I swallowed my fear, and clenched my fist. I scrunched my brow and stood with my right leg pressed against our front door. I wasn’t ready for this.
“I need to, King Eric is calling for me, specifically.” You grabbed my hand and pulled me close, “Teresa…” You whispered in my ear, so softly.
“Why you? Hasn’t he taken enough from us? Last time, you almost died!”
I tried so hard to stop my eyes from running like rivers.
I stood up-right, where the warmth of the fire caressed my face and revealed to you the eyes that you fell in love with. I hid the tremors in my hands and gave you a stare that would fill any man with regret. I just wanted to feel your warmth, once more.
“Won’t you stay with me for just one more night, Trinson?”
“You asked that, last night. I am already a day late.”
When you pulled away from me I felt the wolf fur suspended over your shoulders. It was as soft as the day you first put your arms around me. You made me feel like the other woman when you gave me such a cold shoulder. You turned away from me and my heart sank to the bottom of the cold, dark sea. You always knew how to churn my insides. You turned around, putting one hand on my waist. You pushed me against the wall and brushed your other hand through my hair. You set my body on fire. You kissed me, and for that moment everything was perfect. We held each other close,
“Will you come back, to see the birth of your child?”
“I will, I’ve told you already, I’ll only be a few months.”
I sighed. You never looked me in the eyes when you lied.
I appeared cold, fearless, like the embodiment of Freyja, our Goddess. She answered my prayers for a baby… perhaps she’d be willing to answer this one. You left me with that kiss, and in return, I left you with the burden of regret. I will never forgive myself for doing such a thing.
You left me with your old, rather decrepit grandmother who strangled the conversation more than a snake would strangle a pup. She knew she was horrible. I bet it helped. I spent weeks with her constantly nagging me to clean the house, dusting everything twice a day. As if cleaning the house would get you to come home to me. Maybe it would. I sometimes wished for it. You never did though. Throughout my pregnancy she tortured me, yelling broken words, and speaking far reaching, hard to understand proverbs,
“A clean house is a happy house” she’d then hackle, “Cleaning, will help the baby’s soul stay pure”
Stupid old woman.
On the days she ran errands, or travelled, I longed for you the most. I found myself looking out of our balcony, imagining you walking through the gate of Västerås, coming home to me. I’d cry for hours. I spent some days walking around the village trying to talk to our friends, our neighbours, but everyone knew that when they looked at me, I had been crying. I couldn’t hide my sadness. I rarely had conversation worth noting. I did have a few good days. Some of the women in the village knitted a little grey outfit for our baby. It was adorable. I wish you could have seen it. Other days were simply infuriating between dealing with your grandmother, and having people refer to me as their lady. I could not get used to it.
I was close to giving birth. I was almost glad you did not see me like this. I became a whale. My appetite grew larger. Your grandmother really struggled to keep up on those days. Yesterday I ate six meals… I could not even pretend I was okay.
I went into labour, and found myself still looking for you. Each contraction made me long for you. I thought you would come into my room and hold my hand. I was so scared. At one point I shouted, “Trinson! Where are you!?” I cried, and I cried. I felt so humiliated. The only person who did not leave my side was your grandmother. It brought us closer than I thought it would.
You should have seen our baby. He was so beautiful. He had your nose, and a few brown tufts of hair. I wish you could have seen him. I fell ill after giving birth and was bed-ridden for almost a week. I thought I’d wake up to you but instead I woke up to the sound of your grandmother calling our child Thomas. You weren’t here to name him. Whenever I thought about you my hands shook, and my face scrunched. It took me a year of not seeing you to understand what it was. You will fear my anger when you come home to me.
Time escaped us mercilessly. Before I knew it I witnessed our son’s first birthday. I found myself giving excuses to everyone for your absence. My heart wailed for you, Trinson. Had you passed on? I wondered, dreading the answer. Your ghost had not visited me. Freyja had not spoken to me, and no ravens had clung to my balcony giving sign… I had to believe you were still alive.
I started to have dreams about you, and felt you close, lying in our bed and holding me. I remembered the days we would spend together, talking, whispering, and planning. My dreams soured after a while. They had a darkness about them. I felt like they were telling me something, but the answers were too far to reach. Quite often, I woke up gasping. Though this happened, my tears stopped.
With my eyes still closed, I reached for you. I felt your breath against my skin, and needed you. I couldn’t find you. Where were you? You were gone… When I opened my eyes I looked around the room. Everything was black from where I led but I could smell smoke. I panicked, and wondered whether I forgot to out one of the candles downstairs. I crept out of bed in my under-garments and quietly opened the bedroom door. I walked down the corridor and found the smell had gone. Not in the house… My nightmare became real.
My feet grew heavy and thumped across the wooden floorboards. I rushed back into my bedroom and opened my balcony doors in a way that I could keep my body out of the light. I stood in horror as I witnessed the flames engulfing our food stores, crops and barn. My heart raced. My eyes followed shadows creeping around the village. I hoped they were my imagination.
Something came over me. Something foreign. I heard Thomas cry and I fell to the floor, breathless. I stayed there for a moment trying to think. I loathed you for leaving us here. I looked at Thomas’ little green eyes as he stood on his bed watching me. They brought me comfort, and gave me strength. I stood up and attended him. I held him in my arms, shushing, and hushing. I managed to get him to drift off to sleep. I had a decision to make.
I sat on my bed, watching the half-cut floorboard. “Is it time?” I asked, with a shuddering reminder of the last time I fought in war. I remembered the blood, on myself and on you. I whispered my words, into the heavy air, “Would I be able to forgive you, for making me kill, again?”
“The difference is, this time we are protecting, not attacking.” My imagination got the better of me and thought of your response.
“Couldn’t we run?”
“What if they were waiting for you?”
I clutched my wrist, almost penetrating the skin with my nails, eyeing the scar that lingered on my thigh as a vivid reminder of the last time. I heard the chirping of birds, fleeing the area, flying over my house. I kneeled, and pulled out the floorboard. I took out a long, weighted box, and sat it on my bed. I opened it, expressionless. I exhaled a heavy sigh. Perhaps this would bring you back to me.
I pulled out a hand-crafted bow, short string with the markings of the Gods etched into the skin. A quiver full of arrows, still useable. I spread my leather chest-piece on the bed, and a pair of leather trousers. A pair of dark fur trimmed leather boots sat at the bottom. Would I become the person I used to be if I put these on?
The longer I took to decide, the closer the torches came to my house. They slowly marched up the hill and the torches allowed me to see my room in a dim, amber light. A formation of soldiers stood outside. There must have only been a small company of men. I could see a dozen or so. I spotted one man however, who towered over the rest. He was huge. The man’s arm shone from the torches. “An armoured arm?” I wondered.
“Teresa Vargr! If you step outside, we will just take you, and leave your village!”
I felt like spitting at his disrespect. I could tell a man’s lie, no matter the distance. I picked Thomas up, and prepared a make-shift bed in the wardrobe. I needed him out of the way, and to survive. I saw his soldiers turn around, and I swallowed my heart. I saw you. The figure running through the burning village with a blood stained white cloak.
“Did you kill for me… again?”
I felt the presence of tears return.
I made my decision.
I got dressed, barricaded the front door with a dining room chair and returned to my bedroom. Save us, Trinson. I turned my gaze back to you and three soldiers had already been slain. You had an enchanted smile on your face. Blood spoiled your good looks and your bearing teeth reminded me of the wolf you walked away from. “Was this my fault?” questions clung to my tongue, but did not pass my lips, “Did you become this monster, for me? Again?” I could not help these feelings. I knew you returned to protect us… But it felt wrong…
I saw you slay more soldiers; you were bleeding, your tattoos showing, bandages removed. The sight of your arms still sent shivers down my spine. I wish I could have pretended to be innocent to it all. Part of me, deep inside, grew excited when you ran them through. You could not kill them all, I mean, how could you? A dozen or more stood before you. You started the battle with bleeding wounds. It did not take long for them to pin you to the floor, and force you to kneel. I knew how it was going to end. I had to act. Before you lost control all together.
The way you looked up at the house, sweating, wheezing and wiping the blood of your enemies in your cloak destroyed me. You seemed more like an animal than you did human.
“Hold him. I want him to watch me take everything from him, as he did me.”
I heard the sounds of banging on our front door. It would not be long now. I had a chance to help you save us. Will you? Could you? I covered my face in the charcoal paste I kept in my dresser. I put on my mask. I picked up my bow. I aimed through my open balcony doors. I aimed, at you. I watched you close your eyes, pretend to look down. You knew, or at least you hoped. I had to slow my heartbeat down. I concentrated, and concentrated, the front door broke—I was ready.
I pulled the string back as hard as I could. I won’t let them hurt my child. I released the arrow, and it shot towards you. You pulled the soldier to your left in front of you. The arrow pierced through his neck. You were free. When you grew free, I heard Thomas’ cries from the wardrobe. Before attending, I took one last look at you.
Come save us.
I soothed Thomas, though he would not go back to sleep. I stopped the crying at least. When I heard footsteps approach my door I silently moved towards my dresser, and reached for a blade lying in the top drawer. It was only a few inches in length yet it was long enough. I whispered to Thomas, “I love you so much” I kept repeating it, until the footsteps stopped outside my door. I stood behind the door, and waited. I became a lurking shadow for that moment. I was no longer nervous, or scared. I had no option to be.
You were not going to make it were you? You were going to—
The door snapped from its hinges, and fell to the floor. I swung my blade, and aimed true. My eyes were open. I aimed between his third and fourth rib. I wanted to touch his heart with my knife. He blocked my knife with his arm, and instead, it plunged into his wrist. How could he still stand there? He threw the same hand at me and knocked me into the wall. Thomas began to scream. I tried to struggle, I really tried. He picked me up with such ease it made me sick, hands around my neck, strangling me as my feet were dangling.
I felt my breath leaving, my neck being crushed. I could not do anything. Why couldn’t I do anything? He threw me across the room and my head hit the floor twice before my body stopped. My quiver emptied across the floor, arrows scattered. What little I could breathe I used to cough blood. I gargled, and watched as he slowed his footsteps, taunting me. He stood in front of my baby. I won’t let you touch him. I struggled but my body refused to move. Blood ran down my face, and everything hurt. It took what felt like aeons to reach my bed. As I picked myself up I grabbed an arrow resting against the foot of it. I could barely hold myself up. It took everything I had. He tried to reach for my child. Don’t you dare! I stood close enough to fall towards him. I plunged the arrow into the back of his leg.
He felt that one. He roared like a wounded lion, picking me up and draining the life from me. I could not move. I had exhausted everything. My eyes were closing, my consciousness… When my eyes closed I felt like I was outside my body. Though I felt my body fall, and when I hit the floor… the last sound I heard was the crumbling of my balcony. Did you save us?