Warning: This contains spoilers. Don’t read this scene if you’ve not yet read the Norsemen Academy serial.
“The boys have had a chat,” Heather whispered, a smile playing around her lips. “It was rather enlightening.”
But what actually did they discuss while Lainie was talking to the headmistress?
Let’s be a fly on the wall…
I want to run after her, but my brother grasps my wrist.
“Don’t. Give her some time. She’s been through a lot recently.”
For the first time since I’ve returned, I properly look at him, then smile. I’ve missed my brother. We clasp arms, but I can’t help but wince when his thumb presses against one of my many bruises. I’ll never tell Lainie what happened to me in prison, but despite the bravado I showed, the fake bravery that made her leave, despite that, I don’t want to go back there. My entire body hurts, and even though most of my wounds are healing already, each bruise is a reminder of what I went through.
Asger glances down at my arms and raises a knowing eyebrow. He was once a prisoner of war, but I managed to fight our way into their village and get him back. I bet he would have done the same for me, but in this world, problems aren’t resolved with swords and axes. Here, money does the talking. Money and power, and I have neither.
“I need to tell you something,” Asger says, meeting my eyes. It’s like looking into a mirror, except that his beard is wilder than mine. “There are things you need to know.”
I give him a court nod and motion towards the sofas. “Let’s sit down.”
My mother is sitting opposite us, the Archivist by her side. He smiles, but his expression is tense, like there are things he wants to say as well. A lot seems to have happened while I was gone.
“Mother, can you translate for the futureman?” Asger asks. I smirk at his choice of words. There are no archives in the past, no libraries. There is no word to translate the Archivist’s title, and I don’t know his name, nobody does. It’s part of his role, I believe. He gives up his name when he takes the position. I’ve never quite understood why, but it’s tradition.
“Of course,” mother says with a smile. “Just don’t make it too explicit. I don’t need to hear the details.”
I stare at her. Explicit? A knot is forming in my stomach.
Asger takes a deep breath. “Do you remember the dreams I had? The ones about the woman?”
I nod, dreading where this might go. “Had? Have they stopped?”
He smiles sheepishly. “They have, ever since I met the woman from my dream. She’s real, Hjal. She’s actually real.”
The knot is getting bigger. “Please don’t tell me-“
“It’s her,” he blurts out. “It’s Lainie. We are linked, bound to each other. She feels the same, I still can’t believe it. All these years… The dreams were real. Prophecy. And then she had the same dream, and she knew about… well, my little disability.” He cringes and his hand grabs his crotch. He probably doesn’t even realise he’s doing it. “It’s destiny, Hjal. True destiny. Lainie and I are made to be with each other.”
Dread fills me. He’s so convinced of it, and if Lainie feels the same… Have I lost her? I’ve only been gone for a couple of weeks, was that enough for me to lose her? I didn’t think she’d do that. I had her down as someone loyal, but it seems I was mistaken.
I get up, shrugging off my brother’s hand. “I see.”
“Sit back down,” my mother says softly. “Let him finish.”
I don’t want to, I want to run and hit something, but the quiet authority in her voice makes me take a seat again. This time, I’m leaving some space between Asger and me.
“She loves you,” Asger says without warning. I look at him in surprise.
“Didn’t you just say that she wants to be with you?”
I don’t think I’ve ever felt that many confusing emotions at once. I pride myself on my self-control, but this is too much. I ball my hands into fists, fighting the urge to storm out of the room.
That one, simple word makes the knot in me shudder and unravel.
“Frille is for men,” I mutter weakly, but my mind is racing. Could it be? Could she really want several men? Both of us. Asger and me.
“She’s not bound by our laws and traditions. I told her about frille to make her understand that she doesn’t have to choose. She was so worried about what to do, but I think she’s come to understand that she isn’t forced to make a choice.” He pauses for a moment. “If you’re alright to share.”
I’m not sure if Heather is translating everything the two Vikings are saying. They seem to be exchanging a lot more words than she is passing on. I hope she’s not mincing their words; I need to know what’s going on. I speak many languages, but Old Norse isn’t one of them, and I feel helpless to be relying on her to do the translating. It must be strange for her, listening to them talk about a girl both of them fancy.
“Hjalmar says he’s prepared to share,” Heather informs me.
I didn’t expect that. Hjalmar is a dominant, powerful man and I’d doubted he’d give up his claim on Lainie for anyone, not even his brother. Now the question is whether that willingness to share also extends to me.
I clear my throat and both Norsemen turn to me.
“I want her too,” I tell them without preamble. This isn’t the time to beat around the bush. Their eyes widen at the same time. Heather doesn’t need to translate this, Asger seems to understand.
“Want Lainie?” he asks in his heavily accented voice.
I nod, meeting his eyes defiantly. “We kissed. She said she wants all three of us.”
This time, he waits until Heather translates it. A smile plays around her lips as she does so. She seems to be enjoying this. For someone who’s lived in the past for decades, she’s very progressive and accepting.
I would tell them that she even talked about one of us taking her virginity, but I don’t want to do that in front of Heather. She’s their mother, after all, and she doesn’t need to hear all the details. Maybe later, when we’re alone, and Hjalmar can translate for his brother. If this is indeed turning into one big relationship, Asger will have to learn more English.
“Did she actually say that?” Hjalmar questions, a frown appearing above his thick eyebrows. “In those words?”
I sigh. “She said she wanted to kiss me again, and that she also wants to be with the two of you. Unless she simply likes kissing random people, I’d interpret that as her wanting to be with all three of us.”
“That’s going to be so complicated,” Hjalmar mutters. “Relationships are difficult enough when it’s just two people.”
I couldn’t agree more. Not that I have any experience with relationships. I’ve been holed up in this place for most of my life, and I never had a girlfriend before I took this role. Besides one entirely fling with an assistant teacher a couple of years ago – just to see what all the fuss was about, really, although we never got past kissing – I’ve been single and fairly happy with that. Now, that’s all going to change. When Lainie crashed into me on that corridor, she didn’t just crash into my body. She crashed into my heart.
Three of us. The futureman wants her too. I shouldn’t be surprised, Lainie is the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. Not just on the outside, but on the inside too. She’s got a light to her, a strong flame flickering within her, that seems to attract us like insects. For her, I’ll gladly be a fly. I’ll be small and insignificant as long as I can have her.
I know her. I may not have exchanged a lot of words with her, but my dreams have shown me all about her. I know her desires, her fears, her dreams. I’m going to make her dreams come true and her fears disappear. I’m going to protect her from pain and loss, and if that means I have to die for her, so be it. I’m going to be her warrior. I’m going to take up my sword again, put my smithy hammer away, and be her guardian. Nobody will ever hurt her. And I will go after the people who hurt her in the past. I’ve not seen the details in her dreams, but I’ve felt her fear. Something happened to her and I’m going to find out what. And then I’m going to kill them.
Hjalmar and the futureman are talking in English, but I don’t try to comprehend. All I want to do is imagine Lainie in my arms. She will be there a lot. I won’t let her go easily. Yes, I might be prepared to share, but when it’s my turn, I will have her and hold her and treasure her.
Lainie is mine. And theirs. We are her frille and we’re going to look after her.