"Will I be killed by one of the sons of Ragnar?"
Lagertha, Queen of Kattegat, and first wife to the infinitely famous Ragnar Lothbrok, was sitting at the new seer's hearth. The girl was still in shock to receive such a woman in her uncle's home, as she couldn't stop staring at her elaborate braids and glowing ageless skin. The queen had heard of the talented young woman's arrival in town, and immediately called upon her.
Sig took a quick drink of ale before answering the question. The Queen had asked too quickly, obviously impatient. It was apparent that it was all she could think of, and it was haunting her.
The girl took a deep breath, determined to speak candidly, as it was the only way to deal with such matters, even if one were advising royalty about their fate. "Will you be killed by a son of Ragnar? You have already asked this question? And did not like the answer?"
Lagertha blinked and then looked down. "The wise old seer, he …"
Sig smiled warmly. "Yes. I remember him from when I was very young. I was born here, grew up here, and he was the first to know about me. The old man has the Sight, a great gift. But he likes to see the darkness in his visions."
"And you do not?" Lagertha asked, curious, and with perhaps a glimmer of hope behind her eyes.
The girl peered over the queen's shoulder, as if she were viewing something very far away. "His foretelling never quite turns out the way one would assume at first. I believe him to be a trickster. You see, I've learned to try and see from all angles. To look down many pathways. Some dark, some light. When I first showed signs of having the Sight, the seer advised me that I should tell no one, or that I would one day have to leave my home and everyone that I loved. And when I asked him why, he would say no more. I tried to not think of it, but a seed from his words grew in my mind, until it was so big, it was all I thought about. I tried to hide my affliction, thinking I'd be banished if the people really knew what plagued me. So I just let them think I was probably mad. But the more I tried to hide it, the more obvious I was, as I had no control over it. After my father died, my uncle, who is a great traveler said, 'there is nothing for you here now. Journey with me, and perhaps you can find a way to ease your mind. To learn much more than what this place can teach you'. He always said that for an eagle to be able to spread its wings and fly, it must first leave its nest."
The queen nodded. "And so you went."
"Yes. I did," Sig replied. "In the end, I wanted to go. I wanted to learn. The seer was right, I had to leave. I couldn't learn anything here, especially from him. Or anyone. But his words to me as a little girl were frightening. It seemed like such dark fate. But leaving was my salvation. The best thing to ever happen to me. I learned much during my travels. And now I am back home. And I am content."
Lagertha frowned, leaning forward. "That is lovely for you, but how could being killed by a son of Ragnar be anything but dark?"
The girl began to focus on the queen, using a sense that went beyond eyesight, picked up on the light, the vibrations surrounding her. The energy. "I can see many possibilities for you," she informed. "Many pathways. I can sense them, but only you can decide which ones you go down. Not me. Not the old seer. You must be careful. Sometimes a prophecy only turns out to be so, by mere suggestion. It can infect your mind, it becomes all you think and dream about, and so it is true for you. The only paths you then choose, are the ones that lead to the prophecy, and you willingly walk down a pathway of events that will lead to your demise."
The queen sat back. "How do I stop this path?"
Sig could see several avenues in front of Lagertha at this point in her life, and there were definitely two that ended with her being killed by a son of Ragnar. The first by violence, vengeance for the death of the former Queen Aslaug, and second by a mercy. One by the hand of Ragnar and Aslaug's dark-haired son, and one by the new queen's own child by her ex-husband, when she was old and gray. Bjorn Ironside would do this when she was unable to care for herself any longer. Sig wanted to guide Lagertha towards the latter path, but for some reason, the old seer seemed to wish the first upon her, as he had refused to give her any further counsel.
Sig blinked out of her focus and frowned, shaking her head. The old man was full of piss and vinegar, perhaps because he couldn't see with his own eyes any longer, see the beauty of the world surrounding him. He could only see darkness. She wondered how many people were led by him into self-made misery.
She sighed, not sure how to proceed, but then looked her queen straight in the eyes. "I do not deem it wise to know too much about one's own fate, as it can make a person cease to live, obsessed by what has not yet come to pass, and may never even come to pass at all. Pathways are always changing and evolving. But you have already been given insight, and I believe the limited knowledge you were given, could be to your detriment. So at this time I see three possibilities, my queen. One, you will die by the hand of the dark son of Ragnar, and it will be a violent and ruthless death. Two, you will die by a son of Ragnar, but you will ask him to do it, and it will be many many good years from now, when you want nothing more than to journey on to Valhalla in peace. And three, none of these things will come to pass at all, but the words of the seer will haunt you for the rest of your days, always looking over your shoulder, the thoughts taking up so much of your time, that you may find yourself wanting it all to be over with. The fear and paranoia of being killed by a son of Ragnar, will slowly snuff the life from you."
"Ivar," Lagertha whispered. She began to breathe heavily, as understanding began to sink in. "How do I choose the right path?" She asked. "The one in which I have many good years ahead of me?"
The girl inclined her head. "That power is yours alone."
The queen frowned, obviously craving more specific council. "Your name is Sig?"
She nodded. "Sigyn. Sig is what my father called me, and everyone else followed suit."
Lagertha nodded. "I had a friend once with your name. Siggy. You remind me of her a little. She was fearless."
"Yes," she recalled, smiling. "I remember her, and when she died. I was a little girl. It was a great loss."
Lagertha arched a brow. "Of course, you were here then. Did you know Ragnar's sons? Growing up?"
Sig nodded. "We all played together as children. I would say that I was closest to Sigurd, as he was always off on his own, as was I … but I doubt they would remember me."
The queen smirked. "I do not believe that you are so easily forgettable. You are very beautiful. And different, with your tan skin and bronze hair, like the sun at dusk. Your warm eyes, almost the color of honey or ale. They will certainly remember you."
Sig blushed and shook her head. "No. I was a very strange and ugly child."
"It's true!" she exclaimed, wincing at the memory. "The boys in the village would tell me all the time how ugly I was. Hopefully I do not look the same at all, and they will not recognize me."
The queen shook her head, smiling. "Boys will always be boys, pulling at our braids, trying to convince us of their vigor. You mustn't believe anything they say." She then narrowed her eyes. "Tell me, do they know you are back? Have they seen you? Ubbe, Sigurd … Ivar?"
Sig shook her head. "No. I have not seen them. I've only just returned. And they would not remember me anyway."
Lagertha grinned, knowing that she had her own type of counsel she could lend to the girl. "I sense that you are wise beyond your years in many ways, but you still have much to learn about men." The queen then reached out and took her hand. "I wish for you to advise me, within my closest circle, by my side. I will make sure that you want for nothing, that you are highly respected, and offer you my protection. And in return, you will guide me down the right path."
The proposition was unexpected, and Sig gasped in surprise. "Yes, of course! I am always here to serve you." She then frowned. "But I must be honest. Only you have the keys to your fate. I have the Sight, I can see signs, interpret them ... but nothing is ever certain."
Lagertha nodded. "Yes. And you are exactly what I need. A seer who can give me an advantage, and who not only wishes for me to succeed, but also acknowledges that my success is mine, and not merely prophecy."
"Tell me, is it true that you are also a healer?"
"I am. Where I learned, healing and seeing go hand in hand."
"Then I need you to do something for me."
The Queen's voice dropped low, as if she did not like to speak the name on her lips. "Offer to help to Ivar. To heal him. Learn everything you can about him. So that I can further understand how to steer my path away from him, for I do not want to kill him, as he is Ragnar's son. Help me turn the tide."
Sig shook her head. "I will always tell you my limitations, my queen, and if I remember his affliction correctly, I cannot heal Ivar. That would take what the Christians call, a miracle. All I could do is ease his pain, perhaps help to give him more movement, but I cannot fully heal him."
Lagertha shrugged. "I do not need him fully healed. I just need him to think he's being healed."
Sig slowly smiled. "Ah, the power of suggestion."
She furrowed her brow. "Forgive me, but I cannot simply walk up to Ivar and offer to help him. It would seem too suspicious. He would never trust me."
Lagertha waved away the notion. "You don't need to. All you need to do is become reacquainted with your old friend Sigurd. The rest will happen naturally. It is known that whatever his brothers have, Ivar wants too," she said, with a tilt of her chin and a glint in her eye.
Sig blushed as she looked down, staring at the wood grain of her uncle's table, worrying about what the queen seemed to be implying. "As long as I do not have to sleep with any of them, I will happily help to turn the tide for you."
The queen smirked, as if she couldn't keep the amusement off her face. "You do not wish to sleep with a son of Ragnar? A son of a king?"
Sig immediately shook her head and began to stammer. "I ... I do not care whose son they are. I only just lost a … a lover. He … died. I cannot fathom being with …"
"Say no more," Lagertha said, raising a hand. "I understand. I will never make you do such a thing."
The girl released the breath she was holding, relieved. "Thank you."
The queen reached over and brushed Sig's cheek with her fingers. "But one of them will fall in love with you, my young seer. Or perhaps all three. And if Hvitserk were home and not off with Bjorn, him as well. In this way, I am the one with the Sight."
Sig scoffed. "Then I will tell them not to fall in love with me, and it will be so. As such a notion sounds awfully tedious and exhausting."
Lagertha laughed. "Oh, how I love you already."
Sig stirred in her new bed in her new quarters. A room and a space just next door for an infirmary were now hers. After accepting a position within the queen's inner circle, she was given these things, and was now much closer to Lagertha. Everything in the room was a bit cozier, a bit warmer, and a bit more grand than what she'd been used to. She'd sunken into luxurious furs and fallen asleep as soon as her head hit the soft down pillow.
Soon, as she drifted off, she dreamed more of the same. Lately, the visions went unchanged. Sig found herself wandering the green misty countryside in the highlands of Caledonia. An old name that few still remembered. She'd fallen in love with the land and lochs there, the standing stones and fairy circles ... the people she'd met and learned from. She'd tried to find the best morsels of knowledge in every place she'd traveled to, always listening and observing, but the Picts she'd loved the most, and one in particular, with her whole heart. For a time. Only for a time.
"But you always knew something else was coming," a voice whispered in her ear.
Sig turned, and for a split-second, she could see his wild red hair in the wind, his face covered in woad, a brilliant blue.
"There's a thousand things I will not understand," she murmured, trying to hold onto him, trying to remember every detail, every elaborate brush of blue on his body. "Like why I can never keep you in these moments. Why you always must vanish into the mist again."
Everything faded as expected, went dark, until a peculiar new blue began to shimmer through, something entirely different than anything she'd dreamt before. She was back in her new bed, as a pair of glowing azure eyes came up from between her legs. Sig sat up on her elbows and he threw the furs off, before climbing up her body like a great cat, slow and calculated, shoulder blades smoothly rising and falling like a predator, with shockingly strong arms and shoulders. He loomed over her, a blade in his hand glinting with candlelight. Yet even with a knife, even with the expression on his face, like he wanted to rip her apart ... he was beautiful. So very handsome. And so very broken. She found herself torn between wanting to run away, and wanting to hold him to her breast, wrapping the furs back around them in a cocoon of warmth.
This specter had no designs on being held, however, as he put his blade to her throat.
"You do not scare me," she told him, arching a brow. "You are nothing but a vision. I've had hundreds of them."
He pressed harder. She could almost feel it. "You will tell everyone," he growled, his voice boyish and arrogant, but underneath there was the insecurity that drove him.
"I will tell no one," Sig replied, with conviction, giving a nod and leaning further into his blade.
He flinched as if she'd slapped him, but then determination settled over his face. "You will. Because you're mine."
She reached up and cupped his jaw in her hand, his fine stubble tickling her skin in a very pleasant way. "I hope you know I care."
But I belong to no man.
He grinned, baring sharp white teeth, looking positively mischievous and utterly delicious. Ever the trickster. The sly one. He dropped the knife and ducked his head, sliding back down her body with an almost preternatural control, until his face was between her thighs. She could almost feel him, his tongue hot …
She cried out and shot up in bed, panting, a gentle warmth spreading low in her belly.
Sig looked around, squinting in the darkness, but no one was there. The specter had vanished.
She groaned and fell back on the bed, turning onto her side while rubbing her legs together. Whatever had just happened, awakened something that had been dormant as of late.
She closed her eyes and bit her lip, trying to will the feeling from her mind and body, but she couldn't deny it, as it seeped even deeper into her skin.
Something else was coming. Something else was here.