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Chapter Six – Calm before the Storm

Seeing no need to hide, Dagfari walked beside the cart, as Hale lay resting inside it, still recovering from being attacked by the troll. It was approaching evening, as they finally reached Grimint – however, it could have been Alfgrid all over again, as there was not a soul to be seen in the village, the foul stench of blood reaching their nostrils.

“Have they all been slaughtered?”

Dagfari did not want to answer his friend’s question, because both answers led to bad scenarios – none which Dagfari wanted to allow to enter his mind. The silence was pressing onto their ears, as they strained to hear any signs of life. A faint whimper which would not have been audible in any given street with life came from several barrels just to Dagfari’s right. Walking silently towards them, he noticed the lid of one opening very slightly – showing the Norseman which barrel his target resided in. Walking towards it, focusing on a barrel just beside the one he targeted. With a swift move, he pulled the lid off, and reached in, pulling a rather meek-looking man who was pleading without any sense of his dignity.

“Oh sweet merciful Gods, please don’t kill me, I’ll do whatever you say…”
“Wait-“
“…You want gold? I’ll give you gold! Lots of gold! All the gold you want!”
“I don’t want gold-“
“You want women? I know lots of women! All with great big-“
“Enough!”

The man shut up instantly at the giant man’s yell. Raising a finger, motioning for the meek pleader to stay calm and quiet – Dagfari motioned to Amgrim to come help out.

“I am Dagfari Hardbein, son of Hreidmar Hardbein. This is my friend Amgrim Thurstan, and my other companion, Hale, who is recovering from a Troll attack not too long ago. We are here to deliver a shipment of weaponry to the town guard, can you guide us there, and then to a healer’s?”
“Ahh…your ‘companion’, eh?” The man suggested, winking. This earned him a punch and a broken nose from Dagfari, who was getting more and more angry at the man’s tone. Leaning in, his voice was barely more than a whisper.

“I came here only looking to deliver my father’s last shipment, but now I find powerful trolls attacking for no reason, and a famous bandit is involved, now unless you want to end up like the trolls we faced on our way here, I suggest you take me to the healer now…”
“V-v-very well, sir…right this way…”

Led by the now bleeding man, the pair of warriors followed, cart in tow. The smell of burnt wood, war and the presence of death lingered over the village. Walking in stony silence, the man attempted to run into a large stone building, with a red cross above it. He didn’t get far, before Amgrim grabbed him by the scruff of the neck.

“You wait,”

He may not have been strong, but he was fast, so a sharp blow to the back of the knee brought him down, followed by a sharp kick to the back of the head – leaving the man out cold. As Dagfari picked Hale up, he looked over at Amgrim

“Did you have to do that?”
“Hale is in dire need of attention – she can’t use her magic if she doesn’t wake up,”
“Aye – I’ll go in, you stay with the weapons,”

Dagfari entered the building, and was shocked to see which was looking more like a refugee camp than a healer’s. He had little time to take in the scene before he had three spears pointed at his throat by uniformed guards – one looking like a veteran, the other two barely adults.

“Halt, stranger! Speak your name and business!”
Sighing, Dagfari responded “I am Dagfari Hardbein, Son of Hreidmar Hardbein and Warrior of Thor – I came to deliver some weapons, and I must speak with your healer immediately for my friend,”

Dagfari jerked his arm, indicating the unconscious Valkyrie. They hesitated for a second glancing at the Valkyrie, Dagfari recognizing the fear in their eyes.

“She is not a servant of the Gods – she is a free Valkyrie,”
“…Right then, however, Warrior of Thor or not, we have many civilians who need medical treatment, and we can’t put this Valkyrie in front,”
“Tell me…”
“Rognvaldr,”
“Tell me, Rognvaldr….how many of those civilians know how to fight?”
“Well…very few do, but I fail to see…”
“Don’t play me for a fool – I fought some Trolls who were nowhere near normal, there’s something going on here, and I’m not leaving until you tell me,”
“Fine, where are these weapons you mentioned?”
“Outside – another of my allies is outside watching them,”
“Good – Hriedmar took his damn time with them, we needed these last week,”

The Norseman growled, causing the veteran Rognvaldr to looks half-worried, half-curious. “My father would apologize, but he was murdered two weeks ago, so it may be a problem,”
“…My apologies, I had no idea – then who made these weapons you have?”
“I did,”
“You?”
“Is there a problem with that?”
Fearful to not anger the already irritated warrior, Rognvaldr merely shook his head, and motioned to the two youths to collect the weaponry.

“Now, take me to the healer – now,”
“I told you, I can’t simply let you waltz in there!”

Dagfari began to argue, but looking up he saw an old bald man with a magnificent long white beard, dirty tattered robes with a rope as a belt. His face impassive, he motioned to Dagfari to go through. Walking past a confused Rognvaldr, an equally baffled Dagfari walked past, earning some angry glares, and a couple of fearful ones at the sight of the winged woman in his arms. Making sure to ignore the people around him, he entered the room with some difficulty, thankful for the room’s high ceiling. The healer motioned to Dagfari to lay Hale on the stone table in the room. Doing so, getting a close look at the healer, the warrior was taken aback by how truly old he looked – his face was more wrinkles than features, his eyes sunken, his mouth thin. A strong breeze would possibly rip the old man in half.

“So this is why they were so protective…”
“Indeed they are, it can be annoying at times,”

Dagfari instinctively turned round, ready to strike, but found himself face to face to a rather young man, wearing similar robes to the old man, but looked like the polar opposite, full of youth and vitality, who looked unfazed at the threat of being attacked.

“My apologies, Sir Hardbein, I tend to do that to people. I am Eirik, and that is my master,”
“Master? Like a slave?”
“Slave? Oh goodness no, I’m only his apprentice – no offense meant to you, Master, but he is not long for this world – he chose me as his successor, and is trying to teach me all he can before the inevitable,”

The Healer grunted roughly when Eirik mentioned his future, but made no other sounds, focusing on the injured Hale. Dagfari nodded in understanding, saying nothing. Looking on in silence, Eirik decided to keep the environment going, trying to keep attention away from his master

“I must say, your companion is a rather odd choice, sir,”
“I beg your pardon?”
“I mean, I’ve been in taverns, I have heard of warriors fighting Valkyries to avoid death, to avoid being taken to Valhalla – to see one travel with a Valkyrie, let alone try and heal her…it’s unheard of,”
“I do not plan on dying, and she is far from normal Valkyries – she is a Free Valkyrie,”
“A Free Valkyrie? I have never heard of such a thing…”

A grunt from Hale cut the inquisition short, as Dagfari turned to her, looking over her

“Took your time waking up…”
“Great bedside manner, you giant lump…” Hale sat up, rubbing her head, groaning. Eirik rushed over, trying to push her back down “Miss, you should rest up!”
“Get off!”

Hale smacked the hand away, before closing her eyes and chanting. It was only when Eirik took another step forward that she set herself ablaze. Eirik was rather surprised at the patient’s spontaneous combustion and was rushing about screaming for water, before he saw the Healer and Dagfari standing calm, watching as if they just saw a bug fly by. As Hale stopped, the Healer spoke to Dagfari with a rasping whisper, as if it was the best he could manage

“Not first time?”
“No – she has done that technique before,”
“I see. Eirik, fire magic used as healer as well as attack – never forget,”
“Y-yes master – My apologies, miss,”

Hale stood blinking at the bowing Eirik, before ignoring him and turning to Dagfari

“Where is Amgrim?”
“Fulfilling our obligation to be here,”
“Warriors have weapons finally?”
“Yes – Healer, kindly tell me, what has happened here?”
“Eirik tell you. I rest now…”

As the Healer left, Eirik bowed once more.

“My sincere apologies! The Master can get rather…blunt when he’s tired…”
“It’s fine, I have dealt with worse people,”
“Thank you. Anyway, the village came under attack two weeks ago from this bandit leader…Nyet…Nart…”
“Njal…”
“Yes, that’s it! Anyway, he just walked up to the village elder and demanded he was paid protection money for his master,”
“Master? But Njal is one of the fiercest bandits around!”
“Yes, however, he spoke of one more infinitely more powerful. Being the man the Elder was, he denied this request, and had the guards throw him out of Grimint. The very next day…they attacked. We lost half of the guard, our armoury was raided, the elder was not just slain, but torn from limb to limb by these trolls…who were not natural…”
“Faster, stronger – that kind of troll?”
“Very much so – they have left us alone, but the occasional troll attacks now and again, as a reminder that they are there, and waiting,”
“Waiting? What could they be waiting for?”
“I don’t know, all I know is…”

A loud crash stopped the youngster’s sentence. Instinctively, Hale and Dagfari charged through the doors, reaching outside, barging past civilians, chasing down the noise’s start point – Eirik right behind them. Shielding their eyes, they found the cart they came in on smashed to pieces, and several of the buildings on fire.

“Dagfari…”

Turning around, he spotted Amgrim on the ground, a trickle of blood running out of his mouth, his arm hanging at a weird angle. Hale let out a gasp, and Dagfari turned around, seeing the wild-haired face of his father’s murderer, Bolthor. Alongside him was Njal, looking every bit like the master’s hound.

“So, Njal – your empire has crashed down as far to serve him?”
“Why fight the tide of change, Hardbein? Your brother has the right idea! Take the whole world on, maybe even the gods!”
“Bolthor, you fool! You expect to take on the Gods themselves?!”
“Dear brother, you make it sound like it’s impossible. Nothing is impossible, not with our lineage!”
“Lineage…Bolthor, you found our family?”
“No…I found my family – your family is dead and buried,”
“You shall pay for his death!”
“I’d love to, but I’m out of money…maybe next time we meet? However, that may be soon – luckily for this blight on the map, I have other things to deal with, so their lives will not be ended by my power – when dawn rises on the day after next, my forces shall be attacking, the village is perfectly suited to my needs. Enjoy waiting for your doom…Oh, and I hope you have better forces than that pair – they never even drew their blades…”

Bolthor pointed to two corpses, devoid of their heads. Grimacing, Dagfari knew they were the young rookies that were told to help Amgrim.

“See you on the other side, brother – it is my only regret you don’t die by my hand,”

As Bolthor and Njal vanished from view, Dagfari motioned to Hale to take care of the burning buildings, while he helped Eirik take the severely wounded Amgrim into the Healer’s. Dagfari looked back, and sighed - he knew what would happen.
I did not mean for the gap between Chapter's five and six to be this long, I swear >.< But it's here, and the least actiony chapter of the lot - Hooray for plot! Now, even if you're taking a glancing look, I really would like some feedback on what I'm writing. Even a "Hey, this looks good" or a "Meh" or something!

All characters are (C) me
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