Lord, What Fools
A Nordic Parody
In which Denmark isn't lost; he's just forgotten the way. (Ooh, foreshadowing!)
Norway ceased shivering by the time they'd mounted the horses to make their way through the wood. The moon remained obstructed by sleepy clouds, in turn limiting their light and their vision. Here in the dark, there was everything to fear, yet somehow Norway felt at ease in this glen. It wasn't something that he particularly thought about, only that in his youth he'd always seek a dense copse for a hiding spot. This forest felt like that, a comforting place to screen him away from the world.
He could hear the bubbling of a brook nearby; just close enough for him to hear its faint song. Denmark frowned beside him.
"What? What is it?" Norway breathed.
"Nor, I think we should rest for the night."
Denmark dismounted his horse and secured the reins on the branch of a low-hanging tree. When he put his hands on Norway's waist, the younger man steadied himself on Denmark's shoulder, letting himself be assisted from his horse. Both he and Denmark knew that he was fully capable of alighting by himself, but it was the sweetness of the gesture and not the necessity that made it a habit.
"You've gotten us lost, haven't you?"
Denmark hesitated, but of course he was transparent to Norway. "…Nevertheless. You were listing off to the side, sweetheart."
"You hopeless fool." Norway sighed without any heat and secured his horse beside Denmark's, his hand trailing over his steed's mane. He was surprised when the Dane wrapped his arms around him and tucked his chin over Norway's shoulder.
"It'll be all right, Nor. Everything will be all right." Denmark soothed, keeping them both steady when Norway trembled from fear and weariness. At long last he said:
"It's unfair that I have to choose one or the other. If only my grandfather would see reason."
Denmark only continued to murmur soothing promises in his ear: they will survive this, they will make their own life, and that will be a life happier than the one he will be trapped to live in back home. The gentleness of it was what ultimate broke Norway. To grief and strife he had always been like the oak in the midst of a storm, hard and unwilling to break. But hope, aye, it broke men when they least expected it. Hope crawled like vines around Norway's stone walls, seeking the cracks and the soft places, leaving him chipped away. Hope did not fuel him like it did Denmark, who ran on it like it was his lifeblood. But it made him want to believe, all the same. He'd never live in the same plane as Denmark does, who sees things as they are, who sees the most in bitter situations, but it makes him want to. Denmark makes him want to hope when he is better off being a cynic.
"Let's bed down for the night. We'll make the journey come morning. They'd never find us this far into the woods anyway, and we'd be long gone before they realized it." In his head, Norway began calculating the hours they would have wasted stopping now, worrying himself to death over the slight possibility of being assailed before they could reach their destination.
"Stop thinking and come here." Denmark opened his arms from where he'd already set their sleeping mats on the soft grass. Norway went willingly, and they curled themselves together like they were wont to do as children. Denmark cupped Norway's cheek, and the other did the same, tracing his thumb over Denmark's brow and the tired tightness of his eye. It made his heart ache to think that while he'd been consumed with his own dilemma, he'd forgotten that Denmark was sacrificing everything for him too; the noble name of his house and what little family of it remained.
"I love you." Norway whispered, wanting to say so many things but not knowing how to say them. Things like, You complete me; I've never known a better man than you; I can't imagine my life without you. Denmark understood all the same.
"As I you."
Norway felt Denmark breathe a kiss into his hair and his body slack in sleep. Under his hand, Denmark's heart beat strongly and consistently. For him, he closed his eyes and tried to sleep. However, sleep would not come, no matter how long he stayed still, no matter how long he looked up to count the inconstant stars in the sky. Brushing his lips against his lover's forehead, Norway got up to follow the sound of the bubbling brook.
It was not far, and the moon was finally free of the veil of clouds so the path was clear. The water was sweet when Norway cupped it in his hands and drank. It was colder out of the cocoon of Denmark's embrace. Norway wrapped his arms around himself and prayed, very quietly, to the gods old and new that they may grant them safe passage through these troubled times. In time, Norway found his eyelids drooping, allowing them a moments' respite.
He was conscious of the forest, and at the same time disconnected from it. He was aware of it as a living, breathing thing. With his eyes closed, he could feel the spongy moss at his feet, the cry of crickets lulling each other to sleep. A distant owl hooted, and the trees were silent but heavy in their presence. The night was at its peak and nearing the witching hour, yet Norway could only find comfort in it. He drifted off into sleep before he knew it.
He awoke with a gasp sometime later, dread building in his heart. The moon remained as it was, so he had no idea how long he had been sleeping. He only felt that he had left their camp for too long. Denmark would worry if found himself alone, though he'd come to his senses soon and find the track Norway carefully left behind, stepped-on grass and broken twigs. At the best, Denmark would have stayed sleeping and Norway could peacefully burrow at his side. Otherwise…
It was too late in the night for quarrels, even for them, and Norway was too heartsick for it. When he reached the camp, however, the dread arose and threatened to escape as bile, for the horses were gone and Denmark too.
Holy crap, guys, I am sincerely extremely sorry for the long wait. I'd just like to say that I've since recovered my writing slump and am determined to finish this no matter how long it takes. This will be completed. Thank you for all of my darling reviewers and silent readers. If you've any suggestions to improve this piece, please say so. As in all things, writing is a process, and I will continue to edit and polish these chapters until its completion. Thank you for bearing with me, and I hope you are still enjoying the fruits of my labor.