The wedding preparations were in full force. The scent of roasting meat permeated the air as Jorund left the dwelling. He was humbled by what had happened between them, and he made a silent vow to protect her.
But as he took a few steps away from the shelter, he saw a taller tribesman eyeing him. It might have been the man who had threatened Kirsten, so Jorund stopped walking and stared back.
The man was physically larger, and he approached Jorund with a taunting smile. He spoke in a language Jorund didn't recognize, but the meaning was clear. The man was aware that they had spent the night together, and whatever he'd said had been an insult to Kirsten.
Jorund unsheathed his sword, fully prepared to defend her. But at that, the man laughed, showing that he had no weapons. One of Alarr's kinsmen saw him, and he said, "Hilda has commanded that there will be no weapons this day. You must surrender your sword. She wants no risk of bloodshed."
Jorund paused, never taking his eyes off the other man. Then he sheathed the weapon. "I will surrender it to King Sigurd. As soon as Kirsten has joined me." He made it clear that he would not leave her unguarded.
The other man appeared amused, but he turned away and went back to the others. Kirsten eventually emerged from the dwelling, and her skin flushed when she saw him. "I didn't realize you were still here."
"I wanted to make certain no one bothered you," he answered, nodding in the direction of the warrior.
She understood and took his arm in hers. "I am grateful."
They passed by numerous guests, and Jorund saw several of the men emerging from the bathhouse for the purification ritual. He should have joined them earlier, but he hadn't wanted to leave Kirsten's side. She had given him the precious gift of her innocence, and were it possible, he would have stayed in her arms all day.
Brandt was in the center of the settlement, walking alongside his brother Alarr while they went to greet Gilla's father, Vigmarr. Jorund started to join them, intending to surrender his sword to Sigurd. But within moments, Hilda hurried forward and spoke to Brandt.
Brandt frowned suddenly and said to Alarr, "I must go. There is a disturbance with tribes gathering to the north. I should be back later tonight for the wedding feast, but I've been asked to intervene and prevent bloodshed, if possible. I am sorry, but it cannot wait."
The disturbance in the north could only be the same raiders who had slaughtered his family. Jorund felt his anger rising in anticipation.
"Do not go alone," Alarr warned his brother.
"Rurik will accompany me, along with a few other men," Brandt promised. His gaze fixed upon his wife, who was walking toward the other women, and his features softened. "I will return as soon as I can."
"Go, then," Alarr said. "And return tonight for the feasting." He clapped Brandt on the back before turning his attention back to Vigmarr.
Beside him, Jorund heard Kirsten murmur, "You're going with him, aren't you?"
This was the chance he'd been waiting for, and he would have strong fighters at his side. "Yes," he answered. "I swore I would have my vengeance."
Her hand tightened on his, the worry evident in her face. "I pray to the gods that you will come back."
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