“I long to,” she said. “I can’t. My place is here.”

…such are the words of Gudrid, daughter of Bjarni, son of Bjarni… Gudrid the Viking woman, in Stephen Baxter’s Conqueror, who, when asked by Aelfric (who was born Aelfflaed, a woman masquerading as a man so she can study at the monastery at Lindisfarne) to go with her, to leave her post (while her countrymen sack the monastery, slaughter its inhabitants and raid its treasures), finds she cannot. She cannot leave what she was born to. She cannot fly so wantonly in the face of her destiny. She was born a Viking and yet the killing sickens her, the raping disgusts her; she feels deep down that there is a better way. She longs to escape, to flee from the cruelty and the bloodshed, but she does not feel strong enough to turn her back on this way of living which courses so strongly through her veins.

Gudrid is a Viking, she was born a Viking, she will live and die a Viking… but in a different time, a different place – if the thread of her existence had been woven through a different part of Time’s Tapestry – what would she be? What would any of us be? How strong are the ties of our birth, the circumstances we are thrown into, the lives we find ourselves leading? Are we all pawns in an eternal game of fate and destiny… or can each and every one of us be Weavers of the Tapestry of Time?

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