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The Warrior's Tragic Love

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"Don't leave me, my love."

He swung an axe across a shaded a forest and landed a strong hit on a giant tree's trunk. A cool summer morning, a peaceful breeze, singing birds and cackling leaves under him. 

He landed another strike. 

He remembered his father's morning tasks of chopping firewood in preparation for the harsh winter. 

Another hit. 

She heard her sister's commands and his mother's call for a humble dinner.

Another one. 

Home. 

It echoed in his empty and emotion-deprived mind. 

Home. 

Again. 

It stopped when his weapon pierced the English soldier's abdomen… again and again. 

And so it began the child's first war cry for the many years to come. 

The waves would sometimes give the ship a vigorous and ferocious kiss or a bland and gentle peck. She has become the bosom the young lad would find comfort in as he mourned the death of his dear father, his separation from his family and homeland and the death of his blossoming years. 

The stars stood above him as witnesses. They either blinked at him to ease his mind or to help him navigate, but they mostly sit in their thrones above to witness his orchestrated bloodbath. 

Thorfinn was a young man of 15 winters and he had already pillaged many villages that only golden sands can tell the number of deaths.

Thorfinn was a young man of 16 winters who witnessed a young girl's demise as the darkened cliff swallowed her.

Thorfinn was a young man of 17 winters who stood up against a legendary Norse warrior in London. 

Thorfinn was a young man of 18 winters who saved the Danish prince. 

He does not believe in any goddesses but such visage took him aback and he suddenly considered the existence of Freyja in a small slip of shock. 

He was a young man of 18 winters when he learned the name of the Danish royal. 

Prince Canute, Son of Sweyn. 

He sees the feminine-looking lad as a nuisance, an inconvenience, and an annoying pale snow storm, but every single moment alone with him, guarding him, brought him closer and closer. 

In a small window of vulnerability under closed space, the prince carried a mature aura, a mixture between composed and calm, but far from the spoiled taste of nobility but close to a warm household in a farmer's house. 

The prince confuses him, but also fascinated him. 

Small side glimpse would turn into looks of unspoken wishes and urges to parted lips and almost expressed requests, to small and short skin contact, until it turned to small strokes and rakes of fingers. The trickle of these kinds of feelings suddenly became an unbearable wave of curiosity that led the two boys to feel dependent on each other. 

Treacherous winds, small talk, peaceful and silent conversation only spoken by the cackles and whispers of firewood before them. Steely blue irises rimmed with golden lashes impaled a set of warm brown ones and a crawling feeling of want and need washed over both of them. 

First, you touched my hands. 

You brushed your fingers across my battle-scarred palms. 

Second, you caressed my arm.

Warmth bathed my skin and you took your time to reach my shoulder.

Third, you held my neck. 

A gentle lavender and musk scent invaded my senses. 

Fourth, you cupped my face. 

Your lips glittered with the cold glow of the moon above and warm wash of amber under

Fifth, you placed your thumb on my lips. 

Opposite textures merging into one. 

Sixth, you kissed me.

Doors opened, feelings erupted and my world of vengeance momentarily collapsed into weak knees. 

Seventh, you touched my heart. 

And I despise you for doing it so freely — and how I allowed you to do it so unconditionally.  

The wagon would rattle mysteriously at night, the prince's tent would be empty sometimes and Thorfinn's clothes would smell of lavender from morning to night.

The threatening wind became a muted enemy for the two young boys — for the sound of their kisses and skins would dominate their senses like the heated moans they would breathe. 

In such nights, Canute would look at him with such eyes, almost as if he's a god who should be worshipped. 

In cold nights where the swelling moon would greet their intimacy, the young prince would speak of a forgotten deity that brings fortune in a lot of forms — even in the form of a bloody moon. 

You control the tides and its freezing spells. 

Riverbanks, seashores and streams; you are there. 

Mother Moon, your magic pulled force between him and I. 

Mentioned in low light embraces, touches and in between kisses. 

Your nightly glow, a shimmer on our dampened skins. 

I do not believe in you, Mother Moon. 

But are you the one who gave me this blissful presence too? 

The warrior learned what it felt like to be at peace again, only having the knowledge of warfare and battle and unwavering vengeance this time. 

When the cold northern sun is visible and a warm color would bathe everything in its path, the two boys in love barely scream their intimate activities at night on their countenance. 

They are both quiet, almost not interacting nor even acknowledging the existence of one another, but when left in a quiet area, dainty and calloused hands would intertwine as if it's their only existence. 

And Canute smiled.

Soft pinkish lips would curl up in a quiet but contented smile and this vexed Thorfinn to the brim. 

"What does he mean by that?' Thorfinn pondered but at the same time, too inexperienced, too stubborn and too entitled to his own beliefs that his questions about his overflowing feelings for the prince remained unanswered. 

I can't hear you, my love.  

I can't hear what your eyes are saying. 

Eyes similar to Iceland's cold pale sea 

is what you bring. 

Events happened as fast as the rising and sleeping sun. He watched his lover's eyes as the prince looked at the body of his foster father laid with honor on the dining table. Prince Canute did not shed any tears, nor cried or even stiffled. 

He watched the prince screamed Ragnar's name, watched him get slapped and watched him remain quiet in a wagon going full speed to escape its own men and builders. 

Askeladd's instincts are good — far too good. Even Thorfinn can't help, but agree with it — but he's taking too long! 

Where is he? 

Where is he? 

Where is he? 

Morning had reached their journey. Blood colored the bluish blush of the snow, screams of desperate men he despised and the beating adrenaline thrusting in his ears. 

Askeladd…  is my prey. 

The warm thought of his lover grew bland and cold, the rising warm feeling in his chest closed once again and his mind became tainted by the dark color of hatred, replacing the prince's golden glow and ocean-like eyes of bliss and joy. 

Thorfinn thought he knew himself. The great Thorkell the Tall asked him if he knows him, he wasn't able to respond. He  asked if he truly knows his father, unanswered. "What does it mean to be a true warrior?" Still no answer. 

His prey, his father’s killer, had become his advisor for once in his life. He instructed the young lad, synchronized his movements and the reflection’s timing and with one hit… Thorfinn, Son of Thors became a legend.

He does not care whether Thorkell the Tall is his great-uncle nor he is the grandson of the Jomsviking chieftain, Sigvaldi. He doesn’t want anything aside avenging his father’s death. He doesn’t want anything else.

He doesn’t even want the boy who confused, fascinated and touched him.

His broken arm was tucked hastily next to his abdomen and he felt his finger twitched when he saw his lover.

There was something odd about him this time. His blue eyes somehow became paler. He knows such details because he had stared at the ocean-like abyss for so many times and how it glowed with overflowing feelings when he lands a stolen chaste peck on his soft lips.

Thorfinn was a young man of 18 winters when he watched his lover’s hair danced when the legendary Norse warrior threw a test punch. 

Thorfinn was a young man of 18 winters when he became his lover’s trusted bodyguard and bed companion. 

Thorfinn was a young man of 18 winters when he entered the court of the king, and when he switched his eyes to his lover, he wished that he could still visit a royal court… only belonging to Canute this time. 

There was something odd about the prince and Thorfinn cursed himself for not being able to dig deep to what he is feeling for the prince or what his lover was feeling.

Their interactions shifted and the air surrounding them would thicken sometimes. His beloved’s kisses were not passionate anymore, but filled with the desperation to feel something.

The thin line between pain and pleasure blurred on your ecstatic expression.

The sense of paradise in your skin made your eyes roll,

The feeling of vengeance made your neck bleed underneath my hungry teeth.  

When I thrust, you do not scream pleasure anymore.

When I kiss, you do not respond with passion aymore.

Why do you fuel everything with grief?

Why do you taint our only paradise with your empty vengeance?

The young viking groaned loudly from exerting a lot of energy just to satiate the inner pain his lover was feeling. He was still unable to identify what he was feeling for the prince nor did the royal mentioned his feelings for him. 

When the warm sun balanced the snow-covered plains, their nights would be filled with talk of gentle summer evenings.

When snow storms raged and disobeyed the commands of mortals, their bodies would overpower even a hundred firewood.

But now, their activities are overshadowed by Canute’s grief.

Their garden, their own earthly paradise was slowly, slowly fading away.

The prince would be busy delegating duties in the early morning, faking and lying when the sun was at its hottest, consolidating plans with Askeladd in the afternoon, dealing with assassinations by sunset and warming himself up at night with the warrior on his hips.

There was something odd about him this time. He was calmer, more sincere and less desperate. His beautiful eyes were hooded in painful pleasure, his flushed cheeks shone with glistening sweat and his lips glittered like gloss. 

He is melancholic, tragic… and beautiful.

Chaste touch on your pale skin that warm night,

you embraced and kissed me without a fight.

The sun seemed to rise faster on your bed this time,

as if you are cherishing yourself as mine.

Soft lips are illuminated by the light.

You said ‘I love you’ and everything became so bright.

The world seemed to slow down this time,

and I could finally say to you, my love, that you are mine.

Peace and happiness were foreign feelings for him, but he did not dislike it. Such words were only spoken in low hushes in enclosed spaces and that was enough for him just to have time with his beloved.

“I will protect you, my love.”

Such words of promise did not last long… for Thorfinn’s limping body walked slowly towards his lover to land an incision on the cheek he used to kiss.

It happened all so fast, so sudden and unorganized.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

This should have been a righteous duel!

Where is the justice in this?

What have you done, my love?!

His opponent’s body was there and his words echoed before completely vanishing in his deteriorating mind. His lover stood still and not an ounce of regret did he feel. His great uncle was there, guarding the pri… His Majesty.

He did not feel the floor beneath him anymore, nor the tight bindings on his wrists and ankles, nor hunger in his stomach. He cannot feel anything.

What vengeance? What hatred? What pain? What bliss? What love?

None of them exist anymore.

His chamber was all he could see, not that it’s important to him. The surroundings are bathed in a warm wash of amber and it was all that he could see from day to night. When he thinks about mornings, he sees the prince’s sleeping face on his arms and when he thinks about evenings, he feels the prince’s nails on his back.

This is the last time, I suppose.

What will you do before I am disposed?

You visited and blamed me.

You screamed and cried to me.

But this is your own doing, my love.

You tore the masterpiece on your sheets above.

You ruined it on your own,

But now that you are here in my arms… 

welcome home.

After days, weeks, months, he had forgotten the feeling of his lover’s taste, touch and warmth — and he did not feel anything when he was handed to his new master. He was sold as a slave to a wealthy farm that will make him a free man.

He struck down the first tree and soon followed the second, and he does not remember how or when he had cut down the 20 others. There are other slaves in the farm and they lived accordingly like free men and women and it just left a bland taste on Thorfinn’s tongue. He doesn't despise them, they're just… remnants of life for him.

Freedom doesn't even sound that enticing to him and the guests' insults and treatment are all too empty. 

People see him as emotionless, defenseless and short and that somehow became his armour nowadays, just for people not to interact with him. 

Thorfinn was a man of 19 winters when he cut 30 trees in total. He doesn't feel victorious about his milestone. He had been following orders ever since he was a lad, so what difference is this?

Thorfinn was a man of 19 winters when faces of unknown people manifest in his nightmares. Warriors groaning in pain, battling endlessly in a sea of blood and unidentified corpses wrapping themselves around Thorfinn’s body as he struggled to climb just to escape the horrific place. 

Before he could scream out for an escape, a hand would jolt him awake and ever since then, he began to wonder and think about something for the first time again. 

He ponders the word 'friends' and listened to how it rolled on his friend's tongue. 

Einar was his complete opposite. Determined, inexperienced in war but knowledgeable in wheat-farming and too damn tall. 

Every night, he would wake Thorfinn from the slightest moans and groans, and soon asked the source of his nightmares. 

"I can't remember."

"Maybe you miss someone?" 

Maybe…  

The following nights have become like a routine for him. He would wake up screaming words such as 'my love!' , 'my beloved!' , 'don't leave me!' or 'come back! I'm sorry!' , not remembering what he was dreaming about. 

"Mother Moon, why can't I remember my dreams? It is the only place I could see him again. Mother Moon, why do you deprive me of his image? I held onto him, please allow me to touch him even in my dreams."

Nightmares became his battle for the next two years, but it carries a rewarding feeling. As he worked to till the field in preparation for the wheat, he began to regain who he is. 

A sprout of green strand, Askeladd would be beside him smiling and congratulating him for his success. 

His mortal enemy, his prey, had become his advisor once, but he never knew that in death, he would continue to teach him. 

A wheat field glows like gold when bathing in the sun if they are planted and treated correctly. The young viking wonders how it would look like next to a pale and cool river and he smiled just from thinking about its beauty. 

Gold and blue… 

Golden hair, pale blue eyes and fair pinkish skin… 

"I miss you, my love."

His nightmares shifted during an exhausting night. Blood, gore, corpses and warriors disappeared and blew away like ashes and snow and they would fall onto golden locks sprawled on a snow-covered woods. 

Thorfinn saw two boys in love cherishing what little they have, and he can’t help but mourn for their deaths. 

In his sleep, he would ask his lover, "do you still love me?", "do you still think about me?", "do you miss me?" 

In those kinds of dreams, his advisor would manifest and talk to him when he has the image of his younger counterpart.  

Oh, dear lad. Are you still in love? Why do you hide such powerful and strong feelings? 

Oh, dear boy. Do you despise your lover? If yes, re-evaluate them. 

Oh, dear child. You have grown so much, but be cautious of your hatred. Do not hate your love. 

Oh, dear warrior. Your lover will be the test to your true battle. 

Instructions laid out on a silver platter for him, he followed them. Just like how he would follow his suicidal orders when he was still alive. 

It's so hard to hate him. 

It's so hard to battle him. 

The master adorned himself with his armor and inexperienced warriors and he carried them with pride and honor. That was when Thorfinn heard the name again. 

King Canute, Son of Sweyn. 

His lips quivered. He wanted to scream, 'I am here, my love! Please come back to me!' but he knew that King Canute is a different man. He is not the same boy who he shared sheets and rivers with, he's probably a man whose eyes are set on victory and kingly success. 

He had probably forgotten about a lowly slave like him. 

A lot of lives have been lost due to the petty battle. Arnheid had passed, so are the other slaves and farmers. He can't save this farm, but he wants to try… without using his last resort. 

He wants to talk to the king. 

I want to talk to my beloved. 

Punch after punch, he stood tall. He received greater ones when he was a young lad, so he was able to withstand the attacks of a man bigger than him. 

And his defiance earned the Jomsvikings' respect, and their respect paved way for Thorfinn to meet the king. With his bruised and wounded face, he stood meters away from Canute. 

He sucked his breath and concealed the longing feeling in his chest and restrained his feet from running to embrace him or his hands to touch his face. 

Canute was no longer the weak boy he once was, he carried grace, power and perhaps — the blood of his enemies and his blue eyes did not carry the warmth it used to possess. 

"You have a face of a man in power." 

Einar said his piece to the king, Thorfinn agreed… and Canute did too. 

The viking knew he stands a chance against these men, but he doesn't want to inflict pain in them, and he knew he doesn't stand a chance against a king. 

So he will only run. 

The warrior had never heard the king laughed like that, and the warrior had never wished for anything but to hear that sound again. 

Control yourself . He told himself. 

But the king moved forward and forward and Thorfinn's heart beat faster and faster. Einar and the Jomsvikings tensed at the close proximity the two had and the viking raised his good eye to see the king, only to have his face cupped for a demure kiss. 

Your mouth tasted of fruits, 

like my tilled goods. 

Hands move about, 

on my waist, you brought. 

Delighted I feel, 

for you remember me. 

Your hair on my forehead, 

the scar on your cheek blushed red. 

4 summers, my feelings lingered. 

'Do you still love me?' you whispered. 

Such a question for such a moment. The warrior kissed him back, he embraced his back and he didn't stepped back. Thorfinn thought he'd never see the warmth in his eyes again, but even after 4 winters, every nook and cranny of the ocean eyes he can still tell, he still memorized. 

Overflowing feeling of happiness ablaze inside the warrior like the amber sun at the far horizon. He brushed his bruised nose against the king's and smiled as he swayed into a slow dance. 

"Oh, how I've missed you, my love."

For so long, he can't remember how long, but he craved and longed for his embrace. Only his and not anyone's. They exchanged smiles and kisses of yesterday's innocence and their audience were left speechless. 

Canute carried him and Thorfinn wrapped his arms around his lover's neck and laughed even under swollen and beat up skin, and the king made sure to touch him gently like how he used to.

His heart had ceased repining. 

The winds howl, the waves crashed and the sands crunched as they applaud the reunion and rebirth of the two young boys they used to be. 

"I love you." A whisper in between the winds. 

They want to stay like this forever, where no one would disturb them, where they can have the world all for themselves. 

The stars were emerging from their thrones again to watch the end of their reunion and Mother Moon manifested once again to witness the path they will take with warm hearts. 

"We will work on building our paradise, that is why I have to let you go."

"But my heart will always belong to you."

"And you alone."

It only lasted for a short while but it was enough to keep him grounded in their own little world. He watched his ship leave as his smile and ghost touches lingered on his skin, leaving him with weak knees. 

"You were never just his bodyguard, brother."

"He is also my love."

Northern lights adorned the sky, 

the stars laid their ever watchful eyes. 

If you can, Mother Moon, show him in my dreams. 

If you will, Mother Moon, roll the tides to let me meet him.

Iceland remained magnificent with its waters and treacherous condition and being together with his family in a warm and sheltered home emphasized the meaning of what is like to be a true warrior. 

His nieces and nephews are all sweethearts, his sister remained terrifying but caring and his mother was still weak but gave him strength. They all give him strength. 

A snip of a scissor, a strand of blood-stained hair fell. 

The second snip of a scissor, I oath to rise from hell. 

The third snip of a scissor, protect my loved ones. 

The fourth snip of a scissor, be reborn as the purer one. 

Far to the west across the great sea, there is a place called Vinland. It is warm and fertile, far from the slave trade and fires of war. There, they will be able to live without pain. 

Atonement

They set sail with full supplies and with the help of the powerful Halfdan, only having a run-away bride from his house. 

Gudrid is a kind woman, boyish, considerate and easily fascinated by the outside world. She would often wake Thorfinn up from his nightmares and would help with rigging the ropes of the sail. 

Bloodbath still lingered in their wake, discovering a ferocious but kind dog, a loyal friend who also suffered from nightmares like the warrior on board. With her help, they discovered a woman in an underground storage defending and feeding her infant. She passed away shortly, leaving the 'Karli' in the arms of Norse warrior. 

Bear meat was an oddity for the whole crew but its taste was too great and indescribable when it hit the taste buds. 

Hild carried an aura of an experience crossbow hunter. Like Gudrid, she is a woman defying the laws of the men's world. She advises the crew to sell the remaining meat for it is a rare delicacy. 

Thorfinn was a man of 22 winters when he discovered that women deserve the same respect and ability that men can possess. 

Thorfinn was a man of 22 winters when he discovered that he was the one who killed Hild's father. 

Atonement. 

The snow was no longer useful for tracking his hunter and for once in his life, he has become defenseless. 

Thorfinn was a young man of 16 winters who witnessed a young girl's demise as the darkened cliff swallowed her.

He is being hunted. 

Hild will be consumed by vengeance and Thorfinn allowed this, she will have the same fate as him. 

Dear corpses of my innocent victims, give me strength! 

Bolts in his legs, he anticipated the last one but it pierced the air above. 

Atonement is different from forgiveness. 

And he cannot forgive the man who orchestrated his father's demise. 

He can't be the next chieftain of the Jomsvikings, no matter how many praise and compliments stronger warriors give him, no matter how related he is to the previous chieftain and no matter how many times his great uncle coaxed him. He will never be the Jomsviking chieftain and resort to killing people again. 

"If you become the chieftain, you will get to see Canute more regularly." Thorkell the Tall would tease him. 

Oh, my nephew. I can see those eyes, it shows the feeling of longing. 

Oh, my nephew. Named after your father and me, carry the legacy. 

Oh, my nephew. I can see those eyes in another man's eyes. 

Oh, my nephew. You wish to see him, don't you? 

He will never be the Jomsviking chieftain no matter how tempting it is to see his beloved. 

He just wants to escape this war. 

He just wants Floki to atone like him. 

He just wants to be stronger. 

He just wants to be at peace. 

He was once a killer and cruel boy, so how can a kind woman fall in love with him? Let alone a king once? 

Atonement is represented in many different forms. 

He stepped foot in Iceland again, only having fertile and dry soil meet his boots. Summer time is a year to celebrate and reunite with his family. 

Thorfinn was happy and so was Gudrid and their two year old child, Karli. No weddings were allowed to happen at sea for its dangerous tides and strong winds, and he has crews and fleets to tend to — also including his wife and child. 

A feast was thrown to celebrate the voyager's return and marriage. A joyful ceremony was held, blessings were given and vows said to be exchanged. 

They celebrated until dawn and Thorfinn held Gudrid's hand and smiled at the activities before him. 

To be a true warrior is to be at peace and contented. 

To be a true warrior is to fight the real battle. 

Father, Askeladd. I hope I made you proud. 

Thorfinn was a man of 25 winters when he vowed to himself that he will be stronger than his yesterday's self, to be able to build a country of peace for the people. 

He will be only a sea away to build his paradise. 

Paradise… 

"But my heart will always belong to you."

"And you alone."

His hold on Gudrid's hand tightened. 'I am satisfied' he thought to himself, as if he could force himself to believe it.

I should be satisfied. 

"I long for you, my love."