The moment she spoke, he knew he fell for her. Even if he didn't understand a word she said, he knew by her tone she didn't agree with the idea of their wedding. But still, he couldn't help but like her. All his life he was looking for a woman that could stand in front of him and confront him. He found it in Lagertha, he found it with Siggy, and he found it in the princess that was sitting back on her throne, spitting insults about him. The moment she spoke, he knew he found his fierce warrior.
Gilsa was mad. Not even her father wanted her to marry this beast but he smiled at her, like she was the most precious treasure he had ever seen. She felt his look full of desire on her. She expected him to yell, to show his true nature, to turn into this montsrous beast she knew he was. After all, he did kill many of their soldiers witout even an armour or shirt to cover his skin. She hated him, she hated her father. He had shown weakness by negociating with these pagans and she couldn't stand being part of his family. She felt betrayed. Her father wanted to put her in a cage with a man she knew could kill her without any reason.
- Je vous salue, he said, a large smile on his face.
So he spoke. Gisla was a little taken aback by that sudden demonstration of what he probably learned with the wanderer that spoke her language. Maybe he wasn't that much of a beast, she tought. But still, he remained a barbarian, a pagan, and never could she marry him and even less love him.
Rollo was proud, he learnt something and maybe, he impressed the king and his daughter. He felt like nothing could ever come up between him and his destiny. He thanked the gods to let him enjoy the pleasure of being Ragnar's equal without a fight. He hoped he would understand and that they wouldn't fight each-other.
After his litle demonstration, the king nodded as a sign of approval. He said some words Sinric had to translate to Rollo since he only knew how to greet someone.
The king wants you to follow him in a room where you can speak privately. He wishes you to come alone and that your men stay in the great room without killing anyone.
Rollo gave them a stare that said everything: if they ever hurt anybody, they will feel his strength and his fury. They knew he was stronger than any of them and that he could survive almost everything so they stand and promised to behave. Rollo followed the king, escorted by a few soldiers, he knew he could defeat if they tried to kill or emprison him. He made a sign to Sinric to follow him as his translator. He entered the room and sat on a chair in front of the king. Sinric was standing next to Rollo, ready to translate anything Rollo needed to know. The king put his hands on the table and started talking:
- Comme promis, ma fille et vous vous marierez dans le mois qui vient, vous serez fait Duc à l'issu de ce mariage. Nous nous heurtons néanmoins à un problème. Je ne peux marier ma fille à un païen, vous devrez donc vous convertir au christiansime. Les préparatifs de ce baptême retardirons peut être votre mariage, he said, a little bit uncomfortable
- He said that you wil marry the princess this month, and that you will be made Duke after the ceremony. But he can't marry his daughter to a pagan, so you'll have to become a christian. Because of that you will have to marry later, Sinric said to Rollo's ear.
- Tell him being baptised won't be a problem, Rollo said, staring the king menacingly. Tell him I was baptised in this kingdom called Northumbria years ago.
As Sinric was going to translate to the king, Rollo said:
- Tell him I can't wait to marry his beautiful daughter, he said
After a moment of hesitation, he told the king what Rollo said, staring the king like he was gonna kill him and conquer his city.
The king was a little frightened by this man who didn't need any armor to protect him in battle, like his bare skin could stop axes, swords and even the biggest stones if they fell on him. But still, he managed to pull himself together and said:
- Then, we have an agreement.
Rollo grinned. Everything was fine, he was gonna become a Duke, a higher rank than Jarl, he was gonna have lands to farm, just like Ragnar's dream and he was gonna marry the girl who haunted his thoughts since he fought on the walls of Paris. Everything was perfectly fine.
Gilsa was back to her room, she enraged not knowing what her father told her future husband. She wanted to be part of the negociations. Sometimes, she had the feeling she could lead the kingdom better than her father, this poor weak king. She even considered killing herself. She was going to take the knive on her table but at the last moment she remembered her status and her faith. No, she couldn't kill herself, she was a princess and princesses have to be brave. She decided to be brave, not for her father, but for the people of Frankia. If she didn't sacrifice herself in order to protect them, nobody would, and Paris would be taken by these pagans she hated. She would endure, like the fierce princess she was.
Back in the camp Rollo began to train the warriors that stayed with him. He was now their leader and as so, he needed to improve their skills in case something came up. He just couldn't stay unoccupied. The preparations of his wedding were coming and he knew he had to at least speak her bethroded's language. Sinric taught him every day how to speak Frank. Rollo never experienced such a fight, the words were messing with his brain and he struggled with the syntax. It was not at all like his language.
One day, a knight came to the camp with a minister of their god to explain how a frank wedding happened. They explained the traditions, what he was supposed to do and how he was supposed to do. Rollo had to endure rehersal, Frank lessons and training with his warriors for a month. Combined to this, he had to made a wedding outfit. Fortunately, some shield maidens stayed in the camp, so they made it for him. He was exhausted, although he was used to long fights, he felt like this one will never end.
Every night he went to watch the castle. Sometimes he saw light on a window, and he couldn't help but thinking about Gisla. He knew she was the one the gods promised him. Then he thought about Siggy and how he didn't treat her well. A wave of remorse took him. He let a tear go down his face, soon swallowed by his growing beard. He had to be good to his future wife, or the gods will never forgive him. He had to treat her well, to make amend for Siggy. For the first time, he truly cared about a woman. He didn't just desired her, he wanted to spend some time with her, to take care of her, to be her protector. That was a change he would have never imagined 5 years ago. He was a new Rollo and he liked it.
Gisla was in her room while women bustled all around her, taking measurements of her waist, arguing about fabrics,colours, hair, crow and jewel. Her dress will have to be absolutely magnificent to impress the pagans. Still, no one questioned her about the look she had on her face. She cried all night and let her anger go by throwing everything she had on the wall. But no one asked why, she was their princess and they weren't supposed to talk to her.
Her father entered her room:
- Leave us, he said.
- All the servant left the room, eyes down. Gisla was standing in the middle of broken wood, jewels, fabrics and flowers. The king sat on the only chair that wasn't broken.
- I know you are angry my beloved daughter, but this is for the sake of Frankia. I'm sure you understand that. I pray the holy mother you will be safe, he said.
- Still, you are throwing me to this beast, this pagan, she cried.
- Actually, he confessed to me he had been baptised.
- And you believe him, she asked, angry again.
- I send someone to confirm it in Northumbria, and the king himself told the messenger he saw it.
- He stays a beast to me, she pouted.
Both stayed quiet for a moment.
- I'm having a castle built for you and your future husband. I asked it to be on the Seine. You will like it here, he said. I hope, he whispered to himself.
- You know very well I won't go, she said angryly.
- We already talked about that, he said, tired. You will go there with your husband as soon as the ceremony is over.
- I don't wanna go. I have everything here, this is where I belong, by your side, by my people's side. It's the only place I know and you want to take it away from me!
- You belong with your husband and his people will be your people , he yelled.
The king began to feel really annoyed by his daughter's behavior. She was being childish and had no consideration for her rank. She had to marry. Just like her mother, just like her daughters.
- I'll tell the servants to clean this mess, he said calmly.
He left the room, leaving Gisla alone, crying in the middle of her room.
Rollo showed progress. He could now have a basic conversation in Frank. After all, if Ragnar suceeded to speak saxon, he could speak frank. He was not his brother for nothing. He often thought about him, wondering wether or not he was okay, if he recovered from his wounds. He missed him, but at the same time he was glad he was not here to take all the attention.
He came back to the camp with his men. They were hunting in the woods and caught some animals they were gonna cook in firecamp. Everyone was tired of fish, so Rollo figured they all needed good meat. When he entered the camp, he was surrounded by cheers, laughter and relief. He let his catch in the hands of the cooks as Sinric asked him to come in the main tent.
- A knight came this afternoon.
- What did he want ?
- He told me that the king is building you a castle downstream the Seine and that you will leave to go there with your wife, he said.
- Well, that sounds great, he muttered.
- But what about your brother, if he doesn't find us here, he might be surprised, he said worried.
- Don't worry, I know where Ragnar is gonna come by. If the castle is on the Seine, then, he will find us and maybe, I could stop him from coming closer to Paris, Rollo said with confidence.
Sinric was impressed. Rollo showed tactic skills, he, who always prefered to run into a fight without even asking any questions. He showed widsom and strategy which didn't suited him. Sinric even begin to think that he would be a great king, but this tought vanised as he remembered Ragnar's sight. Still, Rollo, would make a great leader.
The next day, Rollo undertook to find a great tree to make a bed. He walked in the forest for hours before he found the biggest. His trunk was so big he could easily hide three of his biggest warriors inside it. Its branches were rising higher than the biggest trees of the forest. It was like they were touching the clouds. This tree was so impressive, Rollo was conviced he found Yggdrasil. He stood there for a moment, doubting wether or not he should cut it. He wished Floki were here. He knew what to do, wether or not he should cut it. On the other hand, sleeping on a bed made of the wood of Yggdrasil could connect him to his family, to his friends and, maybe, to the gods. His decision has been made, he was gonna make a bed out of this magic wood. Fortunately, he took his axe with him. He began to cut the tree, after one hour, he finally managed to make it fall. He cut a slice of it and tried to carry it. But this was too heavy and he had to go back to the camp to find horses and ropes. Once the tree was attached to the ropes, he brought it back to his tent where he started to carve it. He asked some carvers to help him designing the patterns. After four days, the bed was finally done.
Rollo was proud, the day of his wedding was getting closer and he had everything prepared. He was already packing his stuff, so did the whole camp. He was already planning of how they should travel to his new home. He thought of two groups, one that will travel by the river and anoter one by land. That way, they won't have to carry the horses on the boats. Everything was ready, he had his wedding outfit, he had his schedule perfectly organised. He just had to marry Gisla.