Valkyrie Chapter 8
Updated: Apr 23, 2019
The cell was surprisingly warm. Eadra laughed quietly to herself. It was ironic. She had helped the village build the place. The village jail was sturdy, strong enough to hold up against the worst Sokoran winter. The stonework was just another bit of information she remembered from her books.
There were four cells, capable of holding three people each. They were mostly meant for those too drunk to be allowed to roam about. Sasa would…Eadra’s heart ached as she thought of the old man. His winkled face staring accusingly at her.
I’m sorry Sasa. Her vision blurred and Eadra wiped her eyes.
“I find it hard to believe the woman I heard stories about and you are the same.”
Eadra looked up. It was the Blooded woman that Bodvar had brought with him. “I find it hard to believe you would side with him,” she replied.
The woman smiled. “Bodvar is an idiot, but he is part of the coming change to this country. A prudent person would be sure to place themselves in a position to benefit from this change.”
Eadra narrowed her eyes. “What kind of change?”
She smiled. “The dead need not know such things.”
“Ylva, that’s what he called you wasn’t it.”
Curiosity appeared on Ylva’s pale face. “You have a sharp memory.”
“Where is my daughter?”
Ylva smiled again and stepped closer to the bars. “Dead probably.”
Eadra surprised even herself. She surged forward, so quickly in fact that Ylva had no time to react. Eadra thrust her hand through the bars, grabbing the woman by the back of the neck and slamming her face into them.
The Ylva stumbled and reached out toward the stone wall for support. She shook her head, touched her forehead and stared at the blood from it on her fingertips. There was a dangerous edge in the woman’s eyes, but also a hint of excitement. She smiled then laughed. “That was wonderful,” she said. “I bet you were a monster on the battlefield.”
Eadra bit her lip and simply stared. Her heart was racing, her mind already working through a how many ways there were to kill Ylva. No, I can’t.
“Bodvar was right, you’re there just underneath the surface. This face you wear, this Elin you portray yourself as, is only an illusion.”
Eadra kept staring. There was a sudden coppery taste in her mouth. She doesn’t know anything.
Ylva’s smile grew wider. “Your eyes say so much, dear. Even now, you’re plotting to kill me.” She reached for the small hunting knife sheathed on her hip. “Why don’t I make it easy for you?”
She stepped close, placing her back against the bars, then dropped the knife through them into the cell. Eadra stared at the knife. It would be so easy and quick. She thought of Frey and reached down, picking up the knife. Sliding her arm through the bars, pressed the flat of the blade against Ylva’s throat.
“Go on,” she said. “You will never have a better moment.”
Eadra locked her jaw, her left hand was shaking. Images of the villagers she had killed long ago flashing before her eyes. Eadra saw their cold dead stares, their accusing eyes so clearly. The last face she saw was Sasa’s. His eyes were the most accusatory of all. Eadra could see the word ‘liar’ deep within his lifeless orbs.
A soft sigh drew her attention, followed by a sharp stabbing pain in her left hand. Eadra cried out, pulling away to see the hunting knife embedded in it. She breathed through the pain and looked up to see Ylva staring blankly at her.
“Disappointing,” she said.
Eadra fell back onto one of the benches and reached for the knife, pulling it free. “Just tell me about Frey.” She tore some of the cloth from bottom of the tunic she wore to bandage the wound.
“She’s with Bodvar,” Ylva replied. “He’s still trying to decide if the welp is really his.”
“You don’t sound very convinced,” Eadra commented.
“I could care less, but killing your kinsman, if she truly is his, that is unforgiveable,” she replied. “Personally, I think you’re lying, but the Absonian insists it’s the truth.”
“So he is an inquisitor,” Eadra replied.
Ylva laughed. “Was and he’s a long way from home.”
Eadra sat back. It was strange. No one leaves Inquisition, those that have are imprisoned, their ability to divine truth stripped from them. She winced, her hand was throbbing.
“So what is Bodvar waiting for?” Eadra asked.
“You’ll see once Arald arrives,” Ylva replied. “Are you in a hurry to die?”
Eadra looked past her. Grimmear and Walen lay propped up against the far wall. Ylva smiled and turned to see where she was staring.
“I thought I’d keep them,” she said. “It’s truly sad, I can hear them weeping for you. You shame them with your weakness. With your cowardice.”
Eadra felt her chest burn hot as she stared at the woman. If you only knew.
“So much posturing,” Ylva said with a smirk on her face. “Your eyes keep screaming murder but your body if afraid to act. You’re literally shaking and you don’t even see it.”
Eadra sighed in defeat. Ylva’s laughed mirrored by how she imagined it might sound coming from her old self. Eadra looked up to see Ylva shake her head and walk away, then glanced at her blades. I have to protect Frey, but I can’t become you again.”
Bodvar could only sit there and stare. The welp stared defiantly back. It was beyond annoying. She was afraid, but also angry. You can’t be mine. Anyone could have those eyes.
He’d already asked Eijar a dozen times and each time the answer was the same. It was hard to believe that even a former inquisitor would lie. So they simply sat there, staring at each other.
The crying had been the worst part. The brat sounded like a newborn yak or goat. It ate at his nerves. Bodvar considered burying Grauner in her skull. Ylva had been quite clear on the matter, however. The girl was not to come to harm.
The old ways were so bothersome, tradition should be buried in the snow and forgotten. The world was changing and if you didn’t change with it, the snows would swallow you up. He shifted his gaze to Eadra’s home.
She had done well for herself. The woman was always resourceful. The furniture was handcrafted, from the cushions and seats to the chairs and tables. Everything here was crafted with an elven flair. It was smooth and curvaceous. Even crafted, the furniture’s rounded features looked almost natural.
It was a stark contrast to the practicality of Sokoran woodwork and leatherwork. She had always spoken a great deal about the Aethar and who they were. Bodvar frowned. You’re getting old Bodvar. Sentimentality doesn’t suit you.
A soft Laugh suddenly drew his attention.
Bodvar turned, glancing back the little girl. The smile quickly faded from her face. “Something amuses you?”
“Just your face when you frown,” she replied. “You look like a snow bear that needs to drop dung.”
Bodvar gripped the arm rests of the chair, beside himself with rage. The girl shrank back. He took breathe, suddenly realizing his hand was already on Grauner. “Your mother teach you to talk to your elders that way, welp?”
“Mama taught me to speak my mind and be honest,” she replied.
Honest? Bodvar shook his head and sighed. What am I even doing?
“Are you really my da?” she asked.
“I don’t know, you don’t even resemble me.”
“Of course not, I’m girl,” she replied.
Bodvar snickered, then laughed, tears coming to his eyes. It was the strangest feeling. Though when he calmed down the little girl looked even more terrified. “Do you like stories?”
The girl nodded.
Bodvar smiled. Eadra, I can think of no better revenge than to tell this chit who you are. “Then let me tell you about who your mother really is.”
She’ll hate you. When I’m done, I will make her just like you.
The mood in the tavern was somber; any fool could see that the villagers were afraid. Eijar looked across the table at the two other Blades Bodvar had brought with them. Just looking at them made his skin crawl.
Ulthen was nothing more than a murderer in the worst kind. He often bragged about all the people he had killed. Children included. He said that he had a collection of their fingers stashed away back at Viktor’s keep. To him, the pinky finger was the cutest. Eijar wanted to vomit, most of what the man said was true, he knew that much.
Tracker or not, one day the man would have an accident. It was hard enough not issue Judgement just sitting here. It was part of being an inquisitor, the teachings, the training and the clarity of mind it granted became part of you.
The other man, Braudr was no better. Worse, he was on the Inquisition’s Judicum List. He was to be executed on site. Braudr had another name, not the one Bodvar had given him. Methias. An assassin from one of Absion’s illegal guilds.
“Something eating at you Eijar?” Braudr asked.
Eijar half smiled. “Nothing that concerns you.”
Braudr smiled, showing some of his missing teeth. If not for that, some women might find him attractive. “You can’t stand it. Sitting here with us, the pain must be unbearable.”
Ulthen glanced at him curiously. “”What are on about?”
Braudr smiled. “Oh, Bodvar never told you, did he?” He sat back, his smug smile widening, mug in hand. “We have ourselves a disgraced member of the Inquisition, Ulthen.”
The fat Sokoran’s eyes opened wide in shock, then he laughed. “Bodvar takes on anyone doesn’t he?”
“Indeed he does,” Braudr replied. “The thing is, the poor bastards can’t help themselves when it comes to dispending justice or truth. It’s like sickness; every time they let such infractions go, it burns them almost quite literally or so they say.”
“Shut up Braudr.”
“See, Ulthen, if you look closely to how dilated his pupils are, you can see the level of pain he’s in.”
It had taken over two years to dull the pain, to make it manageable. As Ulthen leaned in close, it all came back. His grin and murderous eyes were like acid on the skin. His sins, no his victims screaming for justice, for vengeance.
Eijar gripped his knees underneath the table. It was becoming too much. He felt hot, the acid on his skin becoming more like a raging inferno. It seeped into his bones making them feel liquid. Ulthen’s grin was all he could take when something snapped.
Braudr jumped back, panic on his face. He clearly knew what was coming next. Eijar reached, grabbing Ulthen by the throat. The fat Sokoran screamed, the smell of burnt flesh wafting in the air as smoke rose from where he was being held.
“Make your sins known!” Eijar eyes met with his and Ulthen screamed even louder. Every murder, every torture, every brutalizing moment was laid bare. He was seeing deep into the man’s very spirit, burning through his soul like chaff.
Eijar let go, the burning subsiding. He fell back in his chair and weakly looked up to see the Braudr had vanished, probably running off to report to Bodvar. Eijar could feel the sweat covering his body, seeping through every inch of clothing.
So many years running. So much held in. It was exhausting.
A soft groan came from across the table and weakly he looked up at Ulthen. The man’s skin was grey, his eyes black and bloodshot. Bodvar would be furious, but Eijar could care less. Ulthen would never murder another person for the rest of his life. The only thing he would be good for was tracking, eating and pissing.
Eijar stood, nearly stumbling and turned to see all eyes were on him, horror struck. He grabbed his pack and started toward the door, the patrons giving him wide berth. He sighed. Such is my curse.
Eadra sat up after feeling a sudden gust of cold air and hearing the main doors of the jail open. Her hand still hurt, but not nearly as much as before. The meditations were helping to shut out the pain.
“You seem well.”
Eadra nodded. “Better than you it seems.”
“We will see, I just killed one of the Blades.”
She stared at the Sokoran. There were dark lines under his eyes, he looked weak, even struggled with the chair he pulled up to sit in. “Why would an inquisitor come to Sokoras?”
“Why does anyone come to this cursed land?” he replied.
“You’re on the run.”
He simply shook his head.
“You know Bodvar will kill you for killing your own.”
“These killers and murderers are far from my own, I’m simply doing what I have to in order to survive,” he replied wryly. “The man is still useful, more or less.”
Eadra stood, moved closer to the bars and sat on the stone floor. “You Purged him…”
The Absonian nodded. “I suppose I did,” he replied. “It was probably the worst Purging of my life. I’m surprised you know of it.”
“My father told me stories of our homeland,” she replied. “He was a scholar at the Apothecarium.”
The Absonian smiled. “You blend in well.”
“My mother was Sokoran, they on one of his trips to Sokoras in search of an obscure herb.”
“I would ask how you came here, but it would seem we both know that answer.”
“For all its pristine appearance, Absion has a dark underside.” She glanced up, his eyes speaking volumes about her words.
“I guess that’s why you’re such a good apothecary, judging by what I saw under your home,” he said changing the subject.
“Partly, my father was obsessed with the Aethar and their knowledge. I guess I share in that obsession.”
He leaned back in the chair, turning his attention toward the stone ceiling. “Bodvar will probably have me Purge you, that is if Ylva doesn’t try to fight you first,” he said. “You’ve done things, Eadra, I can see it.”
“Promise me one thing,” she said. “I ask you on your honor as a former inquisitor.”
“What would that be?” he asked.
“Protect my daughter.”
“She’s not even yours,” he replied.
Eadra grew quiet. “You lied to Bodvar, worse you lied as an inquisitor…”
“The pain is nothing compared to saving the little girl’s life.”
A small sense of relief welled up inside her heart. “Thank you, Eijar.”
He looked back at her, curiosity on his face. “Interesting.”
“I remember things easier than most,” she replied.
“Then remember this, Eadra,” he said. “No harm will come to the girl while I live.”