It was always easy to tell when Eivor returned home. Even from the room that was quickly feeling more and more like a cage, Randvi could hear the excitement spread through the growing settlement.
Sometimes, Randvi would allow herself the freedom, the moment of indulgence, to walk to the doors of the longhouse and watch. Today she allowed herself. Eivor had been gone for a while, after all.
It was past midday, but still a short time left before the sun would truly begin to descend. Randvi watched as a few of the children ran excitedly past towards the docks. Some to greet family, others to simply enjoy the excitement of the warrior’s return.
It seemed they were returning with a good haul, unsurprising since they had been gone for nearly a week. Likely Eivor returned with not only physical spoils, but news of a forged alliance as well.
Randvi smiled. A chuckle soft enough to be carried away on the breeze left her lips. She watched as the children swarmed around Eivor, likely asking for tales of her exploits. Or gifts. Which she always provided. It endlessly amused Randvi how Eivor could be so quiet and brooding much of the time, yet soft with the children. Well, soft in her own way. Which was still enough to endear her to them endlessly. And to enchant Randvi further.
She made her way back inside before too long. Eivor always stopped by to see her first, to report back. To talk. Or sometimes not talk. They just looked over the maps, the reports, in silence. It was nice. Eivor's presence was a comfort. It always had been. From the day she'd been married to Sigurd to secure peace, Eivor had been one of the few sources of happiness in Randvi's life. And the only constant one that had lasted through the years. All others had been fleeting moments, things Randvi had clawed out for herself. But Eivor...she was as unwavering in her support as she was in battle.
As expected, Eivor arrived a few minutes later to the map room, the white wolf trotting happily at her side. Chewy. Randvi had laughed at the name. Eivor had been stone faced, apart from the tiny, amused smirk gracing her lips. Apparently one of the children who'd offered the name had been very enthusiastic about it.
"Randvi, good to see you."
Randvi wondered if there would be a day when Eivor's voice, that rough, even rasping tone, would not affect her. She couldn’t recall a day when it hadn't, from the moment they met. Nor could she foresee any future where it would ever stop. It was as though it was woven into the very fabric of her fate.
"Eivor." Randvi smiled at her friend, looking her over. "I'm happy to see you back and healthy."
Eivor didn't appear wounded, but when Randvi looked into her salt blue eyes, she saw the weight of weariness. It was always hard to tell, with the black warpaint Eivor wore around her eyes, but Randvi was good at seeing the differences in them by now.
Eivor chuckled, but even that sounded tired. "Always. And I return with good news. We can call the new king our ally."
"That's great news Eivor. Yet again you've made us stronger."
"Of course, soon we'll be too powerful to contain." Eivor chuckled. "And how have things been here? How have you been?"
"We continue to thrive, thanks to you. A little more vigilant against raiders now, but things are well. The supplies you brought back will allow us to expand even further. I have a few ideas, just to consider. The choice will be yours, as always."
"Of course Randvi. You know I'll always listen to your advice. The clan would be lost without it." Eivor took a step forward, the corner of her lips lifting along with her brow. She wasn't much taller, but this close the difference felt so much more. She smelled of the familiar scent of iron and blood, something Eivor had always smelled of. But where once there was the scent of salt and the snow, she now smelled of fresh earth and rain.
"But I asked how you were as well. I'd like to know."
Randvi didn't consider herself young enough to blush anymore. But she did. Luckily it was faint enough that nobody could notice. Probably. At least Eivor didn't. Hopefully.
"I'm well. I have much work to keep me busy." She stopped herself from continuing further. From telling Eivor how these walls felt smaller and smaller each day. How nearly every moment she didn’t manage to bury herself in work she was thinking of sailing and raiding and exploring. With Eivor.
But Randvi didn't share those thoughts with her friend. Not now. Not seeing her slumped shoulders and looking in her tired eyes. Eivor worked harder than any here. She needed--deserved--rest.
"That's good. If you'd like, I can hear those ideas you had now, then go get started on the work." Of course, of course she would push herself further still.
"Actually…do you think you could do something for me, first?"
"Oh course. What do you need?"
"For you to sleep." Randvi chuckled, smirking at her friend's confused expression. "You look exhausted, Eivor. The construction can wait until you rest. Please just go, get something to eat, and sleep. I'll take care of things."
"Well, if you insist." Eivor smiled that barely there smile of hers. "Thank you Randvi. I'll see you in the morning."
"Of course. Good night, Eivor." It was nothing more than a parting nod, and Eivor turned and headed towards her room. Randvi watched her until she disappeared from sight, before sighing only to herself and returning to work.
Randvi was usually up before many. She'd made it a habit to always go and get herself the first fresh loaf of bread Tovar made. It was one of the few things she truly looked forward to in her days. But dwelling on that would lead her thoughts down a gloomy path, one she preferred to avoid.
Instead, she took in the sights and smells of the budding village. It had grown so much since they'd first arrived, and much of it thanks to Eivor's tireless work.
The thought of the brave warrior made Randvi smile as she stepped inside the bakery. Perhaps today she could share her first meal.
If Tovar was surprised when she asked for two loaves, he didn't show it, merely smiling politely as he wrapped them in cloth to keep their warmth. For such a large, strong looking man, he was always polite and friendly. A good addition to the clan.
With some smoked fish, enough for herself and what she knew Eivor's voracious appetite to be, Randvi returned to the longhouse. A few people were up and about by now. The door to Eivor's room was slightly ajar, as always, to let Chewy come and go as she pleased.
Randvi set the food she'd gathered on a nearby table, closest to Eivor's room, before moving to peek through the space between the doors. The sight was perhaps the most endearing she'd ever witnessed in regards to the fierce, brooding warrior.
Eivor was sprawled across her bed, clothes in a trail leading to it, as though she'd begun shedding them as she walked. Now she lay on her stomach, back bare, revealing the tattoos running up her spine and over her strong shoulders. Scars mapped their way over Eivor's skin, telling the tales of her struggles and won glories.
As...delightful a sight Eivor's bare back provided. what had the majority of Randvi's attention was who was sleeping next to the warrior. Stretched out alongside the Eivor, pressed along her entire side, was the white-furred form of her wolf companion, sleeping peacefully with her head next to Eivor’s. As if the sight were not wonderful enough, it appeared even Synin had required rest and had nestled herself among the wolf's fur.
Randvi wished there was some way she could immortalize the image in any place except her own mind. Yet, there was still a certain appeal that such a sight would exist only for her. She was not a selfish woman, but just this once, perhaps she would be.
With a smile, Randvi gripped the handles to the doors. “Sleep well, Eivor,” she whispered, causing neither warrior nor animal to stir as she closed the doors.