Book 10 - The Shattered Axe - Chapter 4: Missing the Point

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httyyd's picture
httyyd
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Joined: 10/12/2013

Sorry this took so long to write.  I kept thinking of when Jarl would get home and so had writer's block here and there on the places before it.  I couldn't wait for him to get home to see Annabeth.  You'll see why once you read that part.  XD

 

But it is here now.

 

I hope you enjoy!

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Book 10 - The Shattered Axe

Chapter 17 - Back on Track

 

The Jarl Mollerson Mystery Series

All Chapter Links
 

 

Destiny in the Dark

Chapter 3 - Friends and Enemies

 

Proud Leader and fellow member of:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are links to the chapters of my fan-fic series.  The books go in chronological order.

 

The Clue of the Missing Socks.

Chapters 1 and 2                         Chapter 3                                       Chapter 4

Chapter 5                                      Chapter 6                                        Chapter 7

Chapters 8 and 9                        Chapter 10                                     Chapter 11

Chapters 12 and 13                     Chapters 14, 15, and 16             Chapter 17

Chapter 18                                    Chapter 19                                      Chapter 20

Chapter 21 and 22                      Chapter 23                                     Chapter 24 and 25

Chapter 26 - There is a hidden surprise.  Can you find it?

Chapter 27                                   Chapter 28, Part 1                         Chapter 28, Part 2

Chapter 29                                   Chapter 30                                       Chapter 31

Chapter 32                                   Chapter 33                                       Chapter 34

Chapter 35                                   Chapter 36                                       Chapter 37

Chapter 38                                   Chapter 39                                       Chapter 40

Chapter 41                                   Chapter 42                                       Chapter 43

Chapter 44                                   Chapter 45, Parts 1 and 2

 

The Mysterious Frozen Fire

Chapter 1         Chapter 2         Chapter 3         Chapter 4         Chapter 5         Chapter 6

Chapter 7         Chapter 8         Chapter 9         Chapter 10       Chapter 11       Chapter 12

Chapter 13       Chapter 14       Chapter 15        Chapter 16       Chapter 17       Chapter 18  

Chapter 19       Chapter 20      Chapter 21        Chapter 22, Part 1       Chapter 22, Part 2 

Chapter 22, Part 3

Epilogue/Preview for my Third Story!

 

Thoughts of Guilt

Chapters 1 and 2          Chapters 3 and 4          Chapter 5          Chapter 6          Chapter 7

Chapter 8          Chapter 9          Chapter 10          Chapter 11          Chapter 12, Part 1

Chapter 12, Part 2          Chapter 13         Chapter 14         Chapter 15         Chapter 16

Chapter 17 and 18         Chapter 19         Chapter 20         Chapter 21         Chapter 22

Chapter 23         Chapter 24         Chapter 25         Chapter 26         Chapter 27

Chapter 28         Chapter 29         Chapter 30         Chapter 31         Chapter 32

Chapter 33         Chapter 34         Chapter 35         Chapter 36 and 37

Chapter 38, Part 1         Chapter 39, Part 2         Chapter 40, Part 3         Chapter 41

Chapter 42, Parts 1 and 2         Chapter 43         Chapter 44

Chapter 45, Part 1         Chapter 45, Part 2

 

On the Edge of Mystery

Chapter 1          Chapter 2         Chapter 3        Chapters 4 & 5    Chapter 6, Parts 1 and 2   

Chapter 7          Chapter 8         Chapter 9            Chapter 10       Chapter 11        Chapter 12

Chapter 13        Chapter 14       Chapter 15          Chapter 16        Chapter 17       Chapter 18

Chapter 19        Chapter 20       Chapter 21          Chapter 22       Chapter 23      Chapter 24

Chapter 25        Chapter 26       Chapter 27         Chapter 28        Chapter 29 Parts 1 and 2 

Chapter 30       Chapter 31       Chapter 32 and 33                         Chapter 34 Parts 1 and 2 

Chapter 35 Part 1         Chapter 35 Part 2        Chapter 35 Part 3        Chapter 36

 

The Secret Symbol

Chapter 1    Chapter 2    Chapter 3    Chapter 4    Chapter 5

Chapter 6    Chapter 7     Chapter 8    Chapter 9    Chapter 10

Chapter 11    Chapter 12    Chapter 13    Chapter 14    Chapter 15

Chapter 16    Chapter 17    Chapter 18    Chapter 19    Chapter 20

Chapter 21   Chapter 22   Chapter 23   Chapter 24 and 25

Chapter 26    Chapter 27    Chapter 28    Chapter 29 and 30

Chapter 31    Chapter 32    Chapter 33    Chapter 34    Chapter 35

Chapter 36    Chapter 37    Chapter 38    Chapter 39

Chapter 40 and 41    Chapter 42    Chapter 43, 44, 45, and 46

 

The Legend of Shadow Mountain

Chapter 1    Chapter 2    Chapter 3    Chapter 4    Chapter 5

Chapter 6    Chapter 7    Chapter 8    Chapter 9    Chapter 10

Chapter 11    Chapter 12    Chapter 13    Chapter 14    Chapter 15

Chapter 16   Chapter 17    Chapter 18    Chapter 19    Chapter 20

Chapter 21    Chapter 22    Chapter 23    Chapter 24    Chapter 25

Chapter 26    Chapter 27    Chapter 28    Chapter 29    Chapter 30

Chapter 31    Chapter 32    Chapter 33    Chapter 34    Chapter 35

Chapter 36    Chapter 37    Chapter 38    Chapter 39    Chapter 40

Chapter 41    Chapter 42    Chapter 43    Chapter 44    Chapter 45 & 46

Chapter 47    Chapter 48    Chapter 49    Chapter 50    Chapter 51

 

Teaser "Trailer" for Book 8 - Conquest of the Truth

 

The Crimson Storm

Chapters 1 and 2     Chapter 3    Chapter 4    Chapter 5    Chapter 6

Chapter 7    Chapter 8    Chapter 9    Chapters 10 and 11    Chapter 12

Chapter 13    Chapter 14    Chapter 15    Chapter 16    Chapter 17    Chapter 18

Chapter 19    Chapter 20    Chapter 21    Chapter 22    Chapter 23

Chapter 24    Chapter 25 and 26    Chapter 27    Chapter 28    Chapter 29

Chapter 30    Chapter 31    Chapter 32    Chapter 33    Chapter 34

Chapter 35 and Epilogue

httyyd's picture
httyyd
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Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 10/12/2013
Drums R Round. Pi R Squared.

There are two mixes for this chapter.

The first being an ambient mix for the banquet:

Viking Mead Hall - Relaxing Fireplace with Crackling and Nordic Ambiance, for Sleeping and Study

 

The second being an ambient music mix until Annabeth and Jarl turn in for the night:

The Ambience of How to Train Your Dragon

 

When the night comes, turn off the music mix.

 

There are multiple themes in this chapter, so I couldn't figured out how to pick just one music mix.  So, I picked a bit of everything.

 

 

The Shattered Axe

 

Chapter 4

Missing the Point

 

Jarl's Point of View

 

         The banquet was not anything more than an open buffet and ambient music.  Not only that, but there is less than eighty Vikings here; most of whom are from each race team and their traveling friends and family.  For as much as the crowd all the track easily could surpass a thousand, hardly anyone on the island is interested in celebrating the race.  No one in charge is directing the banquet, so I went around to each table talking to my fellow racers.

         The things we discussed were mainly about my crews’ tactics in the way we launched the sheep out instead of up.  Crews are dubbing it the “forward pass,” saying it will revolutionize the sport.  It will if it sticks.  Each sport will start off with its own rules, but if traditions set in, it will again be hard to buck.  This is true with anything.  I am of the mindset to continue to discern what are the traditions of men compared to what is the truth.  My way to break away from the pack to make up ground in the championship.  No rule said anything about “how” to launch a sheep, nor in what direction.  My point is it can bring for another level of strategy with the trajectory of how, where, and when to fire a sheep.  Not to mention if crews are able to innovate in other areas, it will start to level the competition for the smaller crews.  All of this will raise the competition and make it more exciting.

         I talked with the racers about certain moments about the race itself.  You are so focused on your race that you miss other great moments.  These moments could write their own book with each race.

         After about an hour of this, the table I am at is disrupted by another table and their argument.  It is none other than Jason Ketell yelling at his crew.  Our table was discussing how my crew came up with our strategy.  I bet Jason started mumbling about it and someone in his crew talked back and sparked the argument.  This has happened all season, but this was the first time he lost in a bold move plus a last moment pass for the win.

         He complains about his team not coming up with the strategy first and that they were slow on a few sheep laps.

         Boiling it down, Jason is blaming his crew for the loss.  He gets quite vocal about it to the point he is disrupting everyone.

         I decide to get up and walk over to their table.  Before I can even open my mouth, Jason sees me and grunts, “Oh great.  You here to gloat?”

         “I couldn’t help but notice you were wondering how my crew came up with our final Sheep Lap strat.

         The only girl on his team brightens up and looks excited to learn, but Jason barks at me, “My team don’t need your help.”

         I correct, “Doesn’t.   ‘My team doesn’t need your help.’”

         Jason bolts upright in my face, practically shoving me back with how close he gets, “Are you mocking me?”

         “You, no,” I downplay with a hint of sarcasm.  “Your grammar, yes.”

         “You want to say something, just say it.”

         “Alright,” taking him up on it, I lean forward.  “This is not the way you should treat your crew.  It isn’t your fault.  You did fly a good race,” struggling to try and say a compliment.  “It was just my friends and I flew a greater race.”

         “I can treat my crew however well or bad I want to.  They are my crew!”

         “But have you ever listened to yourself?  I bet even if you had a twin, they would hate you too!”

         Jason took a step towards me, but the girl on his crew sprung up to get between me and Jason…  Just as he was going to push me…

         He pushed the girl!

         Wanting to question him, I am done with him, especially him showing he has no interest in helping her up.

         I quickly come to her aid, “Are you alright?”

         As if seeing a viking for the first time, she is taken back knowing something is helping her; she does answer, “Oh, uh, yes.  Yes, thank you.”

         Before I could give him a piece of my mind, the chief of the island came in to begin the ceremony.

         Going back to my table, Dawn comments right before she takes a drink, “I wish you would have just given him a piece of your mind.”

         Chuckling, I quip, talking under my breath, “He would be too stupid to know how to use any piece of my mind.”

         Dawn spit out part of her drink after my quip, “Man,” she tries to down her swig of raspberry punch.  “I did not expect you to say that.”

         “Guess I said that out loud?”

         “It is what I wanted to say,” Dawn catches her breath.  “But thought it would be too mean.”

         “When have you ever stopped to think about what you would say whether it would be too mean or not?”

         “Look, I’m trying to be a better viking.  As you’ve said before, you are contagious.  Being positive is kind of catchy.  Besides,” she brings her cup up to take a drink, hiding a somewhat obvious smile.  “I am trying to think of something worse.”

         As Samantha and Angie heard that they started questioning the other times Dawn has held back when talking about them.  They do this just as the chief calls for attention.

         Samantha and Angie still go on, but Dawn hushes them, bring her finger up to her lips, “Don’t you know that it is impolite to talk when a distinguished man is addressing a crowd?”

         The two girls’ reaction to Dawn talking about something being “impolite,” they were speechless.  But they stopped.  Dawn got her way again.  Though, I think the two realize as I do just now:  Dawn is developing a sense of humor.  Do not know if the Barbaric Archipelago is ready for that.

         Rolling our eyes and Dawn smirking satisfied with herself, we focus on what is being said.

         The chief now halfway through his welcoming of the guests and thanking the various race organizers.  Once he concludes, he then starts awarding the prizes of the Skills Challenges.

         Archery from a Dragon – Greatest number of points in ten rounds, five arrows each.  This competition was over by the Sheep Baskets, with the targets spanning the width of the track there on land.  One would fly around the looping turn and must find their target right as they come across Sheep Basket zone.  Sheep Launching – From five predetermined spots, crews shoot for the most scored or closest sheep to their basket.  Relay Race – A trio of randomly selected racers who want to participate, race a short fifteen lap race, five laps per racer.  And then during the main event itself, awards are given to the fastest lap, fastest Sheep Lap, and most laps led.

         I did not partake in the Relay Race for I wanted to make sure Anora was well rested.  A few of the other top qualified racers did the same, so the competition was a little less for the Relay Race.

         It just dawned on me as I accepted the Archery Skill Challenge award for first place, an iron helmet, “My crew and I nearly swept the events of the last two days.”

         My crew won the Sheep Launching Challenge and then Anora and I with the fastest lap as well as the fastest Sheep Lap.  The fastest lap was my second to last lap with my last lap of the race being the Sheep Lap.  Jason’s team won the Relay Race and he led the most laps.

         The chief did a recap of each Skills Challenge and reminding everyone of the top podium finishers and how they did.  Third place receives iron bracers, second iron shoulder pads, and first an iron helmet.  They are plated iron, so they are not as heavy as if they were pure iron.  Though, I must say, I am rather disappointed.  For as much as they were wanting a race, they can only muster a seemingly common array of viking gear as awards?  They have not put much effort into anything other than the race itself.  Hopefully, they will do more to incentivize racers to participate and more vikings to come to the events, even the Post Race Banquet.  Because if they do not, the next race scheduled here in a few weeks might be their last.

         Once all the awards were done and I was on my way back to my crew’s table, the chief caught up with me, “We have run into a slight setback with the grand prize for winning the race.  We were going to give the first place racer the highest honor any Iron Conclave viking could receive, but those who were supposed to have it ready, were held up by an extra shift in the mines to clean up some accidents.”

         “I hope no one was hurt,” I inquire.

         “No one was hurt, but sometimes unforeseen problems occur when tools malfunction.  I have my best vikings working to rectify the situation.  We will try to deliver it to you as soon as we can.” the chief informs.  “Oh, and one more thing, Thorgunna Vixxen brought to my attention what your crew was able to uncover tonight.  While you were right to assume, we would not have approved of the act against those who are protecting us from thieves and pirates, finding out one of our own was trying to undermine the work we are trying to accomplish with our iron trade would have been a detriment to our trade talks with your Berserkers and other tribes.  The dragons we received, I was told, was through a fair deal from a group of Dragon Traders.  Little did we know they were Dragon Trappers.  I thank you and your crew for taking care of the situation.  I hope we can continue our trade talks with the Berserkers.”

         Heather answers, “You will hear from my brother, Dagur, soon to discuss the next step in our trade deal.”

         With that, my crew reconvened at our hut along with Hiccup and his gang.  To prepare when we would leave, it was decided to pack up all our things tonight and then go at first light because we are done with this island.  The way in which the Iron Conclave does business, conducts themselves, and just go about their day, it is very foreign to us.  We thought Berkians were gruff, stubborn, and boar headed.  The Iron Conclave is that and more.  But, to get their Iron off the market from some other tribe less desirable than ours, we can deter smaller clans who want to try and rival the Berserker standard in trade and power.  Going into meeting the Conclave, we knew they might stoop to trading with the likes of the Dragon Trappers.  So, we want to stop any thought of doing so in its tracks.

         With the help of dragons, we discover more and more people.  The variety in the way of life for these new people is eye opening.  The bigger the world gets, the more reality reveals what life is truly like.  Some of it good, some of it bad.  We all know there is right and wrong in the world, but with a lot of my crew’s adventures, right and wrong to use might be viewed as wrong and right to someone else.  Dealing with people who view things differently than we do is starting to become more common place the further we reach out into the outskirts of the Barbaric Archipelago.

         But we need to know what is out there so we can continue to keep the peace.  Having dragons has accelerated a viking’s way of life in many ways.  But in doing so, it has brought more avenues of power-hungry individuals to take advantage.  First it was Viggo, then Einar, Draggo, Stormheart, Griselda, Pheonix, and more.  How many more are out there who want to destroy the peace Berk, Berserkers, and Outcasts have made with each other and the dragons?  How many more would much rather have perpetual war then lasting peace?  If my adventures with my crew have showed me anything, it is this.  There is a change on the horizon.  We all must be prepared to face it.  The best way we can do it, is together.  But having allies in more than just a few islands you could count on one hand will be needed to ensure the peace Hiccup started remains.

 

         After a full day of racing and beating up some Dragon Trappers, I am welcoming some nice rest, because, it is going to take nearly the full daylight time to get back to Berserker Island.  For once, I actually get up before anyone else and am ready to go when everyone else is ready.  I doubt anyone on the island cares that we are leaving, or even notice we are leaving.  I am just glad to put this island behind me for the time being.

         We stopped once for lunch.  We visited Aberdeen to say hi to some old friends.  Others ate breakfast while we flew, but most of the time I just skip it all together.  The talk on the trip ranged greatly from the race to Samantha’s axe still missing.  Though I may still listen even while being quieter than normal, I did not pay much attention to what was being said.  Besides having something on my mind, I keep thinking of what the chief of the Iron Conclave said.  There is something he is hiding.  He is too concerned about securing Berserker’s trade deal than anything else.  What does he want from the Berserkers that is so important?  Making this known to Heather, she says she will talk to Dagur to see what he can find out when he talks with the chief later this week.

         When it was getting close to supper, we were only a few hours away from home.  So, we all decided to skip it as well just so we could get home a bit sooner.  Since Hiccup and the Dragon Riders would still have more flying to do, we invited them to supper.  But they too thought since they were that close to their home, another hour or two of flying would not be too long to wait.

         With Berserker Island now on the Horizon, we all split up to go to our respective homes.  I am more patiently impatient right now than I was before the race.

         Finally landing on a familiar island, I immediately take off Anora’s saddle to set on its stand outside the Stables.  I will get the gear later.  Anora lets out a greeting roar as Fredrick was laying near the front door.  This probably also alerts Annabeth to our presence, so I race to the door and wait for her to open it.  When the handle starts to open in, I gently push the door open and pin Annabeth between the door and the wall.

         “Hey!” she exclaims.  “What’s the big idea?”

         “Since I was gone for so long,” I smile.  “I wanted to show you how much I adore you.”

         “Than-,” Annabeth started but then closed her eyes, tilted her head, and let out a heavy grunting sigh.  She twitches her head a bit in the tilt, trying not to like the pun.

         While she still stays there with her eyes closed, I lean in so I can reach her lips for a kiss.  She takes a step to the side but turns to receive it, so I would not have to lean in.  Not because of the door, but because of the special packages she is carrying.

         Once we are done, I lift my head back a bit to stare into her eyes.

         She is the first to say something, though not what one would think to say after being a week away from a beloved one, “How long have you been waiting to tell me that one?”

         “A few days, actually,” I chuckle.

         She can only shake your head, “As much as it pains me to be greeted like that,” she winks at me as she walks into the house.  “It sure is nice to have you back home, I missed you so.”

         “I have too.”

         “Oh, so you only missed yourself and not me?  I see how it is.”

         “I’ve trained you too well, my young apprentice.”

         “Now, have you had any supper?”

         “No, I have not.”

         “Good, because there’s plenty of food.”

         Following her into the kitchen I see a table with enough food for four, Annabeth declares, “I don’t know what it is, but my odd quirk right now is cooking.”

         “At least you are getting in the practice when you will be needing to cook for four.”

         “Hold the rest of the puns until after supper,” Annabeth pulls a chair up backwards, sits down, puts her hands up on the back of the seat, and leans down on them.  “Now, tell me all about your trip!”

         As I collect a plate full of chicken, corn, boar bacon, salad with my family’s special sauce that Annabeth’s taking a crack at, bread, yak butter, an apple, sliced pears, and even yak butter parfait, I start from the beginning and walk through the entire last several days.  I cover everything.  The trip down, first impressions of the Iron Conclave, Skills Challenges, the Race, the assault on the fort, and the banquet.  Annabeth hooked on my every word.  Someone has been bored, for she even stayed awake.  Most people if I talk for too long get sleepy because of my tone of voice.  But she stayed awake.

         After an hour, seconds, and two more parfaits -hey, I was hungry- I finished with the account of the trip.  Annabeth made a few comments here and there about what happened, but her most memorable one was more of her reaction to the fact I shot Dawn with a real arrow.  While she knew of the plan to do it, the realization I used a real arrow at point blank range, she is amazed I was able to be confident in that moment to protect my friends.

         “Thank goodness she had her heavy armor on,” Annabeth agrees.  “But she shows a lot of confidence in you to allow herself to be open to it.  If she is confident in you, then I hope you can see how the rest of us feel about you.”

         “I am beyond just seeing that now.  I am acknowledging it and beginning to use it to our advantage.  Together, this crew will be able to withstand any threats which anyone might throw our way.”

         I stand up to start taking care of the dishes.  Annabeth jumps up to take the lead on them.  While I would say I would not want her to do it I just want her to rest, I have been thinking about her quite a bit in her state.  I let her help me with the dishes.

         Annabeth comments, “One thing I cannot figure out is that chief of the Iron Conclave.  One moment he sounds very political, putting his island at the forefront of his priorities, yet in the very next he sounds like he is only in it for himself.  There is more to him than he is letting on, I can agree with you there.  I hope we can figure it out.  Hey,” she nudges me.  “I do declare we have a mystery brewing.”

         “We’ve known about the Iron Conclave for a little while, so it isn’t much of a surprise,” I remind.

         “Well, a mystery like this is in its early stages.  It is still brewing and simmering.  Give it some time, and before you know it, you’ll have a full blown, intrigue filled, puzzle bender of a mystery.”

         Once we were done with the dishes and put the leftovers away, we walked out to the stables to take care of our dragons.  Annabeth shows her pride for how well Anora did for me in the race.  I find my dragon eager to see me.

         While I feed his portion of salmon for supper, and ask, “How did you hold up watching over Annabeth?”

         Fredrick did not hear me and continued to chow down; playing it off as that is his answer, “That bad, huh?  You stopped listening to her several days ago?”

         “I heard that.”

         Lifting my head up, “What did you say?”

         Annabeth opened her mouth to probably repeat what she said, but then smirked at me, also puts her hands on her hips, “You know what I said.”

         I return to her and giver a kiss on the forehead, “I missed that look.”

         “You keep this up, you’re going to see this look a lot more often,” Annabeth remarks as she moves on to Sirena.  “From the top of the stairs with you on the couch.”

         It is so nice to have this banter again, makes me further think of what I have been thinking.  After finishing with Star Scream, I then help with the four Thunderwhips.

         “May I ask you something?”

         “This sounds a bit more serious, so I will put on my serious face and put away my punderful face.”

         “But I like your punderful face.  Anyway, seriously though,” I turn to her as she has a bucket of Brown Trout in her hands.  “How have you been this past week?”

         She takes a deep breath and lays out it, “Frankly, I am beginning to feel a bit useless.  Though I know that isn’t the case and I do have things I can do, no one allows me to go anywhere.  The last thing I would do is put myself into a situation to get hurt, but it would really enjoy things more if I can go visit Berk or go on your trips if this mystery picks up.  The only time I get to ride a dragon is on the First Day and that is just twice in the same day.  Not only that, but it is only to the main village on the island to fly to.”

         “I know why you had Cazi and Fredrick watch me, and they were good company, but it is very easy to get bored to just sit around doing seemingly nothing.  I know you want to do everything to protect me…”

         She sighs and looks down.

         I put my hand under her chin and lift it up, “I wasn’t letting you be the Berserker viking woman you are.  I was putting you in a cage you do not deserve.  Sure, I want to protect you, you want to protect you, but you deserve to live your life the way you want to live it.  No one should be able to tell you want to do…  Unless you are a boss of an apprentice…  Teaching them a trade.  Or a parent…  Teaching your child to be an adult…  Maybe there are situations where someone needs to be told what to do…  This is me stalling to find the point I forgot.”

         “Even in both of those examples, the training they undergo is getting them ready for a time when they are on their own to live their life the way they choose.  I haven’t given you that choice these last few months.  And with the start of racing season and some of the more recent races a long stretch of time, land, and ocean between us, I am not able to just hop back home from Berk and see how you are.  I have felt as if something was missing from my life.  I missed having you watch my back.  I missed seeing your encouraging face, even your disappointed face after a pun.  Simply put, I missed you.  And that is my fault.  I should have thought of it before, but when you agreed to it and did not say anything of it at first, I did not think much of it.”

         Annabeth interjects, “At first, I too thought it was best.  But I think the problem worked on us separately to come to the same conclusion.  I too have been thinking of it, but I just did not know how to bring it up to you to make the most impact and still encourage you.”

         “While I hope you feel you can bring anything to me no matter what it is,” I remind her.  “The time I think you want to tell me about this is the time I noticed and started thinking about things.  Now.  Now, no more restrictions.  I won’t tell you what to do.”

         A moment later, I tell her, “The cats need water.”

         “Alri-,” she began, but then slapped me in the arm.  “You better be glad that I love you, or else I’d hit you.”

         “What would you call what you just did to my arm?”

         “If I wanted to hit you, you would not be standing right now.”

         “That’s because I would have ducked so fast I would by lying on the ground.  I couldn’t stand for you to hit me.”

         Another grunting sigh is heard from Annabeth.

         Puns are quite literally a love-hate relationship.  One either loves to hate them or hates to love them.  Either way, if it makes people happy, I will keep doing them.  If it makes my friends like me a little less, well, they signed up for the whole package when they became my friend.  I make a friend, they are stuck with me.  Stubborn for my friends, in more ways than one.

         We finished with Annabeth’s wildcat Titan and my regular cat Pearls after the dragons.  Then we walk arm in arm back to the house.  Deciding to spend a quiet evening alone, we sat around watching the fire burn in the fireplace.  However, upon wondering if she had taken The Emblems today, she had but had everything ready and waiting for me.  So, after collecting The Bread and The Grape Juice she had prepared, I went through a message on them.  Also, we continued our weekly study together.

         The discussion lasted for another hour, then delved back into my crew’s trip, the race, and what the Dragon Trappers are up to.

         Noticing both of us yawning, we get ready for bed.  As we go upstairs, I remind we can always sleep downstairs, so she does not have to go up them as much.  But in the same I tell her reminding myself I know she is strong enough to walk up and down the stairs.  Yet if her stamina would get to the point of not lasting as long, the guest room is open for us to sleep there.

         Smiling that I right away remembered to not just tell her something and leave it at that but to put myself in her situation how she is dealing with the pregnancy, she finally acknowledges the reason for my concern.  She said she will limit the times she needs to go up them.  And if it becomes too much for her, she will let me know when to move stuff downstairs.

         Settling in bed with my left arm around her -Last time I used my right, it fell asleep on me while trying to hold her.  I just do not want to stop hugging her- I always have the biggest grin knowing I cannot fit my arms around her waist.  She layers her hands on mine every night.

         I whisper, “Goodnight Annabeth, my heart.”

         She returns, grasping my hands, “Goodnight Jarl, my love.”

         We, well, I soon fall asleep.  I am almost always the first to do so.  Annabeth says she is usually the second to go.

 

         Bang, bang, bang.

 

         BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG!

 

         Feeling a nudge, I hear Annabeth mutter, “Jarl?”

         “Hmm?”

         “There’s someone at the door.”

         “Huh-hmm,” sighing as I wonder who would be crazy enough to- Wait, we are on the island where they would be crazy enough to visit someone in the middle of the night.

         Rolling out of bed, I nearly faceplant on the floor.  Catching myself before gravity finished the job, “Who built the ceiling so close to the floor?”

         Tossing some cold water on my face, I then throw on my night cloak over my shirt and help Annabeth do the same for hers.  Over the last couple of months, Annabeth has become like me when I try to walk around when I first wake up, though she can still wake up and be alert faster than me.  Her balance takes a bit longer, so I help steady herself going down the stairs.

         The knocking continues to get louder, so I holler, “Hold on.  We’re comin’, we’re coming.  Give us a minute.”

         As we approach the front door, I can see a bright glare of an orange glow through the front windows.  Upon opening the door, the large figure of the Chief of the Iron Conclave of all vikings stands right in front of us.

         I have to make a double take checking what I saw, thinking I was still asleep, “Uh, chief?  Chief Gladstone.  What…  What brings you out this far north at this hour of night?”

         “I said we would bring your prize as soon as we were ready.”

         That memory finally woke up in my brain, “Oh!  Oh, I mean you could have waited until morning.”  I say half referring to him waking us up, so I quickly continue with what I meant.  “Because of the longer trip just for the winner’s prize.  You didn’t have to go to all this trouble.”

         While I do want to demand why he is doing this and barging in, Dagur has constantly reminded me that now I am married into the ruling family of the Berserkers, I have to be mindful of the words I use.  In other words, be political in my answers.  On the other hand, the way I just worded my answer I assume he is going to take it I have concern for him, when in reality I really do not.  I am blaming him, but if he wants to take it a different way, that is on him.  There will be a time when I will be able to tell him the truth of the matter.

         “While I appreciate your concern for me and my men, out…  Your prize kept escaping. And destroying things in the village, we had to get it off the island.”

         Slightly confused, I think to myself, “Not sure if I want it now.  Is this a dragon or something?”

         “If you will step this way, we can officially present to you your promised award, though a lot less ceremonial.”

         Annabeth and I follow Chief Gladstone across our yard.  I observe the orange glow is originating from torches carried by a dozen vikings, each armed and on Mudrakers.  Chief Gladstone leads us to a somewhat large crate, about five feet square in all dimensions.

         Chief Gladstone takes a deep breath, “With great pride, it is my greatest privilege to award you the highest honor a chief can bestow upon any Iron Conclave viking.”  He steps behind the crate.  “May I present to you your very own, personal…”  the chief shoves his shoulder into the crate, lifting it up, and dumping the content on to the ground.  “Bondservant, straight from the mines of the Iron Conclave.”

         I cannot believe my eyes.  Being shocked would be putting it very mildly.

         What I see at my feet is a young girl not much older than my younger sister.  A young brunette girl with dirty, tattered clothes and…  And socket chains on her wrists and ankles!