I woke few hours later, realizing I was shivering and the place next to me was empty. I gasped the chilly air, before pulling myself up to look around.
I pumped on something, but not comprehending what it was I tried to push it away. I opened my eyes slowly, when the hurdle didn’t move and stared at one huge thigh. For a moment I thought if I was seeing right and decided then to use the old wisdom of our mothers and pinch the truth out of it. Not out of myself – out if that thigh in front of me.
A strong angry hand snatching mine away made me jerk backwards. That wasn’t a dream! That was indeed Dalek’s thigh.
I yank my eyes upward where his were and he didn’t seem very amused. He let himself on his two hands and moved closer to me over my legs. When he reached to my face, he turned towards my left ear and inhaled.
“If you do that every time you wake up, I’ll make you sleep hands tied behind your back.”
I felt my heart skip few needed beats before my eyes narrowed and I slashed one good clout over his cheeks. He pulled back smoothing his aching side.
“I wouldn’t have to if you weren’t glowering at me while I sleep!”
“I wasn’t glowering!” he muttered and came back to sit next to me, back against the haystack. “I was watching you.”
I wasn’t prepared to hear that. “Watching me?”
“Yes.” He nodded. “If you care to remember, the last time I had a proper look on you was ten years ago. You were so young then.”
“I was.” I agreed slowly. My mind was awake, but my thinking didn’t seem to catch the meaning yet. Besides I was still cold and instead of concentrating what he wished to say I was more interested getting the blanket closer to my warm drained body.
“Didn’t you come back five years ago? When Zahrah was married.”
“No, I had… other duties to attend.” He seemed sad for a moment, but changed the topic on next. “You said you wish to learn to know me before we get married.”
I grimaced. “I did.”
“So,” he opened his arms, “here I am.” His gesture made me laugh. “Ask away – what would you like to know?”
“I don’t know where to begin.” I confessed after some thinking. “Umm… Why you chose me?”
“Straight to the point,” he smiled, turning his attention back on the straw he was dividing into small chips. “I didn’t, the sea gave you to me.”
It was my turn to let out silent laughter before it came part of new questions. Or actually lack of questions as that managed to create an empty gap in them.
That had to be the most idiotic answer I had ever encountered, I decided and open my mouth to reply to it, but had nothing to say.
“You ever wondered who the boy was, who found you from the shore?” he asked after a while.
I had. Many times, but I never dared to ask my parents, because I feared to hurt their feelings; feared to show I sometimes longed to know, who I was before coming here.
I let out a loud sigh. This was too convenient and I didn’t like it. Norns have the habit of setting our faiths, but it was still too easy. I ought to feel flattered, right?
“Don’t tell me it was you.” I said harshly, pushing back his wheedling. “I don’t like talking about it! I have no memories of it I can trust, only mixed up images that come and go – anyone can claim they found me from the beach. But none of them can prove it. So don’t bring it up unless you can back up your words.”
He stared at me for some time, but nodded then, agreeing with my reasoning. “I have the proof, but alright.” I shot my eyes on him – was he joking? “Tell me instead, will you make a good wife?”
“What?” I felt more like fainting. “Shouldn’t you be asking Hagen that?”
“Hagen won’t tell me the truth.” He dismissed the thought. “He is a good man, but he loves you too much to tell me your flaws. Tell me one flaw you have.”
“I don’t like your question.”
He grunted. “You don’t have to like them. But you said you wish to learn to know me. Grant me the same wish I have pledged on you, be honest and tell me what you are like so I know if I have put my hopes in the right place.”
“And you wish to start with my flaws.”
A devious smile lightened up his features. “No, I started with much pleasurable things, like inspecting your body and Magnus was right, you are pleasing for the eye.” He finished whispering in my ear making me melt down on the floor. “Now I wish to know what the drawbacks are so I can weigh them and see if you suit to my needs.”
I took time mooting over what to say. Because my hands started fidgeting from feeling suddenly sick inside and that distracting me, I grabbed the shirt I had put near me and threaded the needle with white, continuing the neckline where I had paused yesterday.
“I like ale.” I spitted out the first. I actually didn’t like it very much, but I didn’t exactly know, where to start.
“If so how come you don’t have red nose and cheeks?”
I flushed thoroughly, that lie flew fast with the west wind, but I didn’t understand what he meant by that – why would I have red nose and cheeks?
“What do you mean?”
“Ale turns women sloppy and ruins their skin.” He took hold of my chin and turned it so he could see the color of it in the sunlight barging in from the chap in the roof. “You have perfect skin, so no, you don’t drink enough to cause worry. Stay with mead and you’ll be fine. Tell me another one.”
“I’m stubborn.” I pressed through my teeth, still thinking about the odd description.
He grinned. “You’re a Halland woman– I’d be worried if you weren’t stubborn.”
“I argue a lot.” I added another flaw. “You can ask Hagen – I always act against his wishes and find arguments against him.”
He laughed on that and I felt slightly more at ease.
“I’m rude, as you’ve probably already heard.” I giggled thinking back on my little performance in the forest. “That I can’t read is also a flaw I think.”
“We can overcome that.” He paused. “But I got the feeling you understood the letters on teetotum?”
“Some. Not all of them and I can’t spell. And I swear way often than is proper for a well raised girl.” I continued fast to get over that embarrassing flaw. “But I can’t help it,” I protected myself, “I just keep giving those promises to gods they then take and turn all upside down, making the promise work out way differently than I had expected and then I feel like I’ve been cheated and…” I sighed.
He sat in silence, like actually deliberating, was it good or bad and I was ready to sink in the swamp, but instead I came out with a new flaw.
“A-and I’m selfish. I always do what is best for me, not what would bring good for the whole village and I’m not sure if I could sacrifice myself in order to save someone. I don’t have it in me. When the Danes came, all I could do was sat there half dazed and watch them and think how lucky I was they hadn’t reached me yet…” I paused, realizing, where I had ended up with my thoughtless babbling. I should’ve put more attention in my own words, but it was too late and I knew the one thing that bothered me the most.
I halted my needlework and let it rest in my lap. Time to bring out my biggest flaw, I decided, one that could send this marriage out of the window for good. So far I had managed to hide it, delay the judgment my future husband might place on me, but I feared what it would cost me if he found out.
“And I can’t assure I won’t wake up in the middle of the night and stab any man, who lies next to me, because of nightmares I have since that….” I confided in whisper, keeping my eyes on one stitch I had noticed had failed to follow the rest in line.
I didn’t look his way, but I could feel him stiffen next to me. There, I sighed, there was the one reason I knew would ruin everything. Who would dare to lay with a woman, who openly promises to kill you when she wakes up in the night? Who’d trust having weapons near with a lunatic between their arms.