It was bedlam. Fires raged outside. The night air was pierced with screams as mothers were torn from their children and husbands. Through all of it, a hideous cackle sounded, like a church bell, over all the din. In her house just outside of the main road, Melissa Hubbard watched all the commotion out of her window. It pained her that she was not able to help the poor people outside. Melissa had always been a charitable person. She held her baby close to her. Melissa's baby, a boy, was born out of wedlock. The man who had caused the baby had left the village the day after Melissa had told him that she was pregnant. The baby started crying, and his mother set him down in the little basket that served as his bed. As she did so, there was a loud bang from the door. Melissa knew what was going on. She took the boy's basket and shoved it under her bed. Perhaps if she was careful, her son would live. The door banged once again, and gave way. A Viking barged in and immediately began grabbing and taking from what lay about the house. Melissa knew that she probably wasn't going to live through this anyway, so she decided that she might as well try to do something.

"Excuse me!" she told the Viking. The Viking looked up.


"I said excuse me," Melissa said, "But why are you taking my things like that?"

"Because.." the Viking said, thinking, "I'm a Viking."

"But what's really the point?" Melissa asked.

"We need the money to go on our voyages," the Viking told her.

"I see. But, on your voyages, don't you just pillage and take even more?" The Viking pondered this.

"Look, I don't know you that well, but I know that I'm about to get killed anyway. If not by you, then surely by somebody else." Melissa reached under the bed and pulled out the baby in his basket. "I need somebody to take care of him for me." Melissa pulled back the blankets and revealed the tiny face of her son.

"What? You want me to take a baby? I don't even know how to take care of a baby!" the Viking protested, "You're absolutely sure I'm the right person for the job?"

"No," Melissa said, "I don't know you nearly well enough to trust you. I just need to know that my son will survive this." The Viking looked from the mother to the baby and back again.

"Look, I don't even know your name,"

"You don't need to. I'll be dead in a minute."

"You don't know that!"

"Yes I do." Melissa pointed behind the Viking. Two more of the men stood behind him. They barged in and took Melissa by the arm.

"What's this then, eh?" the Viking on the left asked.

"Looks like a pretty little lady!" The Viking on the right lifted a knife to her throat. Melissa looked helplessly at the Viking who held her baby.

"Don't," The Viking told his companions.

"What?" The Viking who held the knife to Melissa's throat turned to face the speaker. Unfortunately, as he turned, the knife turned as well, never once leaving its target. As the Viking who held Melissa's baby was about to tell them why they shouldn't kill her, Melissa fell to the ground, dead.

"NO!" The Viking who held Melissa's baby said.

"Oh, sorry there, Sven!" The Viking on the left said, "Did you need her for something?"

"Yeah, actually, I did," Sven told them angrily.

"Ah well. Tough luck, old pal!" the Viking on the right said.

"What's that you've got there?" the Viking on the left asked, indicating Sven's basket.

"This? Oh nothing, Thorgild! It's nothing!" Sven quickly brushed the blanket over the baby's face.

"Ah, all right. Sorry about the uh, girl, there Sven," said Thorgild, "Come on, Lingerson, let's go and pillage a bit more before the ship leaves."

"We're leaving?" Sven asked.

"Yeah, in a few minutes. We've pillaged about as much as we can for tonight," Lingerson told Sven as he and Thorgild were leaving. Sven glanced at the little bundle of blankets that was sleeping quietly in the basket he carried. What was he going to do with this thing? How would he explain to the other Vikings that he had been given this baby by one of thief victims? Even more importantly, how was he going to raise the baby? Then he realized that the woman hadn't even told him the baby's name. He would have to come up with a name.

"What rotten luck! I come to get some stuff of real value, and I get landed with some stupid tyke." Sven brushed the blanket off the baby's face once more. It was sleeping, but not for long. After a couple of seconds, the baby opened his eyes and looked up at Sven. Strangely enough, even though the baby had never even seen him before, the baby smiled. Its brilliant blue eyes twinkled.

"Gods! You're a pleasant one, aren't you?" Sven said. He had to admit, the little thing looked rather cute. The baby giggled in response.

"Look, you, you've got to be quiet if you're to get out of here alive. So keep it shut, got it?" The baby shut his mouth, and quickly became as silent as a stone. Sven was impressed. Smart kid, he thought. Then he remembered that he'd better be off before everyone left. He pulled the blanket over the boy's face and left, looking around assertively to make sure that nobody had seen him.

Sven made it to the ship just in time.

"Hoy, Sven! You nearly missed us!" called Thorgild as his friend climbed aboard.

"Yeah. You won't be nearly so lucky next time. Don't dawdle again, y'hear?" hissed Unnson, the leader of this particular expedition. Sven had never really gotten on well with Unnson, for some reason that he couldn't figure out. Unnson hadn't ever gotten on well with Sven, and he hadn't tried. He was a leader, and therefore had to be impartial. But there was something about Sven that was different than the rest of his group. Unnson hadn't ever gotten hold of what it was exactly, but it was just different. And different was not something that vikings, he in particular, were appriciative of.

"Yeah, I hear you," Sven grumbled, sitting down as the boat, propelled by the rowing of the slaves in the hull below, made its way out to sea. He looked down again at the basket. The blanket had shifte a little, and you could now make out the top of the baby's fuzzy little head. Sven quickly pulled the blanket over it before anyone noticed. Taking care of this baby had seemed like a hard job at first, but keeping it secret was going to be even harder.