There Will Be War: Anja at Ting

As one might expect, a free-talking uptime female Yngling doesn’t really fit in in Norway of the 1090s. In the red corner, Anja Sigridsdatter; in the blue corner, three hundred thousand angry Vikings. Gentlemen, what odds will you give? Also the first real clash between uptime ideology and downtime common sense; the Norwegians of OTL (and of this timeline, since the point of divergence is 1066) had good reason for banning duels: The custom had degenerated into little more than legalised robbery in some cases.

One year Geir Jonsson travelled to Dovre in the winter; for what reason he would not say, nor does any man know what passed there. But when he returned, he brought with him Anja Sigridsdatter; and from this much else flowed, as shall presently be related.

Anja was a very tall woman, and stronger than many men. She often joined the weapons-practice sessions at Geir’s field. At first this caused a few youths to stop attending, saying that sword and shield were a man’s weapons; but Geir said that a warrior mother was the best way to ensure warrior sons, and Anja showed that she could fight as well as most, and so no more was said of this among Geir’s followers.

Kalle was a man, who had lands in the south of Viken. He had often looked with envy on Geir’s wealth and favour with the king, and said to his following that it was not right that a landless beggar, whose bloodline no-one knew, should come to such power in the land. Now he saw himself vindicated, and when Olav next held Ting, Kalle spoke against Anja, saying that she should be forbidden to bear arms as men do. And there were many who agreed with him, and said that Anja was shameless, and there were some who muttered that she used seidh, and should be burned lest she bring bad luck on the land.

When this was said to King Olav, he replied, “That is a strong accusation, but I see the accused is not here to speak for herself. Let her come before us tomorrow, and we shall hear what she has to say.” And with this Kalle had to be content for that day.

The next day Geir came man-strong to the Ting, with all his followers; Kalle had likewise brought many men. But the most man-strong of all was King Olav, and he reminded all present that it was unlawful to draw weapons at Ting-meet, and said that whoever drew sword first should be banished from the land. Then he asked Kalle to speak his accusation again; and Kalle replied thus: “There is among us one who brings ill-luck to the land with her impious ways. She dresses as a man, which is against godly law and old custom; she uses seidh, which offends the land-spirits; and she makes the young girls rebellious, which brings about unpeace in our households. Therefore I ask that Anja Sigridsdatter be banished, or at the least that she accept judgement and behave fittingly hereafter.”

Now King Olav asked to hear Anja speak, and she said this: “I use no seidh, but honest strength and skill. And if Kalle Bonde would give his children leave to learn to fight, as all Norse should, he would have no unpeace in his household. And what is more, I will meet any man who wishes it in holmgang, and prove by right of arms whether the gods dislike my clothes.”

At this the men of Geir’s following said loudly that this was well spoken, and that such strong women would be needed for Norway in years to come. But Kalle replied that duelling was against the law, and for good reasons; and asked the King to judge the case. And the King spoke thus:

“I shall now give judgment in this matter. We have heard that Anja uses seidh, but we have seen no proof for this; so for false accusation, I fine Kalle Bonde 100 marks of silver. We have heard that Anja causes unrest in the households, but children are always unrestful for something; so in this matter I make no judgement against either party. We have heard that Anja wears men’s clothing in breach of custom, and this we can all see is true. Therefore I fine Anja 10 marks, and she shall pay a penny for every day she wears such clothing henceforth. And lastly, we have heard Anja give challenge to holmgang, which is against the King’s peace; so I fine her another 50 marks for this.” And with this judgement both parties had to be content.

————————————————-

“Anja, you idiot, what the devil was that?”

“Watch who you call an idiot, Jonsson.”

“Fine! Anja, cleverest Yngling in the land, what the devil was that?”

“Well, what’s this nonsense of duels being outlawed, then? This is Norway!”

“Ah. You had the briefing for 1400, didn’t you. Duelling has been outlawed since 1014. We expected we’d have it back by the time you got here.”

“Mmm. Do you have 50 marks?”

“I do, yes.” Geir kept his tone dry. He’d have to pay the fine – Anja was penniless in her own right, but he couldn’t very well have her banished – but he intended to make her squirm for it.

“I’ll pay you back.”

“Oh so? And how will you do that?”

“I’ll get the king to give me a ship, go raiding. Some of the lads will come along.”

“Hmm.” Geir considered it. “That’s not a bad idea. We’ve been too quiet lately. I’m too old for raids, these days.”

“So you’ll pay the fifty marks, then?”

“Yes, yes, fine. And the new tax, too. Penny a day, sheesh, that’s robbery.”

Anja snorted. “Takes one to know one. I think the King was hinting I should wear dresses, actually. He doesn’t expect you to pay.”

“Eh. He’ll have to live with it – you can’t very well fight in those skirt things.”

“Right. Tell me about Einar.”

Geir blinked, but he was used to Anja’s sudden changes of subject. “What’s to say? Grandson of the king, not too awful with the sword, prefers the bow and is better with that. Bit too slow for real deadliness in unarmed, but persistent. Likable sort, doesn’t push himself forward. I think I intimidate him; probably you do, too. You’ve still got a bunch of uptime habits, you know.”

“Like what?”

“All those dominance tricks – you should back off on them. These aren’t strils. No need to force them to submit to our Will.”

“Oh yes they are.” Her mouth twisted in contempt. “Strils the lot of them. Not a real fighter in the bunch. It would serve them right if we went back uptime and fought it out with nukes.”

“So why were you asking about Einar?”

“Well… he’s the closest thing to a real Yngling around here. At least he’s descended from Olav.”

Comprehension dawned; Anja was still trying to merge her genes with the male line from King Olav. Since Geir wouldn’t oblige, the king’s grandson would do. Actually Geir was surprised she hadn’t set her cap for the king himself. He felt a bit sorry for the lad, but then again he’d no doubt think it was all his idea, and anyway he’d certainly have a wonderful time.

“Try not to get him killed on your raid, then.”

Anja grinned. “Oh, what’s to worry? Brief life burns bright.”

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