They were so stubborn! She glanced over her shoulder and glared. Neither man seemed to care, one of them even copped a partial grin! Frey balled her fists, picking up the pace. Her shield bounced annoyingly off her bottom as she tried to stay ahead of them.
“I can’t wait to leave this place!” she mumbled softly.
Aegring’s stall wasn’t far from the western entryway. Admittedly it was a little exciting to see what he had made. Bodvar’s ‘adjustments’ to her axe and shield weren’t the best. Eijar had mentioned she was lucky to not have been more seriously hurt.
Will you be okay with me learning how to fight, Mama? I know you probably didn’t want me to.
She felt a sharp tug from behind. Someone had grabbed the hood of her fur cloak. “Slow, little girl.”
She scowled, Aegring’s stall was just within sight. Frey looking over her shoulder. “Let go of me, Vidr.”
Vidr frowned, his lower lip taught. “Look here. We may have to watch you, even if we don’t care to, but Viktor is a scragpile scarier than you.”
Frey balled her fist and stared him in the eyes. It was faint, but she could feel the Flame sparking in her chest.
“What did you steal, Vidr?”
His face went pale and the Flame grew. “What…what are you talking about you little scriv.”
The other man with him furrowed his brow in concern.
It was getting hotter. “You stole something. Not just anything, but something important.”
She blinked and looked away. Eijar seemed a bit angry. The Flame slowly dimmed, the heat dissipating.
“What have I told you?” he said.
Frey crossed her arms and pursed her lips. It serves him right.
“Frey…” he said more sternly.
“He just made me mad!”
“Frey…” he responded with a dejected sigh. “Vidr steals a lot of things that he doesn’t want anyone to know about.”
Eijar wore a slight grin as he looked up at Vidr. Vidr went even paler.
Frey turned to Dennin. Her other guard wore his suspicion like a cloak. “What are they talking about, Vidr?”
“Nothing…nothing at all…Dennin,” he stammered. Even nervous, Vidr did a poor job of hiding his anger.
Dennin was clearly far from convinced as he eyed Vidr. Frey was suddenly reminded of the ‘talks’ she had often been on the receiving end of.
“Dennin, why don’t the two leave her to me?”
Vidr seemed to relax, but Dennin shook his head.. “We cannot do that, Eijar. You know how Viktor is. Orders are absolute.”
Frey sighed. They are going to get in the way.
Eijar was frowning now. “Dennin…”
“Is there a problem, Eijar.”
Frey felt the hackles on the back of her neck stand on end. Bodvar… The Blades leader was standing right beside Aegring’s stall. Arald was with him. There two elves just a scant paces from him.
The former inquisitor turned and shook his head. “No, everything is fine.”
“Is it?” he asked, his tone sending a chill through her. “Is my daughter giving you a problem, Vidr?”
“No more than any child her age,” he replied.
Bodvar smiled, but it was like staring at a dire wolf before it pounced. Eijar was tense, his hand was on his gladius. “Come here and we can discuss it.”
Vidr gave her a gentle shove, prompting her. Frey shuffled her feet, but after his insistence, began walking toward the smith’s stall. Denned kept pace beside him, while Eijar stood in front.
The Flame sparked to life. It was so sudden that she had to catch her breath. He’s going to kill someone!
It felt futile, but she reached for the skeggox hanging from her hip. The feel of cold steel didn’t make her feel any better. Ylva said that Bodvar hadn’t truly been fighting to kill during their sessions. Now, it felt for real.
“Frey, are you giving these men a hard time?”
Sheepishly, she glanced Vidr and Dennin. The Flame was intense now. It was hard to breathe. The furs keeping her warm stifling. He’s going to kill them…
“No…no…,” she stuttered, turning back to him. “They are just trying to keep me safe.”
His grin widened like a tomcat. “Then why are you so nervous, dear?” he asked. “Don’t worry, Arald and I are going to fix things.”
There sudden grunt, then a wet gurgling sound. Frey spun around, both men laying on the ground at the feet of another. There was a sinister glint in his eyes, one that made her stomach turn over. This was the look of a man who enjoyed killing. It was horrifying.
“No!” she screamed, unhooking her skeggox without a second thought.
The man simply laughed. “Oh this one has fight Bodvar, but girl you are decades from lasting a breath with me.”
Eijar’s voice was filled with venom. His eyes almost seemed to blaze as he stared at the man.
“Now, now, Eijar, we don’t use our old names,” he chided, waving his finger back and forth. “Rules are rules after all.”
The contempt in his voice was equally as vile as the man himself. Frey swallowed hard, realizing that she was shaking both in fear and anger.
“Frey, I want you to hide.”
Eijar’s voice was cold and empty. His tone commanding.
“I said hide!” he shouted.
Frey jumped, almost dropping her axe. Eijar’s demeanor was a stark contrast to what she had known. His stance was different from the training yard.
“You know, it really is a shame,” Bodvar chimed in. “But not a surprise. You and your moral high ground were bound to get in my way eventually.”
“Just wait, Bodvar, when I finish him, I’ll finish you.”
“You think so?” he replied, shifting his eyes to the crossbowmen along the walls. “Not from where I stand, Absonian.”
“I don’t know Bodvar, I say his odds are good,” Ylva called out as she approached from the adjoining avenue. “Are you really so stupid that you would shoot us and risk hurting your precious daughter?”
“Frey, come here!” he commanded.
Frey looked between them, catching a glimpse of the elves just a few steps away. Both women were watching the scene hands on their swords. The patrons nearby had cleared out, and Aegring had wisely chosen to back out of harm’s way.
“It’s interesting, Sister, I believe this is the first time I’ve seen a talking yak. Especially one so fat,” one of the elves said.
The other elf giggled. “So true, and the creature next to it. I have never seen a rat so ugly, especially on its hind legs. I have seen goblins prettier than this one.”
Bodvar paused, then turned, his face turning three shades of red. “I know that voice!”
Arald likewise turned in their direction. He drew his sword without a second thought. “Just like an elf to speak before understanding its place!”
Frey stood paralyzed. She fought to run, but her body respond. In her mind, she understood what about to happen, but fear won over every impulse.
The world suddenly shifted. She felt someone grab her. “Don’t be a bleating fool, girl!” Aegring harshly whispered in her ear as he hefted her into the stall with him. For an old man, he was surprisingly strong.
He held her close, covering her mouth while cowering underneath one of the tables at the back of the stall. “Little girls don’t need to see things like this!”
“Let me go!” she shouted through his hand. “Mama is coming!”
“Quiet!” he replied. “Your mother’s already here and I don’t want you to see what she has to do!
“Aegring,” Bodvar called out. “I’ll spare your life for pulling my daughter to safety. It’s the one mercy I’ll grant today.”
It was hard to see him from the angle. His helm and visor were the only things visible. Frey’s heart sank at the next words out of his mouth.
“Shoot them,” he called out. The sound of screaming immediately followed mirrored by the haunting call of a horn. It was like the announcement that something terrible was coming.
Frey remembered how Sigurd always spoke of the Keeper’s Shadow. That it was like a blanket that spread over you before you died. Frey felt like that ‘blanket’ was hovering over them all and instead of covering her, however, it had descended upon the city itself.
Mama…please be okay…