Sookie the Shieldmaiden - Chapter 31
Thank you so much for all your recommendations for places to go when we visit the US on Wednesday! I`ve made myself a small book with them and they`re all very useful. Hugs from my husband as well – he`s very impressed with you!
Before you start reading this chapter, I have to warn you. This is the last chapter to this story. I´ve had this in my heart and mind for so long and now it`s over. When I started writing again after my hiatus I knew the story only had a few more chapters left but it`s still a bit sad to write "the end" to it. I´ve come to love Sookie the Shieldmaiden. Ah well, everything has to end some day.
I want to thank Suki59 for being such a great beta and for pointing out inconsistencies and bad punctuation. This story would not have been posted without her!
Sookie and Eric and all the other characters to this story are a product of Charlaine Harris` imagination and are therefor owned by her. I just gave them some weapons and sent them back in time.
"You`re jealous!" Eric looked thrilled and I wanted to push him under water just to wipe that gloating grin off his face. He must have seen the murder in my eyes because he stepped back a step or two.
The fire was dying down now after a shower of rain had killed most of it. When the gods decided to let it rain on us, I knew they were on our side. Not that I had doubted them but those raindrops were really what we needed now. If they`d come earlier, before I`d set the forest on fire, I wouldn`t have succeeded in my plan. If they`d come later, Eric and I might have suffocated to death.
"Maybe I`m just worried about you killing me in my sleep so you can marry a queen?" I said, my hand clenching my sword. No, I wasn`t about to kill Eric but that didn´t mean I wasn`t angry.
Eric`s grin left his face. "You heard what she said?"
"What was I supposed to say?" He sounded angry now, which was extra fuel for my anger. "I was tied to a tree!"
"You could have said no. It would have been the honorable thing to do!"
If Eric had been Thor, I would definitely have been struck by a bolt of lightning. He was that angry.
"Do you think it would have been honorable to die for you? Die now that …." He stopped abruptly and I wondered what he was about to say. Instead he turned around and started wading towards the shore. He found his chainmail in the shallow water and tried to pull it on. It`s not easy to put on chainmail when you have wet clothes so, after having seen him struggle for a bit, I went over to him and helped him.
Silently he helped me with my chainmail. When we were both dressed, Eric waded over to where Queen Freyda had drowned and ducked underwater, only to come up again with her sword. It was a bit short for him but a short sword was better than no sword.
Then he came back and stood before me in the shallow water. I wasn`t sure if he was going to challenge me to a fight. I had insulted his honor, after all. But I could beat him. I would beat him. I was angry enough to do it.
"There is only one wife I want, Sookie, and that`s you."
"I`m a warrior, not a wife, Eric."
"Good thing, then, that I want a warrior for a wife."
I sighed because his words had gotten to me. Yes, he had been without honor when he dealt with Freyda but he did leave Nordby to save me – or at least that was what he thought he was doing.
"Lucky me to have found such a stupid husband," I said, but I couldn´t help smiling even if I tried not to.
"I happen to think that one would be pretty smart to pick a shieldmaiden for a wife." Eric pulled me into an embrace and I only fought it for a short while. An embarrassingly short while.
"I happen to think so too," I said with my face pressed into his chest. Eric`s chainmail wasn`t exactly made out of silk and flowers so I pulled back before it scratched my cheeks. Something made me look up into Eric`s blue eyes.
It was a strange moment. Two people, cold and wet from the forest lake we were still standing in, wearing heavy chainmail and each carrying a sword – staring into each others` eyes.
Breaking the moment – and adding a new one – Eric bent down and started kissing me. Soon we were kissing like there was no war being fought, no battles to be won.
I pulled back again. "We have to find Rasul and we have to get back to Nordby," I said.
Eric sighed. "I think those warrior wives are overrated after all."
He didn`t say anything else. It`s hard to speak when your face is under water and your wife is holding you down.
We were making our way back through the forest – first the burned down part and then the deep forest that was unharmed by my playing with fire – when we heard voices.
Eric and I had been walking as silently as we could, not exactly sure how big Queen Freyda`s army was. He`d told me what he knew about her before we`d left the lake – and after I`d stopped trying to drown him – but it turned out he didn´t know much. And that he certainly hadn´t had any plans for a quick wedding. Not with her, anyway.
We slid under a large bush and waited to see if the people talking were the rest of Queen Freyda`s army. Staring in the direction of the voices, I tried to sharpen my hearing to see if I could catch what they were saying. The voices got louder and one voice was easier to hear than the others.
"We have to find her!" the person shouted and I looked at Eric while the other people mumbled some response. Had he recognized the voice too?
Eric nodded and I tightened the grip on my sword. Rasul was out there, arguing with someone.
"She is our damned queen!" he shouted. "We need to find her. I`ve worked too hard for this to give up now. She`s alive out there somewhere and she`ll take over the pitiful city of Nordby with our help!"
Raising his eyebrows in surprise, Eric stared in the direction of the voices. It was no surprise that Rasul had been Queen Freyda`s man but it gave me a bad feeling to hear him say it out loud. That he`d been stationed as a spy in Nordby for so long, causing problems for both Felipe and Alcide just to make it possible for his queen to take over all the lands.
And she`d wanted to marry Eric after killing all the resistance. I suddenly felt her death had been an easy one, as painful as it had looked. She should have had her arms and legs tied to four horses and had her limbs pulled from her torso – and that would have been an easy death too. In her name, Rasul had caused trouble and mayhem and Eric and I – and our families and friends – had been on the receiving end of her dark and evil plans.
"I`ll kill him," Eric whispered and started moving.
"Wait!" I grabbed his arm. I had a bad feeling about this. Rasul had been so playfully vicious I was afraid there was more behind it. "What if Rasul really is Loke? Can we kill Loke?"
Eric shrugged as if he didn´t care but I could tell my words got to him. We couldn`t kill a god. Not even one who would one day cause Ragnarok.
"We`ll try to take him alive and decide what to do with him afterwards," Eric said, and I nodded.
The voices came closer and we realized there were only three people, Rasul and two men a little older. Not much to get excited about if you were spoiling for battle but they were still three people we needed to beat – and kill two of them.
Using the element of surprise, we came out of our hiding place just as they`d walked by. Without much finesse, we killed the two men walking just behind Rasul. Eric and I slit the throat of one of them each, deciding who should kill whom with a single nod of the head.
Rasul turned around, his sword in his hand. His eyes widened when he recognized us.
"Hello, Rasul," I said and was surprised when he smiled at me. Not a sleazy smile or a cold smile. For a short moment he seemed to be happy to see me. Which was strange and really disturbing. Then the world turned right and Rasul`s eyes were filled with fear. As they should be considering how Eric and I stood next to Rasul`s two dead comrades.
I knocked Rasul down with the hilt of my sword. Just like that, I walked the two steps over to him and knocked him out cold. I wasn`t sorry when I saw blood coming from the wound on his forehead where the hilt of my sword had met his head. I gloated.
The problem with knocking someone out is, of course, that you have to carry them if you want them moved. Eric and I took turns carrying Rasul over our shoulder and I ended up cursing myself for not having left Rasul conscious. What had I been thinking?
I motioned Eric in the direction of the tunnel I`d excited Nordby from and we made our long and hard way back to Nordby, pulling Rasul between us in the darkness underground.
When we finally made it to the end of the tunnel and crawled up into the shed, I took a deep breath of relief. We`d survived. We`d killed the Queen who wanted us – well, me at least – dead. And we`d managed to bring Rasul back with us. Apparently, Eric felt quite victorious too and he seemed to need a physical celebration. He grabbed me and pulled me into his body – chainmail against chainmail – and kissed me like he`d never kissed me before. Deep, intense and with grunts and groans expressing some deep emotions.
He`d just started pulling my chainmail up when a voice called us from outside of the shed.
"Please don´t undress Sookie right now, Eric!" It was Amelia.
How had she known we were there? "How did you know we were here, Amelia?" I shouted back only to see the door of the shed open.
"I always know, Sookie," she said as if I should have known this. And I probably should. Amelia knows things. She looked at the human bundle on the floor. "I see you found Rasul," she continued in a dry voice.
Both Eric and I nodded.
"But you haven´t killed him," she stated.
"No, we weren`t sure …," I trailed off.
"You weren´t sure if he is Loke." She finished my sentence.
Eric and I nodded again.
"Well, there`s only one way to find out," Amelia said. "We`ll send him to the gods. If they want him, they can have him. If they don´t want him, he`ll die."
I liked the last part of her sentence and smiled. "How?"
"You`ll see." Amelia smiled at well.
I´ve always been amazed how much people acted like cowards – or more like headless chickens – when their leader dies. When Pam had discussed the situation with Eric, she quickly sent him out with a group of warriors to kill anyone threatening Nordby, but they hadn`t found many threats. Most of Queen Freyda`s army had disappeared and the war was over before it had begun.
The warrior in me was disappointed. I`d wanted the fight after having waited for it all summer. But I wasn`t feeling well. I`d suppressed it for a long time but now that danger was over, I went to my bed, pulled off my chainmail, crawled under the covers and slept like the dead.
I was later told I´d slept a full day and a full night but when I woke up I was still tired. And nauseous. I only pulled myself out of bed because the first thing I noticed when I woke up was the lack of sounds. There was no one in the house, no one just outside the door and I knew what that would mean. If everyone was gone it was because it was time for us to see if Rasul really was Loke or if he was a devious human being who deserved death.
I knew where it would happen and was more than a little annoyed that no one had woken me up. I`d knocked Rasul down. I`d been his victim. Didn`t I deserve to see his end?
The beach would be where everyone was gathered and when I walked to the top of the last dune, I saw all of Nordby standing there, looking at Amelia, who was talking.
I also found Eric who was standing next to his sister Pam. As I walked towards him, the crowd parted to make way for me. No one said anything but I saw smiles of encouragement. Of gratitude, perhaps?
When I`d made my way to Eric I pulled his arm around me, feeling the need to be close to him at that moment. He pushed me in front of him and locked both arms around my waist, his hand gliding up and down my stomach. Just then Amelia finished talking and people started clapping and shouting.
That was when it hit me like a horse`s kick to the head. Eric had realized something I hadn`t. Or at least I hadn´t realized it until now.
"Eric, I …," I started but was interrupted by Pam.
"Welcome, proud citizens of Nordby!" she shouted to the crowd and people turned quiet and listened to their new queen. "You have made the gods proud and you have fought well. Nordby is a free city, feared by her enemies but loved by anyone wanting to do honest trade." Everyone cheered and Pam smiled. "We want to thank the gods for smiling at us, and what better way than to have them choose our gift to them themselves." It was clear that everyone knew what Pam was talking about and people were laughing and clapping at what Pam had said. "They can choose either to take Loke home or they can take the body of Rasul as our offering to them."
Everyone went wild cheering and clapping.
Amelia, who`d been closest to the water, walked down towards a small boat where Rasul was sitting, tied up in chains. The boat was rocking quietly in the waves and was held by two men from Nordby.
A young boy came over to her with a goat and Amelia pulled the goat with her. The goat wasn`t pleased with being pulled into the water, and made it perfectly clear with its loud bleats, but Amelia managed to pull it all the way to Rasul`s boat. She stopped, looked at the man who may or may not be Loke and when she`d recited prayers to the gods, she cut the goat`s throat and let the blood spray from the goat`s throat to the boat and all over Rasul.
Then someone came forward with an axe and she hacked holes in the sides of the boat. Not large holes, or the boat would have sunk immediately. Amelia was careful with the axe and only made small holes all over the boat.
She turned towards the beach and made signals for four young men to join her. Together they pushed the boat into the seas and the men swam the boat further out. At some point one could see how the current took the boat and pulled it further out while the men swam back to the shore.
Everyone on the beach remained quiet, staring at the boat with Rasul. At first it seemed as if the boat just went farther and farther out but after a long time it was clear that the boat also lay deeper and deeper in the water.
I had to give it to Rasul. Never at any moment did he panic. Not even when his boat was filled with water and it was clear the next wave would turn it over. He just looked back at us and let it happen. The boat sank and so did Rasul.
Apparently he wasn`t Loke after all.
I`d expected cheers when Rasul drowned but everyone stayed quiet. Maybe it was the way Rasul died and maybe it was seeing the grand gift given to the gods, but people seemed awed.
And then they went home. At first it was families with young children. Then the older children. And then everyone turned around and walked back to Nordby.
Rasul`s death would be remembered for generations because he`d died with honor and an honorable death should be respected even if the person dying had caused trouble while alive.
Soon Eric and I were the only people left on the beach. I was still standing with my back to his chest, his arms around me. He`d stopped stroking my stomach and I wasn´t sure if he knew what I knew. If he`d come to realize what I´d only found out when his hand had glided over my stomach.
What if he didn´t know? If his hand had only caressed my stomach because that was what Eric had felt like caressing. What if there hadn´t been any deeper meaning?
"I have to tell you something, Eric," I said and took a deep breath. I wasn`t sure what I dreaded the most – telling Eric or saying it out loud. I knew I`d been ignoring it and if I told Eric I couldn`t pretend anymore.
I turned around.
"Sure," he said and looked at me, his face neutral.
Might was well jump into it, I thought. "Ithinkimpregnant," I said really fast.
"What?" Eric asked.
I looked at him. Was this an "I don`t believe what you`re saying because I really hope you`re not pregnant" or more of an "I didn`t hear you because you spoke too fast?" I wasn`t sure but to be on the safe side, I repeated myself.
At first Eric just stared at me and I started feeling uncomfortable but then his face cracked into a huge smile. He lifted me up and swung me around. I hated being lifted up and swung around and squirmed to be let down.
"Only ten more then," Eric said, his smile of joy turning into one of mischief. "Unless you`re carrying twins."
"Ten more?" And then I remembered my dream. "I`m not having eleven children, Eric!"
"We`ll see," Eric said in that tone people use when they think someone is being irrational.
"This is not good news, Eric! I can`t be pregnant. I`m a shieldmaiden."
Eric`s smile didn`t falter. "You`ll still be a shieldmaiden. First you`ll be a pregnant shieldmaiden, and then you`ll be a mamma shieldmaiden. We`ll figure it out."
"I`m not staying away from battle."
Eric`s brows drew together. "Of course not. Did I ever tell you I didn`t want you in battle?"
I shook my head.
"You with a sword is the sexiest thing there is. Why would I deny myself that image?"
I couldn`t help laughing. Trust Eric to make my fighting into something for his personal pleasure.
"So you`re fine with this?" I needed the confirmation.
"I`ll be fine with this when it has happened all eleven times." Eric pulled me into his body and laughed even after I kicked his shin.
Then I kissed him.
I hope you liked this trip back in time. I`ve loved writing this story and I hope you`ve had fun reading it!
For those of you reading Dead among Friends and Neighbors: I hope to be writing and posting on it while on vacation but there are no guarantees as I`m not sure I`ll have time to write – or if I`ll have internet connections at the ready.
I wish you all a great Summer!