Prologue

Once upon a time, Krolia had loved the ocean. She had loved the smell of salt and the feeling of the spray against her face. But now, sailing alone in the dark and the rain, she wasn't so sure anymore.

She was so tired. Her large swollen belly made doing anything difficult, but she had to keep sailing, had to find somewhere to land, or both her and her child would be doomed. The sharp, almost intolerable pain in her mouth didn't help. The wound was still fresh, and blood filled her mouth, forcing her to swallow the coppery liquid again and again.

The deck of her boat roiled and rolled beneath her feet, forcing her to sit. She had been sailing for two or three days now, and her supply of food and water was almost gone. She had to find somewhere, and soon. But the storm and the rain and the clouds made it impossible to see anything. For all she knew, she was sailing in circles, waiting for the Kraken to emerge and take her down to the depths.

She shivered, huddled under her cloak, one arm wrapped protectively around her belly. She felt a slight kick, and her eyes filled with tears.

What do I do? She wondered. What do I do?

Suddenly, there was a lurch as the boat bumped against something, and Krolia barely kept herself from falling forward. Rushing to the side, she stared with blank confusion at the rock protruding from the waves like a fang.

Rocks… rocks… rocks mean land!

Her blood sang with new energy. If she could get through the rock field and reach land, her and her child would be safe. Well, safer, but at least they would have a chance!

The task was monumental. The boat rammed against the rocks alarmingly, and Krolia could do little about it with such low visibility. Cold sea water sloshed over the sides, soaking her boots and her red skirts, but she paid it little heed. She had to reach the shore. She just had to.

By the time she began seeing the outlines of mountains through the fog, she was minutes from dropping out of pure exhaustion. But she kept pushing. She was so close now, she couldn't quit, she wouldn't quit.

There was a bump and a scrape as the hull of her boat pushed against the bottom of the shallow water, and Krolia stumbled out into the surf. It was freezing, and waves smashed against her backside, soaking her skirts to the waist, but she had made it. They had made it.

She collapsed into the sand. She had always hated the feeling of dirt sticking to wet skin, but now it felt heavenly. She dug her hands into it and smiled at the stormy sky, feeling her legs trembling.

"Who goes there?" A man's voice was calling, and Krolia instinctively curled into a ball, her cloak surrounding her. This island had people on it.

For a moment she panicked, fear twisting in her gut when she considered that maybe she had doubled back around, sailed in a circle and ended up right back where she started. If that had happened, she was dead, her child was dead-

No. She thought firmly, shoving the thoughts away. Stay calm. Calm.

Footsteps slid through the sand behind her, and the shadow of a man stretched across the beach. The torch he held cast an eerie, flickering light around the two of them, but it was warm at least.

"Who goes there?" he demanded again, and then roughly grabbed Krolia by the shoulder, turning her to face him. His rugged face softened when he saw the blonde woman before him, and she mentally breathed a sigh of relief. She didn't recognize him. She hadn't doubled back. Everything would be fine.

"Um…" the man, despite his heavy chainmail and his large axe, looked ridiculously apprehensive. He clearly had not been expecting to find a woman slumped on the beach in the middle of the night. "Who are you? How did you get here?"

Krolia opened her mouth automatically to answer, only for a stream of blood to pour out and drip down her chin. She frantically closed it again, trying to ignore the look of horror the man gave her. With two fingers, she tapped her lips and shook her head.

He seemed to understand, but it didn't make him less nervous.

"Ok, well, um, I guess I should take you to see the Chief, right?"

Krolia smiled gratefully and nodded, reaching out her hand. The guard returned his axe to the halter on his back and helped her up. He went about ten shades paler when he saw underneath her cloak.

"You're… oh gods, you're pregnant, we have to get you to the village."

With the man's help, Krolia ascended the hill behind the beach. The island, from what she could tell in the dark, was mostly mountains and pine forest. A chunk had been carved out of it near the water, and there was a fair sized village built of the sturdy logs that surrounded it. By the looks of it, Krolia had barely avoided sailing into the docks, which would have gone considerably less well.

The man escorted her towards the main hall, a building that towered over the rest. The other houses were fairly plain looking, but this one was decorated in carvings and colored paint, murals telling tales of great victories. The familiarity of the sight made her heart ache.

She had thought it was fairly late at night, so she was surprised to see people in the main hall with a large fire crackling behind them when her guard led her in. There were four men, seated around one of the long tables, drinking and laughing. They all went abruptly silent when the massive door squeaked open.

"Chief." said the man, lowering his torch and his head in respect.

"What is this?" bellowed one of them, getting to his feet. He was a huge man, all muscle and tough brown skin. His voice was as loud as thunder, and the glare in his one eye set Krolia's heart pounding with fear. It was only two days ago that another chief had looked at her this way, and she had barely made it out of that situation alive.

"Found her on the beach." said her companion. "She's pregnant, and I think she might be hurt. She can't speak."

The chieftains face did not change. He narrowed his eye at her, and then turned to one of the other men at the table.

"Sam, fetch parchment and charcoal." he barked, and the skinny blonde viking he had been addressing immediately scrambled to his feet and rushed off into a side room.

"Get her a seat beside the fire."

At that moment, Krolia could have cried with relief, expecting to be forced back out into the cold once more. But this chief was kinder than he looked, and he pressed a soft hand to her back as he led her to the fire. She settled into the wooden chair, her aching muscles screaming thanks, and drank in the warmth of the flames.

The chief took the chair next to her, and for the first time she allowed herself to size him up. He was wearing lighter armor than the man who had brought her here, and he had a sword tucked into his belt rather than an axe. But the armor was pressed with images, fancy swirls and patterns and sigils, clearly made for someone with high rank. Unlike most vikings, he had no beard, but his thick grey hair fell down his back in a large braid.

"I am Chief Iverson the Invulnerable." he rumbled to her in his loud voice. "Do you know what island you have landed on?"

Krolia shook her head. When she began her journey she had a vague idea of where she wanted to go, but the storm had her all turned around.

"This village is called Garrison Isle." Chief Iverson looked up as footsteps rang across the stone floor, and then the blonde man was back, handing him several sheets of yellow parchment and a stick of charcoal. "Can you write?" The question was directed to Krolia, and she gave a tired nod, sitting up a little straighter.

"What is your name?"

Krolia settled the parchment against the arm of the chair, and in shaky writing answered the question.

Krolia.

"Why did you come here?"

Looking for safety. Here Iverson's eyes dropped to her belly, and she placed a protective hand over it, feeling the baby within kick again.

"Where are you from?"

Krolia chewed on her lip, a little blood trickling out as she considered the question.

I cannot say. She wrote eventually, earning a frown from the chief. It's not safe.

He looked vexed, but didn't express his anger. "Why can't you speak?"Carefully setting down the charcoal stick, she tilted her head back slightly and opened her mouth wide, exposing where her tongue had once sat, but did no longer. The Chief wrinkled his nose slightly, and nodded to her. He got the point.

"Chief," said the blonde one, rushing back into Krolia's vision, "She's injured, we must tend to her wound immediately! And the baby-"

"Hold on, Sam." Iverson said, holding up a hand. Sam closed his mouth obligingly, but he looked antsy. "We don't know that we can trust her yet."

Sam looked offended. "I don't think a village full of vikings has much to fear from a tired woman who's six months pregnant!" he exclaimed, waving his arms in a dramatic display that Krolia watched with amusement. "We can't turn her away!"

"I didn't say that." Iverson clipped back at him. "I just think we should be careful. This one has secrets, and may bring danger to the village." He gave Krolia a sharp look with his one eye, which Krolia was too tired to return. She just tilted her head back against the chair, trying to enjoy the heat of the fire while she could.

"Well what should we do then?"

"I'll take care of her."

The three of them turned to see one of the men from before standing beside the table. He and his companion had remained silent until now, simply watching the scene unfold with great interest. He was lean, stronger looking than Sam but not as beefy as the Chief. The one thing Krolia really noticed were his almond shaped eyes, the same as hers, but his were a light color, almost grey.

"Are you sure, Hayalson?" Iverson asked, and the man nodded. He was most unusual for a viking with his black hair shorn closely to the sides of his head, but his armor fit right in with the others.

"I can get her a place set up in the woods near me." he said, looking at Krolia while he spoke. "That way she won't be in the village, but she won't be alone either. That is, if that's what she wants."

Now all eyes were back on her, and something in her chest cracked. She had never been sociable, never liked being around people, and it was beginning to be too much. She nodded to him, beginning to feel her exhaustion seep into her bones.

"It's settled then." Iverson said, but Sam jumped in.

"Not just yet! We need to check her over first!"

Iverson rolled his eyes. "Fine." he said with a dismissive hand wave. "Take her to your wife."

There was a soft hand under her elbow, and then Krolia was being led back out into the night.


It was several days before Krolia was well enough to leave the healers home. But those few days were some of the nicest she had experienced in a long while.

The healer, Colleen, was a thin woman, all sharp jutting edges and cheekbones, but her voice was soft enough to make up for all of it. She kept her auburn hair tied up in an intricate weave of braids, piled into a bun on the top of her head. She took to Krolia right away, helping her bathe, getting her new clothing, brushing out her long light hair until it shone. The Chief wanted Krolia out in the woods with Hayalson as soon as possible, but Colleen was a spitfire, and refused to let the pregnant woman leave until she had completely recovered from her sea journey.

Krolia didn't mind. The Holt family house was warm and cozy, layered everywhere with cushions and blankets, the scent of herbs tingeing the air. They had a child, a young boy about 4 years old, who toddled about everywhere, exploring. He asked Krolia a million questions in his baby voice, and only frowned a little when she couldn't answer him. But she could bounce him on her knee, and that usually made up for it.

Finally she was well again, and Hayalson retrieved her from the healers. He led her into the woods the long way, wishing to spare her the stares of the village, and Krolia was grateful. She drank in the sounds of the forest, the slight crack of her feet stepping on dead twigs, and for the first time in a long time, her soul was quiet.

Hayalson let her stay with him while he built her her own home, in a clearing not far from his house. She insisted on helping anyway she could, and that wound up being watching his son while he worked. His little boy, Takashi, was the same age as the Holt's son. He was the spitting image of his father, down to the black hair shaved at the sides and soft smile.

The child didn't seem to mind Krolia's silence. He talked to her as though she could answer, telling her little stories about his day and mindlessly chattering on the way young children do. Sometimes he would put his hand on her belly and speak seriously to the child within, making her laugh in the process.

Within the month, Hayalson had built her a small hut. It wasn't amazing or large or luxurious, but it was hers, and it was a place she and her child could call home. And that was plenty. She immediately set about decorating and making it feel like a home, using her deft hands and keen skills with a blade to carve small tokens out of wood. Hayalson saw her work, and told her it would be a decent way to earn a living in the village. Krolia took his advice, and soon was selling full size engraved bows for ceremonies. It felt odd crafting the prize of a contest, or the tool to aid a ceremony, when she herself was not welcome within the village. But the situation was the best she could've hoped for, and she didn't complain (not that she could, even if she wanted to).

When the birthing pains came, Colleen was there to help her through it, and after a day and a half of agonizing pain, she finally had her child.

It was a boy. A little pale boy, with a shock of black hair and the deepest violet eyes. The first time he opened those eyes and looked at her, she sobbed. Colleen had been alarmed, and tried to take her son from her, but she wouldn't let him go. She clung to her baby and cried, cried until she could cry no longer. When Colleen asked, pushing a piece of parchment towards her, she told the truth.

He looks just like his father.

It was tradition in this village not to name children until their first birthday, just in case a disease got them before then. But she wasn't from this village. In her clan, names were important, they were everything a person was condensed into a single word. So she named him, and wrote it on a piece of parchment that she hung above his crib. His name was Keiitmaril.

Colleen couldn't seem to say it right. Nor could Hayalson, or Sam. They all butchered it, ruined the delicate roll of the R or the musical lilting I's. So she found herself mouthing it to him day and night, trying to whisper it in his ear over and over, like a prayer. But she couldn't say it either, and every time her lips formed the letters, her heart broke a little bit more.

Hayalson and Colleen visited her often, and sometimes Hayalson would bring Takashi. The little boy took to the baby right away, cradling him gently in his arms. He didn't often cry, but when he did Takashi was right by Krolia's side, trying to soothe him with small sounds and funny faces. Of course, he couldn't manage the baby's given name either, and after several failed attempts, twisted his mouth unhappily.

"I'm gonna call you Keith." he decided, and the infant gurgled happily at him. Krolia tried to smile, but her heart ached. That night, she sat down with a sheet of parchment and a stick of charcoal, and she wrote a letter.

Thace-

I am safe. I cannot tell you where, or how, but know that we are both safe. Me, and my son. There are friendly souls here that have helped me, and will continue to do so. Please don't be worried.

What I can tell you is that here, they do not name their children at birth, and think me odd for doing so. And try as they might, gods bless them, they cannot say his name. Forgive me for saying so, but if by some terrible circumstance the two of you meet, please tell him his name.

His name is Keiitmaril.

Do not reply to this letter, nor expect another one. This is the only one you will receive. Just know that we are safe.

Your Closest Friend-

Krolia.

(A/N Hey guys, this fic was cowritten with AO3 user Goddessgirl. She came up with basically the entire plot, helped me write the dragons, did about 40% of the writing, and beta'd the whole thing, so if you like the story head over there and check out her other stuff! Portions written by her with be labelled for your viewing convenience.

UNC-

Silence)