I'm pretty sure I'm biting off more than I can chew by doing this, but this story has been nagging at me for a few months now, especially so in the past week, and I just couldn't resist it any longer. So I thought I'd at least put this out into the world and see what sort of response it got. If I feel like enough people are interested, I will definitely continue it. This originally started out as a Bjorn/OC story in my head, but, over time, slowly morphed into a Torstein/OC story, with a bit of Torstein/OC/Bjorn as a side-dish. I still don't really know how that happened, but I've always liked Torstein's character...so maybe this happened because I've been wishing they'd develop him more? Who knows! I'm just gonna roll with it! Certainly I'm not the only Torstein lover out there, right?
Anywho, if you watch the show then you know how graphic it can be. The story is rated T mostly for violence, but the rating may be upped in future chapters depending on how the story goes. Oh, and about the accent…I thought about trying to write it in, but worried it'd get too confusing to read. But I figure that if you watch the show, then you'll probably hear the accent in your head anyway. I'll try to throw in a bit of it, though, just for giggles. Try not to judge me too hard for my lame attempts!
Enjoy! And if you like what you read and want me to continue, don't be shy! It's in your hands now!
P.S. The pronunciation for our leading lady's name is 'Sing-neh' (almost a 'nay' sound at the end, but not quite).
Disclaimer: I own nothing related to Vikings.
Hedeby - 793
The seeress lived in a small hut-like home near the center of Hedeby, close to the market square so that any who wished to speak with her would have no trouble finding her. The hut was small, just big enough for one person to live comfortably, but gave off a distinctly eerie and intimidating aura in spite of its size. It was rather expected – rather fitting – given it was the mysterious, all-knowing Völva who lived inside.
An auburn-haired girl of thirteen lingered in front of the hut now, her bright blue eyes shooting to the closed door of the home every few seconds or so. She was not contemplating going inside, no, for she was much too nervous and much too frightened of the seeress to dare step one foot inside the strange woman's home. She was instead waiting for her older brother, Hallsteinn, who had disappeared inside some time ago.
With a sigh, Signe crossed her arms over her chest and kicked at the dirt while villagers around her went about daily life, wishing Hallsteinn would hurry up. She could not fault him for wanting to know what lie in his future, but could he have not done this when they didn't have business to tend to? If their father learned that they had been paying visits to the seeress instead of purchasing supplies from the market as they had been instructed, they would most certainly find themselves in trouble for it. At the moment he was meeting with Earl Sigvard, but when he was finished, he would expect to find her and Hallsteinn waiting for him. If they did not hurry, their father would be finished with his meeting before they returned.
As if he had heard her silent pleading, the door to the Völva's hut opened and Hallsteinn stepped out, lowering his head so that he would not hit it on the frame. He was only three years older than herself, but he looked much older with his newly grown facial hair and muscular, ever-growing frame – it was the fierce, overzealous burn of youth in his eyes that truly gave his age away.
"Finally," Signe said with a relieved sigh as Hallsteinn closed the door behind him, already taking two steps away from the hut. In the brief moment that the door had been open, she was certain she had felt the seeress' eyes on her. "Did you hear all that you vanted to?" She asked, a bit curious to know what had been said in spite of herself.
Hallsteinn immediately smirked and puffed his chest out "Oh, yes," he confirmed with a nod, though he did not continue on to tell her anything that the seeress had told him. Not that he really needed to, anyway.
It was no secret that Hallsteinn had great aspirations for himself. He wanted glory, he wanted to be a warrior. He wanted to win battles and kill enemies – and now that Ragnar Lothbrok of Kattegat had paved the way to the west, he wanted to bring honor to his name and to their family by exploring the foreign lands on the other side of the sea. Signe did not doubt that he would get exactly what he wanted, too. He was the most driven, determined person she had ever met – he would go on to do great things, that much she was certain of.
Signe understood his aspirations because she wanted many of the same things. As Signe continued to grow older, her curiosity about the outside world grew as well. She too wanted to know what lay beyond the borders of their home, had felt that same spark of interest when they heard about the Northmen from Kattegat travelling west. And after being raised by her warrior father and shieldmaiden mother, it was no surprise that Signe wished to be a shieldmaiden as well. It was, after all, in her blood. Luckily for her (or perhaps unluckily, she hadn't decided yet), she had four older brothers who were all too happy to spar with her and teach her how to fight like a 'true shieldmaiden'. They never went easy on her either, claiming it was to help her learn faster.
Signe thought they were lying, of course. She was fairly certain they were taking advantage of the fact that they could rough her up without getting yelled at for it and were extra tough on her for their own amusement.
"Did you vant to speak with her, sister?" Hallsteinn suddenly asked, gesturing to the hut with raised brows.
Signe's eyes widened and flew to the closed door. Her knee-jerk reaction was to say no and run as far away as she could. But, in a way, there was a small part of her that was curious to know what she would be told if she did sit down with the seeress. Then again, did people her age even talk to the Völva? Would the seeress wish to speak with someone as young as she? And even if she did, what if Signe was told something bad? What if she discovered that her future was grim and full of pain?
Signe started to tell Hallsteinn that she was not ready to see the seeress and beg him to come away from the hut, but before she could get the words out, the door suddenly flew open. Both Signe and Hallsteinn froze as the Völva appeared in the doorway, draped in black and bringing with her the scent of incense and spices and a tiny hint of something foul, perhaps an animal that had been killed for food or as a sacrifice to the Gods. She had long, dark hair that nearly brushed her knees, dark, unnervingly perceptive eyes, and skin so fair she might have blended in with the winter snow had it not been for the black on her – next to the dark make-up around her eyes and on her lips, and the dark tattoos adorning nearly every inch of her, her skin looked positively translucent.
The hairs on the back of Signe's neck stood on end as she locked eyes with the seeress, who was now ignoring Hallsteinn and staring directly at her.
"Come, girl," the seeress commanded, extending a long, skinny arm and beckoning Signe into the hut with a crook of her boney finger.
Signe gaped at the woman before her eyes flew to Hallsteinn in uncertainty. Should she do as she was being told? Should she go inside? Hallsteinn seemed just as surprised by the woman's command as she, but he recovered enough to nod in encouragement, silently telling her to do what the Völva had said. With a deep intake of breath, Signe located her courage and finally stepped forward, briefly meeting the seeress' gaze when she passed by.
Signe paused just inside to peer around the Völva's hut, every muscle in her body tense with apprehension. It was dark and smoky inside, with several strange looking trinkets hanging from the ceiling. On a table to the left sat several vials and jars, some filled with plants and herbs, others filled with things she'd rather not try to identify. On a table to the right lay a pelt that looked as though it had only just been taken from a dead wolf – Signe determined that this was the source of the smell of death that lingered in the air.
She quickly turned her eyes away from the wolf pelt when the seeress shut the door, enclosing them in the privacy of the small hut so that they were protected from the prying eyes and ears of the outside world. Singe froze and felt her heart jump when the woman brushed past her, coming so close that she could feel the woman's hair and clothes gliding against the skin of her hand. But the seeress either didn't notice or simply chose not to acknowledge Signe's obvious discomfort. She merely eased into one of the chairs with a surprising amount of grace, her eyes trained on Signe again now that they were facing one another.
"Sit," the Völva instructed.
Signe slowly sank into the chair opposite of the dark-haired woman, nervous but trying hard to put on a brave face. Though the seeress seemed relaxed enough, Signe sat stiffly in her chair, her back board straight and her hands clasped together tightly in her lap. The fire burning in the hearth cracked and nearly made her jump – she was very proud of herself when she managed not to.
For a long few minutes there was nothing but silence. Finally, the seeress offered a long, wry smile and raised her chin some. "Do you wish to ask me something?" She prompted slowly, her voice steady and calm.
Signe pressed her lips together and gulped. She knew that visiting the seeress was common – her father, her mother, and nearly all of her brothers had gone to see her at one point or another – but she still didn't really know how this conversation was supposed to proceed. What was she supposed to ask about? Could she ask about anything? And did it make a difference that she had not come to the Völva by choice, but rather because she had been told to?
Signe finally decided to ask the first question that came to mind. "Why did you vant to speak with me?"
Another wry smile. "Because you vanted to speak with me," she answered mysteriously, making Signe blink in confusion. "The Gods told me you did," she added to explain her cryptic response, her expression turning a bit more serious now. "They have interesting things to say about you, girl." The Völva drew out the word 'interesting', so much so that it almost sounded like she sang the word.
Quite suddenly, Signe forgot to feel nervous or apprehensive in front of the strange woman. She was filled with curiosity, a sudden burning desire to know what the Gods had said and what they had in store for her. "What do they say?" She asked eagerly, leaning forward a bit in her growing interest.
"Many things," the Völva answered vaguely, urging Signe with her eyes to ask the right questions.
Signe, trying hard not to feel impatient with the seeress for being so enigmatic, gnawed on her lip for a moment. "Do they speak of my destiny?" She finally asked, her tone taking on more confidence. "Will I be like my mother, Gunnhild? Will I be a shieldmaiden?"
The seeress smiled knowingly now. "Oh yes," she answered. "You will fight in many battles, some of which will be fought alongside your brothers," she then revealed. "And like your mother before you, many will die by your blade – both men and women, enemies and…not." The Völva paused for a moment. "All of this I have foreseen."
Signe's heart thumped wildly in her chest now, but this time it was with rapidly growing excitement. Though hearing that she would kill people who were not her enemies sat strangely with her – did this mean she would kill friends? Innocents? Who? – to learn that she would be a fighter someday and that she would join her brothers in battle was still thrilling. She wondered if she told her father whether he would be proud or not to know that she would follow her mother's footsteps – or if her mother in Valhalla was proud to know what she would grow to be.
"But I see more than just war and bloodshed in your future, Signe," the seeress continued, ripping Signe from her thoughts. It probably shouldn't have been a surprise to learn that the seeress knew her name without Signe telling her, but it still did. "You will know love. You will marry a man as great a warrior as he is a lover. You will have sons and daughters who will grow to be fearsome warriors. Who will go on to rewrite history…" The seeress paused, but Signe didn't dare utter even a single syllable. She knew by the look on the Völva's face that she had more to say. "But it will not come without a price," the woman finally continued, her words immediately making an ominous feeling settle over the hut.
Signe thought that over for a moment, then looked to the seeress with furrowed brows. "Do you mean I must lose something to get all these things?" She asked, gesturing with her hand as though indicting to the things the seeress had just listed off.
"Perhaps," the seeress offered, neither confirming nor denying whether Signe had deciphered her words correctly. "I see many difficult lessons in your future, both in the ways of life and in the ways of love. Yes, you will know happiness…but you will know sadness and suffering and loss first." Signe must have had a despaired look on her face, because the seeress continued. "Do not fear, girl. I see a strength in you. Young though you may be in years, in mind and spirit you are not. The challenges you will face will be hard and they will test you, but they will not destroy you."
Signe leaned back in her chair, overwhelmed by all that she was hearing. To some extent, this telling of her future seemed promising – she would marry and have children and become a shieldmaiden, things she had always wanted. But to know that she would have to feel pain and suffering before she could find her happiness left her with an uneasy feeling in her stomach. She had known pain and suffering already – her mother had died from a plague outbreak three years ago and it had almost destroyed her young, fragile soul. She could not imagine facing such a painful thing again. She did not want to face such a thing again.
Signe started to ask the Völva more questions, wanting more insight as to what she would be facing and curious to know if she would ever sail west, but the seeress quickly held up a hand to silence her. "That is all the Gods wish me to tell you today, young Signe."
Signe pressed her lips together, trying not to feel irritated or disgruntled. It felt like such a tease for the seeress to tell her so much, yet also tell her so little. There were still so many questions left unanswered, so many things left unsaid. Would the seeress truly leave her to fret and ponder over such maddeningly little information? Was this something she did to everyone?
"I have but one more question to ask," Signe said slowly, carefully, hoping she would not offend or overstep her boundaries. The woman across from her was silent for a long few moments, before she finally nodded once in consent. "When vill all of this happen?"
There was another long pause before the seeress slowly leaned forward and extended her hand to Signe, palm facing upward. "When the son returns to the father," she said slowly, almost as though she were making a prophecy, "that is when your journey shall begin."
It was clear from the woman's tone that their conversation was officially over. Signe, beyond confused now and thinking it probably would have been better to not ask, looked to the woman's palm with uncertainty. She expected something from her, that much was obvious, but Signe wasn't sure what. She wracked her brain for a moment, trying to recall anything her family members had said about their meeting with the Völva, then remembered the time she'd overheard her oldest brother, Valborg, telling Hallsteinn how he had to lick the woman's palm in departure. Some kind of…payment, or something of that sort.
Trying not to show any disgust, Signe tentatively leaned forward and ran the tip of her tongue along the woman's hand from fingertip to heel, mindful of the fact that the seeress watched her every move. She tried not to think where this woman's hand had been or what it had done, and diligently ignored any tastes that sprung up on her tongue. When she was done, the woman closed her hand into a fist as though trying to capture Signe's saliva and smiled in a disturbing way. In response, Signe quickly got to her feet and rushed back out the hut as though the place were on fire.
Hallsteinn had been leaning against the side of the hut, but straightened up when she reemerged. He took one look at her, glanced at the door, then raised his brows at her. "Did you hear all that you vanted to?" He asked, echoing her words from before.
Signe worried her bottom lip and wrung her hands together. "I am…not sure," she finally admitted.
Hallsteinn just smiled, placed a hand on her shoulder, then pulled her into his side in a comforting gesture. "Do not worry yourself, sister," he said reassuringly, squeezing her shoulder, "It is always scariest the first time."
Signe offered a half-hearted smile in response, grateful her brother was trying to make her feel better but too confused from her conversation with the Völva to take much comfort in his words.
"Come," Hallsteinn said, patting her shoulder, "let us go meet with father."
And after Signe nodded in agreement, too preoccupied with her own thoughts to respond, he led her away from the Völva's house.
For days, weeks, months after that meeting with the seeress, Signe pondered over the woman's answer to her last question. When the son returns to the father, that is when your journey shall begin. The words were so vague that she truly could have been referring to anyone. Signe nearly drove herself to madness trying to decipher the cryptic message, too. Had she been speaking of the Gods and their sons? Had she been speaking about Signe's own brothers? Who was this son that would return to his father? And how would it affect Signe's life?
For so long these questions went unanswered that, eventually, Signe all but gave up trying to figure out what the woman had been trying to tell her. Though she never forgot it completely, she pushed the conversation to the back of her mind and went about life as normal, deciding that all would reveal itself in due time. As she grew older she took her mother's place as the woman of the house, seeing to the cooking, the cleaning, and tending to the men. She learned how to fight and honed her skills with her brothers any chance she got, helped in the fields when they needed extra hands, became stronger and smarter and wiser. And, as always, she paid homage to the Gods for the good life and good fortune they had bestowed upon her and her family, for they rarely hurt for food and led relatively happy, peaceful lives.
But she never returned to the Völva's hut, nor did she go anywhere near the seeress herself if she could avoid it, though she often felt the woman's eyes on her whenever they wound up in the same place at the same time.
Then, one day, nearly three years after that strange conversation with the mysterious woman who spoke to the Gods, it happened. He arrived in Hedeby. 'He' being Bjorn Ragnarsson, the first son of the great Ragnar Lothbrok, Earl of Kattegat and explorer of the west. And though it would be a few more years yet before she realized it, the moment he walked into Signe's life and became her friend was the day that all of the seeress' predictions started to come true, and all of her questions started to find answers…