chapter twenty-two ; battle for Paris

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Bjorn felt his heart in his throat.

He watched as the ladders went up against the great wall, the cheers of his people ripping throughout the hundreds of them who had gathered in Paris. In a great cry, the crowd surged forward, beginning to mount the ladders.

At the top of the wall, Archers fired down at them, picking off the Vikings who got too close. Bjorn stood and watched, analyzing the best route to take to the top.

He and Ragnar shared a look before Bjorn launched forward, beginning to help more Vikings up the ladder. After what felt like an eternity, the first wave of Northmen reached the top of the wall, beginning to battle with the Parisians.

"Up!" Bjorn cried, pushing more of his brethren up the wall. "Up, all of you! The Gods are with us today! Get up the ladders!"

He watched as Parisian steel clashed with Viking iron, a battle unlike any other happening atop the wall.

Then he watched in horror as, one by one, his brothers and sisters began to fall.

It happened in a great wave, one after the other, thrown off the wall as if they weighed nothing. At first, Bjorn thought they were being slaughtered; after a long moment, he realized that they were only being thrown.

His gaze shot upwards. The last of the Vikings were thrown off the wall; and at the very top, there she stood.

My Skadi.

She was clad in all black, her clothes slick with blood and sweat. Her black tendrils were braided back in a Parisian crown, her golden eyes staring down at the writhing crowd of Northmen at her feet. Most notably, though, was the glinting silver muzzle that concealed the lower half of her face, leaving only her eyes visible.

Bjorn launched himself up the ladder, his rationale going out of the window at the sight of his love. He dodged arrows and falling Vikings, finally launching himself over the ledge and onto the wall. Mowing down every Parisian soldier in his way, Bjorn finally reached a standstill.

It was just the two of them on this portion of the wall, perfectly still in the chaos that surrounded them. She stared at him with shining golden eyes, her chest rising and falling rapidly.

"Skadi," He breathed. He dropped his axe, stepping forward, ready to embrace her, to take her home.

She pointed her dagger straight at him.

It was meant as a warning, if not a threat- do not come any closer.

Her gaze slid from him to something directly over his shoulder. With his hands raised, Bjorn turned, seeing a short, chubby, frumpy man with long curled hair staring directly at them with burning eyes.

Bjorn looked back to his wife. Her eyes were pleading with him, but he didn't understand the message.

He was so busy focusing on trying to decipher what she was telling him that he almost let her stab him.

Bjorn jumped out of the way in the nick of time, narrowly avoiding a dagger to the abdomen. Skadi skidded, quickly turning back on her feet and twirling her daggers in her hands.

Subtly, she kicked his ax towards him.

"I'm not fighting you," Bjorn argued, holding out his hands. "What are you trying to tell me?"

She jumped at him again. Unable to move out of the way in time, he pushed her away from him. She landed on her arse a few feet away before standing back up, staring at him with burning eyes.

"Why are you attacking me?!" He shouted, barely able to even hear himself over the roar of the Vikings below them. Skadi just stared, kicking his ax towards him again.

Giving in, Bjorn picked up the ax. Skadi nodded at him once before twirling her daggers, launching at him.

They sparred back and forth, incredibly careful not to actually hit each other. It had not completely hit Bjorn yet that the woman in front of him was the wife he had longed for the past two and a half years.

After what felt like an eternity, Skadi backed him up against the wall, pinning him between the stone slab and her body. Using her daggers, she gave him a reassuring look before tearing a piece of his shirt off.

Bjorn hissed as he felt the tip of her dagger press into his skin, resisting the urge to jerk away from her. After all this time, he still trusted her completely.

After a long moment, the dagger pulled away, and she gave him one last long look.

Then the world turned upside down.

Bjorn tumbled through the air, scrambling to grab onto anything as he sailed towards the ground.

From the top of the wall, Skadi watched as her husband, the man she had dreamed of every day for the past two and a half years, fell out of her grasp once again. Her hands shook, heart hammering in her chest as she watched him tumble through the air, wrought with confusion, before finally hitting the water.

To her relief, Rollo hauled Bjorn out of the icy river, looking up to see a flash of Skadi's black hair as she ducked out of the way, turning back towards the fight.

She mowed down the Vikings who came her way; some recognized her, and some did not. She was careful not to actually harm anybody to the point of being lethal, instead giving light jabs and scrapes before throwing them off of the wall. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, the ladders began to burn, and the Vikings began to scatter.

More than anything, she wished that she could launch herself off of that wall, jump into the water, and swim off with them. She wished she could be with her people, to run from Paris and never look back.

But she could never leave Nari like that.

As the last of the Vikings disappeared from the wall and the burning ladders were thrown away from the structure, Lord Odo grabbed Skadi's shoulder roughly, turning her around to face Paris rather than the water. As soon as they made eye contact, a pair of gloved chains were slapped onto her hands.

Skadi felt herself deflate.

"Good work today, Pagan." Odo taunted, cocking an eyebrow at her as he began to lead her off of the wall, undoubtedly towards the dungeon. "Your son will live another day."

Odo passed her off to a group of guards, who marched her back towards the arena. Her feet dragged as she walked, exhaustion overtaking her. The knowledge that her love was so close yet so far away was impossibly frustrating, and all she wanted to do was scream.

They stopped in front of her cell, one of the guards hooking her back up to the standing chains. They unlocked her muzzle and Skadi relaxed, flexing her jaw, licking her dry, aching lips.

"See you tomorrow morning, Golden." One of the guards taunted as they closed and locked the door to her cell. "I've heard that they've gotten you a special opponent all the way from Africa."

With that, the guard was gone, leaving Skadi to the maddening silence. As she thought of Bjorn's eyes, the dangerous, rageful blue, she felt tears in her eyes, and for the first time in two and a half years, Skadi let herself begin to cry.

She hoped that he would understand the four letters she had carved into his chest. A name that meant so much to her, and would soon mean just as much to him. He was a smart man; she would pray that he would put it together. The name that meant grand-son of Loki; great Wolf; father of the Night.


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