Adventuring through twisted time.
“And so, though this war between cultures was a tradition the present King took a risk that would either define his people forever or destroy them..."
“And so, you want my thoughts?”
“I admire your want for peace. I approve of it in fact. I, however, understand better than anyone that peace is not something everyone wants.”
“So you caution me. You’re afraid that by going there myself I'd be walking right into my death.”
Mama locked eyes with her son before cupping the side of his face with one hand. “This land killed Vega. Took him from us. So yes, I’m terrified because I don’t want news of the death of my son.” Luca took a deep breath. He leaned into his mother’s hand and kissed her palm. “And what do you do when the wind blows you that way?”
Mama’s chest rose and fell with the heavy breath she had just taken.
When the caravan first arrived at the border of the icy tundra if the Vikings and Valkyrie the murmurs of locals filled their ears. Many never expected the people of the wind so vastly known for living in sand and heat to be prepared for these cold lands. They were covered in furs and wrapped in scarves. All of them looking as if they were the natives of the mountains of this land. Some of them were. They were still days away from the Queen of these lands. Shrouded in all the different tales of her. It seemed that whenever Luca mentioned her he got a tale of her violence.
“She is a cold old woman who kills any man that crosses her threshold.”
“She is a beautiful seductress that kills everyone that shares her bed.”
“She is a wicked ugly woman that killed her husband just to prove she could.”
One by one the gypsies around Luca that fell for these stories “fell from the sky.” The wind didn’t support those that beloved in foul rumors. Luca huffed, not letting these stories taint his mind. He was disappointed in those of his people that let it change them. “We must be better if we are to remain wind walkers.” He stared around at his people under the light of the moon. A frown on his face that showed his grave concern to how easily they believed these rumors of this lands Queen. He blamed this war between them quite honestly. The gypsies having their own tales of every Queen before her and her. So he was not surprised how easily his people believed this hearsay. “We’re a day away. Clear your minds but more so your hearts before we meet her.” A kings command; a rarity from him.
The Valkyrie and Vikings didn’t really seem to know how to respond that as he came to court. They invited them in and gave them mead. Luca's people drank and danced and joked freely with Astrid’s. While Luca simply sat at the table in the room waiting for her to make her appearance. The liquid courage now running through his people’s veins caused them to speak truth. Revealing that Luca hadn’t lied about wanting peace. There were just three that didn’t drink. Luca and two men who guarded a large regal carrying case. But still, they did mingle and talk they just also did their job.
And then, she walked in.
Luca's almond shaded eyes locked with her cold blue ones. His gaze never wavering even as he rose as she approached. “It is a high honor to be here with you.” He put his hand over his heart and bowed faintly. His people all doing the same as if this were some sort of salute of honor for them. He sat back down once she was seated too. His eyes never wavering from hers. “I wish I could say I came to end this war by giving you what is rightfully yours…” He waved his hand to the two men guarding the beautiful case with them. They picked it up and stepped closer. Opening the case to reveal it was empty.
“…but we Gypsies never had your Goddess's wings. We were just victims of circumstance. But I will do anything for my people if it means both are people will have peace.”
“We need to build up our defenses before the raids this summer.”
“But we do not have the supplies for such a task, my Queen.” A man from the crowd counteracted; she recognised him as the town’s butcher.
She snorted. “There are trees all around us, we have the boat builders who have tools and we have every man and woman who is able.” She could hear the faint mumbles within the crowd who attended this meeting; scepticism and doubt laced their rushed words. “Quiet” Just the simple word accompanied by a stern tone of voice caused the great hall to quieten down; Astrid glanced at her brother, Ivarr before looking at Torunn, one of her most trusted Valkyries - both simply nodded. “Kattegat has been attacked one too many times, enemies are able to target us from both sea and land. We must be prepared or you may see this land, your land perish" The idea of the land becoming ruled by another who was not born or bred in Kattegat’s land caused an agreeable uproar and her people began to make plans between themselves on how to secure their town. “We have made plans on how to do this, but for now, enjoy your drinks and feast upon the food provided.” Astrid extended her arms, indicating they could move and enjoy their evening before stepping down from her chair; joining her family, and people in the celebrations that winter was almost over.
The building of the walls and watch towers began the very next day, the banging of hammers were in unison with the banging inside of many Viking’s heads. It was a sight to see, the whole of the town working as one; raiders and servants alike, on the same side to secure the town’s future. When Astrid wasn't contributing to the build, she would be offering food and water to make sure they were well; unless official business of the Summer raids occupied her. The town worked night and day to try and finish the walls and watch towers by the time a lot of the men went on their raids; which consequently left the town weakened, however, ever since Astrid’s reign, she began training other women to become shield maidens or if not those, normal working women to learn how to fight and defend themselves and their young.
It was a quiet, misty day, the water was still with gentle caresses to the shore line; however, the trees rustled just enough to cause enough alarm for those selected to man the watch towers. Suddenly the peacefulness of Kattegat was disturbed by the sound of the horn. “Wind Walkers" The two words were howled down to the ground before being carried by a trusted child into the grand hall where he would find Astrid conversing with her fellow Valkyries; discussing the next battle they would attend.
“Wind Walkers, my Lady. Heading this way" The young boy breathlessly panted.
Astrid quirked a curious brow, and nodded to the boy before turning to Hilde. “Gather all Valkyries and Shield Maidens and make sure the Gypsies are escorted safely through town.” She took a deep breath and took off to the back of the hall where she resided, composing herself as well as making a plan on how to handle the situation. Many minutes, maybe an hour passed and she could hear how the awkwardness and tension had settled once the alcohol flooded many people’s blood streams. She was glad, she knew the topic would be sensitive to others.
With a deep inhale, Astrid finally made her presence known; her ice blue gaze automatically fell upon The Gypsy King who stood for her. “Please… Sit" She gestured to his seat after he bowed for her, she sat, a slight smile toying the very corner of her lips. “What a surprise, I understand the journey must have been tough, please make yourself at home" She gestured for the servants to bring them more drinks.
She was truly pushing her own personal feelings towards them to the side; she knew she didn't want them making themselves at home but alas. Upon hearing those few words, Astrid leaned forwards curiously, and eventually her gaze left Luca’s to the box brought towards her; her ice blue eyes glistened for a moment in anticipation until the box presented itself empty. Lips vibrating together, she leaned back with a sigh, returning her attention back to the King. “An empty box could still mean you have them, you just brought the wrong box” Her eyebrows rose in a challenging manner before nodding. “But what do you propose to achieve this peace?”
Luca closed his eyes. Registering her words. Letting them designate with him as he thought. "You're right. We could very well have it." His people stilled. Questioning looks of betrayal crossing their faces as they looked at their king. Why would he say such a thing? They thought. Incriminate himself. "But we don't." Confusion now graced their faces as they listened in. Trying to fathom Luca's train of thought. Where he was going with this. "My whole life I believed like you. As everyone in this room that we had those wings. And like my people I too believed they were in this box. But we discovered together this was not true."
He let his words resonate for a time. Pondering his next moves. Like a game of chess. Nodding his head multiple times as he closed his eyes. He had come to a conclusion. One that could cost him his crown. But that is what this peace meant to him. And so with the opening of his eyes,he removed his turban his long chocolate locks rolling out and down his back and onto his shoulders. He conjured from nothing but the wind and elegant bottle.
There was an immediate backlash from his people. Their foreign tongue saturating the air with such anger. But just as soon as their wave of anger crashed through the air it had stopped. And there sat Luca glancing over his shoulder with his hand up. They revered him. He rarely ever had to speak or address his people when they tried to defy him. They loved him. Trusted him. So the faintest of glances. The faintest of hand gestures put any backlash or rebuttal from them to rest.
With his gentle almond eyes, he looked into hers. "I apologize for my people sudden demeanor. We have rules and I have just broken three. Or I will have broken three when we drink from this." He cleared his throat and gestured to the bottle that he caused to appear on the table with them. The liquid was brown and clear and at the bottom lay a scorpion. He poured just one cup. "Only the two of us can drink this. For the two of us are the only Queen of the Valkyrie and King of the Gypsies. And that is who this was made for."
He was silent a while once again. This time just trying to find the best way to describe everything. "There is a place in my land they might be if we do in fact have them. The place of lost kings and queens. It is where we lay our royals to rest. But it is not only a sacred land magically protect from everyone but a king..." He gestures to himself. "... And Queen." He gestured to her. "It is also in the heart of a desert. Violent. Wild. Hostile."
He picked up the grog with the mysterious brown liquid in it. "This will give you a taste of what I mean. Your body will fall asleep but your spirit and soul will be with me. And to be sure. To reassure to you and your people I am not trying to poison you I will drink from the same cup. If of course, you agree, my Queen."
She could feel the tension within the air around them tighten at her comment which was soon supported by echoes and roars from her own people; it was clear that there was no trust between them, but yet, she knew The Gypsies were not stupid enough to come into Kattegat just to play joker - afterall, it would ultimately leave them in a sticky situation with very angry Vikings. Therefore, as much as she didn't want to, Astrid did believe Luca when he said that they believed they too had the Wings of their Goddess until recently. She glanced at Ivarr and Hilde alike, who both showed skepticism upon their features, thus, she simply shook her head only briefly to stop any thoughts they could possibly be thinking. "I am curious, however" The Valkyrie spoke up, the nail of her index finger tracing patterns upon the wooden surface of the table absentmindedly. "Many have tried to find said box for quite some time, how did you of all the Kings, find it?" It would be a lie to say her own people hadn't tried to find it either, and each time came back disappointed, frustrated but more importantly - ashamed; they believed they had betrayed their Gods yet again.
Silence engulfed them, their own people watching, listening intently on how their leaders would play their next move; despite the cold deamour which radiated from Astrid, inside she was becoming impatient, she needed to know the true reason for The Gypsy visit and why they had gatecrashed one of the final evenings before the town was split with Raiders going elsewhere. Confusion set across her features as he finally made his next move of removing his turban; her gaze dropped as she watched the lengths of his hair bounce pass his shoulders. Astrid could hear the confused mutterings of her own people out of response of the aggravated Gypsies - in fact, some of the more toxicated Vikings teased them in their Mother tongue; of course Astrid did not stop their taunting, she very much doubted The Gypsies spoke Old Norse. Besides, it seemed from her observations, Luca's people were too outraged by his motion to care for what her people did, thus, she remained relaxed in her seat with her horn in hand; taking a sip out of pure entertainment.
Astrid waved her hand as he apologised for the behaviour of his people. "No need, for us it was quite amusing to see" Her lips curled at one end, despite understanding the current feeling of his people; if the roles were reversed, and if she had broken multiple of rules, her title as Queen of Kattegat would be questioned - her only saving grace would be her Valkyrie blood. She leaned forward to get a better glance at the bottle in which appeared in front of her; her features wrinkled up - it did not look appetising. Astrid remained in complete silence as she listened to what Luca had to say, and those that could also speak the common tongue naturally opposed her to do anything of the sort. It was risky yes, but to be the one to retreive her Goddesses Wings would be the greatest honour she could ever imagine and if she were to die doing it, she was certain her seat in Valhalla would be waiting for her.
"You cannot be considering this!"
"You cannot trust them, they have stolen from us before, they cannot take you too!"
Were just a few of the reponses her people shouted, yet her brother, Ivarr soon silenced them. The look upon her fellow Valkyrie were ones of concerns but they were the only ones to truly understand the importance of this journey, even if taking the liquid was the first part, a very minor part. Astrid pushed herself forward on her chair, and placed her own drink down on the table as she looked intently into his chocolate hues. "Any funny business and your soul is mine" She threatened - it was well known that Astrid kept some souls for her own personal collection; and if he did anything, his soul would sit well within her chamber among the others. She opened up her palm in a gesture to get him to take the first sip; as she did so, she ordered Ivarr and Hilde to remove her people from The Grand Hall, leaving just the three Vikings with The Gypsies.
"My soul is yours the moment anything goes against what you deem as okay."
His people boiled at this, surely he would have a trail waiting for him once they were back home. As it were he was not originally from this time period to begin with. But with the wind having very clearly sent him here and Mama the mother of all Gypsies telling them this was her son they accepted him. Questions asked. Until everything made sense and was out in the open. Everything they needed to know.
But now, their trust in him was dwindling fast. And so, he forced a breath from his nose and took the first sip. Closing his eyes as the bitter liquid burned on the way down. He gently slid the grog her way. Resting his arms on the table and his chin on his arm. "You'll want to rest your head as soon as you sip." He turned his head to the side resting his cheek on his arm.
His eyes quickly grew heavy. He took a deep breath from his nose alone. He let his eyes close and once Astrid has closed her too the room rumbled. The flames all around in the fire pit and on candles flickered to a nonexistent wind. The king of the Gypsies and the Queen of the Valkyries souls were connecting.
And so, the whole world shook...
He felt the heat enter his lungs first. He opened his and immediately shut them again faced with the beating sun. The sand beneath him burned as much as the sun did. He rolled over on to his stomach. Blinking the tears the sun had caused away. He got to his feet and it was then he felt like he had been thrown from the sky. Landing directly on his back. He groaned and stretched looking for Astrid.
Hovering over her he blocked the sun from her eyes and struck the side of her face to wake her. "You will not like how you feel when you stand."
He offered her his hand to help her up. Luca looked around. He picked up the hot sand watched it fall. "There is a strange wind here." Luca didn't often display his emotions on his face. Just in his eyes but he frowned at his own words. Standing back up at the sound of a whisper in the wind.
It called his name. And when, he faced it he was faced with a huge regret in his life. Luna. A mirage of her came standing before him. Here odd clothes showing the century Luca was initially from. She was clearly not fully there. The wave of movement her image held was like a suns rays.
"I hate you."
He looked away at the sound of her words. "This place will take everything that haunts your mind and heart and play it out for all to see." Another whisper in the wind but he didn't recognize it. It wasn't for him. So he stood near Astrid "whatever is coming next is what you are hiding from." He looked into her eyes. His sisters words still hurting him deeply. "If you fight it we'll be forced to stay until you fight no longer."
There was a level of excitement which brewed deep within her stomach as Luca confirmed that his soul would belong to her if anything were to happen; she could sense his soul, as if it was calling out to her and she would be lying if she said she didn’t want to get her greedy fingertips upon it. Thus she nodded in satisfaction to his comment. “Your soul will be in safe hands, Gypsy” Astrid offered a brief, but almost mocking smile especially at the sounds of anguish and revolt at this touching trade off. She glanced at his people who stood behind him and swallowed discreetly, whatever were to happen tonight would have huge repercussions; for that she was sure. Soon enough, her attention resorted back to Luca and forwarded a brow at his suggestion before nodding ever so slightly to his recommendation.
A sigh departed her as her fingers wrapped around the grog; a foul taste lingered on her tongue before she even brought it to her lips. Astrid caught a quick glimpse of Ivarr and simply nodded, she knew Kattegat was in good hands if it were to go south. With that reassurance, The Valkyrie downed the rest of the murky liquid and followed his advice by placing her arm down so she could rest her head shortly after. Shortly after, her eyes flickered closed and darkness soon swallowed her whole; what started off as an ice cold chill that caressed her body now changed to a scolding hot iron, biting at her skin.
Her brows furrowed, and her features grimaced as blisters began to tease the surface of her skin; a groan of weariness departed her as the hand and voice slapped back her to reality. “Did you really just slap me?” Her voice carried the tones of early morning, a sleepy haze laced her words as she accepted his hand; it truly felt as if she had woken with the worst hangover. Astrid remained silent and brought an arm up to shelter her eyes from the unforgiving sun, she glanced and the never ending landscape of the desert; it held no beauty compared to that of ice and woodland.
Upon seeing a ghost-like figure stand before them, she remained silent; but noted the change in Luca, how he held himself was… Off. Even though the words were not for her, she flinched but it was the sensation that came from behind her was the true cause. “What is this place you have brought me to?” She questioned in a slight hiss under her breath before glancing over her shoulder to see the apparition of her Mother, Eerika.
The figure appeared to reach out and slap her daughter. “You will marry Sigurd and become Queen for my sake. You selfish girl” The elder woman hissed.
Astrid felt her expression go cold at what appeared to be a memory of her childhood, and she briefly turned her head to Luca, without looking up at him. “We do not need to see this” Her gaze lowered. “I did not come here to relive aspects of my own past” Although, as she eventually met eyes with him, she knew that there were likely other, not so pleasant challenges ahead.
Luca, the moment he had struck her face he felt worthless. He knew that was the only way to wake a non-Gypsy here. He just should have warned her. Communicating with his people he was amazing at. It was his job. Clear communication as a king was important. But in his personal life his communication skills lacked severely. He knew it too and was consistently striving to do better. Except he had failed in that moment. And that would eat away at him for years to come. There was clear shame written on his face and it only plummeted when he saw his sister. Yet what he saw next actually made him feel like less than a man. He blenched at the slap Eerika gave the younger Astrid. “I can’t make it stop. I have no power here.” He wished he could stop this. His pain was showing in his voice. “Neither do you. We are both just human her. Or we will be if you decide you do wish to come.”
He stepped between her and her memory. Which also allowed for his shadow to block the sun from her. Slowly he took her hand as their eyes met to be sure he had her undivided attention. Bringing his free hand up to her face but this time making sure she saw it. Moving it so slowly it was like he was nonverbally asking for consent to touch her face. He caressed the side of her face where he had slapped her with the back of his hand so tenderly. “I’m sorry…” He pulled away not wanting her to lash out at him for touching her affectionately. He also didn’t want to make her uncomfortable. He was a physical person who believed in the power of touch. “…I should have told you about having to slap you ahead of time. I will spend the rest of my life making that up to you. “. He looked down, realizing he still had her hand. He withdrew from her out of respect.
“This is the desert of lost Kings and Queens. This land is vast and tumultuous. Scorching and searing in the day. Numbingly cold and hyperthermic at night. We will have no secrets between us because we will see everything like we just got a glimpse of.” He froze suddenly as he heard the violent sounds and screams of horror from behind him. Every muscle in his body clenched up as he shut his eyes with a faint tremble. He swallowed hard and spun on his heels.
The scene was dark despite the sun.
All that could be seen was a young Luca partly cast in the shadows covered in blood. The young him hunched over and wailed. Violently screaming at the top of his lungs until the wind answered and surrounded him.
And so, the wind whisked that memory away.
Luca spun around again to face Astrid. He never had any shame in crying in front of people. Astrid was no different though she was a Queen. Being vulnerable before someone else was far harder than holding it in until you were in private. But he never looked at her. That memory. All the things they heard but didn’t see and didn’t hear currently ran on a loop in laps around mind now.
“This…” His voice cracked “This land was meant to break you because it expects you to try and survive alone. The kings of the past used to send newlywed couples to the outskirts of the desert, since only a crown can enter the actual desert. There an unbreakable bound between the husband and wife would be made if they lasted the night.”
“You want your Goddess Freya’s wings. I want peace between our people. The desert will give us what it has. Wither that be everything or the truth or just the wings.”
He could now hear her memory coming for her. He deflated even more because he wished to stop this for now. He looked up at her at last the look in his eyes telling her that another memory of hers was coming. “One second longer and we’ll be free. And if when we wake you decide my soul is what you wish instead of all of this…”
“Then it is yours to take.”
The memory which presented itself to her was one that she often tried to forget but it was also one of the many memories that had the power to consume her; and consequently led to many sleepless nights. She never wanted this life, she never wanted to be Queen - Astrid was happy to live on the farm, she was happy to have a simple life which was a concoction of being a Valkyrie, Shield Maiden and a Farmer. Yet, this was not the life that her parents had in store for her; at the very least her Mother, Eerika. She was destined to live out the life that Eerika had wanted for herself and because of that, Astrid being the first born got the full brunt of that crazed desire; she was never shown that much love, and perhaps that was were she failed the most - she never got taught how to show love properly. All being said, Astrid was, however, a warmer Mother figure to her siblings than their actual one. “So essentially, we are almost powerless?”
It would be a weird concept for her, despite having ultimately a human body; she did heavily rely on the wonders that came with being an immortal Valkyrie. Her mind raced and her eyes squinted at the ghostly figures of her Mother and her younger self until a shadow was cast upon her. Having his presence so close allowed her to withdraw from the memory which continued to play out within her head, particularly when he reached out for her hand. Astrid quirked an inquisitive brow at his sudden act of affection; was it because they were alone? Without the judgmental whispers of his people? Either way, the touch was so foreign to her, that she truly did not know how to respond.
Astrid was sure her rather complex expression gave her way and she soon cleared her throat and swiftly swatted at the air when he dropped his hand. “There is no need to apologise nor feel the need to make it up to me” She insisted and rolled her eyes; although the slap itself did trigger some uncomfortable memories of her marriage. “A slap means nothing these days” She mentioned cooly, she had suffered too many as well as far worse; she had almost got immune to the pain it was meant to inflict upon her.
“No secrets, wonderful” The Valkyrie mumbled and she had to repeat to herself that this was for the wings; wings she needed to find at all costs, or at least die trying. Upon the shift in the air, she peeked over the shoulder of Luca to see what the next memory would conjure up; her lips parted ever so slightly at the young boy covered in blood.
Astrid desperately wanted to press for more information as Luca turned to her but instead, once she noted his watery gaze, her tongue remained still; and tilted her head curiously at his explanation for the what the desert offered and put newlyweds through. “And if they did not last the night?”
“We will continue through this, I cannot turn back now because of the past” Astrid replied. “The past can only hurt you as much as you let it” Her shoulders shrugged. “So you do not need to worry about your soul just yet, Luca'' For the first time, she regarded him by his first name but it would soon be dismissed as his countenance revealed another one of her memories was on its way.
She inhaled deeply and held his gaze for a long moment before turning round to face the memory head on; it was her wedding night, the night in which she lost her virtue by force. She watched herself fight Sigurd and how he took away her choice, and took away her voice.
Astrid could feel the bile forming within her stomach; the hatred and the anger she held for her now deceased husband clearly continued to resonate within her.
“Many people think I am the monster for killing him and still do, but the monster was and has always been, the King” She commented yet her tone was flat. She knew there would be an awkwardness between herself and Luca once the memory faded into the wind thus the silence needed to be broken.
She didn’t realise how her nails had dug into her palms, refraining her from attacking the haunting memory and eventually, she let out a steadying breath and released her palms from the attack.
Everything's she did. Every nuance. Every breath. Every lie to hide the truth he caught. He was extremely keen with a sister similar to Astrid in many ways. And so, he knew from her body language alone that touch was foreign to her. He wouldn't press the issue. Nor would he bring it up. For why? It wasn't his place. They were strangers and even if they weren’t, he had no right to point out how she was deflecting and hiding within a hard shell.
At the heart of it she was probably just a scared little girl that grew up having to wear a large suit of armor.
Growing into it with time but never letting anyone truly see what she looked like underneath it all after becoming a woman. At the heart of it, Luca would say he grew up the same. Wearing a mask to hide his truths. That reason alone was why he avoided coming to Astrid for peace sooner. No secrets. She would see him. Know him and he wasn't sure he was ready for something like that but his people needed this. So, he tossed himself to the wayside so to speak and put his people first.
He couldn't help the scrupulous squint he gave to her words. How could she brush off such a thing as someone hurting her?! Violence as far as he knew was a part of being a Viking maybe even a Valkyrie but he was also sure that direct senseless harm to oneself wasn't a part of that violence. There was a very clear difference. At least to him.
He opened his mouth to speak again but closed it as he meditated on how to say what he wanted. "I'll admit I don't know much about you or your ways here but I know for a fact that a slap especially to the face means everything! That is unacceptable regardless of your creed or culture. What I did was wrong, and brushing it off just caters to that toxic behavior." For a moment he almost touched her again. He stepped closer to do so but stopped his hand from lifting from his side.
It took a while for her words to process. He rubbed his eyes as he huffed that memory from his mind and found his words to answer her. "Kings and Queens of the past would force the couple's that didn't last the night to separate. But I can't do that. The heart wants what it wants and if for those couples their hearts still want each other who am I to hurt them by ripping them apart?"
It felt amazing quite honestly to hear her address him by his name. He felt accomplished in the moment well aware that she probably didn't do that with many kings who came knocking on her door. Granted, they probably came knocking asking for marriage but still he was going to take this as a win regardless. The moment however became quickly evanescent.
Being naturally calm, slow to anger, and level headed you could count the number of times Luca was physically angry on one hand. And the number of people who had seen this fire in him on one finger. That one being Astrid in this moment. If she regarded him enough to look his way and see him burning. He let a growl drag out of him. A growl that had been ripped from him many moons ago. He turned away from her memory. Seizing up in fiery anger. Closing his eyes. He let a calming breath hiss through his teeth as her memory faded.
He shook his head to her words and walked to stand next to her. He clicked his tongue. Apprehensively taking her hand. He somehow managed to get her fist to uncurl and reveal the marks her nails left in her palm. He took his hand and put it next to her open hand. Opening his hand to show the marks in his palm from his nails.
“The past still hurts. Denying that won’t make it any better for us."
Again, he pulled away “I promise I won’t touch you again.” He picked up on her little idiosyncrasies about it.
Again, he shook his head “He wasn’t a king. Or man for that matter.”
“He was a coward in a crown too heavy for his head.”
He tilted his head to see her face. And suddenly, the wind blew and he knew what it meant.
“Close your eyes.”
“Take a breath.”
“It’s time to go.”
As his breath ended, he sat up straight. The Gypsies and Vikings who drank and socialized freezing as Luca blinked and let his senses adjust. A suddenly faint frown showed at the corner of his mouth for a one second as he looked to the Gypsy checking if he was okay. It wasn’t Vega. His right hand who died here and that sudden reminder hurt. But he hid it quickly. Looking across the table to Astrid and watching her brother check on her. For her the last memory they saw together might have been awkward but for Luca it was life, though naturally it was uncomfortable. With the things he had done and seen he might not be able to relate but he definitely understood.
And so, for that reason he smiled kindly at her. “Since you have agreed to travel forth my people and I will return home ahead of you to prepare for your arrival and our travels.” He rose and his people followed without having to be addressed staring at him with admiration and awe at how he convinced the Ice Queen to join him on this obscene journey.
The land of Nowhere was vastly different from Kattegat. It was hot. The people were joyful. Colorfully gowned in clothes, scarves and shawls that flowed in the faintest of moves and breaths of wind. Welcoming. Live music played and the people danced to it. And as, the Valkyrie Queen entered this land with some of her people they were welcomed. With caution naturally. They were still enemies but they were guests of the king.
And, the people from Nowhere wanted peace as much as their king did.
But beneath the music. The sounds of the people dancing and singing. The laughter of children as they ran around the Vikings in particular Astrid. There were sounds a faint strife carried in the echo of the wind.
When the wind blows it was heard by whoever dared to listen. And so, Mama the mother of the Gypsies. Luca's actual mother stood out then.Freezing among the wave of movement to listen to the turmoil hidden in the wind. The breeze turning her head to the Vikings. Her eyes locking with Astrid’s.
Upon approaching she smiled charmingly. “Hello! I’m Madame Serena but the world knows me as Mama.”
“I’m going to hug you my dear. It’s customary here and you and your people will be better treated if you hug me back.” She kept eye contact with her up until Astrid was wrapped in a warm and motherly hug. Ending it when Astrid was ready and guiding her to the king. “Only the Queen and her guard may enter.”
“SEND ME BACK LUCA OR I SWEAR I WILL RIP YOU TO SHREDS!”
This tent is where the strife was. An older gentleman sat within the tent blocking the way to the back half of it. He looked up at Astrid and her Guard. His likeness resembling Luca’s specifically in his kind eyes. “Hello!” he spoke above the arguing behind him separated by a flap. A flap that flew open in aggression as Luna stormed away from her brother.
In a one continuous smooth motion Leander the elder gentleman spun to his feet. Removed his cloak and draped it over Luna to hide her futuristic clothes before questions or curiosity could strike. And without missing a beat Luna kept blazing forward.
“Moonpie!” She froze hearing the man’s voice. Halting besides Astrid. Luna’s eyes stared forward. But she wasn’t focusing on anything. “I welcome you. But I won’t hug you.” She turned her head and glared into Astrid’s eyes with an anger that was always burning in them and clearly not directed at Astrid or her people. “I’m uncomfortable with touch.” She tilted her head as her eyes searched Astrid’s “Yeah... you too I see.”
And then, just like that. Luna was gone. Leaving nothing but a trail of dust in her wake.
She was unlike any Gypsy they had met and will every meet. She wasn’t light and airy like them. Nor was she joyful or peaceful. She was grounded to the earth and burning on the inside.
“You’ll have to excuse my twin.
She is a flame. She dances with chaos and smiles into the fires her soul creates.”
Luca gave Astrid a sad smile that slowly spread to a kind one full of warmth and welcome. Leander wrapping his arm around Luca which caused faint laughter to pass his lips “Hello father.” He hugged him before approaching her. “As promised not touching. So, I won’t hug you either. But, for different reasons then my sister.”
“I hope your travels treated you well. We leave tomorrow regardless so you have time to rest and when the moon rises the real fun begins.” He held the entrance of this tent open gesturing for her to follow so he may show her and her people personally to their tents and wheel-less carriages. Astrid’s carriage standing out because of the paintings and weaved flowers draped and embellished all over it by the children that ran around her earlier.
“You have admirers.” He pointed to the children as they hid in the bushes and trees rather obviously. Running after them with a playfully growl. He let them take him down. Pinning him to the ground as their laughter filled the air.
Astrid didn’t know why, but his concern over how the slap wasn’t something to be overlooked was quite endearing; and in all honesty, something that amazed her. She had yet to come by someone, other than her baby sister, Torvi who absolutely hated violence with funnily enough, vengeance. Astrid would assume that like Torvi, Luca would go to great means to not inflict violence to get his point across. “In my world, there are things far worse than a slap, given… I would have normally reacted to it a different way but you got mercy instead” She responded with a hint of a smile.
She slowly nodded in his answer and found that whole way of life absolutely fascinating; perhaps not one she truly understood - it sounded like the task was there to make them fail. “I would assume those that survive alone or fail the task deep down, don’t actually love the other as much as they thought?” Astrid was playing devil's advocate but she would wager a bet that those couples would not make it a year. “Maybe those Kings and Queens were doing them a favour. A blessing in a curse” She shrugged.
Despite the anger, the sadness which resonated within her upon seeing her memory of her wedding night, it was an odd concept to see; watching herself and perhaps thinking of what she could have done differently in that moment. Astrid lowered her gaze for a moment, ashamed and embarrassed for the would-be Queen before glancing towards Luca in that moment. She needed to see what his reaction would be to such a sight; albeit a sight which she hoped no one would ever know of. His anger was something to behold, the growl which vibrated from the depths of his stomach was something she would indeed remember; perhaps there was a hidden violence within him - pushed downward and caged.
Astrid drew a breath as he touched her again, uncurling her fingers which dug into her palm. If it was any other, they would regret ever touching her; yet he was getting away with it, with only a few snappy responses, a glare and some frozen muscles.
“Seeing it and remembering it brings different responses” She counteracted and responded truthfully. “I gain strength by remembering it… Sadness by seeing it”
With that, and a deep inhale she felt the ground move beneath her feet; and before she knew it, she was back within the Grand Hall. Ivarr was soon to her side, cupping the sides of her face to make sure there were no wounds. “I’m okay, Ivarr. My physical body wasn’t there you idiot” She teased him and removed his hands from her face. Her gaze fell upon the others in the room; their expressions varied before she turned her attention to Luca and simply nodded to him without saying a word before his departure.
The land was foreign and many of the Vikings that moved behind her grumbled about being too hot within their coats. “Simply remove them” Astrid responded quickly to make sure they were quiet when entering the land; where they were met with children guiding through them, patting at the horse's muzzle.
The children that surrounded her made her feel on edge and she awkwardly patted one blonde girl on the head; she was typically good or at least okay with children within her own City but this was a whole new story.
Astrid slowly removed her hand when ‘Mama’ approached them, and upon hearing a hug would happen; her body stiffened up slightly and with slight hesitance, she wrapped her own arms around the woman - hearing some snorts from the men behind her. “Thank you for your… Warm welcome” She led by example as she withdrew from her.
“Torsten” Astrid called, she would have wished Ivarr were here as the pair were led into the tent; welcomed by sheer anger and resentment which piqued Astrid’s interest. “Hi” She stood beside the seated man with her arms crossed, she had to double take for a moment to make sure that Luca hadn’t aged since their last meeting.
Upon seeing the figures move behind the tent rather frantically, Astrid turned to give Torsten a look.
“Nice meeting you, I think...” She called back to the woman, a smile widening on her lips as she watched the dust disappear at the front of the tent. Luna, Astrid came to learn was just the glimpse she needed to see Luca's kind perhaps had lives and stories that were not as different as those of The Vikings.
She watched the two men together, noting their similarities and could see why Luca had turned out the way he did when she pictured Mama stood beside them there. “Thank you, one hug is enough for one day” Her tone held tints of amusement as the words graced the air; her eyes squinted as the warm sun beamed down upon her - her hand coming up to her forehead cast a shadow as they headed towards the carriages.
“The journey was kind, although once we hit the warmer side of things - my people, they began to lose some of their wits” Astrid mused as she glanced over to the others disembarking their horses and shrugging out of any furs that kept on their beings.
Astrid took the few steps up to the door, and let her fingers brush gently over the petals and weaved vines before turning round to catch him on the floor. “Me? Admirers?” She questioned as her brows pushed upward at the scene before her. “You may wish to check your bags tomorrow, in case one of them tries to join us”
She mused before crouching down to allow one of the children come and place a flower within her braided hair. The child touched strands of her hair cautiously, with good reason but Astrid simply nodded as permission.
“I will teach you how to braid your hair like a Shield Maiden another day” She winked at the young girl.
In a royal society and the world of the upperclass Luca was always seen as odd. Of course, the Gypsies didn’t really conduct themselves the way other royals and upper class did. Luca didn’t fit their expectations. He rolled around on the ground with the children. The dust from the ground rising with their laughter and filling the air. His people were important to him. When he became king, he tore down all the things that separated him from them. Dismantled the crown and used to jewels, gold and silver to benefit his people and land. He made himself accessible. Just like every other dust-covered Windwaker Gypsy.
With just a breath The Wind came to have his back. It pushed him up to his feet with the children still all over him. He spun around. The wind adding to his featherlessness despite the children having from every limb. Their laughter filled the air and that made him laugh. “Okay. That is enough for now. Our guests need rest for tonight. “ the children all sighed and huffed but listened. The jumped from off his arm. Legs. Back and scampered off chasing a breeze. Only one child remained. The one playing with Astrid's hair. The sweet child skipping away on her own eventually after giving Luca a hug.
“My people have left yours and you clothes inside each carriage and tent. You are welcome to wear them or not. You are also all free to roam. I suggest sleep, for the night will be eventful. But that is up to you.” He gave her a slight head nod and now before blowing away in the wind. The elegance of how he and The Wind moved together quite eloquent. And so, within a blink of an eye, he vanished. In to the bright sun. Just dust left in the air where he once was.
The people of Nowhere often rose with the moon. The heat of the land dwindled by this time of night. The giant bonfire blazing already while the music blared and the wind people crawled from their tests and out of their carriages. Dancing with The Wind the moment the surfaced from their homes. Everyone was out. Much different from the scarce few that hustled about throughout the day. Astrid and her Vikings were welcomed with smiles. Dancing. Alcohol, and fearlessness. The Gypsies knew they were safe in Nowhere. And so, here their fear for the Vikings and Valkyrie was gone.
Luca watched from the opposite side of the fire as Astrid was welcomed into the night celebration. Taking a sip from his cup. His dark eyes examining how she responded to everything while she was not paying attention to him. He finished his drink and drew and smile on his face. On his way to approach Astrid and welcome her to the bonfire personally The Wind blew. Whispering something to him. He closed his eyes to listen. Turning towards where the wind blew him. Which was away from Astrid. He hadn’t gotten close to her yet which in his mind was good because he didn’t have to excuse himself from her and raise her suspicions. At least his way he could sneak off to where The Wind called. Or so he thought.
He wandered away from everyone. His back to it all. His sister, Luna approaching him. Her forwarded brow and the look on her face different from what it was when Astrid had first met her. They spoke for a mere few seconds before she pointed him off from the direction she had just come. The Wind clearly pointing him there. Luna going a separate direction from everything not towards the bonfire or back to where Luca was now headed.
The farther he walked the more the dust rose up to cover him. Like sheet where only his shadow could be seen. The Wind only on him and nowhere else. Until he eventually came to a clearing. Far from his people. You could not even see the fire or hear the music. Everything was still out here. Nothing steered but The wind around Luca. The moon not quite full shining down on the silver desert sands as the only source of light without a fire.
Luca suddenly fell to his knees. The sand around him coming to life due to The Wind. It took the shape of a wolf. Stalking around him with dark intent. But as soon as it had come it had faded away. Luca sat up straight from the pained hunched position he was in with a faint wince. He got comfortable sitting on the sand. And so, the king huffed. Dropping his head before extending his hand out to the side as if inviting someone to sit beside him.
“Please join me since you’re here.”
Admittedly there was a slight annoyance in his voice. But he couldn’t blame her for following him. He would’ve done the same. He glanced over his shoulder at her faintly the soft look that was usually in his eyes had deliquesced. All that was left was this seriousness. A tinge of mysterious allure. And a whole lot of pain and corked anger that he still had an extremely great grip on.
It was quite endearing to see the little girls expression light up when she realised she too, could have hair similar to how Astrid had hers; and in all fairness, Astrid admired the child’s courage too, she was sure Luca’s people had wicked tales of the Vikings much like her people had of them. So, Astrid simply couldn’t stop the smile which appeared on her lips as the little girl ran off to follow the other children at Luca’s very gentle request of letting their guests get a few hours rest before the evening festivities began; which automatically piqued her interest.
“What exactly do you have planned?” She spoke suspiciously but for once, not because she did not trust his kind, but simply because she was often one that liked to be in the know and not be taken by surprise. For a moment, she allowed her curious nature to subside as she thanked him with a gentle nod at the courtesy his people had for leaving clothes in their caravans which were better suited for the climate in Nowhere.
Upon the wind taking the King before her, Astrid glanced at her people entering their own caravans and could hear their voices roar from inside as they were introduced to a slightly different lifestyle and a rather huge culture difference. She rolled her eyes and took off into her caravan and was quick to lay down; her legs ached from the long ride and soon enough, her eyes began to close and her consciousness drifted.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Astrid was woken from her slumber by the musings of Luca’s people and the music which engulfed the air; and as she sat herself up, she glanced at the wide range of colourful fabrics on the other side of the room. Out of respect, she changed out of her typical clothing and armoury and shrugged into a brilliant red one piece; she splashed some cold water upon her face to wash away any remains of sleepiness before meeting Torsten at the entrance of the main tent. His eyes wandered over her unique dress and bowed with a teasing smirk. “Please, keep your weapon as hidden as possible, we are guests” She reminded him with a stern look before proceeding into the tent.
She was appreciative of the drink which was placed into her hand almost immediately and rose a toast with Torsten who appeared to be her slight shadow as she wandered the tent; making small talk for those who wished to engage with her. However, despite the generosity and the kind spirited individuals that came up to her, her eyes were always dancing around to see if they could spot Luca; she had found it strange for him not to be here - it actually frustrated her that she was on the lookout for him. Astrid wandered to the fire pit and absentmindedly hovered a free hand over the flame as if to warm up; when in reality it certainly wasn't needed.
Whilst she stood there, across the flame she watched Luna walk in the opposite direction as another being; she didn't see the other's face but the situation and the vibe which came from it unnerved her. Her vibrant cool gaze narrowed and she forcefully placed her drink in Torsten's hand. "Drink it, and I'll cut out your tongue" She spoke sweetly with a sugar coated smile before weaving herself through the crowds in an attempt to follow the shadowed figure. Astrid kept her distance as her chest tightened and her stomach twisted; something had shifted in the air and it wasn't to her liking. In fact, her hand gently rested upon the top of her hidden sword as a precaution; she wished to be as respectful to their world as possible, but she would also not be afraid to draw blood if needs be.
The Valkyrie allowed the shadows to engulf her as she watched the shadowed figure drop to the sand; by that time she had realised it was Luca she had followed. Her eyes narrowed at the animated sand and how it circled his very being; as if Luca was the wolves prey. She believed herself to be silent, thus when he regarded her she found herself surprised; although giving it some thought, can anyone hide away from the wind?
Astrid kept her guard up as she approached him, her muscles tensed ready to deflect any form of attack given the bitterness which laced his words. Yet, she continued to lower herself to the ground beside him despite all that. Her lips fell into a straight line at the new persona she was witnessing. "Sneaking out of a party in a suspicious way doesn't look good." She eventually broke the deafening silence. "I need to know what is happening if you wish for this truce to continue between us" Astrid didn't look at him, but straight forwards as the sand began to settle where the wolf once was.
He didn't sound annoyed anymore. Had the roles been reversed he'd had followed her too. He started out at the moonlit horizon. He was silent though she was waiting for an answer. Some explanation. He sighed heavily. Clicking his tongue as he shook his head. "I can explain all I want but this is ultimately better experienced." He didn't look at her. Instead, his eyes moved down to the sand as his hand farthest from her combed through the warm sand. He fell silent again composing his explanation where it would be needed.
"The Wind gives me and my people more powers than what anyone may know. Or realize. Some Gypsies can see bits of their future. It only works on the night of a full moon." His eyes searched the horizon once again until a very gentle cool breeze brushed his face. His eyes fluttered closed. The breeze only on him.
"The Wind is... Peculiar, however. I fear it may not show me what it brought me out here for with you here." He looked at her at last. A warm look in his eyes "but you're here so we might as well try." He smiled softly.
He held out his hand to her. "You'll have to take my hand if you truly want to see what I will... Or might."
There was a pause. I moment of peaceful silence. Until The Wind blew at both of them. It circled around them and soon took hold of the sand again. The wolf of sand took life. It approached Luca and sat before him growling. It eventually stood and circled around them both. But its eyes stayed on Luca as Luca stiffened up. "Don't move." He cautioned through his teeth.
His eyes carefully watched the wolf. It looked feral.
And even though it was made of sand something was clearly wrong with it. It snapped towards his face hearing him talk. Luca didn't flinch though. His face remained the same. With his brow pinched together and a stern look in his eyes.
And so, before either of them could react the wolf of sand launched at him. The Wind within the wolf pierced his heart and sand burst into all directions before falling back down to the ground. He let her hand go the moment before this happened as if he knew it would. Clutching his heart he grimaced and winced from the pain. He panted for a moment
He knew what this meant. But he didn't want to explain it to Astrid. Or anyone. And that was exactly why he didn't want her here. Even though he knew she would eventually find out about this.