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Shifting in My Skin

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Gyda is in the woods behind the house when Ragnar returns from the Thingstead. She has her wooden sword in her left hand and her shield on her right arm, and she swings the weapon in wide, sweeping arcs, landing each hit with a solid crack against the trunk of her tree-enemy. Ragnar stops to observe her for a while, notices her sloppy footwork and complete lack of form - both unusual, considering Lagertha’s insistence on perfection and practice. He looks closer and finds tear tracks across her cheeks. Someone made her very angry today, he thinks.

Most likely Bjorn, he knows. While Gyda is usually content to follow in her brother’s footsteps, they’ve been at odds with each other of late. Lagertha seems content to let them be, to see how it plays out between them, but Ragnar wonders if an intervention is now necessary. He drops his pack on the forest floor and finds a stick that will serve as a sword, then calls out to Gyda. She whips around, frantically wiping at her face with the heel of her hand.

“You’re home,” she says, managing the ghost of a smile. “I’m glad.”

“As am I,” Ragnar says. He nods to the tree she’d been using as a sparring partner. “Your friend here is probably glad to see me as well. Shall we give him a rest? I will gladly take his place for a while.”

Gyda frowns. “Mother doesn’t like it when you fight me. She says you’ll teach me the wrong way.”

Ragnar laughs as he readies himself for the fight. “Then you shall have to try to teach me the right ways. Attack me, little shieldmaiden.”

To his surprise, Gyda doesn’t hesitate to do so.