Valkyrie Chapter 5
Updated: Apr 23, 2019
Arald was getting twitchy, he always hated having to wait. He kept reaching for the dagger sheath on his belt. Bodvar took another look at the village. Occasionally they were given a curious glance, but no one seemed to care enough to approach. If traders come this far north, no doubt they are used to it.
“How long should we wait for them?” Arald asked.
Bodvar frowned. “Until we are certain.”
“I doubt she used her real name,” he commented.
Bodvar cast a glance at Ylva. She was calm and stoic as always, her pale-blue eyes focused on the village. Occasionally she appeared content to stroke her horse’s main.
It was rare for her to get too emotional. She was a lot like the cold; quiet, emotionless and detached. It was common for Blooded to be that way. It was still eerie. Ylva was hard to read. Which wasn’t much comfort.
Bodvar eyed her a moment longer, his thoughts turning to how she wasdressed. It was hard not to wonder if the cold even bothered her. She wore a simple leather hauberk, but the sleeves had been torn out. Her leather trousers were lightly furred as was her boots. The heaviest thing she wore was the bearskin cloak draped around her shoulders and down her back.
Like her father Ylva had tribal tattoos painted all over her face and arms. Bodvar knew they meant something, but he didn’t know what. Ylva never spoke of it. The longer he gazed at her the more his instincts said something was off. Even if having a former Ranger in the Blades was advantageous, the feeling wouldn’t stop.
Why did you leave them?” he whispered.
Arald looked up. “Leave who?” he asked a bit confused.
Bodvar rolled his eyes. “Shut up, Arald.”
Arald simply frowned and turned his attention back toward the village.
“Because my father is a fool,” she suddenly spoke up. She didn’t even bother looking at him.
“So you abandon him to join us?” Her face was stoic and cold.
“I chose the future,” she replied. “The Sokoran Rangers will be a memory when the Thran unite. Our way of life will be gone. Viktor’s vision of a unified Sokoras will see to that.”
The certainty in her voice was chilling. Until a few months ago, she had been spying on the Rangers for two years as a Blade. Her sudden change in loyalty was troubling and suspicious, even then. As loyal as you’ve been, why can’t I trust you woman?
“Bodvar, why do you question my loyalty?” she suddenly asked.
“Because my instincts say that no one changes sides so readily. Fewer still betray family so easily.”
She turned, her pale-blue eyes locked onto him. Bodvar tensed as Ylva approached. She was a good half-foot taller than him. It was clear by the way she walked the cold meant nothing to her.
“I took an oath to you, Bodvar,” she said, her voice firm and even. “I was Viktor’s olive branch to you and I am with you until you die or I am.”
Bodvar nodded. From the corner of his eye he saw Arald already gripping the hilt of his sword. Bodvar held his hand out, and motioned Arald to stay his hand. Idiot, she’d rip you apart.
“Would you not have similar questions if you were in my position?”
She simply stared, her eyes empty and turned, walking away. “I suppose not.”
“Then we have an understanding.”
Ylva looked back over her shoulder and nodded. “We do.”
“Shut up, Arald, and keep an eye on the village.” Arald simply sighed and did as he was told. At least I never wonder about you.
It was one of the comforts to having him around. Arald was blindly loyal and eager to please. He was the first to cut down deserters as well. The Blades were his life.
“So, tell me about this, Eadra,” Ylva said. “She’s a deserter, your rules are clear about that. But who is she?”
“Why do you care?” Bodvar replied.
“I hear it your voice,” she replied. “Your tone and inflection changed slightly as you spoke of her on the way here. It was different from the whispers I’ve heard before. To you she’s more than just a deserter.”
“Bodvar was in love with her,” Arald chimed in.
Bodvar cut him an icy stare. The smile on Arald’s face melted and he leaned against the gate, turning his attention toward the village.
“Many of the Blades were in love with her.”
Ylva turned, curiosity briefly flashing in her eyes. “What made her different?”
“There many things about Eadra that made her stand out, both on and off the battlefield,” he replied. “Of them all was her thirst for knowledge.”
“So she was a scholar, not a warrior?”
Arald suddenly burst into laughter. Bodvar cringed, it was like listening to a wounded boar. “That women was carnage personified,” he said. “When she drew her blades, her eyes were hollow and empty.”
Bodvar felt his skin bristling when a dark smile crossed Ylva’s pale features.
“Is that so?” she replied.
“Arald…” Arald quickly shut his mouth. Bodvar sighed. This is why I send you out for supplies.
“Don’t go getting ideas, Ylva. Eadra isn’t some bandit or bumpkin with a sword or axe.” He could almost kick himself for saying it. Ylva’s eyes shone with curiosity; her interest was clearly piqued.
“They are your rules, Bodvar,” she said. “I am merely following them, per my oath.” Her smile widened and he suddenly felt like he was being sized up by a snow leopard. “Perhaps you are still in love with her?” she added. “How many nights did she warm your bed for you?”
Bodvar almost couldn’t believe what he was doing. Even by his own standards, stepping up to her was brave, if not foolish. “You will watch your tone with me.” His chest burned, the cold around him seeming to fade.
Ylva’s expression was blank, her smile had long faded. That in of itself was even more infuriating. I bet you’d like me to try, wouldn’t you? Then the Blades would have a new leader. That was one of his rules. Anyone could challenge him for leadership in an open fight.
She stepped away. “As you wish, Bodvar.”
He felt himself instinctively relax, even with the tension in the air. Ylva stepped around her horse and reached inside one of her saddlebags. She pulled a wineskin from it and took a drink.
“You said she had a thirst for knowledge,” she said, corking it. Then the library you sealed at Viktor’s keep is hers?”
Bodvar nodded. “I should have burned those stupid books.”
“I doubt Viktor would have let you,” she commented.
Bodvar bit his tongue. “Either way, it’s not like anyone could read them,” he replied. “Eadra was fascinated by the Aethar and taught herself how to read their writings. The lengths and trades she made just for a single book or tome were absurd.”
“Do you think she learned how to fight from them?” Ylva asked. “How these Aethar fought?”
It was too late now. Bodvar could see it in Ylva’s eyes and nodded. “Probably.” Ylva will definitely try to kill her now. “Ylva, if we find her, you will do as I say. Deserters get no pity or remorse, but punishment will happen when I call for it.”
“As you wish, Bodvar.”
Books lay scattered about the library and scrolls were strewn about among the tables. Viktor looked up from one of the books, eyeing each of the scholars he had hired from Shyre’s Great library. They all looked perplexed, as the worked feverishly to translate the ancient texts.
The Library’s initial response was skeptical at first, but once his claims were proven they didn’t hesitate to dispatch a dozen of their best. The idea of studying ancient tomes that had once belonged to the Aethar was too tempting. Viktor could still remember the looks of wonder on the custodian’s faces years ago when they saw Eadra’s collection.
He clenched his fist. Without her, the translations were difficult. She had been a good teacher. Keeping the Custodians quiet was even more frustrating. In the beginning they had been more than insistent if sending The Library regular reports on their findings.
With the initial discovery of the white fern’s other properties, their loyalty was assured as was their silence. Now, the Custodians were more than eager to serve thanks the knowledge within these books. Reports were still sent, but not without consent and review.
Viktor sighed. To think you wanted to burn all this out of spite, Bodvar. Thankfully the fool still believed the library was sealed. To keep the illusion, the custodians ate, worked and slept here. Bathing arrangements had been made as were their meals and other necessities.
Viktor turned his attention back to the book on the table and then to the parchment he was translating it to. Some of the characters had a double meaning, it was frustrating to figure out which was being used in what context.
Eadra, if I ever find you I will chain you to this table myself! All my efforts would have gone more smoothly with you here.
Viktor looked up. The custodian’s name was Gaius if he recalled correctly. I thought you were fatter? He dismissed the notion. “What is it?”
“I believe we may have found an alternative solution to your problem,” Gaius replied. He seemed eager, almost pleased with himself.
“Well, go on. Don’t stand there like some infant crying for its mother’s teet!”
Gaius shied away, the expression on his face only made the older man seem more childish. “One of the books on forging metals suggests an alloy we can make,” he said, “It is capable of withstanding the temperatures you desire without having to invest in asinium.”
“How much will this cost me?”
“The refinement and cost of processing is miniscule by comparison to using asinium,” he replied. “Perhaps a thousand silver Shards?”
Viktor could only stare at him. Every urge to cut the Custodian in half was screaming in his ears. Still, the cost was significantly cheaper than flat out buying the asinium ore. Only a fool lets money impede his ambitions.
“Make a list of the materials. It seems there will be no other choice.”
“Of course, we are more than happy to help,” Gaius replied.
Viktor wanted to laugh at how the custodian was almost skipping away gleefully. I really need to distill the next batch better. I can’t have my slaves behaving like eager children.
Viktor turned his attention to another custodian, he was much leaner than Gaius. In fact, his robes looked more like loose sheets on him. “What is it, Sellen?”
“I know the work we are doing is of great importance to you and all of Sorkoras, but the Library will be expecting to hear from us soon,” he said. “It has been nearly a year and a half since our last report. Before that two years prior. Shyre might have cause to look your way.”
Viktor narrowed his eyes at the reed thin old man. He wasn’t wrong. I don’t need that kind of attention. Even if Absion stands between us, Shyre could easily get permission to send a small force through and be on my doorstep.
“You said you have been reviewing forging techniques of the Aethar?”
“Prepare a report for me on these techniques, I will send it to the Library.”
The older man smiled eagerly. “As you wish Great Thran.”
“Sellen, are all of you eating enough?” Judging by the look on the Custodian’s face, Viktor could see that Sellen thought it odd to ask.
“We eat whatever is being brought to us and then continue our work.”
A side affect then. “Are you hungry, Sellen?”
“If I were to be honest, Great Thran, we are always hungry.”
Viktor frowned. The last batch was flawed. His stomach turned at the thought of having to throw out a whole barrel. I can’t afford to get this wrong. “I’ll double your ration of food. The work you do is too important to let you starve to death.”
Sellen smiled wide. “You are most gracious, Great Thran.”
Viktor smiled. Only because all of you are useful to me, Sellen.