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PF1E Crowns of Ice - A Tale of Blood and Betrayal

Archon Basileus

First Post
Welcome, Ladies and Lords!

Tomorrow we shall begin to unfold your stories right on this stage. As we agitate ourselves struggling with fate, the mantle of uncertainty covers our hearts, making us fear the worse, but hope for the best.

Rejoice in the time you have! Today the gods smile upon you! Lovers reunited, brothers ready to strike iniquity, a father’s pleas answered, a world to conquer! Revel in gifts of divine benevolence, fated men of the north, for no richer days are in sight and the hearth roars fire still!

So much joy today! But, tomorrow… Ah, tomorrow…!


@Fenris @Queenie @tglassy @Jago
 

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Archon Basileus

First Post
Spring in Grandael.

Lively crowns of Twinflowers and timid Luddvedels bend under the gentle strokes of the winds. Fields grow, green and strong, as the snows of winter give place to fresh streams of water. Brooks shine under the sun and the coast awakens with vivid sails gliding through deep-blue seas. Mead Halls resound with laughter and song and streets smell as honeyed cake and venison.

Anvils sing as metal tastes fire. The last woods are bent, the last sails, sewn. Men swear their oaths on their wristbands, and promises are made. The gods are revered, and rejoice. The blood runs over the altars, the wine runs over the altars. Children laugh, and sing, and race through the backyards. Beasts exercise their laziness under the sun. Shepherds shepherd, hunters hunt, fishermen throw their nets against luck.

And alliances are made.

When the snows melted, travelers took to road and seas once more. Merchants, sell-swords, sworn enemies… Sweet brides… And even some grooms. It was under these blessings that Astrid's party left home, the solemn longhouse under mountainous shadows of ice, to reach blooming Grandael. There, Einar, son of Volund, held a welcoming banquet in honor of his wedding.

The longboat that carries Astrid glides softly through a welcoming sea.

“It should be a few more hours until we reach the coast of Grandael.” – the navigator says in his typically dry manners. Old Gisle had been in the service of the MacTriers for years, and throughout all this time he remained solemn and laconic, commanding practical sense and a severe posture towards his duties. Nevertheless, his concerns for Astrid are clear. He insisted in accompanying the bride, swearing to help her under any circumstances.


[Base material and map draft - https://docs.google.com/document/d/14sS2x0mkrfA7U4cYEsLaNANSZeC2Re6PtF0m-Zwy1BI/edit]


@Fenris @Queenie @tglassy @Jago
 
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Queenie

Queen of Everything
Astrid paced the floor of her father’s ship, her long elaborate silver gown trailing behind her as she did. She hated having to travel in something so impractical but they would not have time for changing before her new husband and his family greeted her. So travel in the snug silver gown with the plum beads she did. Her seamstress had worked hard on the dress, cried when she put it on, and cried this morning when she left.

Astrid gazed down upon it, the silver embroidered threads sparkling in the bright sunlight. It was a gorgeous gown, she supposed, a perfect wedding dress. It enhanced everything a groom would want in a bride, and hid nothing he would not. Astrid was glad in this moment that the blush of youth was still upon her and she'd been given the gifts to properly fill out such a dress. She'd been receiving marriage offers for years and finally it had been time to accept before those gifts left her and a dress like this would be left to her sister alone. She'd brought a trunk full of these gowns, for however long these festivities were going to last.

She sighed and returned to her pacing. Her wolf pup happily kept up right behind her, getting her exercise prancing delicately behind the girl, avoiding the gown.

Not quite a girl anymore, she pondered as she looked out over those green seas, A woman now, on the way to my own wedding. She could easily get lost looking out over that water recalling when she was just a girl and she believed the sea was the answer to a lot of her prayers. A life of adventure she longed for, a place for romance and freedom, sweet freedom. Little girls are quite foolish. The thought made her uncomfortable, for more than one reason. She sighed, turned her own luminescent green eyes from the water back to the boat. She hadn’t been a girl for a very long time.

Her maids sat speaking to each other under the shade of the covering in the back, nervously looking around. She couldn’t blame them, she felt nervous too, she just could not let herself show it to anyone. This was her job and she would do it, she’d spent a good part of her life learning about wifely duties. She also needed this to happen for her own reasons that not one person on this ship knew about. It was lonely having secrets and no one to speak to about them, she was hopeful this union would change that. Changing your home after a lifetime of someplace comfortable and happy was no easy feat though. She was certain her ladies were not thrilled about their move either.

Some of her very long auburn hair had been plaited up into elaborate braids, her family crown woven into the style, and it was pulling on her head, giving her a headache. Or maybe it was just the nerves. As soon as she touched her forehead to rub it there was a loud feminine cough from the back of the boat. She rolled her eyes.

“Gisle, is it possible to make this boat go any faster? I believe I will feel better once my feet are back on shore.” She knew that was actually the very last thing she wanted but getting this over with was the only real outcome now. She paced up to the front, up close to the painted silver dragon that adorned the bow of the boat and leaned on the side, letting the cool air blow her hair back that way as she looked out over the beautiful land they called home. Her wolf hopped up under her arm and Astrid gently pet her as she pondered what her fate would be like; she’d soon enough find out for herself.
 
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Archon Basileus

First Post
ASTRID

Inge’s reaction is a laconic, brief smile.

“I can only imagine such anticipation.” – he looks around, as if to measure the weather conditions. He turns back to Astrid, shaking his head as he grimaces, dissatisfied. “Winds and oars won’t cooperate any more than this.”
He rises, walking around the deck for a bit, and goes to the side of his lady. He studies the woman for a while, his hard gaze wrinkled in her direction as the eyes of the women fall over the duo. Astrid could feel their apprehension as the old man approached. Inge was always far more liberal with the girl than all others, lacking a family of his own as well as any respect for the excesses of highborn conventions. Inge had been an adventurer and a fighter for a great deal of his life. He did not care for fancy clothes or ceremonious habits.

He took a second glance at the dress.

“What’s that made of? Sif’s golden mane? Move around, girl! I’ve never seen you standing so still in my entire life!” – the old man smirks, raising an eyebrow to the women in the back, clearly provoking them to action. Nothing was spoken.

“I will say, you look beautiful” – and now Inge lowers his tone. “But what is the price of beauty, if it arrives with a heavy heart? Come, girl, you are not the maiden someone has made of you just now” – he points once more to the back of the longship. He silences for a moment, leans towards the waters, and begins once more, looking over his old, round shoulder.

“Remember when you used to steal away for hours? Embla would go insane over your disappearances! I bet she never told you this… or your father, for that matter. She feared so much you’d leave and never return... Sylvia asked of you all the time, and Embla would create amazing stories of boar hunts and golden boughs, and Rig would appear in so many of them, carrying you, protecting you, fighting alongside you.” – Astrid and Inge overhear moans of disapproval from behind, but the old man seems enticed by a gleaming piece of memory only he can see. “Soon Sylvia would become jealous… She came one day and asked me if you and Rig were lovers. I simply smiled. I couldn’t spoil her innocence like that, refusing the gods to her…” – the old man’s eyes become wet over his sincere smile. “…So I simply said you were blessed, just as she was. I left her to dream of her own heroes and gods, and soon enough she’d pester Embla to repeat the entire Völsunga, night after night, hehe! I reckon she wanted Siegfried as her sister had her Rig.” – he subtly dries his eyes for a second, a rude hand not used to such delicate gestures.

“What would your father make of it… Two old fools speaking of the old gods to his daughter, right under his roof… But they were just stories, in the end. Why would his Demiurge come to rage with the happiness of an innocent girl?”

“I hope this man is wise, and brave… And ready for you. We’ve been blessed. By you, by Alec, by Sylvia… and Saria.” – he lowers his face as a sign of respect. “This man better be wise, and brave… and ready for you. You deserve no less than Rig himself.” – he pauses, turns and faces the rest of the group in a defying tone. “You have to do what you have to do… But remember what is under the fabrics and the adornments, remember your strength. If he tries to break you… Break him first. I tell you this because no one else would.”

Strange attitude for such a seasoned warrior...

@Fenris @Queenie @tglassy @Jago
 

Queenie

Queen of Everything
Astrid watched the blue green waves break around the ship as the old man spoke; she’d never heard this tale before. He was right about one thing, no one else did speak to her like this. She blushed as he spoke of private things, things perhaps only ladies would speak of but Astrid knew she would have to be able to have a private conversation about all kinds of uncomfortable things with another man soon enough so she might as well start.

She didn’t turn from the sea as she spoke in soft tones to the warrior. She supposed there was no harm now in speaking about this to anyone, it was so long ago. “Were we the only fools who thought we were in secret? After all this time, suddenly it seems so, and it appears the future will not let me move forward without first looking back.” She turned her body sideways to face the man but kept her back to the women, surely they did not know, or she would have never heard the end of it going on years now.

For a moment a beautiful memory overcame her, and Astrid closed her eyes and let it take her, the glory of the recollection passing across her face. The corners of her full lips turned up and her cheeks became rosy with a blissful glow as time passed, hours for her in just mere seconds. “He was like Rig to me, Inge, a God amongst men, and I would have been his Móðir and lived with him anywhere and happily been his wife and mother of his children for all time. I care not for this frockery and nonsense, I do not care what my upbringing claims of me. THAT is the true lesson my father taught me. He taught me what love is and how important it is. He was still teaching me of it just this morning before I left.”

The beautiful memory passed, replaced with pain and sorrow of what happened and her features changed to reflect that: a frown replaced her smile and her now open green eyes turned cloudy, reflecting that grief. “But it seems Lofn had more to say about our love than any other god of old. My love was so unhappy, he thought he was not enough for me and I could never make him see he always had been more than enough… so it is that some love stories end and some fairy tales do not have a happy conclusion.”

As the wind picked up and swirled Astrid’s thick wavy hair around her face of its own accord, she could hear some gasps coming from her handmaidens in the back and the smile returned to her face. She nodded towards the rear of the ship. “My poor ladies are never going to survive living in Grandael like this. They will be following me around with a hairbrush and sewing needle everywhere I go!”

Astrid called towards the back, “Siv and Hilde, are you two going to keep watch over me while I sleep in the night to make sure all my hairs look perfect for my new husband too? Surely he will be doing his best to muss them up on our honeymoon!” She got a good laugh at that while both her ladies gave her shocked and disapproving glares.

She quieted her voice and returned back to speaking to Inge, “I suppose that was rather vulgar of me.” A few more small chuckles escaped her lips under her breath. The disruption caused Ruby the wolf to stretch her back with a long arch before leaving Astrid’s side, who took up wandering around the ship again.

Astrid’s face settled back into a calm state but a small smile remained. “I too hope Einar is brave and wise. Father left the decision up to me myself and it was difficult to have that decision on my shoulders alone. I do not have many illusions that going into a new home, a new pagan home, that I am suddenly going to become a trusted ally and advisor. But perhaps I can earn that one day.”

She bit into her lip as she mulled her next thought over. “I… I would like to think he does not want to… break… anything about me but… is not that the job of husbands? And Vikings? They… break things. I do not know they know any other way to be.”

Astrid put her hand on the old man’s arm and squeezed him gently. “I will take your words to heart Inge, take them with me always, and remember them when all else is gone. They can take the fabrics and adornments and,” she reached up and delicately touched the silver crown resting on her forehead, “Pieces of my old life, but they cannot take me.”
 
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Archon Basileus

First Post
ASTRID

“Were we the only fools who thought we were in secret? After all this time, suddenly it seems so, and it appears the future will not let me move forward without first looking back.”

“Oh…” – Inge blushes. “I… Was not aware of it. Not until now… They were… only stories…” – he listens to her as she speaks of her past love with mixed feelings, admiration and embarrassment transforming his expressions.

“You were happy, I can tell. And that is good. Hold on to those memories. What comes ahead might still hold light to you.” – he says, a wishful expression overtaking his old face.

“But still… Grandael is not your father’s stead. As Jarl Alec, the lord of Grandael holds great prestige. But while your father’s ambitions are guided by valors and responsibility, well… Grandaelians can be far more tenacious. You know that old Volund might have been king in place of Einar, don’t you?” – he glances the horizon, measuring his words.

“What I mean to say is that, despite their honor, Grandaelians are used to the subtlety of courtly politics. Be careful not to let anything sleep inadvertently.”

“I too hope Einar is brave and wise. Father left the decision up to me myself and it was difficult to have that decision on my shoulders alone. I do not have many illusions that going into a new home, a new pagan home, that I am suddenly going to become a trusted ally and advisor. But perhaps I can earn that one day.”

“Einar Volundsson has a good name and a good father. Those who speak of him praise his qualities and his actions. These are good signs, I think. I heard he does not leave his father’s halls too often, and skips combat altogether lately. Those are not good signs…” – Inge clearly sees things through the eyes of a combatant.

“Despite all this, he’ll hear you. If he has half a brain – and it surely looks so. Your presence at Volund’s halls sediment a solid, dangerous alliance. The valleys offer iron, silver and bronze for many lands, including Einarhöf and Grandael. Imagine if suddenly Einar Volundsson can rely on your father’s help to fight a war, or fend an enemy. Men can’t fight wars with bare fists.” – he squeezes his vision, as if trying to see something in the distance.

“Now… King Einar’s sons know all about it, for sure. Gods forbid your new husband to have a taste for the throne. Even so, keep your eyes up. Hella take me if you don’t find one of the king’s sons attending to your marriage, making sure you did wed Volundsson.”


@Fenris @Queenie @tglassy @Jago
 

Queenie

Queen of Everything
Astrid dropped her hand from the man’s arm and tried to hide the wide eyed look on her face.

“I - I knew some of what you are speaking of but not all, Einar spoke of some of it to me... I mean, growing up it was always assumed I would rule over something, my own father’s lands if not another’s. I suppose it was foolish of me to think I would escape a life of it anywhere. And I know Einar is more… ambitious… than my father, but he is also young and perhaps once he has a wife and,” she wavered slightly at the words, “Family, he will be happier with life in his own halls? Maybe.”

She pondered the old man’s words as she looked out over the calm seas, suddenly her insides felt quite a bit more turbulent than they did moments before.

“I understand the value of metal in the world we live in. I understand that it is possible I am being traded for commodities. But I choose him, rather than the other way around, which makes me feel a little better in the matter.”

She wasn’t sure if she believed it, but she would keep telling herself that until she did. Einar had at least made a good show that he cared for her and would take care of her and it was best if she kept that in her heart rather than other more plain matters.

She set her green eyes back to the old warrior. “What – what did you mean I might find the king’s sons attending to my marriage… I am not quite certain of your meaning.” She had a hint of it but the man was trying to give her a message, it might as well be clear. "Do you think he wants to be King, Inge?" Astrid held her breath, hoping she hadn't just run into a war of gods she truly hadn't seen coming.
 
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Archon Basileus

First Post
ASTRID

“I understand the value of metal in the world we live in. I understand that it is possible I am being traded for commodities. But I choose him, rather than the other way around, which makes me feel a little better in the matter.”

“Listen, I have no reason to doubt his feelings and concern towards you…” – the old man continues, keeping his voice low. “But Einar has become all-too-relevant after his father retired from his lordly duties. I remember well the days of the Muri, my lady… Volund and Einar the Old were neighbors and friends. Volund led men with courage and cunning. His talents rivalled those Einar had. So close they were he named his firstborn after the man, by Odin’s beard, or so I heard! When the moot came, many spoke of Volund for the throne, while others wanted Einar. Not even that broke the two apart. Volund refused any ambitions for the throne and publicly asked for all to join under Einar. First to swear allegiance, he was. His influence was not lessened, though. Grandael is still well armed, well protected and quite relevant, should a war begin… And the north never rests, as you certainly know, my lady. How long till your husband is called upon to resolve a conflict, to build a pact… To rule?” – he looks over the seas, pensive.

"Do you think he wants to be King, Inge?"

“I think that any future king will at least have to rely on Einar Volundsson for advice. And the one that assures such support before old Einar’s death will hold an advantage for sure.” – he leans over his shoulder towards the guards. “But all this talk of politics confuses me and leaves me parched. Ulf, Steinar, Magnus, where’s the mead?” – he turns towards the watchers as Ulf retrieves a skin. The old man takes it, thinks for a moment and offers it to Astrid first.

“Tell me, Ulf… You’ve been around for the last few years, haven’t you?” – Ulf becomes stiff as an oak and white as snow.

“Ye-yes, Inge…” – Ulfs activities were, for the most part, less than respectable.

“Have you heard anything about Volund’s younger son?” – he raises an eyebrow, curious. Ulf calms down.

“Oh, Thorir. Thorir Volundsson… Last I heard he stormed some slave merchants down the coast, southwest. He made quite a name for himself. And quite a fleet, or so I heard.”
Inge smiles as he sits to drink.

“And what do they call him, again, Ulf?” – the old man seemed to know the news even before Ulf started.

“Sea king… That’s how strong the man turned out to be.” – the answer comes from tall and sullen Steinar. As he hears the words ‘sea king’, he looks at Astrid in complicity.


@Fenris @Queenie @tglassy @Jago
 
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Queenie

Queen of Everything
Astrid took the mead and pulled a long drink from it. Apparently she was going to be needing it, and it did sooth her nervous belly after it went down. She handed it back to the old warrior while she contemplated.

Astrid tapped her full lips while she thought it over. She didn’t recall Einar mentioning a brother, or any sibling at all for that matter. Why would he not prepare her? She supposed it didn’t matter, they’d have a lifetime to discuss his family tree if he so chose. Still, something seemed odd about the omission…

She returned to the present and finally smiled.

“So what you are saying is that my future brother thinks this,” she waved her arm out over the edge of the boat in a grand fashion, “Is all his? He is the king of the ocean, is he? His god Njord just might have something to say about that.” She gave another laugh.

“And what does this Sea King plan to do with his fleet of ships I wonder? Cause problems for his older brother no doubt. Is it just mischief? Or does he want rule his father’s halls in his brother’s stead?”

The soon to be married Lady looked to the rough warrior Ulf. “What else can you tell me about this brother? I would like to be as prepared as I can be, especially if this brother, Thorir, might be a disruption to a peaceful life.”
 

Archon Basileus

First Post
ASTRID

His god Njord just might have something to say about that.

“Trust me, my lady…” – Ulf’s voice replies – “Njörd has spoken, and gave the man his blessings. I heard he fought an entire tribe of mani and came out victorious… He still has the spirits that protected the tribesmen imprisoned in a collar, they say” – his eyes widen, showing his revering fear for the man.

Stein smiles, irony in his eyes.

“What else can you tell me about this brother? I would like to be as prepared as I can be, especially if this brother, Thorir, might be a disruption to a peaceful life.”

“Why would any man capable of taking to the seas and emerge victorious wish for cold Grandael?” – Stein’s stoic tone rises, gaining the conversation. “He has manpower. As far as I’ve heard, these spirit talk is just that – talk. Still, he is quite skilled for what I know, and his men… Well, they’re resourceful.”
Ulf interrupts.

“People speak of seasoned warriors and crafty rogues among the crew. But that’s not all. I’ve heard they are helped by a sea witch of unequaled bea… a sea witch that can talk to the gods” – Stein quickly corrects himself – “and a skald that can conjure the souls of fallen heroes through his songs.” – Stein rolls his eyes as he listens to Ulf’s superstitious tales.

“Lord Almighty, Ulf… You do believe in everything your hear, don’t you?” – he says, unaltered.

“But it’s true! How could someone make it up?”

“A sea witch? Dead heroes? Now you’ll say that Thorir really killed a troll with his bare hands, entirely naked!”

“Everyone knows it!”

“Everyone mocks you, you idiot! That is Beowulf! It’s a western tale, nothing more!”

“What do you know of it? You were raised in the church! I know the stories by heart!”

“Sure! That’s why everyone loves your singing!”

“I had a sore throat that night, but the stories were perfect!”

The debate continues as both men ignore Astrid’s presence. Inge turns to her instead and continues.

“Legends aside, he is a dangerous man. His crew might overwhelm a solid troop with seasoned warriors. Still, while their father lives, I see no reason for him to openly attack his brother.” – the old man tries to bring some sense into the conversation. ”As for… less natural means, men talk a lot of nonsense, but there might be some truth to the rumors. I wouldn’t be surprised, at least.”

@Fenris @Queenie @tglassy @Jago
 

Queenie

Queen of Everything
The girl pulled at the crown on her head, eliciting another round of loud coughs. She rolled her eyes towards the back of the boat and continued to adjust it.

"You should not have made it so tight then!" she called back.

Turning to the old man she continued their conversation. "You know of my father's skills and of my own Inge. I cannot throw aside talk of special talents. They can be the most surprising, devastating and tide turning of all."

Inge put his weathered hand on the girl's arm. "I don't think I have to tell you my Lady to be very careful with YOUR special talents. Do not go flinging that magic around like you did at your father's home. I am unsure what the new Jarl's position is on sorcery."

Astrid nodded and had assumed that, out here on the road and even with Einar - he seemed to know of her abilities, he seemed to know so much about her, but she was still unsure about his land's positions on magics. Considering they were pagans, they were more accepting of it overall but nonetheless, no one rule applied to every place. So she'd be overly careful until she was certain.

"This man, Thorir, sounds like he could be a dangerous foe if he wanted to be. I will have to ask Einar what the situation is with his brother if he does not bring it up sooner rather than later. But it is not like he does not have his own army at his disposal, his own loyal men, his own allies here on dry land that would come to his side and help him - as you mentioned, perhaps even sons of the king. So maybe there is less to worry about than we think."

She smiled calmly at the man, though she felt more nervous than she had earlier, she at least felt more prepared. "I wish you could stay with me Inge, I need someone to protect me, who will tell me things straight as they are. Nobody does that for me. I doubt anyone will do that for me in Grandael. I certainly will not have any true friends as the wife of the Jarl. Not as the mother of the heir's to the Jarldom."

She paused for a breath and let that sink in.

"If you have more advice for me I will gladly take it, but for now I will think on what I learned and take a rest, if you do not mind."

She nodded at him then made her way back to the prow of the boat, with Ruby prancing behind her, still avoiding that dragging dress. It was such a smooth ride, she sat safely on the edge of the boat looking over, out over that glassy blue green water, with Ruby under her hand as always. She pet her wolf mindlessly as she drifted off into her own thoughts.

This morning she had so many other things on her mind she hadn't even considered a lot of these very serious issues. This morning she was prancing around in a fancy dress with all her own goals in mind, not really considering what Einar's greater goals for her and for the world might be. She knew he'd want babies from her and the ties he would get to her father's lands, even the strong possibility those lands would pass to Astrid and they would become his in turn.

But to be King? That scared Astrid more than a little. To make her a Queen? Was she prepared to be a Queen? She was worried enough about the weight of being a Jarl. She grew up with the weight of having to care for a people. Having to care for lands and lands of people? Could she even do that?

She floated into the memory of getting ready this morning....

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Astrid took one final look at herself in her mirror. The light was low; the fire was dying down in her room, she suspected it would be the final fire in there for a very long time. The dancing light gave her a light, ethereal quality in her silvery gown but her heart felt heavy as this part of the day was for saying goodbye. Even though she’d knew it was coming, she had not been prepared. Whoever was?

Hilde and Siv had just finished plaiting her jeweled silver family diadem into her long hair. She’d be wearing it until she was married and then… she supposed she would be wearing a new one. She reached up and caressed it tenderly. She had been wearing this one, her mother’s before her, since she was ten years old and her mother passed. It was quite too large then but she insisted on wearing it, giving her maids quite the task of keeping it on her head.

Speaking of her maids, the older Hilde and the younger Siv were whispering over in the corner, cleaning up the room and packing up the final trunks. Astrid would be receiving a whole new wardrobe in her new home, one fit for the wife of a Jarl, but for now she’d need something to wear while that was tailored and put together. Vigdis, her family’s lifelong seamstress, had worked tirelessly to make the gown she was wearing and all the fancy gowns she would wear for the next week, while she met with the new family and the countless ends of dignitaries and special people who would undoubtedly want to meet with the proud husband who wanted to show off his new wife.

Astrid could never understand just whyEinar had been so insistent on marrying her. Of course there had been many suitors from lands far and wide asking for her hand in marriage, that was not strange. He first asked many years ago, she struggled to recall just how long, perhaps four or five years? Maybe longer? She politely declined, yet he continued to ask and became more and more insistent over time that she say yes. And as time went by she had less and less reason to say no. It was just time and he was as good as any.

“Do not you two ladies have your own packing to do? Make sure you bring what you want with you. I do not know what will be available where we are going and you will not have the kinds of restrictions on you that I will have on me,” she said to her maids. “Go now and make your final preparations!” Astrid shooed them away but left them in her room as she walked out herself.

She walked through the halls of their home, that long silver dress dragging across the floor like her spirit weighing her down. She passed the dining hall, where many of their own local leaders were already gathered, the roar of greetings and back-slappings already beginning. She continued to her father’s room, where she knew she’d find him, likely sitting in his chair, staring at her mother’s portrait on the wall. Her and her sister would curl up in his lap in that chair and they’d all stare at it until the girls fell asleep, many a night.

She knocked, and entered his room slowly. “Daddy?” she called out for him. She only ever called him that in private, when she knew no one else was around. But today that was who she needed.

Alec stood alone in his room, as the party went on. He was supposed to be there. He had duties.

He didn't care.

He needed time to process. He sat in his room, looking at the portrait of his wife hanging on the wall. Saria had always hated it. Said it made her look small and delicate. Alec smiled as he remembered saying, in his foolish youth, "But you are small and delicate." That had been a mistake. Saria had a fire in her that few could match.

His daughters no doubt thought he sat here out of some sense of sadness, wanting to reclaim the past. The truth was that Saria had been his chief advisor, the most insightful person he had ever met. When he sat here, he was processing. At times, he could almost hear her voice, advising him on one thing or another. He didn't sit here when he needed to feel her presence. He sat here when he needed her advice.

He always needed her presence.

He did not like Einar. He never had. He'd had a loose alliance with his father, but there had always been something about the boy that had rubbed Alec the wrong way. he'd always left his daughter's decisions up to her, he trusted her to make the right ones for herself and tried not to interfere. But when she said she'd accepted Einar's proposal, Alec's stomach had churned. He had no reason to feel the way he did, which is why he kept quiet. He, perhaps, did Einar a great disservice in feeling the way he did. But he couldn't help it. And his wife would surely had told him to trust his instinct.

"Daddy?" he heard from the door. He turned to see his daughter, and smiled.

"Nerves getting to you?" he asked as he waved her in.

"I..I guess so. Maybe not nerves," she continued quickly as she crossed the room to him, "Maybe just ... a little melancholy. It is not like I ever WANT to leave you and Sylvia. I do not think she is ready to have me gone." Astrid looked down and played with her fingers, "At least that is what I keep telling myself." She looked back up the her father's face, like she was memorizing it and smiled at him. "Perhaps I think you are not ready to have me gone either."

Alec chuckled. He was never fond of being overly emotional. "You're not dying. You were raised right. You had the right schooling. You're ready to be on your own, and you should be. An eagle, at some point, has to push the stubborn chicks out of the nest, else wise they'll never fly. And you were ever the stubborn one."

"And don't worry about your sister. She's only seven years your younger. She'll run me ragged, as you did. I daresay more so. And then she'll leave me, as well."

He turned serious at this point. "Tell me, though. Why did you agree to marry him? Why Einar? You could have had any of the men in the land."

“Like you said, it is time. Time to let you have the hall so you can arrange your own marriage. Difficult to arrange that with another woman in the way.” Astrid walked over to the large window in her father’s room to look out and buy herself some time. It was early, a bright and clear morning, a perfect day for traveling. She sighed deeply before turning back to face her father.

“If you are asking me if I love Einar, you already know the answer to that. I do not foresee loving another in this lifetime, just like you loved Mommy. She will never be replaced in your heart and I doubt he can be replaced in mine. I have a lot of feelings on the issue, obviously, he left me and never returned… but…” Astrid sighed again, deeper than before, “I know it is not what you would have wished for me but I loved him with all my heart Daddy, I did, and we made your granddaughter from that love and for that I have to be grateful for the time we did have.” Astrid’s knuckles whitened as they unconsciously tightened into fists speaking of being abandoned by her lost love. She gathered her wits and released her tension before speaking again, “But he is long gone and I am as over that as I am ever going to be. So it is time to move forward.”

She turned to fully face her father and spoke forcefully. “Einar has land, he has money, he has influence and he has power. He has an army. All things that can help me, help us, move forward in our quest to destroy the cult. I need to do this Daddy.” Her voice changed to a tone of pleading and desperation, “You know my only desire is to find my daughter. That is all. I just want to find her, retrieve her, and live a peaceful life away from war and violence and loss and pain.” She stood a little taller and changed back into the forceful woman she was raised to be, “And I will raise an army to do this if I have to.”

She walked to her father’s side table and poured two glasses of mead, one for her and one for her father if he chose. She took a long sip, this was not an easy conversation to have. “Einar knows of the baby and he has promised me he will keep her existence a secret and help me find her. He’s been pursuing me the longest of the suitors, so he is persistent, and I need that trait to help me find her.

Astrid’s lip began to tremble. “I need to find her soon, it has been so long already and I need Einar to help me. That is why I am going to marry him. I will do my duty as a wife, I will fulfill all my obligations and vows as I promised. In exchange he is going to help me find my baby.”

Alec nodded. "There is nothing wrong with marrying for convenience. This other...boy...you knew. He was just a passing thing. I know you feel it was more than that now, but you are young. That is how the young feel. Your mother and I...we were not perfect. Oh, we thought so when we were first married. It was scandalous, made my father upset to no end. Which, I believe, was part of the point.

"Once a year or two had gone by, while you were a child, those initial feelings of overwhelming desire faded, and what was left was...a person. She was frustrating. Stubborn. She refused to bend once she'd made up her mind, and in her mind everything had to be just so.

"It didn't take long to realize that what we had felt before, before we were married, was not real love. It was selfish. I wanted her for myself. That she wanted me too only spurred my desire. The thought of someone else having her filled me with rage. I did not realize until much later that this is not real love. It is the beginnings, perhaps. But love is giving, unconditionally. It is a choice, a promise, a vow. I continued to love your mother because I chose to love your mother, regardless of what she did to deserve it. Love is something you do for another, not something you feel. And the more you do, the more you will feel. And it is easier to act your way into a feeling, than to feel your way into an action.

"I tell you this because you are marrying for convenience, instead of love. But you will need that love if you are to make it through the hardships ahead. Having someone there who loves you, and whom you love, is the greatest support you can have. If you cannot learn to love him, then it will not matter what you do, or how successful you are. The world will still crumble around you."

"But fear not. He will be a good husband. Or I will take off his head. In either case, you win." He smiled and patted her shoulder. "Perhaps you should go see to the guests. I believe you will be leaving soon."

Astrid stared at her father for a long moment. There was a lot of information to process. New thoughts and feelings swirled in her mind and her heart, about her mother, about her lost love, about her decision… had she made the right choice?

“You are so wise Daddy, I am going to miss having you to talk to. It will be… strange… not having you with me all the time. Having it be… someone else. But you are right, I am ready. That does not mean I have to be thrilled about it. After all, I have been a MacTier a very long time. I will try though, try my best to take your advice.” Astrid put the wine down and began to head for the door but stopped near her father.

She looked up and set her green eyes on her father’s blue, “I just want you to know, I… we… did not love each other to hurt you Daddy, we were not trying to upset you or anyone else. Maybe we were young and foolish and selfish but I do not regret it. I learned a lot from him and I like to think he took something from me too…” Her lip trembled again for just a moment before she quickly gathered herself, “…wherever he is. I… I am just sorry if we hurt you.” She stood up on her toes and kissed her father softly on his bearded cheek.

Finally she quirked a smiled. “I will warn Einar he should keep an eye open for the mighty silver dragon. I hear they are fond of beheadings.” She walked to the door with a much lighter step than when she came in.

She turned in the door frame and almost like when she was still a little girl she asked, “Do you like my dress Daddy?” She picked up the elaborate train and did a little twirl before she laughed at him and continued down the hall toward the dining room.
 
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Archon Basileus

First Post
THORIR AND EBEN

The snekkja picked up speed quickly under both sail and oar. With their current direction it would still seem as though they were headed to port, at least until it was too late.

Thorir’s disguise works its charms, arranging the snekkja for a quick approach. The target is no more than a floating pearl, gleaming in the calm waters of the ocean. As the victim’s boat draws near, Thorir hears Lavrans laugh over his shoulder. “They’re struggling”. Odds are they don’t have enough men to work all oars, and the side wind would force them to beat. “Someone’s in a hurry…” – Raveneye’s sinuous voice adds to the first one. “They’ve been wasting their crew away to reach port faster.” – he adds. “This should be easy” – Lavrans responds in a dry tone. Both men agreed in stern tones and shared a complicity smile. Sure, they hated each other, but their love for gold was visibly greater.

Sun and waters conspired in favor of the attackers, but that was no surprise. Daylight cast strong reflections from the victim’s boat, while shading the attackers snekkja in a silhouette. When the defenders realize it, indeed, it is too late.

ASTRID

Perhaps it was her father’s counsel, or maybe the inviting darkness of his halls, but for a moment Astrid felt home. Memories of her past rushed through her mind, vivid as the flashing images of a recent dream. Soon enough, days of blinding light and unceasing laughter lay before her, joy escaping through an involuntary smile. She struggled so much to leave this behind, and still he would return to her as an erratic, undisciplined desire – perhaps, the one that remained after all others faded away. She felt the breeze upon her face and breathed the coastal salty perfumes as she heard her young love bend the chords once more, skilled hands drawing beauty from the lyre. But, as soon as happiness flourished, she recalled the inevitable fate of her forbidden love. The child, conceived and lost forever. His face turns into a frown, and the chords lament as he leaves, as the child disappears into darkness. The softness of the song turns into a heavy ballad, and then into a heavy tune, almost as a military march, a sister cadence to soldiers feet, to oars in concert.

Astrid is suddenly awakened from her musings by the men’s screams. “We’re under attack!” – the watcher yells, and beyond the aft another boat can be seen. Astrid can hear it now. Oars in concert, and men’s response to… the rhythm of a lyre!

The snekkja shortened distances with surprising speed. Possibly their men mistook the vessel for a trader and allowed it to happen without notice. Sad mistake, possibly fatal. The recent arrivals are well armed and greatly outnumber the crew.

Without a question, the warriors go for their shields. Ulf, Steinar and Magnus surround the lady, improvising a wall of sorts. Steinar’s severe voice hurries Astrid with a “stay down”, as the skilled hand goes for an axe. Inge shouts orders to the others as he arms himself, all red and nervous. “Sails down! Turn her, we need the beam wind!” – he goes on as some men reach for the bows and run to the aft.

EVERYONE

As the lady’s boat unfurl the sails, it turns towards northwest. Soon enough the beam wind speeds up the boat, but the snekkja still closes in. For a moment, hope fills the hearts of the attacked, until one of them scream from the aft.

“Rudder’s bitting! HARD!” – the attackers watch with delight as the boat begins to lose direction and speed, men struggling to keep the good winds across the beam.

“Haha! Njörd’s hand’s on them! The sea god is on OUR SIDE!” – Lavran yells, raising his axe, and the others follow.


[The boat is within reach. You guys decide how to attack and how to defend. Inge’s orders particularly are emergency measures. From now on, everything goes! We know how this ends… For the PC’s. NPC’s are still a question mark. Your decisions will determine their fate.]
[MENTION=2820]Fenris[/MENTION] [MENTION=8058]Queenie[/MENTION] [MENTION=6855204]tglassy[/MENTION] [MENTION=6855130]Jago[/MENTION]
 

Queenie

Queen of Everything
OOC: Please enjoy this intriguing little tale woven by myself [MENTION=2820]Fenris[/MENTION] and [MENTION=6855130]Jago[/MENTION]!!



~ As their target came into view, Eben prepared himself for battle. A helm of leather and steel he crowned himself with, making sure that shield, sword, and axe were at hand to fight. But it was not just the arms of men that Eben carried into battle: His voice alone was harder than steel. Once it had sung of adventure and love, of legends and myths.


Now. Now it called for War.


The Lyre in his hand gave a screaming peel, Eben scratching at the instrument roughly as if he might fray the strings, but by some ethereal force the harp was undamaged. The Sjorvindr, their sleek ship, cut across the dark waters with each push of the oars, until it was far too late for their prey to escape. Should they catch the wind, it would do no good: the Vikingr arrayed themselves in the swift sea wolf, chasing this slow deer down that had not even caught wind of their intentions yet.


When they were close, when the calls of battle came up, when the prey finally understood the trap they had fallen into, Eben caught his brother’s eyes, eyes telling him to wait, to be patient upon their vessel. They would win this fight without the need for the sword, Thorir’s gaze told him, and so Eben listened.


Instead, he lashed harshly at his lyre and held it aloft to the sky, the string instrument instead releasing the blast of a mighty horn of war. His heart kept the rhythm, replicated as he laid into his shield with the pounding of the beat, a clenched fist slamming into the rawhide again and again to tempo the ship and men together as one.


The vessel swung quickly up the side of the poor woman’s floundering ship, a host of furious Northmen raging with the names of their Gods echoing the call of Eben’s horn. Again it sounded, and again once more, inspiring the sailors to the fight and striking terror into the hearts of those who knew what such horns called for. Axes slammed against shields, adding to the frightening chorus of voices and sound, an orchestra of wolves howling the call of Hel’s minions, letting their victims know that to fight was only to meet nothing but death. ~


The hooks swung over and ropes pulled the ships together into one swaying mass. Half the crew of the Sjorvindr swarm over the sides, shields at the ready but were held short by a shout from Thorir who had stayed standing on the railing. A few arrows spit out from the defenders. Sigvald took one to the leg and grunted in pain, but did not break rank. The shield wall stood. Thorir caught an arrow sent his way on his shield.


“By all means continue if you wish to die. But stay your weapons and you will be spared,” he shouted over the din of his warriors yelling. Half the crew was on the other ship, and another 10 men had bows trained on the defenders. Steinar’s men would be cut down before they could say villhyggjandi. Knowing this Steinar’s men paused, the attackers had not advanced so it may not be a ruse. “We are here for your treasure. I know, I know,” Thorir said forestalling the protestations that they carried no treasure. He pointed the tip of his sword directly at Astrid, who cringed, “We are here for the girl. Now we can take her by force, but I would prefer to leave you all alive to carry her ransom back to her father or her betrothed. I certainly did not need to give you this opportunity, so you should consider my generosity carefully.”


Astrid had been so happy, lost in her daydreams, not wanting to ever willingly awaken from them. But the pounding of drums and yelling of men was no place for women like her and she was quickly roused from her pleasant and peaceful thoughts.


As she was surrounded by her Huskarls and told to stay down, she wondered to herself what could possibly be worse than where she was going. She rose up and took a brief peek between the three warriors surrounding her and saw the chaos; Inge looking like he was about to have a heart attack, her maids crying and cowering in terror at the back of their ship, the oarsmen looking like they were saying their final goodbyes to whatever gods they prayed to and at last the raiders. Pagans. It looked like 50 of them. She crossed herself, said a prayer to the Demiurge AND the Unifier and sank back behind the three large men, holding Ruby around the neck tightly. If there was ever a time since that awful day she wished for her father, it was now.


Finally, they were aboard her ship and she just kept praying. Be looking for treasure... be looking for treasure...


Ah, she relaxed just a little, They're just looking for treasure. Then the large one standing on the railing declared he was looking for the girl and pointing at her.


Dammit. They are not looking for silver and gold. Hadn't Inge JUST been lecturing me on this?


Astrid sighed. She would not let anyone on this ship die for her.


Astrid stood up from behind the men, surprising all of them, and stepped out from behind them with her head held high. Ruby stayed right in front of her, showing her teeth and growling low. She took a few steps forward, but not too many away from the safety of the warriors.


"What is it exactly that this girl can do for you, then? You DO happen to know this girl is the daughter of a rather powerful Jarl, yes? Who is about to marry another rather powerful and influential Jarl, yes?"


She set her luminescent green eyes on this heathen raider. He towered over her, not quite by a foot but almost. Muscular. Long dark hair, blue eyes… she squinted looking at those eyes, did she know him from her father’s hall perhaps? She started looking at him critically before someone’s loud voice pulled her out of her thoughts.


“What do you really want? You cannot be foolish enough to believe you are going to walk off this ship with me and there will be no major repercussions for it. You will have two chief Clans searching for me within an hour. And when you are caught, they will not be as magnanimous to you as you have been to us.”


Thorir gave a grin, that eponymous grin of his that he gave as he closed in on his prey. The grin of a wolf about to take its prey. He gave her a little bow, "Oh forgive me. Men we have here a Jarl's daughter! A veritable princess," his voice dripped with sarcasm. "Oh no, pray to Foresti men, we have made a grave mistake," the men of the Sjorvindr laughed with the jest of their captain.


Thorir stepped forward to meet Astrid, he looked down at her with that damnable grin. He wasn't worried in the least. "I will say this one last time since your precious princess ears are not used to such harsh language. I am here for YOU. And you WILL be coming with us. And I know full well the consequences, most likely better than you since they involve more than needlepoint and birthing children."


Astrid was taken aback. Did he somehow know? Or was he just referring to her as a woman?


"So the choice before you now is whether we kill your entire crew and send your wedding dress as a message that you were kidnapped. Or do we allow these brave men, who through no fault of their own but for following the wrong lord, to live and carry the message of your kidnapping? If you choose the former, their blood is on your hands. I have no compunctions about killing them, or for that matter, sending you back in, shall we say, less than perfect condition."


Astrid's fingers twitched at her sides, she could make this infuriating man bow at her feet, and the others here on the boat too but she wasn't positive she could effect all the others, and without that confidence she might kill them all.


She caught Inge's eye to the side of this heathen, he nodded no at her ever so slightly. There was still a chance she could use her powers later to escape but giving them away now would ruin that chance for good or perhaps, again, kill them all instantly. Inge and the warriors would give their lives for her in a moments notice but why should they? And everyone else?


She swallowed down her pride, her fears of these men and especially of being alone with them and their threats.


"If you will assure the safety of all the members of my crew, I will go with you willingly."


Inge started to protest but she cut him off preemptively. "It is my command as your Lady and you will do as you are ordered." She softened her tone, "You will need to be healthy and whole to send this man's demands to both my father and to Einar's men, who will be waiting at the docks to meet us," she waved a delicate hand towards land.


Thorir’s grin broadened at Astrid’s mention of his brother and most of his men chuckled as well.



Astrid turned her eyes back toward this raider who was still grinning like a fool. "I assume you are going to be bringing my belongings? I cannot very well be traipsing around wherever you are taking me in a wedding dress."


"Oh you are right your highness, we wouldn't want you traipsing around anywhere, much less in such finery," said Thorir who reached out without warning and with bare hands ripped her dress down the front so it fell in a heap at her feet torn in shreds, leaving her standing in just a shift. Thorir kicked the dress to the guards. "Evidence for the ransom. Three days. Isle of Heilgar, two chests of silver, one chest of gold," he growled.


The Vikings laughed at the display, though most of them were now also casting hungry eyes at Astrid standing in just thin underclothes.


Astrid stood on the ship, her mouth agape, as the brute literally tore her gown from her body, leaving her standing in front of two crews of men in just a thin shift. A lacy, wedding night undergarment made for nobles but still an undergarment nonetheless. Her instinct to cover her arms across her body did little to help with the chilled spring breeze or the fact that she felt completely naked. Still, she was not about to give these men the satisfaction of breaking her. She'd been through much worse hell than this.


She kept her head held high, her long auburn hair curled down her back, striking against the white undergarment. She walked slowly and stubbornly, and with a clenched jaw, to the prow to fetch her thick fur, where she placed it over her shoulders and latched it shut all while her maids were in the back clutching each other bawling like half the ship had just been murdered. She wished more than ever that her crown, her mother's jeweled crown, wasn't so tightly woven into her hair so she could leave it behind that it wouldn't be lost forever to these thieves. Astrid took a deep breath and tried to compose herself before facing these brigands again.


She was about to say she was ready but her wolf was suddenly nudging under her hand. Momentarily she panicked, but she was calm when she faced the dark raider again.


"This animal is my beloved pet, and I go nowhere without her. My father will pay triple the ransom for me if you have my wolf and she is well taken care of. She will listen to me and no man will come to harm from her. I give you my word."


Thorir's grin faded a bit. He stood looking at the wolf but also the woman. She was quite beautiful he decided now that he had seen her better. But he was also impressed with her composure under these conditions. She still held her head high, and did her best as a noble. He had to admit that she was strong and brave. All the more reason for Einar to not have her. His brother didn't deserve a woman like this.


Thorir considered the wolf, it was obedient or so it appeared. He was hesitant to bring a wolf on board even if it was a pet. Thorir had always been a good judge of character, perhaps that was why he didn't like Einar. He saw a resolve and honesty in Astrid's eyes. He too knew the value of the word of a noble, though she of course would not know he valued it or kept to his word if given. "If the animal is leashed and muzzled, I will accept you word on the matter," he said finally. Astrid consented and with rope given to her, she herself placed a muzzle and leash on Ruby while trying to hold her tears in.


That task done, Astrid stood and looked once more at Thorir for direction. Thorir again admired not only her beauty but her courage. Perhaps in a different time or place things would work out differently. But for now, she was not his and was simply gold and silver waiting to be exchanged.


"Hands," he said simply and she held them out and Thorir bound them tightly. Astrid stared Thorir down the entire time he tied her hands, never looking away, while he just grinned that damned grin.


Suddenly Thorir scooped Astrid up and flung her over his shoulder. Thorir took the wolf's leash and tossed it to two of his men signaling them to follow him. Astrid punched and kicked at Thorir as best she could calling him a “pagan lunatic,” while he just laughed at her.


Thorir jumped with Astrid on his shoulder back into his own ship, the quick movement made Astrid fear he would drop her, but she never moved from his shoulder nor did the burden of her seem to impair him at all. Astrid's hood fell down around her head and she couldn't see the ship well as he moved across it. He called out to another crewman, "Brother, go strip the ship of anything of value. Leave them alive to carry the ransom message back but take their weapons."


Thorir headed directly to the covering at the back of the ship with the most valuable and dangerous treasure the crew had even taken, depositing her there rather roughly to cheers from the crew.


” Ja, min bror.”

Eben moved past his brother, sparing a glance backwards at the unfortunate woman. Her voice had been hard to catch above the wind and waves, but there was something … familiar, about it. He couldn’t quite place it however, and so let it go for the moment. Still … the Silver Dragonhead at the bow of the ship …


He had a job to do. The Lyre was set down, Eben hoisting shield and drawing sword while waving to his brother’s men to follow him over. He clambered easily over the side of their Sjorvindr onto the deck of the Jarl’s ship, brandishing a blade at the cowed sailors. While the Huskarls gripped their weapons all the tighter, Eben did not back down, flanked by the vikingr he had fought alongside so many time.


” Your arms. Drop them.”


When nothing happened, Eben dipped his head slowly. His voice was low, not the poetic grace of before but instead the hardened steel of the wolf.


” Your fight is over. No songs will be sung should you choose to worthlessly throw your lives away upon our spears. Any who resist will be slain with no ceremony, your bodies thrown over into Njord’s realm so that your kin will never revere your remains, left only to be devoured by the creatures of the deep.”


Beneath the helm that covered half of his face, Eben’s eyes glared at Inge and the assembled guards, the guards that could do nothing as the brigands moved forward and ripped the axes and spears from their very hands. Shields were collected and hoisted back onto the snekkja, the jewelry of Astrid’s handmaidens ripped off of their bodies and thrown into a collective sack. Anything that was shiny or well-made was stolen, anything that was not bolted down was brought back with the vikingr. Bracelets of the warriors, symbols of prestige and honor, were torn off of their very wrists, the pirates exerting their strength where one of the Huskarls assumed he would play hero, instead being left sprawled on the deck with a broken nose. The trunks full of wedding finery that would fetch a fine price in the next city they visited, or at least impress whatever ladies of the moment the crew was trying to bed.


In the middle of this stood Eben, overseeing the transfer with a cold precision. He made sure Lavrans kept his damn paws off of the handmaidens, seeing the way that he leered at them. He made sure Asger received his fair share of the loot as Asmund tried to rip a pouch of coins from the boy. But even as he made sure this deathless raid went over well, the Skald kept casting his eyes over his shoulder, back to the covered part of their raiding vessel.


Back to that girl, now alone with Thorir. There was something so ….


His attention was stolen by shouting, and the thought was gone again. Eben stepped swiftly in to keep the violence to a minimum, forced once more to forget about the Jarl of the Silver Dragon boat.


After Thorir dumped her, Astrid pouted and rubbed her backside when the brute turned away from her. She had so many questions, so much was swirling through her mind. Fear mixed with anger and anxiety. She needed to get back to Einar even if she didn’t exactly want to be going there. She was the lone woman on a ship full of men, and it hadn’t escaped her attention how some of them were still looking at her. She pulled her fur tighter across her chest to cover herself up, hoping that would help.


She sat stiff backed on bench, though it was covered in soft pillows she wouldn’t let herself be comfortable.


Finally Astrid spoke. “So… are you at least going to give me the courtesy of letting me know who my gracious host is? And what is going on? Surely there are easier and far less dangerous ways to earn some coin.”


Thorir considered Astrid's question for a moment. He had instructed the crew not to use his name during the raid to keep Einar from knowing it was him before the ransom was paid. But that was for those taking the ransom demand back. It was unlikely over the next three days that his identity would be able to be kept a secret on the ship or the island. "Well your highness. Little Jarlinna. You are the most honored guest of Sea King Thorir Volundson, son of Jarl Volund, brother of Einar Volundson, and your future brother-in-law," says Thorir giving a gracious and noble bow after his formal introduction before his wolf-like grin returned. "As to what is going on, it is as I have said. A hostage, a ransom. You were an opportunistic target. Dangerous, perhaps, but the greater the reward, the greater the risk. Now I will say that the fact that you are betrothed to my brother made your capture all the sweeter. There is little love lost between us, and anything to tweak him would bring me pleasure."


Thorir stops a moment and considers Astrid. The lady was resolute he had to admit. And her beauty was near unrivaled throughout most realms. She also had the bravery of a warrior, a fine trait he thought. Thorir went to his chest and got out a spare tunic and leggings and tossed them to Astrid. "I will say that from what I have seen, Einar's bride is beautiful and fierce. I wonder if he will be able to handle you, much less deserve you," he said begrudgingly. "Of course I hope you enjoy skulking in a dark hall, while plotting for power and associating with disreputable men, for that has been by brother's habits of late."


Thorir was standing before Astrid, towering over her as she sat. His grin had faded as he spoke of his brother. It crept back as he stood there looking at her. Astrid felt that this wasn't just the leering like his men had done, but rather the keen eye of a captain ascertaining the quality of a weapon, or a ship. Finally he said in a very formal manner that again took Astrid by surprise. This rogue pirate, this pagan lunatic, had manners that she finally had underestimated but now knew where they came from.


"And my little Jarlinna, you must forgive me. I only knew you as a prize to be won, a jewel to be plucked from my brother. I have not had the pleasure of your introduction. Now that you know who your host is, would you kindly bestow upon your host your name kind lady," he says without mockery and with a true bow.


Thorir Volundson, the Sea King. The man who had struck fear into the hearts of her own crew. Astrid had just spent her morning learning about this man and what he was capable of. Her future brother-in-law, indeed. Apparently the stories of him were not overinflated at all, though there were no sea witches to be seen, not yet any way. Still, Astrid was frightened to peek over his large shoulder to look through the crew to see if she spotted any.


Her eyes wandered down to the clothes Thorir had thrown her. There was an awful stink coming from the wrinkled pile but she was grateful to have something, anything, even if to just be able to hold it up in front of herself. She knew she should thank him but was having a hard time finding the words to thank the infuriating man who put her in this position in the first place. Instead she dumped the clothes in a pile next to her on the bench.


“Yes, I imagine the information about my future husband gleamed from my future brother-in-law who kidnaps and disrobes women for a living to be highly forthright and accurate. Are you telling me you gained all your knowledge of disreputable men from your brother then?”


She considered continuing to be obstinate but the next amount of time would probably go better for her if she didn’t antagonize this Sea King… better she put her actual skills to use on him. It’s just… every time he called her your highness or little Jarlinna there was something about the way he said it that made her want to punch him in the face.


She sighed, just a little, stood up off the bench and gave him a curtsey. “Astrid MacTier.”


Thorir grinned as Astrid set the clothes aside. She was trying so hard to show how brave she was, to try to maintain her dignity in such an undignified situation.


"Oh ho. Alec's daughter eh? All grown up I see too. I think I met you a long time ago. I think I attended your mother's funeral. Well now, Astrid MacTier. Even if Einar writes you off I know we will get the payment from old Alec," he pondered aloud. He saw the puzzled look on Astrid's face. "Oh Einar, yes, well he can be rather odd. He may not want to sally forth from his beloved hall, or may feel that he can get a new wife cheaper than the cost to recover you." He grinned that infuriating grin at her.


"But you are right little Jarlinna, you have no reason to believe me. Then again kidnapping and disrobing women does not make one a liar either. Are your servants not still alive? Have I told you a single lie thus far? To what gain would me lying to you gain me? Nothing. As for disreputable men - my crew here are brave, loyal and trustworthy, and I will not have you question their honor. You were captured fairly by all the rules of warfare. You may not like it but that is how things are.”


“As for my brother, oh yes, you will learn soon enough about those he consorts with. I took you to extract some gold from him it is true. But in all honesty, I pity you Jarlinna. My family home is not currently fit for a woman of your beauty or worthy of your blood. But that is not for me to decide. I am only sorry that you will wed a man unworthy of you, and your life will not be happy I fear. I would wonder why Alec would choose Einar, but then I would imagine that he still presents a fair face to the world, while keeping his secrets hidden. Were you my daughter, or my sister, I would not allow you to marry Einar for any amount of treasure."


Thorir's face had grown stern and hard as he spoke. He hadn't meant to speak of his brother so much. But he knew this girl, well woman, when she was just a girl. There was indeed something about her that he could not put his finger on. But he saw a fire in her, a love of life that he knew would be quickly snuffed out by Einar. Still, she was a prize to be traded, as cruel as it might be, he had to collect her ransom and send her on to Einar. That was not his decision, it rested with her father and her misery would rest on his shoulders, not that the man could take more it was said.


Thorir looked at Astrid again, "You will want to put those clothes on. Once we cast off, the wind will pick up and cut through that cloak." He turned and drew the curtain at the end of the deck, allowing her some small measure of privacy.


Once on deck he saw Eben returning with the last of the men, loaded with silver bracelets and weapons. Thorir smiled. It was good for the men to get some silver from this. Eben was the last over and gave him the sign. Thorir called out "Cut the ropes!" and the grapples were cut. The men pushed off the other ship with their oars. The silver prowed ship bobbed up and down a little before their crew got the sail up and the ship going again. Meanwhile the Sjorvindr caught the wind easily, and even without oars, turned and moved quickly on towards the Isle of Heildam as though Njord himself were guiding her.


After the Viking finally left her in a little bit of privacy, Astrid slumped to the floor of the boat on her knees, hugging her wolf tightly around the neck. “Oh Ruby, what have we gotten ourselves into this time?” She pet the fluffy white fur of her friend and confidant, it made her feel better if only partially comforted. Her full lips trembled and tears threatened in the corners of her green eyes but she refused to cry. She wouldn’t do it.


Her wolf looked up at her with sad eyes through the ropes wrapped around her nose. Astrid struggled through her own bound hands to loosen the ropes around Ruby’s mouth and neck. “I know you will be a good girl. It is going to be just fine.” After the ropes were loosened as much as she could get them, she tussled the soft hair and pet the wolf until her large body relaxed.


Taking a deep breath the girl stood up and struggled to unclasp and remove her heavy fur cloak, it’d be easier to move around without it dragging around, even if it was a little cold. It was still warmer here than home. She searched around the little area, looking for anything she could possibly use to help herself.


After a short hunt she sat back on the pillows, defeated, there was nothing really there. These bandits had planned well. She rubbed at her wrists, the ropes were starting to dig in and hurt from the tight bonds. She was having a hard time keeping her shift on her shoulders but of course, she couldn’t actually change into the clothes the raider left with her hands bound and she wasn’t calling him back in to save her life.


Something was bothering her though. What Thorir said about Einar… why would he lie about that? Was he telling the truth? Inge had also mentioned Einar being ambitious… what would he do for that ambition? And he would come for her, wouldn’t he? He had pursued her for so long, she never considered he might not bother with her. Luckily her father would come, he would come for her no matter what and when he did, the great silver dragon would come and crush these kidnappers and thieves like the bandits they were. Astrid had faith in that.


She just had to be patient and keep herself alive and in one piece. In the meantime, she tried to clear her mind, she tried to think straight, consider any idea that could possibly help her out in this impossible situation but nothing at all was coming to her. She needed some help from above and needed it quickly before something tragic happened. So she did what she always did in these cases. She prayed. She put her hands together and prayed to the Demiurge to help protect her from the Pagan invaders who would try to take her dignity, her sanity, possibly torture her and maybe even attempt to take her life.


She had faith her god would send her help, somehow, someway, she would get out of this.
 
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Jago

Explorer
OOC: And Now, The Conclusion


Eben watched the plundered vessel turn itself with all haste and retreat away from the heavily armed snekkja, still keeping his gaze on the Silver Dragon at the head. Many vessels would use dragons as their crest, for what could be more fearsome than such a creature? Yet silver ...

It was probably nothing.

Their own ship flitted across the waves, the wind producing a fair number of swells in the ocean that the Sjorvindr rode with practiced ease. In his head, Eben was rather pleased with their lightning raid: nobody was killed, wealth was had, goals were achieved, and all within minutes. Einherjar themselves could not have found victory and glory so swiftly. When Thorir finally returned from dealing with the princess, Eben removed his helm and came to his brother, offering the sword of Inge, that old man that had so stubbornly clung to the heirloom weapon.

" Tyr blesses our cause today,"
Eben gave thanks to the Gods, " But I suppose our men availed themselves as well."

He chuckled warmly, clasping Thorir on the shoulder and giving him a slight shake of camaraderie.

" So who is our Bride-To-Be? Aside from the unluckiest woman on the Whale Road this morn?"

" She is a feisty one, brother. All fire and pride."

" Aren't they all, kin? At least until the first night hungry."

Thorir and Eben shared a laugh: they themselves, though the sons of a Jarl, had known starvation. Had known setbacks. What, if anything, could this princess have ever faced that was anything as daunting as the brothers Volundson had weathered?

" I'd imagine she'd retain that fire. Strange to have such heat for a MacTier, though. I'd have expected a chillier reception."

Eben felt all mirth suddenly leave him, his blood running as cold as the ocean all around them. Quickly looking around to make sure that no prying ears would eavesdrop on the pair, Eben pulled Thorir closer, whispering conspiratorially, his blue eyes wide and stark.

" What did you say ..?"

" I ... said that I assumed a MacTier would be more frigid than passionate?" Thorir extrapolated, raising his eyebrows at the younger of the two.

Eben shook his head, releasing his grip on Thorir and stumbling backwards a step. He could feel his heart pounding in his ears, drowning out all the sound of the sea despite the strength of the wind. His teeth bit down sharply onto the inside of his cheek, chewing it voraciously as if the pain would bring him back to the real world, where that name had not passed from his brother's lips.

The red hair. The Silver Dragon. No. It couldn't be. Not in all the strands of the Norns could they have possibly plucked out this particular one. It was clearly some cruel twist of the wind, caressing his ears with sweet and terrible lies.

" ... MacTier?" Eben repeated slowly.

" Yes, Eben. MacTier. Why do yo-"

" Sylvia, right?" he asked quickly, cutting off Thorir and suddenly finding it hard to breathe.

It had to be the younger. It had to be. It must be. To think otherwise, to know otherwise whose ship they had boarded ...

" Her name is Sylvia, Sylvia MacTier."

" No, it isn't."

By Tyr's given hand … no

" Her name is As--"

" Astrid," Eben finished the name alongside Thorir, prompting a look from the latter. Before he could be pressed to explain, Eben threw his helmet to the deck, storming off towards the back of the ship.

" Loki takes me for his toy today, Brother!" Eben bewailed to the sky, causing even the other brigands to look upon the Skald in his rush to the back of the ship.

It had been three years.

Three. Long. Years.

Years spent mourning the loss of her, the loss that he had mortally inflicted upon himself in a suicide of love. Years spent trying to forget her, being coaxed by the other sailors and even his own brother to enjoy the company of women in port, when he could never bring himself to. Years spent thinking of her name when he lay injured, wondering if she would do the same of him in times of trouble. Years trying to assume she was safe, years spent trying not to think on how surely she had moved on by now, years, years, years!

It was all for naught. To leave her to save her, and now he had kidnapped her. As if the Gods were not vengeful enough! To be born a Bastard that he might never have her hand, and now to insure that he drove himself from her heart as well, should he even still have a place there!

With little ceremony, Eben reached the stern and threw the curtain back, stepping beyond that thin portal into the hold of The Wyrd.

And there she was.

Her hair was as redden as ever, thick and full as he recalled. Those green eyes, the green of the forest they had escaped to time and again, a verdant haven where he had promised himself to her above all else. The soft curve of her face, the way her lips slowly parted even as he was speaking her name in a tone of bittersweet madness. For what man could remain sane to know that such a horrible and joyful circumstance had been thrust upon him?

" A ... Astrid?" he choked out, stepping forward once and bringing his hand to cover his mouth, as if the sound of his own breathing would disturb the moment and it would be torn from him, a dream and nothing more.

But it persisted. She was there. She, Astrid MacTier, was before him. Three Years faded away into nothingness, replaced only by the woman he loved, had always loved, and had never been able to forget.

" It's you ... Merciful Gods, it's you!"
Eben cried, boldly striding the rest of the distance between them with haste and sweeping her up into his arms.

He was not on the deck of a ship. He was not a warrior, a raider. He knew not his brother nor the men he sailed with. He considered nothing of how Astrid had been traveling to be wed. All of this was left behind: Eben was back home, back in Viuland, before his foolish pride had made him abandon everything that was necessary to life. He could smell the pines of the forest and the honey of her skin, and still she fit against him as she always had. Three Years rewound in an instant, and he could think of nothing, in that moment, that would ever make him want to walk away from her like he did on that cold, dark night.

" I was a fool, I was Fortune's Fool to think I'd find you out here when I already had you in my arms," he cried, " And yet here you are! Fate is Cruel and Kind, and I curse and thank her equally!"

Astrid had been deep into her prayers, her eyes closed in concentration when one of the warriors burst into her little sanctuary, which startled her and caused her to jump. Before she had a moment to process what was happening he said her name and embraced her tightly. She threw up her bound hands between them and attempted to beat him and push him off herself. She hadn’t expected to have to defend herself so soon after their Sea King had departed.

Ruby growled at the Viking and tried to knock him off of her Master, and the wolf managed to push him back a few inches.

“Unhand me you cretin! How dare you put your hands on me…” her words trailed off as her fists pounded against his chainmail.

Astrid’s senses struggled to keep up. He’d been talking nonsense about being a fool and having her in his arms but it wasn’t that - it was his voice, that voice she could never mistake, and the way she fit so perfectly in his arms…

But that could only be her own senses playing tricks on her, after all she’d been dreaming of HER him all this day, not only for days, for years; she’d been dreaming he would come back for her, to save her, to save them, to love her forever like he’d promised; she heard his silvery voice in every song, in every whisper calling to her, she could feel his warm breath on her in the lightest breeze, his scent -the mix of salty ocean and his musk- lingered in the air by the seaport, in the longhouse, to drive her mad, she saw traces of him everywhere she went, around every corner, behind every tree in their forest, it was as if he was always just there and she had just missed him.

But it was never him. He never came.

And she finally had to drag herself away, and leave the dream of him, and them, behind.

Not for herself but for another.

So this man standing before her could not possibly be him. Not when she had just been praying for a miracle.

This man was inches taller, his dark beard was filled in and lush, his hair longer, his chest and shoulders broader, he was much more muscular - this man before her was a fearsome fighter, not a skinny boy poet.

This man who was standing only inches away from her had so much different about him but he was standing there staring at her with those eyes of blue she had lost herself in so many, many times.

She stood there, staring back, in disbelief. “Eben?”

It couldn’t be.

“You are… you are alive?”

A long moment passed between them gazing into each other’s eyes before Astrid threw herself at Eben and back into his arms, pressing herself up against him tightly, back into that spot where she always just belonged. She spoke rapidly, her whole body trembling as she did.

“You are alive! You are alive, I thought maybe you were dead, I did, I thought something happened to you when you did not return, when you did not come back. I was sure something must have happened to you to make you not retu-“

The words pouring from her came to a sudden halt. She was reluctant to separate herself from the warrior again so she just pulled her face back, looking up at him with wide eyes.

“Why… why did you not return to me Eben? I… I waited so long.”

Her bottom lip trembled as she waited for him to answer her, she was so conflicted, so overjoyed to see him, to share the same air as him again yet she had so many questions and there was so, so much...

Though she rendered her fury onto Eben and the poor poet was even left contending with a small wolf with the strength of Fenrir in her tiny body, Astrid eventually came to see who was before her, and the tone of their reunion went from one of anger and fear to only the deepest of joys. It was as if one of Bragi's ballads, for just as that God's songs brought love, so too did they often end in sorrow, for the woman of Eben's life asked him why he would ever leave it.

His eyes wavered and watered, unsure of what to tell her. What he wanted was to kiss her, to promise her safety and to get her off of this boat as quickly as possible, but that was a hopeless dream, as hopeless as he had once thought his love for her was. He'd never secure her release from Thorir, not after what they had gone through to get her. Not after what the crew would gain from her. But for her, for Astrid, Eben would still try.

" I am alive, I am alive," Eben affirmed to his love, " And not once did a day go by where you did not remain in my thoughts, min kjærlighet, not once. But I could not return, Astrid."

Eben looked down, unable to meet her soft, green eyes. His fingers, roughened from many years at sea and in uncivil work, brushed lightly against her cheek, coaxing her crimson tresses back behind her small ears.

" When last I saw you, I told you I have to leave. I told you I could not come back; you were in grave danger if I had stayed, I was told as such that very night."

The poet took a small step backwards, laying his hands upon her shoulders. She had grown: she was not the teenager he had once known. There was a strength in her poise, even as a prisoner, a certain force of will that had not been there before. Not to say Astrid was not a willful woman, but ... it was almost as if her tender features had been sharpened, the flush of youth blossoming into the beauty of adulthood. She was not a girl any longer, Eben realized: Astrid had become a woman in many ways. Ways that made him nervous, as he recalled where she had been headed.

" A man. A member of the Clergy, he told me to flee from you. That we had been discovered, that your father would disinherit you and do far worse to me. I wanted to stay, Astrid, sweet Astrid, but how could I if I thought it meant the end of us regardless? Though love had brought us together, t'was love that ... That made me abandon you. That caused me to inflict such pain, to my everlasting regret. I thought ... I thought at least to spare you from further suffering."

It was not easy to confess, to tell her that meager fear had kept them apart for this long, but Eben made to look into her eyes and tell her the truth. He owed her that much, and so much more beyond.

" I ... I assumed you would move on. Find someone that would be less ... troublesome."

A knot grew in his stomach, his teeth grinding in a fierce way as Eben turned his head to the side, wounded from his thought he spoke aloud.

" It seems you have. My Half-Brother. Einar. Einar, the man who made to kill me, and now you're ... you're marrying him ..!"

Eben pulled her close once more, gently, as if for the first time. As if for the last time.

" You must listen to me, if ever you still carry a shred of love for me, as I carry oceans for you: You cannot be with this man. I will find a way to make sure you go home free, but you must promise me Astrid, you must go home to Viuland. Do not continue on to Grandael, or I truly believe you would be in far more jeopardy than even I ever put you in."

Astrid watched his face as he spoke, and he told his story, and so much pain filled her heart. So much pain. She knew the story, she knew why he left. HE did not know why he left. He knew nothing of what caused their separation and their story to come to an abrupt and tragic end the way it did.

She closed her eyes and put her head on his chest, and for a long moment cherished his strong arms around her, his warm breath again on her face, his musky scent surrounding her, his heart pounding in time with her own.

When she reluctantly opened her eyes again, she took her bound hands and managed to get a palm open to press against one of Eben’s cheeks. “Every promise I made you whether under the full moon or next to a dying fire is still true Eben Marenson, I will never love another in this lifetime as I love you. You have to believe that."

There was a long pause as she fell deep into those blue eyes, the pain ripping her heart in two, considering how much to say. She never thought she would have to face Eben with the truth. "You may never understand just how powerful our love has been.” For the longest moment she gazed into those eyes not wanting to let go, before she finally stepped back away from him.

“I did not know Einar was your brother, nor did I know Thorir was your brother,” She swallowed hard and stiffened her back. She continued, anguish filling her voice, “I have to marry Einar, and you must make sure that I arrive safely to him Eben, it is of the utmost importance.”

Tears she'd been holding back threatened to come as her eyes started to well up with water and she practically choked on her own words. "I do not know if I can ever forgive you for not returning to me Eben. But even if I do, I still have to marry Einar."

" You don't understand, Astrid, you canno --!"

"Awwww," came a sound from behind Eben.

There was Thorir, arms crossed, leaning against a railing. He had been there listening and watching, for some time apparently while Astrid and Eben's world was only them.

"Well isn't this a sweet little reunion," drawled Thorir as he grinned, "Obviously there is quite the saga here. But that will all wait until we have a big barrel of mead, and are sitting around a roaring fire. I don't care who you love, or who you marry little jarlinna, but you will remain my captive until somebody pays your ransom. Meanwhile brother, I would alike a word with you in the prow. We will leave you to relax in your royal surroundings little jarlinna," Thorir mockingly said.

He then took Eben by the shoulder, turned him around and pushed him towards the prow. As the two reached the prow and had some measure of privacy, Thorir stopped and faced Eben. Thorir's arms crossed and Eben couldn't quite tell what emotions were crossing his face; amusement, anger, annoyance, or acceptance.

Thorir stood there in silence for a moment considering his brother. This may have explained some of Eben peculiarities, but that wasn't important now. Thorir needed facts, he needed to know what this meant for the kidnapping, and if Eben now had more information they could use to their advantage.

"So brother, apparently you know my prisoner. I don't need the whole story now. Later perhaps. For now I need to know what you know. What will help this crew of which you are a part and second in command."


Eben was white-hot with anger and frustration. Anger for knowing Astrid's intentions, despite what it would mean for her. Frustration towards his brother, for stopping him before he could get answers, and now that same brother in kind demanded an explanation. The Skald ground his teeth and curled his fists, damning the Gods for today and each day afterwards: In one raid, his entire life had been thrown to the sea and Thor had seen fit to raise a fierce storm to honor the occasion.

" I know her well, brother," Eben began slowly, trying to force the tightness in his chest to subside that he may actually speak to Thorir. He wanted to rage at the man, but for what? Thorir had no clue that Astrid was the bride in question. There was little that could have been done to prevent this. If he had known, would that have changed his treatment of her? Perhaps only for the sake of Eben, the Poet thought.

" Astrid MacTier. Daughter of Alec and Saria MacTier. Her father supposedly has the blood of dragons flowing through him: magics beyond that ken of mortal men. We have made a grave enemy today that will not be so easy to outwit."

Alec had ... been an odd man to Eben. Never outright unkind, and his mother, Maren, had always been welcome into the man's longhouse when she returned from her trading missions. Still, there was a clear distinction: Alec was nobility. Eben was a heathen bastard. A line had been well drawn.

" Astrid and I ... I've known her since she was as big as that wolf with her. We were friends as youths, and more as we grew older, lovers in secret due to my ... My status. She is the reason I sought Father in the first place: to bestow upon me the name Volundson that I may properly wed her. But that did not happen, and now with Einar in the way, it never will."

Eben turned from his brother, gazing out over the ocean. The wind was strong: the sail strained against the strength of the gale, ushering them forward towards a sacred rock in the middle of the wide sea's embrace. Towards a thousand questions and Eben doubted as many answers.

" When last I saw her, a member of the Clergy, the Church of The Demiurge, informed me that our love had not been as secret as we teenagers assumed. We had been discovered. Alec would be told lest I fled with all haste and never returned to Viuland. So, I did. I came back to you, Brother. I came to this ship, to this home we have within Njord's country."

He sighed, taking in the salty air with a painful sting to his chest.

" But not once have I forgotten her. She, too, has the gift of magic, but last I saw her it was not as strong as her father's. The wolf is unfamiliar to me as well. But Alec is a man of his daughters: he will come for her personally."

Eben finally turned around to face his brother, expression dour and somber as ever, a unique painting upon a normally joyous man.

" I doubt he would bring silver. I know that his court had pressured both himself and Astrid to marry; his wife passed when I was young. This betrothal to Einar probably means as much to Viuland as it does to Grandael. We must proceed with the utmost caution: Alec alone, we may deal with, as would Einar alone. Together? I am unsure. Neither is an ordinary Jarl."

The Skald sighed, finally moving closer to Thorir and laying a hand upon his brother's shoulder.

" I know what we plan to do with her. I know that my duty is to keep this ship and this crew safe. But despite years apart, I love this woman as the gull loves sea and sky. This is ... I will need to think on this. When we reach the Isle, I will know better."

In his heart of hearts, though, Eben already knew what he did not speak aloud: Astrid could not marry Einar. To do so would be to watch the love of his life walk willingly into the maw of the wolf, and Eben was resolved to stop that outcome, no matter the cost.

Thorir sighed.

"By Odin's beard, Eben, you have had a crooked skein woven for you."

Thorir put his left hand on Eben's shoulder.

"However, your behavior was not acceptable."

Thorir punched Eben hard in the gut with his right hand. As Eben doubled over the crew started to mutter and look over.

"Back to the sails, you piles of troll dung!" snarled Thorir to the crew. Turning back to Eben who was still trying to catch his breath, Thorir pulled his brother upright.

"Coward," Thorir grunted contemptuously, "Not that I would have guessed from the last few years. Maybe you grew out of that. If you are to remain my brother you will find your courage, the courage that failed you back then."

Eben was still sucking air a bit as his brother held his shoulders.

"I don't care if Alec has all the powers of Odin. Steel has never failed me. And it will not this time. If he does not bring silver, he will not have his daughter. Perhaps that works out for you, who knows. I don't give a tinker's cuss about Einar or even Alec. Or Astrid for that matter. If you love this, this sharp tongued harpy, so be it. Show it, act on it. If that means you die fighting for her, then you have shown your love for her. If you run away from anything again I will personally put an axe in your back. Am I clear?" Thorir says with chilling seriousness.

Eben gulped and nodded; he had seldom seen this side of Thorir, normally only directed at crew members who needed to be put into place, never at him.

"You WILL face your destiny with courage, or you will cease to be my brother. For now, stay here in the prow. Away from her," Thorir jerked his head back towards Astrid, "Sit here and think. You can talk to her once we reach the isle. Nothing has changed in our plan. The only thing that has changed is what may happen after we collect our ransom. That will be up to you. I should remind you that bastard or no, you are second in command to a Sea King. And while that is not a noble title, it carries much weight with warriors and jarls."

Thorir gave his brother a squeeze on his shoulder and turned to head back to the tent where Astrid was. He stopped and stared at her for a moment, that piercing, evaluative look of his. No grin was on his face now though; his face was serious, fierce. Astrid saw where the legends about him were so true. He looked capable of any kind of violence. Thorir said nothing to her, but turned and relieved Harald at the tiller. Taking it himself, he steered a swift course towards the island that all the skeins of the Norns seemed to be weaving together.

Astrid watched helplessly as the large warrior directed her former lover away from her. She’d had only moments with him and desperately wanted to follow, and began to, but the fierce looks from a few scary looking crew members right outside the covered area sent her directly back inside it.

She paced inside across the wooden floor, her wolf eager to follow behind her, glad for the distraction. Her mind swirled with everything she took in the last few minutes and she spoke to her wolf in soft tones.

“Eben is the brother of both this Sea King Thorir AND Einar Vouldson? Einar?!? How in the Demiurge’s name did THAT happen?? How? And by what design did I then choose Einar to marry, for him to be the one to help me? Perhaps that is the fate of it all…?” she asked herself in disbelief. She shook her head, her long, auburn hair blowing wildly in the wind now that the ship was quickly under way.

Her brows furrowed together as she continued to reflect. “Eben said Einar tried to have him killed… why would he do that? He is… afraid of Eben? But why would that be? Even if he is blood he is only half blood and with a full blooded brother like Thorir I cannot conceive Einar would think Eben a threat to the throne…” The girl stopped her pacing and looked down at her wolf, who finally looked a little less miserable. “I do not know Ruby girl, I am confused by this.”

She looked up and out across the ship and to her horror Thorir swung his meaty fist and punched Eben right in the stomach! Her hands flew to cover the loud gasp that escaped her mouth and she watched intently as Eben righted himself; slowly but he did it. And he looked all right. Angry but keeping it inside, and yet still his brother was speaking to him and Eben stood his ground, face to face. This Sea King scared Astrid more and more by the minute. His reputation was well earned.

She started pacing again, “And what is he doing out here on the sea with these, these, brutes? These marauders? These thieves and brigands and and whatever else they do out here… These…” she heaved a heavy breath. “Is he no longer the poet I knew? Who used to sing about love and romance and magic and adventure?” she asked the white wolf in a sad tone. “That would be a terrible loss…”

She started up more forcefully, “And why, why, WHY did he not return to me? Things would be so different right now if he had…” She began to pause but quickly pushed on, as if she hadn’t spent years thinking on that particular what-if, “There is so much he doesn’t know, there is so much I should tell him, about what occurred, that night, and right after, about, you know, even why you are here…”

She stopped pacing again and knelt down to pet the wolf, looking her in her icy blue eyes, “But SHOULD I tell him? It will only bring him pain for him to know the truth, it will only injure his heart forever to know and not be able to act on any of it.” She sighed at the wolf, “I know, he does deserve to know Ruby, you are right, he does. But I do not want to wound him when it just cannot be. None of it can be now.”

She stood up and wandered as close to the front of the covered area as she dared. “But Eben, oh, my Eben, my Love, he IS alive and well, QUITE well, he is grown, he is no longer a boy, he is a man, and so handsome... he still has my heart Ruby, he still makes it pound like no one else ever has, maybe even more so now…” she sighed a little happy sigh and tried to catch a glance at the skald up at the front of the ship. He was still being spoken to by the Sea King and didn’t look very happy but it made her heart a little lighter just to know he was there, in the same air as she was.

She moved to the side of the boat and rested her head up against a beam, her hair and thin shift still floating around her in the wind. The shift kept trying to escape off her shoulder but she didn’t care, she held it up with bound hands to keep herself decent. If it was cold she didn’t feel it as she gazed out at her lost-love now found longingly.

She was so lost in her little dream that it was quite sudden when Thorir showed up in front of her, scowling at her. His grin was missing and the look on his face scared Astrid, the look said violence could be imminent. For the first time she cowered a little bit under that scowl and said nothing to irritate the man. She profusely thanked her god when he said nothing in return, he just moved away to go steer the ship.

She breathed in and out a handful of times before she relaxed a little bit and returned to her daydreams, leaning up against the railings once more and letting the salty sea air temporarily take her back to a place of bliss where Eben and herself had a chance at being happy together again.

[MENTION=6855545]Archon Basileus[/MENTION] [MENTION=6855204]tglassy[/MENTION] [MENTION=8058]Queenie[/MENTION] [MENTION=2820]Fenris[/MENTION]
 

tglassy

Adventurer
One more time, indeed, Avriel thought as the hawk circled the ship high in the sky, nearly too high to be seen. Avriel decided he had seen enough, casually turning back towards Jarl MacTier's keep. He needed to inform his master of what had happened to his daughter.
 

Neurotic

I plan on living forever. Or die trying.
OOC: Wow. Excellent work everyone! You had me tearing up and feeling and tensing and...create a consortium and write a book, I hear there are online publishers that are quite cheap for starting writers. I'm not sure I can match that level of writing mastery.
 


Queenie

Queen of Everything
OOC: Wow. Excellent work everyone! You had me tearing up and feeling and tensing and...create a consortium and write a book, I hear there are online publishers that are quite cheap for starting writers. I'm not sure I can match that level of writing mastery.

Thanks! We worked pretty hard on the storyline for months and it's pretty fun now that it is actually happening.

Don't worry about matching mastery, just do your best and it'll be fun for you too :)
 


Halloween Horror For 5E

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