chapter five ; written in the stars

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The feast that night was tense.

The Kattegat warriors celebrated and partied, for surely they were under Loki's protection now. The snake had brought Bjorn and Skadi together, clear as day. Even Bjorn allowed himself to let loose a touch, drinking with the likes of Elendur and the other young men.

It was Skadi who, for the first time in her life, had not had a single drop of mead. She sat alone on the back steps of the hall, watching Bjorn, Erlendur, King Horik, Torstein, Floki, Idunn, Thrud, and Ragnar attempt to land a coin in a bucket. They were all far too drunk and failing miserably, but seemed to take great enjoyment in their failed attempts.

She sat with her legs tucked under her cloak, the cold night air biting at her nose and cheeks. Her black braids fluttered in the breeze, and her mind was elsewhere.

"You do not look happy, for a bride-to-be."

Skadi looked up. It was Rollo, Bjorn's uncle, who had spoken. He gestured to the stair next to her.

"May I join you?"

She nodded and scooted over, leaving enough room for the large man to sit. She shifted, their sides brushing together for warmth.

"So, daughter of Loki," Rollo mused. "What troubles you?"

The younger woman frowned, trying to find the right words.

"I had to beg my mother to allow me to join her to Kattegat." Her voice was quiet, and she was still watching Bjorn as he tried, and failed again, to land a coin in the bucket. "It was humiliating. I'm one of the finest shield-maidens she's ever had, and she still refused to let me accompany her until I was literally begging. She treats me like a child. So when the opportunity arose to prove her wrong, to prove to her that I could be a wife- well, I took it. If only to piss her off."

"And now you are disturbed." Rollo mused. "You believe that your union is meant to happen?"

Skadi shifted, getting closer to Rollo if only to steal his body heat.

"Not meant to be, but..." she pursed her lips. "I have asked Loki to show himself to me many times before. He has, in small ways - a bird flying overhead, a leaf falling to the ground, a wolf howling in the distance. But today was...something else entirely. The way the snake went directly to Bjorn, the way it stretched out to me, and only stopped moving when we were joined. I can't help but thinking that Loki is trying to tell me something. Something about him."

Skadi jerked her head towards Bjorn. Rollo was silent for a moment, considering what to stay.

"From what I have seen from you in the two days you have been here," Rollo shifted his weight. "You are a wild spirit. But you are also smart, and cunning, and you have a good heart. I see much of Loki in you, but I also see much of your mother. You remind me of her, in her youth. And when she met Borik, she resisted him for as long as she could. But the Gods always get their way. In her heart, she knew it was right."

Bjorn noticed the two speaking and drunkenly stumbled over, away from the game. He leaned against the pillar next to Rollo, sloshing his mead.

"Look at you two, getting on so well." Bjorn laughed. "My uncle and my...Skadi."

Upon saying her name, he stumbled, and Skadi quickly rose to her feet so as to catch him. She hoisted him by his arms, using most of her strength to keep him upright as he allowed her to hold him up.

"Woah, okay," Skadi heaved, slinging his arm around her shoulder and circling her free arm around his waist. "Let's get you back to your room."

"I can take him, Skadi." Rollo began to stand up, but Skadi shook her head.

"It's fine, Rollo, you go join the others and have fun. I'll keep him from dying."

"You're sure?"

"I'm sure."

Skadi set off, helping a giggly, drunken Bjorn up the stairs. They entered through the hall, ignoring the celebration going on around them. Skadi realized that she did not know where Bjorn's room was - hers would have to do.

"You're beautiful," Bjorn slurred as they approached the door to her room. "You're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen. I can't believe I get to marry you."

They pushed into her bedroom.

"We're not sure about that yet," Skadi sighed, setting him down on the bed and kneeling at his feet, beginning to take off his boots. "Only if the summer raids go well."

"I bet I can beat you in a fight," He laughed. "Easy. I can do it right now, you wanna do it right now? Just get it over with? Let's go!"

He shot to his feet with renewed strength, and Skadi's eyes widened as she quickly rolled out of the way. He easily had fifty pounds on her, and at least three inches in height, but he also happened to be majorly intoxicated. Even sober, Skadi still thought she could take him.

He swung at her and she ducked out of the way, easily slipping behind him and knocking him onto the floor with one swift blow to the back. He clumsily rolled over, kicking up with his feet, a move that looked so childish and clumsy that Skadi had to let out a snort.

She grabbed his leg and pulled it forward towards his chest, at just enough of an angle to be painful. He whined in pain.

"Stop acting like a child," Skadi sighed, growing annoyed. She dropped his leg and bent down, picking him up by the shoulders and dragging him back onto the bed.

They were silent for a few moments as Skadi took off his boots, then his socks. She moved towards his waist, beginning to remove the weapons belt as well. Bjorn just lied there, too drunk to move.

"I hope I get to marry you. We don't really know each other, but I hope I get to call you my wife." His voice was barely a mutter, and Skadi was not even sure that he knew he was talking aloud. She finally finished stripping him of his belt, and grabbed the animal skin blanket on the floor.

"We'll see." She sighed. She covered him with the blanket, tucking it underneath him so that he did not buck it off when he awoke. "Tell you what, Bjorn. Tomorrow morning, I am going riding with Idunn, Floki, and a few of my warriors. When you sober up, come join us, and we will get to know each other a little better, okay?"

Bjorn was already half-asleep but still grunted in response. Skadi smiled and began to leave the room.

"Stay."

His voice was so soft and quiet, she almost missed it. He did not sound like a man in that moment, but a child. Skadi turned.

His blue eyes were wide open, and he was staring right at her.

"Stay with me, Skadi."

Skadi pondered it.

After a long moment, she closed the door to the bedroom and approached the bed. She slipped off her boots and let her cloak fall to the floor, but was sure to keep the rest of her clothing on. Skadi slipped underneath the blanket with him and he shifted to accommodate her, pulling her body against his. She rested her head on his chest, using him as a pillow.

"Goodnight, Bjorn." She breathed.

He was already asleep.

As her vision began to blur and dreams overtook her, Skadi could not help but think to herself-

Is this where I am meant to be?

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