"The Saga of the Stone Eagle and the Steel Falcon?" I asked. "Yeah, I've read that."
Immediately after I said that, I realized that I'd unintentionally fallen into a casual tone of voice and dispensed with the honorifics. I blame my lack of interaction with nobility in formal settings. Thankfully, the Princess didn't seem to notice as she interjected in surprise: "You have?"
"It's my mother's favourite book," I explained. "We have a translated copy of it in our clan's library and I have read it from cover to cover several times. It's one of my favourites too."
She grew pensive. "Well, it does make sense for a copy to make its way into your library… after all, you aren't that far from the coast."
I nodded. "It's a great book. Historical fiction in the guise of a romance. Both aspects of it are superbly executed, especially the historical part of it. Getting to know how different the world was back in the day is very interesting."
"Yes," agreed Artemis, "without Tamers and the contracts, the world was an entirely different place. Not only were women with strong bloodlines reviled, feared, mistreated and sometimes even strangled in the cradle, but those who escaped that fate inevitably gave in to Vita's whispers and turned Feral.
"Beasts weren't only restricted to the Forbidden Zone as they are now… and they weren't only insectoid in nature. The Feral women lived most of their lives as beasts until menopause hit and caused them to be rejected by Vita. They were left as decrepit husks, broken by the memories of a lifetime spent as a rabid animal bent on the destruction of the world... Maybe even memories of killing and consuming humans.
"It's amazing how much a single discovery can change the entire world over the span of merely two millennia. Two thousand and nineteen years to be exact."
I couldn't agree with her more. Emperor Adam's story was proof that one man, no matter how humble his birth, could make a difference. It was an inspiration to us all.
"Anyway," said Artemis, pulling us back on topic. "According to the Saga, a young Julius was appointed by Adam to guard the cargo ships bound to Indus through the Bay of Kings. Along the way, the convoy met with several ships of Viking raiders. They did their best to intercept the pirates in order to prevent the leakage of news about their location but it was a futile effort. The Viking corsairs were the rulers of the seas, sleek and built for speed and boarding combat much unlike the bulky cargo ships.
"Though Julius tried his level best, despite his great personal strength, he was only one man and he inevitably let one ship slip away, bringing the news back to the headquarters of the pirate fleet: Tortuga. They set out a fleet to capture this fat fish with golden scales that had wandered into their waters. Fierce combat ensued and the pirates realized that they had vastly underestimated the subordinates of Adam. Empowered by their bonds as they were and able to pull of dual-element techniques, the sailors pushed the pirates back again and again, sinking two of the dozen ships that had been sent against them ad setting fire to a few more."
She paused, then continued. "Pushed to the brink of destruction, out of desperation the pirates were forced to release their final trump card."
"Sigrún Valkyria, the Steelweaver." I whispered, caught up in the tale despite having read it several times before.
Artemis nodded. "Many years ago, the Vikings had found an isolated island during their exploration of the seas. It was a small, barren island with a huge mountain and steep escarpments on all sides. It was occupied only by a race of Pluma with steel wings.
"The natives lived simple hunter-gatherer lives by subsisting off the fish in the sea and making their homes in hollows in the rocky cliff face. They were also unique in that they didn't kill their Ferals. Instead they somehow entered into a symbiotic relationship by worshipping them as Goddesses. Surprisingly the Ferals seemed to restrain their destructive urges and protect them instead, becoming their guardian deities."
With what I knew now about souls, Vita's will, and bloodlines, this part of the story made more sense. Those more talented, with denser bloodlines, were the ones that turned Feral. Thus, the Ferals would have more of the soul fragments of their Demigod ancestors within them. The Steel Falcon bloodline's urge to protect its consanguinity must have fought off Vita's will and prevented the Feral Valkyries from harming their brethren.
Artemis continued, "When the pirates found the island, they decided, as was their creed, to conquer it and enslave its people. It was an extremely difficult and bloody battle, and when the Feral Falcons entered the battle on the behalf of the natives, it turned into a lopsided slaughter. Until, that is, Freyja, one of the six pirate Kings entered the fray.
"She single-handedly suppressed the revolt of the natives and forced them to surrender under her might. She named the island Valhalla and the Feral women Valkyries, taking both of them for her own. The island became her paradise and the women became her personal guards."
In the Viking mythology, there are six Pirate Kings who were and still are worshiped as deities. They were the founders of the seafaring race of raiders and plunderers. It is rumoured that each one was at Tier 5 peak at the very least and one or two had even touched the level of Demigod before they passed away.
The six kings were the Thunder King – Thor, who is portrayed as unrelentingly pursuing his foes, his mountain-crushing, thunderous hammer Mjölnir in hand. The Trickster King – Loki, nefarious and armed with a sceptre, he was the one who devised the strategies for the pirates. And finally, the King of Death – Odin. One-eyed, flanked by ravens, and with spear in hand. Seeker of knowledge and the overall leader of the Aesir – a faction of the Vikings.
Opposing this faction was the Vanir led by the goddess (most likely a man in drag or a very unusual female commoner); Freyja. She was depicted as beautiful, sensual and wearing a feathered cloak. They named her the Queen of War for her militant nature and love for battle. And she was indeed depicted as the ruler of a paradise called Valhalla for the bravest of warriors: the Einherjar. It was said that the souls of these warriors would go there after death and be served the best of food and wine while the Valkyries waited upon them. More likely, the island had been transformed into a resort for the old and retired pirates. A place to spend the last years of their life in comfort – for making it to that age meant that the man was among the best of the best.
The two final Kings on the side of the Vanir were the King of the Sea – Njördr and the Demonic King of Lust – Freyr. Many of their subordinates were also enshrined as gods in the mythos while the historical war between the two factions is recorded as the Aesir-Vanir War.
Artemis continued, "Even after Freyja's passing the Valkyries remained the slaves of her descendants. They were granted to the leaders of the most notorious of Viking fleets. Sigrún was one of the Valkyries and she was the slave of the pirate leader who had attacked Julius' cargo fleet."
She paused. "Here the story is unclear as to how they managed to control her but it is said that she fought on behalf of the Vikings. In her Feral form, she was more than a match for the young Julius and he had to beat a hasty retreat. It was all he could do to protect his ships, giving the injured remnants of the pirates a chance to get away.
"After that, the story is quite simple. The fleet reached Indus, successfully completing the transaction for weapons and equipment. And on their way back, they directly attacked Tortuga, the location of which they had tortured out of a captive pirate. The Vikings were still licking their wounds and with the enhanced weaponry, they easily managed to wipe them out and take over Tortuga. They found a great deal of treasure and commodities there which accelerated Emperor Adam's war efforts.
"Other than that, Julius managed to free Sigrún, and after some obligatory drama, healed the scars on her heart and mind with his affection, marrying her soon after landing on Regiis soil. Adam personally notarized their marriage."
She coughed, and licked her lips. Realizing that her throat was dry, I sketched a 'water' character in the air and conjured up a small floating sphere of water from the air and moved it towards her. Giving me a grateful look, she cupped her hands and caught the water, sipping it and wetting her throat.
"Thanks for that. External casting is really handy, isn't it? Anyway, we went off on a tangent with my telling of the Saga, but I had to ensure that the version you read was accurate. After all, sometimes things get lost in translation."
"Wait!" I interrupted in surprise, "You can read Nordic?"
"Yes. I can. In fact, I'm fluent in all nine languages of the Continent. It's a hobby of mine." Artemis replied proudly.
Changed the name of the novel. Again. I was informed by a female reader that it looked like a flowery romance fic's title. When she saw it was a harem she nearly dropped it, but thankfully, she gave it a chance and enjoyed it immensely.
So, I guess I was losing the xxx-crazy crowd and attracting the females who left in disgust soon after. Well, with this minor change, I hope to hit the perfect balance between classy and smutty.
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