Hildrmaer Jorrunsdottir from Tonsberg, Norway, one of the oldest cities in Norway, due south of Oslo, on the coast

Sigiferth nearly jumped off the fur covered bed where he lay lounging beside his heavily pregnant wife Jorunn, a loving hand splayed across her belly.  “By Odin, did you feel that?!”  Jorunn laughed lightly, “of course I did, she's a feisty one and has been kicking like that for days now.”  “She?” retorted Sigiferth with a smile, “and how can you be so sure?”  A knowing smile lit Jorunn's face, “do not hold lightly the Old One's wisdom, for she tossed the bones in this very room yesterday and told me I would bear you a girl, healthy and strong in body and will.”  “A girl is it to be then, after our four boys?  What shall we name her?  Something soft and sweet?” mused Sigiferth.  Jorunn tensed slightly at another sharp kick from the little one in her womb, then eased back on the bed.  “This one is a warrior, my love, and should have a warrior's name...  let's call her Hildrmaer, our little 'battle maiden'”.  “Hildrmaer” Sigiferth smiled and nodded, “Perhaps she will take after your grandmother Bregga, she was said to be a keen spearmaiden in her time, and a wise counselor to the old Chieftain as well.  Indeed, many have said that with such gifts she must be kindred of the Aesir themselves.”  Jorunn settled herself comfortably into the furs, picked up her whalebone comb and replied as she drew it through her long reddish blonde locks, “theres an old story told in my family that a fair Ljosalfr courted one of my forebears and spun the gold into our hair, so perhaps it is true.”

“Maer!” she shouted loudly again, with no more success than the previous five times.  “where has that girl gotten herself off to now?  ten winters old and as hard to keep still as a spring hare...” Jorunn muttered to herself, half annoyed and half amused, shaking her head side to side before going back to tend the pot of stew bubbling at the hearthfire.  Oblivious to the calls from her mother, Maer perched silent and unseen in the rafters of the Great Hall, where she had clambered up along the beams earlier and found a place to settle herself comfortably.  Below, around the central fire, many elders of the village had gathered, her own father Sigiferth amongst them.  She listened keenly to the visitor who had arrived from the coast earlier, a Thane's skald, as he told of the news and events of his travels, often told in the form of poetic verses, lauding accomplishments in battle or other endeavors, with perhaps just a bit of exaggeration or superstition added here and there, to add interest to his stories.  So rapt was her attention, as she let her mind imagine herself standing in a great hall before elders some day, that she did not notice one of those gathered at the fire step away...  “Got you, my little mouse!” The voice was low yet stern, though softened by a touch of amusement, as Sigiferth reached up high to pluck his young daughter down from the beam.  Carrying her to the door before setting her on her feet, he assumed a look intended to chastise and said “get on home to mother before she worries herself fretting after you”.  With a mischievous smile thrown back over her shoulder, Maer scampered off, no less determined to take every opportunity to learn what she could so that she might become a skald herself someday...   .

The young woman stood at the entrance of the great hall, breathing in a deep breath, as if to inhale the memory of it.  Her eyes wandered to the wooden crossbeams and a brief smile crossed her face as she remembered the many times she furtively lurked there listening to the stories told at the central fire, enough times that her parents finally gave up on the idea of her marrying a local boy and giving them grandchildren to dote over, and instead let her pursue her fervent desire to learn the craft and cunning of the skalds.  The town's own skald, Snorri, had gotten too old to travel and was happy to have the company of an eager young girl to listen to his stories and learn the ways to weave words into verse.  “You must enchant, beguile, mesmerize, my dear, as you speak,” Snorri wheezed in a crackly voice that hinted of a strength now faltering, “and all the while, listen... listen with your eyes, your nose, not just your ears, for that is where you will find your next story.”  Maer nodded to herself, as she had nodded to Snorri, marking his words well.  The old one had passed to the great hall of Valhalla a week past now, and it was time to make her own right of passage to her destiny.  Pulling her furs close against the chill of the morning, she headed off to her home one last time, to bid farewell to her family, as she left to travel the wandering path of the skald, to learn of the world, so she could return one day to stand by the central fire amongst the town elders and tell her own stories of adventure...

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