Valkyrie Chapter 4
Updated: Apr 23, 2019
The warmth of the room was relaxing, better than the stove and fireplace upstairs. The heat was spread more evenly, taking up the whole room. Eadra soaked it in, keeping the shears steady as she took small clippings from the tea plants.
The ‘Greenery’ as she called it, like the rest of the house, was different from most Sokoran homes. Instead of three levels, it counted as a fourth, but dug deeper and at a sloping angle. Both the Greenery and the ground level had been lined with pinewood planks and sealed in tar.
There was passage from the greenery to the ground level. Eadra used a bookshelf to keep it concealed. During the summer during the summer she and Frey would live on the ground floor. Frey’s room had a path dug away from the main room. Eadra’s was further down.
In the winter, when the snowfall was too heavy, they would live on the second floor. The ground level would be converted into storage. The main door was also sealed to keep it from flooding when the snow melted.
If the winters grew too cold, she and Frey would often sleep in the Greenery with the tea plants. Eadra looked up at the sun orbs. They were over a decade old. Unlike their countersparts, the orbs emitted heat, not just light. Even for the north, their cost in silver was still overpriced.
Eadra looked up at the orbs. I should start looking for replacements soon. There were six of them, each mounted to the ceiling. In size they were about the size of a frost giant’s fist.
She glanced at her daughter and smiled. Frey looked so happy tending the tea plants. “They’re growing well, aren’t they, Frey.”
Her daughter’s face lit up. Frey’s beautiful smile shone brighter than the sun orbs themselves. “Jhon will be happy. He said some of his plants died.”
Frey’s smile faded, but only just a bit. Eadra almost laughed. You have such a kind heart Frey. Not many would mourn for a plant. “I tried to tell him that he needed to wait a bit longer.”
Frey simply nodded and continued clipping some of the leaves. They did this every few days. Trimming the bushes and baking the leaves. Their supply was fairly large, but it did make the village a good deal of profit with the traders.
Eadra looked about the room. Twelve long tables took up most of the room’s space, each with metal, dirt lined, pans spanning their length. There were a dozen tea plants in each pan, all of them mature. It had taken three long years for them to be ready.
“Momma, how come you know so much about plants?”
Eadra eyes drifted to the crate in the corner wrapped in chains. She thought about their contents and her life before. She thought of all the books she was forced to leave behind and the vast knowledge within their pages.
Many of the tomes were old, written by the Aethar, the elves who once called this land home. Before the Dark Times, they flourished in Sokoras. The land had a different name then though.
Eadra’s thoughts drifted further, to the life she had left behind and toward the massacre of that night. Never again. I can’t go through that again.
Eadra blinked and looked up. “Yes, little one?”
“You have that look again, Momma. Like when you have the bad dreams.”
Eadra paused, realizing she had almost clipped too much of the tea plant. “It’s nothing, little sprite.”
Frey frowned, placed her shears on the table and walked over, hugging her. “Will you ever tell me about it?” she asked. “Maybe it will make you feel better.”
Eadra’s eyes suddenly stung and she held her daughter closer. “Maybe one day, little sprite.” She felt a tear wind its way down her cheek.
“When will that be?” she asked. “You always seem like you are looking somewhere else, like when Elder Sasa is having visions.”
“Dear, Elder Sasa’s visions are…” Eadra simply shook her head, laughed and squeezed Frey tighter. She doesn’t need to know where his visions come from. Sasa has taken up harvesting frostshrooms. He even figured out how to ferment them into an ale.
“Momma?” Frey asked, looking up. Confusion was written all over her face.
“Nothing, dear, let’s finish up and get these leaves prepared. The merchants will be here any day now. I promised them a good bit.”
Frey nodded and walked back to the table. “Do you think they will have anything good for trade?”
“Hopefully they have plenty of thread this time, Sege promised me an entire roll,” she replied. “I can do a lot with the wool that Emil provides, but he only has so much to spare.”
“Maybe we can trade for a sheep?” Frey asked.
Eadra smiled. “If we are lucky. A sheep might not survive the trip this far north.”
A broad smile crossed her daughter’s face. “Maybe we can trade Emil for one of his sheep, perhaps a newborn lamb?”
Eadra laughed. “You just want a pet,” she winked. The look on her daughter’s face confirmed her suspicions. “You’re a clever girl for your age, little sprite.”
Eadra gathered the last bundle and placed them in a small sack. She then walked over to a smaller table and placed them with the other sacks they had prepared. “Frey, do you think you can prepare the leaves?”
Frey’s eyes went wide. “Do you really mean it?”
“As long as you promise not to burn them this time.” The look on Frey’s face was priceless.
“I didn’t burn them,” she replied, pursing her lip.
Eadra smiled. “Of course not, little sprite. “Now, take the sacks upstairs and prepare the leaves like I showed you. Remember, each tray need only be in heated for twenty minutes.”
Frey rolled her eyes. “I know Momma, I know.”
“Well then, girl, hop to it.”
Eadra watched her take the small sacks, through the passage toward the main room. Will you still love me when you learn the truth, little sprite? She looked toward the chained crate. “I hope I am ready when that day comes,” she whispered.
It was hardly what he expected. For a ‘small’ village Budir was lively. There was probably about fifty Sokorans living here, not counting children and the old. The homes looked very sturdy. Her influence was apparent. The stone wall around the village was just another sign.
There was plenty of livestock and the pens were well insulated. There were even sheep, with some sort of ‘blankets’ covering their bodies and shoes for their feet. Bodvar took a long hard look at the village. It seems all those stupid books you read, Eadra, have served you well. I bet even the worst storm wouldn’t knock these buildings down.
“Looks like she taught them how to work stone,” Arald commented, pointing as the building foundations. “Reminds me of the walls in Toftir.”
“Tea trade in Sokoras was always profitable,” Bovar replied wryly. “I’m disappointed in her Arald. I thought she was smarter than this.”
“Perhaps too smart for her own good,” Arald replied.
Bovard nodded, his own dark smile mirroring Arald’s. He turned to Eijar and sighed. “Something wrong, Eijar?”
“Just trying to understand why we are here?” he replied. “Viktor won’t be happy about any detours.”
“Viktor can shove his axe up his dung hole!” It was hard not to resist the urge to cut Eijar open. “If not for us and the Blades, he’d be just some other Thran scrambling for power. Army or not, any of us are better than two of his own men!”
“Now, go take a look around. There should be a tavern here for traders, let us see if she’s here.”
He couldn’t shake the feeling in his stomach, no matter how hard he tried. Eijar reflexively put his hand on the hilt of the dagger at his hip. I should have never signed on. Butchers and murderers, that’s all they are.
Eijar began walking around the village as the others went their separate ways. Counting him, there were four others who had joined the Blades. He had been with them the longest. Bodvar, Arald and Ylva stood waiting for them at the town gate. Ylva had tied the horses to an old post planted in the ground.
“I suppose this is better than facing the Inquisition in Absion,” he mumbled. “How far I’ve fallen.” Two years on the run, all because of some petty official.
It was said The Inquisition never made ‘mistakes’ in their judgements. That their word was law. While they maintained order, the Senate still fought with them over ‘rule of law’. Eijar simply sighed. “Maybe Shaareth or Shyre should have been my country of choice.”
Eijar stopped, looking up at a large sign hanging over one of the buildings. Murn’s Beard, how unoriginal. He started down the steps and opened the door, peering inside. The smell of spiced ale assaulted his nose as did the inviting heat of a large hearth by the far wall. The heat hit his face like a mask, warming it against the cold.
“Don’t be shy! Come in friend!” The man behind the counter was tall, about six feet give or take. He was stout like most Sokorans, his skin pale. Like most Sokoren men he had a thick beard. His hair was dark, almost black. “Well, in or out?” he shouted. “Takes time for the heat to warm the place.”
Eijar quickly stepped in and closed the door. He pulled his fur hood back and undid his heavy coat. The heat was a welcome respite. Even through his thick fur lined gloves the cold still bit his fingers a bit.
“You can hang your coat on the wall there no one will take it,” the man behind the bar said. “We pride ourselves on being an honest lot.” A few of the other patrons nodded in agreement.
“I appreciate the hospitality,” Eijar replied.
The man smiled. “That accent, you’re Absonian.” He laughed. “What in the name of the Ice Flows are you doing all the way up here?”
“Travelling,” Eijar replied, making his way to the bar. “My friends and I have business this way.”
“Ah a trader then!” He seemed more than happy to hear that.
If you only knew who we were you’d be terrified, friend. Eijar smiled. “Sometimes, it dependso n how kind the snow is.”
“Indeed, sometimes the snow is merciless,” the bartender agreed. “Well our little town has a commodity not commonly found, if you’re interested.”
“Oh? And what might that be?”
The bartender pulled a small jar from underneath the counter. “Take a whiff for yourself.”
Eijar looked at the jar suspiciously, then glanced at the bartender. His eyes gave no hint of deception. He took the jar and lifted the lid. The smell of tea leaves filled his nostrils, but there was a hint of something else he couldn’t place. Even so, it had a kick to it.
“You like? I can see the curiosity written on your face,” the bartender said.
“How did you come by this so far north? Surely the conditions here make it impossible to grow?”
“That’s our trade secret, friend,” the bartender replied. “I guarantee you will not find a better quality product in all of Sokoras.”
“I’m incline to agree.” Eijar felt his stomach turn. Everything Bodvar had explained on the trip here was true. This Eadra, he spoke of had a talent for making things grow in the north. “Tell me, do you know a woman by the name of Eadra?”
“No, I cannot say that I have?” the bartender replied. “No one by that name has come through here.”
Smart enough, at least. “That’s a shame, one of my companions is a good friend of hers, we were separated a few days ago after the storm.”
“I’m sorry, my friend,” the bartender replied. “But if your friend was in that storm, then I fear she may be dead.”
Eijar nodded. “That was our fear too, but we still held hope.”
The bartender softly patted him on the shoulder. “Tell your friends I will prepare rooms for them,” he said. “I don’t have the heart to charge for shelter to anyone after losing someone to the snows.”
Eijar smiled. “And the ale?”
The bartender laughed. “Ale is another matter, I have to replenish my stores somehow.”
Eadra tried to breathe and to keep calm, but her mind was already racing. Fear enveloped her like a fur blanket, covering every part of her. How could I have been so stupid!
Sigurd wasn’t to blame. He had no idea, but the man asking him questions at the bar seemed to. He had to be one of Bodvar’s Blades.
Why are you so far north? It wasn’t the question she should be asking. The town was of no consequence to Viktor. They didn’t pay his taxes and truthfully he probably wasn’t aware of its existence. Budir was too small to make such taxes worth the effort. At least five years ago it was.
If Viktor were to tax them now, he might see his coffers increase, but only by a narrow margin.
Maybe one of the merchants said something and Viktor sent Bodvar to look around?
It would be foolish. The lack of taxes and men to enforce them were an incentive for traders and merchants. It gave them a trade advantage with in the larger settlements.
“No, Eadra, that’s wishful thinking,” she told herself. “Looks like our time here may be at its end, little sprite.”