Valkyrie chapter 43
Boru closed his eyes, feeling the wind against his cheeks. The ‘cold’ the humans often complained about held no bite. Such things were beneath a frost giant. Such things were beneath him. The fire was an annoyance, but necessary. The food needed to be cooked after all.
He turned his head, gazing about the camp. He felt his stomach turn and curled his lip. Look at them! Eating and drinking to their heart’s content! Everything about this was wrong.
At first, the others were resistant, but none had dared to voice their opinions. Boru winced, his back was still a sharp reminder from Yrim of who ruled them. Now, they were silent, the distrust radiating in their eyes had faded like the wind.
Yrim had already met several times with the human known as, Viktor. He had brought back provisions as a gift from their host. Their Konung seemed enthralled by him and now, so did the others. What was worse, Yrim had already sent Lokin to have another ship prepared. More warriors were coming.
Boru gripped the haft of his hammer. This is not our way! We are frost giants! We are conquerors!
He stood, hammer in hand and stepped away from the camp. He curled his lip again, the others didn’t even take notice. Only Yrim’s dragon and the one belonging to the other rider seemed to care. The rider had arrived earlier that morning to take Lokin’s place.
Both were staring at him, with the new dragonrider’s mount occasionally glancing at the other human camps along the wall. “Geddon,” he whispered. “I would gladly let you eat them all.”
Geddon craned his neck around. “Master said not eat,” the dragon replied.
Boru sighed. Dragons and their hearing. He shook his head, talking with the dragon would be like speaking to a child anyway. They were dumb brutes, fit only for making armor from their scales, weapons from their bones, and food when necessary.
The gates of the city were wide open and just barely tall enough for him to walk through without having to crouch. The humans gave him berth, the fear in their small eyes brought a smile to his face. It was the only real comfort through all of this.
Boru scanned the city. The streets weren’t very organized and the avenues sporadic. It was as if they had built wherever room had been available, then up and around those initial buildings. Navigating the avenues would be impossible for his ten-foot frame.
They look so weak and vulnerable. He turned his attention to the walls and the guards protecting them. Some carried bows, while others held crossbows. Each was armed with an axe, hammer or skeggox.
Two towers were built into the main gate and several more stood intermittently along the walls. The walls themselves looked sturdy enough. The dragons could strafe them and freeze everything in their wake with a few breaths. Viktor’s warriors would be dead in moments.
Boru thought of the border to this pathetic country. It was baffling that so many clans had been repelled if the city’s defenses were similar to those that were attacked each year. Things are much different on the Northern Isles. At least the Feraldiath are worth fighting.
He paused, noting some of the humans were staring and curled his lip. Boru gripped his hammer. Some of the men guarding the wall took notice, aiming their bows and crossbows at him. A few more armed humans stepped forward. The look in their eyes different from the rest of the Yak scrag around him.
I rather like that fire in your eyes. Their stances showed they weren’t afraid. In fact, they seemed eager. Boru smiled, crossing his arms, and resting his hammer across his chest. “Boru Permfost. You have nice eyes.”
One of them was larger than the others, his skin pale. Half-blood bastard. It seems remnants of Ulthir’s folly have yet to die off. The stories about Ulthir were legendary, but his shame was even greater. The old king took some human females as wives centuries ago. He was enamored by their women and had many sons and daughters by them.
When it was discovered the outrage was so great Norenhiem fell into anarchy, becoming the scattered assortment of clans it was today. It was said he had the most beautiful and powerful Frost dragons at his command. The dragons of this age were nothing like Ulthir’s.
“State your business, Boru Permfost” the half-blood demanded.
He was disgusting to even stare at. The half-blood was bald or rather his head was shaved, but his tattoos were intriguing. They were old runescript but decorated in a specific pattern. What an interesting story you tell.
“My business is my own, bastard of the blood.”
The fire in the half-blood’s eyes flared and he stepped closer. “Know you speak with Eirik son of Kosh, Huntsman of the Sokoran Rangers.”
“Oh, a Ranger, how interesting. I know of your kind. You have killed many of my kin, Koshson.”
The half-blood smiled. “The day is still young…”
Boru laughed. “You think you can take me, little Bastardson.”
His face became hard as stone. “I can take any giant, especially the runt of the litter.” The barb cut deep. Boru’s hammer was already in motion. The other giants always teased him for his height. Some even said he had human blood in his veins.
The human was fast, dodging his hammer easily. He then whipped around behind him wracking him in the knee. Boru screamed. How is he this strong?!
He stumbled favoring his left leg. The bastard stared at him, a smug expression on his face. “Be thankful it was just your knee,” he commented, then put his fists up.
Boru took a breath. I won’t lose to this pile of dragon scrag. He swung his hammer and as expected the human dodged. He stepped in maneuvering to the right, but Boru had already anticipated his next move. He followed through with the momentum of the swing, pivoting around on his good leg and backhanding the human squarely across the face.
The human was sent flying into the now-gathered crowd, followed by several painful cries from those in his path. Boru winced. His back was still hurting, his knee throbbing. With one eye his vision was limited.
Admittedly, the human was smart. Injuring him his left leg, instead of his right. With his right eye gone, it limited both vision and movement. The human pulled himself up, his lip bloodied. He was smiling.
“Good hit, but your last,” he said.
Boru smiled. “We will see…” The back of his skull suddenly fell like it was on fire and a bright flash danced across his vision.
Boru stumbled, wheeling around you see Yrim standing behind him as he fell onto the street on his back. The Konung had his skeggox firmly in hand. Boru nearly wet himself. He had never seen Yrim so angry.
“You were warned, Boru,” he said, lifting his axe. “Now, you will be made an example.”
Eirik blinked, his head throbbing. They had only been in Grunier a day. The sight of frost giants and their dragons was shocking enough, but watching one defend them against one of their own was madness.
He felt his stomach turn as he stepped forward. “Wait!”
The larger giant paused, disgust on his face. “You have to say, Half-blood?” he said, staring Boru down.
“I picked the fight, your man isn’t to blame,” he said.
The larger giant laughed. “My ‘man’ as you put it defied my will,” he replied. “That means death.”
The matter-of-fact tone in the frost giant’s voice said everything. “Then what of a Blooding?
The giant shifted his gaze, outrage radiating in his pale eyes. “A Blooding!? Not even he deserves such a dishonor with you!”
Eirik clenched his fists. Rage and being born Blooded came hand in hand. It was no secret that frost giants hated his kind. “He fought honorably enough, I know your ways say the victor may make a claim on the defeated’s life or possessions.”
The frost giant narrowed his eyes. He then turned his attention back to Boru. “You are Nidingr, beneath notice and without a clan. I can see the shame of defeat from here, for I stand higher.”
Eirik stepped forward, taking his boot knife and cutting his arm. He then rushed toward Boru and smeared his blood across the giant’s forehead. Eirik looked up at the giant whom he assumed was Boru’s leader. “It is done.”
“So it is…” the giant replied and began walking back toward the main gate.
Eirik turned to Boru, his pale blue face was twisted with both rage and anguish. He felt at a loss, it was probably the cruelest fate he could have done to the frost giant. Boru had no clan, no name to his people and no home. Worse, he was subject to serve someone he hated for the rest of his life.
Eirik looked up at the gate.
“I will tell your mother you died, your shame would destroy her.” Boru’s Konung then stooped low and passed through the gate.
Eirik sighed. The world has gone mad.
It was more than she could have imagined. Everyone was gathered. Each had their own respective ‘armies’ as if assuming the worst. The worst indeed had come. There were frost giants encamped along the walls and they had brought dragons. There were six in total plus another thirty giants.
Eadra gripped Issfang’s arm tightly as she led him through the gate. His face was empty and emotionless, but he never took his eyes off the giants until they had passed through the city gate. He was trembling, not from fear, but from rage. It was frightening if she were honest. His predatory nature and murderous intent were seeping from him.
Wulf and Kala were just as quiet. They had to backtrack to Yggsid to collect the two dozen druids who were traveling with them. Kala had taken precautions and summoned three frost elementals, hiding them in the snow outside the walls. They lay buried beneath the snow ready for her to command them.
Jormund and Henrik had arrived ahead of them while Dag had arrived shortly after the rest of them. Each of the Thran was horrified by what they saw and despite trying to keep up appearances, had called a meeting to discuss what should be done. You could feel the tension in the air and everyone had eyes on each other.
The Blades and Viktor’s own men looked to have their hands full trying to keep the peace and quell rivalries. Ironically, the rangers were policing them while they policed everyone else. It was almost comical if not for the fact it seems as if every ranger in Sokoras was in attendance. Grunier had never seen so much activity and out of everyone else, the merchant folk were capitalizing on it.
“I trust your disguise is satisfactory, Eadra?” Issfang said, the tone in his voice flat and even.
She nodded. “I am in your debt, Issfang.”
“Yes, you are, though Shaylin features do have a certain appeal on you,” he replied. “Now go find your daughter.”
She felt Mrina’s soft touch on her shoulder. “I’ll keep him wrangled,” she said, trying to sound reassuring.
Issfang turned, his stoic mask breaking, and raising an eyebrow at her. “Wrangle? Me?” he responded. “Little elf, you may try.”
The dragon turned, locked eyes with Kala.
“Do not let your hatred blind you!” she warned.
He simply smiled. “Oh, to the contrary, Elder, it simply have clarification on whom I am to slaughter first.” He then stopped, stepping closer so they were face to face. “It will be beautiful.”
Eadra placed a firm hand on his shoulder. Issfang turned away from them and fixed his gaze on the bustle around them. “There’s a tavern several streets down, it’s called The Grey Beard,” she cut in. “Meet me there in an hour.”
Kala nodded, then glanced a Wulf. “That will give us time to settle in. I need to meet with Shuet and Eirik.”
“I’ll secure lodging for our people then,” Mrina added.
“Tell the tavern owner this: The cold night may come swiftly, but warmth is found at dawn.”
Eadra smiled at the strange looks on their faces. “Even ‘dead’ there are those who still owe me. I’m sure Issfang is creative enough to figure out how to spin a story on behalf of the dead.” The look on the dragon’s elven features was priceless. “Togurd owes me, he’ll make arrangements for you to have places to sleep.”
“We’ll meet on the hour then,” Wulf replied, locking arms with her. “Good luck.”
“Good luck to us all, this is only a first step in our journey,” Eadra replied.
She quickly pulled her fur hood over her head and slipped into the crowd. Her heart was racing. Anxiety gripping it. Mama is coming, Little Sprite. Mama is coming.