The Collision of the Era: Beginnings by Angel Bautista

Chapter 1
“On Board”

“Where am I?” asks a fair lady with golden locks that strung down as she sat up from the bed that she was not familiar with. Her ocean-blue eyes look at the bed and looked at the blanket that held many patterns. Before she could question the quilt, a gruff and deep voice enters the room.

“On meh ship, … your highness.” The princess search for the source of the voice til her eyes land on a shadow that is sitting in the corner of the room out of candlelight.

“…Your ship. May I ask where my family ship is?”

The shadow in the corner grunts in irritation and stands up from where he sat and enters into the candlelight. The man’s chest was broad, and he barely seem like he was able to fit in the cabin. His hazel-like eyes look down at the princess that was sitting in the bed. He had longer hair than any man that she had ever seen, but the side of his head was shaved. The man’s brown and yet tainted red hair was touching his shoulders, and the long middle hair was braided.

“Your family ship was taken by raiders of the seas. They left you for last when we arrived, barely left you alive. But we were too late to try and save yer family. But we saved you and now you’re here.” The princess took a moment to process the information she was given and to recall this horror moment. Slowly the memories of her family being overtaken by bandits, thieves, and murderers flood her mind and she remembers. After a moment of silence in the room, the man clears his throat and says this.

“My name is Bjørn. You are?”

“I am Princess Cateline.”

Bjørn nods toward her and walks to the door; he barely opens it and looks out.

“When you are ready, I will be here to escort you to meet the um crew of this ship.” He started and left the room, leaving Cateline in the room alone. She sat on the big bed and just recall what had happened within the day or perhaps days. Silent tears crept onto Cateline’s cheeks and she quickly wipes them off.

“I must not weep. Mother and father wouldn’t want me to weep about them like this. Not here.” Cateline whispers to herself and she got up. As soon Cateline’s small feet hit the floorboards, she winces in pain that she did not know she had on her. She uses the bed frame for support as she tries to gain a sense of balance on her feet. She looks down and realizes that she is wearing her nightgown.

“Ah yes, my nightgown, that is now torn. The attack did happen in the twilight hours, when we all were getting ready for the night slumber, and then…” Cateline trails off and stares at the new placements of bruises that vary from blue to purple shades. She makes herself gaze at the wall in the cabin for a moment so she wouldn’t stare at the bruises anymore. She took a deep breath before she start trying to walk by herself and wincing with every few steps, slowly limping to the door and opening it slowly and sees Bjørn standing at the left of the door.

“You ready?” Bjørn asks and Cateline nods her head and follows Bjørn to the upper decks of the ship. Caitlin hovers her hand over her eyes when Bjørn opens the doors that reveal light. As Cateline’s eyesight finally readjusts to the brightness, she sees men and women walking and intermixing together and passing each other to fulfill their duties on the ship. Bjørn starts walking and Catlin begins following him and weaving themselves through the crew. Part of the crew stands for a moment to only stare at Cateline. Caitline stares slightly at her surroundings and returns to staring at Bjørn’s back.

The pair finally made it to the front of the ship, where they meet a woman with long brown hair that was messy and some of it in braids, but mostly they were hanging out and untangling themselves. She turns to them with hands on her hips.
“Bjørn… glad to see our leader up here now instead of back there with-” She was cut off by Bjørn interrupting to say.

“With Princess Cateline. Who is here and well.” Bjørn moved out of the way to let the girl see Cateline. The woman looks at the princess and nods her head and says. “…Ah yes.”

Cateline was unsettled because she had never seen a woman work on a ship before. For that matter, to work anywhere in this type of environment was unusual to the foreign princess.

“Bjørn I believe the little one has a staring problem…” The woman says and leans toward Bjørn to whisper, but the attempted whisper wasn’t even close to one.

“O-Oh my apologies. I didn’t mean to be rude and stare.” Cateline stampers as she snaps out of it and bows her head in sincerity.

“Er…it is very fine, princess.” The woman says and Bjørn claps his hand lightly to kindly step into the conversation.

“Princess Cateline, this is my right hand in … well, everything,” Bjørn says and the woman nods firmly with a grin.

“I have a name. The name is Ragna.” Ragna introduces herself proudly and grabs Bjørn’s shoulder, turning away from Cateline to start talking, but it wasn’t English.

Cateline stares slightly confusedly at Bjørn and Ragna, as they begin to speak in their native tongues, Norse. Ragna asks Bjørn:“What will your grandfather think of this?”

Bjørn looks over his shoulder at Cateline and she quickly looks down to the floorboards of the ship and messes with her fingers in front of her. Bjørn returns his gaze to Ragna and tells her.

“She is no threat. She may be our way on how we get more riches and gold, maybe even territory in their lands. She is a mere bargain tool. We just have to convince the earl to agree.” Ragna grins at him and chuckles as she returns her gaze back to the princess, who was still staring down at the floorboards.

“Well, your highness,” Ragna says in English again and in a sarcastic tone as Cateline returns her gaze to the duo.

“We will merely take you back to our village so that the earl may speak with you and we could figure a way for you to return home,” Ragna said and gave a gaze to Bjørn and a gaze to Cateline and walked away to order some of the men that were messing around by the sail. Cateline look at Bjørn and he return looking back at her, the two stood in awkward silence. The only sound that was heard between them was the chatter of people on board and the sea hitting the side of the ship. Bjørn clears his throat and smiles.

“I do hope that Ragna didn’t frighten you.”

“Of course not, I hope I am not intruding too much. I feel terrible that you got into this predicament with me and all.” Cateline told Bjørn and gave a soft smile of remorse to him. Bjørn returns a smile back and put his hands up.

“Oh, none at all. No troubles here my lady.” Bjørn says, trying to ease the tension in the air.

Cateline smiles and looks out to the sea and then looks back at Bjørn. “What is an earl?”

Chapter 2
“Overboard onto Land”
It has been days since Cateline first was on the ship. She sits in the room where she first woke up, alone with her thoughts, and rests from the bruises that are now faded. Bjørn brings her meals and Ragna comes into her room to only check if she is still there. But what the two didn’t know about were the extra activities the princess has been doing by herself.

Cateline opens the door and looks down the hallway for anyone, and when she sees no soul near, she tiptoes down the hall. Bringing her nightgown, the same nightgown she woke up in on the first day, up to her chest as she opens the door to the deck, she sees just a big pile of men and women sleeping together on deck. Opening the door fully, she creeps to the side of the ship and stares at the water that barely reveals herself at the moment. She stares long at the surface and she narrows her eyes to get a closer view of her reflection. After a while, as she memorizes herself, she bends over to cup some water with her hands and she splashes it on her face. Cateline embraces the cold water on her face and then bends over the side more to put some on her hair; then she felt herself going overboard the ship. Before Cateline could be engulfed by the deep sea, a strong arm grabs the back of her nightgown and pulls her back. Cateline swings around and turns to see her savior, a tall and skinny man that has dirty blonde and frizzy hair that is longer than Bjørn’s.

“Be careful little one. Njord need to keep an eye on you.” The skinny man said and eyed Cateline up and down. Catelin,e on the other hand, stands frozen with fear. The skinny man begins to laugh loudly, making Cateline quickly gaze at the people sleeping before them and at the hysterical man laughing. Finally, the man stopped his loud laughing without waking any of his fellow members.
Cateline leans back and braces herself to the side when the man came close to her face and says, “Better be careful. You might get sold off as a slave to our people when we get home or worse. We will just simply kill you in front of everyone and humiliate you and-”

“Sten-!” A whisper came into the ears of the two and the skinny man was pulled back from his shoulder and there stood Bjørn who was holding him by the collar of the man’s shirt.

“What are you doing?” Bjørn whispers a yell at Sten, who isn’t fazed at all by Bjørn’s anger as Cateline is.

“Bjørn, I was doing nothing. I just caught the little one before she plundered into Njord’s territory.” Sten tells Bjørn plainly. Bjørn lets go of Sten, strides to Cateline, and grabs her tightly by the arm; he nods at Sten and begins returning Cateline to her room. Sten stares happily at Cateline as she stares fearfully at him. Bjørn almost tosses Cateline back into her room and she is able to catch her balance. She straightens up and looks at Bjørn.

“I am sorry…” Cateline murmurs and Bjørn leans on the door frame, crossing his arms and staring at her. Cateline stares at him but Bjørn didn’t see the fear he saw moments ago that she gave to Sten. Bjørn sees Cateline’s eyes full of fire and fierce temper that was burning through her blue crystal eyes.

“But … you cannot keep me locked up in this room and it has been rare, ever since I’ve woken up that I did get to see the sun or moon,” Cateline spoke out and quickly cover her mouth. She was aghast of her own actions and she already felt the lecture coming in from Bjørn. But the moment passed and she heard nothing but a chuckle coming from Bjørn.

“I’ll be honest. I was not expecting a princess to speak so rudely about my hospitality. But you may be right.” Bjørn says and shrugs his shoulders and Cateline removes her hands from her mouth and stares at him. ‘Is he going to strike her? He wasn’t going to punish her?’ Cateline asked herself these questions as Bjørn spoke to her.

“If you desire to see the sun and moon sooo much, just ask. But you need to be escorted. My friends see you as nothing but treasure we-” Bjørn was about to go on but stopped himself, making Cateline look at him with questions. Bjørn quickly returned to what he was saying before Cateline could question him further about what he originally was going to say and state. “Or a slave or anything else. They don’t see you like a princess or anything equal. Terrible, but I cannot make them see otherwise.” Cateline looks to the side and she nods.

“I-I understand. Thank you an-and I am sorry for breaking your rules.” Cateline told Bjørn and he look at her for a moment then look away.

“Now, stop thanking me. Rest. At dawn, we will be in the village and many will be looking at you. G’night.” Bjørn grabs the handle of the door and starts closing it and Cateline quickly says.

“Of course. Goodnight.” Cateline says and the door shuts. After she says that, Cateline felt the courage that she thought a lady like herself would never feel. Cateline goes to the big bed and tucks herself in and is left to ponder on what new territory she was about to go into and the danger that holds within.

Bjørn closed the door and went up to the deck and saw Sten standing there with a big grin.

“Sten, I believe I told everyone that we should keep quiet about what we really are going to do with her.” Bjørn sternly scolds Sten. He just gives Bjørn the stupid grin Bjørn knew since they were kids.

“I couldn’t help myself. You know I am not as lucky as you are, being betrothed to Ragna. I was doing my watch then saw that pretty little one sneaking out here and woop. Catch her with these strong arms.” Sten begins to flex the muscles he believes he has but Bjørn merely rolls his eyes and shoves Sten, making him stop.

“You don’t even think about it. You could have any of the shield maidens or any of the ladies at the village or those nasty places you and the others go for…company.” Bjørn points sternly at Sten and he nods.

“I promise my seat at Valhalla that I will not do anything with her until we finally get her riches and she is able to be my slave,” Sten says with a smirk and Bjørn rubs his temples and nods.

“If she lives by then. The kingdom she is from might go to war for her and might want revenge for her parents’ death.” Bjørn says calmly and Sten nods, overexaggerates a yawn, and pats Bjørn’s back.

“Seeing you are wide awake and on your toes. I will let you have the rest of my watch. Night,” Sten says and he walks off to join the rest of the sleeping people. Bjørn sighs in annoyance and looks up to the moon and the stars that held the gods and goddesses he and so many others believe and live for.

The sounds of loud footsteps and excited chatter wakes Cateline up quickly. Before she can adjust to the idea of a new day today, a loud slam wakes her out of her daze and she spins her head to the door to see who slammed it.

“C’mon, time to see the earl.” Cateline gets out of bed and Ragna swiftly grabs her wrist; they left the cabin. When they enter the deck, everyone is bustling to gather their gear and personal belongings. Ragna leads Cateline to the front where Bjørn is standing on the neck of the carved beast on the ship. Bjørn looks behind him when he sees Ragna and Cateline walking toward him and jumping down from the wooden structure, landing in front of them.

“Morning ladies!” Bjørn says to them with a smirk and Ragna simply roll her eyes and walks away. Cateline look at Bjørn with nervousness that he could already sense.

“Don’t worry. It will be fine. But I need to do something that you will not like.” Before Cateline could question him, she feels her wrist being tied together by rope. Cateline looks sternly at Bjørn.

“This is for two reasons Cateline. One, for you to not wander off, and two, that no one in the village grabs ya and takes you away.” Bjørn explains himself to Cateline and she just nods reluctantly to him.

“Very well, if you think it is necessary.” Cateline agrees with him and Bjørn smiles at her. Then the crew begins to yell out to everyone that was not paying attention to where they were arriving.

“We are arriving at the docks!” Bjørn begins to lead Cateline and she hurries her best to follow him without him dragging her off the ship.

On the docks are men and women who grin and chatter about the clan’s latest arrival from their adventures. Bjørn gets off the ship first, then Cateline. She looks past the people. Her eyes find and see other ships. When she tries to look closer at what was on the ship, and before she could make an idea of what the ship seems to be so familiar with, she is tugged along by Bjørn. Cateline whips her head towards him but he continues to look forward. Cateline tries to return her gaze back to the boat, but the crowd of people blocks her view of it. Cateline looks forward again and makes a mental note to investigate the boat on her own terms.

As the party keeps walking through the village, the foriegn princess gazes around at her new surroundings. She stares up at the mighty wooden houses that tower over her and others as they keep walking. Cateline gazes to the right and sees what she assumes is the blacksmith’s house, due to the stone-like oven where they put swords and morph the once original metal into mighty, silver weapons that spreads bloodshed to others. A man, with a beard in a braid of sorts, with a large hammer begins to pound the hot metal on the anvil as the group was passing them. While passing, Cateline makes eye contact with the blacksmith as he plunges a new morphed ax into a tub of water, letting the steam hit his face and beard. The blacksmith stares back at Cateline with cold eyes until Cateline was no longer able to see him. Bjørn continues leading the party and Cateline to a massive house? Castle? A hut? Cateline wasn’t sure what she was seeing but Bjørn pulls on Cateline’s ropes again and drags her into the unknown structure.

Inside is dimly lit there were rows upon rows of tables and chairs that lead up to two seats at the front of the room. Cateline remembers how her home held the same throne room as this one did but more well lit, and hers didn’t hold many various animal furs that sprung across the walls and over the chairs. Cateline follows Bjørn and the party to the first row of tables and the room begins to fill up with all the villagers and the blacksmith and the people from the dock, sitting near or away from the table full of proud and cocky adventurers that held a princess among them. The room was full of chatter and gossip, many people batting an eye at Cateline as she sat next to Bjørn. He seems to be tense as though he was preparing for something. She merely gazes at him for some sort of answer or explanation. Before she could question the well-being of Bjørn, comments and chatter began to fill the room.

“What a little thing-”

“If those are who they encounter down there it will be easy to take over…”

“She seems to be so frail and helpless as she is tied up and held by Bjørn…” Comments like these continue for a while until a small man that seems to be the size of a child came onto the floor and began to announce.

“ALL HUSH FOR THE EARL! THE EARL OF HöFN!” Everyone in the room stands up and the earl enters the room. There was a man that seems old but yet he had the body of a young man. His posture reveals his true age. He has different furs from different animals on him like a cape; he walks to one of the seats in the front of the room and sits down. Once the man sits down, everyone else returns to their seated position and remains silent. The earl looks around the room that is filled with his people.

“I have heard that my grandson has returned from his… expedition with hope and promises.” The earl says carefully and eyes Bjørn, who stand up and pull Cateline with him as they made their way to the front of the room.

“Yes, Earl… My crew and I have come back with promises and hope. You see my…” he pauses as he lifts Cateline’s arm into the air for a moment, and people sneer and chuckle at her. Cateline begins to question Bjørn’s intentions. But as quickly they came, they went away when Bjørn returns to his statement with: “Friend here was raided by what we perceived to be the village from the south. Our neighbors, the Rás village. My friend here is from the west. Her family and she were merely traveling until nightfall. When they all were slumbering, they were attacked, but luckily my crew and I were traveling by and we fought them off. We were too late to save her family, but we were able to save her as she was on the brink of meeting with Hel. We aided her to health and she is good to stay here until she can help us locate where her village is  so we can take her home.” Bjørn states and looks around; he made the faces and sneers go away with a single glance and the room was silent. Bjørn returns to look at his grandfather who sits in silence and is taking in what his grandson has informed him and the rest of Höfn.

“Just like your father Bjørn, you helped those in need. Those that were less fortunate than you. Your father would be proud, Bjørn. Now, let me please see your friend.” The earl asks and Bjørn nods and begins to untie Cateline’s bindings. Cateline looks at Bjørn and whispers slightly as he does his work.

“What is his name?” Cateline asks with worry in her whisper for making any sort of mistake to royalty.

“Aren. Now, go present yourself.” Bjørn tells Cateline and slightly gives her a push. She slowly takes steps up to stand in front of Aren. Her mind was racing with thoughts as she stood there, Should she bow? Would that be rude to them? Is she going to die? What customs do they have for greeting?

“My lady, please forgive my grandson for his rudeness. I do hope you understand how young men are. Very forgetful, so forgetful that he didn’t even tell me your name. Now, friend of Bjørn’s, what is your name?” Aren asks and looks at her with kind eyes and Cateline returns to looking at Aren and smiles softly.

“I am Cateline.” She tells him and she bows her head to him. She hears sneers and giggling from the crowd as she does this but they stop when Earl Aren puts his hand up. She looks at him and he smiles.

“I do hope that you find my hospitality in great condition…You look like you need sleep and proper clothing.” Aren says and waves his hand. Cateline slowly steps away from the seat and returns to her position next to Bjørn. She looks up at him and he looks down at her with a grin and they both return their gaze to Earl Aren.

“Let us feast for the night! To celebrate the safety of my grandson and the crew and the rescue of Cateline.” Then the room is alight again with the same chatter as they enter. Trays of food of all sorts came flying out to tables and people began to eat and drink. Soon the crowd began to forget about their new addition to the village.

Cateline is sitting next to Bjørn and the crew sits around, some laughing and drinking and some just eating silently, and some just sleeping at the table.

“Here…” A plate is placed in front of Cateline out of the blue and she looks at Bjørn.

“Thank you, but may I ask what it is?” Bjørn has a plate in front of him with meat and fish with some bread.

“No.” He saus with food returning to the plate from his mouth. She looks at the plate of small bits of meat and some bread and begins to eat it.

“Wow, this is very delicious,” Cateline said after her first bite and begin to eat more on her plate and Bjørn laughs a little bit, nodding slightly.

“You’re eating goat right now, you know.” She pauses in her process of eating and stares at Bjørn. Some people at the table laugh at their interaction and some just roll their eyes.

“Goat? You mean the ones like with the horns and the beard and with weird eyes right?” Cateline asks and Bjørn nods and returns her with a question.

“Do your people not do the same with your goats?” Cateline thinks for a minute about her answer and shrugs.

“Well, we have few numbers because they aren’t common like here. But those do make cheese or milk with them and nothing more.” This adds more laughter and Bjørn pats Cateline on the back while laughing slightly.

“So you let them live for only the products and then they die by age or the wilderness?” Bjørn taunts Cateline and she retorts with:

“You only let them live for perhaps a month or two for making cheese and milk and then you kill them? How have you not run out of milk or cheese so fast?” Cateline asks in a serious tone and begins drinking some of her water.

“Because we know when to slaughter them and when to breed,” Bjørn says as he grabs his cup, Cateline almost spits out her water and covers her mouth. She finishes her drink and looks at Bjørn and gives him a sigh.

“Don’t be such a pig!” Bjørn simply gives her a grin and shrugs.

“Now what are you talking about now, hm? I am just speaking the truth. I believe you are taking what I was saying too literally. You’re a mature lady, so act like the ones I’ve heard about.” Bjørn says and takes another drink of mead. Cateline watches Bjørn drink and she returns to stare at her plate to mildly play with her food.

“How do you know how a woman like me is supposed to act?” Cateline says simply and stares at Bjørn in the corner of her eyes, watching him become tense and felt the mood of the table shift.

People stay silent and watch to see how Bjørn will lie his way out. He finishes his drink of mead and sets

the cup down.
“Well you see Cateline-” He was cut off when the same short man that announced Earl Aren’s entrance, arrives at the table and looks at Bjørn. “Your grandfather wishes to see you.”

“Thank you, Vidar.” Bjørn, who gives a sigh, reluctantly gets up.  Ragna at the end of the table also stands up but Bjørn puts his hand up and she returns to her position at the end of the table and fold her arms.

“Please excuse me,” Bjørn says, leaving Cateline at the table alone.

She returns to eating her food and was quiet as the others did not want much with her, except one fellow. Beside her, she felt someone replace Bjørn’s original spot with a familiar tall and lengthy man. Cateline looks at Sten and Sten looks back at her. He continues to watch her even when she returns to her food, thinking that not answering him would drive him off.

“So what do you think? Pretty nice place to die, huh?” Sten says and then his head hit the table making Cateline jump and look at Ragna who attacked Sten.

“You foolish man, don’t scare her like that,” Ragna says and she simply leans on the table next to Sten who was lifting his head slightly to glare at Ragna.

“I was merely asking. Nothing wrong with that now is there?” Sten groans as he tries to rub out the pain on his forehead.

“You don’t ask someone how a place is for death, you idiot.” Ragna bickers at him and Sten grabs Bjørn’s cup and begins to drink the remainder of the mead inside.

“Ignore this idiot that calls himself a man-”

“Hey!”

“Cateline what do you think of our home?” Ragna asks and Cateline stares around once more and smiles a little and looks at Ragna.

“Your home is very different from mine. People here are very open and enjoyable but you know when to put a strong front. Like the blacksmith, when we walked into town, he stares at me to scare me but now look at him.” Cateline gestures with her head over her shoulder and there was the blacksmith that was laughing with a large cup in his hand by the fire and hugging a woman by the waist who is assumed by Cateline that is his wife. Ragna listens to Cateline and looks at her example and smiles at her response. Ragna asks another question to Cateline.

“Why are our people not similar, hm?” Sten perks his head up and butts in another question for Cateline.

“You have a family right? Or are you a lonely child and now an heir for your kingdom?” Ragna stares astounded by Sten’s good question and she looks at Cateline for answers to their questions.

“My kingdom is cold. My father well… how do you say it without disrespecting the dead?” Cateline says simply and ponders on her wording for a moment and then her final answer is: “My father ruled with a flaming iron fist and treated people with cruelty. He taught me and my brothers that when it is our turn to take the heir to the throne, people follow better when they are in fear.” Sten and Ragna stare at each other and then stare back at Cateline for more answers. Cateline stares at them back and then she shrugs and continues to tell them more about her kingdom. She thought it was right since she will be learning much about their village or kingdom of sorts.

“Well, my family consists of five members of the royal family. My mother was a noblewoman named Blaire from the village, and then my father was the prince, Prince Henry. They became wed and had children. Their firstborn was my older brother Arthur and then they gave birth to my other brother, Baldwin, and me being the youngest of the family. Arthur is to be king as soon as I come to bear to him the news of the passing of our parents.” Cateline says and as soon she begins to think about telling her brothers about their parents being dead, she begins to feel the dread of announcing the passing. Sten grins and puts his chin in the palm of his hand and leans on the table, looking amused.

“How old are you all?” Cateline eyes show some shine that they were shifting the conversation in a new direction and not talking anymore of her parents.

“Arthur is 30 years old and then Baldwin barely passed the age of 25 years old and I am to be 20 this coming spring,” Cateline explains and Sten nods and listens.

“My my, they are sure old and wise are they, hm?” Sten leans into his palm and bats his eyelashes at her.

“Oh no. My brothers are for sure not wise and they do not act their age at all when we have our personal time. But Arthur is strong and he has the skills of a good swordsman. Baldwin does too but he is better in speech. They both have their unique skill set.” Cateline went on about and she smiles. Ragna was not listening but Sten certainly was.

“What are you unique in Cateline?” Cateline looks at Sten for a moment.

“Huh?” Sten grins and he leans closer to her and asks again.

“You explain that your brothers have unique skills and talents. What are yours?” Sten asks again and Cateline begins to feel a lump in her throat and she stammers out words.

“Uh… well… I…” But she couldn’t find the words to explain to him or to give him an answer. A heavy hand lands on Cateline’s shoulder and she looks up to see Bjørn standing there. Sten and Ragna look at him for answers about his disappearance.

“The Earl just wanted more details about the journey and our next steps on taking you home. Now I know you’re weary from your travels, Cateline, so you can stay with me and my grandfather for the time being.” Bjørn answered and Cateline could not protest where her new housing would be. Ragna looks at Bjørn and Sten grins and rubs his shoulder onto Cateline’s shoulder.

“Ready….” Ragna stands up and steps up to Bjørn with her arms folded. “And…” Bjørn raises his brow at her and looks at her with questions. “Argument,” Sten said and Ragna’s cheeks began to flare with scarlet.

“You know she can stay with me right? Instead of sleeping in your house.” Ragna says and Bjørn chuckles a bit and looks at her surprised.

“Are you serious Ragna? To leave Cateline in the hands of you? You want to go against what the Earl said to me?” Ragna’s expression goes from anger to bewilderment and she furrows her brows and points at him.

“Bjørn, do not twist my words like that! I swore my faith and trust to your grandfather when I was at an age to be a shieldmaiden.” Ragna scolds Bjørn and he merely nods and sighs.

“Ragna I know. I was merely teasing. Forgive me?” Bjørn says and grabs her hands, bringing them up to his lips to kiss. Sten and Cateline stare at the two’s conversation, Cateline now realizing why Ragna had been so stern and mean to her. Sten who saw this charm that Bjørn was using was done again.

Ragna looks up at Bjørn and her hands slip out of Bjørn’s hands for her to grab his nose; she squeezes it hard. Sten begins to laugh like a madman at Bjørn, who was going red and was trying to escape the pincher.

“Til you actually say sorry to me and come to your senses about this situation then you may kiss my hands and lips. But till then, I will pinch and punch you to unconsciousness or perhaps to a conscious sense. Go home now.” Ragna lectures Bjørn before letting him be free to smell the roasted goat and bread and the strong mead that filled the room. Bjørn rubs his nose to release the pain Ragna inflicted on him and he grumbles.

“Fine. Come Cateline. Let us get some sleep.” Bjørn says and turns, leaving  Cateline to quickly figure her way out of her chair and follow him out of the hall.

The night was cold and chilly with the ocean breeze hitting them. Cateline looks at the stars and is amazed by how bright they were.

“Stop lollygagging. I want to go to bed.” Bjørn says and does not stop to admire the stars he grew up with, as Cateline is doing now. She quickly begins to catch up with Bjørn and walks beside him. The two worlds walk next to each other in silence til Cateline begins to try on making some conversations.

“Your village is marvelous. Very big but it is nice.” But the response she gets is a mere thank you from Bjørn who was still walking. Cateline takes this as a sign to only be quiet and walk beside him in the silence of the night. They walk another 15 minutes until they got to a barn that had a hill made of stones for its siding for support. Bjørn walk up the slight hill by the barn and behind him was her following. They continue their walk to sleep; another 20 minutes went by before they arrive at a large house. Bjørn goes to the big house and enters. Cateline follows and he closes the door behind her. In the house is a stone floor that was tan in various shades and straight ahead in the room is a big fireplace. Bjørn moves past Cateline and heads to the fireplace and begins to place firewood in the hearth. Cateline follows and she watches him place the big logs of wood in the fireplace.

“Do you want some help?” Cateline asks and Bjørn stares at her for a moment before he goes to start arranging the firewood.

“Go to the basket in the corner. There’s some dry grass.” Cateline nods and she looks around the room until she sees a large but short basket in the corner where she grabs an armful of the grass and quickly paces to the fireplace. She hands the dry grass to Bjørn who spreads them across the logs on top and looks at Cateline.

“Get me the flint and steel for me. Um, they should be on the shelf by the window.” Bjørn tells Cateline and she goes to grab the item. She went by the window and she began to stand on her tippy toes to locate the flint and steel. Once she felt the cold steel and the rough skin of the flint, she came down from her tiptoes and she stares out the window to see the village merely below the hill that the house was on.

Cateline saw the orange squares below in the houses and in the town. She saw the shadows dance in the night out the window and saw the white balls of stars that hung above them to watch the shadows dance. Cateline takes a step away from the window and hurries to turn the items to Bjørn. Once she hand him the items he began to try to set the dry grass in flames and in mere seconds the sparks finally hit the grass and set it on fire and it spreads, quickly and alive. Bjørn begins to take off the fur cloak he wore that day and puts it on a big chair. He sinks into the chair and puts his hand over his eyes. Cateline stares at him for a moment before she could question whether he was asleep or dead. Bjørn says: “Tell me Cateline. What can you do? Can you fight?”

“Not allowed.” She states simply.

Bjørn moves his fingers up to let his eye see her and questions her with his stare for a further explanation.

“In my kingdom, it is that women are not allowed to fight. In that manner, women are just mere property and once you are married off to a man, you lose your right and when you have children, they are their husband’s property. Women are just things. Things that men don’t treat well at all.” Cateline says and she fidgets with her hands again, trying to maintain eye contact with Bjørn but she gazes idly to the side as she speaks.

“Woman in your kingdom can’t simply get a divorce?” Bjørn aks simply before he readjusts in his seat and sits up further. Cateline’s expression caused confusion upon the word and she thought she knew most of the words.

“What is di-VOrce?” Cateline asks and Bjørn uses his foot to hook onto a chair beside him and scoot it closer to him and gestures with his head for Cateline to sit. Cateline went to the chair as Bjørn explain.

“My my, with people that are sure to be rich and proper, your people don’t have divorce. Well, my dear lady, divorce is when you can ask the earl or in your case your king, to leave your spouse and they decide who gets the property and other stuff and that you and the other spouse are no longer married and you can find a new lover and get a fresh start.” Cateline listens and is surprised by this response.

“So let’s say that the woman in the relationship can get the property than the man and can keep her children and that’s that?”

“Yup. It depends on the situation and who did the wrong and who did the right.” Bjørn explains and Cateline becomes very surprised and put her hand to her chin to ponder the overall idea and can’t help but smile.

“What is it? What if the idea of couples splitting and fighting over custody of property makes you smile like that?” Bjørn comments on her smiling and the bright smile washes over with a gasp.

“Oh goodness no. Just that…” Cateline trails off and tries to find the words to explain what she was feeling with the information. “I am happy that your people see women more as property than my people do. That is all.”

“Cateline what on earth? Of course, we treat women with respect, not all because you know, we men are stubborn but we have goddesses that show women are more than capable to defend themselves and have a brain for themselves. What do women in your kingdom do anyway then if they are not like ours?” He questions and Cateline rolls her eyes as she answers him.

“Men believe us women can’t do anything really, only to be a mother and to clean and repeat. The men have more control, if they treat women wrong and the woman tries to stand up to him, the lady is seen to be a fool rather than a warrior. I would rather be a peasant than a princess. I get the education, yes, and I am lucky to have it as some of the children don’t because there is no one there to teach them. But I was taught of what a future queen I should be and what I have to do to help the king to rule and blah blah blah!!! It infuriates me!” Cateline vents out to Bjørn as he listens and nods.

“I could tell this makes you angry because your pale face is red right now.” He says and Cateline tries to calm herself to return to her normal tone.“ But it is true, what you say. It is not right at all.” Bjørn says and he stares intently at the fire that dances off the branches that were once on mighty trees until the weather blew them out for him to gather. Bjørn begins to think about the information that Cateline told him about the kingdom. That it was not right, that if he can convince the peasant’s to-
“Bjørn?” Cateline says and slightly waves her hand across his face. He snaps out of it and looks at her.

“What is it?” Bjørn asks her and she sits back down in her chair.

“You were staring off. I thought you were asleep for a mere moment.” Cateline explains herself and stares at the fire to see what caught Bjørn’s attention.

“I was about to…” He says and then looks at her and then returns to look at the fire. The two sit in silence with the fire crackling slightly at the quietest time of the silence.

“What are you talented at?” is the question that breaks the silence. Cateline looks at Bjørn and he continues to look into the depth of the fire.

Cateline tries to find an excuse or something but she couldn’t lie. “I suppose….nothing. Just being a statue of sorts. To be everlasting beauty and to be still and quiet.” She simply says and she begins to fidget with her fingers.

“Load of crap I believe.” Cateline shrugs at him as he retorts to her. Bjørn begins to explain his thought.

“Everyone has a skill that they are good at. Whether it is for the good or evil I suppose. You have a skill somewhere. So again I will ask. What is your talent?” Bjørn asks in a calm tone that was tired but seems to have a powerful impact on Cateline. She gets out of her chair, standing and turning to him by the fireplace.

“I can write. I am not really supposed to write if it is not for accepting a man for my hand. But I write and I can recite them.”
Bjørn’s ears perks when he hears Cateline’s statement and he nods.

“Well then, Princess Cateline, may you recite a poem for me?” Cateline feels surprised that someone, a person she never thought of in a million years as she daydreamed at the castle while she looked out to the sea that held wonders and adventure and opportunity, would be a man that was larger and taller than her by 5 sizes– a man that seems to be uneducated and sloppy– a man like him that would want to hear her poem. She takes a deep breath and begins to recite the poem she wrote on her windowsill as she daydreamed of a possibility.

“My wishes are flowers,
I watch the petals bloom with delight
They stay for a long time till daylight and moonlight
I wonder if the petals will fly away to fulfill their wishes
Or if the petals will become a dish for earth’s soil”

Her voice is steady but quiet, yet Bjørn can sense that this poem had more meaning than their words.

“But still my wishes are like flowers
They grow a new til all is bloomed in a midsummers day
Where they embrace; they welcome the world.
The flowers meet other flowers like them
My flower meets other flowers that aren’t so similar
But there is always a weed that is never like them”

Cateline began to have the floods of the dreams for the sense to belong to a place. To someone or somewhere she can be her.

“But yet my flowers with my petals full of wishes is like a weed to few
Where many stomps on my petals without thought
the wishes are chained and they get sucked back into the earth to never come to abound.
Where some treat my flowers with hate and set me in flames,
But there are some that make me hold to my flowers after the damage
Where no matter what happens my flowers never age”

She begins to feel the emotion of when her father yelled and lecture her about her placement, about her duty to being a princess.

“My wishes are like flowers
Where my petals will once soon spread like peaches,”

She began to remember the one summer day when she snuck out to the fields of trees full of peaches and was able to run through the endless loops and turns of the trees with peaches.

“Where my flowers will attract a noble bee
That will help me grow a new garden
Where I am left alone in my den with my flowers of new wishes.”

As Cateline finishes her poem, she looks at Bjørn, who was watching her as she spoke. The room is once again filled with the same crackling fire pit that stood behind Cateline as she stare at Bjørn.

“Cateline, that was beautiful. I could tell what you must’ve felt during that. I believe that here you might find a new sort of freedom here. Let me show you to your room. I bet after that and this whole day you must be exhausted.” Bjørn says and gets up from his big chair and leads Cateline to her room.

She stood by the fireplace for a moment until he was out of view and leaving her to hustle directly on his trail. Down a hall from the living room, with a door on the right was where Cateline is introduced to her living quarters.

“I will have some fresh clothes for you. I don’t think running in your nightgown is the best idea for you while you’re here.” Bjørn explains as Cateline enters her room.

She looks at him and looks at her nightgown and blushes slightly. “That would be preferred please.” She says nicely and she could already sense Bjørn’s departure, before he could do his quick goodnights, she turns and is the first to speak to him as he was starting to close the door.

“Thank you! Thank you Bjørn for saving me. I-” She pauses for a moment because the next words she may say will determine her future with Bjørn, either being alive or to be dead.” I owe you my life.” She finally says.

Bjørn responds: “Thank you Cateline. Rest well, please. I shall see you bright and early. There is still more to show you of Höfn.” He says and closes the door and begins to make his way to his room.

Cateline observes her new room, furnished with a massive bed and a little nightstand with a candle holder and that was all. She decides to look around the room more when she got herself a full bed rest. She climbs onto the bed and opens the tons of sheets and blankets and she stares at the door as she drifts to dreams and slumber.

Bjørn opens his door and shrugs off the furs and shrugs off the armor and his ax to its proper stands and areas of the room. When he was finally in a tunic and pants that he could sleep in. He drop himself onto the bed which made a noticeable loud creak in the house. He lays on his back and stares at the stone ceiling, replaying Cateline’s poem in his head. He wanted to see if he missed anything useful, but also he was trying to see anything else in her words. Bjørn put his forearm onto his eyes and let the darkness blind him, allowing himself to be swallowed up to slumber.

Chapter 3
“Höfn’s Dream”

“Come darling.”

White– the world that Cateline opens her eyes upon. The ground contains a white mist and the sky is white like a new baby sheep. Cateline is no longer in her gray nightgown but in a snowy dress. It was like her dress in her closet, a dress that was off her shoulder that left room for the strand of golden locks to rest that ran away from the braid that her hair was in. The skirt of the dress wasn’t puffy as the ones she needs a hoop for. And it wasn’t silk. Cateline looks around for the voice but yet her surroundings were nothing but a white abyss. The abyss might be a room but it may be a new world of white.

“This way.” A voice of a woman that sounds gentle and motherly. Cateline spins her head and tries to follow the voice. With her bare feet, she begins to walk toward the voice. After moments of walking, Cateline is beginning to think that she was walking in circles or is taking the same path or that maybe she never moved at all. But soon she arrives at the only color–  a garden with a large pool with a blond woman standing beside it. The woman stood taller than Cateline and she wore a dress that has sleeves that touch the grass. She has green eyes and her hair is a dirty blond. The most noticeable thing is a scar that runs across her chest. The woman and Cateline stare at each for a moment. The tall woman takes a step towards Cateline.

The next thing Cateline knew was that she was shooting forward and hunching over herself and staring at the stones in the room that Bjørn showed her last evening. She holds one of the quilts of the bed close to her chest as she tries to even her breathing. Her eyes are wide and she is slightly shaking due to the experience that she dreamt about. Cateline was trying to recall the moment before, but like any other dream, it fades away. Before she gets the chance to remember what the woman’s scar was, a knock was heard. Cateline slowly rises out of bed and she goes to the door. She opens it and stares up to see Bjørn holding a bundle of clothing.

“Morning. Here are some fresh clothes, some boots, and this.” He barely enters the room to place a bucket full of water beside the door. “Hope they fit well, we don’t have that many small people beside the children.” He snickers and Cateline takes the clothes and the boots out of his palms and nods slowly.

“Thank you.” She simply says and Bjørn nods and closes the door. Before Cateline observe the new clothes she heard him say on the other side of the door.

“Breakfast is going to be at the hall again. I will wait in the living room for you. Hurry up.” After that Cateline hears footsteps walking away from the door. She lays the clothing on the bed and sees a white tunic and a pair of brown trousers. Cateline stares at the pair of trousers for a moment before she begins her first attempt to put them on. After a minute of putting the tunic on with the pair of trousers, she kneels in front of the bucket, and looking in it, can see her reflection. It hasn’t been long since that night she almost fell overboard, but her face was full of grease and sweat. Cateline cups her hands and plunges them into the bucket to clean her face, after which she wipes off her face with her sleeve. Her face was clean and rosy when she leaves the room and enters the living room. Bjørn is in his chair and as soon he sees Cateline coming around the corner he stands up and, without a second glance, he begins to lead the way out of the house. Cateline quickly follows him down the makeshift path that is connected to a barn. As they got to the bottom, she sees the farmer carrying hay to three sheep. Sheep began to talk as they sensed their food, begging to lay into their spot, beginning to eat. The farmer notices Bjørn and Cateline and waves them good morning. Bjørn smiles and nods and Cateline gives a small wave back and they continue their march to the hall.

Any person could smell the hall being filled with foul activities and beer and mead last night. That is what Cateline exactly thought when they finally arrive at the hall. People that were sick from last night sat with others in the same condition and the table was silent. There were other tables that were loud. As Bjørn and Cateline walk to the table where they sat last night, Cateline sees a boy who appears to be in his late teens with reddish hair down long to mid-back. He wears a tunic but the slit in the middle reveals more than it needs. The young man and the group of others are yelling and discussing their hunting party that is going to be taking that evening. Cateline stares at the reddish-haired boy for a moment until his gray eyes catch her and she quickly stares at Bjørn’s back.

At the table are only two people– Ragna, who was drinking some milk, and then Sten who was stuffing his face with patties of meat as Cateline and Bjørn sit down.

“Is Sten trying to beat his own record again?” Bjørn merely asks Ragna and she nods.

“If he gets this patty in, he will have stuffed about 29 patties into his mouth without biting it,” Ragna says as she keeps watching. Cateline is confused by this, but then she watches Sten put the 29th patty into his mouth and by some force, she is compelled to watch.

“C’mon Sten! Get 30! If you do I will let you come with us tonight for the hunt for boars.” Bjørn promises and Sten grins, his hazel eyes with stars in them as he begins to squeeze the last patty in.

After moments of finding the right position and relaxing his jaw to let him go wider, Sten is able to fit the patty in. His audience claps for him as Sten puts some paddies down on his plate.

Cateline and Bjørn are able to get their food after the show and Cateline looks at Bjørn.

“What hunting party is going on tonight?” She simply asks him and he lifts his shoulders slightly.

“We are just hunting boars tonight. Usually, a tradition for us is to hunt for a new season to come. So we may feast and celebrate to survive another season.” Bjørn explains and Cateline nods.

“Ragna you have to watch Cateline tonight.”

“What!?” Ragna yells and she slams her cup down, making some milk splash out of her cup and onto the table.

“I need someone I trust to watch Cateline while we…” He uses his finger to wave it between pointing himself to Sten and back as he stares at Ragna. “…are at the hunting party.” Ragna’s face grows red but she bites her tongue and merely nods. She knew that she couldn’t argue out of this one and that she was going to be stuck watching Cateline for the evening.

Anyone watching the conversation could see Ragna’s expression change from anger to fury. Cateline felt like a burden, but she couldn’t help it. It wasn’t like she wanted to be there as well. The rest of breakfast was quiet with simple Sten making funny and terrible remarks to them.

As soon as breakfast is over, the group heads out, and the village of Höfn is alive with people doing their daily tasks and crossing each other to get new gear or food. Cateline looks at Bjørn and taps his back to get his attention.

“What are we doing today?”

“Do some jobs here and there. Help some of the villagers and then show you around Höfn. Then that is our day for today.” Bjørn explains simply and Cateline nods and grins. She begins to get excited to see more of the village and the culture. Cateline was never able to travel like her brothers to foreign lands and learn about the world and world trades. Now, this is her opportunity.

The group heads to the docks and sees men on the shoreline reeling in some nets that are full of fish. The men pull and are being pulled back by the waves and fish that are trying to escape from their doom. Bjørn and Sten and Ragna begin to roll their pant legs to their knees and Cateline begins to as well to follow them to the rows of nets and help to pull them in. Cateline is lost until she hears Ragna yelling at her: “Grab the net and pull! Don’t stand there and be helpless!” Ragna yells as she furiously yanks on the nets.

Bjørn notices Ragna pulling and announces to her. “If you keep pulling like that you are going to rip the nets and let them all loose! You have to be patient.” He pulls but when the fish begin to pull, he only lets them for a few inches as he stands his ground. Cateline watches and she grabs the end with not many fish that was in the middle. She pulls and when she feels the fish beginning to pull her, she almost trips and falls but she catches herself. She buries her feet into the sand and pulls as hard as she can to bring the fish and the nets to the shore. After tugging and pulling, back and forth, being in the water and on the sand, the men and the group are able to get the fish onto shore. Cateline places her hands on her knees and tries to catch her breath. She sees the others walking toward her and she smiles.

“That is something I never thought I would get to do.” Cateline chuckles and Ragna shrugs.

“Nothing you ever did princess?” She sneers and walks past Cateline and starts to get her shoes on and walks off. Cateline stares at Sten and Bjørn with confusion as they start to try to catch up to her.

“Why does she not like me?” Cateline asks and Bjørn shrugs.

“I have never seen her act like this before.” Sten grins and Bjørn’s face begins showing signs of agitation.

The three hike up to the docks and finally catch up to Ragna.

“Finally.” Ragna scolds them and they merely do not respond back. The group walks the town and Cateline looks around. She notices a herd of geese is walking and moves to the side to give them their space. She watches them waddle with awe and she returns her gaze to only bump into someone. She stumbles and is about to fall but is caught by whom she bumped into. Cateline looks at her rescuer and notices it is the loud guy from the hall that morning. The two stare at each other but the loud man with his gray eyes lets go of Cateline, making her drop to her butt and making the group look behind them to witness her fall. Cateline winces slightly when she feels the dirt hit her behind and she falls back flat. She raises herself to her elbows and looks up at the silver-eyed man.

“Ah, the little princess doesn’t know how to keep her balance, hm? Should’ve known a lady like that doesn’t know how to stay on her feet.” The guy sneers down at her as Cateline is picked up by Sten and watches Bjørn grab the front of the silver-eyed man.

“Gunar! What was that for you-!” Bjørn yells at him but is cut off by Gunar smirking and waving his index finger at him.

“Tuh tuh tuh. A soon-to-be Earl shouldn’t project this sort of behavior in front of everyone.” Gunar says and the group looks around to some villagers averting their gazes and returning to mind their business. Some remain to stare at the scene. Bjørn grumbles and drops Gunar onto his feet and Gunar pats himself to get the ruffle out of his shirt.

“Now I must be going. I got to do some preparations for the hunt tonight.” Gunar says and waves off with glance at Cateline before he walks off. Bjørn takes a deep inhale and lets out a low growl.

“Let’s go.” He said sternly and the group began to continue their walk.

The sun was setting along the ocean when the group finally finished doing chores and helping farmers and the villagers around Höfn. They arrive at the hall where everyone was chatting and many had their weapons at hand or on the table. The group sit at the usual table from breakfast. They sit in silence from their tiredness and a barmaid comes by to drop off some mead. Cateline stares at it before shoving it to the side as the other three drank and begin to be buzzed.

“Ugh, today was terrible,” Sten says and couldn’t help to smile as he looks at his drink which was already half gone.

“Honestly. Not gonna get better when you two leave.” Ragna says with anger in her tone as she starts to drink.

“Ragna don’t be like this. I trust you and Sten to watch Cateline more than anyone else.” Bjørn says as he rolls his shoulder out to warm himself up.

“Oh yeah, Ragna shouldn’t be mad. Not like she gets stuck babysitting as we go hunt for a boar that is a tradition.” Sten says simply and receives a whack on the back of his head from Bjørn as he tries to eat.

“Sten, you are right! I get to watch a princess that doesn’t belong here and I have to miss a tradition to watch her!” Ragna yells and stabs a knife into the table before she stomps off. Bjørn gets up and follows her. Cateline looks at the knife and gulps a little and just begins to play with her food. Sten looks at her and puts a large piece of meat on his fork and plops it onto Cateline’s plate.

“A wee one like you need to eat a lot,” Sten says and Cateline gives him an awkward smile.

“I enjoy your food but two things– I don’t want to eat your food and I do not want to be fat,” Cateline says and slightly pushes her plate away and then Sten pushes it back in front of her.

“Eat. Cateline we have plenty of food and what is this thing about being fat? You are skinny as a newborn salmon. Small and skinny. People could mistake you for being one of the sick ones.” Sten jokes and Cateline shrugs.

“If I go back and my brothers see me fat and chubby, I will never hear the end of it of them telling me that no one would want me. I know for certain they are gonna try and marry me off when I tell them about all of this situation.” Cateline lays her head on the side of her plate. Sten looks at her and pats her back as he kept eating some fish.

“Have you looked at the women around here? They are all sorts. Skinny like a stick and then big as a yack. I know you’ve seen Ragna. She is built like a man!” He laughs and Cateline rolls her eyes.

“Eat if you’re hungry. Eat. If you’re tired. Sleep. If you want to cry, then cry. No one can tell you what you need and your wants. You could simply run away right now if you want. But you would be lost. Now, are you hungry?” Sten asks and looks at her and Cateline nods. She lifts her head and slowly eats alongside Sten.

“Sten, I know I am a burden but how do I stop being more of a burden? I have no choice but stay here but I don’t want your help on my way home if I am being a burden.” Cateline says, her tone frustrated and she picks at the meat that Sten gave her.

“Ragna is just pissed. She is like this when she is not in charge of what she can do or not. Thing is like the same, there is always one person that is higher than you.” Sten says and as Cateline watches him eat she lets her shoulders finally relax and begin to eat along with him.

Ragna pushes past a couple that was entering the hut and Bjørn let the couple in the hut. He then walks out to follow her. Ragna was pacing back in forth waiting to argue.

“Ragna quit! You are not making things easy.” Bjørn starts the argument and Ragna put her fist on the other side and glares at him.

“I am not making things easy!? You are dancing around lies and fibs! Bjørn, you have not explained why we have not just treated Cateline as a prisoner and beat her to tell us where this damn kingdom you want to raid so much!? Why are you being so nice huh?” Ragna yells and Bjørn grabs Ragna and pulls her to the side away from others.

“Ragna… We have to be smarter than that. If we show up on their steps with their princess almost beaten to death, they would want war. We don’t know if they are better or worse or what! So we have to play it safe. We have to gain her trust and then she will lead us to the kingdom. I am going to try to form a group tonight at the hog hunt for people to join us for this journey and then tomorrow I will try to start asking her where this kingdom is at.” Bjørn says low and trying to calm the situation. Ragna looks at him and huffs and rolls her eyes.

“Then what? Hm? We snoop around and try to take it all over, then?” Ragna asks sternly. There was a pause, the sound of chatter and laughter from inside the hut fills the pause as Bjørn smiles and shrugs.

“Yeah, that was the plan,” Bjørn says and puts his knuckles on his hips and looks up.

“Look, I just want you to involve me. Like me helping you with these plans and not me being a babysitter.” Ragna says and Bjørn nods.

“I know and you are! Just tonight and you would never have to be alone with her again. Alright, just keep her away from the boat.” He explains and looks into Ragna’s eyes and she sighs and nods.

“Thank you, my dear,” Bjørn says and leans to place a kiss on her lips, and Ragna kisses him back. Walking hand in hand, they return into the hut

Chapter 4
“The Hunt”

Bjørn and Ragna walk back into the festive hall and make their way back to the table. Sten looks at the couple and roll his eyes.

“Now these two are all lovely dovey,” Sten complains and Ragna grabs the knife back from the table and points it at Sten.

“Watch your tongue,” Ragna scolds him and puts her knife back in her pocket and they sit and start eating. Cateline sits there in silence, she briefly looks at Ragna as she ate and then looks at Bjørn.

“So while you two are out on the hunt, what would we do?” Cateline asks Bjørn and he looks at her.

“Whatever she wants. More likely rest at my house.” Bjørn simply explains and Ragna stares at her and nods. Cateline looks at them both and nods and goes silent as they finish their food. After moments later they finish eating and Ragna stood up and look at Cateline.

“C’mon. Let’s leave these boys to their hunt.” Ragna simply says and Cateline nods and she stood up from the table and look at the boys.

“Good luck,” Cateline says follows Ragna out of the hut, leaving Bjørn and Sten alone at the table.

“So… you two in love again?” Sten teases and recieves a blow in the shoulder from Bjørn.

“Shut up you idiot!” Bjørn tells him off and Sten just laughs. Bjørn couldn’t help but laugh along. The two sit there being full of food and mead in their stomachs and chatting about the day they encountered and the adventure ahead.

“So Cateline is an interesting lass. Definitely one that is scared.” Sten says and grins a lot but Bjørn’s face is stern.

“Nah… She might seem scared but I can see it. Through her eyes hold deep embers that are barely alive because of the sea’s tears. She is brave but not too big for her to try anything.” Bjørn finishes and drinks some mead and is lost in thought. He is thinking about yesterday night when she recited her poem and the passion that burned in her eyes, and how she discussed the current problems that are happening at her kingdom. A sharp sound of a horn being blown snaps him out of his thoughts and Bjørn and Sten turn to look behind them to look at the whistler. It iss Vidar that was blowing into a big ram antler that they hunted last season. The hall went quiet and Earl Aren was in front of everyone.

“Tonight is a night that will commence the hunt for the Hog.” Earl Aren announces. “Where this is a blessing from the gods and goddess of Valhalla. Their way to protect us warriors, to give us the strength to protect our friends, our lovers, our home! So hunters of Höfn, hunt for this gift from Valhalla to protect Höfn!” Earl Aren grabs a bone that is wrapped with fabric and hits a large drum to commence the hunt for protection they seek.

Earl Aren watches the hall become chaotic, with everyone in the hall running towards the exit and out to the forest. It took mere minutes till the hall was full of a few people that were still hurrying to join the rally, Earl Aren and Vadir begin to follow the hunting party when the hall was empty. They walk out to the fresh air and Earl Aren holds his hand out for Vadir to place a large ax, that was almost bigger than Vadir’s head, into the Earl’s hand. Earl Aren notices someone was walking next to them and recognizes Sten’s big grin and his grandson walking next to him.

“Vadir, remind me again. Aren’t hunters supposed to be in the forest right about now?” Earl Aren eyes the two youngsters and Vadir nods, brushing his bread with his fingers as he respond to the Earl.

“Why yes my Earl. Hunters should be arriving at the forest about now.” Vadir says and the two elders look at Sten and Bjørn as they continue walking with them.

“Sten my dear friend, why are we walking with two old men and not running to join the other children that they themselves hunters?” Bjørn asks sarcastically to Sten, who smirks at the question.

“Well my soon-to-be Earl, it is because you are not a barbaric and you can surely catch up to them,” Sten says and acts like a personal servant as he answers the question.

“Yes yes, I know I am coming to my age to where I will be seated by your father in Valhalla, and you will be Earl. To lead all the people you see every day in the streets, the markets, the beach, and more. You are to be earl to make sure everything is right for Höfn.” Earl Aren explains and Bjørn eyes his grandfather and nods.

“I understand. I will make you and father and everyone in this village proud to have me as their earl.” Bjørn promises and Earl Aren can’t help but smile and put his hand on Bjørn’s shoulder as they kept walking towards the screams and yelling that came from the forest.

It wasn’t until they walked into the forest that Bjørn and Sten finally start to run to catch up with the hunting party.

The hunt was on and Bjørn was ready to hunt and earn his place to be the next Earl.