Even If It Hurts

Kata and Dagur bade her goodbye on the road that led to her aunt’s shop, and she walked in through the back door. The scent of detergents and drying fur filled the air along with the sound of her aunt, Asta, puttering around.

“Eira, is that you, dear?”

“It’s me! Busy day?”

Asta shuffled to the back and smiled at her. Asta Osulf had inherited every stitch of beauty the Osulf clan possessed from her blonde hair to her fair skin, but she was a shield maiden as fierce as Eira’s mother had been.  Asta gasped seeing her, and her eyes went soft the way they always did.

“Oh, don’t start,” Eira rolled her eyes and tucked a lock of hair behind her ear with an uncomfortable shuffle.

“You look more and more like her every day,” she said with a sigh, “Well, enough about that. How goes it with your love interest? Is that yak Solveig still trying to push you off on Sigfrøðr?”

Eira burst into laughter. Asta had never really liked Solveig, mostly convinced that her willingness to marry Dag had more to do with his clan name than his personality, but Asta was the eldest. She was protective of her little brothers and had reason to be.

“Don’t even get me started,” Eira groaned, setting her training gear down and changing into a shop apron, “What’s on the list today?”

“Well, there’s a stack of clothes from the Renoufs as usual. I swear that Øydís just dumps everything here, not that I mind. I charge them extra.”

She snorted, “Of course.”

“On principle,” Asta said with a shrug, “Then, there’s the Harvard load. Svein’s gigantic furs, of course, his formal wear, but there’s also–”

Eira flushed, “Don’t even go there.”

Asta wiggled her eyebrows, grinned, “Then, there’s the Njall’s normal stuff and few other mending projects.”

Eira huffed, “I’ll start with the Njall’s mending.”

“I’ll save his stuff for you then.”

Eira groaned as Asta laughed and shooed her on towards the sewing bench. She sat on her usual stool and grabbed the first piece of clothing to be mended. She had no idea what would have caused the holes other than fire maybe, but she cut the burn out and began to patch it.

“So, how are you feeling?” Asta asked, “Not about the competition…”

She sighed, “I’ll be fine. There are worse things.”

“Of course, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t feel sad about it.”

Eira paused as her aunt filled the tumbler with sawdust and cleansing powders before laying one of Svein’s large fur pelts on the other table.

“I feel like a coward,” she huffed, “Like I wouldn’t be in this position if I’d just… Osulf-ed up.”

“War is very different than matters of the heart,” she laughed, “Should have seen the Fearless Finn Osulf trying to ask Helka Bloodhawk on a date…Don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re young dear, Bregðask isn’t the only one who hasn’t quite hit their stride…”

She smiled, “Thanks, Aunt Asta.”

“I’m rooting for your happiness dear,” she said dipping her cleansing cloth in a solution, “So are you writing him?”

“I just got a letter from him. I plan on replying tonight.”

“Good, don’t let that Solveig hear about it,” she shook her and muttered, “What in Thor’s name does this man do to his furs?”

Eira laughed and finished her patch job on Dvalarr’s dress tunic before moving on to the next one. They worked in companionable quiet as the hours passed when Eira finally broke.

“Do you think it would be too much to go visit?”

Asta snorted, “Dear, if you want to be clear you’re interested, I think it’s your best option. Who knows what those girls in Bjørn are like?”

“Well, what if that’s his thing?” Eira asked, “I’m not exactly… the typical– what I mean is–”

“What if he’s secretly searching for an Øydís?” she asked, “Or Freyja? Gods help that girl…”

Eira winced at the tone and the truth. Øydís had been heralded as the most “ladylike” of the noble Calder women of Asta and Helka’s generation. She didn’t fight. She’d never caused a scene. Some had attributed it to her being raised in the Harvard house, but Hilda had been raised in the same house and had been as rowdy as any man of their generation had been.

Freyja Stormcloak wasn’t a Calder noble, but she was well known among their generation as the next Øydís. She wasn’t the one everyone was chasing because of her looks, but everyone knew her as the epitome of “ladylike.” She couldn’t wield an ax or much of anything, but she was sweet and had a genuine grace about her that made her endearing.

Eira liked her and her parents loved her to bits and pieces.

“She was almost cursed with that name,” Asta sighed, “Her parents mean well, but that’s a lot of pressure on a young girl.”

“From our conversations, she doesn’t seem to mind,” Eira said, “If anything she enjoys it.”

It means they think highly of me, she’d said in their sewing class with a shrug, And I can’t say I’m not well suited to some of their expectations.

She was soft spoken and gentle. Solveig held her up as an example to learn from while Eira only saw her as a great friend and sewing project partner.

“Well dear, if that’s what he wants, then there’s nothing you can do about that. A man’s tastes are a man’s tastes, and while you can compromise, you shouldn’t change your core personality… You wouldn’t be Eira if you did.”

Eira sighed, “Why should I even bother? He’s the þjóðann, for Thor’s sake.”

Asta turned to her, “Has that ever seemed to matter to him?”

Eira shook her head.

“Then, you can bet it isn’t something he cares about. Svein’s a proud man, but he’s no fool. I have no idea what his reservation about naming him erfingi is, but perhaps by the time he comes back, Svein will have his head on right, and I bet Solveig’s ideas about your perfect match will change drastically.”

Eira shuddered, “Don’t remind me.”

Asta shrugged, “There are people in this world who live for status, and there are people who would shove a title down someone’s throat without hesitation. The Osulfs have always been of the second class.”

Eira grinned, “You’re right. “

“I wouldn’t worry about Bregðask being interested dear,” she said, “He is.”

Eira ducked her head, “These are done.”

Asta laughed and Eira had a feeling that a good deal of her family was having a laugh about this as they spoke.

“Asta?” someone called, it sounded like her uncle, Ragni Bloodhawk, “Is Eira here? We heard the news. Is she okay?”

Eira groaned, “I am fine!”

He walked into the back room, inky black hair and brown eyes searching for her. It looked as though he’d just come from the docks and through fire.

“What happened to you?”

“Pirates,” he waved off Asta’s concern, “Are you okay, princess?”

Eira glowered at him, “I am fine. You make it sound like we were madly in love.”

“You aren’t?”

“And we’re done,” Eira said as Asta cackled from the other side of the room, “Welcome back. Where’s Uncle Miki?”

“He’ll be along as soon as he gets patched up. We have to go report it, but let’s have dinner. We might be able to sneak you over to Bjørn sometime soon.”

“Uncle Ragni!”

He kissed her head lovingly and passed a hand over her head before pinching Asta’s cheek and running out before she could swat him for his mischief.

Asta chuckled, “The entire Bloodhawk clan will be coming to find you soon enough.”

Eira groaned and slipped under the table, “I’m not here.”

Asta laughed, but they both knew how much Eira appreciated the closeness of the Bloodhawks. If the Osulf name felt too heavy, they were always there to cheer her up. They, along with her uncle Dag, made everything about being a Calder noble bearable.

Another chime rang out from the bell above the front door.

“Asta? Is Eira here?”

Eira groaned, “If you aren’t here for mending services, go away!”

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