Jorund sat alone, a good distance away from the sons of Sigurd. Brandt was the eldest of the king'ssons, and he sat with his pregnant wife, Ingrid, on one side, his father on the other. Alarr remained apart from them, and he appeared distracted.
A motion caught his attention, and Kirsten came to sit beside Jorund. In a low voice, she remarked, "They don't look right together, do they? Alarr and Gilla, I mean."
Her abrupt words took him aback. "It's his choice who he wants to marry." Her presence was unnerving, for he could smell the light aroma of herbs and female skin.
Kirsten seemed to think about it as she tore off some cheese. "Did he really choose her to wed, or did his father choose her?"
"He will be content with her," Jorund answered. Her shoulder brushed against his, and the slight touch distracted him. Why was she beside him? Was she trying to learn more about Alarr? Or was there another reason?
His question was answered when he stood to leave, and she caught his hand. "Oh, do sit down. You shouldn't eat alone."
He saw no reason to intrude on others. "It doesn't matter. I'm only here for training."
She finished her cheese and eyed him. "If all you do is train, that sounds quite dull."
"It's not." Though now that she had mentioned it, he realized that it rather was. Each day was much like the last, and he hadn't seen any true progress. But he held faith that it would be better soon.
"I disagree. I was fighting alongside you, remember?"
He did remember. The sight of Kirsten's lithe body moving sinuously had been a strong diversion. He had never met anyone quite like her.
"Are you going to fight in any of the contests tonight?" she asked. "I've heard that Sigurd may give silver to the winners after the wedding feast."
"I've no interest in the contests."
Because I would lose. He despised being the center of attention, and he would much rather watch other fighters. "It's not something I want to do."
"Do you know, Jorund, I think you are the shyest man I've ever met. You practice in the shadows. You eat your meals in the shadows."
"You did not have to join me," he reminded her.
"I know that. But I am curious about you."
"Why? There are dozens of men more interesting than me. All of them are more interesting than me." He couldn't understand why she would choose to be near him.
"That can't be true." She studied him closely. "Men who say nothing about themselves generally are the most interesting of all. They are usually hiding something."
He couldn't agree with her on that. "There's nothing to hide. Raiders killed my family, and it was my fault they died. I intend to avenge their deaths. That is all." In his eyes, it was a simple matter.
"And afterward? Once you have your vengeance?" Her face softened with sympathy. "What then?"
He shrugged. The truth was, he half expected to die in the attempt. But then, his death would hold honor, and he could take his place in Valhalla. She seemed to think it over, and he decided to redirect her attention to another subject. "What about you?"
Kirsten laughed quietly. "I don't know. What I want for my life and what will happen are not the same. I wish he would find me fascinating." Her attention shifted back to Alarr. "But he doesn't even know I'm alive." She took a drink of ale, staring off into the distance. "I'm not sure any of them do."
But she was wrong about that. Kirsten had thoroughly caught his attention. And though nothing would come of it, he found himself looking forward to training with her again.
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