All of Kattegat knew that their new earl was one favored by the Gods; his bountiful western raids would have been proof enough, but when in the middle of a warm summer, the lady Lagertha’s time came and she gave birth to not one, but two sons, all of the people rejoiced and drank to their earl’s greatness and wished him a safe return to his enlarged family.
When Ragnar landed at the end of the raiding season he couldn’t believe his ears when Siggy greeted him at the docks. Not daring to believe that he was so blessed, he hurried to his home near the Thing and what he found there made him stop in his tracks.
Lagertha was resting on a bed of furs, with a baby on her breast with Gyda sitting beside her and listening closely to whatever wisdom of mothers she was sharing. Björn was sharpening his sword by the fire, adding logs to the hearth from time to time to keep the room warm against the chill of the autumn, just like a man who learned to anticipate his family’s needs.
And Athelstan… The priest was sitting in an armchair, head bent backwards at a painful looking angle as he slept, his mouth open and snoring softly, with another infant secured to his chest in a sling of fabric.
Ragnar took a careful step into the house, and his children - his older children - immediately ran to him, greeting him and asking hushed questions of his travels with the same breath.
Ragnar hugged them tight, promising to tell them stories later and stepped up to his wife; Lagertha seemed tired, but well. She was even more beautiful with the light of fresh motherhood shining from her eyes.
“Husban, welcome home.” She said with a smile, and carefully placed the - now sleeping - baby in his arms. “Meet Ivar,” She said, then inclined her head towards Athelstan “And that is Sigurd.”
Ragnar held his son close to his chest and made his way over to the priest, peering down at the other child on his chest. He had half a mind to nudge his servant awake when he felt his wife come up behind him.
“Let him rest, my love. I think he slept even lest than me in these past months.”
Ragnar took a closer look at the man, and yes, he could see the dark circles under his eyes and the pallor of his skin. He couldn’t help but frown. He was an earl now, he had other servants and there was really no need for Athelstan to run himself ragged.
It was like Lagertha could read his mind.
“He wouldn’t have anyone else care for your sons. He even chased Siggy away, even though she has much more experience. He said, now that you’re an earl you have enemies too, and he doesn’t trust anyone around your children.”
Ragnar couldn’t help but chuckle at his wife’s obviously fond words.
Well fine, he wold let his priest sleep just a little longer.