Valkyrie Chapter 21
Updated: Apr 23, 2019
Eadra soaked in the fire’s warmth, after everything that had happened, it was strangely comforting. They had ascended the stairs, making a camp in the chamber where she and Wulf had first met. There was so much to think about. Even with everything that lay ahead and with what she was feeling, Eadra couldn’t stop thinking about Frey.
Please, Eijar, don’t let them hurt my little girl.
The smell of the snow rabbit roasting over the fire was a welcome aroma to her senses. It was the first real food she had in two days. Wulf had scouted for it and the ice bear he had promised Issfang.
Eadra looked up from the fire. Wulf was still keeping quiet as he sharpened his knives and sword, but it wasn’t surprising. He was angry after learning that she was the reason Viktor had a means of controlling others. Honestly, who wouldn’t be?
I never should have left those books in his possession. She pushed the thought from her mind; now wasn’t the time for regrets. Hellana had taught her that much. All that mattered was moving forward.
She glanced at Wulf. He’d spoken of the Rangers’ plans, of how they were willing to disown one of their own just to kill Viktor and disrupt his plans. It was bold, but knowing the other Thran it might not be enough to keep them safe.
Eadra shifted her attention to Hellana’s chain armor and longblade. There was no rust or wear on either. Both looked pristine. The links on the mail were small and covered in small thumb-sized plates. It gave it a scaly look.
It was comfortable to wear and it made her feel warm. Somehow it seemed right that she should take Hellana’s armor and longblade. Eadra smiled, it had been a long time since she had felt such a familial connection to another person outside of Frey.
On the longblade, a name was etched into the base of the blade near the hilt. It read: Teinutef. Roughly translated it meant Truth. The sword had a partner. In length and design, it was similar to Grimmear, though its tip was softly curved, not sharp and angular. Its name was: Tahaseahin, which roughly meant Seeker.
Eadra stood, taking both swords, sheathing them and then sat back down. Wulf didn’t bother looking up at her. He only paused long enough from sharpening his weapons to glance over at Issfang. The dragon was contently stuffing his face as he tore chunks meat from the ice bear they had hunted down.
It was bizarre to watch him sit so casually in his elven form with his robe and face covered in blood. Wulf simply shook his head and Issfang, in turn, smiled wide, revealing rows of sharp teeth in his mouth. He even took a larger bite, just for show before the ranger turned away.
“Go ahead and ask,” he said, abruptly speaking up, his mouth full and words slightly muffled.
“Ask what?” Wulf replied while he checked the snow rabbit roasting on the spit.
Issfang laughed. “The question that’s on your mind, human.”
Wulf turned to him and narrowed his eyes. “I have a name, dragon.”
Issfang smiled. “Oh, I’m aware.”
Eadra covered her mouth, hiding her smile. “What is it you think he wants to ask you, Issfang?”
“Well it’s simple, Lady Eadra,” he replied. “Where do my clothes come from?”
“I assumed it was just magic,” Wulf commented. “Not that I care for it, but I was a little curious.”
There was a look in the dragon’s pale eyes. It was as if Issfang were regarding him as a child who knew nothing. It wasn’t quite contempt or anything so dismissive.
“I’m actually naked,” he explained. “You only see what I project onto myself and because your mind unconsciously expects it.” He paused long enough to stuff another chunk of bloody meat into his mouth. “That is the key thing to illusions,” he added. “It’s easy to affect someone’s mind if they already have a set expectation. However, now that you know, I suspect you will likely see me naked from now on.”
Wulf quickly turned away with a deep scowl on his face. “I really hate magic,” he mumbled.
The dragon laughed. “See?” he said, turning to Eadra. “His mind knows the truth so now he will have to tell it otherwise, constantly.”
Issfang continued eating, occasionally chucking to himself whenever he glanced at the ranger. Eadra wanted to admit that it was funny, but she couldn’t help but feel a little wary. In the right hands, illusions spells were just as deadly as any other magic.
Whether out of boredom or for whatever other reason, the dragon had set Wulf up for his own amusement. His emphasis on the word constantly sent a clear message. He didn’t see her or the ranger as equals, but as a means to an end. He only wanted to kill frost giants.
She looked up, nothing the curiosity in Issfang’s eyes.
“Who is Frey?” he asked. “You mentioned her in the chamber below.”
Eadra stared at him for a moment and then shifted her gaze to the fire. “She’s my daughter.”
“Where is she now?”
“She was taken from me and I was left for dead by the people who took her.” Eadra half expected another question to follow, but none came. In the stillness, for a moment, it almost felt as if the dragon was considering something.
“These people, how badly do you want them to suffer?” he suddenly asked.
It was a striking question. She had never thought about it. Wulf looked up from across the fire, his interest piqued.
“I don’t know, I thought I knew, but after my recent experience it wouldn’t change anything.”
“You love her don’t you?” Issfang asked.
Eadra turned to look at him. It was hard to breathe. Without realizing it she had slipped into her old habit of compartmentalizing events. She tried to speak but words failed her.
Issfang simply smiled. “I will kill them for you,” he replied. “No child should be without its mother.”
The look she had seen in his eyes in the chamber below returned. Eadra almost pitied Bodvar and the others, almost. “There is one who isn’t like the rest, you can’t harm him,” she said. “He promised me he would protect her.”
“As you wish,” he replied. “Point him out when the time comes.”
Eadra nodded, then glanced at Wulf.
He was frowning and then sighed. “So, do we have a plan Eadra?” he asked.
If she were honest with herself, she really didn’t even know where to begin. “It will take too long to go to each of the Thran and get them to listen,” she replied.
“Most are only going out of their own self-interest,” Wulf replied. “Savar for example. He’s only going because he and Viktor are on good terms. While he has no interest in serving anyone but himself, he knows that he will be higher in the pecking order by supporting Viktor.”
Eadra nodded. “That makes sense. Viktor does choose favorites.”
“Ilheim is another,” Wulf added. “He and Savar hate each other. Over the years they’ve had a number of skirmishes.”
“In other words, refusal to attend means that he runs the risk of Savar having Viktor’s support,” Eadra said. “He wants to keep an eye on his enemies.”
“Even then, Viktor still supports Savar, though not openly,” Wulf replied. “The Rangers have done plenty of jobs for both men,” he added. “Savar helps Viktor with his White Fern trade. The stuff he doesn’t distill properly.”
Eadra bit her lip.“Making it a lethal drug to sell in the Undermarkets of the other nations.”
“He does control two port towns after all,” Wulf said. “I could go on but you get the point. Self-interest and self-preservation, any Thran siding with Viktor weakens the position of others who don’t.”
“What of the Rangers?”
“You already know that part,” he replied. “Our autonomy is everything to us.”
“There is a simpler solution,” Issfang offered.
Eadra looked over at him. His face and “robes” were clean of blood. Wulf simply averted his eyes.
“I could kill them all during this meeting you’ve been talking about,” he said. “After all, who would believe that you bargained with a dragon to take over a kingdom?”
It was direct and practical, which seemed to be some of the dragon’s traits, but there were other problems to consider. Others within their territories would rise up to attempt to take their places as Thran.
It would mean infighting and suffering for a lot of people. She knew that it couldn’t be allowed to happen. “No, it’s not simple,” she said.
Issfang simply shrugged. “Suit yourself,” he replied.
“I think the Rangers are the best bet,” Eadra said. “Autonomy or not, they will struggle the most one way or another. Viktor won’t let them stay neutral.”
Wulf nodded, but his expression spoke of how reluctant he was to agree. “If this thing he’s developed works the way he wants, we’ll be forced to serve his interests, not our own.”
“We should also find a way to speak with the druids,” Eadra added.
“Nope, not happening,” Wulf replied. “You can talk to them, while I talk to Shuet and the others.”
“Something against druids?” Eadra asked.
“Just the one I married,” he replied wryly as he wrapped his hands and pulled the roasted rabbit of the spit. “No, I don’t want to talk about it.”
Eadra glanced at Issfang, she could tell the wheels in his mind were already turning.
I can already see where this is going. The dragon was no doubt already thinking of a way to antagonize the ranger further.
“Then I will take Issfang with me,” she said.
The dragon chuckled but didn’t argue “I’ve never seen a druid grove,” he said. “It should be interesting.”
“The Elder is the person you should speak with,” Wulf said. “She’s Banesian, you won’t miss the accent.”
Eadra noted Issfang leaning forward, a wide smile adorning his face. “Would this Banesian be your wife, Human?”
Wulf simply rolled his eyes and began cutting strips of meat off the roasted rabbit.
“Oh come now, don’t leave out the details,” Issfang chided. “I’ve always been curious about human mating rituals.”
“Eadra,” he said, ignoring the dragon. “You said you helped Viktor make this new kind of White Fern, but I don’t understand why.”
“I was enamored by the knowledge I had collected, I had never considered how it might be used,” she replied. “One particular set of books were about plants. I hadn’t finished fully translating them when Viktor saw my notes on White Fern.”
“So he what, ordered you to research those notes.”
Eadra nodded. “He claimed to be interested in my notes on its use for burns, so I began teaching him how to read Aetharian.”
“Did your notes talk about turning it into a drug to control people?” he asked.
“I came across references, but nothing that showed how it was made,” she replied. “The Aethar used it or something like it on those they imprisoned.”
“How interesting,” Issfang commented. “Why waste money on prisons when you can enamor offenders into serving you.”
Eadra nodded. “Blood is the catalyst,” she replied. “The person wishing to influence someone with it mixes it into a finished batch. But it has to be their blood or it won’t work.”
“So if someone else were to mix it in, then they would be bound to that person?” he asked.
“Yes,” Eadra replied. “At least according to the books. Victor will likely put it into the wine he serves the Thran. The distilled mixture is supposed to be tasteless.”
“Clever indeed,” Issfang said. “So we kill him and then what happens to the people affected?”
“I don’t know,” Eadra replied. “Knowing the Aethar, I can only pray they don’t go through withdrawal the same way Fern addicts do.”
“Let’s hope so, Viktor’s already been using it on people,” Wulf said.
“Then we had better get started,” Eadra replied. “We have a lot of preparing to do before the Thran meet.”