DISCLAIMER: Read the bottom of the chapter. I have an announcement to make.
Enjoy this chapter my sweet little cupcakes ;)
The days passed on, and the vikings had to leave to their next conquest. Of course, Rollo went with them them to the wharfs and saw them leave and their veils disappearing below the horizon. He was glad Ragnar and him kept a good relathionship based on trust. Lagertha even forgave Gisla a little and Björn's recovery was so quick no one could ever deny again his nickname: Ironside. Yes, Rollo was glad he saw his nephew and his brother. He remembered talking all night long with Björn, inquiring about his daughter, talking about women, Porrun, Gisla, battles, strategies. Björn wasn't resentful of him for what he had been through. He only thought this was a reminder from the gods that even if he is invincible, he will still die, one way or the other. According to him, the gods were telling him to stay humble.
As soon as the last veil disappeared, Rollo suddenly felt nostalgic and empty. There it was, his family, who he used to spend all his time with, were gone. It was empty compared to when they were here in the castle. He went back to his fortress and walked trough the yard where the bodies he hung were slowly swinging by the wind while crows were eating decompositioned flesh. This gave Rollo an idea of how to make everyone in his lands respect the law. But for now he had to nominate his barons.
He sat on his chair and looked at the men who were gathered in the great hall. Actually, Gisla told him before that now that he was a duke, and consequently almost a prince, his chair could be called a throne. There were twenty men in the room. Rollo selected them regarding their exploits in battle and how close they were to him. They all were strong and muscular men, all were built the berserker way, some were wilds and had long tangled hair and most of them were cvered in tatoos and scars. As soon as he was comfortable he said:
- Well, I suppose you know why I gathered you here.
All nodded in silence.
- I chose you because you are the closest to me and because you fought well. These are important qualities if you happens to become barons.
They nodded again.
- What I expect from you is to be loyal to me and join me in battle. You ought to trust me as a duke and I intend to help you whatever your request is. Now, I will ask you to step forward so I can call you barons
Slowly, each of them came before the duke, kneeled and got a piece of parchment where the amount of lands they were gonna control, the people they would rule and the money they will have were written. They all sworned in and then, returned to their place. When the last of them sworned, Rollo stood up and said:
- In addition to your new title, you will receive a little castle and a Frankish wife. If some of you already have one, then you will be exempts of it. My wife insisted that you receive a proper education. You all know what I think of it.
They all grinned.
- But, I think that she is right with this point. You'll have to know your people, their language, their costums and how this kingdom work if you want to do your job properly and be respected by your people.
They nodded again, but this time, with less enthusiasm.
- I won't force you to give up our gods. You'll be free to worship them.
- But I prefer to warn you. If any of you does his job poorly, mistreat his serfs, neglect his duty, I will have to punish him. And as you saw, a few days before, I won't be nice with you.
They all nodded dead serious.
- Fine then, you can go.
They all left the room to the yard, packed their stuff, gabbed their families, mounted on their horses and went to the desination that was written on one another's piece of parchment. They were followed by a servant who was driving a cart with all their belongings and family. Of course, Rollo came to say goodbye and when the last one of them disappeared below the hills, he came back inside to go see his wife.
- Are they gone, then ?
- Yes, he answered sitting on his bed.
- Well, congratulations, you are now fully duke.
- Thank you.
Suddenly, as Rollo said the last word, Gisla bent down her back and clutched her belly with her two hands. She was groused from pain and fell hunched on the floor. Rollo rushed to her immediately, very worried and proceeded his hands without knowing how to help his wife in her pain. He held her shoulders and tried to lie her down. But as she was still holding her belly with both of her hands, he grabbed her and put her on the bed. As soon as it was done, she stopped and relaxed.
- Are you alright, Rollo asked.
- Yes, it was just the baby kicking, she said stroking her belly.
- Can I, Rollo asked moving his hand toward his wife's belly.
She nodded and he touched her belly, making rounds on it, touching, feeling the life that was still growing inside it. All of sudden, he felt a small move under his hand and his eyes began to sparkle with happiness. Gisla raised her sight to his face and a large smile formed on her face. He seemed deliriously happy and was giggleling while stroking Gisla's stomach. He was so happy he could go to Valhalla this instant. Then, he saw Gisla's smile and couldnt help but to kiss her. He moved his lips closer to hers, and still smiling, kissed his lovely wife. At first she seemed reluctant but soon, she answered to his kiss and they kept up their loving activity, hands on hands on Gisla's belly, smiling to happiness and joy. This was the first time Rollo felt this connected to his wife and he loved it. She seemed to have been gotten used to him, and even like him, and she also seemed to reject him less when they were close together. If he didn't knew her so well, he would have swear that she loved him. Gisla, her, was confuse no more: even if she didn't like his kind, her husband showed many virtues. Never has she met a person with so many aspects. Once, he was this beast she saw fighting on the walls of Paris, once, he was a dedicated man, wise, brave, loving, cheerful and calm. She began to feel a huge tug at the heartstrings, but it wasn't painful, it was just as if she was flying high in the sky and falling in an endless hole at the same time. She was afraid of naming it, but it was definetly there when she was with him.
The next day, Rollo gathered all his people in the yard holding a small ring Gisla gave him. It happened right after they kissed: they were alone in their room, hugging, kissing and caressing each other when Gisla had made a suggestion to increase the security of the duchy:
- Why don't you tie a ring to a tree to show them that no one is going to steal in your lands?
- What do you mean.
- Well, you could say that if anyone steals this or murder somebody, he will be executed, just like what you did with my father's knights.
- I thought you didn't like to talk about it.
- I got over it. If it was the only way to fulfill your oath, then that's fine for me.
- You know that I still gave them a city to attack.
- Yes, but technically, it is not in the kingdom of Frankia, besides, they are our enemies and we needed to crush them before they crush us.
- You never cease to amaze me, he had said in a breath.
- I know. Here, take this ring and you will go tie it on the big tree in the village.
- One ring to rule them all, huh?
- What needs to be done, needs to be done.
Then, the had gone back to their kissing and fell asleep talking about how to rule their duchy and their people.
All ears were opened when Rollo talked about his plan. He was showing precisely the ring to everyone and once he finished his speech, he went out the fortress, followed by the crowd, to the village. He walked confidently toward the great tree and tied the ring to a branch. Once it was done, he turned to his people and gave them the "don't do it or I'll kill you" stare. It was frightening enough to make them all step back. This instant, he was emitting a aura so menacing and bestial, even Gisla wouldn't want to come near him. He stepped forward and forced his way through the crowd to go back to the castle. All stepped aside from his path respectually watching him climbing the hill to the fortress.
When he entered the great hall, a servant came to him saying that a emissary of the king was wating for him in his room. He immediately climbed the stairs to see him, part worried, part annoyed. He opened the door and saw Gisla, sitting by the fire, a worried look on her face and the emissary, standing in the middle of the room waiting for the duke. As Rollo entered the room, he prepared to rush to him but Rollo held him back from coming closer. He sat by Gisla's side, on his chair and studied the man standing in front of him: he was young and thin and seemed weak enough to shake before the imposing duke. Rollo put his hand on Gisla's as a sign of protection and to comfort her and said:
- What brings you here, he asked the boy.
- Well, the king asked me to deliver you a message, he said.
- Yes, I know that, but what I asked was what is the message, he asked again annoyed.
- Stop beginning your sentences by "well", he barked.
Gisla held a little laugh and Rollo kept staring at the poor boy feeling happy he made his wife relaxed.
- The... The king said that your message was outrageous and... and he didn't like it.
- Yeah, he must have faint in his vomit.
This time Gisla burst out of laughing. She was shaking in her chair while her crystalline laugh filled the room. This time, Rollo was more than satisfied.
- Why are you laughing, the boy asked Gisla. He just insulted your father!
- Yes... I know. But that seems so like my father, she said giggleling.
- Anyway, is that all he wanted to say, Rollo asked brutally.
- No, he gave me this, he said taking a piece of parchment out of his bag. It is a summoning to the palace. The king wants to talk with you about your recent actions.
Suddenly, Gisla's smile faded. She turned her head to Rollo and looked at him worried. She was afraid Rollo would get in trouble and terrified about what he could do to him. But he kept his menacing stance and said:
- If the king wants to see me, then I'll go. After all, it's an order from the man I am loyal to, he said sarcastic.
- He said he wants to see you as fast as possible.
Rollo examined the piece of parchment, annoyed and raised his sight to the boy. He had this sparkle of fury in his eyes that made everyone step back from him. In the boy's case, he literally fell on his butt.
- The king wants to see me huh? Then he will! And I hope he will regret it, he said firmly and menacingly. Now, get out, he shouted at the emissary.
The boy decamped as fast as he could, half running, half crawling and didn't even bothered to close the door. Rollo stood up, and slammed it as hard as he could, making the walls shaking. He turned back to Gisla infuriated by these last minutes. He threw the piece of parchment in the fire and watch it burn with a deep disdain. Then, he noticed Gisla's expression: she was about to cry from worrying and stared at him, apparently in distress. His expression changed and had this sorrowed eyes that always made Gisla melt. He kneeled to her height and grabbed her hands.
- What's wrong? Are you okay?
- Why do you want to go there? Why ?
- He is my king, I need to go.
- But they are gonna hurt you, she said practically sobbing.
- Come on, you know that I am stronger than them. Didn't I have already proven this to you? I'm hard to kill you know. Besides, since when do you care about me that much, he said smiling.
She blushed and adverted her sight as Rollo kept comforting her.
- I will leave tomorrow. Don't worry, I will come back soon.
- I'm not worried, she said pouting.
- Doesn't seems like it, he said still smiling.
- Well go then!
- I get a feeling this meeting will be fun, he said this time with a carnassial smile on his face.
When she saw his expression, Gisla suddenly felt relieved, she knew he was up to something and that, that something was not good for her father. All she wanted now was his father to pay for what he has done to her: marrying her against her will, giving her hostage to her husband, making her kill someone and menacing her. Yes, he was gonna pay for it! She already felt the sweet taste of revenge and it was so good she relaxed. Rollo stood up when he felt his wife relaxed. Then, he left to prepare himself to leave the tomorrow morning.
The sun was slowly rising when Rollo left the fortress on his horse toward the king's palace. He was escorted by two of his men: two strong and fierce northmen, armed and mounted on two strong horses. As she saw him disappearing into the woods, suddenly, she felt empty. Even more than when he went to make war to the britons. Now, this was a wrench: the loneliness, the pain and the urge of going after him. These feelings were so strong she cried. Her tears were dropping on the ground and she came back in her room sobbing and screaming from pain. He was gone. He was gone and she missed him already.
Rollo arrived to the capital in less than two days. As soon as he saw the high towers of Paris, he suddenly felt overwhelmed by memories. Yes, he remembered precisely wher he fought, where he spreaded Franks's blood, the smell of the swords, the axes, the taste of blood. Everyting was here. It felt so close and so far at the same time. It was like he fought on these walls yesterday. That was also where he first met Gisla. He remembered the moment when he crossed her eyes, so majestic, proud, fierce, brave and entrancing. He remembered with delight the day she became his and when he became hers. Truly, Rollo's memories were brighter than he remembered.
He entered the gate of the city on his horse with his two men. Everyone was staring at them, all had that fightened look in their eyes. They were probabely afraid that the northmen kill and violated them, and who could blame them considering their home was once attacked by the people of the men who were now driving their horses to the palace. But at the moment, Rollo showed an aura so majestic they immediately stepped away from his path with reverence tinged with fear. The imposing duke entrusted his horse to the stable boy and his escort did likewise and when they were done, they headed toward the throne room where the king was waiting for his daughter's husband.
They entered the room accompanied by horns and servants who came for them to get rid of their coats. A few guards came soon after and took the few weapons they were carrying. Of course, Rollo's men tried to resist but the duke asked tem not to do it and they relaxed immediately. Count Odo was here, of course. Rollo assumed that he was here only to protect the king, but he wasn't worried about it anyway. If something went wrong, he would still have the advantage, after all, he knew plenty of ways to get rid of men without weapons.
- Tell your men to leave, the count barked.
Rollo complied and asked politely to his men, confused by his attitude, to go out and drink and eat while he would be in the room talking with the king. In front of their expressions, he smiled at them with his warrior way and said he would be fine anyway. When they left, Rollo turned to the king with his death stare.
- I heard you wanted to see me, he said while walking to the king's throne.
- Indeed, the king said simply apparently nervous.
- Don't come closer to the king, the count said, who knows what you're up to do to him.
- Don't worry, I would never hurt my wife's father, he said firmly and menacingly to the count. By the way, how is your lover?
The count suddenly turned red and stopped talking. Instead, he was blowing inside his cheeks, containing his rage.
- That's what I thought, he said smiling. Well king, what is it that you want from me?
- I received your message.
- Did you like it, he asked grinning.
- If I liked it? You killed two of my best knights, he shouted while standing. And for what? To avoid obeying me!
- Oh, but I think I did everything right your majesty.
He said this last word with unveiled disdain and sarcasm.
- Then tell me: why did you welcomed your brother? And why did you give him a city to attack? You were supposed to protect Paris...
- I DID PROTECT PARIS! AND IF YOU ARE DUMB ENOUGH TO THINK I DIDN'T, THEN YOU ARE WRONG, he roared with fury.
His rage suddenly made the king fall on his throne awkardly and the count stepped a few steps back. But it was enough to wake him up because he said:
- How dare you talk to your king like that?
- I will talk to him like I want count. And you know why, because he is my wife's father and I intend to make him know that I respected our agreement. For Gods's sake, I even avoided an attack on your PRECIOUS city! And now I ought to be shown some respect!
- You are a pagan! A barbarian! You don't deserve it considering you killed two knights of the king, the count shouted again.
Rollo had enough, he rushed to him and grabbed his shirt violently. He was gonna punch him in the face when the king sighed and said:
- You are making me tired count Odo. Please go out of the room, Rollo and I need to talk alone.
- But, your majesty...
- it is an order of your king, he said firmly but tired.
The count grumbled and Rollo let him go. He watched him leave the room with an angry walk and when he slammed the door, the duke turned back to the king:
- I made a compromise with Ragnar.
- Is that so, the king said, frightened but still keeping his calm.
- Yes, he would stay a bit inside my lands and not attack Paris if in exchange, I gave him an other city to raid to, and if nothing happened to them while they were there. Do you understand how much I respected my oath?
Suddenly, the king became paler, he was sweating and Rollo saw in his eyes a look of terror and sudden realization. Rollo, on the other hand, was incredibly satisfied to see him so weak, remorseful and the incompetent failure he emitted. It was delightful, truly, seeing the king realize he made the biggest mistake of his life.
- Well, you didn't have to kill my knights did you, he asked trying to put on a brave face.
- I don't know, he said faking to think about it. What about you?
The king kept silent and Rollo grinned.
- That's what I thought, he said still grinning.
The king seemed ready to faint and became paler. He knew. He knew Rollo was aware of his daughter's mission. The king miscalculated. Rollo was actually smart and Gisla could now be closer to this beast. Never has he planned for her to show her husband some affection. She was supposed to hate him until her death.
- Do you love your daughter, king, Rollo asked.
- Why, yes! Of course, he answered outraged.
- Then, you will do nothing about my warnings.
He said it menacingly and the king could feel he was serious and that he could make his life and kingdom a living hell. Then, Rollo turned his feets and left the room. As he was grabbing the door's handle, he said, still with his menacing tone:
- One last thing: don't ever threaten my wife again.
This said, he slammed the door and walked a bit to calm his anger. He even stroke his fists to the wall to let it go. This was at this moment the count Odo came to him. He stopped just in front of the duke in a confronting stance. The scene was laughable: on one side, there was this giant, built, young and majestic man and on the other one, there was this short, fat, old and sad individual.
- Well, did you get what you wanted, he asked to him with disgust.
- I got even more, Rollo answered with a carnassial grin.
- How is your wife by the way? Well, she must rather be your slave. You pagans have not any idea of how to treat a woman properly. I even bet you knocked her up like a pig, am I right, beast?
In a superhuman effort not to kill the count this instant, Rollo contained his rage and fury and simply answered:
- She is carrying my heir. And talking about treating women properly, I assume that you know how to do it, am I right Odo?
- How do you...
- I guess this was why Gisla never wanted to marry you, he casually said.
The count was about to punch him but Rollo hit him again by saying:
- Don't forget that I am a duke and that you are just a mere count. You are useless. Worthless. Don't forget that you are only alive because I don't want to dirty my hands with your disgusting blood.
He spat this last sentence with a strong disgust and turned his back on him. While leaving he threw one last thing to him to finish him:
- My wife sends her regards. To her father of course.
One minute later, there was no one in the hallway but a short, pathetic, bitter man.
Rollo was both happy and proud. He avenged Gisla, he put the count to his place and he got out of the summoning without any harm done to him. This was a good day. And what was better was the fact that the king would now leave him and his wife alone. He went to the public house, took his men and left the capital with an intense feeling of satisfaction.
She was laying on the bed. She was bored. Bored to death. She missed Rollo so much all she did was laying on her bed, smelling his fragrance on the couch. She missed him so much, she felt pain in her chest. Evry once in a while, the servants came to ask her if she was okay and if she needed anything, and everytime, Gisla told them to go out. Oh, sure, she ate, but she had the appetite of a bird and only ate a few bites of what was in her plate. The servants were so worried they began to come more and more often in the room. But she didn't care, she was stuck in her bed waiting for her husband to come home. All this time she stayed in her bed, cogitating, she came to a conclusion: she loved Rollo. She loved him. It took time, but she loved him. She was afraid, ashamed but she couldn't help but to smile when she remembered his. All she could think about was him.
Three days after Rollo left, she felt sudden pain in her belly. She managed to hold a scream but the pain hit harder a few minutes later. It was so painful she screamed. A servant came immediately. She saw Gisla grabbing her belly with her two arms and reacted really fast. She called an other servant and asked for some hot water and fresh linens. Gisla was still screaming and the servant named Gertrud rushed to her side to hold her hand. She called outside the room for another servant who came inside and watched over the place where the baby would come out. Gertrud was a chubby elderly woman who seemed maternal, the other one was thin and short and looked like she knew how to obey Gertrud's orders.
- Breathe your grace. Breathe, she said gently.
Gisla did what she said. She was breathed out with efforts. It was worse than running she thought. The pain was so intense she wondered if she would ever survive this. She breathed with more and more pain. She was practically groaning, now. The servant came back with the hot water and the linens and immediately began to help. She and the other one were looking at what was going on with the baby while Gertrud was still holding Gisla's hand, whispering some comforting words and singing songs she knew would calm her down.
- I see the head, she short one said.
- Fine, get him out of here Gertrud ordered.
Gisla raised her head as an attempt to see the baby, but all she could see was the servant's arms. Suddenly a second wave of pain came and drew her a scream out.
- He is coming! The baby is coming, the other servant shouted with excitment.
Gisla pushed with a last effort and a second later, she heard a baby's cry.
- It's a boy!
- Did you hear, your grace, this is a boy, Gertrud said sweetly.
- He will be so happy, Gisla said in a breath. Robert will be so happy.
They took the child, cleaned him, wrapped him in the fresh blankets and gave him to Gisla who fed him this instant.
- Do you have an idea for the name, Gertrud asked.
- Yes. Yes I do, she said smiling at her child.
When Gertrud was gonna leave, Gisla held her and asked curious:
- How did you know what to do?
- You know, at my age, we have already made a lots of children and grandchildren. Let's say I have a large family, she said smiling kindly.
Then, she left the happy mother to her first moments with her newborn child.
Gisla was happy. She was more than happy. She swam into happiness. She couldn't wait to show her husband their son. She stayed, motionless, while the baby was eating, petting his tiny hair, his back and hugging him so tenderly it looked like she had a precious glass in her arms. She stayed like that with her son for hours, calm, serene and joyful. Yes, Gisla was happy. And now, the wait for Rollo became less painful. God! She couldn't wait!
Rollo entered the yard of the fortress relieved. Finally! Finally he was home. He dismounted and gave his horse to the stable boy when a servant came to find him. Intrigued, Rollo watched her running to him. This usually never happened.
- My lord, my lord, she was screaming. My lord, this is a boy! This is a boy!
Suddenly, there was a lighning of illumination inside his head. The baby was born. His heir was born. Then, he thought about Gisla. Was she alright? Did she survived? He rushed to his room and opened the door brutally. there, she was: By the fireplace, nursing peacefully the tiny baby that was in her arms. Her hair was down and she was wearing a dress made of the purest white fabric. When he saw her, he thought he found a goddess. She raised her head to look at him and suddenly, her face lighted up with a radiant smile. She told him to approach with her hand and gave him the baby. At first, Rollo hesitated: his hands were not supposed to touch something so innocent, so pure. He had the hands of a killer and he couldn't even think of laying them on his son. But Gisla insisted, comforting and he took the child in his enormous arms. At this moment, he started crying. Gisla never saw him like that. He was crying while smiling with happiness. He was whispering some words in his tongue tenderly to him while Gisla looked at them also happy.
They stayed like that for what seemed years before Rollo decided to talk:
- What is his name?
- I thought about Guillaume, she said calmly looking at her son.
- No, she giggled, Guillaume.
- Can't we name him with a northern name?
- No. he is Frank and I want him to have a Frank name.
- Fine then. But if we have another child, I will name him.
- As you wish, she said sweetly to him.
- Guillaume, duke of Normandy, Rollo said. Yes, it sounds good.
Gisla looked at him lovingly and asked:
- Did it go well with my father?
- Yes, Rollo said, still looking at his son. I can assure you he will never bother us again. Nor count Odo.
- Thank God, she whispered.
This time, Gisla was free. At last. She was finally free from her father and just to think Rollo did it gave her more joy than she was supposed to feel. She was happy, so happy her heart could explose. She looked at him smiling once more and he answered with a brighter smile. At this moment, they were so close they talked without any words.
The next few months passed slowly and fast at the same time. Rollo was back at his old habits: training, ruling, hunting. He received several news from his brother, including the one that said a city was burnt by barbarians in britain. Oddly, this was at this moment the briton's attacks on Rollo's land stopped. His barons often came to him to look for solutions to random issues and he decided to organize a meeting of all of them once in a while. He introduced his heir and their future duke to them and all acknowledged him. Gisla spent most of her time ruling the castle, helping Rollo, practicing art and taking care of her son. She loved him and watched him grow every day with a great pleasure. The duke and the duchess always met in the evening, watching their son play and sometimes, Gisla whispered at Rollo's ear:
- Je t'aime.
So, yeah! Last chapter. It's kind of sad. But I had so much fun writing it. I had the story in my head and it has been quite a challenge to write it in English. I liked every part of the process!
You're probably wondering why the last sentence is it french (je t'aime = I love you). Well, basically, Gisla is French and I thought it was more romantic that way. Also, I chose to call William Guillaume instead of his English counterpart. I guess it is my Norman pride showing.
Anyway, tell me what you thought about all this in the reviews. And big news! I may have written a mini sequel to this fanfic. Stay tuned, it will be published around christmas (and I can assure you, there will be sexy times).
Thank you, again. your reviews moved me. It may not have been the best fanfiction, but some of you followed it anyway and I can't find the words to tell you how grateful I am!