The Canticle

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The warm late summer breeze meets her face as Freya stands on the edge of the cliff; her eyes closed, enjoying the feeling. Her home of the Shetland Islands main isle was beautiful in summer and she loved to spend her days like this; walking with her best, and most trusted, friend Eska.
“Your father will kill me if he knows I let you that close to the edge, Lass.” There is an edge of fear in the young man’s voice and Freya turns her green eyes on her friend, seeing his slightly taller frame standing with his arms crossed over his bare muscular chest. She just gives him a smile and shakes her head, turning her face back out to the sea and watching the waves crash into the grey stone of the cliffs.
Her father was always over protective of her, but even more so since she was twelve and her mother died of the fever. That was twelve summers ago, and Freya was still working on getting her freedom from her Chief father, Ivan the Good, and her five older brothers. The thought of her mother and brothers makes her frown and her outstretched arms fall to her sides, swishing in her already dirty, simple brown dress with her favorite green apron holding in the young apples she had gathered.
Two of her brothers, Folkvar and Hoakon, helped her father rule the main isle with little villages of their own posted on the northern and southern points while the other three brothers, Lund, Rune, and Arik, held posts on two of the out skirting islands; a first line in defense if they should be attacked. Their islands have been peaceful since before Freya was born, and since her mother’s death, her father has let priests from the east introduce Christianity to his people; mingling the teaching with those of their traditional Gods.
She takes a long look out over the waves, taking in the salty smell and the everlasting call of the seagulls, smiling to herself as she turns to her friend. “My father will be fine because what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him, right Eska?” She smiles, lightly slapping him on the shoulder as his brown eyes track her movement past him.
Being a son of former slaves in England, Eska was only a toddler when Ivan had taken his parents from their home and brought them back here on the last of his raiding trips. He carries the slight Scottish accent that his parents passed down to him, along with the blonde hair from his mother. As he smiles and shakes his head, following his friend as she walks down the path away from the cliff, he takes in her scent as the wind blows it slowly to him.
Being of lower birth, Eska should not love her, but he does. He has loved her since the day he first saw her cuddled in a bear skin playing with a doll in the great hall, at her father’s feet. They have been inseparable since. His parents have told him numerous times to move on and marry a girl of his own status; a nice farmer girl- one from the village. But, he doesn’t want any of the plump, already deflowered girls. He wants the petite, yet curvy, strong willed, reddish-brown haired daughter of the Chief and has asked Ivan for her hand in marriage twice over, being turned down apologetically each time.
“I’m sorry, Son, but she is not ready to be married. Her soul still sails in the wind and roams the waves,” Ivan had told him both times, his massive worn hand on Eska’s shoulder, squeezing it lovingly like a father. He has treated Eska’s family well, giving them a home and throwing work at his father when they needed the help. Ivan is a good leader, but Eska wishes that he would see that he too, could be a great man and husband to his daughter.
“Eska!” The urgent sound of his name brings him from his musing and mindless following of the one who holds his heart, and he casts his brown eyes up, his chin length blonde hair sweeping across his eyes as he finds Freya standing on her tip toes, looking over the edge of a stone wall.
“What is it, Lass?” He asks, coming to stand at her side and seeing her eyes cast out over the waves once more. Yellow and blue striped sails catch his eye and he sees the longboats docked on their beach with men mingling around them. His eyes narrow and his ears strain, trying to hear what they are laughing at, but the wind carries it away.
“My father didn’t say anything about expecting a landing today?” Freya questioned as a slight fear settled in her heart. The men on the beach had swords at their waists and battle axes strapped on their backs. Their shields lined the sides of their boats, four boats in total, and as they unloaded supplies onto the stony beach of her home, her heart stuttered.

She turns her green eyes to her friend, her long hair blowing across her face as she sees Eska’s head shake. That was the only sign she needed; pushing herself from the stone wall as the fear and adrenaline mixed in her veins, sending her heart racing. Her legs propel her forward as she picks up her dress, not wanting to trip as she runs down the worn cart path.

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