I watched my husband leave the village, his great ebony wolf skin was strewn along his shoulders, his leather armour covering his body and creaking as he walked. His great axe held at his side, his shield balanced on his other arm. I worried about him, I always did. But Thidrik always returned bringing home riches from his battles, but also the scalps of the people he killed. This time he would be gone for at least a month leaving me here alone to do his blacksmith work for him. I stood at the door like many a wife seeing their husbands off to war.
Elrik, his brother was too young to become a soldier; of course this broke his heart but he could help around the farm. "Turid come on inside you need rest, you've been up all night helping Thidrik with his weapons." He insisted, I did as I was told I lay on the bed with out my husband it always felt strange with out him, no one to comfort me at night or wrap me in their warm embrace. Thidrik hadn't been away from me for more than a couple of weeks; winter was soon approaching Dynskogar, the first of the snow had begun to flurry and coat the ground with its Ivory blanket. The fire burnt fiercely in the hearth.
"Rest easy he will return, he always does." Elrik began.
"I know." I nodded. "I know." Turning over so my back was to him. I found my tired eyes soon closing the crackling of the fire seemed to help me sleep, it acted like a lullaby. I slept late into the afternoon. The fires loud crackling managed to wake me up, I sat up and my gaze travelled to the fire there lay our dire wolf Vermilion, I could see the fire dancing over the crimson dorsal stripe which travelled from head to tail, his head lay over his paws he must've been disappointed that his master was absent.
I sat up and slid my feet over the edge of the bed, the floor was cold; I knew winter has set in and I knew it was here to stay. "Elric can you hand me my wolf skin cloak please?" I asked.
"Of course." He smiled, picking it up off the back of one of the chairs and handed it to me. "Are you planning to go out?" He asked.
"Yes, we need to eat do we not?" I said.
"Indeed, but I could go hunting you could stay here." He offered.
"Elric we both know that you're not strong enough to even string Thidriks bow, that's why you're forbidden to enter the battlefield." I said, his head dropped it was the truth and it was something he had to face.
"Your place is to stay in the house and work, you're not to be hunting." He said raising his voice.
"Thidrik has always allowed me to hunt." I snarled reaching for the bow. Elric,snatched the bow before I could reach it and then punched me in the face, bruising my cheek and splitting my lip, i snapped back at him spitting the blood on the floor.
"Thidriks not here, you do as I tell you!" He growled squaring up to me. I pushed him away and kicked him in the stomach.
"Thidrik will hear of this when he returns!" I said snatching the bow back and then walking out beckoning for Vermilion to folllow me. We walked outside my boots crunched and became soaked as the white powder clung to the fur. Vermilion pined as his sensitive feet became scolded by the cold. "Hush boy we don't want to alert the stags of our presence." I said softly stroking his head. We padded the snow, our footsteps crunched in the Ivory powder it was rare to find any game near the the village. We walked to the dead wood, the trees had been stripped bare by the cold wind, the sapphire flowing river had been frozen and became glass. We came to a wide open clearing no sign of life, I crouched in the grass my wolf next to me; we waited patiently, just as I was about to give up an ivory stag made himself known. I carefully pulled an arrow from my quiver and began to load it onto the bow, I drew back the string and took a deep breath in, the creature looked at me and I then allowed the arrow to fly loose.
It pierced the animals Hyde. It squealed before dropping to the ground, its breathing laboured. A river of crimson slithered from the wound, down its body and resting not the ground staining the Snow pink. I approached the beast I knelt next to it, I too, the knife from my boot and slit the creatures throat, it let out one final call before falling silent. I ran my fingers over its soft fur starting from its neck all the way to its chest where the arrow had hit; I held the shaft in one hand before pulling. it out. I then bound his feet and attempted to throw the brute over my shoulder.
After a struggled effort I managed to rest him over my tiny frame, I walked all the way back to my village having to adjust the carcass every now and then. Just as I made the clearing and opening into town I noticed the elderly leader of our village was stood outside with a couple of his men. I dropped the brute with a thud announcing my presence, Vermilion began to snarl and growl. "I hear that you have assaulted this man!" He exclaimed looking at me.
"I have no idea of what you are talking about." I said.
"You pushed him over and kicked him the stomach." He answered.
"I did no such thing!" I told him. "Besides he started it, he snatched my bow from me and punched me." I said.
"I see, but men have to keep their woman in line..." I cut him off before he could' finish.
"This man and I do not lay with one another, my husband is off fighting in the battle you're to much of a coward to fight in." I growled pride filling my words. "I am the shield maiden of Thidrik Sigeweardsson." I finished.
"It is a crime to strike the woman of another man. Guards take this man away, I shall decide the fate of this mutt in due course." He said. I watched as Elric was led away from me.
"Are you okay Turid." he asked
"I'm okay." I said my eyes dropping not being able to look at him.
"I promised Thidrik that nothing bad would happen to you while he was fighting and not able to protect you himself. I am no coward, I am doing an errand for a friend." He said resting his hand on my shoulder.
"Thank you Storolf." I said. He nodded causing long grey strands of hair to fall into his eyes.
"Please be more careful of who you teach a lesson to." He finished and walked away. I walked back to the stag. I picked up the rope from its feet and began to drag it inside. "Come Vermilion, I don't want you catching a cold." I said beckoning him inside. I held the door open for him, once the stag was inside I hung it up and began to gut the animal before skinning it and then chopping it up into pieces and began to cook it; I threw a loin at Vermilion who tucked into it eating noisily causing me to smile at him.
Soon the meat was cooked and I cut it up for myself.
I sat there all alone in our rather large hut, no Elric and no Thidrik. I dreaded to think, what was happening to Elric, I pushed the thought away; once I had finished my meal I herded the cattle into the barn and led the horses into their stalls, just as I was about to leave I heard crying. I turned on my heel and began to walk deeper into the barn. "Hello." I called out. The crying continued. "Who's there?" I asked reaching for the knife on my belt. As I walk closer I notice a shadow on the wall it's the shadow of a child.
"Please don't hurt me!" The child cried.
"I won't come out, come to me. " I say softly and laying the blade on the ground. The child walked out, they were covered in dirt and were skinny.
"What's your name?" I inquired kneeling to their level.
"Bolla." She answered a little afraid.
"Where did you come from?" I asked my eyes fixing on hers.
"The mountain where the steam runs red." She replied,her voice beginning to quiver, I wasn't sure whether it was fear or the cold.
"Oh Odin!" I exclaimed, I thought they had abandoned that practice long ago.
When morning came, it was cold, the fire burnt out, Vermillion was shivering. I looked over to the hearth where the young girl lay, she didn’t move an inch. I leapt up knocking Vermillion off the bed. I touched her shoulder to turn her over but she was cold, I gently pulled her over and her eyes were open, she was dead. The temperature must have dropped dramatically. It made me sad to see such a young life spent and sent to Odin so early.
I scooped her up in my arms and took her to the field where the cattle graze and dug her grave, the town and Earl would be none the wiser she was here. I lay her body to rest, and then retreated inside. I relit the fire, and cooked the last of the stag for breakfast before heading into town. My cloak hugging my shoulders, I left Vermillion at home the cold unbearable for his feet. The snow clung to the bottom of the cloak and my boots weighing me down a little, the cold breeze bit into my frame.
The town was alive with people, no one exchanged a single glance with me, no one knew of the horror I had to perform this morning. “Turid you’re here early!” A voice exclaimed. I turned around and there stood the Earls wife Thkatla, even in the snow she was dressed in her finery. Her long brown hair bound in gold, a great buck skin wrapped around her shoulders and her dress made of the finest purple.
“I am?” I replied. “I just didn’t want to stay at home without Thidrik I can’t get used to it, the house is empty.” I explained.
“I’m sure my husband would allow you to stay with us till his return.” She offered.
“Thank you but I wouldn’t want to intrude on you and your husband.” I replied.
“He’s the one who made the proposal.” She said.
“Oh, well, it’s something I will er consider but I’m not sure since there will be no one to take care of the animals.” I told him.
“Well perhaps we can send someone to look after them for you.” She answered. Suddenly we were interrupted by someone.
“Lady Thkatla its nice to see you’re up and about.” A man said, I turned and saw a rather gangly skinny man, a smile painted his face.
“It was nothing but a fever.” She smiled back.
“I best be going, leave you two to talk.” I said.
“Turid don’t be silly you’re welcome to stay. I am sure Axel could take care of your farm if you were to stay with my family.” She said looking at the man.
“Take care of Turids farm?” He asked.
“Yes.” Thkatla answered.
“I don’t see why not, you need company you can’t be all alone on that farm.” He said moving closer to me.
“Watch where you step sir, I may be a farming woman but doesn’t mean I don’t carry a blade.” I told him sternly. “Now if you excuse me I have to gather a few things.” I said walking off towards the stall selling furs at the end.
“What are you looking for Miss?” He asked.
“Do you have anything thicker than buck fur?” I replied.
“We offer wolf fur, but I can see you wear enough already.” He replied. “We should be getting an over seas shipment soon from other traders perhaps they may have what you’re looking for.” He suggested. I nodded and continued to wander not looking for anything in particular. I decided to return home my horse walking to the fence greeting me.
“At least someone misses me.” I smiled rubbing his nose softly and giving him an apple, he neighed lowly. I then proceeded to walk inside the fire still burning and a wave of heat greeted me. How I yearned for Thidrik to return home soon, I missed him as did Vermilion who was still asleep on the floor curled up in front of the fire, his nose pressed up against his tail. I lay on the bed a hand resting on my stomach; I prayed to the gods that Thidrik would be home in time for the birth of his child.
In another six months we would need all the protection we can get to protect our little one from the bad people as well as the elements of our town. I gently rub my hand around the small bulge on my stomach, soothing the babe a little. Both Thidrik and I hope for a son, but if it’s a daughter we would just love her as much. I suddenly heard screams, I sat up and rubbed my head and pulled my shirt back over my stomach.
I pull down my cloak off the hook on the wall and then walk outside, I see smoke and flames coming from the centre of town, I whistle and my strong steed came galloping to me, with a fistful of mane I pulled myself onto his back and we rode into town this was an emergency and walking to town would be too late. As I ride closer I realise its Elric, he’s bound to a stake and screaming at the top of his lungs. I see the Earl and his wife watching with satisfaction on their face.
Thkatla glances at me and she nods. I don’t nod back, I disagreed with this act he didn’t deserve to be killed, a little punishment perhaps but death is going a little too far.
I turned from the sight wishing I had not witnessed such a thing. I wished I could have blocked my ears from his screams of agony. I knew the events of today would haunt me for eternity. I see Thkatla leave the side of her husband and made her way towards me, it looked like she was almost floating. “You must watch. Justice has been done to the man who wronged you.” She said, resting her hand on my boot and tapping her slender fingers against the hard leather.
Elrics screams finally stopped, the fire had engulfed his torso, and my husband’s brother was dead. I worried for how Thidrik would react when receiving such news. I noticed the Earl was writing a letter, he gave it to the messenger who began to run in the same direction my husband had left. The wind picked up and the flesh that had burnt from his bone dissipated into ash and fluttered in the air, they danced around the towns people and painted the snow black,
I turned my horse away and proceeded to walk home, the wind biting into my flesh. “Turid where do you leave to?” Thkatla asked me, she seemed concerned.
“I leave to go home, the wind is beginning to freeze me and my steed.” I told her.
“Please join us in the great hall, its warm.” She offered.
“You’re too kind but I’d rather head to my farm.” I replied. She nodded and allowed me to leave without another word. My horse sluggishly moved through the snow. “We’re almost home.” I said patting his neck, he turned his head and snorted at me. I patted his neck softly, as soon as we reached the farm I threw my leg over his head, and dismounted landing in the slush beneath my feet.
I removed his saddle and bridle, and put it in the barn. The oxen called to me softly, I picked up a bale of hay and put it in the wooden feed bucket in front of him and patted one of their heads. I smiled to myself and walked back in the cabin. Vermillion greeted me with excited barking and his tail wagging, he reared up resting his paws on my body and attempting to lick my face. “Down boy!” I told him.
He pined and reluctantly stood, he walked to the fire. I followed him and walked to the fire, I sat next to him a hand resting on his head between his ears. I was just getting lost in the flames when someone pounded on my door. I got up with an effort and opened it. There stood Gilda, she was the Druid of the village. “Did you forget I was coming by today?” She asked, shrugging her long white braid over her shoulder. Her pale skin is decorated with black tattoos on her face, around her eyes, down her chest and across her stomach; her clothing is fine intertwined leather with reeds, leaves and tree bark. On her head sits a crown of wood with feathers sticking out on the top, and all around.
“No of course not.” I replied running a hand through my locks.
“You seem a bit stressed, now you know that’s not good for the baby.” She told me, shifting her weight onto her birch, ivy decorated staff. I let her in and Vermillion lolloped over to her with gaping jaws, his tongue hanging from the side, she took a bone out of her cloak and gave it to him, he snatched it and ran back to the fire place sitting in front of it, crunching away.
“Come lay on the bed.” She said, we both walk to the bed and I lay down on my back, she lifts up my shirt, rests her hands on my stomach and then her ear to my stomach. “Well the baby seems to be happy.” She told me lifting her head up to look at me.
“That’s a relief.” I smiled at her.
“You need to stay home, you need to stop going out to the town. I will stay with you till your babe is born.” She told me. “I will do everything.” She offered.
“Don’t you have people to heal?” I asked as she placed her hands on my stomach.
“No, you’re my main priority right now.” She smiled. I saw her hands glow a little; a warm sensation flowed all over my body.
“Your little one was cold.” She smiled at me.
“Looks like I need a warmer cloak.” I laughed.
“Yes indeed.” She said unbuckling her own cloak.
“Well you will have a healthy baby.” She told me.
“Good,” I smiled sitting up and pulling my shirt down.
“But seriously Turid you need to stay off your feet, it will just be best for you in the coming months.” She smiled.
“Were you there today?” I asked,
“What do you mean?” She replied.
“Did you watch his punishment?” I answered.
“No, I was in the forest completing a ritual, but unfortunately I did hear his cries.” She answered.
“It was terrible.” I said looking at her.
“Why did you go?” She inquired.
“Because I felt like I had to, I suppose it gave me a piece of mind.” I answered.
“And did you get piece of mind?” She asked.
“No.” I said shaking my head. “I only got nightmares.” I said.
“Want me to remove memories?” She inquired.
“No.” I answered. “I’ll get through them.” I added.
“But please Turid if you can’t and you suffer please allow me to take them away.” She said almost begging me. I nodded.
“Do you know if child sacrifice is still in practice?” I asked.
“I do not know, sacrificing was never apart of my practice. Why do you ask?” She asked looking at me, a concerned expression painted her face.
“A child turned up in my barn, she told me she escaped from where the river ran red.” I said.