Strictly Taboo

By: Jaid Black

Chapter 1

January 7, 878 A.D.

Chippenham, Wessex

"Nay," she murmured. Color rapidly drained from her cheeks as she watched the grisly sight unfold. Her breathing grew labored and her heart dropped into her stomach as she saw one of her sire's men fall to the ground, decapitated by a Viking's sword. She felt nigh close to fainting. "Nay," she whispered again, pulling the heavy cloak tightly around her.

Lady Elen of Godeuart was too shocked and horrified to say aught more. Never had she thought to see her family's mighty stronghold fall to the heathen Northmen, yet it was precisely what was happening.

"Bloody infidels!" Lothar of Godeuart swore. His nostrils flared as he stood upon the parapet with Elen watching the mayhem below unfold. "The king should have known the savages would break their word!"

Elen turned her worried gaze to her eldest brother. She fought with the ferocious icy-cold wind to keep her long blonde curls from lashing into her face. "I—I thought King Alfred paid the Northmen much Danegeld to leave Wessex and return to Mercia." Her lips were parched, her throat dry. "Lothar, I'm afraid." She breathed. "What do we—"

"Stay here, Elen," he cut in, reaching for his sword. "I shall return for you the soonest. Do as I say and keep yourself from harm's way."

"Lothar—nay!" Panic engulfed her at the thought of her brother confronting the Viking marauders. Her heart pounded against her chest as she reached for his tunic sleeve and pulled. "I beseech you not to go down there! Already Father is lost to us. I could not bear it were you to—"

"Elen," Lothar said with gentle insistence, "I must go." Her eldest brother was an unsmiling, stoic man, mayhap, yet Elen could see his love for her there in his eyes. "I will return to you. I swear it."

She nodded, her breasts heaving up and down in time with her labored breathing. "May God be with you and mighty Wessex." Her apprehensive gaze followed Lothar until he was well out of sight.

Elen's attention returned to the carnage below. When first she had heard tell that the savages had stormed Chippenham last eve, she had known deep within herself that the Godeuart holding would be one of the first attacked. Verily, the keep was built entirely of stone, a rarity in the region and one that underlined the wealth of her family.

She had known the Vikings would attack her ancestral holding, yet Elen had never truly believed her beloved home would fall.

It was falling. Rapidly. And, what's more, there was only but a handful of King Alfred's men left to defend it.

Never in all of her nineteen years had Elen witnessed a slaughter the likes of which she was seeing this morn. Her brother, Lothar, had mayhap been overprotective of her since Papa's death, but then Elen was one of only four Godeuart progeny—and the only daughter—to have survived past childhood.

Sweet Beatrix had died of fever at the age of two. Gisela had died at birth along with their mother. Verily, out of the nine children Lady Helene had carried in her womb, only Elen and three of her brothers had endured. Such was the reality of their world.

After the death of their father, Asser, in a bloody battle with the Vikings a year past, Lothar had been all the more determined to marry his sister off to a warlord with vast holdings who was in favor with the king. He wanted Elen's protection from a man capable of giving it. Baron William Lenore, Lothar had decided, was to become Elen's husband.

Another battle had broken out a scant month before her betrothal was to be decreed. The betrothal had never come to pass and William's whereabouts were presently unknown. She didn't know if her intended betrothed was dead, or alive and in hiding. She could only wish the marriage alliance had already come to pass so that William Lenore might throw his soldiers behind Lothar in the fight to save their stronghold from barbarian hands.

That wasn't to be. And now, the saints save them all, it looked as though the most heavily fortified stronghold of Chippenham was a stone's throw from falling.


Elen whirled around atop the parapet. She closed her eyes briefly and opened them on an expelling of air, grateful to see that her beloved nurse, Theodrada, was alive and well. Theodrada had been caring for her since she was but a babe, the elder woman now well into her forties.

Elen ran toward the woman. "Praise God Almighty you are well! What goes on below?" She felt desperate to hear that her brothers were alive. Her youngest brother, Arnulf, was deep within Wessex at the king's court, and therefore hopefully safe. Still, that left Lothar and Louis here in Chippenham, possible death lurking just around every corner. "Well?"