Shield-Maiden: Gambit of Blood Sneak Peek


Shield-Maiden: Gambit of Blood releases on 2/22/22! Like that date? :) In anticipation of the release, I wanted to share a little sneak peek of Chapter 1. The novel is a continuation of my Valhalla series with Ervie, the daughter of Jarl Mjord and Blomma. 

Shield-Maiden: Gambit of Blood is available for preorder on Amazon.

Sneak Peek
Chapter 1

I stood in the shadows of the great hall watching the revelry unfold. King Gizer’s warband was drunk on ale and anticipation. Tomorrow, we would set sail for Skagen, the seat of King Harald, and for battle. The musicians played loudly, trying to be heard over the boisterous laughter that permeated the room. I leaned against a carved pillar, sipping my ale and observing the commotion around me. At one end of the hall, Queen Kára, a formidable shield-maiden in her own right, sat by the center fire, joking with the warrior Öd. On the other side of the room, King Gizer met with his elder warriors, all of them recounting tales of battles past. Gizer’s five sons were gathered around the end of one table, challenging one another to feats of strength. That just left…

“Are you hiding, Reindeer Princess?” a voice asked from behind me.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her approach. “Hiding? Why would I be hiding?”

Eyfura, the only daughter of Gizer and Kára, and my dearest friend, joined me. She was handsomely dressed in a spring-green hangerok gown, the neckline embroidered with tiny blue and pink vining flowers. Her curling red hair lay on her chest. A string of green stones hung from her neck.

As always, many of the young men in the room turned to look at her.

“Doesn’t it become tiresome?” I asked.

“What’s that?”

“All those eyes on you.”

“They’re not staring at me, Reindeer Princess. They’re staring at you.”

“They just like my armor.”

Eyfura chuckled lightly. “They know better than to stare at me. My father will take out their eyes.”

I grinned. “That is true.”

“Besides, I have no use for any of them,” Eyfura said lightly.


“I’m waiting on a certain Reindeer Prince.”

I smiled, thinking of my brother. “You shouldn’t marry Loptr.”

“Why not?”

“He’s too stupid.”

Eyfura laughed loudly, her voice echoing around the hall—a laugh she inherited from her mother. “How can you say such a thing about your own twin?”

“Because if he has not asked you to marry him yet, he can’t have much wit. Surely, he must know the most beautiful woman in all of Scandinavia has many suitors. And still, Loptr delays.”

“But he only delays because I asked him to,” Eyfura said in a whisper, leaning toward me.

Surprised, I turned and looked at her.

“Your brother and I are at a game of riddles. With every ship that comes and goes between here and Grund, we play our game. Until Loptr figures out all my riddles, I will not say yes.”

“Then you have made a terrible mistake.”

Eyfura raised an eyebrow at me. “Is that so?”

“As I said, Loptr is short on wit,” I said with a smirk, knowing my brother was one of the wittiest people I knew. “He may never figure them out. You’re better off saying yes and being done with it.”

At that, Eyfura laughed. “You disparage your twin’s name, Ervie. But I see your game. Not even you can hasten my answer by making me give up my riddles. Although, I am sure Loptr will appreciate that you tried. I will see my game played through and make him win his prize. Otherwise, he will not appreciate me in the years to come.”

Chuckling, I shook my head. “You cannot blame me for trying.”

“I will be sure to tell your brother you tried to convince me he was too stupid for my riddles and that I should marry him for his looks.”

“And his title.”

“Of course. Who wouldn’t want to become Queen of Grund one day?”

“Me,” I replied.

At that, my friend laughed, but all the same, she set her hand on my shoulder. While my reply came out in jest, there was truth to it. Loptr and I were twins, both of us having a claim to the throne of Grund through our foster grandfather King Hofund. But such a life was not for me. I sought something far different. And that nameless thing had been calling me for weeks now.

Once, my parents had been the greatest practitioners of seidr in all of Scandinavia. My father had died in battle, taking what he knew with him. My mother… The sting of her loss was still too fresh. I could not bear to think of it. Yet, their legacy called to me. It tugged at something deep within me, pulling me toward Skagen, where I sensed I would find answers to a question I didn’t know how to ask.

Reading the expression on my face, Eyfura said, “Ah, Ervie. I hope you find what you’re looking for in Skagen, my friend.”

“As do I.”

“As it is, I am jealous of you.”

“What? You want to come to battle?”

“Want? Yes. Of course I do. But I would be of little use. Instead, I will stay here and be a disappointment to my mother.”

I turned and looked at Eyfura. “You could never be a disappointment to anyone. There is no one with more talented healing hands than you. Your skills match the priestesses of the temple to the dísir in Grund.”

“That is no weak compliment,” she said. “I thank you for it. But still, Kára was a great shield-maiden, and I could not properly wield a sword if my life depended on it.”

“Your mother does not begrudge you for it. Do not chide yourself.”

“Kára is too kind to ever speak poorly of me, but when Gizer sails out in the morning, her eyes will be haunted.”

“For herself, because she is not joining us. Not because of you.”

Eyfura shrugged.

“You are too hard on yourself.”

Eyfura laughed. “So says you, who has traveled half the world away from her home because she is being hard on herself.”

“What home? My father’s jarldom…burned. My mother’s birthright…burned. I have no home.”

“Aye, Ervie,” Eyfura said but added nothing more. She knew my story. I lamented the legacy lost to me in the wars of the previous generation. All that should have been mine was gone. It was a wound that ran deep.

“Eyfura,” Gizer called to his daughter, waving for her to join him.

“The king calls,” Eyfura told me with a good-natured grin. “I made some healing salves for you and my brothers, not that I think you will need them. All the same, I had the maids pack them with your things.”

“Thank you.”

“Of course, Reindeer Princess. My beauty is useless, but at least my healing hands count for something,” she said with a wink then left me.

I shook my head, then scanned the room once more.

Dag, one of Gizer’s sons, caught my gaze. He motioned for me to join him and the other brothers, but I shook my head. Swigging the last of my ale, I went outside.

It was late in the evening. King Gizer’s forest city was quiet. All the revelry was happening in the hall. I wandered down a path to one of the small footbridges over a stream, then sat down, dangling my legs over the side. The moon overhead reflected its silvery light on the black water. The creek babbled as it rolled over the rocks on its path to the sea and beyond.

Like the water, I would join the tossing sea in the morning.

For years, I had been wandering aimlessly, hoping that I would find something to fill the endless ache and emptiness inside me. King Hofund had done everything he could to make Grund my home, but the aching sense of loss—of my parents, of my home, of the wisdom my mother and father once carried—wounded me in a way I could not recover from. I had found nothing to heal the pain.

But of late, I had felt the shadow of something new coming.

Downstream, movement caught my eye. The ferns at the side of the stream shifted.

I stilled and watched.

A fox appeared. The creature stepped on silent feet onto a mossy rock at the side of the stream. Dipping his head down, he drank, then turned and looked up at me. In the light of the moon, his eyes shimmered.

I sat perfectly still, my gaze on the creature’s. After a long moment, the fox yipped, then turned and disappeared into the underbrush, vanishing from sight.

Pulling my mead flask from my vest, I took a drink then poured a little liquid into the water.

“For you vætts of this land and stream. Bless my journey tomorrow,” I said, then rose.

In the distance, the fox barked once more, its voice sounding like a warning scream.