“Black Bear Skin: A Norse Tale”
By Erin O'Riordan
Originally published at Justus Roux's Erotic Tales, December 2007
Bergren hadn’t known, until this moment, that the gods were ever so kind.
Surely she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. She’d outgrown her girlishness, and stood before him a strong, bold
woman. Yet she was innocent, without the roughness of the farmer’s daughters that Bergren knew from home. Her white skin was as
pure as Freya’s must surely be. Her hair was the same dark color as the bear’s skin that lay across her bed, the bear’s skin on which
she sat. Her dark eyes shone in the light of the fire.
Most wondrous of all, her small hand was stretched out toward him, reaching for him, drawing him nearer. After all her kindness:
bringing him in from the snowy night; offering him beer and venison stew, warming him by her fire. She still had more to give. And she
“Warrior,” she said, breaking the spell of his stare. “You’ve said it yourself: you believed this island was uninhabited. I’ve told you that I
have no father, no husband, no brothers. I’m sure you understand how lonely I get here, and you have nothing to be afraid of. I’d like it if
you could spend the night with me.”
She reached out just a little further, and the little pink palm of her hand rested on his sleeve. He reached over and picked up her hand,
staring at this gift from the gods in amazement.
“Do you really know what you’re asking?” he said. “If you allow me to stay, to sleep underneath that warm bear skin with you, I won’t be
content to roll over and fall asleep.”
“I know,” she said. She brought her body closer, leaning over the bed. He could see her dark eyelashes now. They still had little drops
of water on them, where the snowflakes had fallen. He reached out to brush away the drops of water with his thumb. She sighed. “I
want to be touched.”
Bergren was suddenly aware of the blood coursing through his body. His heart beat as loudly as it did just before that last raid, when
he sensed that all would not go well. But the gods had been kind that day, too, and he’d only lost two fingers. He looked at the injured
hand. It seemed to reach out on its own, without his willing it. He touched her black hair with one, then both hands.
She closed her eyes. Bergren held her, kissing her. She accepted his kisses, shuddering as his hands came to rest on her
shoulders. So innocent, so pure. It almost seemed a shame to spoil something so beautiful. She should have been set apart by the
gods and left untouched.
At the same time, he needed her. He needed her warm, soft body underneath him just as he’d needed to come in from the wind and
snow, as he’d needed food and drink. Now he was warm and had eaten and drank, and the beautiful dark-haired woman was willing
to see him fully satisfied. Perhaps the gods felt he was owed, after losing two fingers in the raid.
It didn’t matter. This was no time to think of war. She kissed him back now. Her fingers explored his shoulders, the back of his neck,
his dark blond hair.
“Would you like me to bathe you, warrior? There is warm water by the fire.”
He pulled his tunic off over his head and let it fall to the floor. She looked at him in wonder. Her fingers explored the dark blond hairs of
his chest. He took off his leggings while she soaked a soft cloth in the warm water.
“Come here,” she said. “Right here by the fire.”
He did. For the first time in months, he was warmed to the bone. She looked him up and down approvingly before touching the warm,
wet cloth to the back of his shoulder. She worked her way down from his shoulders to the back of his legs, humming softly as she did.
She bathed his chest the same way, slowly, with a loving touch. As her hands neared his belly, he stopped her.
“Let me bathe you now,” he said. “Then you can finish what you were about to do.”
He slid her white sleeve from her shoulder and kissed her there. “How’s that?” he said. She muttered her approval, which made
Bergren all the more bold. He helped her out of her blouse and her skirts. He took off her soft leather boots, marveling at how tiny and
delicate the feet inside were. He started at her toes, working the warm water and the soft cloth up to one knee, then the other.
She stood there by the fire, looking down at him where he knelt, ready for him to finish bathing her legs. “Why do you stop, warrior?”
Bergren wondered how he would ever leave this woman. He looked around the cabin, wondering if this could be his new home. The
thought of going back to the boat, and ultimately back to his father’s farm, seemed sad to him. When he looked into his lover’s dark
eyes, Bergren only wanted to stay.
“I can’t continue,” he said, taking her hands in his, “for the same reason I couldn’t let you continue. It’s too good, and I want you too
much. I want to take you to your bed.”
She took the warm cloth from him and dropped it in the bucket of water by the fire. He started to pull her toward the bed, but she
hesitated. She took a jar down from the mantle above the fire and opened it. A smell like springtime flowers came from it.
“What’s that?” he said.
“A perfumed oil,” she said. “It belonged to my grandmother, who lived here with me a long time ago.”
He said nothing. She took some of the oil from the jar with two fingers, warmed it in her hands, and rubbed it against the skin on the
inside of his elbow. It made the skin feel soft, and its smell was beautiful. “Yes, do that,” he said, “but let me put some on you as well.”
She agreed. He couldn’t believe how soft and smooth her skin felt, even without the perfumed oil. Once her arms, legs and breasts
were covered in the oil, she was impossible to resist. He lifted her off her feet and carried her to the bed, setting her down on the bear
As he leaned forward, she leaned back, until she lay on her back across the dark bear skin. She made a little groaning sound as he
shifted his weight onto her, but Bergren was quick to support himself with his arms. They fit together nicely, her small strong body
underneath his large one.
He kissed her lips. She pulled away to breathe.
“Are you afraid?” he asked her. Her chest was rising and falling hard, as if she’d been running.
“No,” she said. “I’m not afraid. Show me what to do.”
Holding himself up with one arm, he ran the other hand down her body. It came to rest between her thighs. He parted them gently.
“Just relax,” he said. “Just keep breathing, and relax. Let me show you.”
He was amazed how quickly, how easily her body responded to his words. Her breathing relaxed, and her body softened. She let out a
sigh of pleasure as he entered her. She linked her fingers behind his head and rocked her hips in time with his.
“Yes,” she whispered. “Like that.”
Bergren was pleased that she was pleased. He couldn’t believe that the gods could be so kind.
As he got up to leave, the woman dressed herself. She went to unbar the door. Bergren pulled his cloak around his shoulders tightly.
“You’ve been too kind to me,” he told her. “When I get home, I’ll have to offer a sacrifice to the gods for sending you to me.”
“And I will thank Freya for sending you to me,” she said. She took the black bear skin and wrapped it around his shoulders. Bergren’s
eyes filled with tears of appreciation. He kissed her once more before opening the door, hoping he would return to her soon.
He stepped out into the night. The snow had covered his footprints, but he knew the way back to the camp. The island wasn’t large
enough to get lost on. Within the hour, he was at the beach. He saw the familiar leather tent, sagging a bit under the weight of the
snow. Outside a fire burned, attended by Bergren’s brother Raynor. The brothers Einar and Erland slept inside.
Raynor regarded his younger brother with some amusement. “Where have you been?” he asked. He reached out with the butt end of
his spear and poked at the bear skin with it. “What’s that?”
After the long walk, Bergren had almost forgotten how satisfied he’d been an hour earlier. All that his bones remembered were the
cold, the dark, and all those grabbing arms of the pine trees. He settled down by the fire to warm himself for a moment before he would
crawl underneath his cold blankets.
Raynor stared down at him.
“It’s a black bear skin,” Bergren said. “I found it.” There was no use telling the whole tale. Raynor would never believe him. Things like
that happened to great heroes, not to the third son of a poor farmer. Especially not one who’d been mutilated in a raid so ingloriously.
Raynor just snorted, then kicked the sleeping Einar’s leg. Both Einar and Erland shifted and stirred. Einar moaned.
“Your watch,” Raynor said.
Erland sat up. “Bergren?” he said, squinting into the fire light. The moon hid behind dark snow clouds. “Did you find anything?”
Bergren knew what he meant. After days of eating nothing but fish, the four of them had landed on the island hoping to turn up an elk,
or a deer, or at least some snowshoe hares.
“Did you kill a bear?” Einar said.
Bergren laughed as he lay the bear skin on the cold ground. Einar got up, and Raynor took his place under the warm blankets.
Bergren wrapped himself in the warm bear skin, then arranged the blankets over his body.
“He says he found that thing,” Raynor said.
“We waited for hours,” Einar said, leaning up against the tent pole near the fire. “From the sea, this island didn’t look so big. What took
you so long?”
Bergren only smiled. Even if the others believed him, he couldn’t risk telling them about the beautiful woman in the warm little house,
with her venison stew and her beer. They would have set out for the house as soon as the words left Bergren’s lips, wanting it all.
Wanting her. Bergren would never let them have her. It would be an offense against the gods to let the others spoil something so pure,
So he said nothing. Bergren was exhausted, and pretended that his state of exhaustion caused him to drop off to sleep immediately.
Very soon, he really was asleep.
With Bergren, Raynor and Erland all asleep, Einar stepped away from his guard post to walk out to the tree line and take a piss. He
barely heard the rustle among the pine branches that marked the approach of the bear. By the time he saw the dark fur, it was too late.
* * *
Bergren couldn’t remember the terrible screams, the pain of the bite and claw wounds, the agonizing death. The last thing he
remembered was the sweet hospitality of the woman on the little evergreen island. The way she bathed him. Her touch. Her kiss. The
dewy, perfumed smell of her skin. Her final, loving gesture, draping the warm bear skin over his shoulders.
He awoke to something more wonderful than he’d ever prayed for. He lay across a warm bed. The mattress was stuffed with sweet-
smelling fresh straw. His injured hand lay under his head. When Bergren pulled it out, he looked at the hand. He smiled, amazed to
see that the hand was restored. He wiggled his five fingers.
This must be a dream, Bergren thought. I am dreaming of being in the woman’s cabin, as I lie in the snow.
As if in answer, a female voice giggled. No, it was a chorus of female voices, as pleasant as music. Bergren sat up.
He saw them now. They were tall, taller than men. Their chalk-white skin was flawless. Their golden hair fell down their backs in
meticulous braids, not a hair out of its place. Their eyes were blue as jewels. The three women, who must surely have been sisters,
were beautiful beyond words.
He saw that one of them carried a sword. Another held a bridle in her hand. At the other end of it stood a horse, larger than any horse
Bergren had ever seen. A horse with shining wings of white and silver feathers.
Ah, so this was a dream. He lay in the snow dreaming of the Valkyries, the maidens who carry the souls of dead warriors from the
Unless, Bergren thought, the evergreen island was all a dream. Perhaps I lost more than my fingers on the battlefield. Perhaps I am
dead after all.
If this was death, he didn’t mind it at all. He was whole and warm, and the warrior-maidens were so lovely.
The Valkyries lowered their jeweled eyes, and Bergren soon saw why. The doors of the chamber swung open. A figure strode into
view. She was even taller than the Valkyries, and more lovely. The breastplate of her armor was shining gold, like the braids of her
hair, which nearly dragged on the floor. In her hand, she held the leash of an enormous white panther. She let the beast go, and it
curled at the foot of the bed as if it were a kitten.
There could be no doubt. This was Freya herself. Even the wondrous beauty of the Valkyries looked drab next to the goddess of love.
Bergren rolled from the bed and got down on his knees, touching his forehead to the smooth boards of the wooden floor.
“Arise, Bergren, third son of Ingmar,” Freya said. Bergren did as he was told, although he was afraid to look at her. She was too
glorious. To look into her eyes would be like standing too close to the fire.
Freya laughed, and the Valkyries laughed with her. The chamber filled with music. The sound calmed Bergren.
“You were the one I wanted,” Freya said. She reached out to touch Bergren’s chin. He thought that her touch would be hot, burning, but
instead it was cool. It soothed him. “Only you weren’t killed in the raid, as I’d hoped you would be. You escaped, leaving only two of
your fingers behind.”
Bergren looked down at the perfect hand that had once been mutilated. He wanted to offer her words of thanks, but the words would
not come out. How can one speak to a goddess?
“I had to make an extra effort to get you,” she said. She stroked his beard, ran her fingers down his neck. He could feel her wanting. “I
had to send you and your companions to that island, where my priestess resides. I had to turn her into a bear.”
Many emotions ran through him. He was shocked, sick, excited, grateful. He wished he could speak.
“Your brother Raynor is a great warrior as well,” Freya continued. “So are Einar and Erland, the sons of Nils. But you are the greatest of
them all. I choose you, Bergren son of Ingmar, to share my bed tonight.”