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Prologue and First Chapter (Chapter name is in Old Norse Language)
Long, long ago, back in the 14th century, in a faraway Nordic country called Gotaland, there lived a beautiful princess named Alvilda. Rather than marry (and stay at home weaving and cooking, as every other woman of her time did, be she princess or peasant) Alvilda decided to run away from her castle and become a Pirate. Very little is actually known for certain of the Pirate Princess, or of Prince Alf, the man who conquered her icy heart. The story is so steeped in myth and legend it is almost impossible to untangle fact from fiction. But recently, by the purest of magical chances, there came into my hands a manuscript well over six hundred years old. There, inside the ancient manuscript, I found the oldest written account known to exist of Alvilda, the Pirate Princess. I will tell you her tale, my fellow warrior women, so that you may wonder and learn from her great bravery. I'll put my chapter numbers in Old Norse to help you remember just how long ago the brave Alvilda roamed the oceans wild.
“Poisonous snakes and lizards? You can’t be serious!” Queen Freydis raised one eyebrow at her husband. “Surely you don't believe these mere creatures will keep your daughter secure in the safety of our castle?”
King Synardus of Gotaland was on the hunt for a suitable mate for his only daughter, the beautiful Princess Alvilda. Since no ordinary man would do for his one and only daughter he locked her within her tower bedroom, and placed a loyal and ferocious guard at her door. To be extra sure she could not escape he placed a great number of poisonous snakes and even more poisonous lizards in the antechamber of the tower.
“This will guarantee only the bravest lad in all of Norse land will make it through to her chamber and capture her heart.”
“You can’t keep her to yourself forever Synardus my sweet. She must marry. What makes you think that whichever young man happens to fight through all your nasty snakes and lizards will be the one who captures our daughter's heart?”
“She won’t have a choice. It will be as I say it will be. Alvilda is only a foolish girl child anyway.” King Synardus shrugged and turned from his lovely wife. As far as he was concerned the matter was solved.
Queen Freydis touched his shoulder. She didn't agree at all that the matter was solved. “Girl or not, she is no longer a child. She has seen eighteen summers and, in case you haven't noticed my dear husband, she has developed a will to rival your own. She isn’t likely to wed simply because you say it is to be so.”
“Damn it! She is my daughter. I am her father. And I am the King. She will do as she is told or she will remain locked in that tower until she complies with my commands.” King Synardus stomped roaring from the room. He liked things kept simple and whenever life threatened to grow complicated he became very upset.
The queen lowered her head and sighed, and her sighs joined the echo of the king's growls as they reverberated throughout the room. She chanced a glance toward his retreating figure, only to see he was already gone from sight. “Oh Alvilda, I pray you will not spurn the suitor he finds for you.”
Up in her tower the Princess Alvilda paced back and forth. She was furious. “So I am to be locked away like some prize piece of meat for the first sturdy soul who answers my father’s summons! Nothing more than a pawn for men’s pleasure and money. I will not be subjected to this game called marriage." She came to an abrupt stop in front of her companion.
"But how shall I get out of this tower without my father knowing?”
“Well milady I think I can help you with part of your problem. I could distract the guards. But there isn’t anything I will be able to do about those vile animals your father has set to guard your room.” Alvilda’s handmaid Helga motioned toward the door.
“Animal’s? What sort of animals?” The Princess Alvilda strode to the door only to find it locked. “Open this door, right now. I'm the Princess and you will open my door now.”
“Milady, they have orders not to open the door for anyone save your father. They let me in this morning while you still slept. Your morning meal is on the table in your sitting area and the door will be opened to admit your midday meal. Until that time your only company will be me. Shall I brush your hair and plait it for you?”
“Helga, how can you so calmly talk about plaiting my hair when we are held prisoner here in my room?” Alvilda’s shoulders slumped and she sank into the nearest chair, valiantly striving to hold back the tears stinging her eyes. “My father must be truly insane to think keeping me locked here will make me fall in love with whoever he brings to take my hand. I’ll not wed anyone.”
“Princess, you are but a young girl. It’s what young girls do. They wed and produce children for their husband.”
“Well, this girl,” Alvilda pointed to herself, “will not wed. I swear it on the sacred Aesir, Odin. There must be something different for women to do in this world. Taking care of little wiggling, crying, whining babies is not something I long for. What I long for is freedom!"
"Freedom, Princess? What on earth do you mean?" Helga looked interested but slightly confused.
"Freedom from whatever is expected of me. And I will have it!” As a matter of fact, Princess Alvilda really wasn't quite certain what she meant either but she wasn't a girl to be bothered by details.
At noon, sure enough, the door swung open to admit the midday meal carried by a kitchen maid. She set the tray on the table in the sitting area of the tower bedroom. Alvilda couldn't help notice that the guard who stood outside the door blocked the entrance and refused to budge.
“Take this message to my father.” The Princess placed a small parchment in the kitchen maid's hand. “Inform him that his daughter requests his presence in the tower since he has made it impossible for me to come to him.”
“Yes Princess, as you wish.” The kitchen maid curtseyed and slipped past the guard who shut the door immediately following her departure.
“He can’t hold me here like this. I’m no criminal. I am a Princess, his daughter.” Alvilda turned to the tray and picked at the cheese and bread upon the trencher. What have I done to anger him so?
Helga flitted about the chamber while Alvilda poked at her food and pouted, waiting for the king to answer her summons.
“How dare she make demands upon my person? I am the King and I do not answer summons from anyone. She may come to me if she wishes to speak with me.” The king smiled happily at his brilliant logic.
“Darling, you must stop bellowing around all over the castle. I heard you through the closed doors and down the hall. You sound very much like a lion with a stomachache. Be reasonable Synardus, our daughter can’t come to you. Have you forgotten the guards open the door only on your orders and only to bring food to her?” Queen Freydis spoke softly, hoping to sweeten her husband's temper.
He ignored her calming voice and turned a blind eye to the soft looks his wife was giving him. “All the same, she can’t make demands of me like this.”
“Darling, I don't see it as a demand so much as a pleading wish to seek out your everlasting wisdom in this situation. Go to see her, talk to her, and by talk I mean talk, no yelling. If you would like her to see things your way, it would be best not to anger her.” Queen Freydis smiled and left the room with her fingers crossed.
King Synardus paced the great room with his hands clasped behind him and a thoughtful look on his face. 'Best not to anger her' she said. What about me? Wouldn’t it be best not to anger me instead? “There is no help for it. I must make her understand. Prince Alf of Denmark will be here within the week. She must be made to realize she will marry him if he does what I think he will do and gets past my snakes and lizards." King Synardus left the great room, taking the stairs leading to his daughter’s bedchamber.