The Price of Virtue
Her body lay limp on the forest floor, her white dress soaked with dew. Collapsed amongst the golden-brown blanket of fallen autumn leaves, her pale form glistened like a gem as the sun rose higher in the sky and cast its beam over her dewy skin.
Every now and again, her shoulders heaved.
She wasn’t dead, but clinging barely to life in this pre-winter wilderness. Any later in the year, and she would’ve been frozen by the unforgiving frost, her body soon covered by the first snowfall.
She was lucky.
Nature hadn’t killed her, though her kinsmen or their foes still might. Her people had pursued her for much of the night. First, through the dirt streets of her village, then through the river and halfway across the valley.
Day had turned to night, and as she’d darted for cover in the forest, the mob was eventually called off. Still, she’d kept running. She didn’t care where she was, and she didn’t care whose land she’d unwittingly wandered onto—she just sought desperately to get away.
She had no idea that she was now lying at the bottom of the dyke. Mercia was behind her, over the mound, and Powys was in front of her. She’d lost her footing at the top of the eight feet high dirt bank, and had tumbled down into the ditch on the other side.
She was a Mercian in the land of the Celts.
She was vulnerable.
As she lay there, her eyelids fluttered.
All of a sudden, she drew breath into her lungs as if waking from some terrible dream. Heart pounding, she bolted upright and almost fell back into the dirt. Her body was sore and bruised from the fall, and her bare feet were raw and throbbing.
The pain was almost unbearable.
She squeezed her eyes shut and leaned against the bank, trying to control her breathing. Her long blonde hair was damp, dirty and matted. It was sticking to her neck and chest, the ends curled over her bulging cleavage.
Looking down at her hands, which were almost completely numb from the cold, she felt a flash of panic at the sight of the wedding band around her finger.
It hadn’t been a dream.
Her wedding dress was tattered and torn, the pattern of the woolen fabric hidden behind smears of dirt and forest debris. The silk trim was shredded from the brush of twigs and branches, bushes and prickles.
She was a mess.
Her blue, moon-shaped eyes filled with tears at the thought of the life she’d so narrowly escaped: an arranged marriage to an invading Viking warlord. It was the price of safety for her family’s village, and she’d very nearly gone through with it all.
Until he’d taken her to their marriage bed.
Until he’d disrobed.
The thought of his touch repulsed her and she fled with her chastity intact—straight into the arms of another enemy.
Keira Michelle Telford was born and raised in the UK. She spent the early part of her childhood in Worcestershire, before the family moved to Wales where she lived for most of her teenage years. In 2006, she moved to Canada. She currently resides in beautiful British Columbia, where she lives with her husband and 9 guinea pigs.
Social media links: