She had a great many things to tell him.

Sigrid had not seen her husband in over three months, and so she had a great many things to tell him.

Three months was a long time in the life of a boy who was not quite a year old, and the prodigy that was Harald Pinknose had spent them performing marvel after precocious marvel.

He had already demonstrated two of his talents when his father had come home by running in the opposite direction on his own two feet, wailing, “Mama! Mama!”

Sigrid did not think she had ever seen Eirik so delighted.

Sigrid did not think she had ever seen Eirik so delighted.

Olaf too, at four-​​and-​​a-​​half, had been a very busy boy, and there were all of his adventures to tell as well, and all of the clever things he had said. Then there was the family: Dyrne and Daeglan, funny little Finna; and there were all of the other noteworthy occurrences in the household over the last three months.

Sigrid did not think she would have the time to tell everything before supper, but she meant to tell as much as she could. He would not leave her the chance to talk after supper when they had come back up to bed. Then he would not be coming to her as a starving man, but as a man whose appetite had been whet and who intended to savor his repast. Not that Sigrid minded! But she had so much to say…

After a while, though, she began to realize that Eirik did not seem to be paying attention to what she said, but only watched and smiled at her – and his smile seemed slightly sad.

His smile seemed slightly sad.

“Are you listening to me?” she scolded.

“I’m listening.”

“Then why are you simply sitting there smiling at me like a stupid dog-​​dog?”

“Because I am a stupid dog-​​dog.”

“Even Kottr sometimes cocks his head and whines when you talk to him.”

Even Kottr sometimes cocks his head and whines when you talk to him.

Eirik promptly cocked his head and whined plaintively.

Sigrid laughed. It was the obvious joke, but he truly was adorable when he felt like joking, and all the more so when he was in bed with her and his eyes were nearly on her level.

“No, Siri,” he said gently, “I listen sometimes and think sometimes, but mostly I am thinking you look so happy, and I have something to tell you to make you sad, like a bad pig-​​dog.”

“Must you go away again?” she asked at once.

“Siri…” His eyes, which were so close to her own, wavered behind tears that he did not let fall. “Would that make you sad?” he asked her in Norse.

'Would that make you sad?'

Sigrid nodded. She knew that such things were not self-​​evident between them, and yet they had to go without saying. Eirik could not tell her he loved her in any language. She knew now how false it had been when he had said it to her years before by the simple fact that he could not say it to her now.

She also knew it because she had seen the way her brother scowled and snapped at Estrid, and the way Estrid rolled her eyes and sneered at her brother. They went on together like two resentful oxen yoked to the same wagon, but there was nothing but rancor in their eyes when they fought. Sigrid knew now that, from the first months of their marriage, there had always been a plea in Eirik’s, even when he had roared at her.

He smiled sadly.

He smiled sadly. “I think you will wish I would go away and leave you alone when I tell you what I want to tell you.”

“It’s not that?”

“I have to go away, Siri, but I want to take you and Olaf and Pinknose with me.”

Sigrid had not even thought of that. She had been living at her brother’s manor for nearly two years. Harald had been conceived and born in this house, and he was already running and speaking. She had felt two years ago that her husband was bringing her home, and nothing in the time since had made her feel that it was only temporary, though she had always known it was.

“They say that I am Whitehand’s right hand,” he explained, “but now they are beginning to say that the left hand knows not what the right hand does. I cannot serve my king from so far, and also I cannot defend myself from the left hand and the feet and the nose and all the other parts.” He tried to smile.


“But if you look at me like that, you make me feel cruel for wanting to take you too.”

'You make me feel cruel for wanting to take you too.'


“That house on the island is cold and wet, but it’s worse than that, Siri. I slept there the last two weeks, and even with Tryggve there I have never felt so lonely in my life as I did in that big bed where you used to sleep. But I think now I am being selfish,” he laughed weakly. “This house is warm and dry, and you are happy here. Perhaps I shall simply give Tryggve the big bed, and I shall sleep in his narrow bed, where I shall be glad I don’t have to find room for someone else.”

There was the same plea in his eyes now that had been there from the first months of their marriage, when he would roar at her and ask her whether a quick death would be sufficient to please her, or whether he would be required to suffer first to make her glad.

Sigrid laid her arms over his shoulders and pulled herself up.

Sigrid laid her arms over his shoulders and pulled herself up so that his eyes would be that much closer. “But if we go with you,” she said, “then we shall see you more often. Every time your ship comes in. And the boys will know you and love you, and you will teach them how to be men.”

Sigrid spoke rapidly, giddily: she had begun speaking out of duty and self-​​sacrifice, but as she searched for things to say to please him, she realized that she was dredging up the artifacts of her own loneliness and her own fears.

'And two in a bed in a cold house is warmer than one in a bed in a warm house.'

“And two in a bed in a cold house is warmer than one in a bed in a warm house,” she gabbled in her childish Norse. “And I shall know where you are and what you are doing. And when there are storms I shall know when you are safe at home, and when to pray for you.”

Eirik inhaled sharply and closed his eyes, as if she had struck upon the one fear that resonated with his own. His fear had never been that he would drown, but that she would not care.

“I missed you,” she whispered to his face that was too near to hers now to be seen.

“I love you,” he whispered in reply, and he kissed her closed eyes before they cried.

He kissed her closed eyes before they cried.