chapter eighteen ; end of the line

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Nine weeks later

"I hope she has not given birth yet."

"Bjorn, settle your mind. She has not yet given birth to your son. Right, Lagertha?"

"It is possible," Lagertha mused, her mind elsewhere as they trotted up the mountain on horseback. They were only a days ride from Knul now, having left Kattegat nearly three weeks ago. "She is just barely far enough along now. The baby would be healthy. But you were two weeks late, Bjorn; my guess is that your son will take his time getting here."

"My son," Ragnar sighed, a smile on his face as his eyes glazed over, thinking of when Bjorn had been born. "Having is own son. How fast life goes."

"Not fast enough," Bjorn jittered, shifting in his saddle. "I wish we were in Knul already. I want to see my wife."

"Angrboda misses Skadi greatly," Floki sighed from where he rode between Lagertha and Torstein. "As does Helga. As do I."

"We all miss Skadi," Idunn did not turn as she addressed Floki. Having snapped back completely since giving birth to baby Torin, Idunn had been training harder than ever as of late in preparation for the raid this summer. She had actually had to beg Rollo to come to the raid rather than staying with the baby, as Rollo was very attached and protective over their daughter. "Bjorn is to become a father, Ragnar and Lagertha are going to be grandparents, and Torin and the baby will be second-cousins. We are all excited."

"Then let us focus on getting to Knul within another day's time, rather than forcing poor Bjorn to wait any longer." Lagertha mused. "A man reuniting with his wife is a joyous thing."

"My mother told me, someday I would buy," Floki began to sing as they rode up the mountain, his voice the only sound other than the chirping of birds and snapping of twigs underneath the horses' feet. "Galley with good oars, sail to distant shores..."

-----

The hall smelled of roses.

Native to the fields of Knul, roses had been delivered from every man, woman, and child in Knul. They had all been stuffed into Thrud's bedroom; she could only seem to sleep with the smell of roses nearby.

They had buried Borik in the night.

It had been a proper Knul burial, but not as great as a man like Borik had deserved. Only the family, a group of trusted servants, and Refil's young wife Agnes had been in attendance. They sacrificed a goat and burned two pyres of mistletoe, begging Borik's patron God Baldur to protect him as he made his journey to Valhalla.

Skadi sat across from her mother at the table, eating slowly with one hand, the other wrapped protectively around her now massive belly. Her son would be due any day now, and she was growing anxious of the prophecy. The rooms in the hall were all brown and wooden; the skies had been clear, the sun shining for many days.

"So, Skadi," Her new sister-in-law, Agnes, asked. Skadi looked up, golden eyes meeting the much younger girl's pale green ones. "When does your husband arrive from Kattegat?"

Skadi smiled softly. She liked her brother's new wife very much, although she asked too many questions about things that were none of her concern.

"Soon," Skadi nodded, taking another bite of the cooked rabbit meat. "Within the week."

Skadi was unsure of many things in this world; the Gods prophecy, her father's murderer, what the future would hold; but the one thing she was sure of was her husband's love.

He would always find her.

It was nightfall now, the sun only just barely having set in the sky. Skadi was so impossibly large around the torso that she could neither dance nor run, and had been forced to resort to an embarrassing waddle to get from room to room, which was humiliating for a woman who had once been known as one of the finest warriors of the north.

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