Eivor left early in the morning. Earlier than she usually did. Randvi only knew because she was awake, still. It wasn't a surprise that sleep had eluded her all night, mind plagued with worry and guilt as it was.
She spent the night in the map room, trying to busy herself with work, unable to go longer than a few moments without glancing up at the doorway, expecting to see Eivor. Was she hoping for it, or was she dreading it? Now in the rays of midmorning light, Randvi still didn't know.
All the hours she'd had to ruminate on what had happened, Randvi was still no more certain in her feelings. Regret and happiness warred like the gods and giants inside her.
Even still, her only real regret was based solely on Eivor's reaction. Or rather, the reaction that Randvi was still awaiting. Cleaning up after the raid had left no opportunity to talk, and any chance of talking after was swept away by Eivor's early departure.
Randvi was beside herself with worry. Was Eivor angry? Was she disgusted with Randvi and herself? Was she pleased? Certainly Eivor must have...a part of her must have wanted what had happened, wanted Randvi. Or had it all truly been the battle lust? Eivor could be emotional at times, but…
Randvi sighed, leaning heavily against the table. What could she do? Beg forgiveness? Lie and say it was a mistake? She couldn’t bring herself to do either of those things. Her only course of action was to wait, wait and see what Eivor would do. Randvi had finally taken her life into her own hands for a single evening, and now she had to wait and see if that would all come burning down or if there was some glimmer of distant hope.
Of course, waiting was a heroic challenge in itself. Randvi had always been a patient woman, not naturally, but she'd had to learn. Forced to set her wildness and thrill-seeking nature aside for one of measured patience and quiet cunning. It wasn’t wholly bad. She did enjoy strategizing, and out thinking and out maneuvering others had always been a skill of hers. But the ability to sit quietly and wait for others to decide her fate without being able to do anything? That, she was not suited for. Even if her life seemed to necessitate it over and over again.
Of course, even with practiced patience, it would still be a challenge. Eivor was often gone for several days to a week at a time, especially when setting out to secure new alliances, and with the current state of affairs, Randvi feared it would be longer.
Her worry and certainty at Eivor's long time away is what she attributed to causing her body to jump at the sudden thud of boots behind her.
Her body acted without thought, muscles moving with no need for the mind to order them. Her axe was in hand before she'd even fully turned, body freezing as she took in Eivor's painfully familiar form.
"Sorry," Eivor said, clearing her throat. "I didn't mean to startle you."
"Sorry, I was…" Randvi cleared her throat too, slipping her axe back into the loop at her side. "You're back already?"
"There's a feast to be held in a few days where we'll meet the bride to be and her brothers. No need to wait around with nothing to do."
“Of course.” Randvi nodded, watching Eivor with a bated heart. Surely now would be the time for Eivor to reveal her feelings, to dash Randvi’s hopes and confirm her fears, or to alleviate them.
Instead, silence lapsed between the two of them, Eivor scratching at the back of her neck as she shifted her weight from left foot to right. It was a long, heavy silence before Eivor finally cleared her throat. “Well, I won’t disturb you from your work any longer.”
She turned and left before Randvi could form any kind of response. It wasn’t the end of Eivor’s odd behaviour, because she didn’t go far, merely seating herself at one of the benches in the longhouse, still within view of Randvi. She busied herself, setting to work on maintaining her weapons and armour, but it was odd. Out of the usual. Eivor did such things late in the evening, in the quiet of her room.
Randvi only saw how Eivor's gaze lifted up towards her because of her own watchful gaze. The warrior was quick to look away, seemingly very concerned about something dirtying her axe.
What was she doing? Randvi wanted--needed--answers. Answers to quell her turbulent mind and aching heart. She wanted to go and demand them. Demand to know what Eivor was thinking, what she was feeling. To either embrace her or cast her aside and yell at her for sullying their honour.
She wanted to. Almost did. But she stopped herself, hands gripping the edge of the table to halt any movement as her eyes saw, truly saw.
Eivor's movements, always so precise, strong and sure, were but a shadow of that. Her hands moved in jerky, unsure motions, often abruptly stopping and changing tasks, as though Eivor's mind could not settle on a single thing.
It gave Randvi pause. She had seen an angry, brooding Eivor many times but that was not the sight before Randvi's eyes. This...this vision of Eivor was something new.
Unsure. Confused. Perhaps even distraught. Whatever exact thing Eivor was feeling, it was not anger. She seemed to be wrestling with great thoughts, and that was enough to still Randvi. If it didn't quiet her mind completely of worry, it did quell the storm to a soft patter. Present, but not overwhelming.
She could wait. She had to wait. She owed that to Eivor, and rushing her to a decision would only make things worse. Randvi had to let her be. It would be ok. She had plenty of work to keep herself busy after all. She would just need to keep herself...very busy.
Maybe it was all the ale. Maybe it was that Christian weddings were weird. Maybe it was just the fact that she was at a fucking wedding of all places. Had she ever attended a happy one? She supposed Sigurd’s wedding had been a happy occasion. The end of a war between clans, uniting them instead. A time when Randvi was nothing more to Eivor than a pretty face. When there was no love beating in her heart for the beautiful fire haired woman. How quickly that changed.
Sigurd had always been driven by ambition, by a need to explore and conquer and gain his glory. It was something they shared, and yet fates decreed they never sailed together until England. It was not long before he was leaving his new wife behind and riding the waves to whatever glory he could find.
It hadn't taken long to realize Randvi was different. She walked tall and proud, quickly making herself a valuable asset, talking to everyone, forming plans to improve the town and the lives of those who lived there.
Randvi was fiercely intelligent and it wasn't long before everyone had realized that, including Eivor.
To this day, she still didn’t know why Randvi had sought out her company. That wasn’t something anyone besides Sigurd ever did.
Eivor knew she wasn't hated by those in the clan. She'd won her respect as a drengr and that was never questioned. Yet she was always still an outsider.
Daughter of a coward, a man who'd abandoned his honour and gotten his clan killed. Not someone anybody wanted to get close to lest she taint them with her father’s dishonour too.
But Randvi had been different. She was always different. Perhaps it was because she was an outsider too and that was enough common ground for her. But it wasn’t long before she was greeting Eivor at the docks on her return from every raid.
She always noticed Eivor's wounds, even the ones she tried to hide, not wanting to appear weak before the clan. Always helping her to treat them, or forcing her to see Valka if they proved serious enough.
It was hard to say when she'd seen Randvi as something more. When she'd started getting distracted by watching the sun shine through Randvi's curls of red and gold. When her playful smirks had made Eivor's heart skip a beat like a drummer too excited to keep their rhythm. When her voice hadn't reminded Eivor of the soothing sounds of the tide lapping at the shores of home. When her touch hadn't excited Eivor more than the thrill of the greatest battles. When the mere thought of Randvi hadn't made her body ache with longing and her insides clench in pain at the impossibility of it all.
Maybe just being at another wedding again, after everything that had happened, after her and Randvi...maybe it just made Eivor think of what could have been. Of all the things she wanted.
Years of her life had been spent consumed by anger and the thirst for revenge. She’d driven herself to exhaustion to achieve it, to prove herself. Her life now was dedicated to providing a safe home for her clan, to making them strong. Could she not have something for herself? Weeks in East Anglia running around, fighting to secure peace and a marriage. To secure happiness for others. Why could she not have something for herself as well?
Would Sigurd truly be upset? Would he even care? The need for his and Randvi's marriage no longer existed. Perhaps…but did Randvi desire the same things Eivor did?
She clearly wanted Eivor physically, at least she had under the haze of battle lust. But was that all it was for her? It was hard to imagine Randvi being so flippant about her physical affections. But Randvi had also been silent these past weeks, even with Eivor lingering around far more than usual.
It hadn't been a...deliberate choice. Not at first, coming back more often, sitting where she could watch Randvi working without notice. It had been Dag who brought up their more frequent trips home. Eivor had merely brushed it off, excused it as wanting to help build the settlement more. But she just...needed to be near Randvi, to see her, to assure herself that despite what had happened, Randvi wasn't looking at her with disdain or regret.
Perhaps that was Eivor's answer, that if Randvi didn't look at her like that, then surely she must not be upset about what had happened. But Randvi had always played her emotions very tight against her chest. And this was not something Eivor could afford to be risky with. Not with Randvi.
Eivor sighed, her boots thumping loudly on the hull of her ship. She didn't know when exactly she'd wandered from the wedding, but she was glad she did. The crew were still enjoying the celebration, and she was happy to let them be. They would return soon. More time on her own to brood. To try and come up with some solution that wasn’t simply waiting for Randvi to say something. But...but if she did then...deep down, Eivor knew. Knew that she would take that chance.
The winds blew soft and gentle on her face, warm and humid, to the west. A perfect sailing wind back home. Back to Randvi.
Randvi hadn’t meant for it to happen, not in a way for anyone to see. She'd had a plan, late in the evening to walk around the settlement and just get out of this damn room. This room where she'd spent weeks worrying, forcing herself to work to exhaustion every night. She just needed away from these walls.
When Eivor walked into the map room, Randvi had nodded and greeted her as usual, keeping her restlessness and unease hidden. To herself. Or so she'd thought anway. But Eivor hadn't even begun her report before that quiet frown of hers formed and she stepped close. So close. Closer than she'd been in weeks.
"Randvi, what troubles you? I don’t think I've ever seen you so tense."
Of course Eivor would know. Would be the only person who saw what she tried to hide. And that was all it took, was Eivor knowing, was seeing that concerned crinkle at the top of her nose, for Randvi to let out her frustration.
"I need out of this room Eivor! These walls are all I see every day! Trapped in here with nothing but reports and maps and my thoughts! I want to be in the sun for more than a few fleeting moments! I want to actually see this land we've come to not just stare at it on a map!"
Randvi sagged slightly, shaking her head. She hadn’t meant to be so...she should have controlled herself better. Her voice had rang frantic and far too emotional through the air between them. Eivor didn't need this, she was already forced to deal with the consequences of Randvi's...impulses. She shouldn't have to--
"Then let's get you out of here."
"What?" Randvi could only blink at the warrior, watching the easy way her muscular shoulders lifted in a shrug.
"Grandebridgescire is close by and has recovered well. We could ride there, get you out of here for the day."
"I-no I can't. There's so much work to still do here-" Randvi didn't really know why she was objecting, wasn't this what she wanted? Eivor offering to…
"The work will still be there tomorrow, Randvi." Eivor smiled that quiet smile of hers, pushing the papers away from Randvi's reach. "Come on, just the two of us."
How could she say no to that? In just that moment, Randvi decided to just let go. Today she would think about nothing but enjoying the day. Enjoying her time with Eivor.
No more guessing and worrying about thoughts and feelings. No more constant stress about what would become of them and no more worrying of maps and reports. Just Eivor and her voice, her small grins, and her presence. It was as Eivor said, today would be just them.
"Ok." Randvi didn't repress her smile, or the gratitude in her voice. She was letting go today. No hiding. "Thank you, Eivor."
Eivor's smile grew just a little and she nodded towards the doors. "Come on, let's go."
"I do still need to hear about your efforts in-"
"Not today Randvi." Eivor grinned over at her as they walked side by side. "Just trust me. Have I ever come back with bad news?"
Randvi smirked. "I seem to remember you leaving on a ship and returning hungover and on a very different vessel. I think some may call it a raft."
"In England, Randvi."
Randvi laughed. It felt like ages since she had last laughed. So much worry and regret lately. She grinned brightly at the warrior, a teasing lilt to her voice.
"Then no, mighty drengr. You return only with tales of glory and victory."
Eivor grinned, walking them to the stables and retrieving her horse, easily swinging into the saddle.
She never got to finish as Randvi hopped up behind her on the horse, securing one arm around Eivor's waist, palm settling on her stomach.
"Problem, Eivor?" Randvi couldn’t help but tease. It felt so freeing. Just letting herself go, to do what she always wanted to.
A spike of worry struck her like an arrow when she felt Eivor stiffen the second Randvi's palm settled against her stomach. This had been a mistake, she should never have allowed herself to-
"Just make sure you don’t fall off."
"Are you telling me to hold on tight, Eivor?"
"If you need to." Eivor's reply was deadpan, but it had Randvi laughing, resting her head between the warrior's shoulder blades. "I guess I won’t see much from back here," she murmured.
Suddenly Eivor was moving her hand and sliding off the horse. Without a word she easily lifted Randvi enough to seat her further forward on the saddle before seating herself behind Randvi, arms wrapping around her as they grabbed at the reins.
Randvi’s heart thudded like a war-drum against her breast. Eivor was everywhere, she was completely enveloped in the warrior’s presence, her scent of iron, sea, and pine. Surrounded by her arms, strong, battle scarred, yet still so safe and careful when they needed to be.
“Much,” Randvi whispered, letting herself lean back, just a little bit. She swore she heard Eivor’s breath hitch, and that put just a tiny smirk on her face. Maybe...just maybe her worst fears wouldn’t come true.
Eivor's heart hadn’t stopped thudding in her chest since they set out from Ravensthorpe. Why, why had she thought riding like this was a good idea? Randvi's weight against her chest was far more prevalent as they rode to the tower. Despite the ale coursing through their veins, Eivor knew Randvi wasn't drunk, even with her victory in their contest earlier. So that couldn't be blamed for the way she leaned back against Eivor, leaving not a shred of space between them.
Even through their clothes Eivor could feel every place their bodies connected. Could focus on little else but the way Randvi's body felt against hers. The warmth, and comfort. She smelled of wax, parchment, and honey. More potent than any ale.
It took every ounce of willpower Eivor had to keep her hands gripping the reins. It was a grip that turned her knuckles white and made the leather creak, a grip reserved for a person’s only lifeline from plummeting into an abyss. How badly she wanted to let go and fall into what waited. To wrap her arms around Randvi and hold her, to have the touch she both craved and feared more than anything.
With every second spent in her company, Eivor craved it more. Her resolve to never pursue anything with Randvi, the resolve she had carried since meeting the woman with hair of golden fire, was melting like ice in the summer.
Eivor could do nothing but wonder, if Randvi wanted her too, truly wanted her. No haze of battle lust, no motivations beyond wanting Eivor to be hers as deeply as Eivor yearned to be.
If Randvi did want this, want her beyond a single moment...would Sigurd forgive them? Forgive Eivor?
Valka's words rang loud in her mind. Was this the betrayal she spoke of? It couldn't be. Even if they did...Eivor struggled to see a scenario where Sigurd would not simply agree to dissolve his marriage with Randvi, to allow them to be together. Any need for the politics of their marriage was far away in Norway. Sigurd would surely agree if they spoke to him.
But where was Sigurd? Since they arrived he had been gone with Basim. Eivor had no clue when she would even see or hear from him again. Hopefully it would be soon, but…
When Eivor saw Randvi dive from the bridge, heard her laughter echo and fill the ruins around them, Eivor knew in that moment. There was no resisting the way her heart yearned for Randvi. There never was.
When they stood atop the ancient tower, gazing over the land, their home, Eivor knew. They had come here to build a new future for themselves, one of their own choosing. Eivor would do that, for her clan, for herself.
When Randvi kissed her, Eivor took everything she offered.