‘You have taken care of me. Let me return your kindness,’ said Magnus as they returned to the cabin.
He pulled out a chair from the house, and placed it in a sunny spot. Next, he brought out a blanket and her sewing basket. Placing them down carefully, before patting the seat cheerfully. ‘Come, you should make those clothes for the babe while the sun still shines.’
‘Only for a while…’ Grateful for the rest, she took the seat. ‘There is still so much to do…’
‘I will do it. I should start with ensuring you have enough fuel.’ He moved to examine the log pile. Heimdall had felled two trees before he went raiding, but had done little more than trim the branches off. One of her many tasks would be to chop up the larger pieces and stack them.
‘But you should be resting!’ she exclaimed.
‘I’ve rested long enough.’ Magnus laughed. ‘Besides, this is a rest. I would be training with my warriors normally.’
He began to work, his powerful body moving with ease as he wielded the axe with high sweeping strokes. His wound did not bleed through the bandage, and after a while of watching him, she relaxed and began to concentrate on sewing.
‘I will get bored if you do not speak with me,’ Magnus warned with a grin.
‘What shall we speak of?’
Magnus straightened up as he tossed a newly cut log onto the ever-growing pile. There was something strangely freeing about talking to her while they were both occupied with mundane tasks. It gave him courage. ‘There is something I want to know… Why do you not want to live in the settlement? Is it because of me?’
Her needle hesitated over the cloth for a moment, and then plunged into the fabric with quick movements. ‘This is my home.’
‘You could have a home at the settlement.’
‘In your mother’s household?’
‘If you wished…or with me.’
Kendra looked up at him, her eyes as sharp as the needle in her hand. ‘As your thrall? I know you tried to buy me from Heimdall once. That you thought I would make a good bed slave because my interest in you was obvious for all to see.’
Magnus flinched. He hadn’t realised she had known about that. ‘That is…how men negotiate. I wanted you, but Heimdall was not keen to sell you. Was that why you ignored me after that night, and refused to speak with me?’
‘No,’ she said firmly. ‘I was done with you, as I am sure you were done with me.’
‘I will never be done with you.’ He slammed down the axe, splitting the trunk piece in two. He pulled it from the ground, and checked the blade—it felt blunt along his thumb. He moved to her side, using a nearby whetstone to sharpen it.
When he glanced down at her, she was staring at him with wide eyes, as if she thought him mad. He gestured around him at the small cabin surrounded by wilderness. ‘Is this really what you want, loneliness and hardship?’
‘This is the only place I can be free,’ she said, and there was not a flicker of doubt in her gaze. She believed her words entirely, down to the marrow of her bones.
‘You don’t even have a dog to guard you. What if you are attacked by wolves or a bear?’
‘I will let fate decide.’ She looked down at the cloth in her hands, a tiny tunic, lovingly stitched. ‘After all, it brought me here.’
‘You need protection.’
She laughed, ‘Fine, I will get a dog.’
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