Play by Play

Play by Play: The Angel Wore Fangs—Sandra Hill [pt 2]

All right, friends, we’re diving back in to The Angel Wore Fangs. I’ll try to provide a little more plot explanation as we go along, balancing “oh my god don’t tell people everything that happens in the book” with “wtf are you talking about” as best I can.

Chapters one and two can be found in part 1.

I also discovered today that there is a prologue that my Kindle neglected to show me as I was… scrolling? tapping? swiping?… to get to the first page (my bad, but Kindle, c’mon, step up a little bit), so we’re gonna jump back to the prologue, then move on to chapter 3.

I’m a professional at this, guys, for sure.

Prologue: A Viking Feast Menu

Some highlights from the Viking feast menu: rotten shark, eel in dill cream sauce, boiled sheep’s head, pickled ram testicles in whey-pressed cakes, lampreys, stinky cheese, and lutefisk.

Of all of those, I find the lutefisk least offensive. As long as it’s made with proper white sauce, because I accepted the Christmas smell of cooking lutefisk because I knew it would come with white sauce. Otherwise lutefisk is like swallowing something that slithers down your throat and isn’t that bad as long as you don’t let it touch your tongue. The smell of lutefisk cooking is super Christmas to me, and I kind of miss it. Walking into Gramma’s house to the smell of lutefisk and lefse was how we all knew it was Christmas eve. (#ChelseaYourSwedishIsShowing)

(I now have the Cobber chant of “Lutefisk! Lefse! Can we beat them? Yeah sure ya betcha!” stuck in my head, so thanks for that.)

Prologue epigraph (?—still not sure what to call these): Weight Watchers, where art thou?

Okay, here we go. This is the introduction I missed to Cnut being fat. And all Norsemen are vain. Which I gathered from the chapter two insistence that he is not vain, except about everything.

“Norsemen were normally vain of appearance, sometimes to a ridiculous extent. Long hair, combed to a high sheen. Braided beards. Clean teeth. Gold and silver arm rings to show off muscles. Tight braies delineating buttocks and ballocks.”

Now, a quick Google (because I had no idea what a braies—highly reputable replica medieval clothing source—was) shows me pictures of… basically underwear… that doesn’t seem to be that tight. I’m also in Starbucks right now, so Googling medieval underwear isn’t probably the best use of public wifi (I can just imagine what kind of things people are going to read over my shoulder as it is).

Somebody please research historical Viking clothes, because I just killed 20 minutes Googling Viking clothes, and nothing to me suggests anything like any of this. (Also, Scandinavia can get really cold, so maybe sleeveless outfits wouldn’t be the smartest choice ever made?) This seems to smack of Celtic representation to me more than Viking. Anyway before I spend the next six hours researching Viking clothes…

Cnut’s six brothers are all half-brothers. Or at least three of his six brothers are half-brothers, all with different mothers. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I seem to recall hearing that women had some rights with the Vikings, and I doubt a woman would stand for her husband to have six bastards. Or three bastards. (Sources? What sources.)

Apparently rhymes about Cnut being fat work in both Old Norse and English, because the poem Vikar wrote about it all has (not that great) end rhyme. You know what? Here you go.

Cnut is a brute
And a glutton, of some repute.
He is so fat that, when he goes a-Viking for loot,
He can scarce lift a bow with an arrow to shoot.
But when it comes to woman-pursuit,
None can refute
That Cnut can ‘salute’ with the best of them.
Thus and therefore, let it be known
And this is a truth absolute,
Size matters.”

I’m just gonna leave it there.

Okay, hang on. “At least the skald had not told the poem about how, if Cnut spelled his name with a slight exchange of letters, he would be a vulgar woman part.”

Update: These Vikings speak English and use English language that wouldn’t be developed for thousands of years. That’s how the poem rhymes. I understand now. Glad we cleared that up. (I’m glad I started with chapter 1 or I never would have gotten this far.) How did editorial not call this out? Editors? Copyeditors? Anybody?

Cnut also doesn’t bathe because he’s too fat for bathtubs. Did the Vikings have bathtubs?

Oh god. Cnut named one of his warhorses (a Percheron) Hugo (which explains the motorcycle name) except… as far as I can tell, Hugo is a Germanic and English name and not a Norse name. Why am I researching so much of this?

Okay, horse history time, because few things make me as irate as people who don’t understand horses writing horses. Horse “breeds” as we think of them today didn’t exist until relatively recently in history. The Percheron breed wasn’t even developed until after the Crusades (as the Arabian bloodline is thought to be an important part of founding the breed). I don’t have an exact date for when this prologue is taking place, but the Viking age is, what, between the 700s and 1066 when they lost the Battle of Hastings to the Normans? The First Crusade (first Crusade? I don’t know the capitalization rules for the Crusades) didn’t begin until 1095, 30 years after the Battle of Hastings. The ancestors of Percherons were used as warhorses, but a Percheron (in the same way we think of a Thoroughbred or a Quarter Horse or even a Clydesdale) didn’t even exist during the Viking age. /done

(Not done) Also, so in the next paragraph Cnut refers to his horse as a destrier, which is much more correct, even though I don’t think the word was in use in Scandinavia during the Viking era. I’m willing to overlook that because we’ve already discussed English being used in Scandinavia during this time period. But the important thing is a destrier is not a breed of horse as it is a horse bred for specific work. For horses that may have been similar to destriers, see: Percheron, Andalusian, Friesian, Irish Draught.

Also, so we know because I read chapter 1 first that Cnut is 6’4″. He says that his “long legs dragged on the ground” riding a palfrey. Now, a palfrey is an ambling horse—roughly the equivalent of a modern-day Tennessee Walking Horse (~15.7 hh/5.3 ft), American Standardbred (~15.5 hh/5.2 ft), Paso Fino (~14.1 hh/4.75 ft), and Peruvian Paso (14.65 hh/5 feet high). Despite everyone picturing massive Draft horses when they think of a warhorse, (Clydesdales are approximately 17 hh or 5.7 ft), a historical destrier was probably shorter, around 14 or 15 hands high, so… roughly the size of a Peruvian Paso. The destriers were (probably—it’s not like anyone has any left for us to take a look at) built more like a Suffolk than a Peruvian Paso. If his legs dragging on the ground is his issue, a horse the size of a Peruvian Paso isn’t going to solve his problems.

For reference:

Percheron (which doesn’t exist yet)PercheronSource

Suffolk Punch (roughly the size of a typical destrier)
suffolk punchSource

Peruvian Paso (roughly the height of a typical destrier)
peruvian passo
Source

 

So Cnut the Viking is faced by potential famine on his lands and he’s purchased two Percherons, which may or may not exist by this point in history, but he won’t let the peasants eat from his own collected grain, because he’s fat and as we all know being fat and greedy goes hand in hand.

Okay, this is promising. This might be when we get to see how Cnut turned into a vampire angel.

“Despite the darkness, the only light coming from a sputtering wall torch, Cnut could see that this man was handsome in appearance, noble in bearing. Long, black hair. Tall and lean, though well-muscled, like a warrior. And oddly, he wore a long white robe with a twisted rope belt, and a gold crucifix hung from a chain about his neck. Even odder, there appeared to be wings half folded behind his back.”

So, two things. If he’s wearing the robes I think he’s wearing, there ain’t no way you can tell Michael (it’s Michael; he introduces himself in the next line) is well-muscled, like a warrior. Second, “even odder, there appeared to be wings half folded behind his back.” THAT IS NOT AN “even odder” statement. That is a “HOLY SHIT THIS MAN HAS WINGS” statement.

Back on track, God isn’t pleased that Cnut is a sinner. So Cnut doesn’t get a choice. He’s meeting his maker.

Oh, haha, there are seven brothers. (Not seven brides for.) And seven deadly sins. So Cnut is gluttony. That sort of explains his obsession with food. And also sex. We hear a lot about his sex life. Now we got a bulleted list flash-forward of what Cnut’s gluttony is going to cause—death, starvation, lots of food for Cnut, more death, more starvation.

Michael has decreed that the Vikings are too arrogant and brutish, and that it’s God’s will that the Vikings die, except the seven brothers (still without seven brides) will live.

I’m not going to get on this topic again, but… I think modern historians don’t really think the Vikings were all brutal murderers. I’m pretty sure consensus is that they’re more or less the same as any conquering people.

Here we go: Cnut was offered the chance to be a vangel in God’s army for seven hundred years or go to hell for eternity. But he neglected to ask what a vampire was, because if the Archangel Michael has you pinned to the wall, you probably have bigger things to worry about. But also if the phrase “vampire angel” is in the job description, you maybe should ask. Maybe.

And Michael specified “A Viking vampire angel who will fight the forces of Satan’s Lucipires, demon vampires who roam the world spreading evil.” So that answers the question I had in chapter two that I would have had the answer to if I’d read the prologue first. Vangels are specifically Viking vampire angels. These vangels, anyway.

So apparently this process involves bones being crushed and reformed, then fangs, and wings ripping apart his shoulders. Well, he doesn’t know what they are yet, but I’m assuming they’re wings.

And this is when Michael puts Cnut on a diet.

I was going to go on to chapter 3 and do two chapters each section, but after I wrote 400 words on horses, I’m not sure I have enough space to do that. So chapter three and four will be coming in the next installment.

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