The Thrall of Leif the Lucky
THE THRALL OF LEIF THE LUCKY
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THE Anglo-Saxon race was in its boyhood in the days when the Vikings lived. For every heroic vice, the Vikings laid upon the opposite scale an heroic virtue. They plundered and robbed, as most men did in the times when Might made Right. Yet the heaven-sent instinct of hospitality was in the marrow of their bones. No beggar went from their doors without alms; no traveller asked in vain for shelter. As cunningly false as they were to their foes, just so superbly true were they to their friends. Above all, they were a race of conquerors, whose knee bent only to its proved superior. Their allegiance was not given to the man who was king-born, but to the man who showed himself their leader in courage and their master in skill.
Leif Ericsson, also known as Leif the Lucky, was the second son of Erik the Red and certainly displayed the Viking spirit of adventure and exploration. As a young man Leif Ericsson visited Norway, where he converted to Christianity. He was charged with returning to Greenland to convert the populace, but instead sailed further west and is believed to have landed somewhere in Nova Scotia. He spent a year in North America before returning home to Greenland, where he served as governor.
NOTE:The film The Viking (1928) was based on this novel, which has, to some extent, been based on Viking history.
33% of the publishers profit from the sale of this book will be donated to UNICEF.
Excerpt from THE THRALL OF LEIF THE LUCKY
THE MAID IN THE SILVER HELMET
In a maiden's words
No one should place faith,
Nor in what a woman says;
For on a turning wheel
Have their hearts been formed,
And guile in their breasts been laid.
..One day, as Alwin sat looking out, his chin resting in his hand, his elbow on his knee, his attention was caught by two riders winding swiftly down a hill-path on the right. At first, one was only a blur of gray and the other a flame of scarlet; they disappeared behind a grove of aspens, then reappeared nearer, and he could make out a white beard on the gray figure and a veil of golden hair above the scarlet kirtle. What hair for a boy, even the noblest born! It was the custom of all free men to wear their locks uncut; but this golden mantle! Yet could it be a girl? Did a girl ever wear a helmet like a silver bowl, and a kirtle that stopped at the knee? If it was a girl, she must be one of those shield-maidens of whom the minstrels sang. Alwin watched the pair curiously as they galloped down the last slope and turned into the lane beside the river. They must pass the booth, and then...
His brain whirled, and he stood up in his intense interest. Something had startled the white steed that bore the scarlet kirtle; he swerved aside and rose on his haunches with a suddenness that nearly unseated his rider; then he took the bronze bit between his teeth and leaped forward. Whitebeard and his bay mare were left behind. The yellow hair streamed out like a banner; nearer, and Alwin could see that it was indeed a girl. She wound her hands in the reins and kept her seat like a centaur. But suddenly something gave way. Over she went, sidewise; and by the wrist, tangled in the reins, the horse dragged her over the stony road.
Forgetting his manacled limbs, Alwin started forward; but it was all over in an instant. One of the trader's servants flew at the animal's head and stopped him, almost at the door of the booth. In another moment a crowd gathered around the fallen girl and shut her from his view. Alwin gazed at the shifting backs with a dreadful vision of golden hair torn and splashed with blood. She must be dead, for she had not once screamed. His head was still ringing with the shrieks of his mother's waiting-women, as the Danes bore them out of the burning castle.
Whitebeard came galloping up, puffing and panting. He was a puny little German, with a face as small and withered as a winter apple, but a body swaddled in fur-trimmed tunics until it seemed as fat as a polar bear's. He rolled off his horse; the crowd parted before him. Then the English youth experienced another shock.
Bruised and muddy, but neither dead nor fainting, the girl stood examining her wrist with the utmost calmness. Though her face was white and drawn with pain, she looked up at the old man with a little twisted smile.
"It is nothing, Tyrker," she said quickly; "only the girth broke, and it appears that my wrist is out of joint. We will go in here, and you shall set it."
Tyrker blinked at her for a moment with an expression of mingled affection and wonder; then he drew a deep breath. "Donnerwetter, but you are a true shield-maiden!" he said in a wavering treble.
The trader received them with true Norse hospitality; and Alwin watched in speechless amazement while the old man ripped up the scarlet sleeve and wrenched the dislocated bones into position, without a murmur from the patient. Despite her strange dress and general dishevelment, he could see now that she was a beautiful girl, a year or two younger than himself. Her face was as delicately pink-and-pearly as a sea-shell, and corn-flowers among the wheat were no bluer than the eyes that looked out from under her rippling golden tresses.
When the wrist was set and bandaged, the trader presented them with a silken scarf to make into a sling, and had them served with horns of sparkling mead. This gave a turn to the affair that proved of special interest to Alwin.
There is an old Norse proverb which prescribes "Lie for lie, laughter for laughter, gift for gift;" so, while he accepted these favors, Tyrker began to look around for some way to repay them.
His gaze wandered over fabrics and furs and weapons, till it finally fell upon the slaves' bench. "Donnerwetter!" he said, setting down his horn. "To my mind it has just come that Leif a cook-boy is desirous of, now that Hord is drowned."
The girl saw his purpose, and nodded quickly. "It is unlikely that you can make a better bargain anywhere."
She turned to examine the slaves, and her eyes immediately encountered Alwin's. She did not blush; she looked him up and down critically, as if he were a piece of armor, or a horse. It was he who flushed, with sudden shame and anger, as he realized that in the eyes of this beautiful Norse maiden he was merely an animal put up for sale.
"Yonder is a handsome thrall," she said; "he looks as though his strength were such that he could stand something."
"True it is that he cannot a lame wolf be who with the pack from Greenland is to run," Tyrker assented. "That it was, which to Hord was a hindrance. For sport only, Egil Olafson under the water took him down and held him there; and because to get away he was not strong enough, he was drowned. But to me it seems that this one would bite. How dear would this thrall be?"
"You would have to pay for him three marks of silver," said the trader. "He is an English thrall, very strong and well-shaped." He came over to where Alwin sat, and stood him up and turned him round and bent his limbs, Alwin submitting as a caged tiger submits to the lash, and with much the same look about his mouth.
Tyrker caught the look, and sat for a long while blinking doubtfully at him. But he was a shrewd old fellow, and at last he drew his money-bag from his girdle and handed it to the trader to be weighed. While this was being done, he bade one of the servants strike off the boy's fetters.
The trader paused, scales in hand, to remonstrate. "It is my advice that you keep them on until you sail. I will not conceal it from you that he has an unruly disposition. You will be lacking both your man and your money."
The old man smiled quietly. "Ach, my friend," he said, "can you not better read a face? Well is it to be able to read runes, but better yet it is to know what the Lord has written in men's eyes." He signed to the servant to go on, and in a moment the chains fell clattering on the ground.
Alwin looked at him in amazement; then suddenly he realized what a kind old face it was, for all its shrewdness and puny ugliness. The scowl fell from him like another chain.
"I give you thanks," he said.
The wrinkled, tremulous old hand touched his shoulder with a kindly pressure. "Good is it that we understand each other. Nun! Come. First shall you go and Helga's horse lead, since it may be that with her one hand she cannot manage him. Why do you in your face so red grow?"
Alwin grew still redder; but he could not tell the good old man that he would rather follow a herd of unbroken steers all day, than walk one mile before a beautiful young Amazon who looked at him as if he were a dog. He mumbled something indistinctly, and hastened out after the horses.
Helga rose stiffly from the pile of furs; it was evident that every new motion revealed a new bruise to her, but she set her white teeth and held her chin high in the air. When she had taken leave of the trader, she walked out without a limp and vaulted into her saddle unaided. The sunlight, glancing from her silver helm, fell upon her floating hair and turned it into a golden glory that hid rents and stains, and redeemed even the kirtle, which stopped at the knee.
As he helped the old man to mount, Alwin gazed at her with unwilling admiration. Perhaps someday he would show her that he was not so utterly contemptible as...
She made him an imperious gesture; he stalked haughtily forward, he took his place at her bridle rein, and the three set forth.
Table of Contents for THE THRALL OF LEIF THE LUCKY
|CHAPTER I WHERE WOLVES THRIVE BETTER THAN LAMBS|
|CHAPTER II THE MAID IN THE SILVER HELMET|
|CHAPTER III A GALLANT OUTLAW|
|CHAPTER IV IN A VIKING LAIR|
|CHAPTER V THE IRE OF A SHIELD-MAIDEN|
|CHAPTER VI THE SONG OF SMITING STEEL|
|CHAPTER VII THE KING'S GUARDSMAN|
|CHAPTER VIII LEIF THE CROSS-BEARER|
|CHAPTER IX BEFORE THE CHIEFTAIN|
|CHAPTER X THE ROYAL BLOOD OF ALFRED|
|CHAPTER XI THE PASSING OF THE SCAR|
|CHAPTER XII THROUGH BARS OF ICE|
|CHAPTER XIII ERIC THE RED IN HIS DOMAIN|
|CHAPTER XIV FOR THE SAKE OF THE CROSS|
|CHAPTER XV A WOLF-PACK IN LEASH|
|CHAPTER XVI A COURTIER OF THE KING|
|CHAPTER XVII THE WOOING OF HELGA|
|CHAPTER XVIII THE WITCH'S DEN|
|CHAPTER XIX TALES OF THE UNKNOWN WEST|
|CHAPTER XX ALWIN'S BANE|
|CHAPTER XXI THE HEART OF A SHIELD-MAIDEN|
|CHAPTER XXII IN THE SHADOW OF THE SWORD|
|CHAPTER XXIII A FAMILIAR BLADE IN A STRANGE SHEATH|
|CHAPTER XXIV FOR DEAR LOVE'S SAKE|
|CHAPTER XXV "WHERE NEVER MAN STOOD BEFORE"|
|CHAPTER XXVI VINLAND THE GOOD|
|CHAPTER XXVII MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD|
|CHAPTER XXVIII "THINGS THAT ARE FATED"|
|CHAPTER XXIX THE BATTLE TO THE STRONG|
|CHAPTER XXX FROM OVER The SEA|
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