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I have a habit of leaving damage in my wake

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The day fair Hallgerd becomes a woman, she weeps bitterly and her temper, already great and terrible, becomes even worse. For she knows that a woman becomes a wife, becomes a mother, becomes a cow or horse, to be valued and inspected and sold off without any say in the matter. She is not sure what she would say, but to be given the choice is all that she asks.

If she would to be asked when she was a child, she would have said she wanted to be Thjostolf, who takes what he wants and never apologizes for what he does. And of everyone she is capable of loving, he is the only one that sees in her eyes a wolf, not cattle. He teaches her to be cruel, to be selfish, to harden her heart so that nothing can break it, and she teaches him that there will always be something that loves him, that will forgive him for anything.

They are lying to each other, but neither one of them knows it yet.

And so Hallgerd knows she loves Thjostolf and she believes Hoskuld loves her, but she is not sure she loves her father, for he cannot understand her. He sees a fair and beautiful thing to be bartered, a woman named “Longcoat,” and does not realize that this means someone who stands tall will not bow down when ordered.

“I have arranged your wedding,” he says, and what he means is, “I have chosen your fate.”

“I do not think the match as good as one as you have already promised me,” she says, and he does not hear her saying “I will not accept a fate I do not choose.”

When she was younger, Hoskuld promised her to marry her well, to a man who would be handsome and rich and able to take care of her. She smiled prettily at him and told him happy she would be with a husband he chose. She even believed it.

Now that he tells her his will is what matters, not hers, and Hallgerd would feel betrayed if she hadn't already learned that the only one she can trust is Thjostolf. This she holds to her heart and allows nothing else in, not pity, not fear, not love.

There is nothing to say about Thorvald. She feels nothing for him but contempt at thinking himself worthy of her.

No, Hallgerd, thinks, that is not entirely true.

She doesn't feel anything anymore. When he slaps her, she feels pain and rage and a sense of satisfaction. She is right and Hoskuld is wrong and soon she will have no husband as she wanted. And a burden lifts from her and she is free from any weight of emotions or cares, if only for a little while.

Thjostolf does her bidding and in the end, it is her will that prevails and her father diminishes even further in her eyes.

Her uncle says she has a thief's eyes, and he sees her clearer than her father, but he does not understand what she tries to steal. Not money or power or men's lives, but her own life. If she has never been able to own it, she will take it back at any cost.
Her father does learn from his mistakes, Hallgerd is forced to concede when she arranges for her second marriage.

The young man he introduces her to is a fine one, tall and handsome and everything Hoskuld promised her in a husband. He has wealth to take care of her with and he speaks directly to her, looking her in her eyes.

“If you have anything in your heart against this bargain with us,” Glum says, “then we will not say anything more about it.” His eyes are bright with anticipation. He smiles at her.

Glum is an honest man and her heart beats a little quicker. “I think I might love you well if we can but hit it off as to temper,” Hallgerd replies, and tries not to hope that this match might be far better than the one her foolish father arranged.

So she allows herself to hope and to dream and to be as a young maiden, innocent of the world of men. They arrange the marriage and bind themselves to each other, and if she sees her father and uncle giving each other wary looks, she bites her tongue, for this is her choice and she will make it freely.

Hallgerd keeps her mouth shut during the wedding, ignores Thjostolf's questioning looks (and raised axe) and thinks, this time it will go well. I have chosen this husband and we will be happy.

This is my fate, she repeats to herself each day. To be a wife and a mother and to never regret my choices.

Thorgerd is so small and fragile and Hallgerd loves her as she loves her husband, surprised by the knowledge that she can care for something other than herself. She has opened her heart cautiously to allow them in, and in return, she has not been betrayed. And if others might say he lets her get her way too much or spend too much of his money, neither her nor Glum care for their wagging tongues.

She holds Thorgerd and whispers, “I will find you a husband like mine, and you will be happy.” Hallgerd hopes that this will be true, for a mother can make a promise and a father can break it just as easily. Glum has not broken his troth yet, but men have always broken vows to her and she waits for the day when his break too.

It might fill with wonder everyone who knows her, especially her father and uncle, but she is happy, content in her life. When she awakens to Glum next to her, it is thrilling to know that he is all hers, a choice she made that has proven to be the best of all.

“I love you,” she says to Glum, and there is no hidden meaning to it.

Many times, when they lie together, she runs her hands on his chest, lays her head to his heart, listens to it beat, and thinks, this is mine to love and hold and I will keep it with me.

A woman may break a promise as easily as a man, though, and Hallgerd cannot stop what she began. For a choice made comes with the good and the bad, and you may not take one without the other.
It is an ill wind that blows one day when her foster father appears upon her doorstep, and though Hallgerd greets him kindly with all the love she feels for him, Thjostolf's entrance into her household sends a chill through her body that she cannot explain.

“Does it go well between you?” he asks. She can already see the gleam of an axe in his eye.

He will have her be no caged animal to snarl and bite at any who draw near, but Thjostolf does not realize that if you treat an animal well, touching it gently and coaxing it with honeyed words, it will soon come to believe it chose the cage on its own.

“Yes, our love runs smooth enough,” she says. But what she should have said was, please do not make my words a lie, though she knows that he will.

Thjostolf acts agreeable enough with her husband in the evening, laughing and making jokes, but she watches him closely and she see in his eyes that he will not hold his temper long.

She embraces Glum later, hugging him tightly and flattering him for if she is to lie and make a promise she cannot keep, she will hold tight to her husband a little while longer.

Glum returns to Hallgerd, one day and says, “I have had words with Thjostolf, and he may not stay here any longer.”

There is much Hallgerd could say in this moment.

“I cannot have him leave for he has nowhere to go.”

“I will talk to him and he will listen, so please let him stay at our home and hearth.”

“I will not let you have your way in this, for my will must be the one to prevail.”

And as if she has her uncle's sight of the future in her, she sees how this will end – with all she loves gone and nothing to look forward to but bitterness and pain and a hell of her own making.

Instead, she says, “Thjostolf will leave,” and though it costs her to bend to Glum's will and to drive out the man who has always loved and listened to her, she can feel her fate shifting as though a terrible storm had beared down upon her and disappeared as soon as it touched her, leaving her and those she loved shaking from the nearness of the danger, but standing and whole.

Glum's heart is strong that night, as he wraps his arms around her and she closes her eyes and thinks, this is the fate I choose and I will not regret it and she hopes she will never wake from this dream.