was now attached to him and repeatedly stabbing his torso. Drustina was in close with her dagger while the guard had only his clumsy sword that now hampered him in the crowded darkness. He tried to swing it again and drive it downwards but as he swung it, the blade struck his companion who let out a loud curse. The confusion mounted as Drustina continued stabbing the guard who now had a grip on her. With each stab however, the guard weakened and he called desperately to his comrades.

“I have the bitch but I am wounded! Help me!”

“Where are you dammit, and stop swinging your damned sword!”

The dying guardsman let out a despairing curse and crashed to the floor as Drustina managed to finally find his heart with the sixth or seventh stab. She felt his grip fail as the man grunted and his sword clattered to the floor. Silently she knelt down and felt for his throat then stopped any further sounds except the bubbling of frothy blood from his lungs as it escaped from his slashed wind-pipe.

Still crouching she found herself against the guardroom table and realised this would make a useful ally. She crept under the table and unsheathed her own sword as she stabbed blindly at about crotch height whilst shouting at Heingist in Latin.

“Stay close to the wall Heingist. I’m under the table!”

“Got that girl. I’m against the wall but more to my right.”

Drustina now had a good idea of Heingists’ location.

After a couple of blind, violent stabs she found a target and her sword pierced leather and skin. The ‘target’ let out a bellow of pain and swung ferociously at waist height not realising that the stab had come from below table height. As he tried to step sideways he took the tip of Drustinas’ sword with him and thus revealed his move. Drustina simply drew back her sword quickly and stabbed viciously again. Her sword struck bone and slid sideways off the mans’ pelvis but it was still a fearful cut. He cursed again and stepped back as he realised his mistake. This caused him to back into his companion who let out a bellow of rage and struck out before checking. Immediately the pair were attacking each other and a couple of blows were struck before each realised their mistakes. To add insult to injury, Drustina, still crouching under the table, reached out and swung her sword violently left and right at ankle height. Her plan worked and she felt the satisfactory impact of razor sharp sword against foot as one of the guardsmen promptly lost his footing. He fell down and crashed against the table with a bellow of agony as he called to his companion.

“Fran! I’m on the floor beside the table. I’m hamstrung.”

Those were his last words. Drustina had carefully laid her sword beside the table leg and drawn her deadly dagger again. She reached out, found the mans’ shoulder, and delivered several deadly stabs to his chest and neck. As his struggles ceased Drustina called out again in Latin.

“Two dead Heingist. Are you okay?”

“Never better my lady, my sword found something but I’m not sure who. Are you okay Athun?”

“I haven’t struck a blow in anger yet. The king lamented.”

“Ask if the last two call for quarter,” Drustina suggested.

Heingist spoke in Danish and a nervous yes came from the darkness.

“Then throw down your swords!” The king commanded in Danish.”

There were two clatters as two swords hit the ground but Heingist was not reassured.

“Be careful,” Heingist cautioned in Latin, “I’m not sure I killed mine. He might still be armed.”

Drustina bit her lip then advised the king in Latin.

“Go and see how the others got on.”

There was a scuffing sound as the king backed out through the door on his arse before getting to his feet in the alleyway. Around two corners, he eventually found a lit candle so he returned to the guard room. It was the typical error of a novice at combat.

As he re-entered the guardroom the remaining guard lunged forward with his sword. Fortunately, Heingist was every bit as alert as Drustina and he had remained in the shadow by the wall. His sword flashed out and just parried the guards-mans’ attack but the king still received a deep wound to his shoulder. Heingists second strike was more certain and the guard collapsed like a pole-axed steer. The king cursed but neither Heingist or Drustina emerged from their shadows until they were certain all the guardsmen were unarmed. In the flickering candle-light, Drustina ordered the remaining pair.

“Step into the middle of the room, where we can see you and hold your hands above your heads.”

From her safe point under the table, Drustina was able to watch the remaining two pairs of legs step into the candle-light then she herself emerged behind them. They felt her sword touch both their necks as she warned Heingist to approach them but be careful of daggers. Heingist proved his battle-worthiness as he probed their bodies with his sword until he was satisfied it was safe to approach. Finally the trio had their gatehouse secure. It now remained to check on the others. They led the remaining two guardsmen into the daylight and only then heard the mayhem coming from the opposite gatehouse. The clash of swords combined with curses and shouts told Heingist and Drustina that things were not going as easily for the kings’ body-guards. Both Heingist and Drustina cursed. They had no rope handy to secure their prisoners so one of them would have to guard the pair while the other rendered assistance. The king was useless because of his injured shoulder so Heingist and Drustina decided for themselves. Heingist dashed towards the gatehouse before Drustina could react and she cursed furiously as Heingist disappeared into the gatehouse then she turned to the king.

“Look at that stupid bastard! You’d better fetch some rope, quickly now. I’ll guard them until you return ... quickly now, it sounds like they’re in trouble in there.”

The king lumbered off to return with his wife in tow and some rope.

“What did you bring her for?” Drustina asked as she expertly bound the prisoners.

“We might be in danger here. She would have a chance to save herself by escaping into the city if we lose the gate-house.”

“I’ve no bloody intention of losing any bloody gatehouses. There!”

She yanked hard on the knots causing the captured guardsmen to curse in pain then tied the pair back to back with the rope leading out around their necks. Drustina handed the rope end to Queen Elthorn.

#
“Just hold this end and yank hard if they try to move. It’ll throttle them and take them off-balance.”

The queen stared at the bloodstained warrior queen with wide disbelieving eyes and she hesitated to take the rope. Drustina cursed.

“For Gods’ sake woman take it. Can’t you see your husband’s in no fit state?”

Drustina’s abusive response brought the queen to her senses and she grabbed the rope firmly enough to cause one of the guards to yell.

“Oooww! Dammit bitch! That bloody hurt!”

Drustina swiped the flat of her sword across his cheek.

“Manners you bastard! Don’t you dare swear at the queen like that!”

To emphasis her words, Drustina measured her sword, flicked the razor sharp point and laid open the guardsmans’ cheek to emphasise her words.

“The next one of either of you to object will get butchered!”

The queen gasped and the king squinted disbelievingly.

‘Was there no end to this womans’ capacity for cruelty?’ he asked himself.

Drustina met the kings’ disbelieving gaze with a hard stare as she explained for the last time.

“I told you earlier Athun. It’s life or death!”

So saying she stepped away, turned and entered the gatehouse.

As the clash of swords rose to a crescendo, Queen Elthorn turned to King Athun.

“She’s a vicious woman!”

Athun turned sullenly to his queen.

“Just be glad she’s on our side. We’re by no means clear yet.”

“What hope is there for us” Queen Elthorn pressed. “There are eight jarls currently in the city along with their men at arms.”

“The woman says she has about two hundred men at arms on her ships. There’s hope for us yet. I’ve no idea how many men the jarls can muster but the faster we move, the better our chances. We must hit hard, hit fast and hit first. She at least has taught me that much.”

“Is she a witch?”

Once again the king glared sullenly at the queen he could not impregnate.

“I don’t care if she’s the devil incarnate! If she recovers our thrones then she is an angel in my book.”

“An angel of death!” The queen replied.

“So long as it’s not our deaths, I’ll take what she’s got. Damn! This shoulder hurts.”

“Well you’ll have to wait until the mess is sorted in there.”

They both turned towards the slowly reducing clash of sword play and held expectant breaths until finally a figure appeared from the doorway. The king recognised the bloodied form of his captain of the guard. Throwing care to the winds he let out a wail of despair.”

“Bjorn! Oh my love, my companion in all things. How bad are you hurt?”

“My king, my arm is slashed and my chest is pierced. I fear I’m done!” he gargled.”

The wail turned to a royal shriek that even the combatants in the gatehouse heard now that the fight had finally ended.

Drustina leaned heavily against a bloodstained doorpost as she held her injured shoulder and gasped to Heingist.

“Are you fit to move?” She asked her loyal lieutenant.

“Just my lady. Thanks for taking that blow, he’d have had me otherwise. I can walk ... just. I’ll go and find out.”

As Heingist entered the courtyard again, Drustina examined her left shoulder. There was a small gash but the pain was tremendous and she suspected her shoulder socket might be dislocated. If it was, she did not look forward to the remedy. The treatment of her knee on Bornholm was still fresh in her memory. As she sagged lower against the doorpost one of the surviving kings’ bodyguards bent beside her.

“Are you alright my lady?”

“No I’m bloody not alright! Is there a bone setter in the castle.”

“There’s one in the city.”

“Dammit we haven’t time for that. Get the rest of your buddies.”

“There’s only two of us ma-am.”

“Well fetch Heingist as well. Three of you should be able to sort me out.”

The man frowned and went into the courtyard to explain the situation.
Heingist cursed as he excused himself and returned to Drustina’s side.

“Are you sure about this?”

“No, I’m bloody not, but can you see a better remedy. Just bloody stretch it and get on with it.”

Heingist had watched the Bornholm bone-setter at work several times after she had treated Drustina's knee and he had a rough idea about re-locating a shoulder socket. He explained.

“You have to pull and twist to relocate the ball and socket.”

“Fuck me man!” Drustina cursed. “Don’t talk about it, just do it.”

With no more ceremony, Heingist instructed the two guardsmen then unexpectedly gave Drustinas’ arm a firm, steady, twisting tension. She screamed in agony but the tell-tale click told Heingist the shoulder was set. He grinned as she groaned.

“Good job it’s not your sword hand. Can you move your fingers?”

“Fuck off! You bastard. I think you enjoyed that! Go and see if the ships have arrived with the rest of the men.”

With these words, Drustina flexed her fingers successfully and grunted with pain as she watched them obey her brain then she promptly fainted.



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