"Look at you! You succeeded to stay alive this morning, didn't you? I'd have bet on you coming back home on your knees, with your face punched, puppy!" Eirik giggled, following his father and closing the door behind them.
Before Dag could answer, Gridd took his place: "He's a terrible fighter, you're right… but he uses his head more than others, I noticed that. Dag objected to Arne's orders, and you know what? He listened to him, changing the rules! I think this kid is a quick learner."
Dag was incredulous about those words and looked at his sister, that winked at him without being noticed.
The girl that didn't even talk to him was now defending him against their bully brother, making him realize that maybe she was not so emotionless as he imagined.
"Did he objected? About what? Wasn't today the pledge day?" Stein asked, sipping his first cup of mead.
"I switched my turn with a girl because I didn't want her to be watched naked by everybody… you know, the Berserkr's chief forced us to put off our shirts, to mark us with the scorching rod and impress the Berserkrs Symbol on our skin… even if she will be a warrior, she's just a little girl by now, It wasn't fair" Dag answered, thinking back at that moment.
"Well, this is not a typical Viking behavior but… you did a good thing, I think that girl will remember your kindness. Do you like her, right?" Stein interrupted, joining the conversation with his mouth full, eating the mushroom soup that Asa put on the table.
"N…no! I just thought that was wrong! I…I don't like her!" Dag blushed.
After those words, everyone who sat at the table started laughing quietly.
"There's nothing wrong with this, Dag" Asa reassured him, smiling and placing a portion of soup before him, trying to minimize his embarrassment.
"Yeah, you just… good something good, that's it. What about you, Gridd? What did you do this morning?" Stein continued, who changed the topic and gave Dag a moment to relax.
When the dinner was over, Asa and Stein walked to the bedroom, leaving its door open and Gridd got back in the house and started washing the dishes, after filling the bucket at the well.
In the meanwhile, Dag looked around, not knowing what to do.
His gaze fell again on the second room's door, but this time it was closed.
"Can I help you somehow?" he asked, trying to be helpful.
"No, you can go to sleep" she answered, making Dag feel sad and thinking that he was feeling lost without anyone who gave him orders to follow.
After understanding that his step-sister didn't want to have anything to do with him yet, he looked back at the table, noticing that Eirik wasn't there, guessing he probably was somewhere outside, looking after the animals and without saying anything else, Dag slowly walked to the bedroom and as soon as his cheek touched the straw-pillow, he fell asleep.
"Hey…hey Dag, wake up!" a voice said, when somebody shook his shoulder, interrupting his sleep.
"Uhm… what…? Hiro…? Shut up… let me…"
"Get up, come!" that voice continued, persistently.
He slowly opened his eyes, finding out that Gridd was there, staring at him with her big blue eyes, that glowed in the darkness of the room, illuminated by the moonlight that passed through the squared window.
Despite being still drowsy, he stood up on his feet and walked with her outside the bedroom on tiptoe, trying not to wake his parents and brother.
"What's happening? Did…did I do something wrong?" he asked, yawning and trying to figure out what's going on.
"No, you didn't. I saw how you were looking at the door before… 'that' door" she replied, turning to him.
"The door? Which one?" Dag gasped, quickly recovering from sleep and pretending not to know anything.
"Do you think I'm an idiot? 'That' door, the closed one. Don't you wanna know what's behind?" Gridd asked, already knowing the answer.
"Y…yes, of course. Why not…" he answered, surprised at that question, figuring out that Gridd's eyes were always on him.
They walked to the door when she picked a key from her nightdress' pocket and put it in its lock, opening it and revealing the content of the room.
In front of them, it was completely dark.
The moonlight that reflected on the main room's floor barely touched a corner of the wall behind that door and the only rudimentary window had been tightened with wooden beams, preventing everything but a thin breath of air to pass through.
While Dag was narrowing his eyes, attempting to give a sense to those dark shapes, Gridd pulled him in, grabbing his shirt's sleeve and once they both were inside, she closed the door, without the slightest sound, as if she was accustomed to that move, being not the first time she entered there.
"Gridd, I can't see anything!" Dag whispered as she crouched next to the door, searching for something on the floor.
"Quiet down! Our parents are sleeping!" she replied, finding a candle next to the door and lighting it with a kind of a matchstick, finally allowing her brother to see what was before them, inside that eerie place.
On the wall in front of the door, a suit of armor reflected the candlelight.
It was composed of two leather boots with metal tips and a pair of black leather trousers with two blue drapes on the front side and a bigger one on the back.
On each of them, the drawing of a hammer.
They were followed by a sleeveless breastplate, with the same big symbol engraved on its center and an iron helm at the top.
Dag paid attention to the helm's details: one of its sides was completely broken as hit by a heavy weapon.
Two big ram horns twisted from the top to the side and also one of them was cracked.
"Whose armor was this? It's men-sized… did it belong to Stein? I thought he had always been a lumberjack" Dag said in a low voice, breaking the silence and trying to figure out the origin of that warrior equipment.
"No, it wasn't his. Dag, there is something you should now, nobody knows it, except me and my mother. But… there's something in me that pushes me to tell you and… well, I want to trust my senses… I couldn't sleep, submerged in my thoughts, thinking about you that looked at that door" Gridd confessed, looking down.
"What are you talking about? Uh… you can trust me, I swear!" he said, full of curiosity.
"Stein is not my real father… my mother used to be married before meeting him. She lost her husband in a battle against the Lies Of Loki, an evil Clan coming from far away, while she was a famous Shieldmaiden" she continued, staring at the horned helm.
Dag kept on listening, out of words.
"His name was Brann. He was one of the greatest warriors of Skjold, owner of the emblem n°6… he died fighting and when he fell without life on the ground, somebody stole the emblem from his body".
"Oh Gridd, I'm so sorry…" Dag answered, struck by a sudden empathy towards her sister, that suddenly seemed surprisingly fragile.
"Was the emblem this hammer painted on his armor?" he continued.
"No, this hammer is the mark of his Clan, the Hammers Of Thor. The emblem was a silver rabbit's foot pendant, or something like that" Gridd replied.
Dag nodded, looking at the floor, try to imagine the scene.
"After that day, my mother, Asa, called 'the Deadly Swallow', decided to abandon her warrior life. She pretended to be a farmer, and she discovered herself pregnant after a month from my father's death. She set here on this farm after meeting Stein… nowadays, he and Eirik are convinced that this armor belonged to my grandfather."
"Why have you never told them these things?" Dag asked, looking at her in the eye.
"My mother's wish was to start a brand new life, from the beginning. If Stein and Eirik would know the truth, something among them could change, and I never wanted to let this happen" she concluded, breathing deeply and holding back her tears.
Next to the armor, resting on the wall and supported by an iron rod, Dag saw a big wooden chest, in the darkest side of the room.
"What's inside of that?" he asked again, taking advantage of Gridd's moment of weakness, during which she would have told him everything he wanted to know.
She pulled another key from her pocket and opened the chest.
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