The Smithy's Daughter
By Major James Fairfax
Illustrated by: X-GIRL
CHAPTER - 1
Olaf the Tall and the Northmen warriors sailed their vessel northward up the Volga River. TheNorthmen were by their own account the best sailors in the world and there was much love of theoceans and waters in their demeanor during this journey. They beached the ship and each warriorin the boat dressed in the armaments of battle, which were thus: first, boots and leggings of roughwool, and over this a coat of heavy fur, which reached to the knees. Over this they placed coats ofmail. Then each man took his sword and clasped it to his belt; each man took up a white shield ofhide, and his spear, each man placed a helmet of metal upon his head.The clanking of swords and the clatter of mail raised a goodly noise as the warriors disembarkedthe ship and set out to plunder the village. Olaf had been to this place three years earlier. All that wouldhave made that trip a perfect encounter would have been if he had taken the smith's daughter Elspethfor his own, a rare beauty with flaming hair and eyes of amber. But that had been a trading visit and onedoes not steal women especially free women on such visits. But he had dreamed of her often during thethree years he had been away.But this time he and the Northmen were intent on taking what they desired and killing anyone whostood in their path. He might well take the lady Elspeth this time while his fellow warriors took any prettygirl who caught their fancy. They would fetch plenty in the slave markets and make merriment for themin the mean time. But Olaf wanted none of this. He wanted the lady Elspeth for his own.
CHAPTER - 2
The night was warm, and Elspeth slept naked under a light blanket. The odor of flowers mixedwith the smells of animals and smoke from the forges in the Smithy. This was the same room whereher father and mother had died three weeks ago. Sleeping here comforted her somehow in the sadnessof her loss.As if things could be no worse, last week her uncle Harold had come to run the smithy. He was notas skilled as her father and constantly complained. He insisted Elspeth sell the business to him for afraction of it’s worth. When she refused he became furious. He had sworn to get even with her.But tonight she refused to dwell on her problems. Tomorrow was Sunday and a priest would be at thechurch and she planned to take communion at the mass.
Suddenly, the bedroom door burst open and armed men, with torches, swarmed into the room. In spiteof her screams of protest, they dragged her naked and screaming out into the yard of the smithy. Coals inthe forges still glowed a faint red. In the torch light she counted ten men. She knew them all. They werefriends of her father’s. Her uncle Harold was one of them.The Sheriff nodded. “String her up.”The deputies drug Elspeth across the ground and tied ropes around each of her wrist and tossed theropes over a rafter. She screamed as her feet were jerked off of the dirt floor. The pain in her shoulderswas horrible. She hung there whimpering staring down at her feet, six inches off of the floor."Why do you treating me so?" She sobbed.
"You have been accused of murdering your Father and Mother with witchcraft.""Who would make such an accusation?"The Sheriff‘s eyes glanced quickly to her uncle Harold then back at Elspeth. "It is not for me to say.I only carry out my orders.”“What will happen to me?”Come morning's light you will be examined and if found guilty, you will be turned over to me andburned at the stake." He turned and left her hanging in her agony.Her shoulders cramped from her tortured position. She tried to grip the rope and life herself up – itwas no good. As she hung helplessly, her shoulders hurting with her tortured position, her thoughts raced.It must be terrible to die by burning, she thought. She had seen an execution once.Last spring, the Sheriff had tortured Laura Medina, her best friend and forced her confess she was awitch. Afterward, they set a wooden stake in front of the church in a hole cut in the rock. Laura’s executionhad been horrible. The Sheriff’s deputies chained her to the stake then stripped her naked. While all the peoplein the village watched. Then the deputies piled faggots and straw around her legs. The priest made a shortspeech about the act of faith and how they could not suffer a witch to live. Then the bailiff set fire to the strawand the flames leapt up. For a short while, hardly longer than it takes to tell of it, Laura screamed. The flamesworked fast searing her skin. Soon she hung limp in silence as the flames consumed her. Then the people wentinside and the priest celebrated the mass. Elspeth ran home crying her heart out.Now, the Lady Elspeth sobbed again as she hung in agony by her wrist from the rafter of her father’ssmithy knowing the same fate awaited her.CHAPTER - 3At day break, the Holy Father came, dressed in his priestly robes. With him came the sheriff and fourdeputies. He unrolled a parchment read. "Lady Elspeth you are accused of bewitching your father and motherand murdering with your magic, of having flown through the air to a witches' sabot and of having sexual congresswith the devil. How do you plead?""I am not guilty of these awful things.”"We shall see. I have ordered the Sheriff to examine you, if you are virgin; you are innocent for all witcheshave carnal knowledge of the devil. If you are not a virgin, the good Sheriff will examine you for the devil's mark.“What is the Devil’s mark Holy Father?”“It is a place which feels no pain when pierced. “Then one of the men came running out of her house screaming. "See here!" He held a broom and a smallclay jar.The sheriff sniffed the broom and jar."It is but an herbal balm, to ease the healing of wounds. It is not witchcraft." Cried Elspeth."You lie. It is the flying ointment. Witches spread it on the end of their broomstick and place theointment between their thighs, rubbing it in with the stick. So they can fly. We need no more evidence of yourwitchcraft." He went to the forge and worked the bellows until the coals glowed in the fire basket, then put along needle into the fire. Then he picked it up and held it close to Elspeth’s face. "We still need to examine youfor the devil's mark.”Then, he jabbed the needle into her breasts. She screamed and jerked in agony each time he jabbed herwith the hot needle. He moved down her belly and around each thigh leaving tiny bleeding holes. Then heexplored her back and butt. She was nauseous with the agony of the inspection. He noticed a small round moleon her left butt cheek and jabbed it with the needle. This time the pain was too much and she fainted. Thesheriff withdrew the needle and nodded. There was no need to look further the witch had felt no pain in that spot.“The evidence is clear Holy Father, the accused is a witch. Here is her broom and flying ointment. Myexamination shows no sign of virginity, and she bears the devil's mark."The Father nodded. "But, for the sake of her soul she must confess. Show her the instruments of torture.If that does not result in confession, use them to produce the truth.” Then he left to prepare a written confessionfor Elspeth to sign, if the witch could not write then she need only to make her mark.CHAPTER - 4The Sheriff turned to Elspeth. "Are you ready to confess?""Why do you demand that I confess to a lie?” Elspeth replied. “I am innocent.”"The priest demands a confession—and I will have it of you.” He nodded to his deputies and ordered Elspeth’sankles tied together and her legs pulled up even with her arms.Tears flowed down her cheeks as two of the deputies pulled on the free end of the rope hoisting her legs up.They forced Elspeth's head back and tied her hair to a large rock. Then poked tiny pieces of cloth into her nostrils.When her mouth flew open for breath they forced a hollow wooden pear into her mouth.As the Sheriff turned the screw the jaws of the device opened forcing her jaws open wide so every breathmust come through a small hole in the middle of the pear."This is your last chance to confess, witch.”“I am innocent.” Elspeth wheezed through the tiny hole.“Then take a deep breath." He said and poured water into her mouth around the wooden pear.Elspeth jerked. Her breasts heaved. Desperately, she swallowed water until she could breathe again. But assoon as she gasped for air, the Sheriff tilted the bucket filling her mouth with water again, forcing her to swallow thewater or drown. This continued until he had poured most of the bucket into her, and her stomach bulged. Shestruggled to breathe.Will you now confess?""I confess," Elspeth screamed."Do you confess to witchcraft, to sexual congress with the devil, and to participation in the murder of yourfather by your mother?""Please. No More! I confess!"CHAPTER - 5Olaf and the other warriors had captured a fine vessel which, it seemed, belonged to a visiting Priest.That meant there would be armed soldiers in the village, but Vikings loved a fight. The first dwelling theytook contained only foodstuff. They spared the family. The second family they also spared. It was theViking way to kill only when necessary. Besides they wanted the site to breed more slave women for latervisits.He was surprised to find the smith's house empty. He left two of the North men to take the anvil andother tools to their ship while he and the other warriors set out for the church. Surely there was something ofvalue there, a golden chalice or perhaps a jewel encrusted book.A break in the clouds allowed moonlight to illuminate the village. And there in front of the church Olafand the other Vikings saw the outline of a woman. As they came closer, they saw that the woman was nakedand chained to a wooden post. Olaf recognized her at once and his heart froze. It was the lady Elspeth,more beautiful than she had even been in any of the countless dreams he had had of her over the past threeyears. She was naked, her hair half covering her breasts. "Lady Elspeth," he said softly, "what is the meaningof this?""Who are you?” She asked weakly.“I am Olaf the Tall of the Northmen. I met you three years ago in the house of your father.” He took offhis coat of fir and draping it over her nakedness. “Why are you here thusly?”“I am to be burnt as a witch at dawn."“Indeed, and are you a witch?”“I am innocent.” Tears spilled down her cheeks. "Please, help me.”He touched her chin gently lifting her head and looked into her eyes. “And if you were a witch doyou think it would matter to me or any other Northman? Who did this to you?”“My Uncle Harold betrayed me and the Sheriff and his deputies and the Priest”He groped in the dark and felt the chain around her. Heavy Iron manacles were clamped around herwrist and ankles. They attached to the chain which was wrapped tight around her middle holding herto the post. The chain was anchored to the post with an iron staple. Olaf cursed. “I can onlypartially free you here my Lady Elspeth.”Then he wrapped his massive arms around her legs and grunted. Straining he lifted the stake from itssocket in the rock. Two Vikings came and helped him lower her gently to the ground. "Take her to theship, use the Smithy’s tools to remove the chain and manacles. Send slave girls to bring her food and wineand cloth her in the finest silk." he said.“My hero.” Was all the Lady Elspeth could say before she fainted.Olaf turned in anger. “Find the Sheriff and his deputies, this Priest and the Uncle and bring me their heads.Do not return to the ship until this deed is done! I wait for you there.” With that he turned and hurried to catch upwith the other Northmen who were gently carrying the Lady Elspeth. He saw that she was conscious again. Shesmiled. “My hero"Most of the time the Gods were cruel. They drown good men at sea and allowed the bravest warrior to be slainin battle. But once in a long while for whatever reason they smile down from the heavens and allow a good thing tohappen. Olaf knew this was one of those rare moments.
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