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Authors: Miriam Minger

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The Pagan's Prize

BOOK: The Pagan's Prize
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“Miriam Minger is a master storyteller who illustrates
the full gamut of emotions felt by her characters.
 
Emotions so strong that you are pulled into
the pages and into their lives.” – Inside Romance

 

“Another fine example of Ms. Minger’s amazing talent.
 
I thoroughly enjoyed it!” –
New York Times
bestselling author
Johanna Lindsey

THE PAGAN’S PRIZE

MIRIAM MINGER

Copyright
 
©
1993 by Miriam Minger.
 
All rights
reserved.
 
With the exception of quotes
used in reviews, this book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by
any means existing without written permission from the author.

Originally published by Jove Books, January 1993

Cover Copyright © 2010 by Hot Damn Designs

This is a work of fiction.
 
Any references to historical events, real people,
or real locales are used fictitiously.
 
Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the
author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or
persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

ISBN:
 
978-0-9828835-3-2

 

Other Electronic Books by Miriam Minger

Medieval Romances:

Twin Passions

Captive Rose

Wild Angel

Wild Roses

 

Regency Era Romances:

Secrets of
Midnight

My Runaway
Heart

 

Historical Romances:

Stolen
Splendor

Defiant
Impostor

 

Highland Romances:

A Hint of
Rapture

Table of Contents

 

PROLOGUE

CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 5

CHAPTER 6

CHAPTER 7

CHAPTER 8

CHAPTER 9

CHAPTER 10

CHAPTER 11

CHAPTER 12

CHAPTER 13

CHAPTER 14

CHAPTER 15

CHAPTER 16

CHAPTER 17

CHAPTER 18

CHAPTER 19

CHAPTER 20

CHAPTER 21

CHAPTER 22

CHAPTER 23

CHAPTER 24

CHAPTER 25

CHAPTER 26

CHAPTER 27

CHAPTER 28

CHAPTER 29

CHAPTER 30

 

Author's Note:
In the eleventh century, the country known today as Russia was called "Rus"
by its inhabitants, and so they referred to themselves. The Rus called the
Norsemen who came as mercenaries and traders to their land "Varangians,"
meaning "pledge men," for these fierce warriors obeyed an inviolable
oath to defend their sworn leader to the death. The word "viking," a
name given to the Norsemen in later centuries, described a favorite activity of
these bold and fearsome Varangians . . . "adventuring in search of wealth."

 

For now brother said to brother: "This is mine,
and that is mine also," and the princes began to say of little things, "Lo!
this is a great matter," and to forge discord against themselves.

"The Lay of the Host of Igor"

(S. Cross's Translation)

 

 

 

Prologue

 

Novgorod, Rus Land,

April, A.D. 1024

 

"No, you cannot go! You stay with Semirah!"

Rurik Sigurdson smiled lazily at the pouting,
sable-haired woman straddling his hips, her wet warmth sheathing that part of
him that only moments before had throbbed in thunderous climax.

Of his six concubines, he favored this tempestuous
Khazarian slave with her long white limbs, lilac-stained nipples, and flashing
agate eyes. But he would never allow her to know his mind, or permit his
attraction for her to grow beyond lust. He had learned long ago to put no faith
in women, seeking only the carnal pleasure they could provide him.

"You have no say in the matter," he said
huskily, caressing Semirah's slender thighs. Her pale skin, a startling
contrast to his deeply bronzed hue, was as soft as swan's down beneath his
large, callused hands. "I leave at dawn."

The woman's chin jutted, her expression growing
determined in the glow of an oil lamp placed near the richly carved bed. She
touched her fingers to her breast as she leaned over him, her silky hair
enveloping them like a gossamer ebony cloud. She laid her hand over his heart. "I
go with you."

Chuckling at the absurdity of her statement, Rurik drew
her against his chest and rolled with her to one side, her lithe, coltish body
molded to his powerful frame.

"Greedy wench." He nuzzled her throat, her
spicy citrus scent of bergamot and cedar exciting his senses. "Isn't it
enough that I summoned you to share this last night with me rather than one of
the others?"

"Those women are cows," came her petulant
reply. "How could you not choose Semirah?" Draping a smooth leg over
his thigh, she softened her voice, almost purring. "Take me with you, Lord
Rurik. I want to please you, yet how can I if you go so far away?"

"Enough," Rurik said firmly, his patience
ended. He raised his head to look into her face. As his newest concubine, this
exotic desert woman with her thick, honeyed accent had apparently not yet
discerned what his other women already knew and accepted. He treated his
concubines equally, granting none special favors. "Fetch us more wine,
Semirah, and plague me no more with your demands. You will remain here like the
others and wait patiently for my return."

Despite the disappointment shining in her eyes, the
slave woman said no more. Extricating herself from his embrace, she rose with
athletic ease from the bed and sauntered across the room, her body gleaming
white as alabaster, her trim bottom swaying with provocative exaggeration as if
she wanted to emphasize what he would soon be missing.

By Thor, she was
impertinent.
Rurik smiled and felt his good humor return. Yet it was
tempered by the memory of his meeting that morning with Grand Prince Yaroslav,
his sworn lord, at the
kreml
, the
citadel overlooking the city of Novgorod. Without the distraction of a warm,
willing woman in his arms, his thoughts turned easily to the gravity of the
times and the secretive mission to which he had been entrusted.

"Not only has my brother Mstislav laid claim to my
throne and invaded my realm with his warriors," Yaroslav had blustered, the
short, barrel-chested ruler pacing restlessly in front of Rurik, "he has
now conquered Chernigov, one of my most prosperous trading cities, and
established there what he calls his temporary throne! His arrogance knows no
bounds! Does he truly believe that he can defeat me, the grand prince of all
Rus Land?"

"Perhaps so," Rurik had commented dryly. "It
is rumored that Mstislav boasts of victory before the winter brings ice again
to the rivers."

"Never! He was nothing but a boy and a weakling
when our father Vladimir sent him as viceroy to Tmutorokan. I always thought
that southern city founded upon stinking swampland a fitting place for him to
rule!"

"A weakling no longer, my prince, but a bold and
calculating warrior who lusts for more than a swamp. While you fought your
brother Sviatopolk for the Rus throne after your father's death, Mstislav made
no move but harbored his forces during those four long years of battle."

"Yes, the coward! And while Sviatopolk, may his
putrid corpse writhe in hell, murdered three of our brothers, Mstislav hid
behind his palace walls among his women—"

"Shrewdly waiting," Rurik interrupted,
knowing that in his position of friend and trusted adviser, Yaroslav would not
take offense. "He planned his strategy during these last five years of
peace since your victory to strike against you now.

"And so he has." Yaroslav faced Rurik, who
towered almost a foot above him. "You must go to Chernigov under a
merchant's guise and discover the strength of Mstislav's forces. I've already
sent a message to my northern allies, your King Olaf of Norway and to my wife's
father, the king of Sweden, asking them to send more Varangian mercenaries to
bolster my army. When they arrive, we shall make our move, but until then I
must know how many enemy warriors we face to better plan our attack. And if you
can find out Mstislav's battle plans without jeopardizing your guise, do so."

"I will leave at first light tomorrow," Rurik
assured him, eager to serve again the Rus prince to whom he had sworn a sacred
oath of allegiance eight years ago.

"Excellent. My steward will see that you have
everything you need." The energetic man resumed his agitated pacing. "What
goods will you sell, Rurik?"

"Furs," he replied. "The perfect ruse.
Easy to transport both by river and on land. Anything else would only hinder my
pace. I want to inspect the entire region and return to Novgorod by June."

"Such a journey will take at least that long."
The grand prince stopped to stare at Rurik thoughtfully. "I chose you
because you know a merchant's life well. I am only grateful you returned in
time from your latest trading ventures to fight for my cause."

As if this reminded him of his brother's foul
ambitions, Yaroslav cursed vehemently. "Go now, Rurik Sigurdson, and make
your preparations. And take a few of your men with you as fellow merchants. I
will sleep better knowing you travel with friends to guard your back. I do not
want to lose the most famed warrior in my senior
druzhina
to those vermin dung-eaters. May Christ protect you!"

"And Odin," Rurik said grimly to himself, his
baptism into the new faith shortly before he entered Yaroslav's service unable
to wash away pagan beliefs engrained in him from birth . . .

"Are you thinking of Semirah, my lord?"

As Rurik focused upon the beautiful woman who stood
beside the bed holding two silver goblets, her lilac nipples hardened
temptingly from the early spring chill pervading the room, his reverie faded
into sharp reality. The days ahead would bring many dangers, but for now he
wanted only to enjoy this night.

"Now I am," he said thickly, paying no heed
to the wine sloshing upon him and the soft furs as he grabbed her and sat her
astride him, Semirah squealing with delight. Taking both goblets, he slowly
poured what wine remained down the front of her body. His desire flared like
molten heat as the scarlet liquid slicked her small pert breasts, her belly,
then caught and glistened in the lush sable pelt between her legs.

"Rurik Beast-Slayer, will you drink now?" she
taunted, using the name he had earned during a hunt by saving the grand prince
from a charging bear.

"Lie back, woman, and let me slake my thirst."

The wine was sweet upon his tongue as he first suckled
at her breasts, Semirah's throaty moans fanning his lust like the hottest wind.
Then pushing her down upon the furs, he cupped her taut bottom and lifted her
to taste the intoxicating nectar he craved.

 

 

 

No one should trust the words of a girl or what a
married woman says. Their hearts have been shaped on a turning wheel, and inconstancy
dwells in their breasts.

Poetic Edda, Havamal

The Sayings of Odin, the High One

 

Chapter 1

 

May, A.D. 1024

 

Zora swept from her tent and brushed past the tall,
pallid-faced chief eunuch, wrinkling her nose in distaste at his pungent scent
of myrrh.

"But, Princess, will you not ride in the litter my
mistress has sent for you?"

"I prefer to walk, Phineas." She drew her
cloak tighter against the damp chill that hung like a mist in the air. "It's
hard enough being confined upon a riverboat much of the day without having to
be carried here and there once we make camp. I long for any chance to use my
legs."

BOOK: The Pagan's Prize
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