Feed You the Sky: Chapter 10
And here it is, the moment you’ve all been waiting for (except not really because it’s nothing super crazy interesting): the wedding of Ivar and Kára. Thanks to everyone who’s taken the time to read all this so far, I hope this lives up to your expectations. And of course, thank you to my lovely beta, @shesafreesoul. Hope you all enjoy it!
AO3 link, if you prefer to read it there:
Kára had always dreaded her wedding day, in part because she knew it meant the end of her freedom, and in part because she had no female relatives to help her with the preparations. The second one was easily fixed. She was the princess—no, make that the queen—and there were plenty of eager women to help her. She had selected a childless bride married less than one year, a young mother of two, and a grandmother. She felt that advice from women at all stages in their marriages would be the most useful.
The first concern, though, no longer worried her, she mused as she walked to where the ceremony would be held. Ivar had promised he would treat her as his equal, and so far he seemed to be a man of his word. It was with a profound sadness that she had accepted her father’s sword from Ivar the night before. Custom dictated she present him with a sword of her ancestors at their wedding, and of course Ivar had taken the sword after killing her father.
Its familiar weight in her hands steadied her, kept her feet from flying off the earth as she felt they must. She had hefted this sword often as a child, admiring the way the light hit the pattern in the cold steel, the sharp angles of the runes for strength and victory carved just beneath the hilt. She dreamed of one day wielding it herself, although as she aged she realized that would never be the case. It would be her marriage-sword.
She reached the grove where the ceremony was to be held, the three women with her chattering aimlessly. She had ignored them for most of the preparations, too lost in her own thoughts. She wished again for her parents, but all she had was the silent sword in her hands. Kára had never felt so alone as when she headed to her own wedding, surrounded by strangers.
But when she looked around the grove, her heart lightened. There was Ivar sitting on a stump, positively resplendent in a soft dark gray tunic and black breeches, sword and ax belted snugly around his hips. When she met his gaze, she thought that he looked like a man walking gladly to his destiny. She wished she possessed his unshakable certainty, but she only felt small and alone. His deep blue eyes were soft and calm as he shot her a smile, gesturing with one hand. That was when she noticed, and a few tears sprang unbidden to her eyes. She blinked them back before they could smudge the kohl lining her lids.
Gathered around the clearing was her band of warriors, unarmed, dressed in their finery to honor the marriage of their queen and commander. If the force was a little smaller than the full strength she had left with, she didn’t focus on it. Despite herself, she couldn’t stop her eyes from searching for the one man she knew in her bones wouldn’t be there. She shook herself, instead focusing on those who had come. Most importantly, Ivar. He held an impatient hand out to her, and she abandoned the women who had brought her here.
By him stood the priest who would marry them, and the animals that would be sacrificed to ensure the success of their marriage. Kára took her place facing Ivar, trying to smile through the tangle of nerves writhing like snakes in her belly. The priest raised his voice to begin. “Today, in the presence of the gods, we are here for the wedding of King Ivar the Boneless, son of Ragnar Lothbrok, to Queen Kára Egilsdottir. Who has come to give this woman to her husband?”
Through the pounding of her heart, Kára cleared her throat and spoke. “I have no blood family to give me away. But,” she swept her hand around the clearing, “these men and women gathered here are my brothers and sisters. I have led them through bloodshed and into victory, and each one of them I consider family enough to give me to my husband.” She raised her voice, taking in the warriors that followed her so faithfully, trusting her even when she was unsure she deserved it. This was to be the moment of truth, show her the depths of their devotion. “Do you all consent to give me in marriage to Ivar the Boneless, accepting him as the king married to your true-born queen?”
Her speech was met with a rousing cheer from her warriors, and the priest nodded, failing to contain his smile. “So be it, then. You are given to your husband, and now we will call the presence of the gods to this wedding. But first, Kára Egilsdottir, you have a living gift you would like to present to your husband?” At Kára’s signal, Aki led forth the young colt she had chosen. He was only recently weaned from his mother, long-legged and fearful, but the arch of his neck was already proud and his little hooves danced over the grass.
“Ivar. I hope you look with favor upon my living gift to you, that Freyr may watch over you always, granting you wisdom in all your dealings as king. I ask that you accept this colt and cherish him as a living representation of my devotion to you.”
“I accept this gift,” Ivar said, voice a little more hoarse than normal. Aki led the colt to him, and Ivar ran a hand through his wispy mane. “Thank you. I will call him Vigri.” She smiled as Aki led the horse away, the nerves beginning to ease. Next was the sacrifice, but she hardly paid attention. It was only when the warm blood hit her face that she was back in the moment, smiling at Ivar as he smiled at her. He looked more handsome than any man had a right to with fresh blood on his face.
The priest begins speaking again, turning toward Ivar. “Have you brought a sword for your wife, as a promise of your protection?”
“I have.” Ivar drew the sword from his hip, extending it to Kára as if it weighed nothing. “This is the sword of my father, Ragnar Lothbrok. I give it to you, Kára, and ask that you will keep it safe. This sword will be used in the protection of our family. I will wield it in defense of you, as someday a son of our blood will wield it in defense of his own wife. So I swear, in the presence of the gods.”
Kára took the weapon, bringing it to her lips to place a reverent kiss on the cold steel. “I will keep this sword safe. My heart will sing with pride to see a son of our blood swing it to slaughter his enemies.”
“And Kára, have you brought a sword of your ancestors for your husband to symbolize that you are no longer a woman of your father’s house?”
“I have.” Kára took the sword she had carried with her, her anchor. She hoped Ivar’s sword would be enough to keep her from floating away. “This is the sword my father Egil carried on the day he fell by your hand.” A hush settled over the crowd. “I offer it to you now. As you took my father’s life, so now do you take mine in your hands. I trust you will keep it well.”
The assembly seemed to be holding its breath as Ivar broke the tense silence. “I will treasure it always and keep it safe, just as I will always keep you safe.” He took the sword, sliding it into the vacant scabbard at his hip. Kára still clutched the sword of Ragnar, and found to her relief that it was enough to keep her grounded. She could do this. Ivar would not be the death of her, only her life. He had just promised so.
The priest took two rings from his pockets, placing one on the handle of each sword. “In the presence of the gods, may these rings symbolize the sanctity of the vows you have made here today, reminding each of you always of the other.” They presented the rings to each other, taking them from the swords and slipping them on their fingers. They settled into place as if they had been forged exactly for their fingers. “In the eyes of the gods and in the eyes of men, you are joined as husband and wife. May the gods bless you and make you fertile, and may they curse any man that tries to tear you asunder!”
Ivar took her hand, running one finger lightly over the intricate knotwork of the band marking Kára as his, and he pulled her to him for a long, slow kiss. What had always been his in his heart was now his in the eyes of the gods. Kissing her for the first time as his wife, it felt like coming home to a place he had never been, but always dreamed of. And the way she responded, he could guess that she felt the same.