Chapter 1: 15
You couldn’t move. Your arms were held down by tight grips, a hand clamped over your mouth and knees pressed into your biceps. The firepit next to you was lit, unlike when you went to sleep. As you thrashed in the bed, you spotted the burning glow of metal inside the fire. Then it was dragged out of the coals and the small dagger was pressing into your wound and cutting deeper all while being cauterized.
It burned deeply, your blood ran over the hands of the man. He was grinning at you with sharp eyes and spitting even sharper insults at you. It was so hot, burning hotter than the fires of the sun and you couldn’t even scream, not with the hand planted over your mouth.
Erlendur only laughed. His eyes sharply trained on the blood spilling from your side. “Did you think no one would see you? Hmm?” He hissed. “Ari was my brother! He was good.” Erlendur added more pressure with the blade and you let out another loud scream. “Did you not think I’d see how you bewitched him!” Erlendur delivered a sharp jab of the burning dagger into your wound.
Tears rolled down your face, streaking your cheeks and dampening your cheeks and the a man’s hands over your lips. There was little you could do, not with the men holding you down, and your family wasn’t due to check on you. You shook in their hold, until Erlendur was done. He instructed the men holding you to bind your wound once more and they left you, curled up on your bed in pain, crying silently into your pillow until it was damp underneath your cheek.
Chapter 2: 16
Oh brother, we'll go deeper than the ink
Beneath the skin of our tattoos
Though we don't share the same blood
You're my brother and I love you that's the truth
You had stepped past Queen Aslaug when you caught the words coming from her mouth. Ubbe and Hvitserk had fallen through ice, Siggy had died trying to save them. Protectiveness surged through you as you pushed past your brother once he disappeared to look for Thorrun. You were met with Sigurd and Ubbe, waiting on one of the benches, Ubbe lingering behind them. You scooped up Sigurd and Ubbe first into your arms.
Your brothers didn’t look like they had been injured or harm. There were no signs of missing fingers, no frostbite on their noses or cheeks “Ubbe,” You glanced through the both of them to Hvitserk, who stared before running to you and hugging at your hip. “Are you two alright? What were the both of you thinking? Hmm?”
They gave you twin boyish smiles, staring at you like they hadn’t done anything wrong. Ubbe leaned in and whispered something into your ear. You stiffened, and darted your head around to stare at your step-mother in shock and horror. Your tightened your grip on your brothers and pulled them closer to you before you sat down on one of the benches and smoothed a hand over their hair.
Your step-mother watched you as you cradled both your brothers all while paying attention to three of them. Ubbe’s attention had become distracted by your father making faces at him from behind your back. Sigurd was tugging playfully at your hair and trying to keep your attention on him, while Hvitserk was trying to whisper something that was too quiet and fast for you to understand.
Bjorn thundered back into the Great Hall, looking in a slightly better mood, you assumed he’d spoken to Thorrun. Your brother raised his voice, his eyes darting over to the crib that you just noticed was in the corner of the hall, closer towards your parents and younger brothers rooms. Your brother muttered before he darted over to hi daughter’s crib. He picked up Siggy, still wrapped in her blanket and rocked his daughter in his arms.
Your step mother said from behind him. You took a deep breath and gave a smile to Hvitserk and gestured for him to go play with Ubbe, who’d wiggled off of your knee, and your father. Hvitserk ran off and you held Sigurd more tightly, lifting him to rest onto your hips. You kissed the side of Sigurd’s temple and sighed, leaning forward to lean an elbow onto the table. You were home, and for the time being, no one was hurt.
Your step-mother however, earned no mercy from either you or your father. You shadowed your younger siblings for days after your return, and your father's eyes were sharp as they played in the great hall and darted around the firepit.
They were your brothers, and it was your step-mother's ignorance that almost led to their deaths.
Chapter 3: 17
I don't understand this
You're changing, I can't stand it
My heart can't take this damage
Your shoulder still ached from your injuries, your wrist panged sharply every time you twisted it further than a full rotation. You still had a slight limp as you followed behind Bjorn and your mother back to camp from the meeting, where you had seen your father being baptized. You were painfully confused, not really by why Ragnar chose to do something like that. You understood that your father missed Athelstan, more than anything, even with all the trials and tribulations you and your family had faced.
Ever since Aethelstan was freed, you knew your father had created a bond with him, and so you kept your mouth shut, and you slunk to a dark corner to watch the camp light up in celebration after the silver and gold was delivered towards the camp. In the dark you waited to see what would happen, and your brother slipped over to you and sat down by your feet to pat your aching shoulder.
You didn’t want to accept that your father was dying.
A month passed slowly and quickly. Your father worsened to a degree, catching a fever and vomiting bile and blood. His internal injuries from the battle on the walls had not abated, and instead they’d gotten worse. Bjorn had pulled you from your tent when he passed through the night, and you hid your quivering bottom lip behind tear filled eyes as the rain drizzled down over the camp.
Bjorn gestured over to you. “You can speak to him now.” It was directed towards your mother as well, and the others who gathered around the tent sorrowfully.
Once your mother and Rollo had spoken to his coffin, the beautiful mimicked boat carved by Floki, you knelt down beside your father’s coffin and patted it, palms splayed over the carvings. “I always resented you.” You hiccuped, pushing down a sob. “I hated you for driving Bjorn and mother away. I hated you for it.” You patted the coffin again, leaning against it until your forehead pressed against the carved wood.” A sob escaped your lips, you felt foolish and selfish. “But you still loved me.” A laugh broke past your lips, wet like your eyes were. “But you didn’t love Bjorn and I as much as you loved our younger brothers.”
You stood from the side of the coffin and shook, hidden behind the fabrics of your father’s tent. “I’ll see you in Valhalla father.” You stepped away from the coffin and backed away. Finally once you were away from your father’s tent, you let yourself sob, clinging onto Bjorn’s shoulders until the men Bjorn had selected came to take your father’s coffin.
Bjorn stroked the backs of your shoulders and held you, as they lifted the coffins onto their shoulders. You held onto him, as tightly as you could manage without slowing down his movements and you wiped at the tears across your face. “I already miss him.” You muttered, mostly into his shoulder.
“It’ll be alright Bragi.”
Bjorn had taken you by surprise, with arresting Floki and putting him on display in the middle of the town in chains, shaming him. It drove a wedge between the both of you. You sat outside most days, your hair tied back as you threatened the young children that were throwing dirt and rotten vegetables at him. You glared at them and waved your axe whenever they had gotten close to inflicting serious damage to Floki. It was all you could do to help both him and Helga while your father was still unconscious. Eventually the children’s rough-housing became too much, and Bjorn had to step in, rushing over to chasing the kids away while you and Helga stood and watched him.
Every time Helga brought Angrboda with her to see Floki, you kept a more alert watch. The other children didn’t come near when Angrboda was there, her name as frightening to them as the stories were. You nodded along for the most part, whenever they spoke, and you mostly kept an eye on Angrboda.
When you sat with your brothers for dinner that night, your brushed a hand through Sigurd’s hair. “Bragi and Bjorn have been teaching us how to fight.” Ubbe spoke up from the table. Your step-mother again, reminded your younger brothers about their grandfather. Your head perked up when you heard a creak over the noise of the feast.
“Ragnar!” The conversation shifted as your brother turned his head. You turned your own and stared at Ragnar as he hobbled out from his rooms, with a hand on his chest.
“Don’t you worry about little ole me.” Your father laughed and waved his hand dismissively. As you all sat back down, Sigurd settled himself down into your lap and you lifted another piece of bread from your plate and handed it to him, before reaching for one of the spinach leaves and folding it into your mouth.
Your father glanced up at the new slave, Yidu, her name was, before turning and staring at all of you wide eyed.
“What did I miss?” He asked, glancing back and forth. Hvitserk laughed and turned his head towards Ubbe.
“You tell him!” Your brother’s argued back and forth, before Ubbe turned to your father. “Bjorn has arrested Floki.” Ubbe announced proudly. You stopped mid chew and swallowed your food whole as your father put down the leg of ham he had reached for. Right, you did not prepare yourself for this.
Chapter 4: 25
I remember when you went away
And back you came
Like a fucking hurricane
Your first visit from Halfdan came after a while of sending each other letters. Some time after he had returned home to Vestfold and you were left in Kattegat, you’d sent him a letter nervously, leaving out most details in case someone else had read it, but you thanked him and mentioned you were hopeful for a response. Two weeks later a letter had come for you and as you sat in your bed a blush settled over your cheeks and you’d spent the night dreaming about Halfdan and feeling his arms wrapped around you.
He ported in Kattegat one day as a surprise. You spotted his smile during the Yuletide feast in the Great Hall and once night had fallen after your helped Queen Aslaug complete the sacrifices, the both of you had squirreled away to Scar Mountain with bows and a tent, exchanging small smiles as the moonlight lit your eyes in the dark.
“Where does Harald think you’ve gone?” You whispered as you sat against him next to the fire, inside your shared open tent. He slipped a hand down the length of your arm and threaded his fingers between yours.
“He thinks I’ve gone to Rogaland to spy on King Arnarson and his Earl.” Halfdan scoffed and shifted, so that his side was turned to the fire and he leaned in to kiss you. “Which I will be doing, when I leave, and not before I’ve spent time with you.” You blushed underneath his lips and smiled.
Winter had settled nicely over Kattegat, but the cold was biting as the wind blew further into the cave. You’d both climbed to one of the high peaks of the mountain to avoid anyone noticing your fire and coming to investigate. Personally you would have brought Halfdan to the hunting cabin, but your younger brothers had beaten you to it, Ubbe and Hvitserk were out hunting on their own for the first time, at fourteen and thirteen.
“Hmm, you travel much for him? Spying for Harald?” The idea of just, disappearing for Kattegat on your own was new, different. You never really thought of it before, because you’d spent so much time trying to just mirror Bjorn and be by his side like your father made you promise to be.
“It’s my duty. One of many, being the younger brother of a king.” Halfdan commented distractedly. He began tracing patterns on the back of your hand. “Don’t you or Bjorn do those things, for King Ragnar?”
You shook your head and turned your body towards him. “Bjorn leads when Ragnar is incapacitated, he’s been practicing that for years.” You answered slowly, leaning in to press another soft kiss. “My duties are to look after my brothers mostly with Queen Aslaug, and to train them.”
“Huh.” Halfdan gave you a strange look before he cupped the side of your cheek. “Enough about our brothers ah.” He smiled at you and moved the hand he’d slipped into yours down to your waist. “I’ve missed you, your letters are poor substitute for yourself.” He teased, rubbing his thumb in circles against the fabric of your shirt.
“I missed you Halfdan.” You murmured back to him and let your hand drop to his waist. He kissed you again, shifting the both of you on your bedrolls and pulled you flush to his chest. He kissed like a starving man. Every so often he surged a little closer to you, pressed the kiss deeper and harder, like he wanted to devour you whole. His hands gripped your waist tightly, his fingers curled against you.
Halfdan pulled away for a breath. The both of you painted, staring into each other’s eyes before he moved. His beard scraped against your own. It felt nice, as he began to place kisses on the side of your jaw and throat. A small moan escaped your lips as you threw your head back while Halfdan continued to mouth at your throat. He pulled away again, before digging around in his back and coming back to the bedrolls with a vial of oil.
You pulled yourself up into a sitting position and began stripping out of your clothes, shucking your pants down your legs and kicking your boots away before you yanked your shirt over your head. Both yours and Halfdan’s coats were already abandoned at the entrance of the tent.
“I want to fuck you.” Halfdan said bluntly, eyes raking down the length of your body. You tilted your hips upwards and raised an eyebrow, before you reached down to grip underneath your thighs and pull your legs up by your head. Halfdan gave a breathy growl before he rushed closer to you, pressing his still clothed hips flush against your naked body. He pressed his bulge against the cleft of your ass, teasing you as he leaned over to kiss you again, this time with a hand teasing across your entrance, slick with oil.
He pressed your legs further back, until you were almost bent in half before he began to finger you open slowly, taking his time and crooking his fingers downwards until pleasure tingled and shocked up your spine. “You are absolutely beautiful.” He muttered over the gasped moans that escaped your lips while he prepared you. “A present from the gods, you have to be, what else could this be.” He murmured absently and he added a second finger.
You gasped in response, words stammering out of your mouth forming incomplete sentences. Halfdan was warm over you, his breathing was unsteady but not laboured as he stared at you passionately. A smile toyed at the corner of his lips, like your inability to form a full sentence was amusing to him. You pushed yourself down on his fingers and then thrust your hips upwards, before you finally managed to push out a fully formed plea from you mouth.
“Please fuck me Halfdan! Now please?” You threw your head back and exposed your neck as you did so, stretching and arching your back. Halfdan cursed under his breath and you just caught the trail end of him muttering to Frey and Freya. He surged forward, one hand fumbling with the ties of his pants and the hem of his shirt, trying to pull it off and grasp at your cheek to kiss you at the same time.
You helped him, grabbing the sides of his shirt and pulling it over his head before tossing it away from you. He kicked out of his pants and settled back down between your legs. You could feel his cock pressed against the cleft of your ass, hard and warm. He teased the tip of it against your entrance before meeting your eyes.
He wordlessly searched for permission, scanning your face. You nodded, locking your ankles behind his back when he hesitated, before you pulled him closer until he began to press into you. You grunted out a curse, arching your back further as the slight burn of a stretch shot up your spine.
“Fuck Bragi!” Halfdan grunted out, ducking his head low so that it was next to your war. “You feel so good.” He pressed closer to you until you were flush against his hips, your legs slung around his waist. One of his hands curled around your thigh, maneuvering you as he moved his hips in small, circular motions.
“C’mon Halfdan.” You tightened your legs around his waist, pressing your heels into the small of his back. “Fuck me! It’s been years.”
With that, he moved. He pulled away, and you arched your back, feeling the drag of his cock inside you, before he snapped his hips forward. You yelped, before reaching up to find his face and you dragged him down for a messy kiss, gasping between it as he settled into a rhythm. You nipped at his bottom lip, arching your back and tilting your hips, allowing him an easier time.
Halfdan clutched at your chin and thigh, moaning against your mouth while thrusting, his blunt nails dug into your skin while you fucked. You clenched around him as he moaned against you. Your hands scrambled at his chin and his neck. Your fingers curled into the hair at the nape of his neck and you tugged on the short strands, pulling more noises from his throat.
“Halfdan!” You shouted when he bit playfully at the side of your throat. Halfdan tilted his hips and pushed you up harder in the tent, fucking into you while leaving marks across your throat.
“My prince.” Halfdan dragged his fingers along the length of your jaw while he fucked into you. You gasped in response, and muttered a curse reaching with one hand to grip at your own cock. You twisted your wrists in time with Halfdan’s own thrusts, moaning in his ear while he continued to pound into you, gasping out compliments and curses with equal measure.
“I’ve missed the taste of your skin.” Halfdan all but growled against your skin, mouthing and dragging his tongue across the side of your throat. “I’ve missed your hands.” He nipped at your throat, dragging his teeth over your pulsepoint. “Your ass.” He thrust harder, and you choked back another shout. “Everything.” He gripped onto you and quickened his pace, starting to bite at your skin and leave marks across your collarbones and shoulders as well as your throat.
“I missed you.” You moaned out, arching your back and locking your ankles further around Halfdan’s waist. “Fuck please Halfdan.” Your hands scrambled across his back, nails dragging across his muscles. “I need more.”
He obliged with a soft, answering moan before he hitched his hands underneath your hips and began pounding into you, each stroke of his hips sending pleasure up your spine. You dragged your hand over your cock, pleading through gritted teeth and loose moans while Halfdan fucked you, until your body seized and you clenched hard around Halfdan, spilling across your stomach and chest.
You squeezed your eyes shut and panted as Halfdan continued to pound into you. You could feel the drag of his cock inside you, pushing deep and pressing right up into your very soul. You scrambled with one hand, until you found the side of his face and you pulled him in for a deep kiss, holding the both of you together until Halfdan chased his own pleasure and fell over the edge, spilling inside you.
He huffed against your cheek, dropping his weight onto your chest, not wanting to move yet. You made a small noise under him, but slung your arms around his waist anyway and began kissing the curve of his ear.
“Hmm, I love you Halfdan.” You whispered as you kissed at the spot behind his ear. Halfdan shimmied his hips against yours and finally moved, pulling out from you and he flopped over onto his side on top of his bedroll.
“Hmm and I love you my prince.” He leaned in to kiss your throat, while sliding a hand over the side of your thigh. You hummed, although it was slightly dismissive as you relaxed, soaking in Halfdan’s warmth and his scent.
“How long will you be staying?” You turned over to look at him.
“A week.” He reached out to touch the side of your face, running a hand along your cheekbone. “Until then, I am all yours.” Halfdan yawned. You shuffled closer to him and wrapped an arm around his waist tentatively. Halfdan tugged you close until you were flush against his chest and he tucked his face into the crook of your shoulder, before he settled himself and poked at your nose with his tongue.
“Go to sleep my love. I’ll be here in the morning.” He whispered to you. You arranged the blankets you brought over your waists, your legs tangled together beneath them.
As the firelight burned brightly outside the tent, you closed your eyes and breathed in the scent of the sea, sweat and a slight hint of honey, and you slept dreaming of the man whose arms you were in.
Chapter 5: 29
Tell me that you want to leave with me
Tell me that you want to go with me
Don't you want to get out of here?
You had ridden into the interior and through to Gotland on your own account. It was a slow trip, since the last time you had been there was almost thirteen years ago and you weren’t sure of the way. You clutched the letter tucked into the hidden pocket of the inseam of your coat. Finally you’d come to a small farming settlement that was marked on the map that accompanied a letter.
You swung a leg over and dismounted from your horse, gripping onto her reins as you walked through the settlement, eyes scanning the buildings until you found a stable of sorts. You greeted one of the stable boys with a soft smile and a pouch of coin, and he took your horse from you, before leading it over to a stall and letting your horse get settled.
You pulled out the letter again, glancing down at it and scanning over the words. It mentioned an inn, called the Two Cranes. You scanned the settlement again, until you spotted a small fawn coloured sign that had ‘Two Cranes’ carved into it. You walked over, your thumb slipped into the axering on your, the joint of your thumb resting on the blade while you tucked the letter back into your coat. Stepping into the inn, you were surprised at the emptiness of it. Your eyes darted around the dimly lit building, until a familiar set of eyes found yours.
You walked over briskly, until the owner of the eyes stood and you were standing face to face. Halfdan held your eyes for a moment longer, before finally lunging forward and embracing you.
“I thought you wouldn’t come.” He rasped into your ear. He pulled away from you and cupped the back of your head, pulling you in to press his forehead to yours. “Gods Bragi I was so worried, you’re a day late.” He huffed.
“Sorry Halfdan… Sorry.” He pulled away from you and gestured one of the barmaids over. He dropped a few pieces of silver into her hand and thanked her for the meal before dragging you away from the benches and tables in the inn and towards a set of stairs tucked away in the back. “I had to arrange the boys training, Ubbe and Hvitserk adore the hunting cabin and Sigurd always wants to go with them.” You explained as Halfdan pulled you along up the steps. “And whenever Sigurd wants to go, Ivar wants to go and they’re all…” You trailed off when Halfdan turned around to look at you.
“I don’t care why.” He stopped at one of the doors on the second floor of the inn and pulled a key from his coat, slipping it into the lock. Halfdan pushed the door open and pulled you inside. You could see a bag of his things tossed over a table in the corner, and the large bed was unmade. “You’re here.’ Halfdan leaned in and you dropped the bag you had slung over your shoulder and took half a step closer to kiss him.
He cupped your cheeks and held you, while your hands slid around his waist to rest on his back. He kissed you like he missed you. Seeking, desperate. He rubbed his thumbs over your cheekbones and tattoos and traced the seam of your lips with his tongue, searching for entrance.
The both of you kissed until you had to break apart for a breath or three. Halfdan’s eyes scanned your face, before you were tugged into his arms and held. He tucked his face into your shoulder and you heard him breath in sharply.
“I’m sorry I’m late Halfdan.” You hugged him back, pressing your own nose onto his shoulder, letting your eyes flutter shut.
“I’m happy you made it.” He reached down and took your hands into his, holding them gently before he lifted your right hand up to his lips and kissed the back of your hand.
“I wish you stayed.” Halfdan whispered as the two of you laid in bed together. Halfdan stroked his fingers over the tattoos on your face, the ones that matched his and his brothers. “Having you in that house, our house.” He sighed wistfully and and trailed calloused fingers down the line of your shoulder. “The bed smelt like you for days after. Letters aren’t enough.”
You frowned and leaned in to nuzzle his cheek, running your own hand across his side while tracing circles. “I’m sorry love.” You scanned his eyes and shuffled closer to him, even though your chests were already barely a few inches apart. “I wanted to stay longer and I want to visit more…”
“But you’re training your brothers and they need you.” Halfdan finished. You both had this conversation over and over again, in your letters, in person whenever the both of you managed to see each other, no matter how dangerous it was. Halfdan wanted you to come live with him in Vestfold, and you couldn’t bear to leave Kattegat with your brother’s untrained, especially since Sigurd had just turned thirteen.
“Sigurd’s just turned thirteen Halfdan.” At the mention of Sigurd’s name, Halfdan’s expression softened and his fingers brushed under your eyelashes for a moment, before he swept them over the shell of your ear to tuck your hair behind it. “He’s going to get his armring soon, I promised I’d take care of him.”
“I know.” Halfdan nodded and pulled you closer to him. You traced your hand down his bicep, sighing mostly to yourself.
“But I don’t want to give you up.” You pouted and leaned into kiss him again. His lips were slightly chapped against yours, from the cold of the winter, probably from riding all the way from Vestfold to make this meeting. You slung a leg over his hips and tugged him close until the both of you were wrapped up in each other.
The both of you had a week together before your brothers attempted to hunt you down.
Two days into your stay in Gotland, Halfdan stumbled through the door to your room at the inn with snow in his hair and beard. He shrugged off damp clothes and fell into bed once he’d stripped out of most of them. You were already laying in bed, your hair tied in a high bun above your head, still damp from your warm bath. Halfdan shook the snow out of his hair and turned to you.
“Let’s run away together.” He asked bluntly. His head tilted to the side. “You and me, just the both of us.”
“What? Halfdan?” You propped yourself up on one elbow and searched his expression. “We can’t. Harald would fi-”
“We could just go, leave Norway, go west! Or east! Anywhere that isn’t here.” He insisted. He leaned over and rubbed his cheek against yours before pulling back to meet your eyes. “Please Bragi. We could build a life together.”
“Halfdan I…” You dropped your gaze. “My brothers, my duties.”
“Please Bragi, I know it in my heart that we’re meant to be together.” It wasn’t like Halfdan to plead like this, his eyes were wide and open as they glanced across your face. “We can have a future together, if we run and don’t look back.”
“I can’t leave them behind, and Bjorn would come after me, Harald would come for you.” You shook your head and dropped your gaze from Halfdan’s. “We simply can’t.” Halfdan sighed but leaned forward and cupped your cheek, tilting your face back up to his.
“It’s okay. I just needed you to know, it’s an option for us. If you want to go, I’ll go with you, to wherever you want.” He kissed you and it saved you from trying to respond without hurting the both of you. You kissed him back and held onto him tightly.