It was said that the man who could look into Silvi Ivarsdottir's eyes would be meant for her. Powerful jarl Magnus Sigrundson knows he is that man, and that Silvi's dowry can give him the ships, swords, and silver he needs for his trading empire. Yet beautiful Silvi's dream is not to be a wife, but a Priestess of the gods for the great temple at Uppsala. Who dares interfere with such passion? The answer lies in Silvi herself, in the way her body awakens to Magnus' touch, in the way she inspires a reverence he didn't know he possessed-and in the battles she takes on when she journeys to his mountain home of Thorsfjell.
But soon a dangerous, deceitful enemy threatens to shatter. Now they face another quest: can they find each other again-and dare live and love in each other's worlds?
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Lord of the Mountains
By Sabrina Jarema
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2017 Sabrina Jarema
All rights reserved.
The village of Haardvik Hardangerfjorden, Hordaland, Norway 851 A.D.
The sound of steel on steel shattered the calm beauty of the early spring day.
Silvi Ivarsdottir paused, listening to the clash echoing through the trees and the mountains. She didn't need to reach out with her thoughts to know what was happening. The reason for the disruption was obvious. Her brother's weeklong wedding celebrations were still going on in the village, so beer and weapons were inevitable. Anticipated, in fact. It was what men did best.
The sound of combat didn't come from the village. She tilted her head, seeking the source of the disturbance. Her breath stilled. They wouldn't dare. It came from the place where the gods walked, the sacred grove. No one brought weapons there, the same as in the great temples. It was sacrilege.
Her stomach twisting, she rushed toward the clearing. She didn't fear facing down warriors. Rather, they should fear her. After all, she'd had the gods on her side since birth. She would defend and honor them until she went to Freya's hall in the afterlife.
She burst into the clearing and skidded to a stop. Two men circled each other. They were bare to the waist. Their long, dark hair swirled around their broad shoulders as they came together in an explosion of steel and sparks. They were both massive, men in their prime, fighting with all the skill that made their people so feared throughout the world. They moved with the masculine grace inborn to all the finest warriors as they surged through the clearing like water rushing in a river.
Her cousin Rorik laughed aloud as he swung, his black hair sweeping over his shoulders and down his chest. White teeth flashing, he smashed his shield against his opponent's arm, trapping his blade. Rorik thrust, but his blade met with air as the other man stepped to the side and brought his own shield up, deflecting the deadly edge.
He pressed Rorik back several steps with his wicked, fast sword strokes. His hair was so dark, it looked almost black, except for the deep golden lights in it. Moving with the skill of a predator, he surged forward, taking his advantage.
Her heart stuttered. As she watched them, her body heated, her breath quickening. Maybe it was only because she had just run a fair distance. The sun glanced off Magnus's sculpted arms as he swung his sword in a deadly arc. It smashed into the other blade with an explosion of sparks. She held her breath. If she called out, it could distract them. An instant's hesitation might mean death to one of them. Her anger at the sacrilege was not worth the risk. She could do nothing but watch.
Rorik disengaged, then hit Magnus's sword with his own, nearly knocking it out of his hand. He shook his black hair from his face and laughed as he brought his sword around for another blow. Magnus hit the ground, rolled, and came to his knees. He swept his shield horizontally, aiming for Rorik's legs. Rorik leaped over it with a yell, and before he landed, Magnus was on his feet. He struck Rorik with his shield and knocked him onto his back.
It wasn't over yet, though. Rorik threw his shield, edge first. Magnus spun out of the way, arching his back as it knifed past him. It gave Rorik time to leap up and charge him. He drove Magnus back until he could grab his own shield and reposition it on his left arm.
They circled each other, grinning. Their bodies glistened with sweat. Rorik's stomach was rippled and flat. Magnus's was the same, save for a wicked, jagged scar crossing his lower abdomen. Both were slim hipped, broad shouldered, tall and powerful. But it was Magnus she watched. Rorik laughed and danced as he fought. Magnus stood solid, every move weighted and purposeful. His cuts were clean, direct, with no wasted energy or movement. His strength radiated from him like a storm rolling over the mountains.
She'd seen him in a vision before he'd come with her brother, Eirik, to set her village free of the marauders who had held them captive all winter. She'd tended his wounds, and while his blood flowed onto the ground, he'd stared at her as one thunderstruck. He'd continued to watch her through the following days. Now Eirik was married to Magnus's sister, Asa, so Magnus was family of sorts. She'd have to see him many times in the future. At least, until she went to live at the great temple at Uppsala. Then she would see no one at all.
She shook herself out of her reverie. This was wrong, that they should bring weapons into a sacred place. They were still feinting, no doubt resting for a final onslaught.
"Rorik." Her raised voice stopped him short and he jumped away from Magnus with a guilty wince. "How dare you fight in the grove, Rorik? Not even you could be that sacrilegious."
Instead of answering her, her cousin clapped Magnus on the shoulder and said, low, "Run. Now." He bounded into the shadow of the trees, leaving Magnus standing alone.
She started after him. "I heard that, Rorik. Get back here."
Magnus lifted his sword in a question. "Rorik, what are you doing?" He turned toward Silvi as she bore down on him. "We were just training a bit, Silvi. How could we know this was your grove?"
"It's the gods' grove, not mine. Rorik knows. He's been here before." She shot Magnus a glare. "As for you ... Don't you scent the breath of the gods here? Don't you feel their power in the very ground? Or has your dishonor chased them from here?"
"I scarcely think a little swordplay would frighten them from here. Perhaps they're away for the day, seeing to other matters." He sheathed his sword.
She bit the inside of her cheek to keep from cursing. "How can you be so irreverent? The gods will surely smite you for such talk."
He swallowed and looked away from her. "I've seen what comes of too much involvement with the gods. Even as Eirik stayed the winter with us in Thorsfjell, I saw how he was pulled between Odin and Thor, but he balanced them within him. I don't have that knowledge. I know only the steel of my blade and the silver of my coins."
"Thorsfjell, Thor's Mountain. Even your home bears his name, and yet, to you, it is just a name. The gods' power slides past you, never going more than skin deep. Instead of their voices, all you hear is the clink of coins." Her heart sank. Just as he had watched her this past week, so she had been aware of him. And her dreams at night ... But it could not be. She wasn't meant for the hearth, a husband, and children. And even if she were to follow that path, this irreverent warrior was not for her. They walked in two different worlds.
Her soul twisting, she tried to rush past him, but he caught her by the arm. A spark shot between them and she gasped. His eyes widened and he let her go.
"No man may touch me," she said. "I am meant for the gods. They saved me this past winter from the marauders."
"Then they know I pose no such threat to you, Silvi. Just understand that while you dream, enemies could overrun you, as Hakon and his outlaws did last winter."
"The runes will warn me."
"As they did then?"
She firmed her resolve. "The runes showed my mother and me that we'd know great change and loss. It was our own shortcoming preventing us from understanding what the gods tried to tell us."
"And yet, for all your efforts, the gods took your father, and so many of your warriors and people."
"My father was weakened from the wasting disease. He died in battle with a sword in his hand, as a warrior would want, instead of as a shell of a man wasting away on his sickbed. In that, the gods blessed him. At the moment of our births, the Norns decree when we each will die. No one, not even the gods themselves, can stop that. It was their time. In all else, the gods will provide."
"The gods favor the strong." His voice was sharp, like the honed edge of his blade. "Don't forget, the blood of warriors guards you. Silver gives you the privilege of food in your belly and a warm house in which to dream your dreams. All the gods do is watch us from Asgard in the same way we watch ants scurrying on the ground."
A shadow came over them as a cloud hid the sun. Were the gods displeased at his words? Silvi shook her head at his blindness. If he did not recognize the gods, as he should, how could they bless him? How could they smile on him if he didn't look up to see them? He was lost, like a ship at sea without a sail, and he didn't even know it. She raised her hand toward his arm, then dropped it to her side without touching him. "There's an imbalance in you, Magnus. The answer is not one thing or the other, but a mix of our world and that of the gods."
He gave her a gentle smile and looked into her eyes, something no man except her brother could do. "Then you should heed your own wisdom, Silvi. I know you want to go to Uppsala to become one of the priestesses there. Where's the balance in that? You shun the things of this world, seeking only the starlit realms. Your beauty will be wasted there among the men who dance like women. The strength I've seen in you these past days will thin into insipid chants and rituals." He lifted his hand to her cheek but didn't touch it. Yet she trembled as though he had. He stepped back and took a deep breath. "Perhaps you're right. I shouldn't be here. Not with the thoughts I have in my mind. Thor's bolt will find me if I remain here any longer."
She watched him as he strode out of the grove toward the village. He was strong, beautiful, deep, like the roots of his mountain. Crystals sparkled in his blue eyes, his hair was like the night caressing the slopes of his shoulders. The gods had been so pleased when they'd created him that they'd made another who looked like him — his twin brother, Leif. Leif was the breeze swirling up the sides of the mountains in the spring, light and free, to careen off the peaks and be gone, uncatchable.
Magnus bore the weight of that mountain. His people, his trading business, his world. He deserved a woman who could be a true wife to him, seeing to his people while he was gone, ruling over the household, warming his bed and bearing his children.
Her body clenched. He was everything any woman wanted in a husband. But she was not just any woman. She must keep remembering that.
* * *
"So how bad was it?" Rorik grinned at him.
"I'm not certain." Magnus sank down on a barrel in front of the longhouse with a sigh, running his hand through his damp hair. He'd kept in fighting condition during the winter, of course, and had defeated the outlaws who had attacked Thorsfjell. Then there had been the battle with Hakon and his men here at Haardvik. He wasn't quite as skilled with the sword as Rorik, even though they'd only been sparring. He'd be sore tomorrow, but it felt good. He glanced at the black-haired warrior.
Rorik sat on a fallen log with a giggling serving girl under each arm. They caressed his bare chest and arms, their hands drifting lower. He gave each of them a quick kiss. "Go about your duties or Eirik will have my head. Meet me tonight in my chamber. Both of you." As they sauntered away, laughing, one of them winked at Magnus. Rorik certainly worked fast.
"That's the way it usually is with Silvi," Rorik said. "I never know what she's talking about. Between her visions and those strange eyes of hers, I stay clear. I love my cousin, but I'm a simple man with simple ... tastes." He eyed another woman who walked past them.
"Aren't we all?"
"I tried to warn you to leave, but you were too slow." Rorik chuckled. "Or perhaps you meant to stay behind?"
Magnus kicked a small rock with the toe of his shoe. "It's obvious I find her beautiful." What man wouldn't? With her white-blond hair and eyes the color of a fine sword's blade, he'd felt shield-struck when he first saw her during the battle for Haardvik. Since then, he couldn't help but watch her, giving Leif much fodder for jokes. "She claims she's meant for the great temple at Uppsala. I need a woman who can run my village when I'm not there, bring me political connections, and give me a bit of wealth. I do well enough for my people, but we live a difficult life in the mountainous interior. We can't grow much for ourselves. Our summer is shorter than here on the coast, so we don't keep as many animals. We hunt for much of what we eat and have to import the rest. That's expensive."
"When Leif was at my village, he said your people spend all winter making textiles, jewelry, and carvings for you to take to the markets come spring. That's resourceful."
"It brings in what we need. Barely. Thorsfjell needs so much more." He stopped. Rorik didn't need to hear of his weaknesses. "I require a woman who is strong and self-sufficient. One who can guide my people, make judgments, run a household, and stand beside me in every way."
"All of which Silvi has been trained to do."
He blinked. "I thought she was going to be a priestess."
Rorik snorted. "That's what she wants. But Eirik said it will only happen if he's dead. Even their mother, Lifa, said she doesn't want that for Silvi — and she's a respected rune mistress herself, trained at the temple. Silvi knows about running a household, wielding power when the men are away raiding or trading, and keeping the accounts."
"Then why isn't she married yet? She's long past the age."
"Men can't look into her eyes, for one thing. She's too strange with her visions and knowledge of the other realms. Eirik has the right to make her marry, but those arrangements seldom turn out well. It's too easy for women to divorce their husbands if they're not happy. Apparently, Lifa had a vision long ago of Silvi at Uppsala, and my cousin has hung on to that as proof it's where she's meant to be. It's been a running argument for years between them. As to why she wants to be there so badly, that's something she'll have to tell you herself. I don't look too deeply into these things."
A familiar laugh drifted to them across the village. Near the well, Asa, Magnus's newly married sister, stood with a group of women, her red hair blazing in the spring sun. She stood taller and straighter than the others, but then, years of sword training made that so. Would she remain a shieldmaiden now that her life was here with Eirik? Or would she take the path of other women and settle for children and the hearth?
He shook his head. Not Asa. Not yet, anyhow. She had blossomed under Eirik's love, and was happy, finally. Eirik stood between her and her past, slaying anything that might threaten her, as he had killed Hakon, the nithingr who had brought such pain to them all. Magnus rubbed the scar on his stomach.
Rorik followed his gaze. "Ah yes. The gods finally smiled on Eirik. Your sister is as beautiful as my cousin. Yet, they could not be more different. One like a sword, the other a deep pond covered in thin ice. Both just as dangerous. After all, they are women." He stood. "We'd all like to see Silvi married and happy. Lifa always said that if any man can look into her daughter's eyes, he might be the one for her. My aunt, like others who walk with the gods, often says such things. I prefer to speak plainly, with my sword."
Another woman glanced over her shoulder at him as she passed. He chuckled. "Both my swords. I'll see you at the evening meal." He followed her toward a small house, calling back, "Perhaps."
Magnus looked at Asa as she talked with the other women. Eirik snuck up behind her, grabbed her, and flung her over his shoulder. She shrieked and pounded on his back in mock outrage as everyone in the yard called out encouragement to the new bridegroom. With Asa's propensity for weapons, he might need it. Her throaty laugh floated on the air as Eirik carried her into the longhouse where their private chamber was.
With the wedding festivities ending tomorrow, Magnus would head back to Thorsfjell soon. He had goods ready for the market and had to return. Without his sister. He, Leif, and Asa had been together so long, having only each other, that he couldn't imagine her not being there. But this was best for her, and even for him and their people.
Asa's bride-price had brought in a great deal of gold. Enough, perhaps, to set aside some to purchase another knörr. The merchant ships were slow, meant to hold a large amount of cargo. He gazed out over the fjord cliff to where Rorik's vast fleet of beautiful, sleek warships lay anchored near the narrow beach. If only he could afford a longship. Then he could outrun the pirates who threatened all on the seas. In the past, he could do no more than stand and fight. And he had. Between Leif, Asa, and him, they had held their own, not losing any cargo or their lives. Yet.
Excerpted from Lord of the Mountains by Sabrina Jarema. Copyright © 2017 Sabrina Jarema. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Miss Jarema laid the foundation for characters with depth that draw your interest in the Lord of the Runes. She delivered the same in Lord of the Mountains.
Sabrina Jarema's Norse inspired Viking Lords series continues with Lord of the Mountains. Eirik Ivarsdottir's village has been cleared of thugs and he is nearing the end of his marriage celebrations. His wife's brother, Magnus Sigrundson, is preparing to head back home, but not without taking the chance to persuade Silvi Ivarsdottir to visit Thorsfjell. Silvi, on the other hand, is stubbornly determined to give herself to the gods and become a priestess at Upsala. Her family has other intentions for her. The story concept is great, but I wish there had been more fire in Silvi. I didn't immediately love her and honestly by the end I thought she was just okay. There seemed to be some conflict in her character, because her mother and brother believed she was strong based on the fact that one had to be in order to channel the power of the gods, but she acted very naive and needy and just didn't show that strength well. Magnus was a rock throughout and proved time and time again that he was worthy of Silvi's love. I did enjoy watching their romance unfold, because their love was not immediate, or easy. Lord of the Mountains made me feel like I was reading a contemporary military romance transferred to another time and place. Readers follow the warriors into battle and get a sense of their strength and ideals, while entertained by the antics of two people navigating the rough waters of an uncertain relationship. Overall, I enjoyed Sabrina Jarema's style and attention to detail. I have no inkling of Norse culture, but I was able to easily envision the story and believe Silvi had once walked upon the lands of Norway. I'm eager to continue the series to see what other angles she can work from this fascinating group of people, because she definitely laid out the possibilities. Lord of the Seas will no doubt be an interesting addition to the Viking Lords series! *ARC provided in exchange for an honest review*