The summer feast had been beautiful and bountiful. Svein’s speech had been inspiring and entrancing. Her gown had been perfectly flattering and proper to her station. However, despite it all, Eira had left the festivities early and disappointed. She went home pulled off the trappings of her station and crawled into bed.
In the morning, she woke up just as disappointed as the night before, and with a groan, she turned over in bed and covered her head with the blanket.
Get a grip, Eira.
She’d been looking forward to seeing Bregðask at the summer feast. More importantly, she’d been looking forward to him seeing her in her new gown. She sighed looking over at her closet where it was hanging. Solveig, her aunt, had forced it upon her, and after Eira had made enough modifications to it, she’d been eager to show it off for the one person who was definitely not on her aunt’s potential groom list.
She shook her head and washed up for the day before dressing in her usual attire. Someone knocked on her door, and she hoped that it was her uncle Dag.
“Princess? You up?”
Eira sighed in relief hearing his warm voice through the door.
“Come in,” she said brushing her hair as she sat at her vanity.
Once, she’d hated the thing, seeing it as a waste of space in her room, but sometime after she realized that she was able to develop a crush, and had developed a major one on Bregðask for reasons she still didn’t understand, she’d spent a lot more time in front of the mirror. Dag closed the door behind him and came in to sit in the chair beside her vanity bench.
“How are you this morning, princess? Not too disappointed?”
She smiled at him and swallowed down the bit of grief that came with seeing him sometimes. He looked just like his brother, her father, Finn Osulf, all the way down to the dirty blonde of his hair and the Osulf blue eyes which she had inherited.
Her ink black hair had been a gift from her mother, the Lady Helka Bloodhawk. It had been years since she’d lost them and her uncle had taken her in as his own, but it hadn’t gotten any easier.
She wondered, for a moment, what her parents would think of her choice in potential suitor and how she was going about it.
He wondered if they knew that she’d had a crush on him even as a child.
“I’m okay,” she said softly, “And you? How’s Aunt Solveig?”
He shrugged, “resting. Had one too many pints while gloating, you know? Care for some help?”
She handed him the brush, “Please and thank you!”
He chuckled and took the brush, “Your aunt would be horrified.”
She laughed as he undid her messy braid and began to comb through her hair with his fingers, “She doesn’t have to brush it!”
He chuckled at that, “You did inherit your mother’s hair… I remember her complaining about it all the time, but she never cut it.”
“Because of Dad?”
“Yeah. You do strange things for the people you love.”
She hummed at that and looked at him through the mirror. His expression seemed pensive, troubled even.
“What’s wrong? Did Sefi get into trouble last night?”
Sefi would be ten winters old that year and had a knack for getting himself into trouble. He wasn’t a bad kid, he was just a nine year old with too much energy.
“He was well behaved and stuffed his face all night, actually,” He sighed, “You turn seventeen this year…”
“Yes,” she said.
“I just can’t believe you’ve grown up so quickly.”
She took his hand on her shoulder, “I miss them too.”
He chuckled at that, “I don’t. Your father was a pain in my ass.”
She laughed and swatted his hand with a shake of her head, “Uncle Dag.”
“All jokes aside, I just wanted to talk to you before your aunt goes off the deep end.”
“Is this about the gown?”
“We’ll get to that,” he said with a sigh, “You know she means the best.”
“I know,” she rolled her eyes, “I also know that she’s always wanted the chance to dress a daughter up and–”
She froze and met his gaze. He squeezed her shoulder.
“You know that I would never let that happen without your consent. I would never subject my daughter to that.”
She relaxed at that and nodded. He went back to detangling her hair with a smile.
“I notice you wore your hair down last night… Your aunt seemed to be surprised.”
She pouted, “It did no good but get tangled.”
He shook his head, “I know he wasn’t there, but it was good to see you exploring that side of yourself.”
She huffed, “How did you know?”
He snorted, “I’m pretty sure I knew before you did. Your parents and I used to talk about it.”
She sighed, “Of course, you did. Uncle Dag, sees all.”
“I believe in keeping an eye on you, princess. I promised.”
“The hilmir said that he wants you to accompany him out for training today. He’s sending Sigfrøðr to pick you up.”
She groaned loud and frustrated, “Cut my hair off right now.”
“Absolutely not,” Dag said, “Your aunt would kill me, and you’d regret it.”
“He’s a coward,” she groaned, “I’m sick!”
“I’m just the messenger. I wanted to warn you so you wouldn’t get blindsided.”
He brushed through it, and she pouted, “How are you so good at this?”
“I have practice.”
She swallowed and blew out a huff. Eira had lost her parents and her aunt and uncle had lost their daughter, Ysra, before she was old enough to go through the motions of courting. She’d been a true Osulf woman, casting off with a ship that had gone down in the middle of the Norwegian Sea from a pirate attack.
She remembered how broken Dag had been. She remembered how far down he and Solveig had gotten and how much further they fell with the loss of her parents, the former leaders of the Osulf clan.
Someone knocked on the door and she heard Solveig going downstairs. Dag groaned.
“On the bright side,” he said, “I bet if you take your least maintained ax with you, you could probably convince them to stop by the forge…”
It was an off day for the summer session which meant, more than likely, Bregðask was at the forge helping Gardar deal with the influx of people preparing to ship out with the trade ships for the next summer trip or starting physical training for Calder’s fighting force.
She smiled at him, “You’re the best.”
“Valkyrie or War Goddess?”
He proceeded to work braids into her hair into one of her more preferred styles and braided the bulk of her hair so it sat over her shoulders properly. She wrapped the end with a length of leather as he tied her silver studded kransen on her brow.
“Thanks, Uncle Dag.”
“Eira! Sigfrøðr’s here to pick you up for training.”
“Coming!” Eira said and stood up. Dag set the brush down and laughed as she perused her collection of axes before grabbing the one in most need of repair.
“That just won’t do. Hold on,” he said and walked down the hall to find one of his older axes. He returned with it and offered it to her.
“Uncle Dag, it’s practically ancient,” she said with bright eyes, “It’s perfect.”
He winked at her, “Go get him, princess.”
She kissed his cheek, strapped the ax to her back, and went downstairs with Dag.
Solveig’s eyes widened, and she smiled at her, “Would you like breakfast before you go?”
“Something quick,” she said, “Thanks, Aunt Solveig.”
“You’re looking as beautiful as always, Lady Osulf.”
Eira scoffed and rolled her eyes, “Of course, she is, my uncle has good taste.”
He stammered, and Solveig sighed and put something together as Dag joined them.
“Try this,” Dag said offering her a glove for her right hand as she hadn’t quite built her callouses back up, “It should help.”
She offered him her hand and wrapped it carefully with leather straps, “I got it a long time ago and found it recently since you tore your callouses.”
He finished tying it neatly, “The runes are a little old and need to be refinished, but I’m sure you can get some help with that at the forge.”
She smiled, “I’ll be sure to ask. Thanks, Uncle Dag.”
She ate quickly and bade them both goodbye.
Sigfrøðr scrambled after her, “So… Eira, what are you doing this weekend?”
“Need a sparring partner?”
“No,” she said, “Kata will be in town.”
“Well, I mean, I–”
“Sigfrøðr,” She turned to him, and he shut his mouth, “We have nothing in common. You know nothing about me, and I’m not interested in you.”
“Well, that’s because we haven’t spent much time together…”
She rolled her eyes and kept walking, “The little bit of time we have spent is more than enough.”
The forge was on the way to the general training pitch. The quickest path led past the forge. Standing on that path was Svein who smiled at them both.
“Good Morning, Eira. I’m glad your uncle passed along my message.”
“He did. Problem is that I have an ax and a glove in need of some attention.”
“I’m sure Gardar can help. My sword could use some attention. We’ll make a trip of it.”
He turned to lead the way to the forge and Eira only grinned and followed after him. Sigfrøðr hustled to walk a few steps ahead of her, but she paid him no mind.
The arrived at the forge soon enough, and Eira felt her heart beat a little faster seeing that there was no line. The gods must have been looking out for her after the disappointment of the night before.
Thank you, Frigg and all the gods of Asgard.
“Gardar?” Svein called through the forge, “Strange. It’s usually rather busy around this time.”
She worried her lip not hearing or seeing Bregðask at his usual station.
“I’m here,” Gardar said coming from the back of the forge scratching his chin. He froze seeing the three of them and smiled, “Good morning! This is a rare sight.”
“Gardar!” Svein greeted, “You left from the feast earlier than usual.”
“I had something to tend to,” he cleared his throat, “What brings you here?”
“I was hoping to take my nephew and our best shield maiden out for a bit of training, but she’s in need of a blacksmith.” He eyed Sigfrøðr’s ax, “And honestly, so are we.”
Gardar hummed thoughtfully, “Bregðask?”
Eira took a deep breath to control the butterflies in her stomach. Gardar turned back to the back room and poked his head in.
Svein sighed, “Slacking off is he?”
“It’s been a slow morning. He’s probably chopping wood or practicing his archery out back… Maybe running laps.”
Gardar hobbled towards the back door. Out of curiosity, Eira followed him and knew that Svein and Sigfrøðr followed soon after. By the back door, there was a fully replenished stack of wood and the ax hung beside the pile.
“Not here,” Svein said with a sigh, “And it looks like someone beat him to it.”
“Bregðask gets up earlier then I do most days and practically doesn’t sleep during nóttleysa,” Gardar said and hobbled on, “But since you insist on not waiting, he’s probably on the archery field.”
“I didn’t know there was an archery field behind the forge,” Eira said.
“A recent addition since he’s got a bit of a knack for bow maintenance, I thought it was a good idea to add it for tests.”
“Bregðask doesn’t even know how to hold a bow,” Sigfrøðr said, “He’s always grabbing it with the wrong hand.”
Eira rolled her eyes as Svein asked, “Why would he be practicing archery?”
“Because he wants to compete in the Ørlǫg Raun,” Gardar groaned and hobbled on.
Eira smiled and followed after him, eager to see.