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Monday, June 10, 2013

On the Riverbank

I wrote a short Athelstan/Gyda story, here's quick snippet.

The plague came quickly and unexpectedly. And it was almost certain to be fatal. A fever on the first day led to a painful sickness so severe one was bedridden. At that point it was only a matter of time before death took them.
Lagertha Lothbrok was worried but thanked the gods that Ragnar, Bjorn and even Gyda were gone on a raid and so were safe. Her only company was Athelstan. Thyri had just passed and Siggy fell ill not long after. Lagertha and Athelstan spent most of their time taking care of the sick and the dying. So when Athelstan fell ill as well, it was a tragedy but not exactly a surprising one. She prayed over him as often as she could. The man had become like a son to her. She sent word to her family about Athelstan’s condition and his probable fate. Ragnar and Bjorn decided to stay. But Gyda, little Gyda, rushed home. She only hoped she would not be too late.
Gyda stayed at Athelstan’s bedside constantly, only conceding to leave when her mother gently forced her to eat something or sleep in her own bed. She fetched him water and food on the rare occasions he was awake and hungry. In the nights when she couldn’t fall asleep she would talk, sometimes to him, sometimes the gods (hers and his), sometimes simply the universe.
“Oh, please don’t make Athelstan die,” she asked no one in particular in an inarticulate prayer. “He can’t die. Please make him better. He can’t die. I love him.” At those three little words that she’d had no plan of saying, her mouth dropped open, then she snapped it shut again. She’d been speaking quietly but in the silence it felt like a shout and she glanced around to see if there was anyone around that could have heard. But no one was there. She looked back down at Athelstan and brushed his dark hair off of his pale, sweaty brow, when she noticed his eyelids flutter open. He said her name weakly.
“Hi Athelstan,” she said timidly, hoping he hadn’t heard what she’d said. I love him. She hadn’t meant to say it, had never even thought it to herself. She thought he was good-looking, she admitted to herself. And he was sweet and listened to her as other people did not. She loved their talks late at night, the moonlight turning the world to shades of black and white and grays, when she’d teach him about their gods and their stories and songs. And he’d do the same, telling of all the places he’d traveled to and the people he’d met. But she hadn’t known she loved him—as anything other than a friend or a brother—until she’d said it aloud and now she knew it to be true.
“Um, I have some water. Here.” She handed him a cup and he drank.
“I’m going to die,” he said, his voice betraying no fear, but a certain sadness.
“No you’re not!” she said desperately, with a ferocity that made him think that already she had something of the shieldmaiden in her. “You’re not,” she said again, quietly, but he’d fallen asleep. And she hadn’t noticed immediately but he had managed to slip his hand around hers. She yawned and fell asleep resting on his chest.
A few nights passed this way, though Gyda did more silent praying from then on, when it seemed as though Athelstan was getting better. He ate a proper meal for the first time in over a week, and then he had only a bit of a headache. Soon he was back to normal. He never brought up what she said so she assumed he hadn’t heard her. Her embarrassment dissipated, things went back to normal and time passed. Ragnar returned with a very pregnant Aslaug who gave birth to two boys. Bjorn got married at 16 to a bastard daughter of King Horrik. When he was 17, the girl gave birth to a daughter. Gyda turned 15—the age of womanhood.

You can read the rest here.

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