THE SUMMER SIEGE: BLURB
They’ve arrived. Ten thousand Norsemen, encircling the fort where Tamsin grew up.
Up there, behind those high walls, hundreds of Vanirdotur huddle together to keep safe from the enemy.
So the Viking occupation begins. Norse voices rise into the air as Gofraid’s army settles in for the long haul, forming a siege camp full of thousands of cursed men.
Tamsin and her Dubliners must scheme to break the siege apart. It seems impossible; she is just one Vanirdottir amidst this roiling mass of warriors. And her Dubliners are few. But there is nothing quite like the stuffy intimacy of a siege camp to grow close to the men around you.
She learns much more about the men who are fated to her. She learns why Ivar wears runes upon his skin… and how his deep knowledge of Freya’s teachings could benefit them all, if he could only set aside the pain of his past and his own obstinate attitude.
Because in the end, when faced with such staggering obstacles, the only thing they can truly rely on is each other.
“Tamsin,” Rhun says, “Tamsin, you have to breathe.”
My lungs are on fire. I want to step out of my body. I want to sink into the floor. Become wood. Is that not what Thrain’s legends say? That the Vanirdotur all turned into trees? At least we’d be more difficult to break, then.
THE SUMMER SIEGE is a historical fantasy book that is loosely based on real historical events. It is the 3rd tome of a 6-book saga, slow-burn with Reverse Harem romance and omegaverse dynamics. Though there are recaps of previous events, it is not meant to be read as a standalone. This novel contains graphic depictions of violence, and sexually explicit scenes.
(as of Dec 2022)
Editing: Act 1 (out of 3)
Waning Moon of June
My axe weighs heavy in my right hand. I’m sweating on the leather-bound grip, eyes on the sails ahead of me.
We’re turning into the mouth of the river Clyde. All around us, teeming green countryside parts for us, deceptively welcoming. It’s a bright, changing day; shafts of sunlight pierce through the clouds, illuminating spots of the river, and the country we’re poised to ravage.
I can feel Tamsin in the hold of my ship. She’s in my head, in my body. It is utter strangeness to feel the pair-bond now, on the cusp of battle. Her heartbeat dictates mine; her breath exits my lips. The fear that thrums in my lower belly has to be hers; it weighs heavy as lead, whereas my anticipation of battle has always been like the sparks of a fire, light and dizzying.
How does one push out an influence like that? Last time we had controlled the pair-bond, we had been bent together, skin against skin. Now I’m facing only open air, and she’s huddled in the darkness below, scared out of her mind.
I close my eyes. Get out. I try to throw the intention at her, frowning. Get out. Please.
No one has accosted us from the clifftops. For a while, we simply glided along as though in a dream. We manoeuvred in the large mouth of the Clyde, reordering the fleet. As per King Gofraid’s orders, Ivar, Olaf and I are leading the entire fleet now; we will have to sail the furthest to launch our pincer attack.
We see them before long. Two stone towers on either bank of the river. Both stand on rocky heels of land; both undoubtedly defended. Spiked wooden walls surround each tower, several stories high. It’s an easy guess that archers await within.
We were warned that the Britons have a deadly range with their longbows. Squinting ahead, I can see another pair of towers a little way ahead.
No matter. They cannot force us ashore even if they shoot at us from there. We’ll sail past these and absorb their attacks easily.
“SHIELDS!” Ivar yells – Olaf and I repeat it, and those behind us arm themselves accordingly.
Fear spikes in my gut as I lift my shield. Not my fear; Tamsin must’ve heard the cry.
Eyes on the towers, I encourage those men who are still rowing, protected by our shields. Anticipation makes the air feel cooler against my skin, as though I could feel every particle of spray from the ship’s backwash.
There are archers in those towers. No doubt about it.
But they aren’t attacking us at all.
We sail past. I glance across the waters to Ivar, whose eyes are still on the towers. Then to Olaf, who seems to be thinking on his feet, puzzling out whatever trap this might be.
We let the wind and waves carry us until maybe a dozen of our ships are sailing three-by-three between both checkpoints.
And then a sound unlike any I have ever heard rends the silence.
A metallic chug-chug-chug resounds all around us. It seems to be coming from the water. I stride to the prow, check overboard – could it be that they kept some sordid river creature beneath these waves, in this land of legends?
Then I realise the sound is above water, too; it’s the cranking of large metallic wheels, dragging something up from the water.
Ahead, the waves begin to froth. And a chain, thick and black as the Midgard serpent, rises up from them. It lifts and grows taut, hovering horizontally above the water, barring the way forward for any ship.
And we’re heading straight for it.
At the speed we’re going, surely it’ll bite into our hulls like the jaws of the great snake.
“HALT!” I yell, and I hear my brothers do the same. “HAAALT!”
The rowers lift up their oars, the men sheet in the sails. We’re so close to the chains, and my Dàlriadan ship is higher than the longboats – I grab the rudder and yank it with all my might, trying to heave the ship around.
Tamsin, I think desperately, unable to stop myself – if our hull is breached, she and Rhun will have to scramble onto the deck. Into danger.
The awareness of her floods my body, like she’s pressed herself against my back. She’s reaching out to me – the exact opposite of the suppressing I had asked her to do.
Get off, my darling, my love, hold onto the rails, get out of my head – the thoughts tumble senselessly, I want her off this ship, out of this situation, I want her safe, but the chain is looming and we’re skidding on our sides through the waves, slowly, slowly –
Zzzzzip. The air steadily fills with hissing, like many birds of prey screeching at once as they dive. I don’t have to look up to recognise what’s making that sound.
Arrows. A thick black hail of them, darkening the sky.
Anyone who’d lowered their shields raises them again. I do the same, glancing over my shoulder. Behind the dozen ships, the first pair of towers has lifted their own thick chain too, barring the way to the rest of the fleet.
We’re caught in their trap.
Thunk thunk thunk – arrows hit wood, cries of pain resound as some hit true. But I barely have the time to ascertain whether any of my men had been hit. A sickening crunch of wood crackles in the air, stopping my heart and pulling my gaze around again.
Ivar. Ivar was further ahead than us.
Ivar’s ship meets the chain, side-on. The metal links chafe over the side, making it rock dangerously. Then the chain snaps the many taut hemp ropes of his sail, so that the great yardarm groans and twists out of place.
“IVAR!” I shout, dread pulling at my insides. The large red sail is falling, yawning over the whole ship like a great red mouth. Ivar yells to his men to rush to the prow while the sail engulfs almost all of the deck.
It happens too fast; men are caught in whipping ropes, under the large red square of wool. They don’t have many options; he and his men could take to the water, but if they do, they’d be completely at the mercy of the Britons’ arrows.
With the chaos of the fallen sail, they already are.
Olaf and I drag our ships to a halt just in the nick of time. The chain does nothing more than caress the sides of our ships. With the way we’re positioned, I can row closer to Ivar and grab his men, though it’ll be a squeeze to haul them all aboard.
“TAKE THE SOUTHERN TOWER!” I yell across the waves to Olaf. Ivar and I can take the northern tower once I haul him out of his battered ship.
Olaf separates from me, manoeuvring his ship around. He yells to encourage those that had halted behind him to follow him ashore. I do the same – the Cathalain are behind me, as are a few Southern Isle warbands. I command them to go ashore while I see to Ivar.
These chains make a deadly trap. I’ve never seen anything like them. I want nothing more than to work out how the Britons operate them, how the chains are connected to the towers – this is brutal warcraft, a technology that would be vital to learn.
But in order to learn it, we have to get out of this trap alive.
Arrows pelt us, such a large number that they fall like forests from the sky. Blood is spattered across Ivar’s deck; he’s grouped with his men, holding shields above the injured as they’re dragged from under the red wool. His pale face is turned toward me.
They’d have to shove away the entire sail to be able to row ashore. And there’s no time for that.
My ship brushes past his, close enough to jump from one deck to the other. He commands his men to go, all of them, some hauling the injured along. He stays behind until the last of them has jumped aboard my ship – I’m almost past him by that point.
I stand at my stern, holding out my hand, eyes on my brother as he runs to his prow, shield over his head.
“Come on, come on,” I urge him – I won’t lose him, I will not lose him – he jumps, limber as a black cat, and his feet slam down on my deck. He grasps my arm for balance, our shields knocking together as I gather him against me.
“Fuck me,” he swears. “What in the name of Odin’s balls –”
He goes on cursing and I laugh out of sheer relief, relishing his body heat against mine, the strength of his grip. He’s fine; he’s fine.
We’re nearing the shore now, keeping a steady pace as there is only that rocky beach to receive us. It’ll be rough on the ships, but there is no other choice.
We have to storm that tower. And hope that the chain mechanism can be undone swiftly enough for us to regain our ships without suffering whatever counterattack the Britons have prepared. There’s neither infantry nor calvary in sight – but the dense copses of trees all around us offer ample hiding places for an ambush party.
As the shore comes closer, Ivar and I stare up at the stone tower and its many arrow slits. Its extra wooden fortifications add ground for archers to pelt us from.
“We’ll see what kind of mechanism it is,” I tell him, “once we get in there.”
Ivar glances down at the deck under our feet. Then he looks at me, eyebrow cocked.
“We’re just going to leave them in the hold while we attack?” he asks.
I breathe out, anxiety kicking up in my chest. His words throw an image of Tamsin into my mind, huddled with Rhun, holding hands, and it’s as though he had pushed me through the bond right into her arms.
She’s sick with worry. Can’t breathe. It’s her kin we’re about to meet in that tower. Briton blood we’re about to spill.
I can only hope she feels nothing of this bloodlust I’m holding, this need to keep my men safe, to keep my brothers safe. To slaughter the enemy until the danger is passed – it is the mindset of war.
No. Of course she feels it. She must feel it burning in her body, this anticipation of sinking sharp metal into flesh.
I shake my head as though I could physically shake her off, though I know it’s futile.
“We have no other choice,” I say.