Winters followed Winters and soon Thorunn lost count of how many years she stayed in the forest near the village. The more years she spent there, the better se knew the people. She was practically a member of their community. She usually bought some food in the market if she didn't hunt her meat herself. She very much enjoyed the honey produced by Borghild, the old woman who fostered Solveig and her brother, and ate with a great delight the flat bread she made. Often when she went to the village, the villagers offered her mead and hot drinks. Thorunn felt loved and respected among them.
Of course, she went to Uppsala to thank the gods. She owed it to them. She had been joined by Solveig whom she taught how to wield a shield and a sword. They had the most wonderful time together. It was as if Thorunn gained a little sister.
Each Springs, she took the habit of defending the village against new attackers. Each time, she killed them and a few, impressed by her strength, courage and ferocity joined her in the woods. Of course, she still trained. She did not want another defeat to befall upon her. The more berserker joined her the more brutally she trained. Fighting with men reminded her of the time she fought with Bjorn. After all these years, she still missed him. She missed his scent, his arms, his warmth and his body. But most importantly, she missed his voice.
Yet, she did not wish to come back to him. It was too late for that. Besides, she still felt fear to come back. Coming back would mean regressing. And she did not want that.
This day of Spring she decided to bid farewell to a merchant sailing to the East to sell some fur and tell stories. Thorunn heard he previously went to Kattegat and she was thirsty for some news of that place. She wanted to know if Bjorn was happy.
When she arrived in the harbour the merchant was already packing his stuff. She saw Solveig and Siegfried next to the ship and waved at them. Solveig enthusiastically waved back while Siegrfried only raised his hand. Such a shy boy, Thorunn thought.
"Solveig," she said. "What are you doing here with all your weapons?"
"I a going to sail with Einar. I will be his protector as well as my brother's. He decided to be a merchant and Einar took him as his apprentice."
"I can handle myself." the young man grumbled.
"You're still young despite the fact that you received your arm ring two years ago." Solveig said to her little brother. "And I am your big sister. And it is my duty to protect you. I owe it to our parents."
Siegfried grumbled once more which made Thorunn smile. She was happy they were so close. She was proud of Solveig too. She truly was responsible despite her young age. She also looked confident and fierce. Thorunn was happy. As her teacher, she couldn't be prouder. Yet, she still had some progress to make if she wanted to be a great shieldmaiden one day.
"Do you still remember what I've taught you?" Thorunn said.
"Of course I do! I am your best student after all!"
"You are my only student Solveig." Thorunn said laughing. "Let me see by myself if you are ready."
Thorunn growled and took a fighting stance. She raised her fists to her face and began to tease Solveig by faking to punch her. Solveig smiled back and both began to fake fighting. After a few blows, Thorunn managed to distabilize Solveig and she ended up on the floor. Thorunn helped her to stand up and gently ruffled her hair. Solveig protested of course, but she still laughed. Then Thorunn put her arm around her shoulder and drew her closer to her.
"You look like two sisters." Einar said with a happy smile. "It is so good to see Solveig so happy."
Thorunn smiled to the merchant and then to Solveig.
"Remember Solveig: be careful on the battlefield. Always watch your back. Be vigilent. You must see absolutely everything that happens around you. It will save your life and avoid you many scars. Both physical and mental. Always be careful. Do not rush into battle without thinking. Do not become intoxicated with the fight. Do not make the same mistakes as I did." she said touching her scar lightly.
"I promise, Thorunn. I will follow your advice."
"Good." Thorunn said sternly. "Is Kattegat fine?" she asked Einar.
"Yes. King Ragnar came back after his defeat in Paris and his long absence. I heard his son, Bjorn is ruling with the queen."
"Any news of a little princess?" she asked hesitant.
"What? What princess? Oh, yes, Bjorn's daughter." he said trying to remember something. "I heard almost nothing of her. Apparently his father rejected her and handed her to the queen. She handed her to her servants and according to what I heard, the girl drowned. No one knows for sure."
Thorunn felt herself sink. All these years. All these years she thought Siggy was alive and well, loved by her father, taken care of. And now. And now she learnt that she was highly mistaken. Bjorn let her down. Aslaug let her down. No. Not Aslaug. It was Bjorn who was responsible for that. He put one of her feet in the grave when he rejected her. He was entirely to blame.
"Siggy, my little Siggy." she muttered with a heartwrenching sadness. "Was someone punished for her death? Did anyone even care?"
"No one. Bjorn Ironside acts like she didn't even existed and her grand-parents do exactly the same."
"Yes. This child is like a ghost."
Thorunn felt herself flooded with rage. Her eyes became red and her vision became blurry. She felt her muscles flexing and a irrepressible wish to kill. She wanted Bjorn to pay. She wanted him to pay for her daughter's death. She wanted to see his eyes when she would speak about Siggy. She wanted to burn Kattegat to the ground. They betrayed her. All of them.
"Thorunn, are you okay?" Solveig asked.
"Yes. I am fine." she said coldly. "Are you sure she is dead?" she asked Einar.
"Everything tends to that direction. But I also heard from other villagers that this princess's name is Siggy and that she is one of the most feared shieldmaiden there is. They say her thirst for battle is inexhaustible. They say she hates her father and wishes him dead."
"No one knows then?" she asked.
"Yes. The princess is a mystery."
"Solveig," she said. "Next time Einar goes to Kattegat, I want you to go with him and bring me news of that child. Would you do that for me?"
"Yes. I will." Solveig said without any questions.
"Thank you." Thorunn said. "Now I suppose it is time for you to go."
"Yes. I want to go now when the wind still favor us." Einar said. "Farewell Thorunn. I will tell your story, as always when I am travelling."
"I bid you a safe travel. All of you. May your stay in the East be successful. May Njord protect you." she said.
"Farewell." Solveig said hugging her friend.
Siegfried only waved his hand at her and diverted his eyes, blushing.
Once they were gone, Thorunn went back to the mountains. Whether Siggy was alive or not, it made no difference. Bjorn betrayed her. He still had to pay. And by Hel, she would make him pay. She owed to her daughter a good life. Siggy didn't get it. She owed at least a revenge to her. She swore on her sword and on her axe to raise an army to fight and perhaps defeat Bjorn Ironside. It was the least she could do, and she was confident enough to achieve her new goal. She was ready.
Basically, around 10 years passed since Thorunn saved Solveig. I still had some ideas for her and I wanted to write them down. Of course, Siggy is alive and well. Be reassured.
This oneshot can be linked with the 17th chapter of Children of the Wolf (and perhaps a Sig and Boda fanfic I am planning to write one day or another.) Comments and reviews are welcome ;)