Valkyrie Chapter 6
Updated: Apr 23, 2019
“That’s pretty far out of my way and it will cost more coin than trade.”
Wolf sighed. “How much more?”
The old trader smiled. “Fifty silver Shards.”
“Fifty?! Are you mad?” He smiled wider, his rotten teeth showing. Wolf felt his stomach turn.
“A man goes that far north has problems,” the old trader replied. “Problems that might follow me.”
“Look, what if I sold my services as trade?”
The trade narrowed his eyes. “What kind of services?”
“I’m a tracker by trade, I can hunt and provide fresh game,” Wolf replied. “That’s got to be preferable to the rations and stuffs you normally have.”
The old trader stroked his white beard and then looked at the other wagons. “Can you use that bow and sword for more than just game?”
Wolf nodded. “I can.”
“Good, you’ll need it.” The old trader stepped back, eyeing him up and down. “Ten shards, plus services and some answers.”
“I have questions and I don’t quite trust you,” he replied. “You’re running from something or someone and that makes me nervous.”
Wolf frowned. “All right old man, ask your questions.”
“Did you get put on one of the Thran’s Hunt Lists?”
“No, we both know the Rangers are quick to take those bounties. I wouldn’t be in Svaren if that were the case.”
The old trader nodded. “True, those bastards are quick to take those jobs.”
Good thing I never said I was a Ranger. He probably would have charged me fifty Shards regardless. The old man reached into his coat pocket, instinctively Wolf tensed. He pulled out a small white stone and held it out.
“Take this,” he said.
Wolf reluctantly held his hand out and the old man put the stone on his palm. His skin suddenly felt like dozens of needles were softly pricking him and dropped the stone. The old trader laughed and picked it up out of the snow.
“What was that?” he asked, reaching for his dagger.
“Ease up, it’s harmless. You’ll see.”
“Have you heard rumors about the north? Are you working for one of the Thran, particularly Viktor?”
“No.” The stone gave off a soft white glow.
“If I take you, can I have your word never to speak of what you find?”
Wolf eyed the old man, then the stone. Let it go, Wolf, it’s not your concern anymore. “Fine, I promise.” The stone glowed white again.
“Good, we have a deal then, Ranger.” He smiled. “I’m not stupid,” the old trader added. “That fur cloak and your boots are too well made. Your weapons are well cared for. Only a ranger can afford that kind of care or has the skill to maintain them.”
“Fair enough,” Wolf replied. “”That stone, what is it?”
“This,” the only man replied waving him off and placing it back in his pocket. “Nothing you need concern yourself with. Just be happy you aren’t dead.”
Wolf stared at him, eyes wide. “Dead?”
“Oh, did I forget to mention that had you lied to me it would have killed you?”
“Items like that are forbidden in most places,” Wolf replied.
The old trader grinned. “Are they?” he said, scratching the scruff of his white beard. “I had no idea. Besides, fair warning, lie to me at any time and it will kill you.”
“So my life is in your hands then?”
The old trader nodded. “I’ll release the enchantment when we get to Budir. You’ll understand why I’m so cautious once we get there.”
“I could just kill you,” Wolf replied.
“You could, but you won’t,” the old trader replied. “You’re not that kind of man.”
Clever old yak. He wasn’t stupid at all. “Might I have your name at least?”
“Lok,” the old trader replied. “You?”
“I’ll answer to whatever name you give me.”
Lok smiled wide, “Ran, then. That’s who you are on this trip.”
Wolf sighed. “Ran it is.”
“We leave in an hour Ran, best get whatever supplies you need.”
Eadra sat on the cold stone floor staring at the crate and the iron chains binding it. There was no key to the lock holding the chains, she had thrown it away long ago. She felt the bile rising in her throat as regret sunk in.
Sneaking out of the tavern was a simple task, Sigurd and the Blade he was speaking with were too busy conversing. On her way, Eadra had caught sight of Bodvar and Arald by the gate along with someone she didn’t recognize. Two other Blades were also searching the village her, one of which she recognized.
His name was Uthen. The man was nothing more than a brute. His only redeeming quality was that he knew how to hunt and track. Rumor was his skills had almost earned him an invitation to the Rangers. At least until he had killed someone in a drunken brawl.
The other Blade must be new, his face wasn’t familiar. It was easy to see by the way he moved he wasn’t part of Bodvar’s usual rabble. Bodvar always did keep the good ones close at hand.
“What am I going to do?” she whispered. The nausea grew, fear tearing insides apart. It was ironic, years ago such fears were trivial. “The old me would have nothing but contempt if she were here.”
Eadra looked up. Frey was standing by the doorway leading into the tunnel. She was holding her straw doll close to her chest. Eadra saw the worry reflecting in Frey’s eyes amid the light of the sun orbs.
“Mama, you’ve been crying again.”
Eadra touched her face, surprised to learn Frey was right. Her daughter then rushed toward her and hugged her before she could utter a word. She held Frey close with tears running down her cheeks. “I’m sorry, little sprite. Just some bad memories."
Frey pulled away. “Will you ever tell me about them?”
“I had something bad happen a long time ago, something that’s hard to forget.”
“Was someone hurt?” Frey asked.
The question stung. If you only knew. Eadra nodded. “Yes, little sprite, someone was.”
Frey hugged her. “Mama, if it was because of something you did, then it will be okay,” she said. “Sigurd says that only bad people never feel sorry for the bad things they do. Whatever happened, I know you’re really sorry for it so the people should forgive you.”
Eadra held her close. “I love you, Frey.” It was all she knew to say. It was the only thing that seemed right to say and all Eadra could do to keep from falling apart.
“I love you too Mama,” Frey replied, squeezing her tighter. “I’m sorry, Mama.”
Eadra gently stroked her daughter’s soft blonde hair. “For what little one?”
Frey pulled away, her lip pursed forward like she always did when she was in trouble. “Well, I took a sip of Sigurd’s special mead when he wasn’t looking a couple days ago,” she replied. “I know I’m not supposed to be there unless you want me to make a delivery, but it smelled really good and I was curious.”
Eadra laughed. “Was that why you were so sick? I thought you had eaten one of Kjersti’s meat pies while you were making your deliveries.”
She shook her head. “I lied, Mama,” she said. “I’m really sorry. I’ll never drink that nasty stuff again.”
Eadra laughed harder and squeezed Frey tight. “Little sprite, you’re so silly.”
Frey stared at her confused. “I’m not in trouble?”
Eadra smiled. “I think you learned your lesson.” She wiped her eyes and kissed Frey on the forehead. “Did you finish with everything like I asked?”
Frey nodded a proud smile on her face. “I did! I even bagged it all like I’ve seen you do hundreds of times!”
“Well, my little girl is growing up so quickly!”
Frey laughed. “Not yet, but soon,” she replied.
Eadra stared into Frey’s soft blue eyes and sighed. “Little sprite, we may be taking a trip.”
“Where are we going?”
“I was thinking someplace warm, maybe Absion or Shyre,” Eadra replied.
“But I like it here.” Her daughter pursed her lip forward again.
Eadra smiled, but halfheartedly. “Frey, sometimes things change. We may not like it at first, but it may lead to a new adventure.”
Frey’s pouting face became a deep frown. “When are we leaving?” she asked.
“Soon. We will have to pack though, not everything will be coming with us.”
“Are we at least going to say goodbye?”
Eadra held her close. “If there’s time,” she replied. “Now go get your pack and start packing some clothes like when we go foraging.”
Fry nodded and then ran through the doorway into the tunnel. Eadra stood and followed after her. When she reached the end, Eadra saw that Frey had already climbed the ladder and closed the trapdoor behind her.
Eadra pushed the shelving hiding the tunnel back in place just as a knock came from the door on the floor above. She heard Frey’s boots thundering against the floorboards on her way to the door.
No, Frey! “Frey!”
It was already too late “Sigurd!” her daughter shouted happily.
Eadra scrambled up the ladder, opening the trapdoor and turned to see Sigurd standing in the doorway. He smiled wide as Frey hugged his leg. Eadra pulled herself up and closed the trapdoor, her heart pounding.
“I’m glad to see you are home,” he said. “There’s a new trader in town and after a long discussion, I feel we can trust him.”
The man at the bar stepped into view. Whether by fear or instinct, Eadra dropped her hand to her hip, only to clutch at air. She never took her eyes off the man as she did.
“Elin, is everything okay?” Sigurd asked.
Did he see? The question was burning in her mind as to whether the man had noticed. He was hard to read. His dark eyes though. They brought back memories of Absion and of the Inquisitors that frequented Serindeth’s streets.
“I seem to have caught you at a bad time,” he said and bowed.
His accent was definitely Absonian, though he tried to hide it. It was the pitch in his voice that gave it away. “I was sorting out the storage downstairs,” Eadra replied.
Frey glanced at her curiously, but said nothing. It was a small relief. Normally she would have said something.
“Frey, why don’t you pack for our trip while I talk with Sigurd and our guest.”
“Going on a little excursion I see,” Sigurd commented.
“Excursion?” the Absionian asked.
Eadra nodded. “I’ve been teaching my daughter about survival in the wilds.”
“She’s a bit young for that don’t you think?” he asked.
“Sokoras is a harsh place to live. We teach our children at a young age to they can develop the skills to survive.”
He simply nodded.
“Now, Sigurd, you know better than to bring people here.”
“His offer was hard to pass up,” Sigurd replied nervously. “I mean, he’s willing to pay in Shards.”
Eadra frowned. “You can’t eat Shards, Sigurd,” she reminded. “This far north trade is more valuable.”
“We could still use the Shards,” Sigurd insisted. “The merchant caravan is due to arrive in a few days, Shards would go a long way with them.”
Eadra turned her attention to the Absionian. “Tell your name.”
“Eijar,” he replied.
An Absonian with a Sokoran name. That’s definitely Bodvar’s brand of humor. “If we agree, how much are you wanting?”
“Fifty pounds a month if possible,” he replied.
He’s nobody’s fool. She could see in his eyes, he knew she was. “It’s not. It takes three years for a single bush to mature properly. Fifty pounds a month would require us to expand one what we have. Our stores would depleted too rapidly.”
The impulse to slit his throat as Eijar feigned disappointment turned her stomach. “The only genuine disappointment was what was written all over Sigurd’s face. “Well, then I will inform my companions. They were looking forward to having the opportunity to trade such an unusual commodity.”
“Elin, isn’t there some way we can accommodate them?” Sigurd asked.
“Perhaps if someone’s crop hadn’t died we could have, but it’s too late for that now,” she replied. “I’m sorry if Sigurd has worked your hopes for nothing, Eijar.”
“It’s quite alright,” Eijar replied. “I’m sure you have plenty of packing to do for your excursion,” he added. “Thank you for your time.”
Eijar promptly bowed, and then started down the stairs from the. Eadra felt her heart beating faster then turned to Sigurd, glaring at him.
“What have I told you!” she whispered harshly. “Never bring people here!”
“Sigurd, there is a reason we do so well here! We can’t have strays we don’t know coming in and meeting me!”
“Elin, I’m sorry,” he replied. “He just offered so much, I was only thinking of the village.”
She sighed, pulling a chair from the nearby table and burying her face in her hands. Eadra looked up at him and shook her head. “Sigurd, just leave, please. We will sort this out when I return.”
He didn’t say another word. Instead he only nodded and stepped out of the door, closing it behind him.
Six years, I guess I can count myself lucky we remained hidden this long.
“Well?” Bodvar asked. “Did you learn anything?”
Eijar frowned. I really do hate you. “I found her,” he replied. “She reeks of deceit.”
Ylva glanced on him, Eijar could sense she was eager. Arald was smiling. “There’s something else too.”
“Oh?” Bodvar asked.
“She had a little girl with her.” The delight on Bodvar’s face was sickening. His dark beard and features made him somehow seem fiendish.
“Is that so?” he replied. “Arald, run to the camp and fetch the rest others. We will have a talk with the village elders. They have fugitive that needs to be brought to justice.”
Eijar fought hard not to cringe. Every principle he had ever been taught was screaming that Bodvar’s idea of ‘justice’ was nothing short of heresy. If this were Absion, Bodvar. I’d have you cruicified.