Valkyrie Chapter 2
Updated: Apr 23, 2019
The fire raged in the hearth heating the hall. Viktor scanned the chamber, vaguely listening to Gunnar drone on about mostly trivial matters. Bodvar should have sent word by now. There was too much at stake. In a month all the clans would be gathering. Bodvar was to visit the plantations and make sure things were running smoothly. Unfortunately, Bodvar only took a handful of his own rabble with him.
“Gunnar, are there any messages in that mess of parchment you’re holding?”
Gunnar paused, eyes twitching nervously. “No, Milord. Not any that you currently desire to hear?”
Viktor sighed. A slight smile forming when he glanced at Gunnar. He was a skinny reed of a man; there was hardly anything Sokoran him. His beard was full and head shaved. It was doubtful he had ever held a sword, axe or even a shield.
“Curse Bodvar, there are times when I think I overpay him and his mercenaries.”
“Overpaid or not, it is hard not to argue their effectiveness.”
Viktor frowned, then turned his attention to the hall. Gunnar’s logic was sound. There had been no more uprisings in the last five years. Bodvar’s scum made it easier to govern the region and slowly build his own forces. Fern production had increased and the coffers were filling as a result.
“How are we looking for this year’s harvest?”
“The plantations are on track, though the new refinement process has well, stalled,” Gunnar replied.
“Stalled, Gunnar?” It was at least some comfort to know that Gunnar understood the meaning behind the question. The aid backed away from the throne, hands held up defensively. “Gunnar, have I not been generous?”
“Milord is the definition of generosity,” he replied, falling to his knees and lowing his head.
“Then please explain why the process has stalled?”
“It is this new method you have devised; while it is miraculously effective, maintaining the temperature at which the White Fern is treated taxes the equipment. We are lucky to distill even a barrel’s worth before it breaks down.”
Viktor stood and Gunnar backed away fearfully. He scanned the tables where his warriors would gather at evening meal. The hall could accommodate one hundred of them easily. Only his personal guard ate here.
He sighed looking at his banners hanging from the rafters. To most Sokorans he was known at The Great Bear, the banners showing the likeness of one. The red tinge at the banners’ edges represented his ruthless approach to battle.
“More delays,” he grumbled.
“Milord?” Gunnar asked.
“Nothing,” he replied, adjusting his fur cloak. “Gunnar, tell the alchemists to solve the problem or I will sell one of their children to plantation owners.”
The aid winced. “Perhaps there is another way, Milord,” he replied.
Such a bleeting lamb’s heart. “If you are suggesting I buy a few bars of asinium to make up for the heat differential, then maybe I should put you on a plantation.” Not that you would survive long enough to be useful. He looked over his shoulder. Gunnar’s face was a mask.
“I will deliver the message, Milord.”
You always did work more effectively when someone else's head was at the chopping block. “Good, now how are we faring overall this winter?”
“Some of the rogue elements in the wilds have been more active than usual,” Gunnar replied. “No doubt they are struggling to find food.”
“Goblins, orcs or ogres?”
“Goblins mostly, they have been stealing sheep here and there. Your warriors are handling it. The goblins are being reminded of their place in your domain,” Gunnar replied. “Some of the orc tribes have moved to the coast relying mostly on the fish and ice squid for food.”
“Have their been any conflicts with our fisheries and port towns?” It was irritating to have to deal with such vermin, but they were a deterrent for the frost giants. If the giants decided to expand from the north, the orcs and goblins would be needed allies.
The giants were mostly nomadic, settling down then for a time then moving on. There were a few large settlements to the east. Those were concerning. The giants were fond of frost dragons either as mounts or food.
“None, yet,” Gunnar answered. “But they won’t be happy living on fish and ice squid forever.”
“Send someone to trade some fish for grain. In a way it works out, we don’t have to pay them for the labor.”
“That would be the most logical choice,” Gunnar replied.
“We’ll worry about the goblins later, the thieves will most likely get themselves killed, which is no loss to us.” Looks like it might be a peaceful winter. “What of the food stores and our plans moving forward?”
“We had a good harvest, the druids were very helpful despite…”
“Gunnar, if you remind me of that again I will cleave your head free from your shoulders with my axe.” Yet another nuisance. If it isn’t the druids it’s the Rangers.
“Forgive me, Sire,” Gunnar replied.
“Forget it; my only concern is the Gathering right now. There can be no mistakes, Gunnar. Vicktor stood, Gunnar averting his eyes as he walked past. He walked toward the great doors of his hall and opened them, staring down the steps, and into the village.
Viktor then turned his attention toward the landscape beyond the village. Druid, orc, ranger or rival. Soon, I won’t have to worry about dealing with them. Even Bodvar and his trash will kneel before me.