She stood on the prow of the boat, his labor of true love years, perhaps four decades in the making. Her silver hair blew behind her, actually shifting and whipping about her face. Were there as many lines on it as there were on the hand that rested on the stempost? Her name was Nornir, the Norse goddesses of Fate – Three sisters of past, present, and future.
“How appropriate,” she whispered to the wind and waves as she stared at the receding fjord that had been her home and domain for almost four and a half decades. The land was as harsh as it was majestic. The rocky, gray faces of the fjords sometimes rising almost straight from the frigid waters of these islands. Only the hardest of vegetation could manage to grasp preciously to them, then only barely.
This place was alight with almost perpetual day in the summer, but she never showed her face in the unrelenting winters. Life and death. Bitter and sweet. That was the only life she had ever known. Even before coming to this place, her memories were sketchy of the warm, sunny Southern California commune on which she had spent her first years, running barefoot and sometimes naked through the fields with other children. There were times she had not even known who her parents were, suckled at the breast of whatever woman’s teats were full at the moment.
This life of virtual isolation had been starkly different from that childhood. But she knew she would not trade it, even the pain, for anything. She had known love – deep and abiding, sometimes soul-shattering, love. Not simply of one man, but of four. Four Norse fishermen, who were anything but simple. Fierce. Passionate. And yes, as profoundly flawed as all of humanity. As she herself was. Is.
And now? As she watched that solid ground fade into the semi-darkness of late spring, she felt as adrift as the Knarr on which she now stood, surrounded by choppy waters and hallowing winds. And fire? Where was her passion now? Society would claim a woman her age lacked such a thing. But she never had bought any of those lies. Even during her harsh teen years, ripped from the commune of her unusual childhood and foisted on strict Christian grandparents she had never known, she had questioned and rebelled against their rules, the schools, and societies. Shoes had never quite fit feet accustomed to feeling the grass, rocks, and dirt between its toes.
As seemingly different as these last decades had been, they too had flaunted the rules that everyone else seemed to just accept unquestioningly. Four husbands. Three sons. Never knowing for sure their paternity. And never truly giving a damn. They had made their own rules. Based on ancient ways of life that their family had followed for centuries.
But it was someone else’s turn now to write in the pages of Konesbok, the book of wives. Another volume to chronicle the ecstasies and tragedies of this life. And she had no doubt that her successor was worthy. More so than she had ever been. “Love them all the same. But differently.” It was the only rule that she had chosen to obey. As best she could anyway.
Of course, there had been times when she failed. There were always times when frail humans blundered or forgot their Fate and destinies. She was no different. Nor were her husbands. Her sons had certainly fought their Fates, sometimes almost to the death. Maybe that was the warrior blood that flowed alongside the sea in their veins and coiled tightly in their DNA like a noose. “The One” had stumbled along her path, too. But the girl’s steps had been much more sure than hers had been.
Rachel? Petrine? Raquel? She was not even sure who she was anymore. Perhaps she never had been. Was that the problem? Maybe it was too late? She felt the tears gathering. Tårer. She had cried more in the last year than she had in a quarter of a century. She had once believed tears a sign of weakness. The rock. Petrine had been born of that resolve. Never to cry again. Never to be weak. But it had almost been her undoing. Their undoing.
She felt the rough wool shawl before the firm grasp of his hands on her shoulders. “What is it you say? Penny, for your thoughts?” His deep voice caressed her heart and mind as surely as his breath against her cheek.
Her chuckle was swallowed in his lips. Tender. Sweet. But also passionate. No, they definitely got that one wrong. Passion lived on well into later years. Bodies changed. Some positions were not as easily achieved as when young, limber, and nubile. The ebb and flow of its tides slowed and sometimes even stalled. But its waters deepened. Those things were less important than they once had seemed. When souls touched as passionately as the bodies in which they were housed temporally.
Her hand caressed his shaven cheek. She was still getting used to it without the beard. And trying to remember what it had looked like that lifetime ago. “Where are we heading first?”
His lips lifted higher on the right than the left as he cocked his white head to the side. His half-smile told her that he knew that was not where her mind had been. “Now, where would be the fun in that, Rachel?” How like this man. Her rock, best friend, lover, and sole companion these last few years.
She leaned back into his embrace as they turned the corner of the fjord, losing all sight of home. Her body stiffened with fear and uncertainty. What were they thinking? She had never been that fond of the sea who had taken as much from them as it gave. And the babies? Kirsty might need her help. First babies were never easy. But twins? And Svein was not fully recovered yet. Maybe they should….
But before the words could even slip past her lips, he turned her in those still strong arms. “Enough, Rachel. They will be fine.”
She opened her mouth to protest. They were all going back to England. Kirsty’s mother was dying. With Bjorn and Mikael at sea and Svein still recovering, surely it was more important that they….
“They must follow their own skein weaved by Urðr, Verðandi, and Skuld.”
“I always tell you, the Nornin are too busy caring for Yggdrasil to be bothered by the affairs of men….”
Two fingers held her tongue down as his thumb framed one side of her jaw, the two fingers on the other side. For half of a second, she considered biting down. But she knew what punishment that would earn her. Or worse, she could only imagine. More options than she wanted to ponder. Indeed, it was a check much too large for her butt to buy. She dropped her eyes and head instead.
“That’s my good girl,” his voice caressed more than her mind and heart this time as her nipples hardened inside the lacy white corset she had brought just for this night. Their wedding night. Well, sort of….