Tag: team girl power

9.15 – Ulfr

The oversized wooden door opened inwards before the group of women and their so-called honor guard to reveal an equally oversized hall. As Reki strode forward, her shoulders squared, at the head of her companions her impression was of walking through a great, empty cavern. Their soft-soled boots still managed to echo through the stone room. There did not even appear to be trestles for a long table, although it was possible those were merely stored elsewhere in a hold such as this.

At the far end of the hall stood the Thane’s seat, large and ornately carved oak, polished to a shine. As they drew closer, Reki noted that there were no cushions on the chair, and wondered if the lack of a rug – or any furnishings, really – was truly the desire of the man sitting, slumped, in the worn seat.

If she had not known he was Stigander’s half-brother, she never would have guessed. The man looked not unlike his name suggested: a rangy, scrappy lone wolf who had to fight for what he needed and steal what he wanted. His ashen brown hair fell across his face, hiding his eyes, and a sharp nose poked out from above a thin beard.

In front of the throne, the Captain of the boat that had brought them in was giving his report. “Sire, you rely too thoroughly on your mother’s bits of cloth! There is no honor in all this skulking about.”

“That’s enough, Captain Kaldr. I’ll hear no more against her, or her Weavings. They have never yet betrayed me.” Ulfr surged to his feet before his liege man, but the anger quieted from his face almost as quickly.

“My Lord -”

“No. More. See to your ship, Kaldr. Let me focus on our next moves.”

Captain Kaldr bowed deeply, and Reki caught a glimpse of cold disapproval on the man’s face when it was hidden from his Lord. Interesting. When he straightened, however, his face was calm once again, and the captain strode from the room without so much as a glance at Reki and her companions.

Ulfr, no longer confronted by a man at arms with a message he disliked, paced restlessly, his eyes watching the approaching women. He looked even more like a wolf now than he had before. The leader of the honor guard reached ten paces from the throne and knelt before his Thane.

“Rise,” Ulfr sneered. “Who are these?”

The guard leader stood but did not look his Lord in the face, a fact that Reki filed away for later consideration. “These,” he said, emphasizing the word, “Are the Singers that were aboard the three rebel ships.”

Rebel? It seemed an odd choice of words to Reki, but that was hardly the point to challenge the Usurper on. If she challenged him, today. It might be better to pretend servility, at least until she could figure out what was going on. Her eyes darted to either side: Runa was on her left, and Bea on her right. It was a struggle not to shake her head at her own thoughts. Neither of them would be able to feign that.

“The only one I wanted was Runa Hroaldrsdottir. Why do you trouble me with the others?”

The second in command of the honor guard looked embarrassed and started to speak, but his leader surreptitiously elbowed him in the ribs.

“My Lord, they are three ships and they carried no fewer than six Singers, once you count in the young Lady Runa. By capturing all of them, we have dealt your foes a major blow.”

Ulfr stared disdainfully at the man who had spoken. “Tell me. Your own Captain forbids Song Magic aboard. What makes you think no other ship can fight without it?”

He only stammered a little, Reki noted, before he parroted back the same idea Kaldr had used on board his ship. “Reliance on Magic makes them weak, sir. Without it, they’ll be no threat.”

Ulfr snorted but did not try to correct the man. Probably adjudged it as impossible as changing Kaldr’s mind on the subject. “Very well. This was uneccessary, but acceptable tactics nonetheless.”

Finally Ulfr turned his attention to the captives, and all trace of the hungry wolf disappeared from his demeanor save a slight stoop to his shoulders. Reki pasted a sickly-sweet smile on her face, waiting to see how he would try to play this.

“Ladies. Welcome to my court. My sincerest apologies for any unpleasantness you may have faced along the way: I’m afraid Captain Kaldr has some rather… unorthodox ideas.”

Unorthodox. That was the word. Was he really going to try to pretend that he hadn’t just had that conversation right in front of them? Well, two could play at that game. She kept the smile plastered to her face. “No trouble at all, Lord. Your invitation was most gracious.”

“How could I do otherwise, with such a delegation of Singers in my waters? I assure you, any discomfort you may have endured on the Mánagarmr will be remedied here in my Hall. Have they given you rooms yet? …No, they couldn’t have, could they.” He clapped his hands. Moments later a thrall appeared, the dark circles under his eyes the only color Reki could see on the man. “See to it they have comfortable chambers, and have the sauna heated. I trust the Lady Runa would prefer to remain with her father?”

Out of the corner of her eye, Reki saw the apprentice blanch. Not that she would have let them separate her anyway. “That will not be necessary,” she purred. “The Lady Runa has training we must see to, even at a time such as this.”

Ulfr offered her a gallant, if shallow, bow. “As my lady wishes. Agnar here will show you to your chambers. If it is not too much trouble, I would ask that you all join Mother and I for supper this evening.”

“We should be delighted.”


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9.14 – Breidelstein

The captain of the wolf-headed boat they rode on finally deigned to introduce himself to the circle of Singers he had aboard when the noon sun hung high in the sky. The man wore a wolf pelt over his shoulders, pinned to the cloth of his tunic with gold-and-ivory pins. Reki raised an eyebrow: somehow, given how long she had been left to bake in the sun, she had not expected the Captain to be wealthy enough for such ostentation. Her eyes ached from the brightness, and she had accepted hours ago that she would have a painful sunburn to deal with.

Still, even beyond the rich pins, the Captain was not the sort of man she would have expected. He seemed almost bloodless, of the sort who is nearly impossible to rattle, as he actually looked down his nose at his distinguished ‘guests’ standing before him, encircled by their ‘honor guard’ and denied even a shawl or a cloak for shade. “Good day to you, ladies,” he began. “I hope you are enjoying your stay aboard my ship?”

“It’s lovely,” Reki answered through clenched teeth. She struggled not to squint at the man. “Although the accommodations seem a little spare. Tell me, are all of your lord’s guests treated so warmly?”

The corner of his lip curled in a sneer. “I should think you would be glad of the light. It can’t be healthy, being always hidden away from view like that.” Reki seethed, but the man wasn’t done. “You should be honored. You are the first sorcerers of any stripe to set foot on my deck, and you’re being escorted to the Lord himself. A rare honor indeed.”

Bea stepped forward. “Now wait just a moment-”

“Hold your tongue, woman.”

Beatrix was so surprised she actually did.

“I do not hold with the use of Song, or of any of the other so-called Arts. They make men disinclined to rely on their own power. That I have allowed not one but six of you aboard is a testament to my devotion to Thane Ulfr. While you are aboard you will not be ill-treated, but neither will you be allowed to wander about at your leisure, nor to conceal your doings. I do not trust those who can so freely manipulate men’s hearts. Some call this a failing: I call it wisdom. And now, please, I hope you enjoy the rest of your journey. We should reach port early on the morrow.”

As the Captain turned on his heel and stepped away, his boots clicking on the deck as though he were perpetually walking on stones, Reki’s jaw dropped.

Runa’s face had gone red, and not from the sun. “Who does he think,” she started to mutter.

“Well.” Eydri said, sounding as nonplussed as Reki felt. “That explains a few things.”

“More than I cared to know, truth be told,” Reki answered. “How does a man like that come to be a captain at all – let alone a rich one?”

Aema shook her head. “Does it matter? We know now that we’re stuck like this until he sees fit to escort us up to Raenshold. Here, Reki, you can at least sit in my shadow. It’s not much, but…”

“Thank you Aema. I’ll take you up on that.” Reki shifted a little bit and sank down onto the deck. The other woman’s shadow was poor shade at best, but it was still better than nothing.


Breidelstein harbor was broad and deep, with high cliffs rising to either side and up behind the port town itself. As they drew near, a path up the cliffs became visible, and Reki got her first glimpse of Raenshold where it squatted over the port like an overprotective hound.

The town was unnaturally subdued as they were led through it under armed guard, and it had nothing to do with the six of them. If it had, the people they passed would have either stared or pointedly looked away. Instead, they went on with their day as though nothing out of the ordinary was going on. A surprisingly high portion of the city appeared unwell. Malnourished, really. It was as though Ulfr had proven to be unskillful at rulership after he seized the reins of power.

Reki snorted quietly and suppressed a smirk – not at the people’s misfortune, but at the fate common to usurpers. Would men never learn? Leadership was a skill like any other, and rulership passed from father to son so that the skill could be taught. Would be taught, barring gross incompetence, as a consequence of raising the heir.

The walk up the road leading to the Hall was steep even after accounting for the switchbacks. No matter what else Reki wanted to say about Stigander’s father, the man had good tactical sense. This may well have been one of the most defensible locations she had ever seen. Were it not for the Weaver’s treachery, it might never have fallen.

She glanced over. Beatrix walked between the rest of them and the sheer drop below, as though she, too, were guarding them. She couldn’t help but like the Imperial Princess, so very different from the Lady Runa and not just in culture. How she could have been mistaken for a Singer was a mystery none of them had an answer to yet, but for her part Reki was glad to have someone along who thought like a warrior. Later, when they finally slipped the leash of their guards, they could wonder about things like that. Right now, though, Reki needed to be preparing herself to face lord Stigander’s half-brother.

It felt impossible, and yet she knew it was not, not truly. All she knew about the man she had learned from the Lay, but that should be enough to extrapolate from. That and the (ahem) quality of the man who had been sent to capture them. And she was almost out of time: the grim stone walls of Raenshold towered over their party now. Their so-called honor guard did not slow as they neared the gate, though Reki wished they might. The time was at hand.


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