Lothar put Ellisif down on the bedding in the room. He no sooner let go of her than she began to stir. He moved to sit beside her when she opened her eyes. Then she threw up, the crack on the head having given her a nauseating concussion. Lothar found a cloth to clean Ellisif.
“Oh, my head.”
She shuddered and then let Lothar clean her up. “The silks?”
“I don’t care about the silks. I care about you. Do you know who that was?”
She shook her head. Then she winced as the door to the room was opened by two of the guards with Farulf and Olaf coming in behind them. The guards were Varangians, and began to question Ellisif. When Lothar tried to interrupt, he was shoved up against a wall with a sword at his throat.
“Quiet, scum. We speak to the woman first,” said the guard.
Lothar shut up and then exchanged glances with Farulf. Farulf shook his head no when Lothar started to speak again.
“Who started the fight?” the guard asked Ellisif.
“The rat who tried to steal me.”
“Who went with you to the silk merchant?”
“My fader’s men and my husband. Olaf, Gundar and Lothar.” She pointed to Lothar.
“We went to the silk merchant. I found silk I wanted and paid for it with Miklagardr gold coins. Coins we got in trade for amber, furs and other trade goods.”
The guards nodded and then turned to Lothar. “You! You’re not Varangian. Where you come from. What happened?”
“I’m Drengr. Bellator. Mercenary. From Burgandy. I am part of Farulf’s crew. Ellisif is my wife.” Lothar pointed to Ellisif who nodded in agreement. “Men came, tried to steal our silk, and then my wife. I followed and killed the man. Took back my wife.”
The guards nodded and were about to leave when another guard came in. He rattled something off too fast for Lothar to follow. The guards then grabbed Lothar, Olaf and Farulf and hauled them out of the room, much to their protestations.
Ellisif did her best to follow, only to find that the inn was empty except for Gundar and a few of the men. “Where is my fader? Lothar?”
“The Emperor’s Guard hauled them out. I don’t know where they are going,” hissed Gundar.
Bjorn caught Ellisif as she began to collapse. “Don’t worry. Snorri and I go to see what has happened. Stay with Gundar.” He along with Snorri, Ragnar and Hadr headed out to follow the guards.
Ellisif didn’t want to stay, but her head ached so badly, that she didn’t have any choice. “Gundar, are they in trouble for killing the men that wanted to kidnap me?”
“I don’t know. We will find out.”
Two days later, Gundar woke to the sounds of the inn door slamming. He’d been sleeping on a bench in front of Ellisif’s door. Looking down, he saw Farulf and some of the men walking into the big room. He stood and then headed downstairs.
“Farulf! Where are Olaf and Lothar?”
“They are still in the dungeons of the Emperor.” Farulf stank and sat down on a bench. He looked the worse for wear.
The Guard blamed us because the merchant got to them first. We had to prove that we were the ones who’d been attacked. Luckily for us, the coins and Ellisif’s dagger helped prove that.”
“Then why aren’t all of you free? Why are Olaf and Lothar still prisoners,” Ellisif asked as she came down the stairs.
“The guard found a man who said that Lothar didn’t need to kill the man who had you. That he could have simply wounded him. This is spite of the fact that others did say he needed killed. So Lothar is in dungeon.”
“He punched a Guard who said he lied.”
“What will happen to them?” Ellisif was getting more and more upset.
“Tomorrow, they will fight for their honor. If they win, they will be set free. Otherwise, we get the bodies back to bury.” Farulf hung his head.
“Fader! How is that fair?”
“It isn’t. The Emperor isn’t fair. But it was either those two or me, and I am too old to fight. I want a bath, fresh clothes and food.” He stood up, to head for the baths.
“Fader! Did you try to pay the blood price for the man?”
“Yes. I did. I have. The man wouldn’t take it. The guard did, but the merchant is a greedy piece of vermin. When he couldn’t have you for a seraglio slave, he decided to get the profit back by saying we robbed him. When Lothar realized what was going on, he offered to fight to clear our honor.”
“Who is he fighting?” Ellisif asked.
“The champion of the Guard. Olaf is fighting too. The champion has never lost.”
“I have heard of this champion. He is very good. His father was Ragnor Erikson,” Snorri added. “He may well kill Olaf and Lothar.”
“When is the fight?” asked Gundar.
“Dawn. We must be there. If they lose, our boat, our fortune and maybe our lives will be at risk.” Farulf walked away to bath, while Ellisif continued to question the men who’d gone with Farulf. In the end, she didn’t know whether to cry or kill something.