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Turn the Tide

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"Will I be killed by one of the sons of Ragnar?"

Lagertha, Queen of Kattegat, and first wife to the infinitely famous Ragnar Lothbrok, was sitting at the new seer's hearth. The girl was still in shock to receive such a woman in her uncle's home, as she couldn't stop staring at her elaborate braids and glowing ageless skin. The queen had heard of the talented young woman's arrival in town, and immediately called upon her.

Sig took a quick drink of ale before answering the question. The Queen had asked too quickly, obviously impatient. It was apparent that it was all she could think of, and it was haunting her.

The girl took a deep breath, determined to speak candidly, as it was the only way to deal with such matters, even if one were advising royalty about their fate. "Will you be killed by a son of Ragnar? You have already asked this question? And did not like the answer?"

Lagertha blinked and then looked down. "The wise old seer, he …"

Sig smiled warmly. "Yes. I remember him from when I was very young. I was born here, grew up here, and he was the first to know about me. The old man has the Sight, a great gift. But he likes to see the darkness in his visions."

"And you do not?" Lagertha asked, curious, and with perhaps a glimmer of hope behind her eyes.

The girl peered over the queen's shoulder, as if she were viewing something very far away. "His foretelling never quite turns out the way one would assume at first. I believe him to be a trickster. You see, I've learned to try and see from all angles. To look down many pathways. Some dark, some light. When I first showed signs of having the Sight, the seer advised me that I should tell no one, or that I would one day have to leave my home and everyone that I loved. And when I asked him why, he would say no more. I tried to not think of it, but a seed from his words grew in my mind, until it was so big, it was all I thought about. I tried to hide my affliction, thinking I'd be banished if the people really knew what plagued me. So I just let them think I was probably mad. But the more I tried to hide it, the more obvious I was, as I had no control over it. After my father died, my uncle, who is a great traveler said, 'there is nothing for you here now. Journey with me, and perhaps you can find a way to ease your mind. To learn much more than what this place can teach you'. He always said that for an eagle to be able to spread its wings and fly, it must first leave its nest."

The queen nodded. "And so you went."

"Yes. I did," Sig replied. "In the end, I wanted to go. I wanted to learn. The seer was right, I had to leave. I couldn't learn anything here, especially from him. Or anyone. But his words to me as a little girl were frightening. It seemed like such dark fate. But leaving was my salvation. The best thing to ever happen to me. I learned much during my travels. And now I am back home. And I am content."

Lagertha frowned, leaning forward. "That is lovely for you, but how could being killed by a son of Ragnar be anything but dark?"

The girl began to focus on the queen, using a sense that went beyond eyesight, picked up on the light, the vibrations surrounding her. The energy. "I can see many possibilities for you," she informed. "Many pathways. I can sense them, but only you can decide which ones you go down. Not me. Not the old seer. You must be careful. Sometimes a prophecy only turns out to be so, by mere suggestion. It can infect your mind, it becomes all you think and dream about, and so it is true for you. The only paths you then choose, are the ones that lead to the prophecy, and you willingly walk down a pathway of events that will lead to your demise."

The queen sat back. "How do I stop this path?"

Sig could see several avenues in front of Lagertha at this point in her life, and there were definitely two that ended with her being killed by a son of Ragnar. The first by violence, vengeance for the death of the former Queen Aslaug, and second by a mercy. One by the hand of Ragnar and Aslaug's dark-haired son, and one by the new queen's own child by her ex-husband, when she was old and gray. Bjorn Ironside would do this when she was unable to care for herself any longer. Sig wanted to guide Lagertha towards the latter path, but for some reason, the old seer seemed to wish the first upon her, as he had refused to give her any further counsel.

Sig blinked out of her focus and frowned, shaking her head. The old man was full of piss and vinegar, perhaps because he couldn't see with his own eyes any longer, see the beauty of the world surrounding him. He could only see darkness. She wondered how many people were led by him into self-made misery.

She sighed, not sure how to proceed, but then looked her queen straight in the eyes. "I do not deem it wise to know too much about one's own fate, as it can make a person cease to live, obsessed by what has not yet come to pass, and may never even come to pass at all. Pathways are always changing and evolving. But you have already been given insight, and I believe the limited knowledge you were given, could be to your detriment. So at this time I see three possibilities, my queen. One, you will die by the hand of the dark son of Ragnar, and it will be a violent and ruthless death. Two, you will die by a son of Ragnar, but you will ask him to do it, and it will be many many good years from now, when you want nothing more than to journey on to Valhalla in peace. And three, none of these things will come to pass at all, but the words of the seer will haunt you for the rest of your days, always looking over your shoulder, the thoughts taking up so much of your time, that you may find yourself wanting it all to be over with. The fear and paranoia of being killed by a son of Ragnar, will slowly snuff the life from you."

"Ivar," Lagertha whispered. She began to breathe heavily, as understanding began to sink in. "How do I choose the right path?" She asked. "The one in which I have many good years ahead of me?"

The girl inclined her head. "That power is yours alone."

The queen frowned, obviously craving more specific council. "Your name is Sig?"

She nodded. "Sigyn. Sig is what my father called me, and everyone else followed suit."

Lagertha nodded. "I had a friend once with your name. Siggy. You remind me of her a little. She was fearless."

"Yes," she recalled, smiling. "I remember her, and when she died. I was a little girl. It was a great loss."

Lagertha arched a brow. "Of course, you were here then. Did you know Ragnar's sons? Growing up?"

Sig nodded. "We all played together as children. I would say that I was closest to Sigurd, as he was always off on his own, as was I … but I doubt they would remember me."

The queen smirked. "I do not believe that you are so easily forgettable. You are very beautiful. And different, with your tan skin and bronze hair, like the sun at dusk. Your warm eyes, almost the color of honey or ale. They will certainly remember you."

Sig blushed and shook her head. "No. I was a very strange and ugly child."

"Nonsense."

"It's true!" she exclaimed, wincing at the memory. "The boys in the village would tell me all the time how ugly I was. Hopefully I do not look the same at all, and they will not recognize me."

The queen shook her head, smiling. "Boys will always be boys, pulling at our braids, trying to convince us of their vigor. You mustn't believe anything they say." She then narrowed her eyes. "Tell me, do they know you are back? Have they seen you? Ubbe, Sigurd … Ivar?"

Sig shook her head. "No. I have not seen them. I've only just returned. And they would not remember me anyway."

Lagertha grinned, knowing that she had her own type of counsel she could lend to the girl. "I sense that you are wise beyond your years in many ways, but you still have much to learn about men." The queen then reached out and took her hand. "I wish for you to advise me, within my closest circle, by my side. I will make sure that you want for nothing, that you are highly respected, and offer you my protection. And in return, you will guide me down the right path."

The proposition was unexpected, and Sig gasped in surprise. "Yes, of course! I am always here to serve you." She then frowned. "But I must be honest. Only you have the keys to your fate. I have the Sight, I can see signs, interpret them ... but nothing is ever certain."

Lagertha nodded. "Yes. And you are exactly what I need. A seer who can give me an advantage, and who not only wishes for me to succeed, but also acknowledges that my success is mine, and not merely prophecy."

"Of course."

"Tell me, is it true that you are also a healer?"

"I am. Where I learned, healing and seeing go hand in hand."

"Then I need you to do something for me."

Sig nodded.

The Queen's voice dropped low, as if she did not like to speak the name on her lips. "Offer to help to Ivar. To heal him. Learn everything you can about him. So that I can further understand how to steer my path away from him, for I do not want to kill him, as he is Ragnar's son. Help me turn the tide."

Sig shook her head. "I will always tell you my limitations, my queen, and if I remember his affliction correctly, I cannot heal Ivar. That would take what the Christians call, a miracle. All I could do is ease his pain, perhaps help to give him more movement, but I cannot fully heal him."

Lagertha shrugged. "I do not need him fully healed. I just need him to think he's being healed."

Sig slowly smiled. "Ah, the power of suggestion."

"Exactly."

She furrowed her brow. "Forgive me, but I cannot simply walk up to Ivar and offer to help him. It would seem too suspicious. He would never trust me."

Lagertha waved away the notion. "You don't need to. All you need to do is become reacquainted with your old friend Sigurd. The rest will happen naturally. It is known that whatever his brothers have, Ivar wants too," she said, with a tilt of her chin and a glint in her eye.

Sig blushed as she looked down, staring at the wood grain of her uncle's table, worrying about what the queen seemed to be implying. "As long as I do not have to sleep with any of them, I will happily help to turn the tide for you."

The queen smirked, as if she couldn't keep the amusement off her face. "You do not wish to sleep with a son of Ragnar? A son of a king?"

Sig immediately shook her head and began to stammer. "I ... I do not care whose son they are. I only just lost a … a lover. He … died. I cannot fathom being with …"

"Say no more," Lagertha said, raising a hand. "I understand. I will never make you do such a thing."

The girl released the breath she was holding, relieved. "Thank you."

The queen reached over and brushed Sig's cheek with her fingers. "But one of them will fall in love with you, my young seer. Or perhaps all three. And if Hvitserk were home and not off with Bjorn, him as well. In this way, I am the one with the Sight."

Sig scoffed. "Then I will tell them not to fall in love with me, and it will be so. As such a notion sounds awfully tedious and exhausting."

Lagertha laughed. "Oh, how I love you already."

 


~~*...*~~

Sig stirred in her new bed in her new quarters. A room and a space just next door for an infirmary were now hers. After accepting a position within the queen's inner circle, she was given these things, and was now much closer to Lagertha. Everything in the room was a bit cozier, a bit warmer, and a bit more grand than what she'd been used to. She'd sunken into luxurious furs and fallen asleep as soon as her head hit the soft down pillow.

Soon, as she drifted off, she dreamed more of the same. Lately, the visions went unchanged. Sig found herself wandering the green misty countryside in the highlands of Caledonia. An old name that few still remembered. She'd fallen in love with the land and lochs there, the standing stones and fairy circles ... the people she'd met and learned from. She'd tried to find the best morsels of knowledge in every place she'd traveled to, always listening and observing, but the Picts she'd loved the most, and one in particular, with her whole heart. For a time. Only for a time.

"But you always knew something else was coming," a voice whispered in her ear.

Sig turned, and for a split-second, she could see his wild red hair in the wind, his face covered in woad, a brilliant blue.

"There's a thousand things I will not understand," she murmured, trying to hold onto him, trying to remember every detail, every elaborate brush of blue on his body. "Like why I can never keep you in these moments. Why you always must vanish into the mist again."

Everything faded as expected, went dark, until a peculiar new blue began to shimmer through, something entirely different than anything she'd dreamt before. She was back in her new bed, as a pair of glowing azure eyes came up from between her legs. Sig sat up on her elbows and he threw the furs off, before climbing up her body like a great cat, slow and calculated, shoulder blades smoothly rising and falling like a predator, with shockingly strong arms and shoulders. He loomed over her, a blade in his hand glinting with candlelight. Yet even with a knife, even with the expression on his face, like he wanted to rip her apart ... he was beautiful. So very handsome. And so very broken. She found herself torn between wanting to run away, and wanting to hold him to her breast, wrapping the furs back around them in a cocoon of warmth.

This specter had no designs on being held, however, as he put his blade to her throat.

"You do not scare me," she told him, arching a brow. "You are nothing but a vision. I've had hundreds of them."

He pressed harder. She could almost feel it. "You will tell everyone," he growled, his voice boyish and arrogant, but underneath there was the insecurity that drove him.

"I will tell no one," Sig replied, with conviction, giving a nod and leaning further into his blade.

He flinched as if she'd slapped him, but then determination settled over his face. "You will. Because you're mine."

She reached up and cupped his jaw in her hand, his fine stubble tickling her skin in a very pleasant way. "I hope you know I care."

But I belong to no man. 

He grinned, baring sharp white teeth, looking positively mischievous and utterly delicious. Ever the trickster. The sly one. He dropped the knife and ducked his head, sliding back down her body with an almost preternatural control, until his face was between her thighs. She could almost feel him, his tongue hot …

She cried out and shot up in bed, panting, a gentle warmth spreading low in her belly.

Sig looked around, squinting in the darkness, but no one was there. The specter had vanished.

She groaned and fell back on the bed, turning onto her side while rubbing her legs together. Whatever had just happened, awakened something that had been dormant as of late.

She closed her eyes and bit her lip, trying to will the feeling from her mind and body, but she couldn't deny it, as it seeped even deeper into her skin.

Something else was coming. Something else was here.

 

Chapter Text

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Sig did not not search out Sigurd, Ubbe, and Ivar, but just let things happen on their own. Everyone was bound to run into each other at some point or another, even though the boys were not in public quite as much as they once were. Since they no longer resided within the Great Hall, after the death of their mother, they preferred to stick close to their new home, one of Ragnar Lothbrok's old cabins. A hunting lodge. A playhouse, really. It gave the queen pause, sensing they were conspiring against her. Any other ruler would have put a stop to it in the beginning, but Sig knew that Lagertha left them alone out of her lingering love for Ragnar. She did not wish to kill any of them, for they all possessed a sliver of the former king inside of them that was still alive. And so it was as if the Queen had resigned herself to accept whatever was coming.

Sig was determined to turn the tide for her, as she was coming to love the queen and her companions. She'd spent the last week getting to know them all, learning the gossip while tending to women's work, laughing over meals and ale. She only hoped that she could do the turning for Lagertha without hurting her old friends, as she was confident that the loyalties between like-minded women were now stronger than any girlhood affinity for boys.

It did not take long for a chance meeting. Sig was strolling down the main thoroughfare, taking stock of all the vendors who sold the various items she needed in her arsenal, such as rare herbs that she couldn't forage for herself. As she began to reach the outskirts, she noticed out of the corner of her eye, a tall figure stop and stare as she walked on ahead. Then as she came upon a blacksmithery, she heard her name being called, almost too soft, as if the person didn't quite believe what they were seeing.

"Sig?"

She turned her head to see who was speaking and instantly grinned. It was the boy who's eye had been touched by the gods. "Sigurd."

He was tall now, lanky, and definitely not the wisp of a child he'd once been. His hair was still the same color of fine bright sunlight … except, it was now styled a bit ridiculously.

He was looking at her as if he were witnessing a ghost.

"Sigurd," she laughed softly, walking up to him. "What has happened to your hair?"

He got over his shock quickly and smirked, now realizing it was actually his old friend, and not his mind playing tricks. "You do not like it? You always said my hair looked like a girl's. Now it doesn't."

She smiled, shrugging. "I only said that because you told me I was ugly."

Sigurd looked her up and down, at her simple day dress and relaxed hairstyle, loose around her shoulders and down to her waist. "I was obviously a very stupid child."

Sig blushed, becoming embarrassed.

He took a step closer and spoke quietly. "I used to think your name was cursed."

She looked up, surprised. "Whatever for?"

He gazed at her wistfully. "Because everyone with your name goes away. Siggy. My little niece. You."

Sig gave him a reassuring nod. "Well, I am back. And I do not plan to go anywhere."

He grinned, but before he was about to speak again, a man came up behind him, a bit taller and a little older. "I thought that was you," the man said. "Sig? You look so different, but also the same."

She blinked up at him. "Ubbe? You do not look the same at all."

Ubbe had grown into a very handsome man, almost the spitting image of his father, complete with a crooked smile and a pair of kind blue eyes, like seawater warmed by the sun. And his hair was not ridiculous like Sigurd's, but shaved on the sides, the top long and kept in a tail, a common trend among Viking men.

Sig glanced back over to his brother with a smirk. "Sigurd, why do you not have your hair like Ubbe's?"

The brothers chuckled and she heard a third person laughing behind her, their presence almost like a strange and cool wind on the back of her neck. She shivered and turned to see who else had approached them. At first, she thought no one was there at all, but then looked down to find the peculiar person from her recent dream, crawling towards them. The piercing azure eyes were the same. The predatory calculated movements of his arms and shoulders were the same. It was him.

Her specter before her in the flesh.

And there was really only one person he could possibly be.

Through her studies, Sig had learned to keep her face completely neutral, even if given a profound shock. It took everything she had, but she gave nothing away, just a friendly nod and a voice sounding far-off and yet also loud in her ears. "Ivar?"

Sigurd came to stand just in front of her, as if he meant to protect her. It was annoying, but she let him do it. "This is Sig, Ivar," he explained, with a touch of condescension in his tone. "Do you not remember her?"

Ivar gave his brother a look of disdain, as he deftly pulled himself up onto a nearby tree stump. Even though his legs dragged behind him, every movement, every gesture he made, was graceful and appeared completely natural. The man before her was a stark contrast to the sickly boy she remembered. He now had darker hair, which set off his vivid blue eyes, the contrast rendering them even more intense. He had elegant and masculine bone structure, the symmetry making his face strikingly handsome. His broad shoulders, which Sig realized, she'd seen naked in her dreams, formed quite an impressive and solid "V" shape in relation to his waist. It seemed as though to make up for the uselessness of his legs, the gods had gifted him with captivating beauty, masterful in their artistry.

Sig had to use every trick in the trade to keep the revelation off of her face.

This was Ivar. The same man in her vision. The dark-haired son of Ragnar who could very well murder the queen. All one and the same.

Good Goddess, help me. 

Ivar looked at her thoughtfully, tilting his head to the right and left. His face then went from beguiling to contemptuous as it twisted into a sneer. "No. I do not remember her," he answered, his voice boyish and dismissive. He reminded her of the haughty little brat from years ago. Perhaps his physical appearance had changed, but the disturbing and spoiled child was apparently still in there.

She gave him a small smile, ignoring his demeanor. "You were still quite young when I left. I did not think you would remember me."

Ivar inclined his head while tapping his index finger to his lips, in an exaggerated gesture. "Or, perhaps I do remember you," he amended, cruelty in his tone. "You were the queer girl who used to talk to no one. Or perhaps to yourself?" He then mockingly laughed, with a wide smile that could have been heart-wrenching in its attractiveness, if he had not meant to be so hurtful. "So do you still have imaginary companions after all these years? Or did they all run away."

Sig's smile vanished as her heart dropped into her stomach. She looked down for a moment, gathering her wits. It had been one of the reasons why she never minded leaving Kattegat. No one knew her in other lands … she could start over. People in different parts of the world didn't know that she'd had no handle on her "gifts". She'd had no guidance in the Sight as a little girl. No one had told her that she shouldn't respond to visions in front of others, as it would seem peculiar … or perhaps it was just that no one had bothered to. She'd had to learn on her own, and the growing pains had been excruciating.

Sig glanced back up and held his spiteful gaze, which she almost thought she saw waver for a split second. "Yes, Ivar. I am not ashamed to admit that I was the girl who spoke to no one," she stated, her voice steady. "Though I would have thought somehow, you would not be the one to ridicule a person who was different."

She then turned to Sigurd and Ubbe before Ivar had any chance to react or reply. Ubbe was pinching the bridge of his nose in frustration and Sigurd was glaring down at his younger brother. This told her that Ivar's temperament was something of an ongoing annoyance for them.

Perhaps "annoyance" was an understatement.

"It was a pleasure to see you both, but I must go," she said quickly, her tone now reserved. She then spun on her heel and quickly took off down the thoroughfare, and away from the sons of Ragnar.

 


~~*...*~~

Sig spent some time in her rooms, ruminating over what her rather unpleasant encounter with Ivar meant. Was she fated to be much more than just a healer to him? Much more than a mere subject in a scheme? Experience told her that lucid dreams tended to be a warning and not yet a foretelling carved in stone. If she did nothing to change her course, it would seem as though intimacy of some sort with Ivar was possible, and perhaps inevitable.

She could not contemplate how that could come to pass, however, as Ivar was quite possibly the last person in the world she could see herself lie with.

Dear Goddess, help me to turn this tide with Ivar.

An inner voice would only ask questions ... but do you really want to?

Yes ...

You have barely talked with him. This is unlike you, to not look at all the angles and down many pathways. 

I am not ready.

No one is ever truly ready. But is he worth the leap?

No … I do not know.

After a day in solitude, she entered the Great Hall for supper, and it seemed as though as soon as she appeared, Sigurd was at her side offering a seat at his table. She of course, graciously accepted, as it was nice to see someone familiar, an old friend. As they both sat and were served, Sig drank a liberal gulp of wine to calm her nerves. It was an awkward meeting at first, as their earlier encounter with Ivar was still fresh in her mind, and she scrambled to think of something to say. She then noticed a fresh burn on Sigurd's hand as he picked at his food. She opened her mouth to say something, but he beat her to it.

"Please pay no mind to Ivar," he said, as he stabbed at the meat on his plate.

"I haven't," she lied. "I realize that he's been through an ordeal. As you all have."

He gave a bitter laugh. "Yes, our mother's death has been hard on him. He was … mommy's boy," he spat, rolling his eyes.

She peered at him, seeing that Ivar occupied his thoughts quite often, and that he very much resented it. "And you? It has not been hard on you as well?"

Sigurd shrugged. "I feel as if I am mourning a stranger. Ivar wants me to take part in … well," he trailed off, thinking better than to give away any of Ivar's plans just yet. "You remember how things were. Mother, she only loved Ivar … and Harbard. And it was always so ... since the day you left."

"Harbard," Sig mused, remembering the strange wanderer. "I have not thought of him in a very long time. I never understood what all the fuss was over him."

He looked up at her. "Do you think he really was a god? Or just a man."

She raised a brow. "Would it be easier to stay angry at your mother, if he were nothing but a man?"

He shook his head, picking up his ale, and looking down into the amber liquid. "No. It is all the same. And does not matter. It is done," he said, with no emotion in his tone.

She felt for him as she knew that Sigurd had, for all intents and purposes, raised himself. When they were children, he was always off on his own. Left to his own devices.

"Harbard was not a god," Sig answered with a smirk, determined to lighten the mood. "He was not a man either, or at least a man of this world."

Sigurd frowned, confused. "Then what was he?"

She inclined her head as she began to separate meat from the bone on her plate. "He was a wanderer from another realm. There are countless stories about men like him … not just here, but everywhere I've traveled to. Otherworldly men and women who come to our land from the sky, to sleep with humans, to have their fun."

She observed the look of complete bewilderment on his face and laughed. "I am only kidding. He was a charismatic wanderer, nothing more."

Sigurd released the breath he seemed to be holding. "Do you think he will return?"

She shrugged, grinning. "I do not know", she said, in a teasing tone. "Men like Harbard only tend to show up when the women in town are all very unsatisfied and neglected. When we grow bored. Can all the men in Kattegat satisfy the women?"

Sigurd laughed, almost choking on the ale he'd been drinking. It took him a few seconds to find words. "Most of us, yes."

"Well then, I doubt he will have a reason to come back, what with all the virile men in town." They both smirked at each other, now much more relaxed.

"What are you two talking about?" asked a voice from the floor. Sig looked over to see Ivar pulling himself up and onto the bench across from them, and her face instantly grew warm.

"Certainly not you," Sigurd said into his cup, as he took a sip.

Ivar gave his brother an intense glare, and Sig could only guess she'd stumbled upon an underlying conflict between them. A subtle accusation.

She also marveled at the way Ivar's arms, shoulders, and core moved, gracefully and fluidly, to adjust his body and settle himself.

Sig managed to keep the captivation off of her face and tried to think of a quick change in subject, not wanting to talk of Harbard any longer with Ivar in earshot. "We were just talking about Sigurd's hand." She nodded towards the burn across his fingers that he'd haphazardly wrapped in a rather dirty cloth. "He's going to let me tend to it tomorrow, before it festers."

Sigurd looked down and nodded. "Right," he said, instantly playing along. "The burn I got … at the Blacksmith's."

"Ah, that is good." Ivar said, grinning. "Because I thought I heard you two talking of virility, in which case, Sigurd needs his hand ... as it is his best friend."

It took Sig every ounce of control she had inside not to laugh, as she could have sworn she saw steam coming out of Sigurd's ears. Ivar had a cunning wit, she had to give him that, and she couldn't help but to rise to the challenge.

She pursed her lips, feigning thoughtfulness. "It is true," she informed. "To please a woman, hands and fingers are certainly important in the art of satisfaction ... didn't you know that Ivar?"

He only blinked at her as Sig stood from the table. She wanted to leave before anymore ugliness started.

Sigurd then began to laugh and Ivar was the one with steam coming out of his ears.

"I will see you tomorrow Sigurd, at my infirmary, for that burn," she said, before leaving the Great Hall, and returning to her solitary thoughts for the rest of the night.

It hadn't been a long conversation with Ivar, but she hoped a seed had been planted in his mind that she was a healer, as well as a friend to Sigurd. The Queen seemed to think he'd too want a healer and a friend, if his brother had one.

Sig only hoped that she could keep it there and nothing more. She could be a healer and a friend.

Don't be naive. You always knew something else was coming.

Something else is here.

Chapter Text

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The plan worked well. Almost too well, apparently. As soon as Sig had finished tending to Sigurd's hand in her new infirmary, Ubbe walked up, obviously uncomfortable with what he was about to say. She knew something seemed a bit off, because he’d waited until his brother had left to talk with her.

She had put her things away that she’d needed to treat Sigurd’s minor burn, and was about to walk outside with her bag across her shoulder, when he approached her. “What do you need, Ubbe? I have other people I must go to see. House calls to make.”

He gave her a kind smile and Sig worried for a moment that she'd been rude. “I see you have already become known as a talented healer,” he observed.

“Perhaps,” she said, with a dismissive chuckle. “Or maybe it is because the old healer in town cannot tell the difference between a cough and a sneeze, and the people figure I could not be much worse. I have not been back long, but I have already heard some outlandish tales about him.”

Ubbe laughed. “It is true. The old healer was in desperate need of some help. And I am hoping that you might be willing to give us a bit of it.”

Sig inclined her head. “Does something ail you, Ubbe?”

He frowned. “Ah. No. Ivar was hoping you might ... help him. He says that he has a wound that will not heal.”

And there it was. Quicker than she’d expected. Ivar was suddenly in need of a healer. She sighed deeply as she realized that her other patients would have to be neglected for the time being. Ivar and his brothers were to be her priority. Protecting the queen came first, and if tending to Ivar led her towards a greater understanding as to how his mind worked, then that was where she needed to be. It was what Lagertha would want her to do, of course ... but she also knew that with every interaction she had with Ivar, there would be more of a chance of becoming closer to him, and more of a chance of her vision becoming reality.

Ubbe sensed her hesitation. “I know that Ivar can be … difficult.”

She arched a brow.

He laughed. “Perhaps ‘difficult’ is not the right word. Challenging?”

Sig smirked. “Insulting? Disdainful? Full of shit?”

Ubbe nodded, but then gave her a look filled with endearing sincerity. “Do not worry about Ivar, let me worry about him. It was never you he meant to hurt, it was because of Sigurd. They’ve been … at odds. And you were always closest to Sigurd. Ivar knows that.”

She solemnly nodded her head. “I understand.”

“Our own mother had the Sight, Sig. He knows better. I believe that him asking you to do this, is his backwards way of saying ‘I am sorry’.”

She didn’t want to be reminded of Ivar’s mocking from before, nor did she want to think of their mother, Aslaug, who had known that Sig had possessed the Sight with no control over it, and yet never stepped in to help her. Not ever. Through her travels, she’d learned that keepers of the Sight were to always assist one another, and to pass on knowledge in order to keep it alive. Sig was alarmed that the thought of it still burned, after all this time, and she forced herself to brush it away, to think on at another time. 

She frowned at Ubbe. “So what you are telling me, is that Ivar is saying ‘I am sorry’ by asking his brother to ask me to service him?”

Ubbe blinked and opened his mouth to say something, but nothing came out.

She sighed. “Alright Ubbe, I will do this, but also know that I would never refuse to treat someone. Where is Ivar?”

“I will take you to him,” he said, relief flooding his features, as if he were afraid she’d say no. He then led her through the narrow avenues and pathways of Kattegat, past the outskirts, and to their home. After they ducked inside, Ubbe took her to the back and into what she presumed was Ivar’s room, which felt a little strange. Sig was used to seeing patients either in the main room of a person’s dwelling and in the presence of others, or in her own space, where she kept all of her tools and medicines, and not in the intimate setting of a man’s private room. Of course, not many Viking men had their own private rooms, as their homes tended to be one big area sectioned off, but Ivar was the son of a king. Which made everything about dealing with him different in its own way.

She found that she was quite nervous and took a deep breath. “You are not leading me to my death, are you Ubbe?”

He laughed. “No. Ivar does not want anyone else to know.”

“Ah. By that you mean Sigurd.”

“He is one, yes. Here we are. Ivar?”

They both walked into Ivar’s room to find him sitting in a chair by his bed. Sig looked around his rather small space, noting that it was actually quite tidy and cozy. It also seemed a bit new, as if the brothers had recently been renovating Ragnar's old cabin in order to give themselves a little privacy.

To her surprise, Ivar’s disposition seemed changed somewhat from both of their previous encounters. He didn’t have a sneer on his face, but something more awkward, vulnerable, and perhaps expectant. His big blue eyes were so hopelessly expressive.

Sig walked right up to him, determined to ignore his damn eyes. “Where is the wound, Ivar?” she asked, forgoing any formalities or inane small talk in order to immediately get down to business. She wanted the whole thing over with as quickly as possible. 

He inclined his head and stuck out his chin. “Are you going to leave now?”

She frowned, taken off guard. “Why would I do that?”

“Because that is what you do,” he replied, giving a small shrug. “You say one thing to me and then leave.”

Sig could only blink at him for a moment. It seemed as if Ivar was under the impression that she had been unfair to him by leaving right after he’d insulted her.

She pursed her lips. “Well, then I suppose this is my time to go, as I have now said a thing.”

He gave her a look of total frustration, as if he wanted nothing more than to lash out at her for her supposed insolence, but kept himself in check for one reason or another. After witnessing this restraint, she didn’t have the heart to continue to toy with him any longer. Perhaps he really did need a healer after all.

She relaxed her features. “I am only kidding, Ivar. Now. Where is your wound?”

He tentatively held out his right hand in response, his palm facing up.

“Hm. It would seem both you and Sigurd have been abusing your hands lately,” she said with a smirk.

He scoffed. “It will not heal and I need full use of both hands.”

She raised a brow. “Do you have great plans for these hands?”

He only gave her a stare that said “wouldn’t you love to know.”

With a sigh she took his palm to inspect it, and sure enough, there was an ugly cut that looked as if it had closed over and had been opened again many times. She traced her finger around the wound, finding the skin dry and cracked, though the hand itself was large and warm. He had very nice hands. The type of masculine hand that was rough and calloused from vigorous use, yet comforting in its strength and size. She found herself wondering how his rugged hands would feel running down her …

She snapped herself out of the reverie her body seemed to want to ponder, and blinked several times. “So then!” she said, a little too loud. “Is this your dominant hand?”

He nodded, frowning, his azure eyes peering at her as if he knew what was going on inside her mind. She could practically see the wheels turning in his head. But how could he know? She was just being paranoid.

She bit her lip out of nervousness. “How long has it been like this, Ivar?”

His eyes lowered to her mouth and then glanced back up at her. “Since the day I got back from England,” he answered softly.

“That’s been weeks, Ivar,” Ubbe interjected, reminding them both that another person was in the room.

Sig’s brow furrowed, thinking. “This should have healed by now. It’s not terribly deep. How did you do this?”

Ivar looked down and procured a tiny statue from his pocket.

She took it from him and turned it around in her hand. “What is this?”

“A piece from a Saxon game, like tafl. It was a gift. I held onto it ... while sailing back from England,” he explained, wincing slightly, as if he felt like he had revealed too much and regretted it. 

She was momentarily bombarded with a flash of a vision. A mere second or two. There had been a formidable amount of emotion directed into the game piece. “An anchoring token,” she mused, giving it back to him, knowing that whoever had given it to him, was tied to him somehow, with many of their potential pathways merging or crossing one another.

“Hm, let me see,” she said, slightly dazed, and needing to focus back on the task at hand. “Perhaps it's from the braces you wear on your wrists, too much friction, not enough air. Or sometimes a wound does not heal as it should, because the body is too busy trying to heal another ailment. Have you been ill? Or do you have any other wounds that I should know about?”

Ivar looked away for a moment, looking very uncomfortable, and then nodded. “I have a scratch … on my leg.”

“Let me see.”

When he only stared into a corner and didn’t budge in his chair, she decided to help things along. “Which leg, this one?” She pointed to his left leg and he nodded. She knelt down and began to unlace his boot.

He put a hand over hers. “I can do it,” he hissed.

“Then do it,” she commanded.

When he finally got the boot off, he hesitated in lifting up the leg of his trousers.

Sig put her hands on her hips. “I am a healer, Ivar. I see bodies, all sorts. I promise you, I can handle a leg.”

He then clenched his jaw and slowly pulled up the fabric of his trousers. She could sense he was painfully insecure about his bare legs, so she made a point to not react. They were actually nothing terrible, only skinnier with less muscle mass in relation to the rest of his body, with his foot a bit twisted. Though when he removed a hasty bandage to reveal his "scratch", she couldn't help but react, as it was a wound that took her breath away.

“Ivar! A scratch?!”

This time, she could not hide the emotion and shock on her face, as she couldn’t believe what she was seeing. She even heard Ubbe gasp behind her. It was an old wound, one that had probably started out small and then festered, the infection spreading. It was the type of wound that could very well require amputation in the end, especially given his condition. It was the type of wound that could kill a person, bring about fever and chills, and she was shocked that he seemed so unfazed by it. Still able to get around. Dragging his legs everywhere he went.

Gods. How? All this time. You had your boot on over this?! How?”

Her reaction seemed to startle him and he became defensive. “It does not hurt that much!”

She looked up at him from her position, kneeling on the floor. “How did this one happen?”

He shook his head, as if he didn’t want to remember. “While traveling to Wessex with my father," he explained through his teeth. "It did not hurt. I did not think about it. I am ... used to pain.”

Sig put a gentle hand to his leg, just above the gaping wound on his shin. “Oh, Ivar.” Of course. His legs would be desensitized since he could not use them. Perhaps from poor circulation. He probably didn’t feel it at first. Or it had just become a part of the everyday pain he felt at any given time. 

She looked at his leg from every angle, trying to form a plan to help him, but in the past when she’d come upon something this serious, she usually had the guidance of someone with much more experience. “I fear this might go beyond my expertise. Perhaps the old healer?”

His eyes went wide. “No!”

“Why have you not said anything until now?”

“I have already told you … it did not hurt,” he growled, his nostrils flared. She could tell that he was getting scared, which would then lead to him getting angry.

Sig did not care about coddling him in this moment though, as he needed to be aware of the danger he was in. “But surely you must have seen with your two functioning eyes that something was wrong.”

“Ivar,” Ubbe chimed in, kneeling in front of him to get a better look at his leg. “You no longer have Mother to watch over you in this regard. You cannot let these things get this far.”

Ivar crossed his arms in defiance, choosing to be in denial. “It is not that bad!”

Sig stood straight up and made to walk out of the room. “Not that bad? Very well. I will go get the old healer then.”

“NO!” he shouted. “The blacksmith’s brother called on him two weeks ago with a headache and came out with an amputated arm! I refuse to go to him or to let him into this room.” 

She held up her hands. “But Ivar, this is the kind of wound that might require taking the bottom part of the leg off. And it seems to be the one thing the old healer is good at!”

He gave her an incredulous look. “Wh- No! Are you not being serious, woman?”

Sig put her hands on her hips. “I do not know. It looks as if you did not take this very seriously to be going on as normal, day after day, while your leg had a festering wound that could quite easily take your life. If you had let this go one more day, Ivar ...” she trailed off, shaking her head. “I honestly do not know how you are sitting here and talking to me right now, and not in bed with a terrible and debilitating fever. You must have the constitution of a bilgesnipe.”

His mouth dropped open as if he wasn’t sure if he should be insulted or not. “A bilgesnipe?”

“Alright. A cockroach, then.”

Ubbe came to stand between them. “Enough. The two of you are bickering as if you have been married for years.” He then looked over at her, his eyes worried and pleading. “Can you help him? Can you do this?”

Sig thought of her lucid dreams, and in those dreams, Ivar had no festering wound. She felt as if she were at a crossroads with this decision. She knew that if she helped him, he would heal, and the vision had a much better likelihood of coming true. If she didn’t, the wound could very well kill him.

She nodded. “Yes.”

“Then tell me what to do. How can I assist you?”

Sig sighed and told him exactly what she needed, knowing that she was not only helping Ivar, but ultimately helping to seal her fate with him.

And she had the the faintest suspicion that the gods were laughing at her.

 


~~*...*~~

As it turned out, Ivar was a terrible patient, which Sig knew she should’ve expected, but somehow hoped he would be different. Everything had to be so damn difficult. He questioned every single decision she made, every move, such as using special insects to help clean his wound. At first he flat out refused.

She’d had Ubbe transfer him to a table so she could work better, and started to apply the tiny creatures. He flinched. “What are you doing to me, woman!”

“You must trust me. They will eat the rotting dead flesh and leave the living. They will clean it! If you do not like my methods, you are free to try the services of another healer.”

Any mention of going to the other healer usually shut him up. For a bit.

He also refused to drink tea that would help him with pain, as now that she’d begun to treat his wound, he’d decided that he could finally feel it.

He would not take the cup as she offered it to him, turning his face away like a child. “It is only willow bark tea. It is harmless. Now just drink it. It will help with pain, but also fever if you come down with one. You are far from out of the woods, Ivar.”

He shook his head and crossed his arms. “I am sure that is what my father’s foreign slave told him while she supplied him with her special herbs that made him go mad.”

Sig was at a loss. “I am not a foreign slave. I am educated, I am one of the people. I am not out to drive you mad, Ivar. You are already mad!

Before Ivar could react, Ubbe interjected, as usual. “Sig. Our father became dependent on a foreign painkiller, Chinese medicine, his mistress called it. It made him erratic, crazy, and may have caused him to lose his battle with our uncle, which then led to his disappearance. So Ivar is wary of things such as this. We all are.”

She understood their hesitance, but they were also being ridiculous. “It is only willow bark tea, not opium. I have taken an oath as a healer to do no harm, and the only way to harm him with this, is if I were to shove the whole damn willow tree down his insufferable throat! Which I am actually fully prepared to do! Now do you want my help or not? I can go right down to the old healer’s abode and …”

“No!” Ivar yelled.

“Drink the tea,” she commanded, holding out the cup for him.

He scowled at her. “You should take care with how you speak to me.”

“I do. I do care. I hope you know I care about yo-,” she began to stammer, her face growing hot, as she realized she was saying words from her vision. She was also no doubt blushing and she internally kicked herself. “I care about your wound healing, Ivar," she explained, attempting to right herself. "I hear you have big plans, and you will not be able to avenge your father’s death if you come down with a fever and die. I need you to trust me and do what I say.”

He gave her a long stare, one that said “very well, you win this round, but I will get you back when you least expect it.” He then took the tea, his fingers brushing hers as she handed over the cup, before downing it quickly.

She gave him a sincere soft smile in return, which seemed to make him relax a bit.

Though after awhile, she tired of his constant queries, as he seemed to realize it irritated her, so he went about questioning everything like a child curious with the world.

As she was finishing up, and giving his knee a massage in order to increase his circulation and blood-flow, she became fed up. So she brought out her favorite oil blend which smelled of heather, cultivated across the sea. It reminded her of a green and misty terrain, allowing her thoughts to wander from the room and calm down.

Ivar closed his eyes as she began to rub it into his skin. Before, he was quite hesitant to let her see his legs, and had his muscles tense throughout the whole ordeal. But now he was leaning back on his elbows, seemingly relaxed. “What is that?”

“It is a rare and precious oil,” she answered, as she moved up to massage his thigh, which seemed to have more muscle mass than the lower part of his legs. 

“Where is it from?" he asked, a new strain in his voice, as she pressed into his skin, trying to work out any stiffness or tension. 

“The tallest mountains in the land. Where the Earth is closest to the gods.”

He opened his eyes. “Really? The highest?

She shrugged. “Well. There is no mountain high enough for a son of Ragnar Lothbrok, but if there were, this rare and precious oil would be from that place.”

He cracked a grin that she felt was much too attractive. “You are funny,” he said.

“Hm.”

“And you are sneaky about it. Sometimes I do not know if you are serious, or saying things in jest. How did you come to be so clever?”

She frowned. “I do not know. Perhaps I wanted to cultivate my mind, as I could not rely on beauty alone to get me through this world.”

“But you are very beautiful," he said casually. "And yet also clever." 

Her hands stilled and he looked at her stunned, his eyes growing large, as if the fact that he actually said such a thing surprised him.

Her whole body became pleasantly warm. She found herself wanting to take his smooth face in her hands and kiss the shock from his lips, to give him reassurance. She wanted to tell him she thought he was beautiful too. Funny too. And that even though he was a terrible patient, she found herself enjoying his company, even the bickering. 

But, alas …

“Thank you, Ivar. I must go now,” she said softly.

“Why? he asked, frowning, the spell broken, or whatever it had been.

She began to put away her things in her bag. “There has been an increase in injuries since the queen’s fortification project began, so I am needed over there.”

His once relaxed face morphed into a scowl.

“But I will be back tomorrow. I promise. And I will leave this here,” she said, setting her vial of oil on his table, to assure him that she would return. 

He gave her a curt nod and his expression smoothed into something much more neutral and guarded. 

She then quickly left the house of the sons of Ragnar, and fled to her own rooms. She never went to tend to anymore of the infirm, but instead sat in front of the fire and contemplated every single thing that she and Ivar had said to each other, as well as tried to figure out what the strange pull to him was. Not only the pull of her body, the pull towards the intimacy from her vision, but just the pull to be around him and simply like him. As a person. As a man.

Oh, Great Mother am I in trouble.”

Chapter Text

~~::::::...::::::~~


Sig had been turning up at the Ragnarsson's place every day so she could tend to Ivar's wound, as it required a very close watch.

In the beginning, as when she initially treated it, he'd question every move she made … but then his queries seemed to take a turn for the random and curious. At first, she thought he was only actively trying to be irritating, as he was Ivar, but then she wondered if perhaps he just liked someone to talk to that wasn't his brothers. She began to see how lonely he seemed at times, even when in the company of his older siblings. Both of his parents were gone now, as was his mentor Floki and his wife, sailing to lands unknown to the people. 

During their first meetings, the things he would ask about seemed on the mundane side, such as on that initial day she'd come back. She had walked in and found him sitting at a table, sharpening a knife for what seemed like the hundredth time. He'd looked up and for a split second, she'd seen the surprise in his eyes that she'd shown up as promised. Ivar had not expected her to return, or had even prepared for it. The second thing she saw was a flash of strange relief at actually being wrong, and then one of nervousness, before he tried to smooth his face into one of neutrality. It was apparent that he did not trust her one bit, and he feared that she would only leave abruptly once again.

As she'd unpacked her things to tend to him, she'd started to understand a little. During their first two run-ins with each other, after her return to Kattegat, she'd left his company almost as soon as he'd appeared to her. In his mind, it hadn't mattered that it was due to his terrible behavior … she'd left, and that was that.

And the last time she'd abruptly fled, it was right after he'd unintentionally confessed she was beautiful. For Sig, she was uncomfortable with such compliments, and was not sure if she'd ever be completely at ease with them, if she didn't really know a person well. It came from growing up different, as childhood can plant untrue seeds in one's head. Half of the time, she didn't believe she was beautiful, so how could he? In his mind, however, he figured that she didn't want to be complemented in such a way by a cripple. Told that she was beautiful by a cripple. And she left. Just as others in his life had left or rejected him. 

As Sig watched the emotions like a storybook across his face, she found herself wanting to reassure him. She never meant to hurt him.

I just am not ready. 

After that realization, she was determined not to leave abruptly again, but then he'd always start in with his damn questions. Such as when he was sitting on the table as she pulled up the left leg of his trousers, and began to roll his bandage off.

"Where did you learn how to do this?"

She tried to concentrate on his wound, which was shrinking nicely. "I learned the healing arts from many teachers."

"But the thing you do with your hands …"

She peered up at him, distracted. "With my hands? Oh, massage? I learned that from a high priestess," she answered, then went back to her work.

"What was her name?"

"Vivianne."

"What color hair did she have."

His questions had seemed ridiculous. "Why does this matter?"

"I am only trying to picture her."

Sig sighed heavily. "She had very dark hair, even darker than yours." 

But then the questions became bolder as time went by.

One day, he caught her when her mind had wandered off in reverie. His trouser-leg was pushed up beyond his knee and she was giving him his usual massage at the end of a visit, to increase circulation.

"Why were you and Sigurd always thick as thieves?"

That one was easy enough. "Because the two of us were always off on our own. There was no one to really keep a watch on us."

"Hn. Where was your mother? Father?"

She took a deep breath in response to the turn in conversation. "My mother died in childbed, and my father was always off with your father, until one day when he did not come back."

Ivar frowned. "When did he not come back?"

"He died during the second seige on Paris."

"He fought with my father?" Ivar seemed a bit intrigued by that fact. 

She nodded her head. "He was one of his most trusted warriors in his inner circle."

He bent towards her. "Do you blame Ragnar for his death?"

Sig's hands stilled. "No. Of course not," she said, looking him in the eye. "My father was a warrior. A soldier. He fought. He died."

"Many people blamed Ragnar."

"I know, but I do not. No one forced my father to go to Paris, held an arrow to his head. It was not Ragnar's decision, it was not even the gods' decision. It was his own. In the end, we choose our fates."

He cocked his head to the side, peering at her as if he caught her in a lie. "And what of the Norns?" 

Sig had to remind herself where she was at times, that she was back among the people of her childhood, who believed in fixed fates. "If it was the Norns who marked the day of my father's death, then it most certainly was not Ragnar's fault ... nor has it been the fault of anyone who ever killed another since the beginning of time. No one in this world should then be held accountable for anything." 

He sat back, apparently not wanting to debate the issue further ... but he used his change in subject to pry deeper. His eyes flickered to her hands. "You wear a ring, but you do not speak of a husband. Are you promised?"

Sig flinched and looked at him in surprise. Most people would then immediately apologize for their intrusion, especially after having seen an obvious negative reaction to it, but not Ivar. He only gave her an expectant look, waiting for her to answer, like a boy who was used to getting his way.

She took her hands from his leg and began to wring them together, rubbing massage oil into her own skin. She glanced at the ornate silver band on her ring finger. "There was a promise."

Sig sensed a shadow fall over his face. A shadow of strange jealousy, a wave of unwarranted anger passing through him, as if to say "how dare you be promised."

He tilted his head subtly to the right and left in that feline way of his, like a cat does when it sights his prey. "You are not promised anymore?" he asked, visibly trying to reign himself in, attempting to hide his emotions, though he was not doing a very good job of it. 

Sig gave him a sad smile and shook her head, wondering why he cared so damn much. 

Relief instantly softened his features. "Then why do you wear a ring?"

"Because I do not wish to forget him just yet," she answered, honestly. "I know that bit by bit I will start to lose things, the details, like the exact color of his eyes. It has already started to happen."

Green is slowly being replaced with blue, she thought to herself. 

Ivar lifted his chin. "So he is dead."

She bit her lip and nodded her head. "He was a warrior. A soldier. He fought. He died."

"Where?"

She frowned, becoming irritated. "What is with these questions today, Ivar? Do you really want to know this? Or are you just asking to torment me …"

He shrugged and sat back on his elbows. "Would you rather we not speak at all while you are here? That seems awfully cumbersome. I am only trying to make us more comfortable. Fill the silence," he said, gesturing with his hand.

She gave an incredulous laugh. "Comfortable, you say? You wish to make me at ease by having me pour my heart out to you? And do I get to ask you questions of such a personal nature after I am done answering yours?

Ivar's face twisted in exaggeration as if he were thinking, and then gave the tiniest of grins. "Of course", he said with another shrug, trying to seem nonchalant. "You may ask me anything. I urge you to."

It was then that she knew for sure, that several things were going on at once. One of those things, was that Ivar really did just like having someone to talk to, as both of his parents were now dead, and one of those parents had been a huge portion, if not all, of his support system. And another one of those things, was that Ivar seemed a bit besotted. He tried to hide it, tried to not give too much away, but his face was much too expressive, and Sig had been trained to read people well. He wanted her to ask him questions about himself. He wanted her to care enough to be curious about him. 

She found herself wondering if she was just as besotted with him. The notion seemed preposterous, but her dreams and visions had certainly been pushing her in that direction. They left her panting in the middle of the night, woefully aroused and painfully unsatisfied. She'd resisted those visions for many reasons. For one, she just wasn't ready yet, and for two, Ivar was … Ivar. It had nothing to do with his affliction and everything to do with his disposition. But was that really all of him? Or was there something else beneath the bratty surface? At times, she could have sworn that she caught glimpses of a mind that thought outside of normal boundaries, one that possessed potential greatness. The ability to see many steps ahead like in a game of tafl. Most could predict one or two moves, but Ivar perhaps could predict even more. 

She gave a slight nod, more to herself than to him, and decided to play along. She would let him give his interrogation, and then she would give hers. A great game of sly questions instead of pieces on a tafl board, maneuvering and infiltrating. Sig would get to know him. And then perhaps she could even convince him to stop fixating on revenge. To spare Lagertha, and ensure the protection of Kattegat, as she was sure that turmoil was coming for the city. She could practically taste it on the breeze. 

Sig resumed her massage and set to answering him. "You want to know where he died? The one I was promised to?"

He nodded, alert and waiting. 

She looked down, focusing on her task. "He died in Caledonia, or Scotland, as it is also called. There is an ancient people there, the Picts. Their numbers were once great but have dwindled. Soon, the people will be no more. They are dying out or being converted, assimilated. The very last who believe in the old gods are being overcome by the new one. The few who remain try to live in peace, away from the Christians, on their own in the remote highlands, but that is not good enough. The choice is usually to either convert or be condemned. The one I was promised to, he refused to convert."

"Hn," Ivar mused, thinking for a moment. It was as if he'd had every intention of hating her departed lover and was in shock to find that he actually respected him. "Do you then wish you would have brought him with you, here?"

Her brow knitted together. "Sometimes love is not meant to last forever, but just for a time. I always knew that he would stick with his people until the end. It was one of the things I admired about him. So, bring him here? No. I had never thought about it. I already knew what was to happen. And he knew. He'd tell me he could see it in my eyes, that I always knew something else was coming. And he would ask me sometimes, 'what will happen to the people?' But he could see it with his own eyes, as it did not take someone with the Sight to understand. Some tides cannot be turned. The momentum is much too strong. Christianity has almost spread across every inch of Britannia. The old gods will only be kept and remembered by a sacred few, keeping their traditions in secret, until there is a time when they can be openly worshipped again without fear."

"How long will that be?" he asked, quietly.

She bowed her head, concentrating on the way her hands warmed as they slid over his skin. "Not in our lifetime. Not in our children's lifetime, and not in their children's lifetime."

He blinked. "The Christians will never come here," he said, gravely.

"They will. Eventually."

"We will kill every one of them."

She slowly shook her head. "There will be a time, when they will be like the stars, Ivar. Countless. The Picts, the Celts, they were the greatest of warriors, they defeated even the famed Romans when they invaded, held off the Christians for as long as they could, but eventually, sheer numbers outshined greatness."

He stopped speaking after that, only retreated into himself to think. She finished up, made sure his bandage was secure, and packed her things. Before she left, she stood before him and tentatively brought her hand to his face, touching the soft skin of his cheek. She thought he might flinch or become angry, as what they had talked about obviously upset him, but he only looked up at her with those blue eyes. They were now dark, as if a storm had blown in. He closed them as she briefly ran her fingers through his dark locks, and he leaned into her hand. His hair was getting longer and was silkier than she thought it would be.

"I will see you tomorrow."

And for the first time, she could tell that he believed her.

 


~~*...*~~

"What have you learned from the sons?" 

Sig was seated at the Queen's table in her private chambers. Lagertha had increased her security while directing and participating in the work at the fortification sight, and had the brothers followed when they left their home. Her two closest and most trusted advisors however, Torvi and Astrid, still thought she needed to put in place a more vigorous effort to protect herself. 

She took a sip of her offered wine before answering, in order to center herself. To remember what she was willing to give. "I can tell you that you do not have to worry about Sigurd," she said, setting down her cup. 

"What has made you come to this conclusion?" 

"I know Sigurd, and I remember how he grew up, a lonely child born in the middle. He was not his parent's first sons nor their last. He does not have the same affection for Aslaug as Ubbe and certainly not the same as Ivar. I believe that Sigurd tries to rein his brothers in, but he fails, mainly because he and Ivar are so at odds. They goad each other until it escalates to dangerous levels. Still, they are brothers, and that means something to them. For now." 

"Do Ubbe and Ivar conspire?" 

"I have heard nothing from their own lips, but Ivar is steadfast. If Ubbe conspires it is only out of brotherly persuasion, as I believe that his mind is on other matters." 

"Such as?" the queen asked, curious. 

Sig grinned. "Infatuation. I am not sure if I would call it love, actually." 

Lagertha seemed to know what she was talking about. "You mean the slave? The one that all of the sons have had?" 

This was news to Sig. "All of them have had Margrethe?" 

The Queen sat back in her chair and raised a brow. "Excluding Bjorn, yes. It seems as though all of them have taken her to their beds, or to their haystacks, as it were. Only Ivar could not consummate the little arrangement the brothers had made for him. He could not satisfy her and she feared for her life because of it. He was frightened that she would tell his brothers." 

Sig suddenly felt a pang of sympathy for Ivar, as a healer and perhaps a friend, because it was obvious that the girl had indeed told everyone. She kept her face neutral. "Margrethe has told you this?" 

Lagertha nodded. "They shared her and offered her Ivar as well, as he had not yet been with a woman. Torvi brought her to my attention when it was known that all of the brothers had designs on the girl." 

Sig blinked. "The poor girl must have been exhausted." 

The queen laughed. "I imagine so. In any case, she still seems to be important. We will let Ubbe chase her, if that is what will keep him occupied. I will even act as if his pursuit of her vexes me, if that will give him some satisfaction. Has Sigurd and Ivar moved on from her?" 

"What do you mean?" 

Lagertha gave her a wry grin. "Moved on from Margrethe?" 

"They do not speak of her." 

The queen nodded. "They are besotted with you now, as I predicted. And with them at odds already, how will that play out, I wonder." 

Sig blushed. "Dear gods, I hope not," she muttered, but she knew that what Lagertha had said was true. 

The queen decided to have mercy, but still held a teasing smile. "I see that it embarrasses you, so I will not ask which one you prefer. I will change the subject. Tell me, do you see Ubbe and Ivar attempting a coup?" 

Sig took a deep breath and tried to concentrate, though the talk of Ivar and Sigurd made it hard. Her mind was not operating as sharply as it should have been. "It is murky. There have been no decisions made. When I look down the paths, I admit that I am confused by what I see." 

"What do you see?" 

She paused for a second and gave a self-deprecating shrug. "I see a giant bear. Standing on his hind legs. It makes little sense to me." 

Lagertha's face lit up. "Oh, but my beautiful seer, I understand it perfectly." 

Sig inclined her head. "What is it?" 

The queen leaned forward, eyes intent on hers. "It is Bjorn, of course." 

 


~~*...*~~

The next day, Sig had been at the fortification sight to tend to the injured, working practically from sun up to sun down. When she'd finally been able to stop by and tend to Ivar, it was already dark. He offered her mead and she was grateful for it, as she needed to calm her nerves and help to ease her aching muscles from being on her feet all day.

And as usual, the questions sprang forth as soon as she would pull up his trouser-leg.

"Would you be promised to Sigurd, if he asked you?"

Sig began to laugh. "What a question to start with on this lovely evening. Why would you ask such a thing?"

"The two of you are friends," he said, as if it were an accusation.

"Yes we are, and I imagine that being married to Sigurd would be like being married to one's own cousin or brother, and I have no desire for such an arrangement. Besides, Sigurd is not meant for me, I have seen it," she said, very matter of fact.

Ivar inclined his head, extremely curious. "Who is he meant for?"

She shrugged. "I do not know her name, but she is from another land. Across the sea."

"How do you know this?" 

"I just do. She is dark of hair. High born. His path towards her is strong, as if their union is meant to be written down and remembered throughout the ages. I do not think there is much that could knock him off that path." 

Ivar took a moment to let her revelation sink in, but whether or not he believed her, he didn't convey. 

"And Hvitserk? Would you be promised to him?" 

She shook her head and clicked her tongue. "I do not even know what he looks like anymore. He is with Bjorn. He could have grown up to be ugly and with worse hair than Sigurd's, for all I know."

Ivar cracked a grin. "Ubbe?"

"Hm. No, I have not thought of Ubbe in that way. He is handsome, to be sure, and kind. I have no doubt that he will make a wonderful husband, but he is following that Margrethe girl around like a lost puppy dog." 

At the mention of Margrethe's name, Sig placed both palms on his leg and reached out her metaphysical sensors for anything Ivar might project, any kind of emotion she could pick up on. It wasn't exactly noble, or ethical, doing it without his consent or knowledge, but she found herself curious as to what his perspective was on the subject. 

She closed her eyes for a moment and received a fragmented flash. There was candlelight. He'd tried so hard, but ... as soon as she pulled back the covers and caught a glimpse at his legs, he could sense her revulsion ... while in the bed the tears began to flow and did not stop, she cried the whole time. 

The feeling of his shame and despair rushed through her, threatening to take her breath away. It was to be his first time, but with a girl who did not want to be there, she would have rather been with any of his brothers. She was only doing it for them. He could not become ready for her and somehow thought that meant he could not be ready for any woman at all.

She abruptly lifted her hands from his leg as if she'd been burned and struggled to keep her face neutral. 

Ivar noticed, but guessed as to the wrong reason. He leaned forward, peering at her, and practically growled. "You wish for Ubbe to follow you around like a dog?" 

She blinked a few times and then laughed at him, instantly changing her tune in order to lift the mood. "Ivar, love ... being followed around by a lost puppy dog does not sound appealing to me in the least."

Ivar then glanced at her with a look of most wondrous confusion. She grinned, shaking her head. "I am afraid I am not like many women, Ivar. If given the choice between a lost puppy dog and a cat that can take care of themselves, I will choose the cat every single time."

He raised his eyebrows at that.

Sig then went back to concentrating on his wound for a moment, bringing out a small knife to cut away the bandage. She needed to take a breath. Needed to ground herself after what she'd seen. 

"Let me see your knife."

What he'd said surprised her, and she raised a brow. "Why?"

He rolled his eyes. "I am not going to steal it. I have just never seen anything like it."

"I never thought you would steal it, Ivar. But it was a gift. I rarely let others touch it, as objects can absorb energy. I never want my knife to be confused as to who its mistress is."

She handed it to him and he nodded, as though acknowledging its importance and expertly twirled it through his fingers. "I like this knife. Where did you get it?"

It was her favorite possession, and favorite tool in her whole arsenal, celtic in nature with a curved bone handle. "The high priestess gave it to me."

"You learned much from her," he said, not a question, more of a statement.

"Yes. She taught me how to treat wounds such as this," she said, running a finger down his shin and along his healing skin. "You are recovering quickly, Ivar. The wound heals fast."

He only pursed his lips in agreement, his mind on other things. "So what else did the priestess teach you?"

"Herbal lore. How to focus The Sight. The feminine arts. The sort of things that priestesses teach," she answered with a grin, remembering her old mentor.

"The feminine arts? What are they?"

She laughed. "I cannot tell you, Ivar. They are feminine arts, not masculine."

He rolled his eyes. "Hn."

Sig then stood and clapped her hands together. "Enough with your questions. I want to try something new today. The wound on your hand is almost gone and the one on your leg is well on its way."

His brow furrowed. "What do you want to try?"

"Tell me how the pain works in your legs. You didn't feel the scratch, at first. So what do you feel?"

Ivar scowled for a moment, as if he were uncomfortable talking about it.

"Listen. You can tell me, Ivar. I am a healer, there's a confidence between a healer and a patient. Anything you say to me in these moments, I will never tell another soul."

He peered at her for a moment. "Not even Lagertha? I know that you are hers," he accused. "That you are her personal seer and advisor."

She raised a brow. "Not even my queen, Ivar," she stated, hoping he would not linger on the subject. "I have told her nothing about our conversations. She knows nothing of your wound or why I am treating you." 

He broke eye contact from her and looked down, warring with himself, trying to decide if he should trust her. "The pain in my legs," he finally said, almost a whisper. "Comes from the inside out. And like someone is constantly pounding on my bones with a club."

She nodded. "But with increasing the blood-flow with massage, has the pain subsided at all? And are you able to feel more? On the surface? Here?" she asked, brushing her fingers over his left knee.

He tentatively nodded.

"I'd like to try to massage both legs, not just the one, and also at the base of your spine and back, to see if we can help with your pain, and perhaps also to give you a bit more movement. With your consent, of course."

He looked at her in shock. "Do you think it is possible?"

Sig gave him a smile. "I cannot work miracles, but I will try what I can. Most of it is up to you."

"Then I consent," he decided, instantly. "If only because I like to have your hands on me," he said, with a leering smile and a mischievous glint in his eye.

She raised a brow. "And of course we'll need to talk about inappropriate behavior between a healer and her patient," she said with a grin. "Now. Go ahead and take your trousers off."

All of his breath seemed to leave his body and a thrill ran up her spine at the knowledge that she could make this perpetually angry and broken prince, a man who seemed so hell-bent on appearing ruthless and cruel to the outside world, react in such a way.

And thus, she decided to let the fates have their way, as she couldn't let him continue to believe that he could never satisfy a woman. Ivar was about to become an unknowing subject of the feminine arts.

Chapter Text

 

~~::::::...::::::~~


Sig had been finding it hard to tend to Ivar the past few days, as she'd been helping out at the fortification construction site as needed. Most of the people of Kattegat were happy to help, men, women, and children, but there was also a fair share of injuries and cases of exhaustion. Sig also felt a strange wind coming, along with neighbors from far and wide, gathering in anticipation of forming a Great Army. But behind the solidarity of what seemed like the entire Viking world, was a hint of turmoil from supposed allies, and she didn't think it originated with Ivar and Ubbe. She felt compelled to keep her ears, eyes, and sight beyond sight, wide open. After so much work both physical and psychic, she found herself drained when she stopped by the Ragnarsson's afterward. Ivar was usually there alone, as Sigurd liked to stay late in the Great Hall for drink and music, and Ubbe felt the need to be the pragmatic son, keeping a presence at court, as well as to chase after potential love with Margrethe. They were also there to receive and entertain those who were arriving as part of the brother's plan to avenge their father, Sig just wasn't sure if they meant to avenge their mother first. 

She could have gone to the Great Hall as well, as gatherings were usually something she loved, but she'd been making the excuse that she was tired, even though she'd somehow found the energy to call on Ivar. She wasn't lost to the obvious ways in which her relationship with him, whatever it was, had gravitated to something beyond patient and healer, or childhood acquaintance. At the very least, they were now tentative friends, having found common ground, even though they both knew they were on opposite sides when it came to allegiance to the queen. And above that, or in spite of it, there was a palpable attraction growing. Perhaps it had been there all along, but now there was no denying it. Ivar was back to receiving her in his private room, and not propped up on the table in the common area. She was also perfectly content to stop by at night, when it was well past time to do business. Things were slower, more informal, and casual in the evening. There was a glow from candles and a hushed atmosphere that made the situation downright romantic. Sig knew she was playing with fire, watching how the shadows and light played across Ivar's skin as she tried to bring as much life and energy as she could into his lower limbs.

He was in his bed, as he'd been for their past few meetings. He wore a nightshirt but no trousers, as she'd taken to massaging both legs, though she'd keep up at least the slight appearance of decorum with a sheet over the limb she wasn't working on. One thing surprised her, however, and it was that he never tried anything. He never touched her while she was touching him. Perhaps it was nervousness, but it also seemed as if he was trying to be content with what he was able to get … and she'd developed a theory on that. She wondered if he'd just resigned himself to a relatively monastic life due to his assumption that sex just was not to be a part of his future. Yet he still quite enjoyed the company of women and would try to hold onto a sense of pleasure and satisfaction in this small way that he could. And there was a big—yet perhaps irrational—part of her that wanted to wring Margarethe's neck because of it. 

Sig was well deep into her plan to make him see that this was not necessary, as she was quite certain that his fears of impotence were all in his head. Sure, the bones of his legs were brittle due to his affliction, but the rest of him was very strong. And perhaps the poor circulation of his lower limbs had made it a bit challenging to become ready for a woman, or just even for himself, but she was working to alleviate that. He'd already said that through her massage and stimulating oils, the pain in his legs had lessened and he was able to control his knees better, able to bend them at will easier. 

But as she expertly kneaded the muscles of his thigh, he began to seem agitated. He'd taken to picking up her bone-handled knife she always used and holding onto it as if for security or an anchor, like he'd done with his Saxon game piece. At times he'd flip it around in the air, or twirl it around in his fingers if he seemed nervous. He frowned and opened his mouth several times to speak but couldn't get words out, and Sig was too tired to try and coax what he was feeling out of him. 

Finally, he spoke. "Last week you wondered if you would be allowed to ask me questions, and you have not asked me any." 

She rolled her eyes, not in the mood for him to play the attention-seeker. "That is not true. I have asked you many questions. In fact, I just asked you if you could bend your right knee." 

He gave a frustrated huff. "That is not what I meant and you know it." 

Sig frowned. She wasn't sure what to ask. There certainly were things that she wanted to know about him, things she couldn't, or wouldn't, sense with The Sight ... but she wasn't sure what would upset him to the point where any kind of progress she'd made with him, would all be for naught, in regards to her influence. As it was still her mission to protect the queen. 

"Very well," she decided. "I will ask you what you asked me ..." 

Ivar sat back, resting against his headboard. "I am waiting." 

"Who taught you about the mysterious ways of our gods?" Sig had noticed in the way Ivar spoke at times, that he had knowledge of a more darker nature, when it came to their traditions. It made sense, as she'd heard of Queen Aslaug's growing religious fanaticism in recent years. Sig herself had known several powerful, good, and kindhearted witches, and she'd also known a few who'd gone dark for one reason or another. Perhaps Lagertha wasn't entirely wrong to accuse the former queen of the dark arts. 

"Floki was my teacher," Ivar said with a nod. 

"And what color hair does he have?" she asked with a wink, harking back to his curiosity of her mentor. 

He chuckled. "I am not sure. He does not have much of it left." 

Sig then asked a question she was pretty sure she knew the answer to. "Are you promised?" 

He gave a bitter laugh. "No. Not many fathers would want their precious girl to be betrothed to a cripple. Son of Ragnar Lothbrok or no." 

She shrugged. "Hn. I'd much rather see a daughter marry a cripple than ... shall we say, a great athlete, though a hopeless drunkard. Or a man that would abuse her terribly. Everyone has their afflictions, Ivar, some are just more visible than others, for whatever reason, only the gods know. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Every person who wishes to be in love some day, must first figure out what they are willing to tolerate, because no one on this Earth is perfect. Anyway. I know what it is like to be different, though I can control it now, how others perceive me. I think it is the same for you, in a way." 

He blinked and looked down, flipping her knife around in his hand. 

"What weaknesses would you not tolerate?" he asked, trying to seem nonchalant about it by not looking up and continuing to play with the knife. 

She kept up her work. "Many. Among them stupidity." 

"But you would tolerate a cripple." 

"Yes. But not a stupid cripple." 

They glanced up, stared at each other for a moment, and laughed. 

He then narrowed his eyes and inclined his head. "Why do you follow Lagertha?"

She gave a heavy sigh. With Ivar, it seemed to be one step forward, two steps back. "Are we back to your questions again? I thought it was my turn."

He stuck out his chin and scowled, as if he'd suddenly decided to be angry with her for some reason. "I just want to know why you are still hers, even though you know what she did to our mother, your true queen, or have you forgotten that?"

Sig brushed hair out of her eyes and sat up from leaning over his knee. "Why are you asking me this now? At this particular time? I am so tired, Ivar, I am about to fall over on this bed. I am not in the mood tonight."

He crossed his arms. "Well stop then, if you are so tired."

She closed her eyes for a moment. Something had become wrong and she needed to put her finger on what it was. "What would you have me do, Ivar?" she asked, then opened her eyes to look at him.

He only stared at her, unable to say what was really on his mind.

She rubbed at her eyes a moment in frustration. "There are several reasons why I advise the queen," she informed. "Though I owe you no explanation, I will tell you. For one, I simply live in Kattegat and she is my sovereign and I respect that. She has never done anything to me except show me kindness."

Ivar scoffed at that bit and rolled his eyes.

"For two, I do not have great memories of the former queen, and did not exactly mourn when I heard the news of her passing."

His eyes widened in anger and he opened his mouth to say something, but she stood and spoke before he had the chance.

"And for three, Lagertha is our only chance for what is coming."

Ivar frowned in confusion, his curiosity overpowering his instinct to take offense to what she'd said about his mother. "What is coming?"

She put her hands on her hips. "Lagertha was right to build the fortifications around the city. It is a major trading center and there will come a time when those fortifications will be tested. Under Aslaug and no Ragnar, Kattegat would have fallen in a second."

Ivar furiously shook his head. "She would have had us!"

"It would not have mattered, not with the city so vulnerable. With Lagertha, there is a real chance. With Lagertha, she will not take your heads or strip you of your entitlements as princes like others most certainly would. And under Lagertha, you will still have Bjorn to aid you in avenging Ragnar. Kill the queen, and you will have no Bjorn."

He leaned forward. "What makes you think we need Bjorn?" he hissed.

"He is your brother and a leader of many men, do you really want to alienate him? Kill him?"

"What I want!" he yelled, and then hesitated. "What I want … is for you …"

"What do you want from me, Ivar? Is it loyalty? Because you have it. I do not tell the queen about what we talk of. Is that what you think?"

He sat back against his headboard and looked down.

"Do you think that I cannot be loyal to both of you?"

Ivar looked up at her, a storm in his eyes. He tightened his grip around the knife he had in his hand and his eyes went black. "You are mine. You are to only be loyal to me," he growled, as his hand shot out to grab her arm, fast as lightning, and pulled her onto the bed beside him, facing him. 

Sig gasped in shock at his sudden possessiveness, both in his words and actions, but then an anger burned inside of her as she realized he was holding her own knife to her throat. And perhaps it was the exhaustion talking, or deprivation, after so long without a man, and weeks of enduring dreams that felt so real, she'd wake up practically near completion. Or perhaps she was just a rampant masochist, who really knew, and she didn't care at the moment. Instead of becoming scared, like she knew he wanted, she became furious, and perhaps a bit aroused.

"How, exactly, am I yours, Ivar?" she asked, her voice low and steady, eyes intent on his. When he only stared back, she leaned slightly into the blade at her neck, just as she had in her dreams, as he hadn't applied enough pressure yet to actually draw blood. "You are going to cut a girl with her own sacred knife? The one she lets no one else touch?" She could feel him pull it back so she tipped forward until her forehead touched his. "Is that how you play?" she whispered, her eyes flickered to his lips. 

He gasped and his eyes widened in surprise, as if something profound had just happened. He brought the knife away from her throat, but then tightly gripped the back of her neck with his other hand. Sig noticed that they were both breathing hard and their lips were just about an inch from each other, but then Ivar bridged the gap, resting his mouth on hers for a moment, hesitant at first, with a small hum. When she responded, pressing back with a sigh, he was encouraged to keep giving her tentative nips, as if he were afraid she'd suddenly come to her senses and run away at any moment. Sig reassured him by putting her hands on his strong shoulders and embracing him. He gave a muffled groan and they both opened their mouths to each other, touched tongues, and melted into an intense kiss. A kiss where the whole world dissolved away and there were only two people suddenly moving together, intuitively, remarkably compatible, as if they'd been doing this for years. 

Ivar dropped her knife completely and put that hand around her waist, bringing her into his lap, which she straddled, hiking her skirt up around her thighs. It was apparent to her then just how much she needed this, wanted this, as everything was happening now so naturally and fluidly. She felt his hips thrust upward, hitting a spot so sweet that she moaned into his mouth.

Her enthusiasm must have set him off, because he then had his hands under her skirts, sliding under her thighs and cupping her ass in order to pull her down harder into another one of his thrusts. She broke their kiss and threw her head back, relishing the feeling of grinding and rubbing against him, now mimicking the act of coupling. Sig could feel him growing hard beneath her, under only a sheet, and she knew that if they continued, she could probably be brought to the brink just like that, considering how good it felt. Now that the sexual tension between them had broken, there was such a rush of it, that it desperately needed a place to go, to be expressed.

As he put his lips to her neck, teeth scraping along her pulse, she could feel his hands at her breasts, cupping and kneading through the fabric of her dress, and she realized exactly how much she wanted to be touched by him. She wanted his hands and his mouth all over her skin. She then tugged at the bottom of his shirt and brought her arms up under it, so she could feel the smooth skin of his stomach and the hard ridges of his muscles, which she ran her nails down. He groaned as she did it, making her wonder if she'd ever heard anything that set her into such a frenzy, than the unrestrained sounds he was making.

As a reward, she reached between them and ran her fingers along his length over the sheet, then gripped him and began moving her hand slowly up and down. He gasped at the sensation, eyes wide in shock. His mouth fell open in pleasure and his hips began to thrust upwards and into her fingers, seeking more friction, more anything. Sig gave him a sultry smile, remembering how good it felt to have a man beneath her and at her mercy. And with Ivar, there was also excitement in the fact that he'd never had this before, and she was relishing in wiping anything smug or arrogant off of his face and replacing it with the look of someone who was completely wrecked with need. 

Ivar was struggling with how to get her out of her dress, becoming frustrated, and looking as if he were about to start ripping fabric, when they heard someone come home. They froze when they realized that whoever it was, was headed straight to Ivar's room.

"Brother!" a deep voice called. "We have found the answer! I have been talking to ..."

"No!" Ivar yelled, just as as Ubbe appeared through the entranceway. 

"We need to talk about ... wh-" Ubbe stumbled in the room and Sig looked over to find him struggling to walk straight, his eyes glassy. He seemed to be in his cups.

Sig, blushing deep red, tried to extricate herself from Ivar's lap and pull her skirt back down over her legs. At first, Ivar had no intention of letting her go, but when he saw that Ubbe wasn't going anywhere, he reluctantly released his hold.

Ubbe then looked in their direction and finally let it register that Ivar was not alone. He squinted and then rubbed his eyes, blinking, and trying to make sense of what he was seeing. He'd opened his mouth to say something when Sig jumped off the bed and started grabbing her things.

"So, um," she mumbled while hastily putting a vile of massage oil away in her bag. "That new technique we tried seems to be working, Ivar. We should try it again tomorrow. I will just let you and Ubbe discuss ... er ... what ever it is you need to discuss."

"Yes Ubbe!" Ivar said through his teeth as he scrubbed a hand over his face. "Let us discuss this thing that could not wait!" 

She glanced up at him for a moment, making eye contact to observe his reaction, as she desperately wanted him to understand that she wasn't fleeing because she had regretted what had just happened between them. How could she, after all, what with his disheveled hair and kiss-swollen lips. 

At first, he looked furious, but more at Ubbe and the situation than at her. But after a moment his eyes softened as they locked with hers, and there was a mix of hope and surprise, as if he couldn't quite believe what had just happened.

As she rushed passed an extremely confused Ubbe and out of the house, Sig knew she'd seen something else in Ivar's face, and that was determination. When she'd first arrived that night he'd still been under the impression that he could not satisfy a woman … now he was not so sure. And he would be relentless in trying to find out.

And she was surprised to find that she didn't mind the idea one bit.

 

Chapter Text

~~::::::...::::::~~


Sig had been nervous and yet light-hearted the whole day, as just last night, something had finally happened with Ivar. It was a strange mix of emotions. The image of their kissing running through her thoughts all day. At this point, she had decided to just let things be, as it was obvious that her fate was flowing into the one shown in her visions. The momentum had been building.

She knew, however, that the visions had only started after accepting her position as an advisor to the queen. In doing this, she’d made herself a part of their story, whether she meant to or not. Sig thought of the old seer at times, isolated in his stuffy hut, content to be left alone, and quite happy not to become entwined in the lives of those who sought his counsel. She wondered if it was the same when he was a young man, if he’d kept to himself, or if it was something that had happened over time. Then she would always smile to herself, as she couldn’t imagine him being young at all, and came to the conclusion that he’d simply been born ancient and tedious.

During the day, as she’d walked along the construction sites, she found herself smiling at times, her fingers to her lips, remembering how Ivar had kissed them, as if he never needed to breathe. There was something irresistible in how unrestrained he was, in how quickly he wanted things to progress, in the hungry sounds he made, as if once he realized he could perhaps know the pleasures of the flesh, he was fully committed to becoming acquainted with them. As soon as humanly possible . And it was his inexperience that made him so hurried, as he’d yet to realize the potential ecstasy of delayed gratification. Ivar was all about the instant, in so many ways.

I will just have to teach him, she mused, as she skipped along the pathways on the outskirts of Kattegat, taking the time to pick a wildflower or two and twirling them in her fingers, plucking off the petals one by one and letting them float away with the wind, along with her secret wishes. Sig then shook her head, mildly chastising herself for being such a besotted fool, an infatuated silly girl. But she had to admit that it felt good. It was refreshing to feel her heart again, even if she wasn’t so sure that her trysts with Ivar wouldn’t end in disaster. He still wanted to murder her queen, after all, and her sight in that regard was cloudy.

In the moments as the sun went down, and she found herself walking in the direction of her usual last call, she thought about the pull Ivar had over her, and what it was exactly. There were the dreams of course, but it wasn’t just that. She’d ignored visions before, but these she’d finally decided to embrace … why? Of course there was his attractiveness, it certainly was an allure, with his eyes so intensely blue she wondered if they would glow in the dark, his jawline so structured and sharp, she almost wanted to try honing her knife with it. And his shoulders so muscular and graceful, she most definitely wanted to know what it was like to have them working above her in real life, and not just in her dreams.

There were other things about him. There was his wit, which was always her downfall. A man with intelligence, wit, and good looks? And on top of that, a lonely spirit twisted in anger and grief? For a healer, there was always a natural instinct to soothe pain.

She wondered if she ever had a chance.

Sig found herself living for those subtle moments when she made him forget that he was a brat prince, wallowing in rage, and was able to catch a glimpse of something beneath those layers of his outer shell. He had an irresistible impish grin and when combined with his mastery over the beguiling arching of his brows, she found herself completely drawn in, the rest of the world falling away. And there was an endearing curiosity inside of him, always asking questions, always willing to push, when others would be content with the inertia of their circumstances. There was a desire to prove himself, to be a real part of something, not just someone forced to sit and watch on the outskirts. Perhaps that was the Ragnar in him.

Just as she turned a corner and was right outside the Ragnarsson’s door, she almost ran right into one of them. Mainly because she’d twirled around like a 6-year-old, watching her skirts float in the air, and was not paying attention. Before she knew it, she’d almost collided with Ubbe’s chest. She stopped dead in her tracks and looked up at him, her cheeks burning from the blush she was no doubt displaying.

“Sig!” he laughed. “What has you so … spirited this evening?”

“Weeeelllll,” she answered, dragging out the word, not exactly sure what to tell him. “It was just a good day today,” she came up with, nearly breaking into giggles. She cleared her throat. “No major injuries, only scrapes and bruises.”

He gave her a look that said he wasn’t quite so sure he believed her. “Mmhmm.”

She then put on her best charming grin, as she was still feeling giddy. “And today is the first day that I walked through Kattegat and knew all the twists and turns, knew all the pathways and corners. It had changed so much, that when I got back, it felt like a completely new place. But now it feels like home again. Finally.”  

He nodded and smiled as if he believed her this time. “That is good, Sig. I am expected at the Great Hall, but Ivar is just inside.” He then bent his head and spoke lower. “And I will make sure to keep Sigurd and myself away well into the night. To give you plenty of time,” he said with a wink.

She blinked rapidly. “Um.”

He only bowed slightly to bid goodbye, turned around, and was off and around the corner before she could return the sentiment.

Sig then rolled back her shoulders, straightened her spine and walked into their entranceway, not sure what she was going to find once inside. Turned out, he was in his room, sitting on the edge of his bed, fully clothed, save for his boots and braces he always wore on his wrists and forearms.

She saw him take a deep breath of relief, as he fought to keep any emotion off his face. He had been trying to prepare himself for disappointment, had expected it even, and was trying to put on the air of someone who would not be bothered by it.

“I was not sure you would come,” he said, his tone reserved.

She walked further into the room. “Have I ever not done a thing I said I would do?”

He shook his head, looking down. “No. But why did you leave so quickly? It is a thing you like to do.”

Sig gave a slight shrug. “Sometimes moments become too big for me, and I need time to let them be, I suppose. Ubbe walking in on us. It was abrupt, and the moment grew much too fast.”

He nodded, though still seemed skeptical. “And how is the moment now?”

She arched her brow. “I do not know, I suppose we shall see.”

He tilted his head and held out his hand. “Come here, I want to undress you.”

Sig was amused by his challenging gaze. “What ... now? You do not even offer a girl a drink first?”

“Why wait?”

“Do you know how to undress a woman?” she asked, as she walked towards him and set her bag down.

“I am about to find out,” he replied, as his eyes roamed over her figure.

She couldn’t help but chuckle a little, but she stepped forward and took his outstretched hand. “Why are you in such a hurry, Ivar?”

He guided her onto the bed to sit beside him. “Why do you stall?”

She shook her head. “I am not stalling. I am here, and I have no plans to be anywhere else.”

He squeezed her hand before letting it go, as his eyes wandered around her face as if he were searching for the hesitation and rejection he seemed to be expecting. But just being this near to him, sitting beside him, and knowing exactly what he wanted out of the evening, was a heady feeling, and her skin was warming in a very pleasant way. The heat was traveling down to her belly, and further between her legs.

Sig was still wearing her light cloak, as the weather had been mild that day, and his fingers gravitated to the tie at her neck. Ivar slowly untied it, and let it fall around her. He then found the buckle to the wide leather belt she wore at her waist. She shivered at the feeling of his hands on her like this, and his apparent intent on getting her quickly naked. When he had the belt off, she put a hand to his cheek and leaned forward to kiss him, just a brush of the lips. “Ivar, let us take our time,” she breathed.

He jerked back a bit, deciding to be hurt by her request. “Why?”

She took a breath, centering herself. Navigating around his moods took masterful finesse at times. “So you just want to fuck and get it over with? Half the fun is just in the act of getting there.”

Ivar’s face softened a bit, but his eyes remained piercing, turned dark by the language she used.

Sig needed him to tell her what was going on in his mind, but she needed to tread lightly. “Am I still allowed to ask you questions?”

He bit his lip and nodded his head, obviously nervous. She’d never seen him look so vulnerable, and for some reason, it was breaking her heart a little. She knew he expected her to flee, and so he wanted to act fast, to prove himself. And then perhaps she would stay. Really truly stay with him. 

“Have you … done this before?” She already knew the truth to that particular inquiry, but she wanted some clarity from his own mouth.

He frowned. “Why? Does it seem as if I haven’t?”

She gave him a soft smile, proceeding with caution, and wanting to instill confidence. “Not at all. We moved very well together. And you certainly know how to kiss a girl breathless. I am just curious. If a girl is to be the first, she wants to make sure that the man will always remember it.”

Ivar stared at her with wide eyes for several seconds before giving her an answer. “I have … not,” he said, finally. He then rubbed at his eyes and looked down at the floor. “Or not … everything, at least.”

Sig couldn’t help but smirk. “Everything? Everything certianly emcompasses a whole host of activities.”

He couldn’t help but grin in spite himself, and for the first time since she walked in the room, he seemed to relax a bit. “And you have experience of all these activities?”

She laughed. “Oh, no. Certainly not all.”

Ivar narrowed his eyes. “So … have you?”

She wondered for a moment if she should lie to him, as he seemed to have a penchant for possessiveness, but opted to be honest with him, as she was a believer in being truthful with lovers, as it resulted in the best kind of sex. “I have, but … not with many. I am very particular.”

“Particular … how?”

Sig shrugged. “It is one thing to simply be allured by someone’s body, but I have found that for me … I must also be enchanted by their mind. Or at the very least, to be able to hold a conversation beyond, ‘how is the weather’.”

“Oh,” he said, his eyes looking off into memory, perhaps thinking back to his time with Margrethe. Sig didn’t exactly think he’d been attracted to her mind and wondered if they’d even talked, before they were supposed to have sex. She even wondered if he was attracted to her body in the first place, or if he simply just wanted what his brothers had, to be a part of the family. It was what Lagertha had confided to her during their first meeting.

She reached up to run her fingers through his hair, and he closed his eyes. It had gotten longer in the weeks she’d known him, and she loved the silky feel of it. “This is why we should go a little slower. A woman needs time to be ready, and so does a man. Last night… we’d already had hours to become comfortable with each other, before … well, you know. You were there.”

He opened his eyes. “Last night was … unexpected.”

“A good … unexpected?”

He nodded, his face, his emotions now completely open to her.

Sig put a hand over his, figuring it was time to move things along. “Lie down.”

Ivar inclined his head. “Shouldn’t I be telling you these things?”

“There is no ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’, there is just what we’re both comfortable with, and we are going to start with me giving you a massage as always. Now, on your stomach.”

He raised a brow. “What are you thinking of doing to me, woman?”

She laughed. “I am only going to massage your lower spine, as I have mentioned before.”

Sig then reached over and tugged on the hem of his shirt, pulling it up. He got the hint, reached back, and pulled it over his head. It was the first time she’d seen his naked chest, in real life anyway, and she had to take a moment to admire the sight of it. His muscular shoulders, the veins of his forearms, the smooth and radiant skin of his upper body.

He could see that she liked what she was looking at, and liked it very much. It seemed to make him relax even more. He gave her a smirk. “Am I the only one to take something off?”

“But you have already taken off my cloak and belt, Ivar,” she teased. “Here. I shall also take off my boots.” Sig reached down to pull them off, taking her knife out of the special place she hid in one of them.

Ivar reached over and took it from her.

“Why do you like my knife so much?”

He flipped it around in his hand as usual. “I am just holding it while you take off something else.”

She smiled slowly. “Alright.”

Sig untied the apron part of her dress at the sides while he watched. When she lifted it over her head and let it fall to the floor, she was left only in her white underdress, which was a bit sheer. Through the candlelight, she was sure he could see the outline of her body underneath. He was staring at her with darkened eyes. “Are you sure we cannot start now?”

“We are. Now, on your stomach.”

Ivar rolled his eyes but did as she requested, lying down and resting his head on his crossed arms. “There will come a day when I will be the one giving the orders.”

“I look forward to it,” she said, as she hiked her dress up around her thighs and straddled him. She reached over to the bedside table for her massage oil, and poured out several drops directly onto the skin of his lower back. He jumped slightly at the sensation, and she began to rub it into his skin, warming it.

He gave a contented sigh. “Just the scent of that oil … it is you. I smell it now and all I want to do is pin you to this bed.”

Her whole body hummed, overcome by what he’d said. She slid her hands up his spine and to his shoulders, as she had a need touch him everywhere. “Mmm. That oil is my favorite,” she mused. 

“Why?”

“It reminds me of the mists, of where I learned so much, where I found who I really am.”

“Why did you not stay?”

“It has all but disappeared. But it was never my home … and nothing lasts forever.”

“Perhaps some things do.”

“Perhaps.”

Sig slid her hands back down and began to knead the muscles of his lower back, working him, trying to relax him and make him pliant, his skin shining with oil in the candlelight. She could tell he was enjoying himself by his soft and low sounds of pleasure.

She thought it might be the perfect time to pry just a little. He certainly never shied from it, after all. “Tell me about this almost-first time of yours, Ivar.”

He gave a heavy sigh and did not speak for several moments. “It was a servant girl,” he answered, finally. “The whole thing, it was a disaster. I thought I knew what I wanted. But when I was there, finally in that moment ... nothing felt right, like it had all been staged. And I couldn’t …” he trailed off.

“Become ready?” she finished for him.

“I thought I could not satisfy a woman,” he said, almost too low to hear. “Until you.”

“Hm. Satisfy a woman, you say? Tell me, can you do this?” she asked. He twisted around to look at her and she showed him two of her fingers, glistening with oil, and curled them in a “come hither” motion.

Ivar nodded, intrigued.

“And you most certainly can use your tongue … therefore, you can satisfy a woman, most thoroughly. And those are quite satisfying moments, as they are all for her.”

He gave a soft laugh. “This magic you work on me, is that what you called the ‘feminine arts’ before?”

“Magic?” she asked, coyly. “What magic?”

“As I said that first day you came here, you are funny. The most funny woman I have known. You have me here, making me feel things I have never felt. Telling you things I have never meant to say. You melt away the anger inside of me with your hands, and you deny that what you do is magic?”

Sig couldn’t help but grin like an idiot. “If that is the case, Ivar, then you are also quite the practitioner of magic.”

“Hn. You did not answer my question.”

She sighed. “So many questions, Ivar ... but alright. I did learn the feminine arts from a priestess, where priestesses would advise ladies on such matters, as sex was a revered part of their religion. They would perform the act of the sacred marriage with her chosen consort. They would take on the face of the goddess and the god during rituals such as the spring rites. Make love among the bonfires. And then everyone would follow suit well into the night.”  

“You took part in this?”

Again, Sig wondered if she should be honest. “My first year there, I could have, but I was too young, I suppose, too scared. I did not know anyone well enough. But after some time … yes.”

Ivar all of a sudden deftly flipped over beneath her, startling her. She looked down and saw her knife, which he still held, resting right between her breasts.

She put her hands at her sides and took a steadying breath.

He was looking at her very strangely, and she regretted telling him the truth about her past participation in the spring rites.

“You know,” he said, lowering his eyes to the blade. “I had believed that I could satisfy a woman, but that I would have to kill her to do it.”

Sig stayed perfectly still and narrowed her eyes. “Why is that?”

He looked back up at her, his pupils blown black. “The night I got that scratch on my leg, my father and I … we had to rid ourselves of our travel companions. We had to fight. It was necessary for his plan. A girl, she begged me not to kill her, said that I could have her instead. She was underneath me, willing. Eager, even. But I had to, I had to kill her. And after I pushed my knife inside of her … I had never been so hard.”

She took a deep breath, trying to dissect the situation. Was he trying to make her jealous? In his own twisted way?

“Did you want her?”

Ivar only shrugged, still holding the knife to her chest.

“It makes sense.”

He raised a brow, looking up at her with an icy stare. “Does it?”

“When are you at your most comfortable, Ivar? When are you at your most confident?”

“With a weapon in my hand,” he replied, without hesitation.

“A girl offered herself to you whilst you had a weapon in your hand, at your most confident.” She lifted her chin, showing no fear. “And … of course, battle is known to give a man a wicked cockstand. I suppose being so close to death, it is life-affirming. Exciting.”

Ivar inclined his head in question as to how she came about this knowledge, and she laughed. “I know this because I am a healer and have seen the aftermath of many battles. I hear men talk. That is all.”

His nostrils flared, and his jaw set in a firm line. “Good. I do not like thinking about you with other men.”

“You do not have to. I am here with you. Only you. And yet you are holding my own knife to my breast.” She reached a hand down between them and palmed him through his trousers. “And you are hard as a rock.”

He shuddered at the contact. “Sig.” Ivar then ran her knife down the fabric of her dress, slicing right through the material, from her chest to her navel. “You keep your knife so sharp.”

“Always.”

He finally set her knife down, grabbed the fabric at her middle, and ripped her dress open from the slice he’d made, exposing her. She gasped, her nipples hardening at the sudden contact with the cool air. Ivar made a low guttural sound at the sight of her sudden nakedness, his eyes hooded and dark. He ran his hands from her thighs to the swell of her hips, brushed across her belly, and finally to her breasts. Suddenly in a flash, he was sitting up, and his mouth took the place of his hands, his tongue swirling around a nipple.

She arched her back and moaned, her hands at the back of his head, fingers running through his hair, urging him on. “Ivar.”

He released her and sat back to look at her. “You want this?” he asked, through his heavy breathing.

“Yes,” she answered without hesitation and kissed him, while beginning to unlace the front of his trousers. Within seconds he was frantically pushing them down and out of the way. With his cock free, she reached down and brushed her fingers across the soft and silky skin that she found there. He groaned into her mouth as she teased for a bit, but when she finally gripped him and gave him a firm stroke, with her hand still coated with massage oil, he broke their kiss and fell back onto the bed, his eyes rolling into the back of his head.

She found a rhythm with her hand while he lay panting and helpless beneath her. Sig marveled at the way his abdominal muscles were contracting, his body near convulsing, as if it didn’t quite know what to do with the pleasure it was feeling.

Ivar started grasping at her thighs. “Sig … now.” He was trying to pull her towards him, and the way he said her name with such desperation, made her want to sink right down onto his rather impressive erection.

“Shhhh,” she whispered, still working him, and beginning to go a little faster. “We will get there, I promise. Just let yourself enjoy this. It is all for you.”

His neck arched and his mouth fell open as his hips began to involuntarily thrust upwards into her hand. It didn’t take long before his breathing became even more rapid, his eyes flew open in shock before they slammed shut again, and he cried out, sounding as if someone had stabbed him in the chest with a knife. Warm liquid spilled across her hand and she slowed her movements, making them softer, helping him to come down, and drawing out each tiny drop of pleasure.

Ivar reached down for her, his eyes now open and pleading. Sig shimmied out of the tatters of her dress and lie down beside him, head on his chest and his arm came around her.

“What is this magic you work on me?” he muttered.

“It is not magic,” she replied, with a grin, knowing that he was close to drifting off, as men tended to do after such a climax.

Within seconds she could hear his breathing become slower and even. His face peaceful and satisfied.

“Amateur,” she whispered with a soft chuckle, before letting sleep claim her as well.

~~::::::...::::::~~


Chapter Text

~~::::::...::::::~~


 

The dream had shifted. She didn't wake up panting from visions of Ivar exploring her body with the hunger of a novice and yet the expertise of someone who was a very quick study, a natural. Perhaps this was because Ivar was already there beside her … she knew this somewhere in her mind.

It was dark save for an autumn fire burning, but as to where she was, she didn't know. She only looked up to see countless stars. Then she saw him out of the corner of her eye. He walked up to her with a grin, appearing in the light of the fire. For the first time in these visions, his face wasn't covered in woad, though the ornate blue pigment was still woven in intricate designs around his arms and upper body. And this time, he did not disappear after only a few seconds ... as she tried to hold onto everything, such as the exact color of his eyes.

This time he remained still. And his eyes were the green she'd come to love, with little flecks of blue and gold.

It all felt terribly off. "Why do you come to me like this now? Is this a torment?"

He shook his head, red hair falling in his eyes. "Never, my north woman. Everything is as it should be."

She closed her eyes and sighed. His voice. Sig had lately found that she could barely recall his voice and then there it was, clear as day. A deep baritone that almost felt like silk over her skin. 

"Is it? As it should be?"

He nodded. "There has been a shift. It is their time now, and above that … it is his time."

"Why are you the one telling me this?"

"Who else would you believe?"

He was comforting and familiar, like an old favorite winter fur that brushes over your skin after a whole season without it.

"Sigyn. Sig. My beautiful and fierce north woman. You must wake up. Temper the omen. Show them how powerful you are."

She nearly started to weep over the endearment she hadn't heard in what felt like ages. "I do not know if I want to wake up."

"You must. It is also your time now. Wake up."

"Sig … wake up."

She frowned, her eyes still closed. She was in a nice warm bed and had absolutely no desire to wake from the spell she was under, lying beneath one of Ivar's light furs, his skin right next to hers.

"Brother."

There was sudden movement next to her and she could feel Ivar shooting straight up in bed. "Ubbe. Get. Out."

When she realized that other people were in the room, she reached down to make sure her front was covered, shielding her breasts as she slowly stirred, squinting, her eyes adjusting to the light and her mind adjusting to a new awareness.

"Ivar, she is needed," Ubbe persisted. "Two of ours … they are gravely injured. Sig, will you come with me to the old healer's?"

"What ...?"

"No! Let the old man deal with it."

"Then they are sure to perish!"

She was still trying to become somewhat alert, as she was still very groggy from being awoken and pulled out of a vision, having felt as if she'd been sedated. Sig blinked and noticed that Margrethe was also in the room, just behind Ubbe. The girl stepped aside and reached her hand out. "It is alright now, you can come with us."

Sig's face contorted in confusion, as she didn't know what in the world was happening. She glanced at her side to see Ivar look simultaneously angry, hurt, and shamed, and she realized what was happening. Margrethe had assumed that Sig had been forced or coerced into the bed with Ivar somehow, to be put into such a position with him, and would jump at the chance to be rescued, no matter the circumstances. She took a moment to observe their positions in the bed, and while he was in the middle of it and sitting up, she was turned away from him, still disoriented and curling in on herself, shielding her body. When she focused on Ivar's face, she knew that Margrethe's presence there had instantly leeched away the confidence inside of him that Sig had worked so hard to build over time. Old habits of self-loathing die hard after all.

She sat up and turned towards Ivar, snaking her arm across his abdomen and settling against his chest, in order to show that she very much wanted to be there. She felt him jump for a second in surprise, but then relax a bit, though she couldn't see what his face was doing. "Forgive me," Sig said, still trying to find her voice. "But will the two of you wait outside of this room for a moment? I am afraid that we exhausted ourselves earlier and need just a second or two to recover."

Ubbe looked down at her, obviously panicked. "We do not have a second!"

Sig narrowed her eyes, becoming irritated at the whole situation. "I am not about to rise from this bed at your command. It may be customary among your family for a naked woman to be a prize or an object to show off or to dictate where she goes, but I will succumb to no such tradition by any of you. I fully realize that you need my help and I am prepared to give it to you, but I am currently indisposed, as quite frankly, my dress has been torn apart. And while it was very exciting at the time, I am afraid that I will have to be creative in order to be decent. So I would appreciate it if at the very least, you would turn around."

Both Ubbe and Margrethe stood and stared for a moment while Sig looked up at Ivar to see him looking pretty damn smug.

His brother was the first to find his voice, after turning around. "Er … Margrethe, would you have something that Sig could wear?"

As Margrethe scuttled off without a word, both Ivar and Sig sat up further, now fully cognizant. "Tell me what has happened, Ubbe ... "

Ivar cut her off. "No, why cannot the old man deal with it?"

"Because, little brother," Ubbe explained." It is Erik and Stian. They were hunting and were mauled by a bear. They barely made it back alive and they do not have much time. The old man has already given up, saying it would be better to just put them out of their misery."

Sig swung her legs over the bed but still clutched the cover to her chest. "Erik and Stian. The twins? A little older than us?"

Ubbe nodded.

"I remember them." And if Sig remembered correctly, they were not exactly nice … more like bullies. To her anyway, though she wasn't sure how Ivar felt about them.

"Leave them to their fates," Ivar interjected, answering Sig's question for her.

Ubbe turned and glared at him. "You forget, brother."

"I do not forget, though what good are they to us now?"

Sig looked between the two of them, knowing there was something important underneath their talk, but it would need to be pondered at a different time.

"Ubbe, there are a few things I'll need from my infirmary. Will you get them for me and I will meet you at the old healer's?"

"Of course."

She told him exactly what she needed and he ran out of the room leaving her and Ivar alone. She felt the urge to reach out and run her fingers through his adorably mused hair, but knew that it would probably ignite something, and she had no time. 

He seemed to notice and gave her a pleading stare. "Stay."

She sighed, not in the mood to coddle him. "Ivar, Ubbe is already halfway to my infirmary, I must go."

He grabbed at the covers, balling his hands into fists. "Are we always to be interrupted. It is almost as if you welcome these intrusions."

Sig bent over, picked up Ivar's shirt and quickly pulled it over her head. "Do not be silly. There is always tonight. And the night after that. And the night after that."

"There is always now," he growled.

She gathered her apron, cloak, belt, and bag from off the ground. "There is always after. And besides, I may need you later."

Surprise flooded his features, as if the concept of needing him was a totally foreign one. "Need me?"

She shrugged. "From what it sounds like, these two boys are not long for this world. I might be in need of some comfort afterward," she winked.

He scoffed but seemed to cheer up, his eyes softening. She turned to walk out of the room when he made a sound of utter frustration. "And I am supposed to sit here while you walk away wearing nothing but my shirt … and I can see just the bottom of your glorious round ass. Do you mean to torment me like this, woman?"

"Sorry, Ivar, but you owe me an article of clothing."

"Tell me why I haven't taken you at least twenty times by now …"

"Because you fell asleep."

She then heard him throw something as it bounced off a wall, but hadn't seen what it was. She'd already ducked out in order to find Margrethe and a non-ripped underdress to throw on.

 


~~*...*~~

Sig and Margrethe ran through the lanes together in the early morning to the old healer's abode. The sun had yet to make its ascent, but its light threatened to make its inevitable appearance. Their exchange in the brother's common room had been brief, but the very recently freed slave had kindly given Sig the dress she'd been wearing, while pulling on a nightgown for herself with a long apron over it, in order to make it somewhat presentable. Sig silently pulled her clothes back together and fastened her belt, while Margrethe looked at her with questions written all over her face.

But she didn't have time for questions, as they'd already wasted enough of it as it was. When they burst through the doors of their destination, Ubbe was already there, along with Sigurd, who rushed up to her.

"I am so glad they found you," he said, grabbing her hand and taking her to the patient who seemed worse off. Sig momentarily felt a pang of guilt as it was obvious that Sigurd hadn't known where she was. She looked up at Ubbe who gave her a slight nod, communicating that he'd made sure he alone knew about what had been transpiring with Ivar. And now Margrethe, of course.

Sig had to put all of that aside for the time being, as she looked over the twin brothers she'd known as a child. Both shaking and frightened, both grunting in pain, and both very close to death. They were laid out on rickety examination tables, and the fire in the hearth was doing none of its work. Boiling no water. The owner of the infirmary having already given up. He was currently in a corner shaking his head over the whole situation, and refusing to be of much help, insulted that an unknown young woman had been summoned to question his expertise.

She bent over the first man who was a harrowing shade of blue. It seemed as if he couldn't breath and was slowly suffocating, which was the most pressing of his problems. He also had deep gashes on his neck and arms, but that could be dealt with later. Sig called over to the old healer as she examined the patient. "Would you be so kind as to give me an idea of what I am up against? You have been with them longer than I."

He only scoffed at her. "Take them to your place, they are dead men. I do not want them here to clean up after."

Ubbe stepped forward. "We are not moving them," he stated with authority. "Now tell her what she wants to know."

The old man sighed and pointed to the man she was examining. "This one is drowning in his own fluids. He does not have long. And the other has succumbed to fever, his guts hanging out of his belly. It is useless."

Ubbe slammed his hand against a table. "They carried each other back home like this, at the very least, you could try and not talk about them as if they are already dead!"

Sig wasn't interested in their arguments and only opened her case to get started. "Will someone at least clean him up please?" she pointed to the man she was not currently inspecting. Margrethe instantly stepped forward. "Try to make him as comfortable as possible."

She put her ear to her patient's chest to listen to his lungs and realized what was happening ... the old man had been wrong. She stood up and gave the patient a soft smile. "Am I speaking with Erik or Stian?"

His eyes held much fear but they softened slightly. "St- … st-"

She put her fingers to his lips. "Stian. It is alright."

She walked over to her case and pulled out a very long needle and held it in the fire for a moment before wiping it off with a clean cloth. "Hold him."

"What are you going to do to him?" Ubbe asked, putting his hands on Stian's shoulders to stabilize him. Sigurd then took hold of his ankles. 

To everyone else, it must have looked as if she were about to stab him and put him out of his misery like the old healer had suggested, but she needed to create relief for the man if he was to breath, to release the pressure around his lungs, collapsed from trauma.

"I am going to help him to breathe." 

She felt for a moment, between his ribs for the perfect spot, half using her knowledge, half using intuition, and held the needle to his skin. She silently asked the gods for her aim to be true. But before she pierced his skin, she saw Ivar crawl through the door out of the corner of her eye, as apparently he needed to see the show. She turned to look at him for a moment, at his shock at finding her with a giant needle to a man's chest, but then put her attention back on her patient. She could not let any distraction potentially ruin her focus. She gave Stian a nod and forced the needle inside of him in one fluid motion.

As the pressure around his lungs was released, and she brought the needle out, Stian took an immediate and loud gasping breath and then several more. "Someone hold this cloth to him, while I tend to his brother ... and let me know if he worsens."

She then stepped over to Erik who was shivering violently, even though he was nearest to the fire. He'd lost too much blood and infection had set into his wounds. Sig knew that she could not save him, but what worried her was his fear. He did not want to die and was filled with horror. Succumbing to such an injury was a torture, as it was long and drawn out. In battle, a Viking could achieve a quick and glorious death, but one that happened over days in delirium and pain, it could shake the soul, crippling fear setting in, making the journey to Valhalla treacherous.

Sig bent over him. "Eir," he whispered through chattering teeth. He was apparently delirious, thinking that he was looking upon one of the Aesir.

She put a cooling hand to his forehead. "Yes. She is here."

Sig brought up her leather case of precious oils, herbs, and tinctures, marked in a language only she understood, just as she'd once been instructed. She took out her poppy syrup and prepared a mixture for Erik to drink, but before giving it to him, she added a few drops from another bottle, yellow jasmine. It would numb his pain, ease his transition, and bring about euphoria, without totally altering his state of mind.

"Drink this," she instructed, as Margrethe helped to lift his head in order to let him swallow the medicine down.

She smoothed his brown hair back and looked into his terrified eyes. "It is alright. I will help you. You will not make this journey alone," she whispered as she stroked his cheek. Sig then looked down his body, noting the deep gash at his abdomen, which had caused infection to set in so quickly, one at around his femoral artery, and several smaller ones on his chest. She reached down and untied the tourniquet that someone had wrapped around his upper thigh. Erik seemed to catch onto what she was doing and started to tremble. "No … no, no."

Everyone in the room watched solemnly, as they knew what was about to happen.

Sig put a finger to his lips. "Shh. I told you, I will help you. Now, let the medicine calm you."

Erik only shook his head, though his movements were now becoming less severe, the chattering of his teeth easing up.

She took a deep breath and prepared herself, as she knew what she was about to do was dangerous and she wasn't sure for how long it would affect her. Sig didn't quite know why she was doing it, but her vision that night had instructed her to show how powerful she could be, and she was inclined to do as she'd been told, given who had been sent to give her the message. Though showing power could also reveal weakness, as using her gifts sometimes came with a price, and she hoped that her use of her power in the end, wouldn't be too crippling. 

Sig leaned over and brushed his hair behind his ears. She wanted his last touches in this world to be tender and calming, so she prayed to Eir to guide her hands, to give them all the comfort of a mother caring for her child. She hadn't been exactly fond of this boy as a child, but she didn't know him as a man … perhaps he had changed. "Look at me," she whispered.

He blinked several times and held her gaze, revealing to her the bone-chilling fear he held. His eyes were steel blue, with flecks of gold, and she mourned at the thought of how some lucky woman would have loved to become lost in them. She searched further and found this to be true … as he'd so longed to be loved. He would have been true, and there was still so much that he'd wanted to experience. He'd spent the past several years raiding and fighting, becoming a man. Now, he felt as if he'd wasted some of that precious time. He wished instead that he'd simply gone where his heart wanted to take him, instead of only doing what was expected of him. He wanted a farm. He wanted to cultivate things instead of just taking them by force. He wanted a wife … children. He wanted to hear their laughter. He desperately wanted so much more.

She smiled, tears in her eyes, knowing that the boy she'd known had in fact changed, and that the gods were taking a good man. "In the next life, you will have these things you want," she conveyed, but not out loud, instead brushing the message inside of his mind.

He nodded, believing her, and his face relaxed, the medicine taking its hold, as well as his acceptance.

As she continued to stare in his eyes, she breathed in deep, feeling the fear in him drain, becoming less and less, until all he knew was peace. He now knew that he had nothing to be afraid of, and had never needed to fear anything in the first place. In his last moments, he realized an absolute truth. That whatever happened in this world merely happened, and holding onto fear or worry never changed a damn thing … it had only made certain things worse or unbearable. It brought about suffering and pain. He would fear no more. 

Erik's face, which before had been contorted in pain and terror, was now peaceful, almost euphoric, as he began to let go. Sig put one hand over his mouth, and another over his nose, still looking in his eyes the whole time. She watched as the life evaporated from his body and finally closed his eyes for him.

When she removed her hands and stood straight, she began to feel it, the darkness, but tried to bury it for at least a little while. Everyone in the room was staring at her, including Ivar, who was now seated in a chair next to Stian.

Sig turned around. "I am sorry," she said to the brother.

He was breathing now, color coming back into his skin, but still in a lot of pain. He nodded, looking at her in what could only be described as awe. He'd known his brother would perish and thought that he was sure to meet his end as well. He'd also known his brother was terrified, but had passed on to Valhalla peacefully. He was happy for him, as he'd soon be dining with the gods and their ancestors, instead of clinging to the Earth as a lost soul in fear.

Sig looked up at Ubbe. "Move Stian to my infirmary, he doesn't need to be here."

He nodded, his stare unreadable, as if he were in a daze. 

She then looked to Margrethe, who had actually shown herself to be an excellent assistant. "Please tend to his wounds for me, making sure to only use things purified by fire or in boiling water first … infection and fever can still set in. And make sure to give him willow bark tea ... and poppy syrup if he needs it, but not too much." She then took two bottles from her leather case, and gave them to the girl.

Margrethe silently took them and nodded.

"Thank you. I am sorry, but I need some time …" her breath cut off, and she could feel it deep in her gut. Fear. Terror. Sadness.

She held a hand to her stomach for a moment. "I need to …" Sig then doubled over as anguish and sorrow rushed through her, as if a dam had been broken.

"Sig!" Both Sigurd and Ivar shouted her name, reaching for her, though Ivar could not get far in his chair.

It didn't matter. She couldn't hold on for any longer. She collapsed, curling into a fetal position, tears beginning to flow down her cheeks.

In an instant, Sigurd was on the floor by her side, looking over her, panicked. "What has happened? What is wrong?"

Sig could only shake her head and continue to cry, her whole world now filled with despair.

He began to pick her up, but Ivar was right behind him. "Do not touch her!"

Sigurd looked at his brother in confusion. "Why? She is my friend, and I am taking her back to her rooms."

"No!"

Ubbe stepped in, looking down at Ivar. "Something is very wrong ... do you really want her to stay here, little brother? With this healer?"

Ivar only growled in frustration, rage boiling inside of him, that he couldn't do a thing as simple as carry her out of there himself.

"I will take her," Ubbe decided, bending down.

"Why?" Sigurd looked between his two brothers, perplexed.

"Stop!" Sig cried, and tried to get up herself. She only tripped and fell back to the floor, scraping her knee, her weeping becoming even more intense.

Finally, Sigurd had had enough and scooped her up. He walked her out of the old healer's place without looking back and without caring what his brothers thought.

"Thank … you," she managed to say between hiccups, as her crying never ceased.

 


~~*...*~~

Her dreams were not dreams … or visions. They were nightmares. Somewhere deep in her subconscious, she could hear a voice telling her that nothing she was experiencing at the moment was true, but she could not believe it. Despair was everywhere. Death and destruction at the hands of men … it would be the end of everyone. Everything in this beautiful world, they would destroy. For generations upon generations. 

She could feel a cool cloth on her head and opened an eye to find Lagertha sitting beside her bed. The queen was dressed informally, wearing trousers and a roomy tunic, her hair loose and unbraided.

Sig sighed in relief. "My queen."

"Shhh. Right now I am only Lagertha."

She blinked and fully opened her eyes, seeing that it was now nighttime. "How long have I been asleep?"

"Two days. You have either been delirious or in the midst of nightmares. What happened to you?"

Fresh tears began to run down Sig's face. "The man that died … from the bear attack. I took his fear."

Lagertha frowned, confused. "You took his fear?"

She nodded. "So that he could have a peaceful death. I took his fear … but it had to go somewhere, the emotions were much too strong, so I took them into myself."

"But why would you do such a thing? You didn't know him well."

Sig wasn't exactly sure herself, but she tried to explain. "He was lying there so close to death, so afraid, and I didn't see a grown man, but a scared little boy. His journey would have been treacherous, his soul unready. I had the power to ease his transition, so I did it."

Lagertha nodded, now having a deeper understanding of the young woman's power. "And you also saved his brother's life. How do you feel now?"

Sig closed her eyes. "As if I will never be happy again."

"That is not true."

"I know. It is a false feeling, but that does not make it seem any less real in this moment. I have done this before, but never for someone so frightened and in pain. I underestimated the effect this would have on me."

The queen looked on her with concern. "What can I do to help?"

New tears welled up in her eyes. "It just has to fade. Or …"

"What?"

"No … there is no one." She thought of her lost love, who had brought her back a time or two, with his touch, guiding her back down to Earth and into a body she recognized, making her remember what pleasure felt like, and melting away all negativity with his hands and lips.

Who could do this for her now … Ivar? He was much too wrapped up in his own story to care about anyone else's. Much too impatient. Much too quick to anger or to take offense. He could offer her nothing in the way of peace, even though she'd been killing herself to bring it to him. She all of a sudden felt foolish for letting their dalliance become so one-sided. All she did was give … and receive nothing in return. She had been walking around on egg shells for him … healing him, practicing the feminine arts, jumping through hoops as if in some deranged game. Navigating his moods. She was exhausted.

And for what?

What kind of future could she even have with Ivar? The only thing his mind was set on was revenge, nothing else. She had made the decision awhile ago not to think of her future in conjunction with men like him. Men who fought for various reasons ... for their gods, for fame, glory, fortune, vengeance. Men like that fought bravely, to be sure, but eventually, men like that did not come home. They were warriors, soldiers. They fought. They died.  

She would not continue to stand on the docks and watch a man sail to glory ... only to not return home. 

Ivar was surely such a man. And in the process of becoming wrapped up with him, she could potentially hurt Sigurd.

Sigurd. If only she could love Sigurd. But she knew that she could not. If only she could cut off the strange primal attraction and pull to Ivar, she wouldn't have to hurt her oldest friend in the world. 

Sig began to weep again, putting her hands to her temples, trying desperately to cut off her thoughts.

Lagertha's cool cloth was back on her forehead. "Are you sure there is no one who could help you?"

Sig shook her head. "He is lost to me." She then thought of him in her vision, appearing to her as she lie in a bed with Ivar, and she felt untrue. Adulterous.

"And what of Ivar?"

Her eyes flew open. "What of Ivar?"

Lagertha only brushed back the hair from around her face. "You know, your spirit … it reminds me of someone I knew long ago. Practically everyone that met him, fell in love with him. He did not even mean for them to, probably did not want it, and yet … it happened anyway. It was also his demise, I believe, as a few resented him for it."

"No," she said, trying to pull the covers up and over her head. "You are mistaken. No one loves me. The only ones to ever truly love me are gone."

"Sig." Lagertha kept her from hiding her face. "You are still letting this false sadness overtake you. Do not let it."

She shook her head. "No, it is true. No one loves me anymore. They are either dead or so far away that I will never see them again in this life."

"If no one loves you, then why has Ivar been sitting outside your door for two days? He watches everything. When Sigurd brought you here, he was not far behind, demanding that you not be touched. And then came Ubbe. My shieldmaidens had to throw them out, in order to give you some air. I would not have them upsetting you further, as you were beside yourself. It took six ladies to get them to relent, and Ivar nearly took off one of their legs."

The story only made Sig cry more. "I am so very sorry. I am not worth this trouble."

Lagertha gave her a genuine sweet smile. "Oh, but I think that you are. And I am sure that Ivar wants to kill me even more, now that I have kept him away from you. But I was not about to let him in here without knowing how you felt about it. Or Sigurd, for that matter. He also comes by."

"It is best that I see neither of them."

"Sig … how long until this melancholy fog that has got hold of you passes?"

"I do not know."

"Can you still see in this state? Do you still have your visions?"

Tears continued to fall. "I only see death and destruction at the hands of men. We women would be smart to rid the world of them."

"All men?"

"Most of them, as they are either just useless or destructive, with inflated views of themselves and of their importance."

Lagertha looked as if she couldn't decide if she was proud or amused. Perhaps a little bit of both.

"I believe it is time for you to get some more sleep, and when the sun rises tomorrow, perhaps your thoughts on men may be tempered."

Temper.

His words from her vision then came back to her. You must wake up. Temper the omen. Show them how powerful you are. 

She tried to fight through the despair.

"I have seen something, Lagertha," Sig informed, trying to sit up. "The bear attack, it was an omen. I tried to temper it, as it could have been so much worse ... but he is coming. Bjorn knows that his father is dead, and he's coming, but with him, also comes a great anger swelling inside of him."

The queen sat back, alert. "When will he come?"

Sig shook her head. "I cannot see straight. Within a day, or a few days, possibly. And if Ivar and Ubbe go forward with some sort of plan for their revenge, Bjorn will slaughter them, and it will cause a great division. If Ragnar is to be avenged, everyone must be together. It is either all … or none. One cannot claim victory without the other. Even you … you must be here to protect Kattegat while they are gone to England. Everyone has a role to play, and if even one piece in the game is missing, all will fail."

Lagertha took a deep breath. "Then we must hold them off." The queen then leaned forward, narrowed her eyes, and lowered her voice. "I made you a promise when I first met you, and I will not go back on that promise, as you mean so much more to me now. I will not make you sleep with a son of Ragnar … but, my young friend, is there not a way in which you could distract one?"

"I am sorry," Sig cried, shaking her head back and forth. "But I am of use to no one right now. I am so sorry."

"Shhh." Lagertha's face softened and she went back to stroking Sig's hair, her voice soothing in a way that a mother is to her sick daughter. "You do not know how powerful you are, do you. Either that, or you will not accept it. Will not accept your beauty or your spirit. Rest, now. All will be well. And I know this because I have you here with me. As it was with my old friend, this world is better because you are in it."

Sig tried to believe Lagertha's kind words as she drifted off to sleep, but the only thing she could think about, was how much she wanted to down her whole bottle of poppy syrup, and only regretted that she'd left it in Margrethe's possession.

 


~~*...*~~

For the first time, there were no dreams, there was nothing, only emptiness.

Her eyes fluttered open to find candlelight. A lot of candlelight.

"Sig."

She shot up and squinted towards the voice to see Ivar sitting in the chair that Lagertha had occupied only hours before. He looked as if he hadn't slept in days, yet somehow, still beautiful and painfully alluring. At that moment, she hated him for it. 

"What are you doing here?" she asked, her voice coming out as a raspy whisper from not using it in quite some time.

He took a moment to speak, only staring at her. "There is mead for you on the table," he said, finally. 

Sig looked over, beside the bed, and sure enough there was a glass waiting for her. She immediately snatched it up and drank, as she was thoroughly parched. It was cool and sweet, almost making her forget that everything in the world was useless, as mead certainly was wonderful. When she'd drank about half the cup, she set it back down. "Thank you," she said, quietly.

"What did you tell Lagertha?"

Sig fell back onto her pillow, already exhausted with Ivar and his questions, and he'd only asked just the one. "Regarding what?" she muttered, with no inflection in her voice.

"After she left earlier, she took her guards with her. There was no longer a shieldmaiden outside your door."

She shrugged. "The queen must have come to the conclusion that I now have my wits about me. Or at least one or two."

"What happened to you?" he asked, sitting forward, with something not unlike worry in his voice. 

Sig felt as if she'd cried every single drop that she could, that her body was now completely dry as a desert … and yet a few tears managed to fall. She must have looked dreadful, with red and swollen eyes, though it seemed as if Lagertha's ladies had taken care of her, as her hair had been softly plaited and out of her face, and she was wearing clean and comfortable sleeping clothes. She turned to face him, lying on her side, and drew her knees to her chest, shivering at just the thought of what she had done.

"I swallowed fear and death."

He did not look surprised, but intrigued. "Erik's?"

She nodded. "I took his fear … but I did not know how deep it went."

"And now?"

"Now I feel as if this whole existence of mine is pointless and so is talking about it."

Ivar leaned forward, his gaze intense. "I watched you stab a man, plunge one of the biggest needles I've ever seen into his chest, and bring him back to life. I watched you give another man a death that looked as if he took pleasure in … how can you say this about yourself?"

Sig shook her head, unable to hear his words. "Ivar, what are you doing here?"

He looked on for a moment, anger and hurt flashing over his face, but he seemed determined to push through it. "When you were in my room," he explained. "Before leaving to tend to them, you said that you might need my help after … and I am here."

She gave a bitter laugh. "No one can help me."

He suddenly hoisted himself up by his arms and transferred his body from the chair to the side of her bed. She would have marveled at the strength in his upper body if she cared about such things at the moment. Ivar then put his hand to her cheek in a movement so tender, she barely believed it was really him. Perhaps he was only a specter again, a figment of her imagination. "You ... are mine … and yet I could not even carry you here, like a man should be able to carry his woman. If there is a way that I can help you ... let me."

Sig closed her eyes as more fresh tears fell. In truth, she knew that if she could feel anything good, a part of her would love to be called "his". Probably the foolish part that had her picking wildflowers and plucking off petals days before, but nonetheless, she knew her stomach should be doing at least one somersault. But in this moment, all she felt was bitterness.

"I belong to no one. I belong to no man. I belong nowhere. I am nothing. I am sorry, but I cannot tell you how to help me, in order to feel more like a man."

Ivar sat back as if she'd slapped him. He clenched his jaw, yet still, he pushed through the anger. "Is this Sig talking to me right now, or someone else? This is not you. It cannot be."

She laughed, though there was no mirth in it. "You are so sure you know me? Maybe you do, o' perceptive one. It matters not. I feel as if my soul is outside of my body, so I do not know. Perhaps it is not me talking, but instead some shadow. And the only way to bring me back to myself … I don't …"

"Anything," he interrupted. "Tell me. You have spent these many weeks healing me, enduring me … let me try and do the same."

She didn't know if the two of them were quite there yet. If Ivar could be trusted. Or even if she wanted him to do it, in her state of mind. He noticed her hesitation.

"Please," he whispered, almost too soft to hear. It was more as if she read his lips. And there was a part of her that wanted to kiss them. Perhaps it was the real part of her, perhaps not.

But there was something in his eyes that killed her, and she was too weak to resist. Ivar allowing himself to even be slightly vulnerable around her, was her undoing, even in the state she was in. And she was a damn fool.

"Very well, Ivar," she sighed, defeated.

He breathed a sigh of relief. "And? What is it?" he asked, impatiently.

She blinked up at him, almost feeling pleasure from the thought of what she was about to reveal to him. "I need you to ground me, bring me back into my body … I need you to kiss every inch of it."

His mouth formed the beginning of a word but nothing came out.

The fact that she'd rendered him speechless sparked something in her, just the tiniest of flames. 

"I need you to make me remember what it is like to feel good," she continued, her voice low and smooth. "I need you ... to make me come."

His eyes darkened as his breathing became heavier. It took him several seconds to speak. "I will do this duty. I will be what you need," he proclaimed, as if it were a vow to the gods and he was seated at their altar.

The last thing she saw after he pulled his shirt up and over his head, was a fiendish grin, before he set his lips to her skin and she closed her eyes, remembering what it was like to feel.

~~::::::...::::::~~


Chapter Text

~~::::::...::::::~~


 

She watched him as he dropped his shirt to the floor. He was excited, could not keep the subtle feral grin off of his face. It was what he wanted, but he was doing this for her, and somewhere deep down she realized the weight of it, but she couldn't really feel it. His skin was golden in the candlelight, unblemished and practically glowing, shadows dancing across the planes of his chest as he moved.

Ivar bent down and planted a light kiss on Sig's collarbone, where her sleeping tunic opened in a rather deep "V". She closed her eyes, the contact of his warm lips to her body, shaken and cold from fear and death, a precious balm. He traveled further down and for a moment her mind wandered, as the thought of whether or not Lagertha had been somewhat devious, ran through her head. She wondered if the queen had set this whole thing up, from having her ladies dress her in comfortable yet rather revealing bed attire, to calling off the shieldmaidens at her door, knowing that Ivar would be watching. Could it be possible? Sig had confided in the queen the way in which she could be helped, after all. But was it because she really wanted to heal her? Or because she needed her sight …

Ivar sat up, noticing her distraction. "What is wrong?" he asked, frowning.

She blinked her eyes open. He was naked from the waist up, above her, just like she'd fantasized about, had seen in her visions … and while she could appreciate the picture that his well-made and muscled torso brought, she was also already exhausted at the thought of having to talk him through his insecurities for the entirety the endeavor.

"What is wrong …" she repeated. "I do not know how to answer that. I suppose what is wrong, is that I recklessly swallowed fear and death, and feel as if I will never have good dreams again, only nightmares."

She reached up and brushed her fingers over the ridges of his abdominal muscles, and she could feel him shiver at her touch. Sig couldn't help but give him a little smile. He tried to act so hard much of the time, but just one caress, one tiny bit of affection, could send gooseflesh across his body. "I know that what I see before me is beautiful," she tried to explain, while being rather blunt. "I have thought about you being on top of me many … many times. But I also feel so hollow right now. I suppose what the real question is … can you persevere, Ivar?"

He narrowed his eyes at her challenging tone. "Will you enjoy it?"

Something inside of her began to melt at the knowledge that her pleasure mattered to him. "Of course," she answered, raising a brow. "But I never said it would be easy."

Ivar's lips twitched into a grin, which surprised her. "I never expected it to be." His fingers traced along the hem of her shirt. "I can touch you? See you?"

"Yes," she said, dryly. "How else do you suppose this could happen?"

"Hn. I see you already beginning to come back to me," he said, tilting his head. "My funny Sig, the clever one." He then started to inch the fabric of her sleeping tunic up, until it was bunched up just below her breasts. "You know," he mused, as he bent down to give her light kisses on her upper stomach, "two days ago, I had a naked woman in my bed for most of the night ... and somehow I feel as if I never got to look."

"Well. You were asleep for most of it."

He gave her a small bite, nothing too painful, but she gave surprised gasp. "Perhaps I was asleep," he continued, through more nips and kisses. "Or perhaps it was because I was beside myself. I was lost. You put your hand on my cock and I could not see any longer, I could only feel." He dragged her shirt up and over her breasts, prompting a low growl, a deep rumble from his chest. "And that is what I intend to do to you now, make you feel only me. As I finally gaze at this body … feast upon it."

Ivar ran the fingers of his right hand lightly over one breast, causing her nipples to harden instantly. He drew one into his mouth and sucked, extracting a whimper from her, and leading to a sound of satisfaction from him.

Sig looked down for a moment, finding where her tunic was bunched up at her armpits, and took it all the way off, as her skin had become heated, and she needed the relief. She needed the coolness of the air to temper it, and needed freedom from the restriction of clothing. As she saw the image of Ivar paying such earnest attention to her breasts, his hand now kneading the one his face was not buried in, she was finally thoroughly stirred. She could feel the arousal between her legs, a silky wetness developing there, and a needy ache began to form, the anticipating ache of being so empty and needing to be so filled.

Ivar spent many moments intent on every inch of her chest, as she lay there breathing in deep, trying to pay attention to every detail, in order to be present in the room and in her body. She focused on the way he let his tongue soothe a sweet sting, after giving her nipple a bite, the way his breath was warm and then suddenly cool, as it hit the parts of her skin where his mouth had just been. She was amazed at how he kept himself hovered just above her, using mainly the power in his arms, shoulders, and core. Sig was compelled to reach her hands down until she found the muscles that were working so elegantly on top of her.

Just like in her visions … 

The thought made her remember that she had the power to see, and that sometimes those visions came true. And while most of those visions were neither inherently good or bad, some could turn out to be quite profound ... and in this case, also very pleasurable. It was then that she finally gave a long and low moan, as one of his hands began to inch down her belly. Her response made him look up, and she saw his azure eyes, practically glowing in a room lit only in candlelight … yet another reminder of her visions. "You … are so very … beautiful," he whispered, before finally claiming her lips and settling beside her. She parted her mouth for him and he slid his tongue inside, brushing it over hers.

With one hand, she ran fingers through his hair, her nails skimming across his scalp … and with the other hand, she found his, still lingering at her belly … and began to guide it down further, silently conveying to him what she needed. He suddenly broke their kiss and his wide eyes searched hers, seemingly nervous and unsure. "How … should I? I do not ..."

He began to look pained, his face falling, and she did not have the patience in that moment to talk him through his insecurities or inexperience. Nor could she come this far, in beginning to feel good again, only to have him back out due to his moods, which had the unnerving ability to grow dark at the drop of a damn pin. The two of them would never recover from it, their status as fledgling paramours over before it truly began.

She brought a hand to his cheek, trying to be patient, but not in the state of mind yet where she felt the peace and security within herself in order to be truly compassionate. She hoped to come across as sincere. "Ivar. All I can tell you right now is that every woman is different. Each one of us has a map unique unto ourselves that you must navigate. It does not matter how much experience a man has. All you have to do is be perceptive. And I am not sure I have met someone who is perceptive quite like you. You have already done so well," she informed. "Please … please … keep going."

Sig could tell it was the "please" that did it. A renewed determination came over his face. He bent to brush his lips over hers. "I will," he breathed. "Tell me … the best way." He said it softly, but it was more of a command than a request, as he'd found his conviction once more in her pleading.

She gave a sigh, almost able to feel the pleasure from just the thought of it, and she rubbed her thighs together. "First … your hands, your fingers … and then your mouth, your tongue."

She could have told him to use his cock, but she would have had to take control, and in that moment, she desperately needed him to wield it. He would not be able to perceive anything other than what he was feeling, if they took this moment to have sex, especially since he'd never had it before. A woman's climax through coupling often took a little time, until two people had learned each other's bodies. She wished she could somehow explain this without seeming like an instructor teaching her student, or feeling like a wanton lady deflowering some nervous boy, but thankfully he took the damn initiative, and slid his hand down past the waist-tie of her sleeping pants. She could no longer form words anyway, as his fingers brushed past the curls between her legs, automatically prompting her to spread her thighs for him. He seemed to like that, as he felt compelled to look down, watching her submit to his touch.

Perhaps it gave him the confidence to search further, as the pads of two fingers explored, finally touching the already-swollen and heated flesh they sought. As she cried out, Ivar gasped at what he'd found. "You are .. so …"

"Yesssss," she said, panting, her neck arching. "So wet … for you …"

He looked at her, his eyes a bit shocked, his lips parted, and a darkness came over his face, as if he was warring with himself to not push his trousers down and fuck her right then and there.

"Don't stop," she pleaded, with her eyes and her words, her body unable to be still, her breathing heavy. "Please don't stop."

Ivar inclined his head, staring at her with what looked like awe. He gave one slight nod and resumed the movement of his hand, running his fingers along her, and at finding her entrance, he bit his lip and closed his eyes as he circled around it. It felt wonderful, hypnotic, but that wasn't exactly where she truly wanted him, so she writhed and tilted her hips until she forced him to stumble upon the perfect spot.

She moaned. "There," she managed to say through her panting. "Right there."

He frowned slightly in confusion, but felt the small raised spot that was driving her wild. He then pushed a little too hard and her body convulsed, tensing. Her hand instantly shot over his. "Gentle … very … sensitive …"

He nodded and tried again, this time just brushing the tip of one finger over her clit. She hummed in pleasure, her body relaxing. "Yessss. Start … like that … little circles. Then … more."

Ivar did as he was directed, picking up on the signs her body was giving him as she writhed beneath him, listening to the sounds she made, and becoming intuitive enough to dip back into the source of her wetness, and continue with his attention. He even gravitated to teasing, gliding his fingers along every fold, every tiny peak and valley, until he was able to read her map with ease. After a bit of time, his curiosity made him want to take things further, and he bore his eyes into hers, circling back around the opening to her passage.

She gave him a nod, wanting it as well, and he began to push one finger inside. Sig threw her head back, crying out at the sensation of him filling her, easing some of the ache there, only to create a new and more intense one. He hissed, watching the pleasure take hold of her, seeing it in her face. Sig then reached down, sliding thumbs beneath her sleeping pants, and pushed them down, in order to give him more freedom of movement, and also because she couldn't stand to have clothing on any longer. She wanted to be open and bare, wanted to feel everything.

His hand stilled and he groaned at her nakedness, his eyes raking across her body, now able to see what he could only feel and perceive with touch. He saw his hand between her legs and was compelled to keep going, this time slowly pulling out of her and pushing back in. As her response was again a low moan, he decided to then try two fingers, curious as to what that would bring out in her. He then curled them in the motion she'd revealed to him, days before in his room, as she'd explained he could very well satisfy a woman if he made the gesture. As he did this, Sig threw an arm over her mouth and practically screamed, her hips lifting up off the bed. Ivar moved to take her hand from her face, as he wanted to fully hear every sound she made, see every one of her features contorted in pleasure.

She was grateful for his good memory, but wanted more. "Now," she demanded. "Your tongue."

He reluctantly removed his hand, not yet skilled enough to do both. The thought ran through her head that, quite honestly, not many men were that skilled, even the experienced ones … but still, she whimpered at the loss of contact. It was a bit of a consolation however, as she witnessed him using his arms and shoulders to travel down her body, and giving her the look of a man wracked with hunger, ravenous.

At another point in time, and had she not been cut off from her real emotions as it were, she may have been apprehensive, having a man do this for the first time. What must he be thinking? Would he actually be enjoying himself in the beginning? But in that precise moment, she didn't care, she just wanted him to bring her to the brink and tip her over. She just wanted him to make her fall off a precipice and crash into the sea below, so that she could swim back up to the surface.

He paused to plant a kiss below her navel, and then just at her hip bone. It was a ticklish spot, and her muscles jumped. Ivar laughed softly under his breath. "This is all I have thought about," he said, his breath warm, brushing over her belly, "since you made me so hard that night … before Ubbe walked in." He continued to inch down slowly, and she wasn't sure if he was doing it to tease, or delaying out of nervousness.

"Gods," he continued, breathing in the scent of her skin. "Even before … it was on my mind. Ever since that first day I saw you standing in the lane, the sunlight in your hair, talking to my brothers. I wished I could give this to you. I wished it ..."

"Ivar …" Sig reached down to run fingers through his hair. She thought he might be able to bring her back with this hands and clever tongue, but she never thought that he might be able to also do so with his words.

"And you let me do this," he whispered, and she wondered if his eyes seemed a little watery. "You asked me to."

He took a moment to look at her, a woman completely at his mercy, thighs spread before him, and perhaps she would have been nervous under the scrutiny, but he had her practically shaking with need and anticipation. Finally, he lowered himself, every movement he made flowing seamlessly into the next, serpentine. He set his lips to her flesh and gave her a tentative kiss, right where she'd guided him to before. The sensation was intense, and so was her reaction, as she moaned, and about lost her mind to the feel of it. When he began to circle her clit with his wet tongue, she was sure she lost it, as she no longer thought of gently running her fingers through his hair, but instead grabbed ahold of his head and pressed him to her. He growled at her responsiveness, at the approval of what he was doing, and the vibrations from his voice only stimulating her more, and she writhed, her body convulsing around him.

As he pushed two fingers back inside of her, she knew she was at the very brink, as the energy had been building for awhile. She could feel it, starting where his tongue was gliding over her in an almost overwhelming rhythm that he'd found, and flowing up her body, prickling at her skin, over her nipples, the back of her neck, and to her fingertips. It was like lightning on the horizon signaling the thunder. It was inevitable. All it took was one more curl from his fingers and a bit more pressure from his mouth, and she was coming apart all around him, a rush of intense pleasure flowing through her, expelling the darkness, bringing her precious relief, a little death, so that she could breathe again with renewed purpose. She took that breath, long and sweet, letting the feeling wash over her skin and her heart, as she came down, euphoric, now feeling as if she were underwater, as if she could barely move a limb.

She swam back up to the surface and lazily opened her eyes to find Ivar staring up at her, trembling, intent on watching every single reaction to his touch.

"Mmmmm, Ivar. Come here," she said, as if drugged.

He obeyed, crawling up her body, searching her face. "How do you feel?"

She smiled, humming. "I feel like Sig … only, more. I cannot find words right now, Ivar, just kiss me."

He grinned and bent down, setting his lips to hers. She moaned at the feel of him, at the soft and irresistible sensation of his naked skin on hers. Sig was now able to enjoy all of it, from every single one of her senses, and the emotion of it all. She loved how they melted into each other so naturally, loved the taste of her on his lips. She loved how it seemed as if he had the ability to hover above her for hours, the strength in his upper body giving him a type of stamina she'd never experienced before. And the coordination he possessed … the thought of it made her grin against his lips, a giddy energy now bubbling to the surface.

She ran her hands down his stomach until they hit the waist of his trousers. He groaned as she undid the laces and began to slide them down and out of the way, using her feet to help her. When her fingers wrapped around his cock, he broke their kiss, gasping. She found him rock hard, wet at the tip, straining from prolonged arousal. She knew that it would be so easy to guide him inside of her, as they were both more than ready. Perhaps too ready, as she had been thoroughly satisfied, and wanted the first time they made love to be when she needed him desperately. Along with that, if they took that route now, he would have probably lasted all of three seconds, with the state he was in.

Sig looked up at him, his face slack with pleasure, as she softly stroked him. She gave him a smirk before shifting, throwing a leg over his hip, and rolling them over so that she was on top of him, straddling him. He was surprised at first, at their sudden switch in position, but then gazed at her body, her hips, her breasts, and ran his hands up her sides, as if he couldn't quite believe what he was seeing and touching.

"Thank you, Ivar," she said, genuine gratitude in her voice. It was something she was sure he wasn't quite used to, as he blinked up at her, his eyes wide and perhaps a bit stunned, his hair a mess from when she'd had her hands in it. She gave him a bemused look before bending down. "Let me see if I can repay you a little," she said in a low voice. She ducked her head until she was hovering just above his cock.

He looked wrecked, and it almost broke her heart, seeing him so laid bare beneath her. Questions were written all over his face, as he didn't seem sure about what she was doing, but he appeared frozen, unable to move or speak with much coherence. His mouth did the thing again where it began to form a word but not much came out. "Wh-"

"Shhh." She then put her lips to the tip of him, looking in his eyes the whole time. His mouth fell open in a gasp, and when she ran her tongue lightly around him, he seemed to almost jump out of his skin, unable to anticipate the kind of pleasure it would give him, and not exactly knowing what to do with it. She grinned against him as she kissed down and back up his length, relishing in the power she had over him, before taking him completely into her mouth. He gave a long and loud almost sobbing bitten-off moan, and she got more enjoyment from it than she ever thought possible. She began to move, sliding her tongue along, taking him in and trying to go a little deeper with each push. She found a rhythm, wrapping her hand around him at the base, and then really took the time to appreciate him, while being this up close and personal with him. Like his upper body, his hard cock was thick and smooth, well-made, and curved slightly towards his stomach. She wondered if he knew how perfect it actually was, or if he was under the mistaken impression that the infliction in his legs must have infected every other part of him.

Sig observed his now rapid breathing, how his hips were subtly lifting up off the bed in time with her movements, and that he'd only gotten louder, totally uninhibited in showing his pleasure. And just as she'd expected, he didn't last too much longer. It seemed as if it was only a few more moments until his hands came to her head in a warning. "Sssss…" he hissed, as he tried to say her name.

She hummed around him, trying to convey that all was well, and he couldn't hold back any longer. He came, groaning through clenched teeth, as he spilled himself down her throat. It took Ivar a little while to calm down, as his climax flowed through his body, the energy released in a rush, after having been aroused for so long while he'd paid such dedicated attention to her.

She released him and about collapsed, sprawled across his stomach, as they were both spent and satiated. After their breathing returned to normal, and they began to come back to themselves, Ivar reached down to pull her light fur up and around them.

Sig was still heated, a layer of sweat broken out all over her body, and it had over Ivar's as well. She wanted no part in furs at the moment and she stopped his hand with hers. "You do not need to do that," she said, as she knew that he only wanted to hide his legs from her.

She felt him take a deep and steadying breath, and she knew that she had started something. Sig then wished she would have just let him pull the damn covers up. "What you said before," he muttered. "About … seeing what was before you as … beautiful. Seeing … me, like that. How can you say that?"

Sig sat up and turned towards him. "Ivar," she began to answer. "I love your body."

He instantly shook his head and slammed his eyes shut. "I do not ... believe you," he said bitterly, between his teeth.

Her stomach fell and she felt a heat well up in her, as she was not about to sit there and coddle him through a mood, not after what they'd just been through, so she decided to be very direct. Sig ran a hand across his chest. "You, Ivar Lothbrok, have these muscles that give your shoulders and arms … and your stomach, such a shape, that whenever I see you, I'm always wishing I could gaze upon what was beneath your shirt. And in case no one has ever told you, you are very handsome … at times, breathtakingly so. Your legs … they do not cross my mind, at least not in the way that you fear. Do you not remember that I have seen them over and over again? Massaging them on most days for the past several weeks?"

He opened his eyes and again, they appeared watery, but he said nothing, his jaw set in a hard line.

She sighed. "I am a healer, Ivar. There are not too many bodies that affect me any longer. I can appreciate a well-made one, but I've just seen so many. All sorts. Men and women, young and old, able-bodied and crippled, it usually does not matter to me anymore. But there is a place on your body unlike anything I've seen. Here," she explained, as she ran a finger along the ridge of his hip, a deep groove drawing the eye to the hair just above his cock. "Only the most well-muscled men are able to achieve this."

She bent down to kiss the groove and inhaled the male scent of his skin as she did it, the heady feeling of it all filling her senses. His stomach muscles jumped at the contact. "Mmmm. You are intoxicating," she whispered.

He suddenly used all those muscles to sit up and flip her over, so that he was on top. Ivar looked down at her, obviously still a battle going on inside of his head. "Why?" he asked, his eyes pleading for her to make him understand, as he still didn't get it.

Sig began to become irritated, as she could only try to reassure him so much. She sat up, pushing him away, and glared at him. "Why? Let me ask you … why are you here with me?"

Ivar looked at her as if she were mad. "Are you being serious, woman? You are the most beautiful creature I have seen. And you are powerful."

His honest words sent a calming warmth down her spine. "And I see you as the same," she revealed, on the verge of tears.

He gave a bitter laugh, pushing back from her and shaking his head. "How can you! They all look at me in disgust. The one time I … she pulled back the covers and …"

At the mention of his previous dalliance with Margrethe, she wondered if he would always find a way to let the girl into bed with them, and she was already sick of it.

"Stop this, Ivar!" Sig suddenly had had enough. She had become much more than irritated, she had become furious. "Do you think that I do not know what it is like to be looked upon with disgust?"

His brow furrowed, looking all sorts of confused, as if he could never imagine such a notion. She would have perhaps loved him for it, if he hadn't angered her so.

She leaned forward and narrowed her eyes. "From childhood, to until I was able to get some sort of control over the Sight, I was ridiculed over and over, day in and day out, for paying attention to things that were not there. Things that others could not see. I am pretty sure you remember that, Ivar."

The expression on his face went from confused to guilty in a flash, as he remembered that first day he was rude to her, weeks before.

"After I left," she continued, "and traveled with my uncle, and was given a deeper understanding of what I could do … I also learned that in most places, I had to hide it. I was too different. Even the color of my hair and my eyes mark me as different to some, so I had to make sure to blend in as best as I could, so as to not call even more attention to myself. To many men, a woman who is different is to be suspect, not trusted ... is to be feared. And a man's fear usually leads to a man's hatred."

A tear escaped down her cheek, as a memory took hold of her. "I have been to the isles of Britannia, and I have seen with my own eyes what some men are capable of doing to women like me, because we disgust them. Women who are different, who are educated, who can heal, who can give other women choices over their bodies. We are heretics of the worst kind. They see us as witches, the wanton consort of their devil. The most vile of humankind. If I were to travel to England, and the Christian Saxons discovered what I was, a woman who possessed the Sight, a 'pagan' from the north … there would be no option for me to convert, only the option for me to burn. Purified of evil by fire. Women like me, in most places in this world, are not beautiful or powerful, we are an abomination."

She then shook her head, not sure if she should say it, what she'd been denying in her heart all along, but what was true nonetheless. Other men, even some Viking men, would fear her, if they knew what she could do. Ivar only saw her as powerful and revered her for it. "And to be with a man who only sees me as beautiful and powerful … that is ..." her voice cracked, unable to finish her thought.

Ivar then sat forward, a look of understanding finally on his face, and with it a new determination and ferocity. He took her face in his hands. "I would never let any of them touch you. I would kill all of them first, slice them open and rip their lungs out," he promised, his voice low and even.

Her face softened, and her hands came up to cover his. "There is no need for that here … for now," she said, solemnly. "Can we just … accept that we both want to be here with one another?"

Ivar held her eyes and nodded, finally seeing that everything she'd been saying had been the truth.

"Good," she wearily smiled, exhausted. "Because I am very tired."

He guided her down to lie beside him, cradled in the crook between his shoulder and chest, his arm around her. His hand ran soothing circles over her back. "Sleep," he whispered. "And know that I will not let them touch you."

She gave a sigh of comfort and pleasure, but wondered for a moment why he spoke the way he did, as if he was under the impression that she would have a reason to run into Saxon Christians ever again.

"Sleep," he repeated, and she finally obeyed, letting it claim her.

 


~~*...*~~

 

In the morning, she woke up to Ivar lacing his boots up in the chair next to her bed, and she lazily smiled over to him.

He noticed that she'd stirred and looked up, struck by how her breasts were peaking out from under the covers. He blinked rapidly, trying to focus.

"I must find Ubbe. We have … plans, things to discuss."

"Very well," she said, still sleepy, though thinking his words were a bit cagey.

"But tonight," he said with a nod, his gaze, his voice suddenly intense. "After the gathering in the Great Hall … we will come back here, you and I. And I am finally going to take you. All of you."

Sig could only grin and stretched her arms over her head, as she felt as if she were still within a dream. "It is about time."

He scoffed at her, but it was a playful one, as if to say "just you wait." "There is my Sig," he said.

"Mmmm." She then closed her eyes and fell back asleep as she heard him softly drag himself out her door.


 

~~::::::...::::::~~

 

Chapter Text

~~::::::...::::::~~


Sig knew what was to happen as soon as she saw Ivar and Ubbe raise their cups to each other with knowing looks on each other’s faces, and her blood ran cold.

When she had entered the Great Hall that night, she’d been giddy with anticipatory energy. The gathering was much-needed, as she’d longed for some time to just be able to sit back and be content with a glass of ale … listen to some stories, sway to music. There was also a promised tryst with Ivar afterward, and the thought made it impossible to be able to keep a spontaneous grin off her face at many points in the evening. Many times, she’d caught herself letting her new dress sway around her, as she’d apparently reverted back to the silly girl who plucked wildflowers and sent secret wishes on the wind. Before Sig had taken her spot next to her queen’s side, she’d taken the time to decorate herself well, choosing a garment woven in a soft and luxurious fabric and dyed a rich blue-green, which contrasted with her copper hair. She’d also artfully rimmed her eyes in kohl, creating perfect points at the corners of her eyes. She'd adorned herself in silver bracelets and a jeweled necklace from her travels. Lagertha had nodded at her approvingly, seemingly pleased that her advisor had found the bounce in her step again and had dressed accordingly as one of her ladies, as well as with a bit of eccentricity that one might associate with a seer.

But as the night went on, it was proven to her yet again, that she still had such the ability to be a painfully naive and silly girl.

It had all started out innocently enough. Sigurd had come to greet her before he’d settled in at his table with his musician friends.

“Are you doing well?” he’d asked, his voice low so that no one around them could hear.

Sig had given him a nod and an embarrassed smile, thinking of herself sobbing on the floor in the old healer’s infirmary. “I am fine, truly, and I am sorry for the … the trouble.”

He’d instantly shaken his head. “Do not apologize. Stian will forever be grateful to you. There was no trouble. I did not know if it was like when we were children … I was worried for you.”

She gave him a sincere nod at his thoughtfulness. “Don’t be worried. I am well.”

Sigurd then frowned, building up the courage to ask what he really wanted to know. “Why was Ivar so … possessive about the whole thing? Why did he care so much?”

She’d given him a crooked grin and a wave of her hand. “Oh, you know Ivar. He just has such a great big heart … always so concerned for others.”

He’d looked at her like she was daft for a moment and then burst out laughing. “I have missed you, Sig. I had forgotten how funny you were.”

Funny. Yes, very funny. And very stupid.

The two of them then shared an old childhood game they’d play when life was particularly rough. They would watch people and wonder, making up odd stories for them. On this night, they’d spent time laughing over what a woman could potentially be hiding underneath her strange box-like hat, and also a young and rather comely earl who seemed to be besotted with Lagertha. He'd gifted her with a finely-made short and curved sword. They’d wondered if he intended to give her something else that was a bit short and curved.

Of course, everything changed when Ivar entered the hall. He seemed to forget that he knew she was to be there at all, as he made it a point to not make eye contact with her. At first, she figured it was due to her position at Lagertha’s side, along with her shieldmaidens, but then she realized he was doing it in order to keep his focus.

Sig could see the unspoken communication between Ivar and Ubbe, the one who had apparently taken the place of the enabler, filling their mother’s shoes.

So many pieces of the story then fell into place, instances she very well should have picked up on, but she'd been distracted by Ivar or other circumstances. There was Ubbe’s drunken interruption of their first encounter, as he’d been rambling on about talking to someone in the Great Hall that night. She realized that the twins who had been attacked by the bear had been their allies, and Ubbe fought for their lives as they’d been loyal. She also thought of Ivar’s cagey words as she’d woken up just that morning. He’d been lacing up his boots, after sharing a bed with her all night.

She then understood. They had concocted a plan, or a non-plan, as it were, gathering allies, though never making any concrete decisions, so that perhaps they would not be “seen”. Not until Sig had been incapacitated. They’d used the perfect opportunity to pounce.

Dark storm clouds came upon her as she saw their intention lay before her. Lighting that only she could sense, flashed in her peripheral vision, and she was suddenly shaking in anger. It wasn't only her anger, however. It was Ivar’s … as well as someone else’s, someone approaching.

She casually took a few steps and bent towards Lagertha as she sat on her throne. Sig smiled sweetly. “Please act as if nothing is amiss.”

The queen only raised a brow and grinned as if what Sig had said was amusing.

She continued, acting as if she were in the middle of telling a funny story, which it was, in a way. “They conspire. They have used my distraction to their advantage.”

Lagertha chuckled, still playing the part. “Do we have time?”

“I am sure Bjorn approaches, I can feel him. Ivar and Ubbe will start something, they have allies. Alert no one, do not draw attention to the fact that we can sense it. Draw it out for as long as you can, hopefully they will take their time with bullshit theatrics.”

The queen took a deep breath, sat back, and nodded, as Sig stepped down in order to find Sigurd. As she crossed the room, she could tell that a mood shifted and Astrid had noticed. It was too late. The doors had been barred and weapons were drawn. Blades were put to shieldmaiden's throats and even Sigurd was being held back by a man with an axe. Sig found herself in shock as four men encircled her, not touching her, yet caging her, rendering her unable to move. She caught Sigurd’s eye and saw the look of surprise and betrayal on his face, and she gazed back with the exact same expression.

 


~~*...*~~

“If you kill her, my brothers … you will have to kill me too.”

As soon as Bjorn and his majestic anger had bust through the doors, Sig used the distraction to escape from her man-made cage, and slipped out of the Great Hall. She had no desire to watch the drama play out and needed to get out of there, suddenly out of breath, her head spinning.

Sig had ran to the beach, even though the night had grown bitterly cold. She wrapped her fur around her shoulders tighter and plopped onto the sand, not caring any longer about her new dress or the jewelry adorning her body. She took a deep breath, remembering why there were times that she avoided this place. It had the potential to give her sensory overload if she could not control herself, keeping up the barriers she’d built in her mind. The energy was usually much too intense by the water, as so many people, for generations, had looked upon the sea and prayed to the gods, pleaded with them, mourned, searched for answers in happiness and in anguish … the imprint of these wishes forever there.

“Great Mother,” she whispered to the water.

It was a prayer she’d picked up during her studies in other lands. She’d spent enough time away from Kattegat, that it was no longer her first instinct to call the gods by her people’s names for them. She’d come to believe that they were all children of the same gods, they were just given different titles, just as different people had been given different languages. The gods changed their face to reflect the terrain that people had risen from.

“Great Mother … do I want to understand?”

Is he worth the leap?

“I do not know.”

Search the water, the prayers, the dark, and the deep.

She knew not where the counsel came, if it was from an inner voice that was all her own, a whisper from those who had sailed to the Summerlands and had promised to always be with her, or if it was breath bestowed upon her from the great goddess herself, but it was always a comfort.

She began to search the dark and deep waters from afar, and saw a woman who was intrinsically connected to this little patch of Earth.

It was here that Aslaug would come to commune with the gods and her Sight. It was here where she’d laid out all her hopes and wishes, mostly for Ivar. The beach was filled with epic-long pleas for her child, each grain of sand filled with a prayer it seemed. And It was here that she’d misinterpreted a vision of him.

She  sat up straight, relaxed her shoulders, and let the distractions of the world fall away. No more sounds of lapping waves or of noises from the docks, nor the stinging cold of the wind on her cheeks. She let her sixth sense focus on just Aslaug and the energy that was still here, swirling in the water, as it had never left. It never does. She had been sent out there in a pyre fit for a queen just as she had wished, sailing to the horizon line she so often fixated on in life. 

Sig connected, blinked once, and spied upon one of the last visions Ivar’s mother had seen. A waterspout loomed over the sea and her son was its victim, or so it had seemed to her. Aslaug was always so used to seeing Ivar in a certain way, her boy to protect at all times, and never as a man. She'd seen his body laid out before her, floating as if dead, and only came to one conclusion … he would perish. 

Sig looked at him slowly turning, hovering over the water, and came to a completely different conclusion. There was a storm, yes, but Ivar would weather it. It was to be his destiny. What this world would throw at him … crippled legs, an absent father, ridicule … storms … in the end, Ivar would somehow rise above. He would rise above the storm. The gods were with him.

And Queen Aslaug had died with a serene smile on her face, thinking that she would soon be with her son again. Sig couldn’t help but wonder if she would still be alive, had she interpreted her vision differently. If she would have taken greater care in self-preservation. The Queen had known a coup was coming, had seen it, and had yet gone about her day as usual, alerting no one. She’d talked back to her usurper and threw the sword of the King at Lagertha’s feet, as those around her gasped in shock. And she casually and arrogantly turned her back on the victor, walking away, almost taunting her into the act of violence that followed. In that moment, Sig was sure of it … in the end, Aslaug had no care for the world any longer. She could not kill herself and enter Valhalla, to be with her son and dearest parents again … but the gods had presented her with a way that she welcomed.

Sig sighed, bowing her head, and was filled with compassion for Aslaug that she never thought she’d ever feel.

“I am sorry that you journeyed to Valhalla, and did not find your son as you so expected and so wished.”

Among many whispers on the beach, she let one through. “Why are you loyal to Lagertha? You could be his queen.”

She looked up at the stars. “What makes you think I have any desire at all to be a queen?”

“Then what do you want with him?”

“In this moment I do not know. But I have been told that something else was coming. That I had a destiny to embrace, if I wished it. And Ivar cannot rule … yet. He is far from ready.”

Another voice, a deeper one, overtook the first one, ringing in her ears. “It is part of a larger and bolder strategy.”

“Why are you not in your rooms?”

His voice broke her from her trance and she gasped. She turned to see Ivar, pulling himself to sit next to her, wrapped in his fur, his breath in the air. The moon and starlight gave him an ethereal glow and she had to turn from him, lest she lose her resolve.

“I needed some air. Being surrounded by four stinking men proved to be quite suffocating.”

“I told them you were not to be touched. That you were to remain protected. And that if anyone even brushed up against you, I would slit their throats.”

Sig looked out over the water, emotions pouring over her. Was she supposed to be flattered? Grateful?

When she didn’t speak, he reached over to brush an errant lock of hair behind her ear, and then ran his fingertips along her elaborate braids. “You looked so beautiful tonight.”

She gave a mirthless laugh. “That is funny. It did not seem as if you noticed me at all.”

“You did not give me time. Why did you run out and then not go back to your rooms?”

Sig could have laughed in his face. She was at a loss. He actually expected her to be waiting in her bed for him. After everything.

She countered his question with another question, changing the subject. “Why do you use those spikes to drag yourself down the aisle? Do you think they aid you in movement? They do not.”

He frowned. “Do not mock me.”

“I assure you, I am not. I am just stating a fact.” She then looked over to him finally. “Tell me, was I to be your prize after your glorious coup? Were you going to bed me covered in the queen’s blood? Did you really think that I would run to you? A smile on my face? After you had deceived me in such a way?”

He leaned back, putting on the act that he was unaffected by her words. “Tell me, are you angry at me now because I tried to kill your precious queen? Or because you did not see it …”

Sig’s eyes blazed. “I am angry because you betrayed me! You used me! When I was at my very lowest and opened myself to you … let you in, let you see things about me that no one who lives knows!"

“No,” he countered, furiously shaking his head. “That is not ...“

“What was it, if not deception, Ivar? Using my incapacitated state, and then my moment’s peace in the morning to go off and conspire!

He leaned towards her, getting right up into her face. “And you betray me … every day by advising the true queen’s usurper!”

Sig did not back down. “You used me. It was all to your advantage! All for your stupid revenge!”

“SHE WAS MY MOTHER!” He yelled, beginning to shake.

“Yes. I know," she said, turning back to gaze at the water. "And yet it was still stupid. What could you have hoped to achieve? A division among Kattegat and among your brothers, when what we desperately need is unity. In order to avenge Ragnar, avenge our people who were slaughtered in a foreign land. And here I was under the impression that you were supposed to possess a strategic and intelligent mind.”

He raised his hand as if he intended to slap her across the face, but she turned and bore her eyes into his. “If you strike me now, or ever, I will never speak to you again,” she informed quickly, her voice low and steady.

His hand, still in the air, balled into a fist. He reached further back for more momentum, and she was sure that she was about to be punched. She stood her ground, not moving or flinching in the slightest. Sig closed her eyes as his fist flew past her face and right into the ground next to her. The roar that he sent into the night’s sky is what made her open them again.

He sat back, his shoulders slumped. “Why?” he asked, desperation in his voice. “Why do you hate our mother?”

Sig shook her head, overcome with too many emotions that she could not decipher. But she had yet to hear his words sound so despairing, and so she was compelled to reply. “I do not hate her. I only see, Ivar. I see what is right for the people in this moment. I see that we need Lagertha, while the whole of the Viking world sails to England to avenge Ragnar. We need her if you want to have a home in Kattegat to come back to.”

“No,” he simply said, apparently much more perceptive when it came to anyone but himself. “It is more than that.”

She sighed. “It does not matter anymore.”

“It does. To me. Is it because of Sigurd?” he spat. “And his incessant whining that no one ever loved him?”

She was tired of both Ivar and Sigurd and their feud with one another. She shrugged. “Sigurd was my friend, and yes, he was neglected, as was his niece who he found … dead.”

Ivar glared at her. “Sigurd. Always crying about the things he did not have. Never caring about the things that he did!”

She knew the last part of his accusation that hung in the air. Sigurd never paid attention to the things that he actually did have … like working legs. Like every advantage and privilege.

“It seems as if you both still carry your childhoods with you like burdens on your backs, unable to put them down … as did I.”

“What do you mean?”

“I do not hate your mother, and perhaps I looked up to her once, but it all went cold.”

“Explain.”

“Why?”

He leaned towards her. “I must know. Because you are mine. And you will tell me.”

She had to refrain from rolling her eyes. “You keep saying that, Ivar. You always like to ask me so many questions, but did you ever ask what I thought about being yours?”

He gave a dismissive wave of his hand. “Whether or not we talk about it ... it makes no difference. You were mine since the day you came back to Kattegat. Since the first day I saw you. You were mine the moment you took my hand in yours, to look at my wound, to heal me. Perhaps others do not know yet, but you ... are mine. And I must know why you hate my mother ... and why you are loyal to Lagertha.”

Sig pursed her lips, about at her wits end. “I do not hate your mother … but she is a part of one of my worst memories. And I do not like to talk about it. I hate inviting pity. I hate it.”

“Good,” he replied with a nod. “Because I will never give pity. I hate it, too.”

Sig bit her lip, not wanting to remember, let alone talk about it with Ivar. She sighed, seemingly defeated yet again … as for some reason, she found herself submitting to him, answering his damn questions. Perhaps a part of her, deep down, needed to make him understand.

“How can I explain,” she began, shaking her head, and looking out over the beach, not able to look at him. “When I was little, as you know, I had no control over my abilities. Everything … it was too much. All I did was feel. I felt too much. Sounds were too loud, I was always holding my ears. Colors were much too bright. It constantly felt as if my skin was crawling, like there were invisible insects all over me. I hated being touched. Voices plagued me. The tiny hairs on my arms and the back of my neck were always raising. I was so scared, all of the time, braced for something, some terrible whispers and cold breath behind my ear in the middle of the night … so that I could never rest. I was perpetually exhausted. It was not a way to live, and yet it was the only way I knew. My mother had died, my father was always away, as was my uncle … I was left in the care of the women in the village, friends of my family, they treated me well enough, but I was not their child. I could tell that my nightmares every night were a burden to them. I gathered the courage to visit the old seer once, and he told me that if I were to reveal to anyone that I possessed the Sight, then I would be made to leave my home … which perhaps would have been for the best, but to suggest that to a child? It was terrorizing.”

“But Queen Aslaug had the Sight, she was a volva. It was known. I thought … perhaps one day she could help me. And a day arrived when I did finally catch her attention. I was with Sigurd in the Great Hall, and of course, some flicker in the fire at the hearth spoke to me. I did not ignore it like I should have. As usual, other children started to poke fun at me, and it caught the queen’s eye as she sat on her throne. You were there with her. Aslaug looked over to me, and she knew what I was … she knew it. But then she only laughed at me too, and drank more from her cup. She laughed. I was frozen, all the feelings too much, whatever tiny and fragile barriers I was able to build came tumbling down, and I was bombarded with voices screaming at me. Sigurd dragged me out of there as I am sure I embarrassed him.”

Ivar stared at her stunned, recalling. “I remember that day.”

“I do too," she said, raising her brows and still gazing out over the water. "Over the years, during my travels, I learned how to control the Sight, of course. Leaving Kattegat saved me. But my last teacher, my most favorite High Priestess and mentor, she explained it all to me once. She said that if I were ever to come across someone plagued with the Sight, who was given this gift, if you can call it that at all, this terrible … privilege, then we were to give council. So that our kind will not fade in this world.”

Sig gave a bitter laugh. “In other lands, little girls with the Sight, perhaps born to Christian parents, might find themselves drowned in a river. Usually at some hateful priest’s suggestion. If we can ease someone’s pain, we must do it, even if it is in secret. It is our duty.”

“And I do not blame Aslaug for not giving me council … not any longer. As you grow older, you realize your elders do not have all the answers. You are given perspective. I know that at the time, your mother was in great pain. Harbard had just left, and that is when something within her … shifted. But a moment like I experienced, it stays with you, those childhood things. They are the hardest to rise from. If someone were to mock me now, I doubt it would move me, but mention something from when I was a young lass? My blood runs cold. My ears start to burn. Even still.”

“She would have loved you, you know.” His voice startled her, as if she'd forgotten he was even there.

Sig gave a short laugh. “Oh, I doubt that.”

“She would have.”

“Perhaps.”

Ivar’s hand caught her by the chin and he forced her to look at him. “She would have. I would have told her to, and she would have listened. Because you are mine.”

Sig did not like his tone. She did not like the idea of him ordering his mother to love her, like a brat, and was offended on both her and Aslaug’s behalf. She also did not like how he held her face as if she were a possession or a child to be reprimanded. Nor had she forgiven him for using her distraction to his advantage. She lifted her chin. “I belong to no man.”

He tilted his head, looking serpentine, and where it was alluring and beautiful before, while hovering above her in bed, here he just looked venomous. “You do,” he nodded his head, his eyes piercing through her. “And everyone will know. You,” he cooed, as if speaking to her like a little girl or a pet, as he tapped her forehead with his finger, “ … will tell everyone.”

Sig raised a defiant brow. “I will tell no one,” she whispered.

Fury came over his face at her continued denial. “BUT YOU WERE HIS!” he yelled, as his fingers left her chin and he grabbed her hand, going for her ornate silver ring. 

“You still wear this! Even though it is now me that shares your bed. WHY?” Ivar then yanked it off before she could register what was happening. “YOU ARE NO LONGER PROMISED TO HIM!” he screamed, as he threw it out into the vast sands of the beach.

She sat forward, her mouth agape at what just happened and tears threatened to spill over. Most of the time, she never thought of the ring, had forgotten it was there at all. When she caught a glimpse of it, yes, she would think of her lost love, but it was more the remembrance of several things at once. The land she’d come to love, her mentor, what had happened to it all, she never wanted to forget, so that perhaps she could delay it happening to her people. And to see that symbol ripped away tore at her heart. Ivar had done enough tearing at her heart for one night.

Sig wanted to run to where she thought the ring may have landed. She wanted to get on her hands and knees and frantically search, digging in the sand until she found it … but she would not give Ivar the satisfaction. It was just a hunk of metal after all. Perhaps it was time to part with it, as just like people were always coming in and out of your life, so were possessions, and it was always important to know when to let both people and things go.

“You are mistaken,” she finally responded, her eyes glazing over, no inflection in her voice. “I was never his. He only gave me the ring as a promise ... to love me for as long as he was alive. We both knew that did not mean forever. He always sensed that he would die for his people and his gods ... he never attempted to turn that tide, he welcomed it. And I always knew that something else was coming … and that something else turned out to be you." Her tone then became sardonic. "Am I not so very lucky?”

She stood, gathered her fur tighter around her shoulders, turned around, and walked away.

 


~~*...*~~

All in the span of a few hours, Sig had entered the great hall with something not unlike bliss in her heart. She then felt the cold hand of betrayal, anger, and shame at being made to search through her past for answers. And when that was not enough, Ivar had thrown away a very dear part of herself … all for what. Why did she allow this? For the feeling of his cock between her thighs?

She knew that it wasn’t just that … but in that moment, it felt as if it were. There was an undeniable passion between them, and it felt as if that heat, desire, and connection, affected every single thing that surrounded her. And a union that intense scared her. Such a potential to become lost … to be irreparably damaged.

She paced while fidgeting with her braids, undoing them and running her fingers through her hair. She shook out the waves the plaits had made, but she needed something more. The only thing that could calm her nerves in these times, was doing something repetitive in order to relax her mind. She had no desire for spinning or weaving, so she opted for finding the stone and leather strap she used to sharpen her knife.

Just as she was about to sit and get to work on her blade, there was a knock on her door. She wrapped her robe tight around her and answered it, holding her knife. She almost gasped to find who was behind it. And not just the “who” but the “how”. It was Ivar, standing. Or rather, he was using crutches to lean on. He was tall while standing, quite a few inches taller than her … and her insides melted as she looked up at him. Her eyes then roamed across his clothes and noticed they were filthy, as if he’d been rolling around in the dirt.

She wrapped her robe around her waist tighter, as standing by the door was making her cold, as well as being in such a close proximity to Ivar. It seemed to be giving her all sorts of unwanted reactions.

“What are you doing here?” she asked, wearily. 

He gave a huff. “I try my best … but always find myself disarmed by you. I do not know how you do it.”

“I could say the same thing about you, Ivar.”

He blinked. “I did not … mean to deceive you. I did not see it that way. I meant to protect you.”

She crossed her arms and tapped the flat of her blade to her shoulder. “If you tell me lies, I will sharpen my knife with them.”

The gesture and her words seemed to excite him. His eyes danced and he grinned. “Then perhaps I will tell you one or two.”

She shook her head, not in the mood for his games.

He gave a long sigh. “Sig. Why do you deny that you are mine … when it is so painfully obvious that I am yours?”

Ivar then leaned against the doorway and let go of once crutch, propping it up just inside. He reached into a pocket for something and then opened his leathered fist, revealing her ring in the palm of his hand. He’d spent all that time at the beach searching for it, which is why his clothes were so filthy.

“Oh, Ivar.”

She took the ring and instinctively held it at the tip of her finger, but for some reason, she could not slide it back on. Instead, she walked over to a small altar where she kept a leather pouch of sacred baubles and stones. She untied the little straps and put the ring into its new home.

They both stood like statues, looking at each other for several moments, neither knowing what to say. As he’d yet to be formally invited into the room, he began to take his crutch from where he’d propped it up and looked as if he was about to speak, yet nothing came out. Perhaps he was about to leave, perhaps not … but what she did know was that he did not want to, yet was afraid to barge ahead, as he did not want to anger her further. Sig wondered if this hesitation could be progress, and hoped beyond hope that it was … but in the end, she was tired of the dance. 

“What was it you said earlier Ivar?” she asked, taking a few steps toward him. “That you intended to finally have me tonight? All of me? You continue to learn my secrets, the ones of my past, what is deep inside my mind. But what of deep inside my body and the secrets of my flesh?”

She untied her robe and let it hang open, framing her naked body at the sides.

He could only stand and stare. 

“You should close the door now. It is cold out there … and warm in here.”

~~::::::...::::::~~


Chapter Text

~~::::::...::::::~~


Ivar stood in Sig’s doorway with wide eyes and attempted to take a step forward. She was of course, standing several feet away from him and naked, her robe hanging open, and her knife still in her hand. She was beginning to regret exactly how she’d went about things. A thousand scenarios began to run through her mind as he placed one of his crutches in front of him in order to get himself into the room.

Should I close my robe and go to the door to help him? It is freezing cold after all, and I certainly don't want any passersby to catch a glimpse.

No. I wouldn’t want him to think that I was backing out by shielding myself.

Should I simply walk over naked and support him while heading to the bed?

No. That does not sound ideal, let alone attractive in the least. Half-carrying someone while naked? Oh, dear gods, no.

He looked just as conflicted as she did, as he couldn’t quite stop staring, trying to find his footing on his crutches. She stood motionless as he reluctantly broke his gaze in order to shut and bar the door.

“Ivar … do you?”

“No,” he said, shortly, holding up a brace-covered hand, anticipating that she’d ask if he needed help. He then slowly walked on his crutches across the room, concentrating on his movements as Sig stood and watched. The healer in her couldn’t help but be curious, the wheels turning in her mind. The devices he used seemed to favor form over function, as they were very well-made and even decorated, yet they didn’t support him in the best way. They acted only as extensions of his arms, making them more awkward than necessary, when they should have been balancing out his weight better by supporting him under his arms.

“Why are you frowning now?”

She blinked, snapping herself out of her thoughts, and realized that she was still standing naked and frozen, and now apparently frowning. He’d settled himself on the edge of her bed and gently lay his crutches down on the floor. “I am sorry,” she replied. “I was just thinking.”

“About?” He looked up at her, attempting to keep a mask on his face and failing. He looked afraid. Worried that she’d changed her mind while watching him cross from the door to the bed, which should have been a very simple set of gestures, something any other man could do … but he could not.

Sig had no desire to bring up the design of his crutches, not at this point in time anyway. Instead, she gave him a warm smile.

“I was just thinking,” she said, as she stepped towards him while wrapping her robe back around her, swaying her hips, and trying to appear at ease ... “that I needed to get you out of these dirty clothes somehow, without making me dirty in the process.”

Ivar’s shoulders relaxed, relieved at hearing her answer. He unwrapped the fur from his shoulders and discarded his wool jacket, dropping them to the floor. He was then left in his tunic, which was much cleaner than the rest of the garments he’d been wearing, but it only drew Sig’s attention to how dirty his face was.

She walked to a table and set her knife down, realizing that she’d been holding onto it for dear life, as it had left an imprint on her palm. She picked up a basin of fresh scented water, along with a towel, and brought it over to him. It was a thing that servants usually did, but she had none and had no intention of calling for one either. She also just liked the idea of caring for him, not as a cripple or as someone higher born that she needed to cater to, but just as a gesture of affection and undivided attention. Everyone deserved such tender regard, after all, and she wasn’t sure how much Ivar had ever gotten. From someone that wasn’t his mother anyway.

She set the basin in his lap and the towel on the bed. She then bent to unlace his boots.

“Thank … you,” he said quietly, the words sounding strange coming out of his mouth, as if he wasn’t used to saying them. He then started to splash his face.

When she’d gotten his boots unlaced, she stood up, and he as able to easily slip them off. She picked up the towel and patted his face dry as he looked up at her with his azure eyes, mesmerized. “I could get used to this,” he whispered.

“What is that?” she asked, as she bent down to kiss his forehead, now damp and smelling of heather and mint from the water.

He gave a small hum, though did not smile, as if he was afraid of breaking some spell by daring to find happiness in a moment. “A beautiful naked woman bringing me things … undressing me.”

“I am happy that you see it that way,” she grinned, taking the basin and setting it on her bedside table. “To me, I am just an awkward girl trying to busy herself, instead of just standing idly by and twiddling my thumbs while you take your clothes off.”

Ivar then finally let himself smile a little. “No. Never.” He reached over and touched the edge of her robe and realized he was still wearing the braces on his arms. As he unbuckled them, Sig slipped her robe completely off, letting it fall to the floor, and he looked up with an unreadable expression on his face.

When his braces joined her robe, she decided they should finally get along with it and she moved to climb into his lap, straddling him. She spread her thighs and her hands automatically went for the laces of his trousers, expecting things to suddenly spark from there, and as before, they would naturally melt into each other. Instead, what she felt was hesitation, as he took a breath and held it. She then settled into his lap, thinking she would find him hard beneath her, but that wasn’t the case.

As his hands grabbed her hips she caught a flash. It was hard not to, as he was suddenly projecting very strong emotions, impossible to temper. They were practically pouring out of him. Memories.

What if it happened again. It was too much like before … she’d slipped off her robe, climbed on top of him … and then everything went to shit. He was nervous, scared, and she no longer wanted any part of him once she’d gotten a real glimpse of his legs. He could only get half-hard, and then even that went away, making him think that his prick didn’t work when it counted. And she wasn’t nearly ready, he knew that now. He knew so much more now. She was not wet. Things just did not work. He’d tried anyway, tried so hard … and she only cried.

Sig closed her eyes and tried to move away but Ivar held on tighter, not understanding what was happening. Not understanding that she felt sick from the knowledge that he was thinking of Margrethe in this moment. She knew it wasn’t exactly his fault, but nonetheless, it stung.

“What is wrong?” He asked, clinging to her.

She sighed, giving him what she hoped came off as a sincere smile. Nothing was working out the way that she’d hoped, but then again, when did it ever?

She tried to think quickly. “Nothing is wrong, Ivar. It is just this braid,” she explained, showing him the one small plait in her hair that she’d missed before, and had been driving her crazy, falling in front of her face. “It is distracting me. Can you undo it for me?”

He nodded, relaxing slightly, and reached up to deftly unravel the braid for her with his fingers. While he busied himself, Sig thought of how she could make this experience their very own, and she wondered if all he needed was control. She was apparently reminding him too much of his previous attempt at sex, with her disrobing and then climbing into his lap, assuming control at first. Ivar was always finding ways of taking that control back during their encounters, such as with her knife … so perhaps that is what he needed. What he had always needed.

When he’d finished, he held her unraveled lock of hair to his nose and inhaled. “What is this scent? Your hair always smells like this.”

“Honeysuckle.”

“One of your rare and precious oils?”

Her heart softened a bit, at the knowledge that he’d remembered the mention of her collection weeks ago, that he’d memorized the things she’d said to him. “Something like that,” she answered, as she slipped out of his lap.

Ivar frowned. “Where are you going?”

“Nowhere,” she replied, as she moved further onto the bed and then lay down. “I will be over here. Waiting.”

He inclined his head in question and she settled back into her pillows, arms over belly, lacing her fingers together. She gave him a crooked grin. “Do what you will, Ivar.”

Finally, he seemed to relax in a way that actually made him present in the room, instead of lost in nervous thoughts. He smiled, and this time it reached his eyes. “My will?”

Your will.”

“Do you realize what you could be suggesting?”

“Oh, I realize. And I am over here still waiting.”

His eyes grew dark and roguish, a now familiar sight that sped up her heartbeat.

He reached back, pulled his tunic over his head, and made sure to watch her palpable reaction to it. She sighed like an infatuated idiot, staring at his chest and arms. “You know what that does to me, don’t you …”

Ivar slowly nodded. “And you know what it does to me, to see you naked, bare, and open to me on this bed.”

“I have a suspicion.”

He sat forward and began to crawl towards her. When he reached her, his hands began to run up her legs, then her sides, and finally to her breasts. His fingers were warm and calloused, rough, though he was being gentle at the moment, and Sig loved the contrast. He bent down, his lips then closing over a nipple and she gave a long sigh, relaxing into the feeling. Letting everything else go. The terrible fight from earlier. Their uneasiness around each other since he’d knocked on her door. She let herself just be in the moment and felt her arms come around him, sliding up his back, and enjoying the soft stimulation from his naked skin covering hers, his weight on top of her inviting and heady, to the point where she felt as if she could melt into the furs.

"Is this what you wanted?" she whispered. 

"It's more," he murmured, planting soft kisses on her breast. 

“Tell me what you like.” 

“I like the sounds you make when I do this,” he answered, before giving her nipple a playful bite that bordered on pain. She sucked in a breath and moaned. He gave a hum of satisfaction at his work and let his lips make their way up to her neck. He took a deep breath, inhaling the scent of her skin at her throat. “I like seeing you beneath me, spread for me.” He kissed her then, nothing gentle or tentative, but confident and insistent, and she became lost in it, as he slid his tongue along hers. He took a moment to suck on her lower lip before biting it, and letting his teeth drag along before releasing it.

Sig watched as his mouth then began to make its way down her body, sometimes pausing to give some sensitive patch of skin an open-mouth kiss, his tongue tasting her, his teeth teasing her, scraping along, biting, too intense to render her ticklish, but not so much as to break the skin. It was then she realized, he had turned the tables on what their previous trysts had been like. This time, he was rendering her a wreck, a complete mess, as she writhed beneath him, not able to anticipate what he’d do to her next or how deep he would go.

“Tell me what you want.” she breathed.

Ivar glanced up at her, looking completely intoxicated, his lips wet. “How you felt, coming around my hand, breaking apart like that … I want to feel it while I fuck you, feel it all over my cock.”

She was pretty sure that she looked quite drunk as well as she grinned, her eyes half-open. “The first time? Ambitious.”

“Yes. Now tell me how,” he demanded.

Sig gave a laugh. “I have no magic spell for such a thing. And I am afraid that I have misplaced my wand.”

“Tell me.”

“Hn. Your tongue first … almost to the brink. Then fuck me.”

I'll do the rest, she thought. 

“That is all?” he asked, inclining his head and giving her a sardonic frown. He then pressed his hips into hers, as his hands spread her thighs, and making it apparent that he was now very hard beneath his trousers. “And here I thought that I would have to be reading three maps at once … while juggling with one hand and balancing with the other.”

She gave a moan and at the same time wanted to laugh. Somehow, the uneasiness from minutes before had evaporated into thin air, and they were now sharing the casual intimacy of lovers. “You are not exactly wrong, Ivar.”

“Shh, I am reading now,” he said, before nuzzling her inner thigh. “Do not break my concentration.” He gave the skin there a long lick, stopping right before he reached the very center of her. He gave a low growl before speaking again. “I have been thinking about this all day, it has never left my mind, how you felt against my lips, so warm, and wet  … the taste and scent of you."

“You should remind yourself.”

He raised a brow. “And you should brace yourself,” he instructed, right before setting his mouth to her, dragging his tongue along her heated flesh until it swirled around her clit, almost too much pressure. She cried out at the shock of sensation after so much build-up, and her body stretched in pleasure, her hand knocking against the headboard.

She could have sworn that she actually felt him grin against her as he set to his work, earnestly reacquainting himself with what he’d learned the previous night, and building on his fledgling knowledge. As she lay back, her thighs beginning to tremble, she marveled at his technique. If she didn’t know better, there would be no way that one could call him a novice in the art of bringing a woman pleasure with his mouth, as there really was such an art to it. It made her think that he had in fact, been thinking about it all day, and wondered if such things were a practice of his … thinking on details and concocting strategies in his head while the rest of the world went on in a daze. Perhaps she actually had been successful in distracting him away from perfecting his scheme against Lagertha. For some reason, the thought softened her anger towards him on that particular subject.

As his tongue began to make her ascend, she was aware that his hands had been busy with unlacing his trousers, and letting them slip from his hips. She glanced down and was able to see that he had his cock in his fist, and the sight of it almost made her combust right then and there. As she moaned, he took his hand from himself and pressed two fingers inside of her, making her voice louder, as he seemed to have developed a taste for making her react and then pushing her, attempting to make those reactions more intense.

She was wet … very wet, and it was as though he couldn’t help but to remove his fingers, in order to discover what they would now feel like on him. He gave himself a slick pump and groaned against her, the vibrations from his voice compelling her to writhe, and needing to do something with her hands besides uselessly grabbing at the bedcothes. She reached her hands up to massage her breasts and pinch her own nipples. It was half out of need for something to hold onto, and half just to see what his reaction would be, as she knew that he’d been keeping his eyes on her face the entire time. The sight made him growl, and instead of lifting his head and gasping out loud, his lips sucked at her clit, making her back and neck arch, so that she was practically bowing off the bed, trying to keep her release at bay.

Ivar either knew that she was right at the precipice or he couldn’t wait any longer, and he released her with a sound that was downright obscene. “Sig,” he panted, licking his lips. “I cannot … endure any longer. I must ...”

She grabbed at his shoulders, signaling for him to come to her. She sat up on her elbows and he started to slowly climb up her body with a feral gleam in his eyes. He then threw furs off the bed that had become a rumpled and distracting mess at their feet, and Sig had a quick flash. It was from the night after meeting the queen. The first night she’d dreamt of Ivar, the vision at the very beginning of it all. And now, as of that evening, every single thing from her premonition had come to pass. Every word he’d said to her, every action. They didn’t all happen at the same time or in the same order, but visions hardly ever did, and with barely any context. They tended to be puzzles to piece together, then unravel and interpret.

She let herself fall back on the bed, realizing that her fate was now sealed in some way, and knowing that it was all her decision to be put into this exact moment, to be intrinsically connected to Ivar and whatever his story happened to be. She had accepted it by taking every tiny step that led her to this bed and to him hovering above her.

Sig reached up and took his face in her hands, overcome with the knowledge that she well and truly was his. He stared at her, as if realizing what she was feeling and touched his forehead to hers, settling on top of her and between her legs. She was now acutely aware that they were both completely naked, as she could feel him thick and hard, brushing across her inner thigh. This was it. This was the moment. “Ivar, please” she breathed, arching her back beneath him. “Push your cock inside me.”

"The things you say," he groaned and lifted himself up with his arms, his eyes now heavy-lidded as if intoxicated or drugged. He gently thrust against her a few times, as if he were testing the waters. She spread her thighs wider for him, his cock sliding against her and driving her mad. She half-wondered if he was under the impression that things were just supposed to magically start working, or if he was just being a damn tease, but instead of waiting to find out the answer, she reached between them and gently guided him to the perfect spot.

It seemed as if he were trying to keep his eyes open, but when his next push breached past her entrance with the head of his cock, they slammed shut. She gasped at the feeling, the sweet beginning, and then cried out as he slid inside all the way. It had been a good while since being with a man and she was tight. He was also quite endowed and the shock and pleasure of him penetrating her, compelled her to grab onto his shoulders. He buried his face in her neck with a moan that ended up sounding more like a sob.

“Sig,” he whispered, as if he couldn’t quite find his voice. “This is … good?”

She needed to reassure him, that everything he was doing was right. That not only did his prick work, but that he was giving her a pleasure and satisfaction that she'd only ever dreamed of, and they'd only just gotten started. Sig wrapped her legs around him, trying to hold him as close to her as possible, and ran her hands down his back. “You feel … so good, so right,” she managed to answer. “And … you?”

“Mmmmmnnnnggg,” was his only response.

When he began to move, Sig felt as if the whole world was lost to her, and the only thing that now existed was the thick slide of his cock between her thighs. When he pulled out and then pushed back in, feeling what it was to glide through a woman’s warm and wet passage, he groaned even louder than before, his mouth open, his jaw pushed forward, every bit of the pleasure he was experiencing, flashing across his face.

Sig began to lift her hips, meeting his, and they quickly found a rhythm together, as if it was the most natural thing in the world to them. She had wondered if their first time would be wild and unhinged, but Ivar was being so slow and gentle, as if he were trying to savor and memorize every tiny detail. He looked down between them, watching how they were joined, fascinated with the sight of him moving within her body. He then glanced back up and studied her face, how her features twisted in pleasure, how she would grow louder when he’d push a little harder and from a certain angle. But when he closed his eyes and began to tremble, looking as if he was in the most exquisite pain, but knowing that it was actually the most intense pleasure he’d ever experienced, Sig realized it wouldn’t be long before he lost himself.

As she’d just been on the brink before from his tongue, she was now determined to assuage the deep ache that had formed by being brought to the very edge, only to not jump off. And it was incredible, how Ivar rocked against her, his hips angled in such a way that he hit the perfect spot, and she felt herself ascending again.

When Ivar opened his eyes, wide and shocked, she knew that he was about to come, that she didn’t have much time, so she reached down between them to touch herself, giving her that one last push over the edge. Ivar’s gaze followed her hand and watched, and it compelled him to snap his hips and move faster … harder, losing the control he'd been trying to hold on to in order to make it last. It was all too much for both of them, and just as orgasm began to course through her, he couldn't help but follow, spilling inside and shuddering on top of her, gasping and moaning loudly into her ear, holding nothing back from her.

And she gave him exactly what he wanted, she came around his cock, holding onto him as if he were her only anchor in this world. Every bit of her skin began to prickle and vibrate, her hips still writhing against him, trying to chase every pulse of pleasure, until there was nothing left. Until it felt as if there were no muscles, no bones, no nothing left of her body, only vibrations. 

After minutes that seemed more like hours, she felt as if she could breathe again, coming back to life. She found her legs wrapped around him, still holding him, listening and feeling his breath as it calmed down, his heartbeat against her.

She grinned as Ivar attempted to push himself up, but then collapsed back down on top of her. His hand moved to wrap gently around her throat, his thumb at her pulse. “Can we lie here like this?” he asked, his voice almost too quiet for her to hear. “For a while?”

“Mmmhmm,” she answered, slightly tilting her head to the side and baring her neck for him, using all the energy she had, and knowing she wasn’t far from sleep. “I do not think I can move either.”

 


~~*...*~~

With her vision fulfilled and now gone, put to rest, a new one began in its place. A vision of battle. She could hear a faint clashing of swords, but only one thing came through loud and clear. A voice.

“IVAAAAAR.”

It was a voice she recognized. A voice she never wanted to hear again. The voice of a man who was responsible for the death and destruction of so much of what she’d come to love … all in the name of his lonely god.

She then saw Ivar in the pouring rain, face covered in blood, the odds stacked against him, and yet he only laughed through his bared sharp teeth … raised his weapon, and spit at the man’s face.

And Sig knew, with every fiber of her being.

Ivar will be his demise.

~~::::::...::::::~~


Chapter Text

 

~~::::::...::::::~~


"IVAAAAAR!" 

His bloody mouth and teeth and eyes only laughed at the voice, and Sig's new vision faded. 

The journey then replayed in her dreams, going by in flashes, reminding her of how she got to the exact point she was at, as Sig knew she would have to make a choice soon.

Never return to these isles.

The last time Sig saw her mentor in the temple, hidden in the highlands, the high priestess had given her a very tight embrace, as if she’d known what was coming. She had accepted it for some unknown reason, just as Aslaug had accepted that a coup was coming to end her rule. But unlike the Queen of Kattegat, Vivianne had tried to send as many people away as she could. Apprentices, future would-be priestesses, were given duties, as they always had at the first thaw.

There among the mountains and lochs, there were still Picts who worshiped the old gods. The Goddess still reigned. There were wise women who did not fear the coming Christians, they still taught Her ways, the ancient ways. But they were gradually becoming less and less, and pushed further and further into more remote areas, until one day they would vanish completely into the mists. They knew the day would eventually come, they just didn’t know exactly when … as they could see, but not everything, and only in fragments.

Sig’s little party had just returned from a nearby village to tend to the infirm, a common practice for them. There were four of them, altogether. Sig, Taran, Brid, and Macha. Two priestesses-in-training and two warriors at their side. Two couples.

They knew what they were to find as soon as they smelled the smoke. Could hear the men in their armor, their weapons, the screams. Their way of life was burning to the ground. Taran told the three women to stay behind, hide among the trees in the forest … someone needed to survive if he could not succeed.

He took Sig’s face into his hands. “It is time to sail home, my north woman.”

It was all too sudden. She had no time to think of anything profound to say to him in return.

She could only grasp at him, wrap her hands in his clothes, in his hair. “Stay with me.”

“Always,” he whispered in her ear as his fingers brushed over her ring and gave it a squeeze. “Until you no longer look for me.”

Sig shook her head, tears falling, not able to imagine such a moment could ever happen. She stared at him, trying to commit him to memory, sear his image into her mind … his red hair, green eyes, strong jawline, his tallness … but there was not enough time. There was never enough time.

Taran kissed her hard and gave her one last long look. He then ordered Macha to stay behind to protect the two apprentices with her bow, and he was off. He had no time to prepare himself as a Pictish warrior often did, covering themselves in blue pigment. He simply drew his sword and ran to fight to the end for his people and his gods.

It hadn’t taken long. Their village had been ambushed. The Christians managed to destroy centuries of a people’s history in a matter of what felt like minutes.

The Christian leader, their murdering priest, their blood-soaked soldier, held several of the people in the end. Had them bound and on their knees in the square. Warriors, villagers, apprentices, priestesses. They knew what their fates would be, whether or not they vowed to convert.

The three women watched from the trees. Sig could not breathe as she watched the one they called “Heahmund” hold his sword to Taran’s throat. The sword was feared among the people, as it was said to house a dark spell within, that the word “ananyzapata”, written on the hilt, held great magic. To Sig, it sounded like a word from out of their devil’s mouth.

The man was beautiful but empty, devoid of spirit … either that or he was blocking it somehow. He looked down at the conquered in arrogance. “Do you renounce your false pagan gods?”

She could have sworn she saw Taran roll his eyes. “They are not false.”

Heahmund raised his chin. “There is only one true god. Only through Him, will your soul be granted freedom.”

Taran grinned and shook his head, and Sig knew that he would taunt the man into making it quick. “No. We are already free, and you desire that freedom, to be what you really are … but since you believe your god will not allow it, others must pay the price. If you cannot have freedom, no one can. You lack heart. You are a hypocrite. A pretender. You wage war in the name of a messiah who preached peace. You are a walking contradiction. So why would I convert? There is nothing about you that I would wish to strive for.” He then spat at Heahmund’s feet. “If all of His followers are like you, filled with misery and self-hatred, why would I serve such an unjust and unloving god? For He obviously grants you no peace or moments of happiness.”

Macha had an arrow on Heahmund the whole time. She was the best shot out of all of them, and could have at the very least killed the Christian leader. Taran knew she was there, at the ready. He gave her his last signal with a flick of his wrist, knowing she’d see it … his very last order, and she could not disobey him. She solemnly lowered her bow.

The warrior priest, in his grim armor, a twisted sneer on his face, raised his sword in a fury and ran Taran right through.

Sig held onto a nearby tree, desperately trying to not make a sound, the bark digging into her skin. She tried to concentrate only on that physical feeling, leaning so hard into it that she wondered if the wood was making her bleed. Anything to keep her from screaming in emotional anguish.

She could see Brid behind another tree … her dear friend and fellow apprentice. She looked as frightened as Sig was, also seeing what had just happened. She put her finger to her lips and shook her head, signaling that no matter how terrible things were, they must be still.

The temple was burning to the ground and with it every sacred relic the people cherished. Standing stones were defiled. The warrior priest and his men had cleansed their little patch of the Highlands of pagans. It was a haven no longer, and they would make an example of their great prize, their high priestess, Vivianne. She would be convicted of an assortment of twisted accusations, from heresy, to practicing black magic and conspiring with the Devil, to murder, for giving women teas so they would have sovereignty over their bodies, and not have to bear children if they did not desire to. She was to be taken south and burned in front of a crowd of bloodthirsty Christian Saxons.

Heahmund would have taken the lives of two of the people in the world that mattered to her most, and Sig could not let that stand. He could not have both.

The three women followed, journeyed to where they took their high priestess from the highlands, through Lothian, and finally to Northumbria. On the way, they’d studied everything they could about the men. Who they were, their weaknesses, their appetites and urges.

Once in Northumbria, they acquired what they needed and dressed as nuns. They used glamor, suggestion, and sheer confidence to infiltrate their filthy castle. They practiced the darkest of feminine arts … vengeful seduction. They would need to distract Heahmund so that they could free Vivianne before she was set to burn.

Brid and Macha offered to do the worst with grins on their faces, telling Sig that she should not have to entice the man who killed her love.

“He punishes himself after bedding a woman.”

“Let us help him to sin so bad, he punishes himself all the way into his grave. He is handsome enough. It will be fun.”

Sig watched from behind a door as her friends worked their magic.

They made sure he was alone, caught him after dinner and a lot of brandywine. He was entranced as soon as one beautiful nun took the other’s hand. His chest began to heave as the two shared a chaste kiss that held a promise for more.

“Bishop Heahmund, we know that it is a sin to know a man … but is it a sin to know each other?”

Sig gave a satisfied smile in the dark that probably looked downright evil. The man never stood a chance.

“Here … can we show you?”

She swiftly left them to find the cell in which they were keeping her mentor. The only thing that now stood between her and Vivianne’s freedom was one stupid easy guard.

And then she was finally there, reaching between black iron bars for her mentor, the great wise woman, revered as a queen among the people, covered in dirt, starved, beaten …

“Vivianne,” she whispered heatedly. “I am not sure how much time we have, but we will get you out.”

The high priestess took her hand and held on, the light still in her eyes, they had not snuffed out her spirit. Her robes were in tatters, her long dark hair wild and unbrushed, but she was still so vibrant and beautiful … ageless.

Vivianne's gaze held hers. “No.”

Sig’s eyes widened in shock. “But ...”

“It is time, Sig. It is simply my time. It must be. I can teach no more, see no more … the temple is gone, our way of life is gone. So I must be gone. It is what I wish.”

Tears fell on her cheeks. “Viv.”

“Sig, look,” her mentor pointed, and she turned her head to see a statue standing in a corner. There was a single candle lit to illuminate the figure, so that it looked almost alive, ethereal. It was the image of the one they called Mary, the mother of God.

“The Goddess still lives,” Vivianne explained. “She has only changed her face so that her children can still worship her without fear. In plain sight. She has fooled these Christians, do you not see? And they cannot kill us all, my love. The granddaughters of the granddaughters of the ones they could not burn, will rise again someday.”

Sig nodded, trying to not fall apart. “I understand.”

Vivianne smiled, and it was a smile of peace. “I have one last command, and when carried out, you will call yourself priestess and healer. You will no longer be an apprentice, and everything that I was, will be with you and Brid.”

“Yes, High Priestess.”

“I cannot die by their hand. I must die by one of my own. In our last moments, in the final breaths of our gods’ reign … let them see how powerful we are, let them see how powerful you are. Let them see they cannot truly defeat us. Call the rains.”

Sig nodded.

“It will weaken you and Brid considerably, it is dangerous, but I will help you.

“Yes, High Priestess.”

“Then go back to your people. Something else comes for you. You have a destiny to embrace, if you so wish. You will be loved. You will be remembered.”

She shook her head, tears now falling to the floor. “I know what that will bring. It will mean that I be amidst war … and perhaps I wish to only live on my own, in contentment and obscurity. Practice what you taught me.”

Vivianne smiled. “That is also a wonderful destiny. If that is what you wish, never return to these isles.

Sig nodded. “This world did not deserve you, Vivianne.”

“This world still holds so much beauty and magic, my love. This land in which we stand here now is cursed, it can make you forget. You will remember once you are home, I promise you. Now, give me your knife.”

Sig obeyed, taking her blade with the curved bone handle out of her boot, and handed it to the woman who’d given it to her.

Vivianne scraped her thumb over it. “So sharp, just as I taught you … so that one doesn’t feel a thing as it penetrates.”

“Yes.”

“And you must also stay just as sharp in the mind, so that one doesn’t know a thing if you need to infiltrate.”

The high priestess then sliced her palm, sending blood drops into Sig’s outstretched hand. “Everything that I was, will be with you. The Goddess lives, she has only changed her face. Now go . She is with you. I will be with you.”

Sig smeared the blood down the center of her face, bowed one last time for her mentor, and ran off into the night.

She later made sure to share the blood ritual with Brid as well, before the two stood in a hostile crowd the next day, awaiting the moment the Christians intended to burn their high priestess as a witch, purified by fire. Macha stood further back, away from too many people, her modified bow hidden among her skirts and cloak.

They watched as Heahmund lit the bottom of the pyre they’d built. They’d taken their mentor out of her priestess robes and left her in a thin muslin shift, tied her to a stake, and even though they’d attempted to make her appear as undignified as possible, she still emanated more majestic and sovereign energy than any of the wretched Saxon kings and priests, in all their gold and garish finery, could ever hope to achieve.

Smoke began to rise and Vivianne gave a nod of her head, her very last command. The two apprentices hidden in the crowd began to chant under their breath, whispering so that others could not hear, and using every drop of energy they had within. As the fire spread, clouds began to gather, and with the clouds came the first drops of rain … then came the downpour. People began to look around, shocked, so the women began to chant only in in their heads, concentrating on the dwindling pyre.

“Witch!” Heahmund drew his sword, furious that his show, his moment, was being turned on its head. He held his righteous weapon to Vivianne’s throat, but she only grinned at him, eyebrow raised, for even though she was his prisoner, she refused to be his victim. He could kill them, help to destroy their way of life, but he could not destroy their spirit or the magic that runs through the air. Before he could strike a blow, Macha’s arrow shot right through her heart, giving the priestess her last wish, to die by the hand of one of her own, and not by this man.

Just as Queen Aslaug did, Vivianne died with a serene smile on her face, and as the life evaporated from her body, both Sig and Brid felt a rush of power, as if they had been given a boon. It was a great gift, one made possible through their blood magic, and it came at the perfect moment, as calling the rains had left the two priestesses completely drained. They gave each other exhausted smiles, though they were also filled with sadness. They were now priestesses, and Brid would take on the mantle of High Priestess in secret.

“Witches are among us!”

As the crowd dispersed in a panic, she was able to calmly walk off with Brid in order to find Macha at their rendezvous spot. After the spectacle, they had to rest, as the use of such magic always came with a price. Even with the boon they’d been given, they’d still been left terribly depleted, and without Vivianne’s gift, they might have never fully recovered.

After many days rest, Brid and Macha helped Sig to board a boat, bound for her homeland.

The new High Priestess kissed her cheek. “It is my hope that I see you again, sister. And yet it is also my hope that I do not, for then I know you are happy and well. Married to some handsome Viking prince,” she said in jest, with a grin.

Sig laughed. “I do not think so. Marriage is not for me. Why forsake the admiration of many men for the scrutiny of only one?”

Her friend raised a brow. “I am sure that you will find out why.”

She gave Brid and Macha one last embrace. “Take care of each other. Love each other.”

“We will,” they said in unison.

Sig sailed for weeks, stopping here and there, until she finally reached the shores of Kattegat. She’d forgotten how beautiful it really was, how blue was the color that shined through. So much vibrant blue. She’d been so used to the vivid greens of the highlands and the muddy dull browns and greys of Northumbria. But here, the air was more clean and crisp, the cold had a sweeter smell to it. Something in her heart settled as soon as she touched foot to the ground.

Once home, she heard the stories and the gossip, learned of the recent coup, Ragnar Lothbrok’s fate and of his sons. There were only a few days of getting comfortable in her uncle’s home, when a most stunning visitor arrived … the Queen. She asked one simple question, that then led to so much … “Will I be killed by one of the sons of Ragnar?”

“The gods will still demand a life.”

“He should have stayed lost. Calamity … after calamity.”

“Never return to these isles.”

“You could be his queen.”

“It is part of a larger and bolder strategy.”

“Is he worth the leap?”

“IVAAAAAAR!”

So many voices. Too many voices. They all combined into one big terrible noise ringing in her ears.

Then silence. A silence almost as deafening as the voices.

Sig shot up in bed, hand at her heart, expecting to see Ivar covered in blood, feral and laughing, as he had been in her vision. Instead, she looked next to her and found him sleeping. Such peace on his face. A peace that she’d never seen him possess. She began to see him with new eyes, and a new understanding of her attraction to him. It made her think he was perhaps woven into her fate even deeper than she'd once thought. She was not sure what it all meant yet, but she knew that she would have to make a choice, and soon. 

They had just made love hours before, the memory of him moving within her, stirring her again. She shifted under the furs and could feel a dull yet sweet soreness between her legs, and it only left her wanting more. So much more. She thought of her dream, the rain pouring over his blood-covered maniacal and ecstatic smile, his weapon raised, spitting in the direction of his enemy … her enemy.

And yet there he was … lying next to her in that moment, his breathing even and content. His face smooth and clean, unblemished and perfect. They had been wrapped around each other, entwined, joined, and now they rested, their breath and dreams mingling, their connection growing ever more stronger. It was dangerous, and yet also so damn tempting, to let the ties to him become even tighter.

Sig reached over and lightly brushed the hair off his forehead, as it had been disheveled during their encounter and in sleep. It wasn’t perfectly smoothed back like he’d been wearing it lately, and it made him look vulnerable and exposed somehow. It was extremely alluring, knowing that no one else got to see this side of him. She leaned over to brush her lips on his cheek and realized that she desperately needed him again … needed him to ground her in this room. To bring her back from the vision, remind her what was real. What was the past and what was the present. Only he could temper the voices, the constant chatter in her mind, because only when he was above her, kissing her, or was inside her, did the rest of the world stop. Only then was there quiet. There was silence save for the stirring sounds of their pleasure. There was heat and there was peace.

He was lying on his side facing her and she slid under the furs until she was flush against him, her hand smoothing over his abdomen. “Ivar.”

“Hmmmm.”

She began to kiss his neck, trailing down to his chest, and he instinctively moved onto his back, still mostly asleep. Her lips sucked at his nipple and she bit down. He gave a small gasp as his hips gently thrust forward, not exactly sure what was happening, but sure that he liked it.

“Sig.” He was groggy, awakening from a deep sex-induced sleep, and yet the thought of more was enticing enough to make him happy to become conscious.

She climbed on top of him, straddling him, and pushed the furs down. His arms and hands were still bunched up in their sleeping position, not quite sure what to do, and he squinted up at her as if she were the specter this time.

“I need you,” she breathed. “Now.”

His eyes roamed over every inch of her, the sight of a flushed naked woman on top of him bringing him out of his sleepy fog, and his hands finally came to her hips, his fingers giving her a squeeze.

“Come here,” he commanded softly. She sat forward on her elbows and kissed him as his arms slid up her back, pressing her to him, and their bodies slowly began the push and pull, the ebb and flow. Her hand slid down between them and wrapped around his cock. He groaned into her mouth, surprised that she was moving things along so quickly, as he was only half-hard.

She broke their kiss. “I told you. I need you … now .”

He gave a growl, obviously aroused by her urgent desire for him. She crawled down his body, taking a moment to kiss the skin of his stomach and run her tongue over the groove along his hip, but she then wasted no time in taking him into her mouth. She had no thoughts for teasing. He sucked in a breath and moaned as she worked him, until he was growing beneath her, hard and firm. She knew it was time when he started to become loud, and his hips began to rise slightly off the bed, meeting her, as his hands came to her head, fingers threading through her hair.

Sig let go of him and quickly sat up to find him looking up at her helpless, eyebrows raised in desperation, as though pleading with her to not stop. She only gave him a grin before rubbing against him, his cock already slick from her mouth, and reached down to line him up. She sank down on him, letting him fill her completely. They both moaned at the sudden invasion of pleasure, and the soreness that was there for her melted into an exquisite ache. She began to move, rocking above him, needing to envelop him, immerse herself in him, so that the rest of the world would fall away for a few rare moments.

Ivar’s hands were at her thighs, fingers digging into her skin. “Sig,” he gasped, overcome by watching her move above him, and he tried to thrust up into her more forcefully, almost slipping out, not used to the position.

She stilled. “Shhh,” she whispered, before resuming her movements, slowly and deliberately riding him, until his hips were meeting hers perfectly.

“Yessss, just like that,” she praised, as she threw her head back and moaned. “Ivar, you feel so good.”

She breathed deep and looked down at him, at his furrowed brow, his mouth open, his expression frantic and desperate, and it was incredibly arousing and gratifying, knowing that she was the only person to ever see him like this. It compelled her to move faster, and to grind down onto him harder. He was used to the rhythm now and met her with more force, and his hand left her thigh to smack her ass hard before grabbing on tight. She cried out, and they both began to give one constant moan, and a louder accent with each push.

Sig leaned forward, spreading her thighs even more, and angled her hips so that she met perfectly with his pubic bone. She did not hold back and went wild, rolling her hips, grinding down on him, not caring how loud she was, or that people next door could probably hear her. She relentlessly fucked him as he stared up at her riding his cock, his face telling her that he wasn’t going to last much longer, his eyes wide.

“Sig,” he whimpered, like a plea. A plea to not stop, a plea to come before he fell apart. A plea to never let go.

“Almost … there,” she panted, breathless. “You are going … to make me come … so hard, Ivar.”

He groaned, a desperate sound, and grabbed onto her ass for dear life. One, two, three more pushes and she was coming all around him, her hands grabbing at his chest, her neck arched, her body trembling. His stomach muscles contracted as he lifted his torso and wrapped his arms around her waist. He pulled her down while he pushed up into her as far as he could bury himself, and he let go, coming deep inside of her, the vibrations of his voice mingling with the vibrations from her orgasm as he moaned and gasped, his face in her breasts.

Ivar collapsed back onto the bed, taking Sig with him, his arms tight around her. They caught their breath and she relaxed on top of him, loving the feeling of him still inside her, softening. All was quiet. All was perfect.

He ran fingers through her hair. “Now that I have had you like this,” he whispered low. “I do not think I can spend another night without you.”

“Hmmm,” she lazily hummed, while falling back to sleep to the rise and fall of his chest.

His fingers traced down her back, making her shiver. “You will come to England with me.”

Sig frowned to herself, brought out of her hazy afterglow, but said nothing, hoping he would think she’d fallen asleep.

Never return to these isles.

One voice returned, and though quiet, it was still there. She gave a deep sigh. All the sex in the world wouldn’t completely silence them.

But at least she could have fun trying.

~~::::::...::::::~~


Chapter Text

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Sig had only a few precious minutes awake with Ivar later in the morning before one of Lagertha’s shieldmaidens came knocking on her door. She’d opened her eyes to find him spooned behind her, his arm draped over her stomach almost possessively, as if he intended to keep her there for quite some time. She’d grinned and arched her back, rubbing against him, and hearing a soft gasp escape his lips as his cock hardened against her ass. He growled as his hand reached up to knead at her breast. And just as they were getting somewhere interesting, came the dreaded call.

Ivar sat up pouting in her bed as she got herself ready. “I must go,” she tried to reason with him. “The Queen has asked that I tend to Bjorn’s men and women who were injured or sick during the voyage back, so that they may be well and good to join when the Great Army sails for England.”

He was of course, not having it. His jaw was set in a firm line, his eyes boring a hole into her as she walked about the room to gather her things. His nostrils flared before he spoke. “Can we not have one day together without being interrupted?”

Sig had finished dressing and wrapped her favorite wide belt around her waist. “I know that you hate it, and I understand why, but Lagertha employs me, Ivar. It is how I have this place to live. How I have space for an infirmary … how I can keep procuring tools and medicines to help people. I must do these kinds of things when she calls me to.”

“Kattegat has other healers,” Ivar grumbled. “Must you feel the need to cater to everyone?”

She sighed and stepped over to his side of the bed. He was looking rather delicious among her furs, his hair tousled and his lips reddened from use. A shiver ran down her spine at the thought of where those lips had been over the past several hours, and she was almost tempted to let him have his way.

“Let me tend to them today and then tomorrow will be ours,” she offered. “Besides, do you not want to spend some time with your brothers who have just arrived home after months of being away? Do you not want to see Hvitserk at the very least? I am sure there are many things that have occurred since he was gone that will come as a shock to him. He will probably need his brothers. All of them.”

Ivar looked down and gave a slight shake of his head. “I have no desire to be among my brothers as they try to convince each other that our mother never loved them, and that they need not mourn her.”

Sig gave him a look of sympathy. “Do you believe Hvitserk really feels that way?”

He frowned, his eyes unfocusing. “I heard enough last night, before I went to find you.”

She wished she could stay and comfort him, but figured she could try and talk about how he felt later, but at the moment, she had a long line of patients to see. “Well, at the very least, you do have a few things to discuss, do you not? What with assembling this Great Army? You were the mastermind behind it all, were you not?”

His brows knit together, his eyes now all on her. “Do you honestly think I have not thought of that? You are only trying to convince me of a reason as to why we should not spend the next week in this bed, and not open that door to anyone. I know your tricks now, woman.”

She smiled as she lifted her leg to rest her foot on a chair, while hiking up her skirt to reveal her boot. She secured her knife in its special spot as always. “Oh, but you have only just scratched the surface.”

Ivar narrowed his eyes and gave a nod. “Perhaps. But I will scratch further … and go deeper.”

“You shall try.”

“And I shall win.”

She took a deep breath, standing straight. His stubbornness and sheer willpower could at times be maddeningly irritating and vexing, but at others could be strangely endearing in a way that melted her heart. He was such a contradiction. Ivar was insecure, self-conscious, and in her experience, could be vulnerable … but he was also extremely demanding and relentless. He pushed. He was always pushing at boundaries, some well-established and breaching past them, in ways that only the most confident usually could do. And there was the paradox. And she always loved a good puzzle, a good fascination.

Sig shook her head, wondering if she had truly fallen for him or was just infatuated. She needed some time to gather her thoughts, without having to look at his handsome face or beautiful naked chest while she did it. She needed to meditate on what had been revealed to her, needed to think about the new vision taking place of the old. And about actually being his. Truly his.

I am yours …

She had certainly thought it, but had never spoken it out loud. Never admitted to it.

She blinked to focus on the moment and tried for reason. “You need not win. Why must everything be a competition? We are simply here. Now. There is no victory, Ivar.”

He gave a chuckle as if to say she was being naive, raising a brow. “There is victory. And I will possess you completely. Your fate is fixed,” he announced with a shrug and a flick of his fingers, as if it were a given, a spell he knew how to weave and would work, spoken with his unwavering confidence that he conjured when he wanted something bad enough.

‘Hn.” Sig had no desire to discuss fixed fates with him at that particular moment. She had patients to see and visions to ponder. She walked over and bent down, kissing him quickly on the cheek. “I am afraid that I have to go now, possessor, so you will have to possess me later, as I now must tend to the sick and injured. You can stay and possess these rooms, however, for as long as you like, but I will be in the infirmary just next door. Have a nice time today, possessing.”

He tilted his head to the right and then left, in that way of his, when he wanted to be particularly cheeky. “Yes. It is fine if she tries to get to the bottom of me, using her schemes. But then she uses sudden changes in subjects and flippancy when she wishes to avoid talk of her own heart.” He stuck out his chin. “How am I doing, Sig? Have I scratched the surface further?”

She straightened her spine, swung her bag over her shoulder, and headed to the door. “Good day, Ivar.”

He raised a finger in the air. “She also tends to leave abruptly when faced with situations or topics she finds uncomfortable,” he observed, opening his eyes wider and sitting forward. “And yet another scratch.”

“Oh, good goddess,” she muttered under her breath, as she opened and shut the door behind her. She leaned on it for a moment, closing her eyes. “Grant me the strength to not kill that man … or to happily let him possess my body and soul, while keeping me barefoot, with child, and bearing him ten sons.”


~~*...*~~

Sig looked around her rather small space but was quite proud with what she’d done with it. She’d tried her best to make it cozy yet efficient, carefully hanging drying herbs along the walls and keeping her medicines in special jars, bottles, and leather pouches. There was a hearth, examination table, tools, chairs, everything she needed. She took a moment to let it sink in … this was hers. Within this space, she was the mistress, and knew that Vivianne would have been pleased.

Before she had any visitors at her door, Sig carefully placed several small bottles in a row on her desk. Her previous thoughts of bearing Ivar ten sons led her to be reminded that the possibility of a first one was very real, if she wasn’t careful. She hadn’t needed her mentor’s prevention recipe in quite awhile and began to recall the ratios of herbs in her head. Lovemaking was such an exhilarating experience, especially in the beginning, and it was easy to be reckless. She took a deep breath, remembering that it was usually the woman who bore the brunt of the potential suffering that could come from such recklessness.

She let herself wonder for a moment, if it wouldn’t be so terrible. She could perhaps actually have something like a family, a little one to take care of, to guide through this life, watch them grow and explore. These thoughts didn’t last long, however, as she knew the time could not be worse. The Great Army was to set sail soon and the fledgling relationship with Ivar would have to cease for a time. And only the gods knew if he would even come back at all. She found that she could not entertain the thought of being alone and with child, it was much too painful and lonely. She had always been the solitary sort, simply due to circumstance. She was able to mingle well with others, develop friendships, sacred ones, but she also craved her time alone, as it was now a part of her. But to have a child alone? Truly alone, with no family, no close women-friends … just an uncle who was always roaming around the world.

How sad, she thought.

And then there was the decision she would have to make, and soon. Her vision had manifested and a new one arose in its place. The gods had revealed a path to her and she willingly walked down it, every step coming closer and closer to being woven into Ivar’s story. Last night she could feel herself truly becoming his, even wanted it. But today, sobered in the bright late-morning sunlight, did she really? Admittedly, there was quite profound pleasure that came with being Ivar’s lover. They were certainly physically compatible in a way that she’d never experienced with a man before, as it had been almost instant. Their intimate moments were undeniably passionate and Ivar’s inexperience made him so eager and determined to get things right, which she honestly found intoxicating. But putting sex aside, what kind of actual future could she ever have with him? It would certainly not be an easy or a peaceful one, and with the past few years she’d had, she so yearned for peace. Or for at least a tiny slice of it.

He did bring her a type of peace though. Ivar was able to distract her, perhaps only by demanding her full attention, but he did it nonetheless. She could almost effortlessly tune out the invisible world when she was with him. Was that the pull to him? Was he but a balm? Was she really only using him? She certainly had needed him early that morning … though he hadn’t seemed to mind.

The conundrum known as Ivar also distracted her from just being alone. Sure, she had duties that kept her busy, and she liked being a part of the Queen’s inner circle, but she hadn’t had years upon years together with them like most of the other women had had. She'd traveled for a big portion of her life and was able to adapt quite well to new circumstances, but for the past few years she had stayed in one spot. She had made real ties, and the last of them had been severed in England as she’d boarded a ship and waved goodbye to Brid and Macha.

She’d been lonely for human contact, plain and simple. Ivar was also a balm for the loneliness.

Sig suddenly found herself staring at nothing, holding one of her bottles of medicine in one hand as if to pour some of it out. She blinked and went back to her task, measuring out small piles of herbs for her mortar and pestle. She had been so focused on getting the recipe perfect that she almost didn’t notice when someone gently opened the door. She turned to see Margrethe slip into the entranceway.

The girl’s eyes turned to the floor when she saw Sig’s perplexed expression. “I was sent in case you needed assistance,” Margrethe said quietly.

Her features softened, as she remembered that the girl had been quite helpful with the victims of the bear attack, but she was suspicious. “Who sent you?”

Margrethe’s eyes instantly looked to the side, and Sig knew that whatever had come out of her mouth was not exactly the truth. Margrethe wasn’t exactly a wonderful liar, and she was curious as to just how infatuated Ubbe and Sigurd must have been, in order to not see right through her deception with Lagertha. In the end, you believe what you want to believe.

The girl blinked several times before answering. “I … I am sorry, no one sent me. I just wanted to learn.”

Sig wondered if she really wanted to learn about the art of healing, or if she wanted to learn anything she could about the true loyalties of the men and women who visited that day, for her son of Ragnar.

She decided to give her the benefit of the doubt as she saw Margrethe look around the room, eyes dancing at the sight of all the drying herbs on the walls.

“Very well,” Sig decided. “I thank you for the help … perhaps we can get through this day quicker together.” She then noticed Margrethe frown when she caught sight of the herb she’d been working with on her desk. “Do you know what this is?”

The girl nodded. “Blue cohosh.”

Sig gave a small smile. “Good. You are familiar with its purpose?”

Margrethe took a moment and nodded. “Are you … with ...“ she trailed off.

Sig shook her head, understanding her meaning. “No. I am not with child. That is a completely different recipe altogether. Much more unpleasant. And dangerous.”

“Yes,” the girl said gravely.

“This is so one might have a better chance at avoiding the danger. If that is their wish.”

As Margrethe slowly smiled in understanding, their first patients of the day began to trickle through the open door, and a steady stream of people flowed in and out ... until two in particular came to visit.

Sig looked up from tending to a shieldmaiden’s twisted ankle when she saw the silhouette of a very large man taking up her whole doorway. His hair bright as mid-day sunlight and wrapped in a tail like Ubbe’s.

She squinted up at him from where she was seated at her examination table. “Bjorn?”

“Sig, is it?” He asked with a voice that was soft yet authoritative. He slowly walked into the room, looking at her with a cautious expression and inquisitive brow. “My mother’s personal … healer?”

She gave him a gentle smile. He was Ragnar’s son, but he radiated a completely different energy than the other ones. He was also Lagertha’s son, and would fiercely defend her just as Ivar would have done his mother, though perhaps in ways that were a bit more covert. “Something like that,” she answered him.

He nodded and inquired on. “And you are a seer? We have a seer and a healer in Kattegat. But never one who was both.”

“Yes,” she said. “Women are much better than men at multitasking.”

Bjorn stared at her for a moment and then finally gave a chuckle. “So it would seem. How is it that you became all of these things?”

She hoped his questions would not last all day. Sig finished the last touches on bandaging her current patient’s ankle and sent the shieldmaiden on her way before giving him her full attention. She faced him, putting her hands in her lap. “A high priestess once instructed me that if I focused only on the Sight, it could drive me mad eventually, as it is strong in me. I needed another practice to keep my mind occupied, to keep me grounded. I excelled at the healing arts.”  

Bjorn inclined his head. “Considering that the old seer here is quite mad, I would venture to say that is true.”

A sprightly energy then bounced into the room in the form of the last son of Ragnar she had yet to become reaquainted with. Sig was all of a sudden met with Hvitserk jumping up on her examination table and swinging his legs like a young boy.

He leaned down towards her. “It is you,” he observed with a smirk.

She smiled back, amused by his instant amiable disposition. “It is me.”

“Sig.”

“Hvitserk.”

She leaned forward to search his eyes as they sparkled. His were darker than any of the other sons, though she was sitting right in front of him and could not tell what exact color they were. Either a light brown or a grey … or the type of eyes that absorbed any color the person was wearing. It was the mark of someone who was not easily read.

He leaned forward was well, the smirk never leaving his face. “I had heard you were back, and that you had grown into a great beauty. I had to see for myself. You look radiant,” he observed and then sat up, looking behind him at Sig’s assistant for the day. “As do you Margrethe. Both of you.”

Bjorn looked on at his brother in slight amusement as he continued to talk.

“And both of you are claimed,” Hvitserk presumed, in an almost mock sadness.

Sig frowned. “Of course this is true of Margrethe, but who has told you this about me, Hvitserk?”

He grinned. “Sigurd. He told me not to touch … or even to look for that matter, which is naturally why I am here.”

She all of a sudden felt very warm and was sure that she was blushing bright red. “Oh, dear gods, I am in trouble.” From across the examination table, Margrethe gave her a sympathetic expression.

Hvitserk's grin broke out into a toothy smile. “So it is not true?”

“Er. Sigurd is mistaken, but ...”

“Ivar!” Margrethe announced loudly for the room to hear, in a voice Sig didn’t know she was capable of. She wondered if the girl was attempting to save her from the conversation steering towards something she would not want him to hear.

Sig looked over to see him already through the door and near a chair, and watched as he lifted himself into it. She wondered how much of an earful he’d gotten. She then noticed the state he seemed to be in, as he looked lost and feverish. His hair damp at his temples from sweating. “Ivar, are you not well?”

Hvitserk looked over to him. “There you are, brother! Where did you disappear to last night? I had a bottle of wine from Frankia to share with you.”

Ivar narrowed his eyes at his brother. “If you will excuse me, Hvitserk, I must see the healer,” he said slowly, as if trying to keep himself in check.

“It is alright, we can take a break,” Sig said, immediately. “Margrethe, I need some more yarrow. Can you see if you can find some in the market for me?”

She nodded and immediately went for the door without saying a word. Hvitserk stood, having the attention-span of a kitten, and was now focused on her. “I can walk you there,” he offered.

Margrethe nodded with a shy smile and the two quickly left together. All that was left was Bjorn, who was eyeing Ivar suspiciously, as if he already knew what was going on.

His tall form was broad and imposing. “You look wrecked, Ivar. Did you fall asleep pouting in the fields last night?”

Ivar rolled his eyes, as if used to his oldest brother’s teasing and yet was absolutely tired of it already, even though he hadn’t seen him in months. Apparently there was no love lost between them. Or very little of it.

“He was with me,” Sig said casually as she stood up and began to wash her hands at her basin.

Bjorn slowly cracked a grin that did not reach his eyes. He then began to walk towards the door, but before exiting he leaned towards Ivar with his hands clasped behind his back. “Impressive,” he said, and then left the infirmary.

Ivar seemed to release a breath he’d been holding. Something in him relaxed and he looked at Sig with a warmth she wasn’t sure she had ever seen from him. “You told him.”

“He already knew.”

Ivar studied her face for a moment. “He was testing you, to see if you would lie to him.”

Sig nodded. “He does not trust me. I do not blame him.”

He looked down for a moment and back into her eyes. “Does it matter to you? That he trusts you?”

She shrugged. “I have not thought about it, Ivar. But I would hope that no one would have reason to mistrust me. No one needs to fear me, unless they mean to try and attack my hearth and home or the people I care about.”

Now it was his time to test her. “And who do you care about?”

Sig gave a long sigh. “I hope you know I care about you.”

Ivar held her eyes for several long breaths. It didn’t seem to be exactly what he wanted to hear, but there was also an impatience about him, a tension now in his limbs. His expression changed and she was suddenly gazing at a man who looked as if he were drowning. “I need you.”

She frowned, taken aback. “What?”

“You heard me. I need you.”

“Ivar, are you well?”

He looked at her as if she were daft. “No! I am not well. All I can think of is your glorious naked body riding me. Your breasts in my face bouncing on top of me. I have already molested myself twice today and I cannot wait until tonight to see you. I need you. Now.”

Sig looked at him in disbelief. “Ivar, Margrethe will be coming back soon, and someone could come in here at any time,” she reasoned, motioning to the wide-open door.

His scowled. “Shut and bar the door,” he commanded between his teeth.

She threw up her hands. “Are you being serious?”

“Of course I am being serious! I seem to recall you waking me from sleep to fuck me at dawn because you needed it, and now I am calling upon you to do the same!”

Sig paced for a moment. “Ivar, what am I supposed to do? Have a quick fuck and then see patients for the rest of the day with your seed running down my thighs?”

He blinked and his mouth opened, but it took him several tries to speak. “I … I can think of nothing in this world right now that I could want more, now that you have suggested it. Are you trying to torture me with this talk?”

Sig crossed her arms and took a second to look him over. He looked positively desperate. She then remembered that in the grand scheme of things, this was his first experience with the rush of elation and anticipation that came with sex, and how one’s thoughts never quite left the bedroom when separated with a new lover over the course of the day. She also had no real knowledge of how he’d dealt with himself before they met or before they had become intimate. Sig knew that he’d once believed he could not satisfy a woman, but didn’t know if that meant he did not satisfy himself either. If this was the first time he was dealing with everything at once, she could understand his distress. She was looking at someone who had just discovered he actually had the normal sexual drive of a virile young man, and Sig was all of a sudden both excited and a bit unnerved.

Dear goddess, what have I gotten myself into?

Just imagine …

“Ah. Very well,” she decided, before walking over to the door to shut and bar it, though she stayed standing near it.

Ivar’s face washed over in relief but then was confused as to why she did not come to him. He blinked, looking at her expectantly.

She chewed on her lower lip, appearing to be deep in thought, then curled her lips into a slight grin. “I will tend to you Ivar, but as a healer, I cannot guess what is ailing you. You will have to show me first.”

His brows knitted together, obviously perplexed. “What?” he asked shortly.

Sig moved her hands to her hips. “Show me,” she instructed again, then lowered her voice to something more breathy, her eyes flickering between his face and his belt. “Show me where it hurts.”

It took him a moment to understand, but when he did, his expression grew dark at the realization that she would relent to his demand, but only if he also submitted to hers. Ivar clenched his jaw as his hands went to deal with his belt and unlaced his trousers. He then pulled them down enough to reveal quite an impressive erection straining and curving towards his stomach.

Sig tried to keep her face casual but her eyes widened a little at the sight. She raised a brow and inclined her head. “Hmm. I see. Yes, I can understand how that could interfere with your daily tasks.” She then pursed her lips. “Show me what you have been doing to alleviate your distress.”

His eyes widened. “Show you?”

“Of course! How else can I make a complete diagnosis?”

Ivar looked as if he could not decide whether to fall into a full-out tantrum, or will himself to stand up from the chair, walk across the room, and throw her across the examination table to fuck her. But in the end, he realized that the quickest way to get what he wanted, was to comply. He shook his head slightly as if he couldn’t believe what he was about to do, and brought his hand to his cock to grip it, but made no further move.

Sig nodded, her brow knit together as if she were assessing a patient’s ailment. “Good. You may proceed. Go on.”

Ivar turned his head slowly with a sardonic grin, one full of frustration, and then came back to glare at her. She remained entirely serene though, until he finally began to move his fist up and down and his breathing grew more rapid. She relaxed into a smile, a bit wicked-looking, as his face began to lose its hard edges and go slack, his eyelids growing heavy.

“Alright, Ivar,” she said. “I believe I have it figured out.”

He looked up at her, his mouth open and hungry, but he was much too aroused now to stop what he was doing.

Sig began to lift her skirts. “Do you know what I think?” She stopped as the fabric reached mid-thigh.

Ivar shook his head, staring at her bare legs.

“You have come to the place where I do my work, where I want to be respected, and demand that I drop everything and cater to your prick. The difference between now and when I jumped on you at dawn, is that we were alone and in a bed together. I believe that you came here to make me submit to your wishes in the place where I am most in control. Where I practice my craft. In the place where I give the orders. So that you can possess me, reign over me. Is that true?”

The only answer he gave her was to move his hand faster along his length and give a long bitten-off moan.

“You wish for me to submit to you?”

Ivar’s nostrils flared as he leaned forward and hissed. “You will.”

Sig feigned a timid smile. “Yes, Ivar,” she answered and then dropped to her knees. He completely stopped his hand and stared, his chest heaving, as she began to slowly and seductively crawl over to him on her hands and knees.

“Will this do?” she asked, eyebrows raised as though seeking his approval.

“Sig,” he managed to say through his panting.

When she came upon him, she put her hands on his thighs, pushing herself up. “Yes, Ivar?”

“What … are you … doing to—”

She looked up at him from under her lashes. “I am submitting to your wishes, of course. Does this not please you, Ivar? I so wish to please you.”

He tilted his head to the side, his eyes glassy and lids fluttering. He looked as if he were about to lose control, but held onto a tiny thread of it so that he could speak. “My funny Sig … when will you be serious with me?”

She knew very well that she was the one on her knees, but had this man at her mercy. Sig softened her voice. “I am serious Ivar.”

Sig put her mouth to the head of his cock, ceasing his words. She removed his hand, still wrapped around it, and replaced it with hers, as she let her mouth slide down his length. He let out a loud groan filled with pleasure and relief, as if she was finally allowing him to breathe after forcing him to hold it all this time.

When his hands came to her head and he began to push her further, she allowed it, as she knew it would not last long … but just as his hips began to thrust upwards, making it all a little too much, she could hear the door jiggle as someone tried to open it, and then a knock. Sig released him and sat up.

Ivar’s hand was instantly on the hatchet he kept holstered at his hip, though it was now further down his legs where his trousers were. His whole body tensed as he brought it to position, as if he was about to throw it at whoever was about to walk through the door.

“Ivar, what are you doing?” Sig hissed, trying to keep her voice low.

“When you open that door I am going to murder who is behind it,” he growled.

“Put it down or I refuse to finish.”

Ivar looked down at her swollen wet lips and his hand instantly let go, his hatchet falling to the ground with a loud thunk.

She couldn’t help but grin before turning towards the door. “Give me a moment please!” she shouted, before bowing her head and going back to her work.

As he neared his end, Ivar decided that he wanted to be almost theatrically loud, so that whoever was outside could certainly hear what was going on.

Sig let him go and sat up again. “Ivar please be quiet," she pleaded. "I do not want people passing by thinking that this is a service I provide at the end of a visit!”

He nodded quickly, shutting up, and frantically motioned for her to go back to what she was doing. At that point, he was such a mess from prolonged arousal and interruptions that he only lasted seconds longer, and she was finally able to bring him over the edge, coming not exactly quietly, but quieter, by throwing an arm over his mouth to stifle the sound. When she rose up, he was shaking, though calm, now high and satiated.

Sig walked over to her basin to splash water in her face.

“What about you?” he asked, his words drawn out as if he were drugged. She was all of a sudden quite jealous, as the whole thing had done a very good job of making her completely frustrated with need. Every inch of her skin was now sensitive, wanting to be touched, along with a swelling ache between her legs. 

She turned around and faced him. “I’ll be fine,” she croaked out, before heading to a table that housed several gifts from patients, one of which was a flagon of mead. She popped the top off and drank straight from it, until she could feel it begin to calm her nerves. 

“Come over here,” Ivar said softly, as she collected herself.

“We will have to continue this later,” she answered with a regretful shrug and walked over to unbar the door. She paused to let Ivar tuck himself back into his trousers and then opened the door to see Margrethe obediently standing outside with an armful of yarrow.

Sig felt a small pang of guilt. “Thank you, Margrethe,” she said sincerely, and stepped aside to let her in.

The awkwardness of the situation was not lost on Sig as the two women readied themselves for more patients while Ivar watched from his seat.

“Feeling better, Ivar?” she asked as she steeped several herbs in very hot water to create a disinfecting solution.

He leaned to the side and lazily smiled. “Much.”

"Do you not have a battle to plan? Strategies to go over?" 

"No," he answered immediately. "Today was only for polishing my weapons. Just finished." 

"Good Goddess," Sig muttered under her breath and shook her head, amused by how different Ivar was after he came, as he was acting almost giddy.

She brought out her mortar and pestle and began to crush together a poultice for future patients. She focused on Margrethe who was busy picking herbs.

‘You will treat the next patient, Margrethe.”

The girl looked up, surprised at being acknowledged. She then immediately shook her head.

“Don’t worry, I will help you. Just make sure everything is clean,” she instructed and pointed towards her herbal disinfectant. “Here … wet your hands.”

“Yes, Margrethe,” Ivar piped up from behind them. “You should learn what you can from Sig. When it comes to getting wet, she is quite wonderful at it. Study hard.”

Sig dropped her pestle on her desk with a loud thunk, and looked over to see the poor girl’s cheeks turn pink, her eyes fixed on the floor. Sig glared at him and pointed towards the open door. “Out!”

Ivar gave a low and mischievous laugh. “I will see you at sundown then. You can show me what you taught her.”

“Go! Shoo!” she shouted, making sweeping motions with her hands.

“I am going to visit Floki,” he announced, slipping out of his chair.

“I do not care where you take yourself!”

“He is actually one that I do need to talk to about strategy.”

“Why are you still talking? I am not speaking to you for at least several hours. I cannot hear you.”

“Whatever for? Because I praised your lovely and unfailing ability to—”

“Do you hear something, Margrethe?” Sig asked, looking around the room. “I could have sworn I could hear a voice saying something like ‘and now I must journey far to the outskirts of Kattegat to visit a strange giggling man and think about what I have done’.”

“Yes. And the gods know I could use the distraction … and the exertion. Since you refuse to be reasonable and let me take—”

“Gooday, Ivar!” she practically shouted. “Make sure to tighten your braces and be careful not to injure your hand, as it seems as though your wrist is tender from recent vigourous use. You may need that later to tend to your pressing issue all by yourself next time.”

He grinned and rolled his jaw. “Only if you watch again as I do it.”

Sig could not help it, she put her hands to her face to stifle a laugh and failed. When she put her arms down she was smiling and blushing like the silly lovesick girl he was able to coax out of her at times. “Please go, Ivar,” she said through a soft embarrassing giggle. “So we can get this day over with, yes? And soon sundown will be upon us. So we can be upon each other.”

He looked way too pleased with himself as he crawled out the infirmary door. “It seems as though my funny Sig is finally relenting,” he mused, and was gone.

She stood for several seconds with her hands on her hips, shaking her head, and staring at her examination table as if it were particularly interesting.

Margrethe then spoke softly and awkwardly, breaking her from her daze. “Are you … and Ivar?”

Sig gave a loud sigh and dropped her hands on the table. “We are … something. What that is exactly, I do not know yet.”

“So you know about …”

Sig nodded.

“I … I am sorry.”

“There is no need to apologize to me, Margrethe. Neither of you were being untrue. I was not even in Kattegat at the time. I was across the sea.”

The girl nodded, but seemed to need to get something off her chest. “But what it all led to … I am sorry every day. The fear, how it made me so … foolish.”

Sig walked up and put her hand on Margrethe’s arm. “I am familiar with Ivar’s nature. I do not blame you for being afraid. His fear led him to be foolish as well.”

The girl nodded and relaxed her shoulders. “You are much stronger than I am. You temper him. I have never seen him as he was just now.”

Sig stepped back and gave a laugh. “You mean disagreeable? He was being a beast.”

Margrethe’s eyes widened. “No. That was not the beast. And he was not putting on airs, but was being playful. Almost … happy? It was not … an act.”

Sig stood and let her words sink in.

The girl continued. “I think that one man is actually two different people. There is the man he is among others, and the man he is underneath, alone. In most men, only one of their faces is a danger. With Ivar, it is both. But with you I see a completely new face.”

Sig inclined her head, shocked at what was coming out of Margrethe’s mouth. “Perhaps he has just grown up a little. He has been through so much in a short amount of time. It changes a person.”

“Yes, but he loves you. I see it. You make him … better,” she shrugged, as if she couldn’t find another word to convey her meaning.

“But what does he do for me?”

Margrethe shrugged again. “He makes you laugh, does he not?”

Sig raised a brow. “Is that all I get?”

“It is more than many get.”

“Hn. Many men can make me laugh.”

“But he keeps up with you. All day, as you have treated them, I have watched you say things that go over men’s heads, and yet Ivar always catches and throws back. How many men can do that?”

Sig frowned, as a string of men she knew or had once known, ran through her mind. “Honestly, not one. Not like he can,” she said, marveled by Margrethe’s sudden insight. It wasn’t often that she did it, but Sig realized she’d underestimated someone. She’d mistaken the girl’s quiet and passive appearance for someone rather unremarkable. Apparently she was quite observant, perhaps taking in situations as she sat in a corner, making herself invisible, all the while absorbing all that was said and acted out around her. The girl also knew of herbs and medicines, and genuinely wanted to learn. It made Sig wonder who she was before she was a slave, before she was taken and sold. It made her wonder if Margrethe had at one time been quite different, and something had happened to turn her into the quiet and passive one.”

“It is the same for Ivar,” the girl continued. “Only you can match him with words, and I've seen many try, while standing behind him and his family at the high table and waiting with a pitcher of ale. It is like a dance, watching you and him.”

Sig gave a laugh, not quite believing what she was hearing. “And yet I was worried earlier that I was using him.”

Margrethe grinned. “Good. He deserves it.”

“He has been a balm for many things, including … loneliness, I suppose. Should he not be just a balm?”

“Perhaps. Perhaps not. Ubbe is that for me. A light in the darkness. Before him, everything was quite dark. I just let things … happen to me.”

Sig smiled. “He is quite in love with you. And you will very soon wed the son of a king.

She shrugged. “It will just be nice to have … a family.”

“Yes,” Sig said softly.

“Perhaps you too, will wed the son of a king.”

Sig instantly shook her head, frowning. “I do not see how that would even be possible …”

Margrethe took her hand, her eyes growing big as if she were surprised she had done it. She chewed on her lip for a moment before speaking. “It would be nice to have a family, would it not? With men gone at times, as they are ... and yet with children to raise, we would have each other, if it came to that.”

Sig nodded, tears forming in the corners of her eyes. “Yes. It would be nice … to have a family.”


~~*...*~~

After her very long day was finally at an end, Sig walked through her door exhausted but newly hopeful. A rush of warmth then washed over her entire body as she saw Ivar, poised and shirtless, perched on the edge of her bed. He leaned forward and gave her a stare that said he either wanted to murder her or fuck her senseless, and either way, it nearly stopped her heart.

He opened his perfect mouth to give his command through a growl.

“Take off your clothes.”

Her heart then sped up at his order and she froze, finding that she could not move, struck by the raw emotion and fire radiating from his eyes, all on her. 

"I said take off your fucking clothes." 

Sig had one question in her mind as she dropped her bag to the floor. 

Am I now at his mercy? 

~~::::::...::::::~~


Chapter Text

~~::::::...::::::~~


“I said take off your fucking clothes.”

Sig dropped her bag on the floor. Or more like, her limbs had grown so weak that her hand had no choice but to let go of it, and it landed with a soft thud. She had no idea why she was suddenly so nervous. They had done this before, hadn’t they? Perhaps it was because of her growing attachment, that every encounter with him made her more vulnerable, as every touch brought her closer to a point of no return. She was becoming his, and maybe she already was. Maybe he’d even been right during their fight at beach … she’d been his since the day she set foot in Kattegat.

Something else is coming. Something else is here.

And that something else was in her room, which he’d let himself into, acting as though he already lived there with her. Perched on her bed and ready to fuck her senseless.

He gestured with his hand, impatient. “Go on.” 

She couldn’t move, could only frown. “Go on?”

He licked his lips and inclined his head. “Show me.”

Her mind was completely blank. “Show you?”

“Show. Me. Now ,” he commanded slowly, as if she were daft.

Sig tried to focus, knowing that all she’d been doing was repeating what he said like an idiot, but it was a bit hard when Ivar was sitting on the edge of her bed, with nothing on but trousers. He leaned forward as if he were ready to pounce on his prey, complete with a glare on his face that said he was about to ravage said prey.

She whimpered when her brain finally caught up to the rest of her body and realized with all certainty that the prey was her. As her mildly shaking hands went to unfasten her belt she could hear him growl, as she was finally beginning to obey. Soon her apron, underdress, pins, and every other accessory was on the ground and she was walking naked towards Ivar’s outstretched hand.

As soon as her fingertips touched his he had ahold of her, his hand grabbing her wrist, his arm wrapped around her, hoisting her into his lap in one swift movement. She was effectively trapped, as there was no escaping those arms, not that she’d want to, but the knowledge of those strong limbs caging her made her heart speed up. Then his mouth was on hers, a hand at her breast, the other on her ass, making sure they were as close as possible as she straddled him. Ivar thrusted his hips into hers and she moaned, almost growing faint, he had her so aroused. And it wasn’t just the moment and the position he had her in, but she’d been thinking about him all day, about their first time the night before, what had happened between them earlier at her infirmary, and imagining what they’d do to each other when the day was finally over.

Ivar snaked a hand between them and ran his fingers across the slick heat between her thighs. He groaned at what he found and gave her a slow smirk. “This is what happens … when I touch you?”

“Mmmm,” she moaned against his lips as his fingertips explored. “And lately it is what happens when I only think of you.” 

“So how long … have you been this way?” 

Her breath hitched before she could speak. “Since before. When I had you in my mouth.”

He growled at that, and his hands went to deal with getting his trousers unlaced. “You should have let me take care of you like I wanted.”

“Perhaps.”

As his cock bounced free of his pants, he grabbed her hand and pulled it to him. “And this is what happens to me when I think of being inside you. And I have thought about it all day.”

Sig instantly wrapped fingers around him in a snug grip, and took a moment to appreciate the silky skin there, yet he was thick and hard, an alluring contrast if there ever was one. He groaned as she gave him a firm stroke. She lifted her hips in order to sink down on him right then and there, but his muscles tensed suddenly and she felt herself being lifted and thrown onto her back. It was almost too quick to register what had happened before finding Ivar right on top of her and spreading her thigh. It was so shocking and forceful that her first instinct was to somehow get away. Her arms even scrambled to find support, her hands trying to push into the furs in order to get herself up.

Ivar only smothered her back down with his body weight, a grin on his face, pleased with himself that he’d coaxed out such submissiveness in her earlier and such surprise now. He wasted no time with preamble, simply reached down between them to grab his cock and shoved himself inside of her. She wailed at the unexpected timing, her legs trembling and her knees spreading in a jolt at his first forceful thrust. Sig grabbed onto his shoulders as he growled into her ear, snapped his hips, and proceeded to fuck her senseless.

The loudness of their voices only intensified when he hooked a thumb under her knee, pushing her thigh up and out, spreading her further as she tilted her hips and let him deeper inside. He gasped, the angle spurring him to increase his speed. Her eyes practically rolled back in her head as he reached new depths and she was desperate to come. She reached a hand between them in order to help things along but he caught her wrist before pulling her arm up and pinning it to the bed. In a swift second, he managed to grab the other one as well, holding them both with one hand. She found herself overwhelmed. Overwhelmed and impressed.

He slowed his pace but did not ease the force of his thrusts. “Mine ,” he snarled, his voice gravelly and strained, his eyes on hers, savage and open. “You … should have let me … take care of you … like I wanted,” he informed, repeating what he’d said to her earlier. “Shouldn’t you have … Sig.”  

She knew that he did not want to hear one of her usual noncommittal responses like “perhaps.” He wanted a real answer. Sig struggled to find her voice, as she knew she would not be allowed to come otherwise. “Yes, Ivar … I should have,” she managed to breathe.

His arms pushed himself up though is hips never faltered from slamming into hers, the new angle stimulating the exact spot she needed and she sobbed at the sensation, the much-needed relief, and the fact that he’d given her that mercy.

Ivar took some of that mercy away as he slowed his rhythm and cocked his head to the side, staring down at her. “I have half a mind to not let you come until I’ve already taken you many times tonight, until you are begging me … as you made me beg. Make you crawl to me again and suck my cock … before I finally let you have what you want.”

Sig gasped as she stared up at him, something warring within her. She vehemently wanted to defy him, it was in her nature, and yet she also wanted to beg for release, to please him, to freely give him what he wanted. “Ivar,” she moaned, as it was the only word she could say as she fought the instinct to struggle and get her arms free and yet was also concentrating on desperately moving her hips against his in order to achieve some sweet relief.

He grinned down at her before letting go of her wrists and she instantly put her arms around his shoulders, trying to guide him to her, though he did not budge. “You are very lucky Sig,” he said, nearly panting, as he was fighting for the control to not also unabashedly chase his release. “Lucky that I find myself needing to feel you come apart all around me … as I fuck you.” He then lowered himself until his lips were almost brushing hers. “I crave it.”  

Ivar then suddenly switched their position again with no warning, rolling them over so that she found herself on top of him. Sig didn’t question it, suddenly free, she just pushed herself up, angled over him, and began to ride his cock like her life depended on it. Ivar’s demeanor softened as he moaned and grabbed her hips, his fingers digging into her skin. “Yessss, Sig,” he hissed. “Fuck me, I want to watch you fuck me.”

She looked down at him in shock, realizing that no one had roused her as he had, with his words, with his unpredictable turns, the fact the he held nothing back … and he’d only been doing this for a matter of days. Sig was then compelled to hold nothing back from him. 

“Your cock … feels so good inside of me, Ivar,” she panted. “I am almost there, you make me feel this.”

He gave a harsh groan through his teeth, his jaw clenched. “Come, Sig … please , come,” he sobbed, as he grabbed her ass, pulling her down so he could thrust up into her even harder. Orgasm then rushed through her and he was able to let go, the sound of their voices filling the room as they climaxed. As they panted, out of breath, Ivar sat up, needing to get his arms around her. He buried his face in her breasts, giving soft whimpers as he calmed down. Sig situated her legs to wrap around him and held him to her, her hands coming around his shoulders, his neck, and weaved fingers in his hair. She found herself rocking them gently back and forth.  

“Shhh.”


~~*...*~~

They lay facing each other, somewhere in the in-between. In the space just after sex and just before sleep, a barely conscious thing, where truths are easier, where hearts might be a little braver and the mind is mercifully quiet.

Ivar reached out and touched his fingertips to her neck, then lightly ran them down her skin, over the curve of her shoulder and down her arm. It was such a tender gesture that Sig had to close her eyes, the sensation making her shiver. His hand was so light, but the weight of the moment was anything but. When she opened them again, bright blue pools were staring at her. “Is it always like this?” he asked, his voice soft and a bit raspy. 

“Like what?”

He shook his head a little, not sure how to elaborate, though she knew exactly what he was asking. She was just not sure how to answer, or how much she wanted to reveal. “You mean between two people?” 

He nodded. 

“No,” she answered, after a moment. “It’s not always like this.” 

Ivar smiled a little, his eyes crinkling in that way of his, in those extremely rare moments when his heart was light. “So … it is good?”

Sig couldn’t help but giggle. “Are you asking me if you are a good lover?” 

He looked down and shrugged, grinning. 

“Ivar Lothbrok, I believe you to be good at anything you set your mind to. And I suspect you’ve dedicated quite a lot of thought lately, to these pleasures.” 

He gave a low chuckle, but then the lightness in his eyes suddenly became serious. “I could have been happy. Perhaps I am happy. My father told me that ‘happiness is nothing’, but …” 

Sig frowned. “He told you what?” 

Ivar moved to lie on his back and stared at the ceiling, silent for a moment, as if he wished to erase what he’d said, wished that he’d not brought the weight of his father’s heavy heart into their moment. “He said that happiness is nothing,” he finally repeated. 

She propped her head up on her elbow. “When did he tell you this?”

“The last time I spoke to him.” 

“And he knew it would be the last time?” 

“He did.”

“Happiness is not nothing, Ivar.” 

Ivar gave a slight shrug and brushed his hand over her shoulder. “He probably figured that happiness would elude me, or that I was incapable of it, so he offered something far greater than happiness.”

“What is that?” 

“Legacy.”  

“Ah. Of course.” 

“You do not agree? You do not think so?”

“I do not know. I think that it is different for everyone. What would have made Ragnar happy?” 

“Does it matter?” 

Sig gave a laugh. “Apparently not, but I have a feeling that what would have made Ragnar happy and what makes you happy are two different things. What Ragnar believed would make him happy in life obviously did not satisfy him in the end, if he advised you in such a way.”

“Happiness and satisfaction are not the same thing.” 

“Perhaps, but I am not convinced that you can truly have one without the other. Nor do I believe that satisfaction was in Ragnar’s nature. There was always something better, something bigger, more elusive out there to chase.” 

“And it made him the most famous Viking in the world. He will be remembered.” 

Sig nodded. “He will. But his last years were spent in isolation and anguish. Was it all worth it? He is not around anymore to enjoy his fame. Where he is right now, fame matters not at all.”

“It matters to me … to us! His sons.” 

And Ragnar knew that, knew enough to exploit it.

Sig said nothing further on the subject as she didn’t want to start a fight. She could tell it would be useless anyway, as she knew that Ivar clung to Ragnar’s last words, as if they were holy, spoken by the gods themselves. Ivar was the son who heard those last words during his last days and kept them … and she couldn’t brush off the feeling that Ragnar was incredibly selfish for doing such a thing, advising him that happiness is nothing. So that every time he felt some peace, there would be a restless part of him that said “this is not real” or “this is meaningless” or “this is not enough”.

Sig brushed her fingertips in soft circles over his stomach. “Of course it matters to you. I understand that.” 

“My father said that out of all of his sons, he wanted me to be with him in England. That I was the true heir, the one to lead our people, the one most important to our survival. He wanted me to lead the Great Army, his last commands as King, he gave to me. I am to carry them out.” 

“He said that you were to lead the Great Army?”

Ivar nodded. “My brothers do not believe me. I can see it. They just want to laugh at me.”

Sig gave a sigh.

“Do you believe me?” He asked with a trace of fear in his voice, though he tried to conceal it. 

“Of course I believe you. But they will naturally look to Bjorn. He’s much older. He has more experience than the rest of you combined.” 

He growled at that.

“But you can lead without leading. You can guide. You can advise. You can gain the experience you need. And when you prove to be a natural leader, they will then look to you.” 

He peered down at her, his mind turning. “So you have seen it?” 

Sig thought of her most recent vision, of Ivar in the rain, bloody and laughing, as the man she hated most in this world, had him surrounded. “No.”

“What have you seen?” 

She shrugged. “I have not looked.” It was technically true. She had not looked, only dreamed.

“Can you?”

Sig felt no urgency to warn him just yet, as with the dream came the intuition that he would survive somehow, and that Ivar would ultimately be Heahmund’s demise. She also did not want to encourage him to keep asking such questions. She made a point of yawning and stretching her arms out.  “It takes energy to look and I am very tired, you made very sure of that,” she grinned, hoping to change the subject. 

“You have seen something,” he insisted, obviously not being swayed.

She pursed her lips in thought before speaking. “I have been given a possibility, nothing more. If I speak them aloud, possibilities have much more of a tendency to become probabilities … you will focus on it, and focus determines our realities.” 

“What was it?”

Sig huffed in frustration, now drowsy and craving sleep. “It would be reckless of me to say aloud as I do not have all the pieces.” 

“What are the pieces?” 

“Did you not hear what I just said?” 

Ivar began to sit up on his elbows, now completely intrigued. “Is there a way to find more pieces?”

Sig closed her eyes. “Apparently you did not hear me, but no. Not at the moment, no. I am very tired. I have spent all day at the infirmary, needing my mind to be as sharp as my knife … and then with what just happened. All of me is beyond exhausted.” 

Ivar chuckled, evidently satisfied with himself and the part he played in making her so tired. “So sleep then. And do not forget what you promised.” 

She was already beginning to fade. “What was that?”

“That tomorrow will be ours.” 

Sig gave a long sigh of pleasure. “Yes. No interruptions. I am looking forward to it.”

“You are all mine.”

“Hmmnnn. Yours.”

She failed to notice the arching of his brow and the curl of his lip when she’d uttered that one word “yours” while mostly already asleep.


~~*...*~~

Sig was slowly awakened by soft warm and wet kisses at her breast. She moaned, her arms still incapacitated from sleep. She opened her eyes to find Ivar sucking at her nipple, lapping at it with his tongue, just before he made his way down her body to offer the same treatment between her legs. She gasped, the whole thing feeling dreamlike and she wondered briefly if it were but another vision, as it was before she ever knew him. But then her hands were finally able to do her bidding and they found their way in his hair.

It was all very real. She could feel him completely, it was not the numbed sensations of dreams, and yet she still felt sedated, in-between worlds. He was now able to effortlessly make her climb, it seemed, and she found herself practically sobbing, nearing the edge, her eyes closed, lost in the feel of his mouth. 

He was then kissing her, that mouth having moved back up her body and he slid inside her as the warmth and comfort of his chest and shoulders covered her, his weight and the strength in his arms making her feel protected and cherished. Ivar never commanded a thing from her the whole time as this was not for him but all for her, and she cried and gasped as his hips rocked into hers. She spread her legs wide and ran her hands down his back, pressing into him, begging him to stay with her, to not move too far away, so she could continue to meet with his pelvis in that sweet perfect push to edge.

To her astonishment he had her coming beneath him with tears welled up in her eyes. She had no sense of what to do with the emotion he’d brought out of her, so she just lay under him gasping for breath, clinging to him, as he lost himself as well.

He did not move from being on top of her for some time, did not leave her, just brushed her hair back as she calmed down, kissing her face. 

“Shhh.”


~~*...*~~

Sig lay on her back while Ivar was curled around her, his head resting just below her bare breasts and he’d taken to tracing circles around her navel with his fingertips. 

“You can see as my mother did?” he asked quietly. 

She ran fingers through his hair. “I cannot say that how she saw things is how I see them. What are you asking me, Ivar?” 

He seemed to forget his words as he did not speak again for several moments. “Mother, she knew us … before we were born. She knew that Sigurd would possess the snake in his eye, marked for greatness. She knew that I would be born … a … mon— … a cripple.” 

Sig’s heart instantly dropped into her stomach. “Who told you this?” 

“My brothers,” he said, very matter of fact, as if it were common knowledge that they shared around the dinner table. To think that Ivar knew this, along with the tale of how Ragnar had taken him to be put out of his misery as a baby, it hit her that he had grown up knowing these things. She knew them because Sigurd had told her when they were children, of course, so it made sense that these things were thrown in Ivar’s face in the heat of moments, things that could not be taken back. Things that left deep markings on a person’s soul and self-worth. There were many issues about this turn in conversation that she thought to dissect, so she first tackled the thing he must be wondering. 

“So you are asking me if I can see myself becoming with child?”

His light circles from his fingertips had not halted. “Would you know if … a child would be like me.” 

“Like what? A cheeky baby with dark hair and brilliant blue eyes?” 

“That is not what I meant and you know it.”

“I do know it, but those are not the types of things I seek out.”

“But you could?”

“Yes, but I do not think it’s a good thing to know too much about one’s future.”

“Whatever for?”

“For just that reason you spoke of.”

Ivar sat up. “You would not want to know if …” 

“No,” she said, cutting him off. “Your mother’s relationship with her Sight was hers and I cannot judge it, but I have learned a thing or two of self-fulling prophecies and the guilt that can come with them.” 

She sat up with him. “I am going to tell you of prophecy, how I see it, and I want you to listen because I do not wish to repeat myself on the subject …

He nodded, obviously intrigued. 

“Prophecy is always a fragile thing to try and handle. If you ever find that someone is telling you of prophecy, and they present it in stone, as fact, as only one and final avenue, cast them in doubt, even if it is me. They either think much too highly of themselves or they tell you these things for their own reasons. Prophecy is like walking into a dark, black cave with a single torch. You shine your tiny light here and there to get an idea of the pathways ahead, to piece together what may be, what may come, when in reality, if the sun could shine its light inside that cave, if you could look at the whole thing at once, to see the entire picture, the truth … it would always be so much different with everything illuminated. Combine that with the fact that every single moment is pregnant with possibility. The pathways, the branches of the tree of life, the choices are endless. And the patterns, they’re like the stars, the veins of leaves, the lines in the irises of our eyes. Those of us with the Sight can sense the probable pathways.

Yes, your mother could see you on her path, warned that you would not be easy, would be different, would be what she interpreted at the time as a monster. But prophecies never quite turn out the way you assume at first. It’s as if you’re interpreting the language of the gods when they use words and phrases we have no equivalent for in our tongue. You would not be easy, you would be different, but it was never said that you would not be worth it . Strength and greatness … these things are born from harsh elements, Ivar. From the coldest and bitterest of winters, not the gentle and fragrant breezes of spring. I do know that your mother fought harder than most men do in battle, to bring you into this world, and then spent the rest of her days with the guilt of assuming you would be a monster, for you obviously were not one. You were only a baby who survived a very difficult and dangerous birth. And she loved you.”  

Ivar had been staring at the furs and began to shake his head. 

“Looking ahead like that when it is so very personal, emotions can cloud the Sight. Aslaug saw harsh difficulty in your birth, just as she did in her vision of your shipwreck, and she thought the worst. But I believe it was more about survival. You will always find a way to survive somehow and through that survival, there is the potential for greatness. If you are a monster, Ivar, it will only be because you choose to be one, letting the false notion worm its way into your head and proving that murky prophecy to be true. It’s nothing to do with your legs or some predestination. It’s a choice in here,” she pointed af finger at his bare chest. “And here,” she informed, brushing her hand to his temple.

Ivar only rolled his jaw in contemplation, his eyes looking anywhere but at her, as it was obvious that he was fighting back intense emotions. 

She lay back down and laced her fingers together over her stomach. “And that is all I wish to say on the subject.” 

He then looked at her with watery eyes. “Why?”

“Because I do not have all the answers of what will be, only a few that are in varying degrees of focus.

Ivar frowned. “Perhaps. But there is something you are not telling me.” 

Sig wanted to roll her eyes, but he was right. There were many things she did not tell him and did not feel the least bit bad about it, as she at the moment liked to keep them close to her heart.

“Do you tell me everything Ivar?”

“No,” he answered. “But at times I find myself wanting to, and it only makes me angrier.”

“You are afraid to trust me,” she said automatically, and perhaps a bit hypocritically. “Afraid to be happy.” 

He sat back, looking hurt. “Is it fear exactly, Sig? When you are a hand of the usurper who murdered my mother?”

“It is complicated.”

“No. It is very simple.”

Sig took a deep breath. To Ivar it was very simple, as he refused to hear anything else, but to Sig it was not black and white at all. She had insight that Ivar wouldn’t begin to try to understand. She could only hope to make him realize at least one aspect. “Tell me then, Ivar, if I denounce the queen, how do I keep this freedom I have achieved here? I am a healer, it is a thing that keeps my heart light and my mind still. How do I do all of this without being in Lagertha’s favor?”

He looked at her with concern, as if she did not realize some great truth. “Do you think that I would not have you by my side after I overthrew her?”

Oh to be beholden to the whims of this boy . Sig closed her eyes, thinking of her past thoughts.

What makes you think I have any desire at all to be a queen?

Perhaps I wish to only live on my own, in contentment and obscurity.  

Ivar impatiently broke her ruminating. “Who is the one that is afraid, Sig? Afraid to be mine? Or … ashamed. Even if Kattegat were under my rule.”

Sig’s eyes instantly opened and stared into his. “Never ashamed. You mistake me. I just find myself content at times, at home, back with the people. I care not for fame or status, just a small space in this world where I am respected and free. I had made peace with solitude, with a quiet heart. It is all I ever wanted. And perhaps it is naive, as war will always find us. Men are always chasing it, for whatever reason, some noble, some anything but. I have seen war, played my part in it, and wanted nothing more of it in the end. And now I find myself with a prince who courts it.”

His eyes narrowed at her and she felt that their conversation had great potential to turn sour very quickly, as he was so attached to his plans, clung to them. “Do you not think we are owed vengeance ?” He said the last word as if it were holy.  

“Of course,” she answered truthfully. “I want that. After what I’ve witnessed, I want that with every fiber of my being. Sometimes I think if I let the want take hold of me, I could go mad with it. I think of … the warrior bishop who … took my mentor prisoner. What he did. What he and his soldiers destroyed and defiled. And he’s still alive and well in England somewhere, a ‘man of god’, and yet has probably fucked half of his parishioners, or their wives anyway.” Her skin flushed with sudden anger thinking of it. 

Ivar’s face filled with curiosity and he sat forward. “She is dead? This man killed your priestess?”

Sig gave a small sad smile. “No. She would not give him that satisfaction. He meant to burn her as a witch, but she had ordered one of us to kill her first. She refused to die by a Christian’s hand. A warrior in our group, she shot Vivianne in the heart amidst a crowd in attendance for the execution. Macha’s arrow took her life before the bishop’s flames could … or his sword.” She shuddered at the memory of the man’s beloved and bloody sword, which had taken Taran’s life. She could have sworn the thing possessed dark magic.

Ivar broke her from the thought. “Did the shieldmaiden not want to kill the bishop too?”

Sig shrugged. “He was not without damage. His pride, it was a joy to witness it be obliterated as we ruined his righteous show. And I am sure he still bears the scars from what we did to him.”

Ivar gave her a look that said she had better continue with her story.

She sighed, not exactly wanting to talk about it, but yet a feeling of catharsis came over her in confiding to him. “With a fellow apprentice of mine, Brid, and Macha, we discovered that he would punish himself, give himself lashes, after bedding a woman, as Christians love their penance, and he especially. It was as if he were addicted to the pattern of it all. Sin … self flagellation, repent … sin again. So they seduced him, found out everything they needed to know, and then made him sin so bad, or perhaps so well, that he was walking around very strangely for days afterward.”

Ivar’s eyebrows raised practically to his forehead. “How did you find out this pattern of his?”

She gave a wry smile. “Their women are either wives, nuns, or whores. So we dressed as young nuns in order to blend in among them, to go mostly unnoticed, hide in plain sight, and armed ourselves with brandywine. His men were very stupid and very forthcoming.”

Ivar grinned, looking thoroughly amused, but then frowned when he thought of one particular aspect. “So you did not also seduce this man?” 

Sig shook her head. “I admit that I was quite complicit in helping to set the stage, but no, my mission was different than that of my companions. I was still very much … in mourning.” 

“I see.” Ivar inclined his head, almost looking at her as if seeing her for the first time. “You have been answering my questions for weeks and weeks now, but I feel as if you are only just now beginning to tell me your story.”

In a way, that was true. She rarely spoke of her experience abroad, and never spoke the names of the people she loved there. Only Ivar knew Viv’s name. Now Brid and Macha. But Taran … no.

“And you are the only one I’ve told these stories to.”

This seemed to placate him for a moment, as a look of satisfaction washed across his face. He leaned down to give a kiss between her breasts, then planted more further down around her belly. 

Ivar looked up, raising a brow. “So you could be … with child then? And not know?” 

She shook her head, reaching out to run fingernails along the shaved side of his scalp. “You are on this again? I am not. It is not time. Do you want children, Ivar?” 

He looked up at her as if she were daft. “Of course I do.”

She raised a brow. “Yes, yes, silly me … a Viking and his legacy of virility with many sons.”

“No. Not just that. A child of ours ... could be powerful. With a mother like you. And a son of Ragnar Lothbrok.”

Her heart gave a jump at his complete acceptance of the notion that she was “powerful” and not “strange”, “other”, or something to fear or regard with suspicion. “Perhaps,” she said quietly. “But not yet.”

He gave her a grin. “I feel as if that is all you ever really say to me … perhaps not yet . ‘Not yet, Ivar.’ ‘Not now, Ivar.’ It is very vexing.”

She laughed. “I would like to thank you, my prince, for always pointing out what it is about me that vexes you, my shortcomings, such as how predictable and repetitive I am. It’s honestly refreshing.”

“Someone needs to,” he purred, as he climbed back up her body and situated himself on top of her.

“Just as long as you know that one of these days I’ll probably need you to say some good things to me.”

“When the time comes, I may be able to think of one or two of these good things.”


~~*...*~~

After a day of talk with hearts more open than perhaps they’d ever been, and discovering ways in which they could bring each other to their own heights of pleasure, the day went on without them, darkness fell outside again and they barely noticed. Lying in a bed with a woman seemed to give Ivar a certain confidence, as they were both on equal footing there, it was strangely easy for him to forget that outside of the room, and the ambiance of the firelight, he would not be walking beside her. It made him practically giddy at times.

When Sig finally slept again, allowing herself to enjoy her little space of contentment, she saw herself in her dreams, standing on the edge of a dock, the wind in her hair. She looked out into the water in contemplation, dark circles under her eyes, her cheeks hollow, looking as if she hadn’t eaten in some time. She then turned and walked down the dock, only to suddenly pivot back towards the horizon line, taking off into a run, and leaping off the edge of the dock, her cloak billowing behind her, assumingly crashing into the cold dark water below.

~~::::::...::::::~~