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These are not the stories I meant to write.

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She let him go West. With his ambitions and ability to inspire even the most craven man he was not someone to be trifled with. He had his own ship, and if the venture went nowhere, she had nothing to lose. But if he came back. If he came back with treasures from another land, though, he would remember to whom he owed his ventures, and her coffers would overflow.

He came back.

He came back with riches and slaves, and when her eyes fell on the priest, Ragnar's hand tightened on the rope around his neck.

"You speak our language, Priest," she says, and the man startles and glances at Ragnar quickly before saying,

"Yes. I--I have travelled."

"You have been to our lands." The Westerners had travelled to Viking lands, but she the was the first news she'd had of it. They were isolated here, but not that isolated. She had entertained a wandering bard not three months ago.

Again, another glance from the priest to Ragnar. Behind them, Rollo Lothbrok rolled his eyes. Someday the elder Lothbrok would die, the only uncertainty was whether by his brother's hand, or his own stupidity.

"I--to spread the word of God," the priest said, his accent thick and strange around their words.

"Ragnar Lothbrok," she said, lifting her chin and transferring her gaze to Ragnar, who smirked at her. She smirked back. "You and your men must be rewarded for your fearlessness. The Gods were truly with you. Your spoils were great, and as such, my spoils are great, for what you do, you do on my behalf."

She watched his jaw work and thought, Yes. Yes, I have you.

"But," she continued, "I am a fair leader, and all I shall take of your spoils is the slave who speaks our tongue, and the book he clings to."

Ragnar's shoulders tightened, his chin jutting out, and the room went a bit quieter. They were all trained warriors, her people, and they knew the scent of violence. She lifted her eyebrow and held out her hand for the tether. Long, long moments pass and then Ragnar crossed the space to her throne, and took a knee as he placed the rope into her hand. She smiled, leaning forward so she could murmur in his ear. "You will join me for dinner. I will hear of these new lands you've found."

"As my lady wishes," he gritted out, and she smiled. She missed him when he was gone. Things were never as fun.