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by Joan Van Nuys
Category: Historical Fiction/Romance
Description: A Love as Timeless as the Midnight Sun. Wild and free, beautiful Sunniva Mellby had no interest in the housewifely arts her mother taught her; nor would she meekly accept the middle-aged bridegroom her father proposed. There was only one man for her--Raven, as fierce and proud as his namesake--and she would risk banishment to ride unfettered at his side. Only his kisses turned her blood to fire, only his hard warrior's body could penetrate her maidenly reserve. Yet on the very morn of their wedding, Sunniva was spirited away by the feared Viking chieftain, Rolf Gunnarsson. Her heart breaking, Sunniva swore no man would take by force what she had freely given Raven; no mere Viking would break the vows of never-ending love between them.
eBook Publisher: Hard Shell Word Factory, 1999
eBookwise Release Date: September 2004
6 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [247 KB]
Reading time: 318-446 min.
"Beloved Enchantress reads like one of those soft sighs overheard on a warm Spring night. A beautiful book that, I for one, will want to keep in my heart and savor, for as long as I am able."--Buzz Review News
"Beloved Enchantress is a good example of why being beautiful isn't always such a good thing. Had Sunniva been plain, none of her troubles would have happened. When the number of Chieftains striving to wed her (via bloodshed if necessary) rose to four, I was ready to scream Enough already! but Ms. Van Nuys' Viking/Celt world was so vivid, her dialogue so wonderful, her hero and heroine so 'real', I just couldn't put it down. 4 Stars!'--Scribes World Reviews
"BELOVED ENCHANTRESS is a wonderful example of a Viking romance. Joan Van Nuys has skillfully crafted a tale with historical fact, excellent attention to detail and memorable characters. BELOVED ENCHANTRESS is a must-read for historical romance lovers."--Jennifer MacBride, CompuServe Romance Reviews
WAVES OF PALE LIGHT FLICKERED ACROSS THE BLACK NORTHERN SKY AS THE northern sky as the first snow of the season began to fall. Silently and quickly it covered the dwellings and fields of Lilleby, and covered the two lads and the young maid with its thick feathery flakes.
"If this keeps up, Ulf, we ski tomorrow," Raven said.
"Ay, and about time."
Ulf Mellby was blond and blue-eyed, not quite as tall as his best friend, but as strong-built as a young bull. Sunniva Mellby, skipping happily between her brother and Raven Trondsson, laughed and caught snowflakes on her pink tongue and with her red mittened hands. She was as excited as they.
"We can go through Solby Wood to Strande," she cried. " 'Tis all downhill, and we can take our time about coming back. We can carry foodpacks and dig a snow-cave for sleeping. Oh, I hope it snows all night!"
" 'Tis a fine idea, that," said Ulf, "but not for you, Sunniva. 'Tis doubtful our father would allow it."
His sister's blue eyes flashed. "Why not?"
"Be reasonable, Sunni. Strande is a long way and you are but twelve winters old. And you are a girl."
Sunniva gave him a look of pure outrage and turned to the boy at her left. "Raven, you know I ski well. You taught me, after all. Tell my father I can hold my own!"
Raven chuckled. He was a gray-eyed lad with thick ebony hair that was dappled now with snow. At eighteen winters, he was over six feet tall, and his slender body was hard as granite, his shoulders broad and muscular. He was well on his way to powerful manhood.
"You have coaxed me into many things, little vixen, but not this time. Nay." He gazed down at Sunniva, his long-lashed eyes narrowed against the wind driven ice crystals. "What if you broke a leg or fell into a tarn and froze your feet?"
Ulf chortled. "If you can guarantee either, then I say she goes. At least 'twould keep the little pest out of our hair for a while." He scooped up a handful of snow and threw it at his sister.
"Troll!" She punched his arm.
Sunniva liked her brother well enough most of the time, but now that he was sixteen, he had grown far too bossy. Always had she wished that Raven were her brother instead, and she wished it now more than ever. He was generous with his compliments and gentle with his criticism, and he never laughed at her, only with her. And when Ulf and her father hadn't the time to teach her to ski, it was Raven who showed her. Every winter he worked with her regularly.
"How about going through the wood to Nybling tomorrow instead of Strande?" he offered. " 'Tis plenty far enough for the first run of winter. What say you, Sunniva?"
"Ay!" Her pretty face lit up. "Will you race me?"
Raven's smile shown white against his naturally dark skin. "Just try and stop me." Seeing Ulf's sudden gravity, he touched his friend's arm. "Now what, man? Does this not suit you either?"
Ulf looked uncomfortable. His little sister was a trial, wanting to go everywhere with them and do all that they did, but he did not crave to see her unhappy. He said quietly: "You will not be allowed, Sunni."
Sunniva blinked her big eyes at him. She had the same striking attractiveness and coloration as her brother, but while he, like Raven, was close to manhood, she had an appealing childish softness about her--round pink cheeks, a full rosy mouth, eyes blue as cobalt framed with long gold-tipped lashes, flaxen hair hanging down her back in two plump, girlish braids.
"Not allowed? What mean you, Ulf Mellby? I have always been allowed." She watched as the boys exchanged a long look. "What is't? Tell me."
Ulf shrugged. " 'Tis just that--you are almost a woman now, Sunniva."
Sunniva's face grew hot despite the frosty air. It was embarrassing enough to face that fact when she bathed and saw herself, but for Ulf to say such a thing in front of Raven--! She was so mortified, she was speechless.
Seeing her stricken face, Ulf added gently, "Women do not go dashing off on ski about the countryside with men, Sunni."
Sunniva glared at him. "This one will."
Ulf shook his head. "I think not."
Sunniva bristled, pink-faced. "I will!"
"Nay," he said stubbornly.
"You're not men yet anyway," she taunted them.
Ulf ignored that. "Our father says 'tis time you thought about sewing for your bride-chest and other such woman-things."
"Sewing! I hate sewing!"
"Bride-chest?" Raven laughed. "Odin's Bones, Ulf, the little troll is but a baby yet. What mean you, bride-chest?"
"Baby? Raven Trondsson, I hate you. I hate both of you! And why would father tell this to you, Ulf, and not to me?"
"Calm yourself, Sunni. He said naught to me. I happened to overhear him and our mother talking one night." Ulf made a ball of the wet snow, aimed for the front door of their dwelling and hit it squarely. "Our mother likes it not that you play sports so much and broider and bake so little."
Sunniva pulled in such a deep breath of icy air that her lungs ached. "What else said they?"
In her anger, she had all but forgotten the excitement of the first snowfall and the waves of color rolling and flickering across the sky. She, too, packed the wet snow into a ball, aimed for a distant birch and let fly. She put her arm into it, the way Raven always told her, and watched, satisfied, as the snowball thudded solidly against the dark trunk and clung. There! She could throw every bit as far and as hard as Ulf. She felt Raven's arm go across her shoulders.
"Let us walk a little, you and I, Sunni. Ulf, I would talk with your sister."
Ulf nodded. "I want to check my gear for tomorrow anyway."
With Raven's comforting arm about her, Sunniva's anger began to fade. Ever since she was small, he had been her best friend, her safety and happiness, her harbor in a storm. And he had not really meant she was a baby. She knew that.
"Know you, Sunniva," his deep voice was far above her head, "that your parents love you well."
"And they do only what they think best for you."
"Then does it not follow that, for your own good, they want you to be a proper young lady?"
"I will not be a proper young lady."
"Come now, they would never ask you to give up all the things you love."
"Nor could they make me," she said, pouting.
Raven sighed. Well did he believe it. Sunniva Mellby was not at all like other maids. No other girl in the valley, in all of Norway probably, was like Sunniva. Her eagerness to taste and to take all that life offered had always tugged at his heart. He could not refuse her when she begged to learn those things every Norse lad took for granted--riding and swimming and skiing, even war-skills. Things maids were never taught. Now he wondered, had he harmed more than helped the imp by giving in to her every wish?
The two walked in silence about Arn Mellby's large, prosperous steading overlooking the Strande fjord. They passed his large wooden manor house with its overhanging balconies on all sides, passed the lesser dwellings of the serving-folk, passed the brew-house and the weaving-house and kitchen-house and the long row of store-houses standing on their high wooden legs. Through the thickly falling snow they walked, as the canopy of pale shifting lights streamed far above their heads.
"Frey is making rainbows for the springtime," Raven said, his voice coaxing. He hoped to brighten her mood, but she made no answer. Finally he tilted her chin so that their eyes met. "Come, Sunniva, 'tis not as bad as all that."
"Hah! 'Tis little you know." Her lower lip thrust out in another pout. "Lucky you are to be a man, Raven Trondsson."
"And lucky you are to be a woman, Sunniva Mellby. Man's work is from sun to sun and season to season with never a rest in between."
"So is woman's," she muttered, sulky. "And women work long past sundown, just ask my mother. And men get to rule the world."
"Oh, ay, but the women rule the men."
Silence returned as they toured the outer courtyard, where the various barns and animal houses stood. At that hour, all the animals were slumbering in sweet, dry straw.
"I trow you have forgotten, Sunniva," Raven said gently, "that when wars come, as they always do in this land of ours, 'tis man-blood that spills, not woman-blood. Mine will spill, as will the blood of my unborn sons spill for some unknown king." He looked down at her and cocked one black eyebrow. "Would you still be a man?"
He watched as her head snapped up, her eyes wide. He stared. He had always thought her a comely child, but he saw now that her fairness was turning to extraordinary beauty. When had it happened? Or had her eyes always been that amazing color, a deep purple-blue, and her skin so creamy and flawless?
"Oh, Raven, nay! Say you will not go to war and spill your blood!" She flung her arms about him wildly and hugged him close, her snow-covered head pressed hard against his red wool tunic. "Never go to war! Promise me. Oh, Raven, I couldn't bear to lose you and never see you again..."
Astonished by the depth of her anguish, he said low, "There now, Sunni. Shhhh."
He continued to hold and comfort her, not daring to remind her that he trained daily for war. Every man did. He was the son of a chieftain who had gone bravely to Valhalla, and all in the valley knew that when war next came, he would go, a chieftain himself.
"I refuse to think about war," she said, sniffing, her voice muffled and her face still pressed against his chest. "Everything is going to stay the way it is. I want naught of war nor a bride-chest nor a stupid husband. I want to ride and ski and have fun."
His arms tightened about her childish body. "Shhh, little one, 'tis all right."
"And I want you to teach me more things. Will you, Raven? Please?"
"Ay. As long as I am here, I will teach you things, anything your heart desires."
"Will you teach me to throw a spear?" Her nose was still buried against his red tunic.
"Ay." Seeing the heavens brightening and the waves of color intensifying, he said, "Sunniva, look at the sky! Just look!"
Sunniva lifted her damp eyes and gazed upwards to where wide ribbons of pink, lavender, foam-green, and pale lemon were playing about, streaming and surging across the velvety blackness, their long fingers raying outwards and shooting higher and higher into the zenith. She gasped at the shimmering beauty.
" 'Tis wonderful! Think you that Frey really is making rainbows for Spring?"
"I suspect he really is, ay. He's making them especially for you."
Sunniva threw back her head and laughed at the wonder of it, her troubles forgotten on the instant. Her laughter was silvery, minding Raven of the sounds of a harp had they been frozen and scattered about the frosty night. He thought suddenly, unexpectedly, that it would be a lucky fellow who got Sunniva Mellby when that time came.
"Tomorrow we ski to Nybling!" Sunniva cried. She began hopping about, unmindful that she looked like a snow-tumbled bear cub in her woolly brown cape and hood and the soft leather boots tied about her feet.
Raven chuckled. "We do, do we?" His gray eyes played over her affectionately.
"Ay. For no matter what Ulf says, I know my father. If I sit on his lap and put my arms 'round his neck and bawl a bit, he will let me go."
"Little troll." Raven gave her a swat on her small flat rump. " 'Tis as I said, Sunniva, the women rule the men."
"Ay!" She tossed him an elfin grin over one shoulder and began trotting toward the manor. "Race me, Raven?"
Copyright © 1999 by Joan Van Nuys