“How long have we known each other Bodvar?”
Bodvar looked around the keep’s dining hall and frowned. Viktor’s men were at every exit. Savar’s were on the upper floor keeping a watchful eye on them from above.
He frowned. He’s so full of himself. “Long enough, Viktor.”
“Haven't I been hospitable?” he asked. “Hasn’t our arrangement proven profitable for us both?”
Bodvar smiled. “Our arrangement only goes so far, Viktor.” It was disgusting. The arrogance wafting from him. He was such a child. Without the Blades, he wouldn’t be sitting here.
“Does it?” he asked, shifting his gaze to the doorway.
Bodvar glanced over his shoulder to see Ylva step into view. Now it makes sense. “You know my rules, Ylva.”
There was a slight smirk on her face. “The time for your rules has passed,” she said.
Bodvar narrowed his eyes. We will see, little girl.
She strode in defiantly. It was unusual for her to behave emotionally. When he looked toward Viktor, Bodvar saw that the Thran was already standing and had pulled a chair for her.
“Ylva has kept me informed about what transpired Bodvar,” he said as she took her seat. “I have to say, I’m gravely disappointed.”
I should have seen this… “Just what is it do you think she has told you, Viktor?”
His expression changed, becoming hard as stone. “That you have cost us dearly by killing Eadra.”
Bodvar leaned forward. “I handled a deserter. When it comes to the Blades our agreement is clear.”
Viktor’s face grew harder, Bodvar noted the Thran’s men were tensing. “There is the matter of the man you killed.”
Who is he kidding? “The boy, was interfering with the business of the Blades.”
“That boy, was protecting my interests!” Viktor replied.
“So you’ve taken an interest in little girls now, Viktor? That explains Ylva.”
Ylva quickly stood, sword drawn with a glare that would have left most men trembling. Viktor had his arm held out to stop her, the barb had clearly struck a nerve with both of them. He was trying to hide it, though, but the slight swinge of his lower lip had given him away. Then, his face cracked, a smirk crawling its way onto it.
“Bodvar, if our agreement were to end how would you survive?”
As I always have. “There are always those looking to hire those like myself to keep their hands clean.”
The smirk Viktor wore suddenly became a twisted smile.
“Will they?” he asked. “Your merry little band has swelled since first coming here so many years ago, Bodvar.” He sat back, propping his arms on the armrests of his chair and folded his hands together. “Sokroas has been good to you. As. Have. I.”
He looked about the hall, any fool could see it. The status quo was changing. “What do you want Viktor?”
“For killing Skad, the price is Eadra’s daughter,” he replied. “Train her if you wish, but lay too harsh a hand on her and that hand will be chopped off.”
Bodvar gripped the table. “Anything else, Viktor?”
“If anyone from the Blades kills any more of my men or Savar’s, I will have your head by morning,” he replied. “If need be we can always have our exiled little Inquisitor Purge a few to set an example. They might be more useful as dolls.”
Bodvar clenched his jaw. “I’ll see to it that a clear message is sent.”
“Good, now, get out.”
Bovar stood. If I had my skeggox…He turned toward one of the archways leading from the hall and pushed past one of Viktor’s men.
The warrior had nothing but pity in his eyes. It was maddening. There was a time when people had given him wide berth, Viktor’s men included.
“You should take care old man,” he whispered.
Bodvar paused, turning on his heels. The warrior stepped back and reached for his sword. “Youth is often wasted on the stupid, boy.”
The warrior tried to make himself appear taller and more intimidating, but it was comical. Not even a squirrel would be intimidated by that.
“Bodvar,” Viktor called. “I told you to leave.”
Oh, I’ll leave, just take care your new ally doesn’t sting you. “Trust me, Viktor, nothing would make me happier.”
She watched him as he leaned forward, folded his hands together and rested his forehead against them. These days it seemed as if all his planning had begun taking it’s toll.
“This is getting tiresome, Ylva. Like trying to keep a stubborn snow bear wrangled.”
She reached out, placing a firm hand on his shoulder. “Soon it won’t matter,” she replied.
Viktor looked up. His dark eyes showing how eager he was for everything to come together. “How have you feeling?”
She frowned, placing a hand on her stomach. “I was sick this morning and lately my food hasn’t tasted quite the same.”
He furrowed his brow, his hard brown eyes softening. “Have you been to a healer?”
She looked away. If I tell him, will he see me as weak?
“I’m with child, Viktor.” She hadn’t meant to sound so disappointed. It stung her ears to hear it. Still, children are a weakness. They become something others can exploit.
Ylva nearly jumped when he took her hand in his. She looked up, trying to read the excitement on his face. Viktor had always been good at pretending to express emotion.
“This pleases you?”
“Pleases me?” he replied. “Oh, my dear, I couldn’t have received better news!”
She felt her chest tighten. Suspicion was taking root. Still, his excitement appeared to be genuine. “Children make people weak, Viktor. I know you respect only strength. I’ve seen how you tolerate weakness.”
Again, he seemed surprised, possibly even hurt.
“Ylva, strength comes in many forms,” he replied. “This child will be a strength for both us and the kingdom we create.”
“You once said motherhood made Eadra vulnerable…”
He smiled, stood, moved closer and knelt in front of her. Viktor was still holding her hand and even squeezed it tenderly. It was his eyes though, they were so genuine. Never had they showed such care or tenderness, nor had he never knelt before anyone.
“You are not her, Ylva,” he said. “You will always be strong in my eyes.”
It was hard not to get lost in the moment, but fighting it would be meaningless. She leaned in and softly kissed him. “Then I agree to be your queen.”
He pulled away, eyes shining with delight. “Good, then when the time is right, you will be the one to kill Bodvar,” he replied. “Every queen needs an honor guard and per Bodvar’s rules, defeating him means taking everything, including the Blades.”
It was hard to say if it was a sense of relief or joy to be rid of such a terrible man, but truthfully it didn’t matter. Once he was dead, the rest would either fall in line or die as well. Rules were rules after all.
Arald was nearly ready to piss himself. He touched his chest, his heart was pounding, and thrumming in his ears. So this is our fate?
Fearfully, he dared to peer into the dining hall. Some of Viktor’s men were already leaving. Thankfully no one had seemed to notice. Stealth was something he had always prided himself on. Bodvar on occasion had even complimented him for it.
Viktor and Ylva had already begun chatting idly about useless matters. Most of it was about the meeting. Savar had already come, most of his men were encamped outside the walls.
Still, unlike Viktor, his men were thoroughly trained. Not that the warriors Viktor had at his disposal weren’t capable. This is such a pile of Yak dung!
There had to be a way, some angle to play. But as he thought things through, the answer was clear. Bodvar was on the losing side. He had played his hand well and it had been a long run. In the end though, he was falling into The Keeper’s shadow.
Arald shrank back. Part of him wanted to tell Bodvar what was happening, after all, he knew their leader trusted him. Bodvar often preached about loyalty, about how the Blades were like a family. In some ways they were. Still how much of a family can a group of killers, thieves and worse truly be?
“Forgive me, Bodvar,” Arald softly whispered. “If I thought we could win this, I would make sure Viktor gets cut.”
Silently, he crept from through the halls, until he reached the main door leading outside. His chest hurt as he thought about his silence, but in end, he knew he had ot think of his own future first. The world was changing after all and Arald knew he didn’t want to end up buried in the snows.