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Maddie and the Norseman

Chapter One

 

Present day. York, England.

 

Black clouds rolled in from the east. A dark swell sent the longboat tossing. The oarsmen’s grunts could be heard, even over the roar of the wind. This ship likely carried about thirty oars, so two men to an oar made for a large crew. Light and slender, the body of the ship gave way with the movement of the sea. The steersman controlling the tiller shouted orders and the captain urged the oarsmen forward.

Suddenly, a large rock seemed to grow up from the sea, dark, menacing and dangerous—towering over the ship. Maddie held her breath, but not from fear. Exhilarated, she faced the wind.

Viking sailors invariably made it safely to shore. Superb in the roughest conditions, confident when riding the waves on their longship, jubilant when reaching their destination, they were as one with the elements. The rock loomed above them, and because she was near the prow Maddie craned her neck and for one hair-raising moment felt sure they would hit it. She gripped the rail so hard her fingers ached, and she let out a yell.

Turning her head she saw him clearly mouth her name. Tall as an oak, the man who constantly filled her dreams stood out against the sky—hair flying behind him, those magnificent eyes of his clashing with hers.

 

 

* * *

 

 

“Wake up, Maddie. Bloody hell, you’ll wake everyone in the neighborhood.”

Maddie’s eyes shot open and she stared at her friend, momentarily bewildered. The sheet was a tangled mess and she gripped it tightly, her knuckles rigid.

“I must have been dreaming.” Maddie sat up, blinking.

Amber had switched on the bedside lamp and in its soft glow she looked worried. “You’re not kidding. What the hell were you doing, fighting a dozen warriors?”

“No, believe it or not I was on a longship, and we almost collided with a rock.” Maddie wiped perspiration from her forehead.

Amber groaned. “I believe it. That was probably because of all our talk earlier about longships and how the Vikings were superb sailors. Do you dream often these days?”

Maddie shrugged, twisting to put her feet to the floor. “Actually I still dream most nights. Perhaps I should have warned you, I’m now vocal too.” She went over to the small corner that served as a kitchen in Amber’s tiny apartment and poured a glass of water.

“No problem. I have to admit I also dream a lot myself lately. And usually of Viking warriors.” Amber pushed at her dishevelled black hair. “I reckon we should have grown out of this fascination we have with the bloody invaders by now, don’t you?”

Maddie laughed as she plonked down on the sofa bed. Amber’s flat was so small she didn’t have a spare room. In fact she only had two rooms—this one, which was laughably called a living room, with the tiny kitchen crammed in a corner, and her bedroom which was just large enough for one single bed, a narrow wardrobe, a small bedside chest and a chair.

“You’ll never grow out of it now—not while you’re working on the Viking excavations here in York.” Maddie put an arm about Amber’s shoulders and squeezed. “You’ve found your niche in this world, haven’t you?”

Amber slapped Maddie’s knee. “Yes, I sure have.” She looked about the cramped room, at every picture that adorned the walls—each one depicting either a Viking longship in full sail or an artefact from Viking times. “No wonder you dreamed of being on a longship. Just one look around here is enough to send anyone back to the days when they sailed the high seas.”

Maddie giggled. “Needless to say, I have the same dreams back home in Australia. And they all feature the same hunk.” She wagged a finger. “Now that’s something you’d think I would grow out of isn’t it? Only adolescents dream of blond Norsemen with broad chests, flashing blue eyes, and bulging muscles. A thirty two year old widowed history teacher should be more imaginative.” She tucked her feet beneath the sheet and settled back on the pillows. “I hope your landlady doesn’t complain about my bellowing. I’ll try to dream of something more sedate other than sailing the high seas with my Norseman.”

Amber gave Maddie’s leg a shove, and stood. “I can’t see that happening. It’s too entrenched in our minds. You and I are destined to let our imaginations lurk back in the ninth and tenth centuries. Anyway, you could do a lot worse. Enjoy the hunk in your dreams—you ain’t likely to find one to compare with him while awake, girl. There’s no such thing as a dream man in real life.” She yawned and stretched, bent to switch off the table lamp and called over a shoulder, “Get some sleep. We have a lot of touristy things to do tomorrow,” as she went back to her room.

Maddie doubted she’d get a lot of sleep. Too much had happened and she was still hyped up. The flight over from Australia was uneventful and, although she wasn’t a lover of planes, quite enjoyable. When she’d confessed to being a history teacher, the passenger beside her declared an interest in medieval times, so they had plenty to talk about.

Sighing, she wriggled to get comfortable. Amber’s scepticism about men and finding Mr. Right proved she still hadn’t recovered from her disastrous affair with a professor at college. Amber steered clear of men back home in Australia, and was certainly, at thirty, now entrenched in her beloved archaeological career.

They’d been as close as sisters, perhaps closer, since both were fostered out. Destiny played weird tricks at times. Patrick, their foster parents’ eldest son, a history tutor, introduced them to the Vikings. Both she and Amber went on to study the Old Norse language. The Danzig’s, with their wealth and beautiful home, provided both girls with everything they ever wanted, including—most importantly—a family.

Maddie often wondered where she would be now if her parents hadn’t divorced when she was ten, and if her mother hadn’t died soon after. Her mother, although not altogether a bad woman, was more interested in watching game and talk shows on TV than cooking or looking after her child and husband. Maddie’s father wasn’t exactly a fine example of manhood. He soon remarried and moved to New Zealand—showing not one shred of interest in his only daughter.

The Viking of her dreams slid into Maddie’s mind. At times his face was so vivid, his presence so vital, that she felt as if she could reach out and touch him. Edward was a good husband, a loving, if not passionate man, so why wasn’t she dreaming of him? A year had passed since his tragic stroke, and although she wouldn’t admit it to anyone, there were times when she had trouble recalling his face. Surely that was wrong. They’d shared thirteen comfortable, but unexciting, years together, and here she was dreaming constantly of another man.

She now had no idea just why she’d married Edward. It wasn’t as if she’d longed to break away from a horrible home life. The Danzigs liked Edward, probably because he was a tutor like Mr Danzig and Patrick, and although he was twenty nine to her eighteen they considered him good husband material. Which he was—if you discounted the lack of passion. A plodder—that was the best word to describe Edward.

Maddie’s eyes drifted shut.

 

 

* * *

 

“I’m whacked.” Flopping onto the sofa, Maddie stretched her legs out in front of her. “What a day. I have to tell you, Amber, I can’t recall when I’ve enjoyed myself so much. No wonder you love living here. I might even move to England too.”

They’d spent the day looking around the town of York and especially Coppergate where a whole street with Viking houses and shops had been uncovered in the late nineteen seventies to early eighties. Amber’s rooms were in a boarding house not far from the main finds.

Passing Maddie her cup of tea, Amber sat beside her, sipping her own drink. “That would be wonderful, Maddie. Why don’t you? You could easily get a job here. Or better still, you could work in the visitors’ centre. You know more about the Vikings and Jorvik than just about anyone—including me.”

“Hardly.” Maddie wrinkled her nose. “Not many know more than you.” Called Jorvik by the Vikings, the town was steeped in history. “There’s so much to see here, Amber. I can’t wait to see the remains of the Roman fortress.” Maddie sighed. “I love Melbourne dearly, but it’s the history here that is so exciting.”

“That’s for sure. I don’t think I’ll ever go home now. As soon as you think they’ve found everything, something more exciting is unearthed.” Amber finished her drink and jumped up. Taking Maddie’s cup, she placed it with hers on the draining board beside the sink. A clap of thunder made them both jump. “That’s strange. It didn’t look stormy earlier. And the forecast was for a clear night.” She shrugged. “Oh well, I guess even the weather experts can get it wrong. Right, want to see the outfits now?”

Maddie pushed herself up. “Ooh yes. Are you sure they won’t mind me taking part in the re-enactment?”

“Of course not. One of the other girls had to drop out, and you’re roughly the same size as her.” Maddie followed Amber into her bedroom. Amber took a pile of folded garments out of her wardrobe and handed Maddie two dresses. “Here, these are yours.”

Slipping out of her jeans and sweater, Maddie put the long-sleeved yellow dress on. It was plain, with a rounded neckline and a couple of small tucks at the shoulder, and reached her ankles. Over this she pulled on the blue pinafore-like shift. Its shoulder straps were fixed at the front by two brooches, adorned with intricate swirling patterns. “These are very good copies.” She patted the brooches as she peered down at them. “You look good. Have you worn that outfit before?”

“Yes, I wear this to every re-enactment. We hold them frequently. The tourists love it.” Amber’s dress was cream, her pinafore green. She handed Maddie a square of white linen. “Here, put your head cover on.”

The head dress consisted of two squares stitched together, with tags to secure it beneath the chin. Maddie giggled as she pushed her toffee-coloured hair back from her shoulders and secured the strings. “Do I look like a demure Viking woman?”

“Hmm, not too sure about demure. Wait, you’d better try on the shoes. I hope they fit.” Amber rummaged at the bottom of her wardrobe and came up with two pairs of leather ankle boots. Sitting on the side of the bed they pulled the footwear on.

Maddie couldn’t believe how comfortable they were. “Could have been made to measure.” She twisted one foot from side to side, admiring the workmanship. With its side fastenings it looked almost like the real thing worn by Viking women.

“There’s one more thing we need to complete the look.” Amber picked up something from the bedside chest. “Here, I bought this for you.” She handed Maddie a necklace.

As Maddie touched the piece of jewellery an odd tingling ran through her fingers. Containing pieces of amber and crystal, it looked remarkably like one Maddie had seen in pictures of genuine Viking jewellery found in Sweden, and dated around the ninth century. “It’s beautiful. You shouldn’t have bought that, Amber. It must have cost a fortune.”

“Actually it didn’t. And look, I have one that’s almost the same.” Amber held up the other piece. “I found them at a street market and I don’t think the vendor had any idea what he was selling. I got them dirt cheap, believe me.” Amber slipped hers over her head and reached to take the one from Maddie’s hand.

As she dropped it over Maddie’s head, a shiver raced through her.

Amber pulled Maddie round to stand in front of the long mirror fixed to the wardrobe. There was a similar small droplet of bronze-like substance at the front of both necklaces. “These are almost the same,” Maddie said as she touched hers then reached to touch the one on Amber’s necklet. An unusual dizziness made her sway toward her friend.

The small bronze droplet felt hot between her fingers and Maddie tried to shake it off. But it seemed to stick to her skin. “This is odd,” she mumbled. “This feels warm.”

Amber reached out and touched the droplet on Maddie’s necklace, then bit out a rude word. By the look on her face something weird happened to her too.

As what felt like an electric shock zinged up her arm, Maddie heard Amber mumble something she couldn’t catch. Then a flash of lightning lit up the small room, followed by a clap of thunder. Time seemed suspended as they stared at each other, each still with a finger on the other’s necklace. Maddie reached for Amber’s free hand and they linked fingers as the ground came up in a whoosh.

 

 

* * *

 

 

Maddie shook her head. It was so dark she could barely make out the furniture. How odd—for a moment the ground seemed to come up and hit her. Perhaps she’d passed out. That was even odder; she’d never fainted in her life. “What the bloody hell happened? The power must have cut off after that lightning streak.”

“Maddie?” Amber’s shaky whisper came from nearby.

Maddie rubbed her forehead. They no longer held hands. “Where are you? The lights must have fused or the power was cut.” Maddie reached out, overwhelmed with relief when she touched Amber’s arm.

It occurred to her that little more than a sliver of light came in, and this glimmer of light was low down near the floor. Hadn't the last rays of the sun been slanting through the window and across Amber’s bedroom when they’d looked in the mirror? “The sun’s gone in. Wasn’t it shining before that thunder and lightning?” Maddie heard the quiver in her voice, and knew it was fear causing it.

“This isn’t my room.” Amber’s croaky words made Maddie shake.

“Don’t be silly. Of course it is. The storm must have rolled in real quick and the sun’s hidden.” Maddie tried for an air of confidence.

“I’m telling you, it’s not,” Amber hissed. “Where’s my bed?” Maddie’s arm hurt where Amber gripped it tightly. And shuddery tremors raced through her normally fearless friend.

“It’s here.” Maddie turned sideways—certain the bed would be right by her left knee.

But it wasn’t.

Something hard pressed against her thigh, but it most definitely wasn’t a bed. As she reached out, she knocked something off what she now realized was a waist high table. The object clattered to the floor.

As her eyes became accustomed to the darkness Maddie was able to make out that they were in a room similar in size to Amber’s bedroom, but Amber was right, her bed wasn’t there, just the table which she now saw was a bench scattered with various objects. Maddie squinted into the dimness. Shelves lining two walls held an assortment of unrecognisable bits and pieces.

“What’s happened? I don’t like this at all. Am I dreaming again?” Deep down Maddie had a distinct feeling this was no dream. She gripped Amber’s hand as they turned slowly. Her knees shook so much they actually wobbled—a phenomenon. Never in her life had she been so scared that parts of her shook with fear. She’d thought that a myth.

“If you are, then so am I.” Amber’s whisper was heavy with fear—along with disbelief.

Suddenly light flowed into the room, and they both jumped. A curtain was pulled aside and the outline of a large man stood out against the light. Maddie cried out, and her knees buckled when she saw the low fireplace behind him. If she and Amber hadn’t been clinging to each other she would have toppled. His hair stood out around his head like a mop and he wielded an axe. It was impossible to see his face, but with the light behind him accentuating his silhouette he appeared ferocious and threatening. Maddie’s teeth chattered. This had to be another dream—a far different one to her usual fantasies.

“What are you doing in here?” he demanded.

Amber and Maddie yelped in unison. He’d spoken in Norse.

“I don’t get this.” Maddie didn’t want to believe what her suspicions nagged her to believe. “We can’t share a dream. This can’t be happening—can it?” Now she really was near to fainting.

Shifting her gaze momentarily from the man, Maddie noticed another doorway. Perhaps they could make a run for it. Gripping Amber tighter, she nodded at the door. They began to edge closer to it.

“What did you say?” The man moved nearer, looming over them, and they shrank back. “Women? What are women doing in my shop?” He stalled any plans for escape by moving between them and the door. “And where do you come from to speak with such a foreign tongue? Are you Anglo-Saxons?”

“No, no, we mean you no harm. We’re not from these parts.” Maddie used Old Norse, and her lips trembled so much she wondered how she’d managed to get the words out. Amber had apparently been struck dumb with fear.

He waved the axe about threateningly. “Out here where I can see you.” He gestured for them to go before him into the other room. Still clinging to each other like a pair of scared waifs, they shuffled forward. “Are you after stealing my wares?”

“No, honestly, we aren’t thieves.” Maddie shuddered. This was no dream, so what was it? This man was much too real; everything was too real. And her fear was very real too. Amber's fingers tightened on her arm as they stumbled towards the light.

The second room contained a low bed against one wall, with a closed chest at its end. A table with a bench at its side completed the furnishings. The open fire in the centre of the room threw out the only light, and comforting warmth. A wooden plate on the table held a chunk of bread and some meat, and there was one goblet—perhaps made of metal. Their arrival had obviously interrupted his meal.

Maddie now felt light-headed as well as faint with fear. This was a typical Viking home—furnished with basics. Amber's voice was so shaky it was hard to hear her words as she muttered, “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

“Well, I’m thinking that we’ve gone completely off our rockers. This is insane.” Completely. Yes, that was the only feasible answer; she must be hallucinating or delirious and her imagination had conjured this scene. Maddie tried to recall if she’d bumped her head sometime during the day. Amber had to be a figment of her imagination too. But if that was the case, why did her friend feel so solid and real?

The man gestured for them to move near the table then leaned the axe against a wall. When he came up to them, Maddie straightened her spine, meeting his gaze full on as the back of her knees pressed on the bench alongside the wooden table.

Along with the trepidation and feeling of disorientation a strange sense of disappointment seeped through her. Insane was the word. Had she really expected him to be the man from her dreams? A Viking he seemed to be, but he certainly was not her Viking.

Chapter Two

 

 

Jorvik, England, about 879 A.D.

 

The man picked up a small iron bowl, then bent to set light to the wick in its middle. The lamp didn’t give off a lot of light, but at least now they could get a clearer look at him. Although not strictly handsome, he didn’t have a mean face. But that was not to say he was to be trusted—most serial killers were harmless to look at, weren’t they? Light brown hair brushed his shoulders, and a short beard covered all his lower jaw. A deep frown creased his brow as he scrutinised them.

“So, are you going to tell me what you were doing in my workshop? And just how did you get in?” He set the lamp down on the table near them. Maddie glanced quickly at Amber. Now what to do? There was little point in trying to convince herself this was not real, so she might as well go along with it and see where things led. It was beginning to take on the form of an extraordinary theatre production, and they were the players, with no idea where the script would take them.

“What’ll we tell him?” Amber found her voice, as her fingers went to the necklace. Had her thoughts matched Maddie’s? Should they try to reproduce the action that brought them here?

Wherever here was.

“I have no idea. We should get out of here as soon as possible, Amber. I think we could tackle him. What do you think?”

“Speak in my tongue. I know you can,” he said. His voice was pleasant, if gruff. His eyes had followed Amber’s movement and he suddenly seemed very interested in the necklace. “You stole that necklet.” Amber shrank back as he stepped within a pace of her and peered at the amber and crystals around her neck.

“No, we didn’t steal anything.” Maddie covered her necklace with a hand. Despite looking harmless, he had wielded that axe and for all they knew could be a demented killer. They’d somehow wandered into a movie set—now that was a feasible answer.

“Then tell me how she happens to be wearing a piece I worked on but a few days ago?” He jerked a thumb at Amber, then caught sight of the necklace Maddie was desperately trying to shield. His frown grew fierce. “And you wear the mate to it.”

“You’re a jeweller?” At Amber’s question Maddie jerked her head around. Had her friend gone demented? Was that really of any importance? Right now there were far more pressing things to worry about.

“You expect me to believe you did not know. Which one did you steal from me and which one from my recent customer?” he bit out.

Maddie chewed on her lip as she glanced about. “I think we should take him now.” The axe against the wall was the only weapon in sight and to reach it one of them would have to pass him. “You get his attention while I make a run for the axe.”

Without preamble Amber pushed him sideways and Maddie darted to the weapon. But he was far too agile. Before she had time to make a grab for the axe, he had Amber in a lock, her back pressed against his front, her arms trapped beneath his. Amber squealed as she wriggled.

Maddie waved the axe, but he seemed quite unperturbed. Amber’s struggles made no impact on him at all. “Let her go!” Maddie tried not to show her terror. Doubtless he could break Amber’s neck with one swift movement if he chose to.

“I do not think so.” The swine had the audacity to laugh. “Put my weapon aside and I might think on it.”

“What do you think I am, a fool?” Obviously he did, for he still smiled. It made him look quite nice. This was probably quite erroneous. Maddie shook herself—what was she thinking? Yes, she had to be delirious; faced with a Norseman who was about to strangle her friend and she was considering how nice he looked!

“Best do as he says, Maddie—he’s a lot stronger than he appears. I haven’t a hope of breaking free.” Amber’s struggling had made no difference whatsoever. His hold still looked just as firm and she looked more terrified than Maddie had ever seen her.

When he suddenly reached up and yanked the necklace from Amber’s neck she choked on a small sob and made a grab for it. “God, Maddie, we can’t let him have it,” she wailed. “We need it. It’s our only link with home.” As she tried desperately to reach it, he pushed her away from him and at the same time poked it into a pocket at the side of his baggy breeches. Amber stumbled to Maddie’s side.

“You can go now.” He waved a hand at them. “You can keep the other piece. Let the one you stole it from try to regain his property.”

“Let’s get out of here while we can.” Maddie put the weapon aside and pulled at Amber’s arm. Her friend didn’t seem to want to move. “Come on,” she urged.

“I can’t leave the necklace with him. We have to get it back.” Tears streamed down Amber’s cheeks.

“How do you suggest we do that?” Maddie rubbed her face in agitation. Amber was right, they needed it, but it seemed unlikely he would part with it, so best they make their escape while they could.

Legs astride, he studied them as if he couldn’t make out what they were—which he probably couldn't. “Let’s tackle him. Surely he can’t fight the two of us if we both jump him at once. I suggest we do. We’ll knock him out, tie him up and get the necklace back.”

Sounded feasible. Maddie nodded. “Okay, let’s do it. Now.”

As if he understood their every word he was ready for them. As they pounced, he sidestepped agilely and left them to flounder and stumble. As they turned to charge again, so he moved quickly out of their way. He bent to pick up the axe and when they faced him again wielded it.

Amber clung to her arm and sobbed while Maddie shook with impotence. “Look, we really have to have that piece of jewellery.”

“You want something that you have stolen?” He laughed derisively. “You really think me dim-witted enough to hand it over?”

“We didn’t steal it, and that’s the truth,” Maddie said with feeling. He seemed a practical enough man, perhaps he would listen to reason. What a laugh! Reason played no part in this charade. The queasiness had dissipated but she still felt very odd. The events of the past fifteen minutes or so had taken on the appearance of a charade. Any moment she would wake up and find this had all been one of her unusual dreams.

But something told Maddie that wouldn’t happen. And if they didn’t get the other necklace back from him, it was odds on that they wouldn’t be moving on in the foreseeable future.

“Tell me the truth, and there is a small chance I might listen.” He sat on his low bed, legs wide, the axe balanced between his knees.

“Shall we try for the absolute truth?” Maddie turned to ask Amber, who was wiping her cheeks on the hem of her pinafore. “Or, if as I surmise, and I’m sure you do, that fate has played a weird trick on us and dumped us somewhere back in the past, will he have us taken off to what passes as the equivalent of a loony bin.”

“Oh God. I think I’m going to be sick.” Amber pressed a hand over her mouth. Maddie put an arm about her shoulders and squeezed gently. “You seem to be handling this a lot better than me. I can’t even begin to imagine how this happened, can you?”

Maddie nibbled on her bottom lip. “It started when we both touched that little bronze talisman thing that’s on both necklaces. Did you feel as if you were stuck to it?” She glanced down at the strange medallion. It looked like a harmless lump of metal. Reticent to touch it for fear of what might happen she put her hands behind her back. The last thing she needed was for her to slip back to the future and leave her friend here in limbo.

“Yes, I did.” Amber groaned and rubbed her forehead.

Obviously growing impatient, the man banged the axe handle on the earthen ground and they turned to him with a start. “I was taken as a slave,” Maddie blurted, not having a clue why she said it. But she had a feeling there was no way in this world he would take the truth seriously. “My husband died…and…and I had nowhere to go. I met my friend when this trader took me to his ship.” Her imagination couldn’t drum up any more lies. Silently cursing, she sent Amber a pleading glance.

Amber shrugged. “He doesn’t believe a word of it.”

Maddie reckoned that was the truth. It was a lot of drivel. Slaves were known to have been taken during the years of the Vikings worst raids, but no one in their right mind would think her a slave by the clothes she wore.

He didn’t. “You lie,” he said.

“Where are we?” Amber turned to ask the man, who seemed bored with the ridiculous story.

His brows went up. “Do not play games with me,” he said roughly. “You know this is Jorvik. Where is the home of this man you say is your master?”

“Jorvik?” Maddie squeaked, all her suspicions gelling together to make one unbelievable whole. Amber's lips were trembling and so were the fingers she pressed over her mouth. Maddie shook in places she never had before. Even her scalp seemed to be trembling.

Amber slumped onto the narrow bench by the table and pressed her hands over her face as she rocked back and forth. Although Maddie feared deep down that somehow they’d slid down a passage through time, having the man call York by its Viking name was almost too much to take in. When her legs refused to hold her up a moment longer she flopped onto the bench beside Amber.

He was looking at them as if he suspected they weren’t right in the head, and who could blame him? “Well, tell me, where is this trader, and where is his ship? No vessel came along the river this past night. The man who gave me silver in exchange for the piece I made sailed on the morning tide the day after he took the necklace. Your story does not seem the truth. I do not believe a word of it.”

Maddie groaned. Her bottom lip was getting sore where she’d gnawed it.

He rubbed at his beard as if ruminating on something. Suddenly he jumped up, and Maddie cringed back as he approached. He moved so fast it was only after he’d ripped the necklace from her that she thought to raise her hands to protect herself.

“No!” Amber’s cry of anguish rent the air.

Maddie was too dumbfounded to speak. She put a hand to her throat where her own distress was like a pain. Moving nearer to the light, he studied the necklace he held in his palm, then took the other one from his pocket. With both hanging from his fingers he stood motionless, as he compared them.

“I did not make these,” he said then, lifting his head to stare at them. “They are copies of my work—but my mark is not on them.”

“See, we told you we didn’t steal them from you, didn’t we?” Maddie cried, a spark of hope giving her some relief. Perhaps he would now give them back.

“Where did you get these? Who is making such exact copies of my work?” He held one necklace in each hand and ran his thumbs over them. “This makes little sense.” One eye closed as he thought it through. “What were you doing in my workshop? Were you after stealing more of my pieces so that you could take them to this person for him to copy?”

“No, there’s a reason we were in your other room.” Maddie twisted her hands together. Turning to Amber she asked, “Can you think up a reasonable explanation he might accept?”

“Reasonable, no.” Amber shook her head, then said to the man, whose eyes had narrowed in suspicion, “Do you believe in the gods?”

His head went back slowly. “Yes, of course I do. Does not everyone?”

“Right, well….” Amber shrugged. “We come from a place far from here. Thor travelled through the sky in his chariot, sending thunder and lightning raging overhead. We both touched that small talisman on the necklaces at the same time.”

He looked at the jewellery he still held in each hand, frowning. Amber went over and stood before him. “That one.” She pointed to the small droplet that caused this catastrophe. “And somehow we were whirled through the air and landed in your home.” Amber cast a glance at Maddie.

“Perhaps Freyja, the goddess of love, who absolutely adores jewellery, wanted these necklaces of ours, but something went wrong and instead of us ending up with the gods we landed here.” Amber's look said she was impressed with Maddie's improvised ending.

But he neither seemed impressed or convinced. Maddie had a quick think. “Come on Amber, we need to enlarge on the story. He’ll believe anything to do with the gods and myths rather than the truth.”

Amber waved a hand before him. “Doesn’t it seem strange to you that we were inside your workshop but your door is barred from the inside?”

Maddie patted her on the back. “Good thinking. I noticed the bar across his door.” She turned to him. He seemed to be mulling over their outrageous tale. “We were so scared.” Maddie shuddered expressively. Recalling her fear wasn’t difficult; her insides still churned with apprehension. “One moment we were in our home far away, the next—” She clicked her fingers. “We were here. We have no idea who made those necklets. We bought them in our home town—at a market. The trader said they were unique. They certainly are, they brought us here.”

“You say you touched this amulet?” He ran his thumbs over each droplet and Maddie knew a moment’s panic. What if he disappeared in a puff of smoke? Amber’s look said she shared the dread.

“Oh God!” Maddie cringed. But nothing happened and she let out her breath in a whoosh.

“If your story is the truth, I still do not understand how someone could make such copies of my work. Where is your town, and this market? If I know the trader then there is a chance I can grow to understand how this could happen.” He stood and, after putting both necklaces in his pocket, paced back and forth. The room wasn’t large and he barely had the space to take more than a few steps. He sure was well built for someone who spent his life making trinkets.

Maddie and Amber shared a quick glance. “Where?” Maddie asked. Amber shook her head, so Maddie said, “Melbourne,” then to Amber, “Best say somewhere he won’t know. That way he can’t check up on our story.”

He stroked his beard while thinking this through. Maddie noticed his hands were nice; strong, but long-fingered. To create works of art such as the necklets meant he was very skilled. She still couldn’t fathom how such good copies of his work found their way into modern day York. She said as much to Amber.

“Replicas must have been found on a dig and someone made copies.”

Amber was right. “It’s the only answer that makes sense. Do you think he’s taken it in? Our tale was very far-fetched,” Maddie said.

“Not as far-fetched as the truth.” Wasn't that a fact? No one in their right mind would believe them in their time. But this man was obviously impressed.

He stopped his striding, to ask, “Is this home of yours across the ocean?”

“Oh yes, on the far side of the ocean.” Wasn’t that the truth? On the other side of the ocean and the far side of time. Maddie shuddered anew at that thought.

He went into the other room. They peered around the doorway. He was checking the slab of wood jammed into sockets on each side of the door to secure it. It looked pretty firm. If someone was breaking and entering it was a certainty they wouldn’t bar the door after them.

That seemed to be the conclusion he’d come to for when he rejoined them he looked puzzled. “You say you found yourself here in my workshop—after lightning struck and thunder roared?”

“Yes. Thor must have used his hammer.” Thank God they knew enough about Viking myths to be able to fabricate such stories. Maddie would have to think this coincidence through later, but at this moment she was too stressed out to think straight, let alone fathom out why she and Amber landed back in this particular time period.

Taking the necklaces from his pocket, he studied them again.

“Can we have them back, please?” Maddie pleaded. “Now you know we didn’t steal them, you can’t want to keep them.”

A banging on the door in his workshop forestalled any decision he might have made on that. He muttered an oath, pushed the jewellery back into his pocket, and went through to the other room.

“Who makes such a din at this time of night?” he called. They couldn’t hear the reply from outside.

Turning to Amber, Maddie said, “I don’t think we have any hope of getting them back. What’ll we do?”

Amber looked close to tears again. “We’ll have to knock him out or something.”

By the sounds coming from the other room, the man was removing the bar on the door. After a few words of greeting and a response, the bar was replaced. Great, his visitor was male—they had little hope of overpowering two men. “Bugger, we’ll have no chance now,” Maddie whispered forlornly.

The jeweller was followed across the workroom by someone who was taller, and broader, than him. Maddie and Amber scuttled backwards to make room for the men. Both had to duck their heads to enter the small living room. The visitor appeared to be a giant.

As they entered, filling the small space with their size, Maddie felt her world spinning again. With a hand to her throat she let out a small shriek. The visitor was the man she’d never expected to see anywhere but in her dreams. Her Viking stood still as the curtain dropped behind him, a look of puzzlement on his face.

Maddie clutched at Amber’s arm, and her friend’s bewildered frown was the last thing she saw before everything went black and she felt herself falling.

Chapter Three

 

 

“Wake up, Maddie.” Amber’s worried plea came to Maddie through a haze. Somewhere at the back of her consciousness she felt sure she’d heard that plea before.

Ah yes, she was dreaming again.

For some reason this thought brought comfort. Maddie blinked, and as she opened her eyes all comforting feelings fled. She wasn’t in Amber’s tiny flat. Wasn’t even in the twenty first century. Groaning, she sat up, her fingers sliding along the dirt floor. That was enough to remind her of their situation. The two Norsemen were staring at her as if she’d grown two heads.

“Did I faint?” she mumbled, and Amber nodded. She looked stunned and blatantly terrified. “Oh God, Amber, you know why, don’t you?”

“I have a pretty fair idea.” Amber’s voice quivered. “He looks like your dream hunk, doesn’t he?”

Maddie put a hand to her head and rose onto her knees. Amber helped her onto the bench. “I can’t take this in. What’s going on?”

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