Valkyrie Chapter 10
Updated: Apr 23, 2019
It was always the same when Bodvar was in one of his moods. Arald didn’t need to even think about it. He adjusted himself in the saddle, then looked back over his shoulder. Four rode on horseback, with the rest of the Blades trudging through the snow.
Horses were expensive and Bodvar only allowed those who could afford to tend to them properly to purchase them. Having riders was better than not, it takes longer to dare the snows. Sometimes Bodvar would chip in to help with the cost, sometimes.
Arald sighed. Just as one of the riders came alongside him.
“So, they finally found her, eh?”
“It appears so, Bodvar is convinced so that’s enough for me.”
The rider laughed. “He never did get over her.”
“Shut it, Nikola,” Arald replied.
Nikola smiled wide, a few missing teeth showing. Arald would have punched him if not for the fact that he was a giant of a man. Nikola wasn’t blooded, but he might as well have been. Arald felt a bit sorry for the horse carrying him.
“Looks like some else didn’t get over losing out to him either,” he chided.
Pick your fights wisely, Arald. It was something his Gran always said.
“So, did Bodvar say what her punishment is going to be?”
“No, he simply told me to grab you louts and bring to you the village,” Arald replied.
Nikola shrugged. “Makes no difference, we all know what’s going to happen anyway.”
Arald nodded. “We do indeed,” he replied his thoughts drifting toward Eadra.
“How many people?” Nikola asked.
“What?” Arald said, bringing his mind back to the present.
“How many people in this village?”
“Fifty or sixty if I had to guess?” Arald replied.
“Perhaps a few, they appear to be traders mostly and farmers.”
Nikola looked behind him. “He isn’t thinking, is he?”
Arald frowned. “No, he isn’t.”
“Well, it’s not like we got much choice, it’s better to die in a fight than an old man weak and frail.”
Personally, I’d rather die an old man and enjoy my life you lout. “I suppose so.”
“Oh, come now, Arald,” Nikola replied. “Here we are kings in this lawless land. We are Viktor’s arm. No one challenges us and we do as we please.”
It wasn’t untrue, but lately something had been eating at him. The trips to the plantations, the changes in how White Fern was processed and even Viktor’s demeanor. Something wasn’t right.
He turned his attention toward the horizon, the walls of the village and the gate coming into view. Easy, Arald, don’t put too much thought behind it. Focus on now, life is simpler that way.
Arald looked behind him. “Tell the others to shape up, we’ll be there in a few minutes.”
A cold chill blew as the front door opened. Eadra looked up to see Sigurd step in and close the door behind him. Eijar was passed out on the floor. Bodvar and Ylva had left him there.
Sigurd glanced at the former inquisitor briefly and then stepped up to the bars of her cell. He looked nervous and worried. In all her time here Eadra couldn't recall ever seeing him look that way.
“I don’t even know where to begin,” he said, pulling up a chair. “How could you be so selfish? We were your family.”
“Sigurd, I didn’t want any of this,” she replied. “I never imagined…”
“That they would find you?” he cut in. “That they would kill one of us to get to you?”
The fear and worry she saw on his face had all but vanished. The only thing left was anger. What was strange was the depth of his anger. It was more than just betrayal.
Eadra suddenly understood, Bodvar’s eyes had been the same. Sigurd was in love with her. I’ve been so blind.
She had been so focused on Frey and keeping them both safe. The idea of love had become a foolish notion or fairy tale. Sigurd had always been there for her and for Frey.
Whenever they struggled for supplies or provisions, he gave them whatever he could spare and sometimes more. The free drinks at the bar and the tab he never collected on. Even the pastries he had learned to make for Frey, while they were admittedly terrible in the beginning, were just another way for him to express his feelings.
He raised his left hand to cut her off. “Seeing Viktor’s Blades here and knowing more are on the way…it only makes the rumors more terrifying,” he said. “Knowing you were one of them, makes it even harder to know who you are.”
Eadra leaned back on the bench, pressing her back against the wall. “Sigurd, I’m the same woman you’ve always known. I’m not like them.”
“Your lover says otherwise,” he replied coldly. “He’s been making a fuss about your adventures in my bar. He’s even taken to using kennings to embellish the tales.”
Eadra gripped the bench. His words cut deeply. I deserve that and more. It seems all I do is cause others pain.
His eyes softened and the anger on his face melting away. “So, are you Eadra or Elin?” he asked.
“Eadra died six years ago,” she replied. “That woman is buried in the snows far from here.”
“Did you know I was in love with you?” he asked.
“No, but I wish I hadn’t been so oblivious to it,” she replied. “You’re a good man Sigurd, better than any I have known.”
He reached for the pouch hanging from his belt and pulled a key from it. “Then leave with me tonight. We’ll get Frey back and disappear.”
Eadra stared at the key, hope sprouting briefly in her heart. She felt her eyes water, then shook her head. “If I leave, they will kill all of you.”
“If you don’t, they will kill us anyway,” he replied.
“So, you knew, that no matter how this goes, they will loot and burn the village?”
He nodded. “We’ve been in violation of Viktor’s laws for long enough. I’m not naïve like the others. Bodvar wants to hurt you, we are his excuse to get what he wants.”
“Then run, please, live for me.”
“If I am to die, then I would rather die with you,” he replied with a soft smile on his face.
“Such a stubborn man!”
“Such a stubborn woman,” he replied. “I recall a time when a certain newcomer to the village was struggling to take care of a baby. You looked so pitiful.”
Eadra wiped her eyes and smiled. “I was, wasn’t I?”
He nodded. “Lucky for you I was there to help.”
Eadra laughed. “I suppose I was,” she replied. “You would have been a good father to Frey.”
“I still can be,” he said holding out the key.
Why is life full of such cruel ironies? “Sigurd, I won’t be dying tonight.”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“Bodvar has my daughter,” she replied. “Promise you will pack your things and leave as soon as you can.”
Eadra stood and walked toward the bars. She knelt staring deeply into his eyes. “Promise me.”
He looked visibly shaken, then nodded. “How will you find me?” he asked.
“Don’t worry, we will,” she replied. “Once this is over, I promise to make all of this up to you.”
Sigurd smiled, his eyes watering. Eadra couldn’t help but find it strangely endearing and smiled back. He stood and quickly rushed out the door.
“Do you believe that?”
Eadra jumped, turning to where Eijar lay. His eyes were wide open an amused expression on his face.
“You heard everything then,” she replied.
“Enough to feel like I am in some ridiculous tragedy,” he answered. “Don’t worry, I won’t say a word. Honestly, I do hope you survive and kill Bodvar in the process.”
“Why do you serve if you hate him so much?”
“It’s complicated,” he replied. “Let’s just say, that I would have died if I hadn’t chosen to serve someone.”
“I think in some ways you’re already dead.” He frowned, then laughed.
“Truer words were never spoken.” Eijar sat up. He looked better, the color had returned to his face.
“I meant what I said. I hope you do survive, in fact I think I know how.”
Eadra what about to ask him when the front door opened. Bodvar and Ylva stepped inside. Bodvar looked as if he had definitely been drinking.
“Great news!” he said rubbing his hands together. The smile on his face made it look like an ugly child that didn’t get to see a festival often. “Arald has just arrived!”
Eadra frowned. “Don’t be too pleased on my account.”
“Oh, come now,” he replied. “You’ll love what I have planned.”
“I’m surprised a drunken snow bear like you has a plan for anything,” she snapped. “I think I did your planning for you.” Eadra felt a sense of pride that her remark caused Ylva to show a slight smirk on her face. Bodvar on the other hand sobered up rather quickly.
“I think I’ll cut your tongue off first, then the other parts that make men desire you so,” he replied.
“Bodvar, I have a better suggestion,” Eijar piped in.
The amusement on the Blade's leader was priceless. “You," he said. "You are actually suggesting how to torture someone? This I have to hear.”
“Why not trap her inside her own house and burn it to the ground,” Eijar replied. “What could be more painful that watching all those memories burn away with you?”
Eadra felt her stomach knot up. “You sack of Yak dung!”
The delight written on Bodvar’s face was even more sickening. “Eijar you surprise me,” he said. He then turned to Ylva. “Gather the villagers, I want them to watch. Eijar, since you seem to be feeling better you have two choices. You can either leave the village on your own horse or I can have Ylva carry you out once she is done.”
Eijar simply frowned, then nodded. “I’ll leave on my own.”
“Good, secure the camp when you reach it,” Bodvar said. “I want to head for the next plantation as quickly as possible.”
Ylva was already out the door by the time Bodvar followed after her. Eadra could only stare at Eijar. How is burning me alive ensuring I survive?
“He’s such an idiot,” Eijar commented. “I have to compliment you for playing a long.”
“Who says I was playing anything?”
“So that other room you have secreted away won’t be enough to protect you from the flames?”
“You mean Bodvar doesn’t know?” she asked.
“As I said, he’s an idiot and currently, a drunk one,” Eijar replied. “Hot air rises, so ideally a room like that should keep you relatively safe. It’s not a guarantee, but it does give you better odds.”
Eadra smiled. “You’re a real bastard.”
Eijar smiled back. “True, but this bastard is trying to keep you and your daughter alive,” he replied. “Now, I have to leave, but if we meet again, I hope it will be under better circumstances.”
For what it was worth, his help was more than she could have hoped for. “As do I.”