"You're daft, Diana!" Derek exclaimed.
"I am not! You're just too stodgy to even consider any unconventional theory." Diana glared at Derek, her freckled face as red as her hair.
Derek tensed, preparing to evade Diana if she decided to supplement angry words with physical assault. She embodied the stereotype of the 'feisty' redhead, and she had slapped him before when he annoyed her. When she refrained from attacking him he continued, "Theory is one thing, wide-eyed delusion is another. Do you have any shred of evidence to support your assertion that mystic Vikings raid the coast of England every two hundred years?"
"Yes I do! I have incontrovertible historical documents. I'd show them to you if I thought you had the wit to understand them. And the Vikings return every two hundred thirty years, not every two hundred."
Derek and Diana were seated at a table in an espresso bar not far from the King's Manor campus of the University of York. Seated with them were their friends Hannah and Ella. All three women were graduate students at the Centre for Medieval Studies.
A young man joined the group. He asked, "What's every two hundred thirty years?"
Derek answered, "According to Di, that's how often ghost Vikings raid the coast."
"Sounds daft to me."
Diana exclaimed, "What do you know, Tom? You're studying computers, not history! And besides, I never said they were ghosts. There are other possible explanations. My friend Anli is a physicist. She told me a lot of really strange effects have been discovered lately, such as particles locked together even though they were far apart, and effects happening before the causes. That implies time travel! But I'm just reporting what happens, I'll leave it to others to explain why."
"I've heard about the new discoveries, Di, but they happen at the quantum level, not at the shipload level."
"As I said, Tom, I'll let others provide the physical explanation." Diana turned away, signaling the conversation was over.
Tom introduced himself to Hannah. "Hi, I'm Tom. I don't recall seeing you here before. If I had I certainly would have remembered." Hannah was very pretty, with long black hair that contrasted with her pale skin and blue eyes.
"I'm Hannah. I haven't been in York very long." She smiled at Tom. He was cute.
Tom noted Hannah's North American accent. "Where are you from?"
"That's in the States, isn't it? Why the necklace with the Canadian flag motif?"
"I wear it because anti-Americanism is England's only socially acceptable bigotry, and I got tired of being verbally attacked every time I spoke."
"Ouch. I apologize on the behalf of every resident of the UK."
Hannah smiled. "Apology accepted. I haven't experienced much abuse here, except from some of the more rabid Trots. To them even Canada is too right-wing."
Tom joked, "You complete the set."
"Ella is a blonde, Di is a ginger, and you're a brunette. A perfect set."
Di snorted. "Tom's a perfect sexist. Ignore him."
Tom said, "I am not! Nobody's perfect." He asked Hannah, "Are you an archeologist like Ella or an historian like Di?"
"Neither. I'm studying Medieval Literature. I have a BA in linguistics."
Ella interrupted, "Hannah knows Old Norse, Di. Have you shown her your 'proof'?"
"The documents are in some version of English, not Norse. The records were compiled by the victims, not the attackers."
Tom said, "Speaking of victims, I'd like to invite all of you to take part in the Viking Festival next weekend in Hornwick, my home town. It's much, much smaller than the Jorvik activities here in York, but it takes place on the first weekend in September, not during February, so the weather is usually better."
Hannah asked, "Where's Hornwick?"
"It's on the coast, almost due east of York."
"Why does it have a Viking Festival?
"Back in the ninth century it was one of the few places on that part of the coast with a harbor and a gap in the cliffs. It was one of the first conquests of the Vikings when they switched from raiding to settling. Of course, the Festival is more about tourism than history or archeology."
Ella sneered, "It's probably all made up. Tourists wandering about eating 'Authentic Viking Fish and Chips' and drinking Watney's Red Barrel. There isn't any natural harbor now, and I don't know of any archeological sites."
Tom answered, "The geography has changed a lot in the past twelve hundred years. The coastal erosion is severe. Anything near the shore back then has long since been swallowed by the sea."
Diana asked, "So what would we do at this Festival?"
"Mostly you walk around in costume and be decorative. The concluding event is the 'Viking Raid', when bloodthirsty Norsemen plunder the town and capture the maidens. Then you scream prettily as you're carried off to a life of servitude across the North Sea."
"Sounds sexist to me," Diana protested.
"Lighten up, Di. We're talking about 850 A.D. Feminism had barely started back then."
Ella giggled. "Sounds like fun. I always wanted to be a captive maiden. How about you, Hannah?"
"I'm in. My old anthropology professor said, 'When you travel to exotic foreign lands, take advantage of every opportunity to observe the quaint customs of the natives'."
Tom said, "The ship will be supplied by the Viking Society, but they can always use more crewmen. How about joining us, Derek?"
"I don't know if I could do it. I've never been a bloodthirsty Viking."
"You've played rugby, haven't you? The skill sets are very similar."
"All right, I'll be part of the crew, especially if it gives me a chance to capture Ella." He leered at her, and she giggled again.
Tom asked, "How about you, Di?"
"All right, I'll do it, even if it is sexist. But the next landing of the Vikings is before the end of September, and I want you to come with me to observe it."
"Where does this 'landing' take place?" Tom asked.
"South of Whitby. I haven't calculated the exact time yet, but it will be sometime in the next few weeks."
"It's a deal, Di. I'll go with you. How about the rest of you? Will you help Diana with her research?"
Ella asked, "Why not? Nothing I like better than freezing on some damp beach."
"I'm really interested in this," Hannah said. "We can't dismiss documented events just because we don't have an explanation for them. Can I look at your documents, Di? I can read Old English."
Diana smiled. "Of course, Hannah. I'm glad to see at least one of you can keep an open mind."
"I'll go with you, Di," Derek said, "even though I think 'mystic Vikings' are bollocks. But I'll be there to console you and help you recover from the crushing disappointment."
Diana snarled, "Thanks a lot, you patronizing bastard! But I won't be disappointed. You skeptics are the ones who will be forced to admit the truth of what I'm saying."
* * *
Early on Saturday morning of the Festival weekend the five friends were part of a crowd of several dozen people gathered in the meeting room of the Hornwick Historical Museum. A woman in her forties stepped onto the podium at the end of the room and called for order. She was in costume, wearing an ankle-length dress made of a coarse fabric and dyed a dull yellow. Her hair was covered by a sort of square hood with a rounded upper back. It was tied under her chin and extended for some way down her neck all the way around her head.
Once the people quieted down she said, "I am Mrs. Baxter, the chairman of the Historical Society's Festival committee. The purpose of this meeting is to provide you volunteers with the information you will need to make this an enjoyable and safe experience. Let me remind you that your main purpose is to be part of the scenery, so to speak. The members of the Historical Society will be available to answer any serious questions from the public. Some of you have asked me about costumes. The Historical Society has many, and the Viking Society has others, primarily for the men, so I'm sure we can accommodate all of you. Niceties of fit were unimportant, and stains and patches were common, back in the ninth century, so don't worry if some of the costumes are shabby, it is an authentic part of the era."
She looked around the room and directed a steely gaze at Tom and the young men around him. "I want to address my next remarks to those of you who will be part of the 'Viking raiders'. I do not approve of the 'raid', but the public finds it attractive and Festival attendance suffers without it. So we tolerate it, but with strict rules, of which these are the most important: First, you are not to touch anyone who is not in costume. Young women who are part of the audience, no matter how attractive, may not be abducted." She pointed to her headdress. "This is called a coif. In the middle ages only young unmarried women wore their hair down, the hair of respectable married women was always covered. We're not sure if coifs were common in ninth century England, but we have adopted them anyway as a clear marker. Only the women who have volunteered to be part of the raid will be bare-headed. Anyone wearing a coif is strictly out of bounds. And you may not change a woman's status by removing her coif. Is that clearly understood?"
Tom and the other young men nodded. Mrs. Baxter continued, "Very well. I want to emphasize that neither the committee nor the police will tolerate any repetition of the disgraceful events that took place last year. Now, are there any questions?" Mrs. Baxter answered some questions and then left the podium to end the meeting.
Before the crowd dispersed Tom called, "All raiders assemble over here." A half-dozen young men, including Derek, formed a loose group around Tom. He said, "I'm not going to add to anything Mrs. Baxter said. What I want to do is introduce you to one of the more practical aspects of raiding. In spite of what you may have seen on TV, it's not easy to secure a captive maiden if she's struggling. Of course, real Vikings would just clout her until she stopped struggling or became unconscious, but we can't do that. We'll be working with willing women, but they may still struggle either for audience appeal or because they panic. I'm going to show you how to deal with this. The technique was developed by the Viking Society, and it is very effective."
Tom was carrying a paper sack, and he took from it a piece of brown rope about a meter and a half in length. "This is what we'll use. It's ordinary braided cotton rope, six millimeters in diameter. It's been dyed brown to look more authentic." He put the rope back in the sack and removed similar pieces that had been doubled and had a loop formed at the doubled end. He gave one to each of the other men. "The straight rope is for tying ankles or whatnot. For tying hands we'll use the rope with the loop. Notice that the knot isn't an ordinary slip knot, it's sometimes called a 'zip-snare' knot. With this knot you can't tighten the loop by pulling on the free ends of the rope." He put his left hand in the loop and pulled on the doubled rope with his right hand. The loop diameter didn't change. "To tighten the loop you have to slide the knot along the rope." Tom easily moved the knot with his left hand and the loop contracted. "The best property of this knot for our purposes is that you can't loosen the loop by pulling on it." He demonstrated by grabbing the loop with both hands and pulling hard. The loop didn't move.
"Now I'll show you how this works." He called, "Diana! Can you help me?"
Diana strolled over. "What do you want, Tom?"
"I need some help with a demonstration. How about it? It'll only take a few minutes."
Diana shrugged, "Alright, I'll help."
"Thanks!" Tom turned to the men. "The first thing is to adjust the loop so it is about twice the diameter of your fist, and put it over your left forearm." He did this. "Now we're ready. Watch how this works."
Tom grasped Diana's left wrist with his left hand, then spun her around, grabbed her right wrist, and forced her hands together behind her back, palm-to-palm. "Next, you hold both of the maiden's wrists in your left hand. This only works because men are stronger than women."
Diana started to struggle, but she was unable to free her hands from Tom's grip. She cried, "Stop! Let me go!"
"That's right Di, keep struggling!" Tom continued his explanation. "Move the loop up over your hand and around her wrists. Now comes the tricky part. You have to slide the knot to tighten the loop. Hold the free part of the rope with the last three fingers of your right hand and use your thumb and forefinger to slide the knot. Once it's fairly tight you can let go with your left hand and use it to tighten the knot the rest of the way." He demonstrated and stepped aside, holding the rope in his right hand. Diana was obviously fighting to free her hands, but the loop didn't slacken.
"For the final touch wrap the ends of the rope in opposite directions around the loops to make a cinch. Pull this tight and knot it. Your captive is now securely tied." Tom tied the final knot and released Diana.
Diana was furious. She stomped on Tom's toe and demanded, "Release me at once you, you...barbarian!"
Tom winced and grunted. He took another looped rope from the sack, longer than the other ropes. "If the maiden is still causing trouble here's a cure."
He spun Diana around and pulled the loop up her arms until it was above her elbows. He slid the knot and the loop tightened, drawing her elbows together. She tried to make the loop fall free of her arms by bringing her elbows together, but Tom held onto the rope. She screamed, "Let me go!"
Tom commented, "If she doesn't calm down just keep tightening the loop until her elbows touch. That usually works." He tightened the loop until it wouldn't slip down Diana's arms, but he didn't come close to making her elbows actually touch.
Diana stopped struggling. Her arms hurt, but this was minor compared to the psychological shock. She knew that men were stronger than women, but she had never really believed it, because it wasn't fair. Yet Tom, who was young and active but certainly wasn't a bodybuilder or a weight-lifter, had easily tied her up, even though she did her best to prevent it. Her feminist world-view had suffered a profound shock. Men and women weren't equal, at least physically. She tried to free her hands, but quickly realized she was inescapably bound and dependent on a man for her release. It was very humiliating. "Please untie me, Tom," she pleaded.
"At once, Di, since you put it that way." He took the loop off of her elbows and untied her hands.
Diana rubbed her reddened wrists. "Thank you. Now where do I get a coif? I want to be first in line." She stalked off as the group laughed.
"Right you lot," Tom chuckled, "you've learned the most important skill. Now we'll go outside and practice fighting with the 'village defenders'."
Soon the public started to arrive and the Festival was officially open. The volunteers wandered around, trying to be decorative. Sometimes they posed for photographs, but there wasn't much for them to do and most were bored by the late afternoon.
About an hour before sunset a Viking longship, with six pairs of oars, rowed into Hornwick's small artificial harbor and tied up to a floating pier. Tom called to Hannah, "The Viking Society is here! Come with me and I'll introduce you to my friend Ragnar, the leader. He's from Iceland, and a direct descendant of Vikings."
Tom and Hannah walked out on the pier where a large man with a long and bushy yellow beard was supervising the securing of the ship. Tom called, "Hail, Ragnar!"
Ragnar replied, "Hello, Tom. Who's this?" He cast an appreciative and feral eye on Hannah.
"This is Hannah. She's a student at York."
Hannah spoke a phrase in a language that Tom didn't recognize, but Ragnar did. He replied, "That's the ritual greeting from one of the old sagas. Your accent is strange, but I understood what you said. Where did you learn Icelandic?"
"It's not Icelandic, it's Old Norse. I'm surprised you can understand me."
Ragnar smiled, showing his teeth. "Perhaps we could meet later to discuss this further. Are you going to participate in the raid? Maybe I can capture you." He watched her as a hungry wolf might eye a helpless fawn.
Hannah now realized that perhaps Ragnar took the Viking thing a bit too seriously. She was relieved when Tom said, "She's mine, Ragnar. But don't worry, there are more than enough maidens to go around. We'll see you later." They hurried off the pier.
"Thank you, Tom, that could have been awkward. But am I really yours?"
"If you want to be."
Hannah didn't reply in words, but she took his arm as they walked back to the 'village'.
* * *
The village was located on a flat piece of waste ground near the harbor. The back part of the village had about a dozen fibreboard huts painted to look mediaeval. Four expendable painted cardboard huts were in the foreground, facing the audience. These were filled with scrap wood and would be set on fire as the Vikings left the pillaged village. The spectators were kept behind a fence about twenty meters from these huts. Spotlights were spaced along the fence to provide night-time illumination.
The Viking raid, the concluding event of the day's festivities, took place just after sunset. The longship grounded on the edge of the village and the crew, augmented by Tom and his volunteers, jumped out and charged into the clear space between the audience and the huts. They were met by the village defenders, and the battle began. The battle didn't last long, since the Vikings carried shields and were armed with swords and axes, while the villagers had only clubs and farm implements. Soon the ground was littered with 'bodies', and now the air was filled with the shrieks and cries of women running through the village, pursued by Vikings intent on plunder and rapine.
Four women wearing coifs were standing behind a hut, out of sight of the spectators. Hannah hid behind them, anxious to avoid Ragnar. Luckily, it wasn't long before Tom jogged by, and she rushed out and bumped into him. She shrieked, "A Viking! Woe is me!" and pretended to faint.
Tom was startled, but he rallied quickly. He wrapped Hannah in a hug to keep her from failing and then lowered her to the ground, face down, and brought her hands behind her back.
Unlike Diana, Hannah hadn't been involved in the rope practice, so she was startled when Tom slipped the loop around her wrists and pulled it tight. Recovering instantly from her 'faint', she cried, "What are you doing?"
"I'm tying your hands behind your back. What does it feel like I'm doing?" He pulled the cinch tight and knotted it.
"I never said you could tie me up!"
"I'm a Viking. I don't have to ask for permission to do anything. Especially when it involves a woman I want." He tied her ankles together and stood her up.
Hannah was stunned. She had never been tied before, not even in a childhood game, and she was shocked to be so helpless. She struggled briefly to free her hands and then squeaked when Tom lifted her over his shoulder. She squirmed, and then yelped as he slapped her bottom.
"Be still, wench!" he ordered. "I can tell that beating obedience into you is going to be a hard task."
As Tom walked toward the fence, Hannah's mind was reeling from the new sensations. She was uncomfortable, bent over his shoulder, and she couldn't see anything except his back. She heard the cheers of the crowd and blushed when she realized the indignity of her position. When Tom entered a hut she was glad that she no longer could be seen by the public. Then she was frightened. Tom had always be so diffident before. Now she realized she actually was a captive maiden, at the mercy of a possibly brutal captor. She gasped when Tom put her on her back on the dirt floor.
Tom sat beside Hannah and touched her face. She whimpered and flinched. He boasted, "You are right to fear me, for I am famous for the number of my conquests. A woman taken be me rejects all other men." Then Tom realized Hannah wasn't smiling. "Are you really scared?"
"Don't worry, we won't go any farther than you want." He kissed her cheek. "Was that acceptable?"
Hannah calmed down. This was Tom, not a real barbarian. "Yes, that's OK."
He kissed her full on the lips. "How about that?"
"Still OK. Will you untie me now?"
"I'll decide when to free you, and now is not the time." He kissed her again and fondled her breasts. "Still OK?"
Hannah said, "Keep going, I'll let you know when I want to stop." 'If he will stop,' she thought. She struggled with the ropes. 'I'm not exactly the one who's in control here.'
They continued to kiss. Tom unlaced Hannah's bodice and nipped at a hard nipple. She moaned with pleasure. After a while he untied her ankles and knelt between her legs and opened his fly.
"Yeah, I never have rape on the first date with a barbarian. And it's also a bad time of the month. But if you help me kneel I have another orifice you can penetrate." She licked her lips.
* * *
Once the 'battle' was over Derek looked for Ella. He quickly spotted her and took up the chase. She shrieked and ran towards the audience. Derek quickly caught up and tackled her to the ground. She landed face down in the dirt and Derek kept her there by sitting on her thighs. He grabbed her hands and pulled them together. The rope loop was in place on his left arm. Ella didn't resist, so it took Derek less than a minute to tightened the loop of rope around her wrists and cinch it. He turned and used his other piece of rope to bind her ankles. Derek stood and pulled Ella to her feet, then put her over his right shoulder, holding her in place with his arm across her thighs. He replaced his shield on his left arm and strode along the fence, giving the spectators a clear view of his helpless captive and the ropes binding her. Ella's long blonde hair fell free and brushed the top of Derek's boots as she squirmed ineffectually. There were a lot of (male) cheers from the crowd.
Ella had helped Derek practice his rope work, so she wasn't surprised by having her hands tied, but she was surprised when he tackled her. But she soon got back into her captive maiden persona, and started to scream and struggle as Derek turned away from the fence and moved back among the village huts. He ducked through a burlap door covering and dumped her onto the floor of a hut. Ella still struggled against the ropes binding her wrists and ankles and screamed until Derek lay beside her and blocked her mouth with a kiss.
When there was a pause in the kissing Derek gloated, "So, English girl, now you will find what it's like to be taken by a real man, a Norseman. Unless you can be ransomed. If so, your virginity is safe, for now."
Ella giggled. She hadn't been a virgin for a long time. She recognized this as a chance for an opt-out, but she was panting, and not just because of the effort she put into struggling. An easy decision. "Alas, I am only a poor peasant girl," she said in a theatrical voice. "You'll get no ransom for me, you Viking devil! Do your worst! You may violate my body, but my soul will be untouched!"
Derek pretended to think about it, then answered, "I'll settle for that."
He unlaced Ella's bodice and exposed her breasts. He stroked her rock-hard nipples and she moaned. "We aren't going to be interrupted, are we?" she asked in her normal voice.
"No, I dropped my shield outside the door. That's the 'do not disturb' sign. Now, where were we?" Derek kissed her again, and then paused to untie Ella's ankles. He lifted her bottom off the ground so he could pull up her dress and bunch it around her waist. She wasn't wearing underwear. Derek moved beside her and cupped her mound with his right hand while his left hand kneaded her breasts.
Ella moaned and writhed. She struggled to free her hands and found her arousal was more than she had ever experienced. When Derek's finger penetrated her and caressed her clit she gasped, "Yes! Yes! Now!"
Derek paused only long enough to roll on a condom before he climbed between Ella's legs. She wrapped her legs around his waist, and as soon as he entered her she exploded with a massive orgasm. She had another before Derek had his own climax.
Once she got her breath back Ella asked, "Time for another?"
Before Derek could answer a horn sounded. "Nope, that's the recall signal. Time to get on the boat." He stood up and fastened his trousers, then helped Ella to her feet. He re-laced her bodice and brushed the dirt off her bottom before he lowered her dress. Instead of replacing the rope on Ella's ankles he tied one end of it around her neck. "Come along, wench", he said, tugging on the leash. "Scandinavia beckons."
Derek led Ella out of the hut. While he retrieved his shield she looked around the village. The four huts in the front row were engulfed in flames. The spotlights had been turned off so the fires and the fading twilight provided all of the light. Vikings were boarding the longship, which was now equipped with a gangplank. Some of the men had bound women on their shoulders, and others had their captives on a leash. Ella wondered if this had any correlation with events that might have recently taken place in the huts. She noticed Ragnar standing near the land end of the gangplank. He held the leashes of three women in his hand. Then she was pulled away from the hut. She resisted for a moment, suddenly balking at appearing in front of the crowd in her present state, but Derek yanked on the rope and she stumbled forward. She fought the rope on her wrists and felt a wave of heat between her legs. 'Damn,' she thought, 'can't we wait in the hut for the next boat?'
* * *
Several weeks later Tom, Derek, Ella, and Hannah were in a pub near the center of Whitby. It was a clear but cool Tuesday night. Derek looked at his watch. "Where is Di? She said she'd meet us here at eight, and it's almost nine."
Hannah said, "She told me she might be late. She was re-running her calculations, trying to get an exact time and place for the Viking's appearance."
Ella asked, "Does anyone know where this 'landing' is supposed to take place?"
Tom answered, "Di gave me the approximate latitude and longitude, but the coordinates pointed to a location nearly a mile out to sea."
"Di says that's because of the changes in the coastline," Hannah explained. "She said she'll have a corrected location with her that will align with the present beach."
"That's hopeful. I've got a GPS navigator in my car, so if she has calculated the landing location we can find the spot on the beach, if it is on the beach and not in the middle of York, or somewhere inaccessible."
Derek asked, "You saw Di's 'proof', Hannah. Do you really, really believe in these ghost Vikings?"
"No, I'm afraid she's deluding herself. All of her medieval documents have vague references to mysterious ships, but nothing that could be considered conclusive. But she didn't show me everything she had. She was very secretive about some of the evidence."
Ella said, "The last raid was supposed to have happened in 1779. Surely there would be some surviving records from then."
"Actually, there is a record of a raid on a fishing village near here at that time. It was burned and some women disappeared, but most historians believe an American privateer was responsible."
Derek said, "Let's let the girls in on the secret, Tom. They're just as skeptical as we are."
Ella asked, "What secret?"
Tom replied, "I asked Ragnar to sail his ship up here. He agreed, and should be in position by now. Di's 'mystic Vikings' will appear right on schedule."
Ella laughed, "That's cruel, Tom. But very funny."
"I don't want to ridicule Diana," Hannah protested. "We could lose her friendship over this."
Derek said, "It's for her own good, Hannah. If word of Di's delusion gets spread around in university circles it will kill any chance of her having an academic career. We're actually doing her a favor, and she will realize it once she gets over the shock."
Hannah still wasn't convinced, but before she could protest further Diana entered the pub and joined them. "Sorry I'm late. Making the calculations took longer than I expected."
Tom asked, "Do you have a beach location now, Di?"
"Yes, and it's not too far from here. We just drive south on A171 and then take a side road over to the beach. We'd better get moving. The Vikings will appear soon, and we want to be in place long before they arrive."
"All right. It'll be cramped, but we can all fit in my car."
They left the pub and climbed into Tom's battered Mondeo. Diana gave her coordinates to Tom and he entered them into his GPS navigator. Diana didn't notice Derek texting the corrected coordinates to Ragnar.
The highway part of the journey was uneventful, but Diana's 'side road' turned out to be a muddy track. After creeping along it for several miles Tom asked, "Are you sure this is the right road, Di?"
"Yes, but I thought it was in better condition. How far is it to the beach landing site?"
"Just under a mile to where the road joins the beach, and then a north a bit." The car lurched to a stop. "Damn! We're stuck." Tom tried unsuccessfully to drive out of the mud.
Everyone piled out of the car. Tom said, "Why don't you girls start walking to the beach? Derek and I will try to get the car out, and we'll join you as soon as we can."
Diana agreed, "That's a good idea, Tom. But don't bring the car much closer to the beach. The Vikings might be frightened off by the headlamps. Remember, they're still living in a ninth century world."
Derek muttered, "And what world are you living in, Di?", but luckily she didn't hear him.
The moon was just past full and provided plenty of light for the women as they walked down the track to the beach. Diana stopped them about fifty meters from the water. She muttered, "Let's find a place to hide in these dunes. We'll have a good view for quite a ways up and down the beach."
The women sprawled in the sand behind a low dune. Ella said, "I'm glad there's not much wind, Di. This could be really uncomfortable if there was."
"Yes, and the surf is unusually calm. According to my records, these conditions are always present when the Vikings appear."
Hannah said, "The records also say there's a fogbank, with the Viking ships appearing out of the mist. I don't see much fog, and the horizon is clearly visible except for a few spots. Do you think this will keep the Vikings away?"
Di shrugged. "I don't know. It's possible. Or it may be that the Viking ships cause the mist. All we can do is wait and see."
Ella exclaimed, "Where did that come from? I thought it was clear just a moment ago." She pointed to a small patch of fog close to the beach. As the women watched a longship sailed out of the mist and grounded on the sand.
Ella sat up to get a better view as a dozen or so men jumped off the ship and waded ashore. Diana hissed, "Get down, Ella! Don't let them see you!"
"Take it easy, Di. I just want to see what's happening. That man in front of the boat looks like Ragnar, doesn't he?"
Hannah also sat up. "You may be right, Ella. He does look like Ragnar, but I can't be sure in this dim light."
"Let's say hello."
"I don't think that's a good idea, Ella. Ragnar frightens me sometimes. We should wait for Tom and Derek."
"Oh, you're imagining things, Hannah. He just likes to play at being a Viking." Ella walked towards the men on the beach. Hannah reluctantly followed her.
Diana was very frightened. She didn't think the man was Ragnar, and the ship looked different, too. She crawled away, keeping the dune between herself and the men.
A man shouted something in a foreign language, and Hannah replied. There were more shouts from the men, and then many loud shrieks from Ella and Hannah.
Diana risked a look back and saw one of the men pick up Hannah and sling her over his shoulder. Her hands were tied behind her back and cords bound her knees and ankles. Ella was face-down in the sand with another man crouching over her, and then her bound body was also picked up and draped over the shoulder of her captor. She was loudly protesting, and the man holding her swatted her bottom. The other men laughed as Ella was hit again. Diana took advantage of the distraction to stand and run up the track.
After running several hundred meters Diana met Tom and Derek walking towards the beach. She hugged Tom and gasped for breath. She was exhausted, and tears were streaming down her face.
Derek asked, "What's wrong, Di?"
"The Vikings, they appeared just as I said! They captured Hannah and Ella." She looked back towards the beach. "We can't stay here! If they saw me they may be coming this way!" She tried to run, but Tom held her.
"Don't panic, Di! There's no danger."
"How can you say that! Vikings are barbarians! They'll kill you two and carry me away to a life of slavery! We've got to run!"
Derek said, "She's really upset, Tom. You'd better tell her."
"Tell me what?"
"I arranged with Ragnar to have him sail the Viking Society ship up here." He tightened his arms around the now furious Diana. "It was for your own good, Di! If word of your delusion got around the university you'd be a laughing stock. What you saw was Ragnar's ship. There are no mystic Vikings."
Diana started to cry. "You mean all my research was wasted? I can't believe it! I don't want to believe it!"
Tom patted her on the back. "It's better that you find this out now, rather than before an audience at the university. You'll get over it." He loosened his grip once he was sure that Diana wasn't going to be violent. "Let's walk to the beach and meet Ragnar and his crew. Don't worry, Di, they just 'captured' Ella and Hannah as a joke. Ragnar's a notorious practical joker."
Derek grabbed his arm and stopped him. "Wait a minute. I just got a text message from Ragnar. The wind was bad and he had to turn back. He says his ship is at Hornwick."
Copyright © 2009 by Zack. I welcome your comments. Email me at zack_writerAthotmail.com