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They had brought a rich ransom for her; more gold than the soldier had seen in one place in all his life. As they poured the pieces out upon the ground, he was overcome by greed and fell to his knees to count it.

She looked up, then, and spoke a few words in a tongue he didn’t know; they were the last words he heard.

She ran that night; ran faster and further than she had run before. The burden she carried barely slowed her down, and the men, once more carrying the gold that had bought her freedom, had trouble keeping up with her.

She reached her husband’s tent and strode in without stopping, throwing her burden down at his feet.

“Only one man,” she said, breathless, “Only one man who has lain with me shall remain alive.”

The chieftain stood, kicked aside the bloody head on the floor, and embraced his wife.

© Kari Fay