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Eivor finds the page tucked innocuously amongst the bits and bobs of Randvi’s desk, the neat scrawl of her handwriting—so unlike Eivor’s own chicken scratch, learnt on pain of death from her mother, too eager to run in the wild than sit still—the precise curl of each letter along the page, and shame floods through her, at the hope Randvi’s words inspire.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to look across the alliance table at Eivor and not think of what could be, she reads, with something akin to lightning zapping down her spine, like premonition. I tell myself it is only Sigurd's absence, but the lie grows thinner, weaker by the day. 

Eivor has always been drawn like a moth to Randvi’s flame. That cool and calculating gaze that beckons like the tide. She has been Sigurd’s right hand for many a year, their bond forged between a swing of her housecarl’s axe and her brother’s longsword and Styrbjorn’s careful manoeuvring—Varin’s daughter is an unforetold boon to the clan, after all; Eivor knows her place as protector first, the raven guard tattoo curling around her ear, anything else second—but to watch him fumble this, the distance that seems to span between him and Randvi with each cast and return of Sigurd’s longboat, Eivor cannot help but wonder if her mother and father hadn’t died, what would this alliance be would like instead.

Would it be Eivor, in Randvi’s stead, the original intention had fate not intervened and decided her and Sigurd were more suited to siblings in all but blood rather than in matrimony? If that, then would the Raven Clan still be fighting with Randvi’s? Would they meet, not for the first time in Styrbjorn’s hallowed hall under the setting sun with news of the arranged peace via Randvi’s hand to Sigurd's, but across the battlefield from each other? Axe to axe with the clang of steel and the smell of Norse blood soaking the earth? Or, perhaps—if Styrbjorn had been smart enough to notice—tying Eivor and Randvi to one another would have been the smarter thing to do, the two of them so equally cunning they probably could take the throne right out from under his and Sigurd’s noses without either of them realising.  

But, then again, Eivor is not Styrbjorn’s to barter with as he likes, a fact Eivor has reminded him more than once, for all that he threw away Sigurd’s birthright without so much as a word to anyone. 

The sounds of the longhouse fade once she hears Randvi stir.

She isn’t meant to be here—by the gods, Randvi doesn’t even know that she’s returned to Ravensthorpe—and if Randvi were to find her now, sneaking around the war room like a spy, well. Eivor surely isn’t the only woman deft with a blade in the clan.

That particular point is proven a second later when she jerks back on instinct, silver flashing across her line of sight and the dull thud of a dagger hitting wood.

“I thought that was you,” comes Randvi’s voice from across the room.

“So, you throw a knife at me?” Eivor asks, half-offended-half-fond, right up until she turns around. “That’s one way to welc—”

The words die in her throat. Randvi leans against the frame of her bedroom doorway, in nothing but a slip of a tunic, thread worn thin and near transparent. In the low fire light, Randvi is bathed in gold and Eivor is suddenly, inexplicably, breathless.

If Eivor was a better person, she’d leave now. If Eivor was a better person, she wouldn’t be here in the first place. As it is, she isn’t, and her hands clench around the words the lie grows thinner, weaker by the day.

There’s something hesitant, guarded, in Randvi’s face, her eyes flicking down at the sound of the paper crinkling in her hands.

Like she already knows what secret Eivor clutches.

“Did you mean it?”

It takes a minute for Eivor to recognise her own voice. It sounds rough and low and ruined even to her own ears. Eivor remembers when she had returned, months ago to Rygjafylke, and how it was Randvi to meet her at the docks. Randvi and her kissed by fire hair and the fox around her shoulders. Randvi and her careful reply to Eivor’s off-handed and careless comments about her marriage. Randvi and the way she misses Sigurd, but not really, we're strangers, because Sigurd has been away far longer than Eivor ever has, and it is one thing to be married to a drengr, another to a prince chasing his own fortune.

Another for Eivor to be the one left in Rygjafykle for Randvi to lean on, as she finds her place as Sigurd’s wife and the responsibility that comes with it. Another for Eivor to watch, forlorn and far away, as Randvi comes into her own with an adoration Eivor keeps carefully hidden.

Randvi looks at her for a moment, her breath hitching and a charge passing between them. “Yes.”  

Eivor takes a single, deliberate, step forward.

Randvi pushes off the wall with similar purpose.

They meet in the middle.

For all the times she had imagined their first kiss, it was never like this.

It is a violent, resplendent thing, the way Randvi sinks her hands into Eivor braids, tangling within each plait and unravelling them without a care for the knots and snags that catch on her fingers. Not that—if she’s being completely honest—Eivor minds.

The pain is welcome when it’s sweetened by the taste of Randvi on her lips.

She must have been awake longer than Eivor realised, for the taste of mint leaves and lemon is sharp on Randvi’s tongue. Eivor pulls back, but Randvi follows, lips chasing hers. The hand twined into her hair clenches, pulling her in hard, and Eivor catches Randvi’s bottom lip between her teeth.

Eivor,” Randvi moans, a wounded, reverent sound, and she freezes.

“Randvi, we can’t—”

Randvi shushes her with another kiss, fingers slipping from blonde hair to cup Eivor’s jaw. Eivor’s hands settle on Randvi’s waist as she tips precariously into Eivor’s space, the rough-spun cotton of her tunic a dangerously thin barrier between them.

“Yes, we can,” Randvi mumbles against her mouth. “I say we can.”

“Sigurd—”

“Eivor, please.

“I’m honour bound—”

“To hell with honour!” Randvi explodes away from her, violent and loud. “As if he’s ever cared about honour!”

Eivor knows first-hand what she’s referring to. Because Eivor has been there, as Sigurd’s right hand and has watched him stray. There’s one memorable night that comes to mind, the first winter her and Sigurd travelled after his marriage. Eivor had cut her seastorm eyes across the dark tavern room at him, watching him flirt and tease and disappear. In the morning she had voiced her discontent, in the quiet swell of the longboat, and Sigurd had scoffed and dismissed her as if he hadn’t broken the vow between him and his wife.

There are rumours, around the settlement, and Eivor knows Randvi has done little to quell them. Has fuelled them, if their conversation outside the longhouse after Eivor returned from being captured by Kjotve was anything to go by.

Perhaps, Eivor's simply late catching on, for all her hesitancy and guilt and gods-damned honour.

Randvi looks at her from across the room. “Do not make me suffer more than I already have for this clan, Wolf-Kissed.”

Eivor remembers I was a wildling of the open air, before I became this staunch and stoic woman.

“No,” Eivor says, gentle and soft, reaching towards her. “I won’t.”

Randvi returns to her side, more cautious than before, until Eivor curls a hand around her neck and brings her forward.

Eivor tilts her head, leaving one solitary kiss to the corner of Randvi’s mouth before trailing bites along her jawline, fingers slipping underneath the sinfully short hem of her tunic. Randvi shivers in her arms, when Eivor brushes her weapon-calloused fingers along the length of her thigh, her skin so unbearably soft that Eivor hooks her fingers around Randvi’s hipbone, digging in just hard enough to bruise, and pulls them flush together.

Eivor knocks her knee in between Randvi’s, leaning against alliance table, Randvi grinding against her thigh almost instantly, seeking that quick-release snap of friction.

“Darling,” Randvi gasps, as Eivor leaves a dark mark at the edge of her collarbone. “I need you.”

“I’ve got you, sweet fox,” Eivor whispers into the skin of her throat, fingers trailing from hipbone to stomach to ribs and then higher still, gooseflesh breaking out in her wake.

Randvi tugs at the buckles across Eivor’s waist. “Off.”

Eivor hums, a placating sound, lifting her head and catching Randvi’s eye. Brushes a thumb along the swell of her breast, can see the moment her nail catches against the skin, Randvi’s eyelids lowering enough that Eivor grabs her attention with another twist of her fingers. Tilts her own head down under there’s barely any space between them, breathing each other’s air.

“Off,” Eivor repeats, voice dangerously low, coals over fire. “Off, what?”

Please,” Randvi exhales, breathy and glorious, a sound Eivor wants to draw out of her more than anything else in this world and the next.  

They stumble backwards, falling through the doorway to Randvi’s room, hands clutching at each other, Randvi’s fingers yanking at Eivor’s belts and somehow still in the maddeningly thin tunic.

“You knew what you were doing, didn’t you, wearing that?”

Randvi looks up at her, their height difference a thing driving Eivor crazy, and smirks lazily. “Of course I did.”

“And the dagger?”

Randvi turns away from her, stopping halfway between the bed and Eivor. Eivor watches as she unties the length of cord holding her braid together, falling down in red waves across her shoulders and down her back, illuminated by the fire burning in the hearth.

“What’s a little danger to you, mighty drengr?”

Randvi tosses one look over her shoulder, hair spun gold in the flickering light of the fire, and pulls the tunic off.  

Eivor’s on her before she even realises it, crowding her against the bed with rough hands on smooth skin. Twists them around so Eivor’s falling back, Randvi settling on her thighs, knees either side of Eivor’s hips, pressed close and yet somehow not close enough all at once.

Eivor knots one hand in the hair swinging just below Randvi’s shoulder blades, and sweeps the other one down until her fingers are tripping across her abdomen. Eivor is hot all over, sweating underneath her heavy armour, the cloak, but she can’t bear to take it off, because it means letting go of Randvi.

“Don’t tease,” Randvi gasps into her shoulder when her fingers brush feather-light between her thighs. “Eivor.”

Eivor tightens her grip in that red-dawn hair. “Bossy, sweet fox.”

“You like it.”

Eivor tips Randvi’s head back with the weight of her hand, sucking another bruise into the underside of her jaw, too high to cover with the cowl of her cloak, a hot streak of possessiveness spiralling through her at the thought that it’ll still be there tomorrow, faded pink and purple and hers for all to see.

Randvi is wet, slick with it, when Eivor finally—finally—slides her fingers in, stilling just has Randvi digs her nails into the fur of her cloak, and Eivor knows with a moment of clarity that had she bothered to undress there’d be scratches across her shoulder blades.

She almost regrets it.

Almost.

“Oh, gods,” Randvi whimpers above her. “Fuck.”

“Alright?” Eivor has the sense to ask.

Move,” is the sweet-song command she’s given, one she’s helpless to obey, and crooks her fingers.

She starts with a shallow, easy rhythm, two fingers curled inside Randvi and her thumb pressing every so often to her clit, eliciting a series of symphonic fucks, and gods, and Eivor, Eivor, please, I need more, need you deeper, that has Eivor moving them up the bed until her back hits the headboard, her fingers never slipping, and Randvi melting against her.

Eivor is used to the burn in her arm, the strain of it, but it’s never quite felt like this, when she presses a third finger into Randvi.

Randvi rolls her head around, eyes glassy enough that Eivor can tell she’s at the edge, finds Eivor’s lips in kiss so obscene there’s a strand of spit still connecting them when Randvi tears herself away with a hitched, choked breath as Eivor finds that sweet spot inside her.

“Look at you,” Eivor murmurs, licking her lips, free hand coming to Randvi’s jaw. “Look at you, sweet fox, all lost, just for me.”

Yes,” Randvi replies, head thrown back, but it’s less of a declaration and more of a desperate plea, Eivor’s pace now measured and precise and deep enough that Randvi’s thighs are starting to shake.

The low-simmering heat in Eivor’s gut is creeping hot up her spine, building in waves.

She dips her head, leaving open mouthed kisses across Randvi’s chest, and rolls a nipple between her teeth. Randvi clenches around her fingers.

“Eivor, I’m close,” her voice is ruined, strung out and gravelly in a way Eivor’s never heard it, doesn’t want to hear it any way else ever again.

Eivor shifts her wrist, changing the angle of her fingers just so in order for Randvi to grind into the palm of her hand, her fingers deeper than they’ve ever been, pressed hard and unrelenting, and then Randvi is moaning loud into her ear as she comes, slick and molten on Eivor’s fingers.

Gods, Eivor,” Randvi groans, forehead resting against her own.

Randvi shakes with over stimulation, sweat plastering her hair to her neck, but she unhooks Eivor’s cloak with single minded determination, and the rest of her armour is soon to follow.

Eivor’s already close—how couldn’t she be, just having watched Randvi come on her fingers like that—and the first nip of Randvi’s teeth along the swell of her breast has her gasping.

She shuffles until she’s nestled between Eivor’s thighs, a picture of innocence that Eivor knows is false, pressing kisses to the scars that litter Eivor’s skin.

“You’ll have to tell me about these,” she says, fingers trailing the edge of a particularly nasty one.

“One day,” Eivor promises, thinking about the spear that left that one, thinking about Randvi being just as sharp and dangerous. “If you don’t do something—”

The first sweep of her tongue over Eivor’s clit has her losing her mind, fist tangling the bed sheets something awful, her back arcing away from the headboard, voice devolving from words to pure incomprehensible nonsense.  

Randvi, in what Eivor suspects is half-torture, half-revenge, is painfully, brutally slow. The rasp of her tongue heavy and pulsating. The high builds behind her naval, cresting and falling and then Randvi’s hands are pinning her down—barely, Eivor has to control herself, keep herself together—and hums around Eivor’s clit.

“Fuck,” she gasps, hand flying to Randvi’s hair, pressing her close, pulling her closer. “Randvi—"

The climax hits, the vibrations going straight to her head and all the way back down through her blood, leaving her lightheaded in a way not unfamiliar to battle, but with a slightly more tainted edge to it, satiated and floating as Randvi licks at her with an unprecedented gentleness.  

Randvi resurfaces, chin glistening, and her voice is cracked and raw and the most beautiful sound Eivor’s ever heard.

“How was that, darling?” She asks, coy, as if she doesn’t already know.

Eivor pulls her up the bed without saying anything, catching her mouth in a soft and tender kiss, conveying everything they haven’t said, her own taste bitter on Randvi’s tongue and the heated slide of her mouth.

Eventually, their kisses turn into sleepy touches, Randvi settling into the crook of Eivor’s arm like she’s always belonged there. Eivor can’t help but think, with the knowledge of what she knows now, how long they could’ve been doing this had Eivor not been hesitant, had Randvi not been cautious. For all the Eivor is honour-bound and oathed, to Sigurd, to Randvi, to Styrbjorn and the Raven Clan, the breaking of this particular vow doesn’t feel wrong.  

Even now, that firestorm of hair strewn out across the bed brings Eivor to her knees in a way much closer to worship than repentance.

It is familiar to Eivor, to think of Randvi as her true north. It seems the wind calls me back to Randvi again. It is familiar, and yet entirely not at all, the way Randvi watches her in the low firelight across the bed.

Eivor leans in, resting her weight on her elbow, and presses a kiss to the corner of Randvi’s mouth, once more.