chapter thirteen ; ironside

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Ragnar sat around the fire in his camp, his eyes dark. He stared at King Horik.

"Do you still think that we should not have talked to them first?" Ragnar's voice was acid, the image of his dying brother and dying friend emblazoned behind his eyelids.

Horik waved him off. "You always think that you can second guess the God's, Ragnar! What happened today was fated."

"My daughter," Borik spat. "Her death was not fated. Today was no plan of the Gods. Today was a mistake, Horik."

"Your daughter was arrogant," Horik narrowed his eyes. "Thinking she can fight without a shield goes against the ways of the Vikings. Whatever happened today, she did that to herself."

Unable to bear the argument, Ragnar stood up, shaking his head as he left the two men to their squabbles. He found Bjorn and Skadi's tent, where his son sat with all of his possessions strewn around him as if they had been thrown.

"You fought well today," Ragnar nodded, crossing his arms and standing in front of Bjorn. The younger boy scoffed.

"I was fortunate," Bjorn snarled. "That is all."

"You were favoured by the God's."

"Favoured?!" Bjorn's head snapped up, and he narrowed his eyes. "We were defeated."

"We live to fight another day."

"We live. But my uncle and Skadi do not."

A rueful smile twitched onto Ragnar's face, and he shook his head.

"I doubt they are dead."

Bjorn narrowed his eyes, standing up. Ragnar continued.

"Rollo and Skadi are very similar, in that they are very hard to kill. It would take much more than a few arrows to the back or a sword through the chest to take down those who are descended from Gods."

Ragnar slung his arm around Bjorn, pulling him out into the center of camp. He slapped his son's shoulder proudly.

"Since no axe, spear, or sword could touch my son today, he will now be known as Bjorn Ironside." Ragnar raised his horn of mead into the air, and the Vikings cheered. Lagertha, Thrud, and Horik approached.

"We must make some decisions, and we must make them quickly." She bowed her head. "Do we leave tomorrow and abandon this raid?"

Bjorn shook his head defiantly.

"If Rollo and my love are captured, then I want to stay in this place until we set them free."

Thrud nodded in agreement. "I am not leaving without my daughter. Or Rollo."

"Well, King," Ragnar sniffed and turned to Horik. "What are we fated to do?"

----

Skadi's eyes snapped open.

Air, sour with the stench of blood and mud, filled her lungs. She inhaled deeply, her chest burning with pain as it rose, but she did not care.

As she exhaled, she erupted into a fit of coughs. Her hands flew to the burning pain in her side, where she found bloodied, soiled bandages.

In a flash, there were hands cupping her chin, and a face hovering over hers. She blinked, adjusting to the sudden newcomer.

She took in his brown robes and pulled back hair. His necklace, a golden cross, dangled in her face.

She jerked away from him, scowling and spitting a wad of blood directly at him. He dodged it, sighing and turning back to her.

In a foreign language, he muttered something under his breath.

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