IX: Frideborn’s Cave

Reanna came back to her senses, and as she did so, she looked down at the little stone in her hands. It had transformed and become clear.

“What’s happened?” she asked.

Frideborn ceased their loud snoring, pulling the cloak back from their head. “Wh-what do you mean?” Then the sorceress spied the clear stone in Reanna’s hands. “May I see that?”

Reanna handed it over and Frideborn held it up to the light from the cavern’s entrance. “Well, there’s no need to cast the runes now, my dear. This is a sign, sure as day. Your stone has been transformed by the gods. This is now a sunstone; a navigation stone. It will allow you to determine the sun’s position in the sky, even on a cloudy day. It is a good sign and a blessing! The gods smile upon your endeavors and wish you well on your raiding expedition. Oh, Reanna, I am so happy for you, my dear!”

“There is one more thing I can do for you,” said Frideborn, handing Reanna a piece of cloth from the altar. “All you need to do is wipe that pretty face of yours with this cloth after you wash it on the morning you are to go raiding, and it will give you the disguise of a lush, red beard. You can go as a man, which will make things easier on you, as some men are superstitious and think that women are bad luck on ships.”

Reanna rolled her eyes. Frideborn took a mirror from the altar and handed it to Reanna, then passed the cloth over her face. “You’ll look like this,” they said.

Reanna inspected herself in the mirror for a moment, as she wore a magical beard. Truth be told, she looked rather pleasing as a man. “Huh. Not bad.” Frideborn wiped her face with the cloth again, and the beard was gone. Then she handed the cloth to Reanna for use at the appropriate time.

Reanna gave Frideborn a big hug and Frideborn gave Reanna a neck-ring with a hammer pendant, denoting her as a follower of the god Thor. Reanna left the cave smiling.

X: King Gylfi’s Hall

After a few moments of conversation between king and jarl, Ulf called his daughter over. “King Gylfi has agreed to offer you command of one of his ships for a raiding party on the condition that you deliver him half of your plunderings.”

“Half?!” Reanna protested.

“This is a very generous offer from the king,” Ulf informed her. “He is not usually so easy to sway; he must see something in you that shows capability. Otherwise, he would have offered you nothing. You are a woman, after all. Allowing you to take on a man’s job is putting the king’s reputation at risk. And you are to be supplied a raiding party, after all. Each of my four karls will be supplying us 20 men from their districts, so you’ll have eighty onboard your longship, plus the ship itself, which is also costly. Then there’s also the matter of that table that you smashed in half, which will need repairs. King Gylfi is not trying to be beastly with his offer; he has expenses that he must concern himself with, such as the cost of the ship itself, which he knows may very well not make it back.”

Reanna nodded. She could not argue with the fact that however it happened, King Gylfi was trying to help her.

“Very well,” said Reanna. Then she addressed the king. “I accept your offer, and will give you half the spoils.”

“Excellent,” said King Gylfi.

“Now, try on the things in that chest over there,” Ulf instructed his daughter, pointing to the kind of chests used on raiding expeditions. “If any of those things fit, they’re yours. Also, you’ll want to take the chest itself as well.”

Reanna opened the chest to find a chainmail shirt, iron helmet, and a large, thick tunic undershirt. She pulled the undershirt on over her tunic and then clumsily dressed herself in the chainmail shirt, which was heavy, and pulled on the iron helmet, which was a bit large on her. These pieces of armor were clearly made for a man. But they didn’t fit all that badly.

“I think they’ll do nicely, father,” said Reanna.

“Great,” Ulf replied.

XI: Inside the Family Longhouse, Night

That night, Reanna gathered with her brothers around the home fire pit, as the eldest brother, 25-year-old Hakon, told one of the traditional tales. “Okay, so this man goes to a seer before a great battle. The seer says to him, ‘That horse of yours, your favorite, fastest horse, is going to be the death of you.’ Well, the man, he knows what to do: he’s going to cheat death. So he kills the horse himself, before the battle. Sure enough, he lives through the siege. He returns to his wife and home, and five years pass. Wel,l he decides to go and take a walk out to the shore, over to the place where he killed the horse. He’s feeling nostalgic all of a sudden. Sure enough, he gets to the spot and sees that the dirt that covered the horse’s body has all been swept away by the tide. He has his trusty spear with him. Gloating, he prods the horse’s skull. He says, ‘Who’s gonna be the death of who?!’ Well as he’s doing that, he’s disturbing the hiding place of a big black serpent, who crawls out of the eyehole. The snake bites him…”

Here, Hakon makes a quick striking motion with his hands to illustrate, hissing as he does so. The fire has bathed his face in a warm glow. “And just like that, he is struck. The poison works on him quickly. He falls over and dies, and just like that, the prophecy is fulfilled.”

A hush fell into the room as the brothers and sister sat in silence for a moment, contemplating the full weight of this tale.

“Give us another one, brother,” urged Erling. “Tell us a tale that will make us laugh, before we all have nightmares about snakes crawling over to us at night.”

“Very well,” said Hakon. “There is the tale of King Rollo and Aegfrid the Conqueror.” He took a swig of ale from the horn before continuing on with his tale. “Aegfrid the Conqueror went raiding and came to the lands of a king named King Rollo. King Rollo demanded fealty from Aegfrid and his men. ‘Kiss the foot of the king,’ said Rollo. Aegfrid didn’t want to kiss the king’s dirty, unwashed foot. Fortunately, he had servants to do this sort of thing for him. ‘Servant,’ he said, ‘go and kiss the foot of the king.’ Well the servant did as Aegfrid said, but Aegfrid didn’t tell him how to do it. He probably figured that anybody could figure out how to bend down and plant a kiss on the kingly foot. Well, this servant was a special kind of person, and rather than bend down, he decided to stay standing upright and bring the foot up, to him. This action tipped the king out of his throne, onto the ground. A good laugh was had by all.”

The three ten-year-olds decided to hold their own reenactment of this humorous event, and as Bjorn fell off of his small wooden chest, the family laughed.

That night, Reanna dreamed of snakes crawling up out of the sand.

XII: Outside the Family Longhouse, Night

The night sky was emblazoned with a blanket of glittering stars. Reanna found a spot up on a hill, under the house-tree, and lay down on her back looking up at the night sky. After a moment, her little brother Erik found her and lay down next to her, putting his hands behind his head and also gazing up at the heavens.

Reanna pointed to a brightly-shining star. “See that one? That’s the one called Andurvil’s Toe. Thor was helping a dwarf named Andurvil to cross a river called Elivagar by putting him in a basket on his back. Then the dwarf complained that one of his toes got frostbite. So Thor cracked it off and threw it into the night sky, and it became a star.”

“Whoa!” said Erik. “I hope that doesn’t happen to my toes.”

“It won’t,” said Reanna. “Your toes are too gross. Even if they were frostbitten, Thor wouldn’t want to touch them.”

“Yeah, probably,” he said. Then after a moment, he said, “So I hear you’re goin’ raidin’ tomorrow.”

“Yeah,” said Reanna. “What of it?”

“Can I come?”

“No. You’re too little. It’s too dangerous.”

“Aw. You never let me do anything fun.”

“It’s going to be a lot of hard work and suffering and bloodshed. There aren’t going to be very many fun parts of it.”

“Still better than having to stay here,” he pouted.

In the sky above them, the distant sound of thunder cracked.

“That’s what Thor has to say about your pouting,” said Reanna. “He approves of brave deeds, but he doesn’t like it when little boys want to go raiding monasteries.”

“You might not make it back,” Erik said, serious all of a sudden. “Or you might make it back, but, missing an arm or a leg. You wouldn’t be any use on the farm. You’d waste away, huddled in a corner until your mind goes too, and then you’ll be like that crazy old woman, Astrid, talking to yourself and gumming lutefisk…’til you die!”

Reanna stuck her tongue out at him. “You’re just jealous,” she said.

“Yeah,” he admitted. “So unfair that I don’t get to go…”

XIII: Docks, Morning

Reanna walked out to the docks that morning, wearing her armor and sporting a lush red beard. 80 men stood waiting before the elegantly-designed longship with its dragon-headed prow that would take them on the raiding expedition. Reanna could see it all in her head already, could hear the words of the people as the ship approached some foreign shore. They’d shout, “The Northmen are coming!” And this time, it would be a Northwoman incoming.

She wore her armor and the men loaded her chest onto the ship.

“This is heavy,” one of the men grunted. “What’s in it?” But Reanna knew that it was only food for the long sea voyage. This man was clearly being a baby.

“Rean the Red is in command of this voyage!” Ulf announced to the men. Reanna hefted her shield and walked to the ship, setting the shield onto the ship’s side, behind the iron holding-bar. The men filed into the longship, setting their shields against the iron crossbars on either side. They set their chests down as benches, some filled with food or armor, and some completely empty, their owners’ heads filled with dreams of pillage and plunder. Reanna’s heart swelled with pride as the ship set sail, taking easily and gracefully to the waters of the open sea. And no one suspects that I’m not a man. Soon, everyone would hear of the legendary adventures of Rean the Red and his raiding party.


Three days had passed, and it could have been seasickness setting in, or an illusion from the constant rocking of the ship, but Reanna could swear that she heard a low groaning sound coming from her wooden chest. She opened it to put her mind at ease and convince herself that the only thing in there was the food supplies she’d left with. But when she opened the chest, there was Erik, curled up, clutching his stomach, which grumbled with hunger.

“Erik?” said Reanna. “What happened to the food?”

“I dumped it all out,” he admitted with a sheepish grin.

“Oh no!”

“Oh yeah!” he said, jumping out of the chest. “I’m ready to go raiding! And hey, why do you have a beard? And does Father know that you’re dressed like a man?”


For all installments of “Wolf’s Daughter,” click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1