The banquet commenced. Fruits, flat breads, vegetables, fresh game and smoked fish abounded. Ale flowed abundantly. Boisterous toasts honoring their king and their victory that day filled the air.
While toasting Sigvarðr, the King proclaimed, “The Celts have been too busy fighting amongst themselves to foresee the Commander bringing about their downfall, kingdom by petty kingdom. Once realized what he wrought, it was too late.” He sighed, faking sympathy for those conquered as his men laughed, banged their fists upon the tables, shouted their approval. The king commended the Commander for his victory and valor in battle with another medal. After the ceremony, the dance master stood, raised his goblet.
“Grab your wenches. Let us dance!”
Jongleurs tossed daggers among the twirling dancers without shedding any blood or losing any fingers, even as fools worked to distract. The king observed merrily, his wine spilling as he waited for a mishap. Men poured ale into ceremonial horns, passed them around as exuberant songs of victory filled the air. Accompanied by harps, bards recited verses of previous heroes and their deeds. Warriors picked up Sigvarðr, carried him on their shoulders as he was immortalized in verse.
Sigragi sat in a corner, chugging ale. It did nothing to quench the fire of hatred he suffered for his glorified brother. He grabbed another mug from the nearest serving wench, content to brood. His free hand rubbed his sour stomach.
All the while, Mist stood in the shadows, watching as the Commander moved around the room with a predatory, yet graceful manner. A handsome, rugged man, Sigvarðr kept his hair tied at the nape of his neck. He wore his white billowing shirt open from neck to waist, allowing glimpses of his muscular chest and stomach. Tight leather pants hugged his hips and thighs. Women fawned over him, and inspired an emotion she didn’t understand.
Then beautiful sky blue eyes found hers and locked. Her breath caught. Mist stared, her heart thrummed as he made his way to her, his gaze never leaving hers. Then, he stood before her, lifted her hand to his lips, drawled, “Goddess, have I pleased thee somehow that you spare me? I am indebted. Accompany me outside, me Lady?” He led her toward the courtyard.
She followed, saying nothing, but glanced over her shoulder to assure no one saw. Forbidden for a Valkyrie to associate with a human, she risked her power and her immortality. Expected to remain virginal until the time Odin chose her husband, she tempted fate by mingling. But something beyond her control drew her to him.
He walked to a bench hidden by trees with flowering blossoms, sat beside her. “Never have I known a Valkyrie to pardon a warrior before. Thank you, Goddess,” he whispered, lifting her hand to his lips again.
The contact made her shiver.
“Are you cold, me Lady?” He pulled her to his side.
She shouldn’t allow this, but couldn’t think straight–feelings she had never known flooded her being. Never did she want to leave his embrace! Without thinking, she pressed closer to his side, laid her head on his shoulder. Her hand settled on his chest, surprised to feel his heart pounding like her own. She glanced at him.
His head lowered.
She pushed from his grasp. “Midnight hastens. I must fare,” she said, not wanting to leave, unable to stay.
He rose, offered his hand, which she took and stood.
“I wish to see you again, Mist.” His thumb stroked her flesh.
“It is not permitted.” She lowered her head to hide her disappointment.
“Yet the chance I think we should take. Meet me on the morrow, nightfall, at the ash tree.” He stepped closer.
Knowing this must not happen, she dissolved, reappeared a good distance from him.
He strode toward her. She stood her ground, resistant, desperately fighting the attraction, only to relent, and allow him to draw her near, sighing in wonder at the sensations he created. The kiss deepened.
Hands to his chest, she pressed. “I must take leave,” she whispered breathless.
His lips trailed to her ear, caused her to shiver as he whispered, “Will you meet me on the morrow, Mist?”
“I will.” It took great effort to withdraw from his beguiling embrace. Despondent, she walked into the fog. She could not see him again, for she risked everything. Her heart ached.