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The Viking warrior Aldaith meets his real match only after the battle: Marked from the latest fight, Aldaith wants to recover by a stream. But instead of finding solitude, he stumbles on the fearless shield maiden Nyssa. The fierce beauty invites Aldaith into the water to engage in a very different kind of battle - one for which his training leaves him unprepared.
The question that attracted me to the era of the Vikings is as difficult as it sounds easy. The Viking (raiding and settlement-) era as such lies between the late 8th and the early 11th century, starting with an increase in violent attacks in addition to the mostly peaceful trading. The "nordic" countries always fascinated me; I have been to Norway and Denmark and love the mentality and landscapes – and the Scandinavian history.
As a writer, when in a museum or on a site, I immediately imagine the people's lives behind the hard historical facts. And I don't mean the lives and powerplays of the elites – the bling and intrigues of the rich don't interest me. I always look at the simpler people, the 'normal' men and women that populated a region. So in my writing I kind of 'zoom in' on the smaller scale, the more regional picture, the everyday side of history instead of the power plays and politics of the elites so often described in other Viking/medieval novels.
When diving deep into the history of the Scandinavian peoples, I was fascinated by the many layers beyond what we today perceive as typical of the Vikings. Yes, men raided and plundered; they were feared by most other peoples of the era, but were also admired. They fearlessly crossed oceans in their awe-inspiring ships, to settle where nobody else had gone before. But mostly they were skilled traders, long before and after the 'Viking raids'. The 'real' Vikings were many things: farmers, warriors, housewives, healers, settlers, traders, conquerors.
First, they were feared for their rapid attacks and ruthless plundering. Later on, they were admired for their skill in battle, their death-defying belief in their fate, and that only a death in battle was a death aiming for. Later, they assimilated and settled among peoples who more or less seamlessly absorbed them into their societies. England and Ireland still carry their heritage. Viking language was woven into the local language, inter-marriages were common.
Women seemed to like the well-groomed and tall men from the north who respected their wives as their equals. Scandinavian women of the time primarily ruled the household, which in most cases meant a farmstead, but they could also take on different roles, and find respect. Reading the Icelandic sagas, it is often hilarious how boldly women influenced their husbands, using every means they had at their disposal. And how they spoke their minds, and manipulated.
They had little to fear: a man who mistreated women was seen as not honourable, and honour was all that mattered these days. Women could interrupt duels or other fights by just stepping in and throwing clothes over the opponents. Even throwing a snowball at a woman was regarded as a serious offence in one saga. It is fascinating to see early-medieval female healers, or female warriors – my beloved shield maidens and favourite protagonists.
So many aspects of the history of the era are left untold today that I find huge pleasure in illuminating those other than the battle and plunder we remember to this day. Especially the possible female figures of the time fire my imagination. In every story I write, there is a fascinating woman in charge of her own fate and needs. And with that I mean her mental and physical needs. Her sensuality just as much as the rest of her existence. In my stories, women aren't subjected to the stark inequality of Christianity yet. For that very reason I often set them in the early Viking age, around 900. Surrounded by men who mainly respected them, and allowing them freedom of choice and some influence – as opposed to women of many other regions of the time. The sagas are quite open about love and sensuality as an important and mutual pleasure.
Against the background of my thorough research I create an authentic setting for sensual stories with strong male and female protagonists. In a world of crackling fires and rough landscapes, long winters and bloody raids, the immediacy of life and death ignites undeniable passions. Warriors and monks, healers and housewives – all follow the call of their hearts and bodies to indulge in pleasures that may forever change their lives.
In my first tale in the series of sensual short stories "Tales of Freya", I chose a strong female fighter as the protagonist's opponent: in "The Current – A Battle of Seduction", a warrior is brought to his knees by very different weapons:
Marked from the latest battle, Aldaith wants to recover by a stream. But instead of finding solitude, he stumbles on the fearless shield maiden Nyssa. The fierce beauty invites Aldaith into the water to engage in a very different kind of battle – one for which his training leaves him unprepared.
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About the Author
Sarah Dahl lives on the edge of the rural German Eifel and writes historical fiction primarily set in the Viking age. She also works as an editor, translates, and coaches new writers. She is interested in the everyday life in bygone centuries, and the human stories that may have occurred behind the hard, historical facts. Find out more at her website www.sarah-dahl.com and find her on Facebook and Twitter @sarahdahl13