Chapter 1: Across the Sea, Away From Here
In a time of war, moments of peace were far and few in between. The bloodshed on so many fronts was a tiresome thing, for all except Ben. It often seemed as though he were the only one who reveled in the spike of adrenaline a rightful kill earned him, the buzz of victory more intoxicating than any drink from the brewery. Now though, the feeling of adrenaline was different. It wasn’t the floating sensation he got when he had an army at his aid, limbs slick with enemies’ blood. No, this was the adrenaline that came from falling off a tall cliff where rocks waited below, ready to smash a skull or two in at the idiocy of someone’s slip. Ben had never been seasick before, but it was slowly coming to him now.
It wasn’t until dark clouds concealed the sky, and a fog engulfed the ship so thick, that he could take a hefty bite out of the air, did Prince Ben understand the severity of the situation. Or rather, of his situation. He braced himself against the sudden rocking of the ship, a beautiful piece of craftsmanship that he had been told would transport him across the Atlantic in one piece. With another loud groan from the main staff of the ship, Ben was starting to doubt that.
He was nearing the end of his initial journey, to spend time in a foreign land before bringing back someone very special to live with him in the castle in Saxony. He had no idea how long it would be before returning with this person. He had no idea who this person was. He also didn’t know what the hell he was going to do.
It wasn’t a feeling that he was accustomed to, that much was certain. Pulling his thick fur coats around his freezing shoulders, Prince Ben thought back to the last conversation he had with his mother, in some semblance of maintaining a level of calm.
“Ben darling, I have something to tell you.” The punctuation of a silver goblet being set down on polished wood seemed louder than normal, all attention brought to her, as only the Queen Leia herself could manage.
It had been a simple enough sentence, the Queen often had things to tell the Prince, however these were usually done so in private, not at a large feast.
The feast was being held in his honor, for winning a battle so successful, and with so little resistance from their enemy, that one might call it a massacre. Princess Rey had even shown up to celebrate, even though her stance as a pacifist made it an uncomfortable evening for her. She was seated at the far end of the table, laughing with various lords and sneaking their turkey legs when they weren’t looking. It was a loud ordeal, as Saxon feasts always were, with conversations overlapping one another and plenty of drinks flowing. But at the Queen’s words, all music and merriment stopped.
“Yes, mother?” Ben had replied, smile wide and eyes just a little glazed from mead. He shook off some nice girl’s hand from his chest, a feat he had been attempting all night to no avail. Now, however, the girl’s hand dropped like a stone back into her lap.
“Tomorrow you’re going to set sail for the North.” The air of finality made him queasy.
“Whatever for? We’ve just come back from battle – ” He raised his cup and was met with a string of cheers from the party.
“I’ve had quite enough of fighting.” She interrupted, taking a long drink from her goblet, the metal catching in the hundred illuminated candles surrounding the dining hall. “In fact, when you go, I hope that you’ll be able to put an end to it.”
“I’m not sure I know what you mean.” Ben felt suddenly sober, a distinct sinking feeling winding into a knot in the pit of his stomach.
“Since you’re all here anyway,” Leia’s voice ringing loud and clear, “It is my honor to announce, that your Prince is to be married, and unite the two countries of Saxony, and Sweden!”
Whatever applauding that had begun at the mention of Ben’s marriage soon faded away, replaced with murmurs and the clinking of a spoon being dropped.
“Sweden?” Princess Rey asked, breaking the silence. “Mother, you can’t be serious!”
“Your Majesty, I beg your pardon, but how can you think to send Prince Ben to such a … a savage land?” Poe Dameron, best Captain in the Saxons, and Commander of the naval fleet stood.
“The age of the savages is almost at an end. King Charles wreaks too much havoc on them, there is no way they will be able to survive for much longer. They have become far too angry with the invasions, and are completing invasions of their own. I hope that this marriage will placate the Vikings into leaving Saxony alone.” Leia stood, and all stood before her, before immediately dropping to one knee in respect. “Please, this is a happy occasion. Let us celebrate our victory, and spend the last night with our Prince in merriment.”
Ben had chased his mother down the hall, leaving the feast behind. He made the mistake of looking back before the doors closed, seeing Rey’s face. He didn’t know if he was going to see her ever again, and it pained him that the expression she wore was of shock and hurt.
“Mother, you can’t do this. I can’t go to Sweden.” He finally caught up to her, chest heaving and unshed tears hot against his eyes. He was finally beginning to fit in among the people of the castle, being a war hero doing wondrous things for his reputation.
“And why not? You are always saying how you want to sit at the throne. This is your chance to do so.” Leia looked exasperated, as if she were doing Ben a favor, and he were spitting on it.
“But they’re savages! Barbarians! Pagans running wild and pillaging neighboring countries.” Ben was getting angry, his temper slipping. He curled his hands into fists at his side, and his blunt nails dug into the meat of his palms.
“They will soon learn that their ways are of old. Charlemagne is making that very clear to them. Don’t fret my son, you will return to us.” Leia tried to soothe him, lifting her hands to rub at his arms in what she thought must have been a placating manner. To Ben it felt condescending, and she dropped them with a sigh.
“When?” His voice caught in his throat, anger bubbling in his chest.
“When the time is right.” She said simply, taking a step back.
“What exactly do you propose I do? Sit around and twiddle my thumbs for a decade? Mother there are battles to be fought and wars to be won, I don’t have the time for – ” He was yelling, the baritone of his voice being thrown down the stone hall way. He was sure everyone enjoying the feast was listening to them, probably shaking their heads at his outburst. Queen Leia was loved by all, it was not often someone dared question her orders, even her son.
“You will have the time for this.” She didn’t raise her voice, because she didn’t have to. The weight of her words were enough. “This is our best chance at avoiding some pillaging mess from these Vikings. They have already ransacked cities, their patience is wearing thin. If we could bring their leader here and treat them well, then we will hopefully be able to avoid being burned down to the ground.”
“If Charlemagne is going to get rid of them then why are we even bothering?” He spit, lip curling.
“Because you don’t plan on marrying anyone respectable as it is.” She said, the words slapping him in the face. He even lifted a hand to his own cheek, as if feeling the insult of them.
“How can you say such a thing?” He asked, tears slipping down his cheeks. This was his mother, he was supposed to be ruling the throne of this castle, not to be shipped somewhere far away, with a history and a culture he never truly be a part of.
“Tomorrow morning you are on the first boat at dawn. You will write to me as soon as you dock at whatever shore they have, and that is the end of this.” Leia walked away without another word.
It seemed all too much a blur now, Ben barely remembered the rest of the evening, only to be woken at the crack of dawn, and escorted to the docks. Commander Dameron had had the boat prepared and ready to set sail for their voyage. That was seven days ago, and they had had beautiful weather right up until now, their seventh night.
“Poe!” Ben shouted over the noise of the waves. He got the Commander’s attention quickly, despite the row team in between them. “How much further until we see land?”
“We won’t know anything unless we get through this damn fog! I won’t have us smashing against any rocks and drowning, not on our last day.” Poe was soaked through to the bone, being at the end of the ship had a significant amount of water sprayed onto him at all times. Ben wondered how he didn’t freeze to death, even in May the wind was unforgiving at night.
“If this is our last day then we must be close.” Ben tried to calm himself, and he strained his eyes against the darkening sky. “These clouds don’t help.” He muttered, trying to peer through them.
As the last light slipped from the sky, and darkness settled firmly over the boat, Ben’s panic was far too apparent. He had begun to pace, shouting at the rowing team that was trying to keep a steady course. His hair was plastered to his forehead and neck, the fog giving way to a sheet of heavy rain, with lightning that split the sky.
“Do you want to get out of this rain? Well?” He knew he was yelling, that his attempt at control was entirely nonexistent now. “Then row faster!”
“Your highness, please!” Poe shouted at him from the back of the ship, blinking away the rain from his salt stung eyes. “They can only go so fast; the wind is against us.” He tried talking reason with Ben, but he wasn’t having it.
“She just had to send me on this sarding nightmare didn’t she!” Ben kicked a bucket, not caring how it skittered across the boat, sloshing water all around.
“Prince Ben, look!” One of the rowers pointed, and the man in question whipped around, ready to bite the man’s head off, when he saw it.
Rising from the water like will-o-wisps, dots of light appeared one by one through the rain. With newfound vigor, the rowers pushed forward, and the source of the light became clearer; what had once been pinpricks were now clearly longboats adorned with a torch at the front, creating a path away from the rocks like a beacon to shore.
Ben squinted against the wind and rain, the bright glow a sight for sore eyes. They were still too far away to see the sailors inside the boats, but they had finally made it. Ben slumped down in his seat with relief, eyes trained on the brightest flame of them all, something like fifty torches all huddled together. It might have been the stress from the journey, but he could have sworn he saw one of the flames smile at him.
For a brief moment, a peal of lightning illuminated the impressive Viking fleet, but in an instant it was gone. A deafening boom of thunder shook him to his core, and the last thing he saw was the mass of torches disperse as a particularly nasty wave crashed over the boat, flipping it and sending Ben unconscious.
Ben woke to the gentle wiping of a cloth against his brow, warm water trickling down the sides of his face. He blinked slowly, not wanting to get water in his eyes – he had far enough of that already. A woman was tending to him, rubbing warm stones onto what he assumed were his injuries. Everything was carefully wrapped in binding, and he only felt a stiff soreness from being jostled by the sea.
“Where am I?” He asked the woman, who responded with a confused glance. She must not have noticed he was awake. “Where is Commander Poe Dameron?” He tried again, voice raising in annoyance.
This time his words were met with pointed silence, the woman returning the cloth to a small pail set near a fire. She left in a hurry, and Ben thumped his head back against a dense pillow. The building he was in was pleasantly warm and dry, he found thankfully. The walls appeared to be covered in mud, and Ben felt a headache coming on.
Not too long after the first woman’s departure, a second woman arrived. Ben sat up quickly, because it was clear she held high importance, if her appearance and small entourage were anything to go by. The woman’s hair was platinum blonde, the most silver thing Ben had seen since his departure from home. As she circled around him, he could see three large braids, one from the sides of her head and one down the middle braided together, which lay atop a braid comprised of the rest of her hair. Her silver dress was adorned with gold braid at both the hem and the neckline, and he knew she must be royalty.
“Hello.” He tried, hoping this woman spoke his language. Maybe she could tell him what happened to Poe and his ship, where he was, or at the very least, who he was supposed to marry. While she was quite beautiful, Leia had made it painfully clear that she was aware of his preferences, and women were not in the cards for him.
“Hello.” She replied, a thick accent distorting the word. “My name is Lady Phasma, you are Prince Ben, correct?” She placed her hands on her hips, and Ben noticed the rings that were stacked on her fingers. Definitely royalty.
“Uh, correct.” Ben winced, realizing how stupid he must look. The woman, Phasma, raised a severe eyebrow.
“Uh? What is ‘uh?’” She demanded, apparently that word not translating into whatever it was these heathens spoke.
“No – it doesn’t mean anything.” Ben continued to kick himself.
“How silly, to say words that have no meaning.” Phasma smiled, and a few of the women that accompanied her laughed. Ben’s cheeks burned red, and he cleared his throat.
“Can you tell me what happened to my ship? Where are my men?” He tried to sound authoritative, but he was simply too tired.
“Your ship has survived, and so have your men.” Phasma nodded curtly once, and then the group of women left.
No one returned for quite some time, and he was getting aggravated. The fire was dwindling down to embers, he would need to get fire wood and soon unless he would be plunged back into darkness. Listening to the wind, he found it gentle, the rain had died down and all that was left was the cool Spring breezes. His furs had been draped over a wooden peg near the fire, drying and warming them, and as he stumbled out of his cot, he slowly began to dress himself. Tying his chord belt around his waist and throwing the furs over his shoulders once again, he strode out of the long building and listened for any indication of people.
He found it in what sounded like a feast, something he at least was familiar with. As he got closer to the long hall, he could smell amazing food, and even though everyone spoke in a language he didn’t understand, Poe’s voice was one that was never mistaken. He opened the door with more force than necessary, and when it clanged against the wooden wall, the music stopped. Ben thought his family needed to kick this habit of interrupting parties.
“Oof!!” Ben had the wind knocked out of him when Poe stood, running and throwing his arms around him in a great hug.
“We were so worried when the ship capsized, but Prince Hux assured us that you were to be fine. It is so good to see you awake and well.” Poe was talking much too quickly for Ben to pay attention. In fact, he couldn’t even pay attention to the hundreds of eyes that stared at him in wonder and distaste alike.
At the head of the table, was the most beautiful creature Ben had ever seen. He was the flame that smiled at him before the water smacked him unconscious, Ben was sure of it. What he thought was just torchlight was a mane of intricately braided hair, large braids and small ones, coming from the top of his head later joined by little ones from the side. Most of it was let loose, it spilled over the man’s shoulders and snaked around his biceps, bright and orange, and…and…angry?
The man sharply stood from his seat at the head of the table, and strode over to him, yanking the front of Ben’s tunic in an iron grip.
“How dare you!” He seethed, green eyes piercing into Ben’s, a color he had never seen before. Frankly, this man was covered in colors he had never seen, his wild hair and eyes the most stark against his black coat.
“I beg your pardon?” Ben spluttered, as the grip came dangerously close to being around his throat.
“You crash your ship onto my shores, make my men fetch you from freezing waters, shout at my best maid and then barge into my feast like a King? Just who do you think you are?” The man demanded, shaking Ben’s collar roughly.
Ben was stunned, wasn’t this the man who had smiled at him from the shore? Or was he really just delusional? He opened and closed his mouth, something akin to a fish, not knowing how to reply to such a statement. Shouldn’t he have known who Ben was? After all, he was a Prince. The man threw Ben back, releasing his hold and stormed out of the hall, cursing in a language Ben couldn’t understand.
“What was that?” Ben asked slowly, as the doors of the great hall slammed shut. Now everyone was giving him dirty glances that suggested maybe he better run. He almost started to, but Poe prevented him from doing so, grabbing the sleeve of his tunic.
“That, was Prince Hux.” Poe said, voice low, as if he were trying to not spook a horse.
Suddenly, Phasma burst into laughter, loud and raucous. A few of the women Ben recognized from her group were having trouble stifling a smile, many of them hiding behind their cups.
“The man you are engaged to.” She grinned, mouth wide and teeth bared.
Ben felt sickly cold, and collapsed, one again unconscious.
Chapter 2: Feats of Strength, Strawberry Stains
Once again, all mistakes are my own. Please enjoy this chapter!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Running, running, running. Ben’s legs protested with each new step, knees creaking in a desperate cry for relief. He didn’t know where he was; it was dark and cold, and rain slicked the ground to a muddy, slippery slope. He could hear the war cries of his brethren, and the broken screams that stuck in slaughtered throats. Maybe his feet didn’t slide through mud, maybe it was something much darker, the sticky hot sheen of blood settling into every crack in the earth. He didn’t know who it belonged to – wasn’t even sure if it was his own. Ben hobbled toward the bright spark of axes clanging together, his own hands empty of weapon and shield.
Bodies lay strewn across the ground, the acrid smell of death burning in the back of his throat. Smoke from torches clouded the skies, the lightning from a raging storm creating a glare on the plumes. Ben had been here before, he knew he had. He just couldn’t remember where. He couldn’t remember why they were fighting, or who they were fighting. Stumbling through the terrain, he saw a mass of people, like bees swarming a rival hive. His legs pushed him forward.
After what seemed like hours of running, Ben arrived at the battle, people mashed together in combat not giving him a sparing glance. He recognized these men, it was his own army, fighting against the Danes. He could recognize that shieldwall anywhere, dozens of soldiers breaking through the ranks to throw their javelins. There was yelling on either side, battle cries in languages neither party understood, but they didn’t have to. In this war, no one seemed to understand anyone. He supposed death was universal. Ben’s legs shook with the strain, he hadn’t stopped running.
“Please, stop!” A weak cry broke off with a scream of pain. Ben moved towards the sound, shoving soldiers out of his way. The scream dissolved into sobs, and Ben watched as a poor man was being beaten, stripes of blood down his tunic.
“Where did you get this, eh?” Thannison, one of the lesser liked officers asked, as a petty soldier continued to abuse the man’s back.
“I-I just found it! Please, I’m telling the truth!” The man begged, tears cutting rivulets through the mud and blood that had caked onto his face.
“Penal slaves don’t just ‘find’ spears like this laying around.” Thannison sneered, taking the staff from the petty soldier and cracking it upside the man’s jaw, sending blood spraying out of his mouth.
Ben stood frozen in shock, watching as teeth crumbled out of the man’s mouth. He tried to move, to reach out to the man – anything, but it was to no use. He could do nothing but watch as Thannison laid blow after blow onto the man’s broken body, until the wood of the staff splintered, and it split in half.
“That’ll teach you to steal a spear. Take him away.” Thannison wiped the blood off his hands onto his battle-worn tunic, and grabbed his shield from where it had been thrown onto the ground.
Ben heard his own battle cry then, startled to find it escaping from his own lips, and suddenly he was running again. His axe sat heavy in his hand, large wooden shield a familiar weight against his forearm. He charged forward, breaking through the shieldwall, fire in his bones and rage in his chest, forgetting the pain in his legs as he swung the axe high above his head, bringing it down in magnificent arcs that cut clean through armor. Several soldiers fell to the ground, Ben carving a path that led straight to the Danish general –
Except, it wasn’t. It wasn’t the Viking ruler he had faced in battle those days ago, with lines in his face so deep it had been a pity for Ben to kill him then. This man didn’t have a braided beard down to his clavicle, or a jagged scar over an eye. This Viking was tall and slender, face hidden by a large helmet with two sharpened horns protruding from either side. Swathed in furs, the tell-tale clink of chainmail armor brought him back to his senses, and the Viking wasted no time in swiping at his feet and smacking his chest with the large ornate shield he wielded.
Ben fell to the floor, confused and angry, his own shield sinking into the mud beside him. The Viking threw down his axe, mere inches from Ben’s face, something Ben was sure was no accident. The Viking then stood straight and proud, removed his helmet, and let his wild orange hair spill down his back. Ben’s throat tightened, as he shook his braids free, green eyes once again piercing Ben’s very soul.
“Wake up.” Hux said, his voice clear even through the rain.
“What?” Ben asked stupidly.
“I said – ”
“Wake up! Prince Ben, please, you must wake.” A small man was shaking his good shoulder, trying to rouse him. If the look of exasperation on his face were anything to go by, he could tell this man had been trying to get him awake for a while.
Ben cracked open his eyes, sitting up immediately. The man sighed with relief, and passed Ben a clean cloth.
“Thank you,” he grumbled, wiping the sweat from his face. The man brightened with a smile, and stood, offering his arm to shake. Ben grasped it, and stood as well, towering over the man.
“You are quite welcome. My name is Dopheld Mitaka, I’m to be your personal assistant during your stay with us. I’ve been studying up on your language in preparation.” Dopheld’s smile never wavered, and although Ben was suspicious, he was grateful.
“It seems like quite a few people know my language.” He said, popping his joints and cracking his neck. He had to admit, while his sleep was plagued with nightmares, at least the bed was very comfortable. He thought back to the Prince, Hux’s accent garbling the words but knowing them nonetheless. He also remembered that tall woman, Phasma, and her group of women that all seemed to understand them too.
“Yes, we were told quite some time ago that you would be coming. Were you not given ample time to get familiar with our ways?” Dopheld asked, concern on his face. Ben just grunted in response. “Ah, well. You’ll be here for a little while at any rate. The people here are generally not so welcoming, but if you make an effort, I’m sure they’ll be more than willing to help you.”
“Where am I?” Ben asked suddenly, looking around. This was a different building than he had been in the night before. The walls were made much better than the mud slathered wood of the other room.
“Birka, on the island of Björkö – ”
“No, no. I mean this room. This building.” He said, gesturing to the very clean and spacious area.
“Oh! Well as you are royalty, you’ve been moved into the main castle for the remainder of your stay. Last night you were in our medical ward. It hasn’t been used for many weeks, so our nurse was glad to be able to tend to someone.” Dopheld gestured to a large closet, where Ben’s clothes from the journey over had been dried and put away. “It is quite late in the day, I must ask you to be dressed in your finest. You are to meet our ruler today.”
“Hux?” He asked, images of his nightmare flashing before his eyes. The large horned helmet, the detailed axe, the poor slave being beaten…
“His father.” Dopheld amended, Ben watched as he subconsciously stood a little straighter.
“Oh.” Ben’s face must have fallen, because Dopheld smiled and placed a well-manicured hand on his shoulder.
“Prince Hux will not be in attendance, but you will make his acquaintance soon after meeting with the king.”
Dohpeld left to wait outside while Ben cleaned up and got dressed. Ben was surprised to see tools that he did indeed recognize laid out for him on a dresser of sorts; there were combs made of polished bone, tweezers and razors, and even an ear-cleaning device. Ben knew that meeting with the king was crucial for this shoddy marriage to go through, and plucked a few straw hairs away from his brow. While he was tweezing away, his mind started to wander back to Prince Hux, and how the man didn’t have a beard. He didn’t have any facial hair at all actually, and neither did Ben. He wondered if it had to do with personal preference like his, or if it were a more ceremonial, symbolic thing. He really wished he had been given at least a day to prepare for this whole endeavor before being shoved on a boat.
Dopheld had said his finest, so Ben dressed in his leather trousers, nice linen tunic, and secured it with a wide leather belt. He then placed his sword in its holster, and threw his cape over his shoulders. The cape he was most proud of, it was long and made of a beautiful embroidered silk. Cords and gold braid acted as trim for the cape, and the glittering tassels that hung from the sides shone as he walked. Giving himself a once-over in the polished stone that acted as a mirror before he left, his mother’s words echoed in his head.
You clean up well, Ben.
She had only ever said to him on one occasion, his last birthday, where he had deigned to wear his heavy crown. He hoped the Viking King would think the same of him, but more importantly, that Hux would.
With the rain gone, and the ground solid under his feet, Birka was absolutely beautiful. The lush green grass was soft, springing back up after every step. He could see the impressive naval fleet docked on the shore, longboats with intricate carvings set against glittering blue water. There was nary a cloud in the sky, but a gentle breeze that rolled off from the sea cooled his face. It wasn’t desolate either, there was in fact, quite a lot of activity. Ben noticed other ships at the shore, foreign ships from the East he didn’t recognize. People milled all around them as they walked across the large field, buying and selling with one another.
“Vikings trade?” Ben asked in disbelief, and Dopheld stopped in his tracks. They were just outside the grand hall, where Ben knew the royal head was waiting to meet him, officially.
“What did you just call us?” He asked, and for the first time, Ben saw hostility in eyes that didn’t belong to Hux.
“Isn’t that what you’re called? Vikings?” Ben asked back, feeling completely out of his depth. “That is what you are known as all over the world.”
“Is that what you see us as? Pirates? Look around you, do you see any plundering and pillaging here?” Dopheld took a warning step towards him, eyes narrowing to slits.
“Well, no, but – ”
“Our Scandinavian brothers get enough backlash as it is from your precious Charlemagne, being driven out of our homes unless we sacrifice our ways of life. We do not need you people painting our picture as barbarians and savages, when we are simply trying to sustain our culture. Were you not driven out by the Danish? Do you not understand what it is like to be eradicated?” Dopheld was close to yelling, and when people around him stopped their trading and stared, he cleared his throat. The man looked dangerously close to crying, and Ben’s stomach sank.
“I apologize, truly. I didn’t know that you all don’t actually call yourselves Vikings.” Ben placed a hand on his shoulder, much like Dopheld had done to comfort him that morning.
“Some of us do; the King, for example. He has grown tired of the simple prosperity we have enjoyed. He wants to join the Norse, and fight back against Charlemagne.” Dopheld sighed, and smiled sheepishly at Ben. “He says, ‘if they are going to treat us like barbarians, we’ll fight like barbarians.’” Dopheld chuckled.
Dopheld smoothed down his hair, putting himself back to rights, and motioned for the two guards at the front to open the large wooden doors. It was light and airy inside the hall, benches alongside the long walls, a small table here or there, but nothing else really taking up any space. Except, of course, for the large throne. Ben’s mother’s throne was made of a smooth stone, nothing fancy, no embellishments. This was a completely different story; it was huge, with a tall back, and made of finely polished wood. Intricate designs were carved into almost every surface – the arms, the back, even the legs had some detail work.
The man sitting on the great throne stood, and Ben fell to one knee in respect. He may have been royalty, but he knows the ranks just as well as anyone. The King was quite broad, much like Ben himself, but his height did not contest with Ben’s at all. The man was short, stocky, but had a glint in his eye that Ben thought should be intimidating. King Brendol had a long red beard, braided and braided again. The hair on his head was an aging grey, but it was combed neatly down his back. Brendol wore no armor, just a finely made leather tunic and leggings, and a thick red cape that was clasped over one shoulder. A silver brooch with a star burst design engraved into it held it closed.
“Rise, Prince Ben.” The man said, accent thick and proud, just like the others he had encountered. He walked down the two steps until he was level with Ben. Any other king would have remained on the higher platform, making his guests look up at him, Ben appreciated the honesty Brendol carried.
“Thank you, your Majesty.” Ben rose, meeting the king’s eye. They were brown, unlike his son’s. He couldn’t help but feel a trickle of disappointment, Dopheld told him that Hux wasn’t going to be there, but still, he had hoped.
“While I cannot apologize for the conditions you were subject to on your journey here, I must say I did hope for your journey to end more pleasantly.” Brendol’s voice was cold, and uncaring. It made Ben bristle, reminding him of his own long lost father.
“I must confess the weather was wonderful right until the storm last night.” Ben held his chin high, and the king smiled, never reaching hisi eyes.
“What is your opinion of us so far, Ben?” The King asked, clasping his hands behind his back and gesturing for Ben to follow as he began to walk toward the door.
“I have received nothing but kindness.” Ben lied, thinking of Hux’s grip on his collar.
“Is that so?” Brendol asked, a bushy eyebrow raised.
“Yes.” Ben replied, swallowing the need to complain about his wild son.
“Has Mitaka been good to you?” He shot a dark glance towards Dopheld, who was visibly shaking.
“Of course. I have a feeling the two of us will be quite good friends by the end of all this.” Ben said, smiling genuinely.
They reached the door, the guards opening it once again for them. The sun was bright against Ben’s eyes, after just adjusting to the softer light from being inside. The two walked out into the field, and Ben watched with a hesitant eye as more sailors docked on the shores, unloading large crates and barrels.
“Tell me Ben, have any of the women caught your eye? I realize last night you were indisposed, but, anyone at all?” The King strode over to a stand where a beautiful woman was selling fine silk scarves. Brendol perused the selection before picking out a small pale purple one, and giving what seemed like far too much money for it.
“Lady Phasma. She is quite striking.” Ben mumbed, trying to think of a way to handle this topic with care. He wasn’t sure how the Vikings treated homosexuality, if they were lenient of it like the Greeks and Romans, or if they were as harsh as Charlemagne was. Brendol laughed, startling the kind woman at the booth, and tucked the silk scarf into his tunic.
“Yes, she is isn’t she. The reason I ask is because as King, I strive to make all my guests comfortable. Whatever you need, food, drink, women, do not hesitate to ask.” Brendol walked away again, moving to another booth, this time inspecting sundials.
“Oh, well actually, your majesty, I uh,” Ben stammered, trying to catch up as Brendol moved from stand to stand, greeting his people as he went. “I have very little need. For women.”
“Good! I was hoping that would be the case. I can’t not offer though, you understand. I think you and I will get along quite well.” Brendol winked, thumping him hard on the back.
“I look forward to spending time with you, your Majesty.” Ben cracked a smile, relieved.
They wandered around the field, coming closer to the shore. A few men were on horseback, trotting along, exercising the animals so they wouldn’t become restless. Ben had only ever ridden on a horse once, for his last birthday. It had been an incredibly thrilling adventure, and he longed to do it again.
“I am quite the busy man, making sure my small island is safe from harm. You never know when an unsavory party is going to make anchor on our shores. How do you feel about battle?” Brendol asked, casually as possible. Ben thought that he had been wanting to ask this question for quite some time, and Dopheld’s prior comment gave Ben the answer the king wanted.
“I am quite good at it, your Majesty.” He tried to be humble. He had known the Vikings probably weren’t going to know who he was, as his tales never reached further than the Franks. Still, he had impressive stories that he would be honored to share, should he be asked.
“I’d expect you to be good at it, but do you like it?” Brendol pressed.
“Yes, I must confess I do.” Ben smiled, remembering the victory over the Danes.
“Splendid! What say you give us a demonstration then, of your skills?” Brendol clapped a hand on his shoulder, and steered him towards the main castle.
“Demonstration, your Majesty?” Dopheld, who had been following them as part of the security party, piped up.
“Why not? If the Prince says he is good, then let him show us.” Brendol cleared his throat and cupped his mouth. “Lady Unamo!” He yelled, the wind carrying his voice. A woman stepped into the sun from the shadows of the main castle porch, and curtsied.
“Please let Lady Phasma know there is to be a duel. Have her send her finest warrior to the field.” Brendol was excited, eager for a fight, and it showed in his face. Ben gulped.
“Your Majesty, if I may be so bold, Prince Ben has just recovered from a long journey, must we really make him spend his energy right away? I’m sure he would much rather like a tour of the grounds or – ” Dopheld tried, but he was silenced with a sharp look.
“Mitaka, ready Prince Ben for a wrestling match. Hand to hand combat, no weapons.” And with that, Brendol went inside, leaving Ben and Dopheld on the porch.
“Dopheld what the hell am I doing?” Ben asked, as he was being escorted to a fighting ring that had very quickly and efficiently been set up in the field.
“It is called Glima, your highness. There are two types, one for sport, and one for combat. You will be demonstrating for sport.”
“And what exactly does it entail?”
“Well, that depends on the King. If he calls for Brokartök, then you must grab onto leather straps, and use those to throw your opponent to the ground. If he calls for Hryggspenna, then you must hold onto the upper body itself and get any part of your opponent on the ground, and if he calls for Lausatök, well, that’s a little more aggressive. There are less rules, and more opportunity for injury. In terms of techniques allowed, it’s a little easier because you can use any hold you want to get your opponent down to the ground.” Dopheld was speaking too quickly, and Ben only registered half of what he said.
“Which do you think he’ll call for?” Ben asked, hoping for the latter one, something easy that he couldn’t mess up.
“Knowing the King, I’d say you should be prepared for Brokartök.” Dopheld winced, “It’s the most popular form we have.”
Ben had been instructed to remove his cape, boots, and tunic, left clad only in his trousers. He was then oiled up by two very star struck women, who kept rubbing more oil into his chest. While Ben was flattered, he was much more concerned with his impending match.
Saxon wrestling seemed much simpler; grab your opponent’s arms, and knock them to the ground. That was it really, and Ben was good at it, but all these rules and forms were making him self-conscious. He was not the best strategist, he liked to rely on brute strength most of the time, and this seemed to not work in his favor here.
The entire village had come out for this event, flags and music bright and cheerful going on in the background. Women and children were even in attendance, not afraid to get close to the ring. The noise all stopped abruptly, before bursting into cheers for an altogether different reason; the royal family had arrived. King Brendol was followed by who Ben recognized to be Lady Unamo, even though she had changed her clothing and hairstyle, another woman he didn’t recognize, and lastly, Hux.
In the light of the sun, Hux’s hair shone copper bright, braided loosely across one shoulder. His tunic was a deep purple, most likely made of silk if the shine was anything to go by. He looked none too pleased, a scowl firmly set onto his face. He followed the King to sit in a shaded area, and while the shade allowed his face to relax a little, he was still frowning. Ben stood up a little straighter, feeling Hux’s heavy gaze. He was suddenly grateful to be oiled up, he hoped his physique looked more impressive this way.
“Brokartök!” Brendol called out, causing a loud cheer to sound from the ever growing crowd. Rushed forward, and clasped a specially made belt around Ben’s waist, and additional belts on the lower parts of his thighs, which he then connected to the large belt with vertical straps.
“Remember,” Dopheld said low in his ear, “Grip the waist belt, and the thigh belt, and try to throw your opponent to the ground. Stand upright, do not push your opponent down with force, and make sure to walk counter-clockwise. Brokartök is about strategy, and fairness. No dirty tricks. You win by being the only one standing.”
“I understand. Thank you.” Ben nodded, reciting the rules again over and over in his head. Dopheld ran out of the ring, and the crowd died down, waiting in silence for the opponent to step in.
“Prince Ben, I challenge you to a match.” A familiar voice called from somewhere in the crowd.
The crowd erupted into thunderous applause, as Phasma entered the ring, donned in a cropped tunic top, and leggings. The same straps Ben wore were tightened around her toned waist and strong thighs.
“You can’t be serious?” Ben asked in disbelief, and Phasma laughed.
“The king asked me to find my finest warrior. So here I am.” She spread her arms wide, and turned for the crowd, her hair one large braid that was coiled close to her scalp. Ben imagined that much hair was heavy, and he was kicking himself for not putting his own hair back.
“Begin!” Brendol called from his shaded seating area, and Ben was suddenly aware that Hux’s eyes were on him, watching carefully. He needed to impress him, or else this he would deem Ben weak, and never want to marry him.
True to what Dopheld said, they began a slow waltz around one another, right foot forward in a counter-clockwise circle. Ben could almost see the gears shifting in Phasma’s head, as they circled. He knew nothing about this sport, but he figured his best option was to use his strength and get her off her feet, balance a key factor in whether she would kick his ass or not.
Suddenly, she darted forward, and gripped his belt so tightly he heard the creak of leather being stretched. Before she could get her other hand on one of his thigh belts, he twisted away, grabbing her own belt, and managing to wrap a hand around her left thigh’s strap. He lifted her with little difficulty, hoisting her to about shoulder height, getting ready to throw her down, but as soon as she was in the air, she extended her legs and swung them, creating momentum to jump out of Ben’s hold, hands now finding Ben’s belt and tossing him to the ground. Ben braced himself with his free hand, and pulled Phasma down to use as leverage for getting back up, but to his dismay, Phasma hadn’t fallen to the ground as he had hoped, and both were circling again.
They wrestled back and forth for a while, both staying just out of reach of the other’s grip, trying to catch their breath. Dirt was clinging to both of their skin, stuck to the oil had been rubbed onto them, sweat dripping down their necks. Phasma had every opportunity to yank on his hair, or bite him, or even knock him in the jaw, but she didn’t. The Vikings stayed true to the concept of fair game, Ben thought, remembering how the Saxons had cheered one another to drown a man in a swimming competition.
They lunged towards one another again, and both held onto each other’s belts for dear life. They were both thrown to the floor, and Ben tried desperately to be the first one to stand. They never let go of each other’s belts, which was proving to be the trouble with standing up. As soon as one would regain their footing, the other would pull them back down again by the thigh or waist. The crowd had split between cheering for Phasma and for Ben, the voices getting louder with each attempt to stand. Phasma nearly won, if Ben didn’t roll them over so that he had her pinned to the ground. Using her knees as leverage, Ben pushed himself up off the dirt and stood proud and tall, crowd louder than ever before. The Saxon had won against their best soldier.
He looked to the royal station, and met eyes with Brendol. He looked very pleased, and was slowly clapping. Lady Unamo had a strong glare going, and the woman Ben didn’t recognize was looking at him thoughtfully. Hux was nowhere to be seen. Ben’s stomach sank, did he do something wrong? Had he broken a rule that he didn’t know of? He tried to find Dopheld, but even he was absent. Phasma stood, and brushed the dirt off her hands before offering one to Ben.
“That was a good match. I’d like to do it again sometime.” She didn’t seem angry with him at all, in fact, she seemed impressed.
“Thank you. You nearly won there a couple times.” Ben smiled, trying to be friendly.
“Yes, I’ll have to bulk up, and then maybe I can lift you over my head.” She grinned, all teeth again.
“Prince Ben, I challenge you to a match.” Hux was standing at the edge of the ring, bare chested and belt-less. Oiled up just as Ben had been, he strode closer and closer, until he stepped in front of Phasma.
Up close, Ben could appreciate the way his lashes fluttered in the breeze, the fury behind his eyes not deterring him from wanting to kiss the pale lids closed. He saw Hux had freckles sprayed across his cheeks, which were beginning to redden from the sun. Hux did not coil his braid into the sort of bun Phasma was wearing, instead he let it hang, shrugging it off his shoulder.
“What style will you have?” Brendol called from the shaded pavilion, and Hux grinned darkly, reaching for Ben’s belts. He quickly undid the clasps, and they fell to the floor with a light clink.
“Lausatök!” He called back, and the crowd erupted once more.
Ben didn’t have a moment to collect himself, before Hux was on him. He was learning that Hux was very very fast, and was not adverse to playing dirty. With a rough hand in his hair, Hux climbed up Ben’s body, wrapping his legs around Ben’s middle, and throwing them both to the ground. Ben managed to roll them over so that he was on top of Hux, trying to pin him with his knees, as he had done with Phasma. He soon discovered that was a mistake, because Hux had seen it coming, grabbed Ben’s right arm with one hand, and wrapped around his right thigh with the other, pushing Ben onto his back. They both began to stand, Hux still grabbing Ben’s thigh, before grabbing a handful of Ben’s ass.
Ben felt his face go very hot, and prayed he didn’t get turned on by such a simple touch, nothing intimate about it. Any arousal he may have experienced was quickly extinguished, as Hux brought his foot around Ben’s leg, tripped him, and threw him down to the ground. Using his lithe frame, he twisted out from the lowly single arm Ben had been gripping him with, and stood, victorious. Once again, the crowd roared loudly for their Prince, and Ben’s win was all but forgotten.
The entire ordeal took maybe thirty seconds, Ben thought, as he blinked very quickly, trying to will the shock away. Hux extended an arm, and helped Ben up in a show of good sportsmanship, and then he stepped very close. So close, that Ben had to hold his breath, close enough that he almost went cross-eyed, trying to maintain eye contact.
“Don’t underestimate me.” Hux hissed, placing a sweaty palm on Ben’s bare chest, shoving him away. He strode back down the field, exiting from the same area that he had entered from. The crowd parted for him, cheering and congratulating him. Ben couldn’t help but frown at the look of elation that was suddenly on Hux’s face, not understanding what the hell he was going to have to do to get Hux to smile at him like that.
“Prince Ben!” Dopheld ran onto the field. “Prince Ben you were amazing! For your first try to win against Lady Phasma is frankly something shy of a miracle.”
“Thank you Dopheld. What about with Hux? How did I do?” He was out of breath, both from the fighting, and from something else that could only be described as Hux’s presence.
“To be fair, no one has ever won a match against Hux. He’s so fast that his matches don’t last particularly long, and when you combine that with him always winning, well…not many people challenge him.” Dopheld smiled. “Come, let’s get you cleaned up, and then we can all have dinner. You must be starving!”
Ben had never felt so clean in all his life after the long hot bath he was able to enjoy. The scalding water felt like Heaven on his sore muscles, and his hair was scrubbed until the water ran clear down his face. Dopheld had told him that the Vikings bathed at least once a week, which was twice as often as he knew Saxons did. While he was in the bath, he was given a bristled brush and soap to even clean his teeth with! Every minute he stayed in Birka, he found that the Vikings were not nearly as savage as his mother – and the rest of the world, really – had made them out to be.
He was slowly learning the terms of things too, with the help of Dopheld. The grand hall that he was to report to for dinner was called a sal, Lady Phasma was both a Freya, meaning Lady, and a Hersir in their Military. Dopheld explained Hersirs as being the highest ranking military member, and Ben surely felt it in his sore arms. She had not been very easy to lift.
Eventually, the water grew cold, and he dressed in the same clothes from earlier that day, only changing his trousers since they had gotten so dirty from fighting. This was supposed to be the official welcome feast, the one that would have been held the previous night, if that damned storm hadn’t come out of nowhere and capsized the ship.
Dopheld was waiting for him outside his room once again, and the two walked down the hall of the main castle, to the sal.
“When you enter, you will be seated to Prince Hux’s left. Lady Phasma will be to your left, and Lady Unamo to hers.” Dopheld listed off the order on his fingers.
“Where will you be?” Ben asked, not wanting to be too far from the only person he could really consider a friend here.
“I’ll be sitting at one of the tables in the hall, it doesn’t really matter for me. But that will be your assigned seat, more or less.” He smiled, watching Ben's eyes grow wide.
“You mean I will always sit next to Prince Hux?” Ben asked, trying his best to sound nonchalant.
“Yes, that’s the hierarchy we follow.” Dopheld grinned, and playfully poked Ben's side with his elbow.
“Are there any rules I have to follow?” Ben suddenly grew anxious, he didn't want to mess up in front of Hux. In front of the entire sal no less.
“No no, just relax and be merry!" Dopheld laughed, and nodded to the guards.
The guards opened the doors to the sal, and everyone inside cheered at Ben’s entrance. He saw Poe sitting with the men from his ship seated among the Vikings, which he was thankful for. Ben had been worried that they would be isolated, but it seemed they were already making friends. Everyone at the royal table looked up from their conversations to smile at him, everyone except Hux. Ben tried to not let his face fall, instead smiling back at Brendol, Phasma, and Unamo.
“Welcome Prince Ben!” Brendol’s voice boomed, silencing the cheering. “We have prepared this feast, so you may know your stay here will be among friends and bretheren. Please, take your place at my table, and enjoy!”
The room cheered once, raising their goblets for Ben as he passed them. He walked behind the royal table, and gently pulled his chair out from underneath the linen cloth. Everyone cheered again as he took his seat. Phasma smiled at him, and bumped her shoulder against his. He smiled back, and she turned to continue her conversation with Unamo.
“Hello.” Ben said, quietly and just to Hux. The Prince turned to stare him dead on, brow furrowing in the center of his forehead.
“Hello.” Hux replied curtly, before turning to the man who began serving their food.
Ben couldn’t seem to get another word in as more and more people showed up, piling food high onto his plate. Kebabs of savory meat were stacked onto one another, and while they smelled divine, Ben couldn’t place what sort of meat it was. Then came salted fish, slices of pork, cubes of goat and plenty of fresh bread straight from the oven. Ben had never had so much food at once, let alone all these different types of meat on his plate together. Mead was never in short supply, and Ben gratefully chugged it down.
“How do you like the food?” Phasma asked, delicately cutting her fish with her knife.
“Oh it’s delicious!” Ben smiled, swallowing down a chunk of meat from his skewer. “I don’t think I’ve ever had something like that, can you tell me what it is?”
“Horse.” Hux answered, right before taking a chunk of the meat between his teeth and ripping it off the skewer. He stared at Ben as if daring him to comment, but Ben wouldn’t rise to the bait.
Ben swallowed carefully trying not to choke, and then discreetly washed the taste down with mead. He had heard stories of pagans eating horsemeat, but had thought they were only rumor. Now he was dining with them, and he liked it. Guilt and shame bubbled up to the surface, but he pushed it down with more drink.
“Whoever they were, they were very tasty.” Ben tried smiling, but Hux’s expression darkened and he turned away again.
He watched as the sun went down, and people began to light candles around the sal. Conversation had been high spirited and fun, if the laughter were significant of anything. He watched as Poe clinked his cup with his new friends, and the four of them tried to see who could chug their drink the fastest. Dopheld was happily listening to a burly man talk about his latest trading expedition to an Eastern country they called Russia. Dopheld looked positively smitten with the man, and gave animated responses. The woman that Ben didn’t recognize was wearing a light purple silk scarf, the one the King had purchased from the merchant. He debated asking Hux who she was, but when Hux decidedly ignored the tap on his shoulder, Ben sighed and turned to Phasma and Unamo instead.
“Hello, I don’t believe we’ve been properly introduced.” Ben started, giving Unamo what he hoped was a charming smile.
“I am Lady Unamo, Phasma’s wife.” She smiled back, laughing at Ben’s stunned face. “What, you are to marry a man, but you cannot think of a woman having a wife?” Unamo grinned, shaking her head. “Saxons are silly people.”
“We are indeed.” Ben smiled, feeling exactly that; silly. “I was wondering,” he started, voice low, “Do you happen to know who the woman is, sitting to the King’s right?”
“That would be Queen Maratelle. She does not come from Scandinavian blood, so she generally keeps to herself.” Unamo said, shrugging.
“She comes to feasts and events, but for the most part she likes to travel and keep up with her education.” Phasma whispered, they were all grateful for the noise of the party.
“Thank you, I felt silly.” Ben smiled, using Unamo’s word. Unamo smiled back, and Ben thought that they might become friends.
“You are welcome. Don’t expect to get a formal meeting from her, she is quite the cold woman really.” She whispered, returning to her food not wanting to prolong the conversation in such proximity to the woman herself.
Things soon became awkward for Ben, he kept wanting to initiate conversation with Hux, but the man didn’t have any interest in even looking at Ben. For most of the night, Hux spoke with his father, or ordered more to drink. He once or twice leaned over Ben to speak with Phasma, a friendliness in his voice that was starting to irritate Ben. Still, he tried.
“I had a great time wrestling with you.” He said, grasping his knife for grounding support.
“You did?” He frowned, looking at him. Ben nodded enthusiastically, not caring that he probably looked like a crazed man.
“Yes! I have never participated in Glima before, I was glad to be able to give it a try.” His cheeks burned, he had been glad to be so close to Hux. They were closer while they were wrestling than they are now, sitting side by side. He got to feel Hux’s smooth freckled skin, roll around in the mud… he cleared his throat and took a sip of his drink.
“That was your first time?” Hux’s eyes widened in surprise. Ben thought back to Dopheld being surprised he hadn’t given any sort of crash course on Viking culture; maybe Hux had been under the impression Ben was prepared too.
“Yes. Back where I come from, wrestling is much less organized. Less rules, and no sportsmanship. I liked Glima, it’s fair. In Saxony, we are encouraged to do whatever we can to win a match, in any sport really. Biting, kicking, spitting, choking, drowning, it’s all encouraged. I liked that there was some order, and that I lost to you fairly.”
“And they call us savages.” Hux muttered. Ben’s heart stuttered then, because he saw the corners of Hux’s mouth lift into a very small, albeit pleased smile. Maybe there was hope for them yet.
By the time dessert came around, Hux was more and more willing to speak with Ben. As the two men finished their plates, they had discussed fighting techniques, and compared sporting activities back and forth. Ben’s shining achievement had been making Hux laugh, when he described skin-pulling, where two people would each grab end of an animal hide, and try to tug the other person onto the ground.
“The loser falls into a mud pit? That’s terrible!” Hux laughed, a short burst of air that lit up his entire face.
“Sometimes it would be done over a fire, so the loser would stumble into hot rocks.” Ben smiled, Hux laughing even harder, his face scrunching up.
“Have you ever participated?” He asked, wiping his eyes.
“Occasionally. My favorite sport has to be the weight lifting.” Ben shrugged, not wanting to come across as too cocky.
“And what pray tell does that involve?” Hux smirked, brushing a strand of loose hair behind his ear. Ben watched the movement carefully, he had wanted to tuck away the hair all night, but had been too afraid of upsetting Hux that he kept his hands firmly to himself.
“Nothing too fancy, it is a competition to see who can lift the heaviest boulder.” He explained.
“Boulders?” Hux raised an eyebrow, that amused smile returning to his lips.
“Yes, if you’d like to know, so far my record is two mitta.” Ben offered shyly, hiding his burning cheeks in his cup.
Hux’s eyes went wide, and Ben was treated to the lovely sight of a blush creeping across the bridge of his nose, all the way across his cheeks to the tips of his ears. Ben knew it was an impressive weight to be able to lift, and he did not do it without strain, but he was very pleased that the weights and measurement system was at least somewhat similar here. Saying “I could lift six of you above my head at once,” would have sounded too arrogant. Even if it were true.
The same men who came to bring their dinner brought their dessert, fresh fruit that was clean and ripe. They also brought buttered bread, and drizzled honey overtop. Ben thought it was quite extravagant, to have both fruit and honey bread, but he wasn’t going to complain. Everyone was excited for one particular fruit, a small red berry that looked to have several small seeds embedded into its flesh.
“Have you eaten a strawberry before?” Hux asked, a gentle smile on his face.
“No, is it safe?” Ben hesitated, before sniffing the berry. It had a very sweet aroma, and Ben was certain they didn’t grow these anywhere near his castle.
“Of course it’s safe! Don’t be daft, we wouldn’t poison you on your first feast here.” Hux playfully shoved Ben’s shoulder.
“How do I eat it?” He held up the strawberry and Hux chuckled, plucking it from his hand.
“Pull off the leaves at the top, and bite into it. You can eat the whole thing.” He demonstrated by doing just that. Ben watched as the strawberry stained his lips a gorgeous red.
“Won’t the seeds grow in my stomach?” Ben asked warily, remembering how his mother always told him to spit out the seeds of cherries. Hux laughed loudly then, drawing the attention from everyone at the royal table, and the few tables that were close to them.
“No, they will not. Now would you please try it?” Hux gestured to the large pile of them on his plate, and Ben quelled his fears. He had already eaten horsemeat, he figured he couldn’t really do worse than that.
He bit into the strawberry, and was surprised by how much juice each one contained. They were firm, yet he bit into them easily. He hummed around them, his way of telling Hux they were good. Hux smiled, and tore off the leaves of one of his own berries and popped the whole thing in his mouth.
One by one, people started to leave the sal. Night had fallen hours ago, and the candle light was getting low. Maratelle had left after she first finished her dessert, giving a kiss on the cheek to Brendol as her only goodbye to anyone. Brendol himself had begun to snooze into his mead, and Lady Unamo took it upon herself to escort him back to the main castle. Phasma joined her soon afterwards, and Hux also eventually bid his farewell, before exiting the hall. Dopheld had retired with the large man he was sitting with, and Poe and his men had long since lost the drinking competitions, and were all passed out in their beds somewhere.
With the sal empty like this, Ben was given a moment to breathe. He had much to do, namely, write to his mother. But after the journey to Birka, and the wrestling matches from earlier, Ben found he was too tired to put together a coherent enough sentence to his mother’s liking. That would have to wait until the morning, as he was exhausted.
He left the sal and walked towards the main castle, pulling his cape around his shoulders to fend off the cold. He heard a few voices giggling, and wanted to give them privacy. Until he heard his name being whispered between the soft laughter, then he was curious.
“Curse it all, Gwen, he’s so charming.” Hux’s voice came into earshot, and Ben stood frozen like a deer caught in a trap.
“Tige, you are to marry him. Being charming isn’t a bad thing in this case.” Phasma replied, her voice laced with laughter.
“I just. I don’t like being wrong.” Hux huffed. Ben couldn’t see in the dark, but he imagined that Hux was crossing his arms over his chest.
“I know darling. You had every right to your suspicions, his life is much different than our own.” Phasma reasoned, and the two started to walk in the direction that Ben was hiding. He scrambled quickly and quietly to hide around the corner, body ramrod straight to minimize being seen.
“I suppose I’m scared.” Hux said, voice so low Ben was sure the wind had to have carried it to his ears.
“Armitage Hux, scared? I never thought I’d see the day.” Phasma sounded genuinely surprised.
“Oh shut up. Father says I’m to return with him to Saxony and rule the throne there. I don’t like the thought of leaving home.”
“Did you ever stop to consider he might also be scared, being so far from his home?” The two of them stopped walking, standing right in front of the main castle doors.
“When did you become the voice of reason?” Hux asked, bracing an arm against the door.
“I always have been and you know it.” Phasma knocked on the door, and the two waited for a guard to open it for them.
“I was hoping to invite him to the springs tomorrow. Do you think that would seem too forward?” Hux sounded nervous, and Ben’s palms grew sweaty. He wanted to jump from around the corner and take Hux by the hands, telling him a day at the springs sounds nicer than any day he’s ever had.
“Not at all. I think some alone time is just what you two need.” She must have made some rude gesture, because the sound of a playful smack sounded, just as the doors opened.
“Oh don’t be so vulgar, Gwen.” Hux had a smile in his voice. The two started walking inside, and before the door closed, Ben could hear a faint, “Do you know he told me he could lift a two mitta boulder above his head...?"
Ben released a deep breath he hadn't realized he had been holding, and slumped against the wall. Hux wanted to spend time with him, alone time!
“Do you wish to enter, Prince Ben?” the guard caught sight of him, and reopened the door fully.
“Yes! Yes, thank you sir. Good night sir.” Embarrassed, he hurried inside, careful to take a different hallway.
He fell asleep to peaceful dreams, an excited anxiousness at tomorrow's adventure.
Hello everyone! Thank you so much for reading!
As i mentioned in the work's notes, I have a bizarre amount of knowledge on Vikings, so I tried to sprinkle some of that in this chapter with the wrestling! The types mentioned here were indeed real, and were a very important part of Viking festivities :)
For anyone who might be wondering, 1 mitta equals to about three hundred pounds. So when Ben says he can lift 2 mitta worth of boulder, that's roughly six hundred pounds! One of the vikings saw Prince Ben without a shirt on, said he had an eight pack. That Ben was shredded. They weren't wrong ;)
If you have any questions, or would like to chat in general, you can find me on tumblr as always, @babbushka ! xxxxx
Chapter 3: A Different Kind of Looking, A Different Point of View
That "eventual smut" tag has finally come to fruition! (un-beta'd, all mistakes are my own!!)
((SPOILER!)) This chapter has a VERY NSFW part towards the end, so if you'd like to skip that, things get steamy (pardon my pun) after the line “You belong somewhere beautiful.” to the line "Hux’s laugh rang loudly through the silent night." Hope you enjoy the chapter!!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Ben rose with the sun in what can only be described as a positively giddy mood. After the mild success of conversation with Hux at the previous night’s feast, he had willed himself to a dreamless sleep – something he hadn’t had in many, many weeks. He could hear the hustle and bustle of the small village outside the castle, and was thankful for the gentle noise, it made him feel much less alone. Before he could start his day, he needed to write to his mother. She would be furious with him for waiting long enough as it was, and Leia’s wrath was not something Ben wanted to deal with any time soon.
Sighing, he wandered around his bedroom, and in his luggage he found rolls of parchment brought for this very reason. He also managed to find his wax and silver stamp, and a quill. His uncle Luke, who had given his mother these materials, was a Black Monk. Serving the Benedictine Order, he spent every day high in the mountains hand writing religious texts to better teach his monastery.
Ben could still remember the last time he had spent any amount of time with his uncle; it hadn’t been very pleasant. When Ben was no older than twelve, Leia had grown worried about his emotional outbursts, his violent tendencies, and his overall rebellion against authority. She brought him to the monastery under the guise of a royal visit to the nearby village, and all but dumped him onto Luke’s doorstep. He lived in the monastery for an entire year, too young to navigate the lush woods on his own in the dead of winter. He did not regard that year with fondness, the memories of explosive tantrums and screaming matches with his uncle still very painful.
When the year was up and the snow thawed, Ben ran away and camped in the woods for all of three days before the royal guards picked him up and swiftly delivered him to his mother’s castle. He had gotten into an argument with her that had been heard throughout the entire kingdom, earning him the reputation he now fought so hard to change. And he had begun to change it, with victories and successes, with kindness towards his kingdom, and getting a handle on his temper. And she had shipped him away, again, just as the tides were beginning to change.
He began, not wanting to appear too formal. There was always a chance Leia could think he hired someone else to write this letter, her trust in him never very strong.
I am penning this letter as per your instruction. I must confess, I do not know what you want me to convey in this message, but I have landed on the shores of Birka, a town on a small island in Sweden, again, as per your order. Commander Dameron has delivered me within the week-long time frame he no doubt gave to you, and we encountered pleasant weather for most of the journey.
My stay here has been brief, but so far it seems I have won the approval of the Vikings by demonstrating my skill at one of their most popular sports – wrestling. Did you know they have no qualms about women participating in sport? In fact, the women here participate in everything, banking, mathematics, some women even run the family farm if their husband is deceased, or out in battle. They’re in charge of every sort of record keeping and some even run shops that trade with various merchants.
I’m sure you’re aware, but the Swedish Vikings do not pillage or plunder like their Scandinavian brethren to the West. These Vikings mostly trade, and travel to the East, to a country they call Russia.
I have met with the King, a stoutly man by the name of Brendol. His son, Armitage (to whom I am to be wed) has also been introduced to me. He did not seem to like me at first, but I do believe there can be some winning him over. I am to spend the better part of the day with him, and I can only hope that we may find some commonalities.
I can hear Commander Dameron at my door, so I will end this correspondence here. I await your letter with any further instructions you may have for me.
If I may ask one thing,
He paused, not knowing whether Leia would have any idea about this at all, but eventually decided to continue. It didn’t hurt to ask, the worst she could do was say she had no idea.
At the battlefield, a soldier by the name of Thanisson brutally beat a young penal slave. I know it is acceptable to do so because the man was in possession of a stolen spear, but I believe the beating had gone on too long. I would like to see Thanisson punished in some way, or at least the information of the slave found and delivered to me. It has been plaguing my dreams and I feel I must rectify this, or else my conscious may never be clear.
“Come in Poe!” Ben called to the door, holding his wax stick over a candle, letting it drip onto the now folded parchment. Poe came in just as Ben was pressing the silver stamp into the molten wax, leaving behind the imprint of his family crest.
“Good morning your highness, you’re up early today.” Poe was chipper as usual, but there was a hesitancy to his step that made Ben uneasy. Poe had been a member of the Royal Navy as soon as he could join, but he and Ben had grown up together. Poe was the closest thing to a true friend Ben could say he had.
“I hope to spend most of it exploring the town.” His stomach flipped, remembering Hux’s words to Phasma the night before.
“That sounds wonderful. Is that for your mother?” Poe asked, gesturing to the parchment that Ben was clutching in his hands.
“Yes, she wanted me to write to her as soon as we docked, but I’m just now getting around to it. I don’t know where I’m going to find someone to deliver it to her.” He sighed, and Poe laughed.
“Your sense of humor is slipping.” He said, holding a hand out.
“What?” Ben asked, Poe finally taking the letter out of his hand when he didn’t give it over.
“Well of course I’m taking the letter. The Queen wants us heading back today.” Poe cast his eyes down, and rubbed the back of his neck. He was nervous, very little managed to make Poe nervous.
“Today? But it’s not even been a week! Why does she want you back so suddenly?” Ben panicked, not wanting to be abandoned.
The entire trip over, Ben had tried to think positively about his situation, and the main thing he had going for him was at least he would have some familiar faces around him if things got bad. People who understood his customs and language, knew his history, knew the jokes and stories and songs that were popular in his kingdom. He never thought that Poe and the men from the boat would be leaving him. Although, now that Poe had said it, it seemed obvious. Why wouldn’t they go back? Poe was the best Commander in the navy after all, his duty was to Leia, not to Ben. The men from the boat had families they needed to return to, possibly even children. Who was Ben to be so selfish – only the Prince.
“She didn’t say, but I do have my orders. I’m sorry Ben.” And he did look sorry, so much so that it pained Ben. Poe was his friend, and he was going to forget all about him while he wasted away on this tiny seafaring island.
“You can’t just leave me here Poe, what am I supposed to do?” Ben asked, scared out of his mind.
“You’re supposed to become friends with the people here, as well as your fiancée.” Poe reminded, placing a hand on his shoulder. Ben scowled. Of course his mother would do this to him, just like she did when she abandoned Ben on the steps of Luke’s monastery. Why did everyone assume Ben made friends easily? What part of six foot three inches, two hundred pounds of muscle, intimidating face, socially inept, and anger management problems said “come talk to me” in bright lights?
“I know I didn’t spend much time with you or the others yesterday and I’m sorry but – ” Ben couldn’t believe he was resorting to begging.
“Ben this isn’t about that at all. You will be okay. I’ve heard the talk among the Vikings, they like you. They want to get to know you.” Poe pulled him into a hug, the first one Ben had gotten since he departed for the battle with the Danes two months ago.
“If you say so.” He muttered, defeated.
“I do. Now get dressed, I believe there’s a certain red headed heathen waiting for you in the courtyard.” Poe chuckled, and Ben’s head snapped up. Hux was waiting for him?
True to Poe’s word, Ben tried to be as collected as possible when he saw two horses waiting patiently in the courtyard. Neither had an owner, but Ben could only assume they belonged to Hux. Ben’s stomach clenched with anxiety, he wasn’t very skilled at riding, and wanted to make a good impression. The horses themselves were beautiful Nordsvenk stallions. One was almost completely black with a little bit of brown around his mouth, and the other was a beautiful chocolate color. Both had their manes braided down the side in intricate designs secured with golden clasps. Ben wondered which one Hux rode.
He approached them slowly, offering a hand out to each so they could smell him and eventually they allowed him to brush a hand down their nose. Ben couldn’t help but laugh when they snuffled, shaking their mane and whinnying in delight at being scratched under the chin.
“Magnificent, aren’t they?” A voice came from behind him, and Ben whirled around to see his betrothed standing with an amused smile. Ben had no idea how long Hux had been there, and his face went hot with embarrassment.
“Yes, they’re gorgeous.” He smiled, walking over to him.
Hux wore his hair similarly to the style of the night Ben arrived; one large braid going down the center of his head, with a braid on either side that stayed close to his scalp. His long hair gently waved in the breeze, and Ben wanted to comb his fingers through the loose strands. He wore a clean tunic embroidered in gold, red leggings and red boots. He looked radiant, the pale skin of his throat entirely too inviting without any furs to cover it.
“Do you have any of your own, where you come from?” Hux asked, stepping closer to the horses, pulling out an apple from his satchel he carried. He fed it to the brown horse, who eagerly bit into the fruit. Ben assumed that the black horse was for him, and when Hux dropped an apple into his palm, he was correct.
“We do, but I don’t have one personally. I did get to ride one last year, for my birthday.” Ben laughed as the horse’s mouth tickled against his palm, as the beautiful creature tried to take the entire apple from his fingers.
“Would you like to ride one again today?” Hux asked, wiping his hands off on his tunic.
“That depends.” Ben said, jumping up onto the horse in one swift motion. He was proud of himself for remembering how to do such a feat.
“On?” Hux asked, doing the same. Ben was startled by how lovely Hux was, exuding nothing but power and strength, bathed in the golden light of sunrise.
“On whether you’d be accompanying me.” Ben grinned, tossing the hair out of his eyes in a manner he hoped would come across as seductive.
“I thought I might take you on a tour of some nice places we have. There’s a hot spring few of us know of, it’ll be good for your muscles.” Hux blushed, a rosy glow rising to his cheeks.
“They are a little sore.” Ben admitted, Hux had really kicked his ass at wrestling the day before.
“Only a little?” Hux teased, his grin wide and toothy.
“When do we depart?” Ben asked, looking down to hide his own blush. When he didn’t get a reply, he looked back up and saw Hux galloping away, already at the edge of the courtyard.
“Do try and keep up!” Hux called over his shoulder, and Ben cursed, prodding his horse to go running to catch up.
They rode across the field and down the shore, waving to all the merchants and villagers they passed. It was a race between the two of them, each urging their horse to go just a little faster. They laughed together as Ben was nearly choked by a clothes line, ducking at just the last moment, the woman doing laundry giving them a playful shaking of her fist. The longer they rode, the farther from the village they went. It was still very early in the day, they had left just after dawn and were by no means tired. Ben had no idea of the geography, and Hux would point out small villages to him as they passed them.
The countryside was nearly as stunning as it was in Birka; nothing but wide open plains of green and golden grass that swayed in the gentle breeze. They rode along creeks and rivers, stopping every hour or so to let the horses have some water to drink, and some food that Hux procured from one of the many packs he had brought. They traveled through fields of wildflowers, beautiful small petaled things that gave off a sweet aroma, and bathed their view in white and yellow.
They didn’t speak much in the beginning, just enjoying the feeling of the wind whipping through their hair. As to not tire out the horses too quickly they slowed to a gentle trot, and for a while, remained in amicable silence. Ben had never seen such beauty in a landscape before, he was accustomed to grey skies, and mud, and cold. But here, in even the Spring, the wind was only ever harsh on his eyes when they raced.
Hux would point out different names of rivers, or of animals they passed on their trip – animals Ben had never seen before! So far the most strange one was a huge brown mammal, with the body of a horse, but the antlers of a deer. Except, they didn’t have a long tail or mane, and these antlers were much larger than that of any deer Ben had ever seen. They were covered in a sort of fur that created a halo effect when caught the midday light. Hux had laughed loudly, spooking the creature, informing Ben that no, moose were not carnivores, and no they would not attack them.
Four hours into the journey, they came across a large settlement nestled along the shore, and Hux slowed their pace down until they both came to a stop. Jumping off the horse, Hux gave her an affectionate pat on the nose, before letting her off to graze. Ben followed the motions, and stretched his legs.
“We’ve arrived at Älvsborg. If we go any further North, we’ll be in Norway.” Hux brushed his hair over his shoulders. Ben tracked the movement with his eyes and that feeling of wanting to tangle his hands in it was once again too strong for him to ignore. Luckily, a small braid was caught tucked in Hux’s tunic, and Ben was close enough to reach out and gently free it from its confines. Hux stared at him, not moving. Ben cleared his throat removed his hand, but not stepping away.
“Are we going to Norway?” He asked, voice low and hoarse from all the laughter and gleeful shouting from their journey. He was only a little nervous about going to Norway, while the Vikings in Sweden were mostly peaceful, the same could not be said for those to the North.
“No, we’re going to Iceland.” Hux shook his head, pointing to the sea.
“Iceland is an island, is it not?” Ben asked, confused.
“Oh, it is. If we are strong, we can make it in about three hours.” Hux’s eyes lingered on Ben’s exposed biceps, which had begun to tan lightly from the exposure to the morning sun.
“I don’t see a boat.” Ben frowned, he didn’t think swimming across the sea was feasible, but he would do it if Hux asked. He heard tell of people swimming the Channel, if that could be done, then maybe this could too.
“No, that’s why we need to visit my brother in the fortress just over the hill. He’ll provide us with a longboat, and hopefully some lunch.” Hux gestured to the settlement just over the nearest hill.
“You have a brother?” Ben’s eyebrows shot up, why had no one mentioned this to him?
“Yes, he is younger than me by two years. He is the ruler here, along with his husband. I’ve already sent word that we would be arriving.” Hux gave no further information, instead turning to his packs.
“You knew I would come with you today?” Ben asked, voice almost a whisper.
“I had hoped.” Hux’s reply was just as soft, the breeze carrying it to Ben. Hux was facing away from Ben still, but he hoped Hux was blushing.
“Armie!” A shrill shout called from the top of the hill, breaking whatever tension had just surfaced between them. Both Ben and Hux turned abruptly at the sound, Hux much more thrilled than Ben probably felt. All Ben saw was a flash of bright yellow and suddenly Hux was on the ground, someone wrapped around his body in a vice grip hug.
“Techie!” Hux gave a winded, happy shout as he sat up, wrapping his arms around the ridiculously out of breath man.
“Techie, wait up!” Another man ran down the hill, joining them at the bottom, and gently peeling Techie off of Hux. Hux stood, with the help of the other man, and gave him a hug too.
“Matt, always a please to see you.” Hux smiled up at the man.
“Don’t be rude Armie, is this your fiancée?” Techie beamed, tucking his hair behind his ears. He looked like Hux in almost every way; long glossy red hair, pale freckled face, and the same exact facial structure. Ben almost doubted that they weren’t twins, but Techie did have a more youthful glow about him. His eyes however, were a brilliant blue, supernaturally so. He wore his hair down, a single braid behind his ear swaying in the breeze. The flash of yellow Ben had fixated on was his tunic, a bright dandelion color that Ben thought was very cheerful.
“Techie please.” Hux chastised him, without any venom. “This is Benjamin, Prince of Saxony. Ben, this is my brother, Armitech of Clan Techie, and his husband, Matthew.”
Now that they had been introduced, Techie threw his arms around Ben in just as eager of a hug that he gave to his brother. Matt chuckled and extended an arm for Ben to shake, and Ben was grateful. Matt was a big guy, almost as tall and muscular as he was in fact, and while his eyes shone with friendliness, he wasn’t entirely certain the man wouldn’t accidentally crush him with his grip.
“You must be starving, I know it takes a couple hours to get to us. Please come inside, we’ve already set the table!” Techie was tugging on Hux’s tunic with so much excitement Ben was afraid the fabric would tear.
“All right, all right. Let’s get you back inside before you fall ill.” Hux smiled, throwing an arm over his shoulder.
“Hux, he can take my horse.” Ben called. Techie did look painfully slender, and pale enough that suggested he didn’t spend a lot of time outside. With Hux’s comment about him falling ill, Ben didn’t feel right riding the horse up while Techie walked. It wasn’t that long of a distance, or that steep of a hill, he could use the opportunity to stretch his legs.
“Oh no, Benjamin I couldn’t – ” Techie started to protest, but Ben wouldn’t have any of it.
“I insist, please.” He looked to Matthew, who seemed to understand, and the man turned to his husband.
“Benjamin and I can walk up behind you both, make sure you don’t drop anything.” He winked, and Techie gave them both a shy smile.
“Okay. Race you up the hill Armie?” Matt helped him onto the horse, and they were already trotting up the hill.
“You’re on.” Ben heard Hux laugh, the sound absolutely charming to his ears.
“Here, I’ll help carry some of the stuff.” Matthew offered, smiling warmly.
“Thank you, Matthew.” Ben smiled back.
“Oh, just Matt is fine. You’re going to be family after all.” Matt said with a wave of his hand.
“Then likewise, just Ben.” Ben thought he would get along with Hux’s family just fine.
They started to pile the bags onto their backs, diving it up evenly between the two of them. Matt looked like a soldier with the way his muscles were developed, he was light on his feet but still could carry a decent amount of luggage. A couple feet up the hill, Matt let out a short embarrassed laugh, that had Ben looking at him quizzically.
“I’m sure you’re too tired for it, but I can promise Tech is too excited to restrain himself, you’re going to be asked a ton of questions. He craves different point of views.” He explained, not entirely unapologetic.
“He doesn’t seem like he means any harm, I’ll be glad to answer any, from either of you.” Ben smiled.
“You have to understand, we don’t have many people marrying into the royal family that aren’t Vikings.” Matt once again looked sorry for saying it, but Ben was glad he did. Matt seemed like an incredibly honest person, and Ben appreciated it.
They had begun walking up the hill in earnest, the sun blazing in the sky right at high noon. Ben was glad Techie had apparently already prepared food for them, he hadn’t eaten anything at all so far on their journey. Ben willed his stomach to be silent, and tried to keep up the conversation, both as a way to distract himself, and to get to know his future brother-in-law, and his spouse. Ben wondered if there was a term for that, how he and Matt would be related.
“I don’t mean to offend, but you don’t look particularly Nordic yourself.” Ben joked, trying to remember what Poe had said. The people here wanted to get to know him, and that required dual sided conversations.
“I’m from the Faroe Islands. I know, my blonde hair gave me away, huh?” Matt laughed, a sheepish grin on his face. Ben had never heard of the Faroe Islands before, but then again, he hadn’t heard of many other places before now either.
“Yes, you’re the first person I’ve seen with that shade here. Although I shouldn’t be judging by appearances, Hux doesn’t look at all Swedish.” Ben laughed, remembering how he looked for anyone else with red hair during his morning with the King, and even in the crowd at the wrestling match.
“That’s because he isn’t.” Matt put the luggage down once they reached the top of the hill. Ben did the same, but put a hand on Matt’s arm as he had started to walk away.
“What?” He asked, confused.
“He and Techie both are Irish. I’m not sure if I should be the one telling you this though.” Matt said in a low voice, as they approached the giant fortress. Hux and Techie had already gone through the doors, having long since beaten them, their race finished. Hux had let Techie win, which had made Ben smile.
“It’s fine, I’ll ask him at some point.” He shrugged.
“You guys really don’t know each other, do you?” Matt laughed, waving to the guards. They opened the doors and the two men walked through.
“I met him last night. Well, we technically met two days ago, but he didn’t like me very much. I don’t think I made a good impression.” Ben rubbed the back of his neck, feeling embarrassed. He had barged right in without any introduction or warning on his night of arrival.
“It’s not just you, trust me. Hux is notorious for his mood. He got the aggressive gene from his father, that’s for sure.” Matt’s face darkened at the mention of the King, but Ben filed that away for something to ask later, maybe when they were all better acquainted.
“He’s taking me to something called a hot spring, in Iceland.” Ben said suddenly, causing Matt to stop in his tracks.
“Hveragerði? Really?” He turned around quickly, eyes wide.
“Yeah, why is that bad?” Ben felt a single drop of sweat roll down the back of his thigh, hyper aware of Matt’s eyes on him.
“No! No, quite the opposite actually. He doesn’t bring anyone to the hot spring.” He looked around, checking to see if the coast was clear, and pulled Ben into a tiny alcove. “You see, he gets into arguments with his father and because they’re both so angry all the time, it can get pretty bad.”
“I know all about that with my family.” Ben nodded, thinking back to the yelling match he had with Leia the night before he departed for Sweden.
“I don’t mean arguments, they physically hurt one another.” Matt explained, punching the air with his huge fists. “Whenever that happens, Hux goes to the hot spring. It helps heal his injuries and lets him have some alone time. It’s a safe haven for him.”
“I had no idea.” Ben whispered, own eyes wide with understanding. It took a great deal of trust for Hux to bring Ben somewhere so private, he was glad Matt told him; Ben swore to himself then and there he wouldn’t take advantage of this opportunity to prove himself to Hux.
“How long are you staying with him?” Matt asked, walking down the sunlit hall, as if nothing happened.
“I have no idea. I’m hoping to hear back from my mother in a few months’ time.” Ben sighed, not knowing how long the letter would get to her, and then how long again before she could dispatch someone – Poe or otherwise – to bring a reply.
“There’s rumor that you’re to take Hux back to Saxony with you.” Matt said.
“Yes, I’m taking Hux to my castle and we are to succeed my mother and rule together.” Ben replied, following Matt towards the smell of food.
“Where is the wedding taking place?” He asked, friendly and probably just trying to make conversation.
“I have no idea.” Ben laughed, scrubbing his hand over his face. God was he hungry.
“Wow you two really have much to discuss then, huh.” Matt laughed back, shaking his head.
They arrived at a beautiful room where a long wooden table was lavishly decorated with cut wildflowers and an abundance of fruit. The walls were made not of mud and wood, but of stone. Ben had only ever seen stone used in the cathedrals or monasteries in the south. The roofs were made with some sort of red tile, that cast a warm glow inside the hall, as the windows let in the afternoon sun. Through the windows Ben could see the glittering sea, and he didn’t think he had ever seen a more beautiful sight in all his life.
That was, of course, until Hux walked in. The reddish glow from the tiled roof and the golden light from the sun made him appear to be an angel, lit from behind as well as the side. His skin was radiant, the golden clasps in his hair glinting whenever he moved. Ben was so transfixed that he didn’t respond when Hux sat down in a seat and told Ben to sit next to him.
“Ben?” Techie asked, blue eyes swimming with nerves. “Is everything all right? Is the food not to your liking?”
“What? No, I’m sorry. I’m all right.” Ben quickly scrambled to sit down, embarrassed for staring at Hux for so long. Hux must have noticed, because he gave the smallest smile, but his eyes lit up.
“You’re in luck, the ships just returned yesterday from Miklagard.” Matt smiled at the two of them, taking his place in the seat next to Techie.
“Where is that?” Ben asked, wanting to know as much as possible about all these new places.
“It’s the capital of the Byzantine Empire, just across the Black Sea.” Hux supplied, very matter-of-factly.
“What sort of things do you get from there?” Ben asked, addressing this to anyone, but Techie took up responsibility for answering with an excited rush of words.
“Oh! Lots of things! Mostly wine, fruit and spices. We also get silk and jewelry. The traders have returned with so many wonderful goods, we just had to put some out for your arrival today. I’ve yet to try it myself, so I apologize if it doesn’t taste good.” He was rambling, but Ben found it endearing.
“Techie I’m sure it’s going to be delicious.” Matt smiled reassuringly, putting a gentle hand on his arm.
“Do you happen to know what everything is?” Ben asked, looking down at his plate with mild suspicion, but mostly interest.
“Yes! Here we have black caviar, which I’m told is quite the luxury, fava beans, olives with mustard seed, oh! This wine is called Kondition, it’s flavored with cinnamon, cloves, black pepper and something called spikenard! It’s supposed to be very sweet, please try some!” Techie grinned, lifting his cup up. They all touched their glasses together and took a sip of the wine, it was very sweet.
“Please, dig in.” Techie smiled, gesturing to the rest of the food that was on the table. Mostly breads and cheeses, with baskets of strawberries and apples; all foods Ben recognized.
“Thank you again for this, Techie.” Hux smiled at his brother. “But I’m afraid we can’t linger for too long.” Hux said this even as he was spreading butter onto a particularly fluffy piece of bread.
“Oh Hux, I’m just glad to see you under happy circumstances. You’re more than welcome to stay here after your trip. Your room hasn’t left since the last time you were here.” Techie grasped Hux’s hand with his own and gave him such a heartwarming smile that Ben had to look away, afraid to infringe on their privacy.
“No need, Ben and I will be staying at the small cottage next to the spring.” Hux cleared his throat, cheeks pinking up. Ben’s eyebrows rose, he hadn’t known they would be spending the night together. He hadn’t been told any details, only to keep up – which he had.
“Well in that case, I’ll have some of my men fix you up some food and drink to take with you.” Techie said, motioning to one of the guards who had undoubtedly been listening. The man nodded and disappeared, most likely to the kitchen.
“That would be wonderful.” Ben piped up, swallowing down a heaping spoonful of mashed fava beans.
They ate and drank until all four of them were completely full, not a single bite left on any of their plates. Ben was surprised to find he liked all the foods, he never knew lunch could exist without meat of some sort, and was very happy he took the chance to try new things. After an hour or two of friendly conversation, Hux began watching the sun more noticeably.
“I hate to be the one to interrupt,” Ben started, all eyes in the room on him, “But I have never been to Iceland, and am not sure how long it takes to get there?” He could almost feel Hux’s relief.
“Oh goodness! I didn’t even notice the time. Matt, would you please tell the shipyard that my brother and Prince Ben are ready to depart?” Techie looked out the window, the afternoon was almost over, the sun red and low in the sky.
“Of course, my love.” Matt smiled, pressing a chaste kiss to Techie’s cheek.
Matt got up and quickly walked out of the room, calling to the shipyard in Swedish. Ben was proud of himself for recognizing some of the words, but he still had a long way to go before he could consider himself fluent.
“Come, I’ll walk you down.” Techie jumped up from his seat and beckoned the two men to follow him.
Ben hadn’t seen a longboat up close like this, well, ever. They were so much larger than he thought! Seeing them docked on the shore at Birka they still seemed so far away, but now that he was looking at it, he was in awe. The body of the ship was beautifully carved, where the head of a sea serpent acted as the head at the front of the ship, and the back was carved into a curled tail. It notches for nine oars on either side, and there was a beautiful sail of blue and yellow stripes already hoisted up and gently swelling with the breeze.
“Wow.” Was all Ben could say.
“It’s Hux’s, whenever he visits Iceland this is the ship he takes. They know the sail so well no one ever bothers him.” Matt was inside the ship, putting the luggage in with the help of some guards.
“You could use that as a battle tactic.” Ben pointed out. Slipping in undetected, operating as a friend when you’ve snuck in warriors.
“Why would we want to go to battle with Iceland?” Hux laughed, and Ben’s heart clenched. He loved when he could make Hux laugh, even if it was at his expense.
“Enough chat, you two better be off. We’ll be right here waiting for you when you return.” Techie smiled, pulling both Hux and Ben into a hug.
“I put enough food, drink, and supplies for three days, in case you decide to make it a vacation.” Matt told them, before stepping in to give them hugs as well.
“I doubt we’ll stay more than just the night, but thank you.” Hux chuckled, before boarding the ship. Ben followed, picking any seat, and they set sail.
Ben waved to Techie and Matt for as long as he could see them, watching as they disappeared into the horizon. The sun was kissing the water, not quite setting behind the horizon yet.
“Can I help with rowing?” Ben asked, as he watched Hux do all the work.
“No thank you,” Hux smiled, trying to show he meant no malice. “I’ve gotten so used to doing this myself, I think it might be faster for me to just do it.”
“I understand. But you know, soon you won’t have to do things on your own. If you don’t want to.” Ben said, keeping his voice gentle. Hux blinked but looked away, busying himself with steering the ship.
Hux didn’t respond, and so Ben remained silent the entire trip over. It wasn’t tense, or uncomfortable, and he was glad. He may have not wanted this marriage a week ago, but the more time he spent with Hux, the more he wanted to try and make this work. Ben watched as Hux adjusted the sail every now and again, or turned the main steering oar of the ship if the current changed.
They reached land just as the sun disappeared behind the water, leaving the sky in a beautiful twilight of crisp blues. There was still enough light to see, so they didn’t bother lighting torches, instead just carrying the luggage they brought with them up the shore and to a small cottage that could still be seen even in the low light.
The cottage was made of a dark brown wood, and had a roof made of wildflowers. Ben had never seen anything like it before, it was like someone planted a garden up there instead of on the floor. There was a short stone wall that created a small barrier around the property of the cottage. Hux procured a key from one of the bags, and unlocked the front door.
“Put your stuff down,” Hux said softly, breaking the companionable silence they had sustained for over four hours.
Ben didn’t even step inside the cottage, he placed his luggage right in the doorway, and then was quickly following Hux, who had begun to walk up a hill.
They walked for about an hour, thankfully the hike was nothing strenuous, mostly open plain. Ben was grateful for that, because the twilight had settled to dusk. As they grew closer, Ben could hear the quiet bubbling of a stream, and anticipation coiled in his stomach. The spring wasn’t very wide, but it was very long, and he followed Hux as they walked along the spring. Ben could see the steam rising from the water, and his body was yearning to soak.
Hux followed a branch of the stream that ended in a small circular pool, about the size of his bathtub. He stopped, and without turning back to face Ben, began to pull his clothes off, piece by piece. Ben was transfixed, watching as the silver moonlight turned Hux’s skin ethereally pale. He could see the shine of scars along his back as Hux took off his tunic. It was only when Hux kicked off his boots and began working at the fastenings of his leggings did Ben snap back to reality, practically tearing off his clothes. In his eagerness, he fumbled with the buckle of his belt and missed Hux slip off his leggings, only looking up when he heard the gentle splash of Hux submerging himself in the water.
With Hux already in the water, he watched Ben, his eyes hungry. Ben swallowed nervously, and dropped his belt, the leggings going with it. They pooled around his ankles, and Ben stepped out of them, simultaneously pulling the tunic over his head, tossing it aside to join the heap of clothing. His pulse spiked, it was their head of clothing. Ben stepped forward, naked as the day he was born, and watched Hux’s chest rise and fall. Hux never took his eyes from Ben, although he didn’t dare to look anywhere below his neck, and Ben knew Hux was just as nervous as he was.
With Ben mostly underwater, it was a tight fit. Ben was sure Hux came here often and was more than comfortable, but he was always by himself; he probably didn’t consider just how large his oversized fiancée would be. Their legs brushed, and after the fourth time it happened neither pulled away. Ben opened his mouth to say something, anything to break this tension, when a brilliant light rose into the sky.
Ben had seen the stars before, millions of little pinpricks in the sky. He could point out every constellation and tell the stories behind them. He could even read the phases of the moon, and tell when the best time to harvest crops will be. But the red and orange lights that danced in the sky were completely unknown to him. They were long ribbons of light, as if someone took a ribbon and stood it up on its side, and they pulsed in waves across the mountains. Hux watched them with wide eyes, mouth open in surprise.
“Norðrljós.” Hux whispered, swimming to the edge of the small pool. Ben didn’t recognize the word, but he didn’t care. He was finding Hux to be beautiful in whatever light source there was.
“What?” Ben whispered, not wanting to disturb the peace, but wanting to understand.
“Lights, the Northern Lights.” Hux tried to translate, his voice filled with awe. “I have only ever seen them in the winter.”
“They’re beautiful.” Ben stepped to edge next to Hux, their bare arms pressed together.
“They remind me of Bivrost, the bridge to Asgard.” Hux whispered, eyes tracking the movement of the lights.
“I don’t know what that is.” Ben admitted, hating his ignorance.
“It is where soldiers go after they have died. It is all Viking’s dream to do well in combat, to be allowed entry.” Hux spoke with passion, even if his voice was soft. Ben thought it must be their version of Heaven then.
“Is that where you want to go?” He asked, joining Hux in gazing up at the lights.
“Yes. The Halls of Valhalla, they are said to be beautiful.” Hux sighed, a dreamy smile on his face, relaxing into Ben’s side.
“You belong somewhere beautiful.” Ben whispered.
Hux turned to face Ben, and pulled his hand out of the water to press it against Ben’s cheek. Ben leaned into the touch, pressing his lips against the palm of Hux’s hand. Hux brought his other hand to Ben’s other cheek, and he kissed the second palm just the same. Hux’s hands were trembling, so Ben covered them with his own, before slipping one into Hux’s hair. The lights still danced above them, reflecting off the water of the pool.
Slowly, slowly, in case Hux changed his mind or wanted to back away, he guided Hux’s face ever closer to his own, before their noses were touching, just gentle nudges. Hux bridged the gap between them and pressed a firm kiss to Ben’s lips. Ben kissed back, and Hux opened his mouth in a little gasp. Ben took advantage of that and slipped his tongue inside, deepening the kiss. He pulled Hux to him, their bodied pressed together as they kissed until Hux had to break away for air. Hux kissed him again, harder this time, with more want and passion, growing ever more bold.
Ben wanted to keep up, but with all the blood in his body rushing south, the heat from both of Hux’s hands still on his face, and the hot spring, Ben was getting very dizzy very quickly. So much so, he had to let go of Hux to brace himself on the edge of the hot spring.
“Shit, the steam.” Hux cursed, his lips brushing Ben’s. “Come, let’s get back to the cottage.”
Neither man mentioned the other’s raging hard-on, but Hux did laugh good-naturedly at Ben attempting to put his leggings on. He was still too dizzy that Hux had to do up the ties for him, and Ben nearly fainted with Hux’s hands so close to his crotch.
“I hope you’ll be undoing these ties at the cottage.” Ben smiled, waggling an eyebrow, voice deep and low. Hux laughed and swatted his arm, but kissing Ben just the same.
“That was awful.” He bit at Ben’s lips, before darting away.
They ran back to the cottage, making the journey under the red glow from the northern lights. Ben only tripped three times, Hux stopping to laugh every time. Ben eventually tackled Hux onto the soft grass sending a barrage of wet hungry kisses down on his face and throat. Hux had pushed him off and ran away again, and if Ben weren’t so eager to get to the cottage, he might have complained. Either way, they made it, and they were literally ripping the clothes off one another the moment they slammed the door to the cottage shut and twisted the lock.
“Let me light a candle.” Hux said, only one boot still on, wet hair plastered to his shoulders and upper back.
“Why?” Ben asked, anxiety creeping in on him.
“Don’t you want to see me?” Hux asked, his voice suddenly small. Ben kicked himself rushing over to Hux’s side. He peppered kisses across Hux’s shoulder.
“Of course I do! Of course. I’m just…I’m nervous you won’t like what you see.” He said, pushing the words out all at once.
“Ben, I’ve already seen you.” Hux’s smile bled into his voice, and he placed a palm on Ben’s cheek. Ben kissed it.
“No I know, but this is a different type of looking.” He sighed, pinching his eyes closed, trying to will away the tears.
This was the type of looking where he would be under Hux’s exacting gaze, where every single scar, every mark on his body would be up for grabs. Hux could decide he wasn’t fit to be fucked by Ben, maybe he wasn’t strong enough, or exactly Hux’s taste. As a child, he had been made fun of mercilessly for his overly large ears and nose, and while Leia had always assured him he would grow into those features, he was still waiting for that day to arrive.
“Benjamin,” Hux’s voice was firm, dangerous. “I want you. I am very much attracted to you. If you don’t have me right this moment I’m going to strangle you. And I want to see you.” He pleaded.
Ben nodded, and heard Hux lighting a candle. He opened one eye, then the other, and smiled. He smiled so wide, he started to laugh, because there was Hux, prince of the Viking Clan of Hux, feral warrior that struck fear into the hearts of men, wearing nothing but his left boot, and his hair a wet tangled half braided mess. Hux was stunned for a moment, and then he was laughing too, at the sheer silliness of his appearance. Ben was on him in an instant, scooping him up and plopping him down on the bed. It was lined with straw, but covered in animal skins and furs, and when Hux yanked him onto the bed by the wrist, he thought it was the most comfortable thing in the world.
Hux rolled them over, so that Ben was flat on his back, and Hux was sitting in between his legs. He placed both his hands on Ben’s chest, running them up and down feeling the muscles. Ben was grateful that he didn’t ask about any scars, or mock his oafish proportions.
“What do you want?” Hux asked, licking into his mouth, sucking large red welts onto his neck and shoulders.
“I want you.” Ben groaned, dizzy with the sensation of getting hard so quickly.
“Be a little more specific.” Hux murmured, his mouth hot against Ben’s slightly quivering stomach.
“Hux!” Ben whined, as Hux’s lips wrapped around the head of his cock, which had gone nearly purple. Ben’s hand tangled roughly in Hux’s hair, and he gripped tightly.
“Use your words.” Hux pulled off with a slurp. There was a trail of saliva still attaching Hux’s mouth to his cock and Ben could see the inside of his skull his eyes rolled back so far.
“I want to fuck you.” Ben was on the verge of sobbing, begging. He needed to fuck Hux now.
Ben thought Hux probably would have laughed if he weren’t so turned on too. They switched positions, Hux on his back, and Ben in between his legs. Ben thought this would be nice, being able to watch each other’s faces. Too often, when he had heard of other men’s experiences, the one to receive was on their hands and knees. Ben wanted to try it, very soon, but not for their first time together. Not for his first time ever. He wanted to watch Hux be ripped apart at the seams.
Hux was breathing hard and fast beneath him, and he gestured to the small vial of oil on the floor next to the bed. Ben got the hint, and slicked up his fingers.
“Have you done this before?” Hux asked, propping himself up on his elbows. Embarrassed, Ben shook his head, no. Hux beamed, a reaction Ben wasn’t expecting. “Neither have I, but I’ve opened myself up before.”
“Did you open yourself last night? You hoped I would come with you today, did you hope I would come?” Ben asked. Hux groaned and let his head fall back on the pillow as Ben carefully slipped in a finger. He wasn’t nearly as tight as he would have expected. “You did think of me last night.” He whispered in awe.
“Shut up. Come on, I can take more.” Hux hid his grin with his arm, biting down to muffle the noises.
“No, let me hear you.” Ben frowned, and Hux pulled his arm away. Ben slipped in another finger, scissoring the two to work him open. He added a third for good measure.
Hux was practically drooling by the time Ben could thrust his fingers with little resistance. He withdrew them, and was having trouble finding the vial of oil, leaning over the side of the bed to locate the damn thing.
“Ben, I need you, I need more of you right now.” Hux whined, and Ben stroked the inside of Hux’s thigh.
“Just a moment baby, I just need – aha!” He grabbed the vial with slippery fingers and liberally oiled himself up. “Okay, okay I’m here.”
Ben pushed in, slowly, and had to breathe harshly through his nose to avoid fainting again. Hux arched his back and cried out in pleasure, wrapping his legs tighter around Ben’s hips. Ben didn’t stop pushing until he completely bottomed out, and they both let out a long moan. Ben had dropped down onto his elbows, and brushed the hair out of Hux’s face. It was still wet from the spring, but Hux was building up a steady sheen of sweat that caught in the low candle light.
“Move.” Hux ground out, eyes screwed shut in pleasure.
Ben didn’t need to be told twice. He set a steady rhythm, getting acquainted to the sounds that were pouring out of Hux’s mouth. Ben was breathing too hard to give him proper kisses, but every so often he would lick into Hux’s mouth, or Hux would surge up and attack his lips with too much teeth and tongue.
“Harder, you can go harder.” Hux panted, and then cried out sharply when Ben obliged, dragging his cock against a particular spot that had Hux blinking rapidly and begging. “Ben, Ben please do that again. Whatever you just did do it again right now.”
“Yes, yes Hux, yes!” Ben couldn’t form words, he couldn’t come up with any sentences. He was completely lost in the sensation, the feeling of hot, tight, wet, Hux.
He found that spot again, and hit it over and over, harder each time, until Hux was crying. Tears were streaming down his cheeks, Ben’s name a chant on his lips.
“I-I’m close.” Ben managed through clenched teeth. Hux nodded feverishly in agreement.
“Please, Ben, I need – ”
“I know, I know.” Ben silenced him with a kiss, and a hand wrapped around his neglected cock. After three strokes, Hux came with a scream that Ben swallowed.
Sated and relaxed, Hux’s body opened up even further for Ben; his left leg was now completely thrown over Ben’s shoulder, allowing Ben to somehow get deeper into Hux’s tight body. Ben barely lasted another minute before he was doubling over with his orgasm, his vision whiting out completely. Hux pulled his leg out of Ben’s hold, and Ben collapsed on top of his fiancée. They were both sweaty, sated, and exhausted.
“Darling, I can’t breathe.” Hux wheezed, and Ben apologized before pushing himself off Hux, but not too far away. Hux ran his fingers through Ben’s sweaty locks, eyes half lidded and pupils blown wide with lust. Their breathing had begun to slow, as had their heart rates.
“I’m so tired.” Ben laughed, stretching. “That was amazing.”
“You’re not done yet,” Hux grinned, sitting up. Ben wondered where he had the energy to do so. “You have to clean up your mess.” Hux stuck his ass in Ben’s face, and Ben’s eyes widened in shock.
Not knowing what else to do, he sat up, grabbed Hux’s hips with both hands, and started licking at the mix of come and oil that was now dripping down Hux’s thighs. He heard a pleased sigh above him, and chased that sound, licking up to the crease where Hux’s thigh met his ass. The taste was a little off-putting, but the way Hux was melting into his touch made it all worth it. He pushed Hux over and began licking at his stomach, cleaning up the mess Hux had made there with his own come. Ben didn’t mind the taste of that as much.
He bit Hux’s side playfully, and Hux’s laugh rang loudly through the silent night.
“Maybe we should stay for three days.” Ben grinned against his stomach.
“I want to spend time with you.” Hux hummed in agreement.
Ben’s response was to pull Hux over and settle him against his chest. Ben licked his fingers and extinguished the candle, neither able to stay awake another moment.
Oh my gosh after 20,000 words they finally kissed! And did a little more than that ;) Hope you guys enjoyed this chapter!
Just a side note, the reason the Northern Lights appear red and orange for our boys has to do with the solar activity around the time Vikings were around! Science is cool :)
The fortress of Älvsborg does exist and you can visit it today! Although this story does take place a couple hundred years before it was built. I just really wanted to throw it in there, because I think it is very cool, and bonus, we get to give Matt and Techie a beautiful seaside home!
The hot spring of Hveragerði also exists, and though I have no clue how to pronounce it, it's been on my bucket-list for ages!
As always, if you have any questions please feel free to comment down below! I love love love reading and responding to your comments!! If you'd like, you can find me on tumblr as always @babbushka
Chapter 4: Back in Time & Memory, Back Across the Sea
Tragic backstory & angst time y'all!
There are some NSFW parts in the beginning of this chapter! If you'd prefer to skip them, they start at the line, "What would you like to do?" and end with, "When the feeling returns to my legs," ;)
I hope you enjoy that chapter! (un-beta'd, all mistakes are my own!)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
When Ben blinked awake, for a moment he thought all of the previous night had been a dream. Yesterday felt like it took years, between meeting Hux’s brother, Matt, and all the traveling. Remembering the spectacle of lights at the Spring was what eventually convinced Ben it had been real; his imagination wasn’t that good.
That, and Hux sleeping in the same bed as Ben. He looked an absolute mess, frankly, and Ben felt both guilt and pride at the marks that were littered across Hux’s body. Marks that he had caused. Looking a little closer, he saw other marks, ones that Matt alluded to in their short time together. Battle wounds were present in the places one might expect, arms and legs, slices where arrows had barely grazed, but more deliberate places too. Hux slept on his stomach, giving Ben full view of the lashes across his back. These were delivered in a repetitive manner, not some random attack, but a planned one. Ben’s mind darkened as he thought about Brendol brandishing a weapon against his own son.
“This is nothing compared to what I’ve done to him.” Hux murmured, face half buried in his pillow, which also happened to be the crook of Ben’s shoulder.
“How – ”
“I heard you and Matt talking yesterday.” Hux’s eyes fluttered closed. Ben began trailing the back of his hand across Hux’s back in gentle circles, heart clenching at the texture of the raised scar tissue.
“I’ll kill him.” Ben said, voice scratchy from sleep and added rage.
“And rob me the satisfaction? No.” Hux’s voice was sure, making Ben lift an eyebrow.
“I was planning on doing it on our wedding night.” He rolled over, one finger tracing around a particularly nasty scar Ben had acquired a few years ago.
“It’ll certainly be the talk of the town. An evening to remember.” Ben smirked, and Hux laughed. Ben never failed to marvel at the beauty of that sound.
“I’m nothing if not romantic.” Hux gave a feral grin and Ben rolled his eyes. He pulled Ben into his arms, and the two exchanged lazy kisses. He hummed around Hux’s sleep-sour tongue, and wrapped as much of himself around Hux as he could, trying to convey the message of I’ll protect you.
“Are we staying?” Ben nuzzled into Hux’s throat, sucking on the steady pulse point he had latched his mouth onto.
“I would have woken you up early if we weren’t.” Hux pointed out, popping his joints in a pleased stretch.
“Good. I want to stay here with you.” He moved up Hux’s jaw, placing wet open mouthed kisses that were all teeth.
“What would you like to do?” Hux purred, hands wandering down just below the dip of the fur blankets.
“You.” Ben breathed, earning a slap on the arm.
“Awful.” Hux tutted, but straddled him just the same.
Ben had taken his time yesterday to prepare Hux, and it still showed in the ease of Ben’s cock slipping into Hux’s ass. Ben rather liked this view, and folded his arms behind his head, watching as Hux settled down, the two of them moaning when he finally bottomed out. Ben shifted a little, and gave an experimental roll of his hips, that had Hux quickly leaning forward and bracing himself on Ben’s chest.
“You have great tits.” Hux sighed, giving each pectoral a squeeze. Ben laughed, bright and happy, and sat up, bending down to latch onto one of Hux’s pink nipples. Hux arched into the feeling, one hand making its way into Ben’s tangled hair. He took that as encouragement to suck harder, knowing he was going to leave more bruises behind. The thought spurred him on, and he moved to the second nipple, hoping for matching rings the exact shape of his lips.
Ben leaned back enough to give himself some leverage from the bed and then he was thrusting, shallowly at first, but with the noises he pulled from Hux, he sped up, the bed creaking below them. Hux gave as good as he got, rearranging his legs so he could bear down with every thrust that Ben made, clenching tight around his cock and making Ben tip his head back in pleasure. It was Hux’s turn to lick up the sweat that began to bead on Ben’s neck, biting down hard on the broad juncture where neck met shoulder. Ben hissed, the pain too good to protest.
“Ben, Ben I need – ” Hux started to whine, and that brought Ben’s head up in attention.
Hux’s face and chest were flushed bright red. His hair had fallen out of its braids in the night and was now coiled around his shoulders and spilling onto his chest as well as down his back. It would need to be brushed, and Ben had the fleeting image of brushing that gorgeous hair out.
“What baby? What do you need?” Ben tangled his fingers in the copper strands, lightly scratching his nails against Hux’s scalp.
“Harder,” Hux begged, bouncing as fast as he could with their current position. “Take me.” He pleaded, a small sob bubbling from his chest.
Ben acted like a crazed man, harshly pushing Hux back so his head was at the foot of the bed. Hux got the hint and turned over, slipping off Ben’s cock in order to do so. He braced himself on his knees, his face buried in the fold of his arms.
“You’re mine.” Ben growled, roughly shoving his cock back into Hux’s slick and wanting hole. Hux cried out as Ben plowed into him, hands tight on his hips.
“I’m yours.” He babbled, “Yours, I’m yours. Harder, Ben please!”
Ben obliged, the crude sound of skin smacking together not nearly as loud as the moans and grunts the two men couldn’t help from pouring out of their mouths. Seeing those scars on Hux’s back filled Ben with a hateful rage that made him want to hurt Brendol, to break his hands and crush his ankles. He made a frustrated yell of a noise, dragging his cock over the spot that had made Hux scream in pleasure the night before. He decided, if he could help it, Hux would never be in pain ever again, only pleasure.
Ben pulled Hux up, so that his back was pressed flush against Ben’s chest, and he reached his hand around to roughly jerk his lover off, Hux’s hips stuttering as he came with a satisfied moan. Ben was getting close, so much so that he let out a dark growl when Hux slid off once again. Before he could protest, Hux pulled Ben on top of him, and stretched, looking very fucked out and pleased. He spread his legs invitingly and Ben happily climbed between them once again, with Hux’s body loose and pliant it wasn’t long before he was coming. Hux pulled Ben to him, and for a short while they just breathed into each other’s mouths coming down from their sex induced high. Ben didn’t know how he was ever going to get anything done, now that he had this taste for Hux’s flesh.
“When the feeling returns to my legs,” Hux starts, out of breath, “Care to join me for a bath? There’s a creek not far from here. The water won’t be as hot as the spring.”
“That sounds great.” Ben smiled, imagining Hux’s skin fresh and clean. His bladder had other plans though. “Uh, I don’t know about you, but I really have to piss.”
“Go, I’ll clean up around here while you’re gone.” Hux laughed, playfully shoving him out of bed.
Ben grinned, and hurried out of the room, passing the mounds of clothing and dropped bags that they had left in last night’s wake.
Hux found Ben outside, still stark naked, with a bundle of clean clothes in his arms. He unceremoniously pushed them onto Ben, and darted away, supposedly walking in the direction of the creek. Ben figured the logic was to keep the clothes clean, and considering they were both covered in sweat and come, their best bet was to make the short naked. It felt strangely liberating, being completely bare assed to the world. There was not a cloud to be found, and the brilliant morning sunlight made all the greenery beam. Ben hurriedly followed Hux, careful not to step on any flowers that he passed.
The creek was nestled in between two large mountains; part of a huge gushing river that Ben could hear not too far away. The water was crystal clear, and Ben could see the thousands of smooth stones it flowed over. The creek wasn’t deep enough to fully submerge themselves in, only going up to their waist, so Ben and Hux floated for a little while, dunking their heads back to soak their hair all the way through. The water was just cold enough that Ben felt refreshed as he scrubbed some of the grime off with his blunt nails.
“Here, try this,” Hux waded over to their folded pile of clean clothes, and produced a rough rectangular bar from one of the pockets.
“What is it?” Ben accepted the bar, feeling its strange texture.
“It’s soap, we make it ourselves. Try it, it will make you smell good.” Hux smiled patiently, much like he did when introducing Ben to the now coveted strawberry.
“What is it made from?” Ben asked, not suspicious, but curious. The soap he had encountered was never in this shape, it was more liquid. Normally their soap would have been made with essential oils, heavily perfumed syrups that were tirelessly extracted from lavender plants, or rosemary bushes.
“Chestnuts, mostly.” Hux grinned, motioning for him to try it. “We peel them, dice them, and let them soak in warm water for a couple of hours. We then drain the water, and the soft pieces that are left over get pressed into a dish to make a large rectangle, and we cut them up. We wash everything with it.”
“It does smell really good, thank you.” Ben rubbed the bar over his entire body, relishing the feel of it breaking down the layers of sweat that had accumulated since their trip to Iceland. He passed the bar to Hux, and watched as he tried reaching around his torso to no avail.
“Would you, ah, mind, getting my back?” Hux asked, eyes downcast. Ben knew that look, now that he had seen his scars, Hux probably thought they disgusted Ben.
“No, not at all.” Ben gently took the soap from Hux’s back, and carefully, ever so carefully, rubbed soothing circles over the worst of the marks. These had been healed a long time ago, but still, Ben didn’t want to hurt him.
“Thank you, I can never seem to reach. It’s partially why my scarring is so bad there.” Hux admitted, gratefully leaning into the touch.
“Does no one help clean your wounds?” Ben asked, confused.
“Oh yes, from battle. I try to keep the fighting with my father a secret from the village. Having internal conflict isn’t very good for morale.” The way Hux said it was so matter of fact, it hurt Ben to hear him so accepting of it.
“I understand.” Ben said.
“I’ll do your back afterwards.” Hux offered, and Ben nodded, even though Hux couldn’t have seen the movement. Ben thought he probably could tell anyway.
“Can I wash your hair?” He blurted, watching Hux pull apart the day-old braids with his deft fingers.
“My hair?” Hux asked, startled. He turned around, and Ben gulped.
“Yes, um. It, well it’s very beautiful.” He stammered, considering drowning himself for the look that bloomed on Hux’s face. It was a cross between angry, confused, and surprised. He wasn’t sure what to make of it.
“Oh.” Was all Hux said, for a long time. And then, “No one’s ever said that to me before.”
“Really? But you must hear it all the time!” Ben nearly shouted, convinced that Hux was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen the moment he had laid eyes on him.
“I’m afraid not. In fact, it’s somewhat of an unspoken rule to not mention my…coloring.” Hux gestured to his freckled face and green eyes.
“Is it because you’re Irish?” Ben asked hesitantly, not knowing how to have breached the subject in a more delicate way.
Hux nodded, and then laid back in the water to float, offering up his hair for Ben to wash. He eagerly lathered up the bar of soap and set to work.
“My father was born in the Irish countryside, but stowed away on a Viking ship to Scandinavia when he was eight years old. He grew up among the Norse, earning a taste for bloodlust. When he was nineteen, he moved to Sweden and took over position of King from an old man named Tarkin. My father won their respect during a battle of his own, and they seized control of Northern Sweden. To celebrate, he and a group of Vikings raided the shores of the Eire, first attacking the monasteries.” Hux pinched his eyes shut, and Ben wanted nothing more than to make the bad memories disappear.
“My mother was a kitchen servant in one of these monasteries. My father had no intention of killing her, he didn’t even want to harm her. He fell in love with her the moment their eyes met in that dusty kitchen. He brought her to his childhood home, and the two began to bond. She soon fell in love with him, and then, I was born. He wasn’t around to see it, he had left soon after she became pregnant.” Hux’s voice had a distinct sneer to it, and Ben hummed in acknowledgment that Brendol was indeed a shitty partner.
“A year later, my mother fell ill and died. Word reached back to him, and he came to collect me. He had a complete meltdown in his grief, destroyed the entire village, killing everyone he met. I don’t remember anything, but the stories always include him covered in blood from head to toe. He took me to Sweden, and pawned me off on a nanny.”
Ben had begun to scrub Hux’s hair clean, making sure to coat every strand in the chestnut concoction. Hux finally sat up, and held his hand out for the bar of soap. Ben gave it over, and Hux began to carefully but efficiently wash Ben’s back.
“On another such occasion, he met with a different woman and produced Techie. Techie’s mother died in childbirth, so Brendol was stuck with two unwanted children. He married the next woman to set foot on our shore, Maratelle. She was a Frank, sent to purchase some Chinese silk from one of the merchants. Lured by the promise of riches, and the idea of being Queen, she agreed to marry him, but it was loveless.”
Hux patted the surface of the water, and Ben got the hint, laying down to float so Hux could wash his hair the same way he washed Hux’s.
“She was never particularly kind to either of us, and was especially horrid to Techie. Brendol sent Techie away to the Fortress when he was eleven, because Maratelle couldn’t bear to look at him. When Brendol gets extra drunk, he turns into a raving lunatic, shouting about how we’re nothing but bastard burdens who can never take the throne.” Hux’s hands tensed, and Ben dunked his head to wash the soap out, before turning to pull Hux into a hug.
“It’s almost funny – I hate our father, Techie hates our step mother. They’ve separated us and made us both miserable in their own way. It’ll be nice having their heads on my platter. No one comments on our heritage, because of the trauma that it’s caused.”
Hux looked at him, pleading. For what, Ben didn’t know, but he thought offering a story of his own would be a good way to bond.
“My mother and father loved each other very much, for a time. I can’t remember it, but the stories are legendary. As soon as my sister, Rey, was born, my father slipped out in the dead of night. My mother told people he was called away to battle, and killed in a crusade, but the truth was he had run into some debt gambling and was being hunted by debt collectors. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was dead now, stabbed in the throat by greasy men.”
They held each other for a moment, Hux trailing soft circles against Ben’s shoulder.
“My mother tried to raise us by herself, but she never had time for me, preferring to be with Rey. She would drop me off with one family friend or the next. I never stayed in the castle over the summer, as that was prime crop harvesting time, and battle strategy coordinating. I saw her maybe once or twice a month when I did live at the castle. When I was twelve, she sent me away to live with her brother, Luke. He’s a monk, and he had an abundance of patience, but didn’t understand me. No one ever listened to me. My entire life, no one ever stopped to ask anything about me. I was always following instructions made by someone else; if it wasn’t my mother, it was Luke. If it wasn’t Luke, it was someone appointed to make sure I didn’t get into trouble.”
Ben felt that familiar sensation in the dark of his chest, the gaping hole that had been left by a childhood of neglect.
“I got angry! So angry! If I ever asked for any means of affection, they called me a greedy prince. If I was upset, they called me spoiled. I exploded – I would break things, and scream and cry and hurt people. I took all that rage, and…and I met Snoke.” He swallowed sharply. He had never told anyone about Snoke. That had been one of the man’s strictest rules.
“He was the only one who cared about me, who really cared. He trained me in secret, taught me how to fight with all sorts of weapons. I earned the peoples’ respect in battle, and they slowly forgot about the awkward bumbling Ben. A year or two ago, Snoke disappeared. I sometimes forget what he looked like, he was always cloaked in course fabric.” Even now, Ben tried to recall the gnarled face of the withering old man, the exact tone of his greying skin shifting in his mind.
“It felt good to have someone ask about me, even if it was only for a moment. Then the battle with the Danes began, and I spent months on that campaign, defending Saxony from their invasion. The night I returned from battle, my mother congratulated me, and in the same breath announced I was to be leaving the following morning, for Sweden. Even after all I’ve done, she sent me away.” Ben whispered, finally being able to vent all the frustration he had held inside him regarding this marriage.
“Come, let’s get dressed. You’re turning into a prune.” Hux said after a time, not unkindly. Ben nodded, and followed Hux out of the water.
Ben was surprised to see that Hux brought Viking clothing for him to wear. It only made sense, but still, seeing the golden embroidery was heartwarming. Truthfully, their clothes weren’t so different than his own, but he knew it meant that Hux was accepting him as one of their own.
“What shall we do today?” Ben asked, wanting to stray from heavy topics. Ben didn’t know when he was going to get to spend another full day with Hux, and wanted to use their time for pleasant things.
“I thought we could eat some breakfast, and take a hike to a magnificent beach.” Hux smiled before walking back to their little cottage.
“Sounds good to me.” Ben smiled back, running up the small hill to pick Hux up and carry him across the threshold.
“Hux?” Ben broke their silence. They had been walking for an hour or so, and the ground had turned from lush green, to rocky brown, to a now wet and cold black.
“Yes Ben?” Hux asked, completely undeterred.
“Why is the beach black?” Ben asked, looking to their left and seeing the waves crash violently on the shore.
“This is Reynisfjara. There’s a small village, Vik, about a five minute walk away. I like to come here before I leave Iceland.” Hux gave a wave of his hand.
“Okay, but why is the beach black?” Ben asked again. Hux stopped, and pointed to a large rise in the horizon.
“You see that mountain?” He asked, and Ben narrowed his eyes to focus on it.
“Yes.” He nodded.
“That is a volcano. The sand here is made of volcanic rock. That is why it is black.” He explained, although Ben felt like he would need some more answers.
“What is a volcano?” He asked, never encountering the term before.
“It is a portal to Hell, frankly.” Hux snorted, his nose scrunching up for a split second. “The god Loki is said to be tied underground, with a snake that drips venom in his face. When the snake does that, he shudders from the pain, causing tremors in the earth. Sometimes, these tremors awaken dwarves and giants, and they come spitting the fires of hell through the mountain, angry for being disturbed. The people here call that an eruption.”
“Shit.” Was all Ben could say.
“Right?” Hux grinned, and they turned away from the shore, walking towards the small village Ben could see.
“What happens if the volcano erupts?” Ben asked, looking back at the massive thing in the distance.
“I suspect everyone dies.” He replied, once again matter of factly.
“Here’s hoping it waits until we are gone.” Ben joked. Hux elbowed him in the stomach, but he couldn’t hide the smile from his face.
A portly woman with a round face ran up to them as soon as they approached the town. Ben tried not to be alarmed as Hux greeted her in a language he didn’t speak. The two exchanged pleasant conversation, once in a while pointing to Ben, and Ben felt the tips of his ears burn. He wasn’t fond of being spoken about as if he weren’t there, but Ben could tell it was all good things, if the smiles were anything to go by. The woman eventually took Ben’s arm in a manner of greeting, and he tried his best to convey a hello. Hux and the woman just laughed at him, and then the woman was off, walking back towards the small building she came from.
“What the hell was that?” Ben asked, trying to look into the window of the building.
“That was Helga, she’s the inn keeper here.” Hux said, affection in his voice. Ben felt jealously curl up into his throat.
“They have an inn? Who visits besides you?” Ben asked.
“Tons of people, just not this time of year. I just wanted to make the rounds and say hello to everyone. They’re used to me doing this, we should be done within the hour.” Hux promised.
They were not done within the hour. In fact, by the time Hux had said hello and subsequently goodbye, the sun was well into the afternoon. Ben had become entirely impatient, and was now sulking. It was bad enough that they had an hour hike back to the cottage, but then they had to pack their belongings and set sail again for the fortress, and then ride their horses four hours back to Birka. Needless to say, Ben was cranky. It also didn’t help that Hux was so damn personable to everyone. He was greeted by every single member of this tiny village, each asking about Ben. Ben had to put on a smile and not appear to be rude, even though he had no idea what they were saying, or any way to communicate to them that he was tired and wanted to go.
Too often, the villagers would make obvious remarks regarding Ben’s looks. They would stare at his features and ask Hux questions, to which he would reply in a jovial manner. They would laugh together at Ben’s expense, and it grated on his last nerve. Ben knew when he was being made fun of, and was having a very hard time refraining from leaving. He would probably have gotten lost on the way back to the cottage, but at that point, dying alone in Iceland seemed more fun that standing around as Hux paraded him about like an exotic animal.
The villagers must have been waiting for Hux to visit them, because they had gifts prepared and kept shoving into Hux’s arms, which Hux then asked Ben to hold. Ben regretted telling Hux he could lift six hundred pounds, the man seemed to want to test that claim with the stack of boxes and wrapped goods he piled on.
Eventually, Hux said goodbye, and Ben felt like a regular pack mule.
“Are we good to go now?” Ben asked, his tone dripping with passive aggressiveness.
“Yes, yes. Here let me take half of these.” Hux sighed, pulling the packages from the top of the pile, until they both had an even distribution.
“You should take all of them.” Ben huffed, halfway under his breath, but not quite.
“Fuck off, they’re for the both of us. So, we both carry them.” Hux smiled, but Ben was in no mood to play.
“Did you tell them I was coming?” He asked, and Hux shook his head.
“No, word must have gotten around.” Hux replied, watching where he was walking.
“This is a pretty remote place for word to spread.” Ben commented, adjusting his shoulders to balance the gifts better.
“Ben why are you fighting me on this? You wanted to go, so we’re going!” Hux snapped, his steps never faulting.
“I wanted to go three hours ago Hux!” Ben snapped back, the urge to just drop the gifts and storm away getting stronger by the minute.
“I just thought you’d like to see some sights.” Hux grumbled, picking up his pace, leaving Ben to hurry behind him.
“I want to be with you.” Ben tried to explain, but Hux tossed all his gifts down on the ground, and threw his arms up in frustration.
“You were with me!” He shouted, voice carrying down the halls.
“No, I was your conversation starter.” Ben hissed, “Something for you and your friends to poke fun at, when I can’t understand you to defend myself.”
“Ben what is your problem?” Hux was getting really angry now, the sort of anger Ben had experienced on his first night in Sweden. Hux had stepped dangerously close, the newly pleated braids swinging in Ben’s face.
“I don’t know. I just want to spend time with you.” Ben sighed, defeated. His muscles were sore from carrying all the packages, and he was tired. He could lick his ego’s wounds on the boat ride back.
“Let’s go to the cottage and sail back to the fortress. We can spend the night there and ride back to Birka in the morning. Does that sound okay?” Hux asked, voice strained as he picked up the gifts he had thrown onto the ground. None of them looked particularly damaged, and Ben found himself oddly grateful. He would have hated to be the cause for destruction so soon.
“Sure.” He amended, and they walked back in a very tense silence.
Hux didn’t bother opening the gifts when they returned to the cottage, he just placed them inside the longboat and went inside to pack up the rest of their things. Ben followed suit, and took a deep breath.
“I’m sorry for the way I acted.” He started. Hux stilled, giving Ben time to continue, “I don’t like to be made fun of.”
“Why do you think we were making fun of you?” Hux walked over to where Ben was sitting, taking one of his hands in his own.
“Hux, please. I know you think I’m an idiot, but really. I know what pointing at me and laughing means.” Ben scoffed, pulling his hand away. Why did Hux never admit he was wrong? It was driving Ben up the wall.
“First, I’d prefer if you didn’t assume negative things like that. I know you’re quite intelligent. Secondly, we weren’t making fun. In fact, quite the opposite.” Hux cleared his throat.
“Huh?” Ben asked, eyebrows pulling together in confusion.
“The entire village thinks you’re wildly handsome, like some prince from a faraway land. I explained to them that you were a prince, my prince to be exact. We laughed because you are a fairy tale come true.” Hux blushed bright red.
“How do I know you’re not bluffing?” Ben asked, already knowing the answer.
“Want to go back to Vik and ask?” Hux grinned, knowing Ben understood he was telling the truth.
“No, that’s okay. I’m sorry. I got jealous.” Ben gave a crooked smile, and Hux pulled him into his arms, resting Ben’s head against the crook of his neck.
“Those gifts are our wedding presents. They couldn’t bear to wait until after the ceremony, Helga said she didn’t know when I would be coming back.” He combed his fingers through Ben’s hair.
“Oh.” Ben exhaled, feeling stupid. He felt stupid for overreacting, he felt stupid for not understanding, and he felt stupid for not just explaining to Hux sooner.
“Please don’t beat yourself up. I can see it in your eyes. Let’s get back to the fortress, Matt and Techie will be thrilled to see us.” Hux combed Ben’s hair back, fingers feeling magnificent on his scalp.
“Mostly you.” Ben said.
“I don’t know, I think Matt has a fascination with you. I know Techie does, but he’s just curious. Matt, I’m not so sure it’s entirely innocent.” Hux growled, and Ben smiled. He liked Hux feeling possessive over him, it made the feeling more mutual.
“Oh come on, he’s smitten with Techie, anyone can see that.” Ben rolled his eyes.
“I know. I’ll kill him if he ever hurts my brother.” Hux finished playing with Ben’s hair, and Ben ran a hand through it, only to find a single braid had been brought down the side of his head. His chest swelled with pride, he never felt more accepted anywhere, than with Hux; in Viking clothes and a braid in his hair.
“Ben! Armie!” Ben and Hux turned at the same moment to see Techie running down the steps of the fortress, bright yellow tunic unmistakable.
“Hi Techie!” Ben called back, throwing an arm up to wave. “Hi Matt!” He called up too, seeing the blonde follow quickly after.
They had docked only moments ago, but it seemed the guards had been on lookout for Hux’s sail, because they must have alerted Techie of their arrival. Techie didn’t wait for the two of them to get out of the boat, instead climbing aboard to wrap both men in a big hug.
“How was the spring? Did you go to Vik? Are you hungry?” Techie fired question after question, big blue eyes darting between them. Hux laughed, and ruffled Techie’s hair.
“Just a moment, we’ll tell you everything.” He smiled, before turning to Matt. “Thank you for the added supplies, they were quite necessary.” Hux winked, and Ben’s face turned bright red.
Matt just laughed good-naturedly, and called the guards over to help with the wedding presents.
“Helga happen to say anything on how Boris was doing?” Matt asked.
“He’s much better, I gave them the kit you packed for us, I hope that it helps.” Hux replied, making Ben frown in confusion.
“I do too.” Matt smiled, turning away. Ben stopped him with a hand on his wrist.
“What kit?” He asked. He had been so preoccupied with sulking that he had barely registered half of the interactions Hux had with the villagers.
“I’m good with my hands, tinkering and all that. Helga’s husband has a bad leg, so I set something up where his chair reclined so he can elevate it at home. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to Vik, so I figured since you guys were most likely going, I’d ask Hux to deliver a kit with some tools in case the chair wasn’t working.” Matt shrugged, as if that weren’t an incredibly impressive feat. For someone so big, Ben thought he must have been a warrior or something of the sort.
“That’s amazing.” Ben admitted, knowing he was an instrument of brute strength, and would probably never be able to set up rigs like that.
“Isn’t he wonderful? He fixes everything around here, won’t let the guards do it.” Techie pressed a kiss to Matt’s cheek, causing the man to blush.
“Techie…” He started, but Techie swatted his arm away. Ben’s mouth twitched into a smile, thinking of how Hux occasionally does the same thing to him.
“Are you hungry? We can eat some dinner, I know it’s getting dark.” Techie looked out towards the horizon, a beautiful sunset gracing the fortress.
“I could eat.” Ben shrugged, looking towards Hux. Hux smiled and nodded, and the four of them went inside.
Dinner was a similar affair to the lunch they shared. The main course was a delicious smoked fish, with spices from the Byzantine empire. Ben was currently enraptured with Hux’s telling of how they saw the northern lights, along with everyone else in the room. The way he told stories was mesmerizing. He used his hands to exaggerate or punctuate his sentences, his eyes would widen and gleam in the soft candle light. He told the story of Bivrost, the flaming road to Asgard, and Ben watched Techie clench his linen napkin in his frail hands. It was breathtaking the way he stood up and walked around the table, dragging a candle in the air to illustrate the bright fire of the reds and oranges, the light trailing in the smoke. Ben watched as he danced on the balls of his feet, hair whirling around him, golden clasps clicking together with each twist, before he landed back at his seat, and ended the story before the tale became indecent.
The entire room applauded, and Ben had never been more at peace. Until the doors crashed open, and all guards had their swords drawn.
“Datoo! What is the meaning of this?” Techie asked, not unkindly.
“Sirs, my deepest apologies, but a letter has come to you urgently from the king. I was not to stop until I delivered it to you.” The man, Datoo, placed a bound scroll in Hux’s hands, eyes hardened with the edge of rage.
He tore into the scroll, quickly scanning over it, before looking to Ben.
“What is it? Are we being attacked?” Techie asked, grasping for Matt’s hand. Hux shook his head.
“We haven’t, but you have.” He addressed Ben, handing over the scroll. Ben tried to decipher the runes, but they were too different to his own, that he had no idea what it said. “There’s a girl in Birka, accompanied by two men. One was the nice man who brought you here. She says she demands to see you.”
“A girl? Does it mention who?” If Poe was with them, it had to be Rey. No other girl would sail from Saxony to Sweden willingly.
“It doesn’t say. We must leave now.” Hux got up from the table, springing everyone into action. Guards began leaving the room, getting horses prepared, and supplies packed.
“No, Armie, it’s dark. You need to rest. The girl will be there in the morning.” Techie interrupted, bringing everything to a halt.
“Armitage please, listen to your brother. We’ve been drinking, it isn’t safe to go out riding for the four-hour journey.” Matt tried to reason. Hux huffed.
“It isn’t up to me, it’s up to Ben.” He said, and suddenly, all eyes were on Ben.
“I agree with Techie and Matt.” He said, his voice small. “We’re tired, I can’t think clearly. It takes all of my mental willpower to deal with Rey as it is, I won’t be able to understand the situation like this.”
“Okay. But we leave at the break of dawn.” Hux compromised, and everyone nodded.
“I’ll have your horses ready.” Techie said, motioning to one of the guards. “Datoo, please take a guest bedroom and stay the night. You may accompany Prince Hux and Prince Ben on their trip tomorrow. Tell my father I forbade them from returning tonight.”
“Yes, your highness. Good night your highnesses.” The man bowed four times, and scurried away.
The room that Hux and Ben were shown to were modest, but one could tell they were fit for royalty. The bed was large, with ornate carvings in the frame. Ben recognized some of the animals and symbols, but the runes and the intricate weaving were lost to him. Feather down pillows and animal furs were heavily draped over the down mattress, and candles were softly burning. The floors were a beautiful wood polish, and the entire aura of the room was putting Ben’s nerves at ease simply by being cozy.
“Would you tell me about Rey if I asked?” Hux asked, stripping down to bare skin before sliding under the fur covers.
“What sort of things would you like to know?” Ben asked, working on removing his own clothing. The closures were much more complicated than his regular garb, his fingers were clumsy trying to undo the ties.
“Is she kind to you?” Hux replied, throwing Ben off.
Rey had tried to befriend Ben numerous times, but the amount of time they spent together was greatly dwarfed by the time Ben was away. He knew that made her very sad, and felt terrible each time Leia sent him off. He would always wave to her until he couldn’t see her anymore, and then kept waving, in case she could still see him. Ben once asked if Rey was lonely, and though she tried to hide it, Ben could see the same sorrow in her eyes that his own held.
“Um. I wouldn’t really know. Leia thought it dangerous to keep her near me.” He tried to voice all this.
“Was your temper really that bad?” Hux asked with wide eyes, patting the bed. Ben joined him and the two got comfortable, both curled on their sides facing one another.
“Yes. It still is, if I’m honest. Snoke taught me how to harness my anger, put it into my battle strategy.” He explained. Hux smiled, the candlelight flickering dangerously in his eyes.
“I’ve heard stories about you, you know. When I was told we were to be betrothed. I was impressed.” Hux blushed, scooting closer.
“Really?” Ben was surprised. He hadn’t thought the news of his exploits had traveled that far North, let alone that Hux would think it good news.
“Did you really slaughter an entire village?” He asked, voice barely a whisper, as though the villagers themselves were there to hear him.
“Yes.” Ben exhaled, watching his eyes go wide.
“The women? And the children too?” He pressed, tucking his foot in between Ben’s calves.
“Yes.” He said.
“That’s incredible.” Hux grinned, pressing soft kisses to the side of Ben’s nose. Ben scrunched it up, earning a soft chuckle from him.
“I’m surprised you’re not repulsed.” Ben pointed out, the tales were not exaggerated too much from the truth, he had heard every version.
“Did you have a good reason to kill them all?” Hux opened one eye, watching carefully.
“Yes.” Ben confirmed, thinking of the death toll his own people suffered at their hands. The scar on his side ached from the memory.
“Then why should I be repulsed? They obviously deserved it.” He shrugged.
“And whoever attacked my castle will deserve much worse.” Ben’s expression darkened, and Hux placed a gentle hand on his cheek.
“Do you have any idea who it might be?” He frowned, not wanting to see Ben in distress. Ben nodded once, gritting his teeth together.
“They call him William the Conqueror. He’s got an army larger and stronger than ours. My mother has been dealing with his messes for years. He’s the only one I can see invading us, especially so soon after the battle with the Danish.”
They took a moment for Ben to breathe, his anger getting the better of him and making his muscles tense. Now was not the time to let adrenaline course through his veins, he would need that for the weeks to come, but for now, he tried to will himself to peace.
“Do you think she is still alive? Your mother.” Hux whispered, asking the question that kept running across Ben’s mind.
“I don’t know. But with Rey here, it doesn’t bode well.” He pinched his eyes closed.
“Would she have come herself?” Hux asked, earning a sharp laugh from Ben.
“Not a chance. I mean no offense when I say this, but my mother thought you all to be barbarians. Her sending me here was to ensure she wouldn’t see me for a while, as she would never come so far north.” His words came a little sharper than intended, and he immediately winced at the frustrated expression on Hux’s face.
“You Saxons have quite the reputation yourself, you know.” He remarked defensively.
“I’m sure we do, and I’m positive I can guess what it is.” Ben sighed.
“I’m sorry, I know you mean no harm.” He rubbed a soothing hand up and down Ben’s arm, trying to get him to relax.
“If I’m being honest, I wasn’t excited about coming here.” Ben felt guilty saying it out loud, but he felt it needed to be said. The brutal honesty they had shared today must have been a testament to their willingness to make this arrangement work, Ben didn’t see any point in holding back now.
“I wasn’t excited to have you.” Hux scoffed, a teasing smile on his lips.
“Really?” Ben asked, voice dripping with sarcasm.
“When I first got word that a smelly, uneducated, blood thirsty Christian Saxon was to come onto our shores, steal my independence, and drag me back to his muggy muddy rainy castle made of landlocked stone, I was none too pleased.” Hux was full on grinning now, and it was so lovely that Ben had to lean in for a kiss. It was chaste and quick, but full of affection all the same.
“And now?” Ben whispered, his cheeks hurting from his smile.
“They were wrong about one thing; you’re not that smelly.” Hux deadpanned, before bursting into laughter at the affronted look on Ben’s face.
“Fuck off.” Ben grinned, shoving him playfully.
“I think I’m growing quite attached to you.” Hux whispered, that golden feeling of intimacy returning.
“The feeling is mutual.” Ben gently stroked Hux’s hair back, tracing along the smaller braids. “Besides, there may not be a castle for you to lament in.”
“Don’t say that. Your army is strong, I’m sure they can hold out battle for another week for us to get there.” Hux frowned, wrapping an arm around Ben’s middle and hugging him close.
“Us?” Ben asked, eyebrows raised. In all the commotion, Ben had imagined going back alone.
“Well I’m not going to let my fiancée go into battle by himself.” Hux scoffed again, as if it were the most obvious thing to do.
“We’ll see what Rey has to say in the morning.” Ben conceded, rearranging their limbs so no one would wake up with the horrible feeling of pins and needles in their arms.
“Oh yes! Tell me about her.” Hux smiled, tucking his head under Ben’s chin.
“Well, she’s incredibly smart. She stayed with Uncle Luke for a few years in his monastery, he taught her to read and write. She’s also quite good at math, one of the few women allowed to learn it. She has a quick wit, and jokes often, she loves to laugh. She also loves to spar, and again is one of the few women allowed to do so. Sword fighting is her favorite, she’s bested me many a time. I suspect it’s because she’s so small and light on her feet.”
“How old is she?” Hux asked, voice betraying how tired he was. Ben smiled, and combed his fingers through his hair, encouraging him to fall asleep.
“She turns twenty this winter. My mother is waiting for her to decide when and who she wants to marry.” He replied, gritting his teeth once again.
“I can imagine you’re feeling a smidgen bitter about that.” Hux pressed a soft kiss to the underside of Ben’s jaw, and Ben felt the tension drain out of him.
“I was blindsided more than anything. She didn’t tell me privately, she just announced it to the entire banquet hall.” Ben whispered, his voice was too loud, he didn’t want to yank Hux back from the brink of sleep.
“I’m sorry. I never predicted you wouldn’t want me.” Hux murmured.
“That’s because you’re incredibly vain.” Ben teased, placing a kiss to the top of Hux’s head.
“Fuck off.” Was the elegant response he got.
“I don’t know if I can fall asleep, my mind keeps going in a hundred directions.” Ben admitted, even though his eyes were closing.
“I cannot promise an army because we are not wed yet, but if the two of us make it through this, then you will have the fiercest warriors in the North on your side.” Hux promised, before promptly falling asleep.
Ben followed soon after, holding Hux close and trying to keep the nightmares at bay.
The commotion that dawn brought jolted both Hux and Ben awake, as guards roused them from their deep slumber in order for them to prepare for the ride back. Datoo was already mounted on his horse by the time the two men were dressed and packed, with help from Matt and Techie. The two brothers exchanged a long and heartful hug, not knowing when they would see each other next. Matt and Ben embraced, and promised to write once everything had been figured out. Ben’s heart broke at the tears that welled up in Techie’s eyes, knowing there was nothing he could do in that moment to cheer him up. They had to be off, and so they mounted their horses and urged them as fast as they would go.
The countryside had barely started to wake up as they tore through it, the hooves of the horses ripping apart the soft grass as they wasted no time heading toward Birka. Ben ignored the grumble of his stomach, he had survived off the bare minimum food before, he couldn’t even think about breakfast now.
Hux remained silent the entire ride, not breaking concentration from his leadership. Datoo may have known the way back to the small village, but there was no way Ben could have picked it up from the single journey there. Ben had narrowed down to tunnel vision, focusing on the wind in his hair, his line of sight, and Hux’s horse just a few feet in front of him.
Thankfully, Birka looked untouched by battle, meaning whatever Rey had to flee from hadn’t followed her to Sweden. He recognized a Saxon ship in the docks, the same one that Poe had used to bring Ben to Birka. Rey must have intercepted Poe on his trip back, and he turned the boat around and headed back to the dock, it was the only thing that made sense.
The town was cheerfully waking up, the three men slowed to a hurried trot from their galloping as to not disturb anyone. Ben and Hux waved to the merchants that had just begun to set up their shops, and threw pieces of gold to children who caught it with open palms and toothy smiles. Their faces reminded Ben of the children back in Saxony, and he pushed down the urge to speed towards the main castle.
“Your highnesses, I’ll handle the animals. Please just go to the courtyard, the King will be waiting.” Datoo spoke, the words going in one ear and out the other to Ben. Hux nodded, and they both jumped off their horses and calmly walked into the courtyard.
Brendol and Maratelle were sitting under a shaded tree with three figures swathed in clothing that Ben immediately recognized as belonging to his royal family. They were all joined by Lady Unamo, Mitaka, and Lady Phasma, among other members of the guard that Ben recognized from the wrestling matches and the various meals they all shared in the sal.
Brendol said something to the figure in the middle, and suddenly it was bolting towards him. Rey smacked into Ben’s front, tackling him to the ground with the force of her hug, before the tears began.
“Ben! Where were you? We called for you last night.” Rey sounded so relieved, happy to have Ben in her arms, but annoyed that he hadn’t followed her directions.
“I’m sorry, the trip was dangerous to take so late. We came as soon as we could.” Ben tried to placate her, not wanting her wrath inflicted upon him.
“It’s fine, it doesn’t matter. You’re here now, come, we have much to discuss.” She pulled on his arm, marching them to a spot away from the shaded tree.
“Just a moment, I’d like to introduce – ” Ben started, as they were walking towards Hux, who hadn’t moved a muscle.
“What on earth are you wearing? And what has happened to your hair?” She interrupted, taking a step back to look at him.
“Well you see – ”
“Goodness we leave you with these people for barely a week and you’re already savage.” She laughed, yanking on the small braid Hux had given him.
“Rey!” He snapped, the sound echoing through the courtyard, drawing all eyes to him. “Whatever your conceptions are regarding the Swedes, I can promise you, are incorrect.” He continued, this time in a much lower voice.
“I don’t care. I need to speak with you in private.” She huffed, pulling him away again.
“Anything said to me can be said in the presence of my fiancée.” Ben shook his arm free, before walking over to Hux. “This is Prince Armitage Hux, of Clan Hux. Darling, this is my sister, Princess Rey.”
“Pleasure to meet you.” Hux bowed, posture perfect.
“You can speak English?” Rey asked, astonished. Hux rolled his eyes blatantly, making Ben smile.
“Of course I can. Do you speak norrœnt mál?” He asked, Rey blinking in confusion.
“I thought not.” He smirked. Ben could feel himself falling in love with him.
“Ben, he can come I don’t care, but please.” She was getting that high-pitched whine in her voice that surfaced whenever she was desperate, and Ben once again moved to appease her.
“Okay, okay.” He looked at Hux, hoping he would know a secluded area where they could speak freely.
“We can go to my room.” Hux suggested, and Rey made a gesture for him to lead the way.
Hux’s bedroom was like Ben’s in terms of furnishings, but much larger and ornate. It reminded him of the room they stayed in at the fortress, but this room had curtains hanging from the windows, as well as from the four posts of the bed.
A small orange cat was curled up on a bundle of straw that had been placed directly in the sun of the east facing window, and Ben couldn’t help but smile.
“You didn’t tell me you have a pet.” He reached a hand out, letting the cat sniff curiously at his fingers before rubbing her face all over them. Ben smiled, and moved to scratch beneath her chin, earning a rumble from within her chest.
“Her name is Millicent. The little princess eats better than I do most days.” Hux smiled fondly, also moving to give her a few pats on the top of the head.
“This is wonderful and all, but the Normans have invaded.” Rey huffed, crossing her arms.
“I thought so. What exactly happened?” Ben sighed, sitting on a wooden chest at the foot of the bed.
“The town of Pevensey has reported Norman ships docked on their shores, and the town is being pillaged by soldiers that wear William’s colors.” She explained, pulling out a letter and handing it to Ben.
He scanned it, taking in all the details that he could. It was well known knowledge that William visited England and met with his cousin, Edward the Confessor many years prior, and that Edward promised to make William his heir due to his lack of children. This had been fought back and forth with Leia, who had eventually been given the title of heir, due to her general ability to lead, and bloodline. Earlier that year, King Edward died, and Leia was appointed Queen of all of England. It seemed William had come to dispute the claim.
“How soon before they reach Hastings?” Ben asked, voice small. Pevensey was on the southeast coast, but they had the upper hand of knowing the terrain.
“Is that where your castle is?” Hux interjected, and Rey nodded in confirmation.
“Yes.” Ben gave a verbal reply, needing to solidify the reality of the situation with his words.
“Mother says two weeks at the most. She needs you, you’re her fiercest warrior.” Rey turned back to Ben, that pleading look in her eyes.
“In the letter you had my father send, it made it seem like your castle was being hit directly.” Hux pulled the message out, and silently began to reread it.
“It might as well be, two weeks’ time is nothing when it takes seven days to reach home.” Rey snapped, balling up her hands into fists.
“You’re right, we have to leave now.” Ben nodded, and looked to Hux. He had handed the message over to Rey, who tore it up and stashed it in a pocket of her dress.
“Poe and Finn are waiting for us by the docks, we were hoping you’d say that.” She gave a relieved smile, making Ben’s eyebrows shoot up.
“Finn? Who is Finn?” He demanded, assuming that was the second man who had accompanied her.
“I’ll explain later, we don’t have the time right now.” Rey shook her head, before running out of the bedroom.
“Ben,” Hux said, placing a hand on Ben’s arm. “Meet me down at the docks. I must acquire my weaponry and armor. I will be down very soon, I promise.”
“Okay.” Ben gulped, not liking the idea of being away from Hux, even for a moment.
“We’ll get there, and we’ll fight them, and we’ll win.” Hux pulled him into a hug, and murmured the words softly into Ben's ear.
“How can you be so sure?” He asked, his anxiety about the situation surfacing. What if something happened where Hux got hurt? What if Hux was killed in battle? How could he go on without the only person who had come to know him?
“You’ve not heard the tales of my battles?” Hux raised a single eyebrow.
“I’m afraid not.” Ben's ears burned in shame, thinking once more to how Mitaka was so surprised at his lack of Viking knowledge.
“Better you experience it firsthand. Now go, I’ll be right there.” Hux sighed, before pushing Ben out the door.
Rey, Poe, and Finn were already in the boat when Ben arrived at the docks, and Rey made hasty introductions. Finn had kind eyes and a youthful manner about him that irritated Ben right away, but he blamed the poor circumstances for his mood. Hux came down a moment or two afterwards, followed by the royal guard, the King, and the Queen. Phasma kissed her wife before stepping onto the boat, giving a wordless greeting to everyone on the boat, and sat down. Ben grinned, knowing with Phasma and Hux on their side, they wouldn’t be able to lose.
Without another moments’ hesitation, Poe called for the rowers to cut the ropes, and they were off to Saxony.
It couldn't be all sunshine and rainbows for our boys! I hope you enjoyed reading this chapter despite the angst <3 If you have any comments or questions, i'd love to answer them!! Your comments mean the world to me, they really do!!
Some things about Viking history in this chapter:
Vikings really did make their own soap out of chestnuts! Technically, a type of chestnut called conkers, but I couldn't stop giggling at the silliness of that word, so I decided to stick with chestnuts.
Vikings did indeed pillage Ireland, creating ports that are now present day Dublin, Wexford, Waterford, Cork and Limerick!
Reynisfjara is a real place that is rated something crazy like Top 10 Beaches in the world because of its black sand beaches, and the small town of Vik is very small (300-something people!) I'm not entirely sure if the town existed back in the day of the Vikings, but oh well, we can fudge some facts in fanfic, can't we?
Cats were considered sacred to Vikings, but not to worry, we'll get into that for the next chapter.
The next chapter has a lot to deal with the Battle of Hastings from 1066, although I'm going to alter quite a few facts about it; for example the battle took place in the Fall, and our story is set in the Spring, but again, fanfic!
As always, if you'd like to chat with me about anything, you can find me on tumblr @babbushka!
Chapter 5: Old Friends from Far Away, Old Habits Hard to Break
NSFW warning! If you'd like to skip it, it begins with the line, "“Shut up.” Ben tugged on a loose braid." to the line, "“We’ll kill them all," I hope you enjoy!
What is chapter-word-count-consistency?? Who knows?? Better writers than me probably!
(It's 2:00am and i was so jazzed to post this chapter, any and all mistakes are my own!!)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
To call the situation uncomfortable was the biggest understatement of the century. On one side of the boat sat Rey with her companion Finn – who Ben had learned upon introduction was in fact in love with and betrothed to the princess – and on the other stood Ben, Phasma, and Hux. When Poe wasn’t busy with commanding the rowers, he acted as a sort of messenger between the two groups, even though they were less than thirty meters away from one another. Hux hadn’t spoken to anyone on the ship aside from Ben, and even that was only after the others had all gone to sleep.
With the knowledge that the trip back to Saxony would take at least a week, Hux had asked Ben if he would be willing to learn Swedish. Ben had immediately jumped at the idea, thrilled to be able to reciprocate some of the kindness that the Vikings had given him in learning his own language. Phasma was more than excited to help, and began right away, teaching Ben their alphabet and number system. Ben was grateful for the help, a giddiness flowing through him during each one of their lessons. Watching Hux and Phasma demonstrate conversational phrases, and bicker with how certain terms are used was terribly endearing.
What Ben was most excited for though, was the feeling that Swedish would be their own secret code that no one would be able to decipher, letting both Hux and Phasma speak freely. It served as a perfect way for Ben and Hux to bond, as well as expanding Ben’s every growing view of the world. He was sure that Leia would be proud of him, if she were still alive upon their arrival.
Rey and Finn were almost inseparable. Ben wanted to be happy for the pair, but it seemed they were still stuck in the honeymoon phase of their relationship, and it was starting to make Ben queasy. About three days into their journey, Ben asked Hux if they were as obnoxious as he thought they were, and Hux agreed with a short bark of laughter.
“I am happy they have found love, but if I have to hear her call that man Finnamon one more time I’m throwing myself overboard.” Was Phasma’s reply.
Finn seemed like a truly and wholeheartedly nice man. According to their very enthusiastic retelling of the story, they had been secretly dating for many years, after having met at a party where Finn was hired as a guard. He refused to let her leave for Sweden alone, not because she wasn’t entirely capable, but because he couldn’t bear to be without her for that long of a time, not knowing if he would be alive when she returned.
Finn had a healthy dose of common sense, and Ben could often hear him grumbling under his breath at night, “We have to get as far away from the Normans as we can. We go back to Hastings, we die.”
It wasn’t the most encouraging thing for the man to repeat night after night, along with an exasperated string of, “Back to Hastings?!” but Ben had to admit, the man was right. The Normans had slowly been engulfing all of Western Europe, and it seemed that William had his eyes on Ben’s castle next. The thought of battle so soon after going to war with the Danes made him weary, he wasn’t sure if his army could handle such a feat. Hux continually reassured him that no matter what happened, he would defend the castle with his life. Ben really hoped it wouldn’t come to that.
Phasma had surprised Ben with her willingness to come. On the day they embarked to go back across the sea, she had shown up in full armor without a word to anyone. Ben could only attribute it to her friendship and loyalty to Hux. Ben had only known Hux for four days before they left, and he was certain he would never want to be apart from him for as long as this battle would take. If anyone would survive this, it would be Phasma. The way she was dressed made Poe laugh good naturedly that they may sink the boat, her silver chain mail was so heavy. She refused to take it off, even keeping her polished helmet on. Rey had stared at her with wide eyes, a woman dressed for slaughter.
“I thought your helmets all had horns.” Rey blurted after a few hours of silence, on that first day. Phasma had thrown her head back and laughed so loud it echoed off the waves.
“That would be the least effective helmet in the north.” Phasma had said, still chuckling. Ben blushed bright red, remembering his nightmare.
“I have to say, it did seem like a strange image.” Ben shrugged, and Hux had only grinned and shook his head.
Rey, for her part, stayed as far of a distance from the Vikings as possible, making sure to never be on their side of the boat when they were awake. She refused to speak to Ben, and in turn, Ben grew irritable. He had thought they were on good terms before he had left, but Ben could practically hear her thoughts when she saw him and Hux indulging in a moment of tenderness, it was as if she were screaming Viking into his very skull.
That had been the first day of their journey, and they had now finally made the call for land, hoisting the royal sail high so that those who were waiting with bated breath could see. Night had fallen, and the hills of Hastings were alight with torch fire, thankfully not by enemy hands, but in excitement of the villagers for the return of their prince and princess. Ben felt guilty that Rey came to fetch him in this way, he knew how the villagers loved when Rey went to visit. They must have missed her after these days away.
“Ben?” Hux asked, his voice startlingly small in the dark. Ben answered by looping an arm around his waist, and pulling him gently to rest against his side. Hux had refused to sleep for the past two nights, instead tirelessly teaching Ben Swedish with Phasma’s help. “Do you think they’ll hate me?”
Ben didn’t know how to reply. The short answer was undoubtedly yes. Just earlier that decade there had been a massacre of over fifty Vikings at the hand of villagers from Dorset; they had cut off all the men’s’ heads, and buried them in a mass grave. It had been the talk of all of Europe for months. Ben guiltily remembers being excited that this seemingly elite squad of fighters had been defeated, only to learn that the members were younger than his own twenty-nine years old, and that they had been ambushed – the fight hadn’t been fair. Ben’s mind darkened at the thought, when had the Saxons ever thought to fight fair?
Hux was still waiting for an answer, and with every moment Ben stayed silent, the more hope he could see leave his lover’s eyes.
“I don’t think you or Phasma will be particularly well-received, but I think hatred is a strong word for many of these people.” He chose his words carefully. “They definitely will not understand you.”
“Good. I don’t want them to.” Hux snorted, relaxing into Ben’s embrace.
“No?” He asked, teasing at one of Hux’s braids.
“I want to show up, defeat their enemies, and win their respect. If they survive the battle then we can see about understanding.” Hux replied. Ben hoped it would be that easy.
“I’ll kill anyone who says anything negative against you. Or Phasma for that matter.” He said darkly, meaning every word. Phasma had fallen asleep so she couldn’t hear the promise, but Ben meant it all the same.
“Save the bloodshed for the battlefield.” Hux swatted his arm, grinning nonetheless.
“Can you please speak English? We’re approaching the port.” Rey asked, exasperated. She had fallen asleep flanked by Finn and Poe, a sight that would have been controversial if anyone on the boat gave a shit. The two men stirred awake at Rey’s words, righting their hair and adjusting their clothing from where it had wrinkled during the night.
“No.” Hux and Ben replied at the same time, just loud enough to wake Phasma.
“Is that it?” Phasma asked, refusing to speak English. She pointed to the great castle that had been illuminated in every window for their arrival.
Ben’s heart stuttered for a moment, taking the sight of the grand castle in. He had barely seen it the night of his feast, and the early dawn light obscured it the morning he was shipped away. There was no question as to why William would want to take over such a place, the castle was the most beautiful in all of Europe.
“Yeah, that’s it.” Ben swallowed, his eyes straining in the dark to make out the familiar edges of what at one time was his home.
The enormous four-story stone structure was built right along the water, with an enclosed bridge connecting it to the even larger building that was situated on land. With every window lit up, he could see all the castle staff that had crowded on the roofs, as well as villagers who had flocked to the port. Ben couldn’t wait to show Hux and Phasma around, it would have to wait until morning and Ben found himself willing the night to move quicker.
“Poe! How much longer?” Rey had bolted to the front of the boat, effectively breaking the unspoken rule that everyone on the ship had to stay to their own side.
“We just have to dock, your highness.” Poe grinned, eager to be home.
The dock crew effectively tied the boat down, and suddenly the entire village swarmed forward, cheering at their arrival. Rey exited the boat hand in hand with Finn, and the villagers made a pathway for them to walk, leading to Leia, who welcomed the two with open arms.
Ben hadn’t expected Leia to meet them at the docks, for some reason. He was sure she had other things to do, she certainly hadn’t greeted him when he returned from fighting with the Danes. A stinging pain burned behind his eyes at the understanding that she really was only there for Rey, but he swallowed it down.
“Ready?” Ben asked his two companions, who both nodded.
They descended the ship side by side, with Ben in the middle. The reaction from the crowd was almost instantaneous; they went from wild cheering to soft whispers and noises of both excitement and confusion. The three took a step forward, and the villagers parted even further away, making a much larger path not out of respect, but out of fear and disgust that Ben had brought along folk from the North.
“Someone get those Vikings out of here!” A man called from somewhere to Ben’s right.
“Yeah, what are they doing here?” A woman on Ben’s left shouted.
Soon, the entire crowd was jeering, and Ben’s body filled with rage so potent that his hands shook. He made eye contact with Leia from across the dock, and watched in disgrace as she turned her cheek to the noise, instead walking back to the castle with Rey, Finn, and Poe. Ben sneered and took a heavy step forward.
“If any of you want to live, you’ll silence yourselves this minute.” He snarled, aware of how feral the glitter in his eyes must look. The insults stopped immediately, but the whispering returned.
Hux pushed past Ben, and began a slow march down the path followed by Phasma. The two silenced the entire crowd with their murderous gazes. Men and women alike stared at Phasma in horror once they realized she was a woman. Ben did notice that there was one child, a baker’s daughter, who watched with wide eyes as Phasma approached her. The child rushed out into the path, before the baker could yank her back out of the way. Phasma looked down at the girl, who was furiously searching through her dress pockets for something.
Phasma crouched to be on eye level with the girl, and patiently waited as she finally pulled out a ring, that had English engraving into it. She hastily pushed it into Phasma’s hand, and ran back to her waiting father. Phasma gently closed her hand around it so it wouldn’t fall, and gave a kind smile to the girl.
The crowd followed Ben, Hux, and Phasma, as they made their way to the castle. Once they were on the other side of the doors, Ben let out an exhausted sigh of relief.
“What does this say?” Phasma asked, holding the ring out. Ben smiled down at the small metal band, reading the inscription of the charm.
“It says, ‘may those who wear this amulet, be successful on the battlement.’ It’s good luck.” Ben handed the ring back to Phasma, who tried putting it on and realized the ring was far too small for her fingers. Ben laughed at the sight of the silver stuck only an inch down her finger, and Phasma pocketed the ring instead, a broad smile on her face.
“It’s nice to know at least one person in your village is grateful for our help.” She shrugged, the chain mail rattling with the movement.
“We shall give them reason to be nothing but grateful to us for the rest of their lives.” Hux mused, a fire in his eyes that Ben wanted to quell. Ben felt sparks along his spine at the realization that he would get to show Hux his bedroom, and that they could sleep together in the comfort of his bed.
“Are you hungry?” Ben asked the both of them, leading them in the direction of the feast hall. They exchanged concerned glances, and Ben laughed. “The food isn’t that much different from what you’re used to, I promise.”
“If Ben can learn to like horse meat, I can eat whatever it is they put in front of me.” Hux decided, chin held high as they marched into the hall.
Ben had never before had so much embarrassment from his own people than he did in this moment. The feast had begun well before the three of them had gotten there, and were behaving like such slobs, that after only four days with the Vikings, Ben was appalled. What he had been so accustomed to for most of his life was now seen through the filter of the Vikings, who were a genuinely clean people. A large table covering made of pieces of flat bread caught drips and spills, that the people at the table would then eat. There were no plates, instead rounds of flat dough were piled high with food.
Food was brought out in communal dishes, no separation between the various meats on one platter from another, and goblets, spoons and knives were shared among guests. The Saxons hadn’t yet gotten a hold of forks, so everyone was shoveling food into their mouths with their hands.
The food was even over indulgent, most likely brought out for the safe return of Rey. She hadn’t even gone to war, or to do anything of importance, but here they were, pulling all the stops for her. Multiple roasts of beef, mutton, venison, game fowl, rabbit, seafood and especially pork all piled high on silver platters. There were special gold platters with whale tongue and small bird. Parsnips, cabbages, lettuces, onions, and radish greens were piled onto a different platter, and on others were the delicacies of dried beans, barley and peas. Everything was heavily spiced, and heavily salted.
What was worse than the sight, had to have been the smell. Chamber pots were kept under the table for people to vomit if they had stuff themselves full before all the food had been eaten, or if they had become too intoxicated from the wine, ale, and mead. That mix did not a pretty sight make.
Hux and Phasma sat at their place at the table, to the right of Ben at the end. They eyed each other warily before picking up the food they wanted with their hands, a few pieces of meat and vegetables each.
“Why are people getting sick so close to the food?” Hux asked careful to speak low enough so no one would hear them if anyone knew Swedish at the table, disgust clear on his face. Ben’s ears burned bright red, feeling much more savage than everyone thought Vikings to be.
“Well, preparing a feast is a big deal for kingdoms here. No one can leave until all the food is gone. People make room by any means necessary.” Ben tried to explain.
“No one?” Phasma asked, eyebrows raised.
“No one.” Ben replied sullenly, “Feasting is a of sorts, metaphor for a kingdom’s goodness and ability. We all come together and give a place where our guests do not have to fear death or harm from battle. To turn away from the food is like turning away from the kindness of the Queen. It’s not good.”
“I suppose we better dig in then.” Hux sighed, adding another heaping portion to his plate.
Across the way at the head of the table, Leia was pleasantly surprised to see Ben getting lost in conversation with his fiancée and their friend. Ben’s heart swelled with pride at that look, it was not one that he received often. Leia must have noticed him catching her, and raised her silver goblet high in the air for a toast. The table silenced and everyone watched with anticipation.
“Here is to my son, Benjamin. For returning to his country and castle when she needs him most. May he beat back the Normans with the fury of a thousand men, and may his army serve him well.” She toasted, and the table lifted their goblets and gave a hearty cheer and took a generous sip of ale.
Ben’s hand twitched, and he raised his goblet of his own accord.
“To my fiancée, Hux, and my newfound friend, Phasma. May their journey here be not in vain, and may they strike down our enemies with the wrath of Odin on our side.” Ben grinned unashamedly at the two Vikings, who had gone red in the face with surprise. The rest of the table had done so too, not knowing whether to cheer again or not.
“Here here!” Rey called from her seat next to Leia, lifting her goblet high.
The movement sprung everyone into action, and soon the entire table was cheering for them as well. Hux looked so red, Ben thought his heart may soon burst from the stress. Ben covered Hux’s hand with his own, and they exchanged small smiles.
“Ben,” Leia called, making him look up from his lover. “Will you tell us what your time with the Swedes has been like?”
“I’m rather surprised you’d like to know, all things considering.” Ben frowned, turning back to Hux, who was getting a look on his face that Ben couldn’t quite place. It was somewhere in a cross between scared and wary.
“You can’t blame a mother for being interested in the tales her son has to tell.” Leia insisted, that patronizing tone to her voice that told Ben she was trying to be caring, but only on a superficial level, most likely because they had guests. She always tried to put on a show when people were over, hoping to make them believe they were a strong and happy family.
Families that showed signs of weakness would undoubtedly show signs of weakness in other areas, such as armies. Ben thought it didn’t really matter at this point, since they were going to be invaded anyway.
“I’m afraid you’d be embarrassed by my stories, on all accounts.” He muttered, half into his goblet.
“What is that supposed to mean?” Leia asked, one delicate eyebrow arched perfectly. Ben sighed and grasped Hux’s hand in his.
“It means that the Swedes are kinder, cleaner, and more well-mannered than any of you lot could hope to ever be.” Ben looked around the table, making sure each and every one of them felt the weight of his words.
“That can’t possibly be true.” One of Leia’s political advisers, Mon Mothma scoffed. Ben grit his teeth together, but with a gentle squeeze on his hand from Hux, he released his breath, trying to stay calm.
“They bathe once a week, brush their teeth and hair every day, and go for swims in creeks and hot springs. They watch the stars and have stories to go with them. They trade peacefully with the East, bringing delicious foods and beautiful goods that they readily share with one another!” He was getting pissed off, the more he thought about it, the more he didn’t want to be here, under her scrutiny and everyone else’s desire for him to disappear.
“Ben…” Leia had a warning in her voice at Ben’s escalating volume.
“They train in fairness and with respect for one another, and don’t try to murder their opponent in friendly sparring! They pick ripe fruits off the trees and don’t need to preserve them in salt because they only pick what they need so it doesn’t rot. They don’t eat with their hands and they certainly don’t make themselves ill to stuff their faces!”
“Benjamin that’s quite enough.” Leia’s tone was becoming absolute, but Ben was having none of it.
“And they have treated me with more respect and with more of an open heart than anyone in this Godforsaken kingdom ever has.” He spit, staring her down with a glare that could kill William himself.
The table was silent, as everyone watched and waited as to what Leia would do. There was a long stretch where nothing happened, and then Leia turned to Rey.
“When is the wedding date? Congratulations to the two of you.” Leia smiled warmly at Rey and Finn who had been holding hands under the table the entire evening.
Sometime inside Ben snapped. He didn’t know if it was the gentleness of Leia’s voice, the warmth of her expression, or just the simple acknowledgement that she gave their relationship, but Ben had had enough. He had had enough of being treated like he was second rate, he was tired of her impossibly high standards of him, he was tired of her judgement, and he was not going to sit there and let her insult his guests by refusing to even look his fiancée or Phasma in the eye.
“That’s it!” He shouted, banging his free fist on the table. Hux and Phasma both looked alarmed, watching very carefully. Ben took his knife and stabbed it into the display pig that had served as the centerpiece of the table.
Ben abruptly stood, the movement jostling the table and knocking his goblet over. “I have had it with this.” He seethed, and pushed away from the table. On his way towards the doors, he shoved side tables over, making food go flying onto the floor. Leia watched with a calm and collected expression that made Ben’s blood boil. He hated how she was probably expecting him to behave this way, he hated how disappointed she looked. He kicked a great hole in the side of a barrel of mead, instantly feeling guilty about the numerous staff members that would need to clean the aftermath of his tantrum later.
Everyone was frozen in shock. Poe literally had food halfway to his mouth, jaw dropped in surprise. For the first time ever, someone walked out of the room and left a feat in the great hall at Organa castle. Everyone watched with wide eyes as Ben stormed out, slamming the doors behind him.
Ben didn’t stop walking until he made it to the familiar hallway of his suite. His bedroom hadn’t been touched except for cleaning since he had left for battle with the Danes over two months ago now. The grand bed had the canopy drawn, the gold curtains shining in the light of the fireplace. The walls were painted with the legends of battles he had won, even though they were crude and he thought his depiction didn’t look anything like him, it was nice to see his victories celebrated. There was a new rug that decorated the cold stone floor, and Ben was grateful for this as he took his boots off, not having to walk across the room and freeze his toes. A chandelier hung low and was lit with candles that slowly dripped wax down the fixture. With the amount of wax that had built up, Ben almost thought Leia had insisted the servants keep the lights in his room on. He dismissed the idea, it was probably Rey who had asked for the kindness. Once he had returned from a battle to a room that had not had light nor fire in over four months, and it was so cold and drab he slept in the kitchens by the hearth.
With his boots off, he stumbled into the bathroom, a modest space with a canopy tub that he quickly filled with scalding hot water from the fireplace. Plants had been placed on the windowsill that made the room fragrant, and he picked up a bottle of salts that had always been his favorite to treat himself when his muscles were particularly sore after a fight. He poured some oils into the water as well, and shucked all his clothes to the floor before stepping into the large stone tub.
Once he was submerged, he let the tears fall.
It simply wasn’t fair. He worked so hard all the time to prove himself, doing everything his mother asked of him. He sailed across the ocean and back at her beck and call. He agreed to an arranged marriage, and he felt like once he was feeling accepted and there could even be the potential for love, the universe had to yank him out of it and throw him back into the hell of battle.
Love. That was a funny word. Ben had never expected himself to fall in love with an arranged marriage. He had never expected himself to fall in love at all, if he were being honest. He had known from a very young age he would never marry a woman; at night, his dreams were never haunted with the rosy cheeks or pink lips of princesses Leia forced him to dance with at parties, instead they were filled with strong tanned skin of oiled wrestlers, or bare backs sweating in the sun as the gardeners harvested grain for bread. Kylo had tried, he had tried to like girls. His mother had picked a girl for him to dance with at a ball right before he had been sent away to stay with Luke, and he tried to give her a good time.
He followed all the steps to the dance, he complimented her pretty dress and her hair, because they had been pretty, but when the song came to a particularly slow segment, she had leaned in for a slight kiss and he had panicked. Kissing her on the cheek had been such a disappointment and an embarrassment, the girl didn’t even stay to finish the dance; she ran away with tears in her eyes, thinking he had rejected her for some superficial reason like looks or status. She complained to her mother, who in turn had a word with Leia, that she felt Ben hadn’t paid enough attention to her, and she demanded to know why. Leia had told the mother some fabrication about him being nervous that evening. In reality, he had been eyeing one of the royal guards that had been assigned to secure the castle for the evening.
When he was with Luke in the monastery, he had his first kiss. It was a quick peck on the lips, nothing more. He remembers Bala Tik with fondness, and remembered how he had envied him. An orphan from Scotland, he had hitched rides across the ocean before finding his way to Luke. The kind old man took him in, and he delivered messages and small packages to the different monks and religious figures that lived there. Luke even taught him to read and to write, a luxury that was not afforded to most children, especially orphans.
He had been the first person to speak to Ben aside from Luke, and Ben had been so floored by his kindness that the two became fast friends. At the end of his year long stay, when the snow had thawed and the grass was beginning to green, Bala had kissed him with tears in his eyes. Ben ran away to go live in the woods with a clenched heart, and the smell of pine trees fogging his head.
He picked at his cuticles and wondering briefly what Bala was doing now. He and Ben had been the same age, both happy to be in like company. He hoped Bala was happy, maybe he had gotten married and had children. Or maybe he remained with the church and swore himself to celibacy. He wondered if Bala ever thought about him, if he ever wanted to send a letter but was never given Ben’s address.
He couldn’t call what he had with Bala-Tik love, though. It was more of a gratefulness to have someone to talk to. There hadn’t been any primal physical attraction, or a deep longing in his chest, it was simply freeing to be around someone who understood the hardships of being too old to be considered a child, and too young to be considered a man. The fact that they both preferred men was something they whispered about late at night, a conspiratorial grin on their faces. Talking to Bala about it made it seem like the most natural thing in the world. Ben wanted to find Bala and tell him that he was getting married to a man, a Viking man no less.
That brought him back to thinking about Hux, and Ben’s stomach dropped. He had abandoned him, both of them. He had acted how everyone called him, a spoiled brat. He slumped over, letting the pressure behind his eyes build until he had to squeeze them shut. The tears spilled down the bridge of his nose and landed in little drops into the bathwater.
Hux probably wouldn’t want him after that display back in the feasting hall. He wouldn’t be surprised if he were disowned, frankly. Getting up and leaving was not allowed. He had told Hux and Phasma that himself! He had broken his own custom, without any rational thought.
A nasty voice in the back of his head whispered, You are never rational, that’s your problem.
Ben’s pulse spiked at the voice, he remembered it from years ago, the tone wispy yet gravely at the same time. He hadn’t heard Snoke’s voice in so long, he almost had forgotten. The scar in his side twinged, and he choked out a sob, the tears coming harder now. Snoke’s training had tried to beat the weakness out of him, taking all his suffering and pain and turning it into anger and power. It had worked then, for a moment. Now all he wanted to do was to curl up in his own misery.
Once he was certain that voice was just a harsh memory and nothing more, he let out the breath he had been holding, and laid his head despondently against the rim of the tub.
Ben stared at the plant that had been put on the windowsill, the longer he looked at it, the more he realized that it was a bouquet of flowers. Ben figured if he was already having some sort of emotional breakdown, better to just let everything out. The sight of those flowers made Ben think of one thing; courtship.
How he wished he could have had the time to properly court Hux. This battle may very well kill them both, all before Ben could shower him in gifts, or for Ben to wear a small token bestowed unto him by Hux in return. He thought of Hux giving him his own purple silk scarf, Ben would tie it around his javelin so that all could see his heart belonged to this man. He wanted to accompany Hux on strolls around the castle, show him the gardens, or the kitchens. He wanted to bring him to his secret hiding places, just as Hux had shown him the hot spring.
He wanted to braid wildflowers into Hux’s hair, and to wear golden clasps at his ends the same way Hux did. He wanted to dress Hux in the finest clothes, and offer him the finest foods on picnics at the nicest beaches.
More than that though, he wanted to visit the village with Hux and garner the same amount of attention and admiration that the people showed for Rey and Finn. His heart felt like it was breaking, the mere thought of Hux being hated by so many people, when they didn’t know him or the culture he comes from was too much to bear. He wanted to keep him there, with him forever, but not if it was going to make Hux unhappy.
Ben had been so deep in his thoughts that he hadn’t heard the door to his bedroom open or close. He didn’t look up from the spot on the flowers that he had fixated on, whomever had come for him could see the pathetic mess he had been reduced to; decades of pent-up emotions finally pouring out.
He did not expect soft hands winding through his hair, scrubbing away a week’s worth of sea water and grease. He couldn’t stop crying, although it had dwindled down to a few tears every couple of seconds, instead of the wracking sobs that it had been only a moment prior. He hiccupped loudly, and that was the sound that made the hands still in Ben’s hair.
A pair of arms flung around Ben’s shoulders, and Ben turned to press his wet face into the crook of Hux’s neck. Hux squeezed him tightly, and Ben could feel Hux’s own tears trickling down into Ben’s hair.
“I’m sorry.” Ben choked, “I know I deserted you. I’m sorry” He repeated, saying the words out loud and for the first time, actually meaning them.
“It’s okay, shh, you’re okay.” Hux whispered, gently rocking them back and forth while Ben cried.
“I don’t know what came over me.” His voice shook, and he felt so defeated. He hadn’t ever wanted Hux to see him this way.
“I defended you,” Hux brushed Ben’s hair out of his face. Ben turned around in the tub, and frowned in confusion. “After you left, I started yelling at them.”
“You did what?”
“I told them they should be ashamed of the way they treat you.” Hux placed a gentle kiss to Ben’s cheek, cupping it with the palm of his hand, and Ben leaned into the feeling. “I said how you are a strong and legendary warrior, and that they should kiss the ground you walk on that you are on their side.”
“Really?” Ben asked with wide eyes, picturing Hux’s blazing fury. Hux smiled tiredly and nodded, Ben could see his hands were still trembling from the encounter.
“You can ask Phasma, I don’t really remember everything I said, I was yelling a lot. But yes.” Hux kissed Ben’s other cheek, and stood up, holding a clean and warm towel for Ben to step into.
Ben dried off and Hux led him to the bed, which already had the covers pulled down. Sliding in-between the silk sheets felt like heaven, and waited for Hux to climb in beside him before pulling the covers all the way up to his ears.
“I’m sorry I ran away like a coward.” He whispered, his heart rate trying to match with the steady flicker of the fireplace.
“I would have preferred it if you hadn’t, but I understand why you did just the same. I forgive you, elskede. Now come here.” Hux opened his arms and Ben immediately rolled into them.
Hux had come back to Ben, he hadn’t been so angry to stay away. Ben fell asleep thanking whatever powers that be, that he hadn’t screwed up so royally that he hadn’t ruined his only chance at happiness.
Ben barely recognized his bedroom in the early sunlight. He couldn’t even remember the last time he slept comfortably in this bed, but with Hux by his side, he felt like he could do anything. He would take out the entire Norman army if it meant he could get this view every morning. Hux had burrowed under the covers, no doubt enjoying the plush mattress and silk blankets. The silk was kept cool via the open window that let fresh air in during the night.
Ben frowned when he heard the small distressed noises that were coming from around the same area as Hux’s face. He gently pulled them back, and frowned at the crease marks that had made their home in-between Hux’s eyes. A nightmare, Ben thought, as he slowly began kissing Hux’s shoulder to bring him to a state of semi-consciousness.
“D-don’t – ” Hux whimpered, his hands balling into fists as he twitched, fighting off some assailant.
“Shh, you’re okay, I’m here.” Ben whispered, gently trying to pry him out of his nightmare.
“No, no, no!” Hux chanted, body throwing itself over. Ben had to lunge to grab him around the waist to prevent him from falling out of the bed, the maneuver effectively snapping Hux into reality.
He scrambled out of Ben’s hold, backing against the headboard while he caught his breath. Ben watched with kind eyes, and waited until Hux relaxed, arms being held open weakly for Ben to climb into. He pressed sweet kisses to Hux’s lips, and down his throat to nuzzle at his collarbone.
“Want to talk about it?” Ben asked, wanting to give him the opportunity for peace, but not wanting to pry. He had always hated when Leia demanded to know what monsters lurked in his nightmares, and was never satisfied with the answers Ben gave her, even if they were the truth.
“Not really, but Phasma says I should. She thinks getting it off my chest might help.” Hux sighed, scrubbing a hand over his face to get the feeling of sleep out of his eyes.
“Was it your father?” Ben asked, voice low when Hux hadn’t continued. Hux pinched his eyes closed and took a deep breath through his nose.
“Every time.” He whispered on the exhale.
“Does he – ” Ben started, making eye contact with Hux to know if he was going too far. When Hux’s eyes all but pleaded for him to give Hux a push, he swallowed thickly. “Does he beat you?”
“No.” Hux gave a small quirk of a smile, placing a clammy palm on Ben’s cheek. “He shuts me away.”
“Has he shut you away before? In the real world?” Ben thought back to how Techie had been sent away to the fortress, simply because Maratelle didn’t want to look at him anymore.
“I can still hear his voice sometimes, ‘thin as a slip of paper, and just as useless.’” Hux whispered, nodding, as if he were in a daze.
“When’s the wedding again?” Ben wanted to bring Hux back, he could see his lover receding into his dark thoughts, and Ben wasn’t willing to sit idly by and let it happen.
“I don’t actually know, why?” Hux asked, clarity coming back to his eyes, and Ben smiled, knowing that for right now, the bad thoughts were being shoved back into their compartment where everyone keeps them.
“I want him dead.” Ben grinned, feral and all teeth. Hux laughed, and pulled Ben underneath of him, rolling them around so their feet were by the pillows.
“And here I thought you were a romantic.” Hux shook his wild mane of sleep tangled hair, and the orange locks fell like thick curtains around Ben’s face.
“Shut up.” Ben tugged on a loose braid.
“Kiss me.” Hux grinned, and he didn’t hesitate to comply.
If the windows had been closed, Ben was sure their heavy breaths would have fogged them right up. Hux had straddled Ben’s hips and was furiously grinding down on top of him, taking what he wanted. Ben was all too eager to let Hux command the sex, it was making Ben drunk with desire for this man, who demanded respect and gave orders in all things, even fucking.
Ben really was too blissed out to say much about it, and if he wanted to roll his hips up every now and again to aid the needy whines that were spilling from Hux’s lips, he did so with a hearty moan. The fact that this was the first person he had ever taken to his room wasn’t lost on him, and Ben pulled Hux down by the hair to crush a bruising kiss into his mouth. Hux had grinned around his lips and bit down so hard on Ben’s shoulder, that Ben felt the skin break.
They both came within moments of each other, their names on each other’s lips like a dying man’s prayer. Hux stared down triumphantly at Ben’s shoulder, which had begun smarting from the pain. A stinging trickle of red confirmed the skin had indeed broken, and Hux pressed his thumb into one of the bite wounds, Ben’s eyes rolling back into his head with a mix of pleasure and pain.
“No one is allowed to make you bleed but me.” Hux smeared the blood around, painting Ben’s neck. Ben took Hux’s hand in his own and sucked his sticky fingers into his mouth, giving a pleased hum.
“We’ll kill them all, Hux. Every last one of them. I won’t make your journey here be in vain.” He wiped the mess onto his hand, and held it up.
Hux bit into the skin of his own hand, and the two pressed their bloody palms together, feeling the strange pulse of bodies stopping the blood flow.
“I won’t let them kill you.” Ben said, making the blood bond. “I will protect you with everything I have.”
“We will win with such fury that the globe will speak of the Norman Invasion, and how they failed to conquer Saxon lands.” Hux grinned, twining their fingers together.
Ben had an idea just then. Hux had shown him so much of Swedish life, and of Viking culture, Ben wanted to return the favor. He wanted to make up for the disaster that was the feast, where he had been so embarrassed he couldn’t stand to eat any of the food.
“I’d like to show you something, would you mind dressing and coming with me?” Ben grinned, and Hux couldn’t help but beam back at him.
Suspended on metal prongs were three swords. One had an elegant blade, with a beautiful gold pommel and hilt that had glass blue beads wrapped around it, catching the light and illuminating the blade. Next to it was a similar sword, shorter in length, with green beads this time. And then there was an extravagant weapon that Ben could see Hux having an internal conflict over whether he was allowed to touch it.
It was insanely long, and had a guard that was wider than both the swords beside it, but also was polished sharp at the edges, acting as mini daggers in their own right. It had red beads dangling from it and when Hux picked it up and held it to the window, the glass reflected the light and all three blades shone red.
“It’s gorgeous.” Hux whispered, waving it around, getting a feel for the weight of it. Ben marveled at the sight; no one had ever held his sword but him. It had been forged by his hands and was practiced with against straw dummies and real soldiers alike. So many had asked to touch it, and he had refused, only using it to slice the throats and cut limbs off his enemies, but here Hux was, getting into a powerful battle stance, holding this piece of Ben’s life in his hands.
“Thank you, I made it.” His throat felt tight with emotion, no one had ever complimented him on it. When he first brandished the weapon, it usually had the opposite effect. People mocked the design, the way the blade looked like it was crackling, the way the guard had been sharpened. He could hear his mother shouting that he was going to cut his hand off like all the Skywalker men before him. The satisfying weight in his hands was too much for him to ignore, and in the end, he maimed far more people than had ever injured him.
“How?” Hux asked, breaking him from his reverie.
“The same way my uncle did, and the way my grandfather did before him.” Ben smiled, genuinely happy that Hux hadn’t jumped straight to mocking, like so many before him had.
“Your uncle is a monk.” Hux said, a skeptical look in his eye.
“He wasn’t always.” Ben winked back, and Hux rolled his eye, handing it back over to Ben. The beads glimmered, red light being thrown in every direction.
“Our swords are very different.” Hux walked closer to the ones still on the wall, looking intensely at the fine detail that had been carved into the pommel and the hilt. His grandfather’s sword even hade runes inscribed onto it, but Ben doubted Hux could read them. “Ours are not made with strong enough material to actually be used in combat, they’re mostly decorative.”
“It’s rare for us to use swords. I’m the only one alive who can wield one in the entire country. They’re too hard for us to make to produce them on as large of a scale as spears, or axes.” Ben explained, pride swelling in his chest.
“And you made this one yourself?” Hux asked again, pointing a slightly accusatory finger, as if he didn’t believe such a thing could be done.
“Well it took ages, but yes.” Ben grinned. Hux made a gesture for him to continue, and Ben held up the sword, pointing out the different pieces. “First, I had to take small pieces of iron, and beat it into thin sheets that I could hammer and weld together. I decided to twist the iron together and forge welded it, it makes the sword stronger. Plus it gives it a really cool pattern I think, we call it wundenmæl; winding marks.”
“Whats this?” Hux asked, running his finger through the groove that had been chiseled away from the blade.
“Oh, it’s a fuller. It removes some of the weight from the sword without making it too heavy.” Ben had never been asked about the more minute details of his weapon, he was surprised Hux even noticed. Then again, if anyone were to pick up on things like that, it would be Hux, Ben thought.
“You call this light? No wonder your muscles are bigger than my head.” Hux tutted, crossing his arms.
“Not light!” he laughed, his whole face lighting up, “Just not as heavy.”
“Go on then, give us a show.” Hux stepped back, giving Ben ample room to demonstrate his skill with the sword.
Ben gladly took the chance to preen, and began building up momentum with large sweeping arcs of the sword, bringing it down swiftly only to slice up through the air once more. He prowled around Hux, the Viking’s eyes trained on him, as they began to do a deadly dance, with Hux always jumping out of the way just in the nick of time, so Ben wouldn’t accidentally slice his skin. Ben twirled the sword in his hand to re-position the hilt and get a better grip, when Hux was on him, kissing him hungrily.
“That was so hot,” Hux laughed into his mouth, disbelief in his voice. Still holding the sword, Ben wrapped his arms around Hux’s shoulders and kissed back, gross sucking noises echoing in the quiet of the display hall.
Ben was just about to pull away, and show Hux the other artifacts that were kept in the display hall, until he heard the distinct sound of a tapping foot on the floor that made him darkly glare at whoever dare interrupt them.
Rey was dressed casually, a tan gown made of fine wool and linen. Ben could see her ivory under gown, so she must have been feeling extra lazy that day. Her hair was covered as usual by her headrail, but he could see her long brown hair had been done up in three buns that sat vertically down the back of her head. It was a style that had first been frowned upon by society, but was soon being adopted by little girls everywhere, and had since grown on the village.
“How dare you have the nerve to show your face.” Rey scoffed, sizing Ben up and down. He lowered the sword, but not by much.
“If we’re being picky, I chose to come to the empty hall, thank you very much.” He pointed out, gesturing with his arms that the three of them were the only ones there.
No one beside Ben ever came into this room, the memories of his grandfather too potent for most people to bear. Ben visited often, he found it was a very safe place for him to let his mind wander. He would often sit in front of his grandfather’s battle helmet; sometimes he would speak to it, only to vent his frustrations when he knew no one else would listen.
“Mother is heartbroken over your display Ben.” Rey sighed, her voice betraying her age. Ben hadn’t heard her sound this sad since the day he had asked her if she were lonely.
“Furious, probably. But heartbroken? No.” He shrugged, placing the sword back on the wall. Hux watched the movement, and probably saw how he instantly began to withdraw into himself. His shoulders hunched, trying to appear smaller than he was, and his eyes were cast down to the floor.
“She wants me to bring you both to the strategy room. All the political advisers are there trying to figure out what they’re going to do.” Rey crossed her arms, also looking at the ground.
“Why aren’t you there too?” Hux asked, causing the two of them to look up.
“I resent war. I refuse to participate.” Rey frowned, her small hands fisting the fabric of her dress. It was a nervous habit she had acquired over the years that Ben was sad to see she hadn't managed to shake, although if the small scars in his own hands were anything to go by, he was in need of ditching the habit as well.
“She’s the only pacifist in the country.” Ben started to walk away, with Hux and Rey both following.
“I am not, as a matter of fact!” Rey called behind him, “Ben these people are tired, we just finished our campaign with the Danish. I don’t know if they can take this right now.”
Ben stopped in his tracks, jaw clenched. She had always pointed out the obvious, as if he were an idiot, and even though she meant well, there was only so much of that he could take. He turned around and tried to keep his breathing as even as possible, looking to Hux for guidance. He simply took Ben’s hand and gave it a gentle squeeze, but it was all Ben needed to rein in his frustration.
“I know. Believe me, I do. And I know you did all your fighting when you were young, and I know I wasn’t there to be a big brother to you when you needed me. But there is nothing I can do about that, just like there is nothing I can do about this. If they come to attack us, which they will, we have to fight.” He tried making it clear to her, but she wasn’t even bothering to look at him.
“Finn wants to run away.” She murmured, staring out the open window at the water that glittered like diamonds in the sun.
“No one here would blame you for leaving, Rey. But not all of us have that luxury.” Ben sighed, continuing to walk, this time with Hux’s hand in his own to keep him steady.
“I don’t want to run! I don’t want to leave the only place I’ve ever called home. I just don’t want to perpetuate the cycle of violence you all are so interested in.” She huffed, her own temper showing through.
“A cowardly man thinks he will ever live, if warfare he avoids; but old age will give him no peace, though spears may spare him.” Hux said softly.
“I am no coward.” Rey spit, holding her chin high. Hux held his hands out to show he meant no harm.
“It’s just a saying my people have. As long as there have been people, there has been war.” Hux shrugged. “Better to be the better fighter.”
“I don’t want to fight.” Rey threw her arms up, exasperated.
“You don’t have to. You actually aren’t allowed to.” Ben reminded her, but she just snorted in response.
“What about that silver Viking woman? She is going into battle. She has been training troops all morning!” Rey exclaimed, as they turned a corner and went down the hallway that led to the strategy room.
“Phasma has?” Hux asked with a pleased smile on his face.
“Yes, one hour before the sun rose, she woke them all from her beds. They’ve been running drills ever since. Mother will be able to tell you more. I’m going to go find Poe and Finn.” They had stopped in front of the closed doors, just outside the room that held people who probably wanted Hux dead for his heritage, and Ben cast away for his behavior. It was going to be a rough meeting.
“Couldn’t just have one, could you?” Ben chuckled, trying to laugh around the discomfort he felt at facing his mother so soon after his explosion.
“Why pick when I can have both?” Rey winked, and briskly walked in the direction of her rooms.
“How good of the prince to show up.” Mon Mothma deadpanned, barely looking up from her reports when the two of them entered. She was draped in all white, a very angelic appearance for someone who was planning what was sure to be the bloodiest conflict they were to participate in.
“Any news from the coast?” Ben asked, not willing to dignify that with a response. He circled the large round table, trying to get a look at the papers that had been laid carefully out. Detailed maps had been marked, trying to find the best places for troops, and backup plans upon backup plans.
“They are taking no breaks in their advance. They are going to be here within seven days, including today.” An elderly man by the name of Ackbar sighed, staring at his papers.
“What is the plan?” Hux asked, arms crossed over his chest as he scratched idly at his neck, trying to make sense of all their markings.
“Your friend Phasma has been with the troops all day. She will continue to train them, and you will be in attendance. We have the blacksmiths working double time to produce new weaponry, and we have the shield masters mending any wood work that needs tending to.” Leia entered the room, and Ben’s pulse quickened. She did not look at him.
“We will have the high ground as they will be coming to land on our shores. By the time they get here, we will have soldiers stationed across the shore, both up in the hills and surrounding the castle in shield wall formation.” Mothma outlined with her finger the perimeter of the castle, where rectangles had been drawn on the map to indicate groups of soldiers.
“Ten stations of soldiers, with two rows of shield wall each. That should provide enough ground cover for the javelins and arrows to be fired from the castle.” Ackbar added, both Ben and Hux paying close attention.
“From behind the shield wall will be the combat soldiers, with smaller shields and battle axes, that will charge through the openings in the wall to attack the Normans.” Mothma continued, pointing to the spaces in between the drawn rectangles.
“How long have we been at peace with the Normans? Fifty years?” Leia sighed, her thin lips pursing in disappointment.
“Something like that.” Ackbar nodded, round fish-like eyes cast down.
“William is just pissed off I hold the crown.” She grumbled, and turned to two men who had been bickering to themselves back and forth in the corner.
“You wear it rightfully, majesty. I mean – General!” Cee Threepio, one of Leia’s longest friends squeaked, raking a hand through his thinning blond hair. Leia smiled at the nervous man, and with a nod, gave him and his husband, Arturo, permission to leave.
Ben was never able to get too close to Cee or Arturo because Leia had kept him away from the castle for so long, but as far back as his memory goes, they have always been together.
“What if they charge on horseback?” Hux asked suddenly, drawing every eye to him.
“Why would they do that?” Mothma scoffed, crossing her arms.
“My brethren to the west, the Norse, will often employ cavalry to help with raids.” Hux explained, but was met only with the roll of her eyes.
“Ah yes, I’d rather we not stoop so low to utilize the same battle tactics as Vikings.” She dismissed him.
“This Viking has ideas you should take into consideration. They are the most fearsome warriors in Europe, are they not?” Ben barked, everyone in the room jumping at the volume of his voice.
“They are, and we are glad to have not one, but two on our side.” Leia sighed. “Go, meet with Phasma. Train, and prepare for battle. We’re officially at war.”
The next week was absolute hell on earth. If Ben had ever doubted that Phasma was the greatest warrior in Sweden, he would have been proven wrong time and time again with the way she slammed men down to the ground. Ben was proud of his army, of course he was. He was the leader of an elite fighting squad known only as the Knights. He knew they were capable, they had taken out villages on their own, entire cities with Ben as their master.
The infantry…was another story. In the beginning Ben tried to justify it as being tired from their last battle. But in all honestly, they could stand to complete the training. Their technique was sloppy when it came to hand to hand combat. They had brute strength, but no efficiency. They had never needed it before, raining down flaming arrows or hurling javelins into the fray wasn’t given much thought, simply because nine times out of ten, it hit someone, so why have precision in the throw? Phasma set up dummies made of straw, and did not let anyone take a break or rest until every single archer, and all the foot soldiers was able to hit either the heart or the throat with their weapons. She did not allow the next soldier to try, until the current one was able to do it three times in a row.
Needless to say, they hadn’t taken a break in many, many, hours. Phasma rewarded their success by making them jog around the castle, and then they moved on to stretching exercises that many of the men found a very pleasant reprieve from literally punching one another in the face, because they hadn’t practiced their dodging.
They weren’t in the worst shape ever, and Phasma had said as much. They just needed someone with a firmer hand, who wasn’t willing to let them slack off. Just because they had come from battle and won didn’t mean they could rest on their laurels. They took cold swims in the morning, and hot baths at night. They ate nothing but vegetables and pork, to keep their stomachs trim, and worked their muscles in rigorous drills that left everyone feeling stronger and more powerful than before.
Phasma acquired the plans from the royal advisers, and had the soldiers get into formation every day for practice, making them act on a dime for any number of conditions. She made them dress in full armor, and demanded every man report to her for inspection. If there was a single chip in the chain mail, a ding in a helmet, or a splinter in a shield, she made them replace it. Ben had attempted to explain to her the sentimentality of shields, but she was having none of it.
“They can paint it whatever colors they like, as long as the paint doesn’t chip.” She had said, loud enough so that everyone could hear. The infantry returned with brand new shields the very next day.
There had been one matter Ben was hoping to accomplish, or at least see to when he had arrived back to Saxony, but the opportunity hadn’t presented itself yet. The petty officer, Thanisson, was still very high of his shit list. He had asked around, half hoping one of the other soldiers had known the man’s whereabouts, but so far, his luck had left him. He quickly discovered that most of the infantry hated Thanisson; they thought he was too young to hold his position, and that the power had gone to his head. Ben was inclined to agree.
More than that though, he wanted to find that slave. The penal slave who had been beaten unconscious, who had had his teeth knocked out of his skull by Thanisson’s brutality. He knew that the officer was justified, he knew it was the law, that that was the punishment. But something sat very wrong in his chest at the thought of such a young man beating someone not only older than him, but who had been begging with for his life. It vexed Ben, he had never particularly cared for enemy villagers before. Why did he have such a fire in his veins for rectifying this one act of battle frenzied violence?
Hux had been strangely quiet the entire time, taking his training seriously. Ben had the honor of watching him spar with Phasma, giving demonstrations for the soldiers. It was mesmerizing, and he couldn’t wait to see that bare fury seething out of him and aimed towards their enemy.
On the eve of the sixth night, there was no feast. The castle’s kitchens had no time to prepare for a grand dinner, but no one complained when they were served what had become standard to them for every meal; a small handful of vegetables, and a healthy portion of meat. They sipped their ale in silence, everyone containing too much nervous energy to make small talk or tell jokes. Everyone knew that the Normans had won every battle so far, everyone had been made aware that when William the Conqueror wanted something, he got it.
“I’m going to bed. I’d like to say a few prayers, please don’t rush in joining me.” Hux put a gentle hand on his shoulder, and Ben nodded.
They had been exceedingly compassionate with one another in the small moments they were given to be together privately. Phasma had worked them so hard, they didn’t have the energy for any sort of physical intimacy when they returned to Ben’s room at night. Instead, they curled up against one another, and matched their breaths to be in perfect sync. They exchanged stories of their childhood, and told each other their favorite foods (Hux’s was a pink frozen dessert made from the milk of a cow and crushed strawberries, Ben’s was the crunchy snap of a fresh carrot), their favorite constellation (they were surprised to learn they shared a favorite constellation, what Hux called the Eagle, Ben called the Cygnus the Swan), among other things.
Hux had been praying more and more to his Gods since they had arrived, but Ben had never asked to join him. It was an unspoken agreement between the two of them that they wouldn’t infringe on the others’ beliefs, giving each other the privacy they wanted when it came to prayer.
Ben kissed Hux’s cheek, and watched as his fiancée bid his goodnights to those remaining in the hall. He was so dazed with watching Hux, he didn’t notice someone slip a piece of parchment under his goblet. He only saw a figure hurriedly leave the hall, everyone else too drunk to notice. He was glad that he looked down at his plate before chasing after the man, because he saw the paper and immediately unfolded it with a frown.
An old friend is waiting for you in the library.
What on earth could that possibly mean?
Ben’s feet were moving before his brain registered it, and he let his legs carry him to the one place that was sure to be empty the night before a battle. The room always smelled musty to him, old rolls of parchment stacked high up on top of one another. Family records that went back a thousand years, battle plans, wins and losses, trading contracts, just about anything under the sun. If it was written down, it was in this room. The church even stored their bibles in here, but they were safely locked away. Ben grimaced, the entire idea of a select few being given the ability to read and write, or interpret the ideas of God always bothered him.
“Hello?” He whispered, not wanting to draw unwanted attention to himself. The library was always kept dark and cold, to better preserve the texts. Ben didn’t mind it, but he would have much rather been in his warm bed with Hux. “Is anyone there?”
“You’ve grown up mighty fine there, Ben.” A voice called from behind a bookshelf.
He whirled around, and found himself face to face with Bala Tik. Bala! Who he had just been thinking about a week prior! Ben’s face split into a grin and he rushed to pull Bala into a tight hug, thanking the universe for this wonderful, if entirely coincidental meeting.
“It’s been years! How did you recognize me?” Ben asked, too excited to keep his voice down now.
“I could never forget a face like yours. Those ears are too big.” Bala grinned, but something was wrong. His smile had changed, it wasn’t as full as Ben remembered it being. His voice had also changed, like he had grown out of his accent. It wasn’t as strong as when Bala had been twelve and fresh from Scotland. Still, it was friendly and familiar, and Ben couldn’t help but pull him into another hug.
“I feel like my memory is playing tricks on me, did you always used to have such buck teeth?” Ben punched his shoulder good naturedly, frowning when Bala winced sharply at the move. He had thought he hadn’t hit him hard enough to actually hurt. “Bala what the hell happened to you?” He asked, inspecting his haggard appearance.
“Oh you know, got meself mixed up in a bit of trouble some months back. Was at the wrong place at the wrong time is all.” Bala shrugged, and Ben stilled.
“A couple months?” He asked, doing the mental math. No. It couldn’t have been…
“Yeah, I foolishly left the monastery and had grabbed a ride to Denmark.” He shrugged, running a hand through his short hair. Ben felt cold trickle down his throat and landing heavily into his stomach. “Everyone who had been said it was lovely that time of year, so of course as soon as I show up everyone is fighting one another.” Bala chuckled.
“Do you remember the colors? What colors were they wearing?” Ben asked, insistent.
“A lot of red, everyone was wearing red.” Bala frowned, before his own eyes widened in realization.
“Bala, did you steal a spear?” Ben whispered, and Bala took a step back.
“No! No! Ben I don’t know what you heard – ”
“I didn’t hear anything, I was there. I watched what happened.” He admitted, face flushing red with guilt and shame.
“You did?” Bala kept his eyes to the ground.
“I’m sorry that I couldn’t stop him, the man who beat you. I’ve been looking for him.” He blurted, afraid if he didn’t get all the words out that moment, he wouldn’t be able to live with himself.
“I didn’t steal that spear. In the middle of all the fighting, someone had thrown it and missed. I picked it up, I wanted to join your army and fight. That man thought I was going to, I don’t know, take off with it or something.” He whispered, making such clear eye contact with Ben that he knew Bala wasn’t lying.
“Why did he keep calling you a penal slave? What crime had you committed?” Ben pressed, wanting to know if that had been a fiction too, fabricated by that snake Thanisson to justify his actions.
“The Lord and Lady I was serving felt I hadn’t washed their sheep in a timely enough fashion, and had me arrested. Truthfully, I think they just didn’t like my accent, so I trained my voice to remove it. I suppose it wasn’t enough.” That had answered Ben’s earlier thought, and his fists shook beside him.
“If I find Thanisson, I’m killing him.” He started, but Bala shook his head and sighed.
“There will be enough death soon.” Bala smiled sadly, “I am all right. I got new teeth, and a warm bed. Leia has been kind and took me in, she is giving me transport back to Luke right away; I am taking those who wish to flee before the battle. I had to see you before I left.” He smiled shyly.
Ben grinned, glad to know that Bala hadn’t forgotten him either.
“I don’t know if you’ve heard, but I’m engaged. To a man!” He felt twelve years old again, whispering in the dark. Bala laughed and pulled Ben into a hug one last time.
“I have indeed heard. I’m sorry to keep you from him. Go now, I just had to wish you luck.” Bala handed him a leather cord with a single red bead tied to the end. Ben knew a good luck charm when he saw one.
“Thank you for being my friend, Bala. I will write to you as soon as all of this is over.” His voice breaking on the word friend. He looked at the small paper that was still in his hand.
An old friend is waiting for you in the library.
An old friend.
Hux was asleep by the time Ben slipped into their room. He took a minute to study Hux’s face. If this was the last night he would ever spend with Hux, Ben would be happy. Happy that even though they had shared an incredibly short amount of time together, Hux had changed his life for the better. He traced with his eyes, the delicate veins behind Hux’s eyelids as his golden lashes fluttered. He counted the dozens of freckles that were sprinkled across his cheeks and the bridge of his nose, and the hundreds that dotted his arms and chest.
“Stop thinking so loudly.” Hux slurred, lips barely moving. Ben smiled tiredly and settled down in the covers next to him. “Where were you, I missed you.” Hux admitted, rolling into Ben’s open arms.
“I’m sorry, someone from my childhood found me. He wished us good luck.” Ben tucked a hair behind Hux’s ear, the hesitation from their first dinner together long dissolved.
“I don’t mean to be macabre, but this may be the last time I can ever ask. Can you kiss me? Please?” Hux breathed, not opening his eyes.
Ben could not deny Hux anything, and he leaned in, slowly licking into Hux’s mouth. His lover hummed into the embrace, and the two exchanged lazy kisses until Hux fell back asleep, his lips still pressed against Ben’s.
The entire infantry had left early in the morning to get into position. The air was thick with tension, as dozens of scouts had their eyes trained on the horizon, watching for the arrival of Norman ships. Phasma was in her full regalia, polished silver armor from head to toe. Hux had dressed in his finest warrior’s clothes, with a belt that had a knife and an axe clipped to it. He wore chain mail over his tunic, and had borrowed a shield from the armory, and his helmet was firmly in place. Ben’s Knights were scattered, one at each shield wall, all dressed identically in black tunics. Ben suited up as well, wearing a long mail coat over his tunic and trousers, and on his belt lay his battle axe, as well has his handcrafted sword. If anyone noticed an extra red bead dangling from the hit, then no one said a word.
They waited and watched, and waited some more.
A bell tolled, loud and long, splitting the morning peace. Ben could hear the soldiers around him suck in a breath and brace themselves, it was going to be a long day.
“How many?” Phasma called up to the nearest scout.
There was a long pause before the answer became clear; like a blockade that arrived from nowhere, hundreds of ships made their way closer and closer to the shore. The sun rose behind them, bathing the sky and water in a red fiery glow, and Ben counted each new row of ships as they appeared.
As soon as the first row of ships docked on Saxon shored, a resounding thud rang through the silent hills; the shield wall had been raised, the sound of thousands of soldiers slamming their shields together was music to Ben’s ears.
“Get out.” A single soldier shouted to the docks, as the first Norman set foot on their shore.
“Out!” Another soldier echoed.
Soon there began a chant, “Out! Out! Out!” The shield wall collectively took a step forward, a thousand feet stomping on the ground, shaking the earth. The earth continued to shake, and Ben frowned, knowing that his men couldn’t have had that much strength to cause reverberations such as this.
“Ben.” Hux gripped Ben’s arm and pointed, a look of fury stretching his face into a grimace.
The men hadn’t been shaking the earth at all, it was the thunder of horses.
The Normans had brought horses.
“We’re going to lose.” Ben gasped, jaw dropped.
“Not if we have anything to say about it.” Hux snarled, before he raised his axe with a scream.
Please don't be upset with me!! This wound up being over 15k words, and i had to cut it off somewhere! So instead, here's 12k words of angst, fluff, aaaand more angst. We only have one chapter left!! I promise this story has a happy ending, thank you so much for bearing with me! :) xxxx
And now, some fun Viking & Anglo-Saxon history:
-Even though the Saxons had been rather forcibly converted away from their Germanic Paganism some centuries before this story is written, many still did believe in good luck charms! There are records of glass beads that have been charmed being tied to weaponry to bring success in battle, rings, amulets, you name it.
-Everything I mentioned about Saxon feasting is completely true. Anyone who has read Beowulf knows the price one pays for leaving a feast before all the food is gone. You just don't do it.
-Swords were indeed mostly for decoration and status in Viking society, as well as in Saxon society, however the Saxons had a much harder time making swords, which is why it's so rare for them to be used in battle. (I just couldn't resist working in lightsabers).
I'm going to save all the stuff about the Battle of Hastings for the next chapter so I don't spoil anything. I hope y'all can forgive me!!
As always, if you'd like to come chat with me about anything, you can find me on tumblr @babbushka, or just leave a comment down below! I absolutely love reading all your responses to these chapters, they make my day, truly!!! xxx
Chapter 6: Decisions Made and Conclusions Reached, Dawns of Ages and Beginnings of Dreams
Heed the warnings in the tags, my friends.
For anyone sensitive to NSFW scenes, you can skip from the line, "There was just enough light outside to bask the room in golden shadows, and Ben drank in as much of it as he could." to the line, "The air on his newly exposed skin felt like Heaven."
Thank you all so much for going on this journey with me, I know it's been a roller coaster of a fic, and I thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart for all the kind kudos and comments you've given me. I look forward to sharing more of my writing with you all! Please enjoy xxxx
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
At first there was nothing but the roar of a thousand hooves, the chant of the soldiers, and the rush of blood pumping through Ben’s ears.
Out! Out! Out! Beat like a drum in the silence before the great battle. The air was charged with tension; boats were docked on their shores, soldiers were standing on their soil, and spears were pointed in their direction.
Then, it was the piercing scream that tore away from Hux’s lips, the glint of sunlight on the blade of his axe, and the echoing battle yell of the shield wall.
Out! Out! Out! The Normans may have had horses, but they weren’t going to claim Hastings so easily – not without a fight.
“Forward!” One of the Generals had called, brandishing their axe high into the air.
Almost immediately things delved into chaos.
The appearance of the cavalry was not something Phasma had been given permission to train the soldiers for, and they were paying with their lives for it. Horses trampled through the first shield wall with relative ease, crushing soldiers underfoot, the sick sound of wood splintering into flesh ringing into the morning.
The foot soldiers belonging to the Normans marched forward in three columns, moving to assault. They had brandished their spears and axes, and were met with the ferocity of a thousand Viking trained men.
Somehow, a fire broke out, neither side knowing who started it. Smoke billowed into the sky, plumes black as the death they were inflicting. Ben was thankful for this smoke, it obscured the secretly made fosse, and many Normans fell into it, dying upon impact. The Saxons pushed forward, fighting hard and strong.
Ben was far enough away from the fire to be clear of the smoke. His fellow soldiers who were closer to the blanket of ash had a hard time seeing what was going on, the smoke heavy in their lungs and blinding their eyes.
“Hold your breath!” He commanded, once inhalation had begun to strangle the Normans.
He had been separated from his group, all the soldiers now clashed together in one large pit, slipping on blood and mud alike. Limbs were cleaved off with each strike of Ben’s axe, the double-edged weapon sharpened to perfection. He refused to contain the untamable sounds of exertion that ripped out from his throat with each beautiful arc of his arm, wanting the Normans to know how his rage would be channeled to their demise. He wanted them to know that the Master of the Knights of Ren was the one to kill them.
His Knights were doing exactly what they had been trained for – massacre. Ben found them in the fray, and together they got into formations that had once wiped out cities, that had once rained death upon every single person in their way. They had not seen battle such as this in many months, and Ben knew they relished in the bloodshed.
If he had given it much thought, Ben would probably have panicked with the state of the battle. Too many people were crowded together, there was not much room for anything other than harm. They made room to breathe by cutting the legs of Normans off, taking their head space as they fell in screams of agony.
The screams were not of the Normans alone, much to Ben’s dissatisfaction. Many a Saxon had been struck down, the force of blows brought by men on horseback too great for those with simple shields to withstand. Saxons and Normans alike fell into the fosse, bodies collecting at an alarming rate, a moat of blood and sweat rather than pure seawater.
Ben couldn’t find Hux.
Phasma had taken it upon herself to murder her way to the Norman ships that had washed ashore on the docks. The polished silver of her armor could be seen sparkling in the light, as she slaughtered every single person that had not yet stepped foot onto Saxon soil. Ben could not hear her shouts of fury, but when he was able to spare a glance her way, she had already moved on to the next ship, effectively wiping out the next waves of enemies. Despite their friendship, Ben wasn’t nearly as anxious to find her as he was in his searching for Hux. He knew she could take care of herself, he knew she was the best of all of them, but Hux was not with her, and though they never planned to be, it made Ben uneasy to see her alone.
Hours passed, and Ben still could not see Hux. The armies on both sides were thinning, the stench of rigor-mortis wafting on the gentle breeze made many so ill they were easy targets for axes or spears. Suddenly, the Normans changed their tactic, and instead of shooting their arrows forward, they aimed upwards.
“My eye!” The first scream of many sounded, as the helmets the Saxons wore did nothing to prevent the sharpened tips from sliding into their line of vision.
Hundreds of Saxons fell, foolishly trying to remove the arrows from their heads, killing themselves in the process. Ben panicked.
He broke rank, clipping the axe back to his belt, and finally unveiled the sword; the saber of light, as he called it. He wasted no time in swinging it, slitting through layers of thick mail and animal hide on as many Normans and their God forsaken horses as he could.
He stabbed the backs of legs with his cross guard, and beheaded everyone he encountered. He was mad with fury, raising his shield above his head he defended himself against the monsoon of arrows, all seeking his eyes with a hunger born from lust for blood.
He had not remained unharmed throughout the hours he endured. Like many others in his infantry, he was the victim of wounds inflicted by spears and axes, only just barely. The cuts that marred his skin had not been deep, he had thankfully been able to only be grazed by the sharpened edges of things where his fellow Saxons had not been so lucky. Each step he took brought a flare of pain from his arms where he had received the most damage, but he willed himself to move forward, to turn the stinging in his flesh to rage that would smite their foes.
He needed to get to Hux, he needed to at least see Hux. To catch a glimpse of his lover, to know he was still fighting was the only thing keeping Ben going. He had lost all the feeling in his right hand, the grip on his sword purely muscle memory by this point.
It’s going to have to come off, A small voice whispered in his mind.
He knew the voice was right, he knew he would not leave this battle with all of his limbs, if he left at all. It was looking more and more likely that he wouldn’t be, but he couldn’t find the time to care enough about it to stop his advances.
It looked for a moment that the Normans were retreating, and against better judgement, a General called for them all to break ranks. There were so few Saxons left, a couple hundred down from thousands. It had been a trick, Ben knew in his gut that it was a trick, but he had been powerless to stop what remaining men there were from running to their deaths.
A new wave of men on horseback stampeded through the field, and Ben could feel it in his heart that it was over.
Still, he refused. He needed to see Hux. Where his fiancée had gone was beyond him, but Ben would follow his instincts to the ends of the earth. He was probably going to die, but he would be damned if he didn’t die beside his lover.
It was then that he saw it – the glint of a golden clasp on the ground, almost obscured by the red stained grass. He stopped, bending down on uncertain legs in the middle of the battle to pick up a single braid that had been cut free. With nothing to keep it in place, the three strands of copper hair unwound, and Ben closed it tight in his fist with a cry of anguish that made every soldier around him stop in their advance.
He couldn’t have been… Ben didn’t dare finish the thought. He grasped the beads that dangled from his sword, and yanked them off, glass shattering against the ground. What good were charms when his luck had run out? What need was there for luck when the only person to share it with was gone?
That one moment of weakness, that one slight hesitation to step forward despite the crimson rivulets that cascaded from his wounds found him on the floor, screaming, an arrow splitting his face in a nasty diagonal. He blinked away blood, and fought the panic that rose from his chest, knowing that it at least hadn’t embedded itself into his eye like so many of his fallen soldiers had.
Not a soul moved, as Ben writhed on the ground. His Knights were dead, killed in the throng of arrows and trampled by a hundred hooves. The foot soldiers were gone, the shield walls broken.
Ben didn’t move, the screaming finally subsiding. The pain was nothing but numbing now, almost comforting. Black spots danced at the edges of his eyes, and he almost welcomed the embrace.
“I expected better from you.” An eerily familiar voice parted Norman soldiers like the Red Sea.
A shadow cast across Ben’s face as a withered old man stepped in front of the sun, looming over Ben’s body. Ben’s breathing was labored, and he struggled to sit up, but he could recognize the silhouette of his former master anywhere. A heavy boot stepped on his throat, and Ben dropped his shield to dig his nails into the leather to pull the foot off.
“Snoke?” Ben choked, failing, and settling to raking his nails along the exposed ankle, a fast enough motion to startle Snoke into removing his boot and allowing him to gulp down broken lungfuls of air.
“I rid myself of that name long ago, Ben.” Snoke sighed, tutting as if Ben were a child. Snoke had always thought Ben was nothing more than a child, and it hurt to know that after everything, the sentiment remained.
“You – ” He squinted against the light of the sun, now low into the afternoon. The battle had lasted well past lunch, but Ben’s stomach did not yearn for food.
When his good eye finally focused, he found a face that suddenly seemed so clear. The golden crown that sat upon his proud head was splashed across all the paintings he had commissioned of himself, not that Ben had ever seen one. He had spent so much time away that the news had only come verbally, or in written text, never in pictures. Though his beard was longer, it was just as silver as Ben had remembered.
“I’m William the Conqueror, yes.” Snoke – no, William – smugly cocked an eyebrow, making it seem like the most obvious thing in the world.
“William the Bastard, more like.” Ben managed, proud of himself for managing to not only form a full sentence, but spit blood onto the golden embroidered robe William tied around his waist. Instead of being offended, William laughed.
“I must say, for someone on the brink of death, you certainly have some fight left in you.” He chuckled, pulling out a small dagger. Ben knew where he intended to put it, he had taught Ben himself years ago, when he was a young boy with big dreams to rule the world with an iron fist.
Ben had pierced many hearts with his sword, but somehow, it didn’t feel ironic that this was how his journey ended. With Hux dead, he didn’t have much of a heart left at all.
“What, nothing more to say?” William taunted, teasing Ben as the Normans laughed.
“What can one say to the man who betrayed him most?” He growled back, feeling a second wind call up from somewhere deep inside him.
“Betrayal implies loyalty. And my boy, I was never loyal.” William sneered, and Ben saw red.
He pushed up with as much might as he could muster, and clutched his sword from where it had fallen just shy of his fingertips. He would not die like a dog, laying on the ground with his tail between his legs. He would not have the world know him as a coward who gave up even in the face of defeat. He thought to that glorious night at the hot spring, to when Hux described a flaming road to Valhalla, where all Viking soldiers go if they have been noble in battle. If that is where Hux had gone, that’s where he wanted to be. He wanted to be noble.
William saw the motion coming, and gripped Ben’s wrist, stopping him from bringing the sword down with all his fury. He must have forgotten about Ben’s cross guard daggers, because with a quick twist, Ben used them to slice William’s hand clean off. Their scuffle was so quick none of the soldiers saw Ben push his sword into William’s stomach, pulling it out with a spill of blood that soaked into the earth, nor did they see William taking Ben’s right hand in return with the blade of his dagger. They only heard the agonizing cries that both men spit into one another’s faces.
Ben figured he was dead. He had to have been, because suddenly there was Hux, galloping towards them on a horse that had certainly been stolen. Ben had no tears left to shed, but he mustered what strength he had to grin.
Even in death, Hux was stunning. He almost hadn’t recognized him, completely covered from head to toe in a deep red stain. Only the whites of his eyes and the pearls of his teeth were clean, and it was a sight so horrifying that a few Norman soldiers fainted.
Phasma arrived mere seconds later also on horseback, her armor rusted and ruddy, and the two sounded their battle cry and with axes held high they charged forward. The Normans didn’t have the time to react before they were murdered, the last thing they saw being the fury of Vikings.
“We have had enough of your torment!” Hux shouted.
Before anyone nearby could act, Hux leapt off the horse like a beast from the jungle and pried the saber of light from Ben’s dismembered hand. The entire company watched with wide eyes as Hux brought the sword down over and over again, hacking William’s head clean off.
William’s body went limp, and Hux kicked him away from Ben with his foot, leaving a dirty print on the pristine gold robe.
“If you ever step foot on these shores again, you will all suffer the same fate as your king.” Phasma yelled, dismounting from her horse and holding William’s head high, gilded crown tumbling into the mud. The Normans heeded her warning, and returned to their ships in a rush.
Hux was breathing heavily, and he bent over Ben’s body, hands anxiously flitting from one wound to the next to try and stop the bleeding from somewhere, anywhere.
“Phasma, help me.” Hux called, voice breaking with his plea. Ben could tell distantly that Phasma was searching for something to wrap his wrist or eye with.
“Hux?” Ben asked, confused. He wasn’t in any pain, but what a strange occurrence to see Hux shed tears that weren’t born from pleasure. He didn’t want Hux to cry, wasn’t this supposed to be a happy place?
“I’m here, I’m here.” Hux replied, lifting the helmet away from Ben’s face. The hot metal being removed was a relief to his skin, and he sighed when Hux carded a few fingers through Ben’s terrible helmet hair.
With his good eye, he stared at the clouds. The fire stopped, and wind took the smoke away from them, leaving nothing behind but a brilliant blue.
“You know,” Ben whispered, not feeling Phasma bind his wounds as Hux’s shaking arms enveloped him. “The sky is ever clearer. Here, when I’m with you.”
“Ben I – I need you to get up. Do you think you can get up?” Hux was shaking, tears streaming down his face cutting through the red that had smeared on his skin.
“Wise sir, do not grieve.” Ben choked, the only thoughts he could pull from his fogged mind apparently poetry. Why now, with his head on Hux’s shoulder, the words from Beowulf spilled from his lips, Ben didn’t know.
“Phasma help me get him up.” Hux sobbed, and Ben let himself be dragged.
Together, Phasma and Hux hoisted him onto a stolen horse, Hux’s arms wrapped around him from behind, preventing him from falling just as Ben had saved Hux from falling off the bed from what seemed like a thousand years ago.
“It is always better to avenge dear ones than to indulge in mourning.” Ben continued, it suddenly incredibly important for Ben to remain conscious. He was vaguely aware that they were moving, and his head rolled back and forth into Hux’s neck with the force of it.
“Keep talking, Ben, please keep talking. Stay with me.” Hux kicked the horse faster, and the world whipped around Ben’s eye.
He didn’t know where they were going, but he could never say no to Hux before, he wasn’t going to start now. His tongue was sandpaper in his mouth but he pressed onward.
“For every one of us, living in this world means waiting for our end.” Ben struggled, his lips not wanting to form the words, the cadence of the poem sounding wrong to his ears.
“We’re almost there, the castle is just ahead.” Hux filled the spaces of Ben’s breaths, letting him regain some strength to keep his eyes open.
Ben thought Hux was an angel, delivering him to the stone fortress he would die to protect, not knowing if it was worth it.
Would his death be worth the death of Snoke? Would that prove to have been a fair trade?
The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, his mother had said a long time ago. Ben wondered how expendable she thought he was, how willing she was to prove that point.
Hux didn’t think him expendable, he wanted him to stay awake. It was difficult, but Ben swallowed the tang of iron on his teeth, and forced his consciousness to remain.
“Let whoever can, win glory before death.” Ben whispered, seeing the familiar view of the enclosed bridge through the windows as they flew by.
Hux had taken the horse into the castle, with Phasma close behind, Ben dimly realized. What a sight that must have been – bloody Vikings on horseback, a dying reject Prince in tow.
“Just a moment more, stay awake just a moment more.” Hux pleaded. Ben knew the layout well enough to find his bearings, even though he was starting to slip. They were just around the corner from the medical ward.
“When a warrior is gone, that will be his best and only bulwark.” He breathed, uttering the last line of the quote as soon as they reached the heavy wooden doors.
The last thing Ben saw before he collapsed was Hux’s face, twisted in agony. Even then, Ben thought him beautiful.
There was nothing, just a blanket of white as far as Ben’s eyes could see.
He took a few steps forward, marveling at how there seemed to be no floor, yet he could tell he was indeed moving. His limbs felt sore, so sore. He had thought there would be no pain in death, but it seemed he was wrong. He was so tired of being wrong.
“Hello?” He called, his voice carrying. It didn’t sound the same to him, not the hoarse scratched sound that he knew to be the product of hours at war. It was soft, and clear, like he had never seen a day’s hardship. There were no walls, and yet the sound bounced around.
“Hi Benjamin.” A kind voice sounded next to him.
Ben whirled, and caught his breath. Materializing out of nowhere was Anakin, dressed in full battle armor. He had never met the man, he died before Ben was even a twinkle in his mother’s eye, but oh how he revered him.
“Grandfather?” Ben asked, unsure whether he should speak. Anakin smiled warmly at him, and opened his arms. Ben ran into them, and breathed in deeply. He smelt like ash and soap.
“Why am I here Benjamin?” Anakin asked, gesturing to the void of white that they stood in.
“I think I’m dead.” Ben shrugged, looking around. It was the only thing that could possibly make sense, there was no way he had survived the trip to the medical wing. He still bore the scars of his wounds, which Ben thought was only fair, he should remember this failure for the rest of eternity.
“No, that’s not it.” Anakin hummed, before walking away.
Ben hurried to follow, trying to avoid tripping on Anakin’s black cape that flowed behind him, even though there was no wind.
“I’m not dead?” He asked, brows furrowing in confusion.
“Do you really think Hux would let you go?” Anakin scoffed, raising an eyebrow of his own in return.
“I don’t think that it’s up to him.” Ben smiled sheepishly, crossing his arms over his chest.
“Oh please, you and I both know that nothing gets in the way of that man. Not even death herself.” He waved a hand, and Ben was inclined to agree.
They stepped out from the white into a lush green space, where the trees were full of ripe fruit. The sun was shining on the waters, throwing diamond sparkles up into the air. Rainbows and blue birds filled the sky, and Ben immediately recognized the place. Anakin reached up to pick an apple, and bit into it with a solid crunch.
“What are we doing here?” Ben asked, bending down to pick a strawberry from a nearby bush. He took the smallest bite, letting sweetness flood his taste buds.
“That’s what I just asked you.” Anakin replied, smiling around another crunch of the apple.
Ben felt overwhelmed, he had dreamt of this moment his entire life, hoping one day he would be able to hear the tales of Anakin, Walker of the Sky, fiercest warrior the West had ever known. He wanted to know about old Obi-Wan, his namesake, and their adventures together.
He always felt that his grandfather was the only one who could ever understand him, the battle between light and dark not nearly as prevalent in anyone as it was in him. He knew what it was like to be an outcast, to be rejected by society, and Ben craved that feeling of belonging that he knew Anakin would be able to give him.
“I have so many things I want to say to you, so much to ask you.” Ben blinked, pressure starting to form behind his eyes. He had done enough crying and was all out of tears, instead he dealt with the dry burn of emotion that was too strong to suppress.
“I’m afraid I don’t have many answers. I’m only as real as you make me, I have only the answers you give me.” Anakin shrugged. He sounded almost as cryptic as Luke, and it made him smile – like father like son.
“That’s not very helpful.” Ben teased, picking another strawberry. He longed to give them to Hux.
“Sorry.” Anakin smiled, his tone very much not sorry. “You know, I’m missing my right hand too.” He said after a short while.
“Really?” Ben asked, surprised. No one had ever mentioned anything like that to him.
Anakin lifted the arm, and in the place of his right hand was a metal arm. It looked regal and heavy, inscribed with runes for prosperity.
“Your Uncle cut it off.” He nodded. Ben’s eyebrows shot up, no one had mentioned that either.
“Is that how you died?” Ben needed to know, it was one of the biggest mysteries surrounding his grandfather. Only Luke was there the day Anakin was buried, and he refused to speak about it to anyone. Not Leia, and especially not Ben.
“I died trying to do the only thing that mattered to me, saving my family.” Anakin sighed, standing once more. Ben rushed to his side, helping him up. The man may have once been revered, but in Ben’s head, he was nothing more than a dirty family secret, fading away in health and fame.
“Why is your name only ever whispered?” Ben asked, sorrow growing tight in his chest.
Anakin’s face fell, mirroring his own emotions. Not a single person in the village spoke of the deeds Anakin had done, but Ben didn’t need them to know they were bad things.
“We both know the answer to that, I’m afraid.” Anakin smiled with sad eyes.
“What, because you were evil?” Ben scoffed. They walked back into the white, away from the colors of Spring in Sweden.
“Yes. Evil that I inflicted, and evil I enabled.” The way Anakin spoke, Ben got the impression that they were one in the same.
“I killed Snoke.” He admitted. It felt good to say it out loud, even if it had nearly cost him his life too. He wondered again, if it would make a difference. If in one hundred years anyone would remember Benjamin Organa, or if they would only know of a man of many names, so twisted he tried to bring an entire world to his knees.
“I know.” Anakin nodded, walking. Ben followed.
“I’ve killed a lot of people.” He continued, thinking to the village he slaughtered at Snoke’s command. How they had begged for their lives and he hadn’t graced them with mercy. The scar in his side twitched.
“I know that too.” Anakin chuckled. It was a funny business, war. Everyone wants you to kill, but no one wants to be killed.
“Does that make me evil?” Ben whispered.
They stopped walking, still bathed in white light. Ben could start to feel his finger tips and his toes.
“If you have to ask, then you already know the answer.” Anakin smiled. Ben definitely saw the resemblance between him and Luke.
“Grandfather?” Ben prompted, when they had stood in the same spot for a while, unmoving.
“Hmm?” Anakin blinked, in a daze. His attention was drifting, and Ben knew that meant his consciousness was returning.
“I want to go back to Hux.” Saying it out loud made it real, and he could feel Anakin fading, the white not so bright now. “Thank you for speaking with me.” He squeezed Anakin’s left hand with his own, smiling at the similarity of them.
“Thank you for being wise enough to listen.” Anakin replied.
Ben blinked, the white light slowly receding to blur around the outline of the man he pledged his life to. Hux had grasped Ben’s left hand with both of his own, pressing it against his cheek and whispering prayers in a language Ben didn’t recognize.
In his consciousness, Ben’s hand twitched, but Hux didn’t notice. His eyes were shut, creases between his brows in sorrow.
Hux was clean, in a new change of clothes. His hair was braided back elegantly in one long plait, keeping it out of his face. Ben wondered how long he had been with Anakin. Hux’s grip on Ben’s remaining hand was becoming painful, so he tried shifting out of it, but Hux wouldn’t budge.
“Hux.” Ben breathed, his throat raw from disuse. He must have been here for days, weeks even.
Hux’s head snapped up, and Ben could see the exhaustion in his eyes. Deep purple bruises were punched under his eyes, making the green contrast brilliantly. His sclera was shot with red, like he had been doing too much crying, or not getting enough sleep. Maybe both. Ben didn’t know.
“Ben?” Hux asked, a breath of hope in his voice.
“Hux.” He repeated, this time trying to make it stronger.
Hux threw himself over Ben’s body, sobbing loudly. His whole body shook with the force of his tears, and Ben lifted his hand forgetting for a moment that it was gone. In its place was the same metal arm his grandfather had shown to him, inscribed with runes and beautiful detail work.
"Ben! Oh Ben, darling. Please, call me Armitage.” His lover cried, his face in such a brilliant smile of relief and adoration that Ben felt a tear slip down the side of his face. He hesitated for a moment, before lifting the metal hand up to Armitage’s cheek, but his worries were quelled when he leaned into the touch, not flinching at the slightest at the cool contact.
Armitage. The same sounded so right in his head, so warm and loving. He was glad to not use the name of his lover’s horrid father, instead calling him something all his own.
“Thank you.” Ben tried to sit up, wanting to hold him, but he pushed Ben back down. Armitage brushed his hand through Ben’s hair, a soothing gesture that had become one of the only things that could truly calm Ben anymore. He was grateful for it.
“Don’t speak.” Armitage ordered softly, unable to keep the smile off his face. “You’ve been out for four days. They were sure you wouldn’t make it, but I knew you would pull through. I knew you would.”
Armitage ran his hands over Ben’s arms, both the real one and the metal one. His hands still shook, but at least there was some peace brought to his features. Ben wanted nothing more than to have him climb onto the bed and get under the covers, to hold him close.
“I only ever left when they forced me to, when they did your surgeries. I wanted to be with you for all of it, but they wouldn’t let me.” Armitage whispered, Ben kissing the top of his head.
“You saved my life.” He murmured. He would gladly live the rest of his life serving this man, coming to his every beck and call. He would bring the world down for Armitage, if he only asked.
“You saved mine.” Armitage replied, pressing kisses gently to the side of Ben’s nose, careful to avoid the stitched flesh of his cheek in case Ben still was in any pain. Whatever pain may have lingered vanished at the sweet touches his lover bestowed unto him. He didn’t deserve to be treated so kindly.
“How? I did nothing, I lost.” Ben huffed, slightly turning his head in shame. Armitage frowned and with soft fingers pulled it back to face him.
“When you pulled the sword out, you cut off a man’s head.” He said, and Ben couldn’t only help to smile.
“I cut off many heads, ‘Tidge.” He pointed out. Armitage’s face turned beet red at the nickname, and he bit his lip, ducking. If his hair had been let down, it would have covered that beautiful blush, but as it was braided back he was on full display. Ben sucked in a breath, it was the most radiant sight he had ever seen.
“Yes, but you cut off the head of a man who was poised to kill me. If you hadn’t been there, I’d be dead right now.” Armitage bashfully smiled.
“Who cut your braid?” Ben blurted, remembering the slip of copper that had untwined in his hand. He was sure the nurses had thrown it away when they cleaned him and stitched his wounds, but he couldn’t find it in himself to be angry, not with the living thing right in front of him still clutching his hand.
“Some bastard officer. One of ours, I knew by the colors. I killed him.” Armitage waved a hand, dismissive.
“Was he young?” Ben tried sitting up, his brain immediately thinking to Thanisson and how he hadn’t been able to find him in the battle.
“I think so, he had a boyish face.” Armitage shrugged, a light smile gracing his lips.
“Good, I’m glad he’s dead.” Ben fell back against the bed, his head thumping softly on the pillow. He was sore from head to toe, most notably in his sides, which had endured so much strain he was surprised he hadn’t torn any muscles. He groaned in pain, more achy than anything else, and Hux smiled sadly.
“I’m really going to need you to stop speaking now my love. You’ve been through a lot.” He let one hand twist a lock of Ben’s hair, and Ben just soaked in the sight of him.
“Nurse!” Rey called, standing in the doorway and breaking the calm.
“Shit.” Ben whispered, making Armitage laugh, their stolen moment of peace officially interrupted.
“Nurse! He’s awake!” Rey shouted down the hall before rushing over to him. Despite having no part of the battle at all, she looked ragged and tired.
“Were you really that worried about me?” Ben asked, tone light and teasing.
Rey’s expression darkened, confusing Ben. She didn’t lean to embrace him, she crossed her arms in anger. He wasn’t met with a smile, but with a scowl. There was redness behind her eyelids and a paleness to her skin that spoke of illness, but Ben didn’t know of what sort.
“Of course not, you’ve been worse than this.” She snapped, before collapsing onto a chair in sobs.
“Rey what the hell – ” Ben started, leaning on Armitage to sit up fully. He propped himself up against the headboard and watched as Rey fisted her hands in her dress.
“She’s dead, Ben.” Rey said in between hiccups. Ben felt his face pale, breaking out into a cold sweat of panic. Armitage had to put a hand on his shoulder to keep him from falling over.
“What? How? When?” He rushed to ask, needing to know who or what was to blame.
“She suffered nearly the same fate you did. Arrow to the eye. Except she passed and here you lay.” Rey clenched her jaw, and the hand on Ben’s shoulder tightened.
“You can’t possibly be angry with him for not perishing.” Armitage asked, tone incredulous.
“I am angry with all of you! All of your fighting, all of your killing.” She shouted, a vein in her neck pulsing.
“Has the funeral already happened?” Ben asked in a quiet voice, hoping to be heard. He didn’t think he could repeat the question if asked.
“No, we were waiting for you to wake.” She looked upwards, trying to stop crying.
“I didn’t get to say goodbye.” Ben said, mostly to himself. Armitage pressed Ben’s head into his side, the hand moving from his shoulder back into his hair, trying to soothe him.
“Luke came from the monastery to see her before she died. She dictated a letter to you which he wrote down. She did the same for me. I brought it with me, in case you want to read it.” Rey fished around for the letter in one of the large pockets in her dress.
“Of course I want to read it.” Ben nodded, and Rey put it on the side table. Luke’s handwriting spelled a simple, Benjamin on the ivory envelope. The sight of it burned.
“I know you two didn’t get along, but she loved you, you know.” Rey said, before being collected enough to stand from the chair.
“No, she loved you.” Ben replied. Leia had tried, but it just hadn’t been enough. Ben was always too much trouble for her to deal with, everyone knew it.
“In any case, you two are to be married immediately. As in tomorrow morning.” Rey sighed, heading to the door.
“Why?” Armitage asked, looking back and forth between him and Rey.
If Leia were dead, then that meant only one thing for certain. The realization flooded Ben with a sick sort of joy, given the circumstances.
“I’m King.” He whispered. “’Tidge, I’m King!” He pulled Armitage down into a kiss, and dramatically, the entire royal guard burst into the medical ward at the exact same moment; the call from Rey hadn’t been heard by just the nurse.
“Long live the king!” A crowd of over forty people burst into applause at once, as Ben kissed and kissed and kissed Armitage again.
“Long live the king.” Armitage whispered against his lips, before politely pulling away to face the mass amount of people that were now watching, whistling and hollering in happiness.
“Finn, Poe, and I are leaving. We’re going to travel South, to Spain.” Rey sighed, quietly enough that the crowd wouldn’t hear.
“Okay.” Ben couldn’t really process everything going on, but he knew there was nothing he would be able to do about that.
“We’re leaving as soon as your coronation is completed, I just wanted you to know.” Rey continued, daring Ben to try and stop her.
“Okay.” He repeated, no energy to play her games.
Rey gave a bow to them both, a false smile to the guard, and left, taking the guard with her.
Ben had recognized the faces of the people crowding the room; all his mother’s advisers, the security, the hand maidens and ladies in waiting, all now for him. Him and Armitage, as soon as they were wed.
“Your Majesty,” One person stepped remained. She was old enough to be his grandmother, but had aged with grace and beauty. Her tanned skin was painted with beautiful makeup from a country Ben had never visited, and her white hair was covered with a gauzy blue headdress that tied off into two long tails down her back. Ben couldn’t place her name, but he knew she was capable. His mother only ever hired capable people. “We must get you dressed for the funeral.”
“Right now?” He asked, looking to Armitage, who gave him a sad smile.
“Yes your Majesty, right now. Prince Hux, I must ask you to also prepare, you are expected to be in attendance.” The woman bowed to Armitage, not seeing the confused expression flash across his features for a split second, before resolving to something more neutral.
“I am?” He couldn’t keep the wonder out of his voice.
“Of course, you and Lady Phasma are to be honored at the ceremony, it was the late Queen’s insistence.” The woman smiled.
“I can help Ben dress. Are the clothes laid out for him in his room?” Armitage asked, helping Ben out of the bed.
His muscles groaned in protest, but he was glad to be standing. Days in a bed wasn’t good for any wounds, he had seen more soldiers die from atrophy than anything else. He was pleased to see his legs still worked.
“Yes, your highness. If that is all right with his Majesty, of course.” The woman hurriedly added, making Ben laugh.
“Anything Prince Hux wants is all right with me.” He smiled at his lover, receiving a brilliant blush in return.
“The ceremony is to begin in one hour.” The woman bowed and left, without telling either of them her name.
The walk to Ben’s bedroom had taken twenty minutes as it was, his room being on the other side of the castle and all. The distance combined with his weak legs doubled the amount of time it usually took for Ben to return to his own suite.
There on the bed were funeral procession clothing, that doubled as his coronation clothing. It was extravagant and completely out of the realm of what he normally wore, except for the fact that it was black.
“I know what it’s like to bury a mother, and for that, I am sorry.” Armitage whispered, not daring to raise his voice.
“She lived a great life, and touched a great many people with her words and her actions. She was a fierce and good Queen, and I’m glad the people had her for as long as they did.” Ben said, truth heavy in his words.
“I wish she had treated you with more kindness.” Armitage pulled him into his arms.
“Me too. But I’d rather she had treated me poorly than been a poor ruler.” Ben shrugged, relaxing into Armitage’s embrace.
“Wisdom of a true King.” He grinned, tugging playfully on one of Ben’s ears.
“I’m sorry about that, by the way.” Ben cleared his throat and looked down at the floor. Armitage scoffed out a laugh, more of a huff of hair than anything.
“You’re sorry about being King?” Armitage gave an amused smile, an eyebrow arching in such a familiar movement that Ben wanted to kiss him. He did.
“You don’t have to stay here, if you don’t want to. If you want, we can go back to Sweden and I’ll forfeit the crown and – ” He started, willing to pass it along to whoever wanted it next.
“Ben, I agreed to this marriage under the full understanding that I might rule alongside you. My home is wherever you are.” Armitage interrupted him with a finger to his lips, and Ben smiled, pressing a kiss to it.
“You’d look stunning in gold.” Ben teased, biting the finger playfully. Armitage rolled his eyes, and offered an arm. Ben linked it with his own good one, and they took a deep breath.
“Are you ready?” Armitage asked, nodding his head in the direction of the great hall.
“As I’ll ever be.” Ben sighed, and they exited the room together.
“Nos deducere, ut regina coeli.” The monks chanted in unison. “Ad caelum, ut producat nostrae reginae.” They crossed the streets with heads held high, deep voices ringing out into the bright of day.
The funeral went as all things Leia organized went; efficiently. The death of a royal was no small function to begin with, but seeing as Leia had been the favorite ruler among everyone in all the nearby kingdoms, there was nothing short of a parade for her. The sheer number of flowers that decorated the streets covered the stench of the village, providing sweet perfumed air as the funeral procession made its way to the church.
Twenty monks, ten on each side and all dressed in black carried Leia’s casket on their shoulders, thousands of people following behind them. Ben and Rey were at the head of this crowd, their long black capes dragging on the dirt like a carpet of mourning. Ben couldn’t concentrate on anything other than placing one foot in front of the other.
The church was opulent, as were most things royal. Glass stained a myriad of bright colors filled every window, making the light in the nave. Luke, among other monks stood at the chansel and sang, deep hymns that coaxed forward a hundred tears.
Words were said, songs were sang, and then it was over. The church may have been extravagant, but Leia wasn’t. She apparently made it clear that she didn’t want some long drawn out ceremony, instead happy to just go through the necessary motions and be buried alongside her parents. The entire ordeal took maybe two hours.
Ben knew that the end of the funeral meant the beginning of his coronation. He also knew it would be quick, for any delay would put them further at risk of another attack. He had sat in the back of the church for the funeral, knowing he would have to make some sort of grand entrance, but he was nervous. Nervous that he would screw up, say the wrong thing, or trip over his boots.
Armitage sat next to him, his hair braided down his back in one long plait, the orange a striking contrast against the black velvet of his jacket. The entire funeral he held Ben’s hand, and he had yet to let it go.
“You beat death with your bare hands,” Armitage whispered to him, “You can do this.”
“I am hoping this won’t be long. I don’t want to leave you here.” Ben whispered back, giving his hand a squeeze.
“When you return to me, you will return as a King. I will wait however long that takes.” He smiled at him with love, and Ben wanted to kiss him just as much as he wanted to cry.
Luke motioned for Ben to rise, and rise he did. From the back of the nave he stood, cape billowing proudly behind him as music burst to life. Pipes and strings and lutes and drums all cheered for him, his steps matching the steady rhythm.
At the end of the aisle stood a figure dressed in shimmering white and gold, with a crown in his hands that was meant to live atop Ben’s head.
Men in red and white chanted and sang hymns, and the crowd held their breath as Ben knelt before the figure in white, and recited the words that would tie him to Saxony forever. The crowd was placed and a scepter was pushed into his hand, and then he was standing, facing his kingdom.
“The Queen is dead, long live the King.” Luke said, not needing to raise his voice for the thousands of people to hear.
“Long live the King!” The people echoed.
“Long live the King!” Ben could hear Armitage and Phasma’s voice clear among them.
“Long live the King!” The final chant rang out, before the crowd burst into thunderous applause.
Luke handed him two medals, and Ben’s heart beat wildly. He was about to call up two Vikings to receive the highest honor Saxons bestowed, and he had no idea how the people were going to react. He supposed he could have them hanged for treason if they disrespected them too much, but that probably wasn’t the best first move as King. The thought made Ben smile.
“Will Prince Armitage Hux, and Lady Gwendoline Phasma please rise.” He commanded, power in his voice.
The church quieted, and Ben held his breath as the two stood. They exited their pew and made their way down the aisle, their boots clicking on the polished marble. Armitage looked radiant passing through the colors of the windows, the black velvet absorbing all the light except that which was reflected in brass buttons and on his skin. Phasma’s armor practically glowed in rainbow, her silver chain mail polished to a mirror shine. She braided her hair back in much the same manner as Armitage’s. Together they were a sight to behold, and Ben found he was envious that he couldn’t keep the vision to himself.
“For outstanding duty in the Battle of Hastings, and for risking your lives to protect our home, on this day in the year of our Lord, 1066, I award you both the Medal of Bravery.” Ben couldn’t keep the grin off of his face.
It was no secret that the only other recipients of the Medal of Bravery were given to his uncle and his father, by Leia. He smiled with affection when he realized the parallel – Leia giving Han this medal the same way Ben was now giving it to Hux. He looped the medals around both their necks, and turned them around to face the crowd.
For a moment, Ben thought he was going to have to hang everyone for treason, before a pair of hands’ clap rang through the nave. It was the baker’s daughter, standing on the pew, a huge grin on her little face. The baker stood, joining his daughter in applause. Soon, the entire church was cheering, tears in their eyes as the people responsible for their victory began their walk down the aisle. People reached out their arms to touch the Vikings, offering them flowers and charms.
Ben thought the village would lose their collective voice from hailing them, but he only smiled as he followed his friends out of the church. The hundreds of thousands of people who couldn’t fit into the church were waiting patiently outside, bursting into music and song as the three of them walked to the horses they had stolen from the Normans.
Ben made a mental note to ask Armitage if they could have their horses brought from Sweden. They had time now to do anything they wanted. Ben was going to rule with an iron fist but also with a level head. They would hopefully enjoy peace for as long as he reigned.
“They’re leaving.” Armitage murmured, tugging on Ben’s sleeve.
In the chaos of the parade that then promptly broke out, from their spot at the top of the hill the church was situated on, Ben could see Rey, Finn, and Poe down at the docks. Ben caught Rey’s eye, and held a hand up in a goodbye wave. Rey returned the gesture, and turned her back, stepping into the boat with Poe’s help.
“I hope peace goes with them.” Phasma smiles, her attention turned towards the docks.
“When will you return home?” Ben asked her, and her smile only widened.
“As soon as the wedding is over.” She replied, and her giddiness spread to Ben and Armitage. In the craziness of the cay, they had forgotten Rey’s announcement that they were to be wed in the morning.
“I need someone to be my best man.” Armitage nodded, giving Phasma a playful shove. She shoved him back, and even though they were on horseback, Ben didn’t worry. Phasma would never actually push him off a horse, and if she did, Ben was right there to catch him. He blushed, thinking of how he would always be there to catch Armitage from now on.
“Who else than a fellow Viking?” Phasma grinned, turning towards the docks. The longboat they took to get to Saxony all those days ago was sitting ashore, already prepared for the morning journey.
Ben tried not to look too sad when he cleared his throat and asked, “Will you ever return?”
“Of course! I am just leaving to help the moving process.” Phasma laughed, looking at him like he were crazy. Ben sighed with relief, he didn’t think he would like being a week’s journey away from Phasma, let alone having Armitage be without her. Separating the two didn’t seem like a good idea, he wanted his fiancée happy.
“Moving?” Ben’s brain caught up with her words, and he was confused.
“Didn’t Hux tell you? Lady Unamo and I are coming to live in the castle.” She beamed, and Armitage blinked suddenly, remembering a conversation that had probably happened while Ben was still unconscious in the medical bay.
“Really?” Ben asked, stopping his horse in his excitement. Armitage caught up with the conversation and nodded rapidly, his hair bouncing along his back.
“Yes! The capital is being shifted to Älvsborg, so Techie can rule.” He grinned, making Ben laugh.
“You sleep for four days and the whole world changes.” He mused, prodding the horse forward again.
“It’s his time. With Hux here, he and Matt are next in line for the Swedish throne.” Armitage smiled, brushing some hair out of his face. He lowered his voice so only Ben could hear, “Once I dispose of my father and Maratelle, it’ll be all his.”
“I feel like I’m taking you from your rightful rule.” Ben sighed, as they passed through the village.
“If I am to be honest, the prospect of civilizing your people appeals very greatly to me. We must get them on board with bathing more often.” Armitage tried not to grimace at the smell of the mud.
The villagers had made a complete change during the time Ben had been comatose, instead of shying away from the Vikings, they ran up to them, extending hands to pet the horses and tossing single flowers and hundreds of petals up into the air. Ben took in the sight of Armitage grinning and waving to people, with pink and yellow blossoms caught in his braid, he wanted to commission a thousand paintings of this moment – and they weren’t even married yet.
Phasma went her own way when they were close enough to see the castle. She said she had some things to accomplish before the feast that evening, and Ben and Armitage bade her farewell. They were excited to steal another moment alone, and rushed back to their new home.
When they finally arrived back at the castle, the entire royal guard was there.
“Your Majesty,” the woman from the medical ward bowed deeply, the others following. “May I just say, it is an honor to be in your service.”
“Thank you, I am ashamed to say I don’t know your name.” Ben held out a hand to shake, and Ashoka took it with a surprisingly firm grip for someone who used two canes to walk.
“You may call me Ahsoka, I have been the head of the royal guard since your Grandfather’s reign.” Ahsoka bowed once more. Ben fell to one knee in respect, an action that shocked the guard – royalty didn’t bow for anyone.
“Forgive me, Lady Ahsoka. Your name is not one I will ever forget.” Ben sincerely promised. Ahsoka just laughed and motioned for Ben to rise.
“No harm no foul. Now you must know there will be a feast in your honor tonight, but until then, you are free to do whatever you’d please.” She smiled.
“In that case, Prince Hux and I are going to return to my quarters until the feast. We have much to discuss.” Ben smiled back, and Hux grinned. He knew enough about Ben to know that was code for sex, and Ben felt thrilled to see the excitement spark in his eyes.
“Absolutely your Majesty.” Ahsoka was wise beyond her impressive years, and Ben blushed at the knowing look she gave them.
Almost immediately after they shut the door to Ben’s suite, Ben was on Armitage like a fly on honey. There was just enough light outside to bask the room in golden shadows, and Ben drank in as much of it as he could.
“Ben,” Armitage whispered against his throat, “Fuck me.”
“Yes.” Ben answered, even though it wasn’t a question.
He reached for Armitage’s jacket, but his lover took a step back.
“Go get on the bed.” Armitage bit his lip, a coy smile teasing the corners of his mouth. Ben scrambled to obey.
Ben watched through lidded eyes from his spot against the headboard, as Armitage slowly unclasped each brass button from its slot in the black velvet. He held his breath as Armitage slid the jacket off his arms, letting it pool around his ankles. He then untied the small ribbon holding the neck of his black tunic closed, and shrugged that over his head, along with his under shirt, until he was standing in a pile of fabric bare chested.
“Continue, please.” Ben rushed, when Armitage’s hands had stilled. He knew he was staring, and Armitage must have noticed too, because a blush rose to his chest that made Ben’s cock throb in his pants. He wanted to press his tongue against each pert nipple, he wanted to feel Armitage’s naked body under his hands.
“Impatient.” Armitage tsked, a teasing hand brushing over his own cock. It was hard in his leggings, the long tunic gone to cover any hint of bulge. Despite his chiding, he turned around and slid the leggings off, one leg at a time, bending over and giving Ben a display of his perfect ass as he pulled the fabric over his ankles.
With his back facing Ben, he pulled the tie away from his hair, and let the braid untwine, copper cascading down his milk-white back. He shook his head slightly, and the waves danced like sails in the wind, flowing and gorgeous.
“Come here, please.” Ben begged, his hand slipped under his leggings to palm at his cock.
“Since you said please.” Hux grinned, climbing onto the bed.
Ben went to remove some of his clothing, but Armitage’s hands stopped him.
“I want you to take me, just like this. I want this to be your first act as king.” Armitage breathed into his ear, and all the blood in Ben’s body officially ran to his cock. “Let me be good for you, your Majesty.” Armitage whispered, and oh could Ben get used to being King.
“Okay,” Ben nodded, eager to please his fiancée. Armitage grinned, thrilled that he was going to play along.
Armitage gently pulled Ben’s hand away from his pants, and slipped his own hand inside. He gave Ben’s hard cock a couple of light pulls before pulling the leggings down altogether. He carefully removed Ben’s boots and stripped the leggings off, leaving Ben’s lower half completely naked.
His cock jutted out proudly from underneath his tunic, and Armitage looked at is with lust blown eyes as he ran his hands through the fur of Ben’s cape. He still wore the cape, jacket, and tunic, along with all his jewelry and of course the crown, but the sight of Armitage straddling him and rubbing himself against the fabric was too intoxicating for him to care. Armitage took Ben’s hands and placed them right over his nipples, and Ben gave an eager pull to them both. The way his lover moaned was spectacular, and he pulled him down for a sloppy kiss, tongues sliding together.
“I need you in me,” Armitage moaned after kissing had turned to heavy petting, and Ben had wrapped a spit-slick hand around both their cocks, stroking them together. “Please Ben.”
Ben didn’t hesitate in flipping them over, his cape shrouding them like a blanket. Armitage looked glorious; naked in his bed, on top of the covers in broad daylight. He shone like an angel, a flushed, achingly hard angel. He stretched out invitingly on the bed and spread his legs, begging for Ben to come closer.
“Touch yourself,” Ben ordered, and Armitage quickly slipped a finger inside his own hole shutting his eyes at the feeling. Ben shifted his weight onto his left arm so he could use his right to stroke at his own cock, watching Armitage pleasure himself. “More, get yourself ready for me.” Ben panted, his eyes rolling back as Armitage added a second and then a third finger. With little to no lube, just the spit from his fingers and the precome that drooled from the head of Ben’s dick, Armitage was slightly gasping with pain, but it didn’t seem to stop him.
“I need you now, Ben.” Armitage begged, rocking back on his fingers trying to get some friction, even though they both knew it wasn’t going to be enough.
“Yes,” Ben breathed, and he fumbled in the sheets for a jar of oil that he could use to make things go more smoothly. Armitage tangled his hands in the sheets, his thighs twitching, wanting to close so he could at least rub them together for some relief of the pressure Ben was making him build. Ben found the jar and slicked himself up, using the excess oil on his fingers to easily push them into Armitage’s welcoming hole.
He missed this, the past few weeks hadn’t offered them any time for sex, and he was looking forward to remedying that. If Ben had his way, he would fuck Armitage as often as he wanted. Now that he was King, he realized he could get his way. He grinned, and fucked his fingers into Armitage a little faster.
“Do you want my cock?” Ben asked, teasing him.
“Yes!” Armitage gasped, Ben finding the perfect spot inside him and rubbing his fingertips along it.
“Fuck, you’re perfect.” Ben panted, restraint finally snapping.
He lifted one of his lover’s legs over his shoulder, and pushed his cock into the tight clutch of his body, not stopping until he bottomed out.
“Oh!” Armitage breathed, eyes rolling back like they did every time Ben fucked into him. It was intoxicating, and Ben wasted no time in moving.
The force of his thrusts made the gold necklaces around his neck clink together as they swayed beneath him, and his crown tipped forward only to have Armitage push it gently back. He looped his arms around Ben’s neck, sliding them under the cape to grab at the black jacket Ben still wore.
“You feel so fucking good, ‘Tidge.” Ben’s face pinched in pleasure as he sped his pace, slamming into Armitage relentlessly. It was hard and fast, and it punched the air out of Armitage’s lungs, so much so that his voice trembled when he tried to force out a sentence.
“I love…w-when you call me that.” It came more as a high keening sound, shaking as he bounced on the bed.
“I’m going to turn you over,” Ben said moments before doing just that. Pulling Armitage up onto his hands and knees, Ben managed to get deeper than before, and fucked into him harder.
The grip on his hips would bruise Armitage later, but Ben would soothe the marks later. His vision had narrowed down to simply the feeling of his dick sliding in and out of his lover’s ass. Snaking a hand around his neck, Ben pulled Armitage up so his back was flush against Ben’s covered chest, and Armitage moaned loudly at the rough handling. Ben bit down into the sacred skin of his throat, licking hot stripes behind his ear.
“Ben, I’m gonna – ” He began to whine, one of his hands gripping Ben’s hair, the other fucking his cock.
“Good, come. Come for me.” Ben begged, less of an order than a plea.
Armitage threw his head back, landing it on Ben’s shoulder and shook with the force of his orgasm, painting the headboard in streaks of come. He slipped off Ben’s cock for just a moment, only to turn around and push Ben backwards onto the covers to ride Ben’s cock with the remains of his energy.
The sight of his fiancée above him, hair sticking to his sweat covered skin, radiantly beautiful in the light of golden hour, clenching around his dick was enough to bring him over the edge, and he came buried inside Armitage’s sweet ass with a loud shout.
Armitage milked Ben’s cock for every last drop, before his own limbs gave out and he collapsed beside Ben on the bed. Ben quickly shucked the rest of his clothing off, he was over heated and dizzy. The air on his newly exposed skin felt like Heaven.
“I thought we’d never get to do this again.” Armitage breathed, voice content. He was well fucked and sated, spots of color still high on his cheek. Ben was impressed he could speak so soon.
He collected Armitage in his arms, and held him for a long while as their hearts slowed to a safer rate.
“I love you.” Ben gently tucked some of Armitage’s hair behind his ears. He blushed bright red and pressed tired kisses to any skin he could reach.
“I love you too. More than I ever expected to.” Armitage traced patterns on Ben’s skin with his finger, soft swirls that almost lulled him to sleep. Armitage’s face fell slightly, Ben could see he was getting lost in thought.
“I meant what I said earlier. If you want to stay in Sweden, I’ll give up the crown. I want you to be happy.” Ben turned them both to their sides, facing one another. The setting sun came through the window to illuminate Armitage from behind, and Ben held his breath, stunned by his beauty.
“Happiness was foreign to me before we met.” Armitage whispered, tucking himself closer to Ben’s body, “I have spent my time in Sweden and now it is time for a new chapter. I want to be here with you. We could make real change.”
“Diplomatic words, coming from a blood thirsty Viking.” Ben teased, trying to bring a smile back to Armitage’s lips. It worked, he bit his lip in a grin.
“I’ve only got one man left to kill.” He cocked his head, humming in amusement.
“Does Techie know?” Ben asked, stroking a hand down his bare back. He felt Armitage nod against his throat.
“Yes, we used to whisper about it at night.” Armitage laughed like patricide was the most normal thing in the world. “He’s nervous, but he will be a fine King.”
“We could do well to open up trade with them, if he would be amendable.” Ben suggested, segueing the conversation to happier thoughts.
“Techie would be thrilled! You saw how excited he gets over things like this.” Armitage pulled back just enough for Ben to see the radiant gleam of his teeth.
“Good.” He laughed, before sitting up to stretch his muscles. He was genuinely surprised he had managed to fuck Armitage as well as he had, considering he had been pretty much out of it for multiple days. He didn’t realize how sore he really was until that moment. “I don’t want to go to the feast.”
“Then we won’t.” Armitage smiled. He took Ben’s metal hand in his own, and Ben found himself thinking how lucky he was to have someone not shy away from him.
“Do many Vikings have missing limbs?” Ben asked, curious. He hadn’t seen any people with metal arms in Sweden, but he figured they might be made of wood, or something similar.
“Oh yes, mostly legs, as they’re easier to live without, but this isn’t the first prosthetic I’ve seen.” Armitage nodded, his hand tracing over the metal reverently.
Seeing Armitage’s delicate hands against his own false one made something in Ben’s stomach drop. No one had looked at him in his bad eye during the funeral ceremony or his coronation, he had noticed. He still had his eye, and he could still see out of it, but was it as mangled looking as he thought?
“I feel hideous.” Ben admitted, turning his face away.
“You don’t look it.” Armitage replied, honesty in his tone.
“You know,” Ben chuckled, before leaving the bed. He was still stark naked and covered in all sorts of fluids, but he was now on a mission to find a mirror. “I haven’t actually seen what I look like, but I know it can’t be pretty.”
“You look like a warrior to me.” Armitage propped himself on an elbow, resting his head in his hand.
Ben found a piece of glass that reflected his image back to him, and he had to admit, it wasn’t nearly as terrible as he thought. He had never felt handsome, with his overly large and mismatched features, and he certainly didn’t consider himself good looking now. However, the scar on his face made him look intimidating and dangerous. His eye had a small spot where it had gone white, but other than that the nurses had done an incredible job salvaging his vision. He would have to send them some sort of thank-you gift.
“If you’ll have me, I’ll learn to live with however I look.” Ben turned back to face Armitage, who was fully sitting up now. He pulled a fur blanket over his shoulders and Ben suddenly got an image in his mind of Armitage sitting on a great throne beside him, his own crown over his braids.
“You better.” Armitage teased. “What would you like to do instead of going to the feast?”
“I just want to lay with you. Tomorrow is our wedding, and I have no idea how long it will be. I want to be indecent with you as much as possible before we stand in front of the church.” He walked back over, legs still a little sore. He didn’t know how he was going to stand for the hours the wedding would take.
“Your church confuses me.” Armitage laughed, and Ben had to chuckle along with him.
“It confuses a lot of us.” He admitted, stretching down beside him.
“I won’t ask it of you now, but I would like to eventually understand a little more about your ways.” Armitage said, his fingers in Ben’s hair.
“I was hoping to avoid the conversation for as long as possible, but they’ll expect you to convert.” Ben sighed. He was going to suggest they could just pretend, but he didn’t know how Armitage would react. If the church ever found out, they’d burn him at the stake for heresy.
“I have room in my practices for one more God.” Armitage smiled softly, pulling Ben up for sweet kisses.
“And I have room in mine for all of yours.” He sincerely replied.
On the morning of their wedding, Ben and Armitage couldn’t escape the wrath of the royal guard. Ahsoka had barged into their room without giving them a change to cover themselves with blankets before announcing that the preparations were to begin immediately.
“Prince Hux, I must ask you to go with Lady Kanata. She will get you dressed and prepared for the ceremony.” Ahsoka gestured to a tiny old woman with huge eye glasses and very short hair, whose smile spoke of wisdom.
Armitage was barely awake, tired after three more bouts of hard sex before they both finally collapsed into a deep sleep. Ben was still blinking, trying to rub away the crust of slumber from his eyes.
“Lady Ahsoka, can’t we stay together?” Ben nearly whined. He had never liked being woken up.
“Absolutely not. Now, do as I say. The longer you two dilly dally, the longer this will take.” She reminded them, in a light sing song voice. Armitage unashamedly stepped out of the bed and was handed a scarlet robe that accented his hair.
“Your Majesty, you will come with me. The late Queen’s ladies in waiting will act as your assistants until you can select Lords of your own.” Ahsoka continued, as four women stepped forward.
“But – ” Ben started, only to be cut off by a fond, if stern look.
“No time to waste! You will see each other soon enough.” She chuckled, before Lady Kanata took Armitage away.
He was starving, their lack of feasting and excess of physical intimacy had geared up a huge appetite for Ben, and he could only imagine how Armitage had fared.
Ahsoka pushed Ben in the direction of the dressing room, and Ben had to admit she had a lot of fighting spirit left in her for someone of her age.
The entire time the ladies in waiting bathed and dressed Ben, he couldn’t help but think of how lucky he was. Royal marriages were political alliances, resulting from cold, diplomatic calculations rather than being unions of love. It was how his had been started, but as more and more jewelry was draped over his body, he smiled with the knowledge that it wasn’t how his marriage would end.
How long had they known one another? A month? It seemed unreal, but that was the case. One week of getting to know each other, spent under the stars. A week of travel across the ocean had given them so much time to be nothing but honest with one another – there wasn’t much one could hide when there was nowhere to sneak off to. A week of training, to test their endurance and patience with one another, coming back to their shared bedroom with nothing but innocent touches of affection. A life changing battle, and a week of Armitage staying by Ben’s side, willing for him to come back from the brink of death.
People had been married with less time than them, Ben recognized. But they often weren’t very happy ones. He knew his marriage with Armitage was going to be a happy one.
“Your Majesty, might I say, you look wonderful.” Ahsoka complimented.
Ben snapped back to reality, and assessed himself in the mirror. His hair had been washed and brushed, and his face was cleansed, careful of the stitching. His metal arm had been replaced with a ceremonial one made from solid gold, encrusted with rubies and pearls.
He wore a polished suit of armor and had a long red velvet cape clasped to his breast with an ornate gold brooch. His crown glittered in the morning light, and if he hadn’t known better, he really thought he looked like a King.
“Thank you, you have all done an excellent job.” He meant every word he said, and he was glad they cleaned him up well enough to be presented to Armitage.
“The wedding will take place out in the courtyard, and the weather is perfect for the occasion.” Ahsoka began walking towards the door, dismissing the ladies in waiting. They curtsied deeply before leaving, no doubt to help with the wedding preparations.
“Who will be officiating?” He asked, thinking of only one person who probably could.
“Sir Luke will, your Majesty.” Ahsoka replied, confirming his suspicion. He would have time to speak to Luke later, he wanted to belong to Armitage already.
“Will Prince Hux already be there?” He followed Ahsoka out into the mail chamber of the bedroom.
“No, he will face the aisle like any other.” She chuckled. Ben knew he was eager, but how could he not be?
Before he could take another step, he caught sight of the white envelope sitting on his bedside table.
“Could you give me just five minutes alone? There’s something I need to do before I can leave.” He asked, feeling his palms sweat. He hadn’t forgotten the letter during the day’s events, but it had never seemed like the right moment to open.
Now that his mother was buried and the tomb sealed, he figured he had nothing left to lose.
“Of course, your Majesty. I’ll be just outside.” Ahsoka gave him a knowing smile, and left with a gentle closing of the door.
With shaking fingers, he opened it, the sight of his name in his uncle’s handwriting not nearly as devastating as it would have been had Leia been able to pen it herself.
As I speak this letter, you are on the battlefield. I would know, I’ve been watching the entire thing. It seems my fate is that of many of our soldiers, who knew arrows could be so deadly? Well, I knew, but I never thought I’d be the one to suffer by its hand. Luke is writing my words down, I’m sure he’ll give it to you when the battle is over. I hope you two can reconcile in my absence.
Part of me wishes to apologize, but I can’t bring myself to do it. I have no regrets, you know I have always lived my life by that principle. What has happened, happened, and I can’t change that. You have grown into a fine man, despite having a somewhat rebellious streak. I once had a rebellious streak too –
The words stop abruptly there, and the penmanship changes. Suddenly he recognizes his mother’s lopsided script, written with terribly shaken hands and an urgency that has the quill pressed so hard into the parchment that Ben is almost afraid the paper will rip.
Luke tells me you’ve just been struck down. I can’t see, but he tells me you’ve gotten your hand cut off. He says your Viking has just arrived, and has killed William. I wish I could see.
There are splotches of ink where water had absorbed into the paper, tear drops blurring the black.
I take back what I said – I am sorry. You were never meant to be a blunt instrument, brute strength used for killing, and at the thought of your death, I am horrified to realize that is what you have become. I’m sorry neither of my children had happy childhoods. All I can think about is Rey, held for ransom in the desert for years, and how I sent you away. Looking back, I was always sending you away. I hope you can forgive me.
There are so many things I wish to say, but Luke tells me you are being carried on horseback through the castle now, that you are leading puddles of blood in your wake. If you can’t read this, let someone speak it to you, I pray you are able to receive these words.
I know you will make a fine ruler, Ben. I know this because it is in our blood.
You have made us all so proud.
Ben placed the letter under his pillow, and stared out the window. Surprisingly, no tears came like he had expected. He felt oddly at peace after having finally read the letter. He could almost picture his mother grabbing the parchment and quill from Luke’s hands – she always did like to do things on her own.
He stood and walked to the window, the church was just over the hill, and he sent a silent thought out into the universe, letting Leia know that he understood. He didn’t forgive, but he understood. He hoped that was enough for her.
“I’m ready.” He said to Ahsoka, emerging from his room. He felt a thousand pounds lighter when they arrived at the great doors that led to the courtyard.
Ben could hear the music through the doors, and something in his chest fluttered. He was going to be exchanging vows with the love of his life in front of hundreds of people. The entire village would be listening just beyond the castle walls. He was going to bind himself to this extraordinary man, and couldn’t help but feel a little extraordinary himself.
When the doors opened, his eyes immediately found the altar. It was covered in flowers picked freshly from the hillsides of the country, away from the grey of the town. Luke in his brown robes stood holding a gilded bible, with Phasma to one side, and the entire royal court on the other.
Phasma must have had some clairvoyance, because she thought to bring a royal wedding dress with her when they embarked for Saxony all those days ago. Her hair was braided in a crown above her head, twisting around and around, with jeweled pins stuck in the plaits to look like flower petals. Her dress was blue, over ivory sleeves and tied at the waist with a golden belt. Somehow, she managed to look dangerous even in these simple clothes.
Phasma grinned when she saw him, and all the heads turned, noticing her expression.
“Long live the King!” They cheered, music striking up and filling the air. Ben could hear the cheers coming from beyond the walls.
Ben walked down the aisle towards Luke, who welcomed him with open arms.
“You look so grown up.” Luke gave him a crinkly-eyed smile. Ben blushed, embarrassed.
“I’m sorry for all the trouble I’ve caused you. Having to go back and forth from the monastery for all this.” Ben said just low enough so the two of them were the only ones who could hear. Luke placed a hand on Ben’s shoulder.
“Nonsense my boy. It is my honor.” Luke said, and Ben let some tension drop from his posture.
Everyone quieted – the doors had opened again.
Against his better judgement, Ben turned and held his breath. Armitage stepped onto the grass of the aisle with more grace than any creature Ben had ever seen.
Head to toe he was lovely, his hair was braided down the middle, with smaller braids falling down the sides. Rings and glass beads were fastened into the plaits, reflecting the light and sending rainbows shimmering in small starbursts. The rest of his locks were left loose, contained only by a circlet of pears that sat like a crown.
Ben was pleased to see Lady Kanata hadn’t forced him into some suit of armor like he had been, instead Armitage wore a long blue robe with darker blue embroidery all throughout it, and a bright red cape. Their capes matched, and Ben’s heart soared. It was deceivingly simple, but the small details in things like the rings in his hair, the pearls on his head, and the embroidery in his clothes showed just how much he was worth.
The choir began to sing then, nothing distinctly lyrical, but heavenly just the same. The clouds parted for Armitage as he walked, the long red cape’s vibrancy strengthening.
Ben couldn’t keep his eyes off of him, and he blushed when Armitage beamed back. Eventually, they stood side by side; Ben on the right and Armitage on the left, facing Luke and then kneeling.
“Dearly beloved,” Luke began, and the singing softened. “We are gathered together here to join this King and this Prince in holy Matrimony. This is an honorable estate, instituted of God in Paradise, and into which holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined. If any man can shew any just reason why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak – or forever hold his peace.”
When no one spoke up, Ben breathed a sigh of relief. It seemed that Armitage had won their respect after all.
“Wilt thou have this man to be thy wedded husband, to live together in the holy estate of Matrimony?” Luke turned to Ben, who gripped Armitage’s hand so tightly, he was sure he would cut off circulation soon. “Wilt thou love, comfort, honor, and keep him in sickness and in health, so long as ye both shall live?”
“I do.” He said, giving Armitage a brilliant smile. He could feel the tears welling up, but refused to shed them, not until they were in the privacy of their chambers.
Luke repeated the formal betrothal to Armitage, who proudly tipped his chin up and said with the surest voice Ben had ever heard, “I do.”
The crowd broke into wild applause again, as they exchanged rings that were handed to them by Phasma, who hadn’t been able to contain her joyful tears as Ben was desperately trying.
“Then I pronounce you legally wed. Long live King Benjamin, long live King Hux.” Luke called out, a smile in his voice.
“Long live King Benjamin! Long live King Hux!” The crowd cheered, as Phasma removed the string of pearls from Armitage’s head. Luke handed Ben a crown which he eagerly put in place of the pearls.
They turned towards the crowd, some of whom were standing on their chairs to get a glimpse at their new official rulers.
When the feasts had ended, and the gifts had finally stopped arriving, Ben and Armitage made the decision to start their honeymoon early, and join Phasma on her trip back to Sweden. Ahsoka assured Ben that it would be no problem at all, that the royal guard would be able to handle things at the castle for however long they decided to stay away.
With William gone and news of the royal wedding spread, more and more neighboring Kingdoms declared sanctions of peace. There was no threat of a battle any time soon.
The wind was at their backs for the entire journey, blessing them with a speedy trip that only took half the time as usual, and they were met with hundreds of Vikings waiting to greet them at the docks.
“Gwen! Gwendoline!” Unamo pushed through the crowd, running into Phasma’s arms with enough momentum to knock them over.
Ben grinned, looking away to give them privacy as they rejoiced in each other’s company.
“Your Majesties!” A squeaky voice called, and Ben grinned at the sight of Dopheld, who also came barreling towards them. The three hugged tightly, and laughed in pure excitement. How Ben had missed his royal advisor!
“Please, Ben and Hux is fine as usual.” Armitage smiled.
“As you wish. Word has gotten round that Ladies Phasma and Unamo will be joining you to live in Saxony. I-I don’t mean to overstep any boundaries, but I was hoping – ” The poor man was so nervous he stammered his way through the entire sentence, until Ben just couldn’t let it go on any longer.
“Of course you can come too. I need you in my court.” He grinned, watching Dopheld’s face light up.
“Thank you, your Majesty!” He bowed deeply, Ben trying to set him upright.
“Ben.” He reminded, and Dopheld blushed forgetting what they had just said to him a moment ago.
“Oops, sorry. Ben.” Dopheld grinned.
Ben noticed that Brendol hadn’t come to welcome them, nor had Maratelle. Armitage didn’t seem to care, or if he did, he didn’t show it. He was too busy greeting his villagers anyway, they really loved him if their enthusiasm was anything to go by. They brought gifts with them of all sorts, ranging from small things like flowers, to larger things – much larger things, like cattle.
They asked Armitage about Saxony, and now that Ben knew enough Swedish to be fluent, he surprised them by giving some answers of his own. They had already liked him, but the effort he had put into being one of them showed and they begged the two of them not to leave.
“Everyone, look!” A woman called from somewhere in the crowd, pointing to the grassy field where Ben remembers being thrown onto his ass by his now husband.
Across the field were two men on horseback, and the crowd fell onto their knees in respect as Techie in Matt galloped as fast as their horses were able. Techie didn’t even wait for his horse to stop, jumping off and landing on top of Armitage.
“You’re back!” Techie cried, throwing his arms around his brother. “You’re alive!” He sobbed, happiness pouring out of him. His yellow tunic was getting grass stains, but no one cared.
“Welcome back!” Matt ran over to them, properly dismounting his horse and pulling Ben into a hug while the brothers remained on the floor.
“It’s good to be back.” Ben smiled, truly happy.
“Ben, what happened to you?” Techie gasped, noticing the golden prosthetic and scarring on his face.
“Your brother saved my life.” He looked to Armitage, who extended a hand. Ben took it, and pulled him to his feet, and into his arms.
“We won the war and made it out alive. That’s all that matters.”
“Armitech Hux.” A dangerously angry voice bellowed from the direction of the castle.
Both Armitage and Techie paled, their respective husbands stepping in front of them without hesitation. Brendol stormed over, Maratelle closely behind, and the villagers stepped aside quickly. Whoever got in their way was shoved out of it, and Ben grit his teeth as he watched the Viking King push his own people to the floor.
“I thought we told you never to step foot in Birka again.” Maratelle sneered, the first words Ben ever hearing from her were shrill and cold. Around her neck she wore the purple scarf, and she twirled it around her finger. He wanted to kill her.
“Father, I’m afraid you have no say any longer in what Techie does or where he goes.” Armitage stepped out from behind Ben, standing tall. His braids still held the rings and beads, and on the journey to Birka, he made sure his crown was polished.
“How dare you speak to me like that, in front of the whole village.” Brendol growled, even though his eyes kept flicking away – he was nervous.
“Hare dare you treat your sons in this manner?” Matt exploded, holding Techie close.
“Watch your tongue, you lowly Faroese.” Maratelle snapped, upper lip permanently raised to bare her teeth.
“That’s rich coming from a Frank!” Matt shot back, and Maratelle scoffed in offense. Ben could practically hear the intake of breath from the villagers, no one was allowed to speak to them this way.
“You have sat on that throne long enough.” Armitage took a dangerous few steps forward, but Brendol held his ground even as Armitage continued to advance.
“Who would you have fill it? Certainly not yourself.” Brendol barked out a laugh.
His laugh turned into a choke, hands coming up to his throat. Armitage was choking his father out in plain daylight, and no one did a thing about it.
No one stopped him when Armitage pulled the saber of light from Ben’s belt and stabbed it deep into Brendol’s stomach.
No one tried to catch him when Brendol fell to the floor.
No one said a word when the guard reluctantly lifted his body off the ground, set it in a longboat, and pushed it out into the ocean.
No one gave a prayer when the guard lit the tips of their arrows, and gave him a Viking funeral.
But everyone cheered when Matt and Techie stood in his great hall in the Fortress of Älvsborg, a circlet of gold delicately placed on his head.
In the orange light of sunset, Ben watched his sleeping husband with soft eyes and gentle touches. They had fallen asleep together after wrestling outside in the rain, which had strengthened from a light shower to a true thunderstorm. Chimes in the window made from pieces of stained glass twinkled together when the wind shook them. He could never have foreseen his life to go the way it did, but every night thanked whatever powers that be.
Once upon a time, he had called Vikings savage. He had been sent against his will to a barbaric land with the intention of being dumped and never to return. On their one-year wedding anniversary, Ben had to laugh at how wrong he had been, how wrong they had all been about Armitage and his people. Their people.
“What are you thinking about?” Armie asked, turning over to face his husband, his lover, his king.
“How smitten with you I am.” Ben smiled. Armie just blushed and reached for Ben, who gladly laid back down beside him.
The past year had brought them nothing but peace and prosperity. New buildings were constructed, information passed much faster with the introduction of horses, and trade had never been more bountiful. They toured neighboring kingdoms to see the living conditions of nearby villages, and make deals with their Kings and Queens to improve it.
Everyone was happy. They were happy.
“Remember when you hated me?” Ben grinned against Armie’s lips, getting a swat to his arm.
“I never hated you.” He scoffed, “I didn’t want to deal with you, but I never hated you.”
“How romantic.” Ben teased.
“Shut up, elskede.” Armie pulled him close and pressed kisses to his soft lips. They had both refused to grow beards, not wanting to look like wizened old men when they were both barely in their thirties, and Ben was glad for the smooth glide of skin.
“’Tidge, look.” He pointed to the window.
The rain had stopped, and the clouds began to part, revealing a brilliant rainbow. Armie got out of bed, and naked, walked to the window. He leaned his head out of it, and caught raindrops with his lashes.
“Bifröst.” Ben whispered, the added year of Viking company perfecting his Swedish. Armie nodded.
“There was something you said to me, the day I thought you were going to die,” He started, making Ben get out of bed to wrap his arms around him from behind.
“Hmm?” Ben prompted.
“’The sky is ever clearer, here when I’m with you.’ I’ve never forgotten that.” Armie placed his hands over Ben’s arms, swirling patterns on the metal one as he had done every day.
“When I was asleep, my grandfather came to me. I know it was all a dream, but even then, I knew I wanted to come back to you.” Ben realized he never told Armie, but it wasn’t that important. He was here.
“You will always come back to me.” Armie smiled, leaning into Ben’s embrace. “I am your king I command it.” Armie laughed, turning in Ben’s arms and kissing him.
“So you have ordered it, so I shall obey.” Ben kissed back, happy to spend the rest of his life obeying this man, this glorious Viking.
I can't express enough how much it means to me to have so many people interested in this story. I hope you all loved the fic as much as I loved writing it. I am very sorry for how long this chapter is, but just couldn't cut it in half. Please forgive me! xx
And now, as always, here's some fun Saxon & Viking trivia/history:
-The Saxons did not win the Battle of Hastings. The Normans and their horses were no match for the shield wall, and that coupled with the tactic of upward aimed arrows, William the Conqueror defeated and killed King Harold. But this is a fic and I get to give these boys a happy ending, so I'm going to do just that ;)
-The poetry Ben recites is my favorite passage from Beowulf, seriously y'all, read it.
-Metal prosthetics in Anglo-Saxon countries were indeed a thing! Not until a couple hundred years after this story takes place, but we've already established I have no patience with real world timelines. The Vikings had their shit together with prosthetics way before the Saxons did, but they were usually wooden, not metal.
-The Latin the monks recite is just (probably poorly) Google translated to mean 'We bring our queen to heaven; to heaven we bring our queen.'
-When a King or Queen dies, a kingdom will immediately crown the next in line, to prevent any spots of vulnerability to reach the ears of their enemies. Things really do move this quickly!
If you'd like to chat with me about anything, please feel free to stop by at my new star wars/kylux tumblr @cowboykylux !!!! I'd love to be friends :) xxxx